“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Mark Twain

Pressing On - my FIRST Word-Filled Wednesday

Several of my friends have been participating in Word Filled Wednesdays for a while, and I've decided to jump in myself. What a wonderful way to express God's Word in a unique way! So...here I go.

Just a couple days ago I chose this verse as my theme verse for 2009. Persevering is such a struggle, especially when things are going slowly. But the summit is in sight!

Be sure to stop by the 160 Acre Wood
for more Word Filled Wednesday

Slowly but surely

Be of good cheer. Do not think of to-day's failures, but of success that may come to-morrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will have a joy in overcoming obstacles—a delight in climbing rugged paths which you would perhaps never know if you did not sometimes slip backward, if the road were always smooth and pleasant. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.
—Helen Keller.
Pressing on.


Crawling forward.

That has been my "mode," for the most part, over the past several months.

I've been the fabled tortoise, plodding along on my various projects, making bits of progress as I go, sometimes feeling like I will never get there.

Yet, as Aesop (and the hare!) wisely discovered, slow and steady wins the race. It may take a while, but it will happen.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Philippians 3:12
I am in the midst of several projects right now, and some of them feel like they will never come to an end. Yet, if I persevere, they will, slowly, but surely.
  1. I am writing a book
  2. I am organizing my home
  3. I am training my children to follow Jesus
  4. I am becoming a more submissive wife
  5. I am growing in Christ
  6. I am developing my writing gift
  7. I am building up my editing business
  8. I am developing and growing my ministry of encouragement
  9. I am doing other things I'm not remembering at the moment
With only two days left of 2008, I can honestly say I have not achieved any of these goals. But do you know what? I'm further along today than I was at this time last year. I am pressing forward. I am getting closer each day (though occasionally--maybe more than occasionally--I "skip a day," or even slip back a bit). But the point is, I am moving forward.

As I look over the past year, I realize that it's okay to not achieve my goals (though I actually did achieve some goals - just not these!) as long as I'm moving in the right direction. And I am.

So, I am claiming the Helen Keller quote above as my "theme quote" for 2009, and Philippians 3:12 as my "theme verse." I hope some of you will join me--either in encouraging me, or grabbing one of these as your own direction for the new year.

And my goals? I only have one "completion" goal. Because of a "deadline" of sorts, my goal is to finish my book, and get it polished enough to redeem my half-priced editing from Finesse Editing and Writing Services, run by the wonderful Deb Porter.

As far as the other items listed, I want to press forward on each, and be able to say, with confidence, that I am further along in December 2009 than I am today.
Because slow and steady wins the race.

Fiction Friday Rerun: "An Old Game"

Welcome to Fiction Friday, hosted at Patterings this week! Since it's day after Christmas, we're posting Fiction Friday reruns. This was my second FF posting, and its an old challenge entry. (and if you're curious - I changed the title since the last time I posted it LOL) If you wanna read the history, click on the original post. Thought this one was appropriate for this week, since it's the holiday season this week, and NOT just for Christians! Enjoy! And be sure to stop by Patterings for more great fiction!

An Old Game

A sharp wind entered the small house. Closing the door behind him, Chaim brushed the snow off his pants, pulled his prayer book from his woolen coat's inside pocket, and hung the wrap on a wooden peg by the door. Looking into the front room he found that a handful of his friends were already seated cross-legged on the floor, chatting quietly, their prayer books open.

"Shalom, Chaim," a young boy, with mousy brown hair and a mischievous grin, said in muffled tones. "Sit by me today, OK?"

Chaim smiled and took his place beside his friend.

"Get your lesson done, Eli?"

"Mostly," Eli whispered. "Had trouble memorizing Judah Maccabee's father's name."

Chaim nodded.

One more student arrived, sitting to Chaim's left.

Soon Maxim Lainer entered the room. He scrutinized each face, and after assuring himself there were no uninvited guests, locked the front door and pulled the drapes closed.

"OK. Let us begin with the Shema."

The students rose, and Mr. Lainer gestured that they begin. Seven voices, in not-so-perfect chorus, then recited the six most precious words in all Judaism: "Shema Yisrael Adonai Elohenu Adonai Echad."

"And who remembers it in Russian?"

About half of the boys raised their hands. Mr. Lainer gestured toward Chaim.

"Hear, oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one,"* Chaim recited in his native tongue.

Mr. Lainer smiled and nodded, signaling for the boys to sit down.

"Who can tell me what starts at sundown today?"

"Hanukkah!" several boys shouted, with huge smiles on their faces.

Mr. Lainer looked at them disapprovingly and went to the front room window. He peered out for a moment, and then replaced the drapery.

"You boys should know better than that--keep those voices down!"

The boys muttered apologies.

"Well, despite that, you are right, of course. Hanukkah does start this evening. We have already talked about it, but who can tell me why we celebrate Hanukkah?"

Several boys raised their hands. Mr. Lainer acknowledged Eli.

"King Antiochus had said Jews could not follow their traditions, and he'd turned the Temple into a place for idol worship-he even sacrificed a pig on the altar! Judah Maccabee and his brothers fought against him and his huge army, and we won!"

"That's right. Can someone else tell me why Hanukkah is eight days?"

Chaim raised his hand and was recognized.

"Once they got the temple back, they could only find enough holy oil for the temple menorah² to last for one day, but it lasted for eight days, which was long enough for them to make more."

"Very good, boys. I have some more information to share about this holiday--an historical fact you might find quite interesting. Does anyone know why playing dreidel is part of the holiday celebration?"

Mr. Lainer pulled a small, wooden top from his pocket. It had four sides, with a different Hebrew letter on each face.

"To help us remember the miracle of the oil lasting eight days?" one boy volunteered.

"Sure, Nathan, that is part of it. The letters on the dreidel do stand for "Nes Gadol Hayah Sham"-a great miracle happened there. However, the main reason was to protect the Syrian Jews from the government that forbade them from practicing their religion."

That got their attention. All eyes were glued on Mr. Lainer.

"You mean, like us, sir?" Eli asked in amazement.

Mr. Lainer nodded. "When Jews were under Syrian control, it was against the law to study Torah, just as it is here in Communist Russia. But, just like us, they followed God's commandments--his mitzvot--and studied anyway."

"But what does that have to do with a dreidel?"

Smiling, Mr. Lainer continued. "A student would always keep a dreidel in his pocket. If the police came by, he would close his book, pull the dreidel out and pretend to be playing."

Mr. Lainer then pulled several dreidels out of his pocket, giving one to each boy. He allowed them to play a while before having them put the dreidels away and get back to the lesson.

"Let's review the three blessings that are said over the Hanukkah candles tonight. Turn in your prayer books to page..."

Mr. Lainer turned with a start as he heard an insistent, repetitive pounding on the door. He put his books in a closet, stuffed his dreidel back in his pocket and went cautiously to the door.

A glance through the peephole relieved his fear of the authorities, but the look on his dear friend Slava's face did not calm him completely.

He let Slava in, locking the door behind him. The two men sat at a card table and spoke in hushed tones.

"Maxim, your nephew Joshua was arrested-they caught him reciting his morning prayers."

"Oy vey! How are Marina and Igor taking it?"

