I actually had two reasons to smile this week. The first reason is that I got to visit with my great-niece to help celebrate her birthday. We couldn’t work things out on the actual day, but she and her two brothers are always very philosophical about those things. Her parents are both very busy people as well, and often the birthday celebrations have to be adjusted a day or two one way or the other.
I don’t have children of my own, but I have three great-nephews, ranging in age from 11-13, and one great-niece, who just turned 11. I love all of them dearly — and equally. They are all extremely intelligent and pro-active in their involvement with the world and other people, and I have some of the most interesting conversations with them. And I love buying gifts for all of them. But any of you ladies out there who have had the pleasure of having a daughter or niece will understand when I say that there is just something really special about buying pretty things for a girl. I guess maybe it’s partly that I get to live vicariously through her delight in the things she receives.
She is very style conscious and absolutely loves dressing up. One of her special delights is in using pretty hair ornaments of all kinds. So I bought her a dress and a special selection of fancy barrettes — all different colors. I also threw in a huge chocolate covered marshmallow heart. She was delighted, and we had a good time together. She immediately went to work changing her hairstyle so that she could start using the barrettes right then.
My second smile came just yesterday. I run a small business from my home, but no matter how small a business is, we still have to have a tax number, keep track of sales, pay sales tax, and send in yearly reports. I absolutely detest — let me say that again — DETEST — doing any kind of accounting work or filling out and turning in government forms. I always put it off until the very last minute, and then I have myself so stressed by all of it that I make it three times as hard as it really is. But, yesterday, I got all my accounting figured out and came out with the right numbers in all the right places. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, and I’ll be smiling about that for a long time — probably until next January — when I will stop smiling and start fretting over having to do it all again for 2023.
To participate in the Weekly Smile, just hop over to Trent’s Blog and learn how to join in the fun.
Today would be my mom and dad’s 75th wedding anniversary — if they were still on this earth. They were very much in love their whole lives, and my sister and I benefited from their love because it made them terrific parents. I’m dedicating this little cinquain to them.
Marriage: It takes a lot Of effort and good will, And love that puts another first. Quite rare.
But two People I know Invested selflessly In two becoming one with great Success.
Today two nephews and I buried my sister. She is my only sibling and the last of my close family that I had on this earth. The loss and the sadness are indeed great, but they are countered by our sure knowledge that she had received Jesus Christ as her Lord and is now rejoicing in His presence. She has entered into the next level of life that He bought and paid for by taking all of our sinfulness upon Himself and suffering through horrible torture and death to pay for it.
He did not remain dead. He rose from the grave with new life — life that He had earned the right to share with anyone and everyone who would accept His sacrifice and welcome Him into their hearts to reign over their lives. So my sister has just begun to experience the joys that surpass all of our knowledge here on earth, and she will be experiencing those joys and pleasures in an endless relationship with our loving Creator and Father.
Today’s experience has prompted me to speak out once again — to pose the question for anyone out there who has never answered it completely: Have you recognized Jesus Christ as the one who came from God to take your sin and set you free from the eternal punishment that it deserves? Have you accepted His sacrifice and His eternal life of joy in the presence of our Creator?
We usually shy away from contemplating the fact that we are going to die. But the simple truth is, dear reader, that you — and I — and every other human being on this planet — are going to die. The God who offers us an eternity of joy, victory, endless creativity, and love has told us clearly how to gain that kind of eternity. He has made it simple: Accept Jesus Christ and His sacrifice.
You may ask, “Will believing and following anyone else work just as well?” In answer to that question, let me ask you a couple: Has anyone else willingly taken on your sin and suffered torture and death to pay for it? No? Has anyone else risen from the dead with victory over sin and death and with eternal life to share with everyone who wants it? No? Then you have your answer: No. There is no one else — no one else — who paid the price for you and your sin. There’s only one way to the eternity you want.
Today is the day to make the decision. Do you want to come to the hour when your body is laid in the ground only to discover that your soul and your spirit have passed into an eternal realm without God, without joy, without hope, without a chance of anything except torment — all because you refused the free gift of eternal life offered to you by Jesus Christ? I don’t believe that anyone truly wants to make that choice. I think, most of the time, people just don’t want to get serious enough to give the question its due consideration.
So I’m posting this encouragement today. Make today the day when you give the subject its due consideration. Make today the day when you accept Jesus Christ and His open invitation to step right into His loving, victorious presence when the hour comes that you take your last breath here.
I miss my dad all the time, but in these very troubled times, I miss him more than I can say. I miss my mother as well, and the strong atmosphere of peace and well-being that permeated our home while she was in charge of it. My parents created a loving, stable, safe, and peaceful home for us throughout childhood and young adulthood. It was still a place of peace and wholeness for years after we were on our own and went back to visit.
I often find myself wishing for just one evening with them in that environment again. It’s true that I can find a place of peace and rest with the Lord, but it takes the operation of my own faith to get me there. Back then, it didn’t take faith on my part to feel safe and loved and cared for. My parents provided it, and all I had to do was enjoy it. I guess I’m still enough of a child to want it that way again sometimes — like now.
Sometimes when I’m feeling sad and this ol’ world starts to creepin’ in on me — heavy-like — I take myself away from other people and huddle down in my old creakin’ rockin’ chair in my bedroom. I sit by the window just rockin’ away and lookin out — not seein’ anything in front of my eyes, but seein’ all kinds of things in my memories.
And at times like these — when I’m hurtin’ powerful bad in my soul — I like to remember Izzy best of all. Her real name was Isadora Bradshaw, but none of us kids ever called her Isadora — not me or my sister or any of our friends who came to visit. In fact, nobody I knew back then called her Isadora. She was just Izzy to all of us who loved her.
She was the best of the best was Izzy. About 200 pounds of love and laughter. Her full, round, black face would get all shiny with sweat whenever she was scrubbin’ the floors or haulin’ big loads of clothes from the wringer washer and carryin’ them out to the clothesline — or when she was standin’ at the ironin’ board with her feet in the tub of ice water.
Yes sir, I have to chuckle every time I think about it now. The picture’s still just as clear in my mind as it was every ironin’ day in the summer. Izzy said ironin’ on a summer day was the hottest one job in the whole world. She said it always made her think about how hot hell must be gonna be, and it made her want to go read the Good Book before she went to bed. Izzy loved that Good Book. And she loved the Lord. Gosh-a-mighty, I can still sing every old hymn that sweet ol’ black lady taught me.
But back to the ironin’ days: Izzy said she sweated so much the sweat would drip on the clean shirts she was ironin, so she decided to start standin’ in a big tub of ice water, and that way it kept her cooled down. When I was a little squirt, I didn’t understand how dangerous that could be, but when I got a little older and had learned a few things about electricity, I told her, “Izzy, you’re gonna electrocute yourself standing in that tub of water while you’re plyin’ that electric iron.”
“Lordy, Honeybear,” she’d say — she always called me “Honeybear” — from the day I was born I guess — but she’d say, “Lordy, Honeybear, if I was a goin’ to lectrify myself doin’ this, it would have done happened years ago. Now, you stop you’re worrin’ bout your old Izzy. If the good Lord did see fit to take me home while I was a ironin’, I don’t suppose it would hurt a thing — ceptin’, of course, you and your pa’s shirts would still be all wrinkled.”
I finally got to the place that I just laughed with her about it. And later on — when she was too old to work as our maid any longer and pa had a little three room house built out in the back for her to live in for the rest of her life, she and I would sit and remember those days and laugh ’til there were tears in our eyes. That was several years after I had finished high school and moved about a hundred miles away to take a job. I’d never been one to hanker after college, and I landed a job doing work that suited me and just stayed with it. I always made time to come home a couple weekends a month to see the family. But I got to be honest. It was Izzy that I really came home to.
Why that dear old black woman was like a second mama to me. My real mama was a good woman, and I know she loved me, but she was awful busy durin’ my growin’ up years with all of her society doin’s, and it was Izzy who made my breakfast, who listened to me read the stories in my grade-school reader, who listened to my hopes and dreams and fears when I’d spill ’em out non-stop the way a growin’ boy does when he’s goin’ through those years of change and uncertainty about life.
And it was Izzy who prayed for me all the time. I heard her prayin’ many a night. After she finally got her work finished up, she’d sit out on the back porch and talk to the Lord, and I’d sit by my bedroom window listenin’ to those prayers. Back then, I didn’t know the Lord yet, and my heart yearned for the kind of easy, lovin’ relationship that Izzy had with the God of the universe. And, of course, it was Izzy who finally led me to give my life to the Lord.
