Food for the SoulTweet
Posted 7/24/14 at 4:54 PM | Audra Jennings
An Interview with Christi Lynn,
Marketing Director for the Odyssey Adventure Club
As media use continues to explode among children and teens, parents’ concerns about what their children could be uncovering while online increases. On average, children get their first smartphone at age 12, and research suggests kids and teens are spending more than 7.5 hours a day with their electronic devices — and often without a safety net. That’s exactly why Focus on the Family is launching the Odyssey Adventure Club, a safe and fun environment where children can explore, create and imagine, all while developing their faith and learning biblical truth.
Media is a way of life for kids today, and we understand that. That’s why we created the Odyssey Adventure Club: to provide online, on-the-go delivery of more than 300 hours of safe, biblically-based audio entertainment. For more than 25 years, Adventures in Odyssey has been fostering spiritual and character growth in listeners. Many parents have come to trust us for solid lessons brought to life by fun characters. While we can’t monitor how many episodes a child hears, we can guarantee it’s an investment into their life every time.
Q: Some research shows that kids from age 8 to 18 spend more than 7.5 hours a day with electronic devices like a computer, phone or TV — why should this be a concern to parents?
We believe kids should be using their imagination and interacting with their family and friends. Many times media today tends to isolate. While the Odyssey Adventure Club is consumed through a computer or mobile device, it doesn’t require a child to sit and stare at a screen. Kids can listen to episodes while doing other activities, like coloring, playing with their toys or outside, riding in the car or exercising. The Odyssey Adventure Club also provides activities and devotions meant to be done as a family, encouraging that important interaction. Through the audio dramas, imagination is brought to life for kids within the theatre of the mind.
Q: How can parents leverage media to build a solid Christian worldview in their children?
There are a number of ways in everyday routines that parents can use media to teach their children. For instance, if you’re listening to Christian music, you can ask them, “What do you think the lyrics of this song mean?” Or if you’re watching a movie or TV show, you can talk with your child about the plotline and how it relates to morality, God and truth.
As parents, we have to equip our children with the knowledge and wisdom to face various situations in life, whether it’s something like bullying or lying, or understanding relationships. Adventures in Odyssey has episodes that touch on all of these issues and many, many more. With the Odyssey Adventure Club platform, you can even search for episodes on a subject matter and use it as a teaching tool.
Q: How does the Odyssey Adventure Club help moms and dads make spiritual investments into the lives of their children?
Through the power of story and imagination, Adventures in Odyssey teaches life lessons through the lens of a biblical worldview. This helps a child grow and develop spiritually. All of our episodes with the Odyssey Adventure Club are also connected to a devotional, which will give parents the ability to tie together easily the program to a scripture and a spiritual lesson. Additionally, parents will find a daily devotional on the website that will take their children and their family deeper on their spiritual walk.
Q: What is available to families through membership in the Odyssey Adventure Club?
Families will have access to more than 740 Adventures in Odyssey episodes and videos that highlight some of the real-life stories on which some of the dramas were based. The Web Quests feature hands-on learning and fun activities that enhance the audio dramas. Plus, with the member e-newsletter, parents can engage their child on a deeper level and use daily devotions for family time. They’ll also get exclusive new episodes each month, a subscription to Clubhouse magazine and a “behind-the-scenes” blog.
Q: How will this online club be kept safe for kids to explore on their own?
We require a parent to sign their child up, which helps to ensure that parents are aware of their kids’ involvement. All comments on the website are pre-moderated, and we do not allow any personally identifiable information to appear on the site.
We want to teach our members about giving and enlighten them to great social causes. Through our combined giving, the club can truly impact other ministries. We also hope to spread the word to our members about other great ministries that are doing God’s work around the world.
Q: The Adventures in Odyssey program has been sparking the imagination of children for 25 years. Share a few examples of how parents have used these award-winning radio dramas to disciple their children.
There are so many stories I could share of road trips, bedtime stories and devotional times. I remember one story about a boy who challenged his parents to listen to Adventures in Odyssey before bed instead of watching TV. The dad was so convicted that they started turning off the TV 30 minutes before bed and turning on Adventures in Odyssey instead. He wanted his family to start and end their day thinking about Jesus (Phil. 4:8). We have also heard numerous stories of how children were led to begin a relationship with Christ through listening to Adventures in Odyssey. We are blown away by these examples and feel humbled to play a small part in God’s larger story.
Posted 7/24/14 at 10:44 AM | Audra Jennings
To celebrate her new release, award-winning author Susan May Warren is hosting a contest every foodie will love! When I Fall in Love (Tyndale House Publishers / June 20, 2014 / ISBN 978-1414378435 / $14.99) is the third installment in Warren’s Christiansen Family series and is filled with a sense of adventure — and lots of good food.
From July 24 – August 10, Warren’s readers have the chance to win a KitchenAid mixer by entering the Hawaiian Chef Showdown, hosted on www.susanmaywarren.com. Readers can enter by creating or selecting a recipe using one of the main ingredients mentioned in the book, then pinning the recipe to Pinterest, and sharing it via other social media sites, including their blog. The grand prize winner will receive a KitchenAid mixer and all three books in the Christiansen Family series.
Food bloggers Jackie Brown from Mom on a Mission and Melissa Ringstaff from A Virtuous Woman will be creating custom recipes inspired by the book and giving away some treats of their own. More information about their contributions, as well as more details about the contest, will be available on the book’s website, whenifallinlove.susanmaywarren.com, when the contest launches on July 24. The Hawaiian Chef Showdown is being held in conjunction with the When I Fall in Love blog tour being coordinated by Litfuse Publicity Group.
The recipe contest is tied to the main storyline of When I Fall in Love. In the book, Grace Christiansen finds herself snatched from her everyday routines when her family surprises her with a trip to a cooking retreat in Hawaii. There she meets hockey player Max Sharpe, who’s trying to escape the pressures of his career for a few weeks. As the romance — and the oven — heat up in the kitchen, Grace and Max both will have to learn to step out of their expectations to find the right recipe for true love.
