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January, a New Start by Joan Leotta

Trust for the Trail by Shara Bueler-Repka

This is Not My Life by R.G. Sharpe

Vintage Book Treasure Hunt: Reading Resolutions for 2018 by Kathryn Ross

Surviving Aneurysms, Strokes and Cancer, and God's Amazing Grace by Theresa L. Begin

Spectacles of Hope A Betrayal of Trust A Short Story by Donna B. Comeaux

Defeating Your Couldas, Wouldas, and Shouldas An Allegory by Mary Dolan Flaherty CHAPTER 1: An Introduction

RUBY Magazine

In This Issue of RUBY

Your voice, your story JANUARY, 2018

The Sledding Lesson by Nancy Frantel

The Gift of Friendship by Vera Klaassen DeMay

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2018 and all of the adventures that lie ahead for each one of us. Here at RUBY magazine, we are looking forward to sharing God’s words of hope, encouragement, and inspiration to you and your family every month. I hope you will join us on this journey! 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! Stop by the RUBY blog and click on the link to purchase your copy of the latest issue of RUBY magazine at http://www,

Escalator Evangelism by Lisa Radcliff

Cozy Blanket Ladder Upcycle for Under $!0 by Theresa L. Begin

Senior Editor: Nina Newton Editorial Assistant: Theresa Begin Feature Writers: Sharon L. Patterson, Norma C. Mezoe, Shara Bueler-Repka, Carol Peterson, Susan Paulus, Donna B. Comeaux, Maryann Lorts, Rejetta Morse, Joan Leotta, Nancy Frantel, Michele Morin, Kathryn Ross, Sharmelle Olson, Lisa J. Radcliff, Theresa Begin, Miriam Jacob, Kathleen McCauley, R.G. Sharpe, Mary Dolan Flaherty, Jeanne Doyon, Patrice D. Wilkerson, Emmanuel O. Afolabi, Vera Klaassen DeMay, Angela Harper

Re-Gifting: Loving Your Neighbor Jesus-Style by Jeanne Doyon

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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I will admit . . . I’m kind of an old-fashioned girl. You might have guessed that from the title of my blog, “Vintage Mama’s Cottage.” I’ve been a wife and mom for a very long time, and I’ve seen lots of trends and fads come and go over the years. One that has been especially close to my heart that has rather gone by the wayside is the importance of “home making.” When I was in high school we took a class called “Home Economics.” That was back in the day when, for better or worse, millions of young women found a lifetime of joy and fulfillment investing their time and energy into being creative in their homes. Back then, many of us (perhaps only those of us in rural, smalltown, middle America?) found that creating a cozy home for our family was . . . well . . . what we actually WANTED to do. Of course, there are lots of other ways for a woman to express her creativity, talent, skills, education, and energy other than home making. And for that I am truly grateful. Women now have so many more opportunities than I did when I was just a young a woman. Unfortunately in the last 40 years, it seems as if we have lost the art of home making, and for that I believe are missing out on some of the greatest joys in life. But then that’s just my humble opinion! As I’ve been contemplating a new year and some adjustments I’m hoping to make in my daily routine, I’ve been thinking about how busy we have all become with so many opportunities to do whatever we want in life. That’s a very good thing, but I’ve noticed that unless we can limit ourselves to those things that REALLY, truly matter to us in life, we become like a wandering stream, or more accurately, like a rushing river. Always in a hurry but not always knowing exactly where we are headed. I have felt that way for several months lately, partly because of having to deal with the after effects of the flooding in our laundry room last autumn.

Home Economics 101 Nina Newton, Sr. Editor

Everything has been rather at “sixes and sevens” as my grandma used to say – the bed was in the living room, the dressers were in the dining room, all of the clothing was piled on chairs in the family room, and the shoes . . . well, let’s just say it was challenging to get ready for church on Sunday morning when the shoes were . . . somewhere over there. Then, we finally got the damages repaired but before we could put things back where they belonged, it was time to get out the Christmas decorations. More stuff all over the place. Now that Christmas is over and it is time to begin putting all that stuff away, we have had horrible weather which has made it difficult to accomplish anything because we are freezing! Even with a roaring fire in the fireplace, it is still a bit chilly because of the sub-zero temperatures outside, and the snowy, icy roads make it really miserable to get outside. And in the middle of everything else, it is now that time of year when everyone in the family gets a cold or the flu. So as I’ve been pondering the New Year, I realized that one thing that I think I’ve been missing is the “permission” to return to a focus on my home and family. Of course, I do that all the time anyway, but I’ve decided to be more intentional about eliminating a few things that have kept me distracted. Not that I’m going to stop doing my other work, but I think that it will be much more peaceful in my mind and throughout my days if I stop feeling like taking care of my home is the last item on my To Do list. If you are feeling the pull towards a gentler time, a little bit slower pace to your days, and a redirection towards making your home a place of joy, beauty, and peacefulness, come on along as I revisit some days gone by. Let’s remember the best things about the “good old days” when little girls wanted to grow up and take care of a home and a family. If that’s you (and I realize it isn’t for everyone!), let’s see what we can discover in 2018!


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Greatest Gathering on Earth by Rejetta Morse God scatters thousands of stars in the skies in the frosty cold moonlight, and the gusty winds He blows so far away below the silver bright starlight. While the whole earth circles in a new path, the “New Year” starts to rise, as the sun watches, the earth rotates below the quiet starry skies. With faith, believe and pray always, with hopes for a finer year, and wait for wintry days to fade away with no fear – because Jesus is near. He hides the moon and calls the sun to rise. New hope, He gives with each new day, and blesses us for many years – His love endures – although we stray. And one day He will come on the soft clouds with holy Angels - He will stand, and call the ones who wait for Him to come to the Promised Land. As they rejoice, the trumpets will sound, as they gather to a higher ground.

January, a New Start

by Joan Leotta

January first, the start of a new year, is the time that many of us put pen to paper with a set of "resolutions"—lose weight, read more, be nicer, do good deeds, spend more time in prayer, etc.

However, as Christians, we underwent the ultimate renewal when we accepted Christ. We became new creatures in Christ. Yet, as I certainly know, and Paul warned us in the book of Romans, our sin natures continually try to reassert themselves. So, the idea of setting new goals, releasing our love of the world to rest in Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to continue His work of our Sanctification—well, it is not a bad idea. As a rabid list maker and goal setter, I do list things I want to accomplish in a new year. However, I also set before myself a verse. I spend time in prayer and try to listen to God's voice in my quiet time with Him, guiding me to one verse that will be a primary reminder for me during the year, that I must let go and let God become greater in my soul and in my daily life. It will become key in the renewing of my mind, helping me to become more like Christ. As I write this, I have not yet found the verse for 2018, but I can tell you that Joshua 1:9 has been a verse of mine for several years. These words, as translated by the NIV read, Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you may go. Each time, something happened in that year, that was a problem. The first time that this verse became my annual standard bearer, my mother died.

Last year, (2017) the verse stood out again and so, I prayed it regularly, but it did not seem that there was much in the way of discouragement happening— until the end of the year, when in quick succession, my children's book publisher went out of business and two poetry journals (to which I was a regular contributor) folded. In spite of other successes during the year, these hit me hard and I have been procrastinating. Instead of working feverishly to put out more poems, to find a new editor, I have let discouragement rob me of initiative. At present, I am reflecting on what work that I do is done for Christ and trying to concentrate on that—to run the good race. In Philippians 3, we are called to forget what is behind and to press on toward the goal—not success in writing or performing, but toward what has value for Christ. This year's goal setting and verse choosing are of special importance for me. On January 10, I will turn 70. This is a number used in the Bible to tell us how many times we should forgive others—70 times 70. So, I need to look at forgiveness this year. People may live up through 100 or a bit longer, but I definitely have fewer years ahead of me in this world than I did when I turned 30—all things being equal , since God can take any person at any time. Thinking on this is not a sad time—it is a motivator— for it reminds me more starkly that each day has both its troubles and its gains for Christ. I must treasure each day and live it in the joy Christ has for me. I need to act always and only for Christ. In our church's weekly prayer meeting we are studying the 17th chapter of the book of John and read today the words of Christ Himself about what he wants for His believers:

John 17:13- I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. God wants me to live with a full measure of joy. So, as I take out pen and paper to chart the goals I hope will honor Christ, I am confident that He will finish His work in me, as long as I am walking according to His will and word. And that no matter what happens this year, God's desire is for me to have joy, an emotion; a peaceful resting in Him that is a decision of faith. Each morning's dawn will remind me, as the song says, that each day holds new mercies from Christ and that there are good deeds He has prepared, waiting for me to perform. In His name, to His glory, and to encourage you, I offer the following reminder in verse of God's love for us, shown at the start of each day.

Sun Comes

by Joan Leotta Daylight explodes in a splash of gray storm clouds mingling with chimney smoke from night's dying fires. Ambition and hope reflect each other in the golden glow of sun taking over sky, as wind-herded clouds drive the dark of night and storm back into oblivion. I take a deep breath. My day begins. (This poem was written for an ekphrastic competition, and was selected to be one of the ones read, and included in their book by Craven County, NC Arts in 2016

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

If I ever cook again: Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup from Vintage Mama

I used to love to cook. But that was a while ago when I wasn’t doing all of the other things that I do these days. And the truth is, for those of us who have been cooking for a family for many years, we find ourselves running out of ideas. And time. And energy. To do pretty much the same thing over and over, day after day, with the same result. A huge mess in the kitchen that we now have to invest MORE time and energy cleaning up so we can . . . . do it all over again! But I know that some of you are amazing cooks and you LOVE to try new recipes, so when we decided to give this one a try and it turned out really great, I decided that I wanted to share it with you. On these bitterly cold winter days, a bowl of creamy, cheesy, hot soup is truly a welcome event in the evening. We had our Broccoli Cheese Soup with just a big loaf of French bread and butter. That’s it! My whole family loved it, and I think you and your family will love it, too.

Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup Ingredients  1 tablespoon melted butter 1  ⁄2 medium chopped onion 1  ⁄4 cup melted butter 1  ⁄4 cup flour  2 cups half-and-half cream  2 cups chicken stock 1  ⁄2 lb fresh broccoli (chopped into bite size pieces)  1 cup carrot, julienned, grated 1  ⁄4 teaspoon nutmeg  8 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese  salt and pepper  crusty bread or bread bowl  2 cups whole milk Images by Diana J at Genius Kitchen Directions 1. Sauté onion in butter. Set aside. 2. Cook melted butter and flour using a whisk over medium heat for 3-5 minutes or until you see a noticeable golden brown color in your pan. 3. Slowly add in the chicken stock and whisk again to combine. Simmer contents covered (stirring occasionally) for 20 minutes on medium heat. 4. Add the broccoli, carrots and the sautéed onions, into the pot. Stir, add the milk and half & half. Cook covered over low heat 20-25 minutes but do not bring to a boil. This may cause the milk to curdle. 5. Add salt, pepper & nutmeg. Note: you can purée half of your soup in a blender or with a handheld immersion blender if you choose however it isn’t a requirement. Continue to cook the soup on low heat and slowly add the grated cheese a handful at a time and stir to avoid clumps. Once all the cheese has been added is melted, remove from heat, and serve immediately. Suggestion: serve with crusty bread or in a bread bowl. 6. Refrigerate leftovers after they have cooled and store in an airtight container up to 5 days in the refrigerator. All images are the property of the original website. 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 recipes, please visit the websites which are linked to each image.

