Food for the SoulTweet
Posted 9/29/14 at 3:40 PM | Audra Jennings
With cooler weather coming just around the corner, it will soon be time for readers to pull out the quilts and settle in with a new book. Abingdon Press authors Amber Stockton and Robin Caroll invite readers, with quilts in tow, to join them for the live Quilts of Love Fall into Fall Facebook chat on October 7 at 8:00 PM EDT to talk about their latest releases, A Grand Design (Stockton/August 19, 2014/ISBN 978-1426773471) and Hidden in the Stars (Caroll/September 16, 2014/ISBN 978-1426773600).
The live Quilts of Love quarterly event will center on an interactive chat between the authors and readers, allowing participants from around the country (and the world) to participate in one large book club. The authors will share the inspiration behind their stories and ask discussion questions surrounding the themes of each book. Chat participants will be eligible for prizes, including copies of books from the series and gift cards, to be given away at the end of the hour. The winner of the $200 Visa Cash Card giveaway, held in conjunction with the latest Quilts of Love blog tour, will also be announced. The chat has been promoted online with the help of bloggers participating in the blog tours for each book coordinated by Litfuse Publicity Group.
“I’m honored to be a name included among the illustrious list of Quilts of Love authors. And I’m thrilled to be taking part in this quarterly chat with readers of this line, as well as readers of my or Robin Caroll’s books,” shares Stockton. “Robin and I have known each other for several years, but her genre is often far different than mine, so this will be the first time we’re paired together in this fashion. It’s going to be a lot of fun!”
Caroll shares Stockton’s sentiments. “I’m so excited to be a part of the Quilts of Love series and can’t wait until our Facebook party. I’m looking forward to being there with Amber Stockton, whom I’ve known for years, and getting to chat with readers of the series or just readers in general. I’m planning for such a good time, and I hope to see many there!”
The Quilts of Love series centers on the idea that quilts tell stories of love and loss, hope and faith, tradition and new beginnings. Each release focuses on the women who quilted all of these things into their family history. Featuring contemporary and historical romances, as well as Amish fiction, women’s fiction and the occasional light mystery, readers are drawn into the endearing characters and touched by their stories. A new book will be released each month through January 2015. A special tradition the authors have instituted with each release is the donation of a quilt to their chosen charity or individual in need.
Keep up with the Quilts of Love series online at:
About the authors and their books:
A getaway on a charming island may be just what Alyssa needs — if only she can let go of her past.
When Alyssa Denham, a single career woman, wins a fun getaway for two on Mackinac Island where her grandmother lives, she gives her carefree best friend a call. Together, they tour the old shops and hidden treasures of the quaint island while helping Alyssa’s grandmother piece together an heirloom quilt. Their quest gains them entrance into the homes of many longtime residents of the island, parts of the city that are otherwise off limits to tourists.
As the quilt’s story takes shape, Alyssa gains amazing insight into her grandmother’s life . . . and attracts the attention of the handsome Scott Whitman, an island resident in charge of hotel transportation. Will memories of her past keep Alyssa from letting go? Or will the quest to piece together the heirloom quilt restore Alyssa’s fractured heart — and bring healing to her entire family?
Amber Stockton is an award‑winning author, a national speaker and a direct‑sales brand partner with Nerium International. She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, in Colorado. They have a daughter and a son, and an Aussie/retriever mix named Roxie. Three of her novels have won annual reader’s choice awards.
A quilt holds the secret to a killer still at large — and who his next victim will be.
Following an attack that killed her mother and stole her ability to speak, 21‑year‑old Sophia Montgomery has no choice but to accept her estranged grandmother’s offer to return to their family home. Although detective Julian Frazier is working hard on the case, Sophia unknowingly frustrates him because her inability to speak thwarts her eyewitness evidence. The fact that Julian is undeniably attracted to Sophia doesn’t help either, so Julian hides his feelings as concern for a trauma victim and focuses instead on finding the killer.
Little do they know, the clues to solving the case may be right in front of them, displayed in Sophia’s mother’s “special” quilt design. Who will realize the secret Sophia’s unwittingly been hiding in plain sight? When the truth comes to light, will Sophia find her voice again? Or will the murderer — still at large — silence her forever?
Robin Caroll is the author of 22 published novels. When she isn’t writing, Robin spends time with her husband of 20‑plus years, her three beautiful daughters and two handsome grandsons, and their character‑filled pets at home in Little Rock, Arkansas. She gives back to the writing community by serving as conference director for ACFW. Her books have been named finalists in such contests as the Carol Award, HOLT Medallion, Daphne du Maurier, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, Bookseller’s Best and Book of the Year.
Posted 9/29/14 at 11:39 AM | Audra Jennings
Most authors draw from life experience when writing a book. However, for best-selling author Beth Wiseman, the inspiration for The Promise (Thomas Nelson/ September 30, 2014/ISBN 978-1401685959 /$15.99) came from encounters most readers could never imagine happening in their own lives. Inspired by actual events, Wiseman describes her latest release as the largest project she has undertaken since her first book was published in 2008. “It was a step way out of the box and a far cry from my Amish novels and Texas contemporaries,” she explains. “Not only was I shifting to another genre and writing a much edgier story, but the real-life events that inspired the novel were still tender on my heart.”
The Promise introduces readers to Mallory Hammond, a young woman who takes a dangerous journey to Pakistan, fueled by her adventurous spirit and her desire to save a life. Instead, promises are broken, her life is put at risk, and all she can do is pray she’ll make it out alive. Mallory’s character was closely modeled after someone close to the author, and Wiseman herself was actively involved with bringing her safely home.
Struggling to find her own faith and at a crossroads in her current relationship, Mallory is searching for purpose in her life. She is determined not to let her boyfriend, parents or anyone else get in the way of her number-one goal: to save a life. Mallory had the chance to save her cousin’s life when she was a teenager, but the opportunity slipped away, leaving a void she's desperate to fill. She made herself a promise that someday she would reach her goal.
