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January, a New Start by Joan Leotta

From Gripe to Gratitude by K.A. Wypych Five Hints for Graceful Hospitality by for Alisa Trust theHope Trail Wagner by Shara Bueler-Repka

This is Not My Life by R.G. Sharpe

Redeeming Time (A Love Story) by Tim Surviving Bishop Aneurysms, Strokes and Cancer, and God's Amazing Grace

Untouchable Love by R.G. Sharpe Vintage Book Treasure Hunt: Reading Resolutions for 2018 by Kathryn Ross Filling Up a Concept: Black History Month by Michele Morin

by Theresa L. Begin

An Invitation by Kathleen McCauley

Spectacles of Hope Defeating YourTo Couldas, I Choose Rejoice Wouldas, and Shouldas by Jennifer Workman An Allegory by Mary Dolan Flaherty

CHAPTER 1: An Introduction

RUBY Magazine Your voice, your story FEBRUARY, 2018

In This Issue of RUBY The Valentine’s Day Gift from God by Nancy Frantel

Five Indoor Winter Activities for the Whole Family by Jehn Kubiak

How are you doing on all of your New Year resolutions? Or maybe, if you don’t actually make “resolutions,” you have set some goals for you and your family this year. Here are RUBY magazine one of our goals is to continue to provide you with family-friendly resources and creative inspiration all year long!

How to Start and Keep a Gratitude Journal by Theresa Begin

We would love to have you join us in the RUBY community, now on Facebook, so it is really easy for you to connect with us. Here’s the link: Hope to see you there!

Love Letters by Toni Samuels

Stop by the RUBY blog and click on the link to purchase your copy of the latest issue of RUBY magazine at http://www, Senior Editor: Nina Newton Editorial Assistant: Theresa Begin Feature Writers: Sharon L. Patterson, Norma C. Mezoe, Shara Bueler-Repka, Carol Peterson, Susan Paulus, Maryann Lorts, Rejetta Morse, Joan Leotta, Nancy Frantel, Michele Morin, Kathryn Ross, Sharmelle Olson, Lisa J. Radcliff, Kathleen McCauley, R.G. Sharpe, Emmanuel O. Afolabi, Toni Samuels, Tim Bishop, K.A. Wypych, Gloria Doty, Cindy Evans, Alisa Hope Wagner, Jehn Kubiak, Nells Wasilewski, Jennifer Workman

More than a Romantic Evening by Joan Leotta

Credits and Copyrights All stories and articles are copyright by the authors. All pictures and images are copyright by the authors and / or have been purchased, used by permission or are in the public domain. If any pictures or images have been used inadvertently, and they do not belong in this publication, please email us and we will immediately remove them. Nothing in this issue of RUBY magazine may be reproduced, copied, or shared without the permission of the author. Advertising information is available by contacting us at Questions? Email Nina @ RUBY magazine is published by CreativeLife All submission inquiries should be directed to: Nina Newton, Sr. Editor RUBY magazine

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February: A Time for Reflection Nina Newton, Sr. Editor It’s the middle of winter, but there is hope in the air! The snow is flying outside my office window, and the wind is howling this afternoon, shaking and rattling the doors to our deck. As I watch the snow swirling around and dumping piles and drifts just outside our front door, I am sometimes tempted to feel a bit blue. This time of year has a way of slowing us down (if for no other reason than we simply can’t get out of the driveway!), and it is not uncommon for lots of us to feel kind of sad and discouraged. I’ve heard from one of my RUBY writing buddies that this can be caused by something called SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder. I guess if you don’t get enough sunlight, which causes your melatonin and serotonin to be depleted, then it causes physical and emotional stress on your body. Some people claim that light therapy has helped them, and people in the Scandinavian countries have used giant mirrors to reflect the limited sunshine that is available so that it is intensified, thus offering more exposure to the benefits of sunshine. I have always enjoyed wintertime, but the cold does present some challenges to getting around and accomplishing our daily tasks. So even though in the middle of winter, we all tend to have less energy or perhaps have bouts of sadness or discouragement, one thing that has helped me get through the long, dark days of winter is to refocus my energy and time on planning for the future. A time of reflection, so to speak, where I contemplate the events of the past year and, now that the hustle and bustle of the holidays is completely in the rearview mirror, I look ahead. And eagerly anticipate spring! This is a time that some of us, as writers and artists, find the solitude conducive to a bit more creativity. It seems that I mostly feel motivated to write a poem or two on the days when I am forced to slow down long enough to hear my own thoughts and the beating of my own heart. That’s not always easy to do, because we frequently don’t want to remember things from the past, or we don’t want to dwell on what God is speaking to our heart. This year, during the cold, dark, blustery days of late winter, I am choosing to stop avoiding those times of reflection, and embrace the truth and even the pain and sadness of remembering. One of my goals this year is to return to the regular practice of journaling. Gratitude journaling is the perfect way to refocus our sad thoughts to praising God for all of His good gifts. Be sure to read the article by Theresa Begin in this issue, “How to Start and Keep a Gratitude Journal.” Lots of great tips and encouragement to get started! If you are struggling through these days of limited sunlight, long, cold, dark nights, loneliness, sadness, discouragement, or despair, why not try journaling? If you have one of those SAD light contraptions, lots of people have been helped by them, so it is definitely worth a try. But whatever you are doing on these seemingly endless gloomy days of winter, always remember that you are never alone. God’s Word tells us that He “. . . will never leave you nor forsake you” Hebrews 13:5. If we trust His grace and forgiveness, praying with thanksgiving for all of His blessings, “. . . the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7] Let these days of winter be a time of reflection, and a time of seeking God’s love, comfort, encouragement, and blessing. Start that gratitude journal today, and you’ll see what I mean!


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For inspirational articles by Beth Brubaker, visit her blog at Footprints in the Mud

Hello Sweetheart! by Sharon L. Patterson This is the month for sweethearts and memories that go along with all that means. My story still brings a smile even though 17 years of technology have intervened. Perhaps the laughter at my humble beginnings with using the computer will be as humorous as the actual incident. Enjoy my memory…when my sweetheart was deployed to Bosnia on a peacekeeping mission. I was missing him so and wanted to give him my loving message beginning with, “Hello, Sweetheart!” I was used to my husband's absence and had an abundance of letters and cards to mark every "call to duty." But this time, deployment would take Garry on a historic mission combining Active Duty and Reserve component soldiers under the command of the 49th Armored Division. He served as Chief of Staff of Multinational Division – North, BosniaHerzegovina. I was apprehensive, because I understood that this was not only an important peacekeeping mission, but a dangerous one as well. I knew he would do well, and I wanted to do my part to keep the home front and families of the other deployed soldiers doing well, too. It was going to require new skills on my part working with the Family Readiness Support Group. Prior to his deployment, I always let Garry handle anything that had to do with the computer. I still wrote snail mail as my fear of the computer loomed larger than my desire to learn new technology. His constant invitation to learn how to email finally captured my attention and ended my excuses . . . especially when he said we could keep in constant contact that way. So, two weeks before he deployed, we sat together in front of the computer. "You can do this, Sharon, it is quite simple. Really, you just can't mess up email!" Thus began my short training session. He left for Bosnia fully confident of his teaching skills success with his not-so-technical wife. The first emails were indeed a smashing success. I was thrilled to write and receive back messages in such a short time.

He had been in Bosnia a little over three weeks when he received my somewhat hyper, "Honey, you won't believe what happened!" message one night. I got his response rather quickly, despite the fact he had just put in 16 hours that day. "You did WHAT?"... And this is what I did: I started my "Hello, Sweetheart" that evening just fine. I knew what the subject line was for. Garry had taught me well. What I did not know was what the CC was all about. He had left out that detail, obviously thinking it was not something I would need to know about. How I hit it and what I entered are still a mystery. I hit an "s," a "c," and a "u" on the CC line. I did not know how to back out the letters. In frustration, I just left them because I was already into the body of the email. My cursor knowledge was quite vague to say the least! I did know "send" of course. I hit that and sent my "Hello, Sweetheart" message to Garry. However, my husband was not the only recipient of my loving email! I got back some emails that let me know some other people got it, too. "You are not my sweetheart!" "Wish you were my sweetheart!" "Why are you writing on this military address?" Thank goodness, I was not waxing particularly romantic in that message. It seems that my "Hello Sweetheart" had gone to the South Carolina National Guard...every single unit! I know, you are way ahead of me. I had copy furnished South Carolina Universal address book by accident! It was nice to receive so many emails, however I was embarrassed and my husband had to take back some words, not so prophetically spoken..."really, you just can't mess up email! Hmmm, guess we’ll have to give me a new slogan, “Oh, yes I can!”

In our digital age, one of the least common forms of communication is the good old-fashioned letter. When is the last time you received one from a friend or a family member? From Millennials to retirees, so much of the communications we receive are digital. That’s why it’s always such a treat when I go to my mailbox and find a letter or card from a loved one. And one of the reasons I keep Christmas cards and Christmas letters from friends long after the holiday has passed is because they’re so out-of-theordinary. It’s been said that the Bible is God’s “love letter” to humanity. Sure, it’s filled with commandments, laws, historical accounts, poetic writings, proverbial sayings and more.

But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children. – Psalm 103:17 God’s “love letter” encourages us: You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry. – Psalm 10:17 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. —2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 God’s “love letter” empowers us to love others:

But from Genesis to Revelation, it’s woven together by a scarlet thread of God’s loving plan to redeem mankind through His Son, Jesus Christ.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. – John 13:34

Sometimes God demonstrates “tough love” (think Judges), and other times He shares tender love (John 3:16). But no matter how He chooses to express it, God’s love …is everlasting:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. – 1 John 4:7

… I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. – Jeremiah 31:3

Whether it’s in a leather-bound book or on a laptop, God’s Word is a treasure trove of His great love for us!

About this time of year, everyone starts thinking, and planning, and contemplating, and doing all kinds of things to focus on losing weight. We plan but then often times we get busy or distracted and we don’t follow through with whatever weight loss “plan” we decided to try this year. We think about it and what it would take to lose a few pounds and get healthy in the process. Some of us even sign up for a gym membership or exercise classes, and we get started . . . only to realize that, unless our “weight loss” plan is really a “healthy living” plan that makes sense for our “real” lives, we just can’t keep up with it, no matter how much we really, really, really want to. One of the lessons I’ve learned along my journey through life, is that we have to remember that we live in the “real” world, with all that comes with the everyday demands of our roles as wives, or mothers, or sisters, or daughters, or friends. So it is important to make small adjustments along the way, forgive ourselves when it just doesn’t work out, and don’t give up if we slip up on our plans. My seventeen-year-old daughter might be able to decide that she is going to go to the gym five times a week, right after school, or right after her job at 6:00 p.m., but I don’t have that option realistically. I decided to shoot for ONE afternoon of exercise each week, just to get started, and see how I do. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But it is realistic. Then, if I get that down to a routine, I’ll add a second day. That’s why when we are making an effort to create healthy, nutritious meals, we don’t start out by throwing out all of the regular ol’ food around here (like breakfast cereal, bread for sandwiches, coffee creamer, and peanut butter), and go on a wild shopping spree for tofu, quinoa, and celery juice. We started by adding a few “healthier” choices to begin with and then added a few things as we went along, then gradually eliminated some things (like Little Debbie snack cakes!), replacing them with other options like the yummy Banana Chocolate Chip Baked Oatmeal Cups. Perfect for popping in the girls’ lunch boxes! If you are considering making some changes in your menus, here are a few ideas that are sweet and savory, and will help you take the first step on your journey to self-care in 2018. Remember, a journey of a 1,000 miles begins with the first step . . . even if that is a baby step, get moving!

Banana & Chocolate Chip Baked Oatmeal Cups from Organize Yourself Skinny on Pinterest

Valentine’s Day Tomato Pasta Soup from Betty Crocker This isn’t just any ordinary tomato soup! It’s super simple because you do use canned soup, but there is so much other yummy goodness in it that your whole family will absolutely LOVE it! And they will know you LOVE them, too! Visit the Betty Crocker website for lots more recipes that are quick and easy, and budget-friendly.

