Tag Archive | faith

Spatzle Speaks: Camouflage Christmas (Book Review)

My mom and her friend DeeDee Lake have conspired to start a new series of books called Rules of Engagement. The first installation, a novella, is Operation: Camouflage Christmas. Do you realize how hard it is to spell that with paws?

You can check out their blog here: https://rulesofengagementmilitaryromance.com/

So mom and DeeDee spent lots of time bringing Brook and Bernard to life in this story. How do you fall in love when in Army Officer Cadet School at Fort Benning, GA?

Brooke has been disappointed in love and she’s resolved to move on even as the date for a wedding she was supposed to star in, nears. Instead, she’s distracted by the rigors of training and also a series of gifts that show the sender knows more about her than most people, which has her perplexed and hoping.

Bernard fell in love with Brooke when they were in high school but she was off-limits. When they met up again she was engaged, but now? Brooke is free and as much as he wants to make it through OCS, he wants to win Brooke’s heart even more. Will she ever see that it’s him? Would she even return his affections? And how would that work when relationships are forbidden in training?

I highly recommend this book for a sweet romance as well as a peek behind the scenes of the challenges our soldiers go through to become officers. It’s not for the faint of heart. Get it! Now! And write a review please? I give the book five bones because I’m a dog and that’s how I roll.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

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Spatzle Speaks: The Christmas Mission (Book Review)

Karen Malley wrote this sweet story of love, forgiveness, and being careful about judging people before you have all the facts. The Christmas Mission will warm your heart.

Nicole is the main character who has experienced some of the hardships of life at a young age but has her life on track with a job and going to college. Working at smoothie shop is a sweet gig when that is where you meet the man of your dreams.

Or so Nicole thought. After meeting Michael and his family things seems great–until she learns the truth about who he really is. When her father re-emerges in her life word gets back to Michael about Nicole not being as pure and honest as he suspected. Could two people ever be so confused?

Christmas is a time for love and forgiveness and Karen Malley weaves a beautifully crafted story that will warm your heart and give you a deeper appreciation for the many gifts you’ve been given. No dogs. Again. But what can I say? I’m a sucker for romance.

I’m giving this book five bones. Read it and enjoy every moment!

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

Spatzle Speaks: Angel of the L Train (Book Review)

Mom has enjoyed the writings of author Penelope Marzec and her latest release, Angel of the L Train was exceptionally well done if you were to ask Mom. But that doesn’t matter because as her dog I rule this part of the blog so only my opinion really counts.

Thea Ahern is recently hired by a New York City gossip rag called LetSlip. She’s eager to work and earn money to support her mother’s nursing home care, but in the process has to hide her heritage. After a tragic incident on the subway, she assists a man who was brutally attacked and saves his life. Now the papers dub her the Angel of the L Train. Suddenly her anonymity is challenged as people see the resemblance between her and her mother who used to be a famous actress.

John is asked to shadow Thea because his boss believes her to be a way to uncover the truth about what happened to Thea’s mother. John understands the desire to hide from the past and he seeks to protect her from media scrutiny. When the CEO of LetSlip is murdered while John is in the building, his own dark past is revealed. How can he protect her and keep his job? Can Thea ever forgive him when she discovers his past–and his true reason for watching over her?

This is an excellent read filled with adventure and obstacles for the characters to overcome, but also heart as Thea and John both care deeply for family and would sacrifice to protect those they love. I give it five bones because I’m a dog and that’s how I roll.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

God and Me and a Cup of Chai Tea

I’ve been praying and waiting on God for an answer to those specific prayers. Some for me, some for others. The waiting is hard. I was sharing with a friend one of my favorite instances of God answering prayer for me so thought maybe I’d share it here too.

I don’t like coffee. Never have. When I worked in Milwaukee someone introduced me to spiced chai latte and I fell in love with that. This was before Starbucks and the only place I could get it was at Einstein Bros. Bagels. So some mornings I would do that. I discovered that they used Big Train Chai so eventually I found out where I could purchase that myself and started buying it.

When I moved north to live in a tiny mobile home to become a stay-at-home mom to two little boys and eventually add a daughter, I would make my chai early in the morning and sit and have my quiet time. It became part of my routine. God and me and a cup of chai tea.

My hubby at the time would go through phases where he liked chai or would lecture me about enjoying the sugary drink. I took it to my naturopath and asked him: “Is this bad for me?” He tested it and said: “It’s neutral. Enjoy your chai.” I continued to do that.

I only had one cup in the morning. That’s it. Rarely any other time. One day I noticed my supply was low so I ordered some. My hubby found the box after it had been delivered and this was one of those times he chose to lecture me. He brought the box into the kitchen and yelled.

“Why did you buy this? You shouldn’t be having sugar. You can’t have this.” He grabbed the box and put it in the laundry room. Unopened.

He dared deny me my one little enjoyment in the challenges of raising kids. If you’re a coffee drinker insert that in there and how would you feel? I was livid and told him I did not appreciate being yelled at and demands made of me. He ignored me and went about his day.

I really wanted to honor God in submitting to my husband even if he was being a class-A jerk. So I prayed. God, I don’t need chai. I can live without it. I don’t want this to be an idol so I’m going to trust You. If You, Lord want me to have chai You will have my husband bring that box into the kitchen, open it, and empty a bag into the container.

I waited.

Friday came. It had been about a week. I had enjoyed my very last cup of chai and washed the container I stored the powder in. I again let God know I was fine if I couldn’t have chai. I would trust Him.

Later that afternoon, my husband rushed into the house and opened the cupboard, and exclaimed, “Where’s the chai?”

“It’s gone. I just washed out the container,” I responded.

“Didn’t you buy more?”

“Yes.” He didn’t remember this? He’d been pretty angry about the purchase and my desire to enjoy it.

“Where is it?” he demanded.

“On the dryer in the laundry room,” I responded and stood back to watch what might happen next.

Hubby rushed down the hall, grabbed the box, and brought it to the kitchen. He placed it on the counter, and with scissors, broke the tape and pulled out a bag of chai. He cut open the bag at the top and poured it into the container I had washed that morning. He then proceeded to make himself a cup of chai and left the house to return to his office.

I said nothing but inside I praised God. Apparently for me, at this point in my life, I could enjoy chai with the blessing of God. Never again did my husband do anything like that although I have many other stories I could share where I obeyed him even when he was rude, controlling, and unreasonable. Yet God answered my obedience and the prayers I said in those moments to reveal that He loves me, hears me, sees the challenges I face. God not only gives us what I need but delights in giving His children some of the simple things we want.

I need to remind myself of those stories. There were dark years of poverty and verbal abuse, along with a challenging firstborn son who had mental health issues. Being a stay-at-home mom is not for the faint of heart. God was still there in those days giving me moments of joy. First with His presence and then in the unexpected but very much wanted answers to prayers.

Sometimes the answers were no. Sometimes it took years before I could understand the reason for the timing of those prayers. But now I thank Him for those no’s because they were really more of a “not yet, I have something so much better for You. Wait for my perfect timing.”

Life is hard at times and we can’t see the big picture but when I recite to myself the ways God has worked, they become markers, like they used to do in the Old Testament, of an intimate encounter with the Most High God. A way to remind me that God is personally involved in my life for His glory…if I only wait on Him.

God gave me a different man for a partner and you know what? He will get my hot water started if he awakes before me. When we travel, he will go out of his way to buy me a cup of chai in the morning. Maybe I don’t get to enjoy it with God at that moment, but I get to enjoy it with one of His many blessings, a man who treats me well.

Wait on God. His answers to prayer are all the sweeter for the wait.

How have you seen God answer prayers? Take note and remind yourself of His faithfulness to you!

Spatzle Speaks: Flowers for Hattie (Book Review)

My mom really likes the writings of Kimberly Miller, mainly because she likes music. I do as well but prefer soft jazz. Too bad I don’t get to listen to that while she reads. Mom? Hint! Hint! Anyway, Kimberly’s new book, Flowers for Hattie will be a sweet read for those who like romance, flowers, and music. It’s a winning combination.

Hattie Campanelli is an unusual woman. Sacrificial and hard-working, giving up her own dreams to help others in need. Oh, she also has blue hair, tattoos, and prefers t-shirts with snarky sayings. She isn’t the least bit intersted in dating.

Finn Winslow is a pianist for a rock band getting some rest and looking for a muse for his own compositions which are anything but rock. He may look like a bad boy musician but he’s more khakis than blue-jeans and quiet nights on the beach vs the noisy club scene.

When Finn runs into Hattie, or her into him, Finn is thrown for a loop. She doesn’t look anything like his “type” but he can’t get her out of his mind. She becomes the inspiration for him to write the instrumental love song he’s always longed to create. Now if he can just figure out how to get her to like him back. The more he learns about the enigmatic young woman, the more he likes.

Hattie finds Finn cute but a distraction, or maybe a way out of a financial dilemma the pregnancy home she helps run, is desperate for. Conscience collides with pride and desperate need, and is fueled by the persistence of the winsome Finn. But can she let go of her fears and trust a man? Could Finn win her heart?

You need to read this story. Mom gave me lots of snuggles and said it was great. The characters are fun and the story has twists and turns that might surprise you. I give it five bones because I’m a dog and that’s how I roll.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

Memorial Day

I’m not military but have had family members who were. In spite of that, I have held great admiration for our men and women in uniform. So many have died to protect the freedoms we hold dear and today is our day to pause, reflect, and remember their sacrifice.

And maybe we need to ask ourselves: Are we helping to preserve our freedoms from within? Do you vote? Have you read the constitution? Some have said, and I believe it, that if our nation is to fall, it will be from within, not without. Day by day, and week by week, we see the values our soldiers have fought and died for being trampled.

In honor of them…we too should be willing to fight for our country in our own way, in our own communities.

Have a blessed day of remembrance.

Lessons Learned While Writing: Hero of My Story

After years of verbal abuse, I finally realized I had lapsed into helplessness and hopelessness. A friend once said to me, “Susan, you need hope.” I loved and served and prayed to Jesus and believed He was fully capable of rescuing me from my prison of pain.

During this time, I lead our church’s women’s ministry, and spent time encouraging other women and teaching them.

But I was stuck. I began to realize I was thinking and acting like a victim. A powerless victim. The more I read and understood about verbal abuse (which includes financial abuse and neglect and more), the more I began to seek the help I needed to grow and thrive even in the midst of my difficulty. Oh, I still cried, but I grew in my confidence and my ability to find the good in the midst of the pain.

I still struggled for hope that I would ever one day be released. The wonderful news is by the time I was, I was ready for the new life God had in store for me. The fears from the past had melted away. The belief that I was inadequate and unable to stand on my own, was gone. When God opened that door, freeing me, I was ready to walk into my new life without fear. He provided for me every step along the way and looking back I can only say it was by His grace that I made it, because on paper, I should never have been able to.

By God’s grace, I became a hero, a protagonist in my own story, not a pathetic byline. Now ultimately Jesus is the real hero. It was He who saved me at 15 years of age and has walked me through all of this. What a wonder that He could give me hope – in HIM and blessings beyond what I could have ever wished for.

In what ways do you perhaps feel a victim in your life? Look to Jesus for your hope. Change doesn’t take place overnight but He can move you and use you for HIS glory in the midst of your pain and in the future use that experience to bless others. Hold on, dear friend.

Lessons Learned While Writing: Relationships Are Important

Writing is an isolated task. Even if an author writes in a busy place like an IHop or a coffee shop, we still ultimately do the work alone. As a Christian I believe God is part of that process so “alone” in terms of human interaction is what I’m referring to.

Getting a book published takes a lot of people—beta readers, critiques, editors, marketing, cover art, and eventually readers and reviewers. Writers need people, even if most of us are introverts.

We need relationships. Prayer. Accountability. We need to be reaching out to help others because that’s where we stay engaged in the human race. We need to live life so our characters can be real on the page.

