12 Pearls of Christmas Guest Post: Tracey Eyster

Does It Even Matter?
By Tracey Eyster

Every day, day after day, for twenty years I have been immersed in the task of mothering. No one told me before I was handed that swaddled bundle how all-consuming the role of motherhood was going to be, or how my heart would be forever altered.

My heart is swollen from the love that has grown there. A deep love that’s swelling has come at a cost.

The cost of daily dying to self as I choose to serve the needs of my children and my husband—to grow a family with the end in mind.

Thankfully I was taught by those older and wiser than me that the building of image bearing children requires intentionality and purpose by two loving, connected parents who are willing to work together for God’s purposes.

Even when we don’t know the outcome or exact purpose God has in mind for our children—our willingness to put in the hours and to be yielded to His direction is our gift to the Father.

This Christmas I have had a new and odd wondering that I have been contemplating, a question that has never before occurred to me.

Who built the manger?

Did he think the task was too menial?

Was he weary and tired from the task?

Did he want to build something more grand?

Did he dream of working in a way that would bring him glory and attention?

Did he wrestle with the assumption that what he was putting his time and effort into was not for a grand purpose?

How could he know the plans God had for that little manger?

The Savior of the world was going to rest there and do great things.

Psst . . . Mom, do you see it?

The Savior of the world has the potential to rest within that which you are building . . . to do great things.

Take care to put your time, talents, and energy into building well.

Tracey Eyster is the happily-in-love wife of Bill and the fun-filled mom of two teens, and she is devoted to her family and is happiest when making memories with them. In 2008 she took her passion for speaking into the lives of moms and created the ministry of MomLife Today. She is passionate about momlife and is amazed at God’s blessing of allowing her first book Be The Mom to come to fruition. She enjoys connecting with moms through her personal blog at www.bethemom.com, and on Facebook or Twitter @MomBlog


12 Pearls of Christmas Guest Post: Carla Anne Coroy

Just Like Mary
By Carla Anne Coroy

Mary. Amazing Mary. Mother of Jesus. We marvel at her simple, faith-filled acceptance of God’s will for her life. There’s so little written about Mary in the Bible. We know almost nothing, really, about this woman that God chose to parent His Son.

Many have speculated about the exact age of Jesus’ mother. How old was she, really? What would it have been like to be greeted by an angel—and told you would become pregnant by the Spirit of God?

I wonder about other things sometimes, though. Like if she had morning sickness, or gained a lot of weight during her pregnancy. Was she overdue, or was baby Jesus born right on time? Did she mistake Braxton Hicks contractions for the real thing before labor really started? Was it a fast labor or did Joseph have eighteen hours to get that place into birthing readiness?

Most women who have ever given birth to a child have shared pregnancy stories. Everyone’s story is unique and interesting. Surely Mary’s was, too!

Then there are the stories of potty-training and conversations on how to get the baby to sleep through the night. Did Mary bounce Jesus on her knee while sharing recipes with other young moms?

We cannot find answers for these questions in Scripture. And as interesting as it might be to share pregnancy stories with Mary over a cup of coffee (maybe in heaven?) and get her tips on potty-training, we really don’t need to know any of that to love the Son she bore.

But Mary’s example raises questions about me and my own life that get under my skin.

Am I the kind of woman God will choose to be part of His plan? Do I trust and love my God enough to give faith-filled answers like she did? If there were just a few paragraphs written of my life for future generations to read, would those words reveal a heart of willing submission to God?

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38, NIV)

God has not asked me to carry the burden of His Son in my womb. There are other burdens He is asking me, and you, to carry instead. Are we being the women He needs for the part of the plan we’re living in now? Am I saying to Jesus today, “May it be to me as you have said”?

During this Advent season, let’s prepare ourselves to be used by God, filled with faith and anticipating His grace—just like Mary.

Carla Anne Coroy is a Christian speaker and blogger, and the award-winning author of Married Mom, Solo Parent. She ministers to a wide audience through her website and blog at www.carlaanne.com. Carla Anne has served full-time with organizations such as Youth for Christ and Crown Financial Ministries, and is currently developing mentoring resources for women and an international mentoring organization for youth. She also serves as a staff writer for the online magazine Mentoring Moments for Christian Women and is a spokesperson for Faithbuddy.com. Carla Anne lives in Canada with her husband and four homeschooled children.


12 Pearls of Christmas Guest Post: Tricia Goyer

Christmas Mourning
By Tricia Goyer

As I sat in our living room last Christmas morning, there was a pile of presents under the tree. A smile filled my face, just thinking about the joy and laughter that would fill the house in a few hours when we gathered around to hear the Christmas story, worship Jesus, and open presents.

That morning as I thought about the celebration of our Lord's birth, my mind was already busy unwrapping. No, I wasn't thinking ahead to presents. Instead, I was unwrapping the many memories of Christmas that I carry on my heart.

I remember sitting at the kids' table in Grandma's mobile home, laughing and goofing around with my brother and cousins. I remember the doll house my Grandpa made when I was seven and the loving care my grandma took to decorate it.

I remember the boom box and banana clips from high school and my first Christmas with my son Cory not long after I turned eighteen. Cory was only six months old, but the greatest gift God gave to both of us that year was John—my soon-to-be husband and Cory's soon-to-be daddy.

There are memories of the kids acting out the Christmas story and Goyer family gatherings in which forty of us would eat in our cleaned-out and heated garage because it was the only place big enough to set up tables and chairs for everyone.

I also will never forget the first time I celebrated Christmas in California with my biological dad and the four sisters I didn't know growing up. I had a happy heart that day, being with people I didn't know well but who amazingly looked and acted just like me. How cool is that?!

As I write this, there are faces going to be missing around the tree, to be sure. There's always a sense of missing when the people you love are far away. And that's when Christmas Morning becomes Christmas Mourning. I'm thinking of my mom, dad, siblings, in-laws, and friends, wishing I could fill me house with their faces, their smiles, their laughter. I'm sure you understand.

It's so easy to center Christmas around the baby who God sent, but we cannot forget the purpose for His coming. Jesus' mission wasn't just about the manager, the angels, and the swaddling clothes. His purpose was to offer himself so that we can spend eternity with Him and those we love.

The greatest gift is one we've yet to open. Salvation comes to our hearts when we whisper a prayer of faith and relinquishment—when we give up the right to ourselves.

Like a beautifully wrapped presents under the tree, the best part of the gift is still to come. My mind is anticipating the unwrapping. I can only guess of the joy and laughter to come!

Tricia Goyer is a busy mom of four, grandmother of one, and wife to John. Somewhere around the hustle and bustle of family life, she manages to find the time to write fictional tales delighting and entertaining readers and non-fiction titles offering encouragement and hope. Tricia is also on the blogging team at MomLifeToday.com, TheBetterMom.com and other homeschooling and Christian sites. In addition to her roles as mom, wife and author, Tricia volunteers around her community and mentors teen moms. She is the founder of Hope Pregnancy Ministries in Northwestern Montana, and she currently leads a Teen MOPS Group in Little Rock, AR. Tricia, along with a group of friends, recently launched www.NotQuiteAmishLiving.com, sharing ideas about simplifying life. She also hosts the weekly radio podcast, Living Inspired. Learn more about Tricia at www.triciagoyer.com.


12 Pearls of Christmas Guest Post: Charissa Steyn

The ADVENTure Awaits You!
By Charissa Steyn
God loves keeping us in a place of joyful expectation for what is next. He has mastered the art of surprise. Much to my dismay, God rarely ever lays out steps 1-2-3 for me to see. Maybe you’re like me and you’re a planner. You need time to prepare yourself for what is coming, the unknown grips you with fear, and it’s hard for you to simply enjoy a surprise.

It’s difficult to understand why God doesn’t like to reveal more of His mysterious ways, but I have a feeling it has something to do with faith. I am quite sure that if I knew everything that God had planned ahead of time my response would be, “No way God!”

But maybe we need to be a little more like Mary when it comes to faith. The angel reassured her, "Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you…” (Luke 1:30)

Did you get that? You have nothing to fear _________ (fill in the blank with your name) God has a surprise for you!

God invited Mary into the ultimate season of joyful expectation. He took her on the most miraculous adventure of birthing His son!

Instead of hesitation, Mary stepped forward, “Yes . . . let it be with me just as you say.” (Luke 1:38)

Instead of cowering in fear, Mary celebrated in faith, “I'm bursting with God-news; I'm dancing the song of my Savior God. God took one good look at me, and look what happened—I'm the most fortunate woman on earth! What God has done for me will never be forgotten. . . .” {Luke 1:46-48)

As the Christmas season is upon us, I can’t help but wonder what surprises God has wrapped up for us under His tree of life? What gifts does He want to reveal to us this year?

Like Mary, let’s face the unknown, the mystery, the surprises of God with a quiet, yet confident YES!

God wants to show you the impossible can become possible, the supernatural can become natural. We don’t need special qualifications, just joyful expectation.

May you accept the invitation of Jesus in this truly ADVENTurous season and embrace all the marvelous, mysterious surprises He has for you along the way!

Charissa Steyn is a God-adventurer. She believes everyday holds exciting undertakings that usually involve risk, but always draw us closer to the Father’s heart. Originally from Seattle, she now lives in Cape Town with her South African hubby, Michal and their son David. Together they are doing their best to lead a simple, yet dangerous life of love. Learn more about Charissa at her blog.


12 Pearls of Christmas Guest Post: Cara Putman

Quieted in His Presence
By Cara Putman

It's the week after Thanksgiving. We're racing toward Christmas. Even with Thanksgiving occurring a week early, it feels like a race. When did we decide this organized (or not so organized) chaos was restful, relaxing, conducive to a joyful season?

When did the joy of gifting something to one we love become replaced by the pressure to find the perfect gift? When did the amount of the gift matter more than spirit it is gifted in? At times like these I need a reason to remember that God can calm my heart when I feel like I'm spilling in a bazillion different directions.

Grab a mug of tea or cup of coffee. I'll share my peppermint mocha creamer. It's low-sugar. And let's sit together and soak in this truth.

The Lord is with us. With us. Emmanual. The God with us. Savor that. He's with us. Not watching us. With us.

He is mighty to save. He doesn't barely save. He is mightily prepared to save.

He will take great delight in you. Think about a child. Yours or someone else's. Think about the joy that child brings to his parents. That is a pale shadow of the depth of delight God takes in you. Humbled? Thrilled? I am!

He quiets us with His love. He will, if we'll let Him. It is His will to quiet us with love. Like a child who is content and secure in the knowledge of her parents' love. That's how He wants us to rest. To be quiet. In His presence. At His feet.

He will rejoice over us with singing. Think of your favorite artist, group, chorus. Think of how their voices resonate and harmonize. Remember how you are swept away by the beauty of a voice raised in song. Then imagine God singing a special song over you. Then consider that it's a song of rejoicing. Just because you are. A song to you.

Now that you've quieted in His presence, are you ready to go back to preparations. Ready to focus on Him? To find Him in the midst of the Christmas chaos? Because He is the baby in the manager. He is the reason we celebrate. And He's celebrating you!

Cara Putman is an author of fourteen novels and one nonfiction work—plus all the characters and stories still begging to be told. Look for more in the future. She is also a licensed attorney, contract lecturer at a Big Ten University, adjunct faculty at a community college, and active in her church and community. She lives with her family in Indiana.


12 Pearls of Christmas Guest Post: Julie Lessman

When God Wraps a Present . . .
By Julie Lessman

We’ve all heard the adage “it’s better to give than receive,” but never have I agreed more than the year I was engaged to the love of my life.

It was truly a Christmas to remember—spiced egg nog and snickerdoodles and shimmering presents unwrapped in a circle of love. Of course, we all ooohed and ahhhed over each gift opened, one at a time, reveling in the glow of excitement for giver and recipient alike.
And then it was my turn. Everyone waited while I tore into a small box, anticipation fairly shimmering in my fiancé's eyes.

“Do you like it?” he asked, grinning like a little boy when I unearthed a very pretty silver watch.

No. “It’s beautiful,” I said with a shaky giggle, slipping it on and holding it up for everyone to admire. I quickly gave him a sweet kiss on the lips. “Thank you so much, babe—what a perfect gift!”

Perfectly awful, that is. You see, when you are a twenty-eight-year-old Type A career woman who is very set in her ways, there are just some things you have to buy for herself—books, costume jewelry, purses … a watch.

All right, yes, I’ll admit it—“high maintenance” is my middle name because heaven knows I’m one of the most particular people on the planet, especially when it comes to watches. They have to be digital, waterproof, have a day and date window, an alarm, chronograph, second hand, both silver and gold metal to wear with either silver or gold jewelry, stretch band skinny enough to fit my wrist . . . and a GPS. Okay, I’m pulling your watch chain on the last one, but you get the picture—NOT easy to find, especially with numbers big enough for someone blind as a bat.

So, yes, I faked it, of course, thanking my soon-to-be husband for the “prettiest watch I had ever owned,” because it was—I just didn’t like it. But did I “fake it” with God? Uh, no. I went straight to His throne in prayer and begged Him to help me love this watch because the man I loved gave it to me and I just flat-out didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I even went so far as to write the prayer request on a piece of paper and put it in my Bible so I could “wrap” it in prayer every single day, which I did.

Until the fateful moment years later when my husband used my Bible one day and found the note.

“You don’t like your watch??” he says, confronting me with hurt in his tone while his eyes flicked to the pretty watch on my wrist.

“What are you talking about?” I asked, somewhat confused.

He held up the note. “You told God you hated it in this note I found in your Bible.”

Uh-oh . . . BUSTED!

“Oh, babe,” I said with my brightest smile and a quick kiss on the lips. “That was then and this is now. It’s perfect for me, just like you, and I absolutely love it.

And you know what? I did!!

Award-winning author of “The Daughters of Boston” and “Winds of Change” series, Julie Lessman was ACFW’s 2009 Debut Author of the Year and voted #1 Romance Author of the year in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards. Winner of 14 RWA awards, she also appeared on Booklist’s 2010 list for Top 10 Inspirational Fiction and has just released her 7th novel, A Light in the Window: An Irish Christmas Love Story. You can contact Julie at her website, on Facebook, on Twitter at @julielessman, or read excerpts of her favorite romantic and spiritual scenes from each of her books at http://www.julielessman.com/excerpts/.


12 Pearls of Christmas Guest Post: Leslie Gould

Year of Adversity Brings Joy
By Leslie Gould

I’ve been writing Amish fiction for nearly three years now—telling stories about non-resistant people who live a simple life. It’s a nice reprieve from my own life.

When my husband, Peter, joined the Army Reserve back in the mid 1980s, I wasn’t thrilled about it. Nor did I believe him when he said he’d probably never see action. Sure, the Cold War was ending and—for a short time—all seemed well in the world, but I had a degree in history. I knew better. I didn’t want to be a controlling wife (as new to the job as I was!) and come out and say he absolutely couldn’t do it. And it did help that he was joining a medical unit. Still I had my reservations.

We’ve been far more fortunate than many military families, but still it’s been quite a ride. The first exciting episode began in 1990 when Peter flew to Germany on Christmas Eve to work in an Army hospital during Desert Storm, leaving me behind with our two young sons. During the next twenty years, Peter went from being a Lt. to being a Col. and commanding a unit. Countless maneuvers and a mobilization occurred during that time, but his Army Reserve career culminated in his deployment to Afghanistan in 2011.

My days throughout last year were an odd combination of hearing the daily news from a war zone via Skype and then writing about the plain life of the Amish. By last December I was working on my third Amish novel of the year while, in contrast, Peter and his field hospital staff had cared for hundreds of NATO soldiers and Afghan nationals, endured ten months of rocket fire, and continued to grieve the killing of one of their own.

Surprisingly, what seemed like it might be our worst Christmas ever, even harder than in 1990, wasn’t. Our four children (one teen and three young adults now) rallied to help make it a memorable day. We counted our blessings—Peter was well, we had all we needed, and God was at work in the life of our family. The result was an underlying joy, deeper than what we’d felt during past Christmases.

In reflection, I wrote: When it started, I thought 2011 might be one of our worst years. But it hasn’t been. Sure, it’s been one of our hardest, but a lot of good has come from it.

That was evident on Christmas morning as we Skyped with Peter. We were so thankful for the good connection and for all of us to be “together” that we hardly noticed we really weren’t.

This December, Peter is back at his civilian job (as a manager for a hospital corporation) and also commanding a nearby Army Reserve unit, which means one weekend a month and plenty of evenings—but no rockets or causalities.

I’m working on a new Amish novel and still enjoying my “time” with those who practice non-resistance, which doesn’t discount the appreciation I have for my husband’s service. I’ve even grown to the place where I’m thankful he joined the military. They’ve served each other well.

Our year of adversity resulted in a deep joy. I’m pretty sure it will carry over to this Christmas as well.

Leslie Gould is the award-winning author of fifteen novels, including the #1 bestseller and Christy Award winner The Amish Midwife, co-written with Mindy Starns Clark. Her latest release is Courting Cate, a retelling of the “Taming of the Shrew.” Leslie lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, Peter, and their four children. www.lesliegould.com


12 Pearls of Christmas Guest Post: Glynnis Whitwer

Will They Know What it Cost?
By Glynnis Whitwer

My daughter Cathrine went on a field trip to the Grand Canyon when she was in fourth grade.   As I picked her up upon her return, she couldn’t wait to show me an adorable little stuffed brown bear she’d bought as a gift. She started to say that it was for everyone—meaning her three brothers and sister—but then her words got jumbled. Tears welled in her eyes as she tried to explain how she ran out of money when trying to buy gifts. Her distress was obvious.

To understand fully, it might help to know that Cathrine was born in Africa and experienced deprivation of every sort for the first eleven years of her life. At thirteen years old, she was only in fourth grade.  And although she has made remarkable gains, even now she struggles with communication and math—especially money.

Later that night I finally understood what Cathrine was trying to tell me about the bear. She had taken twenty dollars of her own money to buy herself a souvenir.  But before buying herself something, she wanted to buy some small gifts. So she started with two of her teachers and bought them each a small ring with the first initial of their last names. I looked at the price on the rings and realized each was $3.99. Times that by two, add tax, and Cathrine would have been left with eleven dollars for other gifts and herself.

I imagine she stood at the gift store counter bewildered by what she had just done. She was probably embarrassed to ask any of her classmates for help. And maybe the teacher wasn't around. There she stood with just over half of her money, and three brothers and a sister left to buy for. She decided to get a group gift, and that’s where the bear came in.

Standing in our kitchen, looking at the three items she purchased, I smiled brightly and told her everyone was going to love their gifts and that she’d made wonderful purchases. She smiled back, and the night ended well.

The next morning as she wrapped up the little rings, I kept thinking about those two teachers who were going to receive a gift that day. All they would see is a little silver ring. I knew they would be very loving and appreciative. But would they truly understand the sacrifice Cathrine made?

Would they understand their gifts cost Cathrine half of what she had? Would they ever know the frustration and worry Cathrine felt as she realized she didn't have enough to buy her family any gifts? Would they treasure those little rings, or would they put them in a drawer with gifts from other students throughout the year?

As I pondered these thoughts, I considered a gift I was given two thousand years ago: Jesus. God sent His Son into the world as a baby, knowing He would die on a cross for me. The cost of this gift staggers me.

As I decorate my tree and shop for my family, I’m reminded of what my freedom cost my Heavenly Father. Do I truly understand the sacrifice of that gift? Do I understand the anguish God the Father must have felt sending His Son? Do I treasure this gift, or do I take it for granted?

Christmas is a time for celebration. But it’s also a time to remember God’s sacrifice. For it is in understanding the cost, that we fully appreciate the gift.

Glynnis Whitwer is an executive director with Proverbs 31 Ministries. She is one of the writers of Encouragement for Today, the Proverbs 31 e-mail devotions, with over 500,000 daily readers.  Her newest book, I Used to be So Organized, was released last fall. Glynnis, her husband Tod, and their five children live in Glendale, Arizona. Visit www.GlynnisWhitwer.com for more information.


12 Pearls of Christmas Guest Post: Margaret McSweeney

A Mistletoe Medley
By Margaret McSweeney

“You have breast cancer.” Those four words my doctor said the week of Mother’s Day 2012 have forever changed my life. Mere months after my fiftieth birthday, I encountered this unexpected “lump in the road” and ventured through a major detour after reaching my half-century mark.

Through this “grit,” God has covered me with His amazing grace! At the same time of my diagnosis, two books released: Mother of Pearl: Luminous Lessons and Iridescent Faith along with Aftermath: Growing in Grace Through Grief. During this Christmas season, I rejoice that my cancer was caught and treated at an early stage. After six weeks of “daily radiance” (AKA radiation therapy), I started my daily dose of Tamoxifen to help battle any potential cells that might cause a recurrence. Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers.

While writing Aftermath and sharing my journey of grief as an adult orphan, I experienced several “hugs from heaven” as I discovered family letters, journals, and even a video in which my mother shares her faith. This is a mistletoe medley from my mother’s heart:

Each Christmas season my father used to go down into the woods behind our home and bring us back some mistletoe. It was a present that my sister and I loved. We’d tie it with bright ribbons and would hang it over several doorways in the house.

It was always fun of course for a Christmas party, but it came to mean more than that to us. It seemed to become a symbol of the meaning of Christmas: Love, God’s love for the world that prompted Him to send Christ to become our Savior. Somehow it seemed to enhance our love for each other as a family. And we found ourselves stepping under the mistletoe to give someone a hug or to plant a kiss on someone’s cheek and say, “I love you.”

I thought of these mistletoe Christmases during my mother’s losing battle with cancer. I penned my thoughts like this:

Illness, you ugly parasite!

Like mistletoe, you’ve entrenched yourself upon my body!

As you bloom and grow, you feed upon my strength.

I shall fight!

Battalions stand by to help!

My doctor’s scalpel will sever you.

Modern medicine will shrivel you.

You shall fall to the ground,

And I shall stand again strong and well.

But what if I cannot conquer you?

If you are with me still

As my constant, inevitable companion,

I pray that God will help me

Learn to live with you in peace

And somehow discover how you, my enemy—

Like mistletoe at Christmas—

Can serve some useful purpose.

There are times when we cannot rid our lives of things that hurt such as pain or grief, loss, illness, sorrow. Sometimes they’re with us as our inevitable companions and we must learn to make peace with them.

Those are the times when we can ask God through Christ to help us transform the loneliness, the pain, the grief, the loss-symbolically into something that can serve a useful purpose in our lives.

May you feel an extra “hug from heaven” this Christmas season from the loving arms of our Heavenly Father. God is present, and He knows your name!
*Text quoted from Aftermath (New Hope, 2012) by Margaret McSweeney, pp 114-115
Margaret McSweeny is a well-published author and freelance writer for the 411 Voices and the Daily Herald, the largest suburban Chicago newspaper. She is the author of Aftermath, A Mother's Heart Knows and Go Back and Be Happy. She is also the founder of Pearl Girls™ and the general editor of the Pearl Girls™ books; Mother of Pearl and Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace. All proceeds from the sales of the Pearl Girls™ books go to charity. For the past five years, she has served on the board of directors for WINGS, an organization that helps abused women and their children get a new start in life. Margaret would love to meet you too. Follow her on twitter or friend her on facebook. You can also keep up with Margaret atKitchen Chat or the Pearl Girls blog. Margaret lives with her husband and two daughters in the Chicago suburbs.


12 Pearls of Christmas Guest Post : Debora M. Coty

Who is Mr. Carbunkle?
By: Debora M. Coty

In a dream this November, I was playing Clue (remember that board game from your childhood?) with three friendly strangers. We were each moving our pieces from room to room in the mysterious mansion trying to figure out who-done-it.

So far we knew it wasn’t Miss Scarlet in the parlor with a candlestick . . . or Colonel Mustard in the drawing room with a wrench.

With a voice bursting with sudden enlightenment, the player to my right announced, “Why, it’s Mr. Carbunkle!*”

My other two opponents and I looked at one another in bewilderment. Everyone knew there was no such character in this game.

It seemed my lot to state the obvious. “Who is Mr. Carbunkle?”

The words continued to ring in my head as I sat straight up in bed. I must have spoken the question aloud to jerk me awake so.

Who is Mr. Carbunkle?

And then I knew. I knew just as surely as if the Almighty had sent me an e-mail titled, “Hey, Deb, here’s your answer.”

I had been praying for several weeks about how Papa God would like me to use my writing tithe this year. It’s been my custom, for the nine years I’ve written professionally, to give away each December (anonymously, if possible) ten percent of that year’s income from my writing ministry to someone the Lord designates.

The sum isn’t really all that much in the grand scheme of things (contrary to popular belief, Christian writers don’t get rich), but it’s enough to bless somebody in their celebration of Christ’s birth with the knowledge that their Heavenly Father knows about their needs . . . and cares.

I thought about the only Mr. Carbunkle I knew—the one who attends our church, a quiet, unassuming man who’d been out of work for more than a year. I confess that I knew about his plight but hadn’t really given it much thought—or prayer—lately. Although he never complained, I knew his family must be struggling.

So Mr. Carbunkle it is.

You know, there are lots of Mr. Carbunkles out there who would be blessed mightily by a love-gift from you this Christmas. It doesn’t have to be money; it could be help with yard work, or home repairs, or a loaf of banana bread, or best of all, a gift of your time. Thirty minutes of your undivided attention for a lonely soul who needs to know Papa God knows his or her needs … and cares.

Who is your Mr. Carbunkle?

Don’t have a Clue? I know someone who does. Just ask Him.

*Name changed for privacy
Debora Coty is an occupational therapist, a piano teacher, and a freelance writer. She's also involved in the children's ministry at her church and is an avid tennis player. Debora began writing to fill the void when her last child left for college, and it has since become a passion. Debora has a real knack for getting across sound biblical concepts with a refreshing lightheartedness as attested in her monthly newspaper column entitled "Grace Notes: God's Grace for Everyday Living." Look for Fear, Faith and a Fist Full of Chocolate in February of 2013.


12 Pearls of Christmas Guest Post: Christy Fitzwater

An Inexpensive New Christmas Tradition
By: Christy Fitzwater

I was invited to play some Christmas carols on the piano for a senior-adult luncheon, but before I got up to play they had a time for the seniors to share what they remembered as their favorite Christmas gifts. 

There was talk of new bicycles, a pony, and a new dress.

Then one elderly man took the microphone and said, “An orange.” When he was young, an orange was a rare treat. As he spoke, he got choked up and had to stop talking to collect himself. He explained that his Sunday School was giving an orange for anyone who memorized a Bible verse. He tearfully described earning that delicious orange and slowly savoring every bite. When he was done eating the orange, he put the peel on the furnace so it would dry, and then he chewed on the peel.

He said with conviction, “We just don’t know how rich we are in this country.”

Christmas is usually the time when I feel broke. I tuck away money for gifts all year long, but money doesn’t go very far these days. My husband and I love to spoil our kids and try to scheme how to get them a big-ticket item. We’ve enjoyed the Christmas mornings when we’ve been able to enjoy watching our kids open such gifts as an electric guitar or an iPad.

I stopped to imagine how our whole family would feel if, on Christmas morning, the only gift under the tree was a small basket cradling an orange for each of us. I think we would feel disappointment and great loss. What would we do the rest of the morning if not consumed by opening gift after gift?  Where would the focus be?

Our years of wealth make thankfulness for an orange seem ludicrous.

As I processed this man’s story, I decided what we lack at Christmas isn’t money to buy nice gifts—it’s gratitude to relish the simple treasures we enjoy every day.

This Christmas I am going to begin a new tradition for my family, and I would invite your family to do the same. I am going to place a small basket with four oranges under the tree, along with a printed copy of the man’s story of the orange. We’re going to pause at some point in the morning and each hold an orange while we read the story. And then we’re going to hold those oranges up to our noses and breathe in the fragrance God built into it, peel it slowly, and enjoy each juicy bite. And while we eat it, we’ll each speak thankfulness to the Lord for the grace He has poured into our lives.

In that moment, we’ll know how rich we are.

Christy Fitzwater is a writer and pastor’s wife living in Kalispell, Montana. She is the mother of a daughter in college and a high-school boy. Read her personal blog at christyfitzwater.com.


12 Pearls of Christmas Guest Post: Susan May Warren

Welcome to the12 Pearls of Christmas blog series!

Merry Christmas from Pearl Girls™! We hope you enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom” from the authors who were so kind to donate their time and talents! If you miss a few posts, you’ll be able go back through and read them on this blog throughout the next few days.

We’re giving away a pearl necklace in celebration of the holidays, as well as some items (books, a gift pack, music CDs) from the contributors! Enter now on Facebook or at the Pearl Girls blog. The winner will announced on January 2, 2013 at the Pearl Girls blog.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit www.pearlgirls.info and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl,  Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

God with Us . . . And Us with Him
By: Susan May Warren

Every year over labor day weekend, the Warren family has a MWE. Mandatory Warren Event. It’s a call to come home and enjoy the long weekend with our favorite people. Since my children have left for college, I relish every second of this weekend—the laughter in the kitchen, the long conversations in the family room, the frenzy of backyard football, the quietness of the morning as we drink coffee on the deck and watch the sunrise. I cherish these people, and when they are with me, I drink in their presence.

I’ve been reading the prophecies about Christ this season and came across Isaiah 7:14, Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

I am struck by the word Immanuel. God with us. The closest I get to comprehending this is reading about how Jesus’ loved his disciples. Surely they relished the time with him more profoundly after his resurrection, knowing he would soon leave.

Thankfully, he didn’t leave them for long and sent His Holy Spirit. God . . . still with them. 

As I consider the magnitude of this God who would come to earth, who would abide with the disciples, and then with me, I have to wonder not only do I relish God’s presence in my life, but does God relish time with me? Am I committed to embracing His entrance into my life? Am I even making the effort to see Him?

Imagine that during our MWE weekend, I ignored my children, and they, me? I would lose the joy of their presence.

It is not surprising to me that the Jewish people did not recognize their Savior. After all, who would guess that the Almighty might package himself as a baby and appear among them, fragile and dependent? But today, we know the story, we know the miracles, we know the truth, and God invites us into an abundant relationship, one that He wishes to relish, one that will change us. A relationship that will slake our thirsts and satisfy our hungers. One that reminds us that we are never alone.

Because every day we are a mandatory event to our Immanuel.

This season, look for the ways that God is your Immanuel, with you, every day.


Susan May Warren is the best-selling, award-winning author of over 40 novels. With over 750,000 books in print, her stories of family, romance and adventure have earned her acclaim and reader fans from around the world. Visit her website for upcoming books and sneak peeks!


FIRST: A widow's redeemer

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Madison Street Publishing (October 12, 2012)

***Special thanks to Rosanne Spears for sending me a review copy.***


Known to her friends as Pip, Philippa has been writing since she was 12 in every notebook she could find. Although she would love to take full credit for her writing ability, she has to admit her faith in Jesus gives her the inspiration and desire to write. She also has a passion for reading, history, and horse-riding, and these interests have led to a love for Regency romances.

Visit the author's website.


A penniless young widow with an indomitable spirit. A wealthy viscount with an unsavory reputation.

London, 1815: After her husband’s untimely death, Letty Burton comes up from the country with her domineering mother-in-law. Hiding a past she wishes to forget and facing an uncertain future, all she wants is to navigate London Society as a silent companion.

A chance meeting with London’s most eligible bachelor sets in motion a series of events that will bring her quiet life under the unfriendly scrutiny of the ton. With the net of scandal, debts, and rivals closing in, will she let her dark past dictate her life forever? Will she learn to trust again? And most importantly, will she allow herself to love?

Based on the biblical story of Ruth, The Widow’s Redeemer is a Regency romance depicting the pain of past hurts, the grace needed to overcome them, and the beautiful gift of redemption.

Product Details:
List Price: $13.95
Paperback: 302 pages
Publisher: Madison Street Publishing (October 12, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0983671931
ISBN-13: 978-0983671930


Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.


“I don’t understand your meaning, sir.” A little crinkle appeared between Letty’s brows. She folded and unfolded her stitchery, her hands becoming more agitated with every second that passed.

She cast the sewing onto a small side table and began teasing the frayed cuffs of her muslin day dress before standing abruptly. Leaving the doctor behind, she walked over to the small window set deeply into the farmhouse wall. Silence followed. She stared at the rugged slabs of stone that made up the thick wall and kept the winter winds at bay.

The beginning of the week had brought her husband back from the gaming hells of London. He had been sickening from exposure to rain and cold on his journey home and had fallen from his horse. Could life be so ready to change? Were the cards being dealt as she stood here?

The physician was packing up instruments into his old leather bag. There was the clink of draft bottles as they slotted into place, the creak of un-oiled leather, and the click of a stiff clasp.

Letty swung back round to face the retreating doctor. “But surely there is something more that may be done?”

His small white head shook in a well-acted sadness. Perhaps he had given this news a dozen times, perhaps he had given it a hundred times over. His headshake was so perfected and his eyes so full of sympathy. It was a slow and definite last retreat.

“It is merely a matter of nursing him until his time comes.” He paused, wetting his bottom lip before taking a long breath. “Has he drawn up a will?”

Letty’s thoughts scattered everywhere at once. She had not thought about a will. Even the mention of one but two days ago would have seemed unwarranted, almost absurd. Yet here John lay, with waxy skin and red-rimmed eyes, the smell of fever on him. The scent was curious; body odors were mingling with the wood smoke and damp, producing a rank and stale smell.

A will, was that what the doctor had said? John had been in charge of business matters, and he would not have had the forethought to write a will at seven and twenty, or at least not the care.

“I am not sure.” She reached a hand up, unconsciously checking her hair. These were not things she had expected to confront in her second year of marriage.

“I suggest you summon your lawyer as soon as possible. It is hard to estimate how much time your husband has left.”

She nodded dumbly, blinking quickly in a last, vain attempt to understand the enormity of what was happening. A sad smile marked his lips, as though that settled the business. With no more to be done, he took up his case and descended the tight spiral staircase.

Letty followed behind, grappling with the feeling of shock but still aware of her obligation to see the doctor out. In front of the house, the small boy who looked after the farm’s horses, waited with the doctor’s animal. Letty watched the physician mount the small Dartmoor pony. The animal shook his head in impatience for his hay and stable and was only happy once his hooves were falling in a steady beat. John’s wife waited at the door until the creature disappeared from sight.

For a moment she stood silently, contemplating the sentence which had just this evening been hung over her life. The gathering gloom descended upon her still figure, leaving her a lonesome silhouette in the evening farmyard. Dew settled unbidden upon the landscape, the droplets disturbed a little by a sea breeze. The sky was dark—hues of blue, gray, red, and purple all slowly merging into one as night formed above her. In a far off pasture the soft moo of a cow could be heard. The familiar sound brought her back to the problems at hand. She shook off the desire to sleep and, turning on her wooden heel, walked hastily inside.

The moonlight was firmly in control of the rugged landscape outside the window when she finally drifted off. The large winged armchair in her husband’s room had become her home in the past week, ever since he had been taken ill. The heavy woolen blanket, which was now draped across her unconscious frame, had become the roof over her head.

The farmhands had brought John back after finding him unhorsed and drenched on one of the farm tracks. After all, a drunk man was no horseman. Letty had not heard from him while he had been in Town and even his return had been a surprise.

A small fire, which had been lit early in the evening, was glowing sluggishly in the grate. The scent of it had gradually penetrated everything in the room. Objects surrounding the bed were cast in an unusual light. Several rapidly drawn up letters scattered a small desk in the corner of the room, the little amount of wax on each one looking like a small arachnid in the dim light. A bowl of tepid water reflected a little of the firelight, giving the depths an eerie, luminescent appeal. A rag hung over the side of the basin, like a lone shipwreck survivor crawling to safety.

Letty was awakened by nightmares only half an hour after she fell asleep. Too many worries consumed her mind which, until settled, would prevent her from further rest. Soon, realizing the cold had frozen her aching joints, she rose to dab her husband’s brow. He made no indication of consciousness. Pausing a moment, she watched the knitting and un-knitting of his feverous brow before turning and making her way to the desk. She shuffled the letters that lay there into some kind of order and gingerly placed another log on the fire.


She spun on her heel at the sound of the rasping voice. Small feet bore her swiftly from the fireplace to John’s side. She knelt on the wooden floor to better look into his weary eyes. He was groggy, his eyes roving about the room, though Letty could see lucidness as they settled upon her.

“Yes, John? How do you feel?” She dunked the cloth in the basin and made to wipe his beaded brow.

“No, no more of that. You have made me cold enough.” He turned his head from her.

She nodded slightly, placing the rag back into the basin.

“Why has this come upon me?” he cried out suddenly. “I am in such pain!” He writhed on the bed and upset the soiled bed linens.

“How can I make you more comfortable? Your pillows, do you wish to sit up?”

“That’s the last thing I want to do, Lettice. My back, it aches terribly.” He paused. So little strength was left to him; it was an exertion even to speak a single sentence--especially a sentence filled with anger. “My mother was right. We should never have left Town. None of this would have come upon us.”

Her eyes dropped to the disordered bedcovers. “We would never have met.”

He made no response and turned his head away once again. Letty could not stand the feeling of ineptness. She stood up, pausing by the chair, and then made her way to the fire. There was an old loaf of bread left on a cutting board by its side. She was hungry; it was early morning, a long time since she had had her frugal dinner. She started sawing off a piece to toast over the fire.

“Will you not ask if your sick husband wants something to eat?”

“Do you?”

“No, but you could at least act the caring wife.”

Letty did not answer. It was best she refrained while John was in this mood. Then, with a sobering feeling, she realized that perhaps there would not be many more of his moods to bear.

“The doctor said…well, he said the fever is not abating. He was worried. You are weakening rather than strengthening.”

“And so I expect he thinks I should call the lawyer.” John coughed, a wracking sound that clawed at his lungs and rattled his core.

“He did mention it, yes.” She did not mean it as an attack, but John took it to be one.

“So quick to make me sign over my fortune. I have been ill but a week.” The well-known scowl lines of his face deepened in a sneer.

“John?” She turned to face him. Despite their differences, to tell a man he was dying could never be an easy thing. How could she approach it? How could she say it?

As it was, she would not have to bear the discomfort of speaking it. He had turned his head away again, and he would not turn it back now. He had read it in her anxious eyes all too clearly. Death was inevitable to all men and to him it would come sooner than to most.

She stayed by his bed, quiet, trying hard to clear her mind of all the thoughts that clamored for attention. It was still dark beyond the walls of the house, dark like her mind which was filled with a hundred worries. She would go on through the night worrying, waiting by his side and watching his pain.

Dawn came slowly. She rose from the chair she had been waiting in and walked round the bed to face him. As her gaze fell on his face, the cockerel crowed. His eyes were cold, distant, and lifeless. His body was pale and hard, the worries of a lifetime written in the lines of his harsh, heavy face. She left him there. She did not close his eyes but walked through the cold house in search of her shawl so that she could go to the village and fetch the funeral men. The lawyer never came and neither did her tears.

John’s body was made ready for burial, and the farm’s tenants were duly informed. Letty would be the only one following the coffin to the graveyard on that bleak walk. No friends came; even family, it appeared, were unable to attend. Letty wondered that John’s mother did not come to bury her son, to see the last trace of his earthly self disappear into the ground. It would not be until later that she would receive a letter explaining that, upon hearing of her son’s death, the mother had locked herself in her room and was refusing to eat or come out. To lose a husband had been the first trial for that mother to overcome, but now a son also within two years was more than she could bear. So Letty was left to walk behind her husband’s coffin alone.

The last of the rich brown earth was tossed carelessly by the gravedigger. The soil sprayed across the grave that contained a body that was once a man. Feeling a cold northerly breeze spring up, Letty clasped the material of her thin pelisse closer. She looked around the deserted graveyard, sighed quietly, and then turned to make the lonely walk home.

* * *

Letty’s mind was absent. Her body, however, was seated in a large leather armchair, the springs of which were becoming rather too obtrusive, while the stuffing was half there and half missing. The chair was in a tiny room at the back of a building that constituted the solicitors’ offices. The rambling structure was situated in the village, a little set back from the other buildings, and was condemned by many to be in a worse state of repair than the infamous blacksmith’s. This was partly due to the age and personality of the main law-working occupants, but it was also because their clientele possessed a low standing and, therefore, a deficient income.

Despite the building’s exterior and the general tattiness of the objects within, it was a tidy little office. Nothing seemed out of place and, unlike most solicitors’ desks, paperwork was not scattered across it. Letty was alone in the room for a long while. The faint mutterings and voices, muffled by the wall, floated in to her. The noises all washed over her, and she did not pay them much attention. How could she be interested in the chit-chat of persons she had never met when her future was being located, shuffled, and glanced over?

The man who would be the bearer of all news concerning her future eventually opened the door. He paused on the threshold. Letty could hear his steady breathing though she did not look round. Her head remained perfectly still, her eyes forward, and she had a politeness about her carriage. She clasped her hands loosely in her lap, ready for whatever would be thrown into them. She may not have had a governess who had taught her fine languages or clever mathematics but, thanks to her parson scholar of a father, she was no fool. That pause upon the threshold was one small thing which warned her of what was to come.

Why would a solicitor pause on the threshold, run a handkerchief over the perspiration that had suddenly beaded on his brow, give four brisk sniffs, and then straighten his plain cravat before facing his client? The answer was plain and it was simple. It whispered itself into Letty’s mind. It said: fear.

She smiled faintly as the solicitor took his seat. He was a short, wiry old man and rather outmatched by the much too large wooden desk. He managed a small, polite smile before he placed the papers he had been carrying carefully out before him. With all of them equally spaced and perfectly straight, he cleared his throat and began.

“Now, Mrs. Burton, ah, here we are, ah, yes. Now I have drawn up and put together all the estate’s values and assets including the farm and the house.” He refrained from using the term “your house”, and that was when she began to realize her true predicament. “I have then compared them to repayments needing to be made, yes, um, now….” He readjusted his wire-rimmed spectacles while the small tuft of white hair in the center of his head quivered. “Yes, ah….”

Letty’s heart was tugged a little by the awkward situation this man had been placed in. She rested a tentative hand on the desk but took care to distance it from the solicitor’s own hands. She captured his gaze with her frank brown eyes. “Mr. Glenville, I am led to believe that sometimes husbands have little to leave to their wives due to unfortunate business circumstances leading up to a sudden death. I understand that this cannot be helped.” She kept her eyes on his, speaking far more with them than with her mouth.

“Yes, yes, of course. So glad you understand, Mrs. Burton. It can cause such upset, you see, when the value of the estate and assets comparative to various debts is read out. That is why—well, never mind that.” He reshuffled the papers then took them up again and read on in a calm, precise voice. When he had finished, Letty remained poised for a few moments longer, allowing the information to take its rightful place in her mind. She had been completely unaware of the debts and the precarious position John had been in before he died.

“I see,” she said finally, with far more firmness than Mr. Glenville had expected. “And now tell me truthfully: can the assets fulfill the repayments in their entirety with anything left over?” Her eyes fell back into focus as she spoke, containing a hardness that had not been there before.

“Well, Mrs. Burton, this is where it gets rather more complex. You see, your husband’s affairs had fallen into, well, how shall I say? Difficult times. Therefore, through my calculations of his estate and the debts he accrued from purchases, as well as the debts from ah…several respectable establishments in London.”

Letty’s neck could not help but tense at the reference to her husband’s regular appearance at some of London’s most fashionable gaming hells. It had not been unusual for him to be away from Cornwall for weeks at a time while he entertained himself in London. She remembered the look of disgust and the lack of farewell as he journeyed away from their house each time he went to the metropolis. How could he, a bred gentlemen, stand to be in the country with little or no entertainment? Coupled with this was the severe lack of society that had attended him ever since his marriage to Letty. So severe were the consequences of his disadvantageous marriage that to spend only moments in his wife’s presence was too much for him to bear.

He would be off, of course, entertaining himself in some hell or another, chasing days of past glory in the far-gone seasons. He met his friends, the ones she was never permitted to see, the ones in front of whom she could only prove an embarrassment. She had often wondered what those friends had heard of her. If it were spoken from John’s lips then it would not be praise. There had been a few times when his words had stung more than his hand upon her—not many, but a few.

“Oh, I beg your pardon, Mr. Glenville. Could you please repeat what you just said?” Letty’s back straightened and her mind returned from that far off place.

“Have no fear, Mrs. Burton.” Mr. Glenville smiled slightly. He liked Lettice Burton, even if she had married above her station. She seemed a sweet girl and yet, as he saw her sitting there, he reflected that she was much changed from the girl he had seen on her wedding day. She no longer looked an innocent, fresh-faced child; she was a woman now, at least about the eyes. There was a sort of wisdom there, a lack of that childlike naivety she had once borne. “I understand this is a difficult time. Losing a spouse is a terrible thing, especially at so young an age.”

Letty bowed her head in assent but behind the eyes that Mr. Glenville had deemed wise, there was no grieving heart. Was that wrong? Letty felt pangs of guilt and yet, as she raised her head again and felt the slight bruising at the back of her neck, the guilt bled away.

“What I was beginning to explain was the financial plan for Highfield. In order to cover the debts owed, I am afraid that the only way is to sell the house and the farm along with it.”

Letty, after several days of widowhood, felt the first tears pricking her eyes. The guilt came back, but it was overcome with sadness. She thought with fondness—and bitterness—of the home she had shared with John, and for a moment could not bear the thought of its inevitable loss.

“I understand, Mr. Glenville. I give you all the authority to see to the matter. I shall prepare the house and farm for a new owner and take my leave of the tenants.”

“Madam, I know this is outside of my authority, but I just wish to inquire—have you anywhere to go? I would not go about selling this property for you if you have no safety.”

Letty smiled at him, his kindness a surprise yet fitting with his winsome face. “It is quite all right, Mr. Glenville. I am sure that my family will take me in.” She said it with a certainty she was far from feeling. “In the meantime, the debts must be paid. Please sell Highfield, and before other debts are settled, take your own wages out of the sum. I do not wish to see you underpaid.”

Mr. Glenville looked down at the desk, shuffling papers in a brisk fashion. He pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and fluffed it about his nose. He was trying his hardest to smile his thanks without seeming impertinent. When he looked up, he saw a large smile brightening Letty’s mouth and it instantly put him at his ease. The smile remained, covering the anxiety inhabiting her mind and protecting her from further sentiment or questions. She rose to exit.

Mr. Glenville came out from behind his desk and made to take her hand. The sudden movement caused Letty to shrink back instinctively, her arms moving to protect her body. Mr. Glenville’s owl-like eyebrows rose and crinkled in confusion. Letty, her wide eyes taking in what she had just done unconsciously and the harmless gesture of the man which she had misread, dropped her hands to her sides in embarrassment.

“Thank you, Mr. Glenville,” she said, trying to speak as though nothing unusual had just occurred. “You have been exceedingly helpful. If you could send me a missive here and there, to update me on the sale’s progress and debt repayments, I would greatly appreciate it.” She made no move to give him her hand.

The small man, willing to ignore the strange episode, bowed deeply before straightening again. Something flashed in his eyes, but Letty missed the look of admiration he bestowed upon her. She was already crossing the threshold, planning in her mind what needed to be done next.


Letty had barely eaten a thing at lunch, and now, as she was walking to the farm tenants’ houses, a feeling of weakness came over her. She would not be eating until the leave-taking was done, however long it took. The sky was overcast though it was not likely to rain. Letty observed the sun-whitened clouds that threw everything into an oddly naked light.

The dirt track, which she had walked down so many times to oversee the farm work while John was away, was slightly damp thanks to last night’s rain. Her black widow’s garb had been bought at the cheapest price, so if a little mud spattered the hemline she did not much care. She was too used to walking in the country to be bothered about hemlines and complexion.

Her small figure went in and out of the few cottages on the farm. She bade farewell to the many families, the familiar smell of animals and earth in her nose. She was touched by the few words of condolences that were uttered, even if the tenants cared little for the loss of John. She saw their many concerned eyes and knew their feelings were for her.

To them she was the kindly parson’s daughter who came and asked after each and every one of them, never forgetting a name. Yes, they would be sorry to see her go, yet the promise of a new master who might not be as tyrannical as the last was something that gave them hope. Why had the gentleman come from Town to a small piece of Cornwall in the first place? It was a piece of the country scorned by the modish, and clearly it had been scorned by him as well.

Letty knew of the many questions that her union with John had raised. They had been worlds apart in station and they would never have married had it not been for one indiscretion. That one incident, which had been so easily misread, was the reason she had been married for two years to a man who did not love her. If only John had not led her into a compromising situation because of his own desires; if only she had not so easily mistaken his lust for love. He had been a man whom she had thought she loved, and it had taken time for that naivety to fade after their hasty marriage. She had slowly realized his resentment of her, and it was a resentment that had in two years grown savage.

Yet, as she spoke to each tenant she felt a slight loss, a slight sense of pain at the parting she was making from the place that had been her home, no matter the circumstances. She remembered that she needed to write a letter to her parents asking their shelter. Would they be able to take her back into their parsonage? Somehow, it seemed impossible to go back to her childhood home--that place where her father had once tutored John, where they had met, where the unfortunate incident had happened which forced them to marry.

Too much had happened to her, had been inflicted upon her, for her to return to that place where she had once been so innocent. She felt as though the innocence she had worn in her youth had become polluted. She could not return to live the life of someone she would never be again. As the last tenant closed the door behind her, she turned towards her home, and as she walked back in the twilight, she knew that tonight, at least, it was too late to think upon the future.


The following morning brought a letter from Theodora Burton, Letty’s sister-in-law, who resided in Truro. The small, pretty hand, familiar to Letty, brought a little smile to the young widow’s lips. What had her relative been up to now?

Dearest Lettice,       17 October 1815

How are you? I am so sad to hear of John’s passing away. It was such a dreadful shock! I actually said to Mrs. Grockel, my housekeeper, how sudden it was. I even dropped my paintbrush when I read the letter you sent me about it. (I was in the midst of decorating a small cabinet and now it is totally ruined as I dropped a black paintbrush right in the middle. I have no idea what to do about it. Mrs. Grockel said to paint it one color again. I told her if she wished to spend hours repainting the pattern she is welcome to it!)

Anyway, I am getting quite beside the point! Mr. Burton—well, David to you, I suppose, since you are family—has become quite ill, and as I thought you may be in need of some company and so shall I, I am inviting you to come and stay with us a while. Would you like to? Please say yes, for if I only have Mrs. Grockel to speak to I may fall ill myself, though I do not wish to exaggerate, of course.

I hope everything is well with you, dear sister, and I look forward to seeing you soon.

I send my love, your dearest sister-in-law,

Theodora Burton

Letty folded the letter and laid it in her lap. She turned to gaze out of the parlor window onto green fields that heaved up and fell away outside. Her thumb stroked the thick paper; perhaps it would be good to visit Theo. It had been a long time since she had seen her and it would be a way to save her parents any expense. Her father had been graced with a decent parish, but that did not mean money had ever been plentiful. The thought of her father only brought her mind back to John. If only money had not been so scarce when she had been young! Her father would not have had to take on gentlemen to tutor. She would never have met John, and they would never have married in a desperate attempt to avert the scandal.

She suddenly shook herself. What was she doing? Self-pity would help nothing. The past was set in stone and ultimately unchangeable. She must think of the future. If she could not change past actions, she could at least try to survive the present. She reprimanded herself and then, flicking the long plait of hair she had been fiddling with back over her shoulder, she rose clasping the letter. She sat in John’s old chair at the large wooden desk, the high back overshadowing her, and took out a sheet of paper. Once the letter to Theo was finished, sealed, and sent, Letty went about packing the few dresses she owned into a bandbox. She saw to the business of the farm, and finally coming back to Highfield, she began saying goodbye to her home.


And so the farm, the house, and all the possessions therein were left to the debt collectors. Letty took her final leave with only a small trunk and a portmanteau to her widowed name. She removed to her sister-in-law’s house in Truro. While Theodora’s husband remained sick, Letty would be the young wife’s comforter and companion.

The widow remembered with such clarity the day on which she left: the crisp morning air that pinched at her cheeks before she stepped up into the carriage; the sweet smell of earth that was laced with traces of briny sea air; the wind that flung her long hair back and forth, loosing it from the contraptions imprisoning it; the sky that was thick shades of iron gray and layers of towering clouds building above; the heath and shrub covered landscape in all its unruly beauty she knew so well—all was left to the elements behind her. The animals were hidden away in warm homes together, the only farewell being the natural blow of westerly winds.

The harshly sprung carriage afforded a small view of the country which she loved through a murky pane of glass. This view she engraved in her mind’s eye. She would keep it for a time when she needed to know there was a place like heaven, a paradise somewhere.