The Sound of Distant Thunder – a novel

Katie Stuckey and Jonas Weaver are both romantics. Seventeen-year-old Katie is starry-eyed, in love with the idea of being in love, and does not want to wait to marry Jonas until she is eighteen, despite her parents’ insistence. So much can happen in a year. Twenty-year-old Jonas is taken in by the romance of soldiering, especially in defense of anti-slavery, even though he knows war is at odds with the teachings of the church. When his married brother’s name comes up in the draft list, he volunteers to take his brother’s place. But can the commitment Katie and Jonas have made to each other survive the separation?

From the talented pen of Jan Drexler comes this brand new Amish series set against the backdrop of the Civil War. She puts her characters to the test as they struggle to reconcile their convictions and desires while the national conflict threatens to undermine and engulf their community.

How can a Christian justify going to war when God says, “Do not Murder”? The Amish especially eschew violence so when the call comes to join the Army, what does a young Amish man do? Jonas decides to go, leaving behind Katie, the young lady he desires to marry and whose family disagrees with his decision. I found this book interesting: the young Amish are very conflicted – do they follow their family/church beliefs, or do they support their country? At one-point Jonas says, “The war has brought out the worst in people, so that even here, away from the fighting, men still wage their battles.” I did find the book a little confusing – at the start of each chapter I had to determine from whose point of view it was written as it changed frequently from Jonas, Katie, their mothers or occasionally even someone else. I thought the battle scenes were really good, but it took so much of the book to get there. More than half of the book takes place before Jonas volunteers to become a soldier. I received this book from Baker Publishing. I am freely writing a review – all thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Author:  Jan Drexler’s husband of more than thirty-five years often says she’s never happier than when she’s in the kitchen cooking for someone, and he’s right. With her Amish and Mennonite ancestry and mid-American roots, Jan has always enjoyed cooking from scratch and sharing the subsequent goodies with friends and family.

Jan and her family have lived all through the mid-west, from Indiana to Texas to Kentucky to South Dakota, with a few others in between. Born in Michigan, Jan still proudly carries her pocket map of Michigan on the end of her arm, like all true Michiganders, and will gladly give you a tour of her home state. But her current love is the Black Hills of South Dakota, where she can be found hiking the Hills at all times of the year and regularly visiting the “boys” at Mt. Rushmore.

Jan brings a unique understanding of the Amish culture to her writing, with ancestors who were among the first Amish immigrants to Pennsylvania. She has written several books for Love Inspired Historical as well as “The Journey to Pleasant Prairie” series from Revell.

Visit Jan at or on Facebook at


Ours for a Season


Anthony and Marty Hirschler are part of an Old Order Mennonite community in Pine Hill, Indiana. The couple has grown apart since a doctor confirmed they would never have children. Marty longs to escape the tight-knit area where large families are valued, and the opportunity to do so arises when her childhood friend, Brooke Spalding, resurfaces with the wild idea of rebuilding a ghost town into a resort community. Brooke hires Anthony to help with the construction, drawing the Hirschlers away from Indiana and into her plan, and then finds herself diagnosed with cancer. Moral complications with Brooke’s vision for a casino as part of the resort and the discovery of a runaway teenager hiding on the property open up a world neither the Hirschlers nor Brooke had considered before. Will they be able to overcome their challenges and differences to help the ones among them hurting the most?

Kim Vogel Sawyer is one of those authors that you know their book will be good – and this certainly was!  I did think it started a little slow – Marty is grieving her inability to have a child and the growing distance between her and her husband.  But as the book progresses, the author weaves in so many different topics – strong woman, vulnerable children, marriage relationships and friendships, cancer, and above all, the redemptive and transforming grace of God.  I don’t often read “Amish” books (this wasn’t Amish but instead Mennonite – and one of the characters talks about people not knowing the difference!) but I thought that the issues the lead characters, Anthony and Marty, face really transcend their Old Order Mennonite sect and instead are issues many Christians in general face.  Great book and I highly recommend!  I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Waterbrook Multnomah. I am freely writing a review – all thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Author: Award-winning, bestselling author Kim Vogel Sawyer wears many hats. As a wife, mother, grandmother, song-singer, cat-petter, and active participant in her church’s music and women’s ministries, her life is happily full. But her passion lies in penning stories that share the hope we can all possess when we place our lives in God’s capable hands. She and her retired military hubby live on the beautiful plains of Kansas, the setting for many of Kim’s books. In her free time, she enjoys quilting, traveling with “The Hubs,” and spoiling her quiverful of granddarlings.

