26 September 2016

3 Everyday Lessons for an Alzheimer’s Caregiver by Kathleen Brown


I discovered Mom had Alzheimer’s during a September trip. September. Its flower is the forget-me-not; its gemstone, the sapphire. Sapphires were once associated with clear thinking. As I began caring for Mom, in the house where I grew up, I hoped the clear thinking part was for me.



If you’re an at-home caregiver, you know it presents unique challenges. My first weeks with Mom felt like one emergency after another; I was on adrenaline overload. Then I began noticing the miracles: tiny ones (finding one of Mom’s shoes in the trash can), and huge ones (Mom suddenly agreeing to a long-needed bath). Feeling the Lord’s presence and help, I calmed down and began to learn. Fear not—you’ll see miracles, too.



Three of the Biggest Everyday Lessons



#1-You always have options.



In the beginning I thought there was only one right way to accomplish any care task. Wrong. There will always be more than one way to do what you need to do. Finding the best way, however, means we must look at all the options.



Example: Doctor to Mom: “Exercise.”

Mom to doc: “No.”

Solution: Two carts at the mega-store. While Dad shopped with one, Mom used the other like a walker, happy to stroll with me all around the store.



#2-Be ready to laugh.



Laughing in the face of Alzheimer’s is absolutely necessary for survival. The day Mom opened her mouth and I saw her dentures were in upside down, I smiled when I wanted to cry. After I fixed them, I laughed. Her poor gums were no longer being bitten by false teeth! Humor is an invaluable companion in caregiving.



#3-You will make it, even through the most difficult times.



When you need strength, you’ll have it. When you need words, they’ll come to you. When there’s nothing you can do to help your loved one, she will, against all odds, help herself. I can’t tell you how it happens—who can explain a miracle?—but I can tell you that resolution always comes. Expect it.



Expecting solutions widens your field of vision. You’ll find resources and strategies you won’t see if your eyes are closed in despair.



We hope effective treatments for Alzheimer’s will come—someday. Ways to cure and even prevent it. Until then, our peace will be in knowing we can help our loved ones through it. We can.



~+~







Kathleen Brown is a writer, speaker, and firm believer in everyday miracles. The author of A Time for Miracles: Finding Your Way through the Wilderness of Alzheimer’s, she focuses her work on needs of at-home Alzheimer’s caregivers. You can reach Kathleen through her blog, www.hopeandhelpforalzheimers.wordpress.com, or by email to kbrown.writer@gmail.com.

22 September 2016

The Whisperer by Joanie Shawhan

Stop. Listen! Do you hear the whispers of ovarian cancer? This insidious disease assaults over 20,000 unsuspecting women per year and is the most lethal of all female cancers. Since there are no screening tests, it is often diagnosed in the latter stages.

Despite my background in oncology nursing, I missed the whispers of ovarian cancer. Over the course of several months, I experienced nausea, mistaking these episodes for the flu. Fleeting thoughts of ovarian cancer crept into my mind, but I dismissed them. I rationalized. This nausea is too infrequent to be ovarian cancer.

But in September 2006, I rolled over in bed and felt a hard grapefruit-size mass in my abdomen. The whisperer roared.

My doctor thought it was a uterine fibroid, but we needed to schedule an ultrasound. In the darkened room, the ultrasound technician furrowed her brow and shot me a glance. Something was wrong.

After examining the images, my doctor announced her verdict—ovarian cancer—the size of a cantaloupe. She rattled off the tests and surgery that needed to be scheduled. Words spilled over her lips, sounding foreign and distant. I sat numb, frozen. Is she talking to me?

I had witnessed the devastating side effects of chemotherapy suffered by my patients, and vowed that I would never undergo chemo. But now, I felt powerless to carry out this resolution. The side effects of the drugs terrified me: baldness, fatigue, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and a life-threatening allergic reaction.

My nursing scrubs and shoes gave way to tieback gowns and skid-free gripper socks. I was one of them, dragged through the theme park of cancer.

Today, I am cancer free. I lost myself to ovarian cancer, but in losing myself, I found a new purpose and calling in my life—to advocate for and educate women regarding ovarian cancer. One way I do this is by writing encouraging articles for women undergoing chemotherapy.

