By the time we left the Biltmore Estate a couple weeks ago, it was snowing in earnest. The forecast had been wrong. But inside this amazing library, I was cozy and delighted. I'd been here once before, and didn't think I ever wanted to go back, but I'm so glad I did. And I'm glad that one of our dear friends listened to the Holy Spirit when she decided to offer us the free tickets they had for that day. She had no idea what the Lord was going to do in my heart on this wintery day. Their generosity and obedience gave me and Dennis another day at the Biltmore.
The last time we were at the Biltmore was many years ago. Our daughter, Stacie, had treated us to a tour of the mansion (one of her favorite places) and a concert on the veranda that evening. It is a wonderful memory. But as with a few other special places from the past, I thought that going back would cause more sadness than joy, so I usually avoid doing so. When our friend offered the tickets, I wasn't sure if this would be one of those places. But I did remember the library and it was my love of books and libraries, and old houses, that helped me say yes, we would go. Dennis and I love to walk and we knew that our friends enjoyed the estate because of all the trails, so that was another plus. And walk we did!
I was grateful for my winter hat and scarf that Stacie's dear friend, and now one of our adopted daughters, Kimberly, made for me. Kansas University colors, of course. It was fairly nice outside after we finished our house tour, and we headed down to the gardens and the Conservatory. Every once in a while I would see a snowflake fall. But this Kansas girl loves snow, so that didn't bother me. We decided to keep walking after we left the garden area and found this great bridge. I love bridges, too. However, when we looked at the map and made the decision to continue walking around the property to Antler Village, we had no idea how far that was. After walking for an hour or more, we saw a sign that said two more miles to the village. And more snowflakes were coming down. But we pressed on and enjoyed the day, each other, and God's beautiful mountains in the distance. By the time we got to the village, snow was blowing and sticking to the road and grass. We took the trolley back to our parking lot and were very grateful for the ride!
I have talked about "God Hugs" before, those times when something happens that reminds you how much God loves you. I had two that day. One was in the Christmas Shop where a white rose Christmas Tree greeted us at the door. Christmas and white roses were two of Stacie's favorite things. But instead of the sight making me sad, it brought joy to my heart. The other was the pantry in the house, which was the setting for a hilarious scene in one of her favorite Don Knotts and Tim Conway movies, Private Eyes. Much of the movie was filmed at the Biltmore. Both these were God Hugs and Stacie Hugs for me. God is good.
My heart was full at the end of the day. It had been a day full of joy, not sadness. I was reminded that Jesus bore our griefs and sorrows and in their place He offers us His joy if we only take it. I am glad that I learned that fact very soon after Stacie moved to Heaven. I miss her every day, but once again God showed me His love and care by taking my sorrow and turning it into joy. It's amazing to me, though I'm not surprised, at how he can take the things we tend to shy away from, for whatever reason, and even if it takes us years to find the courage to step out and do them, the Lord will turn it around and make it beautiful. I give him all the Glory. But I also thank our friends for giving me another day at the Biltmore.
If God lays something on your heart to do for someone, especially in this time of crisis, don't hesitate. Your obedience may make a huge difference in their life.
One more picture of the library...! Be safe. Be BLESSED!
Since next week is Valentine's Day, I wanted to share something about this guy. This is our engagement photo taken in 1973. After Dennis graduated from Washburn University in Topeka, KS, he taught music, counseled, and coached basketball for 39 years. It didn't matter where we went, one of his "kids" would always be there to run up and say hi to "Coach" or "Mr. McPhail." He was much more than a teacher/coach to many of his students and players. His friend list on Facebook is proof of that. He still keeps in touch with many of them. Even now, when we go back to KS for a visit, we almost always run into a former student.
I am a proud teacher/coach wife. I have heard so many compliments, both in person and written, by probably hundreds of students over the years, about how much my husband means to them and how he influenced their lives. It's been a blessing on top of all the other blessings of being his wife. (He's making dinner while I type this...)
When he retired in 2018, Dennis decided he wanted to be a volleyball and basketball official. That was fine with me. I don't go to the games. Only once. That was enough. But something happened a couple weeks ago that made me smile and realize that he is still loved by students. After a game at a local Christian school, several of the girls basketball team ran up to him and said, "You are our favorite Ref!"
What more could I ask in a Valentine? Happy Valentine's Day, Den and all my Clan. Tell somebody how much they mean to you on Friday. There's always room for more love. Be BLESSED.
Happy New Year, Clan! This is the perfect time to write about family. My mom was a prayer warrior. She made praying for her family, church, missionaries, and friends a priority every morning. I was her caregiver for seven years and saw her dedication first hand. This is one of the greatest legacies she gave me.
In the eyes of the world, I may be a little short on immediate family, because both parents and my only child are already in Heaven. I don't have to pray for them - they pray for me! Dennis has a stepmom, and we each have a brother and sister-in-law in KS. My brother's three kids and their spouses are spread around the country. They have given me seven great nieces and nephews and another on the way. I am a BLESSED Aunt JA! We weren't able to make the trip to Goshen, IN, where my oldest nephew lives and all the rest of my side of the family gathered at Christmas, but I experienced my first Facetime call and was able to see and talk to all of them! I know I'm behind time on this, but I'm learning new things all the time, kids! Besides our brothers and their wives, we are blood related to around 35-40 more, which includes aunts, uncles, and cousins.
I decided to count up all the others we call special family. This amazing group comes from our daughter Stacie's friends, who call us mom and dad, her former students, who call us grandma and grandpa, (and their kids are our great-grandchildren!) and kids of friends who have graciously shared their families with us and consider us family. The total was over 50, taking into consideration a pregnancy or two. That's a lot of family to keep in my prayers. But it's an honor to fill my mom's shoes in doing so.
At the end of 2019, I decided to divide them up, so I had a certain group to pray for every day of the week. I call it my Family Intercession List. It keeps me in touch with those on the list as they send me special prayer requests, and it keeps me in touch with our Heavenly Father on their behalf.
I am so grateful for my extended family. My daughter chose her friends well, and I have been a beneficiary of those friendships. I love them all. Like family. Several on my list are foster and adoptive parents and kids. That's always been near to my heart, and I love that they have chosen to share their love. Most of these family members names can be found as characters in my books, something I loved doing. Good characters. (I had an agent once who was less than complimentary about my book. She became a not-so-great character...'nuff said.) I would include photos here, but I might forget someone, and there are honestly too many, so will just enjoy looking at their precious faces myself.
As you enter this new year and new decade, I encourage you to put praying for your family, by blood or by choice, into your schedule. It's been a BLESSING to me in so many ways. Also, don't be surprised if we are together and you bring out your pictures of children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews to show me, that I do the same. I have plenty of "family" photos in my phone, too!
In my Tales of Tresia books, I call these amazing prayer warriors "Vanguards" and the prayers they wield for their families are called "Wind Words." What we do keeps the Kingdom from the enemy. It's an important job. Want to join me by becoming a Vanguard for your family? Do it. I promise you will all be BLESSED.
2020! It's almost here! Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and are ready for the New Year.
It's been my tradition at the end of a year, to let you all know my "Most Read Author of the Year."
I read 51 books this year; 21 Christian Fiction, 13 Christian Non-fiction, 11 Fiction, four non-fiction, and two juvenile fiction. (I won't tell you how many times I added that up to make sure it was correct. Math is not my thing...)
To be fair, I'm going to have to use two categories this year for my most read authors. I'm giving them both first place, but the most re-read author goes to James L. Rubart at ten books. Nine were re-reads, and his latest, which came out this year, for its first read. Jim was my Most Read Author back in 2016, and I have to say that re-visiting his books was as good or better than the first time around. I can't recommend this author highly enough. He writes the kind of books that I want to write, books that take you deep into the spirit realm and leave you pondering the truths of the story for a long time after you close the covers. One of the highlights of my year was attending Rubart Writing Academy in April. Thanks to Jim for the hours of reading inspiration (again) and his mentorship. Find out more about all things James L. Rubart at www.jameslrubart.com
The other first place Most Read Author of 2019 went to an amazing lady who attended that same academy. D. L. Koontz came in at four books and I am anxiously awaiting three new ones due out next year. D. L. has one of the best author newsletters I receive, and I would encourage all avid readers and writers to go to her website and subscribe. She has great information, fun stuff, and fantastic giveaways every month. www.dlkoontz.com
On a side note, these photos were taken from my "Authors I KNOW" bookshelf. I am so excited to read the sequel to Alara's Call by Kristen Stieffel, another RWA grad. The other bookend to D.L's books was written by my dear friend Barri Cae, then Mallin, now Seif. Many of the Hebrew names in my Tresia series came from her book, The Name Hashem.