Susan May Warren says cooking has played a role in her own love story. “My husband is a fantastic cook. I’m more of an ‘open the fridge and see what I can create’ kind of gal,” she admits. “We could drive each other crazy — but we create great food and enjoy sitting around with our family, laughing, telling stories and feasting on life. In a similar way, Max and Grace’s story shows us we can be a winning team if we’re willing to embrace the current ingredients before us and enjoy the mess we make together.”
Readers can keep up with Susan May Warren at her website www.susanmaywarren.com and the Hawaiian Chef Showdown at whenifallinlove.susanmaywarren.com. Warren is also active on Facebook (SusanMayWarrenFiction) and Twitter (@susanmaywarren).
About the Christiansen Family series:
Set on the north shore of Minnesota, the series features the Christiansens, a family readers can identify with as they try to figure out how faith meets real life.
Darek Christiansen, heir to the historic Evergreen Lake Resort is angry since the loss of his wife. After a charity auction connects him with assistant county attorney, Ivy Madison, Darek begins to believe there might be love again in his future, but he’ll have to overcome his painful past – and Ivy’s secret connection to his wife’s death.
In It had to Be You . . .
Eden Christiansen’s job as handler for her NHL rookie brother, Owen, leaves her little time to focus on her own career. If only team enforcer, Jace, would mentor the young man. When Owen’s carelessness leads to an injury, Eden and Jace are thrown together and begin to wonder if they belong on the same team after all.
In When I Fall in Love . . .
Hawaii was the last place Grace Christiansen ever imagined she’d vacation, much less fall in love. But when her family surprises her with a cooking retreat in the Aloha State, she is pulled away from her predictable life and thrown headfirst into the path of hockey player, Max Sharpe, and the romantic adventure of a lifetime.
Coming in February: Always On My Mind
About Susan May Warren:
Susan May Warren is the bestselling, Christy and RITA Award–winning author of more than forty novels, whose compelling plots and unforgettable characters have won acclaim with readers and reviewers alike.
She served with her husband and four children as a missionary in Russia for eight years before she and her family returned home to the States. Warren now writes full-time as her husband runs a lodge on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, where many of her books are set. She and her family enjoy hiking, canoeing and being involved in their local church.
Warren holds a BA in mass communications from the University of Minnesota. Several of her critically acclaimed novels have been ECPA and CBA bestsellers, were chosen as Top Picks by Romantic Times and have won the RWA’s Inspirational Reader’s Choice contest and the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year award. Five of her books have been Christy Award finalists. In addition to her writing, Susan loves to teach and speak at women’s events about God's amazing grace in our lives.
Readers can keep up with Susan May Warren at her website www.susanmaywarren.com and blog www.susanmaywarren.com/scribbles-blog/. She is also active on Facebook (SusanMayWarrenFiction) and Twitter (@susanmaywarren).
Posted 7/10/14 at 4:42 PM | Audra Jennings
Abingdon Press has created a line of books that not only appeals to a wide variety of fiction readers, but is sure to catch the interest of quilters around the world. Each novel in the 25-book series is written by a different author and offers a completely unique story, setting and cast of characters. The books do not need to be read in order and can be enjoyed individually.
The idea behind the series (launched fall 2012) is that quilts tell stories of love and loss, hope and faith, tradition and new beginnings. The Quilts of Love series focuses on the women who quilted all of these things into their family history. Featuring contemporary and historical romances, as well as Amish fiction, women’s fiction and the occasional light mystery, readers are drawn into the endearing characters and touched by their stories. A new book will be released each month through January 2015.
“The Quilts of Love series was born out of a love for storytelling, whether that happens through the pages of a book or the stitches on a quilt,” explains Cat Hoort, marketing and publicity manager for Abingdon Fiction. “For more than 30 million active quilters in the U.S., stitches, like words, frame their family heritage, share a romantic tale, celebrate the achievements of a growing family or present a journey of overcoming odds. Our series uniquely captures those stories — their stories — and gives a face to the vast number of storytellers, both writers and quilters, whose work can be enjoyed by anyone with a creative spirit.”
Some of the authors are also avid quilters such as Cathy Elliott (A Stitch in Crime, available January 2015) and Lisa Carter (Aloha Rose). “One Quilts of Love reader I met recently has read every book in the series. As a quilter myself, I look forward each month to the new release too. I'm excited for the chance to connect with other quilt-book lovers,” explains Carter.
Authors contributing to the series include debut novelists, such as Emily Wierenga (A Promise in Pieces) and Cindy Loven (co-author of Swept Away), as well as veteran award-winners and best-sellers, such as Loree Lough (For Love of Eli), who has written more than 100 books, and RT (Romantic Times) Reviewer’s Choice Award winner Robin Caroll (Hidden In the Stars). Author Vannetta Chapman (The Christmas Quilt) is no stranger to books centered around quilts — in addition to her Quilts of Love contribution, she’s also written an entire mystery series set in a quilt shop.
Quilts aren’t just a part of each book’s story. A special tradition the authors have instituted with each release is the donation of a quilt to their chosen charity or individual in need. Quilt recipients have included an orphanage in Africa, a cancer center and a shelter for young mothers.
Readers can keep up with the authors and the series via social media and the series’ website. The Quilts of Love blog features chapter excerpts, special features from each book, weekly Guess the Quilt Pattern contests with giveaways and interviews with the authors.
Each quarter the authors of the latest releases interact with readers during a live author chat hosted on Facebook. Follow the Quilts of Love Facebook page for details on upcoming events.
Posted 6/30/14 at 3:23 PM | Audra Jennings
An endearing true-to-life family comedy that celebrates the beautiful mess called parenting, award-winning author Tricia Goyer’s Moms’ Night Out (B&H Publishing Group/April 22, 2014/ISBN: 978-1433684821/$15.99) novelization of the popular film by the same name chronicles how three harried moms, their husbands, a sister-in-law with a misplaced baby, a tattoo parlor owner, a motorcycle gang and a bewildered cabbie become intrinsically intertwined in one another’s lives after one momentous moms’ night out.
Q: This book is a novelization of the new movie Moms’ Night Out, starring Patricia Heaton, Sean Astin and others. We’re used to novels being turned into movies, but not so much movies being turned into novels. How does the novelization of a movie work?
A novelization means a novel inspired by the movie. I was contacted in December asking if I’d be interested in this project. I’d seen the trailer, and (as a mom of six with a hectic household) I immediately said, “Yes!” They sent me the movie, and I watched it a few times just to get an idea of the story. I loved it! It made me laugh and really spoke to my heart. Then with the screenplay in hand, I watched the movie a scene at a time. I’d catch the dialogue, and then I’d go back and bring the characters’ actions to life on the page. So, yes, I can pretty much quote the movie as it plays!
Q: How many times did you have to watch the movie in order to write the book?
I didn’t count, but I’d say I watched each scene 20-50 times, depending on how much action or dialogue there was!
Q: How involved do you get to be with the movie premiere and all the excitement of a theatrical release?
I was so honored to be able to go to Hollywood to be part of the premiere on April 29. They listed me as “Talent,” and I got to ride to the TCL Chinese Theater in a fancy car, walk the Red Carpet, watch the movie sitting next to Alex Hendrick (an awesome movie star/producer) and then have a wonderful time getting to know all the cast better at the after party. It truly was a magical night!
Q: You’re the mother of six and a best-selling author and speaker. What advice do you have for moms who are trying to juggle their work schedule and their family responsibilities?
Know how much you can say yes to. This year the only extra-curricular activity my children were a part of was Awanas. I only have one weekly commitment other than church and our small group, and that is our Teen MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers Support Group). We spend a lot of time playing with the neighbors and hanging out as a family. I’ve been at the spot where I’ve been running place to place with kids’ activities, and that’s not fun! After raising three kids, I’ve learned having dinners together and family time is a priority. I also balance my work commitments. As a writer my work is steady, and I have to make sure not to take on too many projects. It’s hard for me! Just last week I had to cut out some projects I really like just for the fact that I can’t do it all.
Q: Moms really do sacrifice so much for their families; why is it important for moms to make sure they’re finding rest and encouragement?
I love the well-known phrase, “When Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” When I am exhausted and overwhelmed, my whole family suffers. When I have time for friends and I fuel up on God, then I’m such a better mom. When I’m encouraged, then I pour encouragement out. When I’m rested, I give of myself with patience and love. It’s hard to step away, but so important too!
Q: How often do you get to have a Moms’ Night Out? Do you have a group of mommy-friends you’re able to connect with regularly?
I’m part of a small group of women at our church. They meet monthly, and I’m able to make it about every other month. I also have some girlfriends I’ll meet for lunch. Sometimes it’s hard to justify paying a babysitter to go to lunch, but I always come back refreshed. I also lead a Teen MOPS support group. The attendees and leaders range from age 17–55. We care for one another, love one another and draw support from one another. I get just as much back as I give!
Q: What’s the most comical experience you’ve had on a Moms’ Night Out?
Once a group of writer friends and I had gathered to go to a writers’ conference. We all came to town early to eat dinner at a very expensive restaurant. We dressed up and enjoyed the exquisite gardens as we walked to the front doors, only to discover it was . . . closed! We drove around for a while and finally ended up eating at a hole in the wall barbecue pit with picnic tables (inside), red-checkered, plastic table clothes and plastic forks. Not what we had in mind!
Q: Raising kids can be difficult, but there are some funny moments along the way — share one of your funniest memories involving your kids.
I have one from yesterday. We laughed so hard! Our daughter (six) was riding in the back of the car.
Her: “Mom, Dad!” she called out. “Grandma was sweeping the front porch and a black, wet cat leaped out of nowhere and jumped on her!”
Me: “Sweetie, remember we’ve been working about not lying or not telling stories.”
Her: “I saw a cat.”
It’s just a balance to be creative and to be truthful . . . we try to guide our children in both!
Q: How does your husband help out in those moments when you just have to get a break, like the moms in the film Moms’ Night Out? Are there other people in your life you can turn to?
I have the best husband ever! John and I adopted two children from the foster care system, and they came with a variety of issues. On most evenings, he’d take over the kid duty as soon as he got home from work because he knew I’d had a long day. Then on Saturdays he’d load up the three little ones into his car for an “adventure.” I’d enjoy the peace and write during this time. I also have two wonderful babysitters and some great neighbors who I can reach out to for help. Yes, I am blessed! Having a support system is SO important!
Q: This movie and the novel are both very funny and lighthearted, but the day-to-day tasks of being a mother can become overwhelming. What advice do you have for the mom who is feeling completely overcome by her responsibilities?
Remember that God is there for you. You don’t have to do it alone. One of my favorite Scripture verses is Isaiah 40:11, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” God wants to be there for you to guide you and assist you. Turn to Him. Even quick prayers, blubbered by an exhausted mom, make a difference.
Q: What advice would you give to dads about ways they can help alleviate some of the pressures moms feel?
I’d say that when it comes to helping, every little thing makes a difference. When my husband loads the dishwasher I’m so grateful! Also remind them often of their importance. Moms need to hear this most of all.
Q: Where can our audience find out more about the movie and book editions of Moms’ Night Out?
Posted 6/17/14 at 8:25 AM | Audra Jennings
When your heart is filled with a lust for vengeance, is there any room left for love? In her latest book, The Heart’s Pursuit (Zondervan/May 20, 2014/ISBN: 978-0310259275/$15.99), author Robin Lee Hatcher examines issues of the heart that all of us will eventually face: forgiveness and the desire for justice — or even retribution. The Heart’s Pursuit tells the story of two desperate characters who are hot on the trail of the villains who have harmed them. Silver Matlock is a Colorado beauty determined to track down the rogue who left her at the altar and stole the last remnant of her father’s fortune. Bounty hunter Jared Newman, as rugged as the West itself, seeks out the murderer who destroyed his family. Like so many who have been hurt by others, Silver and Jared must face the answer to this question: Will vengeance and payback heal their wounded hearts?
