Thursday, December 27, 2007

Scribble and Scrambles - More Than My Front Teeth

I didn't think to ask for front teeth this year since I am in possession of mine, but the goggles might be on my list for next year. Especially if they are magnifying.

I don't know this cute child, but Mr. Microsoft does. So I borrowed her since I thought she fit quite nicely with both my bent toward the twisted and the thought of the day. Great gifts.

My Christmas oozed blessings. I mentioned my bookshelves in passing the other day.

My husband delivered. Big time. I've snapped some pictures that I'll post in the very near future.

My daughter-in-law (and son) gifted me with a pan. Some wouldn't consider this a great gift. But, my daughter-in-law watched me do my burn avoidance dance when cooking in my favorite pan a few months ago. A favorite pan I can't toss. The handle is gone and has been for years, but if the hot pads are thick enough, it can still be used. And if it can still be used, it seems that the purchase of a replacement is extravagant. Her thoughtfulness birthed a guilt-free gift.

Now, the only thing that will get too warm when I cook is my heart.

She may have to wrestle the old one out of my hands and force me to part with it, though.

My oldest daughter gave me slippers with warming packs for tired, achy feet. My husband wrapped an assortment of lip balms and chocolates. Are you beginning to see why I feel especially loved?

We received two gifts of money that will move the remodeling to the next level.

My brother gave each of my children a journal and used the first few pages to pen his thoughts and memories of who they were as children and how he sees them as they have morphed into adults or near-adult.

So far I haven't mentioned the cleanliness of the house or the Martha Stewart-like food presentation. Oh, we had candles and goodies galore. But the good stuff, the keepers were the slivers of time and laughter and shared memories.

I played and lost five games of Settlers of Catan. The winners and losers laughed until fudge came out our noses. (Not really, but I do like the visual.) The scent of cinnamon rolls and coffee filled the air while we prayed together and read the Christmas story Christmas morning. Candlelight filled the church sanctuary on Christmas Eve while we sang Silent Night.

Now, I wait for the next celebration. Visitors are coming to stay. More laughing, more eating, more memories just waiting to be built.

I do love this time of year.

Hope the rest of 2007 is especially wonderful for you and yours.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Serials and Scenarios - Merry Christmas

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....
God's Gift of Love

by Kathleen Y'Barbo

Love. It seems as though everyone these days is either in desperate avoidance of it, in the heart wrenching process of losing it, or in the giddy throes of finding it. Some have given up on it while others believe they will know it when they see it. All of us hope when it’s our turn, the love we get - and give - will be unconditional.

But can flawed humans really offer unconditional love?

Oh, we try. If you’re a parent you know the depth of love you felt the first moment you saw that precious baby of yours. Then there’s the feelings you carried up the aisle to join your beloved at the altar. Or perhaps love to you is counted by the nights spent at a parent’s bedside. The thread of love winds through each of these, and yet it is the rare parent, spouse, or child who would admit to having loved perfectly. We are human and sadly flawed, even when we act with the best of intentions.

There is only one unconditional love that never fails. Only one love that never turns a blind eye, says the wrong thing, or procrastinates rather than acts. The love of the Father, our Heavenly Father, is perfect in every way. Not only is His love unconditional, but He also loves us in spite of who we are and not for what we are. How wonderful to know that the God of the universe loves us.

Not just love in the way we see it, the stars-in-our-eyes crazy-about-my-baby love, but a depth of feeling exponentially more than anything our flawed but well intentioned hearts could imagine.

So today, when you’re reminded that tiny baby, Jesus Christ the Creator-made-flesh, think of the love it took to accomplish this holy miracle of unconditional love. To put on the fingers and toes of an infant and come to us as Savior was the beginning of a love story that has no end.

Kathleen Y’Barbo

Kathleen Y'Barbo is the author of Beloved Castaway and countless other books. For more information visit
Kelly's comments -- Today I thank God for His love. I hope you find it everywhere you look today. Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Serials and Scenarios - Eleventh Day Gift

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

God's Gift of An Uncluttered Christmas

by Cyndy Salzmann

It was enough to curl my toes. And a quick glance at the other mother’s in the audience told me I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.
So what horrendous experience caused such a reaction from a room full of moms? A violent or sexually explicit movie? A challenge from Doctor Phil to “get real” and ‘fess up about our parenting faux pas? Or a pan of the audience spotlighting a really bad hair day?
Actually, the event that caused such a panic among this audience of mothers occurred during the Christmas program at my daughter’s school.
Things started innocently enough when the girls marched out onto the stage swinging colorful shopping bags. Of course, they were adorable and the apples of their mothers’ eyes. The trouble began when the girls opened their mouths and sang…
Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!
Scurry! Scurry! Scurry!
Worry! Worry! Worry!
Christmastime is here!
As I said, it was enough to curl my toes. Just the thought of all that hurrying, scurrying and worrying to prepare for Christmas gave me a full-blown a hot flash. No wonder depression peaks during the holidays. Faced with all that stress , I wouldn’t want to get out of bed either.
Once my hot flash ceded, I began to realize that this is just where Satan wants us – dreading the celebration of the most precious gifts to mankind – the birth of Jesus Christ. And frankly, it made my blood boil – almost bringing on another hot flash. I decided right then that he wasn’t going to get away with it.
We have a choice on how much hurrying, scurrying and worrying we do. And this year I hope you’ll make a commitment to join me in uncluttering your Christmas by jumping off the treadmill and keeping your eyes on the true reason for the season.
BTW- I have a tip sheet with practical ideas and advice to help you to simplify your holidays and focus on Jesus’ birth. Just contact me at and I’ll email you a copy.

Cyndy Salzmann is the author of Crime & Clutter, book two in the highly acclaimed Friday Afternoon Mystery series published by Howard Books. As America’s Clutter Coach, Cyndy is a popular national speaker and radio personality. Cyndy, her husband and three children, live in Omaha, Nebraska. For more information visit
Kelly's Comments..........................
I'm relaxed. Some might call it a stupor.
I prefer relaxed. Stupor sounds so...unhealthy.
So, it's 12:33 a.m. on December 24th and I have people coming to my home for dinner in seventeen hours and I'm blogging.
Why? Because the resident carpenter is wiring the ceiling.
Yes, it's late for a carpenter to be hard at work, but he prefers to do the home stuff fueled on caffeine and adrenaline.
You know how one of the military branches had the slogan, "you'll do more before 9:00 a.m. than other people will do all day." Or something along those lines.
I think Rob's slogan is, "midnight, smidnight! Who needs stinkin sun!"
I can't clean since he is making more sawdust as I type. The cooking has progressed as far as it can. Why not blog? That way it looks like I'm involved in his project and supportive of his preferences, and I can accomplish something that needs to be done anyway.
Cyndy, do I get points for at least multi-tasking, with a good attitude, and a certain sense of joie de vivre?
I do have to report that my wonderful, handy husband brought home an early Christmas gift. Oak, hand-crafted book shelves. I'll be taking pictures of my library nook and posting them in the very near future.
Hope your Christmas Eve is full of peace and joy.

