Monday, May 31, 2010

A New Chapter

For a South Dakota girl that lives about as far away from sea water as I can get, it is amazing how good this massive body of water is for my soul. Once a year I get somewhere that I experience the sound of the waves crashing against the shore.

Last night at supper we were talking about the amazing creation God performed in making the oceans. My middle daughter said, "I know one reason why God created the oceans. It was so we could know that He loves us as deep as the ocean and as wide as the sea."

Maybe that is why I can come to this place and experience so much peace. I stand in the waves and I can sense God's power. As the waves roll towards me I feel God's love being poured on me.

I am far from home, far away from the stresses that come with keeping a home. I have been pretty much unplugged for the past week and a half. That has been very good for my soul, too.

It is amazing how much inspiration I have when I sit with a blank pad of paper and a pen.

As June approaches I have decided to change my blog a little bit. You have all been so patient as I have worked through my rough drafts. You will have to stop by to see where I am headed with this new chapter.

I will tell you this, June will be all about Focusing on the Father. We will be celebrating our Heavenly Father, our earthly fathers and our amazing husbands - our children's fathers. Do you have a Father story to share, I would love to feature you here this month.

Join me tomorrow for the first post on our Everlasting Father.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Imitators of God

I have been working through Ephesians for Gather Inspirit. I have been so busy with life and getting ready for this vacation that I didn't get a chance to post on Ephesians 5.

Actually, I started to write the post, twice, and I still have not gotten past the first half of the first verse.

In my NIV Bible it says,"Be imitators of God. . ."

I immediately wen to the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."

The first thought when I think of imitating God is these nine words. Before I started to beat myself up about how I am not a very good imitator of God I decided to check out this verse in a few different translations.

The Message Bible says, "Watch what God does, and then you do it".

The New Living Translation says, "Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do."

So I am to Watch God, and Imitate God, in everything I do.

I go back to focus on the Fruit of the Spirit. Each week I am going to spend some time focusing on each of the nine words above. I will start with LOVE.

This should be an easy one this week. After all, I am on vacation with my family in the Place Where Dreams Come True, right?!

Well, it isn't always easy when you are with your family for 24 hours a day in a condo, many miles from home. We are doing pretty good so far. I am trying to watch my tone with my girls. (Sometimes easier said than done). I am trying to love my husband when he is slow getting out the door and I have a schedule I am trying to keep.

I am going to spend my quiet time this week thinking about Christ's love for me. My love for my family and my love for those that I find it difficult to love.

I will move on in Ephesians 5, there is so much more to share in this chapter, but next week I am coming back to Ephesians 5:1 to tell you how I did with loving others. Next week I will focus on joy.

Last night I got to experience pure joy when I got to meet to amazing women with beautiful hearts. Stop by and visit Stacey and Stef. Read the wonderful words that they have to share.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Disney World Here We Come!

I really am still here. . .just spinning through this crazy place we call life.

We are headed out on a family vacation today so you won't hear much from me the next couple of weeks. We are spending some much needed time away.

When I return I will have experienced all of the Magic of Disney with my girls, my husband and my parents.

Today we are on our way to the American Girl Store. Say some prayers now for my husband before we walk in with three little girls that are full of big wishes. :-)

When I return I have some news to share. I look forward to chatting with you all again soon after I get a little rest and relaxation.

Oh wait, I am going to Orlando. . .rest and relaxation probably are not the words to use. Bring on the craziness I am ready for some fun!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Life, In Spite of Me

I am awake way too late tonight, but I could not go to bed until I finished reading the amazing story of Kristen Jane Anderson's life. As a mother to three young girls, her story is one that I needed to read.

I have been burdened so much lately about raising my children in a house that serves the Lord. A house that goes to God for wisdom and guidance. I want my girls to understand how much God loves them while they are young. I want their relationship with him to be so much more than church on Sunday mornings.

This story is one that everyone needs to read. Kristen talks of how real God became in her life. Her story helps you realize how real God is in our lives as well. This amazing woman has endured more than almost any of us will ever endure in our time on this earth. It took her a lot of pain and suffering to find peace. Now she has it and she gives all credit to God.

Her story is not easy to read. As a mother it hurts to read how she felt and what led her to the train tracks that day. I think of the pressures that teens face today and it scares me.

One verse in the book really stood out to me. It is in Proverbs 19:21, "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."

God has a purpose in all of our lives, a plan that He has mapped out for us. We are all His masterpiece. He loves none any more or any less. He longs to have a deeper relationship with every one of us.

Life, In Spite of Me shows you how deep God's love is for us. Check out a summary of the book below.

I received this book from Litfuse Publicity to review. I am so thankful that I did.

After her fatal choice… extraordinary hope.

Kristen Anderson thought she had the picture perfect life until strokes of gray dimmed her outlook on life. Once a happy child, Kristen’s world darkened after three friends and her grandmother died within two years. Still reeling from these losses, she was raped by a friend she thought she could trust. She soon spiraled into a depression that didn't seem to have a bottom.

One January night, the seventeen-year-old made a decision: She no longer wanted to deal with the emotional pain that smothered her. She lay down on a set of cold railroad tracks and waited—for a freight train to send her to heaven…and peace.

Amazingly, Kristen survived her suicide attempt… but the 33 freight cars that ran over her severed her legs. Now she not only had to deal with depression; she also had to face the physical pain and life without legs.

But Kristen's story didn't end there. After her darkest days Kristen discovered a real purpose for living. Now, in her compelling book Life, In Spite of Me, Kristen shares her journey from despair to hope.

Includes letters from Kristen that share messages she wishes someone would have told her—when she was depressed and struggling with loss, shame from sexual abuse, and suicidal thoughts.

You can purchase a copy of the book here.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Praying for Wisdom

I was reading to my daughter tonight from her God's Little Princess Bible. The topic was Wisdom.

We do not read from this book every night. In fact we have not read from this Bible for sometime now. I think that I needed to read it tonight.

I have been trying to make some decisions lately. I have been praying about these decisions. But one thing I have not been specifically praying for is Wisdom.

Her book told the story of Solomon. God came to him and said, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you." Solomon could have asked God for anything. Solomon's response to God was to, "give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong."

Solomon asked God for Wisdom and the scripture says, "The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this."

God wants to provide us with wisdom. He wants to lead us to make the right decisions. All we have to do is ask. It seems that sometimes I have a laundry list of prayer to God. I realize that if I would just ask for wisdom, it would take care of a lot of the details.

Morning for Dove

This is the second book in a new series by Martha Rogers. Check out the first chapter below and her first book Becoming Lucy!

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Morning for Dove

Realms (May 4, 2010)

***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Book Group | Strang Communications for sending me a review copy.***


Martha Rogers is a former schoolteacher and English instructor with experience writing both fiction and nonfiction including Not on the Menu, a part of Sugar and Grits, a novella collection with DiAnn Mills, Janice Thompson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo. Rogers has a master’s degree in education and has worked as a secondary teacher and an instructor of English composition. She lives with her husband in Houston, Texas.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 297 pages
Publisher: Realms (May 4, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599799847
ISBN-13: 978-1599799841


Oklahoma Territory, June 1897

Today was not a good day for a wedding. It was Lucinda Bishop’s wedding day, and he wasn’t the groom. The sun may be shining outside, but Luke Anderson’s insides rolled

and tumbled like the dark clouds before a storm. His feelings should have been under control by now, and they had been up until this moment. Now Lucy’s image rolled through his mind like pictures on a stereo-optic machine.

He shook his head and snatched off his tie. Anger filled his heart. His eyes closed tightly, and he prayed for God to take away his negative feelings. All thoughts of Lucinda must be put away as part of his past and not his future. Calm swept through him as he felt the Lord’s peace take over. Still, he’d rather do anything else, like stay behind and keep the store open. Pa didn’t worry about the business he’d be losing by closing down for the day because most of the townsfolk would be at the church. Luke shrugged his arms into the sleeves of his jacket. He hated having to wear a suit in this heat. With his tie

now securely back in place, Luke headed downstairs to meet his parents.

His mother tilted her head and looked him over from head to foot. “I must say you do look especially handsome today.” She nodded her approval and turned for the door.

Luke tugged at his collar and forced himself to smile. She must have thought he’d come down in his work clothes.

His sister beamed at him. “You are handsome, even if you are my brother.”

Luke shook his head and followed her outside. “You look very pretty yourself, Alice.”

She looked up at him and furrowed her brow. “Thank you, I think.”

Luke relaxed at his sister’s comments. He usually ridiculed or teased her, but she did look pretty today with her blonde curls dancing on her shoulders. At sixteen, she had the notice of a few boys in her class at school.

