New Beginnings

Blessed

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 1:3 ESV

You’ll find the word “Blessed” written on an abundance of plaques, framed prints, and farmhouse pillows. We say, “I’m so blessed.” And throughout the South you’ll hear “Bless her heart.”

Marissa Henley, a writer for the First Five App, Proverbs 31 Ministries asked, “When do you feel blessed?” Is it on a bright, sunny day? You’re rushing to meet a friend for lunch, and the perfect parking spot, directly in front of the cafe’s front door, opens up? The menu includes all your favorite food, and the chef outdoes herself? Is it when things click into place, and your life and your relationships are all going smoothly at the same time? Maybe you feel extra blessed when you get a good report from your doctor? Or when friends or family gather around a large table with laughter and good food?

The pandemic of 2020 took away many of those occasions for us to feel blessed.

But maybe that’s not all bad. Maybe it provides us the opportunity to realize our blessings go way beyond our situations. Maybe it reminds us that our hope is misplaced if it is in the blessings of God rather than in God himself. Maybe it brings to our souls the desire to praise and glorify God for the blessings we have in Christ. Eph 1:4-10 list the blessings God gives us in Christ. Among them: we are chosen, adopted, forgiven, redeemed, lavished with grace, given a purpose, given an inheritance, and sealed with the Holy Spirit. All these blessings are ours—despite politics, despite angry rhetoric, and despite a Covid pandemic.

What if every time we saw the word blessed, or used the word ourselves, it triggered our focus to praise and thank God? Yes, thank him for our earthly blessings, but even more thank him for the abundance of spiritual blessings we have in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Pray with me: Father we praise you, we bless you, we honor and glorify your name. Jesus, we thank you for coming to earth to bring us the gifts of salvation, eternal life, peace amidst strife, joy in any circumstance, and the gift of your Holy Spirit to lead, guide, and comfort us. We truly have all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. Help us to focus on the blessings you shower on us and not on circumstances. Help us daily to return to your word and find your peace and comfort there. We love you and thank you. In the name of Jesus Christ who bestows on us every spiritual gift. Amen.

Leave a comment. Share some of the blessings your heart rejoices over today.

the greatest gift of all

Margaret Keenan receiving congratulations 12-8-2020

Wow! It is here, and I am overwhelmed! A vaccine developed, tested, and approved in only 9 months? REALLY? “They” said it couldn’t be done in less than two to four years. But it’s here. NOW! Praise God! December 8, 2020, in Coventry, England, Margaret Keenan, a feisty, red-headed 91-year-old received the first Covid-19 vaccine! Last week in the US our brave health workers began to receive the first US vaccine, and a second vaccine begins distribution this week!

(Okay, I recognize the overuse of exclamations, but people, a vaccine!!! And warning—there will be more!)

On December 8, Steven Powis, medical director of NHS in England, said, “This really feels like the beginning of the end.” And that small inkling of hope is a great Christmas present, indeed!

Before the end of 2020, thousands in the US will receive vaccines. Praise God!

Grateful. That’s what I feel. Grateful and blessed! And thankful for medical personnel and all frontline workers, essential personnel, teachers, and to those who worked day and night to develop the vaccine. Thankful for those who participated in testing programs.

Merry Christmas! And won’t we all have a merrier Christmas knowing that the most vulnerable will receive the vaccine if they choose and anticipating that all will have the opportunity to receive it in the months ahead?

Because a vaccine means hugs, kisses, hand shakes. Singing in church. Basking in smiles not hidden by masks. Eating in restaurants, flying to spend time with family and friends. Hopefully, lessening of depression, and alcohol and drug usage. Abundant joy!

But as great as this early Christmas present is, it isn’t the greatest gift of all. For all the good the vaccine brings, it doesn’t bring peace of heart, forgiveness of sins, or eternal life. The gift of God’s son, whose birth we celebrate on Christmas Day, is truly the greatest gift of all.

Adoration of the Shepherds 1622,
Gerrit van Honthorst

Covid could morph into another pandemic. Another virus may come our way. Not to be a downer, but all manner of evil can beset us. But the True Greatest Gift keeps giving no matter what comes our way. In Christ we have peace that passes all understanding. Because of Christ, we have hope and can weather whatever comes.

So today, I want to take my heartfelt feelings of joy and thankfulness for the vaccine and transfer that even greater gratitude to God for His Great Gift, Jesus Christ!

Merry Christmas Y’all!

Will you take the vaccine when available? Comment below!

Giving Thanks in an Imperfect World

It is said the Amish purposefully include an “imperfection” in their exquisite quilts. The quilter may insert a “Humility block,” a square of colors which don’t match the rest of the quilt, or inconspicuously place one mismatched scrap of fabric in the design. The proposed reasoning is that trying to create a perfect piece “mocks God.”