The Author of the New by Sharon L. Patterson We are here once again with hope and cheer ushering in the beginning a brand new year. We’ve put away 2017 into the past and opened a new page of resolutions to last realistically until a few months from now. Isn’t it just amazing how we long for new purpose, and a new start? With tenacity we determine to become a part of promises realized and plans finished well. Our efforts gain momentum as our pride begins to swell. Then the backside of life dares to interrupt, ambushing our plans and bringing an abrupt stop to the goals we had seen coming to pass. We feel down, frustrated, and even harassed. Then, we hear a still small voice inside our heart calling us to a much better way to restart. With gentle correction He brings to mind that we must leave our own plans behind and seek the One who is the Author of the New I’m already on my knees, how about you?

The Sledding Lesson by Nancy Frantel

The hill near my childhood home in Durham, North Carolina provided a wonderful setting for wintertime activities. Our home perched on land close to the neighborhood street, which ended in a cul-de-sac. Due to minimal traffic, the road provided a protected area for neighborhood children, my brothers, and me to play outside. We waited with anticipation for the first snowfall of the season. Upon its arrival, snow seemed to fall at a rapid pace, intent on covering the ground with a deep layer of fun for us. As children with a lot of energy, we just needed enough to enjoy building snowmen and throwing snowballs. However, we were happy to have more. When the snow stopped, we looked at our parents for the okay to put on our “try to keep warm and dry” clothing, and snow boots.

The most exciting deep snow activity didn’t involve throwing. Movement in a different form brought more fun – sledding. Reluctantly, my parents brought down sleds from the attic for my older brothers and me. They realized the excitement of traveling down the hill on a sled. While they knew the potential danger, the quiet street allowed for a sense of protection. Our friends would meet us with their sleds in tow. As long as my brothers and older children were willing to supervise, I was allowed to sled. I was restricted to the cul-de-sac. The older children were able to travel to the end of our block. On occasions they were allowed to travel further down the hill to the next block; however my instructions did not change. Stay in the circle.

Once we were allowed outside, our parents told us to stay nearby. The quickest way to release our energy involved vigorous snowball fights. The calm activity of building snowmen would be enjoyed later. During the snowball exchanges, while laughter prevailed, squeals and screams were expressed by the girls when a “boy snowball” landed anywhere near us. It didn’t have to hit us to result in a verbal expression of fear. That didn’t stop us from trying to hit the boys in return. Success sometimes eluded us, since many snowballs landed just a few feet away or short of our target. Forget trying to scoop up the rejected snowball and making it worthy of another attempt. That effort resulted in a barrage of snowballs from the boys.

My parents told me emphatically not to go past the stop sign at the end of our block. The older children knew to stop before proceeding down to the next block, but it was too dangerous for me. The lure of enjoying more of the sledding run created a heightened sense of, “I can do this. I’ll be okay.” While the street close to our house provided a reasonable length of road, the rest of the packeddown track seemed even better. Of course, you know where this is headed. I didn’t listen to my parents. The temptation of going beyond my restricted area became irresistible As I watched my friends and brothers trek back up the hill, my excitement increased.

I thought, “I’m eight years old, and I want to go to the bottom of the hill.”

Then I noticed blood on the ground.

So I did.

“What happened?” I wondered. “Where is the blood coming from?”

I made the journey past the stop sign, without stopping. The thought of a car coming from either direction never occur to me.

The impact with the ground split my lip. Grabbing the end of my scarf, I applied pressure to try to stop the bleeding.

The other children didn’t have any issues, why would I?

“Am I going to need stitches?” became my next concern.

Once I made it to the bottom of the hill, I realized my mistake. With so many witnesses, my disobedience would quickly be made public.

Realizing the imminent grounding, I slowly walked back. I entered the house with a bleeding lip.

If I hurried back, maybe I could convince my brothers not to tell dad and mom, or at least argue my case based on a safe return. After five or six steps rushing back up the hill, I stepped on the sled’s steering rope. The wooden sled provided protection from the slick road on the way down, however the rope “betrayed” me on the way back. With my momentum suddenly stopped, I hit the ground. Still intent on defending my decision as soon as possible, I stood up and started back up the hill.

I thought I would be okay, but my disobedience proved otherwise. If only I had listened to my instructions. Ephesians 6:1-3 – “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your Father and Mother’ – this is the first commandment with a promise: ‘so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’ Colossians 3:20 – “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is your acceptable duty in the Lord.” (NRSV)

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Surviving Aneurysms, Strokes and Cancer, and God's Amazing Grace by Theresa L. Begin I feel the need for a new start I. I haven't written very much or shared original content in quite some time. There is a reason. You know how people always say your life can change in a moment? I have, in the past two years, found out just exactly how true that statement is. MY life "changed in a moment" the minute I was baptized and reborn with Jesus Christ and, then again, on January 2nd, 2016. Last January. I received a call from my sister, who insisted I sit down (by the way, if you ever want to worry someone, insist that they sit down before telling them why you're calling). After I convinced her that I was already sitting, she proceeded to tell me that my mother, my best friend in this world, had suffered an aneurysm and was currently being helicoptered from the hospital in my sister's hometown of Redding, where they had been visiting, to UC Davis Medical Center, Neuro Intensive Care. If you don't already know, I am a retired nurse, so numerous thoughts ran immediately through my mind. First and foremost, I wondered if she was still alive. I had not, at this point in my life, ever had to ask myself or even think that question before. My mum's body and attitude has always been way younger than her actual body age. My dad’s, too. Lucky for us! She had gone to yoga twice that week before, like she had been doing for years. She runs circles around me on energy and stamina. Of all people......Not...My...Mum. Of course, though, it was my mum. One sister was driving to meet her when the helicopter landed; my dad and my other sister were just driving to get where they were taking mum. She wasn't stable, so they stabilized her. I prayed. We prayed. A family group text started hashtag #prayfornanny began. We waited and we prayed. Surgery. Drilling a hole in her head to drain off the "pooled blood.' We prayed. She came through surgery, but was in critical condition and unable to communicate. We prayed more. They had inserted a tube down her throat to regulate her breathing. We prayed harder still. They had numerous cardiologists in the room to regulate her heart function. We prayed. She began a long and slow recovery and we kept praying. Did I mention my mother, being a retired nurse herself, told my brotherin-law what was happening to her and to call 911 and what to tell them, so she wouldn't die before they got there? Yes, she did that.

After holding our breath for the next 16-17 days, praying now that she would not develop any 'vasospasms,' a term that we all learned all too well, she was finally stable, although the reduction of fluid revealed that she had suffered two strokes whilst she lay in bed healing. Her left side was functioning very little, if at all.

On February 26th at 10 am, my mother was discharged from her rehabilitation hospital to my sister's home for a week and then to her own home, using (begrudgingly, I must add) only the aid of a walker. With physical, occupational and speech therapy all set up to go at the house, she got better.

During this time, my father was (understandably) exhausted. He had stayed by her bed the entire time she was in Critical Care, leaving only once or twice to go home to do laundry, pay a few bills, and drive back.

We PRAYED. We thanked God for the miracle and grace that we knew we had received. In May, without any special permission to do so, she and my father accompanied my sister and her husband on a short flight to see her granddaughter graduate University in San Diego, walker in tow, to a packed stadium.

When she was transferred to acute-care rehabilitation (in our home town), he came immediately following morning mass and stayed with her until after her lunch, to give me a bit of a break. Then returned again in plenty of time to have dinner with her and watch a little television until she fell asleep. I feel I need to mention my parent’s, almost incomprehensible, love for each other. When my mother was unable to speak, with tubes all around her, going in and out of her, and she woke, her blood pressure would go up immediately, until her eyes scanned the room and found my father's face. Once she saw him, it would go back down and her face would relax. When he came down the hall to her room at rehab, with my back to the door, I knew exactly when my father was approaching; my mum's eyes would begin to smile, quickly followed by his voice down the hall, saying, "There's my beautiful bride" with excitement. They are and were unbelievably precious. Three and a half weeks of rehab, here in town, to get my mother just ambulatory enough and prepared enough to go to a better, more intensive rehabilitation facility, with the goal of discharging her to home from there. We didn't even know if that was possible, but she was extremely determined, so we all became determined for her too (including me driving over early every morning with a cappuccino to help wake her up before PT, ST and OT). Fast forwarding a bit now through daily trials, scares and triumphs, learning to stand, sit, walk again...

By August of last year, she and my father joined other family members for their annual trip back to their hometown in Canada, for three weeks. My dad was tired, more than usual; he had lost weight. My dad likes to eat so this wasn't normal, not even for what they had just been through. While there, he had a small fall. Not terribly unusual to trip on some stairs. But he was cold all the time, and his back hurt him and he was more tired than he should be. We got him to the doctor. More words came that we had never expected . . . cancer. He had cancer. We were so sure that dealing with all of my mum's health issues had just taken such a huge toll on him. We missed it. I missed it. It was very large now, covering his entire liver and all the portals to and from the liver. About four by six inches, to be clearer.

Surgery wasn't an option. Many specialists and a month later we found out the type of cancer he had. D-differential liposarcoma, to be exact. The good news, apparently, was that this type of cancer responds extremely well to radiation. We prayed. #PrayforPapa group texts began and we leaned into God harder than we ever had before, our friends, our phenomenal family, and for me, my church family. My parent’s church, my sisters’ churches. Literally, thousands of people prayed for both of my parents. We did Facebook posts of the milestones of success. We thanked God after each hurdle. Six weeks of radiation. That was what was needed now. My dad was exhausted, but still managed to smile and say "good morning" and "thank you" to the radiotherapists performing his treatment, even though the result of the treatment was more fatigue and less appetite. Many of them asked us if he was always like this. With a smile, I gratefully could tell them "yes." He loves people. He appreciates them. Even then. Even when his body was betraying him. Then it came. The final day. His treatment was over. They gave him a diploma, of sorts, and he rang the bell, that hung in the hallway, the one he had been passing for the past six weeks. We knew it had been successful. He wasn't as cold, he had no back pain, and the doctor could poke his abdomen and side and it didn't hurt.

