Saturday, March 28, 2009
Here’s what the Bible has to say:
1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual[a] act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 3For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his[b]faith. 7If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Ready-Made Family by Cheryl Wyatt
A PLACE TO CALL HOME
Amelia North needs refuge, and finds it--in Refuge, Illinois. Stranded there after a car wreck, the single mother expects to be cold-shouldered. After all, she's already been rejected by her parents, her church and her daughter's father. Instead, she finds a town full of people with open hands and hearts…including pararescue jumper Ben Dillinger.
Ben wants to help Amelia and her daughter find safety and stability. Instead, he finds himself freefalling—right into love with the ready-made family.
Excerpt from Ready-Made Family by Cheryl Wyatt
"Mister! Mommy needs help!"
The child's cry spun U.S.A.F. Pararescue Jumper Ben-li Dillinger on his toes to face its source. Purchases clunked beside his car, Ben's feet propelled him toward the youngster.
Tears falling from two teddy-bear-big eyes brought Ben, heart and body, to his knees. Speaking of bears, she clutched a tattered brown one.
"What's wrong, princess?"
Ben scanned Refuge Mall's parking lot for the mother. Maybe she had car trouble. But it wouldn't make sense for a parent to send a child this young for help. No vehicle with its hood propped, either. In fact, his was only one of the few remaining since closing time minutes ago. Not only that, the child's duress surpassed a stranded-car scenario.
A tiny hand tugged him up. "C'mon! Mommy's over here. Something bad happened!"
Urgency speared Ben. Hand in hand they loped around the building. Near a pharmacy across the deserted lot, a compact car that had seen better days sat, trunk open. Steam billows hissed from a gaping hood accordioned by impact. A dented front bumper hugged a light pole. A motionless human form plastered to the dash spiked Ben's pulse.
He loosened his hand from the girl's and ran at a dead run toward the car, then stopped. Kid couldn't be more than six, seven years old. Too short for an SUV to see if it sped across the lot. Ben circled back, swept her up and sprinted to the fractured vehicle. Primer, faded red paint and rust coated the exterior. The child panted, either from ninety-degree heat or fear.
Closer now, Ben wished for more light from the low-slung southern Illinois sunset and peered through the driver's side window. A young woman lay slumped over the steering wheel.
Wavy, light brown hair spilled over her cheeks and dusted the dash. Fog misted the inside glass, prohibiting him from assessing her further. At least the haze indicated she had to have been breathing recently. Child still hoisted with one arm, Ben yanked the driver's side door handle with his free hand.
Locked. And hot.
"Ma'am?" He pressed his face to the front glass. Palm flat against it, he pounded on it, then the side window. Nothing. Hand fisted, he banged harder, called louder. "Ma'am!"
He set the little girl down on the curb and gave her shoulders a comforting squeeze. "Stay put, princess. I'm a paramedic. I'll help your mom."
If it's not already too late.
Ben hustled down the length of the car. Jerked the back door handle. Resistance met his effort. Hands cupped against the glass, he peered, called and pounded.
Other than music wafting like a dirge from within, eerie, dead silence entombed the interior. He imagined ovenworthy temperatures inside the car could fry eggs on the dash.
Was she even still breathing? He squinted.
Patches of deathly pale skin peeked through her mass of curls, identical to the little child's in color and texture. What part of her arms he could see below her T-shirt hinted at pink. Good. Not mottled or cyanotic. His own breathing slowed.
Rushing to the passenger side, Ben flipped open his phone, dialed 911 with one hand, tried the doors with his other.
He reported his name, credentials, findings and location to the dispatcher then remained on the line. Car couldn't be as old as he'd thought. Otherwise, it wouldn't have those child safety locks. He'd kick a window out if he had to.
"Jesus, please." Ben ran moist palms over his shorts and looked around for something besides himself to break in with.
Yes! He dived in, shoved a plastic bag aside and crawled through. Scrambled over the folded-down backseat, entering the car as the child had probably exited. Smart kid. How long had they sat here before she'd gone for help?
Car was definitely DOA but the radio was still running. Weird. He recognized the song as one he'd learned chords to during worship practice at Refuge Community Church this morning.
Ben climbed in and turned the radio down. "Miss?"
Hand on her sweat-drenched shoulder, he leaned bare knees to sit and counted her breaths. He pressed two fingers to that spot on her neck and hoped to feel life pulse beneath his fingers. Her shoulders rose and fell with the sweet breath of life. With respirations present, she had to have a heartbeat.
What was the deal?
Ben increased the pressure of his fingers in tiny increments. There. Yes. Thank You. His own heart rate slowed.
Moist hair clung to the victim's face. Ben brushed it away and updated the dispatcher. "Other than a mask of pallor, she looks peaceful in slumber." Except a young mother wouldn't sneak a Sunday afternoon snooze in a scalding parking lot.
"I have an inkling something's up with her heart." Translucent gray lips blended into her face. Same starkly pale color. Not a hint of pink. Mauve-blue circles ringed her eyes.
"Caucasian female, early twenties, small build. Pulse weak and erratic. Respiratory rate normal but shallow. She's overheated, though not dangerously." Phone to ear, Ben informed her there was an unattended child with the unconscious driver.
"Sir, we have a unit en route but they have a long detour due to a broken-down train blocking the tracks across Main. It may take longer than normal for them to arrive."
"Ten-four. If her stats change, I'll contact you."
Hands beneath the woman, he lifted her torso off the steering column and leaned her against the seat. Palming a lever on the side, he tilted it back. Careful with her neck in case she'd injured it, he lifted her chin, opening her airway. The movement elicited a weak moan but other than that, no response.
Probably she'd become incapacitated prior to running into the block. Hard to tell since she didn't have her seat belt on.
Ben dipped his head out the passenger door and gave the child a reassuring smile. "Ambulance is on its way."
Hopefully it'd get here soon, but the ambulance service sat blocks from Refuge's lone hospital, located clear across town.
Wrist tilted, he peered at his watch. Needed to meet his younger brother Hutton at the airport in… a short hour.
Hutton's frequent panic attacks and Mosaic Down Syndrome made it difficult for him to travel by air to begin with, much less fly alone as he'd done today. Ben not being there to pick Hutton up could propel him over the edge and bomb to bits any bridge of progress Ben had made with Hutton's trust.
The little girl inched from the curb to the door. Big brown eyes grew wider with each shuffling step. "What's a matter with her?" She chewed the end of her finger and her chin quivered as she peered beneath long eyelashes at her mother.
Heart caught, Ben wanted to scoop her up and hug her, but didn't suppose he should, being a stranger.
"Not sure. Help's coming, though." The faded seat creaked when he pivoted into a better position to face the youngster.
Huge tears bubbled, then dripped from a pair of eyes struggling to be more brave than scared as they glistened at him. When she stepped toward Ben and reached up tiny hands, he couldn't help it. He opened his arms to her. The waif of a girl moved like a minimissile. He lifted. She scrambled up in his lap then burrowed beneath his chin. Tucked herself into his chest like she belonged there.
Rivulets of sweat trailed down his back. Pink ribbons affixed like fluffy tiaras atop her head tickled his neck as he leaned over the mother and rolled down the driver's window. The little girl's hair felt squeaky clean. Groomed and cared for. A warm breeze lifted the strands, bringing hints of strawberry.
He transferred weight from knees to rump in the seat to monitor the mother and hold her trembling child simultaneously.
With featherlike motions, the little girl rubbed her mom's arm with one hand and clenched her stuffed animal tighter with the other. "Did she die?" Small whimpers puffed out heart-shaped lips resembling the mother's. "Because my guinea pig died and never came back to life again and I'd miss Mommy so, so bad if she never came back to life again." Tears spilled over the rims of her eyes and raced down rosy cheeks.
Ben hugged her closer, wishing he'd anticipated the scope of her fear. "No, princess. Your mommy's not dead." Being a U.S. Special Operations airman had trained him to notice every intricate detail about everything. His senses took it in automatically no matter the situation. He regretted not picking up on her fright and distortion about her mother's condition.
"B-but she won't wake up. L-like my guinea pig. I tried and tried to wake Mommy. But I couldn't." She shuddered.
"She only passed out," Ben explained. "Honest."
"P-passed out what?"
"No, I mean she fainted. It's like a deep sleep is all. Can you remember what happened?" He placed a soothing hand on her back, moving his thumb side to side much the same way he strummed his guitar strings during worship. He prayed silent songs for God to comfort her and chase away fear.
She shrugged one shoulder. "We was in the store to buy some, um, um, I can't tell ya that part." She dropped her voice to whispers and fiddled with the buttons on her denim overall dress.
"That's okay. Tell the part after you left the store," Ben whispered back.
"We got in the car and Mommy told me to buckle up. Only she didn't buckle in Bearby like usual."
