Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Book giveaway - LUNATIC by Ted Dekker and Kaci Hill

Camy here, giving away another book! (No, not mine)

The winner of
Always Watching
by
Brandilyn and Amberly Collins
is
robin_titan
Congratulations!

To enter to win today’s book, leave a comment on this blog post, giving your name and saying you want to enter. International readers are welcome to enter!

Please leave an email address or website where I can contact you (please use this format--you [at] yourmail.com--or something like that to prevent spammers from trolling for your email address). It is the winner’s responsibility to check to see if you won and to email me if you haven’t yet heard from me.

I always email the winner and give them a week to reply, but if I don’t receive an answer, I will pull another person to win the book. I am not responsible for a lost opportunity if you leave an email address you don’t check frequently.

Only one entry per person. The winner can expect their free book in 4-6 weeks.

You have a week to comment--I'll pick a name out of a hat on June 14th. (BTW, you can post a comment and NOT enter, too.)

Today I’m giving away:

Lunatic
by
Ted Dekker and Kaci Hill


Fight the Horde . . . or die with love.

Separated by time and space, our heroes finally return home. But five years have passed and they find a nightmarishly changed world.

The despised Horde are now in control. The healing lakes of Elyon are now blood red. And mighty Thomas Hunter and his Forest Guard have disappeared.

Then the world unravels further.

Dive into a journey among the Horde whose sole mission is the destruction of the Circle. Come face-to-face with an enchantingly beautiful creature with unearthly powers--and questionable motives.

Take a stand with the chosen but be wary, for not all is as it seems. Now the chosen themselves are questioning their very sanity. For the only way to win may be to lose. The only way to live may be to die. And the only one to lead may be a lunatic.

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Her novels Single Sashimi is out now, and her romantic suspense Deadly Intent will release in July. She also runs the Story Sensei critique service. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels and ponders frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for monthly giveways!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Design on a Dime?

Ever since I got married, I've become a fan of HGTV. I can watch that channel all day long. I love the shows that focus on people buying houses and the "drama" that goes into that. I love the demolition shows and then dreaming about what we could do to our house (not so sure my husband likes me watching that one).

I'm not a huge fan of Design on a Dime or Designed to Sell though. I always wonder if the people who buy the house after the shows get little worried when they see the episode and realize their kitchen is held together with primer and Elmer's glue.

Instead of going for the higher-end materials, the shows tend to use paint, cheap wood and hot glue and hope it stays together. Instead of taking the time to do a job correctly, the designers give themselves two days to rush through the job. Instead of allowing the budget to fluctuate, the designers stick themselves to a budget too tight to budge.

I think as Christian girls, we can do this same thing. When we find a flaw with ourselves - whether it be a tendency to lie, cheat, be over-dramatic or not respect those God has put in authority over us - instead of taking the time to pray through it, work through it and memorize verses to help us, we can slap spiritual "primer" over it and hope it works.

In 1 Peter, we're called "living stones...being built into a spiritual house". Even when we feel like scratched and chipped old rocks, God doesn't treat us like a poor investment. He doesn't slather a coat of paint on there and hope no one notices the gaps. Instead, He smooths us. He sands us. He puts us through the process of purification so we might become more and more like Christ.

Next time we're faced with a sin within ourselves, let's invest the time, prayer and energy into it. Let's not feel the need to "fix" ourselves, but let's pray that God will take us apart and put us back together - without the problem. Let's not avoid the issue or ignore the sin by slapping a Happy Face sticker on there, but let's "run the race" by letting the Holy Spirit cleanse our hearts from the inside out.

The finished product will be well worth the effort. :)

Have a wonderful week!

Love,
Erynn :)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Let's Remember . . .

This painting by Norman Rockwell graced the cover of The Saturday Evening Post on March 13, 1943. Titled "Freedom from Fear," it's a powerful reminder of why our service men and women do what they do.


Today is Memorial Day. For many of us it's a holiday from work or school, the official kick-off of summer, a day to do this . . .

or this . . .
of maybe just this.
Whatever we do today, let's remember that our freedoms have been purchased at the cost of great sacrifice. We can do this . . .

And this . . .And, yes, even this . . .
Because generations of brave men and women have been willing to do this . . .

No matter how we spend the day, let's take some time to get down on our knees and thank God for the thousands who've laid down their lives so we can laugh with our friends, go to the prom, cook out, or nap peacefully in the shade without cause for alarm.

And if we get a chance today, let's hug one of these . . .

and offer a word of comfort to families and friends missing loved ones who will never come home. And let's pray for their comrades still in the field. They do what they do for you, for me . . .

and for freedom.

Let's remember.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Timing Is Everything

The other day while coaching gymnastics, God used one of the girls to teach me a valuable lesson in timing. Practice had just begun and I was coaching the bar rotation. The competitive season just ended this past month, so the girls who are moving up to the next level are working on all the new skills for next year; it is a very welcomed change after 12 months of repetition after repetition.

One of my 9 year old gymnasts, who just completed level 4, was up next on bars. She had only recently mastered, but not consistently, one of the most difficult skills needed for level 5-- the infamous Glide Kip! At this point she probably makes the skill about 50% of the time. As she jumped to grab the bar, I could tell mid glide that her timing was off and that she was kipping to early. She barely managed to muscle it, straining as she pushed her way up onto the bar. I told her that she went too early and that was why it was so hard. She jumped of the bar to give it another go, only this time she was right on and completed the skill almost effortlessly. She turned to me and said, “It’s so much easier when you have the correct timing!”



Here is a video clip of a young gymnast struggling to make her Glide Kip.


In that moment I knew that God was using her to communicate a truth that I constantly need to be reminded of-- timing and waiting. My coach used to tell me, “Shannon, you don’t need to work harder, you need to work smarter”. There have been many times in my life that I have striven, putting so much effort into something, or trying to force something to happen, but completely flopped in the end, not because I didn’t try hard enough, but because the timing wasn’t right. Why is it that I can’t trust the One who knows the beginning from the end and every emotion in between? His timing is everything.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

“You want to do WHAT?!”

“I’m thinking about helping with the senior prank.” Christian presented this in the same tone that he would use if saying something like “I can’t decide if I want toast for breakfast or cereal.” I was that casual.

My immediate mom response was, “No way! If you get in trouble they might not let you go through the graduation ceremony. We have relatives coming to town who are excited to see you graduate. So no! Christian, seriously, you will not . . . Please say you're aren't serious about this.”

“Mom, it’s no big deal! Johnny, from church, did it last year and he didn’t get in trouble. I don’t even know if I want to do it. I said I was thinking about it.”

Then it hit me. The more I went on about the issue, the more Christian would want to do it. So I dropped it for about an hour then asked, “So what are they planning anyway.”

Christian shrugged. “I don’t know.” He mentioned his fear that he could end up with a group that decided to do something stupid. I decided to leave him alone and pray that he would make the right choice.

He hasn’t given me the official verdict yet. I have a feeling that he has decided against it. I know that he wants to cut school on Senior Ditch Day. But he has worked too hard to blow graduation over a silly prank.

This whole thing reminded me that sometimes I need to let go of my fears and trust people to make the right decisions, especially if they have a good track record (as Christian definitely does). This goes for my kids, my friends, or anyone that I hope to sway in a certain direction. When have threats, probing, nagging, or whining truly helped a situation? If my kids make a good choice I want it to come from a desire to do the right thing. God gives us free will, so shouldn't we do the same with each other? Obviously He also let's us face the consequences if we choose the wrong path but He loves us enough to not force us down the correct one with threats and nagging. How else do we learn?

Now I'm just praying that Christian will do the right thing in the end.

What have you learned lately about the benefits of backing off? What lessons have you learned from NOT making the right choice?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Don't Blame Barbie

Barbie turned 50 this year. Do you mind if I'm just a little catty? I think she's had some work done. I mean, she's perfect. Tiny waist, perfect hair, flat tummy. For 50 years, she has projected a standard of beauty that's, well...impossible.

She's plastic. She's fake. She's not real. And what's more important, her beauty isn't real either. But Barbie's not the only one sending out impossible beauty signals. Everywhere we look we see dangerously thin models, photoshopped cover girls, and celebrities who've had more than a little work done.

With all of these beauty lies floating around, it's easy to become disillusioned with our own beauty. And it's easy to blame our dissatisfaction on the models of perfection esteemed by our culture. But I'd like to offer another possibility. Yes, we are in a battle to defend true beauty. I would propose that culture is not the enemy. But, there is an enemy.

I write about this in my book, "Graffiti: Learning to See the Art in Ourselves.'

" The Bible reminds us who our Enemy is and encourages us to study his tactics.

' Four our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms' (Ephesians 6:12).

What? Culture is not to blame? Fashion magazines and supermodels aren't the source of our insecurity? No, not according to God's Word. When you begin to question your very value, you are indeed engaged in battle, but it is with an Enemy who has his sights set on your destruction. Scripture also warns us that the Devil isn't passive. He diligently seeks to take what God intends for good and turn it into darkness.

' Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour' (1 Peter 5:8) (Graffiti, 128).

The truth is beauty can be one ugly subject. And when we fail to see our God-given value and embrace the beauty he has created in each of us, the stakes can go sky high. Outside of God's Truth, eating disorders, destructive dating, self-injury, addiction, and toxic friendships are just a few of the outward behaviors we tend to gravitate toward to validate our worth.

That's why we cant' blame Barbie. We can't blame supermodels. We can't blame Botox when we are feeling ugly and worthless. We must recognize that Satan is the enemy who seeks to rob of us of our worth. And how do we fight him?

Epheisans 6:11 offers our hope. " Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes."

Sunday, May 17, 2009

On the Go



Today Celebration Church did church a little differently. We met at church at 9 a.m. like usual, and then we became church for people outside the building! My husband and I went to an organization called Friends of Refugees in Clarkston, GA. We delivered boxes of food to seven families. What a cool experience! This is our team. The children who went with us loved helping hand out groceries and getting to know other little kids.

We also had groups that went to a children's shelter, nursing homes, fed the homeless, did lawn work, and worked around a chapel.

