Food for the SoulTweet
Posted 11/19/14 at 3:17 PM | Audra Jennings
Imagine being medically trained at some of the most prestigious institutions in the world — Harvard and Yale — and turning your back on a lucrative medical career in private practice to care for the poor. As Klaus-Dieter John writes in his book, I Have Seen God (Monarch Books/November 27, 2014/ISBN: 978-0857215741/$16.99), it was a dream he and his wife, Martina, shared since before they met. FULL POST
1) What made you choose Hezekiah for a bible study?
Years ago, I was invited to be a speaker for Stonecroft Ministries, an international women’s ministry organization. As I was preparing my first presentation for them, I was reading through the book of Isaiah in my personal bible study time. When I got to chapter 36, the Lord stopped me in my tracks. After reading through it a couple of times, I began writing the outline for my speech in the margins of my bible. The story was about Hezekiah. I spent a couple of years sharing the chapter 36 account at Christian women’s clubs and eventually expanded the 20 minute speech into a 10 week study for the Sunday school class I teach, simply out of passion for Hezekiah’s story and what I was learning. One day, a woman at an event asked me, “Do you have a Bible study about this?” The Holy Spirit used that conversation to convict my heart to write it. I fought the Lord for quite some time before surrendering to the idea. I wasn’t convinced another bible study was necessary. FULL POST
Search for the Truth Publications will release their latest book entitled Brilliant: Made in the Image of God by the company’s founder, Bruce Malone. The coffee-table-sized hardcover uses a timeline of scientific and archaeological facts to validate that the Creation account of the Bible is accurate. Malone says the timeline makes this title unique among similar books.
“Most books on creation deal with the scientific evidence supporting the reality that we have a designer,” says Malone. “Brilliant places creation in a real biblical timeline of Earth's history. Cultures throughout the world are filled with mysteries which do not fit the pervasive evolutionary time-frame, but make perfect sense if the Biblical timeline of history is understood. Brilliant takes the Bible seriously and every page contains an artifact from some ancient culture testifying to the reality of these true events of history.” FULL POST
Posted 11/17/14 at 3:48 PM | Audra Jennings
Seattle: It could be argued there is no stronger instinct on earth than that of a mother to protect her family. The lengths she will go to do so are explored in The Brothers’ Keepers (RidgeRoute Press/November 17, 2014/ISBN: 9780991401734/ $14.99), written by award-winning journalist and world traveler NLB Horton. FULL POST
Posted 11/12/14 at 2:37 PM | Audra Jennings
When family expectations and societal pressures collide with love and faith, which values will emerge the victor? Award-winning author Carrie Turansky explores this theme in her new book, The Daughter of Highland Hall (Multnomah Books/October 7, 2014/ISBN: 978-1601424983/$14.99).
Book two in the Edwardian Brides Series, The Daughter of Highland Hall, follows 18-year-old Kate Ramsey on a journey of self-discovery as she travels to London to make her societal debut. Her overbearing aunt insists she secure a marriage proposal from a wealthy, titled man. As Kate begins making the round of balls and garden parties, she attracts the attention of a man who seems to have all the qualifications on her list. Yet, is he the best choice? Will this lifestyle bring her true happiness?
Q: At the beginning of The Daughter of Highland Hall, readers will find the scripture Matthew 6:33. What is the significance of that verse in the story?
I chose Matthew 6:33, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well,” as the theme verse for this story because it summarizes the faith journey of the heroine, Kate Ramsey. The novel opens as Kate comes to London for her first season, hoping to make a good impression and find a wealthy, titled husband. She believes this will give her a prominent place in society and secure her future. But when she meets others who have a sincere faith and different goals, everything she has believed is called into question. What is most important in life? How does her faith impact her choices? Kate discovers when she lays down our own plans and seeks God first, He guides her toward the best path for her future.
Q: Your heroine, Kate, is a debutante trying to find her place in society and ultimately a husband. Why will readers be able to identify with her experiences?
Everyone wants to live a meaningful, fulfilling life. That was true in 1912, and it’s true today. Readers will identify with Kate as she faces the challenges of pleasing her family, meeting society’s expectations and trying to understand her own desires and motivations as she looks toward the future. Some of those challenges and expectations may be different today . . . but many are the same, and we can learn from all Kate experiences on her journey of faith and self-discovery.
Q: The Daughter of Highland Hall is your second book in the Edwardian Bride series — what is it about that time period that interests you?
The Edwardian era (1900–1918) is an interesting time of change in England. The class system and cultural influences of the Victorian era were still present, but they were beginning to change. Many modern inventions became popular and impacted people’s lives, such as cars, electricity, airplanes and several time-saving appliances. Those make the Edwardian lifestyle similar to today, and that in turn helps readers relate to the characters and the issues they face.
Q: What first drew you to writing English historical fiction?
I enjoyed watching Downton Abbey and was intrigued by the lifestyle, time period and the upstairs-downstairs aspects of the series. I met with an editor at a conference, and she encouraged me to research the time period and submit a proposal that had a similar feeling but was unique. At first I thought the research would be too difficult. However, Cathy Gohlke, a friend and fellow author, had recently published a wonderful story set in 1912 titled Promise Me This. Cathy encouraged me to accept the editor’s challenge, and she offered me several research books. So I jumped in and discovered I loved the research and enjoyed learning more about this time period in England. The characters and story rose out of the research, and it has been a fun series to write.
Q: You’ve even taken your research efforts all the way to Europe. What were some of the highlights of your trips? Did anything you saw make it into the book?
My husband and I visited England in 2012 and focused our time in Oxfordshire, the Peak District and the Cotswolds. Our tour of Highclere Castle where Downton Abbey is set was the highlight of that trip for me. I loved seeing all the rooms where Downton is filmed, including the great hall, the library, the upper gallery and bedrooms. The gardens and greenhouse were lovely, and I had those in mind for several of the scenes in The Governess of Highland Hall. But I wanted to find a unique estate and setting for my books. My online research led me to Tyntesfield, a beautiful estate near Bristol in southwest England. It was a perfect choice. Tyntestfield is featured on the cover of The Governess of Highland Hall, and I used the interior design of this house to help me envision the scenes in my novels.
I was very excited to visit Tyntesfield in May 2014. What a thrill to see all the rooms and take a private tour of the day nursery and the governess’s bedroom! It’s even more beautiful than my online research revealed. If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend a visit to Tyntesfield. I have a Pinterest board filled with photos to help me remember everything I saw there.
