CAFE: A gathering place. A place of refreshment.

Thirsty for the latest releases in Christian fiction? Ready for a peek into the world of publishing and writing conferences? Hungry for spiritual and real-life nourishment? Pull up a seat; you're in the right place, and I'm so glad you've stopped by.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 30

Day 30. 

It's been a fun month, hasn't it? I've enjoyed spending time each day thinking of things for which I'm thankful. Family, friends, writing colleagues, and you, my readers. Thanks for sharing the journey with me.

As the month closes, it's time to look ahead, not back, so I'm heading into December with anticipation of the greatest birthday the world has known.

"Come, Immanuel, Come." 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 29

Day 29. A Sweet Deal for You.

While writing is a solitary endeavor, many people are involved into the process of a completed novel – agents, editors, copy editors, art departments, publicists, and one of the most crucial in my opinion – critique partners. These are the brave souls who see the ugly parts of our stories, all the dangling participles, misplaced modifiers, goofy and illogical ideas, and atrocious spelling. Finding critique partners who understand your vision and are able to slap you around one minute and offer cyber hugs the next are more precious than rubies. They must be tough on the outside and marshmallowy on the inside.

I’ve been fortunate to have a few critique partners who’ve shaped my work and encouraged me along the way. I’m eternally grateful as these ladies have also become dear friends. But the joy of being a crit buddy is that we are also able to celebrate the successes of one another.

One of my best critique buddies is Camille Eide. She's smart, savvy, and funny, and I’m as proud as a new momma that her first novella is releasing in just four days! It’s a lovely story (I’ve had the pleasure of reading and endorsing this enchanted Christmas tale). So for today I’m going to send you over to Camille’s blog where she has some fun things going on – a Christmas cookie recipe exchange and a chance to win a copy of her “baby” – Savanna’s Gift – an e-book just in time for Christmas. And you’ll get to meet Camille, too, who’s as lovely and witty as her blog.

See you tomorrow for Day 30 of Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 28

Day 28. 

A frost is in the air. Most of the turkey is gone. ALL of the pie is gone (thank goodness for that!). The house is quiet. All is calm. And I’m thankful for the relaxed Thanksgiving we've had with two of our sons and their families. We enjoyed eating (of course), watching football, playing cards in the kitchen, and doing a jigsaw puzzle in the dining room.

I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed sitting around a table, sorting puzzle pieces by color, elbowing each other looking for just the right piece. It’s a sort of being together that we don’t do much of anymore, and you know I’ve missed that. With our iPads and data phones and laptops, I wonder if we’ve forgotten how to just “be” with one another. No agenda. No volume controls. No clock to watch. And you can get up from the table and meander off to do something else for awhile or stretch your legs. And when you come back with a cuppa something warm, someone will have added a few new pieces and you settle in for another session, heads together, bent over looking for an elusive piece or giving a little hoo-rah when you find it. And always toward the end, the pieces start flying into place and you joke about who will get to put in the last piece. Being the grownups we were, we let one of the grandkids have the esteemed honor.

I’m thankful for the reminder of simpler times, of the pleasure of doing a jigsaw puzzle. And because I enjoyed it so much, I’ve added “get a new puzzle” to the Christmas list. Actually, I can’t wait.

How about you? Were there any reminders of the past from your Thanksgiving weekend? What family activities did your family enjoy?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Day 27. The Letter Z.

Today I’m thankful for the one who is my constant muse and companion. She gives unconditional love with no strings attached, unless you count the daily ritual of an after-dinner treat. I’m never lonely or truly alone with my faithful pup at my side. I can’t imagine a world without animals or my home without this sweet girl – Zelda.

As a puppy almost 8 years ago

Zelda today, still loved and adored.                   

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 26

Day 26. The Letter Y for You, my readers!

If you have read one of my books, thank you.

If you have attended one of my book launches or book signings, I appreciate the time you took from your busy life to celebrate with me.

If you have written a review and posted it on your blog or online, thank you for sharing your insights and your gift of words.

If you’ve read my blog, been friends with me on Facebook, have liked my Facebook author page, or followed me on Twitter, thanks for hanging out and spending your days with me.

If you’ve said a prayer or given me a word of encouragement, you’ve blessed me in ways you can’t imagine.

If you’ve written me a note, an email, or messaged me, thanks for the sacrifice of your time.

If you’ve shared my books with others or recommended them to a friend, you are a treasure above all things.

