Friday, June 30, 2006


Oh, oh, oh, oh,
What He's done for me!

Oh, oh, oh, oh,
What He's done for me!

Oh, oh, oh, oh,
What He's done for me!

I never shall forget
Just what He's done for me!

That's the song that burst from my lips this morning as I woke up. It's peppy and refreshing. God is good.

The next song that hit me was:

I woke up this morning
With my mind,
Just sta - ayed on Jesus,

I woke up this morning
With my mind,
Just sta - ayed on Him.

Well, I woke up this morning
With my mind,
Just sta - ayed on Jesus,

Halle - lu, halle - lu, halle - lu, halle - lu

I'm rejoicing. My songs are back!

Since we've been in a kids' crusade this week, while I've been out (away from my home office where I'm usually planted), I made some swing-bys at my favorite thrift stores. We have some great thrift stores with excellent prices. It's a hobby of mine, to see what I can find. And I've found some treasures.

Here are a few:

Two Monet prints, Lady with a Parasol Turned to the Right and Lady with a Parasol Turned to the Left, which now proudly hang over my living room sofa. I love Monets and Renoirs and have several of these great artists' masterpieces in my home. These two prints are printed on heavy duty stock paper, and I built frameless frames for them (after several trips to Home Depot--grrrrr--but that's a story for another day), then touched up the colors in them. Since my predominate decorating color is in the aqua/turquoise family, I touched up the skies in both prints with strokes of aqua. The grasses where the ladies are standing, I turned from orange to eggplant/purple tones. Striking, my guests say.

Four table lamps. Two are matching, and I display them in one of my guest bedrooms. I painted their dull bases with gold then antiqued them with a brown glaze. Then I bought new shades for them with tassels, and viola, they were transformed. Another lamp has a gold and crystal base and with a tall gold-colored fabric shade that's tube-narrow at the top and wider at the bottom, it makes a striking addition to the other guest bedroom.

I've bought pretty little side chairs and had them recovered to match rooms. And ottomans. I love ottomans and footstools. Let's see. What else have I bought? One of my things is decorating, so I'm always on the lookout for an addition to my decor. Milton says I have a lamp and chair fetish. He's seen me drag home lots of them. But I always transform them to things of beauty.

I also look for unusual costume jewelry. Yesterday, I bought some nifty earrings and a necklace, the kind that fits snuggly around your neck. It's in tones of brown and orange, and I'll wear it with a tangerine colored shirt.

Yesterday I also bought a stack of books. I rarely come away from thrift stores without a book. I found My Cousin Rachel by Daphne de Maurier, Peacehtree Road by Anne Rivers Siddons, Becoming Soul Mates by Parrott & Parrott, a condensed Bend in the Road by Nicholas Sparks, The Joyful Journey by Clairmont, Johnson, Meberg, and Swindoll, and a 2-in-1 Mrs. Mike and The Search for Joyful by Benedict and Nancy Freedman. I read a wide variety of books, from fiction, to self-helps, to how-tos, to biographies, to you-name-it.

I bless you in the name of the Lord, that your day will be blessed and fruitful. Amen.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


Every time I go to church, I get a blessing. The music is just what I need. The prayer is just what I need. And my husband's sermon (he's the pastor) is just what I need. No wonder the Bible says, "Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is." The Lord wants us in church so our faith can be strengthened, and we can be encouraged.

Last night, Milton preached on "Rejecting Rejections." He preached on the scriptures in Luke 11 where Jesus said to ask, seek, and knock, and the door would be opened. Jesus used the story of a person needing bread in the night and asking his neighbor if he could borrow it. The Bible says he knocked and knocked, and the neighbor kept saying, "Don't bother me. The door is locked, my family is in bed, and I'm not going to get up and give it to you." But the man kept knocking and asking. Finally, the Bible says the neighbor got up and gave it to him--not because of their friendship but because of the man's persistence in knocking.

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." Luke 11:9

Milton said, first of all, God doesn't reject us. He said, "Come to me, you who are weary and laden, and I will give you rest." He said He would meet our needs according to His riches in glory. He said he would be our friend who sticks closer than a brother. He said He would never leave us or forsake us. Etc.

