Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Master Sculptor

Every summer, my husband and I go west to visit my now 96-year-old father in Washington State. We usually drive so we can visit other family and friends along the way. Colorado and Utah display amazing scenic land formations.
I-70 runs through San Rafael Swell  Courtesy Google.com
In southern Utah the landscape is covered with arches, monoliths, mesas, and mounds--all in various stages of erosion. The rapid recession of the waters of Noah's Flood carved out a spectacular landscape, and the ensuing centuries of wind and water have further sculpted the multi-colored sandstone of the San Rafael Swell  into rock formations with  names such as Joe and His Dog, Double Arch, Balanced Rock, Sheep, Three Gossips, and many more names the images suggested to the imaginative observers.

Joe and His Dog Courtesy Google.com
That rugged landscape is characterized by two factors: it is always changing, and each feature is unique. Transformations are occurring because the environment is continually subjected to weathering. The hot summer sun, rushing rivulets from rainstorms, moisture caught in crevices freezing and thawing are important tools in designing these natural rock sculptures.

Here I am at San Rafael Swell 
These awesome natural works of art remind me of the work of God in the lives of people. Patiently, lovingly, He shapes every small detail to give aesthetic worth in His Kingdom. Just like those geographical formations, our lives too are constantly changing. God uses the tools of time and stress and experiences to refine the shape of our lives. As we submit to our Master Sculptor, He molds our attitudes and our wills to His. We can have confidence in Him that He will exert the stresses needed to best sculpt us into vessels of honor.

Even more impressive than all the arches and monoliths of Utah are the hearts and lives shaped by God's loving, skillful, unchanging hand. And like Creation, our lives will declare the glory of God and portray His character. Instead of dwelling on the past, we can look forward to what we are becoming. We have been set apart for God, and His Holy Spirit is transforming each of us into a work of beauty that will reflect His character.

How is God sculpting you today?


Thursday, May 3, 2018

Meet Kristina Michelsen of the Alaska Waters Trilogy

Last week I introduced you to Norman Pedersen. Today, I'd like you to meet the love of his life.

Nordland Bunad such as Kristina would have worn
Courtesy Google.com
Hello! I'm Kristina Michelsen. I have been living with my Uncle Jon and Aunt Marta ever since I lost my parents. When my mother died ten years ago, my grief-stricken father, left me with his older brother and joined the Navy. He was lost at sea five years later.

Aunt Marta and Uncle Jon love me like their own daughter. I know having me in their home helps to fill the void left in their hearts and lives by the loss of their only son in a skiing accident. Our shared sorrow and mutual sympathy have welded a strong attachment.

I love to sing and play the piano. My uncle has been so good to provide lessons for me with the best music teacher in Narvik. At parties, my friend Freida, her cousin Henrik, who plays the violin, and I often play and sing together.

When Norman Pedersen moved to Narvik two years ago, we met in church. I was attracted to his rugged good looks and adventure-loving ways. But our mutual sorrow over the loss of both parents at so young an age drew us together in a bond I share with no one else. We also enjoy skiing, ice skating, and boating.

Norman's sister, Alma Kobbevik, has been like a wise big sister to me. Long before I met Norman, she took me under her wing. She is the one who introduced me to our loving Heavenly Father, who, unlike an earthly father, will never leave me and will never die.

When she announced that she and her husband, Tennes, were going to America, I tried to be happy for them. I know they struggle financially in spite of their hard work on their tiny farm. But in reality, I feel like I'm losing another loved one.

Alma told me Norman is sweet on me. If so, he's been too shy to declare it. I worry about him, though. He faces so many dangers at sea. Tennes's father and brother were lost at sea, as was my father. Yet, Norman thinks "religion" is just for women and children. I pray for him continually.

Norman says he wants to stay in Narvik and be a fisherman like Ole Aarstad, who hired him as a deckhand on his boat, the Viking. Having Norman here will make losing Alma more bearable, but I fear that Norman, with his love for adventure, will change his mind and follow Alma to America.

Will Norman go to America? Will Kristina wait for him? Read the rest of their story in A Star to Steer By.











Thursday, April 26, 2018

Meet Norman Pedersen from my Alaskan Waters Trilogy

Allow me to introduce another character from my Alaskan Waters Trilogy:

Hi, I'm Norman Pedersen. I am the younger son of a wealthy Norwegian family in Oslo at the turn of the twentieth century. As is the custom, my eldest brother, Arne, inherited the family estate when my parents died when I was but a youngster.

