Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year from Laura Scott!

Image result for new years free clipart 2019

Happy New Year everyone! I was so blessed in 2018 between hitting the USA Today bestseller list to attending my daughter's wedding. I'm not sure 2019 can top that, but I'm still looking forward to bringing in the new year.

I'm curious how many of you make New Year Resolutions? That has never been something I've done, mainly because I try to live healthy and happy in Christ. But for those of you who do make them, what are your top resolutions? Losing weight? Getting fit? Any particular writing or reading goals? Please share them here, I'd love to hear them. Maybe you'll inspire me to make some resolutions of my own.

As 2018 comes to a close I'd like to briefly mention my December release. I was blessed to participate
in the Military K-9 Unit Continuity and in December my novella Yuletide Target is paired with the very talented Valerie Hansen's Christmas Escape. If you haven't picked them up yet, there's still time and both stories are a great way to end the series.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Sunday Scripture

Finding the Child Jesus in the Temple

Jesus Found in the Temple, James Tissot, 1886-1894,
Brooklyn Museum. [PD-US]

Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast
of Passover, 
and when he was twelve years old, 
they went up according to festival custom.
After they had completed its days, as they were returning, 
the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, 
but his parents did not know it.
Thinking that he was in the caravan,
they journeyed for a day
and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 
but not finding him,
they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple, 
sitting in the midst of the teachers, 
listening to them and asking them questions, 
and all who heard him were astounded 
at his understanding and his answers.
When his parents saw him,
they were astonished, 
and his mother said to him, 
“Son, why have you done this to us?
Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
And he said to them,
“Why were you looking for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
But they did not understand what he said to them.
He went down with them and came to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them; 
and his mother kept all these things in her heart.
And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor
before God and man.
Luke 2:41-52

If you have any prayer needs, please mention them in the comments section so we can join you in prayer. You do not need to include specific names or situations of a private nature, just say that you have a prayer request. The Lord knows your heart and the needs you have. It is a privilege and honor to pray with you and for you.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Christmas May Be Over, But....

Hello! I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas earlier this week. Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love decorating, watching movies, singing carols and shopping for gifts for those closest to me. I also like to volunteer where and when I can. Usually my Christmas cards get mailed right after Thanksgiving. Then my tree and manger go up the 1st weekend of December so I can enjoy my decorations throughout the month. 

This year, though, has been different and… more challenging. After four days of feeling sick in the beginning of December, I visited the doctor and found out I had bronchitis. I got medications but I also rested as much as possible and slept as much as I could. But the bronchitis refused to go away and my decorating and shopping got pushed back “until later.” I figured I’d do it when I started feeling better. But I didn’t seem to be getting much better. Instead, I got more frustrated, upset and stressed. I still had so much to do with my day job, my manuscript and to prepare for Christmas. Unfortunately, all the pressure I was putting on myself caused another medical crisis, one that forced me to abandon almost all of my own plans and reevaluate my life. (Don't worry. I'm okay.) 

At first, I was depressed and in the “Why me?” mindset. It really hurt my heart I couldn’t celebrate Christmas as I normally did. But as the days went by I remembered the decorations and gifts aren’t the most important parts of the holiday. Despite my current medical issues (which aren’t terrible), I could still spend time with people I love and celebrate the true meaning of the season, the birth of Jesus. I was able to do that earlier this week and I had a wonderful time despite having boxes of my own decorations still on my living room floor.

I'm happy to say I'm still enjoying my holiday and I'm taking stock in all I've learned about myself, my health and my faith. Over this last weekend of 2018, I plan to reorganize my life as best I can. I want my priorities to be my health and finding ways to pass the meaning of Christmas forward from my heart as much as possible through my actions and my books in 2019. I'm so looking forward to the challenge. 

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Looking toward the New Year

In the days after Christmas, I often review what has transpired in the life of my family over the past year.

I reflect on the year's highlights and noteworthy accomplishments. This year—2018—was a wonderful year of new books, family adventures and my oldest daughter's college graduation. Inevitably, this holy season also prompts me to examine how well I've loved others and God. This is what inspired me when I wrote The Christmas Baby, which released last year. (This may be my favorite Love Inspired cover ever for one of my books!)

