Jennifer Sienes

Years ago, I was sitting across the table from a woman at a wedding banquet when I noticed her hands. There was nothing special about them, except they didn’t match the rest of her. While she was probably in her mid-to-late 30’s her hands appeared at least ten years older. In that moment, I had a backflash of her talking to one of my college professors more than five years prior. How could it be? I no longer lived anywhere in the vicinity of where I’d attended that school. Stranger still, I’d met her earlier in the evening when a friend introduced her as his girlfriend. She was attractive with very long blond hair, but I hadn’t recognized her—only her hands. After some discussion, I discovered that she was, in fact, the woman my professor had been talking to in another time and place.

Fast forward a lifetime, and I still have this odd quirk of remembering random things. Because of this, my father-in-law used to say I was like an elephant (at least I hope that’s what he was referring to). It’s an annoying trait, because once a memory is triggered, I can’t let it slide. Call it a quirk or a case of OCD, but there it is.

I must admit, it often rubs my husband Chris the wrong way. His memory is sketchy at best, and if we disagree about something that happened in the past, he doesn’t even bother to challenge me. The poor guy can’t win. That’s bad enough, but I’m rarely able to focus on a television show we’re watching, because I’m so busy trying to place “that voice” or “that mannerism” with an actor or actress I don’t ever remember seeing before. It gets downright annoying. For both of us.

If I could hone this bizarre gift (or curse, as Monk might say) on more meaningful information, I might be able to use it for financial gain. I don’t care for game shows, but my mother-in-law loved them. Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire were part of the package if you wanted to spend time with her over the last couple years of her life. The sweet woman was all of eighty pounds soaking wet and had broken too many bones to count. She had the most positive attitude of anyone I’d ever known, but her frail little body didn’t move so well once she hit ninety.

It didn’t stop her from enjoying a rousing game of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. In case you’re not familiar with the format, allow me to explain. A contestant sits in the “hot seat” and is asked multiple choice trivia questions. The prize starts at $1000. The first few are so easy a five-year-old could answer correctly. At each level, the questions become harder and the contestant has a choice to take what they’ve won and walk away or risk it all to go on. It was quite exciting for Mom as she’d shout out answers or lament over how anyone would know such a thing.

Chris inherited his mother’s personality (have I told you I’m the most blessed woman in the world?) for which I am very grateful. That’s not to say Christ didn’t inherit a small portion of his father’s personality as well—his frugality. Proverbs 11:24-25 is true: One who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. You cannot out-give God. For this reason, Chris does not spend foolishly on himself, yet he’s generous when it comes to ministry. Imagine how grateful I am that he sees my writing as a ministry and has supported it 100% from the day he encouraged me to quit teaching in order to follow what God was calling me to do.

Let me give you a little background on Chris. If he were alive in the 1800’s he’d have been a cowboy. He loves the simplicity, moral code, and adventure of these pioneers. When I met him, he’d been living in a small log cabin in the woods, which is where we stayed until a few years ago. He also had a couple horses and corral fencing. As close to a cowboy as he could be given his career as a chiropractor. Instead of the real deal, he’s had to make do with watching the occasional western like Longmire, a modern-day cowboy/lawman. I’ve only seen snippets of the show, but Chris has watched several episodes, usually when I’ve been out of town.

Just when I think I have Chris figured out, he does or says something that has me doing a doubletake. I suppose our lives would be pretty dull if there were no surprises. A few weeks ago was one such occurrence. Maybe he was emboldened by my compulsion to connect characters in one show to characters in another. Or maybe he just wanted in on some of the action. Either way, he saw a picture of the actor Dennis Quaid and said, “That’s the guy who plays Longmire.”

I’m ashamed to admit, I snorted. “Dennis Quaid? Longmire?”

He didn’t even hesitate. “Yeah.”

“Dennis Quaid wasn’t Longmire.” It took everything in me to not roll my eyes. “He’s a movie star.”

“Wanna bet?” He pinned his green eyes on me in a challenge.

“Sure. How much?” I was sure he’d bet a nickel or maybe a dime. A dollar would be really pushing it for him. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said he’s frugal.

“A million dollars.”

A shocked laugh exploded from me. “You’re on.” I pulled out my phone, Googled Longmire and showed him the results. “Robert Taylor.” Not that I know who he is. I just know who he isn’t—Dennis Quaid.

“I could’ve sworn it was Dennis Quaid,” Chris mumbled. Then he turned his puppy-dog-eyes on me. “Don’t you think he looks a lot like him?”

I rubbed his arm. “Not even a little bit.” I kissed him on the cheek. “But I just won a million dollars.” Not that I’d ever see it. I should have been wise to counter with a smaller bet—say the dollar I assumed was a stretch for him in the first place—then I might have had a chance to collect.

However, in the grander scheme of things, I’m a big winner anyway. I get to live my life and walk this Christian walk with my best friend—a man of integrity, honor, and humor. That’s worth more than a million dollars any day!


Susan K. Beatty

Flawed People, Flawed Characters

While creating characters, I don’t want to make them perfect. Too unrealistic, right? We are all flawed. As Christians, we are sinners saved by grace.

Fictional people should also be flawed, struggling with some aspects of life, sinners. Sinners who repent and receive God’s redemption.

Speaking of flawed characters, the main male character in my upcoming novel, The Fragrance of Violets, is definitely imperfect. As a new Christian, Nason Williams doesn’t quite know how this new life works and what he’s supposed to do or how to pray.

And right now, his life is a mess.

Let’s be a fly on the wall and listen in as Nason meets with Pastor Luke.

¨ ¨ ¨

Wednesday, November 21

Pastor Luke guided Nason to a group of chairs in the corner. “Now, how can I help you?”

Nason poured out his story, well, two stories. Fiona and Maeve. And his legal morass. His spiritual mentor nodded, asked a few questions, but mostly listened until Nason was spent.

“Sounds like you’re carrying some heavy issues. But they’re not too heavy for the Lord.”

“But what should I do?”

“Have you prayed and asked for guidance?”

Nason figured his neck was red. “Not as much as I should … to be honest, I’ve prayed very little. I know that makes me a horrible Christian.”

“Well, not horrible. But let’s pray.” Without waiting for his guest, he moved his hand to Nason’s shoulder and bowed his head.

The prayer was detailed and earnest.

Man, he needed to learn how to pray like that.

“Amen. Now, Nason, what do you think? Did the Holy Spirit reveal anything to you while we prayed?”

Pastor Luke must have figured from Nason’s silence nothing was getting through to him from the Holy Spirit.

“Nason, both dilemmas seem to be all about forgiveness. You already know that you have to ask Fiona to forgive you, and you will have to grant this other man forgiveness. Despite the outcome of your inquiry.”

Forgive Longstreet? His gut burned with bitterness. The man needed to beg him for forgiveness first.

“I can’t even locate the man to talk to him. How am I going to forgive him if I can’t find him?”

“You know forgiveness doesn’t rely on you seeing him or him being present. The forgiveness is really between you and God. Think of how much the Lord has forgiven you.”

Oh. Jesus had forgiven him so much. Because there had been so much to forgive. And I just keep making the same mistakes. More to be forgiven of. Daily.

As he pondered these thoughts, shame swamped him, threatening to drown him. But even that was part of the Lord’s forgiveness. No matter how many times he forgot.

“Just go back to the Lord daily. Hourly if you need to. Ask Him to help you forgive others as He has forgiven you. And when you forget about His mercy, ask Him to forgive your forgetfulness.”

“I’ll try, Pastor. But, frankly, the threat of losing my job over these false charges is overshadowing everything else.”

“You’re a lawyer. Don’t you have any evidence you can present to prove your innocence?”

“I’m banned from the office, so even if there were evidence, I can’t go looking for it. Although …”

¨ ¨ ¨

What will it take for Nason to rely on the Lord? To give his problems to Him? How will he prove his innocence? But most of all, how can he reconcile with Fiona whom he hurt so deeply when he abandoned her?

The Fragrance of Violets, book 2 in my Faces of Courage series, releases May 17 and is available for pre-order now at a special low price and comes with a gift offer.