Category Archives: The Arts

God created us to reflect Him through the arts

The Visitor Misses a Visit

 

 

Seven mystery/suspense authors (I’m one of them!) and seven mystery/suspense novellas, each centered around the attractive and vivacious Miss Connie B. Wright, a kind of Jessica Fletcher of Murder She Wrote, and maybe a little bit of Nancy Drew. Each story is unique in setting, situation, and interesting new characters. And within the pages of each novella, you’ll read how the ever-persistent sleuthing by Miss Connie helps solve riddles and bring the criminals to justice.

And to help you get acquainted with Miss Connie and her work as the head of a charity foundation, I’ll be posting a chapter a day of the Prequel, The Visitor Misses a Visit.

Then, in February, you’ll have the opportunity to purchase— or maybe win a free copy— of Julie B. Cosgrove’s The Visitor Makes a Retreat.

I hope you enjoy reading this first chapter of The Visitor Misses a Visit:

 

CHAPTER ONE – Wariness From the Warehouse

Chicago 2008

“What’s going on there?” Connie Beatrice Wright set her computer case on the chair near her father’s desk.

He rounded the desk and gave her a brief kiss on her temple. “They finally sold that tire graveyard next door. Summer isn’t ever going to smell the same, thank the Lord.”

“But the police?” What would they want with a tire dump?

His chin sagged as he moved back to his desk. “Are they still there?”

“Like ants.”

“As best I’ve learned, they uncovered something when the bulldozer started clearing out that huge pile of tires behind our warehouse.” He sat in his chair and propped his elbows on his desk. “Had a coroner car over there a bit ago.”

A coroner car? “Someone was dead?”

“I know that look, Connie. This is not a lark or a game.”

She ran her finger over the marble nameplate on the edge of his desk that read Mackenzie Wright. “A death is not a game, Daddy.” She knew what he was thinking by the grim set of his mouth. “I’m not doing a Nancy Drew thing.”

“It has nothing to do with us.”

Someone tapepd at Dad’s almost-closed door. “Mr. Wright?” The warbly voice belonged to Mrs. Hodges, the long-time volunteer who worked as their receptionist most weekdays. “A policeman here to see you.” She nudged the door open a little wider.

“Come in, Officer.” Dad got up and met the man at the door.

But he wasn’t a simple police officer. that was clear. He wore a sport coat and khaki pants instead of a uniform.

“Detective Rainey, Mr. Wright.” The man opened a wallet with a card and shield inside. “You own this property and the warehouse behind it?”

“The foundation owns it. The warehouse is used to store the supplies we donate to the local shelters in the area.”

Dad had left out mentioning the many shelves that housed their various displays, decorations, and activities that they used to put on all of the fundraising events. Those shelves were cloaked with her mother’s dreams, brainstorming, and sheer imagination.

But that wouldn’t interest Detective Rainey.

“I’m afraid we’ll need to limit access to your warehouse until further notice.”

“Why in the world—” Connie took one look at her dad’s stern face and halted her comment.

“I understand, Detective.” Her dad reached out his hand. “We’ll certainly be praying that you can quickly figure out what happened to whoever you found.”

The man took Dad’s hand. “As to that, have your heard of any strangers lurking around here? A man, maybe a few months ago?”

The man had been dead that long? Not that they would have noticed with the strong stink that already filled that side of the property from the tires. Connie’s left eyebrow arched on its own before she caught herself and forced it even with the other.

“Not that I remember, but I’ll ask around. Especially to the volunteers who help us in the warehouse.”

The detective nodded and left without glancing at Connie.

“Has anyone been lurking?” She leaned over with her hands flat on the desk when Dad took his seat again.

“You heard me tell the detective that I hadn’t seen anyone.”

“Uh-huh.” Her father wouldn’t lie about a thing like that. or about anything else for that matter, but Connie could smell a mystery in the making—or already made as the case may be..

“I think you should forget about all of that and go on to Mama’s office. Your office.” He gave a sad sort of smile, then stood and took one of her hands. “Your very first day as an employee of the Wright Foundation. We are so glad you agreed to come on board so quickly after finishing your business degree. Your mother’s arthritis is advancing to the point that it is very difficult for her to type, or write, or even craft the decorations. I know handing the reins to you will relieve her mind a great deal.”

Connie chuckled. “Well, after all, it is what I was raised to do, and I will love every minute!” She kissed Dad’s cheek and then stepped down the hall toward the reception center.

“Well, a proper good morning to you, Miss Connie, and congratulations on your graduation.” Though trim, almost petite, Anna Hodges’ vibrant and confident carriage made a formative statement. It was why she had been chosen to be the first face and voice that prospective donors encountered. Wearing her signature red blouse and purple scarf, she set down her skinny latte and reached out as Connie crossed the main lobby.

“Thank you, Mrs. Hodges.” She ga ve the frail woman a side-arm hug, then helped herself to a cup of coffee.. “Have your seen my mom around?”

“In her office, my dear.”  She snapped her fingers and pointed up with a tilt of her head. “I mean, your office.” She gave Connie a wink.

“You have blessed day, now.” Mrs. Hodges waved to her as she turned to greet an entering volunteer. The woman glowed pure joy.

Connie had always wanted to be just like her. She straightened the gray jacket over her short navy dress and slipped back down the executive hallway until she came into what had always been her mom’s office. The name plaque on the door still read Eleanor Wright.

“Well, there you are, sweetie.” Mama’s lively voice cracked a bit. “I was afraid you got lost.”

Connie smiled and shrugged. “Redirected by the police out there.”
“I heard about that from Mrs. Hodges. Seems they found a body.” Mama tsked and put a lid on  top of a box. She eyed Connie. “Did you talk to your father?”

Connie stiffened and met her mom’s stare. “About?” Had they changed their minds about letting Connie take her mom’s place with the fundraising? “You’re not having second thoughts?”

Mama shrugged. “I am, but then it doesn’t matter, really.” She held up her crooked fingers. “I can’t even tie shoelaces anymore. How am I supposed to decorate for banquets?” She flattened her mouth as tears filled her eyes.

“Mama, you know your own limitations, but that doesn’t keep you from the brainstorming  you’ve always done to set up perfect events. You have a gift for matching the exact activity to the charity and the donors who will be interested in supporting it.” It was uncanny.

Mama glanced at the carpet.

“Just because you can’t hang drapery or organize all the details anymore doesn’t mean you can’t contribute, and in a big way.” And Connie was counting on Mama’s input.

Mama laid a blue-veined hand on Connie’s. “Thank you, sweetie. That’s more credit than some of your siblings would give me.” She reopened the box and added a photo of their large family to it.

Connie didn’t want to think about family right now. Of her seven siblings, only Paul and his wife, Maggie, with their toddler, Teagan, had attended her graduation on Saturday. Of course, Paul lived the closest and was the nearest in age to her. Though, since she had been an oops baby, ten years separated their births.

“I did talk to Dad, but not about anything in particular.

Her mom paused for a moment. All right, then.”

“Shall I help you pack up your books?” She eyed the tall shelves filled with Mama’s Bible studies, cookbooks, decorating manuals, and photo albums. Lots of photo albums full of every fundraising event the Wright Foundation had ever sponsored.

“Oh, no. I think you’ll need all of those more than I will. I’m only moving over the bare minimum.

Hmm. Connie had hoped to move some of her own things in, but it looked like the office would still be Mama’s even if the person behind the desk had changed.

Mama toted the small box to the open door and called out over her shoulder, “Oh, and Clint should be here soon.” She poked her head back around the corner with a cryptic smile. “Make sure you meet him.” She gave Connie a nod.

Connie pasted on a benign smile. “Okay.”

Clint Rutherford. The golden boy, by all accounts if Mama and Dad were to be believed. He’d only been around for a couple of months, yet they hung on the man’s every word.

 

We hope you enjoyed the first installment of

THE VISITOR MISSES A VISIT

Come back tomorrow to catch the second part, and be sure to join my newsletter in order to get the entire story later this month!

 

 

The Gospel of Christmas Carols

 

 

My mom was part of an organization that helps young women go to college. One of her duties during the holidays was to find musical talent to perform for their local chapter.

My four brothers and sisters and I were the talent on three different years. None of us danced, and our piano talents weren’t developed enough for us to be effective entertainment.

But we all had good voices, and with my mother’s considerable pianistic talent, we rehearsed and prepared a sweet program, complete with three-part harmony and even solos.

Oh, I wish I had a photo of the five of us standing in front of my grandmother’s grand piano, dressed in our cute Christmas outfits, singing our Christmas carols. Those are
precious memories.

Most precious of all to me as a five-year-old was learning the words to the carols:

“Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King. Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinner reconciled.”

As a five year old I  wondered, how can a newborn baby be a King? I thought kings were old men with beards and crowns, wearing royal robes.

We sang: “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head. The stars in the sky looked down where He lay, the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.”

Wow, this King lay in a manger, not a soft crib in a palace. Why?

I wondered a lot as I learned my carols.

For instance, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and heaven and nature sing.”

How can a heart let Jesus in? Oh, I wanted to know. And so began a quest to find out more about this Lord Jesus and how He can come so close that He can be inside of me.

The beauty of the music touched my soul. Such beauty would have to fit a great and good King.

And the words of the carols created beautiful images in my mind of this baby King. Angels announced him. (He must be very, very important!)

And shepherds left their sheep so they could hurry to Bethlehem to see Him. (Again, He must be way more important than most people.)

Wise men from the east followed a bright star. And when they found the baby Jesus they worshipped Him. How did they know Jesus was Someone to be worshipped? (I wondered this when I was seven, and preparing for our second Christmas performance.)

I mean, we’re supposed to obey a King. But worship Him? Only God gets worship. (Somebody told me this; I can’t remember who.)

So this baby Jesus was more than a king? He must be God?

No one in my family could answer my question. I didn’t have a Bible, and even if I had, I wouldn’t have known where to look in its pages to find the answer.

Jesus is God?

He must be. All those Christmas carols we were learning affirmed my question. And those wonderful words comforted me and let me know that there is a God who knows me, who came to make things right, who is worthy of worship as truly God.

Years passed, and with each Christmas holiday I sang those carols. And each time I did, the truth of the words drew me toward Jesus. I didn’t know Him, but I knew of Him. I wanted to  embrace Him, but there was no one to tell me how.

Finally, as a teen, a Sunday school teacher explained how to turn from all the bad things in me, and invite Jesus into my life.

Whenever I think of how Jesus used Christmas carols to prepare my heart to receive Him, I tremble with the wonder of His love.

I think this is the essence of Christmas, at least for me. That God looked down from heaven and loved this little un-churched girl in Rio Vista, California, and made a way through music to teach her and draw her to Him.

Oh, thank You, thank You, thank You, Lord Jesus!

Loss

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This December, I have been juggling two emotions: one of happy expectation for Christmas and the new year, of celebrations with friends and family, of worshiping the newborn King in word and deed, and in beginnings, and hope for hard and rewarding work in the coming seasons.

The other emotion is grief and the process of handling memories. My mother passed away on Thanksgiving, just a few weeks away from her ninety-fourth birthday

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Jun 21, 1947. My mom and dad, flanked by Jay and Frances Reed, mom’s parents.

 

It is a bitter-sweet process. Just last week I stood at my mother’s open casket and grieved over words left unsaid. I grieved over the relationship we should have had. But I thank the Lord that I was able to say many times this year, “I love you, Mother.”

And I was able to place my hand on hers and whisper, though my sobs, “I forgive you.”

 

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My mother was an irregular person: musically gifted, filled with passion, ambitious for her children, but lacking a filter on her mouth or the ability to empathize. Her words could be a balm at surprising times. But all too often, her words cut and bludgeoned.

In the last few years, the Lord helped me to see my mother as a hurting soul and to view her with His eyes of compassion.

She wanted the best for us, but she didn’t know how to nurture us with gentleness and affirmation.

She did excel in a couple of things: She read to us each day and stressed the importance of using the English language well.

She taught us piano and made sure our practice was perfect. I am eternally grateful that she was an exacting taskmaster, because I have grown into a good pianist, which gave me a marketable skill as a music teacher.

She accompanied me on the piano when I sang all over the San Francisco bay area. I couldn’t have had a more dedicated and musical accompanist than Mother.

Her sensitive and artistic soul influenced us to see beauty in music, in art, in nature, in the human form, in architecture and literature.

Joanne Nicolaisen, my mother. By the grace of God, I am what I am partly because of her. Thank you, Mother, for the good memories. I miss your piano playing. I miss your passion. I miss you terribly.

 

 

Healthy Habits

One of the perks of being retired—well, retired from teaching, but not from writing—is that I can take as little or as much time as I want, or need, to read scripture every day.

Here’s my routine: make coffee, have my eggs and bacon, take my supplements, clean up, go to my favorite chair…

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and open my Bible. (My spot is on the couch underneath the painting.)

I like to read large portions of scripture, out loud, with as much expression as possible. I think both seeing and hearing the words helps me concentrate on what I’m reading. And the added expressive reading requires that I correctly comprehend the meaning of the text.

The other day, I read all of Ephesians and was impressed by these thoughts:

  • God prepared certain good works for me to do. (That’s you, too.) Verse 2:10
  • God is able to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.”3: 20 I keep forgetting this.
  • We—not the pastors, nor the missionaries, nor the professionals—are the ones who do the work of ministry to others, both in the church and outside the church. We! Not someone else. 4:11,12

Of course, there is so much more to Ephesians, but these are the texts that stood out in my mind on this particular reading.

The other benefit of reading the entire book (especially one of the letters) is that I keep in mind the over-arching theme and see the main points all in the same reading.

Right now, I’m in the middle of 1Timothy. When I get through Revelation, I’ll start all over again at the beginning.

Do you have routines, too? I’d love to hear.

And one more thing: with Thanksgiving coming up, and Black Friday right afterward, my publisher, Anaiah Press is going to offer a sale on all the books they’ve released in the past two years. That means that my book, High Country Dilemma, will also be on sale starting on Black Friday and continuing through the weekend.

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If you like contemporary romance, set in the Colorado Rockies, you’ll love this book. A lovely girl and a hunky firefighter team up to perform in the annual melodrama in an old refurbished opera house. Lots of sweet romance with a redemptive message of God’s love and faithfulness. Safe for teen readers, too.

Stay tuned for more information on this sale.

Have a great day!

Dena