Archive | March 2012


My hubby LOVES apple pie. It’s his favorite. And our oldest son has an uncanny sense to know when I have just pulled one out of the oven. He says it’s a gift..

I never use a recipe for the filling. Hubby doesn’t like a tart apple . . . actually prefers that I use a Red Delicious. But sometimes I splurge and buy Granny Smith’s.

I can usually get the crust to look inviting. Flaky, brown, lots of sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon. But no matter how pretty it looks on the outside, it’s what’s under the crust that screams the loudest.

We ‘so very fallible people’ are like that, you know. We can manage to look pretty good on the outside . . . all shiny and sprinkled with the sugar of our good works, or kind words, etc.. But what happens when we are ‘cut and tasted”?

I have to admit that all too many times who I am on the inside would be enough to pucker you up good and tight!!

Need more sweetness? Maybe a bit of spice? Perhaps need to be ‘in the fire’ a bit longer?

I hate it when my pie filling boils over onto my clean oven. It stinks, to be quite frank . . . and leaves a residue that, unless dealt with, continues to smell each time the oven is put to the test.

If what is inside your heart spills over . . . when things are hot . . . do you smell?

“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evils things out of the evil stored up in him ” Matthew 12: 35


Good Ole Days

“This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 (NASB)

Times are changing. Some say that we tend to romanticize our pasts.  I think that’s probably true to some extent.  But I do have good memories of growing up.  Time flies by and you don’t realize how fast until something jars loose one of those special memories and it all comes rushing back as to how it used to be.  I’m not knocking modern convenience.  I’ve become quite partial to my computer, email, and cell phone, thank you.  But I thought it might be fun to talk about some of the things I used to do as a kid.  Maybe share a few “good ole’ days” memories with you.

Do you remember… when you’d grab a glass jar and run out to the yard with anticipation to see how many fireflies (or lightning bugs as we called them) you could catch?  …. when one lone super ball could provide hours of entertainment?   ….when a dream come true would be getting over a foot of snow? Contented sigh.  I had fun.

I remember after a good hard rain, we’d make paper boats , then  set sail our “not so water-tight” vessels in the gutter from the top of the hill to see how fast they’d make it to the bottom.  We roller-skated with the kind of skates you clamped over your shoes, and we rode our bikes for hours—but not with the skates on.  Those were two separate activities.

We had only three television channels growing up, but that was “normal.”   I must say, television was completely different than it is today. The shows were innocent and commercials were too.  Now, we have so many channels and it’s hard to find something “decent” to watch.  I’d be okay with getting rid of it.  But since I’m not the only voting member in our household, I’m not sure that will come to pass in the near future.  But there’s no doubt about it, television has definitely changed.

About a year ago, my daughter and I were driving through downtown Minneapolis on our way to a homeschool speech and debate tournament. Cars were speeding by as we headed into an underground tunnel, and the other drivers seemed to be completely ignoring the “caution, go no more than 35 m.p.h.” sign.  I commented to my daughter, “I don’t know how Mary Tyler Moore stood in the middle of a crosswalk here and threw her hat in the air.”

My daughter’s response?  “Who’s Mary Tyler Moore?”

Yep, times are changing all right.

Enjoy yourself. These are the “good old days” you’re going to miss in the years ahead. ~ Author Unknown


Susan Hollaway

Do you have any special “good ole’ days” memories? 

Hope Is A Blossom

God designed the seasons, I believe, to reflect part of His character. More than anything else, spring speaks to me of hope. This week walking through the neighborhood was a delight to the senses. Like this fairy tale of a walkway carpeted with pink magnolia blossoms.

All through the cold, gray winter we held out hope that spring would arrive. It was impossible to see that beneath the soil, these grape hyacinths and red tulips were just waiting for the right moment to present themselves.

Blossoms are delicate, here for just a few days when the temperatures are perfect. Hope, too, is a fragile thing that we must protect. The role of a blossom is to produce fruit. But even though this pink tree over my back fence will not yield fruit, it is still lovely. Even when dreams are not fulfilled, there is still beauty if having dreamed.

These blooms will soon fade, but we can rest in God’s faithfulness that He keeps his promises. We see it come to life every spring.

If He can paint this on the side of a Missouri highway on any old March day, I can’t help but be excited to think of what He has in store in this life and in our heavenly home.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.” I Corinthians 2:9

Susan Mires

Sunny with a Chance of Thunder

sun and thunderWhat if your mood could be forecasted, just like the weather?

Imagine if your spouse, friends or co-workers could search your name on a website called “The Mood Network”.  Would they see “sunny with comfortable temperatures”? What about “chilly with a frost in the morning”? Would they dive and take cover if the forecast was “variable today – sunny in the morning, showers in the afternoon with heavy snowfall throughout the evening”?

I was reflecting the other day about the many people who’ve come alongside us and supported our two kids with special needs. Over the past eleven years, we’ve met many nurses, doctors, therapists, educators, aides and support persons. I’ve noted that some people have left a chilly breeze in their wake, while others have brightened even our toughest days.

Same would hold true in any form of community – church, work, and family gatherings. There are some people who just make the world a better place by showing up, like a rainbow after a storm. While dark, heavy clouds follow others around, making it unpleasant for everyone. Just like any weather system has an impact on the environment, so our mood on the people around us.
It really got me thinking about making a conscious effort to make sure that I’m bringing a good attitude and pleasant disposition to every situation. True, there are days when I will be tired, maybe even heartbroken, and it will be a challenge. During those times I’ll need friends and family who will cry with me. But there will be many more days that I can make an effort to be the one who has something nice to say, a compliment to offer and provide words of encouragement.

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24

Cherie Gagnon





 What about you? If your mood was forecasted, what would it be?


What Happens Next? 24 hrs that can save your life

As I sit here thinking how to write this, memories  surface of  my 93 year old mother telling that when she was a little girl her mother wouldn’t even say the word “pregnant”. It just wasn’t proper. Times have changed. And yet there must be some old fashioned “propriety” left in me because it is still difficult to “talk about” my last 24 hrs.

Oh Well. All I can say is that “It’s for your own good”

Zooming along the highways and byways of life at age twenty, thirty, forty, even fifty, I didn’t think much about the things I could do to keep me healthy. At least not these things. Now don’t get me wrong! I’ve taken most all the YMCA had to offer in fitness classes and tried my fair share of tricks to hide the broccoli from my unsuspecting kiddo’s at the dinner table. I got on board with the sunscreen, bike helmet and seat belt mandates. (Well at least I am trying, with the help of my religiously consistent grand kids, that stupid beeper that won’t quit and the threat of being stopped by the highway patrol)

Now, I am older. And with bitter experience as a teacher, I have learned the importance of availing yourself to modern sciences’ advancements in early warning devices.

My “day” actually began yesterday. It consisted of fasting (a totally biblical activity perfectly appropriate for a Sunday don’t you think.) Followed by liquid “sweets” . . the bottled kind that you get at the pharmacy. ( If you are too young to know about those honey, don’t worry, you will when the time comes).

The remainder of the day and night drug on. I turned on the television. Every other ad sported the latest in unhealthy snacks. I got on the computer. Have you seen the things they put on pinterest these days . . . I believe chocolate peanut butter brownie cups won the prize for showing their ugly head most often. Finally resorting to my latest novel I am treated to the goings on of a couple of Amish sisters who just happen to run this amazingly popular pastry store. Even my faithful dog FUDGE could do nothing but beg for treats.
So went my day. And night. All while remaining faithfully close to that latest greatest invention of the 30’s , INDOOR PLUMBING.

Today was a breeze. Show up. Get in the bed. One little stick and thanks to this amazing person and his syringe full of heaven, I finally sleep! And then its over and I come home and I CAN EAT.

So what’s all this about? What’s the punch line? Today the Doctor removed a polyp in my colon. An innocent, benign, lone, not bothering anybody little polyp. An innocent little polyp that wasn’t there six years ago. An innocent little polyp that left alone could become cancerous in another six, eight or ten years. Today I know that the Lord will take me home one day, in His time, in His will. But it won’t be after I suffer the treatment, pain and loss of dignity caused by colon or rectal cancer.

Do you know the difference between 24 hrs of unpleasant prep and a 30 minute nap on the surgeon’s table , and loosing your loved one after three years of painful, expensive, life zapping , dignity robbing , TOTALLY PREVENTABLE, IF ONLY, colon or rectal cancer. I do. It was a hard lesson.

Are you 50? Have you had a colonoscopy? Is it just to uncomfortable or embarrassing to ask your doctor about? If so, reread my last paragraph. Slowly. Then take a deep breath and call. Its only 24 hrs but it can change what happens next.


This week we had grands here for a couple of days over their spring break. Though rainy and wet, it didn’t slow them down a skitch. We watched as our two youngest ventured ‘into the deep’ on their own.

With Amy at the helm, they went around in circles. Thinking they were frustrated, I yelled from the shore . . . “Amy, you’re going in circles because you’re using only one oar.”

Her reply–” I KNOW grandma. I KNOW how to do this” As you can see from the picture, it wasn’t bothering Drew in the least.

Drew, with his arms in the air, was completely confident that the one holding the oars did KNOW what she was doing.

What a picture that was to me. You see, when my world goes around in circles, I don’t let go!! I grip the edge of doubt and fear tight–with both hands while yelling instructions to the ONE at the helm. “This isn’t where I want to go”. “This isn’t how I want it to be.” “Where are you taking me?” “What will I do when I get there?”

Oh, for the confidence of a child. Arms in air, in full surrender, trusting, smiling, KNOWING.

Hmm. How do you react when your plans go astray? Or when the only answer is “venture deeper”?

Wait. Wait?

What a tough word those four letters spell. Who wants to wait? Not me! I want decisions to be made quickly. I want to see progress. I want my questions answered now.

I’m in the middle of a Kelly Minter Bible study on the book of Ruth. It’s a great study and daily I’m challenged or given something to apply. Todays lesson was no different.

Have you ever thought about the time Ruth had to wait? First she had to wait through the long night of laying at the feet of Boaz. Do you think she slept at all? She was in a rather scandalous place and Boaz told her he would take care of things in the morning. Later, when she got home, Naomi told her to rest and wait. Boaz was checking to see if the closer relative would take her. Poor Ruth! She was waiting for her entire future to be decided by other men–one that she loved and another she didn’t know.

Ruth didn’t run to the city gate or wander in the streets to see if she could hear what was going on. She didn’t even give her opinion on how Boaz might go about taking care of things. She had no idea what he had planned. All she could do was wait.

Minter writes, “Even while we’re waiting and it seems like nothing is happening, God is still working.”

An example is given about a group of Brazilians she visited. “The people here know how to wait. They wait for clean water. They wait for food. They wait for the floods to recede. They don’t resent it. They don’t see it as something to rush or dread. Instead, their waiting consists of hopeful endurance secured by a promise they know is on its way.”

There seems to be a lot of waiting in this writing journey. Waiting while you learn to write and plan your story. Waiting for your story to be critiqued. Waiting for an agent/editor to get back with you. Waiting for contests results.

What if I waited, knowing God was working? Waited, knowing His best was coming? What if I choose to see those four letters as positive instead of negative?

Phil. 1:6 says, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” NKJV

What a promise!

Wait? Wait.

How I Grew to Love History

I must give credit to my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Helen Martin, for planting the seed to make 19th Century history one of my favorite time periods to read (and now write).  She was a tiny-but-mighty, white-haired, smartly-dressed, sweet lady who kept her class in line.

Right after lunch, she’d read aloud from the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and I was immediately transported back to the 1800’s, living right alongside Laura and her family. I have fond memories of fourth grade; that read-aloud time had great impact.

 I still remember the gleaming hardwood floors of that classroom and the cloak room where we put our lunchboxes and hung our coats.  We never called our jackets, coats, or sweaters “cloaks,” but it was always called the cloak room.

  My memory still brings forth the picture of the wide wall of windows with cast-iron heat registers lined up underneath them.  After a snowy recess, we’d place our dripping mittens or gloves on the registers to dry.  It was not uncommon to “smell” them when they got a little too hot. I had at least one pair of gloves that had scorch marks on them.

In high school, my history class was–well, boring.  I forced myself to read the dull textbook and monotonous facts and learned them mostly by rote memorization, because the textbook never shared the “rest of the story.” I do recall, however, when a classmate jumped up and sang the words “disco inferno” immediately following the teacher’s words of “burn baby burn” regarding the great Chicago fire of 1871.  Certainly not appropriate, but quite funny.

When the Lord laid on our hearts to homeschool, it was important to my husband and me that we teach our daughter history very early on.  She’s a teenager now.  She says that one cannot begin to understand today or where our future is headed if you do not understand the past.  We’ve always studied history mostly from whole (or living) books.  These are entire books about a person, subject or event.  Knowing when, why, and how something happened and its effects on our country and the world are what makes history come alive.  At least for us.

 It was by reading and studying history right alongside my daughter as we homeschooled that I learned to love history.  Maybe that’s why it’s so near and dear to my heart.  I always had a curiosity about yesteryear, but never truly appreciated it until I ventured to dig into it with my daughter.  You might say we grew to love history together.  My husband also likes history.  My daughter wants to be a history major in college.  There are so many things she can do with a history degree.  Hopefully, she’ll help her mom with writing research.

I’m a romantic at heart and I love history, so it’s a given that I’m a huge fan of  historical romance books.  It’s the genre I love to write in the most.  As an aspiring novelist, I hope to someday share my love of the 19th Century with others as I write inspirational historical romance.

 Do you have a time period in history that’s your favorite?


Susan Hollaway

The Garbage Experiment

What is this? If it looks like a pile of garbage, that’s because it is. However, I have high hopes for this assortment of orange rinds, coffee grounds and potato peelings.

An experiment - composting in the garden

I decided to try an experiment composting late last summer with some watermelon rinds because they are so heavy and so messy to carry out with the garbage. Having heard elaborate stories about how to turn compost and use a “recipe,” I figured it was too complicated to figure out. But a friend said just to dig a hole in the ground and start piling it up. The microbes in the soil would do the hard work.

So all winter, I’ve been piling on the compost. One immediate benefit is the trash doesn’t smell as much and I don’t have to take it out as often. I keep a bucket on the back porch for compost material. As a country girl, this comes naturally because we always kept a garbage bucket and fed it to the hogs.

I’m curious to see what will happen to the compost pile this spring and how I can use it  to raise strawberries, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. I should probably read up on the internet all the right and wrong ways to go about composting, but sometimes it’s just more fun to jump in. And I figure it’s already garbage, it’s not like I can mess it up.

I’m also learning some spiritual lessons through this experiment. Even though it may technically be a pile a garbage, I’m already seeing beautiful things coming out of it. Next time I feel like a load of … um, trash … has been dumped on me, I’ll give it some time to see if it can be used to cultivate something that gives life.

Take Time For Friends

Cherie GagnonAs busy parents we can get caught up with the “To Do” list. There are always dishes in the sink, and laundry sitting in the pile, meals to make, and bo-bo’s to kiss. If you’re project oriented like me, there is some satisfaction at surveying a once messy house as it sparkles and shines after a deep clean (which doesn’t happen too often). There is a sense of accomplishment, at least for the moment, when we can cross something off our list.

                But there is one thing that I often forget to stick on my list is “take time for friendships.” Making time to go for coffee just sometimes seems like a lost chance to do more catch-up. A lady from my church once said, “The mess will be waiting for you tomorrow.” She’s right.Cherie & Sara

                Friendships add richness to our lives, a shoulder to cry on, a comrade to celebrate with, and a trusted sounding board. (right: Cherie & Sara at ACFW Conference in St. Louis)

                Just recently, my son who is medically fragile became quite sick. It was good to know that I could make a few phone calls and send out some emails, and suddenly, an entire network was praying for Joshua’s recovery. That brought a wealth of comfort to a stressful time.

                When the crisis passed, I was in the position to be a support for someone else who was ill and needed comfort. It felt good to be on the “helping side”.

And this help doesn’t always have to be during tough times, we need also need to “rejoice with those who rejoice.” God designed us to live in community with others – that’s why he created the Body.

                This recent situation really drew home Galatians 6:2 – “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

In which ways have friends supported you during difficult times? What do you like to do for others when they are in need?