Friday, December 30, 2011

Another View From Mary Nealy's Window - and a GIVE AWAY!!

I hope you are ready to finish exploring the Ten Plagues with Mary!! We're also going to talk about her jump to this new and exciting genre and what lies ahead for her suspense fiction!

Once again, I'd like for you to welcome Mary Nealy to my Window!!

What led you to switch genres so completely?

I wrote for ten years before I got my first book published and when I finally got my first contract I had twenty finished books on my computer. During those ten years I switched genres a LOT. I decided at some point that if no one was going to publish me, I’d just write to entertain myself. I sold a lot of those twenty books but I’ve got this wild variety of books--probably eight or nine still unsold.

Ten Plagues was one of them. I’d love to sell the rest too, but they’re kind of odd. I’ve probably got five or six more romantic suspense. Three that are sweet romances. One has a mountain woman who grows roses and creates beautiful candles…sniffle. I LOVE that story!

One of those sweet romances includes a stalker so should go to the suspense side? My beloved gothic. One’s a little sci/fi. All of them have at least a bit of comedy which isn’t real welcome in a lot of sweet or suspense novels. Ten Plagues is by far the darkest of them, although the gothic is spooky and takes place in a haunted house (except there are no such things as ghosts, right?) But still...

Where did you get the inspiration for Ten Plagues?

I was reading the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:7-10 and all of them are really familiar and I’ve heard people say they had all those other gifts, preaching, teaching, healing, speaking in tongues but I saw that one gift, discerning spirits, and I realized I’d never heard anyone say they had that gift and I wondered why. And what would it be like to walk up to someone and realize you were in the presence of a powerfully good spirit or a terribly evil one. Of course, being an author, I began to ask ‘what if’. And Ten Plagues book grew out of that.

Is it the beginning of a series?

I could totally see Paul and Keren as a detective team but so far no series.

When will you release more suspense fiction?

I don’t know how Ten Plagues sold yet. I’ll find that out in a couple of months. I’m hoping it did well enough for me to have a hope of more romantic suspense novels. We’ll see. Nothing planned so far.

How hard was it to switch genres?

I find it energizing to switch genres. I didn’t really do it for Ten Plagues, although I did a LOT of revisions on an already finished book. Like I said, it was done already. But I have switched genres. The cowboy romantic comedy, I’ve done contemporary sweet romances. I’ve done cozy mysteries. I love jumping around. I think I bring more creativity to the cowboy romances by stepping away from it and then coming back.

Which genre do you enjoy most?

Cowboys will always be my first love. I’ve done very well with romantic comedy with cowboys. But I would love a chance to change things up once in a while.

If you think you would enjoy a copy of this FANTASTIC book! Please leave a comment on this post to be entered for a FREE copy!!

Mary Nealy is the suspense genre pen name for bestselling and award-winning author Mary Connealy, who is best known for her humorous Old West romances. She makes her home with her husband on a ranch in Nebraska. She has four grown daughters.

Please visit her website today to learn more!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A View from Mary Nealy's Window - The Ten Plagues!!

I have just been fascinated with Mary's latest novel, The Ten Plagues, and I had a chance to talk with her about it. I am anxious to share all of the things I discovered!

So please, give Mary a big welcome as we explore her latest novel!

Welcome, Mary!!

I would really love to pick your brain about Ten Plagues! Let’s start by exploring the riveting scenes where Keren was kidnapped and then learned that her gift could lead her to witness to those lost souls...

A really important aspect of Keren’s during the kidnapping is the overwhelming sense of evil. It takes her longer than it should to calm down because she’s reacting to her discernment of the demon…not her actual danger. As a cop she’s well trained to think calmly in a crisis. But she is almost incapable of clear thinking because of the evil. Once she recognizes that she’s reacting to the power of that demon, she can calm down and think. Her fear keeps her from thinking in terms of trying to exorcize the demon and lead Pravis to the Lord—which is usually her first reaction when she senses a demon.

The love scenes between Paul and Keren and how they struggled with their own emotions were powerful! Tell us about that relationship.

Paul doesn’t believe he deserves to be happy, to have a wife and children. His life is one of pure service and sacrifice, but within that world he’s hiding from all the things that could complicate his life. He only feels worthy of giving, not receiving because he blames himself for the death of his wife and daughter. But like his fear of his temper, he also fears love. He sees it as selfishness and part of his old sinful life. For him to risk accepting romantic love is a huge step.

Paul struggles with his anger and the way he views it as an either/or choice, not realizing that God could use his anger for good. Tell us about that emotional/spiritual struggle.

When Paul accepted the Lord his thinking was that he would give all of his life to God. And he did give. He gave generously and with all his heart. But this was only the first step in him becoming a mature Christian…but Paul doesn’t see it that way. He’s giving everything. There is a kind of arrogance to sacrificing your life, taking nothing for yourself. God wants him to grow. He wants Paul to serve but not hide from life. Paul’s anger becomes an excuse. Paul doesn’t want to grow in the Lord because he doesn’t feel worthy of a rich, full life that brings joy, a wife and children. When Paul’s emotions become involved in anything, he cuts and runs back to his quiet, self-sacrificing, safe life.

There are so many things that you capture spiritually in this story that are just profound!! What inspired you to tackle so much emotionally?

All my books are Christian fiction. Some of them have a stronger faith thread than others but all are built on the foundation of my world view. My characters conduct themselves as Christians within the bounds of whatever story I’m telling (well, my characters that are Christian at least). But I consider Ten Plagues to be my most fiercely Christian book. I did a lot of Bible study for this one. I read every verse I could find on demons, casting them out, discerning them, Jesus’ words concerning them. I tried not to play fast and loose with Biblical demons in order to get a story. I’m sure I was overly dramatic at times but I really sincerely wanted to explore what it meant to be possessed by a demon and to be able to discern them in others.

Spiritually? I asked a lot of people if they knew anyone with the spiritual gift of discerning spirits. I got a very few vague…MAYBE answers. I makes in intensely curious about that gift. One of the things we are called on to do is NOT be judgmental. And yet what is the gift of discerning spirits except judging, supernaturally, what is in someone’s heart. I think then, the gift is not to be used to judge someone. Instead it’s to be used to help someone. Maybe? I’m not sure. But it’s fascinating.

How difficult was it to deal with Keren's spiritual gift? (Oh, I don’t know. Hmm…these are hard questions, Kim!)

