Tuesday, April 25, 2006


I started loving Reverend Billy Graham and his wife Ruth when I was a teenager. The Reverend Graham had a column in the newspaper, and I read it religiously. I admired his wisdom and knowledge. When I came across a love poem written by his wife, it spoke to my heart and I memorized it. It's called "Let Him Be Like Thee." It's a prayer poem by a young girl (Ruth) asking God to send her His choice of a mate (which God eventually did, Billy), not her choice. It resonated with me, for I was asking God for the same thing. I memorized it, and it became a guidepost for me as I treaded through the trepidatious waters of dating.

When I met Milton, I knew I'd found the one for me. He met all the criteria in Ruth Graham's prayer poem. I sat down one day and wrote my own prayer poem in response, "And So He Came." At our wedding, I quoted both of these poems (prerecorded because I was a shy, nervous bride).

I've now written a companion prayer poem to Ruth Graham's entitled "Let Her Be Like Thee" for young men to pray as they're seeking God for a mate.

I've written a novel that echoes mine and Milton's love story, and I have permission from Mrs. Graham to use her poem in my novel. One day I hope to see that story published, for the theme is "Purity before marriage and fidelity afterward bring great reward." Oh, it's so romantic!

I hope you enjoy reading "Let Him Be Like Thee" and "And So He Came," below.

I bless you in the name of the Lord today, that those who are close to you who are seeking a mate will find God's choice, the best choice. Amen.

Let Him Be Like Thee
Ruth Graham (Mrs. Billy)
"Dear God," I prayed, all unafraid,
(As girls are apt to be),
"I do not want a handsome man,
But let him be like Thee.
"I do not need one big and strong,
Nor one so very tall,
Nor need he be some genius,
Or wealthy, Lord, at all.
"But let his head be high, dear God,
And let his eyes be clear,
His shoulders straight, whate'er his state,
Whate'er his earthly sphere.
"And let his face have character
A ruggedness of soul,
And let his whole life show, dear God,
A singleness of goal.
"And when he comes, as he will come,
With quiet eyes aglow,
I'll understand that he's the man
I prayed for long ago."
And So He Came
Kristy Dykes (Mrs. Milton)
"And so he came, dear Lord, one day,
And set my heart aglow,
I knew he was the one I prayed for,
On that day so long ago.
"I prayed so modestly, dear Lord,
And didn't ask for much,
But You knew all along, dear Lord,
And used Your heavenly touch.
"He's as handsome as a picture
With hair as black as coal.
And eyes that always understand,
Revealing his compassionate soul.
"He is so very tall and strong
But that's not all, dear Lord,
His heart is full of tenderness,
That only love affords.
"I've met the one You chose for me
My heart is filled with mirth,
I thank You, Lord, so very much,
For heaven here on earth."

Monday, April 24, 2006


I titled this blog "Christian Love Stories," meaning the romantic love stories between men and women. My stance is, everyone loves a love story. "Love makes the world go round," as the old saying goes. Look how many marriages there are. Most of them started with a love story. So I think it's a wonderful thing to write them, especially Christian love stories.

"Christian love stories" can be expanded upon. This weekend, I participated in two Christian love stories that I believe pleased the Lord. Saturday morning, bright and early, dh and I met some of our parishioners at church (we pastor a church) and participated in The Church Work Day, you know, the day (should be at least annually, and maybe semi-annually) the parishioners meet together and work on the Lord's house. Saturday, we dejunked, decluttered, disposed of, cleaned, polished, organized, pressure washed, pruned, and more. "We'll work, till Jesus comes, we'll work," the old hymn goes, and I found the song on my lips a few times.

As I worked, I offered up my labors as unto the Lord, following the Word's instruction:"Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Colossians 3:17). And I did it cheerfully: "And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men" (Colossians 3:23). And I did it as a show of my love to the Lord: "Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed..." (1 John 3:18).

I believe every Christian needs to be involved in a local church. Why? It'll keep you saved!! You may laugh, but it's like this: if you want to play the piano, you have to take lessons and then play throughout life. Otherwise, you lose your touch. If you want to be a member of a country club, you go to the club and get involved in its various activities. If you don't participate, you're no longer a part. Same with God. Being involved in the Lord's work will make your faith grow. That's why the Bible says, "Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, as is the manner of some" (Hebrews 10:25). The writer knew that it's strengthening to be with believers, whether it's studying the Bible, or hearing a message preached, or working in various places in the church.