Lily and Lola Wish You a Merry Christmas...

And a Happy New Year.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Serials and Scenarios - Tenth Day Gift - Memories

God's Gift of Memories

by Marlo Schalesky

Memory is a powerful thing. We hear a song from our high school days and we’re transported to sweaty school dances and blasting the radio in our first car. The smell of brownies baking takes us back to pigtails and ponies. We drive by the house we lived in as a kid and remember the swingset in the backyard and how that rotten kid from next door blew spitwads through the hole in the fence.

Ever gotten sick on a type of food? You’ll never want to have that again. And don’t even think about naming your child after that whiny little brat that sat behind you in the fourth grade, even if your spouse loves that name.

Memory. It’s why we treasure photos, display mementos, keep in touch with people from our past. It’s why God set up festivals for the ancient Israelites and told them to erect memorials at significant places in their history.

Memory. It’s why the sight of a stuffed stocking takes me back to those early mornings in my childhood when my brother and I would wake up before dawn, run to the fireplace, get our stockings, and race back to my parents’s bed. Mom was always ready. Dad pretended to complain. And together, with lots of giggling and the thrill of anticipation, we’d pull out the gifts from our stockings one by one. Simple things, boring really. Candy. A toothbrush. Some silly plastic toy. Things that would be used up or forgotten in just a few short weeks. And yet, opening stockings is my favorite Christmas memory from childhood.

Why? I think it’s because good memories are not necessarily made from the “big stuff.” Rather, they’re fashioned out of warmth and happiness and times together. They’re woven with laughter, colored with simple, plain joy. They come from times when you experience love.

So, this year, I’m thinking about the memories I’m making now, for my kids, and for myself. I don’t want those memories to be ones of a Mom who’s running around with too much to do and too little time to do it. I don’t want them to be of hustle, bustle, shopping, wrapping, cooking, cards, and gifts thrown under the tree. I don’t even want them to be of the cool stable-and-horse set that my girls will unwrap on Christmas morning. Or the cheap kid’s guitar for my oldest (age 7), or the new “ooo-ahh” (stuffed gorilla) for one of my 2-year-old twins.

Because the toys will break, get old, get lost, or they’ll outgrow them. But they won’t outgrow the happy memories of family times together. The memories of decorating Christmas cookies with laughter and joking – those won’t get old. The times we make a gingerbread house together, or sit down and watch the Grinch – those won’t break. The simple things make the best memories. Times when we’re together as a family, having fun, enjoying the traditions we’re building together.

So, that’s my goal this Christmas, to weave memories of peace, love, togetherness, because that’s the best gift I can think of to celebrate Jesus’ birth -- Memories that bring a smile to the face of children . . . and to the face of the King.

For more about the power of memories in our lives, check out Marlo's next novel, Beyond the Night, releasing in May. A woman in a hospital bed, a man sitting beside her, and between them, a memory that can set her free. Find out more at:

Kelly's thoughts....

I've shared some of my favorites over the past couple of days. I suppose since I'm listening to the Passion of the Christ soundtrack and IMing my youngest while she faces a huge challenge --two and a half hours from home-- I'm feeling a little pensive.

I remember the Christmas that Rob and I were separated.

And I'm celebrating the fact that we are together today. That we will share another Christmas together, in spite of the odds, in spite of the past pain.

What about you? Do you have someone on your list who needs your forgiveness this Christmas? Do you have someone on your list who needs a glimpse of your heart? Or maybe a dose of truth? Do you need to wrap up some kindness or mercy? Does your tree need to be draped in grace or the meal sprinkled in love? Does someone need your shared memories as an encouragement to get through a rough spot?

Give and accept the gift of love this Christmas. Life's too short to put it off any longer.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Serials and Scenarios - Gift of Story - Ninth Day of Christmas

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

God's Gift of Dreams and Story

by Melody Carlson

A dream doesn’t always seem like a gift from God, but sometimes I’ll experience one so vivid and amazing that I can’t help but think God is at work. I remember a dream that woke me in the middle of the night about ten years ago. I was so moved that I felt compelled to write it down. In my dream I saw a sweet angel who was distraught that Jesus was about to leave heaven to be born as a baby on earth. So she volunteered to give up being an angel and God transformed her into a magnificent star to light the night sky for the Big Event.
I won’t tell the entire dream, but simply let it be said that the ending surprised everyone—including me. The story became a children’s Christmas book called The Greatest Gift (which is currently out of print). But as a result of that dream, I began to pay even more attention to my dreams. Sometimes I think that God simply uses them to show me things about my own life and sometimes my dreams wind up in my books.

Melody Carlson is the author of Ready to Wed, (Guideposts Books 2007). This story also involves a dream! For more information visit
I have always loved books, far more than the words and the stories within. Those are reason enough to love books but I delight in what they represent.
Books are connectedness. Opening a book immediately connects me to the author. The characters reach out and grab my imagination and often heart. But even better than intimacy within the covers of a book, is the intimacy that has occurred with my children and husband as we've read books together.
Not just story books, oh, we did those, devouring Dr. Seuss, Monster at the End of this Book, The Berenstain Bears, and my favorite book from childhood, The Bull Beneath the Walnut Tree, the one I read to my younger brothers. And as our family tastes grew with our children's physical milestones, we kept reading.
Our oldest honed his skills while reading segments of The Box Car Children stories. Once the kids were on their way to an exotic island and Jordan read the name of a port they passed through "Cheecheego" I can't remember which adult read next, but I do remember laughing hysterically that the foreign port was our very own Chicago. We all still laugh. In the same book, Rob read that the kids ate sea biscuits. Jordan got the giggles and sea biscuits were mentioned too often over the next few months.
Car trips have been enriched with the rhythm of my voice as I've read aloud from Little House on the Prairie, The Painted House, The Chronicles of Narnia. Now that our children are out of the nest or perched on the rim, ready to take flight, I still read to Rob.
Some of my favorite reading memories are tapping me on the shoulder, triggered by sights and smells of Christmas past. We read the Christmas story together and one of several favorites, The Tale of Three Trees, Why Christmas Trees Aren't Perfect, The Night Before Christmas. I can't think of a memory that touches my heart like the one of our family huddled over a book.
Delicious scents from the Christmas feast perfume the air, all of us are dressed in our Christmas finery. White lights twinkle from the Christmas tree and if it's a white Christmas from under the snow on the evergreen and light wrapped porch railing.
These memories last just a few moments. Just a stolen pocket of peace in the midst of stress and busyness. But I've discovered that these breathtaking pockets of intense emotion are the things that make up my happiness and contentment.
The tree falls over? That's life. But when I can laugh, it becomes a memory. The kid who just twenty minutes earlier had driven me to a nervous breakdown, cuddled up against my thigh while we read...blessed bliss. I've learned to find my Christmas dreams in the midst of my Christmas chaos and I don't know that I'd have it any other way.
I'm hoping you find joy and peace this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Serials and Scenarios - On the Eighth Day - Unexpected Blessings

God's Gift of Unexpected Blessings

by Angela Hunt

The arrival of our daughter from South Korea wasn’t exactly unexpected—we’d spent years longing for her, and then months praying for that little baby’s safe arrival in our arms.

