Thursday, March 29, 2018

Spring Break!

As my family busily celebrates Holy Week and Resurrection Day, I'm going to be taking a couple days off blogging. That will only affect today and Monday, and you'll see me back here on Wednesday with a Remember When.

I hope you all enjoy your Resurrection Day activities with your families and churches! I'd love to hear about how you celebrate, if you haven't shared yet on one of my other posts this week.

A Stray Drop of Blood will be on sale in my shop starting tomorrow. This book takes place around the death and resurrection of Jesus. You can snag your SIGNED copy HERE.

Don't forget to submit your entries for the Hair Contest by Saturday night! You can find more information HERE.


I am also super excited to let you know that there has been an addition to the prizes for the hair contest!!!! A $20 credit to Lilla Rose! A HUGE "Thank You!" to Myra for the donation! You can see a few of their products pictured below...Pretty appropriate for the contest I think! You can follow Myra's Newsletter HERE. And join her group on Facebook HERE.

And don't forget about the rest of the amazing prizes!!!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Remember When . . . Jesus Celebrated the Passover?

Tomorrow is the day many churches celebrate as Maundy Thursday--the Passover Thursday, the day Jesus shared the Last Supper with His disciples. Does your church celebrate this day with a meal?

Growing up in a United Methodist Church, we would have a Maundy Thursday dinner. It went something like this: ladies who signed up to help would bring a pot of beef stew. They were all mixed together into one giant pot, which made a rather tasty concoction. Plates of fruit and cheese were set out. Someone made unleavened bread. The pastor read through the Last Supper portion of one of the Gospels. There was optional foot-washing. The end.

After college, friends of ours had their pastor, who was a Messianic Jew, lead our Bible study through a Messianic Passover Seder. And it was quite simply, amazing. The actual seder meal, with the actual Jewish traditions included, shed so much light on that portion of the Gospels! Suddenly everything Jesus said took on new, fuller meaning. His promises and claims are at specific points in the meal where He demonstrates that He is fulfilling the Jewish law, the promises of the Prophets. If you've never participated in one of these, I can't recommend it enough!

When Rowyn was a baby, we decided to do one at our church. I just found a free service guide online and printed it out, and we bumbled our way through. It was great, if not so great as the one led by someone who knew what he was doing.  But we decided to do it again in 2012 and have made it an annual event. 

Learn about why some people put an orange on their seder plate, and other modern additions.   Six Parts of the Seder Plate  Beitzah: The Roasted Egg is symbolic of the festival sacrifice made
Two years ago, my church decided to invest in actual Passover Haggadah booklets--these are little pamphlet style books for each person to have beside their plate. They have all the responsive readings and explain what each element of the Seder plate is for. Designed for English-speaking Christians, these little books have been a very welcome addition to our meal and are much easier to follow than the print-outs I'd found before. (We found them here.)

For our church, this meal has become a critical part of Holy Week. It's when we focus on the history and how our Lord played into it. It's when we remember the roots that He came from. It's when we partake of a meal like He did with His followers.

Funny story. Two years ago, my mom was sick and couldn't come to the meal. But my husband rigged some cameras in our fellowship hall and broadcast the event, and she watched from home. Now, there's a portion of the meal where one of the kids is to get up and open the door, symbolically welcoming Elijah. When we got to this part, my mom's door blew open. She thought it was pretty cool and texted us and commented on the website to tell us. But when she really got goosebumps was later in the service, when someone closes the door--and her door blew shut again all on its own. Just one of those little things that made her fully aware that she was part of us, even if too sick that day to join us physically. 

This year, I'll be again in charge of the Seder plate. I'll be roasting eggs, making the apple clay (a mixture of raw apples, almonds, grape juice, and cinnamon I toss into the blender), baking unleavened bread, getting out the lamb bones I have in the freezer to roast, arranging bitter greens, spooning out horseradish, and mixing up salt water. All to make real to our church, as it's made real to the Jewish people every year during Passover, how God delivered His people from slavery in Egypt all those years ago...and how Christ delivered us from slavery to sin on the cross.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Word of the Week - Easter

I've done this Word of the Week before, but it was six years ago, so I figured a revisit wouldn't be begrudged by anyone. ;-)

When Anglo-Saxon Christians first started celebrating the Mass of Christ's Resurrection, they gave it the name Easter, after Eastre, the goddess of fertility and spring, whose holiday was likely the vernal equinox. Have you ever looked up Eastre? She was a magician-goddess, and one of her tricks was to turn a chicken into a rabbit...but it still laid eggs. This, friends, is where we get the Easter Bunny bringing eggs for our baskets. Not exactly something that has to do with why we're celebrating the day as Christians...

Now, all neighboring languages use a word derived from Latin pasche, or passover, for the holiday. (Which makes a whole lot more sense. I really wish English did this too!)

Easter eggs are attested from 1824 (though let it be noted that eggs are part of the Passover feast too, so there's legitimate reason to include them in Resurrection celebrations). The Easter Bunny is from 1909. And as a matter of fact, Easter Island is so named because the discoverer did so on Easter Monday.

The voice of the empty tomb - Rev. Alan Rudnick
The Empty Tomb - Pinterest
Although Christianity has a long history of "taking over" pagan holidays and traditions and using them to get new converts to observe Christianity instead, I have to say I don't like the English word. I'd never paused to consider it until my piano teacher back in the day refused to use the word "Easter" and instead called it "Resurrection Day." (Of which I fully approve!) She would even re-title songs for our recitals when necessary. One year I was playing "Easter Song" on the organ, and it became "Resurrection Song."

This is something I try to do in my speech, though I do frequently slip and old habits take over. But I've at least trained my kids to correct me. 😉 So around here, we'll be celebrating Resurrection Day this Sunday--with a sunrise service, a breakfast at church, and then visiting a local nursing home before the family gathers for a scavenger hunt and dinner.

How do you celebrate the resurrection of our Lord?

Friday, March 23, 2018

Fridays from the Archives - Sacrifices and Blessings

A week or so ago, the Memories section on Facebook brought up this post. I don't often read my own blog posts when they come up like this, but I clicked on this one, and I'm glad I did. Those thoughts that struck me then still resonate today.

Last week we wrapped up the Bible study we'd been doing on Sacred Parenting--and the last session was on how parenting is all about sacrificial love, which teaches us what it is. A crucial step in the Christian faith, which is built on sacrifice. It was a great study, and in our discussion afterwards, we touched on a lot of great aspects of the subject.

But what really struck me the most is the idea that our idea of sacrifice changes over time. The author of the book used the example of seeing a tired dad walking through the mall with his small daughter, who said, "Will you carry me, Daddy? My legs are tired." He could tell the dad was tired too, but sighed and picked up his little girl. Gary (the author) found himself longing for those days--his youngest was 12. That time of his life was over, and though it was exhausting at the time, he missed it.

How true is that, so often?

Spring Decorating by The Wood Grain Cottage
It made me think of when my babies were still babies. Rowyn especially would wake up every night. I'm talking, for four years. Every night, at some point or another, he would cry. Every night, I would have to tromp, exhausted, down those stairs to his room. I'd scoop him up. I'd ease down into the old, creaking rocking chair. He'd cuddle in. I'd close my eyes.

There were nights I was so tired that I fell asleep sitting up in that old wooden rocker (not the soft, plush kind with cushions, mind you--the wooden kind). There were nights when I cried along with him because I just needed sleep, and he wouldn't grant me that. There were nights when I seriously wondered if this kid would ever sleep through the night.

But now I think back on how many times God met me there in the hushed bedroom of my little boy, in the soft shadows of night. I remember how many times I crawled up into the lap of God, just as Rowyn crawled up into mine. I remember how many times I held him, praying him back to sleep...and then, after I saw his eyelids were firmly closed, I held him just a little longer--because I wasn't ready yet to put him back down, even though that was what my goal had been.

And I realize that those things that were a sacrifice--of our time, our energy, our very sanity--became a blessing. It wasn't that a blessing came from them, though certainly, that happens sometimes. But it's the thing itself, that action, that act of sacrificing, that we miss when the season has passed by. We miss the time spent giving to another. We miss the act of giving of ourselves.

It doesn't stop the next sacrifice from hurting. It's supposed to hurt, to cost us something. That's why it's a sacrifice. It grows us, it stretches us, it makes us ache with it. But it's necessary. Because without sacrifice, what is our faith? If we don't give to others, why did Jesus give up everything for us?

There are times when I really, really don't feel up to fulfilling that obligation I agreed to. There are times when I really, really don't want to pause my work to make another cheese sandwich. There are times when I really, really don't think I have the strength to give up one more thing.

There are times when I don't want to sing to the Lord. When I don't want to worship. When I don't want to praise. Because it hurts

That's when we bring the sacrifice of praise. Of money. Of time. Of energy.

And God meets us there. He takes our sacrifices, and He returns them to us filled up with love. So that, looking back, we realize that our obligation became the thing we looked forward to. That we love cooking for our families. That we had just as much without that money as we would have had with it. That through praising God, the empty places inside were filled up.

The sacrifices didn't just yield blessings. They are blessings.

What are you sacrificing today? For me, it's time. And I'm going to stop right now and praise Him for asking it of me. Knowing that the sacrifice is sweet.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Remember When . . . Tea Was a Brick

This is actually a re-post of a fun blog I did in 2011, near when Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland released. Given that I'm still celebrating the re-release of the story as A Heart's Revolution, I thought it would be fun to share this again!

Back in 2011, a friend of mine from Colonial Quills made mention of "brick tea." Now, I had no idea what in the world she was talking about. Until this arrived in the mail:

The moment I withdrew this brick from its bag, the scent of tea wafted up to me. My daughter, who runs to the kitchen the moment she senses a package being opened, rushed out just then, saw the brown-paper-wrapped block, and said, "What's that?" My answer was to hold it out and say, "Smell."

You should have seen her eyes light up with delight and disbelief as she squealed, "Tea?!"

Tea has been a staple of many societies for centuries. But loose leaf tea is hard to transport, so back in the days of the silk road in Asia, the Chinese discovered that if they use forms to press the tea into standard sized bricks, they can transport them with ease, and the tea lasts through the journey.

This became such a standard that tea bricks could be used as currency, and this was the way most tea was transported for hundreds of years, all the way into the 19th century. So the tea tossed into Boston Harbor during the Boston Tea Party? That was bricks.

Naturally, when something is used so long, for so many purposes, there comes to be a rhyme and reason to each part of it.

I don't know if you can read the label on this, but if you do, you'll find its "translation"--what each part of it means.

The front of this particular brick has details that let buyers know that this tea comes from a company managed by more than one person, and is manufactured by Enterprise Company Tea and the Chinese Lee family.

The back of the brick is separated into squares that can be used as currency. One square, for instance, might equal the price of a chicken

In addition to being brewed, the tea traditionally pressed into bricks can also be eaten. I don't intend to try that, gotta say. 😉
Grand Pu'erh tea Brick 250g Ripe Shu Menghai tea

I thought at the time that I'd be eager to try some of this tea . . . but in actuality, I couldn't bring myself to break it apart! Instead, it still sits wrapped up, on display on my hutch. Perhaps if I ever buy another, I'll actually use one of them. But for now, this lovely brick of tea remains a pretty, fragrant reminder of my friend, of history, and of when my first Colonial story first released.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Word of the Week - Sabbath and Saturday

Today's Word of the Week is actually just inspired by's trending word list, LOL. Which is funny, because those who know me well know that my church has actually opted to keep Saturday as the Sabbath rather than Sunday, so you might think I have an agenda with this word...but in fact, it just has an interesting history!

Our word for sabbath does come directly from the Hebrew shabbath (that 'th' is pronounced like a 't'), which is from the verb shabath, literally meaning "he rested." In English it was spelled sabbat until the 16th century. Interesting to note that it didn't just mean "a day of rest" but specifically "Saturday as a day of rest" until the 15th century. Up until then, though the Christian Church had adopted Sunday as their official day of worship long before, they never called it the Sabbath, only the Lord's Day.

But the part that I actually found interesting here is that the very word for Saturday in many languages comes from sabbath--pretty much all Latin or Greek derived languages, including Spanish, Italian, French, German, Romanian, Hungarian, and many more.

English's Saturday is of course from Saturn--and was preserved in English and other Norse languages largely because they had no god that would compete with the Roman Saturn, so they felt no objection to it when the Romans brought that name for the day of the week to their regions, LOL. But as Christianity spread in other regions, it was changed in the languages mentioned above away from the name of a Roman god and to something in keeping with biblical principles.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Book Launch & Giveaways ~ A Heart's Revolution

It is SUCH an exciting day! And I will tell you why...Aren't you glad???
TODAY marks the OFFICIAL launch of A Heart's Revolution (previously published as Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland)! YAY! To celebrate I have some fun in store for you. But first...A little about the book:
In 1783 peace has been declared, but war still rages in the heart of Lark Benton.
Never did Lark think she’d want to escape Emerson Fielding, the man she’s loved all her life. But when he betrays her, she flees Williamsburg for Annapolis, taking refuge in the nation’s temporary capital. There Lark throws herself into a new circle of friends who force her to examine all she believes.
Emerson follows, determined to reclaim his betrothed. Surprised when she refuses to return with him, he realizes that in this new nation he has come to call his own, duty is no longer enough. He must learn to open his heart and soul to something greater—before he loses all he should have been fighting to hold.
My Shop (with Personal Autograph)

Contest & Giveaway

It's no secret that the French have long been a leading voice in the fashion circles. And in Revolutionary America, the influence of Marie Antoinette and the French court found its way across the Atlantic. Throughout A Heart's Revolution, you will find references to the fashion of the era. "Mamma gave a nod that made the tower of her hair teeter." "...a lovely striped dress in the Louis XVI style." I thought it would be fun to incorporate this into today's launch...

You don't need to be a professional hairstylist to have fun with the hair fashion of the era. Have you seen how tall they got their hair back then? Granted, wigs were used in addition to real hair, but WOW!

There are multiple ways to enter this contest! The GRAND PRIZE winner will receive an awesome prize pack filled with goodies!

US Only
The PRIZE for this contest is only eligible to win by US residents, HOWEVER, my International Readers are more than welcome to participate, and enter the GIVEAWAY at the end of this post!

For more information (including tips and ideas) please visit the Contest Page.

One Winner will be selected from the entries submitted. Winner will receive the following:
  • A print copy of A Heart's Revolution (Signed)
  • "Keep Calm and Read" mug
  • Sipping Cocoa from Askinosie Chocolate
  • Necklace with A Heart's Revolution quote: "I can not think it Reckless to do the right thing."

International Only!

I am so blessed by my international readers! Since most of the blog's giveaways are strictly for the US Only, I am opening a special giveaway JUST for my readers who are located outside the US. Please enter the giveaway via the Rafflecopter form below!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Book Cover Design ~ A Heart's Revolution

Tomorrow is a special day. Tomorrow is the day when I do my very first re-release of one of my novels, with a brand new cover and title.

Tomorrow is the day when Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland officially goes back into the world as A Heart's Revolution.

When Guideposts returned the rights to me, they only had two stipulations--I had to change the title, and I had to change the cover. Well, for a cover designer, that's kinda like saying, "You have to have fun and play around with cool images."

Shucks. 😄

Of course, I wanted the title nailed down before I started playing with a design, so I came up with a handful of options and ran them by my best friend/critique partner, Stephanie, and my assistant, Rachel. The one we all loved was A Heart's Revolution. This title perfectly captured the theme of the book--my heroine, Lark, taking a stand for her own destiny--and also hits a sweet spot in the romance genre, what with "heart." (I used to avoid Love and Heart in my titles like the plague, but I've given up, LOL. Here we have A Heart's Revolution, and the first book in my next series will be The Number of Love.)

So, that established, I turned to the design.

In Shutterstock, I keep a collection called "Historical," in which I'll save every single photo I come across in all my searches that have solid historical costuming. In it are possible biblical or Roman styles, medieval, colonial, Victorian, Edwardian, 1920s, name it. If I think it might come in handy someday, I add it to the collection. So I already had several options saved, and I did a few new searches too.

Honestly, I had a hard time choosing between some of these! I tried out several before I decided to start from this one.

I like the movement we can see in this--the fact that she's holding her dress up a bit and not just standing straight, and the dress itself looked accurate and not costume-y.

So I selected the model from her background and made her fill part of my canvas.

In this version, I just deleted the head, which I knew wouldn't be the one I used. Lark wouldn't have worn a boat in her hair like Marie Antoinette, LOL, and this lady, though lovely, doesn't look like my heroine. But I also wasn't sure I wanted to keep the dress exactly how it was. I wanted a little more color. So decided to make it blue.

I thought that would add some richness to the cover. So next I turned to the head. After searching for a while, I came across this model...

She fit my idea of Lark, so I searched through all the images of her and just fell in love with the sweet expression on her face in this one.

I put this head on my previous body and was relieved to find that worked well together, LOL. It's still just roughed in here, but you get the idea.

But the hair wasn't right. I needed more accurate to the times hair, so I decided to work from this one.

Of course, this model is blond, and I needed dark hair, but after some adjusting, I ended up with this.

Content with that much of Lark for the moment, I turned my attention to backgrounds. And oh my gracious, this was giving me a hard time! I couldn't decide what I wanted behind her. I kinda liked the idea of keeping the Annapolis State House there, but the photos I was finding just didn't seem right. For starters, the story takes place during the worst winter in the history of the east coast (up to that point, anyway), and I couldn't find anything snowy.

So first I tried some regular ol' snowy scenes.

But none of these were "it." What that lowest one (actually a street in Paris) showed me, though, was that I loved a street behind her. It provided a good perspective. So after fiddling with a few more street options, I eventually decided to go with an actual Annapolis street, and worry with the snow aspect later.

I loved this perspective! I knew I was on the right track at this point, so then it was just a matter of getting the lighting right, and the snow.

I knew I could fuss with this forever, but I really didn't want to. So instead I looked up Snow Photoshop Actions, and I found this awesome one from Pretty Photoshop Actions for $39. I can't tell you how often I've needed something like this, so I decided to make the investment, and I am SO glad I did! Playing with all the amazing options included in that action set, I could adjust lighting, make it look frosty, "kill the grass," change the sky, and add snow!

I then ran a couple different actions, Nashville and Hefe, to alter the lighting a bit more. Nashville is over everything, Hefe just over the background to add some depth.

At this point, I was beginning to shiver in empathy for poor Lark, out in the snow without any kind of wrap! Terrible! LOL. So I went in search of cloaks she could wear and found this one that fit her body position well.

(Though I didn't remember at the time, Lark's cloak is even blue in the story! Perfect!) So putting that on her...

Ah, that's better. And I was done the image! Now it was just a matter of adding the text. I chose the font Monstera, with a pretty ligature for the H, and thought it would be fun to place "A" in the curl of that H.

Of course, it would be nice to actually be able to read that title, so I added some haze behind it to make it stand out.

Much better. And of course, my name (in Requiem font).

And one final touch--a flourish in the title--and we were finished!

So what do you think of the old and new versions? Do you have a preference? (I loved the original cover, but I do love how this new version turned out too!)

If you haven't read this early book of mine yet, here's a bit about it, and the pre-order link. It'll be live tomorrow!

In 1783 peace has been declared, but war still rages in the heart of Lark Benton.

Never did Lark think she’d want to escape Emerson Fielding, the man she’s loved all her life. But when he betrays her, she flees Williamsburg for Annapolis, taking refuge in the nation’s temporary capital. There lark throws herself into a new circle of friends who force her to examine all she believes.

Emerson follows, determined to reclaim his betrothed. Surprised when she refuses to return with him, he realizes that in this new nation he has come to call his own, duty is no longer enough. He must learn to open his heart and soul to something greater—before he loses all he should have been fighting to hold.

And be sure to stop by tomorrow, when in celebration of the official re-launch, we'll be having a super fun contest (18th-century hair!!!) and a giveaway! 


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