Feet that bring Good News

A year ago I was preparing to go on my first mission trip since college.  Now I am gearing up for another one – this time to South Africa at the end of January.  I am thrilled to once more be used by God in a country not my own!  If you read my blog, you know how last year’s trip to Peru challenged me beyond my physical ability as I hiked many hours at high altitudes on the Inca trail (with an injured Achilles tendon) to reach a remote village.  For two weeks I was the dental assistant, a job I have no background in nor have I aspired to!  But I loved being part of a team that ministered to the medical needs of the people before the pastors counseled them on their spiritual needs

At the end of the trip, although I was thrilled to get back to hot showers, a nice bed, and real toilets, I also couldn’t wait to see when I could serve again overseas.  At the end of May I heard about an opportunity for the women of my church…

Early next year I will be traveling to South Africa with a group of 10 other women from my church to bring discipleship training to the missionaries with the organization 25:40 and working with the children they serve. This organization is dedicated to giving at-risk children in Southern Africa a fighting chance to survive the devastating impacts of poverty, disease, and violence.  It operates in an area heavily impacted by the AIDS epidemic (the incidence of HIV/AIDS exceeds 25% of the population).  25:40 gets its name from Matthew 25:40 which says, “…Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”  In a country that does not value its children, orphaned children are truly the least of these!

As a part of this, I am looking for partners both in prayer and finance.  Last year in Peru so many prayed for me and I felt the impact of those prayers every step of the way, both literally and figuratively.  For this trip I know there will be many challenges as I’ve never been to the continent of Africa nor been on an 18-hour plane ride and these are only the beginning of the challenges I expect to encounter and overcome through God’s enabling.  Please pray for me, and my team, as we prepare for these challenges.  Please pray also that this trip will have eternal significance to the lives of the adults and children we minister to and that God will put a hedge of protection around each one of us.

For the financial aspect, each member of our team has been asked to not only have a team of supporters but to also raise $2500.  I am looking for financial partners to help send me to South Africa – no amount is too big or too small, and I am thankful for your willingness to send me!  If you would like to contribute, please write a check to 25:40 and either give or mail it to me (my name should go on the memo line).  It is tax deductible, but I must keep track of the donation.  You can also go directly to  and donate on line – just let me know so I can track it!  Thank you in advance!

If you would like to support me in prayer, please let me know and I would be happy to keep you updated as to how I need prayer and what God is doing!

Also, if you live locally, 25:40 is having an 8K run around Burke Lake on Saturday, October 6.  It is an official race with timers but you can also walk!  I ran it a couple of years ago and it is a beautiful run!  You can sign up here if you’d like to participate and help kids!

Kris’ International traveling packing list

In the last few years I have done numerous International trips and have made a list of things to take with me and I thought I should share my list.  Please feel free to add in anything that you think should be taken too!  I’ll add my thoughts about some of the things at the end but here is my list:

  1. Passport
  2. Credit card
  3. Charger for phone
  4. Neck cushion
  5. Ear buds or headphones
  6. Empty water bottle
  7. Snacks
  8. Disinfectant wipes
  9. Books and/or Kindle
  10. Glasses
  11. Eye mask
  12. Jacket/sweater
  13. Large, lightweight scarf or travel blanket
  14. Fuzzy socks and/or compression socks
  15. Gum
  16. Chocolates for the flight attendants
  17. pen
  18. Guide book
  19. Fold-up grocery bag
  20. Fold-up backpack or small duffle bag
  21. Power adapters
  22. Purse for destination
  23. Rain jacket
  24. Umbrella
  25. Shampoo
  26. Soap
  27. Fingernail clippers
  28. Sunglasses
  29. Band-Aids
  30. Deodorant
  31. Brush
  32. Ziploc baggies
  33. Sunscreen
  34. Pills/vitamins
  35. Good walking shoes
  36. Pants
  37. Shirts
  38. Underwear
  39. Socks
  40. Pajamas
  41. Swimsuit?
  42. Hat?

