When Our Mess Reveals Our Blessings

Messy RemodelChaos and confusion make me nervous. I like Well-orchestrated plans, and when those plans actually happen. When things appear to come unraveled, I go running for my to-do list, anxious to manage the mess. Unfortunately, life is not always that easily contained or cleaned up. But as my sweet friend Shannon Taylor Vannatter shares, sometimes God allows the mess … and for a beautiful reason.

When Our Messes Reveal Our Blessings
by Shannon Taylor Vannatter

Sometimes it takes a mess to experience gratitude.

I’ve talked online lately about our major remodel. We’re swapping three rooms around including the kitchen. We also got a new roof and heat pump, plus a room addition – a closet and my office. Yay!!!! We’re doing most of the remodeling ourselves along with finishing out the closet and office.

Since the work never seems to stop, my husband and I are exhausted. And our many jobs have multiplied. The electrician had to cut into our drywall in the new kitchen to add wiring for appliances. Therefore, I had to replaster one entire wall.

For a while two rooms of furniture were smashed into one with a narrow walking trail around it. This makes it almost impossible to put pine planking on our vaulted ceiling. As I write this, most of our kitchen is completed but the plumbing isn’t hooked up yet. That’s tomorrow’s project.

And the list goes on.

The carpenter had to knock out our rock foundation to connect our addition. Completing my office isn’t even on the agenda while we focus on keeping our pipes from freezing and getting our main living area in functional condition.

Suffice it to say, our house is a mess. But in the midst of our disorder, four things put everything into perspective:

Odd sized windows to replace old, breezy ones and my kitchen sink had to be ordered. We waited and waited for the arrival date, but neither showed. We joked about our items coming on a slow boat from China. Lowe’s apologized and said all the hurricane victims were getting precedence on shipments of building supplies.

My house may be a mess. But I have a house.

One of our church members was diagnosed with cancer. Too late for treatment. Days ago, my husband visited her in the hospital. She was unresponsive with her grieving spouse holding her hand. We realized that poor man’s house was in a mess as the woman God gave him was shantiesslowly and painfully ripped from this life.

Our bedroom end of the house was cold for a few days until the heat and air people added vents to the addition.

People in third world countries don’t have a heat and air guy.

My kitchen sink still isn’t hooked up. It’s amazing how crippling not having water to cook and clean with is.
Sixty percent of the population don’t have indoor plumbing.

So as we dig out from under our rubble, I’ll try not to complain or feel overwhelmed. Instead, I’ll count my blessings along the way.

***

Award winning author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter writes contemporary Christian cowboy romance and has over a dozen published titles. A romance reader since her teens, she hopes to entertain Christian women and plant seeds in the non-believer’s heart as she demonstrates that love doesn’t conquer all—Jesus does.

She gleans fodder for her fiction in rural Arkansas where she spent her teenage summers working the concession stand with her rodeo announcing dad and married a Texan who morphed into a pastor. In her spare time, she loves hanging out with her husband and son, flea marketing, and doing craft projects.

Connect with her: Shannon’s Facebook, Shannon’s Goodreads, Shannon’s Pinterest, Shannon’s Twitter, and Shannon’s Amazon Author Page.

More about her latest release, A Texas Holiday Reunion:

His Christmas Homecoming 

With her foreman out of commission, Resa McCall needs horse trainer Colson Kincaid to run her family ranch through the holidays. But having the handsome single dad back in Bandera, Texas, is unsettling. Colson broke Resa’s heart years ago, and she can’t risk getting close again. Still, working with him and bonding with his sweet little girl is making the ranch feel merry and bright. Being at Resa’s side stirs up emotions Colson thought were long gone. But he has a powerful secret that could keep them apart forever. Can Colson give Resa the one Christmas present that might finally bring them back together—the truth?

Get your copy now:

 A Texas Holiday Reunion on Christianbook                 A Texas Holiday Reunion on Amazon

Let’s talk about this! Are you a neat and tidy type of person or do you thrive on change? I’m neither, but I’m also not a huge fan of mess or chaos. When my house feels chaotic, so do I. When life feels chaotic, I tend to clean and organize. And, unfortunately, get hung up on a lot of minor details, potentially losing sight of all the blessings God’s provided. What about you? What resonated most as you read Shannon’s post? When has God used a messy and chaotic environment to point you to a deeper truth? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Before you go, I invite you to join me at Crosswalk where I shared ways we can find strength in Christ. You can read that HERE.

Monday, I stopped in at Wholly Loved to share my thoughts on God’s favor and what that looks like when life gets hard. You can read that HERE.

If you’ve enjoyed today’s post and want to receive more great content sent free, directly to your inbox, then sign up for my quarterly newsletter. You can do so HERE. (Subscribers will receive a free, 36-lesson Bible study based on 1 Timothy titled Developing a Life of Love and Faith. I’ll be sending that out soon!)

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He is Enough

Some of my most precious moments have also been my hardest, because it was then that I felt God’s love and embrace most strongly. When, curled into the corner of the couch, Bible opened on my lap, and He spoke tenderly to me, words of encouragement, of strength, of blessing–of victory. In so many ways, on countless days, God has shown me what my sweet friend Shannon expresses through her inspiring post this morning.