I have found, after coming out of an abusive relationship, that good friendships are a treasure. I can write and it can be cathartic, but I need to do life with others, enjoy a cup of chai or a meal, do something fun, or sit and cry together. This is important to my spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical well-being. I need to keep growing as an individual if I hope to write characters that will also grow through the stories I try to put on the page.

I also need time to play. Whether it’s tug-of-war with my dog, crafting of some kind, a concert, mini-golf with my husband, or a rip-roaring game of Uno. Playing doesn’t need to cost a lot of money. For me playing and decompressing even takes place on my zero-turn lawnmower which my husband has graciously allowed me to do. It’s fun! Sitting and reading a book because I can, not because I need to is a gift as well. Whatever it is, we need to live our own lives fully in this one and only life we have, not just write imaginary stories for others. These experiences give our writing more depth.

It is in one-on-one connection where we grow and are challenged and encouraged. I want my life to count. I pray my words in my stories can encourage and bring hope and maybe even healing to the reader. But if I neglect my husband, kids, and friends, or those I meet at a craft fair, or a writer’s conference, I’m limiting the ways God can use me. Now if I’m unable to go anywhere the writing is great, but it’s still good to have a connection. It keeps me grounded and hopefully helps me avoid some of the sins that can beset creative people.

Lessons Learned While Writing: Two Kinds of Writers

Before I started writing my first novel I had heard about people outlining their books but had no concept of what that could possibly be about. I just started writing…and kept writing…and 21 days later had a book that was way too long!

When I write a non-fiction piece of work, whether a talk I’m going to give or a book, I do outline. But I find an outline restrictive to the creative process for me as a writer when I’m writing fiction. People who outline struggle to believe there’s another acceptable way to write.

So I learned there are two kinds of writers. Actually—there are two extremes. Pantsters who have no idea what there are doing and wing it and planners or plotters who outline their books, do in-depth character interviews, understand the motivations, story arc, and plot points.

The funny things is, I do some of that now, but not as much as a pure plotter would do. I’m co-authoring a series with a plotter. The first book we did together was torture for me trying to make sense of this story arc and the characters and there were timing issues that I needed to fix. That was primarily because it was handed to me to start the rough draft. I did manage it and the story is wonderful, but it was challenging on so many levels.

My plotter friend, DeeDee, and I now do much of that work together. She comes up with the main stuff and we wrestle through plot points and we talk it out quite often. I give her stuff to write as well so I’m not the only one putting original words on the page. For me getting to know the characters well has been huge for this. Plot points are suggestions and sometimes I come up with fun surprises. I figure if she reads it kind of knowing what is going to happen and I can surprise her, then I can surprise the reader too! It’s a balance that so far seems to be working for us.

Either end of the spectrum is fine. Pantsters want some love too and maybe some of that is personality or part of the unique creative soul some of us have, but it’s OK and no way of writing is right or wrong as long as the writer, in the end, produces a great piece of fiction.

If you are a writer, where do you fall on the pantster-plotter spectrum?

Spatzle Speaks: Obedient Unto Death (Book Review)

Mom doesn’t often read Biblical fiction but Liisa Eyerly’s novel, Obedient Unto Death is a suspenseful story of the early church that she at times struggled to read because it was so tense. In spite of that, the novel had moments where she surprised me by laughing out loud.

A young scribe is murdered during a covert Christian worship service. Sabina, a member of this outlawed religion, can’t believe a member of this new faith could be the killer. But when her Roman magistrate father arrests the church bishop for murder, she reluctantly admits all is not brotherly love and harmony among the faithful.

Who would have killed this man? Could it be the church’s bishop? Sabrina can’t believe that would be true. As she strives to prove the man’s innocence she is confronted with the fact that all the followers she’d considered her church family, were not all filled with love and peace.

Sabrina works hard to uncover the truth about who murdered the scribe but the journey is filled with twists and turns and unexpected dangers. Her father can only provide so much protection and will she ever be able to find a husband in the midst of this drama? Will she be able to uncover the truth in time or will she end up in prison as well for being a follower of Jesus?

Intrigue, mystery, and a dash of humor at points, makes this a difficult book to put down. I give it five bones because I’m a dog and that’s how I roll.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.