"Not well--they weren't home, but neighbors saw it and let them know. Igor and Marina want Nathan with them. I've come to take him home."

"Understandable. I'll get him right now."

He turned to his students, and found them sitting on their prayer books, intensely playing with their dreidels.

Mr. Lainer smiled in spite of himself.

"You boys learn quickly, and it is a good thing. Nathan, you need to go home with Mr. Linksy."

Nathan grabbed his things and left.

"Now boys, we must be especially careful. Joshua was caught praying this morning, and has been arrested."

The entire group gasped.

"Do not give up the faith, boys - but do it safely. We must keep Judaism alive. Do your mitzvot, but do them carefully, and in secret."

Another boy raised his hand.

"But, Mr. Lainer, aren't we supposed to light our menorahs** and put them in our windows?"

Mr Lainer nodded.

"That kind of display, Alex," Mr. Lainer sighed, "would not be wise."

* * *

* Deuteronomy 6:4, JPS
** Hanukkah candelabrum

Thanks for reading! Don't forget to stop by Patterings for more great fiction!



God with us.

Jesus in the flesh.

A baby God in a feeding trough.

A young teenage girl nursing the Great I Am.

Angels exclaiming the biggest birth announcement ever to the lowliest of men.

Maji, and their caravans, bearing gifts to a Child and His poor parents.

The God-Man learning to read and write from mere mortals.

A carpenter's (supposed) son raising people from the dead.

A sinless Man taking our sins upon Him.

God incarnate dying on the cross.

His resurrection conquering sin.

His children dying to sin.

His Body glorifying Him.

His Spirit indwelling.


God with, and within, us.
Merry Christmas

Emmanuel, God With Us Postcard Pictures, Images and Photos

Heavenly Father, thank You for becoming flesh, living a humble and perfect life, dying for our sins, and rising again so we can be Your children. Help us to remember, as we give gifts to others, the greatest gift You have offered to us: not just God with us, but God within us. In the name of our Risen Savior I pray. Amen.

Thanks for reading my thoughts on "The Celebration of Christ's Birth." Don't forget to stop by The Internet Cafe' to see others' thoughts on this topic. Praying that your Christmas is a blessed and Christ-filled one.

Sacrifice and Solitude

If you know me even a little, you have likely figured out that I am a classic "people person." Sure, I like to be alone sometimes, but I am definitely most comfortable, most "alive," when I am with others. I love to encourage them, laugh and cry with them, work together with them--just about anything, actually, as long as "them" is with me.

I must admit that once I had kids I started treasuring that alone time more, and wanting it in more abundance (just, consequently, when I was getting it LESS often.). Still, I'm more likely to spend my "alone" time with a friend or eight (either in person or through email or text) than truly alone.

That, perhaps, is why Saturday December 21st's Streams in the Desert devotional knocked me cold.
There are no birds that live in as much solitude as eagles, for they never fly in flocks. Rarely can even two eagles be seen together. And a life that is dedicated to God knows divine fellowship, no matter how many human friendships have had to be forfeited along the way.

God seeks "eagle people," for no one ever comes into the full realization of the best things of God in his spiritual life without learning to walk alone with Him. (Streams in the Desert, L. B. Cowman, December 20)
Walking alone with Him. Human friendships forfeited. Solitude. These concepts came to bite me as I read in the early morning hours. Especially that middle one.

My friends are absolutely, positively precious to me. I chat with them, pray with them, laugh with them, cry with them, share with them. They encourage me, and I do the same back. They whip me back into line when I need it, and I'll do the same for them.

These can't be the kinds of friends God is talking about. He means the moochers, the users, the acquaintances that distract us. Maybe He's talking about my non-believing friends--the ones who, purposely or not, pull me away from Him. That must be what God is talking about. He can't possibly mean my encouraging, praying, supportive friends.

Or can He?
May we allow God to isolate us, but I do not mean the isolation of a monastery. It is in the experience of isolation that the Lord develops an independence of life and of faith so that the soul no longer depends on the continual help, prayers, faith, and care of others. The assistance and inspiration from others are necessary, and they have a place in a Christian's development, but at times they can actually become a hindrance to a person's faith and welfare. (Streams in The Desert, December 20. Emphasis mine)
Am I so dependent on my friends that I am not leaning on Jesus? Do I feel like my prayers to my Lord are not enough, that I have to get my sisters in Christ to pray along for them to be effective? Am I using my friends as a crutch to avoid being alone with the One who knows my every fault and my every sin?

I don't think I am, but there have certainly been times when I was teetering on the edge. And that is not a good place to be.

It may seem that Christmas, a time with such a focus on friends and family, is an odd time to contemplate solitude with our Savior. But maybe that's the point. With all the busyness and craziness of Christmas time, it is perhaps now, more than ever, that we need to be sure that our focus is on Him.
Friends and family are certainly important, perhaps more than ever this time of year, and in times as these. But they can't be the most important.
God may not be asking me, or you for that matter, to sacrifice dear friends to be closer to Him, to have that "divine fellowship" that might require it. But He might be--if not now, at some later date.

Are you willing?

Heavenly Father, I so want to have that divine fellowship with You. Help me to be willing to make any sacrifice necessary--any sacrifice You ask me to make--to be closer to Christ than anyone or anything. I want to rid myself of any obstacles to that fellowship, Lord, whether or not they are contrary to my natural bent. Help me, Lord to truly seek You first, and to long for, more than anything, solitude with You. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.

WINNERS: 100 posts, 10 days, 1 Book giveaway

Yeah - I'm late, but it's been crazy around here ;)

Anyhow, thank you so much to those of you who tried to think up ideas for my giveaway (even if you didn't get a chance to share with me!), and for supporting my efforts - Stina and Patty especially: thanks for linking up to my giveaway on your blog. I SO appreciate it!

Well, I got two entries for my giveaway, and, since I have two prizes, each person will get one (no point doing a drawing, right?). If, by the way, you don't recall the "rules," just click on the button at the top of this post and it will take you to the original post.

So...congratulations to...

Catrina Bradley, who will receive It Happened by Design, an anthology of God-incidences that has one story of mine in it.

and to Patty Wysong, who will receive The Little Style Guide to Great Christian Writing and Publishing by Leonard G. and Catherine Stanford Goss (which should come in handy to her as she works on her first novel).
But the real reason I'm doing this post (yeah - my winners have known their prizes since yesterday) is to share the 10-day quiet time plans I've been given. I know that at least some of you are looking for some Bible reading/devotional time material, and BOTH of these entries would do you quite well. I'm quite excited for Monday, when I will start working through Catrina's plan for me. Patty's is wonderful too - but I'll start with Catrina's, since it's the one I'll actually be using to finish out the year (and possibly into January too!)

30 Days of Promises
By Catrina Bradley

Your readers responded to your earlier request to share their favorite promise given to us in Scripture with some awesome Words from God. And when God makes a promise, He WILL follow through!! I was encouraged and comforted reading the many responses.

Following are the 29 Promises that were posted in response to your blog prompt, plus one more of my personal favorites to make an even 30.

