The Heart’s Frontier, by Lori Copeland and Virginia Smith

Lori Copeland is one of my favorite authors. I wasn’t familiar with Virginia Smith, but I figured if she was good enough for Lori, she was good enough for me. For the most part I was correct. The Heart’s Frontier is very well written, has engaging characters, and is a fun read.  Even so, the ending of this story disappointed me.  I don’t want to spoil the tale for anyone so I won’t be specific, but I finished this book feeling that Emma had given up far more than she gained.

~*~

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card authors are:

 

 

and the book:

 

Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Karri | Marketing Assistant | Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lori Copeland is the author of more than 90 titles, both historical and contemporary fiction. With more than 3 million copies of her books in print, she has developed a loyal following among her rapidly growing fans in the inspirational market. She has been honored with the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award, The Holt Medallion, and Walden Books’ Best Seller award. In 2000, Lori was inducted into the Missouri Writers Hall of Fame. She lives in the beautiful Ozarks with her husband, Lance, and their three children and five grandchildren.

Visit the author’s website.
Virginia Smith is the author of more than a dozen inspirational novels and more than fifty articles and short stories. An avid reader with eclectic tastes in fiction, Ginny writes in a variety of styles, from lighthearted relationship stories to breath-snatching suspense.

Visit the author’s website.

 

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

An exciting new Amish-meets-Wild West adventure from bestselling authors Lori Copeland and Virginia Smith weaves an entertaining and romantic tale for devoted fans and new readers.

Kansas,1881—On a trip to visit relatives, Emma Switzer’s Amish family is robbed of all their possessions, leaving them destitute and stranded on the prairie. Walking into the nearest trading settlement, they pray to the Lord for someone to help. When a man lands in the dust at her feet, Emma looks down at him and thinks, The Lord might have cleaned him up first.

Luke Carson, heading up his first cattle drive, is not planning on being the answer to anyone’s prayers, but it looks as though God has something else in mind for this kind and gentle man. Plain and rugged—do the two mix? And what happens when a dedicated Amish woman and a stubborn trail boss prove to be each other’s match?

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 320 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736947523

