Book Review

Typically when an author releases a new book they will ask a famous person to endorse it or write a nice review. The most famous person I know happens to be my daughter Stephanie. She speaks at women’s retreats all over the country; seriously cool places like Las Vegas Nevada, Nashville Tennessee, and Ramsey Illinois. She’s a little bit amazing so maybe it’s not too big a stretch to call her famous. Besides, she has to say nice things. I’m her mother.

Here’s what she thought of book two, Autumn on Blue Meadow Farm:

Enter Stephanie~steph

I am so excited to announce that Blue Meadow Farm Book #2 is now available for purchase on Amazon Kindle! The first Blue Meadow Farm book was a joy to read, so when I got the privilege of being the first to read the second book, I was thrilled! Autumn on Blue Meadow Farm picks up the story of Jack and Lydia without wasting any time, and you immediately remember why you loved that first book so much.

I don’t want to write any spoilers in this review, so I will just say this: everything you loved about Blue Meadow Farm in the summer is multiplied in the fall! You’ll laugh with Lydia as she watches her boys grow into their own unique persons, you’ll cry as she continues to struggle with the memory of the stranger’s attack, you’ll search for truth with her as she sits on the porch swing, and you’ll beg to know her recipe for those cookies she’s always baking for people.

There are a lot of Christian fiction books out there, and the Blue Meadow Farm series is at the top of my favorites list. They are full of all the things I love best: romance, real people, practical life, humor & truth. This book doesn’t leave you hanging, it leaves you wanting more! I can’t wait to read the future books to find out the rest of the story. But for now I think I will re-read the books I have just so I can spend time with my friends within the pages.

Get your copy of Blue Meadow Farm Books 1 & 2 here: Blue Meadow Farm Series

Everyday Field Trip

The first real field trip I remember as a kid was in the sixth grade. We went to the Biltmore House and it was magnificent! We explored every inch of the house and grounds. I remember daddy laughing when he came to pick me up late that afternoon. He commented to my mom how frazzled my poor teacher looked. To me it was the best trip ever as she had allowed us to roam the gardens freely as long as we minded our manners. I cared nothing for the rooms behind the velvet ropes. Just please turn me loose in the vast expanse of blooming azaleas which were higher than my fuzzy red head. I remember gaining a height advantage by peering over the rails of one of the upper porticos down to the lovely grounds. It took my breath away. All sorts of specimens bloomed making patterns only visible from above. An elderly groundskeeper must’ve noticed my wonder. He came along side me there and pointed out a silent visitor across the way. A beautiful young doe fed amongst the blossoms. She lifted her head as though feeling our eyes then went back to her banquet. The picture was postcard worthy and I’ve never seen anything like it since. Something about that moment reminds me now and then to snap a shot in my mind that I can revisit on demand.

Through the years many such snapshots remain. Currently while I’m too weak to travel everyday field trips become little postcards. Like the other day when our grandson Able laughed so big with his Poppy that they both had tears. Who knows what that was about. When you’re four everything your grandfather says is funny. I took a picture with my phone which turned out fuzzy. But the one in my head is as clear as day and it comes with audio. Nothing can turn off that laughter or those smiles.

I don’t want to wear out my cancer card, so I hesitate to tell you some of how it feels. But in case it will help you deal with someone else you know who’s going through it, part of the process is feeling so disconnected. Don’t get me wrong, folks have been so gracious and kind, checking on us at every turn. But for me, the things I used to do to be a useful member of society are no longer on the table. I’m so weak. If I can manage a day without tossing my cookies, it’s a good day. I don’t feel like having visitors or really even phone calls. David fields those for me. I try to answer emails and Facebook messages, but that’s the extent of my strength. It turns out I really am a delicate flower.

But something we try to do as I’m able is an everyday field trip. Once a day, I put on my hat, David takes my hand and we walk to the mailbox. I can always count on Time Warner Cable to send a little note my way. Bless their hearts. But nearly every day some other kind soul has taken the time to find a card, write a note, buy a stamp and send a word just to let me know they’re aware of the struggle which has so thoroughly consumed my life. It feels amazing to know that someone cared that much. I know how hard that is. That’s why I rely on Facebook to message them back. I cannot keep a stamp in this house. The other day I got a postcard from a lady I’ve never met who is a friend of my daughter. Her family was vacationing in Banff, Canada. A golden sky behind purple mountains reflected beautifully in a quiet lake. It reminded me of Asheville and it made me happy to be prayed for from there.

