A Boxcar Children Movie Sequel

My daughters, who I homeschool, both adore The Boxcar Children.  The oldest, especially, can’t get enough of them.

There was a cute animated movie made about the first book, and a sequel is in the works.  The producers are looking for a voice actor for a smaller role!  My girls both entered the competition and need your votes.

You can vote for both of them once a day for the next 2 days, I believe.  They are both easy to spot because they’re wearing butterfly masks (Trying to give them some Internet privacy since the rules stated I had to upload their adorable videos on Youtube.)

Please help us out!  🙂

Vote here: https://www.facebook.com/BoxcarChildren/app/403834839671843?brandloc=DISABLE&app_data=chk-590bcacbca4bd

On Being Married to Four Very Different People

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I’m married to four different men.  

Seriously.

I’m married to three at the same time, and keep getting remarried to one over and over again.

And no, I’m not a polygamist.

Let me explain.

I was at a bridal shower last month and the host opened up the floor for people to give the bride-to-be advice.  I hadn’t come prepared to say anything.  I had a newborn, was sleep-deprived, and was barely clearheaded enough to know what day it was.  But as I listened to the advice she was getting, I felt a sudden desire to share what she wasn’t hearing.

So many people told her, “Put Christ at the center of your marriage.”

“Make Christ the center of your marriage!”

“Keep Christ at the center!”

Like, seriously people, what does that MEAN?

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No offense to the advice-givers, but I’ve been married for 7 1/2 years, and I have no idea what that means.  How would a young woman who’s never been married have any idea what that means?

It’s not even biblical.  Nowhere in Scripture does it say, “Make Christ the center of your marriage.”

It says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” (Matthew 6:33) and to let Christ rule supreme in your OWN heart, but it never says “Make Christ the center of your life AND this other guy’s.”  It’s impossible.

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For some people, I know what they’re trying to say, but I think this is a trendy comment. It feels like a very cute phrase, but what does it mean?  Ask a Christian couple in head-over-heels happiness on their wedding day if “Christ is at the center of their relationship,” and they’ll tell you YES because they’re happy and things are blissful right then.  Let alone the fact that both of them could be living as selfishly as all get out and have no idea what real marriage looks like.

Ask another Christian couple if “Christ is at the center of their relationship” after their child has died and their finances have fallen apart and they’re struggling and seeing a counselor, and they might say NO, because everything looks bad and they feel unhappy, let alone that it may be at that moment that they are drawing close to God like never before.  I think we often have a lousy idea of what being Christlike actually is – and are far more concerned with what it outwardly looks like.

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For others, they might mean that the bride-to-be should be actively pursuing putting their marriage in a focused-on-God state.  But that’s even worse advice!  Many women are running around stressed and weary trying to force her marriage to be more “spiritual.”  Trying to force her husband to spend time with the Lord with her, trying to force prayer time, force service, force giving (and vice versa!) and it’s just not possible.

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Controlling something that takes two people is just not possible.

Many women spend more time and energy worrying about whether or not their husband or their “marriage” is righteous and God-focused, when all she is supposed to do is focus on whether or not SHE is righteous and God-focused.  What we should be telling a bride-to-be is that her “marriage” and her husband is not a fixer-upper project she controls, and that when she and her husband individually make sure they have a personal relationship with the Lord, that sanctification will follow.  That she’s not responsible for both halves of her marriage – only her own half.  That she and her husband will not go to heaven “as a set” but will be responsible for their own individual salvation.  That spending time pursuing God as a couple is wonderful and worthy, but will never take the place of pursuing God individually – it’s just an added bonus.  That if her relationship with God MUST involve her husband holding her hand, that she may not have a relationship with Christ at all – and it’s not going to stand the test of time if (God forbid!) something happened to her husband.  And that each spouse spending their energy trying to force the other to “make our marriage Christ centered” is a waste of time.  If only we taught brides to be more focused on their own personal walk with Christ, and not to idolize their husband.

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Because your spouse is a rapidly changing, growing living being.

Which leads me to my four husbands. And the advice I gave the bride-to-be that day.

My mom always said that you marry three people: the person YOU think he is, the person HE thinks he is, and the person he really is.  I think that’s dead right, but I think she’s missing the fourth guy: the person he will become.

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I met my husband when I was 19 and he was 18 years old.  Today, we are downright unrecognizable from back then.  Some things I miss, most things I cringe when I remember.  Most of the changes have been great, a few a little sad.

