Audra Jennings is a publicist with Litfuse Publicity Group.
Posted 8/13/15 at 2:31 PM | Audra Jennings
Part 1 of an interview with Rob Peabody, Executive Producer and Host of
Let’s face it: Opening up to the people we love most about the most important issues in life — such as faith — can be tough. Whether it’s embarrassment or misunderstanding, the fear of rejection can keep our lips sealed, thus keeping our unsaved loved ones lost in the dark. This is why Rob Peabody and Cris Rogers created Intersect: Where Your Story and God’s Story Converge (Kregel Publications/July 27, 2015/$15.99),a five-week short film resource designed to help Christians engage their family, friends and neighbors in a meaningful way about their faith. Whether used in a café, a friend’s living room or a more formal church setting, the video series can be tailored to a variety of audiences.
Q: Tell us about the Intersect DVD series. Who was it created for, and what is the best way for it to be used?
Intersect is a five-week short film resource designed to be a missional tool to help those in the church engage those who might not yet be ready to step foot inside its walls and begin spiritual conversations centered on Jesus. It was created with a desire to enable people to have spiritual conversations with their friends, co-workers, family, neighbors and others, regardless of their church history or familiarity with God and church.
Often I find many in our churches agree that talking about Jesus and engaging in evangelism is a good thing they want to be a part of; however, they feel ill-equipped and apathetic when it comes to doing it. Intersect is a tool to help start the conversation — to put the “ball on the tee,” to borrow a golf analogy. We are finding Intersect is best used amongst a group of friends, whether in a café, friend’s house, church group, with co-workers on a coffee break, or more formal environment. It doesn’t take long, and the conversation it lends itself to can be tailored to your specific audience.
Q: What are you trying to achieve with Intersect?
We wanted to create a tool anyone could use to facilitate a conversation about things of greater importance.
It’s called Intersect because the basic premise of the series is to hear from five normal people about their struggles, issues and journeys in regard to basic universal human issues we all deal with (rest, control, expectations, disappointment and trust). The viewer can relate to how they deal with these issues in their own lives, and then we talk about what God has to say about these issues. We intentionally tried to stay away from being preachy, and we carefully crafted how the issues were presented, working under the assumption that the viewer may not know anything about the Christian subculture. We wanted to avoid the “Christianese” we so often hear from regular churchgoers and church leaders.
We also wanted to make Intersect as authentic as possible, starting with everyday issues we all deal with, and explore how the greater story of God connects to our lives on a practical level.
Q: The series features the faith journeys of five Christians. Why did you choose to use individual stories as the centerpiece of the series?
We all have a story. There has never been a person on the planet who did not have one. Our stories give us significance. They are what connect us to the past, the present and the future. In fact, our stories make us who we are. The beauty of each person’s individual story is that although they are completely unique, our stories can relate and intersect. When this happens, the result is life-giving. When you connect with someone’s story, it may bring validation, hope, assurance, comfort, meaning and a whole gamut of other emotions. The truest beauty, though, is when elements of a shared story amongst people also connect to the bigger story of God. What I love about God’s story — his grand meta-narrative we see played out through Scripture and our world today — is that it is designed to incorporate and converge with every individual story in humanity. It’s the way God set it up. It’s the way our true humanity is realized.
In Intersect we wanted to celebrate this truth and lead with a story. In a day and age where truth is debated and experience reigns supreme, our stories speak volumes. You might feel like you have nothing to offer, but you have a story, and there is a God and a people who want to merge into and share that story.
Q: Some people view the Bible as being abstract or symbolic. How can a person purposefully move to seeing God’s Word as a practical guide for their everyday life?
Hebrews 4:12 tells us the Bible is “living and active” and it is sharp and penetrates deep down to the thoughts and attitudes of a person’s heart. This sounds pretty personal to me. There are all sorts of different genres, writing styles, symbolism and writing techniques used throughout all 66 books of the Bible. It’s quite a complex book written by multiple authors over a period of thousands of years. At the end of the day, though, if God’s revelation of Himself, humanity and reality does not impact and intimately work in and through us, all it is to us is a great historical account. We must develop a practice of purposefully engaging with God through His Spirit and His Word if we are to understand and become more like God. God is after our hearts, not our head knowledge, and it is only by wrestling with the heart of God as revealed to us in the Bible and practically applying what we learn that we can ever get on the same page with Him.