But first, I wanted to share some things I’ve discovered about Shannon. First and foremost, she loves Jesus with every fiber of her being. She and I have been critique partners for a few years now, and I’ve learned so much, on a spiritual level, simply by interacting with her. I’ve been blessed by her continual encouragement and selflessness, by her frequent prayers, and her perseverance to do all she can to show the love, power, and truth of the gospel.

This sweet woman continually gives of herself. It’s not surprising to me, then, that there are times she feels depleted. In the following devotion, she shares how she replenishes. Or should I say, how God replenishes her.

Be blessed.

He is Enough

by Shannon Taylor Vannatter

So I was low in spirit. On the verge of getting our taxes done for the year, I was terrified of what we might owe. Add to that, a church issue everyone is ignoring. A deadline. A leaky roof. A dead air conditioner.

I’d taken the day off from a church yardsale–fundraiser for Samaritan’s purse–to attend a writers meeting. I was feeling guilty about it even though I’d helped organize the sale and worked it the day before.

Though I was interested in the topic being taught that day, I made a point to go because writer’s meetings always inspire me and lift my spirits. A room full of like-minded believers uplifting Jesus with their words. What could be better?

On the way to the meeting, I had my favorite Christian radio station turned on. Cue the music—the right song at the right time. From an old BarlowGirl favorite, “Never Alone”:

(Listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8QubLxJI54)

In it, they sing about crying out for God and not receiving a reply, of not being able to feel God by their side and choosing, in that moment, to hold on to what they know to be true–that God is always there.

And boom, God reminded me that I’m never alone.

I’ve always loved music and songs often touch my soul. For the rest of the drive, I played my favorite Todd Agnew CD I keep in the car. My favorite, Martyr’s Song:

You can listen to it here:

I don’t pretend to be a martyr, and none of my troubles measure up to a tiny iota martyrs have faced. But living in this world often makes me feel like one and I never listen to that song without getting teary-eyed.

By the time I got to the meeting, my spirit was soaring. And it only got better as the day progressed. My writer friends made me laugh, helped me remember why I write, and reminded me to count my blessings.

My much-needed private church service concluded on the drive home listening to Agnew’s, I Need No Other Argument:

You can listen to it here:

What do you do when your spirits need a boost? Do you have a favorite song that reminds you of what is important?

Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife/award winning author. She once climbed a mountain wearing gold wedge-heeled sandals which became known as her hiking boots. Shannon writes inspirational contemporary romance and it took her nine years to get published in the traditional market.

She hopes to entertain Christian women and plant seeds in the non-believer’s heart as her characters struggle with real-life issues. Their journeys, from ordinary lives to extraordinary romance through Christ-centered relationships, demonstrate that love doesn’t conquer all—Jesus does. In her spare time, she loves hanging out with her family, flea marketing, and doing craft projects.

Visit her online at her website, on her blog, connect with her on Facebook and Goodreads, and follow her on Pinterest and Twitter.

Winning Over the Cowboy:

The Rancher Stakes His Claim 

When she inherits half a dude ranch after losing her best friend, Landry Malone is determined to see Eden’s legacy flourish. That is if her friend’s broad-shouldered cowboy brother will give her the chance. Chase Donovan isn’t happy that his sister left their family business to an outsider—and he’s determined to test Landry’s mettle, hoping she’ll give up her claim. Soon Chase is impressed by Landry’s ability to rise to every challenge he puts in her way—and worried that his attraction to the perky spitfire seems to know no end. Finally working together to ensure the ranch’s future, will their business partnership be the foundation for something more?

Share your thoughts, examples, and experiences with us. Can you remember a time when you were feeling down about something and you sensed God speaking to you? When do you tend to feel closest to God? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all encourage one another!

 

Trusting in the God of Hope

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Photo by ClkerFreeVectorImages taken from pixabay.com

Life is full of uncertainties, and though I’m pretty sure, while waiting for something important, we wish God would come through right now! But it’s in the waiting, the following along God’s detours and reroutes, that our faith grows strongest and we are most alert to God’s hand.

Today prolific and hugely talented author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter, shares her signingexperience with waiting, rerouting, followed by more waiting.

And as an added bonus, she’s doing a special, multi-blog give-away to commemorate the Heartsong Presents line since it’s ending this month! How fun is that?

Baseball Memory Board

Comment to enter the drawing for a copy of Rodeo Reunion. Ten copies will be split among names drawn during the blog tour from June 1st – July 1st. One winner will receive a baseball themed memory board personally crafted by the author. Winners will be revealed on Shannon’s blog on July 22nd.

Trusting in the God of Hope by Shannon Taylor Vannatter

Any time I’ve been down about my writing career, God gives me hope. Back before I was published and began to wonder if I ever would be, He’d give me encouragement by allowing me to place in a writing contest or an editor taking the time to write a positive note on a rejection letter. Those little fuzzy moments kept me going. He still does that.

