PERFECT THANKSGIVING GIFT

Here it is: The perfect little Thanksgiving gift for those you want to bless during this time of gratitude for God’s abundant blessings in our lives. This small soft-cover book is a seasonal collection of scriptures, pictures, and Thanksgiving poems and essays by my father Ted Pavloff and me. The cover features the photography of my sister Brenda Calvert, so it’s really a family collaboration.

Only 25 pages long, measuring 5 1/5 x 8 1/2,  it is just the right size to pick up and enjoy for a few moments of seasonal pleasure in the weeks anticipating Thanksgiving Day or in the hours after dinner, when you’re letting your turkey and dressing settle.

$4.00 on Amazon. You can find your copy at this link.


For Your Information …

Whenever I’m holding healing schools, I generally put my healing book on a special sale so that any students who would like to have a copy can get it at a reduced price. I hand out a lot of material that is covered in the book during classes, but many students want a copy of the whole book for their own use after the classes are over.

So I also like to let my website viewers know about the sale period in case they’d like to take advantage of the special prices as well.

The paperback is on sale for $6.99.

The E-book is on sale for $1.99

These prices will be good through March, 2021.

You can find the book here.


 

It’s February – and Time for a Great Love Story

VALENTINE SPECIAL:  February 1 — February 14 

E-Book: $1.99

Paperback: $7.99


JONAH'S SONG AMAZON COVER - FRONT

What do the Biblical story of Ruth and the 21st-century novel, Jonah’s Song, have in common? Well you’ll have to read both stories to find out. Of course most people know the basic story of Ruth, so that leaves just one story left to read.

I’ll give you a hint: Ruth’s story has an important lesson that Jonah McDaniels and Valentina Rosswell (the novel’s hero and heroine) need to study and take to heart if their own love story has a chance at a happy ending.

Actually, even the Lord has His hands full trying to work things out for these two lovers. That’s why He had to take advantage of Ruth and Boaz along the way. If we stretched our imagination just a little, we might even say that by making sure the story of Ruth was included in the Bible, the Lord sort of “planned ahead” for when He’d need it as a teaching tool.

If you’re a true romantic – and enjoy the tingle of a touch – and a tear now and then – and catching your breath at the passion of a kiss – and using God’s Word to work out life’s problems – this story is definitely for you.

Although Jonah’s Song is the 4th book in the Smoky Mountain Series, it — like all the books in that series — can stand alone as a complete story.  Although many of the characters progress from story to story, readers will not be confused or disappointed in any way by reading one book before the other.

This book makes a great Valentine’s Day gift for your sweetie.

I’ll include some brief excerpts below, and here’s the link to find JONAH’S SONG and place your order – for yourself – or for the one you love.


EXCERPT: JONAH’S SONG, pp. 1-4

Valentina’s aquamarine eyes popped wide open. She sat bolt upright, her heart beating erratically, as she looked around her at her bedroom, realization dawning on her. She let out a gusty sigh. “Oh! … I knew it was too good to be true!” She sighed once more. She’d been dreaming — again — about Professor Jonah McDaniels — again!

She fell back against her pillows once more, running her hands through her long, loosely curled hair. As she felt it flow between her fingers, she recalled the scene from her dream where Jonah had buried his hand in her hair. She closed her eyes, wanting to relive the whole dream and hold onto it as long as possible.

Jonah had been standing a couple feet away from her, his conductor’s baton in his hand, his eyes burning with his feelings. Finally, he laid down the baton closed the gap between them and took her, somewhat roughly, into his arms.

Valentina swallowed, trying to get back the breath his sudden embrace had stolen. Her heart beat wildly as his eyes moved to her lips. Without conscious thought, she glanced down to his mouth, his full, sculptured lips – one of the first two things she had noticed about him the day she’d met him – the other being his deep violet eyes . . .

The exhilarating scent of his cologne sent her senses whirling, and the warmth of his breath as he brought his face close to hers was so sweet she couldn’t resist closing her eyes. Her lips were parted slightly, her breath almost suspended, and as his mouth reached hers, his lips were bold and strong as they molded hers to his own. Everything in her melted as she gave herself up to this kiss she’d wanted for so long, but had never dared hope for.

He deepened the kiss, and she clung to him. When he finally pulled back for a moment, she uttered his name, once, breathlessly. “Jonah.”

“Hey, Vallie!” That shout came from Katey, one of the two girls Valentina shared the apartment with, and it was coupled with a pounding on Valentina’s bedroom door. So much for wallowing in her dream. “You’d better get a move on if you don’t want to be late for rehearsal. You know what Dr. McDaniels will say if you walk in late.”

“Oh, no!” Vallie had forgotten about the string ensemble’s rehearsal this morning. Just the thing she didn’t need: facing Dr. McDaniels right after that dream. . . .

She stood in front of her mirror in her pajamas. It was time for the lecture again. She looked at her reflection sternly, and pointed her finger at the mirror. “This is just your junior year, Valentina Rosswell. You still have three months left of this year and your whole senior year to go. And next year is going to be full of performances, a good many of them with Dr. Jonah McDaniels conducting. Do you want to end up making a total fool of yourself? … Now, you go out there and act like the musician that you are! You treat this Dr. McDaniels like any other stuffy, old college professor.”

Suddenly she was picturing him dressed in a baggy sweater, the lower part of his face covered with a beard, his hair gray and in total disarray. She shook her head and sighed loudly. Even like that he looked good enough to melt her bones.


EXCERPT: JONAH’S SONG, pp. 213-215

She let out a long sigh, looking toward the windows herself.  “It’s a gorgeous evening out, isn’t it?”

He glanced back to the windows now, noticing that night was making rapid advances, twice as many stars showing up now as when he had been standing there looking out.  “Yes, one of the loveliest we’ve had.”  He turned back to face Vallie.  The light in the room was dim, but he could see Vallie’s face quite well since they were standing so close.  Her eyes were luminous, and he couldn’t resist the magnetism in them.

He stepped closer and spoke in barely more than a whisper.  “But not even such an evening can compare with your loveliness, Valentina.”  As he spoke, he slowly lifted his hand and touched the tips of his fingers to her cheek, gently gliding them along her skin.  He felt her tremble slightly at his touch.  “You’re so very beautiful, you know.”

She shook her head, a barely perceptible move, as if to say that she hadn’t known.

“Oh … yes,” he replied, still in that quiet voice.  “Indeed you are … and not just beautiful to look at … but equally as beautiful to know.”  Not actually conscious of what he was doing, he moved his forefinger gently to her mouth and began to trace the outline of her sensuous lips, his own beautifully sculptured mouth opening slightly as if in anticipation of what he wanted to do next.

Valentina held her breath.  She could hardly believe what she was experiencing and wondered fleetingly if she were dreaming again, because she knew that Jonah McDaniels wanted to kiss her — was moving toward her even now to do so.  His face was only inches away from hers now, and she could feel the sweet warmth of his breath against her skin.  Oh, this was exactly the way she’d dreamed it again and again.  Oh, please, don’t let me wake up yet, she thought, as her eyelids drifted closed of their own volition.

Suddenly, she felt space between them and without opening her eyes, knew that he had drawn away and even taken a step back.  She did open her eyes then, looking at him with the confusion she felt showing plainly on her face.  But she hurried to camouflage it, embarrassed enough that he obviously knew she had expected to be kissed, and he, evidently, had changed his mind.  This was no dream, but it had ended just as unhappily as all of those dreams had.  She dipped her head slightly, focusing on the floor for a moment to try to collect her thoughts.  All she knew at this moment was that she wanted to get away from him as quickly as possible.

“Well,” she said, needing to clear her throat to go on.  “I guess I’d better be getting back.” She looked right at him for just a moment and somehow mustered up a small smile.  “I hope you get all your problems worked out.”

He shoved both of his hands in his pants pockets and glanced down at the floor momentarily.  Then he looked back at her with a rather grim smile that she could barely see in the gathering darkness of the room.  “I’m afraid that isn’t too likely, Valentina.  Not every problem has a solution, you know.  … Some of them just have to be endured with as much grace as possible.”

“I … I’m sorry, Jonah.  … I wish … I wish I could help somehow.”

He laughed out loud then, but it was a bitter laugh, and he choked it off quickly and looked into her eyes. When he spoke, it was so quietly she had to strain to hear the words clearly.  “Go home, Valentina.”


EXCERPT: JONAH’S SONG, pp. 237-239

Cameron paused, looking at his brother, who walked back to his chair, but only leaned on the back of it.  “I think Vallie loves you, and personally, I think your love is exactly what she needs … and wants.”

“Then why don’t I feel that way about it too?”

“Because you’re letting your head rule instead of your heart.  You know, God uses our hearts to lead us into His will much more often that He does our heads, Jonah.”

Jonah stood there with his elbows resting on the back of the chair, looking at his hands clasped in front of him.  “It’s interesting you should say that.  A few nights ago, when I was really wrestling with all this, I picked up my Bible and just opened to wherever, and the first passage I read was from Proverbs three.  The fifth verse says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding.”

“That’s it, Jonah.  You’ve been leaning heavily on your own reasoning about this thing and not on your heart at all from what I can see.  You’ve served God faithfully all of your life.  Surely you can trust that He has a strong enough hold on you by now to lead you where He wants you. And to keep you from taking wrong turns. If something – the same something – keeps showing up strongly and consistently in your heart, and it’s something that doesn’t go against God’s Word, then it’s most likely the Lord Who planted it in your heart in the first place.” . . .

. . .   Jonah took his seat in the chair again as Cameron continued: “What you have to offer may be the very things that Valentina needs most in a husband.  You need to at least give the Lord … and Valentina … the opportunity to put in their two cents worth, rather than just deciding everything in your own finite mind.”

Jonah grinned at his brother’s bluntness, but then he sighed and leaned his head back against the chair, closing his eyes.  After several minutes, he spoke softly.  “I composed a song to her, did I tell you?”

“No.  When was this?”

“A couple of weeks ago.  I was so close to drowning in all that I was feeling for her … and wanting from her…  that I just picked up the violin and began to play it out.  After I’d played it several times, I decided I needed to get it written down so I wouldn’t lose it.”  He laughed lightly.  “As if I could lose it. … It‘s as much a part of me as my breath.”

Cameron looked at his brother, whose eyes were still closed.  His heart swelled with pride in this older brother who was able to create such beauty with his gifts.  How like Jonah to release the love he felt in the creation of a beautiful piece of music that millions of people could one day share and enjoy.

“Have you played it for her?” he asked now.

Jonah opened his eyes and looked at Cameron.  “No, I haven’t.  … And I don’t think I ever intended to.”

“Then you’re an idiot.”

Jonah’s eyes widened.  His brother had never spoken to him that way before, and he wasn’t sure what to make of it.  “You sound pretty convinced.”

“I am.  …


EXCERPT: JONAH’S SONG, pp.275-279

On the night of October 20th, which was supposed to have been her wedding night,  Vallie couldn’t get to sleep, so she finally got up and went into her parents’ living room and sat down on the sofa, curling up into the corner, trying to think of some way to get her mind off Jonah and how she ached for him.  She huddled there, hurting, but trying not to cry anymore.  But all her efforts were in vain, because the tears slipped out anyway, and as the pain insisted on pulsing through her, the sobs started again.  She had tried to be as quiet as possible, but her father had heard her go downstairs, and then he heard her sobbing again, and decided it was time his little girl’s daddy did something to change things … somehow.

He slipped out of bed and put on his robe as quietly as possible so as not to wake his wife.  He knew she was hurting almost as much as Valentina herself — just because mothers who really loved their daughters did that — and he slipped downstairs.  He turned on one of the table lamps before he sat down beside Valentina and put his arm around her, calling her by his pet name for her.

“Hey, now, Valentine, it’s time you listened to your daddy and listened good,” he said, handing her a handful of tissues and giving her a little shake with the arm he had around her.

Vallie took the tissues and began to blow her nose and wipe her eyes, even though a river of tears still streamed down her face.  “I … I’m sorry I woke you, Daddy.  Did I wake Mom too?”

He shook his head.  “No, she’s still asleep.  And you don’t have anything to be sorry about, Valentine.  You’re hurting … hurting badly … and that’s what family’s for … to help ease the hurt.  Or if we can’t ease it … then we can at least be there to hurt with you until the Lord eases it.”

Vallie gave him a watery smile at those words and leaned her head on his shoulder for a minute.  “Oh, Daddy, I don’t think there is any way to ease this hurt.  It just goes so deep … and it seems so final.”

He pulled back a little so that she raised her head and looked at him.  “Now you listen to me, little girl, there’s nothing final about any of this,” he said sternly, pointing his finger at her.  “This whole thing isn’t over by any means, and I don’t want you giving up and believing it is.”

“What do you mean,” she asked, still wiping every other minute at her nose and eyes.

“I mean just what I say.  So your man went back to Chicago saying he wasn’t going to let you be tied to him when he’d just be a burden to you.  Does that mean everything’s over?”  He shook his head, and continued. “You’ve got to understand that a man just feels like he has to do that … he has to protect the woman he loves from suffering if at all possible, and that’s what Jonah thinks he’s doing.  Plus the fact that his stubborn male ego can’t stand to think that he might have to be really dependent on you for something he feels he has to do for himself. All of that’s just part of a man’s make-up, Valentine.

“But, little girl, that’s just the first phase of what Jonah’s going through. He’s going to come to a time when that ego isn’t going to be as strong … or as stubborn. It’s not going to be enough to pull him through the loneliness and the terrible need he’ll be feeling without you.  Now, if he’d never allowed himself to open up to the truth that he loves you and wants a future with you, he might have been able to go on for the rest of his life at least halfway satisfied with his life without you in it. But not anymore. Now that he’s admitted to himself that he loves you and needs you to make his life complete, there’s no going back.”

“Do you really believe that?”

“Oh, I don’t just believe it, Valentine. I know it. I’m a man myself, you know,” he said, grinning at her now.

Vallie grinned back.