As we turn from the roadside mailbox the snapshot before us is less than picture perfect. I’m not in Asheville anymore. But it’s an image worth keeping too. As my beloved mom-in-law says often, “It won’t always be this way.” One day when I’m well it will be good to have this image available for recall too. It will remind me of all the kindnesses sent my way when I was too weak to fight. As if looking down from a place with a higher vantage I will remember what it meant to be thought of and prayed for every day, even by strangers. Hopefully I will do the same for others.


That same evening my sweet daddy snapped a shot at Lake Norman where he lives and sent it to me to enjoy. Best field trip ever! Happiest of birthdays to you Daddooo!!!


I have earth shattering, ground breaking news! Sadly there is no font quite adequate for this announcement. But y’all, BOOK TWO of the Blue Meadow Farm series is ready for pre-order. I just finished sending it to Amazon and it will be released SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10TH.

It’s called Autumn on Blue Meadow Farm, A Season of Change.

Again, it’s only available for your Kindle, but you can download their free app and read it on your phone or computer. So hop on over to Amazon and buy my second book for only $4.99! Thank you so much for your kind support and wonderful encouragement! Much love from Clarkville!

I can always count on Daddy to be happy for me!

I can always count on Daddy’s support! 

The Dreaded Boy

I heard about the kid long before we met. He had terrorized numerous Vacation Bible Schools every summer from the time he was old enough to attend. Being four years old he would likely be entering preschool. I prayed it would not be the one where I taught. With summer nearly over, I received my class roster. The terrible prospect was real. The dreaded boy would be mine.

A colleague advised me to speak with the principal to ward off the coming doom. Perhaps he could inform the parents that the class was full. But it was not.

Or maybe he could have a frank discussion with the parents ahead of time to place the kid on some sort of probationary agreement. The first time he crossed the line, bam! He’d be out. Surely they’d understand that we can’t have one boy ruining the school year for the rest of the children. Maybe they’d get mad and enroll him somewhere else.

I spoke to the principal who listened well. In fact he agreed that the boy would definitely be a handful. “Let’s give him a chance. You never know. Maybe you are just what his family needs.”

I seriously doubted it.

The school year began as usual. Care Bears greeted my new students from bright bulletin boards. Clear contact paper secured new nametags to each desk. Grumpy Bear shed a tear over the time-out chair in one corner which I was sure would be occupied by the dreaded boy.

At orientation I greeted each parent and child, handing out supply lists with smiles and dreams of a great new year. Each parent received a request for an optional home visit. I prayed that one certain family would opt out.

But they didn’t.

I scheduled their visit last hoping something would come up and we’d have to cancel. In the meantime I waited for the other shoe to fall. The boy could not stay in his seat. His blonde hair was always a mess and in need of a trim. His fingernails stayed black with some sort of crud and his shirttail was generally snotty from wiping his nose.

Then it happened. Busy at my desk while the students worked on a coloring page, I noticed that once again his chair was empty. Suddenly two grimy little boy hands covered my eyes from behind.

“Miz Clark! Guess who?” came his raspy voice. Suddenly he twirled around my neck and hugged me with all his might. He buried his little head in my hair and whispered, “I love you.”

Home visits went particularly well that fall. Parents gushed over the folders I brought with examples of their children’s school work. Still looming however, was the visit to the parents of the dreaded boy. Directions to his home included phrases like “way out in the country,” and “lots of dogs but don’t be afraid; they’ll be chained up.” As I drove I rehearsed how the boy was still tipping his chair over numerous times per day, but at least he had not been in a fight in a while. I prayed not to get lost or bitten or murdered.

Down the long gravel road through dark woods I drove, having not a clue if I was on the right path. There was no street name or sign since apparently this was family land. A small clearing opened up to the front steps of a trailer. I hoped that the barking dogs chained toward the back of the lot confirmed I was at the right home. Either way, I sure hoped those chains held. Suddenly a little blond head appeared as the metal door flung open. “Miz Clark is here! She’s here mama, she’s here!”

“Show her what you made for her!” his mother beamed as she invited me in. On the table was a little pan of brownies her son had stirred together and microwaved “all by himself.” With it he served Kool-aide he had mixed and poured into a tall glass just for me. His purple mustache assured that he’d sampled it properly before my arrival.

Somehow the fact that he still had a problem keeping his chair on all four legs never came up. His mother’s warmth and care for both me and her son were so beautiful. The scales fell off my self-righteous eyes that night and my heart was changed forever.

The prediction the principal made was somewhat true. That family turned out to be just what I needed. Nearly thirty years later, I still think of the dreaded boy… the one who forever stole my heart.

Blue Meadow Farm

I thought it might be fun for those who haven’t read Book One of the series to see the first couple chapters. Let me know what you think in the comments. To order your copy click here. Blue Meadow Farm Book One


The weather was a little warmer than usual for the middle of March. According to the Almanac a scorching hot summer was on tap for Piedmont North Carolina. Rain would be sparse but somehow God willing, she’d survive another year in the landscaping business. As she turned over the soil in her vegetable garden she noticed dogwood trees scattered throughout the woods doing their best to bloom by Easter. They seemed to offer hope. Perhaps this would be a better year.

Her neighbor Jesse told her the legend of the dogwood shortly after her husband died. With its cross shaped blossoms surrounding a crown of thorns, the most intriguing part was the dark bloodstains on the tips of each petal. Every year when they bloomed she could hear the deep voice of her friend.

“God is an Artist and He loves a good illustration darlin’. That’s why He made dogwoods. You’re an artist too. He made you special that way. Let Him use your brokenness to give others hope. The things you’ve been through are for a purpose girl.”

She didn’t feel much like an artist. And she sure didn’t feel special. But for some reason she thought about digging up another dogwood to transplant near the house. Or even better, she could plant one at Jesse’s. She knew without him she’d be a whole lot worse off or probably even dead. Gently he’d helped her through so many dark days that she’d finally begun to hope again. For some reason it scared her a little.

As she climbed off the tractor she noticed a small dogwood with a particularly nice shape. Its limbs stretched upward as if surrendering. Walking through the woods the ground crunched beneath her boots announcing her arrival. Squirrels scurried away and birds grew silent. Pulling a faded red bandana from her pocket she decided it would do. Easily she tore the threadbare cloth into strips then tied them around branches of the chosen tree. If she survived another year she’d come back when the tree was dormant. Though she’d not had much success with transplanting dogwoods she would try again. If for no other reason, Jesse loved them as much as she did. Maybe in her own way she could offer hope to him as well.

Chapter 1

Early June

The reflection staring back at her was hopeless. She tried tipping her chin upward in feign confidence. A little hair gel to tame the light copper curls into a twist might help disguise the fear which caused her stomach to flutter. A successful interview could be the game changer she’d needed for so long. She glanced at her shaking hands. Too bad she couldn’t afford a manicure. But perhaps they’d understand. After all she was a Landscape Artist. The title made her laugh relaxing her nerves. It was quite a fancy label for a woman who dug in the dirt for a living. But Jesse had given her the title so she would keep it.

She stood gazing into her closet wondering if she should wear a dress. The blue cotton one still fit though it was a little faded. But it was soft and comfortable. Perhaps comfort would promote confidence. Lydia had heard that somewhere. Plus a friend had passed down some casual heels which would work nicely. But what if she tripped as she approached the meeting? An image of her lanky frame sprawled face down on the ground started her stomach to fluttering again. She reprimanded herself.

You are such a bumpkin! What made you think you could be considered for such a high profile project?

In her blue cotton dress she practiced walking in the chunky heels outdoors as she knew the interview tent would be set up on site. Finally she kicked them off and stepped into the old cowboy boots which stood guard at her back door. Retrieving a towel from the clothesline she wiped the dust from them and decided to just get it over with.

As she headed toward her truck she realized she was looking down as though searching for lost change.

Good grief girl. Hold your head up and act like you’ve got some sense. And don’t forget to smile… but not too much. Those boys from up North will think you’re a goober if you go in grinning like a possum. Not too many teeth, just a pleasant, confident, I know stuff, smile.

She had never used a portfolio before. Hopefully the pictures on her phone would suffice. All her clients had been secured by word of mouth. Just the other day some lady in the grocery store had said loud enough for God and everybody to hear, “Ride by Norma’s house and look at what that Miller girl did to her yard. It looks like a park!”

Lydia wasn’t sure if the lady knew she was on the next aisle and had said it for her benefit or if she had actually overheard a true compliment. Either way it spurred her on to pursue the interview. She tossed her phone into the truck and straightened the old beach towel over the cracked and worn seat. She smoothed her dress as best she could. The humidity would surely steam the wrinkles out of the fabric anyway. Glancing in the mirror she sighed that it was already wreaking havoc with her hair. Plus she’d have to ride with the windows down since the heat of a North Carolina June was already bearing down. Maybe she would roll the passenger side up to shield some of the wind. But then she might sweat through her dress and have armpit circles.

She sighed aloud and thought again,

Good Lord woman. Just get it over with.

Her old truck started the first time. But it should’ve since she’d just had to buy a new motor. She’d joked with the mechanic that she was getting a new truck, one part at a time. The truth was that her daddy had taught her to drive on that truck; a three speed on the column. She couldn’t afford to part with it even if she wanted to.

Roaring up to the job sight she was amazed at the crowd. The interview tent was surrounded by neatly dressed men she had never seen around town. She should’ve realized the competition would come for miles. As she reached for her phone which held her makeshift portfolio she noticed her hands were still shaking. They looked even rougher in the sunlight. The one redeeming quality was the wedding band from her beloved high school sweetheart. Though she had been a widow for seven long hard years, she couldn’t bear to remove it. Like her daddy’s truck, she couldn’t let go of it even if she wanted to, which of course she didn’t.

The whole area was filled with trucks; big shiny new pick-ups with fancy company emblems on the sides. She made her way to the end of the road where she squeezed her truck into a small opening. The old beach towel followed as she exited. Retrieving it from the road she shook it out and tossed it back through the open window. Smoothing her dress again she began the walk to her future. Nervously she reminded herself.

‘Esse quam videri’ honey. That’s Southern Latin for ‘To be rather than to seem.’

Her sweetheart had many such wise sayings that came to her during difficult times. She could almost hear him reminding from the grave.

Oh if only.

If only she could be herself and still walk without tripping, smile without grinning and talk without redneckin’ it up.

When the line dwindled and she stepped up to the interview table, she was surprised to see that the two brothers in charge of the project were not much older than her. She guessed early thirties maybe. The poor guys apparently had been at it a while as their shirts clung to their bodies with sweat. She glanced at them and sighed as she thought,

Good grief. Why do they have to be so dang handsome?

They stood to their feet and each shook her hand. Neither of them recoiled at the calluses but smiled warmly as she spoke the name of her company.

“We’ve heard of you Mrs. Miller and Blue Meadow Farm. You certainly do beautiful work!” spoke the youngest of the pair. Both men had black hair and deep hazel eyes, but something about the eyes of the older brother caused her to look away. Perhaps if she concentrated on the younger she could keep from stammering like the bumpkin she knew herself to be.

Lydia tried to speak. “Really? How in the world did you hear of me?”

The older brother continued to smile warmly at her with eyes that seemed to search her soul. The younger continued. “We stopped by the local market and a nice elderly lady gave us directions to the home of… I think her name is Norma? We were hoping you’d come by today. Now let’s take a look at your portfolio.”

She swallowed hard as she glanced up trying to relax.

Hold your head up girl. You’ve always been more comfortable with men than women anyway. They’re just not usually quite this fetching.

She felt her face flush with embarrassment as if she were in middle school.

What are you girl, thirteen? Hold your fuzzy head up and act like you’ve got some sense!

Chapter 2

The company name Stephens and Sons had become synonymous with charity. Their father had instilled in them the desire to help those who were hurting and the successful family construction business paved the way for the projects he chose.

“We do our best to take care of orphans and widows. That is God’s heart!” he often reminded. It seemed the more he did for others the more his business boomed. Finally in his sixties he turned the physical aspect of the charity over to his sons. When he first started building and remodeling homes for those in tragic situations he set the goal to complete at least one project per state. Later he realized he didn’t like traveling as much as he thought. The older he became the more he relished being at home with his wife in New York. Their daughter lived nearby and he loved seeing her when she popped in for visits.

His sons however enjoyed the work away from home. The latest adventure had taken them to North Carolina. People had questioned the wisdom of starting a job there in the heat of summer. But the homeowner they had chosen to assist was still recovering from a horrible car accident two years prior. Her neighbors had sent in an application for consideration and Jack Stephens Sr. had known immediately that Denise Parker would be granted a complete home and garden makeover.

Jack Senior’s youngest son Johnny was quite outgoing and thrived when meeting new people. Small talk came easy for him and he never met a stranger. With an eye for design and a winsome personality he was the life of every party. His older brother Jack Jr. was larger in stature and much quieter. He brought sound wisdom into the mix and did his best to keep his brother focused. Having been through several personal tragedies of his own Jack poured his heart into the work. He would much rather be on the road than back in his New York apartment where the memories still haunted him.

However the humidity in the small southern town was unbearable. Jack could hardly catch his breath as he and his brother conducted one interview after another. A fan oscillated furiously in the corner of the tent to no avail. He wondered whose idea it had been to do outdoor meetings in that God forsaken place during the heat of June. Looking up from his notes he was surprised to see that last in line was a woman in a cornflower blue dress. Her eyes seemed to be cut from the same cloth. Perhaps the heat would be worth it after all. His brother stood and reached for her hand which prompted him as well. She smiled a beautiful smile then actually blushed when they spoke of her company. As she pulled up the pictures on her phone he couldn’t help but notice her trembling hands. The pictures were impressive but he wondered if she were strong enough to handle the job.

Jack could hardly focus on the interview and was thankful that Johnny apparently was not quite as captivated by the quiet woman before them. As they scrolled through pictures of her work his heart took a nosedive when he subconsciously checked her ring finger. On her left hand was a wedding band. How could he be so foolish?! Of course she was married. And he knew better than to pursue a married woman. Had he not been down that destructive path before?

She stood, shook their hands, smiled shyly and thanked them both for their time.

“Did you get her number Johnny?” Jack heard himself say. They both looked at him as he too felt embarrassed for the first time since middle school. He’d always heard how hot the summers were in the South. Now he knew it to be true firsthand.




For those of you who do not have a Kindle, download the free app under the order button on Amazon so you can read it on your computer or phone. Hope you enjoy!

Blue Meadow Farm Book One


Currently I’m in week two of my second round of chemo. In case you’ve never walked with someone on the cancer treatment journey, this particular regimen means a day of infusion every three weeks. Right about the time the patient begins to recover from the chemo it’s time to take another. And Lord have mercy, I’ve been sick. We’ve learned a couple interesting things along the way that are helping us maintain a small measure of sanity. One of those is to have Cheerios on hand at all times. Emergency consumption may be needed to ward off nausea which hits all willy-nilly for no apparent reason. Wiser folks warned me to keep lemon drops and ginger candy and other citrusy yumminess available for such occasions. So far they have not been the ‘godsend’ that I was promised. Ginger ale has helped a little, though it like everything else tastes like metallic dishwater. Thanks to several Father’s Day gifts I can now consume the bubbly treat from a Yeti cup so at least it’s cold any hour day or night. God bless the father of our home who graciously shares his bounty.

Back to the Cheerios:  I’ve found that as long as I eat a bowlful the second I wake up in the morning they help stave off impending barfage. Throw in a half a banana and the yumminess is enhanced twofold.photo (1)

Another simple thing which helps is Townhouse Crackers. A couple of those placed strategically by the bed not only settle the tummy but also invoke happy memories of a country song of yesteryear.

“You can eat crackers in my bed any time… you can kick off all the covers in the middle of the niiiight…”

I’m sure the cute little blonde singing the song on the Lawrence Welk Show never had a clue. Maybe she did. Perhaps verse two included the trashcan and the icepack and the two fans blowing at gale force speeds. But I doubt it.

Another simple thing I’ve learned to keep handy is a handkerchief. My daddy always carries one and now I do too. I remember learning to iron on his and was proud of how nice I made them. One day he informed me with all the love a man with a house full of girls could muster.


He gave me a hanky the other day at my request. Though I had some at home, now I know that at least one of them was his. It brings comfort having him near even if it is for wiping my nose. In case you didn’t know, after chemo the nose hair is scorched right off and clear snot just runs free without warning. Now I carry a hanky like daddy and tuck it stealthily like mama up my sleeve or in my waistband for quick and simple extraction.

Another simple thing came from Scripture this morning. I declare I’ve read all around this verse but had never marked it. Basically it says,

“You don’t know everything.”

I’ll take that.

Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The Lord our God has secrets known to no one.”

I also love that it is followed by verses I’ve heard and clung to for years. They are just as true. While I don’t know everything, this I know.

Deuteronomy 31:6- “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you!”

So take that CANCER!

You can have my nose hair, my taste buds and my sleep and my strength. You might even steal a lot of my courage. But you cannot take the things God has planned for me. Because like me, YOU DON’T KNOW IT ALL!

But the Lord does.

Not Real Brave

About a month ago I announced to the world that I have breast cancer. Just like that I put the news out there before God and everybody. I get accused often of being a ‘private person’ which is kind of hilarious considering the stuff I share with complete strangers. However the accusation of being private is fitting. I really hate having people all up in my business. David and I tend to keep to ourselves and just play the cards we’re dealt. Our way of coping is less about sharing and more about making light of things in order to deflect the attention. But lately it seems that he and I both have been impressed that the Lord would rather we allow others into this place we lovingly call Clarkville.

Our family creed has always been the same as the state motto for North Carolina. “To be rather than to seem.” Well… that and “If a little cheese is good, a lot of cheese is better.” Sometimes I wonder if our family mantra is more akin to Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong WILL go wrong.”

Poor Murphy. We feel your pain. Though we truly want to honor the Lord our lives are not always real pretty. I hope you are surrounded with as many good people as we are. For it seems the Lord does not expect us to bear our burdens alone. We’re learning that it’s important to allow people in. It’s not up to us to manage our image or to come off looking like we have it all together. Lord knows we need help.

But how do you say that and not come across like a whiny butt? Or needy? Or even ungodly? Aren’t we trusting God to get us through this? Do we not have the precious truth of Scripture emblazoned upon our very souls?

David said something very valuable to me one day. I love him even more for it. He said that Christian women have it hard. Because we know the Lord, it’s almost as if we’re expected to lose our hair and Flopsy and Mopsy and still go hopping down the bunny trail as if we can happily do all things through Christ Who strengthens us.

Those were not his exact words. My version is a very loose paraphrase. The man has loved me for forty some years and would never say Flopsy or Mopsy. But you get the point.

Sometimes it seems that if we call ourselves Christians it’s supposed to be okay to lose our hair then go out in public feeling hideous.

I’ve got news for you.

It’s not.

It hurts like Gehenna and I’m not good with it at all. I’m sad and crying like a fool even as I type the words. Apparently I am not real brave.

But you know what?

I’m pretty sure God knew that about me already. Step by step, day by day He’s turning my weakness into strength. This morning He took my hand and led me to a crazy verse about Moses of all people. It says that he “Kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the One who is invisible.” –Heb.11:27

Isn’t that odd? God commended Moses because he continued to put one foot in front of the other by trusting the God he could not see. What a picture of faith.

By His grace I will do the same.

At some point I’m going to have to leave the house without hair. It’s one thing to shave your head and look like Kelly Pickler. It’s a whole nother crapstorm to be sick as a dog and sixty-stinkin’-one with your head in a ball cap.

No, I didn’t find a wig. All the ones I tried on made me feel like a Muppet. That was a different cry-fest. So while I still have eyelashes and eyebrows I took the first selfie of my life so I could change my profile picture.

So here I am, in front of God and everybody trying to “be rather than to seem.” The smile is fake but it’s all I’ve got. And right on cue sweet David brought me homemade cheese grits to settle my tummy.

Because if a little cheese is good…

You know the rest.photo cap


Special thanks to my beautiful friend Jennifer Naves who made a house call when my hair began falling out. With the skill of a gentle surgeon she cut away the curls and exposed the fact that life is still a wonderful joy to be held tightly.

Sweet Jennifer, you make me want to be brave. Much love from Clarkville!