Panic surged Ben's heart rate. "Bearby?" Dear God, don't let there have been another child in this car who wandered off. Ben scanned the parking lot and started to scoot from the seat when scraps of tattered yarn thrust in his face.
"Bearby's my…well, it was supposed to be a baby but Mommy's only learning how to sew. He looks lots like a bear and a little like a baby so I named him Bearby." The girl suspended the toy in front of Ben's face.
"Ah. Got it." He peeked around the bear-baby thing. "So, there weren't other children in your car?"
She shook her head and rubbed a frayed loop of Bearby's worn string hair. One blink later a faraway expression embraced her features and she veered Bearby back in front of Ben's nose. "He doesn't like to be ignored."
"Oh. My bad." Ben took Bearby's paw-hand between his two fingers and shook gently. "Nice to meet you, Bearby. I'm Ben." He raised his vision to the girl. "What's your name?"
"Not s'pose to tell ya since you're strange. But if you asked Bearby, he'd say I was Reece North."
Ben reassessed the mother. Nothing had changed. She didn't look worse, but she didn't look better either. A prayer song worked its way into his mind. Giver of life… He whispered it over the woman. When he looked up, he caught the child watching him curiously.
"What's your mom's name?"
"Amelia Grace North, and you can recognize her because one of her eyes goes crooked and she hates that."
No idea what that meant. Lazy eye, maybe? But the child's chatter seemed to keep her from fretting about her mother.
"What happened after she forgot to buckle Bearby?"
"She kept breathing long. You know, like you're going off the diving board. She blinked fast and said she needed to drink and sit but she was in the seat. I tried to get her water. She yelled to get in the car. Mommy never yells, and I cried."
"I understand." He leaned down and ran his hand around the floorboard. Bingo. He lifted the worn wallet and located Amelia's ID. Pretty girl. Organ donor. Twenty-four. Two years younger than him. Must have dropped weight since this photo.
Other than a North Carolina driver's license, the wallet contained seven dollars in bills, pictures of what looked to be Reece, a few coins and a red construction paper heart engraved with "I love Mommy." No credit or debit cards. No checkbook. No emergency contact list. Very odd.
He faced Reece. "Then what happened?"
The child rubbed her mother's cheek with Bearby's fluff. "She said sorry and we'd get some water at a drive-through. Then she started the car and took off. Her words turned silly and she went asleep when she was driving and we bumped the light."
"So, she fell asleep before she hit the pole?"
"Yes, sir." Her head bobbled up at a siren's whine.
In the distance, blinking red LED lights strobed through a row of white-dotted dogwood trees planted in the median on the far side of the mall.
He rechecked Amelia's vitals and returned his attention to Reece. "Was she feeling all right earlier today?"
Reece sighed. "I think she was feeling kinda sad today. Grandma and Grandpa are nice to me but mean to Mommy. Yell, yell, yell. That's all Grandpa does to her. We was living with them, and now we don't live nowhere."
The whine of more approaching sirens widened the little girl's eyes. "Blinkin' panda cars! The cops are comin' too?"
Ben chuckled. "Seems that way. They'll take care of your sick car while the ambulance crew takes care of your mom." Maybe he should call a family member. "Where is your father?"
"Who knows? He left my mom when I was in her belly." She dropped her chin to her chest and scooted off his lap.
Gripped with the inexplicable urge to tug her back, Ben resisted. He exited the car, whistled and flagged paramedics over. An echoing whistle sounded beside him.
Arms shot above her head, Reece waved them in crisscross motions too, mimicking Ben's stance. She watched him instead of the approaching responders. "Met my dad but a judge said he can't be around me because he's unfit. Took me to bars where he works and forgot me a few times when I was only a kid."
Ben stifled a laugh. Seemed to him the girl was still a kid, but in her mind she must not be. Gusts of compassion moved him. "I'm sorry to hear that. It's his loss, you know?"
Defiant chin tilted skyward, a scowl pinched her freckle-dotted face. "Don't matter, 'cause we don't need a man or anyone else around to help us."
Kid come up with that on her own? Or from something the mother said? Suddenly, uniformed men and women flocked to the scene.
Stepping back, Ben studied Reece, the mother and then their sparse possessions in the seat. Thick emotion settled deep for this young unconscious woman and her daughter.
Clearly they'd fallen on tough times as evidenced by the lone white, lumpy trash bag. Well-worn clothes, toys and holey socks sprigged out its top. A large, black lawn bag resided in the trunk. When he'd moved it aside to enter the vehicle, old pillows and thin blankets had spilled out.
The economy car was clean inside save scattered crayons and coloring pages. High mileage. By the looks of that crinkled hood and inverted bumper, it'd have to go in for significant work. Repairs could cost more than the car's worth.
Police and EMTs buzzed around the car. Ben relayed information as they tended Amelia. Reece stayed on his heels. Her darting eyes and feet proved her skittish of everyone.
Everyone except him.
Poisoned Secrets by Margaret Daley
Maggie Ridgeway has spent years searching for her birth mother. And now, thanks to an anonymous tip, she's finally found her. Taking the apartment across the hall from her mother's family, Maggie is determined not to leave until she gets some questions answered. Who is her father? Why did her parents abandon her? And what item in her new apartment is provoking multiple burglaries? After an interrupted break-in leaves Maggie unconscious, the building's owner, Kane McDowell, promises to protect her. But then he learns who she really is. When the past is unveiled, the shocking disclosures could tear Maggie and Kane apart.
Excerpt from Poisoned Secrets by Margaret Daley:
Aloud thud from the apartment above made Kane McDowell flinch and sit straight up in the lounger.
"What was that?" Edwina Bacon asked, putting her teacup down on the table next to her.Kane's gaze riveted to the ceiling of Edwina's place. "Maybe Henry dropped something."
"I don't know. He didn't look well tonight when I saw him go upstairs. That's the second strange sound I've heard coming from the apartment above. What if he fell and hurt himself?"
"You worry too much about the tenants, Edwina. Henry's certainly capable of taking care of himself." His words didn't erase the worry on the elderly woman's face. Kane pushed to his feet. "But if it will make you feel better, I'll go upstairs and check."
"Oh, thank you. I wouldn't want anything to happen to someone here. Even Henry.""You read too many mysteries," Kane said as he headed for the foyer of the apartment building he owned.
Kane's leg ached as he mounted the stairs to the second floor of the converted mansion. He'd overdone it today. Covering the short distance to apartment 2A, he knocked. He waited a minute and then rang the bell. Nothing.Henry Payne sometimes was out late. But if that were the case, then what made the crashing sound? Reluctantly Kane dug into his pocket for the master key. He fit it into the lock and turned it, but the door was already unlocked.
Alarmed, he thrust the door open, every skill he'd learned in the military activated. The overpowering odors of cigars and lemon polish assailed his nostrils. The complete chaos scattered about this usually tidy, orderly place put Kane on alert. This definitely wasn't a heart attack. Cautiously he moved into the lighted living area, listening for any sounds coming from the rest of the apartment. Silence greeted him.
"Henry," he called out while scanning the room where every book the man owned, which had to be hundreds, seemed to be tossed on the floor. Drawer contents littered the beige area rug, and all the cabinets were emptied. The crunch of glass beneath his feet drew his glance. The mirror over the table in the small entryway lay on the hardwood floor in shattered pieces. Probably the crash Edwina heard.
Maybe Henry's gone.
Or maybe not.
Coveting his own privacy, Kane hated invading another's, but it was obvious something had gone terribly wrong here. He headed down the short hallway to investigate the two bedrooms. Each one was as neat and tidy as he knew Henry to be.
Back in the living room, Kane limped toward the kitchen to check out the rest of the place. When he swung the door open, the stench of blood—something he would never forget from his time in Iraq—accosted him. The cool breeze from an open window that led to the balcony chilled the room. As Kane inched forward, the door swung closed. The sound of its swish drew his attention behind him. He froze.
On the floor in a crimson pool lay Henry, his dark eyes staring at the ceiling, his arm flung out at an odd angle, a patch of light blue fabric clutched in his hand.
Maggie Ridgeway stared at the Twin Oaks Apartments. The converted late nineteenth century mansion's brick was painted a flesh tone, and its trim and shutters a snowy white. Three stories tall with a porch that ran almost the full length of its front, the building dominated the spacious yard with multicolored spring flowers blooming in the well-tended beds. Two massive oaks stood sentinel. A stained glass window with a pastoral scene was above the entrance, and below it were double, dark brown doors with beveled glass.
She was here and intended to stay.
Maggie marched up the stairs to find the manager and secure the vacant apartment before someone else did. A friend she worked with at the hospital told her a vacancy in this building was rare and didn't last long. Afraid she'd never get the opportunity, she was ready to pounce on the opening she'd been anxiously waiting several months for since moving to Seven Oaks, Kentucky.