The tightness in his chest loosened. He’d get through this day.

Since the church was only a few blocks down the street, they would walk, but his younger brother, Will, ran ahead. When they reached the churchyard, wagons, surreys, and horses filled the area. Pa had been right. People from all over were here, paying tribute to the niece of one of the most powerful ranchers in the area, Mr. Haynes.

He followed the rest of his family into the church and down to a pew. The sanctuary filled quickly, and the music began. Instead of paying attention, Luke tugged once again at the demon collar and tie and wished for relief from the early summer heat. The organ swelled with a melody, and everyone stood. Dove, Lucy’s best friend, walked down the aisle followed by the bride.

Never had Lucy looked more beautiful. Mrs. Weems, the dressmaker, had made many trips to the store for the ribbons and laces that adorned the dress and slight train now trailing behind it. The white satin enhanced Lucy’s dark hair and fair face, and her eyes sparkled with the love she had for Jake.

Luke had to admit deep in his heart that she’d never been his. Even when he courted her, her heart had belonged to Jake. Luke should have known he’d never make her forget that cowboy.

Then his gaze fell on Dove, and his throat tightened. Although he’d known her for years, he’d never seen her as any more than the part-Cherokee daughter of Sam Morris. Now

her bronzed complexion and dark eyes glowed with a beauty that stunned him. He had looked right through her when they had been at the box social last spring and on other social occasions. At those events, she’d been with someone else, and he’d seen only Lucinda. Dove was quiet and didn’t say much when around others their age, and he had spoken directly to her only a few times at church. Today he saw her with new eyes.

When Lucy reached the altar on the arm of her uncle Ben, Luke sat down, as did the congregation. Ignoring the words of the minister, he stared at Dove. How could he not have noticed her before?

Luke glanced to his left and right. Pa had been right when he said most of Barton Creek would attend the wedding. Even Chester Fowler had come. He’d been less than friendly with Ben Haynes and Sam Morris the few times Luke had seen them together. Something about the man bothered Luke, but he couldn’t quite put a finger on it.

From the corner of his eye he noticed Bobby Frankston staring to the side of the altar. Luke followed the boy’s gaze to find Becky Haynes at the other end. She stood with Dove beside Lucy as an attendant. Her attention had been drawn to Bobby, and a faint bloom reddened her cheeks. That blush didn’t come from the heat. Luke chuckled to himself. It looked to him like another boy had fallen in love.

When the ceremony ended, the couple left the church and headed to the hotel where the Haynes had planned a lavish celebration for their niece.

When Luke joined the other guests there, tables laden with thin slices of beef, chicken, and ham, along with a variety of breads, vegetables, and fruit, filled one end of the room and beckoned to him. After filling his plate, he moved to the side of the room and bit into a piece of chicken. At least the food tasted good.

His gaze swept around the room. The hotel dining hall had been cleared of almost all its tables, and people milled about talking with one another and balancing plates of food.

In his perusal of the room, his gaze came to rest on Dove Morris. The pale yellow dress she wore emphasized her dark hair and almost black eyes. He’d never seen such a flawless

complexion on anyone besides Lucy. But where Lucy’s was fair, Dove’s reflected the heritage of her Indian blood. As she chatted with a guest, a smile lit up her face. At that moment she turned in Luke’s direction, her eyes locking with his and widening as though surprised to see him. A sharp tingle skittered through his heart. Before he could catch his breath, she turned back to the woman beside her. The tightness in his chest lessened, but

he still stared at her even though she no longer looked at him.

Twice now something had coursed through his veins as he observed her. An explanation for those feelings eluded him because nothing like that had happened with Lucy when he was with her. Whatever this feeling happened to be, one thing was certain—he had to speak to Dove. Still, after what happened with Lucy, he would take his time and not rush into a relationship so quickly this time.

He made his way in her direction, not allowing his eyes to lose contact with her face. When he stood by her side, her head barely reached his shoulder. He had never truly paid any attention to how tiny and petite she was, even when he’d seen her in the store and at church. A sudden urge to stand taller and make a good impression overcame him.

Finally he caught her eye. “Miss Morris, what a pleasure to see you this afternoon,” he said.

Her lips quivered then broke into a smile. “Luke Anderson. It’s a pleasure to see you too. Wasn’t the wedding lovely?”

“Yes, it was.” But not as lovely as the girl standing before him. “Would you like some refreshment?”

“I would like that; thank you.” Her soft voice melted his resolve. He had to know more about this beautiful young woman. How her beauty had escaped his notice was something

he didn’t understand. He straightened his shoulders and grasped her hand to tuck it over his arm. She’d certainly grown up while he had been so smitten with Lucy Bishop.

The warmth of Luke’s arm beneath Dove’s hand sent a shiver through her body despite the heat. He was the last person she expected to pay attention to her today. As long as she had known him and wanted his admiration, he had spoken only a few words directly to her. His noticing her today sent currents of excitement through her as well as questions about why he chose this day to show any interest in her.

He offered her a cup of punch, and the sunlight streaming through the windows glistened on the crystal in her hand, turning it into shimmering sparkles. In fact, everything about

the day had become brighter. She sipped from her cup then smiled at Luke. “This is very good.” Her face warmed. Not a

very exciting topic of conversation.

Luke raised his cup to his mouth and swallowed. “Yes, it is.” He glanced around the room. “Would you save a dance for me, Miss Morris?”

Words first stuck in Dove’s throat and then came forth in a squeak. “Yes, I will.” Her face grew even warmer. She would like nothing more than to be whirling across the dance floor with Luke’s arms about her, and he would probably be her only partner except for Martin, who had asked earlier.

At that moment the young man in question stepped up. “Don’t forget you promised me a dance today, Miss Morris.”

“Of course I won’t forget.” Two young men seeking her companionship today was twice as many as she had even imagined. Because of her Cherokee heritage, she never expected young men to take much notice of her or spend time with her. Today would be a more lovely day than she had believed it would be.

Martin glanced at Luke. “Miss Morris, if you’ll excuse us, I must speak to Luke alone.”

Dove nodded as the two young men made their way across the room. With both being so tall, she had no trouble seeing them as they stopped by the door. Once their gaze turned

toward her, and she averted her eyes. Her cheeks once again burned at the thought they could be discussing her. Luke was the one she wanted by her side, and she prayed he wouldn’t back out of his request.

An arm slipped around Dove’s shoulders. Turning to find Clara Haynes beside her, she beamed at the elderly lady everyone called Aunt Clara. “Oh, didn’t Lucy look lovely?”

“She certainly did, and Mellie and Mrs. Weems did a wonderful job with the dress, but you look just as beautiful.”

The compliment unnerved her because no one but Ma or Pa had ever called her beautiful before. “Thank you.” Her hand trembled, and she had to set her punch cup down. “It’s been a wonderful day for a wedding, and so many are here to honor Lucy and Jake.” Anything to change the topic.

The ploy didn’t work with Aunt Clara, who leaned close and whispered, “Next thing is to find a suitable young man for you, and that may be sooner than we think.”

Dove blinked. The elderly woman meant well, but no young man in town wanted to court a half-breed girl. Men like her father were few and far between. With his prominence and

wealth, he had paid no attention to what others thought when he chose his Cherokee bride. He’d said more than once that a man should be judged on his treatment of others, his honesty, and his reliability, not on his race or skin color. If only Luke could see her that way.

Aunt Clara squeezed Dove’s arm then patted it. “I believe it’s time to get some life into this party.” She headed toward the newly married couple.

Dove wished she were more adventuresome like Lucy, who had left her native Boston to come west to live with the Haynes family. Everything here was new and strange to Lucy, but she adapted, even shortening her name from Lucinda to Lucy. Dove sighed, wishing for some changes in her own life.

At that moment, Luke returned, and her hopes rose in anticipation. Perhaps those changes could begin in a friendship with Luke.

As Bea Anderson stared across the crowded room, she nudged her husband. “Carl, look over there. Luke’s talking with Dove Morris.”

Carl nodded in their direction. “She looks very pretty today.”

“She does, but that still doesn’t mean I like his talking with her.” Indeed her son could do much better than the half-breed Morris girl. As pretty as she may be, she wasn’t the kind Luke should even think of courting.

“Now, Bea, they’re just having a polite conversation.”

Polite conversation or not, this would not go any further if she had any say in the matter. All her childhood memories of Indian raids and attacks could not be erased by a few years of peace with one tribe. The horrors she’d seen were forever etched in her memory, and the very sight of Dove and her mother or her brothers sent them all flooding into her soul again. No matter that everyone else recognized the girl’s mother as Emily Morris—she’d always be White Feather to Bea.