The front of our blue shirts say, "On the Go." The back says, "Loving our world into a life giving relationship with Christ." It felt so right today--spending time with these families. Even though we had a language barrier in some of the homes, Christ's love translated beautifully. Hugs and food. ♥♥

Julie

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Excited

What am I excited about? My son and his wife are coming to visit. They will be here tonight around seven and I am counting the hours. 
Now the fact that I am actually tingly with anticipation may seem strange to some. Family dynamics shift; they go through phases. When my kids were little, I couldn't get enough of watching the changes that maturity and experience imparted. I delighted when they made a discovery and when they voiced that new concept. Last week I fell down the stairs. It was a bad fall, but I landed at the bottom minus my dignity, with no broken bones, and plenty of bruises. My grandson said God held me. He knew God had intervened and prevented a broken hip or more. My grandson's assimilation of what we've taught him came out verbally. It was almost worth the fall. Not quite, but almost.
During the teen years, there can be a lot of tension between the parents and the kids. Normal and also a time for learning and stretching and maturing (for the parent as well as the children).
But my kids are grown now and I am blessed with a relationship that benefits all of us. We all crave time together. 
Maybe right now, that doesn't seem possible to you, that some day you will hop on a plane to go see your mom and dad and actually feel a swelling of love in your heart and joy dancing through your body.  But familial love is a gift from God and is a result of adhering to Godly principles. Keep your eyes on Jesus, do what is right in the eyes of the Lord, and someday you will have a treasure worth more than gold, a family that enjoys being together and will support each member with a supernatural love.


Friday, May 15, 2009

C'mon Summer!

It's so close you can almost taste it! I don't know where you live, but around here, we get four full seasons. Winter is only fun when we get a snowstorm - which doesn't happen very often. Fall and Spring have some great parts about them, but they tend to always feel too short.

But summer. Ahhh - it stretches out ahead of us like a beach blanket.

So because it's Friday, and summer is coming - a "favorites" list. Join in by posting your favorites in the comments. I'll even draw one name to win one of our adorable Good Life ladybug bags:-)

Favorite Taste of Summer: Watermelon

Nothing says summer like a big juicy watermelon. We've been through two whole ones just this week!

Favorite Smell of Summer: The Ocean. 

I've always LOVED the water and fortunately, I've never lived too far away from it. Somehow - we always manage to hit the beach every summer because there is nothing else like it. Where else can you sit in a  chair and get as distracted by watching the ocean as you can in a good book. There is nothing like the smell of the ocean.

Favorite Touch of summer: Flip-flops.

Ah - toe freedom! I love being able to slip on my flip-flops and just go. And because they're cheap, I never feel bad about having multiple pairs that are just plain fun.

Favorite Sound of Summer: A Lifeguard whistle.

Because, that would mean we're at the pool. We belong to a community pool where my three kids swim on a  swim team. So we spend a lot of time there in the summer. And even if it's pushing 100 degrees, it never feels as hot when we're sitting by the pool.

Favorite Sight of Summer: The Last Day

Yep - that last day of school when my kids come home with their biggest smiles, their backpacks stuffed to the gills with everything they accumulated at school all year, and the whole summer stretching before them. Nothing like seeing your kid's "set free" to just have fun.

So add your favorites to the comments! And to make it easier to copy and paste:
Favorite Taste of Summer:
Favorite Smell of Summer:
Favorite Touch of Summer:
Favorite Sound of Summer:
Favorite Sight of Summer:


Be sure to include your e-mail address if you want a chance to win a bag:-)

~Sarah~

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Book giveaway - Always Watching by Brandilyn and Amberly Collins

Camy here, giving away another book! (No, not mine)

The winner of
So Not Happening
by
Jenny B. Jones
is
Laura
Congratulations!

To enter to win today’s book, leave a comment on this blog post, giving your name and saying you want to enter. International readers are welcome to enter!

Please leave an email address or website where I can contact you (please use this format--you [at] yourmail.com--or something like that to prevent spammers from trolling for your email address). It is the winner’s responsibility to check to see if you won and to email me if you haven’t yet heard from me.

I always email the winner and give them a week to reply, but if I don’t receive an answer, I will pull another person to win the book. I am not responsible for a lost opportunity if you leave an email address you don’t check frequently.

Only one entry per person. The winner can expect their free book in 4-6 weeks.

You have a week to comment--I'll pick a name out of a hat on May 27th. (BTW, you can post a comment and NOT enter, too.)

Today I’m giving away:

Always Watching
by
Brandilyn and Amberly Collins


This daughter of a rock star has it all—until murder crashes her world.

The exciting and suspenseful Rayne Tour series features sixteen-year-old Shaley O’Connor, on tour with her mother’s popular band. Shaley lives in a whirlwind of backstage secrets, hotels, and limos. With beauty and fame of her own, Shaley wants for nothing … except the one thing she can’t have.

During a concert, sixteen-year-old Shaley O’Connor stumbles upon the body of a friend backstage. Is Tom Hutchens’ death connected to her?

Frightening messages arrive. Paparazzi stalk Shaley. Her private nightmare is displayed for all to see. Where is God at a time like this?

As the clock runs out, Shaley must find Tom’s killer—before he strikes again.


Online Promotions-Sweepstakes, Book Trailer, Facebook and More

The Rayne Tourseries is being promoted heavily to teen readers online. The LIVE LIKE A ROCKSTAR SWEEPSTAKES is a chance for teens ages 13-18 to win an $850 night out on the town, including dinner for six at a restaurant of their choice and limo service. To enter, teens must promote the series online. They can post information about the new series and the sweepstakes on their Blog, favorite social media sites, or other Web site. The first 200 entrants will receive a free copy of Always Watching. Official rules and entry details are available here.

Other promotions include “The Rayne Tour Series” Fan Club page on Facebook and “The Rayne Tour Series” Shoutlife page.



An excerpt of Chapter One:

FRIDAY

PROLOGUE

It’s not my fault I have to kill.

He’d been watching since the tour began. Eyes straight ahead, keeping cool, like he wasn’t even paying attention. But he noticed everything. Even got a sense for what was happening behind his back. His past life had taught him how to do that—out of necessity. When it was something bad, he felt a vibration in the air, pulling up the hair on his arms. And he’d know. He’d just know.

