Sunday, December 22, 2013


I gave this talk in a Christmas service at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mount Airy, Maryland on December 22, 2013. I hope it adds to your families' Christmas. Preparing for it blessed mine. Wishing each of you the very Merriest of Christmases!


A music scholar and preacher, named Charles Jennings, is credited with assembling the collage of Bible verses about the life of Christ that became the lyrics of George Frideric Handel’s beloved, and perhaps most famous oratorio, “Messiah.”

The music from part one of the oratorio have engraved many of these scriptures deeply into our minds:

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

And this:

And He shall reign forever and ever.

Charles Jennings pulled these prophetic words from the writings of the Prophet Isaiah, written nearly seven hundred years before the birth of Christ. But Isaiah’s were not the only prophecies foretelling the birth, mission, death and resurrection of the Savior.

How much information about the advent of the Messiah did the prophets reveal to the people of their day? Why were so many unprepared to receive Him? Perhaps the answer can be found in the words of a Christmas Carol titled, “Such a Small King.”

 Such a small king, isn’t he?

Such a small boy.

Such a small king, isn’t he?

How can he bring deliverance to me?

 Clearly, the Jews had been watching for the advent of their King for centuries, even millennia, prior to His birth. The first Prophet, Adam, knew. Adam and Eve knew God personally. They saw him and talked with him. They were taught the gospel of Jesus Christ even in that early time—which was long before the Lord’s earthly ministry, for Jesus had been appointed to be the Savior during our premortal existence. Because they were the first human beings the task of teaching them essential principles was left to the Lord and his angels. (Mark E. Peterson, “Adam the Archangel”)

Adam and Jesus or Jehovah were friends. They were together at every major juncture in the Plan of Salvation—in the Heavenly Council when we chose the Father’s Plan and agreed to come to Earth and place out trust in Jehovah. They worked together during the Creation. They were together again in the Garden, and in another Garden—Gethsemane—where as Michael, Adam succored the suffering Christ. Surely Adam knew everything about Christ and His birth, and passed the teachings on to His and Eve’s children.

And heavenly messengers continued to testify to prophets on both hemispheres.  Mosiah chapter 3:5 records the angelic declaration given to the Nephite king, King Benjamin as a reward for his righteousness. The news was shared by him with his people, to buoy them up and assure them that God’s promised Savior would come in the not far distant future, and that He would come in power and glory.

Said the angel, “For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay. . .”

Christ’s eventual victory was to be universal and realized in a most unique and singular way. He would be the earthly son or Only Begotten of the Eternal Father in the flesh, but multiple prophets revealed that He would also be the offspring of a woman.

Jehovah, the pre-mortal Christ, revealed the marvel of his divine sonship and His mission, to Moses. He declared that He was be the literal Son of God sent to save mankind from the Fall.

 “I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning, henceforth and forever, that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will."

Specific details about the Savior’s birth were revealed to Nephi by an angel nearly six hundred years before the miraculous event. In chapter 11 we read:

 13 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.

 14 And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?

 15 And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.

 16 And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?

 17 And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.

 18 And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.

 19 And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!

 20 And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.

 21 And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!


The prophet Nephi identified the time of the Messiah’s coming.

"Yea, even six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem, a prophet would the Lord God raise up among the Jews; even a Messiah; or, in other words, a Savior of the world. 1 Nephi 10:4-11.

Another Book of Mormon prophet, Alma, revealed the name of the chosen vessel that would become the mother of the Lord. “His mother’s name shall be Mary.” Alma7:10  Mos 3:8,

King Benjamin revealed more about the Savior’s birth and ministry. “And He shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases.

 6 And he shall cast out devils, or the evil spirits which dwell in the hearts of the children of men.

 7 And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people.

 8 And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.

It is impossible to separate the babe in Bethlehem from the Christ on Calvary, yet how hard must it have been for these prophets to see the baby Jesus in vision, knowing the difficulty and suffering that lie ahead.  But it was his mission as Savior of the World, and his unique parentage was essential to that mission. Each of His parents imbued their divine Son with characteristics necessary for Him to fulfill his mission as Redeemer.  (From the OT CES MANUAL)

If Jesus had been born of two mortal parents,

1. He could not have had the power to overcome death.

2. He could not have endured the infinite pain and suffering of Gethsemane. ( See Jesus the Christ, p. 613.)

3. He would have sinned and thus, like all other men, been under the demands of the law of justice.

If Jesus had been born of two divine parents, then-

1. He would not have died; he would have been immortal.

2. He would have been impervious to physical pain and suffering and so would not have been able to experience the physical pain and agony of the Garden.

3. He would not have been subject to the temptation and the opportunity to sin.

But, Jesus was born of a divine parent and a mortal parent; therefore-

1. Jesus had power to die and to rise again. The sons of Joseph and Mary could not do that.

2. Jesus had capability to suffer like man but could endure much more than man. The sons of Joseph and Mary could not do that.

Prophets sowed details about Christ in their writings that faithful, discerning followers could harvest. Those who did, like the wise men in Matthew, knew the name of the newborn King, and where to find him.

In the book of Moses we learn that Enoch and Adam, his great ancestor, knew the very name by which the Savior would be known among men—"which is Jesus Christ, the only name which shall be given under heaven, whereby salvation shall come unto the children of men. P. of G.P., Moses 6:52.

 Isaiah also foretold details about the Savior’s mother, His name, and place of birth, revealing also that he would be known by many names.

13 Hear ye now, O house of David;

 14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah’s blessed promise was repeated by the angel Gabriel, sent from the presence of God to prepare the handmaiden of the Lord for her sacred calling, and reiterated again by the angel of the Lord to put a troubled Joseph’s mind at ease after discovering that Mary, his betrothed, was already with child. (compare Matt. 1:21-23.)

 18 ¶Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.

 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.

 20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.

 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,

 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

 24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:

 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.

Other prophets knew details about Christ’s birth. The recorded covenant of God with Abraham, and confirmed with Isaac and Jacob, revealed the Savior would be born though their line. “. . . that through their posterity should all nations of the earth be blessed.” Gen. 12:3; Isaiah added further detail, proclaiming that the coming Lord was the living Branch that should spring from the undying root of the family of Jesse;  Isa. 11:1 and 10;

 The Good News of the coming Messiah brought joy and hope to the faithful. Nephi, the son of Helaman records, “Our father Lehi was driven out of Jerusalem because he testified of these things. Nephi also testified of these things, and also almost all of our fathers, even down to this time; yea, they have testified of the coming of Christ, and have looked forward, and have rejoiced in his day which is to come.

Details about the Messiah’s birth had been given to some, like Nephi, and King Benjamin, as a reward for righteousness. But God also called prophets to deliver the news of the Messiah’s impending birth to rebellious people as a call for their repentance.

The Nephite prophet Abinadi boldly testified of the coming of the Messiah. He called the wicked Nephites of King Noah’s court to repent and believe in the prophecies of his predecessors. Said he, In Mosiah 13:33-34, “For behold, did not Moses prophesy unto them concerning the coming of the Messiah, and that God should redeem his people? Yea, and even all the prophets who have prophesied ever since the world began—have they not spoken more or less concerning these things?

 34 Have they not said that God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man, and go forth in mighty power upon the face of the earth?

Abinadi sealed his testimony with his very life.

One hundred twenty years later, a Lamanite prophet named Samuel was sent to call another rebellious generation to repentance with news of the Savior’s impending birth. In Hel 14:1-7   we read,

2 And behold, he said unto them: Behold, I give unto you a sign; for five years more cometh, and behold, then cometh the Son of God to redeem all those who shall believe on his name.

 3 And behold, this will I give unto you for a sign at the time of his coming; for behold, there shall be great lights in heaven, insomuch that in the night before he cometh there shall be no darkness, insomuch that it shall appear unto man as if it was day.

 4 Therefore, there shall be one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night; and this shall be unto you for a sign; for ye shall know of the rising of the sun and also of its setting; therefore they shall know of a surety that there shall be two days and a night; nevertheless the night shall not be darkened; and it shall be the night before he is born.

5 And behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld; and this also shall be a sign unto you.

 6 And behold this is not all, there shall be many signs and wonders in heaven.

 7 And it shall come to pass that ye shall all be amazed, and wonder, insomuch that ye shall fall to the earth.

 Five years passed, but instead of greeting the news of the Messiah’s impending birth with joy and repentance, the unbelievers hardened their hearts, so much so that when the appointed time for the prophesied birth drew near, they devised a plan to kill those who believed.

(3 NE 1:9-13)

10 Now it came to pass that when Nephi, the son of Nephi, saw this wickedness of his people, his heart was exceedingly sorrowful.

 11 And it came to pass that he went out and bowed himself down upon the earth, and cried mightily to his God in behalf of his people, yea, those who were about to be destroyed...

 12 And it came to pass that he cried mightily unto the Lord all that day; and behold, the voice of the Lord came unto him, saying:

 13 Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.

15 And it came to pass that the words which came unto Nephi were fulfilled, according as they had been spoken; for behold, at the going down of the sun there was no darkness; and the people began to be astonished because there was no darkness when the night came.

 16 And there were many, who had not believed the words of the prophets, who fell to the earth and became as if they were dead, for they knew

 17 . . .that the Son of God must shortly appear; yea, in fine, all the people upon the face of the whole earth from the west to the east, both in the land north and in the land south, were so exceedingly astonished that they fell to the earth.

 18 For they knew that the prophets had testified of these things for many years, and that the sign which had been given was already at hand;

 19 And it came to pass that there was no darkness in all that night, but it was as light as though it was mid-day . . . and they knew that it was the day that the Lord should be born, because of the sign which had been given.

 20 And it had come to pass, yea, all things, every whit, according to the words of the prophets.

 Half a world away, in the prophesied city of David, the Son of God was born, to Mary, a virgin from Nazareth.

Those, like the wise men, who heeded the prophecies, knew the time had come for the birth of the newborn King. For those who rejected the hope of Israel, like wicked King Herod, the news was answered with fear and torment, while great joy filled others, like the shepherds who heard the heavenly host proclaim “Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth, Peace, good will toward men! The Wise Men read the signs and followed the star, journeying for almost two years to find the Messiah. During that time, others found the infant King in the humble circumstances prophets had foretold, a stable where livestock was sheltered, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger filled with straw, sung to sleep by the lullabye lowing of cattle and sheep.

It has been said that when man wants to change the world, he sends an army, but when God wants to change the world He sends a child.

The birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Son of God, was solemnly declared by prophets on both hemispheres and in all ages. They saw the coming of the King of King’s, and Lord of Lord’s, through whom salvation cometh, death was overcome, and redemption was made sure.

Time and history have proven the accuracy of the ancient prophets’ declarations regarding the birth of the Messiah. James Talmadge adds this note—“Not a word of inspired prophecy relating to the great event has been found void.”

This Jehovah, the Son of God, the babe born in Bethlehem, who condescended below all things and took on a tabernacle of clay in order to save us, this same Messiah who healed the sick, gave strength to lame limbs, who made blind eyes see, and who raised the dead, submitted His will to His captors and allowed his own life to be taken. On the third day, He broke the bands of death and rose from the grave to live again.

Latter-day prophets add their testimonies to those of the ancients in declaring that because Christ overcame death, we will also enjoy the gift of resurrection. But there is more, for Christ will come again to rule and reign on the earth as Isaiah proclaimed, “forever and ever,” and just as prophets of old called all mankind to prepare to receive the infant king, prophets today invite all mankind to prepare to meet their Resurrected Lord.

This is the prophesied good news that began with the babe born in a stable in Bethlehem. This is what makes His birth a celebration of hope.

As we gather around the tree, let us also gather around the manger, and declare like little children, that we believe, not only in the Christ, but that we believe what He said—thathe has the power to save all who will come unto Him. That is the first gift of Christmas. May we accept His gift and come unto Him, for He yet lives, and in the not far distant future, He will come again.

Of this I testify in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Monday, December 16, 2013


Many thanks to a Christmas-spirit-seized son-in-law who planned a journey through last night's wintry mix, for a tour of the Visitor's Center down by the Washington D.C. Temple. I wouldn't have believed it possible, but the icy rain actually made the acres of brilliantly illuminated trees and shrubs even more majestic and bright, as if a reward for the crowds who braved the undesirable weather to ...fill the center and grounds.

The nightly concert was wonderful, as were the displays, and trees decorated with international flair. But the lights drew us there, and captivated our hearts.

The anticipation over the first sight of them caused the adults to whisper in childlike tones, "Look, kids! Do you see them? Aren't they beautiful?" A four-year-old's awe was revealed with a hushed swoon, while a three-year-old's excitement ripped loose with a high-pitched squeal, and a baby's notice was revealed by the widening of his bright eyes. The sight was no less lost on us, seizing our breasts with awe and wonder.

It seems fitting that we celebrate Christmas with lights that cause awe and wonder, a tribute to the bright new light that appeared in the sky on the night of Christ's birth, and to the babe Himself, the one Great Light, whose announced arrival brought hope to the weary, and awe to the witnesses of the heavenly host marking the occasion.

I love Christmas lights. I know a few people who hang great lighting displays as a witness to their testimony of the birth of Christ. For others, driving the streets in search of brilliant displays bathed in light is an annual tradition.

Seeking the light.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Being an author, like owning many other small businesses, provides some unexpected and delightful perks. From time to time, you get to be an elf.

Notes arrive throughout the year, but primarily at Christmastime from enthusiastic readers who've enjoyed the books and want to share a copy with someone they love, and from other elf's attempting to fulfill a wish on someone's Christmas list.

My books are old now by publishing standards, so the requests are fewer and manageable, and that allows the fulfilling of them to be more personal and fun. I exchange clandestine emails with the giver and ponder what to write to the recipient. Then I head off to the post office to send the surprise on its way.

I hope it's been that way for the friends and authors who have similarly personalized their books for a fantasy-loving grandson of mine, or for my girls, making these books especially cherished.

Being an elf is always one of the best parts of Christmas. There is satisfaction in the baking and decorating, but beneath all those efforts lies the anticipation of a undercover elf secretly dying to catch the smile on a cookie-eater's face, or when the children catch their first glimpse of the lighted tree and the magic of Christmas moves beyond us to someone else.
Happy elf-ing!

Saturday, December 14, 2013


I was rushing around today, fretting over the long list of undone errands that still remained. I pulled into WalMart and hurried in a door opposite the dear old Salvation Army bell-ringer I had visited on previous visits, intending to hurry through my list.

I hated the panic rising in my chest as I thought about the list and the ticking clock. I hated how I was allowing these things to erode my desire to keep the Spirit of Christ in Christmas, so I chastised myself with a little challenge.

"Find one person and spread a little cheer, Laurie."

A tired-looking woman was in line in front of me, counting dollars from her bank envelope as she pushed her few things to the register. I chatted with her about one of her items and we laughed over trends and fads and children.

The checker looked even more tired, but she greeted me, her chatty customer, with a smile. She asked me a question about a small decoration I was buying, and in passing, she mentioned that she wasn't doing much this year, and that she had done almost nothing last year because her 18-year-old son had been in shock trauma and was still suffering from his injuries

 I read her name tag as she briefly shared her story, and when I left her station I wished her a Merry Christmas and extended my wish for her son's improved health. As I drove away, I wished I had had something to give her to lift her spirits. And then I remembered the three invitations to the Christmas Concert I tucked in my purse.

I circled through town and back to the WalMart with my three treasures in my hand. I hurried up to the bell-ringer and handed him a card. "You've been out here for weeks, bringing everyone else cheer. I'd like to return the favor and bring you some. Would you like to come to a Christmas concert?"