She had tried to be civil, but always the images that couldn’t be forgiven lurked in the background. They were as much a part of her being as every thought or emotion she ever had.

Now she simply avoided the Morris family as much as possible and let Carl take care of their needs when they came into the store. She had chosen to keep her distance and ignore them. Even though most of the town knew her story and would understand her feelings toward the Morris family, Bea didn’t want to say something that might embarrass the Andersons in front of strangers who might be in the store. That wouldn’t be good for business.

Carl placed his arm around her and hugged her close. “Bea, Luke is a grown young man. He’s all ready to take over the store when the time comes. He’s smart, and he’s a good son. You have to let him make his own decisions and choose his own life.”

Bea swallowed hard. Knowing and letting it happen were two different things. She wished Luke had been the one to marry the Bishop girl today, but Lucy chose Jake, a cowboy turned rancher who had joined the ranks of men like Ben Haynes and

Sam Morris.

Carl patted her arm. “See, Martin Fleming is drawing Dove’s attention now. We don’t have to worry about Luke. He’ll make the right decision.”

“I should hope so. He knows our history, and any Indian, especially a half-breed girl like Dove, would never fit into our family.”

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Finding Jeena

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Finding Jeena

Kregel Publications (March 8, 2010)

***Special thanks to Cat Hoort of Kregel Publications for sending me a review copy.***


Miralee Ferrell and her husband, Allen, live in a rural community in Washington State. She serves on staff at their local church as a licensed minister and is actively involved in ministry to women, as well as speaking to women’s groups. She’s always been an avid reader and dabbled in writing, but never considered it as a serious calling until 2005 when she felt the Lord directing her to write. Since then she’s had several magazine articles published, two in book compilations, and four full-length novels released with a fifth releasing in early 2011. Miralee loves working in her flower beds, riding horseback with her daughter, and sailing with her husband.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (March 8, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825426456
ISBN-13: 978-0825426452


Jeena Gregory chewed on her lip as she stared at the red silk dress hanging in the closet. Would it be enough? She wiped her sweaty palms down the legs of her jeans, trying to vanquish the knot in her stomach. The same feeling she’d experienced as a ten-year-old hit her. She’d walked into her new school and tried to ignore the snickers as some of the students eyed her worn-out sneakers and hand-me-down clothes.

She refused to let fear or insecurity take control. Fear couldn’t hurt her—only men could do that. And Sean loved her.

No way would she believe the rumor she’d heard from Connie, the biggest gossip in her small group of friends. Sean couldn’t be seeing someone else. He was close to proposing; she’d sensed it more than once. Jeena shook her head, trying to dislodge the disquieting thoughts. He’d have a good explanation.

Her confidence level soared after applying makeup and slipping into the dress. It had cost her two days’ salary, but it was worth every cent. Hugging her in all the right places, the dark red silk accented her long black hair and green eyes. Working out at the club kept her figure where she wanted it.

Sean’s car flashed past Jeena’s window and halted in front of her small condo. Jeena ran a hand over her trim hips. She’d be thirty later this year, and her body still looked like that of a twenty-year-old—she’d maintain it if she had to work out every day.

The doorbell chimed, but this time Jeena didn’t rush to answer. Sean Matthews needn’t think her life revolved around his arrival, even if it did. Playing a little hard to get might work in her favor.

The bell chimed a second time, and Jeena imagined its tone changed to one of impatience. Better not overdo it. She opened the door and stepped back into the glow of the entry light to give him the full effect.

A small frown turned down the corners of Sean’s mouth, giving a serious aspect to his rugged face. His tapping toe stilled, but his lowered brows didn’t lift until he stepped across the threshold.

The smile Jeena expected didn’t appear. Apprehension flickered through her mind. “Something wrong, Sean?” She touched his arm.

He ran his fingers through his dark blond hair, giving a slightly rumpled look to a man who prided himself on his appearance. “Our reservation is in fifteen minutes. We’re going to be late.”

He hadn’t seemed to notice the gown or the accentuated curves. “I had a bit of a struggle zipping up this dress.”

“You might need a jacket. That looks a little skimpy for a chilly evening.”

The small wisp of fear grew, fanned by the coolness of his impatience.

“Skimpy? That’s it?” She stepped back, folding her arms.

He shot a quick, cool look at the dress. “You look great. Is it new?”

She pursed her lips. Something was up. “Yes, it’s new.” She swung toward the closet. “Fine. I’ll get a jacket.” She yanked open the door and pulled a black cape off the rack. Great start to our evening.

He helped her into his silver Lexus, then slipped into his seat and turned the key. “You really do look stunning.” Sean paused. “It’s been a crazy day, and I’ve had a lot on my mind.” He gave her a soft smile before turning his attention back to the road.

They pulled out into the street and headed through the residential area toward the edge of town. Silhouetted against the skyline, tall fir trees flanked the elegant homes along the way. Kids still played in front yards, and a couple of eager homeowners mowed their yards. Jeena sighed. She missed having a yard and flowerbeds. The new townhouse she’d put a deposit on boasted a small backyard and window boxes in the front, so she could indulge her gardening hobby on her days off.

She sank deeper in the seat and released a small breath. Peaceful silence enveloped her as the quiet car snaked around the curves and the sun glinted off the nearby Columbia River. Sean loved her. Losing sight of that was foolish. Sure, he’d neglected to kiss her when he’d arrived, but she understood the stress generated by work. His job as a financial consultant to a large corporation in Portland often kept him distracted.

Connie was being catty and nothing more.

Jeena gave a low laugh. “You had me worried. I thought aliens had taken over your body when you didn’t react to this dress.”

He pulled away from a stop sign and glanced in his mirror, then reached over and took her hand. “Never fear. If aliens attempt a takeover, I’ll shoot ’em dead.” His quick smile flashed. “Hungry?”

“Very.” She’d been foolish to listen to Connie. An hour earlier, she couldn’t have eaten a thing, but now she was ravenous.

Sean had chosen a small, rather exclusive restaurant, a rarity in River City, Oregon. They could have driven an hour up I-84 to Portland, but the recent growth of tourism in the Columbia River Gorge had birthed new hot spots, popular with locals and tourists alike.

They were seated by a window that afforded a breathtaking view of the river, and Jeena could see the colorful sails of windsurfers kiting along in the evening breeze, the soft glow of the late April sunset bronzing the multi-colored sails. Candles glowed against the damask tablecloth, giving off a subtle air of luxury. Strains of low music added to the ambiance, creating a soothing background for the trickle of diners still drifting in.

Sean had requested a quiet spot in the corner, giving a sense of privacy that still allowed a good view. While he ordered, Jeena glanced around the room, wondering if any of their friends might be here tonight. No familiar faces appeared within her line of sight. Good. She wanted this evening to be theirs alone. Maybe they could sort out the nasty rumor starting to circulate and kill it before it morphed into something worse.

Sean leaned back in his seat and sighed, stretching his legs out from under the heavy brocade cloth.

“Long day?” Jeena reached across to stroke the side of his face. He didn’t pull away, but he didn’t wrap his long fingers around hers as she’d expected. A small alarm went off in the back of her mind.

He gave a small shake of his head, dislodging her hand. “Not really. It feels good to sit across the table from a beautiful woman, instead of looking at bored businessmen all day.”

She sat back in her chair and relaxed. “Something going on at work that’s bothering you?”

“Very little. How about you? When does your lease start on the new townhouse?”

“In ten days, so I’m boxing everything up now. I’ve got my final interview a week from Monday with Browning and Thayer.”

“It’s too bad it’s only a temporary job, but with your expertise in design, they can’t go wrong contracting you.” He straightened in his chair and leaned toward her, an affectionate smile flickering across his lips.

She flashed him a grateful look. “Thanks. I hope they feel the same. But being a private contractor has its advantages, and the project is big—it should last at least a year.”

The waiter arrived, placing steaming plates of fragrant pasta in front of them and gathering the empty salad dishes. A few minutes passed in comfortable silence, and Jeena’s misgivings evaporated in the relaxed intimacy.

Candlelight cast a warm light across Sean’s face, accentuating his masculine good looks. Jeena smiled and settled deeper into her chair. “So tell me about your family. Last time we talked, you were concerned about your mom living alone, now that your dad’s gone. How’s she doing?”

“Great, from what I gather when I have time to call.” He wound the last strand of pasta onto his fork and took a bite, then wiped his mouth with a napkin. “I’m sorry—I see a client I need to speak to. I’ll only be a minute. Do you mind?” He nodded across the room to a silver-haired man sitting with an elegantly dressed woman.

