NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

Texas Road Trip

Over this past weekend, I got to take a road trip across a portion of the great state of Texas with my family. We drove over 1000 miles in our little gold minivan and visited some amazing places that I had never seen before. I thought I’d share some of the highlights on this blog in case anyone out there is thinking of going to West Texas sometime soon.

View from the top of Enchanted Rock

We started our trip by stopping at one of my favorite State Parks: Enchanted Rock. This natural large slab of Granite is a sight to behold, even though climbing it can be a bit strenuous and boy if you wear a hat, you better hold on to it tight, because it gets super windy up on top of the stone. But the view is great and there’s nothing like the feeling of conquering a small mountain. Plus, since it is near Fredericksburg, you can plan on picking up some fresh peaches or maybe even some peach ice cream.

Then we drove on to Balmorhea State Park to spend the night. It’s this cool little town in the middle of the desert that has natural springs that flow year round. It’s like an oasis in the hot dry land. They have turned the springs into a swimming pool for visitors of the state park. There were all sorts of fish and clear cool water to dive in and swim around. I even got to see rare Head Water Catfish that are all black and have blue eyes. My brother said it reminded him of Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon. Since there’s water, there is also a lot of wildlife in this area, in particular we saw many birds. I even got to see a hummingbird’s nest for the first time in my life. They make them out of spiderwebs. I would highly recommend stopping at this State Park, and I hope to go back sometime this winter.

Head Water Catfish that look like Toothless

From Balmorhea, we drove to Fort Davis, specifically to the Davis Mountains State Park. The McDonald Observatory is a short drive from the park and our first night there, we got to go to a star party and enjoy seeing the constellations, several planets, a galaxy and star clusters through the multiple telescopes provided. It was so much fun, and for the rest of the trip, I loved looking up at the night sky to see what I could remember from the tour. The stars in West Texas are just gorgeous, I can see so many more without the light pollution of a city and especially if you get up on a mountain, your view isn’t blocked by trees. This is one of my favorite things we did on this trip, and if you ever get the chance, I highly recommend it.

At McDonald Observatory

There were several hiking trails and a great bird watching area in the state park, and Fort Davis National Park was also a short drive away. I wish we had more time to explore the historic structures, but the Fort closes at 5 pm everyday, so plan ahead if you decide to go. In Fort Davis itself, we found several cool little shops to explore, like an old-timey soda fountain, and an ice cream shop built into a train’s caboose. There was even a Rattlesnake museum. I was fine seeing the scaly creatures behind glass but I’m glad we didn’t run into any on our hikes. Speaking of hikes, we stopped at this random picnic sight on the drive between Fort Davis and the State Park and found an excellent place to boulder (or climb big rocks without the aid of ropes). It provided a great view of the area and was a lot of fun.

Hiking in the Davis Mountains

At Fort Davis National Park

Ice Cream from a Caboose

Bouldering

Lastly, we drove to Marfa to see if we could spot any of the mysterious lights that come out in the evenings. It would have been fun to explore Marfa itself a bit more, but most of our time was spent waiting at the observation area for the sun to set. It was a wonderful place to watch the sunset and I took a lot of pictures, but all the lights we saw in the distance were clearly car lights, so not sure if I’m a believer in the “Marfa Lights.” But it was still a fun place to go, and the sunset made it all worth it to me.

Sunset in Marfa

Well I hope you enjoyed the pictures and a glimpse into what’s out there in West Texas.

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Jesus Changes Things

Now that summer is getting closer, I’ve been thinking about how it’s going to look different than past summers. For the past thirteen years (since 2003) I have taken part in our church’s summer outreach called Great Adventure. If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you’ve seen some posts about it in the past. Looking back, it really has had a huge impact on me personally. The first year I attended a Backyard Bible Club as one of the oldest children. (I was going into 7th grade). It’s similar to a Vacation Bible School except that the high school and middle school students from our church would go into different neighborhoods to run a club for a little over an hour. Adults helped drive the students and host the clubs but the students did the teaching.

The next year when I was going into 8th grade I joined one of the student teams and helped teach grade school kids who came to the clubs. It was a huge growing experience for me. I learned how to talk in front of a crowd, connect with kids, share the gospel with different illustrations, and be a part of a team. The next year I was stretched even more. I was going into high school and old enough to be a captain or leader of one of the student teams. It was intimidating, but I felt like God really wanted me to say yes, so I did. I went to several training camps for the first time (I should have gone to one of them the year before, but was on a vacation during it). That summer I learned so much about relying on God, trusting Him, and stepping out in obedience. I got to see kids come to Christ and see my own growth in sharing the gospel and doing what was uncomfortable.

After that year, I was hooked. I wanted to do Great Adventure every year. It had changed me, made me more confident in what God could do if I trusted Him and obeyed. It was exciting to see Him answer prayers, give us energy and work in the lives of the children we were teaching.

Although I wanted to be a part of it, I didn’t exactly want to be a leader again. I thought I’d done my time and now that there were more high schoolers in our youth group, I could let someone else be the captain. But God had other ideas. I ended up being a captain every summer after that up until I graduated from high school and went to college.

You know how when something really works for you, you think it should work the same for others? Like you don’t want it to change? It’s easy to make a good thing into a tradition. I totally do the same thing with restaurants. I keep going back to the ones I’ve been to before and am more hesitant to try new places. But anyway, for the next four years I always returned home for the summer and helped however I could with Great Adventure. It usually meant going to the training camps, taking pictures at the clubs, organizing supplies, and just helping others with what I had learned.

I started seeing changes though. When I had done Bible Clubs, we had gone to two clubs in the morning and 2 in the evening. At one point we even had clubs Monday through Friday and then a huge carnival called Summerfest on Saturday or Sunday. It was a pretty huge commitment and it took a lot of hard work.

But as the years passed, things changed. We ended up switching to only evening clubs, stopping on Thursday, and instead of a huge party at the church, we had individual block parties at each club. We also started writing our own curriculum instead of using other church’s scripts. And we changed the name to Summer Bible Clubs instead of Backyard Bible Clubs. Some of the changes I liked, others were hard to accept. But each year it seemed like God wanted to do things a bit differently. Those “good old days” I’d had in my high school years weren’t the same. But somehow it was still good. I guess God has a better plan than me.

After college I was able to intern at the church and help write the curriculum for several years. I brought all of my experience from the past but tried to be open to doing things differently. We added new games, changed how we shared the gospel with personal testimonies, and just tried new things to make it more friendly to unchurched families.

So that brings us to today and now the latest change has come. Instead of doing Bible clubs for one week, we’re going to connect to neighbors at parks throughout a whole month, and have groups within our church plan their own outreach activities. And instead of teaching students how to run a club, we’re going to teach them how to share the gospel with their friends and to view their schools as their mission field.

It’s kind of hard for me to let go of Bible clubs. I learned so much from them and they were a huge part of my life for the past thirteen years. But as I’ve seen Jesus change our plans every summer and still be faithful to do even greater things, I will trust Him in this. Because I do not worship a curriculum, a tradition, or my own preferences. I worship Jesus Christ. His ways are always best. He is always making things new and changing us from the inside, so I can’t expect Him to do things the same way forever. His purpose is unchanging. His goal is fixed. But His methods can be quite surprising and unconventional. So wherever He leads our church, I know it’s best, because He is always right.

Anyway, I hope you learned something from my ramblings about change and learn to trust Jesus in what He’s changing in your life too.

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Be Our Guest

I’ve seen Beauty and the Beast twice now, so the songs are getting stuck in my head. Sorry but this post is not about the movie. It was well done and I enjoyed it, but I want to talk about something else today.

It’s funny how the simple things in life can so easily be overlooked and underappreciated until you don’t have them anymore. My family is in the middle of a kitchen remodel so we do not have access to a stove, oven, dishwasher, or large sink. Our meals have consisted of take out, shakes, microwave meals, leftovers and whatever else we can scrounge up.

Then yesterday, we were invited to the home of one of our church friends for a meal. I didn’t realize how much I had missed a good home cooked meal until I sat down at their kitchen table. It reminded me of all those times I came home from college for the weekend and finally had my Mom’s home cooked dinners instead of cafeteria food. Everything just tasted better. There was breaded fish, sliced potatoes, green beans, a huge fresh salad, roasted chicken, and fruits, veggies and even a blueberry crumble cake for dessert. Everything just looked, smelled and tasted so good. With the absence of our own home cooked meals at our house, this one felt even more special and it made me realize something.

