Marji Laine

I Love a Good Mystery!

3 Springing Texas Things!

chillin-1416456Texas… Boots. Cowboys. Two-Stepping. Rodeos.

How do you characterize this state? Have you ever visited? I’m reminded of the blind men who examined the elephant with each one declaring that what they felt was similar to other, completely different items: snake, rope, tree trunks, walls, etc. Anyone visiting Texas might have the same experience unless they visit places in all the extreme areas of our state.

But from the Panhandle to the coast, the Rio Grande to the Sabine River, there are three details of the springtime that all of Texas shares!

Item #1 is the Texas weather. Every foot of this state is prone to hail, wind, flooding, and tornadoes.

Item #2 is high school proms. Okay, every state has proms in the spring, but can any other state boast of the largest homeschool prom in the world?

Item #3 is fairs and festivals. Texas has over 100 spring floral trails along with fairs and festivals with all sorts of themes.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share my recent experiences with all of the above. Since most of my stories are set in and around the East Texas area, I love sharing the little gems that I’ve recently found.

Stay tuned.


Texas Living

Texas Flag sq

I love setting my stories in Dallas and North Texas. My first solo publication, Grime Beat, occurs downtown and in the surrounding suburbs. It’s so fun to identify “live” locations! Check out my LIFE IN TEXAS board on Pinterest.

I’ve lived in this area (both suburban and rural) all my life. And there’s nothing I enjoy more than sharing some of the best things that are exclusive to this area. In this case:

Continue reading


Bringing a Sacrifice of Praise

Dinks at endAfter weeks of preparation, opening night for “Two From Galilee” is tomorrow. What a delight this whole experience has been. Not only have I gotten to work with REMARKABLE people, I’ve gotten to share the whole thing with my girls. That makes for an extraordinary Christmas! Continue reading


Review of Mama B. – A Time To Speak

I have had the pleasure of critiquing with Michelle Stimpson on parts of Mama B. over the course of the last year, so when the grand lady finally hit Amazon, I scooped her up fast.Growing up in the south, regardless of your race, you’re going to have a Mama B. in your life. Mine just happened to also be African American, my babysitter and mother figure for many years, Gladys.

Continue reading


Four R’s of Vacation

All pictures in this post are property of Marji Laine: All rights reserved.

Bet you didn’t know that vacations had r’s!

I spent last weekend at a cabin on Lake Holbrook near Mineola, Texas. A special mom-daughter weekend with my twins and a few of her friends and their moms. I confess, I’m not always so great at the chill and be chilled type of vacation, but without my computer or any cellular bars, I had little choice.

Vacays are essential to good health, and there are four prime actions to enjoying them correctly.

Relax – Losing stress and letting daily imperatives drift away steadies nerves and relieves tension. Must be some type of chemical reaction, but leaning back in a chair and putting up one’s feet can loosen stiff spines and squared shoulders that are somehow attached to the furrow muscles near the eyebrows.

Reflect – Even in the peace of early morning, Lake Holbrook never quite looked like a sheet of glass. The trees on the far shore appeared skewed in the water’s messy surface. A warped view of life can stem from intense busyness. But breaking away from routine allows for a true interpretation of life directions, a realistic view of who I am and what I can do. Not to mention confirmation of God’s path.

Renew – The other moms and I aren’t besties, but getting together like this bonds us with chatting and laughter. I also had a blast with my dinky twinkies. Even though I build close relationships with my kids through homeschooling, there’s just something about the uninhibited goofiness with girlfriends that super-glues us together.

Refresh – God set up the Sabbath especially for the purpose of breaking regular behavior. Dispensing with routines and renewing spirits is what Sabbath is all about. God knows we need it, and instructed us to take it. (Like a patient parent urging vitamin doses) And vacations can be a type of Sabbath, shedding the cares of daily life to embrace the Father, His beautiful creation, and the children He gifts me with. Christ, Himself, spent time alone in a refreshing period – early in the morning when he talked with His Father. They know that the relationship I have with my Lord requires quiet, both inside and outside. And I need to take that time daily, but also, like in this instance, with more in depth focus.

I needed this weekend. I needed the open chat with moms and hysterical fun with girls. I needed the still, cool mornings of communing with my Father. And I feel so blessed to have had this opportunity.

Your turn: On a scale of 1 – 10, how would you rank yourself as a 4-R vacationer? 


Honor to Whom Honor is Due

My new church family had an overwhelming weekend. The Senior Pastor Emeritus of First Baptist in Carrollton, Dr. Wayne Allen, passed away last Monday. Though I never met the man, I’ve learned quite a lot about Dr. Allen. Enough to be profoundly in his debt for raising a leadership at FBCC that has hearts and minds focused on Christ and on His kingdom. I’m so very grateful to him for building a loving and welcoming church family where we can begin anew.

And I couldn’t help but think of other men of God who have made such a difference in my life. Like the man I consider my own Sr. Minister Emeritus, Dennis Slaughter, who led a growing church with a big heart for almost 30 years. But I see him as the man who wrote notes to each of my children in their first Bibles. With a hula-hoop around his middle or with ant antennae sticking out of his head. I can hear him deliver his lines in various musicals and sing the annual church picnic song. I don’t get to see him and his precious wife very often anymore, but I love every opportunity I have to give them both a big hug and let them know the depth of my appreciation.

He reminds me of another Sr. Minister, Rev. (Brother) John Schuler of Casa Linda United Methodist Church. I don’t remember much about his sermons, or even the activities of that little church in Dallas, but I remember his heart. And his smile. And the way he’d let us kids call him BJ.

I remember Stan Allcorn who performed our wedding, and Dr. David Hankins who baptized me, both at First Baptist Church in Commerce, Texas.

And then some other special ministers. Ron Key stands out, blessed with an amazing ability to lead worship and write church musicals. Keith Ferguson, anointed music minister of my new church who moves me with his talent and his heart for the Lord. Rodney Hull who made such a difference in my kids’ lives. Wes Wilkinson who has begun to challenge them with new inspiration. Robin Smith, who is as much dear friend as minister, yet his heart becomes completely exposed when he worships the Father. Weldon Gilmore who could pull off a singing dragonfly, yet speak in such depth as to draw tears, even his own.

My current Sr. Minister, Dr. Brent Taylor, reminds me a lot of Weldon and Denny. He talks to us, sharing from his heart. He has a passion for the Word and offers truth without apology. But he can also crack a joke with a totally straight face. He is such a delight to hear and I feel so blessed that God led us to our new church home.

I know I’ve focused mainly on men in the ministry who have made a difference in my life. This week leading up to Father’s Day is a perfect opportunity to herald other fellows who have meant so much to me!

I can start with my brother, Randy Starks. What a wonderful time when “Bubba” went from tormentor to best friend. And that he still remains. He and his family are some of my favorite people! His son Daniel and my son Richie inspire me, too, and not just with their laugh-a-minute personalities. Men of depth and strength, I can’t wait to see what God does with them.

I learned the true meaning of father watching my sweet hubby with his dad, Gerald. That man is the epitome of respect and humility, yet absolutely brilliant. And then there is sweet hubby. An amazing provider, an excellent father, a supportive encourager.

All of these men deserve honor for what they have done or are doing for the kingdom, and my sincerest gratitude for how they’ve touched my life.

Your turn. What men or women have blessed your heart? Leave a note of who they are and what they mean to you. Then drop them a line and let them know how much you appreciate them, too.


P is for PROM

No, I’m not talking the balloons and crepe paper of my prom although I loved my prom.

AND I’m not talking about the step-up to lattice and twinkle lights used at the prom the night before ours. (I did guard duty on our unloaded stuff. The twinkle lights were lovely, but – no.)


This prom is outrageous over-the-top. This year’s theme was

“The Kingdom.”

The alpha/omega symbol, our icon. And we had a dragon!


Our entry was a 60 foot wall, complete with guards on the top. It led into a garden with gazebo, fountain and bridge. Next to the Kings garden was a chapel. Yes, real stained glass. It and the garden were so much cooler than the ballroom! Along one side was a huge labyrinth – a work of art made of bamboo and shrubbery cuttings. The students made a contest to see who could escape first.

Behind that, our arena with a myriad of games: archery, rings and ball tosses, chess, checkers, backgammon, mancala. Oh and this awesome catapult activity where they knocked down the miniature castle.

Beyond that was the Armory where the kids could get pics taken with swords and battleaxes and the Knights Hall complete with the Round Table for group shots.

Our village had both a tavern and an apothecary where the kids could pick up Dr. Peppers or sachets, respectively. Behind the tavern, the throne room highlighted the backside of our pre-function area. Yes, we had a prince and princess.

In fact, we had a battle scene with about a dozen warriors to open the dinner. During the meal, The Dallas String Quartet played followed by DJ, William Ryan III. The students danced Thriller, waltz, Boot Scoot Boogie, and swing along with the jump-up-and-down songs that are at most proms. After a Dance Contest and a final Senior Legacy Dance where the graduating danced with parents, the night finally closed at 1AM. For them.

For us, it ended about 5 hours later – but it was worth it! What a great night!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


N is for NATURE!

On a whim, I packed my girls up and took off southward for the self-proclaimed Bluebonnet Capitol of Texas.

I would second that title!

I’ve lived in the metroplex all of my life and I’ve never seen anything like this place! Only about 45 minutes south and I felt surrounded by beauty that left me wordless. And the silence! My girls noticed it.

In my little suburb, there’s always sound. The whitenoise of the freeway, the mosquito whines of speeding motorcycles and roars of trucks, train horns from a mile away, and sirens coming and going. But out there, with all the background noise erased, we could here songbirds, bugs, ducks, geese, even things we couldn’t see. Total peace.

I’ll need to make sure I visit there again! SOON!

Oh and I must share a few funnies of our trip. The first was a sign we passed. Precious Redhead snapped this shot, laughing hysterically.

All in all, we decided with his name, he’d make a great sheriff. That is, until Sweet Hubby came up with a potential first name of Dewey. That first name made us think there was too much of a question to be depended on. But it gave me an idea over what to name this photo. I decided on “Howie, Didju, or Neva,” but I think a man running for sheriff would probably stick with Howie even if it wasn’t his real first name!

Oh and I had no idea Precious Redhead got these shots. We drove beside a quiet yard full of goats and their friendly old horse. Well, as is my custom since college anytime I come upon a herd of goats, I baaaaaed at them. (I’ve been known to moo at cows, too!) And sure enough every head in the pen turned my direction with faces full of disgust.

What’d I say?

Even the horse, who must speak fluent goat considering his surroundings – turned toward me and I swear she snorted. I should probably wash my mouth out with soap!

Your turn: What was the last spontaneous thing you did just for the fun of it?


Thirteen Tornadoes Tore Through the Metroplex

Sounds surreal. I’ve lived here all my life and don’t remember an afternoon like the one I just had. I brought my girls home from piano lessons and errand running to turn on the news to images of a tornado tearing through the center of the metroplex.

The shot was shocking, taken from the air where a helicopter circled. The meteorologist commented on the “debris” that was flying through the air. I felt sick. Debris is like scattered papers or pencil shavings. I was seeing the roofs of people’s houses, their walls, bookcases, and possessions. It’s so easy to call it debris, but the truth was all too vivid on my screen and I started praying for the people in the path of the storm. “The houses right there. And that building. And make the drivers on that road stop before they get too close.”

Little did I realize I was in the path of another tornado just like it. Not then anyway, but I figured it out soon enough. I got my kids and my neighbor’s kids set up playing cards in the bathroom while I listened to the weather radio and stared at the hook echo on the TV screen that approached. The sirens in the city to our south had been blaring for some time, but the wall cloud wasn’t really close. And it looked to veer a little west. Or maybe it was going to lean toward the east?

I couldn’t avoid the truth. That monster had a bead on my house. It had been traveling in the same direction the entire time and was coming right for us. But at least it had gone back into the sky for the moment.

My son called me, giving voice to my fear. The clouds had spewed forth another twister less than a mile away from us and we were in the direct path. The kids were playing and laughing so they hardly heard the new chorus of sirens from down the street that drowned out the television.

From across the room I peaked into my backyard – seeing the southwestern sky that held a terrifying secret. Darkness. Not a cozy past sunset darkness or the promise of predawn but impending, intruding darkness with the stillness of death. No bird flying, not a whisper of a breeze. I kept whispering prayers as my son spoke.

Then I saw them. “The trees are starting to toss.” My son calmed me down and urged me to go into the bathroom, but I just couldn’t. The kids would see I was afraid and it would spread. I couldn’t do that to them … until I had to.

I glanced at the TV where the reporter pointed to a zoomed up map and radar image. “We’re hearing reports of a tornado on the ground. If there is one it will be in this area.” He pointed to a small section of the map.

“Boy, the man just pointed at my house!” I’ve never had a weatherman point anywhere near my house. It totally freaked me out.

But Dear Boy was calm. “Mom you know you’re okay. It’s only a little rope right now; not even enough to push over the fence. It’s gonna be fine.”

“Could you just stay on the phone with me?” My sweet boy understood and just chatted for a minute. At that point, I perched on the arm of my couch ready to dash if I saw any more indication of wind, but it stopped, like the sky held it’s breath.

Then something utterly remarkable happened. The radar renewed it’s image. The rotating cell approaching my neighborhood disappeared and immediately reappeared less than a mile away – DIRECTLY EAST OF WHERE IT HAD BEEN. With the twister no longer heading right for me, I released a breath I’d held for hours. As I’m writing to you, my jaw is still sore from my of grinding and clamping.

Now I know tornadoes are unpredictable creatures, but even my weather-bug boy was shocked at how this one had so abruptly broken it’s character. I can’t explain it and wouldn’t want to try because my small mind cannot comprehend the ways of the Lord. And I learned another miracle later that evening. Thirteen different tornadoes touched down – some of them came multiple times … Only minor injuries.

Yes, God is good. He would’ve been good if the tornado had hit my house, too, but all I could feel was profound gratefulness that He spared our home and blessed the people who were in the storm’s path with another day.