Dark Glass Ponderings

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. -1 Corinthians 13:12

I've enjoyed reading top 10 lists around the web today.  After a few failed attempts I realize I am unable to number them, so instead I will share why each was a favorite.  It was difficult to limit the list.  My criteria is that the book has spiritual impact and depth.

Family-Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham



This book is filled with underlined quotes and is a resource I will probably return to regularly to remind myself of the reasons why I homeschool.


The Fruitful Life, Transforming Grace, and The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges.



I'm so glad I discovered Jerry Bridges in 2010.  I love his humility, grace and copious quotes from faithful Puritans.  The Discipline of Grace is a favorite and as a result, I've added "preach the gospel to yourself daily" as a favorite quotation.


The Church History ABC's by Stephen Nichols

Finally, an understandable and fun introduction to church history.  The pictures are great and I learned as much as my kids did.


Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard

OK, I said I wasn't going to prioritize but these next two are my top favorites of the year!  We had a Hinds' Feet tea at our women's Bible study and I was so blessed by this book.  As an allegory this technically ranks as fiction but I'm going to count it in the devotional category.  Prepare to blessed and convicted!


The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

If I could only recommend one book on forgiveness this is the one.  Powerful!

Have you read any great devotional or other nonfiction books this year?

For my last post of the year at The Writer's Alley I wanted to talk about what I've learned in 2010 about craft.



Stay tuned...I'm still working on creating my best books of 2010 (especially because I think the book I'm reading now may change the list)....

Have a wonderful Christ-filled week!

Title: The Devil is in the Details: The Sublety of Satan in the Complexity of Life

Author: Tony Kessinger

Publisher: CrossBooks

**Special thanks to Tony Kessinger and Bostick Communications for sending me a copy of this book to review in exchange for my honest opinion.**

My Review:
It’s difficult to know where to begin when reviewing this scholarly work. It took me several months to wade through this book. This isn’t necessarily a negative. This book was peppered with Scriptural references and tie-ins to classic and contemporary works about Satan. Kessinger even includes quotes from the Apocryphal books, which I found interesting, although I found some of his quotations to be less than convincing.

This book is definitely an exhaustive study of issues of Satan as mentioned in the Scripture. It starts with discussing the existence of angels, the fall of Lucifer, evil through the Old and New Testament, and concludes with the top 10 list of evil and some personal applications.

Although I learned much from this book, I would have preferred more applicational information. I found the facts interesting, but I suppose I was expecting this book to be a bit more accessible to the layreader.

Disturbing Christmas

Just had to pop in to share a great Christmas blog post reminder from C.J. Mahaney.



One of my favorite Christmas songs. Have a wonderful, blessed, Christ-filled Christmas!

John 10:10: The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have [it] more abundantly.

Matthew 28:6: He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

So thankful that we worship a RISEN LORD who is sitting at God's right hand in POWER!

Mary Z was the winner of Cathy Bryant's A Road Less Traveled!!


Barb Jan was the winner of Regina Andrew's Destiny's Design!!

Renee Ann (Doorkeeper) was the winner of Regina Andrew's In Good Faith!!

Renee (SteelerGirl) was the winner of Shawna K. Williams's Orphaned Hearts and a pair of Swarovski crystal Christmas tree earrings!!

And for blog celebration...Winners for a box of 11 books are:

Margaret C. who gets first choice of 7 books!!!!

Lisa R. who will choose 5!!!

Jo who will get to choose 3 books from the pile!!!

I've already emailed Margaret.  Once she makes her choices I will email Lisa R and then Jo with the remaining list of books.  

I apologize that I've been a bit less present on this blog lately.  I've had some minor health issues mixed the with normal craziness of life.  





Lisa’s world is peopled with all sorts of interesting friends who solve crimes, fall in love and experience the wonder of God’s grace. No, she doesn’t have multiple personalities. She is the author of Meander Scar, The Gold Standard, and Healing Grace. Lisa, I would love to know more about you and some of your fictional friends.  Lisa and I decided it might be more fun to have some of her characters take over the interview.  I haven't read Lisa before, but it was fun getting a feel for some of her characters, especially as a fellow writer.


What is the strangest situation you have ever been in?

Lisa: How many times have I come back and said, “The strangest thing just happened…” Hard to pick just one. I guess I’ll go with my attempt to learn about working in the retail world. I signed up and was hired to work at remodeling our local Wal-mart. I’m a white collar worker, came from white collar workers, and had absolutely no idea what all those check-out people do or what it’s like in the break room of the real world. I met a number of interesting people, a few of whom I still see occasionally. I learned that a person can make a living as a department manager. I learned that all directives come from the home office, so that’s why the garden center starts business in March in Wisconsin when there’s usually still snow on the ground. Just a waste. (me, shaking my head)

Judy: Um, you means besides dealing with Aunt Louise’s murder when no one believed me? And the poor cows. I guess it would have to be the adrenalin rush when I saw that nutjob Graham attacking my boyfriend. I don’t know what came over me. I think I went a little crazy when I grabbed that board. But everything turned out okay. Except for Carranza.

Ann: Sigh. I should have been honest with Ritchie from the start, I know it. It’s not like I’m guilty of anything lewd or criminal. Mark is so wonderful, and he’d never do anything to take Gene’s memory from us. Getting caught like that on Christmas Eve was absolutely mortifying. I knew better; Mark knew better. I just let myself get carried away. I have no other excuse.

What is your favorite way to spend a free afternoon?

Lisa: Free? Oh, boy! Curled on the couch, hot tea at hand, my favorite afghan and a book I don’t have to review. Read, read, read.

Ann: Before or after? (laughs) I can’t believe all the things I used to do—women’s guild, the board of this or that. Working at Gene’s company. So much changed. We’re decorating our own house, now; Mark and I, and planning the wedding. We want it simple, but there are still details. Since I lost my job, I’ll have to find something else of course, but later. Maybe I can volunteer somewhere.



How has God’s grace made a difference in your life?

Lisa: Jeepers, how hasn’t it? I’m not even sure I’d be married or have such great kids, wouldn’t have answered Christ’s song, and the saddest: wouldn’t even know or care that I’d be on the crooked path to hell.

Grace: Grace…My best friend Lena and I joke about it sometimes. My name, you know. I never questioned it growing up. You don’t have to, where I come from. It’s not like we’re a cult, or have some secret, but everybody know what everyone else’s gift is. Funny, I had to learn the hard way what that grace truly meant, and not just because of what God allowed me to do through him. I was so proud back then. I wouldn’t have Ted, or Eds, for sure. I’d probably be just some bitter recluse.

Do you have a favorite holiday recipe?

Lisa: My mom always did a lot of baking. I like this recipe for Meringue Mushrooms. These look really pretty when they’re done, and they’re not that much work. Even a beginner can have fun, because you can scoop your mistakes and do it over.

Can be made up to a week ahead; takes 2 hours for baking process; about 3 hrs total prep time; makes about 30 finished mushrooms, about 2 inches tall.

Meringue: 4 egg whites, leave out until room temp; ¼ tsp. cream of tartar; ¾ c. sugar; ½ tsp. almond extract; 2 squares semi-sweet chocolate (about a quarter-cup choc chips), melted - but not until you’re ready to assemble; cocoa powder for dusting the tops of the finished mushrooms.

Directions: at high speed, beat egg whites and cream of tartar to soft peaks. Sprinkle sugar, 2 T. at a time until sugar is dissolved, then beat in almond extract until peaks are stiff and glossy. Using a large decorator bag with a big writing tip (can also use a plastic bag with small corner nipped out), pipe meringue onto a large cookie sheet (ungreased): 30 mounds each about 1 ½ inches around for the caps; then pipe 30 upright stems, about 1 ¼ inches tall. Bake in 200 degree oven for 1 ¾ hours. Turn oven off and let stand another half hour in the oven to dry. Remove and cool completely.

