Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas to One and All!!

I just wanted to wish you all a very Merry Christmas!  This is my favorite time of year because I love to give without expecting anything in return. Below is an article I wrote for my church website about keeping the feeling of Christmas all year long.  I hope you enjoy it.

Keeping the Spirit of Christmas Throughout the New Year

As I sit writing this, Christmas is just two days away and the expectation of spending time with my family, my church family and my friends is bubbling up inside me.  You know the feeling I’m talking about.  It’s that “Christmas feeling”.  A feeling you get during the Christmas season.  It’s a feeling of joy, love, caring, sharing and most importantly giving.

Have you noticed that during this time of year everyone you seem to encounter seems just a little bit nicer than usual?  People tend to smile more and have a bounce in their step.  It’s always so exciting to me to see the way the world transforms during the Christmas season.  My question is why can’t we all be this way all year long?

Today I saw a wonderful sight.  It actually made me feel like a child again.  My husband, my mom and I were walking through a local stores parking lot when I heard the words, “On dasher, on dancer….”, it was coming from a speaker on a fire truck.  The firemen were driving through the parking lot throwing out brown packages to all the kids walking to or from the store.  The children were so excited.  I saw this precious little blond girl, about four years old, walking to her car with her daddy.  When they tossed the package out she scampered over to pick it up and when she turned back around the expression on her face was simply priceless.  What I saw in her face was the spirit of Christmas…a spirit of giving and receiving.

As a Christian we know that the greatest gift of all was our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, so that who soever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16   God sent his precious Son to earth to die for us so that we can live eternally with Him.  What a gift He gave and is still giving every single day of our lives.  All you have to do is repent of your sins and ask Jesus to come into your heart.  Receive God’s gift.  Then you need to share God’s gift with everyone you know, and don’t know.  Share His love, His joy, and His gift.  Share the Spirit of Christmas everyday of your life.

Please, always remember that the real reason we should celebrate Christmas is because of the birth of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Spirit of Christmas, He’s the reason for the season.

* * * * * * * * * * 

I would also like to share with you the following link to my favorite rendition of O HOLY NIGHT sung by the powerful tenor David Phelps. It is preceded by a brief message of giving.

Smiles & Blessings,

Friday, December 23, 2011

Stalker in the Shadows by Camy Tang - a review

I am a huge fan of the Love Inspired Suspense line of books so when I had an opportunity to review Stalker in the Shadows by Camy Tang, I jumped at the chance.  Let me tell you, I was not disappointed.

The story is about nurse Monica Grant who has plans to open a free clinic for children.  Unfortunately she is meeting resistance and starts receiving death threats. Monica is not going to give up her dream and decides to enlist Shaun O’Neill as her bodyguard.  Shaun was a former Border Patrol Guard.  After Monica receives a package containing a dead snake, Shaun believes that Monica’s stalker is the same person that murdered his sister years before.

Ms. Tang has developed her characters well and I enjoyed the romance between Monica & Shaun.  The plot kept me turning pages long into the night.  I even found myself sitting on the edge of my chair .  Great suspense!

If you enjoy good romance, suspense and Love Inspired books, Stalker in the Shadows is the book for you.

On a 5 star scale:  4.5 stars

Stalker in the Shadows releases on 01/15/12.  Make sure to grab a copy of this wonderful suspenseful novel as soon as possible as Love Inspired books only stay on the shelf for one month.

I would like to thank the author, Camy Tang, for my review copy of Stalker in the Shadows.  I received my free review copy to read and give my honest review which I have done.

Smiles & Blessings,

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Winner of My Favorite Bible

With the help of a winner was selected to receive a copy of My Favorite Bible.

to Sarah!

Sarah, I have sent you an email requesting your mailing information.  Please respond ASAP as I need to get your mailing information to the Publicist by the 15th!

Smiles & Blessings,

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Common English Bible - Interview with Paul Franklyn

Below is an interview with Paul Franklyn, an associate publisher and project director for the Common English Bible.  I'm sure this interview will answer any questions you have about the Common English Bible.

Interview with Paul Franklyn 

Paul N. Franklyn, associate publisher and project director for the Common
English Bible ( in Nashville, TN, earned the PhD in
Old Testament from Vanderbilt University. Since 1983 Paul has acquired,
edited, or produced more than 600 books, CD-ROMs, DVDs, and commercial
websites. Paul specializes in planning and launching new business ventures,
and his product development emphasis is in Bible, Reference, and resources
for leaders of congregations.

What is the Common English Bible? 
The Common English Bible is not simply a revision or update of an existing translation. It’s a bold new translation designed to meet the needs of Christians as they work to build a strong and meaningful relationship with God through Jesus Christ. A key goal of the translation team is to make the Bible accessible to a broad range of people; it’s written at a comfortable level (similar to USA TODAY) for most people who read English.

How is the Common English Bible unique? 
It’s uncommon in that it’s the newest translation by the largest number of biblical scholars & church leaders in words 21st century readers use every day, aligning academic rigor with modern understandability, proven through extensive field-testing with, and acting on feedback from, hundreds of readers. The new Common English Bible is the only translation to combine and balance highly respected ecumenical biblical scholarship necessary for serious study with responsiveness to 21st century clear communication requirements for comprehensive clarity. The Common English Bible is the only translation to extensively use contractions where the text warrants an engaging conversational style (not used in divine or poetic discourse).
And among all Bibles available today, the Common English Bible is the only one that includes exclusive, detailed color maps from National Geographic, well known for its accurate topographical map making.

Explain the translation process. 
Combining scholarly accuracy with vivid language, the Common English Bible is the work of 120 biblical scholars from 24 denominations in American, African, Asian, European, andLatino communities, representing such academic institutions as Asbury Theological Seminary, Azusa Pacific University, Bethel Seminary, Denver Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary, Seattle Pacific University, Wheaton College, Yale University, and many others. They translated the Bible into English directly from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. Additionally, more than 500 readers in 77 groups field-tested the translation. Every verse was read aloud in the reading groups, where potentially confusing passages were identified. The translators considered the groups' responses and, where necessary, reworked those passages to clarify in English their meaning from the original languages. In total, more than 600 people worked jointly to bring the Common English Bible to fruition.

How long did this translation process take? 
We began in 2007. The complete Bible—Old Testament, New Testament, and Apocrypha—was just released in 2011. We were able to accomplish so much with so many people because of using a matrix schedule, coordinating in realtime translators with reviewers, and using Internet communication technology.

Who Is It For? 
The Common English Bible is committed to the whole church of Jesus Christ. That’s reflected in the dedicated work of a diverse team with broad biblical scholarship. As a result, the English translation of ancient words has an uncommon relevance for a broad audience of Bible readers—from children to scholars.

Why do we need another Bible translation? 
The Common English Bible is a non-polarizing Bible translation. It’s the result of collaboration between opposites: scholars working with average readers; teens working with retirees; men working with women; conservatives working with liberals; many denominations and many ethnicities coming together around the common goal of creating a translation that unites rather than divides, with the ultimate goal of mutually accomplishing God’s overall work in the world. The Common English Bible is also needed today because the digital revolution is accelerating changes in the English language and its everyday usage and understandability. This translation is necessary to clearly communicate God’s Word because 9,000 new words & meaning revisions are added yearly to the English lexicon. The Common English Bible is today’s freshest translation and uses natural, 21st century English.

Why would pastors and teachers want the Common English Bible?
Professional communicators (preachers, professors, speakers, leaders, etc.) who use this authoritative translation (not a paraphrase) will be great communicators, effectively reaching their audiences with biblical text their audiences readily understand because the text is written the way they naturally talk.

Why is the Common English Bible translated to be gender-inclusive? 
Present-day writers and speakers of the English language are no longer taught to use only male pronouns when referring generally to other human beings. Instead of referring to persons in general as “he,” “him,” or “his,” we’re taught to use third person pronouns, such as “we,” “they,” or “them” in our general communication. So, rather than referring only to "brothers" in the Bible when the context includes both genders, the Common English Bible says "brothers and sisters." The Common English Bible contains unbiased gender language because the Bible message itself teaches that God's love and grace must be clearly available to every woman, man, and child. Pronouns can be translated inclusively, accurately, and smoothly without changing the meaning of the source language with respect to general human beings. Pronouns for God, Lord, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit are translated as he, his, or him.

What are some examples of the translation style?
The traditional term “Son of Man” as a reference to Jesus’ self identification with humans, is translated in the Common English Bible as “Human One” to accurately reflect Jesus’ fully human nature; and the term “God’s Son” is used to accurately reflect Jesus’ fully divine nature. Likewise, “happy” is used in place of “blessed” in the Beatitudes to communicate the original language’s intent of human flourishing and community commitment (similar to the meaning behind “happiness” as it’s used in the US Declaration of Independence). Other terms used in the Common English Bible include “change your hearts and lives” for “repent,” “immigrant” for “alien,” “solemn promise” for “vow,” and “funeral clothing” for “sackcloth.

Who Sponsored the Common English Bible? 
The Common English Bible is a distinct new imprint and brand for Bibles and reference products about the Bible. Publishing and marketing offices are located in Nashville, Tennessee. The CEB translation was funded by the Church Resources Development Corp, which allows for cooperation among denominational publishers in the development and distribution of Bibles, curriculum, and worship materials. The Common English Bible Committee meets periodically and consists of denominational publishers from the following denominations: Disciples of Christ (Chalice Press); Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (Westminster John Knox Press); Episcopal Church (Church Publishing Inc); United Church of Christ (Pilgrim Press); and United Methodist Church (Abingdon Press).

What evangelical school was the first to endorse the translation?
Fuller Theological Seminary approved the new Common English Bible as a translation for use in biblical studies courses for its more than 4,000 students, and particularly for all master’s-level instruction in the seminary’s School of Theology, School of Psychology, and School of Intercultural Studies on all eight of its campuses.

What Common English Bible products are available? 
The Common English Bible translation is available in multiple print and electronic editions, with and without the Apocrypha. Reference books supporting the translation are also available. See the website for the entire list.

Where is the Common English Bible available?
At your favorite bookstore, at online stores (such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble),, or by visiting

Smiles & Blessings,

Friday, December 9, 2011

First Wild Card Tour - The Story Template by Amy Deardon

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books.  A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured.  The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between!  Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Taegais Publishing, LLC (July 25, 2011)
***Special thanks to Amy Deardon for sending me a review copy.***


Amy Deardon is married with two children, and spends much time taking care of her family. In her life BC (before children) she was a scientist who did bench research. She is also a Christian who came to faith under protest through studying the historic circumstances surrounding the death of Jesus.

Amy has written one novel, A LEVER LONG ENOUGH, about a small military team that travels back in time to film the theft of Jesus' body from the tomb. This book won two awards.

Visit the author's website.


THE STORY TEMPLATE is a programmed learner that allows the writer to develop her story from chaos. The book uses a series of exercises for the writer to construct her story’s four foundational pillars; learn how to use the “secret weapon” of story structure: the story template; build character depth and believable change; and construct subplots. THE STORY TEMPLATE then reviews writing techniques, and finishes with discussions of editing, writing the synopsis and query letter, submitting one’s work to agents, and types of publishing that the writer may wish to pursue.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.95
Paperback: 260 pages
Publisher: Taegais Publishing, LLC (July 25, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0981899730
ISBN-13: 978-0981899732

My Thoughts:

The Story Template is a unique book that I believe will be a permanent "go to" book for any writer, novice or published. Amy Dreardon has created a template that can work with any story, script or novel. I took a quick read through her book and know that it is something that I will refer to over and over again. I plan on going back now and really devour the concepts she has worked through in this book and apply them to my own WIP.


Writing a novel or screenplay sounds like a great idea until you sit down to start. Where do you start? Many different methods exist to write the story, ranging from extensive preplanning to venturing onto the first page without an idea. This book describes an approach to developing story--laid out as a sequential series of exercises to facilitate implementation--that you can use whether you prefer a structured or loose approach to writing. You can use it at the start to develop an idea fragment, or later to rescue a partial or completed manuscript that doesn't seem to be working. The method works whether you want to write plot-driven (genre) or character-driven (literary) stories. It enables you to efficiently use your time and creativity by breaking down the process of story building into a logical plan. You will not waste time sitting at your keyboard, wondering what you should write and how you can organize your ideas into a complete manuscript.

     The idea for this book originated from my own learning process in producing a novel. Having written scientific articles, newspaper columns, and other nonfiction, when I decided to write a novel I was surprised by how difficult it was to get the words down. I tried outlining, and I tried just going ahead. I had wonderful ideas, but although the scenes I wrote were exciting the story itself often seemed somehow “wrong.” I threw out more pages than I care to remember. Through sheer grit I finished the novel, but when I thought about writing another my heart sank. I decided to first solve the problem of understanding how story worked.

     I chose twenty entertaining, modern novels in different genres, and fifteen more-or-less recent films (and I've since confirmed my preliminary observations with tens of more stories). One at a time, I took them apart: I made a list of each scene, then did a word count or timed the scene, calculated percentages and other statistics, and graphed each story onto a five page chart. I studied each story's progression, then compared the progressions of different stories to determine common pathways. I also read all that I could on constructing stories. The writing how-to literature was heavy on techniques (plotting, point of view, characterization, dialogue)--all of which are important--but there wasn't much on blending it all together. Screenwriting how-to books were stronger on structure, but still didn't give me all I needed.

     I studied story after story, puzzling out how they were built. First, I identified elements called story posts, and found that these posts fell reliably within the timing of the whole. Then I found consistent trends of progression in the plot, as well as consistent trends of development and interactions in the characters. My biggest surprise, in fact, was finding just how unvarying were the underlying levels of the story. I also identified a unit of story construction I call a “bubble” that bridges the gap between the high concept ideas for the story and individual scenes.

     Once I had my background knowledge, I coached students to develop their stories, and thereby constructed an algorithm for the practical application of this theory.

     So, what is this “story template” that is the title of this book? Is this a formula or blueprint you can mindlessly follow, like a paint-by-numbers canvas?

     In a word, no. I like to call what I found a template since it describes the shape or progression, on a deep level, of virtually all stories. Recognizing this pattern in a story is something I liken to sketching a face. An artist will tell you that a person's eyes are about halfway down the head, and are separated by another eye width. The bottom of the nose is halfway between the eyes and the chin, the mouth is proportionally between the nose and the chin and extends to imaginary vertical lines drawn below the eyes' pupils, the tips of the ears hit about eyelid level, earlobe tips at bottom-nose level, and on and on. Faces are infinitely varied, yet if the artist ignores these rough proportions, no matter how carefully sketched the face will always look “wrong.” Similarly, you will use the template to ensure that your story elements are proportionally correct and all present. The template gives you a guide, but never dictates, what you can write.


     Getting the story shape right is the first, and (in my opinion) the hardest step to writing a gripping novel or screenplay. Without good structure, the story tends to meander without a point: although it may have high action, it is characterized by low tension.

     You may want to first read this entire book to get an overview of story before starting with the exercises. Keep in mind that shaping a story is intensive work, and it will take you weeks or even months to get your story organized. This is normal. Don't get discouraged, and don't skimp on the exercises. Take your time to thoroughly work through each step. At the end, your story will be much stronger, and the actual writing will go like a dream.

     This book is not sufficient for producing a finished story ready for publication or production. You will need to master further writing techniques such as characterization, description, dialogue, transitions, editing, etc. I will touch upon a few of these to give you some direction, but the only way to get really good is to practice. Fortunately, many excellent books are available for help. See Appendix One to start.
     Outline of The Plan

     I like to use the metaphor of constructing a house to envision building a story. To assemble a house, you move from larger to smaller elements to sequentially put something together. Only after you have worked through many tasks is it finally time to do the fine details of painting the windowsills and installing the wallpaper. Similarly, while you have ideas about character arcs and plot twists, and maybe you've even written some scenes, you will be well served to develop a direction before writing through your manuscript. If you write your first draft as the ideas occur to you, then this will comprise your story planning. You'll find that you probably don't have enough material to form an entire novel or screenplay, and even if you do it may not hang together. Believe me, this is a laborious and frustrating way to go.

     The Story Template gives a series of actions for you to do that will allow you to develop your story ideas with a minimum of angst and wasted energy. Some exercises will be quick, others will require a great deal of thought, and perhaps even a marination of thought, before finishing. Don't be in a rush--some of your best ideas will come as you play with character or event possibilities. As you continue to develop your story you will probably revisit different components of these exercises, going back and changing previous work, as you move through this programmed story outliner. That's okay. Just go with the flow, and have fun.

     When you've finished with these exercises, you will be ready to start writing your manuscript, with ease and flow and speed, because you will have already done the hard organizational work. Even if you want to change the story as you're writing, you'll be able to do so with an understanding of how to balance the changes. You will have a detailed roadmap that will allow you to bring your vision--your book or screenplay--to completion.
     Writing Tools

     You are a writer. Before you start, you need to assemble the following items:

     1. A tool with which to do your major writing, either a computer, an old-fashioned typewriter, or paper and pencil. If you do handwrite your notes, you may want to treat yourself to a special pen that you love, and is only to be used for your magnus opus.

     2. A system to organize your template exercises. I prefer hard copy: printing out computer files, or writing on loose leaf paper, then placing the sheets in a three-ringed binder. This notebook may inspire you and give you a sense of accomplishment as you look through to see how much you've done. Not as recommended is keeping files only on computer because they're harder to flip through, mark up, and juxtapose ideas; or a spiral or bound notebook because you can't replace pages or change their order. But do what works for you.

     3. A small notebook to carry with you at all times. Use this to jot down any thoughts that come to you.

     4. Index cards. Get two packs, and we'll go over how to use them to story board. Also get a roll of masking tape and a permanent marker (thin tip) for bold marks. Finally, you may want to purchase an index card binder to permanently keep your cards in order.

     Getting the Words Down

     Here are some tips to help you get the words down:

     1. Decide on a daily quota of words that is manageable. A good starting goal might be 300, but remember to keep pushing this number up as you become accustomed to the writing process. Create a log to record your daily output. Post this on your refrigerator or otherwise keep it prominent in your daily life.

     2. Set aside at least fifteen minutes at a time in which you can remain undisturbed. Aim for an hour or more if you can.

     3. Don't start your writing session by checking your e-mail or doing anything else except for writing.

     4. Turn off anything that might distract you--music, radio, or television. Some people can write through these things, but try without for a few days to see if you do better.

     5. If you're stuck, do free-writing where you talk to yourself on paper. Something like, “I'm trying to figure out what Jason's problems with Mike might be in this scene. I was thinking about…”

     Let's get started.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Winner of A Sound Among the Trees

The contest is over and the winner of Susan Meissner's, A Sound Among the Trees is...


An email has been sent to Barbjan10 and she has 48 hours to respond or another name will be selected.  Thank you all for entering this giveaway and please come back soon as I will be offering more giveaways.  Also please check out the My Favorite Bible giveaway here and also the chance to win your own copy of the Common English Bible here.

Smiles & Blessings,

Monday, November 28, 2011

My Favorite Bible - giveaway

With the vibrant illustrations and engaging text in this Bible storybook, you can enjoy sharing the best-loved stories of the Bible with the children in your life and encourage a life-long love for the Word of God. My Favorite Bible is a book of exciting Bible stories and activity pages that guide children through the foundational truths of Scripture.

Each story is fully illustrated and includes a simple narrative full of things kids love: repetition, rhythm, and energy, along with a key biblical theme, a key Bible verse, and discussion questions to help adults introduce children to the Bible.

The colorful illustrations will capture the imaginations of children ages 4–8, and the stories will help adults to pass along the most important truth in life—the Gospel. Families will cherish this time as they read, listen, learn, and love, growing closer to one another even as they grow closer to God.

Now for the giveaway.  The Publishers and authors of My Favorite Bible would like to give away one copy to one of my readers.  This would make a great Christmas gift for that young person on your Christmas list or parents/grandparents of young children.

************ GIVEAWAY RULES  ************

1.  Giveaway is open to US, Canada & International

2.  No PO Boxes please.

3.  You MUST be a follower of my blog (please be sure to leave the name you follow under in your comment)

4.  For extra entries you may do one or all of the following:
    -- become an email subscriber +1
    -- invite a friend to become a follower of my blog.  If they become a follower & mention your name, you will both receive 2 extra entries

5. Include an email address where I can reach you if you are selected as the winner of this giveaway.  Please enter your email address in this format    winner[at]yahoo[dot]com

Giveaway will run through December 11th and the winner will be selected using Random.Org.  I will then email the winner to secure their mailing address & I will forward their address to the publisher so they can mail your book.

For giveaways on other blogs please go to Winning Readings at

Smiles & Blessings,

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Attracted to Fire by DiAnn Mills - a review

DiAnn Mills has created another winner with Attracted to Fire.  On a remote Texas ranch, the Dancin' Dust, Ms Mills brings together two very dedicated Special Agents.  They are both vying for the same assignment - to protect the President of the United States.  Special Agent In Charge, Ash Zinders, does not want a woman agent on his team.  From the start, Special Agent Meghan Connors gets under his skin.  First because she's a female agent and then because she's a very attractive woman.  Their job is to protect the Vice President's daughter at all costs.  Connors and Zinders are two agents focused on getting the job done.  I found it enjoyable watching their hearts soften towards each other while still doing their jobs.  There are several twists and turns in the story making you guess right up until the end.  I did figure things out half way through but it was fun watching the story unfold.

Ms. Mills did not pound you over the head with Scripture but the subtle mentions of faith laced through the story was refreshing.  I enjoyed watching Meghan grow in her faith as the story unfolded.

This is a wonderful story of suspense, love and faith that I would highly recommend.

On a 5 Star scale:  4 1/2 Stars

 I would like to thank Tyndale House Publishers for my complimentary copy of Attracted to Fire.  I received it free to read and give my honest opinion which I have done.

Smiles & Blessings,

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Common English Bible Blog Tour & a Chance to Get Your Own Copy

I have joined the Common English Bible (CEB) blog tour.  It is a tour that will span three months and it's purpose is to introduce you, my readers, to a new 'easy to understand' version of the Bible.  From now until the end of January I will be posting verses from this Bible.  Each week that I post something about this Bible, you my readers will have an opportunity to win a copy of this Bible for yourself.  All you need to do is leave a post on the blog that either has a posting about the Bible, or a verse from the Bible.  It's that easy.  Then each week, I will draw a name using and I will contact the winner for their mailing address so I can submit it to the publishers of the Common English Bible.  It's that easy!

One of my favorite verses from the Bible is Jeremiah 29:11.  The following is the verse from the CEB.
"I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the LORD; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope."

The verse that my blog is titled for is Philippians 4:13.  From the CEB is reads, "I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength.

This Bible would make a wonderful gift for anyone during this Christmas season.  If you would like to learn more about this Bible please follow any of the links below:

Facebook Group Page:
Facebook Bible Like Page:

Don't forget to leave a post letting me know if you'd like the chance to win a copy of the CEB for yourself~

Smiles & Blessings,

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Sound Among the Trees by Susan Meissner - Review & Giveaway

Do I have a special book to offer you!  Whether you love Historical Christian Romantic Fiction or not you will absolutely love A Sound Among the Trees.  I guarantee it.  This is a book that transports you to modern day Virginia and quickly transports you to the Civil War era by way of letters.  It was a wonderful read that I highly recommend.

On a 5-Star scale I give this book 5-Stars!

I would like to thank Laura Tucker with Random House and the First Wild Card Tour for my review copy.  I received it for free in exchange for my honest review.  Also, I would like to thank Laura Tucker for the extra copy she sent to me to offer one of my readers.

************ NEW GIVEAWAY RULES  ************

1.  Giveaway is open to US and Canada

2.  No PO Boxes please.

3.  You MUST be a follower of my blog (please be sure to leave the name you follow under in your comment)

4.  For extra entries you may do one or all of the following:
    -- become an email subscriber +1
    -- invite a friend to become a follower of my blog.  If they become a follower & mention your name, you will both receive 2 extra entries

5. Include an email address where I can reach you if you are selected as the winner of this giveaway.  Please enter your email address in this format    winner[at]yahoo[dot]com

To make sure your entry counts, please answer the following question:

What do you love best about Thanksgiving or the Autumn months

Giveaway will run through December 3rd and the winner will be selected using Random.Org

For giveaways on other blogs please go to Winning Readings at

Smiles & Blessings,

First Wild Card Tour - A Sound Among the Trees by Susan Meissner

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books.  A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured.  The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between!  Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

WaterBrook Press (October 4, 2011)
***Special thanks to Laura Tucker of WaterBrook Press for sending me a review copy.***


Award-winning writer Susan Meissner is a multi-published author, speaker and workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include The Shape of Mercy, named by Publishers Weekly as one of the Best Books of 2008. She is a pastor’s wife and a mother of four. When she's not writing, Susan directs the Small Groups and Connection Ministries program at her San Diego church.

Visit the author's website.


A house shrouded in time. A line of women with a heritage of loss. As a young bride, Susannah Page was rumored to be a Civil War spy for the North, a traitor to her Virginian roots. Her great-granddaughter Adelaide, the current matriarch of Holly Oak, doesn't believe that Susannah's ghost haunts the antebellum mansion looking for a pardon, but rather the house itself bears a grudge toward its tragic past.

When Marielle Bishop marries into the family and is transplanted from the arid west to her husband's home, it isn't long before she is led to believe that the house she just settled into brings misfortune to the women who live there.

With Adelaide's richly peppered superstitions and deep family roots at stake, Marielle must sort out the truth about Susannah Page and Holly Oak— and make peace with the sacrifices she has made for love.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (October 4, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307458857
ISBN-13: 978-0307458858

My Review:

Susan Meissner is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.  The words she weaves into her wonderful tales are lyrical.  Her characters are real and her settings, well let's just say I am transported into her stories and journey through time and space back into the past.  A Sound Among the Trees  was a magical trip to a beautiful plantation home in Virginia, during present day and during the Civil War period.  I could hardly put the book down and hated to turn that last page.

If you love Christian fiction and stories split between two eras, you will absolutely love A Sound Among the Trees.  I guarantee it.

On a 5-Star scale I give this book 5-Stars!

I would like to thank Laura Tucker with Random House and the First Wild Card Tour for my review copy.  I received it for free in exchange for my honest review.



     The bride stood in a circle of Virginia sunlight, her narrow heels clicking on Holly Oak’s patio stones as she greeted strangers in the receiving line. Her wedding dress was a simple A-line, strapless, with a gauzy skirt of white that breezed about her knees like lacy curtains at an open window. She had pulled her unveiled brunette curls into a loose arrangement dotted with tiny flowers that she’d kept alive on her flight from Phoenix. Her only jewelry was a white topaz pendant at her throat and the band of platinum on her left ring finger. Tall, slender, and tanned from the famed and relentless Arizona sun, hers was a girl-nextdoor look: pretty but not quite beautiful. Adelaide thought it odd that Marielle held no bouquet.

     From the parlor window Adelaide watched as her grandson-in-law, resplendent in a black tuxedo next to his bride, bent toward the guests and greeted them by name, saying, “This is Marielle.” An explanation seemed ready to spring from his lips each time he shook the hand of someone who had known Sara, her deceased granddaughter. His first wife. Carson stood inches from Marielle, touching her elbow every so often, perhaps to assure himself that after four years a widower he had indeed patently and finally moved on from grief.
Smatterings of conversations wafted about on the May breeze and into the parlor as received guests strolled toward trays of sweet tea and champagne. Adelaide heard snippets from her place at the window. Hudson and Brette, her great-grandchildren, had moved away from the snaking line of gray suits and pastel dresses within minutes of the first guests’ arrival and were now studying the flower-festooned gift table under the window ledge, touching the bows, fingering the silvery white wrappings. Above the children, an old oak’s youngest branches shimmied to the tunes a string quartet produced from the gazebo beyond the receiving line.
Adelaide raised a teacup to her lips and sipped the last of its contents, allowing the lemony warmth to linger at the back of her throat. She had spent the better part of the morning readying the garden for Carson and Marielle’s wedding reception, plucking spent geranium blossoms, ordering the catering staff about, and straightening the rented linen tablecloths. She needed to join the party now that it had begun. The Blue-Haired Old Ladies would be wondering where she was.
Her friends had been the first to arrive, coming through the garden gate on the south side of the house at five minutes before the hour. She’d watched as Carson introduced them to Marielle, witnessed how they cocked their necks in blue-headed unison to sweetly scrutinize her grandson-in-law’s new wife, and heard their welcoming remarks through the open window.
Deloris gushed about how lovely Marielle’s wedding dress was and what, pray tell, was the name of that divine purple flower she had in her hair?
Pearl invited Marielle to her bridge club next Tuesday afternoon and asked her if she believed in ghosts.
Maxine asked her how Carson and she had met—though Adelaide had told her weeks ago that Carson met Marielle on the Internet—and why on earth Arizona didn’t like daylight-saving time.
Marielle had smiled, sweet and knowing—like the kindergarten teacher who finds the bluntness of five-year-olds endearing—and answered the many questions.

     Mojave asters. She didn’t know how to play bridge. She’d never encountered a ghost so she couldn’t really say but most likely not. She and Carson met online. There’s no need to save what one has an abundance of. Carson had cupped her elbow in his hand, and his thumb caressed the inside of her arm while she spoke.

     Adelaide swiftly set the cup down on the table by the window, whisking away the remembered tenderness of that same caress on Sara’s arm.

     Carson had every right to remarry.

     Sara had been dead for four years.

     She turned from the bridal tableau outside and inhaled deeply the gardenia-scented air in the parlor. Unbidden thoughts of her granddaughter sitting with her in that very room gently nudged her. Sara at six cutting out paper dolls. Memorizing multiplication tables at age eight. Sewing brass buttons onto gray wool coats at eleven. Sara reciting a poem for English Lit at sixteen, comparing college acceptance letters at eighteen, sharing a chance letter from her estranged mother at nineteen, showing Adelaide her engagement ring at twenty-four. Coming back home to Holly Oak with Carson when Hudson was born. Nursing Brette in that armchair by the fireplace. Leaning against the door frame and telling Adelaide that she was expecting her third child.

     Right there Sara had done those things while Adelaide sat at the long table in the center of the room, empty now but usually awash in yards of stiff Confederate gray, glistening gold braid, and tiny piles of brass buttons—the shining elements of officer reenactment uniforms before they see war.

     Adelaide ran her fingers along the table’s polished surface, the warm wood as old as the house itself. Carson had come to her just a few months ago while she sat at that table piecing together a sharpshooter’s forest green jacket. He had taken a chair across from her as Adelaide pinned a collar, and he’d said he needed to tell her something.

     He’d met someone.

     When she’d said nothing, he added, “It’s been four years, Adelaide.”

     “I know how long it’s been.” The pins made a tiny plucking sound as their pointed ends pricked the fabric.

     “She lives in Phoenix.”

     “You’ve never been to Phoenix.”

     “Mimi.” He said the name Sara had given her gently, as a father might. A tender reprimand. He waited until she looked up at him. “I don’t think Sara would want me to live the rest of my life alone. I really don’t. And I don’t think she would want Hudson and Brette not to have a mother.”

     “Those children have a mother.”

     “You know what I mean. They need to be mothered. I’m gone all day at work. I only have the weekends with them. And you won’t always be here. You’re a wonderful great-grandmother, but they need someone to mother them, Mimi.”

     She pulled the pin cushion closer to her and swallowed. “I know they do.”

     He leaned forward in his chair. “And I…I miss having someone to share my life with. I miss the companionship. I miss being in love. I miss having someone love me.”

     Adelaide smoothed the pieces of the collar. “So. You are in love?”

     He had taken a moment to answer. “Yes. I think I am.”

     Carson hadn’t brought anyone home to the house, and he hadn’t been on any dates. But he had lately spent many nights after the children were in bed in his study—the old drawing room—with the door closed. When she’d pass by, Adelaide would hear the low bass notes of his voice as he spoke softly into his phone. She knew that gentle sound. She had heard it before, years ago when Sara and Carson would sit in the study and talk about their day. His voice, deep and resonant. Hers, soft and melodic.

     “Are you going to marry her?”

     Carson had laughed. “Don’t you even want to know her name?”

     She had not cared at that moment about a name. The specter of being alone in Holly Oak shoved itself forward in her mind. If he remarried, he’d likely move out and take the children with him. “Are you taking the children? Are you leaving Holly Oak?”


     “Will you be leaving?”

     Several seconds of silence had hung suspended between them. Carson and Sara had moved into Holly Oak ten years earlier to care for Adelaide after heart surgery and had simply stayed. Ownership of Holly Oak had been Sara’s birthright and was now Hudson and Brette’s future inheritance. Carson stayed on after Sara died because, in her grief, Adelaide asked him to, and in his grief, Carson said yes.

     “Will you be leaving?” she asked again.

     “Would you want me to leave?” He sounded unsure.

     “You would stay?”

     Carson had sat back in his chair. “I don’t know if it’s a good idea to take Hudson and Brette out of the only home they’ve known. They’ve already had to deal with more than any kid should.”

     “So you would marry this woman and bring her here. To this house.”

     Carson had hesitated only a moment. “Yes.”

     She knew without asking that they were not talking solely about the effects moving would have on a ten-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl. They were talking about the strange biology of their grief. Sara had been taken from them both, and Holly Oak nurtured their common sorrow in the most kind and savage of ways. Happy memories were one way of keeping someone attached to a house and its people. Grief was the other. Surely Carson knew this. An inner nudging prompted her to consider asking him what his new bride would want.

     “What is her name?” she asked instead.

     And he answered, “Marielle…”
Excerpted from A Sound Among the Trees by Susan Meissner Copyright © 2011 by Susan Meissner. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Remembering Christmas by Dan Walsh - a review

From the inside cover of Remembering Christmas:

"Rick Denton lives his life on his terms.  He works hard, plays hard, and answers to no one.  So when his mother calls begging him to come home after his stepfather has an aneurysm, Rick is more than a little reluctant.  What was supposed to be just a couple days helping out at the family bookstore turns into weeks of cashing out old ladies and dealing with the homeless guy who keeps hanging around the store.  The one bright spot is the lovely and intriguing young woman who works at his side each day.

As Christmas nears, Rick's old life beckons, the hurts from his past loom large, and the decisions he makes will determine more than just where he spends Christmas Eve."

My Thoughts:

Remembering Christmas is a story of forgiveness, restoration, and love.  I must say, Mr. Walsh knows how to weave a story that will grab the reader by their heartstrings.  I shed a few tears during the course of reading this book.  

Chapter One begins during the present day and by Chapter Two you are taken back to 1980 where the story truly begins and continues until the final chapter which brings you back to present day.  Remembering Christmas has some unexpected turns along the way but I guarantee you, the journey will be worth your time.  

I have read that Dan Walsh's work has been compared with the work of Nicholas Sparks, while I haven't read any of Mr. Sparks books, I have seen most of the movies that have been based on his books.  I can see a similarity and I believe that Remembering Christmas would make a wonderful seasonal film. I hope Hollywood takes notice.

I love to read Christmas themed stories so when I had the opportunity to review Dan Walsh's Remembering Christmas, I jumped at the chance. This was my first experience in reading any of Mr. Walsh's work but I will definitely read more of his books in the future.

I highly suggest Remembering Christmas and rank it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

I would like to thank Donna Hausler with Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group for my copy of Remembering Christmas.  I received my copy for free in order to read it and give my honest review, which I have done.

*Available September 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.*

Smiles & Blessings,

Saturday, November 5, 2011

From This Day Forward by Margaret Daley - a review

I was first introduced to Margaret Daley's work through the Love Inspired and Love Inspired Suspense line of books. With each book I've read, I have found her characters so believable that they almost walk off the pages into your life.  She has a wonderful knack of drawing her readers in and captivating them until the very last page.

Ms. Daley's first historical novel, From This Day Forward, was a wonderful trip back in time.  I was taken back to the period following the War of 1812 and was held captive from the very first page when newly widowed, Rachel Gordon, finds herself far from her English home and with child.  She and her maid, Maddy, are on a journey to there new home in Virginia when a storm develops and their horse gets spooked overturning their cart.  Shortly after Dr. Nathan Stuart ventures by and comes to their rescue.  Little does he know this is the beginning of an adventure that will draw him out of his solitary existence.

 From This Day Forward is a story of love, determination and a little suspense.  Believe me you won't be able to put this book down.  Ms. Daley has created a well written work of historical fiction and I look forward to many more books from her in this genre.

On a Five-Star scale - 5 Stars!!!!!

I would like to thank Margaret Daley and the publishers at Summerside Press for my review copy.  I received  my copy for free to read and offer my honest review which I have done.

Smiles & Blessings,

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Living Beyond Your Feelings - Controlling Your Emotions So They Don't Control You by Joyce Meyer - a review

Joyce Meyer's newest book, Living Beyond Your Feelings - Controlling Your Emotions So They Don't Control You is a book I have needed to read for a long time.  This book discusses many different emotional states and how our minds react to those emotions.  She explains how we can manage our emotions in different situations so that they don't control us.

I know for myself, I allow my emotions to have a hold on me, especially stress.  When I'm stressed my body reacts in many different ways.  I felt Joyce gave me a 'pep talk' on how I need to change the way I react to the stressful things in my life.

Throughout the book, Joyce helps you to understand some of your feelings and explains how God has supplied us with what we need to keep our emotions from controlling our life. But we must ask God for His help in our emotional situations.  She makes it a point to let the reader know that if they cannot get their emotions under control then their emotions will take control of them.

At the beginning of the book there was a quote that really struck me.  The quote is from Jonatan Martensson and it says, "Feelings are much like waves, we can't stop them from coming, but we can choose which one to surf."

I really enjoyed this book and plan to reading it again and again as needed.  I would recommend it to anyone interested in getting their emotions under control.

On a 5-Star scale - 5-Stars.

I would like to thank Sarah Reck with Faith Words, a division of Hachette Book Group, for my review copy.  I received my Advanced Reader Copy for free in exchange for my honest opinion which I have given.

Smiles & Blessings,

Monday, October 17, 2011

"Leaving" by Karen Kingsbury - a review

I love the way Karen Kingsbury tells a's magical!  Ms. Kingsbury has a way of pulling you into her stories and from start to finish you go on an emotional roller coaster experiencing the love and pain of her characters.  I also enjoy how she weaves God's love and Word within her stories.

"Leaving", book one in the Bailey Flanigan series, is an extremely well written book on love (family, spiritual and romantic) and the pain in which a young girl (Bailey) goes through as she steps into the next phase of her life.  I only wish I had read "Leaving" before reading it's sequel, "Learning".  Usually, most books I read in a series can stand alone but I feel, in order to see the whole picture, you need to read these two books in order.  By reading "Learning" first I felt cheated because I pretty much knew how the book would end.  With that said, I would still highly recommend this book and series to all fans of Christian Fiction.

Now that I have read the first two books in the Bailey Flanigan Series I can hardly wait for book three in the series to come out.

On a 5-star scale, I rate "Leaving" 4 1/2 stars.

I would like to thank Zondervan Publishers for providing my review copy.  I received my copy for free in exchange for my honest review which I have given.

Smiles & Blessings,

Monday, October 10, 2011

First Wild Card Tour - Ella Finds Love Again

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books.  A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured.  The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between!  Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Harvest House Publishers; 1st ptg thus edition (September 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Karri James | Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


Jerry Eicher’s bestselling Amish fiction (more than 210,000 in combined sales) includes The Adams County Trilogy, the Hannah’s Heart books, and the Little Valley Series. After a traditional Amish childhood, Jerry taught for two terms in Amish and Mennonite schools in Ohio and Illinois. Since then he’s been involved in church renewal, preaching, and teaching Bible studies. Jerry lives with his wife, Tina, and their four children in Virginia.

Visit the author's website.


Bestselling author Jerry Eicher concludes the Little Valley Series with one more glimpse into young Ella’s Amish world. She loves the widower Ivan Stutzman’s children and enjoys caring for them. Although she is genuinely devoted to Preacher Stutzman and keenly aware of his desire to propose, her feelings for him stop short of romantic love. Yet Ella yearns for marriage and wonders if what she and Ivan have is enough.

When the handsome Englisha stops by and asks about converting to the Amish faith, Ella is intrigued and warily agrees to meet with him. Soon Ella realizes she’s torn between her devotion to Ivan and his children and her growing feelings for the Englisha. With dire consequences at stake, Ella must determine what the truth is, if her feelings are dependable, and how to stay faithful to the will of God.

About This Series: The Little Valley Series follows Ella Yoder, a young independent Amish woman who has suffered the loss of her beloved fiancé. Relying on her faith and the support of her community, she picks up the pieces of her shattered life and learns to live, love, and dream again.

Product Details:

List Price: $11.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; 1st ptg thus edition (September 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736928065
ISBN-13: 978-0736928069

My Review:

This was my first experience with reading a book by Jerry S. Eicher but it will not be my last. I only wish I had read the first two books in the Little Valley Series before reading Ella Finds Love Again. I definitely look forward to reading them both. Ella Finds Love Again was a sweet story of finding love again after tragically losing love.

A lesson we can take from this story is that we don’t have to settle and God will heal our broken hearts and allow us to find love again.

If you like good Amish stories Ella Finds Love Again is a MUST read!

I would like to thank Catherine Miller of Harvest House Publishers for my review copy. It was given to me for free in order to read and give my honest review, which I have done.


The light snow swirled around Ella Yoder’s buggy, the drifts along the ditch already high for this early in winter. Ella pulled the waterproof buggy blanket higher over her legs. Oh, to be home at Seager Hill, sitting near the warmth of the old woodstove, the whole family gathered at the supper table under the hiss of a gas lantern. There to experience the long evening with the dishes done and nothing to do but enjoy reading a good book.

 “I have to try!” Ella said, the words echoing in the empty buggy. “I have to make a real home for us. The girls deserve that much.” Her thoughts wandered back to Aden and his untimely death. I have to forget him and our dreams and hopes. I must move on. Ella slapped the lines. And yet I have no feelings for Ivan Stutzman. How can I marry him?

 Snowflakes drifted into the open storm front. They perched like white crystal gems on her black shawl—fragile, breakable…breathless beauty sent from heaven. She shook her blanket and sent the snowflakes flying off her lap. The horse jerked his head with the movement on the lines, as if to tell her he was going as fast as he could in this weather. At least the wind was coming from behind. The return journey would be another matter, driving straight into the teeth of what was turning out to be a fierce winter storm.

 How like her life. The time since Aden’s death had flown like the wind at her back, pushing her along with its force and fury—and by men who proclaimed their love for her—Wayne Miller, the bishop, and Preacher Stutzman…Ivan.

 Now the time had come to leave behind the memories of the past, to turn her heart toward love. And that journey looked to be as fierce as this trip home after supper at Ivan’s house. She could have said no to the invitation…but the girls…It was always about the girls, really. They needed a mother and a home. They needed her, and she could make the decision that would make her their mother. She would surely marry Ivan.

 “You can love him, and the feelings will come later,” Ella’s mamm had said, her voice firm. “He’s a gut man of God. He loves you. And Aden’s gone forever. You can make a home for Ivan’s girls. They need that from you, and you do love them.”

 From behind her she heard the sound of an Englisha vehicle approaching even though the engine was muffled by the snowdrifts on either side and the heavy cloud cover. The noise was approaching much too swiftly. She tensed. Headlights reflected off the snowbanks. Her horse turned its head sideways and his blinder slipped, leaving him blinded on that side. Ella tightened the reins to keep him away from the ditch.

 The vehicle behind her sounded like it was accelerating, the motor much louder now. Ella checked her lights outside the buggy with a quick sideways glance. Were they working? The intensity of the headlights behind her drowned the feeble glow her buggy lights were putting out. Surely the driver could see her. The road behind her was a straight stretch—no curves to hide the buggy’s profile.

 Ella pulled right, her horse protesting with an arch of his neck, hesitating to follow her directions. She held him to the side of the road with the sheer force of her hands on the lines.

 “Slow boy,” she hollered, hoping he could hear her above the roar of the motor. “It’s safe. Come on over—just a little more, Moonbeam. Give that driver plenty of room.”

 Surely it was a man in the Englisha vehicle behind her. There were women who drove as they pleased, even among the Amish. Yet it was hard to imagine that anyone but a man would drive so recklessly on slippery, snow-covered roads.

 The headlights wavered and then moved away from the buggy. Ella drew in a deep breath and willed the pounding of her heart to slow down. Surely she had been spotted, and the driver was turning out in time.

 She waited for the crunch of tires beside her and the swirl of snow as the vehicle passed her. Instead, it slowed as it drew alongside her, keeping pace with the horse’s slow gait. She glanced out the small buggy window. The pickup truck window was rolled down, but no faces were visible in the darkness inside the cab. Was she about to be waylaid on this lonely stretch of road during this cold winter night? Ivan’s place was still at least a mile ahead, and she would never be able to outrun a truck.

 “Are you by yourself    ?” the question came.

 The voice was female, and Ella opened the buggy door, pushing it aside. Not that it would have done much good, but if it had been a man’s voice, she would have let out on the lines, whipping the horse with her cries and at least made a dash for Ivan’s place.

 “I don’t have far to go,” she said, hoping her weak voice carried to the speaker.

 “There’s a big storm comin’,” a male voice said from the other side of the truck. “Straight off the lake, the radio said. It’s supposed to dump the worst in a few hours. You’d best get off the road. It’s bound to be dangerous weather…especially for you Amish folks.”

 “Ach, thanks,” Ella said. “I’m just goin’ another mile or so.”

 “You’re not driving back tonight?” the man asked.

 “I had thought I would, but I imagine I can stay over if things look too bad.”

 “We’d best be getting inside ourselves,” the woman said. The motor roared again. Quickly the red taillights bounced and faded in the falling snow before disappearing into the blinding whiteness.

 So the approaching storm was a bad one. She’d been suspecting as much the last fifteen minutes or so. Her initial hopes had gotten the best of her. She didn’t want to stay with Susanna, Ivan’s sister, but surely she could if she must. Certainly, she couldn’t stay at the main house. Should she turn back now? Yet going back was farther than moving ahead, and Ivan would worry. He would think she had gotten stuck in some ditch and would set out to find her.

 She slapped the reins. There was no choice but to go on. Perhaps Moonbeam could increase his pace. He shook his head, but lifted his feet faster, his hoofbeats all but soundless on the snowy road.

 In the heavy darkness, Ella stayed in the center of the road. Already the drifts were sending tentative feelers out from the edges of the banks. She kept the lines tight, glad to see a house come up ahead. The soft shine of a gas lantern glowed from the window and across the sparkling snow.

 It looked Amish, the familiarity a gut thing. Like the feeling of a warm blanket at night, making the darkness beyond the glow seem less deep, the distance yet to travel closer. Inside the house would be people like her, who saw the world as she did, who experienced life in a way she could understand. Surely the Englisha felt the same about their people.

 Ella drove on. No other headlights appeared, the darkness of the woods deepening on either side of her, the snow increasing by the minute. This invitation to supper from Ivan had seemed such a wise idea at the time. If only they had put the occasion off until next week. She opened the buggy door again, glancing out. There was no doubt the Englisha man had been correct—she would not be returning tonight. She would surely be spending the night at Susanna’s place. But perhaps it wouldn’t be too bad. Maybe it was Da Hah’s way to expose her to Ivan’s extended family.

 Her mamm often said, “Da Hah makes use of all things for His own good.”

 Since Mamm was usually right, she would simply accept tonight’s change of plans. The snowstorm was none of her doing.

 Ella peered into the falling snow, recognizing the turn toward Ivan’s farm. She dodged a long stringy snowdrift, pulling sharply left, before turning into Ivan’s lane. Before her rose the familiar outlines of his white, paint-peeling home and the brown barn, both of them standing like ghostly forms in the falling snow. A light was still on in the barn, and Ella drove toward its door, pulling past the hitching post, which sat closer to the house. Moonbeam would need to be taken inside on a night like this, and since Ivan wasn’t likely to notice her arrival, Ella pulled the buggy to a stop and climbed out, preparing to unhitch by herself.

 One tug was off, the leather frozen under her gloves, when the barn door swung open. Ivan rushed out, leaving the door swinging in the wind, the warm glow of the barn lantern flooding the yard and reaching the buggy. Ella blinked, her head bent against the sting of the snow.

 “Ach, I didn’t hear you drive in,” Ivan said, quickly unhitching the other side of the horse. “I’m sorry about that. I half expected you to turn back.”

 “The storm came up faster than I thought it would,” Ella said. “Someone did stop to warn me on the road, but I was closer here than home.”

 “I’d hoped to have a better welcome for you,” Ivan said, smiling through the snowflakes that were settling on his eyebrows and beard.

 “It is awful tonight,” Ella said, forcing a laugh.

 Ivan grabbed the horse’s bridle, and Ella shut the buggy doors against the force and howl of the wind. She paused, opening her mouth on impulse, feeling the cold snowflakes against her tongue. How strange this evening was—so cold and yet joy stirred within from the snow. She felt young again, perhaps even ready to move on with life.

 “Makes me feel like a child again,” Ella said into the wind, repeating the gesture, her mouth open longer this time. Ivan would surely think her silly, would he not?

 But Ivan laughed easily with her as he led the horse forward, the shafts dropping softly onto the ground. He had paused while watching her. “Da Hah gives pleasure even in snow, doesn’t He? I just don’t look forward to all the shovelin’ tomorrow morning.”

 “If it even stops by tomorrow. The Englisha couple said the storm was a bad one.”

 “I think they’re right. The barometer is falling fast. I don’t think you’ll be able to get back home tonight, Ella.”

 “No, I don’t suppose I can,” she said as they entered the barn. She shut the door behind them. “Can I keep Moonbeam in here for the night? And perhaps Susanna can put me up?”

 Ivan turned to look at her over the horse’s mane. “I see my invitation put you in a pickle. I’m sorry about that. Susanna has room for you. I guess we could have called supper off if the storm hadn’t come so suddenly.”

 “It’s not a problem,” Ella said with a nervous smile. “I really wanted to come—snowstorm or not. And this will give me more time to spend with the girls…and you. And perhaps get used to the place.”

 Thankfully Ivan seemed to understand. He nodded his head. The horse bumped him, reaching its head toward the stall and the wisps of hay hanging in the manger.

 Ella waited for Ivan, standing under the lantern as he led the horse forward and into the stall. He came out and shut the latch on the stall before pulling more hay down into the manger with a pitchfork.

 “There!” he said. “That should keep him satisfied for the night.”

 Ella rubbed her gloved hands together, the little warmth from the gas lantern on the ceiling not reaching her.

 Ivan walked toward her, his face fully visible now. The snow melted from his beard, leaving wet spots that glittered in the glare of the lantern light. He seemed burdened, worried, the lines on his face longer than usual.