“Not at all.” She smiled, then watched him make his way through the tables.

She’d first spotted him at a party a little over a year ago. Tall, mid-thirties, dressed in an Italian three-piece suit, and built like a model, he stood out in the crowd of older businessmen. An air of sophistication clung to him, enhanced by vivid blue eyes set in a deeply tanned face. A striking blonde who’d had too much to drink was hanging on his arm. He looked slightly disgusted and appeared to be searching for an escape.

Setting aside her drink, Jeena strolled across the room, knowing she’d captured his attention even before she approached.

She extended her hand and smiled when he held it longer than necessary. “I don’t think we’ve been introduced. I’m Jeena Gregory, a friend of our hostess.”

“Sean Matthews. This is . . . I’m sorry, what’s your name again?” His bored gaze turned to the blonde.

The woman released her grip on his arm and glared at Jeena. “Angie.”

Sean cocked his head toward the woman. “Right. Sorry. This is Angie.”

Angie’s lips turned down in a pout. “I’m getting something to drink. I’ll find someone more interesting to take me home.” Angie flounced across the room without looking back.

Sean’s blue eyes shone with something more than amusement. “I didn’t bring her, but she’s had too much to drink and must have forgotten. She latched onto me when I arrived. Thanks for the rescue.”

Jeena spent the rest of the evening in his company—and many evenings after that. Within a few weeks, she knew she wanted to spend the rest of her life with this man. Intelligent, witty, generous, and advancing up the corporate ladder at a fast pace, he possessed much that she found attractive.

Sean, however, remained an enigma. While engaging and attentive, he had yet to commit to a permanent relationship. Jeena sensed his frustration at her adamant refusal to move in together. She enjoyed the party life and didn’t judge others for their lifestyle choices, but she drew the line at moving in with a man before marriage. She deserved more. Besides, too many of her crowd had gone that direction, and she’d seen disaster strike more than once.

“Jeena? I’m sorry I took so long. I hope you weren’t bored.” Sean’s deep voice woke her from the memories.

She brushed the hair from her eyes. “Not at all. Just remembering our first meeting.”

“Ah, yes. The party.”

Jeena tried to suppress a smile but failed. “And poor Angie.”

Sean laughed outright. “Poor Angie, nothing. That woman clung like a leech with no encouragement from me. You came along just in time.”

She leaned toward him and stroked the back of his hand. “Did I?”

He slowly pulled back, and the smile disappeared.

“What’s wrong?” Her heart rate accelerated.

He cleared his throat and picked up a napkin. “There’s something I want to tell you.”

Tell. Not ask. Jeena leaned back and crossed her arms. “Yes?”

“I’ve been offered a new job. It means a huge increase in pay and could lead to a partnership.”

“That sounds wonderful. I didn’t realize you were looking.”

“I didn’t mention it until I knew something would come of it. I didn’t want to worry you.”

“Why would I care?” Her palms grew clammy, but she refused to give in to fear.

His lips set in a firm line; then he took a deep breath and plunged forward. “It’s taking me out of the States. A large construction conglomerate wants me in the Middle East.”

A small shiver of fear traveled up her back. “But that’s dangerous. Tell me you’re not going to take it.”

“I’ve said yes. I’ll be living in Kuwait and going across the border occasionally, and then only to areas that are deemed safe. I leave in two weeks.”

“Two weeks,” she whispered. “What about us?”

He shifted in his chair and looked at his hands, then raised his eyes. “I’m sorry, Jeena.”

“What do you mean, you’re sorry? You’re not asking me to come with you or wait? How long will you be gone?” She tried to keep the pain out of her voice, but her words rose in tone and volume.

An irritated look flashed across his face. The small, secluded spot he’d chosen closed in around her. No longer did the flickering candles on the table give off an aura of romance—instead, they gleamed with an ominous light.

“I’ll be gone at least a year, maybe two. You didn’t want to live with me here in the States, so I didn’t think you’d be willing to move to Kuwait.” Sean leaned back in his chair, holding her gaze.

She’d probably hold onto him if she gave in, but something inside protested. Her parents’ marriage had been lousy, no doubt about that. But her mother had saved herself for the man she married and had often urged Jeena to do the same. Besides, Grammie would be be horrified if Jeena made that decision. A deep love for both her mother and grandmother had prompted Jeena to walk the same path.

“But if we were married . . .” She could have bitten off her tongue for letting the words slip.

Sean’s lips twisted in a wry smile. “I have no desire to get married.”

“So all of this has been what . . . a game? You aren’t in love with me? Never have been?”

He shrugged. “I think a lot of you. But marriage isn’t part of my plan. I thought we’d have a good time. Frankly, I hung around hoping you’d change your mind.”

“You knew how I felt about living together. It’s not something I’m comfortable with.”

Sean smirked. “You told me your dad was a religious Jekyll and Hyde and you had no use for God. I never expected you’d stick with your decision and be such a prude.”

His words brought the chaos in her mind to a halt. An icy calm washed over her. “Prude. I see. So, who is she?”

His face flamed red, then faded to a dirty white. “Who?”

She rose quickly, her chair sliding into the waiter who was walking behind her. Pride stiffened her spine and held her head high. “I nailed that one. Never mind. I’m sure you’ll be very happy together, and my prudish life will be better off without you.”

She slipped around the table and started to walk past him, but he reached out and grasped her wrist. “Jeena. Don’t be that way. I’ll drive you home. I’m sorry.”

Shaking off his hand, she stepped out of his reach and lowered her voice, conscious of the curious looks from the tables nearby. “I’ll get a taxi. Have a great life, Sean.”

Somehow she managed to exit the restaurant without calling more attention to herself. Humiliation at making a scene while leaving the table forced her to increase her pace and not look back. The poor waiter—she’d nearly bowled him over while rushing from the table. But no way could she allow Sean to see her cry. She needed to get home and face this. The tears would come later, and no telling when they’d stop.

Men. Anger bubbled inside, momentarily pushing aside the sting of tears. Her father had proven men couldn’t be trusted—he hadn’t loved her, either. Why had she forgotten? Never again would a man suck her in with promises and lies. From now on, her career would come first. She’d show them all. The only person in the world who mattered was her grandmother. She’d neglected her recently, but tomorrow was a new day. Grammie would be happy to see her, and Sean was no longer important.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Finding Balance and Laughter

On Tuesday nights at 7:30 EST/ 6:30 CST I host a TV show on Mingle Media TV. Tonight will be the fourth show and I am really excited about the topic. It is all about balance.

I am by no means talking on this topic tonight because I am an expert. I am a case study for lack of balance. Last night I was reading through Proverbs 31 for some inspiration. I decided who better to get advice from than this amazing Super Mom.

"She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come." Proverbs 31:25

For some reason Proverbs 31:25 really hit me. I think because she can laugh. She is up before dawn and probably asleep late at night. She has many tasks on her to-do list everyday, yet she still has time to laugh.

My Bible does not expand on this verse in the commentary so I am left to come to my own study conclusions. I think about some of the craziness going on in our family life right now, decisions to be made, vacation to prepare for, home renovations going on and I have forgotten that I need to laugh.

Tomorrow will come whether or not my kids have left their underwear in the middle of the living room floor when someone stops by my house. I might as well relax and have a good laugh.

Tonight I hope to get a little insight from some of the other women from Gather Inspirit on how they find time to balance life, motherhood, and blogging. Join us for the show, visit in the chat room and share your thoughts.

Monday, May 10, 2010

An Unwilling Warrior

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

An Unwilling Warrior

Realms; 1 edition (May 4, 2010)

***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Book Group | Strang Communications for sending me a review copy.***


Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar has been writing stories and poems since she was a little girl and has published articles and devotionals as well as 31 novels and novellas. In addition to her writing, Andrea is a certified Christian life coach and speaks at writers’ conferences and for women’s groups. She has taught workshops at such conferences as: Write-To-Publish; American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW); Oregon Christian Writers Conference; Mount Hermon Writers Conference and many local writers conferences. Another of Andrea’s accomplishments is co-founder of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) organization. For many years she served on both its Advisory Board and as its CEO.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 291 pages
Publisher: Realms; 1 edition (May 4, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599799855
ISBN-13: 978-1599799858


New Orleans, December 1861

Raindrops splattered against the garden’s cobblestone

walkway, forming puddles in low-lying areas.

Above, the heavens seemed to mourn in tearful shades of gray.

