Sunday, March 1, 2015

Author interview: Teresa Ives Lilly

Teresa Ives Lilly, author, is visiting my blog today to talk about her life story and passion for writing inspirational books. 

Here's what's in it for you: Teresa Ives Lilly will give away two .pdf copies of her book Lucky in Shamrock Texas

The book giveaway contest starts today, March 1 and will end on Sunday, March 15. 

Contest rules: To enter the contest, leave a comment after reading this author interview. You must include your e-mail address in the comment section below so Teresa can contact you if you win and send the .pdf of her book. The two winners will be chosen by Alexis via an old-fashioned drawing. The winners will be notified on Monday, March 16 and should receive their book by March 17 which is appropriate as it is St. Patrick's Day! :) 

Read on for the author interview (questions by Alexis in bold, answers from Teresa not in bold)...

Alexis: Why do you write Christian Romance?

Teresa: Many years ago I used to read regular Regency Romance, but then I discovered Christian Romance and fell in love. I knew from the first time I read one that I wanted to write Christian romance.

Do you prefer writing novellas or novels? Explain.

Novellas. I’m not sure why, but God has just blessed me to write shorter stories.

How many books have you written and published?

Thirteen between novels and novellas.

Who is your publisher? Do you have an agent?

I am an Indie publisher known as Lovely Romance Press.

You are the Editor of Lovely Christian Romance magazine and publishing company. What a wonderful initiative! Tell me how that happened.

Well, several years ago I began the magazine and several writers showed real talent and didn’t know how to get published so I worked with them on it. However, this last year I closed both to focus on my own writing and work with ACFW group on editing.

When you were a child, did you think you’d be a writer when you “grew up”? Did you imagine you’d be doing what you’re doing now? Why or why not?

Yes, I wanted to be a writer since I was six. As for how I knew...In school we had to write a poem. I wrote one and when I got home I read it to my mother. She told me it was wonderful and that someday I might be a writer. It's one of the few times she ever verbally encouraged me and the dream was born that day. Since then I have written for magazines, contests, children's books and finally settled into my true love of Christian Romance Novellas.

What’s your writing routine?

I do almost all my writing between 9 p.m. and midnight. I work on the publishing end during the day.

Describe your writing space. What makes it unique?

I have a desk in my extra bedroom, and a television which I basically keep old television shows like The Beverly Hill Billies etc. running while I write.

What books are you reading now?

I just finished several Mail Order Bride novellas published by Love Inspired Historical.

Which one of your novellas that you’ve written so far is your favorite? Why?

Christmas Village Miracle because I based it on the Christmas Village I set up every year, and always wish I could just live in.

If you were not a writer, what would you be doing career-wise?

Well, I was a certified teacher for a while then a mom, then a home school mom, then I ran a children’s resale shop for seven years. Now I am strictly focusing on my writing and I help my husband with paper work for his business.

Give my readers a glimpse into your personal life. Are you married with children? What is your favorite hobby? How you spend your free time?

I have been married for 28 years. We became Christians right before our wedding and have been serving Christ ever since. I have three children ages 27, 26, 23 and now a grandson who is 1 years old. Writing is my hobby…but I love to go to garage sales as well.

Complete this sentence: When my readers reach “the end” of my books, I hope______________because___________________________.

Teresa: When my readers reach “the end” of my books, I hope they want to read others by me because they enjoyed it so much.

Thanks for the author interview, Teresa!

Author bio:

Teresa Ives Lilly is an inspirational writer. She mainly writes novellas, but has a few novels and a few children’s chapter books in publication.

All her work is available at,,

She had had a variety of articles published in magazines, several items published in anthologies, has written over 200 unit studies for homeschoolers and public schools.

Teresa lives in Texas. She would love to hear from you. Contact her through e-mail, 

Connect with Teresa:

Author page on Facebook -

Website -

Saturday, February 28, 2015

True Love Stories: It Began with A Song

Fireworks happened on the 4th of July. No, not the kind you see light up the sky in brilliant streaks of red, white and blue. It was the kind that lit a deep love in the hearts of CJ and Deedré. It is a love that led to marriage and a lifetime of happiness between this couple not only committed to each other, but to God and His people. 

Today's featured true love story is a real gem. I hope you will not only enjoy it but be encouraged by the journey God took CJ and Deedré on together. It's a beautiful story. I believe you're going to love it. 

