Jennifer Sienes

Do you believe in love at first sight? You know, that moment when you lock eyes with “the one” and truly believe, if you just had a chance, he could change your world? I’ve experienced this twice. The first time, I was a mere child of thirteen and saw my heart’s desire while walking through San Francisco’s Union Square. The deep yearning grabbed my soul and held fast for months. But alas, being so young, I knew my parents would never approve. To even broach the idea of such a love with them would leave me riddled with resentment.


Then it happened again—more than two decades later. My blue eyes caught his dark-chocolate ones and I nearly swooned. Giddiness bubbled up my throat like fine French champagne (not that I’d ever had fine French champagne), and I had to claim him for my own. I was now a grown woman, and it didn’t matter what my parents might think, although I suspected they would approve. And they did.


Truth be told, when it came to intelligence, he wasn’t at the head of his class. I blame it on his early years locked up in isolation most hours of the day, a victim of circumstance. My mom, bless her heart, pointed out that it mattered naught, because he had other skills and ranked high on the Cuteness-Scale.


By now, you’ve probably discerned my true love wasn’t for a mere man, but a canine companion whom I aptly named Einstein. He had the flyaway white hair and intelligent dark eyes of the scientist, and like the scientist, I assumed he’d be a later bloomer. His namesake didn’t walk until he was two, nor did he talk until he was three. My Einstein had a few struggles, too. One of them was stairs. They confounded him, and it took a lot of patience and kibble, for his food-motivated personality, to overcome this challenge.


I can only imagine what you’re thinking about me—nutty dog person here. But Einstein was my first dog, and he came at a very critical time in my life—only a few months before my daughter’s near-fatal car accident (which inspired my novel Illusions) and a year before my ex-husband abandoned me. He was a gift from God offering comfort and loyalty when I desperately needed it.


But it could have just as easily been the first in a series of losses.


Only a week after I got Einstein, I had to be away from the house for a few hours. I made sure he had plenty of food and water and locked him in the backyard. It was late when I got home and dark as pitch outside. To this day, I don’t know how he got out, but he was nowhere to be found. I searched every nook and crevice around the house, a fist squeezing my heart tighter with each passing minute. When I didn’t find him, panic sucked the air from my lungs. It didn’t matter that he was chipped—if someone got ahold of him, they most likely wouldn’t give him back.


I wandered up and down our street, calling his name in a hoarse whisper. I didn’t want to wake the neighbors—then again, maybe if I did, they’d join in the search. After ten minutes, I turned back toward the house, tears streaming down my face, heartbroken over the loss. Please God, don’t take him away from me. “Einstein,” I choked out. “Here, Einstein.” Suddenly, there was a white blur of movement twenty yards ahead. His little body broke through the darkness as he sprinted to me, his floppy white ears waving behind him like two little flags of surrender.


I squealed with joy as he launched himself into the air and landed in my waiting arms. His wet nose nuzzled my neck the rest of the way home while I sobbed a thank you to God for keeping him safe. I would never take his (or the Lord’s) presence in my life for granted. The bond we had grew stronger with each year until the day he turned fifteen, which is when I held him for the last time.


It doesn’t take keen intelligence for a dog to teach its human valuable lessons, and my life was richer for having Einstein. He taught me unconditional love, compassion, gentleness and more. You can read about one of those lessons titled “Soul Sniffer” in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Life Lessons from the Dog. Enter the drawing for a chance to win a signed, paperback copy.


Einstein lives on in my upcoming novel Providence (Book 3 in the Apple Hill Series) as the Bainbridge Family dog, although his name was changed to Dashiell. You can meet him for yourself when it releases next April.


Susan K. Beatty

A Tribute to Authors and Readers – My Heroes

It’s probably no surprise that as a Christian fiction author who writes about courage at the intersection of faith and grit, I have other authors who are my courage heroes.


Imagine how hard it was to pioneer Christian fiction when Grace Livingston Hill started writing in the early years of the 1900s. I suspect she was just following where the Lord led her, but still, writing something new always takes courage.


Later pioneers of the modern Christian fiction movement such as Frank Peretti, Francine Rivers and Jerry Jenkins, among others, gathered their courage and gave us something new. And we all know what blockbusters they turned out to be.


I have loved and admired many Christian writers over the last thirty-five years, authors who revealed through story the hand of God and His glory. But it’s not an easy task. In addition to the sometimes laborious job of actually writing, there’s all the editing, getting an agent/publisher, and finding ways to tell readers about your books. Sometimes there are rejections and bad reviews to send them into despair. With courage, they allow the Lord to comfort and hearten them to keep writing and improving their craft.


Of course, thankfully there are times when readers gush over your work. Then it takes courage to stay humble.


Today, I take great delight in walking this newbie author journey with some of my favorite author heroes: mentors, who are light years ahead. And I can’t forget members of my various writer groups, some of whom are a mile or two ahead of me on the path and some who are walking arm in arm with me. They teach, share, sometimes even prod when necessary, and encourage (in + courage). I’m grateful these Christian authors don’t look at the rest of us as competition, but as partners in the journey. You can read articles from some of those hero authors right here in this magazine.


I can’t forget another group of heroes. Readers. You encourage authors by purchasing our books; following us on Facebook, BookBub, and the like; subscribing to our newsletters; and leaving reviews. After the Lord’s approval for a job well done, readers are absolutely the most important part of why we write and share stories that reveal Christ. It takes courage for a reader to give a new author a chance, to support and encourage them, while continuing to love and support their long-time favorites.


This newbie author salutes you all: pioneers, super-stars, faithful writers, mentors, friends on the journey with me, and readers.


Lord, I pray that you encourage and strengthen writers who are faithfully and diligently writing down your stories. Bless the readers who look forward to new books by old-friends and newbies alike. Amen.