And as I look back over the experience, I can’t help thinking of Mary, who must have had such mixed feelings when she held the infant Jesus in her arms. Great joy, for the promised child had arrived. Great responsibility for the fragile life in her care. And great dread for the difficulties and sorrows that would arise.

As a young mother, I knew there would be tough times, and I haven’t been disappointed. But through bad times and good, through loving moments and less-than-loving moments, I can see the hand of God’s sovereignty molding me, my husband, and my children into the people he intends us to be.

Christmas shines brightest in the eyes of children. But it resonates most deeply in the hearts of those who love them.

Angela Hunt

Angela Hunt is the author of Doesn't She Look Natural? (Tyndale Publishers). For more information visit

Kelly's Blessed Christmas Moments with and without Children....

I can't compete with Angela's eloquence so I'll just share some of my favorite in-living-color dysfunctional parenting Christmas moments with you.

One of my all-time favorite pictures of my two oldest children is actually a short series of pictures. In them, the four-year-old attempts to take something from the one-year-old's clenched fist. Both children begin upright with expressions of sheer determination. The last picture shows no faces, just the adorable backsides of a victory in progress. I suppose, in hindsight, I could've put down the camera and intervened. But, alas, I did not. I chose to snap the wrestling-under-the-Christmas-tree-struggle, frame it and continue to laugh about it twenty years later.

Today, a friend forwarded an e-mail full of pictures with Santas holding crying children. I forwarded to all the slightly twisted people I know. I don't know why I find that hysterical. Could it be that I identify with the mystified and discombobulated Santa? (Oooh, another story idea. I'll have to share before Christmas. ; )

Another favorite picture...when our oldest was two. We went to visit Grandma and Grandpa who had a perfect toddler - sized wooden reindeer that was intended to hold magazines. It didn't hold a single magazine the entire time we were there. Jordan was on that thing every time we turned around. It eventually occurred to me that I needed to snap a picture since it'd make a great Christmas card. Being a toddler, he was not interested in posing when I requested that he do so. Since I towered over him at the point in life, he sat. But he was not amused.

Good news, there is hope for me. Favorite picture number three has no weeping! None. Just four smiling faces and a huge hole in the wall. Rob (Have I mentioned that we've been remodeling something for the past twenty-six years? ) decided to replace two living room windows with one big door. On a warm and sunny (Iowa warm and sunny, which is still real cold for anyone further south) December afternoon, he cut a six foot "mouth" in the side of house. The kids were fascinated, the dog was fascinated and I had several sets of felt antlers and a desire to send out pictures with our Christmas cards. Voila!

Finally, I have no picture for this memory, but it is burned forever on my brain. If you are a big PETA supporter, you may not want to read it as it does involve something worse that felt antlers on an animal's head....

We used to travel to my parents for Christmas Eve. On the way home one year, with kids dozing in the back seat already dreaming about sugar plums (Are those any good? Are they edible?) Rob and I watched the bright moon illuminate miles of virgin snow. The world was covered in diamond dust. Large, fluffy flakes fell out of the sky. The crunch of snow, the rhythmic breathing of sleeping children, and instrumental Christmas carols the only sounds that touched the silent blanket of beauty.

As we passed a field, on an expanse of untouched, moon-kissed glitter against an indigo back drop, there stood a massive white-tailed buck deer. Tears sprung into my eyes as I took in the awesome 3-D Christmas card photo in front of me. I silently thanked God for His artistic heart.

"Whoa!" I heard rumbled from the driver's seat. I turned to smile at my husband, to share a connection over our Christmas gift from God.

My husband, eyes glued on the deer, simply said. "Wow! I wish I had my gun. That rack has to be at least ten points."

Alrighty then.

I hope your Christmas season is full of lasting, picturesque memories.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Serials and Scenarios - Seventh Day Gift - Uniqueness

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

God's Gift of Uniqueness
by Tosca Lee

I used to hate my name. “Tosca” was too unusual. “Moon,” my middle name, was just downright embarrassing. “Lee” was all right, though it still set me apart from the rest of the Caucasian kids in my school. In an era when Christy Brinkley graced the cover of every fashion magazine, I did not wish to accentuate my different-ness.

The name I really wanted was Marie--probably because others had it and that meant I could at least buy one of those door plates for my bedroom door or license plates for my bike, which was my litmus test. As it was, they sure didn’t have plates for kids named “Tosca.”

In junior high, my friends called me “Weird Tosca.” I didn’t like that so much.

These days I teach about talent in my work as a consultant. I talk about the strange, quirky things that not only set people apart, but have the potential to make them great. A friend said to me once, “Stars have points.” He’s right. And when we blunt our points, we lose the defining characteristics of our unique mark in and contribution to this world.

Opportunities work much the same. It’s the unique ones that seem to hold the greatest potential impact. When my main character, Clay, bumps up against the opportunity to hear the story of creation from the viewpoint of a Demon, he is terrified--intrigued, but terrified. And so he resists. While his reaction might be in keeping with any sane person’s, it’s also a human reaction to the unusual. But in this case, it’s the unusual that might just might save his soul.

How has God revealed to you your uniqueness? And what, most importantly, is He telling you to do with it?

Weird Tosca

“You need to know something more about Elohim: he is the ultimate force of creativity. He is the author of diversity.”
--Lucian, Demon: A Memoir

Tosca Lee is the author of Demon: A Memoir and of the upcoming Havah: The Story of Eve. For more information visit
Kelly Thoughts:

Tosca writes a breath-taking tale in Demon: A Memoir, one of my 2007 favorites.

After reading 111 books in 2007 I have a few thoughts on uniqueness.

I like to read other reviews after I post my own, and what I've found makes me scratch my head. It seems that taste and interest is as diverse as...well, uh, as people.

I might give three stars and a smile to a book that others have raved about. Other books that crack me up, or twist my heart, leave some cold and stone-faced.

Do you ever wonder if you have words worth sharing? Whether the way that you see things is valid or even interesting? I do. Often. I compare myself with others, and usually find myself paling in the comparison.

But then again, I don't sing on the worship team, either. Nor do I play my violin. Why? Because I gave up during the training process. I don't trust my voice to sound like I'd like it to. My fingers don't remember the positioning. Oh, I could ask someone to help me to use my voice. I have two books to remind me how to play the violin.

Maybe the key is not giving up. Maybe just plugging away and trying and practicing and failing and growing makes the difference.

Shall we embrace our uniquenesses? Shall we let our weirdness show? Shall we bloom?