ISBN-13: 978-0736947527

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Apple Grove, Kansas
July 1881
Nearly the entire Amish district of Apple Grove had turned out to help this morning, all twenty families. Or perhaps they were here merely to wish Emma Switzer well as she set off for her new home in Troyer, fifty miles away.
From her vantage point on the porch of the house, Emma’s grandmother kept watch over the loading of the gigantic buffet hutch onto the specially reinforced wagon. Her sharp voice sliced through the peaceful morning air.
“Forty years I’ve had that hutch from my dearly departed husband and not a scratch on it. Jonas, see that you use care!”
If Maummi’s expression weren’t so fierce, Emma would have laughed at the long-suffering look Papa turned toward his mother. But the force with which Maummi’s fingers dug into the flesh on Emma’s arm warned that a chuckle would be most ill-suited at the moment. Besides, the men straining to heft the heavy hutch from the front porch of their home into the wagon didn’t need further distractions. Their faces strained bright red above their beards, and more than one drop of sweat trickled from beneath the broad brim of their identical straw hats.
Emma glanced at the watchers lined up like sparrows on a fence post. She caught sight of her best friend, Katie Beachy, amid the sea of dark dresses and white kapps. Katie smiled and smoothed her skirt with a shy gesture. The black fabric looked a little darker and crisper than that of those standing around her, which meant she’d worn her new dress to bid Emma farewell, an honor usually reserved for singings or services or weddings. The garment looked well on her. Emma had helped sew the seams at their last frolic. Of course, Katie’s early morning appearance in a new dress probably had less to do with honoring Emma than with the presence of Samuel Miller, the handsome son of the district bishop. With a glance toward Samuel, whose arms bulged against the weight of holding up one end of the hutch, she returned Katie’s smile with a conspiratorial wink.
Emma’s gaze slid over other faces in the crowd and snagged on a pair of eyes fixed on her. Amos Beiler didn’t bother to turn away but kept his gaze boldly on her face. Nor did he bother to hide his expression, one of longing and lingering hurt. He held infant Joseph in his arms, and a young daughter clutched each of his trouser-clad legs. A wave of guilt washed through Emma, and she hastily turned back toward the wagon.
From his vantage point up in the wagon bed, Papa held one end of a thick rope looped around the top of the hutch, the other end held by John Yoder. The front edge of the heavy heirloom had been lifted into the wagon with much grunting and groaning, while the rear still rested on the smooth wooden planks of the porch. Two men steadied the oxen heads, and the rest, like Samuel, had gathered around the back end of the hutch. A protective layer of thick quilts lined the wagon bed.
Papa gave the word. “Lift!”
The men moved in silent unity. Bending their knees, their hands grasped for purchase around the bottom edges. As one they drew in a breath, and at Papa’s nod raised in unison. Emma’s own breath caught in her chest, her muscles straining in silent sympathy with the men. The hutch rose until its rear end was level with its front, and the men stepped forward. The thick quilts dangling beneath scooted onto the wagon as planned, a protective barrier from damage caused by wood against wood.
The hutch suddenly dipped and slid swiftly to the front. Emma gasped. Apparently the speed caught Papa and John Yoder by surprise too, for the rope around the top went slack. Papa lunged to reach for the nearest corner, and his foot slipped. The wagon creaked and sank lower on its wheels as the hutch settled into place. At the same moment Papa went down on one knee with a loud, “Ummph.”
“Papa!”
Ach! ” Maummi pulled away from Emma and rushed forward. Her heart pounding against her rib cage, Emma followed. Men were already checking on Papa, but Maummi leaped into the wagon bed with a jump that belied her sixty years, the strings of her kapp flying behind her. She applied bony elbows to push her way around the hutch to her son’s side.
She came to a halt above him, hands on her hips, and looked down. “Are you hurt?”
Emma reached the side of the wagon in time to see Papa wince and shake his head. “NoA bruise is all.”
“Good.” She left him lying there and turned worried eyes toward her beloved hutch. With a gentle touch, she ran loving fingers over the smooth surface and knelt to investigate the corners.
A mock-stern voice behind Emma held the hint of a chuckle. “Trappings only, Marta Switzer. Care you more for a scratch on wood than an injury to your son?”
Emma turned to see Bishop Miller approach. He spared a smile for her as he drew near enough to lean his arms across the wooden side of the wagon and watch the activity inside. Samuel helped Papa to his feet and handed him the broad-brimmed hat that had fallen off. Emma breathed a sigh of relief when he took a ginger step to try out his leg and smiled at the absence of pain.
“My son is fine.” Maummi waved a hand in his direction, as though in proof. “And so is my hutch. Though my heart may not say the same, such a fright I’ve had.” She placed the hand lightly on her chest, drew a shuddering breath, and wavered on her feet.
Concern for her grandmother propelled Emma toward the back of the wagon. As she climbed up, she called into the house, “Rebecca, bring a cool cloth for Maummi’s head.”
The men backed away while Katie and several other women converged on the wagon to help Emma lift Maummi down and over to the rocking chair that rested in the shade of the porch, ready to be loaded when the time came. Maummi allowed herself to be lowered onto the chair, and then she wilted against the back, her head lolling sideways and arms dangling. A disapproving buzz rumbled among the watching women, but Emma ignored them. Though she knew full well that most of the weakness was feigned for the sake of the bishop and other onlookers, she also knew Maummi’s heart tended to beat unevenly in her chest whenever she exerted herself. It was yet another reason why she ought to stay behind in Apple Grove, but Maummi insisted her place was with Emma, her oldest granddaughter. What she really meant was that she intended to inspect every eligible young Amish man in Troyer and handpick her future grandson-in-law.
Aunt Gerda had written to say she anticipated that her only daughter would marry soon, and she would appreciate having Emma come to help her around the house. She’d also mentioned the abundance of marriageable young men in Troyer, with a suggestion that twenty-year-old Emma was of an age that the news might be welcome. Rebecca had immediately volunteered to go in Emma’s place. Though Papa appeared to consider the idea, he decided to send Emma because she was the oldest and therefore would be in need of a husband soonest. Maummi insisted on going along in order to “Keep an eye on this hoard of men Gerda will parade before our Emma.”
As far as Emma was concerned, they should just send Maummi on alone and leave her in Apple Grove to wait for her future husband to be delivered to her doorstep.
Rebecca appeared from inside the house with a dripping cloth in hand. A strand of wavy dark hair had escaped its pins and fluttered freely beside the strings of her kapp. At barely thirteen, her rosy cheeks and smooth, high forehead reminded Emma so sharply of their mother that at times her heart ached.
Rebecca looked at Maummi’s dramatic posture and rolled her eyes. She had little patience with Maummi’s feigned heart episodes, and she was young enough that she had yet to learn proper restraint in concealing her emotions. Emma awarded her sister with a stern look and held out a hand for the cloth.
With a contrite bob of her head, Rebecca handed it over and dropped to her knees beside the rocking chair. “Are you all right, Maummi?”
Ach, I’m fine. I don’t think it’s my time. Yet.”
Emma wrung the excess water from the cloth before draping it across the back of Maummi’s neck.
Danki.” The elderly woman realized that the men had stopped working in order to watch her, and she waved her hand in a shooing motion. “Place those quilts over my hutch before you load anything else! Mind, Jonas, no scratches.”
