The war on Christmas giveaway!

I’m very excited to be part of the #waronchristmas book blog tour. The War on Christmas by Bodie Hodge is an excellent resource book for every  Christian Sunday School teacher, pastor, and parent.

The two chapters I’m assigned to review are Chapter 6: “Timeline of Events Surrounding Christ’s Birth” and Chapter 7: “Making the Christmas Sermon Relevant for Today’s Culture.”

These were great chapters for me to have since I’m a historian and a pastor (and a pastor’s wife). I slurped them up with great enthusiasm and will be keeping this book among my collection of Christmas books. I know I’ll be reaching for it often as I teach all ages about this wonderful story of Christ.

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In Chapter 6, we travel back through time to immediately after Jesus’ birth. We stop at circa 4 B.C., eight days, 41 days after the birth,  and the time during Christ’s first year of life on earth to early 3 B.C. There is a brief discussion of the magi and Christ’s family returning to Bethlehem from Egypt after King Herod’s death. These little tidbits of trivia are great for including in your next advent presentation.

In Chapter 7, the writer encourages pastors and teachers to share the message of Christ via the story of Genesis, the fallen state of man, and the issues of sin and death. Today’s culture touts a faulty view of God. If those listening will hear that God is the maker of all things good (he did not declare sin to be good or part of his creation), it would help them develop an accurate picture of God and one very different from the world’s secular view of Him.

The foundation of the birth of Christ is found in Genesis. From Genesis 3:15 God had a plan to reconcile us to Him. In Genesis 26:4, Christ is a descendant of Jacob. It is in Genesis that the Christmas season begins.

The author of this book believes that people don’t listen to the Good News because they don’t understand the bad news. If people know why they need Jesus, they will understand their need for Him.

What do you  think of his point of view? Leave a comment below and I’ll enter your name in a drawing to win your very own copy of The War on Christmas: Battles in Faith, Tradition, and Religious Expression plus a free t-shirt! Giveaway ends December 10.

T is for Truce in the Trenches

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Imagine being in a war zone trench, just feet away from the enemy’s on Christmas Eve.

Such a thing occurred on December 24, 1914 when carols were sung between the British and German soldiers.

Perhaps it sounded something like this:

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
Wie treu[N 1] sind deine Blätter!
Du grünst nicht nur zur Sommerzeit,
Nein, auch im Winter, wenn es schneit.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
Wie treu sind deine Blätter!

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us!
They are green when summer days are bright,
They are green when winter snow is white.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us!

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At sunrise on Christmas Day, unarmed German soldiers approached the British calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first, the British and allied soldiers feared being tricked, but eventually climbed out of their trenches and exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs.

This short cease fire also allowed both sides to retrieve the bodies of fellow combatants.

Sadly, this was the last example of chivalry between enemies. The gesture was never repeated again.

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British and German troops meeting in no man’s land during the unofficial truce (British troops from the Northumberland Hussars, 7th Division, Bridoux-Rouge Banc Sector)

Is there someone you need to call a truce with? As Christians, we are to love our enemies. All year ’round. Not just at Christmas. But if you’re human, there are probably a few prickly people in your life you may need to extend some grace to. Why not make it a goal to call a truce with these people at Christmas?

Who knows? You just might make history with your gesture of love.


A to Z blog hop at Patterings.



Christmas widgets!

I love widgets. Yes, I know, they are kind of tacky sometimes. But isn’t it fun to be a little tacky and little lampoon-Christmas-lights-crazy at this time of year?

Here are some fun Christmas goodies for your online celebrations. The hard part is picking only one!

Enjoy!

Christmas countdown widget (if someone knows how to help me make this smaller, please let us know in the comments below. I did put smaller dimensions in the code but it’s not transferring, thanks!):

How about your blog’s own Christmas tree?

Another countdown theme:

Here, have a yule log:ku-xlarge

Or another Christmas widget:

If you love pets and especially cats, you will want to check out this adorable site where a kitty teaches you how to set up and maintain your Christmas tree (Lilybits will love this one!):

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Another adorable countdown:

Days until Christmas:

What’s your definition of real romance?

31 years ago today I married my man!

At a little baptist church (that isn’t so little anymore) in Haysville, Kansas.

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(When we got married there was only the little building on the right and no passageway leading to a big building.)

(But that’s irrelevant.)

What’s relevant is that I’M STILL MARRIED TO THE SAME GUY!

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Besides being a parent, marriage is the hardest work I’ve ever done. And that’s not because of who I’m married to. It’s because of ME. Marriage has a way of stretching you. It really is a miracle this guy stayed with me all these years!

