Abbey’s Quilt by Guest Blogger Shirley Specht Johnson

I am honored to have as my guest today Shirley Specht Johnson. Shirley is a member of WordGirls and has written a sweet story with an excellent lesson. I know you will be blessed as you read Abbey’s Quilt.

Abbey’s Quilt


Shirley Specht Johnson

Abbey’s sixteenth birthday fell in the middle of the week on a school day. The plans for celebrating were a long way off for Abbey. The weekend.

The hand stitched kitchen curtains on the backdoor welcomed Abbey home after a long day at school. Abbey opened the door.


                                                                                                                                                                           “In here, Abigail.”

The distinct flavors of mom’s chicken and dumpling soup floated through the air.

“How was school, Abigail?”  

“Long and boring. Is the soup ready?”  

“Oh, Abigail, be patient. Things take time.”    

“I enjoyed our birthday breakfast,” Abigail’s mom continued. “How is your birthday today?”    

                                                                                                                                                                      “O.K. I guess. I wish it was the weekend.”  

“Well put your things away, dinner will be ready soon.”

Abigail tossed her books on the dining room table.


“Alright, I’ll take them to my room.”  

She picked up the books and carried them down the hall towards her room.

As she walked into her room she noticed a new blanket on her bed. A quilt. A very plain piece of paper rested on the sea of colors. It was a note. A note from mom. The note was as simple as the piece of paper it was written on. It said “Happy Birthday, Love Mom.”

She took a second look at the quilt. She noticed mom’s hand stitching. The colors in the quilt captured her eyes. The fabric was clothes she had outgrown through the years. Love embraced Abbey’s heart for a moment.

Her mind distracted her with questions.


“Did she make it when I was at school?”


“Did she stay up late and sew?”


“Where did she keep the fabric?”


“How long has she been planning it?”


“How did she know what to keep and what to throw away?”


Many years would go by and Abbey grew. Life would often hand Abigail moments of waiting, moments of enduring, but she no longer had questions. The memories of the quilt brought strength and understanding. The pieces were selected carefully and cut so they would fit together. Some of the stitches were hidden yet they were some of the strongest. A variety of threads were chosen to match each garment. Abbey knew that those quilted stiches were so much more than decorative stitches. She knew in the hidden hours her mom was thinking about her, praying for her. The moments in her life were stitched together and they matched perfectly.

The quilt was a treasure in Abbey’s life. The words of her mom rested upon her heart. They appeared when she needed them most.

“Oh, Abigail. Be Patient. Things take time.”

God knows what we need to hold us together. He knows what to keep and what to discard. In our lives God knows how to fit everything together perfectly.

Rest in the assurance of his love.


Be still and know…. Psalm 46:10

Shirley Specht Johnson loves to share inspiration and encouragement through her writing.   She is a member of SCBWI and currently participating in 12X12. She shares a guest post once a month at Pause for Poetry on the Woven and Spun Blog. She shares moments of inspiration and her writing journey on her blog The Writer’s Steps .                                                            



The holidays are flying towards us at the speed of light! Here is a great recipe-super easy to make. Enjoy!

Broccoli Casserole

  • 1 pkg frozen broccoli (or fresh), cooked, drained and chopped
  • 1 C grated cheese
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 2 C cooked rice

Add 3/4 cup cheese, onion, rice and soup to broccoli. Mix well. Pour into baking dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and bake at 350 degrees until bubbly.


Eradicator of Fear

This blog was first posted on November 30, 2012. I have to admit I don’t remember the situation I faced at that time. So, obviously, God took care of it. I pray you are blessed as you read this post!

Fear. We’ve all experienced it at some point in our lives. Perhaps we fear simple things – bugs, the creaks and groans of a house as it settles in for the night. Maybe we fear driving in heavy traffic. Or perhaps we fear deeper issues – rejection, verbal or physical abuse, financial ruin, divorce.

I faced a situation this past Friday that was scary, to say the least. This situation will be a life-changing one. At first, I faced it head-on. It was either face it or ignore it and I can’t afford to ignore it. So I dealt. And thought I was doing okay until last night.

Last night after I went to bed, I realized I was scared. I was full of fear. And I knew I could not face the next few weeks full of fear. It’s often been said that faith is the opposite of fear. And I agree with that. But when my faith is a little shaky, then I turn to the Eradicator of fear: God.

