Saturday, January 24, 2015

Indoor Water Park

I have been at an amazing retreat for a week. Seven Christian friends and I rented a seven bedroom home in Branson, MO, for the purpose of getting away from the world and writing all week. Of course, I had to bring my trusty sewing machine, since a lot of what I do is based on quilting! It has been an especially great time for those of us who are introverts. After an initial goal setting meeting the first night, we lock ourselves in our bedrooms all day working on our projects. We emerge for dinner, and spend about two hours connecting with each other, discussing projects, and holding each other accountable.

While my husband jokingly refers to this as my annual 'boondoggle' trip, I don't turn the tv on, minimize my facebook time, and I've only read about 5 pages of the novel I brought! I've researched and written a speech about women during the Revolutionary War, outlined a book proposal I'm toying around with, and designed/quilted samples for four classes I'm teaching in the near future.

Today is the last day of the retreat, and I have a list of small projects I've been putting off while the big priorities were completed. I woke up at 5:00 ready to hit the ground running. But the minute I put my feet on the floor my day got reprioritized. While still in the fog of sleep, I was wondering why in the world my feet were wet. Not just damp, squishy soak your socks wet!

Sometime after midnight a pipe broke under the sink in the basement outside my room. I didn't hear the water because I had both a ceiling fan and a portable fan providing white noise so I didn't hear those of us who stay up all night to write. The entire basement was pretty much covered with an inch of water!

Three of us set out to figure out what we could do. We ran around looking for a water shut off valve, tried in vain to reconnect the pipe with our bare hands, and trying to find something to catch the water so there wouldn't be any more on the floor.

We called the owner (with whom we'd been corresponding for a while and have developed a great relationship). They live in Iowa, and it was pretty early in the morning. They thought the shut off valve might be in the furnace room (we looked hard, but couldn't find it), or maybe outside. Two of us put our coats on over our pajamas (rolled up above our knees) and slipped into shoes -- mine were cute black flats with silver stud designs. We were quite fashionable and it's too bad the neighbors didn't see us racing around the house in the dark with our flashlights looking for a valve. It would have made quite the story!

After looking everywhere several times, we gave up and took turns sitting on the step by the sink so we could empty the large bowl we set underneath the pipe whenever it filled up. It was a pretty helpless feeling. The homeowner called the builder, who told us where to look for the shut off valve and we finally got it turned off.

We had hurriedly unplugged everything and grabbed all the stuff off the floor in our rooms and the basement (all my sewing stuff) and piled it on tables or even outside on the patio. We lifted up the pool table and put grocery sacks around the pretty wooden feet in an attempt to protect them. At that point all we could do was wait for the plumber, who was on the way.

He quickly diagnosed the problem and went to his truck for a replacement part. He was still working under the sink as I packed my room closeby when I heard him laugh outloud. Hmmm -- that's not necessarily a good sound! I went out to see what was so funny, and he showed me the part that broke. It still had the label attached that very clearly stated "Flood Free"! I don't think so!

Of course, since we were there to write, I took notes of the things about the morning that were blog-worthy, especially from a devotional perspective. Here are the take-aways I have from the adventure:

1. How often in life do we sleep while the water is rising (figuratively)? I was comfortable in my life and totally oblivious to the disaster impending just outside my door. Since I was doing so much research about the Revolutionary War all week, this was especially interesting to me.  Many colonists could not believe that the British would take the actions that they had, and the new Americans probably sat by and watched for a while before realizing action needed to be taken.

2. It is incredibly frustrating to know that something must exist, but not be able to find it. Every home has a water shut off valve, usually in the basement. We walked around all the walls, inside and out, desperately hoping to quell the flow of water. We found the electrical boxes, sprinkler system controls, sewer connections, but no way of shutting off the water. Just as an aside, the leak was before the water shut off valve under the sink, so shutting that off did not good. The builder insisted it was in the closet with the furnace, but there were no water pipes there at all. We finally found it in the closet with the water heater (which some of us didn't realize existed -- it was hidden around a corner), and even when we originally saw it, it looked more like a gas shut off valve.

