Tis the Season for a #ChristmasWonderHop

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This is my most favorite time of year. Always has been… I love the music, the laughter, the figuring out the perfect gift to put a smile on the faces of the people I care about….never mind the incredible food!

I admit it, I’m a baking fool! It soothes and relaxes me….and makes the house smell terrific. I make treats that are Gluten Free (because my stepdad has an allergy) and ones that aren’t.

And while I’m baking, there’s always music…. In fact, during the last two years, beginning December 1st, I share a holiday song each day until Christmas. You can pretty much guarantee that as I painstakingly chose the song, I sang along.

Of course, I’m also all about love and passion during the Christmas Holiday….so I’ll be giving away an ebook copy of a holiday themed book from one of my favorite authors, Jodi Redford. My first experience was with her book, The Naughty List, but this holiday season I’ll be giving away an ebook copy of Checking It Twice.


I mean, seriously… Check out her blurb directly from Amazon:

Tis the season for double seduction.

The only item on Jana Colton’s Christmas list this year is Kevin Monahan. Preferably naked in her bed. The delicious, hunky chef has been resisting her forever, but she’s pulling out all the sexy stops this holiday. Especially since his acceptance of an out-of-state job threatens to nix her quest to rock his boxers off.

Besides the fact they’re both poster boys for Hunks ’R’ Us, they’ve been there for her through thick, thin and the heartbreak of a cheating fiancé. So what if her boys will never know they star in her sexiest daydreams? In her fantasy world, her heart will never get trampled again

With the arrival of his best friend, Nick Pappas, the balance of temptation shifts. From their past history of sharing women, Nick knows every dirty trick it takes to lead Kevin astray, and he’s not afraid to use them. Particularly since Nick’s convinced that Jana is exactly what Kevin needs to be happy and whole.

Their game of seduction quickly snowballs into something that feels an awful lot like love—in triplicate. But with Kevin dead set on leaving Michigan, there’s a real possibility it could be a blue Christmas for them all.

Warning: This book contains an extremely tormented voyeur, a very naughty and not so saintly Nick, a liberal application of candy cane-flavored body paint, a buzzing butterfly, and enough raunchy fun on a sex swing to melt a snowman…or two.

Does that not sound fabulous? So…. Here’s How to WIN:

All you need to do is share your favorite Christmas song, favorite family holiday tradition, your favorite holiday recipe, or your favorite holiday themed book.

All entries must be in by midnight December 31st, EST. The winner will be selected via Random.org. But that’s just to win on MY page…. We also have a grand prize and chances to win at every blog on the hop!

Click the Entry-Form for a chance at the grand prize….
And Make Sure to Celebrate the Wonder of the Season! Visit all of the blogs to see what they love most about the season and which books have made their Christmas wish lists! There’s a giveaway at each stop so be sure to visit them all!

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Shimmer & Shine! It’s #SparkleFriday…

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My dear friend, August McLaughlin, tagged me in her quest to turn Black Friday into Sparkle Friday. As one who has been working retail for about fifteen years, I understood all too well the stress that happens during this time of year.

This year has been a bit of a challenge as I found myself laid off unexpectedly. Fortunately someone else shared her Sparkle, and I found a new opportunity very quickly! In fact, if you’ve noticed a bit of media silence from me, it’s because I’m currently in training.

My first day on the new job, I had my first opportunity to Sparkle for someone else! One of my new co-workers was in need of a ride home. When I discovered she lived nearby, I offered her a ride home. No, it wasn’t anything fancy, but it was something.

Then there was the call from one of my besties at the end of last week. I was at work, but stepped away to answer her call. She’d just had her first child a few days ago, afterall.

Turned out she wanted to know when my shift ended & if I could stop by her house on the way home to take her to the ER. She was experiencing shortness of breath. She seemed to think it was non-urgent, but I knew there was a good chance it was more serious. I still had a couple hours, so I called my hubby who should’ve been on the way home. My hubby picked her up and took her in while her man stayed at home with the baby, keeping her safe from the germs of ER.

I met them as soon as I got off work & we kept her company until it was time to go, then took her home. We were all relieved it turned out to be a false alarm….nothing serious.

These were smallish gestures, but it meant something to them… Sometimes the family you build through mutual respect, love and friendship is just as rewarding (maybe even more so) is just as important to you as the one you’re born into…

So share with us…. Have you done something kind for someone else to bring on your Sparkle? If so, what? I’d love to read about it!

