Introductions

14671095_1244690235582806_5371762751428877999_nDay Five: Introductions

Well, today we get to find out how quickly news travels in a small town. This morning started with an important quest: Meet the mayor of our village. This was extremely intimidating for several reasons. In a French village, the mayor has quite a lot of responsibility and can really make life for its citizens pleasant or difficult. We are told he controls building permits, makes certain that every child is enrolled in school, and is in control of the village’s water system to name a few. So, we’ve been praying about this meeting for months!

A thin veil of fog hung over the village as we ventured out this morning. We were all bundled in our warmest clothes to walk the short distance up the hill to the mayor’s office. We decided to leave the kids behind with my sister and Mandy to keeps things simple. The town is extremely quiet, so our voices seemed loud to us as we practiced our lines in French. We’d even gone so far as to write out most of what we wanted to say in case we panicked and forgot or simply couldn’t communicate. As we climbed the steps to the office, we could hear voices in the office above. My mom turned to look at me with wide-eyes and then, with a deep breath, she opened the door.

“Bonjour!” she cried, and all eyes in the room turned to look at us as we stumbled through the doorway.

I don’t know how, but we stumbled through those first awkward sentences and managed to introduce ourselves to the mayor and his small staff. He seems kind and maybe just a little younger than we are which set me at ease for some reason. Perhaps I was envisioning some grumpy old man who prefers to keep his village just the way it is ‘sans Americains’. But, he seemed like he was probably a nice guy with a few kids at home. The rest of his staff rushed over to greet us. Two women, one older with an administrative position I couldn’t quite understand, and the other my age who is the town secretary. They seemed determined to understand us and eager to be helpful. So much so, that the mayor left us in their capable hands to go run another errand. When we hit a snag with our communication, I pulled out the list of questions we had and handed it to the secretary. She was so clever! She immediately copied it on the machine and handed the list back to me. Then, she went through our list one item at a time and helped us work through all our questions and comments. We wanted to make sure they knew that we intend to be fully a part of the community as much as they will allow, buy local products and services, and participate in community events. This was apparently the best thing we could have said, because they started inviting us to events, even calling friends to let them know that the Americans would be joining the festivities. We are now committed to a big work day tomorrow where a crew of locals will work to clean up the medieval fortress for the winter and begin preparations for the summer festival. Apparently, each summer they gather in period costume and open the fortress to tourists and other visitors. They serve medieval foods and sell other related items to the tourists like a medieval fair. It’s a huge event and the whole town works together each year to make it happen.

So, tomorrow we will go and be brave, trying our best to be helpful and make new friends as we join in the work at the castle. At the very least, it will be a chance to see the castle up close. We’re equal parts excited and nervous, but determined to be brave in these situations, no matter how awkward it is to be the only person who has no idea what is going on.

By the time our meeting was finished, the two women in the mayor’s office seemed like our new best friends. The secretary has a daughter the same age as my oldest daughter and a son just a little younger than our youngest. She talked me through the options for school and promised to help us get them enrolled when we are ready. That tiny conversation took a huge load of worry off my shoulders! I was reminded once again that God is in complete control of all of this and I need to stop worrying so much. The older woman promised to help us find firewood and they even called the trash company for us to help us negotiate a bigger bin for our home than the one already issued. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to not have to handle that myself over the phone. As we said our goodbyes, they insisted we call them if we need anything else at all. Isn’t that amazing? I think I’m in love with small town France.

We went home and said our goodbyes to my parents, sister, and friend. They went off to see Paris, all of them promising to come again soon and insisting that we take some time to rest now that we are settled in. It would have been harder to let them go if I didn’t already know my parents were coming back in three weeks. I went in and set the table for lunch, heating up the leftover soups we’ve had for the last few evenings at dinner. Lunch was a great time to have a little family meeting and check in with how the kids are handling all of this. They were excited to hear there are other kids in the village and even seemed a little excited to hear about the schools they would attend in the fall. When we told them about our plan to join in the work day they were crazy excited to hear about the medieval festival and couldn’t wait for a chance to see the castle up close and personal.

Not an hour later, a truck pulled up at the front gate. It was a young man offering to bring us firewood. He said someone had called from the mayor’s office and he was happy to help us prepare for the winter. We were thrilled! I am so grateful to already have neighbors watching out for us here in our new home. We arranged everything and he’s coming back tomorrow afternoon to deliver the wood.

