It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, by Paula Rose Michelson

In memory of the Sandy Hook Children, and the years before I received Messiah’s sacrifice as my atonement, I’ve posted a true story about the year my husband, children and me did something for no other reason than ‘It was the Season of Giving!’

It’s Beginning to Look A lot Like Christmas

            Every year for as long as I could remember, my husband and I would wait until it was dark and have our daughters, Danae and Cheryl put on their warmest clothes and jackets. We’d grab some warm blankets as we scurried out to the car with a thermos of warm coco and a feeling of Christmas cheer. Then we’d turn on the radio and listen to Christmas music as we drove to Candy Cane Lane. During any other time of the year, we would never have been able to find the place. For you see, Candy Cane Lane, just like Christmas itself magically appears then disappears every year. Just as everyone knows that Santa Clause lives in the North Pole, we thought Candy Cane Lane with its myriad of lights and festive regalia appeared and disappeared yearly like Brigadoon, to remind us that who we are and what we do matters more than what we get. However, that certainly didn’t seem to be the case on that one Christmas so long ago. But I’m getting ahead of myself. So let’s begin at the beginning since that’s where any good story begins.
            I remember it as if it were yesterday. Although looking back now and counting the years it was a long time ago. Nye onto thirty years or more if my memory servers me…Yep, I think that’s about right because my kids were still little. Just like you. And it was Thanksgiving…just like it is today. It was one of those rare holidays where we’d eaten early, cleaned up quick, and everyone who’d come, including grandma and grandpa left just as is was getting dark. So my husband and I looked at each other, smiled and nodded towards the coat closet.
            I hurried into the kitchen to make some coco.
            “Girls put on your warmest clothes,” Ron said.
            As if on que, they joyfully shouted, “Hurray! We’re going to Candy Cane Lane.”
            They rushed off and Ron forged in our linen closet.
            A few minutes later, we smiled at each other as we gathered in the vestibule.
            Then with a nod and a wink reminiscent of old Saint Nick, Ron opened the front door and we ran to the car, faces aglow. He joined us and backed the car out of the driveway, while I turned on the radio and heard Andy Williams singing,

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Everywhere you go;
Take a look in the five and ten glistening once again
With candy canes and silver lanes aglow.

            Before we knew it, we were singing along to the old song. Now to an onlooker this might have seemed odd since we were Jewish, so let me share that as far as we were concerned, having holiday cheer in our heart had nothing to do with what faith you practiced. It had everything to do with wishing for peace on earth and extending good will towards men…and women. And as far as Candy Cane Lane or even Christmas itself was concerned, everyone who knew me and mine knew were we always ready for a party of any sort…so off to Candy Cane Lane we went.
            While Ron drove into the night, we reminisced about all the years we had visited the lane. We remembered the year we had seen carolers dressed as if they were characters from a Dickens novel caroling up and down the street. When we noticed that the women carried baskets filled with muffins, the men had thermoses filled with hot apple cider, Ron pulled over. We hopped out, got a muffin and some cider and got back into the car much to the consternation of those in the cars behind us that let us know what we had done caused the traffic through the lane to backup more than it usually did.
            But we didn't care because we knew the ride through the lane was for family and memories. We loved the fact that a drive, which should take five minutes or at the most ten, took at least an hour. While we waved those in a hurry on, we listened as Cheryl  reminisced about the first time she’d seen the giant Snoopy rotating in time to Christmas carols. Then Danae spoke about how lovely each family had decorated their tree and wondered if their choices reflected the people within the homes. When she spoke about that, we talked about what it would be like to live on this street. After our reminiscences were finished, we oohed and aah-ed as we pointed at each and home. Our giggles and joy mingled with the music in the air and the Lane worked its magic into our hearts. 
            We had heard that when the people who began Candy Cane Lane sold their homes their children, relatives or dear friends bought them thus keeping this tradition alive from generation to generation. By the time we visited the place, I believed generations of families had visited. Knowing that brought me a sense of community and a feeling that as difficult as things could get, for one brief moment, everyone really did want to bless each other. And as we inched our way along in a sea of cars which seldom moved more than two at a time and gawked at the beautiful, amazing, religious, funny, outlandish, and at times thought provoking decorations, I believed everyone thought as I did.  
            Some believe that all good things must end…I don’t …Neither did my family the next night when we turned on the news and discovered that vandals had defaced Candy Cane Lane and ruined all the decorations leaving the owners forlorn. That’s right…that bastion of cherished values, of joyful memories, a place where children could experience the wonder of people going out of their way to bless their community and others who made the yearly trek sometimes pulling over in their car to catch a few winks before they hurried on…had vanished. Where once the song “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” was heard, now on the news the faces of homeowners who had remind behind the scenes were lined with concern and they bemoaned the passing of this legacy which they had pledge to continue.
            As the reporter interviewed one of the owner, I realized that he stood in front of the home where, just the night before, we had heard the song,
Have a holly, jolly Christmas, 
It's the best time of the year, 
I don't know, if there'll be snow, 
But have a cup of cheer,
being played as a child sized choo-choo train chugged between presents wrapped in red and green, which were as large as a side table or larger, and my kids had wondered if there really were presents inside them. Now we knew that whether there were present in those boxes or not, it didn't matter. What mattered was that someone need to do something or Candy Cane Lane would vanish into the either as surly as Brigadoon did. However, unlike that fabled town, if our beloved yuletide street vanished it would never appear again.
            Each of us wanted to do something. We each knew without saying anything that whatever we did would have to gain media attention and be done anonymously. Just as the homeowners had gifted our community, we would bestow an affirmation upon them, which was a tall order because how could one family of four gift a block of people and do it in a way that the newspapers would carry the story? We didn't know. And being Jewish we didn't have anything in our home that gave us an idea. So we got in the car and drove to our local five and dime where we scurried up and down the isles in search of an idea.        A few minutes later, we gathered by the art supplies and smiled. Above us hung a Christmas display, at eye level were the supplies needed to make what we saw. Danae got a cart and we packed it full. Of course we weren't going to make a replica of their display…in fact we weren't sure just what we were going to do until we got home, opened the leaf in our table, dumped the bags of supplies and reviewed what we had. Glue - check, poster board - check, markers - check, extra red and green markers – check, and check. Red and green ribbon - check…And the list went on. We had bought out the section which meant we’d be eating allot of noodles with guess what…noodles as the side dish. But that didn't matter. What mattered we realized, as we stared at the supplies, was coming up with an idea that would overshadow what the vandals had done…And we had to have the project done and place on Candy Cane Lane before daybreak.
            Ron and I voiced idea after idea. None worked. Time ticked by. It was way past the kid’s bedtime and they were yawning.
            I looked at the clock and said, “It’s getting late and you guys have school tomorrow.”
            I’ll never know if it was the idea of leaving the project undone or the fact that their hearts hurt for the homeowners, but it was at that very moment that the girls suggested, “How about if we tell them we love them.”
            Ron and I nodded and smiled.
            The next night we turned on the news and saw the same reporter interviewing the same homeowner. Only this time instead of the man sounding forlorn he was joyful. In fact, all the homeowners were because someone…and we swore we’d never tell who, had hung or tapped poster boards with, “We Love You Candy Cane Lane,” as far as the eye could see. The camera scanned the street. Where the day before all we saw wreckage now posters proclaimed what we and generations before us had felt…love for those who had gone out of their way to make our holiday a little more special than it would be without their gift.
            Today my kids have kids of their own and Danae, my eldest daughter, lives a few miles from where we did. Each year she and her husband bundle their kids up and take them to Candy Cane Lane. I’ve never asked her or Cheryl if they ever told anyone about the year that Candy Cane Lane almost vanished. But since that was a long time ago, I think its okay to tell the story today. In fact as we approach Hanukkah and Christmas, I think it’s more than okay because stories like this remind us that people matter…even people we don’t know.
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This is Much More Than…, by Paula Rose Michelson

When my friend, and sister in Messiah, Heather Micaela wrote, “This is much more than a romance and I recommend it to men and women alike. I felt intimately involved in the challenges facing Naomi, Chaz, and the others that are involved in their life. The author has a way of making you really care about the characters. You feel as if you are in that house in Spanish Harlem. I could hear the accents of the people as they spoke; even the way they spoke English as bilingual people was very real. I am eagerly awaiting Book Two,” I had no idea how God would show me that what she wrote was true! Yet that’s exactly what he did when a lady walking her dog stopped to talk to me while I was inscribing Casa de Naomi: The House of Blessing a few Sundays ago.