The first 17 items are the things you need for the plane – and maybe #18 if you still haven’t figured everything you are going to do and will work on it on the plane!

#4 – Here’s the neck cushion I use –   I discovered I needed more support for my head (so I can sleep) then the regular u shaped cushions you buy at the airport provide.  This cushion allowed me to sleep!

#5 – Even when not watching the inflight movie, the headphones provide some protection from the noise – it is noisy in the air!  Earplugs are good too!

#6 – You can’t take water through security, but you can take an empty bottle and fill it up as soon as you get through.  Caution though, some flights won’t allow you to take the filled bottle on the plane, so you might need to drink it before boarding.  I usually take a reusable bottle but occasionally have just taken a regular throw away one.

#7 – Flights are long and while most carriers provide food there is no guarantee that you will like it and they have a limited amount of things available on board.

#8 – Those tray tables aren’t usually cleaned between flights – or ever – so you might want a small packet of wipes to quickly clean it!  Then, when touring, you may want to wipe down your hands when a sink isn’t available.

#11 – Block out the light on the plane because even when they turn the lights down, your seatmate might be watching a movie with lots of flickering lights.  I recently upgraded to a nodpod eye mask and it really was nice!  You can get them at Bed, Bath& Beyond (and much cheaper than at Amazon!)

#12 – Planes are kept at a lower temperature because people get nauseated on a plane when the temps rise – also it’s really cold outside the plane.  So, bring a jacket for when you get cold.

#13 – My daughter Kate always travels with a large light weight scarf, it’s perfect as a blanket on the plane, she knows where her scarf has been and if the weather is colder than anticipated she already has something to keep her warmer (and this has happened multiple times!).  When we got stranded in Newark airport overnight she had her scarf and I had my blanket – PRICELESS!

#14 – If you’ll be on the plane a while you want to get comfy so bring some nice socks.  Also, your feet can swell if you’re on the plane a long time, so you might want to put on some compression socks.  Just do me a favor and put your shoes back on when you go to the bathroom – that’s not water on the floor!

#16 – Flight attendants are people – and they aren’t paid very much.  They are paid almost nothing until the plane doors close.  So, be nice and bring them some chocolates.  They’ll appreciate it – and you!

#17 – You might need a pen to fill out that customs form.  Flight attendants don’t usually have pens available. And you never know when you want to write something down – or write a postcard.

#19 – In Europe, grocery bags are not free.  So, get a lightweight, foldable, nylon one and tuck one in your purse to pull out when you buy some groceries or souvenirs.  I’ve found them at Aldi and Ikea for about $2 but the cheapest I could find on Amazon was about $5 –

#20 – I always pack a fold up duffel bag or fold up back pack in case I need a lighter back pack for an excursion or more space for stuff coming home – we love to shop!  Here’s a nice one on Amazon for less than $10 (And I’d recommend this over the drawstring ones because the strings aren’t very comfortable on your shoulders!)

#21 – Most cell phones and modern electronic devices don’t need to have a transformer to change the electrical current (voltage), but the American plug is just that – American.  In Europe it is 2 round prongs –  in England and other countries it’s different.  So, look up the adapter you need for the country you are going to and order the correct one on Amazon!  Here’s a European one for less than $2:

#22 – For the plane you might want your personal item to be bigger than a purse – like a backpack.  But once you get to your destination a purse is handy – so pack it in your suitcase.  I LOVE my Travelon purse for traveling!  It has RFID so my info can’t be lifted, and it has a bunch of different anti-theft properties.  Here’s a nice one on Amazon:

#32– Just handy to have.  We often buy bread and cheese and make our own sandwiches before setting out for the day.