That one act made all the difference in my life, of course, but one of the most important things it did was to make me even closer to Izzy. She said once I was a Christian, that made her and me real family. Of course, to me, Izzy was always my family, but I eventually came to understand what she meant.
I came to understand a lot more than that too. Eventually, I realized that Izzy was a woman caught in a transition time in our nation. She wasn’t a slave. Nobody was a slave anymore. But she had been brought up by a family who had known slavery. Her own great grandparents – in their teen years – had been among the slaves freed after the Civil War. And livin’ in the deep south as they did, they just couldn’t seem to get more than one step away from it in their thinkin’ – mostly because the rest of the south couldn’t get more than one step away from it either. Their world revolved around an unspoken cast system, and Izzy and her family were still on the bottom.
She should have had opportunities for education and a career. She shouldn’t have been relegated to doing all the cooking, cleaning, and every other kind of drudgery work for someone else in someone else’s home. She should have had a home of her own with a good man and a passel of kids and a place in society where she could be involved with the rest of the world — just the way mama was able to do. But Izzy wasn’t a revolutionary. She wasn’t out to change the world. She took what came to her and thanked the Lord for a family to work for that she could also love.
By the time I understood all of these truths, Izzy was 78 years old and finally livin’ peacefully in her little 3-room house behind our big house. Most people called our house a mansion, but to me, it had always just been our house. And with Izzy there, it was all I needed for those growin’ up years.
I finally married, but we didn’t have any kids, and eventually my wife and I went our separate ways. I never took the chance again. Sometimes I wish I had, but wishin’ about it now is wasted energy. After the divorce, I used to sit and talk with Izzy about what I thought had gone wrong. She listened, but she never passed judgment on me — or on my wife. She just loved me, and that was enough.
Well, Izzy’s gone now — to live with her dear Lord. And me — I’m old and tired — and lonely. My family’s gone, and I miss ’em: my sister Ella and Mama and Papa. I miss the visits to the old home place. I live here in this place they call a “senior facility,” but it ain’t what I call really livin’. The truth is I’m just bidin’ my time until I go on home to be with the Lord too. Some days I have pain in my body, but most every day I have pain in my soul. Somethin’ in me still yearns to do things and go places and try out a few more dreams. But the will isn’t enough when the strength isn’t there.
So while I’m waitin’, I sit here in my quiet room, rockin’ and lookin’ out my window and rememberin’. And it ain’t so bad really — as long as I sit here and remember Izzy standin’ there at the old ironin’ board, her feet in that pan of ice water, and us laughin’ together to beat the band . . . and singin’ the old hymns, and . . . .
Christmas is a time for families. And what better gift to give than the story of one unusual, but heart-warming family that fills the pages of A Quiver Full of Arrows — by me, of course.
Take newspaper publisher Lawson Wainright, who has a gut feeling that two sleeping bags and a can full of peanuts under his front porch just might be connected with four run-away children who have been in the news. If he’s correct, his life as a quiet, orderly, 40-year-old bachelor just might be on the verge of being turned upside down.
Now add those four children, and a handful of other characters who will make the reader’s heart melt. Throw in a miracle or two from the hand of a loving God. And there you have a story that’s just made for Christmas giving.
DON’T READ THIS BOOK if you don’t want your heartbeat to pick up speed at the sight of someone walking through a door – or if you don’t want to find yourself holding your breath waiting for a kiss – or if you don’t want to find tears rolling down your cheeks when disappointment is unbearable – or if you don’t want to find yourself grinning widely and looking a little foolish if you happen to be reading in public – or if you don’t want to finish the last chapter with a deep sigh of satisfaction and longing all rolled into one. If those experiences are not what you’re looking for, then do not read this book.
Most of my novels include a romance, but often it is only a part of the story, and not always the main focus. But I have to tell you up front that Jonah’s Song is totally and completely an honest-to-goodness, no-questions-asked, out-and-out old-fashioned love story – from beginning to end. Now don’t misunderstand: no parts of it are rated “R”; it’s a perfectly clean read. But it is a story that digs deeply into the hearts of a man and a woman – and into the heart of what God intended true romance to be.
All right then, who should read this fourth book in The Smoky Mountain Series? Well, if you’re not one of those people who fits the description in the first paragraph of this article, here’s the book for you. IF you “love” a good love story, then make a bee-line to Amazon’s Kindle Store and order Jonah’s Song while it’s on sale. In digital format, it will be selling for the special price of $1.99 from now through Christmas and then revert to the same price as the other books in the series..
