This is an old blog that I started in 2006. I keep it because it has a lot of historical data and people still come here. As of September 2016, no new updates will be made here. All new blog posts and writing/publishing related news will be posted over on my new site at www.jenniferhudsontaylor.net.

Path of Freedom, Quilts of Love series

1858 North Carolina - When Quakers Flora Saferight and Bruce Millikan embark on the Underground Railroad, they agree to put their differences aside to save the lives of a pregnant slave couple..

Highland Sanctuary, (Highland series - Book 2)

1477 Scotland - A chieftain heir is hired to restore Briagh Castle and discovers a hidden village of outcasts who have created their own private sanctuary from the world.

Highland Blessings, (Book 1 - Highland series)

1473 Scotland - The story of a highland warrior who kidnaps the daughter of his greatest enemy and clan chief to honor a promise to his dying father.

Monday, December 31, 2012

A Brief Look Back & What Will 2013 Bring?

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

For my family, I pray it brings healing and restoration. In 2011, we watched two family members battle cancer, as they endured surgery and radiation. One made it and the other did not. We grieved. We coped. And we continue to love and cherish our memories.


Here is a video my daughter made for my father-in-law on Father's Day, 3 months before he passed away. Remembering Winston Taylor. Also, here is a tribute I wrote regarding my father-in-law on his birthday. Giving Thanks for More Time.

At the same time as we were losing Winston, my mother fought a very aggressive breast cancer. She is a survivor! Here is a tribute I wrote to her on Mother's Day! A Tribute to My Teen Mother.

By now, many of you know that in 2012 my daughter began having seizures after being seizure-free and med-free for over eleven years. It marked the beginning of many challenges. Additionally, we discovered that our daughter also had Asperger's Syndrome. In October, I wrote a post on how our life changed, November is National Epilepsy Month-How It Affects Our Family. In spite of all the difficulties, I believe the greatest and most stressful challenge for my daughter has been public high school, so I wrote a post on How the Public School System is Failing Our Students.

So, what will 2013 Bring?

First of all, I don't believe in making New Year's Resolutions. I have found that goals with short-term milestones, are much more motivating.

1) Homeschooling - We are fed up with the public education system and will be taking matters into our own hands. Based on our daughter's medical situation and her special needs, we believe we can better provide a safer, happier environment for our daughter to learn. She will be able to learn at her own pace so she can really grasp the material rather than being pushed through a system and barely grasping basic concepts at a rapid pace. We will concentrate on giving her opportunities to apply what she learns to life rather than memorizing facts for a test that will be forgotten as soon as the test is over. She will be given more hands-on projects. We have already picked out her curriculum and planned her courses for the next 3 years to graduation. Right now she is considering being a Pediatric Occupational Therapist. We will see if this changes!

2) Church Youth Group - Now that our daughter is doing much better on her meds, with her migraines, and learning how to cope with her Asperger's issues, we are encouraging her to get involved in a new church youth group. We believe this socialization with peers her age will be better than she had experienced in the public school environment.

3) On Writing - I have two new books releasing. Path of Freedom will release January 2013 and the For Love or Loyalty will release November 2013. It's the first book in The MacGregor Legacy series. While these books are releasing, I plan to finish the manuscripts to the last two books in the series and turn them in by the deadlines in 2013.

4) Restoration - Ever since the migraines and seizures began, we have fought the fear of worrying when the next seizure might occur and where and what she might be doing as a risk to her safety. We don't worry every moment of every second, but we do consider things that were never a problem before. For instance, we never worried about her taking the stairs, but if she has a seizure while on the stairs, the injuries could be severe. It's the same around water with swimming and bathing or driving. While adjusting her seizure medications, her neurologist cautioned us about her doing physical exercises, any contact sports, horseback riding, etc. On January 31st, if Celina continues to be seizure-free for six months, she can begin resuming some of these activities.

These are just a few things we are looking forward to in 2013.



Friday, December 21, 2012

Giving 3 Copies Away - Path of Freedom by Jennifer Hudson Taylor


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Path of Freedom by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Path of Freedom

by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Giveaway ends January 08, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Monday, December 17, 2012

Word of Inspiration: We Live By Faith

“But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21

This must have been a confusing time for Joseph. How many of us actually pay attention to our dreams? Some of us dismiss our dreams when they don't make sense. What if Joseph had done this? Usually this passage is used to teach about the miracle of Jesus' birth, but today I want to concentrate on the faith that Joseph had to act on without understanding the purpose behind what had happened. He probably wondered, how could the Holy Spirit mate with Mary? But he chose not to have her stoned as most men would have done in that time. He chose to take her as his wife and continue on the path of their betrothal in spite of the circumstances. This doesn't mean he didn't have moments of doubt, feelings of betrayal, and times when he questioned his sanity. Other men probably taunted him, tried to convince him to put her away, and snubbed him--and cast those hurtful looks that people give when they judge you.

Today, many parents are faced with the reality that their precious, innocent child has been taken from them in such a violent way after the school massacre in CT. Much of the nation is still reeling in shock and asking why. Others will be saying extra prayers and taking deeper breaths as they drop their children off at school and watch them catch the school bus. We don't have a choice. We must keep living. Parents who lost a child in the massacre have other children they must live for and offer them hope in the midst of their grief. Just like Joseph, these parents and the rest of us must keep going, even though we don't understand. 

Our trust and sense of security in our fellow man has been violated--once again--betrayed. We know these things can always happen, but we live with the hope that they won't. Our faith has been wounded and will need to heal with each new day. Time is a great healer, but God is an even better healer. But rather than turn to Him to bind our wounds, many will blame Him, questioning why He didn't stop this from happening. I have an answer that you may accept or reject. The choice is yours. 

God gave us the greatest gift of all--His love. With His love comes many other gifts that He will not take back from us now that He has given it. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29). One of those gifts is free-will. Every man and woman on this earth has been given the free-will to do good or evil. Now that we live in the New Testament, God works through the hearts of men and women. I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people (Jeremiah 31:33). This is that inner ability to know right from wrong. 

We will never know all the things that God might have done to try and stop this. He may have tried to speak to Nancy Lanza's conscience not to buy those guns or teach Adam how to shoot them, but she didn't listen. And we will never know. He may have tried to encourage Adam to think positive thoughts through teachers, mentors, and counselors. We may never know. He may have tried to reach Adam through ministries, programs, therapies, or medications. He may have allowed certain circumstances to warn others that something wasn't right through Adam's behavior, but it was ignored, neglected or excuses could have been made. Again, we may never know. 

God did not do this, nor did He allow this. He is grieving with us and comforting those who will allow Him to comfort them. 

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Word of Inspiration: Jesus Knows Us Intimately

“I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.” John 10:14-15

The Bible uses this analogy to compare Jesus as the shepherd and those who believe in Him as the sheep. He dwells in our hearts because that is where our soul is--the deepest part of us. In order to love us, He must intimately know us, and to return that love, we must know Him. He is the good shepherd because He takes the time to know us and loves us enough to die for us. It is necessary for Him to lay down his life for us, because it says that the Father knows Him. It doesn't say that the Father knows us. God is so holy that the natural born sin in us separates us from Him, but through the perfect blood of Jesus, the Father is able to know us and reconnect with us as before the fall of mankind. 

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

You Don't Have to Fake the "Merry" Through Christmas

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

This is not a "Bah Humbug" post. 

It's for the people who are suffering loss, dealing with financial burdens, trying to heal from broken marriages and relationships, struggling each day in pain with health issues, and for those who have difficult families. 

Christmas comes once a year, but our problems don't go away just because it is the Christmas Season. It doesn't always bring joy, but we feel like it should. After all, isn't this the season of miracles? Many of us wonder when we'll get our miracle, especially if we're praying for a loved one to live, a spouse to come back, and bills to be paid. 

For those of us who are going through these situations, we feel a myriad of emotions. We don't want to bring others down with our misery, so we fake smiles, go through the motions of buying gifts and decorating like we're robots. We cringe each time we hear Christmas music, or specific songs. We attend parties and feasts because we feel obligated and don't want to hurt people's feelings. We eat another dessert we don't need or want because people keep tempting us, or pushing us to "live a little" and we "deserve a break". We stress over whose house we will visit and how long we will stay there before we go visit more relatives to keep from hurting feelings. 

Others feel obligated to keep tradition alive even when other family members no longer care. We want to send out traditional Christmas cards, decorate with our favorite things, and argue with family members if someone wants to decorate with a different theme. We take our annual trips, work hard to make sure meals are perfect and struggle to hold it together when things don't go as planned. We have to "work" at making Christmas special and perfect because we want to create lasting memories. If you are having to work at it too hard, something is wrong. Let the memories create themselves naturally. 

Then there are the family members who refuse to get along with each other, who say mean and hurtful things just to get at each other. Or the boastful ones who live the perfect life, the trouble makers who can never get on their feet and always need a loan, the complainers who are never satisfied with the food, what is prepared or how it is served. Don't forget the bossy ones who have to dictate in what order everything is done. I might have missed a few personalities, but you get the general idea. 

Does any of this sound familiar?

I have always been one of those cheerful individuals during the Christmas season, and now I realize I might have been quite annoying to some. I start listening to my Christmas music as early as October, at least by November. I hated it if someone is down and depressed, and I viewed it as my responsibility to try and cheer them and make them feel better. I loved sending out my personal Christmas cards. I loved decorating, watching Christmas movies, reading Christmas stories, and going places to view lights and experience Christmas events, such as ice skating, carriage rides, touring Biltmore at Christmas, seeing the festival of lights, the Nutcracker, the dinner theater and Christmas events at church. 

My enjoyment of these things have not changed. I still love them, but my view of them is somewhat different.

Over the last three years something about Christmas has changed for me, and I believe God has allowed me to experience these things so I will be able to identify with people that I could not identify with in the past. Since I've been on both sides of the fence, I want to offer some suggestions for both the "merry people" and the ones feeling obligated to "fake the merry". 

To the ones feeling obligated to "fake the merry", you need to set boundaries.
1) Don't allow others to force you to listen to Christmas songs that bring painful memories or stir anger and strife inside you. Leave the room, put on earphones and listen to your own music, suggest a different Christmas CD that does not make you feel yucky. Your feelings matter and your request to not hear something should not hurt someone else. They need to be respectful. Just make sure you are courteous, but stand your ground and set the limit. 

2) Don't visit extended family members that cause division, arguments and fights. Offer to visit the nonviolent family members at a different time and have your own private little gathering. It will be more peaceful, and you might actually enjoy it. You could also limit your stay and leave before people start getting tired and bored with each other. You need to protect yourself and your loved ones, especially your children. Don't spike the eggnog and serve alcohol, if someone in the family can't handle it. 

3) Some traditions need to change as our family dynamics change. If grandma's health is failing, it's time for a younger person in the family to host the gathering and cook the meals. Be prepared for a few complaints if you change the traditional menu. Don't get your hopes up that they will love it. Just do what works for you, as long as you don't serve someone food they are allergic to, and move on. 

4) If you don't have time to decorate, don't force it, scale back on the decorations or offer to let your children or grandchildren do it for you--or nieces and nephews. You could even offer to let a youth group from your church decorate for you. 

5) If you don't want to do Christmas cards, don't. If it makes you feel good, set aside the postage money ahead of time and send them out. Don't do it out of obligation. This only builds friction inside you. 

6) If the commercialization of Christmas bothers you, avoid it. Order things online ahead of time and have it delivered to your doorstep. Make and bake gifts. Create crafts or do something that makes you feel good. 

7) If you are having financial difficulties, tell family members you would prefer to draw names, or only give to children, or not give gifts this year--just enjoy the gift of company. You have nothing to be ashamed of so be honest and tell them you have a strict budget. You don't have to go into details and explain things. If family members keep asking questions, tell them you are fine and that you would like for them to respect your wishes. 

8) Jesus is the reason for the season, but He is also the reason for 365 days throughout the year. Don't feel like you have to get all hyped up to celebrate the birth of Christ if you have a close relationship with Him throughout the year. Be thankful and mindful, but don't feel obligated to make it "feel" special or different. Jesus is more interested in how you live your life throughout the year. 

To the ones who are very merry, you need to respect other people's boundaries.
1) You can try to cheer someone, but if they really want to be left alone, leave them alone. Let God be God. He will deal with them. Your responsibility is to pray. You will only annoy them further and that only ignites feelings that could be avoided.

2) If someone wants you to change the music, do it. You will have plenty of time to listen to the Christmas music you like when you are alone, in your car, on your cellphones, and at home or when you don't have company visiting. You don't know why that person doesn't like something, and even if you do, it isn't your place to judge them or to decide when they should get over something. 

3) If someone doesn't want to come over because of family strife with others, don't try to pressure or manipulate them to do what you want. Offer them a chance to come over at a different time. Sometimes we need to love at a distance. Don't judge. Just because you would handle the situation differently, doesn't mean the way they are handling it is wrong. 

4) If someone in the family is dealing with a financial burden, don't make them feel worse by offering to buy gifts for others in their name or loan them money. Let them keep their dignity. Don't ask a bunch of questions. They will tell you what they want you to know. If you want to still give gifts to the children, offer to provide wrapped gifts with each child's name, but put no return name on it. Ask if this will be okay. Some families are so large, the kids may not know which aunts or uncles provided them. 

5) Don't use this time to preach to people. If the opportunity arises, share your faith in a one-on-one way that won't push them away, but will make them want to hunger for more. It's fine to pray over the food, but don't make someone feel as if they have to do the praying aloud. 

6) Don't judge and criticize family members that have made poor choices in your effort to make them see what they are doing to themselves. Stay off of topics that are "pulse buttons" with individuals known to explode about certain things. Don't tease a relative that rarely takes teasing in a good way. 

7) Don't stay married to your traditions. Be willing to compromise and allow others to introduce new traditions. If you're the only one who wants to continue doing something the way it has always been done, recognize that it is over. It is now a cherished memory. That is what memories are for. 

8) Don't go into someone's house and immediately start rearranging their kitchen, ordering people about, or taking over the organization because you don't feel it is organized. Ask what the hostess would like for you to do if you came over to "help out". No one wants to deal with a "know it all" or a bossy relative. By the same token, if you are the hostess, don't expect people to come over and just jump in and do things. They may not want to step on your toes or know how you want things done. 

9) Don't tell new parents how to parent. Offer suggestions, but be prepared to accept the fact that your suggestions may be ignored and don't get an attitude about it. Parents will learn by trial and error and they need to figure out what works best for their family. Don't feed grandkids, nieces and nephews things that their parents have said they can't have. Ask first. 

Above all, remember that Jesus wants your Christmas to be as peaceful as possible. Treat others as He would. 


Monday, December 03, 2012

Word of Inspiration: In the Beginning was the Word

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-2, 14

This is one of those concepts that is beyond our ability to comprehend. If God is the beginning, then how did God begin? It requires faith to believe He is the beginning. There was no process or evolution to create God Himself. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Before the creation of the universe, stars, and heavens, God was. When God spoke the word, then the formation of the universe, stars and heavens began to take shape. I imagine it would have caused great movement, shaking and even explosions as this process took place. This is what I believe the scientists of today have discovered as part of their evolution theory.

In the beginning was the Word, the Word was God, and the Word became flesh--Jesus, the son of God. Not only did God come to us in the flesh, but He then poured out His heart into the written Word to help guide us and to communicate with us. He wrote a journal--the Bible--directly to his people, to everyone willing to believe and accept Him.

The Word was. The Word was spoken. The Word was written. The Word became flesh. The Word is fulfilled. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Book Review - "Surrender the Night" By MaryLu Tyndall

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

 
#christianromance, #christianfiction #historicalchristianfiction

Book Description

A Pampered British Lieutenant Falls for a Lowly Baltimore Farm Girl 

Step into a breathtaking novel of adventure and romance set amid the War of 1812. During an assault by an enemy sailor, timid farm girl Rose McGuire is saved by the least likely of heroes—a British Naval Lieutenant. Now that he’s wounded, she’ll have to heal as well as hide him. Alex Reed is being aided and abetted by his enemy—albeit an innocent and attractive one. But he might be doing Rose more harm than good if his presence on her farm is discovered. As their love blooms, trouble looms. Will this couple survive another British invasion?

My Review
Tyndall creates a compelling story line with tantalizing characters facing the same fears and heart rendering circumstances that our ancestors faced in the War of 1812. With a heart-warming romance between two people born opposing each other, Rose and Alex must risk everything to trust and save each other. Both are forced to deal with their weakened faith from a history of pain and letdowns that have become stumbling blocks to growing their relationship with the Lord. I liked the fact that these two characters didn't trust easy and they questioned God from past experiences that shaped their view of Him. These are the real struggles we face in life and it was refreshing to read about a realistic situation in a work of fiction. The historical details are very accurate and brings the story to life as if you can imagine being there in that place and time in history. This is one of the things I love about MaryLu's writing. 

Visit MaryLu's website. 



Friday, November 16, 2012

Word of Inspiration: Open My Eyes, Lord

“Open my eyes, that I may see Wondrous things from Your law.” Psalm 119:18


Most of our discouragements come from a lack of understanding. Often the answers are right in front of us. It can be masked by our circumstances, the obstacle of confusion, or layered in lies. Other times, it is sitting behind a wall of denial in our hearts and in our minds. We do not want to see, hear, or know things that are uncomfortable, painful, or scary. 

Jesus is truth. He cannot lie or deceive us. If we are willing to look beyond our own perspective, we may see a broader picture. God's law is set for many reasons, some that are beyond our comprehension, and will require a measure of faith from us. If we are willing to accept that God's word and His law is not about us, but for a greater purpose that will benefit ALL of us, then we may ask Him to open our eyes so we will be able to see miracles and wondrous things that we could not see on our own. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Word of Inspiration: Liberty Is Meant to Serve

“For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.” 1 Peter 2:15-16


First, I want to concentrate on the second part of this verse. How do people use their liberty as a cloak for vice? By abusing their authority over others. It falls under the same concepts as "do as I say and not as I do" or "I'm the boss and you are not, so therefore, I can do what I want." When you behave in this manner, you displease God. This is why so many people distrust government, bosses, teachers, professors, and even ministry leaders in authority. Most of us have been burned at least once, many of us several times over. God sees what has happened to you and He does not approve. The guilty who do not repent of this sin will be judged, and God will take His vengeance against them. Eventually, many of them will lose their leadership positions and power. Think of all the pastors who have fallen, and government officials whose unfaithful affairs became public knowledge. 

These individuals were not put into powerful leadership to rule over others, but to lead them. They are not supposed to suppress them, but make their lives better. These leaders are supposed to act as bondservants of God, not oppressive kings and queens of tyranny. 

Good deeds are hard to criticize, even by ignorant and foolish people. It will silence them because they will have nothing to complain about. Therefore, continue to do what you know is good, and know in your heart that you will please God and will eventually be rewarded. 

Monday, November 05, 2012

November is Epilepsy Awareness - How It Impacts Our Family

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

It's very different being the parents of a teen with epilepsy than of a younger child. When they are young, parents have more control. We establish their routines, give them their meds, protect their environment, choose activities that will be age appropriate and safe, keep them around responsible adults, and make medical decisions for them. 

As our children grow into teens, it's our responsibility to teach them independence and to start taking on the role of caring for themselves, making good decisions and using logical judgment. This can be hard when they don't have any medical issues, but for a teen with epilepsy, diabetes, Autism, Asperger's Syndrome or some other condition, the boundary lines can blur. In our case, Celina has both Epilepsy and Asperger's Syndrome.

This is where we are right now, trying to find that balance--and the balance seems to slide down the scale at times, depending on the situation, her moods, her stress levels, and how her day is going. Routines are highly important to her. 

Our daughter started having seizures again at age 14 after being seizure-free for 10 years. She didn't remember her infant/toddler seizures and so the whole situation was a new experience for her and scary since she would lose consciousness and couldn't remember having it. 

During the first few months, she didn't want to be alone. She feared sleeping by herself in case she had a seizure in her sleep. She feared falling, hitting her head and waking up to injuries and pain. When she had her first seizure, one minute she was running on the track and the next she woke up in the hospital with all these wires, in pain from her injuries, sore all over her body, and a migraine that made her head feel like it was on fire. The short term memory issues and disorientation were a problem for the next three days. 

How Epilepsy Has Changed Our Lives


  • We moved to a one-level home so she wouldn't be risking going up and down stairs to her bedroom. 
  • We put a video monitor in her room so we could hear and see her at night. 
  • We no longer felt comfortable leaving her at home alone to run errands. 
  • She had to postpone Drivers Ed. 
  • She is an excellent swimmer and had planned to take lifeguard lessons. We put them on hold. She can only swim when we know her seizures are under control.
  • She had limited activity and had to sit out at gym at times.
  • They advised her to take showers instead of baths. This way if she had a seizure and fell, she would be less likely to drown. 
  • They advised her to never lock the door to her bedroom or bathroom. 
  • They advised her to take elevators when possible rather than stairs.
  • She went on seizure meds and had to deal with side effects and adjustments.
  • We met with her high school to set up a safety plan. This became a HUGE battle that caused all of us a lot of stress, including Celina. She felt like a burden to them, but was concerned enough to want an escort from one level to another and to unfamiliar places on campus for special events. 
  • We wrote letters to teachers, the school nurse, the principal, vice principal, her resource teacher, the superintendent, called IEP meetings, and kept fighting for her to have the resources she needs to feel safe in school. 
  • We called the Epilepsy Foundation. They referred us to the ECAC and they guided us on what actions to take with the school. 


Changes in Family Interaction

  • Celina is now responsible for taking the right meds on time. She has two weekly pill cases and we have taught her how to fill it up and how to keep up with her meds. If she goes anywhere for an extended period of time, she must take her meds with her. We worry she might forget and may try to remind her. So far, she's okay with it.
  • We try to find that balance so we aren't bothering her or being overprotective, but if I haven't heard anything from her in a while, one of us might call out to her and ask if she's okay. Sometimes she's fine with it. Other times, she sighs and we get that tone that we are annoying her. 
  • The meds caused severe mood swings that made us unsure how to talk to her, when to approach her, if we could comfort her. There are times when hugs are okay and times when she just wants to be left alone.  
  • She is constantly asking what time it is, or checking the time on her phone, computer or tablet. She does this because she worries she will miss taking a dose. Unlike some teens, we don't have a problem with her not taking her meds as a serious issue. She fears having another seizure because she doesn't like how she feels afterwards--the memory loss, the groggy state, the fatigue, the painful migraines, and the days of recovery. 
  • As a parent, I'm not always sure about my boundaries. There are times when she doesn't want to be alone, but she doesn't want me talking either. We may work on separate projects or watch TV, while sitting next to each other. 
  • She likes going for walks, and this is when she will open up and talk. 
  • Every morning, she asks us how she looked while sleeping. She wants to know if she had any epileptic activity. 
  • It's hard for us to buy tickets to events or plan things ahead of time, because by the time that day rolls around, Celina may be having a migraine or not feeling like herself and she may not want to go. It has even made attending church activities hard to do, so we often have Bible studies at home. 
  • If Celina goes a few minutes past the time she usually eats, she gets a migraine and will be very moody. The moment she eats, she is fine. She now carries snacks with her at all times. Her blood sugar stays on the low side and we have a machine where we can monitor it. If it gets too low, it can trigger a seizure. 
  • Celina's seizures are triggered by hormone imbalance, thus the reason she was able to go for 10 years without seizures until the teen years hit. When she's having mood swings, we watch her more closely, even if it means dropping activities, projects, or attending other events. 
  • Other things that trigger seizures are lack of sleep and stress. Her pediatric neurologist wants us to try and manage this as much as possible. If homework becomes too much, we make her stop and email her teachers. 
  • Celina's meds seem to be working and it has been a little over three months since her last seizure. She shows less epileptic activity in her sleep. As each month passes by with no seizure, we feel more hopeful that her seizures are under control, and we can give her a little more independence. 


Please share the purple ribbon on your blog, website, Facebook, Twitter, etc to raise awareness about Epilepsy. Visit www.epilepsyfoundation.org, www.epilepsyadvocate.com, and www.epilepsy.com for more information. 

Do you know anyone who has epilepsy? Has it impacted your life? 





Thursday, October 25, 2012

Word of Inspiration: Make Melody in Your Heart to the Lord

“Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19-20)

Concentrate on giving thanks for your blessings and you will begin to find a song of praise in your heart. If you concentrate on what you don't have and all the things that keep going wrong in your life, you will build worry and discontent in your heart. Melodies cannot spring forth from this kind of environment. We are commanded to speak psalms and hymns to one another in fellowship and to uplift and encourage each other. Surrounding yourself with positive people will rub that positive influence into your life. The company you keep and the environment where you plant yourself do have an impact on your joy and contentment. Therefore, make wise choices and be a positive influence on others as you concentrate on making melodies of praise in your heart to the Lord until it becomes second-nature and it no longer requires concentration. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Word of Inspiration: God Did Not Create Us to Live in Isolation

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

God didn't create one person to be alone--to be isolated from others. That is why He gave Adam his wife, Eve. As a community of people, we were meant to fellowship--to be the body of Christ--to have the Church where we can receive spiritual replenishment. Even the strongest person will have moments of weakness and that person can be uplifted by someone else who may not be as strong at other times. 

Not only will Christ carry our burdens, but we are to carry the burdens of our fellow man--and have compassion. When disaster strikes, look at how so many people reach out to victims of tsunamis, tornadoes, earthquakes, and continuous poverty and hunger. Look around you. Who can you help in their time of need today--even if it is only a kind word with a message of hope?  

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Homecoming Visit Back to Elon

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

I'm one of those alumni who attended Elon back when it was Elon College and not Elon University. Also, they were the Fighting Christians, not the Phoenix as they are today. Elon was established in 1889 as a private college by the United Church of Christ. This weekend is homecoming and it was the first time I've returned since graduating. Let me just say, I almost didn't recognize it until I got to the historic district of Elon, and finally, there was the Elon I recognized. My heart beat with gratitude that this part of campus was still here. 

Memories came flooding back of those days in classes when all my worries in the world consisted of learning and passing tests, and wondering what my future would hold. The days of walking around campus with my friends, lounging around the water fountain in the sun, and playing sand volleyball on the weekends are nostalgic memories for me. Even the late nights at the The Pendulum came back to mind as I raced to meet deadlines for the next edition of the college newspaper. I was happy here and I learned so much. I'm very grateful for my time and experience at Elon. 

As my friend, Linda Martindale, gave me the grand tour of all the renovations of old buildings and the new buildings, I was impressed by how the college has grown and expanded, but managed to keep the historic district intact. The old oak trees still bloom on campus and are a beautiful sight. West Hall still stands tall as the oldest building on campus from 1905 where I lived on the third floor. And no, the rumored ghosts never bothered me, but there were plenty of strange noises in the old building that could play havoc with a creative mind. 

I returned to be on a panel with other graduates from the School of Communications for their session on Life After Elon. We talked about our experiences in landing jobs and how the market has changed. We answered questions and gave advice where we could. It was so great to meet other graduates who came from all over the country, as far away as California, New York and Florida,  but we all have one thing in common, Elon. If even for one short day, it was good to be back. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

How the Public School System is Failing Our Students

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor 

  I've recently learned that in North Carolina high schools, there are only two pathways of study: 1) the traditional curriculum 2) the Occupational Course of Studies (OCS).

Students must choose one of these paths in their freshman year and once they choose a path, they cannot go back and switch it. I think both of these pathways are very important and necessary, but it does have its flaws. Therefore, I believe this rigid system must be reformed and a third option available to students who truly fall between these two programs. 

We cannot claim to meet individual educational needs when we lump all students into two boxes and give them no other option. 

Such a system is rigid, unbending, and lacking. How do we expect our future leaders (those that spring from the middle class) to be prepared to compete in a global market when they are held back by "old school" concepts and thinking? Our students are capable of more if we don't fail them now. I'm speaking about the middle class because they are the ones who don't make enough to "buy" their way to wherever they want to go, but are too self-reliant to receive any government assistance, and still, most must rely on the public education system for their children and hope they've saved enough for college during the K5-12 years. 

The traditional curriculum is a curriculum requiring a certain number of classes that are designed to prepare students for university course work. These are the students who will be ready and prepared to take the SATs and other college entrance exams by the time they reach their senior year, if not before. Students on this curriculum path range from average performers to top performers and gifted performers. It's a huge range and it is the category that most people fall into. 

The Occupational Course of Studies is another great system for those who may have learning disabilities and special needs that may affect their ability to learn at the same pace as traditional students or in a limited capacity. They are required to take basic courses in the main subject areas, but then as early as their sophomore year will begin choosing occupational courses to prepare them to enter the workforce straight out of high school. The idea of this curriculum is that not everyone is meant to go to college, although some eventually attend college or at least a community college. They are required to have a number of hours where they are paid to work a job by 10th grade.

While both of these curriculum paths are good systems and necessary, I would like a third option. Too many students in the pool of the traditional curriculum are barely scraping by with low to medium performance and their grades and test scores show it. Some may excel in reading, literature, history and social studies, but struggle in math and science. Right now, the only other option is for students to be "identified" as having a learning disability, ADD, Autism, Asperger's Syndrome, delayed developments, or other health impaired. They need a "label" in order to get an IEP, an Individual Education Plan. This means they may stay on the traditional course of study, but certain things are modified so that they may take longer to complete tests, may have less homework by doing odd or even math problems, or they may have a block where they go to a special education teacher who may help them with their troublesome subjects. 

What happens to those students who are never "identified with a label" and continue to struggle with their weaknesses? Nothing. Their parents are left to either pay for private tutors or if they cannot afford it, they might be lucky enough to have a program in their school where they can receive tutoring from other gifted students, but don't be fooled into believing this is available in every school. Other students like my daughter, may have an IEP, but still require a little more one-on-one in one or two subject areas. Still, these IEPs have their faults, if the school system and/or teachers do not follow-through. 

For instance, my daughter's math teacher promised to help my daughter during her planning period, but her help consisted of parking my daughter in front of a video, and she left where my daughter had no opportunity to ask questions or discuss what she didn't understand. Geez, my husband and I could have parked her in front of a video. My tax dollars are paying that teacher to teach, even if she has to do her "planning" at home, just like I sometimes take work home. I often hear teachers complain of how many students they have and how hard their jobs are, and they do have hard jobs. I doubt few people would disagree with it, but other jobs are just as hard. Lots of people have plenty to complain about regarding their jobs, but they still don't get to use excuses if they fail to meet a deadline or their performance doesn't hit the mark. The excuses I heard for this were inexcusable when I confronted the IEP team.    

If a student continues to do poorly in one or two subjects, why should that student only have two courses of study available? It is very possible, that with a little extra assistance in 9th and 10th grades, that student will excel well on the traditional path in 11th and 12th grades. Why couldn't there be a middle path for the first two years of high school until it is certain that the student will not be able to transition into the traditional level? A lot can happen in the development of a teen between 9th and 11th grades. Why can that student not take traditional courses at a slower rate of learning or with a better student/teacher ratio for more individual assistance without being dropped to the OCS level, especially if that student still wants to go to college? 

The public system may claim they don't have the resources or funding for this, but believe me, the system will pay for it one way or the other. If students don't get the help they need now, the state will pay for it through other programs such as: 

1) Unemployment when they float from job to job because they never reach their top performance potential. 

2) Substance abuse programs because these people will become discouraged, frustrated, and lack confidence until they turn to other ways to cope. These are not good choices, but we all know it happens. 

3) Medicaid and other health programs because stress, depression, and frustration over a prolonged period of time will lead to other health and mental issues. Studies have proven it.

4) More students who have the same learning issues as their parents because their parents weren't able to help them because they were never able to help themselves will only continue the cycle through the next generation. 

5) Increased welfare and food stamp assistance because people who cannot perform at a high level paying job will eventually need help when they fall on hard times. They live in cycles from pay check to pay check and if anything goes wrong such as illness, divorce, car maintenance--all of a sudden budget and savings are depleted. They need help and always turn to the government when they hit a brick wall.

6) Child Care assistance because people will continue to have children whether or not they can afford them. They want families and they want to live the only life they have regardless of income level. 

It  is better to teach a man or woman how to fish than to keep giving them fish. We do this through education, from early education all the way to college. It begins at birth and it doesn't stop until they enter the workforce. Don't fail our students NOW before they have a chance to be who they were born to be and reach their top performance potential.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Word of Inspiration: Should You Worry About the Unforgivable Sin?

"Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter, but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation." Mark 3:28-29

This is one verse that makes many hearts tremble in fear as we try to understand its meaning. Some excellent posts have been written on this matter, and one that I agree with, is that if you are worried you might have unintentionally committed this sin, then rest assured that you have not, because it is a deliberate and intentional sin. Here is a great post that goes into more detail on the Bible Gateway Blog

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Word of Inspiration: Fearing God Means Not Disappointing Someone We Love

“You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.”  Deuteronomy 13:4


We struggle with obedience because we always want to do things our own way. It's easier to make decisions based on what we see--our own perspective. Yet, we are called to walk by faith, which means we will need to make decisions based on our trust in the Lord and not on what can be seen, but what is beyond our perspective. Whenever the Bible states "you shall", God is not giving you a choice. It is a commandment. The fear this verse is referring to isn't the typical fear of someone doing us harm, but fear of disappointing someone we love. 

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt is On!


If you need to read the instructions for the entire Scavenger Hunt, please visit www.christianfictionscavengerhunt.com. Otherwise, please keep reading to discover your word clue!

About Me: 
I'm Jennifer Hudson Taylor, an award winning, multi-published author of historical Christian fiction set in Europe and the Carolinas, and a speaker on faith, writing, publishing and Internet Marketing. My debut novel, Highland Blessings, won the 2011 Holt Medallion award for Best First Book. My second book is Highland Sanctuary. In celebration of this Scavenger Hunt, I will draw one winner from the collection of commenters on this post. I will announce the winner in the comment section after this Scavenger Hunt and the winner will be responsible for emailing their mailing address to me at jt4novels@yahoo.com. 

About the Book:


Caithness, Scotland, 1473

A Sanctuary of Secrets...

Gavin MacKenzie, a chieftain heir who is hired to restore the ancient Castle of Braigh, discovers a hidden village of outcasts who have created their own private sanctuary from the world. Among them is Serena Boyd, a mysterious AND
comely lass, who captures Gavin’s heart in spite of harboring a deadly past that could destroy her future.

The villagers happen to be keeping an intriguing secret as well. When a fierce enemy launches an attack against them, greed leads to bitter betrayal. As Gavin prepares a defense, the villagers unite in a bold act of faith, showing how God’s love is more powerful than any human force on earth.





Highland Sanctuary Video Book Trailer






Read the First Chapter!



Highland Sanctuary

Chapter One

Scotland, 1457
The ordeal over, fragmented tremors still quaked through Evelina Broderwick's body. She gazed down at her new daughter. Now, she'd finally have someone who would truly love her. Tiny fingers curled. Evelina marveled at the wee nails. The other hand tightened into a fist and flew into the bairn’s mouth as she sucked on her knuckles.

“She’s beautiful is she not?” Tears clouded Evelina’s vision, overwhelming her by the magnitude of God’s gift of life.

Gunna, her wet nurse, peered closer at the babe swaddled in a warm blanket. “Aye, she is at that.”

“I believe I shall call her Serena after my Spanish grandmother. The lass has an English da and a Scottish mither—a mixture of noble blood from three countries.”

“Not a verra common name here in the lowlands,” Gunna’s round cheeks swelled in a smile as she nodded in agreement, “but lovely just the same.”
The bedchamber door swung open, casting dim light from the hallway candles. The shadow of a man’s tall frame bounced on the dark pine walls. Evelina tensed as her husband, Devlin Broderwick strode in with his usual frown. A dent marred his forehead. He towered over the bedside.

The midwife followed him and stood at the foot of the bed, folding her hands in front of her. The woman appeared to be in her mid-fifties, personally chosen by Devlin and quite loyal to the Broderwick family. Her dark gaze traveled from Evelina to Gunna and down at the infant.

“I’ve heard the unfortunate news.” Devlin’s sharp tone cut through the room like a blade through a gentle lamb.

Was a lass so terrible? Evelina glanced at the only window on the far right. The shutters were closed, blocking the night sky from view. She would like naught more than to escape the confines of her marriage, even if it meant taking sanctuary behind the walls of a convent for the rest of her days.

Devlin cleared his throat. He wore a black tunic with blooming sleeves narrowing at the cuffs. Black suited his dark moods. His hair hung straight in the shape of an downward bowl. He crossed his arms, taking an authoritative stance. “Fortunately, you’re still young and healthy. You can try again when you’re well enough.”

Evelina stayed her tongue. Over the last eleven months of their marriage, she had come to despise him. She had tried to love him, tried to win his affection, but he had been most impossible to please. No wonder her kinsmen hated the English. He had wounded her feelings more times than she cared to count. She’d begun to resent her parents for arranging this union and forcing her into a lifetime of sorrow.

“I’ll love her.” Evelina held her daughter against her bosom. She stared at the wine-colored blanket covering her bed, tracing a finger along the raised flower pattern stitched into the thick fabric, a gift from Devlin’s mother.

“I’m sure you will.” He pointed at their daughter. “Now lay her down so I can see her.”

Cradling her child’s unsteady head, Evelina lowered Serena onto her back. She unwrapped the white blanket from her squirming body. Devlin leaned close.
The bairn’s rosy glow turned red then deepened to a shade of purple. Serena’s head twisted at the nape, her face almost level with the bed. The child’s eyes glazed over, twitching into the corners, only the whites visible.

“What’s the meaning of this?” Devlin jumped back in alarm.

Though Serena’s entire body had grown stiff, it quivered in spasms. The area around her lips faded to white and the rest of her skin melted from purple to an ashen gray.

“She’s not breathing!” Evelina turned to the midwife. “Do something!”

“I deliver wee bairns. I don’t cast out demons.” The midwife’s fearful eyes met hers.

Evelina gripped her husband’s arm, but he pulled away. “Devlin, please do something. She’s stopped breathing! Save her, please?”

He only stared at the helpless babe with disbelieving eyes.

Evelina reached for her daughter’s seizing body. Not knowing what else to do, Evelina turned the child over on her stomach and patted her back. She willed her babe to breathe. She blew air in Serena’s face, hoping to startle her into breathing. White foam leaked over Serena’s colorless lips. Evelina laid her down and plunged her finger into the tiny mouth, pulling with all her might against the curled tongue. Serena coughed, moaned, and screamed into a blessed cry.

“Oh, thank God!” Evelina collapsed, lowering her head next to Serena and letting silent tears fall in relief. Their wee bairn would live.

Evelina kissed Serena’s round head on a thin layer of soft black hair. Her tiny lungs panted for air as her breathing returned to normal. She touched Serena’s sweet ears, her pug nose, and cheeks now gaining a rosy glow.

“What was that?” Devlin’s voice flayed her nerves and she jumped. He stood with his hands on his hips, staring at the child in disbelief, his dark, condemning eyes narrowed.

“The babe was having some sort of fit,” the midwife said. “I’ve heard of stories like this, but never seen one myself.”

“Yes, I can see that. I want to know why!” Devlin took two menacing steps toward her.

“’Tis unexplained.” She stepped back, tilted her head upon her shoulders, and looked up at him with wide eyes. “No one really knows what it is. Some call it the falling sickness.”

Devlin paced across the chamber, rubbing the back of his head. The soles of his mid-calf leather boots clicked against the hardwood floor. “Why would a child have such a fit? How can ye stop it?”

“I don’t know.” The midwife shook her head and sank against the wall.

His gaze dropped to the bundle in Evelina’s arms. “It’s possessed.” His lips twisted in thought. He paced again. “We’ll call a priest to cast it out.” He paused and shook his head. “No, we can’t do that. How would it look if the Broderwick family produced a demon possessed child?” He shook his head. “I won’t have the family name ruined.” He turned and pointed at the midwife and Gunna. “No one had better speak a word outside this bedchamber. If you do, I’ll make you sorry.”

“I won’t say a word,” the midwife said, shaking her head.

“Yes, my lord,” Gunna said, looking down at her feet.

“She isn’t possessed,” Evelina said, her heart pounding in worry. “She stopped breathing and nearly died.”

Devlin strode toward her. He pressed his fists into the soft feather mattress and leaned foward. “There’s no other explanation.”

“Devlin, ye’re mistaken. She couldn’t catch her breath is all.”

“Then why did she turn her head as if it would disconnect from her body of its own accord? Where did her eyes go? In the back of her head? What was coming from her mouth? Do ye call it somethin’ from God?” He stepped back. “`This isn’t the work of God. I feel it in my soul. Something is wrong. As head of this household it’s my responsibility to take care of it.”

“Our child is not evil.” Evelina moved Serena over her shoulder and patted her bottom.

“I make the final decisions in this house.” Devlin’s dark eyebrows knitted together in an angry line. “She may look normal now, but her body is possessed by somethin’. I’ll not tolerate evil under my own roof. Do you hear me, woman?”

“Devlin, listen to yerself. She’s our child.” Evelina clutched the bundle in her arms, fear rooted in her heart. Was he completely mad?

“I saw the babe turn into a demon with my own eyes. I won’t claim it as mine. I’ve made up my mind. I don’t want it, and I forbid ye to keep it.”

“I won’t give her up!” Evelina moved Serena to the far side of her body away from him. “She’s my bairn, not some animal to cast away.”

“You’re my wife, and you’ll do as I tell you.” He stepped toward her, grabbing for the child.

Evelina refused to relinquish her hold. Their daughter began to cry at their tug of war. He tightened his grip on Evelina’s flesh until she could no longer feel. Fearing Serena would be hurt from their struggle, Evelina relented. He snatched Serena.

“I beg ye, don’t take her away.” Tears clogged Evelina’s voice, choking her.
He strode from the chamber with Serena. The midwife made a “hymph” sound and followed him.

Evelina tried to rise. In her weakened state, she fell to the floor.

“Oh, dearie me!” Gunna cried, hurrying around the bed to help her.

Evelina had forgotten she was still in the room. Frantic hands pulled under Evelina’s arms, trying to lift her as she struggled to her knees.
“Nay! Don’t bother with me. Find out where he’s taking her.” Evelina nudged her.

“But—''

“Please? Do this one thing for me.” Evelina sniffed back tears. “Go! Make haste before it’s too late.”

“I-I’ll do as ye ask. Don’t ye worry, lass. We’ll save yer bairn.” She fled the chamber, leaving Evelina alone in her anguish.

Evelina dropped her head upon her arms. Her eyelids fluttered shut. “Dear God,” she whispered. “I dedicate Serena to Ye. She isn’t evil. She’s just the way Ye made her. Allow me to be her mither and I’ll teach her Yer ways and raise her to be Yer child.”

The room began to spin. Evelina clutched the bed linens for support. Darkness claimed her vision as the distant sounds of her child crying in another part of the house fell silent. “Please…God,” she whispered, fading to unconsciousness.

Scotland 1477
Gavin MacKenzie and Leith, his brother, led fifty clansmen along the narrow dirt path, two men abreast, their conversation a gentle rhythm above the steady clip-clop of horses. The comfortable late-spring air made it a good day to travel.

Something moved ahead. From this distance it looked like a horse pulling a wagon. The sound of weeping reached his ears and then faded. Had he imagined it? He motioned to the men to be quiet. Their voices dropped to whispers before altogether silencing.

Sholto, his horse, grew restless and sidestepped. Gavin grabbed the reins with both hands. The animal snorted in obvious distress. To calm the beast, Gavin rubbed his mount’s neck until his breathing evened and his gait steadied. Gavin’s red and gray plaid fell over his right shoulder. Shoving it out of his way, he studied the layout of the land, looking for signs of a surprise attack.

They’d travelled for days, leaving the familiar glens and rolling moors with a sheltered forest for the flat peatland surrounding them in Scotland’s northern tip of Caithness. With no place to hide, the element of surprise was not in their favor. The light wind carried the scent of the bog myrtle across the silver lochs and purple heather dotting the land mixing with the salty sea. By this, Gavin knew they must be getting close to Braigh Castle. He was told it stood in alone on the moss-covered rocky cliffs facing the sea—like a sanctuary.

The wagon up ahead moved. Gavin gripped the reins tight and hastened his mount. As he drew closer, a skittish horse flung his tail in vexation, hitched to a heavy laden wagon. The animal neighed and pranced about as much as the load allowed.
More weeping carried from the opposite side of the wagon. Gavin motioned for his men to halt. He nodded toward Leith who dismounted and went to calm the beast. Gavin inched toward the noise.

A woman with a long braid of auburn hair streaked with gray bent over a lass lying on her back. He couldn’t see much of the one lying down, but the weeping one wore a dark blue gown. She patted her unresponsive companion, speaking in a hushed, worried tone.

He cleared his throat, reining in his horse and sliding to the ground.
She gasped and turned a frightened expression toward him.

“What happened?” He nodded toward the unconscious lady lying in a bed of thick grass.

Her moss-green eyes watched him, assessing his character. She wiped at the tears staining her cheeks. “We must have hit somethin’. The wagon nearly tipped over. She fell from her seat and hit her head.”

Gavin bent to his knees, surveying the unmoving lass and felt for a pulse in her neck. It beat steady. Her skin was warm and smooth. She was much younger than her concerned friend. “Have ye checked her head for bleeding?”

“It only happened a moment ago. I first tried to wake her.” Alarm crossed her face as her eyes widened, and she grabbed the girl’s hands between her own. “I do wish she’d wake. ‘Twould put my mind at ease. She’s my daughter…my only child.” Her chin trembled.

“May I?” Gavin gestured toward her daughter. “I’d like to check her head for bleeding or lumps”

“Aye.” She nodded. “Serena took many falls as a child. She was always so free-spirited. But I’ve never known her to be out this long.”

Serena. He liked her name. It was different. Lying here, she looked serene.

Although her skin was pale, he could tell she had spent time in the sun. Her dark lashes curled against her skin. Light freckles lay across the bridge of her nose. He took a deep breath and eased his hands in her black hair. It was thick and free of curls, reminding him of black velvet, though it felt more like smooth satin.

“It’s right here.” He found a bump forming on the right side of her head above her ear. “’Tis only a slight knot. I’m sure she’ll be fine.” Gavin glanced at the full wagon. “There’s little room in yer wagon. Would ye like me to carry her to my horse?”

She graced her knuckles over her daughter’s cheek. “I’m verra thankful for yer assistance. We live in the Village of Braigh about a mile ahead. Would ye mind carrying her there? We were just returning from the town market.”

“We’d be honored,” Gavin said. “We’re on our way to Braigh Castle. Is yer village near the castle?”

“Aye.” A smile brightened her worry-filled eyes. “Only a half a mile further beyond our village, would be my guess.”

Gavin crooked his finger toward his men, singling out Roan. As his friend dismounted, Gavin realized how much his tall frame would benefit them. His long blond hair was tied back at the nape. One thing he and his men lacked over the course of their travel was proper grooming. He hoped their ragged looks and overgrown beards wouldn’t offend or frighten the lasses.

“I’m going to mount my horse, and I need ye to lift her to me as gently as possible.”

“I got ‘er.” Roan said, bending to one knee and slipping an arm beneath her neck and behind her knees.

Once he was settled upon Sholto, Gavin secured the reins and held out his arms. Roan raised her up. Gavin settled her across his lap, hoping she would be comfortable and the ride wouldn’t jar her wounded head too much. It helped that she wore a simple brown gown.

“Careful,” her mother said, wringing her hands.

“Serena will be safe. Would ye prefer to drive the wagon or would ye like for one of my men to take over?” If she was too upset, he didn’t want another mishap to befall them.

She shook her head. Pieces of hair loosened from her braid. “Nay, it helps me to have somethin’ to do. Let me know as soon as she wakes. My name’s Evelina Boyd, and I’m verra thankful for yer help.”

Leith assisted her to better secure the horse to the wagon and checked the condition of the wheels. Once he and Roan were mounted on their horses again, they began a slow pace to match Evelina’s wagon.

The men conversed in quiet tones. A bird flapped its wings above them and sang. A gentle draft kept the air from being too warm. The sun hid behind white clouds and burst out in brightness every once in a while.

Gavin looked down at the bonny lass in his arms, breathing in the feminine scent of heather and juniper. The aroma stirred forgotten memories of another lass he’d tried his best to forget. If she had lived, he’d be a married man by now, mayhap the father of wee bairns. To his bitter disappointment, his life had taken another route, which led him and his brother all over Europe to escape his grief and guilt.

“Could that be a patch of woods down yon in the glen?” Leith rode up beside Gavin and shielded his hand over his eyes.

“Looks like it.” Relieved to be distracted from his thoughts, Gavin looked where his brother gestured. “That must be Braigh Castle.”

Situated on a long, narrow rocky cliff sat a magnificent stone fortress that looked to be king of the sea. A wide tower stood tall above wings that stretched out on each side. “From here, it doesn’t look like it needs to be restored,” Gavin said, admiring the view. “How will we ever be able to improve upon it?”

“Yer here to restore the castle, then?” Evelina rolled the wagon to a stop beside them.

“Aye.” Gavin nodded, careful not to reveal the other reason they were there—to protect the new laird, his castle, and the village. He wondered how much Evelina and Serena knew concerning the truth behind the elder laird’s death.

“The massive keep is at least two centuries auld and Vikings have attacked it on several occasions,” Evelina said.

“Were they ever successful?” Leith asked.

“I don’t think so.” Evelina shook her head. “But I don’t know the whole history.” She glanced at Serena in Gavin’s arms. “Will the restoration take long?”

Gavin shrugged. “We won’t know ‘til we see the damage.”

“Oh.” Her gaze shifted back to the castle as she pondered his words. Her expression tensing as the lines around her eyes and mouth deepened. She cleared her throat. “I suppose that means ye’ll be here for quite a while then?”

“Aye.” He nodded.

A strange silence followed. An eerie forboding crawled up his spine. He couldn’t help sensing she didn’t welcome their presence. He scratched his temple.

“Back in the town of Braighwick people called it the Village of Outcasts,” Leith said. “Why?”

“Ye’ll see soon enough.” The warmth in her eyes faded to a reserved caution as she clicked to her horse and started forward.

As they approached the only patch of woods in the area, Gavin braced himself for what could earn this place the odd name. They crossed into the shade of the birch and hazel trees dotted among the dominant forest of pine. Brown needles cushioned the ground in a blanket of comfort, much like the serenity of snow he loved in winter. The fresh scent surrounding them appealed to Gavin as he breathed in the pine scent.

Small dwellings were scattered throughout the woods, made of stone and packed with peat bothy, straw, heather and moss. The turf roofs contained a simple hole for the smoke that rose from the center where they built their fires. If the inside of these cottages were like the ones that belonged to his father’s tenants at home, most were one room dwellings with a dirt floor. The family slept on one side, while their cattle passed the night on the other. Having grown up in the luxury of his father’s castle, it was hard to imagine enduring conditions such as these as a way of life.

A few people opened their doors to watch them pass. Compassion hit Gavin with a force he had not expected. Their clothes were worn through and tattered in places. Most were barefoot. Filth and grime covered their faces. The Boyds seemed out of place here with their clean clothes and clean appearance. Yet, in spite of these people’s poverty, their eyes glowed with a passionate joy he couldn’t fathom, not the listless melancholy one would expect.

“This is ours.” Evelina stopped in front of one of the rectangle hovels. She secured the reins, set the wagon brake, and climbed down.






Continue the Scavenger Hunt!
In order to continue with the entire Scavenger Hunt, you will need to visit the next author's blog for another word clue, Sandra Bricker