Papa shook his head, though a smile tugged at his lips. “Ja, I remember.”
The gray head turned toward Emma. “Granddaughter, see they take proper care.”
“I will, Maummi.”
Katie joined Emma to oversee the wrapping of the hutch. When Samuel Miller offered a strong arm to help Katie up into the wagon, Emma hid a smile. No doubt she would receive a letter at her new home soon, informing her that a wedding date had been published. Because Samuel was the bishop’s son, there was no fear he would not receive the Zeungis, the letter of good standing. Rebecca would be thrilled at the news of a proper wedding in tiny Apple Grove.
But Emma would be far away in Troyer, and she would miss her friend’s big day.
Why must I live there when everything I love is here?
She draped a thick quilt over her end of the hutch and sidled away while Papa secured a rope around it. The faces of her friends and family looked on. They filled the area between the house and the barn. She loved every one in her own way. Yes, even Amos Beiler. She sought him out among the crowd and smiled at the two little girls who hovered near his side. Poor, lonely Amos. He was a good father to his motherless family. No doubt he’d make a fine husband, and if she married him she wouldn’t have to move to Troyer. The thought tempted her once again, as it often had over the past several weeks since Papa announced his decision that she would live with Aunt Gerda for a while.
But she knew that if she agreed to become Amos’s wife that she would be settling. True, she would gain a prosperous farm and a nice house and a trio of well-behaved children, with the promise of more to come. But the fact remained that though there was much to respect about Amos, she didn’t love him. The thought of seeing that moon-shaped face and slightly cross-eyed stare over the table for breakfast, dinner, and supper sent a shiver rippling across her shoulders. Not to mention sharing a marriage bed with him. It was enough to make her throw her apron over her face and run screaming across Papa’s cornfield.
He deserves a wife who loves him, she told herself for the hundredth time. Her conscience thus soothed, Emma turned away from his mournful stare.
“That trunk goes in the front,” Maummi shouted from her chair on the porch. “Emma, show them where.”
Emma shrank against the gigantic hutch to give the men room to settle the trunk containing all of her belongings. An oiled canvas tarp had been secured over the top to repel any rain they might meet over the next week. Inside, resting on her dresses, aprons, bonnets, and kapps, was a bundle more precious to her than anything else in the wagon: a quilt, expertly and lovingly stitched, nestled within a heavy canvas pouch. Mama had made it with her own hands for Emma’s hope chest. The last stitch was bitten off just hours before she closed her eyes and stepped into the arms of her Lord.
Oh, Mama, if you were here you could convince Papa to let me stay home. I know you could. And now, without you, what will happen to me?
Yet, even in the midst of the dreary thought, a spark of hope flickered in the darkness in Emma’s heart. The future yawned before her like the endless Kansas prairie. Wasn’t there beauty to be found in the tall, blowing grasses of the open plain? Weren’t there cool streams and shady trees to offer respite from the heat of the day? Maybe Troyer would turn out to be an oasis.
“Emma!”
Maummi’s sharp tone cut through her musing. She jerked upright. Her grandmother appeared to have recovered from her heart episode. From the vantage point of her chair, she oversaw every movement with a critical eye.
“Yes, ma’am?”
“Mind what I said about that loading, girl. The food carton goes on last. We won’t want to search for provisions when we stop at night on the trail.”
An approving murmur rose from the women at the wisdom of an organized wagon.
“Yes, ma’am.” Emma exchanged a quick grin with Katie and then directed the man carrying a carton of canned goods and trail provisions to set his burden aside for now.
A little while later, after everything had been loaded and secured under an oiled canvas, the men stood around to admire their handiwork. Samuel even crawled beneath the wagon to check the support struts, and he pronounced everything to be “in apple-pie order.”
Emma felt a pluck on her arm. She turned to find Katie at her elbow.
“This is a gift for you.” Her friend pushed a small package into her hands. “It’s only a soft cloth and some fancy-colored threads. I was fixing to stitch you a design, but you’re so much better at fine sewing than I am that I figured you could make something prettier by yourself.” She ducked her head. “Think kindly of me when you do.”
Warmed by her friend’s gesture, Emma pulled her into an embrace. “I will. And I expect a letter from you soon.” She let Katie see her glance slide over to Samuel and back with a grin. “Especially when you have something exciting to report.”
A becoming blush colored the girl’s cheeks. “I will.”
Emma was still going down the line, awarding each woman a farewell hug, when Bishop Miller stepped up to the front of the wagon and motioned for attention.
“It’s time now to bid Jonas Switzer Godspeed and fair weather for his travels.” A kind smile curved his lips when he looked to Maummi and then to Emma. “And our prayers go with our sisters Marta and Emma as they make a new home in Troyer.”
He bowed his head and closed his eyes, a sign for everyone in the Apple Grove district to follow suit. Emma obeyed, fixing her thoughts on the blue skies overhead and the Almighty’s throne beyond. Silence descended, interrupted only by the snorts of oxen and a happy bird in the tall, leafy tree that gave shade to the porch.
What will I find in Troyer? A new home, as the bishop says? A fine Amish husband, as Papa wishes? I pray it be so. And I pray he will be the second son of his father so that he will come home with me to Apple Grove and take over Papa’s farm when the time comes.
A female sniffled behind her. Not Katie, but Rebecca. A twist inside Emma’s rib cage nearly sent tears to her eyes. Oh, how she would miss her sister when Rebecca left Troyer to return home with Papa. She vowed to make the most of their time together on the trail between here and there.
Bishop Miller ended the prayer with a blessing in High German, his hand on the head of the closest oxen. When the last word fell on the quiet crowd, Maummi’s voice sliced through the cool morning air. “Now that we’re seen off proper, someone help me up. We’ll be gone before the sun moves another inch across the sky.”
Though she’d proved earlier that she could make the leap herself at need, Maummi allowed Papa and the bishop to lift her into the wagon. She took her seat in her rocking chair, which was wedged between the covered hutch and one high side of the wagon bed. With a protective pat on the hutch, she settled her sewing basket at her feet and pulled a piece of mending onto her lap. No idle hands for Maummi. By the time they made Troyer, she’d have all the mending done, and the darning too, and a good start on a new quilt.
Emma spared one more embrace for Katie, steadfastly ignored Amos’s mournful stare, and allowed the bishop to help her up onto the bench seat. She scooted over to the far end to make room for Papa, and then Rebecca was lifted up to sit on the other side of him. A snug fit, but they would be okay for the six-day journey to Troyer. Emma settled her black dress and smoothed her apron.
“Now, Jonas, mind you what I said.” Maummi’s voice from behind their heads sounded a bit shrill in the quiet morning. “You cut a wide path around Hays. I’ll not have my granddaughters witness the ufrooish of those wild Englischers.”
On the other side of Papa, Rebecca heaved a loud sigh. Emma hid her grin. No doubt Rebecca would love to witness the rowdy riots of wild cowboy Englischers in the infamous railroad town of Hays.
Papa mumbled something under his breath that sounded like “This will be the longest journey of my life,” but aloud he said, “Ja, Mader.
With a flick of the rope, he urged the oxen forward. The wagon creaked and pitched as it rolled on its gigantic wheels. Emma grabbed the side of the bench with one hand and lifted her other hand in a final farewell as her home fell away behind her.

 

Creative Slow-Cooker Meals

I cook it, Amoeba eats it.  Lately I have been cooking two crock pots at a time!  That doesn’t mean we have been eating twice as much, but we have been eating twice as good!

When my schedule gets busy I’ve always relied on a a couple of favorite crock pot soup recipes.  I also have crock pot recipes I prefer for roasting beef, pork and chicken, but until I discovered Cheryl Moeller’s cookbook, Creative Slow-Cooker Meals: Use Two Slow Cookers for Tasty and Easy Dinners, I only used multiple crock pots on my holiday buffet table.

Many of the recipes in Moeller’s book are actually brilliant suggestions.  Do you have trouble keeping enough tortillas warm and at hand when you’re serving your favorite Mexican dish?  Then check out page 175 and marvel at how easy the solution is.  If  you’re like my sister-in-law and don’t care to eat food that’s been simmering in a pot all day, this cook book is still for you.  Many of the recipes have 2 to 4 hour cook times.  Some even cook in an hour or less.

And did you know you can bake homemade bread in your crock pot? This weekend I will be baking whole wheat bread using the recipe on page 180.   I’ll let Amoeba pick dessert, Apple Upside Down Cake (p. 246),  Caramel Baked Apples (p.224) or maybe the Molten Lava Pudding (p. 253) from the gluten free section.

My new favorite crock pot recipe can be found on page 228.  It is Hungarian Goulash, and we scarfed it down with crock pot baked biscuits.  I was also pleasantly surprised by the Spaghetti recipe on page 138.   I guess what I am trying to say is, this isn’t a recipe book that will spend a lot of time languishing on the shelf.  It’ll be working in the kitchen.

~*~

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

 

 

and the book:

 

Harvest House Publishers; Spi edition (February 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Karri James, Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Cheryl Moeller is a seasoned mother and a standup comic. She is also a syndicated columnist with her own blog (www.momlaughs.blogspot.com) and contributes monthly to several online parent websites. Cheryl has coauthored two books on marriage with her husband and has written for www.mops.org and Marriage Partnership. Cheryl does comedy for parenting classes, MOPS groups, wedding or baby showers, church retreats, women’s conferences, and those in line at the grocery store.

Visit the author’s website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


From the celebrated coauthor of The Marriage Miracle comes a new kind of cookbook and a new attitude toward planning meals. With an eye toward the whole menu, not just part of it, columnist Cheryl Moeller teaches cooks to use two crockpots to easily create healthy, homemade dinners.

Don’t worry about your dinner being reduced to a mushy stew. Each of the more than 200 recipes has been taste-tested at Cheryl’s table. Join the Moeller family as you dig into:

  • Harvest-time Halibut Chowder
  • Salmon and Gingered Carrots
  • Mediterranean Rice Pilaf
  • Indian Chicken Curry
  • Apricot-Pistachio Bread
  • Shrimp Creole
  • Rhubarb Crisp

… and many more! Perfect for the frazzled mom who never has enough time in the day, Creative Slow-Cooker Meals gives readers more time around the table with delicious, healthy, frugal, and easy meals!

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99

Spiral-bound: 272 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; Spi edition (February 1, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736944915

ISBN-13: 978-0736944915

AND NOW…THE FIFTH CHAPTER (click on pages to enlarge):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Blooms in Winter (The Dakota Diaries), by Lori Copeland

If you’re a romance reader, you’re probably already a Lori Copeland fan and all I have to say is, “She’s done it again.”  If you’re not a fan of romance novels I still think the tension and humor in Tom and Mae’s story will hold your interest, peak your worry and tickle your funnybone. Despite being set during the historic blizzard of 1892, Love Blooms in Winter, managed to leave a smile on my face and a warm glow in my heart.  This book was a fun read.

~*~

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

 

 

and the book:

 

  • Harvest House Publishers (January 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to
Karri | Marketing Assistant |Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lori Copeland is the author of more than 90 titles, both historical and contemporary fiction. With more than 3 million copies of her books in print, she has developed a loyal following among her rapidly growing fans in the inspirational market. She has been honored with the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award, The Holt Medallion, and Walden Books’ Best Seller award. In 2000, Lori was inducted into the Missouri Writers Hall of Fame. She lives in the beautiful Ozarks with her husband, Lance, and their three children and five grandchildren.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

This new romance from bestselling author Lori Copeland portrays God’s miraculous provision when none seems possible. An engagement, a runaway train, and a town of quirky, loveable people make for more adventure than Tom Curtis is expecting. But it is amazing what can bloom in winter with God in charge.

1892—Mae Wilkey’s sweet next-door neighbor, Pauline, is suffering from old age and dementia and desperately needs family to come help her. But Pauline can’t recall having kin remaining. Mae searches through her desk and finds a name—Tom Curtis, who may just be the answer to their prayers.

Tom can’t remember an old aunt named Pauline, but if she thinks he’s a long-lost nephew, he very well may be. After two desperate letters from Mae, he decides to pay a visit. An engagement, a runaway train, and a town of quirky, loveable people make for more of an adventure than Tom is expecting. But it is amazing what can bloom in winter when God is in charge of things.

Product Details:


  • List Price: $13.99
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (January 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0736930191
  • ISBN-13: 978-0736930192

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Dwadlo, North Dakota, 1892
  The winter of ’92 is gonna go down as one of the worst Dwadlo’s ever seen,” Hal Murphy grumbled as he dumped the sack of flour he got for his wife on the store counter. “Mark my words.” He turned toward Mae Wilkey, the petite postmistress, who was stuffing mail in wooden slots.
  “Spring can’t come soon enough for me.” She stepped back, straightening the row of letters and flyers. She didn’t have to record Hal’s prediction; it was the same every year. “I’d rather plant flowers than shovel snow any day of the week.”
  “Yes, ma’am.” Hal nodded to the store owner, Dale Smith, who stood five foot seven inches with a rounded belly and salt-and-pepper hair swept to a wide front bang. “Add a couple of those dill pickles, will you?” Hal watched as Dale went over to the barrel and fished around inside, coming up with two fat pickles.
  “That’ll fix me up.” Hal turned his attention back to the mail cage, his eyes fixed on the lovely sight. “Can’t understand why you’re still single, Mae. You’re as pretty as a raindrop on a lily pad.” He sniffed the air. “And you smell as good.”
  Smiling, Mae moved from the letter boxes to the cash box. Icy weather may have delayed the train this morning, but she still had to count money and record the day’s inventory. “Now, Hal, you know I’d marry you in a wink if you weren’t already taken.” Hal and Clara had been married forty-two years, but Mae’s usual comeback never failed to put a sparkle in the farmer’s eye. Truth be, she put a smile on every man’s face, but she wasn’t often aware of the flattering looks she received. Her heart belonged to Jake Mallory, Dwadlo’s up-and-coming attorney.
  Hal nodded. “I know. All the good ones are taken, aren’t they?”
  She nodded. “Every single one. Especially in Dwadlo.”
  The little prairie town was formed when the Chicago & North Western Railroad came through five years ago. Where abundant grass, wild flowers, and waterfalls had once flourished, hundreds of miles of steel rail crisscrossed the land, making way for big, black steam engines that hauled folks and supplies. Before the railroad came through, only three homesteads had dotted the rugged Dakota Territory: Mae’s family’s, Hal and Clara’s, and Pauline Wilson’s.
  But in ’87 life changed, and formerly platted sites became bustling towns. Pine Grove and Branch Springs followed, and Dwadlo suddenly thrived with immigrants, opportunists, and adventure-seeking folks staking claims out West. A new world opened when the Dakota Boom started.
  Hal’s gaze focused on Mae’s left hand. “Jake still hasn’t popped the question?”
  Mae sighed. Hal was a pleasant sort, but she really wished the townspeople would occupy their thoughts with something other than her and Jake’s pending engagement. True, they had been courting for six years and Jake still hadn’t proposed, but she was confident he would. He’d said so, and he was a man of his word—though every holiday, when a ring would have been an appropriate gift, that special token of his intentions failed to materialize. Mae had more lockets than any one woman could wear, but Jake apparently thought that she could always use another one. What she could really use was his hand in marriage. The bloom was swiftly fading from her youth, and it would be nice if her younger brother, Jeremy, had a man’s presence in his life.
  “Be patient, Hal. He’s busy trying to establish a business.”
  “Good lands. How long does it take a man to open a law office?”
  “Apparently six years and counting.” She didn’t like the uncertainty but she understood it, even if the town’s population didn’t. She had a good life, what with work, church, and the occasional social. Jake accompanied her to all public events, came over two or three times a week, and never failed to extend a hand when she needed something. It was almost as though they were already married.
  “The man’s a fool,” Hal declared. “He’d better slap a ring on that finger before someone else comes along and does it for him.”
  “Not likely in Dwadlo,” Mae mused. The town itself was made up of less than a hundred residents, but other folks lived in the surrounding areas and did their banking and shopping here. Main Street consisted of the General Store, Smith’s Grain and Feed, the livery, the mortuary, the town hall and jail (which was almost always empty), Doc Swede’s office, Rosie’s Café, and an empty building that had once housed the saloon. Mae hadn’t spotted a sign on any business yet advertising “Husbands,” but she was certain her patience would eventually win out.
  With a final smile Hal moved off to pay for his goods. Mae hummed a little as she put the money box in the safe. Looking out the window, she noticed a stiff November wind snapping the red canvas awning that sheltered the store’s porch. Across the square, a large gazebo absorbed the battering wind. The usually active gathering place was now empty under a gray sky. On summer nights music played, and the smell of popcorn and roasted peanuts filled the air. Today the structure looked as though it were bracing for another winter storm. Sighing, Mae realized she already longed for green grass, blooming flowers, and warm breezes.
  After Hal left Mae finished up the last of the chores and then reached for her warm wool cape. She usually enjoyed the short walk home from work, but today she was tired—and her feet hurt because of the new boots she’d purchased from the Montgomery Ward catalog. On the page they had looked comfortable with their high tops and polished leather, but on her feet they felt like a vise.
  Slipping the cape’s hood over her hair, she said goodbye to Dale and then paused when her hand touched the doorknob. “Oh, dear. I really do need to check on Pauline again.”
  “How’s she doing?” The store owner paused and leaned on his broom. “I noticed she hasn’t been in church recently.”
  Dale always reminded Mae of an owl perching on a tree limb, his big, dark blue eyes swiveling here and there. He might not talk a body’s leg off, but he kept up on town issues. She admired the quiet little man for what he did for the community and respected the way he preached to the congregation on Sundays.
  How was Pauline doing? Mae worried the question over in her mind. Pauline lived alone, and she shouldn’t. The elderly woman was Mae’s neighbor, and she checked on her daily, but Pauline was steadily losing ground.
  “She’s getting more and more fragile, I’m afraid. Dale, have you ever heard Pauline speak of kin?”
  The small man didn’t take even a moment to ponder the question. “Never heard her mention a single word about family of any kind.”
  “Hmm…me neither. But surely she must have some.” Someone who should be here, in Dwadlo, looking after the frail soul. Mae didn’t resent the extra work, but the post office and her brother kept her busy, and she really didn’t have the right to make important decisions regarding the elderly woman’s rapidly failing health.
  Striding back to the bread rack, she picked up a fresh loaf. Dale had private rooms at the back of the store where he made his home, and he was often up before dawn baking bread, pies, and cakes for the community. Most folks in town baked their own goods, but there were a few, widowers and such, who depended on Dale’s culinary skills. By this hour of the day the goods were usually gone, but a few remained. Placing a cherry pie in her basket as well, she called, “Add these things to my account, please, Dale. And pray for Pauline too.”
  Nodding, he continued sweeping, methodically running the stiff broomcorn bristles across the warped wood floor.
  The numbing wind hit Mae full force when she stepped off the porch. Her hood flew off her head and an icy gust of air snatched away her breath. Putting down her basket, she retied the hood before setting off for the brief walk home. Dwadlo was laid out in a rather strange pattern, a point everyone agreed on. Businesses and homes were built close together, partly as shelter from the howling prairie winds and partly because there wasn’t much forethought given to town planning. Residents’ homes sat not a hundred feet from the store. The whole community encompassed less than five acres.
  Halfway to her house, snowflakes began swirling in the air. Huddling deeper into her wrap, Mae concentrated on the path as the flakes grew bigger.
  She quickly covered the short distance to Pauline’s. The dwelling was little more than a front room, tiny kitchen, and bedroom, but she was a small woman. Pauline pinned her yellow-white hair in a tight knot at the base of her skull, and she didn’t have a tooth in her head. She chewed snuff, which she freely admitted was an awful habit, but Mae had never heard her speak of giving it up.
  Her faded blue eyes were as round as buttons, and no matter what kind of day she was having, it was always a new one to her, filled with wonders. Her mind wasn’t what it used to be. She had good and bad days, but mostly days when her moods changed as swift as summer lightning. She could be talking about tomatoes in the garden patch when suddenly she would be discussing how to spin wool.
  Mae noted a soft wisp of smoke curling up from the chimney and smiled. Pauline had remembered to feed the fire this afternoon, so this was a good day.
  Unlatching the gate, she followed the path to the front porch. In summertime the white railings hung heavy with red roses, and the scent of honeysuckle filled the air. This afternoon the wind howled across the barren flower beds Pauline carefully nurtured during warmer weather. Often she planted okra where petunias should be, but she enjoyed puttering in the soil and the earth loved her. She brought fresh tomatoes, corn, and beans to the store during spring and summer, and pumpkins and squash lined the railings in the fall.
  In earlier days Pauline’s quilts were known throughout the area. She and her quilting group had made quite a name for themselves when Dwadlo first became a town. Four women excelled in the craft. One had lived in Pine Grove, and two others came from as far away as Branch Springs once a month to break bread together and stitch quilts. But one by one the women had died off, leaving Pauline to sew alone in her narrowing world.
  Stomping her boots on the porch, Mae said under her breath, “I don’t mind winter, Lord, but could we perhaps have a little less of it?” The only answer was the wind whipping her garments. Tapping lightly on the door, she called, “Pauline?”
  Mae stepped back and waited to hear the shuffle of feet. Pauline used to answer the door in less than twenty seconds. It took longer now. Mae made a fist with her gloved hand and banged a little harder. The wind howled around the cottage eaves. She closed her eyes and prayed that Jeremy had remembered to stack sufficient firewood beside the kitchen door. The boy was generally responsible, and she thanked God every day that she had him to lean on. He had been injured by forceps during birth, which left him with special needs. He was a very happy fourteen-year-old with the reasoning power of a child of nine.
  A full minute passed. Mae frowned and tried the doorknob. Pauline couldn’t hear herself yell in a churn, but she might also be asleep. The door opened easily, and Mae peeked inside the small living quarters. She saw that a fire burned low in the woodstove, and Pauline’s rocking chair sat empty.
  Stepping inside, she closed the door and called again. “Pauline? It’s Mae!”
  The ticking of the mantle clock was the only sound that met her ears.
  “Pauline?” She lowered her hood and walked through the living room. She paused in the kitchen doorway.
  “Oh, Pauline!”