There are several times in the Bible where people searched desperately for something. A lost coin, a treasure, or even health. The things we want, and even the things we need, are often not where we first look. But if we seek, we will find!

3. Helpless is a terrible feeling. We just sat on the steps watching the bowl fill with water, not knowing what to do. We weren't authorized to call a plumber, and at that point we weren't able to reach the homeowner. At least we had kept the damage from getting worse, but there was no shop vac to allow us to start cleaning up, and the amount of water was way beyond what we could sop up with towels. We needed intervention! Unfortunately this is a common feeling for we humans, especially when we are faced with medical situations. We rush to get a wide variety of tests, only to wait -- sometimes for weeks-- for a diagnosis. In the mean time there is nothing we can do. Any treatment at that point would probably be useless, or even dangerous, because it has to be focused in the right direction. Sometimes all we can do is pray and keep the damage from getting worse.

4. While we sat on the stairs, we racked our brains for what we might have done to bring on this disaster. Did we go under the sink and move things around, possibly loosening a connection? We hadn't stored anything there, nor had we pulled anything out.  So why did we still feel so guilty? Why didn't I hear the water earlier and prevent this much damage? So often we take on guilt or stress for something we didn't cause, and probably couldn't have prevented. It's good to do an assessment to ensure we aren't at fault, but once that's determined, we need to just let it go (oh, Disney fans, I feel a song coming on!).

5. Oh the irony of the broken part being called Flood Free! Kind of like the Titanic being unsinkable. Somehow life will always supersede any claims producers make.

6. And finally, no matter how crazy the situation, there is always a way to laugh if we look hard enough for it! I almost wish we'd thought to take a picture of our lovely selves -- hair still askew from sleep, pajamas rolled up above our knees, splashing around in the water like crazy people.

While it will take a while to get the home back to normal, all is well. The right people are on the job and the two of us who were residing in the basement have moved all our stuff out and we'll spend the night with some of our friends on the top floor. But we'll always remember this year's retreat as an adventure!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Hidden Agenda

Hidden Agenda
by
Lisa Harris


MY THOUGHTS:
Hold on to your seat! This book will take you on a crazy ride of suspense and intrigue! From a private island mansion to a backwoods cabin, the settings and activities are nonstop. There are a lot of secrets kept silent for years, and as the main characters try to find the truth they really aren't sure whom they can trust.

This is the third book in the  Southern Crimes series, but you don't really have to read them in order (however they are all great, so if you have the time and opportunity, I'd recommend it). Lisa Harris has a gift for keeping the story moving!

ABOUT THE BOOK:
His cover is blown. Now his enemies are on his heels and closing in.
Presumed dead by friends and family, Michael Hunt is alive--and on the run. Presumed dead by friends and family, the undercover assignment he's been working for the past eight months has just been blown. With a hit out on his life and corruption inside the Atlanta police department, Michael finds himself hunted by both the cartel and the law. His only hope is Olivia Hamilton--the daughter of the man who wants him dead.

This nonstop chase from Christy Award-winning Lisa Harris will leave you breathless.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Lisa Harris is the award-winning author of more than twenty books, including the Christy Award winner Dangerous Passage and Fatal Exchange. Winner of the Best Inspirational Suspense Novel for 2011 from Romantic Times, Harris has spent over ten years living with her family as missionaries in Mozambique, where she leads a women's group and runs a nonprofit organization that works alongside their church-planting ministry. Visit www.lisaharriswrites.com for more.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Once Beyond a Time

Once Beyond a Time
by
Ann Tatlock


MY THOUGHTS:
 Ann Tatlock's books always have a fascinating twist, and Once Beyond a Time is no exception. Ann has created a wide variety of characters with depth and compassion. I don't want to go into too much detail because half the fun on this book is discovering the basic premise.

I didn't want to put this book down. The story races along, and the end of each chapter is so compelling that I just HAD to read the next one to find out what happened. This book links historical and contemporary fiction genres in a masterful way!

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in either genre. It is a wonderful story of love, forgiveness, and self discovery.

ABOUT THE BOOK:
After settling into an old house nearly hidden on the side of a mountain, a broken family discovers that their new home is no ordinary place. The family can see and speak with people who have lived there in the past, and with those who will live there in the future. Are these people apparitions or real? Could the house itself be the stuff of mountain lore, a place where all of time is happening at once?

It's 1968, and Sheldon and Meg Crane have just moved their family from suburban Philadelphia to the town of Black Mountain, NC. Sheldon has resigned in disgrace from the ministry after an affair. He will now sell used cars for his brother-in-law's auto dealership. Sheldon is burdened by his wife's unwillingness to forgive and his daughter's anger over the move. The oldest son is in Vietnam. The only happy member of the family is his eight-year-old son, Digger. But then, Digger suddenly disappears. Has he been kidnapped or has he wandered off into the mountains? How does the "house beyond time" show one family the healing power of forgiveness and the loving sovereignty of God?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ann Tatlock writes historical and contemporary Christian fiction. You can find more of her books and a great interview here: http://anntatlock.com/

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

GIVEAWAY - An Amish Second Christmas

An Amish Second Christmas
by
Beth Wiseman, Kathleen Fuller, Ruth Reid, and Tricia Goyer

MY THOUGHTS:
With all the Amish novels I've read, I never remember reading about the tradition of Second Christmas. I've learned that this is a traditional day of friendship -- after the worshipful Christmas day, on December 26 the Amish get together with family and friends just for the purpose of having fun and rekindling friendships. What a wonderful concept!

This book is four novellas that related to Second Christmas in some way. The stories aren't connected, and therefore stand alone. Each has a very different plot, and all involve Christian growth and romance. I loved the various stories -- they were unlike any Amish novel I've read to date!

It would be hard for me to pick a favorite, but I especially enjoyed the twist on family history in When Christmas Comes Again, and I was most fond of the characters in The Christmas Aprons.

This is a great holiday read for anyone who loves Amish fiction and wants a great insight into Amish life around the holidays.

Oh, and I forgot to mention there are some fabulous recipes included in the back!

If you would like a chance to win a copy, just leave a comment (and your email address) and tell us about your favorite Christmas cookie or dessert!

You can get a copy of the book HERE.

ABOUT THE BOOK:
Celebrate Second Christmas, a treasured, lighthearted time of community, with four Amish romances. 
“When Christmas Comes Again” by Beth Wiseman
Katherine knows the first Christmas without Elias will be hard for her and the children. But when a mysterious Englischer appears with photographs of her late husband, Katherine  begins to wonder what other blessings Christmas could have in store.
“Her Christmas Pen Pal” by Ruth Reid
Joy was expecting a wedding proposal from Henry; what she got instead was news of another woman. But when her heartfelt letter to a cousin ends up in the hands of a young cabinetmaker, an unexpected correspondence between two strangers gets interesting fast.
“A Gift for Anne Marie” by Kathleen Fuller
Anne Marie and Nathaniel have been best friends since they were kids. Now things are evolving . . . in ways everyone else predicted long ago. But when her mother suddenly decides to remarry in another state, Anne Marie’s new chapter with Nathaniel looks doomed to end before it begins.
“The Christmas Aprons” by Tricia Goyer
Vanilla crumb pie has been Esther’s mem’s calling card for decades. But when Esther finally gets her hands on the secret recipe, she discovers that vanilla crumb pie is more than just dessert . . . it’s bachelor bait.

About the Authors

Award-winning, bestselling author Beth Wiseman is best known for her Amish novels, but she has also written several successful contemporary novels, set primarily in her beloved Texas, including Need You Now and The House that Love Built. Both have received glowing reviews. Beth's The Promise is inspired by a true story. Website: www.bethwiseman.com Twitter: @bethwiseman Facebook: Fans-of-Beth-Wiseman

Kathleen Fuller is the author of several bestselling novels, including A Man of His Word and Treasuring Emma, as well as a middle-grade Amish series, The Mysteries of Middlefield. Website: www.kathleenfuller.com Twitter: @TheKatJam Facebook: Author Kathleen Fuller

Ruth Reid is a CBA and ECPA best-selling author of the Heaven on Earth series. She's a full-time pharmacist who resides in Florida with her husband and three children. Facebook: Author-Ruth-Reid Twitter: @authorruthreid

USA Today best-selling author Tricia Goyer is the author of 35 books, including the three-book Seven Brides for Seven Bachelors series. She has written over 500 articles for national publications and blogs for high traffic sites like TheBetterMom.com and MomLifeToday.com. Tricia and her husband John live in Little Rock, Arkansas where John works for FamilyLife. They have six children. Twitter: @triciagoyer Facebook: authortriciagoyer

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Where Treetops Glisten -- a GIVEAWAY!

Where Treetops Glisten
by
Tricia Goyer, Cara Putman, and Sarah Sundin


MY THOUGHTS:
I'm not sure why I like WWII books -- life wasn't really simpler then (although the focus may have been more clear), but for some reason I'm drawn to this time. And I love Christmas books. More than anything else, a great Christmas book will get me into the spirit! Where Treetops Glisten is the best of both worlds! It is a compilation of three stories about one family, the Turners, who are dealing with all that wartime brings.

It also helps that the book is written by three of my favorite WWII authors!

Throughout the three stories the true meaning of Christmas is shared through candy, children, and caring. The home front comes alive in White Christmas, by Cara Putman, as Abigail is mourning the death of her boyfriend who was killed in the war. In the busyness of her life as a college student and employee at a candy store she is still able to find a way to help others. Sarah Sundin wrote my favorite of all three, I'll Be Home For Christmas, about an extremely active little girl who finds a way to bring love to all she meets. And the final story, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, takes you to the front lines of a military hospital in Holland. It was written by my all time favorite author Tricia Goyer and is based on a true story.

The three authors did a marvelous job of weaving the stories together to create a portrait of a loving family who leans on each other in troubled times. Pick it up for a bit of holiday cheer! And a bonus -- there are cookie recipes in the back. The White Velvet Cutouts are AMAZING.

If you would like a chance to win a copy, just leave a comment sharing your favorite Christmas treat!

You can get a copy of the book HERE

ABOUT THE BOOK:
The crunch of newly fallen snow, the weight of wartime
 
Siblings forging new paths and finding love in three stories,
filled with the wonder of Christmas


Turn back the clock to a different time, listen to Bing Crosby sing of sleigh bells in the snow, as the realities of America’s involvement in the Second World War change the lives of the Turner family in Lafayette, Indiana.

In Cara Putman’s White Christmas, Abigail Turner is holding down the Home Front as a college student and a part-time employee at a one-of-a-kind candy shop. Loss of a beau to the war has Abigail skittish about romantic entanglements—until a hard-working young man with a serious problem needs her help.

Abigail’s brother Pete is a fighter pilot hero returned from the European Theater in Sarah Sundin’s I’ll Be Home for Christmas, trying to recapture the hope and peace his time at war has eroded. But when he encounters a precocious little girl in need of Pete’s friendship, can he convince her widowed mother that he’s no longer the bully she once knew?

In Tricia Goyer’s Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Meredith Turner, “Merry” to those who know her best, is using her skills as a combat nurse on the frontline in the Netherlands. Halfway around the world from home, Merry never expects to face her deepest betrayal head on, but that’s precisely what God has in mind to redeem her broken heart.

The Turner family believes in God’s providence during such a tumultuous time. Can they absorb the miracle of Christ’s birth and His plan for a future?

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
 
Cara Putman is the author of twenty books including Shadowed by Grace, She is the winner of the 2008 Carol Award for historical fiction. Sarah Sundin is the critically-acclaimed author of the Wings of the Nightingale series, the  Wings of Glory series, and the forthcoming Waves of Freedom novels. Tricia Goyer is a prolific author of nearly forty books, including Chasing Mona Lisa, and a speaker and blogger.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Christmas Cat

The Christmas Cat
by
Melody Carlson


MY THOUGHTS:
Every year Melody Carlson writes a heartwarming short Christmas story. Each year the story is better than the year before! The Christmas cat is a great book about a man who  inherits his grandmother's estate -- and her six cats! His challenge is to find each cat the perfect home -- that is, perfect according to the detailed instructions in grandma's will.

