Audra Jennings is a publicist with Litfuse Publicity Group.
Posted 10/10/17 at 11:15 AM | Audra Jennings
Part 2 of an interview with Cindy Woodsmall,
Author of Gathering the Threads
Cindy Woodsmall’s latest series, Amish of Summer Grove, introduces readers to two young women, one Englisch and one Amish, who were switched at birth and follows them as they discover what their lives would have been like had the switch never taken place. In Gathering the Threads (WaterBrook), Woodsmall deftly weaves complex issues of identity into the story. What makes us who we are? Are we simply a result of our genetic ancestry? Does our family determine our future . . . or is there something more to identity?
Q: Skylar experienced a culture shock when she arrived in Summer Grove. What lessons did she learn from her new Amish family that helped her overcome her battle with drug addiction?
Oh, my, where to begin when it comes to Skylar! I’ve had readers contact me, sharing they felt she was unredeemable and wished I wouldn’t waste any more time on her and just toss her to the side to focus on Ariana and her Amish family. That surprised me, and it hurt because I have someone in my life who once had many of Skylar’s traits. We can’t give up the fight. Everyone wants the sweet, stalwart child. However, like winning the lottery, reality doesn’t give us everything we want.
Skylar lives a selfish life unchecked. Her desires for admiration and drugs are a bottomless pit of hunger, but despite those things, when Ariana was forced to live with her biological parents, Skyler was the only person who had the ability to save Ariana’s café from going under. Skylar is smart and talented, but her addiction threatens to ruin her life before it can really get started.
It was quite a battle for Skylar to get clean, and she fought with her Amish family to leave her alone and let her be an addict. One Amish sibling fought back, saying, “Don’t let something that cares nothing about you control your life. It will make you as apathetic as it is. Fight, Skylar. Decide that you, your family and your future are worth more than these stupid pills!”
Other things came into play concerning Skylar and her addiction, but Skylar finally understood the value of life. She began the battle to get clean and stay clean.
Q: What lessons in hope and faith do you hope readers takeaway from reading Gathering the Threads?
Metaphorically, we often have an idea or vision or number in our heads of what life and people are supposed to add up to be. In reality life is messy and confusing, and it’s rarely what we thought it would be. Even God doesn’t always add up to our ideas or dreams or that elusive number, and we can’t make ourselves, others or God add up. We must accept and believe despite all the messiness and confusion. In the series, Ariana realized there were many translations of God’s Word, and it seemed to her there needed to be more grace and less legalism about exactly how to live. That’s the theme. Hebrews 13:9 says, “It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace.”
Q: Is there a subtler, maybe even hidden lesson you hope readers consider as well?
I think there are many. A fictional story has the power to slip into a reader’s skin and enable her to see nuances of understanding that make life as broad and beautiful as God intended. I didn’t intentionally write hidden lessons, but when readers slip into a character’s world, they often discover things the author didn’t see. As readers, personal insight is our superpower.
Q: Some people who have never read Amish fiction usually have a certain perception of the genre without giving it a chance. What would you say to encourage new readers to branch out and try the Amish of Summer Grove series?
I would say they may be missing out on some of the best reads of their lives. In any genre, there are different types of books. I’d like to think this series goes deeper than most and leaves readers breathless, thinking they were going on one journey and discovering they went on an entirely different one. I enter the Amish world and lift the veil of presupposition, not showing readers what they expected to see, but showing them a very different reality — one I hope builds faith inside their own lives.
The Amish way of life challenges us to consider more than the mantra of self-discovery and self-rule. When we get a peek into their way of life, we can begin to understand how and why they put sacrificial action behind their beliefs. At the same time, we take a journey into a world that struggles to uphold all the previous generation upheld. The heart cry of the faithful in every generation, whether Amish or Englisch (non-Amish/non-Plain), is to do what is best for the family, the faith community and those we influence. We learn how the Amish pass their faithfulness from one generation to the next while we see the weaknesses of trying to have too tight of a grip on the next generation. The determination and struggles of the Amish are a clear depiction of our struggle with the world around us.
Q: Gathering the Threads is the third and final book in your Amish of Summer Grove series. Is it difficult for you to end a series and leave the characters behind?
Yes and no. After three books there are many pieces to put together and many facets of the story to juggle and remember. It’s a bit of a relief to get to start a fresh story, but at the same time, it feels like I’m saying good-bye to close friends. How can I not write any more about Ari, Quill and Skylar? Possible spin-offs about their future lives fill my mind when I close my eyes at night, even though it’s not feasible to bring those to the page right now. The good thing about book-friends is they are always there on the page and in my heart whenever I want to visit them.
Q: Can you share a little bit about the book you are you writing next?
I just finished writing my first non-Amish novella with my daughter-in-law, Erin. It comes out in October and is titled The Gift of Christmas Past. I’m currently writing a full-length non-Amish book that will release in the fall of 2018. Its working title is Soft Dusks and Noonday Fire, and the setting will be the beautiful St. Simons Island, Georgia. I have an amusing, spunky cast of characters I think my readers will enjoy getting to know.
Posted 10/10/17 at 11:09 AM | Audra Jennings
Part 2 of an interview with Hayley DiMarco,
Author of A Woman Overwhelmed
The phrase “a woman overwhelmed” is one many women can relate to. Research reveals women are more likely to admit to being stressed and suffer from depression than men — yet there is hope. In A Woman Overwhelmed: Finding God in the Messes of Life (Abingdon Press), best-selling author Hayley DiMarco shows readers what would happen if they traded in being overwhelmed by life for being overwhelmed by God.
“Women have a list of things to be overwhelmed with, but most of the time it comes down to their to-do list, which includes working, nurturing, loving, exercising, cleaning, cooking and more,” DiMarco explains. “We also tend to use comparison as a way of determining our value and our success. With all that has to be done, it would be much easier if everyone would do what we want them to do, but alas, our lack of being able to control others ends up overwhelming us as well.”
Q: Is it true you have never met a woman who wasn’t overwhelmed by life? Why are women easily overwhelmed?
Yes, it is true! I think it is simply because we were made to be overwhelmed by the goodness and grace of God. Because of that, our hearts search for something bigger than us, and when we see our to-do lists and plans as the biggest things in our lives, we naturally become overwhelmed with them. In fact, when our heart, soul, mind and strength are all focused on anything, it tends to overwhelm us. That is why Jesus says the most important commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind. We were meant to be overwhelmed by God.
Q: Do single women struggle with being overwhelmed as much as married women?
I don’t think marital status has anything to do with being overwhelmed. Where a married woman might be overwhelmed with being a wife and mother, a single woman can be just as overwhelmed with her singleness. For example, she may struggle with loneliness or the financial restraints of a single income. No one is exempt because no one is righteous, not one.
Q: You write, “If I’m honest with myself about it, I’m not so much overwhelmed with my life as I am with everyone else’s.” Explain how the lives of others contribute to your (and our own) sense of being overwhelmed.
Here’s the thing: I’m doing what I want to do, but they aren’t doing what I want them to do. If everyone would just do what I want them to do, I wouldn’t be so overwhelmed. From my husband and daughter to my friends and enemies, getting people to see my ways as the best ways is like trying to convince my dog he doesn’t want my dirty socks. It’s a losing battle. I’m overwhelmed simply because I’m not in charge of everyone. From my family and friends to the person driving in front of me, I want people to do things the way I want them done, and since they’re not doing it my way, I’m overwhelmed.
Q: How does comparison and competition fuel our state of being overwhelmed?
The way I look at it, there are there are two possible results of comparing ourselves with another human being: pride and depression. Comparison promises to help us to stay on top, out-do others and be accepted, but the result is ultimately pride when we measure up or depression when we don’t. When we see ourselves as better or worse than everyone else, we have taken our eyes off the Father and placed them squarely on ourselves.
Competition is a symptom of comparison; it’s the yardstick by which we measure our success. At the root of comparison is our stubborn need to feel superior and bolster our pride. On the flip side, the foundation of righteousness is humility, a self-proclaimed neutrality in the competition of life. When we humble ourselves, we are no longer overwhelmed by life but by the love of a God who loves us in spite of our sinful nature and repeated failure. We see comparison and competition stand in direct contrast to the humble life God calls His children to in James 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:10, ESV).
Q: You also say an important part of escaping overwhelmedness is adopting “the Mission of God over the Mission of Me.” Can you explain what that means?
When our mission in life is to accomplish our own plans, dreams, hopes and desires, we are fertile ground for too much to do and not enough time or resources to do it. The Mission of Me is not a road to emotional or spiritual success because there will be difficult times and devastating failures, but the Mission of God, though fraught with difficulty, sees success because God will not be frustrated. When we align our will and mission in life with His, we see life through different lenses, and suddenly everything that would have overwhelmed us is now a tool for our good.
Q: Can you share the story of the first time you felt overwhelmed by God?
I tend to find myself overwhelmed by God when I am in nature. Just walking around in the midst of His glorious creation overwhelms me — it is a sight and a sense of His love that is more than I can imagine. When I feel overwhelmed by life, I have to remind myself to go or look outside and remember the lengths to which God has gone to show us His love. When life seems overwhelmingly impossible and I see how He cares for everything — the birds of the air, the flowers of the field — and supplies us with all we need for life, I am overwhelmed by His goodness and His power.
The key for me is to remind myself of who He is. Whether it’s in nature or in His Word, when I see the true character of God, when I study His attributes and see who He is, I cannot help but be overwhelmed by the notion He is truly all I need.
Q: What lessons has God taught you about patience, especially when it seems like there is so much to do in so little time?
The biggest lesson He has taught me is I’m not in control of circumstances, and when circumstances don’t go the way I want (when I am interrupted or plans are changed), I can trust Him to work it all for good. In fact, the good starts the moment I am patient in these instances because then I am listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, producing His fruit in my life and able to feed those around me. Patience is impossible in the flesh. However, when I put everything that happens to me into His hands, I can be patient and can trust His hands are big enough and good enough to change what needs to be changed and to make happen what needs to happen. I have learned His ways are better than my ways and time is in His hands.
Posted 10/6/17 at 12:17 PM | Audra Jennings
Part 2 of an interview with Kari Patterson,
Author of Sacred Mundane
When life seems ordinary and unexciting, it is easy to slip into the mindset of being stuck and in need of a change. In Sacred Mundane: How to Find Freedom, Purpose, and Joy (Kregel Publications), Kari Patterson shows the reader the key to change is already in her hand once she realizes what is holding her back. “In 2 Kings, we read, ‘Naaman was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.’ He had so much going for him, but his leprosy threatened to steal it all,” explains Patterson. “I ask readers to consider their own lives and prayerfully simmer down their own life into a sentence. So often we’re vaguely aware of the areas we want to change, but we don’t take the time to narrow down and identify the one thing hindering us most. Identifying the one thing helps us see more clearly how God wants to use our mundane to make us more like Him.”
Patterson points readers to the truth: In each unremarkable life lies an opportunity to see, know, love and be transformed by God, who meets everyone right where they are. Instead of stepping away from real life to find God, Patterson equips women with a six-step practice to move forward and meet Him in the humdrum moments of everyday existence:
1. Look: see the world through the word
2. Listen: discern His voice in daily life
3. Engage: enter in
4. Embrace: love the One
5. Trust: live the blank
6. Thank: find fulfillment
Q: What is the first of six steps to move forward and meet God in the humdrum moments of everyday existence?
The first step is to look. Most importantly of all, we must learn to use the Scriptures as a lens through which we see every situation. Until we see as God sees, nothing will make sense. We will go through life stumbling and fumbling until we learn to see all things through the truth of God’s Word. In my opinion, this is the biggest deficiency in the American church. We don’t know God’s Word. We’re shallow. We go through the motions of religiosity and church attendance, but we don’t truly know the Word of God and let it soak into our souls and permeate every part of our being. God’s Word isn’t the end all — He is — but it is through the Scriptures we learn to see as He sees.
Q: Can you share your simple approach to scripture and reading the Bible?
Look through the Word to see everything else. As we study the Scriptures every day, we don’t evaluate them, standing over them as a judge; we receive them. That is, we don’t overly concern ourselves with some big, new revelation no one has seen before. We don’t have to know Greek or Hebrew or do the latest Bible study. We simply need to sit like a child at His feet, opening up God’s Word and determining we will do whatever we read, no matter what. Our aptitude for the Word matters less than our attitude toward the Word.
Q: How do we listen to and discern God’s voice in our daily life?
First by getting into the Scripture so we know what He sounds like. I know the sound of my husband’s tires on the gravel outside our house. How do I know? It’s a different tires-on-gravel sound than any other car, and I’ve heard it so many times that I’ve learned to discern it throughout time. There are a lot of voices out there: the world, the enemy, my own thoughts and emotions. The only way to discern what God’s voice sounds like is to practice listening and see if it lines up with the Word of God. The more time we spend in the Word, sit quietly and listen in prayer, obey what we hear, and take steps of faith to do anything He asks of us, the more we increase our ability to hear from Him.