Back in November, I learned the line I write for Heartsong Presents is ending. I was contracted for one more rodeo book and a new series of three books. With the end of Heartsong Presents, those four books were destined to never see the light of day. But I’d been through this before.

After my fourth book was published when Barbour owned the line, they decided to end Heartsong Presents. Even though I had two more books contracted. I cried and railed and mourned my books and my career. But a few months later, I attended the ACFW conference and my new editor told me to go ahead and write the next book in my series because another publisher was buying the line.

Six months later, I learned Harlequin had purchased Heartsong Presents. My final two books in my contract saw the light of day and I soon had another contract for six books. Fast forward four years and Harlequin made the same decision regarding the line. This time, I knew no one would buy it because there aren’t any other publishers who distribute category length romance.

But I didn’t rail and I didn’t cry. By this time, I knew God’s got this. A few weeks later, my agent called with a possible publisherkeyboard-690066_1280 to take on my four remaining books. All I had to do was add word count and tweak the books to fit their line. We went back and forth for several months trying to make my submission perfect.

A month later, the editor contacted my agent. What I’d done still didn’t fit the imprint, but she gave very specific instructions to make my books fit. And even went as far as calling me on the phone. That doesn’t happen often. Hope bloomed.

I tweaked the proposal again and sent it off. We’re going on seven weeks now. The editor apologized when my agent checked with her, saying she’s behind on everything and hasn’t even had the time to read my proposal. I was hoping to have a positive answer by the time my blog tour for my final Heartsong came around. Which is now. But I still don’t know what will become of my four books.

In the meantime, I wrote a long book I’ve wanted to write for a long time. It’s polished and almost ready to send to my agent so she can try to find a home for it. But the market is rough in publishing in general. As time drags, I’m getting discouraged.

Last weekend, I went to an annual writers’ retreat with ten women from my local group. We had a great time, visited, ate, ate some more, learned, and got some writing time in.

I’m the only traditionally published one in the group simply because my journey fell into place before theirs. I’m their encouragement—proof that getting published can happen. But my career is at a standstill. It kind of got to me.

Double RainbowOn the way home, I was praying and whining a little. I rounded a curve and the trees revealed an expanse of open sky. I saw a cloud with a silver lining. Then another. Pretty much a sky full of clouds with silver linings. Bordering all those clouds was a double rainbow. I take that as God saying He’s got this. I quit whining.

For the rest of my trip home, I enjoyed the canvas God painted just for me. And I know He’ll follow through on all those silver linings.

Award winning, central Arkansas author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife. She lives in a town with a population of around 100, if you count a few cows, and she once climbed a mountain wearing gold wedge-heeled sandals which became known as her hiking boots.

She has eleven published titles and is contracted for four more. Her books are available at christianbook.com, barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com, harlequin.com, and barbourbooks.com. Learn more about Shannon and her books at ShannonVannatter.com and check out her Real Life Romance blog.

Connect with her on Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/stvannatter/, and Twitter: @stvauthor.

About her novel, Rodeo Reunion:

RAQUEL MARRIS NEEDS A MAN WHO’LL STAY PUT

And Slade Walker’s not a likely candidate. Even if the former major league pitcher just agreed to coach her son’s little league team. The single mom can’t risk everything on a bronc-riding chaplain who’s only passing through Raquel’s small Texas town.

Slade is taking a hiatus from the rodeo circuit to meet the sister he never knew he had. But the pretty widowed nurse next door is making him think twice about hitting the road again. He can’t turn his back on the cowboys who need him, but Raquel and her boy need him, too. Can Slade fulfill his calling and finally find a place to hang his hat?

Buy it:

At Christian Book Distributers or on Amazon

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! Are you in a waiting period? What might God be showing or teaching you? Have you ever felt as if you’d slammed into a closed door only to find God had something else amazing waiting? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

 

Training by Example

ACFW 5

Shannon and I at the ACFW conference in 2009. Or 2010. I can never remember!

Moms, do you ever feel like the gimmees have infiltrated your home? Like your child’s main focus is himself? Since our ancestor Adam first bit of the forbidden fruit, mankind has been dominated by selfishness. Yet, according to many, this generation is the worst. I’m not sure if that’s true or if technology simply makes our character flaws more evident, but regardless of where we measure up compared to those who lived before us, it’s no secret, we’ve got a bad case of the MEs! Our children included. So how do we counter this constant pull toward selfishness? Today multi-published author Shannon Taylor Vannattor shares her thoughts with us.

As an added bonus, she’s giving away a copy of her romance novel, Rodeo Family, to a reader randomly selected in the comments left on today’s post.

But first, I want to announce last week’s winner. Pat Dyer, congrats! You won an e-copy of Stephanie Prichard’s novel, Stranded. I’ll email you shortly to discuss the best way for her to get that to you.

(Shannon, we need a new picture! Let’s plan to go to a conference together soon!)

Children Learn by Example by Shannon Taylor Vannatter

From the time my son’s motor skills were firing, whenever we went shopping before Christmas, I’ve given him money to put in the Salvation Army buckets. Anything from one to five dollars. I’ve always explained that the money is to buy Christmas gifts for kid’s whose parents don’t have any money. By the end of the season, we probably contribute $200.00.

