Susan J. Reinhardt Speaks Up!

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Everyone’s Story welcomes back author Susan J. Reinhardt. Susan and I belong to the same literary agency, but also like many other authors and writerly friends, I’ve met Susan through the circles of social media and I’m so happy we did! This week Susan speaks up on God’s plan for us, even if we don’t initially react favorably to it. Do check out Susan’s BookGiveaway offer. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

 

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BookGiveaway:

Susan is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter  1 Kindle edition of The Moses Conspiracy. The winner will be announced between 6-7 PM EST on September 15th.

** For Giveaways: it’s not necessary to insert your private email information within comments.

New Back Cover Copy for The Moses Conspiracy:

In 2025, two seemingly unconnected events set a diabolical plan in motion. Ellie and John Zimmerman find themselves embroiled in a life-threatening investigation, fighting a shadowy enemy.

Several years after a terrorist attack on Washington, D.C., Ellie and her son, Peter, go on a field trip to the nation’s capital. Her greatest fear is realized when they become separated. Back home, John witnesses a buggy accident with unusual circumstances.

Caught between strained family relationships and ominous warnings from a faceless enemy, the couple relies on God for wisdom and protection. When the true nature of a past tragedy is revealed, will they survive the heartache it brings?

 

God Has a Plan – A Good One! by Susan J. Reinhardt

Seventeen years ago, a counselor asked me, “What do you see for yourself in the future? What dreams do you have?” I searched my mind and heart, but there was a giant blank spot. One of the verses she gave me was Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

I determined in my heart that I wanted to obey the Lord and do whatever He wanted me to do. At first, it was hard to distinguish His voice from my own thoughts, but I soon learned. If I thought He was telling me to call someone, I did it. Many small opportunities popped up – God assignments.

During this learning time, my cat, Sarah, died. I was heartbroken, and everyone wanted to give me another kitty to love. Although I liked the idea, I sensed a “wait” in my heart. Later in this story, you’ll see why.

My friends and I decided to attend a conference at a Bible School in upstate New York. The whole atmosphere seemed charged with God’s Presence. Instead of being joyful, I entered a period of intense turmoil.

The Lord nudged me to apply to this school for one year, and I wanted no part of it. I was financially stable for the first time in years. My mother lived with me, and her care presented a dilemma. Besides all that, I’d already gone to Bible School and graduated. My desires and God’s direction appeared in direct opposition to each other.

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When I said, “Yes, Lord, I’ll go to Bible School,” it seemed like I was destroying everything I’d built over the past few years. Ah, but God was at work behind the scenes. I can see that now in retrospect, but at the time, it was a mystery.

Two weeks after I made the commitment to return to school, I received a message from eHarmony.com. I’d cancelled my membership as a way of breaking ties with my past. Surprise, surprise, an email informed me, “Congratulations, you have a match. David, from Souderton, PA…” I blinked at the computer screen. “Whaaat? Is this some kind of joke, Lord?”

My best friend shrugged it off when I told her about the message. “None of the others worked out, so what’s the big deal about answering?” I figured as soon as he heard I was off to Bible School, he would make a quick exit from our communication.

Except, he didn’t.

David loved the Lord, and the Bible School element got his attention. We talked for hours on the telephone and then met in person. When he returned home from our first date, he called me and asked if I wanted to pursue the relationship. I said, “Yes.” His next statement totally shocked me. “I’m going to marry you.”

During the year at Bible School, he came to see me every weekend. He stayed in the Men’s Dorm and often did work around the school. His support helped me navigate the difficulties of studying after so many years.

You may be wondering right now and asking, “What does this have to do with writing and God’s plans for a future and a hope?”

  1. If I hadn’t listened to the Lord and gone to Bible School, David would probably have moved on to one of his other matches.

  1. If I’d taken in another cat, it would have short-circuited our fledgling relationship. He was allergic to cats.

  1. If our marriage hadn’t taken place, I wouldn’t have moved to Pennsylvania. Here I found other Christian writers, plus my wonderful husband encouraged me to pursue publication.

  1. Even though our time together was short (3 1/2 years), God used my Beloved to set me on this writing journey. When cancer robbed his life, the Lord helped me move forward with the love of dear friends and family.

  1. The Lord showed me He wanted a future and a hope, but it took my cooperation and obedience for everything to fall into place.

I’m re-learning some of these principles as challenges arise daily. As long as I know God is for me and wants the best for my future, I can face them with courage and faith.

Susan’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Can you relate to author @susanjreinhardt’s story of wondering what’s behind God’s plan for you? (Tweet This)

ChristFic author @susanjreinhardt speaks up: God Has a Plan – A Good One! (Tweet This)

Win #BookGiveaway of @susanjreinhardt’s novel, The Moses Conspiracy. (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Susan J. Reinhardt began her journey as a non-fiction writer. After numerous devotionals, short articles, and several contributions to anthologies were published, she switched gears and entered the world of fiction. The Moses Conspiracy is the first book in The Moses Trilogy.

A widow, daughter, stepmom, and active church member, Susan resides in Pennsylvania. When not writing, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, couponing, gardening, and finding small treasures in antique shops.

Places to connect with Susan:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Pinterest

LinkedIn

Amazon

Susan and I look forward to your comments.

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Ann Marie Bryan Speaks Up!

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Everyone’s Story welcomes Christian fiction author and founder of Victorious by Design, Ann Marie Bryan. I became acquainted with Ann Marie through the social media circles of all things writerly and I’m honored that Ann Marie has accepted my invitation to be my guest this week.  Ann Marie speaks up on why you should share *your* story, definitely keeping in the theme of this blog! Also check out Ann Marie’s lovely BookGiveaway offer. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

 

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BookGiveaway:

Ann Marie is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter  1 Kindle edition of A Place for my Heart. The winner will be announced between 6-7 PM EST on September 8th.

** For Giveaways: it’s not necessary to insert your private email information within comments.

Blurb for A Place for my Heart:

Crushed by heartache and desperate for an escape, he makes a life-changing choice.

When Chandler Peynard staggers into Sabrina Benjamin’s life, he is desperate for an escape route. Battling feelings of isolation, he has erected barriers around his heart, often times leaving a trail of broken dreams behind him.

Sabrina’s happily-ever-after was ripped away months ago, but she hasn’t given up on finding love. Still, she is caught off guard by her feelings for Chandler, a man who could hardly be described as a model man of God. As an unexpected bond develops between them, she wants more—a lot more than Chandler is prepared to give, because falling in love and putting down roots are not a part of his plan.

Touched by Sabrina’s kindness and faith, Chandler makes a life-changing choice; however, complication is inevitable when the past he’d thought was long buried, pushes him to confront matters he would have given anything to forget. As he struggles to release himself from his past and embrace the future, he offers Sabrina a place in his heart, but she demands all of it.

In a season that has brought so many changes, Chandler longs for peace in his soul and yearns for love. Will he trust God with all of his heart in order to overcome his past? Will he be able to testify that God’s grace wins every time? Will he find the strength to take a chance at life and love with Sabrina?

SHARE YOUR STORY: Inspire others into action by Ann Marie Bryan

I am an author. This is still surreal. Rightly so, because while I have always been an avid reader, writing a book never crossed my mind.

Why did I start writing?

After I got married, several of my friends and relatives wanted to know how I met my husband. So, I had to share my love story, over and over again. Of course, no one wanted to hear the short version of the story.

Six months later, I received a phone call from a friend whom I had not spoken with in a while. She too, wanted to hear my love story. After hanging up from my call, it hit me… write a book!

A long deafening pause ensued!

A book! A book!

Every reason not to write this book came to mind. Yes, every reason. But, I knew that I wanted to share my story. Further, I knew that if God called me to write this book, He would equip me and surround me with wonderful godly helpers.

So, like any well-thinking Christian woman, I took the matter to the Lord and felt the peace to proceed with this mission.

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Approximately two years later, I published my first Christian Fiction, “Unforgettable, My Love has Come Along”, a love story based on real-life events. Two paths, destined to cross. Friendship, faith, and love are intertwined in ways neither could have imagined. Can love conquer all things? Find out in the heartwarming and humorous story, “Unforgettable, My Love Has Come Along”.

After the excitement of publishing my first book, my writing journey continued with my bestselling, Encounters of the Heart series, which is based on Proverbs 4:23 (KJV) –“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”

Book 1 – Shades of the Heart is a novel about the courage to love in the midst of broken promises, and ultimately about the healing power of forgiveness.

Book 2 – Mirrored Hearts: Sealed By Fire is stirring and deeply satisfying new addition in the series. It details the struggles of two broken hearts, mended by enduring love and sealed by fire.

Book 3 – A Place For My Heart is an emotionally gripping account of a most unexpected love, and a marvelous reflection of God’s grace.

Encounters of the Heart series

I write to educate, inspire and empower others. Writing has become a natural way for me to process my emotions and a conduit to inspire those around me.

What about you? Are you ready to write your story?

Perhaps you have an idea for a book. Sounds great, but you already have too many commitments… a job, family, and many other activities. The thought of adding another task to your things-to-do list would cause you to question yourself.

The truth is – there is never going to be a perfect time. Writing is a discipline. Keep at it and before you know it, you will have chapters under your belt.

To move forward, ask yourself this question – Why am I writing?

After you have answered that question, jump into action by creating an outline of your ideas for your book. Of course, you will need to educate yourself about the publishing industry. Don’t be overwhelmed by your lack of knowledge. Select an individual, group or organization with the knowledge to help you succeed. Do research to obtain information on how you can best leverage your abilities to fulfill your dream of writing.

The entire process will be very exciting and you will learn many things about yourself. Your writing journey will inspire, empower, educate, and challenge you. The amazing thing is that God will continue to multiply what you have surrendered to Him.

Don’t delay. Start writing and watch God take you out of our comfort zone, stretch you, and show you that you can accomplish far more than you think.

Ready! Set! Go with God! Write your story and share it with the world.

Ann Marie’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Meet Ann Marie Bryan @authorabryan, writing novels about love & God’s grace. (Tweet This)

Author Ann Marie Bryan @authorabryan speaks up: Share Your Story: Inspire others into action. (Tweet This)

Author Ann Marie Bryan @authorabryan asks: Are you ready to #write your story? (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Ann Marie Bryan is a dedicated, graceful, multi-talented leader with a passion for excellence. She is the CEO & Founder of Victorious By Design, an organization committed to providing top quality professional writing services, comprehensive personal and professional development programs and exceptional performing arts services to meet the unique needs of individuals and organizations.

A Christian Fiction author, Ann Marie writes to educate, inspire and empower others. She desires to tell great stories with fascinating characters to show the awesome power of God in the lives of people and places. Shades of the Heart is the first book in her bestselling, Encounters of the Heart series. Book 2 – Mirrored Hearts: Sealed By Fire was released February 2016. Her new release, A Place For My Heart, is the highly anticipated third installment in the series.

