Thanksgiving 2020

It is Thanksgiving 2020.

This year has been a difficult year for so many. Regardless of your political views, opinions on masks and lockdowns, level of health, or place of residence, the likelihood that you are among those who struggled this year is fairly high.

Exactly 400 years ago in the year 1620, the ship The Mayflower reached the shores of Cape Cod. What followed may be called the greatest trial in the lives of some of those pilgrims, if not all; out of their small band of just over 100 people, nearly every one fell terribly ill. Half of them died before the end of their first winter. During their first year in the New World, the pilgrims underwent intense hardships, privations, and losses. Yet, when harvest time came in 1621 and they found themselves blessed by God with a good harvest, they invited their friends and celebrated a Thanksgiving feast because the LORD had blessed them.

I am not going to try to compare our hardships to the pilgrims of 1620. I don’t think that can be done, neither do I find it helpful. Job losses, illness, depression, loneliness, disappointment, loss of loved ones… I know the list goes on. Our hardships look different than those of the Plymouth colony, but hardships they are. As we near the end of the year, “2020” has become synonymous with a bad time. If they could, there would be a rush to end it yesterday and get on to the, hopefully, brighter future of 2021. Thanksgiving Day seems so insignificant and boring in light of some of the other things we’ve been fighting.

Let me encourage you, however, to take a step back and pause. I’m not going to tell you that you need to wait for Thanksgiving Day to pass before you put up your Christmas decorations – it’s a little late for that anyhow. I would like to suggest though that, this year, this difficult, painful year, where so many of us, myself included, have experienced fear, loss, loneliness, heartache, isolation, illness, job loss, and many other things – may I submit that this year is the year that we need to follow in the footsteps of the Plymouth Pilgrims and remember Thanksgiving.

This year, the year where so many difficulties, trials, and struggles seem to have collided into one place, this year where we are tempted to just wish the year be gone, this year is the one that we need to remember Thanksgiving and practice the name in deed. This is the year we need to take the time to recall the blessings that the LORD planted in the midst of the trials – and I know that He did – and thank Him for those, because this is the year it’s difficult. This is the year, we want to get wrapped up in our trials and might just forget altogether.

Have we eaten? Talked to our best friend on the phone? Attended church? Made a new dress? Found a new job? Enjoyed a Zoom call? Reached the end of a project or goal? Worked through depression? Written a book? Read a book? Bought a new book? Found a new favorite song? Taken up walking? Spent more time with people that you normally don’t see very often? Survived a dreadful illness? Had water to drink? How about coffee or tea, or even better, both?

These are blessings, even in the midst of trials. (And I know there are more. I’m not trying to be exhaustive.) These are gifts of the LORD to the people that He created and we, as His people, ought to be thanking Him no matter what has gone on, because He is good and His mercy endures forever. And even if we can’t think of a single thing – and I’m certain we can if we try hard enough – have we been forgiven and cleansed by the saving blood of the Redeemer? Am I a child, loved by my Father, the Creator of the Universe? Then we have much reason to be thankful!

This year, more so than its easier predecessors, we need to refuse to allow ourselves to brush off or forget Thanksgiving. Christmas is beautiful – but it can wait (or take a break) for a day. This year, even more than we ever have before, let’s take this day and thank the LORD for His blessings, His provision, His love and kindness. Make lists, share on social media, talk about them with others. We should be filled with thanksgiving and praise to the LORD every day, but let’s make a point to set aside this Thanksgiving holiday as an especially grateful one. Let us join the psalmist and “come before His presence with thanksgiving, let us joyfully shout with psalms. For the LORD is a great God and a King about all gods…” And He is still great and still King, even amidst the hardships of 2020. Let’s remember that and thank Him!

“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.” Psalm 107:1

To the KING be all the glory!

Café Chocolaté: Chapter XXVIII

Chapter XXVIII – Monique Rodriguez

Monique poked and prodded at Mr. Pickles, trying to bring some sense of his round shape back into his face. She succeeded very little, no matter how hard she tried.

Come on, Mr. Pickles. If you get too flat, someone might think you’re a rag instead of a bunny. They might throw you in the trash can.

Every now and then, she looked across at Miss Ginger, who sat opposite to Mr. Xavier. Watching her face made Monique frown. Miss Ginger had scared her with her shouts and threats, but even when she glared at Mr. Xavier, she didn’t scare Monique now.

Daddy used to say to look at people’s eyes, Mr. Pickles. I heard him tell Mommy that’s what he would do. Sometimes, even if they sound mean, you can see something different in their eyes.

Between attempts at fluffing, Monique watched the waitress’s eyes. She watched her hands when they could be seen above the table, ready to curl into fists. She watched how frequently Miss Ginger raised her chin in a quick, sharp movement, how her voice could go from soft to rough in the flash of a second.

You’re still very flat, Mr. Pickles. But we have to stay brave, even when we’re flat.

“He’s my brother.”

Monique looked up again. She frowned and tried to see past Mr. Xavier to the man lying on the ground. She couldn’t see much. Mostly just his shoes.

Mr. Xavier said he was hurt really bad, but he won’t say if he’ll be okay, Mr. Pickles.

She switched back to Ginger.

Her eyes are sad. She sounds unhappy, but Daddy would say that her eyes are sad. I’m sure of it, Mr. Pickles.

She poked the bunny again. He still didn’t fluff much at all. The three adults stopped talking and Mr. Xavier looked down at her with a half-smile.

“Are you doing all right, sweetheart?”

She nodded at him, frowned at Mr. Pickles, then looked up once more. “Do you think she loves her brother very much?”

Her whisper must have been too quiet, because Mr. Xavier blinked and looked lost.

“What was that, sweetheart?”

“Does she love her brother very much?”

Mr. Xavier glanced back to Miss Ginger, who raised her eyebrows in question.

“She wants to know if you love your brother very much.”

Miss Ginger looked surprised. “Why would she ask something like that?”

“I love my brother very much.” Monique didn’t know why she ventured to speak loud enough for Miss Ginger to hear. “I would be sad to see my brother get hurt.”

Miss Ginger didn’t say anything at first. Monique thought she might just stare at her forever.

Why is she staring at me, Mr. Pickles?

Monique pulled the bunny’s ear without looking down. “Are you sad to see your brother get hurt?”

Miss Ginger closed her eyes for a brief second with a droop of her head. She looked up at Monique again, her shoulders falling. “Yes. I am sad to see him get hurt. If I could have kept him from getting hurt, I would have.”

“I’d keep my brother from getting hurt too.”

And we have to, Mr. Pickles. We have to.

“How old is your bother, Monique?”

The child looked up at Mr. Xavier and blinked.

Was I supposed to talk about him? They didn’t say not to.

All three of the adults had turned toward her now. She looked down at Mr. Pickles.

Can I answer them, Mr. Pickles?

She knew he couldn’t tell her what to do. She wished that he could. She shook her head without raising it.

“Aaron is four-years-old. He’s my little brother.”

They didn’t say I couldn’t talk about him.

“Where is Aaron, Monique?” Mr. Adrian asked.

Monique barely glanced up at him, her voice growing softer. “At the other house.”

“The ‘other house?’” She could feel Mr. Xavier watching her.

She nodded, pulling on Mr. Pickles other ear.

“Do you see him very much?”

She shook her head, pulling both of the bunny’s ears at once.

But if we’re good and very brave, maybe we’ll see Aaron again soon, Mr. Pickles.

The others didn’t ask her anything else and she ventured to raise her eyes again. Miss Ginger lifted her chin.

“Can I go now?”

“I think so.” Mr. Xavier nodded toward his cousin. “Adrian?”

Mr. Adrian looked up from his notebook. “Yes. I don’t have anything else to ask.”

Miss Ginger stood. She started to go, but stopped and turned back. “I am sorry that I didn’t tell you everything up front. You have to understand that I did what I did to protect Eddie, but that my actions do not make him guilty. I was irrational.”

“So you said,” Mr. Xavier answered.

Miss Ginger grit her teeth, but didn’t move.

“We have not accused Eddie.” Mr. Adrian closed his notebook again.

“Mary Dill-”

“Mary Dill can believe as she likes, but we are still investigating and are not making accusations as of yet. We are doing exactly as you asked.”

Miss Ginger looked from one to the other a moment. Monique watched her face, wondering why she stared so intently. At last, she gave a slight nod and turned away.

Monique pulled Mr. Pickles ears again. “I think that she loves her brother very much, even if she doesn’t say so.” She whispered the words, but Mr. Adrian heard them, because he sighed.

“I think that she does, Monique. I wonder though if her brother knows it.”

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Café Chocolaté: Chapter XXVII

Chapter XXVII – Timothy Teller

Timothy watched Ginger as she walked toward the cousins. She looked back at him, before she sat down. She seemed like such a deflated version of the waitress that he usually tried to avoid. When facing the rest of the group, a flash of defiance showed on her face, but as soon as her gaze rested on Eddie or himself, the defiance faded. Instead, worry settled there quite plainly and the fear in her eyes couldn’t be missed.

Timothy felt sorry for her as she lowered her head and sat before the cousins. She didn’t look like she even started speaking, but what could he tell from more than halfway across the room?

“I don’t know what else she has to tell them.” Eddie made the effort to speak.

“You really need to follow her advice and try not to worry about it.” Timothy laid a hand on Eddie’s shoulder. “You need rest.”

Eddie raised his eyebrows just barely. “Could you if you were me?”

Timothy sighed. “I’ll have to give you that.”

Anna, pushing her hair impatiently out of her eyes, knelt near Eddie. She still had signs of distress on her face as she looked toward Timothy and Renee. “How is he?”

Timothy glanced at Eddie’s still pale face. “Stable. He’s stable.”

“That’s good.” She looked back toward Mary for just a second, then turned back. “Whatever they say, whatever Mary says, you can not let them tie him up.”

“I have no intention of doing so.” Timothy checked Eddie’s pulse again. “Eddie is in absolutely no condition to be tied up.”

Anna’s frown did not lighten.

“Why are you so insistent?” Renee asked. “I don’t mean that you shouldn’t care – I think that we all should – but you seem to have experience or something.”

Anna pursed her lips a moment and her eyes narrowed. Before either could say anything, she dropped her shoulders. “I… I’ve seen it before.” She stared at Eddie for a very long moment. She sighed heavily. “Not this exact thing, but… my best friend. I’ve seen close enough before.”

Renee shuddered. “You don’t have to tell us. I shouldn’t have pushed you to.”

“No. No.” Anna shook her head. “You didn’t push and I really brought it up. I never talk about it and… people tell me that I should. Even if not, maybe it would help you not to judge Kimberly so harshly.”

Timothy didn’t say anything. It would be difficult to judge her differently than seeing her as heartless.

He watched Eddie a moment and wondered if he listened. Probably. He’s not catatonic; just trying to get through the pain.

Anna sighed. “Kimberly’s daughter has been my best friend since the family moved onto our street when we were kids. She was the kindest person I’ve ever met, but also one of the most reserved. Even with me sometimes. Anyway…” She pushed another strand of hair out of her eyes. “Last year…” She held onto her injured arm and started again. “We were roommates in a house not far from here, actually. I woke up in the middle of the night to breaking glass. I tried to investigate carefully – I even took my phone. The hall light was on, and when I could see the living room, I could see Eden fighting a dark figure as best as she could. I think she gave him more than he bargained for, because he started hitting her with his flashlight.” Her voice choked a bit and her eyes glistened, but the tears didn’t fall over. “I started to go help her, call 911, something, – I hardly knew what – but I felt a hit on my shoulder and something cracked. I dropped my phone just before I heard the person behind me shout at the other to stop hitting the girl, and then they struck me on the head and I blacked out.”

Timothy looked at Renee, who only stared back with wide eyes.

Anna played with her fingernails. “I woke up a few minutes later, tied up near Eden. She couldn’t breathe correctly. A man stood over us, demanding that she tell him where ‘it’ was, but she didn’t answer. She just coughed and moaned.” Anna closed her eyes.

Eddie lay watching her. He looked like he wanted to say something, but he couldn’t decide what he ought to say.

Timothy couldn’t think of anything himself and Renee had gone very still.

Anna took a deep breath. “I won’t tell you how bad she got. They ended up leaving us so she could think about it for awhile. Whatever ‘it’ was. I tried to get loose. I tried, but I couldn’t. My arm hurt so badly, it made me ill to move, but I tried…” A tear finally slipped down Anna’s cheek. “Eden couldn’t even speak. She tried, but was in too much pain, dizzy, sick… She got weaker and weaker. I yelled for help until, finally, the second man came in. Eden had fallen down by then. He ran over to check her…”

Timothy checked Eddie’s pulse again when she paused, if only to have something to do while she pulled herself together.

Anna cleared her throat. “The men panicked. She was dying and I don’t think they planned on murder. The one man said they could ‘talk to the other one’ and they booked it out. The one guy – the one who had checked her and yelled at the other to stop hitting her – cut Eden’s ties and then mine, before he ran. I called the paramedics, I tried to help her… It was too late. She died before we reached the hospital. Internal injuries and bleeding.”

Timothy felt nauseous, but still could think of nothing to say. Renee hadn’t moved and Eddie had closed his eyes.

Anna brushed away a second tear. “That is why Kimberly seems to have no heart. She had one – it’s just been ground to powder with grief and sorrow. Her husband died a little over a year before that.”

“Eden was her daughter?” Eddie asked without opening his eyes.

“Yes.” Anna sighed again, then looked up at Timothy. “It’s also why you cannot let Mary Dill convince anyone to tie up Eddie. You never know if it will make things worse. I’m sure it did for Eden.”

Renee shuddered, then tried to stand. She nearly stumbled, but using Timothy’s offered arm, pushed to her feet and moved away, her face terribly ashen. She almost tottered as she walked.

Anna watched her with lowering brows.

Timothy turned back. “I have no intention of alloying anyone to tie up Eddie. Neither does Ginger, I’m sure. Nor Adrian and Xavier for that matter. I think, he’s safe.”

She nodded barely.

“I’m really sorry about your friend though. That is beyond tragic.”

Eddie had opened his eyes again, but a wave of pain made him tense.

Anna picked at her nails some more. “Thanks. Like I said, I don’t talk about it much. Most people don’t want to hear it and I tend to prefer to keep it to myself anyway.”

“Ginger does that,” Eddie spoke very quietly. “She keeps the worst things to herself and won’t talk about it – even when she should. It doesn’t do anyone any good.”

“Perhaps not.” Anna rubbed her injured arm and looked toward the pregnant woman again. “I didn’t mean to upset Renee so much though. She still looks really pale.”

Timothy turned to see the woman, who sat alone now, in a seat a little distant. She really wasn’t far from anyone, but her detached expression as she stared at the table in front of her, really made her seem more alone than she truly was.

“Maybe she’s just processing. There’s been a lot going on.”

Anna shrugged, then winced. “Maybe. She didn’t even look that pale when she helped you with Eddie though, as far as I saw. But maybe. People are different.”

Timothy glanced around the café with a sigh of his own. They are. They are different indeed.

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Café Chocolaté: Chapter XXVI

Chapter XXVI – Adrian Terrence

Adrian watched Ginger sit down, noting the change in her manner. Earlier, she had been compliant, but confident. Almost arrogant. Now, she sat with her shoulders slightly bowed and her eyes lowered.

“You said that you wished to speak with us, Miss Thomas?” Xavier finally spoke, when the silence had lasted a full minute.

Ginger still sat silent for several seconds, before she raised her head. She seemed to notice Monique and nodded toward her with a questioning air. The child sat, trying to poke some life into the flattened face and ears of her stuffed bunny.

Xavier followed the look. “She stays with me.” Monique glanced up at Xavier, looked at Ginger, and went back to Mr. Pickles in silence. “She can’t be shielded from what’s happening. Just use discretion where you can.”

Ginger nodded, then continued to hesitate. Adrian began to expect her to up and walk away.

Instead, she pulled back her shoulders and raised her head, but the same defiance did not surface as before. “Listen, I have to start out by repeating that Eddie did not kill anyone.”

“But you’re afraid that he may have done so anyway?” Xavier asked.