I must share that our discussion seemed decidedly odd since she told me she didn’t have time to read fiction. However, her questions were thoughtful, and no one else was walking up, so I answered them in more detail than I usually do. When she told me, she was a Dean at The University of California, Irvine and knew the Dean of Social Services was looking for speakers for the program being developed for the Dream Act Students who would soon enroll, and asked if I was interested, I realized this was an ordained meeting!

Aware that it was the book that caused her to stop and that there is nothing on the marketplace like it, I mentioned that if the University would like the novel, I was certain my publisher could assist since a portion of these students’ expenses is being offset by the government. My publisher agreed! And that my friend is all I have to share for now, except to ask that you lift this up in prayer because I will be contacting the Junior Colleges, Colleges, and Universities in my area to if they would like the book too. 
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The Mommy Syndrome, by Paula Rose Michelson

For much of my life…looking back I think it began when I was seven, my job was to take care of others. Though I enjoyed this role my mom foisted upon me, it’s taken several decades to discover how taking care of others meant I seldom told anyone if I needed help or felt ill until I was really needy or sick. Even then I’d try to put others first perhaps because it made me feel good about myself or perhaps because, like my brother, they seemed to need me.

The mommy syndrome served me well until Book One of the Casa Saga was published and I had so many additional ‘Must Does’ on my list that little by little, I began to disappear as I became a person doing instead a person being. A little at a time being an author who needed to tell others about the book God asked me to write seemed to eclipse just being. It was during this time that my posts on this blog became irregular, and though I was saddened to pat my first child on the head as I hurried to post on my Casa de Naomi Reflections blog, I told myself that the blog for the book had to be posted because the url for that blog was on the back jacket of the book!

Little did I know that it would take a six month undiagnosable illness, which had me almost bedridden for me to discover that my water purification system had algae growing in it! A quick email to my Osteopathic Doctor confirmed that this system made up of living rocks and minerals which supposedly did not need a new filtration system, was indeed the source of my illness.

Thinking it best to throw the entire unite out, my husband did that before the doctor told me that we needed to keep everything as it was because if I did not feel better the lab would grow that particular algae culture to find out what would kill it and not me! Having a limited income and insurance plan, I decided to take a wait and see approach, which was, I believe best, given the reality that I’d taken a lot of medications and all of them weekend me.

It’s taken me three additional months to get back most of my energy! Where before I gladly though of others before myself, as I had been trained to do, now I find that I need to Mommy Me!

If your life revolves around the ‘Mommy Syndrome’ I pray you remember King David’s    admonish to his son in 1 Chronicles 28:9And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought.

Until we meet again,
May you experience God in all you think,
Do and say… today and everyday!

Shalom, my friend
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I’m hosting author B. J. Robinson whose new novel One Rainy Summer will release soon

One Rainy Summer by B. J. Robinson releases October 21 from Desert Breeze Publishing, Inc., California.
One Rainy Summer by B. J. Robinson is a story of old and new love. Granny has a secret. Hope falls for the boy next door. Her grandmother rekindles a relationship her family didn't approve of years before. Hope finds an old picture of her Grandma clutched in the embrace of a man with icy blue eyes. Who is he? Hope scoots out the door and back to her own room, dashes to the window, and peeks outside. The moonlight reveals a funny sight. Her beach-ball granny climbs a ladder like the prince climbed Rapunzel’s hair. A man stands at the bottom and holds it. He gazes up at Hope's window, and she shivers and lets the curtain drop. Grandma is a grown woman. Why is she sneaking around with this mystery man? What's going on? Why is my honest, respectful, Bible-reading granny slipping out her bedroom window in the middle of the night like some teen?


My mind ran rampant with thoughts of Matthew. What had gotten into me? I'd never thought of him other than a good friend. We'd lived in stifling hot, muggy-buggy, mosquito-infested,cattle-ranching, timber-raising, and citrus-growing Holopaw our entire lives, right next door to one another. You had to experience a place like this for yourself. I loved how riding my four-wheeler down the rutted dirt paths in Suburban reminded me of bunny hops on a roller coaster. I'd ridden all the coasters in Florida from The Hulk and The Dueling Dragons at Universal Studios to the newest ones at Busch Gardens in Tampa.

Holopaw and St. Cloud, Florida, had both been used for military training during World War II. Both towns had been a major source of sugar cane production, and a railroad was used for transportation. That fit, since Holopaw's Indian name meant "place where something is hauled. "I shook my head in wonder when I thought about what a rich and diverse area we lived in. I couldn't help but love it. There was never a dull moment, always something to do. My history teacher would be proud of me if she knew I remembered what I learned in class. Lost in thought, I let Matthew take the lead, and he strode ahead down the winding trail that lead to Sandy's. I gazed at his lithe figure and wondered when things had begun to change between us. When did I begin to think of him other than just the boy next door? Did he think differently of me, too, or was it all one-sided on my part? I didn't want to let him know how I felt, just in case. Only time would tell.

Author B. J. Robinson has been writing and seeing her work published since the third grade when her teacher submitted her pet story to a local newspaper. Her first college essay was published in another local paper, and her first college short story won first-prize, publication in the university's literary magazine, and ran as a serial for three weeks on the front page of her hometown newspaper. She developed that story into the novel Southern Superstitions.

Author B. J. Robinson writes from Florida where she lives with her husband and pets, two dogs, and a cat. She's authored three romantic suspense novels, and One Rainy Summer is her first sweet YA book, a short novel. She published short stories that can be found on Her children live in Louisiana and Maine, and have all made her a grandmother multiple times. She has 12 grandchildren. Visit her at the following locations. Sign to follow her blog for an opportunity to win free novels, both paperback and e-book. will be available as an e-book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Sony,, etc. YA, sweet rating. Connect with author on her Facebook Page Connect with author on her blog.

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Meet Lynne Walding, Author of a “Handful of Demons”

Back Matter - Handful of Demons is a purely fictional story about the very real battle we fight daily against Satan and his demons. God calls His trusted servant, Witt Gregory, to intervene in the life of a pastor who's losing the battle and destined to destruction. But there's one problem . . . Witt discovers Pastor Edward's wife, Casey, is the love of his youth. And the only woman he's ever loved. Beset and vulnerable, she'd his for the taking . . . At the cost of Edward's soul


 What is your genre? “Christian fiction doesn’t describe it adequately, since that genre can cover everything from Biblical stories with fictional details, to a murder mystery with a main character who prays occasionally. My genre could best be described as “honest, contemporary Christian fiction.” God always has an active role in the plot.”

Why are you drawn to this particular style? “I feel uniquely qualified (for a pastor’s wife) to write on the things that beset women, having been on both sides of the fence. I’ve experienced, first hand, the awesome redemptive power of God in my life. I’ve lived through an abusive marriage, divorce, and the death of a child. But I have no desire to dwell on the negative. God created us to be winners.”
How many books have you written? Had published or self-published? “I’ve completed four novels. “Handful of Demons” is my debut novel, released in July of 2012. The sequel, “Devil’s Digs” is slated for the spring of 2013. They’re all love/Christian stories. God knows I’m a hopeless romantic, and He’s allowed me to include a generous amount of mortal love in my stories.”