Want to know a little more about the story? Here’s a peek at the blurb from the back cover:
Professor Jonah McDaniels, handsome violinist/conductor, is used to girls in his college classes having a crush on him. But he has never felt anything in return until he meets Valentina Rosswell. Even then, he pushes his feelings aside, knowing there are too many barriers to a personal relationship between them. But when he meets her again seven years later and realizes that what he felt for a college girl has matured – just as the girl has matured into a beautiful, desirable woman – he still does his best to resist falling in love.
Valentina has always believed Jonah was out of her league, and even when they renew their acquaintance as adults on equal footing, she does her best to refrain from loving this man who has filled her dreams for years.
But true love doesn’t follow the rules, nor does it dissolve just because two people put up a fight against it. And when the Lord sets His heart on a romance, He can employ some pretty interesting ways and means to bring it to pass. However, when dealing with Jonah and Valentina, even the Lord seems to have His work cut out for Him.
Jonah’s Song: A love story you won’t easily forget.
So buy one for yourself – and another one for someone you love – this Christmas
(Also, if you do read it and you do finish the last chapter with a sigh of satisfaction and longing, please stop and say a few words about the book in the “Customer Review” section of its Amazon page. Thanks.)
Sometimes people ask me which of the nine novels I’ve written so far is my favorite. And I have to answer that I feel like a parent with nine children, in that I can honestly say all of them are my favorites. They were born out of me. They are literally part of me. Every single one of them carries something of me out into the world and into the heart of every person who picks it up and reads it. And not one of them can supersede the others in my own heart.
Each one, of course has it’s own special strengths — as far as I’m concerned. (Of course, there are probably a few people out there who don’t think any of them have “strengths,” because, let’s face it: no one ever writes a book that everybody will like. It’s just a fact of life. But not to worry: we don’t write for those people. A true writer writes for himself first — and secondly for all those people who will find great pleasure in reading his work.)
So back to my point: each book has its own set of strengths. When I look at the list of titles, I’m reminded of certain people who received help or encouragement or a good laugh when they read certain stories from that list. And I see each novel as offering its own specific gift to the readers.
However, sometimes we find ourselves writing a story that carries so much more potential for touching and changing lives than the average book does. Somehow, we just know that one particular story has an extra special gift to give the readers, and when we’ve finally written the words “The End,” we sit back and say, “Wow, this is an important book.”
That sense of importance — of special significance — came to me when I finished Repaired By Love, the third book in The Smoky Mountain Series. I truly believe this book is the most important book I’ve ever written. The reason is simple: This story has so much to say about the way of salvation and a joyous relationship with the Lord that it could easily be the only tool necessary to lead someone to make a decision to turn his heart over to Jesus Christ. I make that statement, not because I’m the author, but because I sincerely believe that the Lord Himself orchestrated that book to accomplish just that purpose.
Of course, I pray and believe the Lord to lead me in writing what He wants written in every inspirational novel I create. And the main focus in all of those novels is to help people come to know the Lord better and see that He wants to be involved in our everyday lives — helping, guiding, healing, and protecting us. I hope I’ve been faithful to Him in every book I’ve turned out. But in this one particular book, I sense a special anointing from Him to touch hearts that have never yet opened up to Him at all. I am still in awe of how the Lord led certain people into my life and then used them to plant the seeds of so many of the characters in this book — and how He carried me along with the plot that I didn’t even have a plan for in the beginning.
When I wrote Repaired By Love, back in 2004, I said to a number of people: “If I could have written only one book in my whole life, this is the book I would want to have written.” Eleven years later — and having written five other novels since then — I still feel the same.
I hope my readers will be blessed by it as much as I have been.
Readers can find the digital Repaired By Love at the Kindle Store at a special price for the next two weeks. From today through October 16th, the novel will be on sale for only $1.99. After that date it goes back to the same price as all the other books in the series ( 3.99).
(And don’t forget, if you don’t have an e-reader, Amazon has a free app you can download in just a few minutes that will let you read all e-books right on your own computer. Just follow the link to the book page, and you’ll see the notification about the free Kindle App.)
