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It started with a teapot

September 30, 2014

I should know better. Really, I should. But when I make iced tea, I brew it by boiling water in a teapot on the stove, then I pour the boiling water into a glass 2 quart container with an awesome peach green tea bag. (From Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf) The trouble is…when I pour the water into the jar, I use it all up. And I don’t refill it until I need it again. Why bother? If I need to heat water, I’ll fill the thing.

I probably shouldn’t leave it on a burner empty. That’s what got me in trouble last night. I left the empty pot on the back burner while I turned the FRONT burner on to steam some veggies.

IMG_2849 That is, I thought I had turned on the front burner. Turns out, I turned the wrong knob. This can be easy to do on this stove, and I tend to double check because it’s just new enough (read that as I haven’t had the stove for 20 years) for me to mix up front and back. Maybe it’s the ceramic top. A gas stove would show you right off which burner was lit, right?

Well, I walked away and waited for the veggies to cook. I heard the usual start-up noises when a burner is getting hot, but then I started to hear some strange cracking sounds. Distractions aside, I jumped up to check and noticed all these spots on the teapot that hadn’t been there before – like grease spatter. Then I  remembered the last time I’d used the thing and realized that instead of the veggies, I had been cooking the teapot. The empty teapot.


Fortunately, there was no fire, no damage to the stove, and no burn smell. The tea pot, however, (besides the grease-like spatter) had some of its ceramic bottom cracked and burned away. (Probably that cracking sound I heard.) At first I thought I could save it…

Then today, as I cleaned up the kitchen, I moved the pot and discovered that the little itty-bitty pieces of ceramic had shed onto the counter, and in my haste to wipe them up, a finger got in the way.

Ceramic splinters don’t come out so easily. And they hurt like the dickens as my mother-in-law used to say. Short-lived hurt, but you know it when that sliver finally pops free!

So that teapot is now in the trash, and I won’t be making iced tea again until I can replace it. I kind of liked that teapot–the colors matched my kitchen. But Tiger hated the train whistle sound. So maybe next time we will get one that whistles a kitty-favored tune and warns me when it’s empty too!


by jill at 2:12 pm in

Is love really all we need?

September 25, 2014

I listened to a podcast yesterday, and at the end it played the Beatles’ song “All You Need is Love.”

That seems to be a popular sentiment these days. All we need to do is love everyone. Love wins in the end. Love is that all-inclusive important word. Even the Apostle Paul said, “The greatest of these is love.”

But is it really all we need?

If we grew up in a family without love, it would be the one thing we crave most, without question. When we feel worthless and unloved, it also seems to be the best and even the only solution to our emotional need, our pain. And in the simplest sense, love does heal. It is the “greatest of these.”

But there are two other words, two other actions, attitudes, entities that in my opinion matter just as much as love. In fact, I wonder if you can have true, lasting, eternal love without them.

They are faith. And hope.

1 Peter 1:13 says, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (Emphasis mine)

And 1 Peter 1:21 tells us, “Through him (Jesus) you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.” (Emphasis mine)

Hebrews tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God. We have to start with believing that God exists. There is no sense in going any further without that initial faith.

And in that famous love chapter of 1 Corinthians we are given three things that remain. Three things that will still be around when all the lights go out, when there is nothing left to cling to. They are: faith, hope, and love.

They are not always linked in every verse that describes them, but they are in 1 Corinthians. And when you stop to think about it, they are also connected in the various letters the apostles wrote to struggling Christians. Right after Peter encouraged the scattered believers to put their hope fully on the grace of God, and told them the source of their faith and hope is God, he went on to remind them to have sincere love for their brothers–to love one another deeply, from the heart.

Love is not the only thing the world needs. It’s a good start, but it isn’t the full package.

Jesus died for love, but He did so that we might believe (faith). He did it for the “joy set before Him” (hope) so that He could give us that love relationship we all long for. The words “all we need is love” touch a chord of truth within us because we crave love, for ourselves, for our world. But we need that love on a far deeper level that involves our mind and spirit and very soul. We need the kind of love that evokes faith and brings hope.

We need faith, hope, and love that are only found in our God.


by jill at 9:10 am in ,

Fall and such…

September 23, 2014

It has come to my attention that Fall is here. Rather unannounced too. Just one day knocked on the door and there it stood in all its flaming color and cool crisp air. Summer wasn’t all that happy at the intrusion, and here in Michigan has actually shoved Fall aside some of the time. I don’t think Summer has had her last fling just yet.

IMG_2826I used to dread Fall because…well…Winter is such a nasty six-letter word with its ice and snow and endless cloudy days. (And of course, Winter tags along on Fall’s heels.) Last year Winter had to go and show off that she could give us the worst (translate that biggest) snowfall on record in this beleaguered state. Truth is the pot holes in some of cities still haven’t recovered, and I daresay the upcoming cold could turn our streets into mini mine fields where cars can sink and tires are easy prey.

IMG_4262But…despite what’s coming, I don’t dread Fall like I used to because all kinds of good foods and flavors accompany the season, like apples and cinnamon and pumpkin and we even lit our first fire in the fireplace this week. I’ve made some amazingly tasty new dishes like baklava nut mix (right) and raw oatmeal date cookies (left), along with chicken chili and some flavorful salads. (Healthy eating is still my goal, even if coffee and chocolate get thrown in there.)

Fall makes dew tickles the senses and the leaves turn such vibrant colors. It’s the end of things and the beginning of things. It’s a time of busy days around our house. School started so Randy is back to teaching. (Tiger does not approve of sharing his dad every day with the kids at school as he thinks Randy’s sole purpose in life is to snuggle him or take him outside.)

I joined a weekly Bible study at church this Fall where some friends already attended. It’s fun to have that added connection with them and to make new friends who pray for each other as well as study God’s Word.

IMG_2822Amid juggling life, which takes me all sorts of places, I am working on two books at once at the moment. Page proofs for The Crimson Cord, Rahab’s Story came last week, and I am in the final stages of editing Deborah’s story. With Deborah’s story I’m at that critical moment where the characters are fresh in my mind, and I’m attempting to add deeper emotion to their thoughts. But page proofs have a short turnaround, so I also have to read through them at the same time or I won’t make my October 8th deadline. (Can you tell Tiger is impressed with my homework?)

So I read 30 pages of The Crimson Cord each day and edit two chapters of Deborah’s story. So far, so good. I even managed a four or so mile bike ride today.

But getting up early, waking in the night sometimes to pray, and all this beautiful fresh Fall air has me ready to crash by supper time! I keep looking at the clock and wondering how it is only seven or eight at night when my body is telling me its bedtime!

This is why God invented coffee. And there is nothing better on a cool Fall morning than a hot cup of the brew (or of English Breakfast tea). Which would you choose?



September 21, 2014

Sometimes it is hard for us to think of things that are ancient as relevant to us today. Why bother to study how people lived in the past? What can we learn from them?

Besides the skills to survive without electricity or indoor plumbing, I think the people of the past, especially the people of Scripture have a lot to teach us. There are, of course, the spiritual lessons. In my current work-in-progress (Deborah’s story) I am discovering the dire consequences Israel faced when they abandoned their faith in God to worship false deities. Deborah claimed that was why “war was in the gates.”

In her lifetime, Deborah saw a vast change in culture, a shift away from true worship of Adonai, and the constant threat of terrorists around every corner.

People hid in their villages, afraid to travel the main highways or visit the market square for fear to the terrorist with the 900 iron chariots. Weddings were normally loud celebrations, but the people dared not allow such jubilation to ring in the streets lest the enemy hear.

Fear reigned. Every villager risked kidnapping, rape, pillaging, murder…

Deborah’s culture sounds very much like parts of our world today, does it not?

Though we can’t know exactly what went on during her years on earth, nor can we know her as a woman beyond what the few verses in Judges give us, I think those few verses tell us enough to know she was a woman whose times mirror our own. And I think in understanding the past, we can relate and even apply what they learned to our own lives today.


September 2014 Christian Fiction Releases

September 20, 2014

I’m really late with this list – but this is perfect weather to look for a new book to enjoy!

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.


The Promise by Beth Wiseman — Mallory Hammond is determined not to let her boyfriend, parents, or anyone else get in the way of her #1 goal-to save a life. A new friend she met online offers her the chance, but she’ll have to leave behind everyone she loves to take it. Tate Webber has loved Mallory for years. He begs her not to go, but Mallory embarks on the dangerous journey to Pakistan anyway, only to discover how swiftly and easily promises can be broken. And Mallory can only pray she’ll make it out alive. Inspired by actual events, this riveting story will take you on a wild journey and have you asking yourself: How far would I go for love? (Action/Adventure from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Amish Romance:

A White Christmas in Webster County by Laura V. Hilton — Mercy Lapp relocates from Shipshewana to Seymour, Missouri to heal after the death of her beau. Abner Hilty flees Shipshewana to Montana to work on a ranch after he and his twin brother witnessed a murder. Now that the killer is safely behind bars, Abner decides to visit his brother Abram in Missouri. Mercy is surprised to see Abner there, and equally surprised by how much he’s changed physically since she’s last seen him. As Christmas approaches, an unexpected heavy snow lets Abner and Mercy spend a lot of time together in wintertime fun. Abner hopes to interest Mercy in a more permanent relationship. But then Mercy has a potentially life changing discovery. Will she return to Shipshewana to answer the summons of the past? Or settle in a new place? (Amish Romance from Whitaker House)

Biblical Fiction:

The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen by Tosca Lee — There is the story you have heard: A foreign queen journeyed north with a caravan of riches to pay tribute to a king favored by the One God. The tale of a queen conquered by a king before returning to her own land laden with gifts. That is the tale you were meant to believe. Which means most of it is a lie. The truth is far more than even the storytellers could conjure. In the tenth century BC, the new Queen of Sheba has inherited her father’s throne and all its riches at great personal cost. Solomon, the brash new king of Israel famous for his wealth and wisdom, will not be denied the tribute of the world-or of Sheba’s queen. With tensions ready to erupt within her own borders and the future of her nation at stake, the one woman who can match wits with Solomon undertakes the journey of a lifetime in a daring bid to test and win the king. But neither ruler has anticipated the clash of agendas, gods, and passion that threatens to ignite-and ruin-them both. (Biblical Fiction from Howard [Simon & Schuster])

Contemporary Romance:

Christmas Comes to Bethlehem – Maine by Lorraine Beatty, Elizabeth Ludwig, Sandra Robbins and Virginia Vaughan — This year, spend Christmas in Bethlehem, Maine, as the town prepares for annual living nativities. Will stepping into the roles of Mary and Joseph help empty nesters David and Kate Walters discover the joy of becoming parents again unexpectedly? Can a young pastor and a pretty choir member convince the town to be like three wise men of long ago when a devastating hurricane threatens tradition? Can veterinarian Leesa McElroy survive working alongside a man more at home with camels than Christians? Will the truth about singer Angeline Monroe’s abandoned career come to light at Christmas? (Contemporary Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Her Hometown Hero by Margaret Daley — Home to a Cowboy In a split second, a tragic accident ends Kathleen Somers’s ballet career. Her dreams shattered, she returns home to the Soaring S ranch…and her first love. Suddenly the local veterinarian, Dr. Nate Sterling, goes from her ex to her champion. With the help of a lively poodle therapy dog, the cowboy vet sets out to challenge Kathleen’s strength and heal her heart. He’ll show her there’s life beyond dance, even if it means she leaves town again. But maybe, just maybe, he’ll convince her there’s only one thing in life worth having…and he’s standing right in front of her. Caring Canines: Loving and loyal, these dogs mend hearts. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Campaigning for Love by KD Fleming — For Katherine Harper, running for city council is about protecting children from the kind of grim childhood she had. And she won’t let privileged politician’s son Nick Delaney ruin her chances. Like he once ruined her dreams of true love and a family of her own. Nick has his sights set on public office, not on rekindling a star-crossed romance from years ago. Yet as he and Katherine spend time together on the election circuit, his competitor compels him with her beauty and heart of gold. Falling for the opposition was never in his plans, but Nick will give anything to earn Katherine’s forgiveness and renew their love. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant — Kat Varland has had enough of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. At twenty-six years old, Kat is still working shifts at her Aunt Maggie’s bakery in Bayou Bend, Louisiana. Still wondering what to do with her passion for baking and her business degree. And still single. But when Lucas Brannen, Kat’s best friend, signs her up for a reality TV bake-off on Cupcake Combat, everything Kat ever wanted is suddenly dangled in front of her: creative license as a baker, recognition as a visionary . . . and a job at a famous bakery in New York. As the competition heats up, Lucas realizes he might have made a huge mistake. As much as he wants the best for Kat, the only thing he wants for himself—her—is suddenly in danger of slipping away. Lucas is faced with a difficult choice: help his friend achieve her dreams . . . or sabotage her chances to keep her in Louisiana. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)


Last Family Standing by Jennifer AlLee — Twenty-five years ago, Monica Stanton gave up a baby girl for adoption. Now, Jessica is willing to meet her birth mother, but she wants the reunion to air on a reality TV show. Monica would rather chew glass than appear on TV. But she’ll swallow her pride-and a few other unsavory items-if that’s what it takes to reconnect. As if getting to know her grown daughter while competing on a remote island isn’t hard enough, Monica is further confused when Jessica’s long-lost birth father shows up, complicating both her relationship with her daughter and the attraction Monica has to the hunky reality show host. The fruit-basket upset of emotions, accusations, and regrets might make for good TV, but will it destroy the family in the process? (General/Contemporary from Abingdon Press)

Driftwood Tides by Gina Holmes — When Holton lost his wife, Adele, in a freak accident, he shut himself off from the world, living a life of seclusion, making drifwood sculptures and drowning his pain in gin. Until his late wife’s illegitimate daughter, given up for adoption without his knowledge, knocks on his door. Together Holton and Libby form an unlikely bond as the two struggle to learn the identity of Libby’s father and the truth about Adele, themselves, and each other. (General/Contemporary from Tyndale House)

Chapel Springs Revival by Ane Mulligan — With both the town and her marriage in need of restoration, Claire and her best friend embark on a journey of mishaps and miscommunication. (General/Contemporary from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Historical Romance:

Ozark Wedding by Helen Gray — Gavin is determined to bring his sleepy hometown of Deer Lick, Missouri, into the electric age. But he doesn’t count on his wayward brother’s schoolhouse hijinks getting in the way-or the lovely teacher who sends Gavin’s heart into a tailspin. Teacher Irene Delaney is a talented pianist who dreams of making music far beyond her small town. As the electricity humming between her and Gavin begins to grow, she worries falling for the striking man will douse her big-city plans. Can Gavin convince Irene she can keep her dreams-and they can still have forever? (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

A Bride In Store by Melissa Jagears — Unfortunate events bring mail-order bride Eliza Cantrell to her fiancé’s town a week early with no dowry. But Axel, her groom-to-be, isn’t even in town. When his friend’s mail-order bride arrives in town with no money and no groom in sight, William Stanton feels responsible and lets her help around the store–where she quickly proves she’s much more adept at business than he ever will be. The sparks that fly between Will and Eliza as they work together in close quarters are hard to ignore, but Eliza is meant for Axel and a future with the store, while Will is biding his time until he can afford medical school. When Axel finally returns, both Will and Eliza must decide what they’re willing to sacrifice to chase their dreams–or if God has a new dream in store for them both. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker Publishing Group])

The Christmas Brides Collection by Kristin Billerbeck, Lauralee Bliss, Irene B. Brand, Lynn A. Coleman, Kelly Eileen Hake, Vickie McDonough, Tamela Hancock Murray and Therese Stenzel — Journey back into history to experience Christmas alongside nine brides-to-be whose wedding dreams are overshadowed by doubts and troubles. Meet an English immigrant wanting to return home. A ranchero’s daughter being forced to marry a despicable man. A soldier’s fiancée facing the realities of war. An optimist who believed a lie. A snowbound woman near death. A do-gooder fighting for orphans. A bride sought only for an inheritance. An orphan protecting her father’s land. A motherless daughter wishing for yesterday. Will love shine its light of hope and truth into each life? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Westward Christmas Brides Collection by Wanda E. Brunstetter, Susan Page Davis, Melanie Dobson, Cathy Liggett, Vickie McDonough, Olivia Newport, Janet Spaeth, Jennifer Rogers Spinola and MaryLu Tyndall — Take the journey into the American west alongside nine women who are chasing their dreams-Cynthia, for security; Beryl, for a new family; Adeline, for freedom; Molly, for marriage; Beth, for a new start; Belinda, for a place to heal; Suzette, for adventure; Carolina, for peace; and Caroline, for a future for her children. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

A Grand Teton Sleigh Ride by Elizabeth Goddard and Lynette Sowell — Four Generations of Wyoming Ranchers Celebrate Love at Christmas. Wyoming’s spectacular mountains have drawn many, from trappers to ranchers to skiing enthusiasts. This Christmas, spend the holidays with the Covington family, who have called Wyoming home for generations. Rough, bristly rancher Zebulon sets his sights on eastern lady Belle Murray. Forward-thinking Emily would rather stay a dog musher than become a bride. Outfitter Sam wants to make his name in Wyoming, not say, “I do.” Hayley’s quest for her father’s approval goes sour when she takes an interest in a local ski bum. Will four festive sleigh rides rein in romance? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)


The Lyre and the Lambs by Sydney Avey — Modernity and tradition clash as two newlywed couples set up house together and their young relatives begin to show up; when a body is found in the backyard, the life they are trying to build comes undone. (Historical from HopeSprings Books)

Romantic Suspense:

Hidden in the Stars: Quilts of Love Series by Robin Caroll — Following an attack that killed her mother and stole her ability to speak, 21-year-old Sophia Montgomery has no choice but to accept her estranged grandmother’s offer to return to their family home. Detective Julian Frazier is working hard on the case, but Sophia’s silence frustrates him and thwarts her eyewitness evidence. The fact that Julian is undeniably attracted to Sophia doesn’t help either. Little do they know, the clues to solving the case may be right in front of them, displayed in Sophia’s mother’s “special” quilt design. When the truth comes to light, will Sophia find her voice again? Or will the murderer-still at large-silence her forever? (Romantic Suspense from Abingdon Press)

Under A Turquoise Sky by Lisa Carter — When Aaron Yazzie is assigned to protect the only witness to a drug cartel execution, he hides high-maintenance Southern belle Kailyn Eudailey in the safest place he knows-the vast, untamed wilderness of the Navajo Nation. (Romantic Suspense from Abingdon Press)

Nowhere to Turn (Hidden Identity) by Lynette Eason — The day Danielle Harding takes her 11-year-old son, Simon, and flees from her abusive husband, is the same day Kurt Harding dies. A relieved Dani believes she and her son are finally safe–but in reality, the danger has just begun. When Kurt was alive, he took something important to a mysterious person. That person wants the item back and believes Dani now has it. As she and her son run for their lives, they have nowhere to turn, until she hires Adam Buchanan of Operation Refuge and goes into hiding. Unfortunately, she won’t be able to hide for long. (Romantic Suspense from Revell [Baker Publishing Group])

Sunken Treasure by Katy Lee — Shipwreck diver Gage Fontaine is used to modern-day pirates chasing after his boat and the buried treasure he salvages. But when he unknowingly leads a dangerous criminal to the waters off Stepping Stones Island, he puts a beautiful fisherwoman in grave danger. Rachelle Thibodaux has spent the past year hiding on her boat to avoid the town’s censure for her father’s crimes. But when she comes face-to-face with a gun-wielding pirate, she becomes a new kind of target. To save her own life, she’ll have to work with Gage to find the treasure before the pirates do. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Rancher Under Fire by Vickie McDonough — Jackson Durant would go to any lengths to protect his young daughter and his ranch. He knows the puzzling incidents on his homestead are no accidents. Someone is after him…but who? And why? Reporter Mariah Reyes is determined to find out. She never expected her pursuit of a story on the reclusive rancher would endanger her life-nor that she’d fall for the cowboy. But when Jackson’s daughter is kidnapped, she’ll do anything to help save the little girl-even if it means becoming a target herself. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Danger at the Border by Terri Reed — When a mysterious toxin threatens lives and livelihoods near the border between the U.S. and Canada, Dr. Tessa Cleary is called to trace the source. But when the no-nonsense doctor is forced to work with border patrol agent Jeff Steele, she finds the lone wolf’s dedication to his job-and country-chipping away at the walls around her heart. Just as Tessa and Jeff are about to uncover the toxin’s deadly source, armed thugs kidnap them in the forest. Now they must trust each other to survive before time runs out. (Romantic from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

The Marshal’s Pursuit by Gina Welborn — When her brother is arrested for a gangster’s murder, Malia Vaccarelli is plunged into danger. Hiding Malia on his grandparents’ Tuxedo Park estate may not be the best idea, but U.S. marshal Frank Louden is determined to do anything to protect her. As their romance blossoms, will Malia’s criminal connections force her to choose between her family and her heart? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Speculative Fiction:

Seek and Hide (Haven Seekers #1) by Amanda G. Stevens — Six years ago, the government took control of the church. Only re-translated Bibles are legal, and a specialized agency called the Constabulary enforces this and other regulations. Marcus Brenner, a new Christian, will do anything to protect his church family from imprisonment—including risk his own freedom to gain the trust of a government agent. Aubrey Weston recanted her faith when the Constabulary threatened her baby. Now released, she just wants to provide for her son and avoid government notice. But she’s targeted again, and this time, her baby is taken into custody. If only she’d never denied Him, maybe God would hear her pleas for help. When Aubrey and Marcus’s lives collide, they are forced to confront the lies they believe about themselves. And God is about to grab hold of Marcus’s life in a way he’d never expect, turning a loner into a leader. (Speculative Fiction from David C. Cook)

Women’s Fiction:

The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate — Successful New York editor, Jen Gibbs, is at the top of her game with her new position at Vida House Publishing — until a mysterious manuscript from an old slush pile appears on her desk. Turning the pages, Jen finds herself drawn into the life of Sarra, a mixed-race Melungeon girl trapped by dangerous men in the turn of the century Appalachia. A risky hunch may lead to The Story Keeper’s hidden origins and its unknown author, but when the trail turns toward the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a place Jen thought she’d left behind forever, the price of a blockbuster next book deal may be higher than she’s willing to pay. (Women’s Fiction from Tyndale House)

by jill at 2:52 pm in