“Now … here’s the thing, Valentine.  When your man finally comes to the place that pride and ego aren’t enough to keep him going forward in this decision he’s made, the only thing left will be his feeling that he still has to protect you.  And that’s where you have a chance to turn this thing around.  When that time comes, he’ll be vulnerable enough that you’ll have a chance to convince him that instead of protecting you, he’s only hurting you, and that you’d rather be with him in his handicap than to be without him the rest of your life … that is,” he said, pausing to look right into her eyes … “if that is the way you feel about it.”

“That’s exactly the way I feel about it. I couldn’t have put my feelings into better words myself.”

“Well, then, I’d say you’ve got your work cut out for you.”

“Exactly what are you trying to say, Daddy?”

“Well … I don’t think it’s for me to tell you exactly what you ought to do, but I’ll tell you this.  Yesterday, in my quiet time with the Lord, I opened my Bible up to the book of Ruth and began to read.  I hadn’t read that book in a long time, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it.  And as I read through those chapters, I couldn’t help thinking about you from time to time … I guess because it’s kind of a love story, you know, and Boaz is considerably older than Ruth, and so on.  But … anyway … I noticed one thing in particular that stood out to me more than it ever had before.” . . .


All excerpts from Jonah’s Song. Copyright © 2005 by Sandra Pavloff Conner

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My Dad’s Book ‘Following In The Father’s Steps’ now available on Amazon

DAD'S 87TH BIRTHDAY - NO TEXT -

My dad, Ted Pavloff, spent his whole life ministering the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a multitude of places, using numerous methods and media. He’s with the Lord now, having left us at the age of 88, but before he went to receive his rewards, he had served the Kingdom of God for more than 70 years.

When he was 12 years old, he was walking home from church one night, crossing a little bridge, when the Lord spoke to his heart so strongly that Dad stopped right in the middle of the bridge and surrendered his heart and his life to Jesus. There was never any looking back.

He preached his first sermon at the age of 15, and a year later, he was licensed to preach by the denomination he belonged to at the time. Right after Pearl Harbor was attacked, when Dad was only 17, he joined the U. S. Marine Corps, but even during his years of service on the battle front, he continued serving the Lord and helping others know about Him. As soon as he got is first paycheck from the Marines, he sent his tithe to the main headquarters of his home church’s denomination, asking that they make sure all of his monthly offerings got put to the right use on behalf of his home church. And he sent those offerings faithfully every month.

After the war, Dad sought an even deeper walk with the Lord and his ministry took on even more energy. In the decades that followed, he served the Lord as an international evangelist, a pastor here in the States, a Bible teacher, a Christian journalist and author, and a Christian radio and TV speaker.

He had a strong anointing for teaching God’s Word, and he wrote a lot of articles and a few books in which he shared a great deal of revelation from that Word. His books that were published before his death are currently in out-of-print status, but I now own the copyrights. So I decided it was time to re-furbish them and get a second edition of them into the public.

Our family has done all we could to keep my dad’s teaching available to help people, by continuing to publish his work in periodicals, on his original blog, and even through YouTube. One of the YouTube videos on my Radical About Jesus Ministries channel — in which my dad reads about 40 minutes of healing scriptures, along with a word or two of DAD'S AMAZON BOOK - LIGHT GRAY TEXT - front coverexhortation — has now been viewed over 90 thousand times. I’m sure he’s watching from Heaven and is thrilled to know so many people from all around the world are receiving help through his faithfulness.

This past week I finished getting one of his books, Following In The Father’s Steps, refurbished, reformatted, and published in its second edition. I’ve already received orders for copies of the book, and I’m currently working on one of his others as well. Although his first publications were with a traditional publisher, this time around, I’m focusing on the online markets and will eventually offer a great deal of his work in both paperback and digital.

I will most likely do a second post soon with a couple excerpts from the book, but if any of my readers are interested in knowing more about this particular book right now, or in ordering a copy for yourself of a loved one, you can find it on Amazon at this link.

 


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‘Stories That Leave You Thinking …’

GIRAFFE COVER W. SHADOW

Well, I’ved dithered, and dallied, and delayed for a year. I had all kinds of excuses and reasons — some good, some not so good. But all that’s behind me now, and I FINALLY have the enlarged second edition of my short short story anthology ready for public consumption. 🙂

Yep, it’s out there: STORIES THAT LEAVE YOU THINKING … (A Collection of Diverse and Slightly Unconventional Short Short Stories)

Some of you helped me choose which stories needed to be included. Many of you have read several of them over the past few years, and your response played a part in decideding which stories to include and which to leave for another project. The book contains 20 stories in all. Three of them are also featured in my Christmas anthology, but the other 17 have not been published previously in book form.

Even though the book is actually a totally new entity and will replace the old, smaller version completely, I still wanted to use the same cover. My great friend, professional photographer Bob Mielke, generously gave me permission to use his amazing work. This cover photo inspired one of the first stories to go into the book, and, as far as I was concerned, it just HAD to be the front cover. Thank again, Bob. You’re one of the “good guys.”

Here’s the blurb to tell you a little more about what you can expect if you pick up a copy of STORIES THAT LEAVE YOU THINKING … .  And I hope you do — one for you and one for a friend. It’s currently available in paperback only.

“Have you ever come to the words “The End” when reading and just couldn’t seem to turn off your own imagination? Did your mind keep working on the plot and planning out possible ways in which the story could continue? Did you enjoy the process? Then you’ve come to the right book. The stories included here, on a wide variety of subjects and themes, offer the reader the opportunity to keep thinking past “The End.” Each story comes to a stop, to be sure, but most of them will tempt the reader to let his own imagination get involved and do some thinking about what would happen next – if the story continued. A refreshing approach to short story telling.”

Purchase your own copy for $6.00  from Amazon.




 

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Weekend Coffee Share — 11/2/19

COFFEE, TABLE, RESTAURANT -- Zaccaria

To participate in this week’s “Coffee Share” click on this link and visit Eclectic Ali for the details.

If we were having coffee together this weekend, I’d probably tell you about my book signing gig today. It was the kind of book signing that every author hopes he never experiences even once in his whole career. Not only did no one ask me to sign a book, but no one even wanted to buy a book. In fact, only two people even went so far as to pick up any books to look at them closer.

Yep, as sad as I am about it – and as embarrassed as I am to admit it – that’s the truth. My last book signing was pretty successful. I had a good time with people taking real interest in the books and asking intelligent questions – and most importantly – buying books and asking me to inscribe and sign them.

So why was this event such a failure? Well, as all authors know, we have good times and not-so-good times when it comes to book sales, but there are some specific circumstances that can lead more to one result or another. I was talking with my sister after the sad experience today, and she reminded me that the event took place in a county of our state that is known for its illiteracy, poor educational system, poverty, heavy drug use, heavy crime, witchcraft, and financial and political corruption. What does that fact mean in terms of selling books? Well, to begin with, the majority of people in that county are not interested in reading books much, period. But even when they do want to read, they are not looking for books with Christian-based themes and the propagation of the Gospel. Those two facts gave me an automatic two strikes against me before I even set up my table.