September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Stop and listen for the symptoms that whisper. The life you save may be your own.



Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer:

v  Pain or pressure in the pelvis, abdomen or lower back
v  Abdominal bloating or a sense of fullness
v  Nausea, constipation, diarrhea, gas or indigestion
v  Urinary frequency or urgency
v  Fatigue

If you experience any of these symptoms, consult your doctor.





~+~

Joanie Shawhan is an ovarian cancer survivor and a registered nurse. She writes encouraging articles for women undergoing chemotherapy. Her publishing credits include Coping with Cancer magazine and God Still Meets Needs. She speaks to medical practitioners in the Survivors Teaching Students program. Check out her blog at www.joanieshawhan.com.






19 September 2016

What to Say When To a Depressed Loved One by Dr. Michelle Bengtson


Death and life are in the power of the tongue...” Proverbs 18:21



What we say to others can either build them up or tear them down. We must take care not to further injure someone in their suffering from something we say.



As a neuropsychologist, I’m witness to the well-intentioned but misdirected words of friends and family to depressed loved ones that only serve to pull them down further.



When people suffer from depression, they often also harbor low self-esteem, guilt, and shame. What they crave is to know they are loved, accepted, and not alone.



Let Scripture help you determine what to say to a depressed loved one: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)



Here are a few things to say to someone struggling with depression:

-I love you. There is no better time to hear this than when they are struggling to love themselves and wonder if others truly love them too.

-I’m here for you. This is one of the most comforting things you can say to someone feeling alone.

-You are important to me. It’s vital to know they are still acceptable, accepted, and important.

-I’m sorry that you are going through such a painful time. Expressing your sorrow for their pain communicates that you care, even if you don’t fully understand.

-Is there something I can do for you? This communicates your willingness to help and just your offer will lend comfort and encouragement.

-You may not believe this now, but you won’t always feel this way. The depressed individual often needs reminding that there is hope.

-We will get through this together. This communicates your acceptance, and your love.

-Nothing. Actions often do speaker louder than words. I remember when Job encountered great hardship. Job 2:13 says his friends came and sat with him for seven days and nights. During that time, they didn’t speak a word because they saw how great his pain was. Words could do nothing to help his misery, but their company spoke volumes.



Remember, when you are speaking to a depressed loved one, your goal is to encourage and uplift them. “But if it were me, I would encourage you. I would try to take away your grief” (Job 16:5 NLT).



How will you encourage a loved one today?



~+~

Author, speaker and neuropsychologist, Dr. Michelle Bengtson combines her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith to address issues surrounding medical and mental disorders, both for those who suffer and their family. She offers practical tools, affirms worth, and encourages faith. She blogs regularly on her own site: http://www.DrMichelleBengtson.com

15 September 2016

Writer, Do You Want to Break Into the Homeschool Market? by Susan K. Stewart


At a Christian trade show recently I asked representatives of several publishers about tween novels to review for my homeschool audience. Generally the reaction was “We have this curriculum or this journal.” I was looking for novels, not curriculum.



This reinforced that many in the publishing world think homeschoolers only want “teaching” material. They have trouble breaking into the market because they don’t know it.



My sons loved Lee Roddy’s http://www.leeroddybooks.com/index.htm books. Hank the Cowdog http://www.hankthecowdog.com/ by John R. Erickson is another favorite of homeschoolers. Neither series is written specifically for homeschoolers, but are enjoyed because the stories are fun and well written.



Like Roddy and Erickson, you can break into the homeschool market. Here’s how:



Step 1 – Know the market.

You can read all the statistics about an average homeschooler. It’s far better, though, if you get to them yourself. Read the homeschool websites, attend homeschool events open to the public, and, with permission, follow homeschool social media groups.



Step 2 – Write well.

Just like anyone else, homeschoolers want well-written books. The story is the key.



Step 3 – Don’t make assumptions.

Don’t assume only homeschoolers can write for homeschoolers. Lee Roddy and John R. Erickson aren’t homeschool dads.



Don’t assume that homeschooling is school at home. Often it is vastly different from traditional schools.



Don’t assume you need to have a specific type of character or specific message. Just write a good story.



Three questions are commonly asked when I teach at conferences.

  • Do you market to parents or kids?

Max Elliot Anderson markets his books to parents for boys who are reluctant readers. Lee Roddy talks with boys at conferences to share his stories. Use the same marketing techniques you use for the general market.



  • Is there more of a need for non-fiction or fiction?

In an informal survey, I found homeschool parents are looking for everything from fantasy to finances. It doesn’t matter whether it’s fiction or nonfiction.



  • Should I include a study guide?

If you want to. Some authors offer a study guide, lesson plans, or coloring pages as a free bonus for purchase.



You too can break into the homeschool market with standard marketing techniques: Know the market, write well, and don’t make assumptions. The next time I ask publishers for Christian tween novels to share with my homeschool readers, maybe it will be yours.



~+~



Susan K. Stewart - When she’s not tending chickens and peacocks, Susan K. Stewart teaches, writes, and edits non-fiction. Susan’s passion is to inspire readers with practical, real-world solutions. Her books include Science in the Kitchen and Preschool: At What Cost? and the award-winning Formatting e-Books for Writers. You can learn more at her website www.practicalinspirations.com.

12 September 2016

A Friend Who Refreshes by Kolleen Lucariello


As we flip our calendars from August, ushering in September, we say farewell to our summer vacations and hello to the season of back-to-school, cooler temperatures of fall and one of the highlights of our home: football. Here’s another bonus of September: it’s also Women’s Friendship Month and I love the gift of friendship!



Recently I was reading in Acts about Paul and how difficult life had become for him. He was beaten, bound with chains, accused by the Jews, imprisoned, taken before councils and Rulers, and then eventually sent to Rome. I imagine by the time Paul boarded the ship to begin his journey to Rome he was a tired man; he’d endured a great deal. As I’m feeling bad for him, this verse jumps out at me: “The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, treating Paul with [thoughtful] consideration, allowed him to go to his friends there and be cared for and refreshed” (Acts 27:3 AMP).



I simply adore the fact Julius, the guard in charge, thought enough of Paul to recognize he needed the care and refreshment of his friends. That part of the story just blesses my heart because I’m so grateful for those who recognized when I needed the care and refreshment only a faithful friend could bring. While my journey, or your journey, may never look like Paul’s, it’s still possible for imprisonment to find us.



We might endure a prison of darkness when depression covers us like a thick heavy blanket. Or chained to a past we can’t seem to move away from. We may find ourselves standing before accusers—relentless in voicing their opinions while refusing to hear ours. Life is full of moments when the waters can become a turbulent sea.



That’s when we need our own Julius, the guard in our lives, to recognize our need for care and refreshment. Who is traveling your journey with you? Who is your guard in life that notices when you’re about to break? Who reaches out when you begin drifting away? We all need a guard like Julius, someone willing to stand by us, giving thoughtful consideration to our needs. And we all crave friends who bring care and refreshment to our lives. Proverbs 11:25b promises, “Whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” (NIV).



Guarding and Caring always brings:



R-Refreshing.



~+~



Kolleen Lucariello is the author of The ABC’s of Who God Says I Am. Read her heart at www.speakkolleen.com. She has been married to her high school sweetheart, Pat, for 34 years. Together they have three grown children, and four beautiful grandchildren. They make their home in Upstate New York.

9 September 2016

ACRBA Blog tour Mail Order Bride by Lucy Thompson


5 - 9 September 2016

is Introducing 

Forget Me Not Romances, a division of Winged Publications (April 19, 2016)

By Lucy Thompson

About the Book:
Colorado, 1881. Lydia Walsh is on the run. The quiet rancher she marries and expected to find safety and protection with turns out to have three siblings, next to nothing to live on, and is a crack shot who may or may not be one of the states best cattle rustlers.


Beau Harding wants to keep his family together and do the right thing by them. His mail order bride comes with her own set of baggage: two more mouths to feed and empty hearts begging him to fill. The job he took for some quick money gets him thrown in jail for rustling, and then to clear his name he takes on another job--and learns that his wife may have been the one plotting his family’s downfall all along.