To make mushrooms: melt chocolate. Using a small knife, scrape a depression on the underside of each mushroom cap. Dab a little chocolate in the cap and insert the stem. Let dry about an hour. Sift some cocoa powder over the tops.

Judy: (muttering) All those little t’s and half t’s. Honestly, what difference does it make. Okay… I got one. There’s the oyster cracker thingies you can put in a bowl when you have company? You know? Um, Ardyth showed me how to do it last time we were over there. Ardyth’s my friend. I mean, she’s 72, but she’s still pretty cool. Rides a bike and all, and just got married to Hart-he’s my boyfriend, um, fiancé’s, that is-boss. Let’s see…she wrote it down. Oh! Here. Well, you have to have oyster crackers, you know. I can go into town to get those, I guess. And we have some ranch dressing in the fridge already. Dill weed? You gotta be kidding. I have never even heard of that. Only a half t, so it can’t be that big a deal. Same with garlic. Only a quarter t. No biggie. Can leave that off. Oil? Let me look. Okay. Here’s some extra virgin olive oil. Hart cooks with that. Should work. I’ll just go get the crackers, then and be right back.

What is your favorite holiday and why?

Lisa: I like Memorial Day. In Wisconsin, that’s like waking up after a long winter’s sleep. We do this great program with the historical society to honor the veterans in a historic cemetery. It’s just an emotional event. Plus, we spend lots of family time as my dad and my youngest son have birthdays around that time.

Ann: Holidays can be so daunting, can’t they? When you’re alone with a young boy to raise and your circle of friends rapidly shrinking, it can be so difficult to relax. I must say, Thanksgiving would have to be my favorite. My parents and my sister and niece, and my crazy aunt Elle, all come. We all have our traditional dishes to bring and pass – Elle with the sweet potato casserole only she has the recipe for; my sister with her veggies and pie. Mom gets the rolls from the special bakery in Sauk City. I guess that’s the quintessential family time for me. And having Mark be part of that is perfect.



Tell me about a favorite animal in your life.

Grace: Lisa’s not into animals, much, so she let me answer this one. That would be Eddy’s cat, Trigger. He’s fast on the draw and a great mouser. Except that I couldn’t even begin to explain to a four-year-old that “he” was a “she” when she let us look at her kittens. He didn’t seem to mind. Trigger wouldn’t move to the big house when I bought Eddy’s childhood home. He only moved to the other side of the hedge, so it was okay, and they visited regularly. (wink)

Judy: Carranza the king cat is my favorite. If I didn’t say so, he might bring me more presents from the yard and play with them in front of me. Of course, we saved each other’s lives, so we have one of those bonds going. He knows people. Strange but true. All he has to do is look at someone, and if he likes them, he allows them to touch him. If not, well…anything can happen. Sometimes he surprises me, though, with who he likes.



Which character most resembles you and why?

Lisa: My husband’s not reading this, is he? Okay, you got me. I never planned to write a character much like me, but as I was writing Meander Scar, a story about the forty-something woman whose husband was missing, I discovered that she often reached off the page and grabbed a few bits of my personality here and there. The more “ews” and “no thanks” I got from publishers, the more I thought, well, since no one wants to publish it, I’ll just write what I feel like. My husband spent three summers driving through Chicago from Wisconsin to East Lansing MI for his master’s degree and every trip I’d be so afraid he’d end up in an accident. It was years ago, but I every once in a while I think what I’d have to do if I ever lost him. I can’t imagine wanting to date again, but like Ann who waited seven years, I suppose life would go on eventually. I thought about how I’d feel as a middle-aged woman trying to start all over.



Which of Lisa’s other characters would you most like to meet?

Ann: I think Grace Runyon and I would have a very pleasant afternoon. We seem to have the most in common, having seen our share of family troubles. We could have tea and a nice talk.

Judy: Grace, definitely. Don’t tell Ann, but she acts a little stiff, you know? Like she’s just being polite, but you wouldn’t know for sure if she liked you or not because she’s always polite to everyone. Although, maybe, she warmed up a little with that great lawyer fella. Then…you know…I guess we could talk wedding plans, since we’re both engaged and all. But so is Grace. They’ve both been married before. Can I meet them both? They’d probably have some great advice.

Grace: Oh, meet more people? Ann and Judy both have special personalities. I could see myself shopping or something with young Judy. Her boyfriend was hurt trying to protect her, wasn’t he? I could help with the injuries, since that’s my specialty.



Lisa, would you like to share with us an excerpt from one of your novels.

Sure, thank you for asking. Here’s an excerpt from The Gold Standard. Judy can’t decide who to trust with her murder investigation, and this encounter with Hart, her late aunt’s handsome young farmer neighbor, only complicates things.

The Gold Standard, by Lisa J Lickel

After a light lunch which she carried out and ate on the swept front porch, Judy tackled the monumental task of cleaning ancient layers of grease and flyspecks off the kitchen ceiling. She intended to repaint after Clyde was done. Mixed-in remodeling dust with the flyspecks would only make her task harder later on. Judy dragged a ten-foot aluminum ladder from the garage. She struggled with the awkward length, hauling the thing through the mud room and then into the kitchen.

Because of the strange angle between the solarium part of the room which was divided by a rounded arch and the cupboards, she faced a dilemma. She decided to lean the folded up ladder against the corner cabinet. Bracing the end with a chair or heavy box might add stability, but would get in the way of her climbing down. She rested the top against the buttress of the wall divider, testing the position a few times with a cautious jiggle. Satisfied the ladder would stay in place, Judy grabbed her bucket of soapy water and climbed up, humming to herself. Heights she could deal with; falling was another story. She whooped when she found she could reach into the corner.

“This room really is shiny white. Maybe I won’t have to repaint the whole thing,” Judy muttered, assessing her handiwork out loud.

“What was that?” Hart’s voice came through the screen door. “Hello!” he called and opened the door.

Judy twisted around at the top of ladder, hanging precariously for an instant before she lost her balance. The bucket went first.

“Hey! Look out!” she managed to call out, before she began her unplanned descent in what felt like slow motion. She had time to notice the most peculiar expression, mixed surprise and rue, on Hart’s face as he dodged the falling bucket and kept his footing while dirty water and washrag splashed up against his jeans. He had one hand on the ladder and managed to thrust his back under her just as she came hurtling down on top of him. The ladder slid slowly until it came to rest against the table.

“Thank you,” Judy said in a small voice, draped over the prone figure of her neighbor, whose face pressed into the filthy puddle on the floor.

“You’re welcome.” He didn’t move except to test his voice. “Are you hurt?”

Judy realized that she had not moved, either, and embarrassed, rolled away and sat up. She raised her eyes toward the clean spot she’d scrubbed, noting how far she fell. “Well, thanks to you, I’m not hurt, but you probably are. Don’t—”

Hart untangled himself from her legs and twisted himself out of the puddle. He wiped at his face as he sat up. He stretched his shoulders and shook his head, then cautiously got to his feet, hand to his gut. He took in a shallow breath and winced. “I’ll live.” He gave the ladder his attention, then glanced back. “Just what were you doing up there, with the ladder not set properly?”

His eyes are brown. He’s not wearing those stupid sunglasses, so I can tell. She stood, twisting her mouth. “I’m so sorry. I was just cleaning the ceiling, getting ready to repaint—”

“You?”

“I can paint!” Judy’s fists came to rest on her hips as she glared at him.

