Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Clock


This is my great-grandfather's clock.
It kept time on the wall of his small grocery store in Montebello, California, back in the 20's and 30's.
My mother inherited it from him.
This Seth Thomas clock was an important part of my growing up years.
It hung on the wall in the family room of my childhood home. 
We willed those hands to reach the correct time as we waited for our favorite TV shows.
Bewitched, The Adam's Family, The Brady Bunch, Partridge Family and during my early teens, Donny and Marie. (swoon)
It's a schoolhouse clock...an old-school wind-up clock.
Wind it up and it runs for eight days straight.
It keeps perfect time.
This was both good and bad when I was growing up. 
Good when I was getting ready to go somewhere...
Bad when I came home late on a Saturday night.
It also has a loud tick tock...
Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock. 
My friends complained about it when they'd sleep over.
We always had sleepovers on the floor of the family room, playing games, watching Nightmare Theater and staying up 'til all hours (because we'd watched Nightmare Theater).
I love the sound of that clock. 
It's strong, steady and familiar.
Sometimes I don't hear it at all...and then I'll see the pendulum swinging back and forth and the ticking and tocking will waft over my ears...there it is...
Many years ago, my parents asked my sister, brother and I which family heirlooms we wanted to inherit.
I didn't hesitate. 
Great Grandpa's old clock.
When my mom moved this summer, she gave it to me.
It hangs in our den, ticking off it's familiar beat.
The other day, I was talking to my daughter on the phone. 
In the middle of our conversation she said, "Mom, I hear the clock. I love that clock!"
There it was.
That loud, familiar friend.
Nearly a hundred years of ticking and tocking and keeping time for generations of children and grandchildren.
I wonder what secrets...what stories that clock could tell...

Monday, September 17, 2018

Christmas In Time - An English Christmas Treasure by Debby Lee

          This week I'd like to introduce you to Debby Lee.  I met Debby almost two years ago when she responded to my request for a local critique partner on the American Christian Fiction Writer's facebook page. Debby has been an encouragement to me and a valuable critique partner. Her expertise has helped me to grow as a writer and her faith in my ability to tell a story is why I'm part of this anthology. I'm so grateful!
          Her contribution to Christmas in Time is titled: An English Christmas Treasure.

When members of my critique group began talking about putting an anthology together I immediately wanted to be a part of it. A chance to participate in a Christmas collection with writers who help me hone my writing skills, folks I consider my friends, I couldn't refuse. I almost didn't know how to begin. I've written several stories set in America during the 1800's, but for this project I was ready for something different. Then I thought about England. I love the movies Sense and Sensibility and Young Victoria, and besides, my mother-in-law is from Soham, England. So, I delved into research, which I consider one of the most enjoyable parts of being an author. Drawing further inspiration from the classic, The Little Drummer Boy, I wove together what I hope is a tale of heartwarming romance.

Debby Lee was raised in the cozy town of Toledo, Washington. She’s been writing since she was a small child, but never forgets home.
The American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America are two organizations Debby enjoys being a part of. She recently signed her fourth contract with Barbour Publishing. The Courageous Brides and Mountain Christmas Brides both made the ECPA Bestsellers list. She is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steven Laube Literary Agency.
A self-professed nature lover, Debby feels like a hippie child who wasn’t born soon enough to attend Woodstock. She wishes she could run barefoot all year long, but often does when weather permits. During football season Debby cheers on the Seattle Seahawks with other devoted fans. She’s also filled with wanderlust and dreams of traveling the world someday.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Christmas in Time - Christmas Stars by Barbara Blakey

Christmas in Time is set to release on October 1st!
Pre-order for the ebook is available now, and the paperback is coming soon.

What I've enjoyed most about contributing to this anthology is the people I've had the privilege of working with--seasoned writers from whom I can learn and grow as a writer. This week I'd like to introduce you to Barbara Tifft Blakey. 


 When the opportunity came to be a part of this collection, I started thinking about the many joyful Christmases I’ve known. One of the most memorable, almost magical, was the one spent in Europe, specifically parts of Germany and Vienna. It seemed like a perfect fit to set my story in a place that touched me as wonderfully as that Christmas did.

Barbara Tifft Blakey is the author of the language arts program, Total Language Plus. She has written a middle grade novel, Bertie’s War (published by Kregel) and written for two anthologies (published by Barbour):  The Underground Railroad Brides Collectionand The Pony Express Romance Collection.

