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Posted 12/9/14 at 4:16 PM | Audra Jennings
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.
In The Brothers’ Keepers, we meet archaeologist Grace Madison who is in Brussels cataloging looted antiquities when her son’s bride is attacked in Switzerland. Her day careens from bad to catastrophic when daughter Maggie disappears in France.
Coincidence is a luxury Grace cannot afford as history — saturated in espionage — is repeating itself.
Q: The title of the book, The Brothers’ Keepers, refers to heroine Grace Madison’s determination to protect someone important to her. To what lengths would you go to protect someone you cared about?
I would do whatever it took — and I remember the exact moment I decided that! I stood at the edge of the tel Dan (northern Israel) archaeological dig pit in 2007 with my husband and two then-teenage children. They had accompanied me on an archaeological survey as part of my master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. Heavy artillery fire began booming from Syria as staccato machine-gun reports peppered near the Lebanese border. An Israeli Defense Force camouflage-painted plane broke through an unseasonal cloud cover, circling the site. I hoped they could see we were unarmed! Grace Madison was born from this harrowing experience.
Q: The Brothers’ Keepers largely focuses on doing the right thing. Tell us about a situation in which you chose to do the right thing despite personal cost. Was it worth it?
My business was thriving, my children were young, and I had to choose between a smaller role in their lives or limiting my company’s growth. My husband was trying to transition from one career to another, and I was the family’s wage-earner.
This was a particularly difficult time because money was tight, and the decision tore at who I was as a businesswoman and mother. I chose to limit my accounts, and eventually put small school desks into my office to home school for a time. (The kids are now an attorney and an engineer, so they survived my teaching!) I’ve never regretted the choice to put family first, but it was not an easy one.
Q: Grace is in the midst of rebuilding her marriage and struggles with the commitment she made vs. still being in love. How hard do you think it is to try to fall in love again when things become difficult?
Love is a choice, not an accident. A covenant, not a commitment. Choosing to love again can be extremely difficult in a society of immediate gratification, and requires a willingness to risk transparency by trusting someone who has failed you. And the process requires an equal commitment from both partners; it can’t be one-sided.
I know that God loves me despite my failings and throughout my spiritual deserts and rebellion. He exhibits grace to me, and I’m called to act in His image. (Note that I am, at times, an “epic failure,” to use a favorite phrase from one of my characters.) Being mindful of this model of love and forgiveness is the only path I know to reconciliation.
Q: What is the difference between a commitment and a covenant?
A covenant is a binding agreement, sealed with an act of some kind. A commitment is dedication, without the binding element, and unsealed. A covenant is much stronger than a commitment. To develop a healthy respect for the strength of a covenant, mosey through the Old Testament!
Q: Independence is important, even within a marriage. Does independence ever cause problems between spouses? How can you maintain a sense of self without living completely separate lives?
Independence AND dependence can cause trouble between spouses. There’s a balance . . . somewhere. The answer lies in both partners working to identify with the Imago Dei, or Image of God. Being Christ-like can create a healthy sense of self and appropriate selflessness as a daily act of worship. (I confess that “epic failure” comes to mind again.)
Around the world, there is a shortage of water for drinking, irrigating crops, and supporting livestock. That is true even within US borders, especially in the West where I live. Historical issues aside, a huge factor in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is unequal distribution of water.
The world needs new sources of potable and economical drinking water, and we need to manage this most precious resource wisely. As a Christian and environmentalist, I believe humans are stewards of God’s creation. Parched addresses stewardship of the highest order, and I hope the series raises awareness of this literally life-threatening issue. We can live without oil, but we can’t survive without water.
Q: Many books feature youthful heroes and heroines, but The Brothers’ Keepers highlights the life of a more mature protagonist. What are some of the factors that led to your decision to write characters a little older than the norm? What kind of feedback have you had?
Readers ADORE Grace Madison. The response has been overwhelming.
Regarding the decision to write about a more mature protagonist, what’s not to love? Our decades should make us more nuanced, more self-confident, and less afraid to broaden our horizons. Middle age can be a season of richness and vitality that I hope to depict with joy and vigor - exactly the way I try to LIVE!
