A Legacy of Hope by Ramona Richards

Six weeks after my mother’s funeral, I still had not done anything with the boxes and furniture I’d brought home with me from her room at the assisted living facility. My brother and I had had to empty the room in less than a week, so much of it went to charity. My brother took a few items, and the rest sat in my living room, the memories too painful for me to deal with.

But I knew I needed to do something with them. Especially the quilts. A lot of quilts. More than twenty of them waited to be rolled properly and stored in my VERY small apartment.

Mother had taught me well, giving me strict instructions on the care of quilts. Use gloves. Roll, not fold. Pillowcases for storage…NEVER put them in plastic. One reason she’d been so precise with her instructions is the age of several of the quilts, some of which are more than 100 years old. And as I rolled and prepared the quilts, I remembered the stories she’d told about each of them…and the women who’d made them.

Writer that I am, I soon became distracted with the tales, and I started writing them down. Mother had always worried that the love and faith that went into the quilts would be forgotten. As I wrote, I realized that not only my mother but all the women who stitched these treasures deserved to be honored. So I set out to turn the stories into devotions that would reflect their deep faith.

My grandmother, for instance, had spent months working on a cathedral window quilt. Already in her 70s and in failing health, my grandmother started the project, knowing that she might not live to complete it. “I can’t stand on what might happen,” she told me once. “That denies my trust in God. I’m not going to second guess Him. My hope has always been in Him. Not going to change that now.” And she stitched on. She finished it…and it wasn’t even her last quilt.

One of the quilts has three blue squares in a field of pink and brown. This isn’t a mistake; instead, it’s a built-in flaw, a reminder that humans are never perfect. Only God is. Another quilt, dating to the 1830s, has a thick wool batting, an indication that it was made in North Carolina and brought to Alabama when a young couple moved west, hoping to build a new and better life.

Quilt after quilt spoke of the skill, love, faith, and hope these women had that God would love and guide their families. They stitched with hope for a better world for those who came after them.

Mother, too, had a devout faith based in hope. Anytime I’d mention a problem to her, she’d respond with Scripture, and an encouragement to lay it all at God’s feet. “Have you talked to Him about it yet?” was a frequent question. If I said, “No,” she’d just look at me over her glasses as if to say, “What are you waiting for?”

She lived Psalm 147:11: “The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (NIV). She’d tell me, “God has big shoulders and warm arms. Let Him have it.”

So, as I worked on writing the devotions, I gave it to Him with one request: “I want to honor this legacy. Show me how.”

Less than two weeks later, I had the opportunity to pitch My Mother Quilts to a publisher. The resulting journey of writing the book reconnected me with my cousin, Becky, who’s a quilt historian, and her daughter, Mary, who took the photographs of the quilts.Ramona

In turn, they arranged a family reunion, putting me in touch with relatives I’d not seen in forty years. All of them had even more stories of women who worked hard to provide for their families, all the while passing along a faith that held up hope over hardship.

Without the quilts, none of this would have happened. In looking backward, at the women who’d come before us, we discovered a legacy built on faith and hope.

It’s now our turn to pass that along to our children.


My_Mothers_QuiltMy Mother’s Quilts by Ramona Richards may be purchased at the attached links.




Ramona Richards is the author of ten books, including her most recent release, My Mother’s Quilts. Her devotions have appeared in such publications as Fulfilled: The NIV Devotional Bible for the Single Woman, Trusting Jesus Every Day, Wonderfully Made, Heavenly Humor for the Woman’s Soul, Heavenly Humor for the Dieter’s Soul, and several others. Ramona has worked on staff or as a freelancer with more than 20 magazine and book publishers, including Thomas Nelson and Abingdon Press. She now works as a freelance editor and writer from her home office in Nashville, Tennessee. You can subscribe to her blog at: http://thefridgefront.blogspot.com/2013/01/welcome-to-front-of-my-refrigerator.html

Looking Beyond a Bird’s-Eye View

By: Brandy Heineman
Last summer I went to see my grandmother at a rehabilitation facility, the kind of place where people go after catastrophic health events, strokes and amputations, for whatever measure of recovery the Lord intends for them.

I always think of “hope” in the future tense, but for that trip to New York, hope seemed out of place. Everything had already happened. We prayed for healing, but God said no and allowed a door to click shut that no one but He can open again. I planned my trip in a hurry and went, afraid of what hesitation could cost.

