CONGRATULATIONS!

Congratulations to Debbie Clatterbuck who won a "Spa Moment with The Reluctant Guardian!"



Monday, February 28, 2011

February Gardening

by Anita Mae Draper

It's the end of February and I'm gardening on the Canadian prairies!

Okay, so I'm not really gardening like you're probably thinking with the soil, worms, bugs, etc. And, I'd have to dig under 3' of snow to even find my garden. No, I'm not even window gardening as in starting slips, plants and seeds for an early start.

My garden uses water, but no soil, and takes 1 week from planting to harvest. Can you guess?

Here's a 2"x4" bag of the seeds. I'm not sure exactly what seeds are in this selection, but it's called the Salad and Sandwich Booster. A crisp, spicy mix, it's perfect for salads, sandwiches, hot dogs and hamburgers.

And now I'm sure everyone is jumping up and down saying 'Sprouts'! And of course, you'd be right.

This all started last year when I began eating healthier and denounced all unhealthy snacks. Once I'd cleared the extra fats and sugars from my body, I lost all the cravings for them. And I began to lose weight. To keep on track, I used the Apple App Lose It which Inky Debra E Marvin blogged about recently.

This healthy eating style worked so well, I'd lost 53 lbs between Mar and November. I looked better and felt better. But there was one big negative . . . I was always cold. I could not stay warm and it bugged me! I'd lie in bed at night with hubby spooned behind me and his arms around me but wherever his skin wasn't touching me was ice cold. Brrrr.

Since I've been under a doctor's supervision for several years now due to High Blood Pressure, she knew exactly what was happening. Although my HBP and cholesterol was back to normal, my doctor said my muscles were starving. She said I needed protein.

But I've been eating oodles of fruits, vegetables, and dairy. She said it wasn't enough. So at the end of Nov, I raised my calorie count and allowed myself more protein rich meats, fish and dairy. I was still cold. When I went back to my doctor in January, she said I needed plant protein. I said I eat lots of vegetables. She explained she meant legume protein. I went home thinking... maple brown beans? I can do that.

But then it dawned on me out of the blue one day - okay I admit, it was probably God giving me a talking to - that the doctor was talking about sprouts! I even had 2 sprouting kits at home that I hadn't used in years. So I dug out my sprouting seeds... yes, that bag of seeds in the photo is over 10 yrs old ... and I began to sprout my own protein. I'll show you how I did it and then let you know how you can do it if you don't have a sprouting kit.

First of all, I went on the web to read the official word on sprouting because really, I don't want to steer you wrong. Here's what Dr. Christine H. Farlow, D.C. of Healthy Eating Advisor has to say about sprouting:

'Sprouting magnifies the nutritional value of the seed. It boosts the B-vitamin content, triples the amount of vitamin A and increases vitamin C by a factor of 5 to 6 times. Starches are converted to simple sugars, making sprouts very easily digestible. You can have them fresh all year round, even when fresh vegetables are hard to find. It's easier than planting a garden outside and they're ready much quicker. You can even grow them when the ground outside is frozen solid. And the best part is that you can grow the freshest, tastiest sprouts right in the comfort of your own kitchen. It takes less than 2 minutes a day and they are ready in 3 to 7 days, depending on the variety.'

Feb 21st - I used my small 6" wide sprouting kit which I picked up for a couple bucks at a Value Village (think Goodwill). It doesn't have a lid, but I can make do. What you see here is 1 tsp of mixed seeds.

The first step is to fill the top part half full of warm water. The water seeps down through the white cap-thingy you see in the photo above this and drains down to the 2nd level. In reality, that 2nd level could have sprouts I'm already harvesting for an ever-ready cycle.




I left my first batch uncovered, but some seeds need darkness to germinate and the harvest was only 50% of what it could have been. So for this batch, I covered them with a towel and left it like that.


Feb 22 - I dumped the water out of the bottom level and added fresh water to the top. I didn't take a photo of the seeds though because there really wasn't that much action after only 24 hrs.






Feb 23 - Some of the seeds are beginning to sprout. It's now a daily habit at noon to dump the bottom level and add fresh to the top, then cover with the towel.


Feb 24 - Same routine.


Feb 25 - Same routine except some of the roots have a bit of fuzz so I'm leaving the towel off.







Feb 26 - Day 5 of the routine and you can see the colour change as the green seed leaves open.







Feb 27 - The sprouts are ready for harvest. If you compare this photo with the one on Feb 21, you can see how that 1 tsp of seeds have 'sprouted' to fill the container.



And here's the finished product. Fresh  sprouts, 6 days from first watering to harvest. Healthy and easy to grow. 



Sprouting seeds can be bought at health food stores. I bought the seeds I'm using now from amongst packages of spring garden seeds all those years ago. And while checking on-line sources for this post, I was surprised to find them for sale at 1 lb for $13 at amazon of all places. Of course a pound is a lot of seed, but if you're keen on healthy eating it's a better deal than the 8 oz for $9.45 at another on-line site.

