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I'm most recently a writer.  In the six plus decades of my life, I've been a wife, mother, grandmother, Jill of all trades though mistress of but a few, and most of the time pretty content with my lot.  As a much younger person, I believed I was called to write, but life and living distracted me for most of those decades.  An unwilling transplant from the South,  twenty years ago I unintentionally landed in the geographical center of the US.  Writing came about in part due to the unwillingness, I expect.  When caring for family, gardening, and renovating a century-old house failed to provide sufficient creative outlets, I turned to the one thing I always intended to do.  Eight titles later, I'm grateful I found myself while Lost in the Plains!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The View from Here--2013

Retrospectively speaking, 2013 was a year like most years. Twelve months, four seasons, births,
deaths, work, play. . . I've been through more than sixty such years, so I know the routine by now.  But of course, each of those years had its own variation on the theme and 2013 was no different in that respect, either.
The major difference from my point of view is this right here, this blog. I began in February, on a whim really.  Truth be told, I didn't think I could actually do it.  But everywhere a writer turned, it seemed, blogging was deemed essential to building that mysterious thing called a "platform."  I'd already taken on Facebook and survived, so the next frontier was apparently to start a blog.  Right.  So what does one do, precisely, on one's blog?  Well, blog, of course.  About your life, your work, about yourself.  Sounds simple, but I couldn't picture myself ever doing such a thing. 
But something prompted me to try. Before I knew it, I had set up something titled "Lost in the Plains" and could actually write and post pictures and links and hit "publish" as if I understood how it all worked.  And lo, and behold, other souls out there in cyberland could see what I'd just "published" and even comment on it! Cool!  Kind of.  Or maybe not so cool?
Without trying to sound mysterious or dramatic, I'm a very private person for a very good reason.  Initially, when I decided to self-publish my first book, the idea of putting my name and face on the Internet seemed contrary to everything I'd done to protect myself for a number of years. Sure, I could use a pen name, but that seemed pretentious, or as if I were ashamed of what I'd written. My name and face are my own, after all. I refuse to be afraid to use them. Step by cautious step, as this writing thing progressed, I became braver and bolder.  By the time I got around to blogging, I knew I was already just a Google away from anyone who wanted to find me.  So why not take the next step and talk about myself, my life and my work, on a blog?  Yes, it's a risk, but life's too short to hide under a rock and quake, when there's the possibility something you have to share might be . . .well, worth sharing.
So I've shared, I hope not too much.  But I've been myself here, no hiding, just me. And even if no one had read my posts, I think this would have been a rewarding pastime.  Like keeping a diary or journal, this blog has allowed me to mark the highs and lows of my year.  I can look back over the posts and recall what prompted me to write them, where I was at the time and what has come to pass since then. The fact that thousands of people, from down the road to across the world, have viewed those posts is hard to wrap my mind around.  But cool.  Very cool, I must admit.
2013 will be a year to remember for a number of reasons, just like every year. But it will have particular significance as the year I, Karen Welch, took a giant step out of my comfort zone to talk with unseen strangers in faraway places about what is most familiar to me--myself.  Rather than scary, that's actually kind of a relief, like throwing open the windows to enjoy the view without worrying about who might be looking in.
So if you're reading this, thank you! I hope you'll stop in again to share the view with me in 2014.
Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Valley Rise Christmas Blog--DayTwelve

Twelve posts, twelve holiday scenes--the last from Christmas at Valley Rise.  When Carter and Staci spend their Christmas Day delivering meals to shut-ins, they experience the age-old truth that blessings come through giving rather than receiving, and wisdom is often found in unlikely places.  Their visit with an elderly man proves to be one of the high points of their first Christmas together.

It took two hours to make the final six stops.  These homes, isolated on the winding back road that circled the sulfur springs, were more difficult to reach from the SUV.  In some cases, the driveways were long and the snow too deep for Staci to maneuver close to the house.  By the time they had waded through the nearly foot-deep snow to make several of the deliveries, both she and Carter were admittedly cold and tired. 
At the last stop, no one seemed to be at home.  After banging on the front door, Staci walked to the rear of the house, calling in the back door in an attempt to rouse the homeowner.  “I know he has to be here.  Maybe he’s deaf.  Carter, look under the door mat and see if there’s a key.  A lot of folks out here leave a key handy in case of an emergency.”  Back at the front of the house, Staci remained on the ground, rather than attempt to navigate the steps to the porch again.
“Are you sure?  That sounds like an invitation to be robbed.”  He bent down to lift the snow-covered mat.  “No key here.”
Staci looked around for another hiding place.  Propped against the porch was an old iron wagon wheel.  On a hunch, she put a finger into the hub and felt the little metal box that held the key.  “Here.  Try this.”
Carter shot her a skeptical glare as he put the key into the lock.  “I just hope he doesn’t keep a loaded shotgun handy to greet unexpected visitors.  I thought everyone knew we were bringing them dinner today.”
Staci joined him on the porch.  “They did.  That’s what has me worried.  Maybe he’s just asleep.  Napping by the fire, or something.”
The penetrating chill that met them on entry ruled out that scenario.  “Mr. Dawson?” she called into the dimness.  There was no sign of a light and most of the window shades seemed to have been drawn.  None of the rooms showed much sign of recent occupancy.  “We brought your Christmas dinner from the church, Mr. Dawson.”
With growing apprehension, they went from room to room, peering together into each doorway.  “I don’t like this, Staci.  We should call somebody.  What if he’s. . .not alive?”
In the kitchen, on a cot next to the cold wood stove, they finally located Mr. Dawson.  He was lying on his back beneath a mound of worn quilts and blankets, his eyes closed and his mouth open.  With a lump in her throat and her heart pounding, Staci gently touched the mound in the vicinity of his shoulder.  “Mr. Dawson?  Are you okay?”
With a sputtering snort, the old man opened his eyes and blinked.  “Are you a nurse?” he asked hoarsely.
“No sir.  We brought your dinner from the church, Mr. Dawson.  Are you sick?”
He seemed to think about it for moment.  “No.  Just ran out of my arthritis medicine and thought you might have some on you.  Sorry it’s so cold in here, but I couldn’t get out to the woodshed for the snow.”  He made a feeble attempt to push away the covers.
“Just stay there, sir.  I’ll get some wood and see if I can start a fire for you.”  Carter looked around for a place to set the Styrofoam tray.  Every surface seemed to be occupied with stacks of dishes, folded newspapers and rows of tin cans.  He finally chose a pile of ancient magazines as a suitably stable resting place for the dinner. 
As he headed for the back door, Staci flashed him an approving smile that made his heart thump against his ribs.  “Thank you, Carter.  That would be great.”
“No problem.”  Why, he wondered as he plowed toward the sadly leaning woodshed, did he suddenly feel like a hero?
When the fire was finally blazing in the stove, and a substantial supply of wood stacked in the kitchen near the backdoor, Staci cleared a space on the table and set out Mr. Dawson’s dinner.  “I’m afraid it’s not very warm anymore.  Would you like for me to put it in the oven for a few minutes?”
But Mr. Dawson, with surprising agility, had taken his place at the table and was already tucking into the meal.  “No ma’am, this is fine.  I didn’t eat breakfast this morning.  It was too cold to get up.  This is mighty fine fixings, mighty fine.  Did you cook this yourself, young lady?”
“No sir.  The ladies at the church did.  Now is there anything else we can do for you?  I’m afraid your pipes are frozen.  You’ll need to get someone out here to take care of that for you.  I can call someone, if you’d like.”
“That’s all right.  Some of the neighbors usually come around every few days.  There’s a jug of water there in the refrigerator.  I’ll be fine.  You young folks have better things to do on Christmas than see to an old man.  But I sure do appreciate this meal.  And that’s a good blaze you got started there, son.  I can keep that going now.”  When he looked up, his eyes were shining with gratitude.
While Staci seemed to hesitate, hovering over the old man, Carter looked around the shabby kitchen, taking in the clutter and the sad state of disrepair, the cardboard filling a shattered window pane and duct tape mending a torn place in the worn linoleum.  His eyes came to rest on the mantle above the closed fireplace, where the wood stove now radiated warmth.  There a little wooden stable held a place of prominence in the midst of an assortment of faded photographs.  The porcelain figures of the crèche were carefully arranged, obviously placed by a loving hand.  Drawn to take a closer look, Carter stepped toward the mantle.\
“That’s a nice crèche, Mr. Dawson.  I’ve never seen one quite like it.”
Turning to watch as Carter picked up the figure of one of the wise men, the old man smiled.  “I brought that back from Germany, son, over sixty years ago.  A present for my bride-to-be.”
He examined the finely painted figures.  “It’s beautiful."
“I don’t bother with a tree anymore, but I always put that on the mantle, just the way my wife did for fifty-two years.  I figure that’s the only kind of decoration I need.  Now you two run along, before it gets any worse out there.  I appreciate all you’ve done, but I’m fine here.  I’ve got fifty-two years of memories to keep me company.  Two young people in love like you need to have some fun on Christmas.  Make some memories for yourselves.”

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas to All!


Holiday greetings to each and every one of you!

Thank you for joining me here at Lost in the Plains!


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Valley Rise Christmas Blog--Day Eleven

And finally we come to Christmas at Valley Rise--which takes place in 2012 and features three generations of the Moss family as they gather for the holiday.  As always, there's music, laughter, family, and fun, and of course, a little romance! 

And there was Staci, her eyes glittering with laughter, sitting by the fire with his grandmother.  In spite of himself he grinned, as he freed his hair from Aiden’s grasp and set him on the floor.  “Hi!  I didn’t expect to see you back here tonight.” 
“Uncle Rob insisted.  Come here, Aiden.  Your cousin Carter has your overalls all in a twist.  Really, Carter, you shouldn’t be so rough with him.  You’re supposed to set an example for the little ones, aren’t you?”  She scowled up at him, as she settled the little boy on her lap, and Carter tried to look suitably contrite. 
“He started it.  Besides, I was outnumbered.  I had to defend myself, you know.”  Taking a seat on the floor beside her, he found it hard not to smile again.  “Give a guy a break, Staci.  It’s Christmas, after all.”
“What do you think, Aiden?  Should we let Carter act like a little kid, just because it’s Christmas.”
Aiden seemed to consider his answer.  “Uh-huh.”  He nodded solemnly.  “Staci, Phoebe says Carter has a crunch on you.”
Staci blushed, soft color blossoming in her cheeks.  “A crunch?  Aiden, I don’t even know what that is.  Carter is my friend.  Or at least I hope he is.” 
When she looked up to meet his eyes, Carter nodded with the same solemnity.  “Sure.  At least as much as a guy can be.  Friends with a girl, I mean.”  Now he felt the blood rising in his own face.  He knew his grandmother was watching them, one of those wise little smiles in her eyes.  Even Aiden gave him a doubtful stare, before snuggling more comfortably in Staci’s lap.  
It was magical, sitting there on the carpet with Staci beside him, kids all around, the adults occupying every available seat, as they munched popcorn and listened to the well-known story.  Stani’s voice was deep and warm, his distinctive accent perfectly suited to the phrasing of Dickens’ work.  Each year, the story had become richer to Carter, as he understood better the symbolism of those ghostly visitations.  Now he watched the faces of his cousins as they too listened, mesmerized, to their grandfather.  When he stole a glance at Staci, her cheek resting on Aiden’s coppery curls, her eyes gleaming in the firelight, a lump rose in his throat.  This was the best part of his life, this time with his family, and now with the girl he loved.  This Christmas, as never before, there was no room in his heart for hurt or resentment.  Nearby, on the couch, his father sat with a protective arm draped around the shoulders of his tiny wife, staring contentedly into the fire.  Gloria wore a sweet little smile on her lips, as she slowly ran her hands over the roundness of her belly, seeming to soothe her unborn child as she listened.  All around the room, there was a feeling of peace and unity. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Valley Rise Christmas Blog--Day Ten

Even the most Christmas-spirited among us are subject to a  holiday mood swing or two.  In Offered for Love, Emily experiences her share of highs and, in this scene, lows.

It would be late on Christmas night before they shared another such moment.  By the time they settled in bed at nearly midnight, when the twins finally abandoned their fight against sleep after two days of too much excitement and too little normal routine, Emily admitted that she was for once thankful to see Christmas end. 
“But it was overall a lovely Christmas, and definitely different from any we’ve had so far.”  With a sigh, she rested her head on the pillow next to his and closed her eyes.
“You didn’t overdo, did you?  I know you probably couldn’t nap this afternoon, but you did have a nice long rest.  And it was almost comical the way everyone was falling over themselves to see that you didn’t move off the couch this evening.”  He let out his own sigh.  He had been on the go since six this morning, and both physically and emotionally, he was sure he must be exhausted.
“It was pretty funny.  My cup runneth over, literally.  And my plate never seemed to empty, either.  Someday, when I’m back to normal and this is all behind us, I suppose I may wish for so much attention, but right now, I’d like to do a little more for myself, please.  I am quite capable of pouring my own tea, you know.  And I’m only eating for two this time, not three.”   With a drowsy chuckle, her voice drifted to a whisper.
He lay there holding her, too tired to fall asleep, reliving the highest and lowest of the moments.  Christmas Eve in an ancient candlelit church, observing the solemn, traditional service, opening gifts around the tree, helping his excited sons tear wrapping paper from their first Christmas gift—a rocking horse built for two—seeing Emily’s eyes light at the locket containing two copper curls and the miniature portraits of her “darling baby boys.”  Joy, tinged inevitably with sadness.  The call, placed from the parsonage where everyone had gathered to wish them a collective Merry Christmas, had tipped the balance for a time.  While she had listened to each familiar voice send a personal greeting, holding the phone so that he could listen too, and bravely responded to every one, as soon as the receiver dropped into the cradle, she’d laid her head on his shoulder and sobbed.  He had the sense that all the emotions she’d held so firmly in check were released in that moment, and he was grateful when everyone in the room found some pressing matter requiring their attention, leaving the two of them alone for a time.  “I’m sorry.  I know it’s silly,” she’d whispered.
“Not at all silly.  Cry if it helps.  But I warn you, I’m that close to joining you, love.  I think what did it for me was little Emily.  Can she really be two years old and talking so plainly now?”  The baby girl delivered on Christmas Eve, the child who had such a place in the miracle of their own first Christmas in love, had spoken her soft, sweet greeting so clearly into the telephone that she seemed to be right there in the room with them. 
Emily had smiled then, but the cloud over her spirits had lasted for hours. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Valley Rise Christmas Blog--Day Nine

In Offered for Love, Stani and Emily are forced to spend Christmas in London, but Stani manages to provide Emily with a little of the Valley Rise tradition, despite their exile.

Blushing, he led her by the hand up the stairs.  “Just want to make you happy, love.”  He opened the bedroom door, deciding against any sort of announcement, hoping she would see immediately what he had done.  He was not disappointed.  For just a moment she paused on the threshold, as her eye fell on the rustic wooden stable nestled among the photographs on the table.  Her gaze slowly scanned the room, stopping at each little group of figures, the shepherds and their flock of three on the dresser, the wise men with their camel on the chest of drawers, Joseph and Mary and the humble donkey on the night stand.  As she stared into the room, her lips formed first an “oh” of amazement, and then spread into just the rapturous smile he’d hoped for.  “Oh, Stani!  This is beautiful!”  She went to each group, touching the figurines with a gentle finger.  He watched as she approached the stable and peered behind it.  With the greatest care, she lifted the angel from its hiding place, and studied it for a moment, reverently stroking the flowing golden hair.  Finally, she reached again behind the stable and drew out the tiny wooden manger with its precious occupant, and stood holding it in the palm of her hand.
He couldn’t resist joining her there, circling her waist with his arm and staring down on the tiny infant figure.  He didn’t need to ask if she approved.  Her smile, the tears clinging to her lashes, and the gratitude shining in her eyes when she finally looked at him said it all.  Carefully, she placed the manger in the stable and tucked the baby beside the hidden angel. 
“Stani, this is the most beautiful thing you could possibly have done for me.  You must have read my mind.”
“No, I just remembered that you said you’ve done this all your life.  I didn’t want you to have a Christmas without it.”  Pressing her head against his shoulder, he tried to steady his voice.  “If you have to be away from home this Christmas, I wanted you to have a little something of home here.  I can’t bring the hills, or the fields, but a crèche I knew I could get for you.”

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Valley Rise Christmas Blog--Day Eight

This scene from Heart of My Own Heart joins Stani and Emily for Christmas morning at Valley Rise Farm--

Emily was in the kitchen just after dawn, humming along with the carols on the radio as the bacon sizzled and when Stani crept up behind her at the range, she let out a little sigh.  “You didn’t really think you could startle me?  I could feel you coming all through the house.”

“Feel me?”  He lifted her hair and nuzzled her neck, his hand finding the little bulge at her waist.

“You’re radiating something this morning.  Christmas joy, maybe?  I could hear it echoing in your footsteps.”  She turned in his arms, a twinkle in her eyes.  “Besides, I heard you banging around in the hall closet.  What is it you have hidden in there, anyway?”

“Christmas surprise.  But not until after breakfast.”  His kiss was meant as a reminder of all the past breakfasts they’d shared, including the one on Christmas morning only a year ago. 

They didn’t rush through the meal, and John joined them while they were still at the table, pouring a cup of tea and helping himself to a chunk of cinnamon bread.  “What’s on the agenda this morning?” 

His eyes widened as Emily went down the list.  Open a few gifts, dress for church.  Have a quick lunch after church, then start dinner preparations, which would involve a list of things all its own. 

“No just sitting around the fireplace with our feet up?  Yesterday was hectic enough.  I could use a day off.”

Their voices rose in unison protest.  “John, it’s Christmas Day!  This is the real celebration.  Friends and family all gathered for a meal, music and gifts.  Tonight, when we’re all so full we can’t move, then we’ll sit by the fire.”  Emily was on her feet, pulling at Stani’s hand.  “But right now, I want to show you something, darling.  In fact, if I don’t, I’ll just explode.  Get your coat.  Hurry!”

Laughing and rolling his eyes at John, he let her lead him to the front door.  “Really, love, you want me to go outside now?  It’s snowing!”

“Only a little flurry.  And there’s nothing much on the ground.  It won’t take long!”  Her excitement was tangible, as she bundled into her coat.  And it was infectious.  He realized his own heart was racing as he did the same.

He took a moment to tie her muffler high around her ears.  “Are you sure you can’t just tell me what it is I’m supposed to see, without running out into the yard yourself?”

She grabbed his hand and pulled him through the door.  “No!  I want to see your face.”

He followed her across the yard toward the gate, struck by the stark winter scene that spread in every direction from the high ground on which the house was situated.  Beyond the surrounding valley, the distant ridges were nearly obscured by a blue haze.  The ground underfoot was covered with a light dusting of dry snow, and huge flakes drifted lazily through the air.  Near the gate, a lone pair of cardinals took flight, their bright wings a startling intrusion of color into the gray landscape.  The silence was profound, and he took a moment to appreciate the peace of this place.  And then Emily pulled him through the gate and came to an abrupt halt, steering him around until he stood facing the house again.  The satisfied smile on her face suggested they had reached their destination, but he couldn’t imagine what he was expected to see.

“Look, Stani!”  She nodded toward the fence, or was it meant to be toward the house?  Still, he couldn’t grasp this marvelous thing she was showing him so proudly.

Finally, his eyes fell on the sign.  The large oval that bore the name of Valley Rise Farm.  It had been newly painted, the letters a fresh, crisp green against the white background.  Beneath, scripted in red, were the names of the farm’s proprietors.  Now, instead of the former “J.E. Haynes,” it read “S. and E. Haynes-Moss.”  When he couldn’t find words, she hugged his arm and said softly, “James brought it out and hung it last night.  Do you like it?  I decided to use our names the way you did for the foundation.” 

He took another moment to recognize what this really meant to her.  It was her farm, her legacy from her parents.  Now she was adding his name to the most treasured thing in her life.  “I love it, darling girl.  You know, I even had a thought about it, when we were shopping for the caretaker’s home.  But then I decided it was too much yours to ever change it.  Haynes has always been here, and for some chap named Moss to move in was just too overreaching.”  He wrapped her in his arms, staring into the intense gray depths of her eyes. 

“Not overreaching at all.  It’s yours now too.  It’s ours, Stani.  And that J.E. Haynes person is gone forever.”  Her kiss was deep and sweet and for a time he was lifted off the cold hillside, swept away by the miracle of this girl in his arms, who carried his child deep inside her, whose love had brought him to a place he could call home. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Valley Rise Christmas Blog--Day Seven

   We move next to Heart of My Own Heart to join Stani and Emily as they celebrate Christmas at the farm--their first Christmas as a married couple. 

For the first time, Stani Moss performed in the church where a year earlier he had begun his own journey to meet the Christ Child.  On the night of their return to the farm, Pastor Mike had asked if he would consider playing at the Christmas Eve service and he had immediately agreed.  Now, as he sat with Emily and John in a pew full of friends who had been strangers a year earlier, he knew he had completed that journey.  Watching the cherub choir, now under the care of Sara McConnell, seated around the crèche just as they had been with Emily that night, he felt the same tingle of anticipation.  Glancing at her candlelit face beside him, he saw much the same emotion shining in her eyes, and the corners of her mouth were turned up in that sweet, tranquil smile he so loved.  Beyond her, James and Penny sat hand in hand, their eyes meeting briefly as if to confirm the step they had taken together such a short time ago.
At the rear of the already crowded church, a whispered commotion could be heard.  Turning, Stani saw that Jack had arrived and was ushering in a group of late arrivals.  Leading the way down the aisle, he was followed by Bobby, walking slowly and leaning heavily on a cane.  Next to him, Ruthie carried little Emily, who gazed down on the faces along the way, her eyes bright with curiosity.  Three little boys followed, Robbie Joe bringing up the rear.  Stani watched their progress, as Jack brought them straight to the front of the church, where they filed into the pew directly opposite.  From his seat on the aisle, Robbie Joe looked across at Stani and smiled his brightest gap-toothed grin.  As he turned to leave, Jack laid a hand on Stani’s shoulder.  “Merry Christmas, son.”
The organ began to play, as the last of the congregation filed in, and when Pastor Mike took his place in the pulpit, a chill touched the back of Stani’s neck.  “This is the night of brilliant stars and heralding angels.  This is the night of humble shepherds and watchful wise men.  This is the night of our Savior’s birth.  Let us worship God together, on this night of miracles.”
Stani listened to the scriptures and carols, Emily’s hand tucked securely in his.  At the appointed time, he rose and took his violin to stand near the manger.  Aware of the wide-eyed cherubs, watching from the other side of the crèche, he smiled.  Then closing his eyes, he played.  What Child Is This?, a tune as familiar as his own breathing, tonight infused with a new spirit.  When the choir joined him, the music soared, swirling within the little church to draw in every listener.  In his mind’s eye, he saw Emily, her eyes glistening in the candlelight, her hand resting lightly over their unborn child.  His heart swelled in his chest, filled with more love and longing than he could ever have imagined a year ago, when he had stood at the back of this church and for the first time recognized the voice of God speaking so clearly.
When he returned to his seat, he met the gaze of the little boy opposite, a gaze so full of awe that he felt another shiver of emotion.  For a long moment, he stared at Stani as if seeing him for the first time.  But when Stani smiled into the dark eyes, Robbie returned an adoring grin and darting across the aisle, threw himself into Stani’s arms.  Wordlessly, he gathered the child to him, momentarily overwhelmed by his own response.  This boy, so earnest and open, would never understand the power of his simple gesture.  But for Stani, who had yearned for the courage to show the same kind of gratitude to the man he most wanted to please, Robbie Joe’s arms, tightly hugging his neck, were the finest Christmas gift he could ever receive.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Valley Rise Christmas Blog--Day Six

Late on a very eventful Christmas Eve night, as Stani reflects on all he's experienced in a few short hours, he and Emily welcome in their first Christmas together in one final scene from Hearts Unfold.

 They sat by the fire for a long time in contented silence.  He could believe in miracles after this night.  His experience in church, witnessing the birth of a baby, and the discovery of just how intensely he loved her, wanted to protect and care for her, were all miraculous.  Every hour with her seemed to change him, lead him forward to a new sense of himself.  He tried to recall the pastor's words at the close of the service tonight.  Words like strengthen and support, honor and serve; words which gave direction, pointing to a better life.  Peace and love, and courage.  He had begun to believe he might be capable of much more than he'd ever attempted.  With inspiration in the form of this girl now nestled so warmly at his side, he might learn to be the kind of man she deserved.
Three years earlier, it seemed to him now, he had in fact died, only to be born into this new life.  If almost losing his life had earned him this amazing woman's love, then he could accept the idea that there was a plan, a divine vision for them.  There was so much more to learn, more to discover on this journey; but he knew tonight he had at last opened his heart and, as she had promised, God had been there, had spoken to him, and he had recognized his voice.
“Emily, it's almost Christmas.  Should we put the baby in the manger now?”
Together, they went to the mantel and she took the tiny figure from its hiding place.  Ever so gently, she placed it on the little straw bed.  Softly, lovingly, she spoke words familiar, but never before understood.  “And he shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

Saturday, December 14, 2013

We Interupt Christmas for This Important Message. . .

For a limited time, Shannon's Daughter will be bargain priced at just $.99!  Just click the title for instant transport to Amazon.com to purchase your copy of this new release from the author of the highly rated Miracle at Valley Rise series.

  Thank you! And now we return to the joy of the holiday season.  Merry Christmas, everyone!

Valley Rise Christmas Blog-Day Five

This one of my favorite scenes from Hearts Unfold, as Christmas Eve continues. . .
With each reading of the beloved scriptures, with the singing of each carol, she found deeper peace.  Her littlest charge, Jenny, curled on her lap and at times one or the other of the children snuggled against her as they watched the glimmer of the candles and listened to the choir.  When she knelt before them, leading them in the first stanza of “Away in a Manger,” their sweet, clear voices were the only sound in the church.  Tears filled her eyes.  They not only sang like cherubs, but their faces glowed with the wonder of their accomplishment.  As the choir joined in the next stanza, she felt a shiver of joy.  This was her home, her church, her people.  This was where she was meant to build her life.
When they returned to their places near the altar, her tiniest cherub tapped her on the shoulder and pointed into the congregation, calling out a name she couldn't quite understand.  Emily put her finger to her lips in a silent shush, and the little girl sweetly imitated her gesture.  With a soundless laugh, she gathered the child onto her lap, hugging her close, but something made her look back in the direction Jenny had pointed.  At the rear of the church, where several latecomers stood along the wall, she spotted Jack, rain glistening on his uniform jacket.  She was surprised.  He’d planned to attend the eleven o'clock service, she was sure.  She wondered briefly if there had been some kind of emergency.
The congregation sat in rapt attention, all eyes focused on Pastor Mike as he read the final passage of the nativity story.  The first chords of “Silent Night” sounded and Emily got to her feet, checking that the children were holding hands as instructed.  When she looked back for Jack, the place where he'd been standing was empty.  Still wondering about his disappearance, she started to sing, getting through the first measure before her voice caught in her throat.
She could see him clearly, framed by the heads and shoulders of rows of familiar faces.  His eyes, fixed on a place somewhere above her head, were glistening with unshed tears.  Jenny pulled gently on her hand, and she lifted the little girl to her hip.  When she raised her eyes, he was looking straight at her, smiling tenderly.  Jenny reached up and touched her face, and she realized tears were coursing down her cheeks.  Lowering her head, she kissed the tiny fingertips, smiling into the little face beside her.  The hymn ended and in the hush which followed, everyone stood with heads bowed, waiting.
Pastor Mike's voice rang in the silence with the words of the Charge.  “Go out into the world in peace; have courage; hold on to what is good. . . .” Through the roaring in her ears, over the pounding of her heart, she could barely make out the familiar words. . . “support the weak; help the suffering; honor all men; love and serve the Lord.”  In her arms, Jenny cuddled closer, resting her head on Emily’s shoulder with a contented little sigh as the service came to a close.  “The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord be kind and gracious unto you.  The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace.  Amen.”
The first notes of the postlude thundered around her.  She stood still, her heart thumping against her ribs.  Parents came forward, complimenting her and the children, collecting their offspring.  She passed Jenny to her father's arms, accepted hugs from the other children.  One of the mothers put a wrapped gift in her hands, but she was only vaguely aware of the activity surrounding her.  Pastor Mike was coming toward her, a smile on his face, his hand extended.
And then he was beside her, his arm gently encircling her waist.  Somehow, she found her voice.  “Pastor Mike, this is my very good friend, Stani Moss.”