Monday, December 29, 2008


He always knew it was time for me to pray or work when I sat down on the couch with either my Bible or my laptop. He’d crouch on the floor, readying his muscles to spring, and look up at me, his eyes sparkling green with excitement. Once eye contact was made, he’d pounce up on the arm of the sofa, rub his head against mine with an affectionate purr then saunter across my Bible or my laptop. His tail lingered and flit, caressing my face as he made his way to my other side. There he would curl into a furry ball and continue that steady rumble of delight until he fell asleep.

We’d sit like that for hours, or many a chapter. I began to refer to him as the ‘editor’. And I loved him. He was my muse, one of my very best friends, and he purred at the sight of me.

He had many names, like royalty. As a kitten the kids and I sorted out what we should call him. At that time we thought he was a she. When they suggested ‘Portia’ I was delighted, thinking they meant the heroine of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. That was until they explained they meant Porsche—the car. But it was a good compromise, until we took ‘Portia’ to the vet and discovered she was really a 'he'. Lana, an English major, then suggested Othello. That fit because he had a beautiful wedge-shaped face that was totally black, except for that little white dribble of white below his lip that travelled down to his all white belly as soft as a cloud.

But we don’t stand on ceremony in our house. During his kitten—Ninja—year where he completed many an athletic feat, my husband called him Push-kat-o. But as he developed into the sleek, elegant creature he was, he became Mr. Kitty to many, including the vet. To Lana he was always Meow Meow because they never did get along, he considering her bed to belong to him. Naturally there was bad feeling and he vocalized it loudly whenever she turned him out of her room. But all he had to do was silently pad across the hallway to my room where he knew he was always welcome.

But to me he was always PussPuss, a term of affection that was never general in any way. Someone once told me that a cat isn’t truly loved until it’s named, thinking that perhaps PussPuss wasn’t as revered as we said he was because we never could settle down to just one name. Oh, but the opposite is true. No creature of God’s could have been more dearly cherished. Or now missed.

He’s gone now, far too soon. But the God I serve is a huge God, one who sees all, even the smallest sparrow that falls from a tree. PussPuss is curled up close to my Lord, waiting for me to come back to work. We’ve got too many chapters to write.

I miss you my little friend. I miss you.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

If God Disappears -- a Book Review

Amazon Online Reader : If God Disappears: 9 Faith Wreckers and What to Do about Them

In David Sanford’s book “If God Disappears” I found nuggets of truth that I had been searching for some time in regards to the illusive issue of hope. Even as a Christian, with Heaven to look forward to, I often wonder what I can hope for in this life. Answers are hard to find when it appears that for years or even decades, a certain ‘hope’ we cherish will never come to pass, or when we are suddenly confronted by personal tragedy. At times like that many of us cry out,not, where is God, but “Where has the God—I thought I knew—gone?” A crisis of faith is unavoidable for everyone, or for someone we know. For that reason this book is highly relevant.

In Mr. Sanford’s book he tackles these sticky questions by looking at nine different faith wreckers. He explores ways of going beyond just coping when we’re hit by the pain of losing someone, the tragic consequences of living life recklessly, when all our faith and courage has been beaten down, and so much more. He combines great intellect and years of study with a refreshing lack of rhetoric so that whatever stage a reader is at in their spiritual walk or understanding, they will find concepts to help them re-discover God when He seems to have disappeared.

The easy-to-read chapters encourage those who are new to the Christian faith or who are searching for a faith, whatever their background or set of beliefs. At the same time I found what he had to say stimulating to a person like myself who has walked the Christian faith for more than forty years. It was as though Mr. Sanford took me to the bedrock of my faith and encouraged me to walk about it from a new angle and see things I had never seen before—mostly what I can hope for in what appears to be a hopeless world.

If God Disappears

Here is David Sanford's website where you can read and be encouraged right away if you are feeling hopeless.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

'Before the Season Ends' by Linore Rose Burkard -- A book Review

Ms. Burkard knows what makes a true Regency novel so that you’ll no longer be dependent on your local Jane Austen book club. This author portrays everything from the snobbery towards those of ‘shabby gentility’ to those ever-so-important connexions that one needs in that world. It’s an old world, with the speech patterns of that era, and all the foibles that can trip one up and bring ruin so that one may not put one’s face in polite society ever again.