But don't take my word for it, see for yourself...

It Began with A Song
CJ and Deedré's true love story

Our story begins in Plantation, Florida—a suburb west of Fort Lauderdale—on a Friday night, during praise and worship rehearsal at my local church. 

As the rehearsal was getting ready to start, in walks a new face with one of the members of the praise team. Her name was Deedré and I was immediately captivated by her eyes but tried to stay focused on the rehearsal. She was later invited to join us in a song. After hearing her beautiful voice, I was convinced she needed to be a part of our praise team. Little did I know that she was also trying to recruit me for a singing group with a mutual friend. The next day we exchanged phone numbers, both intending to recruit the other. When I finally called her a week later, we spent hours on the phone laughing like two old friends. It felt like we had known each other for years. This was the start of a friendship that was originally brought together by music. It was at a time when neither of us were looking for a relationship, yet simply enjoyed being in each other’s presence. 

A few weeks later, I invited her to a potluck at the home of family friends. Somehow, everyone left the two of us together and ate in another room. We talked, laughed, played Truth or Dare and by the end of the evening we shared our first kiss. It was 4th of July! 

About a month later, after another potluck, I walked into the living room where Deedré was with a sticky note and a pen stuck to my back. The sticky note said, “Will you be my boo? Yes, no or maybe?” When I walked in, she didn’t see it at first. So I pretended to have an itch on my back and asked if she could scratch it for me. Then I turned around so she could see the paper. She began to laugh and then checked “yes” while hugging me. This was now two months after we met and we were now officially boyfriend and girlfriend.

Not long after we started dating, Deedré got the chicken pox. My family and I took her in and took care of her until she recovered. Whenever we tell this story, Deedré shares that this time meant a lot to her because it showed her that I would be there for her no matter what. This was evident when I had the privilege of meeting Deedré’s mother, Dulcie, who’d been battling cancer. She passed away a year later. One of the last things she said to me was “Take care of my daughter”. It was as if she knew what was coming and wanted me to be there to pick up the shattered pieces of Deedré’s heart. It was later confirmed by God when I asked Him what I should do for Deedré during this time of grief. He stopped me and told me, in a clear voice, “Show her my love!” From that day, I vowed to do just that.

Deedré always told me that if I ever proposed to her, it should be as private as possible. So I decided to make it as public as possible! Our church planned a trip to the Holy Land Experience in Orlando, Florida. At the end of the day, I caught Deedré totally by surprise by having her arrested and brought to the Temple mount by very convincing actors who played Roman Guards. With the entire park as my witness, I proposed to her. About 9 months later we had a beautiful wedding filled with friends and loved ones at our local church. 

Our journey has not been easy. We’ve been through things that would’ve broken more seasoned couples, yet through it all, we are there for each other and God was and is the supernatural glue that keeps up together. We’ve been married for over 8 years and are more in love now than we have ever been before. We challenge, yet complement each other and I thank God every day for giving me such a beautiful gift.

Author bio: "CJ" Claypole S. Cousins Jr. is simply a man who is in love with Jesus. His passion is to live, preach and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

CJ serves as Associate Pastor for Restoration Praise Center in Lanham, Md. He serves in the areas of evangelism, discipleship and multimedia. He also served as intern pastor at One Place and graduate assistant for grow groups at Pioneer Memorial Church on the campus of Andrews University

CJ holds a Bachelor's of Business Administration, majoring in Human Resource Management from Florida International University in Miama, Fla. He also has a Master's of Human Resource Management from Keller Graduate School of Management of DeVry University. He has completed his Master of Divinity with an emphasis in church growth and evangelism at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University.

CJ is married to the lovely Deedré Nicole Cousins who is a wonderful support and partner in ministry. 

He is passionate about sharing God's love as seen through the gospel of Jesus Christ in the context of Revelation 14:6-12In addition to preaching and teaching, CJ also loves to sing and write about Jesus.

Mrs. Deedré Cousins' professional bio: Deedré's affinity for multimedia and technology was evident at a very young age. Throughout her childhood, Deedré developed a keen ear for music and a sharp eye for visual art which led to the completion of three degrees—an associate of arts in music, a bachelors in music technology and a masters of art in multimedia communications. 