But, Milton said, sometimes our prayers aren't answered in the timing or way we want, and we feel rejected by God. And so, he said, we must reject rejections and keep asking Him. He said we need to reject rejections in all areas of our lives. He said to keep asking, seeking, and knocking, "and the door will be opened to you."

Wow, this really spoke to me as a writer. There are so many stories of my heart I want to see published. But it hasn't come about yet (though, thankfully, I have made nine sales in Christian fiction--nine published or contracted works).

Milton gave a couple of illustrations that encouraged my heart. I thought of another one as he was telling these two. These are direct answers to prayers we have prayed. Here's just one:

Four years ago, Milton and I were in a dilemma about accepting the pastorate of the church we now serve. The church was in confusion during this delicate transition time of searching for a pastor, something some churches go through, which is unfortunate. Others sail through it; that's been our experience. A board courts you, wines and dines you (no real wine involved, however :); we're tee-totalers), you try out (preach for the congregation), you are prayerful, and gives you the leading as to whether to accept the church or reject it, and everything turns up rosey.

But this church was different. Because of the confusion, we didn't know if we wanted to get involved. It felt like we were wrestling an alligator. Should we? Shoudn't we? What to do? Though we prayed and prayed, the heavens seemed as brass, as the cliche goes. "Lord, if You want us to accept this position, we'll gladly do it and believe You to help us and equip us," was the prayer of our hearts. "Please show us what to do."

Nothing. Nada. No word.

"Lord, are You there?"

Nothing. Nada. No word.

Time passed.


We needed to make a decision.

One morning, we were reading the Word and praying together at the oval table in the kitchen. Sunlight streamed through the bay windows illuminating the entire kitchen, but my soul felt dark and alone as I held hands with Milton across the table agreeing in prayer yet one more time. In anguish, I looked up to heaven and said, "Lord, why can't You just have someone call us?"


Yes, you heard right.


I picked up the phone. "Hello?," I said.

"Hi, Kristy. This is Jane.* Won't you please be our pastors?" She continued on, saying she had been praying and felt a direct impression to call us at that very moment and to ask us to please be their pastors. She said she normally wouldn't do something like this but that she had felt compelled.

I sat there with the phone in my hand, tears streaming down my face as I marveled at the majesty of God. He had answered my prayer! Immediately!

Huh? Immediately? Yes. But in retrospect, we had prayed for months for God to give us guidance. But that morning, the answer came.

The rest, as they say, is history. We accepted the pastorate, the church solidified, the confusion ceased, and we now count ourselves blessed to serve this fine congregation.

God answered our prayer. At just the right time.

Some might say, "Oh, that just happened."

Yes, it did. After we prayed!

Someone said, "God's permanent address is wit's end corner." That is so true! It felt like we were at wit's end corner, but the most important thing to note is, He came through for us!

Are you at wit's end corner? Struggling with a decision? Needing an answer to a prayer?

Keep asking. Keep seeking. Keep knocking. God will open the door. Jesus will come through for you!

He loves to do good things for His children.

A Christian love story.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


I sing praises to Your name, oh Lord.
Praises to Your name, oh Lord.

For Your name is great,
And greatly to be praised.

I sing praises to Your name, oh Lord,
Praises to Your name, oh Lord.

For Your name is great,
And greatly to be praised.

That song was wafting through my thoughts this morning as I woke up. We should be a people of praise. If we don't praise Him, we're not fulfilling our purpose. And you know what? As we praise Him, we receive strength! That's why the devil doesn't want us to praise. He knows the peace and joy it produces. He knows how it chases out fear and doubt.

Praise Him today.

Try it.

Get ready for a lift in your spirit.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

All kinds of Christian love stories

We're having a kids' crusade at church this week. Puppets. Games. Prizes. Songs. Bible stories. A moonwalk jumping tent. Fun. Laughter. A blast. And the most important thing. The gospel being presented, and little ones finding the Lord as their Savior.

A Christian love story.