Q: How was culture changing during the period in which you wrote, and how does The Daughter of Highland Hall reflect that?
As the Victorian era came to an end, the moral climate became less strict. This is reflected by incidents in both The Governess of Highland Hall and The Daughter of Highland Hall. William Ramsey, the head of the family, is impacted by the choices of other family members and must decide how to respond. The differences between the classes were also changing. Working-class people were less satisfied with being “in service” as maids and butlers, and they wanted increased wages and benefits, putting pressure on the upper class. Taxes, especially death duties, put tremendous financial stress on families who inherited large estates. This plays a role in books one and two in the series. All these changes were even more apparent in the later half of the era because of the changes World War I brought to English society. The Ramsey family and the staff at Highland will be going through World War I in book three, A Refuge at Highland Hall.
Q: Another character in the book, Jonathan Foster, is committed to helping the poor in London’s East End. Was that common practice among physicians during that time? Was that kind of work as respected as it is now?
During the late Victorian and Edwardian eras many people became more concerned for the poor and worked for social change. Some offered practical help, including free and low-cost medical care. One of those who was concerned for the poor and encouraged practical assistance was William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army. When he first started his work among the poor he was scoffed at and criticized. But near the end of his life he received an honorary doctorate from Oxford and was respected and admired for his work. When he died in 1912, Londoners lined the streets by the thousands to see his casket pass by. A speech given by his granddaughter, Catherine Booth, is featured in The Daughter of Highland Hall, and it has a great impact on Kate Ramsey.
Q: In Edwardian England, women had fewer options available to them, and marriage was the primary way they could secure their future. Yet books and TV shows such as Downton Abbey, based in this time period, are incredibly popular with women. Why do you think this is?
I think women love the fashions, houses, manners and social customs we see on Downton Abbey. Looking back, it seems like a “romantic” period when men were gentlemen and women were ladies. Life seems simpler, especially if you were from a wealthy family. I don’t think most women today would like to take on the role of a servant in that time period. In fact, there was a reality show called Manor House with that premise. People took on the roles of the family and servants and had to live as the Edwardians did for a period of time. Watching that series was a fun part of my research.
Q: While our modern circumstances will vary from Kate’s, we still face expectations placed on us by our family and society. How can we navigate those expectations while still pursuing God’s best for us?
Balancing our love for our family and our commitment to the Lord is an important issue. Following the principles in Scripture we can find help and guidance. When we are children we are told to obey our parents. As we get older the roles change, but we are still to honor them. That means asking for their input and advice on important decisions and listening to their fears and concerns before we prayerfully make decisions. If we’re married, our mate’s input should carry more weight than our parents’. I think meeting society’s expectations is less important than pleasing the Lord and living in a way that honors Him. Once again, using principles from Scripture and getting input and advice from wise and godly people can help us make the best decisions.
Q: What can readers learn from The Daughter of Highland Hall about the importance of seeking godliness in a mate, rather than looks, financial security or social status?
Both The Governess of Highland Hall and The Daughter of Highland Hall touch on the importance of choosing a mate who has a strong faith and good character. That is still an even more important message today. I hope the issues the characters face and the lessons they learn will challenge and encourage everyone who reads the series.
Q: Kate must ultimately decide what the right thing to do is based on her new relationship with God. How does her faith ultimately guide her?
The influence and examples of people who are strong Christians and who live out their faith in their daily lives have a great impact on Kate. When unexpected events in her family cause her to be excluded from social events, she has time to volunteer at a free clinic in one of the poorest areas of London, and her heart begins to soften and change. Rather than seeing the poor as a mass of humanity, she sees them as individuals who each have a story and needs not so very different than her own. Her growing attraction to a man with deep faith and convictions also has a great impact on Kate’s faith. Ultimately she must weigh her choices and use what she has learned to make important decisions about her future.
Q: What do you hope readers will take away after they’ve put The Daughter of Highland Hall back on the shelf?
I hope my readers will enjoy the journey with Kate and Jon and feel as though they have been transported back to London, England, in 1912. But I also hope they will be drawn closer to God as they identify with experiences Kate and Jon face and the challenges and choices they must make.
Posted 11/11/14 at 1:59 PM | Audra Jennings
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 his or her own path in his or her 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.
Q: How did the three of you decide to collaborate on a collection of novellas together?
Cara: I’d written in a couple of novella collections and loved the collaborative aspects. Writing is often solitary, but when you’re working on a collection with other writers, you have fun opportunities to work together. I asked Sarah and Tricia if they’d like to work together because I love their World War II stories, and I love their hearts. I also thought this was a sneaky way to get to know them better. It’s so fun now to have a book we’ve written together!
Tricia: The coolest thing about Cara approaching me is that I highly respect both Cara and Sarah for their writing abilities and their love of World War II. There aren’t many people I know who enjoy both of these passions, just as I do, and it was easy to say YES!
Sarah: When Cara invited me to participate, I was thrilled. We all liked the idea of using one family’s experience over the course of the war to tie the stories together.
Q: What themes run through each of the stories in Where Treetops Glisten to tie the book together?
Sarah: In all three of the stories, someone is overcoming grief or loss, and someone is dealing with regrets of the past. Strong themes of healing and reconciliation and hope run through each story. Giving is also a crucial element, which is appropriate for Christmas stories!
Tricia: I also love the use of Christmas songs from that era. The title, Where Treetops Glisten, may be very familiar to readers. Also each novella is named after a popular Christmas tune from those years!
Q: How did the three of you work together to make sure there was continuity between the three novellas?
Sarah: We started in the brainstorming phase, throwing out character and family ideas and making them mesh. Since I’m the nerdy chart-maker of the trio, I made a timeline and a character chart we could use for reference to keep details straight. Also, we bounced ideas off each other throughout the writing process: “Who would Abigail have in her wedding party?” “Does this sound like something Pete would do?” “What would Merry be feeling at this time?” We shared our rough drafts to make sure the details and personalities rang true. The collaboration was challenging since our stories are more tightly connected than in most novella collections, but it was a lot of fun.
Cara: Sarah is the spreadsheet queen. Seriously! After our conference call, Sarah had character and timeline spreadsheets ready for us. We stayed in contact and used those spreadsheets to keep the details straight.
Tricia: There were also many emails that flew back and forth with questions like, “What year was Pete born again?” and “What was so-and-so doing in 1943?” It was fun figuring out this family and these characters together. And then once we figured out the information, Sarah put it in her spreadsheet!
Q: Each one of the three siblings in the books has to chart his or her own path. How is the love of their family a support system for them, even as they make their own life decisions?
Sarah: Pete’s always seen himself as the black sheep of the Turner family — but as a much-loved black sheep. His family was there for him during his wild youth, and they’re there for him when he returns from his combat tour drained of hope and joy. They offer wisdom and humor and encouragement.
Cara: Abigail has keenly felt the shortness and unpredictability of life. Because of it, she’s afraid to chase her dreams or really dare to dream. Her family provides the support and stability to try even when life is something she can’t safely manage.
Tricia: Meredith (Merry) is the wanderer. She is the one who moved to Florida to attend nursing school as soon as she graduated from high school. She’s the baby of the family, and she’s always tried to prove herself. Yet as the years go by, and as Merry finds herself serving as a nurse in Netherlands, she realizes the place she wants to be the most is home — back with the family she loves.
Q: The three novellas are all titled after a Christmas song that became popular during World War II. Can you share a little of the history behind the songs and how they became a part of the book?
Sarah: Since so many great Christmas songs debuted during World War II (“White Christmas” in 1942, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” in 1943, and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” in 1944), I’ve often thought those songs would be a fun way to connect a novella collection, so I suggested it to Cara and Tricia, and they liked it too.
Cara: I loved the idea of using the Christmas carols to connect the stories. So many of those songs are a big part of Christmas even today! But we still had to figure out the rest. Christmas carols alone wouldn’t be enough for three stories to come to life. Once we were all on board, we had a conference call to figure out the rest.
Tricia: I used my song title, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” as an inspiration for my character too. I have a friend named Merry who was born on Christmas . . . so I used that for my novella! Meredith is nicknamed Merry, and her name plays into the story; that song makes its way into the novella too!
Q: World War II was a tumultuous, uncertain time. Why pick that era as the backdrop for a Christmas story?
Tricia: I love World War II, and I always loved chatting with Sarah and Cara about World War II. Our purpose is to remind readers of the importance of family, of home and of togetherness. Even in a time of war we can remain strong because of the love of God and the love of those we serve.
Sarah: Because World War II was so tumultuous, I think Christmas became more important. In the Christmas songs of the era, you hear a wistful nostalgia for white Christmases, for home, for mistletoe kisses, for merriness, for a time when your troubles would be out of sight. The holiday reminded people of home and hearth — exactly what they were fighting for.
Q: What sparked your interest in this particular historical time period?
Cara: I love the way this particular generation came together in a big way to fight a world-size problem. Everybody made sacrifices — sacrifices of even the most basic ‘needs’ like coffee and sugar. And everyone did it. If you talk to members of this generation today, they still insist they didn’t do anything special — yet I think it was heroic.
Tricia: I first became interested in World War II while traveling in Europe with two friends. We went to Mauthausen concentration camp, and I was overwhelmed with the stories. I ended up interviewing more than 100 World War II veterans, and then I started writing World War II novels. It’s been a passion of mine ever since I stepped in that concentration camp. I’ve written other genres, but deep in my heart I’m thankful to be back writing about World War II!
Q: What kind of research did you do before writing your story?
Cara: Because I live in Lafayette, I didn’t have to travel anywhere for research. I already had a friend’s house in mind I thought was the perfect home for this family. Still I had to research details like where the heroine worked, how McCord’s/Glatz makes candy canes, etc.
Sarah: For me, this was a refreshing change. I usually have to do great gobs of rather technical research, but not for this story. I already had a good base of Home Front research, so I just had to research Lafayette — and that was fascinating.
Tricia: Since my novella takes place in Belgium I studied a lot about the field hospitals at the time and the nurses. I also have a friend who lives in Netherlands who shared her uncle’s story with me. He died as part of the resistance. I’m thankful for the foundation I had of my other World War II novels. I enjoyed building upon that.
Q: Did any of you have a special tie to the book’s setting, Lafayette, Indiana?
Cara: Well, I actually live in Lafayette. One of my very good friends owns a historic home near downtown Lafayette, and I’ve known for years it would be the perfect home for a heroine. So when we set the book in Lafayette, I asked Ann if we could use her home. Since I wasn’t sure if anyone else would get to come to town to visit, I sketched out the floor plan and uploaded it to Pinterest so Sarah and Tricia could refer to it — reinforcing why I went to law school and not art school!
Sarah: Oh, my favorite part! I had the privilege of spending a couple of days in Lafayette, staying with the delightful Putman family. Cara — and her four children! — took me all around town. One of Cara’s friends graciously loaned us her home to serve as the Turner home, and she let us traipse through, sketching floor plans and taking pictures. We visited the Alcoa plant, the bridge over the Wabash and the charming downtown area. Driving around the area where I knew Grace would live, we saw the cutest Victorian — for sale! Since I figured they wanted people to look inside, I walked all around, peeked in the windows and took dozens of photos. I also spent a few hours at the local library going through 1943 phone books and newspapers — a treasure trove. And of course, we had to sample the wares at McCord’s!
Tricia: I was honored to travel to Lafayette to speak at a banquet, and Cara was a wonderful hostess while I was in town. We toured downtown and visited McCord Candies (and grabbed a soda there!), and we also visited some antique shops, which really gave me a feel for the area. Cara drove me around to see the home of the characters in the book. It was a delight to see the town come to life!
Q: Each of the characters in this book has to overcome not only personal obstacles, but also cultural conditions he or she has no control over. What lessons can we learn for our own times from their stories?
Tricia: The issue of “cultures” comes up strongly in my novel. Before the war, Meredith had fallen in love with a man from Germany. After Pearl Harbor, he abandoned her and returned to Germany, breaking her heart. Old and new feelings crash within her as their unit prepares to enter Germany. Meredith also cares for German soldiers who are brought into their field unit.
The lessons I hope the reader walks away with is that our nationality is only a part of who we are. Our family situations, and our faith, also make us who we are.
Q: Even just looking at the cover makes the reader want to curl up in front of a fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa. What did you do to get in the Christmas spirit as you penned your story?
Cara: I visited McCord’s and watched the staff make candy canes. I also listened to a lot of Christmas carols.
Sarah: That was challenging since I wrote the novella in the summer. In California. But I had brainstormed and outlined the complete story at Christmastime the year before when I was in the Christmas mood. While writing the rough draft, I just had to think cold. And I did hum “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” while I wrote.
Tricia: I listened to wonderful Christmas music on Spotify, and I turned up the air conditioning!
Q: One thread that ties all of the stories together is the siblings’ grandmother. What do they learn from her lessons of wisdom and faith that help develop their own choices?
Cara: Grandma was such fun to write! She was feisty but with a deep love for her family. She provides the perspective of time and experience to each of the siblings — yet in a different way to reflect their unique journeys.
Tricia: I loved including a “grandma” in the story since my Grandma lives with me. I love the unconditional love and snippets of wisdom that come from the older generation.
Q: What is it about the Christmas season that engenders such a strong feeling of warmth and love?
Cara: There’s a freshness and sense of wonder to Christmas. The idea that God would send His son to earth as a newborn is an incredibly humbling thought. There’s also the cleanness of fresh-fallen snow that always makes me think of what Christ did on Calvary. Combine that with great music, tradition and the love of family, and it becomes a magical time where almost anything seems possible.
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Posted 11/10/14 at 1:44 PM | Audra Jennings
When the noose of your secrets begins to tighten, it can cut off any hope for freedom and love in the future. Letting the light of truth sever your unhealthy tie to the past is a major theme of award-winning author Sarah E. Ladd’s book A Lady at Willowgrove Hall (Thomas Nelson/October 7, 2014/ISBN: 978-1401688370), the third and final installment in the Whispers on the Moors series. Set in Great Britain’s Regency era, A Lady at Willowgrove Hall perfectly conveys the romantic sensibilities of that time.
Q: A Lady at Willowgrove Hall is the third book in the Whispers on the Moors series set during the Regency period. What years are considered to be Regency, and what were some of the historical events that took place during the time period?
The Regency era took place in England from 1811 to 1820. It was called that because when King George III was deemed unfit for the throne, his son, the Price of Wales, ruled in his stead as the Prince Regent. England was engaged in the Napoleonic War against France, and they were also at war with the American colonies in the War of 1812. The Industrial Age was in full swing, and the Romantic Movement was shaping the literature, art and music of the day.
Q: What about the Regency period interested you most and made you want to write about it?
I have always been a fan of Romantic British literature and enjoy the Romantic Movement in general, which, again, fell during the Regency era. I have read the literature and the poetry of this time period extensively, and those works had a profound influence on me. If I had to pick one favorite author, I would have to choose Charlotte Brontë, although Jane Austen is a very close second.
Change — socially, politically and economically — was rampant during the Regency period. It was also a time where the great excesses of the wealthy class sharply contrasted against the rioting and social upheaval among the poor. All in all, it was a setting ripe with opportunities for compelling story-telling!
Q: Both of your main characters struggle with secrets from their pasts. Why do you think people try to hide from their past mistakes when most of the time, freedom is found in living in truth?
In this book, the characters kept secrets out of fear. They were well aware of the potential repercussions if their secrets were ever exposed, so they went to great lengths to hide them. While they thought they were protecting themselves, they were actually creating their own prisons. I think this is one of the big reasons people keep secrets from those they love — they are afraid of how others will respond. In order to connect with others, though, you must be willing to be vulnerable and give others the opportunity to look beyond your past.
Q: How does holding secrets isolate us from others?
In the novel, one of the characters, Mrs. Trent, says, “Some secrets are like a noose. The more you resist, the more they strangle you.” She said this in reference to her own painful experience with a secret she had been harboring. She was fearful of what others would say if the truth ever came out, and it kept her from forming relationships with others. She allowed the secret to fester and gain power over her, which led to a life of loneliness. In this sense, she cut herself off from others. When we are so afraid to share the truth about ourselves with others, we are not allowing others to know the “real” us, which prevents us from those truly meaningful relationships that bring so much joy to life.
Q: During the Regency period, a woman was defined by her reputation. Is that still true today?
It is true; during this era a woman was defined by her reputation. A soiled reputation could lead to a life of poverty and isolation. Today, while it can still be difficult to rise above a damaged reputation, the repercussions are not as harsh. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that women are not as reliant upon men as they were during the Regency. Women have options today, whereas during the Regency period, women were completely dependent upon the men in their lives; if their reputation was soiled and they could not find a good husband, they were essentially condemned to a difficult, lonely life.
Q: Your heroine, Cecily, is thrust from her home by her father because of a childish, albeit rebellious, act. What advice do you have for those who are dealing with rejection?
Rejection is very painful, and that pain can leave lifelong scars. Sometimes rejection can come as a result of a specific action, and other times there is no reason. If we look to others to find our value or purpose in life, we will be disappointed. People will let us down, but if we look to God to find value and worth, we can find rest and acceptance.
Q: Feeling dismissed by her earthly father taints the way Cecily imagines God’s response to her bad decision. How is this true of all of us?
Children are undoubtedly shaped by their relationship with their parents. They look to their mother and father for acceptance and guidance, so when a parent rejects them, they could fear no one could possibly accept them. For Cecily, this was definitely the case, and she felt so tarnished she didn’t think God could love her. All of us experience rejection at some point in our lives, and what is important to remember is God will not turn his back on his children.
Q: What do you hope readers learn from A Lady at Willowgrove Hall about God’s love and redemption?
Even though someone’s past may be shameful or full of secrets, there is hope. God can take the darkest pasts and turn them into bright futures. No one is so terrible they cannot find redemption in God’s love and grace.
Q: Your books beautifully capture the atmosphere of British culture. Have you been able to travel to Great Britain? How did that affect your writing?
When I was in college, I went to England and Scotland for a three-week course in British literature. While there, the class visited several of the major literary attractions and studied them in-depth. Even though I was not writing at the time, the trip had a profound effect on me, and it was truly a life-changing event.
Q: You have two careers: one as a writer and one in strategic marketing and brand management. What advice do you have for other aspiring writers who choose to keep their “day job?"
Don’t give up — it can be done! The biggest piece of advice I can give is to plan ahead. Make a schedule of writing times and goals and stick to it — write every day, even if it is just for fifteen minutes. The good news is it gets easier with practice. So set goals. Make mini-deadlines for yourself — and be sure to track your progress! You’ll be surprised at how far you can go.
Q: Readers have fallen in love with your Whispers on the Moors series. Will there be a fourth book? Is there anything you can tell us about what might come next?
A Lady at Willowgrove Hall is the final book in the Whispers on the Moors series, but I am happy to say I am hard at work on another series titled Treasures of Surrey, which will be published by Thomas Nelson. The first book, The Curiosity Keeper, will release the summer of 2015.