Share something about your writing life. “I’ve written for major magazines, mostly on clocks. (Clockmaking is a family trade) I wrote a correspondence course on clock repair, and for a time, a column for syndication. Music, poetry . . . you name it. I've written it. But I had no passion until . . . I married and served in the ministry beside my husband for a few years. That’s when I knew what I was called to do. Unfortunately, there was no time to write. Being in the ministry is a full-time job. I had to wait until retirement.

Which authors do you most admire? “A few short years into the ministry a lady joined our church who had her own ministry in spiritual warfare. She introduced me to Frank Peretti’s work. I devoured “This Present Darkness” and “Piercing the Darkness” and have been a great admirer of his ever since. I’m humbled and more than flattered my work has been compared to his.”

If we know each other, share how we met, and what interests we share. “Although I’m not immersed in the Jewish culture, I have a great love for the Jewish people. In our churches we always attempted to observe their religious holidays in some small way. The love I feel is so strong, sometimes I think I must have some Jewish genes, but there is a total lack of evidence of this in my family history. Then I realize it’s because they’re my Father’s Chosen People. I’ll never forget the time we celebrated a Jewish holiday with a church dinner. Each lady brought a Jewish dish. The ladies who had been assigned Matzo balls realized too late they didn’t have the proper ingredients. They substituted most things, thinking we wouldn’t know the difference. We knew . . . because they were like small stones…Totally inedible. I’m still looking forward to having some good Matzo balls someday!”

To enter the drawing for a copy of "Handful of Demons," leave a comment.
I looking forward to hearing from you, and who knows, Lynn might drop by to answer some of your questions or respond to a comment or two.     

Lynne Wells Walding spent more than twenty-five years in the full-time Christian ministry. She wrote many of the praise and worship songs for their services, served as pianist, co-worship leader, and minister to women. She and her pastor husband are now retired and live in the Piney Woods of East Texas with their dog, Sarah. There they enjoy frequent visits from children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. 

She writes a blog called "The Battle is Real" . . . an exposé of Satan's bag of tricks. And is a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), where she's currently serving on a panel of judges in a writing contest.

Drawing from her years in the ministry, her greatest passion is writing novels to demonstrate the spiritual battle we all face daily, and the power of Jesus Christ to overcome the Enemy.

MaryLu Tyndall, best-selling author of the Legacy of the King’s Pirates series wrote: WE ARE SURROUNDED BY INVISIBLE ENEMIES who are out to destroy our lives, our marriages, and our happiness. Don’t believe me? Handful of Demons may convince you otherwise. With this unique blend of the movies Ghostbusters and The Exorcist, Ms. Walding crafts a story that rivals C. S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, a story that allows the reader a peek into a realm beyond our five senses but a realm that is no less real. This book deals with so many topics and in such a real way—love, betrayal, marriage, spiritual warfare, sacrifice, pride, fear, and more—that I had a hard time putting it down each night! A refreshing and poignant look at a subject rarely addressed in Christian fiction.”
Readers have said: That they can’t put it down. But my most treasured statements come from people who've gained knowledge into Satan’s agenda for the believer and non-believer alike. I’ve been told the story is poignant, funny, and scary all at the same time. To learn more or purchase a book, I'd love for you to visit me at  
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Today's Guest Blogger is Stephanie Guerrero

Christmas Romance at Dickens on Main
 Anthology Novella: Time for Christmas
By: Stephanie Guerrero

Much ado has been made of Charles Dickens and his amazing works. I just released a book surrounding a real life Dickens Event in Boerne, Texas, entitled Christmas Romance at Dickens on Main. In England they are celebrating 200 years of Charles Dickens this year. I'm sure we all have our favorite stories.

Among my personal favorites, and I'm sure a favorite of many others, is his book, A Christmas Carol. The new romantic suspense anthology, I’ve written, Romance at Dickens on Main, is based on a real life event in Boerne, Texas surrounding the tale of A Christmas Carol.

Time for Christmas

Love is the last thing on FBI Agent “Wolf” Davis' mind. On leave for Christmas, he wants nothing more exciting than to sink his teeth into some good German pastry and enjoy the Dickens on Main event in his hometown of Boerne, Texas. Then his partner, Angelika Muller, shows up with terrifying news. Terrorist sleeper cells are targeting small town celebrations nationwide with Boerne, Texas at the top of their list. Posing as a couple for the weekend , Gabe and Angelika forge a love that goes deeper than partnership; but will they be able to unmask a mole, stop a terrorist, protect the President-elect without tearing their budding relationship apart? Will be four days be enough? Only time will tell, and for Gabe and Angelica: the clock is ticking.
Author’s Comment

Real life doesn't wait for us to hit the pause button and catch our breath. How I wish it did. Gabe and Angelika learn to walk out the scripture in Matthew 6:34: "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

In the midst of terrible trials, we can only live moment by moment walking and trusting in God Almighty's care. May God bless us everyone as we remember He is our source!

Did You Know? 

1. The names of the Main Characters, Angelika and Gabe, are rooted in the Christmas story. Angelika is for "Angel" and Gabe is for "Gabriel!”

2. There really is an annual Dickens on Main Event in Boerne, Texas every year just after Thanksgiving, and people do dress up like Gabe and Angelika get to do.

3. The Guadalupe River really is both clear and green due to lime deposits. It is beautiful.

 Fun Facts About the Author

1. My favorite foods: Mexican and chocolate! 

2. I once had a hive of bees covering my arms! Since I’ve been a beekeeper, they were gloved of course! 

3. I'm passionate about a redemptive story because my Savior: Yeshua, Jesus the Christ, has redeemed me.

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Make a Wish, by Marlayne Grion

Bloggers Comment

        Having known Marlayne Grion for several years, I read her first book “The Victor,” and heard about her last book “In Plain Sight.” But the book I’ve asked her to share with you spoke to my heart as I know it will yours because this book is about gifting people a wish they may have never spoken about, but need, or sad to say – a wish was denied them. I must admit that when Marlayne read a few of these short stories to us, her loving fans, friends and family several years ago, I told her that these stories were going to be a great book! And they are! Although some measure greatness by numbers sold, or lives changed, I’ve measured the heart of this author which is found within the pages of ‘Make a Wish’ and count myself fortunate to have this talented, caring woman as a tried and true friend! I know you will feel the same way I did when I heard what you’re about to read, so grab a cup of tea or coffee and snuggle up because I believe that what you’re about to experience was wrought by God!

