Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Recap

MERRY POST CHRISTMAS! I hope everyone had a blessed holiday season. I can't believe how fast it all sped by. It'll be New Years before I know it!

I've posted a few pics to share our Christmas with everyone...they're worth a thousand words, afterall - right? =)

Me and the grandparents, Christmas Eve, at our annual party at their house. Fun times!

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!!

Me & Daddy!!

Mommy and her cute new hoodie!

Sissies at Christmas!

YAY! Barnes & Noble, Starbucks, here I come!!! A laptop at last!

Hubby in his new LSU beenie

Samson getting his Christmas bone and Christmas cookies! =)

This was taken a few weeks ago but was too cute - had to share. He's in his hunting vest!

Mom and Sissy Christmas morning at the parents house!

Christmas couple!

More LSU stuff for Hubby!

Guess who is going to see REBA in concert in February???

Mom was a LITTLE surprised - I got her the complete Girlmore Girls DVD set! The whole series!! Woohoo!! (that's "our" show!)

Dad's new guitar - we all went in together to surprise his socks off! He hugged it without even unzipping the case - knew exactly what it was and was shocked!!! hehe Christmas surprises are the best =)

Friday, December 21, 2007

The time has come!

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!

FOOD! Every Christmas morning for as long as I can remember, my mother has always made sausage balls and cheese biscuits. Even after my sister and I moved out of the house and started our own homes and families, every Christmas morning, we still join at my parent's for sausage balls and cheese biscuits before opening presents. This year, since I can't seem to stop craving meat, (maybe that's a sign I'm having a boy? lol) I'm even more excited!! hehe. She better make a double batch! =)

PRESENTS! I know, Christmas is not only about gifts, but come on, who doesn't love tearing cute wrapping paper off a box and ripping in to find what's inside? This year, I'm very excited about some gifts I got for others. I love surprises, and I can't wait for the secrets to be over so I can squeal along with my loved ones!

TRADITION! This year, I'm starting a new tradition. I'm going to watch "The Nativity Story" on DVD Christmas Eve day. Its a startling, inspiring, emotionally stirring movie that I saw in theaters last year, bought at Easter, and can't wait to watch again. Being pregnant this season, I know it will mean even more to me than before. I can't wait to sob into my hot chocolate and feel the spirit of Jesus in my heart deeper than ever before.

Next Christmas, having a baby around for the first time, will definitely change things. It'll be time to hang the breakable ornaments higher on the tree. Time to baby-proof the house and hide the gifts from grubby little hands. =) But I so excited about starting our own traditions with our new family, and incorporating a few of the ones I've enjoyed so much over the years.

CHURCH! This year, my church is having a special Christmas service Sunday night, including the Lord's Supper. It will be so wonderful and I can't wait. We only do the Lord's Supper in our church periodically, so its always a neat time and one of my favorite experiences.

What are the things you're looking forward to this Christmas? Any traditions you'd like to share? Any recipes? (hehe!) Leave your comments and maybe someone else will get a neat idea for a new Christmas treat or tradition.

I'll be back after the holidays are over and I've thoroughly digested all the sausage balls I ate! =)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Distant Heart - Tracey Bateman

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.

Tracey Bateman is the award-winning author of more than twenty-five books, including Defiant Heart, the First in the Westeard Hearts series. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and recently served on the board as President. She loves in Lebanon, Missouri, with her husband and their four children.

Buy your copy here!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Seeing Christmas through Mary's Eyes

Seeing Christmas through Mary's Eyes

Betsy St. Amant
(article first appeared on

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!

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.”

I have to admit, my response would have probably been something more like “Are you kidding me? That’s impossible. I haven’t even had my first kiss! I’m too young. Don’t you know what everyone will think of me? What this will mean to my future? No one will want to marry me if I’m pregnant. I’ll have no security, no husband, no means of taking care of myself…” And probably would have gone on and on until the angel hushed me up like the Lord did to Zechariah!

But one thing I’m certain of is that my God is bigger than my mood swings. Despite any doubts Mary had, any fear or anxiety, I know God gave her peace and strength to get through it all. She carried a miracle in her womb, and would go down in history as a chosen woman of God. To be such an essential part to a life altering, world-changing event such as Christ’s birth was surely worth the midnight food cravings and the swollen ankles. Something tells me that Joseph, good man that he was to stick with her throughout those scandalous nine months, probably rubbed Mary’s feet for her!

I’m only getting started in my pregnancy. Still in the first trimester, with lots to look forward to and also worry about it, if I let it consume me. I’ll possibly worry a little anyway, but just like Mary, I know God is in charge of things here! He’s got it all under control. Just like Mary probably sobbed with relief when she heard those piercing first cries in the stable that star-studded night, I’ll cry for joy when I receive the first glimpse of my own little miracle.

This year, my nativity scene is right where it belongs on my entertainment center. But I can’t quite look at the figurines the same. I can’t see Mary and baby Jesus the way I did last year. My heart has been opened, and I think that’s the best Christmas present I could have ever unwrapped.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

What Lies Within - by Karen Ball

Nothing’s going to stop Kyla…

until the ground crumbles beneath her feet.

Kyla Justice has arrived. Her company, Justice Construction, is one of the most critically acclaimed, commercially successful companies in the Pacific Northwest. And yet, something is missing. Not until she’s called on to build a center for inner-city kids does she realize what it is: her sense of purpose. Now nothing can stop her, not the low budget, not supply problems, not gang opposition, not her boyfriend’s suggestion that she sell her business and marry him–and most especially not that disagreeable Rafael Murphy.

Rafe Murphy understands battle. Wounded in action, this Force Recon Marine carries the scars–and the nightmares–to prove it. Though he can’t fight overseas any longer, he’s found his place as a warrior in the civilian world. So he soldiers on, trusting that one of these days, God will reveal to him why Rafe survived the ambush in Iraq. That day has arrived.

Kyla and Rafe both discover that determination alone won’t carry them through danger and challenges. When gang violence threatens their very foundations, there’s only one way to survive: rely on each other, be real–and surrender to God. In other words, risk everything…

Author Bio:

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."

My review:

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.

Purchase your own copy of this amazing story here!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Taped, wrapped and ready to rip!

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!)

Friday, December 07, 2007

Bluegrass Peril - by Virginia Smith


Local police had tagged single mom Becky Dennison as their prime suspect. But she'd only been in the wrong place at the wrong time...admittedly, with her boss's lifeless body. Sure it looked bad, but Becky had no motive for killing...even if she had opportunity.When the director of the retirement farm for thoroughbred champions is murdered, Becky Dennison teams up with the handsome manager of a neighboring horse farm, Scott Lewis, to find her boss's killer. Soon the amateur detective are hot on the trail of the murderer...even as their feelings for each other deepen.The amateur sleuths uncover a trail of clues that lead them into the intricate society of Kentucky's elite thoroughbred breeding industry. They soon find themselves surrounded by the mint julep set - jealous southern belles and intensely competitive horse breeders - in a high-stakes game of danger, money, and that famous southern pride.And for Becky and Scott, this race on the Kentucky tracks has the greatest stakes of all: life or death!

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.”

Learn more about Virginia and her books here!
To buy this exciting story, click here!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Christmas Quiz! =)

Just a little contagious holiday fun...

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? WRAPPING PAPER!! I love shiny paper and big bows. Unless its a Snoopy bag, then its okay =)

2. REAL OR FAKE TREE? We use a fake tree - no bugs, or mess, or allergies. Though a real one would be a nice change one year. We'll see!

3. When do you put up the tree? Weekend after Thanksgiving.

4. When do you take the tree down? New Years weekend, usually.

5. Do you like eggnog? Nope

6. Favorite gift received as a child? Oh, wow. How to narrow it down? Maybe the big Barbie house my dad made me and my sister one year. Or my pink bike with the streamers on the handlebars.

7. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes, its actually Peanuts (Snoopy and the gang gathered around a baby Jesus! So cute!)

8. Hardest person to buy for? My grandfather - he has everything!

9. Easiest person to buy for? My mom or sister

10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I can't really think of one. Maybe a sweater I never wore?

11. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail! Old school is the best for this =)

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? The newer version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and of course, Its Christmas Charlie Brown!

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Around Thanksgiving, most years.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Yes! lol Sad to admit.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Dressing. I love my mom's dressing! And every Christmas morning she makes sausuage balls and cheese biscuits. Delicious!!

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? I like both! Ours is a pre-lit tree with white lights, and its nice because then the ornaments stand out more.

17. Favorite Christmas song? O Holy Night! Its the best. So powerful and moving...

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? We are in town but usually are driving from my parents house to my grandparents house to my in-law's house....whew. Next year that'll be interesting with a baby!!

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Of course!

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? I like angels, but we have a red star. It was all I could find at the time at Target. Its pretty though!

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas Eve we do gifts at my grandma's house, but Christmas morning is reserved for gifts with my immediate family and my hubby and his family.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Traffic!!! Everyone trying to get to the same store I am trying to get to! =P

23. What do you love most about Christmas? The warm feeling you have inside! Sounds cheesy, but it's just true! There is a certain magical quality in the air, as if the presence of God on earth is just a little stronger right now, and is evident through people's tendency to be more compassionate and caring this time of year.


Hope you have a wonderful Christmas Season!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Love Me if You Must - by Nicole Young

Book Description:

Professional renovator Tish Amble finds evidence of foul play in a Victorian house. With a police officer next door Tish has her hands full. Will she discover the truth before its too late?

From the Back Cover:

A run-down Victorian to renovate, a past to leave behindwho has time for romanceor murder? Patricia Amble, Tish to her friends, has gotten her life together. She's renovating an old, rambling Victorian house in a small town outside of Detroit, and the fixer-upper should net her a big profit when she resells. Romance is right next door, with two attractive neighbors vying for her affection. But even their persistent attentions cant dispel the sense of unease Tish feels. Voices whisper out of nowhere . . . and something odd is going on in the basement. Soon, Tish begins to question her decision to buy the old house. When a dead body turns up her own dark secrets make her a prime suspect in the current chaos. And is either of her attractive neighbors really who he says he is? What is going on just under the surface of this sleepy small town?

Find out in this engaging debut of the Patricia Amble Mystery series!

Author Bio:

Nicole Young has a degree in communications and has earned several awards for speechwriting and presentation. In 2004 she won the Noble Award for the Best First Chapter from the American Christian Romance Writers. Nicole lives with her family in Michigan. This is her first novel.

My review as posted on Amazon:

What a fantastic surprise! I picked up this novel by the recommendation of a friend at a writer's conference last September, not knowing a thing about the story, the plot, or the author,! Was I in for a treat! This chilly, creepy, crawly story will leave you wrought with equal measures of giggles and shivers. I thoroughly enjoyed this first person suspense novel of Tish Amble, who specializes in fixing up Victorian homes, discovering quite the shock in the basement of her new work-in-progress. Tish sets out on a reluctant journey of mystery, ghosts, and (even worse!) gasp - love!!