So, again, at the end of August through the beginning of September, my parents boarded the plane and went back to Canada, back for their annual trip home. I wish I could tell you that was the end. My father returned from his vacation and had his "well" appointment with the oncologist. It didn't go so well. The good news, which really is incredibly, miraculously, great news, that we are praising God for, was that the cancer they treated, that great big monster of a tumor that was over his entire liver was completely in full remission! No doubts. It was nothing but scar tissue now. That was incredible! What we didn't expect, was that they had found a new, much smaller, tumor which was the same type of cancer, above his kidney, about the size of an egg. The plan - more radiation. I wasn't sure, when my dad told me this news, if he was up to the battle, but truthfully, he had no symptoms with this cancer, no pain, no fatigue, no coolness or sore areas. We all decided he could do this! God could do this! If the great big monster didn't stop him, this little "egg" certainly wasn't going to, either! As I wrap up this account of my almost last two years, I can tell you with great joy and gratitude that my dad has completed his radiation, he has rung his second bell at the end of the necessary radiation, his appetite has improved, and we are celebrating. We are praising God and thanking him and all our friends and church families that lifted both my parents up in their prayers. One thing is for certain to me; absolutely nothing is Impossible with God. Family and faith are everything! Little things really don't matter. God is so awesomely great, all the time. For His promise was not to keep trials like this from us, but to be there, lifting us through them. He was holding onto us, even when we were unsure of our next step.

New Year's Blessings by Sharmelle Olson

New Year's blessings are coming your way as a vibrant way to brighten up the season. God's magnificent grace gives love away while we celebrate the New Year with a beacon. New Year's blessings are coming to your heart with a blissful way of being in God's grace. You can be one with God and start to experience His Love while being in this place. New Year's blessings are coming joyfully into this world with God's touch, in harmony around the world, here He comes gratefully to present you with a New Year's ceremony. New Year's blessings are coming from the hand of God, so let's praise Him for the year now past, and the year to come as we make plans for the New Year and all the joys that will last.

When God Says “Yes”

Redeeming Ruth by Meadow Rue Merrill book review by Michele Morin From her earliest days, Meadow Rue Merrill dreamed of adopting a child, and she longed to travel to Africa, even wrestling a promise from her husband that if she promised to marry him, he would not stand in the way of her going. Redeeming Ruth is Meadow’s record of God’s “yes” to her dreams — and it stands as powerful evidence that the unfolding of our dreams may not look exactly as we imagined. International adoption is complicated even without a large family and economic limitations. The Merrill family had both, but when they met tiny Ruth, she captured their hearts. Ruth had traveled from Uganda through Welcome Home Ministries, Africa, to stay with a family in Maine (friends of the Merrils) where she could receive physical therapy. When Meadow and her husband Dana held Ruth’s limp body for the first time, they were astonished at her level of disability from cerebral palsy — and at the way their hearts responded to her. Desire warred against ambivalence as Meadow and Dana weighed the wisdom of bringing a profoundly disabled African child into their already-full-and-busy home located in the whitest state in America. Yielding to what Meadow described as Dana’s “annoying habit of believing that God will take care of us,” (22) they took one tentative step after another, weathered countless setbacks, and put thousands of miles on their vehicle until one momentous day, Meadow and Ruth boarded a plane for Uganda to finalize Ruth’s adoption. Time to Walk In the spirit of “leaving the 99 to save one,” Meadow spent nearly a month in Uganda chasing paperwork, caring for Ruth in primitive surroundings, living among the other orphans and workers at Welcome Home. There, she gained insight to the hopelessness of Ruth’s future, forever trapped in a body with the skill set of a two-month-old infant, if she did not gain entrance to the United States and the privilege of hope that comes with education, health care, and rehabilitation. Together, the Merrill family prayed for healing and trusted for progress, but what would healing look like? Her big brothers and sister prayed specifically that Ruth would walk and talk. Would a cochlear implant restore Ruth’s hearing? Meadow pondered theological implications of her daughter’s fragility: “[P]erhaps God’s purpose was higher than ours. Perhaps instead of healing Ruth, he intended to heal us of our selfishness and pride. Wouldn’t that be a miracle?” A Faith Journey into God’s “Yes” Redeeming Ruth reminded me of why memoir is my favorite genre. Not everyone who reads Meadow’s descriptive prose will be able to appreciate her references to Brunswick area landmarks or have memories of sunny days at Popham Beach and walks around the trails of Mackworth Island that heightened my appreciation for the setting. However, it will be a rare reader who does not identify with the struggle to hold onto a dream that keeps slipping away or to continue in faith when sight is alarmingly out of sync with expected outcomes.

The Merrill family’s unique story is a valuable resource for anyone who is learning to trust God’s motives and struggling to live well in the tension of pursuing a dream while holding it loosely, for within the flow of story, priceless principles emerge: Close the door on worries. “I can believe what my mind is telling me, which is ‘Panic!’ Or I can believe what the Bible tells me, which is that children are a blessing. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I close my eyes and picture myself physically putting my trust in God the way I’d put something in a cupboard. I give my worries to him. Then I close the door.” (149) Love like a fool. “Even if you love and lose, keep sharing God’s love anyway. Love in the face of suffering and grief and heartache and loss. Love beyond racial and religious and physical borders and barriers. . . You won’t have to look far to find someone who is hurting, someone without a voice, someone waiting to know they are loved.” (203) There is nothing of value that may be lost here that will not be redeemed in heaven. “Everything life takes, love restores. Everything. Broken bodies. Broken hearts. Broken dreams. No matter how painful. No matter how devastating. God can transform even our greatest sorrow into something good.” (201) The unfolding of Ruth’s story rebukes the notion that God is made visible only in happy endings. Loving and caring for Ruth became Meadow’s offering to God, “one small piece of this broken, pain-pierced world that [she] could redeem.” It will surprise no one who has read the New Testament that redemption is a costly process. In the midst of grinding fatigue and great joy, discouragement and soaring faith, mourning and soul-deep comfort, the Merrill family continues to live their way into God’s high purpose for bringing Ruth into their family. This book was provided by Hendrickson Publishers 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.” Additional Resources Downeast Magazine is a favorite here in Maine, and Meadow shares an excerpt from Redeeming Ruth in their March 2017 issue. You can read it here. A fellow member of the Redbud Writers Guild, Meadow wrote an article featuring her adoption journey for September 2017 issue of The Redbud Post: A Promise, a Prayer, and an Irresistible Smile. For more of Meadow’s fine writing, including her blog, be sure to check out her website. Featured image from Meadow Rue Merrill’s website.

Re-Gifting: Loving Your Neighbor Jesus-Style by Jeanne Doyon

One afternoon while gift wrapping, my children got into the Christmas spirit and scurried upstairs with my scraps of wrapping paper. They were busy for hours until they came down carrying little packages strangely resembling tiny toys from their rooms.

In the book of Acts after the Holy Spirit whooshed through the upper room, Peter preached a mighty sermon and many came to Christ. Then Peter and the others came upon a man begging near the temple gate.

An arm from an action figure poked through the wrapping paper. A doll’s bottle peeked out from a small scrap held together with too much tape. Tiny cars and doll blankets were in their wrapped bundles.

Peter told him he didn’t have silver or gold, but he wanted to share what he did have with the lame man. Then he healed him in the name of Jesus Christ. The man leaped and praised God and went into the temple with them.

With their faces beaming they offered their gifts. My heart melted as I saw the joy of giving in each one of them. How can a mom argue with that? It was regifting at its finest.

Peter gave away what he had received - Jesus. He had taken to heart the conversation he had when Jesus asked, "Peter, do you love me? Tend My sheep."

Re-gifting used to be taboo. Not anymore. Now there are websites extolling its virtues with re-gifting rules to follow. You no longer need to wait for a Yankee swap to share those treasures you can’t use.

Jesus always meets our deeper need. The lame man didn’t need money; he needed to be restored. Peter understood, because He needed to be restored too after denying Jesus and feeling the weight of his weakness.

You can re-gift from your abundance to bless someone rather than have items sit around gathering dust. So as we think about sharing from what we have been given, what would spiritual re-gifting look like?

Spiritual re-gifting means giving away what we have received in Christ: Gifts of mercy, joy, grace, forgiveness, hope, love, encouragement and the message of Jesus that transforms lives. It means loving your neighbor Jesus-style.

And, when we give away the gifts we’ve received, they multiply. Because we can’t out give God. As we pour out into other’s lives, God refills our vessel. When we love someone, we feel loved. When we encourage, we feel encouraged.

So what have you received from God that you can re-gift today? Matthew 10:8 says, “Freely you have received; freely give.” Jesus calls us to love on one another with the love we have received from the Father.

Have you experienced this too?

As we give away grace, love, hope...we encourage someone with a kind word or deed. When we give it away, we receive it back one hundred fold.

Several months ago we visited a friend in a nursing home who wasn't doing well. He expressed a desire to eat some Chicken Pad Thai so we brought some for he and his wife. The nursing staff set us up at a table and we gathered around a meal together. Our friend ate heartily and enjoyed every bite. By sharing this meal with him, my heart was filled with joy. I think I benefited more than he did. This is the essence of spiritual re-gifting.

When we re-gift these gifts to others, they may not look perfect. Like my children's gifts, they may be bound with scraps of paper and too much tape, but our Heavenly Father sees the joy of giving in our faces, and I know it melts His heart. How can you re-gift His blessings today?

Sacrifice of Praise by Norma C. Mezoe My supervisor had been upset all week, stressed because of a personal problem. As a result, she had seemed to take her anger out on me. Now as I pulled into my driveway on Friday, I was thankful the work week was ended. I was driving a friend’s car because my old used car was once again in the shop. As I sat in my driveway, I reached into my purse for my door key, but it wasn’t there. Then I realized that it was inside the locked house. It was winter and snow covered the ground. Wearing high heels, I slipped and stumbled through several inches of snow to a building for my stepladder. Carrying it back, I placed it under a kitchen window. After prying off the screen, I was crawling through the window as the phone began ringing. Hurrying through, I hit my arm. Picking up the receiver while rubbing my aching arm, I tried not to cry as I received more frustrating news. Hanging up the phone, I sat at the kitchen table realizing that I had two choices. I could give in to the despair or I could praise God despite my problems. I chose the latter and my praise became a gift of sacrifice to my Lord. Eventually, the car problems were solved and tensions at work eased. God honored my sacrifice of praise. According to Hebrews 13:15, offering our praise is the fruit of our lips and God lovingly accepts our offering. God blesses when we willingly offer our praise to Him. First rights – The Vision, published 1/17/10

This is Not My Life by R.G. Sharpe “This is not my life.” These five words ran through my head as I slowly inserted a key into the door of my small apartment. I juggled my bags from school, purse, diaper bag, and car seat containing my infant daughter as I crossed the threshold and closed the door with the back of my foot. This scene was not unusual; in fact, it was a daily occurrence, and those five words plagued me. As a devout faith-follower, church member, Christian school teacher, and preacher’s daughter, it seemed unfathomable that I was in the midst of a divorce and struggling as a single mom. Perhaps you can relate. As we close the door on 2017, there may be some of you reading this who can identify with the sense of loss and grief of a marriage ending. At times the emotions can be overwhelming. You may feel completely alone and desperate for hope. This message is for you. The word “this” is present tense. It refers to what is happening right now. If you are in the throes of divorce, you may feel consumed by court dates, attorney fees, custody battles, and single parenting. What you’re going through absorbs your time, energy, and focus. It may feel like God is very far away and life is never going to get better, but I have good news for you. Romans 8: 16-19, NLT says, “For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.” In context, the Apostle Paul was referring to persecution for the sake of following Jesus. However, as believers our suffering takes on many forms and divorce is one of them. When we hold tight to the truth that we are God’s daughters, we are assured that there is purpose beyond the pain. In spite of your circumstances, staying strong in the Lord will reveal his character and be glorified through you. It is common to ruminate on questions such as, “Why is this happening? What will become of me? How is everything going to work out?” It is a natural reaction when life if flipped upside down. We are filled with despair, fear, and anxiety. When facing each day becomes daunting and we would rather pull the blankets over our heads instead of going to work, it is easy to become problem-focused instead of promise-focused. Asaph, a Levite prophet and worship leader, wrote these lyrics, “I get nothing but trouble all day long; every morning brings me pain” (Psalm 73:14, NLT). He understood distress and frustration but went on to sing, “Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside… You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny… My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever” (v. 21, 24, 26).

Denial is a powerful weapon. We use it to preserve our dignity, selfworth, and integrity. I’m not divorced. I’m not a single mom. We are worried what people will think of us if they know what’s really happening. Maybe we don’t tell anyone, or we dodge questions, making it seem as if everything is fine as usual. We feel insecure, embarrassed, and ashamed of being divorced. Be encouraged: “Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth and the sorrows of widowhood. For your Creator will be your husband; the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name! He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth. For the Lord has called you back from your grief—as though you were a young wife abandoned by her husband,” says your God. “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great compassion I will take you back. In a burst of anger I turned my face away for a little while. But with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord, your Redeemer (Isaiah 54:4-8, NLT). Loneliness is a natural byproduct of divorce. We feel the ever-present absence of our marriage partner. Gone is the flesh and blood we can hold for love and comfort. We feel physically and emotionally rejected and find ways to fill the void. If we are not careful, we will look in the wrong places. When we’ve been hurt and betrayed, it can be difficult to trust that God is really for us and not against us. That’s why Psalm 34:18, NLT says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” It is imperative that we pour ourselves into the Word and stand on his promises. Stay involved in your local church and surround yourself with godly influences who will support you in good days and bad. I made the mistake not to do this and found myself seeking solace in worldly ways. Not soon after my divorce I was in a rebound relationship and married six months later. That marriage was short-lived, and three years later found myself divorced and single a second time around. Finally, my will was broken. I learned to truly trust God; relationships didn’t define me any longer. Nights after my daughter was tucked in bed, I spent hours in prayer, Bible reading, and worship. I began cooking for friends from church and inviting them over to eat on Monday nights. They became my accountability partners; I wouldn’t have made it through this season without them. I also joined my local chapter of DivorceCare and gained wonderful words of wisdom and encouragement through this faith-based support group. As we open the doors to 2018, are you using the right keys? Psalm 71:20, NLT says, “You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth. You will restore me to even greater honor and comfort me once again.” Let this be your motto. Memorize this verse and recite it every day. Trust him to make you whole again. One day you will turn a key that opens a door no man can close, and you’ll find yourself saying once again – only this time with joy – “This is not my life.”

Tree Climber by Carol Peterson I know I could see the world if I climbed up this tree. But I might slip or lose my grip and prob’ly skin my knee. Or I could fall down from the tree and maybe crack my head. “I’ll stick around here on the ground,” that’s what I’ve always said. But if I were to climb this tree I bet I’d feel real proud. Spot chimney tops and pop raindrops and sit inside a cloud. So inch-by-inch and branch-by-branch I’m going to climb this tree. No, I won’t stop till I’m on top, ‘cause who’s brave now? It’s me!

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

Escalator Evangelism by Lisa Radcliff

We had just arrived at San Diego International Airport, almost an hour late, with great anticipation of meeting our newest grandchild. Quickly retrieving our luggage, we hustled out to the pick-up area. As we waited for our son, deciding everyone in San Diego County must drive a silver SUV, I rummaged through our luggage for the gift bags, tissue paper, and gifts for our granddaughters. There was a new baby gift and several birthday gifts for Big Sister's second birthday. We were going directly from the airport to her party at a local park. With the anticipation building, we could barely stay still long enough to put the gifts together. Then the text came saying our son wouldn't be able to pick us up. Our delayed flight foiled our plans. Plan B. We made our way back into the terminal on a quest to find the quickest transportation to a very important meeting and party. The baggage claim area was deserted. All the passengers from recent flights had vanished and new arrivals hadn't made it in yet. As we followed the signs to the ground transportation, we saw a man struggling with two suitcases stepping onto the escalator. The first one wasn't a problem, but the second piece, a large, duffle-style with wheels, was another story. He was pulling it behind him. Balancing the first piece on the step in front of him, he pulled the second piece onto the escalator about three steps behind him. As the step rose up, the wheels of the duffle bag caught on the edge. The man couldn't pull it onto the step, and it started to pull him over. By the time this was taking place, we had arrived at the bottom of the escalator.

In slow motion, the man was pulled backwards, head first, down the steps. He lost his grip on the upper suitcase, which fell on top of him. My husband shoved his suitcase to me and jumped onto the escalator. He pulled the man's first bag off him, which freed him somewhat but also allowed him to somersault down a few more steps. I watched in stunned horror. I started to move onto the killer escalator with my own two suitcases, timing my entrance perfectly so I didn't end up in the same predicament, when I heard choking sounds coming from the man. The strap of the duffle was around his neck. My superhero husband used all of his 7' wingspan to free him from it. The man got himself right side up and on his feet just as the escalator reached the top. He thanked my husband and reached for his suitcases. My husband, who is a nurse, told him his arm was bleeding. He should put something on that and get his head checked for injuries. The man was already walking away as I stepped off the escalator. He hollered over his shoulder that he would take care of it later. We followed him across the elevated walkway, thankful that he chose the elevator at the other end. We took the escalator. As we arrived at the bottom of the escalator, replaying what had happened, I remembered that escalators have emergency stop buttons. They are located on the side, right next to where I was standing, watching the scene unfold. Why didn't I push the button? Why didn't I even think about the button? I was like a witness to a highway pile up. I just couldn't look away from what was unfolding in front of me. Not even to make it stop.

The more I thought about it, the more upset I was that I hadn't pushed the stupid button. All I had to do was push the button. Why didn't I push the button? That led me to think about people in my life who don't know the Lord. I help them. If they need something, I'm right there, lifting their suitcases. But how often do I meet their real need? How often do I tell them the good news of the gospel? I know the way to eternal life, but I fail to tell them. Instead, I do my best to show them love and live out my faith in front of them. These aren't bad things, it's what I should do, but I never push the button. I see them headed for destruction, and I take them meals, watch their kids, drive them to appointments, but I never push the button. I don't do what would be best for them, what could save their life.

I reason that God uses someone else, someone more familiar with the location and operation of the button. Maybe my only job is to help, watch, and encourage. But every now and then, like the deserted airport, I'm the only one around and am expected to push that button. I've never pushed an escalator emergency stop button. What happens? Does it just stop? Do alarms sound? How does it get going again? Maybe that's why I don't push the 'witnessing-forChrist' button. What might happen? Will I be rejected? Will I be made fun of? Will I lose the friendship? I don't know. But sometimes it's better to just push the button and take those chances. Like the guy on the escalator, it could be a matter of life and death. Push the button.

Do You Know Where You Belong? by Patrice D. Wilkerson Being a devoted Christian can be hard these days, this sinful world can make anyone succumb to the devil's ways. People try so hard to knock you off your game, and if you let them then you only have yourself to blame. I've seen it happen so many times before, when God starts blessing you the devil begins to knock at your door. I’m thankful that Christ has been in my life for many years, and I must say I have gained a true friend, and I have rid myself of fake peers. I love the person that I have become and I give Christ all the glory, for I know that it is He who loves me unconditionally. No longer am I lost, I know that with Christ is where I belong, ever since I gave my life to Him, He has not steered me wrong. So, regardless of what foolishness others may get into, I know where I belong and I will always stay true.

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The Top of the Mountain by Susan Paulus When I’m standing on top of Your mountain the joy leads to worship and praise. My heart overflows with the love that is Yours and my spirit rejoices in You But when I stand in the valley where the Son doesn’t reach; when sorrow and pain beat me downthen tears overcome, pain racks my soul, then, Lord, You seem too far away. But taking my hand, never letting me stray, and with stride that is perfect and strong, we begin our long journey, one step at a time back up to the top of the mountain

Queen Esther’s Reflection: A Portrait of Grace, Courage, and Excellence by Ann Platz

Book Review by Miriam Jacob In Queen Esther’s Reflection, Ann Platz portrays Queen Esther as a perfect role model of grace, courage and excellence for women of today. From charming hospitality and wisdom-inspired mentoring to extending grace and social graces to others, the young and attractive Esther is an amazing and incredible person to emulate. This inspiring book is a penetrating, psychologically uplifting, true-to-life story of the young Queen’s graceful beauty, inspiring wisdom, and faultless loyalty to her husband, King Ahasuerus as well as her selfless devotion to her people. Queen Esther was a courageous young lady who became the pride, joy and delight of the King of Persia. A remarkably self-composed and extremely levelheaded woman, Esther was carefully trained in the art of good looks, exemplary manners, courtesy and palace protocol, acquiring precious skills that would stand her in good stead when she became Queen by an extraordinary act of God. Ann Platz explores the godly nature of the beautiful Queen Esther and the profound influence she wields among women in today’s society, as an exemplary woman of faith, endowed with a stunning reflection of Christ-like values.

Queen Esther allowed herself to be gracefully refined and prepared exquisitely, by being taught and mentored to make her spiritually beautiful. Her rare grace and fragrance captivated the king to give her royal favor and propel her into her tryst with destiny. The ultimate goal of every Christian woman is to become a woman of grace and dignity like Queen Esther. We were all brought into the kingdom “for such a time as this” to fulfil God’s plan, purpose and design for our lives. Every woman can acquire the royal dignity of a princess or even a queen in her own way, if she strictly adheres to Biblical principles like Esther did, to reap her glorious reward in the salvation of her people. I admire the author’s direct, matter-of-fact style and deeply appreciate the delicate sense of balance that she maintains throughout the book, paying special emphasis to Queen Esther’s courage, faithfulness and obedience to God.