I think I have a New Year Goal in my post.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Serials and Scenarios - On the Sixth Day -- Unconditional Acceptance

God's Gift of Unconditional Acceptance

by Lisa Samson

Clearly God Incarnate wasn't choosy. He wasn't born in a palace, but to a simple peasant woman bearing the stigma of a pregnancy conceived out of the bonds of matrimony. He wasn't even born in his own town, but endured a long ride to Bethlehem in his mother's womb only to be born in a stable among the livestock. Even after his ministry began he owned one robe and proclaimed himself homeless when He said, "Foxes have dens, birds have nest, but the Son of God has no place to lay His head."

If we used some TV preachers' standards today, Jesus clearly wasn't blessed by God. He didn't have the finest clothes, transportation or housing. Even most of His disciples weren't exactly candidates for a PhD. Clearly He must not have had enough faith if that's all He was getting from His Father!

But Christ isn't choosy and that is good news for us. For there isn't a single human being who can impress Him into shining His light of grace upon them. The stockbroker on Wall Street stands level with the illegal immigrant who picks strawberries. The evangelist in fine suits or sparkly dresses looks eye-to-eye with the busdriver. And the homeschool mom stands shoulder to shoulder with the prostitute. His love demands He looks above the good and the bad, and His arms are always open, ready to receive us when we are ready to receive Him. Sometimes we run back into His arms many times in one day and He doesn't care if we've showered or put on the latest fashions, He's only looking for a contrite heart. That's it. A heart that says, "I'm sorry."

This Christmastime, rest in the fact that you can't impress Christ. He doesn't care about our beautiful cookies or the fact that our trees look designer coordinated. He isn't impressed we ran around to ten different stores to find the perfect present for Aunt Sue. He just wants us to love Him, just as we are, for when we do, we incarnate Him in the here and now, and there's no telling what He'll do through us.

Lisa Samson is the author of Hollywood Nobody (NavPress, 2007), For more information visit

Kelly's Comments

People question whether God is a good God. So many see Him as wrathful and lightning flinging.

It's true that God is righteous and just. But He is also merciful and fair and He boiled His rules down into two statements. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself.

If I love Him, I believe that His promises are true. Therefore, I believe, no matter how things look, or smell, or feel, He is working out details for my own good.

That He would bend to work in the details of my life shocks me.

Who am I that He would care?

No royal blood pumps through my veins. My father doesn't own an oil field. My works, at best, look like the Martha Stewart reject pile. I laugh too loud at inappropriate times. I stumble over my words.

My finances are pitiful and my housekeeping skills...ugh. But He wants my heart, soul, mind and strength.

Like the Little Drummer Boy, with a whole lot less talent, I'll offer my gift up. But in tattered paper with a crooked bow. "Here it is, God, my heart, my soul, my strength and my mind."

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Midwest Will Remember

The Omaha shooter sought fame. His definition of fame -- ending his troubled life by making a statement.

There is now a footnote in Nebraska history with his name on it. Yes. But is that fame?

Remembered are those whose lives were taken and tainted by his selfish actions.

The lost grandma or grandpa will be remembered. Grandchildren will cherish Christmas memories, birthdays,Thanksgivings and vacations. Recipes or traditions will be passed along, jokes and tales will be shared and labeled as Grandma's or Grandpa's.

The mother or father ripped from the fabric of the family will be remembered. The deeds, the words, the intimacies will be mourned and missed. The smile will be flash frozen in the minds of sons and daughters. A scent may linger triggering memories of vacations, meals or events. Advice will carry on and continue to be passed down.

The son or the daughter will be remembered -- famous to the family and friends left behind. Inside jokes, special bonds, details of the lives they lived intertwined with a family who loved them and will continue to love them.

Heroes and loved ones are remembered in vibrant color and surround sound.

The perpetrator of this senseless act will become a black and white footnote in Nebraska notoriety.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Serials and Scenarios - Red Letters

Coasting through life? Bored? Feeling spiritually anemic or like another left foot? Read this review, click on the book cover and visit this blog.
Warning: conviction awaits. But so does hope.

My Review:

I have turned away from pictures of swollen-bellied starving children.

It's not that I don't care. It's that I care so much.

I've helped emotional basket cases until I couldn't tell where they ended and I began and I had to step away to save my own sanity.

I made eye contact with a two or three-year-old-girl one day. I watched her walk down the hall and smile over her shoulder until she disappeared around the corner. My heart broke for her because her little face was dirty and her adult seemed harsh. I still pray for that child, years later, and my eyes still fill with tears.

My friend just surrendered an eleven-month-old foster baby back to the conditions into which it was born. A mother who has no children though she's given birth eight times. An addict who was clean for four months and therefore earned her right to a child she poisoned with drugs.

To say that Red Letters - a Faith that Bleeds sucker punched me is an understatement. I didn't want to read the statistics of pandemics and poverty. I live so far away. What can I do for those dying in Africa and India when I can't seem to make a difference in my own neighborhood?

But Tom Davis tells the truth without leaving bleakness and hopelessness behind. Little steps towards help and healing are all it takes. After presenting the history and the medical details of AIDS and extreme poverty, Tom then encourages and charges believers in Jesus to offer cups of water and mercy to the "least of these."

I appreciated the practical help options and I appreciated Tom's charge.

If you have someone who is difficult to buy gifts for then buy them this book and make a donation on their behalf.

Red Letters -- with a little work -- could be a great small group/youth group discussion piece. Make Red Letters a building block for a learning project -- try something like looking into the provided medical and historical information regarding AIDS and then making it personal. Assign each person in the group to bring a local story and then as a group do something about them. Or decide as a group to begin a weekly five hour fast and/or one less pop or coffee purchase then pool your money and "adopt" a child or ministry. Take it outside of church. Why not start a "healing" fund at work. Maybe those who are involved could take turns making treats from Fair Trade products, selling them, and sending the proceeds to an organization. There are additional suggestions in the back of the book. Selling products made in a third world country to help supplement income is one of the options.

I'd suggest Red Letters to anyone who is sick and tired of feeling selfish, or who is disgusted with a society made up of millions of people who are out for Number 1.

Warning: This is a heavy, but quick and well-written read, and it will leave readers feeling convicted.

Davis wondered what the world would look like if we all chose to do something to help others. As I watch out my window at the falling snow I can't help but realize that one tiny, unique snowflake falling from the sky, mixing with other unique snowflakes, within hours, even minutes changes the face of a neighborhood. Couldn't one good decision after another mix into a warm blanket of love and charity that can change the world? I think so. If you do too, then start today.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Serials and Scenarios - Fifth Day Gift - Imagination

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

God's Gift of Imagination

by Jack Cavanaugh

Christmas is a holiday for the imagination.

Angels and shepherds and wise men (oh my!),
Tyrants and taxes and stars in the sky!
No room for a bed
As tidings were spread
And the Father looked down from on high.

It’s no wonder the story of the nativity thrills our hearts year after year. It’s a wonderfully creative event orchestrated by a Deity who loves using His imagination. Take the temple priest’s robes for example. When the temple was first built God assembled all the skilled craftsmen and gave them instructions (Exodus 35:10). The craftsmen designing the priestly robes were told to adorn them with images of blue pomegranates (Exodus 39:24).