By my First Friday post next week, I will have my Reading Nook updated with my favorites and what is already on my reading list for 2020. You can keep up with me by clicking on the Reading Nook button on my homepage. I update it once a month when I send out a new blog post. And while you are there, please subscribe to my blog and twice-yearly newsletter so we can keep in touch right from your inbox! Have a Happy New Year and Be BLESSED! www.jamcphail.com
Rick Renner is a favorite author and teacher of mine. But his wife, Denise, shares some wonderful things, too. This meme she posted on Facebook blended beautifully with my subject matter for this post. Waiting on God is almost always accomplished step by step by faith. If we are patient to take the steps in His order and His timing, we will experience the best Heaven has to offer.
On this journey of beginning a new life and ministry of "re-firement," Dennis and I have learned we must wait on God. Looking back, we see God's hand leading and guiding every step. But sometimes, even though we have come so far, the fulfillment of our vision still seems a long way off. It's been amazing to be on our property and taking steps toward building next spring. But it would be easy to become discouraged if I dwell on living my second winter in a 26-ft camper! I just have to remind myself, on a daily basis, that waiting on God's best plan for us means just that. But waiting patiently. That doesn't mean not doing anything. It means taking the steps we can. The steps He shows us. And taking them with joy, excited for the end result -- no matter how long it takes.
This year I have been studying the book of James. It talks a lot about the patient farmer and how he waits for the harvest. But while he waits, he does what he knows to do. He waters the seeds, pull up the weeds, keeps out the enemies that would tear it up and devour it. And he does it over and over again, every day if necessary. Until the harvest is ready. Then he goes out and brings it in.
Do you have a harvest, a life goal, a vision, that you've been waiting for? Planning for? Something you've dreamed about for a long time? Have you done that last thing God told you to do? Keep doing what you know to do. Take each step God shows you, quickly. If you know it's God, no hesitation! Until He reveals the next step, remember that if you go too quickly, if you rely on your own resources to accomplish things faster, if you skip steps He has planned for you to take, you will miss His best for you, and you may find yourself face down in the dirt. Instead, I encourage you to patiently open your heart to what Heaven has in store. Wait for it. It will surely come.
Happy Thanksgiving. Be BLESSED.
I opted to wait until Sunday to do my regular Second Saturday Scrapbook post, because yesterday I did something for the first time that needed to be included in my scrapbook! One of my assignments from the Rubart Writing Academy that I attended in April was to get myself and my books "out there" in the public. I have now checked that first time effort off my list.
Thanks to my dear friend and fellow writer, Georgia Wilson, Saturday, Oct. 12, I shared her booth at the Mountain Glory Festival in Marion, NC. A first for me, but Georgia is an old pro at these street festivals and she showed me the ropes. She writes fiction and short stories, many about local history. Find out more about her books at georgiaruthwrites.us.
I took along some special friends of mine, my doll Winny, and her dog, Ginny, two of the main characters in my Tresia series. I could have sold both of them many times over! But they did bring many people by the booth wondering about them. It was mid-afternoon before I made any sales. One was to a grandfather looking for books for his twelve-year-old granddaughter that "would steer today's young people in the right direction." He asked many questions about the books and I shared with him how the stories had spiritual truths underneath the plot, such as the Armor of God in the form of a hat, an umbrella, and a cane. I told him I was inspired by the Chronicles of Narnia, and though he had not heard of Narnia, he did know C.S Lewis, the author. He bought the trilogy. I was thrilled.
Next was a sweet young girl of eleven who wandered over to our booth when she spied "Winny and Ginny" perched on the end of my table. When she found out that they were characters in my books, she told me how she loved to read! She wanted to know how much they were and when I told her, her face fell. "I'm on a budget today and I don't have that much money left" she told me. I said I would sell her Book I for what her budget allowed. Her dad joined us and she told him that she wanted the first book and that she had enough money to buy it. He asked questions about the books and I told them both to read the back cover copy for more information. The daughter read for a few seconds and hugged the book to herself and declared, "I can tell from the first few sentences that I will love this book!" I almost cried. Her dad took a card, so they could order the other two books online. I hope they do. "You made my day, honey," I told her as they left. And she did.
Another special thing about the day was the family in the booth next to ours. They sold paintings and things made from re-purposed items. I bought Dennis a painting on an old LP album of a musical staff. It will be perfect in his recording studio. The mom told me that as she painted it, they had talked about a buyer who had a music room, but were happy to learn it would hang in Macs Music Recording Studio. She took one of my business cards and said she would be homeschooling their daughter in a couple years and would need books for her. At a nudge from the Holy Spirit, I gave her a copy of our daughter's story and family testimony, "I Will Not Fear: A Chosen Life." The couple serenaded us throughout the day with banjo, guitar, and some good 'ol bluegrass singing. Their music business is called "Chirp! On the Mountain." I love that. The art website is: NITSA-ART.CO
When the day was over and Dennis and I were on our way home, I was tired, but grateful for the two people who bought my books and to Georgia for sharing her space with me. Now that I have that festival under my belt, I'm going to watch for local festivals where I can do this again. It always helps to have friends show how things are done the first time around!
This morning in church, our pastor shared something he saw this week: "The devil tries to keep you worrying about what happens next, so you won't take time to enjoy the blessings you have right now." I was guilty. I had worried and stewed about the preparation needed for this weekend, the early morning set-up time and almost 3-hour trip, what if nobody talked to me or bought any books, etc. The only thing I was sure of was that I would greatly enjoy spending the day with Georgia. But God, in His infinite mercy, took my worries and turned them into a day of amazing fellowship with my friend, strength and energy to get through the long hours, confidence in (and even having fun!) talking to strangers about my books, two encouraging sales to a grandpa who was concerned for today's children, who invested in my books believing they may fill a need, and one wonderful little girl who made my day when she hugged my book! All-in-all, a most scrapbook-worthy day!
I encourage you, as this verse always does me, to "be strong and courageous" like Joshua. Get out there and share your talents and expertise with the world. The Lord has given each of us a special assignment to accomplish what He has equipped us to do. The best part of His individual Plan for each of his kids, is to give us something to do for Him that we enjoy doing. I have enjoyed most of my jobs, but as I was reminded this weekend, being an author is my calling for this season. I am excited, grateful, and ever so humbled today, to embrace and pursue that calling. I pray that you will pursue your calling and experience your own scrapbook-worthy days! Be BLESSED
As I was praying about what to feature today, a ministry newsletter popped into my inbox. I knew it was a nudge from God to share a very special ministry with you because it is one that is dear to my heart, and more importantly, to the heart of God.
Sar Shalom Israel was established to "Love God's People in God's Land." I hope you will take time to go to www.sarshalomisrael.org to read about what they do on their twice a year humanitarian trips to Israel and how you can be a part. What I like most about what this ministry does in the Holy Land is that it is a personal and hands-on ministry that works with other ministries and organizations that are already established in Israel. It's not just a tour company. It's about serving people of all ages who live and work in Israel from Holocaust survivors, to hospitals, farms, and service organizations. Sar Shalom Israel meets needs as it shares Messiah Jesus, Yeshua, with the precious people of this land.
This ministry was founded by a dear friend of mine, Dr. Barri Cae Seif. The story of how Barri and I met on a winter night in an East coast airport waiting to board a plane to Kansas City, is told in my testimony book, "I Will Not Fear: A Chosen Life." That was almost 20 years ago! We both see our friendship as a Divine Connection and we have kept in touch though we've only seen one another a few times during those years. Barri was married for the first time at the tender age of 62, and I wish I could have been there. Her husband, Dr. Jeffrey Seif, is also a wonderful Jewish believer, and now they travel and speak together. Another Divine Connection! (If you live in the San Antonio area, they will be there next week!
Barri has written two books about the Names of God. The second, "The Name Hashem" is where I found the name for the Holy Spirit character in my Tresia series. Gahlay Rahzeen, Hebrew for "Revealer of Mysteries" was one of the Names in Barri's book. In my books, I added a sparkly blue light whenever He connected to one of the other characters, whether in their Kingdom Corner, or whatever realm they found themselves in! He became one of my favorite characters and I admit, I imagine the blue light surrounding me when we meet every day in my own Kingdom Corner. He always reveals mysteries to me from the Word of God. (To show you how He orchestrates things, the prayer at the end of my devotion today by Andrew Murray was, "Lord, every time I become quiet before you, I pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal more of Your mystery to me." I love when He does that.) Barri Cae also helped me with other Hebrew names and words, as many are included in my books, and she contributed an editorial review for the front of Book II.
Barrie has supported me in my writing, and in my music over the years. I appreciate her encouragement and prayers more than I can say. It is my honor to support Barri, her books and speaking, and especially her work with Sar Shalom Israel. If you would like to travel to Israel, or support what they do, check out the website above and see how you can be a part of her upcoming trips to God's Land. You may find a Divine Connection. Be BLESSED.
Psalm 122:6-7 Tree of Life Version (TLV)
"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem--
May those who love you be at peace!
May there be shalom within your walls--
quietness within your palaces."
On August 15, 2019, Dennis and I moved to Macs MountainView, our four acres in the beautiful Cowee Valley of Franklin, NC. We are so happy Phase I is complete, and we are home! This move has been seven years in the searching, planning, and getting here. God has done amazing things to bring us to this place and we are so grateful for His many BLESSINGS.
We now look forward to beginning Phase II of our building plan, but we are going to enjoy being at this stage while we continue to develop the vision God has given us. Dennis still doesn't have a music studio, and I have to write from my kitchen table in the camper, (or in my soon to be erected screen house!) but we are both beginning to get back to our assignments from the Lord, writing and sharing books and songs. Until we both have our special place to work, we will do what we can while we enjoy our gorgeous mountain view. Gotta tell ya, it's been FUN!
Hope you make some fun of your own today. We'd love to hear about it. Be BLESSED.
It’s probably one of the first things you learned as a child. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Or in today’s language, treat others the way you want to be treated. Either way, these words of Jesus in Matthew 7:12, the Golden Rule, still apply today. In whatever we are called to do.
As a writer and author, one way I can apply this verse to my life is to support other authors and their calling to write. I’ve had the honor of meeting and getting to know some amazing authors over the last few months. I happily ordered their books and have read most of the ones you see in the photo. I enjoyed every one of them and would recommend them to you. The one I haven’t read was one of those "God things" that made me smile. When I opened one of these new books to read, I saw a familiar name on the very first review at the front. I discovered that my new author friend knew a former student of mine from the only year I taught music at a Christian school in my hometown of Topeka! She is now an author of speculative fiction like me! She has a great voice, too! I hope to see her again one of these days at a writer's conference. You may call that a small world. I call it Divine Connections.
When a book and/or author really touches my heart, that book goes on my "Favorites Shelf" for the purpose of re-reading, (and lending to friends.) A number of my favorite books have been read up to a dozen times over my lifetime. Another thing you can do for an author, is to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Especially if you liked the book and it made your favorites shelf.
I apologize if this sounds like I’m just trying to get you buy or review my books. That would be great, but this post contains a deeper truth that hit home to me lately, and I felt led to share. No matter what you do for a living or as a hobby, on a day to day basis, the Golden Rule applies to you and applying it can change your entire outlook.
*Are you a teacher who could use some help or encouragement? Give the same to another teacher.
*Work in an office, overwhelmed with your tasks? Take a minute to help a co-worker with one of theirs.
*Retired and feeling like you aren’t accomplishing anything important like you used to on the job? Get out there and volunteer or seek the Lord for a new “re-fire-ment” assignment.
*Overworked mom? Make a play date with another mom and her kids and share ideas.
*Busy professional? Take a colleague to lunch and brainstorm.
*Need a friend or special prayer? Pray for your friends.
*Are you a “Creative?” Attend a concert, art show, poetry reading, dance recital.
*Facebook or other social media user? ‘Nuff said.
This concept is the same "reap what you sow" idea from another teaching of Jesus. Seedtime and harvest. Do for someone else what you want to happen for you.
Give the Golden Rule some thought today. It might give you a whole new perspective on tomorrow.
A few years back, Dennis was asked to return to our Alma Mater, the school where he taught vocal music for 22 years. It was tradition while he was there, for the alumni to attend the annual Christmas concert and come up on stage for the last number, Handel's Hallelujah Chorus. His students always enjoyed this, and it was especially sweet that year to return to our home town and school and direct the concert choir and alumni in this tradition.
This week, I was reading one of Rick Renner's "Sparkling Gems." In it, he said that one of the best translations of the Holy Spirit as our "Comforter" was "Coach." This spoke to me especially with being part of the coaching world most of my adult life. He pointed out that in the same way Jesus was the disciple's Coach, so the Holy Spirit was given to be our Coach. He teaches us everything we need to know if we will listen to Him and cooperate with what He was sent to do in our lives. He will coach us, just like Jesus coached His disciples.
Isn't it amazing that God provided a partner, a coach, who resides inside of us. He not only knows all the answers we need, He will give us a winning game plan, strengthen, and encourage us to keep on until we win the victory. Rick points out that a coach teaches, advises, corrects, instructs, trains, tutors guides, directs, and prepares you for your assignments. He will patiently show you what you did wrong so you can do it right the next time. A coach isn't there to do it for you, he's there to coach you so you can hit the ball, make the basket or goal, sing the note, so you can perform as you should. He'll also listen.
Take advantage of the Coach inside you today. Let Him help you do amazing things that will be worthy of going into your scrapbook of life. Be Blessed.
J.A. McPhail is the author of five books, has been married to Dennis since 1974, enjoys living in the North Carolina mountains. and is an avid collector of books and book related stuff.