Staring out the floor-to-ceiling window, Valerie Fontaine realized

she’d forgotten the dreariness of the season. She’d been back

in New Orleans only a week, arriving Christmas Eve, but now

she questioned her decision to leave Miss C. J. Hollingsworth’s

Finishing School for Young Ladies, a year-round boarding school

in Virginia where she’d studied for the last sixteen months. She

let out a long, slow sigh. Life here at home was—well, worse than

the weather.

Closing the shutters, she stepped away and hugged her knitted

shawl more tightly around her shoulders. She strolled from the

solarium to the parlor, steeling herself against her father’s continuing

tirade. But at least they were talking now. He hadn’t said more

than six words to her since she’d been home. “You should have

stayed at school.” She had thought Father would be glad to see

her, given that it was their first Christmas without Mama.

But such wasn’t the case. Instead of spending the holiday with

her, he’d been at his gentlemen’s club almost continuously. His

actions hurt Valerie deeply. Nevertheless, he was the only family

she had left now.

“You should have stayed at school,” Edward Fontaine muttered

as he poured himself another scotch. His third.

“Yes, so you’ve stated. But isn’t it obvious why I came home?

I’m grieving, and I need the love and support of my father.” She

gave him a once-over, from the tip of his polished shoes to his

shiny, straight black hair. “And it might not seem like it, but I

think you need me too.”

“Need you? I should say not!” He teetered slightly but caught

her reaction. “And don’t roll those pretty blue eyes at me either.”

Valerie turned toward the roaring hearth so he wouldn’t see

her exasperated expression.

Holding out her hands, she warmed them by the fire. Although

temperatures registered well above the freezing mark, the cold and

dampness had a way of seeping into her bones. She shivered.

“I told you, ma fille, your efforts, as you call them, aren’t


She flicked him a glance. “I think perhaps they are.” She

sensed her father mourned Mama’s death too. However, drowning

himself in scotch would hardly help, and he’d lose his good

standing in society if anyone found out about his . . . weakness.

Did neighbors and friends already know?


Valerie turned to watch as he seated himself in a floralpatterned,

Louis XV wingback chair.

“You were to stay in Virginia and complete your education.”

Father gave a derisive snort. “I doubt Miss Hollingsworth will

give me a refund on your tuition.”

Valerie placed her hands on her hips. “How can you value

money over my well-being?”

“This is not a question of one or the other. These are

ous times . . . there are plans that you know nothing of . . . ”

“What plans?” Curious, Valerie tipped her head.



He lifted his gaze to hers, and she saw a flicker of something

in his eyes—regret perhaps? Then his face hardened. “My plans

were for you to stay in school and marry a young man from an

established family.”

Valerie groaned. Running her hands down the wide skirt of

her black dress, she gathered the muslin in clenched fists of frustration.

How could she make him understand? She simply had

to follow her heart and come home. Otherwise, she surely would

have stayed at Miss Hollingsworth’s, as many students did. On

most holidays, like this one, time constraints restricted travel.

School let out the Friday before Christmas and began next week,

on the sixth of January. However, Valerie didn’t plan on returning,

and her reasons to leave boarding school ran deep.

She lifted her fingertips to her temples as a headache formed.

“Father, school proved too much for me after Mama’s untimely

death. I tried to make it, stayed all last summer, but after the war

broke out I had to come home.”

“Silly girl. You risked your life traveling through that part of

the country. Did you think I wanted to bury a daughter too?”

“No, of course not. But I thought you would have wanted to

see me at Christmastime.”

He didn’t comment on her remark. “So, what am I going to do

with you? I can’t very well send you back. It’s too dangerous.”

“It’s not as if I need a nanny.” Indignation pulsed through

Valerie’s veins. “I’m almost nineteen, and I can take care of

myself—and manage the household for you too.”

“I manage my own household.”

Hardly! she quipped inwardly. Thankfully for him, Adalia,

their precious and loyal maid, had seen to almost everything

since Mama died.

But Valerie wouldn’t tell her father that. She’d learned neither

retorts nor reasoning did much good when he’d been imbibing—

which was frequently of late.

She watched as he swallowed the dark golden liquid, emptying

the crystal tumbler in his hand. He made a sorrowful sight, to

be sure. And yet Valerie knew her father was an honorable man,

a capable man who owned and operated a large business. Her

grandfather had started Fontaine Shipping when he had come

from France. Father grew up near the docks and learned everything

about ships and cargo, importing and exporting, and then

he took over the business after he had finished his education at

Harvard. Grandpapa had been so proud. And now Father secured

his importance among the international shipping community as

well as in New Orleans’s society.

Or at least that’s the way she had remembered him.

“I see I’ll have to marry you off myself.”

“Oh, Father, I’ll marry when I’m good and ready. Right now I

can’t think of a single man I’m even remotely interested in.”

“And what of James Ladden?” Father asked

“James is . . . a friend. That’s all.” Valerie moved to the

burgundy-colored settee. Gathering her black hoop skirts, she sat

down. Her fingers played across the rose-patterned, embroidered

armrest. Her father’s gaze seemed troubled. She shifted. “Perhaps

I should ask Chastean to bring you some coffee.”

He gave her a blank look, as though she’d spoken in a foreign


“Our cook . . . will bring you some coffee.”

He held up his empty scotch glass and said, “I’m fine with this.”

Valerie sighed when he rose to pour another drink. His fourth.

How she wished she could hide that scotch bottle!

“We’re having a houseguest tonight,” he said.

“What?” Her jaw slacked at the surprising news.

“You heard me.” He eyed the amber potion glistening in his

glass. “A houseguest.”

“Who is it?”

He lifted his slim shoulders and wagged his dark head. “Last

name’s McCabe. Don’t know his first. He’s the son of an acquaintance.”

He looked her way. “I extended the invitation before I

knew you would burst in from school unannounced.”

Valerie chose to ignore the slight. “Where did you meet him,

or rather, his father?”

Father’s gaze met hers. His brown bloodshot eyes watered

slightly, and his Adam’s apple bobbed several times as if he were

struggling to contain his emotions. “I met him,” he continued in

a pinched voice, “just after your mother passed away.”

Valerie swallowed an anguished lump of her own. He’d so

rarely spoken of Mama since her death.

Her mind drifted back to that terrible day she’d received the

news. She’d been at school, getting ready to paint with the other

girls when a telegram had been delivered. The weighty sorrow

that descended then returned now as she recalled the words:

Your mother took ill with a fever on 23 June 1861 and

has died. You have our sympathies and our prayers. The

telegram was signed Mrs. Vincent Dupont, the doctor’s wife.

Upon returning home, Valerie learned that a tropical storm

had detained the family physician when her mother had taken

ill. He hadn’t been able to reach Mama in time to help her.

Valerie had never gotten a chance to say good-bye or even

attend Mama’s funeral.

“I miss her too.” Valerie whispered the admission, hoping this

time it wouldn’t fall on deaf ears.

But Father drained his glass and poured another. Number five.

“Our guest will be arriving sometime tonight. I’ll be out. I’ve

left instructions with Adalia.”

“You won’t be here to greet him?” Valerie swiped away an

errant tear and squared her shoulders.

“Not tonight.” He suddenly hollered for his coat, hat, and

walking stick.

“Where are you going?” Stunned, Valerie strode toward him.

“The club. For supper.”

“Again? But I had so hoped you’d come to the Donahues’

tonight and celebrate the coming of the New Year with me.”

“You should know right now, ma fille, that hope is a useless word

in the English vocabulary. All of mine died with your mother.”

Valerie’s breath caught at the admission, tears obscuring her

vision as the portly British maid, who’d been part of the family

ever since Valerie could recall, entered the room carrying Father’s

belongings. He donned his winter coat.

“I hadn’t planned to stay home to entertain a houseguest.”

“I don’t expect you to.” He moved into the foyer and adjusted

his black top hat. “Adalia will show him to his room, and you

can go to your party.”

“But—” He swung open the front door and disappeared, closing it

behind him before Valerie could speak again. All she could do

was stand there, stunned.

At last she exhaled, her lower lip extended so the puff of air

soared upward and wafted over the strands on her forehead. “Oh,

this is a fine mess.” She folded her arms.

“You needn’t worry. I’ll be sure to tidy the gentleman’s room.”

“I know you will.” Valerie smiled at the good-natured woman.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, dearie. But here now—” Adalia bustled

across the room and slipped one arm around Valerie’s shoulders.

“Don’t look so glum.”

“I can’t help it.” Valerie’s bottom lip quivered as she peered

into the maid’s bright green eyes. “My father has no room in his

life for me, Adalia. I’m a burden to him.” She paused. “Maybe I

always have been, but I never noticed because of Mama.”

Adalia patted her shoulder.