#36 – A good rule of thumb for pants is to pack one pair of pants per 3 days of travel or plan out time to wash clothes. Always save something clean for the flight home, it’s amazing the difference it makes traveling in clean clothes, it’s just one less thing to stress about.

That’s my list – what would you add??

Where in the World is Kris? Scotland

You take the high road, and I’ll take the low road, And I’ll be in Scotland a’fore ye,…

20180611_12300320180613_184052.jpgEdinburgh – the city of sad Queen Mary of Scotts, Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde, and grey skies!  Kate and I had originally planned to go to Stockholm – but realized we probably wouldn’t get a seat on that plane so switched and got to fly first class to Edinburgh!  We arrived on a rainy, cold, JUNE day and, after taking the bus to the city, were so grateful a taxi was willing to pick up a couple of drenched, lost wanderers and take us to our apartment!  After we had dropped off our suitcases and changed, we discovered the skies had cleared up some and we began to see the sights.  We had 3 must sees – The Royal Yacht Britannia, Edinburgh Castle, and the Palace of Holyrood.  Happily for us, we discovered we could get a ticket that not only included the 3 of those but allowed us to use the Hop-On, Hop-Off buses for just a few dollars more!

We spent our first 2 days exploring Edinburgh and on the 3rd day we took a bus excursion.  So here’s what we did manage to see!  We felt like we barely scratched the surface of exploring Edinburgh partly because everything closed at 5pm, partly because I didn’t feel well the first day AND lastly, I had had a surgical procedure on my foot 3 weeks earlier and wasn’t really supposed to walk much!!

Edinburgh Castle – 20180612_172726 (2)This castle, built on rock high above the rest of the city dominates the capital. It changed hands many times between the Scots and the English.  Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI (King James of the English) here in 1566.  And here also you can see the Scottish royal jewels. 20180611_094057.jpg We just missed the 1pm firing of the cannons but instead got a picture of one of the soldiers in his kilt!

  • John Knox’s House – This house was built in the mid 1500’s – with some of it built in 1470. 20180611_115905It served as a shop for several merchants at one time.  As the area became more run down, there would have been many families living in it, one per room with as many as 10-12 in a family (ugh!).  John Knox, the religious reformer, lived here for a little while and it is believed that he died here.  He was ordained as a priest in the Roman Catholic church but became disillusioned with the church and was drawn to the idea of a reformed religion.  He was one of the main figures behind the abdication of Mary Queen of Scots as he thought that a King brought up as a Presbyterian would be better for Scotland.  Today, the Church of Scotland is Presbyterian.
  • The Royal Mile – The street going downhill from the Castle to Holyrood Palace. It’s a mile long and has lots of touristy shops, attractions and pubs on it.  We had fun looking for souvenirs and seeing everything!  We even saw an old telephone booth that had been turned into an ATM machine!
  • The Royal Yacht Britannia

    It was soooo thrilling for me to go on this!!! This was the Queen’s yacht from 1954-1997.  In order to save money, she had only twin beds put in the rooms so she could use the same linens specially ordered for the previous yacht!

    Prince Charles and Lady Diana honeymooned on this yacht (he had a double-sized bed brought on the yacht for the occasion) and later they vacationed with their boys, Prince William and Prince Harry.  We got to see all the different rooms – the bedrooms, the dining rooms, the living rooms!  We also treated ourselves and had scones and cake in the little tea room on board. 

  • Palace of Holyrood – The Queen’s residence when she is in Scotland. We saw the throne room, and Mary, Queen of Scots room.  Beautiful!
  • Dolly the Sheep – Yes, Dolly the cloned sheep – born in 1996 and died in 2003. She’s been stuffed and put in the museum.
  • Greyfriars Bobby and Kirk – A statue put up for a little Skye terrier dog who, after his master died, guarded his grave for 14 years – back in the mid 1800’s. But his story was immortalized by several movies, including one by Walt Disney.  Outside the church is the graveyard where many of the names JK Rowling used for her books came from (she often wrote in a little pub around the corner).
  • The Real Mary King’s Close – A Close is an alleyway and there are many coming off the Royal Mile. This close was named after a woman (quite unusual), Mary King, who was a merchant in the 1700’s.  The close was shut off when the Royal Exchange was built above it which preserved it (as the building was built over it, it meant the street was under the ground and there is a law that people can’t live under the ground, so all had to move).   But in 2003 it was excavated and opened for the public with tours by costumed people.  They tell the story of the street, or tenement area with buildings 8 stories high and families living in single rooms.  No toilets – people threw the contents of their chamber pots out 2x per day – I wouldn’t have wanted to be walking on the street at that time!  The guide also talked about the Plague and how easily it spread in this area.   Fascinating place and worth the money and wait to get on a tour!  It also served as a shelter during WWII.
  • The Last Drop – We ate dinner this pub our last night – it’s located right next to where the gallows used to be! The food was yummy. 20180613_185903 (2) I ordered a Scottish dish: haggis with neeps and tatties, not knowing what neeps and tatties are.  Turns out they are mashed yellow turnip and mashed potatoes.  All three dishes were yummy!!


We had lots of fun riding the Hop-On, Hop-Off buses  – we learned so much through the guides.  We learned about the inspiration for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Deacon Brodie, a wealthy, trusted, pious, respected citizen during the day but at night a gambler and thief.  As he was a cabinet maker people gave him the keys to their houses so he could build their cabinets.  He returned the keys when finished – but after he had made his own copy.  When he knew they were going out of town for a vacation, he would use the key and rob them.  He went undetected for many years but after he was caught, they hung him on the gallows he had designed – see above😊.    The green bus had a live guide speaking in English (obviously!) upstairs and the red buses had prerecorded guides, and each went in opposite directions.  Riding the buses and listening to the guides, we could see so many things that we wanted to do – but just ran out of time!

On our last full day, we got a bus tour that took us first to Loch Lomond where we got a boat ride on the Loch.  We also learned the meaning of the song I began this post with.  After the rebellion in 1745, 2 friends are imprisoned – one is going to be released, and the other hung.  The one being hung pens the words, basically saying that he’d take the low road (underground as a spirit) and would be in Scotland before the living one could make it back.  Rather sad!

Not only did we tour some of Loch Lomond, we also drove through the Trossachs, a beautiful area where the lowlands and the highlands of Scotland meet.  And we saw some hairy coos – some of the highland cattle with their wild hair and huge horns!20180613_143042.jpg

Our last stop was Stirling Castle, an imposing castle built on a high rock, and having great importance to Scottish history.  Here many Kings and Queens were crowned, including Mary, Queen of Scots.  Nearby, at the Stirling Bridge, William Wallace (Braveheart) defeated an English army in September 1297.  The castle is magnificent – filled with beautiful tapestries- and sporting a huge great hall, a kitchen with “people” preparing “food” and decorated like Mary is coming back next week.

Unfortunately, we took a bus tour here and only got just over an hour to tour.  We could have used more time and in retrospect, we should have gotten a train and just gone to the city on our own.  Oh, well!  Next time!

One of the funny parts to our day was we really did get a into a Scottish traffic jam – a bunch of sheep were blocking the road and until their dogs and master could get them moving along, we were stuck there!20180613_105445.jpg

Kate and I loved our time in Scotland!  It is a beautiful country and I’d love to go back, especially as we never even walked into Edinburgh “New Town” area, built around 1767!  But, we have other places to go before we can return!

Where in the world do you think we will go next?  Do you have a suggestion?  If money and time weren’t a consideration, where would you go?