To all of you, my gratitude overflows. Because of you, I search for the perfect word, that special turn of phrase, the spark that will make my stories come alive. It’s for you I write.

As a very small way of saying thanks, I’m giving away two of my books in a drawing. I’ll be drawing two names on Dec. 3, and winners may choose either Chasing Lilacs or Broken Wings. To be entered in the drawing, please leave a comment WITH YOUR CONTACT INFORMATION telling me how you first found out about my blog or my books. Even if you already own one or both books, you’re welcome to enter. I’d be honored if you won and gave my book to your church or local library or gave it as a gift. If you’re a first-time reader, my hope is that you will like what you read and tell others.

Thanks for your support and joining this adventure with me!

Note: These are my personal books. Chances of winning dependent on number of entries. Void where prohibited. Open to North American residents only. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 25

Day 25 – The Letter X

Today’s letter is the tricky little X, which can serve as a legal signature if you’re unable to write your name. It’s also the unknown in math – the number to be found that will make an equation true. It’s also the symbol that indicates the crossing of two objects or things to come up with something totally different and new.

That said, I have a question for you today:

What happens when you cross a best-selling non-fiction author with a Christy award winning novelist? Since it’s Black Friday and I don’t want to slow down your pursuit of the “perfect” deal, I won’t keep you in suspense.

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
A Marriage Carol
Moody Publishers (September 1, 2011)
Chris Fabry and Gary Chapman


CHRIS FABRY is a graduate of W. Page Pitt School of Journalism at Marshall University and Moody bible Institute's Advanced Studies Program. Chris can be heard daily on Love Worth Finding, featuring the teaching of the late Dr. Adrian Rogers. He received the 2008 "Talk Personality of the Year" Award from the National Religious Broadcasters. He has published more than 60 books since 1995, many of them fiction for younger readers. Chris collaborated with Jerry B. Jenkins and Dr. Tim LaHaye on the children's series Left Behind: The Kids. His two novels for adults, Dogwood and June Bug, are published by Tyndale House Publishers. Chris is married to his wife Andrea and they have five daughters and four sons.

GARY CHAPMAN is the author of the bestselling Five Love Languages series and the director of Marriage and Family Life Consultants, Inc. Gary travels the world presenting seminars, and his radio program airs on more than 400 stations.


On Christmas Eve twenty years earlier, Marlee and Jacob were married in a snowstorm. This Christmas Eve, they are ready to quit, divorce is imminent. Their relationship is as icy as the road they’re traveling and as blocked with troubles as the piling snow. They take a shortcut to get to the lawyer’s office, on a slippery, no-fault path. She thinks they need to stay on the main road. He disagrees. They fight. Story of their lives and they slam into a bank of snow , spinning, drifting, falling, out of control. Just like their lives. Reluctantly, freezing cold, hungry, scared, she trudges up the hill. Paul is nowhere to be found. Her ears frozen, fingers and hands red, she comes to a house on the hillside, built like a Bed and Breakfast, a green wreath on the red door and the door-knocker is in the shape of a wedding ring.

The red door opens and the first thing she notices is the fire in the room, blazing hot, a warm, inviting, friendly place and the voice of an old man welcomes her in. There are three golden pots on the hearth, shining, glimmering things. The old man claims that they are used to restore marriages. She laughs—and begins a journey through her past, present, and future that will test how she views her lifelong love. There are two futures available. Which will she choose?

If you would like to read the first chapter excerpt of A Marriage Carol, go HERE.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 24

Day 24. Happy Thanksgiving!

Departing from the alphabet today to celebrate Thanksgiving. Hope your day is blessed and filled with all the things you love – turkey and the trimmings, big screen football, sweet reminisces, and barrels of laughter. Love on your family. Have a second helping of dressing and a whole piece (or two) of pumpkin pie. Jump in the leaves. Hug a child. And in everything, give thanks.

You are loved!

Have a safe and glorious day!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 23

Day 23. The Letter W.

Today is a grab bag of things that I’m thankful for that begin with the letter “W”, and at the end of the post, a special surprise for you.

Words: No secret here – I’m in love with words. I’m in love with Writing words. I love it when I think about it for two days and find the exact perfect word for a scene that I’m working on. I know it’s a quirk, but it does give rise to another thing for which I’m thankful – the community of Writers. Thankfully, people in this weird tribe understand what I’m talking about.

One of my writing pals – who is a doll and not weird at all – is Alice Wisler, a two-time Christy award nominee. She writes tender love stories with fun, quirky characters who have a touch of southern sass AND Alice always includes recipes in her books. I love that about her, and I think you’ll like her latest release:

A Wedding Invitation.