When the moment passed, Valerie straightened. “Well, Father

said I can go to the party. I’ve been looking forward to it.”

“Go. I’ll take care of Mr. McCabe. Now you’d best be getting

yourself ready.”

Valerie gazed down at her dark skirts. “And another thing. I’m

tired of this dreary mourning garb. It’s been six months.”

“That it has, and you’ve fulfilled your societal obligations and

behaved as any good daughter would.” Holding her by the shoulders,

she turned Valerie so they stood face-to-face. “I don’t think

I’m out of place to say that y’ mother’d want each of us to go on

with our living. So go and have fun tonight. As for y’ father’s guest,

he can occupy himself in the library. Plenty o’ books in there.”

Valerie sighed, remembering some of Father’s former houseguests.

“He’s probably some eccentric old geezer who’ll just want

to read and go to sleep anyway.”

Adalia snorted. Her eyes twinkled with amusement. “We’ve

seen our share of those over the years, now haven’t we?”

“Yes.” A smile crept across Valerie’s face. “We certainly have

at that.”


Beneath the bright glow from her bedroom’s wall sconces, Valerie

studied her reflection. She selected a sapphire-blue silk gown

with satin trim around its off-the-shoulder neckline. The flouncy

creation matched the color of her eyes and complemented her

pale complexion. Adalia had expertly swept up Valerie’s dark

brown hair into a becoming chignon, although several tendrils

rebelliously escaped and curled around her face.

“Pretty as a princess, y’ are. Just like y’ mother.” Adalia stood

back to admire her. “You look just like her.”

“Thank you.” Valerie took the compliment as high praise. “But

do you think I seem a bit pale?” She pinched her cheeks until

they turned a rosy pink.

“Not anymore.” Adalia placed her hands on her hips. Valerie

smiled, then chuckled. Adalia turned and folded an article of

clothing on Valerie’s four-poster bed. “Now, you be sure to catch

the latest gossip, dearie. Chastean and I are dependin’ on you.”

Valerie whirled from the full-length mirror in a swish of silk.

“Why, Adalia, I don’t listen to gossip.”

“’Tis such a pity. We’ll be needin’ something to talk about

while we stir our soap.”

“Mama’s soap.” Valerie’s grin faded as wistfulness set in. She’d

almost forgotten how she and Mama used to create the specially

scented soaps from garden herbs and the essential oils that Father

had shipped in from around the world. The practice had started

with a church bazaar for which Mama had to bring something

she’d made, something unique.

She called her little square bars “Psalm 55 Soap” after her

favorite passage of Scripture. Mama gave them to friends or

left them near the basin in the guest room with a handwritten

portion of that psalm. Feeling a sudden deep determination to

hang on to the memory, Valerie decided to somehow keep her

mother’s custom alive.

“We’ll make a new batch soon,” she said.

“Good, ’cause we’re down to the last few bars of the lavender

rose.”One of Valerie’s favorites. “They’re from the last batch Mama


Adalia replied with a remorseful bob of her gray-blonde head.

That weighty sorrow descended again. Valerie’s shoulders


Several long, reverent seconds ticked by, and finally Adalia

picked up where she’d left off. “I’m particularly interested in

hearing if Mrs. Field’s wayward daughter married that sailor she

ran away with.” She fidgeted with Valerie’s dress. “So listen up.”

“I’ll do no such thing. Besides, James told me yesterday that

Nora Mae married the man in a private ceremony.”

“Y’ don’t say!”

Valerie turned to her. “I shouldn’t have even repeated that,

except there’s nothing wrong with saying a wedding took place,



Valerie narrowed her gaze. Maybe she had succumbed to

gossiping after all.

“Now you’d best get downstairs.” Adalia wisely changed the

subject. “Mr. Ladden’ll be here soon, and you know how impatient

that one gets if he has to wait even a minute.”

“You go on down. I’ll be there in a bit.” Valerie wanted to

check her reflection one last time.

“Don’t tarry.”

“I won’t.”

The maid left, and Valerie checked her reflection once more. It

felt good to shed those black mourning clothes. She thought of all

her friends she hadn’t seen in the almost year and a half since she’d

been away at Miss C. J. Hollingsworth’s. They’d always been such

fun-loving girls. Valerie smiled, thinking about how they used to

laugh together with chatter of balls and beaus and fashion.

Would it be the same when they saw each other again tonight?

Sadness spilled over her when she thought things might have

changed. She felt so removed from those subjects now. They

seemed trite, considering her present circumstances. She’d

never imagined her life without Mama. But here her future lay,

stretched out before her in grim uncertainty.

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee . . .

Valerie smiled as part of Mama’s favorite psalm waltzed across

her mind. Drawing in a deep breath, she plucked her satin shawl

from where it lay on her canopy bed. She pulled it around her

bare shoulders, admiring its ivory softness, and fixed her mind

on the gala. She’d laugh and dance, and maybe some semblance

of joy would return to her life.

Leaving her bedroom, Valerie made her way down the stairs to

the parlor. As it happened, she turned out to be the one who did

the waiting. It seemed forever before she heard James’s carriage

pull up in front of the house.

At long last he entered the foyer, looking dapper in his overcoat

with its fur-trimmed collar. He shed it and handed the garment,

along with his hat, to Adalia. Valerie noted his foggy-gray dress

coat, waistcoat, and matching trousers. The flame-red curls on

his head, usually unruly, were combed neatly back.

“Why, James Ladden, don’t you look handsome!” She held out

her hand in greeting, and he took it at once.

“Thank you, honey. I’ll have you know this suit is cut from the

best cloth money can buy.”

“It’s quite . . . nice.” Valerie felt a bit wounded that he didn’t

remark on her gown or the style of her hair.

Instead James puffed out his chest and smiled. “We have some

time before we have to go.” He ambled across the parlor’s large

Persian carpet. “Perhaps a drink to warm the blood would be


“Yes, of course. I’ll call for Adalia.” She flicked a glance at him,

hoping he didn’t imbibe like Father. This was, after all, their first

public outing together. A moment later she decided to serve hot

cider in spite of the fact he hinted at something stronger.

She looked at him again. James had been a childhood friend,

an auburn-headed prankster who annoyed her by putting twigs in

her braided hair and calling her names. He threw slimy, creepycrawly

creatures at her and laughed when she screamed in terror.

But then James matured into a dashing young man, and when

he discovered that she’d come home from school, he offered to

escort her to every social event in New Orleans beginning this

New Year’s Eve. She’d accepted because . . . well, it was a kind offer,

and James seemed to have transformed into a gentleman.

“Is your father home?”

“No, he chose to ring in the New Year at the club.”

“He won’t be at the Donahues’, then?”

Valerie shook her head.

“I had hoped to speak with him tonight about an important

subject.” His frown turned to a smile. “You.”


“I have courtship on my mind.”

His news surprised her. “I thought we were just friends, James.”

“We are. But the way you look tonight makes me wish we were


So he’d noticed. That was something anyway. However, his

backhanded flattering didn’t change her feelings for him. But

unwilling to hurt him, she chose her words with care. “I am fond

of you. It’s just—”

“Y’ father’s houseguest just arrived.” Adalia poked her head into

the room. “What would you like me to do with him, dearie?”

Valerie grimaced. “Oh, yes . . . ” She’d almost forgotten about

the man. “Show him in.” Looking back at James, she said, “Excuse

me for a few minutes.”

“What’s this?” He stepped forward, frowning his displeasure.

“What houseguest?”

“Forgive me. My father only told me at the last minute.” She

moved toward the door. “I must see to him. It won’t take too


Putting on her best hostess’s smile, Valerie strolled into the

foyer in time to see a tall but shadowy figure of a man coming

down the hallway. He must have entered through the back way.

Over his shoulder he carried a large satchel and, in the opposite

hand, a valise. As he neared, she saw that he was soaked to the

skin. Rain dripped from the wide brim hat.

“Good evening.” He set his burdens down with a thunk onto

the tiled floor. “Name’s Benjamin McCabe.”

“Valerie Fontaine.” She held out her hand to him. He took

it politely, and Valerie felt how cold he was. He also appeared

young, in his midtwenties. Hardly the old codger she and Adalia

had envisioned.

“Miss Fontaine, I must say you look . . . lovely this evening.” He

spoke in a velvet baritone, and yet Valerie heard a hint of a twang

in his voice.

“Why, thank you.” It had been more of a compliment than

what she’d received from James.

He shifted his stance. “The liveryman is seeing to my wagon.”

He gave a backward nod. “I trust it will be safe in the stables.

Most of my equipment—”

“Your wagon will be just fine,” Valerie assured him. “Willie is

a very capable attendant.”