About the Author:
Hi! My name is Lucy Thompson. I’m a stay-at-home mum to five precocious children and wife to the ultra-handy Dave by day and a snoop by night, stalking interesting characters through historical settings, and writing about their exploits.

I enjoy meeting new people from all over the world and learning about the craft of writing. When I can be separated from my laptop, I’m a professional time waster on facebook (really!), a slave to the towering stack of books on my bedside table, and a bottler, preserving fruit the old fashioned way so I can swap recipes and tips with my characters. 

My home is in central Queensland, Australia where I do not ride a kangaroo to the shops, mainly because my children won’t fit.

Represented by the fabulous Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, I’m a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and Romance Writers of America.


You can find my review here

7 September 2016

15 Ideas for Family Togetherness by Robin Steinweg


Time with our families. How hard can that be?



We probably don’t intend to dash in and out of their lives saying, “Gotta go! See you later!” We want to create memories with siblings, parents and grandparents. But life gets in the way.

September is Intergenerational Month. What a great time to start!



Here are 15 ideas for family togetherness. Some can take only minutes. Choose one this week. Be intentional—make it happen.

·         Q&A-with-a-Twist—Ask foolish questions like these:

o   Do fish get thirsty?

o   How does the snowplow driver get to work?

o   What would chairs look like if our knees were in the back?

o   Where does your lap go when you stand up?

o   For more, try these sites: http://ow.ly/w5Pp302TiZ6 or http://ow.ly/ZVAs302Tj6K .

·         Games:

o   Oodles—or other question-asking games.

o   Board Games.

o   Word Games—Scrabble, Bananagrams, Crosswords.

o   Volley Balloon—for the youngest and the oldest in your family.

o   Hangman (Wheel of Fortune)—can be played on a napkin at a restaurant while waiting. Someone chooses a word and draws the correct number of lines. Others guess letters. For each incorrect guess, draw another piece of the gallows or the unfortunate hangee.

o   DIY games with family-made pieces: http://ow.ly/hzjJ302TkaH 

·         Share Interests/Hobbies.

·         Walk: make a scavenger hunt of views to collect (sunset, catalpa tree, ant, pine needle…).

·         Music: share a recording, play a song, sing together, or find a youtube video of favorites.

·         Books: read aloud or everyone read the same book and discuss next time.

·         Movies: take turns choosing. Create a family review afterward.

·         Take a class together—learn something new!

·         Cooking/eating: choose an ingredient. Divide the family for a contest using the featured food. Choose a theme with decorations, place-cards, and divide duties according to age/ability.

·         Coded messages: a way to involve relatives at a distance. Write one coded message per week and send. Keep it going!

·         Pray together.

·         Worship together.

·         Gardening: big or small, indoor or outdoor, in-ground or in containers.

·         Teach each other a skill: teach a family member to knit (or whatever), and he/she teaches you to use an iPad (or whatever).

·         Family Giving Project: are there homeless in your community? You might collect food pantry items. Or personal care items. Join up with others—knit warm hats for shivering school children.



How about it? How will you bring the generations together this week?



~+~

Robin Steinweg finds life sweet in the middle of writing, speaking, teaching, caring for aging parents and adjusting to having adult children. She, her husband and family live near Madison, Wisconsin. Her passion is to help others discover joy in every age of life. On fb—Robin June Steinweg.

5 September 2016

Will You Accept September’s One-on-One Challenge? by Gail Goolsby


Everyone wants to know and be known intimately by someone. We want to have relationships where connections can be quick and meaningful. September is One-on-One Month. Consider what you can do to ramp up your relationship investment.

The most important people in our lives should not have to wonder if we care about current challenges they are facing or achievements they have completed. They should be able to answer affirmatively that when they talk—we truly listen.

How can we experience the most from our meetings and conversations?

How can we communicate our presence, our full attention to the other person?

In Your Face and Off Your Phone

In today’s culture, being physically present and not looking at a phone are keys to quality conversations.

In a 2014 study conducted by Shalini Misra from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, people were observed from a distance conversing in a coffee shop. More than factors of age, gender, ethnicity, mood, topic, or relationship closeness, the presence of mobile devices impacted the overall satisfaction of interaction between participants. The absence of mobile devices resulted in higher level reports of empathy and superior communication.

