Monday, December 31, 2007

Make It Stop!!!!!!!!

A month and a half until spring training...can't wait.
As much as I hate to disrespect our dogs, I did promise January would be cat month. Sultana will hold me to the deal. I'll post questions in a couple of days.
Tell the pups to take cover...

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Merriless Christmas?

I’ve been remiss in not proclaiming “Merry Christmas” to my sojourners out here on the path.

It’s not a bah-humbug omission. The thing is, every time I sat down to write a Christmas greeting, I felt inadequate. Many of my fellow authors have shared greetings and memories on various blogs, and I felt I couldn’t match them—as if this cyber-celebration was a competition and not a commemoration.

Author Patty Hickman has shared with her readers the amazing work of a ministry she’s involved with, caring for folks with HIV/AIDS ( Upon reading about what these big-hearted, faithful folks have done, I literally jumped to my feet in praise of the One who enlivens their ministry.

So many of you offer similar service in Christ’s name. These are the true gifts of Christmas, laid at the foot of the manger to bring radiance to the child, light to the darkness.
Me? I just walk my dog.
On this last weekend of 2007, it’s fitting to ask if I’m on the right path.

I tell myself someone has to drink in the hush of the woods, be staggered by the majesty of the trees, bath in silent snow, shout praises to a sparkling sky. The key—as in everything—is praise. My pittance of what is owed has quieted because the forester drowned praise with his incessant chain saw and grinding bulldozer; the weather froze praise with bone-chilling cold; the season crushed praise with obligations; the Patriots claimed praise as their own; the writing pretended to be praise’s vehicle; the fear of failure shredded praise in bloody tatters.

The truth is that I chose to walk this path of acquiescence.

The irony is that Tasha still gets it right. She’s slow to get going but once she’s on the path, she bounds with joy. And she’s taken to looking back at me, ears perked and head tilted, as if to say can’t you keep up?

And she’s right. Out on the path, it’s not about having a Merry Christmas. It’s all about letting the chainsaw and weather and seasons and Patriots and writing and failure fall to the wayside.

It’s all about having Joyous Christ. And this, my dear friends, is what I wish you all.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Maddie Takes The Plunge

This is from my friend Marj, who shares that miracles even come to dogs sometimes...

As you know, today was the day slated for Maddie's bath.

As this is usually an undertaking fraught with peril (or at least a considerable degree of mess), we prepared by emptying the tub area of all extraneous material and removing the shower curtain. We placed a supply of cookies on the sink. Then all three of us stood in the bathroom so we could hoist her into the tub and then form a human shield to keep her there once she was soapy and wet.

Well. Much to our astonishment, she trotted into the bathroom wagging her tail and then hopped right into the tub. For a moment all three of us stood there staring at her as she waited wearing her patient face. Then we shampooed and rinsed and shampooed and rinsed, and she never once tried to escape. It was simply weird.

We can't decide if she was cooperating because she couldn't stand the smell either, or if she is aware that Santa is coming and decided she had better be good, for goodness' sake.

Friday, December 21, 2007


Is there anything like dog slurp? Thick enough to lube a car's engine, persistent enough to require muscular scrubbing, slippery enough to send someone (me) flying when that someone (me) doesn't see it on the tile and steps in it.

Our first dog, Barney, was a purebred black Lab with a square head and the jowls. Jowls are a a dog's warehouse, where slurp builds up to critical mass. I imagine when Angie Hunt's mastiffs shake, the slurp ends up on her ceiling! We used to try to fill Barney's dish out of his sight because he'd start drooling and leave a trail of slurp across the kitchen floor where someone (me) could take a header on it.

Like most labs, Barney always had to have a stick in his mouth. On snowy days, he'd go outside and play, tossing his stick in the air and catching it...coating it with slurp. It is absolutely no exaggeration to say that, by the end of his play time, a stick that had been one inch in diameter would be about six inches in diameter.

