Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spring Fun & April Fools Jokes

Okay...I know it's the end of the month...but bear with me. I LOVE April Fool's Day. I am one of the biggest practical jokers I know.

Problem is, my husband rivals me in the art of trickstery. Two of our favorite shows to watch are Candid Camera and Punk'd and similar practical joke shows.

Before we married, we'd play jokes on each other ALL the time. Once him and a friend taped eight foot pieces of plastic to my door at 4 AM. Then FILLED it to the brim with thousands of packing peanuts. So when we opened the door the next morning, this mountain of packing peanuts avalanched into our apartment. It took my roommate (waving to Kelly Rushing) and I three hours to clean them up. It took SO long because the foam peanuts kept sticking to us due to static electricity. It was SO frustrating. We finally got them cleaned up by me scooping them with a dustpan into a lawn bag. We filled like 4 lawn bags I think. It was crazy.

Then when we got married, my husband warned me NOT to stock our new pantry with canned goods until after we got back from our honeymoon and moved in. Apparently his mom was trying to sneak our house keys in order to get in and do what she did to his brother when he got married...ripped all the labels off their canned goods. So they didn't know what they were eating for a month and a half.

Sigh. At least I know who my husband got his jokester genes from.

Unfortunately my children must have inherited that trickster streak because one day when they were little they, yes, ripped ever label off the canned goods. You CANNOT tell the difference between green beans and peaches when you're shaking a can and holding it to your ear. LOL!

SO I'm curious as to what was the WORST or FUNNIEST or MOST MEMORABLE practical joke you've either played on someone or had someone play on you?

Don't be shy! I know I can't be the only trickster among us.

Cheryl Wyatt

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

May is coming...

There's only two days left in April, and I have to say, I'm not very sad to see it go. Here in the country, April brings not only showers but JUNE bugs! Yes, they're always early out here. I started calling them April bugs. Not creative, no, but accurate as I swat and duck and dodge the divebombing annoyances every time I try to get in my door in the evening.

All in all, I have nothing against April. But much to look forward to!

Ever have months like that? Where it seems like everything happens at once?

In May, I'm expected to receive my first box of books from my new publisher, Steeple Hill. My first release with Love Inspired is releasing July 1st (another busy month for me!) and I can NOT wait to hold a copy of RETURN TO LOVE in my hands. I believe this whole dream won't feel entirely real until that moment. Can any authors relate to that?

Also, we're taking a beach trip in May. This will be our first vacation since well before I was pregnant, and now that my daughter is coming up on 10 months, I'm beyond ready! We could use a change of scenery, as I know every mom/author/employee/woman in general could. I'll send postcards!

May will also be my first official mother's day and on that same Sunday at church, we have baby dedication where my daughter will be dedicated to the Lord. Such sweet moments to come! I can't wait! (and you should SEE the dress I bought for her to wear! haha! No frilly, taffeta, pink & white or lacy number for her. Oh no. She'll be the trendy one in a tailored, plaid polo-style dress) =)

But no matter what month it is, no matter what treats are to come, what I love even more is knowing that God is completely in control and has each event, each day, each moment mapped out for us. Our lives are known by Him.

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. (Psalm 139 1-4)

We can safely rest in the knowledge that God's got us. He has each of days wrapped securely in His hands and nothing can get to us without passing through Him first. He wants what is best for us, as He promised in the verses above. He KNOWS us. Nothing better than that, huh? =)

Bye bye, April. Hello, blessed May. Your presence is most welcome! =)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

April Showers bring May flowers

Here in Oregon we've been having the most amazing weather. The first three months of 2009 were cold and rainy, for the most part with a few mild sunny days. Normally April is another wet month but we have had sunny, warm days up in the high seventies and even reaching into the low eighties. We've gone on bike rides, walks with the dogs to the park, visited downtown Portland's Saturday Market and I'm planning on visiting the Woodburn Shoe Tulip Farm.

The farm has extended its
Tulip Festival through May 3rd, open daily 9-6. There are many fun activities schedule for the whole family. What I like the most is the explosion of color and the tranquillity of the blooms.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Scooby Doo's Blackberry is not Edible

I just realized that as I bring out the old manuscripts, the ones that weren't quite ready just a few short years (No, I'm not going to define few and short) ago, that they not only need to be quality improved but technology improved.
What brought this on?
Well, Saturday my little family was driving home from a day spend exploring the great outdoors. We were up near Sunflower, Arizona, riding our quads in the middle of nowhere for the whole day. It's something we do more and more. Pack up, head out, and play. This day was nostalgic. See last time we rode there was the day I found out I was pregnant with Mikey. So, I was in happy Mommy land remembering how careful I drove, where we stopped and I told the aunts and uncles etc. It wasn't that easy because since that day there's been a fire or two. Instead of riding amidst pines, we were riding amidst charred trees reaching their brittle bones to the sky. Instead of greens, there were browns.
But I digress.
On the way home, my sleepy four-year-old asks for his new Scooby Doo DVD. I plug it in, shut my eyes, and listen for the "Scooby Doo, Where Are Youuuuuu?" It comes, and pretty soon so does Fred in the Mystery Machine. Scene one: Fred is looking at the GPS in the Mystery Machine. Egads. My eyes open. Fred is forever trapped in a cartoon and will never age. The Fred I remember wore flares! He shouldn't have a GPS system in the van.
Woe is me.
As I dust out the manuscripts from the days before the web, I realize that all my heroines and heroes need to acquire cell phones. Guess that will add a page or two, eh?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hero Interview from Ready-Made Family

Interview with the hero from Ready-Made Family by Cheryl Wyatt:

1. Ben Dillinger, tell me the most interesting thing about you.
I am a United States Special Operations Pararescue Jumper. PJ for short. There are less than a 1000 of us worldwide. Our training takes two years and over 80% do not make it through the PJ pipeline program. We are skydiving search and rescue paramedics trained in military combat. When an allied pilot is shot down or crashed behind enemy lines? We're the ones who go after them. We also stay on standby for shuttle landings in the event of a water landing---we're there along with NASA.

