Friday, December 20, 2013

A Christmas Story

WINDOWS OF HEAVEN
by
V. B. Tenery

“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” ―Malachi 3:10


During the Christmas Season of 1981, I lived comfortably under somewhat spartan conditions in a small town outside Dallas, Texas.  I had a good job and made enough to support my small family of three. However, it meant a daily forty-mile trip into the city―a small price to pay for job security in the troubled economic period. Another plus for me was that the benefits of country living more than compensated for the long commute into the sprawling city.
           
One of the big rewards was the rural church we attended. My mother, daughter and I rarely missed a service. None of the members were wealthy, but they had earned a well-deserved reputation for helping the less fortunate in our neighborhood.
           
The Sunday evening before Christmas when we arrived at church we found it packed. Most members had forgone travel because of the tight economic situation.
           
Just before the pastor dismissed us, he made an unusual request. “I would like to take up a love offering for a former pastor of this church. He mentored me when I first entered the ministry. Today, I received heartbreaking news that he has cancer.” He hesitated for a moment and his voice choked up when he continued, telling us the pastor had become too ill to serve his congregation and the church had not provided health insurance. “His church doesn’t feel they can continue to support him. He and his wife have only their Social Security and the medical bills are high.”

He paused and looked out at the church members before he added. “I think we need to pray about what God would have us give in the love offering and about adding him to our missionary fund.”          

One of our deacons stood. “I don’t think we need to pray about making him part of our mission program. Let’s just take a vote and do it.” The vote passed unanimously.

The need touched my heart, but I had a problem. Because of Christmas expenses and tithes, I had no money, except for a twenty-dollar bill inside my purse that I needed for gas the following week to get to work.

As the offering plate moved towards me, I bowed my head saying the prayer I already knew the answer to. When the plate reached me, I tossed in the twenty. It’s just You and me next week, Lord.

The deacons made a quick calculation of the love offering and announced it was over eight hundred dollars.

“I’ll take it to them tonight,” the pastor said.

I’d felt that the old servant of God’s need was much greater than my own, but it didn’t stop me from wondering if the gas in my car would make it through the following week.

It wasn’t until Wednesday that my stress level began to climb. On the long trek from Dallas, I watched the needle on the gas gauge enter the red zone. I knew from experience I had enough fuel to get me home, but not enough to get back to work the next day.

Over dinner that night my concerns must have registered on my face.

“Something wrong at work, honey,” my mother asked.

I shook my head, not wanting her to worry. “No, work is fine.”

Calling in sick was an option, but lying to my boss wasn’t. Also, I needed to be at work. Thursday was Christmas Eve and I had to pick up my paycheck before the long Christmas weekend began.

After dinner, I again pushed aside my problems to spend time with my daughter, Holly. Her excitement bubbled over with Christmas near and activities at church. As a working mom, I had little time to spend with her and I gave her my full attention when we were together.

As I dressed for work Christmas Eve, I chewed my lip and pondered my problem. Go to work and trust God to make the fuel in my tank get me there? Or stay home?

I lingered over toast and coffee that morning and my Mom turned to me. “Don’t forget to leave Holly’s tickets for the church hayride today. Her Sunday school teacher is picking her up this afternoon.” I had bought the ticket a week earlier for the hayride and pizza afterwards. I reached into my pocketbook and pulled out the ticket . . . along with a twenty-dollar bill.

I was dumbstruck. “Mom, did you put money in my purse?”

She laughed. “No, I would have if I had any money. Why?”

I held up the money and told her about putting my last twenty in the love offering plate Sunday night.

“Maybe its just God letting you know He’s still in charge,” Mom said.

Skeptics will say that I put the money there and forgot about it. Perhaps they are right. But if I did, God guided my hand knowing just when and where I would need it.

It is important to remember that the verse in Malachi says He will pour you out blessings, not wealth. The Lord simply replaced the offering I had given just when I needed it most. But the blessing keeps giving every time I am reminded of this incident―knowing that God is faithful. All He asks is that we step out in faith, and leave the rest to Him.
             