“So,” you ask, “why did you even participate in that event?” Well, my answer is two-fold. One: I’m an author who believes I’ve written books that will help people and make their lives better in a few different ways, and I naturally want to sell those books. So any possible market is worth at least considering. Two: I believe everybody, no matter what their culture or past experiences, should be given opportunities to choose to step out of what is negative and into something positive. I just believe that, given the opportunity, many people who live in a negative culture want to change that experience and will take advantage of such possibilities as reading good books in order to do so. I’ve been proven right about that theory in the past, and even though no one stepped up to make any of those choices today, I still believe there are people out there who do and will in the future.

So am I sorry I took part in the event – that I paid money for my place in the vendor’s fair that hosted us – that I spent hours getting all my materials together, traveling to the event, setting up everything, and then taking it all down and hauling it back home? No, I’m not. It was an experience that will have its own rewards for me it its own ways. However, when the coordinator of the event asked if I would come back to do another similar event before Christmas, I said no. I have to be a good steward of my time, my energy, and my finances, and when the evidence is staring me in the face as it did today, I’m smart enough to recognize that one of the lessons learned today is that this particular venue is not good stewardship.

Now, on the other hand, while we were sharing over coffee, I would also tell you about how I received shipment today of my first big order of the HOLLY JOLLY HOLIDAY PLANNING JOURNALS. I love these journals, and I’m so glad I decided to create them this year.

HOLLY JOLLY RESIZED
Moreover, half of this first batch is already spoken for, and that’s a pretty happy situation for an author and book creator to be in. With only half of this batch left in stock, I have to order more for the next book event that I’m participating in – in a totally different county, by the way, with a much more educated and literature-conscious culture. It takes place in a couple weeks, and by then I will have licked all my emotional and financial wounds from today, and I’ll have a great time interacting with potential readers at that event.

So — you win some, you lose some. As authors, we know that’s how life goes. It’s like the old song says — with a little paraphrasing from me:
You’ve got to give a little, take a little …
You’ve got to laugh a little, cry a little …
You’ve got to win a little, lose a little …
That’s the story of – that’s the glory of – being an author.

 


Lyrics taken from “The Glory of Love,” written by Billy Hill


 

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BRAND NEW!!! Holiday Planning Journal

HOLLY JOLLY RESIZED

YAY! My HOLLY JOLLY HOLIDAY PLANNING JOURNAL IS READY FOR YOU!

Holiday planning and organizing has never been SO EASY.
This planner includes sections for Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, and the coming New Year.

Complete with Scriptures and Journaling Pages for recording Personal Thoughts and Prayers, this planner also includes plenty of room to plan out Decorations, Activities, Guest Lists, Travel Arrangements, Recipes, Gifts Lists, Online Orders, Storage Plans, and New Year’s Expectations.

Handy 6 x 9 size, soft cover: $6.00

Available from Amazon at this link.

OR

From me if you live in the Southern Illinois area.

It’s Coming! It’s Coming!

What’s coming?????

OWL JOURNAL COVER W. BRANCH - FRONT ONLY

My CHOCOLATE OWL JOURNAL.


I’ve just finished the prototype for my next journal, and I can’t wait to get it out there for writers who are always looking for more pages to fill.

This little gem is called the CHOCOLATE OWL JOURNAL and, instead of photos throughout like the coffee lovers journal, it will offer great little nuggets of chocolate wisdom from CHOCOLATE OWL himself.

Now, authors and book creators don’t generally dedicate something like a journal to people who are special to them, so this journal won’t include a dedication page either. But I just want to say that if I were dedicating it, I’d have to dedicate it to my friend Lee over at Lee’s Birdwatching Adventures Plus. She appreciates owls — and all kinds of God’s precious winged creatures  — more than anyone else I know.

Well, I just wanted to let you see the front cover and whet your appetite for this newest project. It should be available for purchase by the end of the week at the latest. Price should be around $6.00. I’ll post again when it’s ready and give you all the final details.

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Inspirational Romance Goes To School

When there’s no textbook on love, romance can be a little tricky. But God, who’s the original Author of romance, has all the answers in His own book. And Professor Ephraim Kent is about to get an education with a higher degree than he’s ever earned before.
Purchase your own copy in paperback or digital:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1980587361

 

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COFFEE LOVERS JOURNAL

My newest project: DAILY GRIND COFFEE LOVERS JOURNAL

COFFEE JOURNAL COVER FRONT ONLY
It’s finally online and for sale — from Amazon. (Copies will also be available from me personally if you’re in the Southern Illinois area). I love this journal. I enjoyed creating it, and I’ll enjoy using it personally. I’m including a few pictures of the outside and inside — since the sample Amazon gives is too short to see what the journaling section actually looks like.

COFFEE JOURNAL COVER BACK ONLYJOURNAL SAMPLE 1JOURNAL SAMPLE 2

There are 31 delicious coffee pictures — each with its own appropriate caption and 3 lightly lined journaling pages. There are 93 lined journaling pages total. I hope coffee lovers all over the world will get one and enjoy it or give it as a gift to someone they love — who loves coffee.

The journal is $18.00 on Amazon. I’m selling them personally at a discount, but, of course, you’d have to live close enough for me to deliver one to you.

Anyway, check it out more thoroughly or purchase one HERE.

 

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Why I Wrote ‘The Smoky Mountain Novel Series’

 


My love affair with the Smoky Mountains began when I was still a very young child. Except for a two-year stint in Fort Wayne, IN, my years between infancy and first grade were spent in Southern Illinois. And all of our family travels took us into the northeastern sections of the country. But when I was six, my family traveled south for the first time. On our way to South Carolina, we passed through Tennessee, and I came face to face with the homeland of my Cherokee ancestors: the Appalachian Mountains – and specifically the area known by that time as The Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

I remember two specific things about those mountains. In one sense they were a little frightening to a six-year old. Highways were not what they are now, and the less developed highways ran in among those mountains with a little more drama than they do today. The inclines were exceptionally steep in places, with warning signs everywhere about making sure autos were in lowest gear and with stories rampant about “runaway” semis going down those inclines. I remember coming around curves more than once where the road looked as though it would literally lead straight into the mountain. It was a little overwhelming in one way, but it was also tremendously exciting as well. The second thing that struck me was that within these mountains and their foothill regions dwelt people of a different culture and attitude toward life. It wasn’t just the Cherokee people who exhibited that difference. It was virtually all the people who called that place home.

That particular trip touched, not just me, but also my parents. They fell in love with Tennessee and decided that they wanted to live there. When an opportunity came to do so – through a job opening in Nashville, TN – my parents jumped at it. Nashville wasn’t in the mountains, of course, but it was a lot closer. I can honestly say that I have never lived any place that was so special to me as Nashville, Tennessee. I fell in love again – with the city of Nashville and the whole state of Tennessee.

In the years following, my family and I made many trips into the Smoky Mountains. We saw the Park and the surrounding towns change considerably during that time, but the area never lost its unique culture. And having a strong Cherokee heritage in my own life, the older I got the more I wanted to know and be known by the people who had given me my great grandmother. My immediate family and I eventually moved back to Illinois, but we have never stopped visiting the Smoky Mountains.

