A Hard Row to Hoe

This summer has been unusual in that it’s rained almost every day in June and July. One afternoon in June, it poured 4 inches in less than an hour, which led to flash flooding and part of our road being swept away.  A new bridge is still under construction. As a result of the excessive rain, I’ve not been unable to weed the garden and I’ve lost the battle.  It reminded me of a time in my childhood when the weeds almost overtook our tobacco crop because of wet weather. Losing the cash crop to weeds was not an option. We called this task, “chopping out tobacco.”AdobeStock_99823358_WM

I remember those long, never-ending rows, filled with thick grass, almost choking the plants. Mama and Daddy both had full-time jobs, plus garden and farm work, so chopping out tobacco usually fell to me and my three siblings.  But on this occasion, the weeds were so fierce it took all of us. Daddy sang as he worked. If one of us got to the end of our row fist, we’d help the next person until everyone finished together and started a new row together.

Daddy would say, “Just keep your head down, don’t give up, and before you know it, you’ll be at the end of your hard row to hoe.” And he was right. There are seasons in life when we all have a “hard row to hoe.” I’ve learned that this is the best time pray. One favorite passage in the Bible comes from Paul, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9.

Lately, I feel as though I’ve had a hard row to hoe. I’ve suffered a minor health issue, signed a contract to write ten devotions with a deadline, had over three-hundred children registered in our summer reading program, and I’m planning a mission trip in a few weeks. With the latest coup in Istanbul, terror attacks in France and Germany, I’ve lost more than one night’s sleep. For a brief instant, I considered cancelling my trip to Africa, but as I prayed about whether to stay or go, a song from my childhood Bible School days played in my head, “Onward Christian Soldiers.” I whined to God. But I don’t want to be a soldier.

Then I remembered Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane. “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done. And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.” Luke 22:42-43. What if Jesus had said, “No” to what God asked of him? None of us would have hope. Surely I can live in difficult  conditions for a week. After all, He suffered and died on the cross to redeem me.

Please keep our missionary families, the national believers and my Africa team in your prayers. We will be travelling to a remote area, camping where temperatures might reach 120 degrees during the day with a low of 90 at night. We’ll be teaching a Bible School for children. These same children might someday be asked to join the terrorists. I believe the best weapon against terrorism is the love of Jesus. We’ll also be training national believers how to evangelize. I feel strongly that the window is closing and someday in the near future, we will not be able to travel to this remote area. But if we teach the national believers how to become fishers of men, then God’s kingdom will continue to grow without the American missionaries’ support. Africa_a Please pray that they will not grow weary. Pray for the missionary families in Niger and the national believers. They are the ones who truly have a hard row to hoe. The national believers are often persecuted, and rejected by their family and friends. Many of the Songhai who we will be seeking have never heard the name of Jesus. Thank God for the missionaries who have left family, friends and the comfort of an easy life to share the ‘Good News.’  Pray that they do not grow weary. We are simply going to support their efforts. I know in due season, God will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Thank you for your prayers and support. #africanmissions

Lila’s Blackberry Cobbler

blackberryBlackberries are in season on our farm and it’s been fun introducing my five-year old grandson to the adventure of berry picking. One of my earliest memories is following my mother with my three siblings into the thicket to pick blackberries.  I’m sure I never collected enough to cover the bottom of my bucket as I ate almost all of my pickings. Somehow, Mama would gather enough berries to make a cobbler and several jars of blackberry preserves.  If I close my eyes, I can remember the taste of her blackberry cobbler filled with gooey sweetness.

Lila3Sadly, I don’t have Mama’s recipes, but my son has always claimed that my sister’s mother-in-law Lila Ray Dodd makes the best blackberry cobbler. It’s his favorite dessert. Lila is a wonderful cook, and she’s generous and kind as she agreed to share her recipe for blackberry cobbler with me and gave me permission to share it with you.