With the present technology overload, device-free gatherings are unusual, whether in a restaurant, home, or conference room. The challenge is daunting but vital. Put aside beeping, blinking, tweeting equipment when engaging a person or a group.

Presence is Proximity and Purpose

When we do have the opportunity to connect one-on-one with a friend, family member, co-worker, or employee, we show our desire to be present with:

·         Curiosity (find out something new)

·         Good questions (go for deeper than surface reports on work and activities)

·         Engagement (make eye contact, maintain positive body language)

·         Appreciation (share something valuable about person)

·         Active, responsive listening (don’t interrupt, occasionally check for understanding)

·         Focus (avoid looking around, letting thoughts wander)

·         Humor (tell a funny anecdote to release endorphins for everyone)

Satisfaction for All

Maybe the exchange happens while walking through the neighborhood or during a car ride. Perhaps in a kitchen, park, coffee shop, break room, or child’s room before bedtime.

Wherever, whenever the chat takes place, plan to be present and phone-free and make it a quality time that both of you will enjoy.

Accept the September One-On-One challenge and purpose to have satisfying conversations with the important people in your life. Who will be first on your list?

~+~

Gail Goolsby, MA, MEd is a lifelong educator, including past leadership at an international school in Afghanistan. Gail and her pastor husband of 38 years live where the wind blows over the prairie in south Kansas. She counsels and coaches using God’s Word to help others learn to live well. www.gailgoolsby.com

2 September 2016

Prosper Where You’re Planted by Kathy Carlton Willis


We were excited about our brand new home, but not so much with our new sod and landscaping. It struggled to survive the move. Of course, the 100-degree heatwave didn’t help matters. The crux of the problem was transplant shock. Those green leafies were traumatized by being uprooted from their comfortable setting and placed into strange new surroundings.

We did all we could to “love on” our greenies. We refreshed them frequently with nourishing drinks of water. But even with the proper care, the bright green leaves of grass, trees and plants dimmed to a straw-like gold. Transplant Trauma.

It takes time and the proper care for transplants to adjust to new surroundings, and then they snap out of the shock and turn green again.

I know what it’s like to be a transplant, and perhaps you do too. You wonder how it’s possible to prosper where you’re planted when you’re dealing with your own version of transplant trauma. We didn’t get to stay in the hometown of our childhood. No, God uprooted us. Took us from the comfort of what we knew and loved, and moved us to a new area that needed us. God often sends us to parched places—to rejuvenate others with refreshing green ministry.

Sometimes it takes a while to get acclimated. We go through a period of transplant trauma. Shock. The refreshingness of the lush green we offer others temporarily turns to dry hay. With the right amount of time to adjust, and with the loving care of our new surroundings, we green up again. It’s good to know it’s just a temporary condition.

Sometimes we come to a new place still grieving the loss of what we left behind. We bring that trauma with us until we come to accept it. Other times, we are eager to get started in the new ministry, but are confronted by the culture shock of the new area. We adapt. We add the water of the Word, confirming our calling to our new spot. We soak in the SONlight. We allow our Heavenly Master Gardener to tend to our needs while we tend to the needs of others.

Are you yearning to prosper where you’re planted? Repeat this phrase with me: “Transplant trauma is temporary. God’s tender loving care is permanent.”


~+~


Kathy Carlton Willis writes and speaks with a balance of funny and faith—whimsy and wisdom. She shines the light on issues that hold readers back and inspires lightbulb moments. Almost a thousand of Kathy’s articles have been published and she’s written several books, including Grin with Grace and Speaker to Speaker: The Essential Speaker’s Companion. She and husband Russ live in Texas with Jazzy, their hilarious Boston terrier. Learn more at: www.kathycarltonwillis.com


1 September 2016

A Powerful Voice by Penelope Powell - PROMO Blitz


Contemporary Christian Romance/ Women’s Fiction
Date Published: Jun 10th (digital) / Aug. 9th (print/POD)
Publisher: Anaiah Romance

 photo add-to-goodreads-button_zpsc7b3c634.png


Gloria Fielder is trying her best to live with sincere faith, but regret for a past decision makes it difficult to live with herself.
Justin Case knows first-hand the consequences of bad choices, but he doesn’t believe in burying past mistakes. He openly shares his testimony with the purpose of showing there is hope and freedom for those who come to Christ.
Justin is the new worship leader for the church service Gloria attends, and he also leads a new Bible study she knows will help her. To complicate matters, once Justin becomes aware of Gloria’s struggle, he seems intent on drawing her out of her self-imposed shell of guilt and regret. If she trusts him with her secret and her heart, will their friendship evolve into something more, or will it simply be her undoing?


Excerpt

© 2016 Penelope Powell
Chapter One
Time heals all wounds…unless you deserve to suffer.
When the thought from her internal mantra struck, Gloria Fielder froze mid-step. As if punctuating the accusation, an icy wind howled, the force of it wrenching the glass door from her grasp and slamming it against the stopper.
“A few more minutes and you would’ve missed us entirely.”
Gloria looked up into the unsmiling face of a rail-thin woman standing sentinel over a group of children. Gloria assumed she was the children’s director, as they were all dressed in the festive colors of Christmas, their bright reds and deep greens reminding her of the candlelight service in progress.
She hesitated, her gaze shifting to the plaster nativity figures less than ten feet away, the babe in particular so…lifelike. Would it be better to leave and apologize later for having missed the program?
“Could you shut the door please? It’s hard to keep everyone’s attention while a draft is blowing through, and it’s almost time for us to begin.” Seeming to barely hang on to her patience, the director’s smile was as tight as her collar.
Being late was bad enough, but being made to feel like she was an annoying interruption was well…worse. Gloria shifted to close the door.
After an inquisitive glance toward Gloria, a chubby boy with flushed cheeks pulled on the director’s sleeve. “Mrs. Parker, when do we get our candles?”
“Patience, Tommy. We need to wait for the lady to go inside the auditorium, don’t we?”
Glancing from the boy to Mrs. Parker, Gloria apologized.
“That’s all right. We’re happy to wait for you to get settled.” Mrs. Parker’s smile stretched.
Gloria glanced back toward the woman, wondering if she meant what she said. She’d grown up in a house where a smile often held duplicity. Committed to stay, she hurried toward the partition crammed with winter coats. She unfurled the red scarf from her neck, then squished it and her coat into the mix.
Hushed giggles drew her gaze back to the director, who was busy giving each child a candle with detailed instructions. Everything about them seemed to contrast her. Was it just last year she wore red, putting on a good front? She wasn’t interested in being that person anymore. The clingy dress and all it represented was exiled to the corner of her closet. Proof she was different.
The past few weeks had been particularly hard. When something like seeing the babe in the manger shook her confidence instead of giving her hope, she questioned her faith as a believer in Christ. The possibility of seeing someone at this service she’d rather avoid tightened her chest with further worry.
“Ma’am, they’re waiting for us to start.” Apparently losing her patience, Mrs. Parker nodded toward the doors going into the auditorium.
Gloria tamped down her misgivings, straightened her shoulders, and walked toward the sanctuary. As she edged around the children to reach for one of the doors, a little girl dressed in an evergreen velvet dress took a candle from a basket and offered it to her.
“Thank you.” Gloria smiled.
The girl’s pink lips curved in reply.
Suddenly, blinking back the unwelcome pressure of tears, she turned and eased through the doors. Assailed by the scent of melting wax and pine, she waited for her eyesight to adjust to the soft glow of dimmed lighting, giving her a chance to scan the room for empty seats.
Soon an usher stood next to her, his face brightening when he smiled. “Is anyone joining you?” His generous teeth gleamed in the darkness.
Just me. She shook her head.
He motioned for her to follow him, then pointed to some empty chairs. As she made a beeline for them, his parting greeting followed. “Merry Christmas.”
Gloria glanced over her shoulder and forced a smile. She wanted to be merry. Wanted to simply feel peace. Wanted a reprieve from the recording in her head. Some days, the indictment playing over and over—tightening the tendrils of regret—putting her back on the treadmill of if-only. Making forgetting impossible.
If time was linear, and the passing of it promised things would get easier, then why hadn’t the grip of shame and sorrow weakened?
She settled into a chair as the children from the lobby entered and dispersed down the center aisle, the sound of their voices rising as they moved toward the front, their song offering her a distraction from her turmoil. With a deep breath, she closed her eyes and tried to escape into the words.
Joy to the World. A feeling she had yet to muster.
After several carols and a reenactment of the birth of Christ, the pastor walked up on the stage.
Bobby Jordan had thinning gray hair, a solid middle-aged build, and the demeanor and voice of an authoritative grandfather. But that was her opinion now that she knew him. Their first meeting was at her office. His friendly and forthright manner reminded her of the old Southern gentlemen at home. He explained he was a pastor hoping to refer church members who were house hunting, said a friend had recommended her.
Her peace of mind wavered at the memory. Fortunately, the uncomfortable connection led to providential results. If she had not been going through such a rough time, and if Bobby had not sought her out, she might never have begun a relationship with Christ. If only she could find a way to reconcile how the two connected without all the bad stuff. She rubbed her forehead.
“Thank you children, you may join your parents,” Bobby said.
Gloria glanced up as Bobby laid a hand on the shoulder of a little boy after dismissing the others to finds their seats.
“This is Johnny, one of our shepherds in tonight’s program. He’s seven. I asked Johnny a question earlier, and I wanted you to hear his response.” Bobby crouched down. “Johnny, what’s Christmas all about?” He tilted a microphone toward Johnny.
“Pweth-sents.” The boy turned toward the audience and smiled, the gap in his front teeth sparking chuckles from the crowd.
“What’s so great about presents?”
“They’we fwee.”
Bobby ruffled Johnny’s hair and told him to join his parents. When the laughter trickling through the congregation died down, Bobby stood at the edge of the platform. “Each Christmas, we decorate our homes with nativity scenes and our Christmas trees with lights.”
Gloria swallowed, the nativity from the lobby edging back into her thoughts.
“We send cards, sing carols, and we exchange gifts.” Eyes down, Bobby paused. “I agree with Johnny. Big or small, presents are special, but are they truly free? Certainly, they’re free to the recipients, but to the giver there is always a cost.” Bobby raised his arms. “But to each one of us, grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Paul wrote this to the Ephesians. God’s gift of grace. Undeserved favor for us.”
Undeserved. That was certainly her. She’d never measured up to expectations, which was one of the reasons why she worked so hard at her job.
“As recipients, God’s gift of grace costs us nothing because Jesus paid for it. He gave his life, so we might receive forgiveness. Receive life. In this season of giving, in addition to the wrapped packages we place under our trees, let’s give grace to one another. Offer forgiveness when needed, even underserved.” Then Bobby prayed.
As before, the children assembled across the front. Once their candles were lit, they disbursed down each aisle, lighting the candles of people sitting on the end as they went. Music played in the background.
Eyes closed, Gloria focused on Bobby’s words. She prayed the message would wash over her. Because there was hope in knowing Christ had already forgiven her. And she could do the same.
“Excuse me.”
Startled from someone’s touch, Gloria slapped a hand to her chest.
A man barely visible, given the darkness and shadows cast by candlelight, leaned closer. “Sorry to disturb you, but I thought you might want to light your candle.” Highlighting his explanation, he lifted his candle. For one brief moment, a striking, masculine face with eyes so dark they glittered like pools in moonlight stared back at her.
She swallowed, her heart still pounding from having been disturbed. “Sorry.” She fumbled for the candle amongst her things. Finding it, she held it toward him and tilted her wick toward his flame. A cool, woodsy scent wafted toward her, reminiscent of an autumn breeze. She inhaled the refreshing smell and relaxed a bit.
When her candle was lit, the flare illuminated his face once more. He looked up and caught her staring. Embarrassed, she turned away. “Thanks.”
“No problem.”
When the lights came up, she hit the aisle, determined to get through the lobby then home. The last thing she wanted to do was linger. Not that she didn’t enjoy talking with people afterward, but tonight she felt fragile.



About the Author


Though her roots are buried deep in the hills of Middle Tennessee, she now lives in Indiana with her family and serves in her local church. She loves to entertain, give life to old things, antiquing, reading and of course writing.
Like the things we experience, I believe good Christian fiction can inspire and change someone’s perspective, and hopefully point them to Christ.

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