Tuesday, September 3, 2019

2019 ACFW Mix and Mingle

Hey friends! In a few weeks, I'll be attending the ACFW Conference in San Antonio, and this week, I'm participating in the annual Mix and Mingle, hosted this year by my friend, Janine

Name: Laura Brandenburg
Location: West Texas (near Lubbock)
What you write/tagline/trademark: I write feel-good, real-life stories of redemption, forgiveness, and grace. 
Place in the book world: I'm an avid reader. Currently pre-published. My agent and I sent out proposals this summer for my split time novel. 
On a scale of hugger to 10-foot-pole, please rate your personal space: I'm definitely a hugger, but maybe a bit reserved with new friends. 
Something VERY serious: How do you take your Starbucks? I usually get a flat white or a vanilla latte, but it's pumpkin spice latte season, which is my fav! Mmmm.
The unique talking points that will get you going for hours: I love college football and Gilmore Girls and grammar. And like most writers, I love talking about books. I read all sorts of genres for both CBA and ABA markets, but my favorite authors are Kristen Heitzmann and Charles Martin. 
Loved ones at home you’ll be missing: I'll be 31 weeks pregnant, so I'm bringing along my hubs and our soon-to-be daughter, but we'll be missing our Weimaraner, RIzzoli, at home. 
Conference goals we can pray for? I am hoping to have good meetings with editors and, of course, get the request for my manuscript. I also want to meet and connect with authors. I come away from ACFW every year grateful for the new friends I've made. We need each other on this journey, and so I'm praying for re-connections and new connections. 
Anything we can celebrate with you? After years of praying and believing God for a baby, we are expecting our first this November! That's not book news, but it's the best news ever. :) (In book news, I finished my third book earlier this year and am working on a companion e-book. :))
One or two ways we can help you build your platform? If you like to read or write, I'd love for you to follow me on Twitter or Facebook or sign up for my newsletter.

I hope to see you in San Antonio! Remember to link back to Janine's page if you're participating in the mingle. 

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Miracle from Heaven

We have seen God perform miracle after miracle this year—from His provision to His yes to His word of comfort to me when Howell found me sprawled on the bathroom floor, in and out of consciousness. All I could say each time the pain subsided was our baby is going to be okay. God told me so.

But I need to start at the beginning…

Last December, the Lord told us we would have a baby in 2019. We felt both excited and a bit doubtful. After all, over the last eight years, God has given us a lot of words confirming that we will have children—and sometimes, we’ve even thought we heard him say a specific time frame, only to be disappointed with another “not yet,” “not this year.”

With the little faith we had, we bought a crib on December 27 and began to wonder whether we were supposed to try fertility again or pursue adoption again—all paths we’ve tried before. We made an appointment in January with our fertility specialist—a consultation—and we decided we’d let God tell us through her. She’d journeyed with us these long eight years, and if she thought there’s nothing left to try, then so be it.

To our surprise, she suggested IVF—one more time. It had been five years since we tried it the first time—and since then, God had healed so many parts of my body, miraculous changes that even she had witnessed.

God opened all the doors and provided us so much peace. Everything about the process was easy—even taking 4,592 shots. 😊 The appointments fell on perfect non-teaching days. My body was responding as it should. And the timing for the egg retrieval and transfer came at spring break, the ideal week for no stress. Then we waited, as we’ve waited so many times before.

IVF Transfer Day!

On March 20, I took yet another home test (impatient for the blood test we’d have later that morning). I can’t tell you how many hundreds of them I’ve taken over the years. All negative. Always “not pregnant” flashing on the screen. We held our breath in the bathroom, and then the words appeared, words I’d not once seen and have long desired: “pregnant.”

When I began to weep—really more like wail, I couldn’t even recognize the sound coming out of the depths of me. Howell had to check the test again—and then said, “it’s positive right?” and we had a good laugh despite the tears running down my face.

Our miracle had begun to form, to take shape, to grow and develop as he or she should.

Every day felt like a battle of fear. I would declare God’s word to us over and over, repeating every scripture I’d ever memorized. And the longer we stretched through the first trimester, the more confidence I gained. This was happening. Our baby was coming. He or she continued to grow and progress perfectly, which is why—when I found myself writhing in pain on the floor at almost ten weeks, when God told me our baby would live, I believed him. 

Howell wanted to go to the hospital right away, but I kept saying, it’s okay, the baby is ok—God said so. He began to pray over me in that bathroom, quoting scripture and declaring God’s word over us. After several minutes of intense pain, I gave in and told him to help me up because I didn’t want to pay for an ambulance (ha!). But I blacked out again in his arms, and despite my wishes, ended up being carried by two EMTs moments later.

Not fifteen minutes after we got to the ER, we had a sonogram and knew right away we still had a heartbeat. The tech got a different sonogram machine and did more searching—and less talking. Then the doctor gave us the news: I had a heterotopic pregnancy, which meant I had one embryo in utero and one ruptured embryo in my fallopian tube. They wanted to send us to Lubbock right away for the surgery, as already I had blood in my abdomen, which was the main source of my pain. Our fertility specialist stood by in Lubbock, ready to do the procedure with confidence that she could do the surgery and still save the one in utero.

I ended up being air lifted to Lubbock, where I was in surgery within minutes after landing. Afterwards, our doctor said the flight saved my life. I’d lost 1.7 liters of blood, which is a lot. They transfused me with blood during surgery—and for the next several days afterwards. While the ruptured ectopic pregnancy is dangerous, so is the bleeding disorder I've been diagnosed with for years—and together, they created the perfect storm.

But we know the One who walks on water, who calms the raging seas, who tells us, “do not be afraid.”

I’ve never felt so covered in prayer. So many were literally standing in the gap for us. One of our friends happened to be in the neighborhood and was praying over me as they wheeled me out of the house. Other friends were at the ER as soon as we got there and immediately started praying over us.  Even the precious care flight crew paused before loading me to pray with us. And I kept telling everyone who came—the baby is going to be okay. God said so. 

The Plainview and Lubbock waiting rooms were full of people who prayed and believed, not only for my life but for our baby’s life as well.

We grieve the one we did not know, will not get to meet. But we rejoice for the baby who is coming. He or she is a trooper, a fighter, a survivor. An answered prayer. A promise fulfilled. 

Our God is good and gracious and powerful. And He’s not done yet. These next two trimesters are going to be full of peace and joy and anticipation.

His word is true: with God, nothing is impossible. He has delivered on his promise to us. What He has done for me, He can do you for you. 

We give him thanks and praise and all the glory. 

P.S. I need a few more lines to say how incredible my husband has been during all of this. I knew I’d married a powerful man of God. I knew I loved him deeply. He has been my best friend and my partner in all things for the last almost eleven years. But my love for him has deepened in a way I can’t describe. His inability to leave my bedside. His patience and tenderness as he’s showered me, dressed me, and bandaged my incisions. His hard work to do every.single.thing around the house, from laundry to dishes, while I’ve been homebound. His persistence to pray over me, as he has these eight long years, and to believe with me that God has answered our prayers, that He will deliver on His word.

If you are single, my friend, never, ever, ever settle for less than a man who will love you when you are pale and weak and in need of his airplane noises while he spoon-feeds you Jell-O.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Got Plans?

Sometimes it's easier to think our plans are better than God's--that we know better, and if only He'd listen and do things our way, He would see how great our ideas are.

Ever been there? I know I have--and it's a battle to remind myself that He knows better. He sees our future.

Miles Sweeney preached at our church last fall, and at one point in his sermon, he said, "God enters our life from the future."

There's a Casting Crowns song that says it like this: "To you my future is a memory."

Over and over again, God's word is clear that He has good plans for us, that He determines our steps, that He leads us to the best place--green pastures and still waters.

And in my life, I can recall example after example where God had a better way. Like the time I really wanted to go to A&M and study journalism. And God wanted me to go to Angelo State instead--a much better plan for my life because it's where I met Howell.

Speaking of my hubs reminds me of  another one of my plans. It was my senior year at Angelo, and I was going to grad school the next fall, moving back to Lubbock. I had it all figured out--and my plan did not include dating. What a distraction! I told the Lord I didn't want to date until I finished my PhD.

Then enter Howell, stage left.

He was not part of my plan. His timing was all wrong.

How could we date if I was moving?

How we could get married if we lived three hours apart?

How could I be married if I wanted to focus on grad school?

I'm so glad when I graduated with my PhD in 2012, Howell and I had been married for four years. What a blessing he was to me during one of the harder seasons of my life.

Sometimes I took at my life, and I think: this is not what I planned--thirty-two, ten years of marriage, and an empty five-bedroom house.

It's easy to say, this is not how it was supposed to work out. It's not how we planned it.

I have to remember--to remind myself--God knows the best way, the best plan, the best timing, the best story.

He writes far better than I do, and He's got a great plot in mind.

I don't know it. I can't predict it. I can't see it right now.

But He does. He sees from the future to now, and already, He's called it good.

What about you, friends? Is there something in your life you're waiting for? Is there a dream that's delayed?

Are you facing circumstances that feel unfair? Or life's not what you would've wanted? Not how you would've written this chapter?

Take heart. Take courage.

God's plans are far superior to ours, and we really can trust Him. He is good.

My prayer for 2019 is "lead me." Lead me to green pastures. Lead me beside still waters. Lead me to the path everlasting.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Fav Reads of 2018

Y'all, 2018 was a good year for books. I surpassed my reading goal for the year (and devoured six books in ten days over my Christmas break! :)) Today, I'm sharing my top-five favorite fiction I read in 2018 and my top five from the TBR pile for 2019.

Favorite Books I read in 2018:

5. Things I Never Told You by Beth Vogt

4. The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah

3. A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner

2. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

1. Katherine Reay. Yes--not a book, just an author because in 2018, I read everything she's ever written (so far!), and I can't pick just one favorite (Dear Mr. Knightly and Lizzy and Jane and The Austen Escape and The Bronte Plot and A Portrait of Emily Price)

Books I'm excited to read in 2019:

1. The Rancher's Unexpected Baby by Jill Lynn (release date: January 15). (Spoiler alert--I already read this and loved it, but it's not out for all of you until TODAY--Jan 15--so go get a copy! :))

2. The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay (release date: May 14)

3. Moments We Forget by Beth Vogt (release date: May 7)

4. The Memory House by Rachel Hauck (release date: April 2)

5. Summer by the Tides by Denise Hunter (release date: May 21)

What about you, friend? What do you recommend that you read last year? And what books are on your TBR pile for 2019?

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Top Nine of 2018

Happy New Year, friends! I couldn't figure out how everyone was posting their top nine in a single photo on social media, but I wanted to share mine with you:

We went to San Diego in March for a conference and found $13 lobster! I was completely freaked out to eat it, but I love this picture because it reminds me that my precious hubs makes me brave. (p.s. It was delicious!)

We lost Charlie in April, and I still miss him. He was an incredible dog. We didn't rescue him; he rescued us! 

We went to Charleston in June for our 10-year anniversary.

My hubs always makes me feel special on my birthday, but I especially love the faith he has for our family. 

Giving my thank-you speech for the ACFW Genesis Award was definitely a highlight of 2018.
We took our annual family trip to Wimberley, and this was one of my fav pics from the weekend. Canyon's face is priceless. (Don't worry, Doc got Canyon a telescope for Christmas. :))

We spend as much time with our nephews as possible, but our day at the Corn Maize may be one of my favorites in 2018.

Our only TTU Football game of 2018 (and a disappointment at that)--but my family is my favorite. I'm so glad I have a sister because I'll always have a friend.
I don't even know how to caption this. We spent a lot of time at Caprock Canyons this summer and fall. Camping. Hiking. Disconnecting from the world and connecting with our maker. I can't put into words how grateful I am for this man. I will follow him always. 

How was your 2018? What're your top nine pics--or memories?