Monday, June 10, 2019

Sunset Summer


From my vantage point in the backseat of the van, I watched as the sun sank behind the glistening waters of the lake below. The church van had begun its descent from the mountains, and we had nearly reached the campsite where we would spend the next two weeks at the retreat our church hosted every year for high school graduates.
Turning my attention from the horizon, I twisted around to look at my bestie who had claimed the seat beside me. Her eyes were closed, and I gently shook her. “Hey, Anna. We’re almost there.”
“Really?” Anna rubbed her eyes as she straightened and glanced out the window. As she did so, she gasped. “Oh, Ellen, it’s beautiful!”
I had to agree. The sky was nearly gold, and the colors reflected in the water below, making the lake come alive as it danced in ribbons of gold and dark blue.
“Is everyone else asleep?”
Leaning forward, I checked the other two benches. The guys were sprawled out all over each other, and I was suddenly thankful Anna and I had the back bench to ourselves. “Uhh, looks like it. Except for Pastor Dan, of course.”
“Right, because I happen to be the driver.”
How he could hear me from the front of the van was a mystery, and I shook my head. “Well, that’s a good thing. Keep up on the coffee.”
In reply, he picked up a thermos and held it up.
I grinned and settled back into my seat. Pastor Dan was epic. He was the kind of youth pastor I wished everyone had. He was funny and so easy to get along with, but you also knew that he’d take you seriously and listen if you needed him to. I couldn’t count the many times I had gone to him with a problem, and he’d helped me through it.
His wife was every bit as amazing as he was. However, this year she’d decided to stay home, and I couldn't blame her. Being seven months pregnant, she deserved a couple weeks of rest, not tramping around the wilderness with a bunch of high school graduates.
Every year our church put on this camping trip. Along with two other sister churches, it was a time for all the graduates to get away and get two weeks to focus on God while they searched for His will and direction in their lives.
For as long as I could remember, I had been envious of each group that had made the trip...it was still so hard to believe I was going this year.
Beside me, Anna had pulled out her phone and I could see the open Facebook App. Leaning over her shoulder, I peeked at the page. “Mr. Handsome post any more amazing pictures?”
“Oh, hush, Ell!” But the words didn’t keep a smile off her face. “But no, he didn’t.”
I sat back and let her browse in relative privacy. “Tsk, tsk. When do college classes let out?”
She looked at me. “And why would I know?”
“Really child?” I raised an eyebrow. “Y’all are dating. I hope he would give you at least that much info.”
“Technically, we’re not exactly dating.”
“You’re both dating.” Before I could reply, Pastor Dan’s voice testified that he had been listening to our conversation.
I snickered. “Thanks for backing me up, Pastor Dan.” With what I could only imagine was an impish grin, I turned to Anna. “See? Y’all are dating.”
Anna’s face had turned red and I held back a smile. She looked so adorable when she blushed. One reason I loved teasing her about Jared. He had an effect on her no one else had.
“Okay, maybe we’re dating. But really, we’re pretty much just friends. I mean, he has college to finish. And me?” She shrugged. “I don’t even know what I want to do with my life.”
“Well, that’s the problem you get when the guy is two years older than you,” I pointed out. “Just take things slowly, one step at a time.” I loved being able to give Anna advice, even if I had never been in a relationship myself. The best part about it was, most of the time the advice was good.
 I knew because it was advice my parents had given me for some future day if I ever was interested in a guy.
If I ever were in a relationship, I was pretty sure I’d know most of the answers.
“I know. And we are.” She turned off her phone. “But we don’t need to talk about him right now. We have two weeks ahead of us that are going to be amazing.” She let her gaze wander out the window. “I have a feeling that these two weeks are gonna change a lot.”
At her words, a strange feeling twisted me inside. “I know,” I admitted. “I’ve felt the same way. I don’t think I like it either.”
She turned and gave me something of a half hug. Which wasn’t easy, seeing as how we were surrounded by every bit of luggage imaginable, as well as strapped to the bench with seat belts. “It’ll be an amazing time, Ell. Change… well, change is good sometimes.”
I forced a smile. “I know. I just like life how it is right now.”
Anna laughed. “Ell, honey. You’ve just finished high school. You’re looking at going into college this fall. Trust me, this year… it’s gonna change a lot.”
The sun slipped out from behind a stray cloud and filled the sky with light one last time before slipping away for the night, and I watched as it turned the clouds from gold to pink. “I feel like this is a sunset summer.”
For a moment she didn’t reply, then she asked, “sunset summer?”
I nodded. “You know, the summer where the sun sets on one part of life before rising again the next day, where life looks totally different. Like...oh, I don’t know. Like when seasons change or...something.”
“Sunset summer, eh?” Her voice was soft, and when I turned to look at her, I realized her gaze had joined mine out on the fading sunset. “That sounds beautiful.” She turned. “What do you say we make it a summer to remember?”
I grinned and nodded. “Sounds fabulous.”
My last summer before life changed, with my best friend, at a camp that was committed to focusing on the will of God in our lives.
Anna was right. These next two weeks were gonna be amazing.


*coming soon* 

Monday, April 29, 2019

Giveaway Winners + Amazon links

Annddd... I have winners for you! First and second place. I will be emailing you both shortly!



First place: 

Laura G. You will receive a copy of AQoL, a journal, and a Star of David keychain. 

Second place: 
Rachel Onuta. You will receive a copy of A Question of Honor. 


A huge thank you to everyone who entered and participated in the giveaway! 

Also, the paperback and kindle are *finally* live on Amazon! Here are the links for the paperback and kindle version. Thank you all for bearing with me as I attempted to figure out how everything worked. XD

Again, thank you to all my readers, and everyone who was a part of the blog tour. I coudln’t have done it without y’all. <3 

Saturday, April 27, 2019

A Question of Loyalty Blog Tour - Day 5

Welcome to the last day of the blog tour! I can’t believe we’re already here ... the past few days have gone by so quickly! A huge thank you to everyone who participated; I couldn’t have done it without y’all. <3



We have four ladies joining us today, so be sure and stop by their blogs and check out their posts!
Kellyn Roth - Review - Reveries
Angela Watts - Book Spotlight + Interview - The Peculiar Messenger
Ryana Lynn - Review - Life of Heritage Corner
Kaitlyn K. - Book Spotlight - Twin Thoughts

I still don’t have the links for Amazon, and I apologize! This is my first timer using KDP as opposed to Createspaces, and their process is a bit different - and one that I wasn’t used to. XP  I’m currently just waiting for them to tell me that it’s been published ... and hoping that they don’t somehow find an issue with the files.

Today is the last day to enter the giveaway, so head over and enter! It ends tonight!




Friday, April 26, 2019

A Question of Loyalty Blog Tour - Release Day!

Release day, y'all! And wow. It’s so weird to think that this is the last release day I’ll have for this book series. I love all the characters so much and they all hold a special place in my heart. <3 While I’m beyond excited to be releasing the final book to the world, I’m also just a little bit sad because it means I have to say goodbye. But as they say, all good things must come to an end ... I need to start with book #1 and reread them all now. XD


So, I don’t have an amazon link for y’all yet, but Lord willing I will have the lin to the kindle and paperback version in the post tomorrow! I was up at ridiculous hours last night trying to finalize everything, and now I’m just waiting on Amazon to tell me that they have approved it. 
Honestly though as I was going through and editing I could not believe alllllll the little things I had missed! Made me appreciate editors so much more. Like, seriously. AQoL Is 10x improved because of them. XD 

Today we have two bloggers joining us, and they’re both doing reviews! I am doing my best to respond to comments here on this blog as well as visit the blogs on the tour, and I apologize for running a bit behind on that. I coudln’t have done alll this without y’all. <3 You ladies are amazing!

Molly Anne - Review - Set Apart for Him
Kaitlyn S. - Review - Maidens for Modesty

Giveaway: For this of you who might have been wondering, it is not an international giveaway due to the shipping costs. However, go ahead and enter. If you do live in another Country and win, we can figure out something like an amazon gift card and e-book copy, if that’s satisfying for y’all. ;) 




Thursday, April 25, 2019

A Question of Loyalty Blog Tour - Day 3

And ... day #3! Release day is tomorrow, y'all! And I'm over here lowkey freaking out because ... I still have to format for kindle and go through the final edit. But I'm writing this Wednesday so hopefully by the time y'all read this I will have gotten a bit of that done ... I feel like either I have nothing going on for weeks, and then everything has to be done at once and life is crazy. That definitely describes this week for me. XD



We have two blogs joining us on the tour today, so be sure and check out their posts! Honestly nothing makes this author any happier then seeing everyone celebrating this book with me. ^_^ 


Faith P. - Book Spotlight + Review - Stories by Firefly
Victoria G. - Book Spotlight + Interview - Victoria’s Book Nook

Today I have more music for you ... I think I just like music too much. I'm beginning to realize that it plays a huge part in just about everything I do. Sometimes I like it, other times not so much. It's like everything in my life has its own personal soundtrack. XD 
Anyway. Here's today's piece. 

]
Just a warning, the video does contain some graphic/bloody images. So maybe just listen to it if you're sensitive to that. It does fit the book so well though. At least in my opinion. And the lyrics ... <3 I feel like it would fit perfectly at the end of part 2 in the book. 

You never lived to see
what you gave to me
one shining dream of hope and love
life and liberty
With a host of brave unknown soldiers
for your company, you will live forever
here in our memory

In fields of sacrifice
heroes paid the price
young men who died for old men's wars
gone to paradise
We are all one great band of brothers
and one day you'll see we can live together
when all the world is free

I wish you'd lived to see
all you gave to me
your shining dream of hope and love
life and liberty
We are all one great band of brothers
and one day you'll see - we can live together
when all the world is free.







Wednesday, April 24, 2019

A Question of Loyalty Blog Tour - Day 2

Welcome to day #2 of the blog tour! We have a couple fun posts lined up for today, and I have a trivia question for those of you who have read the series.


There are three reviews happening today, so be sure and show these gals some love. <3 

Soliel - Review - Reviews by Soliel
Abby G. - Review - Photos by Abby Rose
Libby May - Review - Geoturtle


Okay, so I know I said I was going to be posting music this week, and I still intend to, but I got to thinking that I should switch it up just a bit. So today and Friday I’m going to be asking some trivia questions, and sharing a fun fact about the writing process of A Question of Loyalty.

So, the trivia questions for today. Comment with your answer and I will reply and let you know if it was correct or not. ;)

- Arnold plays an important role in A Question of Loyalty, but it isn’t the first book he’s mentioned in. Which of the proceeding books and in which chapter is he first mentioned in? (Hint: he’s not mentioned by name.)
- In A Question of Honor and A Question of Loyalty, Erich struggles with a lot of different things. However, one thing in particular from his past seems to be his greatest weakness. What is it?

And fun fact. A Question of Loyalty was originally written to be the 2nd book, but there was a lot of historical inaccuracies that weren’t working. So I took a break from it and decided instead to leave my English characters in England for a while and make the 2nd book take place in the Pacific. Once I made the decisions to make it the 3rd book, the plot and characters changed drastically from the first draft. The first draft that was completed in 2016 had Rafe, Erich, Arnold, and Micah’s POV, and took place in Switzerland.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

A Queston of Loyalty Blog Tour - Day 1

My goodness it’s been so long since I’ve had one of these! I mean, I guess it’s been a little less then a year, but still. I think that’s the longest that I’ve ever had between publishing books since I started in 2015.


Anyway, I’m so excited to be back this week and hosting the blog tour for the 3rd book in my Questions of War series, A Question of Loyalty. This book holds a very special place in my heart, and I’m so happy to finally be able to share it with all my wonderful readers. I’ve defintely made y’all wait long enough. ;)


This week eneeded up being busy for me with life as well as book stuff, so instead of doing fun trivia and facts like I have in the past when I’ve published, I’m going to share a song each day in each post. I have a playlist of music that I listened to while I wrote this book, so I’ll be picking some from there. Most will probably be soundtracks ... they seem to be the best source of inspiration for me.


Most of the songs may be from the soundtrack for this movie. It was weird how perfectly the song could fit with a certain scene, and even now listening to them make me wanna see the show. Only I know I’ll end up crying and I’m not sure I can handle that emotionally right now. XD

This one is a song I imagine playing in the background as the medical units ship to Normandy in the beginning of the book. It is alive with uncertainty and expectation, and a promise of what’s to come. I love it so very much. For those of you who have read the book, can you see how it fits or is it just my imagination?

Today we have two bloggers joining in the blog tour! Be sure and check out their posts and enter the giveaway! I’ll see y’all back here tomorrow.

Laura Guenot - Review -  Beautiful Things
Kaylee Harrison - Review - Kaylee’s Kind of Writes

Giveaway:





Saturday, March 23, 2019

A Question of Loyalty Blog Tour Signups

Hey y'all! I hope you're haveing a fabulous spring so far! I'm thoroughly enjoying our 60 degree weather, and having fun shopping for spring clothes - fun dresses, anyone? ;) 


I have the full completed cover, the book is formatted, and it's in the hands of an editor for one last edit before I print the proof copy.  So now it's time for the sigh ups! I almost opted out of a blog tour this time, just because April is so busy for so many people. But this book is arguably my favorite of the series (with AQoC as a realllyyyyy close second. XD) So obviously I need a blog tour to celebrate the release! Right? right. 

I've included two forms below. The first is for the blog tour, and i think it's pretty self explanatory. :) If you sign up for a review copy, you will get an ARC copy in PDF format. 
The second form is for those of you who don't have a blog, but want to review. The only catch is that I would really appreciate it if you could have your review up by the 26th of April. :)

To find out more about the book, you can read about it here on Goodreads! https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38476906-a-question-of-loyalty


Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas Day 2018 - What Christmas means to me

Every year, Faith over at Stories by Firefly hosts a 12 day long Christmas blog party. While I wasn’t able to join in as much as I would have liked to this year, I still wanted to do at least one post. A post talking about what Christmas means to me.



Now, christmas means so many different things to different people. That’s what makes it special. For all the traditions and the common thread that is woven through this season, each and every person and family has their own special traditions and times that make is unique. To each person, Christmas means something just a little bit different. And no two years are the same. Yes, Christmas is always about celebrating the birth of our Saviour, but each year has its own memories that will never match another’s. This christmas wasn’t like last year’s, but it was amazing in its own way.


Christmas means ...

Outdoors that smell like pine
Picking out the perfect Christmas tree
Peppermint mocha while studying with friends
Study dates that turn into just hanging out
Seeing Christmas lights with family
Hot chocolate and raspberry coffee
Discovering Starbuck’s White Chocolate Mocha
Chilly nights spent discovering new places with good friends
Warming your hands by a fire and smiling over how perfect the night is
Cooking in a warm kitchen
Christmas songs and laughter floating through the house
Trips to the mall for Christmas shopping
Christmas is new adventures swirled with the familiar. It’s old traditions mixed with a new season of life. It’s family and friends, it’s laughter and shopping. It’s giving and receiving. But most of all, it’s remembering the gift that was given to us over two thousand years ago.

During this season, we so often focus on the joy of Jesus born to save us. And it’s a good thing, because we should focus on that. But let’s also remember, joy wasn’t the only emotion on that holy night. Heaven had lost its Master. God had sent His Son away into a sinful world. Because He loved us so very much.
So if you’re feeling a little off this year, if you’re missing someone who can’t be there, if you’re having a hard time being excited for Christmas, remember, you’re not alone. Jesus, above all, knows how to it hurts to be seperared from those you love.

But even then, even when it hurts, He can help us choose joy. Because on Christmas night, all those years ago, God gave us something to be joyful for. A Saviour, who understands our pain, who is with us in the happy times, and who can help us to choose Chrismtas joy - even when it’s difficult.

Christmas, above all, is choosing to be joyful for God’s gift of love, even while we’re in an imperfect world.

Merry Christmas, Y’all.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

A u t u m n ~ 2 0 1 8

Sometimes life brings you seasons that are so perfect and amazing you don’t even want to talk about them for fear that it will spoil it. That’s what this autumn has been. I can’t put into words just how full and happy I am. Back in August I had no idea what the coming months would bring, and I coudlln’t wait for Christmas because it would mean the end of the year. And now... now I wish we still had several months until 2019. Because I don’t want this season of life to end.
Words alone can’t describe how life has been. It’s been full and crazy busy. But it’s been blessed and oh so amazing. Yes, I just said words can’t describe what life has been as of late, but I’m going to try. Autumns isn’t just one thing. It’s so many little things all put into one.

To me, Autumn is ...

Hot chocolate and walking in the leaves
Learning to dance and feeling as if you’re flying
Studying sessions with classmates that turn into coffee dates
Early mornings and late nights
New adventures and taking that leap of faith
Locking eyes with someone and laughing because you know you both thought the exact same thing
Getting a text message from a friend telling you that he has confidence in you even when you’re scared to death
Sipping coffee and laughing with a classmate over a joke that no one else will get
Finding someone who loves country music as much as you and singing along with the radio
Having a phone conversation with a friend about random subjects that woudln’t make sense to anyone else
Discussing politics and sharing opinions with no one getting offended
Laughing with a friend over a video assigned for school
Getting excited about something and having someone to share it with
Inside jokes that only your classmates get
Days where you think life is as perfect as it gets, and then the next day proving to be even more amazing
Feeling so happy you want to cry and soak it all in, hoping it never ends
Stopping and taking a moment to enjoy everything around you, because you know that all to soon this season will end and you’ll have to let go.

That’s what Autumn has been for me.

How have you been, friends? How is life? What has Autumn been for you this year?

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Life Changes

*tentativly steps into the room* Heh ... hi, y'all. It's been a while since I posted, to say the least. It wasn't my intention to take a blogging break, but at times life brings along seasons we weren't expecting.
I hope y'all's summer was wonderful. Mine was, and I'm still trying to figure out how it's already gone. It's seems like it was just a week or two ago that I was planning everything fun that was going to happen, and now fall is informing us that it's not too far away. 
It's kinda funny, isn't it. How the things that you look forward to the most are the things that seem to pass the quickest. And you're left just wondering where the time had gone to. 
A lot happened this summer. It was one of those times where, when you were in the midst of it, nothing felt like it changed. But looking back ... nothing is the same. 
For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you probably have a pretty good idea of what's been going on in my life. Seeing as how it's pretty much the only social media site I actually use somewhat frequently. XD
This summer I enrolled for EMT classes at a local community college, and I'm in the middle of my third week of classes. I'm not even sure if words alone can describe just how much this means to me. I've dreamed about college for years, but due to family health issues or such, I was never able to actually enroll and begin. I'm still trying to believe it has actually happened. (Though, the homework assignments are starting to make me realize that yeah, this is real. xD)  

In addition to that, I've spent the summer working on editing A Question of Loyualty, and sending it to beta-readers. My goal is for it to be released sometime mid-November, but we'll see. I've also decided that this will be the final book in the series. I'm not ruling out a companion novella or something in the future, but this will be the 3rd and final book in the Questions of War series. It took me a little while to come to that decision, and it wasn't an easy one to make. I've come to love my characters and their individual stories. However, when I started writing, I knew it would be temporary. I wasn't one of those people who wanted to write forever. It was a season. And it was a season I loved. Which is why the decisions to make this the final book in the series was so hard. I've been so blessed by all the amazing people I've met in the Indie writing community. I can't imagine life without y'all. <3 

Yes, I'll still write. I'll still read far too much. I may publish more books or novellas. But writing ... it's gonna be pretty low on the priority list. College, work, family ... and whetever else God brings into my life in the next year or so, they'll be my priority. Writing is going to be more of a hobby. 

College along with my other responsibilities, taking on more work, and volunteering at church as left me not a lot of time for much else. Including blogging. I still want to finish my 1 Corinthians 13 series. I mean, I still have a few weeks until the calender says summer is over, soo... xD I definitely want to finish it before then. 
And after that I'm not sure. I want to keep blogging, but we'll have to see. It'll be far from the consistent posting schedule I've tried to keep in the past. (And yes, I'll probably still blog about writing in some form or another. Because I still love to do it. xD) 
Hopefully, though, y'all won't mind some more random posts. Because if these past two and a half weeks have shown me anything, it's that an EMT class is far from boring. 

How about you? How was your summer? Has anything drastically changed in your life? Anything special happen?

Three of my favorite songs this summer have been Fast by Luke Bryan, Seasons Change, by Scotty McCreery, and Life Changes by Thomas Rhett. Because they kinda sum up what this summer has been about. 
Change. New beginings. A new season. 

I'm a summer person, through and through. But this year? I can't wait to see what Autumn brings. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Love - {A Summer Blog Series on 1st Corinthians 13} - Part 2

Hello all, I'm back! I did mention that I wasn't on a schedule this summer, didn't I? ;) Anyway, to make up for not posting the past week or two, there will more then likely be a couple posts this week. You've been warned.
Now onto Part 2 ...


(Read part 1 here)

1 Corinthians 13: 2, 5 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil. 

-------

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

Knowledge in and of itself is worth nothing. You can know a lot and be super smart, but without love, you've earned nothing. I personally like to debate people. I like it a lot. And while I don't believe there's anything wrong with it, I have to be careful. Because if I'm not lacing my arguments and speech with love, I'm coming across as knowledgeable and proud. I'm not showing Christ's love to the people I'm talking to. 
I can be right in everything I say. I can know my Bible inside and out. I can have every bit of theology perfected. But if I'm not letting everything I do be affected by Christ's love... I'm profiting nothing. 
Miracles and Faith are good ... but they're nothing without love. 


Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil

Doth not behave itself unseemly. Love behaves as it should. It honors boundaries and doesn't push for more. It respects those who are over them in areas of authority, treats with kindness those who are under them, and acts with courtesy towards all. 

Seeketh not her own. It is not selfish. Though shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. It lives according to this verse, and always puts others ahead of themselves; always puts others first. It does not seek its own praise or profit, nor does it seek its own desires ahead of others. It's a selfless kind of love; the kind Christ showed when He died for us. That's the kind of love we should strive to have, with Christ's help. 

Is not easily provoked. Love restrains itself. It doesn't get angry without cause, and when there is cause, it still is slow to anger. I love this definition that the Matthew Henry Commentary uses; "Anger cannot rest in the bosom where love reigns." 

Thinketh no evil. Love carries no malice, and gives no through to revenge. It forgives, even before forgiveness is asked. Yes, it's hard. No, on our own, it's not possible. Love, the way it was designed by God, is only possible with God. In the same way a fountain or spring needs to have a source, so does our love. On our own, we can't love like Jesus, because we can't give what we don't have. Only when we have a close realtionship with Christ and are receiving His love can we hope to love others in the way that is pure and Christlike. 
This sort of love is not apt to accuse others unjustly, and it doesn't have the ability to be jealous or suspicious. It refuses to continue to hold onto past offenses without reservation. 
Love hurts. It's not the way we naturally want to act. We want to get even. We want to be able to have what other people have. I struggle with that. How come I have to continue to love and forgive when I'm seeing to visible repentance, or when I keep praying and loving, but get no response?
It hurts. But it's a good kind of pain. It's growing pain. It's bringing us closer to Christ, and helping us to be able to better understand His love for us. 

-------

Anddd... that wraps up the 2nd post. I'd love to hear your thoughts! 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Independence day + Short story



Hello people! Happy independence day! I hope you guys have a fabulous day as you celebrate with family and friends. I'm so very grateful for the freedom we have in this country, and I pray we never take it for granted. This nation has stood strong in freedom for 242 years. I only pray that it continues or many year to come.


I wrote a short story for the 4th of July - I hope y'all enjoy!

*-----*

The rain that had stolen the sun from the early July day continued to hammer on the roof, each drop sounding like the ping of a BB gun pellet. Perfect, I thought. It matches how I feel. Goodness knew I had every reason in the world to be cheerful. I mean, it wasn’t like some sort of tragedy had happened, or someone I knew was in the hospital. 
No, from outside standards, my life looked nearly perfect. And it was. Except for one thing. 
This would be the first year that I watched the fireworks without him. I attempted to push the thought away, but to no avail. I was glad mom and my sister had decided to go on a spontaneous shopping trip.I was alone at the house. That way there was no one around to see me cry. 
It was funny how you could miss someone so much. 
The phone rang, interrupting my moody thoughts. Sniffing to get my tears under control, I swiped a hand across my cheeks before answering the phone. Not sure why; it wasn’t like anyone could see me through the phone. 
I slid across the screen to answer, hardly glancing at the number. The ringtone already informed me who was calling; I had a different one for each contact.
“Hey, Jana.”
“Lauren! Hey!” Jana’s perky voice sounded through the microphone. “How are you doing?”
I cleared my throat, willing my voice to sound clear. “Oh, I’m doing okay.”
There was a pause. And then, “Okay? What is it? Spill.”
I made a sound that was somewhere between a sigh and a laugh. My bestie knew me too well. Still, though. I didn’t need to make my problems become hers. I shrugged and lowered myself onto the sofa. “Nothing much. The rain is affecting me and not in the best way.”
Once again there was a pause, stretching longer this time. “Jana? You there?” This wouldn't be the first time the weather had messed with my cell phone reception. 
“It’s him, isn’t it?” 
Rats. She knew me too well. My eyes traveled out the window to the huge tree that graced our front lane. “Yeah.”
“I should have known.” the voice grew muffled, and I could almost see the frown in her next words. “You should have called me.” 
I smiled and twirled a strand of my straw colored hair around the finger of my free hand. I never could sit totally still. “Maybe.”
“But?”
“But I already bother you enough as it is and I’m pretty sure you’re tired of hearing about the guy.” I knew that if the places were reversed, I’d probably have tired of it a while ago. 
Jana snorted. “Hogwash. Fred is deployed, honey. Maybe I don’t love a soldier, but I can imagine just how hard that would be on a person. It’s been months since you’ve seen him. And around this time of year…” Her voice trailed off and I could hear something jingling on the other end of the line. Something that sounded like keys. “Hey, Lauren, I’m gonna come by and see you, okay?”  
“Oh, no, Jana, you don’t--”
“Hush child. I’m on my way. Be there in twenty minutes or so.”
There was a click and the line went dead. I pulled the phone away from my ear with a smile. Jana was amazing. 
As I slid the phone back into my pocket, her words repeated themselves in my head Around this time of year… 
The tears I had managed to keep back threatened to come again. This time of year. July. Independence day. Summer. The million and one memories I had of us came alive without warning. The days we’d spent together, just enjoying our time. Talking by the creek. Watching corny movies I still couldn’t believe he’d talked me into watching. Playing games with his two siblings and my sister until we’d either gotten too tired to play, or his brother managed to win. 
All the happy memories.  Before his family moved three hours away. Before he joined the service, went off to training, and got deployed. 
I stood and walked to the kitchen, getting out two cups. One for Jana and one for me. Then I pulled out the pitcher of sweet tea and set it on the counter beside them. That was all she ever wanted when she came. Some of mama’s good, old fashioned sweet tea. I had to admit, it wa pretty amazing. And Fred had loved it, too. 
I hadn't heard from him in so long. Sometimes I felt I would give almost anything just to get a message from him. And it didn’t have to be long. A, “Hey, I've been thinking about you.” would be worth far more then its weight in gold. I sighed. I had known what I was getting into when we started dating. But it didn’t make it any easier. 

---

Jana's visit was everything I needed. She had a way of cheering me up and making me forget for a little while that Fred wasn’t here. Everyone needed a friend like her. 
“Hey, do you have any plans for the 4th?”
She had finished her tea and sat beside me on the sofa, twirling her empty glass in her hands. I shrugged. “We’re gonna have hamburgers and such.Dad’s gonna do them on the grill  Let off a few fireworks. Something small.” 
“I have an idea!” She reached over and put a hand on my knee, and I held back a smile. She was nearly bouncing with enthusiasm. 
 “You can come celebrate with us! We’re gonna have a bunch of people from our church over, and it’ll be an amazing time!”
I almost shook my head to dismiss the thought, but hesitated. What was there to keep me from going? We alway celebrated early, anyway. There would be plenty of time for me to get over to Jana’s house before the fireworks started. 
I felt a grin lifting the sides of my face. “Sure, that sounds fun.”
“Oh, yes!” Jana pumped her fist in the air as if she had just won an important argument, and tucked a loose strand of her brown hair behind her ear. “This is gonna be so much fun!” 
I laughed, and for the first time all day, I felt light. Maybe it would be fun. Fred wouldn't be there, but Jana was bound to make it a day I wouldn't forget. 
On impulse, I reached over and gave her a hug. “I love you, girl.” 
I felt her arms go around me and she gave me a squeeze. “Love you, bestie.” 

---

I felt as if I had stepped into a whole different world when I arrived at Jana’s house. Their place sat at the edge of town, and they had several acres around their house. Patriotic music played in the background, loud enough to be heard across the whole of their expansive yard. 
Jana must have seen me pull in, and she left the crown and hurried over, giving me a quick hug. “You came! I was half afraid you’d decide not to.”
I snickered as I locked the car behind me. “I’m not that much of an introvert. I do enjoy get togethers every once in a while.” 
“Mhm.” Jana didn’t seem convinced, and I lightly cuffed her shoulder. “Hush. I’m here.”
“I know.” She linked her arm in mine and gave me a smile. “And I couldn't be happier. Come on, we’re just about to start the fireworks!” 
She pulled me through the crowd of people, some I knew and some I didn’t. We attended different churches, but it seemed that somehow everyone in this town was connected. 
A moment later we’re standing near the front--A bit too close, in my opinion. But I knew Jana loved getting as close as possible. 
Moment’s after we arrived, her dad and a few other guys from the church let off the first round of fireworks. The bright colors light up the night sky, exploding in colors too vibrant for words. 
Behind me I can hear everyone exclaiming over the beauty, but different thoughts run through my head. I close my eyes and listen. Is this what it sounds like overseas, where Fred is? Are these the kinds of sounds he has to face every day, knowing that unlike our fun celebration, the sounds could kill him?
The thought seems to wrap its fingers around my chest and I take a deep breath. God, keep him safe.
“Did you start the party without me?”
The voice is close behind me, and my eyes fly open at the words. That voice...I turned and met Jana’s gaze, and her eyes are every bit as wide as mine. Hardly daring to let myself hope, I turn the rest of the way till I can see whos behind me. 
And for a moment, I can’t move. 
He’s standing there in his uniform, giving me a ridiculous smirk, his eyes alight with mischief.  “What? I can’t surprise my best girl on the 4th?” 
“Fred!” I throw my arms around his neck, and his own arms go around me. I hear him chuckle. “Happy Independence day, Lauren.”
I don’t answer, only hold him tighter, as if I’m never gonna let him go. This is where I feel safe. This is home. In his arms.
I suddenly remember that there are people around watching us, but at the moment I couldn't care less. “You’re home.”
I loosen my grip and step back, tears shimmering in my eyes. Against my will, they spill down my cheeks. 
The look on his face suddenly softens, and he reaches down to brush them away. “I am, baby girl. I am.”
Nothing could describe the way I felt. As the fireworks started I tucked my hand in his arm and rested my head against his shoulder.
This would be an Independence day I remembered forever. 



*-----*

I hope y'all have a blessed 4th of July. May God bless America!