Renee Andrews's Blog

March 8, 2018

Haley's Book is Finally Here! Read Chapter One...

Finally a Bride (Willow's Haven) by Renee Andrews

Chapter One

"Is he going to die?"

The little boy's wailing question echoed down the hallway of Claremont Veterinary Services.

Her first day flying solo as Claremont, Alabama's resident vet, and Haley Calhoun feared she was about to witness a little boy losing his best friend.

Why hadn't Doc Sheridan waited one more day to retire?

She'd pray to God for guidance, but they weren't exactly on speaking terms so she held that thought in check.

"Oh, dear, that doesn't sound good, does it?" Mae Martin petted Snowflake, her finicky Turkish Angora, who was curled up on the exam table. The huge cat's green eyes grew wide, as if she were extremely annoyed by the little boy's cries.

"No, it doesn't." Haley hoped her sole employee, Aaliyah Smith, could assess and handle the situation long enough for her to complete Snowflake's annual checkup. "Mrs. Martin, Snowflake is doing fine, other than the dry skin issue. Aaliyah has the mega fatty acid supplement I recommended up front if you want to purchase that when you check out." She delivered the statement as quickly as possible, since the cries from the lobby had turned into pitiful, sucking whimpers.

Mae nodded before Haley completed the sentence. "Yes, dear, that's fine." Her silver charm bracelet and heavy bangle jingled as she waved a hand toward the door of the exam room. "You go tend to that baby out front. I'll talk to Aaliyah about those supplements." She reached for Snowflake's pink floral carrier and prepared to coax her contrary pet inside.

"Thanks, Mrs. Martin." Haley moved toward the steel sink in the exam room to wash her hands.

"And I'll be praying for you. I know you're bound to be a little nervous handling things on your own around here with Doc Sheridan moving to Florida, but I can tell you're going to do just fine."

Mrs. Martin had no way of knowing how desperately Haley wanted to do "just fine." She'd always dreamed of having her own veterinary practice, and she'd moved to this tiny Alabama town six years ago specifically because Doc Sheridan had assured her he was on the verge of retirement and ready to turn over his practice to "young blood." But now that he was gone, she felt overwhelmed.

"And the fact that you're starting that new program for the Willow's Haven children to work with animals…well, I admire you greatly for that. Those kids need so much, don't they?"

"Yes, they do." Haley had been so busy getting ready for Doc Sheridan's retirement and learning the details of running the place on her own that she hadn't even visited the children's home yet. But she planned to get the program started this week.

"It's beautiful out there, isn't it, at Willow's Haven? At least the children have a nice place to live," Mae continued.

Haley washed her hands, dried them and then grabbed three tissues out of the box on the counter. "I haven't actually seen it yet. I've only talked to Brodie and Savvy Evans on the phone." She kept her voice calm as she gathered her courage to face what could be a very bad first day as the only vet in town.

She'd recently made the decision to help the orphaned and abandoned children cope with their losses by giving them animals to care for, but listening to the cries in her lobby made her wonder if it might not always be a positive experience.

"Oh, you're in for a treat. Willow's Haven is beautiful, and so peaceful. The church put an announcement about the upcoming program in our bulletin last week. By the way, we've missed you there, dear," Mae called out, bringing up yet another uncomfortable topic while Haley strode down the hall toward the lobby.

"Thanks," she answered, not making any promises about seeing her there any time soon. Instead she made a beeline toward the wailing boy.

"I found him-" his watery hazel eyes focused on Aaliyah, who was leaning down to look at the teeny ball of fur cradled in his arms "-in the woods behind our cabin. I think he's scared. I thought he was hungry, but he wouldn't eat my snack. And Mr. Gavin said I shouldn't try to feed him anything else until he sees the doctor."

Haley noted that the boy was wearing a puffy, blue winter coat and red mittens, even though it was merely late October. A light dusting of dirt coated his face, barring the tear streaks striping both full cheeks. More dirt was missing beneath his nose, which dripped from crying. He looked around six or seven years old, best Haley could tell, but with worry lines as intense as her grandfather's currently creasing his forehead.

She should have grabbed more tissues.

Wasting no time in crouching to his eye level, she performed a perfunctory scan of the quivering puppy in his arms. A mixed breed, brown and black, with quite a bit of Yorkie in him. Bones were visible beneath his thin coat but, at first glance, none appeared to be broken. Probably dropped off on the side of the road, poor thing.

"He wouldn't eat my snack. I tried to feed him, but he wouldn't eat it."

Haley took one of the tissues and tenderly wiped beneath the boy's left eye, then followed suit with the right. Doubling up the last two tissues, she asked, "Can you blow your nose for me?"

He nodded, placed his nose in the center and proceeded to make a sound like something she'd expect to hear from one of her animals instead of a darling little boy. Sniffing, he completed by rubbing his nose against the tissues before glancing at Haley. "Sorry. I blow loud."

She smiled. "Yes, you do, but that's okay." She wiped the wadded tissues beneath his nose again, then tossed them in a small trash can in the lobby. "What's your name?"

Another sniff. "Eli."

"That's a nice name."

"It's from the Bible." His eyes blinked overtime to battle more tears.

Haley nodded, not wanting to stir the pot by acknowledging she knew the story about Eli and Samuel. Mrs. Martin would enter the lobby soon, and Haley didn't want any additional reminders that she should be at church. Therefore, she changed her focus from the boy's name to the quivering animal and held her palm in front of the puppy's nose. He made no attempt to move toward her to get a better scent, which should have come from mere instinct. "And what is this little guy's name?"

"Mr. Gavin called him Buddy when we found him in the woods."

Haley glanced toward the opposite side of the lobby, where a man had his back turned to her and talked quietly on his phone. Mr. Gavin, she presumed. He didn't seem overly concerned with the little boy's dilemma, which didn't earn him any brownie points in Haley's book. Was he the boy's stepdad? A teacher? Mom's apathetic boyfriend?

It bothered her tremendously to see adults neglecting a child. Her own parents had been amazing at supporting her growing up, attending every activity and encouraging her through every step of her veterinary dreams.

A shame that, after being the model husband to her mother and perfect dad to Haley, her father had turned his back on them completely.

She winced, not wanting to go there again.

The truth was, in spite of her dad eventually letting her down, she'd wanted to be the kind of parent and have the kind of family she'd had growing up. She'd wanted children desperately and had planned to have at least one by the time she was thirty.

That milestone birthday had passed last month and since she'd now decided against all dating and relationships, children certainly weren't in the picture. But she could still be around them and show them that someone cares. That'd been her main reason for wanting to start the new Adopt-an-Animal program for Willow's Haven.

Mr. Gavin continued talking on his phone and Haley all but snarled toward his back.

She returned her attention to the one who needed it. "Buddy-that's a great name." She scanned the puppy. His fur was dull and brittle, eyes opened marginally then closed again, as if he didn't have the energy to look at who held him. Running a finger along his back, she easily felt his spine, which would have been visible had it not been for a thin layer of scruffy, dry hair.

"He wouldn't eat my fruit snacks," Eli said, anxious to provide insight as to what was wrong with his new friend. He'd made this statement a couple of times already, obviously wanting her to know he'd done his best to assist the little pup.

Haley nodded. "He hasn't eaten a lot of food in a while, so he'll have to take his time learning to eat normally again. But it was very thoughtful of you to try to feed him."

Eli's top teeth tugged his lower lip, his eyes blinking as he soaked up every word.

"Think about when you're sick. When you aren't feeling well, do you eat a lot?"

"Just soup. And maybe Sprite." He was absolutely adorable, with his dirty little face and pleading eyes, and so concerned for the puppy in his arms.

"Right. Well, he will need to work up to eating again, too, like you do after you've been sick." She'd continued probing and performing a pre-exam on the tiny dog while talking to the boy, and she was now fairly certain that no bones were broken. The pup didn't show signs of distemper, and though his breathing was shallow, he wasn't struggling for breath. Even so, he wasn't out of the woods yet. She would need to keep him for treatment, and she hoped the boy would understand.

"He doesn't eat soup, does he?" Eli asked. "`Cause I could get him some if that'll make him better."

"No, he doesn't, but I can try some other things that his tummy should be okay with, until he can work his way up to eating normal food again." She placed a finger under Eli's chin. "Would that be okay, for me to take care of him here for a little while? To help him feel better?" Haley knew the puppy wouldn't have made it very long in the woods on his own. This little boy, whether he realized it or not, had potentially saved him.

"Do I have to leave him here?" The panic in his voice pierced her heart and his grip on the puppy increased, so that the little animal let out a squeaky yelp.

Haley barely noticed the man on the other side of the lobby turn to face them, because she was too intent on capturing the boy's attention. "Eli, calm down, honey. I am going to do my best to get him well. I promise."

He stared at the puppy, still whimpering. "Did I hurt him?"

"You just don't need to squeeze him so much," she said. "But I can tell that you aren't trying to hurt him, and he knows that, too."

"He does?" Eli looked imploringly to Haley. "Are you sure?"

She nodded. "Of course. Puppies can tell when someone cares about them, just like people can tell when someone cares about them." She fought the impulse to glare at the man who had shifted his stance and was now undoubtedly watching their interaction.

"I want to keep him." Eli took a small step away from Haley. "He doesn't have anyone to love him, and he's scared."

A muffled clearing of a throat caused Haley to finally glance up at "Mr. Gavin" and, for a moment, her breath caught in her chest. Not what she's expected. She'd anticipated an older, grumpy, stern-faced gentleman who wouldn't show concern for the broken-hearted boy. But this man was young, around Haley's age, she'd guess, with one of the most strikingly masculine faces she'd ever seen.

Haley swallowed, forcing herself to get a grip on the awareness flooding through her. She wouldn't be swayed by his gorgeous good looks and rugged presence.

The bottom line was that he didn't seem to care about this little boy's pain.

And that was reason enough for Haley to dislike the man.

So when he glared at Haley, she glared right back.

Gavin Thomason had thought taking the seven-year-olds from his cabin for an adventure hike would be a great way to enjoy the crisp October afternoon.

The Claremont Community Church had bought the kids new coats, hats and gloves this afternoon for the upcoming winter months. Knowing the boys had been eager to try out their new things, he'd thought the hike had seemed like a great idea.

So, after assisting all of them with their homework, he'd given each boy a sheet with photos of leaves to find and told them they could don their new winter duds for the adventure, even though the temperature was in the mid-sixties. He'd planned to talk to them about the different trees God created, about the leaves changing color and about how God gives us seasonal weather to enjoy throughout the year. He'd anticipated this leading into the afternoon devotional, focusing on how, in God's world, things change. And, more importantly, on how change didn't always mean something bad.

Since all the kids at the children's home had gone through tremendous life changes, he'd thought the devotional would be well received. That it would help them deal with their unique circumstances, whether they'd been orphaned, abandoned or neglected by their families.

But once Eli had heard that puppy's cry, all Gavin's plans for the afternoon had flown out the window.

Mark Laverty, one of Gavin's fellow cabin counselors, had taken over today's activity so Gavin could take Eli and what appeared to be a dying puppy to the vet. Gavin had prayed the whole way here because, of all the boys in his cabin, none had been through as much pain as Eli. And none had touched Gavin's heart like he had, because he'd lost everything that had mattered in his world…

Just like Gavin.

"Do I have to leave him here?" Eli turned away from the vet to direct the question to his cabin counselor. "I don't want to leave him, Mr. Gavin. He's scared."

The vet, whom Gavin had barely acknowledged until this point, glanced up from where she crouched next to the boy. Gavin focused on the woman who, at this moment, could hurt the child more than anyone else if she didn't help this pitiful dog. And he wasn't all that certain of her ability to do so. She certainly didn't look like any vet he'd ever seen before. She was young, probably a little younger than Gavin's thirty-one, with vivid green eyes amid a pixie face, pale pink gloss on heart-shaped lips, and long blond hair that hung well past her shoulders.

How hadn't he noticed her before now? And why had he picked today, of all days, to become even remotely aware of an attractive female?

Regardless, he wasn't ready, or willing, to let his mind start noticing such things as green eyes, glossy lips or silky hair.

Not yet. Maybe not ever.

God, help me.

"Buddy needs to stay here, if you want him to have the best chance…" Her voice drifted off, but Gavin knew where the statement had been headed.

…for survival.

Then his mind honed in on the fact that she'd called the dog by name.

"Buddy?" he asked. Was she familiar with the pup? Did she know the owner? Or whoever had abandoned him?

Eli sniffed. "That's his name. That's what you called him when we found him."

Well, what do you know? Gavin had unintentionally named the pup. He'd merely told the little tuft of fur, whining in a pile of leaves and pine straw, "We'll take care of you, buddy."

And now, thanks to Gavin, they had a "Buddy," and one that Eli didn't want to leave behind.

He did his best not to notice that the vet was even lovelier when she looked at the puppy and boy with such compassion. Steeling his heart for her answer, he asked her directly, "Are you able to heal him?" He didn't want to get Eli's hopes up if she knew the tiny dog's chances were slim to nil.

Her cheeks twitched slightly, eyes narrowing the slightest bit.
Gavin noticed.

But he didn't care.

He wanted an honest answer about the dog's chances, because he wouldn't lie to Eli, not about this puppy or anything else. The little guy already had enough tough blows to last a lifetime, and Gavin wouldn't allow this young doctor to cause him more unnecessary pain.

She looked away from Gavin, her features softening as she placed a hand beneath the puppy's scruffy chin. "He's severely malnourished, and it'll take time to get him back to a healthy condition. He's undoubtedly been on his own for a few days." She looked like she wanted to explain further, but Eli emitted another sucking whimper that made her pause and drape an arm around him.

"But, yes, I do know what to do to try and make him better." The last sentence was delivered to the little boy beside her rather than the man who had asked the question.

Gavin prayed that the woman who sounded so convincing…hadn't just lied to the kid.

"But I have to leave him here?" Eli repeated, this time his lip quivering through the words.

"So I can take extra good care of him." She tenderly brushed a tear from his cheek. "Is that okay, Eli?"

"But what if-what if he dies? What if he goes to Heaven, too?" He looked toward Gavin and then back at the doctor, "What if I was too late-again? Like I was too late when Mommy and Daddy died?"

Gavin felt punched in the gut. Last year, the kid, at only six years old, had tried earnestly to save his parents, even after all the adults around him had given up.

The vet bit down on her lower lip and Gavin could tell that she was trying to control the emotions pressing forward at the hint of Eli's tragic past. And he recognized the same deep sorrow that he felt every time he thought of the way this little boy had been left, all alone, with no one to care for him.

Much like that little dog in the woods.

"I'm going to do my very best to make sure that doesn't happen," she promised.

"Can I come see him though? Like, every day?" Eli shifted the quivering dog to one arm and wiped the opposite red mitten across his cheek to knock the tears away before returning it to cradle the pup. "Can I come after school? He needs to know that I love him. It's important. I'll need to show him."

She blinked twice, held on to that lower lip a long beat before finally speaking. "That would be very nice, and I know it would comfort him to know you care."

Eli nuzzled the puppy, who had fallen asleep in his arms. "Can I, Mr. Gavin? Can I come see him every day until he's better?"

"Yes," he said gruffly, as if any other answer would escape his lips. "I'll bring you after school, after you finish your homework. But you need to give the puppy-Buddy-to Dr.…" He'd noticed her name embroidered on her white jacket, but from this angle, he couldn't read the script.

"Calhoun," she supplied, and then she softened that clear, lyrical voice, looked at Eli and said, "Or you can call me Miss Haley."

Haley Calhoun. The name sparked a hint of a memory, something he'd overheard recently, but he couldn't recall what was said.

Gavin shook the scattered thought away and nodded to Eli. "Now give Buddy to Dr. Calhoun, so she can take care of him and help him get better."

Eli eased the lifeless animal toward the doctor. "O-kay."

Her eyebrows dropped, fingers probing gently as she took the puppy.

Trying to divert the boy's attention from the doctor's sudden look of concern, Gavin pointed to the schoolbag Eli had dropped near a chair by the door. "Eli, why don't you grab your backpack and get ready to go? We'll come see Buddy again tomorrow."

Gavin's phone rang and he saw that Savvy Evans, who ran the children's home with her husband Brodie, was on the other end. No doubt she wanted an update on the mistreated puppy. He answered, "Hey Savvy, we're still at the vet."

Eli halted his pace toward the backpack. "Can I tell Miss Savvy about Buddy?"

Gavin nodded. "Savvy, Eli wants to talk to you." He gave him the phone and listened as the boy recited every detail, from holding the puppy on the way to the vet to everything Haley-Dr. Calhoun-had said since they'd arrived.

While Eli was occupied talking, Gavin took the opportunity to approach the doctor, now quietly instructing her assistant about Buddy's initial course of treatment. The assistant left for a moment and then returned with a blue blanket in her arms.

"It's warm?" Haley asked, and the other woman, who looked around twenty, nodded. Then the doctor tenderly transferred the pup, as though he were extremely fragile, to the blanket in the assistant's arms.

"Hello, Mr. Thomason," the younger blonde said.

Gavin was clueless and apparently showed it.

"Aaliyah Smith. I go to church with you," she offered, "at Claremont Community Church."

"Right." He hated the fact that he was so often preoccupied with his own world that he rarely noticed others, even during religious services. Or maybe, he was so often preoccupied with his past that he rarely noticed the present.

But he noticed the children in his care, and most everyone else who was involved with helping the boys in his cabin.
Aaliyah gave him a soft smile, presumably not offended that he hadn't recognized her, and then hurried to the back with the dog. Observing her haste, Gavin feared the worst. So while Eli continued telling Savvy about Buddy, he moved toward the doctor and touched her shoulder. "You can't let that puppy die."
Unfortunately his words came out brusquely, more like a command than a request.

The vet's eyes widened, mouth formed a small O, and then she stole a glance at Eli, still talking, before lowering her voice to match his. "I can promise you I will do my best to bring him back to good health. That's my job, and I take my job very seriously."

Gavin wasn't influenced by the fact that he'd irritated her. He needed answers, pure and simple.

"Okay, what does that involve? What's wrong with the dog, and what are you planning to do?" He hated the accusatory tone, but he also couldn't control it. Whether she liked it or not, she'd become a key factor in whether Eli lost something else he cared about, and Gavin wasn't about to let that happen. Not on his watch.

She narrowed those green eyes again. He'd offended her. That hadn't been his intention, but if it got him the information he needed, so be it.

"Buddy has been on his own for at least three or four days. He is dehydrated and needs to be treated for parasites." Her voice had taken on a clinical tone that he knew all too well. It'd been the same one the doctor had used when Gavin received the news that his wife-the true love of his life-died giving birth to their son. And then, merely an hour later…that their baby boy had died, too.

Two years ago today.

Gritting his teeth to combat the pain of the past, he forced himself to listen while the doctor continued.

"We will start by putting him in a quiet, safe area away from other animals, lights and activity. We want to keep him as calm as possible. Aaliyah is taking his temperature now, but he felt cool, so we've wrapped him in a warm blanket and will regulate his temperature slowly. If this is done too quickly, it could harm his delicate nervous system."

Gavin kept an eye on Eli while he took advantage of his preoccupation to learn more about what the doctor planned for Buddy's treatment. "And then what?"

Still in that clinical tone he loathed, she explained in detail the steps planned to help the pup.

She paused when a white-haired woman carrying a pink floral bag walked toward the lobby from one of the exam rooms. The bag mewed continually as she crossed the floor. White fur and green eyes pushed against the mesh end.

"Why, Mr. Thomason, what brings you here?" Mae Martin asked. Then she saw Eli, his back facing her as he talked on the phone on the other side of the lobby. "Oh, my, was that crying child I heard one of your darling boys?"

"Yes, ma'am."

Mae was a regular visitor to Willow's Haven, one of the volunteers who read library books to the children. The readers had become a part of the kids' world, so that, even though they didn't have a real family, they still had a family of sorts through Willow's Haven and the small Claremont community. Mae had been assigned to Gavin's cabin, so she knew each child. Her eyes moved to Eli, who'd turned in her direction but was still too focused on his conversation to notice Mae.

She shook her head. "Bless his little heart. Those children have already been through so much. I could tell he was upset when I heard him crying, but I didn't realize when I was in the back that it was Eli. Such a tender-hearted child. Is everything going to be okay?"

"It will be." He looked pointedly to the doctor. "Right?"

"That's. My. Goal," she said, her words clipped.

"Well, you won't find a better vet than our Haley, that's for sure," Mae said. "She and Doc Sheridan have been taking care of Snowflake for five years now." She pointed a finger at the vet. "And, like I told you, don't you worry about being on your own now that he's retired. You're going to do a great job here." She smiled at Gavin. "Today's her first day on her own, you know."

Not what Gavin wanted to hear. His face must've shown it because those green eyes grew sharper, daring him to comment. He held his words.

"Thank you, Mrs. Martin," Haley said as Aaliyah returned to the front counter.

Gavin knew better than to say anything else to the doctor about his fears, so he turned to Aaliyah. "The puppy-he's doing okay?"

"He is," she answered with a smile, "temperature is coming up. I have him under the warmer while he's waiting to be seen by Dr. Calhoun."

"Great." Gavin nodded once toward her then returned his focus to the veterinarian while Aaliyah spoke to Mrs. Martin. "How long do you expect the treatment to take?"

Again, looking incredulously at him but answering calmly, she explained, "There is no way to know, but the minimum amount of time I'd anticipate to stabilize him is around seventy-two hours. That wouldn't be when he's ready to be released, but stable enough to begin eating and hydrating normally." Glancing toward Eli, she added softly, "He could be here a while."

Gavin couldn't control his frown. Eli wouldn't be happy about that, but if it was necessary, then that's what would have to happen. "As long as you keep him alive and get him better, that's fine."

One eyebrow lifted slightly. "I'm so glad that's fine for you."

Gavin hadn't been much of a people person over the past couple of years. He had a big heart for children and had always interacted with them well, but the ability to communicate effectively with adults, particularly attractive females, no longer fell into his list of finer attributes. Clearly that was still the case with this vet.

Which was fine. He didn't want anything beyond a surface acquaintance with any woman. "We'll stop by tomorrow then, after school, so Eli can see for himself that Buddy is getting better." Then, without giving her a chance to respond, he turned to the boy clicking the end button on the cell. "Come on, Eli. We'll come back tomorrow."

"Okay, Mr. Gavin," he said, handing him the phone. Then he rushed into the arms of Haley Calhoun. "And please get him well for me, Miss Haley. Okay?"

Gavin waited for her to give the correct response.

"I will do my best."

The little boy that held Gavin's heart in his hands turned and gave him the first semblance of a smile since finding the puppy. He truly believed the vet could save Buddy.

Gavin forced a smile and prayed for God to heal the pup, because he didn't want to be there if Eli's heart was shattered again. He had a feeling it would take God's intervention, too, for the animal to pull through.

Mae Martin turned from the counter toward Eli. "Why, Miss Haley will take the absolute best care of your little Buddy."

The memory Gavin had sensed earlier clicked into place and he recalled exiting the cabin to find Mrs. Martin speaking to Savvy about her concern for a former church member. Haley Calhoun.

"What a shame," she'd said, "that such a beautiful, young lady who'd been so involved in the congregation seems to have given up on God when she gave up on men."

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Happy Reading!
Renee Andrews
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Published on March 08, 2018 07:03 Tags: christian-romance, claremont, love-inspired, renee-andrews

October 28, 2017


“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.” Psalm 37:4-6

I have a Twitter account (@ReneeAndrews). If you follow me on Twitter, I’ll go ahead and apologize, because I don’t post that often. Most of the time, I will re-tweet what someone else has posted, often our son, Rene (@ReneZeringue), because he actually posts fairly regularly, and his words are most often spiritually uplifting and thought-provoking—things I want to share with my readers.

But recently, I did post a bit of text from a sermon that I found extremely inspiring. The gist of the message was how we need to trust God. If you’re unfamiliar with Twitter, you may not know about the hashtags at the end of each tweet, but basically, in order to allow others to find your post based on subject matter, you can add a hashtag (#) at the end and follow it with text that highlights the subject or theme of the message.

So when I posted my message, I began to type the hashtag at the end and follow it with trustHim (#trustHim). Now, the computers are programmed to guess what you plan to type, right? So, as I began to type, my computer filled in the text with #trustnoone.

Trust No One.

I stared at the screen in disbelief. How sad, that in today’s world, the most popular person to trust (at least in the program of my computer) is no one. Honestly, I can’t remember hearing that at all when I grew up. If you heard the word “Trust,” it was typically followed by, “God” or “in the Lord.”

Quickly, I replaced the suggested text with what I intended: #TrustHim. And I will attempt to remind others—and myself—that my faith and my trust is in God.

This Week: If you’re on social media of any type, post this verse: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5 #trustHim

Mondays with Jesus 2018: Devotions to Begin Each Week of the Year Mondays with Jesus 2018 Devotions to Begin Each Week of the Year by Renee Andrews
Renee Andrews Renee Andrews
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Published on October 28, 2017 09:20 Tags: christ, christian, devo, devotional, mondays-with-jesus, renee-andrews, trust-god

September 19, 2017

Save me, I'm Drowning...

Mondays with Jesus 2017: Devotions to Begin Each Week of the Year Mondays with Jesus 2017 Devotions to Begin Each Week of the Year by Renee Andrews

“Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me.” Psalm 69:1-2

My sister and I had taken all of our children to a swimming pond about a half hour from our home. At the time, we had four little boys (my niece was born shortly after). Typical little boys, they were always getting into something, and this day was no exception.

We rented a pedal boat and took the four boys out into the water. Gina and I were pedaling and enjoying the beautiful day, and we thought the boys were enjoying the ride in the back. Consequently, we had six people in a five-person pedal boat, which didn’t seem to be a problem, since the boys were all pretty small. But that was before my nephew Mason found something to do to entertain himself in the back.

By the time we reached the center of the pond, a loud voice boomed out over the water (I had never realized the place had speakers in the trees until now, because no one had ever had a reason to call out to us before). And the voice said…

“Little boy! Stop putting water into your boat! You are going to sink!”

At this point, Gina and I turned to see Mason holding a small water pail, the same pail he’d apparently been using to put one scoop of water at a time into the boat, which was now barely hovering above the surface. A few more scoops and we’d have surely gone down.

Frantically, we all started scooping up the water with our hands and pitching it back into the pond, until the boat eventually crept above water’s surface, where it belonged.

But the memory is still vivid, that feeling that we might very well be going under, and not because of a flood, but because of a tiny pail…one scoop at a time.

Isn’t that the way it is with sin? You add a little, then a little more, and then more and more, but in such small increments that you don’t realize you are sinking, that the very vessel keeping you afloat is about to plunge beneath the surface and take you with it.

Thankfully, though we may not hear it in a booming voice screaming from speakers in the trees, we do still have the opportunity to hear the warning. We have God’s Word on our hearts. We have the Holy Spirit to comfort us and guide us. We have fellow Christians to hold us accountable and to keep us from sinking. Or scoop us up when they see us start to go under.

This Week: Are you sinking slowly, one pail at a time, with your sin? More than likely, you won’t have a voice screaming at you from the trees to tell you that you’re drowning. But you have the Bible. You have prayer. You have the Holy Spirit. You have fellow Christians. You—are—not—alone. Grab hold of the One who cares and let Him save you from your sin.

Renee Andrews Renee Andrews
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Published on September 19, 2017 10:19 Tags: christ, christian, devo, devotion, devotional, drowning, renee-andrews, save-me, saved

September 7, 2017

We love because He first loved us...

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

(Written by our youngest son, Kaleb Zeringue.)

Thursdays are my weekly marathon. I wake up, drive to Birmingham, spend a few hours there, drive straight back to Gadsden (an hour one way) to eat lunch and then head to the gym and coach until it's dark outside. Then I head home and rest.

The past two weeks I have had new motivation and anticipation for arriving back home. It's this little guy, Konrad Asher Zeringue, born June 8th.

What has he done to warrant such affection? To capture my thoughts and imagination all day on my busiest of days?

He has pooped on himself, every day since I met him, peed on me countless times, grunted so loudly in his sleep that he wakes me and his mom up. He really likes to grunt. He also throws both of his arms up when he sleeps, cries for me and his mom when we are right next to him, stares at me blankly as I desperately try to be the first one to make him laugh, makes hilarious faces when he sees sunlight and, most importantly, he's MY SON.

Such is the way with God, I think. We try so hard to impress God and earn his love and affection, but all the while, we are pooping everywhere, grunting in our sleep, crying when we don't feel Him or hear His voice (even when He is right next to us), and looking at Him blankly when we don't understand Him.

Konrad has not earned my affection, yet he has all of my affection and favor and love because he is my son. In the same way, you and I have not earned God’s love, but we have ALL of His affection and ALL of His Favor and ALL of His love…because we are His Sons and Daughters through the holy adoption that took place when Christ went to the cross and died for us.

This Week: If you have a baby in your home, pay attention to how many times he or she needs you on a daily basis. If you don’t, offer to babysit for a friend, so you can be reminded of how needy that little person is. Then imagine yourself as God sees you…as a child needing our heavenly Father. Praise God that He loves us even when we’re as needy and as messy as that precious (and sometimes needy and messy) bundle of joy!

Mondays with Jesus 2017 Devotions to Begin Each Week of the Year by Renee Andrews Renee Andrews Renee Andrews
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Published on September 07, 2017 06:22 Tags: babies, baby, christian, devotion, god, inspirational, renee-andrews

August 21, 2017

The Lord looks at the Heart


“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

As we sat in the waiting room for labor and delivery, I listened to a woman sharing the news of her grandchild’s birth on the phone.

“He has ten fingers and ten toes. He’s absolutely perfect!”

I glanced to J.R., sitting beside me, and then to the other family members sitting with us and waiting for the birth of our third grandson. I know J.R. heard the comment and thought the same thing I did, but I am not certain whether our other family members heard the statement, and I didn’t point it out at the time.

Everyone was very sensitive to the topic then, because our grandson had yet to be born; however, from the ultrasounds that had occurred in the preceding months, we knew that he was missing at least one digit on his right hand. Now, I know the lady wouldn’t have ever made the statement if she had known, but even so, it stung.

Her grandson was absolutely perfect, she said. But all I could think was…

So is ours.

Ten fingers and ten toes doesn’t equate to perfection. In fact, one of our dearest friends was born without arms. But when I look at Mr. Dean, I don’t think about his disability. And when I look at our grandson Ryan, now three years old and thriving, I don’t even notice the difference in his fingers. He’s adjusted very well and uses both hands fine, even hitting a baseball on one of our recent trips to see him in Tennessee. But the main reason I don’t notice anything different with both of them is because I’m not looking at the outward appearance. I look at them…and feel love. I look at them…and see their hearts.

This Week: In everyone you meet this week, look beyond the superficial and see the real person beneath. Look at others the way God looks at us, so that you aren’t noticing anything…but the heart.

Mondays with Jesus 2017: Devotions to Begin Each Week of the Year Mondays with Jesus 2017 Devotions to Begin Each Week of the Year by Renee Andrews

Renee Andrews Renee Andrews
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Published on August 21, 2017 07:50 Tags: baby, birth, christian, devo, devotional, inspiration, renee-andrews

August 10, 2017

Stop and Smell the Roses


“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20

I grew up in a small town in North Alabama—Glencoe—population roughly 5,000. Small enough that everyone knows pretty much everyone, that there are only a couple of traffic lights needed, and that you can take a few blinks while driving through…and miss the town completely.

For the first twenty years of my life, I dreamed of moving away, living in a big city, meeting new people, experiencing exciting things that could never be accomplished in my tiny town.

Or so I thought.

For the second twenty years of my life, I lived in many cities. I started in New Orleans (quite a contrast from Glencoe, to say the least), moved to Huntsville, Tuscaloosa, Atlanta, and a few other places in between. I lived in the big cities. I met new people. I experienced exciting things that couldn’t be accomplished in my hometown.

Then…I moved back home.

And I started noticing things that I hadn’t appreciated before, the beauty of small-town living, where you have relationships with people who not only know you, but they also know your parents, your siblings, your history. The neighborhoods where no one passes by without waving. The friendliness of the people at the local grocery, where it isn’t a rush to see how quickly you can move your cart through the aisles, but a tradition of visiting with friends also shopping.

This past weekend, we moved into a house in the very neighborhood where I grew up. This morning, I walked down the street to pay my water bill (yes, I can do that here), and I passed beneath the canopy of trees where I often walked with my Granny. I remembered her slow and steady gait and the way she would point out the gardens and what vegetables were growing, the pastures of cattle and horses, the bits of God’s creation that she appreciated each day. And what I appreciate now that I am back and older and…wiser.

Wiser as to what is important. Wiser as to how the less hectic life isn’t all that bad. In fact, I prefer it. And wiser in knowing that this, being nearer to my family (my parents and both of our sons live in this neighborhood too) and back near my roots, is as close to heaven as I can get on earth.

The only things missing…are the loved ones who’ve gone on to their reward. And when I see them again, then, I’ll truly be home.

This Week: Spend some time looking at photos of your youth, at the original place you called “home”. If possible, visit it again, or hey, do what I did, and move back! Think about how amazing it will be when you are really…home.

Mondays with Jesus 2017: Devotions to Begin Each Week of the Year Mondays with Jesus 2017 Devotions to Begin Each Week of the Year by Renee Andrews

Renee Andrews Renee Andrews
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Published on August 10, 2017 03:22 Tags: christian, coming-home, devo, devotional, home, homecoming, inspiration, prodigal, renee-andrews, small-town

July 26, 2017

The Narrow Road...


Mondays with Jesus 2017 Devotions to Begin Each Week of the Year by Renee AndrewsMondays with Jesus 2017: Devotions to Begin Each Week of the Year

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14

I’ve mentioned how much we love to camp, and when we camp, we also enjoy hiking, especially when those hikes allow us to see things that we would miss when traveling by car or motorcycle.

If you’ve ever traveled the mountains of North Georgia, you’ve probably heard about the abundance of hiking trails in the area. You may have even driven past the signs that noted a trail path nearby. If you did drive past, you missed out, especially if the trail ended with one of the natural waterfalls the area is known for.

On one of our camping trips near Helen, Georgia, J.R. and I decided to take the boys hiking to see as many waterfalls as possible during our stay. We would get up early in the morning, drive to the point where the trail began and then start the journey.

We had been told about one particularly difficult hike. “It’s a tough one, but the end is so worth the journey.” Unfortunately, we decided to save this particular hike until our last day, and on that day, the forecast called for rain.

Determined to see the breathtaking waterfall that everyone had told us about, we started down the path. And as we’d been told, the trail grew very narrow at times, to where we had to walk single-file along a ledge. At other times, the trees seemed to crowd us in, causing the forest floor to darken from their shade and making the hike seem more frightening than exciting. Sure enough, when we were about halfway there, and in the thickest part of the woods, it began to rain.

We found shelter in a shallow cave while waiting for the storm to pass. J.R. and I had brought backpacks with water and snacks for the boys (they were still fairly young at this time) and attempted to make the snag in our plan as enjoyable as possible. Typical boys, they thought the time in the cave made the day even more “cool.”

Finally, the rain passed, and we had a decision to make: do we turn around and give up on seeing this waterfall, or do we continue, even though the skies were still churning, another storm potentially brewing to hit us as we made the trek.

With a bit of trepidation on my part, we decided to carry on. The rain carried on too, causing us to slide on slippery rocks and tumble on tree roots or slick leaves.

Toward the end of the journey, we were all drenched. And cold. And weary. But then…the sun began to shine. And we heard the thundering rush of water up ahead. Pushing forward through the final batch of trees, we saw what all the fuss was about.

Have mercy, it was amazing. And so very well worth the journey. Water burst forward, cascading and pounding and splashing its way down the mountain, soaking us even more, but this was different. This wasn’t the dark rain trying to keep us from making the trip but this was the reward, a refreshing splash reminding us that we’d survived the terrain and had been awarded one of the most exquisite scenes I’d ever witnessed.

The path was narrow. The ground was rocky and tough. We were wet. And cold. And tired.

Isn’t that how we feel sometimes in life? Wouldn’t it be easier to turn around and take the easy route? To forget about the breathtaking glory that awaits at the end of the journey? But oh, what we would’ve missed if we’d have turned around. And didn’t it seem even sweeter…because of the difficult terrain?

This Week: Search and find the nearest waterfall. Hike to see that stunning creation of God. Thank Him for that view…and for the journey you took to see it. Then thank Him for the ultimate reward at the end of life’s journey.

Renee Andrews Renee Andrews
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Published on July 26, 2017 09:52 Tags: christian, devotion, devotional, heaven, narrow-gate, renee-andrews

June 19, 2017

Let's Go Camping!

Mondays with Jesus 2017: Devotions to Begin Each Week of the Year Mondays with Jesus 2017 Devotions to Begin Each Week of the Year by Renee Andrews “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Romans 1:11-12

If I had to choose my favorite family vacations, I wouldn’t list those where we stayed in a hotel or had someone preparing our meals or making our beds. In fact, I’d probably choose the trips that involve the most work, our treasured camping trips.

Camping? Treasured?

Yes. And yes.

Ever since our boys were little, we’ve had family camping trips, as well as camping trips that involved groups of friends, often our friends from church. We typically arrive in the evening, pitch our tents and then find ourselves lulled to sleep by crickets, owls and frogs. Since most of our camping locations are away from any type of town, the sky is pitch black…except for those magnificent stars. All of God’s creation just seems more vivid, more real, when you get away from the hustle of the world and take a chance to breathe.

On these trips, our days are filled with children riding bicycles, running and playing around a campground. Afternoons and evenings find us all cooking together, then sitting around a campfire where we chat and laugh and sing. We roast hot dogs and marshmallows over an open fire (marshmallows are inevitably nestled against a chunk of chocolate and placed between two graham crackers for s’mores).

Because we’ve moved several times over the years, the friends that accompany us on our camping trips have changed due to proximity. However, the families that have shared those special times with us are still some of our closest friends today. There’s something to be said for encouraging each other’s faith together, particularly when you are doing something that reminds you of your Lord.

And, perhaps because God is so clearly on display during these precious times, conversations often center around Him, around our faith and around our appreciation toward our Creator.

Are you wanting to take a camping trip yet? I know I am.

Why are those vacations so much more memorable than the ones where we were waited on hand and foot?

Because of the fellowship. The time spent together enjoying each other’s company. The meals created together and then consumed together. The joy of marveling over God’s creation…together. It is as if we’re glimpsing heaven. And it makes me look forward to that amazing fellowship we’ll experience there, with our Lord!

This Week: Plan a camping trip. Invite some friends and enjoy the beauty of God’s world and the fellowship of God’s people.

Renee Andrews Renee Andrews
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Published on June 19, 2017 08:45 Tags: camping, christian, devotion, devotional, heaven, heavenly-reunion, renee-andrews, reunion

June 15, 2017

We Love Because He First Loved Us...

Mondays with Jesus 2017 Devotions to Begin Each Week of the Year by Renee Andrews Mondays with Jesus 2017: Devotions to Begin Each Week of the Year
“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

(Written by our oldest son, Rene Zeringue.)

My daughter doesn’t love me. I know that sounds like the opening statement of a man lying on a couch in front of a PhD, but the statement remains. She doesn’t love me. Granted: she is not yet a month old. She does not yet comprehend love, nor will she for at least another . . . 20 years or so. She is still figuring out what is going on in this bright place. Her eyes are deep, yet shallow. She does not love me, but she will. I don’t know when it will begin, I don’t know how it will start, but I do know that it will happen. Why will it happen, you ask? Because I love her. I love her now. Right now. Before she loves me, I love her. Because I hold her, because I kiss her incessantly, because I express my love throughout each day, because I provide for her, because I care in a way unknown before my sons arrived, because I love her now, she will love me. I long for that day with everything in me. It is going to bring me untold joy each time I hear it, as it does now with my sons.

Praise God that He loved you first. When you had not even begun to comprehend love, when you were still figuring out this bright place, when your eyes were shallow, when you did not love Him, He loved you. God longed for the day with everything in Him that you would reciprocate that love, and it brings Him untold joy each time He hears and sees it. Praise God that He loved you first.

Isaiah 64:7 – “There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.”

Romans 3:10-12 – “No one seeks for God.”

They are telling me that we are not too far away from my daughter reaching for me. She has not done that yet, but she will. I reach for her now. Many, many times each day, I reach for her. I reach for her to change her, to burp her, to carry her from place to place, to comfort her, but most times I reach for her just to hold her, to have her closer to me, to love her. I reach for her again and again, and because I do, she will reach for me one day, and I cannot wait. Again, I long for that day with everything in me.

Praise God that He reached for you first. When you were not only unable to reach but unwilling, he reached for you. When you were convinced that you were good on your own, that you did not need help, that you were sufficient, he reached for you. When you were convinced that you had all of the answers you needed, He reached for you. When you did nothing but cry and whine with all selfishness, He reached for you. WHAT JOY it brought Him the day you reached for Him, because He first reached for you. WHAT JOY it brings Him each day as you reach, arms to the Heavens, for the One that you love. Praise God that He reached for you first.

This Week: The next time you see a baby, their eyes attempting to focus and see you, their faces confused and attempting to learn about this great big world surrounding them…think about the fact that, even when you couldn’t comprehend the mere essence of love, when you were simply something to be cared for…He reached for you. He cared for you. He loved you! Praise God!

Renee Andrews Renee Andrews
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Published on June 15, 2017 06:44 Tags: christian, devo, devotion, devotional, father-s-day, renee-andrews

May 31, 2017

I am Not Ashamed...


“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58

We lived in Atlanta from 1994-2000 and attended a fabulous church there during that time. We hadn’t attended a church that sang a lot of the contemporary praise songs before, and this one introduced us to many that we still love. The worship leader would also prompt you to think more about the words and the meaning. For example, whenever we sang “I Stand in Awe,” the congregation would begin singing while seated…but when we got to the chorus, we would all stand. It was so moving and powerful to stand and raise our voices together in awe of our Lord.

Fast-forward to 2001. We had moved to North Alabama and attended a much smaller church that had just started singing the songs that we’d come to love in Atlanta. And on that very first Sunday, the church sang, “I Stand in Awe.” Naturally, when the chorus started, J.R. and I stood and continued singing.

And it didn’t take us but a second to realize…

We were the only ones standing.

Now, let me tell you a little about the people around us. Many of them were people I had attended church with for years during my youth. Several were my relatives. In fact, my sister nudged my brother-in-law to stand so that we weren’t on our own, but he shook his head. And she remained in her pew as well. It was just out of the comfort zone for everyone in the building, and no one was budging.

In spite of this awkward fact, J.R. and I remained standing through the remainder of the song, and then sat with the rest of the congregation.

I think about that first service at our small church often, particularly when I encounter other situations in life where I feel I’m standing on my own. Every now and then, when we follow our Savior, it causes us to stand out from the crowd, to feel different, even a bit awkward. And we have a choice. We can sit back down and blend in with the masses, or we can remain standing, unashamed, and praising our Heavenly Father.

I’d love to say I always remain standing, the way my husband and I did that Sunday at our new church, but sometimes the awkwardness gets the best of me, and I disappear within the crowd instead of standing tall for my Lord. But Christ stood up for me, didn’t He? He went to the cross for me! And I pray for His forgiveness when I find myself quietly blending instead of standing for His glory.

This Week: When you are tempted to take the easy route, to blend with the masses instead of standing against the crowd, remember the One who stood for you, who still stands for you and who will always stand for you. And make a difference. Do not be afraid to be seen. Oh, and about that small congregation in Alabama…they still sing “I Stand in Awe” fairly often. But nowadays, when they hit the chorus…everyone stands

Mondays with Jesus 2017: Devotions to Begin Each Week of the Year
Mondays with Jesus 2017 Devotions to Begin Each Week of the Year by Renee Andrews

Renee Andrews
Renee Andrews
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Published on May 31, 2017 18:31 Tags: christian, devo, devotional, inspiration, renee-andrews, unashamed