I’ve wondered sometimes if there’s something in my own blood that calls me home to the Smokies. I don’t recall ever visiting any other place –  or even living in any other place – that kept pulling me to come back to it the way the Smokies do — or where I felt so much as if I were “home” each time I visited. Over more recent decades, I’ve tried to maneuver some things in my live and work out a way to have my work and my everyday life in the midst of that area of the country. But the Lord has kept opening doors to the ministry He wants me to do in other areas instead. So those other areas remain my world of everyday life. And, alas, I am still relegated to making visits to my mountains.

But those visits, over the years, have gleaned me an entire family of wonderful characters who do get to live and love and work and play right in the midst of the Smokies. So I’ll have to settle for that. When writing the books in The Smoky Mountain Series, I’ve lived there with them and enjoyed being “home” for all those months. There’s one more book to come, so I’ll continue that enjoyment as I write Book 5: This Fire In My Heart.  I’m grateful that, through these books, I can truly live in two worlds at the same time.

My heart’s telling me that it’s time I worked things out in my schedule to make another trip to that place that’s the next best thing to Heaven. In fact, on my most recent trip to the Smokies, I picked up a little magnet for my refrigerator door that says, “Heaven’s a little closer in the mountains.”  Ahhh, YES, INDEED, IT IS!


If you’d like to read the series, you’ll find the first 4 books in paperback and digital HERE.

 

 


 

Thawing The Ice

The following story is an excerpt from my Christmas anthology: STOCKING FULL OF STORIES.  If you’re interested in more stories, you can find the book on Amazon in paperback or digital.


 

ABSTRACT WHITE CHRISTMAS POND-B & WTHAWING THE ICE

Misty laced up her skates and glided smoothly across the ice. It had been more than a year since she’d come to her favorite pond. The trees were stark silhouettes against the deep snow, barren and seemingly useless in this white wilderness. She felt that way herself. The gray world around her matched her gray and barren heart. Words came back to her now from the whispering past.

“You can’t just give up, Misty. Marcus wouldn’t want you to quit skating. He wouldn’t want you to give up the life you’ve always loved.”

She continued to circle the pond, listening to conversations in her head – all from last year. After the accident. “I can’t skate alone. I’m no good by myself. It’s always been Marcus and me together – from the time we were seventeen.”

“But you’re so gifted, dear,” Mother had insisted. “You were skating beautifully long before you even met Marcus. Why, from the time you put on your first pair of skates – remember? – the pink pair you got for Christmas when you were six? – from that very first day, you’ve been a star in the making. All your fans want to see you back out there on the ice.”

Misty had merely hung her head and wept. She new her mother meant well, but she’d never be able to understand. And Misty was glad her mother had never known that kind of loss.

But her family didn’t understand about the fans either. Yes, her own family were her personal fans, but the fans in all the ice rinks around the world hadn’t been hers. They were fans who loved Misty and Marcus – together – “the darling duo” as they’d been dubbed in more than one news story. The fans wanted to see both of them on the ice, not just one lonely girl –  lost now in a world that had been her own kingdom little more than a year ago.

The cold wind bit at her, but she welcomed the pain. It matched the pain in her heart. And she welcomed the gray world she skated in now. It matched the world she lived the rest of her life in with Marcus dead.

So she skated – round and round the pond – one hour – then another. And with each trip around that pond of her childhood came the memories – like warm flashes of sunlight:  the first time she’d skated in her pink skates; the first day she’d invited Marcus to skate with her there; the first competition they’d entered – and won; the grueling hours of practice that both of them had loved.

Gradually, as the happy memories flooded back and thawed the ice that had held her soul in its lonely, gray world for the past year, Misty began to feel alive again. A smile spread across her face and she flung out her arms as if to embrace this precious pond with its stark trees and white emptiness. She found herself skating into routines she’d used before she and Marcus had become a team. And gradually, she found herself adding moves to those routines. They weren’t done consciously. They just flowed from her as naturally as water flows down a hill when a barrier has been removed.

Her heart began to sing. Her body followed suit. And although the pond and all it’s surroundings were still as gray and barren as they’d been when she’d arrived, Misty discovered that she was now skating in sunshine – in the warmth of her love for Marcus and in the fire of the passion she felt for skating. Perhaps her family and friends had been right after all. Perhaps she did still have a life to live and a gift to give to the world from her kingdom on the ice.

 