Q: Step three in the process is engaging. How exactly do you engage with God in the monotony of life?
At any given moment throughout my day, I have the choice whether I will engage and enter in or draw back, escape, and check out. We can do this in many ways: by ignoring a difficult situation, avoiding conflict, not dealing with a child who needs discipline, getting on my phone and mindlessly scrolling through social media, sitting and vegging in front of my TV shows, eating, shopping, or staying so busy I don’t have to deal with hard things. But when we stop, slow down, and engage, we step into the hard, mundane, and ordinary moment. We learn to commune with God in the midst of it, asking Him how He wants us to respond to any given situation. We have an opportunity to see Him in the midst of the ordinary, but not if we’re checked out on our phones.
Q: Who did God put into your life to teach you about loving people? What did you learn from opening the door and letting her in?
God placed a young woman on our doorstep who was homeless, addicted to drugs, and struggling with severe mental illness and PTSD from abuse. I let her in, and she lived with us for a time. I learned loving people is messy, and we don’t always do it perfect. However, that isn’t the point. I also discovered addiction and homelessness are complex issues. Most importantly, I learned the only answer is the gospel and about the love and accountability of gospel community through the Church. People can never become projects, and loving others always includes a cost. Jesus paid the greatest cost ever out of love for us, and He calls us to love others in that same generous, selfless, costly way.
Q: Why is it hard for us to trust God and His plans for us?
It’s hard to trust God’s plan for us because we can’t see the end! We are control freaks, especially in this culture where we have (or think we have) so much perceived control. For example, most of us aren’t farmers with huge variations in crops from year to year. Instead, we get a regular paycheck, often a fixed salary, and have five-year plans, big buffers on our savings accounts. We have climate control in our homes and cars and have gates and locks on our doors. We like to make our own plans so we feel in control. Trusting God is hard because He usually doesn’t give us much advanced notice. In fact, He often makes it look as if everything is disastrous before He swoops in and fulfills His promises. He does this so our faith, more precious than gold, will be tested and found pure. He knows the greatest joy, peace, and transformation happens when we learn to quit trying to be God and let Him be all.
Q: What is the final step of discovering God in the mundane?
The sixth step is to thank, and that’s most certainly the culmination of the Godward, worshipful life. We all know we’re supposed to be thankful, and perhaps we’ve written gift lists and tried to count our blessings. Still we struggle with this nagging feeling of disappointment and frustration. Often we think if we’re truly spiritual or if we’re good Christians, then we won’t feel disappointment. We sing, “You’re never gonna let me down,” but if we’re honest, we often feel disappointed and let down by God. What do we do with that disappointment? In this chapter we discuss two cycles, the disappointment cycle and the fulfillment cycle, and look at the difference between expectancy and expectation. We look at the lives of seven godly men and women in the Scriptures who all experienced profound disappointment as part of God’s glorious plan for their lives. Here we learn the secret to seeing God’s fulfillment, learn to cast aside our flimsy handmade expectations, and learn to squint the eyes of our souls to see God in the darkness.
Then we finish our time together in the book by emphasizing the importance of letting our lives be poured out in worship to God for the sake of others. Transformation is really all about bearing fruit, and fruit was meant to be picked. The purpose of fruit is not to preen. Trees don’t take selfies of their fruit. The purpose of fruit is to nourish others by the beauty and nutrients. When our lives are transformed, the world is blessed. Sadly, we often divorce these two aspects of the Christian life — sanctification and mission. I’d insist they are one and the same. As we are sanctified, we are more effective in carrying out the mission of God, and as we carry out the mission of God, we are sanctified, made more like Christ. This book isn’t about naval-gazing, self-focus, or being all we were meant to be simply for the purpose of looking better. The point is freedom, purpose, and joy, for the glory of God and the good of the world. The point is to display the goodness and glory of God to a world in desperate need of His hope. That’s the point.
Q: Tell us more about the nine-session small-group Bible study included in the book.
The Bible study can be used by individuals or as a group study. It is great for a summer book club, meeting informally in someone’s living room, or a church’s women’s weekly Bible study (large or small). All that’s needed is included in the book, so it’s ideal for a low-cost, easy-to-facilitate, nine-week study.