On each of the days remaining in 2008 after you finish Revelation, choose one of these promises, read the chapter where it is spoken (and, as, time allows, the chapter before and after.) Journal or blog (your choice) on two things: 1. What this promise meant to the original receivers of the Word; and 2. What this promise means to you, personally, in this season of your life and your current walk with Christ.

Enjoy!! (I might just do this myself. :) )
Love you

1. "All the promises of God are 'yes!' in Christ Jesus."
II Corinthians 1:20

2. "All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. AND SURELY I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS, TO THE VERY END OF THE AGE."
Matthew 28: 18-20

3. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust”
Psalm 91:1-2

4. "Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon."
Isaiah 59:9-10

5. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
Philippians 4:13

6. “For God so loved the world so much that He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16

7. “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things that you do not know.”
Jeremiah 33:3

8. "The One who calls you is faithful, and HE will do it."
1 Thessalonians 5:24

9. "The Lord is my strength and my song. He has become my salvation."
Psalm 118:14

10. “But with God all things are possible.”
Matthew 19:26

11. ”Because of the Lord's great love
we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail,
They are new very morning;
great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:21-23

12. ”Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me,your right hand will hold me fast.”
Psalm 139:7-10

13. “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
Matthew 5:16

14. "Before they call, I will answer"
Isaiah 65:24

15. "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 8:38-39

16. “One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.”
Psalm 24:7

17. “Be still, and know that I am God.”
Psalm 46:10

18. "The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it."
1 Thessalonians 5:24

19. “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds success in store for the upright, He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless."
Proverbs 2: 6-7

20. "...for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
Hebrews 13:6

21. “and in this wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way you went until you came to this places.”
Deut 1:31

22. "O our God, will You not judge them? For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You."
II Chron.20:12

23. "So here's what I want you to do, God helping you. Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life - and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him."
Romans 12:1 (The message)

24. "And the days of your mourning shall come to an end."
Isaiah 60:20

25. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22-23

26. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
Philippians 4:13

27. "But I trust in your unfailing love..and sing songs in the night."
Psalm 13.

28. "Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit they way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass."
Psalm 37:4

29. "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes--I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!"
Job 19:25-27

30. If God is for us, who can be against us?
Romans 8:1

I'm not sure I'll be able to stop after ten days. This looks like an AWESOME study, don't you think?

My second one, from Patty, is a bit less involved, but still something I plan to do at some point.

A Smart Start for The Year
By Patty Wysong

Read 3 chapters of Proverbs a day. Sure to give you a smart start for the year--(get it: the book of Wisdom).

Again - thanks all for supporting me and my blog. I'm planning another giveaway in a couple months, to celebrate 10 years of my salvation. I promise this one won't be quite as involved. Thanks again, faithful readers!

Friday Fiction: "Much To Celebrate"

Welcome to my contribution to Fiction Fridays, hosted this week by Rhonda at Beach Reads. Be sure to stop by her blog and find links to more great fiction. Don't be afraid to post your own fiction on your blog and link up at the bottom of her post. Everyone is welcome!
I wrote this story for a Christmas story contest last year, hosted by Heart of God International. It actually took first place in 2007. I pray it blesses you.

Much To Celebrate

Alfred crouched in the corner, beneath the highway underpass. He grabbed an old blanket he’d stored there and covered his legs. Sitting with his back against the concrete, he stared out into the city.

It looked like the sun was about to appear over the horizon. Flurries had just begun and were peppering the Christmas wreaths hanging from lampposts with specks of white.

Normally, Alfred’s survey would be disturbed by the rumbling and honking of morning traffic. Today, however, the cars were almost nonexistent. Being in a primarily industrial area, few people had a reason to drive by on a Christmas morning.

Alfred smiled. He preferred the quiet to the normal din of rush hour. His vision always seemed to sharpen when his ears and eyes weren’t bombarded.

The light snowfall and dull noise of the occasional car reminded him of his very first Christmas with Sadie. They had been newlyweds, only nineteen. They’d been quite poor – not as bad off as Alfred was now, but not middle class by any means – and were renting the attic of her uncle’s hardware store.

There had been no money for Christmas. They had eaten pasta for dinner and had exchanged handmade gifts. Yet, it had been a wonderful Christmas. The time they’d spent together, meditating on the wonderful gifts they had received from their Savior, was precious.

“As long as Jesus is with us,” Sadie had said, “we have much to celebrate.”

The two had celebrated more than three dozen Christmases since. Most had been fairly traditional: midnight mass, a table full of turkey and the fixings, the joy of celebrating with their children and grandchildren, presents piled to the ceiling. Yet, none ever seemed as special as that very first one.

Alfred’s very last conversation with Sadie, just five months earlier, had been about Christmas memories. As she lay in her hospital bed, injured almost beyond recognition from the car crash, they’d reminisced about their many holiday celebrations

Sadie had always been the strong one, and she seemed to sense her time was running out. As she noticed Alfred’s sadness about his first Christmas alone, she reminded him of the words she’d said so many years ago.

“As long as Jesus is with you,” she’d croaked with her last bit of energy, “you have much to celebrate.”

She’d slipped into Jesus’ arms not two minutes later, a smile on her face and Alfred’s hand in hers. Those words had sustained him through the grieving process, not to mention the loss of his home to creditors because of Sadie’s hospital bills.

Oh, how he missed Sadie. A tear came to his eye as he thought back over their lives.“She may be gone and I may not have a home, but they can’t take away my memories.”

Alfred smiled. He opened his backpack and fished out his Bible, a muffin he’d picked up at the gas station the day before, and a hand-sewn billfold, worn with age. He turned to Luke 2 and read silently.

“You didn’t have a bed to sleep in either, did you?” Alfred pursed his lips and caressed the billfold, thinking of the first time he had seen it, when Sadie handed it to him that very first Christmas.

“As long as Jesus is with me, I have much to celebrate.”


Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check out Beach Reads for more great fiction!

Holiday Yums

Welcome to this week's edition of Holidays at the Cafe'. Today is the Holiday Recipe Bazaar--eat up!
Some of my favorite foods are found during the holiday season, though, for the most part, I'm not the one making them. We do the whole potluck Christmas/Thanksgiving thing, and I usually take some little side. Holiday celebrations are an hour and a half drive away, so elaborate meals are easier to leave for others who live closer.

Anyhow, I'm going to share three recipes with you (no pictures--sorry!). One I tried for the very first time this Thanksgiving, and I LOVED it! The other two are, for lack of a better term, "old stand-bys," though not always what I take to celebrations. Enjoy - and I hope you also enjoy the other recipes available today during the Cafe Recipe Bazaar.

First, my "new" one. I found this one at my favorite recipe website, Allrecipes.com, where "Dj" submitted it. Seriously - check it out! I LOVE sweet potatoes, but nobody else in my immediate family will eat them. My only chance of having them (without all that work for ONE person) is at gatherings. Anyhow, I found this recipe and it was a hit (LOL with me and the two other people at our Thanksgiving who would eat sweet potatoes!).

Candied Sweet Potatoes
  • 4 pounds sweet potatoes, quartered
  • 1 1/4 cups margarine
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 3 cups miniature marshmallows, divided
  • ground cinnamon to taste
  • ground nutmeg to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add potatoes and boil until slightly underdone, about 15 minutes. Drain, cool and peel.
  3. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine margarine, brown sugar, 2 cups marshmallows, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cook, stirring occasionally, until marshmallows are melted.
  4. Stir potatoes into marshmallow sauce. While stirring mash about half of the potatoes, and break the others into bite-sized chunks. Transfer to prepared dish.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cover top evenly with remaining marshmallows. Return to oven and bake until marshmallows are golden brown.

My second recipe is something we try to make at least once, or more often, during the winter. When we first heard about it, my husband and I thought the idea of it was rather odd. Boy, are we glad we didn't go with our first impression. It tastes like warm pumpkin pie in a bowl. (oh, and we're making it for dinner tomorrow night!) It comes from The Meatless Gourmet by Bobbie Hinman.

Spiced Cream of Pumpkin Soup
(makes 6 servings: one cup per serving)

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup finely copped onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger root
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (this is from a vegetarian cookbook, so other broth would probably be fine. I believe we have made it with chicken broth before.)
  • 1 one-pound can pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon EACH dried thyme, pepper, and ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup evaporated skim milk

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, celery, garlic, and ginger root.
  2. Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are tender, about five minutes. Add small amounts of water, as necessary, a tablespoon or two at a time, to prevent sticking.
  3. Add remaining ingredients, except milk. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 25 minutes.
  5. Remove soup from heat and stir in milk. Remove and discard bay leaves.

The last recipe I'm giving is a WONDERFUL warm crock pot "punch" that is always a hit. It actually is found in the cookbook that was given to us with our crock pot (Called "Rival Crock-Pot Cookbook," I believe!). The original recipe allows for alcohol in it, but we've never used it. We ALWAYS make this every year, and I'll likely be bringing this to our family Christmas celebration this year.

Orange-Cider Punch
makes 2 1/2 quarts
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 whole nutmeg
  • 2 cups apple cider or apple juice (apple cider is better!)
  • 6 cups orange juice
  • 2 cups vodka (LOL have NEVER added liquor, but if that floats your boat! Hehe)
  1. Mix all ingredients except vodka in Crock-Pot; stir well.
  2. Cover and cook on low setting for 4 to 10 hours, or on High setting for 2 to 3 hours.
  3. Just before serving, stir in vodka. Serve hot, in punch cups.
I hope you enjoy these recipes--please feel free to come on back if you do and let me know what you thought! Also, don't forget to stop by the Cafe's Holiday Recipe Expo for more holiday recipes!

More than Himself

You know, I really thought I had a good grasp on what Christ did for me, of the love of God.
He loved me so much

that He willingly died for my sins,

and rose again

to make me a member of His family.
That's pretty basic, I know, but wouldn't you say that's the Gospel in a nutshell? If I can understand that, I've pretty much got the concept.

Yet, this past week, my pastor shared something from God's Word that put a whole new dimension to my understanding of the Gospel. I've often contemplated the sacrifice Christ made, but have rarely thought about his attitude in doing so.
That changed last week. Christ's attitude took my breath away.
The book of Philippians is one of my all-time favorite epistles. I've probably read it more times than any other book of the New Testament. All this to say, I am confident that I have read the third verse of the second chapter numerous times. I even have it memorized.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.(NIV)
Wonderful words of advice, and so hard to follow. We are so geared to put ourselves first. I have found that this is especially hard to do for people who are "below us" - in stature, in class, in anything. Yet, this is what God wants His children to do.
Because that is what He did when He came to earth, when He suffered despite being sinless, when He died on the cross.
That's what humility is, right? Esteeming others higher than ourselves. Putting others' needs ahead of our own. And Christ is our model for humility. He put His deity aside to be "lowered to our level," and to take our sin upon Himself. Why? Because He loves us. How? By putting our needs before His. By putting a higher priority on our sin than His sinlessness.
The God of the universe, the One who created Us, the Great I Am, the Lord of Hosts, Who spoke the world into existence, esteemed His creations--esteemed me--more than Himself.
Doesn't that blow your mind? He put my needs ahead of His own. He threw off His deity for a speck of dust. He considered me "better than" Him.

And I'm not. Not by a long shot. And I never will be. But He did it anyway.

How can I not follow this command for others? How can I say my needs are more important than that "poor soul" who could use my help? What justification could I possibly have for living for self?

Heavenly Father, how can I possibly understand how much You loved me, how much of a sacrifice You were willing to make for my dirty, terrible, sin-loaded soul? How could I comprehend Your willingness to esteem a wretch like me higher than perfect holy You? Help me to grasp that incredible fact, and perhaps more importantly, help me to use that knowledge to show that same kind of humility graciously to others on this planet with me. Help me, Lord, to take your incredible example of humility and display it to the world. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen

While you're here, don't forget my contest/giveaway! Only two days to go! Blessings to you.

Giveaway Updates - Expo PLUS 100th post

First of all, I get to announce the winner of my Holiday Expo giveaway, associated with the Internet Cafe. I had THIRTY-THREE people post their favorite prayers and/or promises from the Bible, and they all truly blessed me. Check them out here if you want to see for yourself.

I gave each person who commented a number (that way folks who did two posts didn't get an extra chance), then used The Random Number Picker to choose one person to win the book "Prayers and Promises for Women."

And the winner (who will also be announced at The Internet Cafe') is:

Michelle Bentham!! Congratulations! Your book will be on its way within a couple days.

Secondly, my OTHER contest/giveaway! We're halfway through the contest, and I am eagerly awaiting some ideas for those last ten days of the year. I know this may sound a bit involved, but it doesn't have to be real detailed. Recommend a few books of the Bible to read over that time, some word studies, or whatever! Click on the button below for more information. Remember, you only have until next Wednesday, December 17 to get me your plan.

Thanks for participating and reading, folks! You are so appreciated :)

Fiction Fridays: "A Pinch of Love"

Welcome to my contribution to Fiction Fridays, hosted this week at Shirley's blog, Sunny Glade. Be sure to stop by there to read more great fiction--and feel free to post fiction on your blog and then link to Mr. Linky at the bottom of her post. All are welcome!
I wrote this story two years ago for a Christmas story contest. It was pretty interesting to look over it again and find how much my writing has improved since I wrote it. I made several changes/improvements for Friday Fiction, but it is still generally the same story. Hope you enjoy it, and that it helps you get in the mood for this season (if you aren't there already!)

A Pinch of Love

Was she ever tired. After a full day of watching six toddlers, Ashley was about ready to collapse.

If the weather had been nicer, it likely would have been a less exhausting, hectic day. Around noon, however, a huge snowstorm blew in, with harsh winds. This had been a day where everyone had to stay in the house and the two-year-olds definitely got restless. It was all she could to do keep the four of them from literally climbing the walls. Fortunately, the weather had cleared, and their parents had been able to get through to pick them up.

Ashley sighed. Unfortunately, her day wasn't over yet. The whole family was coming over tomorrow evening, for Christmas Eve dinner, and she had preparations to make. Cleaning, cooking, wrapping gifts: the list seemed endless. Preparing her house for fourteen visitors was not her idea of fun.
Whatever possessed me to offer to host Christmas Eve?
Ashley picked up the toys and put them back in their bins. She sighed. I wish Mom was still around. Her mother had always hosted this celebration, but with her untimely death in June, it seemed it was now her responsibility. None of her siblings had homes big enough to hold everyone, so she had offered hers.