Mallory’s boyfriend, Tate Webber, has loved her for years and understands Mallory's free spirit has to fly. When he has no choice except to give her the space she needs, he hopes when she lands, the two of them will be in the same place and can marry at last. However, when Mallory meets a new friend online, she is offered the chance to make good on the promise she made long ago. The opportunity means that she’ll have to leave behind everyone she loves to take it.
In a bold move — and with lots of resistance from those closest to her who question her judgment — Mallory decides to travel across the world to fulfill her dream. Tate begs her not to go, but Mallory embarks on the dangerous journey to Pakistan anyway, not realizing the people she trusted have put her in harm’s way. She will soon discover how swiftly and easily promises can be broken. Mallory must rely on faith and prayer to make it home alive.
The story was close to Wiseman, and she found herself so deep in the story that she often found herself using “real” names and would have to go back and make corrections. Writing the book with the woman she calls “Laurie,” for anonymity, brought the two women closer together and helped Wiseman better understand the reasons Laurie made the decisions she did. “When Laurie left for Pakistan, I wasn’t sure I would ever see her again. When she did return home, she was incredibly broken, both physically and emotionally,” shares Wiseman. “I’d always assumed there would be an opportunity to say, ‘I told you so.’ However, that thought wasn’t at the forefront of my mind as I watched her trying to put her life back together. She’d lost almost everything, but her spirit to survive and push forward shone through, and I wanted to help her with that. God truly does work in such mysterious ways.”
Much like The Promise’s Mallory was driven by her life goal, Wiseman’s goal for years was to write one book to make one difference in a life and hopes the message of this book does just that. “We all make mistakes, have regrets and carry burdens from our past. But by clinging to our faith, we are often gifted with opportunities to use these mistakes in a way that sheds light amidst the darkness, defining who we are and how we will be remembered. In the novel, Mallory wants to save a life. She ends up doing much more and in a way she could have never foreseen. Laurie returned to the United States a broken woman, but she shared her experiences via this novel in an effort to save as many women as possible from falling into a similar situation — an opportunity she also could never have predicted. God never wastes an experience.”
About the Author
Beth Wiseman is the best-selling author of the Daughters of the Promise series and the Land of Canaan series. Having sold more than 1.3 million books, her novels have held spots on the ECPA and CBA bestseller lists. She has also been the recipient of the prestigious Carol Award (in 2011 and 2013), a three-time winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, and an INSPY Award winner. In 2013, she took home the coveted Holt Medallion.
As a former newspaper reporter, Wiseman was honored by her peers with eleven journalism awards, including first place news writing for The Texas Press Association. She has been a humor columnist for The 1960 Sun in Houston and published articles in various publications. However, writing novels is where her heart is. She left her job as a journalist in 2008 to write novels fulltime.
Wiseman has a deep affection for the Amish and their simpler way of life, and while she plans to continue writing Amish love stories, she is also branching out into other areas. In her daring new novel, her third non-Amish, contemporary, Wiseman jumps way outside the box. The Promise will take readers far away from Amish country and the small Texas towns of her previous releases to a dangerous place on the other side of the world. Inspired by actual events, Wiseman believes this is the book she’s been working toward for a long time.
Wiseman and her husband are empty nesters enjoying the country life in Texas with three dogs, two cats and two potbellied pigs. When she’s not writing, she loves to travel, paint and enjoy time with friends and family.
Posted 9/26/14 at 9:53 AM | Audra Jennings
When living what you believe to be a good Christian life still leaves you feeling empty, you might begin to wonder: Do I really know what it means to follow Christ? It’s a question Rob Peabody, author of Citizen: Your Role in the Alternative Kingdom (Monarch Books/July 29, 2014/ISBN: 978-0857215420/$14.99), asked himself at the age of 26, shortly after landing his dream job as the lead campus pastor of a burgeoning new campus of a Texas mega-church. “The church exploded with excitement. People were being baptized and saved, and true growth was occurring,” Peabody says. “It was all going to plan . . . and then it hit me. I couldn’t go on this way any longer.”
Peabody realized his faith had little connection with the world around him. He had inherited a westernized view of Christianity that too often glorifies personal success, comfort and individualism to the detriment of the lifestyle to which Jesus calls his followers. He realized Jesus was calling him — and all of us — to an all-or-nothing lifestyle, not a pick-and-choose faith salad bar. Something had to change.
Q: Let’s start off by talking about the title of your book — Citizen: Your Role in the Alternative Kingdom. What is the “alternative Kingdom”?
The “alternative Kingdom” is the way in which God originally intended for creation to live. In the Garden of Eden, everything was right, perfect and the way it should be, but man’s sin corrupted this perfection. Ever since, all of humanity has been subject to living in a world that is not right; there is something wrong with it. We find in the Gospels that, through Jesus, God is setting the world back to the way it should be, and when we find Jesus, He invites us to do the same. I find it interesting that at the height of the Roman Empire, Jesus (and later the Apostle Paul) begins speaking of the “Father’s Kingdom,” or a new way of life. He didn’t speak of a better empire or corrections to the current world system but rather a completely different kind of Kingdom. Jesus showed us how to live as part of the only Kingdom that will truly last and the Kingdom that brings heaven to earth. He then He empowers and releases His followers to do the same. The “alternative Kingdom” is the “Jesus way” of living life. It is a rebellion of righteousness in a broken world that is far from God.
Q: You once held a position as the lead campus pastor at a mega-church in Texas. While there, you had a major realization about your life and work. What was that realization, and what did it lead you to do?
I was 26 and had just finished seminary when I was promoted from young adult pastor to the new role of leading our newest church campus. It was my dream job with great influence, hundreds of congregants and the chance to lead a thriving church community. The church exploded with excitement. People were being baptized and saved, and true growth was occurring. It was all going to plan . . . and then it hit me. I couldn’t go on this way any longer.
