Monthly Archives: October 2018

Return of the Song–a book review


I am so happy to recommend to all my readers the book Return of the Song by Phyllis Clark Nichols. Every now and then we find a book that we can simply enjoy and feel uplifted at the end. This is one of those. Featuring Caroline, a young woman who has lost her love and her music, the story also involves an autistic musical genius in the body of a little girl. I am excited that this is only the first of The Rockwater Series and that I will meet these and many other interesting characters of Phyllis’ creation again.

The tragic death of her fiancé only weeks before their wedding throws Caroline into sorrow and despair. An accomplished musician, she had written a song for her bridegroom, his wedding gift. Only, she hadn’t finished it before his death. She continues to play the piano at a small town church, to teach piano, and to respond to the needs around her. But all the time her heart feels empty of the music she loved so much. She can no longer compose. She plays more like a robot and, though her music is beautiful, those close to her like Sam and Angela in whose cottage she lives, recognize the depth of her sorrow.

Caroline remembers the joy she once had playing the piano her father gave her when a child.  When hard times came he had to sell the piano, not just any piano, a 1902 Hazelton Brothers piano, worth more money by now than Caroline could possibly afford. She has a dear baby grand, but she wonders where her old piano is. She wants to know who owns it now and maybe, just maybe, be able to play it one more time.

As if trying to track down a rare piano is not enough mystery for Caroline, she has a midnight visitor who plays perfectly her own unfinished song which no one else has ever even heard, then dashes away before Caroline can see who it is.

Following the trail of her old piano brings surprising and life changing results. Not only does the search take her from her small Georgia town of Moss Point to a dream mansion in Kentucky, but it takes her to a friendship with wealthy businessman and music enthusiast Roderick Adair who has his own deep longings.

Mystery and pathos, laughter and tears, all are part of this lovely story. Phyllis Clark Nichols has woven a wonderful tale. Your faith will be refreshed when you lay it down. Read it soon so you’ll be ready for Suite #2 of the Rockwater stories.

Phyllis is herself an accomplished pianist. She “enjoys art, books, nature, cooking, travel, and stories about ordinary people who live extraordinary lives.” She lives with her husband in the Texas Hill Country. Her other books include Christmas at Grey Sage and Silent Days, Holy Night (October 2018). I’m going out to look for that last one!


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Apple Doings



Children so enjoy a fresh apple!

he joys of the apple season bring my taste buds and sense of smell alive. Invariably, tastes and scents bring back thoughts of other times, in this case wonderful times. My brothers, for several years as teenagers, picked apples in the fall. Hardeman Orchard was a big one in Habersham County then in the early 1950’s. They grew Arkansas Blacks, Red and Golden Delicious, Winesaps, Rome Beauties, Jonathans, and McIntosh, as well as more I can’t remember. You could ride anywhere in the county and see orchards on hillsides, trees hanging heavy with red, gold, and wine colored apples.

Stan and Charlie often brought apples home with them at the end of a backbreaking day. I was envious of them because their stories of their days’ work sounded so exciting. But I was too young to carry a bag on my shoulder, climb a ladder, and fill the bag with pecks of apples. I helped make their sack lunches and waited expectantly in the late afternoon to see what kind of apples they brought home.

When the boys passed out the apples, it was like Christmas. Sometimes I couldn’t wait to bite right into my apple; other times I might hoard it until later. We had contests to see who could eat an apple closest to the core (I could eat the whole core excepting the seeds!) and who could peel an apple with no break in the peeling. Daddy bought bushels of apples which Mamma canned after we all helped with peeling, paring, slicing. She also made applesauce, cobblers, and fried apple pies. One year we even dried sliced apples but I think Mamma decided that was more trouble than it was worth.

There aren’t that many apples in Habersham County anymore. The growers became discouraged when spring after spring, their crops were ruined by a late freeze. The hills are planted in pines now, or verdant with green pastures where cattle graze.

But in Ellijay, Georgia, apples are still in abundance. Our son’s family recently went to Ellijay for an Ashley family gathering. Included in their weekend were chances to pick apples, eat fried apple pies, and drink that wonderful apple cider. I’d forgotten the beautiful red-gold cider until William Jr’s text about their weekend. Then I was reminded of some fun family times enhanced by tall glasses of the sweet/tart drink.

We stopped on the way home from North Georgia to buy apples at a fruit stand. I asked where they were from and was glad to know they were from Georgia, though Ellijay instead of Habersham County as of yore. I gleefully picked two or three of several varieties: Galas, Golden and Red Delicious, Arkansas Black, and Rome Beauties. The woman running the stand told us, in reply to our question as to how long she’d been “doing this,” that she had been working with apples since she was twelve years old, working first with her father, now for herself.

The apples are so crisp, sweet, and tasty! I cooked some yesterday and the aroma filled the house. Just the scent was worth it all. But the applesauce, mostly smooth but with tasty little chunks from apples that didn’t cook down as well–oh, it is delicious!

The rest of our apples will be in a bowl ready for the grandchildren when they come. When we moved here to “1010” where we have plenty of counter space, I determined I would always have a bowl of apples and/or bananas, in or out of season, for the children to enjoy. If they don’t like anything I cook they can always eat an apple. We slice them sometimes. Sometimes we cut them crosswise so we can see the star God placed in the middle. The children love applesauce and cobbler. But the very best is simply to eat a whole juicy apple, hear the snap as the first bite comes off, go sit in the swing eating, or wander around looking at butterflies and finally throw the core in the bushes.

All this talk about apples makes me think of that Bible verse that has to do with the language we choose to use. I think Solomon must have liked apples too.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.  Proverbs 25:11

Enjoy your apples!


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Beyond the Desert


A stately, scarred saguaro cactus

We had a very happy experience in the Arizona desert this summer. We always had water available, were dressed with protective, comfortable clothing, our cameras ready to snap pictures of tall amazing cacti, and we were never far from our wheels, be it our own vehicle or the Hummvee we all climbed in for the ride of our lives. And the chance to interact with our grandchildren was priceless. But one could not keep from imagining how it would be if one were stranded out there. How beautiful then would the desert be?

As I was remembering that fun ride, I thought about some other desert scenes that were quite different.

While in the Holy Land we saw the steep stony mountain our guide said was the place of Jesus’ temptation. After forty days and nights, when Jesus the man must have been wildly hungry, so hungry he could “eat a mountain.” Satan tempted him to turn the stones into bread, even just a small one of those stones would have made a good meal. But Jesus resisted, using scripture to send Satan on his way. Satan tempted Him twice more before angels came and fed Him.

Remember Hagar trying to survive desert life with her son Ishmael after jealous Sarah sent them away? It came to the critical point when there was no more water, they could not squeeze one more half drop of water from the skin Abraham had given them. We have never been as thirsty as they were that day. The blistering sun was beaming down. They were both at the very end of their resources, but she was a mother, desperate to save her son. They would have drunk water full of wiggle tails if they’d had it, or licked moisture off a spiny leaf, or gotten down on their knees with the camels in the mud to lap up dirty water. But of course there were no camels and no water. But then Hagar began to sob and her boy started crying and Abraham’s God heard them both. He opened her eyes so she could see a well nearby.

And there was the time the Israelites complained bitterly that they had never been so thirsty in Egypt as they were on the trek to the Promised Land. As always, God provided their needs, this time water from a rock. Moses got into serious trouble over that miracle because he struck the rock instead of waiting for God to bring it forth His way. But the water did gush forth.

As we drove along a Texas highway on another trip many years ago we–my husband, his mother, our two children, and I–were surrounded by miles and miles of barren looking land. Tumble weeds, something I’d only heard about in a song by “Sons of Pioneers,” blew pell-mell in the hot desert wind. Elizabeth, Charles’ Mom, was pretty sick and wanted some chicken noodle soup. Not only was there no restaurant in sight, there were no gas stations, no houses, just mile after mile of Texas. When we spotted the structure ahead we knew we would stop, no matter what it was. It was a combination gas station and restaurant. With great relief, we began to avail ourselves of all the comforts offered. This stop along a Texas highway has become a favorite family story. It wasn’t just the very stiff waitress who would not converse with my very lugubrious husband; it wasn’t just that they had no chicken noodle soup even though Elizabeth went back to the kitchen herself to look; and it really wasn’t just that the hamburger William ordered was so big it was hanging off the edges of his plate. I think our experience was so bonding and so unforgettable because “we saw the desert and then we saw beyond it.”

The relief after any desert experience is so sweet.


Charles, Brenda, Will, Christi, William Jr. Mattie and Thomas–On The Desert!!!

That ride on the Hummvee? It was really wild and wonderful; we saw the desert up close; and bumped so hard over rocks and gullies and holes that I’m very surprised we didn’t lose anyone, even though we were well strapped in. And oh my! We were so glad to put our feet to pavement after that! Lunch in a Sedona restaurant, even with snake sausage on the menu, was so refreshing.

I think the food the angels fed our Lord after he triumphed over Satan must have been the best in the world and heaven too!

The assuaging of the thirst of Hagar, and the Israelites, in their separate desert times had to be sweet beyond measure.

Whether a literal desert with hot sand and not a trickle of water, or a desert in life experiences, such as financial loss, a medical crisis, a devastating divorce, or the sudden death of someone very dear–in any case, one experiences hopelessness, pain, fear. It’s okay to cry like Hagar. God has prepared a well of fresh water for you, and strengthening food. Look past the sand, beyond the desert.

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