Flowers and a Birthday Cake

It was July of 1985 and I was an exchange student in France that month.  I would turn 16 while I was there. I stayed with the Martinellos in a small village called Gap.  Doesn’t sound French, does it? But that truly was its name. It’s near Lyon, in the southeastern part of the country. Map of France--for blog post

The Martinellos owned a flower shop in town and they were there all day, every day.  Their mornings started about 7:00am and they didn’t return home till after 6:00pm.  Natasha (their daughter) and I had a good time wandering the streets, shopping and talking to other shop owners.  She knew many of them since her parents owned the flower shop. Many times I wandered around alone enjoying the sights and sounds, noting how it all compared to what I experienced at home.

We traveled to many different villages each week, setting up a booth to sell the flowers in the street. It was completely different from everything I’d ever seen, having grown up in the desert.

I did grow homesick after a few weeks there.  I missed my family and friends.  There were a couple times that I’d think about them, wishing I were back there. Especially as my birthday drew near.

On my birthday, I discovered Mom had snuck a present in my suitcase.  I opened it and smiled. It was costume jewelry—a colorful bracelet and necklace. I was still sad, though.

That evening, after the shop had closed, Mrs. Martinello served diBirthday Cake with Candlesnner and then came out with a surprise.  She’d bought me a birthday cake!! “Bon anniversaire Ellen”, they cried. Really? They remembered?  I smiled from ear to ear.

I was their guest for another week or so before returning home.  It was my first time overseas and I enjoyed it a lot.  Spending time with a family and being involved in their daily lives was eye-opening and holds fond memories for me. Celebrating my birthday was one of them.

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Favorite Friday Fiction: The Charmer by C.J. Archer

By Ellen Andersen

The first paragraph drew me in immediately.

“Orlando Holt had never killed a woman before. He’d assassinated a bear tamer, a viscount, three French noblemen and two Spanish ones, a knight, a painter, a physician, an acrobat in Cathay, and five apothecaries . . . but Lady Lynden would be his first woman.”

She’s supposed to be a vicious murderess, but when Orlando begins to have doubts, he sets out to discover the identity of the person who hired him to kill her. What he learns will turn his world upside down, and propel him headlong into love with a woman who’s immune to his charms.

17292619[1] Twice widowed by the age of twenty-four, Lady Susanna Lynden has had enough of charming men. Her last husband knew all the right things to say to get her to yes to him, then made her life miserable. Money may be scarce and her house falling down around her, but the exotic fruit from her orange trees will keep poverty away. Except someone is thwarting her at every turn. Someone who may even want her dead.

Relationships between the characters develop well as the story unfolds and there are twists and turns that make the reader keep guessing as to what comes next. I enjoyed ride.

A word of warning, though. Many scenes in the book are sexually graphic. If that bothers you, you may want to skip this one.

Roses For No Reason

Half a Dozen Red Roses

Photo courtesy of pixabay

By Ellen Andersen

It was an ordinary day at work. I’d been in and out of patients’ rooms, developing discharge plans for them when they left the hospital and returned home. In the middle of the day, someone came to the office and asked for me. When I answered, he came in with a bouquet of half a dozen red roses.

 

Shocked, I wondered what they were for. The card attached said they were from my boyfriend, Doug. It wasn’t Valentine’s Day. It wasn’t my birthday. It wasn’t an anniversary. Why in the world would he send me roses? I had no idea, and the card didn’t provide any clue either. It just said, Hi Ellen. Hope you’re having a good day. Love, Doug.

Doug was romantic, but he didn’t have a lot of money. I couldn’t figure out why he would just decide to send me roses. We’d been dating for about six months or so, but this was a lot.

“Wow! Is it your birthday?”

“No, I have no idea why he sent them.”

“Really? Is it your anniversary?”

“No. I really don’t know why he gave them to me.”

My husband’s never sent me roses”, my supervisor said. “You must be really special to him”

“I guess so…” I said, still puzzled.

The next time we saw each other, Doug asked me if I’d gotten them.

“Yes, I did. What made you do that?”

“I was just thinking about you and wanted to let you know”, he said.

“Wow. Thanks “I said. “That was really nice. It made me feel special. Everybody at work asked me why you’d sent them and I couldn’t tell them. It was funny because they didn’t believe me.” He just smiled.

It’s been nearly 20 years and I still have no idea why Doug sent flowers that day. But I think I’ll always remember it. It brightened my day and told me how much I meant to him.

Click to tweet: Small acts of kindess: Roses For No Reason by Ellen Andersen. #kindnessmatters #ValentinesDay

Favorite Friday Fiction: Don’t Look Back by Lynette Eason

By Ellen Andersen

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

Don’t Look Back

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?

 

Small Acts of Kindness: Closure

By Jennifer Hallmark

A New Year approaches and with it, a fresh start. In 2017, Ellen and I have enjoyed sharing small acts of kindness that affected us and also displaying kindness through the posts of guest bloggers. But there is one more act of kindness you can do for yourself before the New Year begins.

Several years ago, I was discussing the New Year with a friend and she told me how she was already praying about the New Year and setting goals.

“That’s always good to do. But I have one question for you,” I said. “Have you brought the year 2017 to a point of closure?”

Click to tweet: Finding closure before entering 2018. #NewYear #goals

She asked what I meant. I explained that in the thesaurus, the word closure compares to conclusion, end, close, and finalization. Had she brought this old year to a close? Have you? Below are several questions you can ask yourself so you can successfully end the year 2017.

(1)    Have I taken a moment to examine all the people in my life to make sure there is no bitterness or unforgiveness against any of them? The point is not whether they deserved to be forgiven even if they hurt you badly. When Jesus went to the Cross and suffered like He did so we could go to heaven, His love erased any excuse we might have to hold unforgiveness towards anyone for any reason. Reconciliation is not always possible, but with the help of God we can forgive.

(2)    Have I looked at all the events in my life and come to a place of peace/acceptance? Some things that happened to me this year were not good. Have I reached a place where I can move forward? It helps me to write my feelings down either in prayer form or a declaration. In a catastrophic event like the concert shooting in Las Vegas or the hurricanes that ravaged so many areas, I put into a prayer my thoughts and feelings of that day.

In an event, such as sickness or pain, I first write what the doctor said, then what God said in His Word. At the end, I write a declaration that I have chosen to believe God over man. I don’t deny the diagnosis. I simply believe God for healing, either in this lifetime or the next. During hard times, I can go back and read and remember, using these prayers and declarations to strengthen my faith and give me hope.

(3)    Have I examined my goals and dreams I had for 2017? Which goals did I reach? Which ones were probably unrealistic to begin with? As I look back at my accomplishments and the things I didn’t accomplish or finish, it will help me to set new goals, plans and dreams for 2018. I can also release my goals and dreams back to God and believe He has a purpose and plan within it all.

2018 offers a clean slate. Make sure and take a moment to bring 2017 to a point of closure. Then you’ll be free to start the New Year with faith and hope in the One who makes all things new.

Once Upon a Christmas Giveaway III

One of my favorite events in the holiday season is our Once Upon a Christmas giveaway at the Inspired Prompt blog. This is the third year and the prizes are better than ever for three blessed winners. Make sure you go to Rafflecopter and enter today. Contest ends December 13th.

$25 Barnes & Noble gift card

$25 Subway gift card

$25 Starbucks gift card

Jewelry

And six books:

A Perfect Fit by Karen Jurgens (e-book)

The Whisper of the Palms by Harriet E. Michael (paperback)

The Tilting Leaves of Autumn by Robin E. Mason (paperback, signed)

Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game (paperback)

Adored: 365 Devotions for Young Women (hardback)

The Reason by William Sirls (Paperback or e-book)

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.

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.

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.