Saturday, April 16, 2016

A sneak peek of A Rescued Life


CHAPTER ONE

Lucy Williams’ eyes slowly fluttered open. She scanned the darkness, identifying the furniture, paintings on the walls and modern ceiling fan above as the shadows took shape. Nothing but breathing penetrated the quiet room. After a couple crusty blinks, she finally registered where she was.
Taking a deep breath, the weight on her chest didn’t allow her lungs to completely expand. She rolled her head to the side on the pillow, putting her face only a couple inches from Dillon’s. She watched him take a couple steady breaths before she carefully, with an art of finesse, lifted his limp arm sprawled across her chest and placed it on his side. He grunted, but stayed asleep.
She mapped Dillon’s face, soaking in his long eyelashes that fanned atop his cheekbones. His dark, coarse hair that showed off his Italian heritage no longer stayed perfectly in place. She’d swipe a lock of his hair off his forehead, but she didn’t want to chance waking him up. Her eyes ran down the column of his neck and over his bare shoulders and chest.
With a slight twist of her body, she laid on her back, staring up at the ceiling. Now that his arm no longer draped over her chest, she expected the weight to feel removed, but instead her chest continued to tighten. Her heart began to beat wildly, pulsing in her ears. Maybe she was having heart palpitations or the beginning of an anxiety attack? She closed her eyes and sucked in a deep breath, then exhaled at a slower pace out through her nose.
Who was she trying to deceive? Herself. A doctor would find nothing physically wrong with her. Yes, something was wrong with her heart and mind alright, but nothing a physician could fix.
Not only had she walked away from God, but for weeks she had been sleeping with a man. Not only was he a man that was not her husband, but a man she really wasn’t even in a relationship with. And to thicken the drama, he was technically her boss. Not that it mattered anyway. A sin was a sin. Growing up in the church had taught her that much.
Still lacking in oxygen she pushed off the silk sheets, slipped her legs over the side of the bed and sat up. Hunched over, she rested her elbows on her thighs and buried her face in her sweaty palms. From a glance through her slotted fingers, she spotted her leftover wine from the night before. With a slight tremble in her hand, she lifted the glass to her lips and let the liquid slide down her throat. She had been depending on alcohol too much lately to mask her problems and numb her pain, just like it coated her insides now.
How had she gotten to this point?
She knew better than to walk away from God and take the slippery slope that led her to a broken life next to Dillon in bed. It wasn’t like she woke up one morning a different person. The road began by taking footholds that slowly diverted her away from God. She started with the ceasing of Bible reading, which turned into a lack of communication through prayer.  Then came her heart hardening to God’s truths, which turned into bad decisions that morphed into worse decisions.
This wasn’t the life she wanted.
So how did she fix it?
Dillon began snoring, and already fully awake, sleep wouldn’t come again, at least not here. The clock on the nightstand made her cringe, mocking her.  It was only 4:07 in the morning. She didn’t have to be at the restaurant until ten-thirty for the daily staff meeting. It would be a long, weary day if she didn’t acquire more sleep than this.
Behind her, Dillon took another deep breath that rattled along his throat and cemented her decision to head home in hopes for another couple hours of sleep. Tiptoeing along the hardwood floor, Lucy picked up her clothing strewn along the way to the bathroom – like Hansel and Gretel had left breadcrumbs to find their way back home. She shook her head, embarrassed by how fuzzy the memories of last night’s activities were. Fully dressed now, she found her coat, purse and keys by the door and made her exit into the cold February night.
She parked outside her house and wrapped her coat tighter against her midsection to keep the cold out. Unlocking the front door, she about jumped out of her skin when she heard, “Hey, Luce.”
Lucy stopped short and gasped, putting her hand over her heart. This was the second time in a month this had happened. “Jules, you scared me. What are you doing up so early?” Her friend Jules had needed a place to stay after her house had caught on fire last month and she offered her spare bedroom. So far they had a good groove going – minus Jules scaring the life out of her.
“I’m on shift today, getting an early start to my day.” She picked up her Bible and placed it back down on her lap. An invisible dagger hit Lucy’s heart square on at the sight of the Bible and the sound of Jules’ question, “Are you just getting home?”
She turned to hang up her coat, giving her more time to come up with a cover story. “Oh, um, yeah. After working at the restaurant I headed over to a friend’s house from art class and we worked on our projects together. Time just got away from me.” The lie slipped out with no hesitation. She had become a pro at hiding her life.
Not only was Lucy a sous chef at the restaurant Riverside, but she had been pursuing her love of art on the side by taking a second job at the local art gallery. One night a week she worked the showroom at the art gallery. She would do the job for free if she had to, she so loved being up close to the painting and talking to the patrons as they came in. Lucy had also joined the art class they provided on the top floor twice a month. Dillon had seen her work and was impressed enough to offer her the chance to have her own first showing in the artist competition the gallery was having this coming summer.
“Is this project for the collection you’re building for the competition?”
“Yes, it’s my expressionism piece.” She’d go into more detail of the paint, the contrast in the lighting and the emotions behind the strokes, but she had learned early on that people didn’t understand the lingo. “My boss, Dillon, says it’s my best piece yet.” Lucy winced.  She had to be careful. She had been mentioning Dillon more in conversations lately and didn’t want to tip anyone off. Their romance had to be hidden for now, and she hoped forever.
Lucy stepped into the room and found a seat on the couch across from Jules. Her shoulders slumped and her heart began pumping wildly again as Jules looked her over, concern etched in her emerald eyes. “That’s great. Derek and I are looking forward to attending your show and seeing how much all your hard work and time has paid off.”
Lucy’s resolve began to crumble. She was going to break. “Thanks. I appreciate it.” She had to change the subject. Leaning her head back against the headrest, she asked, “Enough about me. How’s the newly engaged couple doing?”
Last month Jules and her boyfriend – of like a week – Derek, had gotten engaged. It had been a whirlwind romance and even if she didn’t understand their urgent need to be married, she was still happy for them. Just because she was anti-marriage, or more like, anti-settling down, didn’t mean the rest of the world had to take on her phobia. Granted, Derek and Jules knew each other for months beforehand and had long ago fallen for each other before they made it official. But seriously. A week.  She’d had the flu longer than that.
Jules beamed, a little too perky for Lucy this early in the morning. “We are doing great. Last night we finally decided on a date.”
“When?”
“June 6th.”
Lucy almost fell off the couch. “Of this year?”
“Yes. Neither of us wants to wait. When you know, you know, right?”
Lucy didn’t think Jules truly wanted her marriage-is-a-trap-to-suck-the-life-and-dreams-out-of-you opinion. Once again, it wasn’t her life and she needed to be supportive. “Right.”
“We also finalized our wedding party.” Jules stood up, her long legs crossing the room with elegance. She sat down beside her on the couch. “I’d be honored if you’d stand up with me as a bridesmaid.”
A bridesmaid? That was like asking her to paint with her left hand. Or cook with ingredients from Walmart. Throughout the years Jules had been best friends with her sister, Ava, but in the last year they had also gotten close. And she would never want her cynical attitude to ruin any of the joy that radiated from Jules’ eyes.
She made it through Matt and Ava’s wedding last month, she could endure another one. Lucy reached over and gave Jules a tight hug. “I’d love to.”
“Great! I’ll let you know when we’ll go shopping for dresses. Ava is my matron of honor and then you, Lauren, and Claire will be my bridesmaids. If they agree. I haven’t asked Derek’s sisters yet.” She barely paused long enough to breathe. “I guess we should figure out our colors first.” She slapped a hand to her forehead. “Oh my goodness, there is so much to do in such little time.”
“You could always wait until next June.”
Jules giggled and pulled her long auburn hair over her shoulder, “Oh Luce, you’re so funny.”
Yeah. Hilarious. And totally serious.
Jules placed a hand on her arm. “Hey, if you aren’t doing anything tonight, Derek and I are having a few friends over for dinner. We’d love for you to join us.”
It had been a long time since she had done anything outside of work other than going to Dillon’s place. It would probably be good for her to go if she didn’t have to work. “Sorry, but I work tonight.”
“You should come over later.”
That could be a possibility. It’d be better than coming home to an empty house or ending up in Dillon’s bed. “Who are you having?”
“Matt and Ava, a couple co-workers of mine from the hospital, a guy from our small group,” she paused, “and Trevor Hudson.”
 “That detective?” She could feel her face scrunch up, just picturing the arrogant man. Matt and Derek were good friends with him, in fact her whole family was, and she struggled to understand why. Back in December Ava had gone missing and Trevor had come on the case to help with searching for her. Lucy had tried to give her opinion and he had shot it down without any consideration. And she had been right. She didn’t plan to ever see him again, but if she did, she would remind him of that fact.
“Ah, I see your feelings are still the same for him.”
“Am I that transparent?”
“Like a piece of clear glass.”
Lucy smirked. “I probably won’t make it.”
“Seriously, you should give him another chance,” Jules encouraged. “I know your first impression of him wasn’t ideal, but he really is a great guy.”
“Thanks for the invite, but I’m sure I’ll be tired after work.”
“Well, if you change your mind and want to stop by later, chances are he won’t make it. He works a ridiculous amount of hours.”
Her refusal to attend didn’t really have anything to do with Trevor. Okay, maybe a little. What really tipped the scale was because it was hard for her to be around people and keep up her front. To watch everyone around her happy while her own life was falling apart. To keep her secrets hidden from the people she loved most. 
Jules sat, watching her, as if she was trying to dissect everything Lucy had said.  “Want some coffee? I can make us a pot and we can sit and chat. I feel like I haven’t seen you in weeks. I miss you.”
She couldn’t let that happen. Having a little heart-to-heart with Jules would press her to share things. “No, thanks. Maybe another time? I’m going to try and get a little sleep before I have to get back to the restaurant.” Lucy stood, rubbing her red-lined eyes. Her body betrayed the weight of the world that rested on her shoulders.
“Hey, Luce.” Jules waited to continue until she had her full attention. “I’m praying for you.”
Lucy paused, forming a strained smile. Could Jules see straight through her? She was one of the most observant people she knew. If she wasn’t more careful, the lies and sin she had been hiding would become exposed. With a hand running through her dark pixie cut hair, she said, “Thanks.”
Stepping into her bedroom, she stopped at the edge of the bed. She needed a shower first, to wash off the filth that had nothing to do with dirt. Twenty minutes later she lay in bed, the quiet deafening. The last few months rushed through her mind as a knot formed in her throat.
Something had to change.
And she finally conceded with where it had to start.
“God,” she whispered, prayer feeling foreign on her lips, “I’m sorry I’ve walked away from you. Forgive me. I want to change and make my way back to you. Please, God, please…rescue my life.” 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Raindrops & Honey

Today I have the great privilege to share about my friend, Anastasia Corbin. We met through our church, but through our love of writing our friendship has blossomed. Anastasia has a passion for life that is very contagious, she is extremely kind-hearted with a tenderness toward others, she is a caring mom, respectful wife, and giving friend. And most importantly...she loves Jesus with her whole heart. Anastasia has recently started up a blog sharing God's truth and what He has been teaching her. Her words are uplifting and full of wisdom. Please check out her blog Raindrops & Honey and be encouraged. We did a little interview together for you to learn about her and the blog. 
We also have exciting news to share...

Natalie: Please introduce yourself.
Anastasia: My name is Anastasia Corbin.  I love Manchego cheese and Jesus but not necessarily in that order. I'm still dating my amazing husband after 15 years. My Superpower is being a Stay at Home Mom of 4 kids, ages 9, 7, 5, and 3. Chocolate is great but I'll take a good burger over that any day. My favorite colors are purple and teal. My favorite activities include singing on Worship Team, meaningful conversations with my best friends, running and reading. I'm afraid of: the dark, heights and not being accepted. My biggest pet peeve is when things are put on the kitchen island after I just cleaned it.

Natalie: Explain your name- Raindrops & Honey.
Anastasia: One of my favorite places to go to be refreshed is anywhere by the water. So, I wanted to include it somehow in my blog name. The name Raindrops and Honey comes from two different verses. Deuteronomy 32:2 states: "Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants." My desire is for God to use my words to refresh people. Another verse that has challenged me in how I use my words is from Proverbs 16:24 "Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." I also desire my words to be gracious and uplifting for the reader.



Natalie: Tell us how you started blogging?

Anastasia: In the Fall of 2013, I was involved in an Online Bible Study through Proverbs 31 ministries. There was an option of linking your blog once a week to share about what you had been learning. I started blogging at that point but was not very aggressive with it. This past year, God has laid on my heart to write more. It has been an amazing journey. I feel God's pleasure when I write. My goal is to share a new blog post 2-3 times a week.



Natalie: What is your desire for your blog?
Anastasia: The first desire I have for my blog is for God alone to be glorified. I want others to know about God's character and see His deep love for them. I also desire for people to walk away refreshed and encouraged after spending time on my blog. I want them to be challenged in their walk and desire to know God more. 
 
 
I'd like to end with some exciting news!! God has been doing a lot of stirring in our hearts lately. Anastasia and I have such a passion to minister to women and moms, and we have felt the Lord leading us to co-write a devotional book together. With lots of prayer, amazing husbands, and the approval of my publisher...we are so pumped to announce that we will be releasing a devotional book sometime in Spring 2016. Squeal!!! A couple weeks ago we spent the evening together at a bookstore discussing our hopes and dreams for the book, figuring out look, size, format, etc., and praying for God's direction!!





 Decisions...Decisions...

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Tuesday Truths - The Holy Spirit's Work In Your Life


“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.”

-Galatians 5: 16-18

The Father. The Son. The Holy Spirit. As I soak in the Trinity and what that means for believers, I can’t help but wonder if we are missing out a little and how often in our walk we lean heavier to God and Jesus, but discount the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It makes me think of when you take a picture using a tri pod. If you aren’t using each of the three legs equally, what happens to your picture? It’s off center, crooked, not nearly as effective and you might miss the focus of your picture. Each leg is just as crucial as the other and they all have to work together on the same level to have the biggest impact. God tells us in His Word how valuable and important His Holy Spirit is. The Holy Spirit speaks through us (Matthew 10:19-20), He changes our hearts (Matthew 12:34-36), helps us understand the Bible (Luke 12:10), convicts us, shows God’s righteousness, guides and gives insight for the future (John 14:15-31), sets us free from sin and death (Romans 8:2), gives us the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), and helps us pray (Romans 8:26-27). Many times through scripture it even says that Jesus was filled with the Spirit. Jesus promised to pour out His Spirit on us in John 7:37-38, “On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to shout, “Fill me Lord, fill me!” The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives should demonstrate the genuineness of our faith, it proves that we are God’s children, it transforms us, and it secures our eternal life. We must not forget that God is very unyielding about the Holy Spirit in our lives. In Luke 12:10, Jesus says, “And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” And also in Ephesians 4:30, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” This happens when we have a deliberate and ongoing rejection of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. It’s when our hearts are so hardened that we shut ourselves off from God and don’t acknowledge the sin in our lives. I read a quote from Francis Chan’s book, Unforgotten God, which says, “If I were Satan and my ultimate goal was to thwart God’s kingdom and purposes, one of my main strategies would be to get churchgoers to ignore the Holy Spirit.” How does that apply to your life? Even though the Holy Spirit lives in us, we will still be tempted and sin, but we should be known by the fruit He produces in us. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23. So over the next few weeks we will be focusing on these fruits and how our lives can be full of them…

Heavenly Father, I welcome your Holy Spirit into my life. Please guide my steps, speak my words, and convict my heart. Fill me Lord, fill me!!! Bring to light any sin that has grieved your Spirit, speak your Truth into me and transform my life. In Your Name, Amen.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tuesday Truths - A shout out to the wives!!


“Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.”

-Proverbs 31:23

Over the last few months I’ve been meditating and being intentional about ways to lift my husband up. God has been speaking to my heart that my husband can accomplish many things…he can be a leader and great man with a strong character without me…but how much more he can accomplish, lead, and impact, with me at his side cheering him on and lifting him up as his helpmate and biggest cheerleader. So here are a few things, we as wives, can help our husbands become the verse above. #1: Pray for him. For his heart, his dreams, his passions, wisdom, discernment, God’s will for his life, etc. Ephesians 1:16-19 says, “I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious in heritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” #2: Lift him up with your words – by speaking them to him and to others. “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21. Bring LIFE to your husband. #3: To be faithful and respectful to him. To be the woman he is honored to have at his side. “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” Proverbs 31:10-12. #4: Be diligent and intentional with loving him. Look for ways to give of yourself selflessly in order to serve him. “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” James 4:17. #5: Instead of highlighting his weaknesses, come alongside him and use a strength of yours to compensate for it. Use the gifts that you have been given to help him become a better man. “May the God of peace, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:21

Heavenly Father, thank you for my husband. Grant me the power in every area of my life to lift my husband up by words and actions. May I draw closer to you, so that I am so full it overflows into my marriage. Help me to see the ways that I can be a better helpmate to my husband and give me the initiative to make it happen. In your name, Amen.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tuesday Truths - Worst Sunburn EVER


“Let those who fear the Lord say; ‘His love endures forever.’ In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.”

                           -Psalm 118:4-5

Each year when the warmer weather comes, I burst in excitement to work in my landscaping…and most years that usually concludes with a bad sunburn, even with sunscreen. Three years ago as I was lathering myself up with sunscreen, instead of washing my hand, I patted my back to wipe it off…and then forgot to apply sunscreen to my back. I’m sure you can imagine where this story is going. Oh yes. I burnt horribly except for one spot on my back. Yep! A big ol’ handprint. And just so you know, I get deathly pale during the winter. If pale was a crayon color, they would name it Natalie. So imagine a bright red back with a shockingly *white* handprint. I tried everything to get rid of it. At one point I even put on sunscreen all around the handprint and then tried to burn it. Nope, little stinker would not change color at all. So from April until October I had a handprint on my back. Seriously. As I look back at that summer I realized I couldn’t get away from my mistake. Every day was a reminder that I messed up. And isn’t that what Satan wants to do to us. Mentally beat ourselves down over and over of our mistakes, our shortcomings, our failures. Not God. He tells us in Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Does anyone else see the same color scheme as my handprint?!? Oy! Satan wants to keep us in bondage – God wants to give us freedom. Satan wants us to feel condemned. God wants us to feel redeemed. Satan wants us to live a life of regrets. God wants us to live a life of promises. There is a song I like to sing, to proclaim over me. Let the words wash over you and let it be a prayer...

Where the spirit of the Lord is
There is freedom
Lift your eyes to Heaven
There is freedom
If you’re tired and thirsty
There is freedom
Give your all to Jesus
There is freedom
Freedom reins in the place
Showers of mercy and grace
Falling on every face
There is freedom

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The End Of An Era

So last Friday marked a new season in my life. All three of my children are in school now. A few years ago the thought of it would have had me dancing in the streets, but when the day approached my heart responded differently. The night before my daughter started Kindergarten I laid in bed with her and watched her sleep and scanned each detail of her beautiful face while my silent tears soaked her pillow. The morning of, I held it together with finesse. I packed her Tinker Bell lunchbox with a smile, did her hair and slipped on her backpack with a smile, and then walked her down the hall to her room with a smile. And then the floodgates released. I got in the van, told my husband I needed a moment, and then started the UGLY cry that lasted the entire ride home and into the first half hour I was home, as I used up the leftover restaurant napkins we had stashed in the glove compartment. I was a mess. Don't get me wrong, I'm OKAY with the fact that during the day I am home alone to get things done and have more time to write. That's a given with a hallelujah hand raise towards Heaven. But I needed to grieve the fact that life was changing and my baby was no longer a baby.  For a DECADE all I have done is stayed at home and raised my kids. I have hopefully done my job to prepare and guide them as they step out into the "school world". Problem with this? SHE IS 5 years old! Oy! So I just needed some time to mourn that my season of taking care of babies and toddlers had come to a close. That I was now a parent to all school-aged kids. That the years that slipped by so quickly when they were toddlers, would slip by even quicker now. That slowly they will need me less and less. The hugs and kisses will decrease while the eye rolls will increase. But my husband reminds me that this is a good thing (not the eye-rolls, the independence), because this is what we have been training for. This moment is what the sleepless nights, reading books, playing games, disciplining, working on the alphabet a million times, pouring into them every minute of the day is all about. FREEDOM. Just kidding. It's about training them as they begin their own life journey in becoming who God created them to be. "I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life." Proverbs 4:11-13

And just so you know, I'm doing better. Today I only got teary-eyed a little when she walked away.
 Progress, folks, progress.


FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL
 
I tried to get my oldest to take this picture with them, but instead he shooed me away with a flick of his wrist and a sigh of embarrassment, "Mooooooom!"
 
 5th GRADE
 

3rd GRADE
 
KINDERGARTEN
 
 And this is what I like to call...A long walk off a short pier!!!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Straight Off The Page Review

There are many times as an author I have to step out of my comfort zone and do something I wouldn't normally do...or something that is terrifying. My latest embark entailed asking someone that does reviews for a professional website to do a review of my third book, A Rescued Love. Why would that be terrifying, you ask? Because what if she hated it and gave a negative review? Gulp! But if I'm going to keep improving or get my name out there more, I knew it needed to be done. And guess what!?! She loved it! So head over to Straight Off The Page and check out my very first "professional review."

Here are a few key quotes from the review...

"Replogle writes like a seasoned veteran, something that’s a rare find in today’s day and age."

"Another key component to any great book is research, and yet again, Replogle gets it right!"

"The storyline is supreme, knitting together characters from different worlds and walks of life all for the common good of their “community”."