A cup of tea and a clean slate

October 31, 2011 | My Jottings

(this is from the archives….)

In 2007 Michael and I took a wonderful trip to Scotland, Ireland and England. In each place we stayed, whether chain hotel, bed and breakfast or elegant guesthouse, there was tea. Not just tea offered in dining establishments, but tea in our rooms. There was always an electric teapot, some nice teacups, a small assortment of shortbread, and Typhoo brand tea every single place we went.

We got into the habit of getting up in the mornings, heating water in our little electric teapot (much faster than microwaves), and enjoying real UK tea together before we went out to see the sights.

Then at night when we returned to our room after traipsing the Scottish Highlands or the Yorkshire Dales, we’d have tea again. Sitting together in quiet and taking time for a cup of tea seemed so simple, yet its effect on us has been a lasting one. As we sipped, we talked over the day. We wondered together what the next day would hold. We marveled that a cup of hot water with dried bits of leaves in it could taste so good and feel so comforting. By the time we flew home to American Siberia we totally understood the British habit of stopping everything at 4:00 p.m. to have a cup of tea.

Michael has been an inveterate coffee drinker for decades, and I’ve always liked tea, but I probably drank it only a few times a year. When we returned home, we started buying little red plaid boxes of real Scottish shortbread, and having a cup of tea almost every day. It made us think back to our fantastic trip, and we enjoyed sitting together for a few quiet minutes in the waning of the day.

When we moved into this house almost two years ago, we decided to designate a nook in our bedroom as a special place for two comfy overstuffed chairs, a reading light and small table, and an ottoman, where we could take a few minutes to have tea together.

I would heat the water for our tea in our kitchen microwave and carry it up in steaming mugs on a tray to our bedroom, and we would sink into our chairs and sigh, sipping our tea, nibbling our buttery shortbread, and remembering how much we love Scotland and want to move there.

Well, a little over a month ago I was in Menard’s, of all places, and as I wandered the aisles I found an electric kettle almost exactly like many of the ones in our rooms in Great Britain. I bought it for Michael for Christmas and he smiled when he saw it, knowing exactly what I had intended by this little gift.

Now when we have tea I don’t nuke the water in the kitchen microwave and carry it upstairs. Instead I fill the teapot in the master bathroom and plug it in just like we did on our trip each morning and evening, and since the teapot is faster than a microwave, we have boiling water in the time it takes us to sing “Danny Boy.”

Here’s the tray with all our tea things on it, sitting on the ottoman in our lovely bedroom nook. (These pictures should enlarge if you click on them.)

And not that I have any issues or anything like that, but I also think it’s a good idea that our mugs sort of match the decor, which is black and cream with splashes of deep red here and there.

Above, you can see my cardinal mug from a friend, Michael’s manly black and white Guinness mug he bought in Ireland, a box of Typhoo tea bags from the United Kingdom, a red bowl with a few other tea bags in it, and the new electric teapot, all sitting on a dark red tray. We keep all of this here all the time, and even on the days when we don’t sit down for tea, the tray still beckons and we look forward to the next day, when perhaps we’ll be able to take some time in the morning or late afternoon to sit in peace together.

Our teatimes aren’t all about tea, however. We have been reading through the Bible together for years now. Sometimes days will go by and we won’t read together at all. We’re not so concerned about finishing quickly as we are about taking it in as we read, to discern what God is saying to us on that particular day. We read slowly, out loud, and stop to talk about what we read and what it means to us. I always keep Kleenex nearby. We mark our Bibles when we finish each chapter so we’ll know when we’ve read through all sixty-six books together. We finished the New Testament years ago, and are more than halfway through the Old. We keep rereading the Psalms and Proverbs and we both love the book of Acts so much we’ve read that aloud numerous times. This morning we read a chapter from the Psalms, and one from the books of Daniel and 1 Samuel.

After we read, we often pray together. We pray for each of our children by name, each of our sons-in-law, each grandchild. We pray for our friends, for neighbors, for those people we know who have needs that only God can meet. Sometimes we ask for huge miracles, sometimes we just ask for daily bread. Some days we don’t know how to pray, so we cry, knowing God can read our hearts. And we always ask for God’s help and forgiveness for ourselves; we’re so thankful that His mercies are new every morning, and that His faithfulness is so great. (Lamentations 3:22-23.)

