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Friday, August 1, 2014

How One Woman Went From Not Caring for Dogs to Loving One

“You’re an animal hater.”

Although the word hate was a bit strong, I didn’t deny those words. I was not interested in having a pet, especially a dog. Other people’s dogs were fine, but I wouldn’t be fussing over some four-legged creature.

As I looked back to childhood, my baby brother was the one who brought stray dogs home. I’m not sure if they followed him or he coaxed them into our back yard. We got to keep one for a bit—outside under the wisteria trellis. Dad built a dog house from wood. Not long after that, this dog had puppies and we named one Buffy. Buffy, like her mother, was an outside doggie, but one day she got into the house. Like a crazed beast, she ran all over the bedrooms. She stopped long enough to chew my doll furniture. Pink cushions from my Barbie house were bitten and left strewn around my bedroom floor. I was infuriated and glad when Mom shoved Buffy out the door to go back to her dog house.

My brother was the only one in our family who really liked dogs. Strays continued to follow him home, but soon, although I’m not sure when it happened, we had no more dogs.

He made up for it though. He’s fifty now and has had dogs in his house as pets for years.

I, on the other hand, was not an animal lover. Yet, when my children were in elementary school, they begged for a dog. So after careful research, my husband and I bought a beagle for the kids and gave it to them for Christmas. My husband and kids agreed on her name—Dixie. We bought a book on how to care for beagles and gave it to my kids as well.

Dixie was a pretty and sweet doggie, although her nose got her into trouble. Like a typical hound, she followed her nose, and it led her to run away on a number of occasions. I ended up taking her on walks and even though she was a Christmas gift for my kids, I’m sure I did more for her than I’d bargained for.

Ten years later, when my second husband said he wanted a boxer, I cringed. Carl had grown up with dogs and as an adult had had boxers— his favorite breed—as pets. Dixie was still with us, yet, she had slowed down quite a bit. One dog is enough, I thought. But in a moment of weakness, I told my husband that he could have a dog and within a day of my saying that, he brought home a six-week-old boxer puppy. Carl, my kids and I felt that the name Levi suited this new addition.
Another dog. And a puppy to house train. What had I gotten myself into again? I was not one of those who cared deeply for dogs. I could take them or leave them, preferably, leave them. I would never call a dog “baby” or let him sleep in the same bedroom with me.

I’m not sure if I have mellowed with age or that boxers are my dog or perhaps it is just this one, but Levi has captured my heart. In the mornings, he slithers out from his quilt, I open the door and together we leave the bedroom. “Go outside, baby,” I say to him as my husband makes the coffee. Out through the doggie dog Levi heads and then comes back in to be made over by my husband, his stubby tail wiggling like Jell-O.

Levi has chewed my favorite sandals and used to love to steal my pink cap and take it outside. He once was caught on the counter eating a pumpkin pie I had just baked. But he has made up for his sophomoric behavior by cuddling on the sofa with me and looking empathetic when I’ve cried. He’s even learned how to sing (howl) when my husband plays the harmonica. He has such a cute face with such expressive eyes as he belts out a soulful howl. He likes ice cubes and expects them as treats. And he is so good looking; I call him the George Clooney of dogs!

He’s also been the dog we photograph for our business, Carved By Heart. Among many products we offer, we carve from photos of pets. Customers send us photos of their pets’ faces and we create from the picture into wood. Levi’s puppy face has received much attention. But when I try to pose him with our plaques, he usually doesn’t sit still long. I understand; I don’t like posing for the camera either.

As I write this at the computer, Levi curls around my feet, softly breathing in his sleep. I think he needs a treat and when I stand, walk into the kitchen and open the freezer, he jumps up to join me. I motion for him to sit; he knows the routine. Patiently he waits until I get a small cube for him, place it near his mouth and then he takes it and chews. I get an ice cube for myself and let it melt in my mouth.

I’d chew if I could, but I have to be careful not to crack any more of my molars. I smile at Levi as we head back to my computer. It’s amazing how the two of us grow more alike every day.

Alice J. Wisler is an author of five novels, three cookbooks and a devotional, writing instructor, and the co-owner of Carved By Heart (visit their shop on Etsy at ). She and her family live in Durham, NC.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Guest author Kimberley Payne!

Welcome to Kimberley Payne! Kimberley's newest book is out and she's here to talk about it. I love the cover.

Adam’s Animals – Fun Facts About God’s Creation just released this spring!

Is your church running a Vacation Bible School (VBS) program this summer based on the Weird Animals curriculum?

Consider using Adam’s Animals along with the accompanying craft book, Super Simple Animal Crafts in your Sunday School program leading up VBS. It’s a great resource for your church to generate interest in your summer programs.

Adam’s Animals is an entertaining and educational book that offers children loads of fun while they learn about the Bible.

Inside you’ll find:
• Bible stories about the animal
• Fascinating facts about each animal
• Whimsical illustrations for creative colouring fun
• Word search puzzles to learn new words and improve spelling

Watch a video of author Kimberley Payne reading from Adam’s Animals

View sample pages from Adam’s Animals

What others are saying about Adam's Animals
"Kimberley looks at the creatures found in the Bible and gives children some incredible scientific facts about them. She then follows those facts up with Scripture references from the Bible on what God has to say about the many animals she has listed in this book. If your child is one who likes "Did you know...?" books, they'll love this one. Included in the book are word search activities and pictures to colour." – Laura Davis

"Author Kimberly Payne has done a thorough job of researching the animal kingdom and combining it with scripture and biblical stories. This book has many fascinating facts about animals and is laid our in a very organized manner with pictures to color and word puzzles." – Carol Stratton

"From ants to worms, children will not only find the facts interesting, some will even make them giggle. At the same time, they are learning how creative God is that he would make so many animals with distinct characteristics."
– Carol Round

"I plan to use this book in our home school program as it integrates faith, science, language and art. My kids love it - there is much information in it, our 12 year old couldn't get through it in one sitting." – Michelle Evans

"This is a delightful book filled with (as promised) fun facts about God's creatures. I appreciated the focus on scripture and how Kimberley aligns God's word with God's creatures. The word challenges are a wonderful way to hone other skills such as spelling and reading, too, so this is a great activity to go along with the information."
– Glynis Belec

"This children's activity book cleverly ties in scripture, so not only does it teach the inquisitive child about God's creations, but also about God's word." — Melanie Fischer

Buy the Book
On Amazon

About the Author
Kimberley Payne is an award-winning author who combines her teaching experience and love of writing to create educational materials for children about family, fitness, science and faith. You can visit her website at

Monday, July 7, 2014

Love After Death

I love you to the moon and back.

I love you beyond tomorrow.

Love. Love for kids. Love for our kids.

Who knows how deep it is?

Who knows better than a bereaved mother?

With the births of my first three children, I loved them in all their red-faced fuzziness. By the time my fourth child was born, I knew I loved her more than ever.

Did I love her more?

No, but I knew of the depth of my capacity to love.

What had changed?

My second child, Daniel, had died just three months earlier.

And with his death, I realized how great and vast and powerful and consuming a mother's love is for her child. And that once a child is gone, there is a fierceness to love, to love that continues, but has no living-on-earth object of love.

It's been nearly eighteen years since Daniel died from cancer treatments in 1997.

Every single day my love has grown for him and for his siblings.

I know the ache of loss and absence and that both of these bring you to a new understanding. Love goes on after death. On and on. And it is a kind of love that can take your breath away.

I knew I loved my children before Daniel left us, but I wasn't aware of how pulsating and immense this love was.

If you have lost a child to death, you know just what I mean.

If you have not lost a child, you think your love is already great. It is, I will not deny that. It is growing as all living things grow. But you can not know how your love can make you yearn so much for one who is no longer there by your side. You cannot know the extent of longing for one you will no longer see----even if only at Christmas because he lives overseas. This love can only be experienced in this way after you have had to say good-bye.

There is something about the permanency of death that makes us realize how much we can love because once that child is gone from us, we feel the sorrow of life without a living person to give that love to. But it's more than that, we recognize how devastated we are without this person in our lives and now entwined that child is to us. Even in death.

What irony that it takes death to discover this love.

Is it true then? She/He who has lost much, loveth more? Or does she just understand the ocean-like quality of love more completely?

Hug your children.

Cherish the memories.


World Blog Tour with Pamela Thorson

Today I have Pamela Thorson as a guest on my blog for the World Blog Tour. I'll post a bit about her and her recent book and then answer four questions about me.

Pamela's new devotional is Out from the Shadows: 31 Devotions for the Weary Caregiver. It's a carefully-written insightful book. Pam is a nurse and a veteran caregiver for her son. In this time-consuming role, Pam faces many challenges as well as gifts and blessings. Those who are also caregivers will find hope in her authentic words as they view fresh perspectives about their roles in caring for those with Jesus' love.

Every chapter of Pam's devotional ends with a prayer and some questions for reflection. Here is a prayer from the chapter called "Jimmy's Hunger".

Father God,
I understand my perception of You
has been shaped by my earthly father.
I ask You to reveal to me the ways
in which I have misunderstood who You are.
Help me break free from wrong pathways
and understand the depth of Your unconditional love.

Be sure to read more about Pam at her website.

Out from the Shadows is avaiable at many vendors, including Amazon. Read the book in paperback or on your e-reader.

Now it's time for me to answer these four questions which each Blog Tour host is asked to do.

1) What am I working on?

I am breaking from novel writing and cultivating bits and pieces of what keeps me up at nights----the desire to write a memoir. My agent is currently pitching this memoir titled I Came To Life Late. Yep, that title says it all, doesn't it? Everyone else seems to have things figured out and I am still out in the cold wondering where the front door to get into the party is. That's been me as a child and even as an adult! The memoir reflects on my childhood in Japan as a missionary kid and also how my past illusions about life have kept me from living life as it really is----tough, filled with disappointments and multiple heartache, and in need of God's grace, mercy and patience. As I write, I want most of all to be authentic in my story, not taking the easy way out by sugar-coating anything and that includes my marriage, my financial woes, my children, and the death of my four-year-old son Daniel. I know that there are many----especially women and mothers----who expected their lives and families to turn out differently than they have. This memoir is for them, a way of holding their hands and encouraging them to keep on looking up. As long as there is breath, there is hope.

2) How does my work differ from others in my genre?

Since I have five novels published (with the sixth due out this fall), I'll focus on them when answering this question. I think that my published novels are a bit more literary and quirky than many who write inspirational fiction. I like to write in first person, it makes it easier for me than third. My novels are also less subtle in their Christian message because I want to entertain first and master that. People pick up my novels to be entertained and so I want to deliver a well-crafted story in the best way I know how.

3) Why do I write what I write?

I love to have that unique voice and am working hard to improve it with each novel and story I create. My characters are flawed and in need of mercy. I want readers to know that they are not alone in their struggles and heartache. There is a God who listens, is full of compassion and love.

4) How does my writing process work?

I get an idea that usually comes to me on one of my walks, jot down the story briefly, make a chapter by chapter outline and go from there. Ideally, I like to write about three hours every morning. But I have to admit that I don't live in an ideal environment.

Next stop on the World Blog Book Tour?

Lindsey Bell! She will be posting on the Blog Tour next Monday.

Her book, Searching for Sanity, just came out in January.

Here's a blub about it:

Have you ever looked at your beloved children and wondered: What in the world am I doing? Why did God trust me of all people to raise them? Motherhood is the most difficult job many of us will ever take. Moms today are busy, overwhelmed and stressed. Many feel underqualified.

Searching for Sanity offers moms an opportunity to take a breath, dig into the Word, and learn from parents of the past. In short devotions designed for busy moms, this book explores the parents of the Bible both the good and the bad. Some of the parents within the pages of God's Word set great examples for us to follow; others made huge mistakes. In Searching for Sanity, you'll learn from both.The wisdom of God's Word, paired with the experiences of another mother-in-training, will help moms find sanity in the midst of chaos.

Read more about it on Amazon.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Cooking With Author Dianna Benson!

Today I welcome Raleigh, NC, author Dianna T. Benson to my blog.

Dianna's newest suspense novel, Final Trimester has just been released by Ellechor Publishing House. Read a blurb about this book, click on the link to order yourself a copy, and enjoy Dianna's recipe for Cream Cheese Brownies.

Final Trimester

Paramedic Jodi Duncan recognizes the work of a serial killer before the Myrtle Beach PD even suspects a connection between the deaths of two pregnant women. Despite the vast differences in the two cases, Jodi urges Detective Nate Quigley to think outside the box. After digging deep into the separate investigations, Nate finds no evidence to support a serial killer theory, and he warns Jodi to back off police business, which only fuels her passion for the cases.

When a third pregnant woman is murdered, Nate is named lead detective on the case and works to link the deaths in order to unmask and stop the serial murderer, a disturbed man who believes God and the devil battle inside his head to bend him according to their wills. As he fights both voices, his interest fixates on Jodi when he discovers her obsession with ending his rampage.

About Dianna

Dianna Torscher Benson is a 2014 Selah Award Winner, a 2011 Genesis Winner, a 2011 Genesis double Semi-Finalist, a 2010 Daphne de Maurier Finalist, and a 2007 Golden Palm Finalist. In 2012, she signed a nine-book contract with Ellechor Publishing House. She’s the author of The Hidden Son, her debut novel. Final Trimester is her second release.

After majoring in communications and a ten-year career as a travel agent, Dianna left the travel industry to earn her EMS degree. An EMT and a Haz-Mat and FEMA Operative since 2005, she loves the adrenaline rush of responding to medical emergencies and helping people in need.

She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with her husband and their three children.

Visit Dianna's website.

Read more about Final Trimester at Amazon.

And be sure to try these delicious brownies.

Cream Cheese Brownies

1 cup butter or margarine
4 squares unsweetened chocolate
4 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
Vanilla extract
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1) Grease a 13X9 baking pan. In 2-quart heavy sauce pan over low heat, melt butter and chocolate. Remove pan from heat. With wire whisk or spoon, beat in 2 cups sugar and 3 eggs until well blended. With a wooden spoon, stir in flour, salt, nuts and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Spread evenly in pan.
2) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In small bowl with mixer at low speed, beat cream cheese, ½ cup sugar, 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract until just mixed; at medium speed, beat 2 minutes, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula.
3) With large spoon, drop mixture in dollops on top of batter. Using tip of knife, lightly score top surface in a crisscross pattern.
4) Bake 40-45 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on rack. Cut into bars. Refrigerate.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Trip with Bird Houses

Friday, June 13 might seem like a day for bad luck, but ours was good that day. After dropping two of my kids off to see their dad, Carl and I continued on down I-85 into South Carolina. We pulled our Jeep into the Comfort Inn. We were on a mission. A mission with forty bird houses.

Debby Stephenson, a.k.a. Flash, greeted me and introduced me to many of her Courageous Kidz, staff, and volunteers. The group of nearly 100 were waiting to load the buses for fun, a.k.a. Carowinds! Our job had nothing to do with riding roller coasters, our job was forty bird houses.

Debby ordered these bird houses from our business, Carved By Heart, after seeing a photo of a carved bird house that I had posted at my home away from home, a.k.a. Facebook.

When it comes to her non-profit cancer organization, Courageous Kidz, Debby is always full of ideas. The group goes bowling, on picnics, to festivals, and yes, annual trips to Carowinds. Debby's 70 years old, and yet you'd never believe it. She has the energy and joy of a child. The love in her eyes for "her kids" is heart-warming. And when one of them is near death, Debby sends out fervent requests for prayers.

My son Daniel never got to meet Debby or have her give him a nickname; my path found Debby years after he died from cancer treatments. But I have benefited from knowing her and being called one of her cancer kid "moms". Debby's love and generosity makes any bad-luck day, a good one.

The last of the group boarding the buses for Carowinds.

The boxed bird houses loaded on the bus.

Debby plans to have kids decorate these unfinished bird houses at a Halloween event later this year. We look forward to seeing those pictures.

Earlier that week---carving the wood and preparing to craft the bird houses.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Discover Your Creativity: Journal for Life! Workshop

Want to see just how creative you can be? Pick up a pen and unleash your mind onto paper!

The gift of writing is one all of us can experience. In my workshop this June, I'll be sharing tips and techniques to make journal-keeping both relevant and fun. I'll let you see what an eye-opening and valuable tool journaling is---one you can use to write your next work of art. With plenty of prompts, and even a pen and journal (provided for you), we'll spend a morning of writing and discovering.

By the end of the session you will have at least one completed written piece you will be proud of and ideas for many more.

Journal for Life! will be held from 9 to 11 AM at Gifts With a Heart, a store in Raliegh's Swift Creek Shopping Center off of Jones Franklin Road (near Cary).

Each participant gets a pen and journal as well as a 10% off coupon that can be used for purchases at the store.

Journal for Life!
June 28, 9 to 11 AM
Cost: $27.99 (includes journal and pen)

Held at:

Gifts With A Heart
2889 Jones Franklin Road
Raleigh, NC 27609
(919) 858-0755

Send a check for $27.99 to
Alice Wisler
201 Monticello Avenue
Durham, NC 27707


use the link to pay via Pay Pal.