Tag Archive | grief

Spatzle Speaks: Bratwurst & Bridges (Book Review)

My mom loves to write books and she write the rough draft of this one two years ago. She even asked for prayer for when she wrote it. I had to bark to get her attention so make sure I could get outside. Bratwurst & Bridges was a consuming story.

What surprises me is how much of my mom is in this story – her heart. I don’t think she even realized just how much of her is in there. But as her dog, I know.

Pastor Dan’s wife died, and along with losing his best friend, and partner in life, he lost his chance to be a father. His wife had and he had lost several babies due to miscarriages and they had just begun to consider adoption. But now she was gone. A year later, he still grieved but had buried himself in ministry. Finally his boss, Senior Pastor Andrew, forced Dan on a leave of absence to get help and focus on his grief.

It’s not easy for a helper to get help. It takes courage. Could Dan do this? Or would he quit and walk away from ministry?

He’d sold his house and associated memories and moved into a new apartment. A single mom with two rambunctious children lives across the hall. Skye knows about God but doesn’t believe He would be interested in her, but since the handsome pastor has moved across the hall, she finds that her art has changed and she starts to ask him questions.

Zumba, skiing and true love? Can a single mom help a grieving pastor heal? Guess you’ll have to read it to find out! I give it five bones because it’s an awesome story and the way she weaves grief and new life and love together is wonderful. Not that I’m biased because the author is my mom…

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

Interview with Dan and Skye from Bratwurst & Bridges

With my latest installment in the Orchard Hill Romance series: Bratwurst & Bridges, due to release on the 28th, I thought it’d be fun to interview my two main characters in the story: Pastor Dan Wink and Skye O’Connell.

Dan, what did you first think about Skye when you met her? 

Dan: I admit she was a puzzle to me – the hair, the clothes, and those silly, fuzzy pink boots? Didn’t help that her son ran and hid in my apartment.

Same question for you, Skye? 

Skye: I confess I  watched him through the peephole in my door as he moved in. I was impressed by how good he looked. Imagine my shock when I found out he was a pastor. Really? I guess I unconsciously absorbed that beauty, even more, when I met him face to face. I was a mess and my kids were acting up…not the best, fuzzy booted foot to put forward in meeting a man, even if I wasn’t looking for a relationship.

Dan: Even though she irritated me that day, I do admit I found her kind of cute.

Skye: Really?

Dan: (blushes and nods)

What made you take a step further in the relationship beyond strangers living across the hall? 

Skye: I guess having gone through my own share of hard times, my heart went out to him when I saw how sad he often was. And strange things started happening since I first met him.

Dan: She kept asking questions and when I realized that first of all she had a tender, caring heart, and was lost as far as faith goes, I figured God had moved me there to be a light in her darkness in spite of the stifling grief that weighed me down.

Skye: I didn’t make it easy. I kept asking pesky questions.

Dan: And she never hesitated to call me out on my own hypocrisy. I gotta admit her compliments took me by surprise too.

Skye: Why? Surely you realize just how gorgeous you are?

Dan: (shrugs) I didn’t grow into my looks until I was out of high school and before that I was bullied because of my unusual eyes. I met Sharon and we were an item. I guess it was easier to just think she told me those things because she loved me. And I found it hard to embrace my appearance given how often people discounted my ability to minister effectively because of it.

Skye: Well, it certainly didn’t hurt where I was concerned.

Dan: (chuckling). You mean given that you couldn’t stop painting pictures of me?

Skye: (blushing) Well, you were a good subject for my art.

Skye, you mentioned that strange things started happening after you met Dan?

Skye: Yeah. Weird things. My paintings changed. And he was so nice to me. I’d never met any one who did nice things without some kind of ulterior motive.

Dan: She had a difficult time believing that God loved her and that was reason enough for me to be nice to her and help her when I was able.

It was a long time before you went on a date. Why?

Skye: Dan had these rules…

Dan: Principles or boundaries might be better words.

Skye: Fine. Initially, he wouldn’t talk to me in my apartment or his. So we’d have conversations in the hallway, or at the YMCA or sometimes over coffee at the local coffee shop. Always in public. Initially, I thought it was because he didn’t trust me. I finally realized he was not only protecting his reputation but me as well. It didn’t understand it all at first, but now I’m grateful because I know I can trust him. He’s a man of integrity and that was something new for me to encounter.

Dan: Well, Titus is as well.

Skye: True, but I wasn’t interested in Titus.

Dan: (grins and bumps her shoulder with his) I’m grateful for that.

How do you feel about your story releasing? 

Skye: I really love the cover.

Dan: You would. Why couldn’t you have put her on the cover? Fuzzy pink boots and all

Skye: Would you leave my boots out of this? I like them. They are warm and comfortable.

Dan: I’ve grown to like your boots. (eyebrows wiggle).

Skye: Good, because I’m not giving them up. Besides, you’re hot. I have to share you with an entire congregation so you can be on a book cover. Me? I kind of prefer being in your shadow.

Dan: Fair enough. If it makes you happy.

What did you learn most from your journey? 

Dan: That grief was keeping me from embracing all that life still had to offer me. And that I can move on and love and laugh and that is not a betrayal of the love I had for Sharon.

Skye: I learned about God’s grace and Dan was definitely Jesus with skin on as the saying goes. I’m grateful that God gave me far more than I had ever dreamed of for me and my children. I never expected God would use a handsome neighbor to shake my unbelief and transform my art and my heart by the power of His Holy Spirit. I’m sure glad He did.

 

Thanks for joining us! I hope you enjoyed getting to know Dan and Skye a little better without spoilers for their story releasing in a few days! 

Spatzle Speaks: Hounded (Anita Klumpers)

houndedFinally, a book about dogs. Could anything be better? Well, the answer is yes, as author Anita Klumpers writes a fascinating tale about dogs called Hounded.

Mom says that’s not true. It’s about a woman.

Really? 

Okay. So it’s about a widow named Elise. She’s not too sad that her stuffy husband croaked. After all she has to dogs to love her. But this is the second husband she’s lost and this one is filthy rich. (Mom says she wished she could relate to that, but I’m content.) And now they think he was murdered and she is suspect number one.

This book is part of a new series by Prism Book Group called “Love is . . .” which is exploring 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. This one looks at “Love is patient.”

An old friend who happens to be a pastor is really patient with Elise. Oh, boy is he patient. But love makes you do weird things from what I understand. I love my mom and dance for her for a treat so I can relate. But the dogs keep getting into mischief and the last thing she wants is to hear about the God who allowed her first husband, who she loved, to die. Life isn’t fair and she was having nothing of a God who orchestrated that.

This is a fast-paced romantic suspense that will keep the reader turning the pages. Anita has a special way with words and obviously with dogs because I kept panting for more. It’s a tail-wagger for sure. I give it five bones because that’s what I do. I’m a dog. I don’t do stars and I lack thumbs.

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

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

 

 

5 bones for blog

 

 

 

White Knight (Book Review)

white knightWhite Knight by Staci Stallings was free on kindle and I downloaded it and enjoyed reading this heart wrenching romance.

Eve Knox struggles beneath the weight of grief even two years after her beloved husband Dustin, a firefighter, dies as a result of a fighting a fire. She buries herself in her work and suffers the matchmaking of well-meaning friends.

A.J. Knight was a wanna-be drummer who couldn’t make it and returned home to work as an E.M.T. He was the paramedic who as a novice was first on the scene to care for Dustin as he was recovered fatally burned from a fire. That day, along with many others, haunts his soul and overshadows the lives he has saved.

When A.J. and Eve meet, laughter erupts and wounded hearts begin to heal and hope, except that A.J. has never told Eve about his perceived failure and culpability in her husband’s death. He assigns blame for the grief and sorrow she has suffered.

Can two wounded people overcome the heartache of the past and reach for a future of love and laughter? This story is a heartfelt journey of two such people and how memories of pain can overshadow the wonder and joy of love. This is a well-written book. The first chapter was difficult in trying to sort through all the characters involved but it soon becomes clear and easier to follow. Staci draws characters whose pain is experienced by the reader and a pain that is hard to set aside even when the book reaches it’s happily-ever-after and the final page turns.

Fatal Judgement (Book Review)

fatal judgementI love free books on Kindle because sometimes I find spectacular new favorites. I found Dee Henderson that way and now I’ve discovered the fabulous romantic suspense of Irene Hannon in her novel Fatal Judgement (Guardians of Justice, Book 1).

