Archive | July 2012

Pride and Prejudice Still Today

This week we are talking about the spiritual “take away” from our favorite book. My favorite novel is Pride and Prejudice. Doesn’t the title really say it all?

The main theme of prejudice is just as relevant today as it was 200 years ago. The adverse opinions Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet had of the other were the source of conflict and personal pain. Fortunately, both came to realize their misjudgments and were able to swallow their pride which brought about a happy marriage in the end.

How often do we miss out on a chance to know someone because of our prejudices? I’m not talking about grand and obvious prejudices against a race or nation. I’m talking about the negative opinions we develop about the people around us every day.

A person has one type of job and suddenly he/she is smarter and more important than the rest. That same person in another career

diverse group

Do we leave people out because of our prejudices?

might be considered insignificant by some. What do we think about people living in particular neighborhoods? Dependent on wheelchairs? Driving certain cars? Wearing brand name clothing? Covered in body piercing? With mental illness? Overweight? Underweight?

We often take one look at people, and before we know it, we are forming opinions. If we (yours truly included) make a conscious effort to monitor our judgments we might be surprised at the person behind the facade.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 (ESV)

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

What is the spiritual take away of your WIP ? This week on Pages from Stages!

All around me I hear and see and read of people going through the struggles brought on by a life altering illness. As a nurse, I was not new to the world of disease. Causes, symptoms, treatments and outcome were every day words to me, yet I was unprepared to deal with these topics when I was on the “other side” . . . Five years ago tomorrow my dear sweet husband lost his three year battle with cancer. I was his caregiver. Within a month I was diagnosed with breast cancer and became the patient. I have since sat at the bedside while close friends struggled with the reality of illness and death. My book is about the power of knowledge and how knowing can change … well everything.
Knowledge of a loving and merciful God, knowledge of the “enemy” (the particulars of the disease) , knowledge of the system, With knowledge you walk with your eyes open. The path may be long, crooked, steep and lonely but it ‘s still ok. God is. God stays. Treatments have choices, life changes, decisions and waiting permeate every waking moment. God is still there and with knowledge it is enough.

…And A Song In Her Heart

“There is no division nor subtraction in the heart-arithmetic of a good mother. There are only addition and multiplication.

This quote, though by a fictional character, has been embedded in my heart since I first read A Lantern In Her Hand in high school–and that was a loong time ago.  Written by Bess Streeter Aldrich, in 1928, it is an old book, and would possibly not be published today if held to the standard of today’s publishers.

Yet, when you read the story of Abbie McKenzie Deal, you just know that she would have somehow managed to find her way through the pages, and leave you richer while you vicariously lived with her on the Nebraska plains. Choosing the love of steady, loyal Will Deal, who could promise her nothing but his love, over the promises of fame and fortune if she were to marry the doctor’s son, Abbie gives you the first glance into the heart of so many pioneer women. Though she often thought of what might have been, she wouldn’t allow herself to linger long on anything but what was ahead, what she could see by the lantern in her hand.

Often, the chapters would end with the author proclaiming how Abbie McKenzie Deal continued on . . . with A Lantern In Her Hand and A Song In Her Heart.

I think it is the heart-desire of every writer today, to leave some little nugget that will only shine brighter as it is tumbled through the ages. And more than likely, it was Bess Streeter Aldrich’s desire, also. I wish I could tell her what an impact that one little statement made, and continues to make.

Abbie McKenzie Deal was only make-believe, yet she can still be seen in the lives of woman all around us who choose to hold forth His Light (the lantern, if you will) and with their mouths give Him the praise (the reason for the song in one’s heart). Those who continue to go forth, when there is no light–and sing through the darkest hours.

Though the book is no longer in print, it can be read in its entirety online, by googling A Lantern In Her Hand.

Fiction can never take the place of the surety and truth of His Word. Yet, as a writer, I pray that my fictional playmates will always reflect His character.

Ps. 119:105″Thy WORD is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

Ephesians 5:19:  Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.


Is it worth it?

Do you ever find yourself asking that question? Two weeks ago my family went on vacation. We decided to show the boys the Oregon Coast with a side trip to Yellowstone. By day four, we’d already spent three nights in three different small motel rooms and had spent long hours in the van together. Even our day and a half at Yellowstone was spent driving the loop.

This question kept playing through my mind as I drove through southern Idaho. Was it going to be worth it? Should we have gone home after Yellowstone? We still had another long day of traveling before seeing the ocean. Have you driven through southern Idaho? It’s dry and very desolate.