Q: What is the spiritual thread that runs through The Heart’s Pursuit?
Forgiveness, justice and trust.
Q: Both of the main characters are out for revenge against people who have taken something from them. Why do you think readers will be able to relate to those feelings?
Everybody has been hurt by someone in their lives. Some wounds go very deep, others stay on the surface, but they still affect the heart.
Part of my nature is a strong desire for justice to be done. Not only justice for myself but for the world around me. But there is a fine line between fighting for justice and the yearning for revenge upon those who are unjust. We must learn to leave such matters to God, to let go of the hurts and forgive and to trust God with the outcome.
Q: We can all think of people who have wronged us. What is the effect of anger and bitterness on our hearts and lives?
It is my opinion that most often we hold onto anger and bitterness because we have the mistaken notion that it will somehow hurt the person who hurt us. The truth is, that person probably isn’t giving us a single thought and may not care at all about what they’ve done. Holding onto anger and bitterness isn’t hurting them; it’s hurting us. Anger and bitterness are like a poison spreading in our hearts, and they will consume us if we don’t let go. Forgiveness isn’t really about the person who offended us at all. It is about us. We are made better, healthier and cleaner when we forgive those who have wronged us.
Q: Have you ever desired revenge? If so, how did you move beyond that desire into forgiveness?
Yes, I have been so hurt that I wanted revenge and found it difficult to forgive. I began a practice many years ago that has helped me overcome and truly forgive. I begin by writing on an index card: “Today, I forgive ‘So-and-So’ as an act of will and obedience to Christ.” Then I will date the card, sign my name and place the card in my Bible. Whenever old feelings of hurt rise up in me, I pull out that card and remind myself (and the devil who is whispering lies in my ear) that I have forgiven that person.
Next, I pray for the person who has wronged and hurt me. I ask God to save her if she doesn’t know the Lord. Then I ask God to bless her socks off. I ask for her to have financial success and success in her career and in her relationships and in any other way I can think of. I have found it impossible to harbor resentment in my heart when I am praying for blessings to be poured out on someone.
An important distinction to remember is that we are not required to feel forgiveness. We are simply commanded to forgive as an act of obedience. We forgive because God tells us to. We forgive because He first forgave us. I have found that when I forgive in obedience, the feeling of forgiveness eventually follows.
Q: Some of your contemporary releases draw on your personal experiences. Do you relate to the characters in a historical novel like The Heart’s Pursuit? If so, which ones and why?
There are pieces of me in every character I create. Or at least there are pieces of emotions and circumstances I have learned empathy for through my observations of life. And whatever God is teaching me when I am writing a novel will surely find its way into that story in one form or another. Because of that, yes, I do relate to my characters, whether the setting is historical or contemporary.
Q: Silver, your leading lady, has come to believe she isn’t deserving of love. What would you say to the person who feels like God could never love them?
I have seen others take on a hurt that makes them believe themselves undeserving of love, and I’ve witnessed the harm that can cause through the years. Believing God cannot love us almost always stems from thinking we have to earn His love — that there is something we must do or give up that will make us a better person and therefore worthy of being loved. It is a lie straight from the devil’s lips. Reject it! My advice for someone struggling with this belief, and a reminder to myself when I know I’ve tripped up in my walk with Christ, is for us to get into the Bible and discover for ourselves all He has said about His love for us.
Q: At first, Silver and Jared are united in their mission for justice — but the dishonesty that exists between them creates a wedge. What lessons about honesty are there for real-life relationships?
Secrets and dishonesty are enemies of any intimate relationship, whether its nature is platonic, romantic or familial. We must learn to tell the truth in love. That is never easy. In 2003, Randy Alcorn released a wonderful book called The Grace and Truth Paradox that made a huge impact on me when it comes to speaking both truth and grace into any situation. I highly recommend it.
Q: Every generation that experiences war is changed by what they go through. How did the Civil War, which ended eight years before this book opens, impact your characters’ families? In what ways were the protagonists still carrying the weight of those experiences?
The war itself took away Jared’s brothers and may have played a part in the evil that befell the remaining family members after the war. Silver’s father chose to take his family to a place where they could start over, leaving behind the sadness of so many missing young men in their former hometown.
We all carry the weight of what has happened to us in our lives. Our experiences shape us, sometimes strengthening our character and sometimes weakening it. The same is true for Jared and Silver.
Q: What do you want your readers to take away with them after they’ve closed the covers of The Heart’s Pursuit?
My first hope, as always, is that my readers will have been entertained for a few hours and that they will have come to love my characters and perhaps even miss them when the book is over. Secondly, I hope they will have taken one step closer to God because of something one of my characters learned over the course of the story.
Posted 6/16/14 at 8:56 AM | Audra Jennings
“I believe there aren’t any circumstances God can’t use and work something beautiful from. Whatever the pain, loss or unseen curveball that comes our way in life, it doesn’t limit God.” This belief that God often works in unexpected ways is one of the main themes author Lynette Sowell explores in her new book, A Season of Change (Abingdon Press/May 20, 2014/ISBN 978-1426753558/ $14.99).
In the first novel in Sowell’s new Seasons in Pinecraft series, readers are introduced to retired circus performer Natalie Bennett as she searches for the dream of her heart: a family of her own. When she meets Amish widower Jacob Miller at a Sarasota hospital, she is drawn to his family and their simple ways.
Q: It isn’t often that we see an Amish story that also involves circus performers. Tell us how these two worlds collide in A Season of Change.
One thing I discovered when looking at Sarasota outside of Pinecraft was that it’s the winter home of Ringling Brothers Circus. It’s also home to the Ringling Museum of Art, a Circus museum, which used to be part of the estate of John Ringling. I also discovered Sarasota has a circus school, which I was able to visit for a Sunday afternoon performance under their big top. My heroine, Natalie, a “retired” circus performer who now teaches at a circus school, lost her mother to cancer. The story opens right before Christmas, and she received a box of her late mother’s things and learns her mother was once Amish — something Natalie never knew. While volunteering at a hospital in the children’s ward on Christmas day, Natalie meets the Miller family, visiting young Rebecca Miller, who’s recovering from severe injuries after being struck by a car.