Yet I felt the characters—Miss Ariana Forsythe and Mr. Phillip Mornay—to be as alive as my family sitting in my living room. From the moment of their first awkward meeting—her stuck in a tree—to his anger and her embarrassment much later on when she wears too sophisticated a gown for his tastes, you can’t help but long for them to be together. But not too quickly, because their adventures along the perilous road to steadfast love made me smile, and even laugh. I was certainly not the least out of countenance!

The conversation in this Regency novel speeds along like an open curricle led by a pair of dappled grays in Hyde Park, so that for a few days I felt as though I lived in that world. Each character’s speech sparkles and scintillates so much, I daresay even Mr. Bennet of Pride and Prejudice would be exceedingly diverted. As for me, I was delighted.

It’s been a long time in coming—an author with NEW Regency stories that will entertain and gently affirm us in our Christian faith in a way that Jane Austen would be proud. This is a book you’ll share with your mother, your aunt, your daughter, your best friend.

Check out my interview of Linore Rose Burkard, below. You can purchase this book at Christian or on Amazon

Interview with author Linore Rose Burkard

Christine - So, Linore, how does it feel to have Harvest House publish ‘Before the Season Ends’?

Linore Rose Burkard - I'm very blessed. Harvest House is able to get BTSE before a broad audience, and they've been wonderful about creating great promotional materials and opportunities for me. They are an organization of super people! For readers who'd like to see the book trailer they made for Before the Season Ends, it's on my website

C - How long have you been writing?

LRB - Since about the age of nine. I wrote my own version of "My Side of the Mountain," with chapter breaks and all! After that, I got into poetry writing throughout my teens and an occasional short story. After college I started out editing and doing columns for church newsletters and I loved sending letters to the editor of my daily paper (no shortage of opinions here!). Then I branched out by writing homeschooling vignettes for my Homeschool co-op. But I also started to read more Christian fiction, only I couldn't find a book like BTSE. A Christian regency that was well-researched and true to the genre. That was what I really wanted to read, so I began writing regencies myself, at night, when the kids were asleep.

C - This is your first contract with a major publishing house, and yours is a road to publication that is round-about and very exciting. Why did you choose to self publish BTSE before this?

LRB - I had queried two publishers, one of which expressed interest, but then later backed away. I was confident about my book, and I'm a self-starter (that's a nice way of saying, a free spirit!) so it was sort of natural for me to do my own thing. I'm also a type A personality, I think--I like results, fast!

C - How did Harvest House come to notice your novel?

LRB - Once I self-published, I spent over two years studying marketing and promotion. I was constantly doing something to create a platform for myself and establish a readership. Then the Lord blessed me through my editor who just happened to be looking for what was out there in terms of Christian regencies, so he found me and contacted me. That initial contact resulted in two contracts; one for BTSE, and one for the sequel, The House in Grosvenor Square, which will be out in April, '09.

C - Tell us about your unique story-style—what do you believe defines a 'true' Regency novel?

LRB - There definitely are "benchmarks" of what makes a true regency. Authors are always trying to stretch the boundaries of genre fiction, which is fine, but in my opinion, a good Regency needs to include certain features and follow certain rules. For instance, the regency heroine needs to be sexually pure. Even if she is widowed, her character is still pure, though not ignorant or unintelligent. Historic facts regarding everyday life need to be as accurate as possible, and the same goes for descriptions of clothing, manners and customs. These are things that make the Regency so beloved, the special attire, implements of life, and customs and so forth. Supporting the realism, dialogue must be witty, especially between hero and heroine, and should try to mimic the speech patterns of the day.

C - I love the Regency style, and hope there are a lot more books coming from you, but do you think you would ever write a different style of novel—say a historical but not with that specific Regency flair which you do so well?

LRB - The Regency is my "first love," for settings, but I do hope to be published in more than regency fiction, eventually. I've written other stories, already, and I enjoy other settings.

C - Now that God has swung wide this door for your stories to touch other people, what is it that you hope God will do?

LRB - My hope is that God will reach readers with the understanding that He is real, first of all, and involved in our everyday lives. From my fiction, readers can also know that God is never more than an earnest prayer away, and especially that happy endings are possible for everyone. I also give readers the sense that they've visited Regency, England, and have had a wonderful time doing so! They've met a great man to "swoon" for, and got to know a heroine they can love and respect. I love that my books can be passed around among women. Lots of readers write and tell me they loved it so much that they gave it to their mother-in-law, who read it and gave it to her daughter, who gave it to her cousin.....etc.

C - What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

LRB - Don't despise the day of small beginnings. Every novel starts out as a scene, and then grows out, like a web, with plots and ideas getting stuck to the web as it grows. I recommend really determining, if you can, that you are called to write. And if so, give it all you've got. That's what it will take to succeed--and then some. But if it's a calling, He'll make a way.

Thank you, Christine~! This was fun.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I'll Be Seeing You - Ann's Story Chapter Three

According to her husband, almost her last words on this earth were, “Where’s my lunch?”

That’s the kind of woman Ann Thompson was—unstoppable. But truthfully, the verb ‘was’ is as wrong as wrong can be.

Ann is.

On September 28 Ann’s soul blazed home to be with the Lord Jesus Christ, her savior and her best friend. Ann now has a perfectly healthy, powerful, brand new body to match her indomitable spirit. I can just see her—like a lot of cancer survivors—rowing down a river, her upper arms strong, leaning into each stroke.

It was more than five years ago when I met Ann. I’d enjoyed her singing during the worship time at church. In the aisle after the sermon ended, I admired her outfit and gorgeous red hair. The woman was nothing, if not chic. After the hellos and learning a bit about each other, she glanced at me with warm assessment.

In that loving tone that only the best of mothers or the best of friends use, she asked me, “Are you strong? Do you look after yourself?”

“Ah, not as much as I should,” I said.

She looked me straight in the eye. “You know those dragon boat rowers, those women who survived cancer?”


“You have to be strong, like that.”

Ann’s life taught a lot of people a lot of truths, but that’s what she taught me—To be strong and courageous.

You could stop me now and say, but Ann didn’t survive cancer. It’s true the cancer took her body, but it never took her soul. She fought the disease to the end. She never hid what was going on with her health, but shared it outright, asked you to pray for her and Bob, and then went on to what was happening in your life. Ann won her fight with cancer. Right now, for the first time in over a year, she’s able to sit down at a banquet table and chow down. Her loved ones and friends go about with watery smiles in a daze of release—she’s no longer suffering. She’s gone home to LIFE.

In previous posts, I’ve spoken of Ann as a woman of zest, comparing her to sparkling strawberry jam. Well, she’s that all right, having a wild sense of humor. Must be her Irish roots. I know because her husband Bob can giggle through his tears, over the outrageous things she’d say only three days after her celebration of life service. Her last joke, the one about her lunch, she said barely above a whisper, but with a twinkle and perfect decorum. While I’m sure she had her moments, nothing seemed to get that lady down.

But that’s not completely true. Saying goodbye to the people she loved did get her down, hating to be the first to leave a party, I guess. Silly dear, she’s gone on first to decorate for the really BIG celebration--the Lord's day. Probably ordering the cake, the flowers, the party favors, and helping set the table—just so—for the rest of us when we eventually arrive. In the meantime, I’m quite certain she’s ordered that perfect hue of paint for her apartment in the celestial mansion, and has the stepladder and brushes ready for Bob. But it will be a while before Bob goes home. While God the Father has Ann immersed in all kinds of creative work up there—painting, singing, quilting, investing in people’s lives, to mention only a few, He has big plans for Bob down here. Big plans. When someone we love passes on to Glory, we have to hang on to that. Death is not the end, only the beginning. I must remember that when my time comes.

During the last two weeks of Ann’s earthly life, many people from our church and from Ann’s family sat with her while she slept. I’m sure it was the same with the others, but the last time I saw Ann, my words to her were, “I’m going now. I love you, we’ll see each other, soon.”

She gripped my hand, her strength there only for a few seconds, her eyes bright, flaring with love for me, and said with just a feather of a breath, “I love you too. We’ll see each other again.”

I left the hospice, feeling not so much that I had ministered to her, but that as usual, Ann had ministered to me.

Only last fall the tree, shimmering gold in my backyard made me think of Ann, with the realization, then, that it was perhaps her last year. The leaves fell. Christmas came and went. Then, around Easter, the spring brought that tree back to leaf.

It is not the end. It’s only the beginning.

Friday, September 05, 2008

September--New Beginnings

I said goodbye to my youngest child the other day, when my husband and I left him at college a few thousand miles from home. I hid the usual sniff-sniff and wiping of the eyes from our son Rob, of course. But I noticed that as his dad and I drove out of the college driveway, that Rob took two lingering, backward glances at our green Mazda. We were leaving him to begin his God-inspired risk.

Back on the freeway on which we had spent the last week doing a road trip with our young guy, my husband, David, and I remembered a shared joke, a laugh, especially at the spot just outside of Calgary where David got lost. It was as we drove past that particular turnoff that it hit me.

My husband took a sideways glance at me, reached into the backseat and grabbed a roll of paper towel. I buried my face in the towels and let it all out. Both David and I knew that things would never be the same again. Sure, our son would come home at Christmas, but time had been encapsulated for us as we travelled home in a much, much lighter car.

At home in a terribly quiet house—no rock music, no jazz, no blues, no electric guitar whining upstairs, or the steady thoom thoom of Rob’s bass—I began to refocus on what God wanted me to do in the next little while. It’s not that I don’t have things to do. My calendar for the next two months is crammed. Rob's life is not the only one in transition. The last year has been made up of, what I hoped, was faith-filled risks. I left my well-paying job to spend more time on the goal of becoming a published author, to follow what I felt sure was God’s leading.

It's been a journey of open and closed doors, and I've learned that a closed door is as much an answer to prayer as an open one. But have I done the right thing in encouraging my son to take a risk on a music degree? Have I been an example worth following, as I blaze my own faith trail? Should I have encouraged him to go to the local community college and get a diploma or degree that would guarantee him steady employment?

Have I set my son on a trail of woes because I encouraged him to take that risk of following the passion of his heart?

Then I rememember on what, or should I say on WHOM, the risk is riding?

Neither my son, nor I have taken these risks without the still small voice of our God whispering in our ears. The passion is not one we came up with willy-nilly, but rather one that's been bathed in prayer.

So we're on the trail, Lord, totally in your hands. I know you won't lose us.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Never Too Late

Have you ever prayed for something, years go by, and you say to yourself, "Well it was never meant to be, I guess." Are you ever bewildered by those people whose faith never seems to waver and they keep right on trucking, praying for decades for something?

I’m hoping that when Christ said, ‘Oh ye of little faith.’ It wasn’t just me—way off in the future—He was referring to. Because God has surprised me again, causing me wonder if He takes delight in sneaking in special little gifts that we asked for, long after we'd forgotten about them.

So here’s the announcement. Hot of the presses. I have received an answer to prayer.

Yes, yes, yes . . . an answered prayer besides the one today, where my son Rob got a part-time job, and should be able to save money for college.

I’m talking about something else, something I prayed for over twenty years ago--that my birthmother story would be published for others to read.

I remember the day clearly. It was summer. And I walked my children to the park, watching their healthy legs chugging down the sidewalk as they strained to reach the swings and slide. There were only two of them at the time, Lana and Kyle. Rob was yet to be thought of. And I was thinking about Sarah, my eldest, wondering what she looked like. Was she playing outside that day too? For some reason I had an image of her darting in and out of a swimming pool in a pink bathing suit, and in between dives, her mother slathering her with sun screen. Many years later when we did meet as birth mother and birth daughter, I discovered she did spend almost her entire summers camping, and in and out of a pool.

But all I had back then, when Lana and Kyle were small, was the vision I carried in my heart of their big sister I had relinquished to adoption. From the day Sarah was born I had prayed that God would use our story. I hoped that Sarah’s truth, my own, and that of her mother would encourage others when it came to the issues associated with losing birth family, being an unwed mother, and the heartbreak of not being able to bear children.

I prayed, while watching Lana and Kyle race up the sidewalk, “Lord, I’d really like to tell my story in the Focus on the Family magazine.” At the time, I didn’t think it a terribly difficult thing for God to do. That was, until years later, when I actually started writing and discovered the uphill struggle it is to get published in even the smallest of ways.

But the day came. My literary agents, David and Renee Sanford, put together a book called “Thriving as an Adoptive Family” in conjunction with Focus on the Family. Each chapter and side-bar is written by different authors. And you guessed it. Mine is one of those stories. It's a small piece, only 2 1/2 pages long, but it's there. And Tyndale is putting it out this October. Apparently you can pre-order through Amazon.

So, I guess it's never too late.

Habakkuk 2:1-3 '. . .the revelation awaits an appointed time; . . . Though it lingers, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.'

Monday, April 07, 2008

The Legacy of Strawberry Jam - Ann's Story Ch. Two

I remember the process with my mother when I was a little girl—boiling the fruit down in a big pot, stirring in the sugar and the pectin, pouring the hot frothy mixture into clean jars and waiting for the wonderful stuff to cool enough to eat. The color of the jam was vibrant—the deepest of reds, purples, and blues, the taste holding a hint of wildness from the sun-warmed back garden. It was unlike anything that could ever come from a store, one of those things that just represents the very best in life

Last Sunday I was reminded again by a mere wisp of a woman of what is the best in life. She spoke of the joy she experiences when hearing a robin sing. We wondered together if there would be the song of robins in Heaven. We talked about her disappointment that she hasn’t made that strawberry jam she’d been planning on. I was touched by her desire to feed her loved ones in this way. I wrote about her last autumn. Her name is Ann.

This past year Ann has struggled to keep her weight above 115 pounds. A few weeks ago she and her husband made arrangements at a funeral home. A palliative care nurse will come to Ann’s house when needed. The doctor said it might be needed soon.

How could Ann, who is possibly facing the last season of her life on earth, lift me from the despondency I’ve been experiencing this past year? I won’t make light of my issues. By doing so I would only minimize that of others who share similar trials. Pain comes in many different packages, and for some of us that may mean anxiety over loved ones, depression, or even the fear to live life vigorously. That’s the way Ann has always lived her life—vigorously—and how she lives this season of her life. So much so she constantly surprises me.

Last Sunday when I spoke to Ann I couldn’t keep the tears away. They were tears for her and what she’s going through, but facing Ann brought to the forefront that which I’ve been trying to hide. I didn’t want others to know that my hope was holding on by a thread, that my joy in Christ had faded, and that I lived with daily fear. In facing Ann I realized that she has more courage in her little finger than I do in my entire body. It shamed me. Not that Ann would ever want to do that, but she can’t help her life speaking for her, and it does, loudly and beautifully. It’s the way she confronts being sick every day, how she prepares her heart to say goodbye to her loved ones, and the way she wonders if she’ll ever hear a robin herald in a new spring. She does all of this, trusting in a compassionate God. When her strength holds up, Ann encourages others by going to Bible study and reunions of ladies’ groups she’s helped out in past years, right up to last year. She prays for others. She probably prayed for me last Sunday.

When I look at Ann I see the flavor of God. I see zest. I see life. Perhaps what I’m seeing is the beauty of a life condensed, with the impurities gone, so that the mixture of the fruit is congealed with the sweetness of the Holy Spirit.

It’s been my daily prayer this past winter that this season of Ann's life would be filled with sweetness and joy for her and her husband. I expected God to pour it on Ann thick and heavy so that she wouldn't even notice leaving this earth and being swept into His presence. I couldn't stand the thought of her suffering. God is answering my prayers, but as usual, not in the way I expected. It is the sweetness pouring out of Ann that God has fed me with. I suppose that’s the secret. Right up to the very end, it’s what we give out of a selfless and courageous heart that matters most to God--the incredible sweetness of Christ Jesus and His courage. That courage convinced Ann to agree to another round of chemo therapy. Where I would have given up, Ann has not. That's when I hear God's voice.

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Romans 12:12

I continue to pray that this season of Ann's life will be gentle and full of joy, and no suffering, no matter how valiant Ann is. Perhaps the Lord will give her the small mercy of making that batch of strawberry jam for her loved ones yet. It would be a blessing to me to go to her house and help her stir it up and fill the jars. Perhaps there will even be another spring full of birdsong for her.

But even if God doesn’t answer our prayers in just that way, Ann has reminded me that He is good. Life with Him is vibrant and wild, no matter how short or long, or what we suffer. And Heaven . . . unimaginably wonderful.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Prisoner's Wife--A book review

I'm embarrassed to confess that this is the very first 'Heartsong Presents' book I have ever read. But thanks to Susan Page Davis and her novella, this could be the beginning of something wonderful. Nothing I like better than to discover a new series of books that I can chow down on.

In 'The Prisoner's Wife' Susan has created a full-bodied story with believable characters who I came to care for quickly. Jack Hunter is a wounded hero that remains a hero even though he is manacled and behind bars for a crime he didn't commit. He still tenderly sees to the needs of Lucy Hamblin by marrying her inside the prison walls, ostensibly so he can bequeath to her his property after his hanging. This is a plot line I have never read before. Both of these characters are gentle and yet strong, and not at all sappy. I feel their frustration as lovers being separated, first of all by her father, then by the law, and finally by the intricacies of their developing relationship. Neither Jack or Lucy is sure why the other wants to marry them. Is it only for the practical reasons of caring for Jack's property and seeing that Lucy is provided for? Or is there the possibility of love?

But even after Jack is released from prison for lack of evidence, all is not well. Suspicion continues to hang over his head, and with it the looming threat of death.

The richly detailed historical setting flows beautifully with the plot, and never pulls me out of the story. And for me as a mystery buff as well as a history buff, I was highly satisfied. Susan weaves this love story with the subtle question of who really killed Barnabas Trent.

There is an added bonus though. In one or two sentences of completely natural dialogue, Susan teaches and encourages me as a follower of Christ. They are delightful moments for me to savor.

If Susan can do all this in 170 pages, what could she do with a 365 page novel? This is an author whose career I am going to follow.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

'The Rogue's Redemption' by Ruth Axtell Morren--A book Review

I have discovered a new author, and I like her.
Ruth Axtell Morren.

Normally, if a story doesn't have a grisly corpse or two, a dapper English detective, and some thick Thames fog, I'm not interested. Romance alone just doesn't do it for me.

Until now that is. Morren caught me right away in her first few pages. ”

In her latest book ‘The Rogue’s Redemption’ she proves she knows Regency England like the back of her hand. She places me into that society and I see it, hear it, smell it. Her well-researched historical details are wonderful but never intrude on the continuous dream of Hester and Gerrit.

From the first chapter I liked these two characters and wanted them to be together for all time. But their obstacles are real. Though their story is set 200 years ago it is relevant today. Hester is a committed Christian, Gerrit is suffering the consequences of a life that indulged in self-centeredness. Only the haunting of war and the men he has killed begin to tug him out of his debauched lifestyle. Along comes Hester, an American girl portraying the freshness of her country that has recently fought and won its freedom, into the stodgy, hypocritical society of England at that time. Hester is everything that Gerrit is not. She’s pure, healthy, and has a purpose in life—a purpose Gerrit longs for. But the obstacles in their way are not just Hester’s father who will do whatever he can to stop such an unholy liaison between this rake and his beloved daughter. Gerrit himself does not feel worthy of Hester. Morren deals with the sensitive issue of Gerrit's sexual immorality and its consequences in a realistic yet delicate way. In no way is her addressing of this issue offensive. My hat is off to her for not brushing the reality of life under the carpet, and yet writing it in such a way that would not offend anyone's grandmother.

Morren weaves the inner healing of these two people along with the outward events in their lives to a very satisfying close, and she even threw in some thick English fog.

I heartily endorse ‘The Rogue’s Redemption.’