By developing the character of Grace’s daughter, Maggie, I have the chance to contrast their generations while ignoring neither. From the octogenarians, to Grace and her husband, to Maggie and the “twenty-somethings” (her brother and sister-in-law), each group in The Brothers’ Keepers responds to challenges in its own uniquely age-appropriate way.
Q: In The Brothers’ Keepers, we see two different women – one who raised a family and chose career later in life. The other sacrificed family life for career. Can a woman “have it all?”
Of course we can. But “having it all” can come at an almost sacrificial price and creates repercussions that can last for decades. If you’re going to “have it all,” you’ll have little of yourself left at the end of a difficult road that will probably be littered with shrapnel.
Q: Is there a right or wrong answer to choosing a family or a career as your primary life goal?
I think there are absolutes in life, but don't believe the family-versus-career talking point is one of them. Each woman has to make her choice by responding to her own situation and environment. And she has to be flexible because situations change, and marriages evolve over time. Spouses can grow in different directions, make untenable choices and act outside the boundaries established by the marriage vows.
I’d like to see less emphasis on this divisive dialogue, and more focus on women’s education and empowerment — which lead to freedom of choice and self-determination.
Q: Which of the characters in The Brothers’ Keepers can you relate to the most, and why?
That’s a tough question. I can understand all of them — their motivations and desires — and enjoy them all, except when their conversations keep me awake at night by forcing me to take dictation at my computer! But like readers my age, I especially relate to Grace: her faith, skepticism, flaws, and humor. I agree with the reader who wrote, “I want to be Grace!”
I also identify with Grace because I am a Christian who is “in the world, but not of it.” My career, my education, my travel: each of these elements formed me, but they occurred in the midst of people whose beliefs did not always ally with mine. I am invigorated by God’s creation, as is Grace. I want to experience it! And I hope her character portrays a demographic of Christianity that is intelligent, fair, and fearless because of its belief in God’s empowerment, one attractive to non-believers because these Christians live their faith with realism and love.
Q: Every good story has an antagonist, and your Parched series is no exception. We learn some things about your villain in The Brothers’ Keepers, however, that might make readers look at her in a new light. What does Laura McAlex’s story teach us about having compassion for difficult people?
MaAlex’s past doesn’t excuse her actions and choices, but reveals motivating aspects of her psyche. Discovering her life journey makes her behavior easier to understand, but no less evil. I hope her character is a warning to guard vigilantly against becoming hardened against the greater good. God’s standards never change, regardless of our trials.
I love working with her character. It’s not that she’s sexually corrupt, as is so often the case with “the bad girls of literature.” She’s just bad to the bone in the ways most male antagonists are. How refreshing! When she and Grace lock up in book three, it’s a humorous pitting of two very different Alpha Females.
I was so surprised to be nominated! Two letters of recommendation and months later, my membership was approved. The research in Israel and Jordan, an Amazon cruise (with a tarantula in the skiff), the graduate degree, and my unusual interests were important considerations for the vetting committee.
The Explorers Club was founded in 1904 and admitted its first female members in 1981. The goal was to create a place where the adventurous could gather, and the organization funds expeditions, research, seminars, and other scholarly endeavors. Explorer Club members were first to the North and South Poles, to the deepest point of the oceans, to the summit of Mt. Everest, and to the moon! I am honored.
Q: You have traversed the globe – seeing five continents and surveying archaeological digs in the Middle East and beyond – which provided research and background for your books. Tell us about your most recent trip.
I’m answering this question on a train between Vienna and Budapest, having crossed the North Atlantic on the Queen Mary 2 a month ago. I studied the Rosetta Stone and Cyrus Cylinder in London, then survived nicotine-infused St. Vitus’s Cathedral in Prague. I tried not to yodel in Lucerne, and loudly hummed “The Lonely Goatherd” in Salzburg.
I’ll be on the road for another six weeks, confirming research for book three in the series by revisiting digs and sites in Italy, Greece, and Turkey (unless ISIS invades, or the border with Turkey and Syria collapses). Grace Madison is on the move, although she’s left her beloved camels in Jerusalem.
