I knew that C.S. Lewis and I had more in common than our Christianity when he said, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." Welcome to a celebration of faith, tea, and the written word. I'm always engaged in a book, and whether it's one I'm reading or one of the inspirational historical romances I write, there's always a cup of tea close by. Join me in a cup as we chat about faith, our favorite books and the exciting places our reading and writing adventures take us.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Monday, December 28, 2015

Sneak Peek of One Word From You

Ooh! I'm so excited about the release of Austen in Austin Collection, Volume I, coming in just a few weeks from White Fire Publishing! It comes in paperback with four stories based on Jane Austen's Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, and Northanger Abbey. Or, if you prefer, each story is also available individually in  ebook format.


My story, One Word From You, is a project that's dear to my heart. It won the Genesis for Historical Romance in 2013, and was a joy to write alongside my writing buddies from the Inkwell Inspirations blog.

A few fun facts about my novella, One Word From You:
  • My story may be a retelling of Pride & Prejudice with a Texas twist, but it's not just for Austen fans. If you're familiar with P&P, see if you recognize my re-imaginings of Austen's characters...and even bits of dialogue.
  • The Austen Academy mentioned in each novella in the collection is fictional, but other Austin historical landmarks are real.
  • Something else historical that figures into my story? Time zones weren't established in the United States until November, 1883. Prior to that, each city set its own sun time, as did each train station. They hardly ever matched up, which caused a lot of problems.
Curious about the story? Here's a sneak peek!
COPYRIGHT @2016 WHITE FIRE PUBLISHING


***

“My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject forever.” Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice


CHAPTER ONE

October, 1883

             “If it is indeed a truth universally acknowledged that a bachelor in possession of a lucrative cattle ranch must be in want of a wife, then Mr. Cray will be swapping vows before calving season.” Merriment pulled at Eliza Branch’s lips as she gazed past her parents at the darkness beyond the carriage window. “He doesn’t need our assistance to find a suitable bride.”

            “This is no time for your odd sense of humor, Eliza.” The carriage bumped over a pothole, and Mother sucked in a hissing breath. “This headache!”

            “I’m sorry, Mother. I didn’t mean to upset you. Are you ill?” Eliza bit the finger-seam of her glove and tugged, baring her arm to the evening cool. She cupped her hand over Mother’s smooth cheek. “You don’t have a fever.”

             Mother’s head jerked back. “Still a hoyden after months of finishing school. Can no one persuade you to stop undressing with your teeth?”

             “I didn’t rip the seam this time.” Eliza patted Mother’s knee. “Let’s turn back home. The Hales will understand if you’re too ill to attend the gala.”

            “You mother’s fine,” Father drawled. “Hot with determination, is all.”

            “No thanks to you, George.” Mother’s eyes flashed glossy as ink in the moonlight. “Now Eliza must wed Hezekiah Cray with too much haste for a proper society wedding.”

            “I—what?” A nauseating sensation coiled in Eliza’s stomach, just as it did during her recurring nightmare of arriving tardy for a French exam at her finishing school, The Jeannette C. Austen Academy for Young Ladies. In those dreams, she couldn’t recognize the conjugations on the chalkboard. But Mother’s perplexing words boded a far worse fate than poor marks.

              “Marry,” Mother reiterated, as if she were about to spell the word. “You’re nineteen. Plenty old enough.”

              Eliza stifled a snort. She’d marry Mr. Cray, with his oily black hair, overlong mustache, and unsavory habits when his cattle sang in the church choir. “He gambles, Mother.”

            “He can afford to. He has the touch of Midas with livestock.”

            “And I do not.” Father sighed and stared out the window at the dark street.

            Eliza’s mouth filled with fearful questions, cold and metallic as coins on her tongue. “What’s happened?”

            “The cattle are diseased.” Mother massaged her temples. “Your father bred good stock with feral cows to produce some new kind of Longhorn. But he failed. The drought hasn’t helped, either. We must sell the ranch to keep the house here in town.”

            Eliza touched Father’s arm, willing him to look at her. “It’s not so bad, is it, Father?”

            He shrugged, but whether his action bespoke apology or resignation, she couldn’t tell.
...

Meet Will Delacourt, my Texas twist on Mr. Darcy, in the book!

***

Come back next Monday to learn how to enter to win a copy!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Ten Things with Debra E. Marvin...and a Giveaway!

Welcome Debra E. Marvin to Tea and a Good Book! Today we're celebrating Deb's Christmas novella, learning Ten Things about Deb, and she's offering a giveaway!

Debra E. Marvin tries not to run too far from real life but the imagination born out of being an only child has a powerful draw. Besides, the voices in her head tend to agree with all the sensible things she says. She'd like to live a wee bit closer to her grandchildren, but is thankful that God is in control, that He chooses to bless us despite ourselves and that He has a sense of humor.

Other than writing light-hearted romances and gritty gothics, she has rather normal obsessions such as fabric, peanut butter, vacations, British dramas, and whatever mystery series she's currently stuck on.

Debra E. Marvin

Her first release, Desert Duet, is part of the O Little Town of Christmas Collection! Scroll down for the scoop, but here's a hint: it's a charming Christmas read set in the 1930s, Arizona, full of humor and holiday cheer. And she's giving away a copy of the ebook to one randomly chosen commenter!

But first, Deb's sharing Ten Things with us.


  1. I rarely go to the movies, but if I like the movie enough, I'll go multiple times to see it (Jane Eyre, Austenland...3 times each)
  2. I love to make things and do artsy things (full, zippered fleece snowsuit for my dog, for example)
  3. I drive a truck-- stickshift and barn boots but no rifle.
  4. I visited the area of my Christmas novella, Desert Duet, even though I've been to Arizona at least ten or fifteen times.
  5. I had three children in four years and then waited patiently for grandchildren.
  6. I've never been to Oklahoma but I love the musical
  7. I'm struggling to think of ten things
  8. I had a Welsh pony when I was a kid
  9. I think that when people you love die, you miss them more as time goes by, instead of less.
  10. I worry that I'll want to take naps in Heaven.



***

Here's the scoop on Deb's book:

Merry Christmas from Humbug. Wish You Were Here! 

It’s 1933 in the good old US of A. In the midst of drought, the Depression, and gangsters on the lam, America finds solace in Hollywood's Golden Age. 

Ex-pilot Eugene Tanner, determined to pen the lyrics for the movie industry's first "Best Song" award, books a rushed December stay at the remote Humbug Creek Guest Ranch (A Gold Mine of a Getaway!) Where better to find inspiration for an epic Western, than amid all that trail dust and burnt coffee? 

Thea Knight gives up her short holiday break from the studio’s costume department to play cowgirl hostess at her family’s struggling guest ranch. But instead of helping their witty and handsome guest, she becomes his biggest distraction. Old flames and past regrets take a backseat when the pair become embroiled in a ghost town mystery marring Humbug, Arizona’s rustic Christmas. Thankfully, the cowgirl is as fast with her Winchester as she is with her comebacks. 


***
Thank you, Deb!

Don't forget to leave a comment by 11:59 pm PST Dec 18, 2015, to win the e-book of Deb's novella! Please include your email in your comment. Void where prohibited.

***
Find Deb!

debraemarvin.com
Inkwell Inspirations Blog
Pinterest @debraemarvin
Facebook debra e marvin

Purchase Desert Duet here!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Edible Crafts to Make with Kids During Christmas Break


Christmas is on a Friday this year...which means our kids have a long, nearly-full week of winter break to wait for The Big Day.

Sometimes that waiting can be hard and long. What's a mom to do to help the kids pass the time?

Crafts. I am big on gingerbread houses and ornaments. But my kids are older now and they like to be in the kitchen.

So let's make something yummy and adorable!

Here are a few things I found on Pinterest. For instructions, follow the links in the captions.

Strawberries make great Santa hats. Look how cute these Santa Hat Brownies are!
Brownies with strawberry Santa hats - amazing!:
Look here to make!
These are too cute...skiing snowmen. Marshmallows, candy canes, and pretzels. Can't beat it. These are edible if you use an edible marker to make the face, but you can use a sharpie pen instead...just don't eat them!

Sledding Marshmallow Snowman - What could be more whimsical than a marshmallow snowman speeding down the drifts on a candy-cane sled? Make one for your gingerbread house display!:
click here

I love putting a candy cane in my cocoa. It looks festive and tastes wonderful. But what if you added marshmallows to the mix? Candy Cane Marshmallow Pops! Yowza! And they make great little gifts. Just wrap in cellophane and tie with a red or green ribbon.
Candy cane marshmallows for hot cocoa~ hang them on the side of your mug.:
Recipe here.
Candy canes are pretty versatile for craft-making. These lollipops would be fun at school parties, or wrapped in cellophane and tied to a gift. (And they work for Valentine's Day, too!)

Cute idea for Christmas:
Click here
Talk about fun to make and then eat/display...ornaments made of melted starlight mints. I haven't tried this but plan to this year.

Candy ornaments:
Directions here
This last one is one of my favorites: Elf Donuts. Leave a few on Santa's cookie plate.

Elf donuts--actually cheerios, to leave with Santa's cookies. This is the cutest thing ever! Gotta remember this for Christmas:
So cute! Cheerios with a little extra, served in a pill box!

For more ideas, feel free to check out my Pinterest page, Christmas, here. And let me know if you have some great edible craft ideas of your own!

Monday, November 30, 2015

I Whisk You a Merry Christmas...Christmas Cookbooks!

It's time to start thinking about Christmas food! Party food, edible gifts, holiday meals, and quick meals (for busy nights) alike...I need help with all of them in December.

Do you own any cookbooks that are particular to Christmas? I love mine--and I'm always open to having more. Below are a few of my favorites and some that look fun to me. Share yours with me!

Susan Branch is one of my all-time favorites--in anything. Cookbooks. Calendars. Happy things. I once tagged her on twitter and she actually responded...She is such a sweet person, and so talented, too. I bought a copy of her Christmas from the Heart of the Home almost 20 years ago at an after-Christmas sale. Pretty enough to leave out as a coffee table type book (well, not my copy, since mine is literally tattered and stained), it contains some delicious recipes. Candied Bacon is a Christmas morning staple around here.
Click here
Branch's Christmas Joy is a small gift book that contains the cookie section from the above book, as well as other sweet things. It's a perfect gift. (Oh, and the cookies? I like making the Florentines.)
Click here
Another sweet book that looks great sitting on the coffee table during December is The Twelve Teas of Christmas, but it's probably only available used. Nevertheless, it contains lot of good ideas for cozy gatherings and yummy recipes inside.

Click here
The Southern Living Ultimate Christmas Cookbook is just what it says: Ultimate, full of lovely photos and fun recipes. Southern Living offers cookbooks annually, I think--this was a gift a few years' back--and newer editions are more readily available than this one pictured. But this is the one I have, and I love it.
Click here
I do not own the Good Housekeeping Christmas Cookbook, but as a subscriber to the magazine, I've glimpsed some of the recipes and it's on my List. If you're looking for a good, all-around holiday cookbook, check into this one.
Click here

Since we're talking wish lists, did you know some authors have written cookbooks? Oh goodness, the Debbie Macomber fan in my life might like this (looking at you, Mom).
Click here
Macomber's not the only author with a holiday cookbook. Beloved author of Amish novels, Wanda E. Brunsetter, has one, too.
Click here
As for me, I'm curious about Christmas at Downton. It's unofficial, so don't expect photos of the cast or Highclere Castle. But I'm interested in what the book says about Edwardian Christmases and what the recipes are like.
Click here
What about you? Do you have a favorite Christmas cookbook?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!


This week as you shop, travel, cook, and enjoy time with family and friends, take a minute to sit and take a breath. Maybe consider the past year and how God has blessed you. I'll be doing the same--running around, baking pies, and mulling over all God has done for me! I'm thankful for you. 

Happy Thanksgiving. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

November News



I was recently asked what I've been up to lately (ie, "Do you work on one story at a time?" and "how do you spend your days?"), so I thought I'd share the latest. (Please share in the comments what's new with you!)

(But to answer those questions above, No, I'm not able to work on just one story at a time, unless I am deep in writing a novel *and* no opportunities crop up that require a quick response. Lately, I've worked on as many as four stories simultaneously. It's hard to shift gears like that, but most authors I know are in the same boat. So that's how I spend my days!)
  • As you may have seen in last week's post (scroll down) I signed a contract for a new novella! It's called The Honeymoon Express and it will appear in Barbour's The Rails to Love Collection in autumn of 2017. Each novella centers around a railroad theme.
  • I finished first-round edits for One Word From You, my Pride and Prejudice retelling which will appear in Austen in Austin, coming in January, 2016.
  • Right before I worked on those edits, I finished edits for my novella For a Song, which will appear in The Cowboy's Bride Collection, coming in March, 2016. Looking forward to receiving final edits on both this and the Austen novella soon. Then I will need to hop on those once they arrive in my inbox!
  • I've submitted proposals for a few new stories. Working up those proposals was a lot of fun. I hope to soon be able to announce that one or more of them sells!
  • I was summoned to jury duty, so I wrote blog posts to get me through the holidays in case I was placed on a trial that ran a few weeks. Weekly blogging here and fulfilling my obligations on Inkwell Inspirations is important to me!
  • On the blogging note, I've been invited to join Heroes, Heroines & History, a blog featuring many awesome Christian authors! I'll post the 3rd of every month. My first post is called Christmas Kisses...come read it Dec 3!
  • My Christmas newsletter is just about ready to go. All I need to do last minute is PICK WINNERS of the Austen in Austin book! (To win one, subscribe to the newsletter using the button at the right! I promise not to bug you, just say a cheery hello when I have a release.)
And in my non-writing world?
  • As I mentioned above, jury duty. 
  • Breast Cancer Awareness Month--October--may be over, but it's never too late to get a mammogram. I recently had mine. A mammo saved my mom's life, so I'm all for encouraging everyone to get one. Talk to your doctor if you aren't sure about some of the new recommendations, but as for me, with my family history, I get one every year.
  • Busy times with kids. SATs, senior photos, college applications, clubs and activities, church, band...blessings all. But busy blessings.
  • A season of big bills! Car, plumbing, garage door, orthodontia, a weird mustard algae that invaded our pool and required expensive chemicals to treat, those aforementioned college applications... all at once. Everybody has those seasons...thank God for His provision!
  • Holidays are around the corner! Have you started shopping? I have--a little.
Today I blog on Inkwell Inspirations about "Stir Up Sunday" which is this coming weekend. Never heard of it? Come check it out!

So what's new with you?



Monday, November 9, 2015

Announcing...The Rails to Love Collection!



Yipee! I just signed a contract with Barbour Publishing for a novella, The Honeymoon Express, which will be published in the Riding the Rails to Love Collection in  autumn of 2017!

I am thrilled to be in this collection and can't wait to tell you more about it and the other eight contributors sometime soon.

But for now, I can tell you each inspirational romance in the collection involves a train. And I can share a little about The Honeymoon Express.
  • It's set in 1876 on a train headed east to west, from sea to shining sea.
  • The heroine, Ellen, is en route to take a job that was predominantly executed by males. And the hero's job is...well, the heroine isn't sure he even has a job. Nash looks like one of those mountain men she's read about who lives off the land.
  • The hero Nash was loosely inspired by Sully on Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, a favorite show of mine from yesteryear.
  • My dad is a rail-fan and rail historian. I loved chatting with him about logistics and train routes!
Thanks for celebrating with me! I'm truly excited about this collection!

Monday, November 2, 2015

It's November...Time for Christmas Books!

'Tis the season for Christmas Books!

These new, inspy-authored holiday romances are out now, and they're on my reading list for the upcoming season. Let me know if you've read, or plan to read, any of them!

One of my critique partners, Ruth Reid, is in a new novella collection: An Amish Christmas Gift. This group of three Amish stories is rounded out with tales by authors Amy Clipston and Kelly Irvin.

Linda Goodnight is a great author, and the cover of her October release, The Christmas Family,  is adorable. A bachelor contractor offers a Christmas home makeover prize to a struggling waitress, but she won't take charity...until her daughter is hurt on the dilapidated porch.

If you like e-book collections, I'm biased toward Christmas Traditions, since some of the authors are good friends of mine! But get a load of this deal: eight novellas in one volume for only 99 cents.  Jennifer AlLee, Angela Breidenbach, Darlene Franklin, Patty Smith Hall, Cynthia Hickey, Carrie Fancett Pagels, Niki Turner, and Gina Welborn all have lovely stories of Christmases past (which are also available individually).

Christmas Mail Order Angels is also out in a 99-cent collection of six or for individual purchase. Authors of these holiday romances include Cynthia Hickey, Darlene Franklin, Susan Page Davis, Brandi Boddie, Jennifer AlLee, and Teresa Ives Lilly.


Snowflakes and Mistletoe is currently a #1 bestseller, and this e-collection is also only 99 cents for 8 contemporary novellas! Authors include Leah Atwood, Lynette Bonner, Hallee Bridgeman, Kimberly Rae Jordan, Lesley Ann McDaniel, Ginger Solomon, Carol Moncado, and Marion Ueckermann.


Another bestseller and great value at 99 cents is Love's Gift: 8 Christian Romances Celebrating the True Meaning of Christmas. Authors include Belle Calhoune, Debra Lynn Collins, Valerie Comer, Christian Coryell, Heather Gray, Lee Tobin McClain, and Krista Phillips.

Add caption

The O Little Town of Christmas Collection is coming out one at a time in individual e-book for 99 cents each. So far, Cynthia Hickey, Carrie Fancett Pagels, and Linda Baten Johnson's books are out. Look for more soon from authors like Gina Welborn and Debra E. Marvin!

Happy Holiday Reading!



Friday, October 30, 2015

We've Got a Winner!



The winner of Niki Turner's Santiago Sol is...


Caryl K!

Congratulations! And thanks to all who entered.

Many thanks to Niki for offering a book.

Happy Weekend to all.



Monday, October 26, 2015

Ten Things with Author Niki Turner...and a Giveaway!



Welcome, Niki! We're thrilled to join in celebrating the release of Santiago Sol--set in Chile.
AuthorPic2_NikiTurner

In the spirit of All Things Tea, Niki says: "Teatime in Chile is almost as popular as teatime in Britain, probably a holdover from all the Irish, English, and Scottish settlers. In Chile, it’s called once (ohn-say) and includes all the usual tea fare: hot tea, delicious sandwiches, cookies, fruit, and other yummies."

I had no idea! Yum!


Ok, down to business. Here's the scoop on Niki:

Niki Turner is a novelist, journalist, blogger, and the production manager for the Rio Blanco Herald Times weekly newspaper, one of the oldest continuously operating newspapers in Colorado. Her first completed manuscript earned second place in the Touched By Love 2009 contemporary category romance contest. She also blogs at www.nikiturner.net and is a co-blogger at www.inkwellinspirations.com.

Niki is a Colorado native who grew up in Glenwood Springs—home of the world’s largest hot springs pool. She married her high school sweetheart 25 years ago. They have four children, four grandchildren, and two West Highland White Terriers.

In 2014, she published “Sadie’s Gift” as one of the Christmas Traditions novella collection with eight other authors.  The Skiing Suitor, one of the Love’s Sporting Chance series published by Forget-Me-Not Romances, released in August 2015. Her most recent project, “Santiago Sol,” was published by Pelican Book Group as part of the Passport to Romance novella collection. She’s currently working on a new novella for Whitefire Publishing and another one for Barbour House. 


Ten things about Niki!

  1. I’m a 3rd generation Coloradan. My great-grandparents on both sides settled here in the 1800s, and my grandfather and I were born in the same town.  According to family lore, my great-grandmother was quite the socialite and well-acquainted with Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson.
  2. I’m a dog person, with two West Highland White Terriers named Archie and Willabea.  
  3. My first job was as a Christmas elf at our local toy store, complete with a full elf costume. I was 13. I learned how to gift wrap presents correctly and quickly, and haven’t wrapped anything right since. My kids are lucky to get their presents in a bag.
  4. I can’t wear flip-flops. Having that thing between my toes makes my feet ache. I think it’s from years of being shoved into ballet shoes en pointe.
  5. My hometown was voted one of the top ten most fun cities in the country. It’s home to the world’s largest hot springs pool, which is where I learned to swim!
  6. I’m an only child. To this day I do not understand sibling relationships, even though I have four children of my own and now four grandchildren.
  7. My first novel was typed out the summer I turned 14 on a 1940s era Remington typewriter that once belonged to a Denver Post sports writer.
  8. I’ve been married to my high school sweetheart for 25 years. Fourteen of those years were spent as pastors of a small church in a nearby Colorado town.
  9. I live less than a mile from my parents, all on the same property, and more than 10 miles from the nearest small town.
  10. Without glasses or contact lenses I’m legally blind. I’ve been wearing contacts for more than three decades. 

More about Santiago Sol...


When a beloved elderly friend in hospice care makes one final request, Tansy Chastain can't refuse, even though returning an heirloom to the patriarch of a powerful Chilean family will take her halfway around the globe. When she's robbed at the airport, a handsome Santiago businessman comes to her rescue. Sebastian Sandoval decides escorting a lovely American for a few days is a perfect distraction from his grandfather's growing pressure to find a lost family treasure. But even as Tansy breathes new life into Sebastian’s jaded perspective, the secrets they are keeping put them in the path of a dangerous, and desperate enemy.  Revealing the truth to each other now will destroy their growing relationship, but if they don’t, those secrets may destroy their lives.

You can learn more about Niki on...

Facebook: facebook.com/niki.turner 
Twitter:@NikiTurner716 
Pinterest: pinterest.com/niki_turner/ 
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/niki716/

Niki has graciously offered to giveaway a copy of Santiago Sol to one randomly-chosen reader! To enter, please leave a comment with a way to contact you by 11:59 pm Thursday, Oct 29, 2015. Winner will be announced here on Friday,Oct 30!



Monday, October 19, 2015

Tea Time: Curried Egg Salad Sandwiches



The weather has definitely changed at my house! Gray skies, crisp mornings, and a change in the light.

With darker, shorter days, I am more inclined to enjoy a little tea time! Since I'm posting on Brown Betty teapots over on the Inkwell today, I thought I'd include a recipe here to go along with my tea. This salad makes a nice lunch or snack. I hope you enjoy it!

Curried Egg Salad Sandwiches


  • 1/3 cup mayo
  • 1 t. curry powder (or less, to taste)
  • 2 T. mango chutney, chopped
  • 6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • bread--white or wheat is best


Combine mayo, curry, and chutney in a bowl. Add eggs, mashing up the eggs a bit in the process. Spread on a slice of bread, top with another slice. Cut into triangles or other tea-fun shapes. Should make about 8 sandwiches.

Enjoy with a stout cup of Darjeeling or your favorite blend!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Front Row, Please!

love it:

I don't know who made this, but I found it on Pinterest (with a link to etsy that wasn't quite right, so I can't attribute it properly. Forgive me).

But I needed to see this today. It's been a "third row" kind of weekend! And the truth is, joy comes from gratitude, not the other way around.

So here's to gratitude, counting my blessings, and getting a kick out of the ride!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Get Ready for New!

The only constant in life is change, isn't that right?

It's sure true for me, in things both tiny and great. My house is now officially decorated for autumn, and despite the hot weather, it's very pumpkin-y around here (small thing). My oldest child has officially applied to colleges, and it's hard not to think about how our lives will be changed a year from now (big thing). 

Another change for me: seeing my first book published, celebrating it, and then setting it lovingly on the shelf so I can move on to new things. I just finished my edits for my March release, novella For a Song, part of Barbour's The Cowboy's Bride Collection.


Look at the names on that cover! I get to be in a book with those powerhouses? WOW!

In the meantime, I get to work on edits for my January release--a book that's literally a dream come true! My Inkwell friends and I joked about Mr. Darcy in a Stetson, and lo and behold...a Genesis win and a few years later, we get to celebrate by being in a book together! My novella, One Word From You, is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice with a Texas twist in White Fire's Austen in Austin Collection Volume I.

Both are available for Pre-order on Amazon!

I've started something new, too. Something that I'm very excited about...I'll share shortly!

And...

This week I'm a guest at Karen Lange's Meet the Blogger! Pop by to say hi by clicking here!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

You've Got This!


My husband and I are on Day 26 of an exercise/eating program, and we've had pretty good results.
One of the things that makes it work?

In my opinion, it's our mutual encouragement.

Even though the fitness instructor on the screen spouts words of motivation and inspiration ("Pain is temporary but quitting lasts forever!" and "I'm proud of you!"), it's the words my husband and I share that make the biggest difference.

"You've got this."

"You're doing great."

"Nice work."

It really helps having a buddy, a partner in the room who won't let you cheat, who tells you you're all right, who keeps you going. We do that for each other, and we've both acknowledged how much it helps.

We all need encouragement. Babies learning to walk or feed themselves. Toddlers practicing ABCs and holding pencils. Kids learning to ride bikes or...in my house...drive a car. Tender words, enthusiasm, joy, celebration. While we are pretty good about encouraging our kids, we forget we all need it.

Adults don't often get it, though. Not from bosses, and sometimes not from family, friends, or even spouses. And if you think writers have big egos because of the positive reviews we sometimes receive, think again. It's those bad ones that stick in our minds!

Remember Barnabas from Acts, whose name means "Son of Encouragement"? What a gift he must have been to the early Church and those around him. Few people are naturally so encouraging, but I suppose that means the rest of us have to work on it a little bit.

And as we all know, you can never guess what pain someone else is living through. Just because we can't see it, suffering lingers in every human heart.

So today, I'm going to encourage someone. The cashier at the store, a writing buddy, and my family.

When I achieve something that's been a struggle, I'm going to congratulate myself, too--for sticking with it, even if the results aren't what I'd hoped.

And whatever you're going through, remember God is with you in it. He's strong and you can rely on that strength. You're a precious person. You've got this.