When I left the church on Saturday, I had a great sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. I had a renewed sense of calling and purpose, a new pledge in my heart that I would do more for the Lord, a new hunger to grow deeper in Him, a new thirst for Him and His Word.

Then, we dashed home, did a few things around the house, and got ready for a Hawaiian luau. DH and I dressed in matching tropical shirts, and we drove to a church member's beautiful home on the water, where they were hosting a 50th birthday party for a beloved member of the church. This lovely, talented woman (singing and playing the organ and piano) has early-onset dementia and some dire physical problems. Many gathered for this festive occasion to honor her, and we enjoyed each other's fellowship as we ate delicious food and chatted inside and out (on the banks of the water--such a picturesque setting). After we ate, we gathered inside for an old-fashioned hymn sing as the guest of honor played the organ (expertly!) and her mother played the piano. We sang The Old Rugged Cross, Till We Meet Again, Are You Washed in the Blood?, and a host more, our hearts so in tune with each other and the Lord, it was purely sweet in there.

That evening, we blessed this church member, and in turn, we were blessed!

Ah, Christian love stories...

Friday, April 21, 2006


This is the cover of my new book, Kiss the Bride, which will be released in September. Coauthors are: Kristy Dykes, Aisha Ford, Vickie McDonough, Carrie Turansky.

What was the inspiration for this book? I was bred on the Bible and Nana's layer cakes in the Deep South (and not necessarily in that order!). I also love to entertain. As a pastor's wife whose hobby has been cooking and entertaining, I've often felt like I've run a B&B with all the people I've hosted, such as missionaries, evangelists, singing groups, etc. When I worked for a New York Times subsidiary, one day the editor said they needed a story about cooking. I remarked, "I've cooked for 100 people in my home and love to cook. Last week, I had a dinner party for 22 people and had a ball." The editor said, "Write me a story! By tomorrow." So I did, and a weekly column entitled "Kristy's Kitchen" was born.

When I dreamed up Kiss the Bride, I envisioned four young women in the food business. They all own restaurants, they meet at a restaurant convention, and they bemoan the lack of men in their lives. Then, each novella tells each of their love stories. During the entire book, they pass around an apron with the words Kiss the Cook on the front. The last groom crosses out Cook and writes Bride because the girls have all become brides by the end of the book. Fun!

We four coauthors had a great time working on this project. In writing Christian fiction, I always hope my readers will experience The Three E's: to be entertained, encouraged, and enlightened. All of our novellas are based on scriptures, plus the book has a fun theme with a traveling apron among four cooks, so I think those expectations will be met. Each story features a special recipe, and these recipes will be in the book at the end of each novella.

Look for Kiss the Bride in stores in September. We plan to do a book signing at American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Dallas in September.


IT IS FINISHED!! Remember the words Jesus said from the cross? I said them last night. I finished writing my novel Heart of the Matter and sent it off to my critique partner. Now, I'm kind of sad because I enjoyed writing it so much. Funny, I should say that. For this novel (hopefully no more), I sort of had a love/hate relationship with it. I LOVED the story and writing it--the process, the exhilaration of creating something of my very own!--but I hated the frustrating parts when I couldn't seem to "get it." (Thankfully, I did "get it" and completed it.) I know the reason for this. I'm a perfectionist. I want things to be perfect, to go well.

My prayer this morning is, "Lord, thank You so much for this writing opportunity. Thank You that You called me to write Christian fiction. Now bless my readers as they read Heart of the Matter. Let them be drawn closer to You as they read my story. Let them think about the Holy Scriptures. Let them think about You."

Now, I'm going to put my time into creating a new three-book series. It's in my heart and I need to get it on paper so I can propose it to a publisher. In fact, a publisher has expressed interest in seeing it, and is waiting on me to develop it. How's that for pressure? :)) It's an entirely new thing in Christian fiction publishing, something that hasn't been done before, in the way I envision it. But my mother raised me on "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," and so I KNOW I can do it.

I'm going to start ending my blog entries with a blessing over you, my reader. My husband is a pastor, and every Sunday and Wednesday night, before he releases our congregation, he says, "Now put your hands in a manner of receiving." So we all raise our arms about waist-level, palms up. (DO THAT NOW.) Then, he speaks a blessing over us, beginning with, "I bless you in the name of the Lord that..." and ends with these words or similar ones: "...now go in His strength and the power of His anointing."

So here's my blessing for you today, dear reader, whose arms are in the air: "I bless you in the name of the Lord that as you seek Him, He will give you wisdom. As you serve Him, He will give you power. As you worship Him, He will give you a fresh, new feeling of oneness with Him. Now, go in His strength and the power of his anointing."


Thursday, April 20, 2006


My deadline's looming for Heart of the Matter. I hope to finish it tonight or tomorrow and send it off to my critique partner. It's always helpful to get a second set of eyes to read it. I've enjoyed writing this story immensely, though at times it was a struggle. I've recorded this struggle in previous posts. The struggle was, I had a hard time, at first, getting to know my characters. And if an author doesn't know her characters, the readers never will. So I had to dig very deeply. I brainstormed with my two daughters and my husband. Talking through the plot and getting some input from others is a tremendous help. Francine Rivers, the premiere Christian fiction author who wrote Redeeming Love (read it!), says when she's plotting a novel, she somtimes flies across the country to a be with a writer friend for several days to get input for the plot.

So, after I worked hard at plotting and coming to know my characters very deeply, I felt I had the story completely under control. And then I had to present the plot info in the best way.

For instance, my heroine's baggage (issues) is, she's 32, and when she was 20, she married a guy she'd known from church practically her whole life. He had a hard home life as the son of an alcoholic, had been brought to church on a church bus, but he was a Christian, so everything was okay, right? They started dating at 17, and as handsome as a movie star, he swept her off her feet from the get go, and they fell hard in love. She was too naive to know or recognize his true nature. When they married, he became controlling and domineering and harsh. He ridiculed her Plain Jane appearance and lack of education and career focus, to the point of cruelty. She tried talking to him about his treatment of her, but it didn't change things. So she cried out to God to help her, to give her a deep love for him, and God did. Then, after three years of marriage, he was killed in a small plane accident. His death was more painful to her than living with him, because God had given her such a strong love for him.

Then she enrolled in college courses. One of the first ones was psychology, and she knew she'd found her niche in life. She would be a psychologist and help people understand why they acted the way they did so they could change and become better. So she spent nine years earning degrees and gaining experience in her field. Then she moved to a new town and started her own practice as a child psychologist.

Here, the story starts. She has this baggage, these issues. Though she desires a good husband--she wants to share her life with a man, she wants to love and be loved--this baggage has caused her to be gunshy and prejudiced toward strong, handsome men. Give her a balding, bookish man any day, she thinks, because these men, in her opinion, are the only tender ones. Handsome men have egos as wide as the Gulf of Mexico. And she's not going to make the same mistake twice, to fall in love without really looking into the man's character. What's the old saying? Once burned, shame on them. Twice burned, shame on you? Something like that.

So she's in a new town in a new church in a new practice. And trying to serve God. She volunteers to start a children's church class because there's nothing for the less-than-a-handful of children at her little church.

Enter the hero. He has his own baggage, his own prejudices. He's a financial adviser and has a 6-year-old son. His late wife was an elegant beauty who charmed his clients. He's good-looking himself, and looks have always been important to him. So he wants a knockout wife. One who's a Christian is a given, because he's a devoted Christian. He won't look outside the walls of faith.

He's a deacon in his small, mostly elderly-peopled church. It was his wife's home church, and though his friends say he ought to attend a mega church so he can meet some single women, he's determined to be loyal to his church. God will bring along the perfect wife somehow.

When he meets the heroine at his church, it's almost as if he didn't meet her. She makes no impression on him. Oh, yes, she does. She's as bland as her bland gray suit. That's it. That's all he thinks.

You'll have to read the book to see how they get together. WINK

Why did I say I have to present this info, this baggage, in the best possible way? Because this novel will be published by Heartsong Presents of Barbour Publishing Company, and this line of books is characterized by its light, feel-good, happily-ever-after-endings-type stories (which I love; they're so much fun to read as you're drifting off to sleep; they make you feel good). I have to get this backstory in because its the central conflict to the story, but I can't present it in a heavy way. So it was a challenge.

I think this was part of the problem I was having.

Thankfully, I got it all worked out, and I'm very pleased with the story. I had to present the hero and heroine's baggage in small chunks interspersed throughout the first few chapters so it wouldn't come across as too heavy. I really love this story. It's to be published next year around this time, April, 2007, I believe.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


I'm finishing my novel, Heart of the Matter, which will be released next year by Heartsong Presents (Barbour Publishing) and then later, it will be included in a 3-in-1 called Florida Weddings.