This morning I poured myself a cup of tea — well, actually, it was a mug rather than a cup — and that’s what made the difference. This mug was very deep, and when I picked it up to take a drink, the aroma of the freshly brewed tea wafted up and into my nostrils, but then swept over me completely with memories almost as fresh as the tea itself.
Back when I was a child, then a teenager, than a very young adult, my family always worked together in the kitchen. Cooking, eating, and even cleaning up were activities that bonded us together, and gave us lovely opportunities to share events in our lives as well as our hopes and dreams — and our fears. My sister and I were able to talk with our parents about any topic under the sun, and there was never a problem we didn’t find help for in their love and wisdom. We were truly blessed.
But during those years, there were some events that seemed to lodge themselves into my soul more than others, and each one of them represents something special about my relationship with my family. One of those unique events was the preparing of the tea for our evening meals. During warm weather especially — and sometimes at other times of the year — we always had iced tea as our main drink at our evening meal. Mom would boil the water on the stove and then brew the tea (according to the Americanized custom, using tea bags) to just the right consistency so that when we poured it into the pitcher, we then added an equal amount of fresh water, and the strength and the color of the tea were perfect for pouring over ice.
However, before we poured in the extra water, we scooped in the sugar. Now, I have to tell you that I’m old enough that this project was carried on back in the day before everyone and his brother had gone crazy trying to stay away from ordinary staples like butter, eggs, and good old granulated sugar. So we always scooped in a hefty amount of that good old granulated sugar and stirred happily. By adding it before the extra water, the sugar melted very quickly and united thoroughly with the tea so that there was no residue left in the bottom of the pitcher.
During this whole exercise, the most prominent characteristic of the process was the rich aroma of that tea — as we stirred in the sugar, then added more water, and stirred some more. There was something so sweet and satisfying about that fragrance, and it has stayed with me all these many decades since. And every once in a while — just every once in a while — when I’m having just a cup of tea — the various elements of the moment — the temperature of the tea, the movement of the air, the strength of the brew, the position of the cup — whatever it is that makes the difference at the time — but just once in while, I get that aroma rising up and meeting me once again, and I am instantly taken back home.
My family lived in four different towns during my growing up years, and in about six different houses, but home was still always the same place: it was wherever my mom, dad, sister, and I were together. The name of the town or the street made no difference. It was the fact that we were together, sharing all the wonderful aspects of our lives — brewing the tea and enjoying its rich aroma — knowing that even when there were some problems facing us, we had each other and the safety of our love for one another.
So every time I smell that special sweet aroma of my tea (even though I do have it without sugar today), I am swept back to those days. I find myself in the kitchen with my mom, standing beside the cabinet, stirring the tea, and enjoying the happy aroma of a home filled with love.
This week’s Friday Fictioneers photo just pulled the following story right out of me. Had no idea it was in there, but that’s half the fun of writing, isn’t it? Photo is courtesy of Madison Woods. My story is below the picture.
“Margo, you’ve been staring at that spigot for twenty minutes.”
“What?” Margo suddenly looked at Jane.
“Why are you just staring at that spigot?”
“I was … uh … I was remembering ….”
“You know … the prison camp.”
“We were each allowed only one small cup a day.”
“You were never in a prison camp!”
“I’ve known you all your seventeen years. You’ve never been in prison.”
“The Nazis ….”
“That was your great-great-great grandmother. You never even met her.”
Margo turned questioning eyes back to the spigot. “But I remember … being so desperately thirsty … and how slowly the water ran out ….”
Are you ready to grin, giggle, or just feel good? That’s what this little challenge is all about. We share posts that are happy, light-hearted, funny, or downright hilarious. Make it prose, poetry, picture, graphic art, a joke, a song, a video ……. Whatever your heart desires. Post on your own blog and hop over here and paste your link into the “Comments” box so we can visit your site and grin, giggle, and feel good with you. Just please remember the site is for general audiences.
Here’s my contribution this week. I sneaked into Life Is Worth Living by Vera Faye Wallace (my mom) and snatched this little ditty.
I’m later than I hoped getting this up, but last night was so busy, I just had to wait until morning. As a teacher, this video hits home, and the strategy of this grandmother is ingeniously funny.
Remember, the rules for participating are simple:
Just post something funny, light-hearted, or hilarious on your own blog.
Then hop over here to my post for that week and paste the link to yours in a “Comment” Box.
And please remember my blog is for general audiences.