December Seventh

Local Iowa temps provide a recent example of the roller-coaster, up and down ride life can give us at times.

But can you imagine living through the attack on Pearl Harbor? I just heard a survivor interviewed on a news program. A typical Sunday morning at Hickam Field…breakfast as usual . . . and then the attack.

Japanese naval aircraft prepare to take off from an aircraft carrier (reportedly Shokaku) to attack Pearl Harbor during the morning of 7 December 1941. Plane in the foreground is a Zero Fighter. This is probably the launch of the second attack wave. The original photograph was captured on Attu in 1943. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

It’s good to recall that day, wise to consider how the world changed for so many in such a brief amount of time. A “sleeping giant” had been rudely awakened.

Puts things in perspective . . .

Meant for Her

This new contemporary title comes from Joy Avery Melville, an author I “met” online. Here, she describes her novel writing process. She’s offering a signed paperback copy to someone who leaves a comment. Enjoy!

When God nudged and steered me into writing Contemporary Christian Women’s Fiction, He allowed me the privilege of writing a strong thread of romance into the story.

I set out to write what I thought would be stand-alone novels, only to discover characters, who decided they wanted to keep the story moving into a series by bringing in sub-plots.

Since my books are character driven, I take my time to get their backstories cemented in my mind and heart. Then they take over, moving the novels forward chronologically. 

The research for Meant For Her—once I surrendered my will about the genre issue—took me seven months. The story developed over six weeks with some days out for traveling. Before edits and revisions, the book boasted 125,000 words. I’d never written such a lengthy novel in so short a time.

Meant For Her came about from overhearing a local TV news broadcast. The Lord kept bringing it to my mind long after the events had taken place. When I decided to follow His leading, He gave me what I call dot-to-dot connections. People came into my life when I most needed them for research and for human resources. 

It took a lot of people along the way to bring about the final Meant For Her. I am very grateful for the help, encouragement, and prayerful support so many have poured into my life.

Promotion and marketing were the farthest things from my mind during the writing and revision process, but God gave me just what I’d asked for the week the book was to release. My prayer was for open doors and opportunities I wasn’t aware were available. I was deluged with more than I could have asked or hoped for. (Doesn’t Scripture tell us that – why was I surprised?)

so appreciate the opportunity to be here with Gail Kittleson today. She opened her heart and blog for this occasion!

One of my favorite things to do these days is answer readers’ questions about Meant For Her and/or my writing. Feel free to ask!

Here’s a taste of the novel:

Had it all truly been ~ MEANT FOR HER?

Kidnapped, raped, brutally beaten, and left for dead, Candi Reynolds becomes a prisoner of fear. Faced also with the impact of the unexpected break-up with her fiancé, and an unwanted pregnancy resulting from the attacks, she believes God has forsaken her. Choosing to move back to the Michigan horse farm, owned by her older brother, Dr. Cam Reynolds, Candi essentially goes into seclusion.

Dr. Patrick (Mack) MacKevon, Carri’s ong-time friend, watches from the sidelines at the farm where his horses are stabled, while Candi struggles to regain a sense of normalcy. His own big-brother tendencies develop into a much deeper emotion over the months he prays for her.

Is it possible for Candi to put all of the pain and trauma behind her and renew her former relationship with the Lord? Will she allow her heart to open enough to discover authentic love, while making decisions of victory on her personal journey to joy?



The Day Before Thanksgiving

Sounds a lot like the night before Christmas, doesn’t it? Maybe the prequel to Thanksgiving Day ought to get higher billing. After all, we don’t always take the time for gratitude.

Time for gratitude? Yes. It does take the to think about our blessings, to formulate the words to express our gratefulness, and to shove aside everything else that fills our too-full lives. Gratitude takes time…and a certain mindset.

This morning, I snapped a photo through one of our south windows…screen and all. The wind went wild in the night and forced snow into every sliver of space.

Okay, so it’s upside down and I can’t get it to flip over. (: I’m still grateful. You even get a glimpse of a geranium plant I brought inside–it doesn’t even know winter has arrived.

And if you look closely enough, you might see the squares of the window screen at the bottom….ahem, the top. Nearly filled in completely with blown snow, they provide a good visual of gratitude. Perhaps this attitude acts like a screen, filtering what comes through.

We perceive our surroundings, our circumstances, through various filters. I’d like to adopt the filter of gratitude more consistently. Whatever we’re experiencing, however difficult it may be, still offers moments of clarity and whispers of the eternal.

Employing this filter, the day may be brighter than we had imagined. A cup of tea and a good book make everything look better.

And the rain fell . . .

I’d like to introduce Anna Jensen, a British-born writer who has lived in South Africa for twenty-four years. She lives in Durban, on the east coast with her husband, son and daughter.
She had her first book ‘The Outskirts of His Glory’ published in May 2019. Using stories of family travels in and around South Africa, devotional content, and poetry, the book offers insights into the surprising ways God speaks to us through his creation.During this Thanksgiving month, I think you’ll enjoy Anna’s thoughts on gratitude.

November. Gratitude month. Thanksgiving day. Being from the UK and now living in South Africa, I don’t have the long tradition of seasonal gratefulness. I’ve seen it depicted in Hollywood movies but haven’t felt personally connected or involved.

That’s begun to change as I now have an American mom-friend. Each November, Stephanie undertakes thirty days of gratitude. She shares what she is particularly grateful for; her family ‘grow’ a gratitude tree from sticks and paper leaves upon which are transcribed intentional moments of thankfulness.

My friend challenges me; I rarely list all that I am grateful to God for. And yet, in a quick concordance-count of the number of times the word ‘thanks’ appears in the Bible, I find 110 instances. Thanks are given for God’s goodness, for His provision, for His protection. Thanks are given abundantly, loudly, untidily, continuously. Thanks are given to God as Lord, as Father, as Healer, as Saviour. 

As I write, the sky has darkened over the sea, thunder grumbles in the distance and rain is beginning to fall. Where I live, we have barely any rain during winter and by the time we reach November, everywhere seems a little dried-up and weary. Furthermore, South Africa is experiencing the worst drought in living memory. Lakes have dried up, leaving behind gaping cracks and starving livestock. Nationwide prayer meetings have been held to implore God to forgive and be merciful, as the book of Chronicles suggests. 

So, when I look out and see the horizon shrouded by grey streaks of falling rain, I’m immensely thankful. Gratitude rises like the sweet fragrance of freshly doused vegetation, incense to a God of mercy and kindness.

The rain stirs me to be thankful more often, to notice the many simple, taken for granted gifts; I wake in the morning with breath in my lungs and health in my bones; I have a car to drive on a well-paved road as I take my children to their amazing schools. My husband has a job when many don’t. We have food on the table, and in the fridge and in the cupboard. 

After prolonged dryness, the blessing of rain reawakens life that has lain dormant. So it can be with our souls. In Hosea 3:6 the promise is given that the Lord ‘will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” My heart often needs the tenderness of these rains, needs to be softened by the showers of God’s presence and restored to life by the whisper of His Spirit.

I am so grateful that our God waters the earth when it is most in need; I am even more grateful that He waters my heart when I don’t even realize it is dry.

Happy Thanksgiving. Today and every day!

I’m a British ex-pat who has lived in South Africa for a little over twenty years. My husband and I live with our two teenage children on the east coast, a few miles north of the city of Durban. We overlook the Indian Ocean where we have the privilege of watching dolphins and whales at play.

My first book ‘The Outskirts of His Glory’ was published in May 2019. The book is a Christian devotional and poetry collection exploring the many surprising ways that God can speak to us through His creation. I have drawn on my travels in and around South Africa, as well as further afield, to hopefully inspire each of us to slow down and perhaps listen more carefully to the ‘whispers of His ways’ (Job 26:14) that are all around us.

Since publishing ‘Outskirts’ I have had the privilege of speaking at a number of local churches and even have a weekly slot on a Christian radio station. I have also continued writing by contributing to a variety of blogs and online writing communities as well as developing my own website and blog.