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We’ve been through so much together. So. Much.

How do we keep our marriage alive?

With real romance.

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Real romance is cleaning up the other one’s vomit during a stomach flu epidemic. (Sorry for that shocking visual, but it’s true.)

Real romance is doing dishes together–in the middle of the night–after the baby’s finally asleep.

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Real romance is eating eggs for supper on Monday night. And Tuesday. And Wednesday. And Thursday. And Friday. And Saturday. And Sunday–in order to pay the electric bill.

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Real romance is listening to the other one talk when you’d rather watch TV or read a book.

Real romance is wrapping presents and stuffing stockings together at 4:00 AM on Christmas Eve.

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Real romance is letting the other pick out the color of the new car.

Real romance is picking up their socks–and not complaining.

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Real romance overlooks those extra pounds every ten years packs on.

Real romance is giving each other the space they need to pursue their own interests.

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Real romance is loving each and every gift you get from the other one when it’s nothing at all you like.

Real romance is forgiving all hurts, wrongs, neglect. And letting it go.

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Real romance is giving up the right to be right.

Real romance fights fair and never damages another with words.

253046072782766124Real romance is praying together, worshiping together, studying God’s Word together.

Real romance doesn’t look very much like those romance novels some people are known to write. <grin>

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It’s not the candlelight dinners or gifts I cherish most. It’s the time my man sacrifices to be with me, do for me, listen to me. Even when I’m not lovely. Usually, when I’m the most difficult is when I need him to love me the most. And he needs the same from me.

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So that’s my definition of real romance.

What’s yours?

A Christmas Giving Giveaway as I Introduce author Candice Sue Patterson

I’m delighted to introduce my readers to the very lovely, Candice Sue Patterson. I had the pleasure of meeting Candice at the ACFW Conference in Indianapolis. What a privilege it was to spend time with her there.

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Candice Sue Patterson studied at The Institute of Children’s Literature and is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives in southern Indiana with her husband and three sons in a restored farmhouse overtaken by books. When she’s not tending to her chickens, splitting wood or baking bread, she’s at her computer working on a new story. Candice writes contemporary romance with threads of nostalgia set in the east coast.

Karla:  I, too, studied with The Institute of Children’s Literature! What a fun little bit of trivia to have in common. And I envy your lifestyle in the country. Tell us about how we can find you online.

Candice: My author blog is titled “Hobby Farmer by Day, Author by Night,” where I discuss life on our hobby farm, my family, and various aspects of writing. I also host giveaways, do book reviews, and interview other authors. You can find it at: www.candicesuepatterson.blogspot.com. I also have a blog with my critique partners “The Quid Pro Quills.” Check us out at www.quidproquills.com.

I have a baking and cake design blog, where I share recipes and guide readers step-by-step in how I design my cakes. This blog can be found at: www.candicakes-bakingdesign.blogspot.com

I’m also on Facebook: Candice Sue Patterson

Karla: Where do you write? (What’s your office like?)

Candice: I write at a desk in our living room where I can remain available to my family. I can be found wearing a giant set of headphones to block out any noise coming from the TV. My cat shows his support by sleeping at my feet while I pound away at the keyboard.

Karla: I love how so many write with our family present, noise and all. What is your process? (Spreadsheets, Snowflake, Lists/Outlines, Seat of the pants?)

Candice: I’m definitely a “seat of the pants” writer. While I have a basic plot in mind before I ever sit down at my computer, I let the characters take me where they want to go. I use pictures from magazines or clothing catalogs to help describe my main characters physical descriptions, but their quirks, habits, likes and dislikes appear as the story develops.

My secondary characters surprise me the most, because I don’t always have them in mind until they show up on the screen. They usually become more involved in the story than I’d intended become vital to the main character’s growth.

I also have a title in my mind before I start writing a story, though I know it may not be the final one.

Karla: Tell us about your book. The cover is fabulous! I love the title, too.

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Candice: Christmastown, Vermont: where it’s Christmas 365 days a year…

To Darcy Carr the holiday is depressing enough without reliving it every day. Her thriving wreath business and faithful cat are no longer enough to distract her from the pain of her past memories or her current loneliness. Is her frosty neighbor, the only one in town with no Christmas decorations, just another Scrooge, or could he be the one she’s been looking for?

Coppersmith Dean Whitfield hasn’t celebrated Christmas—or anything else—since the death of his wife and unborn child. And he certainly has no desire to carry on the family tradition of crafting a star for the town’s Christmas tree, even if it will benefit a charity. Can Darcy and the joy of the season thaw his frozen heart and help him love again?

