Tag Archives: hope

The Grateful Ornament

This is the time of year when everyone is running madly around trying to get things done in preparation for the holidays. In other words, it’s a stressful time. Right? To be honest, this year has actually been more stressful than most for me, whether it be good stress or bad stress, but through it all, I’ve been reminded how important it is to just stop for a few minutes to reflect on how fortunate I am.

No matter how good things are, they can always be better. No matter how bad things are, they can always be worse. But, I think the key to surviving it all comes from deciding what things are worth dealing with and what are not and to pay special attention to those things that edify one’s life over those that do not. Life is too short to waste on negativity. As a result of all this thinking, I decided to make a virtual, all-important ornament for my Christmas tree this year. It started out as a clear ball and developed from there. I named it, the “grateful ornament.”

To me, the “grateful ornament” has many layers. In its core is LOVE; that I picture as molten, ready to flow and seep into any space no matter how small or large. Surrounding this center are smaller layers that contain things like PATIENCE, FORGIVENESS and UNDERSTANDING. The outside of this ornament consists of a rich, glossy covering of KINDNESS that glows and pulses and is mixed with a multicolored, bumpy HAPPINESS, whose appearance reflects the favorite color of whomever is beholding it. But the wonderful thing about this ornament is that it has a magical quality that makes those who gaze upon it―full of HOPE and ASSURANCE that every year can be experienced with these wondrous qualities.

So my dear readers, this year I encourage you all to join me as I place the “grateful ornament” on my Christmas tree, front and center and you place your “grateful ornament,” on your tree, as well. As we race against time to get all things accomplished before year’s end, may we have the grace of gratefulness and so much more to carry us through. I wish you a Merry Christmas and a very ornamental new year!



Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.


Filed under How To, life, musings

Taking “H” Things With Gratitude by Pat Bertram

When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude. ~~ G. K. Chesterton

Since today is the eighth day of my current surge of gratitude, I am giving thanks for “H” things.

I am especially grateful for:

Broken heartHeart. All kinds of heart. The compassion, tenderness, and forgiveness we feel for others. The spirit, bravery, and desire that help us overcome unfavorable odds. The essence of us as humans. The muscle that keeps blood flowing through our veins and arteries. The symbol — so simple and elegant, even a child can draw it. We take all of these sorts of heart for granted, and yet they are all things to be taken with gratitude.

Healing. We often take healing for granted, which makes sense since the healing processes of body, mind, and soul all take place out of sight. And yet, for most of us, those healing processes work even when we aren’t aware of them, keeping our bodies well, putting things right when we get sick, helping to mend our grief-stricken hearts. This is something to be grateful for.

Hope. Even when it feels as if we have no hope, generally, we still have the hope of a new day, better times, someone or something to love.

High places. Seeing the world from high places — lofty peaks, tall buildings, towers, Ferris wheels — puts our lives in perspective and gives us a feeling of expansiveness as if nothing can go wrong in a world with such wonderful and far-sighted views.

H. Even the letter H itself is a something to be grateful for — it’s very shape is like the first step of a ladder, the ladder to healing, hope, and high places.

So, what “H” things are you taking for gratitude today?

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.


Filed under life, Pat Bertram

A Rainbow in Winter by Sherrie Hansen

In real life, it’s called a bad case of the blues, losing hope, or hitting rock bottom.   In a book, it’s called the black moment – that devastating culmination of circumstances when all momentum comes screeching to a halt, when you think things are so bad that they can’t possibly get any worse, and then, they do – that time when all hope is lost.


The thing that saddens me is that, whereas the characters in the books we write and read almost always come around to a happy ending, in real life, when we come to a dead end, we sometimes (often?) really do give up and walk away from the things that could bring us true happiness.


We all know that summer comes for only a season, and eventually, must ease into fall – which leads to the desolate cold of winter.


In some cases, it’s even given a name – SAD, or seasonal affective disorder. I’ve been prone to it for years. It can be depressing and debilitating. It can mean death to your dreams and the end to your goals.


In my book, Sweet William, Lyndsie and William seem to have finally overcome the issues that are keeping them apart when tragedy rips their dreams to shreds. The scenes that follow are some of the blackest I’ve ever written, but because of the pain they have to work through, their joy is deeper, and the ending, more sweet than any before.


When we hit a wall, we have two choices… we can crawl into a cave, cry ourselves to sleep, and settle in to hibernate for the winter, and maybe beyond.


Or, we can spend our winters looking for bright spots.




Because there are rainbows in winter, and rainbows in deserts, and flowers and dashes of color where you might least expect them, and inspiration in odd places.


And the sun keeps shining even on the coldest days.


It may be blotted out, or obscured for a time, but it is there, giving warmth and melting the snow away from your heart, and making you ready for spring.


The next time you feel hopeless and blue, read a book, maybe even THE Book.


Horrible things will happen, maybe even things that are worse than whatever is making you sad.


And then, wonder of wonder, there will be a resurrection, and out of the ashes will come new life, and somehow, you will find a happy ending.


Have faith. There are rainbows even in the desert.



Filed under photographs, Sherrie Hansen, Travel, writing

In The Works by S. M. Senden

People have been asking me when my next book will be coming out since they loved the first one so much.  There are a couple of reactions that immediately come with that question.  First is being so pleased that people love my writing, characters and story.  An author never knows how the public will react to a creative offering, and hoping for the best launches it into the world, optimistically expecting the best.

Then comes the obverse side of that coin ~ will they like the next book as much?  Since it is not part of a series, will the characters grab them?  Will they be propelled through the book because they have become involved in the lives of people they will only know on the page; or device depending on what you read?  The committee of negative activities lurking in the back of my mind will whisper that it is a fluke and will never happen again.

All I can do is swat those negative thoughts away and after writing, polishing, rewriting and polishing some more, then release the manuscript to the publisher.  So that finally once in print, the reader tell me what they think.

So what is the next book about?  It is a story set in a small town in 1939 as Germany is making advances on Poland, and the world watches with horror as they spark another world war.  As they watch, people go on living their lives in cities, the country and small towns.  This story is set in the county seat of MontgomeryCounty in the city of Red Oak in Iowa.  It is a story about the secrets people keep in this small town, the lies people live and live with.  How they deal with truth when it is revealed.  It is about memories buried deep under the dust of time, of the people who move in and out of our lives, some slipping away almost unnoticed and nearly forgotten.

And that gets me thinking…

In a poem by Dory Previn, she states ~

We never stop to wonder till a person’s gone,

We never yearn to know him until he’s packed and traveled on.

As I worked on this story I thought of the many people who have come and gone in my life.  Some are there for a long time, some pass quickly through.  Each person I encounter gives me something, recreates something in me, for better or for worse.  Every time my being interacts with someone else; I am changed, transformed in some way, even if it is a very small and hardly noticeable change.

Think about the people you have known in your life.  Some teach us so much, some give us joy and laughter, others give us pain and hard learned lessons, but each has had an impact on who we are.  I think about some of the people who have died, and I wish I’d known them better.  I wish that I’d been able to know more about them, their lives growing up, and their experiences.  But I thank them for being a part of my life.

From all this pondering, I hope that I will be a positive impact on people, their lives, and that in future people will say ~ she made me laugh, or think or taught me something wonderful.  These are the things I think about as I create a story and characters.  I want them to touch the reader’s lives, and hope they will not soon be forgotten.

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Spring by S.M. Senden

By April most of us are impatiently waiting the coming of spring, the warmer weather and the beauty of the earth awakening from winter’s sleep as Mother Nature shakes off the snowy mantle and bursts forth in color and fragrance.  I too look for the signs of Spring; the return of robins, the chatter of birds building nests, the first signs of plants pushing up through the soil, buds on the trees that will soon burst into flower and that fine green mist that halos branches of trees just before the leaves break forth and show themselves.

Spring is an exciting time, for nothing seems to hold still, almost overnight the world is transformed from the tattered remnants of winters last bedraggled efforts to hold the earth tight in her cold embrace, into the bounty of blossoms, glorious color and soft, perfumed scented breezes that invite us to come out of our burrows and dance in the sunlight of lengthening days.

The other thing that spring heralds is change.  Change can sometimes drive us all crazy, or it can be welcome.  Change can be thrust upon us unwelcome, or we can create some of the change we desire.  No matter how it happens change is the only real constant in the world, so we best accept the changes that are happening all about us, and look with excitement and anticipation to what is next.

Some wise person said that we should clear out the old stuff to make room for the new to come into our lives.  Spring is the time that this activity is expected. Spring Cleaning is something I have heard all my life, so I endeavor to take it on. I am in the process of cleaning out the old, clearing out closets as well as old notions that no longer work.  Somehow it is easier to clear out the old notions and outworn ideas than clear out the accumulated stuff that I have in closets and drawers.  This may really sound silly, but I have a goal to have an empty closet.  Nothing stashed away in that little haven of things I will some day use.

As I clear out the years of accumulated treasures, I make piles for the library, books I have read and will not be keeping.  I already have well over 1,000 volumes, with the many books I am reading, have read and intend to read.  Most of my collection consists of books for research!  IRS Tax Note!  For those Book-a-holics out there, having a thousand books or more really is a tax write-off because it is considered a library!  I will gift the overflow to the public library, they may acquisition them into their collection or sell them in the used book shop and raise some funds to buy new books.  Maybe they will even buy mine!

Another pile is for Good Will that consists of clothing, household items and other goodies they can sell in their shop.  I even put up a few things on e-bay to see if anyone wants them.  I am always surprised at what sells, and what does not!

Then there is the pile of ‘What on earth did I keep this for?’  That pile is destined for the rubbish bin.  Though it is the smallest pile, it is the hardest to make headway through as I try to recall why I kept this little memento.  If I really do not recall, why keep it?  It did not make it into the scrapbook, so it now gets to migrate to the rubbish bin.

It feels good to clear out the old; to give away what may become a treasure for someone else, or a book they may never forget.  I continue to work to that goal of an empty closet.  I try to do a little clearing out every day.  As I go through things, I stir up dusty memories of events past, some forgotten, some never too far out of mind.  I have a chance to dust them off, remember, and embrace the good memories.  Some things I will keep, but others are all right to let go of now.

In that letting go, I create a space for something else to come into my life.  I do not know what will come in the place of those things I have let go of, and distributed out to the various places in the universe, but from past experience, what is new that arrives is usually better than what I gave up.

I am off to clear out another corner of incredible treasures, anticipating, with joy and expectation the new and improved future that awaits!


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“I Wish I May, I Wish I Might, Have the Wish I Wish Tonight” By Sherrie Hansen

In a few hours, I’ll be speaking at the Artworks Festival in Austin, MN, my hometown, also know as Spam Town USA (the kind in a can that’s good to eat).

Maybe it’s because Austin was the stage for most of my childhood dreams and wishes that I feel a little sentimental about the difference between how I hoped my life would turn out, and how it has.  It was under the clear, blue skies of Austin that I dreamed of meeting my own tall, dark, mysterious Prince Charming, and living happily ever after in a house filled with babies and love, surrounded by a white picket fence and window boxes filled with pink geraniums. Given the era I grew up in, the happy young wife and mother I envisioned in my wishes probably looked like Gidget, Barbie, Cinderella, and Twiggy all rolled into one.  My, how the world has changed in a few short decades. And my, how different my life has turned out to be than what I envisioned all those years ago.

Whether I was wishing upon a star or praying for the perfect man to come into my life and make my dreams come true, my life has been nothing like the way I imagined it would be. The things I’ve done, the places I’ve been, the things I’ve accomplished would have been incomprehensible to me back then.  In some ways, I’ve far exceeded my hopes and dreams. I also have a handful of regrets, and a small part of me still mourns for the way things might have been.

One of the other Austin artists appearing at the festival is in a wheelchair. I’m told he was paralyzed in a football game in the late 80’s. He is exceptionally talented and has accomplished much in his life. I’m sure when he was growing up, he didn’t envision being injured. I wonder, would he have excelled at art in the way he has if that moment hadn’t redefined his life and shaped his perspective?

Things happen – often differently than we wish or hope –  I believe God uses those things to take us from being rough pieces of coal to shining diamonds, to bring out the best in us.

The main character in my recently released, LOVE NOTES, is a woman named Hope Anderson whose youthful hopes and dreams died with her husband in an auto accident. Hope’s “Plan B” is to finish renovating and reopen Rainbow Lake Lodge, to see it bubbling with families, children, and laughter again – she believes, the perfect way to honor her late husband’s legacy.  Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances, that dream is also about to die.

Sometimes it’s very hard to see the silver lining, to find the rainbow after the storm.

I did not live happily ever after.  It took a few years for God to “work all things together for good” – I call it being blessed with “God’s Perfect Plan B”. I never did have children, but God gave me an extended family who loves me, brothers and sisters who are kind enough to share their children with me, nieces and nephews who love me and are a wonderful part of my life.

He gave me a bed and breakfast and a tea house, music to lift my soul, friends and activities that I enjoy, a new chance at romance, and many books to write.

Romans 5:2-5says ” Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Our youthful hopes and dreams may have to be altered and adapted over the years, but one thing that never changes is God – our strength, our comfort, and our hope.  Jeremiah 29:11 says, For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  I like Romans 12:12, too. “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

Sherrie Hansen Decker lives in a 116 year old Victorian house in northern Iowa who, just like her, got a second chance when she rescued it from the bulldozers grips and turned it into a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn. Sherrie has enjoyed learning about hope and love, and the difference a little faith makes while telling the story of Hope Anderson and Tommy Love in “Love Notes”.  “Love Notes”  is Sherrie’s fifth book to be published by Second Wind Publishing (her debut Christian Inspirational novel). Sherrie attended Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL and University of Maryland, European Division, in Augsburg, Germany. Her husband, Rev. Mark Decker, is a pastor and Sherrie’s real life hero. She enjoys playing the piano with their worship team, needlepointing, renovating and decorating historic houses, traveling, and going on weekly adventures with her nieces and nephews.  

You can learn more about Sherrie’s books at:


www.BlueBelleInn.com / www.BlueBelleBooks.com




Filed under Sherrie Hansen, writing

A Moment of Hope by J J Dare

I’m going to step out of the WordPress room today, but I leave you in good hands with one of my favorite childhood poems (I first read it in a very old book of my mother’s). In your memory, Mom:

Cousins, me and Mom at Aunt Bob’s house

* * * * * * * * *

The Captain’s Daughter by James T. Fields

We were crowded in the cabin,
Not a soul would dare to sleep,
It was midnight on the waters,
And a storm was on the deep.

‘Tis a fearful thing in winter
To be shattered by the blast,
And to hear the rattling trumpet
Thunder, “Cut away the mast!”

So we shuddered there in silence,
For the stoutest held his breath,
While the hungry sea was roaring
And the breakers talked with Death.

As thus we sat in darkness,
Each one busy with his prayers,
“We are lost!” the captain shouted
As he staggered down the stairs.

But his little daughter whispered,
As she took his icy hand,
“Isn’t God upon the ocean,
Just the same as on the land?”

Then we kissed the little maiden.
And we spoke in better cheer,
And we anchored safe in harbour
When the morn was shining clear.

* * * * * * * * *

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short storiesand triple digit works-in-progress. Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch.


Filed under life

On Top of the World or Down in the Valley by Sherrie Hansen

I was going through some old photos recently and came upon a photo of me taken back in the late 80’s while I was climbing Pikes Peak. For those of you who know me as a now silver-haired, overweight, 55 year old with achy knees and hips who will do most anything to avoid stairs, yes, I really did climb Pikes Peak. This is not another work of fiction. I really did it.

I lived in Colorado Springs at the time, and was acclimated to the altitude. I had walked 3 or 4 miles a day for months before attempting my trek so get in shape. My friend, Karen (the cute, naturally slender one on the left), coached and encouraged me to the top. If not for her, I might still be sitting in the midst of a boulder field, too tired and short of air to make it to the top, and too tired and sore to make it back down to the base. I probably would have been devoured by coyotes or pummeled to death by a hailstorm by morning, as we climbed the mountain in early October, when there was barely enough hours of daylight to make it to the top.  I don’t have a photo of me at the very top of the mountain, because we barely made to the top in time to get our tickets and jump on the last cog train of the day for the trip back home. If we hadn’t caught the last train, we would have had to spend the night on the mountain. Not a good thing, although there are a few little cabins along the path for folks who do get stranded or need to take shelter.

Pikes Peak is over 14,000 feet high. It’s almost unimaginable – even to me – that I ever lugged my tired old body up such a steep incline. But isn’t that always the way it is when you’re down in the valley? Life has a way of beating your down sometimes, and when you’re in the basement, it seems like you’re never even going to make it up to the first floor, say nothing about soaring to the top of a massive mountain.  Maybe that’s why I love it when my characters are surprised by joy, when they find hope, that moment when they see a pinprick of light in the far distance, shining through the darkness.

When Hope Anderson meets Tommy Love in my new book, Love Notes, she’s understandably cautious, even cynical. Tommy is downright jaded, and has long given up on finding true love. They both believe in a God of miracles – in theory…  but which of us really believes that God is going to work a miracle in our lives?

Maybe it’s because He did, in my life, when I met my husband of 8 years – my real life romance – that I like to write about hope.

So if you find yourself down in the valley, a place I’m very well acquainted with – for whatever reason – think about being on top of Pikes Peak. It’s not an easy climb, but it’s definitely doable. It could happen. It did happen to me, and I’m here to tell you that the view is great from the top. You can see forever. So keep believing. You never know what God has in store for you…  

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)

LOVE NOTES (Coming on June 4th from Second Wind Publishing)

Hope Anderson’s heart is finally starting to thaw.
Even Tommy Love’s is melting around the edges.

But they both want Rainbow Lake Lodge. Only one of them can have it.

For Hope, recreating the past - reopening the lodge and seeing it bubbling with families, children, and laughter again – means new life. It’s the only way she can honor her late husband's legacy.

For Tommy Lubinski of Tommy Love and the Love Notes fame, Rainbow Lake means coming home - peace, quiet, seclusion - and a second chance at stardom. Once he’s bulldozed the lodge and built his dream house overlooking the lake, everything will be perfect.
Hope is sinking fast, but she’ll be fine if she can just keep her head above water until spring. Tommy’s troubles run a little deeper, but there’s no need to worry for now… Rainbow Lake is frozen solid. Or is it?


Filed under Sherrie Hansen, writing



(I first thought of calling this “Let Me Tell You About My Grandchildren,” but figured everyone would simply turn and run like hell.)

I’ve just returned to cyberspace from a) a trip to the great sprawl of Atlanta where my kids and grandkids live and b) a major computer crash. Both experiences are somewhat out of the norm for this screen-and-home bound senior. I treasure my visits south, getting to see the changes that have occurred up close and personal. My oldest son is always engaged in his workshop/basement, tearing old computers apart, studying academic papers posted on arcane post doc websites and building new software. He’s the 45 year old version of the little boy I caught sticking a hair pin into an electrical socket, because “I knew there was electricity in there, and I HAD to get it out.” His one and only child is just finishing her second year in college, so there are no little feet pattering in this house. When our son was small, it was the days of “Mork from Ork” and we sometimes imagined our gifted boy was from another planet. (Would he start seeing through walls or something?) Neither of his parents are as intelligent as grounded or focused as he has grown to be.

In the home of my younger son, things are far less geek-monastic. There are two daughters, one eleven and one nine, and lots of colors, clothes, dolls and a Wii, and all the other trappings of modern childhood. The youngest girl in this house also lives on another planet, but her other-worldliness is a prison. She is autistic, and appears to be pretty firmly stuck there, although, when she was small, we were given the hope that she’d be one of the lucky ones and “come out of it” because sometimes girls on the spectrum do. So little is understood about this modern epidemic of disabled children. Like every autistic child, PJ is a unique world unto herself. It’s tough to have a grandchild who does not appear to know who you are, and who does not meet your eyes. In short, unless PJ needs you to perform a task for her–make supper or get milk from the locked fridge–you might as well be invisible. This apparent lack of empathy, of the warm social bond normal between people, makes life hard for both her parents and for her big sister.

If PJ appears to love anything, it’s the computer–her Daddy has set up one for her, with appropriate links, so she can obsess on whatever kid’s show she currently enjoys. While I was there, she was interested in running the television, because she’s deep in Ponyo, an entirely hand-drawn, fabulously beautiful piece of animation from the Japanese master, Miyazaki. PJ drives the remote like a champ, finding the scenes she likes best and repeating them without difficulty. She can replay for hours, so grandmother simply sat down and watched her watching. Ponyo is a mermaid story. The fish daughter of an undersea magician wants to become human because of her love for the little boy who rescued her. Sitting there, watching, I thought the appropriate age group for the film was probably rather young, as the protagonists are very young–perhaps about 5 or 6. PJ’s favorite scene concerns Ponyo’s accidental release of her father’s potent magic, which sets off a chain reaction of wild creation. Enormous schools of fish leap from the sea, almost drowning ships; a tsunami roars in upon the land. Ponyo, riding the leaping fish, grows feet, hands, a belly button, hair and teeth. Hurled upon the land by a great wave, she becomes a “real girl.” This climactic scene, with triumphant Wagnerian music–she’s a connoisseur of music–was PJ’s favorite. Sitting on the couch in the dim room, I experienced the rush of transformation in the visuals and in the grand and celebratory music.

It wasn’t until later, back home, that it occurred to me that this latest “obsession” was an expression of hope, a prayer from a child so locked inside herself, so unable to reach out to others, to belong to family or make friends. For a few minutes, PJ saw herself as Ponyo, riding the giant fish, leaping upward toward the sun, surfing a wave onto the land, growing the feet and hands–and the all important ability to speak–of a “real girl.”

Juliet Waldron is the author of Hand-Me-Down Bride, available from Second Wind Publishing.

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Tomorrow Will Come

I don’t want to write today.

I should and I could, but I won’t.

I don’t want to read today.

I should and I could, but I won’t.

My brain is tired today.

The holidays are coming too soon. People are out of work and drowning in debt. Some folks have lost their homes and some are losing their sanity. I spend most of my life careening at a breakneck speed, adding too many things to my “I can do that” list.

I’m not looking at that list today.

Tomorrow, I will still have debt, an unfinished novel, edits to complete, and a to-do list. I will also still have my family, my job, and my house. I will have all of those things throughout the Holidays and into the new year, and hopefully for many years to come.

My brain is tired today, but I will let it rest knowing that tomorrow is another day.

 Claire Collins – Author of Images of Betrayal and Fate and Destiny


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