Hart swiveled his head around the kitchen, then to her. “I’m picturing a can of paint, splattered all over the floor and the cabinets, and you lying here, on the floor.”

“Thank you for your concern.”

Hart took in another shallow breath and paled. He reached a hand down to dust off his jeans, but quickly straightened again, clutching his midriff.



Thank you so much for visiting with us!

Thank you for having me. Both Healing Grace and Meander Scar are also available as eBooks, and all are available for order at your local bookseller, as well as on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


Here are my web and blog sites:


http://lisalickel.com/


http://reflectionsinhindsight.wordpress.com/


http://www.thebarndoor.com/


http://wisconsinauthorreview.blogspot.com/

I'm thrilled to have Shawna K. Williams visiting Dark Glass Ponderings.  I read and reviewed No Other in August.  Shawna has had a busy season with both a November and a December release, In All Things and Orphaned Hearts.  Thank you for being here, Shawna.

How exciting that you have not one, but two new releases this Holiday Season. I understand Orphaned Hearts, to be released in December, is about adoption. This is a subject that is dear to my own heart as my husband and I are praying to adopt from India. Can you tell me a bit about your inspiration for this novel?


My granddad was an orphan, and I've often pondered his childhood and the stories he and my grandmother shared. I had thought for some time that I wanted to write a story about an orphan. I knew churches were involved with orphanages back in the day because as a child my granddad traveled to speak in various congregations to help get support. I also knew that his experiences played a role in my grandparents' decision to be foster parents.

The original idea began with a preacher, who'd been an orphan, looking for a home for an orphaned boy who was special to him. Somewhere in there that boy became handicapped, the preacher became scarred, and a wealthy spinster who loved to bake showed up.

(What a neat idea for a holiday story!  How wonderful to have such a family legacy and to be able to share it through your books).



Do you have a favorite Christmas memory to share?

I can't say that I have one particular Christmas memory that stands out as my favorite. What I do know is that Christmas brings a wealth of memories from my childhood that sort of jumble into this wonderful cozy feeling centered around time spent with family at my grandparents' house. There are smells, sounds and objects that trigger this feeling: the scent of pine, the smell of wood burning, creaking wood floors, crunchy leaves underfoot, the woods, trains, blackberry jam, crystal chandeliers, funny shaped Christmas trees, a fat red and white Basset Hound or a dingy white German Sheppard, snow and the sound of gravel beneath rolling tires. None of these would mean anything if they hadn't been accompanied with tons of laughter and love. This was Nonnie and Papa's house at Christmas time, and it was the most magical place in the world.

(What a beautiful picture you paint, Shawna!)



Do you have a favorite holiday food?

Pecan pie! I've been making this for years, but here's the rundown:

3 eggs, 1 cup light corn syrup, 2/3 cup sugar, 1 tbsp vanilla (I like a few drops extra) and 1 &1/4 cup pecans. Mix it all together. Then line pie crust edges with foil, pour in filling, and bake for 25 minutes at 350. Remove foil, and bake another 25 minutes or until done. Yum!

(Sounds really easy!  My pecan pie came out too runny this Thanksgiving, think I'll give your recipe a try sometime).



You have a wonderful gift with jewelry making. Do you have any particular item of jewelry that holds a special meaning for you?


Pertaining to what I make: I like designing jewelry with freshwater pearls. I think they are a wonderful representation of God's Grace. In the way that an oyster takes an irritant and coats it to create a pearl, God takes the pain of our sin and through His grace transforms it into something beautiful – our own unique testimony of His love.

As for something special to me. I have a charm with an angel holding three hearts. It represents the three babies I lost in miscarriages. I also have a necklace that I recently passed on to my daughter that was a gift to my grandmother from her father, when she was sixteen.



I notice Orphaned Hearts takes place in the Great Depression. How did you choose that era to write about?

Not sure. It just seemed right. I love 20th century historicals.



I am also thrilled to see that you’re a homeschooler, too! Do you have any tips for helping children develop a love of learning, whether we are teachers or parents?

During the first years we homeschooled I treated it very much like an institutional setting. It hit me one day, as my son groaned over being forced to read a story in his reader, that the stories didn't interest him. He'd learned to dread reading. I scrapped the reader and replaced it with books from the library that he selected, with my approval. Information is absorbed much easier when the reader is engaged and interested.

(I learned this the hard way, too.  Now my daughter and I are doing a literature-based curriculum and she loves school!)



Do you have a favorite person in the Bible?

King David. His heart, his faith, even his failings inspire me in my walk with God.




Do you have any tips for those who are aspiring authors?

We've all heard the phrase, 'write what you know.' I think it's equally important, if not more-so, that an author writes who they are. Yes, we have to learn the craft, pay attention to trends and whatnot. Those things are important. Just be sure that in doing so you don't lose yourself. People are touched by stories that are sincere, and those come from the heart.



We would love an excerpt from Orphaned Hearts!


David ran back to the bench and removed his suit jacket. Sadie raised her brow. In the five years she'd known him, he'd never been without a coat and tie. A little peculiar -- yes -- however, he did take his position as a minister seriously. Perhaps Caleb was also helping David to realize that ministers could take time off for fun.

"Join us," David said.

"Join you?" Sadie looked down at her 'too full to be fashionable' skirt and then at her gloved hands. No telling how much flour was caked beneath her nails.

"But I'm--"

"You are the same girl who ran around in overalls, hoping to be a miner someday?"

She glanced up and noted David's challenging smirk. Suddenly the ball hit her in the shin. Caleb broke out into a fit of laughter.

With her youthful, tomboyish spirit revived, Sadie narrowed her eyes, shooting Caleb and then David an 'I'll-show-you' look. As an only child she'd fulfilled the roles of both daughter and son. Neither David nor Caleb had any idea just what she was capable of. If she was still capable?

Sadie picked up the ball and stepped away from the bench. She carefully set it on the ground and took two long steps back. She glanced at the ball, then -- squinting her eyes -- looked through the rays of sunlight streaming through the trees, off into the horizon and imagined the ball flying into the distant mountains.

Furrowing her brow in concentration, Sadie fixed her gaze on the ball, lifted her skirt to her knees and took in a deep breath. Then she rushed toward her target, slinging her right foot back and propelling it forward. It connected in a loud thud. She watched as the ball flew higher and higher, threading between the trees and disappearing from sight.

Sadie dropped her skirt and heaved a satisfied sigh as she dusted her hands. Both David and Caleb stood frozen with their mouths gaping wide.

"Wow!" Caleb gawked and took off running in search of the ball -- which may very well have rolled down the base of the hill. She hadn't considered that. Suddenly her mothering instinct kicked in. "Caleb, wait. There could be snakes."

Shaking his head, David chuckled. "I'll go with him." The spring in his jog showed of amusement more than worry.

Sadie smiled as she watched David close the distance. A euphoric sensation surged through her, and some strange power beckoned her feet to take flight.

Not just her feet. Her heart.


Would you like a chance to win Shawna William's e-book, Orphaned Hearts AND a pair of Swarovski crystal Christmas tree earrings?

What is your favorite holiday-related food?

Please include your email in this format:

name (at) wherever (dot) com

Giveaway will end Thursday, December 16th!

OK, no "Charleston" at this party!  This gal and her hubby are too shy for public dancing!

But what's a party without proper dress? 

I love the gowns in Young Victoria.  This is a must-see movie, if only for costume alone. 

Anyhow...back to the prizes.  Click here for a listing of the 33 books to be given away in 3 boxes and tell me about your top
 books of the year for an extra entry.

http://darkglassponderings.blogspot.com/2010/12/crazy-celebration-for-my-followers.html

OK, here we go:

(1) This contest is for FOLLOWERS. 