You don't need a sprouting kit to sprout seeds. Here's what's written on my sprouting seed pkg:

- Put 1 or 2 tbsp of seeds in a wide mouth jar.
- Add water and swirl  
- Cover with cheesecloth and keep in place with an elastic band.
- Turn over and strain.
- Refill with 1 cup warm water, cover with cheesecloth and let sit 6-12 hrs at room temperature.*
- Day 2 - Drain, rinse and drain twice a day.
- Day 3-5 - Drain, rinse and drain twice daily until seeds are sprouted.

*If you notice in the above instructions, they've left the seeds to soak for the first half day only. This will certainly increase the sprouting time.

So there you go. Fresh greens grown in Feb on the Canadian prairies. It can't get any better than that.

*Want to win some seeds? I will pick three names from all those commenting on this post before Thursday, March 3rd at midnight to receive 1 tbsp of the mixed seeds in this post. Yes, they're old, but they've been properly stored and are still very viable.  One tbsp is enough seed to see if you like this method of growing. You could use 1 tsp at a time like I do, or you could use the full tbsp at once. You must include your email address in your comment  to be included in this draw and remember to us (dot) and (at) etc so the web spiders don't find you.
*Open to everyone but dependent upon postal and custom regulations.

Have you ever tried sprouting your own seeds to add to your salad? Or do you buy them at your local grocery or health food store? Or perhaps you've never tried them?



Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and 2 of their 4 kids. In 2005, Anita Mae decided to return to writing and make it a priority in her life. She writes western romances set on the prairies of Saskatchewan, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. Her flawed characters don’t travel an easy path of courtship. And if they don’t know about God at the beginning of the book, they will by the end. Anita Mae has finaled in the 2009 Linda Howard Award of Excellence contest in the Inspirational category, the 2008 Gateway to the Best in the Contemporary Series category, and the 2008 Golden Gateway in the Long Contemporary category. A pathological picture taker, Anita Mae usually has a photo or more on her personal blog as well as the Inkwell Inspirations blog she shares with several women of faith.

 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Welcome, Guest Blogger Debbie Lynne Costello!

Helen’s Famous Blueberry Pie
by Debbie Lynne Costello

At eight years old I judged many things by how they looked. We had a neighbor who was old. She reminded me a lot of Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies. Every summer Helen would go out picking blueberries and she would always bring us a homemade blueberry pie when she did. She brought two or three every summer. What a treat for everyone in the house especially with my mother working long hours at our lumber store. Well, everyone but me that is. I took one look at that pie and knew it tasted terrible. It didn’t look blue to me. It looked black and I couldn’t see how something black could taste good. So every time when I was offered a piece, I declined. My dad would tease and say, “good more for me!”

Ten years passed and I never ate a piece of Helen’s famous blueberry pie. Helen died and I lost my chance, but it didn’t bother me because I still didn’t like blueberry pie.

My husband, who at the time was my boyfriend, invited me over to his house for dinner and I accepted. We had a lovely dinner and everything was delicious but then came dessert.

You guessed it!

Blueberry pie.

I could have died. This was the first time I’d eaten at their house and my parents always told me when you go to someone’s house you eat what they give you whether you like it or not and always be polite and tell them how good it was.
His mother set the piece of pie before me and I garnered my courage and took a bite. To my surprise, I loved it! It was delicious. Imagine that, it looked terrible but tasted oh so good. To this day blueberry pie is my favorite and my father still reminds me of all of Helen’s pies I missed.

Are you missing one of God’s blessings because it just doesn’t look good?

Do you have your eyes on one job while another is being offered?

Sometimes we get our minds made up that something would not be good for us, but we forget to ask God if He thinks it is good for us.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

~*~
Debbie Lynne Costello lives in the beautiful state of South Carolina with her high school sweetheart and two youngest sons. Her oldest son is in the Navy and her daughter is about to make her grandma. She’s raised Shetland Sheepdogs aka shelties for over 15 years and has two of the furry little things. In addition to her two shelties she has one cat, and one Arabian horse. Camping in their fifth wheel at Hunting Island is her idea of a perfect vacation. Debbie Lynne has loved to write since she can remember. She started taking writing seriously two and half years ago and since has written and finished two manuscripts and started her third. She’s thankful for a God who loves us so much that He wants to have a personal relationship with each of His children.

http://www.debbielynnecostello.com/
mailto:www.theswordandspirit@blogspot.com
Where Chivalry Never Dies!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Sister Wife by Diane Noble


I love to read trilogies with characters developed over the entire series, rather than those that go on to become a mere mention in each successive book. If I truly fall in love with the character, I want to see more of them in the next book and I feel cheated if they only show up at the family gathering on Sunday afternoons. The problem with trilogies, of course, is waiting for books number two and three. Usually, before I finally get to read the third one, I re-read the first two – just to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything.