I need to at least get into the Christmas mood.

Ashley went over to her stereo and found a station with Christmas music. She turned up the volume so she could hear it throughout the house.

She went into her bedroom and grabbed the presents she needed to wrap. They were modest, as it had been a tough year. Listening to the music, however, she smiled. She began to sing along to her all-time favorite carol, "The Little Drummer Boy."
These gifts came from my heart, regardless of how much I spent on them. Baby Jesus received precious, expensive, valuable gifts, but he smiled at a song, which cost nothing.
She finished up her wrapping and headed for the kitchen. The rest of the family was bringing much of the food. Her only responsibility was the pies. As she worked, she sighed.

I'm so tired of baking. I just made a Christmas dessert for a party last week, and now here I go again!

Begrudgingly, she worked on the pie filling as the oven preheated. Glancing over at the pecan pie recipe, she saw a note her mother had scribbled on the side.
Don't forget to glaze the pecans, and to toss in a pinch of love.
Ashley laughed. Only her mother would write something like that. When she'd made the pie last year, mom had come over and whispered to her the "error" in her pie-making ways. Ashley hadn't taken it very well, wallowing in self-pity when she found out--for a few minutes, anyway. Mom must have dug out the recipe at some point when she was visiting before she passed away and scribbled the note on the card.

Mom was definitely not a writer. Ashley had precious few examples of her handwriting. This recipe, she decided, would be a treasure for her forever. This could have been the last thing her mother had ever written. Ashley cradled it gently in her hand, then slid the card into her apron pocket. I'll put it in the scrapbook.

As she put the pie into the oven--pecans glazed and pinch of love added--preparations seemed somehow less daunting. Mother was definitely here helping her along, and she could tell it was going to be a merry, blessed Christmas.


Thanks for reading! Don't forget to stop by Shirley's blog for more great fiction.

Also--be sure to check out my 100th blog post contest. Just click on the button below for more information!

Tour of MY Home (Holidays at the Cafe)

I hope you're enjoying Holidays at the Cafe' this month! I know I am. Today is the Tour of Homes, where we all get to show off our holiday decorations. Be sure to stop by this week's post to see the others' beautiful decorations.
I love the look of Christmas. Though we don't do a whole lot in the Sher house (and absolutely nothing on the outside of it!), we always have those little touches that help us remember it is that special season.

First, of course, is the tree. We do artificial, and the kids help put it together. They love sorting the branches and "puffing them out." It's a nice family time, so I thought I'd start out with some pictures of the process.

But you're not here (I don't think, anyway) to see what our living room looked like "in process," are you? You wanna see it all gussied up. Well, here we go!

Sorry, couldn't help but throw in ONE more of the fambly (my husband was the supervisor, and the picture taker, which explains why you will find neither hide nor hair of him in these pictures!). This one was taken right after we finished putting up the tree. We're all pretty pleased with how it turned out.

And now, the picture you've all been waiting for (c'mon, humor me a bit!)--the full tree, decorated in all its finery.
The ornaments range from nativity-related to handmade to angels to Santa, and everything in between. Are you supposed to MATCH? I certainly hope not :)

We really don't do a whole lot more decorating related, though we do have an end table in the living room that I "decorate" with Christmas-related children's books, and the top of the curio is the "home" for our incoming Christmas cards.

We also have a musical Christmas clock that hangs in the kitchen that plays a different Christmas Carol on the hour, plus some holiday placemats. And, of course, our nativity scene. And please don't laugh--we have rambunctious kids and a fairly wild cat, and we'd like it to last as long as possible.

Yes, that is a fireplace "manger"--complete with screen. The fireplace is not safe to use, so don't think we burn the shepherds by mistake. And by the way, we have always had a kids' manger scene that they can play with, but we lost the pieces to it and I forgot to get a new one for the kids this year. That will be remedied soon - or at least by NEXT Christmas!

Well, that's it! I hope you have enjoyed seeing the Sher home at Christmastime. I look forward to checking out the other cafe folks' homes at the tour of homes link myself!

And while you're here, don't forget to check out my 100th post contest/giveaway. Click on the button below for more information. I'd love your participation!

Christmas Card Conflict

I'm not crazy about conflict. I wouldn't exactly say I avoid it like the plague, but I certainly don't go out looking for it. I try to avoid it when I can. I suppose most of us do. I'm not one to start up a debate just for fun, or to pick a fight of any kind. I'm perfectly happy, much of the time, to go through life completely peacefully.
However, conflict often finds me. And right now, I'm in the middle of one. Probably not a huge one, but a conflict nonetheless. And it isn't with another person. It's with me.
You see, I'm a Christmas card sender. I love to do it, and I love getting them (email me if you want my snail mail address LOL). This year, I have a list of just over 50 people I'm sending to. My husband and I picked out the perfect photo of the kids (can you look at those faces and disagree?), had them put on one of those lovely photo Christmas cards, and added our own "Christ-filled" greeting. We then ordered them, and they sit in my house as we speak waiting to be addressed, signed, stamped, and stuck in the mail.

But it's not easy. My problem, my conflict, is the cards for my side of the family. You see, I was raised Jewish, and my parents, and two of my four brothers, do not celebrate Christmas. It's not that they don't know "the reason for the season." They reject that reason. To them, Jesus was a blasphemer and a false messiah. My father occasionally uses my Lord's name as a curse word.

Now, I have absolutely no problem sending "Christ in Christmas" cards to my non-saved friends--those who may be atheists, agnostics, or secular Christians. But somehow, sending my Jewish parents a Christmas card seems wrong.
It feels like conflict. And I don't like conflict--especially with family. Remember?
So, what should I do? Do I buy a handful of Hanukkah cards? Do I find some generic "Happy Holidays" cards to send them, and perhaps a few of my "unreligious" friends? Or do I suck up and send them our Christmas cards, which wishes them "blessings as we celebrate the Word becoming flesh?"
Not an easy decision, of that I am certain.
I have gone through this each year since we got saved, but this is the first year we have put something so blatantly "Christian" directly on our family card. In the past, we've just gotten prints of a family picture and stuck them in cards we bought - and we always had a few generic holiday (or occasionally Hanukkah) cards for those members of my family. This year, the picture is printed directly on the card.

So, what am I doing this year? I haven't exactly decided. Actually, I do know what I'm doing. It's just that I'm not sure if I've purposely avoided a conflict, done "the wise thing," or something else.

You remember how I said I had fifty plus cards to send out? Well, we only ordered forty Christmas cards. So, yesterday I ordered twenty more, with the same picture but a different sentiment: "Merry Christmas from the Shers." (In all honesty, I couldn't have fit my original sentiment on this particular card anyhow) It still may rub my family somewhat wrong, but that's what they're getting. They can always snip the card part off and just hang up the picture.