Gratitude for the time with my Grandma was tinged with sadness. The facility was very clean and as homey as such a place can be, but our time felt like endless waiting—waiting for meals, waiting for a staff member to tend to her, waiting for bingo to start, waiting for bingo to end. We went for walks back and forth, outside until it was too hot, inside where afternoon activities kept the residents entertained. During almost every visit, I took her to the bird cabinet to see the finches and waited until she was tired of looking at them.

Those finches. They lived, ten or twelve of them, in a glassed-in hutch. The cage was very clean and decorated with bright pink silk flowers that made it almost homey. The birds flew back and forth, perching on a pair of swings meant to keep them entertained. Being a writer and all, I often see the world in metaphor, and to me, those colorful little birds looked utterly hopeless. From their limited viewpoint inside the hutch, they had no future that looked any better than their present.

If you’ve ever felt boxed in by circumstances beyond your control, you’ll know what I was feeling for my dear grandmother as we watched the finches last August. Sometimes, there really isn’t a way out.

It’s a good thing, then, that not everything is a metaphor. The finches are fine, and hope doesn’t have anything to do with circumstances. After all, this oft-quoted reassurance—

“‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope,” –Jeremiah 29:11

—was given to His people while they were in exile. A seventy-year exile, at that. God told them to build houses, plant gardens, have families, and basically wait it out as a people. Many of them were not going to live to see the change in their circumstances as individuals, and for these people, this waiting was an act of faith.

brandy heineman photo 2The world outside the rehab facility kept on at its usual speed, of course. I reveled in rare joys—like precious time with my sister and her family, and especially getting to know the amazing people my nieces and nephew are becoming. We bundled up against a dip into the forties (in August!) at the drive-in theater—a novelty of the highest order for this Georgia girl. I made sure my husband knew I missed him by blowing up his phone with pictures of a car show over the weekend, and I took an afternoon to myself to visit a historical society for some local interest research.

For that week, I did what I could to bring the outside in for my Grandma, but for the most part my role, a bit part in a story that wasn’t about me, was to join her in faithful waiting for the hope of things unseen. Like the finches, we’ve got a narrow field of vision—but we also have the tender words of Jesus assuring us that we’re worth more than many birds and a promise that one day, faith will be made sight.

BRANDY HEINEMAN loves stories of faith and family history. She’s a graduate of Wesleyan College and an author with Elk Lake Publishing. She is also a first-generation Southerner who occasionally gets caught saying things like, “Y’all want some pop?” Brandy lives in metro Atlanta with her husband, Michael. Visit her online at brandyheineman.com.

Whispers in the BranchesIf you hurry, you can get both of Brandy’s works in Kindle editions for less than the price of a cup of coffee! Her new eShort, His Pepper Heart, is available for free through tomorrow, and her full-length debut novel, Whispers in the Branches, is just $0.99 now through April 19 (8PM PST). 

It’s wonderful to have Brandy visit my garden today. I’ll draw a name from my subscribers on Saturday, April 23, 2016, and someone will win a copy of  Whispers in the BranchesI’ll announce it on Facebook.

Hope Despite Anxiety or Depression by Janet Ferguson

In my mid-thirties, after being involved in a bad car accident, I began having panic attacks while driving on the interstate.

I’m an open person, so I’ve shared my experience with this anxiety problem when it felt appropriate (or when asked to drive on the interstate, ha). As a result, I met many other people plagued by either anxiety or depressive disorders. Needless shame tends to go hand-in-hand with these problems. Sufferers are embarrassed that they can’t just get over it. Outsiders don’t understand or know how to help.

But don’t give up hope. I’m positive God can use anyone no matter their particular difficulty or perceived weakness.

Leaving_Oxford_I wanted to share an encouraging story for people with serious anxiety problems. Leaving Oxford is what came of it. I knew that God had still been able to use me as a children’s minister, a youth volunteer, and in so many other ways despite my weakness. I wanted other people to know they weren’t alone, and no matter where they were in life, they were still precious in God’s eyes.

I tend to add a bit of Mississippi-style humor to all my life as a way to get through it, so you’ll find that sprinkled through my story.

I hope and pray that at least one person is encouraged by my story.