An awkward moment passed as Valerie tried to get a better

view of the man standing there in the dim, candlelit entryway.

“I apologize for dripping rain on your floor.” Mr. McCabe

glanced down at the puddle forming beneath him. “That last

downpour caught me.”

Sunday, May 9, 2010

My Amazing Mother

I really wanted to spend Mother's Day with my mom this year. I wanted to go and plant some flowers for her and sit and have coffee with her. Unfortunately, it was 30 degrees in South Dakota Friday night and the weather is not going to be much better next week. Not exactly prime planting season.

Last weekend she came to visit with my dad. It is so much fun to have them hang out here (and my mom always does the dishes, thanks mom!)

I wanted to take some time to write a little bit about this amazing woman today to wish her a Happy Mother's Day.

In two short weeks she is retiring from 43 years of teaching. She has spent all 43 years in the same school teaching 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders. I don't know how she did it for so long. It was amazing that every summer she would be busy preparing for the next year. You would think that after about 30 years, she would do the same thing.

The day she retires we will be jumping in the car to drive to the airport for our first family trip to Walt Disney World. It will be an amazing experience for all of us.

To my mom who always gets on the floor and plays with the girls. . .

To my mom who is passing on her love for reading to all of her grandkids. . .

We love you! Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Heading Home

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Heading Home

David C. Cook; New edition (April 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings - Senior Media Specialist - The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Renee Riva has enjoyed a lifelong love affair with words. She is particularly passionate about writing for young adults and children. Heading Homeis the third novel in the Indian Island Trilogy and reflects Renee’s love for animals as well as her desire to provide stories that families can enjoy together for years to come. In addition to the Indian Island Trilogy (Saving Sailor, Taking Tuscany, andHeading Home) Renee has written two titles for young children; Guido’s Gondola and Izzy the Lizzy. Her love for writing has ignited efforts to share her talents with others. Renee speaks at Young Author events, attends numerous writing conferences, and teaches writing workshops in the Northwest. She lives in Richland, Washington, with her husband and three daughters.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (April 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434767760
ISBN-13: 978-1434767769


From a crumbling castle in the
hills of Tuscany …

In the fall of 1968, when I was ten years old, our family moved to an old castle in Tuscany, Italy. My one regret was that I had to leave my dog, Sailor, behind. My sole comfort was that my friend Danny agreed to keep him for me until I could return someday. Someday turned into eight years.

We wrote letters frequently on behalf of Sailor. Every once in a while we would remember to mention his name.…

November 27, 1974

Dear Danny,

How's Sailor? Here's my school photo of me at sixteen. I can't believe I've been here for six years! I'm still planning to come to Indian Island when I turn eighteen, to attend veterinary school. Be sure and reserve Papoose for me to rent for the summer. Only two more years until I get to see Sailor again.

How are you? Are you a pastor yet? Besides a vet, I'm kind of thinking of being a nun. Then I could help starving animals and people. I wrote Sister Abigail about it. She said I could probably do both.
Write back, please.

Yours truly,

A. J.

December 13, 1974

Dear A. J.,
Sailor really liked your school photo. You sure don't look ten years old anymore. Sailor is very glad you're coming back. He wants you to be sure to call me as soon as you

get here. Things are going well for me. I'm now the youth pastor at Squawkomish Baptist.

I was walking through Saddlemyer's Dime Store when I saw this snow globe. For some reason it reminded me of you. Merry Christmas!

Hurry home--Sailor misses you,


Arrivederci, Roma!
July 13, 1976


My carry-on bag nearly drops from my hands as loud, smiling faces suddenly spring up out of nowhere. A mix of birthday balloons and banners with “GO WSU COUGARS” fills the already-crowded waiting area at my departure gate in the Rome International Airport.

“Happy birthday and arrivederci, kiddo!” Mama yells, accompanied by that confident gleam of victory, confirming that she has successfully pulled off the surprise party of the century. Who but my mother would stage a going away-birthday party in the middle of a busy airport?

This is the day that I have been longing for for eight years … my return to Indian Island, my childhood haven. I'm only hours away from being reunited with my best friend, Danny, and my faithful dog, Sailor, and looking ahead to a hopeful future in veterinary medicine.

“Now boarding flight 49 to New York.” As the announcement comes over the intercom, I am suddenly surrounded and smothered with hugs and kisses from Mama, Daddy, my sister, my brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, courtesy cousins, and best friends Bianca and Dominic.

Inching my way through the boarding line, my last hug comes from Dominic, my closest male companion of the past four years. “Ciao, Angelina.” He smiles and kisses my cheek. “I'm going to miss you.”

I return Dominic's kiss. “Ciao, amico mio.”

At my parting gate I wave good-bye to all I love, then turn and walk down the Jetway toward home … half a world away.

Return to Indian Island
July 1976

The rowboat smashes into the dock with a thud. A startled mallard plunges into the lake and paddles quickly away.

“I'm home!” I yell at the top of my lungs. I've waited eight long years to hear myself say those two words again. Stepping onto the shores of Indian Island is like stepping back in time. Hidden among the trees in the Pitchy Pine Forest, little Papoose awaits its family's return. Voices and laughter still echo from its walls: Mama, Daddy, Adriana, J. R., Dino, and Benji. The faint squeak of a hamster wheel drifts from the shed like a sad melody, carrying the memory of Ruby Jean.

Running toward the cabin, the words ring over and over in my head, I'm home! I'm home! I whisper it this time, just to hear myself say it again. Feeling quite smug that I still have the key, I let myself in, relishing the thought that no one else knows I'm here. I'd debated over clanging the bell on the main shore, knowing the mini tug would have come for me, but I wanted my reunion to happen right here, on my old, beloved island.

When I enter the cabin, I'm relieved to find everything in Papoose the same as when we'd left, as though no one has taken our place. My eyes dart to the phone number of Big Chief, still tacked to the wall above the phone. I've played this moment in my mind so many times.

Lord, help me to pull this off. Dialing the number, my hands begin to shake. The old, familiar ring blares in my ear.…


It's Danny. That same Southern voice that made my heart skip a beat the first time I ever heard it is making it pound now. “Well, howdy on ya!” I bellow, in the best Southern drawl I can muster-- not easy, after speaking Italian for the past eight years.

There's a long pause. “Howdy yourself. May I ask who's callin'?”

“You can ask all ya want, but I ain't gonna tell ya. I'm frankly more in'erested in that log cabin you've got over yonder from your place a piece. Any chance it might be up for rent this summer?”

There is no way Danny would even think of being stuck on an island with some kook. He'd rather leave Papoose empty than have to deal with a nutty neighbor.

“Who is this?” He sounds more curious than annoyed.

“Well, who in the Sam Hill do ya think it is?”

“Um, I have no idea, but in answer to your first question, I don't rent that cabin out. I have a family I keep it reserved for … for whenever she … they come back.”

I can't stand it any longer. “Well, Danny boy, it just breaks my li'l heart that you don't recognize a true Southern belle when you hear one.” That'll get his wheels turning.

“… No way … A. J.? Is that you?”

“Bingo! Race you to Juniper Beach--and bring my dog!” I slam down the receiver and dart out the screen door so fast it nearly flies off its hinges.

I'm whippin' down that old Pitchy Pine Trail faster than a baby jackrabbit. The first thing I see when I reach Juniper Beach is my big old dog.

“Sailor!” I cry, with tears streaming down my face. Sailor comes barreling down the beach, twice as fat and half as fast as when we parted. He pounces on me so hard I nearly fall over. I bury my face in his fur and sob like the day I found him on death row. When I look up, I see Danny walking toward me real slow, as though he doesn't want to intrude on my reunion with Sailor.

Wiping away my tears, my eyes come to focus on the face I've so longed to see--besides Sailor's. Oh … my … gosh. This is not the Danny I remember. Before me stands a towering six-foot-somethin' sandy-blond, sun-bronzed cowboy--a perfect cross between the Duke and Little Joe Cartwright. When we're within arms' reach of each other, we both just stop. Eight years is a long time--from saying good-bye as kids to saying hello as adults.

“Hey, A. J.,” Danny says, real tender.

No one has ever said my name the way Danny says my name … with the most beautiful Southern accent I've ever heard in my entire life. I stand still, just staring at him … and I have only one thing to say. “Can you ride a horse?”

Danny looks taken aback and amused at the same time. “Did you just ask me if I can ride a horse?”

(Daddy once told me, “A. J., when you find your cowboy, make sure he can actually ride a horse. Any man can put on the hat and the boots and call himself a cowboy, but only a real man can actually ride the horse.”)

