The Promise

By Dianne Marie Andre

There once was a bookstore owner whose wife decked the shop identical every Christmas. She placed three pole lanterns a few feet inside the door. Everyone who entered stopped to gaze at the extraordinary glow.

Regular customers—bookworms the shop owner knew well—would pause in remembrance, and then mosey off to their favorite section.

Tourists couldn’t pass the lanterns without first smiling at the golden lights. Some would say, “How charming and quaint,” then they’d wander through the musty aisles for treasured words in new and used books.

The wooden floor creaked underfoot. Books towered so high one needed a ladder just to read the spines. Sporadic book towers served as endcap displays. No one dared to remove a single volume for fear they’d all tumble like a game of Jenga.

The locals knew the pole lanterns’ history. Strangers didn’t think to ask what they represented. Why would they? The lanterns appeared to be a part of the season’s adornment.

Then, one day, a young couple entered the bookstore. Something drew them beside the three lanterns longer than most customers. The man took the woman’s hand and said, “What is it about these lights that make me feel hopeful when I’ve lost all hope?”

“I don’t know,” replied the woman, “but somehow they seem special.”

A few of the regulars at a nearby wooden table looked up, surprised by the couple’s words. The bookstore owner couldn’t help overhear. He rounded the counter and introduced himself. “Those represent the gift of joy and hope. You see, thousands of years ago, a child was born to save the world. His name was Jesus. He grew up and promised eternal life to those who believe in Him. If we do this, He promises us joy and in joy there’s hope. I believe that is what you felt. Joy and hope. But I’m guessing by your comment, you know how difficult this is at times.”

A wave of sadness crossed the couples’ faces. “Our baby girl was stillborn.” The woman said with trembling lips.

The owner shook his head. “I’m very sorry.” He looked at the lanterns for a moment. “The tallest of the lanterns represents the child my wife and I had lost in a car accident many years ago, just before Christmas. We too felt there was no hope. Not only because of our significant loss, but my wife couldn’t conceive more children. It wasn’t easy, but we trusted Jesus to somehow fulfill our lives. When we bought this building, my wife found the lanterns in the back. That Christmas, she put the tallest one up to honor our precious child. From then on, we began celebrating her life with the hope that we’d be with her again someday.

Two years later, my wife gave birth to twins. What a miracle! Jesus had doubled our joy. That year, we decided to honor Jesus for the two little miracles entrusted to us. Each Christmas since, I bring out all three lanterns.” The owner glanced at the extraordinary glow.

“Before you leave, I want to give something to you. Be sure to look for me if I’m not at the cash register.”

The couple went about their shopping thinking the owner intended to give them a couple of bookmarks or maybe one of the mugs with the store’s name on it. After they paid for their selections, the owner said, “Is that your pick up by the curb? I saw you park before coming in.”

“Yes, that’s our pick-up.” The man’s brows creased.

“Wait here, please.”

A few minutes later, he returned with the tallest lantern, the one presenting his deceased child. “It’s only three feet so it should fit in your truck bed.”

The couple stared, puzzled by his words.

“I want you to have it as a reminder of the true Light of joy and hope in your lives.”

 “Oh, no. We couldn’t possibly take your lantern.” The man said.

“My husband is right.”

“During the past fifty Christmases, you’re the first couple to sense its purpose. Before my wife had passed last year, she said ‘the lantern belongs to someone special. When the time comes, you’ll know who.’ I need your help to keep my promise to her.

”The couple hesitated then thanked him, unsure if they should have accepted the lantern.

The following Christmas, they returned to the bookstore. As they stood before the two lanterns, a voice from behind said, “Can I help you find something?”

They turned around. This time, the woman held a beautiful baby adorned in pink.

The bookstore owner’s face lit up. “Welcome back. It looks as if life has been good to you.” He brought his palms together with a joyful clap. “And who do we have here?”

“This is Kindle Hope. We wanted you to meet her.”

“Kindle!” His eyes widened.

 The child let out a squeal and jubilantly flapped her arms.

“That’s a fitting name for such a beautiful, bright face.” The owner said. “Kindle means light. I guess you know that. But I don’t think I told you it was my deceased daughter’s name.”

The man and woman glanced at one another. “No, you didn’t tell us.” The man said.

“Indeed, the lantern went to someone special, just as my wife said it should.” He paused, swallowed the lump in his throat, and then said, “Thank you for coming back to share the Light in your lives. For helping me to keep the promise I made to my beloved wife.”

Note: Dianne Marie Andre was inspired to write this fictional story after taking the photo of the three lanterns at a local bookstore.

8 Strategies for Holiday Self-Care

As I stood at the kitchen island tying my apron strings, I caught a glimpse of my husband walking into the great room. There was sadness in his eyes that first holiday after his mother had passed away. That was years ago, but I still remember the visibility of his silent struggle.

It’s no secret that bereavement increases during the holidays. For many, grief and COVID-19 restrictions signify celebrations without loved ones.

So, how do we create a joyous holiday without extended family or those we’ve lost?

Self-care is the best gift we can give to ourselves and our loved ones. It’s a gift that will move us forward to a happy future.

Enter a journey of self-care by reflecting on past holidays and note what gave you joy, made you laugh, or feel contented. Then plan ways to recreate those activities (and perhaps a new one) that will inspire a day worth celebrating.

If you are single:

  1. LOVE yourself with all the things you adore. Pets, cozy blankets, DVDs, music, books, snacks, etc. Make this a day to pamper you.
  2. Forget tradition. Cook what you want without domineering suggestions from others. Or order a holiday dinner from your local deli.
  3. REACH OUT to loved ones with a holiday cheer via phone or Zoom. Plan to end conversations with humor. It will leave you and them uplifted instead of sad and lonely.
  4. Studies show breathing fresh air can improve one’s mood. So, spend some time in a park, on a bike trail or walking path.

If you and your immediate family can’t gather with extended family members:

  1. Give yourself and your family GRACE. Grace to be less rushed, less perfect, less insistent to follow traditions.
  2. Decorate as usual (use the china and candles) or not. Maybe the family would enjoy a dinner party on cozy floor cushions.
  3. EMBRACE unhappy emotions, but don’t stay there longer than it takes to recite a poem, song, or Bible verse.
  4. Gather around the phone or monitor to speak with extended family. For a joyful virtual reunion, keep it light and uplifting.

That first holiday after my mother-in-law had passed away, it was just the two of us. My husband joined me with the meal preparations. Food sampling and laughter filled the kitchen. When everything was ready, we sat at the dining room table with flickering candlelight. A little self-care and comfort food served on china from my mother-in-law lightened his heart and brought joy to the holiday.

What’s cooking in your kitchen that brings a lesson or two?

The tomato vine grew taller and fuller. Tiny yellow blossoms developed. Then, little green globes dangled securely from lean branches. Seeing such a delightful yield in my garden reminded me of the movie Fried Green Tomatoes, and the first time I had prepared this iconic side dish.

The cookbook I received as a wedding gift didn’t have recipes for fried green tomatoes. The novel and the movie came out long after I had married. But somehow, I heard about this intriguing side dish. So, I fried up a delicious batch for my groom who thought his bride had lost her mind. . .until he tasted them.

Then, one evening, I did something even stranger. I served waffles for dinner. . .most likely because I forgot to thaw out beef or poultry.

The idea of eating breakfast at dinnertime felt improper to his rigid upbringing. His tone and shocked expression spoiled my proud moment. Seeing my wounded face, he did what all husbands (eventually) learn and said, “thank you dear.”

Over time my groom adapted to new traditions and foods…including burnt meals.

When responses aren’t what we expect, it’s okay to feel hurt.

We have a Healer of the heart, body, mind, and soul.

When practices flip-flop, it’s okay to feel unsure.

We have the One who reassures us that change can be good.

When relationships are hard, it’s okay to feel disappointed.

We have the One who doesn’t disappoint, who lifts our spirits with sweet assurance.

In my upcoming novel, Molly and Ted are learning about these truths. Their struggles are much deeper and more complex than a new recipe or altered traditions.

They try to find God’s grace while deception thwarts a dream and a dream prevents a proposal. This isn’t easy for Molly or Ted.

Life isn’t easy for anyone.

We’re too busy with self-focus or stuck via outside influences to move forward.

Although you’ll have to wait for the unfolding of Molly and Ted’s struggles, YOU can ask God right now to heal a hurt, to help you accept change.—

He’ll never fail you.

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 (KJV)

What are you Going to do About it?

This week, Welcome to My World wants to know, What question would be good to ask yourself—or if you’re a fiction writer, your characters?

Whether I’m reading a novel or writing one, the characters always face conflict…some sort of problem that needs to be resolved. My characters haven’t defeated an evil monarch or chased a killer. But they have healed from loss and family drama, found love, and stepped out in faith to achieve a dream.

When adversity blocks their lifelong dream, my question to them is always, what are you going to do about it?

In Kiss under the Lemon Tree, my secondary character, Addie, knew the world is filled with possibilities.

Being a television travel host was her childhood dream. She studied vacation magazines and watched TV tourist hosts for tips on speaking and presenting facts in a precise and exciting manner. Then, when life got hard, she stopped dreaming of possibilities. She let circumstances and her deep sense-of-duty control every aspect of her life.

This is also true of real life.

Many people will carry their aspirations with them long after retirement. But there are no last chances once we’re too elderly to fulfill our dreams.

Following God with the dreams that He puts in our hearts isn’t always easy. We’ll make mistakes along the way. We’ll run into roadblocks. Fear or doubt may overwhelm us. But we can trust God to help us through the tough times, to direct our steps every inch of the way.

A man’s heart deviseth [plans] his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.”-Proverbs 16:9 (KJV)

My male protagonist, Sonny, in Kiss under the Lemon Tree took an approach different from Addie: Being a photojournalist was his childhood fantasy. As a young boy of a widow, he spent a lot of time alone at home while his mother worked. To help, he taught himself how to cook and bake. He also toiled at improving his skills with a camera. But it took money to buy film and then have it developed. He didn’t let this stop him. He used his baking skills to raise money to support his dream.

Do you see what happened?

He didn’t give up.

He used what he had to grow his God-given purpose.

This is powerful.

Do Not Wait; the time will never be ‘Just Right.’ Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.”- George Herbert

Yes, start where you stand, work with what you have, but first ask God to be the CEO of your dreams, to guide you on the right path with the right tools.

Ask God to be the CEO of your dreams, to guide you on the right path with the right tools.

What step will you take today to begin a dream?

If you’ve already begun, what tip can you share that will help others pursue their dreams?


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It’s Good for the Soul

This week’s Welcome to My World blog challenge question is What is your favorite type of scenery?

For those who know me, it’s no secret what outdoor setting I adore.

My fondness for gardens began with my grandmother’s snapdragons that lined the exterior wall of her cinder-block house. Every summer, as a young girl, I’d play puppeteer with the red, pink, orange, and yellow flowers. One gentle squeeze on the side of a blossom and it would open and close like a dragon’s mouth.

Grandma and Grandpa had a large vegetable garden behind the house, past the clothesline. Lush vines, plants, and stalks camouflaged long rows of tilled soil. I’d step over foliage, hunt for oval watermelons and bright red strawberries. Before I reached the house with my treasures, I smelled of fresh-picked berries, and my fingers and lips were stained red.

The Bible tells us in Genesis 1:11 that “God created sprouts, plants yielding seeds, and trees bearing fruit.” Verse 12 says God saw that it was good.

He saw that the scenery was good.

The Garden of Eden must have been exquisite. In my mind, I imagine thousands of textures, hues, various heights, and shapes. The Bible doesn’t tell us, but maybe streams, bubbling creeks, waterfalls, and ponds were part of Eden.

Some years ago, home garden tours were fashionable. I’d buy a ticket and spend the day up-close viewing sceneries graced with overflowing perennials and annuals landscaped in spectacular designs. Low growing white and purple alyssum bordered beds. Large blue Hydrangea clusters reflected their preference for shade. Rose petal droppings sprinkled repurposed hardscape. Moss grew on rocks, stepping stones, and driftwood brought from beaches. Old barn wood and paned windows built into tool sheds and green houses added interest and functionality to many of the home gardens that I toured.

I don’t know about you, but I am always reluctant to leave a garden and return to reality.

Gardens have positive effects on humans. It’s where one can escape on a long leisurely path, smell fragrant blossoms, or sit to meditate. Where hands work the soil, nurture seedlings, prayers unfold, and visions are realized. It’s a place where frowns turn to smiles and hope uplifts hurting hearts.

If I’m happy, I’m cheerier when I enter a garden or see one from a distance.

If I’m sad, my spirit is lifted.

This is why I mention gardens or flowers in each of my books.

God created the Garden of Eden because He saw that it was good for the soul and the body.

Do you find gardens to be a place of healing?

Or do you favor a different scenery?


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A SPECIAL Valentine’s Gift for YOU!

Thank you for making this special celebration a success. To receive future discount notices, please subscribe. You can find the subscribe button on the left sidebar.

Do you adore FOREVER LOVE stories?

Sonny Pace would like to tell you his. How he realized the best thing to hold on to in life was Addie. How unforeseen problems and jumping to conclusions broke his heart.

Does his story sound familiar? It does for many of us.

Kick-off this Valentine’s Day with Sonny as he shares his and Addie’s FOREVER-LOVE story that inspires HOPE.

For a very limited time,

your special discounted gift can be found here:

– Kindle –

READER ALERT: Facebook ‘Book Party’ this Weekend!

Mark your calendar! Set your alarm!

I will be at Inspirational Reads and Authors Facebook group on Sunday, June 28, at 11 am EST (8 am PST – California).

Come see what I have to offer you in the way of fun and two giveaways during my one-hour session.

Please Note: This is a private FB group, so hop on over NOW, ask to join, and then answer a couple of simple questions. I think you’ll like it so much you’ll want to stay long after the party. It’s a fun group.

Can’t wait to see you on Sunday!

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I haven’t loved a male protagonist as much as the one in Kiss Under The Lemon Tree, and I’m thrilled to offer you the Kindle Pre-order at $0.99 USD only.

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