But before you can make this delicious dessert I suggest you make a treasured memory. Grab your child, grandchild, or borrow someone’s little one, and introduce them to the adventure of blackberry picking. I used three cups of berries in my cobbler yesterday and I baked the dessert in a 12 x 6 oblong, clear, three quart glass baking dish.

blackberry_cobblerIngredients

3 cups blackberries
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 stick salted butter
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup milk

Directions

Rinse berries and add 1/3 cup sugar and stir until all berries are covered.
Place berries in the bottom of a clear baking dish and make sure they are spread evenly.
Slice butter into thin slices and cover the top of the berries with the butter.
Mix 1 cup self-rising flour, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup milk and stir until the batter is smooth.
Drizzle the batter over the top of the pats of butter/berries.
Gently shake the dish to evenly distribute the batter and berries.
Bake in oven at 350 degree for 45 minutes or until top is brown.
Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes and enjoy!

I like to add a scoop of vanilla ice cream on my cobbler.

The Hometown Bakery & Marketplace

I’m often asked from where my inspiration comes for my stories.  The simple answer is, my life. Dot’s Deluxe Diner (Known as the Triple D to the locals) is a favorite restaurant in the make-believe town of Weldon. I plan to add a new eating establishment in the third book of the series and it’s inspired by the new Hometown Bakery and Marketplace in Scottsville, Ky.  I first met the owner, Dana Moore when she catered the Downton Abbey Tea Party for the Friends of the Library.  Her blueberry scones with clotted cream were divine and her fruit tea will make you beg for the recipe.

I love stopping by the Hometown Bakery and Marketplace on my lunch break.  The tomato basil soup with a grilled smoked Gouda cheese sandwich is my favorite meal. It’s so good, I want to pick up the cup and drink every last drop. When I asked her about the recipe, she said, “I don’t have one.  I just throw in a little of this and a little of that, just like my grandmother taught me.”

Dana2Dana is a southern girl, born in Scottsville, but she has done something very  un-Southern. She’s shared a few of her recipes on her blog at https://southerngalscook.com/.  Visit her recipe box.  https://southerngalscook.com/recipes/.  I can’t wait to try her recipe for cold biscuit pudding, or her Granny Long’s coconut pie recipe. Her recipe for chicken and dumplings is award winning, and she’s had two recipes featured in Taste of Home Cookbooks. She also sells fresh produce. Last week she had crates of homegrown green beans, squash and tomatoes.

If you are in Scottsville, stop by the Hometown Bakery and enjoy a glass of sweet tea with Dana. You’ll be glad you did. Hometown_Bakery

You can also connect with the Hometown Bakery & Marketplace via Facebook. www.facebook.com/hometownbakerymarketplace/

Unexpected Friendships by Rose Allen McCauley

Have you ever had a friend whom you weren’t sure you would get along with when you first met, but you now are best friends? I have, in fact we sat side by side at a funeral service this afternoon and held hands during the prayers! Although we got off to a rocky start years ago, and have differing opinions on many things, we decided a long time ago to like each other and be there for each other regardless of our differences.

My novella “Hidden Dreams” in The Courageous Brides Collection shows the heroine Elinor Peck and her slave girl Shug as lifelong best friends, despite the differences society sees in them. They grew up together, playing on the floor of the cellar kitchen while Shug’s mom cooked and watched them both. Now Shug must walk behind Elinor when they walk in public, but Elinor plans to emancipate Shug when she marries and has a home of her own. Read “Hidden Dreams” to discover other courageous things Elinor does to help slaves on the Underground Railroad as they pass through Kentucky to try to reach the Promised Land.

Since Shelia always has great recipes on her site, I am sharing an old recipe that my daughters loved when they were younger, and I’m sure Shug and Elinor enjoyed as girls, too.

Old-Fashioned Molasses Cookies Recipe

1⁄2 cup butter, softened
,1⁄2 cup lard (or substitute additional butter or margarine), 11⁄2 cups sugar, plus extra for dipping, 
1⁄2 cup molasses,
2 eggs
, 4 cups flour
, 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 
1 teaspoon cloves,
11⁄2 teaspoons ginger, 
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and lard (or substitute) with sugar. Beat in molasses and eggs. In separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add to creamed sugar mixture and blend. Dough will be stiff. Shape dough into small balls. Dip into small bowl of sugar. Place sugar side up on greased cookie sheet and bake for 8 to 9 minutes. Cool and store. Makes about 4 dozen.