I found the Lord as my Savior when I was little. In fact, I was so little, I don't even remember it. I just always remember loving Jesus and wanting to serve Him and live for Him and work for Him. And that's what I've done. All the days of my life.

A Christian love story.

I've been passionate about the Lord for as long as I can remember. Chalk it up to a good mother who taught me and led me in the ways of the Lord. The Scriptures flowed from her mouth. She was No. 5 in the nation in the Henrietta Mears Sunday School Teacher of the Year Contest (1995), and we caught the things she taught as we were growing up. When Terry and I argued or toussled? He's my brother two years older than I. "Quote this," Mother would say. "'Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.'" And we'd quote it and quit toussling. Me, afraid to run for county office in a high school club where nearly 500 delegates were gathering? "'What time I am afraid, I will put my trust in thee,'"she'd say, and make me quote it. And, "'I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.'" Then she helped me write my speech, memorize it, and lo and behold, I won!

On and on I could go with examples of how we lived. Jesus was the focus at our house.

A Christian love story.

That's why the characters in my novels do the things they do, i.e., know the Scriptures and pray. A lot.

Christian love stories.

The other day, I got a letter from a reader of my novel The Tender Heart who said, "When you almost want to pray for the characters, that is a high compliment to the author! God bless!"

Another reader of the same book said, "I enjoyed this love story, the characters, and the graceful interlacing of Christian values and Bible passages."

Another reader of The Tender Heart called me. Found my number somehow. He was a Baptist preacher. "I praise God for you." He wanted to know if I would consider writing a sequel. "I have to know about Kit, who killed the turkey," he said. "What happens to her? Who does she marry?"

A reader of my novella in Room At the Inn said, "I loved Lois's close, personal relationship with the Lord. There are things that I could definitely learn from this character."

I seek to entertain, encourage, and enlighten my readers. The Three E's.

Through Christian love stories.

Friday, June 23, 2006


I'm reading Jimmy by Robert Whitlow. It's an interesting story about a mentally challenged boy and his loving parents. Whitlow's style makes you feel like you're in the room with the characters. They seem so real. This story is a departure from Whitlow's other novels, most of them in the legal suspense genre. This story's protagonist is, as I said, a child.

A child is called an unreliable narrator, meaning we're seeing the world (and the story) through the child's eyes, not an adult's, and a child can't always be relied on to report the facts. For instance, think about your backyard when you were growing up. If it had any room at all, it probably seemed gigantic to you. But when you grew up and looked at the same backyard, the proportion was correct. It wasn't gigantic; it was average. That happened to me. I thought our backyard was as big as a whole block. But it wasn't big at all. A child's perspective is off on many things.

Another thing you have to decide when writing about a child as your main character is to consider how he says things and how he thinks. He wouldn't think or act or talk like an adult. Listen to children talk. They don't use big words (for the most part). They don't use hard words. They simplify things.

However, then you read Leif Enger's widely-acclaimed and runaway bestseller Peace Like A River who has two children as main characters who surely are miniature adults, and as a writer, you scratch your head and think, I thought "the rule" was not to have children talk or act so adult-like. Newsday said, "What allows Peace Like A River to transcend any limitations of belief and genre is its broad, sagacious humanity...There is magic here, none more potent that Lief Enger's prose."

Wow. That's a pretty powerful statement.

I think the same thing could be said of Whitlow's Jimmy.

And, Jimmy is truly a Christian love story. Between a boy and his parents.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


We were in Dothan, Alabama, yesterday for the Dykes's family reunion. About 60 gathered, and it was great. All Christians, all serving the Lord, some of them ministers. We're Methodists, Baptists, Assemblies of God, Calvary Chapel, nondenominational, and more. We sang, laughed, talked, bonded, and, oh yes, we ate. Some mighty good eating. Fried chicken. Fried whole catfish. Squash casserole. Scalloped potatoes.

We held the reunion at the Holiday Inn. A friend from Dothan told me to make sure I got some banana pudding while I was there 'cause they love the Sunday buffets where banana pudding is served.

So I talked to the manager, and lo and behold, the next day the cook whipped us up a giant pan of warm, custardy banana pudding with meringue on top a mile thick (okay, not a mile). Um, um. It made you want to slap your granny. (That's an old Southern saying meaning "this food is so good, I can't hang words on it." We would NEVER slap our grannies. GRIN.)

Banana pudding. We're not talking, the stuff that's made from Cool Whip and boxed instant vanilla pudding. Nosirreebob. It was the real thing. Cooked custard where you stand over the hot stove stirring and stirring to keep it from sticking. It was the kind my mother always made. I may dig out her recipe and make us some. But I need to diet, not eat more sweets!

The oldest in the Dykes's clan was celebrating his 97th birthday, and we did a short roast of him and then sang Happy Birthday.

One of the cousins from Andalusia stood and said she'd been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last November, and that God had helped her through all the treatments in Birmingham. She thanked everyone for their prayers. Emails have been flying since November, and many have prayed for her.

She said a friend called her when she heard the news and asked if she and some of her church friends could come over and "lay hands on her." She said she'd never heard of that, but that sure, she would welcome any prayers she could get.

The Bible talks about this in the Book of James in the New Testament. It instructs us to lay hands on the sick and to anoint them with oil and pray. So, her friend and the friend's friends--70 strong--came over and did this. As she related her experience, we wiped tears away and thanked God for His goodness.

Christian love stories.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Today (Tues.), we leave for Alabama to attend the Dykes's family reunion. There are nine siblings in Dad Dykes's family, with only two in heaven. The oldest is in his nineties. We'll be meeting and reminiscing and eating and chatting and singing, etc. for three days in Dothan.

In the 1920s, when Dad Dykes was three years old, his father was accidentally killed, which left his mother with nine children to raise by herself in the Great Depression. There were two children younger than Dad, the youngest being six months old. With God's help, she succeeded, and several entered the ministry, and some of the grandchildren became ministers, my husband Milton being one of them. It's a story of God's mercy and grace.

It's a Christian love story.

Milton has often said when he was a teenager, he felt badly for his father because he never had a father. But he had a heavenly Father.

The heavenly Father nurtured this family and sustained them and comforted them.

Monday, June 19, 2006


We had a wonderful time with my inlaws this weekend. Mom and Dad arrived on Friday, and we grilled out steaks on our deck and enjoyed the evening, chatting and catching up on news.

Saturday, Dad went with Milton to the men's breakfast at church where Dad spoke. He's a minister. Milton said everyone enjoyed Dad's speaking. He's humorous, and a good speaker. There were over 60 in attendance, so that was good. Then I fixed lunch and after that we headed for St. Augustine. We saw The Adventures of Lewis and Clarke at the IMAX in World Golf Village. Interesting. If you haven't been to an IMAX, hurry to one. The screens are six stories high, and the films are amazing. Then, we drove through the historic part of St. Augustine and saw the old fort--Castillo de San Marcos, the old jail, the oldest wooden schoolhouse in the U.S., and more. We drove across the Lions Bridge and ate at O'Steen's, where we had to wait an hour and a half for The Best Shrimp in St. Augustine. While you wait, you browse in an antiques store, and I bought a turquoise-colored chunky necklace.

Sunday was church, of course. Milton honored the men (not just fathers) with a gift of Patrick Morley's Man in the Mirror. He spoke about fathers being a good influence on their children, and then he called Dad up to the platform and he interviewed him. It was very special, to see two ministers, one the father the other the son, on the platform ministering together.

For Sunday dinner (that's Southern for lunch), I fixed a huge roast dinner with all the trimmings. It cooked while we were at church, and within fifteen minutes of arriving home, we were sitting down to a table full of food. I used to cook like that nearly every Sunday. Now, we usually go out to eat.

Then Milton and Dad answered phone calls from their children wishing them a Happy Father's Day. Later, we drove to Jacksonville Beach and stood on the shore watching the waves, the surfers, the swimmers, and the seabirds honking and geeking. Beautiful sight.

Then we came home and ate a light supper and I fixed root beer floats while we watched some TV.

That's it, folks.

Friday, June 16, 2006


Well, it's Friday. My inlaws are due this afternoon. Dad's 80 and Mom's 78. Dad's a minister, like Milton, and he's speaking at the Men's Breakfast tomorrow at church. On Sunday, Father's Day, Milton will be preaching on "A Son Talks to His Father," and plans to include an interview with Dad. On Mother's Day, I spoke on "A Mother Talks to Her Daughters." I set the stage up to look like a TV interview, and my two beautiful daughters and I dialogued in an interview format. People really enjoyed it, they told us. Jennifer, our younger daughter who lives in San Juan, Puerto Rico, recently had a deep spiritual experience and talked about it. Julie talked about the importance of making good choices in our lives--since she's made a few bad ones (she admitted). Jennifer blogs about her experience and ongoing life with an atheist husband. In case you'd like to read her blog, it's found at:

(However, she's been in Florida for a month and hasn't blogged, but will resume when she gets back to PR and settled.)

I'm looking forward to Sunday and hearing what the two have to say. Dad and Mom Dykes raised five children, and four of them are in the ministry. In fact, in the Dykes-Roberts (my maiden name) family, we have nearly 30 ministers and wives! When we get together, it's like a preachers' convention. We talk about the Lord, sing hymns and choruses, chit chat about church doings, and of course have fun. Oh, we also eat. Church people do that a lot! Church people are the best cooks in the entire world. The only thing we don't do when we get together is take up an offering! That's sort of a joke. Everybody knows preachers love to take up offerings! Haha.

Dad Dykes always said parents don't get report cards until the kids are over 25. That's a wise thought. In other words, through the teen years, keep insisting on your kids doing right no matter how much they ballyhoo and argue. One day, they'll be glad you did. It's been that way with our girls. They didn't like some of the choices we made for them when they were teenagers, and sometimes they balked, etc., but now that they're adults, they're both serving the Lord and putting Him first. That's what counts. The Bible says, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart."

Why did I say all this? How does this relate to Christian love stories? This Sunday at our church, we'll see a Christian love story lived out. A father and a son. Following after God. Putting Christ first in their lives. Influencing countless people for the Lord.

Thank You, Lord.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


I'm still reading The Dollmaker by Harriette Arnow. Highly unusual for me--to be reading a book weeks after I started it. But life has intervened, what with our daughter from Puerto Rico here for a month, and a family vacation, and ministry, and other reading, and yada, yada, yada.

One reason I'm not rushing through The Dollmaker is because it is so emotionally gripping, as author Joyce Carol Oates says about it. Plus, I know where the story's headed because I saw the made-for-TV-movie of the same title starring Jane Fonda. Maybe I want to delay experiencing some sadness I know is in store for the characters. And for me as the reader. Oates calls the story "a depressing work, like most extraordinary works." Oates goes on to say, "It is a legitimate tragedy, our most unpretentious American masterpiece."

The story is set in the WWII years in the Kentucky hill country, and it was written by Arnow in 1954. Oates says, "This brutal, beautiful novel has a permanent effect upon the reader: long after one has put it aside, he is still in the presence of its people, absorbed in their trivial and tragic dilemma..."

Gertie, the lead character, has a lifelong goal of owning her own land. She and her husband and five children are sharecroppers living in a shack-like house working the land for a landowner. They barely have enough to eat, let alone purchase land. She's pinched pennies for years, though, and has managed to save some from her egg money and from the carving she does--mostly ax handles for farmers. If she tells her husband about the money, however, he'll demand it for new tires for the truck, or some other necessity, like he did the last time she managed to save some money.

I see two symbols in the story--her carving (where the title is derived from), particulary a large block of wild cherry wood she's hoping to turn into the face of Christ; and the money to buy her land. The author weaves them through the story, using them to give richness and depth.

The author also weaves scriptures throughout. Gertie explains to a soldier, when asked why she quotes the Bible so much, that her parents used it to teach her to read since she didn't get to go to school very much. She reads Ecclesiastes (and quotes it) to her children and explains the meaning. She has her children memorize the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, the Psalms, and the Beatitudes which she calls "the blessings." In talking to her children--whether it's explaining the meaning of life or breaking up an altercation, she spouts out scriptures. When her little daughter Cassie asks, "What makes you like to look at th (sic, meaning that's the dialect in the story) stars, Mom?", Gertie answers, "'The heavens declare th (sic) glory of God; an the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night..."

I'm wondering if perhaps the excessive quoting of scripture is why this book is largely unheard of. Oates says Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, though more famous than The Dollmaker, is not superior to it. Was the publishing world offput by the prolific quoting of scripture? The readers? The reviewers? If so, they're offbase, in my humble opinion. This is the way this Kentucky hillbilly talked and lived and breathed. To me, this is deep characterization, allowing us to crawl into Gertie's skin and live with and in her for the course of the book.

The New York Times said of The Dollmarker: "A masterwork...a superb book of unforgettable strength and glowing richness."

Author Joyce Carol Oates said: "There are certainly greater novels than The Dollmaker, but I can think of none that have moved me more personally, terrifyingly...The Dollmaker is one of those excellent American works that have yet to be properly assessed."

It's worth reading. And studying, for writers.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


We returned Monday night from a grand vacation at Marriott Grand Vista Resort in Orlando, Florida, where we stayed in a luxurious timeshare. Our two daughters and their two children (each) were with us. One daughter flew up from San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she lives (she's been here a month and will be flying home Friday).

So there were eight of us. Eight in restaurant seating. Eight in the car (thankfully, one daughter has a Ford Expedition). Eight at theme parks (Me: "Where's Claudia?" I shriek then find out the two-year-old is behind me; "Nicholas, don't wander off," I say to the just-turned-four-year-old; "Yes, I'll take Lorenzo to the restroom and change his diaper," I say about the six-month-old).

Eight of us for a glorious week together in Florida's sunshine. Wonderful. The resort has four magnificent swimming pools, and the best indoor play place I've ever seen, and a lake with paddle boats, and big windowed rooms with ping pong, foos ball, and pool tables, and planned family activities like a photo scavenger hunt, get the picture. One night, they erected a giant screen at one swimming pool and showed the movie Nanny McPhee while the kids swam and ate free popcorn.

One day we kept the children while our two daughters went to Blizzard Beach. Another time we kept the two-year-old and the six-month-old while the rest went to Medievel Times dinner theater and horse show.

We didn't do the Disney thing this year. We've done that and will do it again. A few years ago, we did the Disney thing ON CHRISTMAS DAY and had Christmas dinner in Cinderella's castle! Fabulous experience.

But this year, we decided to do Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven. We'd been there when our girls were little; used to live near it and had yearlong passes. We've always enjoyed the professional water ski shows with their mind-defying skills and a little comedy thrown in the mix. And we've always loved the butterfly arboretum where butterflies light on you. And the ice skating shows in the ice palace. And the animal shows. But we were very pleased to see the new improvements: lots and lots of kiddie and "medium-aged" rides, and a few hair-raising ones (though not too many). And the biggest addition is Splash Island, a water park. In fact, we enjoyed it so much, we took advantage of the free second day and went back again.

During the entire vacation, I saw a Christian love story lived out: my husband Milton became the dotingest grandfather I've ever seen. And it warmed my heart. Backstory: He was a good father to our girls. He provided well for them. He was "there" for them. But the interaction I saw this week between him and the four kids was, well, like I said, doting. And heartwarming. "Want me to take the three oldest ones to ride the paddle boats?" he'd ask. Or, "Can I take them to the play place while y'all get ready to go to Cypress Gardens?" Or, "Let me take them to the swimming pool." Or, "I'll go get them in their carseats for you." Or, "Claudia, come here to Papa. I need a kiss." Or, "Alexander, come to Papa. I need to tell you how much I love you." Or, "Nicholas, come here to Papa. I want to tell you what a good boy you are. You're Papa's buddy." Or, "Jennifer, give me that baby. I need some loving."

I'm thankful for my Christian love story: a marriage to a godly man who loves me, loves my girls, and loves our grandchildren.

Thank You, God.