A Taste of Something Good.

We all have favorite treats, something special.

One of mine is a little bag of Pistachio Cherry Shortbread from a superb local bakery. The cookie bars are perfect with either a strong cup of brewed tea, preferably, Earl Grey, or coffee with raw sugar and half & half.

This is not diet food folks. It is an indulgence.

Currently I am using a special mug at my writing desk. When my husband returned from serving in Desert Storm, I surprised him with a weekend at an exquisite and expensive Bed and Breakfast. I wanted to give him a little luxury after seven months in a combat zone in Saudi Arabia. The coffee mug is a memento. We visited and lingered at the war memorial, walked all over downtown, and ate at ritzy restaurants he didn’t really care for. I think he needed more time to transition from one culture to another and from MRE’s to food with taste and texture.

My heart desired to give my soldier the best after sending monthly boxes with the most requested item for his tour of duty ~ baby wipes to get the sand out of everything, everywhere.

God offers the best, all the time, to everyone. He knows our intimate desires and immediate needs. He nourishes us physically and spiritually with His word. Health for the body and soul. And he isn’t stingy, He fills our cup to overflowing.

All we have to do is receive and ~
Taste and see that the Lord is good. Psalm 34:8
There is a perfect balance in God’s provisions.

I meant well those many years ago. I was trying to make up for losses my husband could never get back and I went a little overboard. He slept a lot that weekend. He just wanted to hold me close.

God knew what was better, the best. And it was freely given.

How simple and loving is that?


Sweden Send-Off for John, Our Fellow Writer

Sigh…saying good-bye isn’t an easy thing to do. It is even more difficult when you will soon be oceans apart and more than one language is involved.

In a few days my friend and fellow writer, John Clewett, is moving back to Sweden. This time he probably won’t be coming home to America for a long. long time.

We writers are strange people by our own declaration. So when you connect on many levels: friend, trusted critique groupie, Lake Tahoe respite cabin dweller, and great debater of religion, politics, and raw steaks, the loss of close geographical neighboring is intense.

A great continental divide will now physically separate us. We will have to rely on “Hangout” via the internet, via Google, via all electronics will work perfectly.

In this modern world of cell phones, computers, and video conference calling, what is lacking? Well, simply put, I prefer personal contact. Speaking face-to-face and seeing my friend’s reaction to a manuscript read, or dinner for four with our spouses at a nice restaurant sipping a glass of wine, and ~ talking, laughing, relaxing.

What a novel concept.

Interpersonal communication was once a college class I took involving trust games.¬† Now it is a fading lifestyle, a disappearing act at the end of a play that is shutting down before the run of a full season, due to a lack of interest. You can sit two people across from each other at a restaurant table and they don’t speak, they text on their cell phones, and check Facebook or Twitter. I’ve observed this increasing detachment with sadness over and over again.

John, you will be greatly missed. Your instinctive and in-depth critiques helps every member of our little group. Your research is impeccable and your integrity, remarkable. Your gift of friendship extends beyond the boundaries of the international date line.

Sweden~ though I do not know the language, I do know the heart because of you.

God’s blessings my friend. May He shelter you under the cover of His wings wherever you go. I’ll be “Hanging out” with you soon. You will be in my prayers and praises and not so far away as the miles add up, but close in the gift of a divine crossing of our paths.¬† Bloom where you’re being replanted and may you bear fruit one hundred fold.

mom&Jenny dancing1987My mother has Alzheimer’s.

She has eight daughters she doesn’t remember. I am the second born.

In a way, I have a mother, but I don’t. There are flickers of a second of recognition every now and then after almost fifteen years when we all first realized something was wrong. Subtle at first, which is one of the cruelties of this invasive and devastating disease, most families don’t catch onto the unraveling layers for years.

My mother’s eighty-seventh birthday is eleven days away. She doesn’t know who she is, where she is, what year it is, how old she is, or what country she is living in. All once very important facts to her. She was a list maker, organizer, perfectionist, and a hard working woman with a dedicated work ethic. She worked full time and raised seven of her eight daughters with our teacher father who died when they were turning fifty-four.

I miss the mother I knew when I was growing up, when I first married nearly forty years ago, when the grandchildren she so cherished were born, and when mile stone life events happen, like my daughter graduating from college this past December.

There is a hole in my heart that only God can fill with His grace when the loss seems unbearable.

I love the sound of my mother’s laughter, the jibber-jabber she speaks, now the only form of communication she can master, and I love that I can still kiss her, hug her, and tell her that I love her. I know these things even if she does not.

