Me & Hubby!
Lenora Worth's new book - not released until January. It's good to have connections =P Mammaw was thrilled, especially after seeing it was signed to her with a personal congrats on becoming a soon-to-be great grandma!!
It's almost that time! Christmas is a mere 4 days away! That means starting this evening, the calendar is full! We'll be spending time with my family, watching movies (can't wait to see National Treasure 2 - Book of Secrets!) looking at Christmas lights around town, drinking hot chocolate, and eating way too much. But hey, I'm pregnant - bring it on! =)
Monday and Tuesday will be busy for me and hubby - rotating between grandparents and in-laws and parents houses. I can't wait for the chaos! But in the middle of it all, I'm determined to seek out a few quiet moments to spend reflecting on my Savior - the real reason behind the season.
Here are a few things I'm looking forward to over the next few days!
In the second book in the Westward Hearts trilogy, will the promise of a new life out west heal the scars of Toni's past?
This series tells the stories of three strong women as they struggle to survive on the rough wagon train and lose their hearts to unlikely heroes along the way!
Thin Little House on the Prairie meets Francine river's Redeeming Love and you begin to get a sense of the riveting historical series that Tracey Bateman has created.
In this second installment, we follow Toni Rodden, a former prostitute who sought to escape her past and build a new life, and a new reputation, when she joined the wagon train. Despite much resentment and distrust from the other women, Toni has finally earned a place on the wagon train and found a surrogate family in Fannie Caldwell and her two siblings.
For the first time in her life, Toni actually feels free. But while Toni once harbored dreams that her new life might include a husband and family, she soon realizes the stigma that comes with her past is difficult to see beyond and that she'll never be truly loved or seen as worthy. As the trip out west begins to teach her to survive on her own, she resolves to make her own living as a seamstress when the train finally reaches Oregon.
But despite Toni's conviction that no man will be able to see beyond her marred past, Sam Two-feathers, the wagon scout and acting preacher for the train seems to know of a love that forgives sins and values much more than outward appearances.
Will Sam have the confidence to declare his love? Will Toni be able to trust in a God that can forgive even the darkest past? Faith, love, and courage will be put to the test in Distant Heart.
In the midst of my sympathy for Mary’s situation, for the emotional roller coaster she surely rode, for the unknown stretched before her like a giant canyon, lies a sense of deep respect. I don’t know about you, but if I had been in Mary’s sandals, I might not have responded to the angel so politely. Luke 1:38 - "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said.”
This Christmas, everything is exactly like it’s always been. Icicle lights drape off my roof. My artificial, pre-lit tree, adorned with a wide variety of beloved Hallmark ornaments, stands in its usual place of honor in front of the red living room drapes. My nativity scene sits on the entertainment center, and my vast penguin collection decorates every unoccupied corner of the house.
Yes, everything is exactly the same—but at the same time, everything is completely different. This Christmas offers a greater impact than usual, and it has nothing to do with the warm glow of holiday cheer or the toasty feeling I get when drinking hot chocolate and melted marshmallows. Instead, it has everything to do with the fact that I’m two months pregnant.
It is very strange to think that next Christmas, Lord willing, I’ll have a five-month old in my lap while opening gifts with the family. There will be a car seat in the back of my Sebring, next to the pile of presents on the way to my grandmother’s house. There will be toys and tiny clothes and pacifiers everywhere—oh, I can’t wait! Yet even though I realize that next Christmas will be radically different, I can’t help but feel that this Christmas is the most unique of them all.
And it’s all because of Mary.
I can’t stop thinking about how she must have felt. The Christmas story in the Bible has become real to me in a sense that is hard to explain. My pregnancy differs from Mary’s in oh, maybe a thousand ways, yet I feel that I can now understand her a little bit better. Growing up, hearing the nativity story in church, Mary always seemed somewhat distant. She was a nice girl, chosen by God, to bring Jesus into this world. She was young, yes, and a virgin, which is mind-blowing the miracle of God’s ways, but I never really got her.
Until this year. Now, I think of her situation and tears fill my eyes as if on cue. Mary was a teenager, alone, scared, and with a huge mission. Overwhelmed doesn’t even begin to describe what lay before her! When I found out I was pregnant, it was from a home test. Mary didn’t have one line or two pop up in a little circular window—she had an angel of the Lord break the news! My husband and I were planning a pregnancy—Mary hadn’t ever known a man. Our family and friends were ecstatic with our news—Mary’s family and friends scorned her and doubted her integrity and purity. My husband and I have drawn closer together through the discovery of this new adventure—Mary almost lost the man who loved her because of disbelief and shame.
The differences continue to amaze me. Just because Mary was pregnant through a miracle doesn’t mean she didn’t experience the regular symptoms every pregnant woman experiences. Every ache, every hunger pain or craving, every cramp or sore muscle or mood swing must have reminded her of the incredible task to which she’d been assigned. I feel a random twinge of pain and immediately wonder if something might be wrong. How much more would Mary worry, knowing the importance of the child in her womb? Then again, Mary realized her son was blessed by God, and would be protected. Still, as a woman, I don’t know if that would have kept me completely anxiety-free!
Karen Ball , bestselling novelist, is also the editor behind several of today's bestselling Christian novels. Her love for words was passed down through her father and grandfather - both pastors who shared God's truth through sermons and storytelling. Blending humor, poignancy, and honesty, Karen's writing style is a powerful force for revealing God's truth. She lives in Oregon with her husband, Don, and their "kids," Bodhan, a mischief-making Siberian husky, and Dakota, an Aussie-terrier mix who should have been named "Destructo."
This story was simply amazing! I could NOT put it down. I actually got mad when I had to go back to work and stop reading during my lunch break! =) I looked forward to this book every chance I had to read. The plot was compelling, the characters realistic and inspiring, the themes powerful... I hoped, cried, laughed, and screamed right along with all of them! This is definitely a new addition on my top list of favorite novels ever.
I'm DONE!!! I must brag. I have finished ALL my Christmas shopping! The good news is I spent 3 hours Saturday afternoon sitting on the floor, wrapping all the gifts. The bad news is I spent 3 hours Saturday afternoon sitting on the floor, wrapping all the gifts! Ouch! I'm starting to realize that being pregnant means I can't do certain things anymore! (like sitting on the floor for 3 hours, wrapping gifts!) Unfortunately, these little tidbits of info come AFTER the fact. Realization dawned later that night when I had shooting pain down my left hip and into my...backside. But that's okay - a sore muscle in light of the fact that I'M DOOOOONNNNEEEE is worth it. =)
What is it about wrapping Christmas gifts that is so fun? Even though its frustrating at times, attempting to make straight creases or trying to hold extra pieces of tape on various fingers until the opportune moment (and there is ALWAYS that one odd-shaped box that is impossible to wrap!), I love it! Something about the glittery bows, the ribbon curled by scissors (how fun is THAT to do!!) the bright penguin or snowman-printed paper, the colorful nametags...and best of all, imagining the looks on my friends/family member's face when they open their surprise!
Wrapping gifts reminds me how fun it is to give. To truly give, freely, without expecting anything in return. Sure, most of the time, I can assume the people I buy for probably have something for me too, but its just as much fun to buy for those who might not. I really enjoy making others happy, thinking about their gifts and putting thought into who might really like what. It takes time and patience, and of course I'm guilty at times of just finding something in the store that would "do", but generally, I like to make my Christmas gifts count. Make them really mean something, be a memory. I get more excited about that than about opening my own presents!
So how about you? Are your gifts this year taped, wrapped, and ready to rip? Any particular present you just can't WAIT to see opened? Can't wait to see the joy or surprise or happy-tears on a beloved's face? (but don't tell me if the recipient might see this blog!)
About the author:Virginia Smith left her job as a corporate director to become a full time writer and speaker in the summer of 2005. Since then she has contracted eight novels and numerous articles and short stories.She writes contemporary humorous novels for the Christian market, including her debut, Just As I Am (Kregel Publications, March 2006) and her new release, Murder by Mushroom (Steeple Hill, August 2007). Her short fiction has been anthologized, and her articles have been published in a variety of Christian magazines.An energetic speaker, Virginia loves to exemplify God’s truth by comparing real-life situations to well-known works of fiction, such as her popular talk, “Biblical Truths in Star Trek.”
Just a little contagious holiday fun...
Jeffrey Overstreet lives in two worlds. By day, he writes about movies at LookingCloser.org and in notable publications like Christianity Today, Paste, and Image.His adventures in cinema are chronicled in his book Through a Screen Darkly. By night, he composes new stories found in fictional worlds of his own. Living in Shoreline, Washington, with his wife, Anne, a poet, he is a senior staff writer for Response Magazine at Seattle Pacific University.Auralia’s Colors is his first novel. He is now hard at work on many new stories, including three more strands of The Auralia Thread.
Author Bio: Tamara Leigh’s first novel, Warrior Bride, was published in 1994 and was followed by six more bestselling, award-winning historical romances for Bantam, HarperCollins, and Dorchester . Leigh’s inspirational chick lit debut, Stealing Adda, was published in 2006 to great critical acclaim. Leigh has also written for Romantic Times magazine and been a guest speaker for WaldenBooks’s corporate conference. Leigh lives outside of Nashville , Tennessee , with her husband and two sons and enjoys time with her family, volunteer work, faux painting, and reading.
Last weekend my family and I spent the day together at the zoo--a seemingly innocent event that led to an inspiration and an article for Crosswalk. The below article of mine appears today on Crosswalk.com!
Here's the link, and be sure to view other Crosswalk articles while you're there!
God Provides Exit Signs
Lions and tigers and—birds? Oh my!
My husband, parents, sister and I recently took a family trip to the zoo. We loaded up on caffeine, drove about two hours to a nearby small town, and paid the fee to wander around the park and view a few of God’s most creative creations.
I was ecstatic from the moment we reached the ticket booth. A homemade sign announced they were feeding the penguins at two p.m. I hadn’t realized this particular zoo had penguins (my favorite animal!) so I was jumping up and down like a preschooler being offered a giant rainbow-swirled lollipop. Then I checked my watch—almost two hours until feeding time.
No problem, we’d do that last. We began our trek down the walking trails, kicking leaves as we meandered past the buffalos, monkeys, zebras, giraffes, elephants, warthogs and anteaters. We snapped pictures of the animals and each other, crunched acorns under our feet, laughed and teased, and had a wonderful time.
It was nearing two o’clock, so we decided to bypass the bird exhibit and go check out my fine tuxedo-ed pals. But my father insisted we view the brand new bird walk-about first, stating his desire to “see everything” and “miss nothing.” Father knows best (and there was time before the penguin feeding) so we dutifully followed him toward a bright yellow and green building, walled by wire like you’d see on a cage. I figured the bird walk-about was like any other zoo building, such as the snake room, where you viewed God’s handiwork from the other side of several inches of thick, possibly bulletproof (certainly anaconda-proof) glass.
Oh no. I opened the caged door (which, really, should have been my first clue) walked inside, and froze. Literally. My husband smacked into the back of me. My sister cringed.
Birds. Like something from an Alfred Hitchcock movie-gone-bad. Flying everywhere, freely, amidst dozens of other brave (or stupid?) zoo patrons. They’d land on branches of trees, on people’s shoulders. They’d circle overheard, perch on the ruts in the walls, cling to the wire on the ceiling. One woman held a bird on her finger while her child looked on with delight and awe.
My first thought, as I viewed the flying terrors soaring willy-nilly over our heads, I voiced without censor. “What if I get pooped on?”
My father laughed. My husband smirked. Only my sister looked as if she understood and shared the same concern.
We had yet to venture farther into this feathered house of horror. My dad suddenly says, “Hey, cool—look”! At that exact moment, I see my sister duck, hands thrown over her head, into a vertical version of the fetal position. I screamed. I didn’t want to look at what my dad thought I should, rather, I wanted out.
This desire was confirmed when a zoo worker, wielding a broom, stepped into the cage-room. “Sam!” She yelled at a particularly large, squawking white bird who appeared as if he’d sincerely enjoy the taste of human flesh. She shook the broom. They squared off.
Time. To. Go.
I whirled around to leave. Big sign on the inside of the doors where I entered the cage—NO EXIT. I gulped, as the room closed in, and spun around again. This time I whacked into a child knee-high who was apparently quite oblivious to the danger around him.
I started yelling cautions, as if one would when rushing a pregnant woman through the hospital.
“Panicked adult needs to leave!” I rushed for the exit on the other side of the now seemingly endless room. Small children were bouncing off my knees as I forged a path through the chaos, my sister on my heels. I heard the laughter of my family behind me as I blazed my purposed trail, but I didn’t care. Freedom lay just on the other side of the yellow caged doors, and it would be mine.
Then - my sister and I stumbled out into the World of Humans. We dusted ourselves off, shaking, trembling. I bent over so she could view the top of my hat and make sure I hadn’t been pooped on unaware. Then, almost simultaneously, we replayed the last forty five seconds in our minds and how we must have looked -- and burst into laughter. The hysterical, doubled-over, crying, can’t breathe type of laughter.
The rest of the family emerged, unscathed, from the clutches of the Bird Walk-about, looking as if they’re trying to decide if they want to know us or not.
But it doesn’t matter. I knew the truth—those birds were out to get me.
Later, as I dwelt on the situation, wanting to both laugh and cry, I realized something. Sometimes, the events, locations or objects that seem the most interesting are the ones most likely to hurt us. The zoo hadn’t done anything wrong by offering the bird walk-about; the concept itself wasn’t a problem. Several people, even kids, were having a blast. But it was wrong for me, an unsuspecting bird-phobic, to go in there and expect to have a good time. I stepped inside and saw the danger, not the potential fun. I immediately started searching for an exit while the majority of those around me started searching for entertainment, a way to join in the chaos.
The bird walk-about, with its brightly colored exterior walls and friendly wooden signs, boasted something unique, something fresh, something new. It beckoned the average patron and lured them inside unsuspecting. Once inside, most patrons would do exactly as the majority did—yell “cool!” and join the fun.
Now obviously there’s nothing sinful about the bird walk-about, but work with me a moment for the sake of symbolism. What if that bird walk-about was a bar? A nightclub? A strip-joint? If you were brought inside such a location unaware, what would you do? Grab a beer and join the party? Or immediately start searching for your way out?
Even when we as Christians get ourselves into the most terrifying of situations, God provides a way out. He posts exit doors with giant black markered-signs, showing us the way to freedom, to light, to truth. The path to them might not seem easy—there might be several laughing children, women with brooms, and giant birds with attitudes in your way, but that escape is there if you choose to take it.
What is your stand today? Are you inside the walk-about, wondering how to react? Are you uncomfortable in the chaos, or desensitized and unafraid of the danger, invisible as it may be to everyone else? Or are you standing on the other side of the exit doors, relieved and grateful that God showed you the way out of destruction?
After leaving the walk-about, my family and I hurried across the grounds to watch the penguins enjoy their late lunch. Slick feathered, happy, always dressed in their best—and unable to fly. Now that’s my kind of bird.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12: 2)