You Never Know Who’s Listening

by Susan G Mathis

In August, I had the blessing of being part of the book talk and signing at the Cornwall Brothers Museum in the Thousand Islands, NY. With COVID, I wasn’t sure if anyone would come, but I was shocked that fifty people filled the room and many more were turned away because of the number restrictions in place. I sold sixty books that day.

While that was great, I was surprised by grace not once but three times! Three women asked me to sign their books, and while they did, each one of them confessed that my stories brought them closer to Christ. One had been far from the Lord for decades; two others were unbelievers, but because I write about the Thousand Islands that they love, they read my novels and came to Christ!

My novels are fictional stories of broken people who found healing and hope, but they don’t overtly share the Gospel message or give an altar call. Somehow, they touched hearts and drew them to the One I write for.

Yet I guess that’s the way with many things we do. We care. We’re kind. We give. We love. We share God’s love and people are touched, changed, and sometimes redeemed by what we say or do. I imagine a little bit of heaven will include the unfolding of those moments where we have touched a life for eternity, whether it’s through a word, a deed, or through our writing. And won’t that be fun?

Reagans Reward Book Cover

Reagan’s Reward

In my sixth Gilded Age story, Reagan’s Reward, it’s 1912. Reagan Kennedy assumes the position of governess to the

Bernheim family’s twin nephews, and her life at Cherry Island’s Casa Blanca

becomes frustratingly complicated. Service to a Jewish family when she is a Gentile and tending to eight-year-old, mischievous boys yields challenges galore.

Daniel Lovitz serves as the island’s caretaker and boatman. He tries to help the alluring Reagan make sense of her new world, but she calls into question his own faith background and forces him to face the hurts of his past. Then there’s the jealous lady’s maid who seems intent on wedging herself between them. Can he and Reagan ever find common ground on such a small island?

Reagan’s winsome spirit and faith-filled life touches not only the Bernheims but also Daniel. Her journey reminds us that following Christ can make an eternal difference in the lives of others.

Susan G. Mathis

Susan G. Mathis

Susan G Mathis is an award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Her first two books of The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, Devyn’s Dilemma and Katelyn’s Choice are available now, and she’s working on book three. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family LegacyChristmas Charity, and Sara’s Surprise are also available. Susan’s books have won numerous awards, including the Illumination Book Award, the American Fiction Award, and the Indie Excellence Book Award

Visit www.SusanGMathis.com for more.
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Sometimes it’s so hard to discern what’s going on in your life emotionally, psychologically, or spiritually. Something is off-kilter, but you just can’t put your hands on it. You’re not quite yourself. You’re edgy. You’re frustrated. You’re tense. Or your relationships aren’t quite right. You’re distant. Distracted. Touchy.

And then it hits you.

It’s been days since you’ve prayed or spent quality time with God. Or maybe you’ve gotten hooked on a television show or a novel that’s not good for your soul. Or perhaps you’ve been hanging out with a friend who loves to gossip or spew negativity or fear. Now what?

In today’s hyper politicized, fear-mongering, propaganda-driven world, Godly discernment is more important than ever! But how?

Learning to discern such things is a spiritual gift, and a discipline, that you can cultivate in your life. First Corinthians 2:10-14 talks about this gift. It’s the ability to judge between good and evil, and then it’s choosing to live in the light of God’s truth. That’s what makes the difference.

Discernment comes when you understand what God wants for you personally and for your relationships. But wisdom comes when you choose to obey His truth. Sometimes it’s choosing to spend more time in prayer or the word, more time together as a couple or family, and less time with unhealthy friends or listening to media. Sometimes it’s simply applying common sense to something. Other times it’s stepping back, observing a situation and praying, reading God’s word, and finding the truth in the matter.

“Do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion” (Proverbs 3:21).

In our personal lives, we need wisdom and understanding more than ever. Our culture has become so tainted with the “wisdom of this world” that it can become difficult to make daily decisions and choose well if we don’t have the plumb line of God’s truth to anchor us well.

In my latest novel, Devyn’s Dilemma, Devyn couldn’t discern who she was and how God loved her. Her past and her fears blinded her to the truth. She struggled to know God’s truth. She believed the lie.

Discerning between God’s truth and worldly wisdom isn’t always easy, but learning to discern wisely is the best way to strengthen your personal life and your marriage relationship spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically. It’s a good way to go.

How have you learned to discern through the years? I’d love to know!

Susan G Mathis

Susan G Mathis

Devyn's Dilemma by Susan G Mathis

Devyn’s Dilemma by Susan G Mathis

Susan G. Mathis is vice-president of Christian Authors Network and an award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate New York. Her first two published books of The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series are Devyn’s Dilemma and Katelyn’s Choice. She’s working on book three. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, Christmas Charity, and Sara’s Surprise are also available. Susan’s books have won numerous awards, including the Illumination Book Award, the American Fiction Award and the Indie Excellence Book Award. Visit www.SusanGMathis.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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No need to put away favorite holiday traditions just yet! I have more to say about the Yule Log tradition. In a previous post, “The Christmas Yule Log (part one)” I explained the origin (see December 23).

Since most homes now have central heat and gas fireplaces, the Yule log custom has been replaced by a log-shaped cake called Bûche de Noël. In my new book Sara’s Surprise, a Bûche de Noël cake was Sara’s special Yule Log wedding cake.

The name Bûche de Noël originally referred to the Yule Log itself, but was transferred to the dessert after the custom had fallen out of use during the first half of the 20th century. By 1945, Bûche de Noël referred to the cake.

A Yule Log cake (or Bûche de Noël) is a traditional dessert served at Christmas, especially in the United Kingdom, Catalonia, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Canada, Lebanon, and other French colonies. It’s resembles an actual Yule Log.

The original Yule Log recipe developed during the 19th century. It is traditionally yellow sponge cake baked in a large, shallow Swiss roll pan, iced with chocolate buttercream frosting and rolled to form a cylinder, then iced again on the outside. Often the icing is flavored with liquors or espresso.

Yule logs are often served with one end cut off and set atop the cake, or protruding from its side to resemble a chopped-off branch. Dragging a fork through the icing gives it a bark-like texture, and powdered sugar is sprinkled to resemble snow. It can be decorated with actual tree branches, berries and ivy, or these can be made from marzipan.

Consider making a Yule Log decoration a tradition.

To make a Yule Log to adorn your table, you’ll need the following (real or bought at a craft store):

  • A log about 14 – 18 inches long
  • Pine cones, dried berries, such as cranberries
  • Cuttings of mistletoe, holly, pine needles, and ivy
  • Feathers, cinnamon sticks
  • Festive ribbon (use paper or cloth ribbon, not the synthetic or wire-lined type)
  • A hot glue gun

Wrap the log loosely with the ribbon, leaving enough space that you can insert your branches, cuttings and feathers under the ribbon. You might even want to place a feather on your Yule Log to represent each member of the family. Once branches and cuttings are in place, glue the pinecones, cinnamon sticks and berries.

Use it as a centerpiece for your holiday table, surrounded by candles and holiday greenery. You may ask each family member to write down a wish for the upcoming year and insert notes into the ribbons. Then you can talk about your hopes for abundance, good health, and happiness in the next twelve months.

Susan G. Mathis is vice president of Christian Authors Network and a multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Katelyn’s Choice, the first in The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, is available now, and book two, Devyn’s Dilemma, releases in April, 2020. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, Christmas Charity, and Sara’s Surprise are available now. Visit www.SusanGMathis.com for more. Susan is also author of two premarital books with her husband, Dale; two children’s picture books; stories in a dozen compilations; and hundreds of published articles. She lives in Colorado Springs, enjoys traveling globally with her husband, Dale, and relishes each time she gets to see or Skype with her four granddaughters.

Website: www.SusanGMathis.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SusanGMathis

Twitter: https://twitter.com/@SusanGMathis

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/susangmathis

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/susangmathisaut

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6044608.Susan_G_Mathis

 

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In Sara’s Surprise, a Bûche de Noël cake became a special Yule Log wedding cake. For Sara, it was the perfect cake for her Christmas wedding. But where did the Yule Log tradition come from?

The custom of the Yule Log goes back to before medieval times. It was originally based on the Nordic tradition of Yule, a Winter Solstice festival. Burning the Yule Log was one of the most widespread Christmas traditions in early modern Europe, with the first recording of its appearance dating to 1184. For the Christian feast of Christmas, the Yule Log symbolizes the battle between good and evil. “As the fire grows brighter and burns hotter, and as the log turned into ashes, it symbolized Christ’s final and ultimate triumph over sin.”

The traditional Yule Log was originally an entire tree carefully chosen and brought into the house with great ceremony. The largest end of the log would be placed into the fire hearth while the rest of the tree stuck out into the room. The log would be lit from the remains of the previous year’s log that was carefully stored away. Then, the Yule Log was slowly burned throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas.

As Christianity spread through Europe, the Yule Log tradition became part of Christmas Eve festivities. The father or master of the house would sprinkle the log with libations of mead, oil, or salt. Once the log was burned in the hearth, the ashes were scattered about the house to protect the family within from evil spirits. On Christmas morning something green, a leaf or the like, was brought into the house before anything was taken out. A piece of the Yule Log was then saved to light the next year’s log.

In Provence, France, the whole family helps to cut the log down and a little bit is burnt each night. In the Netherlands, the leftover log is stored under a bed. In some eastern European countries, the log was cut down on Christmas Eve morning and lit that evening.

The custom of the Yule Log spread all over Europe and different kinds of wood are used in different countries. In England, oak is traditional; in Scotland, birch; in France, cherry wood is sprinkled with wine before it’s burned so it smells nice.

In Devon and Somerset in the UK, some people use ash twigs instead of a log. This comes from a local legend that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were cold when the shepherds found them on Christmas Night. So the shepherds collected twigs to burn and keep them warm. In Ireland they use a large candle instead of a log that’s lit on New Year’s Eve and Twelfth Night.

In France, the Yule Log is bûche de noel where a custom required that peasants to bring a log to their lord. In Burgundy, gifts were hidden under the log. In Brittany and in Provence prayers were offered as the log was lit, a custom still widely observed called cacho fio (blessing of the log). The eldest male parades the log around the house three times. Then it’s blessed with wine and lit with the ashes of the previous year’s log.

Susan G. Mathis is vice president of Christian Authors Network and a multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Katelyn’s Choice, the first in The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, is available now, and book two, Devyn’s Dilemma, releases in April, 2020. Learn more about The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, Christmas Charity, and Sara’s Surprise at www.SusanGMathis.com. Susan is also author of two premarital books with her husband, Dale; two children’s picture books; stories in a dozen compilations; and hundreds of articles. Susan lives in Colorado Springs and enjoys traveling globally and Skyping with her four granddaughters.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SusanGMathis

Twitter: https://twitter.com/@SusanGMathis

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/susangmathis

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/susangmathisaut

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6044608.Susan_G_Mathis

 

 

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I hate conflict. I hate getting into disagreements with my husband. I don’t like having a spat with a friend. As a parent, I hated the constant conflict resolution that was needed when my two kids didn’t get along.

As a teacher, I sure didn’t enjoy being the one who had to break up the many tiffs between pubescent girls. And as a Grandma? Well, let’s just say that conflict’s not in the grandma cards.

So when I began writing fiction, I knew that conflict is a main ingredient to a good story. To write good, compelling fiction, I had to have compelling conflict that would hold the reader’s attention. But how was I going to address the very thing that tempted me to run? I had to settle that question—and quick!

Although conflict is often present in almost every day of our lives, we may overlook or ignore it. When confronted with conflict, I tend to self-talk, fret, stew, worry, and struggle with sleepless nights. But those ways of dealing with conflict won’t make a good story.

Conflict is uncomfortable, and most conflict just plain hurts. But that’s what keeps readers reading. Like you and me, readers want to know how others deal with conflict, how characters try and fail and try again and finally succeed.

Because it’s hard for me to invent conflict when I want to avoid it, I had to be aware of this weakness. So when doing rewrites and editing, I often have to add an element of conflict or deepen it.

In Sara’s Surprise, there’s a lot of conflict going on—conflict I drew on from personal experience.

Have you ever been harassed by an employer? I have, and it’s pretty traumatizing. In this “Me Too” movement, lots of women are speaking up about their trials and tribulations in the workplace, so I decided to explore the topic.

In Sara’s Surprise, Sara struggles to work as a pastry chef, navigating abuse and harassment by her volatile French boss, as was all-too common in 1873. Women had no recourse and often feared they’d be blamed and dismissed from their jobs, so they kept silent. Back then, women were often devalued and unappreciated, under-paid and treated poorly. And men took advantage of the cultural norms of the day.

As a single mom in the early 1990s, I was treated poorly, too. And I regret that I was afraid to speak up and expose the nasty man who threatened, teased, and tormented me. As a leader in the organization, that should never have occurred, but it did. Thankfully, today’s climate is more open to reporting such abuse.

Sara’s Surprise explores this problem from several angles. But in the midst of Sara’s trials, she falls in love and learns a lot about the art of baking French pastries. And the lovely Christmas surprise will delight you this holiday season. I hope you’ll pick up a copy and enjoy the story.

Susan G. Mathis is a multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Katelyn’s Choice, the first in The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, is available now, and book two, Devyn’s Dilemma, releases in April, 2020. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family LegacyChristmas Charity, and Sara’s Surprise are available now. Visit www.SusanGMathis.com for more.

 

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