Lying in bed, I quoted Scripture:

         Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage;

         do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you

wherever you go.”

Psalm 56: 3-4 “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word

I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”

         I John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.

        Romans 8:15 “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to

        fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”   

        II Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of

       love and of a sound mind.

Are you fearful today? Perhaps you face a loss – job, relationship, health. Perhaps you fear rejection, embarrassment. Those things of which you are most afraid, give them to the Eradicator of fear – God. Trust Him. He will wipe out the fear in your heart and mind, and give you peace.



“Lessons From the Edge” by Guest Blogger Linda Coburn

I am delighted to have as my guest, fellow writer and WordGirl Member, Linda Coburn. She writes with honest vulnerability as she shares about the lessons she learns from her son, Allen, as they both learn to deal with his autism. I know that you will be moved and blessed by her story.

Lessons From the Edge

I am working on a tedious Excel spreadsheet when my phone rings, the metallic sounds of “Kicking Back” making the phone bounce across my desk. I stifle a sigh as I pick it up and say a quiet, “Hello.”

“I am trying not to freak out,” says the male voice on the other end. “But I can’t find my car keys. Do you know where they are?”

Despite being 29 years old, my son believes that my power at finding lost objects is miraculous. While I have no idea where his car keys are, I gently ask him the standard response to such a question: “Where did you see them last?”

“I had them last night,” he says, “before I went to bed. The key was in my wallet.”

Now is not the time to have a conversation about keys slipping out of wallets and better kept on a key ring, so I bite my tongue. I sometimes get ridges from biting my tongue. “Retrace your steps,” I say to him. “Did you go out in your car yesterday?” I ask the question even though I think he did not; Allen usually “takes Sundays off”, which means that he goes to church and loafs around the house the rest of the day. It is a self-imposed schedule; at the moment—while he finishes training with Occupational Vocational Rehabilitation–he has no job which defines a schedule.

He gives me the expected negative response. It appears his car is locked and he thinks he may have left the key in a sweatshirt lying on the front seat. Despite some work with a wire coat hanger, he can’t get into the car.

Again, I am tempted to sigh. Just two weeks ago, we had the lock on the front passenger door—which had not locked since Allen bought the van two years ago—repaired. Silly of us, I know. I suggest places for Allen to look for the missing key, and end with, “You can always call Triple A.” Allen is, of course, the reason I have purchased a premium membership with the car service. Just two weeks ago–yes, the same time I had the lock fixed–I was helping him push the same van off the Governor Printz Blvd while we waited for a tow truck to come.

I can tell that Allen has been holding himself tightly together. I hear a big intake of breath. I wait. One does not rush Allen. “I called,” he said. “They said they only did it if a child was locked in a car.” Even as Allen speaks, I have closed out my spreadsheet and am on the AAA web site, checking into our account benefits. “No,” I tell him. “It says right here that lock-out services are covered up to $100. Did you call them today?”

No, he admits. It was a while ago. Come to think of it, maybe it wasn’t Triple A he had called. Maybe it was the police.

I really need to get back to work. “Okay,” I tell him. “So, we have a plan. Look all over for the key, then if you can’t find it by, say 1:00, call Triple A.” He repeats it to me, thanks me for my help, and rings off.

I am compiling eligibility lists for students to receive Title I services—really, just mindlessly plugging in numbers—so I let my attention wander a bit back to my conversation with my youngest child. He still lives with us as he tries to figure out a world that is often foreign to him. He comes from the edge of the autism spectrum, a place where sensory overloads and multiple directions and thwarted needs are a part of his everyday life. Back in his school days, he would be on a list such as the one I am working on; eligible for special services in reading and math.

I recall what he said at first: “I am trying not to freak out.” Back in June, shortly after psychological testing had indicated Allen was autistic, he had a severe meltdown when he could not find his driver’s license. We have come a long way since then. It is apparent to me that he has struggled to control his emotions and think through situations. While Allen’s home is on the upper edge of the autism spectrum, I live just to the side of it, attempting in any way possible to help him live a full life. I try, despite the language barrier, to “get” him. But, as always, I learn lessons from my last born child that I did not learn from his siblings.

Lesson #1: Spaghetti goes with mashed potatoes.