God was doing something in my heart. Later I would come to describe it as a “holy discontent.” I began realizing the way I viewed church was off-kilter. For me and many others worship was being reduced to an hour time slot on Sunday morning. Don’t get me wrong; worship services are an essential part of following Jesus, but God was showing me that true worship transforms a life completely, not just when it is time to sing. Monday through Saturday is just as important as Sunday morning when it comes to following Jesus.
This realization led me to our city mayor’s office, along with my friend and worship leader Joel Warren. We told the mayor Jesus did not just save us from something (hell and eternal separation from Him), but He saved us for something. Stated simply, we wanted to see the worship overflow from the church building to the streets in which we lived. We wanted to be agents of change where we lived. We asked the mayor about the greatest needs in the community and vowed to strive to meet those needs in the name of Jesus. We mobilized the church to adopt local schools and mentoring programs to teach life skills to the down-and-out in our community. We began the process of being the church and not merely going to church.
This wake-up call for me personally led to the formation of the Awaken Movement. Later my family moved to London, England, to facilitate Awaken’s vision in the U.K., as well as church-planting amongst those in their 20s and 30s who would never step foot in a traditional church environment.
Q: What did your family and friends think about your move to another country?
My family and friends were very supportive of our move to the U.K. Although it was hard for the grandparents to see their only grandchild at the time move across the Atlantic, they understood God had paved the way to London in so many ways. It was clearly His plan too.
Q: Do you think the majority of Christians are really living the kind of life Christ calls his followers to?
I don’t think so . . . at least from my limited viewpoint of the church in the West. Unfortunately, we have inherited a Christian sub-culture that thrives on individualism and personal choice to the detriment of pursuing the true calling of ultimate allegiance to King Jesus. Jesus makes very bold and explicit claims about what it looks like to follow Him, and for many churchgoers these claims get in the way of how WE want to live our lives. Jesus is calling us to an all-or-nothing lifestyle in the way that we follow Him, not a pick-and-choose salad bar. When Jesus becomes King in our hearts and minds, our actions and behaviors will follow suit. Until that happens we (churchgoers) find ourselves a conflicted people wanting to love Jesus on the one hand, while still bowing to the idols of our flesh. This conflict must be dealt with before we can truly live out the kind of life to which Jesus calls us.
Q: You talk in Citizen about how Christians have competing allegiances. What are those allegiances, and how do they stand in the way of Kingdom living?
We all have allegiances. Some are healthy and God-given, such as marriage, parenting, being an employee or employer, friendship, etc. When Jesus takes His rightful place in our life, there is a re-prioritization of life that naturally takes place. When this happens, our relationship with the King becomes the lens by which we see all our other loyalties and allegiances. Therefore living for the Kingdom informs all areas of our lives and all earthly loyalties and penetrates everything that we do. According to Jesus, there is no such thing as compartmentalization of certain areas of our lives.
Q: You say, “Citizens of the Kingdom should be the most risk-taking people on the planet.” What do you mean?
I’m finding this quote is really standing out to people. It means if we have truly died to our allegiance to ourselves and it has been replaced by a greater ultimate allegiance to Jesus, then our lives are no longer our own. In 1 Corinthians, Paul tells us we have been “bought with a price” — that price being Jesus’ own life — and that we died with Him (Romans 6:3) and will be resurrected with Him. So if we have already died and the penalty for our sin has been dealt with, we have absolutely nothing to lose! There is no fear of death for people who have already died. For the believer, death has been dealt with, so what is the worst that could possibly happen to them?
I think it is this reality that frees us to live as risk-takers, Kingdom-bringers and radical, righteous rebels who take Kingdom ground during our relatively short time on this earth. I am becoming increasingly convinced that Kingdom ground is not taken any other way.
Q: Has the spiritual climate in the U.K. changed the way you view the American church? How so?
Absolutely. You never really see your blind spots until you are given a different perspective. Living as an outsider in a different country has given me a unique view into Great Britain but also a different perspective of my homeland.
Living in a post-Christian city (London) made up of less than 2% evangelical Christians has opened my eyes to the reality that if the church in America does not make some serous changes, they will go the way of post-Christian Europe. I think the American church, with all its members, money and “success,” is (at times) over-complicating what it means to follow Jesus. I’m finding that as an American pastor, I didn’t really understand the need for unity or Kingdom living amongst the body. I got too caught up in numbers to the detriment of true discipleship. Programs began replacing relationships, and buildings clouded my view of the body. When you live in a city as a part of the tiny religious minority, your faith either falls away or becomes very real. I think the church in America could use some of this shock to wake them up from operating as business as usual before it is too late.
Q: Some have called Citizen a “wake-up call to the church in the West.” What is it that American Christians need to awaken to?
I’ve thought about this question a lot recently, and I would say discipleship, prayer, unity, stewardship, lifestyle worship and Kingdom-living. What it all comes down to, though, is Jesus. We must re-imagine our lives, re-position what we value, re-identify who we are and re-center all of these things on the true King of the world.
Q: Tell us more about the Awaken Movement you helped found. What is its mission and purpose?
Awaken was born in 2008 as an organization to help resource the church for action. We inspire, educate and equip local churches to put action to their faith as they strive to be the church outside the walls of the church building.
Co-founded by Joel Warren (musician/worship leader) and me, Awaken came out of our work together in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas, as we sought to help our church “reclaim our Jerusalem” and live as agents of change in the cities in which we lived. Awaken is led by a collective of compelled artists, musicians, pastors, photographers, filmmakers, songwriters, authors, missionaries and business professionals who are dissatisfied with the status quo of merely attending church. We desire to see a generation of churchgoers living as Kingdom-bringers in their communities. We create small-group studies, films, music, books and church-wide campaigns to help carry this message and vision to the church in the West.
Q: One unique characteristic of the western world is our love of personal autonomy. How can this actually be a detriment to the Christian life?