He was flabbergastered for a moment, and then he thanked me several times, adding a hearty Merry Christmas to his response. I hurried on to find my checker, but in those brief moments, she had gone on a break. I raced over to the Customer Service desk and asked if the agent knew this particular colleague. She did and she agreed to give the card to her.

On the way out, I bumped into the parent of my children's friend, a woman I hadn't seen in years, and after a sweet chat, she became the recipient of my third invitation. I was elated, maybe even a bit over enthusiastic as I walked past the bell-ringer. I reiterated my invitation. "I really hope you'll come!"

He probably thought I was a nut but his laughter sounded in my ears as I returned to my car. The events were small, but my once panicked heart had changed in those few minutes because I forced myself to slow down and remember that people always trump errands and gifts. Heaven changed my heart, and the spirit of Christmas returned.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

MIKEY BROOKS' and "THE DREAMSTONE"--What happens when a big kid masquerading as an adult builds his own world? Mikey Brooks has faithfully cheered other authors on, but since his series, "The Dream Keeper Chronicles" debuted, people are excited to return the favor and cheer for him and his action-packed fantasies.

Volume Two of his series, The Dreamstone, debuted in early December to the delight of Dream Keeper readers. It thrusts its young heroes--Parker and Kaelyn--back into the now-broken realm of Dreams, fraught with difficulties, dangers and enemies.

Brooks brilliantly encapsulates the stakes in The Dream Keeper with this tease from the back cover of book one:

 Dorothy called it Oz, Alice called it Wonderland, but Nightmares call it HOME.
When an evil shifter took over the gateway to the realm of Dreams, it fell to 14-year-olds Parker and Kaelyn to stop him. Their only hope lay with Gladamyr, the Dream Keeper, but could they trust a Nightmare to save their world?

In the sequel novel, Dreamstone, Brooks rebooks his readers on a return journey to the realm of Dreams to help Parker save his mom.

When Parker’s mom is dreamnapped by the wicked Mab, it is up to him and Kaelyn to save her. When they return to Dreams, they discover Mab isn’t their only problem. Gladamyr has lost his powers and the only way to get them back is to become what he fears the most—a nightmare.

Readers have taken to the Internet with high praise, (see below) for Mikey Brooks' imaginative series, so I caught up with this self-professed-kid-masquerading-as-an-adult, to hitch a ride on his Dreamstone blog tour and pick his brain on a critical aspect of writing a fantasy--world building.

Thanks, Mikey, for providing a glimpse into the process of preparing a world where a fantasy can come to life. I'm sure readers will enjoy "getting into your brain." Then readers, take a ride on the blog tour and enter to win some of the wonderful launch prizes Mikey Brooks has assembled. Links to his site are below so you can read excerpts from his books, and purchase links are also there in time for giving The Dream Keepers Chronicles to your favorite fantasy reader. Enjoy!
Welcome to the Official Blog Tour of:
Book Two in The Dream Keeper Chronicles

A thrilling fantasy-adventure series for middle-grade readers!

Don't forget to check out the GIVEAWAY
at the bottom of this page for a chance
to win one of over 30 prizes! 


World Building: A piece of Cake
A Guest Post by: Mikey Brooks

As writer of fantasy I get to do a lot of really cool things. My favorite is coming up with new worlds for my characters to explore.  I can create these worlds to be like our own, or I can do something as fantastical as Dr. Seuss. I believe world building is one of the hardest topics to discuss because there is so much information that goes into creating a new world. Of course I won’t be fitting everything into this guest post, but I’d like to touch on a few key things.

I heard a great analogy for world building from a terrific fantasy writer, Cas Peace, author of the Artesansof Albia Trilogy.  She compared world building to making cakes.  Because I once worked as a professional cake decorator, I naturally thought this was the greatest idea I had ever heard. Cas shared that like cakes, world building has many layers. They have the inner layers (the stuff we don’t see until we cut into it) and the pretty frosted outside (the things that are seen right away).  Not every cake is made the same way, and neither should our worlds.