Her academic and professional achievements have made her passionate about creating innovative and contextual media on multiple platforms. Whether it's producing a news segment for prime time television or creating a human interest web series, recording music projects, capturing still photography, or giving seminars and consultations on social media marketing strategies, Deedré can conceive, create, publish and promote your next big idea.

Bonus feature: CJ & Deedré's Love Story video on YouTube 

Friday, February 27, 2015

True Love Stories: I Did Not Know Real Love Until I Knew God

"In my heart, I would talk to the Lord. I would read my Bible. I would meditate. I devoted my evenings to spending quality time with Him, and the more time I spent with God, the more I craved His presence. I communicated with Him and He communicated with me. I felt loved. I felt desired. I felt secure."
 ~Positivity Inspires

The true love story featured today is about how a currently single woman who is known by her writer name, "Positivity Inspires" found her calling, purpose, passion and identity in building a solid foundation of a relationship with her Creator God.

Broken by the lessons of life in the "real world," she turned to Jesus Christ and He saved her from becoming trapped inside the fortress of an emotional wall she built in order to safeguard her heart and prevent people from causing her pain. 

Only as she took time each and every day to seek the Lord and walk in His purpose and plan for her life did she begin to trust again. Only after she became complete in Christ was she able to open her heart to love again.

There's a quote that says, "Why wish upon a star when you can pray to the One who created it?" Positivity Inspires prayed to the Maker of the stars and He healed her heart. 

I hope her story inspires and encourages you as much as it encouraged me to seek safety in the care of the One who created the stars and my heart. 

I Did Not Know Real Love Until I Knew God

Written by Positivity Inspires

I was a sheltered child who was raised in the church. Ever since I could remember, my parents taught me about Jesus and how much He loves me. They instilled in me the importance of maintaining a relationship with Him. Being the obedient daughter that I was, I attended church faithfully and did everything I felt I was supposed to do – pray every morning and night, study my Bible faithfully, sing in the choir, pay attention in Sunday school, etcetera. I grew up knowing of God, but I oftentimes questioned if I truly knew who God was.

Time passed and I found myself in the working world exposed to various people. I was away from my family, but I made friends. I dated, and needless to say, after discovering what the real world truly entailed, I was terribly disappointed. I learned some lessons – lessons about people in general, lessons about men, lessons about relationships, lessons about life.

Brokenhearted and dispirited, I built my own emotional wall. I was determined that I would allow no one, other than my immediate family and of course, the Lord, to gain access to my heart. I was terrified to open my heart to others, and I was in desperate need of God to reassemble all of my broken pieces and repair me. I needed emotional healing, and the Lord knew this.

I was not aware of what was occurring on the inside of me at the time, but I noticed that I began making it a practice to come home every day after work, sit in my favorite chair, and ensure my television and electronic devices were off. In my heart, I would talk to the Lord. I would read my Bible. I would meditate. I devoted my evenings to spending quality time with Him, and the more time I spent with God, the more I craved His presence. I communicated with Him and He communicated with me. I felt loved. I felt desired. I felt secure. I was blessed to have a special kind of companionship that words cannot describe. I was getting to really know Christ. I was falling in love, and all of those tiny fragments that were scattered about were coming together. The Lord was repairing my heart. Actually, He was forming a new heart. In this timeframe, He gave me a crash course in “what love is” and “what love is not”. Infatuation is not love. All of those times I thought I was being loved, I discovered that I was not. All of those times that I thought I was in love, I discovered I was not. I did not know real love until I truly knew God.

Also, during this time, the Lord taught me the importance of patience – patience to wait on my God-appointed husband. Do I want to get married one day? Yes. Would I like to have children one day? Absolutely! I look forward to that special appointed time when I will meet my spouse. However, for now, I am enjoying my relationship with Christ. Every day our bond becomes stronger and stronger. He gives me everything I need and more. His love is the ultimate love, and no one can surpass that. 

Author bio:
Better known by her pen name, Positivity Inspires (trademarked) is a writer, speaker, and servant of the Lord. She was introduced to Christ at a very early age and was raised in the church. Her ministry focuses on encouraging Christians to continually strengthen their bond with Christ, study His Word, and live it daily.