Posted 11/6/14 at 9:52 AM | Audra Jennings
In a world where a woman’s acceptance so often seems contingent on her looks, behavior or talents, does anyone love her simply for who she is? Debora M. Coty answers that question with a resounding “yes” in her new book, Too Loved to Be Lost: Discovering God’s Intentional, Unconditional, Without-Limits Love (Barbour Books/October 1, 2014/ISBN: 978-1628369694 /$9.99).
Q: The subtitle of Too Loved to Be Lost is “discovering God’s intentional, unconditional, without-limits love.” Why did you want to bring a message about God’s love to women?
I believe women today spend a lot of time feeling taken advantage of, judged unfairly and accepted only within certain boundaries. The love we receive often seems conditional — based on our looks, behavior, talents or achievements — rather than who we are inside our skin. With the threat of losing acceptance breathing down our necks, our sense of security crashes and burns as our looks fade, we experience failure, our talents become rusty or ineffective, our achievements wane due to constant stress, the aging process or some other factor beyond our control. We need to know — really KNOW —there is One who doesn’t condemn or critique us, but instead loves, forgives and accepts us — quirks, meltdowns, zits and all.
Q: You say many of the women you’ve met view God as a “stern entity with a huge frown and a big stick.” Why do you think they see God in that way?
The perspective of an impersonal, judgmental god standing by to smite us to smithereens when we mess up is often based on harsh childhood experience we’ve had with an angry father, relentless coach or strict teacher. I think society at large tends to reinforce that way of thinking by expounding the philosophy that “the good go to heaven (get rewarded) and the bad go to hell (get punished).” Unfortunately, many people buy into this behavior-based theology and completely eliminate the crucial faith elements of Papa God’s grace and forgiveness.
Sure, our heavenly Father is holy and just. He’s righteous and wants us to be too. But that doesn’t make Him a mean ole hulking principal stalking the halls with a big paddle. That is so not our loving Papa God.
Q: In Too Loved to Be Lost, you use a travel theme to illustrate life’s journey. Why did you choose that thread to weave through this book?
The first and most obvious reason is the word “lost” in the title. I’m directionally challenged in the worst way to the point where Olivia (my Aussie-voiced GPS) keeps her metallic panties in a wad. She has taken to adding, “What in the WORLD were you thinking?” after the third “Recalculating.” I once thought I heard her mutter, “Crimey. Just go home!”
The second reason is I believe most women experience the hopeless, helpless feeling of lostness at some point in their lives, perhaps after a devastating loss, severe disappointment or disillusionment with life. They lose their heart-compass and find themselves wandering in the spiritual desert without purpose or direction, or they may feel they’re drowning in the relentless everyday stress-pool of life and can’t locate the ladder.
I wrote Too Loved to be Lost to help support and encourage my girlfriends through those lost times with simple, easy-to-follow steps for joining hands and hearts and, with a little help from heaven, to recalculate their route to a lush, peaceful place where they can feel, enjoy and revel in Papa God’s unending love.
Q: Have you ever had a moment where you felt completely lost? How did God come through for you?
Absolutely. More than once. Even on a single day.
Then there were several lost times that swallowed months and even years before I found my true heart-path again. One of these I’ve spoken of in several of my books was the deep depression that followed six heart-wrenching miscarriages. My wounds were so painful and raw that I distanced myself from the Lord and my faith for two long desert years, during which I felt completely alone and utterly lost. At my lowest point, He reached down to me with His customized tender mercies and gently began chipping away at the rock that was my heart until it was finally replaced with a feeling heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). I believe Papa God allows detours to happen in our faith journeys to show us deeper and higher facets of his limitless love.
Q: Women have a tendency to try to do it all and can be susceptible to burnout. What are some ways women can counteract the effects of burnout?
Q: You say you can see God’s fingerprints throughout your day. Can you share an example from your own life?
I call Papa God’s fingerprints on our lives “grace notes.” I borrowed the musical term from my 20 years as a piano teacher because those teensy notes beside the regular musical notes — called grace notes — aren’t essential to the melody, but they add incredible depth and breadth and beauty to the music. That’s what Papa God’s grace notes do in our lives. His everyday touches of grace — His grace notes — prove to us over and over that even the tiniest details of our lives are important to Him and He always has our backs.
Too Loved to be Lost is full of grace notes from my life and the lives of others I know.
Whether it’s miraculously blocking your smoke allergy while you’re sitting next to an unsaved smoker in church, uplifting your rotten mood by the backlit shaft of a sunbeam reaching down to you like Papa God’s fingers from heaven, or hearing that special song on the radio at the exact moment you need it, you know without a doubt your heavenly father cares intimately about you. Grace notes are supernatural touches of grace that can’t be explained logically. I think of them as butterfly kisses from Papa.
Q: Women often feel unaccepted by a group or individual. What advice would you give for these times when we feel rejected and unloved?
When we’re thrust into a Have vs. Have-Not situation and find ourselves on the “Not” side of that invisible acceptance barrier, it’s time to change perspective. We can’t force others to like us, but we can transform ourselves from a humiliated Have-Not to a happy Have-Not. How? When we’re feeling unloved and unlovable, we need to CUDDLE:
C: Climb up into Papa God’s lap. Just like when you needed reassurance as a little girl, climb into the warm, soft embrace of the one who loves you. Papa’s enveloping arms are always ready to welcome you. Press your head to His chest. Feel His heartbeat. Know you are cherished.
U: Unload. Drop that heavy load you’re lugging around. Feelings of low self-worth are exacerbated by fatigue. Give your constipated calendar an activity enema. Take control of your energy-sapping schedule before it controls you.
D: Daydream. Yep, you have permission to fly away mentally. Now that you’ve physically unloaded, emotionally unplug. Dare to imagine. Open up a window of happiness.
D: Dance to the music deep in your soul. Laugh as you twirl in the rain. Play. Frolic. Get back in touch with the freedom of pure joy.
L: Let go of your imagined unworthiness. It’s an ugly lie. You are heard, understood and treasured by the only One who really matters. Reject rejection. Know this: Jesus will never, ever reject you. He thinks you’re to-die-for.
E: Evolve into a higher being. Stop being so hard on yourself. Resolve to treat yourself as your own best friend. When others see how much you respect yourself, they’ll respect you too.
Q: You share openly in Too Loved to Be Lost about what you consider to be your greatest parenting mistake. What was it, and what can it teach us about God and trust?
Although it happened nearly 20 years ago and I’ve been long since forgiven, it’s still painful to think about the harm I inadvertently caused my own child. I was a young mother of two very active children, feeling stressed out and desperate for a break. In my selfishness, I had become all about me. My 7-year-old daughter had always had issues with separation anxiety but had been exceptionally clingy during our beach vacation with my extended family. I explain more detail in Too Loved to be Lost, but in essence, I abandoned my child. No explanation. No good-byes. No closure. I simply disappeared and didn’t come back. She placed her trust in me, but I lost sight of what a privilege it is to be trusted completely by another living soul and callously betrayed that innocent trust. I disregarded her needs and thought only of my own, resulting in a damaged relationship.
Sadly, it took a very long time to regain her trust.
As hideous as it was, this experience enabled me to grasp fully that we have a heavenly parent who will never betray us or forsake our trust. Fallible humans will always let us down, but our Papa God won’t. “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5, NIV)
Q: Why are strong friendships with other women so important? How can lonely women find more personal connection in our digital world?
Women are wired emotionally to need girlfriends. We need occasional silliness, moments of reckless feminine abandon, a safe place to stash our secrets where they won’t leak.
Girlfriends are the way we learn how to love unconditionally, just as our Godfriend loves us. “A friend loves at all times.” (Proverbs 17:17, NIV) We learn to overlook zits, burps and hideous hair days and honestly believe that this special person who hears the song down deep in our hearts is the most beautiful creature on earth.
The very same way Papa views us.
Through loving on our girlfriends, we learn forgiveness, compassion, mercy and grace: character traits straight from the heart of God. To me, one of the most important things I gain from time with my besties is laughter — pure, soul-freeing, stress-dissolving belly laughter. I believe laughter is the catalyst that releases the joy of the Lord in our souls, and nothing bubbles up joy like the hilarity of girlfriend giggles.
The way to find girlfriends of like minds and hearts is by proactively seeking them. Don’t wait for them to fall into your lap. You might be 93 by the time that happens. Search for them through women’s Bible studies, prayer groups, special interest groups and community functions. Connecting online is great, but it’s important that your cyber relationship morph into a face-to-face girlfriend relationship too at some point. Sharing special moments of our day online is icing on the cake, but hey, we need the cake! The actual physical relationship is important. Coloring your hair purple together or laughing until the Coke spurts out your nose just doesn’t happen online.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It is the blessing of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” Amen!
Q: Where does your passion to minister to women come from?
I would have given anything as a young woman desiring to grow in my faith to have a like-hearted girlfriend come alongside me to help encourage and equip me for my life journey. I would have wanted her to speak truth frankly and without reservation, but laced with lots of humor, grace and Godiva.
So that’s what I’m trying to accomplish with my “Take on Life Series,” which includes not only Too Loved to be Lost, but its predecessors Fear, Faith, and a Fistful of Chocolate, More Beauty, Less Beast and Too Blessed to be Stressed. Each book addresses heart needs of women and offers true laugh-out-loud stories, applicable scriptures and girlfriend-to-girlfriend chic chats to promote healing, refreshment and transformation.
Q: What is the single most important takeaway from Too Loved to Be Lost?
Papa God’s love is never too lost or too late. For once we fall in love — into Papa’s love — we can never fall back out of it. It’s secure. Safe. Forever. We can’t do anything so vile we lose it. We can’t forget about it so long it fades away. It’ll never rust, corrode or mildew. No one can break it, ruin it or rip it away from us.
The truth is that Papa God loves each of us from the bottom of His heart, and His heart is bottomless.
Posted 11/5/14 at 5:13 PM | Audra Jennings
Life can be a lot like a roller coaster, with unexpected twists and turns. But when things go wrong and you enter a freefall, how do you cling to grace in the midst of fear and disappointment? In her new book, The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life's Hard (David C Cook/October 1, 2014/ISBN: 978-0781412155/$15.99), Kara Tippetts challenges readers to let go of anger and bitterness and find joy in the most challenging moments of life.
Kara Tippetts knows the ordinary days of mothering four kids, the joy of watching her children grow . . . and the devastating reality of stage-four cancer. In The Hardest Peace, Tippetts doesn’t offer answers for when living is hard, but she asks us to join her in moving away from fear and control and toward peace and grace. Most of all, she draws us back to the God who is with us, in the mundane and the suffering, and who shapes even our pain into beauty.
Q: The Hardest Peace tells much of your personal story: You were diagnosed in 2012 with cancer, and to say it has not been an easy road is a gross understatement. How has having a terminal illness impacted the way you view life?
I never expected to be planning my funeral, counting my moments and fighting for my next breath in my 30s. I never expected to be sitting on my daughter’s bed with the sinking feeling her mama was going to die of cancer and not of old age, and not knowing the right words to love her well. Never. But those places, those raw, broken places are the heart of life. The brokenness of today causes us to look at tomorrow, hope for tomorrow.
God has walked me through the valley of the shadow and showed me what true beauty really is. He showed me what love really looks like, and He built a depth of beauty into my story that a life without suffering would never have known.
Q: Who did you write The Hardest Peace for?
This is a book for all of us who face the hard edges of life: marriage, children, pain, grief, singleness, brokenness of all shapes and sizes are warmly welcome to the pages of this book. This is my story, but I hope it helps the readers to look honestly at their story. I do not believe you need to face cancer to see the value of looking for and naming the graces in your own moments, days, weeks, lifetime. To capture this beauty in your weariness, even if your story doesn’t look like mine, will enrich your moments and give you a new perspective and help you lift your head in the impossibility and pain in living. Hard is hard.
Q: What is the hardest peace?
The veil between here and heaven is very thin. But it’s a dreadfully painful one. We struggle to see beyond these days and look upon eternity with gladness. God gives us morsels of eternity over here, crumbs really — and we beg for them to remain when there is a feast awaiting us. I look at the beautiful creations of my loved ones and say, Jesus, you did so well, so wondrously well, can’t I stay a minute longer? But his peace answers my heart that it’s exactly decided and it’s beautiful. It’s nothing to be feared. That it is amazing, the story that remains on this side of the veil and the one that awaits on the other. But I need reminding — constant reminding. This, for me, is the hardest peace. I need truth-tellers all around me to speak the goodness of grace that will meet me on both sides of the tender veil.
Q: Since your diagnosis, you’ve gone through chemotherapy and radiation. How have you dealt with some of the side effects of the treatments — like losing your hair for example?
When I started treatment, I had no idea how bald would meet me. Bald. The word itself has no elegance; it’s a blunt, matter-of-fact four letters that can refer to a scalp, an animal, even a tire. And that’s how I met myself in the mirror exactly sixteen days after the first dose of the healing poison. Early September found my littlest, Story Jane, and I pulling out handfuls of my blond hair and scattering it to the wind. It was the day my sister Jonna flew in and the day a friend met me in my bathroom to shave my head — bald. Without my hair then there were the gaunt, deep-set black eyes, completely void of any glimmer, and I was deeply grieved. My weakness showed, no hiding, no faking — just weakness. I would love to say I screamed, cried, wept in sorrow. No, chemo brings silence. A deafening silence to just get through each moment.
I remember hearing a young woman say she would be fine if she lost her hair. I quietly sighed, hoping she would never know the pain of the ugly I was facing. I did not admonish her ignorance, only silently prayed she would never have to look for the grace at the end of her day to meet herself in the mirror utterly changed by chemicals. It’s a bottom I don’t want another to know, but even at that bottom, there was love. Unbelievable love.
Q: Being ill has caused you to have to reevaluate your priorities, even in housekeeping. What has that looked like for you?
My cooking now is nutritious, simple, hearty and simple to clean up or leave until the morning. I had to let go of the perfect home, the matching plates, the perfectly timed dinner where everything came out perfectly hot and lovely. When I let go of having it perfect, I learned the joy of sharing life with the imperfect. When I untied the knots Pinterest and Martha Stewart tied me into, I began to see the joy of together. The meeting of the edges of life around our table. Broken marriages, desperate addiction, unkindness, hard issues with parenting, love, life. Those were the flavors of the meals I remember most, the honest heart-sharing, not the perfect roast beef with perfectly appointed root vegetables. No, when all the trying is put aside, the heart has room to share.
Q: How has your journey affected your marriage and your relationships with your family members?
As our story continues to struggle and the plot of my cancer thickens, God has deepened our love, helped us in our weakness to begin to have an imagination for heaven and met us in such gentle grace where we cling. I picture God’s gentle countenance as I beg for more time, more loving, more enjoying the crumbs as I can’t see the next season in all its fullness. I don’t struggle with dying, but I struggle and lose my breath when I think of my family watching me suffer through finding my way to heaven. I struggle as I will see my pain reflected in their faces. I will see their fears in letting me go and knowing the graces that will follow.
My husband, Jason, looks upon me with gentleness and longing as I’m offered a new drug, a new treatment, a new short remedy to extend my days. I agree to the pills, the hot flashes, the cutting, the pain, the discomfort and the struggle to live in the small moment that is now. I struggle for the conclusion, I wrestle with the brokenness, and I pray, oh how I pray for more days.
Q: You say in The Hardest Peace that you actually pray for the woman your husband might marry after you’re gone. How do you find the grace to do that?
Jason asked me the other day why I talked to him so much about this next season of his life. He always sits with me in this conversation, uncomfortable at best. I looked at him gently and told him I want him to have the courage to love again. I want him to hear me say: You are excellent as a husband. Be a husband again. I also want him to hear me say, Be discerning, be cautious, be patient, but don’t close your heart to the possibility of love. Go for it, dearest — we met the best of life in the gift of marriage.
Certainly, I have fears, concerns and anxieties over those future days. Another voice will be entering the house I love with different ideas, opinions and preferences. So in those edges, those anxieties, I pray. I pray for her heart; I pray for the hearts of my kids. I pray they would uniquely love this woman and not struggle with a sense of disloyalty to me. I want my children to know I see their dad’s great gift at love, and that I want it to continue. But the edges they will face in those moments, I cannot know. So I pray quiet prayers into those moments for everyone.
Q: Your children are still so young. How do you talk to them about your illness?
It has been a balancing act that has kept us utterly dependent on God for direction. Facing illness and disease with young children is difficult at best. (Eleanor is 13, Harper Joy is 9, Lake Edward is 7, and Story Jane is 5.) It feels foggy, and there is no perfect way to walk alongside your children through such grievous hard. But we believe the key is to come alongside them or they will become angry in the unknown and fearful. Children are bright and are keenly aware of stress and changes within the home. We have walked transparent before our children with the hard of our story, and we have trusted the Holy Spirit to guide our words and our silence. We want to give the kids truth, not our fears.
Two things that have guided our parenting direction: The first is that we treat each child as an individual with unique understanding. Our age range is large. We have older children who understand the weightiness of cancer, and others who don’t understand the implications of cancer, or death even. Secondly, we recognize we have children with differing abilities to communicate and process struggles, fears and heartbreak. We have children who will share every emotion and children who want to process alone quietly. We’ve worked and prayed to find opportunities to allow them to share their fears, their quiet worries and the pain in the journey. We have also intentionally surrounded our children with a safe community of friends and families.
Q: How have friendships played a role in helping you and your family in this journey?
My dear friend Mickey decided to stay with us for several weeks in the middle of my treatment to carry us through some very dark days. With each new treatment, I hit a lower low, a weaker weak, the bottom grew deeper and deeper. She loved us gently in our exhausted state.
I remember the first outing Mickey and I braved bald. We went to Costco and lunch. Mickey has a gift for conversation, so we entered the warehouse store talking, and we left talking. I barely noticed the glances and felt utterly free from the uncomfortable wigs and hot scarfs. We went to a nearby hamburger place for lunch. In my middle bite, I found a hair in my burger. Mickey looked at me and frankly said, “Well, we know it isn’t yours.” We laughed harder than I had laughed in months. It was laughter we needed, exactly when we needed it. Mickey’s timing with that one-liner, and also her presence in our home, was right on target.
Q: You talk in The Hardest Peace about making an idol out of time. What did you mean by that?
In the midst of my cancer, I made an idol of time. It was my greatest prayer, my begging pleadings to Jesus — let me remain. In many ways, it is still my prayer, but God has rooted in me a gratitude for my now, my hard, my story and even my cancer. I still have a long journey of seeking grace that I may never understand, but this journey has taught me so much. Perhaps the humbling, the prying open of my hand to time and the growing imaginings for my forever tomorrows have become the balm to help me see truth in the midst of pain. The lessons have come, but they haven’t come easily.
Q: You grew up in a very performance-based household, with a father who was prone to anger. How have you come to peace in your relationship with your parents?