 

Rivers of Living Water

Music for Refreshing the Soul

I took Suzanne Lorente’s, Rivers of Living Water CD with me on my road trip to Oregon. It was great company. The music is straight-forward and uncomplicated with clearly understandable lyrics. On the open road it was great sing-along music, and with the volume turned low it provided a soothing background when navigating unknown roads.

All but one of the songs on the CD were new to me, which I found surprising because of my life-long immersion in Christian music — and that’s when I noticed that the words and music of almost every song are Suzanne Lorente originals.

Suzanne’s voice is clear and strong and full of praise for God. Her music is fresh and refreshing, just as the title implies. This CD quickly became one of my favorites.

~*~

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

 

Today’s Wild Card artist is:

 

 

and the CD:

 

Rivers of Living Water

Lorente Publishing

***Special thanks to Suzanne Lorente for sending me a review cd.***

ABOUT THE ARTIST:

Suzanne Perry Lorente has been a child of the Lord since age 7. Her gift of music began at age two and has carried her through her life. She is an accomplished long time song writer, singer, guitarist and performer from the age of 13. At a young age, Suzanne chose a career of a professional entertainer as a single singer/guitarist in well known night clubs, dinner houses and special events, with a repertoire of more than 400 songs. During this same time frame, she achieved an Associate of Arts degree in Mass Media from Stephens College in Columbia, MO, and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music from San Jose State University in California. As time marched along, she realized God’s calling on her life to turn her heart toward Him as she could hear that “still, small voice” asking her to leave the relentless work of night clubs and secular entertainment. “It was a vow that took place in a day, and His promise took place over my lifetime. I am so blessed and God has kept His promise that He would give me the songs to sing for His children and for His glory.” Suzanne has sung first of all for her family, then in choirs, started and sang in many small groups and trios, sang solo for so many audiences and congregations throughout the United States, and left behind a legacy of musical scenarios as she tells her stories of how each of her songs came about. She has recorded an ageless cassette that continues to be in demand, and a new CD, that has high-lighted the songs God has given to her. Suzanne has been teaching voice and guitar since she was 14 years old. She is presently singing in the little City of Dixon, CA for their Farmers Markets, weddings, and events, as well as with her trio, Suzanne Lorente and Friends, as they embark on recording a CD together. They are out doing concerts whenever possible and wherever the Lord leads. “It’s wonderful to see God change the lives and hearts of people as we just sing our songs and allow Him to work through us. I love that!”

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT CD DESCRIPTION:

This CD is a wonderful spiritual uplift and encouragement for any Christian who wants to grow, not only by hearing God’s Word, but by doing what He’s asking us to do. We have to take that first step and that’s what this CD motivates believers and non-believers to do. The songs are original Christian Gospel scenarios that anyone can relate to, and that’s what gives you the anointing strength to keep on going. You will love the beautiful orchestral and vocal backgrounds with each song as Suzanne Lorente and her trio envelope you with their angelic harmonies. God has put His Hand of blessing on Suzanne and given her songs throughout her lifetime of ministry. She and her gals are planning a tour and would love to include your church or event if it’s possible. May God bless every listener and urge them to follow the Lord by listening to His “Still, Small Voice!”

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Music CD
Publisher: Lorente Publishing
Language: English

AND NOW..A SAMPLE OF A SONG FROM THE CD:

(To hear more samples, please visit Suzanne’s website)

Here is one of the songs, “Misunderstood.” This song is an original of mine written on January 1st of 2010. I am the voice for those who have been aborted, abused and misunderstood. This is quite sad, but it’s telling us that each one of these has identified with the misery, torture, and abuse that Jesus went through on the cross. Many 100’s of thousands have died a martyr’s death, and are with the Lord because He loves them. Please listen carefully! This could be such a blessing for the Christian pregnancy centers and homes of abused women and children.

Here are the lyrics:

Misunderstood – Matthew 18:1-7

Words and Music by Suzanne Lorente
Arranged by Jeannine O’Neal

How can it be they don’t hear them, they don’t see

What can I say? Jesus loves them, they are free.

No-one will take time to listen as they cry

Knowing that I have the answer, I know why.

They’ve been misunderstood time after time

Their tiny voices still ring in our minds

No-one to love them, no-one to care

What they have to say doesn’t matter…anyway.

There is a hard part to living, not to be heard

Hate takes the joy out of giving, their vision blurred

Where is the love that could give them wings to fly?

Knowing that I have the answer, I know why.

They’ve been misunderstood time after time

Their little voices still ring in our mind

No-one to hear them, no-one to care

What they have to say doesn’t matter…anyway.

Could you be one who can’t hear them, you can’t see?

Are you aware they are people like you and me?

What would have come of the children who were slain?

There’d be a world of compassion… no more pain!

We have misunderstood time after time

Their tiny voices still ring in our mind

Someone will love them, someone will care

What they have to say really matters…anyway.

He’s (Jesus) been misunderstood, but not for long

Each tiny baby to Him will belong.

He really loves them, He really cares

What He has to say is what matters…anyway!

What He has to say is what matters….anyway!

Matt. 18:1-7

Additional high vocals Suzanne Lorente, Cecelia Dettle
Copyright 2010 BMI-0777 All rights reserved

See my website for further information: www.suzannelorente.com

Stumbling Toward Heaven

One wouldn’t expect a book about cancer to be a laugh-out-loud read, but this one is. In Stumbling Toward Heaven: Cancer, Crashes and Questions, Mike Hamel takes us through his struggles with cancer, God, and the aftermath of his auto accident. This a true story told with unusual candor and brilliant insights, and it isn’t just a book for cancer patients.  If you or anyone you love have ever suffered a life altering catastrophe or struggled over questions of God’s will in your life, you will find this book a heart and soul stirring read.

~*~

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

 

Today’s Wild Card author is:

 

 

and the book:

 

Stumbling Toward Heaven: Cancer, Crashes and Questions

CreateSpace (March 24, 2011)

***Special thanks to Mike Hamel for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Mike Hamel is the author of a dozen books and a cancer survivor who lives and writes in the shadow of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs.

Visit the author’s website.

 

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Stumbling Toward Heaven is about my struggle with cancer in particular and life in general. It describes in detail what the disease has done to my body and what life before and during treatment has done to my mind, which has never been very stable in the first place. It follows my physical and spiritual journey toward the Valley of the Shadow of Death and beyond. It’s written for everyone who has been impacted by life-threatening catastrophes.

This book is also meant for those who find themselves spiritually “off the reservation” as novelist and cancer survivor Kinky Friedman would say. For a long time I’ve been “out where the (church) buses don’t run”—another Kinkyism—and it’s surprising how many people have wandered out here for one reason or another.

On May 16th, TV News 5 (Colorado) ran a story about Mike. Click HERE to see the interview!

 

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 270 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (March 24, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1461005000
ISBN-13: 978-1461005001

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Good News, It’s Cancer!

July 2, 2008
“I have good news,” Dr. Dillon said, leaning forward on his elbows. “You have cancer. The biopsy shows the lump in your abdomen is Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and not an omental tumor as the initial scan suggested.”

Lymphoma is good news indeed. The first time I’d seen the good doctor a few weeks earlier he’d said, “You have a nonspecific mass in your omentum.”

“I didn’t even know I had an omentum,” I replied.

“It’s a fatty covering in the abdomen.”

“How big is the mass?” (“Mass” sounds more benign that “tumor.”)

“About the diameter of a grapefruit,” he said, making a circle with thumbs and forefingers. “The nearby lymph nodes are also enlarged.”

Dr. Dillon had no idea how long the tumor had been growing. I got introduced to it in the spring of 2008. I was getting low-grade cramps after sitting at my computer all day, which I put down to poor posture. Then I woke up two nights in a row with abdominal pain I couldn’t blame on posture or indigestion. That’s when I first felt the hardness in my gut.

The cramps went away about the time I made an appointment with my family physician but the lump remained. I remember kneading my gut on the way to the doctor’s trying to rekindle the pain that had caused me to make the appointment in the first place. Turns out I didn’t have to worry about wasting the doctor’s time; he could feel the abnormality and wouldn’t buy my glib explanation that it was my abs of steel.

“It’s only hard on one side,” he pointed out.

“Okay,” I conceded, “How about ab of steel?”

“How about you get a CT scan,” he countered.

The scan revealed a mass large enough to warrant an immediate trip to a surgeon/oncologist, which is how I wound up at Dr. Dillon’s.

Larry Dillon is a personable man with salt-and-pepper hair, an open face and straightforward manner. During our first visit he had explained to my wife, Susan, and me that the normal course of treatment is a complete surgical resection of the omentum. Before we left he warned about doing research on the Internet because the information on solid omental tumors “will scare you silly.”

He got that right.

I had no problem finding authoritative articles on omental masses. I had hoped it was something Catholics attended during Lent, but no such luck. An article on eMedicine clinically stated that, “Patients with primary malignant tumors of the omentum have a median survival time of only six months. Only 10-20% of patients are alive two years after surgical excision.”1

The word that popped out at me was “survival,” a stark concept for a fifty-six-year-old who had seldom been sick and who had only been in a hospital as a visitor. Till now my closest brushes with mortality had been conducting funerals as a pastor. All that was about to change. Since then I’ve been in and out of hospitals, clinics and doctor’s offices. I have gone from a high-energy to a high-maintenance lifestyle; from avoiding even aspirin to popping up to twenty pills a day and having lethal doses of toxic chemicals injected directly into my chest.
Scan This, Biopsy That

The transition from diagnosis (determining what’s wrong with a person), to prognosis (discerning how a disease will progress), is facilitated by a plethora of tests. It was a CT scan that sent me to Dr. Dillon. He in turn ordered a biopsy of the mass in my abdomen.

Computed Axial Tomography, aka CAT or CT scan, was invented in 1972 by a British engineer and a South African physicist, both of whom later received Nobel Prizes for their contributions to medicine and science. Tomos is Greek for “slice” and graphia means “without a knife.” The CT scan uses X-rays and computers to examine the body in 3-D, which sure beats exploratory surgery! It allows radiologists to see diseases and abnormalities that, in the past, could only be found by surgeons—or coroners. Thankfully, the procedure is painless, unless you count drinking the contrast solution, which tastes like banana-flavored chalk.

I reported to Memorial Hospital on June 26 for my tumor biopsy. I remember talking to a nurse named Tammy while on the examination table and the next thing I knew I was in the recovery room an hour later. Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine and the skills of top-flight professionals, I can truly say the process was painless.

As I looked at my stomach after the biopsy, I noticed the “x” they made before the procedure was an inch below the actual cut. I pointed this out to Tammy, who explained that they’d marked me while I was holding my breath during the scan. Once I was under, I relaxed, hence the change in location. There went my hopes of a malpractice suit. Actually, I was impressed at how personable and professional the medical personnel have treated me) an observation that has held true throughout my treatment).

All I have to show for the biopsy the next day is a small bruise and a slight soreness. I feel pretty upbeat but I’m careful not to get too exuberant or else I’ll pay the price. To an extent, I believe Newton’s Third Law also applies to emotions: “For every feeling, there is an equal and opposite feeling.” Like other natural forces, emotions come finely balanced on a shifting fulcrum.

The hardest part of this ordeal so far has been telling family and friends and hearing the concern and tears in their voices. The possibility of a shortened life hasn’t registered on me yet. I’m not trying to suppress my feelings; they just haven’t gotten too worked up.

Obviously God has entered my thoughts but this crisis hasn’t suddenly cured my inability to pray. For a few years now I’ve suffered from the loss of a sense of God’s presence and shed my evangelical worldview. I’ve been adrift in a spiritual Sargasso Sea, which may have contributed to my getting sick. More on this later.

* * *

“Cancer is a word, not a sentence.”

—John Diamond