Bryce Canyon National Park

Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park, established on February 25, 1928, is famous for its oddly-shaped spires of rock called hoodoos.

These columns of multi-tinted rock can be as short as a human adult or as tall as a ten-story building. This variation of size and color creates a breathtaking view. The sporadic placement of hoodoos has fashioned natural mazes. Walk or hike them.

The park’s 35,835 acres contain horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters, slot canyons, and hoodoos. Fir-spruce forests and meadows border the rim, which varies from 8,000 – 9,000 feet.

Star-gazers will love the inky night sky at Bryce Canyon, where some 7,500 stars can be viewed without a telescope. Full moons during night hikes light up the hoodoos but you’ll also need headlamps. The park offers astronomy programs, though you must sign up early for them.

The best place to watch the sun rise is at Inspiration Point. The hoodoos turn red, pink, orange, and yellow in the rising sun. Another beautiful view can be found at Bryce Point. Rainbow Point is a nice picnic spot.

The Bryce Canyon Paintbrush is a beautiful, rare flower that only grows in southern Utah.

Fifty miles of hiking trails, ranger programs, horseback rides, and picnic areas offer plenty to do in the summer. Surprisingly, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are winter activities. There is a free shuttle between Ruby’s Inn and Bryce Point during summer months.

Looking for a place to stay? The park has two campgrounds and there are hotels in cities nearby like Bryce Canyon City and Tropic.

Park visitors may see the endangered Utah prairie dogs pop their heads out of an underground burrow. Other wildlife includes the pronghorn—the fastest land mammal in the United States. These fast runners can reach speeds of 60 mph.

I’m grateful to Photographer Keith Adams for sharing his beautiful photos of the park with us. Thanks, Keith!

-Sandra Merville Hart


“Bryce Canyon: National Park, Utah,” National Park Service, 2020/04/06

“Bryce Canyon National Park,” Utah Office of Tourism, 2020/04/06,

Flynn, Sarah Wassner. National Geographic Kids: National Parks Guide U.S.A., National Geographic Society, 2012.

McHugh, Erin. National Parks: A Kid’s Guide to America’s Parks, Monuments, and Landmarks, Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc., 2012.

Palmerlee, Danny; Bendure, Glenda; Friary, Ned; Karlin, Adam; Matchar, Emily; Sainsbury, Brendan. Discover USA’s Best National Parks, Lonely Planet Publications, 2012.



Lioness: Mahlah’s Journey by Barbara M. Briton

Daughters of Zelophehad, Book 1

Mahlah is the oldest of five daughters of Zelophehad. As Israelites from the tribe of Manasseh, they wander through the wilderness when the cloud lifts. God leads through the desert and also through her father’s anger. Much of his anger lashes out at Mahlah. Her mother died five years ago and Mahlah still misses her.

Zelophehad dies with so many other, somehow choosing not to look up at the bronze snake that Moses holds high to save him.

As bad as things were with her father, they are worse now for his daughters. Reuben, the widower she’d once hoped to marry, asks her to care for his young son while he’s at war.

But he’s not the only one who faces danger, for it seems to follow the sisters—especially Mahlah.

This Biblical fiction story set during the time of Moses kept me turning pages. The many adventures and dangers kept this story moving at a fast pace. The main character’s burdens to care for her family and her love for Reuben tugged at my heart.

An enjoyable read!

-Sandra Merville Hart

Grandma’s Scars

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.  Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.     1 Peter 3:3-4

Josie fell into the fire when she was four. She screamed in terror as her dress caught on fire. A family member pulled her from the fire yet she was badly burned over most of her body before the flames were extinguished.

A country doctor visited her home to care for her wounds. The salve he prescribed had her screaming in agony. Her father refused the medication. He wouldn’t allow any medicine that caused further pain.

Josie’s face, arms, and legs remained an angry shade of red throughout her childhood. Long scars marred her skin. Josie didn’t receive a lot of positive attention from boys.

Tom met her during a snipe hunt in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains. He fell in love with her that night, seeing beyond the blotchy, red skin to the gentle spirit living inside. At seventeen, Tom was four years younger than Josie. He lied about his age because he rightly guessed that Josie wouldn’t marry a man so much younger. Josie didn’t find out about the age difference until the fourth baby was born.

Josie was my dad’s mother. He told me that her skin was still red and scarred when he was a boy.  By the time I knew her, the deep scars had faded to beige. Her skin was brown and splotchy all over, as if she were covered from head to toe in large freckles. In my humble opinion, the scars were part of her beauty.

Josie was beautiful. Tom recognized her inner beauty immediately. My dad was crazy about her. Her kind, gentle spirit and her sweet smile invited us all to look past the exterior and love her. And we did love her.

She had the unfading beauty talked about in First Peter. I will see her again someday in Heaven. Her skin will be restored, but I will know her when I see her.

-Sandra Merville Hart

A Love for Lizzie by Tracey J. Lyons

When Lizzie Miller’s father had a heart attack, her neighbor was there to escort her to the hospital even though, as Amish, they didn’t drive cars. Yet Paul Burkholder wants to be more the just a friend.

Marrying Lizzie isn’t Paul’s only dream. He wants his own furniture business in town. Lizzie avoids strangers because an injury from a terrible accident that claimed her brother’s life left more than an emotional scar.

She hides her scarred face from stares of strangers. She pushes Paul away because she knows no man will ever want to marry her.

They both carry guilt from the long-ago accident. They’ll need each other’s strength to recover.

I enjoyed this Amish romance. It’s the author’s debut romance.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Angels Watching Over Me

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-9

Ricky, my cousin, was diagnosed with brain cancer while in his early thirties. Surgery removed a brain tumor and the single man hoped to return to his career.

Unfortunately, the cancer did not go away with treatment. Another tumor formed. His condition worsened though his faith did not waver. Eventually he sold his home and rented a house with his parents in a small Tennessee city while they waited for a new home to be built.

Ricky loved his bedroom in the rented house because the wallpaper contained an angel pattern. Angels covered his walls, comforting him with the thought that they watched over him in his illness.

His parents, especially his mother, cared for him tirelessly. He never lost hope that God would cure his cancer and restore his health even as loved ones watched him grow weaker. His positive attitude and strong faith inspired all who knew him.

Ricky slipped into a coma and spent the final months of his life in intensive care. His mother was at his side as much as humanly possible, going without sleep, and skipping meals to hold her son’s hand. She told him funny stories and the good news of the family, hoping to draw him out of his coma.

One cold fall day, Ricky slipped into the arms of his Savior. His parents clung to each other and to God for support. The funeral service was filled with faith and hope of our Heavenly home, where there is no more pain, no more tears.

His spirit lives on in the hearts of those who loved him. We will see you again, Ricky. Look for us.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Easy Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe

My daughter and son-in-law caught a bad cold about a month ago. They both missed two days of work. I watched my toddler grandchildren while they recuperated. I asked my daughter if there was anything she needed from the store and one of the main items was chicken noodle soup. She wanted something warm and soothing on her throat.

I was surprised that only three small cans were left at the grocery store. (This was right before the virus-rush binge shopping.) She appreciated the soup.

A few days ago, a local pantry reported an urgent need for food. One of the specific items requested was chicken noodle soup. My sister was headed to one of the grocery stores that sell in large quantities.

She told me, “Yeah, good luck finding soup.” Yet she found a 12-pack of chicken soup. I asked her to buy it for me for the pantry.

With soups like this in short supply, I thought I’d share my chicken noodle soup recipe.

Easy Chicken Noodle Soup

1/2 to 1 cup chicken

4 cups chicken stock or chicken broth

2 cups water

2 cups egg noodles

2 carrots

1 bay leaf


Cook desired amount of chicken in chicken stock or chicken broth if you have it on hand. (I used broth.) If not, you can use water and add 2 chicken bouillon cubes to enhance the flavor. I also added 2 cups of water to increase the amount of soup broth.

Cook chicken, covered, on medium heat for a simmering boil until done. Larger pieces take longer to cook. I cooked tenderloin-sized chicken for 40-45 minutes.

Slice the carrots and set aside.

Remove the chicken from the broth with tongs. Add carrots to the simmering broth along with a bay leaf.

Shred the chicken once it cools a bit—maybe 5 minutes. Then add it to the broth. Stir in the egg noodles and cover. Cook about 10 minutes or until the noodles are desired texture. Pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaf and serve.

This makes 4 servings.

My husband loves meaty soups so I used 1 cup of chicken. A half cup of meat is plenty for me. He’s a plain eater, so I keep the ingredients simple. Add more egg noodles, broth, or water to stretch the number of servings.

You can sauté onion in butter and cook this in the soup. Celery and garlic are also flavorful additions. Modify it to your taste—that’s the great thing about soup!

If the shelves continue to be empty of soup, here are some other soup recipes: Chicken Gumbo Soup, Meatless Tomato Soup, Mulligan Stew, Cream of Cucumber Soup, Cream of Asparagus Soup, and Cream of Carrot Soup.


-Sandra Merville Hart







Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park, the oldest national park in the United States, was selected due to the location’s hot springs, mud spots, and geysers. Established in 1872, 96% of the park is in Wyoming and the rest is in Idaho and Montana.

The park is larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. Over 3,600,000 annual visitors come to see around 500 geysers and hot springs. There are more active geysers in the park than anywhere else on earth.

Old Faithful, which erupts at intervals of 60 to 110 minutes, is the park’s best-known geyser. It reaches an impressive height of 106 to 184 feet with eruptions lasting from 1 ½ – 5 minutes.

A fun fact about Old Faithful: in the late 1800s, visitors used the geyser to wash their clothes. They arranged their dirty laundry in the crater and after it erupted the clothes were clean. One problem with this was that it shredded wool clothing. I’m guessing that bachelors took advantage of this convenient way to do laundry!

Though experts don’t expect a major eruption of Yellowstone’s active volcano, it is monitored for the sake of safety.

A surprising number of earthquakes occur in the park each year—from several hundred to thousands. A 4.8 magnitude earthquake occurred on March 30, 2014, the largest since the 1980s. Those in the park and nearby towns felt the tremors.

There are almost 300 waterfalls of fifteen feet or higher inside the park. The tallest waterfall, at 308 feet, is Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River.

Elk, mountain lions, trumpeter swans, moose, bison, grizzly bears, and lynx are among the many wild animals who call Yellowstone National Park home.

Have your camera ready to snap a photo. All these beautiful photos are from Keith Adams, photographer. Thanks for sharing them, Keith!

-Sandra Merville Hart


Flynn, Sarah Wassner. National Geographic Kids: National Parks Guide U.S.A., National Geographic Society, 2012.

McHugh, Erin. National Parks: A Kid’s Guide to America’s Parks, Monuments, and Landmarks, Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc., 2012.

Palmerlee, Danny; Bendure, Glenda; Friary, Ned; Karlin, Adam; Matchar, Emily; Sainsbury, Brendan. Discover USA’s Best National Parks, Lonely Planet Publications, 2012.

“Yellowstone: Geology,” National Park Service, 2020/04/06

“Yellowstone: National Park, ID, MT, WY,” National Park Service, 2014/12/16


Out from the Shadows by Pam Thorson

31 Devotions for the Weary Caregiver

 This author knows the caregiver’s path well. She writes about it in an honest way that will touch the hearts of other caregivers.

While dealing with the hardships of daily life, her message resonates with hope. I loved the honest outpouring of her heart.

I remember the days when this was my life. My father was the primary caregiver for my mother yet my sister and I were secondary caregivers. We were constantly at their home. I would have considered this book a treasure of support had it been available to me during those difficult days.

This devotional is truly a gift to all the weary caregivers out there.

Excellent book!

-Sandra Merville Hart


An Afternoon with my Dad

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” 1 Kings 19:11a (NIV)

Crossing the covered bridge into the prayer garden, the serenity immediately welcomed me. I drank in the beauty of the blooming flowers in the midst of Mountain Laurel. The brook sang as it skipped over smooth stones.

How I wished I could share this moment with my mountain-loving dad. He had joined my mother in Heaven a mere five months after her death. Several years had passed since that earthly goodbye. I still missed them.

Always most comfortable outdoors, the surrounding mountainside beauty would have captivated Dad’s attention. We’d sit on a bench and he’d teach me about the plants and trees.

If I could spend one more afternoon with him, what would we talk about? What a gift that would be. He’d love this serene setting.

On second thought, I wouldn’t bring him to this mountain. No, we’d go instead to a clear stream near his childhood home in the Smoky Mountains. Maybe we’d hike along those paths he once loved. He’d show me the trail to the school yard and where they attended church, sprinkling age-old wisdom into old memories.

I’ve often wished for his wise council. His words had a way of pointing me in the right direction, helping me consider the costs.

Yet for all the questions I long to ask, if I could spend an afternoon with him, I’d simply listen to whatever he wanted to say. I’d not want to waste those fleeting hours with silly questions. Then he’d say what was most important, that fatherly advice I don’t yet know I need.

After a while, I’m sure we’d stop talking to enjoy the gentle rush of the stream as the birds serenaded us.

Even though my dad couldn’t meet me here, my Heavenly Father did.

God joins us wherever we are—serene gardens, quiet times on our knees, and when our world rips apart at the seams. He offers wisdom from His Word and from His Heart, freely given to His loved ones. That’s each one of us.

Like a parent with a toddler, He gently guides faltering steps. In times of prayer, He helps us count the cost of our decisions. Our choices matter since answering ‘yes’ to something may mean closing the door on another opportunity. God’s instruction is always just what we need.

God will be with us not only for an afternoon in the garden, but for all our days.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Secrets of Confidence by Ramona Richards

A 60-Day Devotional for the Inner You

What a treasure! This book is filled with 60 days of devotional thoughts designed to build, restore, or renew a woman’s confidence that lies with God.

Drawing from Biblical examples and from the author’s own experiences, this book contains short devotions that begin with a scripture reference.

Topics covered include encouraging others, inner peace, endurance, courage, reliance on God, risk, and facing difficult times.

Each devotion takes less than five minutes to read yet gives food for thought as you begin your day.

I’ve read novels by Ramona Richards and enjoyed them. Recommend!

-Sandra Merville Hart