The truth is my siblings and I enjoyed pleasing our parents. We excelled at it, worked at it and lived to impress and please them. But I believe this is the story of most young children — the seeking of approval, love and acceptance in the first place you know life. As I learned the power of story and began to look deeper into my parents’ own story, I realized I could not change the past, but the future could look different. My spirit could meet the two of them with love where only my own bitterness and unforgiveness had existed before.
Q: The Hardest Peace shares your story, but so many people are walking difficult paths of their own. Do you think people can identify with what you’ve written?
Each week I receive emails from people seeking grace in very troubling situations. These broken followers of my story limp along with me, trying to give credit to the generous giver of peace while walking in the struggle of today. There are beautiful stories of courageous humility as they receive suffering and seek grace in the midst of it. I know, I know, I know I’m not the only one facing these hard moments. I’m just writing about them.
When I read the countless stories that are sent for only my eyes to see, I learn the power of living courageously broken. Through the lives of so many facing brokenness and through my own story, I’ve learned that maybe, just maybe, brokenness is not to be feared but humbly received.
Posted 11/4/14 at 11:51 AM | Audra Jennings
Most authors draw from life experience when writing a book. However, for bestselling 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.
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.
Q: In just a few sentences, could you summarize The Promise from your eyes as the author?
The Promise is the largest project I’ve undertaken since my 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. 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. I was so incredibly engrossed in the fictionalization that I often found myself using ‘real’ names, and I would have to go back and make corrections.
Q: In your letter to readers in the back of The Promise, you share the book was based on actual events you were witness to. This story is something you’d expect to see in a movie and is certainly an exciting and emotional read. Can you share a little bit about your inspiration for this story?
Before it ever entered my mind to write The Promise, I’d already decided I wanted to write a story about a rescue. This came to light after a dream I had, and I got up in the middle of the night and jotted down some notes — notes that eventually became a synopsis. But I kept getting nudges to move in another direction; to still write a rescue story, but something much more personal than the plot I’d literally dreamed. In The Promise, Mallory takes a dangerous journey to Pakistan, fueled by her adventurous spirit and her desire to save a life. But the trip becomes something much different as Mallory finds herself in grave danger. Someone close to me, “Laurie,” found herself in a similar situation, and it was up to me to work with the Consulate in Peshawar, the Embassy in Islamabad and the State Department to get Laurie back to the United States. In a letter to readers at the back of the book, I have included details about the actual events that inspired the story. However, this book would have never happened unless Laurie was onboard. She wanted to tell her story, hoping that perhaps even one woman might be spared this type of betrayal. From there . . . my ‘rescue’ story came full circle.
Q: How long does it normally take for you to write a book?
This is a tough question because so many of my writing projects overlap, which often means I have to jump around. But I would estimate that actual writing — not including revisions and edits — is usually about three months. The Promise was the exception, though. This novel went through extensive rewrites and edits in an effort get it in the best shape possible. I also started research for The Promise months before I started the writing. The entire process, from research to finalization, was close to a year.
Q: Your main character, Mallory, is driven by her number-one goal: to save a life. Have you ever been as passionate as Mallory about a goal, and if so, were you able to achieve it?
My number one goal for years was to write ONE book, to make ONE difference in a life. This is a great example of how God has used me in ways I could have never foreseen. I’m on my 23rd book, and I’ve received countless emails and letters from readers who say my books changed them for the better in some way. It seems as if there is a reason for every bad situation that came my way, and God never wastes a life experience. I have written about so many topics that I wouldn’t be qualified to write about — or that wouldn’t seem credible — if I hadn’t had been involved with or lived the experience.
Q: As Christians, we want to think the best about people, but sadly in life we have to be more skeptical about the motives of others. What are some of the things women should look out for in order not to fall prey to situations such as the one in your book?
I think that common sense prevails, but sometimes when we are in the midst of a situation, it is impossible to see the dangers looming around us — especially if it is a romantic relationship. In my opinion, women should always authenticate a stranger prior to meeting. For example, if he says he works at a bank, can you verify that? Trust your life-long friends and family. If they see a problem, try to step outside of the situation and take a peek from their perspective.
Q: What are some of the warning signs friends and family should watch for in a potentially abusive or dangerous relationship?
In both the real-life story and fictional version, both “Laurie” and Mallory distanced themselves from family and friends. They kept secrets from those closest to them and strived to justify illogical decisions and choices.
Q: What advice would you share with someone who has a friend or family member who has not made the best or wisest choices and is coping with the fallout of his or her decisions? How can you be supportive of a person, even when you don’t agree with his or her choices?
Love unconditionally and don’t judge. There is no one on this planet who hasn’t made mistakes and bad choices. It’s what we do with those experiences that defines us and molds our future. Most of the time, we can’t see clearly when we are the ones in the throes of a bad relationship or dangerous situation. And when it’s all over and we’ve somehow survived, it’s almost impossible not to ask, “Why me? Why did I have to go through that?” As for my experiences, it has often taken years for me to recognize God turning my ‘wrongs’ into something for the overall good in ways I could have never foreseen.
Q: How did writing The Promise bring closure to you and others involved in the events that inspired the book?
Laurie (name changed to protect her identity) and I grew up together. I love her very much. But when she 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. 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. I could have never foreseen how collaborating on this book would bring us so much closer than we’d ever been. For the first time, I was able to see past my own judgments at the choices she’d made, lending an understanding from her point of view. In some ways we agree to disagree, but writing the book gave us a closer relationship we both treasure. From Laurie: “I took a leap of faith. I believed that man and loved him with all my heart. He might have broken my heart, but not my spirit or the will to be me. I refuse to give him that power.” She is healing, and I am proud of her.
Q: Is there a spiritual message you hope readers are able to take away from reading The Promise?
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. And as I said earlier, God never wastes a life experience.
Q: Many people may take this story and say it reveals the dangers of Islam. Was exploring different religions one of your goals?
There are good and bad people in every religion. Islam gets a bad rap sometimes because of 9-11. Overall, it is a peaceful religion. For some Americans, it is hard for us to distinguish between peaceful Islam and radical Islam. Does that mean I agree with all things Islam? No. I’m a Christian. I wouldn’t say my intent was to explore different religions. My intent was to tell an entertaining story inspired by actual events and to do so in a way that sheds light on the good and the bad. If it saves one woman from falling victim to any kind of scheming predator, then I have done my job for God. I’ve taken Laurie’s experience and molded it into a warning that I hope will also draw readers closer to Him.