 

~~~

A Little Bit More of My Shameless Marketing

PROFESSOR'S EDUCATION FOR AMAZON FRONT ONLY - 2Just wanted to let readers know that the inspirational novel The Professor’s Education is now selling on Amazon in paperback and digital. Many of you read the novel free right here on this site a few months ago. And many of you expressed your enjoyment of it as well. Thank you again.

Now, here’s my pitch. If you did read it for free here and enjoyed it, how about purchasing a copy for a friend or loved one who enjoys inspirational romance?

Paperback: $7.99
Digital: $2.99

And, by the way, did you know that a lot of men enjoy inspirational romance novels? It isn’t just us gals. I’ve had a number of gentlemen tell me how much they appreciate reading a good Christian love story.  Sooooo, girls, why not buy one for your boyfriend or hubby?

And thanks in advance.

 

 


 

EXCERPT: Chapter Three of ‘Set Free To Love’

This post is a continuation of “Still In Love with Maddison Holt after All These Years.” I included Chapter One of the novel in that post and promised two more. Here’s the final installment:

SET FREE AMAZON FRONT COVERCHAPTER THREE

Exhausted beyond words, Maddison pulled up to the farmhouse, dragged his suitcase out of the trunk and himself up the steps. Since the lights were out except for the one over the stove in the kitchen, he knew he’d need to use his own key.

As he stepped into the kitchen, warm, familiar, homey smells surrounded him and soothed him. In the dim light, his eyes automatically sought and rested on the oversized wooden table that stood right in the middle of the big room, and on all of the white metal and enameled cabinets and appliances that flanked the two walls opposite the door. The stove and sink were modern enough to be convenient, but the cabinets had seen at least two generations of living in this house.

The sight of them, along with the hardwood floor, polished to a shine and scattered with colorful rugs, the dried flowers hanging beside the old wooden coat rack to his right, Uncle Matt’s worn Bible open on one end of the table where he’d had his bedtime snack … they all welcomed him and comforted him.

He crossed over to the table, seeing that there was a note propped against the napkin holder. He picked it up and switched on the ceiling light to see it better. It read:

“Dear Maddison,

Since you said you didn’t have any idea what time you’d be here, I didn’t wait up. I figured if you forgot your key,    you could pound on the door loud enough to wake me. Just come on in and get comfortable. Your room’s ready, and there’s loads of stuff to eat in the kitchen. Just sleep until you wake up in the morning. We’ll have plenty of time to talk after that. I love you, Maddison, and I’m sure glad you’re going to be here with me for a while.

Uncle Matt.”

Maddison grinned and spoke out loud: “Sleep until I wake up. If I do that, Uncle Matt, it may be two whole days before you see me.” He tucked the note into his shirt pocket, picked up his suitcase, turned out the lights, and headed upstairs to the room that was always reserved for him. Just before sleep claimed him, his mind recalled Beth’s engaging face, surrounded by tousled honey-colored curls, her deep golden eyes full of compassion as he’d told her about his brother. And with that unbidden image came an unexpected, quiet comfort that wrapped around his heart and led him to the first peaceful rest he’d had in weeks.

Not too many miles away, Beth was saying “Goodnight” to her mom and brother. They had talked over the plan Maddison had laid out. Adele, naturally wanted Lex to help her understand what had brought him to this place, but all he did was take her hand in his and say, “I’m just too tired to talk any more tonight, Mom.” She knew better than to press right now, so she just hugged him and told him to sleep well.

Just before he left the room, though, another thought struck her, and she asked, “But, Lex, what about the gun?”

“Mr. Holt took it. He said he had a way of getting it turned over to the police without getting me into more trouble.” He grinned and shook his head. “I just bet he can do it too.”

Adele had finally agreed to turn in after Beth promised to do so herself once she’d had a cup of tea. So Beth finally found herself alone in the quiet living room, snuggled into a corner of the sofa, sipping tea, and trying to gather and settle her erratic thoughts.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t tonight’s events that her mind kept returning to. It was last year … her engagement to Derek … and all that had happened since her mother had become ill. She had thought she knew Derek well enough to want to spend the rest of her life with him. They had dated regularly for about a year before becoming engaged.

True, he was selfish at times, but then most all of the men she knew were that way. Her father hadn’t been, but then that was another generation. The world was different now, so people were different. Besides, she couldn’t keep waiting all her life for some “Prince Charming” like she’d read about in all those romance novels she used to turn to during school years as a respite from studying.

Still, the force of Derek’s objections had come as a complete surprise. Their discussions replayed in her mind now, as they had several times this past ten months. “Don’t be ridiculous!” Derek had said. “You can’t honestly be considering messing up our plans and turning yourself into a nursemaid for months! I’m due for this promotion in two months, and we need to get the wedding out of the way, so you can make the move to Maryland with me.”

“But, Derek, to consign my mother to a nursing home, with a visit from me only once a month isn’t right. And you’re wrong about Lex. He won’t do just as well staying with our eighty-year-old aunt until he finishes school.”

“I thought you loved me,” he’d said, a wounded expression on his face.

“It isn’t a question of whether I love you. I love my mother too. She never failed to be there for me, to nurse me and love me through everything .… In fact, she was always there for all of us, never holding herself back. How could it be fair, the way she’s suffering already, for me to relegate her to some strange place, surrounded by strange people, when I’m strong and healthy enough to take care of her?”

“But that’s what those places are for.”

“Derek, I’ve always tried to live by what I see in God’s Word. You know that. I just don’t see anything in His Word that says it’s all right to shove our sick parents off into the hands of strangers when we have the ways and means to care for them.”

“You can’t expect every little decision you make to be covered in the Bible!” Derek had said.

“Actually, Derek, I think you can, at least to some extent. But that doesn’t matter. God’s Word does say to honor our parents. I know that obeying them comes to an end when we become adults, but honoring them is supposed to last their whole life, isn’t it? And I just can’t see that what you’re suggesting is a way of honoring my mother. I just can’t do it.”

It had been the same argument a number of times, and they had finally agreed to get some counseling from their pastor. He had tried to help Derek see that a few months, or even a year, of sacrifice for a loved one shouldn’t be considered as something destructive to the love between Derek and Beth. “If what you two have for each other is going to last a lifetime,” he’d said, “it’s going to have to withstand much greater stresses than this one over the intervening years.”

But Derek had remained adamant, and had even said some things to Beth that had been unnecessarily hurtful, so they had parted. He had maintained that she didn’t love him enough if she could make the choices she’d made, and after a while, Beth realized that probably she hadn’t, at least not enough to be the wife he wanted. Perhaps, after all, God had stepped in and shown her the truth before she made a bigger mistake, and both of them had ended up a few years from now broken-hearted by a marriage that never should have taken place at all.

The heartbreak she’d expected to feel had never materialized. She felt sad that their relationship had ended with bad feelings on Derek’s part, and for a short time, she had mourned not having the marriage she’d dreamed about for months. But she knew now that marriage to Derek wouldn’t have fulfilled that dream anyway.

She’d talked it over with the Lord several times the last few months, and she prayed again now as she had prayed those other times. “Dear Lord, I’m believing You to help Derek find the kind of woman he needs for a wife … one who sees things the way he does and who can appreciate him and his beliefs. … And maybe … maybe not … but just maybe, there’s a man out there who sees things the way I do.” She sighed. “I’ll admit it seems like a long shot, Lord, but if anybody can come up with a man like that, You can.”

Suddenly, in the midst of her prayer, she saw again a pair of black-lashed, searching gray eyes. Once again there was a sense of recognition. … Then the vision was gone, drifting away like all of her other thoughts and words, on a wave of exhaustion that finally forced her to her bed. Trying to understand any of it any better would have to wait for another day.


Purchase SET FREE TO LOVE

Paperback:  $7.75

Digital: $1.99

On sale this week only .

~~~

EXCERPT: Chapter Two of ‘Set Free To Love’

This post is a continuation of “Still In Love with Maddison Holt after All These Years.” I included Chapter One of the novel in that post and promised two more. Here’s the next installment:

SET FREE AMAZON FRONT COVERCHAPTER TWO

Beth Hanover was an attractive young woman, although she didn’t feel particularly attractive or young as she stood gripping the telephone receiver, trying to pull her thoughts together and settle the thudding in her heart. In fact, she hadn’t had much opportunity in the last ten months to bother about how she looked or felt most of the time.

But that didn’t change the facts. Her clear, healthy complexion and the thick, honey blond hair that covered her head in soft, loose curls that barely touched the collar of her blouse gave their own evidence. Her eyes had been described more than once as looking like melted gold, and most of the time there was a twinkle in them, due to the fact that Beth kept her fellowship with the Lord as the most important part of her life. That fellowship made her able to deal with hard things that came her way without losing her joy.

Ten months ago, when her mother had had to have major surgery and long convalescent care, and was facing the possibility of an early death, Beth’s world had become a little shaky. Then when she had told her fiancé that she felt it necessary to postpone their wedding while she nursed her mother and helped her fight for her life, Derek had become so angry that he’d given her an ultimatum that had shaken her world even harder.

But the Lord had intervened for Beth’s mother, in answer to much prayer, and Adele had succeeded in holding on to life. Then they continued to rejoice as God’s healing power had caused health and strength to flow back into her body until she was now almost completely well.

But their great joy in Adele’s recovery was marred by another shadow that hovered over them. Something had been happening with Lex that caused both of them great concern. They had prayed much about it, and were determined not to worry. “We’re just going to believe God will keep Lex safe and show us what to do,” Adele had said.

Nevertheless, their faith had been strained by the fact that Lex seemed so sullen and wanted to keep to himself, refusing to talk to them about almost anything these days. Now, this phone call from Mr. Walker was starting to pull a detailed picture out of that vague, heavy shadow that had been hovering.

Adele, hearing Beth’s side of the conversation, had come to stand beside her daughter, fear in her eyes. Beth closed her own eyes and took a deep breath to try to settle the pounding in her chest before she spoke. “No, Mr. Walker, I don’t believe that’s the solution either. Mother and I have been praying because we knew something was wrong, but we didn’t know what. We just know that God’s the only answer. Thank you for calling me instead of the police. I’ll be with you as fast as I can get down there.”

