CFRR 2017

Last Saturday, one week ago, already, I had the privilege of going to CFRR, and took my oldest daughter along. CFRR – Christian Fiction Readers’ Retreat. I’ve been mulling over it all week. And still don’t know quite what all I want to say! I’d just like to say right off that this event, when I’d heard about it, just felt like a dream come true—a day for readers and some of their favorite authors to meet and chat—what fun!!

We’d been gone most of last week, family vacation, camping, so to think of leaving again, all day Saturday, I wasn’t sure that I was really in the mood. Our original plan had been that we’d go Friday evening, stay at the hotel overnight, but then we nixed that idea because of vacation week. I probably would’ve given it up altogether except for the fact that I’d already paid the admission fees for the two of us, and they were non-refundable.

So we decided we’d go. We had to leave home early, for a Saturday, that is. 7:00. We only had to go to Cincy, so it wasn’t too long of a drive…I think my daughter ended up sleeping a good part of the way.

When we arrived, we discovered there was a LINE out the front door of the hotel. What?! I’d had no idea it would be like this….! To give a quick mental picture—ladies, ladies, everywhere! I knew there were to be about 40 authors, plus a limited amount of readers, so maybe about 200 people at this event, and they were all standing in the hotel lobby, hallways, etc., just FULL of excitement!

Our first stop was the restroom, and to get there, we had to kind of push our way through the line of ladies, in a few different places, just to get to the restroom. (That was all the registration line) Yikes—I don’t care for crowds, just WHAT did we get ourselves in to. I (almost) felt like turning around and going home again!

So, after that stop, we went to the back of the line, which hadn’t moved very much from when we first saw it. We stood there and waited for awhile. Registration was supposed to be over at 9:00, but they didn’t quite meet that goal, I think too many of us waited ‘till the last minute! We visited with a few others waiting there. And felt sorry for hotel guests that were staying there that weekend, not involved with CFRR or having any idea of what was going on.

When we finally got through registration, we were each given a huge bag full of “swag”. Mostly stuffed with books! And then many other neat little paraphernalia items from publishers, authors, sponsors, etc.

Then we went into the designated conference room and took a seat. At this point I would’ve just liked to take the time to spread out my bag and examine it’s contents, a brief peek showed many interesting things, including one book that I’ve been wanting to read for awhile (I’ve had the kindle version, but I always prefer the actual paperback, so I was so excited to see this one—Crown of Souls by Ronie Kendig)

We were told where to find our programs, and also to look for a candle, each of which had a certain label, to divide the group into teams for the day. We found which group we needed to join, and headed up towards the front to find seats with our new teammates.

One major highlight of the day was that we were hardly seated when my new seatmate said hi, and I took a look at her nametag- Jen Turano. ??!! (I knew I’d read some of her books already…but she wasn’t listed as a participating author of the day) During a quick intermission, I was able to ask her about her books, she handed us a flyer, and Natalyn said, “Oh, I LOVE your books!” (huge highlight for her!!) Jen gave us some autographed bookmarks, which we added to our swag bags.

There were many events planned throughout the day. (Beforehand, I thought maybe, if we’d get bored, we’d end up leaving before the end. Honestly, the day flew by so quickly, we didn’t even have time to get bored!) There was praise and worship sessions, panel discussions, topics by a few different authors, lunch break, games, giveaways, and so, so much going on!

To be in the midst of a group of people with similar love of reading is incredible. As Shelley Gray stated it, “My husband thinks there’s probably nobody else in the world that loves to read as much as I do.” And yes, my husband would probably say the same about me.

At lunch we were told to get our food and find people to eat with that we didn’t know. Natalyn stuck to me, and we ended up spending our lunch time visiting with four other ladies, and had a great time visiting!

There were speed chat sessions in which about 10 of the participating authors would make circles visiting with small groups of readers, and this gave a chance to get to know them just a little bit. This was very interesting to me! (I wish we’d have had time to do a quick meet like this with each one!)

