Sunday, November 24, 2013
“Hey, Auntie, what is ya doing on your knees? Ya hurt?” Sue turned and held an arm out. Little Levi walked into her embrace and wrapped around her as far as he could reach.
She kissed the top of his head. “No, sweetheart, I’m praying.”
“Oh.” He grinned. “We eating dinner on the bed today?”
She picked him up, carried him to the rocker, then eased down. “No, sweetie, I talk to God all the time, not just before meals.”
For a good while, she rocked her nephew with his head resting on her shoulder, then as though he’d had enough mothering, he slipped out of her lap. Smiling as only a five-year-old could, he rubbed her tummy. “He don’t like me squishing him.”
“Could you feel the baby kicking?”
She tousled his hair. “Remember you manners, please.”
“Yes, ma’am. He kicked me to make me get up.”
She nodded toward the door. “You can go play for a bit. The beans need to boil a while longer.”
He nodded then touched her belly again. “Hurry up cookin’ my brother, will ya?” He spun whinnying for his imaginary horse then galloped out the door.
That night after she finally got Levi to sleep, she returned to her knees beside her bed. “Oh, Lord, help us. Send someone to buy the sawmill, please. I don’t want to sell any land. And Father, You know the beans are about gone. The turnips are coming on, but the boy needs meat, and we’re running real low on powder and shot. A milk cow would sure be great, too.”
She closed her eyes and pressed her forehead into the quilt. “Ease my heart, Lord, and heal it. Sometimes I miss Andy so bad, but You know. You know everything. Tell him I’m sorry, and that we’re making it.” She raised her head and looked to the ceiling. “I love you, Lord, and thank you for your many blessings. Not my will but Yours Father. Help me know what you want me to do. In Jesus name, amen.”
As most nights, Levi slipped into her bed. Poor little thing; haunted too long by nightmares of that most horrible day. Terrible for a little boy to see his father killed right before his eyes. Not much better for her, and she was twenty years old. Would she ever forget seeing the awful accident that took the lives of her husband and his brother?
That next day started like most, cold cornbread with a slop of molasses. Too soon, it’d be cornbread only. Next, she and the boy worked the ground, except mostly he rode the mule while she guided the plow.
So far, she’d only managed to break barely over two acres. Even though she had enough seed for three, if she didn’t get the plowing done before the rains set in… And with her belly swelling by the day, she wasn’t sure she’d even be able to get any cotton planted come spring.
Levi sat taller on the mule and pointed east. “Auntie, look.”
She stopped the mule, tied off the reins and shaded her eyes, but couldn’t make out the driver or recognize the team. “Run get the rifle.”
He slid off Mabel, and she stepped away from the fresh plowed ground. Before the boy got back, the teamster stood waved his hat then sat back down. Seemed friendly, but that didn’t stop her pulse quickening or her breath coming harder.
“Here, Auntie Sue.”
She took the long gun, cradled it across her chest, then went out to meet the man. Levi ran off galloping and whinnying. “Don’t go far, young man.”
Shortly, her visitor stopped the team. “Morning, ma’am. I heard tell about your man and his brother getting themselves kilt. Right bad shame I’s plenty sorry to hear. You got my condolences.”
“Thank you, sir.” He looked familiar, but she couldn’t figure out why. “Do I know you?”
“Well, yes’em, leastwise I was here back in the spring. Took a load of saw boards off your hands to
Of course, she nodded. “Yes, that’s right. It’s so good of you to stop by, and I certainly appreciate your kind words.”
He locked the break then climbed down. “Ma’am, Mister Jacob wanted surety, and I give him my pap’s gold watch. I gots the coin now for them saw boards and come after Pap’s timepiece.”
“Yes, I remember that.” She closed her eyes and searched her memory. Where had her bother in law put it? She could see the thing plain as day, but couldn’t put her mind’s finger on exactly where. “But to tell you true, I’m not sure where it is. Let me go look.”
“Well, while you’re findin’ it, don’t suppose you’d mind me workin’ your mule while I’s stretch my legs breaking a bit of this fine black land.” He smiled.
“Why, no. not at all, and you’ll surely let me heat up some dinner after I find the watch. The least I can do is feed you after you coming all this way.”
He tipped his hat then wrapped the harness straps over his shoulder. “I’d be much obliged, ma’am.”
She hurried inside and between searching and cooking, praised the Lord with every step. The teamster had brought coin. How much was it?
Shortly she had a pan of cornbread a nice mess of turnip greens with yesterday’s beans hot, but she hadn’t located the man’s watch. She’d looked everywhere, could it have been lost during the accident?
For sure, watch or not, dinner needed eating. Once around the treeline guarding her home, the man turned the far corner, and she waved him in. He’d turned two right smart rows and a good start on a third. How could he have plowed that much in such a short time?
She watched him tie off the mule, then hollered up her nephew. “Levi, come eat.”
Grace offered, she ladled her visitor’s and Levi’s bowls full of beans then stood. “Sir, I’ve not been able to find your watch. I hope you won’t mind staying a little longer. I intend to keep looking through your meal.”
“Hey.” Levi dug into his pocket. “This here what’chur lookin’ for, Auntie?” He held the chained watch out in his little dirty hand. “I got it.”
“Levi!” Horrified, she took the timepiece then passed it to the teamster. “I’m so sorry, sir. I don’t know what to say. I had no idea –”
The man’s hearty laugh cut her off. “Naw, no problem at all.” He looked to the boy. “Thank you, son, for taking good care of it for me.”
Levi beamed. The man promptly handed over four gold coins, at least a year’s worth of hard money. She enjoyed his company at dinner, catching up on the news. Hadn’t realized how she’d missed having an adult to converse with and promised herself a visit to the
soon. How long since she’d seen Elaine?
Time came for him to get himself gone, and she thanked him profusely on his way out the door. Like he’d saved the best for last, he told her of a man over DeKalb way name of Phillips looking to buy himself a steam powered saw mill.
Sue waved goodbye as grateful to the Lord as she’d been since Andy’s passin’. Once the man got his rig turned around and on his way, she turned to Levi. “We are blessed, nephew, God has provided for us just like He promised.”
“Yes, ma’am! Can we buy us a cow now?”
“I think that’s a grand idea.”
“Good, ‘cause my brother needs plenty of milk.”
She smiled, nowhere near ready to explain about nursing mothers. “What’s if the baby is a girl?”
He crossed his arms over his chest and frowned. “Then she can’t be my brother.”
Thursday, November 7, 2013
The sun burned bright; kind of scorcher makes a feller want to bury up in a muddy hog waller. But Blue Dog stayed on the gray’s flank, even though he didn’t care much for horses or this place up ahead, he’d go with this man anywhere.
Once there, he turned three tight circles, then lay on the cool boards in the roof’s shade for a little snooze while his man tended to his business on the inside. Sure smelled good in there, but him and his kind were not allowed. A familiar stench pulled his near eye open. He rose, backed to the door, and threw Henry a little soft growl.
His man joined him.
“Hey, mister, that’s my dog ya got there.”
Blue’s neck hairs bristled.
“Yes, sir. That’s him alright. Best varmint dog I ever had, paid good money for the mutt, too, and I aim to take him home.”
“Well, then, guess you best come on and get him if you can.”
Blue pressed into Henry’s leg and bared his teeth at the man. He wasn’t going anywhere. He growled a stay away warning.
“Easy boy, don’t you ’member me?”
The old guy stepped closer. The hackles along Blue’s back bone stood up with the neck hairs, his legs tightened ready to spring, but his man gave him the stay sign. He sat on his haunches and hushed, but his guard hairs remained on the alert.
“I’m telling you that is my dog.” The man lifted his hat, rubbed his sweat back into his hair, then placed it back down. “I’m getting’ my rope, and Rocky’s coming with me.”
“No. Sir, Blue Dog’s a friend of mine. And not you or anyone else is taking him anywhere he don’t want to go.”
For the longest, his old master stared at his Henry. The scoundrel spat a brown steam out to the side, wiped his mouth with his sleeve, then curled his upper lip. “You’ll be sorry.”
Blue kept his nose open and his ears perked until that no count was long gone—out of sight, out of hearin’, and out of smellin’. He’d chosen his man, and far as he’s concerned nothing would ever separate them. He loved Henry and to him only would Blue belong so long as he lived.
|Nothing like a loyal, smart friend-dog!|
In VOW UNBROKEN, his name is Blue Dog; at the McAdoos' home, he's Franklin Doganor Roosevelt, a.k.a. Roo!
Sunday, October 6, 2013
How would she ever do it? How could she? Alone and pregnant with an orphaned four-year-old. How would she provide for herself and the boy? Deliver a baby out on the prairie with no doctors for a hundred miles?
Oh, God, I’m so scared. I’m so tired. I need Your help. You have to guide me.
She let her head fall into her hands and wept, didn’t know how long, but then she stood, wiped her face, and fetched Jacob’s ink well, paper, and quill.
I don’t know where to begin except to say that I’m sorry, and I love you. Andrew and I made the trip out to Tejas just fine, and he and his brother – they were really doing great. The business was growing, and there’s been plenty of money coming in. We were so happy, so in love. But then there was an accident. It was raining, barely at first. There was a creek, and the wagon was loaded full. The oxen slipped, Daddy, and the wagon and logs and oxen and men rolled down the creek bank all together. It was horrible… so awful. Andy… and Jacob… They’re gone, both of them.
The tears flooded her eyes again and refused to be contained. It was all her fault. Andrew dying, Jacob, poor little Levi not having his mama and now no daddy. She never should have come. She should have obeyed her father, listened to him instead of thinking she knew everything.
I’m sorry, Lord, so sorry. But how can I fix it now? What can I do?
She sniffed and wiped her nose on her sleeve then dipped the quill again.
Please forgive me, Daddy. You have to. I need to know that you forgive me. I promise you this—and I promise God, too, Daddy—I will never marry again without your blessing. I vow before my Holy God. I’m so sorry that Andrew had to die and his brother, all because I didn’t honor you like I should.
I don’t know what I’ll do, but I can’t walk away and leave everything the Baylor brothers worked so hard for, gave their lives for. It’s the children’s inheritance. I can’t steal it from them. Yes, children; I’m pregnant. You’re going to be a grandfather. Andrew didn’t know before he passed. It’ll be sometime next summer, the early part.
Maybe you could come, Daddy, for a visit? Andy promised we could come back to
Memphis next year, but I don’t know how I
possibly could by myself with two
little ones. I was so wrong when I told you that I was as mature as I’d ever get… I was wrong, and I know you
were right now.
I love you, Daddy, and I am sorry. Please write me back. I pray I find someone soon headed east and that this letter finds its way to you. May God bless you until we once again see each other.
Your daughter, Susannah
She blew on the paper and waved it in the air trying to bring an image of her father to mind, but she could only hear him telling her to not to go. Hopefully, he could find it in his heart to forgive her, but how could she know? If he didn’t come or write back, would she ever?
She glanced across the one room cabin and the little sleeping hump in her bed. Precious little boy. Well, she was all he had, he belonged to her now. With God’s help, she’d see to it that no further harm would ever come to him. Her hand went to her abdomen and she rubbed it. Maybe he’d have a little brother come summer. She smiled. Or a little sister-cousin. She’d have to think about names for both, but there was plenty of time for that.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
“Isn’t she grand? Heavy and well built?" He walked around the latest purchase he and his brother bought from the sale of their father's estate. He looked so proud. "Yessiree, it'll haul all the timber me and Jacob could cut in a month.”
His unbridled exuberance caused a smile to blossom in her heart and bloom on her face. “It looks like a fine wagon, Andrew. I'm happy for you.”
“For us! It's our future, Susannah. Oh, it needs another coat of oil, and I’m going to stretch the canvas, but it’ll do. She’ll get us there.” He turned from what she was sure was the most expensive belonging he’d ever owned and faced her. “Did you talk with him?”
Her rose wilted then died, only thorns left to pierce. She examined the ground a moment before meeting his eye again. “I did. Last night right after supper.”
“Well? What did he say?”
She shook her head. “My father's pigheaded and doesn’t understand. Says we’re too young." Andy's hand reached toward her face, and he wiped a tear away. "Daddy said no. He will not give us his blessing.”
Her love slipped his hand over hers, his fingertip still wet. “Sue, we’re both of age. We don’t have to have his permission.”
She closed her eyes. Why was this happening? Why did she have to choose between the two men she loved the most in the whole world? It wasn’t fair. “Andy, can’t we wait? Maybe in the spring…”
“No, I just cannot. I gave my brother my word. Once the wagon’s finished, I’m leaving. I have to. Everything has fallen into place, Sue. We’ll be full partners.”
“Your brother… He’d understand, wouldn't he? What’s six months?”
“Exactly. The Judge isn’t going to change his mind. He wants you to stay right there in that big ol’ house cooking and cleaning like it’s always been since your mom passed. He can’t stand the thought of his little girl getting married and going west. Besides, there's no way for me to get word to Jacob. I've got to go. Please.” He lifted her chin. "Come."
What could she say? Of course he was right. Her father would be all alone. Him not wanting things to change... She understood, but couldn’t he see she was grown? He wanted her to stay twelve, but at eighteen, she was as mature as she was ever going to get. Most of her friends had already started a family. But could she leave him?
She looked skyward. Change his mind, Lord. Make him see.
She smiled again at Andrew. “I love you.”
“I love you, too. So what's it to be? Will you go west with me? Start our new life?”
She hated the look in his eyes. The same fear lurked in her heart. She couldn’t let him go, not again. “Can we come back to visit?”
“Of course! In a year or two, we’ll return, introduce him to his grandbabies. You’ll see. He won’t stay mad.”
“You promise we’ll come back?”
“You have my word. Three years at the most.”
She took both of his hands in hers and searched his eyes. He loved her, she was certain. “Yes. A thousand times, yes. I will marry you, Andrew Baylor.”
Friday, September 20, 2013
So, I’m at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Indianapolis. It’s the end of a fabulous Saturday full of friends, teachings, appointments, and encouraging news. I’m on my way down to the lobby from my room on the fourteenth floor to meet my fellow Howard Books’ authors and editors for dinner at a nearby pizza place. If you’ve been following my posts, you may have heard me mention that my editors are also Frank Peretti’s and the Duck Dynasty fellows, too—Phil and Willie. I’m tickled with that and consider it an honor to be in such company. God’s blessed me so!
|Frank Peretti, fabulous Christian author and me!|
So I step onto the elevator and who’s already aboard but the man himself. I say, “You’re Frank Peretti.”
He nodded a little and smiled. “I know.”
“Are you going to dinner with me?”
He looked a bit puzzled at my question. “Well, I’m headed to the lobby to meet someone who texted and said be down there at 5:45 for pizza.”
“Then you are! I’m a Howard author, too.”
I started telling him about my historical Christian romance VOW UNBROKEN coming out next March. We walked through the lobby together and found our group. I’m pretty sure I sang the new song the Lord had just given me—well finished, He started it on the flight to Indiana—that day to sing for Kim Childress, the Zonderkidz editor I had an appointment with.
I’m uncertain how we got off on tornadoes, probably speaking of Texas being in ‘Tornado Alley’ but I had the chance to witness that we are to tell a tornado coming at us to go “up”. Back up into the clouds. There’s a whole funny story about that. I also testified as to how I once prayed around a McDonald’s parking lot I had to pave telling the dark clouds—as I walked its perimeters—that they could rain on the other side of the highway, or there in the woods, but they could not rain on that parking lot. I rejoined the other contractors I’d been meeting with when one said, “Would you look at that!”
It was raining across the highway, and in the woods, but my parking lot stayed dry and I was able to get it paved in time for the grand opening. I so love to give God glory and tell of His excellent greatness, how much He loves me!
|Pizza dinner with Frank Peretti and Howard Books authors and editors!|
Anyway, once we’d all gathered, we headed for the pizza place and had delicious pizza. It was a wonderful evening and I so enjoyed speaking with an author I’ve loved since first reading his books PIERCING THE DARKNESS and THIS PRESENT DARKNESS. He has over FIFTEEN MILLION BOOKS in print now. The living Word tells us that God is no respecter of persons. What He’s done for my brother Frank, He can do for me! Heavy sigh! Now THAT IS an encouraging word!
Father, continue to bless Your servant Frank and give him more wonderful stories to write for the advancement of Your Kingdom on earth! And give me a few as well because I want to bring You glory! Bless Howard Books and Simon and Schuster, the American Christian Fiction Writers, and all those in the publishing industry that seek to glorify You! In the name of Your beloved Son, I ask, and thank You, Abba! Amen!
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
The 2013 American Christian Fiction Writers’ Conference rocked. I was honored that the Lord made a way for me to go to Indianapolis.
Next year is in St. Louis, Missouri, and I’d encourage all to start planning to go now. The link is www.acfw.com then click 'Conference' and sign up! I promise, if you love being in God's presence with 600-700 Christian writers, you will not be disappointed!
ACFW's ‘First Timer’s Email Loop’ blew me away, all the information astounding. Everything posted by two board members Brandilyn and Cara proved so helpful to make all us first-time attendees feel comfortable—from traveling to what it would be like once we arrived. Plus it let us newbies make friends with others before we went, too.
|Holly Michael from Kansas City MO|
|My Roomie, Mimi Conteur from N. Carolina|
These are my new sister- writer-friends who were all First timers like me : ) There was an immediate bond! And we're starting an online critique group.
|Tanara frm Phoenix AZ|
The ACFW ladies introduced many First-Timers to One-Pages—a tool to have your novel idea/synopsis and biography on one page to hand to an editor or agent; they went over the ‘elevator pitches’ and even took the time to critique and help make those the best they could be. All this made interviewing with an agent or editor so much less intimidating.
|Mary Sue McAdoo Seymour and me : )|
|The Seympour Agency Ladies|
Blessed to already have Mary Sue, a New York agent who hosted a dinner at P.F. Changs for all her authors on Friday night, I didn’t need any agent appointments! It was great meeting all her ‘Seymour Ladies’, my fellow agency scribes.
|Beth Adams, Amanda Demastus and me|
And I already have my editors for historical Christian romances in Beth Adams and Amanda Demastus with my VOW UNBROKEN debuting from Howard Books, a division of Simon and Schuster, next March. It’s available now for pre-order so you don’t have to remember! My editor said it would really be great if there were a thousand pre-orders waiting to be shipped on March 4th! You can go to any number of sites, but here’s two: www.amazon.com/Vow-Unbroken-Novel-Caryl-
They hosted a Saturday dinner at a great pizza place for the Howard authors. This photo is taken at the ACFW gala Sunday night. Anyway, they’ve got first option on my romances, so I didn’t need to meet with another editor for those.
So, I took STARFISH PRIME, book one of The King’s Highway trilogy to pitch to a mid-grade Christian editor. I pre-chose Kim Childress with Zonderkidz; I figured with her raising four kids almost the same age as the four grandsugars I’ve got, on top of our love for the Lord, we’d hit it off. She flabbergasted me when she told me the manuscript was already on her desk in the short pile! She’d already taken it to her editorial board and they had a couple of questions which I was able to answer. I believe it was another divine encounter!
And here's another miracle. I’ve gone to schools all over Texas with the mid-grade River Bottom Ranch Stories as a visiting author, teaching creative writing for grades K-5. I use the new songs God gives me that go with the stories to reel in the student’s attention if it starts to stray. So, I’d asked the Lord for a new song to go with STARFISH PRIME. I got the beginnings on the plane in route. Then in a class—thirty minutes before my appointment with Kim—He gave me the entire song which I sang to her! It’s a sweet tune titled Angels Unaware. I’ll post the lyrics sometime, but this is already getting long. Kim promised to get back with my agent within the month! Can you say exciting? :)
What I looked forward to most was the corporate praise and worship, and it did not disappoint! God’s manifest presence came down and Holy Spirit walked among His people! I sang. I went to His throne. I even danced before Him a bit! It was absolutely Heavenly to be there and love on Him with so many fellow writers!
I’m praying He makes a way for me to attend every ACFW Conference until He comes again! What a wonderful experience it was!
Monday, August 26, 2013
Rebecca looked out her window at the star filled night sky. She loved all the tiny twinkling little points of light. There must be millions. The moon shone bright on the cotton field and looked so beautiful. But something weighed heavy, troubled, her little heart. It had been for a while, and she’d been thinking hard on it. She tiptoed back to her bed, knelt on the braided rag rug, and pressing her hands together beneath her chin, bowed her head.
“Dear God, I know you’re my daddy since I don’t have one, Mama said. But that’s what I want to talk to you about. All my friends have a daddy who lives with them, and I want one of those, too. I want a daddy to carry me on his shoulders, and you can’t do that. And I really want a daddy to take me fishing. Oh, and to help Mama, too, because she has to do everything all by herself, and she needs lots of help. She really does then maybe she won’t get so mad and be so tired all the time.
"Oh, yes, thank You for her, she’s the best mother and I love her very much. Thank You for our house and Ol’ Betsy and her new baby. He’s very cute, and I wish we didn’t have to eat him when he gets big. And thank you for the rain, too. That made Mama very glad and happy. Thank you for my friends Sophia Belle and Sassy and let me play with them again real soon. And I guess thank you for Levi, too, even if I don’t like him always trying to be the boss of me.” She opened one eye and peeked up at the ceiling. “And You know he ain’t.”
“And that’s another reason I need a daddy so bad; on account of Levi always telling me what to do. Now I’d mind a daddy, God. So that’s what I want more than anything else in the whole world. If you will please send me a one, I promise I’ll be very good. I’ll always do my chores and eat all my peas and never hit Levi anymore. In Jesus name, amen.”She jumped up, climbed in between her sheets, and snuggled into her feather pillow looking out the window. The breeze blew the curtain into her room. Oh no! She forgot something! Back onto her knees in one smooth motion, she touched her chin with her fingertips again. “Forgot something, God. I want him to be very nice and smile and laugh all the time and not to holler and to buy me candy. And a real doll, I’d like a real doll like Sassy’s. That’s all. Thanks, Lord.”
Cuddled into her bed, she couldn’t quit smiling. Her Daddy would be coming soon, any day now. Mama was going to be so surprised. She closed her eyes and a sweet peace swaddled her as she took a little trip to Sleepy Town, but she never stopped smiling.