Simply Stylish and Fun

Some days there won't be a song in your heart. Sing anyway. ~Emory Austin

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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Hobbies, Careers, and Fruit Smoothies

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 
Against such things there is no law. 
~Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

Kudos to all caregivers who still work full time, have school-age kids, and somehow find the patience and gentleness to be a caregiver. 

I say these things because I totally lost those tasty ingredients, which blend into a Galatians 5 fruit smoothie.  Seriously I must have misplaced my recipe.


Love?
Joy?
Peace?
Forbearance (patience)?
Kindness?
Goodness?
Faithfulness?
Gentleness?
Self-Control?


Blend those together and you get ... not me. Thank the Lord for calling me out on this and asking me to come to him. Into the prayer closet I went, only to find out that he already had all the ingredients together for me and didn't spill a drop.

Here's the scoop. A couple of weeks ago the doctor decided to double Dad's dosage of a certain pill with the promise that it might go well; but, with a warning that it may bomb. It bombed! The pill that would help him with his memory, calm his mind, did exactly the opposite. And essential oils, which usually pulls him out of the abyss, couldn't. 

Poor Dad went from walking with only the support of a cane to using a wheelchair. He liked it better since weakness, dizziness, and the accompanying frustration, had settled quite nicely and morphed him into a grumpy old man, and me into a don't-bother-me caregiver, which is putting it mildly. 

This happened of course in the middle of a very important project that my client, and good friend, had entrusted me with and paid for my services. I needed to get this done, though she has been extremely patient and kind. Editing and writing for me is not a hobby, it's a passion and allows for some much needed income. 



Sidebar: Visit My Books Page to see a list of my books and get up-to-date info on freebies and other fun stuff. Would love a review if you've downloaded my books or bought one. Awesome!


Sometimes, when my eyes are on me, me, me, what-about-me, I start believing that Dad is faking it. After all, this is a man who preached for over 40 years, who loved his congregation, was strong enough to climb on top of a building even into his eighties, and had a word of wisdom for everyone who crossed his path. Surely he can write his ABCs, do a puzzle or know when to go the bathroom? Surely he can take a few steps on his own without falling? Surely he still knows how to read God's Word? 

No (takes a deep sigh), he can't. 


I went into my War Room, and of course once you start complaining to the Lord (not the intention of a War Room), all the other complaints of life emerges. I'm angry, it's not fair, I'm alone, we have no money (this is not true; God provides every month but that's a whole other blog post), I'm tired, and my body aches. This is a nasty tasting fruit smoothie. Not a pretty picture but sometimes God takes you to the bitter ingredients because he's gracious, merciful, patient, and kind. 

Not for a second did I think God would answer my prayer. Not ... for ... one ... second. But ... he did. 


Once in a while, so I can vent, he gives this writer poetry (an awesome "hobby" to learn since words don't have to rhyme anymore). Hobbies, I think, are so important to have even if one isn't a caregiver. But for a caregiver it's a break from the everyday. It's a moment to enjoy. Interruptions may come but take those minutes when you can crochet, knit, draw, paint, sing, play the kazoo, read ... or write. It's therapy.

The LORD

Don’t worship the tree
But the tree Maker
Don’t worship the fields
But their Creator
Don’t worship the sun
The moon or stars
The ocean waves at His command
The shores are His
As is the deep
The sky alive
His hands do keep
All that breathes
Shall worship You
The Lord
He is
Forever true


Did you think my poetry would have a lot of complaints? I did too, but these words came out instead. As did the following: 


Thank You

Thank You for sunrises
I praise You
Thank You for my children
They are made in Your image
Thank You for aches and pains
A small chance to share in Your suffering
Thank You for isolation
A way to put You first
Thank You for Your promises
On which I stand
A reminder there is none like You



Handing over my feelings, thoughts, and career didn't go without a fight. My prayers in that War Room went something like, "Yeah, yeah, I know. Well fine then. Please forgive, blah, give me patience, love, and all that other stuff ..." Seriously, there was no pleasantness of words or repentance until I decided--slowly--that maybe just calling out his name, then reciting all the words that are his character might help me lose all this anxiety, anger, and hopelessness:

God you are ...
Awesome
Almighty
Beloved
Creator
Divine
Everlasting
Faithful
Father
Great
Good
Gentle
GOD
Holy
Immortal
Just
Joyful
Kind
King
LOVE
Maker
Meek
Omega
Powerful
Patient
Peaceful
Redeemer
Savior
Truth


I pray every caregiver can find God's ingredients to make that perfect fruit smoothie in order to love, have joy, find peace, patience, to be kind, good, remain faithful, gentle, and sprinkle a little self-control on top. Lord knows we need to sip of this drink now and then.

God helped us laugh again, my Dad and I, but not without a scare. Dad didn't want my help, complaining I never help him anyhow, and Mom knows nothing, he says, "I'll do it myself." He was trying to get into his wheelchair but he forgot to put the brakes on and the wheelchair did what wheelchairs do and rolled away. He fell ... hard. His screaming brought me flying down the stairs.

No matter how I moved him, he kept screaming in pain. I thought he had broken bones. It took me about 10 minutes to even get him to lie straight so I could check.

"Where does it hurt?" I asked.

"Nowhere," he replied.

"Why are you screaming?"

"Because it hurts."

He then decided to take a nap on the ground to which I replied, "It's probably more comfortable on your bed."

After another 5 minutes or so I managed to get him up. He was dead weight. Finally he sat safely in his wheelchair and for some reason we began to laugh. It was kind of that holy laughter when everything seems fine and we loved each other again. There's no other explanation, but God, and a little taste of a Galatians 5 Fruit of the Spirit smoothie.


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  • Saturday, March 16, 2019

    Spring: A Season of New Life

    We are...a Divine work of art, something that God is making...something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character. ~C.S Lewis

    Keukenhof in Holland
    Spring is coming in five days. Even the desert bursts with color. This is the season of new beginnings, of love, hope, and a chance to breathe in the fresh air.

    My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land. ~Song of Solomon 2:10 –12

    Care-giving can be a long, cold, and dark winter. But it has its purposewe’ve learned to dig deep, stay warm, and persevere. Well done thou good and faithful servant. Now get up and dance. Fill those vases with fresh flowers. Walk through a tulip field, or watch the mountains fill their bellies with orange poppies.

    And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. ~Galatians 6:9

    Spring’s early evidence is peaking in our back yard. But it’s not quite there yet. A surprising winter snow has left a little frozen mess out here in our desert oasis (see video below), especially on the grape vines. But even there, when the vine looked pretty dead, little green shoots appear from its dry brown bark. 

    There’s already a lot of pruning to be done. The apricot, peach, pomegranate, and apple trees have blossomed and spawned a lot of scary branches.

     

    Mom loves pruning. I used to watch her and Dad climb a ladder and prune the top branches. It was something they enjoyed doing together.

    “My trees look much better if we prune,” she says. “And will bear bigger and better fruit.” She was right. Dad just loved playing with his electric tree saw. Scary!

    I guess that’s why God loves pruning, too. He, of course, doesn’t need Dad’s electric saw.

    I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more ~John 15:1–2  (New KJV).

    After her second stroke Mom’s gardening life has been pruned back considerably. Though she’s accepted it, she doesn’t like it. She was vicious with those pruning shears. She knows she’s not in her spring season any longer but her garden is and the gloves are ready to go even if it’s only 15 minutes a day now. As soon as the weather warms up there’ll be no stopping her.

    She’s learned to enjoy the fruits of her labor and she loves giving it away, too. Just ask our neighbors.


    Soon spring will fling winter into the past. The rain is gone, the dark makes way for sunshine giving Mom and Dad a chance to sit in their garden.

    For us caregivers God may have taken us through a cold hard winter when He had to cut off the branches that did us no good—a brittle branch of anger, a stubborn one of shame, regret, and there might have been a branch with blossoms of impatience. It’s done. We’re looking brand new now, with little sprigs of green and white blooms reaching to the skies.

    Look up, smell the flowers, watch the green beans sprout their stalks. Be renewed. Don’t be afraid of a little pruning. It only means we do bear fruit. Gardeners, like my mom, prune branches that bear fruit so they will produce even more.


    A Caregiver’s Prayer


    Dear Lord, let spring reign in my heart. Renew, revive, refresh, and prune me. Thank you for giving me new life filled with hope, strength, and your amazing beauty.


    Beloved Caregiver

    The bitter cold
    Will shed its snow
    Into the crystal streams

    New life,
    New joy,
    The fountain pours
    To seas of color
    A vibrant score

    Come dance among the daffodils
    And run so free down grassy hills
    Beneath a sky of sapphire hues
    And gently taste the morning dew
      
    When winter rids its frozen cloak
    And yields to fields of glorious gold
    The new is here
    Gone is the old
    Let spring burst forth

    Forevermore …
    (Copyright 2019 by Deborah L. Alten)




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    Saturday, February 23, 2019

    Bloom Where You're Planted Even If The Land is Parched

    Bloom Where You're Planted. ~Mary Engelbreit


    In Jeremiah 29 the prophet sent a letter to the exiles in Babylon ... Babylon! This city does not have a good report with our Lord. However, Jeremiah tells them to ... well, bloom where you're planted. Wait on the Lord (which was about 70 years for them) till he brings you out of Babylon, out of exile, and back home. 

    In the meantime they are told, in verses 5, 6, and 7, to "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper."


    Sometimes, when I birth a heart of prickly pears, I start feeling sorry for myself. After all, someone hit the pause button on my blossoming dreams. I'm having to give up my life to take care of someone else's life, or two someones. I've somehow managed to land in the middle of the dry and desolate desert with no oasis in sight.

    But not true, far from it. God has me exactly where I need to be. He's got you there, too.

    We must change our point of view from a me-view to a God-view. Do we trust our heavenly Father to take care of us, manage and direct our lives, make it purposeful, and fill it with a hope and a future? He promises that He will never leave or forsake you. He has a plan, there's always a plan. And it's a grand plan. 


    The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. ~Isaiah 58:11 (NIV)

    If you feel like you've been exiled to the desert ... awesome! He's about to strengthen your frame. He's about to turn you into a well-watered garden. Think of jasmine wafting through the air; orange blossoms blowing in the wind; a sea of green grass and flower beds. How 'bout cucumbers, tomatoes, fruit trees, and rows of strawberries. Don't forget the shade from your apple and peach trees. What's your oasis look like? He will lead you there. Not one of His promises will fail you. But we must get into His Word, eat it up like honey, or how will we know His promises?


    But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. ~Matthew 6:33


    Are we ready to bloom where God has planted us, giving up our dreams for a God-sized dream and future? Hard to grasp? Look for the everyday miracles. God is in the details. Look for the lessons He has carefully planted for our growth. Find the hidden treasures. You'll find them in His Word. 

    Discipline yourself to come to Him first with everything and anything. You'll be surprised, or maybe not, how easy it will become to hear His still small voice (especially in the morning) if you get to know Him better each day. You are His concern, you are His priority.


    Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. ~Matthew 10:29-31

    In this video my friend, author Sharon Pearson--a fellow caregiver--is having A Conversation with God. Take a few minutes and dig into this.




    A Caregiver's Prayer

    Lord, help me to keep my eyes on you. I am ready to bloom where you've planted me. Remind me that your plans are better, your ways are perfect. May I not worry about tomorrow, but live one day at a time for you. Thank you for a future filled with hope and purpose.  



    Beloved Caregiver

    Living Waters I have sent
    Among the dry the dew descents
    The desert willow weeps in bloom
    It stands alone in slight askew

    Your path will light beneath the stars
    When evening primrose blooms so sparse
    What daylight hides the night springs forth
    One life to live forevermore

    Within this light I planted you
    Where moonbeams pierce the darkness through
    You bloom into the morning fair
    A desert jewel refreshed and rare

    (Copyright 2019 by Deborah L. Alten)


    Scriptures for the Caregiver

    by Kelley from Live, Laugh, Rowe.


    Monday, February 11, 2019

    When God Is My Happy Valentine

    Yet I still dare to hope
    when I remember this:
    The faithful love of the LORD never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
    Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.
    ~Lamentations 3:22, 23


    I’m finally writing a Valentine’s post. It took 18 years. It’s my love story, though divorced since 2001 and not even a blip on anyone’s romance radar. But Love, unconditional life-saving Love, is.

    Divorce is like decapitation. It feels that gruesome and painful. Yet, the second my X walked away there was another who whispered, “Am I enough for you?”



    I protect
    I provide
    I am Love
    Wisdom’s pride

    Am I enough for you?

    When your earthly protector
    Provider and love
    Betrayed and abandoned
    All things from above
    My Spirit descended
    On you like a dove

    Am I enough for you?

    When daggers tore through
    Marriage vows
    And pain bequeathed
    Obnoxious bows
    I gave you strength
    Caressed your soul
    To stand your ground
    And make you whole

    Am I enough for you?

    The sun will rise for you my love
    The stars the moon will light your path
    My Word is true forevermore
    If you were one and only soul
    I would have died for you alone

    Am I enough for you?


    I said yes. What say ye all?

    My Valentine carried my burden when it proved too heavy for me. “The journey shall be lighter now.” He smiled and offered to walk side by side as I navigated through this icy storm. “I will always be with you. I am the Maker of your sunrise.” My Valentine wrote songs for me as I read through His Word. And over and over again he asked, “Am I enough for you?”

    When I didn’t feel safe, He became my Protector. 
    When I dipped below poverty level He became my Provider. 
    When I felt unloved He swept me off my feet and lavished me with joy so sweet. 
    When rejection flooded my inner being He whispered sweet everythings: “You are mine, Daughter, a princess, created in my image. No one compares to you.” 
    When shame ate me alive He became my Redeemer, Savior, and the Lover of my soul. “I will renew, revive, restore. Am I enough for you?”




    For your Creator will be your husband; the LORD of Heaven’s Armies is his name!He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth. ~Isaiah 54:5 (NLT)


    To Jesus, My Valentine

    You are my Love,
    My everything
    My eyes, my heart,
    Every song I sing
    You are my first Love,
    The One who’s true
    My cherished Valentine
    No one comes close to you,
    I will worship you only
    I will love and adore you
    For me you died
    For you I’ll live
    All I have
    Is my heart to give

    Sunday, January 20, 2019

    Assistant to the Caregiver

    Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. ~Exodus 18:16, 17



    Was Moses the ultimate caregiver? He must have been awfully tired, and probably losing his mind. Nonetheless, he was trying to take care of two million people who needed his advice, coveted his problem-solving abilities, and respected his direct line to Yahweh. Luckily it was God who provided daily manna (no need for Moses to do the meal planning), a plethora of quail, and a supply of clean drinking water. Moses received the Ten Commandments, therefore the burden was on his shoulder to teach the Israelites God’s everlasting morals, and he also  dished out justice on a daily basis.

    His wise father-in-law observed Moses’ day-to-day activities and counseled his son-in-law that he needed help. “You’re not doing this right, Mo,” Jethro said. “You need help.”

    No kidding! Don’t we all? Yes, we do. I only have two people to care for, not a whole nation, but I recognize the need for assistance. Every caregiver, to keep his or her sanity, strength, stamina, and mental health in check, co-caregivers are needed and greatly appreciated.

    My daughter, bless her heart, is my great helper and Dad is a happy camper when she hangs out with him. They do love to laugh together. Mom and I laugh at them, or with them, even though we don’t understand what they’re laughing at or why it's even remotely funny. They’re just hilarious together. (As I write this they are making faces at each other.)

    Speaking of Daughter, she’s always available to pick up the groceries. Our personal shopper at Walmart receives our order online and when Daughter gets the “Order Ready” message on her phone she follows the yellow brick road to where our personal shopper loads the groceries into the trunk of the car. We have got to remember to bring our own bags.

    She's also comic relief, and plays nurse once in a while, and much to my relief and Mom's, Daughter has cut and manicured Dad's toenails and cleaned off dead skin. I know, TMI. 

    My son is always on standby in case we need him. He forever responds with a yes, no matter what the request. This could be, “Can you go get dinner I’m just too tired to cook?” or "I could use some help with building a roof" (okay, it’s only for the bird aviary). He takes out the trash and does the heavy lifting around the house. It’s very helpful to have a “Yes Man on the Spot,” kind of son.

    And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. ~Galatians 6:9
    May the Lord bless both my children as they will eventually, probably sooner than I would like, leave us … as they should. For now, I am grateful I have them.

    Keep an open invitation for family to visit. My brother and his family do their best to make the long journey here. Both Mom and Dad make a fuss before they even get here. The house needs to be cleaned, the back yard swept, and food on the table.

    I chuckle at our attempts—we try—but it’s really not necessary to have a spotless house and my wonderful brother and family don’t mind. And for that matter they always bring yummy food, wonderful entertainment via great-grandchildren (another on the way), laughter, and fellowship. It lifts Dad’s spirit which stays with him for days to come.

    All this to say: As caregivers we need to learn self-care, which means cherishing and asking help from others. If you don’t have family, call on helpful friends; ask your doctor for resources that will help you on this journey. Check out my page for tips on SelfCare.

    I will lift up mine eyes unto the hill, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. ~Psalm 121:1,2


    Need more inspiration and resources check out Lori Hogan’s (co-founder of Home Instead Senior Care) website. I've included her book, Strength for the Moment, below. 



    A Caregiver's Prayer

    Thank you Lord that you never leave or forsake us. Soften hearts and bless those who offer help. Renew their spirit and give them joy beyond understanding. Let us never grow weary of doing good and remind us that you are our constant companion on this journey.



    Beloved Caregiver

    A song births
    A sunrise bright
    Come early dew
    Reflect His light

    Each note of joy
    Creator sings
    As dawn arrives
    His glory brings

    A whisper soft
    "I'm always near
    Never alone
    No need to fear."

    (Copyright, © 2019 by Deborah L. Alten)










    Thursday, January 3, 2019

    The Wounded Caregiver and Why We Should Put On the Armor of God

    Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. ~Ephesians 6

    The holidays began with a bang, then we crashed and burned, and finally God restored and showered us with peace in the New Year. Phew, Happy New Year everyone. It’s 2019! My New Year’s resolution is to 1) have none, or 2) take it slow and easy, and 3) keep it simple, or 4) de-clutter my life. Hmmm, I guess I did have a New Year’s resolution after all.

    Well then, another resolution I might have is to really dress up this year—in the full armor of God.

    We survived the holidays, just barely, right? Poor Dad doesn’t do so well with company. He tends to withdraw and sleep, though he always enjoys the entertain-ment provided by his greatgrand-daughter. Thank the Lord for joyful children who are willing to share their bliss. Her laughter and sweet baby giggles stays with us for days to come.

    Thanksgiving was tasty and fun; Christmas was filled with wonder, perfectly thought-out gifts, and everyone pretty much stayed off their phones. Success!

    The crash and burn came a couple of days before New Year when I allowed an argument to get personal and I must have had bottled-up issues with this person as I threw my armor at unnamed person instead of suiting up.

    My son reminded me later that we tend to avoid arguments and let it explode when we finally find the need to defend ourselves. I must take a deep breath as I write and agree with him.

    My advice however, is when you need to stand your ground, stand firm and don’t let those fiery arrows aimed at your head get through. Honestly, if God’s armor is on, those flaming darts will just ping right off.

    But an all-out war has many casualties so we better make sure we’re on the right side and find resolve. And sometimes the right side might look a little strange especially when you’re in the middle of that heated debate. Who knows who’s right when ugly words are spewed to each other armed with daggers and poison-dipped spears?

    However, don’t let anybody tell you that the way you’re caring for your loved ones is not the way they would do it. We’ve probably got a lot to learn from one another but the accusatory method opens wounds and every harsh word adds salt.

    We’re already tired and fighting our own battles each day. We keep God as our center to keep us balanced. But throw one stone at us and we’re likely to break … unless, of course, we got dressed in God’s armor. We look good in it, trust me. He’s tailored it just for us.

    The crash and burn before the New Year, as peculiar as it might seem had to happen. My home was under attack, my parents were under attack, and I was under attack. I probably could have handled it much better, but yes, I was tired and this person brought a special kind of chaos into my home.

    I went into my prayer closet as my physical body was failing under the strain of these attacks. Twice I almost fell, I couldn’t breathe, and the pain in my back was excruciating. I was not going to make it. Asking the Lord for His peace, and trying to find joy in all of this was not working. God intervened and made a quick exit of the chaos and removed it.

    I wonder what God’s Plan A was? Or maybe me standing my ground and yelling for this person to get out of my house was Plan A after all. We’ll never know, I guess. But I did read in Exodus that God is a God of War. And He wins every time.

    The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a man of war: the Lord is his name. ~Exodus 15:2–3

    This is our God who parted the Red Sea and took on the Egyptians who enslaved His people. It says He will fight for us. And fight He did. He ordered the Fight out of my house, albeit, He used a weak vessel namely me. But it was done. Once the chaos was removed, peace flooded back into our home. The quietness was surreal.

    But I love this person on a level I don’t understand. I probably have something to learn from said person, but it’s never relayed to me in a manner I can receive it. Maybe someday we’ll figure each other out.

    God did something amazing after this debacle when an old friend, Pieter, his wife, Rosemary, and daughter, Tina, came to visit us yesterday. We had amazing fellowship, ate dinner at the table with them and shared a to-die-for Dutch chocolate cake called Spekkoek.

    They escorted Dad to the living room after dinner, where all of a sudden the Holy Spirit, I kid you not, took over and Dad began singing with Pieter and Rose. They prayed, and prayed, and prayed some more, cried, and laughed, and sang a bundle of old worship hymns. My dad stood up through all of this not wanting them to leave. They promised to return in May. Dad is counting the days.

    This morning we are still talking about it and we’ve been trying to remember the Indonesian worship song they sang. Dad knows the words and he smiles every time Mom and I sing it. Of course, my Indonesian is zilch so my words are coming out completely wrong which makes him laugh to no end. Ah, laughter, still the best medicine. I recommend it, and pray for it. Thank you Lord for restoring the laughter and peace in our home.

    A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. ~Proverbs 17:22

    A Caregiver’s Prayer

    Dear Lord, thank you for the Comforter, the One who breathes peace into our homes, calms the storm, and restores our broken lives. Teach me to pray and to trust that you will show up every time even in the midst of our battles.




    Off Guard


    For two weeks a steady rain had battered the ancient forest. Malatthias was cold and hungry, the weight of his armor tiresome. By the time the second moon rose he wore but his tattered shirt and bloodstained pants, his sword still sheathed. A thick cloak covered him and part of his horse, Mayllyn.

    Suddenly, a snarl came from above. Malatthias looked up. She was dark and beautiful and for the moment the disenchanted knight was mesmerized. Look away. He could not speak. She slowly descended toward him. “I am Kteress.” It was more like a hiss than a woman’s voice.

    Mayllyn stood straight up on her hind legs, plunging the knight into the thistles and thorns. He scrambled to his feet but Kteress was on him within a blink of an eye. Her claws dug around and into his throat. For a fleeting moment when her gaze turned elsewhere, he heard the distant voice of his dead father.

    “She makes men weak with lust; turns their hearts with her deceptive beauty. Men must look away. Set their minds on better things, worthy things: whatever is true, whatever is noble, right, pure, and admirable.”

    But the pounding of the rain washed away his father’s words. She parted her red lips, dripping with rain drops like honey. Sharp white teeth gleamed by subtle moonlight.

    It was his blood she hungered for. “Become like me,” she whispered. “Immortal.” The stare of her black eyes brought him to his knees. He struggled to breathe as he felt life fading. Kteress licked her lips as if to taste the death of this knight till he cried out to the heavens, “Grant me Your strength just one more time.”

    A surging force reached into the innermost part of his being. He unsheathed his sword and thrust it through her cold heart. She flailed while her claws cut deep into Malatthias’ face: from his temple, over his left eye, beneath the bridge of his nose, down his right cheek. From his bleeding throat a horrific scream of pain and anger erupted.

    as she thrashed about. Yet she could not free herself from his blade till he pulled it out, little by little. Her body convulsed in the mud and mire. As thunder roared, the ground beneath swallowed her whole. Malatthias collapsed onto this back, losing his sword to the rising puddles of water which splashed and mingled with his blood. He closed his eyes and groaned. Rain fell harder. Someone called his name, over and over again.

    When he opened his eyes, many long breaths later, the rain had eased and a shadowy figure appeared from within the mist.

    “Father?”

    “Where is your armor, Son?”

    (First published by Deborah L. Alten in Short Tales of Secret Worlds)