“Make a Wish”
                Make a Wish had a very innocent beginning. Henry and I had become good friends ever since his wife, Vicki, reviewed my book, “The Victor,” on her blog. He’s been a quadriplegic since the age of 14, and was in his early 50s when I wrote his “wish fulfillment” story. He was really down in the dumps. He had been stood up for a fishing trip and because of his condition he is subject to the schedules and whims of others. He wouldn’t get out of bed and wouldn’t do anything for weeks and his wife, Vicki, had given up trying to coax him.        
                I had already spoken with Henry several times before this so I was distressed when I heard how low he was feeling. But what could I do? I lived on the west coast and he lived on the east coast. How could I possibly cheer him up? Then a light bulb went on over my head and I thought, I can write him a story…and that’s exactly what I did. I wrote “A Gift for Henry” in about one hour, and then emailed it to them that night. The first thing the next morning I checked my email to see what the response was. Well…it was amazing! Vicki told me that they had wept for 20 minutes after reading it. That it had truly been inspired of God because the details I put in that were perfect for Henry. Such as the smell of orange blossoms being his favorite, how he was always trying to wiggle his toes to see if they had started working and that all he wants to do when he gets to heaven is to run, run, run for the Lord.
              After that they asked me to write wish fulfillment stories for friends of theirs, so I wrote “Three Wishes” and “Butterfly Kisses.” The news of these stories spread and pretty soon, I had compiled thirty-five short stories that I had written as gifts for people and the reaction from most of the recipients were the same. Just about everyone told me they had cried their eyes out or loved the story so much they continued with the plot into their own book length format.
                All of these stories were written as gifts for others either because I was inspired to do so or because they were requested. Some are deeply emotional, heartfelt and inspirational while others are just fun.
                Each story is preceded by a brief paragraph which gives a little bio on the person for whom it was written and why. Each person appears in their own story as “The Star.”
              Last year, my husband and I learned about Henry’s latest and potentially very serious physical challenges, and we decided to change our anniversary plans from our local Napa, CA and head to Florida last November for our 25th wedding anniversary. I met Henry and Vicki for the first time in person after a three-year long-term friendship over the phone and internet. I had given my promise to Henry that should anything ever happen to him I would read his story at his memorial service but I didn’t want the first time I ever laid eyes on him to be when he was in his casket. Instead of that being the first time I’d lay eyes on him, we spent a wonderful Thanksgiving with him and his family at their home and in turn, they came to support me at my book signing in Lakeland, Florida the next day. Henry had many of the patrons in tears as he related his story of how he became a quadriplegic at the age of 14 and how he was touched by the story I wrote for him.
        In addition to Henry; I also got to meet several other very good friends for whom I have written "Wish Fulfillment" stories for who also came to the book signing. Sandra Stiles, a fellow author and school teacher in Sarasota who wrote “Steps to Courage.” Her story is called, “Two Peas in a Pod.” I also met Henry’s childhood friend, Darlene whose story is “Three Wishes,” and is the only story that made me cry as I wrote it.

To give you an idea of the reactions I’ve gotten from most of the recipients, here are some of their comments: 

I was totally blown away when I read my wish story! It touched me so much tears of joy flowed down my cheeks. It was more than what I expected. You will be amazed at the inspirational God-given messages through the writings of this awesome author. (Message received from my wish -- TRUST THE SON!)” – Martha Ray Winders (Something New Under the Son)

Tears began streaming down my cheeks from the very moment I began reading my wish story! This author has been blessed with a gift that could only come from God Himself, and I was truly blessed by her God-given talent!” – Gail Watts (Waterfall Blessings)

When I read my story, it brought tears to my eyes. It was as if Marlayne had peered into my mind. The Holy Spirit had to have revealed my thoughts to her, for her to have that much insight into my life, because we have never met. This short story has deeply moved me to continue my work. I guess you never really know how you have affected people you briefly encounter, until you read something like this.” – Jeremy Baldwin (Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda)

I have read many things in my life that have touched my heart, but nothing like what Marlayne has written. I keep my wish fulfillment story by my bed with my daily devotional and my Bible. Every night when I read it, tears flow. This is such a blessing.” – Ronnie Jackson (Appointment with Destiny)

Marlayne:  All I can do is is the most beautiful story; more than I could have imagined, though the stories I had read on your site were so inspiring I knew that the people you had written them for must have been thrilled. I just had let you know that I am bawling my eyes out. What a wonderful gift you have given to me, to Emma, to the family, and most of all to the Lord for as you have given to us, you have given to Him. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” - Susan Smoots (“A Force to be Reckoned With)

If you’d like your own story email and add… “Make a Wish!”

For a one of a kind gift/book choosing “Make a Wish” will let the person reading it know you cared enough to wish that all their dreams really do come true!

For your personally autographed copy, email Marlayne at

To order from Amazon click on:
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I Will Host Messianic and Christian Fiction Authors on This Blog! by Paula Rose Michelson

You read the title right! I will be happy to host those writing Messianic or Christian fiction each week! If you’re wondering why, read on.

On January 14, 2011, I began my Year of 5,000 Books Blog. From its inception this blogs goal was to allow me to share the process of researching the material so I could write that Casa Saga Books, and let the reader of my journey experience the process from writer, to published author, and from author to the record breaking sale of 5,000 books sold before Casa de Naomi: The House of Blessing released on December 20, 2012. To admit that I did not accomplish my goal would be a hard thing to do, except along the way, I learned so much about myself and God’s calling that what I learnedthe way that knowledge has continued to inform my every choicehas been invaluable.

Now that Casa de Naomi Reflections Blog has been up since August 29, 2011, and with the second volume of the Casa Saga soon to release, I’ve added the Casa de Naomi Fulfillment Blog, I found myself feeling rather ‘blogged down.’ Add to that the pressing realization that writing three blogs requires a lot of time, and I soon realized that something had to give. Yet I’ve grown to love this blog, and many, though not officially following, drop by regularly enough for me to be aware that if I were dropping by I might eventually stop because the author (me) hasn’t posted anything as riveting as “Was President Abraham Lincoln the Descendent of a Sephardic Jew?” as enjoyable as “The Best Day Ever” or as uplifting as “In the Morning I will Seek Your Face” in a while.

I had thought to just walk away…sort of let the blog lie fallow until it died of its own accord. However, as the creative force that breathed life, and words into this creation of mine, I could no more do that than God could turn away from me when I disappoint him.  

Then it struck me, as things sometimes do…that I have been blessed by many authors/writers/bloggers and I want to give something back to them, and if you believe as I do that the Jewish Messiah has come, though I may not know you yet, if you’re writing to affirm your faith in him, I’m including you as well. So here’s the deal, if you’d like me to host you on this blog email and well see how the Lord will lead.
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Casa de Naomi Fulfillment Opened Today!!

Before a new Casa de Naomi: The House of Blessing novel is released, I begin a new blog. Although you may not know it, Casa de Naomi Reflections began four months prior to the first books release. Many dropped by. When the book was released on December 20, 2011, the number of followers began to increase.

Aware that some will stumbled upon this blog, and others, perhaps like you, will visit because we've been on this journey together, I hope you'll visit because between now and the release of book two I'll be posting hints every week so you'll be able to participate in a scavenger hunt. The person who's able to solve the puzzle will win an author inscribed copy of Casa de Naomi: The House of Blessing , Book Two. But to do so, that person will need to discover what's missing either by omission or commission. Since all the clues can be found in book one, I hope you have one.

To play visit
Good Luck!
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Shabbat Blessing and Surprises, by Paula Rose Michelson

Every Shabbat that I'm able to worship at Ben David Messianic Jewish Congregation in Orange, California, I'm blessed by the message, those attending, and as an author, by the affirming nods of some, and the amazing comments from others who have read Casa de Naomi: The House of Blessing and continue to ask when the next book will be released.

Yesterday, I realized that few understand the unique calling we Messianic Authors experience: How it sets one apart, and requires one to be focused on what God wishes to impart. Sure, most who have heard me speak about 'being a scribe for God' know that the Casa Saga was gifted to me. However, few understand what that means, so today I''m sharing how the Lord orchestrated my writer/author journey.

Whether you work in a different field, are a believer that's already writing, published, or someone who wants to write, I hope that what I share will help you as scripture says in Proverbs 3:5. Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your on understanding...Because trusting in ourselves, yet thinking we are following where God leads can derail a project quicker than anything else.

Think I'm wrong? Well to illustrate, I'll mention that I never intended to write the Casa Saga Books! Surprised? So was I! It all began when I chose my own project. Since I didn't know much about the Sephardic Jews and had to write a character sketch for a Spanish Jew named Naomi, who was one of three women that were going to meet while hiking the Appellation Trail, and because I'm a stickler for facts, I devoured everything I could find about the Spanish Jews, including the details of the Spanish and Mexican Inquisitions, as well as the transcripts from the Inquisition trials.

My friend, who's also a Messianic publisher knew about the project and wanted to publish my work. After months of waiting, she contacted me, discovered that I was writing Naomi's character sketch, and asked me to send her my dailies. Forty days later, she sent me an email insisting that I was writing a different book than the one we'd spoken of. Since I didn't believe her, she suggested I go back three days and read from there to the present. I did and realized that I had been writing a book!

But was I really writing this book? When I thought about it, I realized that I couldn't  take credit because, although I'd done the research, the words were flying off the page as if they had a will of there own. When the characters began telling me their story, I realized that God had gifted me this work for I had never studied, spoken, or written Spanish, yet I understood what needed to be written In Spanish, and I was able to do what was necessary.

My greatest epiphany occurred when I yielded myself and any expectations I had about this work to God. Suddenly, God was in control of everything, so much so that as I began writing book five, I found myself writing about a Sephardic rabbi marrying a Plains Indian, and did not wonder if history would prove me right. I asked my Messianic Sephardic friend to my home for lunch. After we had eaten, I asked her if she'd listen to what I wrote. In the middle of one passage, she asked, "How did you know that my grandmother, Ercilla, and her brother Benjammin were half Sephardic, half Plains Indian? And why did you pick the Indian reservation their family lived on to write about?"

I had longed to be a Proverbs 31 women. Instead I found that Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your understanding...was the verse Messiah had chosen for me.

If you, like me, are looking for your own life verse(s), want to move from doubt to faith, need to rid yourself of the dross you cannot let go of, and want to use Gods Word to accomplish what we cannot, please visit Under the LAMB Ministries heading, find 'Personalizing Scripture,' and remember since we are the  'sheep of His pasture ' God has already provided a blessing for you!

Until we meet again, may your life reflect what you value, and may all your Shabbat's be blessed and filled with surprises that build you up in Messiah. Shalom!

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Blessings Abound When... by Paula Rose Michelson

It seems that all of my life, I've been looking for a blessing. Being Jewish, I'd like to assume that this is a unique that only a member of the twelve tribes can claim! However, thinking like that can get one into an awful state when it finally becomes crystal clear that the blessing is in the doing, not the waiting. I've had to remind myself of that reality of late. For having been given the blessing (?) of being ill for four months, then discovering that the editor I love, the one who's worked with me on Casa de Naomi: The House of Blessing, Book 1, and begun Book 2, was leaving the end of July to begin working in her field, I wanted to rant, "That's not supposed to happen to me!" I'm happy to say, "I didn't do that!"

This pull between Christianizing everything and owning our reality was summed up best by Rabbi Shaul (the Apostle Paul) who wrote in Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. This living by the Spirit sounds good, yet, how do we do that? How do we deny our wants, our perceived needs so that we, like Paul, can recognize the blessings that abound when...

Perhaps being altruistic will work for some. Others may look forward expectantly. I believe the answer is found in 2 Corinthians 5:7 For we live by faith, not by sight. Applying my faith in the infallibility of Gods Word, I trust in the One who is my all in all.

Walking as a bondservant of Messiah is a choice. all are called. Some answer that call, and from that number God continues to ask if any will serve Him today. In Joshua 24:15 we read, "...but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord!"

Today it might be a good idea for you to ask yourself:

What do I value?

Does my life reflect my values?

Remember, what we think and do reflects who we are and who's we are.

Until we meet again may Messiahs Shalom envelop you, my friend.

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Looking Back, Looking Forward, by Paula Rose Michelson

I received my editors first draft notes and the manuscript of Casa de Naomi: The House of Blessing Book Two a week ago, and reviewed the comments and text. Happy to discover that I had successfully applied what I learned while editing book one, I knew I needed to think through the comments and speak with Hillary before I began working on the edit of book two. So yesterday was my ‘Get to It Day!’ I say that because as a scribe for God, I wait until I know (and I cannot tell you how I know) that this is exactly the moment to begin. And since all things have a beginning including God’s Word, I felt that you might like to know about my Genesis. If you’re wondering why I say Genesis, it’s because that word means beginning. That title is taken from Genesis 1:1, which says, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Being a stickler for wanting to know what happened before the beginning, or what motivated a person or character to act as they do, I thought you’d like to know how God prepared and helped me edit book one and book two, so today I’m looking back and forward. So let’s return to yesteryear, which would be April 2011 when I fell and broke my hip while working through the edits to the first novel in the Casa Saga. Though dealing with pain might sound like a part of the Jewish lifestyle, I can attest that I never have enjoyed pain, nor am I fond of being housebound. Yet the ten days I stayed home before I became a pin-up-girl (the surgeon pinned my hip), and the subsequent weeks I spent learning to walk, getting up stairs, and discovering what works best proved to create a sort of vacuum where I could devote myself to the editing process. I say that because my missionary husband was traveling and the friend that was taking care of me went to work, returning to fix meals, shop, spend the night, etc., sometimes throughout the weekend since she owns a personal app company.

This time nothing’s changed. Well almost nothing…I say that because it’s true that I haven’t slipped on a grape at a potluck and broken my other hip like I did in 2011. But I have, praise the Lord for gifts that seem like anything but, been ill. In fact this is my eight or ninth week (I’ve lost count) of being almost housebound. Yes, I’ve dragged myself to book events, spoken at libraries, and orchestrated book signings for me and many of my Laguna Beach Chapter of Pen Women friends. However, by the time I received Hilary’s edit, I was so done in that I needed to take a break from all the activities that populated my world since Casa de Naomi: The House of Blessing Book One released on December 20, 2011. And God, knowing me better than I know myself, did not ask me to do what I could not, he orchestrated things in such a way that I am blessed once more to discover that the lover of my soul, loves me and knows what I need and when.

If you haven’t answered His call upon your heart, I pray that you do so today. For there is nothing that He will ask you to give up, yet in knowing Him your idea of what matters and why will be change in the twinkling of an eye. For as Romans 8:37 says, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

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Editing Casa de Naomi: The House of Blessing Book Two, by Paula Rose Michelson

Although I received the first edits for the second novel in the Casa Saga last Friday, I was too ill to begin working on them. Since had been sick for eight weeks, I spent this week trying to regain my strength while I reviewed my editor’s notes, and sought God. Once I had processed what needed to be changed I spoke with Hillary. Her thoughtful comments coupled with her insightful critique of the text suggesting I enlarge two characters stories showed me that God had again united us in this work. For she did not know that these minor characters would become much more by the end of this saga, gain importance in the next series, or that they would be the leading characters in the third.

Since I’m still ill, this is all I have energy to post today. Please pray that during my visit to the doctors today, I receive either a referral or the correct medication.
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The Aaronic Benediction and Cancer, by Melanie Vliet

            I have survived breast cancer twice. Nevertheless, when Paula Michelson, a friend from my Messianic congregation, sent me a rather lengthy cancer-related article from the Smithsonian last month in the midst of my law school final exams (to explain why she had committed to donate $1 from the sale of each copy of her recently published book, House of Blessing, first in her series Casa de Naomi, to the American Cancer Society), I came close to deleting it without reading it. I now praise God that I chose to read the article, which you may access on her website (see below).
            The author explained that certain Jews have a genetic mutation that predisposes them to contract breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer. As I read it, I got goose bumps; the profile closely fit my own medical history and that of my mother, of blessed memory. I wondered whether my being Jewish might be the reason why cancer seemed to run in my family.
            I immediately emailed the article to my oncologist, asking if I had ever been tested for the mutation and, if not, whether I should be tested. He responded by authorizing me to meet with a clinical geneticist.
            In preparation for the appointment, I received a medical history survey to fill out. I was certain that this was serious business when I saw a category among the choices for ethnicity that I had never encountered on any other such list: Ashkenazi Jewish!
            The geneticist determined that I was a good candidate for the blood test. He said that if I tested positive I should give serious consideration to proactively having my ovaries and my remaining breast removed before cancer had an opportunity to strike them. I had the blood test done that day (May 25). I then tried to put it out of my mind for the four weeks that he had told me I would have to wait for the results.
            The two genes that were tested were BRCA 1 and BRCA 2. I don't know a lot of Hebrew, but it occurred to me that they almost perfectly spelled out “br’cha,” the word for “blessing!” This is the reason for the title of this piece. Only later did I learn that “BRCA” stands for “breast cancer.” 
            When I told my unbelieving adult son that this mutation didn't seem like much of a blessing, he replied that the blessing was in finding out about the danger in time to address it. I'm usually the one to find the bright side of things that seem dark, but this time he hit the nail right on the head. Nevertheless, I couldn't help thinking of one of Tevye's charming lines in my favorite musical, Fiddler on the Roof: “[to God] I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t You choose someone else?”
            Since meeting with the geneticist, I have been on a personal campaign to inform Jews of the mutation and its effects. If you are Jewish, I urge you to look into this if there is any breast or ovarian cancer in your family—particularly early onset (before age forty-five). If you are not Jewish but know someone who is, please help me spread the word. I have since learned that the mutation also affects those of Dutch, Norwegian, and Icelandic ancestry. I also recently met a Hispanic woman who has it. 
            I met again with the geneticist on June 8 and learned that I do have one of the three mutations at issue. Therefore, I am preparing to give up the body parts that have a high likelihood of becoming cancerous if given the opportunity. I have accepted this without distress and have not cried at all. The relevant organs have fulfilled their purpose in my life. Having the surgery without first contracting cancer will mean that I won’t have to go through chemotherapy (as I did the other two times), which I see as a huge advantage. 
            I am tremendously grateful to Paula (who in turn is beside herself to think of what she did for me without having any idea at the time that she was doing it) for bringing the article to my attention. Please visit her website,, where you may read about her book and purchase copies if you like and where you may access the article.
            The week after I received my diagnosis, I met with a gynecologic oncologist whom I really like and scheduled the first of two surgeries for Monday, July 23 (as soon as my summer session ends). The other might not fit between that date and the beginning of my fall semester on August 23, so it will probably have to wait until late December.
            My husband and I are confident that this is the right response to the diagnosis and that God will take wonderful care of me as He has in the past. Please pray with us for my continued peace of mind and health. We serve a gracious and loving God who knows our needs before we know them ourselves!
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My Pledge of $1 Per Book to The American Cancer Society Caused a 2X Cancer Survivor Friend to Read the Article about the Secret Jews in Colorado, and Breast Cancer. That Article and the test she had lead her to opt for preventative surgery, by Paula Rose Michelson

As an author of historical fiction dating back more than 500 years, I have had a difficult time finding two primary resources for the historical facts I use. I cannot use the facts without verifying them. At one point I needed corroborating information to verify that the Sephardic Jews who fled New Spain settled in Colorado. In October of 2008, Marie Oden gave me an article from that month’s Smithsonian Magazine titled The 'Secret Jews' of San Luis Valley How Breast Cancer Genes Work.

When Casa de Naomi: The House of Blessing Book 1 was at the publishers my dear friend Elizabeth’s daughter died of early onset cancer while serving the Lord in Spain. Although I had never meet Lisa, I knew she was the embodiment of Naomi for she— like my heroine—gave up everything to serve others. I asked Elizabeth and her son JD if I could put ‘in loving memory of Elisabeth Rose Bennett (Alcala-Narro) Leatherwood, a Sephardic Jew who returned to Spain to serve the Lord,’ below my dedication to God, and they agreed.

Later, with published novel in hand, I prepared to return to the writers group where I had meet Elizabeth. For some unfathomable reason I printed out the article about the 'Hidden Jews." I opened Casa de Naomi: The House of Blessing to the dedication/in loving memory page, bowed my head and asked God, “What can I give?” Tears in my eyes, I realized that the answer was before me. This Sephardic woman, whom I never met, set an example for me. Her untimely death from early onset cancer, her being a member of the Sephardic population the article had been written about, and her life of service to others reminded me that each person is irreplaceable, each person matters. Wiping my tears away, I pledged that $1 from the sale of each volume of Casa de Naomi: The House of Blessing would go to The American Cancer Society!

A year later I mentioned my pledge to my friend Melanie because she had not only survived cancer twice, but was actively involved in raising money for the American Cancer Society. When she asked why I had made my pledge I suggested she visit my website and read the article about breast cancer. However, she did more than that! Something in the article lead her to believe that she needed another evaluation. She brought the article to her doctors attention, and he authorized another session of genetic counselling. She was tested for the mutation and found to be positive. Melanie will undergo preventative surgery.

Smithsonian online article click here: The 'Secret Jews' of San Luis Valley How Breast Cancer Genes Work

To read the article at

To interview Paula Rose Michelson, Melanie Vliet or both of them
or to invite them to appear on your show email, and put the words Secret Jews in the subject field

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The Sephardic Women and Generational Breast Cancer

Knowing that many cancer survivors and supports might visit my website and eager for those not involved in dealing with, recovering from, or raising money for Cancer research, Friday I posted the information I’m sharing here on my website.

Since I have never posted the same information or comments on this blog and my website, I felt that I must share that while researching Naomi’s history, which is the history of the Sephardic people, I discovered that oncologists had found Sephardic women have generational early onset cancer. In my heart, I have pledged $1.00 from the sale of each book of Casa de Naomi: The House of Blessing to the American Cancer Society. Knowing that we can accomplish great things together, I believe it important that I post here what those visiting my website see. Once you read the article printed in the The Smithsonian in October 2008 that I've posted here, I hope you will join me in this unusual undertaking by making a list of people you’d like to gift a book to, visiting me at, and buying a gift that keeps on giving.

If you are uncertain about the validity of what I’ve written the Smithsonian article from October 2008 is posted below my comments.

The Sephardic Women and Generational Breast Cancer


The 'Secret Jews' of San Luis Valley -How Breast Cancer Genes Work

Smithsonian Magazine
October 2008, By Jeff Wheelwright

In Colorado, the gene linked to a virulent form of breast cancer found mainly in Jewish women is discovered in Hispanic Catholics. For some people in the region (Chapel of All Saints, San Luis, Colorado), the DNA results have been a revelation.

One September day in 2001, Teresa Castellano, Lisa Mullineaux, Jeffrey Shaw and Lisen Axell were having lunch in Denver. Genetic counselors from nearby hospitals and specialists in inherited cancers, the four would get together periodically to talk shop. That day they surprised one another: they'd each documented a case or two of Hispanic women with aggressive breast cancer linked to a particular genetic mutation. The women had roots in southern Colorado, near the New Mexico border. "I said, 'I have a patient with the mutation, and she's only in her 40s,'" Castellano recalls. "Then Lisa said that she had seen a couple of cases like that. And Jeff and Lisen had one or two also. We realized that this could be something really interesting."

Curiously, the genetic mutation that caused the virulent breast cancer had previously been found primarily in Jewish people whose ancestral home was Central or Eastern Europe. Yet all of these new patients were Hispanic Catholics.

Mullineaux contacted Ruth Oratz, a New York City-based oncologist then working in Denver. "Those people are Jewish," Oratz told her. "I'm sure of it."

Pooling their information, the counselors published a report in a medical journal about finding the gene mutation in six "non-Jewish Americans of Spanish ancestry." The researchers were cautious about some of the implications because the breast cancer patients themselves, as the paper put it, "denied Jewish ancestry."

The finding raised some awkward questions. What did the presence of the genetic mutation say about the Catholics who carried it? How did they happen to inherit it? Would they have to rethink who they were—their very identity—because of a tiny change in the three billion "letters" of their DNA? More important, how would it affect their health, and their children's health, in the future?

Some people in the valley were reluctant to confront such questions, at least initially, and a handful even rejected the overtures of physicians, scientists and historians who were suddenly interested in their family histories. But rumors of secret Spanish Jewry had floated around northern New Mexico and the San Luis Valley for years, and now the cold hard facts of DNA appeared to support them. As a result, families in this remote high-desert community have had to come to grips with a kind of knowledge that more and more of us are likely to face. For the story of this wayward gene is the story of modern genetics, a science that increasingly has the power both to predict the future and to illuminate the past in unsettling ways.

Expanding the DNA analysis, Sharon Graw, a University of Denver geneticist, confirmed that the mutation in the Hispanic patients from San Luis Valley exactly matched one previously found in Ashkenazi Jews from Central and Eastern Europe. The mutation, 185delAG, is a variant of a gene called BRCA1. When normal and healthy, BRCA1 helps to protect breast and ovarian cells from cancer. An extremely long gene, it has thousands of DNA letters, each corresponding to one of four chemical compounds that make up the genetic code and run down either strand of the DNA double helix; a "misspelling"—a mutation—can occur at virtually any letter. Some are of no consequence, but the deletion of the chemicals adenine (A) and guanine (G) at a site 185 rungs into the DNA ladder—hence the name 185delAG—will prevent the gene from functioning. Then the cell becomes vulnerable to a malignancy. To be sure, most breast and ovarian cancers do not run in families. The cases owing to BRCA1 and a similar gene, BRCA2, make up less than 10 percent of cases overall.

By comparing DNA samples from Jews around the world, scientists have pieced together the origins of the 185delAG mutation. It is ancient. More than 2,000 years ago, among the Hebrew tribes of Palestine, someone's DNA dropped the AG letters at the 185 site. The glitch spread and multiplied in succeeding generations, even as Jews migrated from Palestine to Europe. Ethnic groups tend to have their own distinctive genetic disorders, such as harmful variations of the BRCA1 gene, but because Jews throughout history have often married within their religion, the 185delAG mutation gained a strong foothold in that population. Today, roughly one in 100 Jews carries the harmful form of the gene variant.

Meanwhile, some of the Colorado patients began to look into their own heritage. With the zeal of an investigative reporter, Beatrice Wright searched for both cancer and Jewish ancestry in her family tree. Her maiden name is Martinez. She lives in a town north of Denver and has dozens of Martinez relatives in the San Luis Valley and northern New Mexico. In fact, her mother's maiden name was Martinez also. Wright had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000, when she was 45. Her right breast was removed and she was treated with chemotherapy. Later, her left breast, uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries were removed as a precaution. She had vaguely known that the women on her father's side were susceptible to the disease. "With so much cancer on Dad's side of the family," she said, "my cancer doctor thought it might be hereditary." Advised by Lisa Mullineaux about BRCA testing, she provided a blood sample that came back positive for 185delAG.
When Wright was told that the mutation was characteristic of Jewish people, she recalled a magazine article about the secret Jews of New Mexico. It was well known that during the late Middle Ages the Jews of Spain were forced to convert to Catholicism. According to a considerable body of scholarship, some of the conversos maintained their faith in secret. After Judaism was outlawed in Spain in 1492 and Jews were expelled, some of those who stayed took their beliefs further underground. The exiles went as far as the New World.

For the first time Wright connected this history to memories of conceivably Jewish customs, such as sweeping dust into the center of a room and covering mirrors while mourning a loved one's death. She read up on the Spanish "crypto-Jews" in the library and on the Internet. In 2001, she and her husband made an extended visit to the valley and northern New Mexico. Tracking down as many of her paternal relatives as she could find, she alerted them to their dangerous genetic legacy and their ethno-religious heritage. "I have 60 first cousins, some I never knew I had," she says. "So I went fact-finding. I made the trek because I needed to know where I was from. 'Did you know about our Jewish heritage?' I said. It wasn't a big deal to some of them, but others kind of raised an eyebrow like I didn't know what I was talking about."

Part of New Mexico Territory until the U.S. government delineated the Colorado Territory in 1861, the San Luis Valley lies between two chains of mountains, the San Juans to the west and the Sangre de Cristos to the east. The Rio Grande begins here. The town of San Luis—the oldest in Colorado—is the Spanish heart of the valley. With an old church on the central plaza and a modern shrine on a mesa overlooking the town, San Luis bristles with Catholic symbols. It seems a short step back in time to the founding of the New Mexico colony, when picaresque gold-hungry conquistadors, Franciscan friars and Pueblo Indians came together, often violently, in a spare and sunburnt land. As Willa Cather put it in Death Comes for the Archbishop, perhaps the best novel about the region, the sunsets reflected on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are "not the colour of living blood" but "the colour of the dried blood of saints and martyrs."

The discovery of the 185delAG mutation in the valley and subsequently in New Mexico hints at a different story, with its own trail of blood and persecution. The significance of the genetic work was immediately recognized by Stanley M. Hordes, a professor at the University of New Mexico. During the early 1980s, Hordes had been New Mexico's official state historian, and part of his job was assisting people with their genealogies. Hordes, who is 59, recalls that he received "some very unusual visits in my office. People would drop by and tell me, in whispers, that so-and-so doesn't eat pork, or that so-and-so circumcises his children." Informants took him to backcountry cemeteries and showed him gravestones that he says bore six-pointed stars; they brought out devotional objects from their closets that looked vaguely Jewish. As Hordes began speaking and writing about his findings, other New Mexicans came forward with memories of rituals and practices followed by their ostensibly Christian parents or grandparents having to do with the lighting of candles on Friday evenings or the slaughtering of animals.

Hordes laid out his research in a 2005 book, To the End of the Earth: A History of the Crypto-Jews of New Mexico. Following the Jews' expulsion from Spain, crypto-Jews were among the early settlers of Mexico. The Spanish in Mexico periodically tried to root out the "Judaizers," but it is clear from the records of trials that Jewish practices endured, even in the face of executions. According to Hordes' research, settlers who were crypto-Jews or descended from Jews ventured up the Rio Grande to frontier outposts in New Mexico. For 300 years, as the territory passed from Spanish to Mexican to United States hands, there was almost nothing in the historical record about crypto-Jews. Then, because of probing by younger relatives, the stories trickled out. "It was only when their suspicions were aroused decades later," Hordes writes, "that they asked their elders, who reluctantly answered, 'Eramos judíos' ('We were Jews')."*

But were they? Judith Neulander, an ethnographer and co-director of the Judaic Studies Program at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, was at first a believer of Hordes' theory that crypto-Judaism had survived in New Mexico. But after interviewing people in the region herself, she concluded it was an "imagined community." Among other things, Neulander has accused Hordes of asking leading questions and planting suggestions of Jewish identity. She says there are better explanations for the "memories" of unusual rites—vestiges of Seventh-Day Adventism, for example, which missionaries brought to the region in the early 20th century. She also suggested that perhaps some dark-skinned Hispanics were trying to elevate their ethnic status by associating themselves with lighter-skinned Jews, writing that "claims of Judaeo-Spanish ancestry are used to assert an overvalued line of white ancestral descent in the American Southwest."

Hordes disagrees. "Just because there are some people who are wannabes doesn't mean everybody is a wannabe," he says. But he acknowledges that Neulander's criticisms have made him and other researchers more cautious.

Hordes, pursuing another line of evidence, also pointed out that some of the New Mexicans he was studying were afflicted by a rare skin condition, pemphigus vulgaris, that is more common among Jews than other ethnic groups. Neulander countered that the same type of pemphigus vulgaris occurs in other peoples of European and Mediterranean background.

Then the 185delAG mutation surfaced. It was just the sort of objective data Hordes had been looking for. The findings didn't prove the carriers' Jewish ancestry, but the evidence smoothly fit his historical theme. Or, as he put it with a certain clinical detachment, it's a "significant development in the identification of a Jewish origin for certain Hispano families."

"Why do I do it?" Hordes was addressing the 2007 meeting, in Albuquerque, of the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies, a scholarly group he co-founded. "Because the fabric of Jewish heritage is richer in New Mexico than we thought." His research and that of others, he said at the gathering, "rip the veneer off" the accounts of Spanish-Indian settlement and culture by adding a new element to the conventional mix.

One conference attendee was a Catholic New Mexican who heartily embraces his crypto-Jewish heritage, the Rev. Bill Sanchez, a local priest. He says he has upset some local Catholics by saying openly that he is "genetically Jewish." Sanchez bases his claim on another genetic test, Y chromosome analysis. The Y chromosome, handed down from father to son, provides a narrow glimpse of a male's paternal lineage. The test, which is promoted on the Internet and requires only a cheek swab, is one of the more popular genealogy probes. Sanchez noted that the test suggested he was descended from the esteemed Cohanim lineage of Jews. Still, a "Semitic" finding on this test isn't definitive; it could also apply to non-Jews.

Geneticists warn that biology is not destiny. A person's family tree contains thousands of ancestors, and DNA evidence that one may have been Hebrew (or Armenian or Bolivian or Nigerian) means very little unless the person decides to embrace the implication, as Sanchez has done. He sees no conflict between his disparate religious traditions. "Some of us believe we can practice rituals of crypto-Judaism and still be good Catholics," he says. He keeps a menorah in a prominent place in his parish church and says he adheres to a Pueblo belief or two for good measure.

At the Albuquerque meeting, the new evidence about 185delAG prompted discussion not only among academics but also among some of the subjects. Robert Martinez, no immediate relation to Beatrice Wright, teaches history at a high school near Albuquerque. During his summer vacations he helps Hordes sift through municipal and church records in Latin America and Europe, studying family histories and looking for references to Judaism. He traces his roots to members of the first expedition to New Mexico, led by Juan de Oñate, in 1598. The Spanish explorer himself had converso relatives, Hordes has found, and included conversos in the expedition.

When he went to work as Hordes' assistant ten years ago, Martinez, who is 45, was well aware of the disease in his family: several relatives have had breast or ovarian cancer. "Of course, I'd always heard about the cancer in our family on our mom's side," he says. "And then two of my sisters were diagnosed within months of each other." Both women tested positive for 185delAG and have since died. "I carry the mutation too," he says.

The Jewish connection caused no stir in his family, he says. "Me, I'm open. I want to know, Who am I? Where am I? We're a strange lot, New Mexicans. We refer to ourselves as Spanish, but we have Portuguese blood, Native American, some black too. We descend from a small genetic pool, and we're all connected if you go back far enough."

Teresa Castellano, the genetic counselor, has spent time in the San Luis Valley explaining BRCA to community leaders, patients and others. BRCA carriers, she tells them, have up to an 80 percent risk of developing breast cancer, as well as a significant risk of ovarian cancer. If a woman tests positive, her children would have a 50-50 chance of acquiring the flawed gene. BRCA mutations are passed down by men and women alike. If a family has mainly sons, the threat to the next generation may be masked.

A year and a half ago, Castellano got a call from a laboratory technician advising her of another patient with a connection to the 185delAG mutation. The patient's family had roots in the San Luis Valley and northern New Mexico. Their name was Valdez. At the top of the pedigree were eight siblings, two of whom, sisters, were still living. In the next generation were 29 adult children, including 15 females. Five of the 15 women had developed breast or ovarian cancer. Then came an expanding number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who were as yet too young for the disease but who might have the mutation. Only one or two members of the disparate clan still lived in the valley.

Ironically, Castellano's initial patient, Therese Valdez Martinez, did not carry the mutation herself. Her breast cancer was a "sporadic" case, not associated with a known mutation. But Therese's sister Josephine and her first cousin Victoria had died of ovarian cancer. Their DNA, retrieved from stored blood samples, tested positive for 185delAG. "Something's going on with our family," Therese said. "We need to wake up."

Castellano offered to hold counseling sessions with members of the Valdez extended family in April 2007. With Therese's backing, she sent out 50 invitations. A total of 67 people, including children, attended the session in a hospital conference room in Denver. Therese said, "One cousin—he won't come. He doesn't want to know. To each his own."

The tables were arranged in a U-shape, rather like the mountains around the valley. Castellano stood at the open end. She pointed out that in addition to breast and ovarian cancer the Valdez family had several cases of colon cancer. "There's some risk, it appears," Castellano said, "and therefore everyone in the family should have a colonoscopy at age 45." That caused grumbling among her listeners.

"This family has a lot of ovarian cancer," she went on, "but appears not to have a breast cancer case under age 35. So we think the age for women for starting their annual mammograms should be 30 to 35. We recommend that our '185' families do it by MRI every year. And if you do have 185," she added bluntly, "get your ovaries out at age 35."

A silence, then a question from a young woman in her 20s: "Can't a healthy lifestyle help? Do you have to have your ovaries out at 35?"

"Taking them out will decrease your risk but not eliminate it," Castellano said. Looking for support for this harsh measure, she smiled down the table at Angelita Valdez Armenta. Angelita had undergone the operation, called an oophorectomy. "Angie is a great example of how someone here is going to get old!" Months after the meeting, Angelita had her DNA tested and learned she was indeed a carrier of 185delAG.

The point of the meeting, which Castellano came to quickly enough, was to encourage family members to sign up for the DNA test. "Do you have to be tested?" she said. "No. But then you have to pretend you're positive and be more proactive about your health and your screening." Noting that the men were also at some risk of breast cancer, Castellano urged them to check themselves by inverting the nipple and feeling for a pea-sized lump.

Shalee Valdez, a teenager videotaping the session, put down her camera. "If you have the mutation," she wanted to know, "can you donate blood?" Yes. "Can it get into other people?" No, you had to inherit it. Shalee looked pleased. Castellano looked satisfied. As of this writing 15 additional Valdezes have undergone testing for the 185delAG mutation, with six of them testing positive.

Even Stanley Hordes, whose two decades of historical research has been bolstered by the 185delAG findings, says that the greatest value of the genetic information in New Mexico and Colorado is that it "identified a population at risk for contracting potentially fatal diseases, thus providing the opportunity for early detection and treatment." In other words, genes are rich in information, but the information that matters most is about life and death.

As she prepared for the Valdez family meeting, Castellano recalled, she wondered how the group would respond to what she had to tell them about their medical history. Then she plunged into her account of how 185delAG originated in the Middle East and traveled to New Mexico. The revelation that the Valdezes were related to Spanish Jews prompted quizzical looks. But, later, Elsie Valdez Vigil, at 68 the oldest family member there, said she wasn't bothered by the information. "Jesus was Jewish," she said.

Jeff Wheelwright, who lives in Morro Bay, California, is working on a book about the 185delAG breast cancer mutation. 

Photographer Scott S. Warren is based in Durango, Colorado.

*Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly translated 'We were Jews' as 'Erasmos judios.' Smithsonian apologizes for the error.

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