... Even the worst heartaches can become heartstrings to God's hope, comfort, encouragement, joy, peace and love...

Welcome! As a fan of the cartoon character Maxine, I enjoy her witty remarks. But when I
read my blogs & other writing to her, she's not very responsive- even when I'm wearing my bunny slippers like hers! She just doesn't get it!
Although she's funnier than I am, I do pray that this site will bring encouragement to your day! I'd love to hear from you! Unlike Maxine, you can leave me a message via the Comments. Shalom, Connie


Sunday, December 25, 2016

May the power of the Christmas story overwhelm you in a new way this year.

with child

a gasp, a cry
an exhausted mother's sigh
a father's teardrops
a heavenly umbilical cord cut and tied

a sweet aroma of fresh hay
a tiny gurgle as rosebud lips find milk
a whispered prayer
a naming as God commanded

a squeak of rafters as birds and mice gather
a gentle breeze to fan the fire
a clip and clop of a donkey's feet
a quiet baa-aa and a gentle moo

a ray of starlight
a flutter of angel wings
a silence
a moment realizing God's sacrifice- His only Son

a yip of a sheepdog on the hillside
an owl's hoot as he hunts
a rowdy laugh from the inn
a braying camel on the dusty road

a mother and babe sleep
a father watches
an angel guards
a world waits

                               ~ Constance Gilbert


Growing up our family Christmas traditions included opening one package on Christmas Eve. We always knew what that pretty box held. Our new Christmas PJs! A necessary component for our Christmas morning photos.

As you can see my fleecy, cuddly new Christmas PJs are waiting for Saturday night. When I'll be listening, as I have for over 70 years, for sleigh bells and reindeer on the roof.

Not likely, I know. I live in a first (of three) floor apartment. But I'll not extinguish that child in me. 

AirFlight flies over frequently. Do you think Santa might stop by via helicopter this year?

Actually, many of my childhood Christmas memories are not happy ones. So I determined to create good ones and did! 

As Long as There Is Christmas

The first few lights glow brightly, as you watch the season start.
You know you should be happy, but don't feel it in your heart.

Instead, you think about a time when someone laughed with you
and the love you shared then filled your soul. But too soon, 
it was through.

So Christmas comes with sadness, and a yearning deep inside,
a thirst for love and peace and hope that will not be denied.
Late one night you hear a voice, so soft and without blame...
then you realize He's calling your name.
"I know your hurt and loneliness, the heartache that you bear,
I listen and I cry with you through every single prayer.

"I promised in the manger and fulfilled it on the cross.
I built a home that's filled with love for all those who are lost.
"So let me come and heal your heart and give you rest within.
For my way is kind and gentle and will bring you joy again."
His words still echo through the years, a vow that He made true
"As long as there's a Christmas, I will be in love with you."

By Jack Zavada (with permission to use)


Friday, December 23, 2016

Twas the Day Before... the Day Before


~ ~ ~

Wind-Up Needed?

Be still... take a deep breath.

And remember...

Selah ~


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Book # 6: Around the World In 72 Days

What do Canton, torture and executions, lepers, temples, and Christmas have in common?

One Nellie Bly, a 25-year-old New York investigative reporter, who left Hong Kong the evening of December 24th for Canton.

The things she saw there did not include goodwill to all men.She had to set aside her holiday merriment for empathy and sympathy as she saw the horrors the poor chinamen endured.

Only one thing was shared that day. Curiosity. She in them and them in her, a single white woman traveling alone.

Little did they know she was on her 61st day of traveling around the world.

Jules Verne's new book Around the World in 80 Days was the source of her challenge to her editor. "I can do it in 75 days." She does... in 72 days, 6 hours and 11 minutes! 

This is her story. One I recommend for women from 10 to 100 years old. Like the people along her travels, I, too, am curious about this woman. So I went on an online search about her and women in 1889.

Women's Rights

"During the early history of the United States, a man virtually owned his wife and children as he did his material possessions. If a poor man chose to send his children to the poorhouse, the mother was legally defenseless to object. Some communities, however, modified the common law to allow women to act as lawyers in the courts, to sue for property, and to own property in their own names if their husbands agreed.

"Equity law, which developed in England, emphasized the principle of equal rights rather than tradition. Equity law had a liberalizing effect upon the legal rights of women in the United States. For instance, a woman could sue her husband. Mississippi in 1839, followed by New York in 1848 and Massachusetts in 1854, passed laws allowing married women to own property separate from their husbands. In divorce law, however, generally the divorced husband kept legal control of both children and property.

