Flowers and a Birthday Cake

It was July of 1985 and I was an exchange student in France that month.  I would turn 16 while I was there. I stayed with the Martinellos in a small village called Gap.  Doesn’t sound French, does it? But that truly was its name. It’s near Lyon, in the southeastern part of the country. Map of France--for blog post

The Martinellos owned a flower shop in town and they were there all day, every day.  Their mornings started about 7:00am and they didn’t return home till after 6:00pm.  Natasha (their daughter) and I had a good time wandering the streets, shopping and talking to other shop owners.  She knew many of them since her parents owned the flower shop. Many times I wandered around alone enjoying the sights and sounds, noting how it all compared to what I experienced at home.

We traveled to many different villages each week, setting up a booth to sell the flowers in the street. It was completely different from everything I’d ever seen, having grown up in the desert.

I did grow homesick after a few weeks there.  I missed my family and friends.  There were a couple times that I’d think about them, wishing I were back there. Especially as my birthday drew near.

On my birthday, I discovered Mom had snuck a present in my suitcase.  I opened it and smiled. It was costume jewelry—a colorful bracelet and necklace. I was still sad, though.

That evening, after the shop had closed, Mrs. Martinello served diBirthday Cake with Candlesnner and then came out with a surprise.  She’d bought me a birthday cake!! “Bon anniversaire Ellen”, they cried. Really? They remembered?  I smiled from ear to ear.

I was their guest for another week or so before returning home.  It was my first time overseas and I enjoyed it a lot.  Spending time with a family and being involved in their daily lives was eye-opening and holds fond memories for me. Celebrating my birthday was one of them.

Family and Friends Provided Help

Several of my neighbors and I had planned to go out for lunch to celebrate a friend’s birthday,  but I needed to take care of my dog first. I saw Mary Carol headed toward her car and I asked if she was joining us. She said yes and offered me a ride. I agreed, but said I had to take Petey out first. I walked him down the street and onto the island.

Something must have caught Petey’s attention, because he suddenly jumped off the island, taking me by surprise. Because I had his leash in one hand, I couldn’t break my fall. I hit the pavement, face first. Blood streamed from my nose, forehead, and upper lip. I cried out but no one heard me. Meanwhile, I was holding onto Petey to keep him from running into the street. I struggled to get up, then gingerly made my way back to the house, holding Petey’s leash in one hand while I used the other to try to minimize the blood flowing down my face. I stopped near Mary Carol’s house where she sat in her car. She gasped, then helped me walk home, clean up, and get some pain medicine. She called my mom when I agreed that I needed to see the doctor.

Mom drove me to the urgent care urgent-care-sign-600x295[1]and my next door neighbor, Mark, who’s an x-ray tech there, checked me in. As he was finishing up my paperwork, Mark called the nurse and told her not to take their next patient back yet. He took me to a private room, away from everyone else.

He came back twice, asking if I needed anything and suggested I try a retractable leash for Petey. A little later, he came to tell me he was headed home.

Mary Carol didn’t have to take me home and help me. Mom didn’t have to interrupt her day and take me to the urgent care. And Mark certainly didn’t have to go out of his way at work to put me in a room where I could wait by myself. But they did. It made an upsetting and scary situation a little less so. Sometimes the little things mean a lot. They did to me that day.

A Small Act of Birthday Kindness

By Mary L. Hamilton Alt. headshot

Most of my adult life, I’ve lived a thousand miles away from my family of origin. I’ve missed family Christmases and Thanksgivings, not to mention birthdays, graduations and even a wedding or two. But physical distance doesn’t always equate to emotional distance. I count my brothers and sisters as my closest friends. I know I can count on them, whether I need a good belly laugh or a gut-wrenching cry.