Like I said, I'm still not sure what I did when I made this particular choice, But, it's done--at least until next year. What would you think if you got, say, a Hanukkah card? or a Ramadan card? What would you have done?
What should I do next year?
Heavenly Father, help me to discern the difference between avoiding conflict to my and/or Your detriment and being understanding and respectful of others' beliefs, especially at this time of year. I want to spread the true message of Christmas to many, especially those who don't accept Christ. Give me guidance in how to reach out the the lost this holiday season in ways that will be effective for Your Kingdom, no matter how much conflict I may need to engage in. In the precious Name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

Oh, and don't forget my Holiday Expo Giveaway (closes Thursday at midnight), if you haven't entered.

I'm also having a 100th post celebration/contest and giveaway. For that one, you've got a week! Click on the button for more information.

100 posts, 10 days, 1 Book

Welcome to my 100th post, and all the fun and prizes that go with it!

The past six months have been a new adventure for me. When I posted my first post at An Open Book on July 21, 2008, I had serious doubts about this blog lasting for any length of time. I was truly expecting to post a couple times, then let it drop.
Well, that didn't happen.
I think it is generally fair to say that, six months and 100 posts later (that's about a post every day and a half!! yikes!), An Open Book has lasted. And it has absolutely blessed me, and I hope many of you. Being a blogger has been a true blessing--from my amazing new "bloggy friends," to encouragement on my book progress, to exhortation.

So, as a way of thanking you folks for your support and encouragement, I'm gonna have a contest/giveaway. However, unlike my cafe holiday expo giveaway (which is still going on through December 12 at midnight, by the way), I'm making you work for it (a bit, anyway!).

You see, part of my daily quiet time is reading from God's Word, and each year I read through the Bible from beginning to end. Just about every year, I use a "Bible In A Year" reading plan that lays out exactly what I need to read each day so I'm finishing off Revelation on December 31.

Well, this year was different. God led me to read the Bible through--but without a set schedule. I started in Genesis, and depending on how I felt led (and time, of course), I generally read two to four chapters. This has been a wonderful experience for me....but I have a problem.

You see, if I read as I expect, I'm actually going to be finishing up the Book of Revelation early: about a week and a half before New Year's Eve. So, in order to stay in the Word daily through 2008, I need a plan for the last ten days or so of the year.
That's where you come in.
To qualify for my giveaway, you need to share a ten-day Bible/quiet time plan for me to use during the last days of December--or any time of year. You can either create it yourself or you can share something you've done or heard of in the past. It does not have to be Christmas-themed, but there are a few requirements, which I have listed below.
  • Each day's activities must take no more than twenty-five minutes, and no less than five minutes.
  • I must be required to open and read from my Bible each of the ten days.
  • Recommending a resource to use for this plan (e.g. a devotional book) is fine, but it must cost no more than $10. (I already have a Bible, Concordance, and whatever else can be accessed free online)
You can submit to this contest in one of three ways.
  1. by responding to this post with the plan (equivalent to one entry)
  2. by emailing the plan to me (also one entry)
  3. by posting it on your blog (with a link back to my site) and adding your link to the Mr. Linky gadget below (equivalent to two entries)
On Wednesday, December 17 (not consequentially, ten days from today!), probably in the late afternoon, I will put all the entries in a bowl, and have one of my darling children draw a name out. That person will win a copy (signed, if you'd like) of It Happened By Design, an anthology of true "God-incidence" (think coincidences orchestrated by God) stories to which I am a contributing author. I will also have a special "surprise" for the entrant whose ten-day plan I actually end up using to close out the year.

So, have fun. Thanks for helping me celebrate this blog milestone, and for ending my year with a wonderful time in His Word. I look forward to "inspecting my options" for the last part of December!

Fiction Fridays: "A Look of Hope"

Welcome to my contribution to Fiction Fridays, hosted this week at Yvonne's Blog, My Back Door. Be sure to stop back over there for more great fiction! Read what is there, or post your own story on your blog and put a link in the Mr. Linky gadget that can be found there.

This story was written over two years ago for the Faithwriters Writing Challenge, and was also published in Faithwriters Magazine. I still really like these characters, and this was my first real venture into "period fiction" (though I didn't realize it at the time!). Hope you enjoy it!

A Look of Hope

"Now Clara, you stop that chatterin’, or Miss Willingston will send you to the corner."

"And Abigail, keep your hands to yourself!"

Cynthia Willingston glared at the ragdolls resting against her bedroom wall. Deciding she had scared them into submission, she returned to her lesson for the day.

"Now class, if you have three apples and then find two more, how many do you have?"

"Miss Cynthia?"

Cynthia turned immediately toward the softspoken, kind voice at her bedroom door and smiled. Margaret had worked at the Willingston homestead for seven years, since Cynthia was a baby. Even though she was a negro, the Willingstons treated her well - not like family, perhaps, but like a human being. Cynthia came the closest to treating the 15-year-old house slave like kin.

"Breakfast time, Miss Cynthia."

Cynthia grabbed one of her ragdolls and walked alongside Margaret as the two descended the staircase of the large plantation home.

"So, Miss Cynthia, whatall was ya playin?"

"School. I was giving Clara and Abigail their ‘rithmetic lesson. They weren’t listening very well. I was about to put Clara in the corner!"

"So that’s why you lef her behine," Margaret tittered, pointing at the one doll in the girl’s hand.

Cynthia nodded sternly.

They could smell the wonderful aroma of sausages and potatoes cooking well before entering the spacious kitchen. As soon as Cynthia reached the landing, her stroll became a trot as she followed her nose to the stove, where Beulah shooed her away from the flame and to the table.

"Dontcha get burnt, Miss Cynthia," the plump, middle-aged negro woman chided. "Sit and Ma’gret will bring ya yo’ food."

Cynthia plopped down on the chair Margaret had pulled out for her, and eagerly watched as Beulah served up scrambled eggs, fried potatoes and sausage. As soon as the plate was in front of her, Cynthia ate with gusto.

"Where’s mamma?" she asked between bites.

Beulah sighed softly. "Still sleepin’, I figger. Fixin’ to go wake her righ now so she can start ya on yo’ lessons."

"Can’t you teach me, Margaret? Then mamma can keep sleeping!"

Margaret began to speak but then hesitated, turning toward Beulah.

"Ma’gret can’t read, Miss Cynthia. Slaves ain’t ‘spose to get no learnin’."

Cynthia stood up, banging her hand on the table.

"Now, that’s just silly! Why reading’s the very best, most wonderful thing in the world!"

After a moment of thought, Cynthia’s face brightened. She did a bit of a pirouette, then walked over and grabbed Margaret’s arm.

"I know! I’ll teach you! You can sit with Clara and Abigail, and you can learn your letters and words and everything! You’ll read good as me soon! I promise not to make you sit in the corner - ever! Oh, please, Margaret, please!"

Beulah shook her head, sighing.

"But the Good Book says ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.’ Why can’t Margaret learn to read if we’re all the same?"

Cynthia, eyes afire, blond ringlets quivering with the tossing of her head, looked straight at Beulah. The woman took a deep breath.

"You ask yo’ mamma, Miss Cynthia."

"Don’t you want to learn to read, Margaret?"

Cynthia glanced Margaret’s way, and for the first time noticed tears running down her ebony cheeks, and a sparkle she had never seen in the eyes of a negro - a look of hope.

"You do, Margaret, don’t you? I can tell! Just come upstairs with me, Margaret! We can start with "A" right now!"