I could not write these manuscripts without knowing their settings well, and in some instances, intimately. I can picture the Temple Mount of Jerusalem at sunrise. I know what the Istanbul spice market smells like on a drizzly day. I catch my breath at the memory of height vertigo atop Machu Picchu. I remember the taste of wild blueberries after surprising a 1200-pound grizzly bear on the Kenai Peninsula. As useful as the Internet is for the copious research behind each book in the Parched series, nothing replaces living in Grace’s tattered hiking boots.
Q: You had incredibly successful careers in journalism and marketing. What brought you to writing fiction?
Journalism, marketing, and advertising were enjoyable means to an end, but after the afternoon at tel Dan, I could not ignore the storyline that grew around Grace. No one was writing anything like the Parched series, so I decided to try to fill the void.
I have written all my life. My undergraduate degree is in journalism and my previous career prepared me to share Grace (and her friends and family) professionally, and provided daily practice with the written word.
Q: How has your degree at Dallas Theological Seminary influenced your writing?
I am VERY careful with the theology in my manuscripts! DTS is a premier institution with a longstanding reputation for excellence. My professors were peerless examples of aging joyfully and vigorously.
I returned to seminary seeking answers to questions created when what I was taught as a young woman didn’t support the life I had lived. Along with a greater understanding, I left seminary with a vast library in fascinating subjects like Israeli Religion in the Ancient Near Eastern context, Ugaritic poetry, and the Intertestamental period. My office bookshelves are a geeky wonderland!
Q: What plans do you have next for your Parched series?
I’m writing book three now, which I hope to release in the fall of 2015. Then there are two, possibly three, more adventures for Grace.
Q: What do you hope readers walk away with after they’ve finished reading The Brothers’ Keepers?
I hope they are invigorated! I pray they are encouraged. I trust they’ll want to “camel up” with Grace as she continues to love God and praise Him in her own quirky, intelligent way.
Posted 12/1/14 at 2:39 PM | Audra Jennings
Nothing beats a Christmas party you don’t have to get dressed up for! Readers are invited to grab their quilts and a mug of their favorite warm holiday beverage and settle down for a night in with the authors of the latest releases in Abingdon Press’ Quilts of Love series. The Quilts of Love Merry Quilted Christmas Facebook party on December 9 at 8:00 PM EST will be hosted by the authors of the two latest releases, Jodie Bailey (Quilted by Christmas/October 21, 2014) and Laura V. Hilton and Cindy Loven (Swept Away/November 18, 2014). They will be joined by Gina Welborn (Masterpiece Marriage/December 16, 2014) and Cathy Elliott (A Stitch in Crime/January 20, 2015), who will be giving readers a preview of their upcoming books.
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 to be given away at the end of the hour, including books, Christmas ornaments, sweet treats and other special selections chosen by the authors. The winner of a Kindle Fire 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 coordinated by Litfuse Publicity Group.
It isn’t just the readers who are excited to take part in these chats. “I’m looking forward to teaming up with Laura, Cindy, Cathy and Gina to chat with everyone and to give away some fun prizes. Who doesn’t love a party, especially when there are presents?” asks Bailey.
The authors are also fans of the series and its authors. “I’m in stitches over being a Quilts of Love author!” Welborn notes. Loven feels the same way. “The word ‘excitement’ doesn’t begin to cover the range of emotions I am experiencing being included in this great group of authors. I wouldn’t be here without my great co-author Laura, talent of this story, and Jodie’s book was so sweet. I look forward with great anticipation to reading Gina and Cathy’s books.”
“I’m excited to be a part of the Quilts of Love series with so many talented authors. I wanted to be a part of this line and was honored to write for them,” explains Hilton. She adds, “Any opportunity to chat with readers and hear their stories is a blessing, 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. January 2015 will mark the last monthly release for the current series of 25 stand-alone titles.
"The best reward for a Quilts of Love author has to be meeting the loyal readers,” says Elliott. “As the author of the final book in the series, I look forward to meeting many long-time readers and some new ones! It’s a great way to hear about their creative interests and get a glimpse into their own stories."
Keep up with the Quilts of Love series online at:
About the authors and their books:
A grandmother’s last wish is to communicate God’s love through an Irish chain quilt.
Taryn McKenna believes she’s easy to forget. Abandoned by her parents and left behind when her high school sweetheart joined the army, she vows to never love again and throws herself into her love for the outdoors and the pursuit of a college degree—something no one else in her family has ever accomplished. Her goal, as a young teacher in the hills of North Carolina, is to leave a legacy in the lives of the middle‑schoolers she teaches.
When Taryn’s grandmother Jemma, the only other person who ever held her close, has a heart attack that reveals a fatal medical condition, Taryn is corralled into helping Grandma work on a final project—an Irish chain quilt that tells the story of her history and the love Jemma knows is out there for Taryn. As the pieces of the quilt come together, Taryn begins to see her value. Can she learn to believe that God will never leave her behind even though others have?
Jodie Bailey is Tarheel born and bred. After 15 years as a military spouse, she settled with her family back in North Carolina. She is the author of the military suspense novel Freefall and is a contributor to Edie Melson’s devotional for military families, Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home. While not working on her next novel, she teaches middle‑schoolers to love writing as much as she does.
Sara doesn’t think she wants love. But her grandmother has other plans.
Sara Jane Morgan is trying to balance teaching with caring for her ailing, stubborn grandmother. When school lets out for the summer, the plans are for Grandma to teach Sara Jane to quilt as they finish up the Appalachian Ballad quilt Grandma started as a teenager. But things don’t always go as planned.
Andrew Stevenson is hiding from his past—and his future. He works as a handyman to pay the bills, but his heart is as an artisan, designing homemade brooms. When Sara Jane’s grandmother hires him to renovate her home, sparks fly between Drew and his new employer’s granddaughter.
Still, it doesn’t take Sara Jane long to see Drew isn’t what he seems. Questions arise, and she starts researching him online. What she discovers could change her life—and her heart—forever.
Laura V. Hilton is an award-winning author and a professional book reviewer. A stay-at-home mom and home school teacher, Laura lives with her family in Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas.
Cindy Loven is active in the church and writes from her home in Conway, Arkansas, where she lives with her husband and their son.
He wants to save his business. She wants to be a professor. But are they asking for more than they can really have?
After a flood damages the looms at Zenus Dane’s Philadelphia textile mill and the bank demands loan payment, Zenus turns to his aunt for help repurposing his textiles. Trouble is . . . his aunt has already been hired by the lovely yet secretive Englishwoman Mary Varrs.
Eager to acquire his aunt’s quilt patterns, Zenus attends the summer Quilting Bee, a social event his aunt has uniquely designed with the secret purpose of finding Zenus a wife. However Zenus only has eyes for Mary, but Mary has no such desire for him.
Though his aunt is determined to design a masterpiece marriage, both Zenus and Mary will have to overcome their stubborn ways. Can he realize that love requires stepping out of his routine? And will she recognize that following her heart doesn’t mean sacrificing her ambition?
Gina Welborn is the author of several novels and novellas, including The Heiress’s Courtship. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers; the former president of Faith, Hope and Love; and one of the founding members of InkwellInspirations.com. She lives in Cache, Oklahoma, with her pastor husband and their five children.
Thea James has accepted an assignment as co-chairperson for Larkindale’s first quilt show extravaganza. Juggling the new assignment with running her antique business, she’s already feeling frayed when things start to unravel.
Mary-Alice Wentworth, a much-loved town matriarch, respect quilt judge, and Thea’s dear friend, is covertly conked on the head during the kick-off Quilt Show Soiree, throwing suspicion on her guests. It also appears that a valuable diamond brooch has been stolen during the attack. The family is furious. But is it because of the missing diamonds or their mugged mother?
When a renowned textile expert goes MIA and the famous Wentworth heritage quilt disappears, Larkindale’s reputation as a tourist have is at risk. Thea attempts to piece the mystery together and save the town’s investment in the Quilt Show before Mary-Alice gets another brain bump… or something worse.
Author and speaker Cathy Elliott nourishes her night-owl habit by creating cozy mysteries and more on her trusty laptop in Anderson, California. Like the protagonist in her new mystery, Cathy is an avid quilter. Besides collecting (too much) cool fabric, she also enjoys hunting for antique treasures.
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.
Learn more about the authors:
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.