When I was going to graduate school two evenings a week, Allen and his brother and sister needed to take turns making supper at night. One evening, I returned home to find that Allen had cooked up spaghetti with a side order of mashed potatoes. I asked him why he had concocted such a combination and his answer was: “I couldn’t find any soup.” I suppose it was as good a reason as any, but it became our family’s code for Allen’s challenges with learning. Salad might have made more sense as a side to spaghetti, but you make do with what you have. Despite the alphabetic notations of LD, and ADHD, and OCD that followed Allen around on his permanent record, he did what he could to make sense of it all.

Lesson #2: Money has nothing to do with being rich.

While in 8th grade, Allen had to write an essay about our family. He asked me how to spell the word, “wealthy.” I laughed and told him that our family was far from wealthy. He aimed his blue eyes right at mine and said, “But we’re very rich, Mom! We just don’t have any money.”

Truer words were never spoken. What we lack in monetary resources, we more than make up in love and laughter. Our riches are not the kind that will rust and wear out. And while Allen hopes to one day make and sell a robot for “$20,000”, it’s not because he wants a lot of money. It’s because he wants me to work less than I do.

Lesson #3: Sometimes you need a donut.

A few years ago when Allen was working as a dishwasher at a restaurant in Media, he came home at 3AM with a Dunkin Donut bag and a single doughnut. He woke me up to show me. (I am used to being awakened at all hours; autism has no awareness of time.) “Nice,” I said. “Enjoy your doughnut.” I rolled over and intended to go back to sleep. “But it’s for you!’ said my son. “I was driving past Dunkin Donuts and I said to myself, ‘Allen, you have the world’s best mother. She deserves a doughnut.’ So I bought you one!” It was my favorite, vanilla cream-filled. And yes, he wanted me to eat it right away. And I did.

You should never refuse a doughnut when it is offered. Even at 3AM. Life is full of such surprises, and seldom keeps to a standard clock.

By the time I get home from work, Allen has called Triple A and gotten into his car, but has not found the key. He is still holding himself together, still making phone calls, and has found a locksmith who can come down to the house and make a key for $75. Which I, of course, will pay. I make a few other suggestions of places he can look, but I am pretty much resigned to the $75 and impressed he has come this far with problem solving.

I need to finish up the Excel spreadsheet in my office that evening, and as I type away, filling in the blocks with NP and NCE scores, Allen creeps into the room and sits on the couch. It is a habit the kids formed years ago; they just sit and wait. I turn in my swivel chair, my face a question mark.

And Allen, living on the edge of the spectrum and trying very hard to make sense of it all, hands me a donut bag, then grins and walks away.

I smile and open the bag. Vanilla cream-filled. He gets me.


Linda Cobourn is a reading interventionist and works with at risk students, both children and adults. She is the author of three books. Crazy: A Diary was published in June and tells the story of her family’s attempt to come to a new normal after her husband’s car accident altered their lives. Linda has an M.Ed. in Reading and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership. She writes of her family and her son’s struggles with autism on her blog, Writing on the Broken Road at http://writingonthebrokenroad.blogspot.com/


RECIPE MONDAY: Sizzling Honey Baked Beans & Potato Skillet

This dish is a delicious twist on the standard baked bean recipe!

  • 3 T olive oil, divided
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 green or red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 9-oz package frozen corn
  • 1 T taco seasoning
  • 1 can (28 oz.) Bush’s Honey Baked Beans
  • 1 8-oz. package finely shredded cheddar cheese

Heat 2 T olive oil in large non-stick skillet over medium to high heat and add potatoes. Salt & pepper to taste. Fry potatoes for 10-12 minutes, stirring frequently. Transfer to bowl.

Ad remaining 1 T oil to skillet and add bell pepper, onion, and corn. Saute mixture over medium heat for about 6 minutes. Add taco seasoning, baked beans and potatoes and stir to combine. Continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes until heated through. Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top.

*This dish is great with grilled chicken, grilled pork chops and hamburgers.

Bon apetit! 



Teal Toes

I am pleased to have Joanie Shawhan as my guest blogger. Joanie and I met earlier this year at a WordGirls Writing Retreat. She is a delightful woman, very talented and a faithful Christian. Her article opened my eyes, and I’m sure it will yours, too.

Parade the Pink—Teal Aware

October is breast cancer awareness month. A parade of pink: sportswear, jewelry, ribbons, marathons, lights. So why am I sporting teal? Researchers have discovered a link between breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Two genetic mutations, BRCA1 and BRCA2 have been associated with an increased risk for breast cancer. But did you also know that these mutations could increase your risk for ovarian cancer by as much as 46%?