She stepped into the spacious foyer, a wide staircase directly in front of her sweeping up to the second floor. A gleaming chandelier hung from the ceiling, and a huge round cherry table with a bouquet of expensive silk flowers in a crystal vase sat under the light, adding a splash of vivid colors to the entrance. An ornate Persian rug, predominantly navy-blue and maroon, covered the marble floor in the center, giving off a warm, cozy feeling.
Surveying the first floor, she found the door with a brass plaque with the word manager engraved on it. She covered the short distance to the apartment and rang the bell.
"She's not home," a child's voice said behind her.
Maggie turned around and saw a thin boy with brown hair standing on the staircase, gripping the wooden balustrade. Her heart lurched at the sight of him. Only a few yards away. Staring into his dark eyes, she felt as though she were staring into her own. Kenny! The thought made her take a step back until she pressed up against the manager's door.
She'd imagined meeting and talking to him for the first time. But now no words would come to mind. Emotions, held at bay, crashed down on her. Emptiness, anger, elation, all swirling around in her, made a knot form in her stomach.
"Ma'am, are you all right?" His freckled face scrunched up into a worried look.
Maggie continued to peer at the boy. Her smile faltered while her heartbeat began to hammer against her rib cage. She'd told herself this would happen and thought she'd prepared herself for it.
The child shifted, alarm flittering across his features. "Lady?"
With her pulse thundering in her ears, she finally replied, "I want to rent the vacant apartment. Do you know when the manager will be back?" Amazingly her voice didn't quaver although her hands did. She clutched her purse straps to keep the trembling under control.
Besides his eyes, his hair's the same shade of brown as mine. And I used to have freckles the way he does. She swallowed the lump in her throat. I should leave. Let it go. She rubbed her damp palms together, fighting the urge to scrap her plan.
"She'll probably be gone for another hour or so." The child moved forward. "Uncle Kane's here, though."
"Uncle?" Maggie pushed herself away from the door and moved several paces toward the eleven-year-old boy. Her legs quaked.
"Well, he's not really my uncle, but I call him that. He owns the building. He can help you."
"Where is he?"
He jerked his thumb toward a door down the hall at the back of the building. "In his shop downstairs." Gesturing with his hand, he spun around on his heel. "C'mon. I'll show you."
"I'm Maggie Ridgeway. What's your name?" she asked although she was ninety-nine percent sure she already knew it.
Even though she'd expected him to say that, the name brought an added joy to her. That feeling tangled with the others—uncertainty, even anger—firming in her mind told her she had to continue with her plan. She'd dreamed about this moment for too long to turn back now.
The sound of sandpaper sliding over wood filled the workroom. The scent of sawdust and linseed oil peppered the air. Repeatedly Kane McDowell ran the block along the groove in the piece of furniture, smoothing the rough texture.
The rhythmic motion of the sanding—back and forth— relaxed Kane, his thoughts wandering as his hands automatically repeated the action. The tension slipped from his shoulders and neck while he proceeded from one chair leg to the next. As the tautness eased completely from his body, his awareness of his surroundings faded, too. The movement of his arm was hypnotic, the gritty sound almost soothing.
The memory came unexpectedly as it so often did. His thoughts were at peace one second, and the next, he flinched, stopped his sanding and closed his eyes as though that could shut it out. It never did…
"I can't do it. I thought I could. I don't want to marry you anymore. I'm moving to Dallas, Kane." Ruth indicated the luggage at the door.He stood in his parents' living room, having been at their home for the past month to continue his convalescence after his injury in Iraq. Last week his fiancée had come to help nurse him back to full health. Now she was leaving him.
At the door she paused and looked back at him. "I need a whole man. I tried. I really did. You aren't the same person you were when you went to war." Her gaze swept down his length, his body propped up by crutches, his left leg gone from just below the knee dangling uselessly next to his good one…
Kane shook his head as if he could physically drive the memory from his thoughts. The sanding block fell from his hand, thumping to the concrete, its sound reverberating through his mind. Sweat dripped into his eyes, stinging them.
A knock jarred the silence.
"Not now," he muttered, swiping his forehead with the back of his hand. He needed to escape; he didn't want to see anyone.
Another knock echoed through his workshop.
Maggie raised her hand one final time to rap on the door when it suddenly opened. She stared into the face of a man who didn't look too happy to see her. His dark expression didn't soften as she cleared her throat and said, "I came about renting your apartment.
"The man's hard gaze bore into her. The taut set of his body, his grip on the door handle, conveyed tension. Then his attention fixed on Kenny, and the owner's stiff stance melted, the frown wiped away to be replaced with an expression just short of a smile.Kenny looked at Maggie. "Miss Edwina's at church so I brought her down here to see you."
The man who owned the apartment building finally smiled— a fully fledged one that lit his whole face and dimpled his cheeks. "I'll take it from here, Kenny. Thanks."
The boy spun around and raced up the stairs. The second he disappeared the strain returned to the owner's face, his gaze directed at her.
Suddenly the small hallway in the basement closed in on Maggie. She glanced around, noting three other doors, one of them leading outside. A bank of windows on each side of it afforded a view of the back of the building and a glimpse of the lake beyond.
"Dale Franklin told me there was an apartment in your building for rent. He was supposed to call you about me coming to see the place."
The man, over six feet tall, eased his grip on the door and relaxed against it. "Edwina Bacon, my manager, must have talked with Dale. I don't usually handle anything having to do with the apartment building.""Then should I wait for her to return?"
"Suit yourself, but frankly I'm surprised you'd want to rent it. I haven't even put an advertisement in the paper yet. Not sure I am for a while. Are you aware of what happened in it a few weeks back? The police just released it a couple of days ago."
Yes, she'd known that and had barely been able to wait the few days before coming to see about the apartment. The headlines that had occupied the newspaper for a week flashed into her thoughts, bringing forth a momentary surge of anxiety until she remembered the reason she wanted to live here.
"Yes, but I'm living in a dorm connected with the hospital right now. I need a more permanent place to live, and there are few available in Seven Oaks at this time of year with the university in full swing."
"Hospital? Are you a nurse?"
"No, a speech therapist, Mr.—"
Before her courage totally failed her, she said, "I didn't want anyone else to get the apartment, so I took some time off from work to come here. I really need a place to live. My privacy means a lot to me, and I have none where I'm living right now." His eyes lit with understanding. "May I look at the apartment?"
"Give me a moment, and I'll show it to you."
He left her standing by the door while he sauntered to the sink. His chest, covered by a white T-shirt, revealed his wide expanse of muscles. His faded jeans hugged slim hips and the long legs of a runner.
He splashed water on his face, then reached for a towel. His damp black hair curled at his nape in ringlets as he dried it. When he retrieved his blue short-sleeve polo shirt from an unfinished chair and shrugged into it, his sheer male power transfixed her. He was in top physical condition.As he faced her, she hastily pretended an interest in the far wall with a myriad of tools hanging on it, fighting the heat of a blush that suffused her cheeks. "You're a carpenter?"
"Some of the time."
"And the other times?" Finally she looked into his slate-gray eyes and wished she hadn't. They were startling against the darkness of his features, their color like polished pewter.
"I'm the admissions director at the university." He walked past her into the hallway. "I'll show you the apartment now."
As she followed him, she got the distinct impression that was all the chitchat she would get out of the man.
"The apartment is on the second floor, Miss—" He peered back at her, snaring her within his flintlike gaze."Maggie Ridgeway."
His guarded look conveyed the message: stay away. The silent statement pulsated in the air between them, intriguing her, tempting her. She knew all the signs of someone who kept himself apart from others. She was a master at it. He could do nothing she hadn't done herself at some time in her past.
As she mounted the staircase to the second floor, she firmed her determination. She couldn't afford to be sidetracked. Which one is it? she thought as she passed a closed door. "How many apartments are in this building?"
"Six on three floors. I occupy the basement." He unlocked apartment 2A and pushed the door open. "As you can see, they're big. I have three families in my building. Some furniture comes with the apartment if you want to use it."
"It'll just be me, and yes, the furniture would be appreciated."
She entered the living room and surveyed the oblong configuration with a marble fireplace on the outer wall, a brass screen across its front. The carved mantel would be a perfect place to set family pictures. But who would be in those photo frames? The question came unbidden into her mind.
"I just finished having the place cleaned," Mr. McDowell said, thankfully pulling her attention from the answer to that question.
A True Hero Never Leaves a Damsel in Distress--He Marries Her!
U.S. Marshal Trey Scott is fixin' to walk down the aisle just as soon as his stubborn bride-to-be agrees to say "I do." Katherine Taylor's five-year-old sister and an orphanage full of children are depending on her. So why won't the pretty schoolteacher marry him to save her tarnished reputation? Granted, Trey isn't willing to abandon his quest to avenge his first wife's murder. His name alone will protect Katherine until he returns, but she thinks he should leave vengeance to a higher power. Will the sacrifice demanded by the woman he loves be too great to bear...or will it be Trey's ultimate redemption?
An Excerpt From... The Marshal Takes a Bride by Renee Ryan
Denver, Colorado, June 1880
Cornered and nearly out of ideas, U.S. marshal Trey Scott refused to consider retreat. Not while he had a five-year-old little girl counting on him to triumph against the misery that assailed her. What had started as a mere game to the others was a matter of tragic proportions to the child.
Trey would not let her down.
Shivering, Molly Taylor pressed her tiny body closer to him. "You gotta save me, Mr. Trey."
Those big round eyes and that trembling lower lip punched through the last remnants of his resolve to remain neutral in this standoff. He would stick by the kid throughout this battle of hers.
Softening his expression, Trey knuckled a long black braid off her shoulder. "I won't let them get you, kitten. Just stay close."
He scooted Molly behind him, mutiny twisting in his gut. No one would stand in his way as he protected the girl from her dreaded fate. The troubled child deserved some peace and joy in her life.
"Leave this child alone." He fixed an uncompromising glare on the leader—a woman of uncompromising valor—and ignored the half dozen or so others crowding closer.
The pale-eyed, persistent female held firm against him in their battle of wills. Apparently, this was no game to her, either.
Trey widened his stance and folded his arms across his chest, settling into the standoff as though he had all the time in the world. He wrestled against the knot of regret tangling inside his anger. At one time, he'd considered this woman beautiful, godly—even fair-minded.
He'd woefully miscalculated.
At least Molly had him on her side. A swift glimpse to his left revealed an opening in the hedge that ran along the perimeter of the yard. Mentally, he measured the dimensions and came up victorious. The hole was the perfect size for a forty-pound slip of a girl to glide through to freedom. He'd catch up with her before she made it halfway down Larimer Street and long before she hit the bedlam of horse-drawn taxis on Tabor Block in the business district.
Comfortable with his plan, Trey inched across the grass, tugging Molly along with him.
The boss matched him step for step.
Shooting the woman a warning glare, Trey then turned to Molly and cocked his head toward the thicket. "You know what to do," he whispered.
Tears wiggled just below long, sooty lashes. "What if they catch me?"
He lowered his voice. "I'll create a diversion."
"What's that?" Molly asked in a whisper loud enough to be heard two counties over.
"Never mind. When I say run, you run."
But the leader—wrapped in that deceptively feminine package—pulled around to the left, effectively closing off the escape. "Don't even think about it."
At the end of his temper, Trey swallowed back a bitter retort.
As though hearing his unspoken words, inflexible blue eyes cut through the distance between them.
"The game is over… Marshal," the woman said.
Although he had at least a hundred pounds on the stormy-eyed sprite, Trey had to stifle the shocking urge to withdraw. He'd stood up against cannons, gross injustice, crooked judges and vicious criminals, but nothing compared to the disapproval of Katherine Taylor—school-marm, official custodian of the Charity House trusts and Molly's overprotective sister.
With that inflexible look on her face, Trey knew he could no longer count on the fact that Miss Taylor would set aside her volatile feelings for him and be reasonable, for Molly's sake.
So be it.
He had to delay. Procrastinate. Postpone the inevitable.
The late afternoon heat pulled sweat onto his brow. He'd lost his hat long before the battle had begun. A light breeze lifted the hair off the back of his neck, the comforting sensation mocking his inability to think straight.
He circled his gaze around the perimeter of the yard, taking note of the snowcapped mountains in the distance. Too far away. Growing a little more apprehensive and a lot less confident, he focused on the brick, two-story mansions running shoulder to shoulder for several blocks off to his right. Too many questions. As a last resort, Trey shot a quick glance past the manicured lawn and blooming flowers to the large, fancy home behind him. Too risky.
His only hope was to take the woman by surprise.
As covertly as possible, he inched toward the hedge, but an irreverent growl wafted on a cloud of threat. A quick look to his right and Trey's gaze connected with two more villains joining the foe's ranks. Shifting to face these newest threats, he snarled at the man he'd once called friend and the woman who co-owned the Charity House orphanage with him. "Marc and Laney Dupree, this is not your fight."
A grin slid between the two. "It is now," Marc said for them both.
As one, they glanced to Katherine, then separated, covering the gaps she'd left when she'd moved in front of the hedge.
Blowing out a hiss, Trey lowered his head to Molly's. "Don't worry, kitten. I have everything under control."
Various snorts and snickers cut through his words as more joined the enemy's ranks. Katherine spoke for the group. "Just hand her over, and no one will get hurt."
Wrapping all four feet of trembling little girl in his arms, Trey darted a quick glance to the house in front of him. "Not a chance."
"This is ridiculous. Surrender the child, now." Katherine spoke in a flat, no-nonsense tone that made him bristle.
Marc took two steps closer. "Enough, Trey. Hand her over."
Trey eyed his friend turned traitor. Clean-shaven, dressed in a fancy vest and matching tie, Marc Dupree didn't look much like the tough, hardened man Trey had once known, a man who had overcome poverty and… worse. In fact, with the sun winking off the dangling watch fob, Marc looked more like a dandy than a threatening opponent.
But Trey knew the man had hidden skills. Came from living with that wily, unpredictable wife of his, the same woman who was now conspiring openly with the enemy in this standoff.
"All right, Molly," Trey whispered in her ear. "We're going to make a run for it."
Another low whimper slipped from her lips. "But, Mr. Trey, I'm not fast."
He folded her deeper into his embrace. "Don't worry. I'll carry you."
She wrapped her spider-thin arms around his neck, nodding her head against his chest.
Shifting her to a more comfortable position, he studied the biggest threat to the child. Her sister.
Just looking at the woman made his throat ache. Underneath all that prim schoolteacher starch, Katherine Taylor was a lovely, courageous bundle of feminine charm and beauty. Even amidst this contest of wills, Trey found a part of him admiring her moral fortitude and persistence. She'd triumphed over a scandalous childhood and the unspeakable violence committed against her. She was, quite frankly, a woman worthy of his respect.
With the wind snapping tendrils of black hair free from that hideously confining hairstyle, she looked a lot like an avenging angel sent to demand his reckoning.
It was always like this between them—volatile, unpredictable, confusing—more so over the past few months.
Alarm spread through him, the physical reaction shocking him. The corresponding ache in his gut warned him that he'd made a mistake challenging Miss Taylor on this matter.
Seeking compassion, Trey pivoted to his right. But another glare of disapproval angled back at him. Carrying thirty or so extra pounds and a rounded belly, Laney O'Connor Dupree was just as relentless as Katherine.
"No way out yet, Molly. The flanks are too formidable for a quick escape."
"Don't let them get me," Molly wailed.
"Don't you worry. I'm a United States marshal. They wouldn't dare take me on."
The scoffing and giggles coming from the crowd behind Katherine didn't seem to fill the little girl with confidence. "They don't sound very worried."
"They are. They just don't know it yet."
Balancing on the balls of his feet, Trey tucked Molly firmly in the crook of his arm. Leading with his shoulder, he charged through the front line. With the element of surprise on his side, he knocked his big, overdressed friend back a few yards.
Marc recovered quickly, and while Trey battled with his childhood friend, two pairs of persistent hands worked from behind to wrestle Molly free.
She kicked and squealed. "No, I don't want to go!"
Trey ground his teeth together and dug his heels into the ground.
"Relent…Marshal," said Katherine.
Trey pressed Molly tighter against his chest.
"You've taken this too far already," Marc said.
Trey dodged a flying elbow. He spun to his right but slipped, dropping to his knees. Next thing he knew, Molly was wrested out of his grip, and he was lying flat on his back.
The impossible had happened. Trey Scott, defender of justice, protector of women and children, had just suffered defeat. At the hands of a schoolmarm, a dandy and a pregnant woman.
Friday, March 20, 2009
The Desires of Her Heart ~Texas: Star of Destiny Book 1 by Lyn Cote
A New Orleans lady and a half-breed frontiersman become unlikely allies as they travel the wilds of texas.
In 1821, when circumstances make it impossible for her to remain in New Orleans, Dorritt and her family head west to join Stephen Austin's settlement and recoup their fortune in Texas.
Quinn is a man of the frontier who has made a name for himself as a peerless scout. But as he and Dorritt's party begin a grueling trek across untamed Texas, the success of their journey is in grave doubt. Mexico has broken with the Spanish Crown, and armies from both countries—plus marauding Comanches—roam the pine forests and prairies. And one of the party is plotting destruction.
Now, with their lives joined in a virgin land fraught with peril, can Dorritt and Quinn put all their trust in God and receive the desires of their hearts?
Put up or shut up! Complaining about Bethlehem Springs' dissolute mayoral candidate, Gwen Arlington is challenged to take on the role herself. For seven years, she’s carved out an independent life in the bustling mountain town of Bethlehem Springs, Idaho, teaching piano and writing for the local newspaper. But now she’s a single woman running for mayor — and in 1915 this decision is bound to stir up trouble.
Morgan McKinley is fed up with the delays that hinder the construction of New Hope Health Spa, a place where both rich and poor can come for rest and healing. New to the area, he has determined that serving as mayor would help him push through his agenda for progress.Gwen and Morgan each want to prove they are the most qualified candidate, not only to voters but to each other, and so sparks fly as the two campaign. Although Morgan has learned to guard his heart as fiercely as Gwen guards her independence, could they learn to be allies instead of adversaries?
This first book in the Sisters of Bethlehem Springs Series provides intriguing insights into how women challenged convention and shaped America in the early twentieth century.
Idaho, May 1915
The Torpedo Runabout cut the corner from Shenandoah Street onto Wallula Street, driving over two of the boarding house’s rose bushes in the process. The automobile then weaved dangerously close to Guinevere Arlington’s white picket fence.
With a gasp, Gwen jumped up from the porch swing.
In the nick of time, the Model T Ford veered away from her fence, avoiding disaster.
"Hello, ladies." The driver tipped his hat to Gwen and her sister as if nothing was amiss.
"And there goes our next mayor." Cleo shook her head and cast a look of despair at Gwen. "Ten o’clock in the morning and drunk as a skunk. Can you imagine him holding the reins of government?"
"No, I can’t." Gwen sank onto the porch swing again. "Hiram Tattersall is a fool, not to mention his penchant for strong spirits."
Cleo crossed one booted foot over another as she leaned against the porch railing. "Why don’t you run for office, Gwennie? Not a reason in the world you couldn’t do it."
"Me?" Gwen looked at her twin in disbelief.
"Of course you. There’s nothing in the law that says a woman can’t be the mayor of our fair town. You’re a nicer person than Mayor Hopkins, the old coot?"
"Cleo. Don’t be unkind."
"I’m sorry. I know he’s sick or we wouldn’t be having this special election. But he hasn’t done a single, solitary thing of worth while he’s been mayor, and everybody knows Tattersall will be an even worse mayor than Hopkins."
"I have no qualifications for political office."
"And Tattersall does? You’d do a better job than Hopkins and Tattersall put together. Folks like you." Cleo winked. "Especially the men, pretty as you are."
Gwen wasn’t amused. "If I were to run, I wouldn’t want to be elected for my appearance."
"So don’t let that be why. You got that fancy education burning to be put to use. Why not let folks see you’re as full of information as a mail-order catalog?"
It was a ridiculous idea. Gwen had no intention of running for mayor. She was content giving piano lessons to the children of Bethlehem Springs and writing her columns for the local newspaper.
Cleo drank the last of her iced tea, set the glass on the porch floor, and pushed off from the railing. "I’d best get back to the ranch. I’ve got a load of chores still to be done." She slapped her floppy-brimmed hat onto her head, covering her mop of short, strawberry-blonde curls. "You’d be doing this town a favor if you were its mayor. We could use a little forward thinking, if you ask me."
Gwen smiled as she rose from the swing. "Darling Cleo, I could never be as forward thinking as you."
Gwen followed her sister off the porch and around to the back of the house where Cleo’s pinto was tethered to a post. Cleo stopped long enough to give Gwen a hug and a kiss on the cheek, then untied her horse, grasped the saddle horn, and swung into the seat. "You think about it, Gwennie. I’m telling you. It’s the right thing to do. You pray and see if the Lord doesn’t agree with me." With a tug on the brim of her hat, she twirled her horse away and cantered down the street.
Gwen shook her head. Cleo could come up with the most outlandish ideas. Imagine: Gwen Arlington, mayor of Bethlehem Springs. It was preposterous. Not that she didn’t believe women should serve in public office. She did, and she was glad she lived in a state where women had the right to vote. But she had no political ambitions.
With a sigh, she returned to the front porch and settled onto the cushioned seat of the swing, giving a little push with her feet to start it in motion.
The air smelled of fresh-turned earth, green grass, and flowers in bloom. The mountains of southern Idaho were enjoying warm weather, although snow could be seen on the highest peaks to the north and east of Bethlehem Springs.
Gwen loved this small town. She loved her neighbors, the children who came for lessons, the women in her church sewing circle. She loved the long, narrow valley, the river that flowed through it, and the tree-covered mountains that overlooked it all. She loved the sense of the old West and the new century that surrounded her, horses and automobiles, outhouses and indoor plumbing, wood-burning stoves and electric lights.
Her mother, Elizabeth Arlington, hadn’t felt the same about Idaho. She despised everything about it, so much so that after four years of marriage, she’d left her husband and returned to her parents’ home in Hoboken, New Jersey, taking two-year-old Gwen with her.
"Be thankful, Guinevere," her mother said on many an occasion over the years, "that your father allowed you to come with me. We’re alike, you and I. We need society and fine culture. Think of the advantages you’ve had that poor Cleopatra has gone without. The opera and the theater. Fine schooling. You would never be suited to live in that backwater town where your father chose to settle."
But her mother was wrong. Bethlehem Springs did suit Gwen — a truth she discovered soon after her arrival in Idaho seven years before. At the age of twenty-one, and with the reluctant blessing of her mother, she had come to Idaho to meet the father and sister she couldn’t remember. She hadn’t intended to stay, but in a few short weeks she’d fallen in love with the area. Her heart felt at home here as it never had in New Jersey.
A frown puckered her forehead. What would happen to Bethlehem Springs if Hiram Tattersall became its mayor? He wouldn’t try to better their schools or improve roads or help those who had lost jobs due to mine closings. And if the governor of the state succeeded in passing prohibition in Idaho, as many thought he would, Tattersall wouldn’t enforce it in Bethlehem Springs. She was convinced of that.
I would do a better job than he would.
But of course she had no intention of running for mayor.
No intention whatsoever.
Morgan McKinley wanted nothing more than to punch that artificial smile off Harrison Carter’s face.
"You’ll have to wait until after the election, Mr. McKinley. I’m sorry. The new mayor and the county commissioners must be in agreement on these matters."
Before Morgan did something he would regret—something that would get him tossed into the jail one floor below — he bid a hasty farewell and left the commissioner’s chambers. When he exited the municipal building, he paused on the sidewalk long enough to draw a calming breath.
Harrison Carter had delayed this decision for personal reasons, not for anything to do with an election. Several times over the past year, the commissioner had offered to buy the land where New Hope was being built. If he thought these delays would change Morgan’s mind about selling, he was in for a big disappointment.
With a grunt of frustration, he turned and headed for his automobile, parked on the west side of the sandstone building. Fagan Doyle, Morgan’s business manager and good friend, leaned against the back of the car, his pipe clenched between his teeth.
"Well?" Fagan cocked an eyebrow.
Morgan shook his head.
"Then I’ll be asking what it is you mean to do about it?"
"I don’t know yet."
Morgan got behind the wheel of the Model T while Fagan moved to the crank. Once the engine started, Fagan slid into the passenger seat and closed the door. Morgan turned the automobile around and followed Main Street out to the main road, thankful his friend didn’t ask more questions. He needed to think.
Occasional complications and delays were expected when a man undertook a large building project, but this felt different. Morgan had half expected Harrison to ask for money under the table, but that hadn’t happened. Just as well since Morgan wasn’t the sort who bribed public officials. Nor allowed himself to be blackmailed by them. Not under any circumstance.
Twenty minutes later, the Touring Car arrived on the grounds of what would one day be a unique resort—the New Hope Health Spa. The main lodge had taken shape at the upper end of the compound. Morgan no longer needed to study the architectural renderings to imagine what it would look like when finished.
He wished his mother had lived to see it. This spa had been her dream before it became his.
Before the automobile rolled to a stop, the site foreman, Christopher Vance, ran toward them. "Morgan, we’ve got a problem"
Another one? "What is it?"
"The dam on Crow’s Creek. It’s leaking. I’m not sure it’ll hold. I’ve got a crew up there now working on it."
Morgan’s gaze shifted toward the narrow road at the east end of the compound. About a mile up they’d built the dam that would provide and control the cold water used in conjunction with the natural hot water from the springs.
"I’d better see it for myself. Hop in," he said to the two men, "and we’ll drive up there."
If that dam broke, a good portion of the resort compound could end up covered in several inches of water. Not the end of the world, but it would stop construction until things dried out. Another delay.
"Somebody did this, Morgan," Christopher added. "It’s no accident."
He frowned at his foreman. "Are you sure?"
Why would anyone want to sabotage the dam? It was deep into his property, and he hadn’t diverted water that was needed by anyone else. No farmers or ranchers were dependent upon the flow of Crow’s Creek. He’d made sure of that.
Could Harrison Carter be behind it?
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Interview with Kathi Macias Regarding Her Book How Can I Run a Tight Ship When I'm Surrounded by Loose Cannons?
About the Author:
Kathi Macias is a multi-award winning writer who has authored 26 books and ghostwritten several others. A former newspaper columnist and string reporter, Kathi has taught creative and business writing in various venues and has been a guest on many radio and television programs. Kathi is a popular speaker at churches, women's clubs and retreats, and writers' conferences. She recently won the prestigious 2008 member of the year award from AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) at the annual Golden Scrolls award banquet. Kathi "Easy Writer" Macias lives in Homeland, CA, with her husband, Al, where the two of them spend free time riding their Harley.
Blog Tour Interview:
I understand you sometimes refer to this book as "discipleship with a grin." What do you mean by that, and why did you choose a humor format for a discipleship book?
Actually, I chose a discipleship theme for a humor title. As much as I hate to admit it, the title came to me one day and I knew I had to do something with it--just too good to pass up! So the more I thought/prayed about it, the more I realized it described my life, both naturally and spiritually. I began to try to lay out my spiritual growth via humorous life stories, and found they produced a natural pattern. From there I developed the five stages of spiritual growth into five sections for the book, and I was off and running! Besides, I learned from a friend/mentor years ago that you can "shove a lot of truth down people's throat when their mouth is open laughing," so I figured, why not???
What advice can you give to the young mom out there who is juggling two kids, a fulltime job outside the home, a husband, housework, pets and church?
Life happens in seasons! You CAN'T be all things to all people at all times. It simply doesn't work. And if you don't believe it, read about my many crash-and-burn episodes as I tried! The Proverbs 31 woman is a composite picture of many women from different walks and stages of life; when we get a grip on that, it releases us to enjoy the season we're in right now, even as we prepare for the next one.
How did raising your own children help prepare you for the parenting side of the proverbial woman? Any tips you'd like to share?
Relax and enjoy them! Yes, even the rugrats and teenagers, because "this too shall pass." There were times I thought I'd go bald from pulling out my own hair over the frustrations and failures of that season of my life, but now it's my grandchildren who are passing through those rugrat-to-teen stages, and hey, I still have my hair! You'll make it--and so will your kids--in spite of your frustrations and failures. And yes, I know there are too many of those to mention (or admit to). I'm the queen of mom-failures, and yet my kids never cease to bless me with words of love and praise. Do I deserve it? Probably not. But I love every minute of it!
Do you have a favorite part of the book or a favorite chapter?
Several, in fact, but one in particular: Chapter 26, "Back Home Again," contains the story of my precious father, a man who lived for 88 years denying God's existence and then finally turning to him in his last week of life. It's one of the more serious stories in the book, but even that one ends on a humorous note.
If the Proverbs 31 woman is alive today, what does she look like?
She looks like me--and you--and every woman whose heart longs to please God and to raise her children according to the Scriptures, even though she knows she's doing well just to make sure they all have their sack lunches before they leave for school in the morning. She's thin, overweight, short, tall, black, white, brown, red, yellow, and polka dot when she catches her kids' chicken pox. And she's absolutely beautiful!!!
Are there some specific lessons you hope readers will learn and apply to their lives after reading your book?
I want them to learn to relax and laugh and enjoy this voyage called "life," and to trust the Captain of our souls to take us home safely when our trip is over, rather than struggling to "man the oars" ourselves.
What makes your book different than other books similar to yours that are in circulation today?
There are countless books written for "control freak" women who want to do it all and be it all--perfectly and completely at all times. This one, however, is not only written with a humorous tone, but it also takes the reader through what I call the five steps of spiritual growth: crawling, walking, running, flying--and back on our knees, totally dependent once again. I do this by exposing many of the sometimes humorous--and sometimes not so humorous--events in my own life as I progressed through the five stages.
Are there any authors that either influenced you personally or influenced your style of writing? Who are they and how did they influence you?
Brennan Manning, Henri J. M. Nouwen, and Max Lucado have to be right at the top of my favorite nonfiction authors list, simply because they call me back to the heart of worship, to a fresh appreciation of grace and a clarion call to rely totally upon God and not myself. I need those reminders on a regular basis. In addition, I love their writing styles. Their words "sing," and it is my goal to do the same with the words I write.
When you are not writing, what do you like to do? Do you have any hobbies?
Okay, now I have to 'fess up to how nearly one-dimensional I am. If I'm not writing, I'm...well, reading someone else's writing. That's at the top of my "what I like to do" list. However, I also spend time riding on the back of my husband's 2003 Harley Davidson Road King motorcycle. He's been riding HD's since 1970 and says he will never outgrow that youthful passion. On the road we are known as “Big Al” and Easy Writer…”
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26) weekly devotional by Kathi Macias
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26).
One of our gravest mistakes is forgetting the foundational truth of Genesis 1:26—that God made US in HIS image, and not the other way around. As a result, we go through life imagining God as some larger version of ourselves.
Personally, I’m not too excited about trusting or serving a God who’s just like me, only bigger. I know me, and I’m not worthy of being trusted or served. Neither are you. When we receive Christ as our Savior and begin to grow in our faith, we become more like Him, and that’s a good thing. But if the situation were reversed and God became more like us, wouldn’t you agree that’s NOT such a good thing?
Yet we reverse the process in our minds, each time we question God. When something doesn’t turn out as we hoped or thought it should, we wonder why God let us down. Isn’t that why unbelievers shake their fists at the heavens and declare, “I will never believe in a God who allows such awful things to happen”? Aren’t they really saying, “I know better than God because my ways are the right ways. If He doesn’t line up with what I expect, then He’s either an evil God, or He doesn’t exist at all.”
But how different are we as believers? I doubt I’m the only one who has heard other Christians proclaim, “When I get to heaven, I’m going to ask God why He…” Fill in the blanks: “allowed my business to fail, my health to deteriorate, my child to die.” We are so finite and myopic while we live on this earth—and so me-centered!—that we actually think God owes us an explanation for things that don’t go our way. In reality, He owes us nothing, but we owe Him everything. As a famous preacher used to say, “After all God has done for us, anyone who goes to hell deserves to be there.”
Ah, there it is—what we really deserve. Not answers or explanations from a non-performing God made in our own image, but separation from Him and an eternity in hell because we have marred the image of God stamped upon us at creation. And that, my friends, is where mercy and grace come in. Remember, mercy is not receiving the bad things we deserve; grace is receiving the good things we don’t deserve.
God is not a heavenly butler in the sky, waiting for us to call on Him, demanding blessings and explanations, but a merciful Judge and Redeemer who loved us enough to create us in His image, and then to extend His mercy and grace to us to begin the image-restoration process when we rejected Him.
What an amazing God—and how grateful I am that I am made in His image, and not He in mine! May we all cooperate with Him in that restoration process so that those who are still shaking their fists at the heavens will look at us and see the awesome and magnificent Lord of the universe shining through.
***Please take a moment to visit my website at http://www.kathimacias.com/ to sign my guestbook or leave a comment on my blog for a chance to win one of my new books.
***Also, please visit http://www.setfreetoday.com/, where I serve as Spiritual Director. Come as you are…leave with a new beginning! Drop us a note or prayer request while you’re there.
Communicating the vision… (Hab.2:2) http://firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.kathimacias.com/
Thursday, March 12, 2009
WordVessel is a blog written by Cathy Bryant. If you enjoy this interview check out Cathy’s blog at: http://wordvessel.blogspot.com
Imagine the horror of learning a child in your community is missing. Now pretend that you are the best friend of the child that's missing. Go one step further: How would you feel if, as the best friend, you believed you were somehow to blame?The book, Daisy Chain by Mary DeMuth, tells the story of fourteen-year-old Jed Pepper, whose best friend, Daisy Chance, disappears one summer evening in 1977.The first chapter is a poignant scene between Jed and Daisy, and takes place right before she goes missing. The rest of the story tells about Jed's struggle with guilt, and his journey to find out what has happened to her. But interwoven throughout this main story is a second thread dealing with family secrets.As you can well imagine, because of the subject matter this is not a "fluffy" read. It's gritty and raw and edgy, but it's all those things done well.Here are the things I particularly enjoyed about this book:1. STRONG CHARACTERIZATIONThe author does an amazing job of bringing the characters to life on the page. Many times when you read a book told from the viewpoint of children, the characters seem like miniature adults instead of kids. Not in this story.One of my all-time favorite books is To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The main thing that drew me into that story was the voice of Scout. The voices of Jed, Sissy and Daisy from Daisy Chain are equally compelling.2. TIGHTLY WOVEN PLOT STRUCTUREThe skill Mary DeMuth displays as she weaves in the story thread of family secrets is nothing short of masterful. If you've ever watched a person skilled at embroidery, you will understand what I mean. They sew in this thread and that one, and a work of art comes together in a beautiful whole. That is what happens in this story.3. TRUE TO LIFE PLOTWe all love fairy tale endings where everyone lives happily after. The only problem with fairy tales is--well, they're just that--fairy tales. DeMuth brings resolution to this story without tying all the loose ends into one pretty package. The characters still have issues to address and deal with when the story ends. That makes it more true to life for me.4. A GREAT SUPPORTING CASTAll my favorite movies have a good supporting casts, and that's one thing I appreciated about this book. The secondary characters were realistically portrayed and compelling. There was also a great deal of variety among the secondary characters.The story's main antagonist is Jed's father, Hap Pepper. The author makes the reader sympathize with even this character, which makes the "bad guy" in the story more realistic, and not a cardboard stereotype.5. GREAT CHAPTER ENDING HOOKSOne way great authors keep readers turning the pages is through strong chapter endings--those endings where you can't put the book down. That's definitely true of Daisy Chain. If it's getting late and you have to up early the next day, I highly suggest stopping in the middle of the chapter. If you read on to the end, I guarantee you won't put it down.If you're looking for a story with a strong spiritual thread of redemption, lifelike characters and an amazing plot, you won't be disappointed with Daisy Chain by author Mary DeMuth.