And 7 more years of marriage from now, he and I may be downright unrecognizable from where we are today – and I don’t just mean physically, although we do drastically change physically as well!  Currently, we are 29 and 30 years old, parents of three little girls under the age of 6, homeowners in the pacific northwest, members of a small church, anime aficionados, an author, a League of Legends player, a K-drama enthusiast. But 7 years from now, none of that could be true.

No one warns brides-to-be and husbands-to-be that you’re also marrying a stranger.

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Age, situations, accidents, promotions, jobs, friends, parenting, LIFE… it changes people. The things you love about your spouse today could disappear tomorrow.  The things that irritated you about them last year could be endearing traits you miss with all your heart next year.  The personality traits you thought you could count on could morph into something else entirely.

You are committing to marry someone who WILL BE, in ways you can not predict.

It’s a bit frightening!

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Have you ever answered the question, “Why do you love me?” with “Because you’re you?”  Well, what if they stop being “them”?  And become someone else?  We all do.  And that’s true love – committing to love that person no matter who they are tomorrow, no matter how life and trials and growth warp and change and mature and harden and soften and challenge and strengthen and weaken and bruise and injure and purify and solidify them.

Can you love a person you may not know tomorrow?

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That’s the thought I want to share with brides-to-be.  Can you let go of everything that person does FOR you today that makes you feel good, and love a person who may do none of those tomorrow?  They can’t really answer, “Yes, I can,” because they’re not there yet.  What they need to answer is, “Yes, I choose to commit to do so” because they are making a choice, and God promises to help them to succeed.  Love can grow and change and morph as well, and, while the devil wants to tear apart marriages, God vows to help us love like He does, which is unconditional and completely inclusive, no matter what life throws our way.

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DON’T READ THESE BOOKS!

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Here is a list of books you absolutely should NOT read.  Only a FOOL would read these books!  I’ll tell you why!  You can even click on the titles in bold to see what all the reviewers say about these DANGEROUS books!

 
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The 12th Girl in Heaven

This book has kissing in it – and the couple does it because they’re dared to do so by a sorority! What is this teaching your college student?! Also, the book contains depictions of unwanted showers! I was horrified!

 

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Teenage guy visits a church for the first time and feels like puking! What a message to give your teens going to church! Also there are sermons with passages from Isaiah! Who even understands Isaiah anyway? Plus, the blonde on the cover isn’t even an angel. What a rip-off!

 

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Just too creepy. First girl doesn’t work out for the moody stalker guy. So he finds a second girl who looks like the first and tries again…

 

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The heartthrob is a burn victim, while the actual good-looking guy is an egotistical pervert. Who wants to imagine the kiss scene including a guy without lips? *shudder*

 

2D - CopyLucent Sylph

A boy keeps an unclothed female alien in his room as a pet! So indecent!

 

Dashwood Avenuedashwood

It has teenagers running through a grocery store being chased by a guy with a gun! Too scary for your kids! Also, a girl gets called by the name of a vegetable the whole book! Just insulting!

 

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And this one’s the very worst!  It calls your young sweet children wicked sinners! My poor innocent baby’s self-esteem!  Don’t read it!  Don’t be a fool!

 

HAPPY APRIL FOOLS DAY, ALL.  😉  😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Threadbare!

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My best friend and editor, Bethany A. Jennings, has published her first short story!  This young woman is a prolific writer, but her stuff hasn’t seen the light of day until now, as she prefers to hold on to and hone her works in secret for a while first.  😉

But I tell you, she’s MY editor, and all of my works of fiction on Amazon are as highly rated as they are because of her help.  So you can be guaranteed that anything she writes herself is amazing.

Check out the premise of her heart-warming and exciting short story available for a buck!

What happens when your gift turns against you?

All her life Bess has known the magic streams around her, waves of power she can draw from to wield the gift of magical threads. Now the youngest member of a team of Anchors, she helps protect the city streets from Drifters—energy thieves who prey on the life force of ordinary humans.

But when a battle leaves Bess’s threads in an irreparable tangle, she is faced with an agonizing choice: sever her threads and lose her magic forever—or be slowly consumed by her own power.