There’s no such thing as a blue pomegranate! What was God thinking? If this kind of creativity were to catch on we could end up with Christmas cards with images of green angels, pink Christmas trees, and a plaid star over the manger!

If blue pomegranates bothers you…get over it! We have a wonderfully imaginative God who frequently colors outside the lines. Go, and do thou likewise.

Wishing you an imaginative Christmas season.

Jack Cavanaugh is the author of Hideous Beauty: Kingdom Wars #1 and countless other books. For more information visit

Kelly Thoughts....

I’ve read Jack’s recent book. Doesn’t surprise me that he’s a fan of imagination -- he seems to have a truck-load of it.

I find it fascinating that the aging process tends to choke out imagination.

A child grasps the concept of Santa Clause and the truth of Jesus with an open, excited heart.

There are exceptions, but as a rule, a child is all about curiosity and delight. Trust and innocence. And an adult? Duty and responsibility? Greed and cynicism?

So what happens?

Imagine this scenario.

“Hey, Johnny, you look so pensive, what’s up?”

“I’m just thinking I want to be bitter and selfish when I grow up.”

Not. Likely. Remember the commercial with the little girl with thoughts full of ballerinas and the cryptic words, “No one dreams of being a junkie when they grow up.”

Is it that we no longer believe in magic? Realize that life isn’t a box of chocolates after all?

So can we, as adults, responsible and cynical adults, embrace the magic in life again? Not hocus pocus fake magic…but real magic.

Every morning is brand new. Babies continue to be born. Curiosity and imagination are housed in the minds of children. And they are willing to share. God gives us puppies, kittens, sunsets and oceans to delight our senses. He created cocoa and coffee beans and strawberries. Tiny, nearly invisible works of art fall from the sky and land on our lashes and noses. Why? Because God is creative and He is behind what we consider magical and whimsical and pure.

Don’t look to the retailers for magic. Don’t dig in your wallet for it. Look up. Bend over and make eye contact with a child. Laugh. Make a snow or sand angel. Love.

I hope your day and your new year will be full of childlike expectation and delight.

Serials and Scenarios - Karen's a Ball

Karen Ball bounced in and left us with some great answers to our questions.

You gotta love someone who's favorite lines come from The Princess Bride. It's nearly inconceivable. Thanks, Karen, it was great visiting with you.

Fiction character you would most like to be or most identify with and why?

Winnie the Pooh. He got to go around all day saying cute things like "Oh bother!" or "Tut, tut! It looks like rain.", no one cared that he was fluffy and just a bit on the, um, dense side, and his friends loved him deeply. Plus he's got a host of quirky, fun friends who go along on adventures with him. Oh yeah, I'd love to be Pooh. I even like honey!

Favorite turn of phrase or word picture, in literature or movie.

"No more rhyming and I mean it!"
"Anybody want a peanut?"

Second only to: "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You keeled my father. Preepare to die." and
"You keep using that word. I do not think that it means what you think it means."

(All from Princess Bride)

What makes you feel alive?

Nature. And animals. A walk through the Redwoods or along the Oregon coast; playing with my dogs; closing my eyes and lifting my face to the Oregon sunshine; the sound of rain on the roof; the feel of fog when I walk in all feeds my spirit.

Favorite season and why?

Autumn. I love the colors and fragrances, the coolness of the morning air, the faint scent of wood smoke in the air at night, the hint of the coming Christmas season...It could be autumn all year round and I'd be happy.

Which compliment related to your writing has meant the most and why?

The letters from women who've read A Test of Faith, saying they were helped through their mother's death by this story. I wrote it because, when my mom died, I went looking for a book to help me deal with the loss and grief. There wasn't anything. NADA. Not for a woman losing her mother. So I used my own experiences in the hopes of letting other women know they weren't alone--and that someone understands just how difficult this loss is for a woman.

What criticism has cut the deepest and why?

The PW reviewer who made snide comments about A Test of Faith. It hurt because this book means so much to me, and because I so want it to help other women. But when you pull AToF up on Amazon, what's the first thing you see? That PW review. I had to just let it go and trust that God would put the book in the hands of those who really needed it and would be helped by it.

What would you do today if you knew you had only a week to live?

Use my mileage plus miles to fly my family and best friends to my house, then spend the week with them, talking and remembering, laughing and crying, playing board games and croquet (a family favorite), singing together, and planning my memorial service. I don't want a funeral, especially not an open casket one. I want a memorial service with pictures of me with my loved ones, so folks remember me alive. Not laid out in a casket. (I mean, come on! Have you ever been able to answer "yes" to that dreaded funeral question: "Doesn't she look natural?" Usually I want to look 'em square in the eye and ask right back, "Is the sky blue in your world??")

What is your favorite word?

Family. Followed by the close second: Friends.

What word annoys you more than any other?

Any word spoken in malice or stupidity, intended to hurt. Words are just too powerful to use them as weapons.

Super power you'd love to borrow for awhile?

Flying. I'd LOVE to fly. I dream about it, and even after I awake from those dreams, I still remember the sensation. Can you imagine it? Being able to soar through the skies like an eagle? Oh man...where do I sign up??

Favorite chore

None of 'em. Hey, they're chores. Cleaning, laundry, taking out the trash, picking up puppy poo...blah blah blah. Hate 'em, one and all.

HOWEVER, there are things other people consider chores that I consider relaxing pastimes: gardening, walking the dogs, washing the car, even vacuuming (love the immediate gratification). What can I say? I'm easily entertained.

Grammatical pet peeve…sound off.

The multitudes who use you and me when it should be you and I. From country western songs (which I love) to Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (which I watch all the time, along with all the other Law and Order shows), they just can't seem to get it right.

Describe something you can see, hear, taste or feel without telling us what the item is.

Soft, like clouds beneath my fingers. I bury my face and inhale, filling my senses with the fragrance that is both wild and docile. Strength and gentleness. I rest my cheek against blended soft and prickly, feeling the warmth beneath, the slow up and down as breath is drawn in, then released. The low sound of trust and contentment rumbles from within, drawing a smile from me...and I close my eyes. Cherishing. Time is running out. Moments like this are drawing to and end, and all that will remain are pictures. Oh, they'll capture the joy, the love. Even the personality. But not this. Not the feel. The scent. The sounds. The visceral experience that is uniquely us. So, for this moment, I let myself linger.

And prepare myself for the coming goodbye.

Frizzy hair, purple scarf and a book – make a character.

Heck, I AM that character!

Swirling leaves riding the icy wind, danced up Liesel's skirt.

The leaves weren't the only things stirred up by the breeze which now carried the cloying scent of death.

She turned, draping her scarf over her head, letting it shelter her chilled cheeks...and hide her face. She didn't want them to see. The pain. The sorrow. The anger. It was hers, not theirs. They had no right to it, to the dissection and analysis she knew they longed to apply. No, her thoughts, her feelings, they would stay tucked away, deep within, kept safe until she could study them. Take them apart herself. And one day, God willing, understand. Why she felt as she did.

