Monday, May 31, 2010

In Remembrance

by Kelly Strong

I watched the flag pass by one day.
It fluttered in the breeze.
A young Marine saluted it,
and then he stood at ease.
I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud,
He'd stand out in any crowd.
I thought how many men like him
Had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers' tears?
How many pilots' planes shot down?
How many died at sea?
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
No, freedom isn't free.

I heard the sound of TAPS one night,
When everything was still
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times
That TAPS had meant "Amen,"
When a flag had draped a coffin
Of a brother or a friend.
I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No, freedom isn't free.


View blog reactions

The Tailor-Made Bride

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:

A Tailor-Made Bride

Bethany House (June 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Karen Witemeyer for sending me a review copy.***


Karen Witemeyer holds a master's degree in psychology from Abilene Christian University and is a member of ACFW, RWA, and the Texas Coalition of Authors. She has published fiction in Focus on the Family's children's magazine, and has written several articles for online publications and anthologies. Tailor-Made Bride is her first novel. Karen lives in Abilene, Texas, with her husband and three children.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Bethany House (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0764207555
ISBN-13: 978-0764207556

I so enjoyed this debut novel. Placed in a historical setting, the story unfolds as smoothly as silk fabric ripples from a bolt. When Hannah Richards arrives to open a dressmaker's shop in Coventry, Texas Jericho "J. T." Tucker vows to give her a wide berth and insist that his sister do the same. He learned at an early age what happens when the lure of fashion sews seeds of discontent in a woman's heart. Problem is, Hannah keeps surprising him with her kind and generous nature as she befriends her neighbor as well as his sister, and suddenly he's not sure whether to ignore her or kiss her! The author does a wonderful job of interweaving threads of danger & suspense with romance into this book hemmed with faith and truth. I look forward to more from the pen of Karen Witemeyer!



San Antonio, Texas—March 1881
“Red? Have you no shame, Auntie Vic? You can’t be buried in a scarlet gown.”

“It’s cerise, Nan.”

Hannah Richards bit back a laugh as Victoria Ashmont effectively put her nephew’s wife in her place with three little words. Trying hard to appear as if she wasn’t listening to her client’s conversation, Hannah pulled the last pin from between her lips and slid it into the hem of the controversial fabric.

“Must you flout convention to the very end?” Nan’s whine heightened to a near screech as she stomped toward the door. A delicate sniff followed by a tiny hiccup foreshadowed the coming of tears. “Sherman and I will be the ones to pay the price. You’ll make us a laughingstock among our friends. But then, you’ve never cared for anyone except yourself, have you?”

Miss Victoria pivoted with impressive speed, the cane she used for balance nearly clobbering Hannah in the head as she spun.

“You may have my nephew wrapped around your little finger, but don’t think you can manipulate me with your theatrics.” Like an angry goddess from the Greek myths, Victoria Ashmont held her chin at a regal angle and pointed her aged hand toward the woman who dared challenge her. Hannah almost expected a lightning bolt to shoot from her finger to disintegrate Nan where she stood.

“You’ve been circling like a vulture since the day Dr. Bowman declared my heart to be failing, taking over the running of my household and plotting how to spend Sherman’s inheritance. Well, you won’t be controlling me, missy. I’ll wear what I choose, when I choose, whether or not you approve. And if your friends have nothing better to do at a funeral than snicker about your great aunt’s attire, perhaps you’d do well to find some companions with a little more depth of character.”

Nan’s affronted gasp echoed through the room like the crack of a mule skinner’s whip.

“Don’t worry, dear,” Miss Victoria called out as her niece yanked open the bedchamber door. “You’ll have my money to console you. I’m sure you’ll recover from any embarrassment I cause in the blink of an eye.”

The door slammed shut, and the resulting bang appeared to knock the starch right out of Miss Victoria. She wobbled, and Hannah lurched to her feet to steady the elderly lady.

“Here, ma’am. Why don’t you rest for a minute?” Hannah gripped her client’s arm and led her to the fainting couch at the foot of the large four-poster bed that dominated the room. “Would you like me to ring for some tea?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, girl. I’m not so infirm that a verbal skirmish leaves me in want of fortification. I just need to catch my breath.”

Hannah nodded, not about to argue. She gathered her sewing box instead, collecting her shears, pins, and needle case from where they lay upon the thick tapestry carpet.

She had sewn for Miss Victoria for the last eighteen months, and it disturbed her to see the woman reduced to tremors and pallor so easily. The eccentric spinster never shied from a fight and always kept her razor-sharp tongue at the ready.

Hannah had felt the lash of that tongue herself on several occasions, but she’d developed a thick skin over the years. A woman making her own way in the world had to toughen up quickly or get squashed. Perhaps that was why she respected Victoria Ashmont enough to brave her scathing comments time after time. The woman had been living life on her own terms for years and had done well for herself in the process. True, she’d had money and the power of the Ashmont name to lend her support, but from all public reports—and a few overheard conversations—it was clear Victoria Ashmont’s fortune had steadily grown during her tenure as head of the family, not dwindled, which was more than many men could say. Hannah liked to think that, given half a chance, she’d be able to duplicate the woman’s success. At least to a modest degree.

“How long have you worked for Mrs. Granbury, Miss Richards?”

Hannah jumped at the barked question and scurried back to Miss Victoria’s side, her sewing box tucked under her arm. “Nearly two years, ma’am.”

“Hmmph.” The woman’s cane rapped three staccato beats against the leg of the couch before she continued. “I nagged that woman for years to hire some girls with gumption. I was pleased when she finally took my advice. Your predecessors failed to last more than a month or two with me. Either I didn’t approve of their workmanship, or they couldn’t stand up to my plain speaking. It’s a dratted nuisance having to explain my preferences over and over to new girls every time I need something made up. I’ve not missed that chore.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Hannah’s forehead scrunched. She couldn’t be sure, but she thought Victoria Ashmont might have just paid her a compliment.

“Have you ever thought of opening your own shop?”

Hannah’s gaze flew to her client’s face. Miss Victoria’s slate gray eyes assessed her, probing, drilling into her core, as if she meant to rip the truth from her with or without her consent.

Ducking away from the penetrating stare, Hannah fiddled with the sewing box. “Mrs. Granbury has been good to me, and I’ve been fortunate enough to set some of my earnings aside. It will be several years yet, but one day I do hope to set up my own establishment.”

“Good. Now help me get out of this dress.”

Dizzy from the abrupt starts, stops, and turns of the strange conversation, Hannah kept her mouth closed and assisted Miss Victoria. She unfastened the brightly colored silk, careful not to snag the pins on either the delicate material of the gown or on Miss Victoria’s stockings. Once the dress had been safely removed, she set it aside and helped the woman don a loose-fitting wrapper.

“I’m anxious to have these details put in order,” Miss Victoria said as she took a seat at the ladies’ writing desk along the east wall. “I will pay you a bonus if you will stay here and finish the garment for me before you leave. You may use the chair in the corner.” She gestured toward a small upholstered rocker that sat angled toward the desk.