Sometimes he acted behind the scenes. Nothing that would be noticed. Just ended up in a certain place at a certain time—a presence that kept the wrong thing from happening. Other times he’d say what needed to be heard. Real casual, not sounding like a threat at all. No, he was just talking, shooting the breeze about some previous experience. But beneath the words there’d be a point: don’t cross me or mine.

Sometimes people were too dumb to get it. He’d give them every chance, trying to be the nice guy. Trying to do it the easy way. But no. Those kind of people had stubborn minds and black hearts. Couldn’t be trusted. They were headed for a fall and about to take some good people with them. His people.

That’s what it had come to now.

“Hey, can I see you a sec before you go?” He motioned, and the one who must die came, humming.

Humming.

Like a lamb to slaughter.


CHAPTER 1


The screams of twenty thousand people sizzled in my ears.

“Rayne, you reign! Rayne, you reign! Rayne, you reign! …”

At the sold-out HP Pavilion in San Jose, California the crowd chanted and clapped and stomped for my mom’s group, Rayne—named after her—to do one more song as they left the stage. As usual I stood backstage with Tom Hutchens, my mom’s twenty-five-year-old hair dresser and makeup artist, and my closest friend on tour. Tom was short and slim, with thick black hair and an intense-looking face that didn’t match his crazy personality at all.

Tom feigned the pucker of a hip-hop artist and splayed his fingers in front of his red T-shirt. “Yo, she reign, they go insane!” He had to shout at me, his Vans-clad feet dancing. Tom always wore these wild-looking sneakers with blue, white, and red checks and a red racing stripe on the sides. “Ain’t nothin’ plain about rockin’ Rayne!”

I punched him in the arm, laughing. His silly rap rhymes were getting worse by the day.

Blonde hair bouncing, Mom came flying down the steps on the way to her private dressing room for the two-minute break. Sweat shone on her forehead as she passed by. She flashed her red-lipped grin at me and raised a palm. We high-fived as she sped past.

“They love us, Shaley!”

“’Course, Mom, they always do!”

The rest of the rock group—Kim, Morrey, Rich and Stan—descended more slowly, their faces showing fatigue. None of them had the energy of my mother after a concert. Tom and I gave them a quick thumbs-up before scurrying after Mom.

As we hit the dressing room with Rayne O’Connor’s name on the door, I checked my watch. 10:45. Yay! Almost time to head to the airport and pick up my best friend, Brittany. I hadn’t seen her since Rayne started touring three months ago, and I couldn’t wait to be with her again. This was Rayne’s third tour, and I always found it hard to leave all my school friends behind.

Without Tom to keep me laughing, touring would be terribly lonely.

I closed the dressing room door, shutting out some of the noise.

“Whoo.” Mom crossed to the left side of the room and plopped into the makeup chair facing a long, brightly lit mirror. To her right sat a wooden armoire full of her clothing. She always changed outfits during intermission. Along the back wall were the blue sofa and matching armchairs specified by contract for her dressing area in every arena. Opposite the makeup counter was the table loaded with catered food, also specified by contract—bowls of fruit, sandwiches, pasta salad, cheese cubes, chips, and M&Ms for me.

Mom studied herself in the mirror with her large crystal blue eyes. “Okay, Tom, do your magic.” She guzzled a drink from a water bottle on the counter.

Like she needed any magic. With her high cheekbones, oval face, and full lips, Mom was drop-dead gorgeous.

Tom winked at me as he snatched up a tissue. Sticking his scrawny neck out, he scrutinized Mom with animation, eyes narrowed and his mouth a rounded O. “Hm. Hmm.”

He sighed, stood back and spread his hands as if to say nothing to be done here, you’re perfect.

Mom rolled her eyes at me. I shrugged. As if I could control Tom’s antics.

“All right, lover boy.” Mom took another swig of water. “Get to it, I’ve got one minute left.”

“Yo, big Mama.”

Mom swatted his hand. “Would you stop calling me that? I don’t know why I put up with you.” Her mouth curved.

Tom leaned in to blot her face with the tissue. “’Cause I make you look bodacious, that’s why.” Expertly he retouched her blusher and lipstick, fluffed her hair.

Out in the arena the crowd’s yells and applause was growing louder. I smiled and squeezed Mom’s shoulder. Every concert the fans went wild, but it never got old for me. Night after night their adoration set pride for my mom welling in my chest.

Five years ago when I was eleven and Mom was twenty-eight, Rayne was barely hanging on. Mom and the band played little concerts here and there, working night and day to get noticed. I remember how hard she tried back then. A great lyric writer with a distinct, throaty-edged voice, she deserved to make it big. Then the song Far and Near hit the radio and after that—a rocket launch.

Tom stood back and surveyed Mom, his head cocked to one side. “Not bad. Not bad a-tall.”

“Rayne, you reign! Rayne, you reign!” The crowd was going crazy out there.

Mom tossed her hair back, looked at herself from side to side. “Great.” She sprang from the chair. “Gotta go.” She hurried toward the door.

I moved out of her way. “Mom, don’t forget we’re going to pick up Brittany in ten minutes. We’re leaving a little early because Tom wants to stop by a drugstore.”

“Oh, that’s right.” Mom pulled up short, one hand on the door knob. She looked to Tom. “Somebody else doing your clean-up?”

He glanced at me. “Got it taken care of.”