If you or someone you care about has dealt with anxiety or similar issues, you may enjoy this clean but quirky romance set in Mississippi. If you buy it and enjoy it, I’d be honored if you would leave a review on Amazon. You can sign up for updates and other of my odd personal stories on my newsletter page. http://www.janetfergusonauthor.com/under-the-southern-sun

Thank you for having me on your blog, Shelia!

Leaving_Oxford_Here’s the link and a description of the story.


Releasing in April 15
Amazon EBook Pre-Order Discount available now for 99 cents.
Leaving Oxford
Southern Hearts Series ~ Book 1

Escaping home to Oxford, Mississippi, seemed like a good idea. Until it wasn’t.

A year after a tragic accident in Los Angeles flipped her world upside down, advertising guru Sarah Beth LeClair is still hiding away in her charming hometown of Oxford, Mississippi. And she may well be stuck there forever. Suffering from panic attacks, she prays for healing. Instead, her answer comes in the form of an arrogant football coach and an ugly puppy.

Former celebrity college quarterback Jess McCoy dreamed of playing pro football. One freak hit destroyed his chances. Although he enjoys his work as the university’s offensive coordinator, his aspirations have shifted to coaching at the highest level. His plans of moving up are finally coming together—until he falls for a woman who won’t leave town.

As the deadline for Jess’s decision on his dream career looms, the bars around Sarah Beth’s heart only grow stronger. But it’s time to make a decision about leaving Oxford.


They Call Me “Mama” by Connilyn Cossette

Conni032editThank you Shelia, for your invitation to share a story of hope from my life. It was quite easy to come up with a story to share, since the two main characters live in my home and call me “Mama”.

I’ve been married to my husband Chad for over eighteen years and we were always aware that adoption would be the way our family would grow.  Since I was adopted at birth as well, it was an exciting, wonderful prospect. But, as young as we were and just starting out in life together we had no more than a couple of pennies to rub together. It would be seven long years of waiting. Truthfully, more often than not, that wait was not at all patient on my part and sometimes quite painful.

The longer we waited, my friends began to marry and get pregnant and as much as I rejoiced with them, there was honestly an edge of jealousy in my heart—a smile on the outside at the news, paired with weeping on the inside.

“Lord!” I said, “Why would you give me this great desire to be a mother if you won’t bring me one of my own?”

There was one event that was particularly painful for me. A co-worker’s daughter was caught up in circumstances where she was unable to care for her child and there was a possibility that we might have a chance at adopting the little girl. When everything fell through, I was devastated. I had gotten my hopes up, again, only to have them dashed to the ground.

But my God, He is faithful. And He is the origin of hope.

The next day, I was doing laps in a swimming pool and pouring out my heart to him about the crushing of my dream. And he said to me, in such a clear voice, directly in my mind, “Do not grieve over that little girl. She isn’t the one. I will bring you a daughter some day.” I was so stunned. It was first time in my life that God spoke to me in a voice that almost seemed audible. I stood up in the pool and looked around, half-wondering if other people had heard it too.

So, I waited. And I waited. I taught pre-school for many years and poured my mama heart into my students.

And then one day, one of my girls from the Youth Group I worked with got pregnant.

I was devastated. Simply wrecked. I went home, laid on my face in my bedroom and literally screamed at God, “Why? Why would you rub my childlessness in my face? It is so difficult and so impossibly expensive to adopt! It will NEVER happen!” (It was not my best, most trusting moment to be sure).

But, even in that ugly moment my loving God said to me, in another clear voice, “What if I chose not to give you a child? Will you still trust me?”

After a deep struggle between my desires and his challenge, I surrendered my will. “Yes, Lord. I will trust you, even if you never bring us a child. “

“And, If I do chose to make you a mother,” he said. “Will you take any child I bring you? In which ever way I chose?”

“Yes! Lord, any child! No matter what! No matter how!” and then I added, “But we are so broke Lord, if you do want me to be a mother, you will have to drop one right out of the sky.”

And so, he did.

Within a month, our Pastor approached us to say he had received a call from a lawyer friend who was searching for an adoptive family for a client. I ran home that day  (I worked at the church preschool), wrote up an adoption portfolio and by the end of the next week, we had been selected by our son’s birthmother and met her in person soon afterward.

The adoption looked nothing like I thought it would. I expected an agency would be involved in everything and we would just sign some papers and get a baby.  But this was a private adoption; I took the birth-mom to the doctor, helped her find an apartment, drove her to the grocery store, met her family and got to know her personally. It was the opposite of what I expected.

But what a blessing! I got to be there in the doctor’s office and hear his little heartbeat for the first time. I got to stand in the aisle at the grocery store and feel her belly as he kicked and squirmed.  The hospital even gave us our own room down the hall and allowed us to feed our son for the first time and snuggle with him and bond with him for the first 24 hours before his birth-mom signed the papers. All with her, and her family, congratulating us on the birth of our son. It was beautiful. It was miraculous.

Oh, and by the way, the Lord provided every penny we needed through friends, family, and our church to pay for the entire adoption. Our boy truly came right out of the sky.

But wait a minute! Didn’t God say he would give me a daughter?

That he did. I was almost shocked when the lawyer told me the baby was a boy! But God wasn’t done with his miracles.

Two and a half years later, we had moved to Texas. We were a little bit more settled into life and thought, our son needs a sibling! So we signed up with an agency and were told that the average wait time was 9-12 months. “Great!” we said, “We have plenty of time to gather the necessary funds.”

Thirty days later—the phone rang. “You’ve been selected by a birthmother, come meet her!”

And so we did, and crazily enough, the next morning she went into labor.  But, although we went through the whole birth with her, the next day she changed her mind. The baby, a little boy, was not meant to be our son.

Again. Devastation hit me like a ton of bricks. It was almost as if we’d had a miscarriage. Our hopes had been so high, and we’d snuggled and loved on and named that little boy.

But God wasn’t done with his miracles.

One week later, the phone rang. “Another birth mother has selected your family. Come meet her!”

And we did. This young girl was so adamant that we were the right family for her baby that she assured the agency she would not change her mind after hearing what we had been through.  We met her, promptly fell in love with her, and spent the next three weeks anxiously waiting for another baby to be born.

And I’ll be honest. It was tough. We were terrified she would change her mind. We hadn’t had all the necessary pennies saved up since it happened so fast and we worried it would all fall through for that reason.

But the Lord reminded me of his promises. He reminded me that he was a giver of good gifts and he reminded me that he owned the cattle on a thousand hills and a few thousand dollars was no problem for him. Within the time allotted, God brought us every single penny we needed. We had people we barely knew hand us checks for a thousand dollars. One complete stranger gave us twenty-five hundred dollars, which ended up being the exact amount left on the total. I actually ended up giving back donations! Our cup ran over!

But again, the adoption was nothing like we expected. It was a newer agency, there were a few glitches, a few stressful moments, and since I bonded with this very young birth-mom over phone, messaging, and in person, I became tied up emotionally in the grief she was dealing with over such a weighty decision. I was a mess.

But then, the day came. The baby was born.

And it was a girl. My beautiful daughter, promised to me in a swimming pool years before.

God’s promises never fail. He is a God of Hope. Our ways may not be his ways. Our plans may look different than his. We may have to wait, a long, long time before answers are revealed. And there may be some suffering along the way, some  dredging up of the sin, some work on our fickle, untrusting hearts.

But as one of my characters in Counted with the Stars says “As long as we have breath in our bodies, there is always hope.”

Kids with Book _edited-1I am blessed beyond measure by my two miracle children. And blessed that Shelia had given me the chance to share my story of hope. I hope it encourages you in whatever situation you find yourself today.

Sheila also asked that I included a recipe to add to the theme of “Friendship, Hope and Fried Fruit Pies”. I must confess; I am not a very good cook. I am too impatient, I abhor measuring and dishes are the bane of my existence. But, since my first book Counted with the Stars takes place in Ancient Egypt I did some research and found an ancient recipe for candy! This recipe was apparently found on an ostraca (a broken piece of pottery used for writing) from 1600 B.C. My daughter and I made these together and they are very easy and really yummy!

date_candypic2ZxMP2Ancient Egyptian Date Candy

1 cup of chopped fresh dates
1 tsp of cinnamon
1/2tsp of cardamom
1/2cup of fresh ground walnuts
Small amount of warm honey
Dish full of fine ground almonds

Mix the dates with some water to paste
Mix in cinnamon and cardamom
Knead in the walnuts
Form balls, spread with honey and cover in the ground almonds.