Hannah’s throat constricted. Her mind scrambled for a polite refusal, yet she found no excuse valid enough to withstand Miss Victoria’s scrutiny. Left with no choice, she swallowed her misgivings and forced the appropriate reply past her lips.

“As you wish.”

Masking her disappointment, Hannah set her box of supplies on the floor near the chair Miss Victoria had indicated and turned to fetch the dress.

She disliked sewing in front of clients. Though her tiny boardinghouse room was dim and lacked the comforts afforded in Miss Victoria’s mansion, the solitude saved her from suffering endless questions and suggestions while she worked.

Hannah drew in a deep breath. I might as well make the best of it. No use dwelling on what couldn’t be changed. It was just a hem and few darts to compensate for her client’s recent weight loss. She could finish the task in less than an hour.

Miss Victoria proved gracious. She busied herself with papers of some kind at her desk and didn’t interfere with Hannah’s work. She did keep up a healthy stream of chatter, though.

“You probably think me morbid for finalizing all my funeral details in advance.” Miss Victoria lifted the lid of a small silver case and extracted a pair of eyeglasses. She wedged them onto her nose and began leafing through a stack of documents in a large oak box.

Hannah turned back to her stitching. “Not morbid, ma’am. Just . . . efficient.”

“Hmmph. Truth is, I know I’m dying, and I’d rather go out in a memorable fashion than slip away quietly, never to be thought of again.”

“I’m sure your nephew will remember you.” Hannah glanced up as she twisted the dress to allow her better access to the next section of hem.

“Sherman? Bah! That boy would forget his own name if given half a chance.” Miss Victoria pulled a document out of the box. She set it in front of her, then dragged her inkstand close and unscrewed the cap. “I’ve got half a mind to donate my estate to charity instead of letting it sift through my nephew’s fingers. He and that flighty wife of his will surely do nothing of value with it.” A heavy sigh escaped her. “But they are family, after all, and I suppose I’ll no longer care about how the money is spent after I’m gone.”

Hannah poked her needle up and back through the red silk in rapid succession, focused on making each stitch even and straight. It wasn’t her place to offer advice, but it burned on her tongue nonetheless. Any church or charitable organization in the city could do a great amount of good with even a fraction of the Ashmont estate. Miss Victoria could make several small donations without her nephew ever knowing the difference. Hannah pressed her lips together and continued weaving her needle in and out, keeping her unsolicited opinion to herself.

She was relieved when a soft tapping at the door saved her from having to come up with an appropriate response.

A young maid entered and bobbed a curtsy. “The post has arrived, ma’am.”

“Thank you, Millie.” Miss Victoria accepted the envelope. “You may go.”

The sound of paper ripping echoed in the quiet room as Miss Victoria slid her letter opener through the upper edge of the flap.

“Well, I must give the gentleman credit for persistence,” the older woman murmured. “This is the third letter he’s sent in two months.”

Hannah turned the dress again and bent her head a little closer to her task, hoping to escape Miss Victoria’s notice. It was not to be. The older woman’s voice only grew louder and more pointed as she continued.

“He wants to buy one of my railroad properties.”

Hannah made the mistake of looking up. Miss Victoria’s eyes, magnified by the lenses she wore, demanded a response. Yet how did a working-class seamstress participate in a conversation of a personal nature with one so above her station? She didn’t want to offend by appearing uninterested. However, showing too keen an interest might come across as presumptuous. Hannah floundered to find a suitably innocuous response and finally settled on, “Oh?”

It seemed to be enough, and Miss Victoria turned back to her correspondence as she continued her ramblings.

“When the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway out of Galveston started up construction again last year, I invested in a handful of properties along the proposed route, in towns that were already established. I’ve made a tidy profit on most, but for some reason, I find myself reluctant to part with this one.”

An expectant pause hung in the air. Keeping her eyes on her work, Hannah voiced the first thought that came to mind.

“Does the gentleman not make a fair offer?”

“No, Mr. Tucker proposes a respectable price.” Miss Victoria tapped the handle of the letter opener against the desktop in a rhythmic pattern, then seemed to become aware of what she was doing and set it aside. “Perhaps I am reticent because I do not know the man personally. He is in good standing with the bank in Coventry and by all accounts is respected in the community, yet in the past I’ve made my decision to sell after meeting with the buyer in person. Unfortunately, my health precludes that now.”

“Coventry?” Hannah seized upon the less personal topic. “I’m not familiar with that town.”

“That’s because it’s about two hundred miles north of here—and it is quite small. The surveyors tell me it’s in a pretty little spot along the North Bosque River. I had hoped to visit, but it looks as if I won’t be afforded that opportunity.”

Hannah tied off her thread and snipped the tail. She reached for her spool and unwound another long section, thankful that the discussion had finally moved in a more neutral direction. She clipped the end of the thread and held the needle up to gauge the position of the eye.

“What do you think, Miss Richards? Should I sell it to him?”

The needle slipped out of her hand.

“You’re asking me?”

“Is there another Miss Richards in the room? Of course I’m asking you.” She clicked her tongue in disappointment. “Goodness, girl. I’ve always thought you to be an intelligent sort. Have I been wrong all this time?”

That rankled. Hannah sat a little straighter and lifted her chin. “No, ma’am.”

“Good.” Miss Victoria slapped her palm against the desk. “Now, tell me what you think.”

If the woman was determined to have her speak her mind, Hannah would oblige. This was the last project she’d ever sew for the woman anyway. It couldn’t hurt. The only problem was, she’d worked so hard not to form an opinion during this exchange, that now that she was asked for one, she had none to give. Trying not to let the silence rush her into saying something that would indeed prove her lacking in intellect, she scrambled to gather her thoughts while she searched for the dropped needle.

“It seems to me,” she said, uncovering the needle along with a speck of insight, “you need to decide if you would rather have the property go to a man you know only by reputation or to the nephew you know through experience.” Hannah lifted her gaze to meet Miss Victoria’s and held firm, not allowing the woman’s critical stare to cow her. “Which scenario gives you the greatest likelihood of leaving behind the legacy you desire?”

Victoria Ashmont considered her for several moments, her eyes piercing Hannah and bringing to mind the staring contests the school boys used to challenge her to when she was still in braids. The memory triggered her competitive nature, and a stubborn determination to win rose within her.

At last, Miss Victoria nodded and turned away. “Thank you, Miss Richards. I think I have my answer.”

Exultation flashed through her for a brief second at her victory, but self-recrimination soon followed. This wasn’t a schoolyard game. It was an aging woman’s search to create meaning in her death.

“Forgive my boldness, ma’am.”

Her client turned back and wagged a bony finger at Hannah. “Boldness is exactly what you need to run your own business, girl. Boldness, skill, and a lot of hard work. When you get that shop of yours, hardships are sure to find their way to your doorstep. Confidence is the only way to combat them—confidence in yourself and in the God who equips you to overcome. Never forget that.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Feeling chastised and oddly encouraged at the same time, Hannah threaded her needle and returned to work. The scratching of pen against paper replaced the chatter of Miss Victoria’s voice as the woman gave her full attention to the documents spread across her desk. Time passed swiftly, and soon the alterations were complete.

