Monday, April 30, 2012

To See the Sun by Peggy Blann Phifer

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:

CreateSpace (January 6, 2012)

***Special thanks to Peggy Blann Phifer for sending me a review copy.***


Peggy Blann Phifer is an author and columnist, whose work has appeared on various Web sites and writer periodicals both in print and online. She is also an avid reader and loves to escape between the covers of a good book. A retired executive assistant, Peg now makes her home in southern Nevada with husband Jim.

To See the Sun is Peg’s debut novel, released January 2012

Visit her blog, Whispers in Purple.

Visit the author's website.


Pregnant and widowed hadn’t been part of her “happily ever after” dream. And now, someone was trying to kill her . . .

Erin Macintyre never expected to be a widow and a new mother in the same year, anymore than she expected mysterious notes, threatening phone calls, and a strange homeless man who seems to know all about her. The thought of raising a child without a father is daunting enough—worse when you have no idea who might want to harm you. Put an old flame into the mix, and her life begins a tailspin into a world she never knew existed.

When P.I. Clay Buchanan, stumbles upon Erin at her husband's gravesite, he’s totally unprepared for her advanced pregnancy. Her venomous reaction at seeing him, however, was predictable. But Clay can’t let her distrust, or his guilt, get in the way—not when he has evidence that proves Erin’s life is in danger.

With few options left, Erin begrudgingly accepts Clay’s help . . . and it just might be her undoing.

Product Details:
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 356 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (January 6, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1468121081
ISBN-13: 978-1468121087


Friday, March 26, late afternoon

What a fantastic day. A bid won. A contract signed. The job of a lifetime that would put Stuart and Macintyre at the top of the construction heap, not just in Las Vegas, but all of southern Nevada.
Whistling, Justin Macintyre pressed the keyless remote of his Cadillac Escalade, tossed his briefcase across the console to the passenger seat and slid behind the wheel.
To top it all off, after seven long years, he and his wife, Erin, were going to have a baby. A baby! He laughed aloud at the overwhelming joy of it.
"Hey, world, I'm going to be a daddy!"
He shifted the SUV into gear and pulled out of the Mt. Charleston Lodge area onto Kyle Canyon Road and headed down the mountain to the Las Vegas Valley below. Despite the successful day, Justin couldn't banish his worry over a recent discovery of some irregularities in the company's finances. Nothing concrete, and his Uncle Sebastian, S&M's CFO, assured him everything was fine. Nevertheless, Justin's uneasiness had prompted him to send what little proof he had to his long-time friend, Clay Buchanan, a private investigator in Texas.
Preoccupied with his thoughts, he vaguely registered the yellow and black blind curve warning sign. Too late he saw the stalled car across the center line. No time to stop! He spun the wheel to the right.
I'm going too fast! God, help me . . .!
Seconds passed and silence settled once more over the mountainside. A shadow emerged from behind a Joshua tree and stepped to the edge of the ravine. After a moment, the form walked to the car in the road and drove away.
Erin Macintyre stretched her arms along the balcony's balustrade of her twenty-seventh-floor condo above the streets of Las Vegas. Beyond that, the lower edge of the setting sun kissed the still snowy peaks of the Spring Mountain Range and Mt. Charleston.
Justin would be home soon.
"Erin, where's the zester?"
Erin returned to the kitchen. "In the utility drawer."
"Which is the utility drawer?" Magie Gifford, Erin's dearest friend, pulled out drawer after drawer.
Erin giggled and reached across Magie's arm and slid out the utility drawer.
"You changed it." Magie snatched the zester and bumped the drawer shut with her hip. "That's not where it was last time."
Erin wrapped her arms around her friend and hugged. "No, Mags, I didn't change anything." She waited a beat. "Can I interest you in a memory enhancement program?"
"Very funny." Magie pushed Erin aside and proceeded to rub a lemon across the gadget and then whisked the zest into a frothy mixture of olive oil, Italian herbs, and balsamic vinegar. "Okay, just drizzle this over the salad and stick it in the fridge."
That done, Erin checked on the lasagna in the oven. The garlic toast waited on the foil-lined cookie sheet ready to pop under the broiler. Everything was ready.
Erin glanced at the kitchen clock. "He's late."
"Posh. You should know by now how those meetings can drag on."
"Yeah, I know. It's just—"
"Get over here, Erin. He'll be here when he gets here."
Erin joined her friend in the breakfast nook off the kitchen and adjacent to the balcony. She scooped up a dozing Siamese cat from her chair and sat, settling him back on her lap.
"You spoil that critter." Magie brushed off the chair cushion before sitting.
"Yeah, I do. But you love him, too. I saw you sneaking him some treats earlier." Erin smiled. "Not to mention the romp you had with him in the living room when you got here."
"Busted. But he's so much fun, aren't you, Kazimir?"
At the sound of his name, the cat uncoiled, left Erin's lap and jumped onto Magie's. She snorted. "So much for protecting my black slacks."
"Thanks for coming over to help with this meal. I wanted it to be special and I never know when the nausea will hit." She raised an eyebrow. "But you will leave as soon as Justin gets here."
"You think he'll get that bid?"
Erin tapped her heart and nodded. "I know he will."
The first five descending notes of Welcome to My World sang out in the condo's foyer. Justin! No, he wouldn't ring the doorbell. Puzzled, she stepped across the tiled floor and rose on tiptoes to peer through the peephole. She gasped and jumped back.
The doorbell chimed again.
Fingers trembling, Erin released the security lock and opened the door to two uniformed police officers.
"Mrs. Macintyre?"
Erin nodded as Magie moved to her side.
"What is it, officers?"
"I'm afraid there's been an accident, Mrs. Macintyre. Your husband . . ."

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Extraordinary Women of Faith is an EXTRAORDIARY conference!!

Extraordinary Women Conference 

I was in Birmingham for this WONDERFUL CONFERENCE this weekend!! MAN!!! My soul is bursting with the fullness of God's love!!! Mercy Me ROCKS!!!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Night with a Perfect Stranger by David Gregory - REVIEWED

About the Book: (from Worthy Publishing)
Followup to the wildly successful New York Times bestseller Dinner with A Perfect Stranger, where Nick Cominsky met Jesus face-to-face. After that meeting, he figured the Christian life would be smooth sailing . . . until hitting bottom six years later, preparing him for a second surprising encounter -- and some long-sought answers.

Six years ago, businessman Nick Cominsky encountered Jesus the old-fashioned way—in a face-to-face meeting. And the Christian life seemed a breeze . . . for a while. But now, having done everything he knows to grow spiritually, he wonders where his closeness with Jesus has gone. Burned out and hopeless, Nick wails his complaints to God during a late-night interstate trip. Then suddenly he runs out of gas—and finds Jesus along the roadside carrying a gas can.

