Monday, October 31, 2016

Ordinary man, Extraordinary Destiny



The robed form quickly made it's way through the crowded streets.He seemed oblivious to the people around him as he walked, his chin down, and a parchment held tightly in his right hand. He seemed to have a destination in mind as he looked neither to the left, nor the right. His hand clenched and unclenched around the parchment, causing the passerby that saw him to wonder just exactly what it contained.
But, of even more interest, was the single nail and iron hammer held in his left hand.
Having made his way through the throng, the man unrolled the parchment and made his way up the steps of the cathedral. The door that led to the place of worship had become something of a community newspaper, where all the important decisions of the king and pope, as well as more local matters, were posted.
With purposeful strides the man reached the door and pressed the paper up against it. For a second his eyes scanned the ink that had been carefully  written and ordered into ninety-five different points.
Then with a sudden, determined look, the man took the nail, placed it at the top of the paper, and brought the hammer down.

This man was Martin Luther, and this single action sparked the reformation of the church across Europe.

Exactly 499 years ago today, a spark was lit that would start a fire that would, in turn, blaze its way across Europe. Considered an act of treason by the Catholic church, those who taught that salvation was through grace and not works faced incredible punishments, and many of them lost their lives. Yet, they didn't care.
Teaching exactly what the scriptures taught, and getting the Bible into the hands of the common laborer was what was most important to them. From the reformation came the roots of the Anabaptist (baptist), Calvinist, Mennonite, Lutheran, Evangelical, Methodist, and Congregational churches, just to name a few.
Who would have thought that one man, following and obeying the leading of God in the small town of Whittenburg, Germany, would change the course of history? One hundred and three years later, people who followed teachings that came out of the Reformation (John Calvin's, particularly) , would come across the ocean in the Mayflower, and take their first steps on American soil.
They would lay the foundation for the Christian heritage of our country.
Martin Luther didn't only help change Germany, or even Europe. No, the far reaching effects of his obedience to God would make their way across the ocean.

So, while the rest of our country is celebrating a "holiday" that has nothing to do with Christ, let's remember those who came before us;  those who were committed to teaching the truth of the Gospel, regardless of the consequences.

Happy Reformation Day, all!

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and not that of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast. (KJV, Emphasis added)

Friday, October 28, 2016

Beautiful Books--2016

Hey all! Happy Friday! I love Fridays, don't you? Today I have a little bit of a different kind of a post for you.
Today I'm participating in the Beautiful Books link up that is hosted by Cait and Sky at the two wonderful blogs you can find in the post graphic below. And . . . you can see the introduction post done by Cait at Paper fury here. 
It's basically a post where those of us crazy writers who are doing NaNo (national novel writing month) introduce you to our November writing project. Which in my case is . . . A Question of Loyalty!


So, without any further ado, let's get started, shall we?

What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?


 Well, what inspired the idea for this book is the book that comes directly before it, A Question of Honor. While things were wrapped up fairly well in that book, I wanted to go more in depth into the lives of two minor-main characters in the book--Micah and Erich. How long have I had it. Ummm. . . I have no idea. xD I actually planned out the ideas for a 3 books series before I wrote A Question of Honor sooo . . . a little over a year?

 
Describe what your novel is about!


Here ya go. ;) 
 
1943
 
The war in Europe rages on, Micah Wilson finds himself caught in the crossfires. With parents who firmly believe in the allied side, Micah takes it for granted that both him and his brother would take up England's cause. However, he soon learns his brother's loyalties lie on the opposite side . . . with the axis powers. 
Not willing to let his his brother tear their family apart, Micah volunteers for service in the red cross, hoping to be able to find his brother, who disappeared from their life nearly four years before. 
Yet, while on the battlefield, Micah suddenly finds his own loyalties tested. And when a fateful decision takes him to Switzerland, Micah comes face to face with a man who he had sworn to never see again. 
With the fate of his family resting upon his shoulders, Micah  realizes that not only will his loyalty to his country be tested, but that of his faith in God as well.
 
Erich Essler never expected to be involved in espionage. Yet, he has proven himself time and time again and has been placed undercover in Switzerland. The moment he lays eyes on Micah, he realizes the potential the man could have to get information for the Fatherland. But the possibilities go far beyond that. Erich is well aware that Micah has a brother in the Third Reich, and he plans to use that information to his benefit. 
But why do that questions Micah asks disturb him so? Why is he suddenly doubting his loyalty to the country he loves? And what of this God Micah speaks about? Could he truly have the power to redeem one as wicked as he? 

Sorry, that was long. :P 


What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!



And . . .



Introduce us to each of your characters!
Umm, how 'bout not? ;P That would take wayyyy too long. I'll introduce you to the main three who share POVs. ;) 

Erich: Erich is the villain of the story.(Some of you already know him from A Question of Honor.)  He's a part of the German Wehrmacht,  but more then that's he's a part of the espionage department. 

Micah: Micah is a Doctor in the Red Cross. He's kind, caring, and has a sense of humour, but he can be deadly serious and take a stand when he needs to. 

Arnold: He's also a semi-villain. Micah's pretty much the only good guy with a POV. ;P Anyway, Arnold can be very kind and polite when he wants to be, but don't get on his bad side! He's being polite only to get something from you. 

How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)
I normally just grab a cup of iced tea and sit down to write. If I'm editing I'll grab some chocolate, because editing is hard. ;P I do research a lot before I start any story, since I write mainly historical fiction. I like to have a research notebook that I'll compile all the notes and facts about the time period/geographical area into that so I always have it on hand. :) And yeah, I outline pretty much everything before I start writing. I generally tie it into the research notebook somehow 

What are you most looking forward to about this novel?
Getting it written. Just getting it all down on paper so I can get it out of my head. And getting back into the WWII era with my characters. That will be awesome!

List 3 things about your novel’s setting.
Betrayal.
Brothers.
War.
Oh, and decisions. That makes it an even four. ;)

What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?
I'm going to assume you mean my protagonist. And his goal is finding his brother, ending the war, and becoming a respected doctor. What stands in his way? Europe. Or the war in Europe. And his brother. And Erich. Minor problems. ;P 

How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
 He learns that it isn't always possible to change someone. Only God can do that work. Also, he learns that God, above all, is worthy to be trusted with our lives, not matter how broken they may be.

What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?
Hurt. Hope. The sanctity of life. And above all, the cost of loyalty.  


Well, that's it for today! What do you think? Does it sounds interesting enough to read someday? ;) I hope it's caught your interest! 
Have a blessed weekend, friends!

Friday, October 21, 2016

An Officer, a Servant, and the Second World War

                                      
Picture from pinterest
 Hey y'all! How are you doing this Friday? I am doing good!  A little on the tired side, but good.
But guys, seriously, WHERE DID MY OCTOBER GO TO?! It's not possible that November is so close!! Well, okay, maybe it is possible but it sure doesn't feel like it. And 2017 is only like two months away. And the election is only 17 days. *headesk* Please, someone wake me up when it's all over and I'm older. And wiser. Because voting isn't too attractive this year. 

Okay, anyway. On to a more pleasant subject . . .
I mentioned it last Friday's post that I had a new story idea I was was working on and researching, and I had a few people ask in the comments what it was. Sooo  . . . I thought I'd write a post about it. I actually got the idea after watching the "new" (2015) Disney Cinderella. Yes, it took me this long to get around to watching it, but I finally did in when I was in Washington. (I thought it was amazing, by the way.
After watching it, I had this story idea that I couldn't forget. (And yes, I tried to forget it because I hate working on more than one story at a time. ;P)
Thus I started work on what I'm hoping will be a novella, around 20,000-25,000 words.  And . . . here's the blurb for Beyond the Horizon, which will hopefully be finished before NaNo starts. And I've only written about 4,500 words right now.
Haha, yeah. We'll see how that goes. ;)

Eliana--Elly--longs to see the world beyond the mountains that tower above Salzburg, Austria, but knows that dream will never see such adventure- and neither will she.
Surrounded by a world of cruelty, she lives for the weekly visits of Aaron, a boy she met on one of her rambles through the woods. But as the years pass and she begins to grow older, a new and unwelcome world is opened up to her.on a fateful night at a party she vowed she’d never attend, she comes face to face with a shocking truth.
As the world around her teeters on the brink of war, and the only family she’s ever known vows to keep her in servitude, Eliana struggles to figure out just where her loyalty lies; a decision that will drastically change the course of her life. Will she ever be free to see what lies beyond the horizon?

So . . . what do you think? Does it make you want to read the story? If you haven't already figured it out, it's a WWII Cinderella retelliung. With an officer instead of a prince. ;) 
Here's a small clip from what I've written so far. *hides because it's not edited* 


A knock at the front of the estate sounded, vibrating off the great, vaulted ceilings of the house. “I’ll get it.” Elly quickly wiped her hands on her apron and smoothed her hair while making her way out of the kitchen and into the foyer.
She opened the door just as the man outside raised his hand to knock again. Seeing her there, he took a step back and saluted. “Heil Hitler.”  
Elly frowned. Ever since Austria had been annexed by Germany, it was the required greeting. Still, that didn’t mean she had to enjoy it. She gave a half-hearted salute in return. “Heil Hitler.” For a split second she wondered what he would have done if she had instead saluted the late Austrian president. For some reason, the thought struck her funny, and she bit her lip to keep from laughing.
The man did not seem amused. The brown uniform he wore added to his stiff look, and he shoved an envelope at her. “See that this is delivered to the lady of the house.”
Rescuing the envelope before it fell to the ground, Elly looked it over. It was a simple white envelope, with only the name of her mother and the address of the estate on the back. Curious about what it could be, she turned to ask the uniformed man, but he had already wheeled around and was almost to the black, shiny car that had delivered him there. As he opened the door, he turned once more. “Heil Hitler.”
This time Elly only nodded. She could have sworn that she saw him frown, but offending one of the notorious gentleman of the Third Reich was the last thing on her mind. Though she was little interested in politics, she knew that her father had not been in favor of what Hitler was doing in Germany, and she could only shudder to think what he would have said if he realized Austria was now ruled by the same man.
The car left in a whirlwind of powdery snow, and Elly quickly stepped back into the shelter and welcoming warmth of the open doorway. The thought of the uniformed men taking over Austria didn’t sit well with her. Not that it was her concern. She was only a servant, and obviously her mother must have, at one time or another, had contact with someone in the new government. But who? She stood for a moment longer, turning the envelope over in her hands.
A note from the Third Reich to her mother? Now there was something to worry about.

Does it sound interesting? I hope so!! Have a wonderful and blessed day! ;)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Washington vacation--post #1

Hello all! I'm back today with the first post about my trip to Washington. :) I'm going to warn you; it will be a long post. I tried to keep it as short as possible, but it still turned out pretty long. 


Monday:
Monday was the day I left, but it ended up being a lot different than any of us expected. Mom wasn't feeling well, so I had to stay away from her to not risk getting sick. I ended up running a couple errands with my siblings in the morning, and we got back about an hour before I had to leave for the airport. Since dad was working and mom wasn't feeling well, my Grandparent's who were visiting from CA  as well as my other grandma who lives here took me to the airport and dropped me off.
I have to admit I was a little worried and sad. I had never flown alone before, and neither of my parents were able to tell me goodbye. But . . . God is good, and my grandparents are awesome. Dad called just as I got through security, so I was able to talk to him before I left and he prayed with me; that helped!
The flight to Denver went well, and it was quite easy to find my connecting flight once I landed in Denver. I was so, so thankful!
Once I was on the flight to Spokane, I got a book about to read. However, the motion of the plane along with the fact that all the lights had been dimmed suddenly made me realize just how tired I was. So I laid back and fell asleep.
And then we landed in . . . SPOKANE! I was now very, very nervous. The fact that I was going to meet and spend 10 days with someone I had never met (with non of my family around) was hitting me full force, and there was a time when I got off the plane where I literally wanted to hide and question my sanity. But I knew that wasn't an option. So I started the long walk through the airport. And then . . . I came to the end where everyone was waiting.
There were quite a few people, so I didn't see Emily and her dad right away. But, she was waving, so I found them pretty quickly.
And then just like that, I was giving her a hug. A real honest-to-goodness hug in person. I still couldn't believe it.

A huge thanks to Mr. McConnell for remembering to grab an airport picture! :) 
And then they took me home and we chatted in the car. It really surprised me, because I felt right at home with them; almost as if I had known them forever. They are an awesome family!


Tuesday:
Tuesday we got up, had breakfast, and I was able to meet some more of her family that I hadn't seen the night before. After that one of her sisters took us up to the stables where Emily's horse was boarding. 

I was really surprised by the fact that they had corrals and pasture for the horses on hills! Coming form someone who has lived in Kansas for most of her life, it was just unheard of! 
We were at the stables for a bit of time while Bodie got his cast taken off, and then we headed to the vet's office to grab a few things Emily needed. After that we stopped by a couple different places before heading to Subway for lunch. (And had a jalapeno sandwich, which was amazing. B-) Well, I did. Emily, on the other hand, doesn't like jalapenos. Can you believe it???)
And then I was able to meet a friend of hers who I sorta knew from online and spend the afternoon with her, which was a lot of fun! After that we headed home, had supper, went and fed Bodie, listened to amazing music, and then talked till it was time to head to bed. 

Wednesday:
Ahh, yes. On Wednesday I got to go with Emily to her work. And that was the day I learned there were more varieties of apples outside my knowledge of about 5 varieties. xD  Guys, THEY HAVE 58 VARIETIES AT THEIR ORCHARD! I couldn't believe it. So right away Emily and her boss set out to make sure I would learn and recognize some of the different varieties. The day was a bit rainy, so we pretty much just sorted apples and talked. And she teased me about VeggieTales songs that I don't like. ;) We also made labels and got ready for the Cider pressing that was happening on Thursday. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't seem to get the ink to not smear on the cider label!  So I told her I'd never to labels again, but she still teases me about them. ;P
And we also took pictures (of course!) ;) 



Thursday: 
On Thursday we headed out to work again. I was able to be a part of the Cider pressing! Which was just AMAZING. Cider pressing is awesome, people. And they make the BEST CIDER EVER! It reminded me a lot of the little house books, where everyone would get together for the pressing. The farmers from and orchards around them all came and helped, and it was just one of the best experiences ever.(By the time I finish this post you'll be tired of the words "best" and "amazing." :P)
One of the ladies who was there was from Brazil, and we talked for quite a while about the different foods and cultures there. Which was fun! Since my dad grew up in Brazil I know quite a bit about the country, and it was to nice to be able to talk about it with someone else who knew what I was talking about! We realized we love many of the same foods, and she actually lived pretty close to where my dad grew up. 
Someday I hope I'll be able to be a part of another cider pressing. I loved the experience so much; it was one of the highlights of my trip. 

Apple trees! Lots, and lots of trees!


That night we headed over to her brother Aaron's house and had brownies and watched Disney's Aladdin. Which I had never seen before! It was a really fun movie, and I really enjoyed it. We had Friday off, so we could stay up a bit later. In addition to adding the movie to my "seen" list, I relaized it had an amazing soundtrack. So that was awesome. ;) 


Friday:
We had Friday off, so we slept till around 8am. We walked up to the stables to feed and groom Bodie. We also trimmed his mane and tail for some key chains we were going to make. It was rainy and overcast again. I told Emily I felt like I was having a west Washington experience in eastern Washington. xD

The hill down from the stables. 


When we got back home Emily needed to run a few errands, so Aaron took us to do that. I also was able to try white coffee for the first time. Which I didn't even know existed! It was surprisingly good, but very strong. 
We got home, wrote blog posts on each other's blogs (which was super fun!) And then we went to pick up a friend of Emily's who was going to spend the evening with us. Once we got home we talked (I think this is a reoccurring theme . . . ;)) had supper, and then played MadLibs. Which I had never heard of before! That was a LOT of fun, and we were all laughing pretty hard. (Beautiful kidneys? Physical Therapists who are out to kill everyone? The Dr. telling you to take an anti-coffee shot? It was hilarious!) 
We headed to bed earlier Friday night, since we had to be up early the next morning. 


And . . . that's the first five days of my amazing trip! I can't believe I was in WA just last week.  O_O  It seems surreal. 
Anyway, I'll try to get the 2nd post up soon. :) I hope your Tuesday is going well!!

Friday, October 14, 2016

I'm back!

Hello all! I'm sorry I didn't have a post scheduled for today. I flew back to KS yesterday afternoon and spent the rest of the day working on catching up on some projects as well as researching for a new story idea.
Right now I'm listening to music while looking through pictures from my trip. (And finding piano sheet music for some new songs I was intruduced to in WA.)
I'm planning one doing two or so posts next week about my trip, since I'm pretty sure I can't fit everything into one post. ;P
For now I will just say it was amazing. (Which I'm sure you already guessed. ;)) Here are a few pictures from my time there. Don't worry, there will be a lot more. I took a couple hundred pictures. (No, I'm not planning on posting near that many!)










I hope your week was wonderful, and have an amazing weekend!! By the way, can you believe there are only 71 days till Christmas?! It's crazy!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Twenty Things About Jesseca



Greetings, readers. It is time for a post like none other!

Why is that, you ask? Well, if any of you are familiar with the usual style and writing of this blog you may notice a change in my particular writing style. In fact, some of you are probably already suspicious. This doesn't sound like Jesseca at all. It sounds like someone else... someone who is a bit more sinister. (Not really, but at times can play the part.) Someone who is more than familiar with hijackings, since it happens to her a lot.

Aha, now you're onto me! This isn't Jesseca, this is her kidnapper, Emily McConnell from Imaginary World of Emily McConnell. That's right, readers, Jesseca's blog has now been taken over by me!

*Gasps of horror*

Actually no, it hasn't. She signed into her account on my laptop so I could write this post. You see, your favorite Jesseca is now a resident of my humble abode in Washington, and is staying with me for ten days. We decided it would be fun if we did an exchange blog post- I post on her blog and she on mine- while she is here. So here we are and here I am and here is the post! I decided after spending four days with her of our ten day visit that there was only one blog post that could describe what an awesome and wonderful person Jesseca is. Thus the name, Twenty Things About Jesseca.

Before we start, I'd like to give you a quick background on how Jesseca and I became pen pals:

It started with Andi's blog and the fact we'd both comment on her blog with similar ideas. From there on out, I began to read Jesseca's blog and she read mine. During a blog post series I was doing where I posted some random clips from one of my stories, Jesseca contacted me and asked for all the clips from a spy story I'd written. Thus our friendship was born. A mutual love of history and three years of crazy conversations combined into a hilarious compilation of story ideas, and a well-cultivated understanding of each other. I am so blessed and honored to be her friend, and beyond happy to have her here. So without further ado, twenty things about Jesseca you might not know.
Jesseca and I at my work! She's such a big help!
1. Jesseca likes the nickname Jessa with her pen pals. Also don't ever call her J. Bad things happen to those who do.

2. She likes jalapenos on so many things. The horror! This is coming from a girl with Mexican heritage. I hate jalapenos, so gross. When we split a subway sandwich I accused her of poisoning my food 'cause she ordered jalapenos. 

3. Though quiet, Jesseca is actually very mischievous underneath. She's a contemplative thinker and takes in everything she watches. However she comes up with some great comebacks and one-liners, and can be quite playful.

4. She is probably one of the most mature girls I have ever met. At nearly twenty-one I don't think I possess her level of maturity in the least, even though I'm two and a half years older than her. She is always ready to help someone else, jumps in where she is needed and is respectful as well as kind. She can also be the voice of reason in a lot of situations, a good person to have around a crazy extrovert. ;)

5. Jesseca has an incredibly good Russian accent. I've been teaching her Russian while she is here and was shocked how quickly she learned to roll her "R's" with her words. She could almost pass off as a native. I quiz her throughout the day on different Russian words and she can repeat them with such accuracy it left me jealous. It took me forever to learn what she picks up in a matter of minutes. ;) 

6. She hates the Water Buffalo Song from Veggietales with a passion. Correction- she doesn't hate it but she sure doesn't like it. Her dislike for Larry's silly song is only trumped by Techno Chicken, which she thinks is weird. However, things like What Does the Fox Say? or The Chicken Yodel Song don't seem to bother her, though she told me they were weird.

7. I was amazed at how quickly she picks things up. Within the first day of coming to work with me she could identify three new types of apples she'd never heard before, two of them looking very similar. On our second day of work she was asking customers if they needed help with their produce or wanted bags. Again, that maturity playing through- she was on top of things before I had to ask her.

8. Until coming to work with me she'd never had apple cider cold. Only hot. But she's never had it in a pot nine days old. ;) And we don't plan to, either!

9. She knows what the sound of forgiveness is. Cue insider joke.

10. Jesseca handles meeting new people well. Though a little shy at first she doesn't take long to warm up and go with things. Quick to connect with others, and she has a very pleasant smile.

11. She's not a big animal person. She likes animals but isn't crazy about them like I am. Cats are one of her favorite animals, though, and of the horses we're around she likes mares the best. She seems to have an attraction to white mares especially, according to my observations at the stables I'm boarding my horse at while he heals.

12. I was impressed with how well she handled blood. My horse got his cast off and his proud flesh cut off (the flesh was pushing out of the wound and he had to have it removed for the skin to grow back) and Jesseca took it all in stride, even though there was blood everywhere. She wants to be a nurse someday, and I can attest she is well on her way and will do well! Except she doesn't want horses for patients, she told me. They're too naughty. ;)

13. Though she loves WWII fiction, one of her favorite book series of all time is Viking Quest. A certain Mikkel is her favorite.

14. Apparently one has to be careful what you tease her with, because she may come to strangle you later. I think I'm long due for a headlock with some of the jokes I made this week about the labels she made at work...

15. Jesseca is just so thoughtful. And sweet. And mature. This may sound like a repeat but I want to express how impressed I am with how thoughtful she is. She waited this morning to get up until I woke up, and let our cats take over her bed whenever they feel like it. I noticed her concern when we didn't find my little sister R upstairs, and how quick she is to ask for permission to do things. She is amazing!

16. She is not a big romance fiction fan but enjoys it now and then. Don't get her started on her rant about Amish and Mennonite romance books. ;) 

17. She is very familiar with Brazilian culture and well versed in understanding how they work. One of my coworkers is Brazilian and Jesseca chatted with her for a long time. They got along great and found it fun how many of the same food dishes both liked. Being more culturally aware of European society, I was at a loss as to what they talked about, a first for me! Jesseca is really knowledgeable about Brazil.

18. Though she doesn't like to have more than one story she's writing at a time, I noted Jesseca has books all over the guest room that she's reading. And she's reading all of them. I tend to read one book at a time, while she reads several all at once. She is never lacking in books, a true testimony to her dedication as a writer. Writers read, people!

19. We grew up on a lot of the same school curriculum. The Millers series, the Moody series, etc. She is the first person I know who read most of the same books I did growing up!

20. And last but not least...
Jesseca has such a strong faith in the Lord. I am so impressed and awed by her dedication to Christ and her love for Him. It shows in all her writing, in how she talks and her actions. She is such an inspiration to me, and a good conscience check. I hope I can have at least half the faith she does in our Savior.


Well readers, that is it for now. Thanks for letting me steal her for a week or so, it means the world to me. ;) When she gets back you can have her blog posts again. She is an awesome blogger, writer, friend, and, well, everything! I'm so blessed to have her here and to know her. Praise the Lord for pen pals!

Take care everyone, and God bless. Thanks for letting me hijack the blog for a day!

-Emily McConnell

Monday, October 3, 2016

A Place Called Lonesome--WWII

Hey all! Welcome to Monday, the start of a glorious new week!
In my wrap-up post on Saturday, I promised I'd share today the short-story I wrote and entered in a contest. The them of the contest was "lonesome" and the story had to fit with the title "This Lonesome Place". The banner for the contest depicted a western-themed setting, but it wasn't required for the story to match the banner.
So I decided to try using the title for a WWII story. And this is what I came up with. ;) Let me know what you think! :)
Also, just a quick note, I'm leaving today on a trip, so I'll work on responding to all comments on previous posts before I leave. However, any other comments and emails may have a delayed reply. :)




France 1944

The flowers were gray and the world ashen as the sun struggled to make itself shown. The desolate strip of land had long since been abandoned by the troops on both sides, and now an eerie silence settled over the barren area.
Yet, through the layers of smoke and the littered bodies of boys whose lives had been snuffed out before their prime, life still pulsed through the veins of one, solitary figure.
A man named Danny.
He lay on the ground, alone in a sea of gray. A trickle of blood that started at his temple had made a pool on the sand, and both his legs lay twisted at an unnatural angle.
As a bird swooped overhead, he opened his eyes ran a dry tongue over his lips. As his consciousness returned, so did the excruciating pain.
Every time his heart beat he could feel it in his legs, and the wound in his head continued to keep a small but steady stream of blood emptying into the thirty sand below.
“God, help me.” The words, spoken through swollen, cracked lips, could hardly be heard above the gentle sound of the waves crashing upon the shore.
He had been left for dead. That told him a thing or two about how he must look.
Doing his best to keep the lower half of his body still, he brought his right hand out from under his body and pressed it to his head. Alarmed at the moist, sticky substance that slipped between his fingers, he pressed to try and stop the bleeding.
He knew it was useless. Without help, he was destined to die here. Die. Alone, and on unfamiliar soil, dying for the freedom of so many he would never see.
A sigh escaped his lips. He had dreamed of peace, but it appeared God had seen fit that he not see it until he passed through the pearly gates.
He forced his brain to focus; to form words out of the blinding pain. God was sovereign. He had a reason for everything. So why was it so hard to believe it now?
He looked heavenward and spoke.  “Please watch over Jim for me.”
Those words off his chest, he could rest easy now. He wondered if Jim had made it up the treacherous slopes, or if he had died trying to make it ashore.
He had never been separated from his younger brother until today. He had always watched over him; always sheltered him.
But not anymore. He couldn’t. It was in God’s hands.
Ever so slowly he managed to turn himself over so that what little sun had made its way through the clouds would warm his face.
Funny thing, he could no longer feel his legs. That couldn’t mean anything good.
It did help him focus, though. The pain he had been feeling no longer consumed his thoughts. His head, on the other hand, had not stopped throbbing. However, the pain radiating from it paled in comparison to the agony he had felt in his legs.
The mournful cry of a lone seagull drifted to him over the waves. He wondered if perhaps it was flying home, back to a warm nest somewhere where it would be sheltered and kept safe.
Home.
Thoughts of home came flooding into his head. The warm, spicy scent of cinnamon raisin cookies wafting through the house. Laughter around the dinner table over stories that were told. His dad’s strong hand on his shoulder, making him feel able to conquer the world.
He was startled from his reverie when he realized it wasn't just his imagination. A hand was on his shoulder, pressing hard.
Eyes flying open, he immediately met the blue-eyed gaze of a soldier not much older than him. He glanced down at his uniform, and a shudder raced down his spine.
This man was not an American. He was German.
He braced himself for whatever may come next. He’d heard the stories. The Germans took no pity on those who were weak or broken.
And right now, he fit both those categories.
But, to his surprise, a damp cloth was pressed to his head, and the man took his canteen and held it to his mouth.
The cool water trickled down his lips, and he coughed in his eagerness to swallow.
“Careful. Take it slow.”
The voice, speaking perfect English with only a hint of an accent, startled him. Having gotten his fill of the water, he pulled away from the canteen. “You speak English?”
The man nodded. “My name is Marcus.” He didn’t meet Danny’s eyes, but set the canteen aside and took a roll of cloth from the belt around his waist.
“You . . . are helping me?”
“I’m a medic.”
It seemed that Marcus thought that those three words could explain everything.
“Yes.” Danny was still confused. “But you’re a . . . a . . .”
“A kraut?” This time Marcus looked up at met his gaze.
Danny didn’t know what to think. There was no hostility in his gaze. None of the hate he had expected to see from someone wearing this uniform.
Instead, his eyes were glazed over with weariness. He looked . . . human.
As though reading his thoughts, Marcus spoke. “We’re not all heartless animals, you know. Some of us do have a soul . .  . and a conscience.”
He said no more; simply used the water to cleanse the wounded area on Danny’s head before taking the length of cloth and wrapping it tightly around.
Danny winced as the slight pressure caused his head to throb again, but Marcus didn’t even glance at his face. “If you think this hurts, wait till I get to your legs.”
“They don’t hurt anymore.”  He watched as Marcus shifted and moved down to his legs.
After surveying them for a moment, Marcus turned. “This . . . this is more than I can do.” He shook his head. “I can clean them, wrap them, try and straighten them, but there’s something else wrong. You’ll need a doctor to look at them.”
Danny nodded. “Whatever you can do, I thank you.”
“What’s your name?” Marcus asked as he tore the uniform covering Danny's legs.
“Danny. Danny Spencer, Infantry division”
As Marcus went to work, Danny studied him. He was tall and slim, but strongly built. His hair was blondish-red and wavy, and a few stray strands brushed against his forehead, which was furrowed in concentration as he worked on Danny’s legs.
Just then, Marcus turned and caught him staring. He simply gave a small grin, and turned back to his work. “So, you have a girl waiting for you back home?”
“A girl?” A slight smile touched Danny’s lips. “I have a wife.”
It was Marcus’s turn to look startled. “A wife? How long have you been married?”
“We married a month before I left.”
“Describe her for me.”
Danny pondered the odd request, then shrugged. What difference would it make? “Her name’s Betty. She’s small. Comes up a little past my shoulder. But she’s spirited. We grew up together; seemed we always knew we’d get married. She’s got blond hair, and the darkest blue eyes you ever saw. She—augh!”
He recoiled and writhed in pain as Marcus pulled to straighten the leg.
“Don’t think about the pain,” Marcus grunted. “Keep talking about your wife. Keep thinking about her. “
Danny tried to focus as the waves of pain threatened to overwhelm him. A welcome blackness hovered over him, and Danny wanted nothing more than to stop fighting and let go.
A sudden slap on his face startled him, bringing the pain back as the blessed darkness vanished.
“You stay with me, Danny.” Marcus was breathing hard. “You’re going to get home if it kills me.”
Danny’s eyes focused on Marcus, who hovered above him.
“Now listen to me, Danny. I got to straighten that other leg, and I need you to stay with me. You let go now, you’ll die.”
Danny struggled to wrap his mind around Marcus’s words.
Marcus grabbed his shoulders and shook him. “Danny!”
“Yeah.” Danny did his best to nod. “I . . . understand.”
Marcus seemed satisfied as he lowered Danny back down onto the sand and he turned back to his legs.
Danny braced himself, gritting his teeth and waiting for the pain he knew would come. For a brief moment he wondered if perhaps he had been better off before. He may have died, but at least it would have been painless.
Then it came. The pain shot through his leg and once again he could see the painless darkness beckoning to him.
“Think about Betty. She wants you to come home. Don’t let go, Danny,” Marcus yelled as he worked on splinting and binding the mangled legs.
Danny fought to stay above the waves of pain that seemed intent on carrying him out to some distant sea that he would never return from.
After what seemed like an eternity, he felt a small capsule pushed into his mouth, and the canteen held to his lips.
“Here.” Marcus’s voice seemed far away. “I found I had one morphine tablet left. Take it.”
Morphine. That would dull the pain. Danny swallowed it as fast as he possibly could, hardly feeling the cool water that slid down his throat.
Though he knew it wasn’t possible, it seemed as though the morphine started working the moment he swallowed it. He settled back onto the sand and took a deep breath.
Marcus sat next to him, head in his hands.
He looked exhausted. Danny could only wonder what he’d been through the day before. As a medic, he would have seen things no man should ever have to see. And it showed.
 There was one thing Danny was certain of. No matter what side of a war you fought on, every man went through the same horrific struggle, and it changed him.
He forced himself to concentrate.  “You got a girl waiting for you?”
Maybe talking would help Marcus’s mind get off the horrors of war, if just for a moment. He owed him something.
At his words, Marcus looked up. A small ghost of a smile lifted the corner of his eyes. As he gaze out at the sea.  “I have a sister. Her name is Ellie. A young, beautiful little girl who is waiting for me to come home, take her in my arms, and twirl her around.”
His gaze cut to Danny. “That’s what she made me promise.” The smile left his face. “When our father died, she made me promise I would come home and hold her.”
He paused. “It’s been four, long years since I’ve seen her. She’ll be about eleven now. I can’t wait to see her again. To keep my promise.”
Silence settled between the two men.
The tide was coming in, and the sound of the waves was closer, creating a calm, peaceful setting. How could place be so peaceful, when just a few short hours ago it had been echoing with the shouts of men and the thunder of heavy artillery?
Calm came after the storm. Apparently that was true in war, too. 
Yet, as they sat there together, another question wouldn’t leave Danny alone. Finally, he asked it.
“Why did you help me?”
At his words, Marcus turned. “I answered the call to heal before I answered the call of duty to my country. My job is to help and heal, not to destroy.”
The answer was so simple, but it left Danny baffled. How could someone whom he had been taught was the enemy hold such a view on the war?
But before he could ask anything else, shouts of men could be heard coming over the dunes just above them. As Danny watched, the small group of soldier quickly crossed the sand, heading towards where they were sitting.
“Hey, that there’s a kraut down there with one of our boys!”  A  voice, unmistakably American, drifted toward them.
Danny started. He knew that voice. “Jim. Jim!” He craned his neck around just in time to see his brother raise his rifle and aim it at Marcus.
“No, no!” Danny’s voice was hoarse, and he couldn't seem to get it any louder. How could he make them understand Marcus had not been trying to hurt him?
Marcus shot up, his hands in the air, but the moment he stood taller than Danny, a shot rang out.
Time seemed to move in slow motion as Marcus crumpled to the ground.
Danny turned to see him as best he could. “Are you all right?”
“They— they sure teach you—how—to —shoot, don’t—they?” Marcus said as he gasped for breath.
Danny could see a bright red stain spreading across the front of his uniform. No one had to tell him; Marcus was dying.
Danny couldn’t understand how he could feel such a loss from a man—an enemy—he had just met.
He reached over and clutched his hand, and Marcus gripped it. “Danny—live your life. Win—win the war. You’ll see—the—peace—I longed for.”
His breathing became more labored as he struggled for each lungful of air.
“I’ll see peace because of you,” Danny breathed. “I thank you.”
Once more the shadow of a smile made its way across Marcus’s face. Danny wondered what he would look like it her ever fully smiled; if the shadow left his eyes.
“Ellie—”
Danny leaned closer to hear what he was saying, and then realized Marcus wasn’t talking to him.
“Ellie—I tried. I’m sorry—sorry I won’t be there to—see—you grow up.” With the last word, Marcus’s breathing came in short gasps, and then . . . he was gone.
The Americans had reached them now. Danny looked helplessly as one of the men rolled Marcus’s body to the side.
“Danny!” His brother’s face was suddenly in front of him. “Oh, you made it through.”
Relief was evident in his gaze, and Danny nodded. “I wouldn't have made it . . . except for him.” He nodded toward Marcus.
Jim followed his gaze. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know . . .” his voice trailed off.  He rubbed a hand over his face and then spoke again. “He patched ya up good, but you need to see a doctor. Harry and I, we’ll go and grab a stretcher and Robbie’ll go find a doctor we can take ya to.” He held his brother’s gaze. “I’ll be right back, Danny. I promise.”
Danny nodded, and the three hurried off, leaving him once again alone.
Marcus's body lay off to the side; his lifeless form making the silence around Danny seem to close in all the more.
He was alive; Marcus was dead. War was no respecter of persons.
And it made absolutely no sense.

~ 4 years later ~

As the small boat neared the beach, the girl standing at the bow turned to the man at her side. “Is this the place?”
The man twisted to look where she was pointing. “Yes. We’ll get off here and I’ll show you.”
The girl looked back to the white, sandy strip of land. Her auburn curls were loose in the breeze, and her hazel eyes unusually serious.
The boat docked, and he led her up onto the sand. The breeze was warm and the sun bright as they walked together across the sand.
It took time. The man used a cane to help him walk with his good leg, while trying to keep his prosthetic leg from dragging. The sand made it all the harder, but the girl was patient and willing to give a helping hand whenever it was needed.
At last they made it to their desired spot.  The rocks were still there, though much of the driftwood had been washed away during storms at sea. The man leaned heavily on his cane, reliving the last time he had been here. Alone and almost dead.
At last he spoke. “This is it, Ellie. This is where your brother died.”
Ellie wrapped her hand around his arm as they stood there together.
There really wasn’t much to see. White sand stretched out for miles in stark contrast against the dark rock of the cliffs above.
But to the two solitary figures, this beach was far more. For one, it represented life. For another, death. But for both of them, it was a promise.
A promise that even when all seems to be lost, God steps in, and makes a mess into His beautiful masterpiece.
At last Ellie turned. “Thank you for bringing me here, Danny.”
Danny nodded. “He wanted to come home, Ellie. He wanted nothing more than to make it back home for you.”
There was silence for a moment. When she spoke, Ellie’s voice was quite. “He made it home. Jesus took him from this war-torn, blood-stained earth and ushered him into paradise.” Her eyes glistened with tears. “Marcus has the peace he longed for.”
Danny didn’t reply, only reached down and squeezed her hand. “Is there anything else you want to do or see while we’re here?”
Ellie thought for a moment, and then a whimsical smile drifted over her face, reminding Danny so much of her brother. “There is one thing I always dreamed of when I thought about Marcus, so far away.” She ducked her head. “It’s rather silly, actually. But every time he would come home from anywhere, he would pick me up and twirl me in his arms. And then, just before he left, he sat me down and made me promise that I wouldn’t cry for him. Not at all, until he held me again.
Her eyes drifted out to the ocean, and Danny had a feeling that though she was by his side, she was miles away. “I’ve kept my promise. I haven’t cried for him.”
Lifting a hand, Danny brushed his flyaway hair out of his eyes. “I know I’m not your brother, but I can hold you. And you can cry, Ellie. It’s okay to cry.”
Ellie’s chin wobbled, and she blinked as she turned back to look at the cliffs in front of them.
And then, with a strangled cry, she threw herself in Danny’s arm while her body shook with sobs.
Danny held her and let her cry. They stood there, not moving, for a long while.
As the sun finally slipped beyond the waters, Danny turned and together they walked back to the small boat.
When they got there, Ellie stopped and surveyed the scene once more. And then, as the boat began to move away from shore, she spoke, her voice hardly a whisper. “Goodbye, Marcus, my brother. I’ll see you again soon.”
Danny only put an arm on her shoulder. No words would help something like this; only time.
The war may have been over, battles may have been won. But for many, life was never the same.
Because some battles are not fought with others. They do not have battlefields that can be visited , or memories erected in their honor. These battles are fought every day, as people struggle to go on living after the war.

These are lonely battles that are fought within a person. Fought in a place called lonesome. 

The Tomb is . . . empty.

Matthew 28:1-9 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mar...