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Saturday, January 12, 2019

Lessons from Ruth



I'm reading in the Book of Ruth these days. It's a very small book, only four chapters long, about an obscure woman named Ruth. She wasn't a queen or a descendant of Abraham or anyone special...or so it seems.

Do you feel like that sometimes? No one special? I do. As the youngest of five children, I often felt unseen. I was shy and quiet in school, so no one paid much attention to me. I've outgrown much of that shyness, but I'm still a relatively quiet person. I'd rather let everyone else be the center of attention and stand back in the shadows.

Ruth's story is a story of hope for everyone, but it's especially hopeful for people like me, the shadow lurkers. Ruth was born in Moab. Her husband's family had come to Moab because there was famine in their home country. They were of the Hebrew, or Jewish, faith, but Ruth was not. After Ruth's husband, brother-in-law, and father-in-law all died, Ruth's mother-in-law, Naomi, decided to return to the land of her birth. Ruth insisted on going with her, leaving behind her own blood relatives. When they reached Bethlehem, Ruth worked hard to provide for her mother-in-law by picking up leftover wheat in a field being harvested. The owner of the field, Boaz, turned out to be a godly relative of Ruth's father-in-law, and he married Ruth. They had a son named Obed who had a son named Jesse who had a son named David who became King!

What if Ruth hadn't gone with Naomi--hadn't obeyed what her heart was telling her was right--and had instead stayed in her homeland? King David would have never been born!

God had plans for Ruth that she could have never dreamed possible. He saw her there in Moab and chose her, not a Hebrew woman, to be the great grandmother of King David. She is listed in Matthew 1 in the lineage of Jesus! We remember her today and tell her story because of her obedience, her faith even when she didn't know what was ahead of her.

Ruth's story tells us to never give up and always trust God's plan even when it seems too big, too scary, too unknown. He sees the whole picture in a way we can't and probably never will. We don't know if Ruth lived to see David on the throne, but her obedience made it possible.

Is God asking you to trust him today about something?

Ruth's advice would be simple: Do it! You won't ever regret it! Always remember that He is El Roi, the God who sees you, knows you, and knows the plans He has for you!

Have a fabulous day! And be sure to enter the drawing for FREE books! I'm giving away a whole bunch of books at the end of January. Some of mine, some by favorite authors, and some Chicken Soup for the Soul books that have my stories included in them. All you have to do is type your email address in the "sign up for my blog" box at the top right of this blog page. Easy peasy! Winners will be notified by email. (US residents only, please!)

Blessings,

~Michelle



Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Finding HOPE in the New Year!


HAPPY NEW YEAR!

The last few years I've chosen a word to sort of embody the new year. I try not to simply pick a word I like, but rather a word that is on my heart and in my spirit. A word I need to learn more about, to really dig into.

2017 was a year of TRUST. On January 1st I wrote that word on a rock I found on the property in Texas where we were living and working. I also included the scripture reference I felt God had given me to remind me to trust Him: "Taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who trusteth in Him." (Psalm 34:8) I had several things in mind that I needed to trust him for and set about praying for them. As you may have guessed, they were NOT the things I truly needed to trust God with. In August of that year we lost our jobs. We spent the next eight weeks learning to trust God's plan and His provision. Our faithful Father knew what our future held when I chose the word Trust, and He taught us that no matter what challenges we face in life, we are His children. In October we left Texas and moved to Tennessee to begin our new jobs working as Caretakers of a beautiful farm owned by a beautiful widow who truly loves and appreciates us. I look back on 2017 with joy and gladness of heart because I learned the deeper meaning of trust.

2018 was a year of REST. After all the excitement and stress of 2017, I needed rest. Rest of body. Rest of mind. And rest of soul. I claimed Hebrews 4 in the Message Bible for the new year. The word "rest" appears in this passage ten times! King David also spoke of rest in Psalm 62:1 & 5: "My soul finds rest in God alone; my hope comes from him." I learned that rest doesn't mean being lazy and laying around. It means pausing from life's worries and busyness to remember that God is God and we are not. We can safely rest in Him and His love.

Because I rested so well in the LORD through 2018, I find myself raring to go in 2019! As I pondered what word to chose, I kept coming back to Expectation. While we were in Texas over the Christmas holiday, we took our boys to the coast for a family vacation. I found a sweet little rock on the beach that would be perfect for my word of the year, and suddenly I knew what it was: HOPE. The definition of hope is "a feeling of expectation and a desire for a certain thing to happen; to expect with confidence; trust. I don't know exactly what I'm expecting, but I know it will be good. God is our Father and He loves pouring out blessings on his children. Yes, he also disciplines when we go astray and disobey, but His heart is that of a loving Daddy, our Abba. He already knows what 2019 holds, so I'm heading into it with expectation--with hope!--willing to go wherever He leads.

My heart's prayer for 2019 for myself and for you is found in one of my favorite verses:

"May the God of HOPE fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

Blessings to you and yours in the New Year!