Check it out here on Amazon!  I loved it!  ❤

The Birth of Liliella Violet Conte

The birth of baby #3 was going to be my second – and last – attempt at a VBAC.  If I couldn’t go into labor naturally on my own, this time around, I was going to commit to c-sections – in order to protect my scar and not risk rupture.  I had had two emergency c-sections already (both for legitimate reasons – and different reasons each time), but I didn’t want to be stuck having c-sections if I could help it.  There were only two hospitals in the entire Seattle area willing to try the VBAC with me, and Swedish Edmonds seemed very competent and confident that it could be done.  They still made me set an “end date” though, and didn’t want me to go over a week late.  However, because there was a scheduling snafu, they scheduled me for 9 days late.  I found the arbitrariness of it amusing and frustrating.  But I had 9 days to work with, so I prayed it would happen! I had never gone into labor on my own before though, so my hopes were low.

I had had many contractions over the last few weeks, and they seemed more frequent and more painful than the last two pregnancies, but I still didn’t get too excited.  As I passed the due date and went late, I knew I was following the same pattern.  Saturday night, February 18th, at 8 pm, when I was 4 days late, I started having painful contractions – but they were anywhere from 15-30 minutes apart.  They weren’t getting closer together, but they weren’t stopping.  I could function and talk and do normal activities through them, but, during the contractions, which were at least a minute and a half long, I had to stop and breathe.  And I definitely couldn’t sleep through them.

At midnight, I called the doctor to let them know what was happening, just to keep them informed.  They had told me they didn’t want me laboring at home, and this didn’t seem like labor, but I thought I’d let them know.  They told me I should come in if they even got to being 7 minutes apart for an hour, just because I was a VBAC-er.

After being up until 6 AM that first night, I was miserable enough to go take Tylenol and get ice packs.  It was my back that felt the contractions the most, so I put the ice packs on my back, with one on my front.  I was exhausted from being up all night.  Since the contractions were about 17 minutes apart, every time I’d start to drift off, another one would wake me up.  With the ice packs, I got them about 45 minutes apart, and finally went to sleep – for about four hours total.  I woke up the next day utterly exhausted.

But the contractions didn’t stop!  They continued on, all day, at an average of 12 minutes apart.  It was frustrating.  We didn’t go to church that morning so I could sleep in, as well as pay attention to the contractions and be closer to the hospital.

Brad and I both used our phones’ timer options where we pressed “lap” any time a contraction hit.  They just weren’t really getting any closer together as the day went on.  They weren’t fun either, as every single one hit my back with some lengthy pain.  I walked, took a shower, and even a lukewarm bath.  Nothing helped.  I was so tired.

Finally, by early evening on Sunday the 19th, I lost my mucus plug in two bursts.  I thought I had lost my mucus plug with Rachael and Rosalie, but this proved I hadn’t.  I had never seen anything like this – like a giant bloody slug.  *shudder*  Getting hopeful, I called the doctor again, and this time got Dr. Randolph Bourne, a male doctor in the practice who happened to be on call that day and the next.  He was supposedly great with VBACs, but I had decided against using him during the pregnancy, as I had never had a man doctor and didn’t feel comfortable with it.

He told me that it was a good sign but, unless I was feeling sharp terrible pain in between contractions, had bright red blood, or they got to being 5-7 minutes apart, to go ahead and remain at home.  *sigh*

That evening, we were eating our 10 pm meal, and I was trying to figure out HOW, on earth, I was going to get to sleep another night in a row with non-stop contractions, and we were watching a favorite episode of Stargate for fun.  My back was so tired out from the pain, at this point, but I knew the contractions HAD to be doing something.  Part of me still thought they’d suddenly stop and come to nothing.  I didn’t want to hope I was actually going into labor.

During the hour that we ate, I finally hit 7 minutes apart, and then the last couple were 4 or 5!  Getting excited, we called my parents, who drove the 20 minutes up from Kirkland to stay with the girls.  It was 11 PM at that point, and I was so done.  Wanted to actually be in labor and have this baby! The girls were in bed, but not asleep.  I said bye to them and opened the door to my parents, telling them they could use the spare bedroom to sleep.  Everything had been packed for hours, so I grabbed it all, and Brad and I headed out the door.

We got to the hospital around or just before midnight.  Before doing anything else, a male nurse hooked me up to the non-stress test to watch Liliella’s heartrate through the contractions.  I was sitting up and leaning forward to take the pressure off my back, but that was cramping her during the contractions, and her heartrate slowed way down.  That gave Brad and me bad memories of Rachael’s birth (her heart dipped and stopped and started and they took her by c-section because she was being strangled in her cord).  They had me lie back and Liliella did much better, but they still wanted me to stick around for an hour to double check.  I was fine with that, and told the doctor so, explaining my history and how nervous her heartrate made me.