Courageous_Brides_CoverThe Courageous Brides Collection

Ride into adventures alongside nine determined women of yesteryear whose acts of compassion and bravery attract male attention. Marcy helps displaced Indians. Emmy tends wounds at Fort Snelling. Ronnie stows away on a cattle drive. Daisy disguises herself as a Pony Express rider. Elinor becomes an abolitionist. Mae tames wild horses. Hannah gets help for accident victims. Lucy’s curiosity unnerves criminals. Kate nurses soldiers on the battlefield. Will real dangers douse the sparks of love?

About RoseAllen McCauley
Rose has been writing for over a decade and has four books published. She is thrilled for this to be her second novella collection with Barbour. A retired schoolteacher who has been happily married to her college sweetheart for over forty years, they enjoy their growing family of three children and their spouses and five lovely, lively grandkids! She loves to hear from her readers. You can reach her through her website www.rosemccauley.com or twitter @RoseAMcCauley and Facebook http://on.fb.me/1LrXNoS

Books are available in bookstores and on Amazon in print and on Kindle  https://www.amazon.com/Courageous-Brides-Collection-Compassionate-Attracts/dp/1634097777/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1467631271&sr=8-1&keywords=the+courageous+brides+collection

#thecourageousbride, #rosemccauley, #storieswomenfriendships

My Story of Hope by Rebecca Waters

Rebecca“I hope my parents will let me go to the lake with my friends.”
“I hope I get an A in math.”
“I hope Tommy asks me out.”

My teenage definition of “hope” was mere desire without any assurance.

I’ve grown up. A lot. In fact, I think it fair to say that I only truly began to fully understand the true meaning of hope over these past two years. Let me explain.

My life changed on a beautiful, sunny, autumn day. A Wednesday. After lunch, my husband, Tom set out on his bicycle ride. He rode fifteen to twenty-two miles every day for exercise. That day he rode less than a mile. His front tire slid off of the pavement and threw him into a tree. Yes, he was wearing a helmet. In fact, when I arrived at the scene, I could only see scratches on his left arm from the tree. But he was having difficulty breathing. The paramedics rushed him to the hospital. I won’t go into all of the details here, only to say the internal bleeding was extensive. The loss of blood sent him into cardiac arrest.

Two hours. Exactly two hours from the moment I received the phone call until they told me there was nothing more they could do. They stopped CPR. They turned off the machines. They walked in silence around me as I held onto the lifeless body of my precious husband. They quietly cleaned up the area and dismantled the life saving equipment. It hadn’t worked anyway.

My daughters gathered around me. My mother cared for me. Family and friends brought food and comfort. We planned the service. How? I don’t know. For months I lived in a fog. A hope-filled fog.

I came to understand that hope isn’t wishful thinking. Hope is assurance. It is peace. Hope is confidence and trust. Confidence that I will indeed see Tom again and total trust in God. I trust He has my back. In fact I have substantial evidence God is looking out for me at every turn.

Our days are numbered. October 29, 2014 was the day Tom was to leave this earth. The day he was to meet Jesus face-to-face. How cool is that? When I look back at the months…no, when I look back at the years leading up to that date I can see God’s fingerprints all over our lives. The decisions we made, praying all the while for God’s will. The conversations we had and the connections with people even in that last week were all part of the plan. All part of the evidence that God is in control and knows what is going on and what is to come.

Oh, so you want examples? Here are a couple. We put our house on the market. Three months before Tom died he replaced the flooring in our bedroom. He asked me what I wanted.

“If I we were staying here,” I told him, “I would want laminate floors because of my asthma.”

“We’re not staying, so what color carpet do you want?” he asked.

The next week, while I was out of town visiting one of our daughters, Tom installed laminate floors. My oldest daughter asked him about it.

“Well, if for some reason your mother winds up staying here, I want her to be able to breathe,” he said.

Two days before Tom died he gave me the user names and passwords to all of our accounts. It was unusual. “You should have these anyway.”

I can offer you at least a dozen decisions we made the week Tom died that point to God leading us to that day in October. I can share at least a dozen experiences since that day that could only happen with God’s intervention.

I hold these as evidence that God loves us so deeply He prepares the way for us. If we listen. If we trust. If we hold steadfast in our hope. Hope is assurance. And in assurance I find peace and joy.