A pastor once told me that to be happy a person needs three things:

1. Someone to love
2. Something worthwhile to do
3. Something to look forward to

I am very thankful for my family—someone to love. I just turned in the second book in my new Blue Ridge series right before Christmas, and I will begin writing the third novel in January—worthwhile work to do. The first book—His Secret Daughter—will be out in February—something to look forward to. Stay tuned for more details—I really love this cover, too.

I pray that 2019 will be full of God's best gifts to you—someone to love, worthwhile work and a hope-filled future.

Happy New Year,
Lisa Carter

What are you looking forward to in 2019?

As a Southern romance writer, Lisa has definite opinions on serious issues like barbeque, ACC basketball and the whole Pepsi vs. Coke controversy. When she isn't writing, Lisa enjoys traveling to romantic locales. She also enjoys quilting and researching her next romantic adventure.

Join her mailing list for info on book happenings at Newsletter. Follow her on BookBub to receive notices about new releases. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Next Day by Virginia Vaughan

Merry the day after Christmas!

I woke up this morning wondering what Mary was doing on this day all those long years ago. I'm sure she and her husband were making plans for what came next. After the tiresome day before of traveling and then giving birth, she surely spent the remainder of that day resting, but the day after Jesus's birth, this couple had a lot of decisions to make going forward including finding a better place to stay in a new town with a new baby. But, like us, they had God taking care of them!

While historically, Jesus may have been born in the spring, I find it fitting that we celebrate his birth at the end of our year because the day after Christmas always puts me in the mood to look forward to the upcoming new year. I'm not talking about resolutions but more about making plans. I have an empty 2019 calendar just waiting to be filled with projects and dates, including an upcoming LIS release in July titled Risky Return. No cover yet, but I'm already looking forward to sharing it with you.

But for today, I'll take it easy and spend the day cleaning up the messes I was too tired to clean after the chaos of Christmas Day.

What are your plans for the day after Christmas?

Virginia Vaughan

This Christmas could be her last…

Unless Covert Operatives shield her

Prosecutor and single mom Melinda Steele thought her nightmare ended when her abusive husband died, but now someone wants her dead by Christmas. Navy SEAL turned security operative Noah Cason needs her to get justice in his sister’s disappearance, but first he’ll have to keep her alive. And his mission shifts from difficult to almost impossible when Melinda reveals who she suspects is really after her.

Author Bio: 

Award winning author Virginia Vaughan lives by the motto 'It's not hoarding if its books'. Always the kid with her nose stuck in a book, becoming a multi-published author hasn't stopped Virginia from continuing to grow her own collection of favorite reads. Her family has refused to help her move anymore because of the sheer number boxes of books, but she's no quitter. She'll keep buying books and, the next time she moves, hire a moving van. 

If you love stories where romance intersects danger and faith, subscribe to Virginia's email list at and be the first to know when a new story arrives.

Email Newsletter:

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Blessings

Nativity, Botticelli, c. 1473-75, Columbia Museum of Art.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that the whole world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment, 
when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth 
to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, 
because he was of the house and family of David, 
to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there,
the time came for her to have her child, 
and she gave birth to her firstborn son.
She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, 
because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields 
and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them 
and the glory of the Lord shone around them, 
and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them,
"Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy 
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David 
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you: 
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes 
and lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
"Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
Luke 2: 1-14

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Traditions: From my house to yours by Belle Calhoune


Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse.  The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in the hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there." I've always loved that poem, and as a kid just hearing it gave me chills of excitement.  Honestly, it still gives me a thrill!

It's Christmas Eve and all is relatively calm. Here in Connecticut, the malls are filled with last-minute shoppers and the roads are congested with people who are traveling to see their loved ones or to find that special something to place under the tree.  Thankfully, I'm all done with my shopping and can focus on the fixings for Christmas dinner and the more joyful aspects of the holiday. 

Tonight we'll go to Midnight Mass and listen to some music as we finish wrapping presents.  We might even watch a Christmas movie..we love Polar Express and Elf.  One of my favorite family traditions is giving out Christmas Eve Pajamas to my girls.  My husband and I love doing it. We buy them Christmas pajamas and give them to the girls on Christmas Eve so they can wake up the next morning wearing them.  We also allow them to open one present on Christmas Eve which they get so excited about.  It doesn't matter that my oldest is 23 lol.  She eagerly hinted about the pajamas she wanted for Christmas Eve.  I can't wait to see their faces tonight!

Making my Crock Pot Mac n Cheese is also a holiday tradition.  It is so delicious!  And at this point, I've memorized how to make it, but it's so easy.  And a big hit with the family.  Another tradition is my chocolate Buche de Noel cake which is sometimes referred to as a yule log cake.  It is very delicious if I do say so myself and a slice of chocolate heaven.

I'm looking forward to 2019 and all that it brings. Happiness,
Health and more books!!


Sunday, December 23, 2018

Sunday Scripture

Fourth Sunday in Advent

Visitation, Altarpiece of the Virgin, Jacques Daret,
c. 1435, Staatliche Museen, Berlin. [PD-US]

Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah, 
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb, 
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, 
cried out in a loud voice and said, 
"Blessed are you among women, 
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me, 
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, 
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled."
Luke 1: 39-45

If you have any prayer needs, please mention them in the comments section so we can join you in prayer. You do not need to include specific names or situations of a private nature, just say that you have a prayer request. The Lord knows your heart and the needs you have. It is a privilege and honor to pray with you and for you.

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Romance of Christmas by Sarah Price

I love a good romance story, don't you? 
At this time of year, when we get ready to celebrate the holidays, I always think about the romance behind Joseph and Mary’s relationship. Of course, I’m a diehard romantic so, in my mind, I see love everywhere so it shouldn't be surprising that it has always been one of my favorite stories in the Bible. 
Despite the stigma and problems associated with his soon-to-be bride's unexpected pregnancy, Joseph listened to the angel and stood by Mary’s side. And even though not much is said about her relationship with Joseph, she, in turn, proved to be a good wife for him and mother to the baby—think about how frantic they were when looking for the young Jesus during a pilgrimage to Jerusalem!

That is what is at the core of Amish Faith: love even when it is not founded in the most ideal of circumstances. 
Many years ago, during the holiday season, I met an Amish couple who inspired this novel. He was a rather striking, soft-spoken young Amish man and she was simply lovely—in mannerism and personality. They had several children and she could bare no more. Unfortunately, they both wanted a larger family and against doctor’s orders, she became pregnant. 
What greater gift to give a loving husband than a newborn baby!
My mind began to whirl—as it so often does—with the what if’s. What if she couldn’t carry the baby? What if something went wrong? What if…?
Fortunately, everything went well for the couple. But the seed was planted in my mind and from it was born my novel, Amish Faith, my latest Love Inspired book that is currently being sold at Walmart and online. 
Amish Faith is a book that explores love on many different levels. It's the perfect read for a cold winter's night. 
If you cannot find Amish Faith in the bookstores, it is available online via Amazon

Please take a moment, too, to visit my website and blog.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Christmas Story through Sacred Art

By Debby Giusti

I love sacred art. If you stop by the blog on Sundays, you’ve probably read the scripture I post along with a work of art from one of the Old Masters. The paintings allow me to meditate more deeply on God's Word and make the Good News come alive.

During the third week of Advent, as we prepare ourselves, once again, for the birth of the Christ Child, let’s reflect on the Nativity through the work of some of the world’s most renowned artists.

The Annunciation, Caravaggio, 1608, Museum
of Fine Art of Nancy, Franc. [PD-US]

The Visitation, Domenico Ghirlandaio, c.1491, Louvre, France. [PD-US]

Nativity, Sandro Botticelli, c.1473-1475, Columbia
Museum of Art [PS-US]

Adoration of the Magi, Bartolome Esteban Murillo,
1655-1660, Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio. [PD-US]

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas!

With abundant blessings and much love,
Debby Giusti

By Debby Giusti

Safe Haven for the Holidays
The thrilling Amish Protectors conclusion
Leaving the nursing home where she works, Rosie Glick’s accosted by a man demanding incriminating evidence her murdered boyfriend stole—until Ezra Stoltz scares him off. Now with a killer dead set on silencing the Amish single mother, Ezra must hide Rosie and her baby to keep them safe. But can he expose a sinister conspiracy in time
to save the woman he secretly loves?

Order here!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Wishing you peace for the holidays

Hi Everyone, Danica Favorite here. Some of you may remember my last post, When the Holidays aren't Happy, and I wanted to share an update!

Ava finally had her surgery yesterday, and she is home and doing very well. She will have about a year of recovery, but she was in much better shape than what the vet had originally told us. So, from our family to yours, thank you for all the prayers and good thoughts you sent our way. Ava thanks you, too.

Ava just before surgery
For our family, we got the Christmas miracle we were all praying for, but I know that doesn't always happen for a lot of families. I want you to know that if that is you, and you are praying for a miracle that doesn't arrive, God still sees you, and He still loves you.

This Christmas, what I wish most of all of you is that you find the peace of the Lord in your heart. It's been a hard year for our family, though there have also been some bright spots. But as I reflect during this time of year, closing out 2018 (really not sad to see it go, I'll be honest!), the thing I am most focused on is the love of God and God's peace, which, if you keep your eyes fixed on God's love, is easy to find.

We haven't filled our holidays with a lot of activities this year, and the space under the tree will be a little bare (hello, vet bills!), and that's okay. It's given me the opportunity to focus more on the peace of the Lord, and to more fully know God's love.

I hope, as you close out this year, you take some time to recognize what a truly loving and amazing God we have, and allow that love to bring you peace.

About Danica:
A self-professed crazy chicken lady, Danica Favorite loves the adventure of living a creative life. She and her family recently moved in to their dream home in the mountains above Denver, Colorado.  Danica loves to explore the depths of human nature and follow people on the journey to happily ever after. Though the journey is often bumpy, those bumps are what refine imperfect characters as they live the life God created them for. Oops, that just spoiled the ending of all of Danica’s stories. Then again, getting there is all the fun.
You can connect with Danica at the following places:
Newsletter: Website: Twitter: Instagram: Facebook:   Facebook Reader Group:

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Finding the Perfect Christmas by Tracey J Lyons

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been watching a lot of Christmas movies. It seems like they’ve been running since before Thanksgiving. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Christmas movies. The thing is they all have that happy Christmas ending. The cookies get baked, the tree gets decorated, the town gets saved, the couple has their happy ending…we all know that real life isn’t like this. And yet, if you’re like me at this time of the year you want your life to be exactly like that Christmas movie.

For the most part my “Christmas” life is pretty darned good. I have not one but five Christmas trees, decorated by theme, in my house. I have my lights strung up around my front porch and wreaths hanging from all the windows on the front of the house, spotlighted just so.  I’ve been keeping on schedule with most of my holiday things, like shopping and baking. That is, up until last week when I got hit with a bad cough and not one, but two days of migraine headaches. While I was standing at my kitchen counter whipping up a batch of cookies, and multi-tasking making appetizers for a cocktail party I was hosting that same evening, and making my dish to share for the family party, it occurred to me that as much as I wanted it to be, my life is not a Christmas movie.

I had to take a step back and give myself permission to not bake the second batch of cookies for the family party the very next day. I only put out one freshly made appetizer and not the two I’d been planning on baking for the cocktail party.  And I had to dump out half of the 7-layer chopped salad (my dish to share-yes I overfilled the bowl) to make room for the fifth, sixth and seventh layers! This is the time of year when we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make everything perfect. When really perfection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. By nature, we humans are flawed. And it takes a lot of work to be “Perfect.”

You know what? I realize I don’t want to be perfect, especially not at this time of the year. I want my kids to be happy, and they are. I want everyone near me to be healthy and I’m so very blessed that they are. I’m looking forward to having my kids and their kids here to celebrate our family Christmas together. And they don’t care if I don’t get all the sheets on the beds or if the silverware doesn’t match or even if the dinner I wanted to make suddenly gets changed because I forgot an ingredient at the grocery store.

Because finding the perfect Christmas isn’t about what we put on our tables or how we decorate our trees, it’s about what is in our hearts. Kindness. Caring. Love. Compassion.  Remembering why we celebrate the day to begin with.

I’m wishing you all the best, non-perfect, Christmas ever!!

Christmas Blessings,


PS I'd love to hear some of  things that make your Christmas "not" perfect. Feel free to drop a note in the comments section. 

Monday, December 17, 2018

Killer Recipe with Laurel Blount, Evelyn M. Hill, and Sherri Shackelford

Since we're all fat and happy this holiday season, I thought I'd share a killer recipe designed to destroy diets.

Introduced to me by the author, Pam Crooks, I've added a few killer changes. It's too good not to share.

WARNING: This addictive recipe makes a TON! This recipe makes FIVE 1-GALLON BAGS. And you'll want to devour every, last bite.

You've been warned...this recipe is a KILLER!

Merry Christmas! 


1 box Crispix or Crispix-type cereal
1 16 oz bag pretzels
1 15 oz bag Fritos
1 box Cheez-its (or 1 bag Pepperidge Farms Goldfish)
2 bags Bugles (Decorate fingertips with bugles and pretend to be an evil witch before adding. Wash hands first. You're not a savage.)
1 lb of mixed nuts (Or not. You do you, dude.)

2 cups brown sugar
4 sticks butter (Only butter. Margarine is for losers.)
*If someone asks you how much butter is in this diet-buster, just say, "A tablespoon or so."
In the world of snack mix, ignorance is bliss.
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
4 tsp garlic powder
5 tsp chili powder
1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
(Look left and right to see if anyone is watching, then add another dash for good measure because you love Worcestershire sauce so much.)
1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper. Laugh manically while adding.

Divide the dry ingredients evenly between 2 large roasting pans. Melt dressing ingredients together and pour over the dry mix.

Bake 250 degrees for 1 hour. Stir every 20 minutes. (Optional but highly recommended: Taste mix after 40 minutes. Burn fingers in process. Live with zero regrets.)

Laurel Blount

A Baby for the Minister (Love Inspired Book 2) by [Blount, Laurel]

Jilted at the altar, Natalie Davis has no one she can turn to—until Jacob Stone steps in. The single minister’s drawn to the beautiful mommy-to-be and wants to help…even if it goes against his congregation’s wishes and could cost him his job. But when she refuses to accept charity, can he convince her she’s more than a ministry project?


Laurel Blount lives on a small farm in middle Georgia with her husband, their four children, a milk cow, dairy goats, assorted chickens and ducks, three spoiled cats and one extremely bossy goose with boundary issues. She divides her time between farm chores, homeschooling, teaching foreign language and writing. She's busy, but she's never bored!

Her debut novel A FAMILY FOR THE FARMER was the recipient of the 2017 Maggie Award for Excellence in the Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements category. This book also received two 2017 Holt Awards of Merit and was a finalist in the 2017 Carol Awards.

Whenever she's not working, you can find Laurel with a cup of tea at her elbow, a cat in her lap, and a good book in her hand.


His Forgotten Fiancée (Love Inspired Historical) by [Hill, Evelyn M.]

Liza Fitzpatrick is stunned when her fiancé finally arrives in Oregon City -- with amnesia. Matthew Dean refuses to honor a marriage proposal he doesn't recall making, but Liza needs his help now to bring in the harvest, and maybe she can help him remember...
Matthew is attracted to the spirited Liza, and as she tries to help him regain his old memories, the new ones they're creating together start to make him feel whole. Even as he falls for her again, though, someone's determined to keep them apart. Will his memory return in time to save their future?

Evelyn Hill
According to family tradition, Evelyn M. Hill is descended from a long line of Texas horse thieves. (But when your family is not only Texan, but Irish, tall tales come with the territory.) This might explain why she devoted much of her childhood to writing stories about horses. Once she grew up, the stories naturally featured a tall, handsome cowboy as well.

She lives at the end of the Oregon Trail, where she gets to do all her historical research in person.

Sherri Shackelford

A former naval reservist with a top-secret security clearance, Sherri writes rapid-fire suspense featuring captivating characters and heart-pounding romance. She's authored more than a dozen novels for Harlequin publishing, including both historical and contemporary suspense.

Visit her Website, or follow her on social media:



He lives by the law.

She’s running for her life.

After forensic accountant Beth Greenwood uncovers a money-laundering scheme tying her company to the organization that murdered her mentor, she knows she needs to go into hiding. With ruthless killers in pursuit, she’s forced to rely on homeland security agent Corbin Ross’s protection—even as his investigation suggests Beth is complicit in embezzlement. Can their uneasy alliance develop into something deeper—and keep them alive?

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Sunday Scripture

Third Sunday of Advent

The baptism of Jesus, Guido Reni, c. 1623, Germany.

The crowds asked John the Baptist,
“What should we do?”
He said to them in reply,
“Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none. 
And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,
“Teacher, what should we do?”
He answered them, 
“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
Soldiers also asked him,
“And what is it that we should do?”
He told them,
“Do not practice extortion, 
do not falsely accuse anyone, 
and be satisfied with your wages.”

Now the people were filled with expectation, 
and all were asking in their hearts 
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying, 
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his barn, 
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Exhorting them in many other ways, 
he preached good news to the people.
Luke 3:10-18

If you have any prayer needs, please mention them in the comments section so we can join you in prayer. You do not need to include specific names or situations of a private nature, just say that you have a prayer request. The Lord knows your heart and the needs you have. It is a privilege and honor to pray with you and for you.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Christmas in Texas by Vannetta Chapman

I love living in Texas. My mom was born here as were three of my siblings. As the saying goes "I got here as fast as I could" which in this case was at the age of 9. Today I thought I'd list some facts/myths regarding Christmas in Texas. I hope you enjoy them!


  • We ride our horse to church on Christmas Eve. I don't even own a horse! Now some people in Texas might do this, but most of us take our pick-up truck to church.
  • We put out pecan pie and coffee for Santa. Nope. We put out cookies and milk like everyone else. 
  • We go swimming on Christmas day. Texas is big--really big--824 miles across from El Paso to Beaumont. So it's possible that someone will be swimming on Padre Island on Christmas day, but someone else will be shoveling snow in Amarillo. 
  • It's all desert in Texas, so we only have artificial Christmas trees. Not true! We do have desert out west, and hill country in the middle, and piney woods in the east - in fact there are even Christmas tree farms in places like Van and Tyler.
  • We pay for Christmas with our oil money. Nope. Most of us don't own oil rigs, though if anyone wanted to give me an oil rig for Christmas, I'd take it.

  • Everything is bigger in a Texas Christmas. Sometimes this is true. Some family reunions are huge, and some of our trucks are giant, and some of our meals...well they are kinda big. And as you can see from this picture, we make really big rocking chairs that would be an awesome Christmas present.
  • We serve BBQ for Christmas. We might. Lots of people here also like to eat enchiladas and chili for Christmas dinner.
  • We were blue jeans and cowboy hats, even to our Christmas service. Yes, this is true for a lot of people, but realize that if we do we were nice blue jeans and fancy pearl-button shirts and our prized stetson hats.
  • There's nothing like Southern Hospitality. I've been all over the United States, and I've found people are kind where ever we go. I am partial to southern hospitality though. People in the south give, and then they give some more. It's humbling sometimes, and it's always beautiful--but especially at Christmas.
  • The stars at night are big and bright. Deep in the heart of Texas they are! And no time is the sky more beautiful than on Christmas evening as we pause to reflect on the birth of the Christ child.
What about you? Do you have any myths/facts about where you live? I'd love to hear them. 

I hope you've enjoyed this silly Christmas trivia. May the Christmas season find your heart full of joy, peace, and the love of our Savior. 

Merry Christmas, y'all.
Vannetta (and Bob)

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Dreams over Doubt by Sara K. Parker - plus an Amazon giveaway!

Giveaway Update: My week REALLY got away from me, and I completely forgot about the drawing! I did it today using the list randomizer on, and the winner of the $20 Amazon gift card is Patricia Bond! Message me on Facebook with your email address, and I'll send your gift card!

This past Sunday, I ran my fourth half marathon.

But before you start getting the idea that I’m currently munching on celery and sipping an organic protein smoothie with antioxidants and kale as I gear up for my next race, let me set the record straight: I hate celery. AND, until just a few years ago, I also hated running. Also, to be accurate, I don’t exactly run. No. I’m the half-marathoner at mile 11 who is thinking her legs might not carry her one more mile when all of the sudden she hears loud honking behind her and sees a police officer motioning for her to move-the-heck-over so that the FULL marathon winner can pass by unhindered by slow pokes. That's exactly what happened on Sunday. We had both started running at 7 a.m., the elite marathoner and I, but he had managed to cover 25 miles in the time it took me to cover 11 – and it looked effortless. In other words:

In some ways, watching that elite runner pass by reminded me of my own life and how it feels like so many around me are reaching new milestones and turning new corners and grasping hold of long-held or even surprisingly new dreams. Meanwhile, I mostly feel like I’m treading water and often recovering from another big wave: infertility, spousal chronic illness, childhood cancer – to name a few. I recently told a friend that I felt like I’d lived a decade in just two years. I feel like I LOOK like I’ve lived a decade in two years, too.

Speaking of, can we just talk about my finish line photo for a moment?  

First, am I even running? Second, why is my belt so high? Third, what is wrong with my FACE? Note to self: smile for the camera next time like the happy people coming up behind you.

I like my filtered phone photo better:

Anyway, I may not look pretty at the finish like the ecstatic runners behind me or the elite runners at the front with their toned bodies and running gear, but I celebrate finishing. After all, if there had been a high school superlative for least-likely-to-ever-run-a-half-marathon, I would have won. I’ve never been athletic. I absolutely hated PE as a kid. I was so terrible at ALL the sports that my PE teachers would often pull me to the side during group activities and give me individual practice and instruction. I froze in dodge ball, ducked in basketball, and took a ball to the face in “soft” ball when I got too busy talking to pay attention to the game. I resisted running at all costs. I hated the outdoors and was scared of all bugs. (Truth: I am still not a bug fan.) I was clumsy and awkward and saw no point in these games. I liked to read, write, and play the piano. I didn’t understand why we had to be forced to participate in PE.

But a few years ago, my metabolism slowed down as it tends to do when you hit your thirties. I realized I would need to either curb my eating or start exercising. I downloaded the Couch-to-5K app on my phone and started working the program. In twelve weeks, I was supposedly going to be able to run a full 5K without walking. Considering that I could barely run the 90-second intervals during the first week, I was skeptical. But, week after week, I saw progress until eventually I ran a 5K. From there, my goals kept expanding. I still remember the first time I ran five miles. It was so hard that at mile four, I broke out in chills and thought I was going to puke. But when I hit the fifth mile, I was incredibly proud of myself. I remember the first time I ran 10 miles, too. I finished at a lake in our neighborhood as the sun rose just perfectly on a cool fall morning, and I was in awe .

I honestly still don’t love running. But I do love how it makes me feel. I feel stronger, like I can accomplish anything. If a girl who was always first out in dodge ball can find her way to a 13.1-mile finish line, she can probably do anything she sets her mind to, God willing.

Still, I struggle with that belief. Doubt follows me whenever I conceive a new idea or project. I wonder if it’s silly or unrealistic or trite. I wonder if I can really pull it off. I wonder if it’s worth even trying, knowing I will probably fail. This way of thinking has limited me in many ways throughout my life.

This year, though, something changed. Maybe it’s because I’m in the last year of my thirties and I’ve been sitting on ideas and dreams for far too long. Or maybe it’s because nothing in life seems as scary or dramatic anymore since my daughter’s cancer battle. Maybe it’s because my faith is growing or my skin is getting thicker or my dreams are getting louder. Whatever the reason, 2018 has been a year of change for me. Slowly I have taken steps to fulfill dreams and explore ideas and find my voice and try new things – even at the risk of judgment, rejection, and failure.

I hope I’m even braver in 2019. And, since the first step to achieving goals is to name them, here are a few of mine: start a local writer’s group, finish the manuscript I’ve been fiddling with for years, write a new LIS book proposal that excites and inspires me, and achieve a new PR in my 5K and half marathon times.

What goal or dream have you been sitting on for too long? Comment below for a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card. Drawing at 10 p.m. CST!

By the way, I still haven't found my groove when it comes to keeping up with social media, but I’d love to connect with you:

Click here to visit my Facebook author page
Hop over here to check out my occasionally updated Website.
Feel free to visit my rather silent Twitter account
And, here is even a link to my shamefully neglected Instagram account

Thanks for popping by to say hello!

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