2. What do you do for fun?
Skydive!!! Train for missions which also means skydiving. Train others to skydive. I volunteer at Refuge's Drop Zone (the facility and grounds where parachutists land) to take civilians on tandem jumps for fun. We video the jump and give it to people afterwards. Great fun.

3. What do you put off doing because you dread it?
Unpacking my rucksack after a long mission. So I actually keep two mission rucksacks. So that one's ready to go at all times.

4. What are you afraid of most in life?
Letting my brother down. He has Mosaic Down Syndrome and I was embarrassed of him growing up. But I just took him in and am trying to build a relationship with him.

5. What do you want out of life?
I'm single and looking for a family. I'm more than ready to settle down. But I need a gal who can handle what I do and the fact that I have to leave on a moment's notice. My job is dangerous and I need someone who can be brave when I'm gone. There's this girl who just happened into town...not of her own volition though...who I've got my eye on. You'll have to read the book to get the rest of the story.

6. What is the most important thing to you?
God. Worship. I am a worship leader in my church. I make up my own worship songs to God. The guys on my team like to make fun of me over it. They call me a musical poet. But, hey, I can still lift more than any of them in the gym. So I can take 'em. LOL.

7. Do you read books? If so, what is your favorite type of book?
Um...sadly not into books. But I'd read Steeple Hill books. Amelia, that's the girl I was telling you about earlier who I like, she loves romance novels. She reads your books in fact. There's a slew of them on her bookshelves right now. :-)

8. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I wish I knew how to better talk to my brother. I have a hard time relating to people with disabilities. Many people don't know what to do or say. Or whether to help or resist helping to spare the person's dignity. It's hard to know what to do or say to a disabled person sometimes. But I'm learning and God is helping me relate better to my brother.

9. Do you have a pet? If so, what is it and why that pet?
I don't have a pet. Can't really take care of one with having to leave on my job. But the girl I like, she has a dog named Shasta. And her little girl has this bear-baby thing that's sort of like a pet. It's a stuffed animal named Bearby. She never leaves home without it. Bearby's like an appendage. He goes everywhere with us. If you look closely, you can see him on the cover of Ready-Made Family. Little Reece in the foreground there? She's running with Bearby across the yard.

10. If you could travel back in time, where would you go and why?
Vietnam to see where PJs originated from. I have an enormous respect for Vietnam vets. What they went through wasn't easy. And I'd feel like I was standing on sacred ground almost. The sacrifice and courage and valor displayed by those men makes me want to visit the sites of the offensives.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Amelia North needs refuge, and finds it—in Refuge, Illinois. Stranded there after a car wreck, the single mother expects to be cold-shouldered. After all, she's already been rejected by her parents, her church and her daughter's father. Instead, she finds a town full of people with open hands and open hearts…including pararescue jumper Ben Dillinger. Ben wants to help Amelia and her daughter find safety and stability. Instead, he finds himself free-falling—right into love with the ready-made family.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Renewing Your Mind

You're probably wondering what the above photo has to do with renewal. That's a photo of me standing in my yard next to a pile of pine straw bales. For those of you who don't live in the southeastern US, pine needles aka pine straw are used to mulch flower beds and natural areas. We have a huge yard, and it requires eighty to one hundred bales of pine straw twice a year. It's a big job, but when I finish the yard looks fantastic. All the natural areas are renewed. I love working outside in God's creation, and I've been itching to get out in the yard and renew the pine straw, especially when I take a walk and see that my neighbors have put out new pine straw. I haven't tackled the spreading of pine straw this year because I'm too busy meeting my newest book deadline, so the pine straw will have to wait until I turn in my book.

The following scripture from Romans 12:1-2 talks about renewing our minds. "1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Just as the flower beds and natural areas of my yard need renewing, we need to renew our minds by keeping them in tune with God. What do you do to keep in tune with God?


Thursday, April 23, 2009

April Showers

Springtime is here at last. The thunderstorms that rolled through the area last night are proof of that. After the cold, dry winter the prairie is ready for some moisture. It’s ready for renewal. Without winter, without storms, there would be no renewal of the land.

Right now the wheat fields of Kansas are green blankets only a few inches tall. In another two months they will be waist high oceans of golden grain waving in the hot summer sun. Jesus was a carpenter, but he must have enjoyed the sight of wheat fields, too, because he used a story about a grain of wheat to show us how to follow him.

John 12:24-26 (New International Version)
24I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

I don’t know what storms you have endured in your life. I know I’ve had my share, but the promise of God’s renewal is all around us. Right down to the tiny seeds we're eager to plant in our gardens. The storms will pass and when they do we shall see God's glory all around us.

Have a great spring day.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Spring--time of birth

I wanted to announce the birth of my granddaughter this month. She is adorable. Her big sis is doing great tolerating another person taking up her mommie time. Grandma loves holding her although about all she does right now is eat and sleep. And boy, she is eating a lot! The day after she left the hospital she was already back up to her birth weight of six pounds, eight ounces. The following week she'd gained five ounces.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Is spring really here?

Hi. It's me again--Lenora. (I often say that when I talk to God, too!)I think spring has finally sprung in Louisiana. We've had lots of storms lately--those April showers and now I've planted some May flowers. I'm having my church circle group here tomorrow night and we're having a nice supper out by the pool. So that meant that all today I did some spring cleaning and my husband and I worked in the yard, clearing up leaves and limbs and pine straw and just about everything else left over from the wind and rain. Now my back is complaining! But it was so nice to get out in the fresh air and work through the renewal that comes with spring. It was warm so I didn't have to bundle up. The wind had died down so it was very pleasant. I did put on bug spray (that's standard in Louisiana where the mosquitoes are always out and about.) But I picked up limbs and pulled weeds and had a pretty good time. My dear husband has worked at his "part-time" job for about seven days straight but he washed the patio down, including the chairs and table and cleaned the pool and made everything looks so clean and pretty. We have new flowers planted and I'll cook everything tomorrow. I'm glad to be here because I had something rather strange happen to me last Friday (on my 53rd birthday). First, I woke up after my husband had left and heard a tv on. My husband never leaves things on, so I went downstairs and saw the little tv in the kitchen on and that tape of the British lady singing away was running on one of the morning shows. That was odd enough. Then a towel in my bathroom just fell right off the rack. That was odd. Then, Friday night I had an assignment for the magazine where I moonlight. I had to get all dressed up to attend the Cotillion. It was raining. After the court was presented and I had my pictures, we all headed out to a tent past the old auditorium where the Cotillion is always held. The tables had these huge three-foot tall glass vases full of lovely flowers on them but the wind was hurricane strength coming through that tent. I was sitting with a nice couple at a table, enjoying the great food, when the wind picked up. We decided to move. I went to speak to a friend and bam, just like that, the huge vase at the table shattered into a million sliver of glass. About five seconds AFTER I'd left. I looked at my friend and said "I was just sitting there." He said, "I know." Okay, that was very odd. If I'd stayed there, I'd probably have stitches all over my face or worse. On the way home, I thanked God for giving me the good sense to move when I did. And then it hit me. 53. That was the age of my sister Glenda when she died (after a wreck with a drunk driver.) My first LI "The Wedding Quilt" was based on all the emotions my family went through when she died. I looked up at the dark night and sent her a big "thanks". I believe my sister was watching over me Friday--all day long--in her playful way. And I think she probably helped me move before that big heavy vase could come crashing down all around me. Talk about renewal.
At 53, I feel renewed and filled with gratitude that I had her in my life. She always loved birthdays. So today, even though I worked hard at spring cleaning (who knew one woman could collect so many winters shoes!!!)and I'm sore and tired from picking up broken limbs, my spirit is not broken. Spring is here and each minute is precious beyong measure. The flowers know when it's time to bloom. They push through the winter to find the sun. And that's what we have to do, too. We push through, even when things seem to be shattering all around us. Winter is over; spring is here and He is risen. My garden looks like the color of love. Because I have angels watching over me--in every season.

Monday, April 20, 2009

God is Good All the Time

Hi Debra Clopton here--I've recently begun going to a Cowboy church. I wrote a little about it in my last post but felt compelled to write about it again. You see the church was begun 2 years ago on Easter Sunday. I wasn't attending yet, but they say that there was four inches of snow on the ground and twenty people. Twenty faithful people who had a dream or vision of what they wanted to do for the Lord. They wanted to reach out to a group of people in their surrounding community who didn't know the Lord or who may have been needing something different to renew their spirit and their drive for the Lord. I too needed this. I began attending a couple of months ago saw the vision for what was happening there myself. And I wanted to be a part of that. The tiny church that had begun with 1 man's vision and 19 others who wanted to help him had services Easter Sunday in their new church building. It's a lovely metal building, decked out with cedar and tin walls, pine cabinets in the huge kitchen, concrete floors a stage where Tuffy Loftin the pastor and the Unbroken Circle Band bring a wonderful message for the Lord. There are pine benches (hand made by members and metal chairs) there is an original wagon decked out in one corner and behind the building is a rodeo arena. Beside the building there are five Sunday School rooms each separate but joined by a plank sidewalk. When I look at the new church I imagine my Mule Hollow :)it would fit right in. I actually use the description of the inside of the church in one of my upcoming books (Jan 2010 Her Forever Cowboy). Anyway, this Sunday as I said they had their first service in their new large building. Two years after they began in a town of less than a thousand and there were about 280 in attendance! It was a beautiful uplifting sight to see and be a part of. God is using the Cowboy Church of Leon County and I can not tell you how much it is renewing my spirit to see the smiling faces I see there and the friends I'm making there.

It's a wonderful thing to be a part of...if your spirits need renewing join in somewhere and catch the vision. Not to be preachy but yesterday in his sermon Tuffy said something that hit home with me. He said--in cowboy terms--In our life there should not be nothin' to steal your joy. (Nothin')He said and backed it up with scripture that as a Christian we should be four things. Peaceful, Joyful, useful, and powerful. I hope that if your spirit needs renewing you will remember John 20:19,John16:22, John 10:10 and that you will have peace and joy and find a way to be useful and powerful for the Lord and in doing so that your spirit will be renewed. Remember God can do wonderful, powerful things through only one man's vision. Do you have a vision today?