After returning home from teaching English at a refugee camp in the Philippines, Samantha Bravencourt enjoys her quiet life working at her mother's clothing boutique in Falls Church, Virginia. When she receives an invitation to a wedding in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, she looks forward to reconnecting with her college friend. Instead her life collides with Carson, a fellow teacher and the man who broke her heart, and a young Amerasian refugee named Lien who needs Samantha and Carson's help to find her mother before Lien's own wedding. When the search for Lien's mother reveals surprising secrets from the past, Samantha must reevaluate her own memories and decide whether to continue to play it safe or take a risk that could change her life.

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Wedding Invitation, go HERE.

Now, the fun for you. I’ll be giving away a copy of A Wedding Invitation on Saturday, Dec. 3. To get your name in the hat for the drawing, please leave a comment WITH YOUR CONTACT INFO on this post and tell me what you are most grateful for this Thanksgiving. I’ve done enough talking this month, it’s your turn!  

Disclosure: This book was provided by Bethany House. Contest void where prohibited. Chances of winning dependent on number of entries.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 22

Day 22. The Letter V for Dream Vacation. 

Last May, Max and I had the trip of a lifetime – a week in Maui. We had not really intended to plan such a trip even though “everyone” said we should. Then, to our surprise, Max found out his company wanted him to attend a leadership conference in Maui – on their nickel. This was not rocket science. Of course we went.

Even now, six months later, when I close my eyes, I see glorious sunsets and remember my first glimpse of lipstick trees (which are much more vivid in person than in this photo!) and the rocky cliffs along the twisty road to Hana. Apparently we “just missed” seeing George Lopez, Sir Anthony Hopkins, and Steven Tyler, but it wasn’t the celebrities I went for. What I remember most was walking on the beach in the moonlight, sipping MaiTais in an open air café jutting out over the Pacific, and the sweet indulgence of Maui gold pineapple. It was like “everyone” said – paradise on earth – the handiwork of God at its finest.

What a special gift. My heart is full with the memories. And lest the images grow dim, I still have 650 digital photographs to remind me. Here are a couple you might like.


What is your dream vacation? What are you waiting for? 


Monday, November 21, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 21

Day 21. The letter U for Unicorn. 

When my boys were young, Roger Whittaker made a children's album – fun, silly songs like Google Eye, Boa Constrictor, Puff The Magic Dragon, Winken, Blinken and Nod, and my personal favorite – The Unicorn Song. The kids loved it, and truthfully, so did we (We still have the album!). Today I’m thankful for those magical songs – the moments of whimsy when for a little while you can almost imagine the possibility of being swallowed whole by a boa constrictor or that once upon a time Unicorns roamed the earth and that they were the loveliest of all creation – those silly unicorns.

Here’s the Irish Rovers rendition of The Unicorn Song – I think you’ll agree a touch of whimsy once in a while is a very good thing.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 20

Day 20. The Letter T.

It’s no secret that I have a special attachment to the little state south of the one where I now live. Although I’m a Sooner born and bred and proud of my Oklahoma roots, I moved to Texas when I was two and grew up there. Max and I honeymooned in Dallas and later lived many wonderful years there. Two of our boys were born in Texas as well as two of my grandsons. And I do admit that when I cross the Red River, a small part of me sighs – Home.

So today I’m grateful for the privilege of being a Texan a few times in my life, for the sweet memories, and for the friends who still live there. You know who you are.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 19

Day 19. The Letter S. 

Today I’m thankful for my son Scott. He came twenty-four tension-filled minutes after his twin brother, Brett. Their differences were apparent from the beginning, being fraternal for one thing, but I’m amazed at how early in each of our boys’ lives their personalities became evident. Scott has always—ALWAYS—been a competitor and understood the concept of numbers.

He figured out multiplication in kindergarten (stunning his teacher) and by the time he was seven years old, he read the sports section every morning with his Cocoa Pebbles and began memorizing the baseball stats of his favorite players. He spent hours every day shooting baskets in the driveway. Rain or shine. Summer or winter. He took breaks by throwing a baseball against a pitchback.

It didn’t surprise us when he chose to major in math in college and went on to get a Master’s in statistics. Scott thinks in percentages and can probably tell you the odds of how often a fraternal twin becomes the father of identical twins. What goes around comes around, and he now has the pleasure (and challenge) of raising twins.

He and Denice get bonus points, though, for presenting us with our first grandgirl four years ago. I’m 100% certain she’s the cutest girl on the planet, and I’m 95% sure that Scott can still give you the lifetime stats of his all-time favorite baseball player, Reuben Sierra.

I’m a lucky mom. My heart overflows with thankfulness for these fine young men. Selfishly, I’m also a wee bit thankful for the solitude of my life now. Can you relate?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 18

Day 18. The Letter R for Random. 

Some random things I’m thankful for today. Here goes:          
         My iPad!
My awesome new hairdresser!
                    My friend Debbie remains cancer free after her latest checkup (along with my sis and my cousin) - Yay!!!
I love elastic waists . . . . and spandex.
                                 My mammo came back A-OK.
                  I am my dog’s favorite person (my sweet hubby just 
                                              told  me this, but I already knew it).
            Foreman grills.                           
                         My friend Glo is Grammy again for the third time.
       This year’s Thanksgiving turkey is already in the freezer. 
The foliage this year was in Technicolor. 
        We survived our first earthquake! (Along with 3.75 million other people in my state)
Two of my best writing buddies have debut books hitting the market soon!

I could go on and on, but the thing I’m most grateful for on “random” day is that it wasn’t random at all that Jesus came to earth, that he lived and died for me, that my days were planned before the foundations of the earth. The joy of belonging to Jesus and the hope of eternity lifts me to the heavens every day.

I’m not worthy. But I am thankful.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 17

Day 17. The letter Q for Quilts. 

We’ve been having an on-again/off-again start to autumn. The leaves are falling at a steady (frantic) pace, and some days are sweater days, some aren’t. Today was a chilled-to-the bone curl-up-in-my-favorite-quilt kind of day. I brewed a cup of green tea, crawled under my favorite throw, and logged on my computer to check email and catch up with latest on FB and Twitter. Of course I’m thankful for all those ways to stay connected with friends and family – you are the best!

But this time of year when the first really cold blasts come, I’m also reminded of how much I love quilts. I’m thankful that many of the ones I have connect me to my past, one as far back as my great-grandmother. A few were made just for me which makes them all the more special. And a few I’ve rescued from yard sales, sad that the owners would turn loose of a piece of who they are because the color was no longer in style or they didn’t value the hours and love that goes into stitching together a quilt. I’m honored to have the ones I have. They are treasured. Here’s a peek at a couple of them.

Wishing you lots of cozy quilt days with your favorite cuppa this Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 16

Day 16. The Letter P for Pumpkin. 

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love pumpkin pie. It was one of my mom’s favorites, and she made yummy ones every Thanksgiving. I’m happy to say that today I still use her recipe – the one straight off the side of the Libby’s ® can. It’s smooth and rich, has just the right balance of spice that suits me, and with a dollop of whipped cream or Cool Whip ® on top, it’s just about perfection.

So today, I’m thankful for whoever the first person was who decided to cut the top off a pumpkin and was brave enough to scoop out that mess of stringy goo and slick seeds to find out what lay beyond. Perhaps the first pumpkins were roasted and served as a veggie, with a shake of salt and pepper. Or perhaps the meaty part was cut in chunks and thrown in some broth as part of an autumn soup. Pure conjecture here on my part. But it did make me wonder whether or not the harvest table at Plymouth Rock had pumpkin pie on that first Thanksgiving. The only thing I feel certain about is that in circa 1621 they didn’t have Cool Whip ®.

But I did a little investigating and found this article about what the probable menu was on that first Thanksgiving feast. The feast itself lasted three days, and I’m not in favor of reverting back to that. One day of being stuffed to the gills is enough.

More than likely they served deer and wildfowl (turkey perhaps?) but no bread-based stuffing. They may have used herbs or nuts to stuff the bird, however. And they laid the table with native fruits (yay for cranberries!) and local vegetables like leeks, carrots, and turnips. No mention of pumpkin. It’s a fascinating article so head on over there for a little history lesson.

For you today, though, my mom’s recipe for pumpkin pie – a la Libby’s.

LIBBY’S ® Famous Pumpkin Pie Recipe

• 3/4 cup granulated sugar
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
• 2 large eggs
• 1 can (15 oz.) LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
• 1 can (12 fl. oz.) NESTLÉ® CARNATION® Evaporated Milk
• 1 unbaked 9-inch (4-cup volume) deep-dish pie shell
• Whipped cream (optional)


MIX sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.

POUR into pie shell.

BAKE in preheated 425° F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving.

What are you looking forward to at Thanksgiving? Any special desserts or family recipes that you can't live without?

PS: Bonus: Libby's invented this recipe and started putting it on the side of the can in what year?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 15

Day 15. The Letter O for Opportunity.

As Thanksgiving Day draws near, I’m glad that I’ve set aside a few minutes each day to reflect on specific people and things for which I’m grateful. To be honest, I don’t always feel like doing it. I have a lot of projects going on; I made a trip in the early part of the month; and I’m trying to get a few pages done each day on my next novel. But this has been a good exercise for me to be a disciplined writer and reflect on things that matter most.

As we reach the halfway mark, you guessed it – today’s word is opportunity. How blessed we are to live in a land of boundless opportunities – the freedom to choose what we want to wear, whether we want to live in a house or an apartment, whether or not to go to college, whom we will marry, even if we want to have children. Obviously we took several opportunities to explore that option at one time or another and have four sons, who have turned into pretty cool young men, to show for it.

I’m sure I’ve missed a few golden opportunities along the way – haven’t we all? But Thanksgiving is a good time to take the opportunity to make someone’s life brighter or easier by hearing a kind word, receiving a thoughtful note, or being invited to lunch.

And while we’re on the subject of opportunity, I want to remind you that you have until this Saturday to claim your “coupon code” for Novel Morsels (See button on right side of this blog and click to read about it or check out this post). Leave a comment with your contact info and I’ll zip the code right out to you. It’s an opportunity you don’t want to miss!

See you tomorrow!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 14

Day 14. The letter N for Nostalgia.

Time for a blast from the past. Today I'm thankful for YouTube to take us back to the Good Old Days!


Any golden oldie memories you want to share? I'm listening.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 13

Day 13. The letter M for Max.

Today, I’ve been married to the love of my life, my best friend for 39 years, 5 months, and 18 days. It seems like yesterday when my dad walked me down the aisle and handed me off to Max. We had stars in our eyes and no earthly idea what we were doing. But, by the grace of God and his mercies which are new every morning, here we are. I’m thankful every day for Max, and just as I promised those many years ago to love, honor, and cherish, I’d marry him again in a heartbeat.

I love you, honey. Thank you for being the rock that I need, understanding all my wacky ways, and still loving me.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 12

Day 12. The Letter L for Legacy.

I was honored recently to sit in my pastor’s study and learn more about the legacy of our church. He was kind enough to write an article about the time capsule that was found during a reconstruction project and how First Baptist Tulsa has impacted our city for more than one hundred years. I’d love for you to read Deron Spoo’s inspiring story on Inspire a Fire. 
Talking with Deron made me think more about the concept of legacy, and I think it’s something to ponder during this month of Thanksgiving.

What sort of legacy will you leave for future generations? What will be your personal mark on the world? For some, it might be building an empire, getting your name on a plaque on the side of the building, or having a vaccine that eradicated a terrible disease named after you. The majority of us leave a mark that is far less grandiose and yet, in the big scheme, every bit as important. Raising a child, enduring a debilitating disease, teaching a classroom of students to read, holding the hand of a parent who’s just lost a child. When others observe you in action, an impression is made, and over the course of a lifetime, many small impressions become your legacy.

From my parents, I learned about Jesus and faith, the importance of being honest, and gained confidence that I could accomplish whatever I put my hand to. From my grandparents, I have the examples of strong family loyalty and the value of hard work that led them to survive the Great Depression. During this Thanksgiving season, I’m grateful for a strong heritage, for the fact that I knew all of my grandparents and several of my great grandparents.

And now I’m a grandparent myself. It doesn’t seem possible, but life passes at such warp speed that it makes me dizzy, and I wonder what possible impact I’m having on the world and on my family. I’m nearly certain that I won’t be remembered in future generations as a scholar or writer who changed the world. A few people may be blessed by my books, but the greater scope will probably be passed down through the family. When it’s all said and done, I pray my legacy is positive and that people say I wasn’t afraid to look life in the eye and accept new challenges, that I gave it my all, that I spoke up when I needed to, and that I shared the love of Jesus. I’ve been a miserable failure many times with those very things, but at the end of my life, I would feel honored to have the epitaph on my tombstone read, “She tried.”

What sort of legacy are you leaving? How do you want people to remember you?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 11

Day 11. The Letter K. 