Oven-Baked Zucchini Chips from Skinny Ms. via Pinterest Does your family love fried zucchini in the summer? We sure do, but I’ve always been rather hesitant to fix them too many times because the only way I ever knew to cook them was breaded and fried. I hate frying anything, so I have avoided it. And really missed having those yummy fried zucchinis! So when I came across this recipe from Skinny Ms. for the oven-baked zucchini chips on Pinterest, I decided that I’m just going to have to give it a try!

Easy Skillet Fried Apples from Mom Endeavors Even though apples are usually thought of as an autumn fruit, it’s still winter and apples are one of the easiest fruits to find in the store at a good price. If you love apple sauce or apple pie, here’s a great option for cooking apples right on the stove top. Just cut up a batch of apples and toss them in a skillet with some butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon and you’ve got a quick and easy dessert that is (kinda) good for you! You could even substitute the butter with just a splash of water and steam the apples if you want to avoid the extra butter. Just a thought! Pop on over to Mom Endeavors for the complete recipe for the Easy Skillet Fried Apples.

Deluxe Cheeseburger Melt (Lite) from Betty Crocker Using reduced fat ingredients, this family favorite is one they will ask for again and again, and you will feel good about giving them all a dish that is heart-healthy. A deluxe cheeseburger in a dish includes everything you would expect from your favorite burger, but so much easier to prepare and serve. Find this recipe and so many more on the Betty Crocker website. All images and recipes are the property of the original websites. RUBY magazine does not own any of the images in this article and they are used only as part of a featured collection. To find any of the original articles, please visit the websites which are linked to each image.

The Valentine’s Day Gift from God by Nancy Frantel I did not expect Valentine’s Day in 2010, to hold permanent significance in my life. However, a single event lasting only a few seconds still touches my heart. In the afternoon, my brother called me from Daddy’s Hospice room. I realized Daddy was weak as a result of battling a terminal illness for many years, yet counted on hearing about his improved condition. “Daddy’s awake. Would you like to talk to him?”

Four days earlier Daddy rested at home. His quick decline came as a surprise.


My hopeful, “He will pull through and be okay,” faded into silent tears as a result of the move to Hospice.

Grasping for the breath, Daddy attempted to speak a few words. I responded, however my brother answered to let me know Daddy was no longer on the phone.

I heard my brother tell Daddy I wanted to talk to him. The significance of a second chance meant a lot to me. Later I would realize why.

As he started to hang up, I shouted, “Wait, I have something else to tell him!”

“I love you,” I told him, hoping he understood.

“He’s too tired to talk,” he replied in a solemn tone. “We can try later.” I understood the reason for the “wait until later” response. But my intense feeling indicated to talk now. Not later.

Silence answered on the other end. My father slept the rest of the day, preventing additional communication with him. The next morning around 10:00, I received a phone call from my brother. Daddy passed away. “I love you,” were the last three words I spoke to my father.

Now. What a wonderful Valentine’s Day gift from God. I lived several hours away, and planned on visiting him later in the week. Injuries from a car accident a week and a half earlier prevented me from traveling to see Daddy before then. Hoping to obtain transportation to North Carolina within a few days, I looked forward to sitting by his side with my mother and brothers. In the meantime, at least I could talk to him. My thoughts remained positive even after hearing his struggle to speak.

Not only did God give me the words. He gave me the urgency to speak once more to my father. God knew the next day my father would be in Heaven. John 15:9-11 [Jesus speaking:] “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (NRSV)

Join Tim and Debbie Bishop on their Coast-to-Coast Bicycle Journey as Newlyweds in Two are Better Don’t miss our interview with Tim and Debbie in the March 2018 issue of RUBY magazine! Tim and Debbie’s Books are now available from RUBY’S Reading Corner! Wheels of Wisdom: Life Lessons for the Restless Spirit Two are Better: Midlife Newlyweds Bicycle Coast to Coast

Be sure to read Part 5 of “A Betrayal of Trust” by Donna B. Comeaux on the RUBY blog

Filling Up a Concept: Black History Month by Michele Morin Discrimination, equality, dignity, and justice are abstract, intangible concepts, and some would say that they are beyond the reach of small children — completely inaccessible to the sippy cup and board book set. But story is an effective conveyance of meaning and The Story of Martin Luther King, Jr. and The Story of Rosa Parks (Worthy Press, 2017) have anchored these abstract concepts in the bedrock of real situations with vivid pictures that bring them to life. Concrete descriptions of discrimination are given context against familiar backdrops: restaurants and schools, water fountains and crowded buses. While it is true that some of the story details around dates and places will be lost on the tiniest story lovers, astute parents will explain what Rosa did when she worked as a “seamstress,” and that the day Martin spoke to a crowd of “more than 200,000 people,” he was talking to the number of people who live in a medium-sized city. They will share the fact that this February would have been Rosa’s 104th birthday — that if Martin had lived, he would be the age of a very old grandpa. Set within the narrative arc of a key historical figure’s life, justice looks like fairness – a concept near and dear to the heart of every child. Intangible virtues of vision and courage are filled up with meaning by stories of a quiet woman stepping out of her comfort zone and into danger, and a small boy imagining what it would be like to eat at any restaurant or to drink from any water fountain. And in this tumultuous year of devastating news and untethered violence, parents can use a dose of unquenchable optimism portrayed in short stories that transport us back to our history of hope. We all need the reminder that Rosa and America did win. Martin’s dream did flourish. His hopes saw daylight, and because of the bold actions of those who ushered in the civil rights movement, we celebrate. Black History Month marks our resolve that America must continue to win Rosa’s fight for equality, dignity, and justice. All that has been accomplished in the past pours meaning into the challenge for renewed vision. Remembering and sharing stories of courage and commitment reinforces — with urgency — the conviction that Martin’s dream must live on.

This book was provided by Worthy Publishing Group in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

God’s Warm Love by Rejetta Morse God walks beside me in the winds while tall trees start to sway, beneath the weight of His strong words – He gives warm love each day. I tremble as strong waves of wind soar under dark gray clouds, as snowflakes fall below the skies – He gives warm love each day. His love is warmer than summer, or any brilliant ray of sun that shines – He is the light – He gives warm love each day. As ivy clings to trees and climbs toward their destiny, I pray He guides my steps through all the storms – He gives warm love each day. One day, fierce arctic winds shall cease, and will begin to stray, and snowy winds shall disappear – He gives warm love each day.

More than a Romantic Evening by Joan Leotta When we lived in Virginia, I was often called upon to talk to the ESL classes (English as a Second Language) sponsored by our church. My job was to tell a folk tale or other story to illustrate the meaning of the holiday in the US cultural context and then explain the Christian connection or a way of celebrating the holiday that would honor God. This helped our students—from all over the world and from many religious backgrounds, better understand the holiday for themselves. In addition, it put them in a position to explain some things about the origin of the holiday to their children who were coming home from school with "new" ideas about holidays; to be knowledgeable before these little ones who might be thinking they knew more about US customs than their parents. With St Valentine's Day, I explained how St Valentine got started providing dowries for poor girls. This resonated with many in the group who came from countries where arranged marriages and dowries were still very much a present tradition. I then explained about love of God, brotherly love, a general love for people, and of course, the holiday's tie to romantic love, as a Christian would celebrate it. I tried to give a Bible verse for each type and after the performance, answered some questions and the teachers followed up on how best to present God to them through all of this. When thinking about the Christian side of romance, I often hark back to my first Valentine's Day as a married woman. We went out to a favorite neighborhood restaurant. Valentine's Day is a crowded time for eating out, but many like to do so.

Maybe it is because a restaurant meal frees your mind from every day cares. Your senses are heightened by the good food (and libations) and you are able to focus on your beloved. Perhaps this is why many people get engaged on Valentine's Day over a lovely meal or their loved one presents them with a wonderful gift. On that first Valentine's Day as a married couple, just after the waiter cleared the table, while we were waiting for dessert, my husband upped the romance game several notches. He reached across the table to hand me a gold necklace. Definitely, a Cary Grant moment on his part that made me feel like a movie star! We have now been married for forty Valentine's Days. Each one has been better than the one before. No, this does not mean I have a collection of gold chains. One Valentine's Day, we were both sick! On another, after dropping the kids at a church party, we headed for a neighborhood restaurant and it was full—we had neglected to make reservations. We wound up having our Valentine's dinner at Roy Rogers. My husband still makes romantic gestures—but they are far more meaningful than giving jewelry. He empties the dishwasher. He is there when I get rejection notices and says, each time I announce one, "I never reject you." He shows his love in countless concrete actions (and I hope I do the same for him!). We have suffered loss and sadness together and have basked in the joy of many blessings—together. For us, Valentine's Day is a time to remember all of the little things and big things we love about each other.

We usually eat in now, to avoid crowds. Being Italian, a meal is a part of every holiday. We celebrate with what has become, for us, this holiday’s signature meal we cook together now that he is retired. He makes the steak. I make the side dishes and dessert—unless we can find our fave Italian pastries (sfogliatelle). One of the best parts of the meal is remembering and thanking God for past, memorable celebrations—the golden chain, eating our meal at Roy Rogers, and the time we were both sick and realizing that it is God's grace that has brought us this far and it will be his Amazing Grace that will bring us home, no matter where or with what we celebrate our future Valentine's Days.

Please join us in the RUBY community, now on Facebook! Connect with other Christian women, share prayer requests, book reviews, blog posts, crafts, recipes, poetry, and parenting advice and encouragement. We even have a home school group where you can share resources with one another! I hope you will take time to visit the RUBY community group and let us know how we can pray for you. I’ll be looking for you, Nina

From Gripe to Gratitude by K.A. Wypych I have had the sad misfortune to experience disappointment in a wide array of circumstances as I’m sure we all have. As I worked my way through a recent minefield of disenchantment, I prayed for God to show me why I kept encountering this recurrent situation: someone makes a commitment followed by a complete lack of follow through leading to a confrontation. I kept thinking, “Why can’t people take care of their business? I get done what I need to get done and be where I say I’m going to be. It’s part of my personal integrity. Isn’t it logical that others would follow suit?” After reviewing several situations and receiving good counsel from friends, I realized I made an unequal comparison between the two people in the scenario. I compared the weakness of the other person to my strength. I function with a high level of integrity whereas someone else may function with a high level of compassion. How can I find them at fault when I’m comparing apples to oranges? I need to look at the whole picture of each person, which means taking a good, hard look at my own flaws. God revealed that I need to practice a greater level of acceptance. While it can be defeating to accept your circumstances at face value, I cannot change people or re-prioritize their values to fit mine. Their strengths may not be my strengths. How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Luke 6:42 NIV) 1) Accept that people are who they are. People are going to do what they’re going to do. I’m not sure why it has taken so many years for me to fully comprehend this. When people act a certain way, I cannot undo it. And when people think certain ways, I do not have the power to change their minds.

What I can do is release myself from the responsibility to change my circumstances. It is not my duty to perform clean-up on the hearts and minds of those around me. That’s God’s job. 2) Change my perspective. Perspective dictates your reaction. My role is to take a good, hard look at myself. I need to see how I have failed God and admit how His grace has covered me. I have to remember my own failings and those who have loved me through them. News flash: I’m not perfect. It’s amazing how large someone else’s failures can seem when we’ve conveniently forgotten our own short comings. After self-examination, I can redirect my focus from the situation at hand to the grace that I’ve been allowed. I find that when I do this, I tend to have more mercy and compassion for the other person. Handling a difficult situation with mutual respect is easier when the storm has calmed and one can see clearly. 3) Remember to be grateful. Stressful situations reveal something about me, details about the other person or people, and information regarding my circumstances. I need to be grateful that God opened my eyes to what is happening inside and around me. He cares about me and wants me to grow, living with more peace and love in my life. He wants this for you, too. We have to take an inventory of our lives. We can have amazing things going on with wonderful opportunities presenting themselves, yet only focus on the one or two bad things that happened in our week. Don’t forget to look and give praise for the good things! Too often we immerse ourselves in the negative and exclude all other thoughts. Fight that impulse. Dwell in the positive! When disagreements and disappointments occur, opportunities arise to step into bigger roles, to let go of old reactionary thought patterns, and to shine the light of compassion. They are our opportunity to be Jesus to someone else.

Valentine Magic by Sharmelle Olson Valentine magic is really in the air today! With all the love genuinely being spread around the world, we can bring peace and love in every way, while we spread it around in a world that’s been wild. Valentine magic brings Love to each day if we accept it as it spreads through the airwhile we seek this way, every day to pray, for this special day is fair! Valentine magic spreads worldwide, vibrantly blessing everyone who is proud of their loved ones and friends in a special way that brings joy as they discover their wisdom.

Lord, Maybe Tomorrow by Norma C. Mezoe Lord, maybe tomorrow, I’ll talk with you… and maybe tomorrow, your work I will do. I’ll visit the suffering, I’ll pray for the weak, I’ll feed the hungry and encourage the meek. Lord, maybe tomorrow. Lord, maybe tomorrow, I’ll read from your Word, and maybe tomorrow, I’ll take up your Sword, then I heard my Lord softly say, “Tomorrow may not come, today is the day.”

Winter Wonders by Gloria Doty My three-year-old grandson, Joshua, is thrilled to play outside any season of the year, but winter is his absolute favorite time. He seems to be oblivious to cold toes, frozen mittens, and the crustiness which will inevitably cover his top lip. Although winter may be his ‘bestest’ time to play outside, having to be dressed for the occasion is definitely not at the top of his list of favorite activities. He would rather just run out the door in his pajamas and really doesn’t see the need for all of the bulky clothing. Not only does he have to be convinced to put the extra clothes on, but unfortunately for me, the person getting him dressed, Joshua labors under the mistaken notion that he has the ability to totally dress himself. Due to a school closing, his older siblings are already outside and he is anxious to join them. With that fact in mind, and never wanting to miss out on a moment’s fun, he’s determined to get his sweatpants on quickly. After he has fallen over two times because he has both legs in one hole, he allows me to hang onto him long enough to extricate one leg and start it into the other hole. Next, he is nearly tearing his ears off in his haste to get his sweatshirt over his head. It ends up being on backwards, but Josh and I can both live with that. Amid cries of “I can do it myself,” he tries very hard to put on his socks and shoes. Nine times out of ten, Josh will put his shoes on the wrong feet. You would think that the law of averages would come into play and they would be on the correct feet at least half the time, but it doesn’t seem to work that way. Joshua is so excited that he keeps running from one window to another to look at the snow, heedless of me telling him that he can see it firsthand if he will just come and put his outside clothes and boots on. I finally corral him and get that first foot started down into the leg of the snow pants.

However, I now realize the grave error I made by not putting the snow pants on before the shoes. His foot is lodged halfway down the leg and refuses to come out or go in further. My endeavors are hampered further by his jerking his leg in his efforts to make it happen faster. After I manage to extricate his foot and the shoe, I have to remove the other shoe and make sure his toes are pointed down into the leg of the snow pants before proceeding. These are one-piece pants, so his arms get tangled a few times in the shoulder straps. After the snow pants are on, and a scarf is tied around his neck, (all amidst yelps of displeasure) the hooded jacket is next. Joshua is not at all fond of being zipped into anything, and is now beginning to feel like a stuffed sausage. I grab the boots. Surprisingly, they slip over his shoes quickly; probably because Josh has so many clothes on, he can no longer move. The last piece of attire is the mittens. These take a little dexterity, as I try to persuade Joshua to hold his thumb out so it doesn’t get into the mitten part. This takes several tries and when he finally gets it right, I have to be careful not to follow my natural instinct to push the mitten onto his hand.

Because Josh will definitely not push against me and since he is rather unbalanced with all of those clothes on, I invariably just push him over. The good thing about it is that he is so bundled up he won’t hurt himself when he goes down. He’s getting overheated with all the clothes on and I am getting overheated from the exertion of putting those clothes on. I usher him out the door into the snow filled yard with his siblings. He walks down the steps looking slightly like a penguin, but I’ve done my job…he won’t get frostbite, for sure. I tell him to have fun. Then I close the door and reach for that well-deserved cup of coffee. Before I set down, I hear a soft little knock on the back door. When I open it, I see Joshua standing there and hear those five dreaded words: “I have to go potty.”

The Magnolia Series by Gloria Doty is now available from Amazon!

Katherine’s Corner Shop – a beautiful boutique where you will discover the perfect wedding gift or accessory, elegant home décor, jewelry, bags and totes, and fashion accessories.

Redeeming Time (A Love Story) by Tim Bishop

Oh, the agony of unanswered prayer! “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12a, ESV). Yet the struggle has benefits when we continue to trust God and wait for His deliverance. My spiritual tussle started in my twenties and increased through the years, to a crescendo when I hit fifty. I enjoyed several facets of life in those years, but I longed for a godly and compatible companion. “It isn’t good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18, TLB), the Scriptures say. I understood that too well. My painstaking prayers had not gotten through, or so it seemed. Time as an Ally Thirty years is a long time to wait for a spouse. However, waiting became more palatable in the mid90s when a spiritual lightning bolt struck – four “sightings” of Isaiah 40:31 (ESV). You know the verse: But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. My first glimpse of this passage appeared on a tractor-trailer. The following day, a friend quoted it to me while we discussed my singleness. A few days thereafter during prayer at home, I felt an inexplicable urge to look at a calendar in another room. Guess what Scripture I saw on that calendar! A week later, the final visitation left no doubt God was speaking to me. At a tiny museum in rural Canada miles away from home, a hymnal resting on an old organ drew me. I picked up the hymnal, opened it randomly and, to my amazement, discovered a hymn on the facing pages whose sole words were the text of Isaiah 40:31! My initial reaction was, “Is more waiting really the answer to my prayers?” Thereafter, eagles began popping up all around me, whether in pictures, on signs, in literature, or swooping high overhead my home in Maine. God had indeed spoken. I wasn’t sure what He was saying, but I knew it was Him. That was encouragement enough. Deliverance Two decades later, in my eighth year of a happy marriage to a wonderful woman, I understand better the message from those unforgettable sightings. God had heard and answered my prayers, but He wanted me to learn more contentment in Him before He unveiled Mrs. Bishop.

All along, He was in His workshop with a chisel, a hammer and a touch-up brush, and I was His unfinished piece. Even for the Skilled Craftsman, this kind of work takes time because He works on fragile subjects who often resist His touch. The transformation begins at spiritual birth, accelerates with cooperation and approaches completion as He ushers us into His heavenly presence. Whittle away some self-centeredness, slather in more patience and add a touch of grace and humility. It takes a long time to create effective art out of some material. Apparently, I needed a lot of work. Back then, God’s workshop had another sculpture undergoing refinement. It was Debbie! Only He knew how to take anger, damaged emotions and regrettable choices and prepare them for the next phase of His work. He would continue that project in tandem with the other one – me. Despite the long wait, God’s answer to our prayers arrived on time and fit the need perfectly! Where else could He find two of His followers who wanted to bicycle across America with a special companion by their side? He allowed us to celebrate our fulfilled dream in glorious fashion. “A desire fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12b, ESV). Little did we know He had much more in store for us. Thank God, my distress drove me to my knees where He could shape me. I learned more about being His child and meshing with those around me. He continues molding us into His likeness so He can use us more effectively to touch others. Differing Circumstances, Same Process You may have your own unique wrestling match with God, but its pain and longing for deliverance are similar to mine. Rest assured He’s not going to abandon you in your suffering. He’s saying, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5b, ESV). His purpose is “to give life in all its fullness” (John 10:10b, TLB). While it may be late, the light still burns in His workshop. The enemy may use what seems like unanswered prayer to suggest otherwise, but God is trustworthy. He sees what we can’t. Although His timeframe often differs with ours, amazingly, He can redeem anything and everything for His purposes, even longsuffering amid heartache. All He needs is unimpeded access to His masterpiece. Soon enough, we’ll know what He’s been up to. If you ask Debbie and me, it’s never too late for prayers to be answered and for dreams to come true.

After 10,000 miles of bicycle touring throughout America, Tim and Debbie Bishop coauthored the award-winning Wheels of Wisdom: Life Lessons for the Restless Spirit, which includes fifty-two “God moments” from the road. They share these experiences to encourage others to persevere until they realize their own hopes and dreams.

Wheels of Wisdom: Life Lessons for the Restless Spirit by Tim and Debbie Bishop is available from RUBY’S Reading Corner. Winner of the 2017 National Indie Excellence Award for inspiration

Because It Matters by Sharon L. Patterson Why tell the truth when a little white lie seems to fit the situation better? Because it matters! Why stop to help someone in need when you are in a hurry? Because it matters! Why maintain self-control when the world around you is out of control? Because it matters! Why give to God when you have just enough for yourself? Because it matters! Why forgive those who have hurt you so much you can hardly breathe? Because it matters! Why obey the rules when no one else is looking? Because it matters! Why not pass on that juicy piece of gossip? Because it matters! Why serve those who are less fortunate than ourselves? Because it matters! Why show kindness to those who do not appreciate it? Because it matters! And why does it matter? Because paying attention to these matters brings healing to our souls and to the souls in the world around us.

Helping at Hospice by Cindy Evans I took my place behind the desk, settling in the familiar chair, the feeling of peace I'd come to expect was gently evident there. As people passed, they seemed sad, yet thankful for this place, and a cheery voice and flowers and a smiling, friendly face. Some walked by the pond, some sat in the chapel in prayer, some people slept in the rooms, you could see how much they care. A chaplain walked by and gave a little wave... one of the staff let me know an ambulance was on the way. I take it all in, just blessed to be a part of God's love in action and the sharing of His heart.

Five Hints for Graceful Hospitality by Alisa Hope Wagner “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13.2 ESV). Five is the number of grace, and it is the number I carry with me whenever I do something new or intimidating. Hosting parties and get-togethers can be a daunting task, especially when we want our guests to relax and enjoy themselves. However, the Bible is very upfront with the importance of hospitality. Before the proliferation of restaurants, people dined for special events in people’s homes. Here are five helpful hints that I have learned from years of showing hospitality to help you instill hospitality in your own life. You may not plan an event every month, but even in just a few times a year, you can bless others with a little of your time, effort and creativity. Hint 1: Don’t carry unrealistic expectations and emotions of others. You will talk yourself out of hosting an event if you worry too much about what people are going to think or feel. If you are feeding and serving them, they will feel blessed no matter what you serve or how you serve it. People are busy, and much of the time, they have to eat at restaurants where they pay to be able to relax without having to cook and clean. If you demonstrate hospitality toward them, they will not only feel relaxed and refreshed, but they will be grateful that you would honor them with your time and energy. Hint 2: Set a date and invite your guests. You don’t need a holiday to have a reason to show hospitality. Although holidays such as Valentine’s Day and Saint Patrick’s Day are fun days to host an event because the theme is already given to you, you can also choose just a boring, normal day and make it special. You can do a ladies’ brunch, inviting five of your closest friends. You can plan a dinner date, inviting a few couples to your home. You can also do a Sunday barbeque, inviting a new family from church. Once you set the date and invite your guests, the details can be planned over the next few weeks. Hint 3: Choose one special surprise. The special surprise doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming; it’s merely a unique offering to let your event stand out and feel special to your guest. I have made special Scripture scrolls for my guests. I have allowed my children to play a song they’ve been learning on the piano or guitar as a performance. I have bought small frames, and after taking a picture of my guests, I will print out the pictures and place them in the frames as a memento. I have gifted small items to my guests, such as one of my published books, necklaces from my brother’s African missions, the drinking glasses used for toasting the meal, etc. You can also play a get-to-know-you game with new guests or have all your girlfriends bring over their wedding, graduation or childhood photo albums for a show-and-tell. Whatever you choose, your guests will be thrilled to join in your unique offering.

Hint 4: Set the atmosphere of your home. First, you want your home to be tidy and smell nice. You can choose a scented candle, a diffusor with scented oils or a home fragrance spray. The sense of smell can cause a home to feel inviting and memorable. Next, you can have fresh flowers available. The flowers can be wild and handpicked or they can be an inexpensive arrangement bought from the grocery store along with your groceries. Finally, the food can be presented in matching serving dishes. These don’t have to be expensive at all. I have white ones that I buy on sale from different makers. I add to my collection when I see an inexpensive tray or bowl. You can buy a colorful array of serving dishes or stick to one brand or color. Whatever you choose, your guests will be honored that you set out your best. Hint 5: Prepare five foods—appetizer, bread, side, main dish and dessert—and a choice of beverages. Preparing the food is intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. I usually will opt for a few homemade items and add items that are already prepared. For example, I will make a homemade heirloom salad, but I will put frozen seasoned meatballs in a crockpot with a gourmet jar of spaghetti sauce and boil whole wheat pasta. Plus, I’ll broil sliced Brussels sprouts or steam broccoli as a side. Then, I can purchase fresh garlic bread from the grocery store, but I’ll make a homemade cheesecake. Or I will make homemade bread in the bread maker, and purchase a cheesecake from the store. I will never do everything homemade because I will be exhausted and frustrated by the time my guests arrive. Finally, I will have beverages available that may include water, coffee, tea, lemonade, punch, etc. These helpful hints will prepare you for showing hospitality and help you overcome your fears of hosting an event. If you host events like I do, you’ll eventually walk in ease through the steps I have listed. But practice does make perfect. The more I host, the better I become. But truly, my guests have always been supportive and grateful. I have had a few mishaps now and then; preparing a new recipe or running behind in time, and my guests have always seen my servant’s heart. Never have I felt judged or criticized for trying to bless those around me. In fact, I feel like I get the best reward of all: knowing that I blessed God’s Children and made them feel welcomed and loved in my home. “And having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work” (1 Timothy 5.10 ESV).

Ugh, February by Lisa J. Radcliff

I have never liked February. First, it’s hard to pronounce—do you say the first “r” or not? Growing up I always said Feb-u-wary, like my ancestors did (well, at least one generation back).

Right away I could tell they were moving faster than they had most of the day. Instead of stopping at the berm at the bottom of the hill, they sailed right over it. We all yelled, “Bail, bail!” But they didn’t.

But the real reason I’m not a fan is because it’s usually the coldest month of winter. I am not a fan of winter. I’d be OK if it snowed on Christmas Eve, was sunny but chilly on Christmas Day, and then I woke up to spring the next day.

I watched in horror as the tube continued on its crash course with the brick building. It seemed to be gaining speed rather than slowing down. The boys didn’t bail.

By February, I’ve had enough of winter: the cold, the lack of color, bare trees, the overall starkness of it all. It is usually in February that I run off to San Diego to visit my son’s family and soak in some sunshine, warmth, sea breezes, and the beauty and aroma of flowering plants and trees. It’s rejuvenating. I usually cry when we arrive at the airport for our return flight, and not just because I will miss our son and his family.

I looked on helplessly from the top of the hill as their tube crashed into the school, with my first-born’s head taking the brunt of the collision.

The best thing about February is it is the shortest month of the year. It is also the snowiest month of winter, which is good for sledding. Sledding is about the only winter activity I enjoy. It would be better if snow was possible when the temperature is closer to 50. But, if we have to endure February, it may as well snow so we can go sledding.

I know what I saw and had our son’s funeral all planned by the time I knelt next to him. I saw blood coming from his ear. I mentally went through the list of who to call.

One February afternoon when my kids were young, we had a blast sledding down the hills behind the local high school, closed for a snow day. It was great! The sledding conditions were perfect. We had great run after great run. Then we did the unthinkable: we said, “Just one more run.” Doomed. “Just one more run” is when bad things happen. I should have put a stop to it. But at that point, my better judgment must have been as frozen as my fingers and nose. I let my baby boy jump onto the back of my oldest son and zoom down the hill.

My husband was already running down the hill. I grabbed a tube and took off. When I reached the bottom, my baby boy was crying; he was OK. My husband who is a nurse was on the ground next to our oldest.

We weren’t the only ones who saw what happened. A stranger came running over saying that he had called 911. An ambulance was on the way. Our son wasn’t making a sound, lying very still. But then he started talking to us. We told him to remain still, that help was on the way. The ambulance and hospital were just down the street. They arrived in no time. At the hospital, they whisked him away, and we collapsed into chairs in the waiting room. I finally had time to get our little one out of his snowsuit and check him out more closely. Not a scratch. His big brother returned from having his head checked. The doctor said he was lucky. His only injury was a cut above his ear, explaining the blood I saw.

I don’t know and usually don’t want to know what is happening in the spiritual realm. Years ago I saw a movie where a guy could see the spiritual world when he donned special glasses. I begged him all through the movie not to put the glasses on. He never listened to me.

Other sledders saw it and called 911. Something kept him from being injured or killed.

But that day, I wish I could have seen what kept my son’s head from being smashed against that brick wall. Physical laws were broken that day.

I will never know, but I am grateful for whatever it was that God did that day. It was a day that could have ruined February forever.

Perhaps if I was the only one who saw it, I would attribute it to a mother’s natural overreaction. But it wasn’t just me. My husband, who never panics, ever, saw it happen and saw what I saw.

Instead, February is when I get to escape the cold and visit that son (who didn’t bail because he was afraid he would hurt his little brother) in sunny San Diego.

Was it the hand of God? Was it a wall of angels? Was it ice cold brick becoming as soft as marshmallows?

Standing on the Rock by Norma C. Mezoe Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. –Psalm 31:3 (NIV) Gripping the steering wheel with both hands, I drove slowly down the busy city street. A thick glossy sheet of ice covered the road from side to side. This was the first time I’d driven on ice. My husband had always done the driving, but he had left me and now I was the designated driver. I was on my way to the only job I had ever held, and coping with driving on ice only added to my stress. The car began sliding and I had no control over it. After much praying, the car came to a stop only inches from a mailbox which was anchored in concrete. As I arrived at work, I unclasped my white knuckles from the steering wheel and whispered a heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving. Perhaps you, as I did, have found yourself maneuvering on thin ice. Not in a car, but in some situation in your life. It may seem that the harder you struggle, the more you find yourself sliding out of control. What a wonderful assurance to know we can trust God to clear our paths, steady our feet and put us on his firm foundation. Protecting Father, thank you for placing our feet firmly on the solid rock of salvation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How to Start and Keep a Gratitude Journal by Theresa Begin of Shoestring Elegance

No Resolutions… Just Gratitude… Do you sit down and write out New Year’s Resolutions? It really doesn’t matter if you are reading this on January 1st or May 1st, start now. You can start a Gratitude Journal any day of the year! While resolutions might be an excellent motivator for many, I challenge you to go beyond resolutions that can easily be forgotten or cast aside when life gets busy and, instead, begin a life-changing practice, called Gratitude Journaling. Have you ever kept a gratitude journal before? Have you heard of them and thought what a great idea… I should try that? Maybe next year…maybe when I have more time… maybe when I have more to be grateful for… Whatever the reasons that have prevented you from starting this endeavor, may I tell you that you are in a place to begin this process right now? If you have a pen/pencil and a piece of paper, you can start today. If you have been even more blessed, you have a notebook or a journal someone gave you that is lying around waiting to be written in. Can I tell you something else? If you are reading this, you already have so much more to be grateful for than you probably are even aware of. You can read this, because you have access to the internet, in some way, whether it’s your phone, your laptop, kindle, tablet, or pc. In that alone, you have more to be grateful for than over half of the world’s population. According to sources, 3.8 billion people have access to the internet, with the world’s population being 7.6 billion, conservatively, that means HALF of the people on this earth do not. So, the mere fact that you are reading this means that you’re among the privileged half that does! That is something to be grateful for.

Maybe that is too big of a way to start your gratitude journaling experience. I keep a gratitude journal and may I tell you that this simple practice has changed my life?! No, I am not exaggerating! There are so many things in this world that are negative, just turn on a single news broadcast to confirm this. You can make a choice! Choose to see what you are lacking in this life or choose to see how many ways you are abundantly blessed and all that you have to be grateful for. The choice truly is yours. I have challenged many friends and family members to try this simple practice and I can tell you that every single person that takes it on has seen their life changed. Here's something else that I have learned and would like to share with you before you start your own gratitude journey: start in the morning. Five minutes. Five minutes while your coffee brews, five minutes while your tea steeps, while your children are getting dressed, you fill in the blank. Five minutes in the morning, while ________ I will choose to be grateful. For some of you, this will be an extremely daunting idea. If you are experiencing depression, you may think it impossible. I promise it is not. Start with three things. Just three things that you can be grateful for each morning. You will be surprised how much more you will end up writing down in less than a couple weeks. Yesterday, I was at a local store that had beautiful roses for $4.99! I simply pulled out the dead blooms, added water and the new blooms and my arrangement is beautiful again! It's amazing how long the greens stay beautiful, long after the first blooms have gone.

Beyond the floral arrangement, I have a loving and caring mother who not only gifted these roes to me, but along with the gift, I have her love. And now I have this beautiful gift on the coffee table in my house that provides me with shelter and warmth! See how quickly gratitude adds up?!! Did you sleep in a bed in your house or apartment last night? How about starting there, if nothing else comes to mind. Number One: Today, I am grateful for a roof over my head, warmth, dry space, sleep, the money for rent, or even the knowledge to empower myself to gain housing. Which is your truth? Write it down. Simply remember to put the words "Today I am Grateful for" in front of your truth.

I know, I thought the same thing. Discipline yourself to stick to the morning. It is easy to look over your day and pick and choose what occurrences were blessings. (What's the saying, "Hindsight is 20/20.....") That is exactly why you need to start in the morning! It may be a bit harder. But, I promise you if you start your day in gratitude for the "simple" things in your life, you will go throughout your day and see so many more things that you have to be grateful for! That's the point! Save those things for tomorrow morning! Here's my example for your day one: (Please feel free to alter this to your own, but if you can think of nothing else, start your journal like this) Today, I am Grateful For: 1. A roof over my head 2. The clothes on my back 3. The food in my stomach And, so on...

Three basic things that we have or do every single day and we are not even remotely aware that these are gifts to be grateful for. Food in your fridge, clean water to drink, family, friends, a vehicle to drive or the money to take a bus, a bicycle to ride, the very clothing on your back is another thing you have to be grateful for that is not a given around our world. Clothing is not a right, it is a blessing and gift and a privilege that you have been given, by either hard work or simply life's circumstances. Nonetheless, it is a gift, not to be taken lightly, as we all are so guilty of doing. Present company included. Many of you will be tempted to start a gratitude journal but may think night time is easier for you to sit down and write. Can I tell you to put that reasoning aside and start in the morning, even if for only a few brief moments? Something magical, or even miraculous, happens when you start your day in gratitude. It may be harder for you to think of things you're grateful for in the morning and you may think if only I was doing this after my day I would have so much more to write about.

As you can see, there is all kinds of room for your own ways to express your gratitude. Maybe you’re grateful for a good night's sleep, maybe you woke up without pain today, and maybe you woke up next to a loved one. Whatever your three reasons to be grateful may be, start now. Let gratitude take over your mindset like an avalanche! You will find it more and more difficult to be sad or negative when you start your day in gratitude for all that you have been blessed with. Do you think this is easier said than done? It is not. Today, I woke up in pain. I'm not saying that for sympathy or reaction, only to point out that even though I am in pain, I am able to get out of my bed on my own two feet! That in itself is something not to be taken lightly. This has not always been the case. I have been in a wheelchair, used a walker, and even walked with a cane for many years. So, for me to be able to get out of bed on my own, on my own two feet is a humongous blessing that I do not take lightly. So what do you have to lose?! Maybe you will prove me wrong! I'm willing to take that chance. I am so sure that if you truly do this, begin your day with gratitude; it will have a snowball effect on how you view your life. I pray that this will be a blessing to those of you who decide to take the challenge. Know that I am on your side and will partner with you in prayer as you begin your journey of thankfulness.

Mark of the Lion (Trilogy) Francine Rivers (historical Christian romance) I enjoy historical fiction—if it is well researched and gives me a sense of being in the time and culture. Francine Rivers does this well with her Mark of the Lion trilogy.

with Carol Peterson

This trilogy is the story of the spread of the early Christian church. The setting begins after Christ’s resurrection when the city of Jerusalem was fairly destroyed by Rome. The trilogy then takes the reader to Ephesus and on to Germany. The main character of book one A Voice in the Wind, introduces Hadassah, a young Jewish woman near death by starvation, who is taken to Rome as a slave. The subsequent two novels, An Echo in the Darkness and As Sure as the Dawn continue the story of characters introduced in each book. This series is not for the faint of heart. The first book graphically depicts the horrifying destruction of Jerusalem and subsequent treatment of the Jews taken prisoner. It also depicts the moral state of the Roman society of the time, in a way that is memorable and meaningful, focusing on the faithfulness of the early Christian church. I first read this trilogy 15 years ago as a selection in a Christian book club. One woman’s comment then was that she nearly could not get through the first book because of the violence of the gladiator scenes. But 15 years later, this same woman recently told me she had never forgotten the character of Hadassah and the powerful story Rivers told in those books. More recently a local book club I am now part of also selected this trilogy to read. I found new things to ponder; new ways to see the faith of those characters and new questions to ask myself about how to share my own faith. The women of this present book club had many of the same comments we women had 15 years ago—the story was bloody and violent, but wonderful and uplifting as well. One woman summed it up saying, “It’s important that we know how things were, so we can understand the faith of those early believers. They made it possible for us to live our faith today.” So, if you’re up for a hefty series that is not just a bit of fluff and giggles, this series is great. If you like learning about history, this series is great. If you appreciate stories about people’s struggle and how their faith got them through, this series is great. Rivers provides questions at the end of each book, suitable for personal use or book club discussion. She also provides a helpful glossary to aid in understanding some of the terms, items, locations and clothing used in that historical context.

All of the books in the Mark of the Lion (Trilogy) by Francine Rivers are available from RUBY’S Reading Corner

New Books from Carol Peterson, Author Stealing Sunlight Author: Carol Peterson Middle Grade Fiction (age 9-12) There is something strange about St. Opal Lightfoot's Academic Residence— silver walls, static electricity and the fact that none of the kids have any memory of their families. The school's strangeness is the least of Bernie Banks' worries though. He's failing almost every class and is in danger of being kicked out of school—the only home he has ever known. When Bernie and his solar project teammates discover an underground world, they learn that both the world above and the world below the surface are in danger from what archaeologist Peter Potstop is doing to the Great Pyramid. Can Bernie and his friends get to Egypt in time to stop both worlds from exploding? Do they even know how? Available in print or Kindle Counting Blessings Author/Illustrator: Carol Peterson Picture Book (ages 2-5) Counting Blessings introduces kids to the numbers 1-10 and the concept of God’s blessings. Kids are encouraged to count the hearts and the named objects on each spread and think about what other blessings God has placed in the world around them. Available in print

I am Rahab (With Faith Like Hers Bible Study Series) Author: Carol Peterson Adult Non-Fiction/Women’s Bible Study Rahab was a Gentile and a prostitute who had heard about the God of the Jewish people. When she learned the Jews planned to attack her city of Jericho, she chose to be on the side of their God. As a result, she and her family were saved and she became part of Jesus’ own lineage. We may not have the same background Rahab did, but we all sin. Many of us have a past we are not proud of. So how might our character or circumstances be similar to the woman God used to help the Jews take over the land He promised them? How might God want to use our lives for His purpose today? This is Rahab’s story. But it is also ours, when we have faith like hers. Available in print or Kindle

Familiar by Maryann Lorts Sometimes a scent captures my attention. Its familiarity takes me back to a moment in time that I don’t fully remember. A slight laughter followed by tender moments, and warmth. A scent so sweet and yet pungent that you can’t shake it from your being. It calls you back to a time that is lost upon those present but rips at your mind until you allow yourself to dive into the past and relive the memory that has beckoned you there. I sat on the edge of a white quilted bed. Although soft, the cover was worn by years of being dried in the sun and kept in a hope chest longing for the day of wedding bliss. I rubbed my hand on it and it spoke to me of care and determination to make it last. I reached to the dresser that was just two arm lengths away. Trinkets, perfumes and statues of Baby Jesus adorned the worn white chest with a mirror covered by jewels in the corners. I was searching for that one item I always tried to sneak around my neck. The shiny crystals on a strand that she only pulled out for special occasions were well hidden, but they didn’t elude me. I knew where the strand was hiding, and I knew I wanted it to sparkle around my neck. The drawer wafted of heavy perfume, something I can still smell in my sleep. Sweet and soft, yet heavy in the amount that has been used over the years, the perfume penetrated the air around me with her scent. It was a staple to the woman who possessed it. It was one of the jewels she never left home without. The strand of crystals weighed heavy in my hand put I felt as light as a feather when I strung them around my shoulders. I looked in the mirror and felt fancy, but never like a princess. She was the princess even though she was too humble to ever think such a thing. Caught. She came in the room and told me to be careful, to treat the jewels with respect. She told me that one day they would belong to my mother and then to me. I could then be a princess.

She sat down on that worn bed cover with me, giggling over the other pieces of jewelry I covered myself in. Clip on earrings were our friends and plastic beaded bracelets covered our arms. We splashed that sweet liquid on our ear lobes and laughed until our sides hurt. She was my best friend. I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember the scent. I can still smell it. It’s been 20 years. I reach so hard to pull her into my life right now. I reach so far back in stories, traditions and antics that I hope that she would manifest into our lives knowing full well that it’s an unrealistic request. She was a woman after the heart of the Lord. She took care in her traditions but she also took care in how she was a light to others: prayer, obedience, service, and dedication. When I try to pull her forward, I know that I don’t need to keep looking back. She is in front of me, waiting, remembering and excited for the day that we can link arm in arm and skip down those streets of gold, praising and worshiping Our Savior forever. Philippians 1:3 I thank my God every time I remember you. I remember her. I know she is a princess now. She is a daughter of the King. I can now tell the legacy of a beautiful life and strive to leave an awesome line of remembrance for the next generation of princesses and even for a little prince. We will remember and move forward.

Help! I Drive Lemons by Norma C. Mezoe Until a few years ago, I was blissfully unaware of the intricate workings of that modern day fire-breathing machine known as the automobile. Then suddenly at the age of forty-five, I was single, after almost three decades of marriage. That is when my eyes were opened to the fact that a car is far more than metal and glass placed over a classy chassis. On one of the days last winter, when the mercury hovered below zero, I wearily locked my office door, intent on climbing into my automobile and driving the fifty miles homeward in a toasty warm vehicle. Alas, I was only dreaming. That monster sat there smirking, fully determined it would not start. Standing in that frosted winter wonderland, watching the words leave my mouth and descend to the ground in frozen icicles, I was definitely not in danger of “losing my cool.” That little episode ended in “Lizzie” being towed away, at a premium price, to spend the night in a very expensive garage where she was given the nourishment of a de-icer and warmed back to health. Perhaps the most frustrating of my car problems was this: I was driving “Lizzie” along a congested highway. I came to a wide intersection which border’s the city’s largest shopping center. Snow was falling rapidly, nice wet flakes of slush, as I stopped my car at the traffic light. The car shuddered, gasped and suddenly stopped breathing. What to do? Threatening “Lizzie” didn’t help, so I left her in the middle of the road and cautiously began threading my way across the intersection to a service station. I phoned for a tow truck, only to be told it was out on a call. Frustrated, I trudged back to “Lizzie,” all the while trying to ignore the glares of drivers who were waiting, impatiently, behind her. Despairingly, I sat in the driver’s seat, breathed another prayer, turned the key and joy of joys, “Lizzie” sprung forward! Well, not exactly sprung, but she did creep slowly along and eventually I arrived at the office. What an education awaits you when you purchase a used car. When I first became single, I hadn’t a clue as to how to check the oil in a car. But now, I’ve become familiar with such things as fan clutches, vacuum hoses, transmissions and blown fuses. After owning two used cars, and encountering a wide variety of ailments with each, I believe that I more than qualify for “champion lemon-picker” of the past five years. (I wrote the above article after experiencing a variety of car breakdowns in an assortment of settings and weather. I could not afford to buy better cars because when I began working in 1982, I earned only minimum wage. Driving five hundred miles each week, I spent several dollars on gas and frequent car repairs. But, there came a joyous day when my father bought a new car for me, complete with license plate and insurance. I was so thankful, and felt blessed beyond measure, to have the assurance that I would no longer be stranded on a lonely country road or in a snow storm in the city. I thanked my earthly father and praised my heavenly Father for their goodness in meeting my needs. Praise God from whom all blessings flow….)

Vintage Book Treasure Hunt: Lamplighter Books Making Old New Again by Kathryn Ross Last month I wrote about stepping into 2018 with new reading resolutions as part of your plan to develop both a personal and Family Literacy Lifestyle. I shared three areas to focus your reading: Reading Plans: A Resolution for Choice and Priority Reading Aloud: A Resolution for A Family Literacy Lifestyle Reading Purpose: A Resolution in Fulfilling a Legacy In addition, I suggested the way various types of reading can enrich your life: Bible Reading to be a priority Vintage Book Reading to re-discover long lost treasures. Pleasure Reading in a genre you love. Educational Reading to learn something new Devotional Reading to draw closer to the Lord Biographical Reading to acquaint you with fascinating lives lived Historical Reading to expand your grasp of God’s epic His Story in the earth Classics Reading to better appreciate our Western literary heritage

The Secret Bridge, by Amy Le Feuvre is a superb example of popular literature in the 19th century, written for young and old. I became lost in the pages of a romance where the heroine is pursued by two suitors—and they both win her heart. Bridget Channing returns to England from India after the death of her father. She never knew her mother, who died in childbirth. A recipient of a practical English education abroad under the tutelage of her father, she is a bright, intelligent young woman who is to take up residence with an uncle she has never met in a country she does not know. Upon arrival, she learns her uncle has passed and his estate is deeded to his landlady and long-time caretaker. She is bereft of kith, kin, and cash in London, with the workhouse and streets as her only recourse.

How’s it going so far? Well, I’m stepping into February ticking the boxes on my reading resolutions with selections from my bookshelves that have patiently waited—some for many years—for me to get around to giving them the attention they deserve. I am pleased to announce that I accomplished a Pleasure Reading challenge. Oh, wait—I mean a Devotional Reading challenge. Nope. Nope. Actually, an Historical Reading challenge. Of course, one might go so far as to call it a Classics Reading challenge. Or perhaps an Educational Reading challenge. At any rate, it was decidedly a Vintage Book Reading Challenge. With a healthy dose of Bible Reading built into it. In fact, the only type of reading on my list above not fulfilled by this book is Biographical Reading. I read a work of fiction that, in one way or another, encompassed an element of all the other reading types listed.

Enter Geoffrey Bullingham, the handsome naval officer she came to know on the three-week shipboard journey from India to England. He sought to befriend her and grew swiftly to love her. A whirlwind courtship ended within two-weeks, in a wedding and her establishment in his family estate in a village by the sea before he was to leave for a year’s absence.

His parting admonishment was that she keep their marriage a secret and get to know the families in the village. Leaving her under the watchful eyes of the estate caretakers, he departed, and she settled into her new life purposing to keep her promise to her husband, feeling much like a fraud. However, meeting the families of the village opened wide centuries-old wounds and a feud between her husband’s family and another courtly clan. In his absence, she discovered the clues to a long-time mystery that placed her at the very epicenter of resolution or dissolution. The key to it all was another mystery—the haunting words of the itinerant preacher to “Acquaint thyself with Him.” Bridget had little religious inclinations, that being a large part of her education neglected. But, as her husband had also challenged her in the way of faith, she set herself to know Christ, waiting for Him in much the same way she waited for her husband to come to her. Her growth as a bride growing in love for her bridegroom, seemingly absent, was cultivated through the words of the Bible and letters from across the sea. The reader is drawn into the heart of one pursued by the Lover of our soul. The story complicates further with each chapter. Bridget’s growing faith strengthens her to confront the giants that threaten her future, and the dark secrets that reveal her hidden past. In the end, the story is aptly named—though don’t look for a material bridge to answer for it. The Secret Bridge would be lost to 21st century readers if not for the work of Lamplighter Ministries, and the vision of founder Mark Hamby. I was first introduced to Lamplighter some twenty years ago when I was teaching and homeschooling. The Lamplighter display at the homeschool conference I attended in the late 1990s buzzed with activity. I actually met Mr. Hamby there, among the crowds of families browsing through his early publications— reprints of long out-of-print and newly re-discovered books that were popular reading for Christian families in the 19th century. Through Lamplighter, old classics like The Basket of Flowers, The Lost Ruby, The Three Weavers, and The Hedge of Thorns are brought into the lives of modern families, bound like works of art in cloth hardcovers, designed in the glorious stylings of 19th century books.

Attention to illustration and font keep the vintage and antique feel of the book, with high quality sewn bindings. The excellence of the stories between the pages are equal to the beauty of the book exterior that begs to be displayed openly as part of a booklover’s home décor. I remember reading Stepping Heavenward, one of my earliest Lamplighter purchases, and crying along with the heroine as she trudged through the trials of her life, clinging to a living faith that allowed her, with each tragic episode, to step towards heaven, rather than fall back into the pit of hell. A read not to be approached without a tissue box close at hand—and a Bible at the ready to review the Scriptural proofs of the storyline. This is why I have to file The Secret Bridge—and all Lamplighter books—into just about every single reading category as I listed above. In Hamby’s opening remarks from the 2017-2018 catalog, he writes: Books are like seeds in a garden. Consider the seeds of morality planted in the hearts of readers through the centuries by the following classics: Aesop’s Fables teaches that no good deed goes unrewarded; Cinderella portrays virtue and hope in the midst of suffering; The Three Little Pigs demonstrates work ethic, discernment, prudence, and caring for one another.

In The North Wind, children are taught to desire truth in all its splendor; Andersen’s The Nightingale connects God’s creation to the highest level of art and glory; and King Midas teaches that the pursuit for more can result in the loss of everything! Classic stories are planted seeds, which, when properly cultivated, have brought forth an abundant harvest of moral good. Though Lamplighter stories follow the same classic literacy traditions that make a great story, our goal is not purely to attain moral goodness. Each Lamplighter story is based upon Divine Providence, the supernatural power of the Word of God and His promises, and the unchanging truth that God is love and works all things together for good to them that love Him (Romans 8:28). Lamplighter stories make a clear distinction between good and evil; heroes conquer, truth surfaces, godly character is rewarded, the roles of masculinity and femininity are portrayed attractively, and foolishness receives its just reward. At the heart of a Lamplighter story is the cultivation of faith that leads to the great joy and pleasure of partnering with the Divine. This is my passion in my own pursuit of writing, reading, and storytelling—to embody the truth of God’s Word in my words scripted, and tales told.

Old books. Volumes untouched for a hundred or more years. Stories once treasured. Read aloud to a family by a fireside. Discussed. Gifted to a friend. Borrowed. Some are written in. Some even have newspaper clippings of related material, or scraps of paper with notes upon them. Books that had life and breath in one generation, Lamplighter renews for another generation—for such a time as this—that literacy may help to heal society’s ills through the power of story. Old stories. His Story. And, therein, I am reminded of a favorite verse: Seek ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16 NKJ For more information about the books from Lamplighter Ministries, including The Secret Bridge, the 2017 Book of the Year and Gold Leaf Award for excellence in foil stamping and embossing, visit See their full catalog of books, including the Lamplighter Theatre Audio Books of selected titles, Lamplighter Guild, podcast, and internships.

Making the Old New Again Society in the 19th century functioned within the norms of a biblical worldview, however imperfect the working out of those norms might have been. Charles Dickens wrote masterpieces addressing the ills of society from a biblical worldview, just as Jane Austen, a generation before him, addressed the culture and society of her day. The faith-life of their characters was assumed, as in the lion-share of literature prior to the modernist movement after World War I. Lamplighter brings the works of lesser known writers of the day back to a reading public—making the old new again. Though when penned, these books and their authors were much loved, the changes wrought throughout the 20th century relegated them to basements and used bookstore shelves. Forgotten. For my part, those are the books I seek out on purpose when I’m combing antique shops, estate sales, or thrift stores.

Want to hear more? Visit Miss Kathy at and click on the PODCASTS page, where you’ll find the link to this article audio dramatization in Episode #24 plus more great resources for teaching and learning literature and our American Christian History.

Untouchable Love by R.G. Sharpe As a blended family of seven, we cherish the days that are filled with childhood laughter, extensive meal preps, memory making, and, yes, even some sibling rivalry. The sun rises early, sets late, and leaves little time for us grown-ups to relax, but we wouldn’t change this for anything. My husband and I live for these moments. All too soon, however, the weekend is over, and my stepchildren have to return to their mom’s house. By Sunday evening we have downsized again to a wee family of three. My daughter’s presence soothes some of the ache of their absence, but even that balm is gone when she leaves to visit her dad the next Friday. It is then that the loneliness really settles in. My husband and I struggle to find lucidity and tenacity in living life. Toys are picked up and put away. Shoes are straightened on the racks. Dishes are washed and dried. Laundry is caught up (hallelujah!) and groceries are stocked. We go through the motions, but the silence can be deafening. We long for familial faces, spontaneous smiles, and impulsive hugs. We yearn for youngsters yanking our chains and being mischievous little monsters. We even hanker for a little attitude from our awkward adolescents. No matter their faults, nothing can touch the love we hold in our hearts for our children. So, how can we illustrate love in action when our children aren’t with us? When they aren’t within our reach and we can’t see them on a daily basis, what can we do to demonstrate, without a doubt, that they aren’t forgotten? Find various forms to stay connected. In today’s world of technology, keeping in touch is easier than ever. If your children have electronic devices, even if they don’t have a phone, text message apps can be downloaded. Children under the age of 13 can now download Facebook messenger and video chat. Game systems can even get upgraded to LIVE; this allows players chat with headsets online. Download their favorite songs to your household playlists and stay up on the latest trends with their friends. Look forward to their next visit. It’s easy to get lost in the time apart from your children. A healthy way to cope is to make plans for the next visit, holiday, or vacation. Keep hope afloat by making plans ahead of time. Lower expectations for everything to run perfectly, remain flexible, and creatively modify activities when necessary due to changes in health, weather, or unforeseen homework assignments. For my stepdaughter’s birthday last summer, I bought her a spiral-bound cookbook for children. Every once in a while I pull it out and have her select a recipe she would like to try. Then I make sure to buy the ingredients for her next visit. This has proven to be a good bonding experience for us and shows I am thinking about her while she is away. Children need to be reminded that they are not “out of sight, out of mind.”

Leave a legacy of faith. In her new book, Brave Moms, Brave Kids, author Lee Neinhuis writes, “I’m beginning to realize it is faith that saves us, and continuing to believe that enables us to live victoriously and in strength on the path He has chosen for us” (page 73). I learned a long time ago that I need salvation on a daily basis; I need saved from myself. Forging on in faith and fortitude with our blended families requires strength and stealth, all of which the Holy Spirit can provide. Our children have come to expect, and anticipate, going to church on Sunday mornings. They take turns praying before meals and revel in saying bedtime prayers with us. We strive to make our home a refuge from the world, instilling our Biblical morals and values. We keep individual journals for each child to write letters and answer questions. We keep the doors of communication open and share Bible verses to encourage them in their walks with the Lord. We pray our children's love for faith and family to be unwavering. Unshakable. Untouchable.

A New Thing by Emmanuel O. Afolabi In the book of Isaiah, chapter 43, verses 18 – 19, we read: Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a ‘new thing.’ Now it shall spring forth. Shall you not know it? I will make a road in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. We need to rest assured that it shall be well with us this year if we allow God to lead the way. We should, therefor, constantly anchor our faith in God and His promises for our lives. He will do a new thing in our lives that every eye will see it and acknowledge that we’re the seeds the Lord has blessed. In this new year of 2018, obedience and total dependency on God will enable us to arrive at the platform of our desire. Keep trusting in His everlasting arms!

Visit RUBY’S Reading Corner where you will find these books by Emmanuel O. Afolabi: The Pathway to Honor, How to Recover from Painful Losses, and The Battle of Identity.

Five Indoor Winter Activities for the Whole Family by Jehn Kubiak Three feet of snow sits frozen on the lawn and interminable snow flurries fall from the sky. Kids could play in the snow, yet the icy air bites and eliminates that option. Without any organized activities or outdoor adventures, kids easily become restless and repeat, “Mom. I’m bored.” Winter weather may force people indoors, but it creates great bonding opportunities for families. Try these five all-age activities during the next family night. 1. Puzzles Parents and kids can collaborate on any jigsaw. Bookstores or department stores like WalMart sell various versions. Consider what types of images attract your family most––landscapes, collage-style, animals, etc;. Great brands include White Mountain, Buffalo Games, and Ravensburger. Consider your kids’ ages when purchasing and select an appropriate puzzle size. Kids above 10 usually can complete 1,000 plus piece puzzles, but kids under eight may find a 500-piece easier to finish. Buy the puzzle you believe suits the whole family best. 2. Board and Card Games Sorry! And Monopoly remain game night favorites everyone can easily play. Board games come in all shapes and sizes, so there’s a variety of choices if kids don’t enjoy certain types, such as strategy games. Amazon, Target, and Barnes and Nobles all have a great selection. Buying 2-player games––such as HedBanz or Connect Four––is also a great idea if the kids need an after-school activity while you’re at work. Many of these games also have computer versions or apps if you’re traveling and can’t lug a big box along. Card games like Apples to Apples or Uno are another great alternative and generally travelfriendly. Plus, some of these options also feature junior versions for little ones who aren’t quite ready for the full game. 3. Crafting Stop by Michaels, Aaron Brothers, or a similar art supply store on the way home from work one day. This activity won’t break the bank because stores generally offer coupons for either the total purchase or a percentage off a single item. You can also buy supplies in bulk and stock up. Some kids enjoy specific types of crafts, such as tie-dying t-shirts or scrapbooking. Browse Pinterest or Craftgawker for DIY ideas. Consider your children’s ages as well––crafts that require glue guns, for example, may not suit younger kids. This also functions as a great opportunity to handcraft birthday presents. Alternatively, you can determine what type of craft material you like best–– wood, leather, Mod Podge, painting––and browse aisles with crafts in those specific areas at these stores.

4. Family Dinner Party Kids love any excuse for fancy dress-up parties or celebrations. Take advantage of that childhood dream and bring the dine-in restaurant feel home. Sift through magazines or cookbooks and have the kids select a recipe. If you don’t have all the ingredients at home and the weather has cleared up for a bit, take the kids on a shopping trip and help them pick out the supplies––this is also a great opportunity to teach them grocery shopping secrets. On the night of the dinner, have the older kids set out fancy dinnerware like glass cups and adorn the table with candles or other decorations. Assign tasks to each family member so they can contribute. For example, older kids can measure ingredients, while the younger kids can pour them into a bowl. After finishing food preparations, sit down, enjoy a meal together, and have each person share their favorite part of the whole experience. 5. Writing Cards Did grandma send a great Christmas gift? Do you need Valentine’s Day cards for the whole class? Maybe you know someone serving in the Armed Forces who could use some support. Whatever the case, snow days provide perfect moments for card making. If you have leftover supplies from crafting, this is also a great way to get those out of the supply closet. Stock up on markers, colored, pencils, and pens so the family can incorporate a personal touch. In addition, you can make each card unique with different types of paper and stickers. Alternatively, you can print or buy cards and have everyone write a heartfelt message. There are so many fun ways to celebrate family time during the winter! Whatever you all do in your family during the winter months, be sure to have fun just being together.

RUBY magazine is now available in print! Every issue of RUBY magazine can now be purchased as a print publication. Now you can have a copy of our beautiful magazine to share with your friends and family. To purchase RUBY magazine in print, please visit the RUBY blog at where you will find the link for each issue.

Caught! by Shara Bueler-Repka I woke up in a cold sweat. My scream seemed to stick in my throat. The images from my nightmare played in my head. Yesterday’s events began to trickle into my thoughts. My friend, Karly, had invited me over and we were hanging out in her den. We were bored. She flipped through the channels on the TV while I thumbed through some books on the shelves. Previews of a popular movie popped up on the screen. “Ohhhh, awesome!” she said. “This is coming on now. Let’s watch it.” I turned and looked at the TV. “Hmmm, I don’t know,” I frowned. The previews didn’t seem all that bad, but a still, quiet voice inside me warned: This s not a good idea. “Seriously?” she teased. “It’s like the coolest movie ever!” “Yeah, I know.” I twisted a strand of my hair. “But still, I don’t really feel good about it. And I’m not so sure my parents would want me watching it either.” “Oh, come on,” my friend coaxed. “They won’t care. I doubt they would have anything against seeing this movie. Besides,” she continued, “everybody’s watching it.” “Well…” What harm would there be in checking it out for a few minutes? I thought. Karly grabbed the remote and punched up the volume. The first few scenes rolled out as we flopped down on the couch. The drama lured us in like bait. Soon, we were glued to the TV. When the racy scenes snuck across the screen, I realized this movie wasn’t as innocent as it seemed. Conviction pricked me like tiny needles, but I just had to see what might happen next. As Karly and I got reeled in, we ignored the promptings to shut it off, caught up in the drama of our beloved heroine. But I wish we would have turned the channel. Suddenly, gruesome, horrible pictures flashed in front of us before we could look away. My heart pounded as I tried to tell myself it was just a movie, just actors…it wasn’t real. I sunk further down into the couch cushions.

So much for the hip movie! It wasn’t good on so many levels—no matter who said it was awesome. But curiosity had caught me…hook, line, and sinker. I tried not to look at Karly for fear my face would give away my anxiety. Finally, I peeked over at her. She stared wide-eyed at the screen, her face as white as a sheet. My face burned with guilt. Why did I get sucked into this? I knew better! Now I couldn’t get the images out of my head, and my heart was racing like a freight train. Karly seemed to be frozen, so I mustered up the courage to get up and punch the off button on the TV. That night I’d finally fallen asleep, only to wake up, facing the consequences of my actions in a cold sweat. I remembered Isaiah 5:20: “woe to those who call evil good, and good evil…”. The Holy Spirit warned me not to watch, but I talked myself into thinking it was OK. Philippians 4:8 also trailed through my thoughts: “…whatever is true…whatever is pure…whatever is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” Well, I was deceived into blowing that one big time. But I also knew where to go for help. I prayed, “I am so sorry, Jesus, for letting myself get talked into doing something that was wrong. Please help me get over these fearful feelings I have because of the images I saw.” Peace washed over me. And I now understood that when God tells us not to do something, it’s not because He doesn’t want us to have fun, it’s because He wants to keep us safe and happy. Image via Pinterest

Join us in the RUBY Community for our weekly Bible study lessons from the series by Carol Peterson,

“With Faith like Hers” A new lesson is posted every week from the study guide,

“I am Elizabeth.” We would love to have you join us soon!

I Will to Know Him by Susan Paulus The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. Exodus 20:21 NIV From across the room, her little lip quivers. Then huge tears roll down her chubby cheeks. She realizes that she doesn’t recognize me. I’m her great grandma, I love her more than she will understand for many years to come, but she doesn’t know that yet. Her daddy tries to explain to her that this is not “stranger danger,” that this person is safe. But she doesn’t stop sobbing until he picks her up. Within two days, she is past her fear. She smiles at me, laughs and giggles; at one point she even falls asleep in my arms.

I remember a sermon about how we love to admire God, how we love to watch Him as though He were a magnificent caged lion. We walk past the cage, pacing. We feel safe because He is locked up. He is beautiful, we feel secure.

Thinking about her fear, her tears, leads me to wonder about our own relationships with God. In Exodus, we are told that “the people stood at a distance while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.”

Whatever we do, we don’t want to let Him out of that cage. If we turn Him loose, He can do whatever He wants in our lives; He will be in control and we will be at His mercy. Our fear makes us distance ourselves from His mercy. Our fear makes us stand in the door of our tent, trembling with tears running down our cheeks.

Some Bible translations tell us that the people stood at a distance in the doorways to their tents. Think about this: God is in the thick cloud, very close by, and they were so afraid of him that they stood, in my mind’s eye they were cowering, in the doorway, keeping their distance. Do you think they were calm and collected in their fear? I don’t; I think their lips quivered, and huge tears of fear rolled down their cheeks. Knowing how much I love this baby, and how disappointed I was that she was afraid of me, I wonder how the Lord feels about our fear of being close to Him. We worship a mighty, powerful God. Yet with all His might, with all His power He is a merciful God, forgiving and loving. He created us to be in a loving relationship with Him. When I think only about His perfect might and power, I want to stand in the doorway of my tent and keep my distance. I’m afraid because there is no way that I can measure up to the perfection that His presence demands. To understand what He is like, to balance the might, power, love, and forgiveness, I must spend time with Him. I must get to know who He is and let Him love me. My fear keeps me from doing that.

I don’t want to live like that! I want to trust Him enough that I can fall asleep in His arms, like my great granddaughter fell asleep in my arms. I want to know Him. I want to be the one who approaches God in the thick cloud. How can I make that happen? I decide to take steps to get to know who He is: I let Him talk to me through His Word; I listen to what He says to me there. I spend time alone with Him in prayer, sitting quietly at His feet as I discover more of Him, as He shows himself to me. I get honest with Him about my shortcomings, my sin, my dreams, and my desires. As I learn to recognize Him, love and trust will replace my fear. I want to grow old(er) knowing how much He loves me, how He wants the best for me and that I can trust what He does in my life. As I thank Him that the baby learned quickly to trust me, I want to be able to thank Him that I have learned, though not as quickly, to trust Him. I don’t want to disappoint my Lord by not knowing Him well enough. I will be the one walking toward the cloud. I will be the one who lets the lion out of the cage. I refuse to spend any more time hiding, standing in the distance in the doorway to my tent.

Too Wired for Lunch by Nells Wasilewski

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12 (ESV) Thought for the Day: In all that surrounds him the egotist sees only the frame of his own portrait. ~J. Petit-Senn Have you ever invited someone to lunch, and they immediately check their "List" to see if they can work you in? If they have a vacancy, you can set a date to have lunch, and perhaps enjoy your friendship for an hour. It can be a relaxing exchange of stories and ideas, or it can turn into a phone watching event. That happened to me recently, and I have to admit the experience left me feeling bereft, demeaned and hurt. I've thought about that encounter many times since. I am well aware that we all have appointments and engagements we have to keep, but careless tact can make one wonder just how meaningful the friendship is. I have come to this conclusion. When someone has been gracious enough to invite you to share lunch with them, show them the courtesy and respect that you would like to be shown by putting you phone away, and focusing on the time you have available to enjoy a meal together.

When we approach God, needing to spend time with Him, He cordially invites us in. He doesn't become too preoccupied to listen to us. He gives us His full attention. He shows us how important we are to Him, and how much He loves to have us seek His presence. Matthew 22: 34-40 tells us that when Jesus was asked what the greatest command was he answered: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” By obeying these commands we can convey to others the same warmth and fellowship that Jesus shared during His ministry. Prayer: Elohim Kedoshim, Holy God, thank you for paying attention to our lives, and showing us how much we mean to you. Help us to show that same love and respect to others. I pray in Jesus' precious name, Amen.

I Choose To Rejoice by Jennifer Workman Let everything that has breath praise the Lord, praise ye the Lord Psalm 150:6, NIV God is worthy of our continual admiration, thanksgiving and praise. It doesn’t matter what we are encountering in life, God is awesome and every day is an opportunity to magnify Him, honor Him and bless His Holy Name! No matter the season of the year, we all should wake up every day rejoicing and praising God for His grace and mercy He’s given us because without His love we have no life and no purpose. So, I choose to rejoice and thank God: 1. “This is the day that the Lord has made I will rejoice and be glad in it” Psalm 118:24, NKJV 2. “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth” Psalm 34:1, NKJV 3. “And the heavens will praise Your wonders, O Lord; Your faithfulness also in the assembly of the saints” Psalm 89:5, NKJV 4. “Let heaven and earth praise Him, The seas and everything that moves in them” Psalm 69:34, NKJV 5. “Praise the Lord from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights” Psalm 148:1, NKJV As you contemplate these particular quotes from the book of Psalms, my question to you today is, what are you thankful for? It is easy to say that you are thankful for material possessions, family and friends, but God serves a greater purpose in our lives than just supplying our relational and tangible needs and we must rejoice, praise Him and be thankful to Him for: 1. “Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” Genesis 2:7, NIV 2. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” Psalm 46:1, KJV 3. “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16, NIV 4. “It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not” Lamentations 3:22, KJV God is the giver of life, God is our protector and advocate and God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to atone for our sins. Now, that is more than enough reason to praise Him, rejoice and to bless His Holy Name!

An Invitation by Kathleen McCauley

We have all heard many times the famous scripture passage of the Wedding Feast at Cana (John 2:1-12) and the miracle of the wine. For most of my life I was dazzled and perplexed by the actual miracle of water turned to wine…into GOOD wine at that!!! As I got older, I heard this reading in a way that made me think Mary was a demanding Jewish mother, one who didn’t know boundaries and wielded power. But this past week when I heard this passage I heard an invitation. I actually saw Mary as a good mom who knew her child well and invited him to share his gifts. I related to that. Most moms really feel that they know their children, almost better and sooner than their child have truly actualized their own selves. When my children used to leave for school every day I’d yell out to them “Show them all that you’ve got!” I knew their skills and abilities and I wanted them to share them and shine. Maybe that is simply what Mary was doing at this wedding? She knew Jesus’s abilities, she recognized his giftedness and she simply invited him to share those gifts. Now for Jesus’s part, his response was “No, it is not my time.” Well, I don’t know about you, but when I am scared I always throw out a “No” and put up my wall. But then I calm down and relax, say a few prayers and come around to doing whatever it is that scared the dickens out of me. I wonder if that is simply what Jesus was doing. Mary was essentially inviting him to come out from “under his bushel basket” (Matt 5:15). Perhaps he was terrified as I am so often, in work, in ministry…in sharing my giftedness, but he calmed himself down, thought about it and came around to taking Mary up on the invitation. This invitation then empowered the famous miracle that goes down in history. What this tells me is two things: 1. We can all be participants in miracles, and 2. We are called to invite others to give of their giftedness, and give glory to God, by sharing their gifts…and being all that God called us to be. We are all called to “invite,” our child, our neighbor, our partner, our co-worker or our church members, to share their gifts. It is often the threshold to the miracle and we are then a part of that as well. Of course this means we need to begin to know people at this level. Being in relationship is vital, so that when the invitation is extended, that person can trust that you know them and that the invitation is grounded in what is sound and true. This is what can make the invitation, genuine and authentic as Mary’s was. In turn this helps to dispel those fears Jesus expressed in his first response of “No,” into a response that sometimes means “yes”. So as we move beyond the story and the wedding, let’s remember to extend those invitations that will grow God’s church and allow others to be all that they can be. And, let us be open to hear others’ invitation to us, to come out from our secure bushel baskets and say “YES” to the invitation that makes miracles out of everyday living. Perhaps living like this will make all of life feel like a wedding feast. Who knows? Enjoy being invited, inviting, and being a part of the miracles that happen daily!!!

Read CHAPTER 2: A Day at the Office

Spectacles of Hope

Defeating Your Couldas, Wouldas, and Shouldas An Allegory on the RUBY blog! Also available from RUBY’S Reading Corner

Stop by

Katherine’s Corner for a new giveaway every month!

For inspirational and creative articles, visit Theresa Begin on her blog, Shoestring Elegance.

God’s Mercies after Suicide: Blessings Woven through a Mother’s Heart by Jean Ann Williams is available from Amazon

Also from author Jean Ann Williams

Just Claire One mother damaged. One family tested. One daughter determined to find her place.

Now available from RUBY’S Reading Corner

Ruby Writing Team Sharon Patterson, retired educator, career military wife, and leader in women's ministry, has written inspirational encouragement in various forms from greeting cards to short stories, poetry, and Bible studies for over thirty years. She has authored three books, and is a contributing author for several of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. She and her husband Garry live in Round Rock, Texas. They have three sons and five grandchildren.

Carol Peterson, Author My mission as a writer is to educate, entertain and inspire– children, their teachers and parents, other writers, and readers of all genres. As a children’s writer I try to “Make Learning Fun” by helping busy teachers address curriculum accountability standards, and encouraging other writers to do the same. You can connect with Carol at her blog, Carol Peterson, Author Carol is a member of the Ruby Book Review Team.

Theresa Begin lives in Northern California, where she was born and raised. She is a Christian who loves her family and says, “I have been blessed with the world’s best parents!” She has three sisters and one brother, as well as 16 beautiful nieces and nephews who “mean the world to me!” She is “differently-abled,” and chooses not to allow her limitations to define her life. She loves to write and share her various projects on her blog, “Shoestring Elegance,” which came about as she discovered that living on a tight budget did not mean compromising on style. “Nothing is impossible with God.” Luke 1:37 NLT

Shara Bueler-Repka is enjoying life as a singer/songwriter/recording artist, freelance writer, and award-winning author. She and her husband, Bruce, live in their living quarters horse trailer and call “home” wherever their rig is parked. Their mail-base, however, is Hallettsville, Texas. She also loves riding/ministering with her husband and their horses (aka The Boys) in the backcountry and writing about God’s grace in the various adventures on the trail less-traveled. Join the fun and be encouraged on their website: and her blog:, or come for a visit on Facebook. Writer-speaker, Kathryn Ross is Pageant Wagon Publishing—igniting God’s Word and biblical principles as a vibrant light of literacy and learning in the life of your Christian family. Her recent book, The Gatekeeper’s Key, is nominated for the Indie Book Award 2018. Inspired by the stillness of birdsong, silent reflection, antiques, and teatime, she filters her love of history, classic literature, and the arts through God’s Word, to inform her words. Timeless truths leap from the page and podium as she ministers literacy and Christian living principles in schools, churches, libraries, women’s groups, community events, retreats, and conferences. She enriches the homeschooling world with her original storybooks, study guides, and theatrical dramas for varied venues. Her passion to equip women and families in developing a Family Literacy Lifestyle produces readers and thinkers who can engage the world from a biblical worldview. Miss Kathy blogs and podcasts at and

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 27 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. She blogs at Living Our Days because “the way we live our days will be, after all, the way we live our lives.”

Kathleen McCauley has been an active retreat leader for over 25 years.

She received her professional training as a Campus Minister and retreat leader at the University of Dayton. Kathleen enjoys working with adults in their cultivation of spirituality and personal growth. Prior to her work as a Career Counselor at Neumann University, Kathleen served as a Resident Minister for eight years at St. Joseph’s University and seven additional years giving retreats for local churches and community groups. You can contact Kathleen to learn more about her retreat work at

Joan Leotta has been playing with words since childhood. She is a poet, essayist, journalist, playwright, and author of several books both fiction and non-fiction for children and adults. She is also a performer and gives one-woman shows on historic figures and spoken word folklore shows as well as teaching writing and storytelling. Joan lives in Calabash, NC where she walks the beach with husband, Joe. and

Rejetta Morse enjoys writing poetry so she can write about God and how He speaks through nature. Writing poetry is a new found purpose and hobby she discovered over recent years which brings her joy, peace, and encouragement. She also enjoys reading poetry and is working to learn more about the craft of poetry. She spends her free time singing with her church choir and listening to gospel music, watching biographical movies, and encouraging other people.

Sharmelle Olson is a graphic artist and designer, photographer and poet. She loves to share her poems in the Ruby for Women community magazine. Shar is also an administrator for Ruby for Women Ministries and enjoys helping out around the community and making new friends there. She has been writing poetry and taking photographs since elementary school, and started doing graphic art and design work in the early 2000s. Shar has four children, two of whom are twins. Her first daughter is 21, her son is 15, and her twin daughters are 14.

Susan Paulus: My writing began as a prayer for some sanity in my life when I was raising children, sharing life with a husband who often didn't understand me and working a full time job. That was many years ago, and I have recently been searching for a way to have some work published. For two years i wrote for a small NWO publication called Living Today. It was rewarding to know that others might be blessed by what was written. I pray that continues through the ministry RUBY magazine.

Nancy Frantel lives in Virginia, and is a published author of three history books, public speaker and researcher. Prior to becoming a writer she worked in corporate management. A “life interruption” injury in 2010 limited her ability to work as a writer. In 2017, she attended several Christian writing conferences, and felt led to start over in a different genre. Her goal is to write inspirational and encouraging stories based on her experiences, lessons learned by trusting God, and individuals He provides along the way.

Norma C. Mezoe began writing after a crisis in her life. She has been a published writer for thirty years. Her writing has appeared in books, devotionals, take-home papers and magazines. She lives in the tiny town of Sandborn, Indiana where she is active in her church as clerk, teacher and bulletin maker. Contact at:

R.G. Sharpe is a freelance writer bringing faith and fortitude to blended families. She is happily remarried with five beautiful children now ranging in ages seven to fourteen. She is a co-author of two devotionals and is currently writing a children’s book to help young readers process their emotions after their parents' separation and divorce. You can learn more and subscribe for updates at

Maryann Lorts: Life is full of choices and wandering. The Lord called me in my desert and poured life and truth into me through conviction by the Holy Spirit. I am now called to grow His kingdom by sharing the joy I have found in my king. Most days you can find me with my children as I disciple them through Bible study and homeschooling amongst other volunteer opportunities in our community. Visit Maryann’s blog, Coming to Light, and you can also find her on Facebook.

Emmanuel O. Afolabi is a seasoned teacher, blogger, and minister of the Gospel. He is also the author of two books, The Battle of Identity and How to Recover from Painful Losses, both of which are now available from RUBY’S Reading Corner. In his books Emmanuel presents practical steps for Christian living and spiritual growth. Afolabi is married to Sister Mary Afolabi, and is blessed with children to the glory of God.

Lisa Radcliff is a writer, speaker, women's Bible study teacher, and a 35-year volunteer youth worker, residing in Pennsburg, PA. She is a wife, mom, and mom-mom who loves God's Word but also loves football, chocolate, shoes, and Maine. Her hobbies include quilting, shopping, cooking, and raising Seeing Eye puppies. You can reach her at

Alisa Hope Wagner is a Christian author of fifteen books and over a thousand articles. Her writing can also be found in two of the Pocket Prayer Books for Women Collection and God Makes Lemonade published by Thomas Nelson Publishers. Alisa is a Bible teacher and discipleship leader at her church. She enjoys writing about fitness, faith, family and fiction. Her Christian Fiction Series, The Anoma Series, includes three books so far: Eve of Awakening, Bear into Redemption and Mark within Salvation. She has also written two fitness books, Fearlessly Fit and Fearlessly Fit at Home. Alisa has been married to her high school sweet heart for eighteen years, and together she and her husband homeschool their three children. Though an introvert by nature, you can find Alisa’s writings and videos on her website, She is also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Youtube. She has an author page on Amazon and Goodreads under the name alisa_hope_wagner.

Cindy Evans is a published poet living in the greater Atlanta area. When she's not writing, you may find her a faith-based movie with her husband, making trail mix or serving at the local Christian hospice.

Jehn Kubiak is a Biola University journalism graduate and current pastoral care and counseling major at the Talbot School of Theology. She is a San Diego native who enjoys distance swimming, , coffee, dogs, and painting. She loves researching and writing about people, sports, activities, and more.

Nells Wasilewski lives in a small southern town, seventy miles southeast of Nashville, Tennessee. After retiring, she began pursuing her lifelong dream of writing. Her writing has been greatly influenced by her faith in Jesus Christ, personal, experience and nature. She has been writing poems, prose and stories all her life. Nells has recently started writing devotionals. Her work has appeared in Haiku Journal, Barefoot Review, Three Line Poetry, Poetry Quarterly, 50 Haikus, Dual Coast Magazine, High Coupe Journal, Ancient Paths, Tanka Journal, Hedgerow and Penned from the Heart By day, Toni Samuels works in corporate communications at a Fortune 500 corporation, but by night she pursues her true passion: to write for God’s purposes and to share the love of Jesus Christ. She is grateful and honored to have the opportunity to begin this new chapter in her life, in which writing is not merely a profession but a ministry. In her free time Toni enjoys music, reading, traveling and beautiful beaches.

Tim Bishop has co-authored four books with his wife, Debbie, about their midlife launch into marriage, cross-country bicycle touring, and other matters of faith and inspiration. He serves as a volunteer Hope Coach for TheHopeLine, a nonprofit organization that seeks to reach, rescue, and restore hurting teens and young adults.

Gloria Doty is a published Christian author, writer and speaker. She has published a nonfiction book, a devotion book, a series of fiction romance books and several children's picture books. Gloria has 5 adult children and 13 grandchildren. She has recently re-married and she and her husband reside in Fort Wayne, IN.

Jennifer Workman is the founder of Simply Victorious Ministries, a ministry founded on the infallible Word of God. She has been actively involved in ministry all of her life and has ministered to seminary students, the religious community, high school students and female prison inmates. Jennifer has more than fifteen years in the radio, television and publications arena. She is the Inspirational Host and Producer of "Simply Victorious for Life," a monthly inspirational podcast aired via Faith Filled Family and Family Filled Youth. Contact Jennifer at or As a writer, physician assistant, and athlete, God consistently challenges


Wypych to “Go big or go home” in order to develop reliance on Him. She keeps a weekly blog at, has published academically and has an upcoming essay in the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants in April 2018. She earned a Master’s of Science Degree, and currently works in the Department of Surgery at Franklin Square Medical Center in Baltimore. K.A. is a three-time Ironman and is currently training for a 100-mile ultramarathon.

Nina Newton, Sr. Editor:

When my four older children were in school, I returned to college as a “non-traditional student.” Eventually, I earned degrees in Classics and Philosophy, and a graduate degree in Medieval Studies: History of Theology. After teaching at a small community college in Michigan for seven years, my husband and I were blessed with the adoption of our two beautiful daughters, Gracie and Annie. We live in northern Indiana in a small farming community where I work on RUBY magazine in my home office. I have worked for several years offering my handmade and refashioned garments and accessories in a local boutique under the creative name of “Vintage Mama’s Cottage.” My personal blog is at

RUBY magazine is published by CreativeLife

February 2018 ruby  

Discover family-friendly resources for you and your family in the February 2018 issue of RUBY magazine, featuring short stories, inspiration...

February 2018 ruby  

Discover family-friendly resources for you and your family in the February 2018 issue of RUBY magazine, featuring short stories, inspiration...