Favorite Friday Fiction

I enjoy reading suspense novels. There’s something about getting into a fictional world that’s wrapped up in drama that pulls me in and, in this case, wouldn’t let me go.  Details woven throughout this riveting story ratchet up the tension in each scene. The characters were compelling, and with the twists and turns in the plot I couldn’t put the book down, even after having read for hours. Don't Look Back Bookcover

Twelve years ago, forensic anthropologist Jamie Cash survived a brutal kidnapping, torture, and rape. After years of therapy, she has made a life for herself–though one that is haunted by memories of her terrifying past. She finally lets herself get close to a man, FBI agent Dakota Richards, when signs start appearing that point to one frightening fact–her attacker is back and ready to finish the job he started all those year ago. Can she escape his grasp a second time? And will she ever be able to let down her guard enough to find true love?

 

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It Doesn’t Take Much To Make a Difference

Toward the end of 2015, Jennifer asked if I’d be interested in writing for Small Acts of Kindness. I agreed and have enjoyed it ever since. It makes me step back and take notice of positive things I see or experience that I might otherwise overlook and take for granted. It also challenges me to move out of my comfort zone to reach out toward someone offering a kindness to them in some way.

I met up with someone a while ago to talk about something that had been on my mind. As we talked, they told me they’d been struggling lately and felt alone in it. Even though I knew no details, it was clear this person needed someone to come alongside them. God put it on my heart to pray for them daily and to send them a message of encouragement about once a week for several months.

It was simply a note to let them know they weren’t alone and that I was praying for them. IMG_1980 Sometimes I’d include a Bible verse, sometimes not. It was a simple gesture, but I’ve since learned that it made a difference and helped them through a tough time. Several months later, this person gave me a big hug. No words were said, but none were needed. We both knew it was because the encouragement meant so much. It didn’t take much, yet it meant a lot.
It may not seem significant to us, but even a small act of kindness can make a difference to someone else.

Help at an Airport Before Thanksgiving

By Ellen Andersen

We always fly to California for Thanksgiving since that’s where the majority of the family lives. This year we had a flight that didn’t leave at 6:00am, which was a nice change. It was a little before 10:00am, about an hour before our flight was to leave the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. We had arrived in plenty of time, since it’s such a small airport. Dad went to park the car while Mom and I took the luggage into the terminal. It weighed around 30 lbs, not much for a week’s worth of clothing, gifts, and miscellaneous. Still, it’s a lot for me to handle.

I lugged my suitcase up the curb and headed toward the door, Suitcase (800x600)but didn’t quite make it. There was a large black rug in front of the door. Unfortunately, I either didn’t see it, or I misgauged its height. Either way, I tripped on the threshold between the outside and the inside of the lobby. “Aaah” I cried, trying not to make a scene, but reacting to my impending fall. I let go of the suitcase and managed to catch myself so I didn’t hit my head. Only my hand and knee were scraped.

A gentleman I don’t know, and didn’t even get the chance to meet came from behind me, grabbed my suitcase, and brought it to me. I was so glad for his help. When he saw I wasn’t alone and Mom could take care of me from there, he left. “Thank you!” I said. I don’t know if he even heard me, but I hope so.
Mom later told me he was a tall man and was a bit hesitant, but decided he would help me. I don’t know what caused him to pause, and to take off without saying a word afterward. Maybe he feared I was hurt and he couldn’t help me. Maybe he didn’t want any recognition. I don’t know. I sure am glad he decided to do what he could though. It took him less than two minutes and it let me “recover” after being physically shaken and a little rattled mentally, before I checked my luggage and got on the plane.

Just a hand up and few minutes of his time made a difference for this traveler. Sometimes it doesn’t take much. When have you had the opportunity to reach out to someone who needed a hand? It may have made more of a difference than you know.

 

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is just a little over a week away. It’s a time when we look back over the past year and celebrate what we’re grateful for. One thing I’m most grateful for is my family. It’s changed over the years with the grandkids getting married and having kids. Now some of the great grandkids are married too.

We gather at someone’s home and have our annual feast. Turkey (of course), stuffing, cranberry sauce, both canned and homemade (there an on-going debate in my family as to which is the “real” kind), mashed potatoes, an appetizer, rolls, fruit salad, deviled eggs, and several pies. 2016 Thanksgiving

Festivities typically start around noon that day, with people arriving from all over. It’s a long way, but always worth it, as we only get to see the whole family once a year. The time becomes more and more significant as we get older too.

After a large meal, everyone goes for a walk even though it’s getting dark. The cool air helps counter the effects of the Tryptophan in the turkey. At least that’s what they say.

Charades is a family tradition after our evening walk each year. We form two teams (guys vs. girls) and each team comes up with movies, books, songs, and TV shows for someone on the other team to act out without saying anything or making any noises. Everyone has up to three minutes for their team to come up with the right answer. There’s always lots of laughter, teasing, and good-natured competitiveness. In recent years, we’ve added more games such as Fish Bowl and a Factoid Game. Whatever the details, it’s guaranteed to be fun.

So, how about you? What does Thanksgiving mean to you? How do you celebrate the holiday? Share it here.

Small Acts of Kindness: Reaching Out in Friendship

By Ellen Andersen

Mom and Dad

I’m fortunate to have a close family.  And my mom is the best. She means the world to me and is more than just my mom. She’s a close friend and I treasure our relationship.

She means a lot to her friends as well. She’s been in a bowling league for many years now and has met a lot of people she wouldn’t otherwise know.

Mom describes one of the ladies on her team as amazing; they’ve been bowling together for about 12 years. Her name is Dolores and she has an average of about 128, despite the fact that she’s 87 years old and has macular degeneration, which clouds her vision. After her first throw, her teammates tell her which pins are left so she aims for them. She’s been bowling so long that even though she can’t see the pins well, she often picks up a spare.

Last Spring, she mentioned to Mom that she likes to walk but she can’t see obstacles in the road because of the macular degeneration. She’s afraid she’ll fall so she just walks up and down her driveway. Mom decided that just wasn’t right, so since she had some extra time, Mom asked Dolores if she’d like them to walk together. Dolores took her up on it right away. They’ve been walking every Monday ever since unless one of them has an appointment or the weather doesn’t cooperate.

They enjoy each other’s company and talk about their families, including Dolores’ kids and life with her husband before he passed away. He used to bowl in their league as well, so Mom knew him too. She describes him as a lovely man.

Having a friend to walk with once a week gives Dolores some variety in her days and she’s able to get out and enjoy the fresh air safely, without fear of falling. And the companionship and conversation increases her quality of life as well.

Mom

What may seem insignificant to us may mean a lot to someone else, and increase their joy. What have you experienced that has made a difference for you or someone else? Share it here.

Dinner Out Every Week

I’d finally gotten out of the hospital after four months. I’d come home but was very limited in what I could do.  Walking with a walker and quite slowly at that, it was discouraging, even as I improved each week.  I was cooped up in the house, other than doctors’ appointments and physical and occupational therapy, since I couldn’t drive.

One of my friends recognized my plight and asked if she could take me out for dinner one night. “Sure!”  I said.  I’d get out of the house and spend time with a friend.   Toots MotisherWhat a great opportunity.  But then I had second thoughts.  How would I get around with the walker?  I was very slow with it. How could I get into her truck?  What if I didn’t have enough energy?

I talked to Toots about all of it and she assured me it’d be okay. That we would just go at my pace, and that she wasn’t in a hurry. As for the truck, she reminded me she could help me in. She said she could even lift me if I needed it and she didn’t mind at all. I had to admit that she was certainly strong enough.

So I agreed and we went out. Sure enough, Toots helped me in and out of the truck and we had a good time talking and just spending time together.  Then, to make it even better and more memorable she and I went out every week.  Toots doesn’t live near me, but was dedicated to ministering to me, even though I didn’t know I needed it.

It’s been over a decade now and I still remember how much it meant to me. Even the simple things can make a difference.. What have you done that’s made a difference in someone’s life? Or, perhaps someone’s made a difference in yours.   Share it here.

Recognizing Blessings When You’re In Pain

By Ellen Andersen

I lost my balance last week and stuck my left arm out break my fall. It was 10:30 at night, so I took some Tylenol and went to bed, even though it hurt a lot.  The pain woke me up an hour before my alarm was to go off, so I knew I needed medical help. Not knowing how bad it was, I drove to the nearest urgent care center. urgent-care-sign-600x295[1]

I did break my fall so my head didn’t hit the floor, but I broke my left wrist as well. I’m left-handed too. Fortunately I eat with my right hand. Otherwise, it’d be even harder. You don’t realize how much you use both hands  until only one works.  I know first-hand.

Even something as basic as getting dressed involves two hands. I can’t cook, water the garden, or  drive (and that affects a LOT in life), until my wrist heals, which will take several weeks. I love my plants and flowers so I really hate that.

Thankfully, I have several people helping me. One of my neighbors brought dinner over the first week I injured myself.sinner Sharon made when I broke my wrist  She volunteered to drive when we went to the theater last week too. Another friend has driven me to church.

My parents have been shopping for me, as well as watering my plants and cleaning around the house. Pushing a vacuum with only one hand just doesn’t work. And forget about dragging a hose.Mom waters plants while I have the cast --broke my wrist

I don’t like having to depend on other people, and I’m glad it’s temporary. But it does give them the blessing of helping me out, It always feels good to give of yourself to someone. I truly am blessed to have such loving, supportive family and friends.

How have you been blessed by someone’s generosity when you needed it? Or perhaps you’ve had the privilege of helping someone else.  Share it here so we can all benefit from it.

Personal Care at a Pharmacy

By Ellen Andersen

I buy my medicine from an independently owned pharmacy called Mauldin Family Pharmacy, about 3 miles from my home. I’ve been going there for over five years now and know all the employees by name. They know me too.  When I walk in, they greet me specially, saying, “Hi Ellen. How are you doing today?”  When I’ve called ahead of time, they have my prescription and any over-the-counter meds I often buy there, set aside in a bag for me, often already rung up.

Last month I went to pick up some medication. When I arrived, they brought it out and when I went to pay, I discovered I didn’t have my credit card. But I was completely out and needed it that night.  I HAD to have it.  I talked to Deb about it and Tony, the pharmacist, overheard the conversation. He came to the front and said,

“Go ahead Ellen. We can give you what you need for the next couple days. I trust you.”

“Thanks Tony!” I said. I took the medicine and headed home.  I went back the next day to pay and pick up the rest of the prescription.

I’m sure that never would’ve happened at a chain pharmacy or anywhere in a big city, but because this is a small, family-owned place where I’ve been a customer for years, they were willing to trust me. It made a difference, giving me peace of mind as well as the medicine I needed.

What has someone done for you that was out of the ordinary or that you didn’t expect? Encourage someone by sharing it with us here.

 

Let There Be Light!

I’ve lived in my home for a little more than five years now and I love it. But the place is over 30 years old and so are its light fixtures. “Dim” would be an understatement to describe the lighting in the hall, the kitchen, and the nook.  Dad offered to help me improve and update it.  Dads are much less expensive than professional electricians and he assured me he could take care of this.

We went to a few lighting stores in the city and after about 45 minutes in the last store, I found what I was looking for. I talked to the salesperson and ordered what I wanted.

When the lights came a few weeks later, we got to work. We got everything out of the Dad replaces light in nook April 2017boxes and took out the directions. Dad took down the old fixtures and handed them to me.  I gave him the new lights and their respective covers.  In each case, Dad looked at the new light, examined  the wires in the ceiling, and figured out how they went together so he could install the new ones.

 

 

 

Between the two of us, we got the lights lined up in the hallway where they looked good and threw off adequate lighting.

Dad replaces light in kitchen April 2017

What a difference it makes! The increased light in the hallway makes it much more inviting when people come over and when I come home.  The lights in the nook, and the kitchen both make it easier to function in the kitchen as well as making it more comfortable on the eyes.

It took a couple hours for to take down and put up the five lights Thanks Dad. I couldn’t have done it without you!

 

 

 

 

When a Dog Walk Becomes a Ministry

By Ellen Andersen

I’d started down the street, taking Tommy for a walk last week. Five minutes later, I discovered God had more in mind for me than simply a short stroll. I’d walked into a ministry. When Tommy and I were about halfway down the street, my neighbor stepped out of her house and called to me.

“Ellen.” I turned to my right.Jo in front of Betty's house

“Hi Jo.”

“Are you going to Bi-Lo?”

“No. I’m just taking Tommy for a short walk.”

“Oh.” Her face fell. “I was hoping someone was going to Bi-Lo. I need some cream cheese for some pies and a cake I want to make for my grandkids this weekend and it’s too far for me to drive. I can’t drive that far anymore.” (Jo’s in her late eighties and is rather frail.)

I walked about 3 more steps then turned around, deciding it wouldn’t be a big deal to pick up something at the store. I told her I would go for her.

“Oh, great! I just need some cream cheese—four packages. It’s on sale this week. And you know, that milk stuff in the can. I don’t remember what it’s called.

“Evaporated milk?” I suggested.

“Yeah, that. I need two of those. I’m making dessert for when my grandkids come. And I need . . .”

I laughed and said, “You’re going to have to write this stuff down, Jo. I’m not gonna remember it all.”

“Oh sure. I will.” Jo ambled into her house, doing her best to balance with her walker. She found a piece of paper and a pen, and dug out her advertisement with the sales on it. Sure enough, cream cheese was on sale. She put Campbells’ tomato soup and cream of mushroom soup (two each please) along with three or four more items on her list. I had to smile.

Jo took some money out of her purse and handed it to me. “I think this will be enough,” she said. “Do you want more?” I assured her it’d be plenty.

Because she can’t drive more than around the corner, she’s usually cooped up at home.

“Do you want me to come with you? To help you?” she asked. She hoped I’d yes so she could get out of the house, not because she thought I needed help. I declined, telling her I’m not strong enough to help her balance. I could just see the two of us in trouble walking in the parking lot. Puppy dog eyes begged me to take her with me, but safety comes first. I walked Tommy home then drove to the store.

I don’t shop at Bi-Lo so I had no idea where to find things for her. Fortunately, I’m not shy about asking for help. I spotted some people who seemed to know where things were and they pointed me in the right direction. One lady even took me to exactly what I needed a couple aisles down.

Twenty minutes later, I arrived back at Jo’s, groceries in hand. She stood outside, smiling as I pulled up. Jo tried to take a bag from me.

“It’s okay, Jo. I’ve got it.”

“I don’t want it to be too heavy for you” she said.

“Thanks Jo, but it’s not too heavy. Really.”

We walked into her house, put everything on the counter and stuck the cream cheese in the fridge. I handed her a little over six dollars in change. Jo tried to give me a dollar for having gone. “For the gas”, she said. I declined. It was just down the street.

A few days later, Jo spotted me as she headed home from the mailbox. She headed toward me and said, “I made the pie for my grandkids. They really liked it.” She proceeded to tell me about their time together.

It was such a small thing to do, but getting those things for her at the store meant a lot to Jo and she had a great time with her grandkids. Little favors can mean a lot to someone. Even just a mile’s drive to the store.