I wrote the last chapter on Monday, and I'm now reading through the entire book to catch holes, fix areas, refine, tweak, add--whatever you want to call it. I found one scene that didn't end with zip. I always try to bring scenes to a close that make readers want to turn the page. It's called a hook. So I know to do this. But with this scene, there wasn't a hook at the end. As I thought about it, it came to me, and so I'm going to flesh out this scene and add the hook. I'm approaching it with relish. The basics are there. I just have to bring out the part that shines.

Well, back to my story...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


It's interesting about writing. The longer I write, the less I feel I know. I'm like a sponge, soaking up knowledge. I'm teachable, which, I think, is an attribute all authors should have, if they want to see success.

I'm writing Heart of the Matter, and it's due next week. Working Blurb: A woman with a problem, a man with a prejudice, a child with the answer. It's a sort of reverse prejudice story based on the scripture, "Man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart." The heroine doesn't want a handsome man because her late husband of three years (she married at 20 and she's now 32) was a handsome man who ridiculed her for her plain Jane appearance which propelled her into her profession of psychologist; and she shies away from handsome men erroneously believing they're shallow and egotistical. The hero doesn't want a plain Jane because his late wife was a stylish, elegant beauty. But God works on both of their hearts, and true love wins out.

But in writing the story, I was hitting roadblocks. I couldn't seem to bring them to life. They both appeared slightly shallow, and I didn't want that. I wanted readers to love them, despite their faults. So I talked it out with my daughter. Then, I had another session with my husband and other daughter, and through brainstorming, I was able to flesh out these characters. I finally came to "see" them.

As I write, I try to crawl into my character's skin so I can feel what they're feeling. I ask the Lord to help me accomplish this. Another word for this is empathy. My heroine in Sweet Liberty (a Barbour 4-in-1) is a just-released slave in Charleston in 1859 who's embittered over the way white men treated her and her people. I asked the Lord to let me crawl into Winkie's skin as I wrote her story, and really feel what she was feeling. I believe I achieved that. A reader said, "Are you black, or do you have a special gift of empathy?" I cried when I read that!

Monday, April 17, 2006


Last night, my husband and I watched the DVD Cross Creek, the story of Pulitizer Prize-winning Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings when she first moved to Florida in 1928. This film became the sensation of the 1983 Cannes Film Festival. The blurb says, "This film remains one of the most powerful portraits ever of a writer's search for fulfillment as well as the remarkable story of one woman's bold struggle for independence."

I was moved to tears during this movie, just as I was when I read certain parts of her novel The Yearling. The Yearling is based on a real person in Cross Creek, a child who had a pet fawn who grew too big and ate the family's garden, and then was shot. I keep this book on my Favorites Shelf in my office. The characterization is great, the description is great, the setting is great... Is it any wonder it won a Pulitzer?

When Marjorie moved to Florida, she was a newpaper reporter wanting to write fiction. Her genre was gothic romance, where there's usually a governess or lady in distress, and the setting is a castle or mansion in Britain. She tried repeatedly to get her stories published, to no avail. Maxwell Perkins, the now legendary editor, considered them and rejected them. During correspondence between them, she wrote of her new life in Cross Creek on an orange grove among people rich in characterization and pathos. He wrote and told her to forget her gothic romances and write about the people surrounding her.

That's exactly what she did. She first wrote Jacob's Ladder based on a poor couple who worked for her temporarily. Then she wrote The Yearling, and the rest is history.

It's a lot for a writer to think about. Always wanting to learn and glean when I write or see things, I immediately thought of some parallels between Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and me.

We both write/wrote newspaper articles.

We both write/wrote romance.

We both live/lived in Florida.

We both have/had citrus trees on our property.

We both are/were inspired by the pathos of humanity right in our laps.

I live the kaleidoscopic life of a pastor's wife and see into many people's lives up close and personal. My husband and I have stood at the bedside of a young mother who's newborn just died, shared people's joy at weddings, been with parents who just received the news of their teenager's death (twice), celebrated milestone anniversaries all the way up to 65 years, stood by people in cancer and AIDS situations, and more. Do you see the seesaw in this paragraph? The emotions I've felt for and with people have been up and down. I believe this has given a richness in my writing.

Interestingly, my book The Tender Heart (first chapter is on this blog) was inspired by visit to Manatee Park Historical Village in Bradenton, Florida. As I looked at the old settler's house--called a "cracker gothic cottage"--I "saw" a young woman standing on the porch wearing a tattered dress. I "felt" a fit of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (as well as Janette Oke and Catherine Marshall) coming on me. The girl I "saw" became Sebbie in The Tender Heart. Even more interestingly, people tell me this book reminds them of the writings of these three authors. What a compliment. I'm grateful.