I tried to give Keren a real spiritual maturity. I wanted her to be in a tough job and find a way to still find a loving heart for people, many of them not-so-nice. So dealing with her spiritual gifts was me trying very hard to have Keren always respond with love. The demon possessed homeless man she prayed with, this was a man no one wanted to touch, even Paul was very cautious around him. But Keren has this wonderful maturity, this ability to see the child of God trapped in that deeply troubled vagrant. And she loves him.

To Learn MORE...come back tomorrow. You Will have a chance to WIN a FREE copy of this incredible novel!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Ten Plagues by Mary Nealy - REVIEWED

About the Book: (from the publisher)
Join the breakneck chase through Chicago for a murderous maniac. As the victims begin piling up, detective Keren Collins’s spiritual discernment is on high alert. Will she capture the killer before another body floats to the surface? Ex-cop, now mission pastor Paul Morris has seen his share of tragedy, but nothing prepared him to be a murderer’s messenger boy. Will his old ruthless cop personality take over, leading him to the brink of self-destruction? Can Keren and Paul catch the killer before the corpse count reaches a perfect ten?

My Thoughts:

“Turn to face God and the challenges of today, and let the past go.” (p. 125)

There are dangerous consequences for those who cling to their pasts. Paul and Keren face those consequences head-on when they encounter a serial killer determined to reenact the ten plagues in the most grisly way imaginable! The race to figure out the Latin clues left behind by the killer lead the two main characters to face their own pasts, their own faith, their deepest heart-cry and challenge how they choose to live their faith on a day to day basis. What they must go through in their search for a deadly killer takes them on an unexpected journey to truth in their own lives as well!

Mary Coneally has transformed her writing life with the release of her new novel, The Ten Plagues, using the pen name Mary Nealy. If you are a fan of suspense fiction, you MUST read this book! If you like to stay up nights racing to find out how a story will end, you MUST read this book! Mary has created something gritty, real and challenging in the suspense genre. She not only creates a breathtaking thrill ride, she deals with personal spiritual and emotional challenges that are common to all believers! I am hard pressed to tell you what I enjoyed most about the story. Every word was captivating!

I made copious notes and underlined many passages while reading this book, and I know I will soon read it again. It’s that good! Make The Ten Plagues your first choice a book for the New Year! YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED!!

About the Author:
Mary Nealy is the suspense genre pen name for bestselling and award-winning author Mary Connealy, who is best known for her humorous Old West romances. She makes her home with her husband on a ranch in Nebraska. She has four grown daughters.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Jesus -- The Reason For The Season by Rachel Hauck

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas!

Merry Christmas from all of us at Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoyed these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you missed a few posts, I hope you'll be able go back through and read them on this blog over the next few days. If you'd like to keep up with Pearl Girls and our new book project, Mother of Pearl, coming this spring, just click this link and sign up for our newsletter (lower left sidebar).

Also, just a reminder that today is the last day for the pearl necklace and earrings giveaway! Enter now by filling out this {form}. The winner will on 1/1 at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit and see what we're all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.


Jesus -- The Reason For the Season

By: Rachel Hauck

Through the narrow scope of 2000 years, Mary, the mother of Jesus, appears to be one lucky woman. Chosen by God to give birth to His son, the Savior of the world? All right, Mary, way to go.

“Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you,” Gabriel said.

How many of us would like a declaration like that? Highly favored. The Lord is with you. But Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.

The angel told her, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Mary’s seems confident and resolved when she responds, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”

She’d just been told the Holy Spirit will come upon her, that God’s power will overshadow her, that she’d become with child even though she wasn’t married, and she said, “I’m the Lord’s servant. Let your words be true.”

I find this amazing! A young woman. Ancient Bethlehem. Unwed mother. They stoned women for such things in her day. But Mary believed in God. And submitted to His will. He gave her the Holy Spirit – the same Holy Spirit given to us. If He gave her confidence, He will give us confidence. Even though, like Mary, our situation seems impossible.

Listen to Mary’s song later on in the first chapter of Luke.

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me Holy is his name…”

Conceiving a child out of wedlock, by Divine intervention. Not a girl’s every day existence. Yet she had a Yes in her heart to God. She rejoiced. She boldly said, “Generations will remember me!”

How we struggle to trust God with our children. Our finances. Our emotional well-being. We worry. We fret. And wonder why we have no peace.

Christmas is the season where words like joy, peace and love are bantered around like Christmas candy. Let’s not take them as just words, but as truth. Let’s be like Mary and embrace God’s favor on our lives. Boldly declare "He’s done great things for me!”

Out of the grit of our own souls, we can reach His heart, and feel Him reaching for ours. No matter the pain of our past, present or future, God is there for us. He is able. Best of all, He is willing. “My soul glorifies the Lord this Christmas!”


Rachel Hauck is an award winning, best selling author who believes God has done great things for her. She lives in Central Florida with her husband and ornery pets. Her next release is Love Lifted Me with multi-platinum country artist Sara Evans, January 2012. Then in April, look for The Wedding Dress.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Panhandler's Breath by Robin Dance

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas!

Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's (Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.

AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on 1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit and see what we're all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.


The Panhandler's Breath

By Robin Dance

He slipped in sideways between the closing elevator doors, as if he were late to a meeting; he pressed the "5" without looking. Instead of suit and tie, though, baggy pants and faded navy hung on his tall, slim frame...and his stealth entry stiffened the hairs on the back of my neck.

I had noticed him a few seconds earlier, just after we had parted a sea of clamorous teens. He was smiling, grandfatherly, standing maybe 30 feet away where the electric shuttle picks up.

I had no idea he had been watching us, studying us, predator patiently awaiting his next prey.

The four of us were sealed in a four- by six-foot metal tomb. Tomb--that thought really scampered across my mind. I wondered if he had a knife in his pocket. I wanted to protect my son. Fight or flight pumped adrenaline but there was no where to run.

Extreme and ridiculous, these thoughts - and more - flashed through my mind. The Stranger began speaking.

"Yessir, I see you're a family man with your wife and your son here..." and he nodded in my and my son’s direction.

" see I'm homeless and all I've got..." and on queue, he reached into his left pocket and pulled out two old pennies blackened with age. Two cents to his name?! It was all too contrived, too practiced, and I didn't believe a word he was saying.

It was then I smelled it ~ the small space lent itself to that ~ and I doubted my doubt.

His breath.

It wasn't the scent of alcohol. His eyes weren't red, his voice didn't waver; his wizened face matched his graying hair.

His breath was morning's, zoo breath, the pet name I'd given to the scent inhaled when kissing my children awake when they were little.

He needed to brush his teeth. I wondered how long it had been since he brushed his teeth.

The elevator door opened and I handed him my leftover pizza as my son and I brushed past him. My husband handed him a bill and the Stranger thanked and God blessed him.

The elevator door closed behind us. Conflicted, I was relieved.

We got in the car and blurted first reaction--

"I didn't believe a word he said."

"That made me nervous."

"I wonder if he'll really eat the pizza."

In the quiet, we were left to our own thoughts, contemplating the right thing to do. At the end of the day, this is what I decided: It doesn't matter whether or not his story is true; for an old man to resort to begging, he has to be desperate. The money my husband gave him will never be missed. It was a reminder we've been entrusted with much and given much. Materially, yes, but more so spiritually. Loved, chosen, forgiven, redeemed, graced, lavished--every spiritual blessing. E v e r y.

There's a part of me that wishes I would have been brave enough to ask the man his story, made sure he knew he was loved...and bought him a tooth brush.

Later, it occurred to me he could have been an angel. Doesn’t that mean generosity, kindness and hospitality is always the right response? Then it's not about you or the stranger or the circumstance, it's about a simple, God-glorifying response.

Had we entertained an angel unaware? We'll never know.

But it wouldn't be the first time the Breath of Heaven smelled like a zoo.


In a decades-old, scandalous affair with her husband, Robin also confesses mad crushes on her three teens. As Southern as sugar-shocked tea, she’s a recovering people pleaser who advocates talking to strangers. A memoirist, Compassion International Blogger, and Maker-upper of words, Robin writes for her own site, PENSIEVE, and also for (in)courage by DaySpring (a subsidiary of Hallmark) and Simple Mom. She loves to get to know readers through their blog comments and on Twitter and Pinterest.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Inside Out Christmas by Debora M. Coty

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas!

Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's (Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.

AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on 1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit and see what we're all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.


Inside Out Christmas

by Debora M. Coty

My veterinarian friend, Dr. Katie, tells the story about the December when a woman brought a very sick black lab into her clinic. The dog was only ten months old, so she was really just a big puppy, but she’d been vomiting incessantly and her worried owner didn’t know what was wrong.

“Why don’t you go on home?” Dr. Katie told the owner. “I’ll need to run tests for about four hours. We’ll give you a call when we’re finished.”

Dr. Katie’s assistant took x-rays and hung them on the light panel for Dr. Katie to examine. Hmm. Something looked a little peculiar. Dr. Katie called her assistant over.

“Is it just me, or does that look like a … a camel to you?” she asked incredulously.

“Matter of fact, it does,” replied the astute assistant. “And look, there’s an angel here, a shepherd there, and down there in the colon, it’s Baby Jesus!”

At that moment the phone rang. It was the dog’s distraught owner. “I can’t believe this! I just got home and glanced at the coffee table where I put my manger scene yesterday. There’s nothing there but an empty stable!”

As I thought about this quite literal technique for internalizing the true meaning of Christmas, it occurred to me that sometimes I have the opposite problem. With all the bustling busyness, my inner joy in celebration of my savior’s birth never really makes it to the outside.

Oh, I have plenty of glittery, festive evidences of the holiday in decorations, baking galore, and gifts under my tree. But those things are for show. They’re merely the pretty wrappings, not the gift itself.

Can people really see the core-deep joy that radiates within me when I think of the true gift that Papa God sent the world in his son, Jesus? Is my immeasurable gratitude for eternal life evident as I dash through this hectic season?

I’m afraid all too often, the answer is no.

I’m just too preoccupied to allow my outside to reflect my inside so that nonbelievers recognize that I rejoice because of the hope that is within me. My joy is obscured by the mounds of clutter. Gratefulness is sucked out of my soul by the vacuum called urgency.

“But let the godly rejoice. Let them be glad in God’s presence. Let them be filled with joy” (Psalm 68:3, NLT).

This verse has become my prayer this Christmas season – that I would make the time to give priority to rejoicing, being glad in God’s presence, and letting my inner joy show for those who may be silently desperate to know the giver of true joy.

Yep, there’s a better way to internalize the gift of Christmas than the black lab technique. We can lodge the Little Lord Jesus in our hearts rather than our colons.


Debora M. Coty is a humorist, inspirational speaker, and award-winning author of twelve books, including Too Blessed to be Stressed, and coming in March, More Beauty, Less Beast: Transforming Your Inner Ogre. Debora would love to swap Christmas hugs with you at

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Simple or Sparkle? by Tracey Eyster

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas!

Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's (Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.

AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on 1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit and see what we're all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.


Simple or Sparkle?

by Tracey Eyster

It’s a simple ornament made of thin cheap metal and it looks quite out of place on our CHRISTmas tree. But each year I lovingly and safely nestle it amongst its expensive and sparkly peers, without a care as to how unglamorous it appears.

Many of our CHRISTmas ornaments have a story and an uncanny way of welling up emotion in me, but this certain one causes an intense stir.

You see the ornament is engraved with the name of my grandmother, Sara, and was given to me by my mother, who ordered it from Hospice, after Grandmama’s death. Yes, the months leading up to her death carry memories of a frail and failing grandmama, but that ornament carries my thoughts to sweet CHRISTmas memories of the past.

CHRISTmas Eve dinners in her home, laughing, singing, gathering and celebrating a year filled with blessings as we remembered the birth of our Savior. CHRISTmas mornings, she was always there participating with glee, in our raucous CHRISTmas happiness. Her gifts were always bank envelopes gently tucked into the pine needles of our CHRISTmas tree, fresh cut from the property she grew up on.

All memories of my Grandmama make my heart swell. You see she was my Jesus with skin on. She lived her life full of joy, serving others and approached life selflessly with an attitude of, “What can I do for you?”

Just months before she left us, even as the Alzheimer’s was robbing her mind she shared her love of Jesus with a sweet little old lady friend, who came to know the Lord – a divine appointment. The very next day that little old lady silently slipped away to meet in person the One Sara introduced her to just the day before.

At the time I wept, realizing that regardless of our own frailties and failings, God can still use those of us who are willing to do His work and are well practiced at hearing His matter our lack of sparkle in comparison to others.

A simple life lived for Him, a simple ornament in memory of Sara...a simple truth for you to ponder.


Tracey Eyster wife, mom, relationship gatherer and Creator/Editor of FamilyLife’s MomLife Today is a media savvy mom making a difference where moms are, on-line. Through speaking, writing and video interviews Tracey is passionate about encouraging, equipping and advising moms on every facet of momlife. Her first book, Be The Mom will be released August 2012. You can connect with Tracey at, her personal site or www.twitter/

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Enjoy the Ride! by Susan May Warren

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas!

Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's (Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.

AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on 1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit and see what we're all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.


Enjoy the Ride!

Susan May Warren

We sit poised on the top of a cliff, a near drop off before us, that falls to a rushing river. In the middle, a bridge of snow and ice hints at our destination. My husband guns the snowmobile engine. “Ready?”

Ready? For a face plant into a tree, maybe reconstructive surgery? To feel my stomach ripped from my body as we plummet down the mountain? Let’s do it!

We live on five acres of woods in northern Minnesota that butts up to a national forest. Hence, our backyard is about a hundred thousand acres. Aside from harboring deer, lynx, fox, cougar and bear, it also makes excellent snowmobile terrain. And not long ago, Mrs. Claus gave her Santa a snowmobile for two.

I love snowmobiling. Flying over the snow, catching air over drifts. I love to drive, to be at the helm of the beast as I weave around trees and over hill and dale, my husband sitting behind me. I also love riding behind my husband as he drives, feeling those powerful arms as he’s muscling the snowmobile into the wilds. We follow unknown trails, driven by a Magellan spirit, hoping that we have enough gas to get us back to civilization. I love hanging on, simply trusting him, knowing that wherever he’s taking me, he’s going first.

But there are times, when I see where he’s taking me, and I just have to bury my head in his back. Like straight down a cliff.

However, my heart cheers, despite the terror as we gun it down the hill, over the river, up the opposite side. And, if we hadn’t let ourselves go, we would have never discovered the beauty of a winter river, a hidden jewel buried deep in the forest. Nor the exhilaration of facing the challenge together.

Further on, we find an enchanted forest of towering white pine. Catch a view of Lake Superior, discover an old cabin in the woods.

It occurs to me that snowmobiling is much like my spiritual life. Occasionally, I drive, and it’s me setting our course, weaving through the trees, getting us hopelessly lost. But when God takes the “wheel” and I hang on, trusting Him for the speed and destination, I see the scenery. I trust him to keep me safe. I trust him to bring me home, where there is an eternal supply of hot chocolate.

As Christmas season becomes more hectic, what if I let God drive? Maybe everything doesn’t have to be perfect, and maybe I don’t have to control every tradition, every holiday nuance. What if I just held on for the ride?

I’ll bet I’ll still get there, and I might even enjoy the scenery along the way.

How have you let go, and “enjoyed” the scenery of this hectic, exhilarating Christmas season?

Merry Christmas!


Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning author of thirty novels with Tyndale, Barbour, Steeple Hill and Summerside Press. A four-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Carol Award. A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!. She is also the founder of, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Eight Ways to Beat the Blues at Christmas by Poppy Smith

Instead of a houseful of kids and their little ones running around laughing, crying, playing with toys and sneaking treats, this year my husband, Jim, and I will be home alone for Christmas. My automatic reaction is to feel sad—but I am glad that all of them will be celebrating the coming of Jesus with their in-laws. After all, we are usually the ones who get that privilege!
But—it’s easy to be sucked down into a “poor me” mindset and play the blues, unless we decide to change our perspective. So here are eight simple ways to help you enjoy the holidays whether you’re physically or emotionally alone. Why not join me and let’s beat those blues which aren’t where God wants us at this special time of the year—or at any time!
  • Sing. Play music. Listen to the words and join in praising God. Singing is a guaranteed mood lifter and perspective changer. “Sing for joy to God our strength” Ps.81:1.
  • Smile. Smile at little children. Their harried moms. The older shoppers who are trying to find just the right present. Make smiling your chosen expression (not through gritted teeth, however!). It will make you feel so much better and maybe lift up another lonely soul.
  • Invite. Is there someone you haven’t had time for this past year? Could you suggest meeting for coffee, lunch, or even over to your home? Perfection isn’t needed—only a loving heart that looks beyond it’s own world.
  • Rest. Remember all those too early mornings when you longed to just stay in bed? Now’s your chance. Take time to read a book of the Bible or several psalms. Choose a special book, magazine, or television program. Make or buy some once in a year yummy treats and ENJOY this gift of time!
  • Give gifts to others. Go online and look for simple Christmas recipes. Make peppermint candy or a cranberry loaf and go drop it off at a homeless shelter or place that serves those without a home. Change your perspective from looking inward to looking outward—as God our Savior did when He gave us the most amazing gift of love any one can receive.
  • Write a list of your blessings. Think back over this past year. Even if it has been one of the most difficult you’ve experienced, ask God’s Spirit to show you where He was present, loving and supporting and guiding you through. He will show you something and lift your heart.
  • Go to a Christmas Eve Service. Even if you’re by yourself, don’t miss the presence of God amidst the beauty of this celebration. Let your senses feast on the beauty, your ears delight in the music, your heart be moved to new heights of gratitude and love.
  • Pray about your dreams for 2012. What do you want to see happen in the coming year? Have you thought about changes you want to make? New paths to walk? Write out what comes to mind when you think of taking better care of yourself physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. (See my video: Take Care of Yourself, …….. or check my website on the media clips page).
May your “Home Alone” Christmas fill you with joy and a fresh awareness that Christ is with you, whether you’re surrounded by people or peacefully alone.

About the Author:
With her fun personality and passion for communicating life-changing truths, Poppy Smith inspires believers to thrive spiritually and personally. Poppy’s practical how-to messages (in print or in person) uses colorful examples from her own struggles to be more like Jesus. She encourages women (and men, at times) to grow in every kind of situation—whether joyful or painful! Poppy is British, married to an American, and has lived in many countries. She brings an international flair seasoned with humorous honesty as she illustrates Bible truths. A former Bible Study Fellowship Lecturer, Poppy’s teaching challenges women to look at their choices, attitudes and self-talk. As a result, God’s speaks, changing hearts, changing minds, and changing lives.

Sign up for Poppy's THRIVE newsletter at:

Family Traditions: A Glimpse inot Christmas Future by Tricia Goyer

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas!

Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's (Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.

AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on 1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit and see what we're all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.


Family Traditions: A Glimpse into Christmas Future

by Tricia Goyer

Have you ever thought about family traditions? As I helped my 1-year-old place ornaments on the Christmas tree this year I imagined her doing the same thing with her children—and maybe even grandchildren—one day. Traditions are beliefs and customs handed down through generations. By sharing meaningful moments with your kids you're sending yourself into the future. How amazing is that?

Sharing family traditions cause us to slow down from the busy, adult world for a while. We ignore the laundry to set out the nativity set with our kids. We set aside time in our schedules to drive around and look at Christmas lights.

Holiday traditions aren't only fun, they also help strength family bonds. Through traditions kids trust in the security of family unit. They think, “This is our family and this is what I do.” Of course, the most important thing to share isn't just what we do ... but why. Why do we put out a nativity? To remind us the real meaning of the season—Jesus coming to earth. What do the Christmas lights represent displayed on homes and on trees? They represent the Light of the World, Jesus.

Using traditions to bond our families and share our faith isn't new. I love these two Scriptures that talk about that very thing.

Exodus 12:25 says, “When you enter the land that the LORD will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony.”

Psalm 78:4 says, “We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done.”

What are you're traditions? Here are a few of ours:

Baking a Birthday cake for Jesus

Buying a new ornament every year for each child

Acting out the Christmas story (with props!)

Praying together before opening presents

What are your traditions? Write a list and appreciate them in a new way this year. Then ask, “If I could add one new tradition this holiday season, what would it be?” I'd love to hear what you choose! It also makes me smile to think of your children's grandchildren doing the same.


Tricia Goyer is a CBA best-selling author and the winner of two American Christian Fiction Writers’ Book of the Year Awards (Night Song and Dawn of a Thousand Nights). She co-wrote 3:16 Teen Edition with Max Lucado and contributed to the Women of Faith Study Bible. Also a noted marriage and parenting writer, she lives with her husband and children in Arkansas.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Anessia's Quest by Karen Arnpriester

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

CreateSpace (January 18, 2011)

***Special thanks to Karen Arnpriester for sending me a review copy.***


Karen Slimick Arnpriester is a creative, passionate and adventuresome woman. She raised her two children, adores her seven grandchildren and is now a foster mom of two young ladies. She has been a self-taught graphic designer for twenty five years and started her own business twenty years ago. Her faith in God is strong and she believes that we are Christ's hands, feet, arms and wallet. This translates into her involvement in youth ministries, local women's shelter, street ministry, the elderly, as well as many other outreaches over the years. Her home has been available to single moms and their children, allowing them to get a fresh start.

Visit the author's website.


Anessia’s Quest follows the life of a woman born into dysfunction and neglect. The story takes you on her journey. A journey that begins with abandonment, abuse, and physical injury. Pagne (Pain) believes she is all alone, thrown away, but soon discovers that she is protected and guided by her guardian angel. A powerful relationship develops between this lost child and her loving protector that manifests as a unique method of communication.

Pagne encounters other broken people that become her family, friends and community. Her grace and compassion alter their destructive paths. She moves through her life unaware of the impact she creates, her purpose on Earth.

Her life is filled with tears, laughter, joy and heartbreak. She faces challenges that include ultimate betrayal, loss and shame. Challenges that are only bearable due to her trust and faith in heaven’s love and value for her. Love that is reinforced by her angel. She discovers the events that led to her mother’s indifference and neglect, and must decide how much grace she can extend to a woman she has hated for most of her life. The ultimate test of forgiveness.

When she faces her death, Pagne discovers the true value and power of forgiveness and love. She is shown how her life created ripples that spread into waves of glorious influence. She was not an accident, she was placed on Earth with divine intent.

Product Details:

List Price: $11.95

Paperback: 302 pages

Publisher: CreateSpace (January 18, 2011)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1456504363

ISBN-13: 978-1456504366



Psalms 91:11

“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;”

Draken walked swiftly through the marble passageway, which was only lit by a warm, golden glow that’s source was undefinable. The excitement was building, as he weaved his way through the network of stone halls, intricate stained glass panels, and vines with incredible cobalt and purple blossoms. Each flower’s center had a spray of tendrils that shimmered and flickered with light. They pushed their way in through small openings and cracks, covering the ancient stone walls with their winding tendrils. He had the ability to instantly think himself to her, but instead he savored the journey through the tabernacle. As Draken entered the great hall, he sent groups of colorful butterflies

scattering. Some of the butterflies were tiny and flashed bright yellow and orange light, while others were massive and moved almost as in slow motion. Their deep-purple and metallic gold wings didn’t shine brightly like the others, but had a velvety luster that picked up the room’s light with each flutter. The spaces in between were filled with every size and color of these delicate creatures. This room never failed to take Draken’s breath away. There were sculptures in exquisite detail, cast or carved from every precious metal and stone, encrusted with jewels and pearls. Above him were strings of glowing orbs that didn’t appear to be connected in any way, glistening shades of pink, lavender, blue and green. Beautiful birds of every description dove and soared in the upper dome. Draken would spend hours in this room, simply appreciating its beauty.

As he came upon an area of comfortable chairs, he saw Anessia sitting on the hard floor in her usual position, both legs folded under her with feet twisted out to the sides. She would sit this way for hours.

“When will you ever discover the comfort of these lush chairs?” he teased her.

She just grinned and said, “Probably never.” Draken just shook his head. She liked the coolness of the stone floor on her skin.

Draken sat down in his favorite chair, a opulent purple satin with three times the stuffing most chairs would contain. He waited for her to speak, but silence. After a few anxious minutes, he could wait no longer.

“Well, Anessia. You summoned me here. You said you were ready.”

She hesitated, she seemed unsure for a moment and then handed him the delicate gold scroll. Draken, a regal man with long white hair and a full beard, took the scroll and fingered it gently, knowing the importance of its content. He took a deep breath and looked into Anessia’s eyes. He loved her eyes, so large, so engulfing.

“I am ready,” is all she said. Draken felt the contradiction of relief and dread. This would be a difficult quest, filled with many hardships and pain.

“You will have a lot of sadness to deal with, but you were selected with the

knowledge that you are capable. You have a strong sense of justice and love.”

“Oh, Draken, I want to make a difference, to be part of these miracles!”

“Once you leave, you realize you will not be able to change your mind. The quest will not be recalled,” he reminded her.

“I totally understand. I know that I can do this. I know I can make you and our Father proud. I believe I am the one to help fulfill the destiny described in the scroll.”

Draken truly adored Anessia and her tender heart, but she was fierce, one of the most committed wards he had responsibility for. He also knew that the quest was a journey filled with love, joy and an incredible outcome.

“I will make the arrangements. Prepare yourself, your time here is short.” They both came to a stand, and with a hug and a kiss on her head, Draken disappeared to carry out the necessary details.

Anessia stood alone and waited until she was sure Draken had left the chamber. She could contain herself no longer. She spun around, her hair flowing and gleaming in the light that was radiating down from above. It was wonderful to have a destiny. She giggled and hugged herself. Anessia then mentally willed her beautiful wings to engage, and she flew out of the windows near the top of the upper dome.

She didn’t have to fly very far; there, by the glimmering pools, was Ennett. She slowly dropped down behind him, so quietly that he didn’t know she was there. Anessia crept slowly behind him and jumped back as Ennett whirled around. But not quick enough, his folded wings smacked her in the face. “Oh Ennett, I thought I got you this time,” she said, as she rubbed her cheek.

“Do you forget that I can read your thoughts? You need to work on shutting down that brain of yours when you plan to attack,” he pouted at her, while touching her tender cheek. They both laughed and sat down on the cool grass next to the pools of crystal clear water. They slipped their feet in and giggled loudly, as the fish nibbled their toes. Anessia loved the landscape outside the main tabernacle. It had sumptuous gardens, streams, and trees that bore delicious fruits. Flowers of every size, color and scent. Some were deep shades that were fuzzy and glimmered, while others were tucked under the shade of the trees with transparent petals that glowed with pulsing light. The aromas were so delicious.

She couldn’t count the different species of animals that roamed through the gardens. Every visit was a new discovery. These unique and exotic creatures would wander the gardens and come when beckoned, allowing her to pet and love on them.

“Well, I am assuming that it is time?”

“Yes, it is,” she acknowledged.

“Anessia, it is a different realm there,” he warned. “There is darkness,

despair and pain.”

“I know, I can do this. Draken and our Father do not send me to fail.”

“I have faith in you, but please be careful!”

They both sat quietly for a short time. “I need to go prepare,” whispered Anessia.

“I love you Anessia, I will be here for you always.” They held each other for what felt like an eternity but it was only moments in another time.


Leah thought she could bear it no longer … why didn’t this baby come out? She had been pushing and writhing here for hours, hurting so bad that she wanted to die. Finally, the nurse came in and said she was ready to have the baby. Leah knew that she would have feelings for this kid eventually, but right now, she almost hated it. They wheeled her into delivery, and after thirty more minutes, the miracle of birth happened. A little, white skinned, red-haired girl with blue eyes. She looked at her and felt numb. She may have connected better if the baby had looked like her. If she had gotten her golden skin, dark, curly hair and chestnut brown eyes. This baby looked like a stray, not her kid.

Leah had endured a difficult life and tried to bury it with alcohol, drugs and sex. During her drunken months of pregnancy, she thought it would be funny to name her baby girl Champagne, after her favorite beverage. Champagne Marie Crenshaw. Champagne would carry her mother’s last name since Leah didn’t know which John was the proud papa. Leah had considered having another abortion, but this time was different. This baby would change her life, she just knew it. Leah wanted to be loved and wanted someone to love. She convinced herself that she could be a mom. When Leah was in her seventh month, she had stopped hooking and left Los Angeles. She moved north for

a fresh start. Champagne was to find out quickly that her mom would fail miserably at being a mother. She also would find out that there was someone watching over her, protecting her.

When the hospital determined that Leah was ready to be released, she was indignant and annoyed. Three days was not nearly long enough if you asked Leah. She figured she deserved and could use at least another week of leisure and strong pain meds while the nurses cared for Champagne. Upon leaving the hospital, she brought the baby back to the disgusting motel room that Leah managed to rent with her assistance checks. Leah figured they would do okay since the amount written on those checks would increase with the birth of Champagne. She might have been able to afford a nicer place, but the majority of her money went for her alcohol and drugs. How was she going to take care of a baby all by herself?, she thought. Looking around the room, Leah realized that she should have prepared a little more for the baby. She pulled out a drawer, dumped it, and laid Champagne in it. The strong pain meds were wearing off, and they had only prescribed glorified aspirin as far as Leah was concerned. Luckily she had stopped on the way home to pick up a big bottle of cheap wine.

“Well brat, guess the closest I’ll come to champagne for awhile is changing your crappy diapers.” She laughed to herself, “That was a good one Leah … you haven’t lost your dazzling wit yet.”


Several years crawled by, and somehow, Champagne had survived her mother’s indifference. On one summer evening, Leah finally could not take it any longer, the pounding on the door was killing her head. What a hang-over she had. When she jerked the door open, she looked into the chest of a police officer. Behind him stood her neighbor, Miss Nose Up My Butt. She could tell this wasn’t good by the smirk on Miss Butt’s face.

“We got a call that you have a toddler playing unattended on the landing,” said the officer.

“Well, I don’t see no kid out here, do you?” shot back Leah.

“Not at the moment, but your neighbor called quite concerned. She said that it is not unusual to see your front door wide open and your small daughter playing out here by the stairs. Do you understand how dangerous that is?”

“Well yes, Officer, I do. I’m not an idiot. I am always just inside the door, watching her every move. The kid has gotta have some fresh air and sunshine right?”

“Ma’am, unless you use better judgment and find a safer place for your daughter to play, we will be back out with Child Services,” threatened the Officer.

“Okay. I will figure out something.”

The officer filled out his paperwork and handed Leah her copy. “This call will be documented.” He held the paper for a delayed moment, while making eye contact with Leah.

“Thank you Officer,” Leah said sarcastically as she snatched it from his hand.

As the officer moved down the stairs, Leah looked over at Miss Butt as she was turning to head back to her door. Leah smiled a big smile at her and then flipped her off with both hands, followed by slamming the door as loud as possible.

“Thanks Pagne, just what I needed.” She glared at her sweet face and grumbled, “Worthless brat.” Leah had decided that when Champagne was a year old, she did not deserve the name Champagne. She hadn’t improved Leah’s life, but complicated it. Leah called her Pagne, which was pronounced as “Pain.” The fact that she was showing signs of freckles to go with the red hair from her nameless father didn’t help either. Leah hated freckles with a passion. Leah plopped down on the ratty couch that folded out to their bed, and turned on the TV as she filled a tumbler with wine.

Leah’s lust for drinking would not allow her to survive on the meager assistance she received, so she began hooking again shortly after Pagne was born. Pagne’s childhood was a whirlwind of her mother’s customers, late nights, and the consequences of being the child of an alcoholic. One thing was consistent, an anchor that Pagne could rely on, her mother’s total disregard for her. Pagne was forced to be self-sufficient. She kept herself clean, got herself ready for school, and made sure the trash in the room didn’t pile up too high.

When Pagne was eight years old, Adam Williams was her mother’s new flavor of the month … good looking, funny and he actually had a job. Nice change for Leah. Adam always brought a bottle of quality champagne for her and Jack Daniels for him. A few drinks, some laughs and then …. “Good lovin’,” as her mother would say. Leah considered him a boyfriend, so she didn’t charge him for her company. Pagne learned to keep out of the way when Adam or other men were there. The close quarters of the motel room made it difficult, but Pagne would lock the bathroom door and climb into the tub, pretending she was in a boat heading to a strange new land.

Pagne would also read with a passion. She loved stories about fairies, far away places, or brave characters who saved the day. She read whatever she could bring home from school. Her mom certainly wouldn’t take the time to take her to the library or buy a book. When the tub was too disgusting to get into, Pagne would pile up any dirty laundry on the floor and make a nest. The width of the floor space fit her and the nest perfectly. She wished the walls were more sound proof though. The loud laughing and the noises they made when her mother had sex with the men made it hard for her to read, pretend or sleep. Pagne wasn’t sure what they were doing, but she felt uncomfortable hearing them. Sometimes, the men that Leah brought home would hit her. Pagne knew to stay very quiet. She didn’t want them to know she was there. Some mornings, Leah’s face would be swollen and bruised. When Pagne would look at her with concern, Leah would shrug and say, “Comes with the territory.”

Adam never hit her mom. He would always bring Pagne a toy or candy when he came over. He was nice enough but something made her uneasy about him. He didn’t do anything bad, but he always wanted Pagne to sit on his lap. She didn’t like it, and she wasn’t sure why. Even her mom didn’t like it. Leah would jerk Pagne up off of him and plop herself down on his lap, while giving Pagne the evil eye. Leah didn’t realize how grateful Pagne was for removing her from the awkward situation.

Even at the age of eight, Pagne was independent. She could get her own breakfast and lunch, toaster pastries or cold cereal. It wasn’t so bad when the milk hadn’t soured, but usually she ate the cereal dry. She did get free hot lunches at school when she started first grade. Leah wasn’t hungry until late evening, since she drank her meals during the day. She would throw something together for dinner, but in her drunken stupor, usually burnt it. Pagne didn’t eat much. She didn’t talk much either, and doctors thought it was because of Leah’s frequent drinking during her pregnancy. But, according to Pagne, she just didn’t have anything much to say.

One hot summer evening, Leah had drank herself into a stupor and passed out on the bathroom floor, leaving Pagne alone with Adam. He grinned at her and turned on cartoons. Their TV only had three channels. Luckily, one was cartoons ... most of the time. Pagne loved cartoons. She could watch them all day and just pretend she lived in the TV with them where she could fly like a super hero. Adam sat down in the old recliner and motioned for Pagne to come over to him. When she came close, he reached out and grabbed her by the waist and pulled her up on his lap.

“Your mommy is outta service, so maybe Adam and Pagne will have some fun? You wanna play with me, sweetheart?” Her instincts told her that this was not good. Adam’s breath stunk so bad from the liquor. She felt his arms tighten around her. Pagne began to whimper and tried to pull away. Adam was whispering and sputtering spit into her ear.

“Be quiet. I’m not going to hurt you. Trust me, you’ll like it ... well, I will.” She felt one hand slipping between her thighs and the other sliding up her belly, lifting up her t-shirt. Pagne brought her leg up and slammed down hard, kicking him in the shin with her heel. He grabbed onto her even tighter, squeezing her painfully. She kicked his shin again, and this time he let go. As he grabbed at his leg, Pagne was able to slip off his lap and headed to the front door. Adam came up out of the chair and lunged at her, screaming out with anger and pain. He was behind her and grabbed onto her arms. It hurt terribly. She was kicking and screaming. Pagne’s screams woke up Leah, and she came stumbling into the room, yelling for Adam to shut the brat up. She was confused when she saw Adam and Pagne struggling by the door.

“What the hell is going on?” She bellowed.

Adam released Pagne and spun around to Leah. “Nuthin, kid just went nuts on me, she tried to run away.” It took a few minutes for Leah’s drunken brain to absorb the situation. “So my little Pagne didn’t wanna play with you huh?” Leah showed no reaction while she tried to remain standing. She managed to focus on Pagne’s face and gave her the most hateful glare Pagne had seen her manage. Pagne pulled open the front door and ran out, tears filling her eyes and clouding her vision. Through her tears, Pagne thought she saw white wings fluttering around her. Then black.

When Pagne woke up, she hurt all over. Every part of her was bruised and sore. Her head was pounding with pain. She could hear voices but she didn’t want to open her eyes. She would hear a sweet lady’s voice speaking to her at times. She was curious about the woman, but decided it was better to pretend that she was somewhere else. Sleep, she just wanted to sleep. It didn’t hurt so bad when she slept. In her dreams she could fly with wonderful white wings, as others flew around her. Laughing, dipping, gliding ...

Pagne woke up to her mother’s voice close to her ear. “You gotta wake up. What am I going to do with a brain-dead kid? I can’t deal with this Pagne. Wake up now!” Pagne opened her eyes and looked at her mother. Her face was not haggard and worn from worry, but the familiar face of someone hung over. Leah’s breath reeked of wine. “Well it’s about time. What took you so long ... sweetheart?” Sweetheart was thrown in for the benefit of the nurse who just walked in. “Me and Adam have been worried sick. You scared your mama something awful.” As the nurse finished her duties and left the room, Leah moved in really close, so only Pagne could hear. “Pagne, they think Adam hurt you. We both know that’s a big fat lie, right? The police are going to talk to you. Mommy can’t lose Adam, baby. You gotta fix this.”

Later that day, several officers and a very nervous skinny woman named Miss Lament, came into Pagne’s room. The officers tried to be friendly and had a teddy bear with them. It was very cute, and Pagne found it oddly comforting to hug. Miss Lament, who didn’t smile and had very tiny, beady eyes was trying to ask Pagne what happened with Adam. Pagne decided she didn’t have anything to say. She knew that Adam was a bad man, but even at her tender age, Pagne intuitively understood that it was her mother’s truth. Leah needed him.

The officers and Miss Lament left very frustrated. Her mother had been waiting in the hall and slipped in. “Good girl. Now we just have to convince the judge. We’re going to move in with Adam once this whole mess is cleared up. He’s going to take care of both of us. Won’t that be nice. We’ll be a family real soon!” Pagne didn’t respond. “We hit the jackpot, baby,” cooed Leah.

That evening, the sweet-talking nurse was on duty. She was taking Pagne’s temperature and adjusted her tubing. While she worked, she talked softly to Pagne, assuring her that she would be fine. As she turned to leave, Pagne grabbed her hand, squeezing it tight. The nurse, who’s nametag said “Mrs. Greenly,” looked into Pagne’s eyes. She saw fear and worry in them. She asked, “What’s wrong, hon? You in pain?” Pagne took a deep breath and spoke in a whisper for the first time since waking up.

“What happened?” she asked.

“Oh honey, no one has told you what’s going on? Well, I’m not sure why, but you ran out your front door, and then you fell down three flights of cement stairs. You broke your leg, your arm, cracked your head, and have lots of bumps and bruises. You are very lucky that you didn’t hurt yourself even worse. I believe you have a guardian angel, dear. Yep, an angel that cushioned your fall. We all have an angel, you know. Talk to mine sometimes, when I’m sad or scared. You should thank your angel for protecting you. They have a thankless job!”

Pagne managed to ask when she would be going home. “You should be able to go home in a few days,” the nurse answered. With that news, Pagne began to weep softly. “Oh sweetheart, that’s not that far away.” She looked into Pagne’s face and realized this was something different. “Don’t you want to go home?” Pagne just closed her eyes and let go of the sweet nurses hand.

After she left, Pagne whispered quietly, “Thank you.” She did see wings, she was sure of it.

Pagne laid in her bed, a cast on right arm, a cast on her left leg, bandages here and there, and a dull headache. Her mom was filling out all the paperwork for her release. Leah looked at the prescriptions for Pagne and was grumbling that nothing was strong enough to do her much good. “The least they could do is give us Valium.” Several nurses entered the room and helped Pagne into a wheelchair, Pagne’s doctor and a police officer walked into the room. “Now Miss Crenshaw, there are some requirements you must meet to have your daughter home with you,” said the officer. “This Adam Williams is not to be within 300 yards of your daughter or your residence.”

“But he didn’t do anything,” Leah insisted.

“That might be, but until the judge makes his determination, the restraining order is in effect,” the officer responded.

“Yes, of course,” Leah said with attitude.

Pagne’s doctor stepped toward Leah and began speaking. “Here is the treatment plan for Champagne’s after care. Her therapy is crucial if she is to have a full recovery. I also want to stress that she will need a balanced, healthy diet and a safe, clean environment. Obviously the stairs will present a safety issue, have you made arrangements for assistance?”

“Yes, I have taken care of everything necessary,” lied Leah.

“Mrs. Crenshaw, a child services worker will be checking in,” reminded the officer.

“Yes, I know, another person up my butt. Can we leave now?”

“Yes, you may. But remember, your court appearance is at three o’clock today. We will remove Champagne from your care if you fail to appear.”

“Yes, I know, I know,” replied Leah with total disrespect to the officer.

The nurses put Pagne into a cab for the ride home while Leah had a cigarette. Once her nicotine fix was complete, she climbed into the cab next to Pagne. She shot the nurses a hard glare when their faces revealed their disapproval of her indifference. Pagne quietly sat while her mom went on and on about their new life with Adam. Leah talked about how Adam really cared about them, how happy they would all be together, and how Adam would bring money into the house. She could quit hooking, she thought to herself. Leah finally shut up and drifted into her fantasy of a wonderful future with Adam.

Pagne considered telling her mother what Adam had done, but she was a smart girl. She knew there was no point, her mother already knew. When they got to the hotel, Leah struggled to get Pagne upstairs, cursing with each step. Once inside the room, Pagne looked around and wasn’t surprised to see that everything the doctor had listed was not done. Pagne hopped over to the couch and sat in silence.

“Wanna toaster pastry doll? Know how much you love them.” Pagne shook her head and turned on the TV.

A few minutes later, there was a tap on the door. Leah opened it and Adam’s head popped in.

“Hey, my two favorite girls. Just wanted to stop by and bring Pagne a get well gift.” It was a tin of mints from the liquor store down the street and a car air freshener in the shape of a rose.

“What did you bring mama?” asked Leah with a little girl voice and giggle. Adam slipped a big bottle of champagne around the door.

“Can I come in for awhile?” he asked.

“No baby, not till the court says it’s okay. My neighbor next door has big ears and eyes. This should all be resolved this afternoon, you gotta be patient.” Leah laughed as Adam tried to grope her through the opening. “We’ll all be together soon,” assured Leah. Adam looked over at Pagne and winked with a disgusting lick of his lips.

“Okay, but I miss you guys. Good to have you back with us, Pagne.” Pagne turned the TV volume up and turned away to look at the screen.

“She’ll warm up to ya, baby, just give her some time. I’ll call when I get out of court.” Leah closed the door giggling. She looked over at Pagne, wanting to share the joy. Pagne could feel her eyes on her, but she didn’t respond.


Pagne was very nervous sitting in the courtroom, waiting to find out what was expected of her. Everyone was so serious, except her mother. She was whispering insulting comments about everyone. Sticks up their you know what’s … and other such childish remarks. When it was their turn to appear before the judge, Leah bounced up, flicking her hair. Once she was at the front, she realized that Pagne was still struggling to get out of her seat. She smiled and loudly proclaimed … “It’s okay baby, Mommy is here.” She went back, and very graciously, helped Pagne into the aisle. Pagne was impressed by her performance. Once she made it to the front, Pagne sat at the table facing the judge.

Leah began by explaining that this whole thing was a misunderstanding. She said that Pagne had been throwing a temper-tantrum, and Adam was trying to keep her from running out of the room. When the judge asked if she had been in the room at the time, she admitted that she had not because she was suffering from one of her migraines and was laying on the bathroom floor for relief. “The cool tile is soothing,” she explained.

Pagne’s doctor was called forward, and he described the extensive bruising on Pagne’s thighs, chest and arms. Obviously, a large man’s handprints could clearly be seen in the photos they were showing. Leah did not have any explanation for the bruises. The judge looked at Pagne and asked if she had anything she wanted to say. Pagne just looked out the windows at the beautiful blue sky, wishing she could fly away.

The lawyer, representing Pagne’s interests, made a good case that the events before her fall were clearly assault and possibly molestation. The judge agreed, and the restraining order was to stand pending further investigation. Adam had been picked up and interviewed after Pagne was admitted into the hospital. He wasn’t arrested, but did have a court date.

Leah went into a rage. “This is ridiculous, you are punishing a good man, my man, for something that was very innocent. This isn’t fair,” she yelled.

“Well, Miss Crenshaw, if you want to have your daughter in your home, you must honor the restraining order. If you disregard the order, Champagne will be placed in the care of the state until this case is resolved,” responded the judge with obvious distain.

“Well, I don’t think me and Adam should suffer because of this brat. We have a life to start. You guys can deal with her,” Leah said as she looked at Pagne in disgust. Leah then turned and walked out of the courtroom.

Everyone stood there in shock, not knowing what to say or do. Pagne

hobbled over to the window and allowed one tear to roll down her face, just one. Then she looked to the skies and flew far away.