Five inches of frozen slurp is indeed a wonder of creation.

Tasha is a lady with a pointy nose and no jowls. She only slurps in her water dish and food dish. Every few days I hose them down with heavy detergent to de-slurp them. Poor Tasha has been deprived for the past three years. Our dishwasher has been broken and thus, she never ever gets to clean out the roasting pan or the rice pot. No way would I trust handwashing her slurp out of dishes we use. And that's too bad for her because she's skinny enough and old enough to be able to eat anything she wants.

Today Tasha is in dog bliss.

Steve finally found a schematic online for the dishwasher and fixed it. Tasha can eat the mashed potatoes out of the pot or gulp down my leftover spaghetti and we can de-slurp those dishes completely.

What we couldn't clean by hand, the dishwasher does with gusto.

Dog bliss, indeed.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Breath of Heaven

I've mentioned before how I like to start the day with a moment of praise at my front door. It's all glass and gives me a wonderful view of our front yard and the woods, taking me out of myself for a time.

This morning I pressed my face to the glass and thought, 'euuww', does my house smell! This hallway always smells because Tasha sleeps her. I wash her blanket frequently and her as often as is healthy but she's old and old dogs stink. I made fried cabbage last night, a sweet and very healthy veggie but it adds considerably to the dog smell. With the cold weather we've had for weeks now, the house hasn't been aired.

I tried to pray but it all seemed to press down on me, calling me back into my life--as stinky as it is today. Not just dog and cabbage but work and health and everything we all deal with.

I leaned my head against the glass and suddenly smelled fresh air. Coming in around the door, the tiniest trickle but it was so cold and absolutely clean, it refreshed me. I pressed my nose to the crack and just breathed it in, taking as much as I could.

Had I courage, I would have flung the door open and let the icy cold air roar over me but I only had the heart and guts to take in this little whiff. Even so, it overcame the stink and made me feel clean. And I like the Holy Spirit. We may only dare to sniff that breath of Life but even that tiny gasp can overcome the stink. Imagine if I could find the guts to fling open that door!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Let It (NO) Snow

We're in the middle of a Nor'easter, the second snowstorm in two days. Tasha and I have already been out, walking the 600 ft. to the mailbox where...miraculously...our newspaper lady had delivered the Sunday News.

In the warmer weather, I need to lure Tasha with pieces of cookies or she won't walk. Once she gets commited to the path, she will follow me but it's with head down and shoulders slumped.

She loves the snow. I guess I get the cold part but something about this weather makes her literally leap like a puppy. On the way to the mailbox, she got so far ahead of me that I had to scream "STOP" so she wouldn't get hit by a snowplow.

Interesting how her hearing is so bad she can't hear the plow...and yet, she can hear my voice.

If only my ears were as attuned to God's voice, especially when I get so far ahead!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

From Bones to Gravy

Ah, Tasha's mouth is already watering.

But we're not talking dog food...we're talking food that is healthy and amazingly delicious. My sister Janice Freeman, a medical professional/health trainer/superb cook, is trying her hand at blogging. She's sharing health, fitness, and food tips on her blog:

Living to Cook, Cooking Well to Live Well

This is her picture, finishing a trialathon last summer. Janice is a woman who hadn't been on a bicycle in my living memory! I urged her into the cyber-conversation because she has so much knowledge, experience, and inspiration that we can all benefit from. I'm going to share her story in own words...

At age 48, I weighed over 300 lbs and daily life was becoming harder and harder. My body would soon succumb to Type 2 Diabetes, as my fasting blood sugar was 115 and climbing. I had to make some changes, but what and how? I "dieted" off and on all my life, and knew it didn't work. I also knew exercise had to become part of my daily lifestyle.

A full time job and a seat on my local Board of Education made that quite a challenge. But if I could just start making one permanent change at a time, maybe I could get healthier. I didn't care about the looks, but health became my primary issue. A journey that is still in progress began. Now a healthy weight and size, in a 61 year old body that completed its first Triathlon this year, I want to offer whatever I can to anyone facing the same struggle.