I am an ovarian cancer survivor.

Ovarian cancer—it launches in silence, creeps with a whisper and advances with a roar.

It hid in the recesses of my belly. Under cover of darkness, the cancer cells multiplied until a grapefruit-size mass emerged. When I pressed on the growth, stabbing pain gripped my abdomen. I hope this is just a uterine fibroid.

I thought I knew the symptoms of ovarian cancer. But despite my background in oncology nursing, I had missed one—nausea. Over the course of a few months, I had experienced several episodes of nausea, mistaking them for the flu. Fleeting thoughts of ovarian cancer crept into my mind, but I brushed them away. I rationalized. This nausea is just too infrequent to be cancer.

My doctor agreed that a fibroid was the most probable diagnosis, but we needed to schedule an ultrasound. In the darkened room, the ultrasound technician slid the probe around my abdomen. With a furrowed brow, she shot me a glance. I knew something was wrong. After the scan, I tucked the films under my arm and slipped into my doctor’s office. She examined the images, spun around and delivered her verdict—ovarian cancer, the size of a cantaloupe. She rattled off the tests and surgery that still needed to be scheduled. Words spilled over her lips, but the syllables sounded foreign and distant. Is she talking to me?

God’s grace brought me through the ravages of surgery and chemotherapy: baldness, crushing chest pain, nausea and brain fog. Fatigue siphoned my strength.

There are no screening tests for ovarian cancer. Early diagnosis greatly improves a woman’s chances of survival. But the vague symptoms often mimic gastrointestinal disorders that can be easily ignored or misdiagnosed. Many women are diagnosed in the latter stages—therefore ovarian cancer has been identified as the woman’s cancer with the lowest survival rate.

The most common symptoms of ovarian cancer include:

* Persistent bloating with an increase in the size of the abdomen

* Pelvic or abdominal pain

* Feeling full quickly after eating

* Urinary urgency or frequency

This October, let us not just parade the pink for breast cancer awareness, but let us be teal aware.

Joanie Shawhan is an ovarian cancer survivor and a registered nurse. She writes encouraging articles for women undergoing chemotherapy and is available for speaking engagements. Publishing credits include Coping with Cancer magazine and God Still Meets Needs. Joanie enjoys designing jewelry, knitting, and music. You may contact her at http://www.joanieshawhan.com.



PROCEED: to move or go forward or onward, esp. after stopping; to carry on or continue any action or process; to go on to do something; to continue one’s discourse. (dictionary.com)

We have prayed (Step One) and we have prepared (Step Two) and we are now ready for Step Three – Proceed. We are ready to move forward and perform the task that God has assigned us. “So, move. Go on. What are you waiting for? Just do it. What’s that, you say? You don’t think you’re ready? You’ve prayed, haven’t you? Okay. And you’re prepared, aren’t you? Okay. So, what’s the problem? Ah, I understand. You’re afraid. Afraid of what? Afraid you will look like an idiot? That you will embarrass yourself? Afraid that you will fail at the task God has given you?”

II. Timothy 1:7: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

Psalm 56:3 “What time I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee.”

These verses are telling us, first, that fear does not come from God. Second, that when we are afraid, we should trust Him. If you are afraid to proceed, is it a matter of trust? Or the lack thereof? If God has assigned you a task, and He has given you everything you need to complete that task, you don’t really think He is going to abandon you just as you start, do you? Of course not! So if it is fear that is holding you back, let it go and trust God.

“If it’s not fear, what then? Oh, you’re shy? That’s not a problem either. God tells us in Psalm 28:1b ‘that the righteous are bold as a lion.’ So get going. You have the boldness of a lion.”

“And what about you, sir? Why are you not already gone to do what He has called you to do? Excuse me? You don’t want to? So you’re just not going to, is that it? Hmmmm…that is a problem. Why, you ask? Because God told you to do it. It wasn’t a ‘if you feel like it’ or ‘if you want to’ kind of statement. It was a “go forth and do it” statement. By not doing what God has said for you to do, you are now walking in disobedience. And that’s a place you really do not want to be.”

“… to obey is better than sacrifice…For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. (I Samuel 15: 22b-23a)