Arne's overbearing wife made life miserable for my sister, Alma, and me. When she married Tennes against Arne's wishes and moved up north to Narvik, I ran away and joined them. They live a simple life on his farm, but they love me and are happy to share what they have with me.

Northern Norway (Narvik in center) Courtesy Google.com
I'm so glad I took the leap. Ya! In church I met the girl of my dreams. Kristina! Her golden hair frames a fair face with rosy cheeks and pearly white teeth that sparkle between sweet, smiling lips that need no lipstick. And her eyes are as vivid a blue as the fjord that spreads out at the feet of Narvik.

How I have missed her these past months while working on board the Viking shipping salted and dried codfish from the Lofoten Islands to Bergen, one of the foremost fish markets of the world.

From January to April, fishing boats from Narvik follow the cod migration to their spawning grounds among the many islands of the Vesteralens--four large islands of the Lofoten group, with smaller ones between that trail off into the Norwegian Sea like a gigantic backbone from northern Norway's broken coast. I hired on as deckhand to the Viking's crew.

Narvik, Norway Courtesy Google.com
The long summer days are finally over. As much as I love the sea, all I can think of right now is seeing Kristina. As I stand at the bow, rope in hand, ready to jump to the dock as soon as the Viking nudges into its mooring in the harbor at Narvik, I pull up my collar against the chill Arctic winds that sweep up the fjord.

Something catches the sunlight and flashes out a miniature beacon from the bluff overlooking the docks. I glance up and spot a girl buffeted about by the stiff breeze, her dark skirt billowing out behind her as she gazes across the water. I know it's Kristina. She always wears her mother's large silver brooch at the throat of her shirtwaist. I hope she's looking for me.

My heart swells in anticipation of being with Kristina again after my long season at sea. In spite of the biting wind, I warm at the thought of kissing her. Maybe this time I'll get up the nerve.

But what can I offer her? She's accustomed to all the comforts her wealthy uncle/guardian provides. I have no property, no house, and no opportunity to purchase land even if I had the money. There just isn't enough land to go around. Unless you are the eldest son, you inherit nothing.

Alma and Tennes are talking about selling their tiny farm and going to America, the Land of Opportunity. But I don't even have enough money to buy their farm. And it's too small to make a profit. They scarcely get by even with my contribution now that I have a job.

Maybe I should go to America too. No! How could I ever leave Kristina?

   
Norman's story comes to life in Book Two, A Star to Steer By, in my Alaskan Waters Trilogy. These books are available in paperback and e-book. To learn more about them, check out my website, www.annaleeconti.com.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Meet Evie Parker from Till the Storm Passes By

Allow me to introduce to you the heroine of Till the Storm Passes By, the first book in my Alaskan Waters trilogy.

Hello! My name is Evie Parker. I teach fourth grade in Jamestown on Conanicut Island in Rhode Island, where I grew up. Since I'm not married, I still live with my parents, Louise and Jack Parker. My father owns a hotel on the waterfront overlooking Narragansett Bay toward Newport. He's rarely home except to sleep.

Beavertail State Park, RI Courtesy Google.com
My favorite place to get away to ponder my life is Beavertail Lighthouse (for more about Beavertail, click here) just a few miles from our house. The ocean surrounds it on three sides. Sitting on the rocks and watching the waves break soothes my mind and soul. I'd love to take you there.

Waves Breaking at Beavertail Courtesy Google.com
By way of introduction, allow me to show you the prologue to the book I'm writing to my darling baby girl, Kristina Louise.

"As I hold you in my arms and breathe in your sweetness, I feel great joy and pride. Whenever I tuck you into your crib, I pray we will enjoy a long and wonderful life together. No mother or daughter is ever prepared for anything else, but because of what has happened to me, I know the worst can happen.

"That's why I am writing this story. I want you to know me and the story of my life even if I were to be suddenly taken from you, as my mother was. How I have wished she had done the same for me! It would have spared me much anguish.

"My growing up years seemed mundane and uneventful except for a recurring nightmare that traumatized my childhood, so I will begin my tale with the first sign of the gathering storm that would alter my life forever."

"Mommy! Mommy! Wake up!" a little girl screams. But the woman on the beach lies cold and wet and still.

I awake with a start. A profound sense of loss sucks the breath from my lungs. My heart throbs and my head pounds. My throat is parched, yet I shiver in my sweat-damp nightgown. I press my hands to my cheeks and find them wet with tears.

"Why now?" I moan. I haven't had this nightmare in years. I thought I'd outgrown it along with my fear of the dark and the bogeyman.

What does my dream mean? Who is the woman I call "Mommy"? She doesn't look at all like my mother. Maybe I had the dream again because I'm worried about her. She's not been well, but she refuses to see the doctor.

Trying not to disturb her, I slip out of the house and walk to Carr Elementary School where I teach fourth grade. My best friend, Jean, who also teaches at my school, tries to help me figure out what the nightmare means, but that evening at choir practice where I play the piano for church, my boyfriend, Carl, reminds me of my father when he just laughs it off.

My father is distant, harsh, and uncaring. I don't want to marry a man like him. Everyone says Carl is a dream catch--ambitious, good-looking, and popular. For the first time, I begin to wonder if I really want to marry Carl.

An early spring blizzard and a deathbed confession settle the matter. Although it scares me to death to travel so far in 1953, I decide to fly all the way to Juneau in the Territory of Alaska to unravel a past shrouded in mystery.

A plane Evie flew on in 1953 Courtesy Google.com
I invite you to come along with me as I search for answers, but let me warn you, we will face many storms along the way. I often wonder if I will be ever able to forgive and find true love.

Read Evie's story in Till the Storm Passes By,  Book One in my Alaskan Waters Trilogy, available in paperback and e-book, all readers--Kindle, Nook, iTunes, etc. For more information about my books, see my website: www.annaleeconti.com.



Thursday, April 12, 2018

Meet Violet Channing from Beside Still Waters

Allow me to introduce you to Violet Channing, heroine of my latest book, Beside Still Waters.

Hello! My name is Violet Channing. Orphaned at a young age, I find myself tossed about by life’s turbulent waters when my Aunt Mabel who raised me dies.

I always wanted to be a teacher, but my education was cut short by the untimely death of my Uncle Chester. He made poor business decisions, and as a result, my aunt lost their large Victorian house in a wealthy neighborhood to the creditors at his death.

In order to support us, I had to quit normal school at the age of 18 and take the only job I could find for an unskilled woman in 1915 Boston as a seamstress in a ramshackle wooden garment factory. With its accumulated dust and lint, it was a tinderbox. Fire is my greatest fear.

My wages only afforded Aunt Mabel and me a cold-water flat in a dirty tenement with stark chimneys that belched soot-ladened air. When Aunt Mabel got sick, we couldn’t afford a doctor.

“It’s just a cold,” she said. But when she began to cough up blood, I quit taking a lunch to work so we could pay his fee.

“Consumption,” he told Aunt Mabel. “Keep warm and rest.” Then, he called me aside. “There’s nothing I can do for her. Her lungs are too far gone. She probably only has a few weeks.”

Heartsick, I quit my job to take care of her.


Now, she’s gone, and I have to figure out what to do with my future. I can’t bear to go back to that firetrap of a factory.

At the corner grocery, I buy a few necessities and a copy of the Boston Globe with the last of my money. In the corner of the Classifieds, an ad catches my eye: “WANTED: a young lady to be a companion and tutor to a sick child.”

I read the fine print. No teaching credentials required. Room and board provided. Can this be the answer? Before I grow fainthearted, I pen an application and mail if off to the address.

A week later, I receive a cream-colored envelope addressed to me in a feminine hand. Excitement pulses through me as I withdraw the note, which requests that I come for an interview on Saturday at one o’clock in the afternoon.

Laying aside my mourning clothes, I dress carefully in my best, though slightly out of fashion, outfit. At the address, a three-story brick house in Cambridge, a gracious lady invites me in. Over tea and snickerdoodles, a treat I hadn’t enjoyed since my uncle died, Mrs. Henderson describes the job.

Her granddaughter, Jenny, is recovering from rheumatic fever. Her mother has died, and the girl’s father needs a nanny and tutor for her as he has to be away frequently on his job as a railroad engineer.

The job offer sounds too good to be true until she tells me where they live—in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory!

Uncle Chester had regaled Aunt Mabel and me with his reading of Robert Service’s “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” All I know about the Yukon is that it is wild and frigid. Do I have the courage to go there?

Will I be jumping from a city firetrap 
into frozen wilderness icebox?

I think of my shabby apartment. I have nothing to keep me here, but will I be jumping from a city firetrap into frozen wilderness icebox? I decide to take the leap.

Vanderbilt Reef in Lynn Canal in Southeast Alaska
Sailing up the Inside Passage of Alaska on my way to Whitehorse, I fall in love with a dashing Yukon riverboat captain. But do we live happily ever after? That’s a secret revealed only in Beside Still Waters.

I hope you enjoyed meeting Violet. Visit my website at www.annaleeconti.com to learn more about Beside Still Waters, Book 3, as well as the other historical Christian novels in my Alaska Waters Trilogy.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Never Give Up!

 Although there are several versions, I love this poem by an unknown author:

Two frogs fell into a can of cream--or so I've heard it told;
The sides of the can were shiny and steep. The cream was deep and cold.
"Oh, what's the use?" said No. 1, "'tis fate--no help's around--
"Goodbye, my friend! Goodbye, sad world!" And weeping still, he drowned.

But No. 2 of sterner stuff, dog-paddled in surprise,
The while he wiped his creamy face and dried his creamy eyes.
"I'll swim awhile, at least," he said--or so it has been said--
"It wouldn't really help the world if one more frog was dead."
An hour or two he kicked and swam--not once he stopped to mutter,
But kicked and swam, and swam and kicked, then hopped out, via butter.

How many times are we tempted to give up when troubles come our way. But let's follow the advice of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 6:9:


Many discouraged Christians have given up not knowing that success was just around the corner. So like Frog No. 2, even though the situation looks hopeless, don't give up.

I read recently of a person who was fired from her job. Instead of getting depressed, she used the job loss to spur her on to a complete change of vocation, and she became quite successful.

I too have had that experience. While my husband was in seminary, I lost a job which we needed to cover our living expenses. But the Lord provided another employment opportunity that led me into writing, which has become my life-long vocation.

My Grandma Personeus, pioneer missionary to Alaska for 65 years, taught me to spell "disappointments" as "His appointments." Experience has proven her right.

Are you facing a disappointment? Are you discouraged? Don't give up. Continue to do what is right and good. God has promised you "will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time."


I experienced many disappointments along the way to getting my first book, Frontiers of Faith, published. With perseverance, I finally succeeded. Visit my website to see more about my books.



Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Christian's D-Day

As Good Friday and Easter approach, my thoughts turn to an event in history that illustrates of the significance of Calvary:

On June 6, 1944, Allied forces under the command of General Eisenhower surprised Hitler's armies by invading the Continent across the English Channel. That day changed the course of history.


By nightfall, 156,000 Allied soldiers were on the ground in Normandy and had established the beachhead. The way was opened that day for another million troops to enter Europe by July 1. Although Germany did not surrender until nearly a year later on May 7, 1945, and there were many more casualties during that time than for any other period of the war, the outcome of World War II was determined on D-Day. It was only a matter of time until the war was over.


The death of our Lord Jesus Christ in Jerusalem on the cross at Calvary is the Christian's D-Day. By His death, He invaded the territory Satan usurped in the Garden of Eden, and the outcome of the battle against sin and Satan was decided that day when Jesus cried, "It is finished!"

Until Christ returns to earth, we are still in the battle, but the outcome is certain. We win!

A number of years after the surrender of the Japanese that ended World War II, a handful of Japanese soldiers were discovered on a remote island in the Pacific. They had not heard that the war was over. They thought they were still fighting.

One of my favorite songs written by Bill and Gloria Gaither is "It Is Finished!" It compares the battles raging in many hearts to being prisoners of war:

But in my heart the battle was still raging;
Not all prisoners of war had come home.
They were battlefields of my own making.
I didn't know that the war had been won.

Are you still struggling in "battlefields of your own making"? Has Satan made you his "prisoner of war"?

To you, I declare the good news: I've read the end of the Book. Because of Christ's sacrifice, good wins over evil. "It is finished!"

Christ has already won the battle against the devil, sin, death, sickness, and evil when He invaded this earth with the power of His divine love and was "pierced for our transgressions" and "was crushed for our iniquities." He took the "punishment for our peace" when He died on the Cross for our sins, and "by His wounds we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5). 


He arose victorious over the grave. He has completed the work of salvation. The victory is ours for the claiming. We can do nothing to earn it. It is a free gift paid in full on Calvary. By faith, we accept His gift and serve Him in glad response.

It is only a matter of time until "every knee will bow...and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord" (Philippians 2:10-11). The only thing left for us to decide is which side we are on.

Are we living today like we know the battle is finished and the victory is ours?

(Photos courtesy Google.com)