―St. Martin’s Press published this story in the Christmas Miracles anthology. October 2009 under another title.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

IN MEMORIUM


DiAnn Hunt

November 29, 2013


‘I will live this life that God has given me with gusto, not wasting a single moment but using it as He intended. And when my journey here is over, I plan to skid into Glory with a smile on my face, a Bible in one hand, a chocolate truffle in the other, and I will yell at the top of my lungs: Daddy, I’m home.”
                                              -DiAnn Hunt from her novel, Hot Flashes and Cold Cream

Patricia “Diann” Hunt, beloved novelist, passed away on Friday, Nov. 29, 2013, following a long, heroically-fought battle with cancer. She was 58.  Diann was the accomplished author of 25 books. A Hallmark Channel film adaptation of her novel For Better or For Worse will air July 12, 2014.
I never knew DiAnn personally. Her reputation as a multi-published author was well known, but sadly I only became aware of her after leaning of her battle with cancer. She was one of my Facebook friends and I saw her posts almost daily over the last year of her life. One particular post touched me. On the day she apparently got the news she was losing the battle with the disease she seemed more sadden about the doctor who had to deliver the bad news than about the message itself. Dourageous to the end, she spoke often of her close relationship with her Lord and how He was there with her through the rough nights. I’m confident Jesus took her hand as she entered the Gates and said. “Come, let me show you around.”

Go to DiAnn’s author page on Amazon to find a list of her novels and celebrate the great writing legacy she leaves behind.  Below is an example.




Hot Flashes and Cold Cream
by
DiAnn Hunt

An eccentric best friend, a leaky Chihuahua, a teenager in trouble, and a workaholic husband with a gorgeous new colleague. Those are the ingredients for Diann Hunt's wise and funny story about growing...well, older...with grace.
Midlife isn't a crisis for Maggie Hayden until the day a former classmate fails to recognize her--and her world starts to spin out of control. With an empty nest, a body that's heading south (generating heat waves all the way), and a marital spark that seems to be sputtering, she knows she has to do something. But what? Exercise? Romantic dinners? Herbal supplements? A job? She tries them all, with mixed success-but nothing seems to squelch that underlying worry that her best days are behind her.
  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Visionary
by
Pamela S. Thibodeaux

A visionary is someone who sees into the future Taylor Forrestier sees into the past but only as it pertains to her work. Hailed by her peers as “a visionary with an instinct for beauty and an eye for the unique” Taylor is undoubtedly a brilliant architect and gifted designer. But she and twin brother Trevor, share more than a successful business. The two share a childhood wrought with lies and deceit and the kind of abuse that’s disturbingly prevalent in today’s society.  Can the love of God and the awesome healing power of His grace and mercy free the twins from their past and open their hearts to the good plan and the future He has for their lives?  Find out in…The Visionary ~ Where the power of God's love heals the most wounded of souls.

EXCERPT:
Once ensconced in his apartment, Trevor allowed his emotions to run their course. Exhausted and in pain, he took a couple of pills, stretched out on the couch, fell into an uneasy slumber, and dreamed.
He stood alone in a meadow. Two lions approached, one scraggly and unkempt, the other stately and regal. He turned as they circled in on him, closer and closer until he could almost feel their breath on his neck. One grunted, growled, and snarled. The other responded likewise. They crouched, prepared to attack, then lunged. He ducked, rolled out from beneath the tangled mass of muscle and fur, and watched them go at each other in a battle of wills. Within moments, the large, regal cat had the other pinned beneath his huge paws, his teeth clasped in the throat of his foe. He snarled, shook his head, and released the lesser animal which then pounced to his feet and ran off with his tail tucked between his legs. The big cat roared in triumph then sat, head high, and eyed Trevor.
Trevor kept a wary eye on the lion and inched backward until a tree stopped his escape. Though his eyes followed his every step, the animal never flinched. Trevor watched and waited for him to pounce, but the lion didn’t so much as twitch a muscle. That’s when he noticed the crown. Trevor shook his head and rubbed his eyes. Sure enough the crown remained, embedded in the animal’s scalp. The crown turned to thorns. The lion’s face changed into that of Christ crucified and then back into a lion’s face.
Trevor rubbed his eyes again and shook his head. “Who are you? What do you want?” he felt compelled to ask.
“I am the Lion of Judah, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. Come, Trevor, follow me,” the cat answered and turned to walk away.

Categorizing Your Novel
by
Pamela S. Thibodeaux

My novel, The Visionary which released on November 16, 2011 in hardcover, ebook on January 8th 2013, & softcover on (insert date) is categorized as Inspirational Women’s Fiction. This is how the publisher and I see the novel, but not necessarily how others see it.
Reviewers have termed this novel romance, paranormal, fantasy, sci-fi and Christian -- all of which are OK but not exactly 100% accurate.
This led me to thinking How DOES one categorize a novel?
One of the major parts of a proposal is category and the advice of many is to go into a book store and find out where your book would fit on the shelves. Among the thousands of titles out there, this can be quite a challenge.
Since publishers feel it’s a bit arrogant to say “My book belongs on the shelf with the other Best Sellers,” let’s look at the different categories and see how I came about determining mine as Women’s Fiction.
Inspirational isn’t hard to explain - undeniably “Christian” I do not write within the conservative guidelines required by many CBA publishers - therefore, Inspirational better fits what I write. In fact, my writing has been tagged as “Inspirational with an Edge!” ™ since my debut novel, Tempered Hearts in 2000.
Women’s Fiction is also not hard to understand. Romance is defined by certain criteria - 1 couple; boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back, couple lives happily-ever-after. The Visionary has a set of m/f twins as the main characters, which immediately threw it into a genre other than romance.
Women’s Fiction is normally defined as a contemporary novel that deals with women’s issues...ie: divorce, domestic violence, empty nest syndrome, etc. and a WF novel usually has a strong romantic thread in it. Since The Visionary deals with the twins’ journey through childhood abuse into wholeness, and into new life and love, Women’s Fiction seemed appropriate.
So why then has the book been termed paranormal, fantasy & sci-fi?
According to the definitions I found, Science Fiction is based on "imagined future scientific or technological advances."(IE: Time Travel).
Paranormal is defined as, “Beyond the range of normal experience or scientific explanation: such paranormal phenomena as telepathy; a medium's paranormal powers.

Considering the gift of visions my heroine has, I guess paranormal does apply to this novel.
On the other hand, Supernatural elements, are, "manifestations or events considered to be of supernatural origin, attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature."

Supernatural are events like those listed in the Bible ... Parting of the Red Sea, burning bushes that are not consumed, God speaking through a donkey, fire from heaven burning up sacrificial offerings that have been so heavily doused with water there is no natural way fire is possible, feeding thousands with five fish and five loaves of bread, walking on water, etc.
These elements are present in The Visionary and are based on the book of Joel (2:28), where the Lord says, "I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions."

http://www.rtbookreviews.com/sites/all/modules/imagemanager/files/random/whiteside.gifAm I upset that the terms “paranormal,” "science fiction" or "fantasy" are used in conjunction with this novel?
Of course not!
If those terms will encourage someone who wouldn't normally read "Inspirational, Romantic Women's Fiction" to pick up the book and have their own personal experience with a supernatural God, then I'm all for it!

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Christmas Bonus
by
Patty Froese

When Millie's boss asks her to work over Christmas, she's hesitant to give him any more overtime. She has plans for her life that include quitting this job and starting her own photography business, and she promises herself to quit by New Years.
Andrew Holmes has no desire to go back to his tiny hometown for the holidays, but his manipulative grandfather gives him an ultimatum that he just can't refuse. So in order to get the last project of the year finished in time, he asks his assistant, Millie, to make the trip with him.
With a disgruntled brother, a sister-in-law struggling with infertility and a little boy who shows up claiming that one of the Holmes men is his father, Christmas is about to get complicated...

Buy link:
http://www.desertbreezepublishing.com/a-christmas-bonus-epub/

Excerpt

"So, Millie says she'd like to stay," Andrew announced.
"Good." Louise shot her a smile. "Do you like fruitcake, Millie?"
"I think so." Mille sank into a seat next to her boss.
"Me, too..." Louise disappeared into the fridge, her voice meandering out from the chilly depths. "Except I always hate the fruit in it. So I just make the cake. But the cake is rather dry."
"It's more like a Christmas cracker," Andrew murmured, and Millie repressed a laugh.
The dense, dry confection that landed with a heavy thud on the tabletop looked nothing like the fruitcake she'd seen in the past.
"Guests first." Louise announced cheerfully, and when Millie shot Andrew a "help me" look, he pointed under the table.
"Give it to the dog," he mouthed.
The dog? So far, Millie hadn't seen a dog in the house, and when she slowly raised the plastic tablecloth to peer under the table, she was met with the biggest canine face she'd ever seen in her life. Stifling a yelp of shock, she turned her ashen face towards Andrew.
"That's Edgar," Andrew said.
"Edgar?"
He nodded. "Get used to him." When she turned her attention to the plate deposited in front of her, Andrew leaned in and murmured in her ear. "Thanks for coming, by the way."


Author Bio

Patty Froese writes from Alberta, Canada, where the winters are long and cold. This suits her just fine, since it gives her plenty of time to write and she can enjoy the snow from the right side of the window. She has her degree in English Literature and has written in other genres, but she particularly enjoys writing romance.
Patty also writes for Harlequin Love Inspired under the name Patricia Johns.
http://pattyfroese.com