If You enjoy this interview check out Cathy’s blog at: http://wordvessel.blogspot.com
WordVessel is pleased and proud to welcome author Mary DeMuth. Here's her bio:
Mary DeMuth is an expert in the field of Pioneer Parenting. She helps Christian parents plow fresh spiritual ground, especially those seeking to break destructive family patterns. Her message guides parents who don’t want to duplicate the home where they were raised or didn’t have positive parenting role models growing up.An accomplished writer, Mary’s parenting books include Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture, Building the Christian Family You Never Had, and Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God. Her real-to-life novels inspire people to turn trials into triumphs: Watching the Tree Limbs (2007 Christy Award finalist, ACFW Book of the Year 2nd Place) and Wishing on Dandelions (2007 Retailer’s Choice Award finalist).Mary is a frequent speaker at women’s retreats and parenting seminars, addressing audiences in both Europe and the United States. National media regularly seek Mary’s candid ability to connect with their listeners. Her radio appearances include FamilyLife Today, Moody Midday Connection, and U.S.A. Radio network. She also has articles published in Marriage Partnership, In Touch, and HomeLife.As pioneer parents, Mary and her husband Patrick live in Texas with their three children. They recently returned from breaking new spiritual ground in Southern France where they planted a church.Hi, Mary! Tell us a little bit about your background and your family.You can read my testimony on my website (http://www.marydemuth.com/). I came from a difficult upbringing, but Jesus saw fit to find me at fifteen. He has utterly changed my life.I’ve been married 18 years to my husband Patrick (who’s been told he looks like George Clooney on more than one occasion). Interesting side note: I’ve been told I look like Laura Dern, and we share the EXACT same birthday. Twins separated at birth? Possibly. If you’re reading this and you’re chums with Laura, could you probe a bit?George (er, Patrick) and I have three kids: Sophie, Aidan and Julia. Sophie’s learning to drive—and what’s interesting is that I’m not worried about it. She’s a careful driver. My son Aidan is thirteen. He’s passionate about finding water for a small village in Ghana. We got to go on the trip of a lifetime to meet the village of Sankpem last summer. Our daughter Julia is ten and is deeply kindhearted, beautiful inside and out. We also have an overly needy (farting) dog and a fat & fuzzy (sometimes cranky) cat.What do you like to do in your spare time? Hobbies?I love to cook and garden and sew and decorate and take pictures. I’m really quite a homebody. I also keep in shape by training for small triathlons, emphasis on small.What has God been teaching you lately?To learn how to embrace subtlety. I’m a loud, in your face, writer. I’m learning to create nuance. This, of course, translates into my everyday life too.Alas, the other thing is pretty convoluted and deep, but it has to do with learning to trust God’s love for me, even if some people in my life act in enemy-like ways. (I’m sure none of you have ever struggled with this.) In other words, what do you do when some voices say unkind and untrue things? Used to be I took those words like morsels into my heart and chewed on them until the poison saturated me. Now I’m learning to weigh the words briefly, then place them in Jesus’ hands. It’s a discipline to do that. The tricky part comes when I act as my enemy, hurling insults at myself. It’s all about giving every word to Jesus and choosing to believe His words about me. I am dearly loved. Wow.When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?This may sound strange, but I wanted to be a doctor. But even then, the writer in me came out because I liked the cadence of my maiden name with the title doctor. Mary Walker, Medical Doctor.Where are you headed next?I hope I see that I get to continue this writing dream—writing for the sheer joy of it, and also receiving compensation (a nice writerly dream!). I also pray that if things take off, I’ll keep my head on straight and constantly strive to point to the truly Famous One, Jesus.I sense that more public speaking is in the future as well.How did you get involved in writing?I’ve been writing since college when the bug hit me. I wrote my first short story about a missionary going to Russia (when it was firmly encased behind the iron curtain) and having to do all these clandestine things to share the gospel. I’m embarrassed to write this, but the piece started with these four words: Thump, thump, thump, thump (representing the protagonist’s heartbeat, of course).I’ve been actively writing since 1992 when my daughter Sophie was born. I created a newsletter that helped moms manage their homes. I bought my first computer from the proceeds. I also designed and edited church newsletters, wrote homeschooling curriculum, and even wrote a script for an ultrasound training video. Soon after, short stories started flying out of me. When we moved from East Texas to Dallas for my husband to go to Dallas Seminary, I decided to get serious. I met my friend Sandra Glahn then, a professor at the seminary and a published writer. She shepherded me through the query-letter-writing process and has been an incredible cheerleader.In 2002, I wrote my first novel. In 2003, I signed with an agent, then signed two nonfiction books. Since then, I’ve had five books published (those included), Daisy Chain being my sixth book. The first novel I wrote is yet to be published.How do you find time to write?I make time to write. I give myself word count goals every day. While my children are at school, I work full time. Lately I’ve been writing and promoting like a crazy woman, pulling 10-12 hour shifts. Even so, it’s a priority for me to have a sit-down dinner with my family every night. It helps that I love to cook.What do you enjoy most about the writing process?I love the initial flurry of words on the page where I’m uninhibited. I love fleshing out a story as it comes to me. I see my novels on the movie screen of my mind, which may account for the visual nature of my narratives.What was the most difficult aspect of the writing process?I am not in love with rejection.I also don’t cherish rewriting. But it’s a necessary and important evil.What would you say to someone who wants to become a published author?Here’s the analogy you need to memorize and internalize: Beginning the publishing journey is like wearing a sweatshirt and toting a sack lunch at the base of Mount Everest, thinking, Hmm, this should be a breeze!In addition: know you are called. Know you have talent. Know you’re full of tenacity. All three things will help you succeed along the journey.Another idea is hang out at The Writing Spa and its corresponding blog WannabePublished. I tackle nearly every question a new writer would have. I offer weekly free critiques and I have guest authors cameo there. I evaluate the saleabilty of a book idea. Hop on by at http://www.thewritingspa.com/.Where did you get the idea for "Daisy Chain"?I had a friend who shared a difficult story with me. He grew up in a Christian home. His father was in leadership in the Christian community. From the outside, all looked perfect. But behind closed doors, life was very, very hard. I wanted to expose that kind of abuse. That’s why the idea of family secrets plays heavily into all three books of the Defiance, Texas trilogy.What are the major themes of the book?The importance (and elusiveness) of authenticity.The devastation of maintaining and keeping family secrets.Redemption comes from surprising people.Feeling guilty doesn’t always equal reality.True friendship involves sacrifice.What kind of research did you have to do for the book?Having lived in East Texas for two years, I absorbed a lot of the geography and colloquialisms of the area. A lot of my research happened as I wrote. I also researched battered wives and police procedure (Thanks Officer Woodruff).With which character do you identify most and why?In high school, I was a lot like Hixon, living on the margins of life in some ways because I was so flat-out in love with Jesus. I wanted to share Him everywhere, and my speech was peppered with Jesusisms. But like Hixon, I also had another side to me, one I hid. Learning to be honest with myself and others about my own shortcomings—and, oh, they are aplenty—has made me a better Christ-follower in the long run. It’s not about appearing holy. It’s about being holy from the inside out. The only route to that kind of abundance is honest, excruciating disclosure with trusted friends and the God who sees it all.What do you hope to accomplish with this book?I liken this book to an Oprah book, but with hope. Yes, there is darkness and meanness abounding in this world, but God’s light has a way of fully penetrating that darkness. I hope Daisy Chain cradles the reader through its deep, scary journey clear through to the end because redemption will shine brighter in the midst of darkness. That’s my own personal testimony, so it can’t help but leak out on the page.My hope is that folks will see the need to share their family secrets in order to be set free. (A cool place to share your family secrets anonymously is http://blog.myfamilysecrets.org/). I also want people to see that the Body of Christ is probably much different looking than they first thought. Some appear holy. Others, in distressing disguises, actually are.
I enjoy reading books written by Kathi Macias. She has written both fiction as well as nonfiction devotionals. Her Matthews & Matthews Mystery Series is on my "keeper" shelf. Her fiction kept me riveted to the page, not wanting to put down the book until I had finally reached the end. Kathy's characters seem so real you can imagine them vividly. She has a new Christian mystery coming out on April 1st: My Son John as well as a Bible Study/Devotional entitled Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today. I am looking forward to reviewing both books in the near future as well as her Bible Study/Devotional entitled Beyond Me: Living a You-First Life in a Me-First World.
I am also preparing to review Mary DeMuth's book Daisy Chain. The responses I have read have been very positive. And, I am eager to delve in to the intrigue that awaits me as well as the message of faith she has interwoven.
I will also be reviewing A Vote of Confidence by Robin Lee Hatcher which is scheduled for release in May.
I recently finished reading a Lancaster County, PA series written by Gayle Roper that weaves together the lives of the Plain (Amish or Pennsylvania Dutch) and the Fancy (the rest of the world, us outsiders or Englishers) people. Gayle has a unique writing style. Her books are written in the first person narrative. These books will soon be rereleased (with new title's pending). The first, A Stranher's Wish, will be available January 2010. I will be posting reviews of all three books in this series closer to their release dates.
Speaking of posting reviews: if you like to read Christian fiction or Bible Studies/devotionals, check out my blogs ~
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Think back to the last time you had a very bad case of the flu. You were extremely exhausted and your body ached so badly in places you did not even know could hurt. You did not want to get out of bed or move off the couch let alone be responsible for anyone else. You wanted merely to curl into a ball and sleep until eternity while the world went on around you but did not interrupt. Now, imagine experincing this type of pain and fatigue on a frequent basis.
Welcome to the world of fibromyalgia. You never know when it is going to inflict itself upon you nor do you know how long this flare-up will last. Fibromyalgia is often referred to as an autoimmune disease and is often classed with arthritic conditions. The cause is unknown. How is it treated? The physicians typically utilize medication to treat the various symptoms of fibromyalgia: severe muscle pain, fatigue, migraines, irritable bowel, dizziness, etc. Other techniques that can be helpful include massage therapy, aromatherapy, relaxation techniques, etc.
Those suffering from fibromyalgia need strong support from family and friends in order to survive the difficult days. Unfortunately, some people do not understand fibromyalgia and will often think the person is faking or exaggerating the pain. The pain is real and can be excruciating! Again, think back to the last time you had a bad case of the flu. Did you want to do much of anything? How did you feel? That is exactly how an individual with fibromyalgia will feel on a difficult day.
How do I survive difficult days co-existing with the duties of being a single mom to a rambunctious 8 yr old boy while suffering from fibromyalgia? My faith is what pulls me through. Knowing that God is with me always and feels the pain I am enduring. Knowing that He loves me above all measure and will NEVER forsake me. Knowing that He takes even the worst things that happen in our lives and uses them to help us 1) to help us become more Christlike 2) to help us help others who are going through similar circumstances and 3) to bring Glory and Homor to His name! May God's blessings and peace be upon you all.
May you feel the mighty love of our Saviour! K
Glean wisdom and encouragement from Bible moms.
In Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today, readers meet ordinary women of their day who, by God’s incomparable grace, were used for extraordinary purposes. Readers will journey through the lives of such mothers—like Eve, Sarah, Hannah, Elizabeth, Salome, Mary, and others. Exploring heart issues like fear, discontentment, grief, and gratitude, readers will discover solutions through biblical models of prayer, sacrifice, and faithfulness. Each chapter ends with personal application and prayer.
Beautifully designed, this book makes the perfect gift for a mother on any occasion.
New Devotional/Bible Study by Kathi Macias entitle How Can I Run a Tight Ship When I'm Surrounded by Loose Cannons?
Looking for the perfect woman? She's not the author of this book! With humor and relevance, Macias shares her own journey and struggle with the Proverbs 31 biblical ideal; and reveals the five natural steps of growing in grace---crawling, walking, running, flying, and falling back on our knees, dependent again. Includes thought-provoking reflection questions.
Sneak peek at the Introduction of How Can I Run a Tight Ship When I’m Surrounded by Looses Cannons? by Kathi Macias
I’ve always been a control freak who wanted everything to run smoothly—perfectly, actually. No bumps or surprises, just—well, a “tight ship,” as they say. And somewhere along the line I got the idea that I could make that happen—if I just tried hard enough. I think it may have started when I first saw Superman on our family’s black and white TV and wondered, Is there a Superwoman somewhere? When I put that question to the adults in my life, they smiled and patted me on the head and said, “I don’t think so, dear.” So I decided to sign up for the job—a reasonable if somewhat naïve aspiration for a six-year-old, not so reasonable and way beyond naïve at twenty-six. Two decades after the birth of my Superwoman dream, I was still running as fast as I could and getting nowhere. My twenty-year-old dream was going down for the count, and I was nearly at the point of throwing in the towel—and then I met Jesus.
What a difference! Now I could latch on to verses like “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and “All things should be done decently and in order”—biblical affirmations of my desire to do things right, to do things efficiently and effectively, to do things with power and authority. Finally I was invincible—in Jesus, of course. Now all I needed was a godly role model and I’d be on my way.
I began my search in earnest, reading through the Scriptures until I came to Proverbs 31. Eureka! There, at last, was the epitome of the Superwoman I’d been hoping to become since I was six years old. The perfect woman—perfect wife, perfect mother, perfect housekeeper, perfect entrepreneur—all rolled into one! Not only did her husband and children praise her, but God must have approved of her as well or He certainly wouldn’t have included her as an example in the Bible. My dream was alive and well once again! At last I would be able to “get it all together,” to win instead of fail, to run a tight ship, and to keep things under control. Life was good, and the future looked bright.
There was only one problem. I hadn’t figured on all the loose cannons rolling around the deck of my not-so-tight ship….
Check out a blog about Tight Ship at: http://tightship.wordpress.com/
And, don't forget to take a look at Kathi's website to see what other great books she has available at: http://www.kathimacias.com/
Put others first. . . . No, save yourself! A clash of cultures rages within every Christian. Learn to rise above you on the path to true discipleship! Writing with a warm, personal style, Macias offers a poignant call to cultivate a heart of grace and mercy---and follow Jesus in a life of sacrificial service.
Available Now at a Christian retailer near you, Amazon.com, and christianbooks.com
Check out this sneak peek at Kathi Macias’ book Beyond Me: Living a You-First Life in a Me-First World
If you are satisfied with your present condition, if you have no yearning to know God better and to serve Him more effectively, then this book might not be suited for you. For those, however, who are looking for new lands to explore, to break away from the humdrum existence that can threaten us all, then read on.
A monument commemorating the famous explorer Christopher Columbus was erected in Valladolid, Spain. For centuries the Spanish national motto was “No more beyond”—affirming their belief that the world was flat and any who ventured beyond were doomed to fall off its edge. At the base of this massive monument is a statue of a lion. His mighty paw is swiping away the word “NO,” leaving the phrase to read “MORE BEYOND.” (So much for national mottos!) In like manner Beyond Me is beckoning us beyond our often self-imposed and all too real human limitations to venture into a deeper, wider expression of our faith.
Certainly we can feel “safer” remaining on the land with which we are familiar. The Lord, however, has not called us to a life of boredom or mediocrity. As C.S. Lewis said, the Lion of Judah is not one who can be tamed—He is not “safe,” but He is good. We can trust Him to surround us with His presence as we move into the adventurous role of being one of His disciples. Believers are, for the most part, content to have their names recorded in heaven. Disciples, on the other hand, also seek to “know” the Lord intimately and to serve Him with all of their heart. Throughout history God has used men and women who would not settle for mediocrity. Virtually every sphere of life—medical, judiciary, political, scientific, literary, and countless other endeavors—have been pioneered by Spirit-led disciples of Jesus Christ who sought to serve Him and others with their whole life.
Beyond Me is a clarion call to ever-deepening discipleship. It is an invitation to advance the cause of Christ and to make our lives count. Columbus’ journey was not one of ease and simplicity. Storms at sea and a disillusioned crew were among the many trials that beset this famed explorer. Discovery and advancement often come with such testing, yet the rewards are great.
Kathi Macias invites us to make a difference in the world around us. She compels us to stand and be counted among those who love God with all their heart and who seek to love others ahead of themselves. She has superbly set the course for those of us who wish to become true disciples of Christ. Kathi makes the way plain and encourages us with practical insights as to how we can model a “you-first life in a me-first world.” There certainly is more beyond for all of us, and this worthy book, when acted upon, will help us to realize our destiny.
Pastor, Author, Speaker
President of Cleansing Stream Ministries