Individualism and personal autonomy are two of the things our Western dreams are based upon. The tricky part is that Jesus lived on earth and the Bible was written from an Eastern perspective and worldview. So the task is to see how Jesus lived, hear His words and examine His life, and then apply that to our 21st-century lives. It seems to me that individualism is actually a Western cultural stronghold that prevents us from living like Christ at times. If the goal of our lives is to make money, be comfortable, save for the future, enjoy life and seek happiness, those values and ideals can be pitted against the very things Jesus is calling us to. We must let Jesus transform our heart and reevaluate what we want to devote our life to. This is especially important when living in a culture where personal autonomy reigns supreme.
Q: What do you think is the biggest enemy to the Gospel in America? The world?
I believe one of the main ploys the Enemy uses against believers in the West is to encourage them subtly to give in to the silent killers of apathy and fear. Comfort could also be added to this list for many of our brothers and sisters in the West.
Q: Does a Christian need to quit his or her job and go into full-time missions work to apply the principles you lay out in Citizen?
Most definitely not. In fact, I think that would completely defeat the purpose of my message in Citizen. This book is for everyday people who want to follow Jesus and live for something greater than themselves.
Q: How do you hope Citizen changes its readers?
My prayer is that Citizen would show you who you really are in Jesus and then release you to live a life more abundant, more fulfilling, more daring and more joyful than what you are currently settling for. There is so much more to life, and it can only be found in our true King.
Posted 9/24/14 at 10:12 AM | Audra Jennings
Guest post by Betel Arnold
There are days when I’d really like to have a remote control for my life. It would be so convenient if I could pause, rewind, or just plain turn off the drama, because when I find myself in a situation where I don’t have control… well… let’s just say that things might get away from me. I had a day like that last week.
Billy is my special child. He’s 15 years old now, nonverbal and in a wheelchair. Like my other children, he started school last week. When the school bus dropped him off after his third day of school, as soon as the attendant rolled his wheelchair off the ramp—I saw it. A huge burn on his arm!
“What happened!” I screamed (and I do mean screamed). “What did you do to my son?” At that moment, I was so angry I couldn’t stop the words from escaping my mouth—and they kept escaping. I didn’t care who heard me. I never even stopped to think about it. My child had been hurt.
I was so distraught after that incident. I couldn’t change what happened. No trusty remote control to start the day over and save Billy from the burn. No button to rewind the event to a point where I could keep my cool and calmly ask what happened.
After a few days of investigation and a livid mommy on the loose—the culprit was discovered. One of the wheelchair straps that secures my son had loosened. As he rocked back and forth, it created the burn. I was relieved to realize that it was an accident, but it didn’t alleviate the stress I felt this morning watching my son get on the school bus.
Fortunately, I found some help. I remembered who’s really in control. I can pretend I am, try to convince myself I am, but then something happens to remind me that I’m not. God is in control. And the truth is I totally trust God who sees the beginning from the end. A God whose eyes are everywhere keeping watch on the good and the bad. (Proverbs 15:3) A God who says that ALL things work together for the good of them that love Him. (Romans 8:28) Furthermore, Romans 10:11 reminds me that if I believe in Him, I will never be put to shame...
I’m still not happy with what happened, but I am grateful for a Heavenly Father who loves me even when I’m not at my best. I’m also grateful to know that with my Heavenly Father around, I don’t need a remote control.
About the Author
Betel Arnold is founder of Courage Under Fire Coaching and co-creator of Simply Talking, a local TV show that addresses issues from daily life as well as the deeper questions brought about by personal tragedies. Betel co-produces and co-hosts the show while working as an inspirational speaker. She is especially committed to helping women become all that God has called them to be.
Betel is the proud mother of four children, a stepmom, and resides with her loving husband in Western Mass. For more information about her and her book, Buried Beneath the Words, go to: www.betelarnold.com
Posted 9/23/14 at 11:39 AM | Audra Jennings
They say blood is thicker than water, and in her latest release, Home to Chicory Lane (Abingdon Press/August 19, 2014/ISBN: 978-1426769696/$14.99), Deborah Raney writes a story that examines how the love of our family can help us weather life’s storms. The first book in the new Chicory Inn series introduces us to Audrey Whitman, a mother who has launched all of her children into life and now looks forward to fulfilling some of her own dreams during her empty-nest years. However, not all of her children are ready to stay out of the nest quite yet.
Q: They say blood is thicker than water, and the closeness of family is a big part of the theme of Home to Chicory Lane. How did your own experience with family shape the way you wrote this book?
We have four grown children and five grandchildren (so far!). I grew up the oldest of a family with four girls and a boy, and then I married the oldest of a family of four boys and a girl. We both have many aunts, uncles, cousins, and we both had our grandparents well into our forties (and even fifties, for my husband). So as you can imagine, family is extremely important to us. We’re both close to our families, and all of the good, the bad, the ugly, the wonderful of being part of a family went into this series. Of course, the novels are pure fiction, but I do find wisps of truth threading their way into my stories, and a few of the funny things in the book may have happened in real life, though not exactly the way they’re told in the book.
Q: Home to Chicory Lane introduces us to Audrey and Grant Whitman, an empty-nest couple excited for this new season in life. How do you identify with them?
Like Ken and me, Audrey and Grant have looked forward to the empty nest and the time they’ll have alone together now that their kids are gone. We definitely identify with anticipating and then enjoying that empty-nest time (even though there was a short period of grieving that a very precious chapter of our lives had come to an end). But unlike the Whitman kids, who keep trying to come back home, our kids have made a clean break and are scattered around the world from Missouri to Texas to Germany! We miss them and sometimes wish they would move back home. But we never wish it for too long!
Q: The couple decides to pursue a dream — turning their family home into a bed and breakfast called “The Chicory Inn.” It can be difficult for a married couple to work together and be together ALL of the time — what kind of challenges do your characters discover and what can other couples learn from them?