"In the 19th century, women began working outside their homes in large numbers, notably in textile mills and garment shops. In poorly ventilated, crowded rooms women (and children) worked for as long as 12 hours a day. Great Britain passed a ten-hour-day law for women and children in 1847, but in the United States it was not until the 1910s that the states began to pass legislation limiting working hours and improving working conditions of women and children."

~ http://www.wic.org/misc/history.htm

Women's Fashion
"Like most upper-class ladies in Chicago in the 1880s, Mrs. Allerton changed clothes several times a day. Victorian fashion magazines and etiquette books dictated that a proper lady wear different kinds of dresses for different events, and Mrs. Allerton and her peers all had afternoon reception dresses--which were different from both evening reception dresses and afternoon "walking" dresses, also worn for shopping or paying calls.

"The basic rules were that day dresses were more covered up, especially at the sleeves and neckline, than those for evening, and indoor dresses were more delicate than dresses designed for riding in carriages or walking. Dresses for the opera or the ball were the dressiest and barest of all. 'Once you see what the component parts are, you can sort of figure out how they got through the day.'"


Events of 1889 include:
  • Benjamin Harrison became the 23rd USA President.
  • The first issue of the Wall Street Journal was published.
  • The first jukebox was installed in a saloon. 5 cents to listen.
  • 4 territories joined the States of the Union: North and South Dakota, Montana and Washington as #42.

This was the world of Elizabeth Jane Cochran (1864-1922), who wrote under the pen name of Nellie Bly. She launched a new kind of investigative (often undercover) journalism. 

Any book that stimulates my thoughts, curiosity and/or enlightens me, gets a thumbs up from me.

See Book #5 for my review of her other book, 10 Days in a Mad-House.

Both are available through www.ichthuspublications.com.

Selah ~


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, a Tradition

I hope you've read Barbara Robinson's tiny book or seen the movie  The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

The Denver Post wrote, "The book is outrageous, lively, funny and wonderful. The Christmas story takes on a strangely moving depth of meaning and shines through with a new brilliance."

As a retired Children's Choir Director, I could relate. Bathrobes, angel wings, arguments about who would be Mary are common in small church and Christian school's no budget Christmas programs. Fortunately, I never had to deal with six lying, stealing, cigar smoking Herdman kids.

Each year had it's challenges. Yet they had their blessings, too.

One year I named the most misbehaved child in our church to take the lead role. He had lots of lines to memorize and I had a special costume made for him. Everyone including his parents were upset. He was going to ruin everything!

This boy needed attention, approval and a challenge. He was very smart, and therefore, very bored. His behaviors resulted in negative attention and fostered more of the same. My challenge to him was coupled with the expectation that he wouldn't disappoint me. He played the part with no mistakes and no misbehaving. For a few minutes, he was in the limelight.

A few years later, my dream was being fulfilled: to have every age group involved in the musical. For a church of around 200, I managed nearly 100 playing a part in the pageant to a full sanctuary. But in the midst of organizing all this, 2 children begged to be included.

They came from a very poor home environment. So bad my Pastor would not allow me to visit them. Their grandmother brought them to Sunday School as often as she could convince their mother to let them go. They always arrived filthy, smelly, hitting, biting, screaming, fighting... and those were the good days. We worked with the grandmother. We bought a set of clothes for each boy. Grandma would pick them up on Saturday evening, give them a bath and feed them. After church, she removed the new clothes to wash for the next week. They returned home in the their dirty duds.

During this process, I was working with the youngest as his Sunday School teacher. The whole class burst into applause, the first time he shared a toy. We went to great lengths to award good behavior and over time it worked. He and his brother probably only received attention at home when they did something wrong.

But to have them standing for nearly an hour in front of the whole congregation? I sat with my choir and asked their assistance and understanding. Though reluctant at first, they agreed. We had a plan.

The plan isn't important. Neither is the fact that it was successful.

As I gave the downbeat to start, I saw someone slip into a pew at the last moment. It was their mother, who never had been inside a church nor had she seen her young sons dressed up and behaving well. She had the look of a bag lady-minus the bags, but had a radiant smile for her boys.

Children's musicals take lots of time and energy, but whether or not they remember their lines, they touch hearts no one else can reach.

Until I stopped driving, I attended a Christmas pageant every year. A tradition I miss, but it could be a new one for you!

Selah ~


Monday, December 12, 2016


Today I added a bit of Christmas atmosphere to my apartment. Each item triggers memories of special times and traditions. I’d like to share a few with you.

I display this figurine each December:    

I bought it after attending a Christmas Eve mass thanks to a personal invitation from Mr. and Mrs. Claus. At the appointed time, the Clauses (my friends, Ray and Ethel) came down the aisle to the delight of all the children (no age limit). The church was filled with the sound of jingle bells ringing as Mrs. Clause carried a large birthday cake for Jesus. Santa shook his sleigh bells and filled the sanctuary with his “Ho, ho, ho!”

They stood before the priest and he blessed their night’s journey. Santa turned toward us with his fingers to his lips. “Shhh-hhhh.” And all the bells stopped ringing.

In the silence full of anticipation, St. Nick reminded everyone that the giving of gifts began when God sent His only son to earth as a wee baby. Three little kings marched down the aisle with their “jeweled” boxes- birthday gifts for Jesus, as Santa reverently climbed the altar steps and knelt before the manger. The lights dimmed as we sang “Away In the Manger”. When the lights came up, Santa was gone. A spotlight was on the baby in the bed of hay.

No further words were needed. Father Fitz just nodded and the children with their families filed out singing Happy Birthday to Jesus.

The holiness of that moment has never left me. I relive it each December.

To further recapture that feeling, my preparation with anticipation or Advent devotions this year are from Michael Card’s Immanuel: Reflections on the Life of Christ  and The Faith of St. Nick  by Ann Nichols.

Nichols wrote, “If ever the life of a Christian reflects the Lord’s, it was the one we refer to as Saint Nick. It was his faith in Jesus Christ that enabled him to do the many deeds of mercy, charitable acts, and wonders that we, nearly 1700 years after he lived, are still familiar with.”  (See http://www.stnicholascenter.org.)

My traditions include listening- sometimes, singing along- to the complete Messiah. I sang it in the community Chorales for many years. I also was in the choir that presented the premier performance, directed by the writer, of “A Song… A Star... A Son.” Both masterpieces portray the announcement by the angel Gabriel to Mary through Christ’s resurrection. His birth is meaningless with the resurrection. Is there any wonder why the audience stands during the Hallelujah Chorus !  

While resting I watch Christmas movies and read Christmas mysteries.When Christmas Day arrives, I read Ken Gire’s “An Intimate Moment with Mary and Joseph” from Moments with the Savior. It never fails to touch my heart.

What do you do to set aside the busy-ness of the season and focus on the real reason we celebrate?

This year Hanukkah starts at sunset on Christmas Eve. It is a festival of hope. One that Jesus himself celebrated.*  I will also light the Christ candle on Christmas Eve as a reminder that God always supplies our needs and that we can diminish the darkness as a reflection of His light. We don’t need three spirits to visit us… just His love within us.

My family will join me to play the Dreidel game, even though I’m a terrible spinner. We'll recount the traditional story of winning a losing battle, a one-day supply of oil lasting eight days, and studying Scripture by “gambling.” A fun game for Jesus' birthday party.

Now back to my knitting, I've a few small gifts to finish. 

I'll post some more memories in the next post. May my thoughts draw you nearer to the Christ Child.

Selah ~ 




* Read John 10:22–23 and for more detail see http://www.whychristmas.com/customs/hanukkah.shtml.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Book #5: 10 Days in a Mad-House

As a nurse who has worked as a mental health case manager, I was drawn to the title, Ten Days in the Madhouse by Nellie Bly. However, as I read it, I was more interested in Nellie, herself. She was barely 20 years old and trying to work in a male dominated world. Her risky entrance into the poor, mentally ill world took pure guts, determination and tenacity.

Besides convincing an editor to support her, the first problem was how to have two physicians declare her insane. She had had no contact with anyone who was insane and didn't know what behaviors would be convincing. Nearly half of the book covers getting into Bellevue Hospital. The remaining portion is about those ten days and her multiple roles: acting insane, getting the ladies to talk with her and fearing that something could go wrong and she'd end up there forever. Conditions in the hospital would lead to insanity if someone wasn't already mentally ill. As bad as those ten days were, I know that worse things were part of mental hospital system throughout the USA. It wasn't until medications became available that positive changes occurred. The attendants were not nurses but in today's terms minimum-wage positions.

This is a quick, interesting read for women from various backgrounds. Nellie Bly (her pen name) became an undercover, investigative reporter and championed many unjust causes for the poor and for women. She changed our world.

I was so fascinated by Nellie that I searched through Google and found a 1981 TV program: Classics Illustrated ~ Adventures of Nellie Bly. In 2015, PBS presented a documentary on her.

Nellie was an important part of our country's history, why hadn't I ever heard of her? Have you?

By the way, how would you respond to Jules Verne's book Around the World in 80 Days? Nellie replied I could "go around the world in 75 days." That's the next book I'll review.

Selah ~


P.S. $1 million in 1889 is the equivalent to $24,785,600.85 today. Read this book and you'll understand.

Available at www.ichthuspublications.com.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Book 4 and Thanksliving

I am reading Around the World in Seventy-two days (2015, Ichthus Publications) by Nellie Bly*, who was a young reporter in 1889. She knew making connections was the key to getting home in 72 days. Therefore, limiting her luggage was essential.

She wrote, “Packing that hand-bag was the most difficult undertaking of my life; there was so much to go into such a little space.” Between that bag and her hand-satchel, she managed to pack all her necessities except for one dress, which she left behind.

On November 14th,1889 Nellie Bly left New York by ship heading for London.

As I contemplated how much easier that trip would be today with wheeled carry-ons, I began wondering what I would take. What is essential for a trip of 72 days? And for recording the journey?

My mind wandered. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. What did the pilgrims pack for their trip to the new world and freedom from England’s rule?

Then my thoughts flew to Egypt of old. What did the women of Israel pack? There wasn’t even time to bake bread. No suitcases on wheels either. They could only take what could be carried across the Red Sea.

I checked Scripture. Exodus 13:18b tells us the Israelites were armed for battle. Thus the men wouldn’t be carrying household items or clothes to help the women. I can imagine the women and children carrying a bundle each. Maybe some unleavened bread, a pot, bowls, a wine sack, some cloth. But Scripture doesn’t include a list. Not even a clue… or does it?

Exodus 15:20-21 reads: 

Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing.

“And Miriam sang to them: ‘Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.’” (ESV)

All the women were prepared to give thanks, even if it meant leaving another item behind.

I have to admit, if I was escaping Pharaoh’s tyranny I don’t think my tambourine would come to mind. My keyboard is too large to take. But if Miriam came by to remind the other women and me, maybe a comb and piece of waxed paper could be my instrument.

Seriously, as I enjoy Thanksgiving Day with my family, we will be reflecting on our many blessings and, as the gramma, I will share Exodus 15 (above) to encourage my children and grandchildren not to wait, but to be prepared at all times to express their gratitude to God and others, who impact their lives. .. including each other.

BTW. There's an extra blessing for me! My youngest sister is driving here from UT! I haven’t seen her for several years.

Now back to reading Nellie Bly’s book.

Selah ~


 * Pen name for Elizabeth Cockran

Monday, November 07, 2016

BOOKS, Part 3- My Current Reading

One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot's Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview  by Jason B. Ladd

Note: I read this book after receiving a free e-copy from the author.  All of the opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased.

In high school, my College English class required the reading many books. One on the list was awful; I just couldn’t read it. My teacher suggested I write why instead of the usual book review.

I found One of the Few difficult to finish. Here’s why:
  • ·         The military jargon distracted me as it was of no interest to me. At times I didn’t understand it.
  • ·         The writer’s style of flipping between his military life and his personal journey toward and with Christ Jesus was confusing.
  • ·         His desire to bring others to the same conclusion he made in eventually following the Lord was “preachy” at times and could turn off an unbeliever.
  • ·         Like many new writers, JL, as a Marine pilot, writes what he knows best- flying. My writing mentors say to know and follow the rules when writing before you break them. This may have helped his book to flow better.

This book wasn’t for me and that’s okay. I believe it has its own unique nichẻ for those with military connections or those interested in flying, It should be required reading for military chaplains.

 I do recommend it to those few who fit in the above nichẻ.

The Marines choose only a few… the best. I’m glad the author found Jesus Christ, who came for all and works best with our weaknesses. 

~ ~ ~

I have just finished the Biblical novel Noah by Ellen Gunderson Traylor. In A Note To the Reader, Traylor wrote:

"When I was asked to write a book on Noah, I had no idea that I would be opening myself up to a world of mystery and adventure such as is found on the following pages."

Her research and faithfulness to the Scriptures do indeed result in a reading adventure. 

Genesis 6-9, the basis for this novel, is a story of faith and obedience but leaves a multitude of questions with no answers. I know because I also did research that included over 40 resources. 

Traylor's novel is a 5-star book as a good read. For me, it fulfills my personal criteria: It must cause me to think in areas I haven't traveled before... it must stimulate my brain's little gray cells. Mostly, I thought how I would respond if I was there. Would my faith sustain me? Could I get along with Noah's family? How would I survive for over a year closed inside the ark? Even more basic- what factors would I consider when I heard Noah's warning? Would I believe him? Could I have been one of the righteous?

I loved meeting Traylor's gentle, compassionate Noah. 

"This is a story, not only of Noah's time, but in many ways of our own." Even more relevant since she wrote it in 1985. I highly recommend reading it. This reading journey may save your life.

What are you reading?


Tuesday, November 01, 2016

BOOKS, Part 7

Currently, I am reading Zebo written by my friend of 50+ years. I'll post a review later.

I just finished the eight book Bowers series by Steven James. Each title is a chess piece with the final book being Checkmate. If you like the mystery/crime genre, you'll love these.  

Also highly recommend is The Illuminator by Brenda Rickman Vantrease. In fact, I just got the audio version so I can enjoy it again while I knit. Then I'll start on Brenda's third book, The Heretic's Wife.

My To be Read books that are stacked by my recliner include those by Steven James (2), Jerry Jenkins (3 book series), Elizabeth George, Elizabeth Chadwick, James Patterson (3 book series), Diana Gabaldon (2), Donita Paul and ...

Len Bailey's Sherlock Holmes and the Needle's Eye is begging me to be next. It is unique... ten short stories fill the first 243 pages followed by Investigative Questions for each adventure. It combines my favorite genre and detective plus it is a Bible study. Can I ignore its siren call? I'll let you know.

What have books meant to your life? What ones are you reading? What are your three favorites?

Trivia Questions: Who wrote the book that became the basis for the broadway show Cats?



BOOKS, Part 2

Librarians love me, as they do all avid readers. 

As a child, I read ever book in my elementary school libraries
with exception of the reference books that couldn't be checked out. I got to read all new books first. 

In the summer I walked to the local branch library every week for an armload of books...about 5 miles each way.[No backpacks back then.] I was on the Teen Taskforce to assist in choosing the books for the Youth section at our new library.I helped to shelf thousands of books from the old library to the new building and was a tour guide on Grand Opening Day.

Since age 7, I read for enjoyment, to escape my troubled home life, to learn and to become a writer. King Arthur, Little House on the Praire and Grimm fairy tales were my first loves. 

As an adult, I traveled to Avalon- the longest book I could find- as I sat at my father's bedside while his struggle with cancer came to an end. Later I took a college course on Children's literature, which required the reading of over 50 books. Every week my son picked up 10-12 books from the bookmobile for me.

As a senior, I've read new books and gave feedback to the bookmobile librarian. I also took care of our retirement center's library for nearly 10 years.

Now, my health limits my activity.Yet it provides lots of time for reading. The internet offers truckloads of free and low-cost books. Thriftbooks.com is my favorite source for like-new books at 4/$12 with free shipping. Like Joe, my apartment is full of books.

I'll share what I'm reading in the next post. Meanwhile...

Selah, think on what books mean to you


BOOKS, Part 1- guest post

Today I e-mailed Joe: "I love it when your posts pop into my e-box. I wish I could write as concise as you do. As I read Books, I kept saying "me, too...ditto that..."

"In addition to your list, books have saved my life and my sanity. Through them, I escaped emotional abuse as a child.They saw me through rough times in my adult years. And they aren't judgemental 😀

"Thanks for sharing your wisdom through everyday things!"

 By Joseph J. Mazzella
      I have always loved to read ever since I was a child so it goes to say that my house is forever
full of books.  I have new books, old books, hardcovers, paperbacks, fiction, and nonfiction.  My
two tiny bookshelves are full of photo albums and scrapbooks.  I have three boxes of books in
my closet, two boxes of books on the floor of my bedroom, and a box of children’s books
waiting for my future grandchildren.  I have books stacked on the nightstand by my bed.  I have
several books including my old, black Bible on top of my desk.  I have even more books
including the two I wrote on top of the filing cabinet beside it.  I do try to keep the books from
building up by donating as many as I can to the local library but as soon as I donate a few I find
myself buying a few more.
     Books I find keep my mind young, my heart warm, and my soul bright.  They bring me
learning, laughter, and joy.  They connect me with the wisdom of the past and the new ideas of
the present.  They keep me moving on the right path as I journey through life.
     I have learned that people are a lot like books as well.  Some have bright and shiny covers but
don’t have very much to say inside of them.  Others are old and musky but so full of wisdom and
light that reading them can change your whole life.  One difference between books and people,
though, is that while a book can have an ending the writing inside of us goes on forever.
     Take care when writing the book of your own life then.  Fill it with God’s love for you.  Fill it
with your love for God.  Fill it with love for yourself, others, and this world.  Fill it with all the
wisdom you have learned, goodness you have done, kindness you have shared, and joy you have
spread.  Keep writing it every day too.  Make it everything you are and everything you want to be
and then open it to everyone.  I know it will be a wonderful read.

~ ~ ~

Selah_ think on this