Q: What kind of research was involved to create believable characters with such unique backgrounds?
Sometimes the best thing we writers can do is to put ourselves in someone’s shoes, or at least try to find a common emotion or feeling we’ve experienced, and let our characters take it from there. I’ve grieved over losses, like my Amish hero, Jacob Miller, has. Although I’ve never lost a spouse, I’ve had friends who have. In fact, Jacob Miller was the first character who came onto my imagination’s stage for this book. So I knew I had to somehow get into the mind of a grieving Amish man, about 29-30 years old, and tell his story. I also had to deal with his outer journey — what does a man his age do for a living? Not all Amish work on farms now, but many work skilled trades, so I chose that for him.
Q: One of the main themes in A Season of Change is that God can work in our lives in unexpected ways. How have you seen this truth at work in your own life?
Wow, I could write a book about this one, but I’m not a nonfiction writer! Looking back, especially during difficult circumstances such as my husband’s cancer diagnosis in 2013, I can see how God warned us a year ahead of time, how He nudged my husband into a new career and job with health coverage to provide for his care. He’s given us encouragement through friends, with their prayers, support and words of comfort when they were sorely needed.
Q: What drew you to write about the Amish, and how is this story different from other Amish fiction books?
This book series is what people call a “happy accident.” I was asked by an editor to search out Texas as a possible setting for Amish fiction, but I was coming up with nothing. And then, I saw a picture of a Plain woman sitting on a three-wheeled bicycle outside the Pinecraft post office with an article captioned “The bicycle Amish.” That’s when the light bulb came on for me, and I knew I’d found something different. I think fiction trends can be a good thing, but I won’t follow a trend unless there is something I come across that grabs me and won’t let me go. Pinecraft did, and it won’t let me go. It’s become a very dear place to me.
Q: Most people are familiar with the Amish in Pennsylvania and Ohio, but probably not as familiar with the Amish population in Pinecraft, Florida, the setting of your book. Can you tell us more about Pinecraft?
Pinecraft is a winter vacation spot for the Amish and Mennonites from places like Pennsylvania and Ohio, as well as Indiana. The “village” is smack-dab in the middle of the city of Sarasota, Florida, and has a handful of year-round residents. From November through March, however, the neighborhood swells to a population of thousands. No horses and buggies — people walk or ride bicycles to get around the community. (I usually rent a bicycle for a few days while I’m there.) To get around the city or to the beach, the Plain people who don’t drive hire drivers, hitch rides with family members who do drive or take the city bus.
Q: What is the message you want to convey through A Season of Change?
I believe there aren’t any circumstances God can’t use and work something beautiful from. Whatever the pain, loss or unseen curveball that comes our way in life, it doesn’t limit God. I know that’s something often easier said than understood, especially when we’re in the middle of enduring that storm, whether it’s a time of uncertainty, disappointment or loss.
Q: Did you learn anything surprising while writing A Season of Change?
I think the biggest thing I learned was how easy it is to have misconceptions about certain groups of people. I attended college for two years in Pennsylvania, not far from Lancaster County. The college (Messiah College) is affiliated with the Brethren in Christ Church, so it has Anabaptist roots. Just like in mainstream Christianity, there are many facets to the Plain people, from ultra-conservative to what some might consider more liberal. (For example, on my first trip to Pinecraft, I met an Amish woman who owns a laptop. She uses it for her work, and her bishop has approved it.)
Q: A Season of Change is the first in a series. Is there a common theme or thread that runs throughout the series?
The series title is Seasons in Pinecraft. I have three strong female characters who are going through seasons in their lives. All three have had dreams for their lives. Book one’s dream is perhaps what seems like an impossible dream for Natalie — finding a family and that belonging her heart craves. In book two, Betsy’s dream is to run her own bakery. In book three, Rochelle’s dream is one she’d set aside for the sake of other people and realizing her dream hasn’t died after all.
Q: Tell us a little about your process for writing a novel. Do you know at the beginning how it will end?
Sometimes I do. I have a general idea of what the end will be, but part of the fun (and sometimes hair-pulling) is discovering how it all will come together. I usually have what I call “high points” of the novel. Those can be good or bad things for the hero and/or heroine, but I know I need to reach those points in the course of the story.
Posted 6/9/14 at 1:12 PM | Audra Jennings
Busy moms are online en masse—research shows that three-quarters of American mothers are using social media to learn, form connections, or manage their busy lives. For this reason, creator of the blog BetheMom.com, Tracey Eyster, believes the web is the perfect vehicle for reaching younger moms. “I want moms, first and foremost, to seek wisdom and knowledge by reading the word of God,” Eyster says. “However, Titus 2 directs older women to teach younger women, and younger women are online reading blogs!”
Eyster is the author of the book, Be the Mom, which she originally had planned to write for her daughter, but she soon found God had a broader audience in mind for the title. Since 2008, Eyster has been fulfilling her passion to help moms understand the high calling of motherhood as the Founder and Executive Director of MomLifeToday.com, where millions of moms have found encouragement and community. BetheMom.com will be different from MomLife Today though. The duties running the popular site with a large number of contributors limits the amount of her own material she chooses to share on the site. BeTheMom.com will be a venue for Eyster to share more personally and on a deeper level with her readers. “I want to encourage moms to be ‘all in’ in every season of their children’s lives, and not to be in such a hurry to get to that next stage,” Eyster explains. This desire drove her vision for the Be the Mom blog: to encourage moms to be intentional, relational and selfless with a joyful attitude, while pursuing an abiding relationship with God and actively sharing His hope with others
A frequent speaker who has written for a number of online and print publications, Eyster understands why moms are so hungry to learn how to be the best parent possible. “I was told by doctors I wouldn’t be able to have children, so when I was blessed with a successful pregnancy I became a ‘student’ of motherhood.”
Visitors to BetheMom.com will find:
Eyster adds she has a passion, even a burden, for helping all moms embrace the idea that they are the perfect mom for the children God has entrusted to them.
