Of burrs, the heavens, and Christmas…

As Christmas nears, I can’t dream up a story more inspirational than Katie Luther’s…brings us back to the true meaning of this season. The photo from last year here in Pine fits because “The heavens are telling the glory of God…” And so does the powerful metaphor this woman used on her deathbed!
This is a reprint from the Christian History Institute, with the author listed below. https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/ 

Wednesday, December 20 – Daily StoryFighting for Life, Katharina Luther Clung to ChristKATHERINA VON BORA’S LIFE was one of hard work and solid virtue. When she was a young girl, her father placed her in a German convent following his remarriage. She heard Luther’s teachings in her early twenties and accepted his doctrine of justification by faith alone. With some other nuns she contacted the reformer, requesting help to escape the convent. Luther arranged for a delivery-man to smuggle the women out in empty fish barrels. Luther asked the families of the young women to take them back. When they proved unwilling, he found husbands for all of them. However, he was not able to find a place for Katie. Eventually he proposed to her and married her the same day. They seem to have been a happy couple. Her hard work and practical domestic skills (budgeting, raising livestock, and brewing beer) fed and clothed them, their children, several orphans, and the many students who boarded with them. After Luther’s death, Katie reared their younger children alone for six years. Elector John Frederick, the ruler of Saxony, set up a small trust fund and helped her purchase a farm near Wittenberg. However, her land was taxed unmercifully by contending armies during the Schmalkaldic War, leaving her in crushing poverty. As a result, she had to flee. Her animals were confiscated and her house burned to the ground. After peace was restored, Katie borrowed a thousand gulden to rebuild. To repay her loan, she took student boarders. When plague broke out in Wittenberg in 1552, the university staff and students moved to Torgau, a place less affected by the disease. With her boarders gone, Katherina was again in dire financial straits. She decided to follow the university, but her decision proved catastrophic. At the end of the sixty mile trip, not far from the gate of Torgau, her horses bolted and she had to leap from the wagon into a lake. She was lifted from the water severely bruised. Friends carried her into the city. Although she fought for life for three months, the pain and hardships of her latter years sealed her inevitable end. Her last recorded words were, “I will cling to my Lord Christ as a burr on a coat.” On this day, 20 December 1552 she died. Next day, the entire university turned out for her funeral.—Dan Graves

The magazine, Christian History, is offered on a donation basis and you can sign up for a year for free here: https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/subscribe

Winter’s Upon Us

You can feel the moisture in the air, smell the snow over the mountain. Well, at least I think so–we haven’t seen much yet, just some rain and hail squalls a few days ago. But since I’m writing about the pioneers who lived so close to nature, I think I can smell snow? And my joints have been complaining, maybe more than usual.

We’ll see, right?

But in the meantime, it’s puzzle time on Holly Drive. This one, a vista of the Carpathian Mountains in Romania, reveals vibrant greens, rusts, blues, aquas and up in one corner of the sky, gold and yellow. Small pieces awaiting their places, their unique spots, in the final tableau. And Lance making every effort to get them to where they belong.

Yesterday I was reading about the great meteorites of 1860 over parts of India and New York State. I suppose native Americans and settlers and other citizens stared in awe at the night sky, wondering about this portent. As the year passed and tensions grew, some attributed prophetic powers to the never-seen-before-show.

A Great War was about to commence…a terrible, senseless war no one wanted. But people simply could not find common ground on the days’ issues. I also recently read William Carlos Williams’ short story, “The Use of Force.” Such an abrupt ending, leaving all the pieces in my lap to deal with.

Seemed odd, when we’re so used to authors “tying up all the loose ends.” But there you have it. Another way of arranging things.

Williams said about his style, “In my own work it has always sufficed that the object of my attention be presented without further comment. It doesn’t declaim or explain; it presents.”

Read his classic story here: https://www.classicshorts.com/stories/force.html

What do you think?

A Grateful Heart

“The thankful heart opens our eyes to a multitude of blessings that continually surround us.” James E. Faust

What is it about gratitude that alters everything? Here in the Ponderosa Forest, I never tire of seeing the elk and deer–each siting gives me joy. And Lance’s ability to capture these creatures in action makes for photos worth sharing.

I’ve been researching for my Civil War manuscript and recently came across Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation. Issued on October 20 that year, the text really made me think.

What? Give thanks? Over fifty thousand American soldiers had died at Gettysburg alone that year, plus thousands more in other battles. As Mr. Lincoln noted, many women had become widows…many children orphans.

But he also highlighted the lack of foreign powers involved in our in-fighting–one good thing. And the physical size of the battlefield was shrinking. Progress was still being made in settling the wilderness, as well as in communications (the telegraph and the transcontinental railroad.) Other new inventions had come forth, as well.

Like George Washington and other Presidents before him, Lincoln focused on Thanksgiving in spite of dire circumstances.

In the light of so many losses, it’s amazing that a National Thanksgiving Day even crossed his mind, and it might not have, were it not for one woman, Sarah Josepha Hale, a 74-year-old magazine editor, who wrote to Lincoln on September 28, urging him to have the “day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival.”

His response? He searched for positive news as the nation lumbered on toward eventually ending the war. Realizing how much longer it would take for the South to surrender, we find little comfort here.

But this example of thankfulness in the midst of horror can hearten us…So much suffering still lay ahead, yet President Lincoln led the Union in offering thanks for the good he could find.

No national “turkey pardoning” took place that year. Now, we watch football and pay little attention to Thanksgiving Days of the distant past. But this holiday, as we taste pumpkin pie and all the rest, hopefully we’ll pay a little extra attention to our hearts.

Even with many challenges here and abroad, and a great deal of suffering, we have so very much for which to give thanks.

Second Chances

Second Chances can mean everything…think of all the dramas revolving around this theme–nothing new, but at the very center of the human heart. One of my favorites, the tale of Les Miserables, reveals the struggle involved in second chances. Oh, sometimes someone wins the Lottery and their life gets turned around pronto, but more often, second chances involve taking one plodding step at a time until an opportunity comes along.

That’s what happens for Dottie and Al in WINDS OF CHANGE, my latest release. First of all, let me say I have “redone” this very first published novel, because ten years has taught me a lot about writing. Enough that I knew this story deserved better.

Especially, the characters, who have been with me every since that first pained attempt, deserved a stronger entrance into the world. So here we have it: a World War II widow and Gold Star mother, grieving the loss of her only son in a far-away battle. She merits every honor we can bestow on her–she stands for all those Moms who waited for letters from their sons and one day received a telegram instead.

And then there’s Al, Dottie’s next-door neighbor, and her deceased best friend’s husband. Ah, the dreams this man harbors! And the vast hidden wounds from another war, the Great War, meant to end all wars.

So I offer Winds of Change to my loyal readers a little bit early–I’ll be posting the press release on my FB author page later today for more details. But for now, I just want to present Al and Dottie to you–may they remind you of the hope we have, and the possibility of second chances, no matter what has befallen us.

One reader says: Please believe me…this story of second chances will pull you in, draw you from page to page, warm your heart, and leave you sighing. It’s simply wonderful from the first page to the last.
I have a digital copy, but I already ordered a paperback copy as well. It’s that good.

Then and Now…Complicated Times

This morning as I took some sun, a deer came quite close to me. They’re often passing through our yard, and sometimes I speak to them…usually from more of a distance. This time I was sitting out in the yard, and this little one surprised me.

She didn’t seem to mind my bad hair day, or that I was taking up space near where she wanted to eat.

So I carried on a conversation with her. “Hey, girl. Beautiful morning, isn’t it?”

A sidelight–I’ve been working on a novel, not my usual WWII kind, but a Civil War era story. And my heroine finds comfort during dire distress in the visitations of a doe.

This manuscript, begun probably a dozen or more years back, I’ve almost thrown out. More than once. But something about the characters has kept calling to me.

That means more research, so I’m poring over books about the war and the people of the time. Did you know that the venerable Sam Houston relinquished his Texas governorship when Texas joined the Confederacy and he was forced to sign the Articles of Confederation?

He did–and dismayed thousands of Texans who had voted to secede. He stood on his principles, but they felt they were principled, too. I’m trying to crawl inside their minds to see how their belief in each state having inalienable rights drove their decisions. Such a complicated time–many of the early failures in battle were due largely to politics.

Anyway, I’m learning a lot, which satisfies me. And then this deer shows up. Big black eyes,

dark button nose, and so patient. Willing to simply stand there and stare, listening to me chatter.

One thing I’ve been thinking: today’s evil and hatred loom so large. Seems as if the bottom’s fallen out of our society. Or falling. But I’m certain people felt the same way back in the early 1860’s.

And somehow, they managed to make it through. Most likely, there’s something to be gleaned here as we struggle with sickening news reports and seemingly hopeless conundrums.

Wooing Gertrude By Jodie Wolfe

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi! I’m Jodie Wolfe. It’s great to be here. Thank you, Gail, for having me. I live in south central PA with my husband. This December we’ll celebrate our 36th anniversary. I have two sons and six grandchildren. I’ve always had an interest in writing since I was a little girl.

What genre do you write?

I write Christian historical romance. My stories usually revolve around a theme. Usually, it’s something either God is in the process of teaching me, or He’s recently taught me. 🙂 Most times I’m learning along with my characters.

What is your least favorite aspect of writing?

Editing and marketing. I’d rather be creating a story and interacting with my characters – going with them on their adventures and seeing where they lead.

How is faith interwoven in your books?

It’s an intrinsic part of each of my books. My characters are often struggling in their faith walk, but they’re striving to be better.

What things do you like to do outside of writing?

I enjoy walking, birdwatching, and spending time with my hero husband.

Did you always want to be a writer?

I did. Ever since I wrote my first poem and stories while in grade school, I dreamed about becoming a writer.

What’s the title of your new book, and is it part of a series?

My new book is Wooing Gertrude, and it’s book three in my Burrton Springs Brides Series. All this month, Amazon has a discount on the first book in the series, Taming Julia. It’s only $1.99 for the ebook.

Tell us about Gertrude’s story, please.

Enoch Valentine has given up finding peace for his past mistakes. He throws everything he has into being the new part-time deputy in Burrton Springs, Kansas while maintaining the foreman position at a local horse ranch. But when trouble stirs on the ranch, he questions whether he’s the right man for either job.

Peace has been elusive for most of Gertrude Miller’s life, especially under the oppressiveness of an overbearing mother. She takes matters into her own hands and sends for a potential husband, while also opening her own dress shop. Gertrude hopes to build a future where she’ll find peace and happiness.

Will either of them ever be able to find peace?

Sounds so interesting, and the cover really draws me in.

Where can readers find you online?

Website: https://www.jodiewolfe.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Jodie-Wolfe-553400191384913

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/jodie-wolfe

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/JodieAWolfe

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15220520.Jodie_Wolfe

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Jodie-Wolfe/e/B01EAWOHXO/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

MeWe: https://mewe.com/jodiewolfe

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jodie-wolfe-3955b2bb/

Thank you for having me, Gail. I hope readers will enjoy Wooing Gertrude.

Changes, Edits, and Keeping on

This photo reveals a sign of change. We all know what happens next…we wake up to hoards of brilliant leaves piling up on our lawns. And before we know it, yet another seasonal change lies just around the corner.

All of a sudden, it seems, vibrant summer green gives way to golden hues.

We begin to notice these leaves everywhere around our yard.

They get caught in cobwebs between flower boxes and porch floor, they cling to the edging against our house’s outer walls. This one’s a bit more interesting, with its pinkish tones.

The changing of the seasons reminds us of other alterations, some not so pleasant, some downright painful and ugly. As a friend who has battled fibromalgia’s confusing pain for over twenty years said recently, “I’ve had to learn to adapt…it’s the only way through.”

This summer, I’ve been busy editing a new set of short stories for our 2024 Hill Country Christmas Collection and also editing a manuscript that has hung around for a long, long time. The characters really want to come to life–how can I throw them out, even though my writing was pretty pathetic way back when I started?

Ah…that’s life, decisions upon decisions, and continuous change.

Nothing to do but keep plunging ahead, right? I’d love to hear about your own changes these past months, if you care to share.

The Primrose Path

Shakespeare coined the phrase “leading someone down the primrose path” in Hamlet. We’ve always thought of this as a “rosy” track leading to destruction. This familiar concept has come to mind recently as our cheery primroses perk up garden paths.

They look so bright and inviting…how could they possibly lead to dire consequences? That’s just the point. In our garden, the path leads only to more flowers–tall yellow daisies, Shastas, delphinium, impatiens, perky petunias, flowering chives, the list continues.

But in Shakespeare’s meaning, a primrose path deceives the traveler by looking harmless– “the easy way.” Instead, disaster lies hidden around the curves ahead and the individual suggesting this path has a nasty future in mind for listener.

Our phrase for the day! We can only wish the primroses bloomed all summer long.

Little Things

I don’t think I’ve ever noticed these fragile “caps” on new pine growth.

Have you?

All these years, the pine just outside our front door has kept growing, but I’ve not \

paused to notice these tiny caps made of something like onionskin.

What else haven’t I noticed? Most likely, a lot.

However, I’ve always appreciated the delicate bells on Lily of the Valley. So small, very invasive, but beautiful, imho–kind of like cardinals, a mere splash in a sea of springtime flowers, but deserving of notice.

Engaged in editing these days, both for my own work and some others’, I focus on what needs fixing. It’s great to work with authors willing to let go of their work and be open to suggestions–wanting to grow in our skills helps us so much!

And attention the the “little stuff” becomes an absolute requirement. Just this morning I spoke with a fellow Iowa author who “got a late start” like me. The learning curve seems insurmountable at times–but it did to me, too.

As usual, tales from the infamous stalls and starts in my “career” come in handy.

Nothing encourages us like stories. At least that’s how it is for me, and the stories that come to us at just the right time need not be remarkable to anyone else.

Beauty and Time

In terms of world history, forty-five years qualifies as hardly an eye-blink. True. But for a marriage, it’s a considerable amount of time.

This week, I became familiar with a renowned artist’s battle with disease and pain. Who knew that Pierre-Auguste Renoir, the creator of such fabulous paintings, suffered so? Click here to read more on a modern artist’s blog:


Renoir’s philosophy provides something to ponder:

“The pain passes but the beauty remains.”

Can anyone NOT relate? Our lives overflow with ups and downs–we ride waves of joy and sorrow, productivity and pain. At times, we collapse on the shore.

But when we open our eyes, beauty remains. Perhaps this bit of loveliness covers only a small space, but to us, means everything. On the road Lance and I travel, this “awakening to beauty” has been continual, starting with creating a home. Lance caught this robin in the act . . . so serious, so intent on its task.

From that first “I do,” we’ve employed lots of other powerful verbs. Bear with me, please, I’m in editing mode right now, and strong verbs make all the difference!

We’ve had to say, “I will,” and once in a while, delve deep to utter, “I won’t.” Tough for both sides.

The idea being to always return to that original “I do”–I DO take you to be my “wedded husband/wife.” I know, I know, this ages us.

Of course, this vow entailed far more than we ever could have imagined. but through umpteen moves, (one trans-Atlantic) job changes, child-rearing, overseas deployments, personal struggles, successes and losses, this I DO has grounded us.

Simply said, today we celebrate our fortitude, determination, tenacity, and when need be, courage to listen to our hearts and stand up for ourselves. We’re eating lunch at a local restaurant today and paying a visit to a gardening center and a thrift store–that’s our celebratory plan.

Doesn’t take much to satisfy us, eh? Well, consider our age and temperaments. (:

Behold this thoughtful anniversary bouquet, replete with yellow–such a cheerful, forward-looking color. Sunflowers, roses, daisies . . . I embrace each bloom. As a personal mantra, acknowledging pain (as Renoir did) but focusing on the beauty makes quite practical sense.