Lone Witness – a novel

Lone Witness #2

Prosecutor Sophie Dawson’s first job in the White Collar division of the Fulton County D.A.’s office is to build a case against a local bank employee who may be cheating clients. But when circumstances beyond her control leave her as the only witness to a double homicide involving a vengeful gang, her world is turned upside down.

Former Atlanta police officer turned private security guard Cooper Knight is hired to ensure that Sophie is kept safe. But as threats escalate, they don’t know who they can trust.

Sophie is determined not to back down, but her bank case gets more complicated by the day, and the gang will stop at nothing to keep her from testifying. Sophie wants to take a stand for what’s right–but can Cooper, who is determined not to be distracted by their growing attraction, keep her safe so that she can finish her pursuit for justice?

Action packed suspense with romance too!  What an unusual turn of events when a prosecutor working on one white collar case is the lone witness to a double murder by a gang member.  The stakes are high for both cases – and Sophie must keep her wits about her to bring justice for both cases.  I never knew who was good and who was bad as I read this novel!

I so enjoyed reading this novel!  It’s the second in the Atlanta Justice series but, except for a couple of characters reappearing – they are friends – this stands alone.  I loved how the characters go to church and talk about the importance of their faith and even wrestle with faith “I’m trying to have faith that God has it all under control, but right now it’s hard.”

This is a great book and I recommend it!  I received a copy of this book from the publisher. I am freely writing a review – all thoughts and opinions are my own.


The Author:  Rachel DylanRachel Dylan was a litigator in one of Atlanta’s most elite law firms for over eight years and now works as an attorney at one of the Big Three automobile manufacturers. She is the author of Deadly Proof and four Love Inspired Suspense novels and lives in Michigan with her husband and five furkids–two dogs and three cats.. She is active on social media and you can visit her website at

Together Forever – a novel

Together Forever (Orphan Train, #2)


Marianne Neumann has one goal in life: to find her lost younger sister, Sophie. When Marianne takes a job as a placing agent with the Children’s Aid Society in 1858 New York, she not only hopes to give children a better life but seeks to discover whether Sophie ended up leaving the city on an orphan train.

Andrew Brady, her fellow agent on her first placing trip, is a former schoolteacher who has an easy way with the children–firm but tender and funny. Underneath his handsome charm, though, seems to linger a grief that won’t go away–and a secret from his past that he keeps hidden. As the two team up placing orphans amid small railroad towns in Illinois, they find themselves growing ever closer . . . until a shocking tragedy threatens to upend all their work and change one of their lives forever.

I’ve heard talks about the Orphan Trains – some say they were good things as they took children from the overcrowded slums of New York and allowed them to grow up in the Midwest.  Others view the Orphan Trains as negative as the children were merely taken in as indentured servants, exchanging the hard life of New York for the challenging life of a midwestern farmer.  In this novel, Jody Hedlund brings to life both sides – some of the children become beloved children of the childless while others are mistreated.  I loved how the author made it real – it wasn’t easy, yet as Marianne discovers, “Maybe she wouldn’t be able to find them all homes and parents like _____, but if she helped even a few of the children find happiness, wasn’t the pain and heartache worth it?”

Honestly, I can’t imagine taking on a job like Marianne did – riding on a train for several weeks, responsible, with the help of only 1 other adult for 30 children, from babes to teens, and hoping to find good homes for all the kids before returning to New York and doing it all over again.  But it was wonderful to read about her experience and I highly recommend it!  I received a copy of this book from the publisher. I am freely writing a review – all thoughts and opinions are my own.


The Author:  Jody Hedlund:  Winner of 2016 Christian Book Award for fiction and Christy Award for historical romance, best-selling author Jody Hedlund writes inspirational historical romances for both youth and adults.

Jody lives in central Michigan with her husband, five busy children, and five spoiled cats. Although Jody prefers to experience daring and dangerous adventures through her characters rather than in real life, she’s learned that a calm existence is simply not meant to be (at least in this phase of her life!).

When she’s not penning another of her page-turning stories, she loves to spend her time reading, especially when it also involves consuming coffee and chocolate.