One disappointment to me is that one of my favorite authors, Dani Pettrey, who was scheduled to be a speaker, was not able to be there due to health reasons. She made a brief appearance via facetime, for a demonstration she was to have done with Becky Wade. This was an interesting session. Becky shared a peek into her whole writing experience. She & Dani had made video clips throughout the previous year, to show different phases they encounter while writing a book. It was fun and informative. And then we were all given a paper, and through the use of M&Ms, given a quick basis for writing our own novel. My combination was to come up with a historical romance set in fictional Hollybrooke, involving an astrophysicist and a farmer. (I didn’t get very far! 😉 ) Several of the authors shared what they came up with, and Wow! I know why they are writers—they had very intriguing openings—I wanted to hear their actual stories!

Like I mentioned earlier, there were lots of giveaways throughout the day.  I forgot to mention the “CFRR Stewards” earlier, but there were three ladies—Annie, Carrie, & Bonnie, (along with a  few assistants) that planned this event. They were the ones that kept the day moving right along, moderated, did the giveaways, and just made it a really fun day overall! It was neat to have all those giveaways, and we kept hoping our names would be called, but they weren’t. Because we already had a huge bag of things, we were ok with that! : )

At the end, which was after 5:00, we were finally given time to do a bit of shopping (there was a small bookstore set up in the back of the room), and get autographs! Natalyn & I were able to get signatures from at least 5 or 6 authors! It was so much fun to visit with several of them! I was delighted to meet Ronie Kendig, I’ve read most of her books, and participated in launch teams for a few of them, and it was a real treat to speak with her in person!

I also discovered that one of our other seatmates, Cindy Thomson, is the author of a book that I’d had from the library in the past year, and really enjoyed—and she also lives in the central Ohio area!

It was so, so neat, to be able to see that authors, many of whom I’ve admired from afar and loved their books, are ordinary, down-to-earth people, and I greatly enjoyed the time we were able to spend chatting with a few of them!

The ride home went by quickly as we discussed our day. I loved being able to go and spend a day like this with my daughter, chatting about books is a great way to connect, even though we don’t like all the same books! 😉

Another highlight for her was that Jen Turano was the winner of one of the giveaways, and she then turned around and gave her bag to Natalyn, “I’m flying home, so I really don’t have room for this.” (Bless you, Jen—that was very special!)

When we got home, we spread out all our stuff, I went through and figured up the value of all the books we received, and if we’d have had to buy all of them, we would have spent more than our admission was for the day! That’s how generous all the participating authors and sponsors were!!

Well, this has gotten a bit lengthy…thanks so much if you stuck with me and read all of this.We’d love to go to this event next year, but it will probably be held at another location, last year they had it in Nashville, so we just don’t know if it will be possible or not…but anyway…if you are interested in going, please check with me, it would be fun to have friends going along with us to enjoy the day!

Also, I’d love to have my daughter share about the day from her point of view, so that might be posted here at a later date!

Be prepared for giveaways here on my blog in the future. I can’t wait to share some of my things with some of you all!

August already?!

Can it possibly be August already?! Where oh where has our summer gone!

We had so many plans, things to do, things to accomplish….and it feels like we hardly scratched the surface.

Some things we did:

Cleaning, organizing, sorting out things for the thrift store.

Moving from one bedroom (shared with sister) to her own room.

Visiting family & friends out of state.

















These are only a few of the things that we worked on this summer….what felt like a nice long break back in May has hopped, skipped, & jumped right on by.

We still have two weeks left. Hopefully, those can mostly be enjoyed. 🙂

At least a greater portion of one of those must be spent sewing new dresses for school. This is highly unusual for me, I am one of those that feels much better having the sewing done early on. But first, we had to make sure we had the right fabrics on hand. Then they had to be decided on, as to who gets which one (let’s not have anyone matching anyone else, you know…). And then we had this and that and the other that we wanted to go to.

We had a stretch from the end of June through part of July where I made a trip to Indiana every.single.week. Various reasons….all important….and it’s just a short trip….but I was glad when the week came when I could say, I think we’ll not go on any road trips this week… 🙂

I will admit that I am kind of dreading the arrival of another school year. It feels like we’ve just finally gotten into a (mostly) good routine here at home, lots of work getting done in short order, no lunches to pack, no schedule, and now it’s almost over!

Tell me about your summer!

What you did.

How you managed to get the most enjoyment out of it.




Giveaway Winner!

Today’s the day! The day we draw a name to see who wins the book “My Daughter’s Legacy by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould.
Since we had nine names entered in our giveaway, I wrote your names down on pieces of paper, put them in a bowl and mixed them up. Then I had my oldest daughter draw a name out.
And the winner is

Sarah Hochstedler!

Sarah, I’m delighted you won! 🙂 And unless you’ve moved recently, I still have your current address and will get this book in the mail to you in the next few days.)

Really, I would love to be able to send this prize to each of you that took the time to enter. But I don’t have that many to give away.
Hopefully this is just the beginning! 🙂
I’d love to make this a monthly occurrence here on my blog. But I won’t make any promises I can’t keep… 😉

Happy Monday to you all!

Book Tour & Review

Welcome! To a blog tour for “The Memory of You” by Catherine West.

This is something new for me, joining in on a “Blog Tour”—it’s my very first time!  I’m so glad you stopped by, please take the time to read about this wonderful book. It is a Christian fiction novel, and it challenged me.  There’s even a giveaway involved, so keep reading!

About the Book

Title: The Memory of You
Author: Catherine West
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release Date: March 28, 2017
Genre: Inspirational Contemporary Fiction
Thirteen years ago, Natalie lost a part of herself when her twin sister died. Will traveling back to the family winery finally put the memory to rest, or will it completely destroy her?When Natalie Mitchell learns her beloved grandfather has had a heart attack, she’s forced to return to their family-owned winery in Sonoma, something she never intended to do. She’s avoided her grandparents’ sprawling home and all its memories since the summer her sister died—the awful summer Natalie’s nightmares began. But the winery is failing, and Natalie’s father wants her to shut it down. As the majority shareholder, she has the power to do so.

And Natalie never says no to her father.

Tanner Collins, the vintner on Maoilios, is trying to salvage a bad season and put the Mitchell family’s winery back in business. When Natalie Mitchell shows up, Tanner sees his future about to be crushed. Natalie intends to close the gates, unless he can convince her otherwise. But the Natalie he remembers from childhood is long gone, and he’s not so sure he likes the woman she’s become. Still, the haunted look she wears hints at secrets he wants to unearth. He soon discovers that on the night her sister died, the real Natalie died too. And Tanner must do whatever it takes to resurrect her.

But finding freedom from the past means facing it.

About the Author

Catherine West is an award-winning author who writes stories of hope and healing from her island home in Bermuda. Her first novel, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, released in 2011 and won the INSPY for Romance, a Silver Medal in the Reader’s Favorite Awards, and was a finalist in the Grace Awards. Catherine’s second novel, Hidden in the Heart, released in September 2012, was long listed in the 2012 INSPY’s and was a finalist in the 2013 Grace Awards.

When she’s not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border Collie for long walks or tending to her roses and orchids. She and her husband have two grown children. Catherine is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America, and is represented by Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary. Catherine loves to connect with her readers and can be reached at Catherine[at]

CONNECT WITH CATHERINE: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram


Tour Schedule

Many thanks to the publisher, Thomas Nelson & Zondervan Fiction 

for providing review copies to our bloggers.

7/17 – Running Through the Storm

7/18 – Moments Dipped in Ink

7/19 – Favorite Christian Books

7/20 – Joy’s Blog

7/21 – Happy When Reading

7/22 – Splashes of Joy

7/23 – Reading is My SuperPower

7/24 – Bibliophile Reviews

7/25 – By The Book

7/26 – Reader’s Cozy Corner

7/27 – All of a Kind Mom

7/28 –  Smiling Book Reviews

7/29 – Savings in Seconds

7/30 – Heidi Reads. . .Giveaway

(1) Winner will win a gourmet gift basket + a signed copy of The Memory of You, 

courtesy of the author, Catherine West.
(US mailing addresses only for the gift basket & print book prize.
International winners will win a digital copy of the book.)

Enter here:


My Review: The Memory of You

This is one of those books that touches your inner soul. When I reached the last page, I felt like I needed time to really think about and process my thoughts on issues that were faced in this story. Thanks, Catherine West for an excellent read!

I love to read, love to find new authors, because sometimes I almost read too fast to stay in ‘reading’ with familiar ones. And yet, I have a tendency to pick my favorite authors over others.

When I was given the chance to receive an Advance Reader’s Copy of “The Memory of You” I jumped on it, and I am so glad I did! This is the first I’ve read of Catherine West’s books, but after reading this one, I will be sure and read her others!

Natalie is such a realistic, able-to-relate-to character, and I was drawn in to her story immediately. Because of a tragic accident she was in as a young teen, one that killed her twin sister, she has avoided visiting her grandfather’s ranch, where the memories are too hard to bear.

Now, it is her duty as the majority shareholder to return to the California vineyard and decide if she should follow her father’s demands that the struggling family business be closed down, or look for ways to bring back life to her grandfather’s dream, and follow her own heart.

She was unprepared for the increasingly overwhelming nightmares that would accompany her here. And yet, God led her to a therapist that was able to guide her toward recovery. A recovery that included facing her fears & events from the past head on.

Along the way, she falls back in love with her earliest crush, Tanner. Can they make their love work this time?

This book challenged me in so many ways. I want to allow God to work in my life through difficult things from  my own past, and not let them drag me down. His forgiveness and grace are always available!


Well…umm…this is new to me. (Hosting a giveaway) So bear with me as I try to learn how this all works! 🙂

You might be wondering what I am giving away. It is this book, My Daughter’s Legacy by Mindy Starns Clark!

Yes, I’ve managed to end up with two copies of it!! (And no, I didn’t buy either one, they were given to me)

First, I applied for and was excited to be given entry into a book club to promote the launch of this book.

Then, I was notified by Goodreads (as so often is the case) that there is another giveaway for a book on my shelf. (Or maybe this came first, I really don’t remember)

Anyway, I almost never win giveaways. It used to be I could say with certainty, that I never do, but I guess, if you enter often enough, you’re bound to win on occasion.

So, shortly after I finished reading my book club copy of this book, I received an email from Goodreads notifying me that I was the winner of this book! 🙂

And now I’d love to pass on my newest copy to some other lucky reader.

This is the paperback version, and if you looked it up on Amazon, you will see that their current price is $12.74.

I’ve read this book and loved it. Mindy Starns Clark is one of my all time favorite Christian mystery authors. This is the third book in the series, and I highly recommend reading the other two before reading this one. (If you live locally, I don’t mind loaning you my copies, or if you don’t you could also check your local library)

You can read my reviews on this on goodreads and on Amazon.

Finally. The Giveaway!

To enter this giveway, you must comment HERE on this post (not on facebook).

Tell me about your favorite author or book.

Due to the high cost of postage these days, this giveaway is limited to United States residents only

We’ll do a drawing either by throwing all the names in a bowl, and actually drawing one, or use a random number generator…whatever appears to work best at the time. 🙂

I’ll leave this giveaway open until the end of July. (and hope that I get enough comments to actually warrant a giveaway! 😉 )


Summertime reading

It’s the lazy days of summer….which means lots of time to read, right?! 🙂 I used to think so. I think I must have been a bit, no a lot spoiled in my growing up days. I’d spend a good portion of my day sitting around and reading books. I still love to read, but find those moments scattered here and there, in bits & pieces. I tend to get a big stack of books from the library, and then work on that stack for a few weeks or months. See, our library system is fairly awesome. Although we currently, mostly frequent our small town library, they are connected with the larger Metropolitan Library system that is spread throughout most of central Ohio. Which means we can go on our library’s website and search for a book title, and if any library has it, we can request it, and then pick it up locally. So…when I am needing books to read, I look for my favorite authors online, check out or other websites, and then see if I can find those books at the library. I tend to get carried away just a bit… 🙂 And then….sometimes they all come in, in about a week’s time. Which requires the use of a large bag to bring them all home.

And yeah, that’s just my books. The girls, well they actually do take time to sit around and read, after they have their daily work/chores finished. So they bring home stacks of books at a time, and then proceed to READ them all in a week (or maybe even less!). I think the librarians know us.

Here are just a few reviews on books I’ve read in the past few weeks/months

The Memory Weaver by Jane Kirkpatrick.

This is a historical fiction novel based on the true story of Elisa Spaulding, whose family were missionaries to the Nez Pearce Indians. I’d heard of Marcus & Narcissa Whitman, who were martyred by the Indians, but didn’t remember hearing about this family, who were their contemporaries and fellow missionaries. Eliza was the daughter of Henry Spaulding. She experienced much trauma at the hands of the Indians through being held hostage. This book gives many interesting details about her life, and also tells about how her parents were missionaries, how they were led to this calling, and more.
Very well written, I enjoyed it greatly!


The Noble Servant by Melanie Dickerson

Here’s my review as I posted on Amazon:

Another fabulous ‘fairy tale’ novel by Melanie Dickerson!
This is a sweet story, the retelling of the goose girl fairy tale.
In spite of the fact that this is a teen book, I enjoyed it!

The details, the setting, the characters, I liked it all!
If you enjoy fairy tales, then give it a try!

I’ve read numerous others of her fairy tale books. This is not my preferred reading genre/style, but I did enjoy them, nonetheless. Ideally, I’d love to read any/all the books that my daughters are reading, but yeah….that’s impossible. These books are specifically written for teens, and are geared in that way. Previously, my oldest daughter (14) read some of her books, but I actually gave this one to my 11 year old to read after I had it finished. She’s my daughter that most is in to fairy-tale-type stories right now. (princess, or whatever you want to call it…) She thoroughly enjoyed the book. Before she started reading, I warned her that there was some romance included. I think it’s safe to assume that it wasn’t too much as to bother her.


True to You by Becky Wade

From Amazon: This is a delightful book, a FUN read! I started reading, and could not lay it down–kept on reading until the very end!
Delightful characters. Realistic plot, humor, a bit of mystery, and of course the romance.
I thought I had the story all figured out, but there was an interesting and unexpected twist at the end.

When I am looking for a light Christian fiction romance, I will definitely be turning to more from Becky Wade!

Yes, I do recommend it, it is “light reading” as I noted above. It’s the kind of book that I’d turn to when I don’t want to read anything that requires much deep thinking.


and one more

Weaver’s Needle by Robin Caroll

I found a new author in my favorite genre!
This book kept me turning pages and sitting on my seat until the very last page, I loved it!
It has all the elements I love in Christian fiction–suspense, mystery, and a little romance.
An ancient treasure map, Indian folklore, and more.
Landry is a former Army MP and is now a Recovery Specialist. Nickolai is a former police officer turned detective. They are put into competition against each other as they race to find a missing map that they hope will lead them to a long lost gold mine.
As it becomes obvious that someone is trying to scare them off their case, they turn to each other for help in solving this puzzle.

If you enjoy Christian suspense, then you won’t regret reading this one!

This is probably the book I enjoyed the most from all these I’m sharing today. Mystery/suspense is still my favorite. Christian mysteries are even better, the story line is well written without having all the gory details that are sometimes included in mainstream/secular mysteries.

One thing that I’m also doing, that is new for me, is a reading challenge. I found this one online:, and thought it sounded very interesting. Thankfully it goes through the end of this calendar year, so it gives me some time to read my quota.

You may wonder when I find time to do all this reading….like I said, it’s only in bits and pieces, in this time of my life. And summertime is not necessarily the easiest time to find those moments. I like to read a chapter or two in the evening, as a way to wind down before going to bed. Sometimes over lunch, if I happen to be sitting at the table after the girls have eaten, then I can read a chapter. And Sunday afternoons/evenings at home…that gives time to relax with a book too….although lately those have been a bit scarce. 🙂

We’ve had plenty of eventful happenings going on around here recently, with our extended families, and more. Some joyous, some painful. It’s hard to know just what to say. Sometimes I find it easier to take time to focus on the lighter things in life, like reading and doing book reviews, as a way to regroup and cope with the heavy things in life!

Happy summer!


What is True/Truth?


What is truth?

Can we find truth today?

Does it still exist?

How can I know truth?


Is it enough to go by my own sense of what I think is right?


Jesus said, I AM The Way, The Truth, & The Life. No man comes to the Father but by me.


Can I really believe this?

How can I?

I see people that say they believe Him, and by their actions, they are going against what He says in His Word.

What they “feel” or “believe” is right does not match up with what Jesus has already said in the Bible.

Clearly, their own feelings are more truth than Jesus.

Which could lead us to the conclusion that Jesus is not really truth.

Does our upbringing, religion, or culture change truth?

Does the country we live in change truth?

Is there an absolute truth?

If the Bible is not true, then where do we turn for truth?


I have many thoughts scrambling through my head on this matter, and others related….

I’d love to hear thoughts from you.

Thought provoking book

I just finished another very thought provoking story. It’s called “The Whys Have It” by Amy Matayo.

There are so many things that happen in life that we don’t understand. We just want to ask God “WHY?”. This story has so many of those happenings. It’s my understanding that the author based the main storyline of this book on an actual happening.

It includes tragedy, loss of family, difficult relationships, and more.

Here’s my review that I posted on goodreads for this book:

This is an excellent book!
Realistic characters I couldn’t help but loving, lessons of life taught, and so much more!

Cory is a famous singer, by all appearances, he is on top of the world.

Sam has had much heartache in her life, and lost almost everyone she ever loved.
Then her only sister gets killed in an accident.
These two find each other. In addition to sparks flying, they are able to help each other to a place of peace and rest in their walk with God.
There’s so much here! It’s about walking through hard times and finding God even in the darkest of days. It’s about forgiveness–both extending it to others, and even yourself, which can be hardest of all.
One thing I especially liked about this book was the way the author had profound, thought-provoking quotes scattered throughout.

If you like Christian contemporary fiction, then this is a must read!

Here are just a few quotes from this book that I’d like to share:

“. . . because she knows the secret: that humans need contact to thrive, that a broken heart is only one crack away from a broken spirit, and that both can be mended by smoothing on thin layers of love.”

“Last words. They can kill you with their lack of meaning, slay you with the absence of thoughtfulness, shackle you to a career of writing lyrics for the rest of your life just to hopefully one day get them right. Last words cut. Last words haunt. Especially if they’re careless. Especially if you have no hope of ever having another chance to make them better.”

and I think this one is probably my favorite:

“You can ask why all day long if you want to. You can ask God why and your friends why and yourself why until you’re buried in nothing but that single question, but you’ll never get an answer. This side of heaven, time is the only thing that helps a little bit. So don’t give in. Don’t let the whys have it. Don’t let them take advantage of you. They’ll crush your heart and steal your peace and mess with your mind and wrap around you so tight you won’t be able to breathe. Don’t let the whys ruin your life, child. Every time they try to sneak up, push them aside and move forward. Trust me, it’s the only way you can get on with living.”

It’s such a good reminder to trust, trust God! Let go and let God be in control!!

I would like to add a disclaimer though. Especially since I have a teen daughter that also loves to read. 😉 In my opinion, this book does go into too much detail when it describes kissing between the two main characters. Because of that, I would not recommend this for audiences under the age of 18 (or whatever is deemed appropriate…)

The lessons on forgiveness and relationship did make it one that I enjoyed reading. (Because I am a fast–skim–reader, I tend to skip over parts that I don’t like)

What hard times have you gone through/are going through that you would like to have God answer Why? Rest assured, He is with you each step of the way, and He Cares!!

Daughters and good books

Happy Monday to you!

I have to keep this brief, but I just stumbled across a blog that I think might be of interest to some of you. Those of you with daughters that love to read, I mean!

I haven’t had time yet to thoroughly check through this list, but here is a lady that has a blog and takes particular time to review books, and make recommendations as to which age group they would be best suited to:

I’ve struggled with this often. My girls love to read. I’d love to sit down and screen each book they bring home from the library. But I don’t have time. There are books that I know are ok, some that I’m mostly certain are, and then there’s others I just don’t know about.

I’m excited about seeing what this gal has to say about different books, and hoping that I can find some new books for my girls to read.

From quickly looking at her site, she has a section for each age group, and then you can click on a book title, and she gives a detailed list for that book, things that caught her attention as to whether it may or may not be appropriate for young (Christian) girls to read. It’s kind of like reading the ‘parental content’ section on IMDB to check out if a movie is appropriate for your kids or not….

Take a look, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

NYC-a weekend trip to the Big Apple

We are still trying to catch up on sleep from our busy, exhausting, eye-opening weekend in NYC.

I’ve been to NYC one other time, and loved it! A little over a year ago, we went for an anniversary trip. (Hubby wanted to fly somewhere, I wanted to go to NYC because I’d never been there, I started looking for plane tickets and discovered they were cheap, the rest is history)

Our church has been wanting to go to NYC for a weekend witnessing trip, and thrown around different dates. The original plan was for anyone from church to go, from age 14 and up. We wanted to go, were excited to go, thought we had a place lined up for our younger daughters to stay, and had our names on the list.

Then our babysitter fell through, so we took our names back off the list. And felt very disappointed. But we were praying that things would work out for us to be able to go. If you have young kids, you will know what I mean when I say that I always feel kinda bad to ask someone if my kids can stay there. It’s a huge favor, and I know it! And, for this weekend in particular, I didn’t want someone to stay home from the trip because they had to do childcare. And yet, when your church family is your “family”, it’s hard to find another place for your kids to stay.

As time went on, a few more people were backing out of the trip, and it turned out that the bus was going to have too many seats. Hmmm….our brains were rolling…and then I finally took the plunge and asked my sis-in-law if our youngest two girls could stay there.  As it turned out, we only left the youngest at home, and took both of the “middles” along (their friends were also going, and boy such excitement!! 🙂 )

We left our church house about 5:15 Friday morning. Google maps was telling me that we should be there in about 9 hours. Not bad. Considering the fact that we were on a bus, and then add in an hour for stopping time, maybe we’d get there around 4 pm.

All went well till we reached the outskirts of the city. Traffic (Memorial Day weekend didn’t help any!!) We spent about 3 hours navigating city traffic until we finally reached our first destination-Followers of Jesus Church in Brooklyn (or Queens).

One thing I really find intriguing about NYC is how they utilize their old buildings so well (here in Ohio, once a building is old, or might become old, it usually gets torn down, and a new one built in it’s place). Not so there!

The Followers of Jesus Church (and School) is a unique 3 (or more) story building. We climbed numerous flights of stairs  until we discovered a room with a meal prepared for us. Our hosts there served us a feast of rice & beans, chicken (I think it might have been Jamaican style), and more! It was delicious! We were privileged to hear from Daniel Pollard, a bit about their life there, some dos & don’ts of witnessing in the city, a rough itinerary, and more.

Then we walked to the nearest subway station and rode to the Broadway Junction stop. Our group of 47 was divided into 6 groups, and while the majority of the group was standing in the one corner singing hymns & gospel songs, each group would take a turn at walking around, handing out CDs, tracts, & striking up conversations with passers-by.

We were there in the subway for about 2 hours. We sang until our voices were hoarse! In that amount of time, about 1700 CDs were distributed—it is unreal how many people pass through there in a short time! Some people kept rushing by, in a hurry to get their next train, others stopped and listened, some even videoed us!

We had one man that demanded us to stop singing. He said “Are you racist?” “How do you feel about slavery?” One of the men took him to the side to have a conversation so we could go back to our singing. Sadly, he did not want to have  discussion, he wanted to argue and yell about the injustice of slavery, and how he can never forgive anyone for it. So very sad. (I don’t know his name, but let’s pray for Him–God can work in amazing ways!)

We rode the subway back to the church, where we had parked our bus, and then rode our bus for about an hour to get to our motel.  We arrived there after 12:00, where we all unloaded our luggage and quickly found our rooms. Sleep came quickly for most of us!

Because the next day was Saturday, we didn’t have to leave too early, so were able to sleep in until 8:00. We ate a light breakfast at the motel, and then had to leave on the bus at 10:00. We headed back towards the church, until we met up with our guide. We headed towards Jamaica NY, where we divided into our groups and went down a few blocks and handed out more CDs and tracts to people. We talked with a lot of people, but not as many as in the subway.

My one daughter & I stayed together on the sidewalks during this time, and we enjoyed that time together. One thing we noticed was that it was very obvious which people had hope in their eyes, and which ones didn’t. It was so encouraging to meet up with others that also love Jesus. One lady gave us such great encouragement. She said how she’s lived in the city for awhile, and does what she can to tell others about Jesus’ love. One thing in particular she told us, “I know there are many other places you could be today, and many other things you could be doing. But what you are doing here, telling others about God, that is the best thing you could be doing.” She was so right. Our efforts felt so small. It would have been easy to be discouraged, because what am I really doing, it doesn’t feel like I am reaching anyone, really….but seeds were planted, and God is the only who will know. And that’s ok.

Before getting back on the bus, we went to a small pizza place and enjoyed some delicious NY style pizza. (If you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing this, think thin, crispy, and yet soft, crust, cheesy, hot, and just plain delicious!:) )

Then we took the bus back over close to the church and got on the subway again. We went back to Broadway Junction subway station and sang there again for a few hours. We were able to pass our the remainder of our 4500 CDs, and many more tracts. My prayer is that someone, somewhere, will have a new life because of our efforts.

After this, we got back on the subway train and rode all the way south to the beach, where we got a peek at the Atlantic Ocean. It was a beautiful day! Cool, breezy, sunny & cloudy in turns, and just altogether lovely. (Our entire time in NYC was blessed with beautiful weather–we drove through rain on our way home, but did not get rained on one time while we were there!)

Then we rode on to Manhattan, where we did a bit of walking, experienced BBQ for supper, and then went on over and walked around the Times Square area for a short time.

Times Square was an experience. I’d seen it before, so wasn’t completely shocked. For a first-time visitor, it was overwhelming! The crowds were unending. Pushing, hurrying, back and forth, on and on. Sometimes you could hardly see anything except people! We were trying to keep our group of almost 50 together without losing anyone. So we’d walk a block or two, and then have to stop and make sure everyone was still along. (almost lost our one daughter…made my heart thump wildly for a bit…I thought she was walking beside her friend, and then when I saw she wasn’t…Oh No! One of the men was bringing up the rear, so I was fairly sure she’d be somewhere in there…and yet, it was so easy to get bumped aside and away from the others….I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I finally saw her again! After that, we hung on to each other, literally! 😉 )

Sunday morning was to be an early morning, so we had to get back to the motel earlier than Friday night, so we headed back. Our schedule was for us to be at the Bowery Street Mission at 7:00, sing for the homeless people there, have the morning service, and then be done around 8:00. We enjoyed hearing a bit of the life story of the director, Mr. Mackin. His heart for the homeless people is because of someone reaching out to him when he was homeless himself, and now he’s been at that mission for around 40 years, helping others, showing them Jesus’ love.

We also thought we’d probably be eating breakfast there. There must have been a communication breakdown. After standing on the sidewalk visiting for awhile, we realized that this was not to be. And like good travelers, we climbed back on to our bus and pulled down our snacks. And nobody went hungry! 🙂

We didn’t have much time before we needed to head for home, but we did have about an hour, and since we were so close, we drove over to the former site of the Twin Towers, the new site of the 9/11 Memorial Museum. We walked around the grounds, looked at the falls, watched members of the military do a marching & gun synchronized demonstration, and then a bit of their band playing. I assume this was due to Memorial Day weekend.

Then we got back in to our bus and headed home. All of us more thankful for the many things we take for granted too much of the time. Spacious, quiet, peaceful homes, fresh air & green grass of the country, and a community of church family, all blessings from God.

Thankfully our drive home was shorter, we did not encounter any traffic jams, and we were grateful to pull into our church parking lot around 9:00 Sunday evening.

Our travel time was also a blessing. Time to visit with friends, share experiences of the weekend, connect in new ways, and more. I am blessed and thankful to be part of such a caring church!

Yes, it was an exhausting weekend. In many ways. I am still catching up on that tired feeling….Thank you God, for giving us the opportunity to share your love with others less fortunate.