Christmas Angels

Red Sparkles 4By Delia Latham

Today’s world is different than ever before. Sometimes, it’s all too easy to look around at the high rate of rape and murder, drive-by shootings, school massacres, child and spousal abuse—all the ugliness of mankind—and think there’s no more good left on Earth.

But every now and then, like a welcome ray of light in a pit of darkness, God’s love shines through one or another of His children, and we are reminded that He is still God. He is still in control. And He still has a people who love Him, love His ways and love each other.

I’ve been witness to those special beams of heavenly light shed through an earthly brother or sister more than once in my life, and I consider myself blessed and highly favored of God to have been so blessed.

One such occurrence happened when my children were small. I had four of them, and I believe at the time they were about two, four, six and eight. Yes, my hands were full. And yes, our pockets were empty.

As Christmas loomed ever closer, my heart ached almost unbearably. Hubby had broken his ankle and was off work with very little pay. We’d already faced the fact that Christmas at our house would be slim to non-existent, and we had sat the kids all down and explained the situation. Did they understand? Probably not, but they bore the news with a minimum of frowns and funky faces.

My heart broke a little more every time I heard a Christmas carol that year…or saw a mall Santa with a child on his knee…or caught a glimpse of one of my little ones staring at a Christmas display in someone else’s home, knowing ours wasn’t likely to boast even a tree, much less anything to go under it. We were having a hard enough time just keeping food on the table and shoes on little feet.Dale & Elaine 2

One day, just a week or so before Christmas, someone knocked on my door in the
middle of the day. I opened it to find my brother Dale and his wife, Elaine, standing outside, their arms loaded with grocery bags.

In her usual no-nonsense manner, my sister-in-law shoved past me and started unloading that bounty onto the kitchen table. “No tears!” she ordered and headed outside for the next load of groceries.

Her brusque command was wasted breath, of course. I cried the entire time I put away the food they’d brought—and there was a lot of it, including a turkey and the “fixin’s” to prepare a proper Christmas dinner for my family.

With everything put away, Elaine ushered all four of my children into another room to spruce them up. They’d been playing outside all day, and needless to say, they sported plenty of tousled hair and dirty faces.

“What are you doing?” I asked from the doorway.

“We’re taking them with us to town. You stay here and relax. Take a break. We’ll be back before long.”

And they were—this time loaded with candy, gifts, wrapping paper…and a tree.

Elaine shooed the kids outside. My brother, never one to be loud or showy, settled in to watch television while Elaine and I wrapped gifts.

They weren’t elaborate or expensive gifts, but they were plentiful. Puzzles, coloring books, little dolls and action figures, games, even a piece of clothing for each child. Dale and Elaine didn’t forget the children’s need to give, either—each child had been allowed to pick out a small present for Mom and Dad.

It was by far the most memorable Christmas ever, for me—based on nothing more than the kindness of a man and woman who cared about others. I’ve watched that same couple do pretty much the same thing at Christmas time for other families throughout the years, and I’ve seen God bless their generosity. But most of all, I love thinking about that special Christmas because it always reminds me that kindness, brotherly love, and giving hearts remain very much a part of humanity—and a part of my family. I am blessed indeed!

Our family will never forget the year we were visited by our very own Christmas angels.

Delia Latham is a born-and-bred California gal, living now in East Texas with her husband Johnny. She’s a Christian wife, mother, grandmother, sister, and friend—but above all, she treasures her role as princess daughter to the King of Kings.

Find out more about this author on her website, Facebook Author Page, Amazon Author Page, or Twitter.  She loves hearing from her readers, so drop in and make her day.

At First Sight Dedication: In memory of my late uncle, Dearl Wayne Dawson, my own “Parson,” whose entire life was a picture of true discipleship, unwavering dedication, godly living…and a beautiful, sweet, humble spirit that portrayed God’s love with every breath he drew. If I know any one thing in this life with absolute certainty, it is that Pastor Dearl Dawson fought the fight and kept the faith.

Can’t wait to see you again, Parson…you always were and always will be a hero to me!

AtFirstSight_mjpgAt First Sight

Reagan Massey has gone through a great deal of trouble to make her cousin irresistible to the visiting single minister but things get a little sticky when Reagan falls in love with Cord Phillips herself.

Cord doesn’t believe in marital bliss after seeing the mockery his parents made of their vows. He’s promised himself he’ll live as the Apostle Paul lived, dedicating himself solely to God. When his heart turns traitor, Cord has to completely rethink his position on love.

Things around Riverbend House of Worship take on some humorous, heart-touching, soul-stirring twists and turns, with Reagan and Cord so busy getting in God’s way that they can’t see the path He has laid out for them to travel—together.

The Tough Questions

Dora Hiers-author imageBy Dora Hiers

We never thought we’d be empty nesters when our youngest son was just sixteen. He’d always been independent and mature, but sixteen?

Born and raised in Florida, he’d been surrounded by a tight network of friends that he’d known his whole life. He’d have been content to stay there until he graduated from the University of Florida, where all his friends planned to attend.

Hubby and I had other plans. Longing to escape the extreme humidity and high temps, we prayed for jobs in cooler climates. God told us no…for twenty years.

I guess our son never expected God would finally say yes. But He did.

Uprooting our son mid-year in tenth grade wasn’t ideal, and the NC county we were moving to didn’t offer the International Baccalaureate program. He would have lost credits by transferring, so we arranged for him to stay and finish the school year with relatives.

He spent the following summer in North Carolina with us, but he was miserable. So he moved back to Florida. Without telling us. This mother’s heart shattered into a million pieces. But that wasn’t the worst of it. We learned that we could drag him back, but nothing could prevent him from leaving again.

“You’re a terrible mother.” The enemy’s lies slithered in. Just like Eve, I pointed the finger of blame at my husband, but he spent long hours working. I blamed God. Why wait until our son was so ensconced in high school, when friendships were so important to him, to move us? I stopped writing, eating, sleeping.

God heard my cry and answered with a sweet husband who recognized we needed diploma-303427__180help and a Christian counselor who asked some tough questions. Why not let him stay? Give up our son? How could I possibly do that? What would it do to your relationship if you forced him to come back? I couldn’t fathom the answer to that one. After a few sessions and much prayer, God’s gentle whispers finally seeped into my broken spirit.

If it weren’t for my husband and this Christian counselor, who asked the tough questions and helped us see that our relationship was worth the distance and the cost, our family might have disintegrated.

Hubby and I adjusted to the empty bedroom, the vacant chair at dinner, and the steady stream of cash to Florida. We counted the days until the occasional long weekend visits and holiday breaks. For his senior year, we rented an apartment, and I split my time between both places.

It was all worth it. Especially that moment when he walked across the stage of the Kenan Stadium at the University of North Carolina to accept his diploma. Yes, you read that right. He graduated from the University of North Carolina! God definitely has a sense of humor, doesn’t He?

What about you?

What tough questions have you faced during a particularly difficult time?

BurksSurrender_w11734_680Burk’s Surrender

Deputy City Manager Burk Harmon has always been the strong one for his family, but recently those responsibilities have dwindled. When Lacie Heatherton, Assistant Director for Parks and Recreation, ropes him into a city-sponsored trip to the mountains with fifty seniors, Burk has two things on his mind: considering a possible promotion and wooing Lacie past friendship and into a future. Lacie has emotional scars and a thirteen-year-old daughter to remind her that men can be cruel and unforgiving. Can Burk convince Lacie to relax her “no dating” policy or will he surrender his dreams of family and love?

Buy Links: Pelican Book Group Amazon

After a successful auditing career, Dora Hiers left the corporate world to be a stay-at-home mom to her two sons. When her youngest son no longer wanted her hanging out at school with him anymore, Dora started writing Heart Racing, God-Gracing romance. She is a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA) and her local chapter, Carolina Romance Writers.

Dora and her real life hero make their home in North Carolina. When she takes a break from cranking out stories, she enjoys reading, family gatherings, and mountain cabin getaways. She despises traffic, bad coffee, technological meltdowns, and a sad ending to a book. Her books always end with a happily-ever-after!

Connect with her on Fiction Faith & Foodies, Seriously Write, Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest.

Jennifer Slattery – Intertwined

Betty Thomason Owens

headshot2013-1 Jennifer Slattery

I met Jennifer Slattery at the Atlanta Christian Writer’s Conference. When I heard her tell the story behind her upcoming release, Intertwined, I knew I had to help her publicize the release. Here’s the gist of the story:

Abandoned by her husband for another woman, Tammy Kuhn, an organ procurement coordinator often finds herself in tense and bitter moments. After an altercation with a doctor, she is fighting to keep her job and her sanity when one late night she encounters her old flame Nick. She walks right into his moment of facing an unthinkable tragedy. Because they both have learned to find eternal purposes in every event and encounter, it doesn’t take long to discover that their lives are intertwined but the ICU is no place for romance….or is it? Could this be where life begins again?

Betty: My dad received a donated kidney, so your…

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Sometimes Angels Wear Aprons

By Betty Thomason Owens ACFWPhoto

I was a young mother with three sons, ages five, three, and eleven months. We lived in a small community near Ft. Knox, Kentucky. This was our experiment in country living. The lots were large, around two acres, so the houses were not close. My nearest neighbors worked all day, so were never home during the week.

One spring afternoon, I left my two oldest boys playing on the swings, while I went to the house to get something. I took the baby with me. At eleven months, he wasn’t quite walking, but he could get around very well, and tended to get into trouble quicker than you could blink an eye. Inside the house, I clicked the lock on the storm door, set the baby down near his toys, then trotted to the bathroom to get what I needed. I was only there a couple of minutes when I heard the baby crying. I headed back to the kitchen (mere steps away) and realized the crying was outside.

How had he been able to unlock that door? It wasn’t easy–I could barely unlock it. I knew before I looked, he’d fallen off the porch. Our back porch was high, nearly three-and-a-half feet. And the rails weren’t close enough to deter a wiggly eleven-month-old. He’d tumbled through and landed face first.

I found him standing up, screaming, with bright, red blood streaming from his nose. I grabbed him and held him against me as panic set in. I was alone, out in the sticks–no car–and an injured toddler. No nearby emergency rooms, and we didn’t even have a doctor out there, since we’d so recently moved.

These were pre-everybody-has-a-cellphone days. So I picked up the land-line and dialed the pastor of the tiny Baptist Church nearby. We hadn’t been attending long, but they had welcomed us. I spoke through my tears as I explained what had happened. A few minutes later, he knocked on the door. “I’ve called Ella,” he said. Ella was one of the deacon’s wives and my other boys’ Sunday School teacher. She’d dropped everything and headed over to take me to her doctor, just a few minutes down the road.

The pastor put the other two boys in his car, headed back to his house until we returned.

When the middle-aged woman pulled in the drive, I ran out the door, purse in hand, holding baby in my arms. He was still crying, but softer.toy

Ella took one look at me, covered in blood, and floored it. We got to the doctor’s office in a matter of minutes. Since it was an emergency, they took us right in. The doctor cleaned my son’s injuries and examined the inside of his nose. Because of the large amount of blood, the doctor believed there was probably some internal injury. “Emergency Room,” is all I heard.

We arrived home just as my husband was returning from work.

Ella helped us get everything we needed for the trip into town to the emergency room. “I’ll pick up the other boys,” she told us, “and take them home with me for the night. We’ll have a great time.” They loved her, so I knew I needn’t worry.

This woman had stopped in the middle of whatever she was doing to see that our needs were met. She fed and cared for our sons while we were at the emergency room. Our little boy had surgery to repair a couple of tears inside his nasal cavity. If we hadn’t taken him in, he could have hemorrhaged in his sleep. After several hours, we were able to take him home.

It was a great relief that we didn’t have to worry about anything when we arrived home. Our baby slept for hours and the other two were safe at Ella’s. She arrived late the next morning with our sons and a basket of food so I wouldn’t have to worry about cooking that day.

I nearly broke down and cried when I thought about what she had done for us. What a beautiful servant of God.

Betty Thomason Owens writes romantic comedy, historical fiction, and fantasy-adventure. She has contributed hundreds of articles and interviews to various blogs around the Internet and is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), where she leads a critique group. She’s also a mentor, assisting other writers. She is a co-founder of a blog dedicated to inspiring writers, and a contributing editor for the online magazine, Imaginate.

Annabelle’s Ruth, a 1950’s historical novel based on the Book of Ruth, is the first book in the Kinsman Redeemer Series (Write Integrity Press). Her 20’s era romance, Amelia’s Legacy, Book 1, Legacy Series, released October, 2014 (Write Integrity Press). She also writes contemporary stories as a co-author of A Dozen Apologies and its sequels, The Love Boat Bachelor and Unlikely Merger. She has two fantasy-adventure novels, The Lady of the Haven and A Gathering of Eagles, in a second edition published by Sign of the Whale BooksTM, an imprint of Olivia Kimbrell PressTM.

Betty still lives in Kentucky, though in a more urban setting, with her husband Bob, close to her grown-up sons, their wives, and seven precious grandchildren.

annabelles ruthAnnabelle’s Ruth (buy at Amazon)

“If you think you can come back here and throw yourself on my mercy, you are quite wrong.” –Jensen Wade, Annabelle’s Ruth.

After their husbands perish in a fishing boat accident, Connie Cross determines to follow her mother-in-law, Annabelle, from Southern California to Tennessee. Her misgivings begin as they cross the bridge over the muddy Mississippi River. In their new town, where living conditions are far below their previous expectations, they must set up a household and hunt for work to survive. Thanks to the kindness of Annabelle’s handsome, young cousin, life begins to settle down. But Connie has a secret that could change everything once again.

Inspired by the Book of Ruth, Annabelle’s Ruth is a 1950’s era “Ruth” story, set in western Tennessee. How will Connie adapt to her new life amid the cotton farms, racial tension, and culture shock?

This is What a Banking Firm, Decimated on Sept. 11, Did for the Children of Employees That Died

May we never forget September 11th, 2001…

Kindness Blog

On Sept. 11, 2001, 83 employees of the investment banking firm Sandler O’Neill & Partners were in the company’s office on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center’s south tower.

9-11

Sixty-six of those people were murdered by terrorists who smashed a hijacked jet into the tower and caused its collapse. Those 66 men and women, among them, had 76 children.

In the harrowing days after Sept. 11, the leaders at Sandler O’Neill made several crucial decisions. Some of those decisions had to do with resurrecting the firm; others had to do with benefits for the families of murdered employees. One decision particularly fascinates me: The firm helped set up a foundation to pay college tuition for all the children of their murdered employees.

I called the Sandler O’Neill Foundation the other day to talk about those children, and here are some things you should know:

  • 54 young men and…

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A God Moment

IMG_4924asepia600By Cherie Burbach

About 15 or 20 years ago, I went through some bad stuff. When I came out of it, I thought that I had shame written across my face, that everyone who saw me could see what a loser I was. I felt worthless.

I took a hit emotionally and decided to make some changes. The first step was getting a new job. My old job was so toxic it was part of the things that were bringing me down. I worked long hours for people who treated me poorly (the story of my life back then) and needed to sever ties and focus on getting something new.

I landed a job interview just as I was making my way out of my emotional rubble. I felt raw and exposed, and while I was a great worker and had solid experience I was in a fragile place and didn’t think I could convey the confidence I needed to get the new gig. I remember the receptionist asking me to take a seat and then staring at me. And staring at me. I thought she knows I’m a loser and started to feel worse when suddenly she said, “I just have to tell you something. You have such a kind face. I’ve been sitting here thinking that and just wanted to tell you.”

I was blown away. A God moment, for sure. I have no doubt He gave her a little nudge to get her to express her thought, but I was so grateful. I relaxed. I went in and aced the interview, got the job, and worked for a wonderful boss. She was so wonderful, and a year later would be helpful and supportive when my dad died. My God, what a blessing it was to have her in my life. She was also a hoot and a half.

But it all started with that smile that lovely receptionist gave me, and those beautiful kind words that lifted the shame right off my shoulders. Only God can brush away shame like that, and I really believe that He uses people like you and me to do just that. And if you’re ever wondering what you can do to help someone, please know it is often the smallest of things, the simple, kind things that you might not even think twice about, that God uses to bolster our spirits.

Cherie Burbach is a poet, mixed media artist, and freelance writer specializing in lifestyle and relationships. She’s written for About.com, NBC/Universal, Match.com, Christianity Today, and more. Her latest book is: 100 Simple Ways to Have More Friends. Visit her website for more info, cherieburbach.com.

100 Simple Ways to Have More Friends51xZ3DOlc5L._SX331_BO1204203200_

The more friends you have, the more you’ll have the right people in your life to give you the support and connection you desire. Having more friends means you’ll consistently connect with new people and also keep the good friends you already have. If your friendships don’t seem to stick, you’ll be making friends and losing them quickly.

The key to having more friends is increasing the number of people you meet on a regular basis and holding on to the great pals you already have. This book contains one hundred suggestions on how to make new friends and also strengthen the friendships you already have. The tips are varied, with suggestions on how to meet new people interspersed with ideas for nurturing your new and existing friendships.