After trying the gown on a second time to assure a proper fit and examining every seam for quality and durability, as was her custom, Victoria Ashmont ushered Hannah down to the front hall.

“My man will see you home, Miss Richards.”

“Thank you, ma’am.” Hannah collected her bonnet from the butler and tied the ribbons beneath her chin.

“I will settle my account with Mrs. Granbury by the end of the week, but here is the bonus I promised you.” She held out a plain white envelope.

Hannah accepted it and placed it carefully in her reticule. She dipped her head and made a quick curtsy. “Thank you. I have enjoyed the privilege of working for you, ma’am, and I pray that your health improves so that I might do so again.”

A strange light came into Miss Victoria’s eyes, a secretive gleam, as if she could see into the future. “You have better things to do than make outlandish red dresses for old women, Miss Richards. Don’t waste your energy worrying over my health. I’ll go when it’s my time and not a moment before.”

Hannah smiled as she stepped out the door, sure that not even the angels could drag Miss Victoria away until she was ready to go. Yet underneath the woman’s tough exterior beat a kind heart. Although Hannah didn’t fully understand how kind until she arrived home and opened her bonus envelope.

Instead of the two or three greenbacks she had assumed were tucked inside, she found a gift that stole her breath and her balance. She slumped against the boardinghouse wall and slid down its blue-papered length into a trembling heap on the floor. She blinked several times, but the writing on the paper didn’t change, only blurred as tears welled and distorted her vision.

She held in her hand the deed to her new dress shop in Coventry, Texas.

Chapter One

Coventry, Texas—September 1881
“J.T.! J.T.! I got a customer for ya.” Tom Packard lumbered down the street with his distinctive uneven gait, waving his arm in the air.

Jericho “J.T.” Tucker stepped out of the livery’s office with a sigh and waited for his right-hand man to jog past the blacksmith and bootmaker shops. He’d lost count of how many times he’d reminded Tom not to yell out his business for everyone to hear, but social niceties tended to slip the boy’s notice when he got excited.

It wasn’t his fault, though. At eighteen, Tom had the body of a man, but his mind hadn’t developed quite as far. He couldn’t read a lick and could barely pen his own name, but he had a gentle way with horses, so J.T. let him hang around the stable and paid him to help out with the chores. In gratitude, the boy did everything in his power to prove himself worthy, including trying to drum up clientele from among the railroad passengers who unloaded at the station a mile south of town. After weeks without so much as a nibble, it seemed the kid had finally managed to hook himself a fish.

J.T. leaned a shoulder against the doorframe and slid a toothpick out of his shirt pocket. He clamped the wooden sliver between his teeth and kept his face void of expression save for a single raised brow as Tom stumbled to a halt in front of him. The kid grasped his knees and gulped air for a moment, then unfolded to his full height, which was nearly as tall as his employer. His cheeks, flushed from his exertions, darkened further when he met J.T.’s eye.

“I done forgot about the yelling again, huh? Sorry.” Tom slumped, his chin bending toward his chest.

J.T. gripped the kid’s shoulder, straightened him up, and slapped him on the back. “You’ll remember next time. Now, what’s this about a customer?”

Tom brightened in an instant. “I gots us a good one. She’s right purty and has more boxes and gewgaws than I ever did see. I ’spect there’s enough to fill up the General.”

“The General, huh?” J.T. rubbed his jaw and used the motion to cover his grin.

Tom had names for all the wagons. Fancy Pants was the fringed surrey J.T. kept on hand for family outings or courting couples; the buggy’s name was Doc after the man who rented it out most frequently; the buckboard was just plain Buck; and his freight wagon was affectionately dubbed The General. The kid’s monikers inspired a heap of good-natured ribbing amongst the men who gathered at the livery to swap stories and escape their womenfolk, but over time the names stuck. Just last week, Alistair Smythe plopped down a silver dollar and demanded he be allowed to take Fancy Pants out for a drive. Hearing the pretentious bank clerk use Tom’s nickname for the surrey left the fellas guffawing for days.

J.T. thrust the memory from his mind and crossed his arms over his chest, using his tongue to shift the toothpick to the other side of his mouth. “The buckboard is easier to get to. I reckon it’d do the job just as well.”

“I dunno.” Tom mimicked J.T.’s posture, crossing his own arms and leaning against the livery wall. “She said her stuff was mighty heavy and she’d pay extra to have it unloaded at her shop.”

“Shop?” J.T.’s good humor shriveled. His arms fell to his sides as his gaze slid past Tom to the vacant building across the street. The only unoccupied shop in Coventry stood adjacent to Louisa James’s laundry—the shop he’d tried, and failed, to purchase. J.T.’s jaw clenched so tight the toothpick started to splinter. Forcing himself to relax, he straightened away from the doorpost.

“I think she’s a dressmaker,” Tom said. “There were a bunch of them dummies with no heads or arms with her on the platform. Looked right peculiar, them all standin’ around her like they’s gonna start a quiltin’ bee or something.” The kid chuckled at his own joke, but J.T. didn’t join in his amusement.

A dressmaker? A woman who made her living by exploiting the vanity of her customers? That’s who was moving into his shop?

A sick sensation oozed like molasses through his gut as memories clawed over the wall he’d erected to keep them contained.

“So we gonna get the General, J.T.?”

Tom’s question jerked him back to the present and allowed him to stuff the unpleasant thoughts back down where they belonged. He loosened his fingers from the fist he didn’t remember making and adjusted his hat to sit lower on his forehead, covering his eyes. It wouldn’t do for the kid to see the anger that surely lurked there. He’d probably go and make some fool assumption that he’d done something wrong. Or worse, he’d ask questions J.T. didn’t want to answer.

He cleared his throat and clasped the kid’s shoulder. “If you think we need the freight wagon, then we’ll get the freight wagon. Why don’t you harness up the grays then come help me wrangle the General?”

“Yes, sir!” Tom bounded off to the corral to gather the horses, his chest so inflated with pride J.T. was amazed he could see where he was going.

Ducking back inside the livery, J.T. closed up his office and strode past the stalls to the oversized double doors that opened his wagon shed up to the street. He grasped the handle of the first and rolled it backward, using his body weight as leverage. As his muscles strained against the heavy wooden door, his mind struggled to control his rising frustration.

He’d finally accepted the fact that the owner of the shop across the street refused to sell to him. J.T. believed in Providence, that the Lord would direct his steps. He didn’t like it, but he’d worked his way to peace with the decision. Until a few minutes ago. The idea that God would allow it to go to a dressmaker really stuck in his craw.

It wasn’t as if he wanted the shop for selfish reasons. He saw it as a chance to help out a widow and her orphans. Isn’t that what the Bible defined as “pure religion”? What could be nobler than that? Louisa James supported three kids with her laundry business and barely eked out an existence. The building she worked in was crumbling around her ears even though the majority of her income went to pay the rent. He’d planned to buy the adjacent shop and rent it to her at half the price she was currently paying in exchange for storing some of his tack in the large back room.

