Why I love Friday the Thirteenth

Happy Friday the Thirteenth!

When did Friday the thirteenth become an “unlucky” day? According to WikiPedia, it didn’t become a widespread superstition until the 19th century, although some trace it back to the Middle Ages, when someone linked it to Jesus’ Last Supper, in which there were 13 attendees on Maundy Thursday before Good Friday.

lastsupper The fear of Friday the thirteenth is called paraskevidekatriaphobia, from the Greek words Paraskeví (meaning “Friday”), and dekatreís (meaning “thirteen”).

I never really thought about being fearful of a particular day or number – I mean, God made each day, and He tells us to “Fear not” more than anything in the Bible!

ellen-gina1995-001There came a day, though, that I learned to love Friday the 13th. It was 1994, and I was expecting my second child, Ellen. They calculated the due date, and guess what? The estimated date of birth was to be Friday, January 13, 1995. We laughed about it the whole time.

But guess what? She was right on time. On Friday, January 13, 1995–exactly 22 years ago, today–Ellen Priscilla Merrick was born.

ellen2-001On that blessed date God blessed us with a healthy, beautiful, compact bundle of energy with a head-full of dark hair and the ability to sleep anywhere but her car seat. Really.

dreamy-ellen

Ellen will be graduating from college this May, with a degree in vocal performance. She’s all grown up, but still my little girl in whom I am exceedingly proud.

2016-11-11-21-09-23-hdrHappy Birthday to my Friday the thirteenth blessing!

3 John 1:4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

New Gratitude

I am honored today to share some inspiration from a fellow Splicketeer, Lindsey Brackett. Lindsey is experiencing a family crisis, and through her faith is reaching out to tell her story of struggle and blessing. Welcome, Lindsey, and thank you for sharing your story with us. I pray it touches the heart of someone who needs to hear your message. 

For a writer, there is almost nothing more frightening than the realization that you cannot find the words.

Last fall, my family began a spiraling journey toward a neurological diagnosis for my five-year-old daughter. After a half-dozen MRI scans, two hospitals, and a bottle of anxiety meds (for me), the doctors came to the conclusion that she is experiencing Clinically Isolated Syndrome. In adults, this is usually the initial onset of multiple sclerosis, however, for a child of her age, the final outcome remains unsure.

FearSo now I live daily with fear in the back of my mind. The what ifs? cripple and constrain my life when I give into their control. Through the whole process, I longed to write, to share my fear, but the Lord held me back. He loosened my words instead through the power of a personal journal, and He reminded me that my inmost needs should come before His throne before they grace a blog. And when I couldn’t even form the syllables of what I desired, when I could only lash out in fear and anger, He stilled my heart with remembrances.

And my mind filled not with the words I so depend upon, but with the images of those who loved us through this ordeal. Of those who carry us still.

I began to count our blessings in hot meals delivered to my stove, in the chai tea lattes I purchased with Starbucks gift cards, in the free lunches we consumed on our way to appointments, courtesy of more gift cards. Our blessings were tanks of gas paid for by someone else, nurses who remembered my daughter’s name each month, the monogrammed t-shirt my sister made me in the early morning before another MRI.

These were the words God wanted me to share. Because what carried us through that dark time was not only the words spoken over us in prayer, but the actions that spoke over us in song, lulling my soul back into the remembrance that God works all things for the good of those who love Him.

For more information about CIS, Clinically Isolated Syndrome, click here.

Award-winning writer, Lindsey P. Brackett once taught middle grades literature, but now she writes her own great works in the midst of motherhood. A blogger since 2010, she has published articles and short stories in a variety of publications including Southern Writers Magazine Best Short Fiction 2015.  Lindsey serves as Editor of Web Content for the Splickety Publishing Group, and she writes a popular bimonthly column for The Northeast Georgian.

As a mother of four young children, her home is always full of wet towels, lost library books, and strong coffee. Her love of family ties and southern places prompted her first novel, Still Waters, for which she is currently seeking publication. Connect with her at http://www.lindseypbrackett.com.

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS

Today is Thanksgiving Day. While you may or may not be celebrating today, the weekend is a time to stop and consider for what we are thankful.

GiveThanksWriting is a blessing, and I am thankful that I am able to put pen to paper.

I’m around the written word all day, every day. As a public library director, I have no shortage of great literature to read.

So, since there is so much to read, what could I get out of writing? For what am I thankful?

I thought of a few things:

1. I’m thankful for the satisfaction of knowing that I, too, can write a full-length novel. It may never be published, but it’s there, and it pleased ME. I wrote the kind of book that I like to read. Isn’t that what we should ALL strive to do, as writers?

2. I’m thankful for a blog family, and a place to write regularly. Sometimes my blog posts are seat-of-the-pants write-it-this-morning posts that hit all the points needed, but don’t have a lot of depth. Sometimes there is actual thought put into it (This one, I hope!). Sometimes it’s a place where I can share a meaningful memory or experience. Ah, those are the ones I love the most. When I can talk about what God is doing in my life, or about a beloved family member, a wonderful experience from my past – that’s the stuff dreams are made of, for a writer – or at least, for this writer.

3. I’m thankful for my writer-friends. Writing has given me friends I would have never known, otherwise. When I started writing fanfiction and posting it online, I found some kindred spirits, none of them published. I found one of my best friends. I found a community. Some of those friends have since been published (cough,cough – Lorna Seilstad, Marlene (J.S.Marlo), and they’ve dragged all of us along for the thrilling ride!

4. I’m thankful for those writing connections that help me in my job as a librarian. Writing has given me insight into the writers that I love to read, and has enhanced my knowledge of the publishing world. I’ve actually MET these people. I know some of the things they go through. I know what their novels are based on, and I can pass on that knowledge to others that might want to read more of this or that author’s work.

But the thing I’m most thankful for, writing-wise?

5. God’s grace and forgiveness.

PIEYes, I would love to be published. Yes, I would like to see my name on a book cover. But that’s not why I was given even the smidgen of ability to write that I was given. I was given it to glorify HIM, not me. Maybe that’s why I haven’t written beyond this blog in a very long time. Because I have to know that the only reason to write is to write for HIM.

Maybe I need to change WHAT I write?

I thought, just the other day, that some of my favorite blog posts have been family stories – stories that have been passed down from both sides of my family. Maybe I should write about another time, and what happens with real families who are just trying to live each day, loving one another, and loving their Lord.

Sometimes (especially if I’ve been watching Doctor Who!), I think of storylines that are pure fantasy. What would happen if . . . ?

Then there are mysteries, crime drama . . . all the things I enjoy on television . . .

One thing is for sure, though. I will write when God tells me what He wants me to write. In this particular instance, this post, I’m writing for YOU . . . but really?

It’s for HIM.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving BorderCROP

We’re giving away a copy of Rose Ross Zediker’s current release, Wedding on the Rocks, to one lucky winner. The deadline runs until November 30, 2013. All you need to do is leave a comment.

Wedding On the Rocks Cover 1JENNIFER EDWARDS IS BACK HOME AGAIN…

When she traded small-town life for the bright lights of Chicago, Jennifer Edwards yearned to discover a world beyond Faith, South Dakota. So when her father’s illness calls her home to run their cattle ranch, she tells herself it’s temporary. Then why is she even thinking about a future with archaeology professor Brett Lange-the boy she left behind-whose life’s work is digging up the past?

Twelve years ago, Brett had a crush on Jennifer the size of the T-rex that put his hometown on the map. Now she’s a citified magazine editor who prefers designer duds to dungarees. Except that’s not the real Jennifer. Brett needs to make her see how a little faith can go a long way in uniting two perfectly-in-sync hearts.

Blessings Along the Journey

Roller Coaster-Dusso JanladdeMy writing journey has been a cross between screaming down a zip line, hanging on through the ups and downs of a roller coaster, and floating on a lazy river. There have been mountain top experiences followed by long walks through the desert. But I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. I’m thankful for every experience. One of the reasons is the people God has put in my path.

Friends – As Rose mentioned in her post yesterday, I too have connected with writers across the world. What an unexpected blessing! One of my critique partners is from Australia so we spend time learning about each other’s world through the writing process. I got to meet her briefly this September when the train she was taking cross country to the ACFW Conference in Indianapolis made a short stop in St. Paul. Traveling with her was our 3rd partner, from Washington state. Such a blessing to gather together on the station platform.

Camping4 2013

Family – While my immediate family has always known I love to write, it was truly a blessing to experience their love and support when I began the journey to publication in earnest. My husband and kids have walked beside me every step, cheering along the way. My younger brother has also stepped into the world of fiction writing; it’s been a blast to share dreams, experiences and writing.

Critique Partners – Writers who are serious about their craft know, without a doubt, they can’t do it alone. What a blessing to gather with others in a place of safety, encouragement, honesty and love, whether in person or across the miles.

I don’t know where the saying comes from but I love it – God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called. One of the ways He does that is through those He puts in our path. I’m thankful for each and every one of them.

Who has encouraged you on your journey?

(roller coaster photo by Dusso Janladde)

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We’re giving away a copy of Rose Ross Zediker’s current release, Wedding on the Rocks to one lucky winner. The contest runs until November 30th. All you need to do it leave a comment!

JENNIFER EDWARDS IS BACK HOME AGAIN…Wedding On the Rocks Cover 1

When she traded small-town life for the bright lights of Chicago, Jennifer Edwards yearned to discover a world beyond Faith, South Dakota. So when her father’s illness calls her home to run their cattle ranch, she tells herself it’s temporary. Then why is she even thinking about a future with archaeology professor Brett Lange-the boy she left behind-whose life’s work is digging up the past?

Twelve years ago, Brett had a crush on Jennifer the size of the T-rex that put his hometown on the map. Now she’s a citified magazine editor who prefers designer duds to dungarees. Except that’s not the real Jennifer. Brett needs to make her see how a little faith can go a long way in uniting two perfectly-in-sync hearts.

Jammie Time

Several years ago, when I was still trying to get published, I saw a movie trailer about a writer. He worked in his bathrobe, slept onJohnny Depp in Secret Window47 his couch, never got dressed, and let his housekeeper take care of everything. All he did was write. I thought it was awesome. As the movie trailer continued, he had problems. Lots of problems. But the bathrobe and uncombed hair in pursuit of his passion–I got that.

Since I got published,  I do get dressed and function in the outside world. And I do take care of lots of other things besides writing. But because writing is my job–I get away with a lot of fun stuff.

1. Working in my jammies. First I was a hairdresser, then I worked at a bank, then in corporate offices. I had to show up looking presentable. But with writing, I wash my face, brush my teeth, and go to my computer. But don’t come to my house before 2:00. I won’t answer the door until I’m presentable.

2. Working my job around my family. During the school year, I write during the day. In the summer, I write after everyone’s in bed. When they’re around and awake, I focus on them.

3. Flexible hours. On most days, I send my family off to school and work, then write while they’re gone. But if there’s a school function in the middle of the day, a Christmas float to decorate, or a church member in the hospital, I can take the day off without worry.

4.Having a job that requires daydreaming. All of my life, I’ve tried to listen and pay attention, but my mind would wander. With writing–having a wandering mind is encouraged, an active imagination is required, and daydreaming is allowed.

5. Making my characters do whatever I want them to. I’ve always thought I could solve a lot of problems if my friends and family would just take my advice. My characters listen to me and do what I say. It’s the ultimate control freak job.

6. Hearing voices and having imaginary friends. Oh the wonderful people who live in my head. And everyone thinks it’s okay and normal since I’m a writer.

7. Meeting authors. I love going to the bookstore, scanning the names on book spines and counting how many I’ve met. They may not remember me, but I remember them. I’ve talked to Denise Hunter, hugged Lenora Worth, laughed with Mary Connealy, and rode in the elevator with Terri Blackstock—just to drop a few names.

8. Sleeping in fancy hotels with women I barely know. There for a while I was sleeping with someone new at every ACFW conference. The friendships I’ve made through our common pursuit of publication are priceless. Isn’t that nice alliteration?

9. Having writing buds who really get me. There are friends and then there are writing friends. Writing can be very lonely, but not with friends to share the valleys and summits, highs and lows, thrills and spills. When I have writing news—good or bad—I share it with my family, then my writing buds.

 10. Connecting with readers. Either in person or online. It’s exhilarating to know someone is actually reading what I write, enjoying it, and appreciating my efforts. Through books, God has blessed me with the ability to witness to more people than my mouth will ever meet.

It worked out for me to be a stay at home mom before I got published. We’d already given up my income, so anything I make now is just a bonus. My hat’s off to the published authors who have a full time job and still manage to write books. I honestly don’t know how they do it.

And to those still seeking publication–don’t give up. Keep writing. Persistence + Patience = Publication. I hope you get to work in your jammies someday soon.

We’re giving away a copy of Rose Ross Zediker’s Wedding on the Rocks. Comment to enter – deadline Nov 30th.

Wedding On the Rocks Cover 1Jennifer Edwards is back home again…

When she traded small-town life for the bright lights of Chicago, Jennifer Edwards yearned to discover a world beyond Faith, South Dakota. So when her father’s illness calls her home to run their cattle ranch, she tells herself it’s temporary. Then why is she even thinking about a future with archaeology professor Brett Lange—the boy she left behind—whose life’s work is digging up the past?

Twelve years ago, Brett had a crush on Jennifer the size of the T. rex that put his hometown on the map. Now she’s a citified magazine editor who prefers designer duds to dungarees. Except that’s not the real Jennifer. Brett needs to make her see how a little faith can go a long way in uniting two perfectly in-sync hearts.

Rodeo Queen Nostalgia

I’m celebrating my new release, Rodeo Queen by giving away two print copies. Answer the question at the end of the post or comment daily for the next twoWriting 1st book 1999 nostalgic weeks to enter the drawing. Deadline: Nov 16, 11:59 pm central time.

No, I was never a rodeo queen. But I’ve been feeling nostalgic about my latest release, Rodeo Queen. Why would my recently  released book make me feel nostalgic? Because it formed in my head as a teenager. It was the story that wouldn’t go away until I finally realized it was a book around 1996. Then it took me three more years to get a hand me down computer and write it.

That’s me in 1999 writing my first ever book about a interior decorator with a stalker and the private detective who protects her. My husband took the picture and it’s my favorite. I was so involved in my story, I didn’t even know he’d taken the picture until we got the film developed. Yep, back then the pictures actually got out of the camera and you didn’t know how they looked until you picked them up from Walmart. I love the picture because it reminds me how supportive he’s been of my writing–from day one. He didn’t complain that I was ignoring or neglecting him, he just took a picture of me doing what I love.

Back to the story, after fifty-two rejection letters on that first book, countless others on six more books–I stopped counting at 200–fourteen years, and seven published books later, that first book I ever wrote releases this month. Rodeo Queen is a reworked version of my first story.

The original version was set in rural Arkansas. Rodeo Queen is the 5th title in my Texas rodeo series and is set in Aubrey, the Fort Worth Stockyards historical district, and Medina, Texas. My heroine morphed into the owner of a blingy western clothing store and a rodeo queen–which lent itself well to the stalker angle. The hero became a Texas Ranger. And in the new version,they were high school sweethearts.

The Medina part was originally in there and it makes me nostalgic too. My hero and herione visit his grandfather’s ranch in Medina twice during the course of the story. The ranch is based on my father-in-law’s ranch in Medina, near San Antonio. My father-in-law passed away, but we still visit his wife–Texas mom–once a year.

I’ve heard countless authors say they have their first awful manuscripts moldering in a drawer, that they’ll never see the light of day, and they shouldn’t. I wasn’t willing to let my story die. I didn’t go back and try to fix that original manuscript with all the knowledge I’ve gained from countless writers’ meetings and conferences, I started from scratch.

Rodeo Queen by Shannon Taylor VannatterAnd I like the new version better. Readers often ask me which of my books is my favorite. I’ve never really been able to answer that question. It’s like picking your favorite child or pet. I love all of my books–otherwise I wouldn’t have written them.

But I think I’ll play favorites now–Rodeo Queen–hands down.

CAITLYN WENTWORTH LOVES BEING A RODEO QUEEN

Until she starts receiving threatening letters from a stalker. The good news is, the Texas Ranger assigned to her case is none other than her former sweetheart Mitch Warren—the man who chose his career over love.

Mitch vows to focus on protecting the woman he’s never forgotten. But Caitlyn stirs up memories best left in the past. When Mitch insists on hiding Caitlyn away on his family’s San Antonio ranch, will he keep things professional or seek out a second chance?

Remember to enter the drawing daily with each new post from all the inkspers. And if you can’t wait or don’t win, here are a few purchase links for your convenience 🙂

Christian Book

Harlequin

Barnes and Noble

Amazon

Question of the day–for readers or writers. Have you ever had a story in your head that wouldn’t go away?

Shannon Too

When the topic of sister’s came up, I was at a loss for a moment. I’m an only child. No sisters. Or brothers. So, I have to go way back for this post. Bear with me.

Shortly before I was born, my parents planned to move to Michigan. Mama knew a woman with a daughter named Shannon. She asked the woman if she’d mind Mama naming me Shannon since me and the other Shannon would probably never know each other.

Twelve years later, we moved back to Arkansas. Seven years later, I married the other Shannon’s brother. Though we look nothing alike, our shared name has confused many over the years. Long ago, I went to my boss’ bank to cash my check because it was closer than my bank. The teller told me she couldn’t cash the check unless Shannon was there. For a long time, our butane deliverer thought my husband and his sister lived in our house. And now, even though her name hasn’t been Vannatter in a really long time, people think my sister-in-law writes books.

For the first few years my husband and I were married, Shannon and I had a good time together. We embarked on exercise plans, went to see a Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton concert, and turned her hair every color under the sun—including Bozo orange. Relax, I was a hairdresser and she’d turned her hair green trying to do it on her own. I had to get it to orange to get the green out. In the end, it turned out a nice natural looking dark brown. Disclaimer: Don’t try this at home.

But then she married a man from Memphis and moved there. Then they moved to Mississippi. During those years, we went to visit each place once. She came here about once a month, but there was never enough time to really enjoy being sisters-in-law.

Last year, she moved back. At first, I didn’t take advantage of the situation. I was used to not having her around. And I run in fifteen directions most of the time with book deadlines on top of everything else. But it finally hit me, my sister-in-law is back and I need to make time for her.

So far, we’ve entertained her grandson and my son on a road trip with my mother-in-law. We’ve gone flea-marketing and shopping. She and my mother-in-law brought our son to visit, when my husband was in the hospital. Together, his sister and I went to pick him up after his release. We’ve stayed after church and just talked.

We’re planning to have lunch soon and maybe we’ll set up a date for me to turn her hair orange just for old-time’s sake.

This time spent together made me realize, I missed her. Who could I possibly have more in common with than my husband’s sister? We both love the same man.

Now its your turn. Every time you share one of your sister stories in the next two weeks, you’ll be entered in the drawing for a copy of  When Love Calls for  yourself and a matching copy for a sister. Contest closes at midnight, central time on Friday, May 3 and is open to those in the U.S. and Canada. Name chosen by Random.org.

Charity–Love Put into Action

I Corinthians, 13: 4, “Charity suffereth long, and is kind;” KJV

Charity is love in action. Love in action is kind. To me, being kind in marriage is to think of the other person’s feelings. When I’m tired, stressed, or have a headache, it’s easy to take my discomfort or displeasure out on my husband. I mean, he’s not going anywhere. Even more reason to be kind. God gave me someone who sticks with me through thick and thin. He deserves my kindness.

If my husband is having a bad day or a problem at work, I try to support him, think of his feelings, and help get him through it. Now that he’s a full time pastor, at least he has fewer irritants. We have so much more together time and family time. A blessing, but it’s even easier to take our frustrations out on each other since we spend more time together.

Kindness is a good rule for life in general. Maybe the lady behind you at the grocery store with ten items in her cart scowled at you. You figure because your cart is loaded down and it takes too long for the cashier to ring up your items, even though your cart was half unloaded before the scowling lady got behind you. But consider what her life might be like. Maybe she has three kids at home and only enough money to pay for the ten items in her cart.

I learned this lesson of putting myself in other’s shoes a few years ago. I traveled with several people to a convention. One lady bragged about everything she and her children had done for the entire hour and a half long drive. After we dropped her off on the way home, I commented, “Is it just me or did she invent everything and if she didn’t, her kids did?”

A kinder lady than I, replied, “Maybe she has low self esteem, so she tries to build herself up in other’s eyes.”

Knocked me off my high horse. I felt about an inch tall. But I learned my lesson.

My son consistently complains about a kid in his life. The child experienced a life altering incident several years ago. When my son complains, I remind him what the other child has been through and ask him how he’d feel if that happened to him. Yes the child probably needs a spanking and nobody does it. Instead, they coddle because of what happened, but my son can still be kind.

So the next time, your spouse comes home railing about his or her day, the guy behind you lays down on his horn because you didn’t put the pedal to the metal as soon as the light changed, or the bank puts your deposit in the wrong account, try putting yourself in the other person’s place. Aren’t you glad you don’t have your spouse’s job? Maybe the guy behind you is taking his wife to the hospital because she’s in labor. Maybe the bank clerk is distracted because her sick child is with the babysitter instead of Mommy. Or maybe they’re just grumpy. Even so, love in action is kindness.

The Best Laid Plans

Our Christmas season is even more stressful and hectic than usual this year. My husband is transitioning from bi-vocational pastor to full time pastor. This transition affects our finances, our lifestyle, and his mental peace. It’s scary to put your finances in the control of a hundred people. Christians are just people. Humans. Our finances are in the control of a hundred humans. Yes, I earn a little with my books now, but publishing is very inconsistent. My income would get us on food stamps fast.

This was our plan. We had some spendable money in savings. Grant needed time off after leaving the dental lab where he’s been a technician for 26 years. We planned for him to have two weeks between his last day at the lab and his first day at the church. Two weeks with spendable money. At the time, since Heartsong Presents was ending in December, I didn’t have any deadlines. We were going to relax, spend some time together, and enjoy ourselves.

We planned a trip to Texas for Thanksgiving. In Rodeo Dust, my hero’s ranch is in Aubrey and he rodeos at the Fort Worth Stockyards. We decided to stop in both places for book signings. It was perfect timing since Aubrey was having Christmas on Main—a festival with booths, crafts, and lots of people milling about. Aubrey’s city secretary got all excited and put my signing in several newspapers. It was during the day, so I could be at Fort Worth that night. Then we’d go on to San Antonio to see family. We wouldn’t have to worry about funds and we’d do some Christmas shopping when we got back.

Reality turned into a mixture of good and bad:

  • Heartsong Presents extended the line.
  • My car went kaput. The bill $1200.00.
  • The booksigning in Fort Worth didn’t come together.
  • Grant ended up with three checkless weeks off instead of two.

I’d cried over my two seemingly dead books, so miraculously having them resurrected was a blessing. Suddenly, I had a deadline, plus edits. But I had to work during Grant’s time off.

Our spendable money had dwindled. At least we had the money to get my car fixed, but we had to limp to Aubrey since it had already been in several newspapers that I was coming. We couldn’t afford to go on to San Antonio.

In the two weeks after we got back, we couldn’t Christmas shop or even eat out much.

How it turned out:

elf at Moms on Main in front of my poster

It was an awesome day in Aubrey. Nancy Downes, the city secretary had outdone herself with a 4′ by 8′ poster of me and the book. It was much bigger than it looks in the picture. The people treated me like royalty. My signing was in Moms on Main, the restaurant where my characters eat after church in books 2 and 3 of the rodeo series. I got to eat a yummy Philly Cheese Steak sandwich there and see where the peanut festival is held, which is in all three books.

For Rodeo Dust, I’d written blindly, since I’d never been to Aubrey, so Nancy critiqued my scenes to make sure I had Aubrey right. It was great meeting her and the Murrays who own Moms. They bought 30 copies of Rodeo Dust to sell in their restaurant and a small Christian bookstore bought copies also. In the end, I sold 58 books, some at full price and some for resale.

Though I sold books, the trip cost way more than I made. But the research was priceless. Actually being in Aubrey was so worth the trip. I can capture so much more for book 2 and 3 since I’ve actually been there. The Christmas tree decorated with American flags at the top of this post was in Moms. It’s definitely going in book 3.

The family member we were going to see in San Antonio ended up in the hospital during the very time we’d planned to be there for our visit. It would have been nice to be with her in the hospital, but it wouldn’t have been a very good visit. She’s fine, but still tired and sore, so having company would have been an added stress once she got home.

My contact from the Stockyards e-mailed me the week we got back. She’s missed my e-mail, but said I was welcome any time. Oh the irony.

We spent the two and a half weeks after the Texas trip with me working and Grant bored. But every year, our son gets a week out at Thanksgiving. With Grant off work, we got to share it as a family this year. And I worked after they were in bed at night, so I enjoyed the week with them both.

An added bonus, Saturday was the annual Christmas parade where we live. Our church always enters a float.

Jesus' throne in Heaven from our church float

In 2009, our huge, 8′ by 16′ King James Bible won second place. In 2010, our blue lit city of Bethlehem won 1st place. This year, we had a live nativity in blue lights on one end. An empty cross, Roman soldiers and mourners in the middle with red spotlights. Then a red carpet leading up golden stairs guarded by sword wielding angels at the foot of the throne where Jesus sat. We won first place again. Our prayer is always that we touched souls with our message. The banner along the side of the float said, “Believest thou this?”

Our horizon isn’t any less hectic. Grant went to the church today for his first week as full time pastor. I still have half a book to write by January 16th. I’m trying to get the first draft done by the 20th when our son gets out of school for Christmas break.

  • Tonight is our church association pastors and wives dinner.
  • Tomorrow night is our ladie’s prayer group Christmas party.
  • Wednesday night is church.
  • Thursday night, we’re loading up in the church van to drive 45 miles and see a live nativity and city of Bethlehem.
  • Friday, my family is going to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas concert. Our 7 year tradition.
  • Saturday, my guys are going with the church to Branson to see The Miracle of Christmas. I’m going 45 miles to a book signing I’d already committed to before the church trip came up.

So things aren’t perfect in Arkansas this year. But life is good. We’ve prayed for Grant to go full time at the church for several years and never dreamed it would happen this soon. I have two more books coming out in 2012. We should have more family time since Grant only has one job. And in the end, we have to put our finances, stresses, and peace on God’s shoulders and trust Him to handle it all for us.

A Letter to My Teenage Self from Shannon

Dear Teenage Shannon,

Be yourself. Stop trying to mimic others. They’re not any cooler than you are, so stop feeling bad about yourself. God made you the individual you are. 

Don’t worry so much about what others think of you. Your audience is an audience of one. It only matters what God thinks of you.

You don’t have to dress immodestly to get the boys’ attention. They’ll notice, no matter what you wear. And if it takes immodest clothing to attract him, he’s not the kind of boy you need. (Your parents won’t allow it anyway, thank goodness.)

Stop being embarrassed by your parents. Some day, you’ll be in their shoes and realize how wise they are. And how much they love you. 

Start an exercise program now. That way, it’s second nature and when you’re older, it will already be part of your routine.

Don’t go to cosmetology school. You’ll only waste your parents’ money and get stuck doing your mother’s hair for life. Hairdressing isn’t glamorous. It’s hard, nasty, and exhausting. Stick with your first instinct: computers.

Even better—they’re books. Those stories in your head that you never know what to do with. Don’t wait until you’re thirty-three to figure that out. 

The move to rural Arkansas. Stop fighting it. Embrace your new home. You’ll grow to love it, never, ever want to live anywhere near a city again, and meet the love of your life there.

In fact, you’ve already met him. That new boy that lights your fire–the rumors are true–but be patient, God is working on him.

Pay more attention to young boys. Someday you’ll have one. The things he does and dirt he can find will astound you. 

Always remember. No matter what happens or what life throws at you, you’ve got Jesus to get you through.