I wasn’t comfortable with the male nurse doing a cervix check, so they sent in a sweet older lady.  She said I was only 2 centimeters!  TWO?!  After 28 hours of labor???  I felt like crying.  However, since they wanted to monitor me for an hour, she said she’d check me again after that hour to see if I could hit a 3 and stay at the hospital.  I was horrified at the thought of being sent home to spend how many more days without sleep and in pain.  Plus, I was having contractions every 5 minutes, so I had a hard time believing I wasn’t dilated further.

After an hour, Liliella’s heartrate sounded fine, and I promised myself I wouldn’t bend forward any more in this process so as not to compromise her any.  (But, because of my back labor, this was MISERABLE.)  I was still only 2 centimeters after an hour (although 80% effaced!), and so they sent me home, telling me to come back if the pain got to a point I couldn’t bear it, if my water broke, or if I started bleeding.  I tried not to cry as I gathered my things.

“How am I supposed to put up with this for another night?” I asked.  It was past 1 AM.  “This hurts in my back a lot, and is coming every 5 minutes!”

“What you have is back labor.” The male nurse told me I could go ahead and do a c-section if I wanted one.

“Oh, man.  What a shame that would be.  I’ve come this far, and I might actually be going into labor.  I wouldn’t stop now!”

Misinterpreting my word “shame,” he argued, “No shame in a c-section!  You’ve already done what half the population can’t do: grow a baby.”

I appreciated his encouragement – and there was NO way I thought a c-section was shameful!  Had had two beautiful ones myself already! – but I wasn’t going to give up, even if this labor went on forever.

“We could give you a shot of morphine,” he said.  “It will take thirty minutes to call that up if you want it.”

Morphine scared me.  I’d never had it before, and it sounded extreme at this point.  “Did taking Tylenol yesterday slow down my labor?  Could I just try that again?  It took the edge off the back pain yesterday.”

They promised me it wouldn’t slow down true labor, and gave it to me on the spot.  Stupid me – at this point Tylenol wasn’t going to do a thing.  But I didn’t know that.  😛

Brad and I drove home, and I just sobbed.  I was so exhausted, and disappointed with how slowly I was progressing.  In my head, I envisioned an infinite number of days without sleep, and in constant pain.

By the time we got home, I was just miserable.  I tried sitting in the bath again, but just sitting was miserable.  I was trying so hard to be quiet because my parents and the girls were fast asleep.  Brad told me to take my safe antihistamine sleep aid, thinking that would put me out even though I was in increasing pain.  I took it, but that just made me drowsy AND miserable.  I tried to lie down with the ice packs again, but couldn’t stand lying in a bed.  I flung the ice packs off and paced the room in torture.

“We should’ve gotten you the morphine,” Brad said.

“I know!  I’m an idiot!” I cried.  Not knowing I was in some sort of transition, I thought I still had hours of being at a 2 in front of me.

Brad called the hospital back and told them to order the morphine – that we were coming back in to get it.

“I’ve wasted our whole night.  I’ve wasted time and ruined your night,” I moaned, over and over again.  Pacing, in the midst of another contraction, I felt a gush.  “My water broke!” I exclaimed, feeling hope. “Now they HAVE to admit me!”

We drove back to the hospital, having only been home an hour(!), and this time I wept the whole ride, my back killing me sitting there.  Brad wanted to drop me off at the front, but I didn’t want to be alone.  As he grabbed my stuff out of the trunk, I put my forehead on the car and cried.  I hurt SO badly in my back and bottom.  But I wanted to walk.  Walking made it bearable.

Not even caring that I was crying, we stumbled back into the ER.  Brad thought I wouldn’t want to walk all the way to the maternity ward, so he barked orders to the lady behind the desk. “Get us a wheelchair now!” I’ve never heard him so authoritative.  😛

He rolled the wheelchair after me, but I ignored it, preferring to march down the hallway myself, finding that ever so slightly more bearable.  I just about collapsed in the elevator though as the pain ripped through me.  It felt exactly like someone was beating my lower back with a metal baseball bat.  It was the worst pain I had ever felt, especially because it went on and on, with almost no breaks in between.