I’ve always had a fascination with Koala Bears, those fuzzy marsupials from Down Under with lighter colored tufts coming out of their ears and sparkly little eyes. They look intelligent and thoughtful like they have loads of great thoughts they’d love to share with you. I’ve only had the pleasure of seeing them "in person" once – a few years ago at the San Diego zoo, and seeing the mama koala with a baby on her back lumber along at a sloth’s pace was worth the price of admission.

Then, a couple of years ago, I started getting comments on my blog from someone named Koala Bear Writer. Since then, I’ve learned she is from Canada, a fellow writer, and we’ve become cyber friends. So in honor of Koala Bear Writer, I’m thankful today for those who’ve made my life richer through cyberspace. Here are a few of my favorite blog stops: an even dozen for your reading pleasure. When you visit, be sure and say I sent you!

Rel is a real girl from Down Under, so hats off to her today, too, on Koala Day!! 
And an added thanks to all the veterans who've sacrificed their time and lives for our country, especially to my dad who served in Korea and to my son, Brett, who is on active duty now with the US Coast Guard. I'm proud of you and appreciate you. God Bless America!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day Ten

Day 10. The Letter J.

Today I’m thankful for my son James – the “baby” of the family.

By the time your fourth child comes along, you think you know the drill and what to expect. Granted, it had been eight years since I’d given birth to the twins and the Big 3-0 had sailed past in a blur. But just about the time I got cozy with having all my boys in school, you guessed it – baby fever hit. Max and I prayed about whether this was a good idea or not, but after a couple of months, we knew we wanted to have another child.

The entire pregnancy I had a weird skin condition and at one point had ankles the size of tree trunks. I was miserable, but thought it might be a sign that this time we’d have a girl. God had other plans. Not quite a year after we’d been stricken by the baby bug, boy number four arrived. One month early. Adorable with loads of silky black hair and three brothers who doted on him from the beginning. And in the end, God knew James was just what we needed to complete our family.

Poor kid. We dragged him to soccer games and school plays and craft shows from the time he was a month old. We were definitely more relaxed with this late comer, and it showed in his easy disposition. He was easily entertained and entertaining to have around. And he really couldn’t get by with anything because, as parents, we’d learned a few tricks of our own via the antics of his big brothers.

Still, James has always exuded a certain confidence and seemed to know what he wanted and worked hard to achieve it. He’s earned a lot of honors through 4-H, FFA, high school, and in college and made us proud parents, but his greatest feat was in finding Allison. There’s no doubt they were made for each other, and three years ago it was our pleasure to be part of their fairy tale wedding (see picture).

Today, they’re the proud parents of two girls – Tempe and Scout – their Siberian huskies.

Max and I are blessed by all of our boys and their families. Sometimes it’s more than our hearts can hold, and this season of thanksgiving is a good time to ponder just how incredible the gift of parenthood is. And, of course, we’re especially grateful that we’ve lived to tell about it!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day Nine

Day 9. The Letter I.

Today I’m thankful for Inspiration.

WRITER’S MYTH: If you just wait for inspiration, it will come, and the words will flow like molten lava onto the page, igniting the world with your brilliance.

Oh, if only that were so. The truth is writing is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration. It’s hard work. And sometimes grueling. As nice as it would be, an author doesn’t have the luxury of waiting for inspiration to strike. The writing chair and keyboard await. Deadlines lurk. Books (and blog posts!) don’t write themselves. There are, however, some things that just by nature are inspiring or which I’ve found helpful to jumpstart my brain. Oddly enough, these ten things are also things which bring me joy and contentment.

Maui, June 2011
1. Books – Reading great novels not only satisfies my need to be drawn into fictitious story worlds, but also challenges me to be a better writer.

2. Music – Jazz, doo-wop, gospel, and golden oldies are regular choices for me. I can’t imagine a world without music.

3. Sunsets – There is nothing quite so breathtaking as a sunset on the prairie, especially the shifting colors as evening slips into night. The ones in Maui are pretty incredible too.

4. The smell of new rain – I never tire of this smell, and coupled with it, the patter of rain on the roof as I settle in with my computer to write plays its own kind of music.

5. Coffee – Oh sweet Sumatra, vivacious Verona, eloquent Espresso, friendly Folgers, capricious Columbian. You make my mornings brighter and my heart happy.

6. Laughter – Grandkid giggles. Belly laughing that makes tears run down my cheeks. The world needs more laughter.

7. Change of scenery – Weekend getaways. Exotic vacations. Visits with friends. All are inspiring in their own way.

8. Reading the inspirational stories of others – I’m a Guideposts reader and happy to be part of a new website that brings inspirational stories every day.

9. Prayer – A day bathed in prayer makes all the difference in my outlook and my writing output.

10. God’s Word – So many scriptures inspire me, but here’s one that helps me keep my focus as I’m writing:  May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14 (NIV)

I’m feeling inspired – how about you? Do you have any special places or rituals that help stir inspiration in you?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day Eight

Day 8. The letter H. 

Today I'm thankful for hard times. And hope. 

Last weekend I had the opportunity to spend time with a group of writers. My heart came away full with learning new things, catching up with some of my favorite pals, and meeting new friends.

Over a shared stuffed pizza – Chicago style – one of my new friends told me how the last year had gone by in a blur. Her debut novel was set to release, but in the midst of preparing for that, she was blind-sided by a personal injury, prolonged medical treatment, and was then called to another state to help care for her mother in hospice. Her emotions were frayed, her supply of energy depleted. She’s coming out from a hard year, and as we talked, I couldn’t help but think of the valleys I’ve been through in my own life. Dark valleys where I didn’t know what tomorrow would bring and was almost afraid to wake up because I knew new challenges were nearly certain.

We’ve all had them. Family crises. Deaths of dear ones. Job upheaval. Serious illnesses. Redirecting our lives. And yet, during those times, even when I didn’t know what to pray, I’ve cried out for wisdom and strength and provision. And it’s only when I look back at the hard times that I see them for what they are – treasures that have made my life richer. They are the places in my road of life where I’ve learned the most about who I am and grown the most in my walk with God.

I know it’s a bit of a paradox to be thankful for hard times during this season of thanksgiving. The valleys of despair can seem endless and unbearable, but even when we aren't aware of his presence, God walks beside us. The valleys are rich and fertile, filled with streams of hope to water our weary hearts. It's a hope not only for tomorrow, but for all eternity. And that is worthy of celebration. Worthy of thanksgiving.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day Seven

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Are grandkids the best thing since the hula hoop or what? And what a sense of humor God has! He gave us four sons, then bam! Five grandsons!

Ha. Ha. I’ve loved them everyone in turn. Perfection in miniature! Then, finally . . . FINALLY . . . a grandgirl! The first girl born on my side of the family in 52 years! Thankful, indeed.

It would be impossible to list all of the endearing, superior, divine qualities of my grandchildren – a problem I’m sure none of you other Mimis and Papas out there have. Let’s just say, I’m grateful and blessed.

Waving to Jeremy who doesn't live close enough to get into these family photos - we love you kiddo!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day Six

Day 6. The letter F. 

The holidays always make me thankful for the family God chose to give me—one where faith and love went hand in hand with learning the value of an education, hard work, and cherishing each other. Max and I have tried to instill those same values in our own family. Here are a few of my favorite family photos.

My dad's grandsons and great-grands.

A family vacation to Breckenridge

Thanksgiving in Tulsa

Same dinner - This is the VIP table!

Our traditional Christmas Eve in Guymon

Max's mom enjoying a holiday visit

More holiday fun with Max's mom

The annual photo of "the girls" - Best sisters in the world!

Family. Wow! I've been blessed! My apologies if you're a part of our family and didn't get your picture in here. Going through thousands of pictures has worn me out.

Do you get together with family on holidays? How about reunions? Vacation together? What are your family plans this Thanksgiving?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day Five

Day 5. The letter E. 

I could chose eclectic or éclairs or elephants to be thankful for today. I could, but I didn’t. The first thing that popped in my head was Ecclesiastes, a nifty little book right in the heart of the Old Testament. There is something so lasting, so anchoring in reading about the people in the days of old and knowing they endured the same temptations, the same hardships, and they made the same excuses and whines that we do today.

Ecclesiastes probably came to mind because it has two of my favorite passages in all of scripture. And I love that even though the author, Solomon, lead a less than perfect life, God granted him great wisdom. Allow me to share some of that wisdom with you today.

Ecclesiastes 3: 
1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 4:
9 Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

I don’t think I can improve on anything that’s not already said in these precious passages. They’re a pretty good prescription for life. Reading these beloved words again during this season of Thanksgiving renews my spirit. I hope it does the same for you.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day Four

Day 4. The Letter D. 

The annual picture of Daddy and "the girls"

“In the game of pitch, you can shoot the moon with only an ace and a deuce – providing it’s the first hand of a new game.” This is the kind of wisdom I learned from Daddy – the object of today’s thirty days of gratitude. Home-spun truths with one foot in the real world and one in the legendary world of tall tales—a realm in which my dad holds the degree of “master spinner.”

My sisters and I weren’t thinking of tall tales, though, last February when Daddy had to take an unexpected helicopter ride to Amarillo following a minor heart attack during a stress test. As a matter of fact, the angiogram in Amarillo revealed major blockage that required a minimum of four bypasses. And the unspoken prognosis: At his age, anything could happen.

My two sisters and I got there as fast as we could, relieved when we found him stabilized. The surgeon, though, wanted to give his body time to recover from the two days of tests before she performed the bypasses. So we had a whole day to wait. No tests. No agenda. Just bed rest and monitoring in ICU.

Daddy was in high spirits—“fine as frog hair,” as he was fond of saying. Donna, Marsha, and I didn’t let on about our fears, either—the tangible reality that this might be the last day this side of heaven we had to spend with our dad. A dad who was definitely one-of-a-kind. When we were kids, he was just as comfortable combing our hair into pony tails as he was making us mow the grass or pull nails out of boards. He often loaded us up in his pick-up and took us off on horse-trading expeditions or a day of cherry picking in Granny’s orchard. He waited into the wee hours of night waiting for us to get home from band trips and didn’t mind telling us to “keep your noses clean and to the grindstone.”

All of those things and more riddled our thoughts as Daddy rested in the hospital bed, the blood-thinning heparin drip keeping him safe until they sawed his chest open and put him on the heart-lung machine so they could “fix” what they could. Daddy didn’t raise a trio of whiny, mopey girls, though. So after the morning routine, Marsha pulled out a deck of cards. Time for a game of pitch.

Playing Pitch in the Hospital

We positioned the bedside table, cranked up the head of Daddy’s bed and spent the day doing what he liked best – playing cards and telling stories. It didn’t take a lot of encouragement on our part to get him started, and we talked and laughed until tears ran down our cheeks. If it was to be his last day on this earth, we’d made the best of it—a day we could look back on without regret.

It wasn’t his last day, though. The repairs were made and he came through just fine. I won’t say the aftermath was pleasant—certainly not as much fun as four-handed pitch, but two weeks later we took Daddy home, and he continued the road to recovery. He’s back to restoring buggies, being head usher at church, and spinning more stories. My own gratitude overflows. How blessed I’ve been to have a dad who taught me about Jesus, who’s been an anchor and influence in my life, and who taught me that you can shoot the moon in a game of pitch with an ace and a deuce – providing it’s the first hand of a new game.

Sometimes it’s the little things. Sometimes the huge ones. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. Here’s the truth, though. Next time we gather around the oak table in Daddy’s kitchen and the cards are shuffled, I’ll say a prayer of Thanksgiving. I might even try to shoot the moon.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day Three

Day 3. The letter C. 

Have I got a surprise for you today! But first – a little thanksgiving dance for my favorite “C” word – coffee!

Anyone who has known me for more than five minutes knows I LOVE coffee, the nectar of heaven. Thank you, Jesus, for that little burst of caffeine that gets me going in the morning, that keeps me percolating through the day, and is the perfect benediction to a great dinner with family or friends. AND a highly recommended accompaniment to any of the recipes in the just-released, greatly anticipated, first annual Novel Morsels: Your Favorite Authors Bringing Recipes to Life.

Isn’t this a tempting cover? This e-book is the brainchild of Nicole O’Dell, writer, radio host, and teen advocate. And now Cook Book Editor! Sixty-three Christian Fiction authors contributed to this collection of more than 120 recipes. Some are found between the covers of our books and have our character’s fingerprints on them. Some are from authors who cope with the rigors of writing by escaping into the kitchen. I can’t wait to try some of them myself, and I know you’ll love it, too.

Novel Morsels is available on Nicole’s site now at the low price of $2.99 and will soon be available for the Kindle, Nook, and iPad. HOWEVER . . . as a thank you to the faithful readers of this blog, I will send a *coupon code* to anyone who leaves a comment on this post for the next two weeks and you will get the cook book FREE! Zero dollars. Please include your contact information so I can send the code to your inbox.

Read the complete list of contributing authors here

That's it. My surprise for you today. I’m thankful for writing friends who journey with me, love and support one another, and do fun things like putting together a cook book. A special thanks to Nicole O’Dell for the magic that pulled it all together. All the credit is hers. Enjoy!

So, what is it? Coffee, tea, or ??? Remember - comment for the coupon code!