Carlson has done an artful job of creating fascinating characters. I enjoyed getting to meet each one (including the cats). I look forward to her Christmas novellas each year as a way to calm my spirit and set my thoughts clearly on what is important during the holiday.

This book is full of humor, romance, and encouragement -- it's just plain fun! It's the perfect book to put into a stocking. Better yet, read it now to help get into the Christmas spirit.

ABOUT THE BOOK:
After years abroad, Garrison Brown finds himself at the home of his beloved grandmother who has just passed away. He must sort out her belongings, including six cats who need new homes. While he hopes to dispense with the task quickly--especially since he is severely allergic to cats--his grandmother's instructions don't allow for speed. She has left some challenging requirements for the future homes of her furry friends.

Can he match the cats with the perfect new owners? And is it possible that he might meet his own match along the way? 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books with sales of more than six million! She is the author of several Christmas books, including the best selling The Christmas Bus, The Christmas Dog, and Christmas at Harrington's, as well as The Christmas Pony and A Simple Christmas Wish. she received a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her many books, including the DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL series and Finding Alice. She and her husband live in central Oregon. Learn more at www.melodycalrson.com


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Deceived

Deceived
by
Irene Hannon

MY THOUGHTS:
Irene Hannon is a master of suspense! Her books always lead me on a wild trail of evidence and supposition that leaves me anxious for her next book! Deceived is the third (and I presume last) book in the Guardians of Justice series. I've read the other books, but I you won't be lost if you pick up Deceived first. The premise of the book is creative, and all characters have a wonderful level of depth. At times I found myself feeling sorry for the bad guy!

One fun aspect of her books is the St. Louis setting. As a native, I enjoy 'knowing' that the characters go to some of the same places I've been.

I did find myself a bit distracted in this book because the primary characters seemed just a bit too beautiful and obsessed with each other right from the beginning, but it IS a romantic suspense novel.

I will read every book Irene Hannon writes. I hope you enjoy her books as much as I do.

This is
ABOUT THE BOOK:
For three years, Kate Marshall has been grieving the loss of her husband and their four-year-old son in a boating accident. But when she spots a familiar-looking child on an escalator in the mall, she is convinced it is the son she thought was dead. With police skeptical of her story, she turns to private investigator Connor Sullivan. The former Secret Service agent is dubious but agrees to investigate. Digging into the case he discovers that the incident may have been no accident at all. But if Kate's son is alive, someone is intent on keeping him hidden--and may be willing to go to lethal lengths to protect a sinister secret.

As Irene Hannon's many fans have come to expect, Deceived is filled with complex characters, unexpected twists, and a riveting plot line that accelerates to an explosive finish.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Irene Hannon is a bestselling, award-winning author who took the publishing world by storm at the tender age of 10 with a sparkling piece of fiction that received national attention.
Okay…maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But she was one of the honorees in a complete-the-story contest conducted by a national children’s magazine. And she likes to think of that as her “official” fiction-writing debut!
Since then, she has written more than 45 romance and romantic suspense novels. Her books have been honored with two RITA awards—the “Oscar” of romantic fiction—and she is a six-time finalist. Her books have also won a Daphne du Maurier award, a Carol award, three HOLT Medallions, a National Readers’ Choice Award, a Retailers Choice Award, a Booksellers’ Best Award and two Reviewers’ Choice awards from RT Book Reviews magazine. One of her novels was also named by Booklist as a top 10 inspirational fiction books of 2011. In addition, she is a two-time Christy award finalist.
Irene, who holds a B.A. in psychology and an M.A. in journalism, juggled two careers for many years until she gave up her executive corporate communications position with a Fortune 500 company to write full-time. She is happy to say she has no regrets!
In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, gardening and singing.  A trained vocalist, she has sung the leading role in numerous musicals, including “South Pacific,” “Brigadoon,” “Oklahoma” “The King and I” and “Anything Goes.” She is also a soloist at her church.
When not otherwise occupied, Irene and her husband enjoy traveling, Saturday mornings at their favorite coffee shop and spending time with family. They make their home in Missouri.