I can think of all the different times I made a German chocolate cake. The recipe was always the same. I layered it with the filling and then frosted the outside as I always did. But no matter how I tried, one cake was never identical to the next. There was always a slight variation of chocolate drizzle, or something—always one small change. Our world building should be like this. Take what is familiar, our world for example, and change something small—something so basic you wouldn’t think it would matter, and then see what happens.

In the world J.K. Rowling created, she’d change just one thing—in her world, magic existed. That added a whole new layer to the world of Harry Potter. Would the story even have existed without that change? In the Dream Keeper Chronicles, I did something similar as Rowling—I changed one thing—I made Dreams a real place. This changed nothing on the surface of my cake, but it added a whole new layer to my world.  What would happen if we changed an event in history, say the extinction of the dinosaurs? How different would our world look then? What about the fall of the Nazis? Or the disbelief in the Greek gods? Changing something small can create endless possibilities.

However you decide to make your world is up to you. All cakes are different, but all use frosting, flour, eggs, and sugar. The fun is what you do with the ingredients. They can be covered in buttercream, which is soft and creamy, or whipped cream which is fluffy.  They could have fondant icing which is smooth like satin, or royal icing which can be hard and textured. There really is no limit to your world. Have fun creating!

I am happy to announce the release of THE DREAMSTONE,


When Parker’s mom is dreamnapped by the wicked Mab, it is up to him and Kaelyn to save her. However when they return to Dreams, they discover Mab isn’t their only problem. Gladamyr has lost his powers and the only way to get them back is to become what he fears the most—a nightmare.


“The Dreamstone, by Mikey Brooks, is a wild stallion of a story: fast, thrilling, and unpredictable. I was hooked in chapter one. If he can snare the attention of an old reader like me, he’ll have kids sneaking this one into class underneath their text books…If this one isn’t a kid-pleaser, I don’t know what is.” –Michelle Isenhoff, author of the Divided Decade Trilogy and the Taylor Davis Series.

This is far out good and entertaining. It will become a pre-teen to young adult and the young of heart’s favorite. The tale is clean, wholesome and riveting. It is must have in every home and school library” –Anna del C. Dye, author of The Silent Warrior Trilogy.

“This really is a cracking novel. Action-packed and spellbinding!”—Cas Peace, author of The Artisans of Albia series.

"If you like the Percy Jackson, Fablehaven, or the Harry Potter series, you'll love this!" –An Amazon Reviewer.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, November 28, 2013

That First Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you'll spend this day with friends and family. I've posted a lot about my own family's gathering. I'm reminded today of that first gathering, a celebration after the sacrifice wrought by parents who riske...d everything to follow their conscience, to make a better life for their children and the generations that would follow. Conscience and principle meant more to them than the lives they risked on the daring venture they undertook. Their spirit is woven into the fabric of this country, and her people. Today, I give thanks for them, and for this land which I love so dearly. Which we all love so dearly. Enjoy the festivities, and as we do, let's remember that this day, as much as any other we celebrate, is about sacrifice, and conscience, about principles and freedom.

Love to all. Here's some sweet records from that first dinner. Enjoy.


These tender messages from those who attended the first Thanksgiving are provided by PILGRIM HALL MUSEUM. Other lovely letters, and information is available at their web site as well.

This evocative painting, titled "The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth," was painted by Jennie A. Brownscombe (1850-1936), in Honesdale, PA, or New York, in 1914.


There are 2 (and only 2) primary sources for the events of autumn 1621 in Plymouth : Edward Winslow writing in Mourt's Relation and William Bradford writing in Of Plymouth Plantation.

Edward Winslow, Mourt's Relation :

"Our harvest being gotten in, our governour sent foure men on fowling, that so we might after a speciall manner rejoyce together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labours ; they foure in one day killed as much fowle, as with a little helpe beside, served the Company almost a weeke, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Armes, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoyt, with some ninetie men, whom for three dayes we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deere, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governour, and upon the Captaine and others. And although it be not always so plentifull, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so farre from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plentie.

"In modern spelling"our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."

William Bradford, Of Plimoth Plantation :In the original 17th century spelling:

"They begane now to gather in ye small harvest they had, and to fitte up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health & strenght, and had all things in good plenty; fFor as some were thus imployed in affairs abroad, others were excersised in fishing, aboute codd, & bass, & other fish, of which yey tooke good store, of which every family had their portion. All ye somer ther was no want. And now begane to come in store of foule, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besids water foule, ther was great store of wild Turkies, of which they tooke many, besids venison, &c. Besids, they had about a peck a meale a weeke to a person, or now since harvest, Indean corn to yt proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largly of their plenty hear to their freinds in England, which were not fained, but true reports."

In modern spelling:

"They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports."

NOTE : The Mayflower arrived in Plymouth in December of 1620. No further ships arrived in Plymouth until immediately after that "First Thanksgiving" - the Fortune arrived in November of 1621.

One of the passengers on the Fortune, William Hilton, wrote a letter home that November. Although he was not present at that "First Thanksgiving," he does mention turkeys.

4 MARRIED WOMEN : Eleanor Billington, Mary Brewster, Elizabeth Hopkins, Susanna White Winslow.5 ADOLESCENT GIRLS : Mary Chilton (14), Constance Hopkins (13 or 14), Priscilla Mullins (19), Elizabeth Tilley (14 or15) and Dorothy, the Carver's unnamed maidservant, perhaps 18 or 19.9 ADOLESCENT BOYS : Francis & John Billington, John Cooke, John Crackston, Samuel Fuller (2d), Giles Hopkins, William Latham, Joseph Rogers, Henry Samson.13 YOUNG CHILDREN : Bartholomew, Mary & Remember Allerton, Love & Wrestling Brewster, Humility Cooper, Samuel Eaton, Damaris & Oceanus Hopkins, Desire Minter, Richard More, Resolved & Peregrine White.22 MEN : John Alden, Isaac Allerton, John Billington, William Bradford, William Brewster, Peter Brown, Francis Cooke, Edward Doty, Francis Eaton, [first name unknown] Ely, Samuel Fuller, Richard Gardiner, John Goodman, Stephen Hopkins, John Howland, Edward Lester, George Soule, Myles Standish, William Trevor, Richard Warren, Edward Winslow, Gilbert Winslow.
ALDEN : John
ALLERTON : Isaac with children Bartholomew, Mary, Remember; the Allerton servant William Latham
BILLINGTON : John & Eleanor with sons Francis, John Jr.
BRADFORD : William
BREWSTER : William & Mary with sons Love, Wrestling; their ward Richard More
CARVER: The Carver ward Desire Minter; the Carver servant John Howland; the Carver maidservant Dorothy.
COOKE : Francis with son John
EATON : Francis with son Samuel
ELY: Unknown adult man
FULLER : Samuel with nephew Samuel 2d
GARDINER : Richard
HOPKINS : Stephen & Elizabeth with Giles, Constance, Damaris, Oceanus; their servants Edward Doty and Edward Leister.
MULLINS : Priscilla
ROGERS : Joseph
TILLEY : Elizabeth
TILLEY: Tilley wards Humility Cooper and Henry Samson
WARREN : Richard
WINSLOW : Edward & Susanna with her sons Resolved White & Peregrine White; Winslow servant George Soule
WINSLOW : Gilbert
Note : In Of Plymouth Plantation, William Bradford lists the Mayflower passengers and also tells us who died during the first winter of 1620/1621 and spring of 1621. No other ships arrived in Plymouth until after the "First Thanksgiving" celebration. The Pilgrims at the "First Thanksgiving" are all the Mayflower survivors.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Gratitude Post: "The Good Ole Days"

Tom's favorite station is Encore Westerns, ergo, we watch a lot of Bonanza and Gunsmoke reruns, and other fare where white-hatted heroes risk life and limb for noble causes like their sacred honor, the virtue of womenfolk, the good of neighbors and country, the family farm, and the local bank where all the locals' life savings is likely stored. They were simple themes that reflected the core values of America. They were the good ole days.

I read "Make Way For Ducks," with my grandkids and missed the scenes of a slower time when people sat on park benches and chatted in the sun, when a treasured toy was made from wood and powered by imagination, when you could have a blast with change pulled from between the lint in your pocket.

I imagine that our children and grandchildren will look back on these days in the future, and say, "They were the good ole days." So whatever your good ole days really are, I'm grateful for them.  They serve as a cultural barometer of where we are, where we're headed, and how we're doing. Memories of them promise that we can enjoy them again and again, because the core principles that fueled them are still within us.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Gratitude Posts, Friday, November 22

For a techno-newbie like me, the Internet and computers are still a wonder. I remember the old data-processing rooms at school where monster-sized machines that could sort punch cards were the marvel of the day. I now literally hold libraries in my hand, along with a comprehensive glimpse of all facets of my life. It's incredible.

As an author, I can research files and collections from around the globe, take virtual tours of buildings, cities, and even countries. Any subject about which I care to learn is laid open to me, limited only my my imagination and curiosity.

I can make new friends, connect with old friends, and speak to loved ones faraway as if they were in the next room. I can dream of a new challenge, research it, and arrange to fulfill it with a few simple keystrokes. I saw a recipe for a homemade body scrub. Within minutes I had not only studied the steps for making it but I had the ingredients winging their way to my home. Marvelous!

I know more about my ever-changing world than I can process, and I have at my fingertips the means and power to have my own voice and opinions broadcast far and wide without leaving my chair. But so can others, and so we enter a world that requires careful filtering. There are no worldwide editors checking for accuracy or value in what we might find here, and no Internet police protecting us from material that assaults sensibilities. Each who enters the cyber-world holds a Pandora's box of choices, which not only challenges our minds, but our ethics.

With that in mind, I still rejoice over the possibilities this technology affords me, for the expanded opportunities to learn, to grow, to entertain, and to communicate. And for that, I am very grateful.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

GRATITUDE POSTS, November 20, 2013

I've spent the past week fretting over paint colors, redoing a tired bathroom, then recovering from twisting my body around in weird ways to paint the wall and trim above the tub. My house is growing old, and like its owners, it needs some love and help here and there, but I still love this old place. This is the winter view from the front porch.

The dreams of a comfy house on several sprawling acres played out well for our growing family, but now Tom and I are the last Lews left, and our days on this old place are likely numbered, and that is a sobering truth.

Though we've painted and changed things a bit, each room remains a time capsule of memories. Joshua was the only newborn brought home to this house. Adam, Amanda, and Tom arrived in stairsteps from one to five years, but they all grew here, graduated and launched their lives from here. Their bedrooms still have some of their stuff squirrelled away in closets and drawers. Stuff they pull out on semi-annual visits home during their own momentary retreats into childhood. Our oldest son is 35 and he occasionally runs down the hall and jumps on our bed to demonstrate the belly-flop technique his perfected on Sundays after church.

The voices are silent now, but I can remember the quiet talks over broken hearts and after disciplinary incarcerations, laughter in abundance, and prayers spoken by bedsides. I remember snuggling under blankets and eating popcorn as we watched the old Christmas specials, and the weekly games of Monopoly that almost always degraded into a war. Three walls still have scars from wrestling matches and overly exuberant, plaster-cracking hugs. Peace and love at home was not measured by stillness but by volume, and numbers of feet as kids gathered in a no-alcohol, no-tobacco, my-momma-will-kill-you-if-you-swear household after games, after proms, and after plays. Our kitchen became the Little Debbie Cake-eating capital of the world.

I'm actually crying as I write this thing. That's how strong the memories are, but you know. You have powerful memories of your own that are tied to places and moments you'll treasure always.

So the day will eventually come when we'll hand the key over to someone new, hopefully to a family with lots of kids, and we'll settle elsewhere, in a smaller house on less land, to make a new generation of memories. But for today, I'm grateful for this old house, and for the privilege of raising our tribe here.