Yes, I miss my husband like crazy. But I live with this strange and powerful peace; a comfort. I am confident this is part of a plan bigger than me.

And I am not alone. I read about Job’s loss; his suffering. He has that assurance we call hope. I read Paul’s letters in the New Testament and see that same assurance that is beyond our human understanding.

I read God’s words in Hebrews 6: 19. Hope is my anchor.

Did my parents let me go to the lake with my friends? It was long ago. I can’t say.

Did I get an “A” in math? I don’t remember.

Did Tommy ask me out? Oh, yes. I met him when I was sixteen, started dating him when I was seventeen, and married him when I was eighteen. We were married for forty-three years. I now know it was part of the plan.

About Rebecca Waters

BOHO front coverRebecca Waters’ freelance work has resulted in two stories in the popular Chicken Soup for the Soul books, articles in Standard Publishing’s Lookout Magazine, The Christian Communicator, Church Libraries, and Home Health Aide Digest. Breathing on Her Own is Rebecca’s first novel. As a published author, she shares her writing journey in her weekly blog, A Novel Creation. To learn more about Rebecca or to read A Novel Creation, visit her website at http://www.WatersWords.com

To buy Rebecca Water’s Book, Breathing on Her Own, click on this link to snag the book.

Learn more! Visit my site & Read my blog

Let’s connect! Follow me on Twitter & Like me on Facebook

When you want to go on a mission trip so bad, you make up one.

janetprofileBy Janet Ferguson

In my first book, Leaving Oxford, I researched Honduras and Guatemala. A character was impacted by the death of his caretaker from that area of the world due to dengue fever. The disease is a mosquito-borne disease with no current cure or vaccine. When I started writing the novel four years ago, the Zika Virus was unknown to me and probably most of us. Vector-borne diseases were seemingly a thing of the past for the U.S. Now we have more of a reason to care about those diseases as they make their way northward.

From my research alone, I fell in love with the people. I interviewed many friends and relatives about their mission trip experiences. One thing was clear. Mission trips impacted those going on the mission probably as much as they impacted the people they were “ministering” to. Research has shown mission trips to be one of the highest rated events that affect the faith of young people.

That said, I wanted to go on my own trip to Honduras or Guatemala. Really badly. But the timing or finances didn’t seem to be right. Can you relate? So, I sent my characters in Book Two of the Southern Heart Series on a mission trip instead. I figured I could live vicariously through them. And I did, ha!

Guatamala.1Then something amazing happened. Our youth minister announced a trip for our teens to Poptun, Guatemala. I had a senior in high school who wanted to go, and they needed chaperones. But would my eighteen-year-old son want his mom to go? With a huge chunk of maturity, he told me before I even asked that he knew I would want to go, and it was okay!

The trip was amazing. The people we met were amazing and certainly ministered to us, as well. Yes,Janet_Guatamala I added a few tweaks to my novel, but much of the trip was as I’d imagined. I hope you get the opportunity to travel on a mission trip, but while you’re waiting, check out Going Up South.

What’s your mission trip experience? If you haven’t been, would you like to?

About Janet’s New Book. https://www.amazon.com/Going-South-Southern-Hearts-Book-ebook/dp/B01DOREISA

Going_Up_SouthNo one told him he had a son.

Actor Dylan Conner is furious. Not only has he been left out of his child’s life, the baby boy has been given another man’s last name. Determined to be a better father than the sorry guy who’d left him and his mother, Dylan fights to ensure a significant place in his son’s life. Unfortunately, his bad-boy reputation overshadows his good intentions. Only one woman in this small town sees beyond his Hollywood image. And he’s falling for her. Too bad she’s the custody mediator.

After her scandalous divorce in the small town of Oxford, Mississippi, attorney Cassie Brooks has no intentions of practicing law again. The humiliating experience left a bitter taste for love, marriage, and her profession.

Now friends need Cassie’s help in a custody negotiation, and her role demands she remain objective. She never expected to be drawn to Dylan Conner—the actor who everyone warns is bad news. Not only is the mediation at stake, but so is her heart.

You can connect with Janet Ferguson, by clicking on the links below.

 https://www.facebook.com/Janet.Ferguson.author
http://www.janetfergusonauthor.com/
https://www.pinterest.com/janetwferguson/
https://twitter.com/JanetwFerguson
 
Faith, Humor, Romance
 Southern Style
 

A Visit with Michelle Ule

MichelleA hope came true recently and I visited the lovely town of Fairhope, Alabama, set on the eastern banks of Mobile Bay.

I went to visit a friend and enjoyed our travels about town as she pointed out the beauty and pleasure of the small town life.

I’d loved the name ever since Kim first told me where she lived and when I wrote two novellas for The 12 Brides of Christmas and The 12 Brides of Summer, I “borrowed” her town’s name and gave it to a small frontier town in Nebraska circa 1874-1875.Twelve_brides

Fair and hope make such lovely words to describe a young town, don’t they?

The town’s name in the first novella, The Yuletide Bride, is ironic given the story takes place in the fall and winter of 1874. But another meaning of “fair” also works in this story because the love interest’s father gives her would-be suitor a fair deal when Ewan asks for Kate’s hand.

“Ewan, you’ve had a rough go of it, but you’re just a grasshopper of a boy. You’ve no land, no prospects, no money. All you’ve got is your fiddle and a willing heart. It’s not enough to court my daughter.”

But Mr. MacDougall knows the two are devoted to each other, so he softens his stance and gives Ewan just enough hope to be fair:

“I knew your family, good people. I’ve always been sorry for your loss. But unless you can earn seventy dollars by Kate’s Christmas birthday, I cannot agree to a match.”

$70 was a huge sum to earn in three months for a young man without a job, but Ewan applies himself. He also knows MacDougall is being more than fair since Kate has a wealthy suitor in banker Josiah.

When Kate learns of her father’s agreement, she learns to be a good “helpmeet” for the man she loves, all the while trying hard to be fair to Josiah.

Since bagpipes get involved, humor turns up as well.

You can learn how in The 12 Brides of Christmas.

The 12 Brides of Summer includes sequels to the Christmas stories, and in The Sunbonnet Bride, Fairhope once again is an ironic twist when a tornado runs through the neighborhood and upends local farms.

In this case, Kate’s brother Malcolm is a teamster—to whom Ewan gave hope of a future in The Yuletide Bride—with an eye on a seamstress hoping to build a business.

Sally’s dreams are dashed when the family farm is flattened, but through her father’s encouragement and that of Malcolm and Josiah, she learns that all is not lost even when it looks grim.

With two suitors vying for her attention, both with strengths and ways to encourage her hopes, life continues.

The Sunbonnet Bride explores how Sally tries to be fair to both as well as to her future hopes.

Both novella collections are stories full of inspiration, faith and hope for people in challenging circumstances and/or love.

It’s always a fair hope when people allow God to care for them, their lives and their circumstances.

Isn’t it?

MichelleMichelle Ule is the best-selling author of six books. She’s currently writing a biography, Mrs. Oswald Chambers, which is also full of fair and faithful hope. For fun stories of historical research and every day life, check out my blog:  http://www.michelleule.com/

To buy The 12 Brides of Summer Collection, click on the link below.

https://www.amazon.com//1634090292/ref=nav_timeline_asin?ie=UTF8&psc=1

51XzxR4sFOL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_12_brides_christmas_

Finding Hope in the Darkest Pit

IMG_8591-By Karen Pashley

I’ve always considered myself to be a woman of deep faith. A woman who loved God and would trust Him no matter what twists or turns I might encounter on my journey.

Then, seven years ago, my life took a major detour when I was diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease.

A somewhat rare condition, Meniere’s is a progressive, degenerative condition with no known cause or cure that causes hearing loss, ringing in the ear, and sudden attacks of violent vertigo. The vertigo hits with no warning. The intensity of an attack is difficult to articulate and unlike what most people associate with the word vertigo. Suffice it to say, it is torture.

The room spins, my eyes twitch back and forth (a condition called nystagmus), I am pinned to one position, often on all fours on the floor. Movement of any sort is impossible, and I must keep still, not even able to move my lips or hands less the spinning increases. Severe vomiting accompanied by flushing heat and alternating shivering lasts several hours until I am too weak to hold my own head up. Any light or sound in the room only magnifies the symptoms. Mercifully, the attack ends in extreme exhaustion, and I fall into deep (though still very dizzy and unable to move) sleep for four to six hours.