I could barely open my eyes because of my exhaustion and the sleep aid, and yet I was in terrible pain and couldn’t sleep.  The nice older nurse helped me into a gown, and asked me to lie down on the hospital bed.  I’d try, then pop back up again and begin walking in place moaning.  Lying down was HELL.  Yet they kept making me lie back down.

I was dilated to a 4 1/2!  And rapidly dilating further.  I most likely hit a 6 or 7 before I got the epidural.  After over a day of getting nowhere, now my body was moving FAST.

At this point, I dropped all pretense of politeness.  My voice got very soft and rapid.  I kept moaning, in a soft weak voice, “Please!  Please!  I can’t do this.  Make it stop.  Can I get an epidural now?  Where is it?  Is it coming?  I can’t do this!  My back!  My back!  Please!”

Brad ordered people about and kept trying to comfort me.  I really didn’t want him or anyone else to touch me, and I didn’t want to lie down.

The nurse kept saying, “Come on, Rachael.  Lie down.”  They wanted to keep the monitor on me to watch the baby’s heartrate through the contractions, but I wasn’t even paying attention to the fact that I was having a baby at that point.  I felt like I was dying.  I told Brad, “This is what dying feels like!”

The only time I remember feeling irritated is when the nurse said, “You have to do this, Rachael.  Every other woman does.”

That wasn’t comforting.  😛  Otherwise, everyone was very nice.  And they were hurrying fast.  I was moving very fast, and they wanted to get that epidural in for me.  The only good thing about the excruciating back labor was that I wasn’t once worried about my scar and VBACing – because I felt no pain in the front of me!

They started an IV with some sort of pain med, but it did absolutely nothing.  Finally, thirty minutes later, but it felt like three hours, the anesthesiologist with the epidural arrived. I couldn’t even sit still on the bed to get it, and he had to insist I sit back down quickly in between rapid contractions.  They had Brad sit in front of me, and he started breathing hard.  He hates needles.  That was the only time I snapped out of my exhausted moaning, and turned to him.  I felt like I snapped into clarity worried about him.  “Are you okay, Braddy?” I kept asking him.  He insisted he was, and they put in the epidural.

Unfortunately, at first, it only worked on one side!  “My right side! My right side!” I murmured a bunch.  They had me roll to the side and I prayed it would fully kick in.  Finally, I only felt the pain very low in the front, so I upped the level once.  Other than that, it worked beautifully, and all pain left me!  HALLELUJAH!  That’s when the shakes started, which were obnoxious, but I get them every time I give birth – even with c-sections – and I can’t stop them.  Just a hormonal reaction I can’t control.  I shook until I had to push.

I was only in labor about an hour or two before I was fully dilated and ready to push.  They called the doctor and broke down the room.  From the ceiling, they pulled a giant object that looked like the steering wheel of a ship.  “What’s that?” I asked, feeling like a subject in an alien spaceship about to be probed.  They told me it was a light.  That thing was HUGE.  😛

Randolph Bourne, the man doctor, was still on call, so I realized I was being delivered by a man after all.  Oh well!  There were like five people in the room – I felt like I was on display for the whole world!  The man nurse, the man doctor, and like three other nurses, all crowded around staring at me, all propped up ready to push.  *groan*

The pushing process only took 45 minutes!  And, during it, we sat and chatted.  Seriously.  The mood was so calm and relaxed.  He asked me about my hobbies.  I told him about my books on Amazon, homeschooling my kids, and teaching piano!  Hahaha!  They wanted me to wait to push through contractions, but my original older lady nurse would get excited and have me push too early, and the doctor would tease her for it.

“I’m VBACing.  I’m doing it!” I said to the doctor, as it suddenly hit me with delight that I was having a baby.

“You did this all yourself.  No Pitocin.  Good job!” he replied.

That was a pretty good feeling!

I could feel Liliella dropping into the birth canal lower and lower, but there was no pain.  It was fascinating.  Like having a bowel movement.  😛  At first, I wasn’t pushing quite right, because I couldn’t feel myself push whatsoever.  I also would let out my breath when I pushed instead of holding it.  I explained I had weight-lifted since I was 12 years old, and always let out my breath when lifting a weight.

“You’ve been pooping even longer,” the doctor quipped.  “Do it like that!”

Brad held a leg and the nurse the other, and I got it right.  Then I pushed great!  Only 45 minutes later, she crowned.

“We see blond hair!” someone called out.