God emphasizes hospitality for a reason. Our culture has made this gift or courtesy less important than it should be. Welcoming someone into your home, feeding them and spending time to get to know them better shows such value and care. I really felt blessed after our meal together and it’s making me excited to get to do the same thing for others once our kitchen is done.

So here’s your challenge for the day, think of someone that you can share a meal with. If you can’t actually host, then go out to lunch or dinner. But if you can open up your home, do it. You might be surprised with how meaningful it can be. But one word of caution because I’ve found myself feeling this way before: Don’t stress too much about how the house looks or if everything is perfect. It’s okay to clean up for guests but keep your focus on them, not on the impression you’re making.

Well that’s my short post for the day, hope y’all have a great week!

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When Life Gives You Lemons… or a Flat Tire

So this past weekend I finally made a trip to Uvalde, TX to see some of my good friends and their baby. It was a lot of fun, but on my way home, something unexpected happened. I was driving on Highway 90 East towards San Antonio when suddenly everything got really loud in my car. At first I thought the road was just bumpy, maybe made of a different kind of asphalt or something, but it was really loud and then it hit me: Something is wrong with my car. So I slowed down, got into the right lane, pulled off onto the shoulder of the road, and put on my hazard lights. When I finally got a look at my tires, this is what I found.

This was not what I had planned on, but there was nothing to be done but start fixing the problem. I called my mom first, just to help calm myself down. Then I called Roadside Assistance and checked to make sure I had a spare tire. It was very low on air, but it was usable. Unfortunately my jack was completely rusted. Somehow water had gotten in where it was stored and I couldn’t even make it budge and I highly doubted it would work even if I could get it out. I then contented myself to sit in the car and wait for a call back from Roadside Assistance. But when they called, partway through our conversation, a knock sounded on my car window.

A lady had seen me pulled over and she had gone out of her way to stop and see if I needed help changing the tire. She had a jack that wasn’t rusted and experience with changing a tire. So between the two of us, we got the car in a safer position and started lifting it off the ground. But when we tried loosening the bolts on the tire, one of them wouldn’t budge. But God provided again and two young men strode over to help us out. They quickly got the bolts loosened and replaced the tire. I felt so blessed and cared for by these strangers on the road. It reminded me that there are people out there who care, who don’t mind interrupting their day to help someone out and lend a hand.

They even told me the closest place I could go to refill my spare tire with air. So after calling to cancel the Roadside Assistance, I slowly drove over to the nearby gas station. The ladies and young man working there were very helpful too. I had to buy a tire gauge to check the pressure. And I had to call my Dad to ask what the pressure should be in a tire. He also suggested I go to Discount Tire to see if they could replace my tire.

So the next few hours were spent at a shopping area with a Discount Tire and several shops and restaurants. I got to eat lunch and get some help with my car. I even met an older gentleman who was also waiting in Discount Tire and we talked about where we were from and how we ended up there. He and his daughter had also had a blowout that day. But through the whole experience I felt at peace and that all I had to do was the next thing and God would take care of me. And it helped extremely to have perfect strangers come to my rescue on the road. It made me want to start looking out for other people I could also help out that day.

I know there is still a lot of tension in our country about politics and policy changes. But my experience with the flat tire reminded me that we are not alone. If we rely on God and try to help each other out and look out for each other, we’ll be okay. So I’m going to try to keep a look out for people that could use a hand and I hope you do too.

Have a wonderful week!

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Refurbishing Yourself

For the past 8 weeks my church has been going through a series called Life’s Healing Choices. It’s a step study based on taking an honest look at yourself and seeing what needs to change and how to start that process. And then today, we just started work on refurbishing our kitchen. I can see several similarities about the two processes, so why not write a blog about it?

The Kitchen (Before)

Anyway, before you can do anything, the first step is always realizing there is a problem. For our kitchen it was things like moldy old cork board, a sliding door that was coming out of it’s rail and chipped tile. But for yourself, it could be a whole mess of personal issues. For me I recognized my tenancy to want to be in control and not admit my problems. I tend to listen to other people’s problems and not talk about my own. There’s definitely some pride in there as well.

Our broken door

But that’s just the first step, then I have to realize I can’t fix all of this on my own. For our kitchen, we realized we needed someone else to make new cabinets, take out the old stuff, raise the ceiling, and put in new tile… among other things. And for my own heart, and habits, I needed to realize I couldn’t change myself with my own will power. I can stop a bad habit for a little while, but then I give up. And I can remind myself not to be prideful and then fall right back into pride when I feel like I’m doing it well. What I need is God’s power to help me and His truth to guide me and fill me.