Posted 10/6/17 at 12:08 PM | Audra Jennings
Part 2 of an interview with Donna Gaines,
Author of Choose Wisely, Live Fully
The Book of Proverbs is a gold mine of divine wisdom. Author and speaker Donna Gaines applies that wisdom in very practical ways to the issues women face. Choose Wisely, Live Fully (Abingdon Press) examines the blessings and curses associated with the choices made by the two women in Proverbs: Wisdom and Folly.
Within the book, Gaines also harnesses her two passions—discipleship and literacy—to challenge women of all ages to become “biblically literate.” Biblical illiteracy makes us vulnerable to influences that do not represent biblical truth. This book is a discipleship tool that will help equip readers to: discern the voice of God and follow His path (the path of Wisdom instead of the path of Folly); experience the joy of wholehearted obedience; and let God help them mentor the lives around them in remarkable ways.
Q: What is Biblical literacy, and how do you address modern Christians’ lack of it in Choose Wisely, Live Fully?
Bible literacy is the ability to understand the grand narrative of God’s Word and apply its truths to life. We must read and study that we might “rightly divide the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Then, through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are able to choose to bring our lives into conformity to God’s Word.
Biblical illiteracy (the lack of knowing what the Bible says) is rampant. Most of us honestly don’t know what God has said in the first place. Many church attendees profess Christ yet deny Him by their behavior . . . so what are we to do?
I encourage people to read the Bible annually. Reading what someone else says about the Bible is no substitute for reading it yourself. When I disciple women, my goal is for them to become self-feeders. I want them to feed spiritually on the Word of God on a daily basis. If we knew God’s Word we would not be so easily discouraged or led into false teaching.
Q: How does the general lack of Bible literacy in today’s world create havoc in everyday life? What are some examples of hot-button issues further complicated by Christians not personally knowing what God has to say on the subject?
We all must be cautious not to lean on our own understanding but instead to ask, “What does God’s Word say about this?” It is easy for us to be influenced by our emotions, friends, media or what current culture dictates.
Many Christians only know what other people say about God, which leaves the door wide open to individual interpretation, personal agendas and propaganda to make a point. People in the church have been as impacted by media and culture as those outside the church.
The only way to be wise and live the life of spiritual blessing is to immerse ourselves in God’s Word and obey it. God is not just an idea or a concept. He is the Creator, Savior and King. When we come to Him through Christ, He becomes the reality around whom all the rest of our life conforms. Then it doesn’t matter what the issue may be: marriage, divorce, immorality, lying, or caring for the least of these — we choose to line up with God’s Word.
Q: Why is mentoring younger women in discipleship important to you? Should every older woman actively aspire to be a mentor?
In Titus 2, every older woman is commanded by scripture to teach the younger women. We are also commanded by Christ to make disciples and teach them all they need to know (Matthew 28:19–20). This call is for all believers. I find as the mentor and teacher, I always get the most out of it. That is why it is important for those we disciple to disciple others themselves later. The truths of scripture really become our own when we can articulate them to someone else.
Q: Is it ok for a younger woman to search for a mentor instead of an older woman seeking her out? What should a younger woman look for in a mentor?
It is absolutely fine for a younger woman to seek out a mentor. She should look for a woman who walks in wisdom, peace and Christian love. She needs to be a woman of the Word and prayer. I have had several women in the churches where my husband served as pastor I approached and asked to spend time with. It was not a formal mentoring or discipleship relationship, but I learned and was challenged spiritually by time spent with them.
Q: Where can readers find your free downloadable resource on how to start a mentoring program?
By visiting www.AbingdonPress.com/DonnaGaines, readers can download a free resource giving them a schedule for a year-long discipleship program. This schedule is designed for a two-hour weekly study. The mentor guide also includes suggestions for books to study in addition to reading through the Bible. There are also scriptures to memorize.
Posted 10/5/17 at 11:09 AM | Audra Jennings
Melissa Spoelstra helps readers make over the Christmas season and celebrate with purpose
In the bustle of the Christmas season, it can be easy to get swept up in all of the things to do: decorating, cooking, socializing, and shopping. However, it is important to pause and remember the priority should be to spend time celebrating Christ’s birth and not forgetting to invite Jesus to His own party. In Total Christmas Makeover: 31 Devotions to Celebrate with Purpose (Abingdon Press/October 3, 2017/ ISBN 9781501848704/$16.99), Melissa Spoelstra provides a practical approach for helping families learn what it means to truly celebrate the Savior.
