No, that isn't your cue to put on gloves and start fighting it out at the gift return desk. Boxing Day is a holiday in the United Kingdom, Canada and other Commonwealth nations.
Boxing Day is also known as the Feast of St. Stephen in honor of the Christian martyr. You can read more about him in Acts. This holiday was set up in the mid-19th century by Queen Victoria. It was typically a day for the merchant class to honor the trades people and servants in their lives. Some relate it to business owners giving bonuses to their workers. The gifts were usually food - especially fruit which was very expensive - and sometimes articles of clothing. They were given in boxes and hence the name "Boxing Day." Some also associate this day with the time when the church opens the alms boxes. The monies collected in the alms boxes were then distributed to the poor on the day after Christmas.
I always find it fascinating to learn about other cultures and history. I think it would do well for us here in America to remember the poor on Boxing Day. Rather than spend the day shopping for those post-Christmas sales and fighting the crowds to return that improperly sized gift, it might be fun to drop off a donation to the local Salvation Army or other organization that helps the poor. Yes, I know I talked about something similiar last week, but I've really been convicted of late that God has given us an abundance of blessings. So many people are suffering in this economy and while it has hit our family as well, I know that we are still more blessed than many.
I am so thankful this holiday season for the love of family and friends, for my granddaughter's slow - but steady recovery, for my healthy grandchildren, for having a roof over our heads and food on the table. I'm blessed beyond the curse and God's promise truly endures and He will continue to be my strength.
Jesus said that whatever we do to the least of these...we do to Him. So extend His birthday celebration and have a little Boxing Day fun!!
It's been a crazy month for me. We went to Kansas on the 3rd of December to see our kids and grandkids and was greeted with voicemail that told us our 6 year old granddaughter Rainy was once again in the hospital. This time it was for an emergency appendectomy. Unfortunately things went bad for Rainy and she developed post-operative infection. We almost lost her, but God interceded. I know many of you were praying and I want you to know how much I appreciate that. Below is a photo of Rainy and me.
Rainy is still quite ill, but was showing improvement. She will be in the hospital for sometime on antibiotics that are capable of shutting down her kidneys, so please continue the prayers. Her folks are trying to coordinate celebrating Christmas in the hospital so that they can be together as a family.
With this in mind, I have to give high praise to Kansas City's Children's Mercy Hospital. The staff there are phenomenal. This non-profit hospital works hard to save the lives of children, no matter their status in life and I greatly appreciate that. While there I met many amazing people - doctors and nurses, as well as patients and their family members. The entire hospital promotes a positive attitude of healing and comfort. If you're looking for a great non-profit to donate to, I highly recommend them. But I also encourage you to think about your local hospitals - especially children's hospitals. Most of these have all sorts of volunteer positions, as well as a need for donations of baked goods and other things. I hope you'll check in and see what you can do to help. We benefited from the Ronald McDonald room at the hospital where volunteers offered meals and snacks. These kind of things are so beneficial for families who have to be there for long periods of times.
As Christmas comes around once again, I think about how Mary and Joseph were also dependent upon the kindness and generosity of the people they met on their journey to Bethlehem. It's frightening to need medical help and be far from home and people you know. There's a feeling of great vulnerability when facing the labor and delivery of your unborn child, just as there is vulnerability when facing the sickness of a loved one. Simple basic acts of kindness and love are so reassuring. It's a way of bearing one another's burdens as we are encouraged to do in the Bible. This Christmas season, be a blessing to those around you, you never know the impact you will have on another life. I know this first hand, and so does my sweet little granddaughter.
My latest book has been turned in. Thanksgiving and visiting relatives have gone home (I miss them already). The calendar has been turned to the last month of the year, and Christmas is in the air. I'm filled with an absolute sense of celebration!
Here in Montana, we are a livily bunch who celebrate our heritage, our families, our land. We even celebrate the cold. We have several celebrations throughout the winter, including a Christmas Stroll in December where downtown is closed to traffic and the shops and vendors keep us warm with holiday refreshments and sales. We bundle up in our thermalite and longjohns and have a grand old time. It's part of the charm of Montana.
Here in the north country 4-wheel drive is the norm and a great many cars have ski-racks on top. Snow isn't seen as a deterent, but rather a common way of life. Since moving up here now nearly 8 years ago, I have marveled at how this part of the country doesn't shut down for much of any reason. When I lived in Kansas we'd get ice and snows that would cancel government jobs and school. In Texas, where I lived 2 years as a young girl, the tiniest amount of the powdery white stuff would close down the city. But not so in Montana. Here we go - no matter the snow. Or temperature. Or windchill.
Schools seldom have snow days. I was informed when I enrolled my son years ago that the buses would run until temps hit -25 degrees F. Between that and -30F, I was on my own to get him to school, and at -31F they would most likely close school. However, I've seen it at -35F and school was still in session.
But even if you don't like the snow and the cold - I encourage you to pull on your spirit of celebration. It's a marvelous time of year. A time for thanksgiving. A time for encouragement. A time for love. Celebrate no matter your location--no matter who can be with you--no matter the economy. God has given us a wondrous gift in His Son--a celebration of life that has no equal. We owe it to Him to bless others with the same love and joy that He has given us. We were brought into this world to celebrate with creation all that God has bestowed upon us. Celebrate! Life is short--you don't want to miss the party!
Happy Thanksgiving to all. I'm truly thankful for all that God has given, and blessed beyond all that I can ask or imagine.
A few years ago my daughter Jennifer went to Uganda to be a missionary with Calvary Chapel Ministeries. The time she spent there was eye opening to our entire family. It also served to give us an extended family. We have informally adopted Jean Pierre, Albine and their 5 wonderful little girls (the youngest of whom was born just a couple of years ago and they named her after me.)
Knowing this family and their needs has opened our eyes to how blessed we are in America. This family lives in Burundi and has often shared their home with some of the orphans from the war torn country. While Burundi is currently at peace, Jean Pierre lost his father when he was murdered by guerillas, and his mother died several years ago to sickness. After we got to know him very well and had spent considerable time emailing and praying, Jean Pierre asked my husband and I to be his parents.
We have cherished this family and thank God for the opportunity to get to know a different culture and lifestyle. However, it is not an easy world to live in. The threat of war continues to haunt them, their economy is far worse than ours, and sickness abounds in the form of aids and malaria.
Still, throughout all of this, Jean Pierre writes me to say how blessed they are. He is a pastor now and has planted 9 different churches and they are growing. He's seeing people accept Jesus as Savior, and prays that by coming to the Lord and ridding themselves of superstitious religious practices, their country and people will be transformed. They are so thankful for what God has done, that even when they will sit down to a meal of nothing more than beans and rice, they are very grateful for what God has provided.
I'm humbled by my African son and his family. I look at the vast wealth around me and know that I am truly, most amazingly blessed. I praise God for such blessings, but most of all I praise Him for opening my eyes to see the needs and love of this little family in Africa.
During our visit to Germany this summer, we bought a cuckoo clock. It's a really neat little clock with people who dance around and a waterwheel,and quaint German designs. Oh, and it plays music. Edelweiss at the top of the hour and Happy Wanderer at the 1/2 hour.
For those of you who have cuckoo clocks, you know they aren't without their issues. They need daily care as they spend their energy and wind down. Every morning and evening we find it necessary to adjust the weights and re-energize the clock. Otherwise it winds down and stops, and then getting it started again with the correct time can be a bit of a pain.
I find the same can be true of people. The last couple of weeks I've found myself dealing with sick or recovering family members. My son had knee surgery about a month ago, my husband developed a blood infection in his foot, and my mother had foot surgery. All of them needed a certain degree of care, plus I had a book deadline to fulfill, along with all the other routine issues of life to oversee. I found myself winding down and feeling the weight of responsibility.
But God always seems to know exactly what we need. He sent several good friends along to re-energize me with encouragement and prayers. He didn't let me get so far down that I stopped functioning, because He knew it would be a major effort to get me started again.
There might be a few of you out there who are feeling much as I did, and I just want to encourage you and offer you this hope. God already knows what you need, but He wants to hear from you. Take your frustrations, sorrows, and needs to Him, and trust that He will send the right people into your life to help. He never fails folks. Believe me, I've seen Him intercede too much to doubt that He will continue.
There seem to be so many issues in life right now that have us winding down, but as Christians we know we have a caretaker who will never let us go unattended. We can be encouraged to know that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.
Several of you have written to ask me where in Montana my new series takes place, and why I chose that area. So I thought I would share that with you today. My Brides of Gallatin County series is the latest series I've set in Montana. There will be three books. Book one is out and titled A PROMISED TO BELIEVE IN, as you can see noted here at the blog site. Book Two is out in April 2009 and titled A LOVE TO LAST FOREVER, and book three is out summer 2009 and is titled A DREAM TO CALL MY OWN.
This series deals with three sisters who run a stage stop hotel in 1879-81 Montana. The location was a fun one for me, as it's only about 5 miles away. There was a real stage stop in the tiny town of Hamilton, MT just 15 miles west of Bozeman. Now Hamilton is no longer a town (well it is, but more about that later). All that remains in of that old stop is a cemetery and a plaque that speaks about the fact that the town was a stage stop among other things.
I decided, instead of going with the exact location, however, I would create a little town to the south. In my research I found that many little, hole-in-the-wall towns started as stage stops - places to change out the horses or water and feed them, as well as give the passengers a break. Some were overnight stops, as is the one in my book, as well as a place that might provide a lunch stop.
Now for those of you who have run to the map to see where Hamilton, MT is - the current Hamilton is located just southwest of Missoula, MT and has nothing to do with my book's location. However, in the 1870s, the other Hamilton faced a plight much as the one my fictional town. The proposed railroad site was going in north of where the city was located, and they knew this would mean eventual death to their town. Like many locations on the frontier, Hamilton decided to move north to meet the railroad. When they did this, they renamed their town Moreland, and later renamed it Manhattan, MT. This place still exists and has a couple of fantastic places to eat - Sir Scott's Oasis (the most incredible steaks in Montana) and The Garden Cafe (nice for breakfast).
Some people ask me why I decided to create a fictional town when there was a real town available in the area. The reasons are many. Fictional towns obviously give me much more liberty and freedom. Also, Hamilton was a "dry" town. In other words, they had no saloons or liquor available to the public. I wanted my stage stop to have a most irritating saloon owner and the further complication of prostitution in their area. I also didn't want to worry about whether I put the exact number of businesses, and well-known residents into the story, although often I do this. For example in the series I'm working on now, I have a detailed list of businesses and streets available to me and am using the real town of Sitka, Alaska in 1870.
Nevertheless, I researched stage stops extensively and learned a great deal about the industry and its needs.
Research is one of the things I enjoy most about writing historicals, and I try to keep things very accurate. It doesn't mean I never make mistakes - as readers are always happy to point out - but it does mean my love of the past has a chance to shine through. I hope you enjoy that journey to yesteryear as well.
The best things in life truly are free. The smile of a child. Their fascination with the world. Their unconditional love.
My grandchildren don't care if I'm a writer or a ditch digger. They love me just for being Nana, and that's such a wonderful feeling. So often in this world we have to prove ourselves to someone to "earn" their love. It makes me think that God must feel the same way at times when we challenge Him to do XY&Z for us and then we'll trust Him or love Him.
So here's to unconditional love. May we recognize it for the treasure it is, and maybe we learn to practice it more.
No, that wasn't supposed to read Blanket - I meant Banket. Some folks call it Dutch Letters.
For those of you who have never experienced the delight that is banket, I highly encourage you to get thee to a Dutch community and partake. In our area the Dutch were strongly represented in the founding of area communities. It's fascinating to me that these industrious folk came in the late 1800s and settled the area, digging irrigation ditches by hand that still exist and are utilized today. They brought their culture, and many of their strong Christian ethics.
Not far from me is the tiny town of Churchill. This strong Dutch community holds a wonderful Christian school from which my son recently graduated. It was through that school that I came to learn about banket. I also learned about snert, stampot and bitterballen, but I digress.
The first time I attended the Dutch Harvest Festival at the school, I was met at the school door by a wonderful greeter. The woman smiled and pulled me aside as I crossed the threshold. Whispering conspiratorially in my ear, "If you want banket, you'll have to get it right now--it's going fast."
Now having a bit of Dutch ancestry myself, I felt the calling of the banket, even though I had no idea what it might be. I nodded to the woman and allowed her to point the way. The next thing I know I'm standing in a long line holding tubes of flaky pastry that had been filled with an almond paste concoction. It was like a badge of honor as you walked through the school with your arms laden with banket. The older women nodded knowingly. Those who hadn't made it on time stared enviously.
Last week I took fellow writer Cathy Marie Hake to Harvest Festival. The affair opened at 10:00 and we were there at 10:03. By 10:05, the banket was gone. As Cathy and I left with our treasured dessert, I noticed two women whispering by the door. "They've sold out of banket," one said to the other. It was a moment of mourning and sorrow for both women. I felt sorry them, saddened that they'd come all this way for banket, only to miss out. I looked at Cathy and then to the banket we had secured. For a moment I thought the Christian thing might be to share or at least offer to let them buy one of the tasty sticks. But then sanity returned and I cradled my find like a mother protecting her young and made a mad dash to the parking lot.
A few days later, Cathy called to say her family had loved their experience with banket and that she would plan to come again next year for more. "We'll need to get there earlier," I warned. "Banket waits for no one."
Do any of you remember that old song, Life's Railway to Heaven? The words were always favorites of mine because I loved trains and railroads. The first verse states,
Life is like a mountain railroad, with an engineer that’s brave; We must make the run successful, from the cradle to the grave; Watch the curves, the fills, the tunnels; never falter, never quail; Keep your hand upon the throttle, and your eye upon the rail.
Last week I was at a writer's retreat in Chama, New Mexico where they have this awesome mountain railroad. The narrow gauge Cumbres & Toltec line is open for passengers part of the year, and the scenery the railline follows is incredible.
The train and the scenery reminded me of this great old song that I remember singing in church when I was a little girl. Coming from a railroad family, maybe that gave me a stronger connection with the song, but no matter the reason I found the analogy of life being like a mountain railroad to be a powerful thought.
We will go through steep grades and tunnels where the sunlight is blotted out. We will face challenges and obstacles that threaten our well-being and that of those we love. But through it all the faith we have in the engineer will see us through. And I suppose this is where I veer away from the song's words. The song talks about us being the engineer and Christ being the Conductor, while God is the Superintendent of the Station.
I don't believe I am the engineer of my journey. Furthermore, I don't want to be. I'm more comfortable being a passenger and letting God be the one in charge. He knows the perils and beauties we will endure on our journey. We need to trust that He is capable of driving the train, no matter the terrain or weather. He knows the course, and there is a great peace in that for me. In my version of the song, God is the Engineer, Jesus the Conductor and the Holy Spirit is the Brakeman.
Sometimes it's hard to sit back and let God be the engineer. Fear blocks our senses and we stand ready to abandon the train, or try to take over the controls or worse yet, redirect the route. I challenge you this week to stay in your seat and trust that the engineer is capable, and not only that, He has a wonderful journey for you with blessings in abundance that are yet to be revealed.
I'm happy to announce that this weekend in glorious Colorado Springs there will be numerous booksignings at a variety of locations with a number of authors.
I'll put the locations and time below, but I wanted to share about this for another reason. Sometimes people are hesitant to come to booksignings because they worry about what to say or do. I had one lady tell me that she didn't come to a book event, because she was shy and didn't know if she'd be brave enough to actually meet the authors.
If that's you, or you worry that you'll be expended to buy something, put your fears aside. For me book events are for the sole purpose of getting to know the store owners/managers, the workers and of course the readers, and for letting them get to know me. I want to put myself out there and show everyone that I'm just a regular person. Actually, I'm a pretty shy person, but readers always make me feel welcome.
Over the years I've seen God work in wonderful ways through book events, so I go where He calls me, no matter my comfort level, no matter the weather, no matter. I hope I'll get to see a bunch of you at the booksignings, but even if I don't, just know I think about you as readers and booksellers, and I pray for you. I know the economy is rough and that times are difficult, but know that this didn't take God by surprise and He totally has it under control. COLORADO SPRINGS SIGNINGS Friday's signings - please note on both days there may be additional authors who aren't listed here.
Mardel - from 11:00 - 1pm with Stephen W. Smith Donita Paul Dale & Susan Mathis Joe Wheeler Robert Liparulo Mark Andrew Olsen
Focus on the Family from 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. with Jim Daly (there from 2-3pm) Lisa Tawn Bergren Cindy West Mark Tedder Third Day
Castle Bookstore from 3:00-5:00pm with Tracie Peterson Judith Miller Kelly Eileen Hake Cathy Marie Hake Kristen Heintzmann (may be some others not sure)
Connections from 5:00-7pm Robert Liparulo Donita Paul Marshal Younger
Saturday Focus on the Family 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Marshal Younger Larry Killam Dale & Susan Mathis Joe Wheeler
Mardel 12:00 - 2:00 p.m. Tracie Peterson Judith Miller Cathy Marie Hake Kelly Eileen Hake Kristen Heintzmann Larry Killem Jonalyn Fincher Dale Fincher
Castle Bookstore 2:00-4:00 p.m. with Tosca Lee Donita Paul Jonalyn Fincher Dale Fincher Travis Thrasher Tom Doyle
Connections 4:00-6:00 p.m. Lisa Tawn Bergren Mark Andrew Olsen Tosca Lee Travis Thrasher.
I have a postcard on the wall board in my office that reads: "So I haven't written much lately! So what? Neither has Shakespeare."
The first time I saw the card it gave me a chuckle. I remember saying, "Yeah, but Shakespeare doesn't have deadlines anymore."
Writing on a deadline is always a challenge, but it's a good feeling to know that something you have in mind to write, already has a home and the interest of a publishing house. Now if the silly world would just stay out of the way, everything would be perfect.
But alas, the world careth not for my needs. And neither does Shakespeare, because he's dead.
The car doesn't care either, because it can't feel a thing for me. If I fail to lavish it in attention, it fails to cooperate and run. If someone fails to lavish me in attention, I'm still required to cooperate and run.
The bills I owe don't care. They simply demand I present the proper amount of homage at or on the proper date and time. If I expected that, the world would simply snicker and ignore me.
And sometimes the people I think should care, don't because they're consumed with their own problems. Just like I get consumed with mine. And that's the point of my blog this week. Issues and things will do their level best to consume us and take our focus. Deadlines will creep in to add stress and misery, even when they are good deadlines. And chaos, the Devil's favorite playground, will ensue to defeat and destroy.
So my goal this week is to focus on the positive aspects of life and to enjoy the fact that God has blessed me with deadlines while protecting and providing for me amidst chaos. He is a good and loving Father to be sure, and I don't want to forget that even when the deadlines and chaos loom.
This time of year always gets me into a reflective mood. I think about the year and how it's gone for my family and friends--for me. I look at the changes and the evaluate the good and the bad. But most of all, I get a sense of completion.
When I was a child, autumn was a time of completion, despite the fact that school had just started up again. We hurried to collect the last of the garden vegetables. We worked to make sure the dog house was winterized with straw. We gathered up the summer toys and made sure they were put safely away for another summer, while making sure we knew where our winter gear had been stored.
As I grew older, autumn continued to feel like a time of completion. There was house cleaning, yard preparation, winterizing the vehicles and house and making sure we had warm clothes to see us through colder times.
Now, the sense of completion also comes in looking back over the year at the tasks God gave me, analyzing what is yet to be accomplished--what can still be improved. I like completing projects whether they're the book I'm writing or room I'm cleaning. I like that sense of accomplishment--of satisfaction.
So rather than wait for New Year's Eve, I'm encouraging you to reflect on 2008 right now. Look at what has been done and what is yet to be accomplished. Take charge of the time that is left and experience great pleasure in the satisfaction of completion. Whatever you were putting off--whatever you've been avoiding--take it by the horns and see it through to the end.
I just got back from a booksigning tour, and during that time I was really blessed to see how God was in the details. I met so many wonderful people and listened to their stories. I laughed with them, and cried with them. I prayed with them and did my best to minister to them.
Each night I went back to my hotel room exhausted and completely drained of energy, but I always felt that I had done exactly as the Lord had wanted. Working in His will and allowing Him to lead and guide left me refreshed spirtually and restored me physically. It was rather like the man in Chariots of Fire who said, "When I run I feel God's pleasure." I felt God's pleasure when I listened.
Sometimes all a person needs is for someone to listen. Sometimes folks just need to share their fears,their pain,their worries.
It hurts so much to think we go unheard--that no one cares. I've heard young people comment so often about how no one will listen to them--that even their parents think they have nothing important to say. I've heard older people say the same thing about their children and the rest of the world. I've heard wives say it about husbands, and husbands say it about wives. I've heard the sick complain about their doctors and nurses in this way, as well as supervisors about their employees, and so on.
It seems such a simple thing to listen, but in fact, it can be very hard. It requires putting self aside, of clearing the mind, and closing our mouths. Most important of all--it requires that we care enough to make the effort.
The people of the world are hurting and desperate for relationship. They desire a oneness with Jesus, a reconcilation with their Heavenly Father. And who knows - maybe the road home for them will start not with a footstep, but with a conversation that is heard and understood. Maybe someone will take the time to listen and that one act of kindness will forever change a life. Here's to listening more. And who knows, in doing this maybe we'll heard the sound of hearts healing and angels rejoicing as the lost are found.
Thanks for the prayers. Rainy came through surgery just fine, but they didn't find the problem they thought they would. In fact, they really don't know what the problem is, so I would appreciate continued prayer. Tracie
Once again, I have to apologize for the delay in posting.
My grandaughter Rainy is very sick and it's consumed the family to be sure. Rainy was born with an inoperable cyst on her brain and has had a shunt placed in her brain since she was very small. Unfortunately, the shunt doesn't always work, and her various complications with the cyst are not at all textbook.
Thursday night she was rushed to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City and put into the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. This morning they've announced they are doing emergency brain surgery for the 17th time on this beautiful little six year old. I covet your prayers.
What my relationship with this child has taught me is that life is a gift - a special blessing of time. The doctor told us when Rainy was born that we needed to "love her while we had her." They didn't expect her to live past 5 years old.
We have definitely been blessed by Rainy. She's vivacious, only suffers minor retardation, and while she is delayed in her abilities--she's an incredible asset to this family. I only wish they all lived in Montana instead of Kansas.
So today I am writing this note to encourage you to see life for what it really is - a blessing of time. We don't know how much of this time we get. We don't know what other complications will come into play to spoil our "time". But, while we have it - while we have each other - no moment should be wasted. Love each other other while you have each other.
Hello to everyone out there. I'm still on the road, this time participating in a booksigning tour in the New England states with Kim Vogel Sawyer, Cathy Marie Hake, and Judith Miller.
We started out in New York on August 26th and are wrapping things up with the wonderful folks at Christian Book Distributors. Many of you may order books from these great people at christianbooks.com, and if not, I encourage you to check them out.
I was invited over a year ago to come to Peabody, Mass. and share time with the staff at Christian Book Distributors. I've looked forward to this adventure and it has not disappointed. The folks who work at this wonderful place have treated me so kindly. Today I met with the staff and spoke about how important they are to the ministry I have in writing. And it is so true.
No writer is an island. Our books are the result of many prayers, and many hands. The fingerprints of editors, proofers, typesetters, manufacturers and distributors are all over each successful project, and I can't thank them enough for the part they play in this mission field.
Tomorrow, Christian Book Distributors will open its doors to the public for one of their three warehouse sales that take place each year. Thousands of people anticipate this event and will start turning out in the middle of the night to line up for the sale. Now that's devotion. I will be there from 9-11 a.m. to meet the public and sign books. If you're in the area, I would love to see you. I would also love for you to meet these folks and see what they are doing to spread God's love and Gospel.
These days I'm definitely a world traveler. We just got back from an absolutely delicious 15 day trip to Europe where stories and ideas were everywhere. My husband Jim and I were joined by authors Cathy Marie Hake and her husband Chris, as well as author Kelly Eileen Hake (their daughter) and her friend Julia. Talk about fun. We were authors making notes, exploring castles, trying new tastes, and enjoying the ancientness of Europe.
We started in Amsterdam and ended there as well. This city offered us great food, canal boat rides, windmills, and bicycles galore. They say there is very nearly one bicycle for every person, and I believe them!
We took a train to Basil, Switzerland and from there boarded our Rhine River Cruise ship, the River Ambassador. This tour was sponsored by UniWorld and I have to say they did a fantastic job of everything. Who knew there were 14 locks to pass through between Basil and Amsterdam as we made our way ever "down" to the sea?
The castles on the Rhine were incredible and so impressive. Some are being utilized for tourists, some are privately owned, and still others are in less than perfect order. No matter, the situation, it fascinated all of us to see these wonderful stepping stones to the past. Here are just a few that we saw (and some pics from our trip).
We made stops along the way trying our French in Strasbourg (I was actually able to ask for sugar-free chocolate for my hubby with my 20 words of French). We used our Rosetta Stone sponsored German in many of our stops and found that it got us through in asking for things like DeCaf coffee, more bread and the ever important restroom.
We shopped, frustrating store owners all over Europe with our lack of knowledge regarding the Euro, and our inability to speak the language (if they tell you everyone speaks English in Europe - it's a lie), but ultimately we made their coffers a little richer.
Ultimately, I was amazed at the beauty God created, the kindness of strangers, and the laughter and fun of friends.
Speaking of friends and fun - if you're in the Peabody, Mass. area on September 6th, CBD (Christian Book Distributors) will be having an open warehouse sale, and I will be there signing books and meeting the public from 7:00am - 4:00pm.
CBD is located at: 140 Summit St. Peabody, Massachusetts 01960
A while back I was blessed to be at a Casting Crowns concert in Bozeman, MT. The opening band, TRACING DAYS, featured songs from local guys that truly blessed me despite the heavy rock focus of their music.
But I had an entirely different experience with Casting Crowns, and had to relate it. First of all, I thought I was just getting to see the concert with my husband Jim. But to my surprise our local radio station DJs came and got me to meet the band backstage. We slipped through a maze of hallways and rooms until we came upon a group of guys dressed in jeans and t-shirts with various toy guns, loaded with darts. They were ganging up on one of their other team mates and I just naturally presumed this was probably the band's road crew. But no - this was the band.