Abel returned to the back room, and Maddison scooted his chair over to let him in. “Beth’s on her way,” Abel said.   “Thank God it’s the time of night when we have almost no business, but just to be safe, I turned off our big sign out front and put a closed sign on the door. I left it unlocked, though, for Beth.” Looking at Lex, he added, “I’ll get the first-aid kit and clean up your face, Son.”

“Ah, just leave me alone!”

Abel ignored the gruff answer and stepped into the bathroom, returning immediately with the kit.

“Here, let me,” said Maddison, taking the kit from the hands of the tired man. He put on a pair of the disposable gloves, then soaked a piece of gauze with hydrogen peroxide and turned toward Lex. He grabbed the boy’s jaw and pulled his head up so he could get a good view. “This is going to hurt a little, but I guess if you’re big and tough enough to rob a store single-handedly at gun point, you can take it.”

His point hit home, and Lex tried to jerk away from Maddison’s hands. Maddison jerked him back into position and looked him in the eyes. “Listen, kid, idiots that pull this kind of stunt are a dime a dozen where I come from, and believe me, I’ve had more than my fill of them. So if you don’t want to hurt a whole lot more than you do right now, you hold still!”

He finished cleansing the scratches, two of which were still bleeding, and then proceeded to apply antibiotic and some bandaging. Just as he was finishing, they heard the screech of tires, followed by a slamming car door. By the time Maddison had closed the first aid kit and disposed of the gloves, Beth was standing in the doorway, her golden eyes large and wet with tears that she was holding back by sheer will. She was a little pale, and her face looked strained, but she had herself under control.

Maddison, who had expected the kind of hysterical outbursts he’d experienced from so many mothers and sisters in similar situations over the years, didn’t quite know what to make of this woman. He stared at her, studying her, wondering what to expect.

For the first few seconds, her eyes were centered on her brother. Suddenly, she glanced up at Maddison. As their eyes met and held for a moment, there was a spark of something between them … a sense of having found something unexpectedly … that was gone so quickly he thought perhaps he’d imagined it. Then just as quickly, she had turned to the manager and, reaching out both hands, laid hold of his arm, saying, “Mr. Walker, I’m so very sorry. I know you could have been injured or killed tonight. I can never tell you how grateful I am to you for giving Lex another chance.”

Patting her hand, Abel Walker replied, “You’ve given so much of yourself to your mother during this long illness … and to Lex. I just couldn’t see it end with him going to jail.” He turned to Maddison. “This gentleman … I’m sorry, I never even asked your name.”

“Maddison Holt,” Maddison said, returning his attention to the store manager.

Abel smiled at him warmly. “Mr. Holt, this is Beth Hanover, Lex’s sister.” Maddison and Beth nodded to each other, and Abel continued. “Mr. Holt was able to tackle Lex as he ran across the parking lot and get him back into the store. I’ve returned the money to the drawer, so we don’t have to worry about that, but that’s all we know right now.”

At that point, Beth turned back to Lex. She walked over to his chair and lifted his head up gently as she spoke. “Lex, look at me, dear. … Look at me,” she repeated, when he kept his eyes downcast. He finally looked up at her, and as his eyes met his sister’s, Maddison saw something soften in the boy’s face.

Beth squatted down so that they were on a level and began to talk again. “Lex, Mother and I have known for some time that you were troubled about something, and we’ve been praying. I don’t have any idea what’s brought on tonight’s action, but I know who’s at the root of it, and so do you in your heart. It’s Satan. And I know one other thing,” Beth continued, speaking calmly and quietly, but with absolute authority. “I know that whatever this is about, we are going to solve it together, just like we always have … you, Mom, me, and Jesus. We’re going to work through it and overcome it. You will not destroy your life or break our mother’s heart, and we’re going to get you back to where you were before this started!”

Again Maddison was amazed at her reaction. There was no hysterical crying or harsh questions or accusations. There was just a quiet determination and authority that made it obvious to him that this girl knew what she was talking about. Even in the midst of this hellish situation, this girl knew that they were going to win over this thing. She even had him believing it!

He envied the fact that, in spite of this horrible situation, she still believed. This woman has the kind of faith my parents have always had, he thought … the kind I thought I had. But she hasn’t lost her grip on hers the way I have.

Mr. Walker moved the second chair close so that Beth could be seated, and as she sat, she turned back to Lex, saying, “Now start at the beginning and tell me exactly what’s been happening. Tell us where you got the gun and who it belongs to, and don’t even try to leave anything out.”

For the next hour Lex told them how he’d begun to feel pressured to join one of the local gangs, how the robbery was part of his initiation, and how the gun wasn’t even loaded. A number of times Maddison groaned out loud at the stupidity of it all, but for the most part, he held himself in check. By 2:00 in the morning, however, he faced the inevitable. He didn’t know if it was the Christian, the cop, or the big brother in him that won out, but he finally admitted that he had to take the controlling hand in this boy’s situation.

The conversation had come to an end, and he felt as if he were on a stage, with the audience waiting for him to say his lines. “Okay,” he said, levering himself away from the old desk he’d been leaning on, “this is the way it’s coming down.” He looked at Lex. “It’s obvious you’re going to need a workable plan to keep you away from this gang and any other peers who are a bad influence. So we’re going to make one. How many hours are you in school through the week?”

“I don’t have to answer any of your questions! This is between me and Beth and Mr. Walker!”

“Lex!” Beth said. “Mr. Holt is trying to help us here!”

“Well, it’s none of his business!”

“Now that’s where you’re wrong, Lex.” Maddison said, looking the boy sternly in the eyes. “It’s very much my business. Keeping criminals off the street is my main business, and right now you fit the definition of the word criminal.”

Three pairs of stunned eyes looked at him, and Lex, who was the most shaken, asked, “Are you a cop?”

“I was a cop for ten years. Right now I’m a private investigator, but both jobs are all about putting criminals behind bars and keeping descent people safe.” As he spoke, he drew his identification from his pants’ pocket and handed it to Beth. While she looked at it, he continued talking to Lex. “Have you forgotten that I’m an eyewitness to your crime? I know the police officers in this area pretty well, and I guarantee you that if I take the facts of this case to them, they’ll have you behind bars in ten minutes tops. And by the time I testify in court, you’ll get a sentence that will keep you there a long time.

“If you don’t want that to happen … you’ll agree to whatever plan your sister and I work out, and you’ll stick with it. Now, I’ll ask you again … how many hours are you in school through the week?

“I get out at 2:00 in the afternoon, because I got put on the work program schedule so I could work here at the store.”

Maddison turned to Abel. “Any chance he could get his job back?”

“I could still use him from 4:00 to 9:00 three afternoons a week.”

Maddison nodded and then looked at Beth. “I assume you go to church regularly?” he asked, accepting his I.D. back and restoring it to his pocket.

“Oh, yes,” she answered. “We’re very active in our church. I came here to care for my mother, who was seriously ill, but now that she’s so much better, we’re both very involved in church again. And I work for the pastor in the office several hours a week, because his secretary just had a baby and needs more time off.”

Maddison nodded his head, obviously considering a number of thoughts at the same time. He sighed now, both from his own exhaustion, and from a sense of hurt on Beth’s behalf. She had obviously been loaded down with some serious problems with her mother’s health, and now she was trying to shoulder this responsibility too. He guessed that her father was deceased but felt that he needed to be sure before he could decide exactly how to proceed.

“Is your father deceased, Miss Hanover?”

“Yes, he went on to be with the Lord about five years ago. There’s just our mother now … and Lex and myself.”

“I see.” He sighed again. “Well, then, that being the case, while I don’t want to offend you by taking complete control, I do have the most experience in dealing with these situations, and I’m going to suggest the plan I think is best. If you see any major flaws in it from your perspective, you can say so.”

Beth nodded her head. “That sounds reasonable to me.”

“All right, young man,” he said, turning back to Lex. “You’ll go to school for all your classes. As soon as school is out, you’ll go straight home or come here to this back room, and you’ll do all your homework. If by some chance, you have no homework, you’ll study something else: your Bible, some book about a hobby you enjoy, or an encyclopedia if necessary … but you’ll spend the time from 2:00 to 4:00 studying something constructive.

“Three days a week you’ll work here from 4:00 to 9:00, and the other three workdays, I think the best thing to do is arrange for you to work at my uncle’s farm where I’ll be staying for the next month. That way I can keep an eye on you and help you stay out of trouble.”

He looked back to Beth now. “My uncle is Matthew Vickers, and his farm is just about five miles from here.”

At the mention of his uncle’s name, Beth’s eyes lit up, and Maddison noticed that Lex looked up with interest.

“Why, we know your uncle!” Beth exclaimed, a smile spreading across her face for the first time. “We all go to the same church.”

Maddison breathed another sigh, this time from relief. Maybe helping this family wouldn’t be such an uphill struggle after all. “Well, that makes things a little easier, then, doesn’t it?”

He turned his attention to Lex again. “Okay … every Sunday, you’ll go to church with your family and take part in whatever they feel is right. The rest of the day you’ll spend in their company or at home. Any free time you have you can spend with any friends who are welcome in your home, but they’ll come to your home to see you. You won’t go out and meet them anywhere else. You’ll stay on this plan for one month, and then we’ll see how things look.”

“But that’s practically like being in prison!”

Maddison walked over to stand in front of Lex, so close that he was almost touching him. When he spoke, his voice was a little husky, and his words were wrapped in a weariness that went beyond the physical. “Son, you don’t have an inkling of what being in prison is really like.” He sighed deeply. “And I hope with all my heart you never have to find out.”

“Lex,” Beth said now, laying her hand on his arm, “it does sound like a workable plan, and it’s what you need.” She looked up at Maddison again. “Did you say you’ll only be here a month?”

Maddison nodded. “I don’t normally stay that long, but I will this trip, and I’ll stay on top of things.” He looked back at Lex. “Now that’s the deal. Take it or leave it. I’m going out front and see if I can find myself some stale coffee while you think it over.”

“Oh, let me make you some fresh, Mr. Holt,” Abel offered, following him to the doorway.

“Don’t bother,” Maddison waved him back. “As tired as I am, I wouldn’t notice the difference. As long as it’s hot and caffeinated, it’ll keep me awake until I get where I’m going.”

He stuck his head around the door again a few seconds later, with a grin on his face. “By the way, I just remembered that I never did get any gas. I’m going out to fill up now.”

“You do that, Mr. Holt, and don’t you pay a penny. We owe you,” Abel said with a warm smile.

When Maddison entered the store again after filling his gas tank, Beth was waiting for him just inside the door. “Mr. Holt,” she said and extended her right hand to him.

Maddison closed his hand gently around hers. It fit into his perfectly, and with the connection, he felt something like a strong, warm current flow into him. I seemed so right, somehow, to keep standing there holding her hand in his own. In fact, he was concentrating so intently on that feeling that he almost missed her words.

“The Lord brought you to this store at just the right moment. I have no doubt about that. My whole family will be eternally in your debt.”

Embarrassed, Maddison did let go of her hand and ran his through his hair in what Beth thought was a rather endearing gesture. “Miss Hanover, you don’t owe me anything … particularly not if you believe God brought me here. He’s the One to thank. I’m just doing what I would have appreciated if … if it had been … my brother,” he said, his voice becoming husky.

“Oh, do you have a younger brother too?”

Maddison was stunned by the intensity of the wave of sorrow that rolled through him … and by the sense of having been assaulted … blindsided by such an innocent question. His hands curled into fists at his sides, and he swallowed hard. Beth could see that the question had disturbed him and felt bad, but helpless to change the situation now.

Finally, the stunned look left his eyes, and he refocused on Beth. “I did have.” Maddison spoke quietly, his face rigid.     “He was killed a couple of months ago.”

“Oh, I’m so very sorry.” Beth reached out and laid her hand gently on his arm. “Was it an accident?”

“No! … It was no accident!”

Beth looked at him expectantly, hoping he would tell her what had happened. Finally, with a sigh born of weariness and resignation, Maddison answered the question in her eyes.

“My brother” … He had to stop and clear his throat. “My brother was working with me on a case. … We got too close to the truth, and one of the guys we were after shot and killed him.”

He looked away again and just stared at nothing, obviously lost in thought and fighting for control. “But then again … I guess you could say it was something of an accident too.”

“I don’t think I understand,” said Beth.

“The man who shot my brother was trying to kill me.” He heard Beth’s quick, indrawn breath, and looked straight into her eyes as he added, “And I don’t understand either.”

Lex and Mr. Walker joined them at that moment, and Maddison welcomed the distraction. “Well, Lex, what have you decided?” he asked the boy, recognizing the look on his face. He’d seen it dozens of times on the faces of boys who had recently stumbled into accepting crime as their way of life. It was a mixture of shame for what they’d done and a kind of bitterness at being forced to take the consequences. But Lex’s face had softened considerably now, remorse getting the controlling hand, and Maddison felt hope for him.

“I’ll follow your plan, Mr. Holt … and … thank you,” he said, extending his right hand tentatively toward Maddison.

Maddison gripped his hand firmly. “Good. I’ll leave one of my business cards with the phone number at the farm on the back,” he said, as he proceeded to take three cards from his case and write on them. “I’ll leave one with your sister and Mr. Walker also.” Looking at Beth, he said, “I’d appreciate it if you’d give me your address and phone number too if you don’t mind.”

“Not at all,” she said. “I’ll write it down for you.” She quickly did so and handed him the slip of paper.

“What day will Lex begin work with you?” he asked Abel.

“Tomorrow afternoon at 4:00.”

“Good. I’ll be by some time during that shift to check on things and make more definite plans for the work at the farm. I’d better take the gun with me and lock it up,” he added, reaching under the counter and retrieving the plastic bag Abel had used for it, to avoid any more fingerprints. “I’ll get it into the hands of the proper authorities tomorrow.” At Beth’s look of alarm, he added, “I think I can manage to keep it from causing any more trouble for Lex at this point.”

His face wore just the hint of a tired smile now. “Well, … good night folks.” He nodded to all three in general and headed for his car.


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