As I drove, I started thinking of other things that I’ve asked that same question about and my writing came to mind. For over two years, I’ve been working on the same story. I haven’t put it away and pulled it out months later. For the most part, I’ve worked on it very steadily. Writing it, having it critiqued, rewriting parts, filling in the blanks, having it critiqued and rewriting it again. I couldn’t guess how many times I asked if it was worth it.

An hour before we left on vacation, I finished my story and printed it. I laughed. I cried. 300 pages of a story that I had completed to the best of my ability right now. YES, it was worth it!

Holding on to that, we continued to Oregon. We had lunch with a dear friend I hadn’t seen in twenty-one years. Meeting his family and catching up was worth it.

We stopped at two farms and bought fresh picked berries. Worth it!

Finally, we reached our rented house on the coast. My boys ran through and saw the view before heading down to the beach. Their yells of excitement and laughter started making me think the miles hadn’t been so long.

Seeing sea stars close up…worth it!

Standing beside my fifteen-year-old son on a huge rock with waves splashing around and hearing him say it was cool, was all I needed to hear. Days on the road, thousands of miles–YES, it was worth it!What’s your ‘it was worth it’ story?


County Fair Starts Today

Today is the opening of county fair for us. If any of you have been a participant or had your children participate in a 4-H county fair, you know the amount of preparation and work involved. Hence, no long blog post today.

I’m sharing a picture that my daughter is entering in the photography category. It reminds me of God’s love in the beauty of His creation.

May you find beauty in His creation today as you seek to serve Him.


Black and White and Green

My heart grows heavy this summer.

The drought grinds on and on, sapping life. Evil prowls about, looking for those to devour.

Yet, there is a simple beauty. And hope. This scene of contrasts – black and white on green – was just a mile from my Dad’s farm. I stopped in the middle of a gravel road and snapped a photo. I take comfort in the truth found in the black and white of God’s word.

“I own the cattle on a thousand hills… Call on Me when you are in trouble and
I will rescue you and you will give Me glory.”

Psalm 50:10,15


What’s on your heart today? Let’s share and pray together.

My Favorite Character

Cherie GagnonLast week, I wrote what was on my heart and did not keep with the theme of our favorite character from our favorite book…so here’s my contribution a week late!

My favorite character (drum roll, please!) is Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. At the beginning of the novel, he comes across as sullen, disagreeable, and “ill-favored”. By the end of the story, I found myself rooting for the lovely Elizabeth to have a second chance to accept a marriage proposal from this man she previously turned down.

Jane Austin shows her literary talent by crafting a seemingly unpleasant character with whom the reader falls in love by the end of the story. That is not easy to do. I hope one day to successfully create a character like this.

Blog Bonus – My Favorite Portrayal of My Favorite Character in a Movie

Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth

Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet in BBC’s version of Pride & Prejudice (1995).

Pride and Prejudice is an endearing story and there should be little wonder that it has been turned into a movie production several times. My favorite portrayal of Mr. Darcy was by Colin Firth in BBC’s 1995 production.

– Cherie


Have you read Pride & Prejudice or any other of Austin’s novels?

The Mystery of the Fiction Writer

Several years ago I fell, quite accidentally, into the world of the fiction writer. I didn’t plan to. I didn’t hope to. I didn’t even know it existed in the small rural town where, amid cafe’s that close at 2 pm and postmen that deliver your mail where they know you live even if that isn’t the address on the envelope, I live in perfect oblivion to the rush and bustle of city life where I supposed all writers lived.

Nevertheless it happened. One winter day my cousin who lives miles away called and said “I am writing a book and I want to come to the writers meeting that is held in your local library once a month, can I stay with you? Of course I said yes to her coming and to her invitation to “just go along with me to the meeting to see what it’s like. The rest is history.
Now, let me tell you fiction writers are a bit of a strange lot. They walk around with “stories in their head” and have completely made up characters that tell them what they are going to do. I didn’t get it. Not at all. Until a couple of days ago when I picked up a discarded party dress that I had purchased to use to sew doll clothes. Looking at that dress, I calculated how to cut out the first pieces, even so I could take advantage of the already in place zipper. I realized that the dress was “talking”to me. Exclaiming exactly what it wanted to be next! Who knows maybe the next step will be characters in my head telling me their story

Favorite Character from Favorite Book

In 2003, I picked up a book titled The Still of Night by author Kristen Heitzmann. I had read her previous historical series and knew this book would be good even though it was contemporary. Good, is an understatement! Since that first read, I’ve read it at least twice a year, if not more. I love this book and recommend it to anyone who is looking for a new book. To date, the only negative comment I’ve gotten back is that the story ended! No one wants to get to the last page.

As I started my own writing journey, I knew I wanted to create characters like Morgan Spencer. Morgan has everything: looks, success, wealth. But his personal life crashed around him his senior year of high school and while he can fix everyone elses problems, his continue to destroy him. Morgan isn’t your perfect person and his flaws are big. Ms. Heitzmann did an amazing job of making Morgan real and deep.

Even after reading this book many times, I still feel every emotion in this story. If my own character is resembling a piece of cardboard, I grab this book and read it again. To create a character that sticks in the reader’s mind for years is an amazing talent and gift. The entire story will capture your imagination and heart.

Last September, I got to take a writing class taught by Kristen Heitzmann. During the session she read the opening paragraph from the book she was just finishing. The Breath of Dawn will be a sequel to The Still of Night. It will be in stores in November. My calendar is marked so I can get my paper copy and I will be pre-ordering it for my Kindle soon!

Are you looking for a great summer reading book? Read this one. The Still of Night will capture your imagination and your heart. I guarantee you will not be disappointed. If you’ve read it or after you do, let me know. I’m always wanting to talk about it with someone–even nine years after reading it for the first time. Now THAT’S a great book with great characters!

Enjoy your weekend,


  ** This book has been reprinted with a different cover.**

Memories of the Little House Books

I love, love, loved the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder as a child. I remember checking out the books from our school library.  Hardback copies with yellowed pages and worn edges. I think I can still smell the books and feel the thick pages as I recall those times.  Aw, the memories.

I still love those stories today.  I even read them aloud to my daughter when she was a baby.  I know maybe that sounds a little silly, when a lot of people would be reading picture books to their little ones.  I did that too.  I cherished the times and now cherish  the memories of snuggling on the couch reading to my daughter. Sometimes, when she was very young, I’d sit her in her infant carrier on the table directly in front of me.  I wanted to see her face and expressions.  I’d sit and read to her from Laura’s books. She was enthralled. Maybe a child that young is more interested in their mama’s voice as she reads.  But for whatever reason, she loved it. She never got restless and her eyes were riveted to my face as I read Laura’s stories to her.

As a homeschooler, we have used whole (living) books to study history.  When my daughter was very young we used some picture books, but we’ve always read bigger books too.  Whole books.  All kinds of books.  Hiistorical fiction, biographies, auto-biographies, and the list goes on. Laura’s Little House books were a part of that.  I believe this way of studying history has played a huge part in my daughter’s love for books and reading. Our mutual love for the written word is something we’ll always share. I think that’s so cool.

When my daughter was in third grade, we did a Literature Based Unit Study on the Little House books.  It was so much fun and we experienced so many wonderful things. We even learned to knit. Well, my daughter did and she’s quite good at it.  I sort of learned.  I’m a bit knitting-challenged, but my daughter continues to help me re-learn it whenever I get the bug to try it again.  We cross-stitched, cooked, baked, and even sewed a pretty good-looking prairie bonnet, if I do say so myself.

And are you ready? We made a ball out of a pig’s bladder, just like Laura’s pa did for her.  And get this–we dissected a cow’s eyeball too. That was a bit gross, I must admit, but still cool in a weird way.  Those last two activities were done with a group (a co-op as it’s called in the homeschooling world).  Meeting every so often with others also reading these books and studying 19th Century history together allowed us to do some of the group games that Laura might have played as a child.  And oddly enough, pig bladders and cow eyeballs aren’t particularly easy to find.  So, it was good to have a co-op group so we could all participate in those activities without having to find a dozen or more of those…uh, body parts.

In my humble opinion, these books should be on everyone’s bookshelf.  I bought them all for my daughter and hope that she’ll hand them down to her children someday.

If you’re an avid fan like me, you can even visit the re-created Little House on the Prairie site where they lived near Independence, Kansas.  There’s also Rocky Ridge Farm in Mansfield, Missouri, where Laura wrote the Little House books.  We’ve visited both places and the whole family loved those field trips.

I’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane.  I can’t imagine anyone not having read Laura’s Little House books, but if you haven’t — even if you’re an adult — you should read them. Definitely have your children or grandchildren read them.  You won’t be sorry.

Happy Reading!
Susan Hollaway

If you’ve read the Little House books, which is your favorite?