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 24, 2016
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.
Friday, December 23, 2016
Thursday, December 22, 2016
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.
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
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.”
Monday, December 19, 2016
Katie Lost and Found, a story of lost love found and second chances in life, is currently nominated in the Romance category here-- http://www.goldenboxbooks.com/golden-book-award-contest.html
Your vote would be much appreciated! You can even cast your vote more than once--as often as you like! It takes about 30 seconds, no signing in, or revealing your identity, or anything!
Sunday, December 18, 2016
Before she left, she moved Joseph and Mary into the stable, with the noble donkey grazing on the hearth nearby. The shepherds she placed on a table not far away, where the heralding angel's message could reach them. Finally, she set the angel directly beneath the star hanging above the mantel. Leaving the lamp shining in the window, she started out for church just as rain began to fall in earnest.
The little stone church was packed, buzzing with excitement as families gathered and friends greeted one another as if they hadn’t been together in months, rather than days. Her cherubs, with their shining clean faces and carefully brushed hair, seemed suitably impressed with the importance of their roles in the service, even a little subdued. Emily could only hope that attitude lasted through the hour they spent in full view of the congregation.
But as the music began, and she led them to their places, all her anxiety melted away. It was a sacred night and even if the children were restless or sang a little off key, nothing could cast a shadow over the beauty of this, her favorite night of the year.
Friday, December 16, 2016
Continuing in Hearts Unfold, Emily returns to her home church on the arm of her godfather, Jack Deem,
and is reminded of all she has missed since she left for college. A chance conversation also reminds her of the possibility of miracles even in the most dire of circumstances.
In the narthex, the smell of pine boughs and the glow of candlelight wrapped around her, drawing her in. The sanctuary was already crowded. Local families swelled with out-of-town guests, sleepy children in the arms of proud grandparents, several young men in uniform, their mothers or sweethearts clinging to their arms, all gathered in anticipation of the hour to come. From her seat next to Jack, she searched the familiar faces. Down front, Sara McConnell sat between sons Peter and James. Peter had let his hair grow longer, now that he was at college, and the blonde mane was very becoming. He was even better looking than the last time Emily had seen him, which must have been almost two years ago. James, home on leave from Southeast Asia, was in uniform. Thin and deeply tanned, he looked older, and there was a tense, haggard expression on his face as he gazed down at his mother.
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Last time, in Hearts Unfold we saw Emily Haynes preparing her house in anticipation of Christmas with family heirloom decorations, honoring traditions established through the years by her parents. Today we meet Stani Moss, who has known little or nothing of tradition and yet recognizes the beauty and mystery of the Christmas Eve celebration without understanding its meaning.
Saturday, December 10, 2016
It occurred to me that since there are so many Christmas-related scenes in the Miracle at Valley Rise books, I could share them with you during December as my thank you gift to you for following me here.
In this scene from Hearts Unfold, young Emily Haynes has secretly returned to her secluded farmhouse home in search of a way to retrieve what's left of the life she shared with her parents. With her mother dead and her father in a nursing home, there doesn't appear to be much hope, until Emily decides to take control of her destiny. Since it's almost Christmas, her first step is to bring a little holiday cheer to her home.