Karla: How did your book come to life?

Candice: It started with an article I read about the D. Picking Company in Ohio who still makes copper kettles by hand after over 140 years in business. I love all things nostalgic and knew I wanted to include that in my story. From there, the fictional town of Christmastown, Vermont came to life. One of my favorite childhood memories during the holidays is visiting Nashville, Indiana with blocks full of individually-owned shops decorated for Christmas. That’s what I had pictured in my head as I described the setting, though I embellished Nashville to meet the story’s needs. I do plot out basic things before I start writing, but as I said before, I’m a “seat of the pants” writer. Most things in Bright Copper Kettles came to life as I typed.

Karla: Who is your favorite character in the book and why?

Candice: Though I love Darcy and all her quirkiness, I have to say Dean is my favorite. He’s wounded, grieving, and believes that God has abandoned him which has made him bitter. I believe all Christians at some point go through something similar—knowing God is there, but it feels like He’s not—even if they don’t take it as far as Dean did. The book’s theme is: The God on the mountain (good times) is still God in the valley (hard times). The thing I want readers to take away most is that even when we’re hurting or angry, we can tell God. He already knows what we’re going through. If we tell Him how we feel, it keeps the door of communication with Him open so he can speak to us. If we clam up and don’t pray, even when it’s hard to, we close that door and can allow our emotions control us. Then we become unusable vessels for Him.

Karla: How did you name your characters?

Candice: I had a vision of my character’s physical descriptions before I named them. Dean just felt like a Dean. The name Darcy came to me as I was researching for another story I was working on also. I named Darcy’s twin brother David, since a lot of twins have names that begin with the same letter. I guess I had an obsession with the letter D at the time. It wasn’t until the other day, that I found an old baby name book we’d bought when we were expecting our first son and had put away. Dean, in Old English, means “from the valley.” How fitting! As for Darcy, I had trouble finding the meaning of her name. I did find that “people with this name look for harmony and balance in their lives and respond positively to beautiful things.” That description fits Darcy Carr perfectly.

Karla: Are the characters based on people you know?

Candice: Darcy’s wreath-making occupation was inspired by Nancy Alexander of Ladybug Wreaths. She won a giveaway I hosted last year at the time I was plotting this story. Full details of this will be posted on my blog in December.

I did slip my parents’ names in the book for the mayor and his wife. My mom loves telling this story.

Karla: That’s so nice! I love using people’s names in honor of them. Why will readers enjoy your book?

Candice: Bright Copper Kettles holds a little bit of everything—humor, love, drama. When I read a book, I want to be moved. I want to feel all of my emotions. Therefore, I strive to write this way. I believe it will be a quick yet entertaining read for the holidays.

Karla: Is anything in the book based on your own life?

Candice: In a way, I feel like I lived this story. I’d written the first few chapters when our family was hit with something extremely difficult. I had to remind myself of the very things I was teaching my characters. Then during first edits with my publisher, my dad had a severe stroke at the age of fifty-five, just like Dean’s dad. Again, I had to remind myself that God’s plan is a perfect plan whether I understand it or not.

Gomez was a real cat that my mother-in-law had growing up. I always enjoyed the stories she told me about him and became part of the book.

I worked for the United States Postal Service for eight years, the last four years of my employment as a clerk, selling stamps and mailing packages. So the scene where Dean is in the post office was fun for me to write. In a small town, the post office is the place to go to catch up on all the “news.”

Karla: That is amazing, Candice, because the same things occurred for me in Biker Boots. I actually ended up going through things my characters went through. The Lord works in mysterious ways!  What is your favorite scene in the book?

Candice: The scene where Dean brings Darcy a Christmas tree. This is where their relationship takes a major shift. They share their holiday traditions with each other, and Gomez shares his personality.

Karla: Why Christian fiction?

Candice: I love reading the parables in the Bible that Jesus taught. They’re stories with a godly message that transcend time. God created me to be a writer, and I want to use words like Jesus did (though I can NEVER compare) to write stories that will bring others closer to Him, whether it’s for the first time or to help and encourage someone who already knows Him.

Karla: Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful book with us, Candice! I’ve got my copy and can hardly wait to read it! What a wonderful Christmas gift this will make!

I will send a free digital copy to one lucky commenter to give away!

Here’s how:

1. Buy your own copy of Bright Copper Kettles — a bargain at .99!  (Let’s help a new author get started!) Then tell me you did so in your comments (honor system)!

2. Tell me what you like about Christmas stories like Bright Copper Kettles! Be sure to leave an email address, too. I’ll announce the winner next week!

Congratulations, Candice, on your beautiful new book!

S is for Steamboats

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Branson Belle

I never realized how much I loved steamboats until I started studying them in earnest for my work in progress, River Moon Don’t Cry.

I did have the pleasure of cruising aboard the Branson Belle (pictured above) for dinner and a show twice. The only part I didn’t like was how it didn’t last longer! I’d love to go on a week-long cruise. Of course, the excursions are much nicer today than there were in the early 1800s.

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In the 1800s only the high-paying customers got a nice room on the upper decks of the steamboat on major United States rivers. Regular folks had to board with the animals and cargo. And from the diaries and letters I’ve read from the era, the aromas that emanated from these quarters made for a miserable trip.

Those who could afford it, had much nicer accommodations.

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During the steamboat boom, boats competed for dock space. These ships lined up side by side in major ports.

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Steamboats hauled everything on the Mississippi River from cows to sugar cane to cotton. They were also used to haul slaves and prisoners. It was a dangerous time on the Mississippi in those days. Fights on the docks were everyday occurrences.  Pirates were a constant threat.

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I think I’d love to know what it’s like to live aboard a steamboat. What say you?

A to Z blog hop at Patterings.

Bronner’s part 2: The Joy of Christmas Decorations

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Last week I posted about my trip to Frankenmuth, Michigan to Bronner’s. I promised to share what we bought there back in 2007 to commemorate our 25th wedding anniversary. (We were married Dec. 3, 1982.)

We had such fun shopping for our silver anniversary. I wish my pictures were better. My camera wasn’t working and I took these with my phone. Phone cameras have come a long way in the past seven years! (Click pics to enlarge.)

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Naturally the first thing we looked for was an ornament that said “25” somewhere on it. So we bought the above one and had it personalized (below).

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We bought a few bells (pictured above) but also some much bigger silver bells to put on our wedding canopy. You can sort of see the bells below in the background on the canopy arch. They were so pretty.  (This is my daughter and her husband walking down the aisle when we renewed our vows.)

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I also bought a few sets of silver pine cones (pictured above). And a set of doves (bel0w).

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I couldn’t resist the baby penguins sitting side by side.

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They all came together to create a very special Christmas tree that year.

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Do you have any favorite Christmas tree ornaments? I’d love to read about them! Leave me a comment below!



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Who knows who you may inspire!

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Columbus’ notes in a copy of Marco Polo’s book (click pic to enlarge).

It’s really amazing how things work out in history.

As I was doing research for my book about Marco Polo, I learned that Columbus read Polo’s book and it may have spurred him on to look for the far east himself.

Is that cool or what?

What if Marco Polo had never written about his travels? (Okay, so he didn’t actually write it himself, he had a ghost writer, Rustichello, from Pisa.)

What do you think Columbus was thinking when he read about such travels?

I don’t know, of course, and we can only speculate. But it reinforces why writing history is important to me. We must pass on these stories so they won’t be forgotten. Who knows who or what they may inspire!

One of my favorite resources for writing history is a book entitled, Annals of the World by John Usher. It’s a $50.00 book in hardback (that’s the copy I have) but right now it’s on sale on kindle for only $9.99! A STEAL if you want to write about ancient history and need to know what was going on and when. It takes you all the way through Biblical history using scriptures. It’s not an in-depth book, but more of a timeline type of book. I absolutely love my copy.

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Click to Tweet: We must pass on these stories so they won’t be forgotten. Who knows who or what they may inspire!

What are some of your favorite reference books?

Introducing pre-published author, Tom Threadgill!

I’m extremely excited to introduce you to one of the best writers I know: Tom Threadgill.

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When I first read Tom’s work, I was blown away by his talent. When you read his book, you’ll see why. His writing is seamless and spell-binding. Usually when I read a break-out author’s first work, I find myself editing. When I read Tom’s, I got caught up in the story. It gave me the creeps. And that’s a good thing, because he writes creepy Christian fiction! I see big things in this man’s future!

If you want to be among the first to get to know the next John Grisham/Dean Koontz/Ted Dekker, here’s your chance!

Take it away Tom!

Karla:  Tell us a little about yourself.

Tom: I worked for a large corporation and moved all over the southeastern U.S. for almost thirty years before retiring to a small rural community in west Tennessee. My wife and dog tolerate me as much as possible, though I sometimes catch them conspiring. We have two sons, two beautiful daughters-in-law, three grandsons, and were recently blessed by the birth of our first granddaughter!

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Karla: How precious! Nothing like a new baby granddaughter. I have four of them! We’re blessed, aren’t we? It’s hard to tear yourself away! But back to writing. As a new author, it’s important to develop a solid online presence. Where can we find you online?

Tom: The best place to start is on my website, aptly named tomthreadgill.com. I’m also on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.

Karla: When you’re not cuddling your grandchildren, where do you write?

Tom: Usually I’m in a leather recliner in the living room with a laptop. I’m easily distracted so I use earphones to play music and coffitivity.com. My co-writer/dog is usually somewhere nearby offering advice.

Karla: Sounds like my “office,” too. What is your process? (Spreadsheets, Snowflake, Lists/Outlines, Seat of the pants?)

Tom: Definitely a seat-of-the-pantser, although I prefer the term “organic writer.” I’m pretty much making it up as I go! I started with the vaguest of notions about the story, and fleshed it out as I went. The downside is that at several points in the story my characters surprised me and I had to rework some of my previous work.

Karla: I know how that is. I do the same. Tell us about your book.

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Tom: Hollow Target is a suspense/thriller novel about FBI agent Jacob Thomas as he pursues a serial killer. The murderer is using the Old Testament as his instruction manual, and Jacob is “spiritually scarred” due to an event in his past. It’s written so that the reader sees the world through each of their eyes.

Karla: Why should readers pick it up?

Tom: First of all, it’s Christian fiction. That can mean a lot of things, but for me it means it’s a story of redemption. Secondly, I try to write in a way that shows Christians as real people with struggles, doubts, and problems, but there’s no preaching in the book. Finally, I think it’s a great story with fantastic characters. But I may be a little biased. 🙂

Karla: How did your book come to life?

Tom: That’s a novel in itself! I never set out to write, but decided for my thirtieth wedding anniversary to pen a semi-autobiographical book for my wife. It was epically bad, and I figured I’d better learn something about writing before trying again. Hollow Target actually originated from a writing prompt I saw in a magazine.

Karla: That’s fascinating! My current work in progress actually originated as a short story. I love when that happens. Who is your favorite character in the book and why?

Tom: Tough call. I think the one I have the most fun writing is the serial killer, Ryder (Levi) Talbot. I’m not sure what that says about me though. But I think my favorite is probably Maggie Keeley, Jacob’s partner. She has some quirks that are based on my wife, and I’m a sucker for a strong female character.

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Karla: I love that! How did you name your characters?

Tom: Not well, apparently. They’ve gone through several name changes so far!

Karla: Are the characters based on people you know?

Tom: I use a few mannerisms from different people I know, but nothing too specific. I intentionally stayed away from tying any character to someone I know. Except the serial killer. You know who you are.

Karla: What is your favorite scene in the book?

Tom: I can’t tell you, because it’ll ruin it. I can say that while I was writing it, I kept flashing back to one of my favorite scenes in the original Indiana Jones movie.

Karla: That’s funny. What a lot of people won’t know when reading this book is how naturally funny you are. If they read your blog, they’ll pick up on that. I hope you write a humorous book soon. But tell me, why Christian fiction?

Tom: I don’t want to put anything out that wouldn’t be pleasing to the Lord. If I have any talent in writing, it’s from Him.

Karla: Is there anything else you’d like us to know?

Tom: I’m a big hockey fan (Go Preds!), which oddly enough is pretty rare in a southern farming community. Who knew? My wife and I like to spend most of our vacation time in the Smoky Mountains, and love riding our Harley there. I’ve also started doing a little woodworking as a hobby. So far I still have all ten fingers.

Karla: Another thing I love about you–Harleys and the Smoky Mountains! (These are a big part of my book, The Pastor’s Wife Wears Biker Boots.)

Tom is modest as well as funny, and is a gifted photographer. Be sure to check out his blog to see his photos, too. I am honored he’s given me permission to use them on my Silent Sunday blog posts. (Click on pics to see them in all their splendor.)

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Watch for Tom’s book and I’ll keep you posted, too. When it comes out we’ll do another interview. I can hardly wait to see it in print! Write on, Tom! And congratulations on that beautiful granddaughter!

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R is for Rain

Heavy DownpourMy favorite sound in the world is rain. Sprinkle in a tiny bit of thunder, and I’m in moody heaven. Rain helps me think. Rain makes me want to curl up with a blanket and a book and read. Some people listen to Pandora while they work. And I do, too, sometimes. But my favorite go-to sound for drowning out the world is rain.

Fortunately for me, there’s a website where this beautiful sound is available: http://www.rainymood.com/.

You’re welcome.

What’s your favorite sound for getting work done? (Tweet this.)


A to Z blog hop at Patterings.