Category: Books

Reflection Book Two is Live Today

Say hello to Martha of Bethany. She’s the second Bible woman to be featured in my Reflections series, books from the heart and for the heart.

Tagline

Sister and Servant: A Life of Sacrifice and Love

Blurb

Martha was never meant to be the head of her household, but a plague left her as the main caretaker for her piecemeal family. She is too busy juggling responsibilities to worry about her siblings Lazarus and Mary’s expectations that Yeshua of Nazareth is Messiah.

Then she meets Yeshua face to face. A single look from him and Martha’s heart knows that he is Israel’s Messiah. But undone work awaits, and Martha ignores the guilt of placing her worldly obligations before G-d—until Lazarus lies gravely ill.

The Lord’s Anointed arrives too late to save Lazarus but asks Martha to place her faith in him. She believes he’s the One but is still amazed when he calls Lazarus from the dead, proving to all he is Messiah.

Still, many don’t believe, and word of Yeshua’s miracle ultimately leads to his crucifixion. Martha’s family is shattered once more by a beloved’s death. Will faith allow her to set aside the weight of responsibility without stopping her loving service for others?

 

Today’s the day. Although the paperback version has been available for several weeks, today is the official release day for this book.

Snag a copy now. You can get it for your Kindle or for your other digital reader.

If you’re one of my advance readers, today’s the day you can post your reviews everywhere. Will it live up to the five-star expectations that book one received?

Check out those reviews here.

Do you have your copy?

Third Glimpse behind the Curtain

Tomorrow is my birthday. Let’s celebrate by ME giving YOU another free peek inside my latest book. A Pondering Heart is the first in a series of biblical fiction that stretched both my faith and my writing ability.

But you don’t care about that. You’ve read chapter one and chapter two, and now you’re ready to keep reading. Today, you’ll meet Joseph of Nazareth. What man would believe the tale he’s about to hear from his “wife”?

If you enjoy these samples, please comment. I’d like to offer the same for the next two books, but not if they aren’t worth reading.

Here’s chapter three of Reflections Book One:

What a welcome home! I bolted outside and heaved into the waste bucket until I thought my stomach might rend in half. I vomited until all that came out was a thick green slime. It burned my throat as it erupted from my mouth.

It was beginning. I pressed my sleeping shift against my stomach. Elisabeth warned me to expect as much as a month of nausea, usually just in the mornings. She kept flat bread beside her sleeping couch, claiming it helped to have something in the stomach before trying to stand up in the mornings.

I didn’t know if I would be able to convince Anna to let me leave food beside my bed. Even if she allowed it, my brothers might eat it before I did. Those three were always hungry.

I clutched my stomach and returned inside. Tonight, Father and I would meet with Joseph. He had built a new house in town beside his shop. Father told me Joseph had been traveling for much of the time I was visiting my cousins. Did he wonder why I left so suddenly without a word to anyone?

Father told me nothing of his plan to approach the subject of my sudden pregnancy. Neither of us expected Joseph to uphold his end of the espousal agreement, not that we spoke our doubts aloud. An honorable man like Joseph bar Jacob would find infidelity an unacceptable breach of contract. How could I defend my virtue when my body told a different story?

Darkness fell early. Father and I walked to the village and down a small street far from the town’s center to a sturdy brick building. Joseph’s house (would it ever be mine?), a simple two room box, had sturdy wooden furnishings. Two pillows were nestled together near the hearth. Father lowered himself onto one of them. I stared toward the ground and nearly missed Joseph’s gesture for me to sit on the other pillow.

Father shook his head.

“Thank you,” I said, raising my eyes as far as Joseph’s beard, “I will share with Abba.”

Joseph nodded. “Would you care for wine, Father Heli?”

“Not at the moment.”

I squatted beside Father on the edge of the pillow, my back resting against his side. Joseph folded his legs beneath him and nodded to Father respectfully.

In the light of the candles flickering on the nearby table, I studied this man, my betrothed. Flecks of gray dotted his dark brown beard, which he kept closely trimmed to his face. His skin was sun-darkened and weathered.

Pale brown eyes stared at Father. The planes of his face were broad and masculine, accentuated by his neatly trimmed hair, which hung to the collar of his robe in the back but was brushed away from his face in the front. It wasn’t a traditional haircut, but it made sense for a man who bent over wood and stone, working with tools all day.

The two exchanged greetings and small talk, while I watched Joseph from beneath my lashes. I pulled my shawl further forward to camouflage the inappropriate staring.

“This is more than a social visit,” Father said.

Joseph nodded. “Of course.”

I felt Father glance toward me. I clenched my skirts with suddenly cold hands. Tightness in my chest made breathing difficult.

“Something unexpected has mired our betrothal agreement,” Father said. “In days to come, you will surely hear many unflattering accounts of loose behavior and speculations against my Mary’s character. An honorable man should never learn things in such a manner.”

Joseph tilted his head toward Father, but his eyes swept in my direction. Heat clawed up my neck and burned my cheeks.

“Just over three months ago, Jehovah’s messenger visited Mary.”

A whisper of wind could have knocked me backward at that moment. Father said we would keep the truth from everyone, and yet he was telling Joseph. I glanced toward my future husband, wondering how he would react to the unbelievable account.

His face didn’t change while Father repeated the angel’s declaration. A calloused brown hand smoothed his beard. He cupped his chin in one hand, a finger straying to cover his strong mouth.

Father’s direct approach shouldn’t have surprised me. Of course he would tell Joseph. How else would he explain my condition?

“Mary is with child,” Father said. “Although she has done nothing to violate the marriage contract, the law gives you the right to divorce her.”

Joseph’s brown eyes filled with emotion. I guessed it was disbelief. My experience spotting Anna’s disapproval and condemnation made it easy to rule out those emotions. He rested his gaze on me, and I tried to shrink into my robe, wishing for a larger shawl to hide my embarrassment.
If he spoke to me, what would I say? The whole thing sounded absurd when Father admitted it aloud.

“You realize how incredible this sounds?” Joseph drew each of his words out, as if carefully selecting them.

“Yes. Precisely why no one outside this room knows about it.”

Not exactly true. I had wanted to tell Father about Elisabeth’s prophecy, but the trip had worn me beyond fatigue. Too tired to eat dinner, I had gone directly to bed when I arrived the previous day.

“You are claiming she is carrying the Messiah,” Joseph said.

“I claim nothing. I am simply repeating what happened.”

If what Elisabeth said was true, I would see this son rise to a position of importance. If Jehovah knew how scared the thought of being set aside by Joseph and shaming my father made me, would he still choose me? After all, I was no one. And now, his special child would be worse than an outcast and raised by a woman considered to have a loose reputation.

“I’m expected to believe my wife is pregnant but didn’t have marital relations with another man?”

Father’s silence made my stomach clench. Bile burned the back of my throat. I gritted my teeth, keeping the churning acid from making an escape. If I vomited here, I would die.

“I expect you to accept my word, one honorable man to another.”

Silence filled the space around us. It was so complete I could hear the fire hissing against the lard on the candle nearest to me. Father expected too much.

“A large request, Heli,” Joseph said. His face unreadable, voice unchanging; the man’s emotions mystified me. Did he think Father lied to him?
No arguing—it was an amazing tale. So why should he believe it? Especially with his honor at stake.

By some miracle of faith, if he agreed to marry me, people would say we had prematurely consummated the wedding contract. If he broke our agreement, folks would believe I had stepped out during the engagement.

“I will respect whatever decision you make.” Father never once dropped his gaze from Joseph’s.

Silence dripped. Time dragged. My feet itched to run away while my stomach tumbled, threatening to disgorge the lentils and bread I’d eaten for supper.

“I will consider your words and weigh my options,” Joseph said.

He rose smoothly, bowing his head in reverence to my father. I scrambled to my feet, steadying Father as he stood. Creaks and groans sounded from his joints, reminding me that he was no longer a young man. How much had my predicament aged him?

Tears burned my eyes, blinding me from seeing the final exchange of glances between the men. I dared not spare a single look toward Joseph. Let his dismissal of me arrive in a writ on the morrow. It would be easier than hearing him denounce my father’s honor in person.

That night, again, a flood of tears soaked my pillow. Is it true Jehovah keeps them all in a bottle? He will have to wring my pillow to capture the innumerable drops shed since his pronouncement.

Enjoying the story so far? Grab your copy now. REFLECTIONS: A PONDERING HEART is available in paperback, eBook and audio.

Go ahead and spend Christmas with Mary of Nazareth. Experience the true wonder of this holiday season.

Merry Christmas from Mary

This month, I’ll be giving away the first three chapters of the first book in my Reflections series. That’s right. If you follow the blog, you’ll get to read the first three chapters (one per week) without investing more than your time.

Of course, I hope you get invested in the story. I hope you love it like so many readers who’ve left ONLY POSITIVE reviews about the story.

Reviews like this one:

But now, as I’ve promised. Here is chapter one of A Pondering Heart, Reflections Book One:

The day my world changed began like every other day in recent memory. An orange sun rose over the brushy hills. Pasty clouds chased each other across the blue expanse of sky. A refreshing chill from the autumn air nipped my cheeks.

I meandered along the worn dirt path. My destination was the same as every morning: the cave beneath the terraced hillside where my father planted his crops. Over the past three years, the path had worn to little more than a rut beneath the constant traffic of my sandal-clad feet and the goats’ sharp hooves.

At the mouth of the cave, I swung the wooden gate toward myself and ducked to keep from knocking my forehead on the rocks. Not that I was tall, but the entrance wasn’t even six spans high.

When I entered our makeshift stable, the milk nanny rubbed her nose against the wool girdle that secured a water bladder to my hip. I pushed her away, scratching her forehead to ease the rebuke. She whined. One look at her engorged udder explained her urgent desire to follow me out of the pen. With one hand on her leather collar, I secured the gate behind me. Not a moment too soon. The other goats pressed their faces through the wide rungs. Their persistent baas echoed around the cave.

I patted a few of their heads. Pushing the shawl back onto my shoulders, I knelt to begin the task of milking. A hummed tune lifted my heart and kept the bleats of the kids in check. My thoughts wandered to the dream I had about my wedding last night. Rather than my face being hidden, the face of my groom was covered with a veil. Some say dreams have significance. If that’s true, what did this one mean?

Soon, the udder hung limply, and the nanny pushed her nose into the enclosure. I never had to tie her as long as her kids were penned up. Most of the young ones were meat goats, not her babies at all, but she seemed to adopt them anyway. The goat knew mothering better than Anna, my father’s wife. But I shouldn’t complain. It would harden my spirit, and if my stepmother had taught me anything, it was that I didn’t want to become bitter.

I carried the pot of milk through a narrow tunnel into a cool room. Light filtered through several fissures. I strained my eyes to make out the large pot and small jar sitting on a ledge in the wall. I placed the fresh milk beside the other containers and reached into the large pot.
The sour smell of curdling milk stung my nose. The curds were still too small and soft. At least one more day before the cheese would be ready for draining. One less thing on my list of responsibilities for today. I sighed. I loved making the cheese almost as much as eating it, but I hated listening to Anna complain about the smell when I brought it into the house to mix in the herbs and salt.

I scuttled back to the main cave, wiping my hands along my skirt. The goats bleated as I opened their enclosure. My little flock surrounded me, snuffling at my girdle, hoping for a treat. I laughed, fondling their ears while leading them into the scraggly grass surrounding our home. Now that the harvest was well past and Father’s winter wheat plucked its head in the midfields, foraging became a chore. There wasn’t much fodder, since they had been grazing these fields for a month. The time for selling the young ones neared. Luckily, the market for goat meat never waned in Nazareth.

With a critical gaze, I studied the three male kids. I would need to choose the most perfect one and keep it for Pesach, still four months away. Since I had begun caring for the goats, Father always let me decide which one was unblemished and fit for sacrifice.

Gamboling, frolicking, nipping at each other, the kids led the way to the watering hole. Adults pulled chunks of grass, wayward leaves on the bushes, and even strips of bark along the way. All around me, the pasture looked forlorn. It was nearly time to stake my herd closer to the house, where they would clean up the remainder of Anna’s vegetable patch. Of course, I would need to be doubly certain she was finished with it. For such a small woman, her rants stung like a whip. At least she saved most of them for me or my sister, Mary (how confusing to have two Marys in the house), leaving my not-quite eight-year-old brother Jesse unscathed.

The sun rose, and my breath no longer misted in the cool air. I glanced at the sky, measuring the height of the sun. Still plenty of time to sweep the floors before Anna trekked to market, leaving me in charge of the young ones and preparing the midday meal for Father.

I herded the goats back into the cave, promising to give them another chance to graze before dinner. Maybe I was crazy for talking to them. They weren’t human after all. But life could be lonely on a farm.

I pulled the jar of fresh milk from the cool room. Amazing how a single hour in the dark space dropped the temperature. I carried it in the crook of my elbow.

When I left the cave, a draft pushed the scents of goat, manure, and moldering straw away from me. I didn’t mind the smell of the goats, but fresh morning air always relaxed me. My shoulders sagged, and I trudged away from the cliffs, never too anxious to return to Anna’s domain.
As I rounded the bend, I glanced up at the dusty track leading to the house. What I saw froze me in place.

A most unusual man blocked the path. His white flowing robe reflected the sunlight. Golden-white hair haloed his sharp, pale features, which sparkled with iridescence. Eyes the color of the sky, seeming illumined from within, pierced me as easily as a sharp knife.

“Hail, thou that art highly favored.”[Luke 1:28] His voice shook the ground. Or maybe that was just my legs trembling.

My heart thumped against my ribs, and my breath gurgled in my throat. I clenched the pot, unwilling to let my morning’s work fall prey to my terror.

“The Lord is with thee,” the man continued. “Blessed art thou among women.”[Luke 1:28]

My mind spun, waking, at the strange greeting, from the paralysis his musical voice caused. How was a farmer’s daughter highly favored? Certainly the dung caking the soles of my sandals sang a different tune. Who was this man to assure me of my relationship with Jehovah? Yes, I prayed each morning and night, as Father had taught us all, but how could this one know that?

Most disturbing was the final part of his greeting. Only one woman would be considered blessed among the daughters of Eve and Sarah. I was not that woman. I was just a girl.

“Fear not, Mary.” He extended a pale hand toward me. “For thou hast found favor with God.”[Luke 1:30]

Was this a heavenly messenger? I loved Jehovah as much as any of my friends, but why would the Almighty give honor to a girl like me? A haze of unreality veiled my mind.

“And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.”[Luke 1:31]

Now I knew the messenger had the wrong house. I couldn’t have a baby, because I didn’t have a husband. Yet. Was he accusing me of being intimate with a man? My face flushed.

“He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David.”[Luke 1:32] I admit I gasped at this. “And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”[Luke 1:33]

My stomach dropped to my feet, and my arm lost all strength, sending the clay pot plummeting to the earth. It splattered near my toes, sloshing goat’s milk onto the barren ground. The words proclaimed by this messenger echoed the prophecies of old and the promises made to my father’s great-grandfather. The phrasing matched words spoken by my father’s deep, warm voice during our evening devotions. A similar thrill evoked by those recitations tingled along my skin.

This messenger spoke of the Messiah, but what he said couldn’t be true. I could prove it to him.

“How shall this be?” When I asked about this delicate subject, heat flooded my face, and I couldn’t look directly at the man. “Seeing I know not a man?”[Luke 1:34]

I was betrothed, yes, but I remained innocent. I might be a simple farm girl, but I knew how children were planted in a woman by the man’s seed. And I had never been with any man in the intimate way reserved for married couples.

I pictured the kind face of my betrothed, and my heart skipped in my chest. He was godly, handsome even, but we had never even touched hands. To lie with him as a married woman? I couldn’t imagine it.

The Lord’s messenger didn’t seem surprised by my question. He continued without pause.

“The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee.”[Luke 1:35]

A verse Father shared from the prophet Isaiah rang in my mind: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”[Isaiah 7:14]

My mouth dried like summer-parched ground. I forced saliva in, swallowing past the pomegranate in my throat.

“Immanuel?” It still came out as a whisper.

The angel-I can hardly believe Jehovah sent an angel to me-nodded and said, “That holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”[Luke 1:35]

My mind, whirling and bucking, refused to process the full meaning of these words. Even as I’m jotting the whole thing down now, it seems so unreal. A fantastic dream.

“Thy cousin, Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age,” the man in white said. “This is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.”[Luke 1:36]

Elisabeth? She had been an old woman when last I saw her. Older than Father. Women that old were beyond childbearing years.

The angel gave a slight nod of his head. He must have seen understanding glimmer in my eyes.

“With God nothing shall be impossible,”[Luke 1:37] he said.

Elisabeth had miraculously conceived. According to Jehovah’s messenger, I would experience a similar conception. Similar, but not the same. The Spirit of God would father my child. My hand flew to my flat stomach. With fingers buried between the folds of my gray robe, I wondered how it would be possible. Had it already happened?

The man in glistening white garments waited. Did he expect me to have a return message? My throat constricted again. What could a poor girl say to the King of Glory?

Finally, I found my voice. It sounded stronger than I felt.

“Behold the handmaid of the Lord,” I said, bowing my head toward the angel, “be it unto me according to thy word.”[Luke 1:38]

When I looked up, the path before me was empty. The house was only a few steps away. My foot throbbed, waking me from my stupor. My smallest three toes had blackened ends. A puddle of thick white liquid slowly soaked into the ground.

Who can I tell about this? I can’t tell Joseph. He would never believe such a tale. Who would?

Enjoying the story so far? Grab your copy now. REFLECTIONS: A PONDERING HEART is available in paperback, eBook and audio.

A Preview of A Laboring Hand

November is halfway over. My Reflections series has been introduced, and I’m thankful for those of you who have purchased, read and reviewed the book. But it is only the first in a series, and I’m going to give you a peek inside the second book in the series today.

Today’s excerpt comes from A Laboring Hand, Reflections Book Two, which releases to the public in January 2020.

If you’re familiar with Mary and Martha of Bethany, you’ll recognize this scene. It’s based on Luke 10:38-42. I’m intentionally starting in the middle of the scene so you can’t see what leads up to Martha’s frustration.

I hope you glimpse the overwhelmed, responsible big sister whose trying to make sure her guests are content and satisfied. Not only is she serious about being the “hostess with the mostest,” Martha wants her siblings to help.

How often have you been frustrated with the lack of help from your family during a hosted event? Or maybe I’m the only person who can imagine this actually happening.

Excerpted from A Laboring Hand, chapter four:

Soon enough, the laughter and banter of a crowd of dusty men filled the room. I welcomed them with a small bowl of water and a clean linen cloth. Well, it was clean for the first man or two who dried their hands.

Yeshua reclined at the head of the table on the largest cushion which my parents had often shared. John bar Zebedee, one of the Boanerges, sat on it with the Master. He was only a couple years older than Mary and the youngest of all the Master’s followers.

The crowd of dirty disciples filled the room, folded onto other cushions. Some chose to lean against the wall on rugs Laz had pulled from his room and ours. The dirt floor could hardly be seen with so many men sprawled around the room.

Mary and I circulated with pitchers, filling every cup we owned and still two men shared each one of the battered pottery pieces. Once we finished, I began to distribute bowls of spiced beans and cloth-wrapped packages of bread, still warm from their place on the hearth. I turned to ask Mary to assist me, but she’d seated herself cross-legged at Yeshua’s feet, staring up as he started to teach.

I blinked hard. What on earth was she thinking? Was this her rebellion since I hadn’t let her get water for foot washing? She was certainly positioned in a way that she could wash his feet if she had the supplies.

I continued bustling around taking care of our guests, but my frustration grew. Yeshua’s authoritative voice, usually so soothing, fueled the ire inside me. He could make her help me. I glanced at Laz, but my brother was watching the Master and scribbling on a piece of parchment. Mary never once looked my way, even when I nudged her with my ankle as I passed to refill the cup John shared with Yeshua.

They had promised to help. When I’d first mentioned inviting the group to stay over for more than a day, both Laz and Mary agreed to help with the work. Now they sat there, enjoying Yeshua’s teaching while I served everyone.

With a careful eye, I glanced at every cup and bowl. Levi raised his cup in my direction, and I sidled through the sprawled bodies to fill it, nearly tripping on another man’s filthy feet.

The mud-caked toes never even flinched, and my bubble of anger swelled. I swallowed it, and turned to top off his cup. He stared through me, as if I were invisible, but I was used to that from working in the Pharisee’s home. In the past, Yeshua’s friends were more gracious.

Unrest stirred inside me as I shuffled around, refilling cups and then fetching more bread to replenish the diminishing stacks. After refilling my pitcher from the jar stored beneath the eaves, I counted the loaves in the linen clothes on the counter. Only three dozen were left. Soon, I would need to bake more.

And that’s when it became too much. I strode toward Yeshua holding the jug of watered wine aloft and jabbed my sister with a meaningful kick. She blinked, staring at me for a moment as if I’d woken her from a deep sleep.

As I filled the Lord’s cup, I said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone?”

A hush descended in the room. I heard the wine trickle against what was in his cup. Our eyes met.

“Bid her to help me.” Couldn’t he see how much work needed to be done? And Mary was just sitting there like a useless lump.

“Martha.” His voice was quieter than it had been, almost gentle.

At the sound of my name from his lips, the turmoil loosened inside me. Why had I waited so long to ask for his assistance? His dark eyes filled with understanding and concern. I knew he would help me because he cared about me.

“Martha, you’re anxious and worried about many things.”

The comfort oozing through me turned sharp and became a prickle of conviction. Worry was sin. My father had told me so.

“But one thing is needful.”

One thing? I wanted to jerk my hand around at the crowd of hungry men who needed food, drink, and places to sleep. There were many things that needed to be taken care of. I knew he could see that.

Yeshua sighed. His fingers rested on the handle of the pitcher beside mine. They were square and scuffed—working man’s hands.

“And Mary hath chosen that good part.” His voice rose slightly, but not with anger or impatience, and his hand dropped to his lap. “And that won’t be taken away from her.”

Everything warred within me as I struggled to comprehend his words. Mary was sitting there while our guests needed food and drink. How was that better than helping me meet their needs?

With one long glance, he turned to scan the room. “A certain man…”

I recognized the beginning of a parable. Usually I loved his stories—they always carried so much spiritual significance. Tonight, I couldn’t listen because the words he’d spoken to me stung my heart.

Mary hath chosen that good part.

I filled cups with lowered eyes. Tears burned at the back of my eyelids whenever I blinked, but I widened my eyes and jerked my shawl up to cover most of my face.

Mary sat at his feet doing nothing, but Yeshua said she’d chosen the good part. Mary hath chosen that good part. The words kept echoing all evening, drowning out the Master’s stories and the disciples’ questions.

Even now, as I’m writing about it, his gentle admonition stings somewhere deep in my soul. Was there something wrong with my desire to make the men comfortable? Did Yeshua not want a meal and refreshment while he was talking?

One thing is needful. What one thing?

Mary stirred on our shared bed. Her forehead wrinkled and then smoothed. As I’d helped her prepare for bed, I’d wanted to ask about the lessons, but I felt foolish. If I asked, she would know that I hadn’t paid attention while Yeshua taught.

Why did that make me feel guilty? Yeshua wasn’t angry with me. He even thanked me for the food and drink as I passed him to go to bed.

Yahweh help me understand what this means. What is the one needful thing for me to do? Sit and listen like my sister?

I sighed and my heart weighed more heavily in my chest. But if I do that, who will do the work?

**This is copyrighted material.

Are you ready to read MORE of Martha’s story? If you will commit to posting a review of the book on Amazon (and perhaps Goodreads and Book Bub), you can sign up for an advance copy. They will be going out to my Advance Review Team in December. Sign up here.

Take a Look Inside My Newest Series

This comes to you from chapter six of REFLECTIONS: A PONDERING HEART, the story of Jesus Christ from the journal of his mother, Mary.
Is there a better way to spend Christmas than with the Christ?


The sun’s last rays kissed the walls of Bethlehem as our group straggled within view of the city. Rather than heading toward the gates, Joseph followed a well-worn path to the east. His uncle lived outside the walls, near the shepherds. He spun cloth from the sheep’s wool and grew a supply of linen on a small plot of ground. Most farmland stretched further to the west, away from the meandering sheep. Or maybe away from the shepherds, who weren’t considered the cleanest of people.

We parted from the other travelers, including the grumbling man and his donkey. My feet protested against walking. I rubbed my lower back, stretching my shoulders to relieve the pressure. It would be good to sleep on a mattress again. The hard ground hadn’t done any favors for my already stressed muscles.

Joseph lessened his stride so I could remain beside him. Bleating and the familiar odors of sweat and dung eased my anxiety. These were smells and sounds of home. A group of keepers milled around the low walls of a sheepfold. Three stood in the doorway.

One goat rubbed its head against a shepherd’s leg. A twinge of sadness poked my heart. I missed my goats. My sister Mary cared for them, but she had given up the cheese-making. My mouth watered at the idea of spreading the soft, fresh goat cheese on bread. Perhaps Joseph’s uncle would invite us to join his table for dinner. Anything other than stringy dried meat sounded appealing.

The pathway widened into a well-traveled track with deeper ruts. I stumbled on a rock, too busy gazing at the shorn fields to watch my step; the advancing twilight didn’t help matters. With a strong hand on my upper arm, Joseph steadied me. Our pace slowed even more. I yearned to arrive at his uncle’s house, but my legs rebelled against moving any faster.

The smoky odor of cooking meat made my stomach rumble. I pressed my fingers over it and earned a kick from the babe. Out of the shadows, two buildings emerged beside the road.

From the larger of the structures, candlelight flickered invitingly. It was a flat-topped adobe building, common in Nazareth for merchants and shop owners. It was strange to see one outside the city walls.

I stood behind Joseph when he knocked on the door. It seemed a long while before the man appeared in the doorway. He had more gray hair than Joseph, but otherwise didn’t seem much older.

“Joseph,” the man said. His eyes slid toward me and he stepped outside, joining us in front of the house. “Your cousins arrived yesterday.”

“Travel was difficult,” Joseph said.

Uncle Biram nodded. “I have no room left in the house.”

He seemed embarrassed to admit this, looking toward the ground rather than directly at Joseph.

“The roof would be fine. Something for Mary to sleep on is all we really need.”

His uncle’s gaze rested on me, sliding down to where my hand rested on my distended abdomen. His eyebrows drew together. Would there be no escaping the judgmental scowls? We were miles from home and the untimeliness of my motherhood still garnered speculation.

“The roof is where we put Nadab and his family. They arrived two days ago.”

Joseph nodded. Were we being turned away by his family? Trembling started in my lower legs. I leaned into Joseph’s broad back. Behind his uncle, the door to the house opened and a woman emerged, holding a candle in a shallow pottery dish.

“Biram? Oh, it’s Joseph. Hello.”

“Aunt Leah.” Joseph nodded his head in respect.

“I was just telling them about our full house,” Biram said.

“This crazy census.” Aunt Leah shook her head, corners of her generous mouth turning down.

“I can find other accommodations tomorrow. If you could at least spare some floor space for one night—”

I could see Uncle Biram opening his mouth to deny this plea. Shame and anger clashed in my gut, making the empty organ churn. The baby kicked against my ribs.

“The barn,” the woman said. “We’ve room in there for you.”

I turned to gaze at the other building, stone and wood, shabbier than the adobe structure. It would be out of the wind and cooling night air. Perhaps I would find clean straw to mound into a pallet. It would be an improvement over sleeping beside the road. My back cramped at the thought of another night on the sun-hardened earth.

“Thank you.”

“I’ll bring some food out,” she said. “I see you have blankets.”

“Sorry I couldn’t offer you something more.” Biram sounded apologetic, and his gaze didn’t stray toward me this time.

“Times are hard for everyone, Uncle,” Joseph said.

He turned to me, face in shadow. His fingers closed around my elbow. We moved toward the barn. Behind us, the door to the house closed.
“It’s because of me.”

Joseph draped his arm over my shoulder, pulling me against his side. My head nearly fit there.

“My cousins came to register. You heard them.”

“The way he looked at me . . .”

“I’m sorry.” His lips pressed against the top of my head, reminding me of something my father did when I was a much younger girl. When would we have a normal husband and wife relationship? Maybe never. Nothing was normal for me now. It never would be.

I swallowed away the tears. The dark doorway into the barn loomed before us. Stepping inside, the familiar scents of animals and manure embraced me. Tension drained from my shoulders.

I would be more comfortable here than in a house full of condemning relatives.

Pick up a copy now. It’s available in paperback, digital and audio formats. This makes a great gift for the readers in your life, too. Better yet, with the purchase of the paperback, the digital and audio copies are reduced in price, so you can shop for three distinctive readers.

REFLECTIONS Series: Have You Read Book One?

I’m thrilled to announce that the first book of the REFLECTIONS series is live on Amazon. In fact, it’s available in three formats and at discounted rates if you buy the print version and add on either digital or audio (or both).

Better yet, it’s so pretty.

I know the woman on the cover isn’t authentic to first century dress. Scroll down to see the covers of the other three books in the series. I did much better using authentic models on those covers.

But, I’m SO overjoyed to have my first self-published title recovered and rebranded under my InkSpired imprint.

Also, I’m doing some live author events in November. I hope you’ll be excited enough to get an autographed copy that you’ll plan to attend.

REFLECTIONS: Where it Started

This started years ago as a seed planted from a Facebook quiz.

I know. That’s crazy. But if you’ve followed this blog for long, you know that I get story ideas from many strange places.

“I don’t think I’m anything like Mary the mother of Jesus. I mean, God chose her to be the mother of His Son. She must have been perfect.”

A comment from a friend on Facebook that went something like that planted the seed for this story in my heart and mind.
Because I had felt similarly. In fact, I’d retaken the silly Facebook quiz because I’d gotten Mary the mother of Jesus as my first answer, and I thought, “NOT!”

But why? Aside from the Catholic compulsion to saint Mary and pray to her for absolution of sin (which doesn’t have a basis in scripture), why would any human who lived be “perfect” or “above me”?

Because I don’t have the right perspective. I think that the fact Peter, Paul and Mary are written about in scripture means they are superior human examples. (Bonus points if you thought “The sixties folk singing trio?” when you read those names.)
They are human. God used them as examples.

None of them are perfect. The only perfect person to live? Jesus Christ.

And suddenly, I felt an urge to tell Mary’s story so people would see her as a woman who God chose to mother His Son. What would she feel? What would she think?

Well, scripture is clear she pondered many things in her heart.

And there you have the title.

The first version of this book was self-published on CreateSpace in 2015.

This updated version includes two additional scenes and a section of lesson plans so the book can be used in Sunday school classes or youth groups to help teenagers grasp the humanity of Mary of Nazareth

REFLECTIONS: A PONDERING HEART

This is the new cover and blurb, as well as some reviews of the first edition.

From Handmaid to Madonna: a journey fraught with agony

Blurb

My father asked me to keep the strangest parts of this story to myself, but I’ve always worked my thoughts out best when I put them on parchment. So, this journey begins the day an angel informed me I would have a baby—before I was even married.

On that day, the girl who loved her goats and spent time making cheese to sell disappeared.

Once Joseph realized I hadn’t betrayed him, life settled into a new pattern. In the next few years, I traveled further than I had in the fourteen years before them. But my spiritual pilgrimage had barely begun.

“You’ll call him Jesus,” Yahweh’s messenger told me. The old man in the temple prophesied that my soul would be pierced with many sorrows. From Judea to Egypt and back to Nazareth, swords of sorrow struck my heart and mind.

Jesus was only the first of five sons I would mother, but his life changed us all. For the better, yes, praise Yahweh. But not without conflict.

God’s promises always come to pass. Could I learn to embrace the painful with the same sincerity as the joyful?

As old Simeon told her in the temple, a sword pierced her soul – again and again. And the killing blow was yet to come…
What readers of the earlier editions are saying:

“This is an excellent fictional account of what it might have been like to walk in Mary’s shoes. The author did not take any verses out of context, but simply allowed the reader to see the human side of Mary.” Barbara, winner of Goodreads copy

I started reading this at 9:00PM on Dec. 23. I thought I could start and then finish it on the 24th. Well, let me tell you – I was up in the wee hours of Dec. 24th, not being able to stop reading once I had started. Sharon Hughson has done a beautiful job of putting words to paper on this narrative of Mary’s thoughts from the time she was approached by an angel about a virgin birth. There are no words to sufficiently describe this BEAUTIFUL story. As a mother and a lover of my Lord – this book moved and touched me deeply.
Vicki from Wyoming.

This was a great story and I can’t stress that enough. It was an in depth look at how things may have been for Mary after she found out she would give birth to Jesus up to his ascension. I learned so much about their customs and saw things from a different perspective. I highly highly recommend this book!! – Mary, 5-Star Amazon Review

This isn’t the typical book I’d pick up and read, but found I was hooked from the first page. I’ve often thought about Mary, not only as the Blessed Mother, but as a woman. Mary is perfect, and as a Christian woman that’s an intimidating standard to live up to. This book takes a brave look at Mary’s life and shows the human side to her, bringing the reader into her world and her mind. I wish this was required reading for CCD classes! Not only was I drawn into Mary’s story, her fears, her hopes, her dreams, I was amazed at the historical detail and the biblical accuracy as well. Highly recommended! – Jessica, 5-Star Amazon Review

Sharon Hughson took the little bit of information contained in the Bible, with (probably) a great deal of research, and a bit of literary license – managed to write a very realistic rendition of what Mary’s story quite possibly looked like. I was utterly impressed with what I read. I am without a doubt looking forward to reading the rest of the series!!! – E. Eblin, 5-Star Amazon Review

This book will give you a new perspective on the life of Jesus. – Shonda, 5-Star Amazon Review

REFLECTIONS: Where it’s Headed

So far, I’ve written two additional stories for this series. The second book, A LABORING HAND, is Martha of Bethany’s story. It didn’t receive the same stutters of awe and amazement from my beta readers as Mary of Nazareth’s story did, but it is the story I was most compelled to write during November 2018.

The third book is Mary of Bethany’s story. It’s truly a young adult book, so it also includes a section of lesson outlines. It’s also the most worrisome of the three stories. At the moment, I’m revising and polishing it so I can get it to my editor by October 11th. I’m sure she’ll need to work more magic on it than either of the other stories needed.


The fourth book in the series is roughly outlined. It’s Salome’s story, and I’m struggling with where it needs to start and end. What is the point of this story?

For me, I’m writing it to understand Salome’s audacious request that her sons sit at Jesus’ right and left hand in His kingdom. I’ve always been stunned by this short scene in scripture.

But other than a few passing mentions, scripture tells us much less about Salome than any of the women I’ve written about. That means there’s more room for my imagination.

And more chance I’ll blunder the story completely and turn off all my readers.

I’d appreciate your prayers as I tackle this story in November. I want to explore my thoughts, of course, but I really want to tell the story God wants told.

My Author Schedule

Now that I’ve rambled on about this series. Let’s get specific about the release of A PONDERING HEART. The best way to stay informed about my author events, is to follow me on one of these platforms:
Facebook
Instagram

If you want the full rundown and opportunities to give me input about what I’m writing next, you should join this Facebook Group.

I’m hosting two book release events:
The “in-person” event will be held at Cathedral Coffee in Scappoose on Friday, November 8, 2019 from 6:30 to 8:00 PM.

The Facebook Event, which will include a couple of live videos, a giveaway for an autographed copy and several FREE copies of both digital and audio copies of A PONDERING HEART will be held on Saturday, November 9.

Here’s a link to the event. Plan to attend for your chance to win series bookmarks, an autographed copy of the first book OR the entire REFLECTIONS series on eBook.

Of course, if you’re willing to pay $10 and shipping, I’m happy to send an autographed copy of the paperback anywhere and include a FREE audiobook code with it.

Just complete this form:

A Glimpse Inside What I’m Writing Now

The cover for the second book in the REFLECTIONS series will be unveiled soon.

A Laboring Hand is the story of Jesus told by Martha of Bethany. And it’s a story that’s had a profound effect on the author writing it.

I’ve always teased my sister about being bossy, but Martha has taken flak from preachers for a couple thousand years about her tendency to be bossy. We’re familiar with this scripture from Luke 10, right?

38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

But what did it look like in Martha’s life?

Here’s a glimpse from A LABORING HAND, chapter four.

I washed my hands and began to chop the handfuls of pungent herbs I would add to the beans. The pestle in my hand smashed the beans with rhythmic efficiency. Mary pressed together more flour, salt and olive oil, intent on baking more bread.

“The stone was hot.” The words had barely left my mouth when Lazarus limped in followed by a boy carrying a jug on his head.

“Leave it in the shade outside,” I waved a hand to the boy. “We’ll draw out into my pitchers half-filled with water. That will make it last.”

Laz nodded to the boy, gesturing to a place further along the house, away from the cooking fire and the chimney. I heard the jingle of coins.

“It’s already watered.”

“What proportion?” My brain estimated the amount of drink a dozen thirsty men would need.

“Fifty percent.” Lazarus slouched against the wall. Weariness etched his features, but I knew he wouldn’t rest. He was more eager for the visitors than any of us.

“We can safely add another twenty percent. Will you see to it?”

“I’ll need to draw more water.” Mary’s hands hesitated over the dough. “They’ll need what I drew for washing.”

“They aren’t zealots.” I returned to my chopping. “They won’t care about washing before they eat. Could you reach me the bowl of olives?” I gestured to the line of pottery on the wall overhead.

Mary shoved Abba’s weaving stool into place and stepped up to grasp the bowl. “I intend to wash their feet.”

I froze. Why would she insist on doing that? It was a servant’s job, and since we didn’t have servants, none of our guests ever expected this service.

“They’ll just get dirty again when he leaves on Sunday.”

“But they’ll be clean for Sabbath.”

Like that really mattered in a small synagogue like ours.

“There isn’t enough water.” That would solve it.

“I’ll draw more.”

“The bread needs baking. And the floor should be swept and the cushions beaten. Plus, we’ll need to get out all the extra rugs.”

Lazarus sighed and pushed away from the wall. “I’ll get started on the cushions.”

I shook my head. With only one arm, it took him much longer to clean them. “I’ll do it. Draw out the wine.”

Laz blinked at me, sharing a look with Mary. It was an apologetic look. He’d tried to aid her plan, but the bossy big sister nixed it. Something gnawed at my heart, but I ignored it. There was work to be done.

Soon enough, the laughter and banter of a crowd of dusty men filled the room. I welcomed them with a small bowl of water and a clean linen cloth. Well, it was clean for the first man or two.

Yeshua reclined at the head of the table on the largest cushion. My parents had often shared it. John bar Zebedee, one of the Boanerges, sat on it with the master while the others filed onto other cushions, some choosing to lean against the wall on the rugs Lazarus had pulled from his room and ours. The dirt floor could hardly be seen once all of them sprawled around the room.

Mary and I circulated with pitchers of wine. Once we finished, I began to distribute the bowls of spiced beans and packets of bread, still warm from their place on the hearth. I turned to ask Mary to assist me, but she’d folded herself cross-legged at Yeshua’s feet, staring up as he started to talk.

I blinked hard. What on earth was she thinking? Was this her rebellion since I hadn’t let her get water for foot washing? She was certainly positioned in a way she could wash his feet if she had the supplies.

I continued to serve. His authoritative voice, usually so soothing, fueled the ire inside me. He could make her help me. I glanced at Laz, but my brother was watching the master and scribbling on a piece of parchment. Mary never once looked my way, even when I nudged her with my ankle as I passed to refill John’s cup.

With a careful eye, I glanced at every cup and bowl. They would need continual watching. Matthew raised his cup in my direction, and I sidled through the sprawled bodies to fill it, nearly tripping on another man’s filthy feet.

They weren’t drawn out of the way, so I turned and topped off his cup. He stared through me, as if I were invisible. I was used to that from working in the Pharisee’s home, but usually Yeshua’s friends were more gracious.

The unrest stirred inside me as I shuffled around, refilling cups and then fetching more bread to replenish the diminishing stacks. Soon, I would need to bake some more.

And that’s when it was too much. I strode toward Yeshua with my pitcher and jabbed my sister with a meaningful kick. She blinked.

As I filled his cup, I said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone?”

A hush descended in the room. I heard the wine trickle against what was in his cup. Our eyes met.

“Bid her to help me.” Couldn’t he see how much work I was doing? Why should she just be sitting there?

“Martha.” His voice was quieter than it had been, almost gentle.

At the sound of my name from his lips, the turmoil loosened inside me. Why had I waited so long to ask for his assistance? His dark eyes filled with understanding and concern. He would help me because he cared about me.
“Martha, you’re anxious and worried about many things.”

The comfort turned to a prickle of conviction. Worry was sin. My father had told me so.

“But one thing is needful.”

One thing? I wanted to jerk my hand around at the crowd of hungry men who needed food, drink and places to sleep. There were many things that needed to be taken care of. I knew he could see that.

Yeshua sighed. His fingers rested on the handle of the pitcher beside mine. They were square and scuffed. Working man’s hands.

“And Mary hath chosen that good part.” His voice rose slightly, but not with anger or impatience, and his hand dropped to his cup. “And that won’t be taken away from her.”

Everything warred within me as I struggled to comprehend his words. Mary was sitting there while our guests needed things. How was that better than helping me meet their needs?

“A certain man,” his gaze scanned the rest of the room.

I recognized the beginning of a parable. Usually I loved his stories, they always carried so much spiritual significance. I couldn’t listen though because his words stung my heart.

I filled cups, my eyes lowered. Tears burned at the back of my eyelids whenever I blinked, but I widened my eyes, pulling my shawl which had dropped to my shoulders, up to cover most of my face.

Mary sat at his feet doing nothing, but Yeshua said she’d chosen the good part. The words kept echoing all evening.

Even now, as I’m writing all this, they sting me somewhere deep in my soul. Was there something wrong with my desire to make the men comfortable? Did Yeshua not want a meal and refreshment while he was talking?

What do you think? How had you imagined Martha in this moment that gets so much negative attention? Should women be more like Mary?

If you’re excited to learn more about the REFLECTIONS series, make sure you’re a member of my newsletter. I’ll be running special (including FREE audiobooks of A PONDERING HEART) to my subscribers FIRST!
Sign up here

Welcome to Sweet Grove: FREE Book

If you love small-town romances, you’ll love Sweet Grove, Texas. People there will make you smile. Stories there will leave you feeling content.

Tomorrow, the first book I wrote for the First Street Church series will be FREE. I know, free books are one of my favorite things in all the world.

I hope you’ll adore Kyanna and Roth. They aren’t the typical romance couple. First of all, they’re middle-aged. *Gasp* I know! People in their 40s can fall in love?!? It’s true.

Kyanna has sacrificed everything to get ahead in her career. When she finds herself in a new town thousands of miles from her family, she begins to doubt whether her life has the right priorities. A scary call from the doctor? That’s enough to make anyone wonder if God’s trying to get their attention.

Roth has been a single parent since his wife died five years ago. New to Sweet Grove, his teenage daughter Ariel hooks up with the wrong crowd. And they both end up in the principal’s office. But Roth’s not prepared for the attraction he feels toward Kyanna.

And neither of them is ready for what will bring them together. But will they give love a second chance?

Here’s what reviewers are saying about LOVE’S LATE ARRIVAL:

 

Four-star review: “The story was riveting and I had a hard time putting it down. The characters were so real that I felt they could be my friends, or even me had my path gone in the same direction.”

Five-star review: “What I love the most about this book is that it is a wonderful story by a Christian author. The writing is extraordinary, the characters heartfelt and the storyline does not allow the reader to put the book down. I read the entire book in one sitting and could hardly believe it was over! I didn’t recognize the time passing! Wow! Now I can hardly wait to read ALL her books.”

Don’t forget to grab your copy while it’s FREE!

If you’ve already read it, how about leaving a comment that encourages someone else to give it a try?

LOVE’S LITTLE SECRETS is FREE Today

I love Sweet Promise Press. And they’re making you a fan too with free books and plenty of tools to get well-written stories into a reader’s eReader.

Yes, Sweet Promise Press is a digital-only publisher.


Maybe you’re one of those people who only read books with paper pages you can turn. I totally respect that because I love the look, feel and smell of paper books.

But eBooks are so convenient for travel, working out and to take everywhere using only YOUR PHONE. You have that with you anyway, right? So why not load a FREE application on it so you’ll always have a book with you, too?

Anyway, you’re reading to find out about the freebie.

BUT FIRST…

My latest release with Sweet Promise Press came out on Friday, March 22.

As luck would have it, I was substitute teaching in a high school language arts classroom that day. But it didn’t keep me from checking Amazon to see if my Advance Review Team was posting reviews.
And to check on how the book was progressing up the charts.

I was overjoyed when it hit #20 in Friendship Fiction.


And then this happened.


I was floating to pass up the first book in the series which is priced at $.99 while the others are $2.99. But when I ranked higher than Susan Wiggs?

My goal was to make it to #5.

These great sales were thanks to my publisher’s advertisements, newsletters and dedication to creating a sales funnel inside the series books so readers can easily purchase the next book in the series.

Speaking of series, I have TWO series within the First Street Church shared series based on Melissa Storm’s series of the same name.

These stories happen in Sweet Grove, Texas. I’ve mentioned that place a time or two on this blog.
And today…only today…you can grab the SECOND book in my Sweet Grove Romance series FREE.

Here’s more about that book:

Love is all about truthfulness, honesty and being authentic. Except when it’s not.

But, surely, if a couple has been married for more than two decades, there are no secrets between them. How could you live with someone for that long and NOT know everything about them?

Well, Norma is about to find out.

This is a rough and emotional story. As much as I fell in love with Norma when I wrote her as Kyanna’s secretary in LOVE’S LATE ARRIVAL, it pained me to put her through the torture of this story.

But the thing is, life isn’t easy. Yes, I promise my readers a happy ending. But what I know about sweet endings is that they’re more satisfying if the struggle that came before them was intense.

Today, Sweet Promise Press is giving this book away. It’s ALWAYS free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers, but today, it’s free for the rest of you.

I hope you’ll give it a chance. Here’s what some readers are saying:

Grab your copy here.

Stop by my Facebook page and let me know if you do pick up a copy. I’d love to know someone’s reading this story.

Happy reading, my friend. Well…happy ending at least 😉

What about the FIRST book you wonder? Well, It’s called Love’s Late Arrival, and the publisher has put it free before. She’ll also be doing it again on April 21st!

Of course, if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, the entire series if always free.

If you’ve read these books, PLEASE leave a review. Love’s Little Secrets only have five reviews. Granted, they’re all five-star reviews, but I’d like to have at least twenty reviews on ALL my books (and several of them aren’t there yet).

To grab your FREE book, click here.

To learn more about ALL my books, click here.

If you’ve already READ this book and would LOVE to talk about it, join the fun on my Facebook group. Right now, we’re having a contest for a signed paperback and other swag.

Do you own an eReader? Or do you read on your phone and/or tablet?

Meet My Quirkiest Shero Ever

Tomorrow is the day. My book baby MOMMY LOVES THE BANKER will be live on Amazon. (Sorry. I wish it was available on other platforms, but that’s a decision my publisher makes.)

Yes, that means this book is only available in ebook.

I hold the print rights. If I cough up the money for the cover, I could release the book in print. But it would cost $9.95, and that seems like a chunk of change for a book you can read in one sitting.

Post on this if you would buy such a book. Maybe if there is enough interest, I will fork out my OWN chunk of change (which will require I sell 15 books just to break even).

Now, on to the book.

Isn’t she lovely?

An excerpt from the beginning to get you primed.

Mommy Loves the Banker
Chapter One

This mommy gig wasn’t going like she remembered. When her daughter was in elementary school, parents sent their kids to school on the bus or their bikes. Or—Heaven forbid—they walked. Every Clara Barton Elementary student needed to be dropped off.

Or so it seemed as Meredith Williams eased her daughter’s Toyota minivan forward in the two-block long line of cars. Finally, she caught a glimpse of the school building.

“Are we late, Mimi?” Poppy nibbled her brown curls and hugged her self-constructed wind chime closer. Wearing her bulging backpack, she couldn’t sit flush against the built-in booster seat.

Meri glanced in the rear-view mirror, checking the line of vehicles behind her before meeting the worried gaze. Brown eyes brimmed with urgency and sent a knife into Meri’s midsection.

“Not unless all these people are late, too.”

Poppy twisted around. Meri pulled forward, three car-lengths this time. The end of a long sidewalk peeped around the tires of the SUV in front of her. Rain sprinkled the windshield until the automatic wipers cleared it away. Kids who’d been playing four-square on the covered playground beside the athletic fields scurried toward the doors. Was school starting?

The clock on the dashboard showed three minutes until eight.

“Come on, come on.” Good mommies—or mimis—didn’t make their kiddos late for school.

Two cars pulled away from the curb near the school entrance. Several kids piled from the minivan in front of her. She checked her side mirror and flipped her blinker down. She’d go around, and Poppy wouldn’t be tardy. Again.

She steered into the street with her foot nudging the accelerator. A honk like a freight train bellowed, and Meri floored it. The Sienna reared forward. Brakes screeched, and more horns blew.

Meri’s heart sprinted as she swerved back to the curb. She ignored the nasty glares from the drivers she passed. Certainly they’d do the same to make sure their kids made it to school on time.

Another truck gunned in front of her and Meri ignored the driver’s one-finger salute, although his blaring honk made sure she saw it. She slammed to a stop beside the door and slapped the shifter into park.

“Cheap Trick.” The name of the band slipped out in a curse as she fumbled with the button to open the side door. “Can you get the buckle?”

Her spine crackled as she swiveled toward the back seat. Poppy held out the conglomeration of wrapping paper, paper towel, and toilet paper tubes they’d spent an hour gluing together the night before. Meri grunted as she contorted to hold the creation without smashing it. The seatbelt cut into her neck.

Strangled by a seatbelt. She’d suffer worse for Poppy and Sunnie.

Poppy released her harness and scrambled out of the seat. Her cool lips pressed into Meri’s forehead. “See you, Mimi.” Her granddaughter balanced the sculpture in gentle hands and hopped out of the minivan.

Warmth poured into Meri’s stomach and chest, drowning the honking-induced panic. That simple kiss wiped away the negative sensations. Precious Poppy was the reason Meri’d left everything, drove across four states, and bumbled her way through the new era of motherhood.

Keep Reading Now

Enter the Giveaway

See all the books in the Series

What do you think of Meri’s quirk? Did you catch it? Do you enjoy reading second-chance love stories featuring middle-aged characters?