One of the steps in the kitchen process was cleaning out of the stuff in the kitchen: the dishes, storage containers, food, pots, pans, decorations, etc. And one of the important steps in Life’s Healing Choices is making an inventory and actually writing out the hard stuff, like who has hurt you in the past, and how you’ve hurt others, and things you feel guilty for and need to admit. But when you finally finish emptying the kitchen, there’s a big weight removed, and the same thing happens with the inventory.

The cleaned out kitchen

Then when you finally reveal your deepest darkest secrets to God and another person, (tell someone everything that is on your inventory) there is freedom in that. And it’s sort of like how my house looks now. All of the old junk has been ripped out and we’re getting ready to start building it back up again. It may not be easy, and it definitely isn’t pretty, but you can’t get the new kitchen without taking out the old one, and you can’t be the person you want to be without confessing what is wrong with you and admitting it honestly.

Kitchen after Demolition

And then it moves on to the slow change. It doesn’t happen overnight. Just like it will take at least a month to build up our new kitchen, it will take time to change your habits and ways of thinking. One way I’m trying to start that is by meditating on God’s word before I go to sleep. I’d found myself being anxious or restless and not being able to sleep well, so I’m reviewing verses I’m trying to memorize right before I turn off the light.

I’m sure that’s not the only change I’ll have to make, but everyone has to start somewhere. So anyway, I hope you enjoyed this post and remember that no one can change on their own. We all need help from each other and from God. And it is a very long process, one that will continue throughout our lives. But in the end, it’ll be worth it.

Some of the guys helping us with the kitchen

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Flash from the Past

I’m not sure why, but I’ve been feeling sentimental recently and I really just want to look at some old photos. So I thought I’d share from my findings. I hope you enjoy this little glimpse into my life and history and if you think it’s a cool idea, feel free to do your own Flash from the Past on your blog or social media. Enjoy!

2008
I’m starting with this year because it’s when I first got my own digital camera, and digital photos are much easier for me to upload. This was the end of my senior year of high school and also my first semester of college.

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My high school Senior Picture… or one of them at least.

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My Senior Formal (Prom for homeschoolers)

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At my graduation party with one of my best friends Lindsey.

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My 18th Birthday with my family.

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Making new friends in college like Victoria.

2009

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A ski trip to New Mexico that I went on with my Dad.

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Having fun with friends Kari and Amanda at a dance in college.

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I helped paint our house that summer.

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I went on a road trip from Nashvilled, TN to Austin, TX with my brothers.

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My Sophomore dorm room and friend Heather.

2010

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At my cousin’s wedding in Indiana.

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Going to the Rodeo with my sister.

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My 20th Birthday.

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I went to Palmetto State Park with some college friends.

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I got into the Alpha Chi Honor Society that fall.

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We decorated our college apartment for Christmas.

2011

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We had a snow day in February!

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I finally saw the Austin bats with Tracey.

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I went to Germany with some college friends, including my roommate Victoria.

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I helped with my church’s Bible Clubs like I had for the past several summers.

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I went to a UT football game with my cousin Hannah.

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Senior Year Homecoming.

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On the TLU campus.

2012

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Ice skating with my family during winter break.

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One of my paintings for my Senior Art Show.

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Finishing my senior bucket list with my roommate by going up the chapel bell tower.

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College Graduation.

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I went to the Bahamas with my family and we swam with dolphins.

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I kept painting and made this for my friend Lindsey.

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Having Fun with my family for Thanksgiving.

2013

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I tried a Cleanse and ate a lot healthier in the Spring.

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I went to the Austin Kite Festival.

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I painted a cover for my first novel.

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I got the obligatory Bluebonnet picture.

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I donated my hair to Locks of Love with my sister.

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Haiti mission trip.

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I went to see my old roommate Victoria in Philly and we took a day trip to NYC!

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I decorated my first tree on the side of the road for Christmas.

2014

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I made a snowman, or iceman.

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My brother proposed to Ashley and we all went up to Abilene to celebrate.

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Another Bluebonnet pic with my sister.

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I was maid of honor in my friend Lindsey’s wedding.

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I got to be a bridesmaid in my brother’s wedding and I got a new sister!

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I saw Victoria for Christmas in San Antonio.