Jesus hops in the truck and offers answers Nick never heard in church . . . and a nighttime of adventures ensues beyond anything Nick could have imagined

My Thoughts:
"The starting point for this life isn't you.  It's me." (p. 46)

Oh, man! I never dreamed that a innocent looking piece of fiction could take me to the woodshed so soundly! WOW!!  Why is it so hard to learn that Christ alone redeems us from sin? Christ loves us completely and undonditionaly and there are no rules in existance that we must follow...there are no regimines to follow...that can make us worthy of His love. He IS love!  Why is it so very hard to accecpt His love AFTER we've accepted His offer of salvation? Why do we allow our lives to steal our joy? Steal our peace? Steal the love that only Christ can offer us?

This is not a complicated read. It is actually a very quick and easy read. But it's impact?  Oh man!! POWERFUL!!  This would be a GREAT evangelical tool! I HIGHLY recommend this book!

About the Author:
David Gregory is the author of the New York Times Extended Bestseller Dinner with a Perfect Stranger, as well as A Day with a Perfect Stranger, The Next Level, The Last Christian, and coauthor of the nonfiction The Rest of the Gospel. After a 10-year business career, David earned masters degrees from Dallas Theological Seminary and the University of North Texas. He now writes full-time and lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Launch Out Into The Deep by Acacia Slaton Beumer Poetry by: Aaron L. Slaton

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 authors are:

and the book:

CreateSpace (April 13, 2012)

***Special thanks to Acacia Slaton Beumer for sending me a review copy.***


Acacia Slaton Beumer is a graduate of Oral Roberts University; she will earn her Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy in the summer of 2012. She works in the Social Service field and finds a sense of joy from helping others. Her husband John is in the United States Army. She has two daughters; Jana is 3 years old Jaci is 1. Acacia loves to interact with readers and welcomes questions and feedback. Her next project is to write an autobiography about her many life experiences.

Aaron Slaton is the author of the poetry and one chapter featured in this book. Writing since the age of twelve, Aaron has been gifted with the ability to bring the Scriptures to life through rhythm and rhyme. Aaron is an aspiring songwriter and producer.

Visit the authors' website.


The topics are contemporary and compelling; these are subjects that affect our world today and those for which people are seeking genuine guidance. Her words reveal an understanding of the depth of emotions in our world, as she explains situations through her own personal experiences. Yet, throughout the book, there is a solid and strong emphasis on the Word of God. The author has effectively bridged the gap between the natural and the spiritual world. Her complete reliance on the power of God brings a taste of heaven to some of today's bitter situations. Sexual promiscuity, peer pressure, disease and even crime are discussed with a bold and frank style. Readers will know there is nothing outside of God's reach that He cannot restore and make right again. An added layer of spiritual enlightenment comes from the poems that accompany many of these essays. Intense and extremely insightful, the words of Aaron L. Slaton provide a strong commentary to his sister's counsel. Encouraging, yet filled with many hard-hitting exhortations, this book speaks with a contemporary language and a timeless commitment to love and truth.

"This fantastic book should be utilized by Sunday School classes for teens and adults and is a terrific personal read. We are pleased to award it our Dove "Family-Approved" Seal for ages twelve plus." -Edwin L. Carpenter, The Dove Foundation

"Launch Out Into The Deep devotional has been rated 'family-friendly' by The Dove Foundation." Read the review HERE.

Product Details:
List Price: $9.99

Paperback: 198 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (April 13, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1468024523
ISBN-13: 978-1468024524




More and more people in Western society have a burning desire to become famous pop stars, rappers, models, or entertainers. Many of them have accomplished this celebrity status, and others are still working hard to get noticed and receive their big break at fame. Hollywood is known for its glamour, prestige, and the ability to make an everyday Joe become an overnight sensation. Fame seems to promise popularity, love, victory, and riches.

All too often, many allow success to change their perspectives, outlooks, and moral upbringing. Some have compromised by taking roles they never would have considered before their drive to succeed and remain at the top became their focus.
I see nothing wrong with wealth, popularity, and celebrity, but in the midst of pursuing fame, do not ever lose sight of who you are.

No new stars take to heart the public scrutiny and harsh judgments that come once they achieve popularity because most stars desire to be adored by their fans. This kind of mockery causes them to become faint of heart. Once gossip begins to hit the surface, their self-esteem and insecurities steadily go under. In order to please fans and increase their ratings, they become someone other than their true selves.

Similarly, when interviewed, many stars claim they had a religious upbringing. Some began by singing in church choirs. These past memories often trigger gratitude and appreciation for fame or regrets and remorse because of the significant changes in their lifestyles and behavior.
How far is one willing to go to accomplish success? If given the opportunity, how many would compromise their faith in God in order to obtain instant fulfillment?
Before you answer this question, I would like to share with you an experience that shaped, molded, and completely changed my life. The message presented was not only for the recipients, but it is also for myself and those reading this book.

I was sixteen years old and had recently started a new job at McDonald’s. “Can I please take your order?” I asked one particular day, patiently waiting for the customers to respond. They finally decided on their order and began to focus their attention on me. They asked my name and age. As we began to talk, we found we were neighbors. They asked for my number so we could hang out sometime. Normally I’d be hesitant about giving a group of guys I did not know my phone number, but because they were polite, I made an exception. I now realize our encounter was not a coincidence. It was God ordained.

To my surprise, they called later the same day. All four were on the phone together at the same time. They were flirtatious and asked if I had any female friends. In particular, there was one guy who stood out among them. His name was Mike. He was tall and handsome, and I distinctively remember him having either hazel or green eyes. I just know his eyes were beautiful, and his smile could brighten the whole room. He was interested in me but was intimidated by my presence. He thought I was different from most girls he met because of my faith in God and spiritual convictions.

As we got to know one another, the guys would always joke around and call me “church girl.” I never took offense to it. I knew they enjoyed my company and were only playing. After conversing with me and visiting my home a few times, Mike’s cousin spoke on his behalf. He said, “Mike, really does like you, but he is afraid you may not be interested. He wants to know your feelings for him.” I did not respond. I did like him, but I knew our relationship was not to go beyond friendship. His cousin told me there was a generational curse in Mike’s family. Every male seemed to die at a young age. Mike’s father, as well as some uncles, had their lives cut short. I do not know why he felt led to share this information with me.