Well now, that’s where OUR real life comes into play. After a layoff from his job five years ago, Ken started his own business and began working from home. There was a pretty steep learning curve for us to learn to exist happily in the same house 24/7, but like my characters, we did figure things out and have made it work. Today, we can’t think of any better situation for an empty-nest couple. We love it! The secrets that Audrey and Grant discover are: give and take, live and let live, and don’t sweat the small stuff (and it’s all small stuff). But of course, like Ken and me, Grant and Audrey have to learn a few things the hard way.
Q: Opening weekend of The Chicory Inn, their youngest daughter shows up at the house with a U-Haul, fully expecting to be able to move home. How much of a responsibility do you think a parent has to take care of his or her adult child?
Like the answer to so many good questions, I think this one is: it depends. Most parents’ goal is to launch their children into the world with all the tools they need to make it on their own. But some kids boomerang back for a year or two before they are ready to make it on their own. I think the secret is learning to recognize whether your child is ready, and if not, to help from afar as much as possible, not interfering too much, but offering guidance when appropriate and when requested.
Q: Is a parent’s job ever really done?
I think it is — or at least it should be — when the child leaves home and is financially independent. Certainly when the child gets married. That’s not to say that kids don’t still need a parent in their lives, but Ken and I loved how the relationship switch flipped from parent to friend at a certain point. Now our job is to encourage, enjoy, give advice only when asked and be the best grandparents we can be to our kids’ kids. That’s the true reward of all those sleepless nights raising our kids.
Q: A common problem between newlyweds is when the husband wants to pursue his dream, while the wife is not quite sure. What advice do you have for young wives?
Any advice I can offer, unfortunately, comes from having done it all wrong. I wish I could turn back the calendar and be more supportive of my husband’s dreams and ambitions — both when we were newlyweds, and more recently, after Ken’s layoff. This is especially true because Ken has always been such a champion for my dreams. For me, fear crept in and I became more interested in being financially secure, rather than being willing to follow God’s leading through my husband’s calling — even when it was a little scary. I probably still have a long way to go before I’m where I should be in supporting my husband, but I’m learning
Q: The Whitmans are a close-knit family, all living in the same community. That closeness provides support, but it also causes tension from time to time. What advice do you have for managing relationships between adult family members?
Having made a move just a year ago that puts my entire family of origin in the same town, we are all learning how to set boundaries and how to allow one another’s differences to be strengths rather than points of contention. If I could give one piece of advice, it would be: If you’re angry with a family member, talk to God about it, not the other members of your family. The other thing I think my family has done well is that we’ve never let THINGS be more important than relationships.
Q: How close do your four adult children live to you? Are any scenes in the book based on your own family experiences?
Sadly, they all live out of state, and our oldest son is out of the country in Germany. My kids always say they see a lot of our family in all my books, so I’m sure they would recognize our family in parts of this series. But I’ve not intentionally based the book on our family, other than the fact that, like the Whitmans, we are Christians (albeit imperfect, human Christians) trying to live out our faith in Christ as authentically as possible.
Q: Audrey wants to help her youngest daughter during her marital crisis, but she is also careful not to overstep her role. What advice do you have to help parents find the balance between helping their adult children and interfering in their lives?
It’s been fairly easy for Ken and me to not interfere, simply because our kids all live far away. If they lived closer, I’m sure the temptation would be greater. I think the simplest advice I could give would be to wait until asked before giving advice. With rare exceptions, it won’t kill your kids to learn by making some mistakes along the way. Don’t be tempted to swoop in and “fix” things too soon or too often. Lessons learned the hard way are usually better learned. We took a page out of both of our parents’ playbook and kept a hands-off approach toward our kids, especially when they were beginning their marriages. Once the grandkids came along, though, all bets were off, and we became much more obnoxious and overbearing and insistent on getting more attention from our kids. (Just kidding . . . but not by much.)
Five books are planned for this series (and I have an idea for a special Whitman family Christmas story I’d love to write someday as well). Each of the books in the series will center on one of the Whitman’s children, whom the reader will get to know through the various issues they deal with. The second book, which I’m finishing now, is the story of the Whitman’s eldest daughter, Corinne, and her husband, Jesse, as they wrestle with issues in their marriage brought to light by a co-worker’s accusations. The third book will explore Danae and Dallas’s challenges with infertility. The fourth book will follow the Whitman’s widowed daughter-in-law, Bree, as she falls in love again and struggles with separating herself from the family of the heroic husband she lost in Afghanistan. The final book will find the remaining Whitman brother, Link, falling in love with a woman the family isn’t sure is right for him. The more I work on the early books in the series, the more I fall in love with this family and can’t wait to tell each of their stories!
Q: What do you want your readers to take away with them after they’ve closed the pages of Home to Chicory Lane?
I hope readers will come away with a new appreciation for the families God has placed them in — that they will learn to see past the warts and quirks to the treasure that is in each family member God places in our paths. Family relationships are hard work, but they are so very worth it! Nowhere else in my life have I found such total acceptance for who I really am. Nowhere else am I so free to laugh and cry and FEEL every emotion life brings. Nowhere else have I grown more in my faith than in the midst of my family.
Posted 9/22/14 at 11:40 AM | Audra Jennings
Guest post by Michael Yankoski
Over the past ten years I have had the chance to speak to hundreds of thousands of people, with invitations coming from universities, non-profit organizations, city councils, and churches. While this has, of course, been a great honor, my decade of being an “itinerate speaker” has generated an urgent question in me: does Christianity work well enough as a mere idea, or must faith move out from the realm of rational belief in order to become manifest in our lives?
A confession will illustrate why I describe this as an “urgent” question: it’s all too easy to “fake” the appearance of genuine faith, to preach about what Christianity means rather than live what Christianity teaches.
As my “itinerate preaching” years wore on, it became all too evident that many of us (though not all) who were paid members of the enormously popular “Christian Carnival” were more interested in keeping up a facade, of maintaining a masquerade, of putting on a good show. We were primarily focused on seeming to be something, rather than seeking to live a genuine life of faith and seeking to encourage others toward a life that we were ourselves experiencing in deep and profound ways.
And, the more I revealed this deep disconnect I was experiencing, the more I began to realize that this frustration with the facade is the case for many people of faith, not just those who are in the pulpits or up on stage. What I began to discover is that—for whatever reason—Christian faith has—for far too many people—become a sort of image-management game. The faith that is meant to have a profound impact on our lives has been relegated to the realm of mere ideas, confined to a set of doctrines that help us be “nice” or “respectable” rather than leading us into a particular way of life.
(And by “a particular way of life” I mean a life marked by habits such as contemplation amidst our cultural frenzy, listening prayer despite all our deafening distractions, intentional simplicity within our culture’s boundless greed, hospitality amidst our addiction to autonomy and individualism. The list goes on.)
At the end of a difficult speaking trip, I limped my way to a monastery for a personal retreat, wondering if I was about to abandon the “Carnival” altogether. While there, a kind and wise spiritual director listened as I told of my dissatisfaction with a religion that was just an idea, just a facade, just a masquerade.
“There’s an antidote to this poison you’ve swallowed, you know,” he said.
I looked up, more than a little skeptical. “Really?”
“A deep tradition within Christianity, with its roots back to the time of Christ and beyond, focused not on having the right answers or being able to talk a good talk, but rather being oriented and then living toward a particular way of being in the world.”
This conversation launched me on what I have come to call “The Sacred Year”—a year of deep engagement with Spiritual Practices, some old, some new, in a search for depth in my walk with Christ instead of the surface-y masquerade I had become so entrenched in.
I’m convinced that we misunderstand Christ’s invitation to “come and die that you might truly live” when we think this has to do only with ideas and concepts. This is an invitation to a way of being in the world, a way of patterning our lives, a way of habituating our days such that we become—by God’s grace—conformed to the image of the Son (cf. Rom 8:29).
Jaded and disillusioned after almost a decade of talking about Christianity more than actually living and experiencing it, I found great sources of nourishment, great life and hope amidst an intentional season of practicing my faith. That is what The Sacred Year is all about: “mapping the soulscape of Spiritual Practice—how contemplating apples, living in a cave, and befriending a dying woman revived my life.”
So, my brothers and sisters, I leave you with an admonition toward a lived faith, from the wise words found in I John: “let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18, ESV).
May it be so.
About the Author
Michael Yankoski is a writer and speaker who compels audiences around the world toward a Christ-centered response to our world's needs. He holds a Masters Degree from Regent College, and is the author of several books including The Sacred Year: Mapping the Soulscape of Spiritual Practice, Under the Overpass: A Journey of Faith on the Streets of America and Zealous Love: A Practical Guide to Social Justice. Michael has also served on the Board of Directors of World Vision U.S. and the advisory board of Kilns College.
Posted 9/19/14 at 9:06 AM | Audra Jennings
What happens when you bring the truth of who you are and where you’ve been into the light? In her impressive debut novel, The Sea House (St. Martin’s Press/April 15, 2014/ISBN: 978-1250043344/$25.99), author Elisabeth Gifford introduces readers to characters who are forced to dig up the pain and secrets of their past in order to let the fresh air of faith and grace purify and heal the broken places in their heart.
Gifford was inspired to write The Sea House after coming across a letter in The Times archives from 1809, in which a Scottish schoolmaster claimed to have spotted a mermaid. Weaving the ancient Gaelic myth of the selkies into her story, she has created a sweeping tale of hope and redemption that is an ode to the healing readers can find when they acknowledge the truth about themselves.
Q: Your new release, The Sea House, is a fascinating historical mystery that was born out of a letter you found from an old edition of The Times. Can you tell us about the letter?
The Sea House is based on a real letter written to The Times newspaper in 1809 by a Scottish schoolmaster, reporting a mermaid sighting. There were lots of mermaid sightings up to 200 years ago around Scotland and even a recorded mermaid funeral in the islands. There were also persistent legends of selkies, seals who could take off their sealskins on land to become human. I thought these were simply old fairy tales from a more credulous time, but it may be that these sightings and legends were connected to something very real. For thousands of years the native Sea Sami used to kayak down to Scotland from Norway using Eskimo technology. Their sealskin kayaks would become waterlogged after a few hours and lie just below the sea surface looking like a wavering tail. On land, they removed their sealskin jackets and became human — just as described in the legend of the selkies. Some must have married locals and stayed on the islands, giving rise to certain families such as the MacOdrums, who were said to have come from the seal people
It’s a theory that’s hard to prove, as the Sea Sami tribe was forcibly assimilated into Norwegian culture 200 years ago and disappeared — at exactly the same time the mermaid sightings stopped. The only evidence we have left is The Times mermaid letter, a kayak held in Aberdeen museum with Norwegian pine struts inside instead of the usual Eskimo baleen and of course the old legends of mermaids and seal men.
Q: One major theme in the book is the power of acknowledging and telling your story. Why do you think this is such an important part of finding personal healing?
You meet people who have had terrible childhoods yet still emerged loving and positive people. Other people become very bitter about relatively common hurts. I wanted to look at what makes the difference. My father was a neglected orphan, and I saw how his faith gave him the means to remain a very contented, loving and patient father and pastor. The way we see our history and tell our story affects how we live.
I read Talking of Love on the Edge of the Precipice, which is known as “the book that healed France.” Boris Cyrulnik, the author, was Jewish and as a child was left hidden and neglected in a farm loft for years during World War II. He also lost all his family. Now he helps trauma victims retell their sad stories in terms of a bigger arc that includes a source of love and allows their story to end in hope. For Christians, we have the option of rewriting our stories around the extravagant love shown to us on the cross, if we choose to.
Q: One character in the book is a woman in the process of building her dream home with her husband. However, a discovery buried under their house mars her perfect plans, causing her to confront her painful past. In what way is her discovery a metaphor?
The baby buried beneath the house was inspired by a real case of a baby discovered beneath a croft house in Orkney. It is a metaphor for the way Ruth has to acknowledge her past, just as she needs to understand why the child is there in her home. I also wanted to convey to the reader the kind of physical fear people sometimes experience when coping with the effects of poorly understood or unacknowledged trauma, as well as showing there is a way to get beyond that fear. It’s really up to the reader to work out what they think is the truth behind the story. A story is a drama and is all about the choices people make. The metaphors and similes have to be earned in the story and come naturally. In a way, a story itself is a kind of life metaphor.
Q: In The Sea House, we also meet a vicar who must confront his own ideas about his relationship with God. What lessons about faith can we learn from his spiritual journey?
In classic fairy stories, the hero works out how to win the princess and is pretty pleased with himself. Then about halfway through the story, it all goes wrong, and what used to work isn’t enough. At this point the hero has to go deep into his character to save the day.
While Alexander says he believes in grace, he really believes in a formula where his particular failures cannot be forgiven. So he tries incredibly hard to become a better person. Only after he sees how miserably he fails as a pastor does he let go and accept the mystery of grace. In many ways, he follows a pretty common Christian path from an early faith in our ability to “become good” to a mature and knocked-about faith relying on grace and love.
Q: What parallels can be drawn between the storyline of The Sea House and the Gospel message?
The thing that hit me when I began writing was the image of a seal man unable ever to return home. This mirrored how, for many people, something happens that means they can’t find a home for the person they are. It’s the same for Moira, who gets evicted from her village in the clearances, and with Ruth in the cold children’s home. They represent the longing for a true home that often sets people on their way to a faith.
It’s also interesting to note that a lot of the Gospel teaching is in the form of stories. Stories show us a lot about how choices pan out, about character and about what is of real value. In The Sea House, Ruth and Alex have to battle to work out what is true and what is not true and then choose what they will believe about who they are and where home is. We all live by stories about how the world is. Not all of them are true — but some are, and they may be the ones that sound quite unlikely at first!
Q: The characters in The Sea House discover much of their redemption comes from reconnecting with their personal pasts and their family history. Why do you think this is so important?
I suppose there’s a human impulse to invent a better self so other people, and even God, will like us more and not turn away from us. That can lead to us living two different lives. In some cases, prominent Christians actually have complete double lives. Jesus came to a very real and ordinary world, and that’s where God meets us. He sees all of us and doesn’t turn away. Facing up to who we are and where we came from is a form of accountability, and the “real you” is the only person who can form genuine relationships and be happy and fulfilled. And that is only if we are willing to accept the grace and love of others.
Q: This is your debut novel, but you’ve been a writer for some time and have an M.A. in creative writing. What is your favorite part of the fiction-writing process?
It’s very exciting when you find the voice for a new character and they begin to live on the page. They can become quite opinionated about the plot. I also get really excited by story structure and the way it gives the reader a chance to live other lives and develop insight and empathy. I also love evoking real places and their physical impact, so writing about the very beautiful Hebrides was pure pleasure.
Q: The Sea House is rich in history and Gaelic myth. What kind of research did you do in preparation to write the novel?
It started when my family fell in love with the beautiful and remote Hebridean islands in North Scotland. I was feeling very stressed at the time, and when we saw an advertisement for a white cottage on a remote island, we decided to rent it. We became hooked on the area’s quiet beauty and its continuity with old ways, customs and legends. The Gaelic Outer Hebrides are something of a time capsule where the old crofting ways and Gaelic still cling on. While we were there, I talked to Harris artist Willie Fulton, who shared his stories of living in a crofting village throughout the past half-century and the remarkable people there. I read all of the books I could get my hands on about the time period and met with John MacAulay, who wrote Seal Folk and Ocean Paddlers, an historical account about what really lies behind the seal people legends. He gave me permission to use his research in the novel. In the islands the past always feels very present.
Q: Have you always had a fascination with mermaids?
I initially became interested in the selkie and seal people myths when I heard the children’s story from my daughter while we were in Harris. Standing on a remote island shore on a deserted beach facing the Atlantic, it seemed very possible a seal man might appear. The mermaid legends were first told in Gaelic, legends going back thousands of years, but they are still told and sung today, especially on Uist island. The folk singer Julie Fowlis, who sang the Gaelic songs on Disney’s Brave soundtrack, came to the Glasgow book launch and sang a song taught to her on her island of Uist. That song was written more than 200 years ago by John MacOdrum, who was said to be a seal man’s descendent. Due to the clearances where villagers were evicted from the land, the MacOdrum clan descendants are now only found in the US and Canada. I’ve been in contact with some of them.
Q: What is the message you hope readers walk away with after they close the covers of The Sea House?
Hope . . . and the power of love and grace. We don’t just get to choose how we tell our past stories, but we can also choose how our future story will be written.
Posted 9/17/14 at 4:15 PM | Audra Jennings
Where do you turn when a dream you’ve cherished in your heart for your entire life is completely shattered? In her new release, Hidden in the Stars (Quilts of Love series from Abingdon Press/September 16, 2014/ISBN:9781426773600/$13.99), Robin Caroll introduces us to a young woman who must find the strength to continue living after losing everything she cares about.
At 21 years old, Sophia Montgomery has been working toward the goal of becoming an Olympic gymnast since she was a young girl, but everything changes one night when she is attacked in her mother’s home. Her attacker leaves her with career-ending injuries and the inability to speak. Most tragically, he snuffs out her beloved mother’s life. Reeling from the loss of her mother and her dreams, Sophia has no choice but to accept her estranged grandmother’s invitation to come and live in their family home. FULL POST
Posted 9/16/14 at 12:08 PM | Audra Jennings
Three of the most beloved Christian authors of World War II-era fiction have come together to gift their readers with the new Christmas release, Where Treetops Glisten (WaterBrook Press/September 16, 2014/ISBN: 978-1601426482/$14.99), a collection of three Christmas novellas.
Tricia Goyer, Cara Putman and Sarah Sundin invite readers to turn back the clock to days gone by as they listen to Bing Crosby sing of sleigh bells in the snow and get to know the Turner family. Each of the three siblings is forging their own paths in their own love story filled with the wonder of Christmas. Hailing from the heart of America in Lafayette, Indiana, these characters will never be the same as the reality of America’s involvement in World War II hits incredibly close to home.
The collaboration was unique and enjoyable for the writing trio. “We started in the brainstorming phase, throwing out character and family ideas and making them mesh,” explains Sundin. “The collaboration was challenging since our stories are more tightly connected than in most novella collections, but it was a lot of fun.”
In Putman’s White Christmas, college student Abigail Turner loses a beau to the war and is skittish about romance, until a young man with a serious problem needs her help. Pete Turner, a former fighter pilot in Sundin’s I’ll Be Home for Christmas, is trying to recapture the hope and peace his time at war has eroded. In Goyer’s Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Meredith Turner (or “Merry” to those who know her best) is using her skills as a combat nurse in the Netherlands. She’ll have to face the deepest kind of betrayal a world away from her family, but that could be precisely what God has in mind to redeem her broken heart.
The unsettled World War II era may not at first glance seem like a backdrop for love to flourish. “Our purpose is to remind readers of the importance of family, of home, and of togetherness,” Goyer reveals. “Even in a time of war we can remain strong because of the love of God and the love of those we serve.”
Will the Turner family be able to absorb the miracle of Christ’s birth and His plan for their futures even in such a tumultuous time? “There’s a freshness and sense of wonder to Christmas,” Putman says. “The idea that God would send His Son to earth as a newborn is an incredibly humbling thought. Combine that with great music, tradition and the love of family, and it becomes a magical time where almost anything seems possible.”
Readers will be able to feel the crunch of newly fallen snow under their feet as they get caught up in these stories of love and loss set against one of the most pivotal times in world history.
About the Authors
Tricia Goyer is the bestselling author of more than 45 books, including fictional tales delighting and entertaining readers and non-fiction titles offering encouragement and hope. She is a two-time Carol Award winner, as well as a Christy and ECPA Award Nominee. A popular blogger, Goyer contributes to a number of homeschooling and Christian parenting sites. She and her husband, John, live in Little Rock, AR, and are the parents of six.
Cara Putman, the award-winning author of 19 books, including Shadowed by Grace, graduated high school at 16, graduated college at 20 and completed her law degree at 27. She is a lecturer on business and employment law to graduate students at Purdue University and also practices law. Putman is currently pursuing her Master’s in Business Administration at Krannert. She lives with her husband and four children in Indiana.
Sarah Sundin is the author of six historical novels, including In Perfect Time (Revell, August 2014). Her novel On Distant Shores was a double finalist for the 2014 Golden Scroll Awards. Sarah lives in northern California with her husband and three children, works on-call as a hospital pharmacist, and teaches Sunday school and women’s Bible studies.
Posted 9/11/14 at 11:01 AM | Audra Jennings
Best-selling, award winning author Suzanne Woods Fisher invites readers to celebrate Christmas with her this year by hosting a Christmas at Rose Hill Farm (Revell/September 2, 2014/ISBN: 978-0800721930/ hardcover/$15.99) themed brunch. Between now and September 29, readers can sign up on the author’s website at suzannewoodsfisher.com/book-club-brunch to host. Hosts will be able to choose their celebration day between November 1 and December 23.
Hosts will be selected and notified via email on October 3. From the entries received, 50 hosts will be chosen to receive a party kit, which includes:
The brunch is the perfect opportunity for Amish fiction fans, as well as garden lovers, to get together, enjoy the holiday season, and discuss Fisher’s latest release.
In keeping with the spirit of the season, Fisher encourages hosts to collect non-perishable food items from their guests to be donated to the host’s choice of local food banks or community shelters. For each group that collects 50 items on the day of their event, Fisher will donate $10 to one of her favorite local charities, Shephard’s Gate, a shelter for abused women and children.
“There’s an unusual character named George in this Christmas story,” Fisher said, “who has a knack for helping Billy see a bigger picture and get back on track. We all need someone like George in our lives—and we need to be ‘George-like’ to others. That’s the motive behind this food drive. It’s a way to help others make a fresh start and to remind them they’re not alone. To me, that’s the very best gift of Christmas. ‘Emmanuel. God is with us.’”
Billy Lapp is far away from his Amish roots working as a rose rustler for Penn State and wants nothing to do with Stoney Ridge. And that suits Bess Riehl just fine. Why should she think twice about a man who left without a word of explanation? It’s time she moved on with her life, and that meant saying yes when Billy's cousin Amos proposed — for the third time — and beginning to plan for her Christmas wedding.
When a “lost” rose is discovered in a forgotten corner of the greenhouse at Rose Hill Farm, Billy is sent to track down its origins. His plan is to get in, identify the rose, and get out. The only catch is that he’s having a hard time narrowing down the identity of the lost rose — and he can’t get Bess Riehl out of his mind.
As the history of the lost rose is pieced together, it reminds Bess and Billy — and Amos too — that Christmas truly is the season of miracles.
About the Author
Suzanne Woods Fisher is a bestselling, award winning author of Amish fiction and non-fiction and a columnist for The Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazine. She has won a Carol award, been a finalist for the Christy Award, and was a two-time finalist for the ECPA Book of the Year.
Her interest in the Amish began with her grandfather, who was raised Plain in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. She travels back east a couple of times each year for research. Fisher has a great admiration for the Plain people and believes they provide wonderful examples to the world. She has an underlying belief in her books — you don’t have to “go Amish” to incorporate many of their principles into your life: simplicity, living with less, appreciating nature, forgiving others more readily, trusting in God.
When Fisher isn’t writing, playing tennis or bragging to her friends about her grandbabies, she is raising puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind.