Tuesday, April 30, 2013

FIRST WILD CARD TOUR: Psalm 91 for Mothers by Peggy Joyce Ruth

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:

Charisma House (March 5, 2013)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Peggy Joyce Ruth and her husband, Jack, are former pastors from Brownwood, Texas. Peggy has taught an adult Bible study each week at her church for the past thirty years. She is a popular conference speaker and continues to teach a weekly radio Bible study called Better Living on KPSM and KBUB.


Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

In Psalm 91 for Mothers, Peggy Joyce Ruth takes the concept from her best-selling book Psalm 91 and applies it to her personal experience as a mother and grandmother. With compelling, emotional stories from her life and the lives of others who have been touched by this psalm, she guides you through a personal study, explaining verse by verse God’s promises of protection, provision, and blessing for your children.


Product Details:
List Price: $12.99

Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Charisma House (March 5, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616387343
ISBN-13: 978-1616387341


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Where Is My Dwelling Place?

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. —Psalm 91:1
Think for just a minute of where, more than anyplace else in the world, you like to be when you want to feel protected and peaceful. I remember when I was a little girl and would wake up in the middle of the night and feel frightened. I would tiptoe down to my mother and dad’s room and very quietly slip in bed with them. As I lay there—silently listening to them breathe and feeling all cozy and protected—before I knew it, the fear was gone, and I would be sound asleep.

I am sure you can think of something that represents security to you personally. When I think of security and protection, I have a couple of childhood memories that automatically come to mind. My dad was a large, muscular man who played football during his high school and college years, but he interrupted his education to serve in the military during World War II. Mother, who was pregnant with my little brother, and I lived with my grandparents in San Saba while Dad was in the service. As young as I was, I vividly remember one ecstatically happy day when my dad unexpectedly opened the door and walked into my grandmother’s living room. Before that eventful day I had been tormented with fears because some neighborhood children had told me I would never see my dad again. Like kids telling a ghost story, they taunted me that my dad would come home in a box. When he walked through that door that day, a sense of peace and security came over me and stayed with me for the rest of his time in the army.

My Father, Albert Crow
It was past time for my baby brother to be born, and I found out when I was older that Dad’s outfit at the time was being relocated by train from Long Beach, California, to Virginia Beach, Virginia. The train was coming through Fort Worth, Texas, on its way to Virginia, so my dad caught a ride from Fort Worth to San Saba in the hopes of seeing his new son. He then hitchhiked until he caught up with the train shortly before it reached Virginia Beach. The memory of his walking into that room still brings a feeling of peaceful calm to my soul. In fact, that incident set the stage for later seeking the security a heavenly Father’s presence could bring.

When I think of dwelling in the shelter of God, I have another childhood memory that always comes to mind. My parents would often take my younger brother and sister and me to a lake. There was a wonderful place to fish for perch that very few people knew about, and we children loved to perch fish. It was such a thrill to see the cork begin to bobble and then suddenly go completely out of sight. There were very few things that I liked better than jerking back on that old cane pole and landing a huge perch. Dad had a good reason for having us catch those perch. They were what he used for bait on the trotline that he had stretched out across one of the secret coves at the lake.

Dad and family on fishing trip
Dad would drive the boat over to the place where his trotline was located. Then he would cut off the boat motor and inch the boat across the water as he ran the trotline. That’s what he called it when he would hold onto to the trotline with his hands and pull the boat alongside all the hooks he had baited in hopes that he had caught a big catfish. A trotline was like having about twenty-five fishing poles baited and placed all the way across the lake.

I loved to perch fish, but it was an even greater thrill when Dad would get to a place where the trotline rope would begin to jerk almost out of his hand. That meant he had hooked a fish. It was then that all three of us children would watch, wideeyed, as Dad wrestled with that line until finally, in victory, he would flip that huge catfish over the side of the boat, right at our feet. Money could never buy that kind of excitement! The circus and a carnival all rolled up into one couldn’t give us that kind of a thrill.

One of those outings proved to be more exciting than most, turning out to be an action-packed experience that I will never forget. It had been a beautiful day when we started out, but by the time we finished our perch fishing and were headed toward the trotline, everything changed. A storm came up on the lake so suddenly there was no time to get back to the boat dock. The sky turned black, lightning was flashing, and drops of rain were falling so hard that they stung our skin when they hit. Then, moments later, we were in the middle of a hailstorm with large, marble-sized hail.

I could see the fear in my mother’s eyes, and I knew we were in danger. But before I had time to wonder what we were going to do, Dad had driven the boat to the rugged shoreline of the only island on the lake. There are many boat docks that surround the island now, but back then it looked like an abandoned island with absolutely no place to take refuge from the storm. In just moments Dad had us all out of the boat and ordered the three of us to lie down beside our mother on the ground. Quickly pulling a canvas tarp out of the bottom of the boat, he knelt down on the ground beside us and pulled that tarp up over all five of us. That storm raged outside the homemade tent he had made—the rain beat down, the lightning flashed, and the thunder rolled. But all I could think about was how it felt to have his arms around us. There was a certain peace that is hard to explain as we lay there under the protection of the shield my father had provided. In fact, I had never felt as safe and secure in my entire life. I can remember thinking that I wished the storm would last forever. I didn’t want anything to spoil the wonderful security I felt that day—there in our secret hiding place. Feeling my father’s strong, protective arms around me, I wanted it to never end.

Although I have never forgotten that experience when we were fishing at the lake, today it has taken on new meaning. Just as Dad put a tarp over us to shield us from the storm, our heavenly Father has a secret place in His arms that protects us from the storms that are raging in the world around us.

Fear is running rampant in the world today. Even children who have the security of a home filled with the love of a mother and father cannot help but sense the growing anxiety that is plaguing our schools, our streets, our newspapers, and our televisions. Suicides are becoming a common occurrence. But did you know that this place in God is real for anyone who wants to seek refuge in Him? It is a literal place of physical safety and security that God tells us about in this Psalm 91.

This secret place is literal, but it is also conditional! In verse 1 of Psalm 91 God lists our part of the condition before He even mentions the promises included in His part. That’s because our part has to come first. To abide in the shadow of the Almighty, we must first choose to dwell in the shelter of the Most High.

The question is, how do we dwell in the security and shelter of the Most High? It is more than an intellectual experience. This verse speaks of a dwelling place in which we can be physically protected if we run to Him. You may utterly believe that God is your refuge, and you may give mental assent to it in your prayer time, but unless you actually get up and run to the shelter—you will never experience it. I call that place of refuge a love walk!

Most children have a secret hideout where they feel all safe and secure, hidden away from the whole world. They need to be taught, however, that those places where they feel protected are nice, but a hideout cannot keep them safe from everything. It will be life changing, however, when they are told that there is a place of shelter that will keep them protected from every evil this world has ever known. What a treasure you are leaving them when you teach them that God says He is a place of real safety from any bad thing they can think of in the whole earth—if they will run to Him. And how do they run to God? They don’t run there with their feet. They run to God with their heart! They need to be taught that they are running to God every time they think about Him—every time they tell the Lord that they love Him.

Cullen and Meritt
When our grandchildren Cullen and Meritt were young, they would often stay the night with us. The moment they finished breakfast, each would run to his own secret place to spend some time talking with God. Cullen found a place behind the couch in the den, and Meritt headed behind the lamp table in the corner of our bedroom. Those places became very special to them.

Where is your secret place? Everyone needs the security and shelter of a secret place with the Most High.

Friday, April 26, 2013

BLOG TOUR/GIVEAWAY: Motherhood Matters by Connie E. Sokol


ABOUT THE BOOK

Motherhood is a divine calling---but it may not always feel that way. Now you can show the women in your life how much they matter to you, with this delightful and heartwarming volume of wit and wisdom about the divinity, reality, and rewards of motherhood. Fresher than flowers and sweeter than chocolate, it's a perfect gift for the women who give so much. In these hectic days where life's demands can quickly become a heavy burden, Motherhood Matters helps you find more memorable moments and take the stress out of the to-do lists. Written with clarity, concision, and wit, this short, yet indispensable handbook is better than flowers, more guilt-free than chocolate, and gives back to the woman who sacrifices so much of herself every single day.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Connie Sokol is a mother of seven, a national and local presenter, and a regular speaker at Education Week. She is a monthly contributor on KSL TV “Studio 5,” and regular blogger for KSL "Motherhood Matters." She is a former TV and radio host for Bonneville Communications, and columnist for Deseret News and Utah Valley Magazine. Mrs. Sokol is the author of several books including the award-nominated romance Caribbean Crossroads, the 8-week Challenge program of Faithful, Fit & Fabulous, Life is Too Short for One Hair Color Series, as well as talk CDs and podcasts. Mrs. Sokol marinates in time spent with her family and eating decadent treats.

REVIEW

Sokol gives the reader an inspirational look at motherhood and its divine origins.  Motherhood is a divinely ordained calling and gift intended to benefit all who participate in any way.  Mothers have such a huge impact on the world and yet often receive the least recognition.  I think what I appreciated the most in this book was the emphasis on the importance of motherhood regardless of what the world says.  That despite the enormous challenges that mothering brings the rewards are beyond price.  I also liked the fact that she pointed out that mothering goes beyond having children of one's own. A wonderfully inspiring and hope-filled book that I can heartily recommend.