Over the years, despite my best efforts to control the condition with medication, diet and lifestyle changes, the attacks became increasingly more severe, more frequent, and my overall wellbeing between the attacks was declining.

I’ve followed the Lord for many decades, and I’ve come to know Him as a compassionate, loving God, who has the power and desire to heal us physically, emotionally, mentally, and in our relationships—God is a faithful healer, the Great Physician.

So why then, in all my crying out and all my suffering, was my Healer not healing me? Why would He sit by and allow this condition to rob me of so much? I was in the prime of life—I took excellent care of myself. I had goals and dreams, a family to care for, and a half-finished manuscript for a novel waiting to be completed. My desperate cries during an attack bordered on panic. “God, help me,” I would whisper in the darkness.

Oddly, it was during one of the most severe attacks that I experienced the peace that passes all understanding, and somehow, in the midst of my suffering, my hope was renewed.

As tears ran down my cheeks, I thought, “God, I’m all alone in this dark pit. Why won’t you rescue me?”

I sensed Jesus saying, “I know your pain. I’ve experienced torture, and I understand your terror. I’m here in this dark pit with you, and I won’t leave you. Take my hand and we will walk through this pit together.”

Okay, so the God of the universe, who had the ability to heal me in a nanosecond was saying, “let’s walk this difficult walk together”. I could have questioned that offer. I could have argued my point—that His own Word said He was my healer, and I wanted healing—I deserved healing!

But something inside me chose to yield my desperate need for physical relief and to trust that the One who created me, and knew me, had a reason and a plan for me that was good.

In short, I chose hope.

What I learned that day, and the many days that followed, is that hope is not a bet we place. It is not our wishes and dreams pinned to a desired outcome.

Hope is in the person—Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith. Hope cannot fail us, because Christ in us Is the Hope of Glory.

I continued on with the journey, experiencing ups and downs in my illness, and in my personal life, all the while knowing that Hope would not let me down. Last summer, I had a procedure done that has halted the progression of the illness for the time being. The reprieve allowed me to finish and publish my novel, which not coincidentally, is a story of God’s merciful love, unfailing grace, and the hope we have when we trust Him through our darkest days.

I know now that my journey through the pit has equipped me to share hope with others through my books, blog and speaking to women around the country. I thank the Lord every day for continuing to hold my hand through the storms of life.

Hope is our greatest resource, and in Him we have all we need to thrive.IMG_8591-

About Karen Pashley:

Karen Pashley writes and speaks with wit and candor about relevant, often gut-wrenching topics that resonate with women of all ages. PreciousinHisSight_CVR2Her new novel Precious in His Sight is hailed as “a story of betrayal, heartbreak, and reconciliation with unrelenting themes of grace, forgiveness, and Christian duty” by Publishers Weekly. A mother to four amazing young women, and grandmother to one perfect toddler, Karen lives with her husband and youngest daughter in Nashville, Tennessee, where they enjoy the rich culture, glorious landscapes, and the occasional celebrity sighting. Read more at  http://www.karenpashley.com/fiction/

Order Karen’s inspiring novel HERE

Like Karen on Facebook HERE

Follow Karen on Twitter HERE

 

 

A Week in North Carolina

1980-01-01 00.00.43-2This week, I’m attending the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.  On my way here, I passed signs advertising the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina and decided to tour the estate before checking in at the Ridgecrest Conference Center. It’s my understanding that some of the Vanderbilt family still live on the estate. What an amazing inheritance? The Biltmore mansion was designed to impress. 1980-01-01 00.00.27My jaw dropped when I stepped into the massive entrance hall. The luxurious family rooms caused me to sigh, and dream about what it must be like to live in such surroundings. Enormous bouquets of fresh flowers sat on tables in every room, and music drifted through the hallways as a pianist serenaded the visitors.1980-01-01 00.00.58 The opulence overwhelms the senses, but nothing within the walls of the home compares to the beauty of the gardens and the mountains surrounding the estate. God is the ultimate artist.

When I think of the responsibility of having so much wealth, it makes me shudder. “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” Luke 12:48 NKJV

Visiting Biltmore made me consider all that God has given me. I am blessed with a comfortable home, children, and health. I’m here to learn about the craft of writing, and I’d love to sign a book contract this week, but my first priority is to seek opportunities to encourage other writers.  Believe me, everyone who writes gets discouraged, and needs encouragement.

I may not have the millions the Vanderbilts inherited, but I have a better inheritance, because of Jesus Christ. There are many writers here with more talent than I could ever hope to possess. I still wonder why God gives me the opportunities to travel to such wonderful places. Maybe He brought me here to lift up his gifted writers. My question for you is, ‘What does God want you to do this week?’ I pray you are open to his calling.

#brmcwc

Running the Race Set before Us

by Ann H. Gabhart

My current release is a cozy mystery, Murder Comes by Mail. 9780800727055_p0_v2_s192x300Many times you can tell if a mystery book is considered a “cozy” by whether a cat or dog is included in the cover art. Cats made it onto the covers of my Hidden Springs Mysteries, but my main character has a dog. Generally, when one of my characters has a pet, it is a dog like Michael’s Jasper in the Hidden Springs mysteries or Asher in The Innocent. You see, I’m okay with cats, but I’m really a dog person. I love dogs. Here’s a picture of Oscar, my current dog buddy.Oscar at the creekb

In my Heart of Hollyhill books, the main viewpoint character is a thirteen-year-old girl. In the opening scene you find out she wants a dog so much that she has what she calls her dog prayer. “Lord, please send me a dog.” How Jocie feels in that scene was taken straight from my own life. I don’t remember praying for a dog, but when I was around nine or ten, I did want one so much that it hurt.

I begged and begged for a dog until a friend of the family brought me a pup. I was so excited and grateful I named the dog after him. Only later did I realize that might have been a dubious honor for him. Ollie was my first walking dog, always ready to explore the woods with me as I discovered the wonders of nature. Since then, other dogs have come and gone but they’ve always been walking companion dogs.

One, a cocker spaniel named Jody, started following after me when his puppy legs were so short he sometimes needed to hitch a ride on my arm back to the house. He grew older and stronger until he was running circles around me as he scouted out the smells in the fields and hunted terrapins, the only “wild” animals he could catch. I always wondered how long it took the poor terrapin to walk home when Jody got tired of carrying it around or if the poor thing just decided to settle in a new home wherever it was dropped. Jody was a great walking dog. Always ready to go for a run, yipping with eagerness when we headed toward the fields and woods. He’d run out a ways and then hurry back to see what was taking me so long.

But dogs get old faster than their humans. One day when we went out walking, Jody was the one lagging behind and I was the one waiting for him to catch up. He started taking shortcuts across the field to meet me on down the trail. The terrapins no longer had to fear being relocated. And then the day came when we started out and Jody sat down in the path and stared at me with mournful eyes, no longer able to even pretend to keep up. His spirit was still eager, but his body was failing him.

The same thing happens to all of us as we age. We walk and run our circles in life until we can no longer move the way we wish. While we are able, we need to run the good race the Lord has set out before us, because one day we’ll be sitting on that path, our bodies old and frail, looking ahead at the Lord waiting for us on the path ahead. And then He’ll beckon us home, maybe carrying us on His arm, with the promise of eternal energy and new trails to walk.

But until then, I hope to use the gift He’s given me to shape words into stories about characters who live and love and hope. I like writing for the inspirational market where I can include the faith journey of my characters, even when the stories are cozy mysteries with cats on the cover.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. …Hebrews12:1 (NKJ)

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Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling author of many novels, including Angel Sister, Small Town Girl, and Love Comes Home, the 2015 Selah Book of Year winner. She’s also known for her Shaker novels and Heart of Hollyhill books. Now, as A.H. Gabhart, she is writing the Hidden Springs Mysteries set in a small town much like the Kentucky town where she grew up. Ann and her husband have three children and nine grandchildren and still enjoy country life on a farm near that small town. To find out more about Ann’s books or to follow her blog, visit www.annhgabhart.com.