Cynthia grabbed Margaret’s hand and skipped toward the stairway, heading up toward the little girl’s bedroom.

"Cynthia Miriam Willington, what are you doing?"

Both girls stopped short as the matron of the house appeared at the top of the stairs.

Cynthia took a deep breath. "I’m gonna play upstairs with Margaret, mamma. ‘K?"

"That’s fine, dear, but Margaret must get her work done too, and you have your lessons to tend to. Twenty minutes - do you hear me?"

"Yes, mamma."

The girls walked past Mrs. Willingston, entered Cynthia’s bedroom, and closed the door behind them.

Galatians 3:28 KJV

Be sure to stop by My Back Door for more great fiction!

Oh - and p.s. - I'm having a giveaway coming up, to celebrate my 100th post (this one happens to be my 99th - so QUITE soon). I'm only giving you one hint: think a week and a half of quiet time (and, of course, a sneak peek at my button for it!).

Hope you'll stop by again soon to participate! It should be up by Monday at the latest.

Cafe' Holiday Expo - Prayers and Promises!

It's Cafe' Holiday Expo time, and I'm excited to be participating! Click here to visit The Internet Cafe's holiday expo and see all the wonderful giveaways you can try for!

The Christmas season is a time of joy and excitement and praise, but, for many of us, it is also a time of hecticness (LOL yes, I'm allowed to make up words. I'm a WRITER, after all!). It's easy to get caught up in the craziness of the season and forget where our focus should be.

SOOO, as my little contribution to the holiday expo, I'm giving away a wonderful little book with lots of little nuggets (nice and short, so you can read them quick in the midst of your busy schedule) for women.

With topics ranging from abundance to worship, and everything in between, this 159-page treasury of Bible verses, prayers, quotations, and essays for women will encourage you, exhort you, and bless you.

And all you have to do to be entered is reply to this post with a favorite prayer or promise from the Bible (along with your email address if you don't have a blog). You have until NEXT Thursday, December 11 at midnight. I will then pick a name randomly from all the responses I receive. The winner (along with the other Holiday Expo winners) will be announced at The Internet Cafe AND through an email from me. And, yeah - I WILL ship overseas!

So, what is your favorite prayer or promise from God's Word? Share it below, and may you ALL be blessed! And don't forget to stop by The Internet Cafe' for more chances to participate in the Holiday Expo!

If you're curious, my favorite promise of the Bible is from the book of Philippians, and also happens to be part of one of my favorite verses of the Bible.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
Oh - and p.s. - I'm having ANOTHER giveaway coming up, to celebrate my 100th post (this one happens to be my 98th - so QUITE soon). This one will be a bit more involved on your part than the Cafe' one. I'm only giving you one hint: think a week and a half of quiet time.

Hope to see your response at the bottom - AND you back here for my other contest/celebration/giveaway! God bless!

A VERY good month: an "Ailing Body, Nourished Soul" update

All righty, then. I need to start with my biggest news. This would be the news that has had me bouncing about all day today. (and that is not a figurative statement LOL)

Most of you know that I am working on writing a book about God's workings in my family's lives during my husband's serious health issues. At least some of you also know that I entered the introduction and first chapter of this book (along with a synopsis of the rest!) in the Faithwriters' Page Turner Contest for Non-Fiction this past September. Well, as the beeeaauuuttiiiffuulll graphic to the left says, I received highly commended in that contest! (Just FYI, there was one first place winner - my dear friend Corrine Smelker - and two highly commendeds. The second was my other friend Cheri Hardaway) I really, really didn't think I was going to place in this contest. Sure, I was hoping (who wouldn't?), but especially in the last couple weeks I had been telling myself (LOL and others) that I didn't win, just so I wouldn't be disappointed this morning when winners were announced.

I'm not disappointed (hehe). I will receive a plaque for my accomplishment, plus that really cool graphic up there I can put on my website/blog/etc. I can also get half-priced editing on my complete manuscript from Finesse Editing and Writing Services (owned by the amazing, incredible, and lovely Deb Porter, who many of you know and love!). I can do nothing but praise God for allowing me to have this writing talent, and to thank YOU for your support of my writing journey!

Oh - and there is other news on my progress on my manuscript! I did a rough count a few days ago, and it appears I currently have about 16,000 words of my book done (most in very, very rough draft form). I can't tell you how encouraging that was for me to see. Gotta keep plugging away - got that half-price editing deal to redeem!!

As far as last month, my goal was to write 7,500 words by the end of November. I am pleased to say that I DID achieve that goal, with a touch extra. As of November 30, at bedtime, I wrote 7,764 words. I definitely struggled some, but having a daily goal (of 250 words) was very helpful.

7764 / 7500 words. 104% done!

Anyhow, for December, I am "kicking it up a notch." I definitely found the word count, rather than the chapter, goal most helpful. So, to stretch myself a bit, I am increasing my goal for the month to 10,000 words. That averages to just under 325 words a day. With the holidays and all, we'll see, but I'll never get this done if I stagnate, yanno? Be sure to watch my counter, which I will update (for the most part!) nightly. The new one, with the new goal, will be up later this evening.

Thank you so much, folks, for reading and encouraging me on this writing journey. You have helped me more than you can know.

Wow. Praise the Lord!

Friday Fiction: "Flitter's Foggy Day"

Welcome to my contribution to Fiction Fridays, hosted this week at Pod Tales and Ponderings. Be sure to stop by there and read more great fiction!
I wrote this almost a year and a half ago for the Faithwriters Writing Challenge - we were to write something suitable for children. It did VERY well in the challenge, and was actually the one that "boosted me" to the Masters level there (for those of you unfamiliar, that means it was my third top ten entry). This story is very dear to my heart, and I have fallen in love with my characters. I'm convinced there's another "Flitter story" inside me, and I have vowed at some point (we still on for February, Peejers? hmmmmm??) to polish this up real nice (have started, but this is the "original" version) and attempt to get it published. I also thought it was appropriate for this time of year. Hope you enjoy it!

Flitter's Foggy Day

There once was a butterfly named Flitter, with light, wispy wings and long, thin antennae. Her wings were blue, orange, and purple with little silver specks that sparkled in the sunlight.

Flitter lived in a forest full of birds and bugs and monkeys and plants of all kinds, shapes, and sizes. It was a beautiful place, and Flitter would often smile as she fluttered about gathering nectar.

Sometimes, when the sunrise or sunset was especially pretty, or when the light reflected off the morning dew drops in a special way, Flitter would stop and say a little prayer. Her prayer went something like this:

Heavenly Father, I thank you today
for blessing me in this special way.
Thanks for the beauty of all I see,
And thank you, Lord, for loving me.

Flitter was quite happy in the forest with all her plant and animal friends. She loved to play hopscotch among the forest flowers, and tag with the insects. She and her best friend, Maggie the monkey, would often play hide and seek among the trees. She had everything she needed in her beautiful home in the woods.

One morning, however, Flitter bumped into a tree and bruised a wing. Her hurt wing made it harder than usual to flutter about. It was a very foggy day, too, so she couldn't see the sunrise. The entire forest was covered with a gray haze.