After all, he wasn't the first man she'd killed.

Nor would he be the last. But for some reason, killing him had been hard. No, more than that. Devastating. Exhausting. Even...regretful.

And if she didn't figure out why, she just might be out of a career.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Serials and Scenarios - Gift of Patience - Day 4

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

The Gift of God's Patience

by Griffin Smith (written by Todd & Jedd Hafer)

Thanks for reading, everybody. My name is Griffin Smith. I’m in my second year at Lewis College (Go Eagles!) on the track team. Specifically, I run distance. Okay, I realize “distance” isn’t really specific at all. In high school I ran the 1600 and 3200 meters – that’s the mile and 2-mile for those of still holding strong in the anti-metric resistance.

As a runner and big-time sinner, the gift I am most thankful for this Christmas (and every day) is patience. Not my own, as my dad likes to say “looooong-suffering”. No, I could use a ton more. I routinely lose my patience in class, in races, in relationships – even with my little brother Colby who overcame the burden of being named after cheese to become the sweetest kid on the planet.

The amazing gift is God’s patience. His patience with me – the most unsweetened kid on the planet (and I know that is not the most grammatically sound phrase, but it’s tough for me to write about positive subjects, so, if we’re going to play ball, you’re going to have to indulge me).

Anyway, I constantly criticize myself, even punish myself (since we’re trying to be positive, I won’t get into that now), but God, He just keeps loving me. I try to squirm away, I even bend God’s fingers back, He just patiently holds on. I swear the guy must be double-jointed.

I’m definitely thankful for that grip though. I’d hate to think He’d ever let go.

The point is I know He never will. It’s just not in His nature. Good news for people like me!

You can read more of Griffin Smith’s ramblings about his surface life and his private pain in the novels Bad Idea: A novel with Coyotes and From Bad to Worse: A novel with Girls by Todd and Jedd Hafer

Kelly's Thoughts...

God's patience is a subject I know well. I've tried it on many occasions with varying degrees of consequence and hardly any success. Not only is He patient but He's very smart and seems to know me very, very well. I don't think I've ever tricked Him, outwaited, or outwitted Him.

I, too, appreciate His patience.

I'm beginning to wonder which of God's gifts I appreciate the most, now that I see them paraded before me.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Serials and Scenarios - Day 3 Gift of Restoration

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

The Gift of Restoration

God's Gift of Restoration

by Rachel Thoene

When I was but a wee child, I had many opportunities to travel with my dad’s folks, Nonnie and Papa, on trips to the coast with their house trailer.

My Nonnie was religious about packing sandwiches, fresh home made cookies and fruit for the trip. She wrapped the cookies and sandwiches in wax paper… this was before the days of juice boxes and Lunchables… and the whole picnic was packed neatly into one or two sturdy shoe boxes for the trip. A thermos of coffee for she and Papa and one of milk for me. The trip to the coast was only about two and a half hours long, but about half way there, Papa would slow the rig to a wide spot in the road and we would have a “picnic” together before continuing on our way to the ocean.

I was asked to contribute some thoughts on the gift of God’s restoration vs. life’s destination.As I mulled a few thoughts over, it occurred to me that Nonnie’s “shoe box lunches” were a lot like God’s gift of restoration… Sure we had a destination in mind. It was exciting to get out of the valley and go spend time at the ocean with the sand and the waves and time all to myself with my Nonnie and Papa collecting shells… but the picnic lunch on the side of the road DURING the trip restored us and provided a brief respite in our journey.

Lately, my heart has been troubled and anxious as I have been caring for a friend with a very serious cancer. And I have found myself, head down, walking my campus during the day at work, talking to God about her condition and the outcome of all of this agony…And as I have conversed with Him on these strolls, I have picked up an amazing number of Pennies… every day… pennies… sometimes it’s only one or two, sometimes I’ve found 12 or more… but every day…pennies. And the curious thing is that every single one of those pennies says, “In God we Trust.” And I pick them up, put them in my pocket and say, “Thank you Lord. We are blessed today and we are whole, healthy, healed and restored…”

I believe that my friend is going to be well at the end of all of this, because God reminds me daily through those pennies to TRUST HIM”. And every penny draws me closer to Him so that I am focusing now on the moment and my conversation with Him, daily being restored in my faith and claiming her healing and I’m not any longer worrying about the destination or when we’re going to get there, because we have been given THIS MOMENT and in THIS Moment, I’m going to just pull my rig to the side of the road and have a picnic with Him in my heart.

Rachel Thoene is the author of The Vase Of Many Colors (Capstone Books, 2007), For more information visit

How can I follow this with an attempt at humor?

Especially since it hits too close to home.

One of my life verses is Joel 2:25 (New King James Version) “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust,
My great army which I sent among you.

Pretty heavy. Pretty powerful and very true. My regular readers know bits and pieces of my life. In a nutshell, my husband and I were good church kids who, through a series of circumstances and very poor choices, set out to ruin our lives and each other.

After we suffered a lot of painful consequence, God got our attention.
One morning, the realization of what I’d done, the depth of my sin, and the damage I’d inflicted on those I love more than life itself, my children, hit me hard.

Is there a sorrow greater than regret?
But God began to show me, not in dropped pennies, but through His Word and people that nothing was too big for Him to fix and restore.
He started to heal me from my regret beginning with: Hebrews 12:1-2 (New King James Version) 1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

And then He helped me make Psalm 139 mine.

It’s interesting that the picture of a snowflake was chosen for today’s devotional. I’ve found some photos of snowflakes, all of them incredibly unique and exquisite, and I’ve framed them and written parts of Psalm 139 around the pictures and am giving them as gifts.

Rachel sees hope and promise in pennies that proclaim His trustworthiness. I find hope and promise in snowflakes that proclaim His sovereignty and power.

I hope you find Him and His restoration within this Christmas season.

Serials and Scenarios - What Lies Within

Karen Ball's What Lies Within is on tour this week.
Scroll down for my review, click on the book cover to go to Amazon, visit Karen's website by clicking on her name. (Cool site) And be sure to come back Friday since Karen gave me great answers to the dregs questions.
My Review:
Karen Ball has taken a familiar historical, Biblical situation and tweaked into a very relevant story in 2007. Not only does it work, it doesn't feel even a bit dusty.

I'm impressed with the seamlessness of this third- in-the-series book. I do want to go back and grab the first two, not because I feel like I missed something, but because I'm sure the stories are equally compelling.

What Lies Within is full of conflict and challenge which makes it a speed read. Those who love to turn pages should check further into this story.

Pet lovers, you're in for a treat. Karen is an animal lover and it is very obvious in the true-to-life details of pet/human interaction.

Finally, there is a sweet love story that should get the romance lovers' hearts afluttering.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Serials and Scenarios - The Gift of Simplicity Christmas Day 2 - W Brunstetter

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

The Gift of Simplicity

God's Gift of Simplicity

by Wanda E. Brunstetter

The Amish people I write about celebrate Christmas in a much simpler way than most of us do. There are no Christmas trees or colored lights in their homes. The gifts they give one another are simple and functional, not elaborate or expensive. Their emphasis at Christmas is on the birth of Jesus and the love they feel for God, family, and friends. Anyone can give the gift of simplicity, and it can be given any time of the year. A smile, a hug, a listening ear. . .these are the gifts of simplicity.

Wanda E. Brunstetter is the author of many Amish themed books including the latest A Sister's Secret (Barbour Books, 2007) , the first installation in the Sisters of Holmes County series. Watch for the second installment, A Sister's Test, in January 2008. For more information visit

Kelly's Comments:

After sighing wistfully over both the lovely picture and Wanda’s profound message – I laughed.

I tend to collect. My aunt gave me a beautiful glass jar one year for some occasion. It had a cool wire handle and bright red metal lid and on the outside of the jar someone had opaqued a section of the glass with a soothing cream and painted, in bold script, the word “Simplify.”

I cleared off a section of table space, set the jar in the middle of it and sighed at the peace that surrounded me at the stark yet elegant beauty.

Shortly after that, the jar disappeared under a mound of the debris of daily living.

It was nice while it lasted, though.

I think that’s why I love candles so much. I can pretend the dark shapes that surround them are simply shadows instead of stuff.

Wishing all of you a simple Christmas – full of blessing and wonder.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Serials and Scenarios - 12 Gifts of Christmas - Honesty - M. Littleton

I thought this looked fun, festive and meaningful. As you read each of the 12 Christmas gifts, prepare yourself for less print worthy moments from me as I try to produce something with the same theme to add a moment of levity, insanity or head-scratching to the day. I'll post in red.

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, Glass Roads Public Relations is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

The Gift of Honesty

God's Gift of Honesty
by Mark Littleton

As a new Christian, I wasn’t really prepared for the stark truth about my previous life. Rummaging in my closet, I came across several shirts I had shop-lifted a couple of years before. I immediately remembered several items from the same heist.

Standing there trembling, I was unsure about what to do. I prayed, “God, what should I do about this?” It seemed the inner voice spoke immediately: “You need to return them to the store.”

I didn’t need to reflect much on it. I knew that was the right thing to do.

I packed up the items, drove to the nearby Bamberger’s store at the Cherry Hill Mall and found security. I explained what I’d done and offered to pay for the items. The guard smiled. “Every now and then we get one of these,” he said. “I’ll find out the prices and you can pay.”

A few days later, I got the call. Over sixty-five dollars in charges. In 1972 dollars, that was a lot of money. I sucked it up, though, wrote out a check and dropped it by. The guard thanked me for my integrity, saying, “I wish there were more like you out there. But shop-lifting costs us big-time. Just the same, I respect what you did.”

I went away feeling like I’d pleased God. There were other things I would return in the coming days, and it was always difficult. And costly. But the peace of mind and heart I received were all worth it. To say nothing of the witness to unbelievers, one of whom invited me to come visit him his family in Switzerland after I sent him back the stamps I’d stolen while babysitting his children years before.

Mark Littleton is the author of The Ten-Second Prayer Principle: Powerful Prayer As You Go (Howard Books, 2007) and many other books. For more information visit or here.
And now an honesty moment from Kelly.

I’m glad I didn’t have to return shoplifted shirts. Instead, my shoplifting bug was crushed early in life.

One day my friend and I went to the grocery store with her mom. Not unusual in itself. What was unusual was the whispered comment as we passed the Brach’s display. “Grab one and put it in your pocket.”

My friend was taller than me and had three older brothers. She’d proven her superior whupping skills before, so I grabbed. As the chocolate cream drop slowly softened in my pocket, all sorts of yucky rumblings were taking place in my little six-year-old psyche.

It ended up being a bittersweet relief when my friend’s mom caught us huddled by the fence with sticky wrappers in hand and chocolate breath. We were hustled back to the car and driven to the store. Each of us carried two pennies and a candy wrapper to the cashier under the watchful eye of “mom.”

Wonder if that little incident branded my friend’s soul? I’ll never forget it.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


I remember reading and pondering the details that detained people from getting to work on time on September 11, 2001. One woman got a run in her pantyhose so she ducked into a drug store to buy another pair. Someone else missed a ride, another had a child care issue.

Simple, mundane annoyances. Little tweaks in our well-made plans. Is there a day that goes by that doesn't have its share of script changes? Some chafe and make us grit our teeth -- others are just mere bumps that we barely notice.

Those little bumps saved several lives on September 11th.

I'm very aware that those who died or were injured weren't saved by minute details and that maybe they were in the the line of fire because of a tedious series of circumstances and choices. I also struggle with the eternal weight of that statement.

When a September 11 happens, when a December 5th happens, I can't help but stop and wonder about the details in my life and the God behind them. How many situations have ended up benign by mere seconds? On the flip side, how many things have gone bad because one foolish choice eventually rolled into a huge snowball hurtling down the mountain of bad ideas?

Life is in the details. Yes. Never more true than while pondering the circumstances of a tragedy.

Friends and relatives shared the following stories. I know at least one person in each story. Two of the people, if circumstances were been different, would've left large holes in my life.

A mother feels the sudden need to pray for her grown son -- specifically that he'll be sensitive to God's prodding. Minutes later the son wanders in the men's department at Von Maur. After speaking with a salesman, the son wanders toward suits. The thought that the suits will be too expensive flits through his mind and he reverses his course and heads toward the mall entrance. As he walks down the corridor he hears construction noise. A nail gun? But the reality of the sounds soon becomes very clear.

A doctor spends her morning off running errands and looking for Christmas gifts. The hospital pages her yet again. A patient, anxious to get home, needs to see her as soon as possible. She calls the hospital and tells them she'll make one more stop and be right there. Across the crowded store, the doctor sees an old friend. Torn by the decision -- strike up a lengthy conversation or get to her patient -- she chooses to leave and take care of her patient.

A twenty-two year old girl's cell phone rings. Normally, she doesn't answer when she's in a hurry, but she does on December 5th. A friend, wondering if they could get together. It works for both their schedules, so the friend puts off going to Von Maur. Christmas shopping was Plan B, but since her friend answered the phone, Plan A won out for the day.

Three people who weren't in the line of fire because of little details. Circumstances that seemed so insignificant may have saved their lives.

Thank you, God, for being mindful of little details. Help us to trust you. And comfort those who mourn.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Serials and Scenarios - Virginia Smith - Princesses & Peril

Ginny Smith dropped by with her secret fiction fantasies. If you like sci-fi or YA you've got to read her scene....ha, ha, ha.

Fiction character you would most like to be or most identify with and why?

I would most like to be Princess Leia of Star Wars fame. Okay, not the hair, unless it’s the hair she had in Episode VI, when she had that long braid. And I’d love to have the body that could pull off the metal bikini she wore when she was a slave to Jabba the Hutt. I want to go zipping through the galaxy with Han Solo, zapping bad guys with cool laser pistols. And she’s a princess! Who doesn’t want to be a princess?

If you could ask any person, living or dead, a random question -- what question would you ask of whom?

I would ask the Apostle Peter why he fell asleep in the garden while Jesus was praying. I have this (totally unspiritual) theory that it’s because he was full from the Passover dinner he just came from. When God gave the Jewish people the rules for the Passover dinner, he told them to serve a lamb and eat it all. They had to clean their plates. Okay, so that means if the cook misjudged, everybody had to eat more than they wanted. Well, around my house when we have a big family dinner and everybody eats too much, the guys all go off into the other room and fall asleep in front of the television. And the Passover celebration also included several ceremonial cups of wine, not just one. So I just wonder if a full belly and several sips of wine might have had something to do with Peter’s uncontrollable dozing. (I am totally aware that there’s no spiritual basis for this at all, but I do wonder!!!!)

Some out there in writing land have strange rituals. Share yours.

I don’t have any strange rituals, but I do require complete silence. I can’t listen to music, and even having a television on in the other room drives me nuts. It helps that my kids are grown and gone, so the major noisemakers have left the house. But my husband sometimes makes enough noise for a dozen kids. Even a door slamming in the other part of the house jerks me out of my story and sends a jolt of teeth-grinding irritation through me. I tend to be fairly grumpy when I’m interrupted during writing, so my poor husband has learned some self-preservation skills. He tiptoes all day long, God bless him.

Favorite turn of phrase or word picture, in literature or movie.

This isn’t really a “turn of phrase” but one of my all-time favorite book openers is from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. “There once was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” I just love that! I immediately know Eustace’s personality without reading another word. That’s great characterization!

What period of history intrigues you the most?

I love British history, especially the time of Henry VIII. So much happened during that era that reverberated through the entire world and across the centuries since. Henry was the first monarch to split from the Catholic church. He created the protestant Church of England and made himself the head of the church, all because he wanted to dissolve his marriage so he could marry his mistress. He fathered Britain’s most famous monarch. I’m just fascinated by that era, and my favorite city in the world is London because there is so much history from that time period there.

What would you write if there were no rules or barriers? (epic novels about characters in the Bible, poetry, greeting cards, plays, movies, instruction manuals, etc.)

I’d write epic fantasy novels of adventure and daring-do. I absolutely love the Lord of the Rings, but I want my fantasy novels to have a futuristic feel instead of an old-world atmosphere. I want to create entire worlds with their own cultures and societies, where the people are human enough that we identify with them but alien enough to be intriguing. And oh yes – I want there to be a princess who gets to flit around the galaxy… oh. Never mind. That’s been done.

What makes you feel alive?

My family makes me feel alive. The way my husband locks eyes with me across a room full of people and I know exactly what he’s thinking because we have shared so much of our lives together. The way my daughter calls me every day because I’m an important part of her life. The way my son hugs me by picking me up and swinging me around, just like I used to do to him when he was little. And of course, I love the way God lets me know that He’s always right beside me, showing me where each step goes and assuring me that He knows what’s around every corner on the path in front of me.

What word annoys you more than any other?

You’uns. It’s a Kentucky hillbilly term meaning the plural of ‘you.’ Even educated people from the hills of Kentucky hang on to this term after they’ve learned better, and I think it is the most ignorant-sounding words I’ve ever heard. It sets my teeth on edge.

Grammatical pet peeve…sound off.

Ooooh, I absolutely hate it when people use the past tense of verbs incorrectly. For example: “The grass needs mowed.” No, it doesn’t need mowed, it needs to be mowed. Or it needs mowing. My husband does it, and even though we’ve been married 17 years I have not been able to train it out of him. Sometimes I think he does it on purpose just to irritate me.

Societal pet peeve…sound off.

People who walk through the grocery store talking loudly on their cell phones. I don’t want to hear about your date last night, or what you’re fixing for supper, or the contents of your spice cabinet. This is even worse when people use that Bluetooth earpiece, because then they feel the need to shout. You know the movie What Women Want? When Mel Gibson (be still my heart!) is walking through the shopping mall and hears the thoughts of every woman he passes as though they were normal conversation, it just about drives him insane. I’m afraid that’s what our society is coming to – only we won’t be thinking, we’ll all be walking through the mall shouting into our cell phones. When that happens I will become a hermit. I will buy a piece of mountain property somewhere and dig a cave beneath tons of rock and dirt where the satellite signals won’t reach, and I’ll live there.


Pick a Genre - Describe a kiss….

Sci-Fi/Fantasy -

By Virginia Smith

“Hold still while I kiss you,” Jake whispered.

“Yeah, well, that’s easier said than done,” I snapped. The gravity generators on the ship were deactivated for one third of each twenty-four hour period along with the artificial sunlight panels. The officers had a dual purpose for cooking up that crazy scheme: to save energy and to simulate an earth-like routine during our five year journey to our new planet. We were supposed to be safely cocooned in our anti-grav nets, sleeping. If my daddy found out I’d snuck out, I’d be grounded from the entertainment vids for a month.

I swam through the air in the direction of Jake’s voice, thankful that he couldn’t see my inelegant movements in the darkness.

Fingers entwined themselves in my hair and jerked me forward. “There. I have you.”

“Ouch! Let go, you big spacer.”


His hand dropped to my arm and grabbed a fistful of my shipsuit. I could just make out his silhouette in the dim glow of the instrument panel.

“Here, hold onto this.”

He guided my arm toward the panel, and I felt around. There. My fingers grasped the cold metal of a protruding lever. Now I could focus on Jake.

“Okay, I’m ready.” I pitched my voice low and husky, the way Mom sounded when she talked to Daddy.

Only surely Daddy’s breath didn’t smell like three-day-old onions. I jerked my head backward. “What is that smell?”
“Sorry. My mom rehydrated onion casserole for dinner.”

Careful not to let go of the lever, I used my free hand to pinch my nostrils. “It’s okay. I cad haddle it,” I told him.

The dark blob that was Jake’s head drew closer. This was it! I was about to get my first kiss!

Something rammed my finger.
“Ow! That was my eye!” He sounded angry.
“Well, I didn’t do it! Watch where you’re going.” But I lowered my hand for the next try.

Jake advanced cautiously. I closed my eyes. Something wet and mushy pressed against the tip of my nose, but quickly slid downward as Jake corrected his approach. And then his mouth touched mine.

Jake’s lips, soft and warm, sent ripples of electricity through my body. My grip on the lever tightened as I gave myself over to the feeling. Light exploded behind my eyelids, and I closed them even tighter. So this was a kiss. I could get used to this.

Suddenly Jake jerked away. I opened my eyes to find him hovering in zero-g in front of me, alarm on his face--which I could clearly see in the bright rays of simulated sunlight. Behind him, a uniformed man charged through the doorway, followed by a stream of stern-faced bridge officers.

“You flipped the lever!” Jake shouted. “You turned on the sun!”

Oh, man. I was so grounded.

But what a kiss!
Thanks, a bunch, Virginia.