Posted 6/4/14 at 10:02 AM | Audra Jennings
Best-selling author Cynthia Ruchti will be hosting a webcast on June 11 at 8:00 PM EDT, where she will be introducing readers to All My Belongings (Abingdon Press/May 6, 2014/ISBN: 978-1426749728/$14.99). In her latest release, Ruchti tells the story of a young woman who feels out of place within her own family and must learn to live in the shadow of guilt and shame that haunts her as a result of her father’s crimes. A new life and a new identity can’t free her from a past that refuses to go away.
A central theme of All My Belongings, which will carry over to the webcast, is the role of care-giving. Ruchti’s main character, Becca, has the heart of a caregiver although she grew up in an emotionally detached family where she never received the love and affection she craved. However, Becca can’t help but care, even about those who have hurt her most.
Caregiving of some kind—for a sick child, an injured spouse, an aging parent—is a role almost everyone will face, and it presents heartwrenching and energy-draining challenges no matter who healthy the relationships. “Writing Becca’s story, watching her tender caregiving, changed me as a writer, a wife, a mother, a daughter,” says Ruchti. “I saw a clearer picture of the difference between ‘taking care of’ and ‘caregiving’ in its most beautiful form.”
During the live online event, Ruchti will discuss All My Belongings and preview her upcoming releases. Throughout the hour, readers will have an opportunity to chat with other readers and submit questions for the author to answer during the webcast. Discussion participants can qualify to win one of several prizes, including copies of Ruchti’s books and gift cards. At the end of the webcast, one of the participants will be awarded a grand prize of a $200 VISA cash card. The grand prize giveaway is in conjunction with the All My Belongings blog tour coordinated by Litfuse Publicity Group.
“As a reader, I've appreciated webcasts with my favorite or new-to-me authors,” muses Ruchti. “What a great way to interact with and to get a peek behind-the-scenes of the books that capture my heart. I'm looking forward to serving the author's role in the upcoming webcast, talking about All My Belongings, writing in general, and what resonates most deeply with readers.”
The webcast will be hosted on Ruchti’s Facebook page, as well as the Litfuse Publicity Group website for readers without a Facebook account. Leading up to the webcast, readers can RSVP for the event and sign up to receive an email reminder. From May 22 – June 10, fans can also enter the contest for the Grand Prize VISA cash card via the author’s Facebook page or the blog tour landing page.
“We’re thrilled with Cynthia’s new release because the story resonated with the entire Abingdon Fiction team in some way,” explains Cat Hoort, marketing and publicity manager for Abingdon Fiction. “Our hope is that the webcast communicates the hope-that-glows-in-the-dark message found in all of Cynthia’s books. If it does that, we know readers will fall in love with her, just like we did.”
In addition to a starred review from Publishers Weekly, All My Belongings is already receiving great reviews from readers since its May 6 release. The book is also a finalist for The Christian Author's Network (CAN) Fiction Book of the Year.
About Cynthia Ruchti:
Cynthia Ruchti tells stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark through her novels and novellas, nonfiction projects, speaking events and a history of 33 years of on-air storytelling through The Heartbeat of the Home radio broadcast
Her books have been recognized by Retailers’ Choice, RT Reviewers’ Choice, Family Fiction Readers’ Choice, ACFW’s Carol Award nomination and other honors. All My Belongings is her eighth release (including three non-fiction books). Ruchti has also written articles for numerous magazines and industry publications and currently serves as Professional Relations Liaison for American Christian Fiction Writers.
Ruchti lives in Wisconsin where she spends her days diving into words, worship and wonder. It is her delight to serve on her church’s worship team and creative arts team. One of her greatest joys is helping other writers grow in their craft. Cynthia and her husband have been married for 40-plus years and have three grown children and five grandchildren.
Posted 6/2/14 at 2:13 PM | Audra Jennings |
Each quarter the authors of the latest installments in Abingdon Press’ popular Quilts of Love series join readers on Facebook to chat about their new releases, providing fans with the opportunity to become more connected with both the Quilts of Love brand and the authors themselves. On June 17 at 8:00 PM EDT, Emily Wierenga, Tara Randel and Loree Lough will host the Quilting Bee-themed evening.
The live online event will center on an interactive chat between the authors and readers, allowing participants from around the country (and the world) to participate in one large book club. The authors will share the inspiration behind their stories and ask discussion questions surrounding the themes of each book. Chat participants will be eligible for prizes, including copies of books from the series and gift cards, to be given away at the end of the hour. The winner of the Kindle Fire HDX held in conjunction with the latest Quilts of Love blog tour will also be announced.
“I am looking forward to hearing the hearts of all those who find portions of their lives reflected in the characters of the Quilts of Loves stories," states Wierenga, author of A Promise in Pieces (April 15, 2014/ISBN: 9781426758850).
“Every opportunity to talk directly with readers is a blessing and a joy! I love hearing what they like about my stories and, in this case, what drew them to the Quilts of Love series,” adds Lough, author of For Love of Eli (February 1, 2013/ISBN 978-1426752506), one of the first releases in the series and special host for the evening. “It's refreshing to hear their thoughts on setting, time period and hero and heroine backgrounds and character traits. But my favorite thing about in-person chats (at a book signing or online) is when readers share how they identify with the main characters . . . and how the hero and heroine faced — and overcame — adversity. I’m looking forward to asking them a few questions too!”
The Quilts of Love series centers on the idea that quilts tell stories of love and loss, hope and faith, tradition and new beginnings. Each release focuses on the women who quilted all of these things into their family history. Featuring contemporary and historical romances, as well as Amish fiction, women’s fiction and the occasional light mystery, readers are drawn into the endearing characters and touched by their stories. A new book will be released each month through January 2015. A special tradition the authors have instituted with each release is the donation of a quilt to their chosen charity or individual in need.
