Wednesday, October 31, 2012

First in a series of articles from Sheri Rose Shepherd

We Are on the Same Team and Fighting the Same Enemy

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)

By Sheri Rose Shepherd
Bestselling Author and Bible Life Coach

Think about what makes your heart melt when you watch a great love story. It's not the hero's physical strength or his beloved's beauty, is it? No, you and I are drawn to the power of true love and its inexplicable ability to prevail over tragedy and adversity. The greater the conflict, the stronger the love must be in order to resolve the issue. When the hero does whatever it takes to save the relationship, our hearts soar with renewed hope. Likewise, as we seek to truly listen and understand our men when differences between us create friction, we set ourselves up for more satisfying and loving relationships.

The Author of love and life and the Designer of our differences knew there would be conflict between men and women. The real problem comes, though, when we get accustomed to seeing relational problems solved in the time it takes to eat a bag of popcorn. Our hero and his beauty have less than two hours to defeat the dragons and overcome unspeakable challenges. You and I are not going to magically resolve deep relationship conflicts in our own wisdom and definitely not in less than two hours.

When I met my husband, Steve, I was sure we were a match made in heaven. In fact, we have had the privilege of being in ministry together for most of our marriage. I wish I could tell you it's been an effortless, wonderful life for the two of us, but I would be lying to you.

I learned to fight loud and strong by watching my parents. My brother and I would hide together in my bedroom as our parents tore into each other during arguments, often screaming and throwing things. Because of my broken family, when I first got married I was sure that every conflict between me and Steve would end our marriage.

Steve was raised by parents who had stayed married, so it was impossible for him to relate to my fears and worries. He was raised in quieter surroundings. His parents dealt with conflict quite differently from mine. There was no rage. No yelling. No broken furniture. His parents rarely fought—and never in front of their children. But his family also had no system to resolve conflict. That meant issues went unresolved—though not unnoticed.

Steve's and my fighting techniques were drastically different. However, neither of us had been equipped to deal appropriately with marital conflict. That led to major challenges early in our marriage whenever we attempted to resolve a disagreement. To make things even more difficult, when I married Steve I was a new Christian and had not yet learned how to channel my anger properly.

I tried everything to get him to react or resolve conflict with me, and as I waited, I became more bitter and he became more distant. One day I couldn't take Steve's calm, cool responses anymore. From my perspective, he obviously needed some lessons on how to fight for our marriage. I'd had enough of his "let's work it out peacefully by ignoring our problems" act. In my mind, he was being polite only to annoy me.

"Why don't you ever show some emotion and prove to me you care about our marriage?" I yelled.

Steve stood there quietly, shaking his head and looking down at the ground. Then suddenly, he turned toward the mirror on our bedroom closet door and kicked it as hard as he could, smashing it to bits.

Wow, I thought, what a performance. He sure learns fast.

Suddenly I began to laugh hysterically through my tears. I was so shocked I wasn't sure if I was relieved or ready to run from what I saw. His toenail was jutting out at a bizarre angle as he asked me, "Is that enough emotion for you? If it would help, I could probably throw myself on the floor and work up a good cry." We both began to laugh together as we attempted to pick up the glass fragments scattered all over our bedroom floor. In that moment I realized how much we had shattered each other just because we were different and had not been trained on how to resolve conflict. Our marriage was not the problem; it was our hearts. Neither of us had a teachable spirit.

It took several years, a lot of tears, and one expensive closet door mirror to repair the damage inflicted during those early years. We still have conflict, as all couples do, but we now understand that we are on the same team and that it's okay not to agree on everything.

After twenty-five years of marriage, we've decided it's worth letting go of the little things and fighting to understand one another. Conflict comes no matter who we marry. We may be fighting about different things with different men, but there will always be major differences between men and women. I once heard a pastor say that if spouses agreed on everything, only one of them would be needed. Let's not allow our differences to divide us any longer!

For a sneak peek of Sheri Rose's Your Heart's Desire Group Experience, or to learn more about her ministry, visit

Watch the trailer:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Review ~ Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson

Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson – reviewed by Rebecca Maney

“Come marry me.” Three simple words; for most women words that are eagerly anticipated. Ann Silver is not “most women”. One of the deepest and most admirable characters that I have ever met through the pages of a book, Ann is brilliant, precise, deliberate, dedicated, loyal, humble, fiercely private, deeply spiritual, introverted and understated. A recognized homicide investigator, pilot, artist, and writer; with traumatic experiences and nightmares that love overcame. But Ann is terrified of loving and being loved; afraid she will fail.

Paul Falcon. What’s not to like about him? Admired, successful, intelligent, calculating, intuitive, prayerful, sturdy, protective, loving, kind, compassionate, and patient; wise enough to seek advice from friends; with enough love to penetrate Ann’s previously impenetrable walls and he determines to do just that. When Ann quizzes Paul about why he would want to marry her, he answers, “I get someone who loves God. I get a wonderfully deep imaginative thinker and reader and writer. I get someone who keeps a quiet life, who values friends, who can fly a plane and talk business with ease . . . . . who takes relationships seriously . . . . . . . You give your heart when you say I love you . .. I get you, Ann.”

Paul and Ann’s lives intersect when Ann arrives at his Chicago FBI office with information that blows open a thirteen year old case involving a series of high profile murders by a lady assassin. Ann has the middle man in her small town morgue along with evidence from the scene of his death; filled with coded details that the FBI can use to begin tracking down the evasive shooter. From this point, the story launches into pages and pages of intriguing details that continue to unfold when the shooter herself contacts law enforcement to trade different levels of leniency for audio tapes of the for-hire murder contracts. Paul immediately pulls Ann in on the elite team of experts examining the case and their time together on and off the case nourishes their mutual attraction.

In a most bizarre twist, Paul is asked by the former vice president to lead a team of experts in reviewing a chapter of his soon-to-be-released biography that Ann is writing for him, and Paul realizes that the depth of the woman he has grown to love is cavernous; filled with dark memories, private traumas, and courageous victories. When the two investigations merge; history is re-written.

I have a husband who said, “Come marry me”; 20 years ago. As a self-proclaimed introvert, who needs lots of solitude to refuel, I could relate to Ann’s trepidations and her story renewed appreciation for the man who barged through deep emotional walls to love me. This is a truly incredible book on so many levels; a deep and complex mixture of high level suspense, unbelievable relational twists and turns, quiet conversations, and gentle touches. Congratulations Dee on your re-entry into the world of romantic suspense.

Thank you, Rebecca for this insightful review! I know we're both big Dee Henderson fans so I'm glad we get to talk about it through our reviews :) 
I will be posting mine soon. 

Has anyone else read it yet? If so, what did you think? 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Rambling or Reflecting, I know not which

Peace. It's something we all strive for. True peace can only come from God; whether it is inner peace or world peace. By reading and studying Scripture I am assured that if I focus on Him I will have peace because GOD WILL GIVE IT TO ME.

The LORD will give strength to His people; The LORD will bless His people with peace. ~ Psalm 29:11

Trust. It's not easy. It's like any other relationship; it takes time to build. But by staying in His Word, praying and being still long enough to hear His voice and feel His Spirit in me, it becomes easier. Almost second nature. 

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you: because he trusts in you. ~ Isaiah 26:3 

Never have I been so challenged as the last 5 1/2 months. I know I've said this before and many of you (maybe all of you) might be tired of hearing it but I can't say it enough. Without knowing Christ and fully, 100% trusting in Him, I would have gone crazy since my Amy's death. 

I still cry and at the stupidest things! Last night we watched an old episode of Doctor Who; the final one with Rose. When they were separated by that white wall in the end, both of them with their faces pressed on opposite sides as if they could feel the others presence, I thought of my sweet Amy and the tears that had been slowly trickling down my cheeks became a gushing waterfall. 

For me, this world is my white wall; all that separates us. I close my eyes and I can feel her. She's just on the other side. And here I am, grieving the separation while at the same time feeling at peace, trusting my Lord, confident in knowing that I shall be reunited with her one day.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. ~ John 14:27 

I'm linked with Come to the Table.

(All you Doctor Who fans know the episode I'm talking about. If you don't, you can find them on Netflix)

Review ~ My First Handy Bible, 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 illustrated by:
and the book:

Hendrickson Publishers (January 31, 2012)

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson for sending me a review copy.***


My First Handy Bible aims to communicate God's character and His love to the youngest of children, ages one to three. Beautifully illustrated in bright full color, My First Handy Bible has a cheerful padded hardcover with 61 child-friendly hardback pages and a handle and clasp that make it easy for small hands to tote and manipulate. The timeless stories are retold in simple sentences by author and artist Cecilie Olesen, illustrated by author and illustrator Gustavo Mazali and designed by Ben Alex, a C. S. Lewis Gold Medal winner author and designer.

Website for Book

Product Details:
List Price: $12.95
Hardcover: 61 pages
Publisher: Hendrickson Publishers (January 31, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 8772473045
ISBN-13: 978-8772473048

AND NOW...SOME SAMPLE PAGES (Click on images to enlarge):


I absolutely adore the fact that this book is made with a carry handle. Toddlers love to carry things and look grown up. With such colorful illustrations, their attention is sure to be captured. There are multiple uses for this book; not only introducing them to Jesus, but teaching them colors and animals!

My biggest disappointment is that not once is Jesus referred to as Lord and Saviour. He's mostly referred to as 'friend'. He didn't primarily come to be our friend but Messiah. I understand wanting to keep it simple but young children absorb so much more than we realize.
In Matthew 19:14, Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." 

ith some extra discussion from mom and dad, I do believe this book can be beneficial to toddlers. This is my honest opinion. Special thanks to Rick Roberson for sending me a review copy. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Giveaways on the Web

I thought some of you might be interested in these giveaways.

Click here to find out how to enter for a copy of this delightful book being offered on CBD. 
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book! 

CBD also has a list of more awesome giveaways here, including winning a trip to Washington D.C.


Click here to find out how to enter the drawing for this gift pack.
I really want to read this book!



Click here to find out how to enter the drawing for Soul's Gate by Jim Rubart.
This one sounds pretty intense!


create your own banner at!

Also, hop on over to Fiction Addiction Fix for a comprehensive list of current book giveaways!


I'm not associated, affiliated or responsible in any way, shape, or form with/for these giveaways. I'm just sharing the information. 

~ Enjoy and Happy Reading ~

Friday, October 19, 2012

Guest Post ~ Diane Estrella

That’s what I’m here for…..

This has to be one of the best tag lines. And it is so true of writer/blogger extraordinaire, Diane Estrella.  Diane says she is good for a moment's distraction but I have found her to be a supportive and encouraging friend, and knowledgeable about so many things!  Today Diane talks to us about blogging. 

I need to pay close attention ;-)

Diane's website:

The Benefits of Blogging by Diane Estrella
What is a blog/blogging?
“A blog (a portmanteau of the termweb log) is a personal journal published on the World Wide Web consisting of discrete entries (“posts”) typically displayed in reverse chronological order so the most recent post appears first. Blogs are usually the work of a single individual, occasionally of a small group, and often are themed on a single subject. Blog can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog.
The emergence and growth of blogs in the late 1990s coincided with the advent of web publishing tools that facilitated the posting of content by non-technical users. (Previously a knowledge of such technologies as HTML and FTP had been required to publish content on the Web.)
Although not a must, most good quality blogs are interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments and even message each other via widgets on the blogs and it is this interactivity that distinguishes them from other static websites. In that sense, blogging can be seen as a form of social networking. Indeed, bloggers do not only produce content to post on their blogs but also build social relations with their readers and other bloggers.
As of 16 February 2011, there were over 156 million public blogs in existence.” ~~~per Wikipedia
Some Benefits of Blogging:
  • Obey God’s word
Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord. Psalm 102:18
Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘ Write all the words which I have spoken to you in a book.' Jeremiah 30:1-3
Though I have many things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, so that your joy may be made full. 2 John 1:11
  • World reaching ministry and witness. You are connected to the World-Wide-Web and you never know who you will reach.
I can assure you that whoever believes in me will do the same things I have done. And they will do even greater things than I have done, because I am going to the Father. John 14:12 (ERV)
  • Reach family and friends that don’t know God and influence them. You can say many things on your blog that you may not have the opportunity or the ability to say to them in person.
  • A place to just get started publicly writing. C’mon and dip your toe in!
  • Cross promotion…. you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours!
  • As you follow and watch other blogs, especially agent blogs, you will “be in the know” about upcoming trends, first to see and hear new info and leads. You can directly interact with these people via commenting, through Facebook, etc.
  • Blogging will evoke no shortage of emotions out of you! Fun, soothing, exhilarating, frustrating….
  • Use it as an opportunity for journaling.
  • You may be one degree of separation away from the contact you need to make!
  • Connect with others in your niche or have the same passion as you.
  • Do you consider blogging a chore? It will be a discipline to build your writing skills.
  • For all future author wannabees, it will be required! Truth is: every author has to have a blog today. I don’t think it is an option anymore.
  • Poetry and other difficult genres to enter into can be done here
  • Blogging provides a way for agents or publishers to find you at your home base.
  • Place to brand yourself, make your platform,
  • Say what’s really on your mind, Be regarded, acknowledged, this is your pulpit, can hit on hard areas like politics.
  • Make friends. Yes, even BFF’s!!!
  • Sell stuff. Do you or someone you know have a side-business?
  • Get freebies! Books, product promotions, etc.
  • Make Money~~~Ka-ching!!! Sell ad space or get paid to write blog posts.
  • Blogging can and will lead to other things in your future.
There you have it, my list.
What’s your favorite reason to blog? Do you have other ideas that I missed?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Old & Lonely ~ Rural Thursday

Today's photo is courtesy of my friend, Bill, in Yakima WA. He's quite the weekend explorer and always shares magnificent photos of the mountains. This past week he shared this one that he took  on a journey to Wenas Pass, WA Stagecoach Weigh Station. 

It caught my attention so I asked if I could share and he graciously said yes. 

Well, I suppose that's obvious :O)

There's just something that calls out to me in this photo. 

What do you see?

I'm linked to Rural Thursday.

Christmas at Holly Hill by Martha Rogers ~ FIRST Wild Card Tour

I haven't finished this book yet, but if it turns out anything like the rest of Martha's books that I have read, I know I am going to be infinitely pleased at the conclusion!

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:

Realms (September 4, 2012)

***Special thanks to Althea Thompson for sending me a review copy.***


Martha Rogers’s novel Not on the Menu debuted on May 1, 2007, as a part of Sugar and Grits, a novella collection with DiAnn Mills, Janice Thompson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo. Her series Winds Across the Prairie debuted in 2010 with Becoming Lucy, Morning for Dove, Finding Becky, and Caroline’s Choice. Her other credits include stories in anthologies with Wayne Holmes, Karen Holmes, and Debra White Smith; several articles in Christian magazines; devotionals in six books of devotions; and eight Bible studies. Martha served as editor of a monthly newsletter for the writer’s organization Inspirational Writers Alive! for six years and is the state president. She is also the director for the annual Texas Christian Writer’s Conference and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, for whom she writes a weekly devotional. Martha and her husband are active members of First Baptist Church.

Visit the author's website.


Can Clayton Barlow prove he has changed his ways in time for Christmas?

It is October 1898, and Clayton Barlow has just returned home after serving time in prison for his part in a bank robbery. His family welcomes him, but the townspeople are skeptical. Bored with life in the small town but determined to make a new start, he goes to work with his father, hoping to regain the town’s trust.

Clayton recognizes the schoolteacher at the Prairie Grove School as his childhood friend, Merry Lee Warner, and old feelings surface. Still, he doubts that he could ever get a woman like Merry to love him.

As the townspeople prepare for Christmas, their suspicions about Clayton lead to trouble. Will the trusting heart of an unlikely new friend be enough to restore Clayton’s relationships with his neighbors and reunite him with God and Merry?

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 304 pages

Publisher: Realms (September 4, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1616388374

ISBN-13: 978-1616388379


Prairie Grove, Kansas, October 1898 

Home for Thanksgiving and Christmas! Clay’s heart pumped blood through his veins at a

frantic pace. After serving five years for his part in a bank robbery, he’d be home for his two favorite holidays. The question looming in his soul was whether he’d be welcomed by anyone other than his parents.

The train hissed and steamed its way into the station with a blast of the whistle as Clay peered through the window. When the cars came to a screeching stop, he remained in his seat, fear gripping his heart. The conductor stopped in the aisle.

“Son, this is your stop. Time to get off.”

Clay willed himself to stand and make his way down the aisle. No one would be here to greet him since no one knew he’d be on the train. He’d planned it all as a surprise, espe- cially for his mother. He stepped to the platform, gripping the handle of the small bag containing all his worldly possessions. Around him the trees wore their best fall colors in welcome, and as Clay made his way to the street in front of the depot, he drank in the sight he’d seen only in his dreams for the past five years.

The good citizens of Prairie Grove moved about on their way to one place or another, oblivious to his presence. The livery still stood close to the station with the post office nearby, and right next to it a new addition announced itself in gold letters. The telegraph office was now the Prairie Grove Telephone and Telegraph center. His hometown had grown more than he realized.

He spotted the hotel and the Red Garter Saloon a few blocks away, then he breathed deeply of the fresh smell of baking bread drifting from the bakery next to his father’s store. The green and yellow letters on the sign hanging in front welcomed customers to Barlow’s General Store, still the only mercantile in town. A slight breeze

sent the sign swinging with a creak he heard from his position near the depot. Dust whirls danced across the street where he’d once played with other boys his age.

By Christmas those streets would most likely be filled with snow, and snowball fights would be the game of the day at the school. His days at the red clapboard schoolhouse had been some of the happiest of life. He viewed the bell tower of the school at the end of the street and could almost hear the sound of it clanging in his memory.

Doubt lodged in Clay’s throat, but he kept walking to the store. When he stepped through the door, it could well have

been ten years ago when he helped Pa. He inhaled the familiar smells of coal oil, fresh ground coffee, fabric dye, and pepper- mint candy. Nothing had changed.

Then he spotted his ma. He observed her for a minute or two, savoring the sight of her graying hair and slight frame. She didn’t move as fast as she once had, and she stopped to catch her breath after placing some items on a shelf.

From the corner of his eye he saw his father coming from the storeroom. A good five inches shorter than Clay, Pa’s sturdy frame handled the box in his arms with ease. He turned to set the box on the counter, and Clay cringed the moment his father recognized him. The meeting he both dreaded and anticipated had come.

Pa didn’t move from behind the counter. He simply stared for what seemed an eternity but in reality amounted to only seconds. His words barely reached Clay’s ears. “Son, you’ve come home.”

At Clay’s nod his father stepped around the counter and called to Ma. “Cora, our boy is home.”

A can clattered to the floor, and his mother turned with hands to her mouth. She hurried toward him and hugged him. “Thank You, Lord, for bringing him home safe.” Tears glis- tened in her eyes. “I’ve waited and waited for this moment to come.” She reached up and placed her hands on each side of his face then kissed his cheeks.

Heat rose in his face, but Ma’s arms and kisses were the welcome he’d hoped for in the past few days of travel. His arms went around her thin frame. She’d lost a good deal of weight since the last time he’d seen her, and that bothered him more than his earlier observations.

He glanced up at his father. His graying hair had thinned some, and his eyes held both a welcome and uncertainty. Gaining Pa’s trust would take time.

His parents stood in front of him and shook their heads. Pa wrapped his arm around Ma. “We’ve waited a long time for this day. Thank God you made it home.”

Clay didn’t know what God had to do with anything, since it had been Pa who had turned Clay over to the authorities five years ago. The road back would be long and hard, but then that’s no more than he’d expected.

Ma grabbed his hands. “Are you planning on staying here in Prairie Grove with us? You’re not going to get mixed up with those . . . those . . . thieves again, are you?”

Before Clay could answer, Pa added his own sentiments. “If you do decide to stay, I expect you to stay away from them. If you don’t, you won’t be welcome here.”

Clay stiffened but kept his voice neutral. “I understand, Pa, but I’m not going to get mixed up with Karl’s gang again. I would like to stay as long as you’ll have me.”

Or until the townspeople ran him off. Two older women in the corner eyed him and whispered between themselves. The prodigal had returned, but not everyone welcomed him. He nodded to the ladies, who immediately turned their backs. So much for the town’s greeting.

“Of course we want you to live here with us,” Ma said, not even seeming to notice the ladies. “Now let’s go upstairs and get you settled in. I know you’re hungry. You always were, and I have supper almost ready.” She held onto his arm and led him to the stairway up to the living quarters above the store.

A voice calling his name stopped him at the bottom. He odded for his mother to go on up and turned to find an old riend, Jimmy Shanks, grinning from ear to ear. “It is you, Clay Barlow.” The blond-headed young man reached out to grasp Clay’s hand.

“Yeah, it’s me. I decided to come home, Jimmy.” He grasped the outstretched hand and blinked at the strength in the grasp.

“It’s James now, and I’m married to Grace Ann Higgins.” Clay had to chuckle at that revelation. Grace Ann had run

away from Jimmy every time he’d tried to get close.

“So, you finally got Grace Ann’s attention. I’m glad since you always liked her.”

“You’ll have to come out to the house for dinner some night so we can catch up on old times.”

“I’ll think on that, Jimmy . . . James.” Not much to catch up on from his side since he’d been behind prison bars for five years. “And you’d better check with Grace Ann. She might not cotton to having an ex-con at her dinner table.”

James blinked. “Don’t you worry none about that; we’ll always be friends.” He stepped back and picked up his pur- chase. “Had to pick up some coal oil. With the days getting shorter, we need more of it.”

Clay walked with him to the door and stepped outside with James, who shook Clay’s hand once again. “I’m so glad you’re home. This is one Christmas your parents will be glad to celebrate.” With a grin and a salute he stepped down to the street and mounted his horse. “See you around, Clay.”

If he’d stayed good friends with Jimmy instead of getting mixed up with Karl, things would have been much different. Still, the warm welcome from his old friend and the greeting from his parents lightened the load in Clay’s heart.

If Pa would have him, Clay wanted to work again in the tore. Being locked up with bad food, hard cots, little sunshine, and no privacy motivated him to stay out of trouble. He’d had a lot of time to think in prison, and one thing remained sure and steadfast. Clayton Barlow would not end up behind bars ever again.

Merry Warner stepped onto the boardwalk up the street from the school where she taught. The wonderful aroma of cin- namon stopped her in front of the bakery. Cinnamon buns for breakfast in the morning would make up for her being late this afternoon. She hurried up to the counter where Mr. Brooks placed fresh pies into the case. On second thought, two pecan pies for supper tonight would be even better.

She grinned at the baker, who reminded her of the pictures she’d seen of Santa Claus, right down to the white beard and rosy cheeks. “I’ll have two of those pecan pies. I’m sure Mama will appreciate them for supper tonight.”

“Good choice, Miss Warner. We had a good crop of pecans this year, so Mrs. Brooks is busy with recipes using the nuts.” Mr. Brooks placed each pie in a paper bag then tied the top closed with string. “There, that should make them easier to carry.”

She plunked several coins onto the counter and picked up her purchase. “I hope she makes some of that pumpkin bread for the holidays.”

Mr. Brooks laughed. “Oh, she will. I’m sure of that. You have a nice evening now, and tell your ma I said hello.”

Merry nodded and hurried out to be on her way. She

stopped short when she spotted a man standing in front of the eneral store next door. A gasp escaped her lips, and her heart skipped a beat. He looked just like Clay Barlow, but Clay was in prison. Surely she would have heard if he had come home.

He turned, and his gaze locked with hers. Recognition shot through her with streaks of delight that dissipated almost as soon as they began. No one but Clay had eyes so dark a brown that they penetrated to her very soul.

How could Clay be out of prison already? Then she counted and realized five years had indeed passed since he’d gone away. When Grandma Collins had said she needed Mama and Papa to come back and take care of the orphanage at Holly Hill, Merry’s heart had been torn apart. She loved Barton Creek and wanted to stay there, but the memory of her years in Prairie Grove beckoned for her to return. One of those memories included Clay Barlow and the schoolgirl crush she’d had on him before he got involved with Karl Laramie’s gang.

Shoving aside her misgivings, she gave in to her delight and ran up to hug Clay. “Clay Barlow, it’s been too many years.” Heat filled her face, and she jumped back. She was no longer a sixteen-year-old girl but a young woman who should practice better manners befitting her age.

Clay’s eyes opened wide in surprise. “Merry?”

“Yes. We moved  back to Holly Hill last summer after Grandpa died. I’m so glad you’re home.”

“I’m glad to be here too.” He stepped back. “It . . . it’s nice to see you. I . . . I . . . ” His voice trailed off, and he glanced over her shoulder. Without another word he bolted through the door to the store.

Merry stood with her mouth agape. How rude. Then she urned and saw three women staring at her with disapproval written all over them. Mrs. Pennyfeather, wife of the school superintendent, shook her head and frowned.

Heat rose in Merry’s face again. They’d seen her greeting Clay. No sense in trying to apologize. Mrs. Pennyfeather wouldn’t listen anyway. Merry gathered up her pies and fled up the hill toward Holly Hill Home for Children. Along the way her thoughts whirled. She had never expected to see Clay again, figuring that he’d be too ashamed to come back to his hometown. What could his return mean?

She burst through the door then closed it and braced her- self against the smooth wood. Her heart pounded not only from the long walk but also from seeing Clay again.

Imogene and Eileen raced over to grab her around the waist. The blonde-haired ten-year-old-twins wore matching blue-and-white striped dresses with white pinafores over them.

Eileen eyed the bags in Merry’s hands. “You went by the bakery. What did you bring?” She reached for one of the bags.

Merry held it high. “Not until after supper. Then we’ll have pecan pie.”

Imogene jumped up and down, her pigtails bouncing on her shoulders. “That’s my favorite. Oh, I love you, Merry.” The young girl wrapped her arms about Merry’s waist again.

Emmaline appeared with a stack of silverware in  her hands. “It’s about time you got here. Mama Warner could use your help.”

Merry set the pie bags on a table near the door and unwound Imogene’s arms. “I’m sorry I’m late. I stayed at the school to prepare the lessons for tomorrow. Did you know we have ten different varieties of trees around our school building?”

Emmaline shook her head. “No, and I don’t care right now. Are you going to help me or not?”

“Yes, I’m on my way.” Merry removed her shawl and bonnet then hung them on a hook by the door in the entry hall. She picked up the pies and made her way to the kitchen. Emmaline plunked the silverware onto the table behind Merry. At thir- teen Emmaline had begun to rebel against doing so many chores around the home, but Mama could usually get her to cooperate.

Merry sighed and pushed open the swinging door into the kitchen. She kissed her mother’s plump cheek. “Sorry I’m late. I got detained at school.”

Mama ladled stew into bowls and set them on a tray. “I figured as much. Check the cornbread for me. Supper’s about ready.”

Grandma Collins opened up the bakery sacks. “Pecan pie—now that’s going to make for a good dessert. Thank you, Merry.”

“I figured since I was so late coming home, I might as well contribute something to the meal.” Merry opened the oven door and removed two pans of cornbread. She set them on the counter and reached up to the shelf to grab a plate for serving it. She turned one pan onto the counter then cut it into squares and arranged them on the plate.

“Mama, did you know Clay Barlow came home?”

The ladle stopped, dripping stew back into the pot. Mama stood still for a few seconds, as did Grandma. “No, I didn’t. Has it been five years already?” She shook her head. “Such promise that boy had before he got into so much trouble. Where did you see him?”

“Outside the store. I’m . . . I’m afraid I made a spectacle of myself. I ran up and hugged him because I was so glad to see him back. The problem is, Mrs. Pennyfeather and her friends saw the whole thing. They weren’t too happy about it either.”

Mama laid the spoon aside and reached over to pat Merry’s shoulder. “I’m sure they’ll get over it. How did he seem?”

“I don’t know. Embarrassed to see me, I guess. He didn’t say much.”

Mama nodded sagely. “It’s been seven years since we moved away from Holly Hill and went to Barton Creek. You were only sixteen when you thought you were so in love with him. Being in prison changes a man, so he won’t be that same boy you liked so much back then.”

“I know, Mama. It just seems strange that he would be released and come home not long after we moved back home.” Grandma shook her head. “I don’t know what

happened to that boy. I always liked him. Maybe he’s learned his lesson and will make something of himself yet.”

Papa chose that minute to swing open the back door and enter the kitchen with Henry and Kenny. The boys’ arms were filled with logs for the fire. Papa planted a kiss on Mama’s fore- head then motioned to the boys, who had unloaded their wood into the bin near the stove. “Let’s get washed up and have some of Mama’s stew.”

Merry finished piling the cornbread onto a plate and headed to the dining room with it. More talk with Mama and Grandma about Clay would have to wait until they were alone.

She settled in for dinner with her family. Although none of the children were actually her brothers or sisters, every one of them held that place in her heart after the few months she’d been back here with them. Emmaline and Henry had lived at the orphanage the longest, with Kenny and Robert next, but those two had been babies when her family had left. The rest were new to her, but she’d grown to love them quickly. Each one had their own tale of tragedy and loss.

Papa stood behind his chair and bowed his head to ask the blessing on the meal. Papa never varied his blessing, using the one his pa had taught him growing up. Merry only half listened to the familiar words until Papa took a new turn. “And Father, we ask thy blessings on young Clay Barlow. Guide him on the right path now that he’s served his time and come home. May we act and think kindly toward him. Amen.”

Merry swallowed hard and blinked her eyes. She lifted her gaze to her father’s and saw understanding in their blue depths. Around her the others clamored to know who Clay was and why Papa prayed for him. She bit her lip and bowed her head. No man or boy had claimed her heart like Clay. From the encounter this afternoon, she realized he still pos- sessed a piece of it, and she had no idea what to do with that revelation.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Trailer Tuesday ~ A Wreath of Snow

About the Book

Reluctantly returning home for the holidays, Meg Campbell receives a frosty reception from her family and decides to leave for Edinburgh. Delayed by a snowstorm, she pours out her heart to a secretly hurting traveler named Gordon, who asks all the right questions. Can they find healing in each other---and perhaps something more? 224 pages, hardcover from Waterbrook Multnomah.

If you're coming here from the Tea Parties, SEE BELOW!!!

Did someone say Teapots? ~ Tea Time Tuesday

In Sept, my husband and I took a trip to PA and while there we went to the Wilbur Chocolate Factory in Lititz, PA. They had the most amazing display of teapots from all over the world! I was so glad they allowed pictures to be taken. I could have taken a zillion lot of them, but I held myself in check and only took four. I know. I should have taken more.

Let's not forget where I was. A CHOCOLATE FACTORY!!! I was definitely interested in buying chocolate, especially since I'd never heard of Wilbur Chocolates

Well, let me tell you...they are so SMOOTH and CREAMY and the BEST I have ever tasted. No, I'm not a connoisseur but I do eat lots of chocolate. See. I love just saying typing the word chocolate :) 

So, if you ever find yourself in PA, near Lititz you must go to Wilbur's and get some chocolate! You won't be sorry :)  

What's your favorite chocolate?

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NEWSFLASH: They are NOT Tea pots. Apparently they are CHOCOLATE POTS!!! 


Can you just imagine having a pot of chocolate that big?! Bring it on, baby!

Thank you , Maria for letting me know what I took pictures of. Once again, I am so duh!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A drive in the country ~ Rural Thursday

This little abandoned building on the side of the road captured my husband's eye.
I wonder what it was used for? 
Personally, I think it would make a great play house!

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this or that thursday

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Today's thoughts...

Standing on the edge of the ocean gives me clarity of God's power and majesty.
I hear Him in the strength of the roaring waves as they rush to shore.
A breeze chills my flesh but I lift my face to the Son and warmth engulfs me.
I throw my arms wide and embrace the Spirit!

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