TOUR GIVEAWAY

$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash
Ends 5/15/13

a Rafflecopter giveaway

BOOK BLAST/GIVEAWAY: Family Ever After by Michelle Packard

Family Ever After: 
Simple Ways to Achieve Perfect Happiness in an Imperfect Family 
By Michelle Packard

Women frustrated with their marriage and their family will find the help they need to achieve greater happiness and success in their family in the new book, Family Ever After: Simple Ways to Achieve Extraordinary Happiness with Your Ordinary Family by stay-at-home mom, blogger, and ordinary family leader Michelle H. Packard. Family Ever After uses the fairytale concept that once you find your prince charming life is happily ever after. Michelle H. Packard knows this concept, while romantic, is not realistic, and she provides a practical, poignant, funny, and moving exploration of the simple ways you can help find greater happiness and satisfaction in your marriage and family. Packard says, “While the idea of happy ever after is distorted, you can, in fact, achieve a Family Ever After.” Family Ever After brings time-tested and well-researched principles to family life to help you learn specific ways to improve your marriage and your family, whether that family is ordinary or extraordinary. Using real-world examples of best practices and helping woman readjust their media-driven perception of what happily ever after means, Family Ever After gives readers a pragmatic, helpful, and entertaining exploration of:
  • How happiness in marriage and family life requires a more educated, real-world perspective
  • How proper prioritization and defining what’s important in marriage and family is key to success;
  • Why conflict is part of an ordinary family experience and how to peacefully resolve it;
  • How to cultivate a sense of humor;
  • How to develop a thoughtful and sincere habit of complimenting each member of your family;
  • How to improve family relationships with extended family members; and
  • Learning how to love a family member in the way they understand and accept that love
More than another how-to-have-a-perfect-family book, Family Ever After helps you gain the understanding and the practical skills of what makes ordinary families successful. Family Ever After is an essential and beautiful resource for all women who want to put more happiness in theirs and their family’s life.  


PRAISE

  "Family Ever After is a must-read for every happily married Cinderella who wonders why she’s still holding the broom." --Rachelle J. Christensen, award-winning author of Wrong Number and Caller ID "Michelle is open enough to have given readers an intimate look into her life and those close to her, allowing us to learn from both painful and sweet experiences. Her self-reflective style and meaningful insights, if applied, would clearly make a profound impact in the lives of readers." --Shawn Edgington Ph.D.

michelleABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michelle Packard is a mother to her four very human and totally fabulous kids. Her oldest, Ella is always in charge and leads the pack with creativity and curiosity, Daniel follows with loyalty and loves tenderly, Julia is a doll and always buzzing over something beautiful, and Jackson could hunt down the last sharpie on earth to create art on your bathroom wall. She has been married ten years and is quite taken with her guy. Date night is her favorite and she dreams of weekend getaways with her man. She loves creating beauty through floral design, but apparently has no gift with living flowers (They end of upside down and pressed in books). She finds parties alluring. They beckon her to invite people over, spend way too much time preparing food for murder mystery dinners, and totally enjoy friends and family. Michelle holds a bachelors degree in Home and Family Science from Brigham Young University. She has spent a great deal of time working with children and young adults and finds her greatest joy is happy families.


    


 

BOOK BLAST GIVEAWAY
$50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 5/15/13  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

FIRST WILD CARD TOUR: The Random Acts of Cupid by Amanda Tru

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:

Walker Hammond Publishers (January 19, 2013)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

With a lifelong love of reading and writing, Amanda Tru loves to let her imagination paint pictures in a wide variety of genres. Her current book list includes everything from a Christian time travel / romance series, to an action-packed suspense, to a romance involving a woman who likes to anonymously play matchmaker.

Amanda is a former elementary school teacher who now spends her days being mommy to three little boys and her nights furiously writing. Amanda lives in a small town in Idaho where the number of cows outnumbers the number of people.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Elise Hutchins has a secret. She likes to anonymously play matchmaker for people she doesn't really know. But when lawyer Ryan Jenkins discovers she's Seattle's Cupid, he thinks her methods are deceptive and she shouldn't be interfering in the lives of others. Now Elise has 24 hours to present her case and prove her character to Ryan. Otherwise, he will reveal her secret and ruin her reputation along with possibly all of the good she's done. Will following her around on her Cupid errands change his mind about her? And, in the end, will Elise sacrifice her own chance at love to make one final match for her best friend?


Product Details:
List Price: $2.99
File Size: 287 KB
Publisher: Walker Hammond Publishers (January 19, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ASIN: B00B3EHCAI
Text-to-Speech: Enabled
X-Ray: Not Enabled
Lending: Enabled


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Matthew 6:3

Prologue



My limbs were weak with shock as I rushed through the hallway, dodging past other students like a fish struggling to swim upstream. I had about thirty seconds to fix my mistake and save my best friend from feeling the worst emotion known to a high school girl—embarrassment.
I could hear my other friend, Britney, struggling to follow my trail.
“Hurry, Elise!” she urged. “Chandra was going to talk to him right after class!”
Tears of frustration burned my eyes. I wanted to snap back at Britney, but I couldn’t waste the time. Why hadn’t Britney simply told Chandra the truth herself, instead of running to report to me? As much as I wanted to blame Britney, I knew this whole situation was my fault. It had been my idea. I had handled the details. Now my best friend was going to face the consequences.
I hadn’t intended on embarrassing her. It had just been a stupid prank. Chandra knew we always pulled practical jokes on each other as birthday ‘gifts.’ After all, she had been the one to bless me with a brightly wrapped present of lace panties in Art class on my birthday. Now THAT had been embarrassing!
So when I sent her flowers for her birthday and signed the card as Damon Fiest, the boy she currently had a major crush on, I had assumed that she would immediately recognize her birthday practical joke and see the humor in her friends’ stunt. After all, Chandra didn’t really travel in the same circles as Damon. Since he didn’t seem to know that she existed, she should know right away that the real sender could not be him.
No one outside our small circle of friends was supposed to know about the prank. The flowers were supposed to have been delivered in 7th period, at the end of the school day. But before I could find Chandra after school and see her reaction, Britney had rushed up to me, saying that Chandra was looking for Damon to thank him for the flowers!
Dread had sunk like a rock into the pit of my stomach, making me feel ill. Immediate, intense guilt struck me. I panicked. Chandra was crazy about Damon, and now she was going to be humiliated when she tried to thank him for flowers that he never sent! Damon would probably think she was mentally unstable and never want to have anything to do with her.
I felt terrible! What kind of friend was I? Only an awful person would send flowers and lie about who sent them! Why had I been so stupid?
I burst out of the school doors, my eyes frantically searching the grounds. Chandra would have tried to intercept Damon before he reached his car. Since the star football player always parked his old Mustang in the same spot, then Chandra had to be around here somewhere.
Please! I prayed. Please let me find her before it’s too late!
My eyes tripped over dark hair and a purple jacket halfway hidden by a tree at the corner of the school. I rushed closer, my heart pounding as if I’d just run a race at the Olympics. As I came around the tree, I stopped suddenly, stunned at the scene in front of me. Britney skid to a stop beside me.
I felt my mouth literally fall open in shock as, apparently oblivious to the world around them, Chandra and Damon kissed.