Family, Food, Football, and Fun

This is the first Thanksgiving in about 15 years that I won’t be cooking. Normally my whole day would be spent between the kitchen and the tv…cooking or watching football. But this year, for the first time in forever, hubby has to work. It’s pointless to cook for one.

Fortunately I have friends and family who’ve been generous enough to invite me to share the holiday with them, so I’m going to hang out at my cousin’s. I know, little foodie that she is, that she’ll have brined the turkey…(I usually do the same).

Brine
If you got the above turkey naked and swapped out those rose petals with other seasonings (though you could also keep those roses if you’re that kind of chef)…and maybe used a cooler instead of a bath tub, that would be brining. 😉 The turkey is terrific that way!

And of course, the house is usually full of family and friends and definitely football….so you’re always looking for ways to keep everyone entertained. Let’s face it, not everyone is a football fan…. This year I saw this particular version of BINGO and cracked up! Can you imagine?

Bingo

Okay, so some of it isn’t nice or Thankful….but you have to account for close quarters and family…and the complications that are usually entailed when you get a mix of such different personalities (and family members) in the same room.

My Cowboys play every Thanksgiving, so I always have that joy…. I’m also finding it very interesting that this year is going to be an all NFC game holiday. For me it’s definitely a “Go Cowboys!” day…so all Cowboys gear, even to Thanksgiving dinner.

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Of course when you combine Family, food, and football….fun usually ensues. Sometimes it comes from the announcers on TV, other times it’s from the people at your table… (C’mon…y’all had to know I couldn’t keep it clean forever. Whose blog did you think you visited?)

Phrases

Still, at the end of the day….it’s all about gratitude. And making a difference. Recognizing those meaningful moments. Some prayers answered, and some gifts of unanswered prayers. I’ve seen a lot of different videos today, but I think the one that touched me most was shared on Facebook by my pal, Jess Witkins. Watch this and see if the power of this message doesn’t move you the way it did me.

Finally, I’d just like to say that I’m thankful for each and every one of you. May you all have plenty to eat, love that knows no bounds, and a life well lived…with very few regrets!

Thankful that Variety is the Spice of Life + #Giveaway

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Thanksgiving is one of my most favorite holidays. It’s one of the rare times that occurs throughout a year where people stop, reflect, and give thanks for some of the blessings in my life. Sometimes those gratitude moments are a little easier to overlook because of the negative surrounding them.

Today, I’m going to give thanks for 5 things…. Some may be near misses, some are “could be worse” moments, and some are just pure joy….and then I’m going to give something away.

I’m Thankful For….

#5. My first ever car accident was one where damages were minor and no one was hurt.
#4.
That when our car broke down on the side of the interstate the other day in the middle of morning rush hour (the engine is toast), hubby had pulled off to the side of the road before the car died, more than likely saving us from a brutal car accident.
#3. That I pursued my dreams with the support of my friends and family, resulting in two published books so far, with a third in the works.
#2. For my new day job after my old one fell through, and the friend who kept an eye open and me in mind.
#1. For a family who loves me, even when I’m feeling unlovable, for kidneys that saved my cousins, and for the next generation of family members as they grow. May they always feel the love we’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded with….through good times and bad.

Four One Night WEBSITE USE

And on to my giveaway (BTW, I’m not the only one giving stuff away, so make sure to click the link at the bottom of the page)….

I’m giving away a copy of my book, Four One Night. All you have to do for a chance to win is check out the excerpt I share and see if it’s something you might be interested in….. And answer the question following the excerpt! My rules, etc. will be posted following the excerpt as well.

Excerpt:

I nodded my head, an idea taking hold in my mind. “You know, I decided I needed to blow off some steam about three hours ago. You’re coming with me. You need it even more than I do. We’ll call it medicinal.”

“That sounds exactly like the kind of distraction I need,” she said, a smile flitting across her face.

“Good. Because it’s too freaking cold to be standing around. My nipples are pointing all over the place for all the wrong reasons!” We hustled to my car, heels clicking a rapid staccato against the asphalt. “All this pent up energy has me in the mood to play. It’s time to call in reinforcements.”

“Ooh!” She looked at me over the hood, her baby blues full of mischief. “That means Michael’s coming. Think he can handle both of us?”

“We’re about to find out! If not, there’s always you and me.” I laughed and yanked my phone out of my purse pocket.

“Danielle Monroe! You are such a tease.” She tossed her dark gold curls over her shoulder.

“Am I? You’ve never seen my bad girl side.” My eyebrow raised, daring her to take me up on the offer.

“Now that sounds promising.” She said, batting her eyes in the worst parody of exaggerated flirtation I’d seen in a while.

Shaking my head and smiling at our antics, I dialed Michael. With the receiver to my ear, the muted strains of “My Cherie Amour” floated through instead of a ring. The frigid air whipped through the thin cotton of my shirt causing a shudder to ripple through my curvy frame. I grabbed for my key fob and quickly pressed the unlock button.

“Hey babe,” his dark, raspy voice came on the line. “What’s up?”                                       

“Well, that all depends on you,” I purred as my hands motioned Candace to get in the car. “Work was nuts and Candace and I need to blow off some steam. We’re headed over to Club Heat for ladies night. Will you join us or do we need to find some other sexy men to play with?”

“Ooh, someone’s feeling feisty.” I could practically see his smile through the rumble in his voice. “I love it when Miss Dani comes out to play.”

“Then you’re gonna love me tonight.” Grabbing the handle, I tugged my door open. Finally out of the chilled air and in the driver’s seat, I slammed the door shut and shoved my key in the ignition.

“Two wild women looking to unleash themselves after a bad day?” The little beep of his car alarm being released sounded through the receiver followed by the slam of the door. “That may be more than I can handle alone.”

Tipping my head against my shoulder to cradle the phone, I turned the key in the ignition, quickly followed by the heater. “Michael Gallo! Afraid you might need reinforcements?”

Music flared in the background as he started his car. “Afraid is such a strong word. I prefer to think of it as being prepared for any eventuality.”

“Well, you know how I feel. The more, the merrier. Hot men and alcohol make everything better!” With one last look in my rear view mirror, I shifted into drive, leaving our bad day in the dust.

For a chance to win a free ebook copy from Amazon, all you need to do is share one thing you’re thankful for or one thing about the Christmas holiday you’re looking forward to. You have until 11:59pm EST on December 5th to qualify. The winner will be chosen via Random.org!

Also a HUGE thanks to Natasha Blackthorne for hostessing the festivities. If you haven’t met her yet…. check her out via the link posted below, or stalk her at her following hang outs…

Dirty Ties Cover Reveal With @PamGodwinBooks

Today I get the pleasure of helping to share the brand new cover reveal for Pam Godwin’s newest upcoming release, Dirty Ties! Check it out….

 

Dirty ties
Revenge.
I race to finance it.
I evade to protect it.
I kill to attain it.
I planned everything.
Except her.
The alluring, curvaceous blonde at the finish line.
With sapphire eyes that cheat and lie.
Whose powerful family murdered mine.
I hate her.
I want her.
I know she’s hiding something.
But so am I.
Expected Release Date : January 12th, 2015
 
Dirty Ties Teaser Picture
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author, Pam Godwin, lives in the Midwest with her husband, their two children, and a foulmouthed parrot. When she ran away, she traveled fourteen countries across five continents, attended three universities, and married the vocalist of her favorite rock band.
Java, tobacco, and dark romance novels are her favorite indulgences, and might be considered more unhealthy than her aversion to sleeping, eating meat, and dolls with blinking eyes.

Sexual Assault Does Not Negate Happy-Ever-After

As many of you know by now, sex positive discussions is intensely important to me. So many people have their sexual growth and understanding inhibited due to upbringing, religion, and worse, traumatic sexual experiences. Being closed away from one’s sexuality due to whatever reason stifles and inhibits personal, emotional growth and well being and can destroy otherwise healthy personal relationships.

Recently, when I discovered my pal, Jessi Gage, had launched her first ever holiday book, I reached out and asked if I could help her pimp it. I was thrilled when she mentioned that there was a sensitive topic of a sexual nature she’d wanted to address and thought my blog would be the perfect forum. When she gave me the specifics, I was honored. This subject is near and dear to so many hearts. (Don’t believe me? Check out my other pal, Bridget Blackwood’s post.)

Take it away, Jessi! (And please, guys, as always….share your stories, thoughts, and/or experiences because we’d love to hear from you!)

sexual assault

Thank you, Kitt, for hosting me today. I’m a huge fan of you as a person and as a blogger. You are one of my favorite advocates for women’s sexuality. Your voice and the voices of August McLaughlin and Ande Lyons are desperately needed and greatly appreciated by many.

I thought your blog would be a good place to confess my insecurity over a recent first for me. I’ve got a new release out, Cole in My Stocking. It’s my first holiday romance, and it’s the first time I’ve tackled sexual assault in a book. I’m not going to lie, I was nervous about this.

In a romance, you want conflict and tension, yes, but you don’t want to disturb the readers, at least I don’t. That’s not my thing as a writer. I like to leave readers with a serious case of the warm-fuzzies. If people put down my book with a happy sigh, that’s my idea of success. So I wasn’t sure how to handle it when my heroine, Mandy, insisted she had survived a very traumatic situation in her past, a situation in which all her control was taken away: a sexual assault.

Fortunately, Mandy assured me her trauma was well past. It doesn’t appear on the pages of Cole in My Stocking other than as brief flashes of memory that still haunt her. But Mandy needed to spend time in this book working through issues that resulted from her assault. And Cole needed to be the man to help her do it.

See, Mandy has not been able to have a physical relationship with anyone since her assault. She has PTSD. As a counselor, she knows this about herself, but clinical knowledge doesn’t necessarily translate into being able to overcome the emotional scars of her past.

Fortunately for Mandy, Cole is up to the challenge of helping her tackle her physical and psychological issues. He does it by loving her, showing her he is trustworthy, and most of all, through his unwavering patience with her physical limitations.

To get this dynamic right (I hope I got it right!), I consulted my beautiful and generous sister-in-law, Kate, who has a counseling degree and has a heart for helping people. She helped me shape Mandy’s memories and reactions and encouraged me not to hold back when naming the horror that happened to her: rape.

Mandy’s story has a happy ending—of course, since I will never write anything that doesn’t end happily. But it might be a painful read for a woman who has experienced anything like what Mandy experienced. Then again, it might be helpful. Early reviews are indicating that Mandy’s journey is touching and realistic.

Excerpt from a 5-star review by Becca Moree of Breathless Ink:

Learning about what sweet Mandy has been through was tough. It was emotional, and for anyone that has been in a situation where their control, their power, their self worth has been stripped from them…just know that this book can be extremely difficult to read. Mandy’s reactions to what happened and how she handles intimacy after were very realistic. I’m not sure what Jessi Gage did to write this type of story in such a believable manner, but what I can say is that I appreciate the way she wrote this story. It means a lot to me that she managed to write a sweet love story (which I will talk about in a bit) while fitting in details that may help people who have never dealt with assault understand. I felt that it was written in a way that shed light on the way victims of assault think. The way they deal with what others see as a simple situation.

Reviews like this certainly help me feel less nervous about Mandy’s story. I’m so glad I wrote it and I hope lots of people find some holiday hope and cheer in it. I want to leave you with some words from Kate and some resources on sexual assault. Here’s Kate:

Sexual assault is an almost scientific term for a vomit-inducing nightmare. Alas, we are forced to contend with the term, so let’s be clear on its definition. According to the Justice Department’s website, sexual assault is defined as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient… forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.”

http://www.justice.gov/ovw/sexual-assault 

Recent government-funded studies have brought to light some shocking statistics about sexual assault and rape specifically:

https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/219181.pdf  :

Nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped.

Only 16% of all rapes are reported to authorities.

http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cv13.pdf

35% of all sexual assaults are reported to authorities.

http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/saycrle.pdf

Teens aged 16-19 are 3.5 times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than the general population.

http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_executive_summary-a.pdf : 90% of rape victims know their rapist.

50% of victims are raped by their intimate partner.

There are a ton of implications in these stats, but I’ll highlight just a couple. What strikes me most about these stats is that rape is so common. We encounter women who have survived sexual assault every day. Eighteen percent of US women have gone through this. You are friends with rape victims. You are family of rape victims. Let that sink in for a minute.

Next, most rape is being done by guys we know. That is actually a pretty scary statistic. Think about it. Women are more likely to get raped by a man they know than by that ominous lurking predator in black, looming in the dark behind that bush. And to top it off, rapes are underreported. In other words, the bad guy is getting off way more often than not.

Sexual assault clearly affects our culture and us personally more than we realize, because it is happening all the time. I encourage you to ask questions and have conversations. Educate yourself on why and how sexual assault is so prevalent in our society. (I’ll give you a hint: It’s not because men are uncontrollable animals.)

Learn about victim blaming:

rape culture

consent:

and ways you can help the women (and men) in your own life who need support after sexual assault.

Here are some resources for you or a loved one needing immediate help after sexual assault:

Resources:

National directory of rape crisis centers: via RAINN website or call 1-800-656-4673

Online sexual assault support group: AfterSilence

Advice for loved ones of assault victims: RAINN website support

Bandbacktogether Blog

Thank you for reading! Please forward this post at will since you never know who might need the resources Kate shares above.

Thanks again, Kitt, for having me! It’s always a pleasure to blog with you!

For more information about Cole in My Stocking and Jessi Gage’s other books, visit her at:

Website | Blog | Facebook Fan Page | Twitter | Goodreads | Newsletter

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Cole Blurb and Buy Links

Mandy never planned to return to Newburgh, New Hampshire, the hometown that unfairly branded her a slut, but she has no choice. Her father has died, and she’ll be spending Christmas settling his affairs. She hopes to get in and out of town without attracting the looks of disgust that drove her away, but when a certain Oakley-wearing, Harley-riding cop starts hanging around, an old crush is revived and the rumor mill restarts with a vengeance.

Cole has always been attracted to Mandy, but he has never acted on it. Besides being sixteen years older than her, he was friends with her father. The rumors people in town spread about her were bad enough without an inappropriate relationship adding fuel to the fire. But when Mandy returns to Newburgh fully adult and looking more gorgeous than ever, he can’t keep his distance, especially when an old secret of her father’s surfaces and puts her in danger. He’ll stop at nothing to protect her, but convincing her to stay in Newburgh, with him, will take a Christmas miracle.

Reader Advisory: Contains references to a past sexual assault 

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Google Play | All Romance | Goodreads

Highlight:

He cupped her chin and made her look at him, even if they couldn’t see each other in the dark. “What did he do after?”

“What do you mean?”

“When you freaked out. What did your boyfriend do after that?”

Tension straightened her shoulders. “What any decent guy would do. We stopped. He stopped. He was a perfect gentleman.”

He scoffed.

“What? He was. I was a total spaz and he was cool about it.”

“He was cool about it?”

“What? What’s that superior tone for?” She was getting angry. He loved that about her. She’d stood up to Tooley a few days ago. She was standing up to him now. If she didn’t like something, she let you know about it. Now that was a characteristic he could believe she’d gotten from Gripper.

“You said you freaked like always when things get to a certain point, that you always blow it. You think you blew it with that guy because a single attempt at second base went poorly. I meant what happened afterwards? Was there a conversation? A second attempt after you had some time to process what happened? A third?”

“What guy would want to try again after something like that?”

“This guy would.”

Jessi Gage

Jessi Gage

 

Jessi Gage bio:
Jessi lives with her husband and children in the Seattle area. She’s a passionate reader of all genres of romance, especially anything involving the paranormal. Ghosts, demons, vampires, witches, weres, faeries…you name it, she’ll read it. As for writing, she’s sticking to Highlanders and contemporaries with a paranormal twist (for now). The last time she imagined a world without romance novels, her husband found her crouched in the corner, rocking.

To Honor Those Who Have Served….

I wrote this short story a couple years ago on Veterans Day. I’ve brought it back, touched it up a bit. Thank you to everyone who willingly, selflessly took on the job that so many can’t or won’t. Regardless of your roles, you are all heroes to me.

I Bled For You

He was tired. Mentally, emotionally. The weight of guilt and grief and anger were a heavy mantle around his shoulders. Today, when his little girl came home in tears because of him, had been more than he could take. Feeling like a failure, he’d gotten into his car and drove.

Pete knew he should have probably let his wife know he was leaving. She would worry. She was a good wife. A better mother. She didn’t deserve all the hardships and sacrifices she’d been forced to face, mostly alone. He just couldn’t help himself. After looking down into his 6 year old’s tear stained face and coaxing the story out of her, he’d needed an escape. He didn’t want her to see the rage that was floating close to the surface.

Looking around, he found himself in the middle of nowhere. Up ahead, to the right, there was what looked like an old abandoned church. The tiny building with its dark wooden doors flung open seemed to beckon him from the road. As he pulled up and put his car into park he noticed the decay. Tall weeds surrounded the building everywhere except along the rubble path and the steps made of carved gray stone. The white paint curled and chipped with heat and age.

Stepping out of his vehicle he looked up at the little cross at the steeple. He walked carefully up the steps noting the cobwebs in the corners of the door jams. Although the doors were open with welcome, it was obvious to him that no one had been here in a long time.

He contemplated the dark, scarred wood that made up the cross in the front of the sanctuary. His feet led him forward, down the aisle. Stopping at the second pew, he glanced down. They were in good condition.

“What the heck,” he thought to himself as he sat down, “I’ve got nowhere to go anyway.”

Gazing up at that cross he started talking.

“I didn’t ask for this war. I believe in this country and what it stands for. I enlisted hoping to better myself. To make a difference. I wanted to provide a better life for my wife and my daughter.”

He laughed bitterly. “Little good that had done,” he thought. That same little girl that he’d wanted to give the world to, whose birth he’d missed because he’d been deployed, was the same adorable face that had looked up at him, eyes swimming in tears.

“Excuse me for interrupting, but it sounds like you’re having a crisis of faith, son,” a voice came from beside him.

Looking over, he saw a gentleman sitting beside him. He had been so lost in his thoughts that he never even heard the man join him. In coveralls, little chips of wood and sawdust in his dark brown hair and clothing, the man was fairly nondescript. Pete figured he was probably a carpenter.

He tried for a friendly smile, but only succeeded with a grimace, “It’s been a rough day.” He snorted softly as he rolled his eyes, “Who am I kidding? It’s been a rough few years.”

“Care to talk about it?” The man asked warmly. “Sometimes it helps to tell a stranger.”

Pete didn’t trust easily, especially after the welcome he’d received when he’d gotten home from overseas. This war was doing some crazy things to this country he loved so much. Something about this man called to him.

He found himself speaking, “My six year old came home from school today, crying.”

He swallowed hard, blinking back tears of his own as her precious face swam into his memory, “She was playing with the neighbor kids in their yard when she overheard a couple of the parents talking. One of the parents said that they thought it was ridiculous that we were even in this war. That our soldiers were out there murdering innocent people for a selfish cause that nobody agreed with. As other parents nodded agreement someone else added that they couldn’t believe that soldiers just went along with it. According to these people I should have voiced my disagreement and insisted on coming home.”

Pete ran his fingers through his razor short hair and looked into the sympathetic brown eyes. “They never considered the damage their hurtful words would do to those innocent six year old ears.”

He huffed out a breath, “Who am I kidding? I doubt they even cared. I came home from the war to be greeted by picketers, hate and angry words. Why should they care about how their words affect my wife and daughter?”

“Only your wife and daughter?” The man beside him asked, eyebrow raised in a very astute question.

“No,” Pete answered. “Not just them. I left today because I was so filled with hurt and rage. I didn’t even tell my wife I was leaving. She’s probably worried sick. I didn’t want them to see me that way! I feel betrayed! I serve for love of those same people who hurt my daughter. Who mocked my trip home. I’ve done it so they can enjoy their lives. Enjoy their freedoms. They don’t know. They have no idea what I’ve seen. What I’ve heard so that they can taunt me and make my daughter cry. I still hear the explosions in my head. The screams and chaos that follows never quite go away. I carry it all with me. In my heart. Scarred on my soul.”

He looked at the kindly stranger whose face was filled with such understanding, “Part of me wants to scream at them. I bled for you. I died a bit for you. Don’t you see I do this for you? How can you turn away from me so completely? How can you make my wife and child so sad for love of me?”

The man gently put his arm around Pete’s shoulder. “I know how you feel. It’s not easy to be turned away by the people you love so much. When all the things you’ve given up or missed seem unnoticed and unappreciated. Hang in there. Give them time. One day someone will realize what you’ve done and how deeply you loved them. Go home to your wife. Your daughter. Give them a hug. They love you.”

With that little bit of wisdom, the carpenter stood up and walked away.

Pete thought for a moment about what the man said and turned around to thank him for his kindness. The man was gone. As he looked back toward the cross, prepared to head back home, he looked up again. For the first time he noticed Jesus. He shook his head. He didn’t remember him being there when he first walked in.

Shrugging he walked to the car. As he pulled the car back onto the road he realized three things. First, the guy on the cross had a very familiar face. He looked an awful lot like the guy he’d been chatting with. Second, as he thought back to that man, he remembered the scars he’d seen on his new friend’s wrists. Third, those voices in his head had stopped screaming for the first time in years the moment he’d entered that church.

He bowed his head for a moment to say thanks. Someone understood his sacrifices all too well. It was time to go home.