A few years ago (I won’t tell you how many), I answered the door to find a floral delivery just for me. I accepted it with great excitement, though I wondered about the faint odor of paint as I carried them into the kitchen. It didn’t take long to figure out the source of the smell. I unwrapped the flowers—a dozen long-stemmed black roses in honor of my 50th birthday. The attached card held a greeting from my brothers and sisters.

rosesThe next day, another floral delivery arrived—a pretty little arrangement in a vase, along with another card from my siblings. Every day for five days, I received a gift of flowers. Five days of flowers with five birthday greetings from my five siblings, celebrating my five decades of life.

The flowers are long gone, but the memory is still fresh of the way my brothers and sisters made me feel loved and special even from a thousand miles away.

Along with her five siblings, Mary L. Hamilton grew up at a camp in Wisconsin much like the setting for her Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series (ages 10 and up). Though her feet have been in Texas for most of the last forty years, a part of her heart still remains in the Midwest.

When not writing, Mary enjoys knitting, reading and being outdoors. She and her husband have three grown children and a rescued Golden Retriever.

SNEmodifiedcoverSpeak No Evil, Book 2 in the Rustic Knoll Bible Camp Series

Taylor Dixon knew having his younger sister at camp would be a pain, but he never expected the pain to go so deep.

At 15, Taylor dreams of getting his driver’s license and driving race cars when he’s older. But Dad won’t let him get his license unless he stays out of trouble, convinced Taylor’s heading for the same jail cell as his once-favored older brother. Only his younger sister, Marissa, believes in his dreams, but her adventurous spirit keeps landing him in trouble.

At Rustic Knoll Bible Camp, Taylor expects the usual softball, swimming and sermons. Then he discovers a classic Mustang in the camp’s machine shed, and the owner’s invitation to help restore it fuels his dream of driving race cars. But when Marissa falls for his snobbish cabin mate, the ensuing war of words and pranks escalates until it threatens to destroy both the car and Taylor’s dreams for the future.

Will he end up fulfilling Dad’s prediction?

Or will the message of the old Mustang’s engine set him free from the prison he’s built himself? 


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Small Acts of Kindness-I Never Suspected a Thing

EllenBy Ellen Andersen

It was 1999. I remember because I turned 30 that year. I lived in Glendora, California and my parents had moved to South Carolina. Being single, I lived alone in my own place about 20 miles from Pasadena (where the Rose Parade is every New Years). My family were scattered all over the state, except for Mom and Dad. My brother and sister-in-law were the closest family I had, about 60 miles away. We rarely saw each other.

One day in early July, Jim called and asked what I had planned for my birthday in a few weeks. When I told him I had no plans, he asked if I’d like to come up that weekend and we’d celebrate it then, together. I was delighted he’d offered and immediately took him up on it. It’d be Jim and Shawnna, their kids Brittany and Josh, and me.

I looked forward to it and told all my friends from the Sunday School class how excited I was and that it meant a lot that Jim would think to do that. They were excited for me.

Over the next couple weeks, Jim called to make sure things were still on for the date. I told him how eager I was to see them again.

It was a crisp, clear day as I drove up the freeway to Jim’s and I marveled at the mountains and desert before me. As I drove, I thought of how much it meant to see them again. I looked forward to the afternoon and evening ahead of me.birthday cake

When I got to their home, Jim welcomed me in and said, “Let’s go out on the back porch and enjoy the outside.” I followed him and when I stepped outside a group of about 20 people greeted me yelling, “Surprise!!” I stepped back, wide-eyed, and blown away to see all my family there! My grandma, my aunts and uncles from central California, and my parents who’d come all the way from South Carolina. Good heavens. I shook my head in disbelief.

Then, as if that weren’t enough shock, I saw several friends from my Sunday School there. Talk about of context! They didn’t know my family. How in the world did Jim get hold of them?

Then I found out I was dressed wrong. It was a luau. “Didn’t you get the note?” Mom teased.  Jim failed to mention that one, of course when he invited me for the day. But Mom had bought a full-length red Hawaiian dress for me so I’d fit in. Too funny.

I later learned that Jim and Shawnna had been orchestrating the whole thing for about a month, getting hold of family and friends, having them park on another block so I wouldn’t suspect anything when I drove up. As for my friends from church? Jim had asked Mom if she had any contact information for them. She had one person’s e-mail address so she passed it along. Jim emailed my friend and told her of the surprise. She, in turn, e-mailed the Sunday School class so people would come join in the fun. Shawnna had the whole house and backyard decked out with Hawaiian décor and lots of food and drinks for everyone to enjoy too.

To think that my brother and sister-in-law would go to all that trouble for me was huge. I realized that even though we aren’t close and rarely see each other, they love me. What a wonderful time and a special memory.

Ellen Andersen lives in Mauldin, South Carolina with her adorable dog, Petey. Active in her church, Ellen is a Stephen Minister, serves on the First Impression Team, and hosts a weekly Bible study. She enjoys gardening, theater, and spending time with friends and family.

Kind Hearts, Blessed Souls and Beautiful Roses

Autumn 2014By Alexis A. Goring

May 23 is my birthday and this year, I decided to celebrate it with my dear friends from church. So I planned a dinner at one of my favorite restaurants and showed up early because I was excited to attend my own birthday celebration and spend time with my friends.

There were three wonderful surprises that touched my heart during this celebration. The first surprise happened on the evening before my birthday when my Mom surprised me with beautiful and unique roses that were each a rainbow of brilliant, soft and vibrant colors.

My MOM's unique and beautiful rose giftThe second surprise happened on the evening of May 23 when my friends showed up to the restaurant with a beautiful bouquet of roses mixed in colors of red, white, yellow and pink as a “Happy birthday” gift for me.

I was not expecting “happy birthday” flowers from anyone so this made my day and reminded me that I am loved by family and friends.favorite roses

Another sweet surprise on the night of my birthday dinner celebration was when one of my friends who was really busy that night still found time to show up to my birthday dinner and celebrate with me and our friends.

The blessing toward the end of the evening was when one of my friends paid my bill. I was fully prepared to pay my bill and after dinner asked our waitress for separate checks. She returned with four bills. I accepted mine but before I could read the bill, one of my friends gently and quickly swiped it away from me with a smile on her face. She then reached into her purse, retrieved her credit card and paid both of our bills!

My friends were kind enough to help me carry the gifts and flowers and my take-home dessert to my car before we parted ways.

The acts of kindness from my friends on that night truly made my birthday special. The beautiful multicolored roses from my Mom made my birthday unique and wonderful. Ultimately, these small yet oh so significant acts of kindness blessed my heart, I think it was God’s way of working through loved ones to remind me of my true value and for that, I am forever grateful.

Alexis A. Goring is a writer at heart and a journalist by profession. She loves the art of storytelling and is especially delighted to have released her first book, an inspirational romance novella called Hope in My Heart: A Collection of Heartwarming Stories, in Sept. 2013. When Alexis is not working on her next book or chasing down the next big story for the newspaper where she works as a freelance reporter, she can be found listening to songs by her most admired musicians, enjoying the food in cafes/restaurants, shopping at her favorite malls and spending quality time with loved ones (family and friends).


Media imageHope in My Heart is a collection of short, heartwarming stories with characters in need of hope.

In “Love Unexpected,” a car crash brings commitment-wary Sebastian and career woman Chandra together. Neither is looking for romance, but those around them see the potential, and Sebastian and Chandra discover that sometimes love shows up unexpectedly.

Christmastime is the setting for the middle story, “The Best Gift.” Christina desires to lose ten pounds so she can fit into her dress for her sister’s wedding. Jordan wishes her mom would stop trying to marry her off. And Joshua hopes to be reunited with his ex-girlfriend but eventually learns that the best gift this Christmas will be the restoration of his relationship with God.

In “Peace and Love,” three characters living in a metropolitan area are desperately searching. Elle, a starving artist, aspires to become a paid professional. Eric, a divorce attorney, wants to resolve his issues concerning his parents’ divorce. Kristine anticipates finding her birth mom before she marries Derek. All characters pray their searches will conclude this holiday season and fill their hearts with peace and love.

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