Over the years, he’s kept me accountable. If I don’t have any cash, he gives me the I-can’t-believe-we-just-snubbed-the-bellringer look. When we check out, I add cash back to my total, so we can put money in on the way out. We also take coats my son has outgrown to the bellringers.

At thirteen, he tries to get me to put the money in these days, but I still make him do it. Hopefully, someday far in the future, he’ll teach his child to put money in the bucket.

For the last several years, our church has donated shoeboxes to the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child ministry. After all the money and items are donated, my son and I volunteer to shop for items with the donated funds. Before our shoebox packing party, he goes with me to the church and helps me sort all the items and set up tables by age and gender. At the packing party, my son packs shoeboxes for a boy his age.

The other night, we were watching Survivorman, one of his favorite shows. The host goes to remote areas and gives tips on how to survive if you get lost. Survivorman was in Papua New Guinea. He got sick and the villagers offered him shelter. They lived in huts with slatted walls you could see daylight through.

I took the opportunity to explain to my son that the kids who get our shoeboxes live in houses like that.

His eyes saucered. “Really?”

ID-10033025

Photo by Africa taken from freedigitalphotos.net

This past year, as the packing party neared, I had a horrible virus and was afraid he’d been exposed. We didn’t get to do the shopping or help pack boxes. I missed it and wondered if he did. I hope seeing those children living in such poverty made him anxious to pack shoeboxes next year.

For local ministry, we have a battered women’s shelter in our area. Over the years, we’ve donated furniture, clothes, and toys. Our church takes any leftover meals from funerals to the shelter and our members have bought Christmas gifts for the kids. We have to call and let them know we’re coming, especially if there are men helping with deliveries. My son has been there on several occasions.

Our association of twenty-three churches recently bought a food services van. Once it’s finished, the van will go anywhere in Arkansas where a natural disaster has occurred, serve food, and witness to survivors. Arkansas is in the middle of tornado valley. I’m hoping this summer, we can take a training course as a family and be available for this ministry when tragedy strikes.

By including my son in helping others, I hope all of the small gestures we make stick with him. That he’ll always remember there are those less fortunate than us and that he’ll always be willing to help.

Rodeo Family coverRodeo Family:

TORI EATON IS READY TO START OVER 

She’s beginning a new chapter in Aubrey, Texas, away from her abusive ex-boyfriend. As she picks up the pieces of her broken life, Tori’s surprised at the helping hand the church’s new song director, Brant McConnell, offers her, and at the warm emotions he inspires.

Brant is drawn to Tori. And as their friendship grows, so do his feelings for her. But Tori is still hounded by her past, and the walls she’s built around her heart are high. Can he convince the wounded beauty that he’s exactly the kind of man she needs—and deserves?

Buy it on Christian Book Distributors here!

Get it from Amazon here!

Central Arkansas author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife. She lives in a town with a population of around 100, if you count a few cows and once climbed a mountain wearing gold wedge-heeled sandals which became known as her hiking boots. Vannatter won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award in the short contemporary category, The 18th Annual Heartsong Awards 3rd Favorite New Author and #1 Contemporary Award.

She has ten published titles and is contracted for five more. Her books are available at christianbook.com, barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com, harlequin.com, and barbourbooks.com. Visit her website here to learn more about Shannon and her books and check out her real life romance blog here to read true stories from other writers. 

Connect with her on FacebookGoodreadsPinterest, and Twitter by searching: @stvauthor.

LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this!Raising godly children is such a tremendous responsibility and such an incredible honor. What a blessing to think God has entrusted us with these most precious gifts. May everything we do honor that great calling we have received. What are some family habits or events that have produced positive behaviors in your children? What are some things you are doing now to grow certain character traits in your children? What are some behaviors you’d like to counter, and what are some ways you can do that? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Before you go, I have some fun news! My debut novel, Beyond I Do is on sale at a limited time for $3.34 in print and kindle form! If you haven’t read it yet but have been wanting to, now’s a great time! You also might want to stock up on Mother’s Day gifts, birthday gifts, and next year’s Christmas gifts! 🙂 Because the book presents a clear gospel message, some readers have been buying numerous copies to give to nonbelieving friends as evangelism tools.

Now, for those following my book launch tour, here’s where I’ve been this past week:

Yesterday on Takin’ it to the Streets’ blog, I reminded readers to rest in God’s strength. You can read more here.

I also visited A Word of Encouragement to discuss the question: Is venting biblical. You can read more about that here.

Tuesday I visited fellow Living by Grace hostess, Maria Morgan’s blog to share how God used one woman’s surrender to bless many during Reality Church’s first ever Women’s Connection Event. You can read about that here.

On Monday I stopped by Novel Rocket to discuss ways for writers to keep their heads in storyworld when life tries to pull them from it. You can read more about that here. 

I also stopped by Karen Beery’s blog to discuss Christian fiction and how imperfect characters reveal God’s grace. You can read that here. 

I also visited Writing Prompts to  chat with my sweet friend, Jennifer Hallmark, contributor to A Dozen Apologies and Sweet Freedom. You can join the conversation here.

On InspyRomance.com, I shared some ways you can revive a dead marriage (or make a strong marriage stronger). You can read my suggestions here. 

Finally, on Friday I visited with Lena Nelson Dooley, where I shared a bit about my novel and an excerpt. You can join that conversation here.  One of the characters in When Dawn Breaks stopped by Infinite Characters to talk about widowhood and true love. You can read that here. 

OLATHE_Slattery signing_JAN15-FBAnd before I go, for those of you in driving distance to Olathe, KS, I hope you’ll join me next Saturday (Jan. 31st) at Lifeway Christian Book store where I’ll be signing copies of both my books, then afterwards, whoever wants to is invited to join me and some other authors at Homer’s Coffeehouse in Overland Park to chat about books and other pure randomness while we gorge ourselves on heavily-flavored coffee! Holly Michael, author of Crooked Lines will be there. Yay!

Following God-given Dreams

Booksigning 11You sense God calling you, nudging you to surrender fully to His call, but you’re not sure where that will lead. To make matters worse, doubts, fears, and insecurities well within, making it hard to zero in on that still, small voice that speaks courage and peace and confidence. This journey of obedience, of full surrender, is never easy and rarely quick, but today, a sweet friend, multi-published author Shannon Taylor Vannatter, shows us it’s worth it–worth every tear, every hurdle.

As an added bonus, she’s giving away a copy of Rodeo Song to one of you, randomly selected from the comments below. (She’s also donated three of her books to three different charity fundraising events, including Takin’ it to the Streets’ first annual Hope for the Homeless event. You can see her donations here.)

I also want to congratulate the winner of last week’s give-away. Mary C. Wilson, congrats! You won a copy of Connie Almony’s novel, At the Edge of a Dark Forest! I’ll contact you soon to arrange how best to get that to you.

Living My Dream by Shannon Taylor Vannetter

At times since I first started this writing thing back in 1999, the publication journey has been a roller coaster. From the time a Print On Demand publisher published my book without my knowledge to when my traditional publisher decided to close my line, I’ve been on the verge of pulling my hair out, and have lain in the floor crying. But despite my rollercoaster ride through the publishing landscape, I’m still writing and I’m thankful I’m a writer.

On a spiritual level:

1. I get to fulfill my calling. From the time I became a Christian at fifteen years old, I felt like there was something I was supposed to do. With writing, I get to fulfill my purpose by doing something I thoroughly enjoy.

2. I get to share Jesus with nonbelievers. A non-believer is more likely to read the romance novel their friend loans them than the Bible. I recently got a letter from a Muslim man in prison telling me how much he enjoyed one of my books. He still sounded Muslim from his letter, but maybe my book planted seeds.

3. I get the opportunity to draw Christians closer to Jesus. Some of my characters are Christians, some of them aren’t. Most of them make mistakes—just like real people. I use my characters blunders to draw them closer into fellowship with God. Maybe a reader will identify with my character’s journey and take steps to draw closer to Jesus as a result.

4. I get to preach. I’m not saying I want to be a preacher, but the overall theme of all of my books is this: Love doesn’t make the world go around—God does. My characters learn that love is only lasting if God is in the center of their hand-in-marriage-1422245-m (1)relationship. So many young people in the world need that message. It gives me great joy to know that mothers and grandmothers often let their daughters and granddaughters read Heartsongs because they trust the books are clean with a spiritual message.

5. I get to connect with Christians all over the world. It makes my day when readers contact me to say my story touched their hearts. Tangible proof that I’m doing what God called me to do and that I got the message across that He wanted me to share.

On a personal level:

1. I get to work from home and my schedule is flexible. I can take time off when my son is home from school sick. I get to attend all of his school parties and events and work my writing schedule around my family. During the school year, I write while he’s at school. I work my deadlines around summer vacation, so that during the summer, I’m mom. If I need to get some writing done in the summer, I do it when he’s not home, he has a friend over, or after everyone else goes to bed. If I write until 2:00 am, I don’t have to get up early for a regular job the next day.

Writing requires a schedule, but it’s flexible enough, I can be mom when I need to be and I don’t have to worry about babysitters. Yes, he’s twelve now. And my mom left me home alone when I was twelve. But he’s a boy. Boy’s are a different species – they like snakes, fires, and guns. Enough said.

2. I can take the day off for church functions. Since my husband is a pastor, member visits, hospital visits, and funerals are a large part of our lives. If I had a regular job, he’d have to go it alone and I wouldn’t be able to be as involved with our congregation as I am.

3. My son is proud of me. He tells everyone, “My mom is an author.” He thinks it’s cool that none of his friends can say that and that I’ve taught fiction writing classes and spoke at career days at his school.

4. Through the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference, I’ve made friends all over the globe. I have lots of

Shannon and me (Jennifer) at the ACFW conference in 2009

Shannon and me (Jennifer) at the ACFW conference in 2009

friends, but writing friends get me like no one else does. Not even my family. And since writing can be such a solitary pursuit, friends who get you are a God send.

5. Having a job that requires daydreaming. All of my life, I’ve tried to listen and pay attention, but my mind would wander. With writing–having a wandering mind is encouraged, an active imagination is required, and daydreaming is allowed. I hear voices and have imaginary friends, but everyone thinks it’s okay and normal since I’m a writer.

And that just scratches the surface. I won’t even get into how I write in my jammies most of the time.

Rodeo SongRodeo Song:

JENNA WENTWORTH FOUND THE MAN OF HER DREAMS 

But when silken-voiced Garrett Steele set out for stardom, he left Jenna—and his cowboy past—far behind. A chance encounter at one of his concerts propels him back into Jenna’s life. But, once burned by love, Jenna must guard her heart against the captivating singer.

Once upon a time, Garrett vowed he’d be a success, no matter what. But that path shattered his soul. His reunion with Jenna makes him long for things he once took for granted. Now he must show her that he’s found what he was looking for all along…right here in his hometown.

Purchase Links:

Mardel            Deeper Shopping            Amazon            Christian Book          Harlequin

Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife/award-winning author. She lives in rural central Arkansas in a town with a population of around 100, if you count a few cows. Shannon writes inspirational contemporary romance and it took her nine years to get published in the traditional market.

Shannon hopes to entertain Christian women and plant seeds in the non-believer’s heart as her characters struggle with real-life issues. Their journeys, from ordinary lives to extraordinary romance through Christ-centered relationships, demonstrate that love doesn’t conquer all—Jesus does. In her spare time, she loves spending time with her family and doing craft projects.

You can visit her online at her website http://shannonvannatter.com and blog: http://shannonvannatter.com/blog

You can connect with her on Facebook,  GoodreadsPinterest and Twitter.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! I believe we all have a calling. For some, that may mean saving money and paying off debt to spend quality time with their grandchildren during retirement. For others it may mean launching or serving in a ministry, writing a novel, or honing a talent to be used for God’s glory. Or perhaps God’s calling you to step out in faith and courage to invite neighbors to a women’s event at your church.

All of those callings can feel frightening, but as Shannon reminds us in today’s post, the rewards of obedience are endless!

What is God calling you to do, and what steps are you taking to obey? You can share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

And don’t forget to stop by Faith-filled Friends to read about the making of my novel, Beyond I Do, which is now available on Amazon for pre-order at a discounted price. I also encourage you to stop by Takin’ it to the Streets to read about one of my less-than glamorous yet more memorable moments.

Jairus’ Daughter–What Would I Have Done

We have a winner! Pam Bock, congrats! You won your choice of Becky Lyles’ books! I’ll be in contact with you shortly. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog last week! And to everyone else–bummed you didn’t win last week’s book give-away? No worries! We have another book give-away today. 🙂 The winner will be randomly selected from the comments below.

headshot red alternateToday pastor’s wife and talented author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter takes a trip back in time…some 2,000 years, well before air conditioning, manis and pedis, and wifi.

What Would I Have Done? by Shannon Taylor Vannatter

21 And when Jesus was passed over again by ship unto the other side, much people gathered unto him: and he was nigh
unto the sea.

22 And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet,

23 And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.

24 And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him.

I can’t focus on this Scripture without mentioning what happened before this. There was no rest for Jesus that day. He’d already calmed a storm and cast out demons, then journeyed across the sea. Again. Why? Because the people asked him to leave. Only the demoniac Jesus had returned to his right mind was grateful.

As soon as he got to the other shore, a crowd awaited him. Jairus fell at his feet, begging Jesus to heal his daughter. Jesus immediately went with him only to be thronged by the crowd.

I’ve wished so many times that I could have lived back when Jesus walked the earth. Me—put aside my love for electricity, air conditioning, and indoor plumbing? Yes.

I like to think I’d have been one of the ones who fell at Jesus’ feet. Who would have sold everything to follow him. Who would have railed and mourned when they killed him. Who would have been waiting for his resurrection because he’d said it was so.

But would I have? Or would I have been frightened by the Gadarene’s healing? Would I have been one of the people praying Jesus to depart from my coasts? Would I have been in the press thronging him, getting in his way, and distracting him from Jairus’ daughter. Not because I knew who he was, but because I’d heard of his miracles and needed one.

The people living then didn’t know who Jesus was. They were looking for the Messiah, but they expected a king not a carpenter. Some didn’t recognize him. Even the disciples didn’t understand the big picture.

Would I have recognized him? Or would I have fallen asleep in the garden instead of watching? Would I have denied him like Peter? Would I have been one in the crowd crying for the release of Barabbas? Would I have doubted him like Thomas?

Knowing my short-comings and how I often fall at Jesus’ feet only after I’ve tried everything else, I think I’m glad I didn’t live back then.

Arkansas Weddings coverArkansas Weddings:

Arkansas Weddings: Love’s never easy in three Arkansas romances. Pastor Grayson loves his wife. The problem is, Sara was killed by a hit-and-run driver two years ago. He knows he needs to move on, but it’s not until florist Adrea Welch arrives at his church that the seeds of healing are planted in his heart. Laken left home eight years ago and never looked back. Who knew when she applied for the promotion to postmaster that she’d end up in Romance, Arkansas, and much too close to her past—and Hayden Winters? Shell doesn’t have a good reputation. But no matter what everyone in Rose Bud, Arkansas, thinks of her, she’s back in town with a job to do. Ryler also has reasons for being in Rose Bud, and they don’t include Shell. But God’s love can soften the hardest heart and overcome the darkest past. These hearts may not know it, but they’re about to change.

Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom and pastor’s wife. Her debut novel won the2011 Inspirational Readers’ Choice AwardWhen not writing, she runs circles in the care and feeding of her husband, their son, and church congregation. Home is a central Arkansas zoo with two charcoal gray cats, a chocolate lab, and three dachshunds in weenie dog heaven. If given the chance to clean house or write, she’d rather write. Her goal is to hire Alice from the Brady Bunch. Visit her online!

Shannon Taylor Vannatter – 2011 Inspirational Readers Choice Award
WHITE ROSES, WHITE DOVES, WHITE PEARLS – barbourbooks.com
RODEO DUST, RODEO HERO, RODEO ASHES
RODEO REGRETS July 2013, RODEO QUEEN, RODEO SONG – 2013 – 2014
http://www.shannonvannatter.com   http://www.shannonvannatter.com/blog
http://www.inkspirationalmessages.com

Let’s talk about this. For me, it’s so easy to slip into pride and overconfidence. When things are going well, it’s like I don an invincible suit–my faith is strong; unshakable. I can handle anything! Yep! On fire for Jesus and ready to take on the world. Until trials hit, then suddenly, nastiness bubbles forth–nastiness that was always there, hidden beneath a layer of complacency or comfort. What have I learned, having received those surprising glimpses into my sinful heart? That I really don’t know how I’d behave in a certain situation until I’ve been there. 🙂 So, in answer to Shannon’s question about how I might have responded to Jesus had I encountered Him some 2,000 years ago? I don’t know. I hope I’d be an instant follower, because He alone brings life and fulfillment. But then I must also remember, He is so much bigger than my frailties and faithless moments. And praise be to God for that. So, although I have no idea how I might have responded, I have full confidence that my Savior would’ve gently, persistently, and lovingly drawn me to Himself.  Because unlike us, He doesn’t give up or lose patience. 🙂

LivingbyGracepicI’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments below or on Facebook atLiving by Grace. 

Answered Prayer

There have been times when obedience seemed to come easy, like when I’m serving in a well-established, fine-tuned ministry or bonding with our daughter over nail polish and ice cream. There are other times when my obedience takes surrendered faith–like when we moved from our beloved KC to our now equally loved Papillion. But through it all, one thing I know to my very depths, when God guides, He ALWAYs provides. Today my sweet friend, the very talented Shannon Taylor Vannatter, shares a time when God called her and her husband to make a hard choice. As you read her story, pause to consider what steps God might be asking you to take in your own faith journey. 

Please note: Shannon is giving away a copy of Rodeo Regrets to one randomly selected reader who will be drawn from the comments below and those left on Facebook. 

Shannon found her book at Walmart!

Shannon found her book at Walmart!

Answered Prayer by Shannon Taylor Vannatter

“I bet your baby is glad to have you on vacation,” I commented while cutting my client’s hair. Her three month-old napped in his carrier a few feet away.

“He misses his baby-sitter,” she calmly replied.

I thought it was one of the saddest things ever uttered and vowed that I would stay home with my children one day.

‘And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son,’ (John 14:13). These are the words of Jesus and I take Him at his word. When my husband and I learned of our coming baby, I began to pray earnestly that we could afford for me to stay at home with our child.

My mother never worked until my teen years and then only part-time. She was always there for me and I yearned to follow in her footsteps. It didn’t appear that it could possibly happen, but I kept praying. Hubby, though supportive, didn’t think that we could do without my income.

During this time, hubby who had been ordained to preach months before, began to get calls from churches. He filled in at several pulpits and a few of them needed pastors. Suddenly he went from enduring months with nowhere to preach, to preparing a sermon for a different church each Sunday. We enjoyed it thoroughly, even though I battled morning sickness and excessive tiredness.

As our son’s birth neared, we struggled with whom we would trust to care for him. Would he get enough attention at the daycare? Would he be sick often if he went to daycare? My mother-in-law had volunteered to baby-sit. But after years of working toward retirement, would babysitting tie her down too much? Hubby joined me in my prayer.

We decided that my maternity leave would serve as a financial test. I planned to work as long as possible, hopefully right up to the birth, and then take three months off. At the end of that time, we’d know if we could afford for me to resign.

However, our plan didn’t work. Six weeks away from my due date, the doctor put me on maternity leave due to severe swelling and blood pressure concerns. Years before, I had hung up my scissors for an office job. Sitting at my desk all day contributed to the swelling. My doctor ordered me to keep my feet elevated as much as possible.

We realized just how good God is. I had disability insurance at work and had no idea that it covered pregnancy. The disability checks kept us afloat during my leave of absence.

Though thankful for the checks, it further proved that we could not make it on one income. My father-in-law helped us along financially during that time, however, it took every penny he sent along with the disability checks to keep our bills paid. I also received a nice Christmas bonus from my employer, which we used to pay more bills. We continued to pray.

Miraculously, we managed to sell my car. Only a few months after September 11, 2001, the economy staggered. The car dealers offered 0 down and 0.9% interest. If anyone bought a car, they bought new, not used. Yet, my car sold. We bought an older model truck, with cash. We now only had one car payment. Our finances improved overnight, but still not enough.

My husband soon accepted an interim position at a church. After two months, the congregation planned to vote on whether they wanted him for their pastor. Midway through the interim, another church offered him a two-month interim as their pastor. They understood that he’d already committed, but insisted that he let them know if he was available after fulfilling his obligation.

Both churches were small and offered bi-vocational positions, requiring hubby to keep his full time job as a dental technician. We’d never thought of his call to preach as extra income. We had assumed it might take years before he had his own church. However, we began to wonder if this was the means God would use to answer our prayers.

Our son made his debut the sixth week of my leave. I’d have six weeks with our precious child before returning to work, which I dreaded with every fiber of my being. All I wanted was to stay at home and raise my son. Once we actually saw him, we couldn’t imagine leaving him with someone else all day. We prayed harder.

I returned to work. The first day back was one of the worst of my life. My son stayed with my mother-in-law and cried all day long.

My boss understood my preoccupation and cut my hours to part-time. Still, each day I went to work was a nightmare. Though my mother-in-law never complained, I know the almost constant crying frayed her nerves. Hubby and I worried about him all day. We couldn’t stand to think of our baby crying so much without us there. My husband begged me to give my notice.

By this time, he had fulfilled the interim at the first church. The congregation wanted him as their pastor. However, after much prayer, hubby didn’t feel it was the right church for him. He began the second interim and immediately felt more at home there.

If the congregation asked him to stay, we could afford for me to quit work. They didn’t pay quite as much as I earned, but enough that we could squeak by. We felt sure God was answering our prayers. However, the interim had only just begun. If after two months, the church didn’t ask hubby to stay or he felt that he shouldn’t, we would need my income. I didn’t want my husband to take the church if asked, simply for the money, but because God wanted him there.

My plans to work until the interim was fulfilled and a decision made, only lasted four miserable days of work, with my son crying all day and hubby begging me to resign. He promised he wouldn’t take the church unless God wanted him there.

Deciding I could work as a hairdresser again and set my own hours gave us a backup plan. I gave my notice and worked two more miserable weeks before leaving my office job.

Immediately, after getting to stay home with me for a few days, our son’s fussiness improved. I knew we’d made the right decision and continued to pray that God would take care of our finances.   My husband finished the interim, six weeks after I left my job and the church asked him to stay on as their pastor. With much prayer, he accepted their offer. We loved the church and the people there. God truly answered our prayers.

Over the next months and years, I witnessed all of our son’s firsts, instead of my mother-in-law telling me about them.

He’s eleven now. Two churches later, my husband is a full time pastor and, I am thankful that I spend my days at home writing. When school’s out, I’m here. When he’s sick, I’m here. During summer break, we play.

Hubby and I thank God daily for working everything out so well for us. We will do our best to raise a godly son and make certain that God is pleased that he answered our prayers.

My advice to women, who would love to stay home with their children, but think they can’t afford it: Pray. God is the best financial manager.

Rodeo Regrets coverRodeo Regrets:

NATALIE WENTWORTH’S PAST IS ABOUT TO CATCH UP WITH HER

Natalie once dreamed of finding true love. Then Lane Gray broke her heart. After running wild to fill the emptiness inside her, she heads back to her hometown to heal. But when she sees the cowboy she once loved so much, she finds him hard to resist.

Lane Gray is a changed man. The handsome cowboy wants Natalie’s forgiveness-and more. Natalie has made plenty of mistakes in her life, but so has Lane. Could falling for each other again be the worst one yet? Or the path to redemption?

Buy it here!

Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom and pastor’s wife. Her debut novel won the 2011 Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award. When not writing, she runs circles in the care and feeding of her husband, their son, and church congregation. Home is a central Arkansas zoo with two charcoal gray cats, a chocolate lab, and three dachshunds in weenie dog heaven. If given the chance to clean house or write, she’d rather write. Her goal is to hire Alice from the Brady Bunch. Visit her online!

Let’s talk about this. I love the oft quoted phrase, “When God guides, God provides. Perhaps God is nudging you to stay home like He did with Shannon, or maybe He is asking you to give generously to a ministry out of faith. Or maybe He is calling you into missions and you can’t imagine how you will raise the necessary support. Or perhaps He is nudging you in another way–to seek employment or return to school after an extended absence. It doesn’t matter what God is calling you to do, for His provisions remain the same–perfect for whatever He is calling you to do and whatever He longs to do in you. The question is, will you trust Him and move forward in faith, confidence, and obedience? 

LivingbyGracepicI’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace.