Tag: Mary of Nazareth

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.

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: