2,373 Miles Away


My mother, Eleanor Cunningham

By Jan Elder

My mother’s twin sister passed away in March 2015. My mom, Eleanor, is 91 years old and still going strong, but the death of her sister hit her hard. It was bad enough that this was Mom’s last sibling, but since my Aunt Jean was her identical twin, it was a great deal to go through.

My Aunt’s funeral was on a Monday, a beautiful service for a good Christian woman. My mother spoke for twenty minutes and talked all about their life growing up, how they became Christians, and what it was like being a twin. I was so very, very proud of her. Mom comes from hearty Maine stock and she didn’t break down. She told the audience she was saving up her tears for later.

The next day, Tuesday, I traveled to Idaho to visit my own sister, Diane. I live in Maryland so it was a long trip and I was still feeling sad. Most of all, I hated to leave my mom at this emotional time. But hey, she promised she’d be fine, I had non-refundable tickets, etc. etc. and I was really looking forward to communing with my own sister. So, I left as planned and flew cross-country. The next night, at midnight, I got a call from a nurse in the retirement community where my mom lives. Mom was very sick and on her way to the hospital.

I was 2,373 miles away and there was nothing I could do to help her. We are very close—I live an hour away but I drive to see her once a week—and thinking of her all alone in the hospital with no one there to hold her hand broke my heart.

The next morning, it was determined that mom had a bowel obstruction, something pretty serious, especially when you’re a nonagenarian. My husband, the person who would normally step in and help, was down with an upper respiratory infection, and therefore, was not allowed to visit. He could check in with the nurses and relay the info to me, but he couldn’t be there with her in her hour of need.

I called Mom’s church and her pastor and associate pastor were both out of town. I called a few other people that might be able to help, but no one was answering the phone. That is until I reached Eileen. Not only had she accompanied my mom and me to Aunt Jean’s funeral a few days before, but she stepped in and came to my mother’s rescue in her hour of need. She rushed to the hospital and brought mom some clothes, personal items, a get-well card, and flowers. She talked to the nurses, made sure mom was as comfortable as she could be, and called me often to update me on mom’s progress.

It took a few days for some of Mom’s other friends to show up, but Eileen was there when it mattered most. She did what I would have done. She held mom’s hand. When I was feeling helpless, she was there. Mom wasn’t alone.
And how is my mother? She was in the hospital for a week and then in a rehab facility for three weeks. Now, she’s back home and feeling fine.

Thank you, God, for sending Eileen. I am very grateful.


Jan Elder is a Christian romance writer with a zeal for telling stories other women can relate to. She strives to write the kind of book that will strengthen the reader’s faith while also providing an entertaining and engrossing love story.

Happily married for twelve years to loving (and supportive) husband, Steve, the two live in central Maryland and comb the nearby countryside in search of the perfect ice cream flavor.


Manila Marriage App
It all began as a lark. Shay Callahan’s life was just fine, thank you, but when the seemingly misogynistic missionary, Timothy Flynn, places an advertisement for a wife in a Christian magazine, she decides to give it a whirl and sends in the five-page application. Why not? After all, she’s not currently seeing anyone, and this man truly needs to be taught a lesson.
Finding out she’s Dr. Flynn’s pick of the litter, Shay hops on a plane and flies to The Philippines. The strategy is to jet in, enjoy an exciting two-week vacation, and jet out again, all at his expense. Instead, her plan backfires. The handsome missionary man is not what he seems, and the foreign land has far more to offer than she could imagine.
Embark on a tropical adventure with Shay that challenges everything she believes.Manila

A Long Distance Act of Kindness

Alt. headshotBy Mary Hamilton

The floral delivery driver placed a tissue-wrapped bouquet of roses in my hand and left. I hurried inside to look for a vase. No doubt my husband ordered the roses and I couldn’t wait for my eyes to drink in their beauty. But, where was that smell coming from? It certainly didn’t smell like roses.

A card fell out and I tore open the miniature envelope. “Happy Birthday! With love from your brothers and sisters.” How sweet! As the only sibling who lived across the country from the rest, I miss celebrating birthdays and other life events with my family of origin. Usually, they each sent a card. Now and then, my sisters might send a little gift, but this was the first time they’d all gotten together and sent flowers. Why did I keep getting a whiff of paint? Like…spray paint?

I filled the vase with water, clipped off the ends of the stems and slid them down the neck of the vase before cutting open the plastic wrapper encasing the tissue paper. Oddly, the paint odor grew stronger. I ripped away the tissue paper and burst out laughing. The paint odor was coming from the roses. The black roses, sent to remind me I had reached the half-century mark!

Not only did my brothers and sisters send a bouquet of black roses, they continued sending (nicer!) flowers and bouquets for the next four days. With five different flower arrangements, my house looked a bit like a hospital room! Or a funeral parlor.

Still, despite the many miles that separated us, I felt loved and celebrated knowing they took the time to plan and order the flowers for my 50th birthday. In this age of social media, it’s so easy to simply type in a Happy Birthday, click to send and skip the bother of selecting a real card or gift, writing in it, finding a stamp and dropping it in the mailbox or at the post office. It’s still fun to receive e-wishes from people I don’t ordinarily hear from, but more treasured are the ones that show someone put some effort into them, took the time to do more than just type and click. I try to remember that when I’m on the giving end. The effort I put into the wish gives it meaning, and lets the other person know just how much they are truly loved.


Mary L. Hamilton grew up at a youth camp in southern Wisconsin, much like the setting for her Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series. While raising her own three children, she was active in her church’s youth ministry, including serving as a camp counselor for a week. She decided once was enough.

Mary is a graduate of Long Ridge Writer’s Group and a member of ACFW. Her writing has won recognition in several contests including the Genesis and Selah contests.

When not writing, Mary enjoys knitting, reading and being outdoors watching sunsets. She and her husband make their home in Texas with a rescued Golden Retriever.


Connect with Mary:

Website/blog: http://www.maryhamiltonbooks.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/maryhamiltonbooks

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/mhamiltonbooks

Twitter: http://twitter.com/@MHamiltonAuthor

See No EvilSeeNoEvilFrontDropCrop copy

Steven Miller guards a dark secret.

Dad drilled into Steven that blindness should never be used as an excuse. So when Steven finds an old triathlon medallion among Dad’s belongings, he’s inspired to follow in his footsteps. Maybe it’ll quiet the guilt he’s carried since Dad’s death three years ago.

While Steven continues his triathlon training during his final summer at camp, a serious illness keeps Rustic Knoll’s beloved Nurse Willie from managing her clinic. When Steven teams up with his friend Claire to encourage Willie’s recovery, his feelings for Claire grow beyond friendship.

But his buddy, Dillon, has started down a dangerous path that Steven knows all too well. Can he keep his friend from falling into that sin without exposing his own past?

Book link: http://amzn.to/1yslU36

The Unforgettable Box

Zay Heron--Social Media ImageBy Juan-Jose D. Garza

On Birthdays and Christmases, kids across the world expect gifts, but for me, one moment sprinkled an invaluable lesson of sacrifice and love that has lasted me a lifetime.

Flip back the calendar to 1994, as the adult world celebrated Nelson Mandela’s inauguration, mourned O.J. Simpson’s positive image, and marveled at Tom Hanks’ performance in Forrest Gump, my 7-year-old contemporaries cared for nothing except: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

As my first-grade teacher taught fractions, shapes, and money value, my classmates could not find passion beyond our excitement about the Power Rangers episodes airing after school. Day after day, our comments were limited to our anticipation and how the toys were our desire. Like all kids, I would search toy stores and catalogs with my dad hoping to find something for me to harness and embrace, but to my displeasure, nothing but the simple stickers available at grocery store check-out lines were within my grasp. Always hearing toy store clerks say “we’re out of” or “we don’t carry” them.

One Monday morning, a regular kid became the most popular boy over the weekend. Chris Johnson brought to school his brand new black power ranger and motorcycle toy (which was one of the five heroes) for Show and Tell. Scores of kids surrounded him on the playground. He was the only kid any of us knew who actually had a toy from the aforementioned intellectual property. Some pretended to be his friend to get their chance to play, but I watched him. Did I want that popularity? No. Was I envious of his life? I did not know, but I wanted just a piece of the memorabilia, even if it were those silly stickers (which honestly was the mentality of any kid those days).

How did he get that toy? Was his family that much richer than my own?

Months passed and my seventh birthday arrived, and like every kid except Johnson, I was toyless in regards to my favorite show. No family could acquire one, and a temperament of inadequacy was accepted by this surrounding populace. So expectations and even desires to have these toys left every kid, like many adults today feel in regard to being wealthy, it will not happen to me.

Running around the house, enveloped in my imagination with friends, we conquered the evil monsters that decided to plague the Earth, hoping for planetary domination. As the last bad guy presented himself before us on my special day, we were crooked back into reality when my parents presented my birthday cake and the birthday song. My wish was made, pastry consumed and presents unwrapped. The horror of every kid under ten, clothes and cards were given, and then…it happened.

From the pantry, deep beneath the largest box, I had ever seen sat in the arms of my father, as he wore the widest smile God had ever created. Back then, my dad was a grouchy alcoholic, and even at seven, I did not know how to interpret his  present expression. Like an offering to a king, he placed it before me and stepped backward as if hoping to discover my pleasure.

I was unsure.Screenshot_2015-07-11-14-53-05-1

Splitting the tape that sealed the box together, my pupils expanded as if light exuded from the box. Never had I thought I would see what I saw, but quickly looking up into the old man’s eyes, I knew it was real. As a cynical thought arose, attempting to declare inauthenticity to this gift, as an unnatural challenge to my excitement, confirmation of the moment became apparent when all of my friends’ pupils expanded more than mine.

“You have the Power Rangers!” a friend screamed.

Before me, eleven action figurines stared ahead as the chandelier’s light bounced off the shining toys. Removing the packaged five Power Rangers and the six monsters, I saw the Megazord (a toy robot), the rarest toy of the series, gave me joy. Faster than the others, I unpacked it for assemblage, and never in my life had I felt such a feeling.

And then, I saw a piece of paper at the bottom of the massive box addressed from Chicago, Illinois.

With everyone amazed at my presents, I walked over to my mother and handed her the paper to ask what it was, and then, she offered me the greatest gift my dad had ever given me.

“Your father ordered some of your toys from there,” she said. “With your uncles across the country and in Mexico, they worked together to get all of these. He’s been collecting them for months.”

She told me of all the phone calls made to stores in 12 cities, my seven-year-old heart was floored by his months-long coordination and financial sacrifice for me.

Though I knew he loved me, I felt special beyond any previous moment. From then on, this not only established the standard upon which I measure love, but his life and example has shown me the perfect way to share it.


The Gift of Reading

anita 2By Anita K. Greene

“Your son may never learn to read.”

The statement caused my heart to contract with pain. I had no words—not even to ask questions. My son had almost completed second grade, and he still did not know all the letters of the alphabet. Two summers earlier, between kindergarten and first grade, he had been diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder. Beneath the umbrella of autism, my high-functioning little boy also struggled with dyslexia.

He started school in the early 1990’s. To understand PDD, I depended on doctors, therapists, teachers, and educational specialists for information. I did not have the World Wide Web to help me. What I did have was an awesome God. Prayer and perseverance carried me. And just as in the past, when I reached the end of myself, and all that I could do, the person who could help me entered my life.

Two weeks after hearing that discouraging statement, a mother approached me in the school parking lot. Her daughter, who was in my son’s special needs classroom, also attended a local program that she highly recommended.

I met with the director of the Edison Tutorial. Upon hearing my son’s story, Mrs. B. said, “Let me have him for two weeks.” Even as I prayed she could help my son learn to read, I didn’t dare hope that this program was the answer to my prayers.

Each morning, my son worked with Mrs. B. for two hours. I didn’t ask about his progress. Fear held me back. On Monday of the second week, Mrs. B. asked me to come into the classroom—just for a few minutes. My heart tripped as I sat in the chair she indicated. I braced myself for the ‘I’ve-tried-everything’ speech.

“Just listen, Mrs. Greene.” She opened a picture book and placed it in front of my son. For the first time ever, he read to me. Not just one word. Not just one sentence. He read the entire book. I couldn’t see past the tears of joy. How grateful I was for Mrs. B. and her method of teaching. She gave my son the gift of reading. My son has grown to be an amazing, big-hearted young man who loves the Lord. I still marvel how God continues to lead him and work in his life.

(This post has been read and approved by my son.)Anita Greene

An avid reader, Anita K. Greene spent her teen years filling notebooks with ‘fan fiction’ before there was such a term. As an adult, she took an ongoing short story workshop to see if her dream of being a writer was even a remote possibility. After writing dozens of short stories, she took the plunge and wrote her first novel. She is now living her dream in Rhode Island with her husband, her son, and a spoiled Belgian Malinois. Connect with Anita on Facebook:  Anita K Greene Author  Her website can be found at http://anitakgreene.wordpress.com

A Trio of Romance

Love romance? Then you won’t want to miss this trio of romance novellas in The Heart Seekers series.

Unlikely Merger

cover of unlikely mergerNo longer needed as her father’s nurse, Mercy Lacewell attempts to step into his shoes at his acquisitions firm. That means travel, engaging strangers, and making final decisions—nothing she feels equipped to do. If her best friend has her way, Mercy will simply marry one of the single, available men she meets, but they overwhelm her. So handsome and kind. And so many. Even if she felt obliged, how could she ever choose?

Should she shove all attraction aside and focus on her father’s business, or is God warming her heart with the possibility of forever?




The Love Boat Bachelor

Romance is a joke. love boat bachelor image

After the love of Brent Teague’s life came back into his world only to marry someone else, Brent is through with women. He might be through with being a pastor, too.

Brent was so sure that God brought Mara Adkins home to him so they could marry and live happily ever after. Six months after her wedding to another man, that theory is obviously a dud. If Brent could be so wrong about that, who’s to say he’s not mistaken about God calling him to pastoral ministry?

Tired of watching Brent flounder for direction, Brent’s feisty older sister boots him out of Spartanburg and onto a cruise ship. Brent’s old college buddy manages the ship’s staff, and he’s thrilled to finagle Brent into the role of chaplain for the two-week cruise.

As the ship sets sail, Brent starts to relax. Maybe a cruise wasn’t such a bad idea after all. But there’s just one little thing no one told him. He’s not on any ordinary cruise. He’s on The Love Boat.

What’s a sworn bachelor to do on a Caribbean cruise full of romance and love? He’ll either have to jump ship or embrace the unforgettable romantic comedy headed his way.


A Dozen Apologies

dozen apologiesMara Adkins, a promising fashion designer, has fallen off the ladder of success, and she can’t seem to get up.

In college, Mara and her sorority sisters played an ugly game, and Mara was usually the winner. She’d date men she considered geeks, win their confidence, and then she’d dump them publicly. When Mara begins work for a prestigious clothing designer in New York, she gets her comeuppance. Her boyfriend steals her designs and wins a coveted position. He fires her, and she returns in shame to her home in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where life for others has changed for the better.

Mara’s parents, always seemingly one step from a divorce, have rediscovered their love for each other, but more importantly they have placed Christ in the center of that love. The changes Mara sees in their lives cause her to seek Christ. Mara’s heart is pierced by her actions toward the twelve men she’d wronged in college, and she sets out to apologize to each of them. A girl with that many amends to make, though, needs money for travel, and Mara finds more ways to lose a job than she ever thought possible.

Mara stumbles, bumbles, and humbles her way toward employment and toward possible reconciliation with the twelve men she humiliated to find that God truly does look upon the heart, and that He has chosen the heart of one of the men for her to have and to hold.

3 books


Unlikely Merger’s SAM List

Betty Thomason Owens

Caribbean Beach2It all started on a Love Boat Cruise to the Caribbean. You might wonder how Mercy Lacewell ended up on a cruise like that with her semi-invalid father…

Well, that’s the kind of thing that happens occasionally, even in real life. It seems like the wrong place, at the wrong time, when it could just be wrong place at the right time. Or right place, wrong time. Anyway, Mercy went on a cruise with her dad. She met a young minister named Brent Teague and something happened to her heart. The almost-romance softened her heart a little and prepared her for what was coming next.

What was coming next–

Back home, Daddy and his assistant, Madeline, decide Mercy needs more life experience. They send her out as acquisitions analyst for Lacewell Limited. Her job: to assess the companies and businesses they find, and decide if the businesses are a good…

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