+2 If you are a long-time follower (more than 1 month)

(2) I would also like to celebrate some of my blog buddies. 

+1 If you are or become a follower of The Writers Alley (a great group of fellow writers)

+1 If you are or become a follower of Operation Encourage An Author, the ministry of my writing friend & encourager, Casey

+1 If you are or become a follower of Amber at Seasons of Humility, whose spirit and devotions have blessed me.

+1 If you subscribe to or become a follower of Margaret at Creative Madness Mama.  FIRST was the first "place" I began writing book reviews.  And a passion was developed!

+1 If you are or become a follower of Renee Ann.  I haven't known her very long, but I am awed by the way she goes out of the way for bloggers.

+1 If you are or become a follower of Joy, whom I was overjoyed to meet in person recently.

+1 If you are or become a follower of Bluerose who has a heart for others and a beautiful blog.

+1 If you are or become a follower of Steeler Girl Renee, the first Christian fiction blog I found which helped grow the idea of blogging.

I sure hope I haven't forgotten someone, but I wanted to highlight these particular followers.  All are long-time followers who I've felt particularly blessed to have known online.

(3) Just for fun:

+3 For sharing a favorite holiday or party recipe.

+1 for spreading the word in some way

(4) Please include your email in this format:

name(at)whatever(dot)com

You can earn a total of 15 points!!

This contest will close on December 16th!

Care for some Chocolate Lasagna while we wait for everyone to arrive??

Thanks for coming by early!  Would you liks some sugar cubes or wildflower honey for your tea? 

Would you fellow writers care for some peanut butter?  It tastes good with almost everything!  Here are some Utz pretzels for dipping.

Now, I usually don't have stipulations for entering giveaways.  The reason: first of all, my own pride.  Its too easy to get caught up in statistics, it can be for me even though I know it doesn't mean anything.  So I had to stop checking my stats.  I know pride can be a big temptation for me to fall in, especially when it comes to my writing.

Why the requirement for this giveaway?  I wanted to have a giveaway to celebrate my followers.  You've been a wonderful support.  You've had interesting feedback.  And there's a few of you with whom I really feel I've connected at a deeper level. 

Tomorrow, I'm going to be giving away 33 books.  Its my birthday...you get the loot!  And since I'm optimistic, I'm also going to make this a celebration for my followers as I am at 99...but I'm going to make it an early party. 

I'm going to give away 3 sets of 11 books!!

And Shawna Williams will be giving away a copy of  her e-book Orphaned Hearts and a pair of Swarovski crystal Christmas tree earrings!!

That's 4 winners in all!!

Here's the lowdown on what books I'll be including:

Charles Towne Belles Trilogy by M.L. Tyndall (yes, that's right...3-in-1)
Nightingale by Susan May Warren
Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson
Rain Song by Alice Wisler
The Silent Order by Melanie Dobson
Finding Jeena by Miralee Ferrell
Making Waves by Lorna Seilstad
Hatteras Girl by Alice Wisler
Chasing Lilacs by Carla Stewart
Ressurection in May by Lisa Samson
Making a House a Home by Sharon Honeybloom
Her Forever Family by Mae Nunn
The Case of the Mystified MD by A.K. Arenz
A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz
Almost Heaven by Chris Fabry
The Sister Wife by Diane Noble
A Memory Between Us by Sarah Sundin
Love on a Dime by Cara Lynn James
Eat the Cookie, Buy the Shoes by Joyce Meyer
Then Comes Marriage by Rebecca Janney
Chasing Frances by Justin Cron
Code Blue by Richard Mabry (ARC)
Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico by Lena Nelson Dooley (signed)
One Touch from the Maker by Pat Kirk
The Redemption of Sarah Cain by Beverly Lewis
The Preacher's Daughter by Beverly Lewis
Bad Girls of the Bible by Liz Curtis Higgs
Finding Alice by Melody Carlson
Song of the Silent Harp by B.J. Hoff
Heart of the Lonely Exiles by B. J. Hoff
Solitary by Travis Thrasher
Wrestling Prayer by Eric Ludy
Dining with Joy by Rachel Hauck

The first winner gets to pick top 7 from the list, the second winner gets to pick top 5 from the remaining choices, and the third winner gets to pick their top 3 from the remaining choices. 

So come on back tomorrow.

Meanwhile since we're celebrating readers and books I would love to hear about your top 5 reads of 2010 so far.  I'll give you an extra entry for sharing!

Welcome Regina Andrews to Dark Glass Ponderings!  Regina's In Good Faith was a semi-finalist in the 2009 National Ebook Contest.  She has also written Destiny's Designs, Spotlight on Love, and The Perfect Proposal.  Regina Andrews' s blog contains interviews with other authors with a focus on e-books. 

First of all, I'd like to say, "thank you" very much, Julia, for inviting me to visit you today!  I am thrilled to be here!

Its a pleasure to have you visit Dark Glass Ponderings today.  Thank you for being here.

What do you most enjoy about the Christmas season?


Christmas in New England is filled with tradition, snow, sentimentality, sending Christmas cards and religious services.  Many times families and friends will go door-to-door, singing Christmas carols. I love the celebratory nature of Christmas, the hope and the humility of the Lord’s beginnings. 

(Oh, how fun!  I love caroling!  And hot chocolate afterwards!)



Does your family have any special holiday traditions?

We all get together for a buffet on Christmas Eve, and then attend Midnight Mass together.  On Christmas morning, we wake up and race downstairs to put the turkey in the oven and see the gifts Santa has left for us all. Then we have  a big breakfast and go for a walk to see our neighbors, particularly the ones who might not have a lot of family in the area. After that, it's back to my house! My family and I prepare a Christmas feast, and everyone starts arriving around 1pm. The visiting and feasting winds down around 9pm, and then we go next door to my sister's for dessert. She makes sugarplums and mince pie tarts, yum, and we toast with champagne. Then we go home and collapse!

(Yum, I've never had sugar plums, but it sounds delicious!)


When and how did your fiction writing journey begin?

Well, my wonderful mother read to me as far back as I can remember and I am sure that’s why I love reading so much.  Loving reading, and being a natural talker, I think writing became the next logical step. It came in handy when I didn’t have an audience to tell my stories to, I could just keep going, and write everything down.



What have you learned along the way that you wish you’d known in the beginning of your publication journey?  

I think the main thing is patience.  My nature is quite impatient when it comes to me putting pressure on myself, and I have not been blessed with this gift! However, I have cultivated patience and I am very grateful. 

(Oh, I can so relate to the struggle with patience!  I'm in the trenches of learning this one myself and when it comes to my writing I think I have quite a ways to go until the publication goal is reached).


I notice you have a master’s degree in American Civilization.  What is your favorite era in American history and why? 

What a great question, thank you for asking!  I would have to say the era of Nathaniel Hawthorne, in the 1850’s.  This was a time of great artistic and literary enlightenment in the US, particularly in the Northeast.

(Note to readers: Regina mentioned that the heroine of In Good Faith is named Haley Hawthorne).


If you could spend a day in any museum in the world where would you go and why?

One of my favorite hobbies is museums, Julia! Most definitely I would go to The Hermitage Museum in St.  Petersburg, Russia. I have never been to Russia, but I am enthralled by its vast size, rich heritage and passionate approach to life.

(I love museums, too, and that one definitely sounds like a great trip).


Who are your favorite classical composers?

I love music so much! Mozart is my very favorite. Also, Handle, Chopin, Beethoven, Bach and Bizet and Scarlatti. I could go on and on!


You are involved with InSight, I see, which aids those who are visually impaired.  What types of services do you provide and how were you led to become involved with this organization?

InSight is a great organization. It began in 1905 and the mission is to inspire confidence, build skills and empower people who are blind and visually impaired to become fully integrated, equally valued members of society by providing diverse services that produce opportunities and choices. In 1938 Helen Keller came to RI to cut the ribbon on the InSight building and open it. For the past thirteen years, my partner Andy and I have been doing a live radio show on Saturday mornings where we read the paper and banter back and forth. It’s really fun!


What country would you most like to visit? 

It would be fascinating to visit Japan, I think, absolutely so high-tech – but getting there would be rough for me! But in the same breath I would love to see Africa, and I’ll probably go there.
 


What 3 items can always be found in your refrigerator?  

Apples, cheese and half & half J

(I always have cheese in mine, too...probably part of why my cholesterol is borderline).


Are you a tosser or a saver?  

Sentimental beyond words, I save save save because I don’t want the wonderful experience to be over! However, reality kicks in and I do have to purge items occasionally. I know I can keep wonderful memories, but it’s nice to have something tangible. I have every greeting card ever sent to me!
  




GIVEAWAY!!  Regina has generously offered to give away TWO e-books to readers.  Destiny's Design AND In Good Faith.

What is your favorite Christmas tradition?

Please include your email in this format:
name (at) wherever (dot) com

The contest will end Tuesday, December 14th at midnight.

_____________________________________________________________________

My birthday is coming up this week.  I would love to gift a reader with a big box of books...Be sure to stop by Thursday for Shawna K. Williams' interview AND my box of books giveaway!

This giveaway is only going to be offered for followers of my blog!!    




This is a great read for those "California Dreamin'" days.  





Title: Dining with Joy
Series: Lowcountry #3
Author: Rachel Hauck

**Special thanks to Thomas Nelson’s Book Sneeze program for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own.**

My Review:
Although this is a series and I have not yet read the first two volumes, Dining with Joy read well as a standalone.  I decided to review this book because I was intrigued by the premise.  I love cooking and although I don’t watch TV, I do occasionally watch an episode of Food TV via iTunes.  

Joy Ballard agrees to her father’s deathbed wish and takes over his cooking show.  Only one problem…Joy doesn’t know “How to Boil Water” (sorry, I just can’t resist a reference to my favorite cooking-challenged show…the first cooking show I remember watching).  Yet her stunning good looks and Southern charm win her the opportunity to be on prime time TV on a major network. 

When the television producers decide she needs a sidekick, Luke is hired.  Joy sees this as a win-win situation…He can get her out of cooking.

Ms. Hauck’s witty and dry sense of humor peppers the novel.  I found myself chuckling out loud during several pages.  To be honest I thought the premise of the novel was a bit unbelievable, yet I still enjoyed this novel very much.  I could not believe Joy could continue on without even her producer being the wiser.  The beautiful descriptive language, realistic characters, and chuckle-worthy humor kept me turning pages.

Casey Herringshaw at Writing for ChristOperation Encourage an Author and The Writer's Alley has encouraged so many of us.  I know she has encouraged me big time. 

She is one of the most enthusiastic people I have met on the web, willing to help others out on any occasion.  One of the first times I emailed her (I don't even remember the reason for the email) she offered to help me with a blog button.  I was amazed, I didn't even know her!  And there have been so many other times Casey has encouraged me whether it was with homeschooling or my writing. 

Let's give back...

Has she encouraged you, too?  I encourage you to share a story here about a time Casey has encouraged you...or write a note of encouragement to her right here in the comments.

(Note to readers: The comments box is located ABOVE the post.)


For more chances to encourage Casey, please stop by:


Pepper

Sherrinda K

Thanks so much!


Please welcome to Dark Glass Ponderings, Cathy Bryant, author of Texas Roads and A Path Less Traveled.  To read Cathy's devotionals and find out more about her and her work, visit Word Vessel.


Does your family have any special Christmas traditions?
A tradition that my family picked up from Hubby’s side of the family is to take turns opening gifts, starting with the youngest and moving to the oldest. Then we repeat the process for subsequent rounds of gifts. I really love this tradition for so many reasons. First of all, it takes the focus off “What did I get?” and puts it on enjoying our time together as a family. It also prolongs the joy and excitement of Christmas and allows each person to see the joy others have in opening their gifts. When we’re able, we also attend a special Christmas Eve celebration at church to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas and the best gift ever.
(This is the same thing we do at my hubby's mom's house.  It's lots of fun).


What is your favorite type of gift to give?
I love it when I’m able to find a gift that allows the recipient to know I’ve paid attention to what they like and found that one thing they’d love to have, but would never buy for themselves. I also enjoy making gifts, though I haven’t had the time to do so in the past few years.


Do you have a favorite holiday recipe?  
I love No-Bake Oatmeal Cookies! (In fact, I’m about to make a batch for the holidays.)
Here are the ingredients: 2 c. sugar, ¼ c. cocoa, ½ c. milk, 1 stick butter, 3 c. oatmeal, ½ c. peanut butter
Mix all ingredients except oatmeal and peanut butter. Boil for 1 minute. Add oats and peanut butter. Drop by teaspoons onto was paper and let cool.
Easy, huh? (And it’s easier for me to justify the chocolate and butter when it also has oatmeal. Fiber!) =)
(Oooh, yum, you've convinced me.  I'll bet my kids would love this!)



How and when did you feel the Lord’s call to begin writing? 
I’ve written since I was a child, but in 2004-2007, I went through a series of “circumstances” that brought me to the place of realizing that writing was yet one more avenue for me to share my faith. Call it a mid-life crisis of sorts. I recognized that life is brief and that I needed to make a difference in whatever way I could.


Do you have any special writing related rituals?
Yes. BICHOKTAF. (Butt in chair, hands on keys, typing away furiously.) =)


I see you were a teacher, how does that influence you in writing your novels?
Great question! Teaching is done for the purpose of passing on learning. In other words, as a teacher I simply passed on what I had already learned. Everything I do in some way is a lesson.  I can be digging in my garden and learn something (or learn something all over again). Every book I read, every person I meet, every life experience can teach me something. When I write a book, I feel a HUGE burden of responsibility for passing on to others what I’ve learned. And I hope and pray that God uses my books to make a difference in the lives of others.
(I love this and probably one of the reasons I enjoy your devotionals so much, Cathy!)


Many people struggle through the grieving process , especially during the holiday season.  Do you have any thoughts or verses for those who might be grieving the loss of a loved one?
There’s no pat answer for this question. Grief is a very personal experience, and it seems, from my perspective, that everyone grieves differently depending on all sorts of variables. The best answer I can give is to try to view the ordeal from an eternal perspective rather than an earthly one. (Easy to say, not necessarily easy to do.)

Our days are ordained by God, meaning that He knows our birth date and our death date. It’s all a part of His plan. Our God is good, and everything He does is right. I don’t enjoy getting stuck in traffic or having a flat tire, but God may be using those circumstances to protect me from something worse down the road. If we can trust God’s goodness, any terrible ordeal can be endured and even conquered in a way that brings glory to Him.

Here are a few verses that might help:
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proven genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:6-7
“The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.” Isaiah 57:1-2
“For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love, for He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.” Lamentations 3:31-33
“…weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5b
“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13

(Thank you so much for sharing those rich verses with us.  I know His word was a great comfort to me in times of grief).


Do you have a favorite person in the Bible?
Other than Jesus, it would be a toss up between so many. Maybe it would be easier to list a few and say why.  Enoch-he walked with God; Abraham-his faith was credited to him as righteousness; Joseph-patient in affliction and didn’t hold a grudge; Moses-God spoke to him face to face, as a man speaks with his friend; Joshua-he followed God’s commands to the T; Caleb-no grasshopper mentality for him; Ruth-she gave up her life for another; Hannah- persistent in prayer; David-a man after God’s own heart; Daniel-determined to live for God in hostile territory; Mary, the mother of Jesus-humble and willing servant of God; Peter-brash fisherman who yielded his temperament to the spirit of God; John-the disciple Jesus loved.


I also notice that horses play quite a role in your novels.  Have animals played an important role in your own life?
I’ve always loved horses and hoped to someday have one of my own. I’m not sure that will ever happen on this earth, but I still think they’re one of the most beautiful and intelligent animals. Animals have played a big role in my life. I’ve always had a pet of some sort, except in college (unless you count the dust bunnies under my bed). Animals love unconditionally. We humans could learn a great lesson from them.


I notice you also teach music and serve as a church accompanist.  Do you have a favorite hymn or worship song?
I love them all, and have several favorites. “How Great Thou Art,” “Redeemed,” “How Great is our God,” “In Christ Alone,” “What A Friend We Have in Jesus,” the list could honestly go on and on.

Would you be willing to share a favorite excerpt from A Path Less Traveled?
Sure. This passage comes from the middle of the book, and is really the heart, or theme, of the story. Independence can be a good thing, unless we shove God’s way aside in favor of our own paths.
Trish nodded and gazed into the distance. “I used to think I had a lot of trust, but since Doc died I’m not so sure.”
Andy opened a can of pop, the fizzy liquid tickling his nose and quenching his thirst. “Not sure if you trust yourself or God?”
“Both. I think I know what I’m supposed to do, but nothing seems to be working out the way I thought it would. Did I hear Him wrong?” The words grew husky.
“I can’t answer for you, but I’ll say this. In my own life, there’ve been times when I followed my own way only to reach a dead end.”
She removed her hat and leaned against the gnarly bark of an oak. “I’m not following my own way. At least I don’t think I am.” Her eyes grew dark. “What do you think?”
His neck hair bristled. Red alert. Danger zone. How was he supposed to answer her question without landing himself in a heap of trouble? He sent a quick prayer for help. “From my perspective, you seem mighty determined to exert your independence.”
Her frown morphed to a scowl. “There’s nothing wrong with being independent. I think God expects us to do our part.”
“I agree, but independence can be a real hindrance to trust. I mean, if we can handle it ourselves, then why do we need God?”

Thanks, Julia! I really enjoyed answering your questions. Thanks for the opportunity to share my humble thoughts on your blog.

Thanks so much for sharing with us, Cathy!




GIVEAWAY: Cathy has generously offered a copy of her newest book, A Path Less Traveled to a reader.  

(1) What is your favorite type of gift to give others?

(2) Please include your email address in this form for readability:

name(at)wherever(dot)com

This giveaway will end Wednesday, December 8th! 


Great Characters Are Like Peanut Butter, in my opinion.


Read more at The Writer's Alley today.

Title: Nightingale
Author: Susan May Warren

**Special thanks to Amy Lathrop at Litfuse Publicity Group for providing a copy of this novel to review.  The opinions expressed are strictly my own and I was not compensated in any way for this review.**

My Review:
World War II is one of my absolute favorite eras to read about and Ms. Warren does not disappoint in this page-turner full of unexpected surprises. 

When Esther Lange becomes pregnant with Linus’ child outside of wedlock (a scene that is never detailed in the novel), she feels trapped.  Trapped in a relationship with a man she barely knows who is away in Europe.  Trapped in a house with her boyfriend’s family who treat her unkindly.  Trapped in secrecy and shame, trying to make a better life for her beautiful daughter.

When Esther receives a letter from medic Peter Hess who took care of Linus when he lay dying her entire life changes.  As she goes to meet Peter for the first time she discovers his secret life. 

The characters are well-developed, this book kept me in a mad rush of page-turning until I put it down.  Ms. Warren’s skills at description keep the reader enthralled with the beauty of the language as well as the action.

I would have liked to have seen Esther’s spiritual progress fleshed out in more depth.  Peter sacrificially lives the life of Christ and though there is spiritual growth in Esther throughout the novel I yearned for her to go deeper. 

In all, this was a very enjoyable, difficult to put down novel and I am looking forward to reading more of Susan May Warren’s work.

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:

WordVessel Press (October 18, 2010)
***Special thanks to Cathy Bryant for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



A Texas gal since birth, Cathy Bryant continues the Mayberry RFD--only Texas Style!--stories with Book 2 in the Miller's Creek series, A Path Less Traveled. Her debut novel Texas Roads was a 2009 ACFW Genesis finalist. Cathy lives in a century-old Texas farmhouse with her husband of almost 30 years and a phobia-ridden cat.

Visit the author's website.




Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 312 pages
Publisher: WordVessel Press (October 18, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0984431128
ISBN-13: 978-0984431120

 
My Review:
Miller’s Creek, Texas is a delightful small town that I was thrilled to have the chance to revisit.  This book starts with a wedding.  It is emotionally charged since main character Trish James has recently lost both her mother and her husband.  It would have been wonderful for the wedding to have been elaborated on even more in this story, since it is between two characters we have come to love in the first novel.
This is a sweet small town story.  Like Mitford, at times the action is quite slow-paced, yet I enjoyed the relaxed small town atmosphere.  This book contains a garden-variety of small-town characters, I instinctively enjoyed taking part in their journey.  The spiritual journeys of the characters seem natural.
Little Bo was my favorite character in the first novel.  This novel touched me deeply on an emotional level as I watched Bo struggle through the trauma of seeing his father’s death.  Trish struggling with the death of her mother and her father’s re-engagement was another tissue-worthy scene.  I love that Ms. Bryant’s characters come out emotionally and spiritually strengthened through the trials they go through. 
I enjoyed my visit to this Mayberry-like setting and look forward to Cathy’s next volume in the trilogy. 


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter One ~ Tolling Bells


        In spite of the thousands of winking lights surrounding Trish James, a wedding somehow lost its luster in the wake of death. She nudged her shucked shoes out of the way with her big toe and adjusted the tulle on the wedding arch, the soft netlike fabric billowing beneath her fingertips as she encased the twinkle lights. The church sanctuary, with its white pews, stained-glass windows, and smoky blue carpet, served as the perfect backdrop to her design.

         “This wedding must be hard on you after Doc’s death.” Dani spoke the words as if uncertain she should speak at all.

        The ache in Trish’s heart started afresh, a wound that never healed, but she pushed it aside with practiced expertise. This wedding wasn’t about her. “I’m fine. It’s not everyday my brother marries the most wonderful woman in the world.” She forced a bright smile. “I’ve never seen Steve so happy.”

        Her sister-in-law-to-be didn’t return the smile. Instead the area above her clear blue eyes creased. “You sure you’re okay?”

        “Yep.” Trish snipped the word and bent low to snag a sprig of silk ivy, then inserted it in the proper place and blinked away tears. In truth, it would be great to have someone to share her concerns with, but within boundaries—not right before the wedding, not with anyone who lived in Miller’s Creek, and definitely not with family members. The last thing she wanted was for them to feel like they had to come to her rescue.

        She’d told Delaine some of the situation, but her best friend since high school now lived the fast-paced, Austin lifestyle, their conversations limited to when Delaine didn’t have something else on her agenda.

        “I can’t imagine how difficult it is to be both mother and father to Little Bo.” Dani lowered her head, blonde ringlets framing her face. “And then trying to start a business on top of everything else.”

        Oh, no. She wasn’t going there. Trish clenched her teeth. Steve had already given her this lecture. With his best brotherly concern, he’d told her she didn’t have to be Superwoman. Yeah, right. Try telling that to her empty checkbook and refrigerator. She glanced at Dani, who sat atop the piano railing swinging her legs. “Are you ready for the big day tomorrow?”

        A happy glow wreathed her friend’s face. “And the day after, and the day after that. I think I’ve been getting ready to marry Steve my entire life.”

        “I’m happy for you both.” Though it hurt to speak the words, she meant it. It wasn’t their fault her life was in the doldrums.

        Dani sprang from her perch and trotted down the steps to view the stage. “You have such a gift, Trish. Everything looks magical.”

        Trish gazed at the curly willow branches she’d ordered and spray-painted white, now wrapped with tiny sparks of light. The fairy tale forest blanketed the stage and meandered down the side aisles in an aura of enchantment. Once the ribbons and flowers were placed, and candles inserted into globes and nestled among the boughs, her vision would be complete. “I hope it’s what you wanted.”

        “It’s better than I could’ve ever imagined.” Dani hurried over and draped an arm across her shoulder. “Once everyone in Miller’s Creek see this, you’re gonna get loads of business.”

        A heavy sigh whooshed from her before she could contain it. “From your lips to my bank account.”

        Dani’s eyes clouded. “I don’t know how to say this, so I’m just going to say it and get it over with. Are you okay? I mean…do you need to borrow money or something?”

        No. Yes. Yes. She wasn’t okay. She needed money. She needed…something. “I’m fine.” The lie popped out as she stepped to the box perched on the piano bench. With care she lifted two delicate cracked-glass globes and moved to the candle stands. The words “I’m fine” were her constant mantra these days, like saying them made everything all right. Who was she kidding?

        She closed her eyes and reopened them with a slow blink, weary of pretending. But what choice did she have? Her brother’s wedding wasn’t the time or place to air her personal problems. Besides, she was thirty-two years old, more than old enough to handle life on her own. A glance at her wristwatch sent her pulse on a stampede. Still so much to do to make the decorations perfect. God, please let this bring me business.

        Dani plopped back onto the railing. “Is Little Bo doing better?”

        How could he be? “Sure, if you don’t count the nightmares and barely letting me out of his sight.” She omitted the fact that he was a hairsbreadth away from flunking kindergarten unless she could help him catch up before the school year ended.

        “So the psychologist is helping?”

        Before Trish could respond, the double white doors at the rear of the church burst open. Incessant rain poured from the April sky and silhouetted the form of a man. Dani let out a squeal. “Andy!”

        The petite blonde flew down the steps toward a man who looked vaguely familiar. He wore a lightweight suit with a loosened necktie, and had an easy-going smile that brightened the room. “Hey, how’s the bride?”

        Dani looked up at him, her face radiant. “Never better.”

        “Yeah, I can see that.”

        She tugged his arm. “Come here. I want you to meet someone.”

        His loose-limbed gait gave the impression of someone always relaxed, like he’d just returned from a vacation at the beach.

        “This is Andy Tyler, my friend from Dallas. Andy, this is Steve’s sister.”

        Sea-green eyes sparkled. “Well, does Steve’s sister have a name?” He jogged up the steps and held out a hand, his smile still bright.

        Trish laughed and took his hand. “I’m Trish James. Nice to meet you.”

        Dani’s face took on a crimson hue. “Sorry. Guess my mind is elsewhere.”

        Andy’s gaze rested on her bare feet. “Glad to know you have a name. What about shoes?”

        She couldn’t help but smile. “I have them, but kicked them off hours ago.”

        The hall door squeaked behind them, and Mama Beth, Dani’s mother and the mother figure of all of Miller’s Creek, bustled into the room. Along with her came the smell of fresh baked bread wafting from the fellowship hall. Trish could almost taste the melt-in-your mouth rolls. Maybe she could sneak a few leftovers for her and Bo to nibble on next week.

        “My goodness, Trish, if this isn’t the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen.” Mama Beth hugged Andy’s neck. “Hi, Andy.”

        A tender gleam lit his eyes as he wrapped his arms around the older woman’s shoulders and kissed her cheek. “Hi, sweet lady.” He turned raised eyebrows to Trish. “You did all this?”

        She ducked her head, and pushed a silky strand of hair behind one ear.

        “All of it.” gushed Dani. “And wait until you see the fellowship hall.”

        “Speaking of fellowship hall, I could sure use your help in the kitchen.” Mama Beth’s voice took on a commanding tone as she scuttled to the door. “We’ve got enough work to do for this rehearsal dinner to keep an entire army busy.”

        Dani looked torn. “But I can’t leave Trish down here to do all this by herself.”

        Trish wrestled the wieldy greenery in place, longing to comment that she didn’t need help. It would suit her just fine if they’d all go away and leave her alone.

        Andy rested his hands on his hips in mock protest, his tan jacket pulled back. “What am I? Pork belly? I’ll help Trish. You go help Mama Beth.” He held up a hand. “Trust me when I say I’ll be more help here than in the kitchen.”

        “Good point. I’ve had your cooking.” Dani grinned and rushed after Mama Beth. “Y’all know where to find us if you need help.”

        Andy chuckled and shed his jacket, then laid it across the front pew and turned her way. “What can I do to help?”

        Trish mentally checked her to-do list. “I was actually waiting for someone with more muscles than me to come around. There’s a box full of candles I need brought in from my Suburban.” She pointed toward the side door. “It’s out there and it’s unlocked.”

        He gave a mock salute that bounced his sandy curls. “Yes ma’am.” Andy’s stocky frame loped down the steps and disappeared through the doorway.

        Her eyebrows rose as she made her way to the pile of greenery on the front pew. Dani’s friend was more handsome than she remembered. Trish burrowed through the tangled mess, remembering the promise she’d made Dani to help Andy feel welcome. As if she needed a man to take care of along with her other responsibilities.

        The door slammed, Andy’s eyes and forehead barely visible above the box he white-knuckled. She ran to him. “Let me help. I know that’s heavy. I loaded it this morning.”

        “Nah, I got it.” The words wheezed out. “You loaded this by yourself?”

        She ignored the question and pointed to the stage. “Can you bring it up the steps?”

        He shot her a ‘you’ve-got-to-be-kidding’ glare then labored up the steps, his face red, his breath coming in agonized spurts. As he reached the last step, the toe of his leather loafer snagged the extension cord snaking along the edge of the stage.

        Trish tried to speak, but her words congregated behind locked lips. Andy stumbled, and the box flew from his arms, the candles launching like small missiles. He hit the floor with a thud, the box crash-landing at the base of the first tree.

        In slow motion, like carefully-placed dominos, the trees rippled to the floor in a sickening staccato of crashes and breaking glass. As if to punctuate the effect, the white metal archway in the center leaned forward with a creak as it teetered, then toppled forward with a bang.

        Her mouth hinged open, and her hands flew to her cheeks. All her hard work…ruined. In shock, it took a moment to realize Andy still lay face down on the carpet. “Are you all right?”

        He pushed himself up on all fours and surveyed the devastation.

        Assured he was okay, she slung herself down to the top step. The scene replayed in her mind. A giggle gurgled out then burst forth in an almost-maniacal laugh.

        Andy chuckled and crawled to sit beside her.

        Without warning, her laughter turned to sobs. She covered her face with trembling hands, rage surging at yet another unexpected crying jag. Now she’d never be ready on time. No one would be impressed. No one would want her services. No business. No money.

        “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” Andy slid a hand down her arm. “I’ll fix it, Trish, I promise. I’m so sorry.”

        Trish fisted her hands, then straightened her spine and swatted at the tears on her cheeks. “Will you please stop apologizing?” There was no controlling her snappish tone. “For Pete’s sake, it was an accident. I’m not gonna sue.” She clamped her lips, rose to her feet, and waded through the ruins. Fingers at rest against her lips, she knelt to retrieve shattered slivers of glass from the broken globes. These weren’t even paid for.

        Andy stooped beside her, his eyes boring a hole into her skull. “Here, let me get that. You start putting things back where you want them.”

        Trish could only nod at his softly-spoken words, a knot wedged in her windpipe. She lifted a tree into position, the light strands dripping from the branches like a child had thrown them in place. So far her determination to prove herself capable had been met with nothing but industrial-strength resistance.

* * *

        It’s all your fault. The familiar words in Andy’s head relentlessly accused, ushering forth memories and ghosts from the past. Trish obviously spent hours on the wedding decorations, and he’d managed to undo her work with one false step. He forced the finger-pointing voice to the back of his mind and attempted to burn off the chill that now hung in the room. “You live here in Miller’s Creek?”

        “Yes.” Her answer sounded pinched. “My son and I live here. At least for now.” She didn’t look at him while she maneuvered the lights back on the branches with agile fingers.

        Son? Now he remembered. Dani had mentioned something about Steve’s sister losing her husband in a freak accident. A cow kick, or was it a horse? And how long ago? “You’re leaving town?”

        “I don’t want to, but we don’t always get what we want, do we?”

        True, but sometimes what you thought you wanted wasn’t what you needed. Andy rose, his hands cupped to contain the glass shards. “No, we don’t. You have a trash can?”

        Trish’s tawny eyes looked his way. She grabbed an empty box and hurried to him. “Here.” She glanced around the stage, her face gloomy, her shoulders slumped. “Are they all broken?”

        “Don’t know.” He dumped the pieces in the box, where they pinged against each other. “Is there some place I can buy replacements?”

        She rubbed one arm and shook her head. “No. I had them shipped in. I’ll drive to Morganville tonight after the rehearsal to see if I can find something that’ll work.”

        The sadness on her face made his breath stick in his throat. He’d been in Miller’s Creek less than an hour and had already goofed things up. “I’ll go with you and pay for them since it’s my fault.”

        Trish’s shoulders rose then fell. “It’s no one’s fault. It’s just something that happened.” She returned to the branches and hoisted another one back into position.

        Just something that happened. A shaft of light streamed through the stained glass windows and rested on her, and she slumped over like she couldn’t bear the weight of the world any longer. Was she remembering the accident? He removed a pack of peppermint gum from his shirt pocket and popped a piece in his mouth. Her problems made the mess with Sheila seem trivial. What could he do to make things better?

        “Dani told me you’re engaged. When’s the big day?” Trish strung lights along a tree branch. Perfectly.

        He shifted his weight to the other leg then squatted to pluck glass from the carpet. “Uh, we’re not…I mean…well, it’s over between us.”

        She raised her head, and her brown hair shimmered under the light. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

        “Don’t be.” He stood. “It’s for the best.”

        “How so?”

        Andy let out a half-laugh. “Turns out she still had a thing for her ex-boyfriend.” Thank the Lord he’d found out in time. A wife would be wonderful, but not the wrong wife.

        For a moment she didn’t speak, but her face took on a knowing look. “That must’ve been painful.”

        He nodded, his lips pressed together. “It was hard, but God can bring good from hurt.”

        Trish stared at him like she was trying to get a read on him then turned back to the lights. “So neither one of us are really in the mood to celebrate. Especially a wedding.” Her face matched her cynical tone.

        Out in the hallway, muffled voices grew closer. The hall door swung open, and the smell of Mama Beth’s home-cooking watered his mouth. A little boy that looked like Trish raced toward them, then stopped, his dark eyes round. “Whoa! What happened here?”

        Dani and Mama Beth followed, their mouths ajar. After them came Steve Miller, the mayor of Miller’s Creek, and Dani’s soon-to-be husband.

        “It’s all right. Don’t worry.” Trish rushed to the two women and laid a hand on each of their arms. “It’s nothing that can’t be fixed, I promise. We just had a little accident.”

        Andy watched through narrowed eyes. Now she comforted the two women when just a few minutes before she’d been in tears. A good way to get a severe case of whiplash.

        Steve sauntered toward him, his boots scuffing against the carpet, a friendly grin on his face.

        He shook Steve’s hand. “How you doing, Mayor?”

        The other man’s grin expanded as he tucked his fingers in jeans that looked new. “I’ll be doing a lot better in a couple of days.” Lightning fast, Steve untucked one hand and grabbed the boy’s arm as he streaked by. “Hold on, tiger. I don’t think you have any business up there. Have you met Aunt Dani’s friend?”

        The boy skewed his lips in a thoughtful pose and shook his head.

        “This is my nephew, Bo.”

        Andy stretched out a palm. “Give me five, buddy.”

        Bo reared back and delivered a hearty slap.

        “Ouch!” Andy pretended to shake off the sting. “Man, I’ll bet you can throw a baseball really far with that kind of muscle power.”

        The boy nodded, his face creased with a grin. “Yep, but I can’t catch so good.”

        “Well,” corrected Trish, as she came to stand with them. “You can’t catch well.”

        Andy assumed a catcher’s position beside him. The little guy had to be missing his daddy. Maybe he could help. “I used to be a catcher, so I can give you some pointers later. Would you like that?”

        Bo’s eyes lit. “Yeah.”

        “Yes sir.” Trish’s tone held a warning.

        “I mean, yes sir.” He looked toward his Mama. “Is it okay if we play catch, Mom?”

        She sent Andy a tight-lipped smile, her expression cloaked with reserve, but when she turned toward her son her face softened, and she tousled his hair. “Of course, but it might be tomorrow since Mr. Tyler’s already promised to help me clean up this mess.”        “Almost looks like a tornado touched down in here.” Steve rocked back on his heels and jangled the coins in his pocket.

        “A tornado named Andy.” Trish gave a play-by-play account.

        Steve laughed, but Mama Beth and Dani still fussed about like a couple of hens. “That’s one way to get out of carrying more boxes.” Steve winked. “I’ll have to remember that move.”

        “Hey, look at me!” Little Bo perched on the piano railing, one foot in front of the other, his arms out to balance. Andy’s heart moved to his throat. One wrong step would hurdle him toward the carpet, still full of glass.

        All of them raced for the railing, but Andy arrived first. He grabbed him by the waist and slung him over one shoulder, amused at Bo’s contagious belly laugh. “Come here, buddy, before you fall and hurt that amazing pitching arm.”

        Trish joined them, eyes wide with panic, her face white and strained. She gripped Little Bo’s arms. “How many times do I have to tell you not to pull stunts like that?” Her voice shook as she bent down, her face inches from his.

        The boy said nothing, his lips stuck out in a pout.

        Steve laid a hand on her shoulder. “Sis.”

        Volumes passed between the brother and sister before Little Bo bolted for the door. Trish raced after him, her dark eyes full of hurt.

        Both men faced the door, an awkward silence between them. Steve cleared his throat and turned, his eyes fixed on the floor. “Sorry about that. Trish is…uh…going through a rough time.”

        Andy nodded. An understatement if he’d ever heard one. Based on what he’d seen, he was pretty sure not even Steve knew exactly how rough.





















Julia M. Reffner

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Christ-loving bookworm & homeschool mom of 2 stealing the rare quiet moments to pursue that all elusive writing dream. I also write book reviews for Title Trakk and The Historical Novel Society.

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