Ann Marie’s greatest passion is to empower others to succeed by tapping into their God-given potential. She enjoys writing, reading, dancing, teaching, meeting people and traveling. With all the knowledge and experiences that God has so graciously blessed her with, Ann Marie is determined to make her life a ministry for the Lord.

Places to connect with Ann Marie:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Pinterest

Instagram

Amazon

Ann Marie and I look forward to your comments.

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Sign up for my Author Newsletter here for upcoming news on Elaine Stock’s releases.

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Doug Cornelius Speaks Up!

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Everyone’s Story welcomes debut fiction author D.P. Cornelius, or as we’re invited to call him here, Doug. Doug has a passion to write stories for the YA, Young Adult, market with a highlight on different historical eras. This week he’ll share about The Baker’s Daughter, a novel set in World War II Germany, which is one of my favorite time eras to read about. Doug is also offering it as a generous BookGiveaway. We hope you will enjoy the interview and look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

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BookGiveaway:

Doug is offering 1 randomly chosen commenters  1 printed edition of The Baker’s Daughter. The winner will be announced between 6-7 PM EST on September 1st.

** For Giveaways: it’s not necessary to insert your private email information within comments.

 

 

 

Interview With D.P. Cornelius

Congratulations on your debut novel, The Baker’s Daughter. A Christian novel, what is the theme?

The over-riding theme is God’s unconditional love, and how if truly received and understood, it can embolden a person to personal sacrificial love.

As a novel, is this story intended to be more entertainment or to show a lesson?

I believe that if a person invests a few hours into a book, he or she should get some benefit other than entertainment. Obviously, not all authors ascribe to this theory. Putting myself into the reader’s mind, though, I would just as soon learn something while I’m at it.

What moves the story forward?

One of the main characters is a Nazi officer named Keppler who was once a believer but has forsaken God due to family tragedies and has elevated country to top priority. The central question is whether he will be redeemed by the baker’s daughter, Liddy.

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Did you have trouble portraying Keppler as a prototypical Nazi officer?

I’ve depicted Keppler as more than the embodiment of evil. He is a former university music professor caught up in his own love for country, rejecting any Christian values he once had. Part of the intrigue is he forms a delicate bond with Liddy’s 8-year brother, Willy, helping him with his piano playing.

There are many novels set during the WW II time era. How is this story different from many others?

Unlike many others, this one takes place right in the center of Third Reich activities—Berlin. I tried to depict how a typical Christian German family must have struggled with certain moral issues while trying to keep the family bakery afloat. Air raids and spies are more added complications.

Why did you pull into the story noted Christian martyrs of the day, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Father Maximillian Kolbe?

I relished the opportunity to provide an example of the utmost form of sacrificial love. Bonhoeffer was hung as a traitor, and Kolbe gave up his life for another in a concentration camp.

Some reviewers have commented that the ending is a bit controversial. Any thoughts?

The ending was abrupt as I wanted the reader to focus on the symbolism of what transpired in regards to the characters’ changes, embodying both understanding God’s unconditional love, as well as the sacrificial love exhibited by the martyrs. I thought the abruptness made it more powerful than had I continued on with the life stories of the Christian characters.

This is your debut Christian novel. Have you identified this as your niche?

I’m attracted to the Christian historical fiction genre. I like to depict young adults reacting to an adult-driven world that hopefully appeals to all readers teen and above. I’ve released DaVinci’s Disciples for a slightly younger reader, and people are clamoring for a sequel to The Baker’s Daughter.

For fun, Doug, please share your quick responses:

My favorite pastime: Watching the Minnesota Twins or Vikings!

YA fiction vs. Adult fiction: YA as I’ve chosen that as the genre I write

Favorite novel: To Kill a Mockingbird

I (love or am challenged by) research: I love to research any post sixteenth-century history

Would love to visit this country: New Zealand

Time period hoping to explore in future books: I have a pre-civil war period book in mind

What I love most about this present time: What I love the most about the present time is how mankind has used    God-given talents to come up with life enhancing inventions

Doug’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Like #ChristFic #YA novels? Meet Doug Cornelius @DpcBooks. (Tweet This)

Doug Cornelius @DpcBooks speaks out: How a #YA novel set in Nazi Germany was shaped. #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

Win Doug Cornelius’s @DpcBooks #BookGiveaway of The Baker’s Daughter. (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

In his debut Christian novel, Doug Cornelius hopes to inspire young adults to reflect on God’s unconditional love while re-living history’s experiences confronting evil. A Twin Cities, Minnesota native, retired from careers at Target, Amex, and 3M, he enjoys spending time with his wife, two children, three amazing grandchildren, complacent old dog, and frolicsome new cat, Selah.

Places to connect with Doug:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Amazon

 

Doug and I look forward to your comments.

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June Foster Speaks Up!

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Everyone’s Story, fresh from a blog-vacation, gives a great big welcome to author June Foster. June, who is fabulously making a 2nd career as a multi-published author, writes Christian, sweet romances with the themes of redemption and grace. Have fun enjoying  June’s excerpt from her recent release, Letting Go, which is also a generous BookGiveaway for 1 fortunate winner! And, if you’ve ever wondered if it’s too late in life to try something new or question if you’ve heard God correctly in His direction to you, then you will appreciate June’s uplifting words. We’re both looking forward to hearing from you!

June also gave my novel, Always With You, a wonderful review if you’d like to check it out hereAlso, please be sure to check out a special opportunity (below June’s feature) for those who subscribe to my Author Newsletter.

 

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BookGiveaway:

June is offering 1 randomly chosen commenters  1 ebook edition of the Small Town RomanceLetting Go. The winner will be announced between 6-7 PM EST on August 25th.

** For Giveaways: it’s not necessary to insert your private email information within comments.

Blurb:

When Pastor Zackary Lawrence lost his wife and unborn child, he couldn’t find the motivation to effectively pastor his church in Oak Mountain, Alabama. Now, six months later, the congregation has dwindled to less than a handful, and the bank forecloses on the building. Desperate, he takes a job at the local hardware store and reluctantly moves in with his parents.

Though Ella Russell has secretly been in love with Zack since high school, her hopes were shredded when he returned from seminary with a wife. Trying to forget the only guy she’s ever loved, she throws herself into her profession as a high school counselor.

Can God resurrect Zack’s life and allow him to finally discover the woman he’s always loved? If Ella entrusts her heart to Zack, will he shatter her hopes once more?

Excerpt from Letting Go:

 Excerpt from Letting Go by June Foster: 

 

At the entrance to the trail, oaks grew on either side of the dirt path, shading it and giving the illusion of a tunnel created by nature. Silence in the still passageway was only disturbed by a bird’s trill.

About fifty yards into the forest, Zack paused to face her, tugging her hand to his chest. “Ella, I’m not sure if this is the right time, but I’ve thought about little else than us in the last few days. Soon, I’d like to talk about our future—together.” He swallowed hard. “That is if you’re ready.”

Ella glazed her fingers over his rough cheek. Hadn’t his faith in God grown? His desire to serve Him? She could trust him. “I think we’re headed in the right direction. I’m ready when you are.”

Shivers floated through her when he drew her near in a hug. As if they’d melted into one person, she could’ve remained in his arms forever. Finally, she stepped away. “We’d better keep on going. Let’s hope we don’t run into any bears.”

Zack grasped her hand, sending a flush radiating up her arm. “I’m holding on to you in case we see any.”

Ella laughed. “You mean, so I’ll protect you?”

He smiled. A comfortable silence fell between them.

The sun sent shafts of light amid the thick trees, golden reminders of God’s presence among man. The aroma of cedar and sweet shrub enticed her to breathe deeply.

Something cracked. Snap.

Zack stopped in the path. “Hmm. Must be a deer out there.”

Swish. Stomp.

Air thinned in Ella’s throat. “Do you think it could be a bear?”

“Probably not. The black bear is coming out of hibernation about now, but I don’t think they’d show up at the campground. Especially since no humans are leaving food scraps around.” Zack tightened his hold on her hand. “In any case, let’s go back on the outside chance a bear has emerged from its long winter nap.”

Her body flashed cold then hot. “I’m not sure we should let the kids loose on this trail anyway. It feels too remote for me.”

A flash of a person in a black jacket and jeans broke through the bushes. A blast and pressure to her right shoulder then under her arm smashed into her awareness. A scream tore through her and echoed off the trees. Her knees gave way, and she crumbled to the ground. She bit her lips to contain her groaning.

“Ella, what … Oh, no. Merciful God, help her.”

A man wielding a rifle slipped into the woods again, just out of sight. Odd. Someone shot her yet there was no pain. With her left hand, she touched the place where the bullet had entered then stared at her hand. Blood drooled down her palm and onto her wrist. As quickly as the bullet had made impact, now a searing ache sent unbearable throbbing to her arm. A dark fog beckoned.

 

God Can Use Us at Any Age by June Foster

I’d like to offer encouragement to anyone who feels they have passed the time in their lives when they can be of service to the Lord. Let me share my own story and remind you that God is no respecter of persons. He doesn’t play favorites. If it happened to me, it could happen to anyone according to His will. I pray after reading my story, you’ll realize God can and will use us at any age in surprising and wondrous ways.

During my five years of college, earning both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, I wrote academically—essays, required papers, book reports, a thesis. On the job teaching elementary children, I wrote up lesson plans and student evaluations. But never anything that required plotting and creating a fictional story.

After thirty-four years, I retired and took up scrapbooking and card making, however, as I pasted pictures in my album and stamped cards, I found a story lurking in my brain. I could see the setting, a college campus, and the characters. But I had no idea what it meant.

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One day at my daughter’s house, I told her the story, and it unfolded in my mind even more. She listened spellbound and finally said she thought I should write it. With her words, a spark lit inside me. I knew that I couldn’t not write. And there were other stories, too, begging to be told.

I joined ACFW and the scribe’s group, but none of the authors I encountered were anywhere close to my age. Remember, I was a grandmother and now—a great grandmother. I was way too old to start another career, and how was I to learn how to write fiction? The more my first story filled the pages, the more I realized how much I didn’t know. So I plodded along to see where the Lord would take me.

Then I came across another author who was about my age. Martha Rogers. I wrote her an email, and she wrote one back with lots of encouragement. In scribes, I met a wonderful mentor with tons of patience and wisdom. Fay Lamb graciously pointed out my writing mistakes and offered excellent suggestions on how to improve my craft. I poured over dozens of “how to” books as well.

Then there was the matter of publication. Was I to try to get my stories out there? I frequently wear my feelings on my sleeve and hate rejections. So with the first no, thank you letter, I figured I’d give up. But the Lord spurred me on and taught me how to deal with the negative responses. I kept a file of all my rejection letters and decided to paper my office wall with them.

Then one day, I received an email from a small press with an offer of a three-book contract. I screamed so loud, my husband came running from the bedroom to see if I was okay. But after that the we’re not interested letters continued to come, and I still had lots of room for improvement. (I’m still working on that today.) Several other presses I truly wanted to work for said no with a capital N.