“Um … never mind,” I answer. “But can you?”

“Ride a horse?”

I nod. “Uh-huh.”

Now he's grinning, like he just realized I must be the same quirky kid he knew before. Not bothering to ask why, he just answers the question. “Yeah, A. J., I can ride a horse.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“Is that good?”

“Yeah. That's good.” That's real good.

Now Danny's looking at me with those blue, blue eyes that always made me feel like he could see right into the depths of my soul. Is this really my childhood friend? Our nearly four-year age difference that once posed such a gap between us seems strangely insignificant now.

Danny sticks his hands in his pockets. His expression suggests that maybe he's thinking the same thing. I wonder if he still sees me as the same freckle-faced kid with the fake Southern accent who could squirt half the lake between her two front teeth. At least I've grown into my teeth now and speak Italian instead of Southern.

So here we are face-to-face, after all these years, in a standoff, wondering how we're going to fill this awkward moment. In the midst of our dilemma, Sailor charges up from the water and takes a flying leap right for me. I'm shoved headlong into Danny and fall to the sand in his arms.

He smiles down at me then glances over at Sailor. “Good boy,” he whispers. “It only took me eight years to teach him that trick.” He laughs while gently brushing sand from my face. His eyes linger for a moment as though he's contemplating something, then he glances down the shoreline. “So … how would you like to go out on the water?”

“Drifting?” I've dreamed of nothing else since I left the island.

“Drifting it is. I'll launch the boat.” He helps me up then heads toward the old dinghy resting on shore. Wedged deep in sand and beach grass, it doesn't look like it's moved since I left. I watch Danny grab hold of the bow and hoist it from the shore to the water as though it weighs nearly nothing. With a shove, he launches it into the bay. “Your ship awaits you,” he calls down the beach to me. Sailor lops along the shoreline and leaps into the boat, barely clearing the oarlock. The old dog just ain't what he used to be, but he obviously still loves to drift.

Sailor takes the front seat with his nose to the wind, resembling a hairy bow ornament. I take the middle seat, Danny takes the stern. The sun is slowly sinking behind the hills, casting an orange glow over Indian Lake. I arrange myself in drift mode: lying on my back across the seat, eyes to the sky, feet hanging over the side of the boat. Danny follows suit, clasping his hands behind his head. I breathe in the sweet, warm summer air. “I'm home,” I whisper, glancing over at Danny.

He returns my smile. “Welcome home, A. J.”

A gentle breeze ruffles up Sailor's fur as he turns his nose to catch the scent in the wind. I'm so happy to be back with my dog. My eyes shift from Sailor to Danny. I cannot get over that this is really Danny Morgan.

He looks over and catches me staring.

“You've gotten taller, haven't you?” I say, trying to cover myself.

“Maybe a few inches.”

“Maybe a few feet! What did they feed you on that farm, Miracle-Gro?”

“Grits.” He smiles. “Lots of grits.”

Grits look good on you. “So, do you miss your farm life?”

“Sometimes. But I'm pretty excited about my plans for the island.”


He glances around like he's about to divulge a secret he doesn't want anyone else to hear. “You tell me your plans first, then I'll tell you mine.”

“Okay. Well … for starters, my veterinary courses start up in September, and will probably take me … about the rest of my life to complete.”

“Washington State University?”

“Yep. Go Cougs!”

“But you're staying on the island, right?”

“Right. Grandma's letting me use her car. The campus isn't that far, really--takes me less than a half hour each way. It'll cost a lot less to live here and commute than if I live on campus. As long as your new plans don't include upping the rent on me.”

Danny smiles. “I can probably swing you a pretty good deal-- like rent free, if I can get you to help me with my plans.” His smile turns to a grin.

“Really? You may have yourself a deal! I couldn't bear the thought of giving up the island to live in a dorm. Besides, they don't allow dogs in the dorms.” Sailor perks up at the word dogs and wags his tail. “Wait--maybe you'd better tell me what your plans are first.”

“Well … I'm thinkin' of turning the island into a summer camp.”

“A summer camp? On the island?” I swing my feet back in the boat and sit up, facing Danny.

“There are a lot of kids around here with nothing to do in the summer,” Danny says. “I'd like to offer them a place to go. My dream is to eventually work here full-time. Summer camps all summer, weekend retreats fall and winter.”

“What happened to becoming a preacher?”

“I can still preach to the kids at camp, but as far as becoming a full-time pastor for a church, my heart's turning more toward a summer camp on this island.”

“And what will you do on your summer camp island?”

“Well,” Danny swings his legs into the boat and sits up too. His eyes light up like a little kid talking about his birthday plans. “Every time I get out on the lake to go fishin', I look back at the island and picture the whole setup. Big Chief was first built as a hunting lodge, you know, so it's definitely big enough for the camp headquarters.”

That explains all those deer and moose heads hanging on the walls, anyway.

“The dining area could probably handle enough tables for a mess hall, and that old stone fireplace would be a perfect gathering place. Then I'll need to insulate the other two cabins to withstand the winters. That way we can rent the camp out for weekend retreats during the rest of the year to keep a cash flow coming in.”

“Who would be renting it?”

“Churches and social groups are always looking for peaceful getaways for their retreats. What could be more peaceful than this?” Danny looks around like he is the proud owner of the best island in the world. I happen to agree with him on that. “We could pull in business from Coeur d'Alene to Moscow along the Idaho border and from Spokane on the Washington side.”

He keeps saying we.

“Then, I thought Pocahontas could be the bunkhouse--should be able to fit about a dozen bunks upstairs and another dozen down-- around fifty campers total--counselors included. Girls upstairs, boys downstairs, with no common access. And Papoose … I'd like to keep Papoose for the local residents.” He smiles over at me. And he still has the bluest eyes I have ever seen. Sigh.

He continues, “Then, out in the Pitchy Pine Forest, over by your cemetery, I'd have archery.…”

“Hold on. You can't have a bunch of kids stomping through my critter cemetery chasing after arrows. Those are sacred burial grounds.”

Danny looks at me. “I hadn't thought about that. Now that's something new to consider. That might weird out a few of the parents if their kids come home talkin' about running through a critter cemetery.”

“There is nothing weird whatsoever about people burying their pets.”

“Pets, yeah. But bugs, lizards, mice, and rats may be a different story.”

“Who's going to know what's buried there if they don't dig 'em up? Besides, after eight years there's probably not much left of them.”

“Okay, fine. I'll put a locked gate on it. We'll just tell the campers we have a few of our dead relatives buried in there. It wouldn't be camp without the makin's for a few spooky stories.” Danny laughs.

“So anyway, as I was explaining, the best part is down at Juniper Beach. Get this: swimming, fishing, and sailing on the lake, with campfires and stargazing on the beach at night. And then … in the clearing over by the chapel, behind your critter cemetery, I'd build a corral for my ponies.”

“What ponies?”

“The ones I'm hoping to buy at the spring auction in time for the official camp opening next summer.”

“And how do you plan to get your ponies out to the island?”

Danny looks at me like it's the most obvious thing in the world. “On the tugboat.”

“Ah, the tugboat--of course.”

“By the way, I'm hosting about ten Sunday-school kids for an overnight campout this Friday. I thought it might be a good opportunity to get a feel for what I'm in for on a small scale. My assistant youth leader offered to help with the girls if I need her, but, now that you're here, I thought I'd offer the job to you first. Any chance you'd be willing to help with the girl campers?”

Looking back at the island, I'm trying to envision this quiet island retreat swarming with rowdy little campers. “Uh, sure, I'll help.” I get the feeling I may soon be living a reenactment of the Swiss Family Robinson. “So have you thought of a name for your camp yet?”

“Not yet. Any ideas?”

“Hmm, how about Camp Down Yonder?” I offer up in a nice Southern drawl. “Or maybe Camp Dan Yonder, after you.”

Danny looks subtly amused. “You makin' fun of my camp?”

“No, sir, just thinkin' it's a fine name for an Okie to call his summa' camp.”

He just stares at me, as though strongly considering throwing me overboard. Then something in his demeanor changes. “So, besides WSU this fall, what are your plans for next summer?”

“I'm considering some opportunities in … charity work. I'm not sure yet if, or where, that will happen.”

“Hmm.” He looks away for a moment, then looks back at me with those eyes. “Well, if you decide to stick around here for the summer, would you … consider being … my wrangler--for the ponies, I mean?”

His eyes are so penetrating, I can't look away.

“Um …”

“I'll throw a hamster in on the deal if you stay.”

“I'd … love to be your wrangler--I mean, the ponies' wrangler--if I stick around.”

©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. Heading Home by Renee Riva. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.