Chapter 1

Ten years later


“Please, Elise!” Britney whispered fiercely. “I don’t understand why you won’t help me out just this once. This is your specialty!”
Since ignoring her friend was obviously not going to work, Elise turned away from the computer screen and tried to patiently answer Britney without rolling her eyes. “I already told you it doesn’t work that way!”
“But you’re Cupid!”
“Shh! Elise urged, nervously glancing around the quiet library. “Don’t call me that! Someone might hear you. I am not Cupid! Just because a campus newspaper wrote a stupid article doesn’t make it true!”
“But it is true! Look at how many matches you’ve made in the past ten years. It’s your job; it’s your duty to make matches. So why not for me?”
Elise wanted to remind Britney that this wasn’t the first time she had asked for help, and this wasn’t the first time Elise had refused. Instead, she sighed and repeated her standard answer. “Britney, you know I don’t make matches for close friends. Part of what makes it work is the fact that the couple doesn’t know me well.”
“But you set up Chandra and Damon,” Britney grumbled. “Now they’ve been married for like ten years!”
“Six years,” Elise corrected, wishing this conversation was over. As a librarian at the University of Washington, she had plenty of work to do. Not to mention that Britney should be working too. Britney should be over at circulation, not ‘helping’ Elise at the Reference desk. Though her friend held a stack of books in her arms, Elise was sure Britney was just using them as an excuse to corner her. “You of all people should know that setting Chandra and Damon up was not intentional.”
“That doesn’t matter. The point is that you are the reason they got together. You have a gift, Elise.” Britney bit her lip and turned her gaze in the direction of the handsome man sitting at a table across the room.
After her inadvertent matchmaking for Chandra and Damon ten years ago, Elise had unobtrusively arranged for a few other couples to ‘accidentally’ fall in love, finding that she had a knack for it. Since then, she had carefully arranged circumstances for numerous couples, people who never realized they were being set up, to find each other.
Britney and Chandra were the only ones who knew about Elise’s hobby, and Elise wanted to keep it that way. Unfortunately, she had been so successful at anonymously arranging matches, other people had started to notice as well. It didn’t take much to connect the few random stories from around the University of Washington campus about how mysterious events would bring two people together. After the story in the newspaper, the anonymous Cupid was rapidly gaining publicity.
Now Elise felt the pressure of not only the wildly circulating stories but of the fact that Britney Bowers was one of the two people who knew her secret. Chandra was so busy with her own life, which now included a husband and two adorable children, that she didn’t really pay much attention to Elise’s projects. Britney, on the other hand, didn’t seem to have her own life, and might yet drive Elise crazy! Worse, Britney tended to be impulsive. Elise knew it would be in her best interest to placate Britney if at all possible. Otherwise, there was always the threat of potential disaster if Britney should ever decide to share Elise’s secret.
“He’s my dream guy,” Britney said softly, turning pleading eyes back to Elise. “Won’t you please use some of your magic for us?”
As pitiful as Britney sounded, Elise knew she couldn’t do this favor for her friend. What Britney didn’t realize was that the anonymity of what Elise did was the major reason why she was so successful. The simple facts that the people never realized they were being matched and never connected her involvement gave her the necessary emotional distance to be able to observe people and their relationships without bias. Elise had always been extremely introverted; perhaps because of this, she had always liked to watch people and was pretty good at noticing things that weren’t obvious to others.
Elise wasn’t going to waste time trying to convince Britney or explain her method of matchmaking. Over the years, Brittney had occasionally tried to get Elise to use her skills in the direction of her current crush, but most of the time, Britney didn’t care what Elise did. However, since the paper had run that article, Britney had developed a renewed interest in Elise’s activities, and when Ryan Jenkins had caught Britney’s eye, that interest rapidly bordered obsession.
It was too risky to set up her friend. If the match didn’t go well, then Britney would end up blaming her. Elise had to be very careful if she wanted to continue being an anonymous cupid. Already the story was becoming almost an urban legend around campus, and the Seattle area in general was starting to take notice.
She couldn’t handle the thought of being caught, not to mention that, though her success rate was extremely high, the couples she’d set up over the years might resent that she had meddled in their lives. It was probably better for them to believe they’d been brought together through a little magic. The reality wouldn’t be nearly as romantic.
“No, Britney,” Elise answered flatly. “I will not set you up.” Making sure she had Britney’s undivided attention, she looked right into her friend’s eyes and repeated in no uncertain terms. “The answer is no.”
Intense anger flashed over Britney’s face. Without a word, she loudly dropped the books she’d been holding onto the desk, turned, and walked away.
Elise sighed and turned back to her computer. From their looks, to their personalities, to their likes and interests, she and Britney were opposite in so many ways; it was amazing that they were such good friends. Whereas Britney was tall, blonde, and outgoing, Elise was petite with dark brunette hair and an incurably shy personality. Elise had often appreciated that Britney forced Elise out of her comfort zone, challenging her to dance through life instead of always stand in the corner. But at other times, her friend grated on Elise’s normally calms nerves.
Despite the fact the Elise felt Britney was wrong, she still didn’t like having Britney mad at her. She would have to try to find a different way to make it up to Britney later. As bad as she felt about hurting her friend, she would not match her with Ryan Jenkins. That would be a recipe for disaster, especially since Elise had seen no indication that the man even liked Britney.
After spending the next few minutes trying unsuccessfully to get back to work at her computer, Elise gave up in frustration. She’d always hated to have someone mad at her, and now this situation with Britney was making it impossible to concentrate.
Needing a break, Elise left the computer and picked up the books Britney had left on the desk. She might as well reshelve them since Britney obviously wasn’t going to finish the task. She caught the eye of another librarian and signaled that she would be away from the reference desk for a bit. They definitely weren’t busy, and if by chance anyone needed help, Elise knew that Sheila would take care of it. The library normally used work-study students to do the reshelving, but sometimes Elise liked to do some of it herself. It often added the variety and mental break she needed during the day.
Elise glanced across the room at the object of Britney’s affections. Ryan Jenkins was seated at a table in one of the study areas, focused on his laptop and blissfully ignorant of Britney’s devotion. Elise knew very little about Ryan Jenkins, but from what she did know, he was probably way out of her friend’s league.
Elise had seen him several times at church but had never actually talked to him. The church they attended was very large and boasted a healthy singles group. Though Elise was very involved and enjoyed the church functions, she preferred to keep to herself and fly under the radar. Besides, from the way the other women drooled over Mr. Jenkins, he didn’t need any more female admirers.
Elise did have to admit the attention was understandable; the man was gorgeous. He was tall with black hair and what seemed to be a perpetual tan. Elise had never been close enough to see the color of his eyes, but she had been fortunate enough to see him smile once. Though several yards away, she’d still been blinded by the flash of brilliant white teeth and breathtaking dimples.
Ryan didn’t attend the singles functions often enough for Elise to have gleaned a complete profile, but she did know that he worked at the University and was a graduate student. She thought someone had mentioned his field was Law. He certainly looked the part of a lawyer. Whenever Elise had seen him both at church on Sunday morning and when he came in to the library, he was wearing a suit, which of course made him look more dashing, more desirable, and in Elise’s mind, more unapproachable.
There was no way she was going to set Britney up with him. Historically, Britney seemed to pick either guys that treated her badly or guys who were quite unattainable. And Ryan Jenkins might be the pinnacle of the unattainable variety.
Drat! Britney had given her Anthropology books. That meant she was going to have to go all the way up to the third floor to return them where they belonged. Sometimes Britney’s immaturity was maddening! Elise was sure that Britney had known exactly what she was doing when she’d left those books.
As she marched up the grand staircase to the third floor, Elise rehearsed an angry tirade in her head. Not that she would actually ever have the guts to lecture Britney, but her friend really needed some direction in her life that didn’t involve chasing after men. It was almost as if Britney kept expecting to meet the right guy who would solve all her problems and carry her off into the sunset.
Elise and Britney had been roommates in college, but whereas Elise had stayed with a field until she’d gotten a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science, Britney hadn’t taken college seriously and changed her major about five times. Both of them had worked at the library while students, and when Elise got her graduate degree, she was hired as a Research Librarian and Information Services Coordinator. Elise had done well in her position, and her duties now included other responsibilities. The rumor was that Elise would be promoted into her boss’s position when he retired in a couple years.
Britney, on the other hand, had stayed in the same minimum wage library assistant position that she’d had in college. She hadn’t graduated with a degree, yet she still took random classes with no clear purpose. It almost seemed as if she was stuck. She didn’t know what she wanted out of life and was seemingly content to spend her parents’ money while she waited for that Prince Charming to come rescue her.
Britney occasionally went to church with Elise, but she could definitely not be said to be dedicated to her faith or her church. In fact, Elise often suspected Britney only came to church to check out the male selection. Seeing Ryan Jenkins at church had only intensified Britney’s crush on him. After all, she had been scoping him out at the library for months.
Though Mr. Jenkins came in fairly frequently, Elise had never seen any evidence that he liked or was attracted to Britney in any way. Ellise would often cringe as she witnessed her friend find some excuse to interrupt the man’s studies or find ways to ‘help’ him. Mr. Jenkins never approached Britney or instigated a conversation, but he always seemed polite and didn’t seem overly bothered by Britney’s antics. However, Elise still hadn’t seen that spark of interest that would indicate he thought of her as more than just a library employee.
Heading toward the bookshelves, her eyes caught on a group of people occupying one of the study rooms. The window along the front allowed her to easily see the students seated around the table. As she checked the numbers and carefully slid the books alongside their siblings on the shelf, she was also able to unobtrusively watch their study session.
This particular group of six students had been meeting regularly this semester, studying for their upper division history class. Though Elise was familiar with them, she couldn’t say that she really knew anyone in the group. But she actually knew plenty about them. After all, this wasn’t the first time she’d spied on them, though Elise really disliked the term ‘spying.’ She was closely observing with the motive to help. That really couldn’t be termed ‘spying,’ right?
With satisfaction, she saw the girl with long brunette hair, Shelby, steal a glance at the blond guy, Clay. Then, about a minute later, she saw Clay’s eyes light up when Shelby said something. Now she knew for sure that she’d been right. Those two did like each other!
Elise had been watching them interact for weeks. The furtive glances and smiles passed between them had made her suspicious. With a few more observations and well-worded questions when each of them had come for help, she’d learned their names and gathered that each of them was single and more than a little shy. Clay didn’t seem to realize that Shelby was just as attracted to him as he was to her, and vice versa.
Elise put the last book on the shelf with a smile. It was time to put her plan in motion. If she could arrange for Clay and Shelby to have an ‘accidental’ date, she was sure they would be able to overcome their reserve and make a connection. She’d had her eye on the two of them for a while. Valentine’s Day was in just a couple days. If everything went according to plan, Clay and Shelby would be a couple by February 14th.
As she went back down the stairs and returned to the Reference desk, Elise saw Oliver Purdue trying to talk to Britney. Elise smiled in amusement as Oliver followed Britney around the staff area like a puppy dog. Oliver was another library employee and also happened to be hopelessly enamored with Britney. He’d had a crush on her since he started working at the library about a year ago. Elise felt sorry for him. He really was a nice guy, and Elise wished Britney would give him a chance.
But even though Britney knew he liked her, she found him intolerably annoying. Also unforgiveable to Britney, was that he was about two years younger and looked the part of a typical nerd. He wore glasses, was always a bit over-dressed for work, and had a great fondness for computers.
Elise had tried to tell Britney how nice and thoughtful Oliver was, but Britney had no desire to look beyond the stereotype. Instead, Britney was frequently rude and condescending to the poor man, and yet, to Elise’s amazement, he cheerfully kept trying to earn Britney’s favor.
Attempting to focus on the report she was working on, Elise tried to mentally push all the people and problems aside. Five minutes later, she had succeeded in burying her mind to all but the words in front of her.
“Excuse me.”
Elise startled, literally jumping several inches off her chair at the sound of a deep, unexpected voice. Turning, she found the tall, gorgeous Ryan Jenkins standing at her desk.


Copyright © 2013 by Amanda Tru


Cover design by Samantha Bayarr

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any format either written or electronically without the express permission of the author or publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

This novel is a work of fiction. Although places mentioned may be real, the names, characters, details, and events surrounding them are the product of the author's imagination and therefore used fictitiously. Any similarity to actual persons; living or dead, places or events is purely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or publisher.

All brand names or products mentioned in this book are trademarks, registered trademarks, or trade names and are the sole ownership of the respective holders. Amanda Tru is not associated with any products or brands mentioned in this book.