She does not diet. She cooks well, eats well, lives well. She is a wonderful wife, great mom and grandmom, and terrific sister.

The only thing missing from her life is the dog.

Check her out, and ask questions galore!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My Footsteps, part 2

There are some paths in the woods now that the forester has completely obliterated. After he fells a tree, takes the massive trunks away and leaves behind huge branches, trees that break when "his" tree topples, and a general mess.

Not my woods, I keep telling myself. Not my woods,

Some places I can't go at all anymore. One path I can travel but there's a mess over about 20 ft. of it so I need to pick my way carefully through branches and scruff. The snow has made it easier to remember the least dangerous way over that tangle. I follow my own footsteps. And Tasha, after a few bounces and almost getting stuck, follows me.

This morning I took this particular path from the opposite direction. From this perspective, I couldn't find my own footsteps.

Tasha could, however.

Somehow she sniffed out my footsteps and led me along until I could actually see where I needed to go to stay safe.

Lil' pup turned yesterday's analogy back on me. Bless her.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

In My Footsteps

Like many of you, we've had our share of nasty weather recently. Yesterday we had a mild ice storm that left a crust on the snow.

Tasha and I keep up our walking, no matter what the weather. When it snows, I trudge along , back and forth, over and over, until there is a decent path in the snow. It's kind of insane but makes for great leg muscles. Tasha doesn't need my path...she loves the snow and springs about like a puppy.

The ice crust is another matter. Unless it's an inch thick, she breaks through and it hurts her feet. Fortunately, I've flattened the paths so the crust--while slippery--is irrelevant. We've had nice walks yesterday and today.

Until this afternoon, until I decided to leave the path and check something out. Tasha followed me and immediately broke through the crust. Her joy turned to pain, to my consternation.

"Hey!" I screamed (because it takes screaming to get her attention). "This way."

I was breaking the crust so all she had to do was follow in my footsteps. But she wanted to go her own way, something that caused the spring in her step to transform into a slouch of the shoulders. The discomfort was written all over her gray snout but, as much and as loudly as I pleaded with her to come walk behind me, she just kept plodding along and breaking through the crust.

Tasha has an excuse for not getting into my footsteps...she is, after all, a dog.

What excuse do I have when I'm punching through the crust of life and wincing with every step...when I could be springing with joy because I'm following in God's footsteps?

Say Hi To Merry Stahel, Flint, and Echo

Today we welcome Merry Stahel and her delightful dogs, Flint and Echo. I'm grateful to know that my dog isn't the only pup who loves to roll in poop! I love when Merry says, "I hope I am living and not wasting the life God has given me and that the Savior died for so I could keep that life."

KM: The thing about dogs is that, given a loving master or mistress, they live life with everything in them.

My apologies to Merry for the pictures showing up in weird places. I need Bonnie Calhoun to write a book about blogging so I can learn how to format my posts better.

And now...ta-da...introducing Flint and Echo.

What's your dog's name, breed, and age?
This is Echo.

Flint is a probably a too-large white Shiba Inu aged 5 years. Echo is a black husky/wolf mix aged 4 1/2. Both were named after characters in Louis L'Amour books - Flint for FLINT and Echo for Echo Sackett in RIDE THE RIVER.
This is Flint.

Where did you get him/her?

I went to get a puppy for my daughter for Valentine's Day. Our 15 year old cat had died the year before and I felt our grieving process was less-blunted and it was time for another animal. I couldn't get another cat just yet and she wanted a puppy, anyway. My husband and I walked around trying to find a puppy. They didn't have any. So we chose a smaller dog. When we went to the room for socializing the dog completely ignored us. So we walked around and chose another. That dog cowered in a corner and wouldn't come to us, either. By then we'd been there for a couple hours. My husband was ready to give up when the worker asked if we saw any other dogs. I mentioned a little white puppy in a cage with a chow. He went and got the dog. Flint (formerly known as Spike) ran around and explored the room, then ran straight to me and stuck his head between my hands. I didn't know it at the time but I was owned that day. We had to leave him behind as he wasn't neutered and were told to come pick him up the next week.