But fast forward to today eight years later. The story ideas continue to flow, and I’m now settled in with a great publishing house and awesome editor. To date, fifteen of my novels are published, and there are three more in the works.

God uses me today to share my stories of redemption and grace, something I’d never dreamed would happen. He wants to use you, too. Ephesians 3:20 says “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”

June’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Meet award-winning #ChristFic author June Foster @vjifoster. #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

Author June Foster @vjifoster speaks up on Everyone’s Story: Ever wonder how God uses you? (Tweet This)

Like #ChristFic sweet romances? Win #BookGiveaway of June Foster @vjifoster’s Letting Go. (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

An award-winning author, June Foster is a retired teacher with a BA in education and MA in counseling. June’s book Give Us This Day was a finalist in EPIC’s eBook awards and a finalist in the National Readers Choice Awards for best first book. Ryan’s Father was one of three finalists in the published contemporary fiction category of the Oregon Christian Writers Cascade Writing Contest and Awards. Deliver Us was a finalist in COTT’s Laurel Awards. June has written four novels for Desert Breeze Publishing. The Bellewood Series, Give Us This Day, As We Forgive, and Deliver Us, and Hometown Fourth of July. Ryan’s Father is published by WhiteFire Publishing. Red and the Wolf, a modern day retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, is available from Amazon.com. The Almond Tree series, For All Eternity, Echoes From the Past, What God Knew, and Almond Street Mission are available at Amazon.com. June enjoys writing stories about characters who overcome the circumstances in their lives by the power of God and His Word. Recently June has seen publication of Christmas at Raccoon Creek, Lavender Fields Inn, Misty Hollow, and Restoration of the Heart.

Places to connect with June:

Website

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Amazon Author Page

 

June and I look forward to your comments.

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I’m about to do a Cover Reveal for my upcoming release of 

And You Came Along, a sweet romance novella.

Sign up for my Author Newsletter here for a special BookGiveaway only offered to subsribers!

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Jann W. Martin Speaks Up!

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Everyone’s Story welcomes fellow Elk Lake Publishing author Jann W. Martin. Jann responded to His calling to write Christian children’s books and has never looked back. Please check out Jann’s special BookGiveaway for 2 winners as well as her encouraging words. We’re both looking forward to hearing from you!

Although I’m taking another blog vacation and will not be hosting a different guest until August 18th, I’ll be monitoring Jann’s blog feature for any viewer’s comments. 

 

 

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BookGiveaway:

Jann is offering 2 randomly chosen commenters  1 print edition of the children’s Christmas book of This Babe So Small. The winners will be announced between 6-7 PM EST on August 18th.

** For Giveaways: it’s not necessary to insert your private email information within comments. 

 

 

With God’s Guidance by Jann W. Martin

 

Hello, thank you for giving me this time to share the story of how God has guided my life.

We had some tough financial times when our girls were young. That was when I felt led to tithe. We had always given what I felt we could afford. After that we put 10% in the offering and then paid the bills. Once I started tithing it seemed like our money stretched even further. I now know the benefit of making sure to give to God first. He always provides for our needs.

During a time, when I wasn’t relying on God as much as I should, I found a wallet. It had $20.02 in it. No pictures or ID. I put that $20 with a little I had in the checkbook and picked up some groceries. The change that I owed was two cents. I thanked God for His help.

Then a short time later, our pastor handed me an envelope and said that someone in the congregation wanted us to have a nice Christmas. The envelope had $500 in it. God truly provides for us when we rely on Him.

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When our oldest daughter, April, was about two years old I was having some trouble with abdominal pain. The doctor told me I had to have surgery. From the tests he couldn’t be sure what the problem was. I was really scared that I had cancer. My mother had died from cancer when I was pregnant with our daughter.

The evening before my surgery I took a hot bath, then went to bed and cried. I told God that I just couldn’t handle this on my own. As I gave my fears over to Him I literally felt a weight being lifted off of me. After my surgery, I was told that I had endometriosis. It was easily treatable and that I had no cancer.

God put me on a new journey in 1996, when He called me to go back to school and become an Associate in Ministry. This began a whole new path. At one of my calls to service, God told me that I was going to write a Christmas book. My response was, “Right, I don’t know how to write for children, If You really want me to write it I need Your help.”

The following Christmas Eve, I read it to the children sitting with me, near the altar. After the service, several people asked where they could buy it. Saying it was the best story I had read yet. I answered “I’ll print you a copy if you’d like. I wrote it this year.”

The response was, “No you should get it published.”

I thought briefly about it then let it go. I had no idea how to go about getting a book published.

Evidently God had different ideas. This Babe So Small, the nativity told through the eyes of the innkeeper’s daughter, was published in 2007 and sold almost 2,000 copies that year.

In February 2016 at the Florida Christian Writers Conference, I signed with an agent, and publisher. By August I had a signed contract and published the first six books in Bible Characters Through the Ages. A series where two children build a time travel machine out of a refrigerator box and call it Yahweh’s Express. They travel back and meet the Bible characters and tell their stories through a child’s eyes. I also have a second series Bible Stories Through Time. With four cousins, named after our grandchildren. They will be telling the different stories through a child’s eyes. I also won third place for The Tapestry Award for my manuscript The First Easter. Michael meets Jesus and tells the Holy Week story.

Throughout my life I have felt God’s guidance. I have often felt the Spirit moving me in different directions. Each day I pray asking for His directions for the day.

How has God guided you and changed your life?

Jann’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Meet #ChristianChildren’s author @JannWMartin. #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

Author @JannWMartin speaks up: With God’s Guidance. (Tweet This)

Win #BookGiveaway of #Christmas #ChildrenBook by @JannWMartin. (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Jann W. Martin—author, teacher, speaker and blogger— Her dream is to capture the hearts of children, by writing stories that teach them of the Bible through the eyes of a child.

She has a B.A. from Michigan State University, Commissioned, Associate in Ministry from Trinity Lutheran Seminary.

Places to connect with Jann:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Pinterest

LinkedIn

Jann and I look forward to your comments.

~*~*~*~

 

Barbara Claypole White Speaks Up!

 

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Everyone’s Story warmly welcomes this week ABA author Barbara Claypole White. Anyone who knows me well knows of my own family history of mental illness. I really appreciate fiction that focuses on this topic in light of reaching out to others with encouragement. Barbara is a fellow Women’s Fiction Writers Association author and is a 2017 WFWA Star Award Finalist, among receiving other awards and recognitions. Congratulations, Barbara! And on that note, please be sure to check out what Barbara speaks up about this week, as well as her BookGiveaway offer.  We’re both looking forward to hearing from you!

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BookGiveaway:

Barbara is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter  1 print and signed edition of Echoes of Family (please note that this not a Christian fiction market book and some word choices will not suit every reader). The winner will be announced between 6-7 PM EST on August 4th.

** For Giveaways: it’s not necessary to insert your private email information within comments. 

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Writing as Therapy By Barbara Claypole White

 

I write hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness. Why? Because my fictional stories come from real life spent in the trenches with an invisible disability: OCD. Some days I want to write a better story for loved ones who fight this crippling anxiety disorder; some days I want to laugh at situations I control and OCD doesn’t; every day, I need to imagine hope.

OCD creates irrational fear in the absence of true threat. As with any chronic illness, it demands constant management. Left untreated, it can prove fatal. Those are the facts. Writing through my own fear is how I process them.

The hero of my debut novel, THE UNFINISHED GARDEN, evolved out of my darkest fear as a mother: What if, when my young son grew up, no one could see beyond his obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior to love him for the incredible person he is? Brilliant, charismatic, empathetic, and compassionate, my son’s a keeper. Fast-forward fifteen years, and he’s also a poet-singer-songwriter. The English side of the family lovingly calls him the Mad One, a title he embraces because offbeat humor is our number one coping mechanism and he never allows his illness to define him. Those are invaluable lessons I have applied to my stories: laughter is always the cure, and a person is not his or her disorder. For example, I never refer to Marianne Stokes (ECHOES OF FAMILY) as my bipolar heroine. She’s a mother, a wife, and a record producer who happens to be manic-depressive. (And makes incredibly bad decisions that drive the plot.)

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Battling mental illness demands incredible courage. Part of my journey with OCD has been to craft damaged characters, such as Marianne, who show this in small, everyday ways. Above all else, they exhibit my passion for chipping away at the stigma and stereotypes of mental illness. I love that readers reach out to say, “I’ve never told anyone this before but…” or “I’ve been feeling so isolated, but then I picked up your novel…” I love that when I visit book clubs, we often turn the conversation into group therapy. Fiction matters, people.

Back to my first hero, James Nealy, who struggles with OCD. When I was a starry-eyed author-in-waiting, a famous agent declared James too dark to be a romantic hero. My response? I made him darker. I peeled back his emotional layers to show readers the world through the lens of OCD. And as I excavated his thought process, I found my own niche in the mainstream fiction market.

James led directly to three other tortured characters: Galen, a young poet and suicide survivor in THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR; Felix Fitzwilliam, the hero of THE PERFECT SON, a father who is emotionally detached from his family until he becomes its savior; and Marianne. My stories are what we call standalones, but they share a recurring theme of the importance of community in the treatment of mental illness, and a recurring image of light through the trees. That light represents hope.

THE PROMISE BETWEEN US, my forthcoming novel with a January release date—available for pre-order!—shines a spotlight on a corner of OCD that still carries unbearable shame: postpartum OCD. This often manifests as intrusive, disturbing images of harming your baby. I’m excited to share these new characters—five good people trapped in a bad situation—because their story is a message of survival and renewal. My most hopeful story to date, it’s about sacrifice, redemption, and the power and promise of love. Another intensely personal BCW story, I hope you’ll add it to your to-be-read list.

Here’s the Goodreads link for The Promise Between Us if you’d like to mark as “Want To Read”: 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35489958-the-promise-between-us?from_search=true

Barbara’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Meet bestselling #WF author Barbara Claypole White @bclaypolewhite and #OCD advocate. (Tweet This)

Author Barbara Claypole White @bclaypolewhite speaks up: Writing as Therapy. (Tweet This)

Like #WF and #FamilyDrama stories? Win Barbara Claypole White @bclaypolewhite’s #BookGiveaway. (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Bestselling author Barbara Claypole White writes hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness. Originally from England, she writes and gardens in the forests of North Carolina where she lives with her beloved OCD family. Her novels include The Unfinished Garden, The In-Between Hour, The Perfect Son, and Echoes of Family. The Promise Between Us has a publication date of January 16, 2018.  She is also an OCD Advocate for the A2A Alliance, a nonprofit group that promotes advocacy over adversity.

Places to connect with Barbara:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Barbara and I look forward to your comments.

~*~*~*~

Please visit me on Cynthia Roemer’s blog,

Sowing Seeds of Hope, August 1

http://cynthiaroemer.com/blog/

 

 

Heidi Chiavaroli Speaks Out!

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Everyone’s Story is excited to welcome this week debut author Heidi Chiavaroli. Heidi may be a “debut” author whose novel Freedom’s Ring is first releasing August 8th, but keep your eye on her because she’s making splashes in all the right places and there is already lots of interest in this book, as well as Heidi. Plus, she’s just plain sweet! Heidi offers her novel as a BookGiveaway, but do check her trailer… it’s not necessarily a standard “book trailer” but if you’re a history buff you’re gonna enjoy it! And yes, that little girl holding the bat in the meme is the one and only Heidi!! We’re both looking forward to hearing from you!

 

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BookGiveaway:

Heidi is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter  1 print edition of Freedom’s Ring (US only). The winner will be announced between 6-7 PM EST on July 28th.

** For Giveaways: it’s not necessary to insert your private email information within comments.

 

 

 

Heidi’s Tour of the Boston Freedom Trail:

 

Striking Out by Heidi Chiavaroli

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

Isaiah 43:1

When I was in third grade, I played baseball on my uncle’s Little League team. I don’t remember, but my parents tell me I actually wanted to play. With my super thick maroon glasses and my not-so-athletic tendencies, I was pretty conscious of the many boys on the team smirking at the grounders rolling between my legs or how I backed out of the batter’s box before the pitch was even released.

I remember one particular game, getting up to bat. If I struck out, the game was lost. If by some miracle I got on first (I hadn’t gotten to first the entire season unless I was walked,) I could keep the game going. I was my team’s only hope.

After the first two strikes in which I didn’t even swing, I readied myself for the next pitch. In the dugout, my team gave a few obligatory cheers.

Honestly, I would have been better off not swinging. Not even trying. Just hoping for a walk.

But I wanted to prove myself that day. Prove that I wasn’t a failure, that I had worth on that baseball team.

So as the ball came barreling toward me, I closed my eyes and swung.

The umpire called the strike, and the game was over.

I had failed.

I wish I could tell you that I practiced really hard that summer, played again the next year, and showed those boys what a little geeky girl could do with some perseverance, but I didn’t. I never played baseball again.

But that feeling—that feeling of failure and inadequacy, of sensing I didn’t belong, of not feeling worthy—stayed with me for a long time.

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In high school, I found running. I found history and writing and school. I didn’t naturally excel at any of these things, but after knowing failure at so many other activities (baseball was just one of many!), I stuck with a few and learned to be good enough.

But being good enough didn’t make me happy. I wanted to truly excel at something. A career, a hobby…something. I felt my worth, my existence even, depended on my ability to do so.

In college, I changed my major. Then, a short time later, I dropped out altogether. I got a job, married my high school sweetheart, and became a mother. Finally! Something I could really do well. Or so I thought.

It wasn’t long before I realized that excelling at parenting was no easy task, either. Most days I felt I failed.

Again.

Yet it was in this time, where I felt ultimate failure at the most important task yet given to me, that Jesus found me. He scooped me up, told me He understood how I felt, that yes—perhaps I wasn’t super-gifted at much, but that wasn’t what mattered the most.

What mattered the most was I was His, and He had already accomplished perfection for me.

With this truth over and behind me, for the first time ever I glimpsed it. Freedom. Real freedom.

I didn’t have to be great at anything for my life to have a purpose. My life had purpose because of who I belonged to.

Something like chains fell off me, then. I began writing with a renewed passion, a renewed mission. I began living beneath grace instead of performance. And when those rejections and bad contests scores came, shouting failure, something prodded me to continue, to persevere and ignore the voices in my head tempting me to feel like that timid little girl in Little League.

The journey was eleven years long, and not always pretty. But one thing had changed—I knew, whether I failed or accomplished my goal of publication, my worth was secure.

I wasn’t a failure. I wasn’t inadequate. I belonged.

No matter what.

I was His.

The fact that I signed a contract with my dream publishing house a little more than a year ago is totally, all, one-hundred percent God’s grace. That’s what makes it so very amazing. Because in many ways, I’m still that little girl determined to prove myself against the voices ready to ridicule in the dugout, but now, beneath the covering of my true identity in Jesus, none of it matters.

Because whether I succeed or fail, whether I swing the bat or take a walk to first or strike out…I am His.

Heidi’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Author @HeidiChiavaroli: Oh my! #ChristFiction #BostonFreedomTrail #LittleLeague (Tweet This)

@HeidiChiavaroli speaks up on Everyone’s Story: Striking Out! #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

Win #BookGiveaway of @HeidiChiavaroli’s Freedom Ring. (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Heidi Chiavaroli is a writer, runner, and grace-clinger who could spend hours exploring Boston’s Freedom Trail. She writes Women’s Fiction and won the 2014 ACFW Genesis contest in the historical category. She makes her home in Massachusetts with her husband, two sons, and Howie, her standard poodle.

Places to connect with Heidi:

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Pinterest

Heidi and I look forward to your comments.

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Please share with your friends: Have you signed up for my Author Newsletter? You can do so right on the Home page of this website. I have news on my upcoming novella that newsletter subscribers will receive first, including information on an upcoming BookGiveaway only for them. Of course, I hope to have additional news… always hoping…

 

 

Catherine Ulrich Brakefield Speaks Up!

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Everyone’s Story give a very warm welcomes to author Catherine Ulrich Brakefield. It’s exciting for me to be hosting Catherine this new week (fresh back from a blog vacation) because not only have I read and enjoyed her novel Wilted Dandelions, but I’ve also recently won her newest release Swept into Destiny that I’m looking forward to ripping into! And, Catherine is  also a Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year Award winner for 2016!! So, get comfortable and check out Catherine’s teaser, book trailer, Giveaway offer, and read what she speaks up about. We’re both looking forward to hearing from you!

**Please check out a special fun offer, after Catherine’s feature, for a BookGiveaway collection from several great authors. I’m offering Christmas Treasures, an anthology.

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BookGiveaway:

Catherine is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter  a print edition of Swept Into Destiny (US only). The winner will be announced between 6-7 PM EST on July 21st.

** For Giveaways: it’s not necessary to insert your private email information within comments.

 

Swept into Destiny book teaser:

…Strong hands grabbed her waist. A large man swept her into his embrace with ease, his eyes gleaming into hers with amusement. “What is a dandified lady like you doing in the swamp?”

A dirty red bandana wrapped his forehead, and curly black hair covered his head. This was not the time to be chivalrous and he was hardly the man to offer it. His close-clipped black mustache curled about dimpled cheeks and there was a glint of amused contempt in his black eyes.

“I live here. Now unhand me. This poor man needs your attention.”

Dark of face, swarthy as a pirate, his hot glare swept her face like fire. “I think you’re hardly wearin’ the right clothes to be livin’ here.”

 

Beating the Odds By Catherine Ulrich Brakefield

For Grandmother, storytelling came as natural as honey is to bees. Raised in Kentucky, her southern dialect added to the flavor of her artistic words. I never dreamed her storytelling skills would inspire me into a writing profession.

My seventy-nine-year-old grandmother needed a home. I felt God’s direct guidance to take her in to live with my husband and me, instead of seeing her placed in a nursing home. What could be so difficult about that? She stood only five feet tall and weighted ninety-five pounds—I never expected my tiny grandmother to dominate my family so quickly.

Gran had had rheumatoid arthritis for years. The disease left her with enlarged joints and limited mobility. With the aid of her gold winged-back chair specially equipped with a built-in lift, she could rise to a standing position and then lean on her walker to shuffle her way around her small world of bedroom, bath, and kitchen.

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Gran became my confidant and chief baby advisor for my two-month-old daughter. Five years later, my son joined our household.

Each year my children grew stronger, and each year brought another obstacle for Granny Ruby to hurdle. Shingles, pneumonia and a stroke, added to the mounting sicknesses she endured. She persevered, beating down the melancholy of her sicknesses. All through the course of Gran’s twilight years, for her great-grandchildren, she kept a smile on her face.

Yes, if I was too busy, Gran was always there. Her big winged-backed chair rocked back and forth to the tempo of my children’s escapades as she exclaimed over their bruised knees and scraped elbows. In her down-home dialect, she told them stories about herself as a little girl growing up, and suddenly I wasn’t too busy to listen.

On many occasions, she told us the Civil War stories passed along through the corridors of time. Oftentimes, in the middle of a story, she would pause, and that pause filled our ears with the heartache of a people and a nation, the southern part of the Union that lost more than words could say. Land her great-father donated to the state. The plot of earth, which before the war the townsfolk used as a campground, became a Civil War cemetery, donated like so many pieces of land in the south that spoke of the fathers and sons who never returned home.

Her stories never centered on her tragedies, but on her triumphs. Gran always said, “There’s nothin’ that life can’t dish out, Jesus can’t make into a feast.”

I have often wondered what my life would have been like if my grandmother had been placed in a nursing home, if I had not accepted God’s challenge, stepped out in faith and put my tomorrows and those of my family into His keeping. Would I have found my way?

Little did I dream that obeying God would bring me face to face with my calling! That beating all the odds meant perseverance no matter what the trials, disappointments, and endless rejections.

The first year Gran came to live with us, I fought the yoke of servitude that taking care of my grandmother curtailed and prayed continuously for God to “get me out of this impossible situation.” God didn’t. Nor did God make my writing pilgrimage any easier. Only through Scripture did I find solitude.

Those twelve years with Gran equipped me for the next phase of my life. Instead of looking to get out of an impossible situation, I look instead into “beating the odds” through God’s word, the Holy Bible.

Swept into Destiny, book one of the Destiny Series, was inspired by my grandmother’s stories of the Civil War era. Please let me know if the story has blessed you!

Catherine’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Author Catherine Ulrich Brakefield @CUBrakefield speaks up: Beating the Odds. (Tweet This)

Catherine Ulrich Brakefield’s @CUBrakefield: Did your grandma shape your writing? (Tweet This)

Win Catherine Ulrich Brakefield’s @CUBrakefield #BookGiveaway: Swept into Destiny (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Catherine says, “My readers inspire my writing! 

She is the author of three faith-based historical romances; The Wind of Destiny, Wilted Dandelions, and the first of a four-book Destiny series, Swept into Destiny. She has also written two pictorial history books: Images of America: The Lapeer Area, and Images of America: Eastern Lapeer County.

Her short stories have been published in Guidepost Books True Stories of Extraordinary Answers to Prayer Unexpected Answers and Desires of Your Heart; Baker Books, Revell, The Dog Next Door and Horse of my Heart; CrossRiver Media Publishers, The Benefit Package and Abba’s Promise; Bethany House Publishers, Jesus Talked to me Today.

She enjoys swimming and horseback riding and lives in Addison Township with her husband, Edward, and their Arabian horses. Now that her children are grown and married, she and Edward are the blessed recipients of two handsome grandsons and a lovely granddaughter!

Places to connect with Catherine:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Amazon

Catherine and I look forward to your comments.

~*~*~*~

Christmas in July Kindle Giveaway

For 1 week only!

 

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Need a break from the summer heat? Think Christmas stories!

Here’s the link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/deca94d5353/

 

Kathleen Friesen Speaks Up!

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Everyone’s Story welcomes Christian Fiction author Kathleen Friesen. Kathleen joins us for a special editon of Everyone’s Story: she’ll be featured for 2 weeks rather than the customary 1 week due to a “Blog Vacation” I’m taking until July 14th, though I’ll still be monitoring comments and posting them. So, as George Gershwin captured in his song “Summertime,” kick back and enjoy a little easy living with Kathleen as she shares about a season of resurrection, shares an excerpt from her current release, Redemption’s Whisper, and responds to a few questions. Plus, check out Kathleen’s BookGiveaway. We’re looking forward to chatting with you!

 

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BookGiveaway:

Kathleen is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter  an ebook edition of Redemptions Whisper (US only and Canada only). The winner will be announced between 6-7 PM EST on July 14th.

** For Giveaways: it’s not necessary to insert your private email information within comments.

 

 

 

Excerpt from Redemption’s Whisper: 

 REDEMPTION’S WHISPER by Kathleen Friesen

 

1

A gust of wind shook the narrow, sloped jet bridge as Hayley Blankenship dragged her carry-on toward the jumbo jet. Fear lodged in her throat, and her footsteps faltered.

People surged past. “Excuse me.”

She swallowed hard and lifted her trembling chin. Not now. She would not give in to fear today. “You are strong,” she whispered. The floor trembled. Hayley stumbled as the moveable passageway adjusted itself. She clutched the handle of her bag, inhaled sharply, and trudged on. Almost there. She stalled at the entrance to the airplane. Her nerves vibrated. The narrow opening seemed to close around her. The air felt too thick to breathe. Her shoulders curled forward, and her head lowered. This was a mistake. She wasn’t ready, not yet. She turned. A long line of passengers stood behind her. Could she push past all those staring faces? Her knees threatened to buckle.

The flight attendant reached out and touched Hayley’s arm, startling her. “Is there a problem, miss?”

Hayley shook her head and stiffened her resolve. She’d made the decision to go to Saskatoon. This might be her last chance. She inhaled through her nose and forced her shoulders back, her head up.

The flight attendant said something as she entered the plane, but it didn’t register.

Hayley had to concentrate. She glanced at the boarding pass in her hand. Seat 20A. The rear of the plane, out of sight of most of the other passengers. A window seat, so she could watch her past disappear. She walked by people already seated, avoiding their eyes, until she came to her assigned spot. Hayley shrugged out of her coat and stuffed it in the overhead compartment. She slid into her allotted place, stored her carry-on under the seat in front of her, and leaned against the window.

Various workers on the ground hurried to load luggage, refuel the plane, and do whatever else was needed to prepare for another flight.

As Hayley watched their purposeful strides, a twinge of envy twisted her lips. Self-pity and self-loathing reared their ugly heads. She closed her eyes in a futile attempt to block the terrible images racing through her mind. Give up. You’re not going to make it. You may as well take the pills—all of them. She shook her head as though that would dislodge the negative thoughts. She sensed someone settle into the aisle seat but didn’t bother looking. She didn’t want to talk to anyone. Casual conversation was pointless. If only she could curl into a ball and block out the world, at least for a while.

***

Trevor Hiebert ran down the empty passageway to the plane’s doorway. As he ran, he muttered a rant against Toronto traffic and cabbies who seemed more interested in conversing on their radios than getting him to Pearson International on time. He couldn’t afford to miss this flight.

If only he’d pre-booked a seat. Now he was stuck with a center spot, and he knew from experience how uncomfortable it would be. Maybe the plane would be nearly empty so he could have a row to himself. He ducked around the smiling flight attendant and groaned. So much for that wish. He dragged his wheeled carry-on down the aisle as he scanned the numbers above the rows. Finally he spotted it: 20B. He glanced at his row mates, a young woman leaning against the cabin wall with her eyes closed and an older woman who looked like a sweet grandmotherly type in the aisle seat.

“Excuse me, ma’am. I’m in 20B.”

The old woman looked beside her at the narrow seat and back up at him. Her attention settled on his broad shoulders, and her mouth compressed into a flat line. “Good luck.”

Trevor shifted his weight and pulled his leather bag closer. “Would you mind trading spots with me? Then I won’t have to climb over you.” And he’d have a little more breathing room.

“I certainly would mind. I want this seat.” She jutted her chin and glared at him. “You young punks are used to getting your way, but you won’t bully me.”

The attendant moved to the front of the cabin, ready to begin her safety speech.

Temper surged, but Trevor clamped a lid on it. The woman wasn’t worth the regret he’d feel later. He shrugged out of his well-worn leather jacket, lifted it and his bag into the overhead compartment, and tried to maneuver over the woman’s legs in the cramped space to his assigned spot. Her leg jolted against the back of his knee, and he lost his balance. He caught himself against the window so he wouldn’t land in the young woman’s lap.

The girl’s eyes snapped open as he turned to apologize. She gave a sharp intake of breath and tried to ease away, but Trevor’s power to move deserted him. Her mesmerizing green eyes widened as shock turned to fear.

“What are you doing?” Her shrill voice broke the spell.

“So sorry,” he mumbled. He pushed off from the window and plunked into his chair. “I tripped.” He looked sideways at the old woman, who smirked as she smoothed her pant legs.

It was going to be a long flight.

He glanced back at the young woman and wondered at his desire to see her face again. But she had turned away and sat huddled against the wall. Her sharp-angled shoulder blades and the back of her spiky auburn hair made an effective barrier. Kind of looked like a hedgehog. Trevor snorted. He was stuck between a prickly old grouch and a hedgehog. For three and a half hours.

***

Hayley pressed against the wall of the aircraft as chills raced through her limbs. Her legs trembled and her heart raced. She’d made it onto the plane. Would she fall apart now? That man had nearly landed on top of her. It happened so fast, she hadn’t had time to react. There was no room to move, anyway. But he’d caught himself—and apologized. She wasn’t hurt, just scared. Her breathing evened out. She’d survived worse. She silently repeated her psychiatrist’s prescribed refrain. I am OK. I am strong. The past is gone. The future is God’s. Over and over, until her body began to relax. Just like in Dr. Freemont’s office.

She’d heard the brief exchange between her seatmates. The man’s voice would have excited her in the past. She would have smiled at him and flirted with him. But that was the old Hayley. She was dead.

When she’d looked up and stared into his rugged face, all her senses had sharpened. He smelled like pine forest mixed with motor oil, a strangely tantalizing combination. His tanned skin indicated time spent outdoors. And his dark-lashed grey eyes, like a stormy Lake Ontario, invited her to sink into them. For one brief moment, she had the strangest sensation she could see her future in those eyes. And that terrified her.

 

 

The Season of Resurrection by Kathleen Friesen

 

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. (John 11:25)

Oh, how I love spring! As I write this (the last week of February), snow still covers the lawn and flower beds in our yard. No signs of life so far. But they’ll come—soon, I hope.

All four seasons have their charms, but spring is by far my favorite, when flowers, trees and shrubs proclaim the reality of resurrection. And I can’t wait. Every year, as soon as the snow melts, I check my flowerbeds daily, searching for the first green leaves. As daffodil spears and crinkled primrose leaves appear, I know winter is past, and new life has begun. That’s worth celebrating.

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When we lived on the Canadian prairies, the setting for Redemption’s Whisper, the bitterly cold and seemingly interminable winters were difficult for me. Depression threatened and sometimes overwhelmed. So I prayed as I cowered, struggling to breathe. And longed with all my heart for springtime.

When those first hints of pale green softened the stark branches on our willows and poplars, I felt as though I, too, was returning to life. I could breathe again.

That’s what I love the most about springtime—the visible reminder, year after year, that we are designed for resurrection. On those days when I huddled under quilts trying to get warm, I was like a seed buried in the ground, frozen and still, unable to “breathe.” But with the return of warm, sunny days, the seed and I could emerge and live exuberantly.

In Redemption’s Whisper, Hayley feels like that desolate seed. Choices and circumstances have brought her so low, she’s not sure she even wants to live again. But as in a seed, a tiny spark of life remains, eager to burst into bloom. Redemption’s Whisper is her story of resurrection, of Easter, a renewal of life and love.

As you will read in this story, Hayley learns to trust in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, his death and resurrection, to embrace the joy of His redemption. Her journey from death to life portrays the reality we are offered in Christ Jesus: abundant, eternal life. Now that’s something to celebrate!

Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)

 

Fast Takes for Kathleen Friesen:

What’s one slice of life from your Canadian Prairie days you miss?

Being close to our children and grandchildren is what I miss the most. My husband and I travel back to Saskatchewan as often as possible to visit, but it’s not the same as being able to get together on a moment’s notice. I do miss that.

I also miss the fantastic beauty of the northern lights—a frequent occurrence on the prairies, bright sunshine on snow sparkling like diamonds, and the intense joy of the first greens of spring after a long, hard winter. Oh dear, now you’ve made me homesick for the prairies.

You’re an outdoor lover. If no danger threat were possible, what activity would you take up?

Ooh, this is hard. Danger is one thing; physical capability is a larger problem. If neither were an issue, I would love to take up horseback riding. The few times I tried it when younger, the horse ran away with me!

Who chooses who, your theme, plot, or character?

It depends on the story. For my first novel, Melody’s Song, the theme came first, then the characters. Nila’s Hope followed it, and Nila’s character drove the story and plot. For Redemption’s Whisper, Hayley and Trevor’s characters wrapped themselves in the theme.

Writing office or tucked on the sofa?

My favorite place to write in sitting on our comfy couch with my feet up, glancing outside at the gorgeous valley view to rest my eyes and inspire more creativity. But when I need to really buckle down, the basement office is my hideaway.

Always Christian fiction?

Always. Without Christ, there is no hope, no redemption, and no reason for me to write.

When did the writing bug bite?

I’ve scribbled poems and such for as long as I can remember, but until I took an online writing course (Christian Writers Guild), I didn’t believe anyone would want to read what I wrote (except my dear mother, of course). My mentor encouraged me to submit articles and stories, and when I opened a denominational magazine and saw my first published poem, I was hooked.

What’s next, writing wise?

I am working on the first book in what will hopefully be a four-book series. Hearts Unfolding is a story of pursuing dreams, based on Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Kennedy has to learn to yield her dreams to the One who knows her best and knows what is best for her.

Kathleen’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Meet Kathleen Friesen @KFriesenAuthor, writing stories of #faith overcoming trials and heartaches. (Tweet This)

Kathleen Friesen @KFriesenAuthor speaks up on Everyone’s Story: The Season of Resurrection. (Tweet This)

Enter Kathleen Friesen @KFriesenAuthor #BookGiveaway of Redemption’s Whisper. (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

Kathleen Friesen writes contemporary stories of faith that overcomes tough trials and deep heartaches. Her desire is for her readers to see themselves in the characters of her stories, and to realize that Jesus Christ is the true hero.

Kathleen spent her childhood in the Pacific Northwest and, after marrying the man of her dreams, survived the first thirty years of married life on the Canadian prairies, where they raised three fantastic children. Now she and her patient husband, Ron, live in the beautiful Okanagan Valley of British Columbia.

Places to connect with Kathleen:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Kathleen and I look forward to your comments.

~*~*~*~

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Please share with your friends: Have you signed up for my Author Newsletter? I’ve just added an easy sign up on the website’s Home page. I have news on my upcoming novella that newsletter subscribers will receive first, including information on an upcoming BookGiveaway only for them. Of course, I hope to have additional news… always hoping…

 

 

V. Joy Palmer Speaks Up!

NewJoy

Everyone’s Story welcomes back author V. Joy Palmer, a debut author celebrating her book’s 1-year birthday. Congratulations, Joy! Speaking for myself, although I have an inkling this may be true for many, Joy speaks out this week on whether or not to speak … and whether others see you as weird. Well, I can certainly relate. Do check out Joy’s BookGiveaway, her first chapter, and see exactly what she has to say when she speaks out. We’re both looking forward to hearing from you!

**Please check out a special invitation from me below Joy’s blog feature.

 

NewJoyBook

BookGiveaway:

Joy is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter  a choice between either a print or ebook of Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations (US only) or outside of the US, an ebook of the same title. The winner will be announced between 6-7 PM EST on June 30th.

** For Giveaways: it’s not necessary to insert your private email information within comments.

 

 

This From Joy:

Hey everyone! Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations celebrated her (yes, her) first book birthday this month!!! Yay! To celebrate, I thought it would be fun to share the first chapter with you guys. And it just so happens to include one of my very favorite scenes – the moment Izze meets Miles! Enjoy!

Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations by V. Joy Palmer 

When a bride finds The Dress, there is joy, laughter, and on some occasions, even spontaneous dancing.

There is none of that right now.

The bride wails like her firstborn son has been promised to Rumpelstiltskin. I stare in horror at the once beautiful dress. Formerly perfect, sparkling with promise, and, well, now it doesn’t.

“What are we going to do?” the bride asks, knocking me back into reality.

Um…I’m not sure there is anything we can do for that dress now. Her undergarments show, courtesy of the torn train, but I’ll attempt to take a more positive route.

“I will have a seamstress look at it and see what she can do, but just in case, why don’t I bring in some other gowns for you to browse through. Just in case,” I add so she doesn’t think all is lost with this gown. Even though all is totally lost with this gown.

“What do you mean, look at other gowns? This is The Dress. Are you crazy? This is the dress!” She screams right into my face, eyes bugging out of their sockets.

“Well, I know that, and you know that, but a bride should always be prepared for whatever happens. She should always have a backup dress. I was going to mention that to you when you came in today for your fitting,” I say this casually while I take a step back. I’m not completely lying. I fitted a bride once who had five backup gowns. When I asked her about it, in one of her fifty fittings, she just called it being well prepared. I called it neurotic, but to each her own. I was going to mention it today for laughs, but you use whatever you’ve got to in a crisis.

“Really?” The bride looks at me in complete desperation. Her hazel eyes are wide and unblinking as she waits for me to fix her world with a single word. I have power.

“Really.” I give her my best reassuring smile. “So why don’t you change out of this dress while I go get some others? Do you want to try some in this same style, or maybe a different one? You would look divine in an empire waist gown.” I keep my voice as sweet as maple syrup.

She takes the bait, and soon an empire waist gown that screams gorgeous drapes from her shoulders. Lace covers the bodice, and a big satin ribbon emphasizes the waist. The lace, covering a chiffon skirt, flows to the floor. It starts off covering her whole waist but gradually narrows at five points around the skirt, very similar to a star shape. When it reaches the hem, there are just five little dots of lace. It’s even more beautiful than the dress her flower girl ruined. A few minutes later, she schedules another fitting and then disappears out the door.

Just another day’s work at Ever After, the bridal boutique in Keene, New Hampshire, where I work.

My name is Isabel Vez. Yes, I love my job. No, the bridal boutique is not named after the movie Ever After. No, I’m not married yet. No, I don’t let the fact that I work with annoyingly perky brides every single day rub salt in my raw single wound. And yes, I still love my job despite all that. Usually.

“That woman would make a model candidate for Bridezillas,” my best friend and Ever After’s one and only seamstress, Kaylee McGrurd, whispers with a giggle.

“No kidding.” I pretend to straighten a couple bridal catalogs long enough to debrief her about the last customer. “I thought her head was going to explode when she saw the dress. Her eyes were twice the normal size.” I try to imitate her expression for Kaylee’s benefit.

“What happened to it?” Kaylee asks.

“The train had been partially ripped off the dress, and clung to one side of the gown by a single, jagged piece of fabric.” Kaylee makes a face, and I hold up my right hand. “Don’t ask me how, but if you get a train that long, it’s going to come with some risks. I imagine it has something to do with the flower girl, who was playing with it, but then hid behind her mother when the bride started to hyperventilate.”

“Good job with that client.” My boss, Lilly Marshall, suddenly appears by my side. It’s spooky how she does that.

I quickly straighten. “Thank you.” My boss does not tolerate slouches at work. She says it brings disgrace to our gowns. Lilly went to an all-girl school from kindergarten to twelfth grade. Etiquette lessons were required each year, or you didn’t move on to the next grade. This especially means that if she catches me slouching, she will give me a five-minute lecture about good posture. I know this speech by heart, in case you were wondering.

“Such a pity her other dress was ruined like that,” Lilly mutters.

“Yes, it is a pity, uh, such,” I say.

Kaylee starts to laugh at my bad grammar, but covers it with a cough when my elbow lands in her ribs. “Yes,” she says, “It’s such, such a pity,” Kaylee says this with a straight face.

My boss stares at us for a few minutes. I really want to howl with laughter. Drat Kaylee and her ability to keep cool under all circumstances! Lilly snaps back to reality and smiles. “Well, back to work, girls. Those gowns won’t find their brides all by themselves.”

Um… okay. Creepy statement.

I look at my friend as our weird boss walks away. “Will you stop doing that?” I whisper. “The woman is not stupid. She’s going to figure out you’re mocking her.”

“If she hasn’t figured it out yet, then I don’t think she’s going to anytime soon,” Kaylee says. “So, The Chow Man after work? I’m craving a good crab Rangoon.”

“That sounds great,” I say. “Do you want to eat there?”

“No. I’ll pick it up on my way home. I just want to crash in front of the TV tonight.”

“Oh, so your usual nightly routine?” I smile at her as she rolls her eyes at me and sticks out her tongue. We may be twenty-five, but we still act like we’re thirteen with each other. You know, as long as no one is looking. Then we act like the mature young women they think we are.

They really have no idea.

“See you at home. I’ve got some errands. I’ll pick up the Chinese food.” Kaylee smirks. “Have fun with the nut cases.”

“They are not nut cases. They are just stressed. Planning a wedding can be very stressful.” I say this in a monotone, as I recite this line to sobbing, spazzing, and emotional brides almost every day. Some of them are total nut jobs, but I can’t tell Kaylee that. I hate losing in any way, shape, or form.

“Whatever. I’ll see you later.”

Kaylee waves as she shoots out the door, her long, red hair flying out behind her like Wonder Woman’s red cape. Kaylee is beautiful. She’s five-foot-ten with long, sleek red hair and bright green eyes. Literally, her eyes are the color of a fresh kiwi. She has a fabulous fashion sense, witty humor, and a love of football, baseball, and various other sporting endeavors.

What? I don’t like sports. I once forgot whether the Red Sox were a baseball or football team. Basically, Kaylee is every man’s dream. She even cooks.

I am the opposite of every man’s dream. I’m short—five-foot-two—with extremely curly, dark hair. I already covered the fact that I don’t know baseball from football, and I do not cook. I can’t even make mashed potatoes right. My roommates call the fire department every time I bring home groceries. You have one little incident with a fiery stove, and nobody trusts you anymore.

I walk around the bridal boutique. The front windows boast mannequins dressed in our newest gowns, but sheer curtains partition them off from the rest of the store. The front section of the store has popular dresses on display. The left and right walls are wall-to-wall mannequins dressed in bridal apparel, as well as a few random mannequins that stand throughout the greeting area. I stop to straighten the hem of one before going to stand behind the front desk, which is framed by a door on each side. One leads to the stockroom. The other leads to the offices.

The bell over the door chimes, and another bride walks inside the store. She takes a seat on one of the three couches arranged like a giant “U.” They face the storefront, but that doesn’t stop this blond chick from turning around to stare at me with the classic, “When is it my turn?” look.

Candace Matthews, the other consultant, comes out of the offices. “Is my two o’clock appointment here yet?” She tucks a strand of black hair behind her left ear.

I gesture to the girl who is still staring at us. How can you miss that?

Candace steps next to me and pretends to busy herself with some paperwork on the desk. “Her name is Precious. Precious Treasure.”

I snort, and immediately start coughing to cover it. “Yeah. You have fun with that.”

“Thanks.” Candace rolls her eyes, and then walks over to the bride to introduce herself.

I get back to work, busying myself with some paperwork for the brides who have ordered gowns and are coming in for fittings, rather than buying off the rack. I don’t have any other appointments scheduled for my shift, and before I know it, it’s time for me to leave.

Once I walk out the front door, I turn left down the strip mall sidewalk. Ever After is right in the middle, with a shoe store and a trendy clothing store on the right. On the left, there is a bookstore and café called Whipped Cream.

I open the door to Whipped Cream, and am greeted by Grant Thurrs—the owner, as well as the man who thought of the corny name to this café.

“Hey Izze!”

I take a step back. Not sure why, but it’s my first response to such an enthusiastic greeting. “Hi, Grant. Been a slow day?”

“I was so bored that I arranged the mugs by color.” He gestures to the shelf to his right.

“And what color dominated?” We have a long-standing argument that he needs to get a variety of different colored mugs, not just blue mugs. He always says that the “mugs” on the customers are different enough for him. I say that’s rude, and blue gets boring after a while. And on it goes.

He sighs. “Izze, do we really have to go there again?”

My lips curl in a smug grin. “Yes.” I bat my eyelashes at him.

He mumbles in a low voice. I balance on my tiptoes to hear him. “Glue,” he says. Yeah, that’s what I heard, too.

“Glue? Do you glue you’re mugs together? Does the health inspector know?”

“What? No. B-L-U-E. Are you deaf from all the shrieking brides?”

“I’m not deaf. You just mumble. Take a speech class,” I say as I settle onto a barstool in front of the counter. “I’ll take an iced mocha with a shot of caramel and an extra shot of espresso. Pretty please.” I add the pretty please for good measure. After all, I did insult his speech abilities.

He rolls his eyes. “No extra mocha shot this time?”

“I thought that was understood.”

“Coming right up.” He turns to get it ready.

I look around the café. It is dead in here. This strip mall is located in the middle of town. This is Keene, New Hampshire. No, it’s not New York City, but it’s not exactly a little stick-in-the-mud town in the middle of a state nobody remembers exists. Normally business is pretty steady.

Grant owns the café along with his sister Miranda, who chooses that moment to enter. Grant and Miranda happen to be my second cousins, so I get a discount on coffee.

“Hey!” she yells.

I blink. These people are not normally so starved for human interaction. “Uh…hi!” I respond, also yelling.

Now she blinks at me.

I decide to change the subject and spare myself from looking like an idiot. “So how are you doing, Miranda?”

“I’m good. It’s been so slow today. It’s making me sleepy. I can’t wait until closing.” She yawns.

Grant comes back with a to-go cup filled with my icy mocha treat. “What are we talking about?”

“Your sister just told me she’s going to club you over the head, lock your body in the shed, and become sole proprietor of this establishment.” I figure potential murder is definitely free of boredom. “Oh, and she’s going to buy more mugs.”

Grant rolls his eyes as he hands me my coffee. I take a sip of the sickly sweet but delicious drink. Grant almost gags as he watches me.

“How can you drink that much sugar and cream on top of chocolate?”

“I have a strong heart.”

“Whatever.”

I grin. “Bye, guys. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Bye,” they both echo.

I take a deep breath at the door. Iced coffee in the middle of winter was not a bright idea. I take another sip. Who cares? I open the door and run the rest of the way to my car.

 

 

I pull into the driveway at my house. Yes, I said house. It’s a four-bedroom house that Kaylee and I rent with two close friends from church, Apryl and Courtney Burns.

Sisters.

Twin sisters.

I’m sure you can imagine the joys that brings our lives.

It’s a small, uh, good house. Really, it’s a rundown shack. The paint is peeling. The shutters are falling off. The stove doesn’t bake properly. The hardwood floors creak. The railing leading upstairs is broken. In fact, we kicked down what was left, rather than keep dealing with it.

On the plus side, there are four small bedrooms. Four small, small bedrooms. Barely big enough for a bed. That may be a slight exaggeration, considering I have a dresser, desk, and chair squeezed into mine. But I love this house. It’s beautiful in a falling-apart-on-an-old-back-road-with-lots-of-sunshine-and-nature kind of way.

I get out of my little blue car. Sweet! I’m the first one here.

As I walk in the front door, I kick my shoes off in the foyer, hang my coat on the rack, and set my Coach purse, a Christmas present from my parents, on the decorative table where we all keep our purses.

I walk the agonizing ten feet to the couch where I immediately collapse without bothering to change out of my skirt and blouse. Bring on the wrinkles, because only a chicken running through my living room screaming, “The sky is falling!” is getting me up and off this couch.

And if that happens I’ll be going to get a psych evaluation.

About half an hour later Apryl and Courtney get home. I can hear them yelling from the car all the way in here, on the couch, with the volume on the TV turned up higher than necessary.

“Are you crazy?” That’s Courtney and her familiar, high-pitched scream.

“Listen. I’m going to say this to you one more time. This is my job. I love to do it. And it’s my head. If I dye the whole thing magenta, that is my right! It’s your job to love me regardless of how I look!” Apryl screams back.

I pause the movie. I might as well listen without any distractions.

“But when you dye my whole head magenta, it’s another story!” Courtney shrieks at a decibel appropriate only for dogs.

“Then don’t bring up my hair color choices.” Apryl huffs. Apryl has had some interesting hair colors. Currently, her hair is jet black, shoulder length, with a ton of layers—at least it was this morning. “And I did your tips. The very ends of your hair. Get over it. You said you wanted something different, and this is different. Besides, it looks great on you.” Apryl sounds like she is trying to speak calmly, like she is trying to reason with her.

Yeah right.

“I’m a law student.” Courtney says. “I’m going to be a lawyer. I can’t have magenta tips! It’s undignified. I was thinking blond highlights or even red. But this is frightening!”

“Listen, undignified works for you. King David was undignified. I think lawyers are too stuffy. Live a little. Add some color to those gray suits.” Apryl says all this in a bored tone. I bet they’ve been going at it for a while.

The door slams open and they walk inside the house. Courtney practically runs through the living room, up the stairs, and presumably into her room, because I hear another door slam. Apryl just stands there and looks at me. Probably because I’m lying on my back, legs flung over the back of the couch, and feet hanging off the edge. Also, I’m in a skirt.

Could be embarrassing if there were any guys here.

She drops her purse on the floor, kicks off her shoes, and belly flops onto the loveseat.

“Did you see her hair?” Apryl asks.

I fiddle with the remote. “She took off running too fast for me to see it. Flash would have been proud.”

“It looks great on her. I’m not dyeing it back. She can go to some other hairstylist and pay for it if she’s going to be like that.” She huffs, sending her bangs flying.

I keep my mouth shut. I don’t really want to deal with it. I just want to watch Letters to Juliet and eat my bag of Oreos.

Yes, I am going to eat the whole bag by myself. It’s been a long day. Don’t judge. I’ll work it off.

Or I’ll skip breakfast tomorrow.

“I love this movie,” Apryl murmurs. “What are you watching next?”

My Fair Wedding. Somebody’s doing a wedding with sky diving or ocean creatures or something like that.” I answer.

“What?” Apryl asks after a moment.

I don’t know what was so hard to understand about that statement. I open my mouth to start over again only slower this time. “I said My Fair Wedding. The episode is about—”

“Not that, dork. I don’t see how you went from sky diving to ocean monsters. They are worlds apart.” Apryl rolls her deep-set, blue eyes.

“Oh,” I say. “I’m not sure where a lot of those ideas for weddings come from, but I’ve seen some weird stuff. I just remember it looked interesting.”

“I see,” Apryl says and then falls quiet again.

Thirty minutes later, a herd of elephants tromps up our porch stairs. Kaylee comes through the door seconds later.

Guess I was wrong about that herd of elephants.

“Hey guys.” Her hands are full of Chinese takeout. “What are we watching? Where’s Courtney?”

Apryl says, “Letters to Juliet,” the same time I say, “In her room.”

“Oh, I love this movie!” She sits down and passes around the takeout containers and chopsticks. “Why?” She casts her eyes upstairs.

But she already knows.

We often go through this scenario with slight variations. First, one of us gets home and flops on the couch with the television blaring. Next, the rest of us start to find our way home. Then, Apryl and Courtney begin to argue about anything from haircuts to whether or not Congress would pass a law stating that socks cannot be worn with sandals. Later, after much “discussion,” Courtney will storm to her room. Finally, Courtney, feeling convicted, will return to apologize, and we will enjoy a lazy evening in front of the TV.

I know my life. Boring for some, but not to me. I have a problem when I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Repetition is good. Change is distressing.

Apryl sets the small container of rice on the floor and rolls over. “She didn’t like the dye job I did for her hair. It’s too wild for her.”

Kaylee just nods in an Oh-I-see way. This is an argument as old as time.

We sit in silence for about fifteen minutes before I hear Courtney come down the stairs. She walks over to the couch, stopping in front of us. Her hair looks great, actually. The magenta looks really good with her wavy, mahogany-colored hair. I pause the movie again and close my eyes.

“I just wanted to say that I’m sorry for freaking out. You’re right. This is different. And that’s exactly what I said I wanted.” Her voice is soft, humble.

Even with my eyes closed I can still see the scene in our little living room. I smile.

“It’s okay, Court. I understand.” I open my eyes as Apryl passes a container of Lo Mein to her as a peace offering.

And all is well.

“Who’s up for My Fair Wedding?” I ask.

I love my life.

###

It’s a beautiful morning. The sun is shining bright, and the sky is blue.

Just like my mood.

I’m sure this has happened to you. You have an amazing dream. Then you wake up. The dream felt so real, probably because you wanted it to be real. And now that it’s over you just want to go back to dreamland. Where life is exactly how you want it.

Not the best way to start the day. I roll over in my bed and stare at the wall. I’m just like any other single woman. Sometimes I just want to be loved. For me. I had a dream that I met Mr. Wonderful, Sweet, Smart, Hot, AND Sensitive. We were engaged and I felt so in love. I felt so full, so happy. How can you do that? Feel in love in a dream, I mean? It all felt so real, but better. I’ve dealt with reality, and let me tell you, living a dream is much better.

There’s a verse in the Bible that talks about lifting your eyes up to the hills and about how your help comes from God. I think I’m going to give it a try. But since there are not a lot of hills in Keene, I roll onto my back and lift my eyes to the ceiling.

What is that nasty looking gunk all over my ceiling?

I am so getting up now. It looks like a giant dust bunny that’s planning to eat me in my sleep.

Thirty minutes later I’m showered and hitting the coffeepot. I’m not dressed in my work clothes yet. Instead, I’m wearing a sweat suit that has seen a better millennium.

I go back to my room for a minute and return with my Bible and a notebook. Devotional time.

I head to the sunroom toward the back of the house. It’s not the warmest part of the house in the middle of winter, but it is the most beautiful room no matter what season. The big bay windows show our whole backyard, and thanks to Kaylee’s green thumb, our backyard is beautiful with its big maple trees, stone benches, and flower beds. This time of year, it is like a winter wonderland. A giant snow glob, if you will.

I sit on a little loveseat that Courtney dismissed because it didn’t match any of the furniture we have. It’s fuchsia. With blue flowers. I don’t know where Apryl bought this, but I can’t help the giggle every time I look at it.

I open my Bible and stare at the words, finding it hard to focus this fine day. My heavy heart definitely isn’t helping matters. I haven’t really been reading in a particular book lately, so I close my eyes and open my Bible, flinging the pages to see where they land. Hey, nothing’s a coincidence.

I land in Luke chapter thirteen. I read. I still don’t feel like anything sticks today. Like nothing applies.

The first part of verse thirty-three catches my eye. It says, “In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day….”

Apparently God doesn’t want me to wallow in this, but to trust Him to bring the right guy in His time, and in the meantime, to move forward in life and in Him.

Easier said than done.

Okay. I’m going to try it. Maybe it will help that weird, dull ache in my heart that just wants to be loved.

It’s usually easy to ignore this ache. I think about the past, and about the terrible memories there. Then I just bury myself in friends, family, work, and church. But sometimes I’ll watch a bride find The Dress and talk about her perfect fiancé, and that ache will come back with a raging vengeance.

But today is not a day for wallowing. It is a day for… uh, going on.

###

I’ve gone on to the bookstore.

Ah. I love coming to the bookstore. Cause it’s awesome.

I take a deep breath. Inhale. Exhale. I love the smell of books. Of paper. Of coffee. Of coffee and paper. It’s poetically beautiful.

