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Authors: Beth Pattillo

Heavens to Betsy

BOOK: Heavens to Betsy
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Praise for
Heavens to Betsy

 

“Navigating the rapids of life and love with the sexy Reverend Betsy Blessing is a hilarious and rollicking ride. If she could just get her man squared away, master walking in her stilettos, and keep her church from coming apart, then it might all turn out just fine.
Heavens to Betsy
is fresh and heartfelt. A great read.”

—ANNE DAYTON and MAY VANDERBILT,

authors of
Emily Ever After

“Thank heavens for Betsy! This laugh-out-loud funny story is such a refreshing read. Beth Pattillo does an outstanding job of showing us the womanly and definitely human side of a person we never see in novels: the female pastor. With a sharp sense of humor and a heart-breakingly honest look at the prejudices that plague these servants of God,
Heavens to Betsy
will have you crying and laughing and loving every minute of it. Thank you, Beth, for creating Betsy—from her stilettos and pink slip-dress to her shaky confidence and fear of confrontation, she’s one of the most believable and lovable characters out there.”

 

—ALISON STROBEL, author of
Worlds Collide

“In
Heavens to Betsy
Beth Pattillo blends the most tender qualities of chick lit with some of the stringiest offerings of church life and somehow grills up a delicious tale of grace and redemption. Her breathing characters deserve a place all their own in the potluck supper of inspirational fiction.
Heavens to Betsy
is highly enjoyable reading, zinging with moments all of us can relate to.”

 

—LISA SAMSON, Christy award-winning author of
The

Church Ladies, Songbird
, and
Club Sandwich

 

For my sisters of the cloth,
wherever they may serve

 

 

Acknowledgments

 

I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the following people:

My husband, Randy Smith, who provides moral support and child care in equal measure.

My children, Sam and Meg Smith, who never mind being deprived of a home-cooked meal when I’m writing.

Jenny Bent, über-agent, who talked me into putting Betsy down on paper.

Dudley Delffs and Don Pape of WaterBrook Press—for their enthusiasm for Betsy and her story.

Cheryl Lewallen—cheerleader, counselor, and the reason I signed up for an unlimited long-distance plan.

My fabulous critique group—GayNelle Doll, Trish Milburn, and Annie Solomon—who provide invaluable red ink along with generous helpings of friendship.

The members of the Music City Romance Writers—for camaraderie and fun.

The Clergy Chix—Sandra, Donna, Ann, Janet, Megan, Elisa, and Jennifer—for monthly lunch and laughter.

And, finally, I want to thank three churches that have been important in my life—First Christian Church, Lubbock, Texas; Ray-more Christian Church, Raymore, Missouri; and Woodmont Christian Church, Nashville, Tennessee. Please note that none of them serves as the model for Betsy’s fictional Church of the Shepherd.

 

 

I swear this
is my last wedding. All around me candles blaze, and the scent of roses overpowers the congregation. Men in black tie. Women in frothy hats. The vaulted ceiling of the church rises above me, its mahogany beams arching toward heaven. I drink in the scene, lingering over every detail, and my knees quiver. A deep breath does little to calm my nerves. There won’t be any more after this.

Next to me, Dan stands tall and handsome. His tux fits perfectly—no sign of the slight paunch his usual T-shirts reveal. The organ swells as the pipes ring out the last notes of “The Wedding March.”

It’s the lifetime commitment I’ve always wanted. A deep connection through all the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” No more loneliness. No isolation. I look up to keep the tears from flowing. No time to cry.

I open my officiant’s book and begin.

“Dearly beloved…”

These are magic words, an incantation of love that required months of intense preparation on the part of the bride and groom. Dress fittings, repeated trimming of the guest list, bridesmaid negotiations, nagging Dan to pick his groomsmen. And that little trifle known as the ceremony.

“Who brings this woman to be married to this man?” I ask.

Stacy’s father beams, despite the stiffness of his stance. Beside him, Stacy glows beneath the thin cover of her veil.

“Her mother and I,” her father replies, just as we rehearsed.

Fathers of the bride come in three types. The first one’s angry about the cost of the pageantry. The second is relieved that his daughter is now another man’s problem. The third is shattered to part with his little princess. Stacy’s father is the third kind, lucky girl. Her dad lifts her veil back over her head, murmurs words of love in her ear, and places her hand in Dan’s.

Now it’s just the two of them in front of all these people. And me, of course. The minister.

“Dan, will you have Stacy to be your wife, to live with her in holy matrimony? If so, please say, ‘I will.’”

The Declaration of Intent always comes as a surprise to grooms. All of them look shocked, as if what they’re doing at the front of the church in their penguin suits has come as a complete surprise. We’re not to the real vows yet; just this spot check to make sure both parties are willing. It’s the place where we used to ask if anyone objected to the marriage, but given what I know about Dan and Stacy’s extended families, we decided to leave that part out. The ice sculptures at the reception would melt by the time we sorted out all the protests likely to be lodged.

“Ar … wll.” Dan echoes me as if a boa constrictor has wrapped itself around his throat. Stacy beams as if he’d shouted his vow from a rooftop. I ask her the same question, and she starts to cry. Since we’re not even to the vows yet, I save the tissue tucked in my book. I only hope she doesn’t forget herself and use the back of her hand to wipe her eyes. I can already see she’s not wearing waterproof mascara, and I’ve had more than one raccoon bride in the past few years.

“Marriage is a gift from God, bestowed upon us for the mutual benefit of men and women…” The familiar words roll off my tongue,
even as they pierce my heart. Will I ever be on the receiving end of the wedding vows? A thirty-year-old, single woman minister lives in dating Siberia. The last time I went out with a man, he turned out to have a serious criminal record.

Note to Self:
Never let one of your congregants fix you up with her grandson who “just needs the love of a good woman.” The wayward grandson would have been happy to pursue a long-term relationship with my credit rating—I saw his eyes lusting after my American Express when I opened my purse to pay for dinner—but I’m not that desperate. Yet.

“Dan and Stacy, join hands and, with your promises, commit yourselves as husband and wife.”

Does any couple really know what they’re saying when they parrot back the words I read from my book?

“For better, for worse; for richer, for poorer…”

How will a couple who couldn’t agree whether to have lamb or fish at the reception navigate the complexities of married life? Sure, I see their joy today. But in five years, maybe ten, they’ll be in some other minister’s office wondering where it all went wrong. And what will that preacher tell them? That it all started with Lamb v. Fish?

“As a sign of their commitment, Dan and Stacy have chosen to exchange rings. The wedding ring is an enduring symbol of the promises they make this day…”

The best man and maid of honor fumble for the rings, and I pray over those golden bands. I pray hard because my parents taught me how difficult it can be to keep vows made in a church. Somewhere between the custody battle, the divorce settlement, and my new half brothers, my parents’ vows crumbled.

Now comes the tricky part of the service. The congregation holds
its breath while the bride and groom light the unity candle. Even though I always check the wick before the service, I’m never confident this part will go well. At the first wedding I performed, the unity candle was a no-go. The couple divorced within a year, and when I saw the bride in the grocery store, she blamed it on the wick. I myself would have blamed it on the fact that the groom and maid of honor had yet to conclude their extracurricular relationship when the wedding took place. Fortunately, the candle behaves itself today as the brides cousin warbles “Endless Love,” so often sung at weddings in spite of the fact that it’s an ode to a scorned teenager-turned-stalker who ends up burning down his girlfriend’s house.

BOOK: Heavens to Betsy
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