I must say that I think the most wonderful, miraculous and intimate thing Michael and I have ever done as a couple is pray together. When we were newlyweds in the early 1980s I used to think the most intimate thing between us was, er…uh…ahem, something else. And as wonderful, miraculous and intimate as married love is, the joining together of hearts and souls in prayer to the One who made us and loves us, defies description.

And we hardly even know how to pray. We just bumble through like many people, placing ourselves before our Father, humbling ourselves before Him as best we know how, asking in short, ineloquent phrases that He would help and guide us, and help and guide the ones we love so much. Author Anne Lamott says the prayers she most often says are, “Thank you, thank you!” and “Help! Help!” We’re quite familiar with those prayers too. God doesn’t expect us to pray perfectly. He just wants us to pray – to talk to Him and trust Him and listen to Him.

Michael and I have asked Him to do things He has yet to do. Still we trust Him and pray. We have asked Him to do things and He has exceeded our expectations, taking our breath away. So we thank Him and praise Him, and pray again.

I don’t know much about prayer, but I confidently say to any married couple who might be thinking they should try praying together: do it. Don’t let fear or embarrassment or any other thing stop you from connecting to the One who has all you need. If all you can do is bow your heads, join hands for thirty seconds and one of you croak out, “Dear Jesus, please help us! Amen,” then do that! That’s a lot. He will hear you.

So when 2010 arrived, it seemed only right that Michael and I start the year out in our comfy chairs in our little bedroom nook. When we found some time to go upstairs, I brewed cups of tea from our new electric teapot that reminds us of Scotland, and we sat together and exchanged knowing smiles. We read a little from the Bible. We held hands and prayed together too, asking God for a clean slate as we face a new year. Indeed, we need a clean slate each and every new day.

A cup of tea and a clean slate. Both are so heartening, so comforting. Michael and I highly recommend them. 

And here’s what’s on my yuck list…

October 26, 2011 | My Jottings

Succotash. Hookworms. Well-done steaks. Stiletto heels. Not finding the couscous. Thirty-five below zero. Rap music. Cake frosting made with Crisco. Depression. Ted Dekker books. French dressing. Heat and humidity combined. Badly behaved dogs. Geometry. Hubris (especially in myself). Southern California traffic. Cliques. Smoking. Hopelessness. The hunting death of Hope the black bear. Tanning beds. Swampland. Computer crashes. Menopausal memory issues. Sullenness. Infidelity. Mildew. Forgotten cucumbers that turn to mush in the refrigerator. Trash talk. Sharks. Parkinson’s Disease. Spam (the kind in my inbox and the kind made by Hormel). Mullets. Time wasted on a book that never got good.  Bad cosmetic surgery. O.J. Simpson. Gossip. Lessons I just can’t seem to learn the first time around. Gristle. Spiders. Not taking my thoughts captive. Divorce and the certain destruction it always brings. Lentil soup. Lentil anything. My own selfishness. Peter Pan Syndrome. Someone who betrays confidences. Fear. Uveitis. Life lived too loud to hear that still small voice. Ingratitude. A pro-choice platform. Poverty. Gumdrops. Powdery, fungal toenails. Missing and/or unnecessary apostrophes. The smell of mouse. Fractured families/withheld forgiveness. My paperwork procrastination. Lessons I just can’t seem to learn the second and third times around. Being misunderstood. Grapefruit. Young men who won’t say no to crack (both). Duplicity. Old Plymouth K-cars. White bread moist enough to roll into a ping-pong ball. Politics as usual. Tuna. Drought. Ruffles at the hip. Trying to swim through a Pacific kelp bed. Rejection. Cherry pie. Finding no red and blue floral upholstery fabric on the earth. The feel and sound of fingers on Styrofoam. Clowns. “Love, Mary” signed on anxiously anticipated Christmas cards. Human black rain clouds. Seeing pain in a child. Soft and mealy apples. The last name Penix. Insomnia coupled with despair. Dishwashers that don’t get dishes clean. Massive brown beetles that skitter up the headboard by your pillow in the night. Pouting. Thick, white nylons. Cancer. People who refuse to be teachable. Telemarketing. Skippy peanut butter. Being licked by a cat. Not knowing. Monosyllabic conversation. Broken, empty cisterns. Orange hair pretending to be blond. Alcohol’s warm, inviting subtlety disguising its cruel, often inevitable snare. Mustard. The smell of hot blacktop. Tinnitus. Bratz dolls. Debt. Faulty predictive texting. Broken promises. Jones fractures. Right index fingers that turn east. Worthless idols. Carpet that won’t give up its diamonds. Sheetrock dust in every drawer, nook and cranny. Prayerlessness and the resulting loss of perspective and peace. Easter blizzards. Margarine. Insincerity. Bullfights. What the locusts have eaten. Bunions. Chicken-and-fat necklaces at some Chinese restaurants. Tax preparation. Lying old tapes. Sportive Lemurs’ eyes. Goodbyes. Candirus. A loved one rejecting Christ. My own mediocrity.

What’s on your yuck list?        (reprinted from the archives…)

A few of my favorite things…

October 24, 2011 | My Jottings

The love of Jesus, made real in my everyday life. My husband’s love and faithfulness. My three beautiful daughters. My seven stellar grandchildren. Peanut butter and chocolate ice cream by Baskin-Robbins. Hydrangeas. Studying the Bible with friends. Miniature German Schnauzers. Slightly undercooked, very cheesy pepperoni pizza.  Scarlet maple trees in the fall. Deep conversations with transparent women. Learning new useless trivia. Old, majestic hymns. Reading in a comfortable chair. The Gunflint Trail. Cobb salads. Making lists. Hearing about other peoples’ lists. Michael’s kind eyes. C.S. Lewis books. The Sound of Music. Original Nancy Drew books with the words “roadster,” “titian” and “chums.” Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Miniatures. Hammond B-3 organ music. Scotland, especially the Highlands. The movie One True Thing. Sharon’s humor. Van Morrison music. Deep greens and blues. Toile. British television series. Peanuts eaten right from the shell. Carolyn’s voice. The Alpine Slide in Lutsen. A timely raised eyebrow. What Not To Wear.  Sara’s massages. Road trips. Calligraphy. Swimming. Hand-fed cockatiels. Chris’s daddying. Anne of Green Gables – books, movies, soundtrack. Alaskan cruises. Community Bible Study. The Hawk and the Dove by Penelope Wilcock. Crackling fires in stone fireplaces. Tim Hawkins. Homemade Spicy Molasses Cookies at Christmas. Finding God’s purposes in hard times. Hope. Shopping online and staying completely out of stores. Jeremy’s daddying. The memory of my parents’ love for me. All Creatures Great and Small. Clean sheets. My home-concocted Cappuccino Coolers. Cardinals, real and other. Children’s books. Long-lasting friendships. An uncluttered desk. A hand-written letter. Forgiveness. Birkenstocks. Driving a stick-shift. Walks in the woods or near the water. Swiss Muesli. Estee Lauder’s “Beautiful.”  Morro Bay fog. Simple jewelry. The Mitford Series. SmartWool socks. Clara’s love. The SAGs. Old hubcaps. Virginia’s Peanut Butter and Chocolate Frosting. Blue and white cups and mugs. In-n-Out cheeseburgers. Fast roller coasters. Candlelight. Bob Bennett music. New friends. Planning trips. Hot baths. Remaking songs into goofy ones. Sleeping past 7:00 a.m. A good, smooth pen. Cullen’s laugh. Mercy. Honeycrisp apples. Making words from license plate letters. Canoeing. Watching Carolyn in a play. Fridays. Medium rare steak. Home births. Innocence. Happy tears. Elijah’s trusting gaze. Labrador Retrievers. Thankfulness. The Lord of the Rings. Smooth flights and safe landings. Scrapbooks. Being home during a snowstorm. Long-enough jeans. Eleanor’s luminescence. Scrabble. Giving. Sharon’s yarn. Words. Organized drawers. Church. Divine Design with Candice Olson. Reconciling and balancing to the penny. Bavaria. The Timber Twister. Mexican food. Vivienne’s vivaciousness. Healing. Michael’s soothing touch. Finding something previously lost. Libraries. Fidelity, no matter what the cost. I Love Lucy. Spectator pumps. The Christmas carol “O Holy Night.” Eustace Scrubb’s undragoning. Margaret’s walk. The prayers of a friend. Memories of being proud of Dad’s coaching and Mom’s organ playing. Soup simmering on a cold day. The faith of a child. Sara’s floral creations. Kindness. Audrey’s grin. Picking out new postage stamps. A friend’s confidence. E-mail. Book club discussions. Playing Words With Friends with friends. Delft. Orange-ginger hand soap. Salvation.

What are a few of your favorite things?   (reprinted from the archives, with previous comments and new ones…..)

Lakeshore Tranquility

October 20, 2011 | My Jottings

Not long ago Michael and I drove up the shore of Lake Superior to spend a quiet weekend of rest with our friends Danny and Su.

We stayed in a two-bedroom cabin that would have fallen into the lake had it been any closer to the water. (You can click to enlarge the photos if you like).

There were still some trees with a bit of gorgeous fall color left, but the October winds sent most of the leaves to the ground.

Danny and Su…friends for decades.

What is a north woods cabin without north woods decor?

The days were mostly cloudy and cold, which made a fire in the wood stove just right.

A very nice kitchen for not cooking, which is my primary agenda for going away for a rest.

“Michael could you live here?  I could too.”

Dinner at The Crooked Spoon in Grand Marais, MN. Michael ordered a “pan-roasted Minnesota Duroc pork tenderloin with a coffee and ancho chile spice rub, bourbon-molasses glaze, a butter and brown sugar baked sweet potato and red cabbage slaw.”

Here is a good man:

“I will refresh the weary, and satisfy the faint.”

Jeremiah 31:25

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Wednesday’s Word-Edition 72

October 19, 2011 | My Jottings

“Jesus Christ as only an example will crush you.  You’ll never be able to live up to it.  But Jesus Christ as the Lamb will save you.”

Tim Keller

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Last Days

October 18, 2011 | My Jottings

“How beautifully leaves grow old.  How full of light and color are their last days.” 

~John Burroughs

I took these photos about ten days ago in our neighborhood.  Now these trees are completely bare.

I hope that as I grow old, my last days will be full of His light and color too. Jesus is such a master painter! I hope He will paint my life with kindness and patience and faithfulness and mercy….

The Original Ingrate

October 14, 2011 | My Jottings

We finally got some much needed rain last night. Michael and I went to bed semi-early and laid there in the dark together, listening to the soft pelting outside on our bedroom window air conditioner. Time to take the A/C units out of the windows and get ready for winter, I thought.

I’ve loved the sound of rain ever since I was a little girl. Rain was a happy, uncommon occurrence where I grew up, and my mother especially loved it. I think her love of rain transferred to me, because to this day I feel a glad contentment in my soul when gray clouds begin to fill the sky.

I’ve been thinking lately about being grateful, and the spiritual discipline of regularly giving thanks to God. I’ve come to believe it is indeed a discipline at times, to give thanks. Giving thanks doesn’t always come naturally or effortlessly of course, but the more I think about it the clearer this gets: being thankful is essential to my mental health, to my being effective at what I’m called to do, and in pleasing God.

There probably aren’t very many people out there who haven’t either read or heard of Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts. If you haven’t read it, may I encourage you to make it your next read? When I read that book months ago, I was so impacted by much of what she shared, but one thing has stuck firmly in my mind, and I’m going to share a quote from the book here:

“From all of our beginnings, we keep reliving the Garden story.

“Satan, he wanted more. More power, more glory. Ultimately, in his essence, Satan is an ingrate. And he sinks his venom into the heart of Eden. Satan’s sin becomes the first sin of all humanity: the sin of ingratitude. Adam and Eve are, simply, painfully, ungrateful for what God gave.

“Isn’t that the catalyst of all my sins?

“Our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more, something other.”    

(page 15 – One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.)

Pause and solemnly think on that.

A couple of years ago I was sitting on our bed at the end of December, asking the Lord to help me in the coming year. I knew our lives were getting smaller as Michael’s Parkinson’s slowly began to steal more of his abilities. I had stepped down and away from a few things that were very nourishing and meaningful to me, so that I could focus more on what I saw were my increasing demands at home. That morning I sat with my Bible and journal, praying, reading, listening, and expecting to hear from the Lord. It isn’t very often that I sense an absolute, clear and loud directive as I did that morning. I already knew that He desires that I love Him with all my heart, soul, strength and mind…and that this is humanly impossible for me to do. I already knew that He desires for me to love others in a truly sacrificial way…and that this is also impossible. I don’t often fret over the impossible things God asks, though, because He’s been asking people to do impossible things ever since the beginning of time. He asks us to do things that are beyond our strength and nature with His strength, so that He can show Himself strong and near and awesome to us. He shows up in His mightiness to help us when we’re down to our last dregs and call feebly out to Him, knowing that only through Him can we do what we are called to do.

Here is the clarion call He spoke to my heart that morning as I sat and asked what I should do for the coming year:

“No complaining.”


Uh…what Lord? Er…was that really you? Is that all you have to say about the coming year and all the changes we’re going through and how hard this is for all of us?

You might think He could have worded it a little differently — perhaps like this, “Be more grateful. Practice giving me thanks and praise every day.” Or, “Seek me first, trust and obey,” or a myriad of other things we find in His Word that we’re to do. Or you might think He would have said, “I love you, my child, and will help you every step of the way this coming year — follow me as I order your steps and I will be your sufficiency.” And in His Word He does say those things. Those are already commands that Christians are to prioritize in our lives.

But…. “No complaining” ?? That’s it Lord?

I wrote it down. The tears fell. And I knew why He had spoken it so clearly to my heart.

I am a complainer by default. I may not often complain with my words (although certainly I voice discontentment sometimes), but I often complain with my sighs. I complain in my thoughts. With my silence. With my brusque, need-to-get-everything-done manner. I complain by trying to comfort myself in idiotic ways rather than going to The Comforter.

I knew the Lord was asking me to look at my life through a different lens. He wanted me to take off the heavy gray lenses I favor, and put on the lighter, clearer lenses that give me a view of the beyond, of the eternal. He wanted me to see what matters.

Lucifer being cast out of heaven

I don’t really think the Lord wants us to say thank you all the time because He needs to hear it (although surely He must delight in our gratitude, just as parents delight in their children’s heartfelt thank yous), but because He knows what gratitude will do for us. According to Ann Voskamp, studies have been done proving that people who regularly count their blessings are just plain happier most of the time.

Here’s what the Bible says happens to believing people when they refuse to give thanks:

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”    Romans 1:21

For those who are believers in Jesus, if we refuse to glorify God or give Him thanks for all that He has given to us, our thinking will become futile and our foolish hearts will grow darker and darker. I did not make that up. That’s what the Bible says, to you, to me. If there’s anything I don’t need right now, it’s for my thinking to become futile and my heart to grow darker. No!

So even though we all know this already, let’s give thanks to the Lord today. Not just once or twice, but all day long.

Satan was the original ingrate. I don’t want to align myself with him. He hates me. He hates you. And he hates your children and your marriage and your grandchildren. He isn’t just bad-tempered and mischievous. He is malevolent and evil to the core, and hates us with a fervency we cannot (and don’t want to) possibly understand. Let’s stay away from Satan’s camp and pound our tent pegs firmly into the spacious land of Jesus Christ. I want to live where I’m loved.

Before I end this post, may I ask you….how are you liking your husband these days? Is he annoying you? Disappointing you? Even causing you great pain? I may not know all the ins and outs of my readers’ lives, but I know this verse (Genesis 18:14) very well: “Is anything too hard for the LORD?”

The answer to that question is no.

How about those energetic children He formed just for you? Are they seeming like heavenly gifts lately? No? God is able to help there too — He knows all about challenging children.

Loneliness? Health issues? Financial troubles? God is an expert in all of these areas.

My husband Michael had a seizure a couple of weeks ago — the first he’s ever had. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance and during his stay we learned the possible reasons for the seizure, none of which we have any control over. Should we thank God for that? I know there are those who say we should thank God for all things and others who say we’re only asked to thank Him in all things. I don’t know which scenario is correct, but I think I’ll just begin by pouring out my gratitude to Him today for even the things I don’t understand. Is my husband happy his health is declining? No, but he’s still praising and thanking God, and it’s one of my greatest privileges to live with a man like that. Do I have a few things in my life that don’t elicit automatic thanksgiving? Uh, yes. I’m going to thank God anyway.

No complaining.

God has been lavish with me. I want to learn to be lavish in my expressions of gratitude toward Him. I have a long way to go, because I’m a complainer deep down. But today I will not be an ingrate. I thank Him for air to breathe, a warm furnace, falling leaves, crisp apples, teeth that work, feet that walk, hands that touch, books, faithful friends, sacred music, clean sheets, laughter, moonlight, the company of a fine husband, the love and care of three daughters, the hugs and delight of seven grandchildren, and the mercy, hope, and grace that come from being a Christian.

Will you pound your tent pegs down into the Land of Gratitude with me?

Will you share one thing you can thank God for today?

Hang in there…

October 11, 2011 | My Jottings

Should you be weary doing the right thing, just hang in there. God is not sleeping, He is watching you all the way. If you are about to give up and you have had enough, think of God… and just hang in there.


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This picture was taken by my son-in-law, of my four oldest grandchildren.

They help me to hang in there.

I want you to hang in there too.

October Winner

October 8, 2011 | My Jottings

Instead of using random.org as I have in the past, to determine this month’s bloggy giveaway winner, I used an old fashioned method.

My sister-in-law Christy is here visiting us from Tennessee this week, and I enlisted her help in choosing the winner, and you can see her doing just that below. I was so happy to see so many people enter — thank you all so much! I wish I had books for all of you, but I’ll do another giveaway next month.

Here’s the method we used to choose the winner today:

Tauni! You won a copy of The Hawk and the Dove and also the first sequel The Hardest Thing to Do, by Penelope Wilcock. Please email me your address!

The marvelous author of these books has graciously agreed to send me personalized and autographed stickers to put inside both copies. As soon as I receive them, I’ll mail the books to you, Tauni.

Thank you all for reading and commenting…..I had such a good time getting to know all of you a little bit from your great comments about what fall means to you.

Have a blessed weekend,

October Giveaway

October 4, 2011 | My Jottings

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a giveaway on the blog, and I think it’s time for another one. Mainly it’s time for another giveaway because it’s autumn, my favorite time of year. The leaves are gorgeous and close to their color peak, and that makes me happy. Here’s a photo of some leaves in our area. 

Now tell me, if you were having a horrible day and you could go outside and see this, wouldn’t it lift your spirits just a little? Whenever I see a sight like this I almost always gasp, because the brilliance and beauty take my breath away.

If you had a blister on your heel because of some stiff new shoes, you could look outside your living room window and say, “Well, I have a blister on my heel, but look at those magnificent fall colors!”

If you were having trouble sleeping at night, there in the dark you could tell yourself that in just a few hours the sun will come up and you’ll be able to see those neon trees again.

If you realized you were out of your favorite coffee creamer and you didn’t have time to run to the store to pick some up, you could comfort yourself by going outside and breathing in the cool fall air and staring at the colors, until the coffee creamer didn’t matter anymore.

If you have marital struggles, financial lack, or health issues, you could sit quietly and take in the beauty of the fall colors. What good would that do? I don’t know how to explain it, but contemplating the beauty of creation while mentally placing yourself humbly before the One who did all this, helps. How it helps is up to Him. But sometimes a scene like the one above helps me to sit still, quiet myself and say, “Lord Jesus, I need you. I don’t know how to do any of this life stuff very well. Here I am, Lord. Help me please. I love you. Help me to love you even more. And thank you for all this beauty.”

If you don’t have any fall colors to look at where you live, try looking at some online. There are leaves blazing somewhere in the world right now and even a photograph can evoke some awe.

So in a nutshell, the fall colors remind me of God, of how much He must love color and variety, how trustworthy He is, how powerful, how faithful and how near. And I also believe that He’s teaching us there’s beauty in death, because that’s what autumn is, right? The death of leaves? And the coming of dark, cold winter.

Those of you who’ve read this blog for any time at all could be rolling your eyes right now and groaning, “Oh, there she goes again, always being reminded of God, always saying the same old things about trying to find meaning in every little thing. Yawn…..

If you thought that, you would be pretty close to correct. But there are a few things that don’t make me think of God. I don’t look at the plastic sleeve that holds a tower of saltine crackers and think of God. I can’t remember ever thinking about Jesus when the carbon monoxide detector sounds its piercing, deafening alarm at 3:45 a.m. to tell me the battery is wearing out. And when the Midwest weather is really hot and unbearably humid so that it makes the carpet smell like an old dead goat, I don’t recall finding a lot of spiritual meaning in that.

But the trees of autumn…..that’s a different story.

Back to the giveaway.

I’m giving away two books this month, both by the same author, Penelope Wilcock. I love to give away this book, because in my opinion it’s one of the best works of Christian fiction out there. If you haven’t read it, now is the time.

I read The Hawk and the Dove many years ago and within the first two pages was instantly entranced. Then I read it again. And again. And now I think I might make it my winter read come January.

If you’re like me and several people I know, you don’t love Christian books that are tidy and predictable. I’ve read a lot of Christian fiction that seems to follow this formula: Messed up people have big problems….then the messed up people hear about Jesus and His gift of salvation….then the messed up people say the sinner’s prayer….then their messed up lives get all cleaned up. The end.

I hate those kinds of books. Because that’s not real life. At least not the real life I live. I would never belittle God’s gift of forgiveness and His lavish love to us through His Son. But I think we do people a disservice if we imply in any way that becoming a Christian is the end of all their struggles.

So in The Hawk and the Dove you will see how some people lived their real, painful, boring, demanding, unfair, bumbling, blessed, humble and amazing lives, in the reality of God’s love and presence in the midst of them. I would never be a good book reviewer so I won’t try to start now — if you’d like to see what others have said about this work by Penelope Wilcock, click here.

Next, I’m giving away the sequel to The Hawk and the Dove. It’s called The Hardest Thing to Do, and it’s actually the first of three sequels to the first book. Once again, click here to see what people more articulate than myself have to say about it.

In my opinion these are books to own, not books to just be borrowed. I have lost count of how many copies I’ve purchased to give as gifts over the years. If you need a wonderful gift for a person in your life who’s a reader, start with The Hawk and the Dove and keep on going. Book Two of the three sequels is called The Hour Before Dawn and will be released in January, 2012.

All you have to do to enter to win these two fabulous books is leave a comment at the bottom of this post, and answer this question: What is your favorite thing about autumn? 🙂  If you have never commented on this blog before, give it a try…I don’t bite!

Comments will be taken until 10:00 a.m. Saturday, October 8th, and the winner will be chosen randomly and announced later that afternoon.

I have a feeling that the winner might be able to have autographed copies of the books too. If I ask her, Penelope Wilcock might be willing to send personalized stickers, addressed to the winner and signed in her lovely hand, to put inside each book.

So come on. Don’t sit around trying to find spiritual meaning in the plastic sleeve from your saltine crackers. Don’t do it! Don’t let your smelly goat carpets get the best of you. I am living proof that this can be done. No one ever died from having carpets that smell like a dead goat.

It’s autumn. It’s time to look at the leaves. It’s time to hunker down with a cup of tea and a fire in the hearth, and devour a good book or two.

If you don’t have a hearth or any tea to sip, I can’t help you there. But I can help you get your hands on two books you will never forget….