Monday, December 30, 2013

The Last Page of One Book

…Then the year came to an end.

What an amazing tale.

                I've been chatting with you all for yet another year and have enjoyed every minute.

Whoa! The stories we've shared, and the fun company around 

                                    the fireside when the weather is cold

                                                                the beach when the weather is warm
         
Discussing intriguing topics about God's world

Meeting authors--and participating in their book giveaways.

Sharing needs

Praying

Blessing


As this year draw to an end, take a moment to remember how the Lord has blessed. Yes, we can all think of tragedies, and lament with each other over those moments and there is a time for that….

For today, though, lets dwell on the good and praise God for what he has given us. Help me make a list. There is no order, just add whatever pops in you head:

Home
Family
Food
Church
Salvation
The Bible
Eyes that can read
Ears to hear
Mouths to taste
Feet that can walk


Keep the list going….

And just for you!

For this week, the ending of 2013 and the beginning of 2014, I am having a book giveaway from my stash of fabulous author books. I have a stack of about fifteen books and would love to share with you. (Books by Terri Blackstock, Julie Lessman, Frank Peretti, Ted Dekker, Beverly Lewis, Tracie Peterson, Rachel Hauck, Anita Higman, Dan Walsh/Gary Smally, Kathy Herman--and more)

Leave a comment and become either a follower of my site (fifth box down in the right column) or sign up to receive posts by email in order to enter.

Two winners will be chosen from all the commenters this week. Winners will be able to choose one book from my great author's stash and announced Friday on my Facebook page: Mary.Vee.Writer


May the Lord greatly bless you in this coming year. 
May the trial be manageable, 
and the joys a pinnacle experience.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Fabulous Friday Feature: Nelle Cooper



Today I welcome 
author, Nelle Cooper 

Enter to win Nelle's 2013 release,
Princess Lil

Scroll to the end of the post to see how to enter.

I met Nelle at the Great Lakes ACFW meeting this year. She introduced herself to several of us, she was so friendly and warm. I immediately asked her to join us here on Let's Talk. I asked Nelle to tell us how God led her on her writing journey. Here is what she said:



God's Tool

Reading and writing poses questions similar to the chicken and the egg argument. We start as children, drawing pictures and telling people about them. Then we learn to read and to write. Story, flows from the heart of a child and some of us never lose our delight in the weaving of a story.

I am one.

My mother was ill during my childhood. We lived on a large dairy farm. I would carry my tablet and pencil, walk through the fields toward a boulder in the fencerow or a low limb in the woods, sit there and write.

As I grew older, I recorded my own experiences and those of others. My rural background had not prepared me for the impact the industrial age would have on my family. My world was changing rapidly.

The role of the modern woman metamorphosed before my eyes. I spent days, maybe weeks, typing a compilation of my thoughts about multiple topics. I saved it for many years, until field mice invaded the old valise and chewed the pages into confetti. I remember a little of what I wrote, my views about women’s rights, civil rights, the draft, Viet Nam, laws, on and on.

It is the only way I could empty myself of the frustration I felt that no one was listening and everyone was yelling.

God has blessed me with wonderful Christian mentors and pastors throughout my life.  My writings usually have a moral premise. After I started spinning wool and blending fibers, I realized, I was using a similar technique to develop my stories; picking up threads of life and spinning them.
        

There have been periods of interruptions in my writing. Once, I was publically embarrassed when a friend loudly proclaimed, “Getting a letter from you is like getting a letter from Mammy Yokum.” I stopped writing for years. Since that time, I have learned two truths about writing.

1) I write, because I cannot, not write. The thoughts come, the words flow, and the message pours out.
2) Criticism is a gift, as the receiver, I have the ultimate decision to glean from it and possibly grow or to discard it.

Two years ago, I was diagnosed with a serious health condition. As I worked through the process of grieving the loss of my active lifestyle, I found myself with Bible and journal, paper and pencil, and now a computer and delete button.

It was time to take my writing on to a more serious level. To work with all my heart, body, mind and soul, to pull from those life experiences both painful and joyful and to reach out to others with words. I cried out to God, “I don’t know how.”

Scripture tells us God never calls someone to do something they can do without Him; He calls those who know they cannot do the job without Him.

I realize as I speak with my family, neighbors, and new people in my life, this whole endeavor of writing may have nothing to do with me. Perhaps someone will look my work and say, “Whew! If she thinks she can write a book, I sure can.”

Maybe I am a tool God will use to encourage another and that is fine. I know, He knows, that is fine with me.   

I currently write devotional books, short stories, children’s stories, and novels. I research, struggle, read, study, write, reread, and delete as needed.

The joy of writing brings so many wonderful people into my life. Through marketing my children’s book, “Princess Lil”, people stop by, read the topic of bullying and tell me their experiences, their child’s experience, their husbands, or their wife’s experience. They share painful memories and when they walk away, I thank God for those few moments I was there to hear their story. Sometimes, I ask God, “Is that why I wrote this book? For him or her?”


Then I resume my activity content that I don’t need to know the why, I only need to be obedient.   Write the Book!


Link to Amazon 
Author bio:  Inspired by her granddaughter and other loved ones, Nelle Cooper wrote Princess Lil for children coping with mean peers as they learn to be kind and loyal friends. A registered nurse, Nelle has been writing stories all her life. She shares a restored centennial farmhouse in rural Michigan with her husband and cat.

Princess Lil is a sad pony. Her little girl grew up and went away. Now Lil is in a scary place with lots of mean ponies.

A fun furry farm-cat called Taffy and a nice roan horse named Pearly try to help. It even looks like Princess Lil might have a chance to cheer up special-needs children too, but she is already too hurt and too sick.

Princess Lil is about the differences between loyal friends and those who bully others. It shows the power of caring about ourselves and the people who look out for us.


Is it too late for a sad pony in a scary place? The answer might just depend on how much we all love Princess Lil.



Facebook: Nelle Cooper
Twitter handle: @NelleCooper


To enter the contest for an autographed copy of 
Nelle's new release: "Princess Lil"
leave a comment (and email addy)
AND become a follower of this site, if you aren't already.

Sorry  US  only

Winner announced on my facebook page.

Thank you, Nelle, for Joining us This Weekend!
.

Nelle's ministry to those who have been bullied is one that has brought encouragement to many. Perhaps you have been given a purpose to write a book. We are here to encourage you. Do you have a question?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Christmas Present Just for You-Part 6

Photo Courtesy



This is the part six

of the story, Purple Memories. 

My Christmas gift to you.








Purple Memories

Part Six (click if you missed parts one, twothree, or fourfive)
By Mary Vee

The Christmas bustle had settled with opened gifts sprinkled around the family room. In keeping with tradition, Grandpa and Grandma watched their large family unwrap the presents and prepared to dole out hugs and smiles.

Leah stayed in the room after the grandkids dragged their new toys to other parts of the house. She and one of the uncles scooped pieces of wrapping paper and shoved them in a large trash bag.

Grandpa handed Grandma a gift from their stack. She accepted the small box and gracefully removed the paper. She opened the box lined with blue velvet and squealed. “You shouldn’t have. This cost too much.”

“Of course I should.” He took the necklace, opened the clasp, and fastened it around her neck then kissed her.

She wrapped her hand around the stone and smiled. They had their own way sweet way of communicating. He bought her expensive jewelry, she complained about the cost then they kissed and smiled as though they were newlyweds.

Leah had hoped to grow old with Jerry in the same way. A month after their second daughter was born, he’d taken her to a fancy restaurant and held her hand. “The night of our honeymoon we shared our dreams. I don’t want you to think I forgot yours. Someday I will take you to Europe. We may not be able to afford it until we’re old—” he squeezed her hand. ”I had planned to give you a special present tonight, one to remind you not only of my love, but my intent to fulfill your dream one day.”

The next day a drunk driver stole Jerry’s life from her. Ten years had passed and his family became the source of comfort, sent by God.

She reached under the tree for some wadded wrapping paper and noticed one gift that had been missed. It had been pushed behind a thick pine branch. She crawled under the tree and loosened the present from its binds. This was the same gift found in the attic.

She took the present too her mother-in-law. “This gift was hidden behind a branch and missed. Do you know who it is for. There isn’t a nametag.”

Her eyes widened and she touched her hand to the purple ribbon. “This, I believe, is for you.”

Leah handed the package to her mother-in-law. “It can’t be. The kids found this in the attic earlier when playing.”

She tipped the box and sighed. “So that’s where it went. He couldn’t find it, searched the whole house.”

“Who couldn’t find it?”

She touched the ribbon softly then handed the gift to Leah. “Jerry. He wrapped this gift for you.”

Leah sat back in her chair. Her heart beat with such intensity she could hardly breathe.  She gently opened the paper, wanting to save every piece including the ribbon and found a white box. She opened the lid and gasped. “A bracelet. Look!” Hanging from the chain was The Eiffle Tower, Big Ben, and several other charms. “And between each one is a small opal.”

She turned to her father-in-law. “Will you help me put it on?”

“Of course.” As he pulled the backing to remove the bracelet, a small piece of paper tumbled out of the box.

Leah hands trembled as she unfolded the paper.

Dearest Leah, I have invested a small amount of money in an account for our trip. It isn’t much, but someday, after we add more funds and accrue interest, we should have enough to take our trip. I loved you yesterday, I love you today, and I will love your forever.  

Her father-in-law had removed the bracelet and held it ready to fasten to her wrist. “He had the information coming to our address. Probably wanted to keep it a secret until he had enough saved. The paperwork is in my office. According to the last statement, you should have enough to take the trip.”

He turned to his wife and winked. She nodded as if understanding the secret code. “Leah, as a special Christmas present from us, we’ll pay for the girls to go with you.”

“You will?”

“You are our daughter. Of course we would.”

Leah touched each charm on the bracelet representing places Jerry would have taken her. She never expected to be part of a family so filled with love.

Because of this family she felt so very blessed by God.



May you see blessings from God

I hope you enjoyed your gift.
Merry Christmas


Monday, December 23, 2013

A Christmas Present Just For You Part 5








This is the part five

of the story, Purple Memories. 

My Christmas gift to you.








Purple Memories

Part Five (click if you missed parts one, two, three, or four)
By Mary Vee

Grandpa sat on the floor by the Christmas tree. As if on cue, the first notes of the carol, O Christmas Tree, sounded from his stereo in the next room. 

He waved for the children to come help him pass out the gifts. All the boys and girls ten-years-old and younger, including the new toddler, flocked toward Grandpa. He read the name on the tag of each package and handed the gift to the next child standing closest to him. Some of the little ones forgot which uncle was which, but they all remembered silly Uncle Luke.

Leah curled her legs on the chair and watched the beehive of children bustle about the room. This tradition had played to an expanding group every year since she first met her sweet Jerry. No one opened a gift until the youngest family members had delivered every package. A small stack of presents grew in front of each adult, larger stacks for the children. 

Grandpa had crawled under the tree to reach gifts nestled in the back corner. He gave the last one to the toddler, who with sandy brown hair and deep brown eyes reached her little arms out to hold the package. Grandpa's eyes twinkled. His smile broadened with a dash of whimsy. "This one is for you." 

The tyke stood staring at the contents in her arms. Her eyes widened with delight. This time she didn't have to hand the gift to anyone. She toddled to her mother, securely holding her prize and sat on the floor.

Grandpa brushed the pine needles from his hands. He stood, groaning with signs of age before toddling to his chair next to Grandma's and sat down. This, the final signal gave permission to everyone to open their presents.

Paper ripped and flew into the air like chunks of confetti. The children gleefully showed their parents each new toy and, if the boy or girl especially found favor in the gift, they showed it to their cousins. The uncles, even those without children, knew better than to try to open gifts before all the toys had been assembled. With screwdrivers in hand they waited for the first request to put something together.

This year, though, a laser tag game won the attention of all. Once the box sprang open, the uncles raced the younger cousins for a laser gun. The dog barked, the children squealed, the uncles ran for cover, popping their heads up long enough to tag someone. 

Grandma's voice pierced the mayhem. "Not in here!"

Like a flock of birds sharply changing direction, the game migrated to the living room, leaving the others to open their gifts undisturbed. 

Leah reached for her first gift. A small narrow box sealed with a purple ribbon. She knew right away the present came from her mother-in-law and would be stylish. She broke the seal and lifted the lid. A lovely purple silk scarf. She rubbed her fingers over the soft, elegant fabric. How the sweet woman managed to remember every family member's likes and dislikes boggled her mind. 

Years ago, on her first date with Jerry, she happened to mention her favorite color purple--just once. He must have told his mom. The year after he died, Leah received a lavender brooch for Christmas. Each year after, the gift from her in-laws had purple somewhere in it. 

Leah took the scarf out of the box and draped it around her neck. It naturally matched her outfit since she happened to wear a dressy black outfit. She looked over to her mother-in-law and said, "Thank you, so much." 

The cheery smile that followed brightened the thoughtful woman's face. 

Then the uncles burst into the room leaping backwards and aiming their laser tag guns at the grandkids. They tumbled over the sofas and hid behind the barricades as the swarm of little kids blazed into the room. 

"Grandma, Grandma. Save us." They piled around her hugging her neck, arms, and legs. 

"Don't worry, children, you are safe by me."

Well, they might have been. For a short time. Until the uncles charged from their hiding places into the center of the room. The children squealed and fled from the room.

Leah laughed with the others and thanked God for this home and the sweet family who adopted her into their clan. 


………The last layer of this six part story will be unwrapped Wednesday


As for me, I am looking to reach 200 followers by Christmas.
 To become a follower scroll to the fifth box down on the right 
and clicked the blue "Join this site button" 
I would be so very happy to have you as a follower. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Fabulous Friday Feature-Kathleen Rouser



Today I welcome 
author, Kathleen Rouser
a sweet and friendly lady, 
with a desire to help others 

Enter to win Kathleen's 2013 novella release,
The Pocket Watch

Scroll to the end of the post to see how to enter.

I met Kathleen at the Great Lakes ACFW meeting this year. This sweet lady worked to link new people together. What a fun time we had. With such a tremendous gift, I immediately asked her to join us here on Let's Talk. Boy, was I happy when she said yes. I asked Kathleen to tell us how God led her on her writing journey. Here is what she said:



God's Hand Is Leading My Journey

Since I was four years old, I wanted to be a writer. I couldn’t read then, but I listened when my mom read to me. I was so happy when I learned to read and books became safe places to visit as I identified with the characters. How I wanted to give that gift to others.

My mother encouraged my imagination when we played games like “Let’s go see Brownie.” The couch was the airplane that we pretended to fly to Florida to see her friend. Mom let me tell her endless stories about princesses’ in castles, which I inevitably began at bedtime.

In the sixth grade I wrote a Nancy Drew like story. Sister Giovanni wrote “Exciting to the very end!” in her comments. I majored in communications in collegeand loved studying English literature.

Then I met my husband, Jack. It turned out we were polar opposites and needed to call on a greater power than ourselves to make things work, specifically, God.

I had grown up in a religious home in the Detroit area, but then I went my own way as a teenager until I found myself in this difficult situation with a baby on the way. A few weeks before my oldest son was born, I finally understood the depths of God’s grace and what salvation truly meant while listening to the Christian radio broadcast, “Grace to You.”

I had thought I needed to earn salvation through good works. I then heard this teaching:  Jesus is the Son of God, that He died on the cross and rose from the dead, and that Jesus’ work on the cross is complete. My job is to trust in Him to take away my sins.

There is nothing we can do to save ourselves. I further learned that nothing can take the believer out of the Father’s hand (John 10:29). When I understood that it was all the work of God, depending on His grace alone, I received Jesus as my Savior. My life has been different ever since.

As our family grew, my writing dreams were put on hold, but I had hoped to someday use my writing to testify of the wonderful things He’s done for us.

I took a correspondence course to learn how to write for children. But I never submitted anything to magazines, even though my instructor encouraged me to do so. I was frozen in place by fear and perfectionism. I wanted to write for the Lord, but wasn’t sure how to go about it.

Still, I dreamed and played around with ideas, starting a new novel on the life of the Woman at the Well.

In the late 1990s, I met another aspiring author, who was writing about King David. She introduced me to the Christian writing market. We met with a local group to critique and discussed writing. She told me about American Fiction Christian Writers. Through that organization I learned more about the CBA market, about the craft, and found fellowship with other Christian authors.

I loved reading the original Regency romances, by Jane Austen, which led me to consider writing historical romance. It’s been a long haul, but I am blessed to have an agent representing one of my full-length novels, As Rumor Would Have It.

About a year and a half ago, Lisa Lickel sent an email requesting authors who wanted to write romances set in urban areas around the year 1900 to put together an anthology. Since I had researched Detroit’s history around that time for another story, I responded to Lisa's email and was accepted.


In November, Prism Book Group published this historical romance anthology, Brave New Century, which includes my debut novella, The Pocket Watch. My wonderful co-authors are Lisa Lickel, Paula Mowery and Teena Stewart. I am so thankful and blessed to finally see one of my stories in print! I thank God for His hand in my journey and pray for His continued guidance in my writing.


Author bio:  The Pocket Watch is Kathleen’s debut novella. She has been published in Homeschool Digest and An Encouraging Word. She currently enjoys interviewing authors for the Novel PASTimes historical fiction blog. Her desire is to bring to life endearing characters who resonate with readers and realize the need for a transforming Savior in their everyday lives. A part time mild mannered Registered Dental Assistant by day, she lives in southeast Michigan with her hero and husband of 32 years, Jack, who not only listens to her stories, but also cooks for her.


Brave New Century
This Inspirational Historical Romance collection from Prism Book Group contains stories of four young women who each brave challenges in the big city at the dawn of the 20th century. Will they overcome their hardships and find love?
Three Rings for Alice by Lisa Lickel   Love and respect in 1899 Milwaukee is as close as a phone call.
Forgiven by Paula Mowery   When Henry and Jessie meet it seems to be classic love at first sight until a shocking revelation tears them apart.
The Pocket Watch by Kathleen Rouser   Searching for the past an orphan and a young doctor find love for the future.
Flames of Hope by Teena Stewart   Love ignites in the midst of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire.

More about The Pocket Watch: Isabel Jones, an orphan, receives a ruby ring left by the mother she never knew and wants more than ever to find her roots. When a young physician, Daniel Harper, rescues her from an oncoming automobile and she finds his pocket watch in a puddle, her circumstances take a turn. She begins to consider what life outside the orphanage could be like. Daniel’s heart has been broken before and the attractive young lady who finds his treasured timepiece wouldn’t be deemed suitable by his social climbing parents.

When Isabel and Daniel work side by side, caring for the orphanage children during an influenza epidemic, she becomes gravely ill. Compelled to redeem the time by helping her find the past, Daniel finds a buried truth that creates an unbridgeable chasm between them. Where will they find hope in a hopeless situation?

Twitter handle: @kathleenrouser
E-mail addy: kerouser@gmail.com

To enter the contest for an autographed copy of 
the anthology with Kathleen's novella: A Pocket Watch":
leave a comment (and email addy)
AND become a follower of this site, if you aren't already.

Sorry  US  only

Winner announced on my facebook page.

Thank you, Kathleen, for Joining us This Weekend!
.

Kathleen shares the importance of a solid relationship with Jesus in order to fulfill her calling to write. How has Jesus helped you walk the road God has called you?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Christmas Story Just for You-Part 4


Photo Courtesy





This is the part four

of the story, Purple Memories. 

My Christmas gift to you.










Purple Memories

Part Four (scroll down for parts one, two, and three)
By Mary Vee



Leah left the jacket in the attic to prevent an awkward situation and followed the children down the stairs.  Uncle Alan and his family finally arrived. He scooped each child from the stairs, twirled her around once and set her on the floor then grabbed the next.

"What took you so long, huh, Uncle Alan?" the girls whined.

A whimsical smile poke through his serious gaze. "I had to eat all of the cookies before we came."

"No! You couldn't have!" "You ate all the Christmas cookies?" "You didn't bring any?"

The cacophony of protests brought Grandma to the scene. Her voice and presence commanded quiet. "Children. You know Aunt Cindy would never let him touch the cookies before we opened the presents. As a matter of fact, she hid them here." 

The children burst into laughter and pointed at their uncle.

"So that's where they went." Alan pretended to pout. "Let me guess. You hid them under my old bed."

She squinted at him and raised a crooked pointer finger. "Yes, they are. And you, my son, will serve all the children cookies before you taste one bite."

He looked at the floor and swished his foot. "Ah, Ma."

Leah laughed at the power the woman still had over her towering adult child. 

The chattering and laughter suddenly quieted as bells rang from Grandpa's old record player."Bells!" The traditional signal allowed the kids to open the doors and lead the parade into the family room. The adults sat on sofas and chairs while the children staked out a place on the floor. 

Grandpa opened his Bible to Luke 2 and handed it to the third oldest grandchild. "It's your turn to read this year." 

"It is?" The boy beamed, forgetting he had the family honor this year. He accepted Grandpa's Bible and stood near the one light in the room.

"And it came to pass…." He read through the entire passage, stumbling only a few times. When he finished, he closed the Bible and handed it back to Grandpa.

"And now, children," Grandpa held up the first gift as Christmas music continued to play from his office, "Come help me deliver packages."

"Can I say something, first?" Luke stood and walked in front of the Christmas tree.

The kids whined. "Can't it wait?"

"This is important. It'll only take a minute, I promise."

Grandpa leaned against the hearth. "Okay Luke. If it's that important."

Luke cleared his throat. Leah had never seen him nervous before. The man would normally be a natural on a stage. His legs wobbled as he walked in front of the girl he'd been dating for some time. He reached for Sherri's hands and bowed down on one knee.


Without a script, the women in the room said ooooo on cue.

"Sherri--" his voice cracked and the kids giggled. He tugged a small box from his jeans front pocket and held it out toward her. "Will you marry me?"

The room silenced except for the music. Leah held her breath along with the others, waiting for the answer Luke clearly hoped for.

She leaned forward and put her hand on his face. "Luke, I--" There was a dreaded pause.

One Christmas song ended adding to the eerie quiet. One of the little princesses climbed on her mom's lap. "What is Uncle Luke doing?" 

"Shush, honey." 

Sherri kissed him on the cheek. She shook her head then sighed. "Gotcha! Of course I'll marry you." She took the box and opened it. A glistening diamond reflected the Christmas lights. "Oh, Luke, it's lovely."

He pulled the ring out of the box and slid it on her ring finger. "I love you, so much."

"I love you too, Luke." She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him.

Without a doubt, Sherri was Luke's perfect match. A roaring applause and cheers of congratulations broke the quiet. 

One of the granddaughters walked up to Luke and pulled on his pant leg. "Captain pirate, can we pass out the gifts now?"

Everyone laughed. He tickled her until she tumbled to the floor. "Have ye swabbed the deck?"

"No, sir."

"Well, since it's Christmas eve and since Miss Sherri just nudged me, she thinks she's the captain, I suppose the decks can wait until tomorrow."

All the grandkids jumped up and down cheering and clapping.



………The fifth layer of this six part story will be unwrapped Monday


As for me, I am looking to reach 200 followers by Christmas.
 To become a follower scroll to the fifth box down on the right 
and clicked the blue "Join this site button" 
I would be so very happy to have you as a follower.

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Christmas Story Just for You - Part 3


Photo Courtesy




This is the part three

of the story, Purple Memories. 

My Christmas gift to you.








Purple Memories

Part Three (scroll to last week for parts one and two)
By Mary Vee


Leah led the five giggly nieces and nephews up to the attic. In all the years she'd visited this beautiful large home, she'd only heard about the memories stored behind the door. The special objects and their meanings had not been forgotten, only in need of a place. She couldn't tell who was more excited, the kids or her. 

"Who's ready for me to open the door?"

Five hands sprang into the air. "Me," they squealed.

Leah wrapped her hand around the knob and turned it. The door screeched as she hoped--the true sign of an attic with hidden treasure. Little hands grab her pant legs while older ones looped their arms into hers. She reached inside and flipped on the lights. 

"Ooooo. Look, Aunt Leah." Their eyes widened. 

Cobwebs draped from rafters like elegant curtains. The odd shaped room had boxes marked clothing to the right, a four story doll house and rocking horse guarding a chest to the left, and in the middle, a hodgepodge of lamps, trophies, high school jackets, and other to be discovered objects. 

The kids panned out snaking their way through narrow paths. 

Leah walked to the high school jackets. A brown and white one hung on a coat rack. She ran her fingers across the name, Jerry. Her heart warmed with memories of him catching the winning pass one game. She pulled the coat from its hanger and wrapped it around her, sensing a semblance of his scent. 

A few steps farther, she found an old rocking chair nestled in a cove. She sat without brushing the dust away and hugged Jerry's jacket close while listening to the expected creaking of the chair. 

The attic door opened with a whoosh. "Who has entered my dominion?"

The kids giggled and screamed. They scurried like little rats seeking a hiding place. Their whispers, "Uncle Luke won't find us here," gave away their positions.

"Ah hah! My treasure chest is still safe." His steps echoed loud across the floor. Leah leaned to the right to watch him. He picked up a black scarf and tied it around his head, covering one eye. A toy sword slid into his jeans belt buckle. "Yo ho, where is my crew? I'll search the whole land 'till I have ye swabbing the deck. To be sure."

The children slithered closer to the rocking chair. Layered in dresses much to long and necklaces dripping to their feet, the girls peeked through the support posts of the chair. Leah pressed her pointer to her lips and winked. The boys pulled toy guns from their holsters and aimed them for the ceiling.

"Where are ye? Come out or I'll have to throw ye into the brink."  

The young boys charged forward toward Uncle Luke. He scooped them together and tickled the bundle refusing to stop with their calls for mercy. 

"I think the boys need your help, girls."

The flock of princesses frolicked toward the pirate. "Release them at once, Mr. Pirate."

Luke bowed to the princesses. "Excuse my ladies, but I simply must tickle these ruffians. You understand, I'm quite sure."

Leah giggled as loud as the children. Luke had the same playful charm his brother Jerry had. She pulled the jacket tighter around her. Thank you God for this memory. I can't give him a gift, again. She sighed. At least he'll spend Christmas with you.

The princesses returned to their wardrobes and swapped their accessories for new ones. A few found big floppy hats, others slipped on sparkly high-heeled shoes. One crept behind the boxes. "Look what I found. It's a Christmas present." She brought it to Leah.

"Looks like this one ran away from the others. Will you put it under the tree when we go downstairs?"

Her smile twinkled and she hugged the gift. "Can I keep it? It has a lovely purple ribbon." 

"We'll have to ask Grandma who it belongs to when we open the gifts."

Her smiled turned to a serious look. "I'll make sure this gets under the tree."

"Good girl."

The attic door flung open with a soft thud. "Luke, Sherri is here. Kids, the last uncle arrived, too. And I think I hear the Christmas bells!"

The children knew this was the signal calling the family to the Christmas tree. The boys squirmed out of Luke's reach, flung their toys to the floor and charged down the stairs. The girls followed, taking an extra minute to remove layers of accessories and princess dresses. They clomped down the stairs cheering for Christmas.

Luke set his pirate patch and toy sword back in the treasure chest. "You okay, Leah?"

She pressed a smile. "Thanks to this special family, I am more than okay. I am thankful and blessed."

………The fourth layer of this six part story will be unwrapped Wednesday


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