My Testimony

As far back as I can remember I have wanted to be a Mom. As the fourth of six girls, I dreamed of having a houseful of daughters, with maybe one son thrown in there. At the age of 16, that dream began to fade.

After months of horrible, intense pains, my doctor diagnosed polycystic ovarian syndrome. He told me that meant it would be difficult for me to even get pregnant. When he factored in my weight, he said, “While a baby would be able to survive, the chances of you ever getting pregnant are very slim.”

I tried to act like it was no big deal. After all, I was still in high school and I didn’t have a boyfriend. Being a mother was a dream that I was not really working toward right then.

But it was a big deal. One particular friend in school held me as I cried over it. She told me, “Give it to God. If He wants you to have children, what the doctors say won’t matter. You will have them.”

The problem was, I didn’t really care too much about God at the time. I went to church every Sunday morning and Wednesday night, but only because I had to. I didn’t want to be there. Mom and Dad had a rule about it, though, and unless I was working, I had to be there. Sometimes, I even had to go on Sunday nights. To be honest, I didn’t see the point. My parents didn’t seem to be any better off than people who didn’t go to church. In fact, they seemed to be a lot a worse off at times. They went to church all the time, but God wasn’t helping them. What would make me think that He would help me with something?

My wedding was about two weeks before my 24th birthday. It was all I had ever dreamed of. I don’t think I will ever forget the look on my husband’s face when he saw me walking toward him in my wedding dress. That was real love. Not that I doubted it. Before I could marry him, I had to tell him what the doctors had said. Especially considering that two years earlier I’d been told I was in the beginning stages of endometriosis, yet another condition that would make pregnancy nearly impossible. My husband didn’t care, though. He said he wanted to have children, but as long as he had me as his wife he would be happy. “Besides, we can adopt if things don’t work out. But just think of all the fun we can have trying to prove the doctors wrong.”

Because of the cysts, my monthly cycles had always been a bit off. When I missed one period, I was concerned. When I missed a second, I started to think, “Could it be…?” A friend who’d been trying for a couple of years to get pregnant had just found out she was expecting her first. She told me, “Go get a home test. If it is positive, call a doctor. If it is negative, get in the bedroom and try again.” My husband wasn’t so sure it was a good idea. He was afraid that I would be too upset with a negative test. But once the idea was in my head, I just had to know. So when we got our groceries, we also picked up a home test. I took it right away, setting a timer to go check after I put the groceries away. There were two little pink lines on the stick. We had been married for only five months, and already I was pregnant!

I felt like a dream was coming true. I began to read every baby book and parenting magazine I could find. We picked out names for our little one—Robyn Dayle for a girl and Andru John for a boy—and a theme for the nursery—Baby Looney Tunes. I was careful about what I ate, and even gave up coffee and Mountain Dew when my doctor said caffeine was bad for a developing baby. I was determined to do everything right for this little blessing of mine.

The dream came to a screeching halt on Tuesday, September 19, 2000. That was when a phone call from my OB’s office came. The nurse on the other end of the line told me that there were some “abnormalities” in a routine blood test. My unborn baby, it appeared, had Down’s syndrome. “We need you to go see a specialist to have this confirmed before it is too late to terminate the pregnancy.” She told me the name of the specialist and what time the appointment was they had already made for me. Somehow, I called my husband at work. He took the afternoon off and the next day off so he could be with me for the testing. We sat on the couch for a while, just crying. When the mailman came that day, he delivered a Baby Looney Tunes lamp that I had purchased on eBay. I remember asking John if we would even be able to use it. He told me, “God will take care of us.” I agreed. I told him, “I want to see this specialist so that I can be prepared to care for our baby’s needs. But I will NOT terminate the pregnancy. God put the baby in there, and He alone will decide when the pregnancy ends.”

Two weeks later, I was still waiting for the test results to be back. After dropping my niece off at preschool, I drove home with only her 2-year-old brother in the car. I had an old Carman cassette in, and the song Lazarus, Come Forth began to play. I sang along, and at the end I said, “Wow. You know, it would have been so cool to have been there and see Lazarus come out of his grave.”

“I raised Lazarus from the grave, and I will heal your baby.”

I pulled off to the side of the road and looked around. Only baby Jake was in the back, and he was nearly asleep. But the voice was loud and clear and real. I had no reason to believe it was anyone other than God talking to me. Tears streamed down my face. All I could say was, “Thank you, Lord. Thank you.” John and I had been faithful to God, and He was honoring that.

When I got home, the doctor’s office called again. They said, “We have the test results here. It appears you are carrying a healthy baby boy.”

A few months later, on February 2, 2001, my son, Andru John McMonigal came into this world. He was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in all my life! At my six week post-partum check up, my doctor confirmed what I knew all along. God HAD healed Andru. There are certain markers that are normally found in the placenta of a child with Down’s syndrome that are not present in the placenta of a healthy child. Those markers were found in Andru’s placenta.

Interview with Leonora Pruner



Close to his Heart, by Leonora Pruner

Tell us a little about Close to His Heart. 

 My working title was Love is… and I sought to explore the many kinds of emotions we call “love.”  The two main characters experience several kinds of love from infatuation to mature, self-giving love.  Moving through this range of emotions involves struggling with the implications of their faith and having to deal with severe disappointment and misunderstandings and the need for forgiveness and openness to God’s leading.

This novel is set in 18th century England.  How much research did you have to do on that time period in order to write the book?
Actually, very little.  Most of it was from my memory.  I did about 5 years of research before my first book.  This one was first written while I was living in Maldives in the middle of the Indian Ocean, based on what I recalled from those years.  Additional research was needed after I returned to this country to fill in some holes here and there.

What is it about this time period that interests you enough to write about it?
 Back in the 1970s, I read in some book that the 18th century was very similar to the 20th in basic attitudes and general dynamics.  Applied science, technology, and the enlightenment were all impacting life as they have major influences today.    Also, this was the time that John Wesley provoked a movement in England what was reputed to save England from the orgies of the French Revolution.   As a Methodist, I was interested in how this might have touched the lives of people at that time.

 Who is the biggest influence on your writing career?
The teachers in the Adult Education writing courses in Santa Barbara, all professional writers, were influential in developing my daily discipline and writing craft.  Reading the works of C. S. Lewis (he did not know how to write poorly), and Georgette Heyer’s period novels for dialog, atmosphere, and social setting were very helpful.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
 Write.  Set a time and place that works for you personally and write daily – or at least 5 days a week.  If inspiration is on vacation, describe where you are, what you see and feel, anything to put words together.  They will lead you into your material.

Select a book in “Your” genre by a top rate author.  For 10 minutes each day, copy it by hand from beginning to end including all punctuation and not using any abbreviations.  At the end of the 10 minutes, throw away the paper and go about what you are doing.  At the end of a month, your writing will firm up and improve.  It will still be in your style, but much better.

Read a lot.  Read about writing by those who have done it well and read their works.

Have you written other novels you would like readers to know about?

 Yes.  Two were published in the 1980s – Love’s Secret Storm and Love’s Silent Gift.  These also were set in mid 18th century, in southern England and London.  Wesley actually makes a non-historical appearance in the first.  They are now out of print, but available through

Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself and your work?  Take as much space as you need!!!
 Writing the first draft is a relief as pent up ideas become concrete, and a joy, exploring new territory, and learning about these new characters.  Polishing that draft through many more revisions can require work, thinking of how to fill in the holes left the first time, adding new things, removing others, shaping, pacing, more research, and surprising discoveries in the process.  I would not recommend getting involved in this activity if you do not have to – that is if you are not driven by an inner compulsion.  It requires that drive to carry you through to a good, finished manuscript, which the publisher may still see as needing more revisions.  Oh yes, patient persistence is essential.  And a lot of prayer.

Thank you, Leonora, for taking the time to answer these questions.  I really enjoyed reading Close to His Heart and I look forward to reading more.
I’m glad that you enjoyed it.   The next one, In the Aerie of the Wolf, hopefully will be out before Christmas.  Thank you for this opportunity to visit with you about writing, one of my favorite topics.


For more information or to order this book, please visit


Close to his Heart, by Leonora Pruner

Life in 18th Century England, without the “benefit” of modern conveniences we rely on today, was much simpler.  Love, however, was not.  Leonora Pruner explores this in her latest novel, Close to His Heart.

Despite their deep love for one another, Grace Carstares and Lord Henry Buryhill face a rough road.  Misunderstandings, anger, and hurt feelings keep them from enjoying the happy marriage both long for.  When Grace loses her memory, Henry sees a chance for them to start over.  Only she sees him as a complete stranger, and not one she is sure she wants to get to know.

This book was beautifully written, with wonderful detail.  Ms. Pruner’s descriptions made me feel as if I was walking through the grounds of Westwood along with Grace.  The love that both Grace and Henry have for the Lord was simply stated.  It was a part of them, a part of what drew the two of them together,  but never really preached.  It was seen especially when Grace had an encounter with a beggar at a London party and then later when she came across an escaped slave.  Many today could learn a lesson from the way she acted in both of these situations—showing God’s love through kindness to others is more meaningful and more powerful than any words we could use.

This is the first book by Leonora Pruner that I have read.  With a new book scheduled to be published before Christmas, I know this will not be the last of her books to grace my bookshelves.

To learn more about Leonora Pruner or order this book, please see this website:

Letter to Our President

Dear President Obama,

I’ve heard a lot of discussion lately about the religion you follow. Some say you are a Christian. Some say you are a Muslim. Based on what I have seen and heard of you, I don’t know what to think. Not that it is really any of my business. This is a country founded on religious freedoms. Sure, as a Christ-following woman, I would prefer to know that the leader of my nation follows Him as well. But this is a personal matter.

The most recent thing that I have heard is that you profess to be a Christian. I imagine that would be a hard thing to do in your job—to claim one religion over another. It seems that you risk offending or even alienating a certain portion of the country by being vocal about what you believe. It must be hard to hold fast to any sort of convictions as President of the United States of America. That would claim to be a Christian is a very admirable thing.

It leads me to a few questions, though. Mainly, it makes me want to ask, “Mr. Obama, what does it mean to you to be a Christian?”

As I said, this is a personal matter. It is not a question that I—or anyone else in this world, for that matter—need to hear the answer to. However, it is one that I hope you are able to answer for yourself.

I can tell you what it means to me to be a Christian. It means love. It means seeing opposing views in this world, meeting people who disagree with everything I’ve ever been taught, and loving them anyway. It means reaching out to those in jail or shivering on a street corner and giving them a helping hand. It means seeing someone who has no idea where their next meal will come from and inviting them into my home for dinner. It means having enough compassion for the sick to hold their hands as they struggle for breath, and listen to what they have to say.

Being a Christian means showing kindness to others. It doesn’t mean letting others walk all over me, or just allowing my right to worship God be stomped all over. I can be firm in my determination to worship Christ according to Biblical principles, while still being kind to those who think I should have less freedom to worship. It means I can love God, I can love Christ, and I can show that love to others—with or without the use of words. I prefer to show that love without words. After all, if people can’t see the love of God in my actions, they are not likely to believe me when I talk about that love.

Above all, being a Christian is more than just a lifestyle choice. It’s more than just a few carefully chosen words. Being a Christian is a life-changing experience. It’s not something that I can just claim one day because it sounds good. It’s a change in my heart, a way of living that I know I’d never be happy without. It is total dependence on Jesus Christ for joy and happiness. It is as much a part of who I am as being and American is.

What is it to you?

Lynn McMonigal


Junge Sunrise, by Joathan Williams

Jonah Frost has hit rock bottom.  Divorced, working at a job that he feels is beneath him, and constantly hung-over, drunk, or getting drunk.  The highlight of his day is his morning stop at Starbucks, where he holds a brief conversation with a cute barista.  When his linguist brother accepts an assignment in the Amazon Jungle, Jonah tags along.  Maybe this will be the new start that he needs.

 In his first novel Jungle Sunrise, Jonathan Williams draws on his experiences as a missionary with the Xtreme Team to paint a riveting picture of the dangers of life in the Amazon Jungle.  Each character has a unique personality.  The blending of the characters makes the book more powerful and more difficult to put down.

There were a few places in the book where I was confused.  It’s a pet peeve of mine when the author says something about what “you see” or “you feel” in the book.  To me, that makes it harder to follow the action in the novel.  Williams did do this once or twice when describing the scenery of the jungle.  Just a minor annoyance that really did not take away from the experience of this story.

What I liked the best about this book was the way the missionary characters spoke about God’s love.  Instead of sharing His love in words, they shared it with their deeds.  They were kind and caring, showing more than telling what they believed.  I never had any doubts that this book was written from a Christian perspective, about mostly Christian characters.  Yet there was nothing at all “preachy” about it.

Overall, I have to say this is a good book.  I recommend it to anyone looking for a bit of adventure, but without the means to seek it out in the real world.

What Am I DOING?

I am sitting at my computer, playing games on Facebook, and listening to Access Hollywood play in the background. The show started off with a story on Lindsey Lohan, switched to a bit about Bill O’Rielly and Jennifer Aniston, then went right back to more about Lindsey. And I have to think—do I really have nothing better to do than sit here and listen to this gossip?

Like many, I have my own opinion on Lindsey’s situation. Not that what I think matters or anything, but I think that Lindsey has gotten into trouble because she is a talented, spoiled young lady. She is a good actress, and I think she knows it. The problem is that she is so good at what she does, that no one around her is willing to tell her no about anything. By “no one,” I mean her friends, her managers, her agents, and, yes, her parents. I think that all of these people see the money that Lindsey’s talent can earn. Each one of them wants a piece of that money and they are afraid to be cut off from that. So what Lindsey wants, Lindsey gets. I am not sure if she needs jail time or rehab time, but I do think she needs some boundaries.

As far as the O’Rielly-Aniston thing, oh my gosh! Have you heard about this one? Apparently, Jennifer Aniston is in a new movie called The Switch. The premise of this movie, from what I understand, is a woman desiring to become a mother chooses to have a baby via a sperm bank when she can’t find her Mr. Right. Bill O’Rielly is very much against this. In his view, she is negating the need for a father figure for a child. I do agree with O’Rielly in some ways. I, for one, couldn’t imagine raising my kids without their dad in the picture. Then again, my husband and I are very much in love, and he is a wonderful father. Anistion’s character (and please keep in mind this is coming from someone who has not seen the movie) is rather admirable. Rather than sleeping with every man she met in order to get pregnant (as I said, I’ve not seen this movie so I don’t know how many men the character does sleep with before deciding on the in vitro route), she takes things into her own hands. I don’t see where O’Rielly gets that this movie shows young children that it is OK to have a baby without a man. It seems to me that it is more about a mature woman, secure in her career, trying to fill one last hole in her heart. My opinion on it would probably be a lot different if Aniston’s character was played by, oh, Lindsey Lohan. This wouldn’t be such a feasible storyline for a woman in her early 20’s.

Seriously, though. Why am I watching this junk? I keep thinking about what Carman said on his Radically Live album, when he was doing the intro of his Soap Song—”Garbage in, garbage out.” And a lot of this Hollywood gossip sure counts as garbage. Is this really what I want to have filling my head? Yesterday, I wrote about what it means to be a missionary and how I view my writing as my mission field. How does keeping up with celebrity lives help me to advance that?

The simple answer, it doesn’t. Sure, I could use the excuse, “at least I can find story ideas by hearing about what all the latest gossip is.” That’s not really what I want to write about, though. When I am asked to describe my books, I usually say they are about ordinary people, in real situations, finding strength in God. Ordinary people, real situations.

So not what is featured daily on Access Hollywood.

Being a Missionary

I recently finished reading the book Jungle Sunrise by missionary-turned-author Jonathan Williams. On page 121 of this debut novel, two characters are speaking about what has brought them to the jungle. One asks what it means to be a missionary. The answer she is given is, “if you ask a hundred different missionaries that same question, you’ll probably get about a hundred different answers.” Of course, the answer was more detailed than that, but I don’t want to give away the whole thing!

The question, though, has been on my mind since I first read it. Just what does it mean to be a missionary?

Growing up, I always thought that a missionary had to be someone special, living in a dessert or a jungle somewhere, facing danger everyday while sharing the love of Jesus with savages who’d never heard of Him. The really “special” ones got to go to the Communist countries to share Jesus with people who hated America.

As I got older, I realized that not all missionaries serve in remote areas or deal on a daily basis with “savages.” Many do still risk their lives in countries that are hostile to Christian ideas. But not all.

In the past year or so, I have really had missions and missionaries on my mind. My oldest son is now 9. When he was about 4 years old, a missionary serving in Germany visited our church. Immediately, my son informed everyone that he saw that he planned to become a missionary when he grows up. We’d ask him if he knew what that meant, and he would say, “It means that I will get to tell people about Jesus. I think I want to go to Washington…. They need Jesus there.” In the five years since, he has never once waivered in his desire to become a missionary. He has talked about needing to learn how to cook and how to build houses and how to read out loud “because you never know what I might need to do to show the love of Jesus to others.” During the past year, he has even talked about things he could do now, at his elementary school, to “practice” being a missionary. To my son, being a missionary is a simple thing—sharing the love of Jesus with everyone he meets.

I’ve often heard my pastor say that he never, ever wanted to be a missionary. He said he was often scared to give everything completely over to God because he didn’t want God to decide to send him overseas to be a missionary. It wasn’t until Pastor Clive finally gave that fear over to God that he realized God’s plan for him did not include going overseas at all.

I don’t think that meant that God didn’t want Pastor Clive to be a missionary, though, especially if I use my son’s definition of the term. If being a missionary is really as simple as telling everyone about Jesus (and really, considering how adults tend to over-complicate things, it probably is that simple), than my pastor is a missionary. And so is my son.

And so am I.

Now, I am not opposed to taking an overseas missions trip. In fact, I’ve thought about going to Haiti. When the money for that trip didn’t materialize, I figured that God was telling me He needed me to stay here. My mission field, I firmly believe, lies in two places. One is right here, in my hometown of Jackson, Michigan. Remember how my son said that he wanted to go to Washington because they need Jesus there? Well, He is really needed here, as well. There sure are a lot of churches in this town, so I know Jesus has plenty of “houses” here. I’m just not always sure enough houses have opened up to give Him a “home” in this town.

The other half of my mission field has to do with my writing. This blog, my books. Sharing the love of God with others, all the time. Yeah, I definitely think this is part of my mission field. It is what God has called me to do.

My question for you is, how would you answer the question, “What is a missionary?” Do you view yourself as a missionary?

The Power of Words

Last evening, I was reminded of the power that our words hold. It started with a book review that I had written. The author contacted me to let me know how much she appreciated the kind things I said about her and her work. The book was wonderfully written, in my opinion, and had a beautiful, tender love story. Many others haven’t agreed with that. In researching her reviews on, I saw just how mean and nasty some of the comments were. At first I wondered if maybe we hadn’t read the same book. Then I realized the comments were directed so much at this author and her work as they were the Christian message in her book. One reviewer went so far as to say that the author was untruthful in her promotion of the book, as she didn’t bill it as a Christian book when she offered the Kindle version for free.

These comments were hurtful to the author, and I truly felt bad for her. At the same time, I was proud of her for “sticking in there.” She wrote what was on her heart, the story that God gave her to tell. And she hasn’t given up—I’ve just started on her second book in this series, and I know that the third is scheduled for release this fall.

This situation reminded me of the early Christians. They were often put-down and belittled for their belief in a risen Christ. But they didn’t let that stop them from sharing the Gospel. Christ had made a change in their lives, and those early Christians were anxious to tell everyone about it. Some (Stephen comes to mind) did so even at risk to their own lives. Hurtful, hateful words must have been tossed at the early Christians. Still they persevered, secure enough in their faith to stand up to the harsh words.

The book of James talks about the hurtful things that can come from our mouths. Chapter 3, verse 8 says, “but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” It is in the nature of man to say rude, hurtful things to others. But with the help of God, we can at least control our tongues. It’s not an easy thing. At least, it is not easy for me. I often think that God has many, many more important things to worry about than the words that I say. And thinking that He is too busy, I try to control my tongue myself. I can’t do it. The times when it seems as if I can’t talk at all are times I know that God has clamped my lips shut. Occasionally, He does this even if I don’t consciously ask Him for help.

I know that my tongue is one thing that I really need God’s help with. Sometimes I am a very opinionated woman. What I need to understand is that I don’t always have to share my opinions. Thought I may have right to them, I don’t have to broadcast them to everyone. Like those book reviews. Each reviewer had a right to what they said. They also had a right to share those opinions. For me, though, when I give a negative opinion of a book (which I know will happen as I don’t like every book that I read), I plan to keep in mind these reviews and the way their words made the author feel. I want to temper the negative with something positive. I pray that my words don’t ever leave an author feeling as down as these reviews made my author friend.

How about you? Are you in control of your tongue, speaking every word that comes to mind with no regard to who hears and is hurt by the words? Or have you given control of your tongue to the Lord?

Medical Drama With Heart

At Sierra Mercy Hospital, the patients are not the only ones in need of healing.

Sounds like the lead-in for a television medical drama, doesn’t it?  I think that is what attracted me to Candace Calvert’s novel Critical Care.  I am a big fan of medical drama.  It started with my parents—I can remember watching Trapper John, M.D.  with Mom and Dad when I was a kid.  The one must-see show for me now is Grey’s Anatomy.  The one drawback to that show, is the immoral behavior of the entire hospital staff.  If hospitals are really run like the ones on TV….  WOW!  I can’t even imagine.

Sierra Mercy Hospital is a bit different.  Sure, there are still romances among the staff members.  In this book, the romance is based on mutual respect and shared experiences, rather than solely on physical attraction.

Calvert uses her extensive medical knowledge and years of health care experience to create believable characters, interacting in a realistic setting.

After a deadly explosion at a daycare center, the emergency room staff at Sierra Mercy find themselves in need of help.  Not all of them are willing to admit to that need, though, let alone ask for it.  That puts Claire Avery, the nurse educator assigned to provide stress counseling in the ER, and Dr. Logan Caldwell, the head of the emergency department, at odds.  She is still dealing with a trauma from her own past, while he operates on the belief that problems need to be left outside the hospital. 

I was captivated with this book from the first page.  Though it was not on my official “must review” list, I couldn’t put it down.   Critical Care is the first Candace Calvert novel that I have read, but it will definitely not be the last.