Flitter didn't feel as cheerful as she usually did. In fact, she was just plain grumpy. The beautiful colors of the flowers seemed a little less bright, and even Flitter's silver specks stopped sparkling. Flitter was as dreary and gray as the forest fog.

Flitter was tired of fluttering about, so she sat on a low tree branch in the middle of the forest. She didn't feel like flying, and playing hopscotch or tag seemed like too much trouble. Even when she spotted Maggie the monkey coming toward her in the distance, all Flitter wanted to do was sit. As Maggie came closer, Flitter prayed. Her prayer went something like this.

Heavenly Father, please tell me why
you put those dreary gray clouds in the sky.
And why did you make my wing so sore?
It's hurting my flying more and more.

Right as she finished her prayer, Maggie climbed the tree and sat right next to Flitter on the branch.

"Hi Flitter! Wanna play hide and seek?" Maggie asked with a smile.

"Not really," Flitter said crossly.

"What's wrong?" Maggie asked. "It's a beautiful day to play in the forest."

"I think the fog makes it ugly!" Flitter frowned, turning away from her friend. "And besides, my wing hurts."

Maggie stuck her arm out right in front of Flitter, then tilted her head to the side.

"Come here, Flitter."

Flitter shook her head.

"Aw, come on. I won't bite!"

Flitter giggled, then hopped onto Maggie's long furry arm.

Maggie raised her arm up in front of her face and pointed toward a bed of yellow flowers growing on the forest floor below them.

"Look at how the flower petals shine in the mist. They look just like the silvery specks on your wings. And the clouds make the treetops look like a castle in the sky." Maggie paused, looked into Flitter's eyes, and smiled. "I'll bet that's what heaven looks like."

Flitter grinned. Maggie was right! The forest was beautiful, and so was Maggie, for seeing it and sharing it with her friend. Flitter looked straight into Maggie's eyes and said a prayer.

Heavenly Father, I thank you today
for my dear friend Maggie, who showed me the way
to know all the beauty Your world has to see,
and thank you too, Lord, for her love for me.

Maggie blushed. "You're welcome, Flitter."

Taking flight, Flitter hovered above Maggie's head. She was so happy, she didn't even notice the soreness in her wing. She could have flown in this beautiful forest forever.

"So, are you ready to play hide and seek?" Flitter asked. "I'll be it."

"Definitely," Maggie said happily. "Count to twenty, and no peeking!"

As Maggie swung across the forest from treetop to treetop, Flitter closed her eyes. Before she started counting, Flitter thought about how blessed she was to be in this beautiful forest, with a wonderful friend and an amazing God.

Heavenly Father, I thank you today
for blessing me in this special way.
Thanks for the beauty of all I see,
And thank you, Lord, for loving me.

Thanks for reading! Be sure to stop by here for more great fiction, or to contribute your own!

Gratitude - Birth and Rebirth (and some other stuff)

Welcome to my contribution to week two of Celebrating Holidays at the Cafe. I am enjoying using these weekly blogs to get me in the mood for this wonderful season, and to help me put my focus where it should be. Today's topic, quite appropriately, is A Day of Gratitude. I pray my post, and those from other wonderful bloggers, blesses you.
Oh, where to start...

I suppose my winning testimony from The Cafe's "Falling for Jesus" contest is as good a place as any. If you haven't read it (or just want to read it again), it is today's featured post at The Cafe. Check it out!

Time to slip off my promotion hat and get back to the blog at hand. (In other words, we now return you to our regularly scheduled programming) ;)

This is a very special day for the Shers. You see, my beautiful daughter Annika turns five today. For the first time since her actual "birth day," her special day falls on Thanksgiving. And are we ever grateful for this special child.

I must say that Thursday, November 25, 2003 was a Thanksgiving like no other. My husband was only three months out of brain surgery and four weeks recovered from radiation treatments. Just getting me to the hospital was a major ordeal, but God was ever faithful and put the right people in place to have me there before she made her appearance. She was beautiful, and still is (don't tell me you don't agree!). Despite the fact that I was the only one in my family who actually got turkey that day (and it was hospital turkey at that!), I'm sure my whole family will say that they were full of gratitude and thanksgiving that day.
I am grateful for Annika: my beautiful, loving, silly, wonderful, birthday-celebrating daughter.
I also have an incredibly energetic and fun-loving seven-year-old who celebrated another kind of birth-day this week. On Tuesday, November 25, 2008 (his grandmother's birthday, by the way!), he grasped the concept that he was a sinner and that only Jesus could save and forgive him. And he asked for that forgiveness. What a wonderful feeling to know that my son in flesh is also my "brother" in Christ.

Andrew is a very special kid. Though he has some challenges, he is a sweet and loving boy who sucks every bit of joy out of every situation (LOL and often every bit of energy out of his mother). He is kind and extremely friendly, and will grow into an incredible witness of God's love.
I am grateful for Andrew: my enthusiastic, energetic, loving, silly, newly-saved son.
I certainly can't neglect the amazing man God gave me (before I even found Him!) almost fifteen years ago. Marc is an incredible man, who acts just like a Christian husband should when he has as scatterbrained and flighty and stubborn wife as he does. He loves our children with thought and action, and knows how to make me feel like a queen. He encourages and exhorts me, and loves me in a way that truly makes me feel cherished. His sense of humor, his steadfastness, and his vulnerability are just what I need. He truly completes me. (And he can sure be a goofball!) Despite the struggles we have gone through, or perhaps because of them, our marriage has stayed strong, and is such a huge blessing to me.

I am grateful for Marc, my loving, strong, supportive, encouraging, silly, wonderful husband.
Over the past several years, a very special group of folks have "come along" who have inspired, encouraged, and taught me so much. I'm struggling with how to categorize them. I've met them in so many places. Through my church, and the one I attended previously. Through Faithwriters. Through blogging. Through other activities I am sure are escaping me. These people are more than just names (or screennames). They are dear friends, brothers and sisters in Christ. They--you--love me and encourage me to grow in my God and Savior. I could list names, but I know I'd forget someone (and make an entirely too long post), so just know you are so appreciated.
I am grateful for my brothers and sisters in Christ (that means you especially, jewely sisters!), who have blessed me in so many ways, on so many occasions, through Christ's love in them.
How can I post about gratitude without expressing thanks for the One who made me, who saved me, and who gave me everything I have? Without the Lord, and His Amazing Son, Jesus Christ, none of this would happen. He has given me all the things above, and so much more. Every one of His gifts is good, and He has poured them on me lavishly. Our gratitude and thankfulness must be not only for the things we have, but, especially, for the One who granted them to us.
I am grateful for the Creator of the Universe, my Savior, Protector, Messiah, Great Physician, Lover of my Soul and so much more: Jesus Christ.
I will be spending much of Thanksgiving day with my husband's side of the family. We'll be spending the night, then having a birthday celebration for Annika and Marc's mom on Friday. It should be a good time with family and food. Praying your day is full of Thanksgiving, today and every other day.

Don't forget to check out A Day of Gratitude at The Cafe. It will be worth your time.

My One Word: 2016 and 2017

Most who know me know I am a very goal-oriented person (in fact, I already shared my goal wrap-up for 2016 and my new ones for 2017 on this...