Quilt by my mom, Bonnie Patterson

My husband and I recently built a new house—yep, condolences are appropriate! We purchased three acres of land, poured over house plans on the internet for months, hired a builder, and drove twenty-five minutes to visit the site every day for eleven months before moving in on October eighth. And even with our constant attention and the very best intentions and enormous skills of our contractor and his crews, our new home is not perfect. Lovely, but not perfect. And we’re okay with that.

I believe, I can finally say I am conquering my strong perfectionist tendencies. Okay, I admit to occasional lapses, but I’m learning to live with imperfection. Even more, I am learning to thank God for my own imperfections and those of others.

Can we agree that 2020 is the most unusual and extremely imperfect year of our lifetime? Will life ever go back to what we knew as normal? At this point, Covid has likely affected each of us in various personal ways. Either we had the virus or had a loved one with the disease. You probably know someone who was hospitalized for weeks or even months and may have a friend or relative who died with Covid or preexisting conditions exacerbated by the virus.

In this season of Thanksgiving, we may wonder how we can fulfill the command, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV.

Two thoughts may help: 1) Embrace that we live in a fallen and imperfect world.

Research indicates the explanation for imperfections in quilts is likely folklore, specifically because all handmade objects intrinsically have their own imperfections—no need to create them on purpose. But aren’t carefully handmade items more valued despite any flaws they contain? A friend recently gave me a gorgeous, hand-stitched quilt with all my favorite colors. I’ve not searched for a mismatched scrap, but even if the stitches show any imperfections, I will still cherish this gift forever.

Folklore or not, we all recognize that there is no perfection on earth.

2) Remember that God is still in control. He alone redeems the imperfect for our good. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28. NIV

Recognizing God’s handiwork in imperfect situations compels us to give thanks.

A prayer by Charles Spurgeon: Let the morrow be what it may, our God is the God of tomorrow. Whatever events may have happened, which to us are unknown, our Jehovah is God of the unknown as well as of the known. We are determined to trust the Lord, come what may. If the very worst should happen, our God is still the greatest and best.

Even in the midst of a pandemic when our Thanksgiving celebrations are fewer in number than we’d like, even in a world where cranberries and Sister Schubert cinnamon rolls are sold out a week early (along with toilet paper and paper towels), even though our Thanksgiving prayers are muffled behind a mask, let us give thanks with grateful hearts. Amen.

Waiting… on Covid (and other things) to Pass

My husband is a great gardener. It’s one of only two hobbies he has, and I am the beneficiary of his care and skills. Our patio and front porch are filled with over fifty thriving potted plants. They are especially beautiful this year because we have had mild weather, and because Miracle Grow is Randy’s best friend.

He carefully tended our hanging baskets of bougainvillea, checking daily for the first bloom to appear. Finally after months, there was one red bract on one of three plants, but over the next few weeks, all three bougainvilleas rewarded his faith. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 He had faith that with the right care and conditions bracts and blooms would be forthcoming.

In our “fast food, microwave, and Instapot” society, we’ve managed to eliminate almost all waiting. Maybe that’s why Covid hit us all so deeply. We had fooled ourselves. We never knew the future, but we had convinced ourselves that we did. We were never in control, but believed we were.

Whether we wait for a Covid test or other medical test results, wait to recover from illness, wait and long to see friends and family face to face without masks, wait for a successful treatment, or wait for a vaccine, He is still in control. This pandemic did not take Him by surprise, for dark times are never dark to Him. Psalm 139:12 “even the darkness is not dark to thee, the night is bright as the day; for darkness is as light with thee.”

We can depend on Him to guide us through this unprecedented time when we ask. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

What does He want us to learn during this time of waiting (other than Who is really in charge)? How can we touch lives when we aren’t allowed to physically touch anyone? Donate to food banks? Send cards and letters? Make phone calls? Pray for the sick, for medical personnel, pray for students, teachers, and school administrators? Pray for local and national leaders? Be extra generous with tips when others serve us?

Leave a comment and share what you are doing to touch an un-touch-able world while you wait for Covid to pass. Your comments encourage others.

Randy’s Chocolate Pie

This is easy-peasy! Fail proof!

  • 2 1/2 cups milk, divided
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 7 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 large egg yolks, save egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • 1 baked 9 inch pie crust
  • Meringue

CRUST: Use your favorite crust recipe, or I recommend Mrs. Callender’s frozen crust. If a deep dish pie or a 10 inch crust, I recommend making 1 1/2 recipe of filling.

FILLING: In medium saucepan, combine 2 cups milk, sugar, cocoa, and butter. Bring just to a boil over medium heat. In a medium bowl, mix together remaining milk and cornstarch. Whisk in egg yolks and vanilla. Blend well. Temper the egg mixture with some of the hot cocoa mixture. Gradually add all the egg mixture to the saucepan, stirring constantly. Cook, stirring constantly, about two minutes until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and stir in marshmallows until the mixture is smooth. Pour into pie shell.

MERINGUE: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat egg whites until frothy (add 1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter if you have it). Gradually add 6 tablespoons sugar as you continue to beat. Smooth meringue onto pie. Bake about 7 minutes until lightly browned.

Pie recipe originated with Luby’s. Adapted by Cele LeBlanc

My Book Reviews

My REVIEWS

To Have and to Hold: Three Autumn Love ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ I loved all three of these Autumn Love Stories. Each are unique, sweet romances. Looking forward to more short stories from Becky Wade, Betsy St Amant, and Katie Ganshert

The Lacemaker Laura Franz ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Revolutionary War sacrifices are often lost on us nearly 240 years later. Laura Frank brings those patriots and their sacrifices to life in The Lacemaker.

The Printed Letter Bookshop Katherine Reay ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ I almost gave this 4 stars because I thought it started slowly, but the rest of the book made my perseverance worth it! Such a lovely ending—Katherine Reay knows how to end a book!

Start With Me Kara Isaac ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Kara Isaac shares another great read. Wow! Loved this book! I hated to see it end, and hope to read more of this series in the future. Beautifully developed characters and story. Kara Isaac is the new Charles Martin

Things I Never Told You-Beth K Vogt Thatcher Sister Series Book 1,2&3, ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Good book, but for me the ending was not satisfactory. I needed more wrap up or at least more progress in relationships. But I did go on to read Book 2 which focuses on the story of the middle sister. Don’t read Book 1 unless you are willing to continue. (😂 LOL) I am glad I read them in order.  Moments We Forget Book 2 Thatcher Sisters Picks up where Book 1 left off and continues the story of the middle sister. The Best We’ve Been Book3 Thatcher Sisters Picks up the story and focuses on the oldest sister. The series is worth the read, especially is you have sisters. 

If I Were You Lynn Austin Would make a great TV series  ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ A view into life during and after World War II. An inspiring book of friendship, courage, and forgiveness with an unlikely relationship at its center. Although this novel was a bit long, Lynn Austin gave the reader a realistic and often terrifying understanding of life in England during WWII with a contrast of life in the US. If I Were You would make a fantastic TV series. 

Dancing Shoes Lynne Gentry⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Lynne Gentry has a gift for humor. Delightful story of courage to begin again. I can’t wait to read Baby Shoes. If you “grew up in church” or if you love the Mitford Series, you will love this series beginning with Walking Shoes! 👠 

Stay with Me, Becky Wade ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Becky Wade always delivers a beautifully written story. Stay with Me is extremely timely and insightful with flawed and relatable characters A beautiful picture of grace.

London Tides, Carla Laureano⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Grace for Grace BrennanThe second novel in the MacDonald Family Trilogy is just as compelling as the first and beautifully written. Ian MacDonald offers grace to his long-absent love—just as God showers grace on us all.

Joyce K Ellis The Heart Psalms ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Assurance in Times of Turmoil Reading the devotional messages, study of the Psalms, and the challenge to journal or to write one’s own psalm are wonderful practices to give peace to our hearts in times of Covid19 turmoil. Highly recommended.

Jody Hedlund The Reluctant Bride ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Excellent story Jody Hedlund draws the reader into this compelling story of two young English adults from opposite backgrounds. The reader observes as they grow in love, respect, and confidence.

Jessica White Song in the Dark ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Personal growth and healing If you love mythology like Jessica White, you’ll particularly love her novel, Song in the Night. But if mythology is not your thing, don’t despair, it’s not a requirement to appreciate this story of personal growth and healing. Throw in two mysteries, an overbearing mother, a sabotaging ex-boyfriend, a love story, three Dobermans, a handsome detective, and a talented, caring harpist, and you’ll be turning pages all the way to the end. Lovely debut novel. 

Lauren K Denton Glory Road ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Multi-generational story A lovely story. Mom, teenage daughter, and grandmother and their inter- generational relationships. Loving and allowing oneself to be loved.

Lauren K Denton The Hideaway ⭐️⭐️⭐️ While I enjoyed the two POVs and tracking the decades-apart stories of an eccentric grandmother and her success-driven granddaughter, I can’t recommend this story as highly as the one above. I thought Glory Road was more interesting and better written. 

Marilyn Howton Marriott God Bless the Child ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️God Bless All Children   Heartbreaking accounts of hurting children and the sacrificial commitment of the child psychologist God called to help them. God Bless the Child is more than a title. It is a prayer.

Pat Nichols The Trouble in Willow Falls ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Changes in a small town. Having recently moved from a large city to a small town, I can attest that Pat Nichols accurately describes life in a small town. Residents understand sacrifice and change are necessary, but naysayers abound. Will their efforts be enough? And will the changes destroy their best “small town” qualities?

Ramona Richards Murder in the Family ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Not Sweet Home Alabama When extreme greed causes a rift and a dysfunctional family becomes even more dysfunctional, Molly’s best choice is to flee, make a new life, and never look back. But twenty years later, Aunt Liz trusts no one but Molly to execute her will, and Molly is forced to return to Alabama. Past wounds rip open as she faces a family willing to go to any extreme to get what they want, even murder. 

Carla Laureano’sBrunch at Bittersweet Cafe ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Delightful addition to the Supper Club series  Romantic kisses, grand gestures, impossible situations, personal growth, and renewed faith all combine for a delightful romance. I can’t wait for Spring 2020 to rejoin Rachel, Melody, Ana, and their friends at the next Saturday Night Supper Club!

Ann Patchett Run ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Wonderfully Developed Characters Ann Patchett’s Run tells the story of a family through wonderfully developed and diverse characters. I plan to read the rest of her books.

Lisa Crane The Gingerbread Man of My Dreams ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Wishing for more Gingerbread Man, like all of Lisa’s books, is romantic, fun, and compelling. I always read them quickly, and then I wish my literary friends weren’t gone. Write more, Lisa Crane!

Kara Isaac Then There Was You ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Checked All My Boxes This beautifully written story by Kara Isaac checked off all my boxes: Imperfect Christians struggling with life while seeking God in their struggles. Imperfect church with ministers struggling to bring glory to God in their flawed ways. Top it off with the perfect romance between an imperfect but made-for-each-other couple. This was one of those books I couldn’t put down but was sad to finish.

Carlos Camp Muskogee Creek ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️A Deep South trip back to the late 60s A delightful story! Carlos  Camp’s debut novel places the reader in the middle of a simpler time in the the Deep South in the late 60’s. If you grew up in the South at that time, you’ll feel right at home. If you didn’t, you’ll come away with a true picture of that world as it began to undergo changes. As much as was right about the down-home “good ole days,” much needed changing.

Have your read any of the above books or books by these authors? Please reply and add your own thoughts or recommendations.

My Want to Read List


Becky Wade, Stay with Take A Chance on Me (Misty River Series, Book 2) Releases 2020

Jody Hedlund, Bride of Convenience (The Bride Ship Series, Book 3)

Diana Gabaldon, Go Tell The Bees That I Am Gone (The Outlander Series, Book 9) Hoping this is published in 2020

Kara Isaac, Start with Me, releases in June 2020, pre-order on Kindle for $3.99 now!

Comment if you’ve read and would recommend any of the above. Comment and share what is on your nightstand or your “want to read” list!

His compassions never fail

His compassions never fail. They are new EVERY morning! Great is His faithfulness!

When I saw this photo (from Pixabay) on FB this morning, I was reminded of a favorite verse Many times–good times or difficult–I’ve read this verse and thanked God for his presence and provision.

GREAT is His FAITHFULNESS!

Newsletter, July 30, 2019 The End

The End. Really? You finished your manuscript? Yep! I did. I finished my final edits for my women’s fiction, Just About Perfect. Only took three and one-half years since the day I had this wild hair of an idea, I should write a novel. Had I any idea how much I needed to learn or the focus and time it would take, would I have started? Well . . . that’s probably why the LORD doesn’t let us see into the future. Ya think?

The next step – Four beta readers are now reading the entire book and hopefully finding typos, anything that doesn’t make sense, any section that slows down, and who knows what else? They will share their suggestions and I will make a few more edits. Next, I’ll send proposals to agents and editors who have given me permission to send my work when finished.

Presently, I am considering the BIG QUESTION – What shall I write next? I’m kicking around ideas for a novella that I can give as a gift to those who get this newsletter, thinking about the next book in the series, and considering some shorter projects, like online magazine articles. I learned I really enjoy editing, so I may take a course that would qualify me to offer edits for other writers.

There’s no way to express how much I appreciate all the encouraging words friends, acquaintances, and family have given as I make this journey. You are THE BEST. I am immensely grateful to you and for you.

Family Update: Our granddaughter in Australia, Baby Caroline, weighs over five and one-half pounds and should go home late this week, nine weeks after birth, if all continues to progress. Thinking about her in her own sweet room surrounded by her little family brings a smile to my face. I miss my Australia family, but we FaceTime often, and that helps. Plus it helps to know I am going back November 7. Thanks to all of you who prayed for this two pound, three ounce baby girl. Prayers make a world of difference.

Maybe by next month’s newsletter I’ll have more news about my book to report. Josh, one of my characters tells his mother, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Let’s run the marathon set before us.

Leave a comment below. I love to hear from you. Have a wonderful August.

Cele LeBlanc

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