All scripture references in this book are used from the English Standard Version of the Bible.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

FIRST WILD CARD TOUR: A Cowboy at Heart by Lori Copeland and Virginia Smith

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 (April 1, 2013)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lori Copeland is the author of more than 90 titles, both historical and contemporary fiction. With more than 3 million copies of her books in print, she has developed a loyal following among her rapidly growing fans in the inspirational market. She has been honored with the Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award, The Holt Medallion, and Walden Books' Best Seller award. In 2000, Lori was inducted into the Missouri Writers Hall of Fame. She lives in the beautiful Ozarks with her husband, Lance, and their three children and five grandchildren.

Visit the author's website.



Virginia Smith is the author of more than a dozen inspirational novels and more than fifty articles and short stories. An avid reader with ecclectic tastes in fiction, Ginny writes in a variety of styles, from lighthearted relationship stories to breath-snatching suspense.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:




When an unscrupulous cattle baron tries to steal Amish land, a brave cowboy intervenes and is wounded. Lovely Katie Miller, the young healer in the district, attends to him while trying to guard her heart. Could there possibly be a future with Jesse Montgomery only God can bring about?




Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (April 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736953418
ISBN-13: 978-0736953412


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Apple Grove, Kansas
May 1886

 The first fingers of sunlight danced across the tips of tender wheat plants that had poked through the rich Kansas soil only two weeks before. Jonas Switzer stood on the western border of the field, his face to the rising sun, and marveled once again at this evidence of the Almighty’s provision. Last fall he had sown this wheat into ground prepared to accept it, and throughout the long winter months it laid dormant with no visible sign of the planting. But now it rose from its earthy bed to bask in the warmth of the sun.

Jonas knelt to inspect a single plant barely taller than his finger. Though he was not normally given to poetic comparisons, something about the crisp morning air and the smell of the soil turned his thoughts toward symbolic expression. His life was much like the single grain of wheat from which this plant had sprung. How many times had he felt dried and shriveled, a tiny kernel buried in a barren field? When his beloved wife passed eighteen years ago, something died inside him. If not for the blessing of his daughters he would have sunk into the earth and disappeared forever, his life smothered by a grief he thought he might never throw off. But as they grew, the joy they gave him showered his parched world. He learned to trust that somewhere above the trench in which he was buried, sunshine warmed the earth and rains fell to nourish it.

Then they left the Amish. Jonas closed his eyes against a wave of sorrow. First his Emma and then his Rebecca had chosen to build their lives outside the faith in which they were raised.

It is their right. Their choice.

That he knew, but still his heart grieved that the children he loved had not found the same contentment in the Plain ways he clung to. That his grandchildren were being raised in a lifestyle foreign to his.

“Pride it is that makes you think yours is the only way. At least they are Christian. Gott sei Dank!”

His mother’s voice rang in his head, and a smile tugged at his lips. Her attitude toward the Plain way of life had been forever skewed by the few years she had spent with her Englisch husband. And yet he did thank Gott that his children and their husbands professed a Christian faith, though Bishop Miller would argue that their way was not enough because they did not separate themselves completely from a sinful world.

Jonas stood with a sigh. All he knew was that his daughters were happy and they lived their Englisch lives in service to the Almighty and to their families. They had showered his life once again with blessings, with fine, strong sons-in-law and happy, smiling grandchildren. With a full heart he formed a silent prayer of gratitude for Emma and Luke’s two, Lucas and Rachel, and for the baby Rebecca and Colin were expecting, who would be born before summer’s end.

His gaze swept the sun-bathed field. A breeze rustled the fledgling plants, creating waves that swept from one end of the field to another. He was but one small plant, but at least he had broken free of the soil and could feel the warmth of sunlight once again.

A movement in the distance caught his attention. Beyond the wheatfield he spied a pair of horses standing on the slight rise that separated this field from the wide creek that watered his small herd of cattle and goats. Wild horses, perhaps? Squinting, he stretched his gaze. Were those saddle pommels on their backs? Not wild, then. But where were their riders? With a glance toward the house in the opposite direction, where Mader no doubt waited for him with a hearty breakfast, he headed toward the horses.

When he was halfway around the wheatfield, something else came into focus. What was that post sticking up from the ground? Yesterday there had been no post. He scanned the area around his farm, alarm tickling his stomach when he realized there were many posts, strung out as far as he could see. And was that a wire strung between them? His eyes were not so good today. Sound drifted to him from the location of the horses. Men’s deep voices.

Slapping a hand on the top of his straw hat to keep it on his head, Jonas hurried toward the horses at a trot.

As he neared the rise, men came into view… Englisch men, four of them in their buttoned shirts and snug trousers held up by leather belts cinched around their waists. They worked at some activity. It took Jonas only a moment to identify what they were doing. Two of them were digging while the other two wrestled a large roll of barbed wire off a wagon. The wagon’s bed was filled with sturdy wooden posts.

He could hardly believe his eyes. These men were building a fence. On his property!

Jonas stood on the top of the rise, watching them work with his hands hanging uselessly at his sides. Someone had made a grave mistake, one that must be corrected.

One of the men with the wire caught sight of him and straightened. “Woodard, we got company.”

Woodard stopped digging and looked up. He planted his shovel in the soil and hooked a palm across the handle, staring at Jonas with a measuring look. “Howdy.”

The man managed to turn the word into a threat. Jonas kept his face impassive, but an alarm rang inside his ears. The four Englischers wore menacing scowls, and their rough appearance hinted at a familiarity with violence. An ugly scar ran down Woodard’s unshaven face from cheekbone to chin.

“Pardon me.” Jonas spoke in the same soft manner he would use to greet any stranger. “There has been a mistake. This fence is misplaced.”

Woodard held Jonas’s gaze while he turned his head to spit. “No mistake. This here fence belongs to Mr. Andrew Littlefield. Heard of him?”

The name meant nothing to Jonas. He shook his head.

“Whew, doggie,” said his digging partner. “Them Amish really are backward, ain’t they?”

The others chuckled. Jonas gave no outward sign that the insult had affected him, though inside his nerves stretched taut. A man who would insult another would be quick to injure as well.

A smirk twisted Woodard’s features. “Mr. Littlefield’s a powerful man in these parts. He’s your neighbor to the north. Moved up here from Texas to start him a ranch a while back. Gonna bring a herd of Texas Longhorns up from Amarillo.”

“We will make him welcome.”

“Welcome him, will you?” Woodard barked a harsh laugh, and the other men joined in. “Well, I’ll tell you right now that the best welcome you can offer him is to get your livestock off of his land.”

Jonas looked in the direction in which the man jerked his head. A little to the east, beyond the thorny hedge he’d planted to border the wheatfield, a few of his cattle were making their way toward the creek for a drink.

“Pardon, please, but it is my farm the cows are on.”

“Now, that’s where you’re wrong.” Woodard pushed his oblong Englisch hat back on his head with a finger. “See this fence?” He pointed out the length of wire that stretched to the west as far as Jonas could see. “This here’s Mr. Littlefield’s property. He’s filed a homestead claim to this land. The boys and me been working all night to get this fence in place.”

“But this is my farm, my home.” Jonas waved both hands to encompass the land that surrounded them.

“Yeah? I don’t see no sign.” He glanced at his companions. “You fellas see a sign?”

With their smirking gazes fixed on Jonas, they shook their heads. “Not a one.”

“Well, there you go.” Woodard’s smile did nothing to veil his scorn. “Looks to me like this fence is the only thing marking the boundary.” He waved to the area behind him, including the creek. “That means this part belongs to Mr. Littlefield. And that part,” he gestured toward the wheatfield and house behind Jonas, “must be yorn.”

A flicker erupted in the back of Jonas’s brain. Did they mean to take his farm, his home? The area on his side of the barbed wire was a fraction of his property. What, then, of the field beyond the creek, the one he and Big Ed had plowed only a few days ago in preparation for planting corn? What of the pasture where his cattle and goats grazed? Angry heat suffused his face, but he took care to pitch his voice so that none of the anger might escape.

“The land belongs to me. Almost twenty years have I lived here. A trench I dug all around, as I was told to do.”

Woodard’s eyes narrowed to mere slits. He tossed his shovel aside and closed the distance between them with a menacing stride, stopping only when he was close enough that Jonas could smell the rank odor of his breath. The others also moved. They went to the wagon and each picked up a rifle before coming to stand behind their leader.

“I don’t think you heard me, Amish man,” Woodard said, his voice as low as Jonas’s. “This property belongs to Mr. Andrew Littlefield. If you want to go on breathing, you’ll keep to your side of that fence.”

A cold lump of fear cooled Jonas’s burning anger. The message was clear. If he or his livestock crossed that fence, they would be shot.

Injustice churned like acid in his stomach. It was because he was Amish that these men did this. They knew he would not retaliate.

They are right.

Did Jesus not forbid His followers all revenge and resistance? He has thereby commanded them not to return evil for evil, nor railing for railing. The words rose from deep inside, placed there by years of repetition of the Confession that all Amish professed. Though his sinful self would love to rail against these rough men, he could not.

Maintaining his silence was the only way Jonas could keep his anger in check. Without a reply, he turned away from Woodard and began the trek around the wheatfield and back to his house. Behind him, derisive laughter rose from four throats into the morning sky. Jonas kept his head up, though his back burned from the weight of their scornful stares.

I will not rail against them. I will not dishonor the faith to which I have pledged my life.

The laughter stopped, and soon he heard the sound of shovels carving into fresh soil.

But neither will I give up my home. I will stand my ground, but peacefully, with my friends at my side.

He lengthened his stride, a sense of purpose giving him fresh energy. He would hook Big Ed up to the buggy and go to his Amish brothers for help.

-

“Ow, stop! It hurts, Katie.”

Katie Miller looked calmly into a pair of reproachful blue eyes belonging to her young sister-in-law. “The bandage must come off, Hannah, else how can I see if the wound is healing properly? Hold still. I will be gentle.”

Eight-year-old Hannah studied her with a measuring look, as though deciding whether or not to trust her. Finally, with a brief nod, she placed her bandaged hand again into Katie’s waiting one. She turned her head away, face screwed up and eyes shut tight, her muscles tense. Seated next to Hannah at the sturdy kitchen table, Ella Miller held her daughter’s uninjured hand, worry lines carving crevasses in the smooth forehead beneath her prayer kapp.

And well she might worry. The injury to Hannah’s hand had not been serious until infection set in. By the time they sent for Katie, it had swollen to twice normal size, and angry red lines stretched halfway up the child’s arm.

Katie unwound layers of cotton bandages, a half-formed prayer for the girl running through her mind. When she pulled the last strip gently away from the wound, she let out a pent-up breath.

“Das ist gut,” she told Mader Miller.

A relieved smile washed the worry from the woman’s face. “See you there, Hannah. The smelly salve that angered you so has worked.”

Katie pressed the skin around the wound with a gentle finger. Thank goodness the swelling was greatly reduced from two days ago, and the red lines had all but disappeared. “Wiggle your thumb and finger.”

The girl did, and Katie breathed a prayer of thanksgiving.

“By the good Lord’s grace, she will recover fully,” she announced, and then she turned a serious look on Hannah. “But you must be more careful when playing around your papa’s plow. You could have lost your hand, and then where would you be?”

A dimple appeared in one peachy cheek. “I would not have to milk cows.”

“Ach, what a girl!” Mader Miller swatted at Hannah with a tea towel. “Indeed you would, but twice as long it would take you. In fact, you can return to your chore tomorrow and see how you like working as a one-handed dairymaid.”

Scowling, Hannah slumped in her chair and remained silent while Katie cleaned the wound and slathered it with a layer of ointment. When a fresh bandage had been put in place, the little girl tested the tightness by gingerly clenching her hand into a loose fist.

Satisfied with the result, she bobbed her head. “Danki, Katie.” She looked shyly up. “Maybe if I hurt my other hand you will come more often. I miss you.”

The words twisted Katie’s heart. Since she’d returned to her parents’ home four months ago, she had only seen her family-by-marriage a few times outside of the district’s twice-monthly church services. But though she loved them, there were too many re-
minders here. She and Samuel had lived in this house during the five years of their marriage. At this very table they had sat side by side for meals with Hannah and Mader and Fader Miller. In the room at the top of the stairs, they had slept as husband and wife. A sense of grief threatened to overwhelm her.

She shook it off and tugged playfully at one of the laces dangling from Hannah’s kapp. “If you do, next time I shall make the ointment doubly smelly just to plague you.”

Hannah wrinkled her nose, and Katie tweaked it.

“Off with you, now.” Mader Miller snatched a basket off of the counter and pressed it into Hannah’s hands. “The hens have waited long enough for their breakfast, and the eggs need to be gathered.”

When the child had skipped out the door, the older woman set a mug of coffee on the table in front of Katie. “It is good to see you, daughter. Too long has it been since you visited.”

Unable to meet her mother-in-law’s eyes, Katie stared at the steam rising from the mug. “I know. I am sorry.”

Silence fell. Katie glanced up to see Mader Miller’s unfocused gaze fixed on something visible only to her. A sad smile tugged at one corner of her mouth. With a rush of guilt, Katie realized she wasn’t the only one whose memories of Samuel wedged like thorns in her heart.

She broke the silence with a whisper. “I miss him.”

Mader Miller nodded. “As do I.” Her eyes focused on the window. “And so does John.”

At the mention of Fader Miller, an uncomfortable knot formed in Katie’s stomach. Though she and Mader Miller had grieved Samuel’s passing as only a wife and mother could, their grief combined could not touch that of his father’s. In the span of a few months, Katie had watched the man go from mourning to near-obsession with his son’s death. A mournful cloud hovered over him, and instead of dispersing with time, it grew darker and denser and more distressful for those around him. Though he continued to administer his duties as bishop to the Amish community of Apple Grove, grief had made him rigid. Because he found no comfort for his pain, how could he give comfort to the families who looked to him for leadership? The community of Apple Grove sympathized with the devastating loss of a son, but they whispered that their bishop should attempt to put the tragedy behind him instead of wallowing in his grief. Thus would he advise others, but he seemed unable to heed his own advice. At home every conversation centered on Samuel until finally, unable to bear the constant reminder of her loss, Katie had moved back to her parents’ home. There she had been able to begin to let go of the pain of Samuel’s death, and more and more remembered the joy of his life.

Until today. Coming back here tinged all her memories with pain.

Mader Miller reached across the table and laid a hand on her arm. The touch was brief, only a moment, but Katie drew strength from the contact.

“Life is not meant to be lived in sorrow. You are young, daughter. One day the Lord will guide you into happier times.”

Katie looked up into eyes glazed with tears. Much time these past months had been spent asking the Lord what the future held in store for her. Surely love such as she and Samuel had shared came only once in a lifetime. Had the Lord not given her a task to occupy her lonely days? She had begun to learn the ways of doctoring and birthing, and through that had discovered the deep satisfaction of tending to those whose hurts were physical and therefore easier to heal. And yet…

She squeezed her eyes shut. Was she to always remain a widow, forever denied love and happiness until she quit this world for the next?

Mader Miller’s hand pulled away. Katie opened her eyes to see her staring through the window. “A visitor has come.”

“This early?” Katie twisted around to look through the glass. An Amish buggy approached, clouds of dust from the road rising beneath the wheels.

The buggy rolled past the house and continued toward the barn.

“That is Jonas Switzer.” The older woman rose. “I will put on more coffee and warm some rolls. Go, daughter, and invite him in when he has finished his business with the bishop.”

Obediently, Katie rose and headed toward the door.

The morning sun still hung low on the horizon, its brilliant rays shafting through the leaves of the apple trees that bordered the Millers’ yard. Mr. Switzer’s buggy had come to a stop, and Fader Miller emerged from the barn. He stood erect, waiting for Mr. Switzer to climb down from the bench and stand before him. Mr. Switzer began to talk, calmly at first. Then he waved his arms, churning the air around him. Clearly something had upset the normally unruffled man.

I hope Emma and Rebecca are well.

Jonas’s daughters had been Katie’s friends since childhood. Though she rarely saw them now that they had both left the Amish and lived almost two hours’ ride away, Katie stayed informed through their grandmother.

She slowed her approach, unwilling to eavesdrop on the men’s conversation. But Mr. Switzer was so upset that his voice rose and fell, and she couldn’t help but overhear a few snatches.

“…weapons…fence…shoot me on my own land!”

Oh, dear. Someone had shot at him?

Because Fader Miller faced her way, she heard his answer more clearly.

“You must go to this Mr. Littlefield and explain to him the mistake. Perhaps he will listen and respond honorably.”

Katie stopped several yards away and politely turned her back, though she could still hear.

“You will go with me? I fear to go alone will result in violence.”

A stern note crept into the bishop’s voice. “You threaten violence?”

“From me, no. From them? They are Englisch. Their honor is different from ours. If two of us go—”

“If two go, they will see a threat. If one man calls upon his neighbor to discuss a shared problem, it is a friendly visit. Have Marta bake a snitz pie.”

Jonas’s voice grew loud. “You would send me to the home of an Englisch man with rifles armed with a pie?”

Katie winced. Mr. Switzer must be distraught indeed to raise his voice to the bishop. She would never have the nerve.

Fader Miller’s reply was low, alarmingly so. She couldn’t make out the words, but the tone was one that would have set her knees to shaking if it had been directed at her. The sound of retreating footsteps followed.

Katie turned in time to see the bishop disappear into the barn, his back rigid. Mr. Switzer stared after him, shoulders slumped and arms hanging at his sides. Moving cautiously, she stepped toward him, and he turned at her approach. A struggle lay plain on his creased brow and troubled eyes.

She bobbed a quick curtsey. “Mader Miller says won’t you come in for coffee and warm rolls?”

For a moment she thought he must not have heard her. He stared at her without answering. Then he set his jaw.

“Danki, no. I must go.”

She stepped back and watched him climb into his buggy. Seated, he picked up the reins and then stopped. He looked at her as though seeing her for the first time. “Katie Miller. A favor you would do for me?”

“Ja. If I can.”

“Take a message to my house. Tell my mader I have gone to Rebecca and Emma, and will return after the noon meal.” He tossed a glance toward the barn, and his chin jutted forward. “I go to see my son-in-law, the Englisch sheriff.”

Without waiting for an answer, he flicked the reins. Katie stepped back as his buggy rolled forward. She almost called after him, “Give my greetings to Emma and Rebecca,” but somehow she doubted he would remember.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

BLOG TOUR/GIVEAWAY: The Life is Too Short Collection by Connie E. Sokol

 

Life is Too Short Collection

Are you looking for a fabulous life boost today? The Life is Too Short series is just what you need. Written by Connie Sokol—mother of seven, author, speaker, and amazing matching sock finder—these humorous self-development columns give you just the right amount of fun and functional. Originally written for a major newspaper and magazines, you can now enjoy the entire collection in one book. Put your feet up and laugh as you relate to time-tested tips on being a woman, wife, and mother. You'll learn the cozy stuff of how to adjust expectations, have faith in your dreams, and lighten up in motherhood. And, you'll learn a few life skills such as easy spring cleaning, simplifying the holidays, and creating successful goals. It's the perfect gift for any woman! Short, funny, insightful, these quick power columns are ideal anytime, anywhere, to rejuvenate your mind and soul.

Amazon

  Review from I Love to Read & Review Books:
For some laughter therapy read this book! I LOVED the funny stories in each chapter followed by a LIFE TIP to help you put into practice the things you just learned...and as an added bonus...there is a BOOK PICK to further your enlightenment on the subject.
 

Author Connie Sokol

Connie Sokol is a mother of seven, a national and local presenter, and a regular speaker at Education Week. She is a monthly contributor on KSL TV “Studio 5,” and regular blogger for KSL "Motherhood Matters." She is a former TV and radio host for Bonneville Communications, and columnist for Deseret News and Utah Valley Magazine. Mrs. Sokol is the author of several books including the award-nominated romance Caribbean Crossroads, the 8-week Challenge program of Faithful, Fit & Fabulous, Life is Too Short for One Hair Color Series, as well as talk CDs and podcasts. Mrs. Sokol marinates in time spent with her family and eating decadent treats.

Website * Facebook

REVIEW

Life is Too Short is a delightful collection of stories and thoughts on being a woman, a wife, and a mother. Being a woman often involves high amounts of stress, a strong dose of perfectionism, and a great deal of guilt.  Sokol effectively points out that none of these things are helpful or contribute to society in a positive way.  And if we as women aren't happy or satisfied, those around us aren't likely to be either. In a series of essays designed to help the reader find ways to cope with the craziness of life, the author explains that no woman is perfect and that weighing ourselves down with guilt and perfectionism just makes things worse.

I appreciated the humor and honesty that punctuated these essays. Somehow it is incredibly comforting to know that I'm not the only one who has days where everything goes wrong and I nearly lose my mind.  It's also reassuring to be reminded that sometimes the best one can do is to 'just relax' and let things go. At the same time dreams are meant to be lived. 

This book provides a light-hearted but important reminder that life is meant to be lived and enjoyed today, not just tomorrow.  That joy and happiness can be found in womanhood, wifehood, and motherhood despite the disasters and frustrations. I highly recommend this book to all who feel that life is getting the better of them.
Tour Giveaway

$25 Amazon Gift Card
Ends 5/7/13

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer http://www.iamareader.com and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 22, 2013

FIRST WILD CARD TOUR: What's Your Mark by Jeremy Cowart

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:

Zondervan; Special edition (March 19, 2013)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Award-winning photographer Jeremy Cowart has traveled the globe photographing some of the biggest names in the music and entertainment industries. With boundless energy, indomitable faith and a mind ever-flowing with creative ideas, Cowart appears utterly tireless and rarely stops. There is always something unique and interesting going on in his world, whether it's starring in an episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, raising money to fight poverty through his Twitter feed, teaching photography online or taking the cover shot for Tim Tebow's best-selling autobiography.
Born in Nashville, Cowart continues to make Music City his home. Here in the comfort of familiar surroundings he draws continual inspiration from his wife, Shannon, and their two beautiful children, Aidler and Eisley, ages five and seven. Though he clearly considers his craft a labor of joy, when not holding a camera he has time for his favorite pastime which is doing anything that involves his children, and much to his delight, joy around the Cowart home is about to increase as the family is in the process of adopting two children from Haiti.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

What do an actor, a TV producer, a businessman, and a leader in social justice causes have in common? They're all making their mark on the world because their lives have been eternally marked by Jesus. You'll be captivated, challenged, and changed as you read their stories in this full-color, fully illustrated softcover book created by celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart. With text from the Gospel of Mark, you are invited to ask---and answer---the question "What mark am I making?"





Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 120 pages
Publisher: Zondervan; Special edition (March 19, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310411092
ISBN-13: 978-0310411093



AND NOW...A SNEAK PEEK. CLICK ON IMAGES TO VIEW THEM LARGER:




Friday, April 19, 2013

BLOG TOUR: Mattie by M. Ann Rohrer


ABOUT THE BOOK

MATTIE is a sweeping historical novel based on the life and times of Ann Rohrer’s maternal grandmother, who was born and raised in Colonia Juarez, one of 13 Mormon settlements in Mexico—the same one where Mitt Romney's grandfather lived.

Covering the time between 1902 and 1917 which includes an up close and personal view of Pancho Villa and the turbulence of the Mexican Revolution, we follow Mattie through crisis of faith, adventures, romance, and coming of age as she learns to cope with her world.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Martha Ann Robinson Rohrer was born in Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. At age nine, she moved with her family to Toquepala, Peru, South America, where they lived for ten years. After attending Juarez Stake Academy in Mexico her sophomore year, she returned to Peru and finished her junior and senior years through correspondence. In 1965, the family returned to the United States, settling in Tucson, Arizona. Ann served a two-year mission to Mexico City, Mexico Mission. She is married to John Rohrer and they live in Pasco, Washington. They have five boys, one daughter, and at present, thirteen grandchildren.

REVIEW

This book provides a powerfully emotional read.  The characters have depth and personality and seemed very real. Maybe the fact that they are based on real people helps. Mattie is especially vivid with her fieriness and her very real struggles. I enjoyed getting a glimpse of her through her childhood and growing up years, it helps explain her feelings and struggles as she grows up.  Like many of us, Mattie struggles to find her faith after losing people she loves. And then a traumatic experience sends her into a nosedive and only by turning to God does she survive. I also really enjoyed reading about Mattie's and her husband-to-be's courtship (I won't say who it is, it would spoil the fun).  It seemed a lot more realistic than a lot of relationships I read about.

One of the aspects of the story that I found especially fascinating was the parts involving the Mexican revolution. I haven't read much about it so it was eye-opening to do so here. I appreciated the end notes the author included explaining the historically accurate parts of the story. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that so many innocent and not so innocent people got hurt, wars are like that, but I empathized with the fear and conflict that Mattie and her family had to deal with.

A great read and one I thoroughly enjoyed. The only things I would have liked better would have been more showing and not so much telling, although covering as much time as she does I can understand why the author had to simply explain some things. The other thing I would have liked better would have been a longer story. ;) I would have liked to know more about Mattie's life experiences. Overall, a great read and one I can recommend with pleasure.

EXCERPT

 
“Mattie pounded her pillow then rolled over and stared at the ceiling. She hated the interfering throngs of people. She hated the mountains of food. She hated the stupid whispering downstairs.

She hated God.

Gentle rains made little difference in the suffocating heat this first day of summer, yet eleven-year-old Martha Ann Sevey shivered. The pungent smell of death, mixed with sweet carbolic acid and saltpeter, seeped through the high-ceiling parlor below. It wafted up through the wood floor right into Mattie’s bedroom invading her olfactory senses. Worse than the odiferous scent was the ghastly vision of her father (she refused to think of him as “the body”). Laid out on a board supported by two sawhorses, he was covered with rags drenched in the offensive mixture. To slow decay, her mother had explained, which conjured dreadful pictures in Mattie’s young, imaginative mind.”

FIRST WILD CARD TOUR: Fisher of Men by Pam Rhodes

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:

Lion Fiction (2013)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

For many years Pam Rhodes has presented the world's number one religious television program, Songs of Praise. She writes for the Daily Mail's Femail section, and is also a successful novelist, author of With Hearts and Hands and Voices and four other novels, as well as a number of other books.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


The country church of St Stephen's, Dunbridge, under the leadership of the formidable Rev. Margaret Prowse, is getting a new curate. The whole congregation is abuzz as the shy but earnest Neil Fisher arrives to take up his very first post.

Though intimidated by Margaret, he is determined to overcome his shyness and immediately sets out to meet the congregation. As often occurs when a man of the cloth is single, his mission becomes somewhat sidetracked when his attention is first drawn to Ros, the spiky single mum who looks after the vicarage garden, and then commandeered by Wendy, leader of the church music group, who is determined to bag herself a vicar for a husband. And if that isn't enough, he also has to contend with his opinionated mother, who strongly disapproves of her son's vocation.

Product Details:

Pages: 256
Size: 5 x 7.75 inches
Published: 2013
Rights: NA
Imprint: Lion Fiction
Price: $14.99
ISBN: 978-1-78264-000-4



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


It was the spire of St Stephen’s that Neil noticed first. In fact, if it weren’t for the spire standing head and shoulders above every other roof in the town, he might have needed to keep a closer eye on the map he had balanced on his lap as he navigated round the one-way system which seemed intent on taking him out of rather than into the market town of Dunbridge. Actually, to describe this cluster of houses and shops, some very old, some alarmingly new, as a “town” might suggest more than Dunbridge really delivered. Neil had read that 6,000 people lived here. As he rounded the last corner, he wondered where Dunbridge put them all.

He felt his chest tighten with a mixture of trepidation and anticipation at the sight of the grand old church which stood solidly at the end of the square, looking for all the world as if it were peering down the High Street keeping a benign, unblinking eye on its faltering flock. Neil swallowed hard as he felt beads of sweat spring up on his top lip. Wiping his finger sharply across his face, he firmly reminded himself he had absolutely nothing to worry about. After all, this was just a first visit – to see if the Reverend Margaret Prowse thought he might make a suitable curate in this parish, and to decide if he felt Dunbridge could be a place to call home for three years during his training as a curate.

And wasn’t this exactly the moment he’d been working towards for so long? As a soon-to-be-ordained deacon (the ceremony was less than two months away now), those years of longing, of recognizing his call, of study and preparation, had surely all been leading up to this moment – when he finally settled on the parish in which he would start his ministry. Was this the place? Would he become the Reverend Neil Fisher of the Parish of St Stephen in Dunbridge? He rolled the words over in his mind. They had a nice ring to them.

He glanced at the notepad on the seat beside him. “Drive up towards the church, then follow the road round to the right,” Margaret had instructed. “You’ll find the Vicarage down the first turning on the left. You can’t miss it!”

He hated it when people said that. It always made him feel even more of a failure when he proved them wrong.

On this occasion, though, the directions were spot on. A sign on the well-worn gate proudly announced that this was indeed The Vicarage, a large sprawling Edwardian house whose faded glory was camouflaged by a huge wisteria on one side, and a scarlet Virginia creeper on the other. Uncertain whether he should pull into the drive, he decided that it would be more polite to park a bit further up the street, just round the corner from the house, under the arch of a huge horse chestnut. Neil grabbed his briefcase, clambered out and locked the door.

The gate squeaked as he opened it.

“Come round the back!”

The voice came from somewhere above his head. Neil shaded his eyes as he squinted up into the low morning sun.

“Take the path down the side of the house!” came the command again. “The kitchen door’s always on the latch. Daft, really, but I like the idea of an open house.”

Neil could just make out the silhouette of a round, female face surrounded by thick, neat curls leaning out of the upstairs bay window.

“You must be Neil. You’re early! I’ll be down in just a sec. Put the kettle on! Mine’s a coffee…”

And the head abruptly disappeared.

Getting to the back was quite a challenge. Neil clambered over two bikes, a trailer and a hawthorn bush which had very nearly succeeded in its attempt to straddle the narrow path alongside the house. Finally, he made it to what seemed to be the back door, which was not just ajar, but wide open. Closing the door tidily behind him (he just couldn’t help himself), he stepped into a large, alarmingly muddled kitchen in which the table, the worktops and even the hob were piled up with everything from stacks of plates and cutlery to columns of letters, newspapers and magazines. On top of the cooker was a Holy Bible on which was precariously balanced an open copy of the Book of Common Prayer. Neil grinned. Not much doubt a vicar lived here!

Something brushed his trouser leg. He looked down into the calculating gaze of the biggest, fluffiest ginger tom he’d ever seen. He was on the point of leaning down to give the little dear a tickle under the chin when he found himself staring into yellow eyes that gleamed with malevolence. Plainly this four-legged resident didn’t take kindly to visitors, as it did a slow reconnaissance figure of eight around Neil’s legs. He grabbed hold of a nearby stool and sat on it hastily, clasping his briefcase to him and pulling his knees up as high as he could.

“Frank!”

The same voice, sounding twice as loud, rang through the house from somewhere upstairs.

“Tell him where the tea is, there’s a love! I think we’re out of biscuits.”

Intrigued, Neil looked towards the open kitchen door as the sound of slippered feet padded in his direction. Round the corner came a dapper little man with grey hair but, surprisingly, bushy dark brows. Taking stock of the positions of both man and cat before him, there was a sympathetic gleam of understanding in his eyes as he smiled at Neil.

“Sorry,” he said, “my wife’s only just got back from an unexpected hospital visit. She’ll be down shortly. I’m Frank, by the way. And that’s Archie. Quite harmless really, even if he does look a bit fierce. What can I get you? Tea?”

“No, thanks all the same,” gulped Neil, not taking his eyes off the feline predator below him. “I don’t want to put you to any trouble.”

“Oh, the kettle’s always hot in our house,” smiled Frank. “You’ll need to learn that if you’re joining the ranks. Your first appointment as a curate, eh? Well, you’ll be all right here. Margaret will look after you.”

“Frank, have you found him?” That voice again.

“Yes, dear, he’s fine. Archie’s got him cornered…”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, give the poor man room to breathe, Archie!”

The Reverend Margaret Prowse strode into the room, her arms clasped around a large box full of collecting tins.

“Take these, dear, before I drop them. Why Peter left them here when they should be at the Church Centre, I really don’t know!”

There were seconds of confusion while the box was handed over, almost dwarfing Frank, who staggered over to deposit the lot on top of the one pile of papers which was flat enough to perch it on.

“Margaret Prowse!”

Pushing her spectacles further up her nose so that she could peer at Neil a little more closely, she moved towards him, her expression warm and welcoming, her hand stretched out to clasp his.

“How nice to meet you, Neil! Did you have a good journey?”

“Not bad at all. Most of the traffic was going the other way. And I’m very pleased to meet you too!”

Neil became aware that Margaret’s attention had diverted from him, as she suddenly stared at the clock on the wall behind him.

“Heavens! Is that the time?” She grimaced towards Neil. “Look, I know this isn’t ideal, but you’ll soon realize that parish life is never predictable. I hope you won’t think me rude, but I do need to pop out for a short while. I won’t be long, but I had a call early this morning from Violet, one of our regular congregation members. She’s in a dreadful state – bereavement, you know.”

“Oh,” said Neil, “has she lost a family member?”

“Yes – and no. It’s her budgie, Poppet. When you’re nearly ninety and your bird is your only companion, then losing that friend is a dreadful shock. Her daughter is coming over at half ten for the ceremony…”

Neil felt his eyebrows shoot up with curiosity.

“Nothing formal. Not even consecrated ground, although a bit of holy water will soon put that right. No, Poppet is destined to rest in peace in the shade of Violet’s magnolia tree.”

“Have you worked out just what you’ll say, dear?” enquired Frank.

“Not really. I’ll play it by ear. That’s why I was looking in the Book of Common Prayer earlier on, to see if there’s anything that might fit the bill. Nothing quite right, I’m afraid. Any ideas, Neil?”

“For the burial of a budgie?” Neil loosened his grip on his briefcase, then lowered it to the ground behind his stool as he watched Archie wander away in boredom. “It’s difficult, really, when you can’t even give a potted history of the life and achievements of the dear departed, as you would for a normal funeral.”

“Quite!” agreed Margaret. “But Violet tells me she’s written a poem. That might do the trick. And perhaps a hymn? What do you think?”

“‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’,” suggested Neil. “That’s got a line about God making their tiny wings, if I remember rightly…”

Margaret grinned with approval. “Great minds think alike! Exactly what I came up with. And that reminds me. I’ve downloaded the accompaniment for ‘All Things’ on to my iPod. A bit of music might add a touch of atmosphere. Where are those speakers we take on holiday, Frank? You know, the ones that work on batteries?”

“In the upstairs cupboard, I think. I’ll go and look.”

“Great! Meet me with them at the front door. And you…” Margaret turned her gaze towards Neil, “… might like to take a look around the church while you’re waiting. I really won’t be long. Sorry I can’t take you with me, but I don’t think Violet could cope with new faces just at the moment.”

“I quite understand. And I’d welcome the chance to take a look around the church while you’re gone.”

“Go straight out the gate at the end of our garden. You can’t miss it.”

Not again!

“The door’s open, but it’s a tight fit. Just watch it doesn’t slam shut because it’s the devil to open again! Back soon. We can get down to business then. OK?”

Neil nodded, not quite sure which part of the deluge of words he was agreeing to.

But Margaret was already out of the room.

“Frank! Frank, I’m leaving! Where are those speakers? Oh, there you are.”

Surprisingly, Neil heard the unmistakable sound of a kiss being planted firmly on a cheek.

“Remember to get those chops out of the freezer. And don’t forget you’ve got to rearrange your dental appointment on Friday. Oh, and the recycling bin needs to go out today. Bye, dear. Bye!”

There was a sudden draught as the door opened, then slammed shut – and she was gone.

“Right,” said Frank as he came back into the kitchen. “I’ve got my marching orders and so have you. The church is that way. Down the garden, through the gate, up the lane a bit – and you’re there!”

This time Neil really couldn’t miss it. St Stephen’s loomed ahead of him the moment he stepped beyond the garden gate. He caught his breath. He’d always loved old buildings, and churches had been a particular favourite even when he was a small boy. That was probably because old churches had been a passion for his father too. There was nothing he’d liked more than coming across a church which he had never visited before. Story books – that’s what Dad had called them. Neil remembered so many happy hours when the two of them had wandered around and inside an ancient church, noting a Norman carving here or a Gothic arch there. They would discover masonry marks left by the builders, faces carved in the wooden screen or the christening font, or even at the top of pillars – faces which probably looked very like some of the congregation members in the artist’s time; towers hung with bells which had been rung every Sunday for countless generations (except during the Second World War, so his Dad had explained); tapestries and fading medieval paintings telling the Bible stories to congregations who couldn’t read or write; even swallows nesting in the eaves, just as they had done for as long as anyone could recall.

Young Neil had listened, mesmerized, imagining the stonemason, picturing worshippers of times gone by, looking up at the great bells which had called the faithful to worship down the years. And to that small boy, it did seem that his father could read the story of each church as if it were a book, noticing details, large and small, which revealed so much of those who’d known the building before them.

“If these walls could only speak…”

Neil could still picture the softening of his Dad’s face as he’d said those words.

“… drenched in all that’s happened here, those walls are. That’s why old churches have such a wonderful atmosphere. They’ve seen it all and felt every emotion. All the worries, hopes, joys and sorrows of the people who’ve come here down the years – these walls have absorbed the lot. What a tale they could tell!”

Neil found his pace slowing as he thought again of his Dad. Fifteen years on, and he still missed him. That final illness had robbed him of his zest for life and his dignity too. At least he was at peace now. Neil gave a wry smile. Well, at peace from Mum’s sharp tongue, at the very least!

It was often said that Neil looked like his Dad – and he could see the likeness in the thick, wiry hair he’d inherited from his father. Nowadays Neil kept his cropped short, so the tight curls were hardly noticeable – unlike his Dad, who had let his hair grow quite long towards the end, much to his Mum’s annoyance, especially as it turned grey. Father and son had also had the same lopsided grin when they laughed, which was often, because they shared a similar sense of humour – but beyond that, Neil could recognize little of his Dad in himself. His broad shoulders and stocky frame came from his Mum’s side of the family. Her brothers had both been rugby players “for the county!”, as she never tired of telling anyone who’d listen. Physically, Neil was perfect for a scrum half. Actually, the thought of getting anywhere near a scrum was his idea of a nightmare.

The graveyard was nice. A strange thing to think about a graveyard, but he’d always found them fascinating since he’d spent hours wandering around them reading epitaphs as a kid. Taking a quick look at the stones immediately near the path as he walked, Neil was vaguely aware of the church clock chiming noon as he reached the imposing Gothic-arched porch door. In spite of Margaret’s warning, one twist of the round metal handle was enough to release the latch, so that Neil could easily push the door wide enough to slip inside.