Although Positivity Inspires writes in more than one genre, she is best known for her Christian/Inspirational works. Some of her blogs can be found on her website and on the “The Christian Post”, a major Christian newspaper based in Washington D.C. She is currently writing her first book “Adversities and Adversaries: You Can Overcome," which is tentatively scheduled to be released in 2015. At the suggestion of a radio host, she also plans to produce an Internet-based radio broadcast in the year 2015 or 2016 in an effort to reach an even wider audience.

Positivity Inspires has spoken at several churches and has been recently interviewed by the hosts of the “Morning Show” on Missions Radio. 

As a successful career woman who has earned a doctorate in her field, she also greatly understands the importance of placing God first and cherishes her relationship with Him. She is one who is passionate about her ministry and possesses a strong love for Christ and for others.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

True Love Stories: ZayLo

Perhaps today's featured true love story is best summarized by a quote from the writer who is well, a professional writer! 

"I met her in 2005/Two years passed, she learned I was alive/Fast forward some years...just about seven/Together blissful, it’s been like heaven."
~Zay Garza

Read on for the story of how God sent "Cupid's arrow" as Zay calls it, straight into the hearts of Louri and Zay, transforming the friends into lovers with an affection that led to marriage and their own happily ever after. 

Zay and Louri's true love story

Of course the summation in our attached description is to be simple, poetic and fun, but our tale as a couple begins because of my old inoperable BlackBerry and a reliable addiction to Facebook in February 2010.

I was five weeks liberated from a previous relationship, while Louri hoped for new love but constantly drafted lists of bad dates and incompatibles.

Since my youth, I have always desired to romantically love someone and feel that reciprocation, but my life was without such luck that I was always wanting.

For weeks, I attempted to organize a date with a woman that I was interested in, but each time, I was without luck. I did not know what to do because I did not want to spend this day alone.

Logging onto Facebook, I checked all of my notifications comments of my current status update. I scrolled down my page and saw a recent thread between me and my friend about her most recent poor dating experiences. Her name was Louri Aaron.

After I finished reading our conversation, I remember hearing of people in stories spend time with friends on Hallmark’s day of love.

Not wanting to appear creepy, I became increasingly uncomfortable for some reason. I reached for my BlackBerry to offer the invitation for a simple night between friends. Yet as fate would have it, my phone immediately rebooted itself and once it returned to its normal position, her contact information was removed.

After praying to God I would be viewed pleasantly, I sent what now I know to be my last invite to a woman for a first date (though this was not intended to be a date), through Facebook.

I invited her to join me at the Busboys and Poets restaurant at the corner of 14th and V street Northwest, Washington, D.C.. 
Plagued by the remnants of Snowmageddon, I suggested we take the Metro because parking would be difficult. At arrival, I found Louri in the restaurant’s bookstore studying the newest available book-spines. As our eyes met, we friendly embraced, and allowed the hosting staff to escort us to our seat. Sitting next to each other on the restaurant’s lounge-inspired couches, it immediately dawned on us that we had not once spent time alone, outside of our group of friends.

Surrounded by Cupid’s spell, we jovially joked at how all previous Valentines days were wretched and unromantic. 
While John Legend, Jill Scott, and Corinne Bailey Rae chorused us through the speaker system, our food arrived, matching a smell to the emotional peace on this couch. And yes, I even remember her meal, the Spinach Pesto Lasagna.

Laughing and talking about politics and comic book characters, we quickly deduced that the wait staff became irritated by our inaction after our meals were completed, but we cared nothing for their inconvenience. We were caught in pure comfort and embraced this new enjoyment we found in each other, just friends.

Glancing at the clocks on our phones, we both realized we each had a BlackBerry and exchanged mobile numbers and individual BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) contacts, preparing ourselves to leave because we had work the next morning.

Bundling ourselves for the cold, I remember looking at her, and I knew I didn’t want this evening to end. Was this romance? I was unsure. What I did know is that never before had I felt so relaxed. Never before had I felt such comfort. Never before had I felt such happiness.

Nearing eleven that evening, I decided I did not want her traveling alone on the train.

Looking over to her, I suggested, “Why don’t you ride with me to my house in the city and I can give you a ride to your car?” Knowing she’d refuse and I would have to pressure the issue further, I prepared a verbal parry, but to my surprise she said, “Okay.”