Disappointment pulled at my mouth. Mom knew how I’d counted the days until Brittany’s and my junior year of high school ended—just yesterday. My tutor had flown home this morning, and now Brittany was coming for two weeks. Mom was paying all her expenses—for that I was so grateful. But Mom could get so wrapped up in her work. Sometimes I just needed her to remember me.

Mom looked my way—and caught my expression. She smiled too wide, as if to make up for her distraction. “I’m so glad Brittany’s coming, Shaley. We’ll show her a great time.”

I nodded.

“Mick’s going with you, right?”

“Yeah.”

Mick Rader had been my mom’s main personal bodyguard for the past three years. The other two, Bruce Stolz and Wendell Bennington, would guard her on her way to the hotel tonight while Mick was with me.

“Okay, good. You’ll be safe.” Mom smiled as she opened the door. The crowd’s screams rushed in. “See you at the hotel.”

She blew me a kiss and disappeared.

The yelling suddenly frayed my nerves. I pushed the door shut and leaned against it.

Tom shot me his sad clown look, his lips turned down and eyebrows pulled into a V. He always read my mind so well.

I couldn’t help but smile. “It’s okay.”

His expression whisked away. Tom struck his hip-hop pose. “Got a new one for ya.”

“Oh, yeah?” I knew he’d create the lyrics as he went along, just to get me laughing again.

Tom’s feet started their shuffle-dance. “Let’s go for a ride down the avenue. Top down, wind-blown, my VW. The talk of the town in all we do. Shaley O’Connor puttin’ on the view—”

He froze, mouth open, frowning hard. Then jerked back into dancing. “Can’t think of another line, can you?”

I giggled. “Great, Tom, as fabulous as all your others.”

He bowed. “Thank ya, thank yaaa.”

Pulling up straight, he glanced at the wall clock. “Yikes, I gotta take care of some things before the limo comes. Meet you at the back exit?”

“Okay.”

As the door closed behind him, I crossed the room to check myself in the mirror. Excitement pulsed through my veins. Almost time to see Brittany! I chose a neutral lipstick and leaned toward the glass to apply it. Thanks to Tom I’d learned a lot of makeup tricks, and my face needed little retouching. Finished with the lipstick, I ran a brush through my long brown hair. Tom had recently layered it and feathered the bangs. I liked the look.

Despite the difference in hair color, many people said I looked like my mother. I considered that a high compliment.

I stood back and turned side to side. Not bad. My new designer jeans fit well and the blue top matched my eyes. Brittany would love the outfit. I grinned at myself, then glanced at the clock. Almost time for the limo to arrive.

In the arena the crowd roared. Rayne was taking the stage. The first of two encore songs started—the band’s new hit Do it Up Right.

For a few minutes I paced the room impatiently, munching M&Ms. Rayne launched into their final song of the night.

Two hard knocks sounded on the door—Mick’s signal. He stuck his square-shaped head inside. Mick is in his forties, ex-military. A thick neck and muscles out to here. Nobody messes with Mick. “Shaley, you ready?”

“Yes! Is the limo waiting?”

“Yeah.” His deep-set brown eyes swept the room. “Where’s Tom?”

“He said he had to take care of a few things. He’ll meet us at the door.” I crossed to the couch to pick up my purse.

“Okay. I’m going to stop in the bathroom, then I’ll see you there.” He gave me his squinty-eyed stare. “Don’t step outside of the building without me.”

I flicked a look at the ceiling. “Yeah, yeah.” Mick was so protective. It’s not like I’d be in any danger walking out that door. As with all arenas where Rayne sang, the HP Pavilion had a special entrance for performers, guarded by their own local security. And that whole section of the parking lot was roped off and guarded. No chance for any fans or paparazzi to sneak in.

Mick jabbed a finger at me for emphasis, then left.

Tingling with anticipation, I scurried out the door, intent on checking the other dressing rooms for Tom. No time to wait, let’s go, let’s go! Having been at the arena since four o’clock when sound checks began, I’d already learned the layout of the backstage area. There were eight dressing rooms—Mom’s the biggest.

I hurried down the wide hall, mouthing “hi” to people I passed. The sound and light crew were still working, but the backline crew—the guys who maintain all the instruments and switch them out during performances—were done now. Set carpenters, the managers, and all the people who tore down the stage also milled around until the concert ended.

First I went to the back exit and peeked outside. Tom wasn’t there.

I returned all the way up the hall, figuring I’d work my way back down.

For the first time I noticed all the dressing room doors were closed. Strange. If Tom had gone into one to pack up something, he’d have left the door open as a courtesy. Those assigned rooms were personal space to members of the band and Rayne’s production manager, Ross Blanke.

I peeked in the one next to Mom’s.

Empty.

Shoving my purse handles higher up my shoulder, I went to the third.

Empty again.

The fourth.

No Tom.

This wasn’t right. Tom was never late. Where was he?

Mick approached, signaling me with a roll of his finger—let’s get moving.

I nodded. “He wasn’t in the bathroom?”

Mick shook his head.

Together we walked to the fifth dressing room. Mick poked his head inside.

Empty.

I ran down to look in the sixth. No Tom.

I banged the door shut and looked around. What was going on? If he didn’t show up soon we wouldn’t have time to go out of our way to a drugstore. The airport was minutes away from the arena. We didn’t want Brittany waiting around by herself after dark.

“You take the next one.” Mick strode past me. “I’ll look in the one on the end.”

The seventh dressing room had been allocated as Ross’s office. At every venue he needed a private area for calling people, dealing with last-minute problems and basically seeing that everything in the contract was honored. I couldn’t remember seeing Ross in the hall. He might be inside, and I didn’t dare just barge in. The production manager’s office was off-limits to everyone unless invited.

I knocked, waited. Knocked harder.

No answer.

I opened the door.

Like Mom, Ross ordered the same room set-up each time. For him that included an oversized desk with black leather chair. On the desk he would stack his papers and folders, carefully position his laptop. A fax machine had to be on his left, a telephone with multiple lines on his right. Looking at Ross—a short, fat man with scraggly hair to his shoulders—you’d never guess what a neat freak he is.

And always on the wall—a large round clock.

As I stepped into the room, my eyes grazed that clock. 10:55. Brittany’s plane would be landing soon.

On the floor beside the desk I glimpsed a splash of color.

Something twisted inside my stomach, almost as if my subconscious mind had already registered the sight. Time seemed to slow.

Clutching the door handle, I turned my head toward the color.

A foot. On the floor sticking out from behind the desk. Wearing a Vans with blue, white and red checks, and a red racing strip. The foot lay on its side, toes pointed away from me, heel dug awkwardly into the carpet.

Deathly still.














CHAPTER 2




I stared across the room at the foot. The back of my neck prickled.

Run, my mind shouted. Run and check on Tom! But my feet rooted to the carpet, my fingers digging into the doorpost.

Onstage, the music stopped. Wild clapping and cheering rose from the arena.

The noise jerked me out of my zombie state. I lowered my purse from my shoulder. Set it on the floor. Holding my breath, I crept forward.

As I edged around the side of the desk, Tom’s jeaned leg came into view.

It wasn’t moving.

My legs stopped.

“T-Tom?” My voice cracked into a whisper.

No answer.

So what? He couldn’t have heard me above the crowd.

I took another step. Now I could see his second leg, drawn up and bent at the knee. Tom was lying on his side. I moved again and saw an arm flung out, fingers half-curled toward the palm.

I leapt forward until his head came into sight. Tom’s second arm lay crumpled against the carpet, his face partially turned into the short sleeve of his red T-shirt. His one visible eye was open, staring at the wall.

Air gushed out of my mouth. He was tricking me.

“You rotten thing!” I pushed at his leg with my toe. “How—”

No change. Just that wide-eyed stare.

All the relief that had spilled out of me reversed back down my throat. My windpipe closed until I could hardly breathe. I sank to my knees beside his chest.

“Tom?” I leaned down to look into both his eyes.

The other one was gone.

I mean gone. Just a black, bloody, gaping hole.

For the longest second of my life, all I could do was stare. It pulled at me, that hole. Like it wanted me to tumble inside it, a horror-film version of Alice in Wonderland.

Faintness gripped me. I swooned toward Tom’s ravaged face, my nose almost touching where his eye used to be …

At the last possible moment, my muscles jerked me back.

I shoved to my feet and screamed.














CHAPTER 3




My shrieks bounced off the walls during the crowd’s final shouts. In the same second all noise died away.

Silence rang in my ears.

I turned and ran.

Mick materialized in the doorway as I hurtled into it. I rammed into his rock-solid chest. With another scream I bounced off and collapsed on the carpet.

“What--?” Mick bent over me. I looked up, mouth flopping open. No sound came. I pointed a shaking finger toward Tom. Mick’s head jerked up.

Horror crossed his face.

He jumped over me and ran to Tom, his hand reaching for the gun clipped to his belt.

Mick bent down and disappeared behind the desk. I couldn’t get up. I couldn’t do anything.

Voices of band members mingled in the hall, commenting on the performance. How strange the words sounded. So naïve. So unknowing.

Heavy footsteps approached. Ross rounded the corner and almost stepped on me.

“Ahhh!” I rolled away from him.

Mick raised up from behind the desk. Ross froze at the look on his face. “What’s going on?”

“Tom’s dead.” Mick’s voice was tight.

“What?”

“Somebody shot him.”

Ross blinked rapidly, then leapt around me to see for himself.

Mick reached for the phone on the desk. “I’m calling 911.”

I stared at the ceiling, mind going numb. My limbs felt like water. Tom was dead. Dead. My heart couldn’t grasp it. I’d just been with him. How could he be gone?

“Oh.” The word choked from Ross’s throat. He backed away from Tom.

“Yes,” Mick said into the phone. “I need to report a homicide. Hang on a minute.” He shoved the phone into Ross’s hand. “You talk to them. I need to get Bruce and Wendell. We’ll round up the band members, make sure they’re safe.”

Mom. Could whoever did this to Tom want to hurt her?

Mick ran past me, gun in hand. “Shaley, stay here.”

I barely heard him. Panic pushed me onto weak knees. I had to find my mother!

Somehow I crawled out the door. “Mom. Mommmm!”

Every person in the hallway jerked around.

Mick spun back to me. “Shaley, stay there!” He swung toward the others. “Everyone, against the wall and don’t move. Wendell, Bruce, where are you?”

People melted back, calling questions, their voices buzzing like a thousand bees in my head.

“Where’s my mom!”

Bruce ran out of the men’s bathroom, hand automatically going for his weapon. “What?” At six-foot-six, he has powerful, long legs and arms. I could see his head about everyone else’s.

Wendell burst from the stage area. “Here!”

“Shaley?” Mom’s sharpened voice filtered from up the hallway. “What’s happening?” She came toward me, eyes wide.

“Rayne, stay where you are!” Mick shouted.

Mom picked up speed. Her head whipped back and forth, gawking at everyone pressed against the walls. She started to run. “Shaley, are you all right?

I teetered to my feet. “Tom’s dead, Mom, he’s dead!”

Gasps rose from dozens of throats. Mom didn’t even slow. Mick grabbed her arm, but she yanked away. As if in a dream—a nightmare—I watched her tear-blurred form hurtle toward me. Mick, Bruce and Wendell spread their feet, guns raised, eyes darting back and forth, searching the hall for danger.

I flung myself forward, sobbing.

After an eternity Mom reached me. I collapsed into her arms, screaming Tom’s name.



Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Her novel Single Sashimi is out now, and she runs the Story Sensei critique service. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels and ponders frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for monthly giveways!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Planning, Schmanning


Okay, I'll confess it:

I'm maybe not the best at planning events. Actually, strike that, I'm awful at planning anything! If it involves anything to do with a calendar, with a specific time, with a planner, I'm miserably untalented at remembering, noticing, or carrying out anything to completion.

I've tried the planner method. I went to the store and found the cutest planner I could find (If I was going to use a planner, it was not going to be boring and black). Then I carried it around with me for two whole days. I found it - two years later - in the bottom of my junk drawer.

I've tried the sticky note method. I put bright pink and green sticky notes over everything with dates, times, etc. But, inevitably, I set something down on top of it and there goes my reminder.

My friends have finally figured this out. I have one friend that I try to meet for lunch periodically and she's very good at calling me the morning of our date, "Hey, are you coming today?" Which, of course, my sticky notes and refrigerator whiteboard and calendar posting would have reminded me had I bothered to look at them. The only thing that has really helped is my cell phone alarm. Awesome invention!

The ironic thing is I'm very good at planning the Big Picture things. When I was sixteen, I knew exactly what was going to happen and it was going to go like this:

* Graduate
* Work for a high-paying cosmetologist
* Marry a guy I'd known my whole life
* Have kids about a year or two later - two boys, two girls

So far, here's what has really happened:

* Graduate
* Found out I loved writing
* Married a man I met one year before we got married
* Deciding being married is way too much fun without kids right now!

Do you guys do this? Jon (my husband) and I are going through a study on Proverbs together and the thing that keeps popping out at us are variations of this verse that are all through Proverbs: "Many plans are in a man's heart, but the counsel of the LORD will stand." (That's Proverbs 19:21)

Maybe we should be horrible planners. Maybe we should become more forgetful with our calendars and less preoccupied when we come to the Word of God. When scheduling your day-to-day stuff, don't forget to consult with the One planning your steps.

Oh, and use those cell phone alarms. Whoever created them? Genius.

Hope you are having a fantastic week!

Love,

Erynn :)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

I forgot.

So yesterday was my day to write for the blog and I TOTALLY forgot. Cause I didn't write it in my calendar. That'll teach me.

But...I'm going to make up for it by posting today and writing my assigned dates in my calendar for the next ten years.

Do you know what an impala is? Ever seen one? No, not the car. I'm talking about the antelope-y thing that lives in Africa. I've never been to Africa, so I've never seen one in its true habitat. But I HAVE been to the zoo. I've been to lots of zoos, in fact, and most of them have an impala exhibit.

These animals are really cool looking. They're like antelope deer kind of things. And they have these really long and skinny horns. The boy impalas weigh around 165 pounds. Whenever the herd gets attacked, these impalas jump up and down, all together so they can confuse whoever's trying to eat them. These guys are GREAT jumpers. In fact, they can jump up to 8 feet in the air and they can jump distances of more than 30 feet! That's amazing to me. I can't even imagine being able to jump that far or that high. You'd think that this quality would make them unstoppable. Or at least pretty hard to contain.

But when you go to the zoo, you find that the impala exhibits usually don't have a wall that's like 15 feet tall so the impalas can't jump over it. Oh, no. These great jumpers have fences around them that barely go above their faces. This is because impalas are creatures of fear. The impala will not jump over something when they can't see the other side. Even though these animals could very easily leap the four foot fence at the zoo, they instead choose to stand around in groups placidly chomping their food. Whenever I see them just standing there, I always want to yell at them, "Hey, you! Jump! There's a great big world outside of your pen and I know you can jump over that wimpy little fence." But of course, they just keep standing there...chomp, chomp, chomp.

Sometimes I wonder if God does the same thing with me. He knows the greatness that stands on the other side of my fear. I KNOW there are things I haven't done in my life simply because I was afraid of what might have been on the other side. Was God watching me and yelling, "Hey, Ashley! Jump! There's a great big purpose outside of your worry. I know you can conquer that wimpy little fear. JUMP!"?

A lot of things in life are scary...but they've got great rewards. Afraid of what might happen if you go to the school that's a two day's drive away from your family? If you've prayed about it and think that might be where God wants you...jump. Don't know where the money would come from if you decide to sponsor a child through Compassion International? God already commands you to help take care of the poor and the orphans. So jump. Nervous about going on that mission trip to Guatemala this summer? Jump anyways.

You won't regret it.

Love you guys!

Ashley

PS: When Brio Magazine went to another ministry and became online only, the former staff didn't know what to do. We all love teen girls and we all love writing. Even though it was scary, and even though she couldn't see what was on the other side of the fear fence, Susie Shellenberger jumped. And the result is SUSIE Magazine. The first issue came out in May. You can subscribe here. I even have some fun articles coming up in the next few months! :-)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Only Because You’re Makin’ Me!


“Nathan, you need to ride in Grandma and Grandpa’s car. I’m riding with Aunt Kristy.”

“But I want to ride with Aunt Kristy,” Nathan whined knowing that Kristy would be making a stop to pick up his cousin Kai on the way back to my parents’ house.

I went into a long explanation about the amount of seatbelts in each car, where the booster seats were, laws about kids sitting in the front seat, and other stuff that made little difference to my six-year-old. All he knew was he wanted to ride with his cousin and I, the meanie mom, was keeping him from it.

We went back and forth for a few minutes.

“Nathan please, we’ve had a really fun day with Grandma and Grandpa. Let’s not ruin it over something silly.” Please God, I sent up a desperate prayer for my precious, funny, but often intense youngest son, speak to Nathan’s heart. Tell him he needs to obey.

Suddenly Nathan got quiet. Kristy’s van came into view—the van that Nathan wanted to ride in.

My shoulders tensed. God, come on. I don’t want to make a scene.

Just as I was preparing another speech and psyching myself up to physically stuff Nathan into his assigned spot, I heard him say . . .

“Okay, fine.”

“Fine what?”

“I’ll do it.” I heard the emotional edge in his voice. This was a tough move for him. “I’ll ride in Grandma’s car.” His volume rose for emphasis. “But only because you’re makin’ me.”

Thank you, God. I’ll take an “Only because I have to.” At least he’s complying.

“Thank you, Nathan. I’m very proud of you.”

“But next time, I’m riding in Kristy’s car no matter what.”

“Well, we’ll see.”

“I really want to ride with Kai.”

“I know.”

“But since you’re MAKIN’ me . . . “ his teeth clenched.

“You made the right decision, Nate. Thank you so much.”

I heard my sister and Dad snickering behind me. My oldest son Christian groaned, as if to say, “I can’t believe I’m related to him.”

At the time Nathan’s response stood as a mark of new maturity. A year ago the battle would have raged on and ended with Nathan enduring consequences and me exhausted. This time he’d done the right thing. He wasn’t happy but he did it without a humiliating scene.

Later I thought more deeply about Nathan’s “Only because you’re makin’ me” comment. How many times do I respond that way?

“Okay, fine, I’ll follow that law. But only because I have to, to avoid going to jail!”

“Okay, God, fine, I’ll be kind to that horrible person. But only because you say I have to.”

I’ll obey but my heart isn’t in it at all. I can’t help wondering, does my obedience count with God when I do it with a bad attitude? Knowing that God looks at the heart leaves me wondering. How can I make obedience more sincere? How can I learn to do those things that please God but don’t necessarily please me, with a joyful heart?

It’s something to think about.

God, help me work on my attitude in obedience, knowing that you see right through to the heart behind my actions.
By the way, the kid in the picture is not Nathan. But he does get that look at times.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Beauty Book Winners Announced

In my last post, I offered to give away three copies of my book, "Graffiti: Learning to See the Art in Ourselves." But, I really want you to understand your beauty and value from God's perspective, so I've decided to give a copy to each girl who responded to that previous post.

So...
pwnmom
Ashley
Kristy
Vania King
Clarissa
Amber
and reborn butterfly...

your books are on the way. Or, they will be as soon as I can connect with you to get your shipping information (address).

Here's what I need from you. Please email me at erin@graffitiministries.com with your first and last name and address within 24 hours. As soon as I hear from you, I will pack my little beauty book up in an envelope and send it your way.

If you didn't respond to that post, take heart! There are always fresh giveaways here on girlsgodandthegoodlife and I'll be stopping back by on May 18th to talk more about God-given beauty.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear from book winners and non winners alike. Leave me a comment or shoot me an email.

Blessings!

Erin Davis

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Scared Face



I'm speaking tonight at a Mother's Day banquet. I just wanted to say no matter how many times I speak, I'm always a tad nervous. Well, more than a tad. A lot nervous. People say they don't notice. I wonder if they're just being nice.

Klutzy things happen as I'm speaking. I've tripped on the platform steps and fallen on my rear end. I've knocked over the microphone and someone had to rush up to help me fix it. The traitor signs of nervousness creep out. Sweaty trembling hands. Throat as dry as sand.

But, I always open the same way. I pray out loud at the beginning and ask God to help me. As I say "amen" the cool thing is I feel the jitters start to dissolve. I take a deep breath and my voice steadies--even if I've tripped or done something clumsy. I crack a joke. People laugh. The never-failing connection begins.

I care about the faces, the smiles, the tears that surround me. Whatever it is inside me, gets bigger than my fear.

God has never, not once, stood me up. He always, always shows up. He is my Helper. My Strength. My Salvation. My Shield. My Purpose. My Comforter. My Teacher.

I just wanted to put it in writing as I'm going to speak in a couple of hours. And my Best Friend is going with me.

Love,
Julie

Friday, May 01, 2009

Faith Like Potatoes

I recently saw a very inspirational Christian film, based on a true story, called “Faith Like Potatoes”. The story is about the life of Angus Buchan, a hot tempered white farmer struggling to establish a farm in South Africa. The film depicts the hardships he endures, as well as how he finds life changing faith in God. His newly found faith is put into action, and also to the test.


I especially enjoyed “Faith Like Potatoes” because I spent 3 years living in South Africa, and the movie showcases many cultural things that I miss very much. Other reasons I really liked it were because it highlighted the power and effectiveness of prayer, as well as demonstrated how God will use anyone to do extraordinary things!







I hope you get a chance to check it out!