But it’s not just any trilogy series that I’ll invest that kind of time in. And the ones I do, absolutely end up on my keeper shelf.

Today I want to share the first book in a Historical Christian Fiction series that I’m positive will end up on that keeper shelf. The Sister Wife, by Diane Noble, is the first book in the Brides of Gabriel Series. Yes, you read that correctly. Bridesplural. As in plural wives. One man, and more than one bride.


Before you read further, you should know I won’t be giving away anything that can’t be assumed from reading the back cover copy. There are no spoilers in this book recommendation.

Set in the early days of the Mormon Church, The Sister Wife absolutely captivated me from the very beginning. Of course, the back cover blurb is intriguing all on its own:

What if the man you loved told you God wanted him to take another wife? What if that woman was your best friend?

I love books that are different; and I especially love Christian fiction where the characters are far from perfect. So that blurb was enough to convince me this would definitely be something different. And once I opened the book and read the first pages, I knew I wasn’t doing anything else until I finished the book.

Newlyweds Mary Rose and Gabriel, are both converted to the new religion of the Saints on board a ship traveling from England to America. When she first hears rumblings about plural marriages, she’s hard pressed to believe it. But Mary Rose’s disbelief soon turns to reality when she learns Gabriel has been ordered by the prophet Joseph Smith, to take a second wife. Did God truly ordain this? And if so, is He the same God Mary Rose knew and loved before she converted to this new religion?

Author Diane Noble effectively delivers her message of God’s unfailing love for us as she skillfully interweaves Mary Rose’s struggle to accept the unacceptable. It’s made even more difficult when she’s told that if she refuses to go along with it, she’ll be punished as an apostate and won’t ever make it to the Kingdom of Heaven.

With a couple of other intriguing subplots, and the fact that the Mormons are being persecuted, there is a lot of depth to this book. And once you get to know the second woman Gabriel is supposed to wed, you’ll have a difficult time disliking her. That fact alone makes this book far from predictable.

Incredibly well-researched, the book is made all the more fascinating to anyone who has ever done their genealogy and discovered this type of history in their family tree.

I’m eagerly waiting for the second book, The Betrayal (due out in July), because I can’t wait to see where Diane Noble takes us next. To learn more about this gifted author and her books, you can visit her website at: www.dianenoble.com. I'm also including a link to an article about the book on CNN that you might enjoy reading: http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/09/14/noble.sister.wife/index.html?hpt=Sbin#

Question for the day: Can you imagine being in Mary Rose’s shoes, a newlywed, devoted to your prophet, believing with all that is in you that he has the direct ear of God, and then he says you must let your husband marry another woman?

Suzie Johnson has won several awards for her inspirational novels, including the Maggie, Lone Star, Heart of the West, and Beacon awards. She has also placed in the Touched by Love, Finally a Bride, Linda Howard Award of Excellence, and Virginia's Fool For Love contests. She is a member of ACFW, RWA, and is a cancer registrar at her local hospital. The mother of a wonderful young man who makes her proud every day, she lives with her husband and little kitten on an island in the Pacific Northwest. And although the beaches are rocky instead of sandy, lined with Madronas and Evergreens instead of Palm trees, and the surf is much to cold for wading, it is still the perfect spot for writing romantic fiction. You can visit her personal blog at http://suzieswritingplace.blogspot.com/.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Shy Girl’s Guide to Communicating Your Way Through Life



by Suzie Johnson

Bashful. Shy. Timid. Reserved.
Quiet. Cautious. Wary. Guarded.

Do any of these words describe you? Who of us hasn’t experienced at least one instance of intimidation in their life? Or been afraid to speak up in a situation where you really wanted to? If it doesn’t happen to you very often, you’re one of the lucky ones who can explain it away and shrug it off as a one-time thing.

But if you’re even the slightest bit on the timid side, it’s so much more than a one-time thing. Shy girls almost never shrug it off. They carry it around with them, questioning themselves, thinking of all the witty things they wished they’d been able to say. Their hearts are too often filled with regrets. And in some cases, their timidity can be the direct cause of deep wounds.

photo by saavem courtesy of: http://www.sxc.hu/
For those who aren’t typically shy, this can be hard to understand. In fact, shy people are often mischaracterized as being stuck-up. Oh, if those who are blessed with self-confidence only realized how far from the truth that really is. In fact, such a label can strike at the very depths of a shy person’s psyche and make it even harder for them to speak up.

Today I’m sharing tips for the shy ones among us. These tips come from someone who struggled with this for years. I affectionately refer to her as Her Shyness. If you guessed she is me, you’d be absolutely right. Today I’ll give you my personal insight into this often-times debilitating manifestation and share some tips on how I’ve been working to overcome it.

For all of my adult years (and most of my teen years), being shy has been as much a part of me as my height, weight and eye color. It has seriously interfered with my life, and did, in fact, cost me many things. A boy I really cared about in high school, a position in journalism that meant the world to me, friends, missed opportunities when I wanted so bad to speak up but sat paralyzed with fear of opening my mouth, and even respect from people I once held in the highest regard.

But, I must point out something very important. Being shy taught me many things about life, and as much as I want to banish it from my personality once and for all, it’s difficult to dislike a trait that taught me compassion and empathy for others, and strengthened my relationship with God.

… “Be strong and courageous… Do not be afraid or discouraged,
for the Lord God, my God, is with you…” ~~1 Chronicles 28:5

What’s Holding You Back?
This is one of the first things you have to figure out, because that is key to conquering the battle. Do some serious soul-searching. Did something happen when you were a child that dashed your self-confidence? Do you have issues with your self image? Would you be surprised to know people aren’t sitting around analyzing your looks? If they are, they have serious issues themselves. But truly, what does it matter what they think of you? It only matters what you, your loved ones, and your God think of you.

LIGMO.
I can picture you all scratching your head. LIGMO? What could that possibly mean?

Let It Go. Move On. I don’t know how many times I’ve said this to myself since I heard it a couple of years ago. When you hold something inside, it doesn’t hurt the other person. It only hurts you. That person who embarrassed you or made fun of you in the past – how is your shyness hurting them now?

Right.

It’s not. So LIGMO.
photo by cempey courtesy of: http://www.sxc.hu/
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ~~ Phillipians 4:13

Self-Talk: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
I’m sure you’re all familiar with the expression “self-talk”. We use it all the time. It only makes sense that when we use self-talk, we start to believe what we’re telling ourselves.
  • “I’m worthless.”
  • “No one loves me.”
  • “This dress makes me look fat.”
  • “Do I really have anything important to say?”
  • “How do I even know they really like me?”
These really are bad and ugly, aren’t they? The list could go on and on because we say dozens of things to reinforce our negative feelings. Stop. Self-talk can make or break you.

Turn it around. Find the positive. Repeat it. Believe it. You have something worthwhile to say. Your input is just as valuable as the next person’s. You are worth something. You are smart.

What Language Are You Speaking?
Become a student of body language. What does yours say about you? Do you cross your arms when you’re sitting in a group? Slouch? Sit up straight? Make eye contact? Smile?

Do you project when you speak? Do you speak with confidence? If you speak in a well-modulated confident tone, and use positive body language people are more apt to pay attention to you.

How does a shy person accomplish this? I have a relatively unconventional method, but it works for me.

The Acting Studio
A lot of actors are basically shy people.
  • Jim Carrey
  • Kim Bassinger
  • Nicole Kidman
  • Tom Hanks
The surprising list of names is endless, proving if you are one of the shy ones, you’re in extremely fine company.
Elvis. Cher. Lucille Ball….

When an actor is playing a part, they’re pretending to be someone else. I used to love acting. Whenever I played a role, I forgot my fear of speaking in front of people and became the character. It didn’t matter how many people were watching, listening, critiquing. But would it work in real life? I decided to give it a try, and to my surprise, over time, it has helped. I’m growing more comfortable with each group setting I’m in. This method does, however, come with a caveat. First, you must be confident that you know what you’re talking about. Make sure you have your facts straight. And second, while pretending to be someone else might help you speak up in a group setting, as a whole, it isn’t constructive and should be used sparingly. Once you’re able to feel comfortable, you should be yourself and no one else.


We do, after all, want to be loved and accepted (and thereby comfortable expressing ourselves) for who we are. To achieve that, we have to learn to love and accept ourselves.

Stretch Yourself
Put yourself out there. Advising the shy person to put herself in a situation where she has to talk seems as unconventional as pretending to be someone else. It’s a bit like aversion therapy. The more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll become. Start with only one thing; a Bible study group, book club, a committee, a group blog. Get comfortable with those people and you can move forward from there.

The Magic Number
I once heard someone say you have to repeat something twenty-one times before it becomes a habit. That’s twenty-one times of forcing yourself to speak up. Don’t be disappointed if you lack a surge of confidence the first time. Your mouth might be dry and your stomach might feel like a dozen butterflies breaking out of their cocoon. This is perfectly normal, but will get easier each time.

Please don’t be discouraged, and don’t give up. Remember twenty-one times. Before long you’ll be a natural.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ~~Isaiah 41:10

Remember, you never go anywhere alone. I know it sounds trite even to some Christians, but the truth is the truth. God is always with you. And through Him we can do all things. If God is with us, how can we fail?

You can be brave because you’re loved. Take courage in that and let it help you find your confidence. You’ll be surprised where it can take you.

Questions of the day: If you're one of us shy people, do you recall something that might have happened when you were young that may be a contributing factor? Do you wish you could change it, or do you think it's a part of what made you who you are today? Are you happy with who you are today?

Suzie Johnson has won several awards for her inspirational novels, including the Maggie, Lone Star, Heart of the West, and Beacon awards. She has also placed in the Touched by Love, Finally a Bride, Linda Howard Award of Excellence, and Virginia Fools For Love contests. She is a member of ACFW, RWA, and is a cancer registrar at her local hospital. The mother of a wonderful young man who makes her proud every day, she lives with her husband and little kitten on an island in the Pacific Northwest. And although the beaches are rocky instead of sandy, lined with Madronas and Evergreens instead of Palm trees, and the surf is much to cold for wading, it is still the perfect spot for writing romantic fiction. You can visit her personal blog at http://suzieswritingplace.blogspot.com/.




Thursday, February 24, 2011

Magnification x 100

By Lisa Karon Richardson

Having been in church my whole life, there are lots of terms and phrases that I just accept. They’ve become so ingrained that they are almost clichĂ©d—automatic responses that have lost the potency of their meaning.

For some reason as my husband was teaching a Bible study about worship the other day my mind began to turn over a phrase that we often use—Magnify the Lord. If you begin to actually analyze that phrase in the context of Christianity it seems just a touch ridiculous. After all, how is it possible to make God look bigger than He is? Think about that for a second… Surely it’s impossible to exaggerate a God that is all-knowing, all-powerful and everywhere present. This creator of the universe who holds the dust of the earth as if it is a pinch of salt, and yet would robe Himself in flesh for the sole purpose of enduring an ignominious death at the hands of his own creation. We can’t even begin to understand the depth and breadth and height of His love, much less come close to making it seem bigger than it really is.

And then another thought struck me. Magnification enables us to see what is really there. We are no longer confined to what we can see with our physical eyes. The same God who set the stars spinning in the vastness of space and declared the seasons is also the same God who formed the most delicate flower petal.

He created atoms, protons, electrons and neutrons. Scientists are now saying that there may be something smaller than even these incomprehensibly small units of matter. Every time we think we’ve reached the limits of understanding the natural world, we find there is more to be learned. The same is even truer with God. The deeper we go in Him, the more we realize how much more there is to fathom.

I don’t know about you but there have been plenty of times in my life when I’ve wondered why God was allowing a situation. Those are the perfect times to magnify Him! Grab that spiritual microscope that lets us see more than our natural eyes. How do we do it? In worship, in prayer and in digging into His word.

So the challenge is this—Magnify God. Pick one attribute or characteristic and study it. Look closely, beyond the surface gloss we’re so familiar with. Down in the nitty gritty. Go deep and then a little deeper still. You may be surprised at what new things you might learn.

What’s God been talking to you about lately?

Lisa Karon Richardson has been creating stories, since she was little. Influenced by books like The Secret Garden and The Little Princess her early books were heavy on boarding schools and creepy houses. It took her awhile to figure out why grandma thought it was unrealistic for boys and girls to share a room! Now that she’s (mostly) all grown-up she still loves a healthy dash of adventure and excitement in any story she creates, even her real-life story. She’s been a missionary to the Seychelles and Gabon and now that she and her husband are back in America, they are tackling a brand new adventure, starting a daughter-work church in a new city. You can also find Lisa at her group blog: http://inkwellinspirations.blogspot.com Her first novella, entitled Impressed by Love, part of the Colonial Courtships collection, is coming in May, 2012.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What Beautiful Eyes You Have!

by Gina Welborn

A few weeks ago I was reading a romance where the heroine had sea-green eyes. Okay. Ponder with me for a moment sea-green eyes. Is it this shade . . . ?
Or this one . . . ?
Or this one . . . ?
 


I wasn't -- and still, aren't -- sure. Fortunately, the author further described the heroine's eyes as . . . "the most amazing shade of seafoam green."

Oh. Isn't that like defining a word with a word? Lemme google. According to one source, "Slightly darker than Surf Green, Sea Foam Green (also called Foam Green by Dupont) is a great choice for either a Strat or Tele style body. Originally seen on the '56 Buick it saw life with Fender from '60 to '69." Another source says, "Seafoam green is a "fresh, green pastel that establishes a light and airy mood in any bathroom. It offers a clean, crisp feeling that also works well with other darker greens." Here's a color swatch:

Is it humanly possible to have eyes that NATURALLY shade?

Sometimes I think we romance writers get so busy trying to one-up the next author in eye color description that we create impossible eye colors. Of my five children, they each have blue eyes that range from light blue to cornflower blue to gray-blue to greenish blue. Each with a darker outer ring. If you look close, one of my eyes is more green than blue. I never noticed. Hubby never noticed. Took a flamboyant Elizabeth Arden make-up artist to point it out. Who knew, but he was right.

Speaking of flamboyant characters . . . Val Kovalin at Obsidian Bookshelf compiled an amazing and thought-provoking list of eye colors, many of which have become cliched.(for list click here but be prewarned that Mr. Kovalin writes gay romance fiction) . Or you could just read what Wikipedia has to say about the various eye colors at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eye_color.

To see how realistic some of my favorite CBA romance authors describe eyes, I asked a few for snippets from their novels then I found eye pictures that I thought best represented their descriptions. Did I do a fair job or was totally off?


Geneva found herself looking straight into the bluest pair of eyes she’d ever seen. They were the blue of the open ocean off Ferguson Point after the morning fog burned off and the noon sun hung high overhead. Not a cloud diminished the hue of the vast, flat expanse of sea then, but its inky blue depths sparkled with a thousand lights and depths from the reflecting sun. ~Ruth Axtell Morren, Wild Rose, Love Inspired Historicals


When she looked up at him, her eyes were large, amber brown, and fringed with dark lashes. ~Julie Klassen, The Girl in The Gatehouse, Bethany House






And now that she had seen him up close, her curiosity had been assuaged and she could tell Hildy—his eyes were blue, deeper and darker than a woodland pool. ~Melanie Dickerson, The Healer's Apprentice, Zondervan

Tabitha had never seen a man with such beautiful eyes. The rich, deep brown of coffee, they sparkled with pinpoints of gold light behind a fringe of lashes that would have made them feminine if not for his strong cheekbones and firm jaw. ~Laurie Alice Eakes, Lady in the Mist, Revell


Non-Serious Question of the Day :: What eye color description have you read that literally made you stop and ponder, "Is this possible?"

Serious Question of the Day :: Actually, I don't have one. However, would anyone like to join me in singing, "My Father's Eyes?"  . . . eyes full of compassion, knowing what you're going through and feeling it the same . . .

~*~

Gina Welborn worked in news radio writing copy until she took up writing romances. She is a 2009 ACFW Genesis historical romance finalist and a 2007 RWA Golden Heart® inspirational finalist. This
Oklahoma-raised girl now lives in Richmond, Virginia with her youth-pastor husband, their five Okie-Hokie children, and a Sharpador Retriever who doesn’t retrieve much of anything. Her first novella, “Sugarplum Hearts,” part of the HIGHLAND CROSSINGS anthology, will be released by Barbour in January 2012.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

And you thought your floor was dirty

by Niki Turner

We've put a man on the moon. We've created vaccinations to combat some of the most vile diseases. We can communicate with each other at least as well as the Jetsons and Star Trek (although I'm still waiting for Rosie the robot maid and that transporter thingy).

This was the thought that occurred to me as I swished my mop across my kitchen floor Saturday afternoon. In spite of the advances in technology -- from automated homes to cars that park themselves -- if I want my kitchen floor to be clean, I still have to mop it.

It could be worse, though. As a preteen, I distinctly recall pulling the following book off a shelf at my local library (based entirely on the cover, which for all of us who write, should stand as a reminder...) It
was a wonderful story. A kind of Oliver Twist tale with a charming (and obviously memorable) female lead.

Linnet by Sally Watson via Amazon
What's funny is that one of the primary recollections I have of this story is the author's description of the floors in the London manor house where the heroine was lodged. Why? Because I didn't know what "rushes" were, exactly.

Back in those pre-Internet days, if you had a question about something, you didn't just "Google it" to find the answer. Sometimes, the answer required deeper digging than even your local library or your parents' outdated set of encyclopedias had to offer.

As a result, I never did find out what those "rushes" were. Until now.

Our esteemed Inky leader recently asked us to share a list of our favorite books. For lovers of books, that's a HARD question. When you can consume a book in four hours or less, you tend to forget little details like title and author, sad to say. I closed my eyes and tried to think of books that have stuck with me over the years. Linnet was among them, and immediately, the "rushes" question returned. Armed with Internet access, I Googled it. (Stop laughing ... you've done the same.)

Saddleworth church, rushes on floorThe result? I stumbled into a debate. *sigh* At some point in my life I would like to set out to research something that ISN'T up for debate.

The traditional theory is that fresh cut greens or straw, usually with herbs added, were scattered loosely across the floors of medieval homes as a sort of carpet. In Linnet, the household where the heroine found herself was the modern equivalent of a crack house. As such, the rushes were soiled with leftover food and animal excrement and who-knows-what. Rodents used the dirty rushes as cover when they scavenged for food. Frequent replacement of the rushes was considered a sign of prosperity and proper housekeeping.




The debate centers around whether rushes were loosely scattered, like straw in a stable, or woven into nicely civilized mats that wouldn't catch on the floor-length skirts worn by women at the time.
Debate or not ... I come back to the same problem. In thousands of years of human civilization, whether we're talking about putting in a fresh layer of elephant dung and letting it dry to create a nice hard floor, or my ridiculously stained synthetic fiber carpet, or changing out the rushes and mixing in some nice smelling herbs, the process of keeping the floor clean has not kept up with technology. We're still relegated to the broom, the mop, and (in the last century) the vacuum.
Mop photo by rudenoon via PhotoRee

What unresolved questions plague you in your historical reading and/or research?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Responding to Racism with a Christ-Colored Pen

by Dina Sleiman

Don’t you just love it when you stumble upon a book that gets the wheels in your mind spinning and permanently changes the way you view the world. I certainly do. Hmm, I think I may have mentioned that recently. And before I fall into the temptation to give you an exhaustive list of those books, let me get to my point. This summer I read What the Bayou Saw by Patti Lacy. You might recall that Patti is a former Inky, so you can imagine my excitement when I realized she had written one of those life changing books dealing with one of today’s toughest issues: racism. I waited until now to post this in honor of Black History Month.

I’m shocked and sobered each time I’m reminded of how atrocious the racial situation was in America when my own parents were children. This book takes a look at the deep South in the 1960’s and will turn your stomach in a good way with the stunning and very realistic portrayal of racial injustice. The young girl in the story calls to mind Huckleberry Finn as she deals with guilt over desiring to love and accept the blacks around her. She has to hide her relationship with her new best friend, which leads to all sorts of horrendous trouble. Yet Patti Lacy forges bravely forward and withholds none of the awful details.

Perhaps even more shocking than the glimpse into recent history, is the fact that the fictional present in the book is Midwestern America, where white supremacists are still wreaking havoc at a local university. This resurrection of racial issues in the life of the heroine forces her to face her haunting past.

For me, this book brought up all sorts of thoughts and memories as well, but of a different sort. I grew up loving red, yellow, black, and white equally. So one of my first memories of racism was a story from my mother. During her teen years when a black friend of hers was forbidden entrance into a white friend's home, my mother was so enraged that she refused to enter as well and sat on the porch the entire time. And I recall my parents dropping me off at government housing for my African-American friend's birthday party. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for my overprotective mother to leave me in the ghetto, but I’m so grateful my parents sent me that message.

I don’t say any of this to pat myself or my family on the back. And I don’t say this to try to talk my way out of my part in the racial rift in this country. Sometimes, as a people group, we need to repent on behalf of those who have committed atrocities. And on behalf of the white race, I am more than willing to apologize to the African-Americans in this country.

It can be easy to turn a blind eye to racism today. To glibly act as though it doesn’t exist. To blame it on others. But instead we should press toward healing and racial reconciliation. There are still divides and hard feelings between races in our nation.

I remember the night President Obama was elected. Although I could not bring myself to vote for someone with such blatantly liberal politics, I secretly hoped he would win. I kept all my prayers in the “your will be done” category, because I had a sneaking suspicion that God wanted to do a work in this nation through President Obama. I felt that electing our first minority president would have an impact on a spiritual level, and go a long way in healing old racial wounds.

When I watched Obama’s victory speech, I clapped and cried along with everyone else. As the camera panned over brown-skinned faces filled with hope, my heart welled along with them. When Sasha and Malia walked confidently across the stage in their beautiful designer dresses, I knew I was witnessing history in the making.

But racism still exists. On one hand Obama’s victory was a victory on the racism front. It proved to our nation that blacks are not inherently inferior and whites are no longer inherently prejudiced. On the other hand, the way we perceive race as an issue in this presidency points to residual problems.

My brother recently moved to the Deep South, where segregation thrives. He quickly discovered that the new version of racism involves all the white people sending their kids to private schools, and his family is still struggling with how they should respond to this situation. Blacks and whites remain geographically, economically, and culturally segregated in that part of America.

Let us all pray for a complete racial reconciliation in our country, and let us all look for ways to reach out and bridge that gap. Thank you, Patti, for bringing this important subject to my attention once again and giving me this opportunity to look at it through fictional eyes.

What does black history month mean to you? What can you do to help bridge the racial divide in our country? What books have you read by African-American authors that have touched your life?


Dina Sleiman: Dance with Passion. Dina writes lyrical stories that dance with light. She is an aspiring novelist and a published poet, but she is also much more. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. She is passionate about anything related to creativity. Over the years she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. Her primary goal is to serve God and live a spirit-led life. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at http://dinasleiman.com/

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Give Me Something to Learn


by C.J. Chase

When I first tried my hand at writing novels, I targeted my books to the general (secular) market. I experienced some success (a couple major contest wins, an agent), but a book contract remained elusive.

After a writing sabbatical and a bit of introspection, I decided to change my focus and write "Christian" fiction. But how intimidating! I'm not a Super Christian. In fact, I'm so far from Super Christian status, I don't even know who designs the cool uniforms for the Super Christian community. Did I really have anything meaningful to contribute? "Lord, if you want me to write, give me something to say" became my prayer as I began each new book. But recently, I realized my prayer is incomplete.

A few weeks ago, an unpublished writer friend mentioned her fear that she might never publish a book. What, she asked, if she spent all that time writing the book and no one ever read it? She would have been wasting her time. I'm familiar with that fear, having lived with it for years.

As I thought back over my stash of unsold manuscripts, I had an epiphany. Each of those books has characters who wrestled with difficult questions about God and faith. Each of those books required prayer and Bible study from me to answer those questions in a meaningful way. And each of those books changed me long before I attempted to send them out into the world.

Jesus spent three years preparing the disciples before he gave them the Great Commission to go-and-tell. Joseph spent years as a slave and prisoner before God put him in a position of authority. And then there's Moses. Moses spent forty years as a prince where he had access to the best education of his day. And then he spent another forty as a desert shepherd. What did God assign him to do at the age of eighty? Use the skills he developed during those two disparate times of his life to lead hundreds of thousands through a desert.

Peter instructs us to be prepared to give answers to those who question why we believe (I Peter 3:15). My characters -- and by extension, me -- have struggled with weighty issues universal to all humans. How do I deal with people who hurt me and refuse to express regret? If God is loving, why does He allow evil? Such questions don't allow for glib answers. Not in fiction and especially not in real life.

Maybe God will have me speak to a stranger, to a person who lives far away and whom I will never meet, through a book. Or maybe the person who needs my answer will be as close as my own family, in a quiet moment with a troubled teenager.

I have a long way to go to earn my Super Christian cape, but these days, I've amended my prayer. I still ask the Lord to give me something to say -- but I also ask him to give me something to learn. Because even if I never sell another book, I won't have been wasting my time if I spend it learning about God.

Being prepared isn't just for Boy Scouts. It's to be a way of life for all Christians. We cannot share what we do not know.




Saturday, February 19, 2011

Book Recommendation: Masquerade Marriage

by Anita Mae Draper

Masquerade Marriage by Anne Greene, White Rose Publishing

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Romans 12:1‐2, KJV

It’s 1746 in the Scottish Highlands and Brody MacCaulay wakes to a massacre. Blinded in one eye, buried beneath his dead clansmen, he hears the clipped English voices as they walk amidst the wounded Highlanders and finish them off with bayonets. Against his urge to strike out in fury, he silently waits for them to pass. Then leaving his fallen brothers and father behind on the battlefield, he gathers other injured clansmen and makes his way to a hidden cave. If they leave, they’ll be hunted by the English. Their fight, their world, is over.

In a distant castle, Megan MacMurry mourns the loss of her fiancĂ© who led and perished in the Highland battle. Upon her pastor’s advice, she decides to honor her fiance’s death by saving one of his men the only way possible – through marriage. Megan is sure the chosen man will be willing to trade his doomed life for a new name, new clothes, and new life as her marriage-in-name-only husband. When the list is presented to her, she chooses the only familiar name – that of a boy who teased her mercilessly until she took a club to him and his friends. No doubt, Brody MacCaulay wouldn’t remember her girlish warrior stance. And if his teasing was what she had to put up with, she’d do it for her fiance’s sake.

Of course, once Megan is introduced to the adult Brody – a man with a mind of his own who fears nothing for himself - she begins to doubt her choice. Brody has turned into a fine specimen who turns the lasses’ heads. Surely she’s not jealous!

For his part, Brody only agrees to the marriage because his sister and mother are now under his care and they’ll be safer under his protection in a castle. And no matter what Megan says, he’ll never admit to making a secret vow of love when he was but 15 yrs old and a 12 yr old female warrior with flaming red hair stood defiantly before him with a club and warned him to stop the taunting.

Totally satisfying, the end was not been what I expected. On reflection, I realized it was what I’d hoped would happen in a fleeting moment of despair. For I cried when the end was near and things had not gone as planned. I felt Brody and Megan’s loss when they realized precious time had slipped away and there was nothing they could do. And then, when I read the last paragraph of Masquerade Marriage, I smiled.

The story is one of faith in the face of adversity. Faith in God. Faith in yourself. And faith in those people God surrounds you with.

My only concern with this book was the thick Scottish brogue in the beginning chapters since the book starts in Brody’s point of view. But the farther I read, the more I began to appreciate the soft burr of his words. I knew when he was talking and began to follow his speech patterns in my mind. And after a while I didn’t want to separate the brogue from the man, because … well… that was part of Brody.

Anne Greene, I commend you on your character choice of worthy adversaries. And more.

Anne Greene can be found at http://www.annegreeneauthor.com/