Monthly Archives: April 2016

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.

http://www.christianbook.com/mothers-quilts-devotions-legacy-family-faith/ramona-richards/9781617956126/pd/956126

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/my-mothers-quilts-ramona-richards/1123110542?ean=9781617956126

http://www.amazon.com/My-Mothers-Quilts-Devotions-Needlework/dp/1617956120/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1461593864&sr=8-1&keywords=my+mothers+quilts

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.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01DJJKRJM

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

Ingredients:
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

Procedure:
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.

http://www.amazon.com/Counted-Stars-Egypt-Connilyn-Cossette/dp/0764214373/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1459763266&sr=8-1&keywords=counted+with+the+stars

http://www.christianbook.com/1-counted-with-the-stars/connilyn-cossette/9780764214370/pd/214370?event=ESRCG

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/counted-with-the-stars-connilyn-cossette/1122232787?ean=9780764214370

http://www.lifeway.com/Product/counted-with-the-stars-P005784774