Bidding Farewell to an Old Friend

The time to say goodbye had come.

In an ice storm earlier this year, a massive branch of our fifty-year-old locust tree sheared off in a wind storm. We lost gutters and our neighbor part of his roof. The arborist told us he could trim the tree close to the trunk, but we’d be putting our money down a sinkhole. The tree needed to go.

Saying yes hurt. We were turning our backs on an old friend. My daughter had pumped herself to weightlessness on a rope swing suspended from a branch fifteen feet off the ground. The sweep carried her halfway across the yard. My son had played pirate in the tree’s branches, spinning himself dizzy when the swing was vacant. Each summer our patio remained cool beneath the canopy of shade the tree provided. Reduced to a stump three feet in diameter, the locust would be missed.

As winter warmed into spring, I made my annual trek to the garden stores, filling my basket with the usual assortment of impatiens, begonias, and hosta. I stopped midway down one aisle, remembering the sunscreen that once protected these shade-loving plants was gone. My thoughts turned giddy. Could I now grow lobelia, snapdragons, and pansies—sun-thriving flowers that before curled up their leaves and shriveled away like salted slugs?

I went wild buying color—russet marigolds, crimson petunias, purple verbena—the combinations were endless. I filled the area around the missing tree with artful containers: a bicycle planter, a strawberry pot, a pedestal vase. Fertilizer, composted soil, and careful watering produced results. Soon the patio blazed in a riot of coral pinks, coppery oranges and lemon yellows all circling the base of the old tree in tribute to a gone-but-not-forgotten friend. The sun reigned, the darkness had passed.

In much the same way, Jesus calls us out of the shadows when he invites us to follow Him. Our former sin shrouded us in darkness, but His forgiveness draws us into the light of His love.

In I John 1:5b-7 Paul writes, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.”

Wishing you sunshine among the shadows in your life today. 

Night Visitors Wreak Havoc in the Backyard

Water can be a source of fascination for many. Bible descriptions of water range from “living”, “fountains”, and something God can “rain down on the just or the unjust”. In Isaiah 44:3, God talks of blessing Israel: “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground.”

 For my husband, water is something to be enjoyed in the backyard. Visitors included. Even four-legged ones.

 When we purchased our current home, the yard contained a cherub who looked old enough to have lived with Julius Caesar. The urchin sat perched above a dry basin overgrown with weeds. My husband cleared the debris, sealed the cracks in the miniature pond, and plumbed the fountain. Soon the water tumbled from the cherub’s vase outside our bedroom window. We slept peacefully, unaware of any uninvited masked bandits who’d left their critter habitat along the nearby river and visited.

We discovered the intruders when we installed a portable swimming pool for our children. After inflating the rim with air, the sides of the structure rose as water filled it. But within three nights, we found the pool listing to the side like a jarred cake baking in a hot oven. Claw pricks had punctured the air-filled ring. We bought stock in duct tape that summer, trying to stay ahead of the night visitors. Hot weather and thirsty animals kept us patching. Defeated, we went to a farm supply store and purchased a stock tank, a sturdier source of fun.

One would think we’d learned our lesson, but on a family outing to a nearby lake, we fished for crawdads. My son, born with a bent for biology, insisted we bring some of the catch home and release them into the cherub’s pool. Not thinking, we did. The next morning, remnants of the midnight feast were spread all over the yard, the marauding carnivores patting their well-fed stomachs.

 For Father’s Day, my husband received another water feature for the yard. The fountain consists of two bowls with a circle of cherubs supporting a third bowl on their shoulders. The water trickles from the top, to the middle, to the bottom in a delightful tinkle. As I looked at the middle pool, I said, “Wouldn’t it be interesting to have goldfish in there?”

Without blinking, my husband replied, “No.”

We’ve learned our lesson.

Happy Summer.


A Place in His Heart–Historical Romance by Debut Author Rebecca DeMarino

Enter to win Revell Publisher’s giveaway for A Place in His Heart.  Click on the link below and scroll down to find several ways to enter the contest.  Only four days left.


I first met Rebecca Demarino at the 2011 Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference where she and I had both semi-finaled in the ACFW Genesis conference. Since that time, I’ve had the privilege of spending
time with her at several different venues.

A military daughter and wife, as well as an airline hostess, Rebecca has traveled extensively and called many places home. She now lives in White Salmon, Washington with her husband, Tom. This month Revell released her first book, A Place in His Heart, which is a historical romance based on the life of her ninth great-grandfather Barnabas Horton, who emigrated to America in 1639.

I interviewed Rebecca this week as part of a blog tour highlighting the release of this  new book. I found the book fascinating and when I passed it on to my church librarian, she said she couldn’t wait for the sequel. So today I introduce to you, Rebecca Demarino.

 Pat: I admire people who write historical fiction based on a family story like A Place in His Heart. Was it passed down verbally from one generation to the next? Were there any written documents? How did you know where to start digging? 

Rebecca: There were little tidbits my mother heard from her mother. We knew we had a great-grandfather many generations back who had come over from England on a ship called The Swallow. In the late 1990’s my brother was working on the Horton genealogy and we were surprised to find a book titled, The Horton’s In America, published in 1929 by Adaline Horton White,  which was a corrected version of the book published in 1876, by George F. Horton. Both versions contain many elements of family lore handed down through generation.

There are very few actual documents of Barnabas in New England prior to 1654. There is a document that exists in Hartford, CT, listing his purchase of a lot in Massachusetts, and there is something that exists listing his trade as a baker. It is documented that he was a deputy of the New Haven court and a magistrate in the 1650’s. He is credited with having built the first timber-framed home on eastern Long Island. And I have a copy of his will.

My digging started with my mom at the Southold Historical Society in 1999! 

Pat: The story has a diary feel to it. I’m sure some readers will feel like they are reading a classical novel. Did you choose this format for a reason?

Rebecca: Not really. It was my first novel, and I wrote it very much “seat-of-the-pants”. I had some very good advice: just write and get the story out. So that’s what I did! I have loved to read from a very early age, and I’m sure that influenced my writing. 

Pat: I was intrigued by the language used and many times while reading the novel had to remind myself that this was a book written in our century and not in the distant past. How did you achieve the language that seems so period accurate?

Rebecca: There is a fine balance, I’m sure, to lending just the right feel to the language – and it might be slightly different for each reader! There was a definite cadence to Old English and I did try to capture that in sentence structure to a degree. Reading Shakespeare or the 1599 Geneva Bible helps in picking out an expression or phrase characteristic of the times.

But it’s easy to overdo, so having a good editor like I have at Revell definitely is a blessing!

Pat: Mary Langton is a sympathetic character from the beginning of the story even though she adamantly refuses to marry the man her father chose for her. She says she is marrying for love, but Barnabas’ point of view suggests she is a convenient replacement for his dead wife. In your research did you find many women married for convenience rather than for love? Or men, for that matter.

Rebecca: In my research I discovered that Barnabas had married Mary within months of the death of his first wife. His sons were five and three at the time. At that time so many women died at a young age due to the high mortality rate of childbirth that it left many men with young children to care for. It was not uncommon at all for men to remarry quickly to provide a mother to their children. I don’t think that necessarily means these men did not mourn the loss of their wives.

On the other hand, arranged marriages for young women were common, too. Seems there might have been quite a few loveless marriages! But I think the basic need to love and be loved existed then as now.

Pat: Though Mary feels unloved, Barnabas certainly seems to dote on her throughout the story. I believed he cared more than he showed. What purpose did you have for delaying the truth about their relationship until late in the book?

Rebecca: I think he did care more for her than he could admit even to himself. He seemed to fear that if he admitted his feelings, it somehow betrayed his love for his first wife. Basically Barnabas is an honorable and decent man who loves God above all else. I don’t think he could be mean to Mary on purpose, but in reality we all say things we regret, we all have done something we wish we could undo, especially when we are hurting.

 Pat: This story centers around the blue slate. Did you find the blue slate for Barnabas and did it read as you portray it in the book? Has the blue slate been found for Ann?  Do you plan to search for it?

Rebecca: Yes, the blue slate for Barnabas exists and is in the Old Southold Cemetery. It was re-lettered in the 1800’s and is still legible! The epitaph in my novel is the epitaph from his real grave. Family lore says he brought it with him from England, and indeed there is a blue slate quarry just outside of Mowsley, so he most likely either brought it with him or had it imported at a later date. It is also said he wrote the epitaph himself.

Though I traveled to England just prior to my visit to Southold with my mother, I haven’t been to Mowsley except by Google Earth! I do know that the blue slate was commonly used for head stones during the 17th century, and I look forward to visiting Mowsley and the old cemetery someday soon!

Pat: This is a three-book series. When can we expect the next installment? What new adventures await us?

Rebecca: Book two of The Southold Chronicles is due out in June of 2015.  In it we find Joseph and Benjamin all grown up and the leadership in Southold experiencing growth and change. Winnie’s cousin, Heather Flower, is kidnapped by the fierce Narragansett tribe to the north. When her ransom is paid by Lion Gardiner, and she is rescued by a Dutchman, she comes to stay in Southold to recover – and pulls a few heartstrings along the way.

Pat: What do you hope your readers will take away from reading A Place in His Heart?

Rebecca: I hope my readers find pure entertainment! I hope they enjoy the love story, with all of its ups and downs, of Mary and Barnabas. I hope they get lost in a time period that was so far different than ours, and yet so filled with the same emotions – heartache and joy, a sense of belonging and adventure. The takeaway I had in writing this story is that God is with us – He will hold our hand – in all of our journeys, if we ask Him!

Finding a Place Your Soul Can Rest

The first signs of spring signal me to think about summer flowers. When I first gardened, early in my marriage, my efforts amounted to a hanging basket or two, and a vegetable plot. Now, with years of cultivating experience within my gloves, I plant flowers with a therapeutic approach. 

My garden has become a sanctuary of sorts, a place to sit, reflect, and unwind. Here I can wrestle with the day’s problems–listening to the fountains spray water on waiting ferns, watching while hummingbirds hover in the never-ending stream that the cherub pours from his urn. 

God placed Adam and Eve in a garden. He met them there. Genesis 3:8 says, “And they heard the voice of the Lord walking in the garden.” 

Jesus spent many hours praying in this kind of setting. He took his disciples to Gethsemane before his crucifixion and asked them to wait while he petitioned the Father. When finished, he returned to a scene of sleeping bodies and asked, “Could you not have watched with me for one hour?” (Matthew 26:40) Jesus understood the solace a garden offers, a refuge from the demands of the world, a place where the mind can heal and the heart can thrive. 

I wonder if C.Austin Miles, the creator of the age-old hymn, In The Garden  , also experienced the calming effects of a backdrop filled with living, growing specimens. The words of the hymn* suggest he did:

I come to the garden alone. . .and the voice I hear. . . The Son of God discloses: 

He speaks, and the sound of His voice is so sweet the birds hush their singing. . .

I’d stay in the garden with Him. . . But He bids me go with the voice of woe. . . 

 He walks and talks with me. . . He tells me I am His own,

And the joy we share . . . none other has ever known.*                                                            *Portions from the hymn by C. Austin Miles©1940

May you find a place where your soul can rest.