At this point I have to brag on my husband. He’s so crazy brave, you guys. Seriously, how many men do you know who would move to another country where they don’t speak the language and stand there talking with someone using the few words they know, sure they’re pronouncing it wrong, and not even blush when the other person corrects them. He amazes me with his courage and his determination to soldier on. I’m so grateful to be in this adventure with him by my side.

I heard the church bells ring two o’clock and wanted to cry. I had really been hoping for a nap, but now it was time for my afternoon work in the house. Graham took one look at me and smiled. “You should curl up here on the sofa in front of the fire and sleep. You’ve worked hard enough, why don’t you take the afternoon off and just rest?”

Have I mentioned I love that man?

So, that’s exactly what I did. I curled up in front of a crackling fire and slept…for two hours! It was awesome. I woke feeling like a whole new person. Then, I took the girls to the grocery store and we chose a few items for tomorrow night’s dinner. I tried to decipher the items in the baking aisle, hoping to find the ingredients to bake cookies for our neighbors, but I couldn’t find baking soda or baking powder. In the end, we gave up and decided to bake a batch of my grandmother’s yeast rolls as a gift because I could at least find the yeast. I’ll have to do some research and find out where to buy the spices and baking ingredients I can’t seem to find here.

In the end, I’m calling this day a win. Not only did our visit to the mayor’s office go a hundred times better than I imagined, but we have hope of making friends here, we have firewood on its way, I got a long nap, and the chili I made with half translated ingredients turned out almost chili-like. That’s pretty good for the end of day five of #ChateauLife.

Errands

lafauche-at-sunsetI can’t believe we woke up in a chateau in France. I can’t believe we own a chateau in France! How is this my life?!

The first thing I must tell you is that it is cold. To be honest, we weren’t really prepared for how cold it is. We had done our research and somehow didn’t quite understand how cold it was really going to be. It’s not that it’s unbearable, just under freezing in the mornings…it’s just that we aren’t ready. You see, we’re moving from a part of the U.S. that isn’t really all that cold until January and even then, you can get by with the bare minimum of winter clothing for most of the winter. This morning, I woke up with memories of our first mornings in Maine when we lived there long ago. We weren’t prepared then, either. But the difference is, I know that now. So, when my feet hit the cold wood floor and I look out over the glittering frost covered hills that shimmer outside my window, I know what I must do.

I don’t own the right winter gear for this climate, so as I layer on my clothes, pulling on extra warm socks and three layers of shirts, I make a mental list of what I’ll need to buy in the next week for each of us. A warm hat for Graham and I, a pair of gloves for him that I’ll probably have to order because his hands are much bigger than the average Frenchman’s, another pair of jeans (or two!) to wear instead of my thin cotton skirts I usually work in, a few more sweaters for the kids and maybe another pair of pants, too. Thank goodness I insisted we all bring winter boots and heavy coats!

Today we had to get some official things taken care of and our friend Michael in Gondrecourt Le Chateau has offered to help. So, we left the kids with my family and headed his way. It’s about thirty minutes away, but a beautiful drive through the country and a handful of tiny farming villages. We see foxes along the way and big white cows, their breath steaming into the morning air above the fields.

The first order of business is to get a bank account set up, if possible. We’ve spent months debated which bank to go with, hours of research and pointless phone calls that lead nowhere have really left us defeated. But Mike suggested that we bank with the French postal service because they are well connected and available everywhere. Most Americans will be as shocked as we were to hear that the post office is also a bank, but it has a lot of advantages for us, especially since we live in such a small village in the middle of the countryside. Banking at the post office means we’ll have access to a bank within walking distance if necessary.

Well, the bank/post office experience turns out much like we’d been warned all bureaucratic items would. We arrive and Mike introduces us, explaining in French what we would like to request. But of course, they can’t see us right now. They ask us to make an appointment for next week. That’s immediately disappointing because we’d hoped to have an account so that we could set up our phone and internet by the weekend. Oh well. The account manager comes out and asks a lot questions. I’m so grateful for Mike because he helps us not only answer her, but pushes her to find solutions when she brings up reasons we can’t have an account. For example, we don’t yet have a residency visa, something I was afraid would be a major roadblock. He convinces her to accept another document instead. We don’t have a bill from our electric company to show them. He says he’ll call and get a letter from the company stating we are clients and she agrees that will suffice. She asks for our “family book” and he helps her understand we have no such thing in America, offering her our family birth certificates instead which she accepts. So, in the end, we have an appointment for an account and a solid list of items she’ll accept to open our account. Then, he goes so far as to call our electric company and settle the matter of the letter immediately. Within minutes it is in his email and printing for us. What a blessing it is to have good friends like Mike!

Then, he took us to city hall to request official notarized copies of our passports so that we don’t have to carry the real thing everywhere. He also explained that we should meet with the local police and introduce ourselves so that they’ll be aware there are new foreigners living in the area who may not fully understand all the laws and requirements. That is a little intimidating, but might come in handy if I break a minor traffic law and get pulled over. Hopefully they’ll be as kind as everyone else has been.

Before we left, we stopped by Mike’s computer shop to admire the incredible work they’ve done in setting it up. His partner, Rob, built the front of the shop himself and it looks amazing. Graham noticed the new radiator they had sitting in the old fireplace and asked where they got it. Before long, we were being led into the main house where Mike’s dad was introduced as a retired builder. He has connections all over the region and many years of experience building and remodeling, so Mike helped us to ask him a few questions about the best way to heat our new home with its drafty rooms and three separate heating systems. In the end, he offered to come see the house so that he could give us a better answer. We were thrilled and invited them to join us for dinner on Tuesday evening. So, in the end, we’ve already booked our first dinner guests.

Back at the chateau, we had a quick lunch and then the girls all piled into the car to do a little shopping in the city of Chaumont. It’s big enough to have some larger department stores, but we headed up to the top of the city in the old part of town in the hopes of finding a café. We squealed as we wound through narrow streets in the gathering darkness. As I reached the top of the hill, I found a series of empty parking spaces that seemed manageable and pulled in. We were in a section of the city I’d never seen, where the buildings were much older and the streets wound between them little wider than an alleyway. Little shops lined the sidewalks and we set out in search of our café. We never found it. BUT we did find a lot of ways to spend money! I bought a cute handmade wool hat from an adorable little shop that sold hats, scarves, hosiery, and other warm things for women. Honestly, I would have taken half the store with a smile, but thankfully the machine wouldn’t accept my credit card so I was limited to the hat which I could afford if I paid every single euro I had and borrowed ten more from my mother. She happily obliged. My sister found a pair of soft gloves, too, so the little shopkeeper seemed very happy to have been invaded by the Americans. Next door was a guitar shop that my oldest drooled over, but it was closed, so we made a promise to come back. At the corner sat a very large Chinese restaurant, sealing the fate of this particular town to become our family’s new favorite. As we turned the corner, we stepped out into a square where men were setting up stands like little tents. A Christmas market! It will be fun to come back in another week and see all the vendors with their Christmas wares for sale.

We shopped for nearly two hours in the cold and then realized it was time to get back for dinner. So, we wound our way back through the dark streets in time to heat up a big pot of Italian soup. (The soup that must not be named;) I fell into bed exhausted, but so grateful for another day of successes. We may not have a bank account yet, but I think just maybe we’re going to survive this beautiful crazy #chateaulife.

First Things First

We packed all of our things and headed to the chateau, ready for our first day and eager to get started setting it up. We arrived at the chateau to find my sister Shannon and her friend Mandy already making breakfast in a very cold kitchen. Within an hour the kitchen was nice and warm and we were pulling out dishes from the cabinets and cupboards to wash. You wouldn’t believe how many dishes there were. Dishes in the kitchen cabinets, dishes in the butler’s pantry, dishes in the dining room, in the grand salon, in the basement, and even in the wardrobe in the entryway. We washed dishes all day. ALL DAY! And at the end of the day, we hadn’t finished half of them by far.

Still, it was progress. We’d decided to get the kitchen and butler’s pantry set up first, followed by the dining room so that we could handle meals more easily. It also makes me feel a lot more settled if my kitchen is put together because all of life flows from the kitchen in my household. So, while the dishes ran in the dishwasher, we made a plan for how things would be arranged. I really wanted the kitchen to feel more rustic, warm, and inviting. It has a long wooden beam stretched above the wall where the stove and sink are located, like space used to be an enormous hearth. That thought sends my heart aflutter, y’all. Really. You have no idea how I’ve always wanted a kitchen like that. So, I asked if we could make that the focal point of the kitchen and arrange everything else to match. I was surprised when they all agreed, mostly because I’m used to thinking the exact opposite of how everyone else thinks and I expected them to hate my suggestion. Instead, they were excited to make it happen. So, I asked if we could bring in some rustic pieces of furniture to replace the cute 1960s kitchen table and cupboard that were already there. When I showed them the pieces I had chosen, they agreed and we all got busy unpacking the random stuff from all the furniture in question so it could be moved.

The first piece of furniture was really a gift from my husband. Yesterday when we arrived at the house, the sellers mentioned there were two pieces of furniture they couldn’t take with them that hadn’t been included in the initial sale and they wondered img_4207if we would like to purchase them. One was a grandfather clock and the other was a bread cabinet that was designed to stand in the kitchen as a work space and when the bread was mixed, it would be placed inside in a hidden compartment beneath the lid so that it could rise in the warm kitchen without being in the way. I won’t lie, I got a little teary when they explained what it was. So, my husband bought both pieces on the spot. That beautiful bread cabinet was sitting in the corner of the grand salon, but by lunch time it was in my kitchen, holding court in the very center as my work island. Graham will add hinges or sliders to it soon to make it easier to lift the lid so that the cabinet can once again do its job and I can hardly wait to see it full of warm, rising bread.

img_4208The other cabinet was in the small salon holding board games. It is the most beat up, weathered looking cabinet in the entire house, so it fit perfectly in my kitchen. By the time it was in place, the kitchen already looked like the vintage French kitchen I’d always dreamed of. Somehow my eyes glance right over the worn linoleum, the peeling wallpaper, and the assortment of outdated and half-broken appliances. In my mind’s eye, it’s a haven for the cold and hungry, a refuge where all are welcome and the bread is always fresh. Staring out at the setting sun as it fell beyond the green hills in the distance, my heart felt so full. As my mother walked in the door, she gasped.

“It’s incredible!” she sighed, tears in her eyes. “And it’s all yours! Are you happy, Heather?”

“It’s OURS, Mom. Are you happy?”

She nodded, shaking tears off her lashes. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted and I can’t believe we get to do this.”

I pulled her into my arms and we cried right there in the center of the kitchen. It’s ours, and I can’t believe we get to do this crazy beautiful #ChateauLife.

 

 

Day One

 

day-oneThere’s a song that’s been running through my head for the last week and as I sit down to type up the story of our first day in our new home, I can’t help but think of this song once again.

It’s day one of the rest of my life
It’s day one of the best of my life
I’m marching on to the beat of a brand new drum
Yeah, here I come
The future has begun
Day one

– Day One by Matthew West

Our first morning in France, we arrived at the chateau just as the family was gathering for a tour. My parents and sister were there along with a friend and our realtor. we were greeted warmly by the French family of siblings who were selling the house. They were very excited to see us again and to meet our children, going so far as to kiss each of them on the cheek with the customary greeting of the French. They encouraged our children to pick out their new rooms, and followed them around chattering excitedly in French although we didn’t understand them. The home had been a family retreat for over thirty years and they had many memories here with their parents, their children, and grandchildren. I knew it had been a hard decision to let it go, but seeing our children’s excitement seemed to make it a little easier for them to let it go.

We had been in the home before, but this time we looked with new eyes, opening cupboards, cabinets, and drawers to take stock of what we might need before we settle in. Did I mention the house is furnished? It is filled with antiques on all three floors and we are so grateful to be able to move right in on day one. In the end, we decided we could probably make it through the night with what we had and just start making a list of items we’ll need as we go along.

After a tour and lots of stilted conversation with the French family that none of us fully understood, we loaded into the cars and drove into the town where we knew there to be a restaurant for lunch. It was closed! (For those of you who were following our last adventure on FB, you know how I took this personally!) Our realtor swore he saw a restaurant on the way into town, so we all climbed back into our cars and drove back the way we’d come. We climbed out and paraded across the street to the little local pub where the chef met us coming out. They were out of food! No joke. They had twice the locals for lunch since the only other restaurant was closed and they literally ran out. I offered to share the picnic I’d kept in the car for just such an emergency (see? I’m learning.) But the realtor insisted we try one more place. So, off we all went again, down the road and into a new village I’d never even seen before. We stepped into the restaurant just as the waitress was cleaning up the last of the tables. Luckily, our realtor pleaded our case and convinced him to set us a table. They agreed to feed us whatever was leftover from lunch if we would accept it. We agreed, and settled in at the table set for ten in the corner.

That was about the time when the man’s wife came in from the kitchen. She took one look at all of us and turned to him with raised eyebrows, demanding to know what was going on. He told her to prepare lunch for ten. “DIX?!” she yelled. He nodded with a smile and walked out. She stormed back into the kitchen grumbling to herself while the women in the room tried not to laugh out loud. You don’t have to speak French to understand the thoughts in that poor woman’s head. She was nearly finished with her work for the day, probably had the kitchen half cleaned up, and her husband agreed to something he wouldn’t even have to work for. We sympathized, making us doubly grateful when they began to bring out the food. Since it was the leftovers, they served us family style with big bowls of food in the center of the table that we passed around and shared. There was a potroast in thick brown gravy, slices of roasted beef well-done served au jus, a bright green salad with a sweet mustard dressing, stacks of bread, and two bowls of thick cut fries. Then, out came the cook. She smiled at all of us filling our plates and asked a question none of us understood. We all turned to the realtor and he explained she hoped we liked tripe because it was coming out next and they had plenty of it. Tripe. It looked like a bowl of beef stew with carrots and potatoes floating beside some odd colored bits of beef. The beef itself was from the inner part of cow and its rubbery texture was made worse by its strong flavor. It turns out we do NOT like tripe. I can see why they had so much leftover.

After lunch, we all met in the notaire’s office for the signing. It was a very long meeting that included all parties on both sides who were available, the notaire, the realtor, and a translator. It was very crowded, and very boring. But then, the realtor said it was time for the keys. The man sitting next to me turned to me with an enormous grin and pulled a set of keys from his pocket, placing it in my hands. We were now the proud owners of a chateau in France.

After handshakes, goodbyes, kisses, and hugs, we all headed back to the chateau. It was now dark (we were in the office for three hours!) and the chateau was a little cold, but we raced around trying not to cry as we stared around us in awe. It’s ours. It’s really ours. I can’t believe it.

We decided to go to dinner to celebrate, so we headed toward the only restaurant we were sure would be open. (Although, I’m beginning to wonder if you can ever really be certain of such a thing.) Climbing the hill into the oldest part of Chaumont, we were happy to see it was open despite the fact there were only a few people inside. The temperature was dropping now below freezing, so we hustled into the warmth. The waitress greeted us with a smile and asked if we wanted the formule menu. That’s like a fixed price four course dinner where you take what they give you. We reluctantly agreed, feeling lucky after such a successful day. When the main entrée arrived, we were stunned. It was a beautiful pastry filled with layers of ham and cheese with béchamel sauce drizzled across the center onto a pile of potatoes. It was beautiful and delicious and absolutely the best celebratory dinner, a perfect ending to our life-changing day.

Tomorrow I’ll share how we began to tackle the massive To Do list that comes with buying a chateau in France. ‘A demain.

Moving to France Giveaway

img_4171 The hardest part of packing was sorting through my office and trying to decide what to keep, what to take with me, and what to let go. In the end, I packed up a huge pile of fabulous gifts and sent them out to my street team, The Sutherlin Circle. They have worked so hard this year sharing my books on social media, posting graphics and ads they created to share when my books went on sale, and generally cheering me on whenever I needed a rally cry. It was fun choosing what treasures to send them.

Then, I packed one last box of story notes and journals to take to France, and sent the rest with my inlaws to their home out in the country where my desk will wait for me to return. I can’t imagine all the wonderful stories I’ll dream up in the French countryside, but I’m sure they are waiting for me to discover them on long walks in the wood or quiet afternoons in the chateau.

Wishing you could join the adventure? I really wish I could take you with me, but I just don’t think you’ll fit in my suitcase. Instead, how about a pack of treasures to make you feel like you’re the one traveling to France this weekend? It includes a signed copy of One Paris Summer by the fabulous Denise Grover Swank, a travel diffuser and lavender oil from Young Living essential oils, a French themed journal, a copy of my book, A Familiar Darkness, a handmade bag, and lavender bath fizzes to help you envision yourself in a relaxing French bath while you read.

I’ll be choosing the winner from my author newsletter list, so sign up HERE to enter. Already subscribed? Well, you’re already entered then, you lucky duck! Be a good friend, and share this giveaway with your book-loving friends online. Maybe they’ll loan you the books if they win. 🙂

Sign Up to Win!

The Countdown

countdown35 days. That’s the tally running in my head. 35 days until we load our family and everything we own onto a plane and move to France.

35 DAYS.

This has been a whirlwind from the start, but now I find myself facing the end of the storm and I’m left a little breathless.

It all started in February. February 8th, to be exact. My mother was driving home from a funeral when she had a vision. A house, a French chateau with 12 bedrooms purchased for less than $200,000 and dedicated as a refuge for missionaries. It was a beautiful idea that left her in tears. She called me that day crying, and the next, and the next. But each day she became more convinced that this was more than just an idea. It was a true vision. It was going to happen.

And it is. It is happening. In 35 days we will fly to France and close on that house. My family will live there as we prepare it for our very first guests. By this time next year, life in France will be falling into the category of “my new normal.” To say I’m excited is an understatement, but I think I’ll be a lot more excited once we get through this next month and arrive in France. Between here and there feels like a minefield of emotions.

As I pull out my planner, I have to face the reality that I only have four weekends left to visit friends and family. A little more than four weeks to pack up the house and sift out what is going with us and what is being left behind. I’m planning quick trips to hug family members we don’t see enough as it is, and knowing some we may not see again for a very long time…or ever. I’m not a complete newb at this. When we moved to Maine from Arkansas, friends joked that we were moving to another country. I remember being annoyed with their teasing, thinking it wasn’t that far, we could visit whenever we wanted. But, in those three and a half years we seldom saw extended family. We missed funerals, weddings, and births in those years away, teaching me a valuable lesson that has me staring at my calendar in tears. What will I miss this time around? What if I can’t get to everyone before we go? Have I already said some of my last goodbyes? Have I loved them all well enough? Have I told them how much I adore them? Did I say it often enough?

Packing lists and the monstrous To Do list I have sketched in the margins of my planner can never compare to the Goodbye List. It’s heartbreaking. But…it’s life. The truth is, we are all saying last goodbyes and we just don’t know it. Whether I live in France, or just down the street, I can’t possibly know when a goodbye is forever or just for now. So, we have to love a little deeper, hold each other a little closer, and say “I love you,” just a little more often. It’s the only way to live without regrets. While I try to fit everyone we love into our countdown, take my advice: Don’t wait to tell the people you love how much they mean to you. You never know when your time is up.

Have you ever had to say goodbye without knowing if it was the last time? How did you handle it? If you’ve got advice, I’m all ears!

 

Trick or Treat

halloween-parisHappy Halloween! I have to admit Halloween snuck up on me this year. 2016 has been packed with travel and BIG changes in my personal life. But after a whirlwind of activity and life-altering decisions, I’m excited to finally spill the (jelly)beans…

WE’RE MOVING TO FRANCE!

That’s right. It’s crazy, I know, but it’s true. In one month we’ll be moving into our new home, a 12 bedroom chateau in the middle of the French countryside. It’s an adventure that we never planned on, and I can hardly wait to see what happens next. I keep thinking I’ll wake up to find it’s all a joke, it can’t possibly be happening to me…but this is definitely real. It’s happening, folks!

So, while everyone around me is planning their Halloween costume or stocking up on treats for their neighborhood party, I’m planning final errands and packing lists. I can’t wait to get started and I’ve decided to bring you along with me on this wild ride. So, grab some chocolate and meet me here each week for the latest news. It’ll be an adventure to remember.

Quest for the King

the-story-starts-with-youDo you ever feel like the world is against you? A lone warrior facing unending obstacles in your quest for righteousness and honor? Sometimes it’s true that life is stranger than fiction. And sometimes fiction just seems to reflect the subtle truths of life.

For those of us who love to read fantasy, we can often find ourselves longing to live within the pages of our favorite tale. The wardrobe to Narnia beckons us, the path to Rivendell whispers, and the search for Hogwarts lives on in our child-like hearts. We long to run away with the characters on an adventure of our own to a place where life is more than the mundane, and our purpose is clear.

But we do have an adventure calling to us and the quest we’ve been given comes from the King himself, The Great Lord of all the Land. He leans down to whisper His urgent message in our mortal ears. Who will listen and take up the charge? Who will accept the quest of the King? Will it be you?

Quest for the King is a 60-day devotional written as a fantasy tale. As a devotional, it is the story of each of us, sent on a quest by the King of kings. As a medieval fantasy tale, the story takes us on a journey to find the King’s child. For both, the path is filled with obstacles and enemies. Each day is another step in the journey to find the child, complete with bible verses, reflective questions, and lines for journaling your thoughts.

The story starts with you.

You are summoned to the throne room. The Lord of the Land has a quest just for you. It is a path fraught with danger, but you must choose it of your own free will. You won’t be alone, though. There will be many on your path:

  • The Saint
  • The Prisoner
  • The Guide
  • The Promiser
  • The Liar, and others

Some will be helpers sent by the King. Some will be enemies sent by the beast who will use every weapon in his arsenal to stop you from finding the child. He will even try to steal your soul. Will you find the child before the beast finds you?

Why don’t you open the scroll and take a peek at the summons to start you on your quest?

 

Day One: The Summons

You’re a peasant and your life is a mess. The house is a pigsty–and while the pigs make messes on the floor, you are to blame for the filth on the counters. You don’t have time to wipe them or even to scrub the cauldron. The master of the guild has you working late, and your efforts to learn are unappreciated. He leaves you to menial tasks like delivering messages and sweeping as if you are naught but a slave. It’s discouraging.

You daydream about being a knight in the King’s service. That will never happen, though, because the King only chooses the able and the daring, and you are neither. You can’t battle dragons. You have no sword, no shield, and no training. You have no garments appropriate to even stand before the King, let alone to fight for Him. What would the King want with a peasant like you? You wonder what it would be like to have a mission, to be a warrior who had the King’s eye. You have dreamt about a meaningful life and have cried out in frustration for the lack of it.

As you attempt to tidy, there is a knock at your door. Who would be calling before the rooster crows? You run your fingers through your unkempt hair and pull your wool cloak from the wall, in hopes of looking like you are heading out. If the interloper believes you are leaving, you may escape his judgmental glare into the pit you call a home. You push open the door.

It is a well-dressed man, in fine white linen trimmed in gold cord, and he takes up the entire door frame. There is no chance to sneak past him. He smiles, makes eye contact, and asks for you by name and title. When you mumble in agreement that you are whom he is seeking, he bows until his head passes the plane of his waist. Then he presents you with a scroll made of beautiful parchment, wrapped in a rich burgundy ribbon, and stamped with the seal of the King.

“So glad you are ready to go,” he says. “The King is waiting.” You stare at the scroll for a moment and then look back to the courier, but he is gone as a wisp into the fog. You start to question whether he was real at all or just a figment, but realize you are still holding the King’s sealed words in your hands. Trembling, your fingers break the wax and untie the ribbon. The scroll is a summons to appear before the King. You are to leave everything behind and come at once.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

“…he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

Psalm 40: 1b-2

~~~~~~~~~~~~

As you go about your week, put your cries down own paper. Leave them here on the pages of day one. Know that your Heavenly King hears your cries and will lift you out of the slimy pit.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Although this project has two contributors, we came into it with one purpose. It has one author page, because we have one love for Christ that we want to share with you!

AJ is a debut author with the publication of Quest for the King. She has a Master’s Degree in International Affairs from The George Washington University and has been writing and editing as an analyst for almost 20 years. She is currently a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and is active in both her church and her sons’ Boy Scout troop.

AJ reads non-fiction books on a range of topics to include devotionals and health-related books. She also enjoys the whimsy of young adult fantasy, the depth of myth and lore, and the excitement of magic. She loves the epic struggle between good and evil.

AJ lives in Maryland with her two sons, three dogs and two cats.

AJ’s website is AJBensonAuthor.com.

~~~~~~

Heather has published eight novels including the LIGHT OF LOIAN series, which spent five months at the top of Amazon’s free Christian Fantasy charts, and SOUL TIES, a supernatural young adult series.  Her first novel, A Light in the Darkness, was featured at the Arkansas Literary Festival.

She is the former president of Fiction Writers of Central Arkansas and a current member of the American Christian Fiction Writers. She is an active speaker at conferences and enjoys teaching others about writing tradecraft. Her fantasy novels, for middle grades, teens, and young adults, are exciting adventures filled with quests and new discoveries.

Heather enjoys writing in many genres. She is currently working on a paranormal suspense series and also released a contemporary romance, Loose Ends. From children’s lit to non-fiction, there are few genres she wouldn’t love to explore.

Heather lives in Arkansas with her three teenage children and loving, supportive husband.

Quest for the King is available at your favorite online retailers. Check it out!

Distant Shadows

distant-shadows-ebookArcher and Hannah have followed her dreams to the Big Apple and here they will find more than they ever imagined. Distant Shadows is a fast-paced urban fantasy filled with carnival troupes, demon hunters, angels, and battles with dragons in the streets of New York. Readers are calling it a thrilling page-turner that will keep you thinking about it for days.

Ready to start the adventure? Grab the first book, A Familiar Darkness, for FREE. The third book, Distant Shadows, will be available everywhere ebooks are sold on Sept. 12th. Pre-order it now and save.

New Release: Call of Brindelier

Today’s hot new release is from fantasy author, Missy Sheldrake. Welcome, Missy! Tell us all about your incredible series, The Keepers of the Wellsprings.


I’m excited to announce that the third book in the Keepers of the Wellsprings series, Call of Brindelier, is now available on Amazon! If you haven’t read the previous books yet, read on for a super-quick crash course.

When I started writing this series, I really wanted to tell a story that was rich with fantasy, but not overly dark or mired with war and violence. I wanted to show the light side of fantasy: the cheerful, magical, uplifting side which I always drink up whenever it emerges in a story, and which always seems to be so fleeting in fantasy tales. I wanted to tell a story that would capture the hearts of young and old alike. Don’t get me wrong, my books aren’t void of conflict and evil. They tell of uncomfortable moments. There is violence and wickedness, but it’s those moments in my stories which are the fleeting ones. In the pages of my books, you will find fairies, Mages, Paladins, Elves, Dreamwalkers, Princes and Princesses, and even dragons. You’ll travel through a world rich with magic and wonder.

In Call of Kythshire, you’ll learn all about Cerion, a seaside kingdom which has celebrated peace for over a century. You’ll meet His Majesty’s Elite, a guild that is the right hand adventuring team of King Tirnon Plethore, and you’ll join Azi Hammerfel, a young squire who has grown up within the guild’s halls, through disappointments and triumphs. By her side is Rian, her childhood friend, an Apprentice of the Mage Academy. You’ll meet Flit, a fairy from Kythshire, who is as tricky as any fairy you might imagine, but has a depth of character and a sense of purpose uncommon for a typical fairy. You’ll see her world unfold, and feel the evil threat of Sorcery that looms, waiting to destroy it. You’ll learn a little about the Wellsprings, but not too much, for their existence and workings are a well-protected secret. (Click here to read an excerpt from Call of Kythshire.)

In Call of Sunteri, you’ll meet the strong-willed slave boy, Tib, who makes his first appearance as he escapes from the grips of Sorcery in the desert continent of Sunteri. He has help crossing the vast oceans to reach Cerion, but he doesn’t realize it at first. A mysterious being speaks to his mind, controlling his thoughts and making suggestions to ensure his own survival. In the meantime, Azi has been given the task of escorting the Prince of Cerion and his wife-with-child to the lakeside Kordelya Castle as the prince faces suspicion and ridicule after the events of Call of Kythshire. But a darker force emerges from the Dreaming, whose wicked intent is to use any means necessary to escape its prison and claim the magic of the Wellsprings for his own. In this book, you’ll see the devastating effects of the overuse of magic, and what it does to the Wellsprings and the creatures who thrive around them. (Click here to read an excerpt from Call of Sunteri.)

In Call of Brindelier, a dark force looms, more powerful and destructive than any threat Azi and her guild have yet faced. You’ll follow Celli, a scrappy street fighter, as she is enticed into the grips of a powerful Sorcerer. You’ll watch Tib come into his own as he sneaks through the streets of Cerion, uncovering the darkness while also working on a mysterious project. You’ll follow Azi on a quest set by Princess Margary to find proof of Brindelier, a city in the clouds which is the key to all of the Wellsprings in the Known Lands. But Margy is not the only one interested in Brindelier. A dark force has been gathering, poised to claim it for their own. Control over the Wellsprings hangs in the balance. (Click here to read an excerpt from Call of Brindelier.)

This series is appropriate for all ages, but I recommend 13 and up due to some violent themes. There is no sex, swearing, or excessively graphic violence in the Keepers of the Wellsprings. Throughout the series, you’ll encounter daring sword fights, violent magical moments, and a few quick deaths.

Call of Brindelier, the third book in the Keepers of the Wellsprings series, is now available on Amazon.  This weekend, I’m offering book one of the series, Call of Kythshire, for free, and book two, Call of Sunteri, for just 99 cents. Click here to download your ebooks while they’re on sale!