“A total Christmas makeover doesn’t mean scrapping all your holiday traditions or adding ten more to your list. Instead, it is a personal time of reflection to evaluate how your Christmas practices align with some biblical concepts of celebration,” explains Spoelstra. “Passover, festivals, and feasts were instituted by God to help His people remember who He is and what He has done. While we have no such specifics given for our celebration of Christ’s birth because it comes from church history rather than biblical mandate, we can glean some important principles about celebration from Scripture.”
As Spoelstra studied the Book of Numbers while writing her Bible study on the topic, she noticed three elements included in the festivities and began thinking about how she could apply them to her personal Christmas celebrations. She shares those revelations with readers and devotes a section of the book to each:
• Ritual: Special activities out of the ordinary routine were planned to help remember what God has done.
• Relationships: Time spent together preparing special foods, eating, gathering in holy assembly, and explaining traditions to children.
• Rest: Regular work set aside for planned times of celebration and rest from activity to allow for reflection on God.
The 31 reflections in Total Christmas Makeover focus on prioritizing the rituals, relationships and rest that will draw readers nearer to Christ while celebrating His birth. Each reading contains key scriptures, thought-provoking questions to ponder, as well as practical ideas to implement, helping to reimagine the holiday and then prepare for the year ahead. Mindfully taking the time to listen to how God continues to speak through the Gospel narratives centered around the birth of Jesus provides encouragement and revelation concerning the love of God and His wisdom for us today.
Christmas is far more than a celebration of an event from long ago or a modern holiday centered around shopping. However, that doesn’t mean the gift-giving aspect of Christmas doesn’t have meaning. “The wise men brought gifts, and Jesus is the greatest gift to us,” reminds Spoelstra. “Giving gifts is a tradition to remind us of our generous God. Dialoguing about the tradition of gifts and taking time to include our families in being generous to others help realign us in remembering the greatest gifts usually aren’t bought in a store. People, peace, contentment and forgiveness are all gifts. Shopping for a needy family, reading about missionaries and starting traditions of gratitude help us rediscover the joy of giving and receiving.”
A Christmas makeover doesn’t mean changing all traditions and habits throughout the holiday season to completely adopt new ones. However, it might mean prioritizing the traditions pointing to Christ’s birth, rediscovering the intent behind treasured practices, or incorporating new rituals to help share God’s message of love.
“Christmas is meant to be cherished and celebrated, not barely survived due to stress. Total Christmas Makeover will help you focus on Jesus, directing your heart to the loving Savior who came to earth. With many practical applications, your Christmas season will become much more meaningful and rich after reading Spoelstra’s book.”
~ Arlene Pellicane, speaker and author of 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom
“Are you tired of just letting Christmas happen at your home — and praying merely to survive? No more! Now you and I can be absolutely intentional about embracing all the fun, faith, family and friendships of this amazing holy season. Melissa Spoelstra’s Total Christmas Makeover gently guides us through everything seasonal around music, food, scripture reading, extended family gatherings, serving and especially how to rest in the midst of it all.”
~ Lucinda Secrest McDowell, author of Ordinary Graces and Dwelling Places
“How many times I’ve said, ‘This Christmas I want to keep my focus off of presents and onto His presence, off of the craziness and onto the stillness, away from commercialism and nestled in the arms of God.’ Melissa Spoelstra has given us the perfect 31-day companion to make this desire a reality.”
~ Laurie Polich Short, author of When Changing Nothing Changes Everything
About the Author
Melissa Spoelstra is a popular women’s conference speaker, Bible teacher and writer who is madly in love with Jesus and passionate about helping women of all ages to seek Christ and know Him more intimately through serious Bible study. She has a deep, abiding passion for studying God’s word and teaching others to do the same.
Spoelstra holds a Bachelor of Arts in Bible Theology from Moody Bible Institute and enjoys teaching God's Word to diverse groups and churches within the body of Christ. She is the author several Bible studies, including Numbers: Learning Contentment in a Culture of More, First Corinthians: Living Love When We Disagree, Joseph: The Journey to Forgiveness and Jeremiah: Daring to Hope in an Unstable World. She is also the author of two books – Total Christmas Makeover: 31 Devotions to Celebrate with Purpose and the Mom's Choice Award-winning Total Family Makeover: 8 Steps to Making Disciples at Home.
Spoelstra describes herself as a small-town girl from East Texas, but she now resides Dublin, Ohio, with her church planter/pastor husband of more than 20 years and their four children.
Posted 10/5/17 at 10:50 AM | Audra Jennings
Part 1 of an interview with Micah Maddox,
Author of Anchored In: Experience a Power-Full Life in a Problem-Filled World
The world is rife with global and personal crises. News outlets report one troubling development after another. Within the home, studies reveal half of Americans feel financially insecure, more than half are unhappy in their jobs and divorce rates escalate with each subsequent marriage. When problems abound, it can feel as if God is far away. However, as Micah Maddox explains in Anchored In: Experience a Power-Full Life in a Problem-Filled World (Abingdon Press), these same trials can bring us closer to God if we change our way of thinking and focus on Him.
There are a lot of people in the world who seek power in the human form, but Anchored In is about spiritual power and learning to live in tune to God’s voice, direction and desire for our lives. Maddox hopes readers will realize God’s power is available and accessible to each of them. She does not attempt to resolve the adverse circumstances of life; rather, Maddox offers a different approach to those circumstances, giving readers a new strength to manage them, rise above them and ultimately conquer them with a power that exceeds humanity’s grip.
Q: What does it mean to live Anchored In?
Every day, we all anchor our lives in something. Sometimes we anchor our lives in our work, mothering, goals, desires and sometimes even our problems. I’ve learned I often allow my problems to take the center stage of my thinking and my life. Anytime we allow anything other than God to take the focus of our hearts and minds, we are not living in the power God has provided for us to live in. God is teaching me that living anchored in His presence is the only way to experience His power. Living anchored in means we willingly set aside every circumstance and problem of our lives and fully focus our hearts, minds and souls on the Savior, the Anchor.
Q: What does it mean to live a power-full life in a problem-filled world?
There are a lot of people in the world who seek power in the human form. This book is about spiritual power. It’s about learning to live in tune to God’s voice, direction and desire for our lives. I believe God has a purpose for every single one of His children, and we can know that purpose and live confidently in the power He freely offers us.
The problem is many people struggle to experience God’s power when life is crazy or tragedy strikes, so they begin to believe God’s power is reserved for someone bigger and better than them or someone who has an easier life. However, I know God’s power is available and accessible to each of us. When we experience it for ourselves, we learn what it means to live a power-full life. It’s a life where we choose to be emptied of our selfish ambitions and desires, and we learn to be filled with God’s promises, protection, providence, peace and ultimately His power.
I want to encourage women that God’s power is not reserved for teachers, leaders or pastors. God’s power is reserved for every person who is willing to receive it. Be encouraged that God is waiting for you to experience His power! It’s available and accessible to every single person. My prayer is this book will help many people learn how to experience God’s power like they never have before.
Q: You write, “The power of God is not about avoiding the deep waters of life. It’s about diving into them.” How do we do that without feeling like we’re drowning in our circumstances?
When I say dive into the deep waters of life, I don’t mean we saturate ourselves in a sea of our problems. I mean we face the facts. It’s not so much about becoming absorbed with the problems; it’s more about having the courage to look eye-to-eye with the reality of life rather than turning a blind eye and pretending it away.
Q: Tell us about the “Praying God’s Power” prayers you include at the end of each chapter. What part does prayer play in experiencing God’s power?
Prayer is huge, and so often we don’t pray because sometimes it’s just too hard to verbalize what we are feeling or what we are really thinking—it’s too painful to say out loud. However, I’m learning to focus my prayer on Jesus rather than on myself. When I pray with Him as the center, the focus, I find Him so very near. Praying God’s power is praying with faith, trust, and assurance God is going to carry me to the other side of the storm.
Q: What wise words did your son tell you one night as you were tucking him in to sleep that resonated with you as you wrote the chapter on listening to God’s voice?
When I pulled his covers up and leaned in to give him a goodnight kiss, he acted like he was having a dialogue with God. As he and God had a conversation back and forth, I asked him what God was saying to him. His answer was, “God speaks quiet to us. He loves us.” That moment for me was an a-ha moment, one I hope I never forget. The still, small voice of God is powerful, and the simple truth that He loves us is something we can always cling to.
Q: How do we allow God to define our dreams?
This is a loaded question. There is so much I could say, but I’ll try to sum it up. We all have dreams. Some we go for and act on, and some we just imagine—some we never speak of because we are afraid of failure. However, I’m learning God has dreams for us we never can even imagine. Allowing God to define our dreams means we completely surrender every single thing in our lives to His control. What I mean is we strip away everything in our lives and pare it down to just us. We get rid of the fluff and the American dream of cars, kids and a nice home, and then we expose ourselves without all of our stuff. When we begin to strip away the sparkle and shine of life and get down to the reality of who we are and whose we are, we begin to find a new dream. We get it so mixed up and can never really experience God’s power when we are constantly seeking a picture-perfect family, home, job or success. God’s dreams don’t require success. They require surrender. We surrender everything.
Posted 10/4/17 at 12:38 PM | Audra Jennings
Part 1 of an interview with Randy Singer,
Author of Rule of Law
In a world of political accusations and threats of war, what does the public need to know, and what is better left unsaid for our own protection? Are our leaders following the Rule of Law or acting outside it? In his latest legal thriller, Rule of Law (Tyndale House Publishers/September 5, 2017), award-winning author and attorney Randy Singer weaves a gripping page-turner that explores the inner workings of the White House, the CIA and the State Department in dealings with foreign governments. Drawing from one of his own recent cases, Singer gives readers a glimpse of what is really going on behind the headlines of today’s international events.
Q: In the author’s note of Rule of Law you explain you wrote the book to address some critical issues lurking on the horizon. What are some concerns you have that Americans should be aware of? FULL POST
Posted 10/4/17 at 12:14 PM | Audra Jennings
Part 1 of an interview with Kim Vogel Sawyer,
Author of Bringing Maggie Home
Mother-daughter relationships can be complicated. When secrets from the past are involved, the best of intentions can be entirely misunderstood. Bringing Maggie Home (WaterBrook/September 5, 2017) by award-winning author Kim Vogel Sawyer explores the hearts of three generations of women whose lives have been shaped by the 70-year-old unsolved mystery of 3-year-old Maggie Blackwell.
Q: Bringing Maggie Home explores the relationships between three generations of mothers and daughters. Do the relationships mirror your own relationships with family members in any way?
I think it’s inevitable that personal experience finds its way into every story because writing is an intensely personal activity, and we tend to write from the view of our own “life’s glasses.” I didn’t have the privilege of a relationship with my grandmothers — they both died when my parents were children — but I had Tantie, a dear woman who was an important part of my life until her death on my 16th birthday. She filled the role of “grandma” for me, and much of the advice Hazel gives to Meghan are gems of wisdom passed from Tantie to me. Diane (Hazel’s daughter and Meghan’s mother) tells Meghan at one point, “I did the best I could with you, and everything I did was out of love.” This is so true for me with my three daughters. I loved them endlessly, but that didn’t mean I made no mistakes with them. We enter any relationship with the best we have to offer, and we pray it will be enough. FULL POST
Posted 10/3/17 at 10:28 AM | Audra Jennings
Part 1 of an interview with Lori Benton,
Author of Many Sparrows
Understanding why some things happen the way they do is impossible, but as Christians, we must remember God is in control and His timing is perfect. His purposes are deeper and broader than we can imagine. These are lessons Clare Inglesby must learn in award-winning author Lori Benton’s latest historical novel, Many Sparrows (WaterBrook).
Set in 1774 and based on historical facts, Many Sparrows depicts the harrowing account of a young mother who will stop at nothing to find and reclaim her son after he is taken by a native tribe.
Q: Without giving away too much of the story, can you share where the title Many Sparrows comes from? FULL POST
Posted 10/3/17 at 10:19 AM | Audra Jennings
Part 1 of an interview with Cindy Woodsmall,
Author of Gathering the Threads
How different would your belief system be if you grew up in a different culture? Would your faith in God be the same if you were raised in a different family? New York Times best-selling author Cindy Woodsmall poses these questions in the powerful conclusion to the CBA and ECPA bestselling Amish of Summer Grove series in Gathering the Threads (WaterBrook/August 15, 2017).
Q: The Amish of Summer Grove series introduces readers to a pair of girls, one Englisch and one Amish, who were switched at birth. What are some of the challenges each faced when pushed to experience the life she would have lived had the switch never taken place? FULL POST