He hadn’t realized how much warmth there had been outside in the late Spring sunshine until he stood for a moment breathing in the essence of the building as he walked along the back pew, then turned to make his way up the centre aisle. There was a quiet coolness about the church, an oasis of tranquillity which didn’t entirely cut out the bustle of the surrounding market town. He could still hear traffic noise, children’s voices from a nearby school and even gentle birdsong, but it felt as if a blanket had enfolded the building, filtering everything until it seemed distant and removed from him.

Could this church become his spiritual home? He considered the thought as he walked towards the rail and looked up at the huge carved wooden cross suspended above the altar.

Was this it? Would he be able to bring something worthwhile to this community? Would his contribution as a curate in this church make a difference that was beneficial? Could he be happy and fulfilled here?

Like a sigh, he felt a sweep of cold air brush past him – and at that exact moment, caught by the same sudden draught, the heavy church door slammed shut, shattering the peace and shaking the rafters as it echoed round the old building.

* * *

Frank picked up the phone almost immediately it rang.

“Oh, Frank dear, I’m glad I caught you!” Margaret didn’t bother to wait for any greeting from her husband before she continued:

“This budgie thing is proving to be a bit more complicated than I thought. Violet lives in sheltered housing run by the council, as you know, and because she wants this ceremony to take place as the body is buried, some ‘jobsworth’ is saying we need written permission before the budgie can be interred anywhere on council land! Can you believe it? Well, of course you can! Anyway, Violet is bereft, her daughter is threatening to call the local newspaper – and I need to be here for a while to pour oil on troubled waters.”

“And perhaps even pour holy water on council land sometime this afternoon!” chuckled Frank. “Oh, you poor old thing. Still, if anyone can get things sorted out, you can.”

“It’s just Neil, that new curate – well, hopefully our new curate, if I can persuade him to join us – must think I’m dreadful to be so tied up when he’s come all this way…”

“Well, he’ll be getting a measure of how busy it is here, and how much he’s needed, won’t he!” replied Frank.

“Can you explain and ask him to bear with me? Do you think he’d mind holding on for a bit? Tell him to have a look at the minutes of the last few parish council meetings. Give Peter a ring and see if he’ll pop round to talk to him about how involved the churchwardens are at St Stephen’s…”

“But he’s not here! He went over to the church, as you instructed, around twelve o’clock, and although I know I was out for a while, I really don’t think he came back. Just to be sure, I did pop down to the church about two to check if he was there. I stuck my head round the door and called out a few times, but there was no sign of him, so I suppose he must have taken himself off home again.”

“How strange! From his letter, it sounded as if he was more interested than that. Oh well, he must have taken one look at the church – and us – and decided it wasn’t for him, then!”

“His loss.”

“Absolutely.”

“Odd, though.”

“Certainly is.”

“Right, I must get on. Good luck with the budgie, dear.”

“Oh, I can handle the budgie. It’s the council officials who need to be handled with care.”

“They’ve not met you yet, have they? You’ll knock them into shape.”

Frank could almost hear her smiling at the other end of the line.

“I’ll be back as soon as I can. Bye, dear!”

And the line went dead.

* * *

The main relief was that he’d found the loo. It was now three hours since the door had slammed shut on him, and in spite of shouting, thumping, kicking – and a lot of praying – the door refused to budge, and he was well and truly stuck. Worst of all was the moment about five minutes after the door slammed when he first realized that his briefcase was still stashed behind the stool where he’d been cornered by Archie in Margaret’s kitchen earlier that day. In that briefcase was his mobile. Without his mobile, he was lost.

For one hopeful moment about an hour before, he thought he’d heard someone trying the door. He’d been closeted in the vestry at the time, idly looking through papers on the desk and books on the shelves, for lack of anything else to do. He was just opening a hymn-book, thinking that perhaps a verse of “How Great Thou Art” might make him feel better, when he heard something. The sound of footsteps, perhaps – and was it a voice calling his name? He rushed out into the main body of the church and ran back down the aisle, yelling at the top of his voice, then banged his fists for all he was worth on the unmoving old door which had imprisoned him – but there was nothing. No voice from outside filled with relief to have found him. No sound of a key turning in the lock or a shoulder thumping against the door. No sound at all. Zilch.

Exhausted with frustration, Neil staggered back to lean against the old stone font. How come they hadn’t missed him? Why weren’t they searching for him? Where was Margaret? Hadn’t Frank wondered about him not calling back to the house?

What was it Margaret had said about that door? A tight fit? Something about it being the devil to open? Neil slumped down into the back pew, exasperated and exhausted by another bout of trying to pull, prise, cajole, punch or even kick the door open. It simply wouldn’t budge.

He ran his fingers through his hair and sat for a while with his head cupped in his hands. He just couldn’t understand why no one had come looking for him. Could that have been Margaret or Frank he thought he’d heard earlier? Did they just think he’d taken himself off again without even saying goodbye? Surely they’d see his briefcase? An image slipped into his mind of the Vicarage kitchen piled high with bits and pieces on every available surface. He’d tucked his briefcase behind the stool he was perching on. Would they see it there? Surely they’d find it! He frowned as he wondered if they ever found anything in that muddle. But then there was his car! He groaned out loud when he realized how he’d parked it up the road a bit so that it didn’t block their driveway. Margaret and Frank didn’t even know that car was his, so why would they take any notice of it?

When might the church be opened again? Perhaps for evening prayers? What time would Margaret think about doing that? Mind you, in a small parish like this one, with only one incumbent, evening prayers were often missed because the vicar was just not available to say the office at the right time. Margaret was tied up this afternoon at the budgie’s funeral service. How long would that take? Would she find time to fit in evening prayers tonight?

Neil became aware of a deep rumbling noise, then realized it came from his stomach. He was not a man to miss meals without noticing. He remembered longingly his boiled egg and toast soldiers eaten at eight that morning, and glanced at his watch. He’d been imprisoned in the church for nearly four hours. No wonder his tummy was complaining. He needed food – now! Like a fox out on a night raid, he decided to search every possible nook and cranny for something to munch. There must be some biscuits here, surely. All churches ran on tea and biscuits!

He set off towards the vestry, a man on a mission.

* * *

It was gone six o’clock before Frank heard Margaret’s key in the door.

“Mission accomplished,” she grinned. “Poppet had a very good send-off quietly after five o’clock, when the council official had knocked off for the day. We sang the hymn and said a few words in Violet’s flat, then nipped down and did the deed when he wasn’t there to see us.”

“Oh, well done, dear. I knew you’d think of something.”

“No sign of Neil, then?”

“None at all.”

“Odd.”

“Very.”

“Can I smell those chops in the oven?”

“With baked apple, just the way you like them.”

“And roast potatoes?”

“What else?”

“I’m starving! Give me five minutes to sort myself out, and I’ll come and set the table.”

“How about, as a special treat, having it on our knees in the living room?” suggested Frank. “We can watch the news as we eat.”

“Perfect,” agreed Margaret, heading upstairs.

Minutes later, when she joined Frank in the kitchen, her nose twitched at the aroma of apples as he dished up the chops and gave the gravy a final stir. Margaret reached down beside the dresser to grab the padded knee-trays which they could balance on their laps as they ate. Suddenly, she stopped.

“Frank, look!”

Following her gaze, his eyes opened with horror.

“His briefcase! Neil left it here!”

“But why didn’t he come back to collect it?” asked Margaret.

“Perhaps he just forgot.”

The two of them stared at each other for several seconds, obviously registering the same thought.

“Or perhaps,” said Margaret slowly, “perhaps he didn’t leave.”

“He couldn’t still be in the church… I went there. I shouted. There was no reply.”

“Did you look in the vestry?”

“Why would he be in there?”

“Why not? He might have got cold. Or bored. Or needed the loo. Oh, Frank, he can’t still be in there, can he?”

“That blasted door!”

The two of them moved as one, out of the kitchen and down the garden path. It was as they were running through the graveyard towards the church that Frank spotted the light.

“I didn’t leave that on!” wailed Margaret. “It must be him!”

Within seconds they ran into the porch, and Frank grabbed hold of the iron ring which turned the latch on the ancient door. Funnily enough, it worked very easily from the outside. Making it work from the inside, however, was a quite different story. It took practice, a lot of practice, to get the knack just right. Why on earth hadn’t they made that clearer to Neil?

Practically falling through the door, their calls were greeted by absolute silence. Neil was nowhere to be seen. One small light was on, but the church was quiet and empty.

“Maybe he’s in the vestry?” suggested Frank. “I’ll go and check.”

“Frank.” Margaret’s voice was practically a whisper. “What’s that noise?”

He stopped in his tracks, his head tilted to one side as he listened.

“Whatever it is, it’s coming from in here,” gestured Frank, looking around the main body of the church. “Down the front there, I think.”

“Be careful, dear. It may not be him.”

Frank hushed her by putting his finger to his lips, then he began to tiptoe down the aisle, stopping suddenly as he drew level with the row of seating second from the front. Moving silently along the pew, he slowly leaned over to peer down on the seat in front of him.

“Come and take a look at this!” He turned to her with a smile.

What she saw when she joined him made her smile too. They looked down on a peacefully slumbering Neil, snoring loudly, his mouth wide open, his legs curled up along the seat, and his head resting comfortably on a hassock. On the floor below him was an open box of Communion wafers – or at least, what was left of them. He’d apparently found the Communion wine too, because the silver goblet they used in Sunday services stood beside his dangling arm with just a mouthful of red liquid still in the bottom.

“He didn’t starve, then,” said Frank. “That’s a relief.”

At the sound of their voices, Neil’s eyes shot open, and for a second it was plain he was struggling to remember just where he was.

“Right, then,” said Margaret in that no-nonsense tone he would later come to know so well. “It’s pork chops for tea. Coming?”
 
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