Last year we finally put our mother in a memory care home. Visiting her in a community facility is so different than seeing her in her own home. Something we were able to do for much, much longer than most families because my sister Shannon was mom’s care giver. That blessing took a physical and emotional toll on my sister. She has no regrets, only gratefulness.

Alzheimer’s steals vitality, personality, memory, and eventually mobility. It gives nothing and takes all. It can divide families, another causality most don’t see coming. Each family member deals differently with the onslaught and ravages of Alzheimer’s. Each heart is pierced and broken. Some can talk about it, others never share. But it is always there, ever-present, chipping¬† away a little more each day.

I find shelter in the shadow of my Savior’s wings. I pour my heart out to Him and he listens and stays as long as I need comfort. Could my mother speak to me, that is where she would tell me to go. She taught me, never knowing the blanks the future held for her, the most important truth. And I know she is not alone in her lullaby land. The God she loved still loves and values her. She has forgotten, but He remembers, cherishes, and calls her by name.

Mom on my chair and ottoman

To Brighten Your Day

I rang in the New Year sick in bed with the flu. Basically, I spent the entire first week of January of 2014, in my pajamas, tucked between burgundy flannel sheets, with a tissue box on my nightstand, and copious mugs of hot water with Manuka honey and a cinnamon stick for stirring. The flu bug brought friends ~ fever, chills, nausea, exhaustion, and eventually, dehydration.

The second week of the month, I sipped broth, and nibbled on crackers. I ventured out of bed for short periods of time to walk down the hallway, let the dogs out, and sit on the sofa in the living room to gaze out the picture window and watch other people riding bicycles, jogging, and taking down outside Christmas lights. My home was still fully decorated and I now had a jolting cough.

Editing my manuscript was not in the picture. Critiquing my group’s latest chapters was not going to happen either. I missed all the first writer meetings of the year.

In the stillness of illness, I did have hours and hours of prayer time. And somehow when I read by Bible, my eyes did not ache in the back of the sockets like when I tried to read books to review.

I was offline for a week and it seemed I had fallen off the planet earth. When I got back on the for the first time, I was way behind with all the news, comments, and had more messages than I could answer.

So I prayed for more people. Read more scripture, and prayed again, and again.
It was joy. Slowing down was refreshing for my soul. I prayed for the people that rode those bicycles, jogged, and cleaned their houses and yards. Some I knew personally, some were strangers.

My perspective changed. The way I spent my time changed too.

Today I am cough-free, clear-headed, down ten pounds I was struggling to lose, and starting to catch up with all the writing.

Here in California we are experiencing a terrible drought. Today it was 74 degrees on January 24th. I drove out of town to buy groceries, had a meeting with another writer, edited some of the last chapters of my second novel, and was treated to a prime rib dinner here in town. Back to life as usual. No, I am keeping my revived prayer-first life. The new year brought a shortage of water, but God offered me an abundance that is still overflowing to nourish and hydrate me. I am choosing the best, everyday, early in the morning and all day long.

There was a box on my doorstep two days ago. A surprise delivery from an old friend in Colorado. The envelope inside read, to brighten your day. I have been sharing this delightful and thoughtful assortment of my favorite teas, honey and treats with my family and friends.

What perfect timing.

What a loving act of sweetness.

2014 is now a week away from going into the month of February. I see more what I have learned and been blessed by, than time I lost. There is joy to share and lots of time to pray. Another gift sent in love to brighten my day.

Perfect timing.

Perfect gift.

Autumn Leaves of Gratefulness

As Thanksgiving draws near, the bounty of blessings poured out is spoken of with grateful hearts and joyful mouths.
Thanksgiving is my favorite celebration. It is the one holiday a year my family of seven sisters tries to gather and families together. Over the years our children have flown the nest and some live on the opposite coast. There are two soldiers that are stationed on the east and west coast also.
This year I am the hostess. For weeks my husband and I have been spring cleaning and preparing to serve. Joe ordered a 30 lb turkey. He likes leftovers.
We are a smaller group of fifteen this year. Everyone brings something to share. Traditionally we play board games, mix martinis in memory of my father ( I don’t drink them, but I do eat the olives), and put out a spread of about half a dozen homemade pies. There were years in the past that a dozen pies delighted all the brothers-in-law.
I look forward to filling our little home with laughter, nieces and nephews, college students, flashing cameras, and mother’s special sausage bread stuffing.
There have been mishaps. One year a brother-in-law ended up in the emergency room at a local hospital after he carved more than the turkey, (he recovered fine) some years the children outnumbered the adults, and my first Thanksgiving cooking, I didn’t shut the oven door tight and forgot to remove the bag of extra parts from inside the bird. That was an exciting year. My jello salad had molded cottage cheese but it was green Jell-o so who knew?
I was only eighteen. Thankfully, no one got ill because they really should have.