Jake Taylor is a U.S. Marshal who has been around the block and the world keeping people and countries safe. He’s recently transferred to St. Louis to be closer to family but has to hit the ground running when a murder happens at the home of a federal judge.  His new assignment is to provide protection for her: Liz Michaels, the widow of his best friend who he believes is responsible for his death. Regardless of his feelings he has a sworn duty to guard her life and he will, until warmer feelings start to interfere with his normal professional facade and defense against his own buried grief.

As they hunt down the killer, romance sizzles between the two but will the killer return and succeed where he failed before? Will Jake have the chance to tell Liz that he loves her before it’s too late?

Irene has done fabulous research and her characters are multi-layered and the plot is enough that I lost valuable sleep. Faith plays a role in the lives of the characters as they struggle to depend on God in the midst of deep grief and loss. This is the first in a series and I cannot wait to read the rest of them!

 

Rodeo Ashes (Book Review)

Rodeo ashesI’ve come to love western themed novels, whether they are historical or contemporary. Rodeo Ashes is a sweet Texan romance written by author Shannon Taylor Vannatter.

Laci Gentry is trying to make a new life for herself after losing her husband in a tragic death. With a son to care for she settles down near friends and reconnects with a former classmate, Quinn Remington. She accepts a job teaching kids how to ride at his ranch, returning herself to a former passion of her own, barrel racing. But soon she finds herself enjoying the company of a certain cowboy, Quinn.

Quinn had not seen Laci in years. He had admired her from afar in High School but has lost track of her. He had not known that she had been married to the famous Mel Gentry. In spite of a secret he keeps regarding Mel’s death, he cannot stop being drawn to the lovely widow.

This truly is a sweet and tender romance. New love is challenged and tested and faith and forgiveness put into place in a very real way. Healing is possible in time and God does bring beauty out of the ashes of our grief and guilt. This book shows those truths powerfully.

A Letter to a Dying Pastor

I haven’t posted in a long time as we prepare for  move to a new home. But Mark Steele was not only a pastor but a friend and mentor and employer for years and had a huge impact on my life. We served for years together at a church plant called Stonebridge Community Church. He is now in heaven after a short battle with cancer and my heart grieves. Here’s part of a letter I wrote to him a few days before he died. Not sure if he got to read it or not. I pray that somehow God can use me in the lives of others like He used Mark in mine.                                                                                                

June 1, 2011

Dear Mark,

I want you to know how much I appreciated you and the time and effort you put into mentoring a young woman in grad school who had been hurt by a previous church experience.  I learned so many things at Stonebridge. You just happened to be a large part of those memories although God was always the One doing the work. Thank you for your investment in me.

I remember the first time you ever asked me how my relationship with God was. I felt a little on the hot seat, like I was going to be taken to task for any slip up. But that was not the case. I soon learned that you asking about my relationship with God was an expression of love and a desire to help me continue to grow in my faith.  Over the years I have had so many people ask why I get up so early in the morning – but it is because that is one of the few times in my day when I can be alone with God and my thoughts and prayers. I still have so much further to go – but have come so far by His grace and patience with me. Thank you for caring enough to ask.

I remember when we did our Sunday mornings at the YMCA and we would pray and see God do amazing things. To see people come to Christ. To see them serve in their area of giftedness and passion. To see sacrifice and joy in the tasks before us. We were a family – one that I am still a part of in so many ways. I’m blessed to still have friends from those days who are intersecting with my life, some on facebook now and others in person at times. How amazing it all was.

I remember learning to “stay engaged through the pain.” If that wasn’t an axiom of Mark Steele I don’t know what was. I so often wanted to run when the pain got to be more than I thought I could bear. But you never let me. You didn’t tell me I couldn’t, but you let me seek God and entrusted that HE wouldn’t let me run. And He didn’t. Ministry is tough. Leadership can be lonely and painful, but you taught me that integrity was priceless and to persevere anyway. Not that I didn’t make my share of mistakes as I “grew up” in our Stonebridge family, but I learned from them and moved on and “I will never be the same again, I can never return, I’ve closed the door. . . “

Songs: “Saddle up Your horses – we’ve got a trail to blaze!” “Fear Not, for I am with you, fear not, for I am with you. . . “ “Be bold, Be strong, for the Lord Your God is with you!” (I remember Allison yelling out those words loud!), ‘Leave a light on for me. . .” oh, and so many others.  Those songs are Stonebridge to me – a precious moment in time I hope I never forget.

I remember an orange van that we painted burgundy. I remember loading that van over and over and over again!

I remember music rehearsals taking place in your home late into the night on Mondays.

I remember meeting at Hardees and later at Mayfair mall food court for our “staff meetings”.

I remember getting paid $1 for my first year of employment!

I remember you coming through a colored curtain a la Johnny Carson!

I remember being taught about protecting a marriage with firm boundaries.

I remember when you debated whether or not to shave off your mustache – and you did it and never went back!  Right after that we had more men in our church with mustaches and beards than ever before! Too funny. (You have a mustache in our wedding pictures!)

I remember you liking cherry pie.

I remember after a conference, how you would always quiz us about what we learned and took away so that our experience would stick and not just be a moment to be forgotten (I do this with my kids now!).

I remember fearing your return from study break because I knew you would come back refreshed and full of ideas that I would somehow have to put legs and feet to.

I remember your hugs. You were always a hugger. I loved that. I miss your hugs.

I miss the synergy of what we had as a team on Sundays.  There was, most of the time, something very precious and beautiful that happened.

I remember having to make sure you were presentable before going up on stage – and one day asking if your fly was zipped – and surprisingly enough you found it wasn’t!  I hadn’t noticed personally – it was just part of the routine! (giggling)

Many people will criticize Stonebridge for having been seeker-targeted. I don’t. It opened up my heart to the reality of hurting people who needed Jesus and trying to make a place where they would feel welcome. It’s a value I carry with me today.

I learned about the dangers of triangulation. I learned about confidentiality. I learned about the value of a pastor who “has your back” when times are tough.  I learned about authenticity and perseverance and spiritual warfare. I learned to submit to godly leadership (even if I didn’t always like it.) I learned to accept change better. You always said I would kick and scream at first (metaphorically) and then settle in just fine! I learned about the power of encouragement.

I learned that even serving with a limp (depression) is something that can bring honor and glory to God and no matter how unacceptable we feel we are – the church is blessed when we come and step up in faith to serve our glorious King.

I learned more about worship at New Community than I had ever learned before.

I see my time serving with you at Stonebridge as a series of life-defining moments.

I remember laughter and tears and prayer walks.

I remember camping.

I have learned it is sometimes better to take a risk and fail than to always play it safe. I learned that pushing the envelope can be a very good thing if God is behind it.

I learned that none of us are “normal!”

I remember that you always loved to be on the cutting edge of technology and always knew “just enough to be dangerous.”

I have seen God redeem pain in amazing ways. I have taught many women master’s level theology and leadership classes – and some of my lessons don’t come from a textbook .  I found that I love to teach. Because of what I have learned at your feet, Mark, I have strived to be a blessing to the leaders at the church where I serve. I’ve been blessed with leaders who strive to be “healthy.” I continue to learn so much but fear that if I hadn’t had the foundation for it, which you helped me build as a leader, I would not be as nearly effective for the kingdom.

Because of you, I value more than ever true life change – that process of sanctification we all should be embracing but many Christians don’t.  I have raised a higher standard for women in leadership that involves godly character (not as easy to find as some might think – leading women is much harder than working with men in my opinion!).

You have definitely left your “mark” on me for sure as well as on many others. (pun intended!)

I continue, Mark, to pray for your healing. Yet I felt that if God chooses to favor you with the joy of His presence face-to-face while the rest of us wait in a pain-filled sinful world, that I couldn’t not let you know, once again, how much you have impacted my life for the better.

Okay – I am sure I could write more. Heck, I write novels but you probably wouldn’t have the strength or patience to read that much! There is a nice pile of Kleenex next to me to give  testimony to the grief in my heart over what you and your family are suffering through. I know God gives grace for the journey and my own tears are more selfish than anything.

I will continue to pray for healing – even knowing that God’s view of that might be ultimate healing that comes from being in eternity with Him.

With much love and fondness, as your sister in Christ,

For His glory alone,

 Susan