Want to know more? You can find me at

Or follow me at




Jerome…a step back in time

Suzanne Bratcher, whom I met in Mogollon Rim Country a few years ago, is now releasing the second in her series, set in Jerome, AZ. She’s here to introduce us to this popular tourist destination and to gift an e-book to one commenter. Enjoy!

Jerome, Arizona, population 444, claims two titles: “largest ghost town in America” and “billion-dollar copper camp.” An hour’s drive from my home in Flagstaff, Jerome was one of my favorite getaway spots for almost thirty years. When I first went to Jerome in 1978, it was a genuine ghost town with more buildings abandoned than occupied. The rugged unpaved road that crossed Mingus mountain into Prescott attracted aging hippies on motorcycles and four-wheel drive enthusiasts like my husband. A vacant hospital, an echoing school, and empty houses with sagging roofs all tickled my imagination with stories. The Douglas Mansion, home to the tiny Jerome State Historic Park, introduced me to the history of the once dirty, noisy copper camp that mined copper, silver, and gold. 

Fast forward to five years ago when I decided I wanted to write a series. Though I’d moved to Arkansas by then, Jerome leapt onto my computer screen: ghost town, billion-dollar copper camp, and home to a sophisticated pre-Colombian culture. I had my setting with an interesting twist for three books. Next two characters stepped on stage: antiques expert Marty Greenlaw and historian Paul Russell, ordinary people caught in a confusing web of greed and murder. The Copper Box, Book 1 of the Jerome mysteries, is Marty’s story set against the ghost-town backdrop. The Silver Lode, Book 2, which grew out is Paul’s story set against the copper-camp history. Paul and Marty are the main characters of the trilogy, but each book is a stand-alone mystery. 

Today I’m giving away an e-book of The Silver Lodeto a commenter, so here’s a quick synopsis: 

Beneath the ghost town of Jerome, Arizona, a labyrinth of abandoned mine tunnels hides a vein of silver ore mixed with pure gold. The discovery of that silver lode caused a murder decades ago. Are more coming? 

Historian Paul Russell is about to lose his job and the woman he loves. He doesn’t have time to search for the legendary silver lode. But when a student drops a seventy-year-old cold case on his desk, a murder connected to the silver lode, the mystery offers Paul the perfect opportunity to work with Marty Greenlaw and win her back.

As Paul and Marty search for the silver lode, suspicious deaths begin to happen. When Paul’s son disappears, the stakes become personal. 

You may connect with Suzanne J. Bratcher at

link to The Silver Lodee-book: https://amzn.to2LWE3Rx

link to The Silver Lodepaper book:

November musings…

A harsh wind brings a chill to northern Iowa, squirrels prepare for winter, and November reminds us of our hard-won privilege and responsibility to vote. 

 “The whole aim of politics is to keep the populace alarmed, and hence clamorous to be led to safety, by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.” 

Today’s journalists might beg to differ, but H. L. Mencken, early twentieth-century social critic and journalist, would most likely stand his ground. In this voting month, how appropriate to consider his words—and that’s all I’ll offer on this topic! 

         November also honors our veterans, and on Thursday the seventh, I’ll be speaking for the Rotary Club in New Hampton, Iowa. That night, I’ll be at a veterans’ dinner in Alta Vista, and on Friday the eighth, at the Kling Memorial Library in Grundy Center (2 p.m.) 

I’m looking forward to sharing a devoted veteran’s story—it’s always a pleasure to introduce audiences to Dorothy Woebbeking, whose story fills the pages of Until Then

         Saturday from 1-4, I’ll co-facilitate a workshop integrating art and writing—pure fun! If you’re near the Marion Public Library, please consider joining us at this free event.

Always, people have worried about the future or the injustices around us. But we can also view these challenges as channels for growth. It’s good to consider Ralph Waldo Emerson’s declaration:

“Only to the degree that people are unsettled is there any hope for them.”

Well, it appears our lives abound in hope! 

Hiding From Christmas

Alice K Arenz is sharing one of her new releases with us–perhaps you can do a little early Christmas shopping! And, she’s giving away an e-book to one commenter.

Please tell us how this book idea came to you, Alice. 

Last fall, my publisher put out a list of ideas for different boxed sets to be published during 2019. The moment I saw the “Secret Santa” listing, I signed up. Then, I questioned why I’d done it. I didn’t have long to wait to find out.

Within hours God gave me the title Hiding From Christmas, and He’d encouraged me to pick up paper and pen—which I only do when paying bills!—and I had nearly the first chapter! That had to hold me for awhile because I’d also signed up for a Romantic Suspense due May 1 of 2019 and the Secret Santa wasn’t due until September.

I kept the paper handy, though, and continued writing little bits and pieces of ideas that would just miraculously pop into my head. When I finally started the real writing, I must admit to being overwhelmed. I thank God every day for seeing me through to the end.

 What obstacles did you conquer during the writing? 

Creating a company for my characters was, well… in a word, difficult. I’ve made up things before, but nothing as elaborate as the company Ornamental! You’re talking to someone who hates research, okay? This book had me researching something—most times MANY things—every single day! And that’s just the writing.

I have a condition with my ears where I “over hear” things. As in, something that doesn’t make much noise to most, is overwhelming to me. During the writing of both Dark of Night and Hiding From Christmas, there were constant sounds of construction, heavy equipment, etc., that would throw off my balance, making it difficult to even sit in my office chair. Yet another PRAISE GOD moment—moments!

How is this publication unique from others you have written?  How does it compare with others already published? 

It’s unique in that it’s a Christmas book—and the tremendous amount of research that went into the book, most of which wasn’t even used. 

Um… Maddie Kelley is almost 25, the youngest protagonist I’ve ever had. She loves baking and cooking—something I don’t do much of anymore. She gets excited over kitchen appliances, things like that. Oh, and I also used memories from my life, which I don’t usually do.

I’d say that the closest book to Hiding From Christmas would have to be The Wedding Barter. They are both romances, with Hiding a bit lighter, more fun. You can’t compare either of these to the romantic mysteries/suspense. Though the two Bouncing Grandma books (The Case of the Bouncing GrandmaThe Case of the Mystified M.D.) are lighter, funny cozies—and all four books are set in the fictional town of Tarryton, Missouri. 

What would you say to someone considering this read for themselves or for a gift?

If you want a light, fun book with just the right amount of romance this book is for you. Maddie doesn’t know where she fits into the company founded by her great-grandfather and his best friend, or in life, for that matter. She is passionate about baking, her little rescue kitten, and wanting to keep a promise to her deceased father. According to one of my editors “She’s real!”

check out my books at

As the Seasons Change

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our journeys sometimes get interrupted by the unexpected–that’s what has been going on here lately. As autumn days grow shorter, someone so dear to us, a once very independent soul who handled her affairs single-handedly, suddenly faces a frightening world without the benefit of memory.

How can it be that a photo of her husband of nearly sixty years stymies her–who is this guy? Or that facing her account baffles this bookkeeper-at-heart, and organizing her daily pills has become a bridge too far?

Her “I don’t know,” rings plaintive, unbelievable.

Yet weeks are passing. In this chasm of loss, acceptance follows shock . . . we do believe.

Many of you have trod this path with loved ones, so you understand. You know, too, how much simple beauty means at times like this.

Some ground cover near the back porch somehow survived last night’s hard frost, so you pick a few and find a vase. Weary eyes light up, and those flowers on an end table near your loved one make all the difference for a day or so.

For those of you who follow my blog, thank you. I’ll post when I can, but probably won’t be writing much here for a season. I so appreciate your prayers.

The Beauty of This Moment

Victor Hugo, the great French author who gave us Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, wrote: “Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.” 

Pastoral scenes remind us of the serenity that time in nature offers, but sometimes we feel as though we’ve been knackered by life.


Knackered comes from a slang term meaning “to kill,” as well as “to tire, exhaust, or wear out.” The origins of the verb remain uncertain, but the word may relatesto an older noun which originally referred to a harness-maker or saddlemaker, and later referred to a buyer of animals nolonger able to do farm labor, or a buyer of old buildings. Knackered is used on both sides of the Atlantic but is more common with British speakers.

When we feel worn out and “done in,” it’s good to remember Victor Hugo’s words. We can only do our best. Controlling all the outcomes lies beyond our powers. I can’t help but think how the WWII nurses of the Eleventh Evacuation Hospitalmust have grappled with this concept–they did their utmost to relieve suffering and sustain life.

But sometimes their efforts led to lesser outcomes–the undesirable natural consequences of war. They arrived in French Morocco with the best of intentions to use their training to the utmost.

They labored under impossible conditions:

And when they finally got a break from their backbreaking work, they fell asleep. That’s all a human being can do. But along the way, they found beauty…in a simple wildflower, in the laughter of their comrades, in letters from home.

And so it is with us. Whatever we’re facing, we fund little joys tucked into our days . . . we simply must look for them.


Andrew by Jennifer Beckstrand

Welcome, Jennifer – any plot revolving around self-recrimination and forgiveness strikes my fancy–it’s so difficult NOT to cling to our errors, no matter how distant. Of course, this creates barriers for us, but . . .

At the end of her post, Jennifer has an offer for each of you. Enjoy!

Things at the Petersheim house are getting too crowded for eight-year-old twins Alfie and Benji. As if things weren’t bad enough with three older brothers hogging all the bacon at breakfast and using more than their fair share of toilet paper, Mammi and Dawdi Petersheim have to move in because of Dawdi’s stroke. If Alfie and Benji have any hope of getting their old bedroom back, they have to get rid of their annoying brothers, and the only way to convince their brothers to move out is to make each of them fall in love. What could be so hard about that?

Alfie and Benji will do just about anything to get Andrew married off. And I mean, just about anything. You’re going to love the Petersheim brothers! 

Andrew Petersheimis a godly, hard-working man, and he knows any girl would be blessed to marry him. He can afford to be picky, and he hasn’t yet met a girl good enough to capture his heart. Mary Coblenz certainly isn’t that girl. She left the community over a year ago and now she’s back, unmarried and expecting a baby. It doesn’t matter how pretty she is or how vigorously she challenges his notions of forgiveness and Christian charity, Andrew refuses to fall in love with her. 

But maybe Andrew is just a little too sure of himself…

In Andrew, the first book in my new series, The Petersheim Brothers, I wanted to explore repentance and forgiveness, particularly the concepts of forgiving ourselves and forgiving others. When someone has offended us, do we hold so tightly to their past sins that we deny them the possibility of a brighter future? Do we ever have trouble forgiving ourselves and moving forward with faith? 

J. Holland said, “There is something in us, at least in too many of us, that particularly fails to forgive and forget earlier mistakes in life—either mistakes we ourselves have made or the mistakes of others. That is not good. It is not Christian. To be tied to earlier mistakes—our own or other people’s—is the worst kind of wallowing in the past from which we are called to cease and desist…It is not right to go back and open up some ancient wound that the Son of God Himself died trying to heal.

Let people repent. Let people grow. Believe that people can change and improve…If something is buried in the past, leave it buried. Don’t keep going back with your little sand pail and beach shovel to dig it up, wave it around, and then throw it at someone, saying, ‘Hey! Do you remember this?’ Splat!”

In Andrew, Mary Coblenz comes back to her Amish community hoping to make a life for herself, even though she’s made some serious mistakes. Andrew learns some valuable lessons in forgiveness, but will Mary’s Amish neighbors be as accepting? 

“If you love Amish fiction, romance, and humor, you will LOVE Jennifer Beckstrand. Grab a copy of ANDREW today and see how well Andrew learns his lesson in loving.”

“Each part of the story was wonderfully crafted to make this book an awesome read. I love Jennifer Beckstrand’s books. She has a way with words that grabs you from the beginning of the story and keeps your attention. If you haven’t read any of her books, Andrew is a good one to start with!”

Don’t miss Abraham, book 2 in the Petersheim Brothers series, coming November 26!

If you go to my website and sign up for my readers club, you will receive a free ebook copy of Kate’s Song, my first Amish romance. Find out more at