The chat has been promoted online with the help of bloggers participating in the blog tours coordinated by Litfuse Publicity Group for Wierenga’s April release and May’s edition, A Stitch and a Prayer by Eva Gipson. The party will also kick off the blog tour for Randel’s Rival Hearts (June 17, 2014/ISBN 9781426773464). She too is excited to spend time with readers: “Visiting with readers is so much fun. I can't wait to meet and talk about books and quilting!”
According to Cat Hoort, marketing and publicity manager for Abingdon Fiction, “if my own chats with these three authors are any indication, this will be a FUN evening for readers and crafters. We’ve enjoyed meeting many new friends through these chats, and we look forward to meeting many more.”
Keep up with the Quilts of Love series online at:
About the authors and their books:
It’s been more than 50 years since Clara cared for injured WWII soldiers in the Women’s Army Corp. Fifty years since she promised to deliver a dying soldier’s last wish. And 50 years since that soldier’s young widow gave her the baby quilt — a grief-ridden gift that would provide hope to countless newborns in the years to come.
On her way to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Clara decides it’s time to share her story. But when the trip doesn’t go as planned, Clara wonders if anyone will learn the great significance of the quilt — and the promise stitched inside it.
Emily T. Wierenga is a former editor, ghostwriter, freelance writer and staff journalist. She was a monthly columnist for The Christian Courier and has written for numerous Christian publications including Focus on the Family, In Touch and Today’s Christian Woman. Wierenga is the author of three previously released non-fiction titles: Save My Children: The Story of a Father's Love, Chasing Silhouettes: How to help a Loved One Battling an Eating Disorder, and Mom in the Mirror: Body Image, Beauty and Life After Pregnancy. Her memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I thought to Look, will release July 1, 2014. A Promise in Pieces is her first novel.
Molly Henderson and Ben Weaver have been rival magazine writers for the same publishing group for years. When both come up for the same promotion, they find themselves in an unexpected competition to win the spot. Molly, editor of Quilter’s Heart, and Ben, editor of Outdoor Adventures, must switch roles, each working for the other for one month, then submit an article at the end of their quests.
Can girly-girl Molly survive the outdoor adventures that Ben has planned? Can Ben navigate the perils of the social dynamics of quilting events without destroying a valuable quilt in one short month? More importantly, in this he-said, she-said situation, will Molly and Ben give in to their attraction and fall in love, no matter who wins?
Tara Randel is the author of five romance novels including Lasting Love, Melody of Love and This Time Love. A member of ACFW, she is also the lead author of the new Annie’s Mysteries series (www.AnniesMysteries.com). Randel lives in New Port Richey, Florida.
When unspeakable tragedy leaves young Eli an orphan, two families are devastated. But Taylor, Eli’s legal guardian, vows to help him remember his parents by creating a Memory Quilt. As she begins piecing together the moments of his parent's lives, the story of the young family begins to emerge and Taylor and Eli begin to heal.
But, for Eli’s uncle Reece, the past is slow in letting go. Reece still blames Taylor’s brother for his sister’s death and that fact forces him to keep a safe distance from Taylor, who he has long been attracted to. Can their shared love for Eli pave the way to forgiveness or will Taylor and Reece be separated by pain?
Loree Lough has over 4,000,000+ books in circulation, and has earned hundreds of awards, 4- and 5-star reviews, and 4 movie options. A writer who believes in giving back, she dedicates a generous portion of her income to charity.
Posted 5/28/14 at 10:49 AM | Audra Jennings
Some people are raised by doting parents in a loving home where they have a safe place to grow, to belong. Others come from homes broken by an absentee parent, hurtful words, regrets, promises not kept or a myriad of other sins. In All My Belongings (Abingdon Press/May 6, 2014/ISBN: 978-1426749728/$14.99), author Cynthia Ruchti tells the story of a young woman who feels out of place within her own family and must learn to live in the shadow of guilt and shame that haunts her as a result of her father’s crimes. A new life and a new identity can’t free her from a past that refuses to go away.
Q: Your books — both fiction and non-fiction — tend to have a strong personal tie to them. What from your own personal experiences do you bring to All My Belongings?
The heart of the author comes out in everything he or she writes. My books are a blend of emotions or experiences I’ve known and a heightened empathy for friends and family who’ve walked these paths. From those very real challenges, I draw on imagination to create stories that aren’t afraid to tackle tough subjects, but with what I hope is an embracing and bracing tenderness and compassion. That’s definitely true with All My Belongings. While I didn’t have the main character’s embarrassment about her parents and where/who she came from, I’ve known others whose families make their lives miserable.
Where I do connect deeply with the story is caregiving for someone in her final days of life. My mother was what we call “actively dying” for four years and entered a residence hospice for what we all assumed were the final two or three days of her life. She endured another nine months of the dying process before she went Home. All she craved was my time. Her need seemed so familiar. When I was a child, she worked nights and slept days. It took a toll on her, on all of us. Her devotion to nursing was strong, and she was good at it. I didn’t always understand or appreciate her exhaustion or why she couldn’t attend a school function or have the kind of time for me I hoped for. I knew she loved me, but I craved her presence. Then, in the end, that’s all she wanted from me. I know I’m not alone in having had to work through and set aside my past longings in order to give her what her heart needed. Celebrating the tender moments and loving through the ugliness of the natural processes of dying made an indelible impression on me. Dying is an inescapable part of living. Figuring out how to do it well, whether the person leaving the earth or the one left behind, is an intricate dance that is beautiful when mastered, but clumsy when the lessons are ignored.
Q: The lead character, Becca, struggles with feeling like she’s never really belonged anywhere. Isn’t that something we all deal with at some time or another? Is there anything that makes Becca’s situation different than most?
Women make up the majority of my readership. I have a theory that we women never completely leave junior high. We weave in and out of experiences that challenge our sense of belonging. Sometimes we feel disenfranchised, even in a marriage or with our nuclear family. Work situations can throw us into another cauldron of confusion about where we fit. As readers take Becca’s journey with her, they’ll find that our place to belong doesn’t always look like we thought it would. Our assumptions get trumped by the surprises into which we feel our soul settling. “Ahhh. This is it. This is where I belong.”
Sometimes as we gain from what we survive, we discover what we were seeking was ours all along, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Our life strips away the distractions so we see the One who created a belonging place for us that can’t be taken away by how we feel or what happens to us or where we came from.
We’re all misfits, in some way — at church, at home, in our neighborhood, among our friends, in our extended family. There’s something about us that creates a sense of restlessness on some level, even when life is perking along. We find ways to adjust around our “misfitness.” The word “achieve” is interesting applied to belonging. I think in many ways it isn’t a pursuit as much as it is a discovery. Discovering where we fit in God’s scheme makes the other puzzle pieces fit for all of us.
Q: Have you ever had to separate yourself from a family member or friend because of something that happened in the past?
I’ve known people who have had to, but I haven’t personally been in that position. I come from an exceptional family history. Throughout the years I’ve listened to the heartbreaking stories of others who were abandoned, ignored or neglected, and whose parents acted as if they had no children even though they did.
Q: There are a number of ways you could have written about a young woman trying to escape the sins of her father. What made you choose the crime of euthanasia?
The numbers of novels dealing with physical or sexual abuse are many. But sometimes what makes us ashamed of our past isn’t related to that kind of abuse or takes abuse to yet another despicable level. I wanted the story to explore what it‘s like to have a parent’s reputation taint not just a daughter’s life, but the community’s. I needed the character to wrestle with something different from other books on the market, and yet the emotions are in many ways the same as any kind of barrier between the heart of a child and the heart of a parent.
In this case, her father’s acts had a more far-reaching effect on others, not only in what he did, but the attention on the trial and the press, all of which made it more difficult to escape the spotlight. Her father’s choices went against her own convictions, but how would she respond when those convictions were put to the ultimate test?
Q: For most Christians euthanasia is a very black-and-white issue. Do you personally feel there is ever an area of gray?
We assume we have it all figured out. There’s criminal euthanasia — for personal gain, either financially or for some other twisted reason. There’s involuntary euthanasia — where the perpetrator believes he or she is doing the right thing in ending a tortured life, but against the wishes of the person killed. Then there’s voluntary euthanasia — when the patient is involved in the decision-making.
We may have our feet planted firmly on the side that none of the above is acceptable. I didn’t include this subplot to present an essay on the evils of euthanasia, but to spark conversation about why we believe the way we do. For me, it created a framework against which I could examine what else is involved in decisions like these. What kind of pain presses people to even consider euthanasia? And how can we condemn those who wrestle with the issue, especially those who have sat at the bedside of a terminal loved one in extreme, relentless distress?
Personally, I believe our default option has to be letting God decide the length of our days. I have witnessed such indescribable beauty, even in the hard days at the end of someone’s life, and I wouldn’t want to grieve over the tenderness missed in cutting that time short.
Q: Not only did Becca feel guilt by association due to her father’s actions, but bore the guilt of reporting his crimes to authorities. What are some ways we can deal with the various kinds of guilt we bear in our lives?
Guilt isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it serves as a warning to us that prevents bad choices in the future. Sometimes it presses us to ask forgiveness and re-establish a broken relationship, or make restitution for a wrong we’ve done. That’s a sorrow (or a guilt) that leads to repentance, as the Bible says.
But when guilt is unwarranted or we’re bearing guilt vicariously for someone else’s deeds, then we are carrying around a weight we weren’t meant to carry, and it threatens to bend our emotional spines into permanent disfigurement. Sorting through reasonable versus unreasonable guilt is a first step.
Guilt can become a label. Not only do we have to remove the label intentionally, we need to ensure it doesn’t become a tattoo. Guilt can serve a purpose, but after that purpose is served, there’s no option other than to discard it.
The words come easily. The process can be emotionally taxing.
Q: All My Belongings addresses caregiving and the responsibility of spouses and children. Do you believe caregiving is something inherent or something we learn? Does how we are parented as children affect how compassionate we are toward others?
Personality traits affect our caregiving abilities. Some seem gifted for it. Others are as awkward in caregiving as a kangaroo on stilts. No matter where we are on the spectrum, we can learn a more graceful and grace-filled caregiving. Insecurities can keep us from being a natural caregiver, but we can grow in the practice as we observe someone who is elegant at it. Even if our first attempts are clumsy, we can catch onto the rhythm of it, if our heart’s in the right place and we’re humble students of the process.
Q: In All My Belongings, the strongest victories came from situations that look completely bleak and hopeless, yet the characters press on. How is that a reflection of life outside the pages of a novel?
The most memorable moments and the seasons with the strongest impact on my own character have been the ones that challenged me and called for a depth of courage I didn’t know I had. Losing someone I loved. Dealing with a traumatic diagnosis. Knee-rattling concern over a loved one’s choices. Upheavals in routine.
Some of the characters in All My Belongings adopt the phrase “guacamole!” to underscore the truth that some things in life are even better after they’re pulverized. Tracing back through the years, we can probably all point to times when we discovered a depth of meaning behind that statement. Life can mash us or tenderize us, depending on our response to its challenges.
Q: How does forgiveness impact parent-child relationships even in adulthood?
Sometimes we outgrow or overcome the resentments, embarrassments, and hurts we experience in childhood . . . even those natural to the best of homes. But unforgiveness between parents and their children can utterly poison their adult relationships. What could be more heartbreaking than parents and grown kids unable to connect, harboring old grudges or vindictiveness over old sins? A friend of mine suffered at the hand of an abusive step-father. Because she determined to be generous with forgiveness, throughout the years his heart softened. Those in-between years weren't easy for her, but by God's grace, she kept a firm grip on her commitment to forgive and love whether he deserved it or not. The relationship they have now is the kind of step-father/step-daughter bond others wish they could know. It's almost become a comedy routine to think of holidays and other family gatherings and assume the dysfunctions will create the stories told after the fact. Forgiveness can change those stories to something soul-satisfying and God-pleasing.
Q: What is the one spiritual lesson you hope readers will walk away with after the last chapter of All My Belongings?
Finding where we belong is less about a place or a reputable heritage and more about a faith that forms the foundation of all other belonging.
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