About Connilyn Cossette:Conni032edit
When she is not homeschooling her two sweet kids (with a full pot of coffee at hand), Connilyn is scribbling notes on spare paper, mumbling about her imaginary friends, and reading obscure out-of-print history books. There is nothing she likes better than digging

into the rich ancient world of the Bible and uncovering buried gems of grace that point toward Jesus. Although a Pacific Northwest native, she now lives near Dallas, Texas.

Her debut novel Counted With the Stars will be releasing in April 2016 with

Bethany House Publishers. Connect with her at http://www.connilyncossette.com

Counted with the Stars – Back Cover Copy: Releases April 5, 2016CountedWiththeStars_mck.indd

Sold into slavery by her father and forsaken by the man she was supposed to marry, young Egyptian Kiya must serve a mistress who takes pleasure in her humiliation. When terrifying plagues strike Egypt, Kiya is in the middle of it all.

Choosing to flee with the Hebrews, Kiya finds herself reliant on a strange God and drawn to a man who despises her people. With everything she’s ever known swept away and now facing the trials of the desert, will she turn back toward Egypt or surrender her life and her future to Yahweh?

Counted with the Stars can be purchased at the attached links.






Yogurt Pie

Thanks to guest author, Alice V. Roberts, for dropping by my garden today to share her recipe for Yogurt Pie which goes great with any fruit.  I can just imagine enjoying this delicious summer dessert at the beautiful Hilltop Inn, the setting for Alice V. Robert’s new book, The Hilltop Inn: A Wedding.   It’s available in both paperback and Kindle at this  AMAZON.com link.


Yogurt Pie
1 container of Cool Whip- thawed
3 small containers of yogurt with fresh fruit in it
1 graham cracker crust
1 extra Cool Whip- thawed and stored in frig for serving

Mix yogurt, fruit and Cool Whip together and pour into the graham cracker crust.
Freeze over night. 20 minutes before serving remove from freezer and set on counter. Put  a sliced piece of yogurt pie on dessert plate. Top with a spoon of Cool Whip and fresh fruit the same as in the yogurt. Great summer recipe that is cool and refreshing.

The Hilltop Inn: A Wedding by Alice V. Roberts is available in both paperback and Kindle at

The Hilltop_Inn_A_Wedding_Nine months ago, Jackie Bowers, now widowed for almost three years, had moved from California to Ponderosa, a small town located in Northern Arizona. Jackie had purchased and moved into The Hilltop Inn, a bed and breakfast, satisfying a long time dream.

When her washer died she went to Soap Suds Laundromat where she met widower, Brian Williams, a contractor, when he came to pick up his grandmother, Gram.

Brian did all the renovations at the Inn. During the course of the renovations Jackie and Brian fell in love and are now engaged to be married.

An Open House and a Chamber mixer were held for the community to announce the Inn is ready for guests. The renovations are complete and the Inn is officially open for business.

Neither Brian nor Jackie ever thought they would fall in love again, especially since they were almost sixty years old. But they have had nine months getting to know, love and respect each other. And falling in love felt so right to them. Love can come at any age and be so fulfilling and Jackie and Brian area testament to that. And both of their families have come together and are excited about the up-coming wedding.

As guests come and go, Jackie and Brian must deal with serious family health issues, bad weather conditions and planning a wedding. Will their love and faith help Jackie and Brian to face and conquer these challenges?

Will it all come together? Will Jackie and Brian have the beautiful wedding of their dreams?

About Alice:
Alice V. Roberts was born and raised in Los Angeles, California around the entertainment industry living her entire growing-up years in Hancock Park. She attended Third Street Elementary School, Marymount Junior School for girls and Marymount High School for girls. She spent her weekends at the family ranch in Vista, California where she used to read books and dream about writing.
Alice has previously published two other books in a different genre. The Hilltop Inn, a Novella- is the first in a three book series. The Hilltop Inn was Alice’s debut into the Romance genre and she is excited for this new adventure.

She had a dream to write Romance and her father told her to follow that dream. And so she dedicated her first Novella to her late father which was published both in paperback and e-book format in October, 2014.

Alice’s husband died January 2, 2015, but he made her promise she would complete the three-book Novella series. Book two, The Hilltop Inn – A Wedding is dedicated to her late husband and was released in February, 2016, both in paperback and e-book format. Alice is currently writing short stories that will only be available on e-readers. The final book in the series, The Hilltop Inn -The Cottage will be available in September, 2016.

Alice is a member of The Arizona Author’s Association, Romance Writers of America and the Desert Rose Chapter for Romance Writer’s of America in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Alice lives near the “Red Rocks” of Sedona, Arizona with her Siamese cat. She has two daughters and six grandchildren (one boy and five girls).

To learn more about Alice V. Roberts, stop by her website  at https://alicevroberts.com/#thehilltopinn


You Don’t Need Luck

I hope you had a fun time celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day.  I believe Saint Patrick would agree with me.  You don’t need the “Luck of the Irish,” if you have Jesus.

If you were born in America or any Christian nation, you’re blessed. Psalms 33:12  “Blessed is the nation who’s God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage.

You can be blessed with every spiritual blessing. Ephesians 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”

You can be blessed as a co-heir with Jesus Christ: Romans 8:17: “Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his suffering in order that we may also share in his glory.”

 Ephesians 1:4-6: “(4) even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, (6) to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”

Regardless of your circumstances, you can be blessed, and be co-heir with Christ.  It’s as simple as the ABC’s we learned in first grade.

  • Admit you are a sinner. Romans 3:10 “None is righteous.”
  • Believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and that He died on the cross to pay your sin debt.   John 3:16 “For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
  • Confess and tell others about Jesus Christ and His love for you and them.                    Romans: 10:9 “Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

I pray that you will pray a simple prayer and invite Jesus into your heart.  Then you can forget about luck, because you won’t need it.  You’ll be blessed beyond measure.


And the Winner Is…

Congratulations to Kay Morrow who won the autographed copy of “My Mother’s Quilts: My_Mothers_QuiltDevotions of Love, Legacy, Family and Faith” by Ramona Pope Richards.  Keep watching because Ramona will be my guest soon, and my subscribers will have another opportunity to win a free copy.

This book will make the perfect Mother’s Day Gift.




My Mother’s Quilt

Last week. God blessed me with the opportunity to be the speaker at the Franklin First United Methodist Church Women of the Vine’s Quiet Meal.  As I looked over the sea of expectant faces, I wondered, What am I doing here? God reminded me that I’ve been commanded to tell others about Jesus. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you .And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

Why is it that I am willing to go to the other side of the world and share my testimony, and not travel three blocks from my home church and do the same thing?

A few weeks ago, a mentor asked me if I’d considered public speaking and I felt the same knot in my stomach as when God asked me to write a book. When God asks me to do something, my knee-jerk reaction is to say, “I can’t do it.” Because of my mentor’s question, I’d had time to think about public speaking. Therefore, when I received the request, I’d had time to work through my typical knee-jerk response and said, “Yes.”

The Quiet Meal is an annual event, and the women who attend are asked to refrain from speaking, to sacrifice the opportunity to enjoy conversation. We gathered in the sanctuary, lit by candlelight and listened to soft music and prayed silently. After a simple meal, eaten in silence, I spoke from Exodus 35:29

All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the Lord.

I love that the scripture above includes the word anything. There are so many times in my life when I feel inadequate, useless, and flawed. But this scripture reminds us that we have something to sacrifice to the Lord and perhaps my “anything” to sacrifice last week was my pride, or my willingness to risk appearing foolish, in an effort to grow His kingdom. I’m not a professional speaker, and I could easily come up with a dozen reasons to decline the request to be the guest speaker. But on this one occasion, I complied with God’s urging, and the women blessed me with encouragement.

God gives everyone gifts and offers us the opportunity to be a part of His plan. He doesn’t need us, but I’m so very grateful for his patience with me when I’m a reluctant servant. He blesses me far more than anything I could ever deserve.

The special blessing I received after the program, was delivered by a friend from my high school days. Years ago, my friend’s house burned and her family lost everything. It’s not unusual for citizens in my hometown to respond to such an incident by showering the homeowners with gifts, but my mother’s gift to her was unusual. It made my heart soften to listen to my friend describe a treasured quilt Mama delivered to her.  Others might buy something new, but Mama preferred to offer gifts that included a piece of her heart. My friend said she still cherishes the quilt.

My friend, like my Mom, has faced many storms, but I have rarely seen her without a smile. She stands firm in faith, lives her life with joy, and knows that, “…Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5 

I appreciate hearing this story about my mother and I am thankful for my friend who appreciates the effort and artistic ability a hand-stitched quilt requires, when others might prefer blankets purchased at retail store.

My_Mothers_QuiltIn honor of Mama’s gift, I want to offer a present to one of my readers. My Mothers Quilts: Devotions of Love, Legacy, Family and Faith written by my friend, Ramona Richards releases this week. I’ll draw a name from my subscribers on Monday morning, March 14, 2016 and announce it on Facebook. I’ll include the name of all my subscribers in the drawing. If you don’t win the book, you might want to considering purchasing it as a gift book for Mother’s Day. But I’ll warn you, you won’t want to give away your copy.  http://www.amazon.com/My-Mothers-Quilts-Devotions-Legacy-ebook/dp/B017AOK41I/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1457475017&sr=8-2&keywords=My+mothers+quilts+by+ramona+richards

The author, Ramona Richards, has promised to be a guest on my blog in a few weeks, so please subscribe. You won’t want to miss her post.



Alma Lee’s Recipe for Mississippi Mud Cake

A few weeks ago,  I posted of my search for a Mississippi Mud Cake recipe. A family member, who is battling an illness, reminisced  about his granny preparing this special dish.  My niece, Terra, claims that her Aunt Alma Lee makes the best Mississippi Mud Cake.Alma

In the south, we like to know family connections, so I’ll explain my family tie. Terra is my sister’s daughter.  Alma Lee is sister to Terra’s paternal grandmother, Lila. I’m sure many of my Scottsville, Kentucky friends have enjoyed Alma Lee’s special dessert.

This picture of Alma Lee was taken on her birthday.  The tulips on the table give this secret away, because Alma’s son always sends a bouquet of her favorite flower on her birthday.

I’m sending a cyber-hug to Alma Lee for sharing her recipe.

Aunt Alma Lee’s Recipe for Mississippi Mud CakeMississippi_Mud_cake

Cake Ingredients
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
4 eggs
1 ½ cup plain flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cocoa
3 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts
12 ounce bag of miniature marshmallows.

Frosting Ingredients
1 1/2 stick unsweetened butter
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 lb. Confectioner sugar
1 cup nuts

Cake Directions
Mix sugar, oil, eggs, flour, salt,cocoa, and vanilla together; add nuts. Pour into greased pan and cook for 30 minutes at 300°. When done, turn off oven; remove cake and cover top with miniature marshmallows. Return the cake to the warm oven while  you make the frosting.

Frosting Directions
Mix butter, cocoa, milk, and vanilla. Cook over low heat while you slowly add 1 pound Confectioner sugar. Mix well and add 1 cup nuts. Spread over cake while hot.


A story of hope from author Liz Johnson

LJohnson_002_smHere’s the thing about hope. It comes from a tragic past. There is no hope-filled story if one hasn’t first felt the crushing weight of betrayal or the sting of fear or the uncertainty of the future. If you know where every meal, roof, and article of clothing is coming from, there’s no need for hope. There’s no need to conquer or survive. There is only a pleasant life.

That would get boring pretty quickly.

Perhaps that’s why we writers always begin our stories in the midst of the struggle, so that’s where I’ll start this one. Sort of.

I was almost 25 and had just landed my dream job—working in publishing. After three years of less-than-dream jobs after college, I moved 1,100 miles away from my home and family in Arizona to work for a small Christian book publisher in Sisters, Oregon. I was thrilled to get to be surrounded by books every day and to work with some pretty amazing authors.

And that’s when everything started to crumble. It began with a phone call on a Friday night. My mom said, “Your sister hasn’t felt him kick in a few days.” My sister was 35-weeks along in her pregnancy with a little boy she and her husband desperately wanted to join their 2-year-old girl at home. And then the worst news of my life. “They can’t find a heartbeat.” Joshua was born and gone in a matter of hours.

I rushed back to Arizona in time to attend the funeral and catch my only glimpse of my nephew. Ten perfect fingers. Ten sweet toes. A full-head of black hair. He was perfect. There was only grief, only holding my sister and praying for some explanation. It didn’t come.

Two weeks after I returned to Oregon, my new employer announced that the company was being sold. I felt like the rug had just been pulled out from under me. I’d just moved my entire life for a job that was no longer guaranteed. Rumors burned like kindling, as we waited to hear who had bought us. And as the weeks dragged on, I became more and more certain that my job was gone. Everyone seemed to know who it was. And THEY already had an inspirational line. They’d have no need of the staff—especially not a young publicist with no publishing experience.

When I thought about my sister’s loss, the pain of losing a child she’d never gotten to know, I felt guilty for my own worries. But I was worried. I was about to be unemployed after spending most of my savings on the move and left in a town where I knew almost no one.

It was my sister who gave me permission to grieve the job I was sure was gone. “We’ve both lost a dream,” she said. And she was right. In a tiny way, my loss mirrored hers. And her words freed me to feel that pain. We cried a lot on the phone that summer. One day I called her on the way to the grocery store. By the time I got there, we were both sobbing so hard that I couldn’t go inside, so I sat in my car in the parking lot for an hour.

Things changed for me a lot faster than they did for my sister. Two months after learning we had been sold, I was offered a job with the new company. It meant taking a step back and making a move to Colorado Springs. I didn’t have a choice. There was nothing for me in Oregon but sad memories and the unemployment line.

I moved to Colorado exactly six months after I arrived in Oregon. Still the fear of the unknown hovered over this new adventure. I knew exactly nine people in my new city—none of them very well. But I had watched my sister that fall. She was so brave, putting one foot in front of the other, moving forward, finding her way. It wasn’t easy. Not for me to start over again. And not for my sister to begin reaching out to the broken-hearted. But her compassion was never more evident than in the year following Joshua’s death. When several of her friends shared that their husbands were leaving them, my sister responded with a tenderness that I hadn’t seen in her before. She’d never been cold or aloof. But somehow the reality of her own loss had given her a love for the hurting that was truly breathtaking.

I saw in action those words from the book of Romans. “We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Her character grew under her suffering, and it blossomed into a kindness that lifted up even those she didn’t know very well.

It’s been nine and a half years since Joshua died. I still call my sister on his birthday every year. It’s important that we don’t forget his life—no matter how short. We couldn’t anyway. Not when losing him has provided a hundred opportunities to encourage the hurting around us. A shared pain is a forged connection. And my sister has made those connections—carried others’ pain because she remembers the acute agony of loss. And she stands as a witness to not only survival but also the perseverance and character that bring hope.

My sister had two more kids after Joshua—another girl and another boy. They are joys.

As for me, I’m still in publishing. In Colorado Springs I met a friend, who prodded me to write and submit my first book. It was published in 2009. A few years later another Colorado friend told me about a job in Nashville working for my favorite author. I’ve been working for him for almost six years now. None of that would have happened if I hadn’t lost what I thought was my dream job.

The thing I’ve learned about hope is that it doesn’t dismiss the pain we feel or wipe out the grief. It just allows us to keep moving forward, to trust that God has a bigger plan and a wider purpose for our sorrow.

About Liz Johnson: By day Liz Johnson works as a marketing manager, and she makes time to write late at night. Liz is the author of nine novels—including her latest, The Red Door Inn (Prince Edward Island Dreams, book 1)—and a New York Times bestselling novella. She makes her home in Nashville, where she enjoys exploring local music, theater, and making frequent trips to Arizona to dote on her nieces and nephews. She writes stories of true love filled with heart, humor, and happily ever afters. Connect with her at www.LizJohnsonBooks.com or www.Facebook.com/LizJohnsonBooks.

Red Door Inn cover - FINALAbout The Red Door Inn: Marie Carrington is broke, desperate, and hoping to find sanctuary on Prince Edward Island while decorating a renovated bed-and-breakfast. Seth Sloane moved three thousand miles to help restore his uncle’s Victorian B and B–and to forget about the fiancée who broke his heart. He wasn’t expecting to have to babysit a woman with a taste for expensive antiques and a bewildering habit of jumping every time he brushes past her.

The only thing Marie and Seth agree on is that getting the Red Door Inn ready to open in just two months will take everything they’ve got—and they have to find a way to work together. In the process, they may find something infinitely sweeter than they ever imagined on this island of dreams.

Want a chance to win a copy of Liz Johnson’s book The Red Door Inn? Subscribe to my blog at the top of the page.  I’ll draw a name on Monday, Feb. 22, 2016 from my subscribers.