What are you most thankful for? Some of our best years were the ones you might have considered to be the worst. My mother has Alzheimers and won’t be with us, and my dad died a long time ago. My sisters and I are now the grandparents. I expect in the next few years a first great-grandchildren will arrive. What a year that will be!
May God’s bounty of blessings bring joy and laughter to the home you share with loved ones this Thanksgiving. Whether you are a small or large gathering, at home or eating in a restaurant, visiting your parent in a rest home, or volunteering to feed the hungry at your church or local food bank, I hope you get the chance to share beyond your inner circle of love.


Heroes Series #3

ScannedImage-3Today I thought about my dad and all his friends that served beside him in WWII. I have a few old black and white photographs of them, teenagers in crisp uniforms that shipped out into the great unknown on distant shores. The boys never came back – those that lived to return, came home men.

Everywhere I went today I saw veterans from the wars we honored our soldiers for fighting in and from the war we never did. I always ask a Viet Nam Vet if I can hug them or shake their hand. I have yet to be told, “No.” Usually they tear up. I tell them I am sorry for the loss of their brothers-in-arms that served with them. It is ten times more emotional for them than it is for me. A deep wound remains, a hurt that has yet to heal in their hearts. They are the aging warriors that we must never forget.

Last year I watched a WWII vet comfort a weeping VN vet. It was at our rural town’s Fallen Warriors celebration. The bond between the two strangers was one of the most intense, pure expressions of compassion I have ever seen. There were no words exchanged. One soldier wrapped his arms around another who had fallen to his knees. He wept with him until they stood together.

My freedom came at a great price to them and so many others. I have not had to fight for what I have, someone else did.

I pray for all our soldiers. At the same time, I pray that our children see and learn what the true difference is between the heroes on TV, in the movies, and molded out of plastic to be sold on the shelves of toy stores.

Days like today, Veteran’s Day, are important, lest we should forget. But tomorrow the same people we acknowledged for a few hours today, live with the same memories, losses, and forever altered lives because of their willingness to serve their country when called to duty.

Write to a soldier for a year, not just at the holidays. Visit a wounded warrior in the hospital in your community. Take your children with you to a rest home and ask if there are any vets that nobody visits anymore. I guarantee you they are there, alone. Heroes that have been forgotten. They will not all be as old as you think either. Pull up a chair and listen, pack a lunch to share, and your children will see that freedom isn’t free, but a hero is worth their time even though he or she may look quite different than the packaging on an electronic game, and may wear a prosthetic limb in stead of a cape.

<a href=”Harvest of Gold (Harvest #2)Harvest of Gold by Tessa Afshar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Harvest of Gold by Tessa Afshar was an answer to prayer for me.

This is the first book I have read by Tessa and it won’t be the last. The story is powerful and entering the world of these characters without having read the first book, Harvest of Rubies, I had no difficulties following the beautifully woven tale of Sarah and Darius. It is a stand alone book. Having done in-depth studies the Book of Nehemiah, one of my favorite books in the Bible, I was captivated by the way Afshar related the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem to the tearing down of walls of the hardened heart of a husband, and the rebuilding of a marriage.

The focus on Nehemiah, his perseverance, faith, life of prayer and fasting, service to a Persian king and to the Jewish people, reliance on God in the worst of circumstances, and sense of true justice, so convicted me in every area of my current personal walk.

After twenty-eight years in an unequally-yoked marriage this story stirred embers to flame again in my own heart to renew my prayers for my husband with fervency.

There is a thread of prayer woven throughout the book, an invisible spiritual refined gold that ties lives together. One man believes his God will help his repenting people do the impossible, and they do in fifty-two days. One women believes her prayers will outlive her time of earth for her son to know God. One wife prays that her husband will forgive her mistake, know God, and come to truly love her. One soldier finds his true self and strength in surrender to a God he can not see without faith, and cannot know without brokenness. One people unite under extreme hardship to rebuild, stone by stone, side by side, and prayer by prayer. And what about those who witness these changes?

A mystery surrounding a planned attempt to kill King Artaxerxes adds an intriguing twist and introduces new characters into play that bring the fictional part of the story to vibrant life. Lysander and Roxanna begin a story of their own that makes me wonder if there isn’t a future harvest ahead for them.

This is a timely book, well-researched and crafted for people of all faiths in the modern world.

If there is but a flicker burning in your heart for a story of true value that offers hope, then read the aptly titled ~ Harvest of Gold.

*The author sent me this book to read and give an honest review.*

View all my reviews” title=”Review ~ Harvest of Gold By Tessa Afshar”>Review ~ Harvest of Gold By Tessa Afshar