I know in terms of my books that when I came up with the idea of Mule Hollow I didn't see the longevity of the series. Yes I saw 3 maybe 4 books. It took reader after reader coming back to buy the books and my great editor who picked up on the vision and encouraged me to keep going as long as God led me. Well He is still leading me and readers are still embracing my town. I love that I get to bring my wacky, funloving town to life in each book and I pray that God continues to give me the words to bring some joy into the day of those who pick up one of my stories. God is good all the time...

Debra Clopton

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hero Interview from Homecoming Blessings

Interview with the hero from Homecoming Blessing by Merrillee Whren:

1. Peter Dalton, tell me the most interesting thing about you.

I’m a pretty boring guy probably because I work too much. I hate to think that the most interesting thing about me is my ability to make a business plan and stick to it, but that’s about it.

2. What do you do for fun?

Fun? What’s that? In recent years, I’ve been too busy to have fun. But I have to admit working with Ashley Hiatt is fun in itself. She keeps me on my toes. There is never a dull moment when she is around.

3. What do you put off doing because you dread it?

I put off admitting that I’m wrong. I hate to say I’m sorry because I like to have the upper hand in every situation.

4. What are you afraid of most in life?

I’m afraid of having my heart broken again. My fiancĂ©e’s betrayal fifteen years ago has made me wary of any serious relationship with a woman.

5. What do you want out of life?

Ever since I came to work for Hiatt Construction, my dream has been to eventually step into Richard Hiatt’s shoes when he retires and run his company.

6. What is the most important thing to you?

My family is most important to me. I almost lost my brothers—one to war injuries and the other to cancer. I’ve learned to appreciate them a lot more.

7. Do you read books? If so, what is your favorite type of book?

I’ve always loved to read. I especially enjoy thrillers, mysteries and any books that deal with espionage. I don’t do as much reading as I used to because I’m much too busy with my job. Since I’ve been working with Ashley, I’ve been reading my Bible a lot more, too.

8. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I’d like to be more spontaneous. I’m all about plans and sticking to the plan. Ashley’s presence in my life has put me in a more spontaneous mode. I find myself buying her little gifts on the spur of the moment—something I’ve never done before.

9. Do you have a pet? If so, what is it and why that pet?

I have no pets. I work long hours, and I’m afraid I wouldn’t have the time to give a pet the attention it deserves.

10. If you could travel back in time, where would you go and why?

I’m a construction guy. I like to build things. So if I could go back in time, I’d like to go back to ancient Egypt and see how they built the pyramids.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


A small-town gal who does God's work for a living? Big-city businessman Peter Dalton doesn't think he and fresh-from-the-field missionary Ashley Hiatt have anything in common. Until his boss—her father—pairs them together on a special project to help those less fortunate. Suddenly, instead of making money, Peter is making dreams come true. He's a changed man. Well, maybe not when it comes to settling down. With his past, he's just not cut out for family life. But lovely Ashley seems to think otherwise…and is making it her mission to prove it for good.

Friday, April 17, 2009

ohmygosh! It's Friday!

I am soooo sorry. I thought it was Thursday all day today and just realized I had lost a day somewhere. It's Friday. And I'm LATE POSTING.

I know I should have done it ahead of time but since I was off a day in my mind it wouldn't have mattered. Yes, I have a brain like Swiss cheese. Or maybe Sponge Bob.

And, to make this even worse, I have no idea what to say other than groveling, and I imagine you've all had plenty of that so far.

I can use Spring as an excuse. Even though I should have been working/writing on the novella that I have contracted right now, I just HAD escape to the yard to play in the garden and plant more flowers and veggies. There is something renewing about this time of year, something that reminds me of the scripture "There is time for everything, and a season to plant." This is certainly it.

I'll add one picture of my phlox from last summer.
And I promise to try to do better next time.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

One Refreshing Day by Missy Tippens

Missy here. Since we’re talking about spring and renewal this month, I had the idea of sharing the beautiful photo at the left (from a redbud tree at our church) and telling how, after years of drought, we’ve had a fairly wet spring, etc., etc.

But then yesterday we had the most wonderful day—a renewing, refreshing day for me. And I wanted to share it with all of you.

My son plays on the middle school tennis team. They had their last match last week, but for fun, the coach arranged to have an 8th grade student and teacher doubles tournament . Each 8th grader was matched with a teacher and played doubles against another teacher/student team.
First off, it was an absolutely perfect spring day. Sunny and about 65 degrees. But what was so refreshing to me was how supportive the teachers were to show up after school hours to take part in the event. They cheered for the kids, teased with them, and had good competitive fun.

You know, I’ve been really impressed with the middle school teachers. They show up for a good many events above and beyond the call of duty. And they do it out of caring for the kids—at an age where the kids aren’t always so easy to love! That’s what was so refreshing to me yesterday. We so often hear the negative stories about school and teachers. So I’m happy to share a bit of the positive.

And as an addendum, today a bunch of those same teachers were out helping with a county-wide track meet!

I hope you’ll share a story of renewal or of something that has refreshed you recently.

Hanging by Your Fingertips

This blog isn’t specifically about renewal, but in a way it is. I’m renewed by the Good News of Easter. I’m renewed each time I think of Jesus’ sacrifice or of how much He must love me. A little event occurred this weekend that sort of relates. I hope.

I have a four-year-old grandson. Like most little boys, Kade sometimes gets himself into a sticky situation. Last Saturday he was in the garage with his mom. She was loading the car to go to the church Easter egg hunt and didn’t have her eye specifically on him. She pressed the garage door opener and went on loading things.