From the U Street Corridor to Capitol Hill, we exited the Potomac Avenue Metro train station. To me, this was a neighborhood I’ve known my whole life, but to her, she was seeing it for the first time. Covered in snow and ice mounds everywhere, we walked cautiously.

Reaching to help her down the ice mound, I was immediately overwhelmed, as when our hands touched, God unleashed the Cupid arrow and a shock of electricity moved throughout our bodies, moving us from “just friends” to “husband and wife” on May 25, 2014.

Everyday, I thank God for my wife, the one He prepared for me. Everyday, I thank Him for my friend that reciprocates my affection. I thank God that I’ve finally found her. I thank God that I finally found the one that I’ve prayed for all of my life.

Author bio: Juan-Jose “Zay” D. Garza and Louri “Lo” K. Aaron-Garza have been married since May 25, 2014. The both were raised in Christian homes and both have personally accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives. Christ is the center of their relationship. They are both members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church denomination. They live in the Washington Metropolitan Area.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

True Love Stories: Blind-sided by Love

The word "blindside" by definition means, "to hit (someone who is facing in another direction) suddenly and very hard." It's a term often used in the sport of American football. 

But is it possible to be blind-sided by true love?

Lee Carver certainly thinks so! But don't take her word for it, be the judge as you read the story of how she met a Texan with "beautiful blue eyes" who stole her heart.

Blind-sided by Love
Lee Carver’s true love story

I was a graduate student, recently 22, on full fellowship at UNC Chapel Hill with a car and an apartment for the first time. The woman with whom I shared the apartment, several years older than I, came home with the news that she had given our phone number to a fellow student in her German class after having coffee with him. When he asked her for a date, she told him her age and suggested I’d be a better choice for him.

My mouth dropped open. The nerve of her. She knew I had a distant relationship with the understanding that I would wait until my boyfriend returned from the war in Vietnam. Studying biochemistry and bacteriology, I had no time for dating.

“He’s from Texas, and he has beautiful blue eyes,” she said of Darrel Carver.

By the time he called, I’d decided to let him down gently. As we talked, he suggested we go to the football game on Saturday. This struck a chord with me, because the season ended soon, I’d never seen a UNC game, and I had a card in my purse for free entry. Furthermore, he’d been required to give up his car in order to accept a job on campus, and I had a car. It would be “no skin off his teeth.” A free date. He knew where to park and where students could enter and sit. I accepted.

“But wait,” he said. “Don’t you want to meet first? I could come over for coffee.” Months later, he admitted he had to know if he needed to get sick before Saturday.

As he arrived punctually, I hid in my bedroom smearing cream on a severe case of poison ivy. My legs were a mess, and women didn’t wear slacks then. I couldn’t even cover up with hose. Gathering my courage, I exited to meet my blind date.

Texan, but not tall. Not rich. But she was so right about the blue eyes.

He kept the football game date. I’d stayed up until 3 a.m. sewing a lined wool suit to wear, and wound up with a horrible migraine that followed me for the date that went from place to place over thirteen hours. During the day, I swallowed codeine for relief, only to be dumped back into more pain. I liked the guy, but knew he was just being nice when he said, “I’ll call you.”

Yeah, right.

He called. We dated again. Soon we “studied” at the medical library almost nightly. I was smitten.

Four weeks after that blind date, we sat in the apartment living room, both amazed at the emotional wave that had washed over us. “And you know, I mean, how…I feel,” he stumbled.

Maybe I did, but needed to hear him say it.

“I think I love you,” he said with great caution.

Not wishing to give away my feelings to a greater degree than he had, I said, “I probably love you, too.”

We laugh about those lines now, and they found their way into my novel, Love Takes Flight.

We married only three months later. I made my wedding dress, and my father, a minister, officiated at the wedding. 

Forty-seven years, two children, and five grandchildren later, we continue to grow together by the grace of God. I never got that PhD in biochemistry, but taught biology and chemistry in high schools during his Navy pilot years. Then Darrel got a Masters of International Management (MIM) and accepted a position with Citibank, which led to a career living in Greece, Saudi Arabia, Atlanta, Argentina, Indonesia, Brazil, Spain, and back to Brazil.

He took early retirement to accept God’s call to be a missionary pilot in the Brazilian Amazon. We prayed about this step for ten years, especially after his near death due to a ruptured appendix, undiagnosed for three days. (Read the story in Flying for Jesus.) We served there until his parents needed us to come home. We didn’t get to keep them here for long, but never regretted that decision. He still works with missionary aviation.

I began writing novels, an excellent way to fail at retirement. And the story goes on. May God be praised.

Author bio: 
Lee Carver lived in the Brazilian Amazon for six years, the hardest and best years of her life. She and her husband served in retirement as volunteer missionaries with a Brazilian organization, Asas de Socorro (Wings of Help), formerly MAF-Brazil. Her husband flew the amphibious ten-seat Cessna Caravan over jungle area half the size of the United States. Their home in Manaus—the largest city in the world with no road to it—was a free guesthouse for missionaries, pilots, mechanics, and medical volunteers. She went on missions, speaks the language, and knows the people whose story she tells.

Lee lived in Brazil a total of twelve years, including two transfers to São Paulo while her husband worked for Citibank. Other foreign postings were Greece, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Indonesia, and Spain. She studied nine languages and visited over forty-five countries. The Carvers now reside in Texas and are still active in Brazilian aviation missions.

Lee is a member of ACFW and president of its local chapter, DFW Ready Writers. She freelances as a grammar/punctuation editor and formats manuscripts for e-book and POD uploads.

Blurb for Lee's book Love Takes Flight:

Volunteering in the Amazon to escape a broken heart, American R.N. Camille Ringold fears she has lost the chance to be married to a doctor and live well in suburbia. Serving two weeks with missionaries living out a sacred calling, she considers whether a more meaningful life might be hers. 

When the Wings of Help plane is hijacked, she and missionary pilot Luke Strong escape into the jungle. Aided by a river village, they recover the plane, but she may be fired for returning to the U.S. late. Two weeks become four when she chooses to care for Luke through his malaria. Priorities change as experiences of faith mount. Where is the intersection of God’s will and her selfish desires?

Returning to Alabama, she discovers the controlling side of her rejected sweetheart. He covers his lies with rationalizations. Dangers of the Amazon fade compared to threats from the man she once wanted to marry.

Connect with Lee:

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

True Love Stories: Complement - "something that completes or makes perfect"

The story of The Taylors is so beautiful that when reading it, you just may cry! Tears of joy may cascade down your face as you learn secondhand of how beautiful a love story can be when you allow God to write it! Only God can bring together two people who perfectly complement each other in every sense of the word. 

Okay, so you may not experience waterworks when you read this story but you most definitely will smile as you read the journey Jared Taylor took to the altar with his wife Vanessa. You will learn the value of patience as a virtue and you will be reminded that friendship first with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone is the foundation that helps romantic relationships last and flourish. 

So go ahead, pick up a box of Klennex (just in case you cry) and be prepared to believe in true love again as you read how God brought a "French Girl" known for her beauty and love for God, together with a man with a passion for Jesus Christ, who was raised in the home of his heritage, Trinidad.

Yes, the story is THAT good. 

Complement- "something that completes or makes perfect"
Jared and Vanessa Taylor's true love story

I met her in college--an exotic beauty. The “French Girl” we called her. We were friendly but not friends. At the time she had a boyfriend whom she seemed really into, plus I had other interests, including her roommate.

Fast forward a few years to the heyday of the social networking site Hi 5! I stumbled across “The French Girl’s” profile and sent her a friend request. Surprisingly she accepted. Turned out there was an attraction on her side as well. We exchanged numbers but our conversations were off and on.

Shortly thereafter “The French Girl” whose real name is Vanessa, completed grad school at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan and moved to Maryland. We hung out from time to time, even dated occasionally but we both had other things going on so we never became more than friends. However we became close, confiding in each other, encouraging and supporting one another.

The first time the idea of Vanessa being more than just a friend happened was in October 2010. I had received some disturbing news one Friday evening and I called to share it with her. She dropped what she was doing, came over to my apartment, prayed with me…and just held me. I’ve had people pray for me before, but there was something different about the way this chick spoke to God. Where most people seem to be detached and formal, she seemed way more intimate and familiar; like He was someone she really knew as a real person and not an abstract concept. It was a breath of fresh air! I took notice and thought to myself, “That’s what I’d want in a wife!” Then the moment quickly passed and life continued on as normal…for a few months.

In January 2011 I enrolled in a Master of Arts in Youth Ministry Leadership Program and was required to attend an “intensive” session in Daytona, Florida. On the 12 hour drive home, my friend Keith included me in an email to his friends with a YouTube link to a sermon series by Pastor Henry Wright entitled “The Holy Spirit a& Choosing A Mate.” I listened to pass the time and found it enlightening. I wasn’t actively looking to get married, but I was looking to give my attention fully to a single individual and I found this sermon helpful in evaluating my options, which at the time didn’t include Vanessa.

The end of that semester found me having to conduct surveys for a project on how people viewed God. Vanessa was one of the persons willing to be interviewed. We made plans to go to the movies and decided to meet early to knock the interview out before other people came to the theatre. As I recorded Vanessa’s responses I had several of those “That’s what I’d want in a wife!” moments. We ended the interview, watched the movie and went our separate ways, but unlike the first time, the moment didn’t pass. My curiosity was piqued. I purposed in my heart to take a closer more intentional look into Vanessa and see what she was all about. So I began using her love of food to create opportunities for my investigative endeavor!

When I left Trinidad to return to the United States in 2004, I had a firm grasp on where I believed God was taking me and what he wanted for me. Listening to Pastor Wright's presentation in 2010 helped me get a clearer picture of what a complement to that would look like. To my very pleasant surprise…in 2011, it looked like Vanessa. I recognized it pretty quickly but took time to do my due diligence, spending time in prayer, just to be sure.

I shared my intentions with Vanessa but she wasn’t really feeling it. We were cool, but she wasn’t feeling me like that. Yet, she didn’t say no! In that moment I saw a glimpse of God’s love for me, the certainty of His love and His continual demonstration of that love despite my reluctance to fully accept it. I determined to mirror the love I received from Him in my interactions with her, until she made a decision one way or the other! It wasn’t easy being around while she explored her options. It wasn’t fun being referred to as vegetables (the stuff that you know is good for you) as opposed to Fritters (a favorite food that excites). 

However God kept on loving me and likewise I continued to demonstrate my love for Vanessa, until eventually she returned the love I showed. On December 1st, 2011 I proposed to her and she said "yes". On May 27, 2012 we were married. 

We thank God every day for the opportunity to experience His love in such a marked way and desire to share it with everyone with whom we come in contact!

Author bio: Jared Renaud Taylor is a graduate of the Huntington University Masters of Youth Ministry Leadership program. He also holds a Bachelor degree in Computer Information Systems from Andrews University.

Jared is the author of New Lenses: How I Met Jesus on MTV. He is also the creator, producer and host of Water For The Thirsty, an online web series which facilitates daily personal devotion and Bible study.

Currently Jared works at CGI Federal as an IT Support Specialist.

Jared has two charming sons, and lives in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area with his wife Vanessa, whom he loves dearly.

Monday, February 23, 2015

True Love Stories: The Cutest Nurse in the Navy

God knew when Laura would marry the man of her dreams and so did her Mom!

But who knew God would inspire Laura to speak four little yet oh so major words to her boyfriend Steve during a water gun fight in her apartment? Four words that changed their story forever.

What were those four words and what was Steve's reaction? You'll have to read today's featured true love story to discover the answer! :)

The Cutest Nurse in the Navy
Laura Hilton’s true love story

My story begins before Steve and I met. Two years before I traveled with my then-boyfriend to his parents’ house for the weekend. As we left Springfield, Missouri, I knew—God speak?—that the man I was with wasn’t the man I would marry. I could “see” my wedding and the man waiting for me. I couldn’t see his face. But I knew it wasn’t the man I was with. Sure enough, we eventually broke up.

In April of 1987, Mom told me, “You’re getting married this year. I feel it.” And she started preparing. I humored her, but thought she was being kind of silly. After all, while I dated, it was different guys and no one I wanted to spend forever with. In fact, I figured I’d remain single forever. I didn’t think I’d ever love anyone like I had the guy I’d dated for four years.

In August, I went home to visit Mom. I went back to Springfield on Monday afternoon, and a guy I was friends with, but not dating, called me up and invited me to a Backyard Bible Study. I was the one who’d started Greg’s involvement with Backyard Bible Studies, when he went with me to a few I attended. Greg didn’t fit in with the particular group that I mostly attended, since he thought more outside the box. So he started his own with other kids that didn’t fit inside that particular box. I didn’t really like Greg’s choice of people he invited to his, but I went to both—one for the fellowship and the study, the other to support Greg.

Anyway, that afternoon when Greg called, I was tired and didn’t really want to go out. I wanted to curl up with a book, but to be polite I asked Greg who would be there. I intended to refuse, begging off with exhaustion. Greg started rattling off names. And then he said “Steve.” I knew a Steve. I knew several men named Steve. But something made me ask, “Steve, who?” And Greg told me. “He just got out of the military, he was back in Springfield, and he attended church Sunday.” So I decided to go to check out the new guy.

Steve and Greg were playing Bible-opoly when I arrived at Greg’s. They put the game up and we went outside. To this day, I don’t remember who else was there, but when I saw Steve—another God speak?—I knew this was the guy I was going to marry.

I am, by nature, a very quiet, shy person. But with Steve I was rather forward. I remember Greg staring at me in shock. I asked Steve about who he was and what he did in the Navy. He told me he was a Navy “doc” stationed with the Marines. A “doc” is kind of the equivalent of a RN. I think I surprised everyone there when I told Steve he was probably the cutest nurse in the Navy. But it piqued his interest.

After the Bible study, Steve and I went to McDonalds and continued talking and getting to know each other. And from that moment on, we were a couple.

One Sunday night after church our single’s group went to McDonalds for our usual outing. It was pouring down rain, and Steve wanted to be a hero and drive my car up to the entrance so I wouldn’t get wet. I drove a 1969 VW bug named Twinkie. I told him “She won’t let you in.” Steve laughed at me. “It’s a car.” So I gave him the keys. He went to Twinkie and tried ten minutes before I went out and opened the door. He claims I didn’t tell him there was a particular trick to opening the car door. I never thought there was. I just knew that no one else could unlock Twinkie. I figured she knew me and wouldn’t let anyone else in.

In October, Steve and I had a water gun fight in my apartment, and I opened my mouth and said words that I still don’t remember saying. It must have been God again.

Steve stopped shooting water and froze. “Yes.”

“Wait. What did I say?” I look at him. Stared, probably.

He said, “You asked me to marry you. I accepted.”

“No, I didn’t mean to say that!” I don’t even remember thinking it!

Steve shook his head. “Too late. I already accepted.”

We married December 19, four months after we met. 

I was right. I don’t love Steve the way I loved the other guy… I probably didn’t even know what love was back then. But Steve and I have been married twenty-eight years now. I am glad God knew, better than I did, who I would marry.

Author bio: Award winning author, Laura Hilton, her husband Steve, and their five children make their home in Arkansas. She is a pastor’s wife, a stay-at-home mom and home-schools. Laura is also a breast cancer survivor.

Her publishing credits include three books in the Amish of Seymour series from Whitaker House: Patchwork Dreams, A Harvest of Hearts (winner of the 2012 Clash of the Titles Award in two categories), and Promised to Another. The Amish of Webster County series, Healing Love (finalist for the 2013 Christian Retail Awards), Surrendered Love and Awakened Love followed by her first Christmas novel, A White Christmas in Webster County, as well as a three book Amish series with Whitaker House, The Amish of Jamesport series, The Snow Globe, The Postcard in April 2015, and The Bird House in September 2015. Other credits include Swept Away from Abingdon Press’ Quilts of Love series. 

Laura is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and a professional book reviewer.

Read Laura's book blurb for The Snow Globe:  

Victor Petersheim has left the Amish and works on a river boat on the Mississippi River, spending three months on the river then having three months off. During his off-work months he returns home to his Amish community and helps out on his grandparents’ farm. When he returns home after his most recent absence, he discovers his grossmammi has developed health problems and they’ve hired Esther Beachy to be a “mother’s helper.” Victor is unsettled by this woman living in their home, but has to accept it. Esther loves listening to Victor’s grandmother’s stories and while puttering around in a store while the grossmammi’s in the hospital, she discovers a snow globe that depicts an area where the Petersheims used to live. She buys it as a gift for the grossmammi to cheer her up during her hospitalization. Victor is touched by Esther’s gift and her care for his grossmammi, and strives to be friendlier. Will Esther’s gentle heart draw him back to the community? Or will he return to the river once again? 

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