Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Raindrops on roses...

I think God just taught me a lesson.

Last week, we met with the contractor on our house. He said in a perfect world (meaning good weather) our house would be move-in ready within 2 or 2 1/2 weeks. That included them moving the manufactured home onto our acreage, securing it to the concrete slab, setting up the sewer, digging the well, pouring the driveway, and performing any inside cosmetic touch ups. 2 or 2 1/2 weeks.

Did I mention I'm 8 months pregnant? And that my husband and I have been living with my sister and her husband for the last 3+ months while waiting for our land and house to be ready? Needless to say, as soon as he said "weather permitting" I decided it would permit, all right. I was going to become a modern day Elijah. He prayed fervently and there was no rain in the land, for YEARS. Well I just needed 2 weeks. I so had that!!

Today is Tuesday, the day our house was going to be moved to our land.

There are thunderstorm warnings for the entire ArkLaTex. I looked out the window earlier and there was a horizon of black - literally, BLACK - clouds. Gulp. Apparently, my middle name is still Ann and not Elijah.

Then the phone rang. An update - not only had our house been delivered safe and sound, but the people in charge of digging the well wanted my husband to meet them out there ASAP this afternoon to stake off where the well will be. They're drilling it tomorrow - turns out they were drilling a well for a house down the street today and wanted to do ours next so they could move on and be done in our area. Haha - what a switch - THEM telling US to hurry!!!! God's sense of humor is the best. =)

I felt His whisper moments later, telling me one thing, and clearly. "See what I can do through the rain?"

I was more than a little humbled. Here I thought my faith was great - I was going to pray and it wasn't going to rain! Elijah did it, why not me? But God took my misplaced ambition and brought it gracefully to its knees.

Who is in a rainstorm today, literally or figuratively? Who needs something they thought couldn't be provided in the midst of the storm? It's time to reverse our thinking - our instincts are to dodge the rain, just skip it completely- but then we'd miss out on what we gain through the torrent of drops.

I prayed for a specific miracle and ended up getting something better- proof that God is still bigger than the clouds bunching on the horizon. I wouldn't trade that fresh realization for anything - not even a drought =)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Sweet Caroline, by Rachel Hauck

Caroline Sweeney has always done the right thing--the responsible, dependable thing--unlike her mother who abandoned her family. But when her best friend challenges her to accept an exciting job adventure in Barcelona , Spain , Caroline says "yes" to destiny. Then, without warning, ownership of the run-down cafe where she's been waitressing falls right into Caroline's lap. While she's trying to determine the cafe's future, handsome Deputy Sherriff J.D. Rand captures Caroline's heart. But when her first love, Mitch O'Neal, comes back to town, fresh from the heat of his newly-found fame as a country music singer in Nashville , Caroline must make some hard choices about love and the pursuit of the sweet life.

Contest: The Sweet Life contest! Enter to win a Scrumptious Baking Basket from Rachel. The basket contains a Super Cool Apron, a Low country cook book signed by PAT CONROY, rolling pin, and a pie plate! All you have to do to enter is sign up for Rachel's newsletter here: http://rachelhauck.com/newsletter.htm

And BONUS... here's a recipe for Bubba's Buttery Biscuits!

3 cups self-rising flour 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled, plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted for brushing the tops 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Place the flour and chilled butter in a medium mixing bowl. Work the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter, a fork, or your fingertips until the butter pieces are a little larger than an English pea, but not larger than a lima bean. If you are using your fingers, work quickly so that the heat of your hands won't melt the butter.

Pour in all of the buttermilk and, using light pressure, fold the mixture a few times with a plastic spatula until it holds together. Do not over mix. In order to make light biscuits, it is important to work the dough as little as possible.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead it quickly and gently 6 to 10 times or until it begins to be almost homogenized. There will be large pieces of butter throughout. Sprinkle a little flour under the dough so that it won't stick to the board and lightly dust the top of the dough so that it won't stick to the board and lightly dust the top of the dough so that it won't stick to the rolling pin. Roll the dough out to about 1/2-inch thickness.

Cut the dough into 2-inch rounds, place on an ungreased baking sheet, and bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes. I like the biscuits to be crispy and brown on the top and bottom, but not dry in the middle. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and brush the tops of the biscuits with the melted butter. Serve right away. (recipe from Louis Osteen)

My take on the novel:

This was a fantastic novel! I laughed, squealed, gasped, cried, and yelled right along with Caroline as I read her moving, heartfelt story. Talk about relatable characters! Anyone who has ever felt the need to please others at their own expense will find themselves shaking their fist full of Kleenex right alongside Caroline.

I truly couldn't get enough of the town, the diner, the people...it was all so real. My only advice when you read this story is to read it slowly - you'll be so disappointed when it's over! But never fear, a sequel is near - "Love Starts With Elle" =)

About Rachel:

I'm a forty-something, a child of the '60's, '70's, '80's, '90's and '00's.
I roller skated through the '70's into the '80's with Farrah Fawcet hair and a three-speed orange Camero.
Born in Ohio , I lived several years in Oklahoma and Kentucky before my parents moved the family to Florida .

I graduated from Ohio State University (Go Buckeyes!) with a degree in Journalism. As a member of Phi Mu sorority, I partied my way though the last few years of college.
But, the truth is, and always will be, I belong to Jesus. At the age of six, I knelt at the altar of a Tulsa Methodist church and gave my life to the One who loves me.
After graduation, hired on at Harris Publishing as a software trainer, determined to see the world. And I did it without a laptop, a cell phone, an IPod or portable DVD player. Those were hard times.

But, I traveled to Ireland , Spain , Venezuela , Mexico , Australia , Canada and the U.S. from California to Maine . But, life on the road is difficult. Working twelve to fourteen hour days, one doesn't get to see many of the sites. In Ireland , our company's distributor drove me around at night so I could see something of Dublin .
I met Tony, my husband, in '87, at church, of all places. We got married in '92. Tony has been a pastor for twenty years. I've worked with him in eighteen of those twenty. Our heart is to see teens and adults passionate, radical and whole hearted for Jesus.
Tony and I don't have any children of our own, lots of kids-in-the-Lord and we love them all. However, we do have a very spoiled dog, and an even more spoiled cat.

I've always wanted to be a writer. My dad used to tell me, "You're a writer." I have letters he wrote me post college, exhorting me to write. In this, I believe he had the heart of God.
In '93, I started an epic WW2 novel with two plots. It was well rejected. After that ordeal, I took a break and put efforts into my job as a software project manager. But, I missed writing and in late ' 99, I took up the craft again.

With a little help from my friends, my first book was published in ' 04, Lambert's Pride, a romance novel. I love writing chick lit and romance. I love writing. What an honor.

~ Want more info on Rachel and her books? Click on the links below! ~

Rachel's website: http://www.rachelhauck.com/
Buy the book here:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1595543376?&camp=212361&creative=383841&linkCode=wss&tag=sprightly-20
Rachel's My Book Therapy (a writing craft blog for writers): http://www.mybooktherapy.com/

And guess what ELSE? (like all this wasn't enough??) I'm giving away a FREE COPY of Sweet Caroline right here on my blog, no strings attached. Just leave a comment stating you'd like to enter and voila- you're entered. (Hey, sometimes life just needs to be easy, you know?) So sign up today, what are you waiting for? I'll do the drawing the first day of June!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Fight or Flight? Weighing Your Instincts Against God's Word

Everyone has decisions to make.

Most people make dozens of decisions daily, whether they realize it or not. These decisions range from the not-so-important to the more significant.

Think about how many little decisions you make in a day. What route to take to work, what to cook for dinner, whether to drink a bottle of water or a Diet Coke, whether or not you’re going to hold your tongue when you get cut-off in traffic…They add up over time, and the really intimidating aspect of those decisions is that that they reveal our character. What we decide to do, how we decide to act, what we decide to say all make up who we are.

When faced with a difficult choice, you’ve probably heard this advice: “Oh, just go with your instincts” or “Your instincts are never wrong.” Sound familiar? Well, I beg to differ!

There are times in our lives when our instincts, however pure our intentions may be, are dead wrong. For example, I’m nearing the end of my first pregnancy, and boy, has gaining weight been hard! Not physically – I’ve haven’t had any trouble packing on the pounds, as my doctor requested. But mentally, well, that’s been an entirely different story. When I gain weight, all my mental and emotional instincts tell me to diet, to work out more, to push myself harder, to lose inches…all of which are obviously bad choices for a pregnant woman! Since I’m used to being in shape and being active in my gym, this weight thing has been a real struggle for me. If I were to listen to those instincts, I’d be placing myself and my baby in danger.

Then there are times our instincts tell us to flee when we shouldn’t. We feel the battle we’re engaged in is too exhausting, that we don’t have enough energy or aren’t fully equipped to fight. We think we’re too tired, too old, too young, too sick, too weak. We believe the problem is bigger than our resources.

But when we look at Scripture we see many situations where God told people to fight that instinct to flee and to ignore that sense of inadequacy. The book of Ephesians tells us to “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

We often see God at His biggest when we’re feeling at our smallest. What victories we would miss if we hid under the covers instead of believing and trusting in His word—our impenetrable armor.

And just as there are times when our instincts tell us to flee and the Bible instructs us to fight, there are also times when the Bible tells us to flee and our instincts tell us to fight.
Temptation towards sexual immorality makes a great example. Sometimes we think we’re strong enough to click on that website or “just look” at that guy or girl without falling. We think we’re not going to slip into the sins of adultery, pornography, or premarital sex. We think we’re tough enough on our own to stand our ground, so we women think nothing of “innocent” workplace flirtation. In the same regard, men think nothing of “innocent” compliments made to the waitress in a low-cut top or to the pretty woman passing him on the street.

Let me tell you -- it’s a trap! A lie from hell. Sexual immorality is one war the Bible tells us to run away from. 1 Corinthians 6:18. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.

It doesn’t get much clearer than that. Next time you hear your instincts whispering “Yes I can,” check what the Bible says. God’s Word might just tell you “No, you can’t”!

God gave Christians the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide us. If we shove aside the wiles of the flesh, we can hear His gentle voice coaxing us in the right direction. The Holy Spirit will never lead us in the wrong direction.

Sounds simple enough, right? But therein lies a dilemma. How can we tell if it is the Holy Spirit’s prompting or our own instincts that are so often wrong? How do we know who is doing the whispering? Next time you’re faced with such a problem, ask yourself these questions.

1. What does the Bible say about my situation?

2. Does the prompting I feel line up with God’s word?

Remember, the Holy Spirit does not lead toward temptation. He will never guide you toward more sin. Wipe the dust off that Bible on your shelf and learn the Word—it’s the only way to shield yourself and to make the best decisions. Shine that armor.

What battle are you fighting today that the Lord has called you to put down? Are you drowning in an area of sin that you’ve convinced yourself you can pull out of on your own? Are you resisting His help and standing your ground when you’ve been instructed to flee? Turn and run, dear brother or sister. It’s the only way to freedom. Run from that trap and into the safe arms of our Savior. He’ll fight that battle for you.

Or - what battle are you avoiding today that the Lord has called you to fight? Are you procrastinating in obedience? Has God asked you to start a Bible study, volunteer in the church nursery, reach out to someone at work, or witness to the homeless man on the corner -- and you’ve put it off? Maybe you’ve convinced yourself someone else will do it, or that you’ll do it next year when your life isn’t so hectic. Maybe you’re avoiding His call and trying to tell God He’s asked the wrong man. Regardless of the excuse, stop immediately and pick up that sword of the Spirit. Wield that shield of faith. March to the beat of His words.

It’s a battle worth fighting.

By: Betsy Ann St. Amant
Article first appeared on Crosswalk.com

Dear Blog Reader -

This article of mine posted on Crosswalk.com yesterday, and I felt the need to post it today here on my blog as well. I hope it encouraged you!

I needed to read it again for myself. I definitely feel like I'm fighting a losing battle today. Do you ever get so exhausted, so bogged down with the details and stress of life that everything seems completely pointless? Talk about a "dive back under the covers" day! The shine of Heaven never looked brighter than during those overwhelmed hours! I know you've been there, I know you've prayed "Okay, Lord, I'm ready - just come on back!"

But until then, life goes on. Bills pile up. Deadlines hover. Storm clouds gather. Emotions run rampant. People annoy you. Stress sinks its prickly claws into your neck. Sometimes we feel too weak to even lift the sword! But Jesus is still there, holding up our arms to fight. He won't leave us alone... Man, I don't see how people without Christ in their lives function! I truly don't understand how it is possible.

If you're disheartened today, or overwhelmed, or a tad bit more hormonal/stressed than usual like I am, well, you're not alone! We're all in this together, as the cheesy song on the recent Kohl's commericals states =)

So feel free to vent here in the comment section, or offer scriptures of encouragement to other readers. (or to me! LOL) Blog families are the best, are they not???

Thanks family!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A well deserved shout-out...

Guess what?

My good friend and critique partner Georgiana Daniels just signed with a literary agent! She is now a new, very excited client of Janet Benrey, of the Benrey Literary Agency!

Three cheers for Georgiana! Hip hip!!
This chica is on her way! (and its so well-deserved and hard-earned!)
Congrats, my friend.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

And Then There Were 3.....

I had the craziest moment yesterday! I was at the City Health Department getting a permit that allows us to install a septic system on our land (PS - if anyone reading this feels the need to send up a prayer that our house is ready this week, feel free! ha.) and there were several questions I had to answer.

"Which lot will the house go on?"

"How many bedrooms are in the house?


"What is the name of the company installing the septic system?"

"How many people will be living in the house?"

At that one, I kinda paused, and said "Me, and my husband. And her, eventually" and point to my stomach. Without a blink, the woman scribbles down the number 3 on the sheet.

I just stared at it.


No matter how you write it, that number is one more than two. Our two-person family is going to change to three, in a matter of mere weeks! Obviously I know I'm pregnant, and that number-changing fact was inevitable, but this was a real sinking-in moment for me. I just smiled and stared at the 3 as the woman helping me kept scratching down information, probably wondering why in the world I was watching her paper so intently.

And then there were three. It has a nice ring to it, don't you think? =)

(just please remind me of that when I'm online at 2 in the morning, unable to sleep from #3's crying! hehee)

Monday, May 12, 2008

New cover art!

I just found out my two short story e-books, available through The Wild Rose Press, were updated with new cover art! I am very pleased with the results! Check it out!

Here's the new cover for The SS Grace...

And If Wishes Were Dog Biscuits!

You purchase either story by clicking on the cover. It'll take you to the publisher's site where you download either (or both!) e-books for only $3.00 - then the PDF file is yours!

Enjoy =)

Happy Mother's Day to All!

Happy Mother's Day to all you sweet mamas out there!

I've always loved this holiday - and Father's Day - because it's a chance to show our parents how much they mean to us. I realize not everyone is fortunate enough to have a loving family, and that makes me appreciate mine all the more!

I had a great time shopping for my mom and buying her a few little things that don't even come close to showing how much I love her - its time like these I REALLY wish I was a millionaire, because then I could send her on a cruise or buy her a lifetime supply of Diet Coke or something she truly deserves - yet in spite of all that, she always manages to read between the lower-figure price tag and the red sales sticker and sees the intentions of my heart! A mother's discernment, I suppose =)

Now, this year, the holiday takes on an extra meaning as I'm about to become a mama myself. At church yesterday I asked our pastor's wife if I should stand when they honored the mothers in the church - some people tend to be picky about whether or not a woman is a real mother until her child is actually in her arms - but she told me "Of course! You're a mom" and I said "Well good 'cuz I sure feel like one!" I'm already worried about my baby, praying for my baby, taking care of my baby, carrying my baby...literally. LOL. I'm glad they felt the same! =)

Then to top it all off, Hubby got me a Snoopy card (my favorite) and signed it with his name and our daughter's chosen name (which made me tear up!), and then went all out with a spa package gift card!!! Yes, I get to be pampered next month with another pregnant friend of mine, and I can NOT wait!

This mama thing is already lookin' pretty good =)

So how about you? Any sweet stories from your hubbies/kiddos? Share with us!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Roses are Red, Violets are...five years old?

I got a love letter the other day - written five years ago!

Not kidding!

My mother in law called last week to tell my husband Brandon that he had mail that had been delivered to her house. We figured it was junk mail, since he hasn't lived at that address for about five years. We get there to say hi and pick it up, and you'll never guess what it was... a handwritten envelope in Brandon's own handwriting!

We all heard the twilight zone music (dee dee dee dee) until he opened it and realized it was the letter he had written to himself his senior year of high school. His english teacher at the time had instructed the entire class to pen a letter to themselves asking certain questions and telling of what they hoped to have accomplished in those five years after high school. She waited five years and then mailed them out as promised! Amazing.

Included with Brandon's letter to himself was a second handwritten letter to me (his girlfriend at the time) that made me tear up, it was so sweet. He was anxiously reading it over my shoulder, having forgotten what he'd written at the time (and was probably more than a little nervous! haha)

But my big hug afterward eased his anxiety. It was the sweetest letter in the world! He asked if we were married yet, or if we had kids yet (what neat timing - we have one on the way now!) and told me how much he loved me then and always. It was quite mushy, but in a good way. He even drew linked hearts at the bottom of the page and labeled each one "Mine" and "Yours".

You guys, this is huge. My husband has his romantic moments, yes, but mostly he's the hunting, fishing, outdoorsy, camo-wearing, knife-wielding, gun-shooting, burger-grilling, daredevil, big-truck-loving kind of masculine manly-man.

Forget brownie points! He just scored a whole bakery's worth =)

This letter is one I'll always keep and treasure, and hope to show our baby girl one day when she's old enough to understand.

Okay, everyone! Let's hear it for Brandon. On the count of 3.


AWWWWW!!!! =)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Do you like cowboys? =)

If so, you're in luck!

I'm giving away a FREE copy of Susan May Warren's long-awaited Taming Rafe on my author website! (now a RITA finalist!!)

Simply sign the guestbook between the dates of May 7th - May 28th to enter! Further instructions are on my site.

Here's the back cover blurb for the book:

Two-time world champion bull rider Rafe Noble had no idea how quickly his world could end.In less than eight seconds, he lost his title, his career, and his best friendall on the dirt floor of a noisy rodeo arena.Katherine Breckenridge just wants to make a difference by running her mothers charity foundation.

But the mysterious disappearance of half a million dollars has forced it to the brink of bankruptcy. Her last chance to save it is the annual fund-raiser, an event thats destroyed by an out-of-control Rafe Noble.

Desperate to rescue the foundation, Katherine heads to the Noble family ranch to enlist Rafes help in raising the money he cost her in lost donations. What she doesnt know is that Rafe is brokein cash and in spirit and that helping her could end up costing him his life.

Go to http://www.betsystamant.com and click on the "Contests & Giveaways" link (after reviewing the rest of my site, of course! ::wink::)

Trust me, you DO NOT want to miss this novel. Susie is a dear friend and an amazing author. This one is a keeper! (and the only reason I'm giving one away is because I have an extra! haha)

Go sign up!!! NOW! Go!! =)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Bride Wore Coveralls, by Debra Ullrick

Back Cover Copy:

Fighting deep prejudice against her femininity, her choice of vehicle, and even her heritage, Camara Cole is determined to win the mud-bog racing championship this year. Her biggest competition seems also to be her worst enemy. Chase Lamar has been racing mud-boggers as long as Camara, and he grudgingly admits she's the best driver-mechanic he knows. Their rivalry has been long and bitter.

But Chase is a new Christian. As he begins to change, he finds his relationship with Camara changing, too. When Camara's vehicle is sabatoged, she naturally blames Chase, despite a growing attraction. Chase must prove his innocence, but evidence points his way. When the smoke clears and the truth is known, will each be able to extend forgiveness, maybe even love?

My Review:

The cute cover of this novel is only just the beginning! Deb Ullrick has spun a heartwarming tale of friendship and revenge, forgiveness and acceptance, all mixed in with a little sassy spice from the tomboy heroine and the man determined to win her heart.

I think my favorite part of this novel wasn't just the chemistry between the characters, but the highly unique setting. Who wouldn't want to learn about mudbogging in the south? And come on, what better place to set a romance than in a mud pit surrounded by trucks? ::wink::

This book has true southern charm and sweeps the reader away to a place they've likely never visited - but will want to return to again and again.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

And Baby Makes Three...

Yesterday was little Audrey's first baby shower! So many people love her already and she's yet to make her debut. But only about 11 more weeks (I'm counting, trust me!! lol)

Below are some pics of all the loot Audrey brought in. It was so touching to see how generous our family and friends were. It also gives me confidence, in that maybe all this overwhelming stuff will actually work out after all! One piece at a time, one diaper at a time, one bottle at a time - one day at a time. I can't wait! =)

And yes, I'm now officially jealous of my daughter as she already has more shoes than I do... =)

Look at all the gifts!

My sweet hostesses!

Audrey's great-grandmas!!!

Her baby book!

Her bath tub!

Yay for the car seat! Thanks Mammaw & Pappaw

Monogrammed bunny!

A diaper cake! With a zillion things on the outside - 52 diapers inside! Amazing.

Her bouncer!!

Me & Laura!

Me & Katie!

My grandma sewed Audrey some bibs and burp cloths - this one had Snoopy on it. Yay!

Her umbrella stroller - Jeep brand. haha! Now we can go off-road =)

Me, mom & sissy!

"My Daddy is a fireman" onesi =)

My friend painted this herself - to match the nursery! And painted a matching piggy bank! hehe

And this isn't even all the clothes I opened....

Another handpainted sign for the nursery - my friends are the best!

What a haul!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Pretty neat stuff...

My full length novel, Midnight Angel, published by The Wild Rose Press, is NOW available for download on Amazon's Kindle!

These are really neat machines and if you have one, downloading a story is very simple.

HERE is the Kindle link for my book!

It's a separate listing from the print version, so I have zero reviews as of now. If you've read Midnight Angel and would like to write an Amazon review for me, I'd sure appreciate it! =)

Thanks for celebrating with me! In honor of this new Kindle release, I'm giving away a free copy of the PDF version of the story for you to read as an e-book. Simply leave a comment to this post to sign up!