I felt shock at that moment.  “She’s BLONDE?” Never had I imagined, with Brad’s dark hair genes, that we’d get another blonde!

“Do you want to see with a mirror?  Or reach down and feel?” they asked.

“Noooo,” I shuddered.  Ignorance is bliss, in my book.  😛  Brad said later that there was a lot of blood.  I’m glad I didn’t look.  Haha.

And then she was out!  At 7:04 AM!  With a cry – that went on for twenty minutes (Baby was grumpy from the getgo  😛 ) she was there!

“Do you want me to put her on your chest?” the male nurse asked.

I had NEVER had that option with the c-sections before, so I was stunned and took a second to speak.

“We’ll clean her off,” he reassured me.

Horrified that he’d think I didn’t want to hold my baby if she was bloody, I quickly said, “No, no!  I don’t care about that!  Of course I want her on my chest immediately!”

And there she was!  Brad cut the cord, and my tiny blond baby was put on my chest.  She didn’t want to nurse for a bit, but I tried.  She was so precious!  Praise the Lord, I made it through 35 hours of back labor, got the VBAC I had prayed for, and had my beautiful, wonderful, miracle of a third daughter!  I instantly called my girls in to meet their sister.  All the joy!

Liliella Violet – born February 20th, 2017, at 7:04 AM, 7 lbs, 2.8 oz, 19 inches

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Favorite Love Confessions

Posting a day late – but I thought of this only after midnight, Valentines Day 2017, had passed.

Do you have a favorite love confession/profession in any of my books?  Post it in the comments – but don’t spoil which book its from!  Or a favorite love confession from a different book?  Let’s fill up the comments with beautiful romance.  🙂

Here is my favorite from all of my books! (Not spoiling which books and which characters!)

The tears in his eyes rose yet again, spilling out of his lower eyelids and down his nose. He wiped them away absent-mindedly with his cold clean hands. How he loved her. It filled his chest. It filled his head. It filled every part of him. He felt like he was made entirely out of love for her. He imagined the feeling reaching out of his heart into her limp body and warming her from the inside out. He could see his love like a hand that reached for her hair, caressed her face, and soothed her painful sleep. It truly was selfless. There was no him in the equation. All that mattered was her.

He loved her.

This is what had replaced the lustful obsession. He loved her with an intensity that surpassed anything he had felt for anyone but the Lord Himself. The last time he had felt something as overpowering as his love for her was when he received his salvation. But this was different. It felt like… like…

Destiny.

He was always meant to love her. He knew it now. He didn’t fight it any more. His infatuation for her had drawn him to Jesus. His obsession had ultimately saved him. And now, his love would enable him to save her. She had saved him first.

Your turn to post a favorite love realization or confession!  

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ASTOUND!

Do you remember that I mentioned starting my first non-fiction project a few posts back?  In “Your Child Doesn’t Love God,” I talk about dealing with an ongoing behavior with one child, and feeling the call to write a booklet on the gospel, God’s love, and His greatness for preschool through young-elementary-aged children.

That booklet is complete!  And will be on Amazon in a matter of days!

The Lord has really grown and stretched me through writing this 29-page, pocket-sized booklet, and I’m so glad I got the opportunity to write it!  My husband helped immensely, and an amazing team of beta readers has critiqued the thing’s socks off 😛  until it’s shiny and as perfect as it can be.  🙂

An old California friend, and fellow Christian mom, also graciously offered her services to provide artistic touches throughout, and you can check out the whimsical watercolor artist, Kelli Hoekendorf, on her Facebook page here.

Here’s a sneak peek of some of the first pages of the booklet with her adorable art!

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The booklet has been endorsed by fellow Christian non-fiction author, Bruce Ray:

“ASTOUND is a big concept (sanctification) simplified for little hands and little feet. In these few pages RJ Conte avoids the big traps of legalism and lawlessness and tells children (and their caregivers) that the way to become holy is by learning about God and loving him so much that you don’t want to displease him. Easy to read, but big ideas!”
~Bruce Ray (pastor, police chaplain, author, and grandfather)

and by author, editor, and #WIPjoy creator, Bethany Jennings:

ASTOUND is packed with beautiful, thought-provoking doctrines
for young hearts to ponder, written in a way that makes them
easy and accessible for parents to discuss with their little
ones – Bethany Jennings (mother of 4, author, and editor)

Be watching for the announcement that the ebook version is available later on this week!  (The paperback pocket version will be available in the following weeks.)  Please be in prayer that God would use it for His glory!

Also please be in prayer for me.  I will hit 38 weeks, in this pregnancy, on Tuesday.  I’m getting over a cold, and am still wanting to attempt a VBAC after two c-sections.  I’d love prayer for a safe delivery and healthy baby!

Thank you, everyone!
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Top Posts of 2016!

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It’s time for the list of the top 10 posts of the year!

This was a slower year for me, mostly due to pregnancy and all that comes with that, so I only wrote almost half of the amount of posts of the previous year.  In 2015, I wrote 93, and this year I wrote an exact even 50.  BUT, even with half the posts, I actually, just barely, got more views and visitors this year than last year, meaning that my posts are bringing in more readers than ever!  Hooray for that!

This year, I had 11,687 visitors to my blog with 16,043 views and ended the year with 118 blog followers.  *cheer*  (To follow this blog, click FOLLOW on the right hand side of this page) 

Without further ado, what were the most popular posts of this year?  Well, not all of them were even actually published on this blog this year – some have remained super popular from previous years, and have lived on with lives of their own all over the Internet.

Sitting at #1, by far, with no competition, and with around 35 hits A DAY is:

Anime Characters by Myers-Briggs Type (with 7,164 individual views this year!!)mami_tomoe_render_by_moeblueberry1771-d5evnl7

This post is also #1 on any Google search for “anime characters by Myers-Briggs type and continually brings in guests to my blog.  Kind of exciting, even if it is very niche.  So if you like anime AND personality typing, this is the post for you.  Identified by name, show title, and picture, I have anime characters from various shows in neat little groups according to their types.  🙂

 

The Day I Met Job (with 996 individual views)PCOS Challenge Infographic

This makes me so happy that it’s #2.  This is the deeply personal testimony of what God did in my heart and life last year after suffering with secondary infertility.  It is also about my best friend and her daughter, an appreciation of my mother-in-law, a nod to a fellow author, and mostly a testimony about a hero of the faith I met last year.  Please read the article.  I hope my vulnerability and sharing of God’s greatness touches your heart!

 

An Open Letter to My Pregnant Sister (with 460 views)beautiful-wedding-tiara

Still going strong.  This is a writeup I did for baby showers that I first composed for my sister 2 1/2 years ago, and have tweaked a few times since to share with other expectant moms.  There must be a need for this, as people continually search for this online and find my site.  🙂

 

Tied with “My Pregnant Sister” is: Setting up the Romance Ship (with 460 views)austenland-holding_13254521245

How fun that my breakdown of the smart secret to writing a winning romance story did so well!  I thought this one was a bit obvious until I read (and watched) many people miss this key point to setting up their relationship story. Thinking I had nothing to lose, I threw my own theory out there, and it did very well!

 

Should Married Women Vote Against Their Spouse? (with 349 views)your_vote_counts

This one was a hot button when I first posted it a few years ago, and it continues to be something people search for and find through my blog. Read at your own risk…  🙂

 

Could You Love This Genderless Person? (with 287 views)5

Maybe it was just a catchy title, but this was a very niche article about genderbender dramas that I posted. A “genderbender” is when a guy dresses up and pretends to be a girl, or vice versa, and the opposite sex falls for them.  I explore this trope and why it means so much to women, and maybe what’s spiritually at the heart of this “forbidden romance” story.

 

In Memory of Victoria Mercy Conte (with 262 views)conte-052

A year and a half after the sudden and tragic passing of my husband’s baby sister, this post, written by *him* not me, still makes the top 10 on my list.  Please read my husband’s beautiful, tear-jerker tribute to a lovely life that sits very dear to our hearts.

 

NAME THE BABY! (with 221 views)namebabygirl02

I’m legitimately shocked that this made the top 10!  Last year I teamed up with lovely author Melanie D. Snitker to do a giveaway and promote each other’s books.  Readers named the baby that her main couple was pregnant with, and we got some great responses.  I need to do more on this blog with fellow authors next year!  In the meantime, check out Melanie’s very successful books on Amazon.

 

Asian TV for the American Newbie Viewer (with 188 views)patemainverted_dvd-f

This is a fun list that I kept on my sidebar.  Always hearing me talk about anime and kdramas but have no idea what’s safe or good to watch or where to start?  Not sure you’d even like Asian TV?  I put together a “starter” list of Asian TV for people who don’t like Asian TV, so to speak.  These are storylines and shows that I think any American could love without feeling too “eastern” in the storytelling style.  Give any of these shows a chance, and let me know if they did not disappoint!

 

And last but not least: Sarcastically Realistic Movie Descriptions – Name That Movie!2a3

This one also surprises me that it made the list.  This was a funny little game I posted on my blog a while ago, and it’s done well recently.  Someone must have reposted them.  If you’re looking for a comedic way to describe popular movies, as a game for a party you’re hosting, this might be the post for you.

 

So which blog post of mine was YOUR favorite this year?  Leave a comment!

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Which I Say the Big, Bad C Word: Courtship

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Courtship…

…is a hot button these days, and I’m not always sure why.  Some Christians have been the victims of dictatorial, patriarchal homes, but most don’t even have a clue what the word actually means. As a society, I think we’ve swung back and forth so many times on relationship norms that most of us are dizzy.  I think every generation “does it differently.”

Recently, my uncle, Richard Briggs, in an author Q and A query, asked me about my own ideas on courtship (I had a very successful and happy one!) and how it plays into my writing love stories.

Since we’re raising a new generation of children – my own included – and I’m seeing the pendulum swing again to “get rid of courtship altogether,” I’d like to say to look past the big, bad C word.  What even IS “courtship”?  Every single group I’ve ever been in defines it differently.

Let’s just talk relationships on the whole. My girls are young now but it is NEVER too early to start planning for and being aware of this.  You are raising children not just to be obedient kiddos in your home, but to be godly adults out in the real world.  Your home is just a stepping ground for all of life and, let’s face it, most of our kids are going to get married. So that relationship with their spouse will last the rest of their life, and be the most important relationship in their life.

So what are my views on courtship?  Here’s my succinct personal definition:

Committing to love, serve, and honor God by being intentional in doing the best for others and looking at relationships through the lens of future marriage. Being future-mindful and Christ-centered in your relationships, not selfish in your physical affections and giving into lusts, and not causing anyone else to sin, including yourself. Eschewing the worldly, selfish ideas of playing around before finding a spouse.

Beyond that, my ideas are so simple, and yet so foundational.  I think, when you muddy it up with more than this, you get into legalism. Let’s leave out all the common sense physical rules like what’s your curfew, if you’re chaperoned, if you kiss before your wedding day, etc. etc.  That’s up to your home and your child. My husband and I haven’t set any of those in stone. We’ll see what we decide when the time comes and where the child’s heart and temptations are.  And our “common sense rules” may be different from yours – and there should be no judgment from house to house on those types of safety rules.  But honestly, that’s not what I’m thinking about or looking for when I’m training my children to be spouses.

I want only three things.

A. I want them to so love God that they’re committed to honesty, morality/godliness, and Him most of all.

(See the previous blog post in the link above.) It’s why I’m seriously, seriously addressing sneakiness and dishonesty and selfishness and other traits now.  My child lies to me or selfishly hoards me or is disloyal to friends?  He’s going to be those things to his spouse too.  They don’t just disappear in marriage or adulthood.

B. I want to so strongly have my kids’ hearts – be such good friends with them and be so close to them that they trust me and communicate with me.

It takes two to tango on this one.  I can only do my part, and pray that God leads them to value me as their mother and counselor and friend.  ❤

C. I want them to so love others and think much less of themselves that they’re committed to protecting and doing what’s best for the opposite gender always.

At the heart of the “courtship model” that I know is protecting others because you value them so much as fellow human beings, and you love and care about their safety, their hearts, and their emotions.  Leading the opposite gender on when you have no intention of marrying or committing to them – whether it’s through mass dating or just being too affectionate as friends – can injure them greatly.

At the heart of relationship values that I was taught was protecting and loving others as better than yourself. (Philippians 2:3)

This starts in just sharing toys as toddlers and choosing to go last to getting your piece of candy.  These foundational things prepare them for why they choose what they do with the opposite gender in the future.

 

2DRJ Conte is a Christian, realistic, issue-driven fiction authoress with six books on Amazon, including the novel, Heartsick, for young adults. In Heartsick, the main character, a homeschooled college student, who has devised a picture-perfect courtship model with her father, turns her back on it to get entangled with a guy who has a very mysterious and dark past.  The novel has been likened to A Walk to Remember meets Hitchcock, and is recommended to any young Christian lady starting out on her own.

$2.99 on Amazon.com