I still have to laugh at the site of these grown men crashing through the dressing room door to plaster another band member with foam darts. A few minutes later, these same folks gathered to greet those of us who had our special backstage passes. They were generous and loving, kind and so much a reflection of joy in the Lord that I could honestly have gone home at that point and still have been blessed.
When the concert started and they began to sing some of their popular hits, I was deeply moved to be a part of the moment. Throughout the day, I had been struggling with worry over my children - the one main place Satan tries to take me down. There's Erik - who really struggled to graduate high school and now is struggling to find a direction in life. Then there's Julie who's separated from her husband and trying to work on her marriage and keep her three children from feeling too many emotional traumas from the situation. Lastly, there's Jen who's living in a big city by herself, going to college and working. She has to be out on her on a lot, sometimes late at night taking public transportation, and I worry about her safety. Could anyone else possibly relate?
Then at one point the lead singer began to share with us that he struggled to get through school with dyslexia and ADD. He didn't get great grades. It made me think of Erik and it gave me hope. Then they sang a beautiful song I'd never heard that spoke of a young woman struggling with marriage problems - the song emphasized loving her like Jesus, and taking her to Him. Suddenly I didn't feel so fearful for Julie. And towards the end of the concert they talked about Jesus walking every step with us--that we're never alone, and I breathed a sigh of relief in regards to Jen.
God was in the details in a way I hadn't expected. The concert turned into an awesome time of praise and restoration and for that I praise God, and thank Casting Crowns. It never fails to amaze me how God can use something we love to do and turn it into a ministry for Him in ways that give hope to the overwhelmed and hurting. I hope you feel His touch today.
P.S. You can check out their new "Slow Fade" video here.
For the next few weeks I'm going to be traveling a great deal. When you get this blog, I'll be in Europe on a train from Amsterdam to Basel Switzerland!! Wahoo! I'm blessed to be doing a Castles Along the Rhine cruise tour with fellow writers Cathy Marie Hake and Kelly Eileen Hake. Oh yeah, Cathy and I are bringing our husbands, too.
Heidelberg Castle, Germany
I hope to post some pictures for you when I get back. We'll start in Amsterdam and take a train to Basel, Switzerland. I can say, "Is dit de trein naar Basel?" So hopefully I won't get lost. My husband and I are using Rosetta Stone to learn German, so we will go armed with our little Dutch and German translation books, and pray that all the Dutch and Germans will speak fluent English.
Riquewihr, a medieval city between mountain and vineyards
in eastern France on the Rhine River
So why am I heading to Europe? Research! I love incorporating interesting cultural details into my stories. My area of Montana has many Dutch families who settled back in the 1860's. My son attended a private Dutch Reform Christian High School and the cultural influences were fascinating. Not only that, but a wee bit of my family background has some Dutch ancestry, as well as German, Scottish, Irish and Swiss. So I hope to incorporate this into books to come, as well as find new stories as I research.
I have to admit that blogging isn't something I ever felt I'd want to do. It's not that don't want to share tidbits with friends and readers, it's more along the lines that I can't imagine anyone wanting to read anything about me. Sure I sometimes do some exciting things, but otherwise, I'm pretty boring.
Favorite things to do include petting my cats - we have three...Calvin J. Whiskers, Safari, and Simon.
Or walking with the dogs - we have two crazy collies.
Or sitting and discussing historical events with my historian husband, Jim. We could talk for hours about Europe in the middle ages or the reasons why the P51 Mustang was the best fighter in WWII. But most of all, I write.
I love to write. It's a passion. It's a ministry for me first and foremost, and an exciting way to share my love for the Lord. So when I blog, you'll probably hear about things the Lord has done for me, writing experiences, research travel and any other tidbit that I might find fascinating. I'll share with you books and movies that I've enjoyed and keep you up-to-date on the books I'm writing.
But for now I have to go--Simon (our black and white cat grandson- he belonged to our daughter who upon leaving for Boston and Harvard, couldn't take her son with her) and our only female, part Siamese--Safari are having a heated political discussion in the hall.