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Peony blossoms overhanging the flagstone path brushed against my leg as I pushed the lawn mower to the front yard. Their sweet spicy scent permeated the air. I paused to inhale a deep breath. Daily cares drifted away with their pleasant fragrance.
Basking in the moment, I remembered 2 Corinthians 2:15 that says, "For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing." (NKJV). ...Read more
Somewhere amidst shadows of dreams I felt my husband, Loren, flip back the covers and climb out of bed. A dim light from the hallway disappeared when the bathroom door clicked shut.
Seconds later I felt the mattress beside me sink down. I snuggled closer and draped my arm over his quilt-covered body, then drifted deeper into sleep. My eyes fluttered open moments later when I heard the elevated pitch of Loren's voice.
"What are you doing? Get down." ... Read more
A mystery ensued when Loren scheduled five days off work in mid-February. He preferred vacations in late spring and summer, never the middle of winter. As weeks passed with no mention of vacation I was sure he intended to surprise me with a romantic getaway. One morning I tried to crack his secret. "What are the plans for February?"
Loren grabbed another muffin. "Nothing yet."
"Come on." I laughed giving him a playful smile. "I know something's up. You took off Valentine's." ... Read more
James prepared a vanilla steamer while my husband, Loren, relayed details of our recent road trip following the Oregon Trail.
"Hi guys," Kathryn said tying on her apron, getting ready for the day's work at our favorite bookstore café. Stepping closer, she leaned over the counter where I stood waiting for my tea and lowered her voice. "Because you two are long-time customers, I wanted to let you know that August second will be my last day."
"Really?" No doubt my expression revealed shocked disbelief. "Where are you going?" Read more
Scanning the yellow pages each realtor I called echoed the same response. "Without a down payment, I can't help you." Click.
To shorten my husband Loren's hour commute we decided to move closer to his job. Rather than try to find a rental willing to accept three growing children and a dog, we hoped to buy our own home. Though we lacked cash for a down payment, we scoured newspaper real estate ads. "Needs a little TLC" and "fixer upper" described houses we could afford. ...Read more
The front door banged open. Breathless, my two youngest children, Joe and Bethany rushed in. "Mom. Mom. Ben's in trouble. Come quick." I plunked down my tea cup and grabbed my purse. Houses flashed by as we drove several blocks. Bethany pointed to a grassy lot off Main Street. "He's over there." The car lurched to a stop. I leaped out and rocketed toward a jeering mob of high-school kids.
A blonde-haired sixteen-year-old boy jumped in front of me. Inches from my face, he launched into a slew of profanity. Two kids darted from the scene. A red pickup peeled onto the grass. The driver yelled, "Come on. We gotta get out of here." Amidst a squeal of tires he roared off.
I dodged through a crowd of a dozen or more kids running away, until I spotted my fourteen-year-old son. Ben lay motionless on the ground ... Read more
"Mom, you don't need to call all the time to check on me," our twenty-year-old son, Joe, said. "I've got to go. And Mom, you need to get a life."
Before I could say goodbye, he hung up. His words echoed in my head. "Get a life." I felt like I'd arrived to work at the best job in the world and been handed a pink slip. Being a mom meant everything to me. ... Read more
"You're burning the candle at both ends," I said to our seventeen-year-old son, Ben. "You can't keep going like this. Your body is not a machine."
"Oh, Mom, I'm fine." Ben waved his hand through the air to brush aside my concern. "You worry too much," he added as he headed out the front door for work. I watched him climb into his pickup and seconds later barrel down the driveway in a cloud of dust. ... Read more
Several years ago during a casual conversation with my oldest son he said, "You expected me to be perfect when I was a kid."
Without pause I shot back, "Ben, that's not true."
Driving home from his house, I thought about his comment. His remark stung like a slap in the face. Though he'd laughed at the time, the hurt evident in his voice caused me to take a hard look at our family. How could he say that? Was it true? Did I really expect him to act perfect? ... Read more
Like a parent who has you by the shirt collar, I could no longer avoid the Lord's constant pressure. I stood before the counter at my local Christian bookstore and agonized over my decision of which Bible to purchase.
For three weeks the Lord had given me an urgent shove to give Cindy, a former neighbor, a Bible. But fear held me captive. I was afraid of rejection, afraid of putting a wedge in our friendship. I prayed, "Me, Lord? Are you sure?" ... Read more
Excited chatter filled the back seat as I parked in front of the store. A red neon sign blinked in the window that read-The Pet Stop.
Ben, my eleven-year-old son, threw open the car door. "Finally I get my kitten. Hurry up you guys," he said to his younger siblings, Joe and Bethany.
Inside the store, we watched several kittens romp and play in a large pen. Ben reached through the open cage door toward a gray fluff ball. "I want this one." The kitten scooted away from his hand and wedged itself into the back corner of the cage, inches from his fingertips. ... Read more
Women of all ages chatted their way into the church fellowship hall and found a seat around one of eight tables for our current Bible study. Asked to facilitate one of the groups, I'd studied and prepared all week. With twelve women in my group, I couldn't wait to hear what each had discovered from the week's lesson. But when I asked if someone wanted to share their answer to the first question, one young mother said, "I didn't have a chance to read the chapter."