“Hey, Izze. How are you doing today?” Todd is roughly around my age. He has worked here since the beginning of time.

“I’m great! How’s business? No crazy old ladies trying to pick you up again?” I grin as he sighs. Todd’s a cute guy. The older generation adores him. The old ladies will even pinch his cheeks. I went on a couple dates with him a few years ago, but by the second date we knew there was nothing there.

I walk over to my usual section. Today I’m on a mission. I’m looking for something light-hearted, romantic, and fun. And I will not leave without it.

A wall of books towers over me. I wonder if anyone actually uses the ladder they have hooked to the bookshelf wall. Maybe it’s just for looks? Or does everybody just go without the books on the top shelf? Maybe the top shelf is reserved for all the books nobody likes.

Out of the corner of my eye I see a guy looking at me. He is really looking at me. He’s not checking me out, or looking at me like he’s trying to place who I am. He’s just staring. It’s weird. Obviously, his mother never taught him that staring is rude.

Ten minutes later I’ve got it narrowed down to two books. However, that guy is still staring at me. He’s hardly moved from his spot. This is ridiculous! I am getting agitated now.

“Excuse me, can I help you?” I say in a polite voice. Polite but annoyed. At least I use my manners.

He looks at me as if I was the one who was staring. “No,” he says, and then he turns and walks away.

“Grrr. People can be so rude sometimes.” I grumble to myself. I can’t decide which book I want, so I head over to the in-store coffee shop. There I can sit with a hot cup of some delicious coffee while I get better acquainted with these books.

I always feel a little weird taking something to read into the coffee shop in this store. Like what if I don’t like the book, but I spill coffee on it because I’m a klutz? Then I’ll feel obligated to buy it because I ruined the merchandise, and hindered their chances at a sale. If I hadn’t drunk the coffee while reading, it never would have been ruined.

Maybe they shouldn’t let people read anymore while drinking their coffee. Maybe they shouldn’t let people read the books because they’ll be less likely to buy them if they can just come to the store every day to read them. You know that saying about the guy who won’t buy the cow if he’s getting the milk for free? Well, it applies to more than just relationships. I like to think it applies to all aspects of life. Even book buying.

I stop dead in my tracks once I’m in the open coffee shop. There in the middle of the line is Rude Guy. Seriously? I am so not happy right now. He’s not looking this direction so I slip quickly into line.

Yes! I don’t think he saw me. I start doing little fist pumps in a muted victory dance.

“Uh, Miss, can I take your order?” The barista gives me a funny look. That’s okay—I deserved it that time.

“Hi, uh, I’d like a large caramel latte with whip cream on top,” I say, working to keep my voice normal. No need to freak her out any more.

“Whole milk or skim milk?”

“Whole milk with a ton of sugar, please.” I glance up the line.

She scribbles on my future coffee cup. “Anything else today?”

“Just those fake glasses with the bushy eyebrows and oversized nose so I can discreetly lay low,” I say.

The barista doesn’t even crack a smile. She’s like sixteen! She should appreciate my joke. Or at least be polite and smile.

The manner system in America is failing us.

I hand her the money and then move down the line to pick up my drink. I face the glass display case and pretend to be engrossed in studying the desserts, but out of the corner of my eye I watch Rude Guy to see if he’s noticed me. He’s looking at the paperback in his hand as he waits for his coffee.

As the line moves, I stealthily make my way down a little farther.

I feel like a spy.

Rude Guy gets his drink now and turns to leave. This time I don’t do any fist pumps, but I can’t help the sigh that escapes my lips.

I reach the end of the line, pick up my drink, and look for a semi-clean table. The first one I sit at is coated in some slimy, tan-colored substance. I move toward a table by the window and sit. Ah, perfect.

I take a sip of my drink and open the first book.

Suddenly, a shadow falls over me.

I look up, and who do I see?

That’s right. Rude Guy.

“You’re sitting in my spot.”

“I beg your pardon.” My mouth hangs open.

“It’s perfectly fine. I’d just like my seat back.”

“Uh, no, I think you misunderstood me.”

He raises his eyebrows at me, and I notice his striking blue eyes for the first time. “You’re not going to move?”

“Yes. I mean no. I mean yes.”

His eyebrows creep higher at my stuttering.

I take a breath. “I mean you misunderstood when I said, ‘I beg your pardon.’ I meant it like, ‘I don’t understand what you’re talking about.’ So, no, I am not giving you the seat back because you were not sitting here. To answer your last question.”

His eyebrows have taken a flying leap to the moon by the time I finish. Which makes his rather gorgeous eyes that much more obvious. Oh, I really hate that I notice this.

“Okay.” He sets his coffee down and takes the seat across the table from me.

Bad. Bad. Very bad.

This isn’t going to end well. I can feel it in my bones.

“What are you doing?” I snarl. Politeness gone. Out comes Snot Face.

“I’m sitting.”

“I can see that, but why? This is my table. Go get your own.” My sneer would make any middle-school kid proud.

“Well, I say it’s my table, but you clearly think it’s your table. So you’re not going to budge. Correct?” He holds my gaze and nods when I don’t answer. “That’s what I thought.” He sips his coffee, sets it down, and folds his hands all lawyer-style as he waits for me to refute his logic.

Oh, I’ll refute it all right.

“I don’t know you. And I’m not sharing a table with someone I don’t know.” Ha! Take that.

“I’m James Miles Clayton, but my friends call me Miles. And this is my spot.” His smug grin reveals an even row of teeth. “And your name is?”

“None of your beeswax.” Great, now I’m reverting back to myself at age five.

“That was a good, mature comeback.” He smirks. “You don’t have to tell me your name, but it would sure go a long way in getting to know you.” His expression is somewhat charming. And insanely aggravating.

“You could be a stalker.”

“I assure you I’m not.”

“I’m sure that’s what all stalkers say. Especially when the restraining order is placed.”

“I sit at this table every time I come to this bookstore.”

“I bet the other tables would like to make your acquaintance. Share the joy.”

“I’m a one-table-for-life kind of man,” he shoots back.

“Look, you weren’t sitting here when I sat down. It looked like James had left the building.” I purposely don’t call him Miles because I am not his friend. This man is crazy.

His eyes sparkle. Uh-oh. “Now, why did you think I had left?”

“Um, because I didn’t see you.”

“If you didn’t see me, I would think you would have said something like you didn’t see me. You said it looked like I had left. Meaning you saw me. Possibly even watched me.”

“Uh…” Sigh. I cannot tell a lie. “Uh, I wasn’t watching for you. I saw you and ducked.”

“Why is that?” He leans forward.

“Because you were staring at me earlier. And that bugs me.”

He doesn’t deny staring at me. He just doesn’t address it.

“Did your mother ever teach you that staring is rude?” I ask.

“My mother raised me to be quite the gentleman.”

I snort. Like a lady. “On the contrary. Gentlemen don’t stare.”

James the Rude Guy shrugs. “Think what you’d like, but let’s get back to you. You were watching me after you ducked. To see if it was safe to sit or run.”

I refuse to comment. Hey, if he can do it, I can too.

He chuckles. “Looks like between the two of us, you’re the stalker.”

“I am not!”

Heads turn our way and someone shushes me. Great.

“I am not,” I say again, this time just above a whisper.

“That’s what they all say.”

“Argh!” My head drops to the table. “Can I please just have my table?” Might as well try polite desperation.

“Nope.”

I raise my head. “Why? Why sit here and bug me? Why not get another table?”

He looks me square in the eyes, and it almost takes my breath away. “Because I like this spot. And the company intrigues me.” He stands up. “But I’m afraid I have to go pay for this book. I hate reading a book in a coffee shop that I haven’t purchased yet. Until next time.” He winks and walks away.

This time I make sure he walks out the door.
 

 

To Speak or not to Speak? By V. Joy Palmer

 

Do people look at you like you’re weird?

That must seem like a random question, but sometimes I feel like I have a “W” tattooed on my forehead. I’ve spent most of my life feeling like the odd one out for one reason or another. Because of my parent’s divorce and my messy background. Because we were the new family in a small town. Because I was the “good, little Christian girl.” Because I got married “so young.” Because I’m a writer so I talk to imaginary people all day. Because I’m a crazy obsessive an avid reader.

Because I’m…different.

Different is good, right? Different is celebrated, right?

Only in a perfect world. And while you can buy chocolate in bulk these days, this is still not a perfect world.

This results in me wondering (in between counting down the days until the anticipated release of the next book I’m desperate to read) if maybe I should just keep quiet. No one understands me anyways. It’s not like I’m depriving the world of anything great. It’s hard not to feel like that after explaining my odd writer/bookish tendencies for the 109,398th time only to be mocked. Or when I read a bad review for my book. Or when I have a bad mommy day. Or when a kid in the youth group abruptly rejects God.

It would be so much easier to stay quiet. My heart would hurt less.

JoyMeme

When those gloomy thoughts strike like a never-ending rain, God faithfully, albeit annoyingly, reminds me of this verse:

“If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” Jeremiah 20:9

With that verse, He reminds me that I am not the only one who has felt or will feel this way, that I have something to say in a way that only I can say it, and most importantly, that He has given me something to say.

A purpose.

So much meaning packed into 42 words…

And there He goes again, shooting down my ill-conceived ideas about myself.

Jeremiah is such a popular prophet – now! When he was alive and speaking God’s messages to the people, he was pretty much despised. Which is how he ended up in this mental state. He couldn’t go anywhere or say anything without being mocked, scorned, and/or beaten. All for sharing the truth God asked him to share. How desperately he wanted to just be done!

But he could. not. stay silent.

The truth, the message, the purpose swept through his bones like an all-consuming fire in a dry and dusty forest.

Even though it would be so much easier to stay silent, I can’t. The fire within my soul rages, desperate to be free. My voice, my message, my call are important because God Himself deemed them vital. Because He gave them to me to share with those around me. Not sharing, well, that’s physically and spiritually worse than the loss of all chocolate – and that is BAD!

And the same is true for you, my friends. God has given you a message that only you can say in your own unique way.

But to speak or not to speak, well, that’s a burning choice we all have to make. And if you’re like me, you may have to make this choice a lot…

Like every minute of every day.

But I can’t stop His fire. And if I’m honest, I don’t want to stop the fire, regardless of the heartache. So once again, I choose to speak. I choose to be my wonderfully weird self. I choose His fire.

Joy’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Celebrate with @VJoyPalmer’s book-birthday! #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

@VJoyPalmer: Do people look at you as weird? (Tweet This)

Author @VJoyPalmer speaks out: To Speak or not to Speak? (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

V. Joy Palmer is an avid blogger and co-founder of Snack Time Devotions. She is a youth leader at her church, and loves acting crazy and drinking coffee with the teens. When Joy isn’t urging the elves that live in her computer to write, she’s hanging out with her husband, their adorable baby girl, and their socially awkward pets.

Places to connect with Joy:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Blog

Instagram

 

Joy and I look forward to your comments.

~*~*~*~

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