J.T. squinted against the afternoon sunlight that streamed into the dim stable and strode to the opposite side of the entrance, his indignation growing with every step. Ignoring the handle, he slammed his shoulder into the second door and ground his teeth as he dug his boots into the packed dirt floor, forcing the wood to yield to his will.

How could a bunch of fripperies and ruffles do more to serve the community than a new roof for a family in need? Most of the women in and around Coventry sewed their own clothes, and those that didn’t bought ready-made duds through the dry-goods store or mail order. Sensible clothes, durable clothes, not fashion-plate items that stroked their vanity or elicited covetous desires in their hearts for things they couldn’t afford. A dressmaker had no place in Coventry.

This can’t be God’s will. The world and its schemers had brought her to town, not God.

Horse hooves thudded and harness jangled as Tom led the grays toward the front of the livery.

J.T. blew out a breath and rubbed a hand along his jaw. No matter what had brought her to Coventry, the dressmaker was still a woman, and his father had drummed into him the truth that all women were to be treated with courtesy and respect. So he’d smile and doff his hat and make polite conversation. Shoot, he’d even lug her heavy junk around for her and unload all her falderal. But once she was out of his wagon, he’d have nothing more to do with her.


Hannah sat atop one of her five trunks, waiting for young Tom to return. Most of the other passengers had left the depot already, making their way on foot or in wagons with family members who'd come to meet them. Hannah wasn’t about to let her belongings out of her sight, though—or trust them to a porter she didn’t know. So she waited.

Thanks to Victoria Ashmont’s generosity, she’d been able to use the money she’d saved for a shop to buy fabric and supplies. Not knowing what would be available in the small town of Coventry, she brought everything she needed with her. Including her prized possession—a Singer Improved Family Model 15 treadle machine with five-drawer walnut cabinet and extension leaf. The monster weighed nearly as much as the locomotive that brought her here, but it was a thing of beauty, and she intended to make certain it arrived at the shop without incident.

Her toes tapped against the wooden platform. Only a mile of dusty road stood between her and her dream. Yet the final minutes of waiting felt longer than the hours, even years, that preceded them. Could she really run her own business, or would Miss Ashmont’s belief in her prove misplaced? A tingle of apprehension tiptoed over Hannah’s spine. What if the women of Coventry had no need of a dressmaker? What if they didn’t like her designs? What if . . .

Hannah surged to her feet and began to pace. Miss Ashmont had directed her to be bold. Bold and self-confident. Oh, and confident in God. Hannah paused. Her gaze slid to the bushy hills rising around her like ocean swells. “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” The psalm seeped into her soul, bringing a measure of assurance with it. God had led her here. He would provide.

She resumed her pacing, anticipation building as fear receded. On her sixth lap around her mound of luggage, the creak of wagon wheels brought her to a halt.

A conveyance drew near, and Hannah’s pulse vaulted into a new pace. Young Tom wasn’t driving. Another man with a worn brown felt hat pulled low over his eyes sat on the bench. It must be that J.T. person Tom had rambled on about. Well, it didn’t matter who was driving, as long as he had the strength to maneuver her sewing machine without dropping it.

A figure in the back of the wagon waved a cheerful greeting, and the movement caught Hannah’s eye. She waved back, glad to see Tom had returned as well. Two men working together would have a much easier time of it.

The liveryman pulled the horses to a halt and set the brake. Masculine grace exuded from him as he climbed down and made his way to the platform. His long stride projected confidence, a vivid contrast to Tom’s childish gamboling behind him. Judging by the breadth of his shoulders and the way the blue cotton of his shirt stretched across the expanse of his chest and arms, this man would have no trouble moving her sewing cabinet.

Tom dashed ahead of the newcomer and swiped the gray slouch hat from his head. Tufts of his dark blond hair stuck out at odd angles, but his eyes sparkled with warmth. “I got the General, ma’am. We’ll get you fixed up in a jiffy.” Not wasting a minute, he slapped his hat back on and moved past her.

Hannah’s gaze roamed to the man waiting a few steps away. He didn’t look much like a general. No military uniform. Instead he sported scuffed boots and denims that were wearing thin at the knees. The tip of a toothpick protruded from his lips, wiggling a little as he gnawed on it. Perhaps General was a nickname of sorts. He hadn’t spoken a word, yet there was something about his carriage and posture that gave him an air of authority.

She straightened her shoulders in response and closed the distance between them. Still giddy about starting up her shop, she couldn’t resist the urge to tease the stoic man who held himself apart.

“Thank you for assisting me today, General.” She smiled up at him as she drew near, finally able to see more than just his jaw. He had lovely amber eyes, although they were a bit cold. “Should I salute or something?”

His right brow arced upward. Then a tiny twitch at the corner of his mouth told her he’d caught on.

“I’m afraid I’m a civilian through and through, ma’am.” He tilted his head in the direction of the wagon. “That’s the General. Tom likes to name things.”

Hannah gave a little laugh. “I see. Well, I’m glad to have you both lending me a hand. I’m Hannah Richards.”

The man tweaked the brim of his hat. “J.T. Tucker.”

“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Tucker.”

He dipped his chin in a small nod. Not a very demonstrative fellow. Nor very talkative.

“Lay those things down, Tom,” he called out as he stepped away. “We don’t want them to tip over the side if we hit a rut.”

“Oh. Wait just a minute, please.” There was no telling what foul things had been carted around in that wagon bed before today. It didn’t matter so much for her trunks and sewing cabinet, but the linen covering her mannequins would be easily soiled.

“I have an old quilt that I wrapped around them in the railroad freight car. Let me fetch it.”

Hannah sensed more than heard Mr. Tucker’s sigh as she hurried to collect the quilt from the trunk she had been sitting on. Well, he could sigh all he liked. Her display dummies were going to be covered. She had one chance to make a first impression on the ladies of Coventry, and she vowed it would be a pristine one.

Making a point not to look at the liveryman as she scurried by, Hannah clutched the quilt to her chest and headed for the wagon. She draped it over the side, then climbed the spokes and hopped into the back, just as she had done as a child. Then she laid out the quilt along the back wall and gently piled the six dummies horizontally atop it, alternating the placement of the tripod pedestals to allow them to fit together in a more compact fashion. As she flipped the remaining fabric of the quilt over the pile, a loud thud sounded from behind, and the wagon jostled her. She gasped and teetered to the side. Glancing over her shoulder, she caught sight of Mr. Tucker as he shoved the first of her trunks into the wagon bed, its iron bottom scraping against the wooden floor.

The man could have warned her of his presence instead of scaring the wits out of her like that. But taking him to task would only make her look like a shrew, so she ignored him. When Tom arrived with the second trunk, she was ready. After he set it down, she moved to the end of the wagon.

“Would you help me down, please?”

He grinned up at her. “Sure thing.”

Hannah set her hands on his shoulders as he clasped her waist and lifted her down. A tiny voice of regret chided her for not asking the favor of the rugged Mr. Tucker, but she squelched it. Tom was a safer choice. Besides, his affable manner put her at ease—unlike his companion, who from one minute to the next alternated between sparking her interest and her ire.

She bit back her admonishments to take care as the men hefted her sewing machine. Thankfully, they managed to accomplish the task without her guidance. With the large cabinet secured in the wagon bed, it didn’t take long for them to load the rest of her belongings. Once they finished, Tom handed her up to the bench seat, then scrambled into the back, leaving her alone with Mr. Tucker.

A cool autumn breeze caressed her cheeks and tugged lightly on her bonnet as the wagon rolled forward. She smoothed her skirts, not sure what to say to the reticent man beside her. However, he surprised her by starting the conversation on his own.

“What made you choose Coventry, Miss Richards?”

She twisted on the seat to look at him, but his eyes remained focused on the road.

“I guess you could say it chose me.”

“How so?”

“It was really a most extraordinary sequence of events. I do not doubt that the Lord’s Providence brought me here.”

That got a reaction. His chin swiveled toward her, and beneath his hat, his intense gaze speared her for a handful of seconds before he blinked and turned away.

She swallowed the moisture that had accumulated under her tongue as he stared at her, then continued.

“Two years ago, I was hired by Mrs. Granbury of San Antonio to sew for her most particular clientele. One of these clients was an elderly spinster with a reputation for being impossible to work with. Well, I needed the job too badly to allow her to scare me away and was too stubborn to let her get the best of me, so I stuck it out and eventually the two of us found a way to coexist and even respect each other.

“Before she died, she called me in to make a final gown for her, and we fell to talking about her legacy. She had invested in several railroad properties, and had only one left that had not sold. In an act of generosity that I still find hard to believe, she gave me the deed as a gift, knowing that I had always dreamed of opening my own shop.”

“What kept her from selling it before then?” His deep voice rumbled with something more pointed than simple curiosity.

A prickle of unease wiggled down Hannah’s neck, but she couldn’t quite pinpoint the cause.

“She told me that she preferred to meet the buyers in person, to assess their character before selling off her properties. Unfortunately, her health had begun to decline, and she was unable to travel. There had been a gentleman of good reputation from this area who made an offer several times. A Mr. Tuck…”

A hard lump of dread formed in the back of Hannah’s throat.

“Oh dear. Don’t tell me you’re that Mr. Tucker?”


View blog reactions

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Matter of Character

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

A Matter Of Character
Zondervan (May 25, 2010)


Robin Lee Hatcher

Robin Lee Hatcher discovered her vocation as a novelist after many years of reading everything she could put her hands on, including the backs of cereal boxes and ketchup bottles. The winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction (Whispers from Yesterday), the RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance (Patterns of Love and The Shepherd's Voice), two RT Career Achievement Awards (Americana Romance and Inspirational Fiction), and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award, Robin is the author of over 50 novels, including Catching Katie, named one of the Best Books of 2004 by the Library Journal.

Robin enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, reading books that make her cry, and watching romantic movies. She is passionate about the theater, and several nights every summer, she can be found at the outdoor amphitheater of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, enjoying Shakespeare under the stars. She makes her home outside of Boise, sharing it with Poppet the high-maintenance Papillon

It's 1918, and Daphne McKinley, heiress to a small fortune, has found contentment in the town of Bethlehem Springs, Idaho. But Daphne has a secret.

A series of dime novels loosely based on local lore and featuring a nefarious villain known as Rawhide Rick has enjoyed modest popularity among readers. Nobody in Bethlehem Springs knows the man behind the stories ... except Daphne.

When newspaperman Joshua Crawford comes to town searching for the man who sullied the good name of his grandfather, Daphne finds herself at a crossroads, reassessing the power of her words, re-thinking how best to honor her gifts, and reconsidering what she wants out of life.

Robin is conducting a contest for the new book. Join in the fun HERE.

If you would like to read the Prologue and first Chapter of A Matter Of Character, go HERE.

Oh, what a fun book and series this was! I enjoyed A Vote of Confidence (reviewed here) and Fit to be Tied (reviewed here), and this final book of the trilogy was just as satisfying. Like the previously portrayed women of Bethlehem Springs, Idaho, Daphne is a bit unconventional. What can it hurt to have a quiet little career that no one knows about? When she encounters Joshua, she discovers that he thinks far differently about her little hobby. He wants her to quit, but she is just as determined to continue her no-longer-secret pastime. Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words do indeed hurt people. Fact or fiction? Daphne and Joshua must both determine if the thin line of difference between reality and embellishment is really A Matter of Character.


View blog reactions

Saturday, May 29, 2010

He's Everything to Me

Here's another wonderful oldie from my childhood. Written in 1964, it may be the first Christian song I learned that wasn't a hymn.

Words & Music by Ralph Carmichael

In the stars His handiwork I see,
On the wind He speaks with majesty,
Tho He ruleth over land and sea,
What is that to me?

I will celebrate Nativity,
For it has a place in history
Sure, He came to set His people free
What is that to me?

Till by faith I met Him face to face
And I felt the wonder of his grace
Then I knew that He was more
Than just a God who didn't care
That lived a way out there

And now He walks beside me day by day,
Ever watching over me lest I stray,
Helping me to find that narrow way
He's Everything To Me.

Be sure to visit Amy's for more great songs!


View blog reactions

Friday, May 28, 2010

Flashback Friday - In the Good Ol' Summertime

What were summers like when you were a kid? Did your family have any particular traditions? Did you sleep 'til noon or get up early? Did you attend camps? Spend lots of time at the pool? Was it a neighborhood pool or in your backyard? Did you take swimming lessons? Did you live near a beach? (And do you call it the beach or the coast?!) Did you attend VBS (Vacation Bible School)? Did your library have a reading program that you participated in? What types of prizes were available? Did you get to buy treats from the ice cream truck? Did your family go on vacations? If so, what is a memorable one? Do you associate any particular songs with summer?

Summers seemed to last forever when I was growing up! Life wasn't the frantic pace we live now, and the days were long. I'm one of the few who likes Daylight Saving Time -- I've always loved that the sun doesn't go down until 9:00!

Most of our time was spent at home just doing ordinary things. I was a huge bookworm (surprise, surprise!) and I L-O-V-E-D going to the library; I usually finished the summer reading program by the end of June or early July. I remember checking out 14 books - the maximum the library allowed - and reading them all in a week! I don't remember much about prizes other than being so excited to get a coupon for a FREE McDonald's hamburger! I think they cost 30 cents back then! Fast food was a relatively new thing, and we rarely went out to eat, so it was a huge treat! (I think their hamburgers were better then than they are now!)

We went on very few vacations. By the time I was old enough to remember any, my brother and then my sisters were turning 16 and working in the summers. My parents were homebodies and we didn't have a lot of money, so we just stayed home. I do remember that when I was 4 or 5 we went for a day or two to Turner Falls in Oklahoma. All I remember about it were the stairs to the rock castle. I don't even remember the castle! In fact, I hardly remember anything about the trip other than swimming near the falls and those stairs. As a little girl, it seemed like there were a million!

Then when I was in junior high, we took what I always thought of as my first "real" vacation, and we went to Colorado. We drove all through the state - Durango, Silverton & Ouray, Estes Park, Glenwood Springs (I loved swimming in the hot water!), Colorado Springs, and finally Denver. Just my parents, one sister, and I went on this vacation. My brother was already married and my other sister was a summer missionary that year. (But that's not the sister who is a missionary now!)

And when I was in high school, my parents & my best friend & I went on a short trip to Lubbock & Amarillo, including Palo Duro Canyon. We had been once when I was really little and I had been captivated by the play TEXAS!, which is a live musical performance in the outdoor amphitheatre. The first performance was in 1966, and it's been a fixture at the canyon since then. The play is performed by college theater/music majors, and it is phenomenal. Here's the opening scene; I always wanted to sing the songs! And these kids aren't lip-syncing! Wish I had such stamina to dance and sing! And look quickly at the top of the picture at the very beginning to see the man on a horse carrying the Texas flag. As the play progresses, the sun sets, and the finale concludes with fireworks. We Invite You All to Come to Texas!

A major part of summer was VBS. When I was still pretty little, VBS lasted two weeks! Then they dropped it down to M-F plus M-W of the next week, and finally just one week. We always did neat projects. I finally got rid of my decoupage of the Tyndale printing press a few years ago. I don't know if anyone remembers that old style of decoupaging: hammering "dings" into about an 8 x 10 piece of wood, then burning the edges of the picture, affixing it to the wood and then shellacking the whole thing. We also did LOTS of stuff with (uncooked) macaroni!

I took swim lessons for several years in elementary school, and I always loved it when we went to the pool. It wasn't in our neighborhood, so we had to drive there. We had an old quilt we put on the seat of the car for the trip home when we were wet. There was another pool that was bigger but farther away than the one we usually went to that my mom would take us to once or twice a summer. I eventually hated that pool because one day when we came home from that pool, we discovered our house had been broken into. I went into hysterics - we had been burglarized about 4 months earlier and it scared me to death.

Even though we lived less than an hour from Galveston, I only went once or twice until I was in high school and went with the church youth group. My parents were just not beach psople.

We did go to Astroworld a few times - it wasn't part of Six Flags back then. I was 7 when it opened, and when I found out we were going, I was beside myself with excitement! Sadly, it closed in 2005 - it was an icon of growing up in Houston, and now it's just a big grassy field.

But to wrap up summer. Two of my favorite summers were the two summers between 8th and 10th grade when I was a candystriper at our local hospital. That was a blast, and the nurses were so nice and taught me how to take a pulse and other things. Getting a taste of nursing just whetted my appetite for more.

The song that always makes me think of summer is the Carpenters' Yesterday Once More. I associate it with my last sister heading to college, making me an "only child." She spent lots of time with me that summer. We both loved the Carpenters, and this was one of our favorites. And it's oh so appropriate for this Flashback as it brings back the memories it of which it speaks. It also saddens me as I remember Karen Carpenter and her early death in 1983 from anorexia.

All my best memories
Come back clearly to me
Some can even make me cry
Just like before
It's yesterday once more

Wow - I should have divided this into two Flashback Fridays. Sorry to be so long-winded. The summers of my childhood may have lasted forever, but this post doesn't need to! I'm looking forward to reading all about your summer memories - be sure to link up here!


View blog reactions

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Flashback Friday Prompt

School is winding down and the temperature is going up which means summer is just around the corner.
What were summers like when you were a kid? Did your family have any particular traditions? Did you sleep 'til noon or get up early? Did you attend camps? Spend lots of time at the pool? Was it a neighborhood pool or in your backyard? Did you take swimming lessons? Did you live near a beach? (And do you call it the beach or the coast?!) Did you attend VBS (Vacation Bible School)? Did your library have a reading program that you participated in? What types of prizes were available? Did you get to buy treats from the ice cream truck? Did your family go on vacations? If so, what is a memorable one? Do you associate any particular songs with summer?

Post your flashback tomorrow and link up here!


View blog reactions

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Random Days and Wednesdays

1. Would you rather host party or simply attend a party?

Host. I love making the food and being the hostess gives me something to do besides mingle and chat, which I am so not good at!

2. Tell us about the most memorable party you've been to.

My wedding reception.

3. What is one thing you hope for in the after-life?

Heaven is enough - it will be beyond anything I could ever dream of.

4. What do you enjoy most about sunshine?

The light. I tend to get SAD (seasonal affective disorder) if there are too many gray days.

5. When you attend a bridal/baby shower, do you prefer to bring your own gift or chip in with others to buy a larger gift?

Bring my own.

6. Would you rather have a FREE week of having your house cleaned or all of your meals cooked for you and your family?

House cleaning. No contest.

7. What song describes your mood today?

8. What is something you received for your own bridal shower/wedding that you still own or use? (If you are not married, feel free to sub a gift you received a long time ago.)

The piano my man gave me for a wedding gift.

9. Your favorite flavor of ice cream is?

"Classic vanilla ice cream with a combination of dark chocolate chunks, creamy caramel chunks, roasted pecan halves, chopped almonds and walnut pieces."

Although Blue Bell's Cookies 'n Cream runs a very close second!

10. When was the last time you felt "tested?"

If I were my kids, I'd say this morning's final exam! Otherwise yesterday. And since this will post overnight, this seems fitting:
So far today, God, I've done all right.
I haven't gossiped, I haven't lost my temper,
I haven't been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or over-indulgent.
I'm really glad about that.
But in a few minutes, God, I'm going to get out of bed,
and from then on I'm going to need a lot more help. Amen.

11. "[Fill in the blank] is a food that once I start eating I find really hard to stop."

Popcorn. Pecans. Warm chocolate chip cookies.

12. "-----" is the best motivation.


Check out some other folks' answers at Lidna's!


View blog reactions

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Let Summer Be Summer!

Dear High School Teachers,

School is almost over and I'm sure you are as glad as the students are for a break. I would remind you however, that it is supposed to be a break, a time to set aside the pressures of school.

The amount of homework given during the school year is already over the top. More nights than not, my kids have done nothing but homework from the time they get home from school until they go to bed, often having to miss activities such as Youth Bible Study or piano lessons. But the idea of homework in the summer is completely outrageous. It's one thing to require that students read a certain book or books, but to also require that they also annotate it and write ten essays on various portions of the book is really a bit sadistic. Especially since a teacher told one of my kids that the project is designed to be complex enough for the students to work on it throughout the entire summer. And the only students who are required to do these summer assignments which are due the first day of school, those in the advanced classes, are the the very ones who don't need to be doing it.

As a mom of two students who take a hefty load of AP classes, I can assure you that they do not turn off their brains during the summer. In fact, summer is the time they look forward to reading just for the love of it. Additionally, they participate in other activities which are meaningful. In the month of June alone, my girl is helping with a local church music camp, participating in a local State Orchestra day camp, and attending a State Choir camp (all at her request/motivation). Then she's going on a mission trip in another country. My boy is planning to work on his Eagle project, complete his driver training, and other life lessons. And they both always read a pile of books in the summer! I expect that the activities that my children have planned will result in more long-term personal growth that what your summer assignment will do.

Neither I nor my man ever had to complete a summer assignment. And we still managed to graduate from high school with a sufficient amount of knowledge. I was #10 in my class of 500, and my man placed out of much of his freshman year. On the other hand, thanks to the overload of assignments, my boy, who wanted (and had) a math-themed birthday when he was 6 now barely tolerates the subject. And my girl, who used to adore English and writing, is now totally burned out.

You can rest assured that you are having an impact on my kids. If that is your goal, then congratulations on attaining it.

The impact? They have both commented that teachers take all the fun out of learning.

A Concerned and Fed-Up Parent


View blog reactions

Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday Miscellany

Today is my last full day that the kids are in school. For the rest of the week, they just go for the finals they take. And for some miraculous reason, they are totally in sync with their exemptions. In December it seemed that I was continually taking one and picking the other one up! They really have a dream of a schedule; they don't have to go at all Tuesday (other than to check in with the attendance office sometime before noon), they each have one final from 9:05 to 11:05 on Wednesday; two finals, 9:05 to 1:15 Thursday, and one "final" final Friday morning from 9:05 to 11:05. Then it's hello, summer vacation! And while I know I'll feel a little bit like I've returned to the Mother's Day Out time of my life with such short days, there is one huge benefit to finals.

No sack lunches to fix! Woohoo!

And the other thing that's nice about finals week is that there are no more performances to attend! I enjoy going, but after last week when my girl had a voice recital, piano recital, viola recital, and choir concert, I am ready for a breather!

My girl does have one more school-related activity on Saturday - she qualified for State Solo & Ensemble and will perform for judges at that. She will play a solo piece and also be part of a quartet.

But being finished with all of the other school stuff for a few months? That's music to my ears!

* * * * *

I've been so swamped with performances and book reviews that I haven't had a chance to thank some folks for some very fun awards! Whenever I get one of these, it makes me think, "They like me; they really like me!" It's always fun to be encouraged.

Michelle V at Life in Review honored me with the Sunshine Blog Award, which is given to bloggers that "inspire others and show positivity and creativity." She's a fellow book reviewer, and her blog has lots of fun links on it as well as reviews.

Janet Ruth at Along the Way gave me the Blog Neighbor Award. Thanks so much, Janet Ruth!

Julia Reffner at Dark Glass Ponderings blessed me with the Bodacious Blogging Book Reviewers Award. What a fun award! And I love the name of her blog and the verse posted in her header.

I thought there might have been one more -- not that I'm being greedy! But if there was, I apparently inadvertently deleted the email for the comment that told me about it. So if you gave me an award in the last 6 weeks or so and I haven't acknowledged it, please accept my apologies!

Now I am horrible about passing these things on. I never can choose! So if you are one of my blog readers who leaves me a comment, consider the Sunshine Award passed on to you! Because your kind comments are just like sunshine to me, only without the migraine!

And if you have enjoyed any of my reviews, or if you have picked up a book because of one of those reviews, I consider you Good Blog Neighbor, so that one is for you!

I am going to pass along the Bodacious Blogging Book Reviewer Award to some specific folks that also review books. I have so enjoyed connecting with you through our mutual enjoyment of the written word! If you aren't familiar with these folks, check them out!

1. Kim at Window to My World
2. CeeCee at Book Splurge
3. Quilly at Quintessentially Quilly
4. Cathy at Tales of the TCKK Family
5. Tami at Tree Swing Reading
5. BP at Rainbows and Rainbows

* * * * *

On a more serious note, our pastor has been preaching a series on personal evangelism over the past six weeks. Yesterday he pointed out a verse in Romans which is incredibly convicting regarding the urgency and sorrow Paul felt over those who were lost without Christ:

I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.
Romans 9:2-4a

Ouch. I don't have unceasing anguish in my heart and I'm not willing to give up my "seat on the bus," as our pastor put it, for someone else. (I know it's not an option, but Paul was willing to if he could.) May God prick our hearts and give us a burden for the lost.

What could be too great a cost
for sharing life with one who's lost?
When will we realize. . .
People need the Lord


View blog reactions

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Predator - This One Will Grab You!

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Zondervan (May 25, 2010)


Terri Blackstock

Terri Blackstock’s books have sold six million copies worldwide. Her suspense novels often debut at number one on the Christian fiction best-seller lists, and True Light, published last year, was number one of all Christian books—fiction and non-fiction. Blackstock has had twenty-five years of success as a novelist.

In 1994 Blackstock was writing for publishers such as HarperCollins, Harlequin and Silhouette, when a spiritual awakening drew her into the Christian market. Since that time, she’s written over thirty Christian titles, in addition to the thirty-two she had in the secular market. Her most recent books are the four in her acclaimed Restoration Series, which includes Last Light, Night Light, True Light and Dawn’s Light. She is also known for her popular Newpointe 911 and Cape Refuge Series.

In addition to her suspense novels, she has written a number of novels in the women’s fiction genre, including Covenant Child, which was chosen as one of the first Women of Faith novels, and her Seasons Series written with Beverly LaHaye, wife of Tim LaHaye.

Blackstock has won the Retailer’s Choice Award and has appeared on national television programs such as The 700 Club, Home Life, and At Home Live with Chuck and Jenny. She has been a guest on numerous radio programs across the country and the subject of countless articles. The story of her personal journey appears in books such as Touched By the Savior by Mike Yorkey, True Stories of Answered Prayer by Mike Nappa, Faces of Faith by John Hanna, and I Saw Him In Your Eyes by Ace Collins.

The murder of Krista Carmichael's fourteen-year-old sister by an online predator has shaken her faith and made her question God's justice and protection. Desperate to find the killer, she creates an online persona to bait the predator. But when the stalker turns his sights on her, will Krista be able to control the outcome?

Ryan Adkins started the social network GrapeVyne in his college dorm and has grown it into a billion-dollar corporation. But he never expected it to become a stalking ground for online Predators. One of them lives in his town and has killed two girls and attacked a third. When Ryan meets Krista, the murders become more than a news story to him, and everything is on the line.

Joining forces, he and Krista set out to stop the killer. But when hunters pursue a hunter, the tables can easily turn. Only God can protect them now.

Enter the Terri Blackstock iPad CONTEST:

If you would like to read the first chapter of Predator, go HERE.

Watch the book trailer video!

This book made my heart pound. Terri Blackstock has penned an all too realistic novel about the dangers teens face when they blithely and innocently share personal information on an social online network. This is definitely a book of suspense, not fantasy! If you have a teen, you will be gripped by this novel.


View blog reactions

Saturday, May 22, 2010

TSMSS - Remembering

I had another song in mind for today, but I was reminded by Mary Beth Chapman's blog post that yesterday was the second anniversary of Maria Sue's tragic death. Later, I had my iPhone on Shuffle, and this song came on that spoke to me so much. This is from Steven Curtis Chapman's latest CD, Beauty Will Rise, which was birthed from the process of grieving Maria's death. Steven calls this recording his personal psalms.

No matter what happens, whatever dark road you are traveling, Jesus will meet you there. What a wonderful comfort and promise.

This video isn't my particular taste - I prefer just reading the words while I listen, so I've placed them below for you.

Words & Music by Steven Curtis Chapman

When you think you've hit the bottom
and the bottom gives way
and you fall into a darkness
no words can explain
and you don't know how you make it out alive
Jesus will meet you there.

When the doctor says, "I'm sorry,
we don't know what else to do."
and you're looking at your family
wondering how they'll make it through...
Whatever road this life takes you down,
Jesus will meet you there.

He knows the way to wherever you are
He knows the way to the depths of your heart
He knows the way cuz He's already been
where you're going
Jesus will meet you there.

When the jury says, "Guilty,"
and the prison doors close
When the one you love says nothing,
just packs up and goes
When the sunlight comes and your world's still dark,
Jesus will meet you there.

When you've failed again and all your
second chances have been used
And the heavy weight of guilt and shame
is crushing down on you...
And all you have is one last cry for help
Jesus will meet you there.

He knows the way to wherever you are
He knows the way to the depths of your heart
He knows the way cuz He's already been
where you're going

When you realize the dreams you've had
for your child won't come true
when the phone rings in the middle
of the night with tragic news...
Whatever valley you must walk through,
Jesus will meet you there.

He will meet you there.

Jesus will meet you there...

This next song was written and recorded in 1999 on SCC's CD Speechless, several years before Maria was born and then adopted by the Chapmans. (SCC wrote it for some friends whose daughter had died.) But although he had no idea at the time that his family would live out the words of this song, God certainly did!

. . .we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope
I Thessalonians 4:13

Words & Music by Steven Curtis Chapman

This is not at all how
We thought it was supposed to be
We had so many plans for you
We had so many dreams
And now you've gone away
And left us with the memories of your smile
And nothing we can say
And nothing we can do
Can take away the pain
The pain of losing you, but ...

We can cry with hope
We can say goodbye with hope
'Cause we know our goodbye is not the end, oh no
And we can grieve with hope
'Cause we believe with hope
(There's a place by God's grace)
There's a place where we'll see your face again
We'll see your face again

And never have I known
Anything so hard to understand
And never have I questioned more
The wisdom of God's plan
But through the cloud of tears
I see the Father's smile and say well done
And I imagine you
Where you wanted most to be
Seeing all your dreams come true
'Cause now you're home
And now you're free, and ...

We have this hope as an anchor
'Cause we believe that everything
God promised us is true, so ...

So we can cry with hope
And say goodbye with hope

We wait with hope
And we ache with hope
We hold on with hope
We let go with hope

Head on over to Amy's for more music for your weekend.


View blog reactions

Friday, May 21, 2010

Flashback Friday - Senioritis!

Tell about your senior year in high school. Were there any special traditions such as getting a senior ring? Were there lots of activities and parties as you neared graduation? Were you in any extra-curricular activities that had traditional "rites of passage" or "passing the baton" too the next class? Were awards given out - either serious or fun? Did you send out graduation announcements? Did your school have a Baccalaureate Service in addition to the graduation ceremony? If you attended church, did your church recognize/honor Seniors in any way? Did you keep your tassel - did you hang it from the mirror of your car or do something else special with it? What sorts of things did you get for graduation gifts? Was it a tradition to display the gifts in your home?

I loved my Senior year in high school. Well, except for my English teacher because she was dull as dishwater, and it was even worse because I had such a stellar teacher the year before!

Class rings were a big deal. We actually received them our junior year. You had to wear it with the school's name facing you until you graduated, and then you could turn it around so others could read it. And getting the ring was fun too. You had to have people "turn it" - rotate it 360 degrees on your finger - until you'd reached the number of your graduation year. So since I graduated in 1979, 79 people had to turn my ring. And the last person kissed you after giving your ring that final turn! I don't think they do anything like that now. I don't even see many kids today with a senior ring. My boy wanted one for a keepsake, not to wear, and it sits on his desk.

We had lots of parties toward the end of the year. Since I was in a church with a big youth group, that made it really fun. I remember a swim party, a party with a luau theme (see above picture. No, my folks didn't miss my date's head; I cropped it but left the rest of him so you could see how well his shirt blended in with our gold drapes!), and a couple of others. There weren't any awards unless you were in a club or something that did that. I was in journalism, and they had the Flak awards. I got the Lizzie Borden award - for wielding such a wicked axe when proofing stories as a copy editor!

I think we had a Baccalaureate but I don't remember much about it. I think my pastor was the one who led it.

The church had a Senior Recognition the Sunday before we graduated. We all wore our caps and gowns. During the service as our name was called, we walked up, received a book from the church (I can't believe I remember the name of it; it was called After the Tassel is Moved), and then told the congregation where we were going to college and what we would major in (or if not college, what job was planned).

The actual graduation ceremony was rather anticlimactic after all the fun activities we had. I do remember how much fun it was walking in to the music of Pomp and Circumstance! I've always loved that song. We didn't get our diplomas then, just a blank paper rolled up with a ribbon. When we went to turn in our gown, we exchanged it for the diploma. I didn't have a car, so my tassel hung on the corner of my bulletin board in my room for years.

Graduation gifts were a fun part of the whole experience! I remember getting practical things like toiletry kits, a tote bag, pen & pencil set. My favorite gift was a crocheted afghan from a friend's mom and also his grandmother, whom I adored. The mom was the woman I've mentioned several times - yes, the one who insisted we wear our caps straight and whom I worked for during the summers and who became a widow just a few years later at 46. I dated her oldest son off & on, and the other son was one of my best friends; he was like a brother to me. That family was such a special part of my life. Anyway, the afghan was a tradition that she & her mom made for all of the nieces/granddaughters when they graduated. I was the first non-family member to receive one, and the most special part was her telling me that they started making it during one of the "off" times when her son and I weren't dating. They wanted me to know they loved me independently of whether I dated the boy. I can still see myself sitting on the couch in their den with it in my lap, being amazed to receive it, and I treasure that afghan still today. I haven't been in touch with her in several years, and I need to write her a note. Here's the picture of my afghan and other gifts. Ignore the fan in the corner, but be sure to notice the puke green shag carpet and drapes. It was the 1970s, after all!

So that's a look back 31 years ago - gulp! It's funny how something can just consume your life at the time, and then years later you realize what a small piece of your life it really was. And knowing that my whole life will seem like just a blip in eternity!

Enough nostalgia and ruminating for me! I look forward to reading your memories. And I thought that this Flashback would hit a pretty broad spectrum of folks, but alas, the blogging youngster Cae hasn't graduated yet!

Sigh. I am feeling a whole 'nother kind of senioritis today!

Link up your memories here!


View blog reactions