When I arrived to pick him up they were giving him a bath so I chatted with the workers and told them about not finding a puppy. One lady piped up and said they DID have a single puppy - the little runt that they were going to put down because she couldn't walk when brought in...but they decided to feed her and give her a chance. I felt obligated to look but had no intention of bringing home a sickly, stunted puppy who might need medicines the rest of her life and have other issues.

This woman came out with this fat, black puppy who looked just like a teddy bear. She introduced her as Nana. No one could have resisted. I said I'd take her and her name was Echo. Just then the woman came out with Flint and started to turn around to take him back. I said, "Where are you going, that's my dog!" They thought I only wanted one. I took both dogs home that day.

What is the weirdest/sweetest/most annoying thing they've ever done?

Flint for the first YEAR would sit outside the glass shower door as I took a shower and howl at the loss of me, his best buddy. I mean HOWL. He is my protector and if he thinks someone is threatening me he will step between me and them and growl. We had to teach him that it was okay for people to hug me and for my husband to kiss me. He is terrified of sticks, brooms or anything that looks like that (we assume he was struck with one before we got him). But if someone approaches me holding a stick like object, he will be frightened, but he steps between me and person. His most annoying habit is that he loves rolling in poop - especially deer poop. We live in rural country and my parents feed the deer, so they flock through my forest twice a day. Flint knows where the freshest poop can be found. And when I leave home he still howls as if his heart is broken.

Echo adores cheese. She herds people towards the fridge to get it. She comes into my office while I'm writing to give me "lovies" in a blatant attempt to get it. She follows all her commands (the only time she does) to get cheese. She also must inspect everything that comes through the door. All bags and things carried must be nose-inspected before we put it away. She is fascinated when we get down on the floor to do anything. My husband put in a garbage disposal one time and Echo sat on the floor and nose-inspected every tool and part before he could put it in. Her undivided attention has convinced us that if she had opposable thumbs (or maybe not) she could install a garbage disposal with ease. Because of Flint's influence, she also bays when I leave. Her voice is very deep and she has a terrifying bark that has backed down visitors. She also looks like a sleek, black wolf and people tend to be afraid of her. What they don't know is that she is one of the sweetest tempered dogs we've ever had.

How does their companionship enrich your spiritual life?

That unconditional love no matter what the circumstances is a blessing. Both dogs have a sheer joy in life, too. When we moved to the country and Echo found she could stretch her legs and run flat out...the joy on her face was a sight to behold. I was nearly brought to tears to see her in her natural environment - the great outdoors. She has never lost that joy. Every time she runs on our walks she is as excited as the first time she ever ran flat out. I take lessons from her joy.

When I walk with her in the woods I am amazed at all the small miracles. The forest teems with life. For the first time I have been still and know that God is here. I've always had a relationship with God, but when I think back on it I realize I've been lackadaisical about it. Out here in nature I feel God every day.

Flint takes quiet joy in being my companion. He faithfully follows me on walks he never wants to take - he has possible dysplasia and on some days, especially cold ones, walking is hard. I have never had an animal whose very purpose seems to be my friend. I am convinced that Flint would die for me if he felt I was threatened. Flint is afraid of people, especially men. So it would be hard for him to face down an "enemy" but he'd do it. Whether I deserve to live or die isn't an issue with him. His love is so unconditional that it doesn't matter.

I suppose its sacriligious comparing a dog companion to our Savior, but as Jesus died willingly to save me, it is very humbling to know that Flint would do the same. It reminds me of that old saying "I hope I am as good a person as my dog thinks I am." I hope I am living and not wasting the life God has given me and that the Savior died for so I could keep that life.

How does their companionship enrich your everyday (or writing) life?

I have two very faithful companions. They are never far from my side. If I am writing they are in the office sleeping in quiet support. If I read a passage out loud to test its readability they have that happy-to-get-attention look and listen. They never edit or critique my work (this might be a bad thing). If I take a nap they come and stay in the room until I wake up. When I go outside they jump up to go. Flint is often in pain due to the torn cruciate ligament (which requires surgery next week). But his pain doesn't matter to him as much as being with me does. No questions, no balking, just the joy of being my companion excites both dogs.

Is there something about your dog that you'd like to brag about? Or that we just wouldn't believe?

Flint went to Obedience School and was the top dog despite his fear of everyone and everything. I also taught him a trick. If you say "roadkill" he will roll over on his belly and stick his legs in the air. The vet almost died laughing when I made Flint roll over for him. I taught Echo to "give me four!" with her left paw and my Pa taught her to "give me five!" with her right paw. He was in the kitchen one day programming the coffee machine for an early wakeup for a trip and he asked my Mom if 4 am was too early. Echo was across the room and promptly sat down and offered her left paw in the air because she heard him say "Four."

Merry Stahel

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Home Away From Home

Tasha and I are outdoors so often that I come to regard our many paths as my "home away from home," especially in the warmer weather when I can lug my computer along.

I have another home away from home that is precious to me--to many of us, I would presume to say--and that is my home church. Tasha doesn't venture her with me but my computer often does. Being of a distractable nature, I like to get away from home to work (hence, the computer in the woods routine) and my church provides me that sanctuary. It's a small, old New England church. In good weather, I work in the sanctuary and am blessed by centuries of faith and worship. In this cold weather, I work in the warmest (though not very) spot in the church, which is a downstairs 3rd-grade classroom.

I was writing there yesterday (as in the picture) when I took a break to really take in my surroundings. I was amused and rather humbled to take in the bulletin board behind me. If you look closely, you'll see that I am flanked by drawings of women. The picture below shows what the poster says:

To be surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses was an honor indeed--and I don't mean Dorcas, Tabitha, and Priscilla. To sit in the same seat as our eight-year-olds and to be taught by the work of their hands is a true blessing--and one I would have missed if I had been off on the path with my dog.
NEXT UP: Merry Stahel and her dogs Flint and Echo.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Crouching at the Door

Not to belabor a good point--but BadCat makes it so easy.

Tasha and I had another nice walk in the snow today. We came in through the cellar, shucked my boots, and headed up the stairs. No Sultana this time on the top step to stop Tasha dead in her tracks. We thought we were in the clear (since she stops me dead in my tracks, too!)

Then I saw a flash of gray behind the door. BadCat had stretched out, paw extended for a fast strike the moment either Tasha or I stepped into the kitchen.

How can I not think of Genesis 4:7. "...if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."

I'll master her all right...with a cup of water next time she lays in wait.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Stairway to Heaven--Not

Tasha is not fond of the stairs leading to the cellar. Her back legs are iffy and she understands that, if she builds up too much momentum, she might tumble near the bottom. If I need her to go out of the house that way (through the garage), I stand at the bottom to hold her up if she starts to fall.

Why not just bring her out the front way? Well, it gets complicated. Sultana the BadCat likes to follow us on our walks. There's coyotes in the woods and, though I am sometimes tempted because she's evil, I won't willingly serve her up as their supper. If she's outside, Tasha and I need to sneak to the woods via the garage.

Yesterday it snowed. Tasha, like all labs, LOVES snow. We had a very long walk in the woods with Tasha staying right with me the whole time. We came in invigorated, using the garage so I could dump my boots and snowy jacket in the cellar. Tasha was still so jazzed by the crisp weather that she bounded up the stairs ahead of me.

And came face-to-face with BadCat.

Tasha froze, fearing the worst--a vicious swipe from BadCat.

I admit, I froze with my dog. No way was I reaching around her to grab the cat from the front. One handles this cat with great fear and trepidation.

Tasha's legs started to give way and she began to slide back down the stairs. I jammed my shoulder behind her hind legs and hoisted her up into the kitchen. Fortunately the evil Sultana had fled the scene, chaos caused.

I wonder how often I get jazzed by walking with Jesus, then bound ahead only to find some frightening stumbling block in my path. Do my spiritual legs give way? Thank God that the Holy Spirit puts his shoulder into my behind and keeps me going.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Rachel Hauck Shares Christmas Memories

While Rachel Hauck is hosting the “12 Authors of Christmas” on her blog-- I’m her author of the day so to read my honest thoughts about Christmas, hop over to her blog. But first… I thought it would be a lot of fun to pose to Rachel the same questions about her Christmas memories and celebrations. And so I present…a Rachel-Hauck Christmas moment.
One of the questions Rachel poses is "What does Christmas mean to you?" I would love to hear your answers to that one!

Note from KM: The questions are Rachel’s own…so it’s her banging on the floor, not me! And we all know I’m not the Florida girl.

Tell us about your first Christmas memory?

I have memories before this one, but it's the most vivid. We'd gone to my grandparent's house inColumbus, Ohio and it was Christmas Eve. My older brother and I slept upstairs in my grandparent's room. It was late, but I was awake, freaked out, because I imagined hearing Santa's reindeer on the roof top! My mom and grandma slipped into the room to see if we were asleep, and I think I must have asked if Santa had come. Cause I was sure I'd heard him.

Growing up, did your family have Christmas traditions? Tell us how you incorporated them into your family life. Or, how you created new ones.

My dad always wanted to wait until close to Christmas to put up the tree. I'd beg and beg to get one right away. Dad and my older brother would string colored lights, the kind that screwed into the light string, then mom and I with the rest of the kids would hang the ornaments. We didn't have a lot of traditions other than being with family and eating a great dinner. My grandma and mom makes the best rolls. When I became a teenager, I bought my own iddy-bitty Christmas tree and I put it up in my room Thanksgiving day. It was fun. Now, as an adult, I do the same. Tree goes up right after Thanksgiving. There was always a lot of love, joy and laughter at Christmas time and those traditions are as much a part of me as the color of my eyes. Tony and I carry on those qualities each Christmas season.

When do you put up your tree?
My husband works assembles my prelighted tree. I do the rest.

What is your favorite Christmas song or album?
I grew up with a Johnny Mathis Christmas CD and it’s still one of my favorites. My other is a copy of Mel Torme singing his “Christmas Song.” Well, besides ole Johnny Mathis, we listened to the Ray Coniff singers, and Andy William Christmas albums. We had one instrumental recording for the Philadelphia Orchestra. The vinyl disc was red. The kids always liked that one.

As a teen, I had a Wayne Newton album and recently my sister who is ten years younger asked, "Where can I get a copy of Wayne Newton singing, 'It's Christmas in Washington Square?'"Those songs stick with us for a lot of years.Now, I have a few added favorites. Amy Grant's Christmas albums, Bryan Duncan, Martina McBride, and a collection of old favorites sung by Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Mel Torme.

Christmas morning, my parents didn’t want us in the living room until the tree was plugged in. So, we’d wake up early, five a.m. or so, and bang on the floor to stir my parents awake. Relive your childhood Christmas mornings for us.

Well, that's my question and answer. :) But to elaborate, while waiting for their okay, we'd sit on the stairs. The anticipation of it all is half the excitement of Christmas. Then, we'd eat a big breakfast.

Seems to me snow and Christmas go together, but I’ve been a Florida girl for 33 years! Tell us about your Christmas setting?

While I was born in Ohio, I've lived most of my life in the south. I'm a Florida girl. My first sunny Christmas with 80 degree temperatures was a shocker. It didn't feel like Christmas, but now, sunshine and balmy breezes on a blue Christmas morning is the perfect Christmas day to me.

It's Christmas Eve. Describe your day and evening.

Growing up, Christmas Eve was thick with excitement. Grandparents visiting, or the familyvisiting them. We'd go to church, then come home to wait for the big day. There was always a lot of excitement and laughter. We'd play games or sit around talking.Now, if my husband and I aren't visiting family, we attend Christmas Eve service at church. He's one of three staff pastors, and I'm the worship leader, so we are working. But, it's a fun kind of work.After service, we might visit friends or come home to our own traditions like egg nog and watching a Christmas movie like It's A Wonderful Life or White Christmas. Since we don't have children, we lose some of the laughter and joy, but we take advantage of sleeping in Christmas morning and leisurely open gifts.

Confession time. Shop on line or at the mall?

Both! Who doesn't? Mostly online, though.

Christmas grows more and more commercial every year. Setting the hustle andbustle aside, what does Christmas really mean to you?

It is about celebrating Jesus. While I strive to do that all year, it is one thing I keep near to myheart at the Christmas season. But it's also about remembering peace, remembering those we love. Christmas is a great time to lay down offenses and love one another. Jesus came to demonstrate love. What a great birthday present to Him if we reach out to someone in love.

It's Christmas day. what's for dinner? Do you make cookies or other traditional foods?

Since it's just my husband and I, cooking is not a priority for me. But Christmas day, I love to make a meal, even if it's just the two of us. I make turkey and potatoes, and carry on the tradition of home made rolls.I do make cookies, too. I love peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies. But this year, I asked mom for her Christmas cookie recipe and think I'll take a stab at making those!

Tell us about your favorite Christmas memory.

One Christmas Eve when we lived in Lexington, KY, we were waiting for my grandparents to arrive from Columbus. It must have been a balmy season, cause the windows were open and my siblings and I were running around, laughing and playing. Somehow, I talked my dad into playing a girl's hand game with me. He'd mess up half way through, laugh and tell me, "I can't do this."We laughed a lot. And I remember the freezer was full of frozen mini Snickers bars! My Dad loved those frozen treats. In fact, that is another small tradition I continue to this day.

Another memory was in the '90s. The family had gathered at my home and during the Christmas Eve service, the pastor gave an invitation to accept Jesus as our Savior. He asked people who were not save and wanted to be, to stand and say, "I embrace the Cross."The presence of God was so strong. People were popping up all over the candle lit sanctuary. My heart pounded knowing the Holy Spirit was moving over my sister-in-law. Finally, she stood. "I embrace the Cross." Even now, it brings tears to my eyes. It was an amazing night.

What are your plans for this season?

We try to spend one holiday with family and one at home. We were gone for Thanksgiving, so will be home for Christmas. One of our "daughters" from youth church days in on her way to Israel with her husband and children. But, they are in town until January, so I think we're going to have dinner with them, and her Dad and his wife. I'm looking forward to it. And, I'm on a deadline, so I'll be writing. :)

Any final thoughts on Christmas?

Just blessings to everyone. Remember, Jesus is the Prince of Peace. If you need peace or hope, run to Jesus.Thanks to all the readers and fans of fiction out there, too. I really appreciate you, as does Triciaand all the writer's we know!Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

Rachel Hauck is a multi-published author living in central Florida with her husband and pets. She started writing in the mid '90s, but set it aside to focus on a corporate career. But she missed the craft and wrote another book in 2000. In late 2002, she received her first contract. Besides writing, Rachel is a prayerand worship leader for her church, and the Fire Dweller prayer ministry.

She is a huge Buckeyes football fan.


Diva NashVegas, May 2007, Thomas Nelson

Sweet Caroline, Feb 2008, Thomas Nelson