2015

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Ski trip to New Mexico with our church’s youth group.

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In Florida for my Grandpa’s memorial service.

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We had heavy rains that spring and a lot of flooding.

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Spring Bluebonnets with all my sisters.

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My 25th Birthday.

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My first book fair with my novel.

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Mission trip to Mozambique.

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Going to the Trail of Lights in Austin.

2016

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I went to a Spurs Game with my cousin Hannah.

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My friend Lindsey had Bethany, her first baby.

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I got to meet Marissa Meyer, the Author of the Lunar Chronicles.

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I got to go on a backstage tour of the AT&T Center.

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I went to Kentucky to see the replica of Noah’s Ark.

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I got to see a beautiful sunset in San Diego.

 

Well I’m going to stop there. It was fun to look through old photos and see some of the cool things that have happened in my life. I want to take some time to stop and be grateful for all the places I’ve seen, people I’ve known and ways that God has shaped me and grown me over the past 9 years. I hope you take some time today to do the same.

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Author Visits and a Shout Out to School Librarians

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of visiting Baranoff Elementary in Austin, TX. I feel like I’m becoming an old pro at these author visits and instead of being nervous, I was excited. As I drove in the misty morning rain to this elementary school, I couldn’t wait to get started. Just as Dezavala, I was scheduled to speak to the 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. I had several boxes of books, my slideshow all ready to go, and even some fun music to play in the background while the kids found their seats.

With all of these school visits, I’ve discovered that having help from the librarian is a huge factor in how the visit goes. They know all of the kids and teachers, how the computers work, and what setup would work best. So I just want to give a shout out to all the school librarians out there. You do a great job at opening up the world of reading to students and I’m personally grateful for all the work you do.

Ms. Merriman is the librarian that I got to work with for this school. She did a great job of advertising the visit and getting the students excited. By the time I got there, they were all ready to pay attention and learn. I was particularly struck that my being a native Austinite had such an impact. I guess I’d never noticed that the other schools I’ve gone to are technically not in Austin. So this was my first Austin ISD school visit and they really made me feel welcome.

Ms. Merriman and her library clerk

Ms. Merriman and her library clerk

Several students had preordered the books and I had spent a good hour or so signing books the day before my visit. But Baranoff wasn’t done. Several more students decided they wanted a book the day I came and I ended up signing several more books while I was there. Ms. Merriman did a great job of giving me space to breathe and sign books in between each group. She also had the great idea that I would read a section of the book after my presentation and before the question time. That way the kids were still focused and ready to listen. It worked great and I was especially happy when I stopped reading and several kids made the “aww” sound because they wanted more. I hope most of them get to read the books over the holiday break.

And speaking of the kids, boy were these kids fun to talk to. So many of them were interested in writing and had great questions or wanted to tell me about their own books or stories. It was so fun to see their enthusiasm. I even had one girl say that her favorite book is Finding Home. I got pictures with a few of them and personally signed about 80 books. It was a great experience and I hope that all of the future schools I visit will be like this one.

So in honor of the Baranoff kids and in case you’re interested in the book, I thought I’d give a little preview of the section I read to the students. And actually I’ll add a bit extra since it’s one of my favorite scenes. Enjoy!

Chapter 2

The Innkeeper

“Lazy hands make a man poor,

but diligent hands bring wealth.”

Proverbs 10:4

      Ben finally collapsed in a field; too exhausted to take another step. He let the tears run freely now that no one was around to watch him fall apart. Gradually his heart slowed down and his breathing became normal. Finally Ben rolled onto his back, and stared aimlessly at the clouds.

Why God? What did I do wrong? Ben waited for an answer as the clouds floated gently in the spring breeze. After several minutes, Ben sighed and sat up. Now what? He wiped another tear from his cheek as the face of his father came to mind. He always believed in me… taught me so much, and gave me all that I needed… I didn’t deserve him.

Ben pulled his father’s sword out of the common scabbard it was stored in and studied it. Unlike the scabbard, the sword itself was very beautiful. It was double edged with an ornamented silver hilt engraved with the image of a golden eagle. I wonder where he got this. It doesn’t look like a sword that he could afford.

Ben noticed the sun was already past its zenith. I guess I should try to find a place to stay…. He reluctantly slid the sword back into its scabbard and stood up. He gazed back to where he had come from and shook his head. I never want to see that innkeeper again. He turned and started walking in the opposite direction.

* * * * *

      As the sun began to sink behind the horizon, Ben climbed a small hill and stopped to survey the landscape. A strange gray fog in the distance caught his attention. He was mystified as he studied the odd blending of gray into the colorful sunset. After a minute or so it dawned on him what the gray haze was. That must be smoke from a village.  Ben glanced at the sun as it dropped behind the horizon. I better hurry so I won’t get locked out of town tonight.

* * * * *

      It was nearly midnight before Ben reached a worn sign just outside the small village. The sign’s faded letters revealed that Ben had just arrived at Rosenwood. The gates were closed. However, the man guarding the gate allowed Ben in without too much of a fuss. While walking through the deserted streets, Ben felt the weight of an overpowering emptiness. All was quiet and dark, only a few scattered noises in the distance gave proof that anyone lived here. An old creaking sign indicated an inn nearby. Ben walked stealthily to the inn, feeling as if disturbing the quiet would be disastrous.

A lone light shone inside where a hefty innkeeper with graying hair was counting his money from the day’s business.

Ben walked in and studied the man’s plump nose and crinkled face, trying to decide if he was the kind of man that would let him stay the night without paying.

The man stopped counting all of a sudden and turned to face Ben with a frown of annoyance. “What do ya want?” he asked gruffly.

“I was wondering if I could sleep here tonight.” Ben replied.

The innkeeper’s small brown eyes darted up and down, studying Ben’s features. “Got any money?”

“Well no, but I can work for my stay. I can wash dishes, clean tables, serve food, or even muck out the stables.”

“Ha, muck out the stables. Tell ya what, if you clean the stables, you can sleep there.”

“Alright,” Ben answered with a faint smile on his face. “I’ll do it.”

The man grunted as Ben left, then turned back to resume counting his gold.

Ben found the musty old stable and started cleaning the stalls. He tried to focus on his work and keep the thoughts of the loving family he had lost to a minimum. However, as the night wore on, Ben couldn’t keep the thoughts from creeping into his mind. Once he had finished cleaning, he gave each of the few horses a fresh bucket of water and a thorough brushing. With all the unhindered thoughts of his family floating about in his head, Ben doubted that he would be able to sleep at all. However, around three in the morning, he finally drifted off in a pile of fresh hay.

* * * * *

      The next morning dawned bright, and the little town of Rosenwood started bustling with women doing laundry, men beating out metal, venders hollering out to shoppers, and children running around the market.

The old innkeeper closed his tired eyes and stretched his sore back. He had spent the whole morning making food for his customers and finally had a free moment to sit down.

A customer came up to pay his due. “What money do I owe you?” he asked pleasantly.

“Ten pieces of gold,” the innkeeper replied.

“Really, that seems rather generous of you.”

“What do ya mean?” the innkeeper’s eyes squinted as he tilted his head to the side. “Ten pieces isn’t cheap, at least not for the prices ‘round here.”

“Well my horses were taken care of so well, I assumed it would cost more.”

The innkeeper stared at him dumbfounded.

“You know, the clean stalls, fresh water, and they were groomed magnificently. I’d say they were the king’s horses, if I didn’t know them.”

The innkeeper wasn’t sure what to say so he remained silent.

“Well here’s five extra pieces, I think you deserve them,” the man said with a smile. Then he turned and went on his way.

The innkeeper scratched his head. “What in the world is he talking about? That stable is filthy and I wouldn’t touch a horse for all the money in the world.” He dropped the coins in his pocket and went over to the stable to make sure the man wasn’t hallucinating.

As the innkeeper walked to the stable he saw the man leading his horses out into the street. They really were magnificent; each had a smooth clean coat that shone in the morning light. Even with his fear of horses the innkeeper admired their beauty. “But how did they…? I didn’t….”

As he stepped into the old stable, he gasped.

Everything was put away, the stalls were all clean and the smell of fresh hay filled the room. He stared almost unbelieving when a thought struck him. “There was a boy last night… and I told him that he could sleep here if he cleaned up the place.” The innkeeper smiled to himself, “So that explains the fancy horses and clean stable.” The old man soon spotted the boy soundly sleeping in a fresh pile of hay. He walked over to the boy and gave him a gentle shove with his foot. “Wake up young sir. Are ya hungry?”

Ben rolled over and opened his calm blue eyes. “Huh? Hungry? Oh, yes I’m hungry.” He sat up and rubbed his eyes.

