Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Beautiful China Tea Cup ~ Tea Cup Tuesday

I found this pretty tea cup at the Flea Market.

I don't know what the Chinese writing is. Maybe the pattern?

Gold trim and a dainty floral pattern cascades around the rim with some pretty detail on the side. 

On Sunday, I met a very sweet lady at the visitor's center in Marion, NC named Diane. She is from New Hampshire and into all things tea. In the past, she has taught how to host a tea party and is an avid collector of teacups and teapots. Diane was wearing the most adorable teapot pendant on a chain. I asked her if I could take a photo so here is her beautiful teapot pendant!

My daughter told ma about a cool online photo editing program called PicMonkey, so I've been having fun playing around, as you can see...

That's it for this week. I'm hit & miss with my posting but I'm having fun learning about china from everyone else who posts on the Teacup Link-ups. If you have a love for all things tea & china, hop on over and see all the exquisite tables that the ladies set!

I'm linked with  


Images are mine. Please don't take them without asking. Not that anyone would want them. I'm just sayin'. 

Trailer Tuesday ~ Inescapable

Lizzie Engel left Kingdom, Kansas, and her Conservative Mennonite faith five years ago, fleeing abuse and rejection aimed at her when she became pregnant with her daughter, Charity. However, when a strange man begins to hang around outside her apartment building in Kansas City and she receives several odd, threatening messages, she begins to fear for their safety. When an untrue accusation of theft causes her to lose her job, she has no choice but to return to the small Mennonite town. Unfortunately, evil follows her, and she will have to face a storm of lies, deceit and murder as a winter blizzard rages around her and the residents of Kingdom.

I recently won a copy Inescapable by Nancy Mehl so I thought I'd post the trailer for y'all to enjoy.

Have you read any Suspense/Mennonite books? If so, would you leave a comment with some recommendations? Thanks!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Wardrobe or Armoire?

We went to a moving sale a couple of Saturday's ago and found the most amazing piece of furniture! What was even more amazing was the price. I think they were desperate to sell everything they owned because they were moving to a remote location in Virginia and not taking hardly anything, so they gave us an excellent price on this awesome wardrobe!

 Or is it an armoire?
Take your pick. 
I'm not sure it matters what you call it besides COOL!!!

It has all these little labels inside and places for hats, ties, shirts, pyjamas and sundries!

A close up of the detail.
Sorry about the flash. It was dark inside the room.

Pretty adornments.

We're happy with it. In fact, my husband took it over since it was obviously made for a man.  I tried to get a decent shot of the label inside, but it was a no go. It's made by B&E, Walthamstow, London. The previous owner said it is from the 1920s but I can't verify this. I looked the company up on the internet when we first brought it home but now I can't seem to find the information. Arrrgh!!! And after too much time trying to find one that is even close to it, I gave up. 

We're very pleased with our $50.00 find and hope to have it for many years to come! It's not an exact match to my grandmother and grandfather's bedroom suite from 1928 that I inherited, but enough that it works. I really need to refinish that set but that's a whole other project that I am NOT ready to tackle! Because as you can see, I still need to paint my closet door. OK, the whole room needs to be painted but we're not talking about that now :)

Do you have a special piece of furniture you've inherited or found at a bargain?

Have a great day in the Lord!

Review ~ Short Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer

Review of Short Straw Bride, Karen Witemeyer  

Guest Reviewer Judy Burgi

I loved this book by Karen Witemeyer. To be completely honest with you this is the first book of hers that I have read. And it won't be the last.

The author has a way to rope you in with her writing style. Her characters truly come to life. This book is a real page turner from the very beginning.

This book isn't a mystery, or suspense, but it is definitely filled with drama. Chapter after chapter you will want more. I hope that the author will do a sequel or follow up with the characters in this book. I want to know what happens to each and every Archer brother!

Travis Archer is very protective of his brothers and of their land. He made a promise to his dying Father that he would look after both. He has every intention of keeping that promise. There are people out there that want his land and will stop at nothing to get it. Will they succeed? After all, the odds are against the brothers; four brothers fighting for their land. How long can they hold intruders off?

Along comes Meredith Hayes. She happens to over hear of a plan to burn the Archer brothers off their land. Meredith feels she must warn the brothers of this plan because of the kindness once paid to her by Travis Archer when she was yet a young girl. Does Meredith succeed in warning the brothers before this happens? Will the brothers even believe her if she does get to them in time?

Get ready for some action. I guarantee you will love this delightful read. Meredith Hayes has some spunk! I fell in love with this character for that reason. How far would we go to protect those we love?

I wish to thank Bethany House Publishers for sending me a copy of Short-Straw Bride to read and review. The opinions in this review are mine alone.

Thanks Judy, for that enthusiastic review! I just received my copy in the mail today, so hopefully I will have my review posted in the next few weeks. 

Have you read this book yet? What did you think?  Don't you just love this cover? Bethany House has some of the best designers.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Rainbow ~ Rural Thursday

It's not a very good photo (hence the editing), but this beautiful rainbow appeared after several days of rain.  I do believe the bird was a happy creature too! He was flitting around everywhere.

Genesis 9:13 ~ I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

I'm linked with Rural Thursday.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

From Westbow Press...

Has anyone read this book? It sounds different but intriguing.


Come take a sacred journey.

Meg Crane has never had a longing for adventure. She’s never even traveled more than two hundred miles from home. But when she receives an invitation from the New Hope Retreat Center to travel deeper into the heart of God, Meg finds herself saying yes.

Against her better judgment.

What will she discover if she begins to walk the winding path through the broken pieces of her past?

Meg isn’t the only one who feels apprehensive about the journey. Though the other people gathered at New Hope appear to have life well put together, each of them has a story to tell.

Join Meg, Hannah, Mara, and Charissa as they become unlikely companions on the road to healing, transformation, and self-discovery. Because the long walk leads through the unpredictable terrain of the inner life, the travelers will need courage, patience, perseverance, and of course…

Sensible Shoes.

From Westbow Press website:

Free Preview

Meg, 1967
A solitary little girl in a gray wool coat and red knit cap flitted through the snow, searching for a glimmer of gold. Someone had given the jingle bells to Mama for Christmas, and Mama had smiled when she hung them on the front door. So when the wind snatched the bells and spirited them away, five-year-old Meg was determined to find them and make Mama happy again.

Meg hummed as she searched around bushes in the yard. She loved hide-and-seek. She wished Mama or Rachel would play hide-and-seek with her; but Mama was too busy to play, and eleven-year-old Rachel always said she was too big for baby games. If only Daddy hadn’t gone to heaven to be with Jesus! Daddy had been very good at hide-and-seek.

Meg patiently pursued the lost bells for almost an hour, finally spotting one of them peeking out from a snowbank near Mrs. Anderson’s garage. Clutching her prize, Meg skipped down the driveway and up the front steps.

Mama was standing at the door, scowling and scolding. “Margaret Fowler! Didn’t you hear me calling for you?”

“Mama, I found them!” Meg beamed as she offered her gift.

Mama stripped off Meg’s hat, revealing thick blonde curls. “How many times do I have to tell you? Take your boots off outside. I don’t want snow messing up this floor.”

Meg left her boots on the porch and danced inside, jingling the bells. “Look, Mama! I found your bells!”

Mama frowned as she shut the door. “What bells?”

* * *
Meg Crane stepped across the threshold of her childhood home in Kingsbury, Michigan, the jingling of her keys echoing in the foyer. Though she had spent almost forty of her forty-six years in the Fowler family’s large Victorian house, it had never felt this cavernously lonely. Shutting the door behind her, Meg sank slowly to the floor and leaned her head against the wood paneling.

Gone. Becca was gone. Her beloved daughter had flown away.

Meg wished they could have had more time together. The fourth of August had arrived too quickly, and now her only child was on a plane to London, where she would spend her junior year of college.

Becca’s lively presence at home had kept Meg happily preoccupied. There had been so much to do together, so many preparations to make for the overseas adventure. Becca’s joy and enthusiasm had temporarily buoyed Meg’s spirits above her own grief.

But now the empty house engulfed her with dreadful stillness.

Mother was also gone. Still gone.

Months after Ruth Fowler’s death, Meg was still fighting the impulse to call out a greeting to her mother whenever she arrived home. She still expected Mother to appear at the dinner table. She still listened for her footsteps on the staircase. She still paused by the bedroom door, stifling the urge to say goodnight.

Meg supposed she would be slow to process Becca’s absence too. She imagined she would still look for Becca’s pink water bottle on the kitchen counter. She would still listen for her daughter's cheerful voice humming along with her iPod. She would probably still awaken around midnight and expect to hear Becca arrive home safely after an evening out with friends.

But now the only sounds in the house were the melancholy sighs of an antique grandfather clock and the low hum of the refrigerator.

Meg Crane was alone. Truly alone.

Now what?

Slumping forward, Meg cradled her head in her hands and wept.

Friday, July 20, 2012

If God is Good ~ An excerpt from Randy Alcorn

In light of the recent tragedy in Denver CO, here's an excerpt from Randy Alcorn's book If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil.

If God is Good by Randy Alcorn (Chapter 1)

And here is Randy talking about If God Is Good with Greg Laurie:

Here are some of Randy's resources to review:

If God Is Good (Hardcover)
If God Is Good, Why Do We Hurt (10-Pack, Small Booklets)
Randy Alcorn's Website

Psalm 23:4 ~ Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil...

Scrapbooking Challenge ~ Peace

I set out to make a paper crafted memory album about my daughter Amy but I only have the first page done. As I was searching for inspiration, I joined the Scrapbooking Your Faith group on Facebook, hosted by Courtney Fassler Walsh, who is an amazing crafter, writer and blogger mom. She put out a challenge a couple of weeks ago, maybe more, to scrap a time when your faith was being challenged. I decided to use the My Memories Digital Scrapbooking Software to create this layout about my daughter Amy, who passed away in May; Our Loss is Heaven's Gain.

Mother's Day, May 13th, 2012

In the top photo, my daughter Amy was still on the BiPap machine at this point. It was fairly early in the afternoon. She was aware of us (me) and I was reassuring her that I would not leave her and that Jesus was waiting on her with open arms, to not be afraid. (I think on some level I was reassuring myself.) I tried not to let her see my tears and not to project any fear. I really didn't want her to be afraid. I wanted her to know how much I loved her and would miss her. How we all would. I wanted to instill confidence in her and to reassure her that she would soon have a new body, a healed body, and be in her new home, living with Jesus and her Mimi. 

In the bottom photo, it was late afternoon. The BiPap machine had been removed and we had gone to comfort measures. She was no longer awake but I know she was aware of my presence. I quietly spoke to her and lay on the bed with her, holding hands (as you can see here), loving on her and cradling her until she passed from my arms to His.

I cling to Phillipians 4:7, which is at the bottom of the layout: And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Peace is the key here. It can only come from God. Despite this being the worst day ever, and grief still rearing its ugly head, I am at peace knowing that she is at peace. No more pain, no more suffering, no more tears! I will see her again, and together we will rejoice!

I sincerely hope no one is offended by these photos. It's not my intent to shock or repulse anyone. Amy was alive in both photos. I only want to show that with God all things ARE possible. You CAN face the challenging times, but I believe only with HIM! 

Images are mine. Please don't take them!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

No time for tea...

All I have to share today is this pretty little creamer.

She's in the Gloria pattern from Favolina. 

And numbered 49. I have no idea what that means, really. Only 49 were made? Number 49 of however many? Why would they just stamp 49? 

Also, I don't even remotely have anything it will match, but I thought it was too sweet to pass up. And who knows...I just might need a creamer one day! 

Oh, and that blurred sugar dish in the back? I found that too but it's totally unmarked. Loved it though, with its hexagonal shape and slightly off white color, so I added it to my nonsensical collection :)

Now for the exciting news...
I'm focusing my search efforts for the next couple of weeks on looking for preemie clothes because my daughter will most likely give birth to our first granddaughter within the next 2 -4 weeks, making our sweet baby anywhere from 4-6 weeks early. Join me in praying for a safe delivery, would you? I have the added blessing of being my daughter's doula, so I am stoked!

God is good in ALL things!!!

Can you tell I'm excited?! I might have used a few too many exclamation points today :)

Have a great day in the Lord!

I'm linked to:


My Dearest Naomi by Jerry and Tina Eicher, FIRST Wild Card Tour

I didn't sign up to review this book, but thought I would share with y'all anyway. I know many love to read Amish Fiction (me too!) so I am looking forward to checking this one out :)

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today's Wild Card authors are:


and the book:


Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen, Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

Jerry Eicher’s bestselling Amish fiction (more than 210,000 in combined sales) includes The Adams County Trilogy, the Hannah’s Heart books, and the Little Valley Series. After a traditional Amish childhood, Jerry taught for two terms in Amish and Mennonite schools in Ohio and Illinois. Since then he’s been involved in church renewal, preaching, and teaching Bible studies.

Tina Eicher was born and married in the Amish faith, surrounded by a mother and sisters who were great Amish cooks. At fellowship meals and family gatherings, Tina’s dishes receive high praise and usually return empty. She and her husband, Jerry Eicher, author of several bestselling Amish fiction titles, are the parents of four children and live in Virginia.
Visit the author's website.

Jerry Eicher's many devoted fans will be enthralled by this endearing novel in letters based on Jerry's letters to and from his future wife, Tina, and their discovery that, indeed, absence does make the heart grow fonder.

When Eugene Mast leaves his Amish community in Worthington, Indiana, to teach in faraway Kalona, Iowa, he also must leave the love of his life, Naomi Miller.

For the next nine months of the school term, Eugene and Naomi keep their romance alive through love letters from his heart to hers, and from hers back to his.

Eugene writes of his concern that in his absence Naomi may find the attractions of another suitor to her liking.  Naomi worries that Eugene may fall prey to the "liberal" Mennonite beliefs in the community where he now lives.  Both can hardly wait until the school year is up and they're finally reunited.

A poignant and tender love story that will warm the hearts of readers everywhere.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99

Paperback: 336 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736939423

ISBN-13: 978-0736939423


Naomi Miller stood beside the buggy, the corner of the front wheel inches from her side. Eugene Mast’s fingers were wrapped around hers. She looked up at him, the shadows from the moonlight hiding his blue eyes, leaving only the sides of his face visible.

“Do you really have to go?” Naomi whispered.

Yah,” Eugene said. “It’s something I need to do. But I’ll be back before you know it, and things will be like they always were.”

“Nine months is an awfully long time.”

Yah, but Da Hah will be with us. He will help us bear the pain of absence. And we are promised, you know.”

“But what will Bishop Enos say about this? We are both members of the church.” Naomi’s hands shifted in his. “What if there is trouble?”

Eugene laughed. “I don’t think there will be trouble. Bishop Enos knows I have no plans to forsake the church.”

“Even though you are running off to Iowa to teach at a Mennonite church school? It’s a terribly long way from Indiana.”

Eugene leaned forward, kissing her cheek. “I will write often, and that will help with the loneliness.”

Naomi pulled away. “Will you miss me? Perhaps a little?”

Eugene laughed again, causing his horse to turn his head to look at him. “I will miss you terribly, Naomi. I just believe this has to be done. If I don’t take the chance now, I’ll always look back and wonder.”

She sighed. “But it’s so dangerous out there. And the Mennonites can put all kinds of ideas in your head. Then you’ll never come back.”

He shook his head. “Please, Naomi, don’t make this harder than it is. I’ll come back. I promise.” He glanced at the envelope she had given him earlier. “Thank you for the card. I’m going to save it to open when I get to Iowa.”

“Okay. I think you’d better go,” she said. “I can’t stand this much longer.”

“I’m not much at goodbyes anyway,” he said. “I will always love you, Naomi. Goodbye…for now.”

“Goodbye,” she said, stepping back as Eugene climbed into the buggy. He slapped the reins against his horse’s back, waving once on the turnaround in the lane, his hand a brief movement from the dark interior. Watching the buggy lights move down the road and fade out of sight, Naomi stared long into the darkness. She then turned to walk back toward the house, pausing to look over her shoulder once more.


Monday evening, August 30

My dearest Naomi,

Greetings from Iowa. This finds me installed in the upstairs bedroom of my new home. The time was a little past eleven o’clock the last I looked. We pulled into the driveway of this little farm around nine, but I couldn’t see much in the darkness. We were met at the front porch by Lonnie and Luella Hershberger, the older Mennonite couple I’m staying with. The school board members who brought me out said their goodbyes and drove off in their van. I was shown around the house by Lonnie and Luella. After the tour, we ended up in the living room talking.

They seem like very nice people even though I’ve only just met them. Their house is a white bungalow with everything inside neatly arranged and in order. The kitchen is by the front door, with the living room in the back. I’m in the front bedroom, upstairs, overlooking the lawn. They said I could see the schoolhouse from my bedroom window, but it’s dark right now.

I feel strange and a little frightened to be out here alone. I’m missing you, of course, and the community. This awful sensation is wrapped around me, as if all the familiar props are knocked out from under me. In the meantime, I have to act as if everything is okay and be full of smiles. I can imagine right now you’re saying “I told you so,” but then maybe not, being the nice person you are.

I can’t thank you enough for the card you gave me before I left. It means so much to me. If I didn’t have your love to fall back on, I don’t think I could stand it right now. I know part of my problem is that I’m just so dead tired I could fall off the chair. The trip was long and more tiresome than I expected.

I suppose I’d better be off to bed. I won’t even start unpacking tonight. The suitcase is still open on the floor with only the things taken out that I need immediately. And that’s good enough for now.

Tuesday morning…

Good morning. I awoke to Luella hollering up the stairs. We had decided last night she would be my alarm clock since I didn’t bring one along. There is an electric alarm clock sitting on the desk, but I told Luella I didn’t know how to run one. And I sure wasn’t going to take the time to figure it out last night. She laughed and said hollering would be the Amish method anyway, and that it should make me feel right at home.

I smiled and said yah, but I didn’t mention that any reminder of home causes more pain than comfort right now.

I came downstairs to a breakfast of eggs and bacon, which I ate quickly. Then I stepped outside for a look around. The weather is nice, and I can indeed see the schoolhouse down the road. It’s a large, white, wooden structure with tall windows on the side. There’s a bell tower on top, placed toward the front. There’s a single tree in the yard.

Back upstairs, I started to unpack until I saw your second card. That brought a halt to the unpacking for a while. Who would have thought being away from you would be this hard?

As of now, the plans are that I will take the rest of the week to settle in at the schoolhouse. They only have a half-day scheduled for school on the first day, Friday. Then no school on Monday, since it’s Labor Day. Beats me how I’m supposed to keep myself occupied all that time with so little work to do.

The chairman of the school board told me the teacher who taught last year will be at the schoolhouse today by 10:00. She will give me details on the lesson plans and other pointers she might have on how to do things around here. I’ve been told it shouldn’t be that different from the year I taught at our Amish school, but I shall see.

While I think to mention it, I forgot to give you the other dove from my farewell cake at our families’ going-away supper. Somewhere in all the goodbyes it slipped my mind. I have the one, and you were supposed to get its mate. My sisters have it now and are supposed to pass it on to you. Hopefully we can match them up when the school year is over.

Luella said the mailman goes past at quarter till nine, so I’d better get this letter out. Here’s my address and a little rhyme. I know it’s not much, but it lets you know how much I’m missing you.

When the new moon hangs in the starry sky

I think of love, of ours, of you and I.

With all my heart,


Friday, July 13, 2012

Q & A with Alton Gansky and MAJ (Ret) Jeff Struecker, Authors of Hideand Seek

From B&B Media

Alton, what was it like as a writer to work with a soldier and capture the stories for the new book Hide and Seek?

AG: It was enlightening. At first, I thought my biggest challenge would be learning the terms and tools of the contemporary soldier. As it turns out, the great challenge came in understanding the soldier's mind and heart. A novelist must be able to see through the eyes of others, to feel their joy and their pains, and then put it on paper. In writing this book and the others that came before it, I had to imagine what it was like to leap out of an airplane in the middle of the night, to be hunkered down under live fire, to see a comrade wounded and killed and to stand on a foreign field when my mind was home with my family. Doing so gave me the new insight into the work and the sacrifices made by the dedicated soldier.

Jeff exemplifies the qualities of the 21st-century soldier: intelligent, brave, sacrificial, but very human. In my discussions with him I came to understand the split loyalties that every soldier faces: duty, country, family.

I tried to take some of the admirable qualities I saw in Jeff and put them into the fictional soldiers who risk their lives and transfer all that to the printed page. I could come up with the plot and the twists and turns, but Jeff had to provide the realism. The series of books has been a real education. I am blessed for having been a part of them.

­­Jeff, now that you are retired from active service, do you reflect on some of the stories that developed differently than what you thought they would?

JS: I don't think that being retired from active duty in the US Army has changed the way that I reflect on these stories, but it has given me a greater appreciation for the quality of men and women in the military. Now that I am a private citizen (so to speak), I have the chance to compare the work ethic, the sense of duty and the patriotism of the men and women in the military with the rest of the US population. I never realized how different many warriors are from the citizens that they protect and serve. I am also seeing the selflessness and sacrifice of the military family compared to that of the average family in our country and am surprised by these differences.

Alton, did the process or the relationship change the way you view those in the military and what their families go through?

AG: Absolutely. I always knew there was great sacrifice involved in being a soldier. Coming from a Navy family I even knew the families of military made their share of sacrifices. Writing about them, however, made it real for me. One thing every novelist does is to insert himself or herself into their characters–good or bad. It can be an emotional roller coaster. Writing these books has tattooed the image of their sacrifice on my mind and heart. From the beginning, Jeff insisted that we show the heroism of those who remain home while their husbands and fathers face death in some foreign territory. In the case of our heroes, they did not even have the satisfaction of knowing where their loved ones served. In many ways, they waited in the dark.

I've always admired those who serve in the military, but now I admire their families just as much.

Jeff, what are your thoughts on this?

JS: Writing with Al has been eye opening for me personally. He really gets it. I have never known someone to be able to pick up the dedication and motivation of a warrior and their family as quickly as Al. On a couple of occasions, I commented to Al that he writes like someone who has been in the Army all his life. He has a great grasp on what a warrior's family goes through when the phone rings in the middle of the night and they have to say goodbye to a loved-one, knowing that they may never see them again. It takes a special kind of person to be a military family and Al depicts that as well as anyone I know.

Alton, do you have some funny stories about connecting with Jeff while he was still in active duty? Code language?

AG: Mostly I teased Jeff about the superiority of the Navy or the Army. I don't think I've been able to convince him yet. There were a few interesting times when we would exchange e-mail or talk on the phone and I had no idea where Jeff was. I would simply receive a quick note that he was going to be out of town on business. There were times when we spoke that I was pretty sure he was in some far-off part of the world. I still don't know.

In one of the previous books, I had written a scene that I was especially proud of. I struggled to get the details right, to create a believable scenario. When Jeff was reviewing the scene he called to say, “You can't use that.” I argued that it was a good scene, that it helped the plot, that it tied up some loose ends. He agreed then told me to take it out. When I asked why, he replied, “You aren't supposed to know that.” I protested that I didn't know it. I'd made the whole thing up. He sympathized with me and told me to take it out. I've often wondered what I got right.

Jeff, what are your writing goals now that you are not in active service? Do you have more leeway/freedom to pursue some things that you were not able to previously?

JS: My writing goals have become a bit more ambitious now that I am retired. For the rest of my life I will have to balance describing cutting-edge military technology and procedures without giving away national secrets. (Some of those secrets I have sworn to take to my grave.) At the same time, I think the reader deserves an accurate picture of what life is like for a warrior on a dangerous mission somewhere around the world tonight. I hope to be able to continue to paint that picture for readers.

I also had to balance a very difficult workload of trying to communicate with Al and writing some of these books while I was away in Afghanistan or in Iraq. (Needless to say, my mind and attention were a bit preoccupied at those times.) Now that I am retired from the Army, I hope to be able to dedicate more time to writing books that will exalt the great name of Jesus and inspire readers.

Alton Gansky is a Christy Award-nominated and Angel Award-winning author who writes to stimulate thinking about spiritual matters. He served as a pulpit minister for twenty years and has published nearly thirty books.

Chaplain (Major, Ret) Jeff Struecker is a decorated member of US Army Rangers, the Army’s most elite fighting corps. His personal experiences in Mogadishu, Somalia were documented in the New York Times bestseller and major motion picture Black Hawk Down. During his thirteen years of active duty, he also fought in Operation Just Cause in Panama and Operation Iris Gold in Kuwait. As a chaplain Jeff has done multiple tours in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now retired from military service, Struecker currently serves as the associate pastor of ministry development at Calvary Baptist Church in Columbus, Georgia.

For more information visit www.JeffStreucker.com

And www.AltonGansky.com

Thursday, July 12, 2012

♥ Barns are Beautiful ♥

Found another barn on the Quilt Barn Trail this past weekend. Isn't this homestead and barn just beautiful?

The owners were on the porch enjoying the cool breeze and waved to us as we were taking pictures. I'm sure they are used to that!

It was a beautiful day!

Here it is up close and with no editing. This shows the pretty colors of the quilt square, and the rustic aging of the barn. 

                I'm linked up with Rural Thursday!

Have a great day in the Lord!

A Promise for Miriam by Vannetta Chapman ~ FIRST Wild Card Tour

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen, Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


Vannetta Chapman has published more than 100 articles in Christian family magazines. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace in Albion, Pennsylvania. Vannetta is a multi-award-winning member of Romance Writers of America. She was a teacher for 15 years and currently resides in the Texas Hill country. Her first two inspirational novels—A Simple Amish Christmas and Falling to Pieces—were Christian Book Distributors bestsellers.

Visit the author's website.


Amish schoolteacher Miriam King loves her students. At 26, she hasn’t yet met anyone who can convince her to give up the Plain school at Pebble Creek. Then newcomer Gabriel Yoder steps into her life, bringing his daughter, an air of mystery, and challenges Miriam has never faced before.

Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736946128
ISBN-13: 978-0736946124


Pebble Creek, southwestern Wisconsin

Three years later

Miriam King glanced over the schoolroom with satisfaction.

Lessons chalked on the board.

Pencils sharpened and in the cup.

Tablets, erasers, and chalk sat on each desk.

Even the woodstove was cooperating this morning. Thank the Lord for Efram Hochstetler, who stopped by early Mondays on his way to work and started the fire. If not for him, the inside of the windows would be covered with ice when she stepped in the room.

Now, where was Esther?

As if Miriam’s thoughts could produce the girl, the back door to the schoolhouse opened and Esther burst through, bringing with her a flurry of snowflakes and a gust of the cold December wind. Her blonde hair was tucked neatly into her kapp, and the winter morning had colored her cheeks a bright red.

Esther wore a light-gray dress with a dark apron covering it. At five and a half feet and weighing no more than a hundred and twenty pounds, Miriam often had the unsettling feeling of looking into a mirror—a mirror into the past—when she looked at the young woman who taught with her at the one-room schoolhouse.

In truth, the teachers had often been mistaken for family. They were similar in temperament as well as appearance. Other than their hair, Esther could have been Miriam’s younger sister. Esther’s was the color of ripe wheat, while Miriam’s was black as coal.

Why did that so often surprise both Plain people and Englischers? If Miriam’s black hair wasn’t completely covered by her kapp, she received the oddest stares.

“Am I late?” Esther’s shoes echoed against the wooden floor as she hurried toward the front of the room. Pulling off her coat, scarf, and gloves, she dropped them on her desk.

“No, but nearly.”

“I told Joseph we had no time to check on his cattle, but he insisted.”

“Worried about the gate again?”

Ya. I told him they wouldn’t work it loose, but he said—”

“Cows are stupid.” They uttered the words at the same time, both mimicking Joseph’s serious voice, and then broke into laughter. The laughter eased the tension from Esther’s near tardiness and set the morning back on an even keel.

“Joseph has all the makings of a fine husband and a gut provider,” Miriam said. “Once you’re married, you’ll be glad he’s so careful about the animals.”

Ya, but when we’re married I won’t be having to leave in time to make it to school.” Esther’s cheeks reddened a bit more as she seemed to realize how the words must sound.

Why did everyone think Miriam was embarrassed that she still remained unmarried? Did it never occur to them that it was her own choice to be single?

“Efram had the room nice and warm before I even arrived,” she said gently. “And I put out your tablets.”

Wunderbaar. I’ll write my lessons on the board, and we’ll be ready.” As Esther reached to pull chalk from her desk drawer, Miriam noticed that she froze and then stood up straighter. When she reached up and touched her kapp as if to make sure she was presentable, Miriam realized someone else was in the room.

She turned to see who had surprised the younger teacher. It was still a few minutes before classes were due to start, and few of their students arrived early.

Standing in the doorway to the schoolroom was an Amish man. Pebble Creek was a small community, technically a part of the village of Cashton. Old-timers and Plain folk alike still referred to the area where the creek went through by its historic name.

Miriam was quite sure she’d never seen the man standing in her classroom before. He was extremely tall, and she had the absurd notion he’d taken his hat off to fit through their entryway. Even standing beneath the door arch, waiting for them to speak, he seemed to barely fit. He was thin and sported a long beard, indicating he was married.

In addition to clutching his black hat, he wore a heavy winter coat, though not the type worn by most Wisconsin residents. The tops of his shoulders, his arms, and even parts of his beard were covered with snow. More important than how he looked standing in her classroom was the fact that he held the hand of a small girl.

Gudemariye,” Miriam said, stepping forward and moving past her desk.

The man still didn’t speak, but as she drew closer, he bent and said something to the girl.

When Miriam had halved the distance between them, he returned her greeting as his somber brown eyes assessed her.

The young girl next to him had dark-brown hair like her father. It had been combed neatly and pulled back into a braid, all tucked inside her kapp. What was striking about her wasn’t her hair or her traditional Plain clothing—it was her eyes. She had the most solemn, beautiful brown eyes Miriam had ever seen on a child.

They seemed to take in everything.

Miriam noticed she clutched her father’s hand tightly with one hand and held a lunch box with the other.

“I’m the teacher of the younger grades here, grades one through four. My name is Miriam King.” The girl’s eyes widened, and the father nodded again. “Esther Schrocks teaches grades five through eight.”

He looked to the girl to see if she understood, but neither replied.

“And your daughter is—”

“Grace is eight years old, just this summer.” Almost as an afterthought, he added, “I’m Gabriel Miller.”

“Pleased to meet you.” Miriam offered her best smile, which still did not seem to put the father at ease. She’d seen nervous parents before, and obviously this was one. “You must be new to our community.”

Ya. I purchased the place on Dawson Road.”

“Dawson Road? Do you mean the Kline farm?”

Ya.” Not quite rude, but curt and to the point.

Miriam tried to hide any concern she felt as images of Kline’s dilapidated spread popped into her mind. It was no business of hers where this family chose to live. “I know exactly where you mean. My parents live a few miles past that.”

“It’s a fair piece from here,” he noted.

“That it is. Esther and I live here at the schoolhouse during the week. The district built accommodations on the floor above, as is the custom in most of our schoolhouses here in Wisconsin. We both spend weekends at home with our families.”

“I don’t know I’ll be able to bring Grace in every day.” Gabriel Miller reached up and ran his finger under the collar of his shirt, which peeked through the gap at the top of his coat.

Miriam noticed then that it looked stiff and freshly laundered. Had he put on his Sunday best to bring his daughter to school on her first day? It said something about him if he had.

“A man has to put his farm first,” he added defensively.

“Some children live close enough that their parents can bring them in the winter, and, of course, most everyone walks when the weather permits.” Miriam paused to smile in greeting as a few students began arriving and walking around them. “Others ride together. Eli Stutzman lives past Dawson road, and he would be happy to give your dochder a ride to school.”

“It would be a help.” Mr. Miller still didn’t move, and Miriam waited, wondering what else the man needed to say.

She looked up and saw one of the older girls, Hannah, walking in the door. “Hannah, this is Grace Miller. She’s new at our school. Would you mind sitting with her and helping her this week?”

“Sure thing, Miriam.” Hannah squatted down to Grace’s level and said something to the girl Miriam couldn’t hear.

Whatever it was, Grace released her dat’s hand and took Hannah’s. She’d walked halfway down the aisle when she turned, rushed back to where they stood, and threw her arms around her father’s legs.

One squeeze and she was gone again.

Though it was fleeting, Miriam saw a look of anguish pass over the man’s face. What could be going through his mind? She’d seen many fathers leave their children for the first time over the last eight years, but something more was going on here.

“She’ll be fine, Mr. Miller. We’re a small school, and the children look after one another.”

“It’s that…” he twirled his hat in his hands once, twice, three times. “Before we moved here, Grace was…that is to say, we…well, her grossmammi homeschooled her.”

“I understand. How about if I write a note letting you know how Grace is doing? I’ll put it in her lunch box at the end of the day.”

Something like relief washed over his face.

Danki,” he mumbled. Then he rammed his hat on his head and hurried out the door.

Esther caught her attention from the front of the room and sent a questioning look toward the man’s retreating back, but Miriam shook her head. She’d explain later, at lunch perhaps. For now they had nearly forty children between them to teach. As usual, it would be a busy morning.

Gabe did stop to talk to Eli Stutzman. He wanted to make sure he trusted the man.

It helped when three girls and a boy who were the last to climb out of the long buggy stopped to wish their father a good day. The littlest girl, probably the same age as his Gracie, wrapped her arms around her daddy’s neck, whispered something in his ear, and then tumbled down the steps into the chilly morning.

“That one is my youngest—Sadie. Always full of energy, but she’s a worrier. This morning it’s about a pup she left at home in the barn.” Covering the distance between them, the older man removed his glove and offered his right hand. “Name’s Eli Stutzman. I take it you’re new here, which must mean you bought the Kline place.”

“I am, and I did. Gabriel Miller.” Gabe stood still in the cold, wishing he could be done with this and back on his farm.

“Have children in the school?”

“One, a girl—about your youngest one’s age.”

Eli nodded, and then he seemed to choose his words carefully. “I suspect you’ll be busy putting your place in order. It will be no problem giving your dochder a ride back and forth each day.”

“I would appreciate it.”

Stutzman told him the approximate time he passed the Kline place, and Gabe promised he’d have Gracie ready at the end of the lane.

He turned to go and was headed to his own buggy when the man called out to him.

“The Kline place has been empty quite a while.”

Gabe didn’t answer. Instead, he glanced out at the surrounding fields, covered in snow and desolate looking on this Monday morning.

“If you need help, or find something that’s worse than what you expected, you holler. We help each other in Pebble Creek.”

Gabe ran his hand along the back of his neck but didn’t answer. Merely nodding, he moved on to his buggy.

He was accustomed to people offering help. Actually delivering on it? That was often another story, though he wouldn’t be judging the people here before he knew them.

Still, it was in his nature to do things on his own if at all possible.

Was his new home worse than he had expected?

Ya, it was much worse.

The barn was falling in on itself, and the house was not a lot better, but he knew carpentry. He could make them right. At least the woodstove worked. He’d been somewhat surprised to find no gas refrigerator, but he had found out who sold blocks of ice carved from the river. The icebox in the mudroom would do.

Gracie would be warm and fed. She’d have a safe place to sleep and to do the drawing she loved so much.

He didn’t think he’d be calling on Eli for help.

He’d see that Grace Ann made it to school and church—he’d promised her grossmammis as much. But other than that he wasn’t looking to make freinden in Pebble Creek. He wanted to be left alone. It was the reason he’d left their community in Indiana.

He could do without any help.

His parting words to his parents echoed back to him.

“I can do it on my own.”

As he drove the buggy toward home, Gabe looked out over high ridges and low valleys. Dairy farms dotted the snowcapped view. Running through it all was Pebble Creek, no doubt a prime place for trout fishing most of the year. He’d heard the call of wild turkeys and seen deer. It was a rich, blessed area.

Pebble Creek ran through the heart of Cashton, the closest town. It also touched the border of the school grounds and meandered through his own property. It bound them together.

As he approached home, Gabe’s mind was filled with thoughts of the day’s work ahead of him. He wondered where he’d find the energy to do it all, but somehow he would.

For Gracie he would.

His parents had offered to send his youngest brother along for the first year, but Andrew was needed on the family place. And, truthfully, Gabe preferred to be alone—just he and Grace.

“I can do it on my own.”

“Just because you can doesn’t mean you should,” his mother said. She had reminded him as he was packing their things that pride was his worst shortcoming, though the Lord knew he had many to choose from when it came to faults.

Was it pride that scraped against his heart each day? He couldn’t say.

He only knew he preferred solitude to company, especially since Hope died.


That seemed ironic, even to him. She had been his hope, his life, his all, and now she was gone. Her death had happened so quickly—it reminded him of one of the Englisch freight trains barreling around the corner of some bend.

A big black iron thing he hadn’t seen coming. A monstrosity with the power to destroy his life.

Which wasn’t what the bishop had said, or his parents, or his brothers and sisters.

He slapped the reins and allowed his new horse, Chance, to move a bit faster over the snow-covered road. He’d left Indiana because he needed to be free of the looks of sympathy, the well-intentioned words, the interfering.

So he now had what he’d wished for—a new beginning with Grace.

If it meant days of backbreaking work, so much the better. Perhaps when he was exhausted, he would begin to sleep at night.