Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Invitation... a poem for Christmas 2015


By Frances Judge

Come follow me to the river of life,

Where I wash away sorrow and pain.

The paths might be winding, the mountains too steep,

But I’ll carry you through rough terrain.

Child don’t fear the swells of the ocean,

Or the trials that burden your soul.

My arms are outstretched and willing to save you

From winds that you cannot control.

Come follow me as shepherds and wise men

Who followed without hesitation.

They gazed at the star in wonder and awe

At the divine invitation.

Come as you are to the table of grace

                  Where forgiveness and joy are provided.                 

Before heaven’s time, the plan was in place

To redeem the lost souls and misguided.

Come follow me to the whispering sea;

Hear my thoughts that outnumber the sand.

Believe me, your Savior, the gift of the heart,

Delivered by God’s Holy hands.

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you;
He is Christ the Lord.”
Luke 2:11


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Book Blog Tour for Randi's Steps

 My Book Blog tour begins with Double Decker Books.

You can enter the contest to win an Amazon gift card or

sign up to read a review and get a FREE copy of Randi's Steps

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Book Review: 21 Days of Grace

Fiction Devotionals Compiled by Kathy Ide

Kathy Ide combines heartwarming fiction with devotionals that bring a personal meaning to each story. These beautifully written stories, written by talented authors, touched my heart. I loved the depth of the characters—spanning from a homeless young girl to a faith-filled old man. The life applications helped me to relate the struggles each character went through to my own life. The stories demonstrate God’s love and grace. I enjoyed being able to finish a story a day on my lunch break and look forward to getting the next book in the series.
Review by Frances Judge
Authors featured: Kathy Ide; Rene Gutteridge; Cindy Woodsmall; Robin Bayne; Angela Elwell Hunt; Barbara Curtis; Cecil Murphey; Deborah Raney; Roxanne Anderson; Nancy Arant Williams; Kathi Macias; Diane Simmons Dill; Buck Storm; Dona Watson; Jeanette Morris; Amarilys Gacio Rassler; Carolyn Bennett Fraiser; Jeanette Hanscome; Tracy Higley; Nanette Thorsen-Snipes; DiAnn Mills; Lori Freeland

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Water Trance


Robins splash in a birdbath…without a care in the world. A breeze draws the earthy scent into the classroom, inviting me to leap into summer. Mr. Thomas points to the SMART Board and directs our eyes across a diagram of water dissolving rock as he drones on…

“Rain mixes with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as it travels. This forms an acidic solution that dissolves calcite, the main mineral of karst rocks, where most caves form…”

I wish I was climbing out of my cave, not just hearing about one.

“This acidic water drips through cracks and fractures and creates tunnels and passageways like an underground plumbing system.” 

My own life has enough cracks and fractures to crumble into dust if I let it. What if I followed the tunnel that led to my dream instead? I’d be in New York City, designing graphic arts.

“Ally, are you with us?” I nod. “Then please tell us how stalactites are formed.” 

“By a drip,” I answer, wishing I did my homework. Thank God the bell rings, so I won’t have to say more. 

Michelle grabs my arm as we leave. “Want to come to the mall with us after school?”

“Can’t, sorry. Got to watch Tommy.”

“You say that every day, girl... okay, next time. You’re not supposed to be your mom at seventeen.”

She doesn’t get it. I like school. The order, routine, and even rules. Normal kids, mostly normal adults. Not like home. I pray every day something would change—something like my entire life. I’d settle for a morsel, but it never does. 

I toss the mail on the table, even the letter from the School of Visual Arts. I can’t read it now.
Tommy is running the water again. I’m surprised he didn’t flood the bathroom; the sink is filled half an inch from the top. I open the drain. “Hey, buddy.”

“Hi.” He stays in his water trance. At thirteen, he already towers over me, so he kneels on the worn rug to be eyelevel with the faucet. His eyes are close enough to the water to get sprayed and wet his lashes. Sometimes he turns it almost off to watch it drip. Sometimes he counts the drips as they splatter in the sink. Sometimes he catches the drips in a bowl until it fills; then he dumps it and starts again…for hours.

“Where’s Mom?” He doesn’t answer, but I know. 

I collect the empty glasses and wine bottle from the den. I drape a blanket over her on the couch, shut off the TV, and kiss her forehead. “Please don’t give up on us like Dad did,” I whisper and pray. 

The air conditioner is rattling and spewing lukewarm air. I kick it, but nothing changes. I shut it off and get an ice cube. I lie back on my bed and hold the ice an inch above my face. My eyes have to cross to look at it. I stare at the water beading around the surface. Some light filters through the edges. Droplets drip down my cheeks and pool at my neck. For just a moment, I see what my brother sees. Only the water. But I get restless after three minutes of water watching and get up to fry two grilled cheeses, maybe three if I can wake Mom. 

She is still sleeping when I tell Tommy to go brush his teeth for bed. He loves brushing his teeth; the problem is getting him to stop without throwing a fit. 

Finally, I curl up under my covers and peel back the envelope. “Congratulations…” I smell the envelope to make sure I’m not dreaming. But in the morning, I rip it up and walk Tommy to school. He drinks from his water bottle I packed for him and pours some on his hand.

“Don’t waste it. You’ll be thirsty later.” He pours it until it’s empty. “Oh well.” 

When I get home Mom is at the table, holding a tissue to her nose. Fear runs through my veins for a second until she smiles. “Come here, Ally.” She holds an envelope.

“Is something wrong?” In a normal family, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her awake.

“You didn’t tell me you got into SVA.”

“It doesn’t matter. It costs a fortune, and Tommy...”

“This letter says you have a full scholarship. You deserve to go.” 

I blink back tears and read the letter and the rehab pamphlet she shows me. 

For the first time, I see an opening to my cave. I take Tommy outside, and we splash through the puddles.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Best Loss of the Season



Aaron and the birds at a soccer game

Aaron's soccer team
My son’s high school soccer team set records this season—for the worst losses in their school’s history. They clinched the title at the head-shaking game when they lost eleven to one. I admit my husband and I were glad to miss that game…but because we only went to the home games, we missed the one goal our son scored at another field and the last and best losing game of the season. 

When Aaron came home after the final game and kicked off his cleats, I asked him the usual question, “So how was your game?” 

And got the usual answer, “Good. We lost.” 

I think he enjoyed getting our hopes up saying good first and pausing before the word lost. At least his easy-going attitude kept him from caring about losing. 

“So what was the score?” 

“Three to one.” 

“That’s not too bad. Who scored?” I asked, hoping he did. 

“A kid with special needs.” 

My heart melted. 

The boy was the designated Assistant Coach. He never got to play in a game before this day… 

“The other team acted like they were guarding him, backing up until he scored a goal. He ran around with his hands in the air. He was so happy. And we all picked him up to celebrate.” Aaron smiled while describing the scene. I held back tears. 

I’m sure similar stories happen, but I’m thankful our son got to experience this lesson in compassion and kindness. This means more to me than winning a game. I love watching an exciting soccer game and experiencing the thrill of victory, but that feeling eventually fades. Doing something special for someone else less fortunate gives a reward that the heart can cling to forever. I hope and pray that this game is never forgotten by the guys on both teams. I wish we saw the game and the joy on that young man’s face. 

I think God looked down on this game and thought “Victory!” for everyone.
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 1Peter 3:8







Monday, September 14, 2015

A Tale to Tell After Twenty-five Years

Our view from the hotel

Rowing in Manhattan

 While we were here, what was happening at the hotel?

We could’ve celebrated our 25th anniversary at a country inn. We could’ve camped along a riverbank…could’ve stayed home and relaxed on the beach a few blocks away. 

Could’ve, should’ve.
New York City sounded romantic. We met there, dated there, lived there for three months (until I got pregnant and couldn’t stand the smell of roasted pork spiraling its way from the German restaurant directly into my nostrils…and I convinced my husband the pollution could be poisoning our tiny baby.) 

It was romantic. At first. 

The hotel sat on the upper west side, near Central Park and the Museum of Modern Art. It wasn’t the Plaza, but it was nice and clean and just where we wanted to be for our anniversary. Classical music played in the background as we got our room card. From our window on the fifteenth floor, we could see the tops of buildings.  

We swam in the hotel pool on the roof, strolled through Central Park, and rowed a rowboat on a crowded lake. We bumped oars with many strangers who had the same idea. City turtles swam by the rocky edge.
Later, dinner and a movie. Meandering the city streets lit up at night brought back memories of dating and planning our wedding. Romantic, until…

I sat at the desk in our room, enjoying a novel and a late night bowl of cereal as my husband scrolled the TV channels. Something darted past my ankles. Something with a tail. I leaped off the chair, screamed, and spilt my cereal milk. 

My husband jumped at my reaction. “What’s wrong?” 

“Something grey with a tail just whizzed by my feet!”  

“A mouse?” 

“What else? A stray cat roaming the fifteenth floor?” 

We laughed as we gathered any food left out—a half of a breakfast muffin in a plastic bag, a couple of granola bars and paper coffee cups. It wasn’t like we had a full garbage can to attract any critters. Then I remembered the bagel half I had left in my backpack, tossed on the bed. I pulled out the bagel in a Ziploc bag. Seemed fine until I noticed a large chunk bit out of the middle. 

I held the bag out to Gene. “Did you take a bite from that bagel I brought? Please tell me you did.” 

“No, didn’t touch your bagel.” 

I dropped it and screamed again. “It must’ve got into my backpack while we were gone!”  

Dangling the backpack by its corner, I dumped all contents into a garbage bag and shivered down to my toes. That’s when I noticed the hole on the side. 

“Look, that mouse chewed through my backpack to get the bagel.” A hole with a one and a half inch diameter.  

“That’s a large hole for a little mouse. I’m thinking it could’ve been a rat.” 

“It had to climb on the bed where I left my backpack.”  

The romance is over when a rat enters your room. We thought about packing up and checking out a day early, but it was after midnight. By the time we caught a subway and train, we’d get home at three in the morning. The whole rat scare had drained any energy to pack, so we stayed. 

Of course we barely slept that night. As if we had a monster under the bed. Thankfully, it either stayed hidden or left to snack at someone else’s room. 

My husband and I both went to college for four years in Manhattan; we’ve watched rats in subway tunnels, seen mice scurry through our dorms, watched a rat leap into a park garbage can like a squirrel. Guess it’s been a while. Since then we’ve been Long Islandized…or something like that. We don’t have the pleasure of watching rats where we live. Raccoons and other wildlife tend to stay outside. 

We checked out the next morning and whispered to the clerk about our unwelcomed guest. He was very apologetic and refunded half of the bill. I could buy a new backpack. 

Our anniversary wasn’t exactly what we expected, but we were thankful for a blessed marriage. One fat rat couldn’t ruin our celebration. We had a new memory to add to our collection of twenty-five years. 

We could’ve celebrated at a country inn…but that would’ve been boring in comparison. Although next year, we may opt for boring and head north. 


Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. Psalm 100:4

* This true story was originally written for the Faithwriter's Weekly Contest and received 4th place    
   Editor's Choice Award.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The World through Grandpa's Eyes


My grandparents somewhere in Europe
We knew it was almost time. Uncle Bill and Dad carried a few chairs into my grandparents’ living room. Uncle George brought the projector and rested it on the metal folding table. We had to end our hide-and-seek game since the living room was off limits, or we could “take our game elsewhere” for the next twenty minutes while they got the room ready. 
“Elsewhere” was easy in the old Brookline “mansion” Mom grew up in with its many bedrooms and bathrooms, a nursery, and Grandpa’s doctor’s office. Sometimes the seeker would give up, defeated. Sometimes the hiders didn’t know the seeker gave up and would remain hidden until hungry or bored. When Grandpa called everyone to begin the show, about ten of the nineteen grandkids would wander out of hiding spots often smelling like mothballs. 
We were expected to get excited to see the slides from Grandma and Grandpa’s latest trip to Europe. “Okay, are we ready? Everyone has a seat? Lips zipped?” His eyes twinkled when he said something funny.  
My cousins and I pretended to zip our mouths shut. “Wrrr rrrdy.” The adults sat on the soft, striped couch. My sister, cousins and I sat cross-legged on the floor. The toddlers on the laps of the older cousins. 

While waiting for Grandpa to get the slides changing properly, I traced the Oriental rug pattern with my finger until the lights were turned off again. Sometimes Grandpa would mess up a slide and grandma would be smiling, upside down. Giggles traveled around the room, from cousin to cousin. I was sure he’d be mad at us for laughing, so I tried to hold it back. Grandpa was a perfectionist—as a surgeon, he had to be—but had a sense of humor. “Look at Grandma doing a headstand!” We all burst out laughing, even Grandma.  
“So here we are in Ireland…” Grandma stood, wearing an Irish knit sweater, in front of a thatched cottage, surrounded by daisies and wildflowers. I didn’t pay much attention as he droned on about the history of Ireland and the cottage where they stayed. It was old, and Ireland was green and pretty. Men wore skirts. Picture after picture of Grandma and Grandpa near cottages and green hills or stone walls, a taste of Ireland. One of my uncles hummed, imitating bagpipes. 
Grandma added the negatives. “The cottage was much too drafty. I had to sleep wearing my cardigan sweater over my nightgown.”
“You did love the food, didn’t you?” 
“Yes, we woke to the smell of homemade biscuits—almost as good as mine. But the air always felt damp. It wasn’t as nice as Switzerland. Nothing could compare to the beauty of the Swiss Alps.” 
“You should’ve seen Grandma skiing on the Matterhorn in neon yellow snow pants.” He had that smirk on his face again. We could only picture Grandma in the kitchen, stirring gravy, not zooming down a mountain.
“Silly Grandpa. They don’t make snow pants in my size.” 
“I think Grandma liked Switzerland for their chocolate.” 
Grandpa threw in some older slides of their trip to Switzerland and Italy as if we hadn’t seen enough pictures of them in front of this building or that garden. 
Grandma told her Italy story again. “You wouldn’t believe the boldness of the people. As we walked through one cute village, a man pinched my bottom.” She covered her mouth, as if it were shocking, but she giggled too.”
“I guess he liked a large target.” 
Grandma glared at him, still smiling though. “Ooh, you’re in trouble, Grandpa.”
After the hundredth picture of green hills and sheep, and a few echoing snores, as the projector clicked and clicked rocking the little ones to sleep, Grandpa surprised us with pictures of the grandkids. My sister jumped up and pointed to the screen. “Look that’s you in the high chair with egg all over your face!” Soon all the kids were standing, trying to get a closer look. 
“These are my favorite pictures,” Grandpa said. Grandma agreed. We all agreed. 
Looking back I wonder if one of Grandpa’s favorite reasons for traveling was to put on a slide show for the family. He couldn’t take his three sons, six daughters, and nineteen grandkids with him, but he could share the places he loved with the people he loved. And since we loved him, we put up with the thousands of pictures of scenery. And maybe we did absorb a taste of other cultures.
 This story received an Editor's Choice award for Faithwriter's weekly contest.








Saturday, August 15, 2015

Planting My Feet in the Shadows

charcoal sketch by Terence McManus


At nine years old
I was either a dreamer
Or superstitious,
Or odd;
Following Randi’s steps,
I planted my feet
In my friend’s invisible footprints;
The shadow of her being.
Could I transport into her world?
Her golden tendrils become mine?
Her dimpled smile, mine?
Her perfect home, mine? 
Minor misstep--
It couldn’t happen, but
Dreaming could.
As I climbed her steps
My hand grasped the iron railing
Where her fingers touched
Marching behind,
Up to her pink room
Dappled with dancing daisies and rose ribbons,
Everything my room was missing.
I watched her mother part Randi’s hair
Into a straight line
Then gather her waves into bouncy pigtails.
Randi twirled them around like propellers
And they laughed.
Was it strange to love my friend so much
To want to be her mirror image?
Would I follow her
Into her battle with cancer?
I couldn’t.
Jesus offers
More than the world,
A smile,
Radiant from within
Until reaching the mansion he’s prepared.
A perfect home,
Dappled with daisies and ribbons of gold,
Choirs of angels singing tunes of praise and peace.
I could follow
His steps
That lead to life.

On September 13, I’m participating in the walk to end children’s brain tumors through the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation. I’m excited to fundraise for such an important cause. No one should have to suffer the way these families suffered.
If you would like to donate to this foundation, you can click on this link.


In addition, I will be donating 10% of my book sale profits to the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation. If you are interested in purchasing my novel Randi’s Steps, you can click on this link to Amazon Books.


Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Long Way

My destination


I should’ve arrived at Cairn University in Philadelphia in less than three hours. My problem was not listening to that sweet voice speaking from my phone giving directions. The brochure for the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer’s Conference said take exit 44 off I-95 so that’s the way I wanted to go. I was sure my phone was rebellious and being annoying, insisting I get off at different exits…so I decided to ignore it until I reached exit 44.
My journey began around 1:30 without any glitches. There was the usual sluggish traffic leaving long island and the wonderful smell of exhaust fumes and pollution, but no major problems.  Shortly after crossing the Verrazano Bridge, clouds grew dark grey ahead until they burst. Sheets of rain poured as I drove to a rest stop, but I could relax since I had less than an hour to drive. 

The smooth ride slowed down until my car was crawling along with traffic for at least thirty minutes. It looked like two trucks had smashed into each other and the divider. A body lay on the ground under a bag with feet sticking out. It was horrific. All I could do was pray and keep driving. 

I knew something was wrong when my phone started adding time instead of subtracting minutes. At the next exit it said to take, I listened. Somehow it led me back on I-95 in the other direction. My phone said I had another hour and thirty minutes to go. 

Finally I reached the street and heard: “You’ve arrived at your destination.” I wished my phone could answer questions. “Are you sure? Where’s the university? I was parked in front of a house in a quiet neighborhood. I grabbed the brochure to check the directions again. The address on the front of the brochure, the same address I typed into Google Maps, was the address of the director of the conference. I was at her house, not Cairn University. 

I typed the correct address in to discover I had another fifty minutes to drive. At this point, I’d already driven for almost seven hours. I didn’t cry, just kept driving until I saw a sign for New Jersey, and panicked. Did I pass it again? What if I clicked on a different Langhorne? What if I was still going the wrong way? A gas station clerk assured me I was heading the right way. Forty more minutes. Would this ride ever end? 

Eventually, I arrived at the conference safely after eight hours of driving to hear the closing of the first meeting. One of the staff had me wait with a woman who also had a much longer bus trip because of the rain. We both had passed the same car accident on opposite sides of I-95, her leaving Maryland, me going there. She was so calm, accepting whatever circumstances happened. “God must have a reason.” And I agreed. I would not have met this lovely woman if I didn’t arrive at the same time she did.  

One of the speakers spoke about writing with God and following His direction. “Bohemian Creativity Realm.” Not forcing my plans, but enjoying the experience of writing with Him and accepting the twists and turns and ending up in a different place than expected. My drive was the perfect illustration. I thought I would arrive in time for the book signing and hear the first speaker—instead, I got to sing the last song about His Amazing Grace, and spend the evening getting to know Lynn. She lifted my spirit and helped me laugh about the unexpected. After the challenge of reaching my destination, I felt blessed.
On the way home, I listened to the voice on my phone as if God were reading the directions. Next trip I'll bring an old-fashioned map.