Another woman added, "I read the lesson, but didn't have time to answer the questions."... Read more
I sighed and put away the last of the dishes from our Thanksgiving dinner. The next morning marked the start of the holiday shopping season. My mind brewed with anxious thoughts. Why did life have to be so hard?
With our kids tucked in bed, I whispered to my husband, Loren, "What are we going to do? We don't have any money to buy presents this year." ... Read more
Seated for dinner, we bowed our heads and my husband, Loren, gave thanks for the meager can of beans divided between five plates.
"I want more," five-year-old Ben said. ...Read more
Mom donned her straw hat and retrieved the Revere Ware Dutch oven from the back of the kitchen cupboard. "Here." She handed me a small sauce pan. Blackberry season had arrived.
We strode down our long country drive under the August heat. My berry pan bumped against my leg while I skipped along, kicking rocks. Short of the main road, we left the driveway to wade through a knee-high grass field. ...Read more
"Hello," I said when Mr. Van Houten entered the small book and gift shop where I worked. Dressed in his usual navy peacoat, layered with cat hair, the eighty-year-old man ignored me. His rigid frame headed straight for the copy center which the store provided as a convenience to customers.
In all the years he'd come to the store, he'd displayed a gruff, harsh exterior that I didn't understand. His corrosive attitude always directed at the unfortunate person nearest his path. ...Read more
"Hello, Violet," I said when one of our customers entered the Christian gift & bookstore where I worked.
A regular shopper at the store, Violet wore her usual powder-blue sweater, lace-trimmed blouse, and gray slacks. Her black handbag hung over her left forearm, her white hair combed to its natural wave, the only thing missing, was her bright smile. ...Read more
Like a thread beneath a closed doorway, faith pulled me along a path of unanswered questions throughout my childhood.
My family's assorted Christmas decorations sparked the first big inquiry. The scent of Douglas fir filled the air while we unpacked ornaments in the living room by the tree. My brother retrieved his favorite decoration from a cardboard box. Perched atop a world globe sat a silver biplane flown by none other than Santa. But it was me who always set out our tiny nativity. ...Read more
Bethany tugged on my arm. "Please can't we buy a piano? I could take lessons from Amy's mom."
My daughter's friend Amy lived two blocks down the street. Her mother held a degree in music and taught piano lessons to neighborhood kids after school. ...Read more
I hurried through the crowded grocery store. Exhausted from my long day of errands, this was my final stop. I tossed the mocha almond fudge ice cream into the cart and checked it off my list. I searched the front of the store, then squeezed in to the shortest of the mile-long checkout lines.
Why don't they have more people working? I grumbled to myself. Why didn't the lady at the register have her coupons ready? Can't this clerk move any faster; she's like watching a replay clip in slow motion? I just wanted to get home. ...Read more
"Are you asleep?" I whispered.
"No ... I'm wide awake," my husband, Loren, said as he reached over and clutched my hand in his.
"Can you believe how much of your retirement we've lost?" I said. "What are we going to do? What if we lose everything?" We lay in the dark and wrestled with shadowy fears for our future. ...Read more
When our son, Joe, spiraled into the world of drugs and gangs at age sixteen, I wondered, Where is God? Countless times I fell to my knees broken hearted, tears streaming down my face. I pleaded, "Lord, please watch over Joe, our precious lost lamb. Protect him and keep him safe. Lord, show him the way home."
Joe's choices plunged him into a frightening culture beyond our ability to reach him. Nothing we did could pull him back, but he never escaped God's watchful eye. Powerless, we watched as drugs and gangs choked out everything decent in Joe's life. ...Read more
"I need Dad's help," our eighteen-year-old son, Ben, said when he called. "My truck broke down, and I can't figure out why it won't start. I'm stranded at the mall."
Loren, a mechanic by trade, could have fixed the truck with no trouble. However, Ben had taken a job working a leather booth during the Christmas season in a mall five hours from home and a state away. ...Read more
After over thirty years of marriage, I thought our days of romantic secrets had retired. That is, until Loren announced, "Don't plan anything for your birthday. I have a special surprise."
On the evening of my birthday, we dressed up and drove into town. We pulled into the parking lot of a strip mall and I scanned the storefronts. Hmm … a costume store, Harbor Freight Tools, the driver license place, and then I saw it. The sign on the corner building read, Arthur Murray Dance Studio. ...Read more
A hand reached through the crowd in the church foyer and touched my shoulder. I turned to see Nancy, one of our most devoted Sunday school teachers. Nancy loved to teach children about the Lord. I marveled at her enthusiasm and how she seemed to draw energy from her class of five-year-olds.
"Hi Kathy, I need to take this summer off and wondered if you could step in for one month?" ...Read more
That day our family was panning for gold at a nearby river. We sloshed into the water at the river's edge and positioned the sluice box, a grooved trough used for separating gold from sand and rocks.
My husband scooped in a shovelful of river bottom. Water flooded the box washing away weightless grains of sand. Dead leaves and twigs floated to the surface. We cleaned out the debris along with larger rocks and pebbles. We scoured the bottom of the trough for precious flakes of gold. ...Read more
"Fat, female, and forty," the doctor said to me as I sat in his office. "I'm sorry but you fit all the criteria for having gall stones, and the ultrasound shows you have quite a few. That means you're going to need surgery."
Well, he couldn't have made it any plainer than that. I didn't mind the female part, but fat and forty? Didn't he know how many times I'd tried to lose weight? I'd drop 20 pounds and over time gain back thirty. Disgusted with myself, I scheduled the surgery and left his office. ...Read more
"Are you kids ready to go find that perfect Christmas tree yet?" my husband Loren called. "Come on, let's go."
Bundled up tight in heavy coats, gloves, and bright-colored stocking caps, Ben, Joe, and Bethany came crashing down the stairs taking two at a time.
"Daddy, can we bring Charlie?" ...Read more
I jolted awake in the darkness, my sleep disturbed by images from the evening news. A suicide bomber in Kabul, forty people dead, oil prices on the rise, heating bills higher this winter … these headlines give us pause, one more thing to stress about in the midst of our crowded days.
The clock read two a.m. as my thoughts crept toward worries closer to home. Now out of bed, I made myself a cup of tea. I opened my Bible and read where I'd left off that morning. Confronted by his own struggles, the Psalmist wrote, "In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul," (Ps. 94:19 NKJ). ...Read more
I sat in Bible study with a group of women who appeared to have control over their lives. What would they say if they knew the turmoil mine was in? Consumed by pain and hopelessness, in my heart I prayed, "Lord, please give me something to hang on to." Our son's involvement in drugs had stripped me of any self-worth or confidence. I felt like a complete failure as a mother. I needed help, but wasn't sure exactly what kind, or how to get it.
Diana's gifted teaching compelled me to attend her weekly study. She had a passion for living and was a wellspring of spiritual insight. Time spent with her brought peace to my otherwise chaotic life. ...Read more
A pair of purple finch taught us that you can only experience the future by leaving the past behind.
A flutter of feathers at our birdfeeder, diving and dodging one another, demanded my attention. I looked out the window and scoured the flower beds and lawn to see if the neighbor's cat was disturbing our backyard sanctuary. But there was no sign of Mariah lurking about as I'd suspected. ...Read more
I looked up at the clock on the wall. Thirty minutes left till closing. It had been a long day and I was ready to put the closed sign in the window of the bookstore and go home. Just as I took out the bank deposit slip to write in the date and record the checks, a white Cadillac pulled up in front and parked at the curb. A sophisticated woman who could've stepped off of a fashion runway entered the store. She approached the counter carrying a Gucci bag. I recognized her perfume -- expensive.
"Do you have a Bible?" she said. ...Read more
I threw my arms around Mr. Grady giving him a tight squeeze. He blinked back tears, and let out a grumbled cough, uncomfortable by the display of emotion.
Every Wednesday for three years the seventy-six year old man walked eight blocks to my house. He sat in the warmth of my kitchen and sipped tea. We talked while I fixed him breakfast, scrambled eggs, light on the butter, but hold the salt, and a slice of toast. ...Read more
Tears streamed down my cheeks as I drove to work. The angry exchange of words with my husband from the night before echoed in my head.
"Why did you do that?" Loren asked. "We agreed we weren't going to give him any more money."
"But he said he needed gas to go to work until payday." I reasoned. "And he promised to pay it back on Friday." ...Read more
"I'd like all of our Sunday school teachers to come forward so we can pray for you," said Pastor Bruce. I watched as many from our congregation gathered at the front of the church. When he finished praying, our pastor said, "Please remember to pray for these people who are devoting their time to teach our children."
Working with children is not my area of giftedness so I knew these people needed extra prayer, but I knew I couldn't remember everyone's name. With a burst of inspiration, I decided to choose one person and pray for her regularly throughout the year. ...Read more
"Oh Carol, wait until you hear," my coworker Melanie said. "I went to the doctor yesterday and he confirmed it. I'm pregnant."
My throat tightened and I pasted a smile on my face as I choked out a response. "That's great Melanie. Congratulations." ...Read more
"I don't know, but I'll find out for you," I said to the women standing at the counter.
"Well, why don't you know?" She snapped in return. "After all, you are the one behind the counter."
Stunned, I didn't know how to respond, so I stood there, as she continued her attack. ...Read more
Some recommendations for authors worth your time reading. This list is updated periodically. ...Read more
A list of resources I have found helpful in my writing. ...Read more
At forty-six it is challenging to launch a new career, but two years ago I left my job as a bookstore manager to become a writer. Since then, I've been doing all I can to learn the lingo of the industry, improve my writing, and get connected with other writers. I, along with most beginners, want to know how to succeed in our endeavor.
I discovered the answer to this in the Book of Joshua. Chapter one begins with the death of Moses, and God calls Joshua to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land. The Lord gives Joshua the steps necessary to succeed in taking possession of the land. These same steps, found in Joshua 1:7-11, apply to our goals as writers. ...Read more