With crystal clear clarity, Ann dwells upon her own well-bred upbringing and the social skills she imbibed in South Carolina as the daughter of the longest-serving state senator in USA.

This book penetratingly ploughs the depths of a woman’s soul. Ann Platz is frank and transparently open, deeply honest, scripturally sound and filled with wisdom and understanding. She is a fearless teacher of divine truth and righteousness, as she lives it out to the hilt in her own life.

Ann Platz graciously instructs women on how to transform their homes into palaces, with the divine touch of a royal anointing, by reflecting upon the excellence of character reflected in Queen Esther’s life. In this book, the author elegantly teaches us the priceless lessons of a pure heart and a sterling character through the inspiring Bible story of this humble and noble Queen.

Through the pages of this revealing book, Ann takes us on our very own personal journey of faith, as she opens our hearts and eyes to the inspiring and truthful life of Queen Esther, painting a glorious portrait of a charming woman of grace, courage, and excellence, a perfect role model for our lives and times.

This is an incredible book, divinely anointed by God, and a rare treasure to be read many times over, as Ann uniquely intertwines the poignant history of the Kingdom of Persia with the practical application of the spiritual truths from Queen Esther’s life, to teach us precious lessons to practice in our daily lives. Queen Esther’s Reflection is a thoughtful and perceptive analysis of the anointed role Queen Esther played in God’s divine plan, and priceless lessons of humility and grace every Christian woman can learn from Queen Esther’s honorable life. Esther’s experiences certainly apply to all women’s lives, especially pertaining to the aspects of gracious living.

Her spiritual beauty, inspired by God’s grace and favor, produces an irresistible fragrance that draws people to God. Ann Platz, a very gifted and multi-talented author, is a wonderful inspiration to women worldwide. Her graceful face and admirable traits of charm and courtesy are stunning proof of this. Ann applies her wisdom gracefully and practically, extracting precious life lessons from the ancient but highly relevant story of Queen Esther, to apply them very skillfully to the lives of women today. I am deeply impressed with her elegant, dignified descriptions about Queen Esther in this aweinspiring book. Queen Esther’s Reflection bears the hallmark of excellence and is stamped with God’s favor and approval.

Queen Esther, a woman of exemplary courage in the face of indefatigable odds, is one of my favorite © Miriam Jacob Bible characters. Ann Platz is the perfect epitome of southern charm and gracious hospitality. A noted interior designer, author and speaker, she is deeply inspired and motivated to share God’s love and inspiration with all His people worldwide.

Queen Esther’s Reflection: A Portrait of Grace, Courage, and Excellence by Ann Platz is now available from RUBY’S Reading Corner. Pages: 224. Publisher: New Hope Publishers, 2007. ISBN: 9781596690127. Price: $12.99

Miriam Jacob is a reviewer at Oxford Academic, Oxford University Press; a blog reviewer at Revell Reads, Baker Publishing Group; member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid & Christian Authors Network; Google Scholar and Researcher at; ebook author and poet; top reviewer at NetGalley, Christian Book Distributors, Barnes and Noble, Google Books and Goodreads. Miriam is a reviewer at Tyndale House Publishers; Moody Press; Barbour Books; Harvest House; New Hope Publishers; Penguin; HarperCollins Christian; Abingdon Press; WaterBrook & Multnomah; and Discovery House. A member of the Ruby Book Review Team, Miriam's articles and poems are published at WordPress and Blogger - &

To read more of Miriam’s book reviews, visit her at and © Miriam Jacob

New from author Mary Dolan Flaherty

Spectacles of Hope

Defeating Your Couldas, Wouldas, and Shouldas An Allegory

CHAPTER 1: An Introduction Once upon a time in a land far, far closer than you think, there lived a quiet, shy young man named Ralph Gouda and his three constant companions— Shoulda, Woulda, and Coulda. These companions were triplets who had been with Ralph for most of his life, and who rather enjoyed their landlord, as they liked to call Ralph. For the most part, he was quiet and left the triplets alone. This allowed them to concentrate on their work without interruption. Ralph was not as fond of his tenants as they were of him. They threw frequent parties that made their landlord’s head ache. He liked structure and order, solitude and rest. Not social by nature, he preferred to be alone, and did not enjoy loud, boisterous parties. He was often ridiculed as a young child for his odd name, his penchant for patriotic clothes, and his affinity for penny loafers—complete with shiny pennies in them—when all the children wore sneakers, so it stood to reason that Ralph had no friends. Other kids called him Flag Boy, Cheesehead, or Penny, and taunted him with other derisive names. Now, as an adult, Ralph was wary of trying new things for fear of ridicule or failure. He lived inside his head a lot—which was a coincidence, because that’s where the Brothers Oulda resided. *** One evening, Shoulda, Woulda, and Coulda were relaxing on their battered, plaid couch in their tiny apartment. Their friends, the What-Ifs, had just left after a rather raucous party. They had played volleyball, and because of the close quarters inside Ralph’s head, the ball kept bouncing off the walls, which resulted in a horrific headache for Ralph.

Their favorite game, however, was Tag. A variation of the children’s game, they played their party version as a team. The goal of the game was to keep Ralph in a constant state of negativity. Whoever had a demeaning thought would start the game by saying it loudly, so Ralph would hear. The next player was then “tagged” and had to come up with another thought that piggybacked the first one…and so on. It wasn’t a competitive game because everybody won. Everyone but Ralph, that was. “I think tonight’s game went especially well,” said Coulda to his brothers. Shoulda looked up from his book, Regret and Guilt: Mastering the Art of Effective Manipulation and Persuasion, and nodded his balding head as he removed his reading glasses. “I agree. It was even more effective with the What-Ifs playing.” Woulda laughed as he placed his book, How to Lose Friends and Manipulate People next to him on the couch that was their only piece of furniture— except for a small kitchen table and three identical workstations lined up in a row on a folding table directly across from the couch. “That line, ‘What if they laugh at me or don’t like me?’ was the highlight of the night,” said Woulda. “It was especially funny when the What-Ifs ran to the window and shouted it out into Ralph’s ear canal. He definitely heard that.” “Well,” Shoulda said, sitting up straighter and puffing out his chest, “you know I started the whole thing.” His brothers rolled their eyes. Shoulda was always seeking credit.

“Yes, brother,” said Coulda. “We know. Your ‘I shoulda gone out for steak last night with the guys from work,’ was the line that got the game rolling.” “And then you tagged me,” said Woulda, the middle one who longed for attention. “Remember? I said, ‘I woulda gone with them if they’d asked.’” “Admittedly, that was a good follow up,” Shoulda said. His brothers stared at him in surprise. He rarely complimented anyone. Three identical roly-poly bodies sat silently in a row on the old couch for a moment, as if they were holding a memorial for a something lost—or, in their case—something gained, as they recalled their fine work that night; how they’d seamlessly moved back and forth as a tag team, even though their guests were new at the game. “And your line, Coulda,” Shoulda continued. “‘I coulda gone, too. If I wasn’t so worried about what they’d think of me, I coulda invited myself.’ That was a good one.” “The What-Ifs caught on quite well after that, I’d say,” observed Coulda. “They cinched it with that line, ‘What if they laugh at me or don’t like me?’” Hands in their laps, the brothers fixed their eyes on the bare, gray wall in front of them, not looking at anything in particular, but recalling how much fun they’d had, working together successfully to reinforce negativity in Ralph. Three simultaneous sighs of satisfaction filled the room. Shoulda, Woulda, and Coulda had learned the importance of not interrupting each other. It was essential that their landlord hear each one, because this was how they stayed alive. The brothers fed off Ralph’s insecurities, as well as his feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy. Once they were nourished, they fed the same thoughts back to him in ways that would keep him second-guessing himself. Thoughts about what he shoulda done, woulda had, and coulda been. Having learned how to disguise their voices so Ralph thought he was hearing his own voice, they became masters of selfcondemnation and accusation. They had good reason to be proud of themselves tonight. Shoulda, who was sitting between his brothers, put an arm around each one.

“We did well today. Ralph is almost asleep, having been rendered completely useless and ineffective, not to mention exhausted. I think he’s a perfect host, don’t you?” Woulda and Coulda nodded, and Woulda rested his head on Shoulda’s shoulder. “I rather like living here,” he said, yawning. “Ralph Gouda is the perfect landlord.” “Yes, but we mustn’t get too comfortable,” said Coulda. “What do you mean?” Woulda asked. “Remember what happened to our cousins?” “You mean the Oughtas?” asked Shoulda. He snorted in disgust. “Yes. Remember when they became complacent in their head and were kicked out with no place to go?” “That’s right,” said Woulda, bolting upright. “I do remember that. They moved in with us for a while. That was fun.” “No, it wasn’t,” Shoulda said firmly. “They tried to take over the apartment with all their talk of, ‘You oughta do this and you oughta move that over there.’ We were cramped enough without their trying to take over. I was glad when they finally found a new head to move into.” “They were lucky,” Coulda said. “I’ve been reading that there is a whole new breed of heads out there who won’t allow any Oughtas or Ouldas to take up residency.” “You mean they wouldn’t rent to us if we were to leave Ralph?” Woulda sounded worried. “That’s right,” said Coulda “I suppose we should be thankful that he is such an easygoing landlord,” said Shoulda. “We should never let our guard down, always work together, and make sure that Ralph Gouda stays in a place where we can continue to manipulate him and persuade him to follow our lead. We certainly don’t want to be kicked out of this place. It might not be that easy to find another head to live in, what with everyone going to therapy these days.” That night, the Oulda brothers shared their special triplet handshake, vowing to always keep their landlord in guilt, fear, and shame by whispering shouldas, wouldas, and couldas in his ears.

*** Ralph tried to sleep, but he kept replaying the thoughts that had bounced around in his head earlier that evening: I shoulda gone out. I coulda…I woulda…but what if they laugh at me? Hours after something happened—or didn’t happen—he always second-guessed himself, wishing that he’d handled the situation differently. He usually didn’t regret saying something stupid—like he knew many of his co-workers did— because he never said much to begin with. Instead, he’d find himself wishing he could have spoken up, would have asked a question, should have shared his opinion. But he remained afraid of what people might think; afraid of failing, afraid of looking or sounding stupid. Afraid they might laugh at him. . Since he preferred solitude, not being included didn’t typically bother Ralph. But for some reason this time, he wished the guys from work had invited him along on their excursion for a steak dinner that evening. He did so love steak, and perhaps might even have enjoyed being in the company of other men— as long as he didn’t have to talk. He heaved a long sigh, fluffed his pillow, and pulled the covers up to his chin. Too much thinking gave him a headache, and with all that noise in his head, he had a whopper. It felt like someone had been playing volleyball in there! Closing his eyes, he tried to shut the thoughts off, but now he began to worry about tomorrow. Did he have a clean brown suit to wear to work?

Was it going to rain? If so, where were his brown overcoat, brown hat, and brown gloves? Were his penny loafers polished? Were the pennies still shiny? Ridiculous questions really, since he knew the answer to them all was “yes.” Meticulous to an extreme, Ralph knew where every single piece of brown clothing was and when it was last laundered. In fact, he always laid his clothes out the night before and had a clean brown suit for every day of the week. Having learned early on that people made fun of his clothing choices, Ralph wore only brown now. This wonderful color meant that he could blend in nicely without drawing attention to himself. He secretly wished his last name was Brown and not Gouda. Then he would introduce himself as Ralph Brown, a nice plain name, instead of having to say, “Ralph Gouda, like the cheese.” No one would laugh after hearing the name Ralph Brown. Just thinking of brown soothed Ralph and made him sleepy. His headache faded and his thoughts scattered. As he drifted off to sleep, he heard snippets of what seemed like a conversation in his head. “Never let our guard down,” and “Perfect host,” and “Another head to live in,” were some of the things he heard as he faded into sleep. He hoped these random thoughts didn’t indicate a restless night to come, with odd dreams flitting in and out. He needed a good night’s rest. ***

Don’t miss CHAPTER 2: A Day at the Office

Spectacles of Hope

Defeating Your Couldas, Wouldas, and Shouldas An Allegory in the February 2018 issue of RUBY magazine! :

My Hope by Emmanuel O. Afolabi

Today the year 2017 has rolled away and the year 2018 has begun! Friends, where do you put your hope for the new year? As for me, my hope is on nothing less, but wholly on Christ the Solid Rock, because all other grounds is sinking sand. Therefore as we journey through the year 2018, let's anchor our faith upon the Shepherd of our souls for protection, success, accomplishment, breakthrough, blessings, victory and good health. Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will,complete it until the day of,Jesus Christ Philippians 1:6 NKJV. We should be focused in the New Year and constantly delight ourselves also in the Lord, and He will fulfil the petition of our hearts. In addition, let us learn how to commit our ways and endeavors to the Lord and trust in Him always and He shall direct our paths and bring our desire to pass. In AD 2018 let us rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. Assuredly the lord will bless our estate and sustain it. Wishing all the readers a prosperous New Year! Shalom

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.

I have been on a constant search for purpose, begging as I look for a meaning. Instead, I find myself caught up in self-doubt because my people pleasing skills are not up to snuff. People pleasing is not something that the Lord has placed on my path, so I question if it’s something that is even important to Him. The Lord wants us to love, care and pray for people while we witness. Pleasing them doesn’t seem to be on the menu. Why do I, or even we as the body of Christ, feel the need for more likes, follows, or friends that all praise and lift us up? There’s no need to be puffed up when we’re children of the King. The King has already given us sustaining life. He is the living water and the bread of life. He nourishes us and quenches our thirst. The only thing that we should be hungry for is to grow His kingdom without worry. There is no need to worry about what others think, and we don’t need to feel the need to please them. John reminds us that as we start to question our selfworth, we can find nourishment and revival in God’s Word. It restores and preserves us. John 6:27-35 NIV: Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval. Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

Image by Jennifer Palliion

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. The Lord is our water that takes away our thirst. He is the bread of life that leaves us without hunger. We get so caught up in the lies of men and stare loneliness in the face when we aren’t pleasing them. We feel that working towards relationship is in vain at times, because we’re often still standing in the same spot we started, in the same drought that we were in before we tried to be more and to do more. Sometimes we think that the Lord is telling us or guiding us to do things, but we continue to sit still, lost on the direction or the words. We feel hungry, unfed, but maybe that’s Him telling us to go deeper in The Word and truth.

Image by Kelly Sikkema

Dear Lord, You are the bread of life, the water that takes away our thirst. Thank you for reminding us of who sustains us in times of doubt. It’s not by us, but it’s by You. You are the sustainer of life. Thank You, Lord. In Your Name, Amen.

Interior Space is Expansive by Kathleen McCauley We are the ones that think with limits and controls on our relationship with God. Perhaps our human nature curtails our ability to think in the infinite- or our own fears of what “expansion” (of our hearts, spirituality, or divinity) would look like, feel like…. Fear of how it might hijack our own agenda or limit our controls. The control we utilize in life and in relationships is typically a reflection of our fear. But relationships don’t flourish and grow when confined to a person’s control. In regards to our inner life…. we have been taught to pray in a controlled fashion throughout the decades via the conventional religious practices. If our interior space is expansive – we might ask ourselves: 1. Do I want expansion in my interior world? 2. Can I let go of the control I have on God’s movement and involvement in my life? 3. Can I embrace the possibility of expansion and continue to move toward and with this growth? Many of us have the desire to be closer to God, to hear him and be one with him, which usually begins with attentiveness to our interior movement. What is required as the relationship progresses, is that we release the fear, and need to control how it is growing and what will be require of us as it grows. Identifying these common issues will free up the potential for interior space expansion, and this expansion can fill us with the experience and knowledge of the presence of God within.

Trust for the Trail by Shara Bueler-Repka

I focused on the path in front of us and kept my seat centered as my horse Nocona and I rode along the narrow trail. The steep mountainside rose above us, and Nocona’s hooves ambled inches from the plummeting precipice falling away.

I had spent years as a Christian, but not fully trusting the One I claimed allegiance to. When adverse circumstances ambushed me, I realized the hard way that my relationship with Jesus was sorely in need of maintenance.

As his hoof sunk into a soft part of the trail, the distinctive click of a loosed pebble made my heart skip a beat as the stone bounced off the side, sailing off into space.

I found myself floundering, my foot searching for the solidness of the Rock. (Matthew 7:24-25)

Trust. I was grateful for the many hours spent hanging out with my horse. That bond of trust and love developed over time, throughout the years. We ride trails like these only because of that friendship and bond. I know his character and he knows mine. Building the Relationship It started out small. When Nocona was a colt, our first encounter involved putting a halter and lead rope on him—he’d never seen either. This was a must as I needed to load him in the trailer to take him to the ranch. On a hot, humid Texas morning, I watched him as he stared wide-eyed at me. Sweat trickled down my face as I spoke softly to him. His ears flicked, and he slowly dropped his head and relaxed. Our relationship began. Trust is synonymous with relationship. You can’t truly trust someone you don’t know.

In desperation, I looked for Him. He was already watching me. In that ever-so-loving still, small voice, His Holy Spirit prompted me to start at square two (I was already firmly planted on square one, having accepted Jesus as my Savior). He gently guided me to read Jesus’ words, written in red. As I studied every word, an amazing picture formed—God’s strong, open arms in unconditional love. As I read about His kind, solid character, I relaxed. And a real relationship began. I found a personal God who loves us all dearly and wants to take us to heights we have never known— heights that may make our heart pound, but have beautiful, breathtaking views. A Love That Longs for Trust In the beginning Nocona was a feisty one, but I never gave up. I slipped my hand around his neck and slid the halter over his nose, around his ears, and buckled it.

It was a foreign concept to him, and he bolted. I stayed with him, letting him test the lead rope, all the while continuing to speak softly to him, reassuring him that all was well and I would not hurt him. We continued building on our relationship from that solid foundation. (Proverbs 3:5) I suppose some schools of thought would have suggested I lasso him and then “show him who’s boss.” But what good would that have done? I would have created a relationship where he only obeyed me because he had to or worse yet, feared me. It would have been a life of slavery for him and a chore for me. Many times the Holy Spirit revealed His wisdom, but because it was foreign to me, I bolted. But He stuck with me, eventually earning my trust and moving me further toward my destiny in Him. (Psalm 73:28— But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God that I may declare all Your works.) The Acid Test Life can be a trail of unknowns. The acid test of our trust is what we do when confronted with one of life’s unforeseen surprises. Fear of the unknown (the “what ifs”) can easily keep us from fully enjoying life. Courage is required to take the leap of faith, believing God’s Word is truth. While riding the trail, scary things tend to “jump out” of the bushes: A rattlesnake angrily buzzed his tail, warning us that we were in his self-proclaimed territory; a mountain lion dashed across the road ahead, chasing a herd of deer. Nocona stood his ground and just flicked an ear, all the while listening for my instruction.

In this fast-paced, don’t-have-time-to-breathe society, listening has become an antiquity. But it’s a must to develop that solid trust. In life, circumstances will shoot out of nowhere, putting us in a position of decision. Do we run? Faint in fear? Or stand our ground on that solid relationship we have meticulously built in the peaceful times? We might “flick an ear” at the scary thing, but immediately flick it back toward the One with the instruction on what we need to do with that thing. (Proverbs 1:33—“But whoever listens to Me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”) Trust That Continues to Strengthen As with any relationship, there is constant adjustment and tuning-up. Though it is built on a solid foundation, maintenance will always be an ongoing process. Even the apostle Paul was in constant growth and learning: Philippians 3:12—“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Just like Paul, I haven’t “arrived” yet. I’ve learned my relationship with the Lord requires forward motion. There are always new things to learn about myself and Him, along with old things maybe I’ve forgotten and need to remember again. I’ve come to realize that a trust-building relationship is a step-by-step, day-by-day process. But it’s an exciting one. It’s a process full of adventure, offering hope as I discover the depth of God’s character and His love. (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

Walk Like a Warrior: Inspirational True Stories of God’s Encouragement on the Train Less Traveled by Shara Bueler-Repka is now available from

RUBY’S Reading Corner

The Gift of Friendship by Vera Klaassen DeMay With the coming of winter 2016, I experienced the most confining, painful period of my life and some of life’s greatest blessings – friends! I needed knee replacement surgery and the earliest I could get it scheduled was November 15, 2016. This had preceded a long period of pain and restricted activities. In March, I had torn the meniscus in my left knee, had surgery to repair it in April. That followed several months of physical therapy. However, my knee wasn’t getting better. By the end of August, I knew I was in big trouble and surgery would be required. What I wasn’t prepared for was the almost three months wait. During this time, I experienced pain like nothing I had before. All the medications I was given barely took the edge off. During all of this, we had moved from our home to an apartment for nine months while our new home was being built. The first move occurred just three weeks after my first surgery. Then, our move-in date to our new home was just one week before my surgery in November. When I shared with the ladies at my church the dilemma I was in not being able to pack, they told me not to worry, they would take care of it. They showed up, packed all my things, unpacked, packed again and unpacked. Not only did they unpack, they put all my stuff away and all I had to do was sit in my recliner with my feet up and point! On top of that, they brought meals and one of the gals decorated my Christmas tree! My confinement continued through December, January and February as Idaho experienced one of the coldest winters in their history. I didn’t dare go out except for physical therapy appointments, and other necessary trips for risk of falling on the ice. Being new to the community some 30 miles from where I was quite involved was lonely, which leads me to the next part of my story…. I was struggling with a new sewing machine so I posted a note on our subdivision’s Facebook page asking if anyone could help me. Someone did and when I contacted her, she was waiting to be picked up by a group of girls who were going out to the local café for lunch. She had never met them before but had contacted them because of their interest in crafting. She asked if I wanted to join them! Of course, I did! So here comes this car bouncing over the chunks of ice and snow, spinning, and grinding its wheels into my driveway There were eight of us in that café that day, laughing, eating and enjoying getting out of our homes. Through pain and freezing temperatures, the winter was made warm and cozy with the help of friends.

Light the Fire, Lord by Sharon L. Patterson “Light the fire, Lord, where it used to be. Burn it brighter that others can see. When the cold, cold wind of mediocrity sweeps across my heart where your flame used to be.” “Light the fire, Lord, where it used to be. Burn it brighter that others can see when I exchange your love for much lesser things, burn the dross out so my spirit can sing.” “Light the fire, Lord, where it used to be. Burn it brighter that others can see. As I come to your throne in humility let the blood of your cross set my heart free.”

The Assignment! by Angela Harper

Imagine your life as a story. What if all the difficulties you have been facing are all part of a job description you have taken on? Let's imagine how this might happen. Could it be that you had a pre-birth dialogue with God, while you were in the womb and it was there that you agreed to a vocation?

This mission is hard to explain, because it is about learning survival skills in adverse circumstances, and it is here, that a creative mind is needed to problem solve your way through. Your job can be quite unseen by others because you have a 'divinely specified job role,' rather than an 'earthly career.'

In Isaiah 44:2 we read about our Creator forming us in the womb, and in this space, perhaps we could imagine the deep communion that takes place to shape our lives.

Your life mission might be about spreading kindness or encouragement in some form, helping others, or fund raising for worthy causes.

Possibly the heavenly job description you have agreed to was something like this: "We are seeking someone to help people who are abandoned, hurt, and do not feel safe. This job comes with a warning because if you apply for this, you will learn much wisdom but at the expense of encountering these hurtful issues yourself. This assignment will be a struggle, and will cause you much pain, abandonment and suffering. But you will not be alone because we will be watching over you, and you will have an Archangel by your side. This job will be a challenge because the survival strategies you will need to create to help yourself will be needed to teach to others creatively too." There is something about this worthy, creative and daring job description that appeals to you, and indeed you believe this job is just for you! Being impulsive and optimistic you plunge in to accept this mission. Only after you are born do you realize how hard this journey is, and you quickly discover how painful and heavy this assignment is. You soon learn that you are naturally courageous and willing to help out, but have not always taken the time to think through the full cost to yourself, and you start to regret how difficult your life goes on to be. Heavenly job descriptions are very real and are lived out to experience the difficulties of those you are sent to help.

Soon you are discovering new skills as you find rays of light in the darkness, and you learn how to hold onto those spiritual tools, despite how difficult and fraught your circumstances may be. You have faced much disempowerment in your life, but this has taught you to grow in knowledge, and will lead you to enjoy a new confidence. Throughout the trials you have gained much insight, and people enjoy talking to you when they need hope, because you know how hard life can be. When you have been down, you've often been lonely and needed to rely on yourself, because only you knew what you were facing and how you should cope. These skills are very worthy, they are part of being creative, and you learn that they will always be there. When life has been hard and everything seems against you, you somehow survive. It is then that you realize your Archangel is with you, giving you helpful messages that you may believe are your ideas! When your mission becomes hard it is easy to forget that your angel is with you. Even if people abandon you, angels never do. When you lost faith in yourself to keep going, your angel always knew you would complete this task. After struggling for a long while with this job mission, you notice how difficulties change into blessings. Once all you seemed to do was struggle to survive and, while you understood what was happening, you also felt hurt and left with situations that seemed impossible to resolve.

Now with the courage, wisdom and knowledge you have gained, you start to notice how you are overcoming all those things which once seemed oppressive. Life starts to open up. It is now time to surrender into the light any painful memories suffered during this captivity, and not let them dominate. This healing may take you back through everything which once hurt you but now in a redeemed way.

Situations start to play out in a divine order while you are helped by your angel. What seemed to be a life of hardship and wounding, has turned out to be your triumph, because you have forged skills you would not have had otherwise, and now you can accept new opportunities as this time of training leads to fulfillment.

Cozy Blanket Ladder Upcycle for Under $!0 by Theresa L. Begin I am a child of God, walking with Jesus, daughter to my wonderful parents, sister to four, three sisters and one brother, I hope a good friend to several and an Auntie and Great Auntie to many. I cherish all of those titles, but being an Auntie has brought me so much joy that I can't adequately express. As a general belief system, I believe my home should be welcoming and make any and every person that enters comfortable. It is a reflection of who I am, how I was raised, an extension of my faith and how I want others to feel. Comfortable welcomed and loved. Which leads me to this project that I'm sharing with you today. Full disclosure for me, one of my "Guilty pleasures" are throw blankets! Throw blankets or blankets of every kind, size, material, or color. I just LOVE them! his love started many years ago when I only had a couple. But, whenever the grandkids, my nieces and nephews, would come over, I would make a point of having a "slumber party" of sorts, where we would all snuggle up and watch a good old movie, play and eat something fresh that I had just baked. Inevitably, every single one of them would want my blanket throw, or would definitely have a favorite of my other two or three. I loved this! For many years we had what I called, the "Blankie Box" and the kids, and a few of the adults, all knew exactly where it was, which one they wanted and that they could help themselves. Which tickled me pink with so much joy. When I moved to my current house, almost two years ago, I had to admit to myself that most of my nieces and nephews had grown and other than the occasional visits from them and some of the grands, this wasn't as much needed as much as before. A funny thing happened, or maybe just an appropriate thing in life, I now was having, more than ever before, my parents over for dinner and old movies and sharing much wanted extra quality time with them. Guess what? They wanted a blankie too! (insert huge smile here) In my last home, I had rich peanut buttery walls and preferred to paint and decorate additional pieces with white chalk paint that I would distress and enjoy. However, as this house is a rental in which the landlord prefers I leave the walls all white, I haven't found that my beautiful white chalky goodness shows nearly as well as it used to. So, in an effort to embrace change and be ever grateful for what God has provided for me, I decided that I was going to have to find a new love of painting with color. And if you're going to embrace change and color, why not do it with full-on Red?!

I couldn't find the exact shade of red I wanted, so I combined two shades of craft paint from Michaels until I achieved the exact color I was looking for.(my paint cost, in total, was $1.98) Not only does it match my favorite time of the year, but it also matches most of the accent pieces in my home. Here is what I started with. When, recently, at my favorite thrift store, I came across a broken bunk bed ladder, nothing I couldn't fix though! I paid $3.99 for this piece and came home and got to work. First, I had one spindle to reattach, easy. A little wood glue and some new screws and it was perfectly sturdy. I secured the top piece with the addition of a few finishing nails and voila, I was ready to go! This ladder didn't tilt like a blanket ladder should, so I got my handy dandy saw out and carefully measured and marked off where the bottom of the legs would need to be cut for the slant. It took 10 minutes. This is something anyone could do, seriously!

As for the sign, I simply wanted to make it as inviting as possible, with a touch of cuteness to it. I painted a thin piece of wood the same color as the ladder and used stencils for the word "cozy". The words "let's get" I printed out in a font I liked, rubbed the back of the paper with chalk and traced over the letters, then freehand painted on the rest. I've been very happy with the finished project and as you can see it gets plenty of use, as well as being a fun conversation piece. I always like to give the price breakdown, so that you can duplicate the process, should you desire. The stencils were from Michaels, they are the 4-inch ones that run about $5.50, but I had a 50% off coupon ready to be used! You have to love those coupons! (and, no, I don't get compensated from Michaels) Hobby Lobby would probably have them too! This whole project cost me roughly $8 plus some tax, well under $10 total! Not bad for such a fun addition. I hope you enjoy as much as we do. I also hope you'll consider trying one for yourself. They are a really fun addition to your house and a great space saver and scream “You are welcome here!�

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

Vintage Book Treasure Hunt: Reading Resolutions for 2018 by Kathryn Ross

A new year begets the genesis of fresh starts. Sometimes referred to as the “new year resolution,” we wake on January 1st and curl up in our quiet time corner with an empty journal, ready to commit to paper our goals for the year. These goals may involve amendments to bad habits, pledges to better life choices, and hopes for God’s blessing and open doors to greater prosperity and improved health. I’ve amassed a couple of decades worth of any number of journal pages dedicated to my January 1 st commitments for a new year. Many items on my goals list regard personal prayer requests for family life. A slew of items touch upon my writing life. In this article, I will comment on the yearly aspirations I record for my reading life—sometimes achieved, and sometimes, not so much. Reading Plans: A Resolution for Choice and Priority Do you consider new year resolutions for your reading life? There are a variety of choices to consider when mapping out reading goals for the year:       

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.

All these reading goals are laudable and worthy of your time year-round. However, a fresh plan for Bible Reading should be prioritized at the top of reading lists each New Year. A default Bible reading plan is to start at Genesis in January and end in December with Revelation. Some Bible editions are purposely designed and dated for daily reading, which can be recycled year after year. For more options, a plethora of Bible reading plans are available in every study Bible, on countless blogs, and from every Christian ministry.

I own a number of Bibles in varied translations, and more than a couple of reading plans. However, among my vintage books, I discovered a beautifully illustrated 1904 volume of Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible for Young and Old, by Reverend Jesse Lyman Hurlbut, D.D., a Methodist Episcopal pastor serving congregations throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in northern New Jersey. He recognized the need to make God’s Word accessible to all ages, all at the same time, through the power of storytelling. Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible is a collection of 168 Bible stories designed for reading aloud—from Genesis to Revelation—the narratives of God’s Word. It became a popular devotional and discipleship tool in Christian homes over a hundred years ago. As a biblical scholar, Hurlbut drafted each account with a strong respect for biblical accuracy combined with compelling storytelling techniques. Each tale is a stand-alone read—perfect for personal devotions in private or family read-aloud at bedtime. Reading Aloud: A Resolution for a Family Literacy Lifestyle As an empty nester for some time now, I look back with regret on many years when I did not follow through on reading resolutions with consistency, especially in reading aloud with my children. I wish I hadn’t always allowed our active lives to usurp a daily sit-down with a book. Like I said at the outset— some years I kept my reading resolutions better than others. I’m a strong believer in rediscovering the value of reading aloud as a family to build strong relationships between parent and child, while imparting the importance of a literate lifestyle where books, reading, and a love of learning and literature are prioritized. This, once, was a strong priority in American home life. To this purpose, Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible became a valuable tool in the homes of American families who loved God and valued the gift of literacy. What better way, as a parent, to establish oneself as the primary educator in your child’s life, then to purpose sacred moments of reading aloud with your children. There are so many things in our far-toobusy 21st century lifestyles crowding us with choices, beckoning us for our time and energy. We may make great resolutions to establishing a more quality reading life in January, only to reach December and look back upon a twelve month of distractions from keeping those vows. Every new year resolution demands an act of our will. Even the easily brushed aside commitment to quality reading for personal growth, pleasure, or shared with those we love. The very willingness to read aloud, the choice of what is to be read, how the words are spoken, and kinds of feeling with which the reader creates—all of these are self-revelations. The listener also makes a gift of vulnerability—they open themselves to the experience. Reading aloud is an affirmation of the power of the book. We all have available a myriad of recreational choices, and our selection among them is meaningful. Welleran Poltarnees Sharing the Pleasures of Reading

Reading Purpose: A Resolution in Fulfilling a Legacy Reverend Hurlbut alludes to making the quality choice to reading, and reading the best of all literary works, as the purpose for his Stories of the Bible in his Dedication: To the Young People of America this book is dedicated, in the hope that it may interest them in the reading of the best of all books. In the Introduction of his book, Hurlbut points out that the singular priority in reading ought to be given to the Bible. His belief that a relationship with God is best afforded through intimacy with God’s Word underlies the logical conclusion that enhanced relationships between parents and children are boundup in reading biblical texts together. Storytelling is the thread that weaves the fabric of life and living to the human heart and soul. Stories from the Bible bind humanity to eternity. A book which stands in such honor as the Bible no one can afford to neglect. It is everywhere quoted, referred to, written about, preached from, and everyone who would be considered as intelligent must have some acquaintance with it. Those who in early life learn the Story of the Bible are fortunate, for they will never forget it. Wise parents tell the Stories of the Bible to their children, and both parents and children find them the most fascinating of all stories. . . . In the hope that this book may become an aid to parents and teachers in imparting Bible truths to young people, and with an earnest desire to increase the interest in the Sacred Narrative among readers of more mature years, these pages have been prepared and are set forth into the world. Jesse Lyman Hurlbut Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible for Young and Old I am thankful for Reverend Hurlburt’s commitment to making the storytelling elements of the biblical narrative accessible in his day. The colorful, cloth-covered, 757-page volume, printed on high quality paper, and sewn into its binding, bear the tell-tale signs of being much read by its original owner. In 2018, it will sit on my reading table, over one hundred years later, and enrich my personal reading resolutions for a season. It is a vintage book treasure that continues to fulfill the author’s original intent: to be a priority and a penned legacy from a generation past. 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 #23 plus more great resources for teaching and learning our American Christian History.

Be sure to read Part 3 of

Part 4 A Short Story by Donna B. Comeaux The flowers lifted her spirits and gave her something to forward to. Over time Sarah's health improved and she was finally able to drive again. She attended school activities for her children, cooked, cleaned, and caught up on her reading. Though she still had difficulty keeping her hands steady enough to begin a new knitting project, she reviewed store orders and paid the bills. When her days became unbearably lonely, playing the piano brought a small measure of comfort. And whenever she thought of Linda, she'd grow anxious for the arrival of a new bouquet of roses. She'd placed the fresh flowers on a table in the hallway, neatly arranging the Bible verses next to them. God's word had a way of softening her heart and unveiling her wrong without leaving her with feelings of worthlessness. Sarah didn't fully understand how God did this, but she welcomed his intervention. With each passing day, an increased craving for that kind of love grew inside her. Then something peculiar happened. Though she was strong enough to go camping with her family on Labor Day, Michael insisted she stay and enjoy the solitude. A bit miffed by his over protection, she convinced herself perhaps her family just didn't want her spoiling their weekend. Maybe they thought a trek along the beach would tire her. What they clearly didn't understand was she hated to be alone. She enjoyed the noise they made throughout the house—the sibling rivalries, witch hunts for things right under their noses. All of it invigorated her. Disappointed, she moped all day Friday—ignored the flowers; took no comfort in the Bible verses; wanted no part of the piano. But early Saturday morning, the doorbell rang. The grandfather clock chimed seven times, leaving her to wonder who in their right mind would be out and about at this hour.

A Betrayal of Trust in the December 2017 issue of RUBY magazine. A story about friendship, trust, and forgiveness by Donna B. Comeaux In her bathrobe and slippers, Sarah begrudgingly tromped to the door. She moved the curtains half an inch and discovered an unfamiliar gray SUV parked in the driveway. It was difficult to see through the peep hole. Whoever was on the other side had covered it with their finger. "Who is it?" Sarah pressed her ear to the door and waited. No one answered. She tightened her robe, glancing at the top of the china cabinet where Michael kept the shotgun. Then she squared her shoulders, put on a brave face, and opened the door. Stunned, Sarah gasped. "Linda?" Linda had two cups from Starbucks in her hands.

"I brought coffee." Unable to move, too afraid to say a single word, Sarah was motionless in the doorway.

"Well, aren't you going to invite me in?" Linda asked. "W-Why of course." On Linda's way to the kitchen, she stopped and gazed at the flowers on the baroque table in the hallway. Slightly bending at the waist, she read one of the cards. If you want a friend, show yourself friendly. (Proverbs 18.24 - KJV) Linda picked up another Bible verse. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35) Linda handed Sarah one of the coffee cups before carrying the flowers to the kitchen. "I received flowers just like these," Linda said as she centered them on the table. "You sent them, didn't you?" "No," Sarah said as she flopped in a chair, "I didn't send them." "Who did?" Sarah shrugged her shoulders. "I have no idea."

"Why are you here, Linda? This can't be about flowers. I thought you were still mad at me and never wanted to see me again." "I am and I didn't." "Ooookay. That's clear as a bell." "It's those blasted Bible verses. It's God's fault. He really got to me." "I've tried to shake them, too, but I can't. Sometimes . . . Sometimes the truth hurts." "I thought it was your clever way of saying you were sorry." "Afraid I'm not that creative." "This is really immature of me, I know, but I don't want to forgive you. I want to stay mad at you." "I've not been a good friend to you. Linda, I've acted like an idiot," Sarah admitted. "You didn't deserve the mean-spirited way I treated you." "Do you have any idea what you've done?" "If I had, I wouldn't have done it. I don't think I've ever put myself in your shoes. Never considered how you'd feel."

"He swears he didn't."

"Well, the elephant in the room won't go away until you put a pin in it. No matter where this leads, we've got to talk it out."

"They come every Thursday?" Linda asked as she arched one eyebrow in curiosity.

Sarah bowed her head. "I can't begin to tell you how ashamed I am."

"Did Michael buy them?"

"Yes, they do." Sarah squinted. "You don't suppose Jake had anything to do with this?" Linda nodded as a smile emerged. "If you ask me, I think both our husbands had a hand in this."

"Save it for later. Right now, I want to explain something to you. And you need to listen real good cause I'm only gonna say this once." Sarah nodded in humble obedience.

Be sure to read Part 5 of “A Betrayal of Trust� by Donna B. Comeaux in the February 2018 issue of RUBY magazine!

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.

Mary Dolan Flaherty is a quirky gal who loves to encourage people and make them laugh. She writes and speaks with self-deprecating humor and transparency, saying what most people think but won’t admit. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, whom she affectionately calls Hubbles, and has two grown children and two grand-dogs. Mary enjoys hiking, theatre, music, gardening, and traveling and can be found blogging at . Her book, Spectacles of Hope, has recently been published and is available on Amazon and from RUBY’S Reading Corner.

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

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

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.

Donna B. Comeaux has been writing for the RUBY Magazine ( since 2013. In 2014, Donna wrote devotionals for Hopeful Living, a publication designed to encourage senior citizens, and for Believer Life. Her website is located at: Not only will you find other inspirational stories on her website, you will also find tips for writers, devotionals, and a few of Donna's political views as well. Donna and her husband, Glenn, have two grown sons and eight grandchildren. They reside in Oklahoma.

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.”

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.

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

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.

Jeanne Doyon writes and speaks from the heart, connecting the Truth of Scripture to everyday life. She teaches at women’s retreats and events throughout New England. She is pretty good at juggling after all these years and still loves being a mom to Brad, Heather, and Alicia who all made it safely to adulthood. Connect with Jeanne at

R. G. Sharpe understands the tragedy of divorce, and the wonderful blessing recovery can be when you place your full trust in the One who restores and redeems. She is an author and blogger who raises awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault while assisting women to find complete healing through Jesus Christ. It is her deepest prayer that women will find refuge in the One who loves us and calls us by name. Together, we can learn to rely on the Lord's protection and trust Him to keep us safe in His arms. Learn more by visiting

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

Vera DeMay

I live in Middleton Idaho with my husband. I am an artist, author, PwP (person with Parkinson's disease) and an advocate for Parkinson's. I especially enjoy my retirement years as it allows me to pursue new areas of interest and passions. In July 2014, I published my first book, Elizabeth’s Story, and several other books have followed. Recently I started painting. I am active in my church and community. We moved to Idaho from San Jose California in 2005 where we raised our children. We have two children, their spouses, and four grand-children. My website is:

Angela Harper studied Theology at Spurgeon's College in London. Having initially felt the call to train as a priest, Angela came to realise that God was asking her to focus on helping the marginalised in a different way. She therefore served in two chaplaincy roles; visiting the infirm in hospital and also working with a supermarket as their Store Chaplain. She personally suffered from a lifelong health condition which was dramatically healed some three years ago. She has been sharing her experiences of healing with others on a one to one, or small group, basis and in the writing of devotional reflections on the subject of healing.

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:

Miriam Jacob is a reviewer at Oxford Academic, Oxford University Press; a blog reviewer at Revell Reads, Baker Publishing Group; member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid & Christian Authors Network; Google Scholar and Researcher at; ebook author and poet; top reviewer at NetGalley, Christian Book Distributors, Barnes and Noble, Google Books and Goodreads. Miriam is a reviewer at Tyndale House Publishers; Moody Press; Barbour Books; Harvest House; New Hope Publishers; Penguin; HarperCollins Christian; Abingdon Press; WaterBrook & Multnomah; and Discovery House. A member of the Ruby Book Review Team, Miriam's articles and poems are published at WordPress and Blogger &

Patrice Wilkerson is an MBA graduate who loves writing about the Lord. She has been writing poetry since she was 8 years old and loves to inspire others through words. She’s written a collection of poetry entitled, “Through It All, I’m Going to Make It” which she published in 2010. She loves the Lord with all of her heart and encourages others to see just how wonderful and powerful He is. She is fun, patient, sweet and personable.

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

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Profile for RUBY magazine

January 2018 ruby  

Welcome the New Year with RUBY magazine! This issue features inspirational articles, book reviews, short stories, poetry, and recipes for yo...

January 2018 ruby  

Welcome the New Year with RUBY magazine! This issue features inspirational articles, book reviews, short stories, poetry, and recipes for yo...