I come from a family of wonderful cooks. Not only is my sweet mother one of the best cooks I have known, but my grandmothers, aunts, cousins (male and female), and an uncle or two were gifted in the kitchen. One of my cousins even has her own catering business. This family knows its way around a kitchen.
Both of my grandmothers were phenomenal cooks. I had the privilege of learning this craft in each of their kitchens. One was precise and measured ingredients with a steady, knife to level everything off to a perfect cup. The other taught me to cook many things by sight. At a young age I was taught how to fry chicken and make a meringue pie with swirly peaks.
A memorable lesson was to measure out a teaspoon of salt in my hand. What?! Why wouldn’t I just grab a measuring spoon? My grandmother instructed me to attempt the task. Afterwards, I was given a bowl and measuring teaspoon to check how accurate I was. It seems I had enough salt for almost four recipes. we switched places. Grandmother was within grains of measuring a level teaspoon by pouring salt into her cupped hand.
Mammaw was a farm wife and could make anything taste like a gourmet meal. Many of her recipes were made out of ingredients on hand. The piece of advice she gave me that I have cherished the most is to always season your food with love. She said that means to cook because you love the people you are feeding and not because it is an obligation. After having a husband and family of my own, I fully understood what she meant.
Scripture instructs us to love and serve others. In fact, it says to serve others in love. Cooking is a great way to do both. Food tastes better when someone else prepares it. Maybe you have a friend or family member that is ill, depressed, extremely busy, or had a baby. Making a meal or tray of cookies seasoned with love could change the trajectory of their gloomy day.
If you don’t cook, there is a plethora of other ways to help. Run an errand, take them groceries, sweep their walk, rake their leaves, or find some other way to bless them. Scripture tells us we will be accountable for our actions here on Earth. It also says when we help anyone it is like helping the Lord.
How about you? Do you cook for your family? I hope you prepare and season your food with love. Do you serve others in different ways? Share with us.
Today is National Pecan Cookie Day. The recipe below is one my mother, grandmother, and aunts baked. It is especially good with a cup of coffee or tea and shared with a loved one.
Every Window Filled with Light by author Sheila Stovall is a contemporary Christian Fiction. It is a touching story that moved me and stayed with me long after I had finished it. I was not sure what to expect, and this book was a poignant surprise.
This is the story of Emma Baker. One of the reasons this book is a surprise is that in the beginning we read: “The albino python flicked its tongue next to Emma Baker’s cheek.” Truthfully, I almost put the book down right then. My thoughts on snakes are such that my favorite one is a dead one. Yes, I have a fear of them. Thankfully, this was just an opening attention-getter and not a snake filled book. Back to Emma, she is a librarian and caring soul. She has lost her husband and has been receiving letters from his killer.
This is also the tale of tattooed minister Luke Davis. He does not look anything like the stereotypical pastor, but he is a phenomenal one. He preaches love and forgiveness. Looks might be deceiving, but actions and words speak volumes in this case. Luke is definitely a man of faith.
Author Stovall has an inviting style of writing. I was immediately interested in Emma and her life. Her emotions were easy to feel through the pages. Conversations read smoothly and sounded realistic. Each character was believable and realistic. The storyline was unique and held my interest. I love books set in Indiana and Kentucky since I am a Hoosier and have many relatives from the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
There were many timeless life and spiritual lessons in this story. The main ones were trusting God, learning that God uses us all for His purpose and brings out out of every situation, healing, true forgiveness and restoration. I like how Luke is not what the characters think a pastor should be, showing that God can use anyone and good can come from bad. This is an encouraging message about hope, love, joy, and living better even during
I definitely recommend this book. It is an illustration of faith in action and forgiveness lived. It would make a fabulous small group or book club choice. There is so much to discuss. I rated it 5 out of 5 stars. I received a copy from Celebrate Lit, but these are my own words.
About the Book
Book: Every Window Filled with Light
Author: Shelia Stovall
Genre: Contemporary Women’s Christian Fiction
Release date: April 2, 2021
Welcome to Weldon, Kentucky, where the only things the locals love more than fried pies are gossip and match-making.
Librarian Emma Baker, a young and childless widow, believes her dream to build a family is over. It’s been two years since a student accidentally stabbed Emma’s husband to death, and her grief has stifled any interest in romance—until she meets Pastor Luke Davis. But when Emma learns Luke is counseling her husband’s killer fresh out of jail, her temper gets in the way.
Meanwhile, Emma discovers twelve-year-old Harley, abandoned by her drug-addict mother, hiding in the library, and takes the girl in as her foster mom. Then a young mother is made homeless by an apartment fire, and Emma opens her home again. One person and one prayer at a time, Emma begins to discover hope.
If Emma can yield and offer forgiveness to her husband’s killer, perhaps she’ll be able to piece together the broken parts of her heart…and the broken people who enter her life…to form a new family and maybe even have a second chance at love.
Shelia Stovall is the director of a small-town library in southern Kentucky, where only strangers mention her last name, and the children call her Miss Shelia.
Shelia and her husband Michael live on a farm, and she enjoys taking daily rambles with their three dogs to the creek. Spending time with family, especially her grandchildren, is her all-time favorite thing. The only hobby Shelia loves more than reading uplifting stories of hope is writing them.
More from Shelia
When I was younger, I daydreamed about becoming an author, but it wasn’t something I pursued. I wrote a few short stories for fun, but I poured my time and energy into my children and career.
In the summer of 2011, I participated in a Bible study called Jonah by Priscilla Shirer. One evening, our facilitator asked us to meditate on the question, What does God want you to do that you don’t want to do. I sat feeling smug as the others prayed. I’d already signed up for a short-term mission trip to Africa, which I hadn’t wanted to do. But as I sat in the quiet, God spoke to me. Write a book for me. My heartbeat quickened as God gave me the opening and the ending of the story. I envisioned a large two-story yellow Victorian home with every Window filled with light.
God’s request filled me with panic, and the workbook page remained blank. The thought of someone reading God’s request made my face hot. Who was I to think I could be an author? Finally, I made a feeble attempt, but it was too hard.
My Ninevah was Africa. I turned my thoughts and efforts to preparing to go to Niger in December 2011. After the trip, all I could think about was returning to Africa. Our translators were visiting the US. It thrilled me when they accepted my invitation to stay overnight in my home. While preparing for their visit, I discovered my laptop under the bed covered in dust. I gulped as I remembered God asking me to write a book. With trepidation, I opened the computer and read the first few pages of the story I’d started. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great. I whined to God. I don’t have the skills or the talent. I don’t know how to write a book.
Then, I received an email in my work email account promoting a Christian writers’ conference. To this day, it is still the only email I’ve received at work advertising a writers’ conference. I could hardly breathe as I read the email promoting the writers’ workshop to be held at East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, TX—a long way from Kentucky. I shared everything with my husband, and he encouraged me to go even though we didn’t have the money. He reminded me we had a travel credit in our airline account because of connection problems during our first trip to Africa, and so, I packed my bags.
When I attended the conference, two instructors, New York Times best-selling author Lisa Wingate and Judy Christie, changed my life when they encouraged me to finish the story. Judy asked me to commit to writing one hour a day, and she predicted I’d finish the first draft by Thanksgiving if I’d stick with it. The conference was held in October, and I thought her expectations impossible. I didn’t meet her goal, but I finished the first draft on 12/12/12. I’ll never forget that morning. It’s a good thing I had no idea of the work ahead of me.
Judy was kind enough to give me the email address of her award-winning editor Jamie Clarke Chavez. I sent the first three chapters to Jamie, and my mouth dropped open when she agreed to work with me. Today, she is someone I consider a dear friend. Writers have asked me, How did you get Jamie Chavez to work with you. She must have taken pity on me. I cringe as I remember those first chapters. I consider Jame a gift from God.
Through the years of hard work, God has been faithful to provide me with encouragement and help along the road to publication. If there is anything good in Every Window Filled with Light, it is from Him and the people he sent to aid me. The best blessings of the writing journey are the friendships I’ve made along the way.
I hope you’ll read Every Window Filled with Light or give it to someone who needs an uplifting story of hope. If there’s a person you know who doesn’t know Christ and doesn’t want to listen to a witness, this is a book you can share. I hope the reader will be so drawn into the story they won’t realize they are being exposed to God’s salvation plan until it’s too late.
Thank you for taking the time to learn about why I wrote Every Window Filled with Light. Has God ever asked you to do something you didn’t want to do? I’d love to hear your story.
Even if you are not a fan of biblical fiction you will enjoy The Midwife’s Heart by author Brenda Ray. From the moment I started reading, I became invested in the story and the life of Hannah, the midwife. Even though it is Book Two in the Hebrew Midwives Trilogy, I had no trouble following the story or characters. It is a beautiful story.
This is the story of the Hebrew midwife, Hannah. She has sworn off men after a terrible marriage when she was young. Hannah has resigned herself to living without a husband or children. Her calling is to help women in childbirth. One day she meets Ze-ev Ben Judah, the mighty warrior and leader. He, too, has had a bad experience years ago and sworn off love. Their meeting is like cats and dogs, but sparks fly.
The author has done extensive research and it shows. With vivid descriptions her deft pen takes readers to the desert with the Israelites. I could almost see the tents, smell the herbs, and feel the warm, sun soaked boulders. Her characters were both historical and fictional. Readers will recognize Moses and Caleb as well as the city of Jericho. She has made the Bible come to life in this charming romance.
There are timeless lessons sprinkled throughout this fictional treasure. Scripture and lessons of faith are woven from beginning to end, making this an inspiring tale. It is a breathtaking love story.
This book was fascinating and taught me a few things. It helped me understand the life of the Israelites in their journey to the Promised Land. Women will relate to Tabitha, Kitra, and Hannah as well as the five sisters. They will swoon over Ze-ev.
I highly recommend this Jewish Historical Novel/Biblical Fiction. I was riveted and kept turning pages until it was finished. It would make a great book club choice. There is so much to discuss. A women’s group at church would find this to be a nice selection. I rate it 5 out of 5 stars. A copy was provided by Celebrate Lit but these are my honest words.
About the Book
Book: The Midwife’s Heart
Author: Brenda Ray
As Abraham’s descendants prepare to cross into the Promised Land, led by Moses, Hannah, a disillusioned midwife will be tested in ways she cannot imagine. She wanted love, a home, and children, but gave up on that dream long ago. One heartbreak and humiliation was enough.
Ze-ev is a commander in the army, protecting his people. Busy doing what must be done, finding a wife is not his priority. Besides, when his childhood sweetheart marries another, he lost interest in securing a match to be his bride.
When he meets Hannah, they are both tested. Will either of them let down their guard long enough to trust again?
Set on the Plains of Moab, amidst attacks on the camp, spies, plague, and the unprecedented request of Zelophehad’s daughters, Ze-ev and Hannah must navigate the thorny path of the heart.
RWA award-winning author, Brenda Ray, grew up along the Emerald Coast of Northwest Florida. A University of Florida trained nurse-midwife, she traveled as a military wife and raised three remarkable sons. She is now retired and writing full time in Vero Beach, FL. A graduate of the University of Florida, as well, she is always confused during football season, but she is never confused about loving feedback from her readers. You may contact her at: www.wildwolfwomanwriter.com
More from Brenda
I didn’t set out to be a writer. In 1997, I was a practicing nurse-midwife, blessed to have delivered hundreds of babies. In one day, latex allergy abruptly ended my career, ended my job, and took my health. Seven years of college felt like a waste. At times the grief felt bottomless.
My strong faith in God got me through that dark time. My daily meditation and clinging to God’s Word were by lifelines. One morning, while reading the second chapter of Exodus, (which I had read many times before) the story of Puah and Shiphrah struck me in a new way.
I began asking myself how that came to be. Why would a pharaoh order his future workforce murdered? Did all the babies arrive before the midwives could arrive or did the midwives lie? With much research and study and my own experiences as a midwife, the answers to those questions became The Midwife’s Song: A Story of Moses’ Birth.
The book started a flood of writing that continues today. Writing is a creative process and as the Holy Scripture teach, “In the beginning, God created….” We are told we are made in God’s image. Thus, we ourselves are destines to create. For me, it has been quilting, sewing, cooking, and writing. I also write under the pen name of B. K. Ricotta. Two of a Kind is my first book under that name. A sweet novella will be released soon by Wild Rose Press entitled A Love So Sweet by B. K. Ricotta. Finally, the finishing touches are being done on a historical romance set in Northwest Florida when it was a new state.
It has often been said that it takes a village to raise a child. This is absolutely true. Between parents, grandparents, other family, and friends, children are nurtured in many ways. I was fortunate to have a large village caring for me. One of the leaders of my village was my aunt, Eva June Wilson. I affectionately called her Auntie June. I treasured her. A few days ago she was called home by Jesus. Yes, I am broken-hearted that we are now separated, but I know with certainty we will see each other again.
Auntie June was my father’s elder sister by two years. She was a delightful, quaint, lovely woman. From my earliest memories of her, I knew that she loved me. I recall being rocked in a rocking chair and swung in a porch swing by her. She liked to be in motion and passed on that love to me. Her husband, my Uncle Sam, was a jokester and teased me relentlessly. Both of these relatives have special places in my heart. Everyone that knew my aunt loved her and sang her praises. She was one of a kind, the best kind.
I learned many things from my aunt. She had a sharp mind and gave sage advice:
a. Family is forever. Always be ready to help them. Never forget their stories.
b. Forgiveness is a requirement and not an option. Do not withhold it.
c. There are certain words a lady doesn’t say, and always remember you are a lady.
d. If you can’t say anything nice, then be quiet.
e. If you don’t know what to do, pray. You can’t go wrong talking to Jesus.
f. Don’t go where you aren’t invited. If they wanted you there, you would know.
g. If it’s not your story, don’t tell it. That is called gossip.
h. Be nice to everyone. You don’t know what they have been through in life.
i. Look for the silver lining in each situation. There is alway something good
j. Make sure your lipstick is fresh. Somebody might take your picture.
k. No one loves you like your family. Always tell them you love them.
There are many other things she taught me. She and Grandmother were skilled in the kitchen. They could cook, freeze, and can until the cows came home. Chicken tasted better fried in lard. The best thing to drink was iced tea. It was okay to use paper plates so you could spend more time with your guests. German tomatoes were fine raised besides the patio, and a yeast roll was better than a cookie anytime. Angel rolls were fluffy and great to have on hand for surprise company. If you had more than enough, share with someone. When you hug someone, close your eyes and savor it. Let your love seep through to them.
Auntie June was fun. She loved playing games and winning. When she lived on her farm she had peacocks. They were beautiful but squealed like a cat or baby. Since she had received a teaching degree, she was the best person to explain anything. Her patience was unmatched. She was a natural born story teller. We had no trouble talking for hours. I could call her and chat for an hour, unless her Kentucky Wildcats were playing ball. Then I needed to wait until after the game. She was frugal but not stingy. Things were cared for and lasted years. I remember the same family room loveseats, living room set, bedroom set, and even lamps at her house. Perhaps being content was her secret.
Auntie June grew up in Southern Indiana, but moved to Kentucky to live with family there after her sophomore year. She skipped her junior year of high school to graduate early with her cousin, Phyllis Ann. After graduation they attended college together. My grandmother was anxious that if she did not have a college buddy, my aunt might not go. She went and graduated with a bachelors degree in business. Like many others in her family, she became a teacher. Learning was important, and she continued to read and educate herself. I valued her opinion.
She was an animal lover. When she lived in Louisville, I remember her dog, Smoky. It was a black cocker spaniel, and I thought it was the most beautiful dog ever. A few years later they moved to the big farm house after her father-in-law died. She had a gorgeous collie. I remember cattle, a calf, a pony, kittens, a dog, and the peacocks at that stately place. I was certain the country estate had seen some civil war action and had many untold stories itself. Like my granddaddy, she was petrified of snakes and passed that right along to me. She had a few heart stopping stories of being trapped inside her house by a big, very big, snake.
My family lived in Clarksville, Indiana. Once when Auntie June had surgery she came to our house to recover. Grandmother stayed as her ever attentive nurse. I remember sneaking to chat with her. She would pat the side of the bed and wink. I quietly asked her if this surgery meant she could have babies or could not because she would be a wonderful mother. She told me that she was praying God had the right baby He would send just for her. Well, He did. In fact, in His generous way, He sent her three, twin sons and a daughter, my cousins: Kevin, Gavin, and Ruth Ann. She was devoted to her children, grandchildren, and greats.
Not only did I love her, but I respected her. Her life was full of trials, but she managed each one with a smile. The glass was always half full for her. She had a life full of hard work, but she also volunteered at church and other places. She was very giving. Others were more of a concern to her than herself. Mother and Auntie June remained close after my daddy died. Many times they chatted and laughed like schoolgirls. They shared precious memories.
I was the first grandchild on Daddy’s side so obviously I was spoiled rotten. Many nights and weekends were spent at my grandparents and later my aunt’s. I was like a sponge wanting to soak up every bit of information I could about the Winburn branch of my family tree. Now that Auntie June is gone I can no longer glean any more information.
Auntie June was a Woman of Faith. She walked her faith as well as talked about it. She loved church and her church family, too. There are many story of God’s blessings in her life. He healed her from breast cancer and various other maladies. He kept her safe during the many (many) storms in her life. She live a long life of 91 years. Auntie June worshipped and praised God for guiding her through them all. She told me that her deepest desire was that all of her family would know Jesus and be saved. She would laugh and say “you know there will be enough room in Heaven.”
During our last conversation she spoke to me a lot about our family: her parents, my parents and sister, her children, grandchildren, and greats. Family was important to her. She spoke a lot about her brother, my father. This was the first time she had talked about Daddy in a very long time. We talked of the goodness of God. She always told me she loved me before we hung up. I assured her of my love, too. The very next day she got sick and after a week went to Glory. People I tell me “I’m sorry you lost your aunt.” Dear friends, I did not lose her. I know exactly where she is. She has gone home and is happier than she has ever been. I miss her more than mere words could express, but I will see her again in Glory. Maybe our rooms will be close together.
Friends. We all have them and want to be one. Do you know what the definition of a friend is? Let me ask our buddy Webster:
“…definition of friend: 1: a person who has a strong liking for and trust in another person. 2 : a person who is not an enemy or foe.”
That sounds correct. Don’t you think? It is fairly cut and dried. Friends are people you really like, trust, and that are not enemies.
The Bible has something to say about friendship, too. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17)” Isn’t it comforting to know that a true friend loves at all times? Not just in good times, but also bad? Friends are supposed to always be friends, even during election year. So what is happening?
Are we allowing someone or something to come between us and our friends? Friendship takes work. Each friend needs to be respectful and considerate of the other. For me, friendship is like a safe haven in a storm. A place where I can always go to feel happy and unthreatened. True, we will not always agree on everything, but our tone will be respectful and loving. There will not be any degrading remarks. We will just agree to disagree and go on.
Unfortunately of late, I have noticed friends that are normally respectful and sweet take on a different persona. Snide comments are left on Facebook posts, hateful things are said about others, including friends, and the need to respond viciously overtakes normal caution. Is that because we can type a response without looking the commenter in the eyes? Our comment may “yell” back in all caps or contain offensive words our lips never speak. Our words cut deep without us having to witness the pain we inflicted.
It breaks my heart to see friend pitted against friend and family member against family member. I still choose to love each one, but their behavior troubles me. Are they succumbing to a plan that has blinded them? Why would these naturally loving and caring people become so callus and cold?
Maybe we should all think about what our words and actions are saying about our souls. Are they in line with the teachings of Jesus? When someone looks at me will they see a member of a political party or a member of the family of God? Will I be a friendly safe haven or a downgrading place of battle for my friends?
The solution? First, take inventory of yourself. Are you proud of how you are representing Jesus? Second, pray. Pray for our friends, our nation, and ourselves. Romans 3:11-12 says: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
Someday this world will all be over. It will not matter which political party was our preference, only that Jesus was our King. Are we living as peacemakers and beacons for Him? I hope I am.
The best news is that we all have a friend that will be there for us. He died on the cross so that we might have eternal life. Scripture says in John 15:13-24 “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.”
Using His example, let’s pray for each other and be kind. Let’s be good friends and agree to disagree.
Words can be golden. Movies can be identified by a memorable quote and songs by a few lyrics. For the most part words are remembered whether for good or for bad.
What would you say to someone if you knew it was the very last time the two of you would speak? What would your last words be? Facebook and social media are filled with nonsensical posts of quizzes designed to tell you which type of flower or animal you are. They are also overflowing with venomous attacks on people we personally do not know. That’s correct, politicians. The colorful adjectives used are appalling.
Petty arguments and grudges can slither their way into relationships and do irrevocable damage. The hurtful last words spoken are forever engraved upon hearts. Those hearts are left broken and yearning for healing. Forgiveness withheld robs us of years of happy times and memories. Perhaps “I’m sorry” are words that are long overdue to someone. It would be devastating to miss that opportunity.
What legacy do you want your words to leave? If you knew you were having the last conversation with a friend or family would it change your words and tone? Life changes everyday, and tomorrow is not guaranteed. Scripture tells us not to let the sun set on our anger but to make amends.
Me? What would I say? I would not waste my breath on small talk, but rather go straight to the things that I wanted my family or friend to understand. Wouldn’t you? Treasured memories would be shared as we relived them once again. Yes, I would apologize for any wrong that I had done or they felt I had. Perception is real to the beholder. Most importantly, I would give forgiveness and love.
When I speak to my parents, children, and best friend the last thing I say to them is I love you. Three little words that mean so much. Those words should chase away any doubt they might have if they were loved. Absolutely, whole heartedly, and forever they are loved. I would make sure they knew that God loved them, too.
My words for you are that you, too, know you are eternally, unequivocally loved by your Creator. The Bible overflows with verses verifying this. Never doubt it, even in times of turmoil. Call to Him and let His love fill you and give you peace.
It would be wonderful if we had the foresight to know when we were speaking to someone for the last time. Since we don’t, the next best thing is to temper our words with love and speak as if those were our last words. Let’s make all of our words be worthy of being famous last words.
Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. Our hearts and minds are turning to love. How do you celebrate? Is it a time for just you and your sweetheart? Perhaps you include your children in the holiday and make it truly about love.
In our family it is a day centered around love for everyone. We send cards to family and buy presents for our grandkids besides spending time for ourselves. It is not just a romantic holiday for me and my hubby. Our pets even get a new toy.
When our kiddos were still at home we included them. I remember making a red heart shaped cake or a red velvet cake to have for dessert. They would get cards and a gift or money. Sure the hubby and I carved out time for each other to remember our love, too.
Love should be lived, spoken, and shared everyday. Do you agree? I am talking about true, unblemished love. Everyone flourishes when loved, even plants. Where do we begin to find out just what love is if we want to do this right? The Bible in First Corinthians gives us the best answer.
In I Corinthians 13 we are provided a guideline about love. This scripture explains all about what it is and isn’t. As we read what love is, think about the people you love. Is your love in line with the definition? Are you patient with them and not easily angered?
“Love is patient.
Love is kind.
It does not envy.
It does not boast.
It is not proud.
It is not rude.
It is not self-seeking.
It is not easily angered.
It keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects,
Love never fails.”
How did you do on your check list. Me, I could stand some improving. For one thing, patience is something that I am constantly honing. Certainly I have failed in many of the other areas, but after writing this blog it has given me a wake up call. I need to love others better, and I will.
Jesus commands us (not suggests) to love one another as He has loved us in John 13:34. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Wow. That is a high standard. No, let me change it to the highest standard. The gold standard. Even though we are mere humans we can still strive for it.
God has always loved us and always will. He has plans for each one of us and sent Jesus to redeem us. Scripture says He loves with an everlasting love. That is unending, pure, powerful love. That verse is so sweet to my spirit that I drink my coffee out of this cup.
Please join me in pondering this scripture and how we truly love others, even family. As I ask these questions of myself, you could search for your own answers. Am I patient, kind, hopeful, protective, and does my love persevere? I’m not proud, envious, boastful, easily angered, rude or self-seeking, am I? Do I keep track of when people do me wrong? Has my love ever failed someone? How can I improve and love others as Jesus did.
Enjoy this season of love and remember how loved you are.