Can you believe that Christmas is just around the corner?! I’m so excited about this year’s Christmas book, All I Want for Christmas, not only because it includes some of your favorite characters from books released in 2019 (Meant to Be, Stuck on You, and Where You Are) but also because I’m offering it for a special pre-order price. Starting right now up until the release on December 1st, you can get All I Want for Christmas for just 99 cents. The price will change once the book is officially released, so you want to pre-order it now to get those savings! You can find more information about the book and pre-order your copy by going here.
Here’s just a small peek at the very beginning of the book…
Please don’t let this be bad news, God.
Edie prayed the prayer even as the phone rang on the counter next to her, alongside all of the meal prep she’d been doing for the majority of the morning as she’d been getting ready for their Christmas guests to arrive.
Please don’t let this be bad news, she prayed again as she reached over and picked up the phone, praying the words again and again and as though the repetition would ward off what she knew would be inevitable.
Hey, Edie, it’s me. The church fired me.
It was coming. She knew it. One of these days, Tate was going to get fired from their church. Would it be the deacons who came after him after months of frowning at every word he spoke from the pulpit? Or would it be the personnel committee, gathered together in secret over a series of meetings with plans to get rid of the new preacher over some perceived slight that was nothing more than a contrived misunderstanding?
Or would it come from a source they hadn’t yet learned had grievances against their young pastor, a group of discontents who hadn’t yet started making their lives miserable just as so many members of the church were so skilled at doing?
Edie steeled herself, ready for the word, unable to keep herself from speaking first as she answered the call.
“You still got a job, preacher man?” she asked, holding her breath after she’d released the words to Tate, belatedly hoping that her tone had come across as amused and not terrified.
She was living terrified these days, which was new for her, new for her faith.
Faith. Ha. That was a laugh.
Faith wasn’t something she’d have to worry about today, though.
“Still got a job,” Tate answered just as soon as she’d asked the question, a smile in his voice as he said the words. “Dodged that bullet somehow.”
Tate always sounded like this, so joyful and full of gratitude. How? How could he still be smiling after the last few, rough months they’d had at this place? How could he keep on being glad and thankful that God was allowing him to pastor a church while going through seminary, even when it was clear that the church he’d been called to was all but dead, full of wolves constantly snapping at their heels?
She shook her head, irritated that she had to deal with any of this on this day of all days.
“Then what was that emergency meeting about?” she asked. “On Christmas Day, nonetheless?”
They were accustomed to getting calls from the church at all hours on all days. That was standard stuff, they knew, even though this was Tate’s first real pastorate, a part time gig while he went full time to seminary… a part time gig that was more full time and then some than any job he’d ever had. A preacher was never off the clock as it turned out, but Edie had hoped that Christmas would be untouched, that she and Tate would get to spend their first married Christmas together with peace. They couldn’t travel to be with their families because Christmas morning fell on a Saturday with church the next morning (and Tate didn’t get any Sundays off with this church), but some of their family members were coming to them, understanding this and not wanting them to be on their own for the holiday.
Lucy, Tate’s sister, and her husband, Jude, and their daughter, Bethany. And Hannah, Edie’s sister.
Just four people. It wouldn’t be the huge family Christmas like the ones Edie had grown up knowing, with all six of her siblings, her grandparents, and friends from church who had nowhere to go themselves and had been invited to come celebrate Christmas with her family as well, but it would be good. She’d known when she married Tate that life as a pastor’s wife would mean Christmas wherever they were called, and that most times, it would mean Christmas with just the two of them, stuck wherever they were. That’s what she’d been anticipating, so the surprise of having those four extra family members with them had been a pleasant one, even if she was still just a little sad at the thought of her huge family Christmas get togethers being behind her now.
It would still be good. So, so good. Just the smaller family, all together.
It would all be good, that is, if the church gave Tate time to actually be at home for Christmas, to have just a few hours off the clock.
Of course, if he took that time, would it give the church people yet another reason to want to fire him?
The “church people.” Wow, she was cynical. But how could she be anything but distrusting when she’d sat through so many business meetings full of yelling, angry people who were intent on ripping their shepherd and one another apart over things that just didn’t even matter?
She could hear Tate take in a weary breath as though he’d already read her mind, was worried about the same thing –
“No emergency, Edie,” he said. “Just a couple of people who wanted to bring by some food for us for Christmas.”
“Well, that was nice,” Edie said, surprised by how nice it was. True, not everyone in the church was antagonistic, determined to argue about everything from worship music to mission giving to – and Edie still couldn’t quite believe this one – the bus ministry kids who squirmed during the sermon, like kids do.
Not everyone was like this. Even as Tate and Edie were walking through a tough season at the church, there were still good people who walked with them, who supported them, and who were glad for Tate’s leadership at their church, leadership that focused on greater discipleship within the body and outreach beyond the walls of the church. There were still good people who wanted to see God honored at this place and in this community. God was always good to remind Edie of this at just the right time, at moments like this –
“Oh, and there was an issue with one of the heaters in the sanctuary,” Tate added. “We had to get a temporary fix done, and the chairman of buildings and grounds wanted me to see it, along with the clear evidence that the temporary fix won’t last even a month, so that I’d know just what kind of expense we’re looking at in a week or two when it inevitably breaks again. And that’ll be on next year’s budget, so we’ll start off the year with a deficit in that column.”
And then there were moments like this, when negative news came, when Edie could imagine the responses, the words people would say against Tate and his leadership, as though he could do anything about a heater that kept going out, as if that was a pastor’s job anyway.
“A deficit,” she groaned, already hearing the whispers about the financial drain, how it must be the young pastor’s fault.
“We can’t go without heat in the middle of the winter, though,” he said. “We have senior adults who need it warm. Babies in the nursery. So what can you do, you know?”
“Maybe we should just start a bonfire,” Edie muttered uncharitably. “Right there in the sanctuary. Light a little fire. It only takes a spark, just like the song says. Then, we’ll have the whole place ablaze, and –”
Sure enough, she could see his car pulling into the driveway when she looked out the window above the kitchen sink. They were just down the street from the church, living in the parsonage, which was one of the benefits they’d seen when they decided to come to the church. Tate wasn’t making much as pastor, and Edie’s job at the local high school, working as a brand new teacher as she went through emergency certification for secondary education, her sights set on teaching art and drama, was a pittance of a paycheck, nearly all of which was going towards Tate’s tuition at the seminary. It was good to not have a house payment or rent either one, even if the “free” house came with the expectation that the pastor would drop everything at a moment’s notice to go down to the church and even if there were church people watching them all the time.
Church people. Thought with a shudder on Edie’s part, even though she knew – she knew! – that all church people weren’t confrontational and mean-spirited.
She turned to the door as Tate walked in, a grin on his face at the exclamation.
“What about arson?” she said, making her way over to him, her troubled heart still managing to feel such joy at the sight of him, just like it did every time they locked eyes.
She loved Tate so much, had loved him since they were teenagers, and felt it more and more every day. Marriage and love weren’t about feelings. She knew this. Love was deeper than that, truer, more certain, and not built on feelings that could wane and ebb and change.
But at the moment, it was hard to believe that love was more than just a feeling, as every feeling Edie had that was connected to Tate was a good one.
He slipped his arms around her and placed a kiss on her lips.
“Arson,” he said, a laugh in the sound. “That’s what you were suggesting earlier on the phone. You said you’re going to set the church on fire.”
Well, on her worst days she’d certainly considered it.
“I’m not going to set the church on fire,” she countered, smiling beneath his lips. “I mean, it’s crossed my mind. And it would certainly solve the problem with the heaters –”
“But you don’t need to go to jail,” Tate said. “Prison is no place for a mother and her child.”
“I don’t know,” she said thoughtfully. “Our Elvis might be right at home there. Jailhouse Rock would definitely be the first song he learns, right?”
At this, Tate tilted his head and sighed, even as she bit back a smile.
“Edie,” he said patiently, “we can’t name him that. Elvis? Really?”
He put his hand on her midsection, which was now most definitely sticking out too far to be mistaken for bloating. It had taken twenty weeks to get to this point, and if Edie could believe the books she’d read, it was just going to get bigger and better in the days ahead.
She couldn’t wait.
The baby wasn’t planned, but unplanned didn’t mean unwanted. Tate had been excited from the positive pregnancy test onward, telling her that he wanted a girl, just like their niece, Bethany. The sonogram had blown the possibility of a girl to bits (“oh, that’s definitely a boy,” Tate had murmured to her once the doctors had pointed out what was what), and Edie had been so excited to see him smile at the thought of carrying on his family name with a son.
The family name – Anderson, of course, which was still so new to Edie that she was thrilled every time she signed it. But the baby’s first name would be even better. She’d been planning on naming the baby Presley if she was a girl, but as soon as they’d seen their boy on the screen at the doctor’s office, she’d known just the name she wanted.
“Elvis Aaron Anderson,” she said, sighing contentedly in Tate’s arms, even as she felt the baby move, likely doing some swivel-hipped dance in there, already planning his stage debut. “Singing in the prison cell while I await trial for arson.”
“Nope, nope, nope,” Tate said, leaning over and kissing her with each word. “To the name and prison both. We’re not going to burn anything down. We’re just going to trust God and let it be.”
Just trust God and let it be. Edie wasn’t sure which sounded more impossible at this point. Once upon a time she’d had great faith as well, but this short time in ministry, in actually dealing with people who made mistakes and got angry and weren’t always loving –
Well, she was finding that what went on around her was challenging what was in her heart, which brought to question how real and deep her faith really was if it was so easily shaken.
“Save the arson for another day,” she murmured, not wanting to think about what her attitude during this season of strife said about her. What it said about Tate, who even now was smiling at her as though he didn’t have a care in the world.
“When is everyone getting in?” he asked, looking at his watch.
“Later,” she said, glancing over at the food he’d brought in with him. “And I’ve got some free time now that you’ve come home with food. I can cross some things off the list of all that I was planning on preparing.”
“Thank you to our friends at church,” he said.
“That was nice of them,” she agreed.
“And better than nice,” he said, a twinkle in his eyes now. “Because their generosity gives me a little more time alone with you, Mrs. Anderson.”
And there was a flirty tone to his voice, in that look that he was giving her…
“What are you thinking?” she asked, smiling herself now.
“It’s our first Christmas together, huh?” he said. “And we have some alone time before everyone else gets here.”
“This is true,” she said, raising an eyebrow at him, reaching out for his hand and beginning to pull him closer.
But he resisted.
“Come on, hunka hunka burnin’ love,” she said, laughing out loud now as he held back, grinning at her. “I feel my temperature risin’ already.”
“Elvis lyrics all the time with you, little mama,” he said, laughing with her. “Which is part of what I have planned.”
She stopped tugging on him. “What?”
“Let me surprise you, okay?” he said with a wink, giving her one last kiss as he moved past her and headed to their bedroom in the small parsonage. “Just give me a few minutes.”
And as she watched him walk away with a smile, imagining all that he was planning, she pushed aside all of her misgivings about the church, about the conflicts, and about her own troubling faith.
Want to read more? Get your copy of All I Want for Christmas here!