Suddenly, she heard a small voice call, “Help, help!” Kade had grabbed hold of the garage door bottom, and there he went—all the way to the top of the garage, dangling by his little finger! My daughter-in-law is very small and couldn’t reach him. Fearing he couldn’t hold on much longer, she rushed over, reached up, and told Kade to jump into her arms. He did, and she caught him. Though he could have been hurt, today the story is funny. I can just seen Kade taking that ride out of curiosity, then suddenly aware that he’s got a problem he can’t solve.

Kade’s incident brought to mind my relationship with the Lord. Sometimes I get myself into bad situations. Sometimes I’m doing things that I think the Lord wants me to do, but nothing is going right. And there I am holding on by my fingertips, painfully aware that I can’t handle this by myself. The amazing, marvelous thing is this: The minute I cry, “Help, help,” those strong, loving, everlasting arms reach out. That’s when I have to Kade’s childlike trust, the confidence of knowing that if I take that leap of faith, my Heavenly Father is there to catch me.

Christ is Risen...and boy, I'm glad!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Our Spring Escape, a Love Inspired Tour

My dh and I (photo of us in front of the Alamo) did something that we haven't done for a long time or maybe ever. On March 18 we set out from our northern WI house to drive to Dallas for a Book Expo there. But really we set out on a journey to revive us from winter and from doing the same routine day after day.

It was still very early for us to see much in the way of the signs of spring--green grass, flowers, new tender leaves and buds. Yet
about an hour south in central WI, we left snow behind us and then we began to relax. We spent a day with friends on their farm in Central IL that we hadn't seen in 8 years. Then we zipped down to Dallas and stayed in one of the old grand hotels in downtown--think LUXURIOUS--lots of marble and dark woods glowing with age. And delicious food. We had a special meal at one of the hotel restaurants and savored the triple layer chocolate cake and the moment.
By now we were feeling good.

We drove south to San Antonio. I had just finished writing a trilogy of books, Texas Star of Destiny series, set in Texas 1821 -1847.

And I wanted to visit many of the settings that I had written about--the Alamo, the Spanish governor's palace, the San Fernando Cathedral. After we spent two days in San Antonio, we drove through east Texas decorated with wild crepe myrtle in bloom passing by the site of the Massacre at Goliad and then up to Galveston Island which was still rebuilding after the hurricane last fall. Oh, to wear shorts again and walk on the white sand beach and listen to the seagulls screech. Amazing.

Then we drove NE to LA and spent a night with a Craftie Lady, Lenora Worth. I got to see her WORLD famous shoe collection and ate Cajun food and laughed and talked with her and her dh. In the morning, we drove through the LOVELY Ozarks in Arkansas and had delicious and fun Chinese dinner
yet another Craftie Lady, Val Hansen and her dh. The next day, we headed north through Missouri where we stopped to see the grave of Daniel Boone and his children and drove through Hannibal where Mark Twain had grown up and set his Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn books.

Nearly home, we stayed with another Love Inspired author Roxanne Rustand in Iowa where our son still lives. I also got to see Cynthia Rutledge which many of you know wrote many great books for Love Inspired not so long ago. And on March 31st when we crossed the Mississippi River to drive the last leg for home, we stopped to visit Patt Marr (and her dh), the final LI writing friend on our Love Inspired tour.

So that's what we did on our spring getaway from winter trip. We did hit snow once again an hour south of home, but it didn't matter. We had breathed in spring and knew it wouldn't be long till the trilliums would be blooming white and low in the forest of home. And we truly felt blessed and renewed.

We're already talking about doing something about the same time next year! Have you ever just followed your nose and took a leisurely no rush trip?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Day After Easter

How was your Easter? I was thinking about the day -- wondering if I'll be basking in the afterglow or just moving on with life like nothing's happened. I'm writing this in advance because by the time you read it I will be leaving my brother's place where I will have celebrated Easter with my parents, my brother, sister-in-law and nephews. We've had some great Easters together (my nephews are convinced I am the Easter Bunny and I have never denied it). Why don't you post a note here and tell everyone how your Easter went. As I said, I'll be driving north from Tucson so I don't know if I'll be able to check in. But I'll read your notes when I can.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Hero Interview from Texas Ranger Dad

Interview with the hero from Texas Ranger Dad by Debra Clopton:

1. Texas Ranger, Zane Cantrell, tell me the most interesting thing about you.

Actually, I’m an ex-ranger. I realized my life was short and I had…well, let’s just say I’ve had one thing in my life that I’ve regretted and I decided it was time to try and rectify that bad decision. I’ve just taken a job as Deputy Sheriff in a tiny Texas town called Mule Hollow. The woman I wronged 13 years ago lives there and it’s time for me to see if—well, frankly it’s time for me to seek her forgiveness. Back to your question though, I’d say my job was the most interesting thing about me. But then, my job was my life. I’m hoping I can change that though. Coming face to face with death gave me a new perspective and my hope is that I can use this second chance God has given me to make things right.

2. What do you do for fun?

I’ve worked mostly. But, every once in a great while, I might go to a friend’s ranch and take one of his horses for a ride. That didn’t happen often though. I’ve been on assignment so much that I have to keep my mind focused on keeping my assignments alive. I learned the hard way that one slip up, one distraction, can mean the difference in life or death. I take my responsibilities seriously so fun isn’t something I’d say I think about often.

3. What do you put off doing because you dread it?

Facing Rose.

4. What are you afraid of most in life?

Finding Rose and realizing that I’ve been right in thinking she only thought she loved me 13 years ago.

5. What do you want out of life?

What I want—to make things right by Rose. In a perfect world she’ll tell me she forgives me for what I did to her. She’ll tell me she loves me and wants to make a new start with me…but this is far from a perfect world. So if I can just make things right by her and let her know how much I regret my past actions then that’s what I want.

6. What is the most important thing to you?

Making things right by Rose.

7. Do you read books? If so, what is your favorite type of book?

Can’t say that I’m much of a reader but I’ve read a little Zane Grey and I read my Bible fairly regularly.

8. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I’d say my stubbornness

9. Do you have a pet? If so, what is it and why that pet?

No. I was on the road too much.

10. If you could travel back in time, where would you go and why?

I’d go back to the day I let Rose down and I’d change it. I’d fix it to where she never knew I cared…that way maybe she wouldn’t have gotten hurt.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Everyone in Mule Hollow can see the resemblance between former Texas Ranger Zane Cantrell and Rose Vincent's son. The same gold-flecked amber eyes. The same smile. Not that Zane is smiling. He's in shock! How could Rose have kept their child a secret from him? Rose reminds Zane that he's the one who walked away. He has to make her see he had no choice. But Rose is as prickly as the cactus jelly she makes. And that's where their hopeful son and the Mule Hollow matchmakers come marching in.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Rest and Renewal, by Carol Steward

There comes a time when everyone needs renewal of some sort. It may be a time of physical exhaustion, recovery from an illness, or a season of spiritual crises. When this time reaches out to you, it's time to reach out to those who love you. It's time to let them give back and give to you.

When I'm writing, I build a cocoon around myself and force myself to focus on the current book. My family builds the layers of protection around me, supporting me so I can focus. When I was younger, letting others take charge of those chores around the house was out of the question. Who knew that letting go would be such a challenge?

As a mother, I learned to juggle everything to keep my family going at warp speed. I didn't know what sleep was, literally. The time I thought I needed for renewal was shorter then, maybe an afternoon of shopping with a friend, a date with my husband, sleeping in for an extra hour on a Saturday morning. I had things to do and people to meet… I didn't have time to "waste" on the frivolity of renewal.

As His child, I realize more than ever that God intended for us to renew ourselves regularly. Much as I try, to this day, I can't seem to sit still on Sunday. It's often my one day to catch up with housework or writing for a longer stretch of time.
His plan included a day of rest, as documented in Genesis 2: 2, "And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested..." Even God took time to renew and reflect, setting an example for all of us.

Mark 6:30-31 says, "The apostles returned to Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. And He said them, 'Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while.' For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat." Stress and busyness has been around for as long as man. Exhaustion leads to stress and stress kills - not just the body. Stress kills our hope, our joy, and our love.

It's critical that we continue trying to fit rest and renewal into our lives. Rest and renewal go hand in hand. Through the winter, many plants go into dormancy, a time to renew. Spring is a perfect visual example of God teaching us the importance of renewal. Trees and flowers wake up from a long winter's nap. The icy cold melts away to warmer days of light. And light naturally boosts our mood, our hope. God has that one ALL figured out, doesn't He?

A few years ago, my daughter and daughter-in-law helped me replenish our supply of sugar Easter eggs - one for each family on Easter morning. By sharing that time together and taking my mind totally off writing, He refreshed me and I was able to get back to writing again. Find ways to treat yourself and make it a concentrated effort to follow through. Here are a few ideas to let grow on you this week. I'll be working on several of them, too.

Go to bed early one night a week. (not tonight)
Turn off the television and pick up a book.
Reach out to someone else who might need a reminder to slow down and let God refill their cup.
Sit down and eat dinner rather than eating it on the run.
Have a friend over for coffee.
Pick up a craft or hobby that you never finished.
Listen to soft and relaxing music.
Get a massage.
Go for a walk.

The list is endless. Just stopping to plan to rest gives my mind a much-needed break. What about your ideas? How do you Renew yourself?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spring Cleaning (or not!) by Cheryl Wyatt

I'm trying to declutter my house. Specifically, my closet. Well, not that I WANT to get rid of clothes...but since that end of the house is tipping and the foundation is cracking from the weight, I figured I'd better thin the closet out.

The problem is, I can't get to my clothes that I hardly wear because I have an eight foot wall of Sterilite containers. Getting to the clothes would require me to actually MOVE all those boxes.

What's in the boxes? Uh, not sure but I'm guessing MORE CLOTHES.

Okay, let me explain. When I met my husband, I wore a size 5 to 7. Then I crept up to a 9. Then I hit double digits. Thankfully, I haven't hit triple digits yet. Anyway, I have this tiny bit of hope that I will eventually get back into the 12s at least.

The 9s, 7s and 5s? I'm going to keep one pair of each, buy those box frames, stick them in there with a caption that says, "I wore these once." Then get rid of all the other clothes that I will never, ever, ever, ever and I mean EVER fit this caboose back into.

Or....I could save them for my daughters. Or, my daughters can help me declutter. Yeah!

Nah...I think I'll just go clothes shopping.....

Snicker. Snicker. Snicker.

Okay, SERIOUSLY. I mean it. I AM going to thin out that closet this Spring. I AM. Really.

And...I have to give credit where credit is due. My friend, Renee Morgan is who gave me the idea to frame the size 7 pants and get rid of the rest. Um...have I yet?

I plead the 5th.

But I want YOU to talk.

I wonder what's the BEST declutter advice or Spring cleaning tip you have ever heard?

Come on...let's hear it.

I'd also like to hear what area of your house or yard needs a dose of Spring cleaning. Talk away! Don't be shy. Help this pack-ratty-author out. Share your best tips. Are you a pack rat? Or a neat freak? Do share...

By the way, hunky Ben Dillinger, the hero for Ready-Made Family is a neat freak. But he brings his brother to live with him and his brother, who has Mosaic Down Syndrome, is a hoarder. I hope you will pick up this story (IN STORES NOW!) and let me know what you think. I love hearing from readers.

PS...don't forget to share with us your tips on conquering clutter.

Cheryl Wyatt

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Easter has always been a favorite holiday of mine. Not just because of the goodies in the Easter baskets I received as a child (I still have a fettish for a good hollow chocolate bunny!) or because of the family lunches, the new dress for Sunday, or hiding eggs (some with $ in them!) in the yard at my grandparents house - but because of what it means to my heart.

Without Easter, we would have no hope. No life. No future. Without the resurrection, we'd be a lost race. We can have Christmas and be grateful for Jesus' birth. But without Easter, there is no rebirth - there is nothing to take with us.

This year, I have a daughter to influence. She might be only 9 months old, but I firmly believe it it is never too early to share the good news of Jesus Christ. I figure the more I tell her now, the deeper it'll sink in later. Sort of like listening to a song over and over in the background - eventually you learn the words, whether you intended to or not. =)

This picture was taken in my parent's yard last weekend. She's already having a blast with her plastic eggs and little wicker basket. And of course, Mommy had to hook her up with a new spring dress!

I can't wait to share this holiday with my new little family.

This Easter, when you're hiding eggs for kids in your yard, remember not to hide the message of the gospel, but rather wear it proudly like a new Easter dress. When you're baking green bean casserole or a ham or hot rolls, remember to also partake of the Everlasting Bread. When you're spending time with family and friends, remenber to take a few moments to revel in our ultimate Friend - the one who sacrificed all so that we might have an Easter, so that we might have life.

And when you're devouring that hollow chocolate bunny - well, have a big bite for me! =)

Happy Easter, from my family to yours!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Spring is in the Air

April is here and with it the spring sunshine has finally made an appearance. We actually had warm weather up into the high sixties.

Our family took our first bike ride of the season through Cook Park where paved bike paths wind along the Tualatin River, through a Butterfly Garden, past the many sports fields (where several little league games were in progress) and a picnic area complete with a huge play structure and sandpit.

And then, like most everyone else in town, or so it seemed with how crowded it was, we headed to downtown Portland with our two dogs in tow for a long walk along the river front park, a paved path with lots of green lawn running the length of the banks of Willamette river and then on to the Saturday Market where we wandered through the various vendors hawking their wares and the eclectic assortment of food choices. Snow cones and Thai food were are choices for the day.
It was a good weekend and a wonderful way to revive ourselves after a long cold winter. Though, the weather man predicts another cold snap coming our way soon, but for this moment, I felt a renewal in my spirit that can only carry over to my writing.
Happy Spring everyone!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Did You Really Write That?

Okay, I'm gonna show my age. When I was in college (the first time) I took creative writing. The class was so popular that the first time I tried to enroll it was full, so I had to wait until the next semester (Kinda like my four-year-old's soccer league. If you don't register an hour after registration opens, you miss out). I was a journalism major and had some idea that I'd get my degree, give Reader's Digest a call, and become a brilliant columnist who typed (yes, on a manual. Computers were around. There were two in the school's newspaper room but neither my friends nor I had one) a few pages that were published every month and then I'd sit around and by patted on the head (You did read the blog about me being raised an only child?).

Back to topic. I finally got into the creative writing class. For assignments, we were to write 2 - 3 pages stories or poems or whatever and then the teacher would copy them on colored paper and pass them around for the class to read (think poke fun at).

The first time I got an assignment back, the teacher had written across the top: Did you really write this?

He didn't mean it as a compliment. Back in those days, teachers didn't have Google to help them look for plagiarism. He truly thought I'd stolen it. I was young and naive and didn't hit him over the head with my three page science fiction story (I was a big Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams fan back then). I also did not drop. I stayed in the class.

Did you really write this? could have caused me to throw my typewriter out the window (Don't worry, I lived in a bottom floor apartment). It didn't. I actually remember thinking, "When I publish, I'm sending this guy my book!" Unfortunately, by the time I'd published fifteen years had gone by, and I couldn't remember the professor's name.

BTW, a plug for someone I don't know... Thanks to Brandt Dobson, author of Daniel's Den, for the idea for this blog. He put in his bio over at the Christian Fiction's Online Magazine that it was during a creative writing course in college that a professor said,
"You're a good writer. With a little effort and work, you could be a very good writer."

Two examples, very different, but with the same affect: to push someone into writing more. If you're not writing today, for whatever reason, go ahead and renew, and get at least three pages on that manuscipt. You might not get a pat on the head, but you can walk around with your head up high.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Hero Interview from Twice Upon a Time

Interview with the hero from Twice Upon a Time by Lois Richer:

1. Tell me the most interesting thing about you.

I’m Reese Woodward. The most interesting thing about me is that I wasn’t born into the illustrious Woodward wedding family of Denver. Not many people know that they adopted me when I was very small. Oddly enough, I’ve never felt like I don’t belong to my family.

2. What do you do for fun?
Fun? As a father or twins, I don’t have a lot of spare time but fun is important. The most fun I have is with my twin sons. They’re also the most work, give me the most headaches and force me to learn patience faster than I’d like, but I wouldn’t trade places with anyone. My boys enrich my life so much. I’d do anything for them.

3. What do you put off doing because you dread it?
Admitting to the family that I’ve made a mistake. I’m the eldest, they look up to me, depend on me. I hate letting them down.

4. What are you afraid of most in life?
I’m afraid life will pass too quickly and I won’t have made enough of the time I have with my family. Things change so quickly. Love and family are so important. I want to savor every second.

5. What do you want out of life?
To prove that I was worthy of receiving the life I’ve been given.

6. What is the most important thing to you?
Love. If you’re blessed with love, everything else seems less important.

7. Do you read books? If so, what is your favorite type of book?
I’m a lawyer, so I read a lot of legal stuff, but reading for entertainment is something I never have enough time for. My favorite books are family saga type stories that span generations of a family. I find them utterly fascinating.

8. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I’d like to be more relaxed.
I tend to take life pretty seriously and sometimes it’s better to laugh than stress. My sons are teaching me that God is more interested in my heart condition than in the mistakes I make.

9. Do you have a pet? If so, what is it and why that pet?
What is it with the pet question? (laughs) The boys have been at me to get them a puppy and I’ve been seriously considering it, though the bedlam around here would multiply exponentially! I had a chocolate lab when I was a kid and that dog showered me with unconditional love. When something went wrong, he was always there, ready willing and able to comfort me. I’d like my twins to experience that same bond. (chuckles) Though I worry they might smother a puppy with their exuberance.

10. If you could travel back in time, where would you go and why?
I’d go back to when Jesus was on the earth. I’d love to see him with kids, watch him heal the blind, the sick, listen to him teach. Watching God, physically among men, at work—to me that would be awesome.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Twins are double the trouble. And between his work at Weddings by Woodwards and his boys, widower Reese Woodward is convinced he doesn't have time for love. Then he meets Olivia Hastings—his sister's bridesmaid, and a woman with troubles of her own. The betrayals from Olivia's past make her wary of closeness. Yet who could resist the twins—or their father? Though neither is looking for love, Olivia and Reese's attraction continues to blossom. And soon, they just might find a second chance at love, and a doubly blessed happily-ever-after.

Friday, April 3, 2009

New Beginnings

Springtime is associated with with new beginnings. What paints a better picture than trees as they display their new leaves or flowers as their color and beauty spread across the landscape? Here's a photo I took from the deck of my friends' cabin in the north Georgia mountains last spring when I was doing research for my April book, HOMECOMING BLESSINGS. If only I had stopped and taken a photo of the Dogwood trees that were in full bloom when I passed through Atlanta on my way to the mountains.

The leaves were just starting to pop out on the trees on the hillsides above the lake when I took this picture. The signs of new beginnings were everywhere. The theme of HOMECOMING BLESSINGS is new beginnings for the hero, heroine and even her father. What better time is there to tackle something new than in the spring when we see so many signs of renewal?

Two scriptures come to mind as I think about new beginningsone from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.

One of my favorite scriptures is Isaiah 40:30-31.

30 "Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint."

The other scripture comes from Romans 12:2.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—
his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Life is reassuring when we know that God is there to guide us and renew our spirits and our minds and give us the strength to make that new beginning. Whatever it is.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The lilac bush.

Spring, renewal, rebirth, what great topics we have for this month. Don’t you just love Spring? Daffodils are my favorite spring flower. When I see their sun bright faces nodding in the wind I know spring is really coming even if it snows a time or two before Old Man Winter gives up the ghost. I do love daffodils, but nothing takes me back to my childhood like the smell of lilacs.

Oh, that deliciously sweet fragrance. When the lilacs are out, spring is well underway.

When I was a kid, (a year or two ago) we had this great big lilac bush in our backyard. Big enough for me and my brothers to hide inside, to make pretend forts and to plow winding roads for our toy cars in the soft dirt. Why was the dirt so soft under that lilac bush?

Maybe it was because our dog used to dig holes there to stay cool when the summers got hot. Maybe it really wasn’t any different than any other dirt on our farm. Maybe I only remember it that way because I was a child. No, it must have been soft. Children have a wonderful, uncluttered view of life without preconceived notions of how things should or should not be.
God asks the we see our faith with those same eyes.

Luke 18:17 (New International Version)
I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
I hope and pray that when my time comes the Lord finds me worthy and I can enter the Kingdom of Heaven like the child I once was, like a little girl racing to play under the lilac bush.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Is spring here?

This is the first of April. I won't even go into what April Fool's Day is, but then this weekend we had a little "April Fool's" from Mother Nature. I took this picture Sunday morning. We got over six inches of snow here in Oklahoma and set a record for the most snow after March 21st. The road crew wasn't really prepared for the snow, and there were a lot of wrecks. Saturday we had snow showers with thunder and lightning. Actually it was beautiful. The weather people told us it was coming, but our weather has been in the 80s and 70s so how in the world could it really snow and stick? I'm not sure the temperature got below 32 degrees, but boy, the snow come down and stuck. Nature's last hurrah before spring really set in.

I was worried all the flowers and trees blooming would be damaged, but because the temperature didn't get down too much, I think they will be all right. I did lose a limb off my Red Bud tree because the snow was so wet and heavy on the branches that they were weighed down (some hanging to the ground).

It's all melted now. The sun is shining, and I really think spring is finally here. Spring is my favorite time of year. A time of renewing after a long cold winter.

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