“Good, I need some way to repay ya for cleaning this old stable and those horses. Did you know I got five extra pieces of gold for your work? And a mighty satisfied customer if I do say so myself.”

“Oh, I didn’t know that, sir.”

“Yes, well, no need to call me sir… and what pray tell is your name?”

Ben stood up. “I’m Ben, what’s yours?”

“People call me John.”

“Well nice to meet you John,” Ben said as he shook his hand.

“Nice to meet you too. By the way, I’m sorry for making you sleep in the stable. I thought you were some naughty kid that needed to be taught a lesson about running away from home.”

Ben frowned and looked down at the floor. “No, I didn’t exactly run away, I kind of lost my family.”

“Well I’m sorry… is there anything I can do?”

“Not really.”

John studied Ben’s downcast face for a minute. “Alright, then we’ll just get you some breakfast.”

 

 

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Author Visit

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Well I got to visit another lovely school this week. I drove down to San Marcos on Tuesday afternoon and walked into De Zavala Elementary to speak with the 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders about writing. A couple of 2nd graders listened in during the first presentation too. It was so cool to see their enthusiasm about writing a book. Several of them asked me about how they can get involved with NaNoWriMo too. I hope that one day I get to hear about some young authors who got their start at De Zavala. One kid also asked me if my books were in Spanish. I had never thought about translating my books before. But that’s actually a really good idea, especially for where I live. So I may have to look into that too.

I am also excited to try a new way of selling my books. At every other school I’ve gone to, I’ve offered my books at a discount if someone preorders. Then I bring the books to the school with me and pass them out after the presentation. But just like any adult, kids usually don’t want a book until after they’ve heard all about it and meeting the author helps a lot too. So the librarian at De Zavala  suggested taking orders after the presentation and then letting me know how many books she needs in a week or two. I’m hopeful that this will be a great way to promote my book and make it available for even more kids.

However, in some cases I may have to stick with the preorders only, especially for schools that are hours away from where I live. But for the schools closer, it might be a great way to make it easier for kids to get the books.

So anyway, I had a lot of fun with this school visit and I hope the next one is just as fun.

If you happen to want copies of the Finding Home Series, check them out by clicking the pictures of the book on the right. The links will take you to Amazon where you can read some sections of the book and have it shipped directly to your home. It could make a good Christmas present for a young reader.

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Rich in Christ

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I’ve heard the phrase “family in Christ” a lot and often think of my friends as being my “sisters in Christ.” But a few circumstances in the last 24 hours have broadened my view of what that really means.

It started with a few people’s random comments. The first one comes from one of my dear friend’s relatives who said she felt like I was one of ‘hers’ too. Like I belonged in her family. That felt really good. Then later, someone on Facebook commented that me and my friend look like sisters. We have no actual relation, but we are very close friends. And I was tempted to say, “Of course we look like sisters, we are sisters in Christ after all.”

Then this morning, I read this passage: “Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.'” Mark 10:29-30

And on top of all this, on Sunday my pastor really emphasized that God’s definition of riches is very different than what we usually think of. Instead of riches meaning money and wealth, God sees riches as relationships. That really comes across in this passage and from what I’ve experienced this weekend.

So today I am thankful for how rich God has made me. I have so many deep and lasting relationships in my life. I can really see that my family in Christ makes me rich.There are so many people in my church that I see as another grandma or grandpa, or sister or brother, or mom or dad. And now that I’m getting older, I can even see how the kids of my friends almost feel like my own. God really knows what’s best for us and what is truly means to be rich.

So I hope you stop today to think about all of the relationships you’ve been blessed with and how rich God has made you, and maybe even say a little prayer of thanksgiving to God for all that He’s given you.

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Fun in San Diego

Well I’ve been out of town for the past week, so instead of writing a thought provoking post, I thought I’d share some of my favorite pictures from my trip to San Diego. I’d never been before and it was a lot of fun to explore the area, see the coast and the zoo and just get to spend time with family. Enjoy!

View from Mount Helix

View from Mount Helix

 

The Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean

 

Seagulls at the Beach

Seagulls at the Beach

 

Sunset at Coronado

Sunset at Coronado

 

View of the Bay from the USS Midway

View of the Bay from the USS Midway

 

Bears at the Zoo

Bears at the Zoo

 

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Exploring Old Town

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