~Michelle

P.S. Here are some more of my favorite verses that talk about Hope:

Psalm 33:18-22
Jeremiah 29:11
Psalm 42:11
Isaiah 40:31
Hebrews 11:1
Hebrews 10:23

Sunday, December 23, 2018

An Angel's Story


What was it like to be an angel on that first Christmas? 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Excitement tingled in the air. I and all the angels of heaven, as well as those serving on earth, had been summoned to present ourselves before the LORD. Something big was happening, but no one knew what. I hurried to take my place among the multitude, anticipation making it hard to stand still. When we'd all assembled--ten thousand times ten thousand and more!---Gabriel stepped forward and stood near God's throne. The Lamb sat on a throne on God's right. He looked peaceful, serene.

God rose from his seat and everyone grew quiet.

"Today the prophecy I gave my servant Isaiah will be fulfilled." His voice thundered through the heavens.

A hushed murmur rose from the crowd of angels. We knew God spoke of the covenant he'd made with a human named Isaiah, one of God's chosen race, the Hebrews. Isaiah was obedient and faithful, and God had placed upon him the responsibility to be His voice throughout the ages to the disobedient Jews. Through Isaiah, God promised to send a Messiah, One who would save the entire world from sin. God's patience with mankind continued to amaze me. They deserved the same fate as the people in Noah's day, but God promised never to destroy them again. Instead, He set in place a plan of salvation that even I didn't fully understand.

Seeing Gabriel standing beside God, I wondered if perhaps he was being sent to save the human race. Gabriel would be a good choice. He was strong and mighty, and God had sent him to earth on other occasions.

But just when I expected God to call Gabriel forward, the Lamb stood.

A collective gasp went through the crowd. Surely not the Lamb!

"I am sending the Lamb to be a sacrifice for all mankind," God said. "Whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life with us."

"No!" angels shouted all around me. "Not our Prince!"

God raised his hand for silence. "It must be so. There is no other way."

I looked and saw Michael and his army draw their swords. Relief swept through me. The Lamb would be protected. No harm would come to him.

But God instructed them to put their weapons away. "The Lamb will go alone. He will become human. He will be born of a virgin, and he will grow in wisdom and stature. After a time, however, the men of earth will reject him and kill him."

A terrible hurt rose inside me. I'd heard humans talk about something called sorrow, and I knew this must be what they meant. The pain grew deeper than anything I'd ever known as I watched my beloved Prince--heaven's treasure--depart God's presence. I didn't understand how God could allow this to happen, but I trusted Him to know what was best. He had never failed us before, and I knew He would not fail us now.

I felt a strange wetness on my face and was surprised to find tears dripping from my eyes. I looked and saw others around me wiping wetness from their faces too.

I hadn't known before.

Angels can cry.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Click here to read An Angel's Story Part 2.

Click here to read An Angel's Story Part 3, the Conclusion.



Thursday, December 13, 2018

Mary, Did You Know?

This has long been one of my favorite songs, although not just at Christmastime but all year long. Years ago, when I was pregnant with my first son, Mary became a very real person in my heart and mind. Before that she'd simply been a character in a story. A beautiful story to be sure, and one that I believe with all my heart. But Mary, the mother of Jesus, was difficult for me to relate to. She seemed so perfect, so old even. But she wasn't either of those. Yes, God found favor with her, which tells me she loved Him with all her heart and soul, but she wasn't perfect. She needed a Savior, just like the rest of mankind. She was also a very young woman -- perhaps only fourteen or fifteen years old.

That year as I felt my baby moving within my womb, I couldn't help but wonder what Mary's emotions and thoughts were when she felt Jesus -- God! -- moving within her womb. When she kissed his sweet, downy cheeks after he was born. When she watched him grow into a boy and then a man. All the things I've experienced as a mother, Mary experienced too.

I wrote about this in my story called "Mary and Me." It's published in several Chicken Soup for the Soul Christmas books. If you're interested, you can click HERE to order the book.

In the meantime, enjoy this song. And may your heart be filled with the Wonder of Christ come to earth as a tiny Baby, all because of His great love for us!

Christmas Blessings to you all,

~Michelle






Thursday, December 6, 2018

Why Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh Matter

The story of Jesus' birth is one of my all-time favorite passages in the Bible. The gospels of Matthew and Luke each tell the tale. If you're not in the habit of reading the Story at Christmas, I encourage you to grab your Bible and enjoy reading about the true reason for the season! Joseph and the faith he found to accept Mary as his wife. Sweet Mary, a young woman who found so much favor with GOD that He bestowed upon her the incredible honor of being His Son's mother. The shepherd's. The angels. It all fills my heart to overflowing with gratitude that Jesus, who is Emmanuel--GOD with us!-- left the glory of heaven to come down to dwell among us. Amazing!


As a child, I remember being fascinated with the three kings in our Nativity set. They rode on camels and were dressed in colorful robes. Luke's gospel doesn't mention them, but Matthew 2:1-12 tells about these special visitors who came looking for the Messiah. They were the Magi, or the three kings, as they are more familiarly known. These wise men were from the east, although we don't know specifically from where. Some believe they were Persian priests of a religion that paid particular attention to the stars. They'd seen a new star in the sky, one that clearly made an huge impression on them. They packed their bags, and with the star leading the way, they set off to an unknown destination.

Can you imagine? These men stopped everything they were doing in order to seek the Messiah. We don't know exactly how long their journey took, but clues in the text tell us it may have been as long as two years. How many of us are willing to put our lives on hold indefinitely to go in search of the truth?

When they arrive in Jerusalem, they immediately go to the palace and meet with King Herod. “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:2)

One question comes to mind when I read that verse: Why did these foreigners know about the star but apparently not one Jew did? No one knows the answer to this as far as I can tell.

When the wise men learn from Herod that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, they set out and found the child with his mother. We all need to pay attention to what happens next. 

"On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh." Matthew 2:11.

As I read this verse, I'm struck that men from a faraway land, who most likely had not been raised to worship GOD, bowed down to worship a baby! And not only did they worship him, they brought gifts to honor him. Gold, frankincense and myrrh. All very valuable and very useful in that time period. (Three gifts is the reason people think there were only three wise men, but there certainly could have been more!). I imagine Joseph used the gold and possibly the proceeds from selling the other gifts to fund their journey to Egypt after the angel told him in a dream to flee Bethlehem in order to keep Jesus from Herod's wrath. (Matthew 2:13-18) GOD's provision for his Son came from the generosity of individuals with willing hearts. Beautiful!

What can we learn from the wise men?

  • Study the scriptures and know them! 
  • Listen for GOD's voice. Even those who haven't been raised in church can hear from GOD!
  • Fall down in worship. In surrender. He is worthy of our praise!
  • Bring him your best, whatever it is! If you're like me, you don't have a supply of gold, frankincense or myrrh lying around. But I do have time, talents, material blessings, and spiritual gifts that can and should be used in his honor. Not sure what you can bring to the manger to present to the King? Pray about it! 
  • Lastly, have a willing and obedient heart. Willing to go where GOD sends you. Willing to give what GOD asks of you. Obey His word and commands. The wise men obeyed the warning they'd received not to return to Jerusalem. Imagine the consequences if they'd disobeyed. Jesus would have certainly been safe. His Father would have seen to that. But the wise men themselves might have been put to death because of Herod's jealousy. 
There are definitely lessons to be learned all throughout the Bible, even in the Christmas story!

Blessings to each of you!

~Michelle

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Who's Hand Are You Holding?

One of my earliest memories of my Daddy is of his hands. I remember being in our small Nazarene church in Santa Fe, New Mexico, sitting on the pew between him and Mom. At some point during the preaching, I took Daddy's big hand in my tiny ones and played with his fingers. I remember turning his hand over and studying the lines there, bending fingers back and forth, and basically entertaining myself. Daddy was an Engineer for the highway department by day, but on the weekends he used his hands to build a beautiful Santa Fe-style adobe home our family lived in for 55 years. His hands were not soft and smooth, but had calluses and strength. Daddy wasn't showy with his affections, but those hands comforted me and told me I could trust him to take care of me. He never let me down.

The above picture not only brings back that sweet memory, but it also reminds me that my "Daddy" in heaven wants to take me by the hand. His scars are available for me to touch, to run my fingers over, and to know the love that spilled out of him for me as he hung on that cross.

"But I'll take the hand of those who don't know the way, who can't see where they're going. I'll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country. I'll be right there to show them what roads to take, make sure they don't fall into the ditch. These are the things I'll be doing for them--sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute." Isaiah 42:16 The Message

As I'm preparing to attend the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference next week, I'm thankful for these words. God has all my tomorrows in his hands. He knows the roads I need to take and the roads I need to avoid. He already knows the books I'll write and the book ideas that might not ever make it into print. I trust him to open doors that will lead to new opportunities and close doors that should remain closed for my good even if I don't understand. His plans and purposes for me have been in place since before I was born. The work he has for me to do is already prepared. I don't have to do anything more than take his hand and walk into them. Isn't that great news?! No struggles! No forcing my way onto a road I wasn't supposed to be on. No fear and no regrets. Just peace, joy, and fulfillment, knowing I'm exactly where God wants me to be, doing exactly what God wants me to do.

Have you fallen into a ditch because you weren't holding fast to Abba's hand? I've been there too, friend. Thankfully he doesn't leave us there to wallow in the mud and muck. He'll offer his hand over and over, until we finally understand that holding onto his hand is the ONLY way to travel through life.

Tomorrow is unknown to every single one of us. Like the passage above says, it's "unknown country." When we travel to places we've never been, it's so much better when we have a knowledgeable guide who knows the area, the attractions, the sketchy and dangerous places where we shouldn't go. That's exactly what our Father is offering. He'll show us the roads to take, and he'll protect us along the way. 

All we have to do is take our Father's hand!

Who's hand are you holding?



Blessings,

Michelle

Sunday, July 15, 2018

What is a Friend?

If you look up the definition of the word friend, this is what you might find:

a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection.

Over the years I've been blessed with many, many wonderful friends. My first friend was my older sister Kim. Just two and a half years older than me, there's no telling how many hours we spent together playing, reading, arguing, loving. We were lucky to have two little girls our age live across the street and another one next door, despite living out in the country on a dirt road. I cherish sweet memories of summer days spent with Paula, Valerie, and Lori, riding our bikes, having water gun fights, and sleeping under the stars. 

When I started school, God blessed me with a friend who would be a rock in my adolescent life. Kathy and I were in the same 4th grade class and became best friends. We lost touch during our junior high years when we went to different schools, but once we hit high school the friendship was reborn and continues to this day. She even put up with me as a roommate our freshman year of college. 

After I transferred to a college in Oklahoma, where I knew not a living soul, I had to trust God to bring me some new friends. He did, in a mighty way. My roommate Sherry and our neighbor in the dorm, Susie, remain two of my dearest friends. We try to get together for a girls' weekend every few years, and oh, the wild and crazy fun we have!! To top it off, each of us married tall, handsome men named Brian! Another college friend, Teri, and I shared our first apartment together. I can't even tell you how many boxes of mac and cheese we ate that year! 

Of course, the greatest blessing that came out of my college days is meeting my bestest friend and love of my life. Brian and I have been together 34+ years. I can't imagine life without his solid strength and love. Now that we're empty nesters, we've enjoyed becoming a couple again. Our Friday night burger date is a highlight of our week. He truly is my best friend and favorite human on the planet!

Some of the sweetest friendships I've made as an adult have come from my church family. We have friends we've known for 30 or more years and still enjoy hanging out with them. Our Texas gang --Tim, Terri, Eddie, Rhonda, Bob and Tamera-- will always be our treasured friends despite the distance that separates us now. When we moved, we knew making new friends was a must. Our co-worker Brenda has become a dear friend, and we're gradually meeting folks at church. I also cherish the friends I've made in the writing world, like Pam and Paula. 

So THANK YOU, THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHOM I'VE CALLED FRIEND! I hope I've been a good friend to you too!

But looking back at all the friendships I've enjoyed over the years, I realize there is one that is far different from all the others. It's a friendship that began before I was born, really. This Friend will never, ever let me down. He will never grow weary of my presence, he'll forgive my mistakes immediately, and he'll always be available when I call. He listens to me whine, cry, laugh, and sing. He picks me up when I fall and carries me when I'm too weary to walk. When I'm afraid, he's right there, ready to comfort and do battle if necessary. He even thinks I'm cool enough to be his neighbor and has prepared an eternal home for me. In fact, he loves me so much he willingly took the punishment for my ugly, horrid, despicable sin. He literally died for me. Would any of the friends I've listed above do that for me? Would I do that for them? If we're being honest, I believe the answer to both questions is no. 

Is Jesus your friend? He can be. He wants to be! One of my favorite hymns growing up was "What a Friend." It may seem a bit old fashioned to some, but the words of it are still as true as the day it was written. I'll leave you with it and pray that each person who pops into the blog today will know Jesus as their very best friend! 

Blessings,
~Michelle 



Thursday, March 29, 2018

I am Peter. Are you?




Image result for picture communion wine and breadToday is Maundy Thursday.

It's the day Jesus ate the Passover meal, or the Last Supper as we call it, with his disciples in an upper room. Maundy refers to Jesus washing the feet of the disciples, preparing them to go out into the world and serve. John 13 and Luke 22 tell the story so beautifully, and I encourage you to read it sometime in the next few days as we remember the love Jesus willingly poured out for each of us on the cross.

As I think about that long-ago Thursday, one disciple always stands out in my mind.

Peter.

Peter had been with Jesus since the early days of Jesus' ministry. We meet him in Luke 5 while he is washing his fishing nets. He'd been fishing but hadn't caught anything. Jesus stood on Peter's boat to speak to the crowd, and when he finished he turned to Peter and basically said, "Let's go fishing." It would have been easy for Peter to say no, but look what he says in verse 8:

"Master, we've worked hard all night long and haven't caught anything. But because you say so I will let down the nets."

Wow! Did you catch that?

"BECAUSE YOU SAY SO!"

That is obedience! Immediate, unquestioning obedience!

The story continues and we read how Peter catches a boatload of fish. We also see in verse 11 that as soon as they reached the shore, Peter "left everything and followed" Jesus!

That is the kind of passion Peter had. He was eager to obey, eager to follow. He's the one who first acknowledged that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah in Luke 9:20, and he's the one who climbed out of the boat to walk on water with the Lord in Matthew 14:29.

I see myself in Peter.

I'm passionate about Jesus, although it can be a bit misguided sometimes. I'm eager to follow the Lord, though I lose my footing every now and again.

Peter's shame came on the night Jesus was arrested. On Maundy Thursday, while the disciples shared the Passover meal with the Lord, Passionate Peter declared he would go to prison or even to death with Jesus, yet we all know that isn't true. Jesus knew it too. He told Peter that he would deny even knowing the Lord three times that very night.

My heart aches for Peter as I read Luke 22:54-62. When Jesus was arrested, Passionate Peter couldn't leave like the others, but unlike what he'd said a few hours before, he was not willing to be arrested. He lurked near the place where they'd taken the Lord, staying to the shadows and trying his best to blend in. Three times someone recognizes him as a disciple of Jesus. Three times he denies knowing the Lord.

"Just as [Peter] was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him. "Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly."

Oh, Peter.

Don't you know his heart was pierced when the Lord looked right at him?

I see myself in Peter.

Have you ever denied being a Christian?

Have you ever avoided using the name Jesus?

Have you ever had your heart pierced by the Lord?

I think there's a little bit of Peter in all of us at some point in our lives.

Thankfully Peter's story doesn't end with his shame. He is there when Jesus is crucified. He is there at the empty tomb. He is there when the resurrected Jesus appears. Jesus himself tells Peter to "feed my sheep." And that's exactly what Peter does beginning in Acts 2:14.

Like Peter, my story didn't end with my shame and sin. Like Peter, I'm striving to serve the Lord with everything that I am. I'll make mistakes. I'll have misguided passion. But I'll do my best to be a servant of the Most High. It is the very least I can do knowing what Jesus was willing to do for me.

May you and yours have a very Blessed Easter as we celebrate our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ!

~Michelle

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Authentic Civil War Molasses Cookies

I have a confession.

I love cookies!! More than any other snack, quite honestly. I think it's because they are easy. Easy to grab. Easy to hold. Easy to eat. And for the most part, easy to make. 

In my new historical novel, The Widow of Rose Hill, cookies make an appearance a couple times. Specifically, molasses cookies! Harriet, a former slave and the cook for Rose Hill plantation, makes them in Chapter Seven. Natalie, our heroine, serves the treat to Colonel Maish and Corporal Banks on the manor house porch despite the fact that the Colonel and his men have just delivered a message that completely turns Natalie's world upside down!

You might remember that I made Prince of Wales cake when my first book, The Planter's Daughter, released. Aunt Lu and Adella Rose were attempting to make it, although the recipe seemed a little strange to them. I figured I needed to keep the tradition going, so today I'm making authentic molasses cookies just like Harriet made in Book 2.

The Widow of Rose Hill takes place in Texas in June 1865. The Civil War has been raging for four long years. Union blockades prevented supplies from entering Texas and kept cotton growers like the Ellis's from selling their products. Common staples like coffee and sugar were hard to come by, but other ingredients like flour and salt were still available. 

With that in mind, I searched for a simple recipe Harriet might have used. I opted to use butter instead of shortening because I think Harriet would have used butter. I'm also using brown sugar, which she may or may not have had access to. 



First, cream together the butter (or shortening), sugar, egg, and molasses. It won't look pretty, but that's okay. We're on a mission to deliciousness. A little ugly is expected along the way. 


Next, stir in the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger, all common ingredients for that time period. 


I used my handy dandy Kitchen Aid mixer (thank you, Daddy & Mom!) to mix it all together. Poor Harriet would have had to mix it by hand. I'll bet she would have loved a Kitchen Aid! 

The dough will look a little crumbly once it's all blended well. 


Scrape out all the dough onto a clean surface and form it into a big ol' ball.


The recipe suggests putting it in the refrigerator for an hour to chill, for rolling purposes I guess, but I didn't do that. Harriet didn't have a refrigerator and would have rolled them out right then, so that's what I did too. 


I used a light coating of flour on the rolling pin and on the parchment paper and didn't have any issues with the dough sticking to either. 

Use a cookie cutter ... or a glass, like I did 'cuz I don't own cookie cutters ... and cut out your cookies. It's just like making sugar cookies!


I love to bake cookies on my Pampered Chef baking stone because it's never failed me yet. These cookies don't spread, so you can get quite a few on the sheet. Bake for ten minutes and then let 'em cool a little ... but you better keep an eye on them!!! Or someone might sneak a bite!



And wa-la! You have some delicious, authentic Civil War molasses cookies to enjoy while you read The Widow of Rose Hill


Here's a little sneak peek of the scene where Natalie serves the cookies to Colonel Levi Maish:

...Natalie returned, her hair freshly combed and free of the hat, bearing a tray with two glasses of water and a plate of dark cookies. That she carried the refreshments herself surprised him. He'd expected her to fetch a maid for the task. 

"Harriet baked a batch of molasses cookies yesterday," she said, setting the tray on a small table. Settling on the sofa, she looked up at the men. "She's a master at turning the simplest ingredients into something quite delicious. Please, help yourselves."

Banks looked like a kid, all big-eyed and licking his lips, but he kept himself in check, waiting for Levi to give permission to indulge in the sweets. When Levi gave a nod, the corporal snagged a large cookie, grinning.

Civil War Molasses Cookies

Ingredients:
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup shortening
1 egg
2/3 cup molasses
2 ¾ cup flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
Cream together shortening, brown sugar, egg and molasses. Stir in flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Heat oven to 375 degrees and roll dough out to ¼”. Cut out cookies with a round cutter. Bake for 10 minutes.

Enjoy the cookies AND the book!

~Michelle

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Guest Blogger Author Kathleen Y'Barbo

I'm excited to host bestselling Author Kathleen Y'Barbo on the blog today! What do you do when you make a mistake? Read on!   ~Michelle








Making Mistakes: Takeaway from The Mail Order Mistake

By Kathleen Y’Barbo

Have you heard the joke about the guy who thought he made a mistake? Well, turns out he was wrong.

We laugh at that joke, but the truth of it is sobering. We’ve all made mistakes, whether we acknowledge that fact or not. Maybe you put your trust in the wrong person. Or perhaps you made a choice that you were certain would fix all your problems only to have the situation end in disaster.

What then? Do you wonder where God was and how He allowed that to happen? To those of us who believe He controls everything, such a mistake can cause us to ask hard questions of Him.

When May Conrad moved in with her kindly neighbor after fire destroyed her home, she certainly didn’t expect to be thrown into the center of a Pinkerton investigation and be considered a prime suspect in a string of mail fraud crimes involving mail order brides. After all, she felt God was taking care of her. But was He? May certainly doesn’t think so when an infuriating Pinkerton detective insists her next choice is between helping him capture that kindly neighbor or be tossed into jail.

Can you think of a time when you were forced into a situation where none of the options were good? Maybe you had an idea of what your life was going to be like, and then God came in and did something totally different. Something unexpected. Something uncomfortable. I know I’ve been there. And while you’re in the middle of that something unexpected and uncomfortable, you might be wondering where God is and why He’s allowing this to happen. You may even wonder if God has turned away and forgotten about you.

Good news! He hasn’t forgotten. In fact, He is absolutely and certainly using this unexpected and uncomfortable thing. What’s He using it for? Sometimes looking back that answer is obvious. Other times there may never be an answer this side of heaven as to why He has allowed something into your life.

Through it all, there is one thing that never changes and is always true: God never makes mistakes. He’s never wrong. And he never leaves you when you do. If you get nothing else from The Mail Order Mistake, please do not miss that.

I know May didn’t. I hope you won’t.



The Mail-Order Mistake by Kathleen Y’Barbo
1855, Texas
Pinkerton detective Jeremiah Bingham is investigating a mail-order bride scam bankrupting potential grooms. When unsuspecting orphan May Conrad answers his false ad, she becomes the prime suspect in the case.

https://www.amazon.com/Mail-Order-Brides-Collection-Historical-Marriage/dp/1683224442/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8



Bestselling author Kathleen Y’Barbo is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee with more than ninety novels, novellas, and nonfiction books to her credit, and over two million copies of these books in print in the US and abroad. A tenth-generation Texan and certified paralegal, she is the winner of the Inspirational Romance of the Year by Romantic Times magazine and a number of Reader’s Choice awards as well as a nominee for an RT Career Achievement Award. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Novelists Inc. Kathleen loves interacting with her fans and with book clubs. To connect with her through social media or send her an email, check out the links on her website at www.kathleenybarbo.com. And don’t miss signing up for her newsletter so you’ll be the first to know about new books.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Guest Blogger Author Noelle Marchand

Today, Author Noelle Marchand shares about the important role secondary characters play in our stories! Enjoy!          ~Michelle


By Noelle Marchand

Imagine the sound of a single cello playing a melody—deep, rich, vibrant. Now, imagine two violins and a viola joining in. Suddenly, what was once simple becomes complex with each instrument bringing out a new quality in the others. This is exactly what secondary characters do for main characters. I always try to create well-rounded characters to interact with hero and heroine.

However, in writing The Outlaw’s Inconvenient Bride, I gained a better understanding of the importance of secondary characters within a novel. Never before had I tasked these characters with so much responsibility. With a huge portion of the story taking place in an outlaw gang’s secluded hideout, the six outlaws who lived there needed to provide external conflict, help set the tone of the story, and make the time period seem believable.

It was also paramount, due to the short nature of a novella, that these characters be immediately distinct from each other. I ensured this by researching accounts of real outlaws who lived during the old west. Inspired, my imagination went into overdrive. I created six characters complete with a list of their past crimes, endowed with a weapon of choice, unique character traits, motives for mayhem, and outlaw monikers. Meet all six members of the Renegade gang in The Outlaw’s Inconvenient Bride.


The Outlaw’s Inconvenient Bride by Noelle Marchand
1881, Wyoming
After a gang of outlaws uses a mail-order bride advertisement to trick an innocent woman into servitude, an undercover lawman must claim the bride—even if it puts his mission in jeopardy.

https://www.amazon.com/Mail-Order-Brides-Collection-Historical-Marriage/dp/1683224442/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

http://www.noellemarchand.com/books





Noelle Marchand is an award-winning author and a proud Texas-native. She enjoys spending time with family, dancing, and going on daytrips.
http://www.noellemarchand.com/books

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Guest Blogger Author Liz Tolsma: Researching a Book

Author Liz Tolsma continues our Blog Tour of the authors of The Mail-Order Brides Collection by sharing some of the fascinating historical tidbits she learned while researching her story! Enjoy!                ~Michelle



By Liz Tolsma

My story, A Fairy-Tale Bride, is set just after the Civil War in the make-believe town of Cuento, Texas. Nora, the main character, is a Southern war widow who has lost her husband, her home, and her land. She is impoverished and has no means to support herself. The only respectable option she has is to become a mail-order bride.

As I researched the story I wanted to write for this collection, I found it was very common for war widows, especially those from the South, to enter into such marriages of convenience. Most of them had lost everything during the conflict. Some of the surviving Confederate soldiers left the Southeast to begin new lives in the cotton fields of Texas. This air of familiarity helped with their transition back into civilian life.

The Texas cotton industry boomed around this time. With their former homes and crops razed and slaves gone, many men turned to Texas as a place to start fresh. The land was fertile, crops were good, and they were able to tap into the now-freed slaves as a work force familiar with growing cotton. Texas quickly became one of the leading producers of cotton in the nation. With the new plantation owners thriving, it was natural for the Southern war widows to go to Texas to enter into new marriages and to start new families.

While I considered not having the sharecroppers appear in the story because of the oftentimes unsavory aspects of the institution, in the end, I decided to show them because sharecropping was a way of life in the South after the war. The hero and his friend would not have been able to sustain their large plantations without this means of getting workers. Neither of the characters is unkind to the sharecroppers, and I don’t dwell on it because the characters wouldn’t have. It was part of daily life.

As I researched this book, I learned so much about what life was like for some Southerners following the Civil War. When you read it, I hope you learn a little something too.



Purchase from your local bookseller or online at:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mail-Order-Brides-Collection-Historical-Marriage/dp/1683224442/ref=pd_ybh_a_3?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=WT6X9D0B6ETRDGH42MHS

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-mail-order-brides-collection-megan-besing/1126627885?ean=9781683224440#/

Books-A-Million: http://www.booksamillion.com/p/Mail-Order-Brides-Collection/Megan-Besing/9781683224440?id=6797742722867#ReviewHeader

Christian Book Distributors: https://www.christianbook.com/brides-collection-historical-stories-marriage-precedes/megan-besing/9781683224440/pd/224442?product_redirect=1&Ntt=224442&item_code=&Ntk=keywords&event=ESRCP


Liz Tolsma


Author * Editor * Speaker

The Melody of the Soul coming January 2018

Romantic Times 4 ½ stars top pick

Second Chance Brides, Matchmaker Brides, Rails to Love now available

Mail Order Brides coming February 2018

The Amish Widow’s New Love coming May 2018

What the Heart Sings coming August 2018

www.liztolsma.com

Monday, February 12, 2018

It's RELEASE DAY for The Widow of Rose Hill!

February 12, 2018 is a VERY HAPPY DAY in the Shocklee household!

First, today is my son's 27th birthday! Whoop! CanNOT believe that child is 27! What an amazing young man he has become. God has wonderful plans for you, my son! I can't wait to watch them unfold.

Today is also my sister's birthday! Happy Birthday, Sis!! Love and miss you!!

And now ...drum roll, please .....

TODAY IS THE RELEASE OF THE WIDOW OF ROSE HILL!!!


Widowed during the war, Natalie Ellis finds herself solely responsible for Rose Hill plantation. When Union troops arrive with a proclamation freeing the slaves, all seems lost. How can she run the plantation without slaves? In order to save her son’s inheritance she strikes a deal with the arrogant, albeit handsome, Colonel Maish. In exchange for use of her family’s property, the army will provide workers to bring in her cotton crop. But as her admiration for the colonel grows, a shocking secret is uncovered. Can she trust him with her heart and her young, fatherless son?

THANK YOU to all those who read and loved the first book in the series, The Planter's Daughter. I sincerely hope you fall in love with Natalie and Levi too! 

ENJOY!!!!

~Michelle


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Guest Blogger Author Jennifer Uhlarik: Inspiration

The Blog Tour of the authors of The Mail-Order Brides Collection rolls on. Author Jennifer Uhlarik is with us today talking about inspiration and how stories develop in an author's mind. Enjoy!                                                                                                                   ~Michelle



Hi all! Jennifer Uhlarik here. I’m so excited to share with you the story behind the story on The Brigand and The Bride, my selection from The Mail-Order Brides Collection. So…where did the idea for this story come from? As I pondered the idea of a mail-order bride story, I knew it needed to be different than a previous mail-order bride story I’d done (Wedded to Honor from The Convenient Bride Collection). I began thinking of different scenarios and quickly struck on the idea of a woman marrying a stranger to escape her outlaw family. Probably not the most original of ideas—but then, every story’s been told a million times already. It’s the fun twists you add that makes a story unique. So as I pondered the heroine that was taking shape in my mind, I saw a scene begin to unfold.

The heroine hurries through town, anxious about being caught by her brother. Rather than heading straight to the church, she stops in the seamstress’ shop to pick up a suit for her mail-order groom—something they’d pre-arranged through their letters. Suit in hand, she goes to the church, lays out the clothes and grooming supplies for him, then waits in the sanctuary. A bit later, the hero rushes in, shaves and cuts his hair, dons the suit, and steps out of the room, where the pastor’s wife shoves him down the aisle, scolding him for his lateness.

The scene played so vividly in my mind’s eye that I knew I had to write it and find out how the rest turned out. From the couple’s first awkward face-to-face meeting to the “quickie” wedding that ensues, I was giggling and grinning ear-to-ear. I sure hope you’ll read The Brigand and The Bride to find out why!

The Brigand and the Bride by Jennifer Uhlarik
1876, Arizona
Jolie Hilliard weds a stranger to flee her outlaw family but discovers her groom is an escaped prisoner. Will she ever find happiness on the right side of the law?


Purchase from your local bookseller or online at:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mail-Order-Brides-Collection-Historical-Marriage/dp/1683224442/ref=pd_ybh_a_3?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=WT6X9D0B6ETRDGH42MHS

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-mail-order-brides-collection-megan-besing/1126627885?ean=9781683224440#/

Books-A-Million: http://www.booksamillion.com/p/Mail-Order-Brides-Collection/Megan-Besing/9781683224440?id=6797742722867#ReviewHeader

Christian Book Distributors: https://www.christianbook.com/brides-collection-historical-stories-marriage-precedes/megan-besing/9781683224440/pd/224442?product_redirect=1&Ntt=224442&item_code=&Ntk=keywords&event=ESRCP



Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen, when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has won and finaled in numerous writing competitions. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, college-aged son, and four fur children.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Guest Blogger Author Megan Besing: Lies Characters Believe

The blog hop continues with Author Megan Besing! Have you ever believed a lie? Megan shares how her characters had to overcome many obstacles to get to the truth. Enjoy! 
                                                             ~Michelle



By Megan Besing

As we all know, lies are a part of everyday life—and every good book. Whether it’s one we tell ourselves for years or one someone else makes up, lies consume our time. In my story, Perfect for the Preacher, lies, gossip, and assumptions nearly become main characters themselves.

Despite his age, Pastor Amos Lowry believes he’s the man to fill the pulpit at Hilltop Chapel. He’s certain he’s qualified and longs to be hired. Wouldn’t a congregation with such generosity be a preacher’s ideal church? At least that’s what he tells himself.

Those on the council assume Pastor Lowry is too young and immature, and they believe marriage for Amos could be the answer to all their problems. Except no one asked for a mail-order bride with a sketchy past to apply as Amos’s wife. After all, won’t an ex-saloon girl ruin Hilltop Chapel’s reputation?

Sophie Ross was told she could be a pastor’s wife. Except when gossip mixes with the dreadful experiences from her past, Sophie fights the doubt in her head. If a man of God can’t love and accept her, what kind of future does that leave?

Behind every deception, whether in real life or story form, is the truth waiting to save the day and set us free. I hope you discover and enjoy the truths buried in the lies of Amos and Sophie’s happily-ever-after. What starts off as an unlikely match might just become a marriage built on unconditional love and a ministry for a renewed congregation. Lies may win a battle, but like the characters of Perfect for the Preacher, let’s not allow evil to claim victory of our lives.


Perfect for the Preacher by Megan Besing

1897, Indiana

Fresh from seminary, Amos Lowry believes marriage will prove to his skeptical congregation that he’s mature. If only his mail-order bride wasn’t an ex-saloon girl, and worse, pregnant.



Purchase from your local bookseller or online at:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mail-Order-Brides-Collection-Historical-Marriage/dp/1683224442/ref=pd_ybh_a_3?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=WT6X9D0B6ETRDGH42MHS

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-mail-order-brides-collection-megan-besing/1126627885?ean=9781683224440#/

Books-A-Million: http://www.booksamillion.com/p/Mail-Order-Brides-Collection/Megan-Besing/9781683224440?id=6797742722867#ReviewHeader

Christian Book Distributors: https://www.christianbook.com/brides-collection-historical-stories-marriage-precedes/megan-besing/9781683224440/pd/224442?product_redirect=1&Ntt=224442&item_code=&Ntk=keywords&event=ESRCP


Megan Besing adores reading, writing, and reviewing stories with happily-ever-afters. Her own writings have received many awards, including being a multi-category finalist in ACFW’s Genesis and a winner of MCRW’s Melody of Love contest. Her debut Perfect for the Preacher releases February 1, 2018 in Barbour’s Mail-Order Brides Novella Collection. She lives in Indiana with her husband and their children where she dreams of the beach and drinks way too many Vanilla Cokes. Connect with Megan on Facebook and at www.meganbesing.com.