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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Are you listening?

But more importantly, are you responding?

Over the past few days, I've been struggling with places in my heart that have been deeply pierced. It's crazy, but it seems like every wound in my heart has come back up. I've been defaulting to hermit status. To be honest, I've had to force myself to leave my house and reach out to my friends. Part of it is the post conference letdown. And part of it, I hate to say, is God saying, "it's time."

On Tuesday, I spent a good amount of time going back and forth about whether or not I was going to church. But I just had this feeling that said, "go." At first, I wasn't too into it, and then Chip said something that really got me thinking. I'm still chewing, and don't have enough to really spit out, but it's in there. So I was I glad that I responded to that small voice, telling me I needed to go.

Tonight, as I flipped through the channels, I kept passing the Joyce Meyer show. I used to watch it all the time, but when life got busy, it sort of got shuffled to the side. But, as the feeling I needed to watch it wouldn't go away, I went ahead and put the show on. So crazy, because she never talked about anything that I've been dealing with, and yet almost every word out of her mouth spoke to the things my heart needed the most.

I point these things out because they weren't spectacular burning bush moments of God calling down from above to say, "hey, this is the message I have for you." Instead, they were tiny little feelings, easy to ignore, easy to think that they were something else. The feeling itself wasn't the answer. I had to actually respond. And then, that's where God met my need.

It's important to take a look back and see when and how God speaks. There's not a formula, even though sometimes we want to hear it.

One of the questions Chip asked is one that I've been asked a number of times before. And I thought I had the answer. But this week, I really thought about it. He challenged us to take a look at following Jesus. Which got me to wondering what I was willing to do. I thought about Paul, and how he felt he was so unworthy of Christ, that he asked to be crucified upside down instead. The honest wimpy Danica is going to tell you that I'm scared to death of God asking me to do something like that. My worst fear as a follower of Christ is that I'm going to be asked to do something like that and I'll chicken out.

Oddly enough, that wasn't one of the original questions I was pondering. But suddenly, it became the most important. Then, tonight, as Joyce talked about a whole slew of things, I realized that the things God asks of me are different from what He asks of others. Living in suburban America, I probably will never face the question of execution via crucifixion. However, I'll be asked other questions. Like Tuesday, when He asked me, in a very subtle way, to go to church. And tonight, when I could've done a lot of other things, like read one of the new books burning a hole in my TBR pile, I chose to watch a show because He nudged me in that direction.

Sometimes what we're listening for isn't what He's trying to tell us. The key is keeping our ears open and obeying, even if it seems trivial.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Montana Rose by Mary Connealy

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Montana Rose

Barbour Publishing, Inc (July 1, 2009)


An award-winning author, Mary Connealy lives on a Nebraska farm with her husband and is the mother of four grown daughters. She writes plays and shorts stories, and is the author of two other novels, Petticoat Ranch and Calico Canyon. Also an avid blogger, Mary is a GED instructor by day and an author by night.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc (July 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602601429
ISBN-13: 978-1602601420


Montana Territory, 1875

Cassie wanted to scream, “Put down that shovel!”

As if yelling at the red-headed gravedigger would bring Griff back to life. A gust of wind blew Cassie Griffin’s dark hair across her face, blinding her.

For one sightless moment it was as if the wind showed her perfectly what the future held for her.


Hovering in a wooded area, concealed behind a clump of quaking aspens that had gone yellow in the fall weather, she watched the hole grow as the man dug his way down into the rocky Montana earth.

Muriel, the kind storekeeper who had taken Cassie in, stood beside the ever-deepening grave. If Cassie started yelling, Muriel would start her motherly clucking again and force Cassie to return to town and go back to bed. She’d been so kind since Cassie had ridden in shouting for help.

In a detached sort of way, Cassie knew Muriel had been caring for her, coddling Cassie to get her through the day. But Cassie had gone numb since Muriel’s husband, Seth, had come back in with the news that Griff was dead. Cassie listened and answered and obeyed, but she hadn’t been able to feel anything. Until now. Now she could feel rage aimed straight at that man preparing the hole for her beloved Griff.

“I’m sorry, little one.” Cassie ran her hand over her rounded stomach. “You’ll never know your daddy now.” Her belly moved as if the baby heard Cassie and understood.

The fact that her husband was dead was Cassie’s fault. She should have gone for the doctor sooner. Griff ordered her not to, but first Griff had been worried about the cost. He’d shocked Cassie by telling her they couldn’t afford to send for the doctor. Griff had scolded Cassie if she ever asked questions about money. So she’d learned it wasn’t a wife’s place. But she’d known her parents were wealthy. Cassie had brought all their wealth into the marriage. How could they not afford a few bits for a doctor? Even as he lay sick, she’d known better than to question him about it.

Later, Griff had been out of his head with fever. She stayed with him as he’d ordered, but she should have doctored Griff better. She should have saved him somehow. Instead she’d stood by and watched her husband die inch by inch while she did nothing.

Cassie stepped closer. Another few steps and she’d be in the open. She could stop them. She could make them stop digging. Refuse to allow such a travesty when it couldn’t be true that Griff was dead.

Don’t put him in the ground! Inside her head she was screaming, denying, terrified. She had to stop this.

Before she could move she heard Muriel.

“In the West, nothing’ll get you killed faster’n stupid.” Whipcord lean, with a weathered face from long years in the harsh Montana weather, Muriel plunked her fists on her nonexistent hips.

Seth, clean-shaven once a week and overdue, stood alongside his wife, watching the proceedings, his arms crossed over his paunchy stomach. “How ’bout lazy? In the West, lazy’ll do you in faster’n stupid every time.”

“Well, I reckon Lester Griffin was both, right enough.” Muriel nodded her head.

Cassie understood the words, “lazy” and “stupid.” They were talking about Griff? She was too shocked to take in their meaning.

“Now, Muriel.” Red, the gravedigger, shoveled as he talked. “Don’t speak ill of the dead.”

On a day when Cassie didn’t feel like she knew anything, she remembered the gravedigger’s name because of his bright red hair.

One of the last coherent orders Griff had given her was, “Pay Red two bits to dig my grave, and not a penny more.”

Griff had known he was dying. Mostly delirious with fever, his mind would clear occasionally and he’d give orders: about the funeral, what he was to be buried in, what Cassie was to wear, strict orders not to be her usual foolish self and overpay for the grave digging. And not to shame him with her public behavior.

“Well honestly, it’s a wonder he wasn’t dead long before this.” Muriel crossed her arms and dared either man to disagree.

“It’s not Christian to see the bad in others.” Red dug relentlessly, the gritty slice of the shovel making a hole to swallow up Cassie’s husband. “And especially not at a time like this.”

It was just after noon on Sunday, and the funeral would be held as soon as the grave was dug.

Cassie looked down at her dress, her dark blue silk. It was a mess. She’d worn it all week, not giving herself a second to change while she cared for Griff. Then she’d left it on as she rode for town. She’d even slept in it last night. . .or rather she’d lain in bed with it on. She hadn’t slept, more than snatches, in a week. Ever since Griff’s fever started.

She needed to change to her black silk for the funeral.

Cassie wanted to hate Muriel for her words, but Muriel had mothered her, filling such a desperate void in Cassie that she couldn’t bear to blame Muriel for this rage whipping inside of Cassie’s head, pushing her to scream.

“Well, he was a poor excuse for a man and no amount of Christian charity’ll change that.” Muriel clucked and shook her head. “He lived on the labor of others ’n spent money he didn’t have.”

“It’s that snooty, fancy-dressed wife of his who drove him to an early grave,” Seth humphed. Cassie saw Seth’s shoulders quiver as he chuckled. “Of course, many’s the man who’d gladly die trying to keep that pretty little China Doll happy.”

Cassie heard Griff’s nickname for her. She ran her hands down her blue silk that lay modestly loose over her round belly. Fancy-dressed was right. Cassie admitted that. But she hadn’t needed all new dresses just because of the baby. Griff had insisted it was proper that the dresses be ordered. But however she’d come to dress so beautifully in silks and satins, there was no denying she dressed more expensively than anyone she’d met in Montana Territory. Not that she’d met many people.

But snooty? How could Seth say that? They were slandering her and, far worse, insulting Griff. She needed to defend her husband, but Griff hated emotional displays. How could she fight them without showing all the rage that boiled inside her? As the hole grew, something started to grow in Cassie that overcame her grief and fear.

Rage. Hate.

That shovel rose and fell. Dirt flew in a tidy pile and she hated Red for keeping to the task. She wanted to run at Red, screaming and clawing, and force Red to give Griff back to her. But she feared unleashing the anger roiling inside her. Griff had taught her to control all those childish impulses. Right now though, her control slipped.

[insert line break]

“A time or two I’ve seen someone who looks to be snooty who was really just shy. . .or scared,” Muriel said.

Red kept digging, determined not to join in with this gossip. But not joining in wasn’t enough. He needed to make them stop. Instead, he kept digging as he thought about poor Cassie. She’d already been tucked into Muriel’s back room when he’d come to town yesterday, but he’d seen Seth bring Lester Griffin’s body in. He couldn’t imagine what that little woman had been through.

“When’s the last time she came into our store?” Seth asked. “Most times she didn’t even come to town. She was too good to soil her feet in Divide. And you can’t argue about fancy-dressed. Griff ordered all her dresses ready-made, sent out from the East.”

Everything about Cassie Griffin made Red think of the more civilized East. She never had a hair out of place or a speck of dirt under her fingernails. Red had seen their home, too. The fanciest building in Montana, some said. Board siding instead of logs. Three floors and so many frills and flourishes the building alone had made Lester Griffin a laughingstock. The Griffins came into the area with a fortune, but they’d gone through it fast.

“That’s right,” Muriel snipped. “Griff ordered them. A spoiled woman would pick out her own dresses and shoes and finery, not leave it to her man.”

Seth shook his head. “I declare, Muriel, you could find the good in a rattlesnake.”

Red’s shovel slammed deep in the rocky soil. “Cassie isn’t a rattlesnake.” He stood up straight and glared at Seth.

His reaction surprised him. Red didn’t let much upset him. But calling Cassie a snake made Red mad to the bone. He glanced over and saw Muriel focusing on him as she brushed back wisps of gray hair that the wind had scattered from her usual tidy bun. She stared at him, taking a good long look.

Seth, a tough old mule-skinner with a marshmallow heart, didn’t seem to notice. “This funeral’ll draw trouble. You just see if it don’t. Every man in the territory’ll come a’running to marry with such a pretty widow woman. Any woman would bring men down on her as hard and fast as a Montana blizzard, but one as pretty as Cassie Griffin?” Seth blew a tuneless whistle through his teeth. “There’ll be a stampede for sure, and none of ’em are gonna wait no decent length of time to ask for her hand.”

Red looked away from Muriel because he didn’t like what was in her eyes. He was through the tough layer of sod and the hole was getting deep fast. He tried to sound casual even though he felt a sharp pang of regret—and not just a little bit of jealousy—when he said, “Doubt she’ll still be single by the time the sun sets.”

Muriel had a strange lilt to her voice when she said, “A woman is rare out here, but a young, beautiful woman like Cassie is a prize indeed.”

Red looked up at her, trying to figure out why saying that made her so all-fired cheerful.

Seth slung his beefy arm around Muriel with rough affection. “I’ve seen the loneliness that drives these men to want a wife. It’s a rugged life, Muriel. Having you with me makes all the difference.”

Red understood the loneliness. He lived with it every day.

“She’s a fragile little thing. Tiny even with Griff’s child in her belly. She needs a man to take care of her.” Muriel’s concern sounded just the littlest bit false. Not that Muriel wasn’t genuinely concerned. Just that there was a sly tone to it, aimed straight at Red.

Red thought of Cassie’s flawless white skin and shining black hair. She had huge, remote brown eyes, with lashes long enough to wave in the breeze, and the sweetest pink lips that never curved in a smile nor opened to wish a man good day.

Red thought on what he’d say to draw a smile and a kind word from her. Such thoughts could keep a man lying awake at night. Red knew that for a fact. Oh yes, Cassie was a living, breathing test from the devil himself.

“China Doll’s the perfect name for her,” Muriel added.

Red had heard that Griff called his wife China Doll. Griff never said that in front of anyone. He always called her Mrs. Griffin, real proper and formal-like. But he’d been overheard speaking to her in private, and he’d called her China Doll. The whole town had taken to calling her that.

Red had seen such a doll in a store window when he was a youngster in Indiana. That doll, even to a roughhousing little boy, was so beautiful it always earned a long, careful look. But the white glass face was cold. and her expression serious, rather than giving the poor toy a painted on smile. It was frighteningly fragile. Rather than being fun, Red thought a China doll would be a sad thing to own and, in the end, a burden to keep unbroken and clean. All of those things described Cassandra Griffin right down to the ground. Knowing all of that didn’t stop him from wanting her.

Cassie got to him. She had ever since the first time he’d seen her nearly two years ago. And now she was available. Someone would have to marry her to keep her alive. Women didn’t live without men in the unsettled West. Life was too hard. The only unattached women around worked above the Golden Butte Saloon and, although they survived, Red didn’t consider their sad existence living.

“You’re established on the ranch these days, Red. Your bank account’s healthy.” Muriel crouched down so she was eye level with Red, who was digging himself down fast. “Maybe it’s time you took a wife.”

Red froze and looked up at his friend. Muriel was a motherly woman, though she had no children. And like a mother, she seemed comfortable meddling in his life.

Red realized he was staring and went back to the grave, tempted to toss a shovel full of dirt on Muriel’s wily face. He wouldn’t throw it hard. He just wanted to distract her.

When he was sure his voice would work, he said, “Cassie isn’t for me, Muriel. And it isn’t because of what it would cost to keep her. If she was my wife, she’d live within my means and that would be that.”

Red had already imagined—in his unruly mind—how stern he’d be when she asked for finery. “You’ll have to sew it yourself or go without.” He even pictured himself shaking a scolding finger right under her turned-up nose. She’d mind him.

He’d imagined it many times, many, many times. And long before Griff died, which was so improper Red felt shame. He’d tried to control his willful thoughts. But a man couldn’t stop himself from thinking a thought until he’d started, now could he? So he’d started a thousand times and then he stopped himself. . .mostly. He’d be kind and patient but he wouldn’t bend. He’d say, “Cass honey, you—”

Red jerked his thoughts away from the old, sinful daydream about another man’s wife. Calmly, he answered Muriel, “She isn’t for me because I would never marry a non-believer.”

With a wry smile, Seth caught on and threw in on Muriel’s side—the traitor. “A woman is a mighty scarce critter out here, Red. It don’t make sense to put too many conditions on the ones there are.”

“I know.” Red talked to himself as much as to them. He hung on to right and wrong. He clung to God’s will. “But one point I’ll never compromise on is marrying a woman who doesn’t share my faith.”

“Now, Red,” Muriel chided, “you shouldn’t judge that little girl like that. How do you know she’s not a believer?”

“I’m not judging her, Muriel.” Which Red realized was absolutely not true. “Okay, I don’t know what faith she holds. But I do know that the Griffins have never darkened the doorstep of my church.”

Neither Seth nor Muriel could argue with that, although Muriel had a mulish look that told him she wanted to.

“We’d best get back.” Seth laid a beefy hand on Muriel’s strong shoulder. “I think Mrs. Griffin is going to need some help getting ready for the funeral.”

“She’s in shock, I reckon,” Muriel said. “She hasn’t spoken more’n a dozen words since she rode in yesterday.”

“She was clear enough on what dress I needed to fetch.” Seth shook his head in disgust. “And she knew the reticule she wanted and the shoes and hairpins. I felt like a lady’s maid.”

“I’ve never seen a woman so shaken.” Muriel’s eyes softened. “The bridle was on wrong. She was riding bareback. It’s a wonder she was able to stick on that horse.”

Red didn’t want to hear anymore about how desperately in need of help Cassie was.

Muriel had been teasing him up until now, but suddenly she was dead serious. “You know what the men around here are like, Red. You know the kind of life she’s got ahead of her. There are just some things a decent man can’t let happen to a woman. Libby’s boys are off hauling freight or I’d talk to them. They’d make good husbands.”

Muriel was right, they would be good. Something burned hot and angry inside of Red when he thought of those decent, Christian men claiming Cassie.

It was even worse when Red thought of her marrying one of the rough and ready men who lived in the rugged mountains and valleys around the little town of Divide, which rested up against the great peaks of the Montana Rockies. It was almost more than he could stand to imagine her with one of them.

But, he also knew a sin when he saw it tempting him, and he refused to let Muriel change his mind. She badgered him a while longer but finally gave up.

He was glad when Seth and Muriel left him alone to finish his digging. Until he looked up and saw Cassie as if he’d conjured her with his daydreams.

But this was no sweet, fragile China Doll. She charged straight toward him, her hands fisted, her eyes on fire.

“Uh. . .hi, Miz Griffin.” He vaulted out of the shoulder-deep hole and faced her. The look on her face was enough to make him want to turn tail and run.

She swept toward him, a low sound coming from her throat that a wildcat might make just before it pounced.

She’d heard it. All of it.

God forgive me for being part of that gossip, hurting her when she’s already so badly hurt.

Whatever she wanted to say, whatever pain she wanted to inflict, he vowed to God that he’d stand here and take it as his due. Her eyes were so alive with fury and focused right on him. How many times had his unruly mind conjured up the image of Cassie focusing on him? But this wasn’t the look he’d imagined in his daydreams. In fact, a tremor of fear ran up his backbone.

His grip tightened on his shovel, not to use as a weapon to defend himself but to keep her from grabbing it and taking a swing.

“Stop it.” Her fists were clenched as if to beat on him. “Stop saying those awful things.” Red saw more life in her eyes than he ever had before. She was always quiet and reserved and distant. “Give him back. I want him back!” She moved so fast toward him that, just as she reached his side, she tripped over her skirt and fell. A terrified shriek cut off her irate words.

“Cassie!” Red dropped the shovel and caught her just as she’d have tumbled into the open grave.

She swung and landed a fist right on his chin.

His head snapped back. She had pretty good power behind her fists for a little thing. Figuring he deserved it, he held on, stepping well away from the hole in the ground. He pulled her against him as she pummeled and emitted short, sharp, frenzied screams of rage. Punching his shoulders, chest, face. He took his beating like a man. He’d earned this by causing her more pain when she’d already been dealt more than she could bear. Of course he’d tried to stop it. But he’d failed now, hadn’t he?

“I’m sorry.” He spoke low, hoping to penetrate her anger. He could barely hear himself over her shouting. “I’m so sorry about Griff, Cassie. And I’m sorry you heard us speaking ill. We were wrong. So wrong. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” His voice kept crooning as he held her, letting her wale away on him until her squeaks and her harmless blows slowed and then ceased, most likely from exhaustion, not because she’d quit hating him.

Her hands dropped suddenly. Her head fell against his chest. Her knees buckled and Red swung her up into his arms.

He looked down at her, wondering if she’d fainted dead away.

In his arms, he held perfection.

She fit against him as if his body and his heart had been created just for her. A soul-deep ache nearly buckled his own knees as he looked at her now-closed eyes. Those lashes so long they’d tangle in a breeze rested on her ashen face, tinged with one bright spot of fury raised red on her cheeks.

“I’m so sorry I hurt you. Please forgive me.” His words were both a prayer to God and a request to poor, sweet Cassie. He held her close, murmuring, apologizing.

At last her eyes fluttered open. The anger was there but not the violence. “Let me go!”

He slowly lowered her feet to the ground, keeping an arm around her waist until he was sure her legs would hold her. She stepped out of his arms as quickly as possible and gave him a look of such hatred it was more painful than the blows she’d landed. Far more painful.

“I’m so sorry for your loss, Cassie honey.” Red wanted to kick himself. He shouldn’t have called her such. It was improper.

She didn’t seem to notice he was even alive. Instead, her gaze slid to that grave, that open rectangle waiting to receive Cassie’s husband. . .or what was left of him. And the hatred faded to misery, agony, and worst of all, fear.

A suppressed cry of pain told Red, as if Cassie had spoken aloud, that she wished she could join her husband in that awful hole.

Her head hanging low, her shoulders slumped, both arms wrapped around her rounded belly, she turned and walked back the way she came. Each step seemed to take all her effort as if her feet weighed a hundred pounds each.

Wondering if he should accompany her back to Muriel’s, instead he did nothing but watch. There was nothing really he could do. That worthless husband of hers was dead and he’d left his wife with one nasty mess to clean up. And Red couldn’t be the one to step in and fix it. Not if he wanted to live the life God had planned for him.

She walked into the swaying stand of aspens. They were thin enough that if he moved a bit to the side, he could keep his eye on her. Stepping farther and farther sideways to look around the trees—because he was physically unable to take his eyes off her—he saw her get safely to the store.

Just then his foot slipped off the edge of the grave. He caught himself before he fell headlong into the six feet of missing earth.

Red heard the door of Bates General Store close with a sharp bang, and Cassie went inside and left him alone in the sun and wind with a deep hole to dig and too much time to think. He grabbed his shovel and jumped down, getting back at it.

He knew he was doing the right thing by refusing to marry Cassie Griffin.

A sudden gust caught a shovelful of dirt and blew it in Red’s face. Along with the dirt that now coated him, he caught a strong whiff of the stable he’d cleaned last night. Cassie would think Red and the Western men he wanted to protect her from were one and the same. And she’d be right, up to a point. The dirt and the smell, the humble clothes, and the sod house—this was who he was, and he didn’t apologize for that to any man. . .or any woman.

Red knew there was only one way for him to serve God in this matter. He had to keep clear of Cassie Griffin.

The China Doll wasn’t for him.

Mean People (an addendum to the RWA post)

Since I started talking about the mean people I met in Washington and RWA, I've been thinking about what I didn't say, and probably need to.

A couple of my friends, loyal that they are, wanted names so they could hunt the people down and kick their butts. I very politely said it wasn't necessary, and that I really didn't know who they were anyway. Which is true.

The funny thing is, as much as these people wouldn't talk to me because of my "nobody" status were not people I knew. For those of you who don't know this about me, I've worked for a major publisher for 6 years and counting. I know a ton of people, if not personally, by name. Not only do I stay on top of what my publisher is doing, I watch what the others are doing as well. I may not be very good at name-dropping, and to be honest, I don't always remember names until I see them. So, as we did the requisite badge-staring, these people who wouldn't talk to me because I'm a "nobody" are probably nobodies too.

Seriously. I know a lot of the bestselling authors, or would at least recognize their names enough to know that they were rude to me. Midlist authors- know them too. I probably would recognize the names of many of the folks at the bottom. I know the market. So the fact that their names didn't ring a bell, and I couldn't remember them well enough to stick on my "I will never buy this person's book list" tells me something.

Apparently, these insecure writers found the one person they thought beneath them and decided to treat me as such. Their need to treat someone as a nobody obviously stems from the fact that they're nobodies too.

Stay with me here, because I'm generally not the kind of person who's friends with you based on your status. Right now, most of my friends are published. However, most of them BECAME my friends before they were published.

Because here is the truth of the matter. There are three authors on this planet... of all the years I've been going to conferences, meeting authors, etc, whose books I have stopped buying due to their rude treatment of me. Three. And trust me, if you're a meanie, I'm not buying your books. I have too much to read and too little money as it is.

In terms of the nobodies... well, I suspect that if a book with their names came across my line of vision, it would ring a bell and I'd remember their meanness. And I wouldn't buy their book.

One of my friends told me something that has always made me stop to think. So many of us think in terms of "when we're successful" "when we're rich" etc. Success, wealth, power, and all those other things only make us more of who we were before we achieved those levels. If you are a mean person, success is only going to make you meaner. Personally, I think the reason most of these "mean people" are not successful precisely because of who they are now before success.

The three authors I mentioned as being on my "never buy" list? They've obviously reached some level of commercial success. But on a personal level? I suspect, that with as unhappy as they always seem, success didn't fix the things that were already wrong in their lives.

For those of you who are looking for that brass ring and that magic moment to make you happy; to finally arrive as a somebody so people stop treating you as a nobody: you need to make the changes in your life now to be the person you want to be without the success, or you will never be that person with the success.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sometimes you feel like a nut...

Sometimes you don't. Uh, actually, no, I always feel like a nut, but since I've been singing that song, I had to finish it.

I'm having a hard time decompressing now that I'm home.

Wow, that felt good just to get that off my chest. As many of you know, I'm an introvert masquerading as an extrovert, and this month, I had more extroversion than I can handle. My darling, precious Camy Tang flew on on July 2nd, my darling, precious Cheryl Wyatt arrived July 7th, and then I left for D.C. on July 14th. I came home late July 19th to husband, children, and dog who acted like they'd been in the nonDanica desert forever and needed to drink of my waters.

Now, I love Camy and Cheryl. They are two of my favorite people. I love most of the people at RWA (read my previous post for the exception). I love my family But I am physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted from having so many inputs at once. I got through this week fine, because well, I had too much work to catch up on and I've been on autopilot. Though in retrospect, I have to say, I didn't do as good of a job as I would have liked and I think I may have messed a couple things up. Apologies to anyone who might have gotten shortchanged.

Starting yesterday evening, I got irritable, snappy, and probably mean. I didn't want people talking to me, looking at me, breathing my air, well, you get the picture. This morning, I woke up early, angry at the universe for not letting me sleep in, so I stayed in bed, mad, for a couple of hours. I know, I'm so mature. I took a shower, grumped around the house for a bit, then grabbed a couple of books and read. I felt a little bit of me seep back into my bones.

Then I remembered the book I've been reading with a group of friends from church, Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God's Transforming Presence by Ruth Haley Barton. We've spent the summer focusing on intentionally pursuing time alone with God. I've discovered a lot about myself. Mostly, though, I am reminded of how absolute my need is to be alone. It is the only way I can truly recharge.

Today I took my Sabbath. I kept my promise of not working on the computer until sundown, although, since I was up until the wee hours of the morning last night writing, I won't write until tomorrow, even though I'm at such a good place in my story. I read a little. Unpacked a little. Cooked a recipe I'd been wanting to try. Dug out my Bible. Recharged. Came to the conclusion that I'm still working on getting back to normal. And that's okay.

So yeah, today, I felt like a nut. Still kinda do. But at least I know what kind of nut I am, and I know that what I really need is a little more time to decompress.

The encouragement I want to give to the nutty friends who follow me is that if you feel like a nut, it's okay. And it's also okay to take a step back and figure out why you're so nutty. Charge up whatever it is that makes you run smoothly. Invest in self care. You can only run on fumes for so long. To be the you God created you to be, sometimes you have to get back in touch with your youness. If that didn't make sense, well, maybe it's because you're in need of a little you time.

So go ahead! Be a nut!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

God of this... everything

RWA in Washington DC was an interesting experience for me. Interesting bad and interesting good.

I've never been to D.C. except for conferences where I spent the entire time in hotels and boardrooms. I've never seen anything of the city or encountered any of the people.

I got in Tuesday, but my roomies were not getting in until Wednesday. I spent Wednesday morning walking around the city, and attempted to visit some of the landmarks. I have to say, I was horrified.

I cannot even begin to tell you what a horrible experience I had with the people in Washington DC. I can't believe how rude they were. I had a couple of girls on the subway ready to fight me and I honestly have no idea what I did, except look at them. Seriously. I looked at them and smiled, and I thought one of them was going to leap over the railing and kick my butt, based on her words. I met another woman in a drugstore, who was stunned that I'd be nice to her. Here's my act of super kindness: I let her go in line in front of me because I wasn't quite ready, and then, I held the door for her on the way out. Every sales clerk I thanked were taken aback by the fact that I'd actually thank them. I don't understand that way of operating. And they didn't understand mine.

I tried hanging out around the conference, but to be honest, I wasn't real thrilled with it. A few of my friends have said that they don't/won't go to RWA because people there are rude and mean. I'd never experienced it, so I would work to convince them that then people there aren't so bad. But after being snubbed by strangers I was just trying to be nice to by saying hi and making them feel welcome because I was unpublished, I couldn't hang around.

Because we were in our nation's capital, they had tons of people trying to lobby for their causes. Most of them were pretty crazy. Oddly enough, the guy with the big ACLU sign took great pains to avoid me. I ran into a guy wanting support for some African charity. I told him that I already give a lot of money to Africa already (which is true!), and he responded by saying that I should dump that charity and give to his instead. Now, I didn't tell him which charity I support, but why on earth would you tell someone already contributing to a very similar cause to stop supporting them to support his? He started trying to sell me on the charity, so I finally asked him if it was faith-based. You'd have thought I slapped him with a fish.

I walked away feeling pretty sad. Not so much for me, but for the fact that our nation's capital is filled with such ugliness... I didn't feel very represented, that's for sure.

As I walked, I passed a church that advertised a labyrinth. I love labyrinths. Someday, I'm going to build one, I love them so much. I get so much peace when I'm in the midst of a labyrinth. Since it was open, I decided to go in and walk the path. During my walk, I realized that even though I was in the ugliest place I've ever been, God is still God. As much as people want to take God out of the city, He is still God of the city. People can deny it, they can turn from Him, they can hide, they can do anything they want, and He is still God.

I left the church armed with the confidence of God. He is. Always will be.

So many people I know are in arms over the degradation of our society. We're trying desperately to cling to what's right and good and to fight all the terrible things that are happening. I've never been very worried about it. That day, in the church, I realized why. As the world around us crumbles, we have something far more valuable to cling to. No matter what happens in this world, God is still God.

I had peace the rest of the conference. The rest of my friends came in, and surrounded by people who know and love me, people who are a part of my extended family, and it was lovely. I didn't run into any more rude insecure women who thought that a contract made them better than me and yet not good enough themselves to be confident in that knowledge. I had some really positive meetings. I connected with people who believed in me and my abilities. But mostly, I knew that even without all of that, I had the one thing that mattered.

Starting with my walk in the labyrinth, and throughout the weekend, this is the song that went through my head. And yes, I like the Tomlin version better (sorry Bluetree).

Saturday, July 25, 2009

More on Blue like Play Dough by Tricia Goyer

I know I blogged about it already, but this is a great book! If you didn't read my original post, complete with FREE first chapter and review, you can do it here. This book is a must-read for anyone in the throes of motherhood.

But, in case you missed it, or are like me, and can't get enough of her encouraging words, here's some more info for you:

A note from Tricia: Are you a mommy who feels squeezed by Motherhood? Could God be shaping something beautiful in you?

In my new spiritual memoir, Blue Like Play Dough I invite women to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary! To learn to see God's hand lovingly at work in every aspect of your life---from laundry-folding to the umpteenth reading of Goodnight Moon.

And now I’m inviting YOU to come bring your stretched self and attend a fun Facebook Launch Party for Blue Like Play Dough! I know you’re busy (and tired) so I’m bringing the festivities to you! So grab your comfiest chair and slip away from that long To-Do list and join me for a two hour Play Dough Party. I’ll be sharing some of my mothering experiences (the good and the bad), hosting a fun trivia contest, giving away Mommy Play Dough Packs, answering questions, and getting to know YOU!

I’d be honored to have you as my guest – and to prove it I’ll be giving away 2 ginormous Mommy Play Dough Packs to two party attendees at random! The winners will be announced at the end of the party. Grab your friends and let’s party! oh, and don't forget your camera! Snap pictures during the party and upload them during the festivities. I'll be giving a prize away for the best photo!

So come join me on July 27th from 5-7 pm (PST)! Friend me on facebook and join the fun!

Get One, Give One Campaign (GO-GO)

With the release of this book Tricia is also launching the Get One, Give One Campaign!

For every copy of Blue Like Play Dough purchased, she’ll donate a copy of My Life Unscripted or Generation NeXt Parenting to a pregnancy, teen or family support ministry (while supplies last).

All you have to do is buy a copy of Blue Like Play Dough on Christianbook, on Amazon, or at your local bookstore, and then go to Tricia's Go-Go page and fill out the form. EASY!

Read an excerpt:

Author website: watch a video and read the endorsements

Link to purchase the book: http://triciagoyer.com/store.html

Blog tour schedule! See what others have to say about this encouraging book!

Deadly Intent by Camy Tang

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Deadly Intent

Steeple Hill (July 14, 2009)

Though I'm probably biased since Camy is one of my good friends, but Camy and I are pretty honest with each other. So, you're getting an honest review. :) I really enjoyed this book. When she gave me the first few chapters to critique, she had me so engrossed, I demanded the rest. So frustrating that the book wasn't done yet! But she finished the book, sold it, and now here it is. Loved the book. I loved how she kept me going until the end.

Leave a comment to win a copy of the book!


Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Originally from
Hawaii, she worked as a biologist for 9 years, but now she writes full time. She is a staff worker for her San Jose church youth group and leads a worship team for Sunday service. She also runs the Story Sensei fiction critique service, which specializes in book doctoring.

On her blog, she gives away Christian novels, and she ponders
frivolous things like dumb dogs (namely, hers), coffee-geek husbands (no resemblance to her own...), the writing journey, Asiana, and anything else that comes to mind.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $5.50
Mass Market Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Steeple Hill (July 14, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0373443471
ISBN-13: 978-0373443475


Chapter One

The man who walked into Naomi's father's day spa was striking enough to start a female riot.

Dark eyes swept the room, which happened to be filled with the Sonoma spa's staff at that moment. She felt his gaze glance over her like a tingling breeze. Naomi recognized him instantly. Dr. Devon Knightley.

For a wild moment, she thought, He's come to see me. And her heart twirled in a riotous dance.

But only for a moment. Sure, they'd talked amiably— actually, more than amiably—at the last Zoe International fund-raising dinner, but after an entire evening sitting next to her, he hadn't asked for her phone number, hadn't asked for any contact information at all. Wasn't that a clear sign he wasn't interested?

She quashed the memory and stepped forward in her official capacity as the spa owner's daughter and acting manager. "Dr. Knightley. Welcome."

He clasped her hand with one tanned so brown that it seemed to bring the heat of the July sun into the airy, air-conditioned entranceway. "Miss Naomi Grant." His voice had more than a shot of surprise, as did his looks as he took in her pale blue linen top and capris, the same uniform as the gaggle of spa staff members gathered behind her. "It's been a few months since I've seen you."

He still held her hand. She loved the feel of his palm— cool and warm at the same time, strong the way a surgeon's should be.

No, she had to stop this. Devon and his family were hard-core atheists, and nothing good would come out of giving in to her attraction. "What brings you here?"

"I need to speak to Jessica Ortiz."

An involuntary spasm seized her throat. Of course. Glamorous client Jessica Ortiz or plain massage therapist Naomi Grant—no comparison, really.

But something in his tone didn't quite have the velvety sheen of a lover. He sounded almost… dangerous. And danger didn't belong in the spa. Their first priority was to protect the privacy of the guests.

"Er… Ms. Ortiz?" Naomi glanced at Sarah, one of the receptionists, whose brow wrinkled as she studied her computer monitor behind the receptionists' desk. Naomi knew she was stalling—she didn't need to look because she'd checked Ms. Ortiz into the elite Tamarind Lounge almost two hours before.

Naomi's aunt Becca also stood at the receptionists' desk, stepping aside from her spa hostess duties to allow Naomi to handle Dr. Knightley, but Aunt Becca's eyes had a sharp look that conveyed her message clearly to Naomi: the clients' privacy and wishes come first.

Naomi cleared her throat. "Are you her physician?"

Dr. Knightley frowned down at her, but she kept her air of calm friendliness. He grimaced and looked away. "Er… no."

Naomi blinked. He could have lied, but he hadn't. "If you'll wait here, I can see if Ms. Ortiz is available to come out here to see you." If Jessica declined to come out, Naomi didn't want to think what Devon's reaction would be.

His eyes grew stormier. "Couldn't you just let me walk in back to see her?"

"I'm sorry, but we can't allow nonfamily members into the back rooms. And men are not allowed in the women's lounges." Especially the secluded Tamarind Lounge, reserved only for Tamarind members who paid the exorbitant membership fee.

"Naomi, surely you can make an exception for me?" He suddenly flashed a smile more blinding than her receptionist's new engagement ring.

His switching tactics—from threatening to charming— annoyed her more than his argumentative attitude. She crossed her arms. "I'm afraid not." She had to glance away to harden herself against the power of that smile.

"You don't understand. It's important that I see her, and it won't take long." He leaned closer, using his height to intimidate.

He had picked the wrong woman to irritate. Maybe her frustrated attraction made her exceptionally determined to thwart him. Her jaw clenched and she couldn't help narrowing her eyes. "Joy Luck Life Spa has many high-profile clients. If we let anyone into our elite lounges, we'd lose our sterling reputation for privacy and discretion."

"You don't understand how important this is—"

"Dr. Knightley, so nice to see you again." Aunt Becca stepped forward and inserted herself between the good doctor and Naomi's line of vision. She held out a thin hand, which Devon automatically took. "Why don't I set you up in the Chervil Lounge while Naomi looks for Ms. Ortiz?"

Aunt Becca whirled around faster than a tornado. Her eyes promised trouble if Naomi didn't comply. "Naomi."

Aunt Becca's taking charge of the conversation seemed to drive home the point that although Dad had left Naomi in charge of the spa while he recovered from his stroke, she still had a long way to go toward learning good customer relations. Part of her wanted to be belligerent toward Devon just to prove she was in the right, but the other part of her wilted at her failure as a good manager.

She walked into the back rooms and paused outside the door to the Tamarind Lounge, consciously relaxing her face. Deep breath in. Gently open the door.

Softly pitched conversation drifted into silence. Two pairs of eyes flickered over her from the crimson silk chaise lounges in the far corner of the luxuriant room, but neither of them belonged to Jessica Ortiz. Vanilla spice wafted around her as she headed toward the two women, trying to glide calmly, as the daughter of the spa owner should.

"Good morning, ladies. I apologize for the intrusion."

"Is it already time for my facial?" The elderly woman gathered her Egyptian cotton robe around her and prepared to stand.

"No, not yet, Ms. Cormorand. I've come to ask if either of you have seen Ms. Ortiz."

An inscrutable look passed between them. What had Jessica done to offend these clients in only the couple of hours she'd been at the spa? Jessica seemed to be causing the spa more and more trouble recently.

The other woman finally answered, "No, she left about a half hour ago for her massage. I thought she was with you."

Naomi cleared her throat to hide her start. Jessica's appointment was at eleven, in fifteen minutes, not now.

"Yes, doesn't she always ask for you when she comes?" Ms. Cormorand blinked faded blue eyes at her.

Naomi shoved aside a brief frisson of unease. Jessica should be easy to find. "Which massage therapist called for her?"

"Oh, I don't know." Ms. Cormorand waved a pudgy hand beringed with rubies and diamonds. "Someone in a blue uniform."

Only one of almost a hundred staff workers at the spa.

"Thank you, ladies. Ms. Cormorand, Haley will call you for your facial in fifteen minutes." Naomi inclined her head and left the room, trying to let the sounds of running water from the fountain in the corner calm her growing sense of unease.

Where could Jessica have gone? And an even juicier question: Why did Devon Knightley need to speak to her?

She peeked into the larger Rosemary lounge, which was for the use of spa clients who were not Tamarind members. Several women chatted in small groups, but no Jessica Ortiz. Naomi hadn't really expected Jessica to forgo the more comfortable elite lounge, but the only other option was checking each of the treatment rooms individually.

She headed into the back area where the therapy rooms were located, navigating the hallway scattered with teak and bamboo furniture, each sporting East Asian cushions and throws, artfully arranged by Aunt Becca. Had Jessica switched to a different massage therapist? And had someone forgotten to tell Naomi in the excitement of Sarah's new engagement?

As she moved down the hallway, she started noticing a strange, harsh scent suffusing the mingled smells of san-dalwood and vanilla. Not quite as harsh as chemicals, but not a familiar aromatherapy fragrance, a slightly discordant counterpoint to the spa's relaxing perfume.

She knew that smell, but couldn't place it. And it didn't conjure up pleasant associations. She started to hurry.

She first looked into the women's restroom, her steps echoing against the Italian tile. No sound of running water, but she peeked into the shower area. A few women were in the rooms with the claw-foot bathtubs, and a couple more in the whirlpool room, but no Jessica. No one using the toilets.

The mirrored makeup area had a handful of women, but again no Jessica. Naomi smiled at the clients to hide her disappointment and growing anxiety as she entered. She noticed some towels on the floor, a vase of orchids a little askew, and some lotions out of place on the marble counter running the length of the room, so she tidied up as if she had intended to do so, although the staff assigned to restroom duty typically kept things spic and span.

She peeked into the sauna. A rather loud ring of laughing women, but no Jessica.

Back out in the central fountain area, the harsh smell seemed stronger, but she couldn't pinpoint where it came from. Had a sewage pipe burst? No, it wasn't that sort of smell. It didn't smell rotten, just… had an edge to it.

She entered the locker area, although the Joy Luck Life Spa "lockers" were all carved teakwood cabinets, individually locked with keys. The smell jumped tenfold. Naomi scoured the room. Maybe it came from a client's locker? No. Maybe the dirty laundry hamper?


She flipped open the basketweave lid.

And screamed.


Chapter Two

The scream pierced Devon's eardrums. Beside him, Becca Itoh started. The heavy wooden double doors she'd just opened, leading to the men's lounge, clunked closed again as she turned and headed back down the corridor they'd walked.

"Where—?" He kept up with her, but not easily—for a woman in her fifties, she could book it.

"The women's lounge area." She pointed ahead as she hustled closer. "Those mahogany double doors at the end."

Devon sprinted ahead and yanked open the doors. "Stay behind me."

Becca ignored him, thrusting ahead and shouting, "Naomi!" as they entered a large circular entry area with more corridors leading from it. "Naomi!"

A door to their right burst open and Naomi Grant spilled into the entry room. "Aunt Becca!" Her face was the same shade as the cream-colored walls. "There's blood in the women's locker room.”

“Blood?” Becca reached for her as Devon pushed past her into the room she’d just exited.

Despite the urgency, he couldn’t help but be awed by the fountain in the center of a vast chamber with a veined-tile floor. Scrollwork signs on the walls pointed to “sauna” and “whirlpool” and “locker room.” Luckily, no women appeared. He veered right.

He almost wasn’t sure he’d actually arrived in the right place, but the carpeted room lined with teakwood locking cabinets was in line with the luxurious entry hall of what he realized was the women’s bathroom.

The metallic smell of blood reached him. He followed his nose to the basket hamper in the corner, filled with bloody towels. It reminded him of the discarded gauzes from his orthopedic surgeries, bright red and a lot more than the average person saw.

This was not good.

He returned to the two women. Naomi’s hands were visibly shaking, although her voice remained low and calm. “And I couldn’t find Ms. Ortiz.”

Jessica’s name still caused the reflexive crunching of his jaw. But he’d never wanted any harm to come to her—she wasn’t a bad person, they had just clashed too much on personal matters. And now she was missing, and there was an immense amount of blood in the bathroom. Devon’s heart beat in a light staccato against his throat. She had to be okay.

“Where else have you looked?” He scanned the other corridors leading from the fountain entryway. He’d need guidance or he’d get lost in this labyrinth.

“I haven’t checked the therapy rooms yet.” Naomi nodded toward the larger central corridor, which ended at another set of double doors.

He headed toward them when Becca reached out to grab his arm in a bony but strong grip. “You can’t just barge into private sessions.”

“Why not?” He turned to face the two women. “There’s blood in your bathroom and Jessica Ortiz is missing.”

Naomi’s light brown eyes skewered him. “Do you really think it’s wise to cause a panic?”

“And I suppose you have another option?”

“Sessions don’t last more than an hour or ninety minutes. We’ll wait for those to finish—if Jessica’s just in one of those, there’s nothing to worry about. In the meantime, we’ll check all the empty session rooms,” Naomi said.

Becca turned to leave and said over her shoulder, “I’ll check on the schedule at the receptionists’ desk to find out which rooms have clients and when the sessions end. I’ll call you on your cell.”

Naomi turned down a corridor in the opposite direction, this one lined with bamboo tables draped with shimmery, lavender-colored fabric so light that it swayed as they moved past.

It reminded Devon of the papery silks he’d seen in Thailand, giving the spa a soothing and very Asian atmosphere. His heartbeat slowed. Jessica was probably fine and had accidentally taken someone else’s session in her artless, friendly way. She’d emerge from a facial or a manicure in a few minutes and wonder what all the fuss was about.

A group of three therapists turned a corner. They spied Naomi and immediately stopped chatting amongst themselves, although not fearfully—more out of respect that the boss was suddenly in front of them.

“Girls, have you seen Ms. Ortiz?” Naomi’s smile seemed perfectly natural and warm—inviting a rapport with her staff, yet not too cozy. If Devon hadn’t noticed her fingers plucking at the linen fabric of her pants, he wouldn’t have known how anxious she was.

Two of them shook their heads, but the tall blond woman to his left nodded and pointed directly across the corridor. “I saw her talking to Ms. Fischer about an hour ago before Ms. Fischer went in for her manicure.”

His heartbeat picked up. “An hour ago?”

The blonde eyed him with a hard look, but a quick glance at Naomi seemed to allay her suspicions. He had the impression that if her boss hadn’t been by his side, he’d have been thrown out, even if it took all three women to do it.

Naomi was shaking her head. “Ms. Cormorand saw her leave the Tamarind lounge only thirty minutes ago.”

His hopes popped and fizzled.

The blonde jerked her head at the nearby door. “Ms. Fischer is almost done in room thirty-five if you want to talk to her anyway.”

“That’s a good idea. Thanks, Betsy.”

Betsy nodded, and the silent trio headed down the corridor and around the corner.

Copyright © 2009 by Camy Tang

Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.

Friday, July 24, 2009


I thought I'd give an update on what's going on with my life and all that. It's been crazy.

Back in June, I hurt my hand. I ended up with tendonitis in my thumb from... wait for it... walking my dog. I've been in braces with my hand mostly immobilized off and on since then. To say that I've been in pain has been an understatement. Plus, I've lost most of the function in my dominant hand. Not fun. But the reality is I have a job to do, I'm good at it, I like it, and hey, it pays the bills. So I've been focused on that and it's been all I can do to get that done. Which means no real updates about my life until now.

Since I've been talking about it, the hand. I'm still in braces off and on depending on pain and activity level. It's going to be a couple of months before I'm back to 100%. But I have most of my mobility back. I can actually work without pain. I still can't do some things. For me, it's been a humbling experience that's required me to ask for help on a lot of things I'd rather not. I'm learning to accept my limitations. Well, okay, you know me. To an extent. ;)

During that time, Camy and Cheryl came for a visit, and it was wonderful. Love them! Then, I went to RWA. I'll post on that in a couple of days or so. :)

Now I'm back, and I'm hoping my life will slow down at least slightly. Or not. Maybe I'll finally stop kidding myself and realize that there will never be a pause button and I'll figure out how to make it all work.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Religion Saves + Nine other Misconceptions by Mark Driscoll

So this is going to go down as an embarrassing moment for me. I got an email today asking me about this tour, and I went, "huh? what?" Insert very sheepish look. I sent off a quick apology, and began to research the issue. So I honestly don't know what happened. However, as I looked through my old files, I realized that I was super excited about this book, and even though I've missed my date, I've got to blog about it.

I wanted to read this book because I'm always interested to see what people will do in terms of clearing up misconceptions about Christianity. The truth is, I'm not comfortable with a lot of the information out there about Christianity. I love anything that's going to clear up misconceptions or, as I often secretly think, stupid stuff supposedly smart people believe.

But, since I'm pretty honest here anyway, I might as well admit to wondering about the stupid stuff I might believe. For those of you who don't know, I didn't grow up in the church. I wanted to know God, but my parents weren't too excited about the idea, so I ended up going to just about any and every church my friends invited me to. I learned a lot of things. Some true, some false, and some really messed up. I've spent my adulthood sifting through that information and searching for the truth.

The thing I appreciated most about this book was the heavy reliance on Scripture. Driscoll didn't just say, "God says," which is a huge pet peeve, but he gave the reference. He laid out the facts, why he believed what he believed, and left it to the reader to make an educated decision. I like that he didn't mince words. I'm not sure if I agreed with everything he said, but in areas where I disagreed, it made me more open to consider his points, evaluate them against Scripture, and really consider what I believed and why. Definitely a good book for people who want to dig into the truth.

About the book:
Religion Saves: And Nine Other Misconceptions

After 343,203 online votes on the Mars Hill Church website, nine questions for Pastor Mark Driscoll emerged as the ones most urgently calling for answers.

Inspired by 1 Corinthians, in which Paul answers a series of questions posed by the people in the Corinthian church, Pastor Mark Driscoll set out to determine the most controversial questions among visitors to the Mars Hill Church website. In the end, 893 questions were asked and 343,203 votes were cast. The top nine questions are now each answered in a chapter of Religion Saves.

After an introductory chapter devoted to the misconception that religion is what saves us, Driscoll tackles nine issues: birth control, humor, predestination, grace, sexual sin, faith and works, dating, the emerging church, and the regulative principle.

Because the purpose of this book is to address commonly asked questions, all readers will find relevant, engaging material, written in Driscoll's distinctively edgy, yet theologically sound style.

In his distinctively edgy, yet theologically sound style, Pastor Mark Driscoll addresses the nine most controversial questions posed by visitors to the Mars Hill Church website. This book is part of the Re:Lit series.

About the author: Meet Pastor Mark!

Mark Driscoll is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, one of the fastest-growing churches in America. He is president of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network and is the author of several books, including Vintage Jesus.

Pastor Mark preaches on Sunday, trains pastors, and writes curriculum. Mark is married to his high school sweetheart, Grace, and they enjoy raising their three sons and two daughters.

More about Mark here!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Menu for Romance by Kaye Dacus

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Menu for Romance

Barbour Publishing, Inc (July 1, 2009)


Kaye Dacus likes to say she writes “inspirational romance with a sense of humor.” She lives in Nashville and graduated from Seton Hill University’s Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction program. She is an active member and former Vice President of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Her Stand-In Groom novel took second place in the 2006 ACFW Genesis writing competition.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc (July 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 160260455X
ISBN-13: 978-1602604551

This was a charming story, and I loved the feel of community within. I've decided, though, that I hate books with cooking in them... all the food and descriptions were sooo yummy, it made me hungry! Blue cheese mashed potatoes? Please!! I don't even know how to make something so wonderful and now I can't get them out of my head. I loved the treatment of the mentally ill mother. It's such a complex relationship, and not one we hear about very often. I thought it was very sensitively handled, and I hope people reading the book will understand a difficult subject better because of this book.


“Happy New Year!”

Her thirty-fourth New Year and still no kiss at the stroke of midnight. . .or any other day or time. Meredith Guidry stood in the doorway leading into Vue de Ciel—the cavernous, sky-view event venue at the top of the tallest building in downtown Bonneterre, Louisiana—and swallowed back her longing as she watched hundreds of couples kiss.

A short burst of static over the earpiece startled her out of her regrets.

“Mere, we’re going to set up the coffee stations and dessert tables.” The executive chef’s rich, mellow voice filled her ear.

She clicked the button on the side of the wireless headset. “Thanks, Major.” Turning her gaze back to the main room, she tapped the button again. “Let’s slowly start bringing the houselights back up. I want us at full illumination around twelve thirty.” She strolled into the ballroom, the floor now covered with shiny metallic confetti, the hundreds of guests milling about wishing each other a happy New Year. Out on the dance floor, a large group of men stood swaying, arms about shoulders, singing “Auld Lang Syne” at the tops of their lungs, accompanied by the jazz band.

“Let’s make sure tables are bussed.” Pressing her finger to the earpiece to speak over the network made her feel like those secret service agents in the movies who were always talking into their shirt cuffs. “I’m seeing several tables with empty plates and glasses.”

She kept to the perimeter of the room, doing her best to blend in with the starlit sky beyond the glass walls, barely repressing the feeling of being the loner, the schoolgirl no one else paid any attention to. . .the woman no man ever gave a second glance.

“You look like a kid staring through a candy-store window, wishing you could go inside.”

Meredith’s heart thumped at the sudden voice behind her. She turned. Major O’Hara grinned his lopsided grin, his chef’s coat nearly fluorescent with its pristine whiteness.

“How’re you holding up?” He squeezed her shoulder in a brotherly way, his indigo eyes gentle.

She sighed. “You know me—I operate on pure adrenaline at these things no matter how little sleep I’ve gotten the night before. So long as I stay busy and don’t slow down, the fatigue can’t catch up with me.”

“And stopping to grab a bite to eat would have meant slowing down?”


Coldness embraced her shoulder when Major lifted his hand away. “I set aside a few take-home boxes for you—and Anne. I told her I’d be sure to save a little of everything.”

Anne. Meredith’s cousin and best friend. Her inspiration and mentor. Owner of a stellarly successful wedding- and event-planning business, Happy Endings, Inc. And friends with Major O’Hara on a level Meredith could never attain.

“If you see George, tell him I’ve been experimenting with that plum pudding recipe he gave me. I’ll need his expert opinion before I can officially add it to my repertoire.”

“I’ll tell him—but you see him more often than I do.”

“Yeah, I guess so. I’m glad we convinced Anne to fall in love with him. Finally, having another man’s opinion when we’re all working an event together.” He winked.

Meredith quickly turned her eyes toward the milling crowd so he wouldn’t see how he affected her. It would only embarrass him—and mortify her.

He tweaked her chin. “Come on. Back to work for the bosses.”

Over the next hour, Meredith poured herself into her work to try to keep exhaustion at bay. The last few guests meandered out just after one thirty. Meredith turned on all of the lights, their glare on the glass walls and ceiling nearly blinding her. She tasked her staff to stack chairs, pull linen from tables, and clear the room.

She directed the sorting of the rented decorations and materials into different dump sites around the room. Early Tuesday morning, she would meet all of the vendors here to have their stuff carted away so the building maintenance staff could get in for a final cleaning before resetting the room for lunch service.

“Miss Guidry, are these your shoes?” Halfway across the room, one of the black-and-white-clad workers held aloft a pair of strappy, spike-heeled sandals. Meredith’s medium-height, pointy-toed brown pumps rubbed her feet in a couple of places after six hours—but nothing like the pain those sandals would have caused.

“Lost-and-found,” she called over the music throbbing through the room’s built-in PA system. Not what she would choose to listen to, but it kept the staff—mostly college students—happy and working at a brisk clip. That made three pairs and two stray shoes, five purses, sixteen cellular phones, and one very gaudy ruby ring—and those were only the items Meredith had seen herself. Her assistant would be fielding phone calls for days.

Vacuum cleaners roared to life—a wonderful sound as it meant they were getting close to quitting time. A couple of guys loaded the last of the large round tables onto a cart and wheeled it down the hall to the freight elevator, followed by several more pushing tall stacks of dark blue upholstered chairs on hand trucks.

Vue de Ciel expanded in all directions around her. She hugged her arms around her middle. She’d survived another New Year’s Eve Masked Ball—and the eight hundred guests seemed to have enjoyed themselves immensely. Hopefully her parents would deem it a success.

The soprano of flatware, alto of china, tenor of voices, and bass rumble of the dish sterilizers created a jubilant symphony that thrilled Major O’Hara’s heart.

Simply from the questions the food-and-wine columnist from the Reserve had asked, the review in the morning newspaper wouldn’t be good. It would be glowing.

“Chef, stations are clean, ready for inspection.” Steven LeBlanc, sous chef, wiped his hands on the towel draped over his shoulder. Though Steven’s white, Nichols State University T-shirt was sweat-soaked—much like Major’s own University of Louisiana–Bonneterre tribute—the kid’s blond hair still stood stiff and tall in mini-spikes all over his head.

Major hadn’t yet been able to find anything that would keep his own hair from going curly and flopping down onto his forehead in the heat and humidity of a working kitchen. Yet asking Steven for hair-styling tips—Major grunted. He’d rather slice his hand open and stick it in a vat of lemon juice.

He followed Steven through the kitchen, inspecting each surface and utensil, releasing some of the staff to clock out, pointing out spots missed to others.

“Civilian in the kitchen,” rang out from one of the line cooks.

Meredith, stately and graceful, light hair set off to perfection by her brown velvet dress—like strawberries served with chocolate ganache—swept into the kitchen, drawing the attention of every man present. If she knew she had that effect on his crew, she would laugh her head off and call them all nuts.

“I’m ready to release my staff, unless you need any help in here.” Meredith came over and leaned against the stainless-steel counter beside him. She even smelled vaguely of strawberries and chocolate. . .or maybe that was just his imagination.

He cleared his throat. “I think we’ve got it covered.”

“Dishwashing station cleared, Chef!”

“See?” He grinned at her.

She graced him with a full smile, then covered her mouth as a yawn overwhelmed her. “I’ll let my guys go, then.” She pressed her hands to the base of her neck and rolled her head side to side. “I’ve got to run down to my office to get my stuff.”

“Why don’t I meet you at your office, since I have to come downstairs anyway?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. I’ll be fine—”

“Mere. Stop. I will come to your office to walk you to your car. You’re lucky I’m not insisting on driving you home myself.”

Her nutmeg eyes flickered as if she were about to argue; then her smile returned. “Thank you, Major. I’d appreciate that.”

Good girl. “That wasn’t too hard, was it?” He limited himself to once again laying his hand on her shoulder instead of pulling her into a hug. “Go on. I’ll make sure all the rest get clocked out and then shut everything down for the night.”

Meredith nodded and departed. Major rounded up the last few stragglers and watched them run their cards through the computerized time clock. Returning their happy-New-Year wishes, he ducked into his office at the rear of the kitchen, grabbed his dry-cleaning bag along with his duffel, turned off his computer and light, and locked the door.

The brass nameplate winked in the bright kitchen light. Major O’hara, Executive Chef. He grimaced. What pride he’d taken eight years ago when Mr. Guidry had offered him the position—saving Major years of working his way up the chain of command in restaurants.

He heaved the two bags over his shoulder. Meredith’s parents had been better to him than he deserved, had given him the flexibility in his schedule to take care of family matters no other employer would have given. They had also given him their blessing—their encouragement—to strike out on his own, to open the restaurant he’d dreamed of since working for Meredith’s aunt in her catering company throughout high school and college. The restaurant he’d already have, if it weren’t for his mother.

Major shut down the houselights, guilt nipping at his heels. Ma couldn’t help the way she was. The mirrored elevator doors whispered shut, and he turned to stare out the glass wall overlooking downtown Bonneterre from twenty-three floors above.

His descent slowed, then stopped. The doors slid open with a chime announcing his arrival on the fifth floor. Before he could turn completely around, Meredith stepped into the elevator.

“How long were you standing in the hall waiting for one of these doors to open?”

Meredith busied herself with pushing the button for the basement parking garage. “Not long.”

“Not long,” he imitated the super-high pitch of her voice. “You’ve never been a good liar, Mere.”

“Fine.” She blew a loose wisp of hair out of her eyes. “I was out there a couple of minutes. I didn’t want you to have to wait for me. Happy?”

“Not in the least. But I appreciate your honesty.” Due to the tenseness around her mouth, he changed the subject. “Your mom invited me to drop by their New Year’s open house. You going?”

Meredith shook her head. “No.” The simple answer held a magnitude of surprise.

“She said she had something she wanted to talk to me about.”

The porcelain skin between Meredith’s brows pinched. “Hmm. No—I don’t usually go over for the open house, just for our family dinner later. Instead, I’m fixing to go home, sleep for a few hours, and then head over to the new house. I’m planning to get the paint stripped from all the woodwork in the living room and dining room tomorrow.”

“In one day?” Major grunted. Meredith’s new house was anything but: a one-hundred-year-old craftsman bungalow everyone had tried to talk her out of buying. “Wouldn’t you rather relax on your holiday?”

“But working on the house is relaxing to me. Plus, it gives me a good excuse to go off by myself all day and be assured no one’s going to disturb me.”

The elevator doors opened to the dim, chilly underground parking garage. Major took hold of Meredith’s arm and stopped her from exiting first. He stepped out, looked around, saw nothing out of the ordinary, then turned and nodded to her. “Looks safe.”

“Of course it’s safe. You lived in New York too long.” She walked out past him.

“Meredith, Bonneterre isn’t the little town we grew up in anymore. Even before Hurricane Katrina, it was booming.” He stopped her again, planted his hands on her shoulders, and turned her to face him. “Please don’t ever take your safety for granted. Not even here in the garage with security guards on duty. If anything happened to you. . .”

Meredith blushed bright red and dropped her gaze.

“Look, I don’t mean to alarm you. But in this day and age, anything could happen.” He kept hold of her a moment longer, then let go and readjusted the straps of the bags on his shoulder.

Meredith released a shaky breath. “So, what are you going to do on your day off?”

“Watch football.” He winked at her over his shoulder as he approached her Volvo SUV. The tinted windows blocked him from seeing inside. Perhaps he had lived in New York too long. But Bonneterre had changed even in the eight years he’d been back. Crime rates had risen along with the population. And he would have done this for any other lady of his acquaintance, wouldn’t he?

He heard the lock click and opened the driver’s-side door for her—taking a quick peek inside just to make sure that the boogey man wasn’t hiding in the backseat.

“Oh, honestly!” Meredith playfully pushed him out of the way and, shaking her head, opened the back door and heaved her large, overstuffed briefcase onto the seat.

Major moved out of the way for her to get in. “Drive safely, okay?”

“I always do.”

“Call me when you get home. Nuh-uh. No arguments. If you don’t want to call, just text message me—all right?—once you’re in your apartment with the door locked.”

“Hey, who died and made you my keeper?” Meredith laughed.

He didn’t let his serious expression crack. “Just call me safety obsessed.”

“Okay, Major Safety Obsessed.” She leaned into his one-armed hug, then settled into the driver’s seat. “Thank you for your concern. I will text you as soon as I arrive safely home, am safely in my house, with my door safely locked.”

He closed the car door and waved before walking over to Kirby, his beaten-up old Jeep, a few spaces down. As he figured, Meredith waited to back out until he was in with the engine started. He followed her out of downtown and waved again as they parted ways on North Street.

A few fireworks flickered in the distance against the low-hanging clouds. He turned the radio on and tuned it to the Southern Gospel station. Always keyed-up after events, he sang the high-tenor part along with the Imperials. Though it had taken him a while to build the upper range of his voice—having always sung baritone and bass before—when he, George Laurence, Forbes Guidry, and Clay Huntoon started their own quartet, Major had been the only one who could even begin to reach some of the high notes. Sometimes it was still a strain, but he practiced by singing along with the radio as loudly as he could. . .to keep his voice conditioned.

When he pulled into the condo-complex parking lot, his cell phone chimed the new text message alert. He shook his head. Of course she texted instead of calling. He pulled the phone out of the holster clipped to his belt and flipped it open to read the message:

SAFELY home. : - )

happy new year


While Kirby’s engine choked itself off, Major typed out a return message:

home too

sweet dreams


The phone flashed a confirmation that the message was sent, and he holstered it. Grabbing his black duffel from the back, he left the orange dry-cleaning bag to drop off at the cleaners Tuesday.

To blow off some steam and try to relax enough to fall asleep, he turned on the computer and played a few rounds of Spider Solitaire. About an hour later, his whole body aching, eyes watering from yawning every other minute, he grabbed a shower before turning in. At thirty-eight years old, he shouldn’t feel this out of shape—of course, if he still made time to go to the gym every day and didn’t enjoy eating his own cooking as much as he did, he probably wouldn’t be this out of shape. He weighed as much now as he had playing middle linebacker in college. . .except twenty years ago, it had all been muscle.

But who trusted a skinny chef anyway?

Thunder grumbled, and rain pattered against the window. Major kicked at the comforter that had become entangled in his legs during the night and rolled over to check the time.

Eight thirty. What a perfect day to don ratty old sweats, sit in the recliner watching football on the plasma TV, and eat junk food.

If he had a plasma TV. Or any junk food in the condo.

Alas, though, he’d promised Mrs. Guidry he would drop by. Best check the schedule of games, see which he cared least about, and make the visit then. He pulled on the ratty old sweats and an equally ratty ULB T-shirt, though. As he passed down the short hallway, he tapped the temperature lever on the thermostat up a couple of degrees to knock a little of the chill out of the air.

His stomach growled in concert with the thunder outside. The tile in the kitchen sent shockwaves of cold up his legs. Shifting from foot to foot, he yanked open the dryer door, dug through the clothes in it, and found two somewhat matching socks. Sometimes having the laundry hookups here did come in handy, even though they took up more than a third of the space in the small galley kitchen.

The fridge beckoned. Not much there—maybe he should hit the grocery store on the way back from the Guidrys’ open house.

Half an hour later, with the Rose Bowl parade providing ambiance, he sank into his recliner and dug into the andouille sausage, shrimp, potato, mushroom, red pepper, onion, jack cheese, and bacon omelet spread with Creole mustard on top.

Maybe he should consider making a New Year’s resolution to cut back on calories this year. What was missing? Oh, yeah, the grits. He’d left the bowl sitting by the stove.

Halfway to the kitchen to retrieve the rest of his breakfast, the phone rang. He unplugged it from the charger as he passed by.


“Mr. O’Hara, this is Nick Sevellier at Beausoleil Pointe Center.”

Major stopped. So did his heart.

“I’m sorry to bother you on a holiday, sir, but your mother has had an episode. She’s asking for you.”

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Blue like play dough by tricia goyer

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Blue Like Play Dough

Multnomah Books (July 21, 2009


Tricia Goyer is the author of twenty books including From Dust and Ashes, My Life UnScripted, and the children's book, 10 Minutes to Showtime. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like Today's Christian Woman and Focus on the Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in the mountains of Montana.

Visit the author's website.

Tricia Goyer's Go-Go Campaign!

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (July 21, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601421524
ISBN-13: 978-1601421524


Ordinarily, I would not call this a bathroom book. But because I am a busy, crazy mom with a hectic schedule, it sort of turned into one. I came home from running kids everywhere, saw the book in my mailbox, grabbed it, and ran into the bathroom because I had to go. I only meant to glance through the book. An hour later, my kids start banging on the door, and I realize, "oops!"

So this as an engaging book, and I couldn't put it down. Definitely an encouraging read. But, as I learned, don't pick it up and think you can just take a quick glance through.


Chapter 1

In the Middle

of My Mess

Inever thought I could meet God here. In my home. In my mess. In the midst of my ordinary suburban life. To me, God was someone you met at church or connected with at weekly Bible study. I knew deep down it was possible to have mountaintop moments, but I believed they came during weeklong spiritual retreats, hour long morning Quiet Times, and a once-a year women’s conference.

Instead, I found God in surprising places. I found Him as I sat on the couch cuddling with my three-year-old and reading Goodnight Moon for the 2,345th time. He spoke to me as I made dinner and even as I stuffed laundry into rickety dresser drawers. I heard Him in the midst of my untidy, desperately-in-need of-a-reorg life. I found God, experienced Him…well…while mixing Kool-Aid and playing with play dough.

And it’s a good thing God allowed Himself to be found there, because as a mom my opportunities for solitude, contemplation, and three hymns and a prayer are few and far between.

I used to think the ones who knew God best were nuns and monks who lived high in the hills. I imagined it must be hard for such people to separate themselves and to give up so much. What they had, I believed, was true devotion and an ultimate connection with God. Everyone else—those of us who lived ordinary lives—missed out. Well, I don’t think that anymore.

Yes, I still think nuns and monks are devoted people, but in a way they have it easy. They find God in routines and rituals. They talk to God because there is no one else around. They don’t have to deal with bad drivers cutting them off and then flipping them off. Or with grass stains on a new pair of capris that actually fit and don’t make their butts look too big. Or with a child practicing her name one hundred times on the bathroom floor in permanent marker. Sure, their prayers sound eloquent, but a mom’s prayers for a sick baby are just as pious and maybe more passionate.

In my way of thinking, the most devoted people are moms who whisper prayers for their neighbor, their friend, and their brother (who’s messing up yet again) while watching their kids play in the sandbox. Moms who try to read their Bibles while Dora the Explorer is blaring on the TV in the next room. Moms who stop to talk with an elderly man at the grocery store about the creamed corn, not because they even like creamed corn, but because they want to show a lonely person the love of Jesus.

I think God would agree. I believe He sees the challenges and the effort. He appreciates the smallest turning of our attention to Him or to others for Him.

Even though seeking God is worthy, that doesn’t mean it’s easy or natural. In fact, it almost seems wrong to squeeze God into the middle of a busy, ordinary life. God is BIG. My pursuits are small. God is GLORIOUS. Scrubbing sinks and changing poopy diapers is not. Nor is pushing a shopping cart filled with teetering toiletries, humming “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” as the song plays through the store speakers.

I’ve read many books written by people who “went away with God.” The authors often write about how God speaks to people in solitary, beautiful places. But not all the places He visits are beautiful. Or solitary. My life is proof of that.

Truth be told, it wasn’t I who discovered God. He came down and met me where I was. It doesn’t matter to Him that I can hardly see my desk under the piles of mail and bills and kids’ craft projects. He doesn’t care that I’m twenty pounds overweight (or maybe thirty, no matter what my driver’s license says). He loves me just as I am. He knows my to-do list and that I’ll never get to the end of it. Ever. God sees my heart. He understands that I’m trying to get my life in order so I can focus on family dinners and Bible reading times. He knows I’m working at not feeling envious that my neighbor is thinner than I am and has a better flower garden. My flaws neither surprise Him nor dissuade Him from entering my life.

It’s not as if God says, “I was going to visit you today, but I think I’ll wait until you balance that checkbook, clean out your fridge, and start that Bible study you’ve been meaning to get around to.” God’s not like that. He walked with dirty, smelly shepherds and hung out with jailed prophets, so I don’t think my waist-high laundry pile is going to scare Him off.

Still, I struggle with feeling as if I have to clean up before I approach God. Organize my closets. Transform my kids. Rearrange my priorities. Renew my heart. I forget that God wants me just as I am. That belonging to Him is enough.

Like the prodigal son in Luke 15:11–32, I need to remember who my Father is. The kid had it all, and he threw it away. He was broke. He was hungry. He was dirty. He was a mess. Then he remembered his father and his home.

For the prodigal son, it wasn’t just about going back to his home. It was also about letting his dad take care of him. I need to do the same. And if I took two minutes to think about it— as I’m doing now—I’d realize the perfection I long for will never be found in the place I live and parent and strive. It’s found in who I turn to. In who is waiting for me with open arms.

The problem isn’t whether God will show up. It’s all about me not being aware that God is already here…that He has been in my life all along. And that He doesn’t care about my mess. Sometimes I do better at remembering. And other times, well… I live in a house with my husband, my grandma, my three teens, and a foreign exchange student we invited into our home just so we could make sure life didn’t get too boring. That’s seven people, each involved in numerous activities, each with his or her own schedule. Circles and scribbles and arrows fill my desk calendar. White spaces are few and far between. Daily life keeps me running. Add in volunteering at church and my work projects, and I wonder if it’s possible to think, let alone contemplate.

While I’m no longer potty training and all my kids have learned to write and read and say please and thank you, I’ve discovered that every season comes with challenges of its own. Right now I’m in a season where little messes sprout up around me like dandelions on a manicured lawn. As soon as I try to cut one down, the seeds scatter and weeds sprout up in a dozen more places.

In the last two months, my nineteen-year-old son, Cory, had two knee surgeries (due to basketball injuries). And my daughter, Leslie, celebrated her sixteenth birthday with a “Never Been Kissed Party,” which means that my years of lectures about abstinence and purity have paid off thus far. My youngest son, Nathan, has been helping me housebreak a dog that, for the past year, has assumed the downstairs bathroom was his potty spot too.

I used to think stumbling over LEGO blocks was irritating. Now I live with a teen driver, a social butterfly, and a child who must believe that showers spray acid, judging by the lengths he goes to avoid them. On a daily basis, I’m not sure who is going where with whom…or if any of my kids are clean enough to be going out at all!

When I read the familiar Scripture verse, “Be still, and know that I am God,” my stomach knots and my thoughts bounce around like a Ping-Pong ball on steroids. Even as I try to focus on the words, my mind wanders to the phone calls I need to return. I find myself trying to stack and restack the piles in order to make them seem more appealing and not quite so overwhelming.

Yet I know this verse doesn’t necessarily mean I have to still my body in order to connect with God. In the middle of my busy life, I can refocus my thoughts and my mind and my heart on Him. I can be fixed on God, even when my feet are hustling. I can look for Him, listen for Him, even if the looking and listening happen in the short drive I take to pick my daughter up from her job at a fast-food restaurant. Or in the prayers I offer up as I shave my legs in the shower.

Being still is trusting that when I do fill the white space with some quiet moments (which I try to do daily), God will have something better in store for me and my kids than what I could’ve come up with on my own. (Like the afternoon when, instead of cleaning off my desk, I took my daughter for coffee. That inner urging led to great conversation about issues I didn’t realize Leslie was dealing with.)

Being still is realizing that even though the world is traveling around me at breakneck speed, sometimes—most times— God’s schedule is in the horse-and-buggy mode. Just because life is moving faster and my needs are growing like kernels of popcorn in the microwave, it doesn’t mean that God has to answer my urgent prayers in the next .287 seconds. In fact, sometimes I think He holds off on purpose, because the greater my need, the more I seek Him. In the end the seeking and waiting and trusting may be more important than the answer.

The mess isn’t going to get cleaned up today, but that doesn’t mean I need to hold God at bay. He loves joining me, even if I’m placing Him into my chaos. In fact, if God had His way, I’m sure He’d write Himself into all parts of my life, using permanent marker, reminding me of where He wants to be—everywhere. In all of my life. And if I close my eyes, I can see His message in my day, in my life:

Insert God here.