And this world may push, may pull,
But your love it never fails,
You lead, I’ll follow, Your hands hold my tomorrow,
Your grip, Your grace, You know the way …
—You Lead, lyrics and music by Jamie Grace
WHOO-HOO!!!! A Love Surrendered has been released as an e-book and is available RIGHT NOW on Amazon, CBD, Barnes & Noble and most other e-book providers. Be sure to check out the reviews because they are blessing the socks off of me!! And those of you who pre-ordered the paperback need only be patient for three more weeks till the official release date of October 1st.
And now … let’s continue with our regularly scheduled programming …
You know, before I began writing novels, I used to love to entertain and garden. Most of you are already aware that I have MSD—Martha Stewart Disease—meaning I was totally over-the-top about anything I put my hand to. “Was”?? Ahem … excuse me … “am.”
Take entertaining, for instance. Yes, I actually did pipe guests’ initials into their twice-baked potatoes, always served fresh lemon green beans in little bundles with real lemon napkin holders that I sliced and routed from actual lemons and always drew a dinner-plate layout of just where and how the food would be placed on the plate. Champagne cranberries were always placed in gored-out orange halves edged in a pretty pinking-shear design, Chicken Wellingtons (pastry puffs stuffed with chicken concoction) always had holly leaves hand-cut from dough and painted with green foodcolor and topped with real cranberry berries.
My dinner parties were famous with my friends, especially at Christmas when I’d shore up the center of my long dining-room table with a lavish display of real Christmas tree boughs, white twinkle lights, curly gold ribbon, silver and gold beads and a pretty gift item for each guest interspersed within. One New Year’s Eve, the gift was a tiny gold frame with a hand-picked Scripture for the new year scripted on parchment. Another time, I made tiny gold flowerpots with Christmas fruit and greenery dusted with snow. Yet another year I wrapped the small gifts in silver and gold paper and bows, strewn through the greenery as part of the design.
Of course, the highlight of the centerpiece was this tall, two-foot pewter-like reindeer with spikes at the tips of ten antlers where pillar candles would burn and slowly drip onto the greenery base throughout the meal. The guests would be mesmerized by the dripping wax and beautiful stalactites it formed. Throughout the season, I’d relight that same centerpiece for at least four more dinner parties and by the new year, it was an ice-scape of magical beauty.
The most outlandish dessert I ever made was a three-chocolate, toasted almond-encrusted bowl to put white chocolate mousse in. Pressing aluminum foil into a cereal bowl to garner its shape, I would then streusel dark chocolate over the inverted foil, put it in the freezer for a few hours, then streusel milk chocolate, into freezer again, then streusel white chocolate and whole toasted almonds before it went back to the freezer for a third time. Mind you, this was JUST the bowl for the dessert! I made white-chocolate mousse from scratch to put in it and positioned the whole nest on top of a pool of raspberry coulis. The mousse was then topped with fresh raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and blueberries as well as a tall, sweeping cookie straw. It took me two days to make it, but the look on my guest’s faces was well worth it!
And don’t even get me started on gardening … I had no less than TWELVE berms of flowers in my yard and actually won a gardening contest. Here are some pictures taken way back then at our other house, and by the way — my talented hubby designed and built that S-curve deck!! I was psycho over perennials, and I can still see Keith’s face when I’d pull into the driveway after shopping. He’d glance up from washing his car, and I’d drop my head in shame. “Uh-oh, what did you buy, Julie?” he’d say in that threatening tone, and I wouldn’t answer him. “Open the trunk,” he demanded, and I would shake my head. “Open the trunk now,” he’d repeat, and I had no choice but to flip the latch. There in the well of my trunk would be gardener’s ransom of perennials that I’d bought from some lady in a truck off the side of the road. “You have a serious problem, Julie, you know that?” Keith would say and then shake his head with a smile. “What am I going to do with you?”
Well, you will be happy to know that all that passion for entertaining and gardening is a thing of the past because it now goes into my books instead. But … in honor of my total anality for entertaining and gardening, I am now going to share the BEST chicken recipe you will ever make that my family and friends go ga-ga over AND the BEST gardening tip I have ever heard of or done.
I love roses. But not just any roses. Nope, I love the Jackson and Perkins pink hedge roses that bloom profusely from May through frost, and the first place I ever saw them was alongside the parking lot at Maritz Travel where I worked. Someone told me that I could propagate these same rosebushes on my own by merely planting a cutting (approximately 4-inch cutting with bloom and leaves) from any bush, stick it in the ground, water it, cover it with an inverted glass jar and seal the bottom perimeter with mulch. No way, I thought to myself, but what did I have to lose? So I contacted the head of maintenance for Maritz who was a friend of mine and asked him if I could take about ten cuttings from the abundance of rosebushes around the parking lot. “Of course,” he said, and so I did. Would you believe each and every one of those cuttings were a bonafide and healthy rosebush the next year? When we sold our house, the yard was FULL of pink roses all season long. Now I’m told you can do this with any rose, anywhere, but I think the J&P hedge roses are best, so give it a try—it will blow you away!! Oh, and the best part is SEPTEMBER is when you need to do this!!
So … how does my MSD and lemon napkin holders and glasshouse roses relate to our Scripture today? Well, a few days ago I got really stressed over looming deadlines and so much to do with promoting two books and writing another plus Aunt Julie and then preparing for a biking trip Keith and I plan to take down the road. Suddenly, I lifted my eyes to heaven and said, “God, I can’t handle the stress of all of this, but You can and You have NEVER let me down before. I have never been late with a book deadline, never stumped by a plot dilemma and never failed to do a task You’ve called me to do. So I am not going to worry about these deadlines or my dissatisfaction with how the book is going or worry that Aunt Julie might have a relapse. Nope—it’s all Yours, God—take it! You lead—I’ll follow! So when I heard that song in the car right after that, I started laughing. And then those silly glasshouse roses from long ago popped in my head, and it all sorta came together.
Yes, life chews and withers us like insects and drought wither roses, and then when the overload of worry and anxiety threaten to “cut” off our peace, God picks us up, sticks us in His soil, waters us with His grace and covers us with His Holy Spirit, keeping us warm and vibrant and growing through the bitterest of winters. And when those bitter winds subside and the warmth of spring begins to thaw and melt those iceberg anxieties, we are stronger and healthier and able to bloom and grow and bring beauty to His world.
The trick is—He leads, we follow. Which means when life gets too bitter and heavy with the weight of despair or worry, turn it over to Him and His promises to keep you in “perfect peace” through all of life’s trials. To let him cover you with His love and grace and warmth—just like those roses under the glass, protected and nurtured and loved by the Master Gardener Himself.
THIS WEEK’S GIVEAWAYS AND OTHER DETAILS:
BE SURE CHECK OUT MY WEBSITE CALENDAR FOR THE FOLLOWING ITEMS AND TEN GIVEAWAYS SCHEDULED!! NOTE: Due to a really hectic schedule, I am cutting WAY back on my blog-interview giveaways, so check out my website calendar for the few that are scheduled. Here’s the link:
COME SEE ME … OCTOBER 5TH IN FAYETTEVILLE, N.C.!!! (DETAILS AT THE END OF THE BLOG GIVEAWAYS LISTED ON MY WEBSITE CALENDAR LINK ABOVE.
BLOG GIVEAWAY …
SEPTEMBER 11-18, 2012: Win your choice of any of my books including A Love Surrendered and my Christmas e-book A Light in the Window: An Irish Christmas Love Story at a blog interview/giveaway on CHRISTIAN BOOKSHELF REVIEWS blog at:
Following is my chicken recipe, so enjoy! HAPPY WEEKEND and don’t forget to bloom where He plants you!!
Cooking time: Approximately 30 to 45 minutes on the stove, medium-low
—4 whole chicken breasts (skinless & boneless)
—a stack of approximately 5-6 slices of Swiss cheese, cut into four strips
—6 tsp. flour
—1 tsp. paprika
—½ stick butter or more
—1 to 2 cups dry white wine (I use chardonnay)
—2 chicken bouillon cubes toothpicks
Hammer chicken breasts flat with meat mallet (I put wax paper over breast, then whack it). Place cheese strips inside breast and tightly close with toothpicks. (Note: If you want bigger breast portions, you can toothpick two half breasts together rather than just one breast rolled over, as I have indicated here.) Roll chicken in mixture of flour/paprika and brown in butter. Drain butter and add 1 cup wine and bouillon cubes. Cook over moderate heat for about ½ hour, basting chicken frequently and adding additional wine if liquid thickens and cooks away, which mine usually does. And it’s nice to have extra sauce to drizzle over final product.