One evening they invited me to come and watch movies at their home. We watched a movie that was full of crime, rebellion, and revenge. In the end, the main character was shot in the head and died a tragic death. I sat on the couch beside Mike and asked, “Do you fear death?” Mike, who was from Brooklyn, said dying was a part of everyday life back home. He had witnessed family and friends pass. “It hurts, but it’s something you have to learn to deal with. If I die, I just die. But I do know that I’m not ready to become a Christian. I’m still young. I have plenty of time for all that later.”
Mike’s cousins cut in and said, “You’re only young once. Have fun while you can and save the Christianity for when you’re older.” Then Mike added, “My mom is a Christian. I was brought up in a Christian family, but I do not feel salvation is an integral factor in my life presently. Right now I have a chance to really make it in rapping.”

Mike was talented. He was an excellent poet and had the gift of making his poetry into rhythmic songs. His cousins were also a part of his pop group. Mike was seventeen years old and had received a scholarship to attend a performing-arts school for music. He was in his prime and had a hopeful career ahead of him. The last words I spoke to them that day were “Your next day is not promised!”
The following week, I did some volunteer work at my aunt’s business. She is the owner of a commercial art studio. While typing a document at the desk, I heard a customer come in. My back was toward her. She showed my aunt an obituary of her friend’s seventeen-year-old son who had recently died in a car accident. She began to share how devastated his mother was because he was her only child.
After hearing this sullen news, I suddenly stopped typing and asked to see the obituary. I stood speechless as I looked at the young man on the cover of the program. It was Mike! Full of shock and total disbelief, I recalled recently speaking with him. I could not believe it was actually him. I felt as if I were dreaming. My heart ached for him. Secretly I thought of calling him, just to see if he would answer the phone because it had not totally registered in my mind that he was dead.
A couple of days later, his cousin called. He spoke of the accident and told me they had been on their way home from the mall.

It was raining hard that day, and one of his other cousins was driving fast. He lost control of the car and crashed into one of the walls on the expressway. Everyone had a seat belt on except Mike. He received severe head injuries as he was thrust through the car window.
I don’t know, Acacia. I can’t explain it. It’s like he knew he was going to die. After you spoke to us that night, he started to act differently. He told each one of us what he liked most about us. He also said that he would like to make music that would glorify God. Acacia, I will never forget that conversation!”

His cousin told me that Mike was not dead at the scene of the accident. He was able to say goodbye to all his family and friends before taking his last breath. He told them he loved them and not to worry about him. He would be fine. Wow! I thank God that his cousin called me because after hearing his story, I had peace of mind knowing that Mike had made peace with God. God loved him so much that He warned him and gave him the grace to make peace with Him before passing away.
Mike’s death brought me closer to God. Our relationship is growing stronger each day. Mike’s story is a reminder and testimony to all that life is precious, and one does not have forever to get their spiritual life in order. If you have an ear, don’t say you’ll get saved when you’re older. People die young every day. My advice is to develop a relationship with Jesus while you’re young. Your next day is not promised! Don’t leave this Earth without knowing Him!

WHY? (A Poem)
(By Acacia)
In memory of Mike
Sometimes I sit and wonder why
Why, my dear friend had to die?
No hope for tomorrow, no fate it seems
All his dreams went unachieved
Dreams of celebrity, riches, and fame
A world of opportunities waiting unclaimed
These dreams were finished, cut off, destroyed
They came to an end on July the Fourth
Don’t die misled, not knowing the truth
In the depths of the earth, in an ill black hole
There’s a callous creature destroying the lives of souls
Take my word, life is grand
You never know when you’ll die
It’s part of the plan
Become a Christian, be faithful, stand strong
Once you leave this earth
There’s no coming home.

Selah:Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave (Revelations 1:17-18).

Words of the Wise: “Live every day as if it were your last, because one of these days, it will be.”
-Jeremy Schwartz

I had on new clothes
New sneakers on my feet.
I was there for class on time
Went to the back and took my seat.
Yeah, I'm moving up
I'm already grown.
Soon I'll be graduating
And out on my own.
I talked to some of my friends
We were all having fun.
Said some things I shouldn't have said.
Did stuff I shouldn't have done.
I knew I was different
I felt God touch my heart.
I knew I should set a standard
But then I'd be set apart.
Walking to the bus, I was not looking for strength.
I heard the car tires screeching,
But now it's too late.
I'm standing in this room,
And I can see the heavenly gate.
Oh no! I never prayed,
I thought I had time to get it straight!
An angel walked up to me
He had a book in his hand.
I knew it was the Book of Life,
When would this dream end?
I told him my name,
And he began to look.
Then he looked at me sadly and said,
Your name is not in this book.
Angel, this is a dream,
No, I can't be dead!
He closed the book and turned away,
He whispered - You cannot
proceed ahead. this can't be real.
Angel, you can't turn me away.
Let me talk to God,
Maybe He'll let me stay.
He led me to the gate,
And Jesus came to me.
He did not let me in but said,
Beloved what is your need?
Jesus, I cried, please,
Don't cast me away from you.
Tears ran down his face as he said,
You knew what you needed to do.
Lord, please I'm young
I never thought I would die.
I thought I'd have plenty of time
Death caught me by surprise.
Lord, I went to church
Please, Jesus, I believe.
He said you would not accept me,
My love you would not receive.
Lord, there were too many
hypocrites. They weren't being true.
He took a step back and asked,
What does that have to do with you?
Lord, my family claimed to be saved
They weren't real. You know.
He said, I died for you
Now I have to go.
I fell to my knees crying to Him
Lord, I planned to be real tomorrow.
I couldn't make Him understand
I had never felt such sorrow.
Then it hit me hard, I asked,
Lord, where will I go?
He looked into my eyes
and said, My child you already know.
Please Jesus, I begged
The place is so hot.
It seemed to trouble and grieve him,
He whispered, DEPART FROM ME,
Lord, you're supposed to be love
How can you send me to damnation?
He replied -- With your mouth you said you loved me,
But each day you rejected my salvation.
With that in an instant,
Day turned into night.
I never knew such torture could be, Now too late,
I know the Bible is right.
If I can tell you anything
Hell has no age.
It is a place of torture
Separated from God and full of rage.
You know, I thought it was funny, a joke
But this one thing is true.
If you never accept Jesus Christ,
So please, ask Him into your heart.

Author Unknown

(Circulated via email, we thought the message of this poem was powerful and went well with the theme of this chapter.)

Hollywood portrays a false world people want to live in.
They will forget about morals and sell their souls to get in
They want to be stars that shine high in the sky,
but too often they come down crashing with no wings to fly.
John had hopes and dreams of being on the big screen.
He wanted to be recognized as THE man on the scene.
He sacrificed daily and put in his work,
he kept on trying, even when the rejection hurt.
His big break finally came at the age of twenty-six,
now he saw himself being in the popular mix.
He had to play a role that would compromise his faith.
But, that was his big break so he took the part anyway.
The movie was a box office smash,
and he walked away with a smile and a brand new style.
The old John left and someone else took his place.
He had a different character and attitude but the same face.
He shook hands with pride and stepped on humility
The pride grew when people raved about his acting ability.
He was invited to a party with all the big names.
It was one of the perks that came with his newfound fame.
He mingled, drank and danced.
He smiled, laughed and romanced.
At the party he tried drugs for the first time
He said to himself, "I can handle it; everything is fine"
John is now thirty-six and a whole lot has changed
He once had cars, money, houses and great fame
But John has a demon he met ten years ago
He said he can handle it, but now he can't let it go.

Selah: “And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:26)

Words of the Wise: “If you come to fame not understanding who you are, it will define who you are.” -Oprah Winfrey

Success is a blessing or success is a curse;
it can lift a man up or bring him down to the dirt.
If you know the truth but compromise, inside you’ll feel worse,
you feel yourself dying inside, yet you can’t let go of the hurt.
Success is GOD sent or it’s a trap from hell.
If you know the truth and compromise, you can no longer rest well.
Success can bring you closer to GOD
or make you forget that GOD exists.
Success can bring you into the holy of holies
or his glory you might miss.
Success is a blessing or success is a curse,
in everything we do we must put GOD first.
I know I come up short; am I ready for success?
If GOD opens up all the doors in my life,
will I make a big mess?
Success is given and success is taken.
If the world loses all their gifts and talents, then will they awaken?
Money comes and money goes; he’s born today,
and tomorrow he’s put in a hole.
The question they ask is how did he live?
He was a success, and his time and money he did give.
In the back of their minds they wonder where he went,
"Did he get it right with God and finally repent?"
A friend spoke to him about JESUS just before he died,
he said maybe one day I’ll give him a try.
That one day never came and now it’s too late.
Please meditate on these words
and don’t make the same mistake.

Selah: “And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Words of the Wise: "The question is not whether we will die, but how we will live." -Joan Boryseko


The room is filled with alcohol and drugs.
They greet one another with handshakes and hugs.
The music in the air puts them in a trance,
as they move about on the floor trying out the new dance.
The music justifies their anger and drives their gnawing pain.
They shout out the lyrics and sing the chorus over and over again.
They drink until they are full and some pass out.
They smoke until their lungs are full and then they breathe out.
The lyrics dig deeper inside, as they sing the devil’s tune.
They nod their heads in agreement,
as the music travels through the room.
The songs are stuck in their heads the next day.
They insert their favorite CD’s and then hit play.
The devil’s work is done -- one million records sold,
the artists give thanks to JESUS,
not realizing they have sold their souls.
Some want to change, but they are stuck in a contract;
it’s time to make money, no time to look back.
Back in the studio to record another classic;
it’s prepared and shipped to hit the masses.
The world dances to the devils songs all day and night;
while the devil tries to take the world out with all his might.

Selah:Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy” (Ephesians 4:21-24).

Words of the Wise: “Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” -Frank Outlaw

He felt rejected as he was growing up,
and he felt the same as a grown up.
His parents told him JESUS loves him, but that was never enough,
so he got into music to ease the pain --
to turn the rain to sunshine so he could smile again.
He wasn’t the best musician,
but he worked very hard to make music that would travel across the land.
The devil whispered in his ear, and then he let down his guard.
The devil said come worship me and take me by the hand.
I will give you everything your heart desires;
your musical ability will get better and soar higher and higher.
He said yes to the devil and vowed to follow him.
He hooked up with the occult and started to serve him.
When he picked up his instrument,
his friends were amazed at how much he had progressed in only a couple of days.
His chords and riffs caught everybody’s attention,
as they sat there gazing, eagerly listening.
He put together a demo and shopped it around.
Word got around town fast about the brand new sound.
He was signed to a major record label with big hopes and dreams,
but everything that looks good is not always as it seems.
He continued to serve the devil in all his ways each and every day;
before he went to bed at night to the devil he would pray.
Fame and fortune came, but he sank into depression.
He once had a nice spirit then came a spirit of aggression.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Don't Panic Quick, Easy and Delicious Meals for Your Family - REVIEWED

About the book: (from Revell publishing)
Great meals for your busy family!

We're all busy, but that doesn't mean we have to eat like we are. You don't have to settle for feeding your family commercially packaged meals full of sodium and preservatives or fat-laced fast food. Quick and healthy meals from your very own kitchen are easy with delicious recipes like:

Southwestern Baked Cheese Dip

Thai Chicken Wraps

Walnut Spinach Salad

Homestyle Mac & Cheese

Slow Cooker Pork Chops

Oven Roasted Orange Chicken

Grilled Flat Iron Steak Sandwiches

Spicy Shrimp and Asparagus Stir-Fry

Fruit Pizza

Mexican Chocolate Mousse

and many more

From quick meals made on the grill or in the sauté pan to crockpot dishes that require little prep and cook while you're out for the day, the recipes in this cookbook are tasty and nutritious--and require less hands-on preparation than traditional meals. Easy appetizers and desserts; one-dish casseroles and pastas; simple soups, salads, and side dishes; and even fast breakfasts round out the selections. Meals that are freezer-friendly are marked for those who want to make ahead.

Give your family the best--the easy way!
My Thoughts:
I love to cook, and thus I am drawn to investigate cookbooks! Don't Panic is a cookbook that contains a huge variety of delicious meals.  It's a cookbook I would use mainly on special occasions though, because I'd have to make a specific grocery list in advance of cooking most of the meals.  That's not to say that the recipes are exotic, but I don't normally have at least one of the ingredients in my pantry...thus a special shopping list to be prepared in advance. (and it said ingredient is eaten by teen son before I have time to prepare the dish...) And that is a bit of a deterrant. Not a big one, mind you.  I probably need to expand the content of my pantry.
That said, I'm the mom of two very social teens, and I work full-time, so cooking time is at a bare minimum.  So my favorite part of the book was the crock-pot section! My second favorite is the Easy Bake Oven Dishes. Any one dish meal rates with me!  Like I stated earlier, my cooking time is severely limited right now, so I haven't had a chance to try many recipes yet.  But the Chicken Brunswick Stew and the Flank Steak in Mushroom Sauce in Mushroom Sauce are especially delicious. (both crock pot meals that I can set and forget)
I'm glad to recommend this cookbook!
About the Authors: (from Revell)
Bonnie Garcia is a busy mother of three sons. She works as a part-time pediatric nurse, where she enjoys working with newborns and their parents. In her free time, she enjoys downhill skiing and reading. An Iowa native, Bonnie has been married to her husband, Steve, for twenty-six years. She is active in her local church, where her husband is the senior pastor. After recent trips to Greece and Israel, Bonnie has discovered that she is hooked on international travel.

Vanda Howell is a busy mom who works part-time as a kitchen design consultant. Vanda is a Denver native and has been married to her husband, Mike, for twenty-seven years. She is absolutely in love with (a.k.a. addicted to) dark chocolate, espresso lattés, and going to movies. In her free time, she enjoys gourmet cooking, gardening, and wakeboarding with her husband and teenage son.

Susie Martinez is a professional counselor with a private counseling practice in Colorado. She has been married to her husband, Joe, for twenty-two years and has two teenage children. Susie adores her family, her Kitchen Aid mixer, and her purple PT Cruiser. In her free time, she enjoys shopping with her daughter, taking long walks, and home decorating. Susie also struggles with a particular weakness for palm trees and white sandy beaches

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Happy Husband Cookbook - Reviewed


This is a self-published cook book, but it is filled with recipes that will make your mouth water!  No wonder the author named it The Happy Husband cookbook! Hearty recipes filled with all sorts of yummy combinations of ingredients - what's not to love?  Each recipe contains items that are usually in my pantry, and that makes this an easy cookbook to go to when I need a fresh idea.  I also like the "food facts" scattered throughout the book! The illustrations are whimsical and entertaining, and all in all it's a really great cookbook.

If you menu has gotten in a rut, and your husband is a meat and potatoes guy who enjoys a hearty meal, then this is a cookbook that must be part of your collection! Breakfast...Appetizers and Dips....Salads and Dressings...Bread...Soup...Main Dishes...Meatless Main Dishes...Vegtable sides, Sauces and More...Desserts...she covers everything!!

So come on ladies! Make your husband...your entire family ...happy and pick up a copy of this very good cookbook!

ISBN# 978-0-9834882-0-0
Tin Boot Publishing

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Need You Now by Beth Wiseman

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:

Thomas Nelson; 1 edition (April 10, 2012)

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson, The B&B Media Group, for sending me a review copy.***


When a personal crisis tested and strengthened her faith, award-winning journalist Beth Wiseman was advised by her agent to consider writing a Christian novel, particularly an Amish one. Encouraged by her agent’s urging, she began exploring the Amish lifestyle and soon developed a great appreciation for the more peaceful way of life. In 2008 Wiseman wrote her debut novel, Plain Perfect, featuring the Amish lifestyle within the context of a fictional love story. It was a bestseller, as have been all of the full-length novels and novellas she has written since.

While Need You Now is Wiseman’s first non-Amish novel, she is confident it will not be the last. She is already making plans to write a second contemporary novel in the near future. Like Need You Now, it will also be set in small-town Texas, a familiar background she thoroughly loves exploring and writing about.

Wiseman’s previous releases have held spots on the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) and the ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) bestseller lists. In 2010, she received the INSPY Award for Amish Fiction (chosen by blog reviewers). In 2011, she received the Carol Award and was the Inspirational Readers Choice winner for her book Plain Paradise. Her novel Seek Me with All Your Heart was the 2011 Women of Faith Book of the Year. In addition, Wiseman has been a Retailers Choice Finalist, a Booksellers Best Finalist and a National Readers Choice Finalist. Prior to becoming a novelist she received many honors for her work as a journalist, including a prestigious First Place News Writing Award from the Texas Press Association.

Today, she and her husband are empty nest parents of two grown sons, enjoying the country lifestyle and living happily with two dogs, two cats, two pot-bellied pigs, two chickens and a single pygmy goat in a small community in South Central Texas. Along with writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, traveling and watching good movies. Her favorite pastime, however, is spending time with friends and family.

Visit the author's website.


We all count on the support of those around us when times are tough, but what do we do when those we depend on the most are suddenly gone? How do we cope when life has pulled the rug out from under us and left us with nothing and no one to hold on to? To whom can we turn when it seems no one, not even God, is there? These are the questions best-selling author Beth Wiseman addresses in her first contemporary novel, Need You Now (Thomas Nelson).

After the safety of one of their children is threatened, Need You Now’s main character, Darlene Henderson, and her husband Brad choose to move their family from Houston to the dot-in-the-road town of Round Top, Texas; moving into the old fixer-upper farm left to Darlene by her grandparents. Adjusting to the change is more difficult than any of them imagined, especially for the middle child, 15-year-old Grace, who becomes a cutter, using a dangerous and particularly self-damaging way of coping with stress.

The move also begins to take a toll on the couple’s marriage when Darlene decides to take a job outside the home in an effort to make new friends in the community. As the domestic tension rises, both begin to wonder if the same shared faith that has carried them through difficult times in the past will be strong enough to help them now.

To make matters worse, Darlene begins receiving inappropriate attention from the widowed father of the autistic young girl she is assigned to work with at the school for special needs children where she is employed. Unfortunately, this new attention comes just when she is most vulnerable. If there has ever been a time in her life when she needed God, it is now. But will she allow arising feelings of unworthiness to keep her from seeking Him?

In her first novel not set in an Amish community, Wiseman spins her well-honed characters and setting into a thought-provoking message that not only makes the reader ponder his or her own relationship with God, but also sheds light on the little-known disorders of using self-injury as a way of seeking relief and high-functioning autism. Need You Now is the perfect read for anyone who has ever questioned life and God’s will.

Product Details:
List Price: $ 15.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson; 1 edition (April 10, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595548874
ISBN-13: 978-1595548870


Darlene’s chest tightened, and for a few seconds she couldn’t move. If ever there was a time to flee, it was now. She put a hand to her chest, held her breath, and eased backward, sliding one socked foot at a time across the wooden floor of her bed- room. She eyed the intruder, wondering why he wasn’t moving. Maybe he was dead.
Nearing the door, she stretched her arm behind her, searching for the knob. She turned it quickly, and at the click of the latch, her trespasser rushed toward her. In one movement, she jumped backward, across the threshold and into the den, slamming the door so hard the picture of the kids fell off the wall. She looked down at Chad, Ansley, and Grace staring up through broken glass, then hurried through the den to the kitchen. Her hand trembled as she unplugged her cell phone and pressed the button to call Brad. Please answer.
It was tax time, so every CPA at her husband’s office was working long hours, and for these last weeks before the April deadline, Brad was hard to reach. She knew she wouldn’t hear from him until after eight o’clock tonight. And she couldn’t go back in her bedroom. What would she have to live without until then? She looked down. For starters, a shirt. She was later than usual getting dressed this morning and had just pulled on her jeans when she’d noticed she wasn’t alone.
She let out a heavy sigh and rubbed her forehead. Brad answered on the sixth ring.
“Bradley . . .” She only called him by his full name when she needed his full attention.
“What is it, babe?”
She took a deep breath. “There is a snake in our bedroom. A big, black snake.” She paused as she put a hand to her chest. “In our bedroom.”
“How big?”
She’d expected a larger reaction. Maybe her husband didn’t hear her. “Big! Very big. Huge, Brad.”
He chuckled. “Honey, remember that little snake that got in your greenhouse when we lived on Charter Road in Houston? You said that snake was big too.” He chuckled again, and Darlene wanted to smack him through the phone. “It was a tiny little grass snake.”
“Brad, you’re going to have to trust me. This snake is huge, like five or six feet long.” A shiver ran down her spine. “Are you coming home or should I call 9-1-1?”
“What? You can’t call 9-1-1 about a snake.” His tone changed. “Darlene, don’t do that. Round Top is a small town, and we’ll be known as the city slickers who called in about a snake.”
“Then you need to come home and take care of this.” She lifted her chin and fought the tremble in her voice.
Deep breath on the other end of the line. “You know how crazy it is here. I can’t leave right now. It’s probably just a chicken snake, and they’re not poisonous.”
“Well, there are no chickens in our bedroom, so it doesn’t have any business in there.”
“Chad can probably get it out when he gets home from school. Maybe with a shovel or something, but tell him to be careful. Even though they’re not venomous, it’d probably still hurt to get bit.”
Darlene sighed. “Our girls are going to freak if they come home to find a snake in the house.”
“Maybe—” Darlene turned toward a sound in the entryway. “I’ll call you back. There’s someone at the door, and I’m standing here in my bra. I’ll call you back. Love you.” She clicked the phone off, then yelled toward the door. “Just a minute!”
After finding a T-shirt in Ansley’s room, she pulled it over her head as she crossed back through the den toward the front door. This was the first visitor she’d had in the two months since they’d moved from Houston. She peeked around the curtain before she opened the door, realizing that her old city habit would probably linger for a while. Out here in the country, there probably wasn’t much to worry about, but she was relieved to see it was a woman. A tall woman in a cowgirl hat. She pulled the door open.
“Your Longhorns are in my pasture.” The woman twisted her mouth to one side and folded her arms across her chest. “This is the second time they’ve busted the fence and wandered onto my property.”
Darlene thought this cowgirl could have walked straight off the set of any western movie. She was dressed in a long- sleeved denim shirt with her blue jeans tucked into brown boots. She was older than Darlene, possibly mid-forties, but she was gorgeous with huge brown eyes and blonde hair that hung in a ponytail to her waist.
“I’m so sorry.” Darlene shook her head. Brad should have never gotten those Longhorns. Neither she nor Brad knew a thing about cows, but Brad had said a move to the country should include some Longhorns. Although it didn’t make a lick of sense to her. She pushed the door wide. “I’m Darlene.”
The woman shifted her weight, but didn’t offer a greeting in return. Instead, she stared at Darlene’s chest. Darlene waited for the woman to lock eyes with her, and when she didn’t, Darlene finally looked down. Her cheeks warmed as she sighed. “Oh, this is my daughter’s shirt.” Don’t Bug Me! was scrolled across the white T-shirt in red, and beneath the writing was a hideous picture of a giant roach. Darlene couldn’t stand the shirt, but twelve-year-old Ansley loved it. “Do you want to come in?” She stepped back.
“No. I just wanted to let you know that I’m going to round up your Longhorns and head them back to your pasture. I’ll temporarily repair the fence.” The woman turned to leave, and it was then that Darlene saw a horse tethered to the fence that divided their property. She stifled a smile. This woman really was a cowgirl.
“Know anything about snakes?” Darlene eased onto the front porch, sidestepping a board she knew was loose. The porch was next on their list of things to repair on her grand- parents’ old homestead.
“What?” The woman turned around as she held a hand underneath the rim of her hat, blocking the afternoon sun.
“I have a snake in my bedroom.” Darlene shrugged. “Just wondering if you had any—any experience with something like that?” She padded down two porch steps in her socks. “I’m not sure I got your name?”
“Layla.” She gave a quick wave before she turned to leave again. Darlene sighed. Clearly the woman wasn’t interested in being friends. Or helping with the snake. Darlene watched her walk to her horse and put a foot in the stirrup. Then she paused and twisted her body to face Darlene. “What kind of snake?”
Hopeful, Darlene edged down another step. “A big, black one.”
Layla put her foot back on the ground and walked across the grass toward the porch. Darlene couldn’t believe how graceful the tall blonde was, how out of sync her beauty was in comparison to what she was wearing.
“Only thing you really have to worry about around here are copperheads.” She tipped back the rim of her hat. “Was it a copperhead?”
At five foot two, Darlene felt instantly inferior to this tall, gorgeous, horse-riding, snake-slaying blonde. She wasn’t about to say that she couldn’t tell one snake from the other. “I don’t think so.”
“All I’ve got is a .22 with me.” Layla pointed back to her horse, and Darlene saw a long gun in a holster. “But a .22 will blow a hole through your floor,” Layla added. A surreal feeling washed over Darlene. She thought about their previous home in a Houston subdivision, and a woman with a gun on a horse wasn’t a sight they would’ve seen.
“Do you have a pellet gun?” She stopped in front of Darlene on the steps. Darlene was pretty sure that was all they had— Chad’s BB gun.
“Yeah, I think so.”
Five minutes later, Darlene pushed open the door to her bedroom and watched Layla enter the scene of the invasion. The bed was piled with clean clothes, but at least it was made up. The vacuum was in the middle of the room instead of in the closet under the stairs. It wasn’t the way she wanted a stranger to see her bedroom, but it could have been worse.
Layla got down on her knees and looked under the bed. From the threshold, Darlene did a mental scan of what was under there. Boxes of photos, a flowery hatbox that had belonged to her grandmother, an old, red suitcase stuffed with baby keepsakes from when the kids were young—and a lot of dust. “There he is.” Layla leaned her chest to the floor and positioned Chad’s BB gun. Darlene braced herself, then squeezed her eyes closed as two pops echoed underneath the bed. A minute later, Layla drug the snake out with the tip of the gun. “Just a chicken snake.”
Darlene stepped out of the room, giving Layla plenty of room to haul the snake out. Big, black, ugly. And now dead. Blood dripped all the way to the front door. Layla carried the snake to the fence and laid it across the timber, its yellow underside up.
“Belly up should bring rain.” Layla was quickly up on her horse. “Maybe tell your husband that I’m patching the fence up, but he really needs some new cross planks.”
“I will. And thank you so much for killing that snake. Do you and your husband want to come for dinner tonight? I’d like to do something for you.”
“I’m not married. And I can’t come to dinner tonight. Thanks, though.” She gave the horse a little kick in the flank, then eased through a gate that divided her acreage from Brad and Darlene’s. She closed it behind her from atop her horse and headed toward the large house on top of the sloping hillside. Coming from town, the spacious estate was fully visible from the road and her youngest daughter called it the “mansion on the hill.” The rest of the family took to calling it that too.
In comparison to their rundown farmhouse, Darlene sup- posed it was a mansion. Both homes were probably built in the late 1800s, but Layla’s was completely restored, at least on the outside, with fresh, yellow paint and white trim. A split-rail, cedar fence also surrounded the yard, and toward the back of the property, a bright red barn lit up the hayfield not far from a good-sized pond. A massive iron gate—that stayed closed most of the time—welcomed visitors down a long, winding drive- way. And there were lots of livestock—mostly Longhorns and horses. If the wind was blowing just right, sometimes Darlene could hear faint music coming from the house.
She was hoping maybe she could be friends with Layla, even though she wasn’t sure she had anything in common with her. Just the same, Darlene was going to pay her a visit. Maybe take her a basket of baked goodies, a thank-you for killing that snake.
Brad adjusted the phone against his ear and listened to Darlene’s details about her snake ordeal, then she ended the conversation the way she always did. “Who do you love?”
“You, baby.”
It was their thing. Nearly twenty years ago, at a bistro in Houston, Brad wanted to tell Darlene that he loved her—for the first time—and he was a nervous wreck, wondering if she felt the same way. He’d kept fumbling around, and the words just wouldn’t come. Maybe she’d seen it in his eyes, but she’d reached over, touched his hand, and smiled. Then in a soft whisper, she’d asked, “Who do you love?” His answer had rolled off his tongue with ease. “You, baby.” Then she’d told him that she loved him too, and the who-do-you-love question stuck. Darlene asked him all the time. He knew it wasn’t because she was insecure; it was just a fond recollection for both of them. That night at the bistro, Brad had known he was going to marry Darlene.
He flipped his phone shut and maneuvered through the Houston traffic toward home. He was glad that he wouldn’t have to deal with a snake when he got there, but he was amused at Darlene’s description of the tall, blonde cowgirl who shot it with Chad’s BB gun.
He had four tax returns to work on tonight after dinner. All these extra billable hours were bound to pay off. He needed the extra income if he was going to make all the renovations to the farm that he and Darlene had discussed. Brad wanted to give her the financial freedom to make their home everything she dreamed it could be. Cliff Hodges had been dangling the word partner in front of him for almost two years, and Brad was sure he was getting close to having his name on the door.
If they hadn’t been in such a rush to move from Houston, Brad was sure they could have held out and gotten more for their house. As it turned out, they’d barely broken even, and just getting the farmhouse in semi-livable shape had taken a chunk of their savings. Buying out Darlene’s brother for his share of the homestead had put a strain on their finances too, but it was worth it if Darlene was happy. She’d talked about restoring her grandparents’ farm for years. The original plan had been to fix the place up over time so they could use it as weekend getaway. But then they’d decided to make the move as soon as they could, even if the house wasn’t in tip top shape.
Forty-five minutes from his office, he’d cleared the bustle of the city, and the six lane freeway narrowed to two lanes on either side of a median filled with bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes. Nothing like spring in Texas to calm his mind after crunching numbers all day long, but leaving the office so late to head west put the setting sun directly in his face. He flipped his visor down, glad that the exit for Highway 36 was only a few miles. Once he turned, he’d get a break from the blinding rays. Then he’d pass through the little towns of Sealy and Bellville before winding down one-lane roads to the peaceful countryside of Round Top. It was a long commute, almost an hour and a half each way, but it was worth it when he pulled into his driveway. Small-town living was better for all of them. Especially Chad.
Brad could still recall the night Chad came stumbling into the house—drunk. His seventeen year old son had been running around with a rebellious group of friends in Houston. And sometimes Chad’s glassy eyes had suggested more than just alcohol abuse. He shook his head to clear the recollections, knowing he would continue to pray that his son would make better choices now that he had some distance from his old buddies.
Brad felt like a blessed man. He’d been married to his high school sweetheart for nearly twenty years, and he had three amazing children. He wanted to spend his life being the best husband and father he could be. There wasn’t a day that went by that he didn’t thank the Lord for the life he’d been given, and it was Brad’s job to take care of his family.
Darlene finished setting the table. She regretted that her mother couldn’t see her enjoying her grandmother’s dining room set. Darlene had been surprised to find the oak table and chairs still in the house when they’d moved in. The antiques had been dusty and in dire need of cleaning, but they were just as sturdy as ever. She could remember many meals with her parents and grandparents in this house, at this table.
She still missed her grandparents—and her parents. Dad had been gone almost six years, and two years had passed since her mother’s death. Her parents had started their family late in life, both of them in their late thirties when she was born, and
Dale was born two years after Darlene. She was glad her brother hadn’t wanted the farm. It had been a struggle to buy him out, but no regrets. Someday, they too would have a “mansion on the hill,” like Layla’s. She cast her eyes downward, frowning at the worn out wooden floors. She’d be glad when they could afford to cover the original planking with new hardwood.
Thinking of Layla brought a smile to her face as she mashed steaming potatoes in a pot on the stove. She couldn’t help but wonder what the tall blonde was doing all alone on that estate. Darlene had never even been on a horse or owned a pair of cowgirl boots. Several of her friends back in Houston sported a pair of high-dollar, pointy-toed boots, but they didn’t particularly appeal to Darlene. Her friend, Gina, had told her it was un-Texan not to own a pair of boots.
She missed Gina. They’d been friends since their daughters had started Girl Scouts together, but after Gina’s divorce, they’d drifted apart. Gina’s interests had changed from Girl Scout and PTO meetings to going out with new single friends.
She left the dining room and went back to the kitchen, glad that the aroma of dinner covered up the dingy old-house smell that lingered, despite her best efforts to conceal it with air fresheners.
“Mom! Mom!” Ansley burst into the kitchen with the kind of enthusiasm that could mean either celebration or disaster; with Ansley you never knew. At twelve, she was the youngest and the most dramatic in the family.
Darlene gave the potatoes a final stir before she turned to face her. “What is it, Ansley?”
“Guess what?” Ansley rocked back and forth from heel to toe, and Darlene could tell by the grin on her daughter’s face that the news was good. “I did it. Straight C's and above!”
Darlene brought her hands to her chest and held her breath for a moment, smiling. When Ansley was in grade school, early testing indicated she was going to struggle, and Darlene and Brad knew she was a bit slower than other kids her age.
Not so thrilling was what Brad had promised Ansley if she received a report card without any failing grades. “Sweetie, that’s great. I’m so proud of you.” She hugged her daughter, knowing it was highly unlikely Ansley wouldn’t remember her father’s promise. Ansley eased out of the hug.
“I know they scare you, Mom, but having some chickens and roosters will be so much fun! We’ll be like real farmers, and every day after school, I’ll go get the eggs.” Ansley’s dark hair brushed against her straightened shoulders, and her big brown eyes twinkled. “Think how much money you’ll save on eggs!”
Darlene bit her bottom lip as she recalled the chickens her grandparents used to keep on this very same farm. And one very mean rooster. Eight dollars in savings per month was hardly going to be worth it, but a promise was a promise. She’d told Brad before they’d left Houston not to offer such a reward, but Darlene had put it out of her mind. At the time, it seemed a stretch for Ansley to hit the goal and make all C’s.
“Maybe just have laying chickens. You don’t need a rooster.” Darlene walked to the refrigerator and pulled out a tub of butter.
“Mom . . .”
Darlene set the butter on the table and raised a brow in time to see Ansley rolling her eyes.
“Even I know we can’t have baby chicks without a rooster.” Ansley folded her arms across her chest.
Darlene grinned. “I know you know that, but how many chickens are you hoping to have?” She recalled that on some of her visits to her grandparents’ house, if the wind blew just right, she could smell the chicken coop from the front yard, even though the pens were well over fifty yards away, back next to the barn. When they’d first moved in, Brad had fixed up the old coops as an incentive for Ansley to pull her grades up. Sitting on the porch swing with Brad late in the evenings had become a regular thing, and smelly chickens would be an unwelcome distraction.
“Not too many,” Ansley said as she pulled a glass from the cabinet and filled it with water.
One was too many in Darlene’s opinion, but it was a well- deserved reward. Darlene gave a lot of the credit to the school here. Much to her children’s horror, there were only 240 students in grades kindergarten through twelve in the Round Top/ Carmine School District, but Darlene felt like they were getting a better education and more one-on-one attention. Darlene had been on the verge of homeschooling Ansley before they left Houston, but Ansley threw such a fit that Darlene had dis- carded the idea.
Ansley chugged the water, then put the glass in the sink. “I can’t wait ’til Daddy gets home.”
Darlene smiled. Her youngest was always a breath of fresh air, full of energy, and the tomboy in the family.
She thought about the snake and realized Ansley probably wouldn’t have freaked out after all. She heard Brad’s car rolling up the gravel driveway, and moments later, the front screen door slammed and Ansley yelled, “Daddy! Guess what!”
An hour later, everyone was gathered at the dinner table, except Chad. After about ten minutes, he finally sauntered into the room, slid into his chair, and folded his hands for prayer.
“It’s your turn to offer the blessing, Chad.” Darlene bowed her head.
“Thank you, Lord, for the many blessings you’ve given us, for this food, the roof over our head, and Your love. And God . . .” Chad paused with a sigh. Darlene opened one eye and held her breath. More often than not, Chad’s prayers included appeals for something outside the realm of what should be requested at the dinner table. Like the time he’d asked for God to help his parents see their way to buying him a better car. Darlene closed her eye, let out her breath, and listened.
“Could you heal Mr. Blackstone’s cancer and bring him back to school? He’s a good guy.” Darlene’s insides warmed, but then Chad continued. “Our substitute stinks. Amen.”
“Chad!” Darlene sat taller, then cut her eyes at Brad, who shouldn’t be smiling.
“No, Mom. I mean, really. He stinks. He doesn’t smell good.” Chad scooped out a large spoonful of potatoes. “And he’s like a hundred or something.”
“Even more reason you shouldn’t speak badly about him. Respect your elders, remember?” Darlene passed the meatloaf to Chad, who was shoveling potatoes like he hadn’t eaten in a month of Sundays.
“Grace, how was your day?” Brad passed their older daughter a plate of rolls.
“It was okay.”
Grace rarely complained, but Darlene knew she wasn’t happy about the move from Houston. Mostly because of the boy she’d left behind.
Ansley turned her head to Darlene, grunted, then frowned. “Mom, why are you wearing my shirt?”
Darlene looked down at the big roach. “Oh, I had to borrow it earlier. I sort of couldn’t go in my room for a while.”
Darlene told the full-length version of the snake story that she’d shortened for Brad on the phone.
“I’ve seen that woman,” Chad said. “And she’s hot.”
“She’s old like Mom, Chad! That’s gross.” Ansley squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, then shook her head.
Darlene took a bite of roll. At thirty-eight, when had she become old in her children’s eyes? “I believe Layla is several years older than me, Chad.”
Her son shrugged. “Whatever. She’s still—”
“Chad, that’s enough.” Brad looked in Chad’s direction, and Darlene was glad to see him step in since it seemed like she was the one who always disciplined the children. Brad, on the other hand—well, he promised chickens.
They were all quiet for a few moments before Chad spoke up again.
“Did you know Layla drives a tractor? I’ve seen her out in the pasture on the way to school.” He shook his head. “Seems weird for a woman.” He laughed as he looked to his left at Ansley. “Can you picture Mom out on a tractor plowing the fields?”
Ansley laughed. “No, I can’t.”
“Don’t underestimate your mom. You never know what she might do.” Brad reached for another roll as he winked at Darlene.
Darlene smiled. She found herself thinking, yet again, that this was a good move for them. They all needed this fresh start. None of the kids had been particularly happy at first, but they were coming around.
“Can I be excused?” Grace put her napkin in her lap and scooted her chair back.
Darlene knew meatloaf wasn’t Grace’s favorite. “Whose night is it to help with dishes?”
Grace and Ansley both pointed at Chad.
“Okay,” Darlene said to Grace. “You can be excused.”
Darlene watched Grace leave the table. Her middle child was tiny like Darlene, and she was the only one in the family who inherited Darlene’s blonde hair and blue eyes. And her features were as perfect as a porcelain doll’s, complete with a flawless ivory complexion. She looked like a little princess. Chad and Ansley had their father’s dark hair and eyes—and his height. Darlene loved her children equally, proud of them all, but sometimes it was hard not to favor Grace just a little bit, especially since they’d come so close to losing her as an infant. Grace had come into the world nine weeks’ premature, a surprise to everyone, including Darlene’s doctor, since Darlene had delivered Chad at full-term with no complications just two years earlier. Grace struggled those first few weeks with undeveloped lungs and severe jaundice, and twice they were told to prepare themselves for the worst. But their Grace was a fighter, and as her sixteenth birthday approached, Darlene silently thanked God for the millionth time for His grace.
There’d been issues and struggles with both Chad and Ansley from time to time—mostly with Chad. But Grace had never given them one bit of trouble.