“No! It’s…” She sent a look toward what could be seen of Eddie still lying on the floor. “I did – for just a minute – consider that he might have done it – but I panicked! I would have known better otherwise.”

“What made you panic, Ginger?” Adrian hadn’t opened his notebook and decided to push it aside for the moment.

Ginger spread her hands flat on the table, her eyes closed for just a second. She opened them with a sigh. “I know who Gary Bradshaw is from previous experience.”

“Before last week?” Adrian wanted clarification.

Ginger nodded. “From six years ago.”

Adrian looked directly at the woman. “When Eddie was questioned for shoplifting?”

Ginger nodded again.

“Perhaps it would be wise to tell us how you know about him.” Xavier folded his arms onto the table. “As well as how Eddie knows about him.”

“That’s just it.” Ginger curled her hands into fists and then shoved them into her lap. “Eddie didn’t even meet him. Gary Bradshaw was one of the witnesses from the shoplifting case. Eddie was put into police lineup three different times. Gary Bradshaw was the only witness who identified Eddie as the thief.”

“And you know this how?” Adrian asked.

Ginger shrugged. “I went to the station to get Eddie. Someone slipped up or outright gave the guy too much information, including Eddie’s name. Gary Bradshaw was ticked that they wouldn’t arrest Eddie on his say-so and was loudly complaining to the lady with him. I didn’t even have to eavesdrop to hear him. Everyone heard him.”

“I see.”

Ginger glared at Xavier. “Eddie said that they wouldn’t tell him anything. The police wouldn’t, that is. I didn’t tell him either.”

“Why didn’t you tell your brother about the person who accused him of theft, Ginger?” Adrian finally pulled his notebook over, but he still didn’t open it.

“I thought… I thought that if he knew about it and they questioned him again, it might sound badly. He said that he didn’t do it and I didn’t want to make things worse for him.”

Xavier remained impassive. “And yet, you panicked, Miss Thomas, if only for a moment.”

“It wasn’t just Gary Bradshaw who made me panic.” Ginger shook her head emphatically. “It… It was the ice pick.”

The cousins exchanged glances. “The ice pick?”

Ginger nodded.

“You defended him when Eddie found the ice pick.” Adrian felt more than a little confused.

“No… I mean, yes, I did. But that’s not what I mean. I mean, when I found the ice pick.”

Even Monique looked up and Adrian dropped his pencil. Xavier cleared his throat. “You found the ice pick, Miss Thomas? Before your brother?”

Ginger nodded again.

Adrian tried to process and frowned. “When exactly did you find the ice pick and where did you find, Ginger?”

Ginger’s voice dropped very low. “In the neck of Gary Bradshaw.”

Adrian couldn’t help but stare at her.

Xavier continued to remain unfazed. “Please explain, Miss Thomas.”

Ginger clenched her hands even tighter. “It was a couple of minutes after the explosion. Eddie ran off to help people. I started to go talk to Timothy Teller and Anna Carpentier. I had to pass Gary Bradshaw as I was standing behind the counter, and… and when I did, I saw…” For a moment, her voice wavered. She stuck her chin up. “I saw Gary Bradshaw just sitting there. He was obviously gone and I recognized the ice pick. We keep it on the wall and I knew who the man was. I just panicked! I pulled the ice pick, threw it on a shelf under one of the counters, and hurried over to talk to Timothy and Anna. It might have taken me two minutes and everyone was too distracted to notice me. Even Eddie.”

“You thought that Eddie committed the murder, because you knew of the previous connection and you knew that he had access to the ice pick?” Xavier asked.

“And because we were both right there. Eddie could have walked over to Gary Bradshaw without my knowledge, while I talked to a customer.” She shook her head. “It was irrational, but not impossible. I know he didn’t do it though – because I know him.”

“Regardless, you decided to protect a murderer, Miss Thomas.”

Ginger glared. “He’s my brother.”

“That does not make it right.”

Ginger wavered. “Which is why I am talking to you now. But I didn’t care about right nor wrong. I didn’t really think at all – or I would have never panicked.”

Xavier only nodded.

“I’m telling you everything now.” Some petulance reentered Ginger’s tone. “Surely that counts for something.”

Adrian opened his notebook and began jotting down notes. “It would count for more if you saw someone else near Gary Bradshaw near the time of the murder, Ginger.”

“I didn’t.” Ginger sighed. “I wish I did. I’d certainly tell you about it. But I didn’t see anyone. I didn’t see anyone at all.”

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Dual Power of Convenience – A Review

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Dual Power of Convenience by Chautona Havig

Released on July 28, 2020

When Richard Danforth inherits the family estate on Merriweather Island, he doesn’t have time to deal with it—especially not from halfway across the globe. He’s too busy working to become the world’s newest billionaire and avoiding the women who would detract him from his goals.

Enter Lyla Santana. Fresh out of Oxford University with a degree in antiques and a relationship that nearly killed her to leave, she’s eager for the isolation and treasure trove that is Danforth Hall. Lyla also is determined to avoid men at all costs. Forever.

It was supposed to be a match made on paper. With him halfway across the globe, they’d never have to see each other again.

So, what’s Richard doing on Merriweather just weeks after the wedding? And how will his arrival test Lyla’s faith, not to mention stretch their so-called relationship?

In a twist on billionaire romance and marriage of convenience, this “Merriweather book” kicks off a new series featuring five islands, six authors, and a boatload of happily-ever-afters.

The Independence Island Series: beach reads aren’t just for summer anymore.

My Review

I will confess, I am not a fan of straight romance and have never read a billionaire romance story. I am, however, a fan of Chautona Havig and her books. When I read the description for Dual Power of Convenience I found myself fascinated.

Dual Power of Convenience has such a lovely setting. The southern neighbors, the water, the little book nook… It really made me want to visit the island and stay in that lovely house with all the antiques! Or buy it from Richard Danforth.

Speaking of the characters, I quite enjoyed Richard and Lyla. They were different than other characters I’ve met through Chautona Havig, and I enjoyed getting to know them. Richard, especially, was not what I expected at all – but I won’t tell you in what way, as I don’t want to spoil anything!

I really enjoyed way she spun the marriage of convenience story. It wasn’t typical, but then, her books usually aren’t. Even though I guessed how the book would end – because, it’s pretty obvious what the basic conclusion will be – I read the entire book in two days, eager to read the next part.

The only complaint I could make is that there might be a point or two that I think the author could have elaborated on or added to. I shall not, however, spoil the story by listing that here. I would, indeed, recommend this book.

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Chautona is giving away the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon gift card and a copy of the book (winner’s choice of eBook or paperback format)!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter:

https://promosimple.com/ps/ff14/dual-power-of-convenience-celebration-tour-giveaway

Blog Tour

Texas Book-aholic, August 5

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, August 5

Inklings and notions, August 6

lakesidelivingsite, August 6

deb’s Book Review, August 6

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, August 7

Rebekah Jones, Author, August 7

For Him and My Family, August 7

Artistic Nobody, August 8 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, August 8

Locks, Hooks and Books, August 9

Ashley’s Bookshelf, August 9

21st Century Keeper at Home, August 9

She Lives To Read, August 10

Simple Harvest Reads, August 10 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, August 11

Adventures of a Traverlers wife, August 11

Emily Yager, August 12

Stories By Gina, August 12

CarpeDiem, August 12

cultivating us, August 13

Connect in Fiction, August 13

Livin’ Lit, August 13

Read Review Rejoice, August 14

Quiet Workings, August 14

Blossoms and Blessings, August 14

Just Your Average reviews, August 15

Rebekah Reads, August 15

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, August 15

Lis Loves Reading, August 16

The Meanderings of a Bookworm, August 16

Splashes of Joy, August 16

Pause for Tales, August 17

Captive Dreams Window, August 17

Spoken from the Heart, August 17

Lots of Helpers, August 18

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, August 18

About the Author

Chautona Havig lives in an oxymoron, escapes into imaginary worlds that look startlingly similar to ours and writes the stories that emerge. An irrepressible optimist, Chautona sees everything through a kaleidoscope of It’s a Wonderful Life sprinkled with fairy tales. Find her on the web and say howdy—if you can remember how to spell her name.