I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Monday, December 5, 2016

Holiday Fear or Cheer?

by Teri Smith

We celebrated Thanksgiving, and now, right on the heels of it, Christmas! In fact, for the last few years we have started setting up our Christmas tree on Thanksgiving Day as soon as we can begin to move again after the big meal.

It's kinda fun...wondering if we should decorate the tree about the same or make some changes.

To be fair, this year my daughter, Sarah, and her friend adorned our tree while my son-in-law and I watched the Cowboys win their football game. After all, first things first.

I love both celebrations. Thanksgiving brings back memories of making our favorite recipes for so many years, most of which only get pulled out in November. And I love the roots of the holiday, remembering all the things we have to give thanks for! Then Christmas brings joy because we celebrate the birth of our Savior, and it's a delight to think about which gift I can give to my family and friends.

But wonderful as these two back to back holidays are, they can also be stressful. Because, well, family. As precious as they are, they all have their "moments". (At least I know I give my family those moments.)

Maybe there's been a little rift between two of them. Or perhaps a tragedy of some sort overshadows the day. It could be someone has a headache that day and feels out of sorts. Maybe they're just tired! Or there's that moment when everything going great and something slips out that offends someone.

Should we just give up on these holidays? Never! But you (yes, you) can be the one who fixes it. You be the one who says "sorry you aren't feeling well." Or the one who gives a little hug just to make someone know you care. You can be the one to say "I'm sorry" or "let's play a game".

You can be the one, by the grace of God, to bring the holiday cheer to your family.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Please tell me where that name came from again (Part 2)

Delores E. Topliff
I love the historic origins behind many dining, fashion, and cultural statements. Crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 800 AD, Charlemagne, King of France, established a royal school for children, which he sometimes attended. He also improved etiquette. Unhappy with his soldiers stabbing meat with short daggers to gnaw meat off the bones, he suggested an eating utensil we still use, a fork with two tines to secure meat while it is sliced into manageable portions.

Centuries later, Frederick Wilhelm of Prussia, noticed that when his 6’ tall Potsdam guards stood at attention in cold weather, they inelegantly wiped their dripping noses on their jacket sleeves. His solution? Sew multiple buttons on each sleeve as trim to end nosewiping, a fashion statement we still use.

British and U.S. History was determined by a health problem. King George III was noted to oscillate between excitement and despair, spoke of abdicating, and didn’t respond to issues raised in letters and pleas from American colonists. That contributed to the colonies declaring independence. In 1788 doctors diagnosed that it was King George’s reason that had fled its throne and his son, the then Prince of Wales, governed as regent. Even after the king recovered in 1789 and resumed the throne, he feared that he might collapse again into madness. Twentieth-century medical men believe that he suffered porphyria, a hereditary blood disease producing agonizing pain, excited overactivity, and the acute delirium that he displayed at least four times during his reign.

Meanwhile, instead of daring to speak openly against their king, American colonists poked fun at him through harmless children’s rhymes children:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, 
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall; 
All the king's horses and all the king's men 
Couldn't put Humpty together again.

They also teased about the success of the ragtag volunteer colonial army that opposed him—
Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry.
When the boys came out to play,
Georgie Porgie ran away.


Many nursery rhymes have similar fascinating origins. Keep your eyes and ears open for more fun word stories and please share one that you enjoy.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tell me where that name came from (Part 1)


Delores E. Topliff
Researching and now writing historic novels, I love learning stories behind the words, rhymes, etc., that are now part of our everyday world. For example, the tongue twister, “She sells sea shells down by the seashore” comes from historic fact, but not about seashells. Mary Anning, born in 1799 in Dorset, England, was the eldest daughter in a family that supplemented income by digging up fossils near the sea to sell to tourists. She had little education but excelled in fossils and filled in many blanks for science. I wish I’d known the gal and you can read more about her at http://www.littlethings.com/she-sells-seashells-meaning

There are two fascinating explanations for Orange Marmalade's invention and name. One is that Mary, Queen of Scots, got a bad chill while riding horseback through a rainy night to meet her lover, Bothwell. Her French chef boiled orange peel with juice and sugar to cure her and she liked it so much she then kept it at her bedside always.

The second is that a French king had a young daughter also named Marie who was so sick and near death who would not take nourishment. Her desperate dad decreed that whoever could create a food to tempt her to eat and live would be handsomely rewarded. Supposedly, a poor but bright young man boiled oranges crushed in sugar, which she loved, and began her return to health. That story ends with the young man receiving gold plus becoming her husband (and probably starting a Marmalade factory). In French, the words for, Marie is sick are Marie est malade, close enough in sound there must be some basis in fact. 

Which version do you vote for? Tell us the background of any fascinating word origin you know and enjoy.  


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

When Faith Gets Down in the Dirt

What exactly is Faith? I could give you a trite definition. Faith is believing when you can’t see.

Or a more Biblical one: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  Hebrews 11:1

Or even a dictionary definition. “Belief that is not based on proof.”

I can toss out synonyms: belief, confidence, trust and conviction.

We have a whole list of people who exhibited faith in Hebrews 11.

  • Noah building the ark
  • Abraham obeying God to travel without knowing where he was going
  • Moses leading the people of God out of Egypt
  • David going out to fight the giant


But for some reason faith doesn’t seem to get real until it gets personal. What if God puts some unexpected twists in your road like He did mine?

  • He sends you from Texas to Canada to work in a tiny Christian publishing company with little pay
  • He calls you to be a missionary in Bolivia, a country you've never seen
  • He withholds the natural children you longed for
  • He allows an aneurism that leaves your brain reeling for a while


This is when faith gets down in the dirt, sometimes leaving us without a reason to trust…except…well, except God. Sometimes we can wait a long time to until that faith comes to fruition. Sometimes we may not see it until we get to heaven. In the meantime, that “hanging in there” and that “waiting what seems like forever” shines to others around you as a modern day example of faith.  No answers yet.  Just trust.

And for the record, here’s my list of a few blessings that came from the “hanging in there”.

  • When I got to Canada I met the young man I would marry! And I fell in love with a whole beautiful new country
  • When I went to Bolivia, I saw many people come to know Christ as their Savior. I also received the surprise of my life when God opened the way for us to adopt 3 beautiful and wonderful children!
  • The major illness opened the way for me to be with my parents and take care of them in their weakness until God called them home.


I still have unanswered questions and things I wonder about. But that’s the precious thing about faith. We can rest and leave these in the capable hands of our Savior. When we get to heaven, we can ask God all our hard questions. I know He’ll answer them to our perfect satisfaction.

How has faith had an impact in your life? Please share!

(By Teri Smith)



Tuesday, September 27, 2016

History lives just down the street and around the corner


Delores E. Topliff

I grew up in the town around Fort Vancouver, Washington, the end of the Oregon Trail, and that connection to history had impact. Built in 1825, the fort also has the oldest apple tree in the Pacific Northwest from seeds brought by an English sea captain a year later. 

Even now when I’m there in season I nibble on that tree’s small green apples to digest more history. Before the fort became a national monument, anyone could roam the place, so at age eleven I explored the original well, so deep it made me dizzy to look into its depths. I crawled the last few feet on my stomach to peer down past the perfectly fitted stones lining its walls to clear water in the bottom. I wanted to drink that water as another link to the past and loved realizing those stones were perfectly fitted by craftsman hands not so very long ago.

This September I attended Voyageur Days at Minnesota’s North West Fur Post built in 1804. Cheerful people in period dress taught life skills, offered authentic trade goods, and played music on instruments true to the time. I saw and heard a nine note range Scottish small pipe played for parlor entertainment by squeezing a small air bag under the arm instead of blowing the fierce warrior blasts that terrified enemies. It was as if I had walked down a street, turned some corner, and found myself living in earlier years. The staff and visitors delightfully spoke of people in conversation that I’m researching for a historic novel as intimately as if they were the new family just moving into the neighborhood.

In the U.S. and Canada., history is alive and well and didn’t actually happen that long ago. My grandchildren like to quiz me on life before T.V., space shots, internet, and other modern inventions, yet don’t realize they’re also missing out on great experiences from earlier days.


History is still being written and we each have a starring role. What favorite historic place do you love to frequent and why? What historic impact do you most want your life to have? I want to write about both past and present in ways that make them live.

Monday, September 12, 2016

A Great Escape from Today's Headlines

Election fireworks. Sports protests...and protests against the protests. More shocking: provocations from a nation taunting the U.S. Navy.

Wow. There's plenty to get our blood pressure shooting up these days.

And that's all the more reason to take a break with a great book that keeps you turning the pages.

Now this is not your cute, picket-fence romance. But it will take you to another world for a while.

Our own Patricia Bradley (a.k.a. Pat Trainum to us), has penned another great read!

Let me just give you a bit of the back cover copy to stir your interest:

When Bailey Adams left Logan Point two years ago for Mexico, she thought she was getting away from her problems. Running into her ex-fiance Danny Maxwell was not part of the plan--neither was being chased through the city by the local drug cartel, the Calatrava. Now despite her best efforts, Danny is her only chance of escaping the people chasing her and getting back to Logan Point safely. Can Bailey find the strength to face what's coming? And in the midst of the chaos, can she keep herself from falling in love with her rescuer all over again.

I promise you, this book will take you away from today's headlines for a wonderful story of second chances. And I think you'll be inspired by Bailey Adams!

I've had a few heart-beating incidents in my missionary travels, and someday I'll write about a few of them. Tell me about one of your brushes with danger, and if you send me your snail-mail address, I'll enter your name in a drawing for a copy of Silence in the Dark.

by Teri Smith

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

How to (almost) guarantee that Queen Elizabeth II will visit with you

Delores E. Topliff

This post could also be called be called, How to turn flaws into art, because that’s what my British friend Elfreda (Freda) Alexander did throughout her life. Her daughter, Helen, told me that in 1921 at age 14, Freda went to work in a pool of girls trained and then sent two at a time to stately estate homes like Downton Abbey to repair ancient tapestries, and sometimes, even Royal tapestries. 

As a result Freda loved threads, yarns, wools, and all kinds of fibers all of her days. In a retirement home in old age when her mind was not clear, her daughter Helen cut small holes in certain things so Freda could enjoy mending them. Freda would ‘play’ for hours in the safety of the care home or a nearby park, 
I knew her after their family emigrated to Canada years before Freda entered a retirement home. Until then any sweater, towel, fabric, or blanket with a hole ended up not just being ‘darned’ to replace missing threads, but wonderfully embroidered until a new bird or flower or star or vine provided an end result so much lovelier than the original. I’m privileged to own two of Freda’s creations and show their photos here. The photos below are two halves of one piece but I couldn't quite get my technology to join them.

In married life, besides raising three children, she and her husband, Hugh, nurtured over one hundred Foster Children in their home in Middlesex and later Sussex, England. There, too, I imagine Freda identifying gaps and holes in those children and choosing the needed emotional threads, colors, and stitches to add loving designs to those who came to them. Perhaps they received some government ‘subsidy, but no payment could adequately repay the wonderful investment made.

How do you thank a devoted couple like that? Queen Elizabeth II found a way. When the queen once visited the area Freda was invited to meet the queen who personally said ‘thank you'. I’ve enjoyed seeing the photo and story from their local paper.

What about you? When you find blemishes or holes in writing or life, how do you mend them? What creative design do you bring to life's tapestry better that is better than what was there before? That is our wonderful life opportunity.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Hardest Part About Being a Writer

(Hint: it’s not grammar.)

Face it. Writing ranks right up at the top of the list of difficult tasks for many people.  It scares folks.

But the hardest part about being a writer isn’t grammar or spelling. It’s not even criticism although that does sting from time to time.

And believe me, the hardest part isn’t coming up with new ideas.

To be honest, new ideas create the most trying aspect of being a writer. Ideas! Those voices inside our heads keep popping up.  They never stop. Just as we try to relax for a moment, the topic of the next blog post pops into our head. How many of us get the next best idea in the shower? We begin to fall asleep and—bam! The next chapter of our book unfolds in our heads. Of course, we have to get up and jot it down.

Then a rebellious character says something we hadn’t planned at all. It takes us in a new direction.  Rewrite!

Well, type away. Oh! An idea for a brand new book intrudes in the middle of the scene!

So I suggest that the most challenging part about being a writer is that the voices never leave our heads. The intrusion never stops.  

But it’s also the most exciting part. We cannot shut out those voices anyway, so we embrace them and keep a pencil handy. Besides, for a writer, there's nothing worse than for the voices to go silent. 


Do you agree? If not, what makes the toughest part to you?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

More "What's in a name?"



Delores E. Topliff

Words perfectly-suited to life situations are coins for the realms we travel and do business in, just like we exchange currencies at international borders to exchange goods with the people there. Similarly, authors define their writing audience to choose words that will achieve the best impact in hitting targets for successful communication.

Let's mint great expressions that survive like many fun general domain phrases passed down to us, along with the interesting stories behind them.

Whether we say Heaven’s to Betsy, or Heaven’s to Murgatroyd, depends on cultural background. “Betsy” (as in Sweet Betsy from Pike) is very American while Murgatroyd comes from the Middle English and Norse words, Mooor Gate Royde meaning “district leading to the moors,” and became the surname of a Yorkshire, England constable.

To be worth our salt means to be worth our pay and the word salary originates from it. If we’re not worth our salt, we’re in trouble.

Being below the salt goes back to medieval times.  As a valued seasoning and preservative, salt was placed in the middle of dining tables. The lord and his family were seated above it while other guests and servants sat below the salt.

Sincere from Roman times literally means without wax, guaranteeing that the sculpture or stonework presented is genuineno wax was applied to fill or hide imperfections, a subterfuge easily discovered when heat was applied.
Authors show sincerity in characters. When heat is applied, are ours genuine? Or do cracks appear as their beauty and/or stability is seen to be flawed and needing repair.

There are a million more, and I still love place names, too. I’ve been to Moose Jaw and Medicine Hat. My sons have visited Cold Foot, AK. And there are more places I want to see to hear their storiesplaces like the Foggy Bottom part of Washington D.C., Yellow Knife, NWT, Accident, MD, Cut and Shoot, TX, Hell, AZ (that one’s easy to guess), and the Highway leading there.

What about you? Tell us your favorite phrases or place names, and if you know their stories, pass them on.