         

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Writing the Scriptures - 3 Wonderful Discoveries!


I recently began writing the Scriptures...
No, I'm not adding anything to the Bible.
I'm writing what the Bible says - copying it - word for word in long-hand.

I began in Ephesians.
6 chapters,  17 pages of my handwriting.
Fun fact: My hand never got tired.

I discovered many things, here's three of them...
1.  When I take three or six word chunks and write them down, I have to examine each word - copy it exactly as it's written in my Bible - and as I do that, the words don't rush through my noggin.
They sink in.
They float there for a few seconds and sometimes I stop and take a minute to ponder.
(Maybe that's why my hand doesn't get tired.)
One of the first things I pondered is the fact that the Holy Spirit was given to us as a "deposit guaranteeing our inheritance" (Ephesians 1:14). Yes, the Holy Spirit is here to comfort and guide us, but I hadn't realized that the Holy Spirit is also a deposit - a guarantee or proof that Christ will return for us - in whom the Spirit dwells. Wow.
Ephesians is now full of doodle stars, underlined words and highlights where God revealed something new or cemented a truth into my heart. I'm so grateful.

2. Typically, reading my bible is something to get done.
Full disclosure - devotions were box to check.
I'm not proud of that but there it is.
Since I started writing the scriptures, I look forward to it. I think about it throughout my day and sometimes I write in the morning and afternoon. It's exciting to see what will pop out to me.
What nugget(s) will I find today?
(I've always liked a treasure hunt.)

3. There are A LOT of run-on sentences in the Bible. Which gives me hope, honestly. If the best selling book of all time contains a plethora of run-on sentences, one after the other, there's hope for my novel, right?! ;)

Have you ever written the scriptures?
I am surprised how much I enjoy it.
I've thought about writing the whole Bible, but honestly, the lists of begats in the Old Testament give me pause.
I'll keep you posted as I continue writing...next up, James. (We're going to study James at church so I thought I'd get a little jump start.)

Give writing the scriptures a try and let me know what you think.
You will be blessed, so very blessed!

Monday, September 3, 2018

One Year Ago...


It's been a year since my dad went to Glory.
A long year of massive change.
There's no preventing the loss of loved ones.
Death is a guarantee of life.
It's the way LIFE works.
And during this year, I've grown closer to my Heavenly Father.
That's a worthy exchange...not easy, but precious.

Much has happened during this year that would have made my dad so proud.
Our family celebrated many successes and even a new little addition who shares his name.
With every celebration I felt the joy my dad would have expressed.
His physical body may be gone, but his essence remains.
In that, I find comfort.

God's kindness and comfort is lavished on those who grieve.
Isaiah 41:10 - Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
This has been the most precious thing to know.
God does not want me to be stuck in sadness.
In the midst of grief, He brings joy.
Joy in the memories that come to mind every day.
Joy in my one precious life that keeps on going...
Joy in the promise of eternal life.

So...today I remember my dad and the day he went home.
I know I'll miss him for the rest of my life.
But I feel a lightness to this milestone.
This year was something to get through...all the firsts without him.
Time has softened the ache and calmed the crashing waves of grief.
And I'm thankful.

Friday, August 31, 2018

10 Things I Love About Fall

Fall is my favorite season for so many reasons...here are my top ten:

1. Cooler weather.
I love the sunshine and heat, and then I don't. Enough is enough. Bring on the biting breezes and sweater weather.

2. School supplies.
Composition books for 50¢...50¢!! Aisles of pens and pencils and erasers. Paper of every kind. Glue and paperclips and binders. And it's all on sale! Swoon.

3. Color.
The fiery reds, yellows and oranges contrast with green grass and blue sky. My eyes feast on the beauty of this time of year.

4. The smell of rain after a long dry summer.

5. Harvest. My garden is bursting at the seams. I love wandering down the aisles of my personal grocery store to pick dinner...provided the broccoli and brussel sprouts aren't wormy...but that's another story.

6. Clothes. I'm admittedly fashion-impaired but there's something about dressing in the fall. I can layer and take fashion chances, albiet with mixed results - but if I'm warm, who cares?

7. Baking. After a summer of minimal cooking because it's been hot, I look forward to baking. I love to bake cookies and scones. It's been a drought of fast meals and ice cream bars for dessert. Time to turn the oven on.

8. Rain beating on the window.

9. A fire in the fireplace.

10. The new year. Not the real new year, but the new school year which has always felt more like a new year than January 1st does. It's a time of setting goals and looking back and starting fresh.
The old passes away and the new has come...as the leaves tumble through the air, that's how I feel.
I love that!

BONUS: This fall, Christmas in Time will be released! I'm very excited to hold that book in my hot little hands and read seven stories of Christmas through the ages. My story, Two Golden Rings, is one of them. It won't be long before you can order your own copy. :)

What do you love about fall?

Friday, August 10, 2018

On Motherhood...and Contentment.


When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up,
My answer was always, "I want to be a mom."
Always.
My mom was a stay-at-home mom and I never imagined doing anything else.
The value of her presence was not lost on me.
So when I became a mother,
There was no question that I would be home with my kids.

When I became a mom, it was MUCH cooler to be a working mom.
Perhaps it hasn't changed much.
Over and over, I was asked, "What do you DO all day?" 
I couldn't answer definitively.
What did I do all day?
Never what I planned to do when I woke up.
The days were a blur of meeting never-ending needs.
And snuggles.
Lots of hugs and sticky kisses.
Which made the messes and tears a lot easier to deal with.
But always the question - asked in a group no less,
"What do you do?"
"I'm a stay-at-home mom."
"Aren't you bored? I could never do that. I have to use my brain." (Yes, that was a real response.)
How does one describe a 24-hour-a-day-with-no-breaks, emotional, exhausting, hilarious, dirty, fun, smelly, sleepless, satisfying, dream job?

When my kids went to school, I had extra time during the day. 
My plan was to look for a job, but I didn't. 
I made work for myself by selling on Ebay and eventually launched a successful business on Etsy.
I made more money at home than I would have made working part-time...and I didn't miss a single track meet or soccer game.
That was the goal.
With my husband's crazy law-enforcement schedule, I wouldn't compromise being available for our kids.
But, I had big dreams for me.
I wanted to be a writer.
I tried to write when my kids were little but I felt the Lord tell me to focus on my kids.
He knew how obsessive I can be when a story takes over.
So I waited.
I obeyed.
I wrote Christmas letters but that was the extent of it.
And then the last kid graduated and I dove right in.
I don't know what will come of what I write, but I trust that God will use it.

I am so thankful that God chose to make me a mother. 
I'm so grateful to my mom for being an beautiful example to me.
I'm thankful for my husband for supporting my desire to be home with our kids.
And I'm grateful for my children - for loving me and honoring my efforts (mistakes and all) by working hard to be the wonderful, successful people they are. I couldn't be prouder.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Christmas in Time: What Will You Do by Kyle Pratt


October is coming and it won't be long before the release of Christmas In Time, Seven Stories of Christmas Through the Ages.

This week Kyle Pratt shares the inspiration for his story: What Will You Do

Pondering the Nativity
The writing of What Will You Do
Most of us are familiar with the birth of Jesus from the biblical account. In Luke, we read that on that first Christmas an angel appeared to shepherds and tells them that the Messiah has been born in Bethlehem. They run to the village and see the baby Jesus.
While that account is beautiful, in both its telling and meaning, I’ve felt for a long time that it’s merely the surface layer of a much deeper story. Why did the angel tell the shepherds? Did Satan know about the birth? Did he try to stop the shepherds or even kill the baby Jesus?
Perhaps I will receive answers to those questions when I stand before God, but probably not while we’re here on Earth. Still, I wonder and, since I'm a writer, I took pen in hand and using the talents God gave me created an answer.
My story, What Will You Do, will appear in the Christmas in Time anthology coming out this October. Between then and now you can read more about both right here. I hope you enjoy my contribution to the anthology along with the other six stories.
Kyle Pratt is the bestselling author of Through Many Fires, A Time to Endure, Braving the Storms, Through the Storm and other books. You can learn more about Kyle on his website, www.kylepratt.me or visit his Facebook home. You can also follow him on Twitter at @KyleonKindle
  


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Christmas In Time: Two Golden Rings by Heather Morse Alexander



            My great-grandfather owned a grocery store in Montebello, California in the 1930’s and 40’s. It was a difficult time in American history as the country suffered through Great Depression.
            One day a woman came into the store, did her shopping and brought the order to the counter to be tallied. When the time came to pay, she offered her engagement and wedding rings as payment. It was all she had.
            My great-grandfather accepted the rings, but he didn’t sell them to cover her bill—he kept them. He hoped she’d come back and pay him what she owed so he could return the rings to her. Unfortunately, she never did. We still have those rings today. They are a testament to my great-grandfather’s kindness and a witness to the desperation of the times. They represent honor and heartache.

            I wrote Two Golden Rings as a tribute to my great-grandfather.
            Violet Finnigan is a young widow struggling through the Depression with her parents and sisters. Her family is pulled under by a wave of misfortune in the plunging economy. The wealthy and handsome Sam Caldecott sweeps Violet off her feet with his charm, and the potential of financial security. Will Sam rescue her family from the throes of the Depression?
            Two Golden Rings is filled with the same honor and heartache of the tale that inspired it—as well as an abundance of faith and joy. It is one of seven stories in the Christmas In Time anthology coming out in October. I hope my story warms your heart this Christmas. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Lightning and Thunder

            One summer evening a thunderstorm loomed on the horizon. I love a distant display of lightning, but the dark clouds were coming my way. Static interrupted the music on the radio as the storm approached.
            It wasn’t long before the flashes of lightning and static became more frequent, the thunder rumbled mere seconds after each flash. It was almost here. I decided to hunker down in the hallway. I felt a little foolish. I’m a grown woman. I like to think I’m fairly brave, but there I sat, knees to my chest, fingers in my ears.
            The flash came as a blinding, white, light and in the same instant, silence. My radio went dead, the lights went out and the silence was deafening—for a millisecond.
            CRASH!
            An intense angry blast jolted the entire house. The windows rattled and the house vibrated as thunder growled across the sky.
            I thought of only one thing.
            What came to my mind in the split second the radio went dead and the house shook was the caricature of a lightning bolt hitting a stick figure from heaven—God striking someone down for disobeying Him. As the windows rattled, my mind raced to the way that our country, our world has rejected God. How angry He must be.
            The bible speaks of the anger and wrath of God.
            But we focus on the kinder, gentler scriptures that speak of His grace and mercy. It seems we sugarcoat our testimony with the sweetness of his lovingkindness. “God loves you, God is gracious, God is kind and merciful”
            All of those things are true.
            That night, as the floor trembled and darkness enveloped me, I felt the power of that bolt of lightning. I felt a tiny minutia of power in comparison to the power of our God. It reminded me that some day, a day that is closer with every moment that passes, He will return and righteously judge us all. When that day comes, will those who have rejected his love and mercy and grace say to us, who knew of the wrath to come, “Why didn’t you tell me about His wrath?”
            Could it be that while some are drawn to him by His love, some will require the fear of God to recognize their need of a Savior?
            Should we be like the man on the street corner holding a sign that says: God’s wrath is coming! No. I don’t think that’s the answer. But perhaps we could season our witness with more of the full truth of His character—sharing the consequences of rejecting God as well as sharing the benefits of accepting His grace and forgiveness. Perhaps in the dark of night, when the radio goes dead and the earth is silent, that knowledge will seal in someone’s heart the need for a Savior and will cause some who are lost to be found.

Revelation 6:15-16
Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb."

But wait... 2 Peter 3:9 says, The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Beauty Marks

            Six years ago, we turned our rarely-used tiny living and dining rooms into one big den. My dad and I worked together to make a built-in cabinet and bookshelves. We measured the room into oblivion and went to a lumberyard to pick out the boards. My dad wanted me to pick clear wood, free of knots and “scars” as he called them. I couldn’t. I liked the interesting knots and scars. He reluctantly agreed to let a few slip into the mix, figuring we could work around them.
            As we got busy ripping the boards, we disagreed about which boards should compose the top and most visible parts of the cabinet. I liked the imperfections. They added interest and color and life to the piece. He saw them as blemishes, ugly warts that would take away from the beauty. It occurred to me that I could rename them and perhaps persuade him from shunning the boards I preferred. I began to call the imperfections “beauty marks”.
            By the time we were finished, he learned that arguing the superiority of clear wood was lost on me. I only saw beauty and he wasn’t about to convince me otherwise. He admitted, once the piece was installed, that it was particularly beautiful, blemishes and all.  I made the above sign to hang in his shop as a reminder.

            Perfection is nowhere to be found in this world. We strive for it, we think we find it occasionally, but it’s doesn’t exist. We won’t see it until we get to heaven. Clear wood may be stronger, more desirable, easier to work with, but imperfection is beautiful, interesting and unique. We all have blemishes—visible and invisible scars from the wounds of living life. It’s time we see them as beauty marks—the evidence of lessons learned and trials endured. Evidence of the faithfulness of God.