Q: How can unmet expectations derail our spiritual journey?
I would say unmet expectations are the cause of all of our disappointments. We all have expectations, whether articulated or not, and these help guide how we behave, interact and process relationships and situations we move throughout daily. For those of us who are married, you know exactly what I am talking about! Often when our expectations are not met, we need someone or something to put the blame on . . . and quite often the easiest person to put this on is God. God is not a “cosmic vending machine” or “universal police officer” looking to reward good behavior and punish bad. We shouldn’t pray in order to get what we want because when things in your life are not going the way you had expected, you end up having a problem with God. Your spiritual journey gets derailed because you have failed to have an accurate perception of God in the first place. It all comes back to the view we have of God. And this view can only be accurately painted in our hearts and minds if we have looked to God’s revelation of Himself appropriately.
Q: What does the rest that God promises look like on a practical level in our lives?
Rest is an interesting concept. Rest can be taking a nap, ‘“unplugging” for a bit of time, going on a vacation or even spending a nice night in with a loved one. The most interesting thing, though, is that although you may be in a physical posture of rest (lying down, relaxing, etc.) your mind and soul can still be at work. Perhaps you have decided to lie down on a Sunday afternoon or are watching golf on television (prime sleep conditions!), and although you have the pillows and blanket, your mind is racing about that issue you cannot seem to resolve. Sleepless nights and anxious moments are often due to the fact we do not have this “soul rest” that is referred to by Jesus in the Bible. Jesus promises true rest for the believer — a soul or heart rest — that can be achieved no matter what the outside conditions are or what situations are demanding from us. In fact, Hebrews tells us that entering into God’s rest not only secures our eternal destiny with Him but provides a peace or a rightness in the life we currently live. Jesus is the bringer of this rest. It is by Him, to Him and through Him we can truly rest in a world that never stops.
Q: What is your ultimate hope for those who complete the Intersect DVD series?
My dream is that Intersect would be used to start conversations of significance centered on the Gospel in a day where it is so easy to remain superficial and safe in the depth of conversation we conduct.
My hope for individuals who complete Intersect is that they would take their next step with Jesus, whatever that may be. For some, that will be contemplating and beginning to explore the things of God for the very first time. For others it will be re-imagining what their relationship with Him could become, and for others still it might be using Intersect to lead others to explore their relationship with God in a new and fresh way.
I also hope Intersect will give those of us in the church a tool to begin sharing our faith with those outside the walls of the church. We’ve done all the heavy lifting for you; now all you have to do is push play and be open to having a conversation. My prayer is this would be a tool that helps to empower normal believers to make a difference in someone else’s life as they walk in obedience for the Kingdom of God.
Posted 8/11/15 at 8:27 AM | Audra Jennings
If you asked anyone who knew Laurie A. Coombs, they would tell you what an incredibly strong person she was — the kind of person who can make it through anything. As Coombs details in her new memoir, Letters from My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness(Kregel/June 27, 2015/ISBN: 978-0825442292/$14.99), that outward veneer of strength masked a crumbling interior.
Q: Almost immediately after learning about your father’s death, you say the hate for his killer began to fill your heart. How did that hatred affect you?
My hatred affected just about everything I thought and did at first. Anger quite literally consumed me. But then after several months, I chose to lay aside my anger and my grief. I knew my dad wouldn’t have wanted me to live like that, so I deliberately chose to put the whole terrible thing behind me and move on.
I didn’t see the affects of anger on the surface after that, and I honestly thought I had worked through it. In reality, I had simply unintentionally buried it. For years, that anger festered in my heart and turned into bitterness without me even knowing it until the day God brought it to my attention nine years after the murder.
Q: What was it like for you to return to college and complete your daily classes and tasks after such a life-altering event?
Oh, that was hard. Nothing was the same after the murder. It all seemed pointless. The way I viewed just about everything had changed. My entire life had shifted in one moment, yet I knew I had to move on. I didn’t want to. I wanted to escape my life and pretend like nothing had happened. But I knew I couldn’t just stop doing life. I had to press on. I didn’t see any other choice, so I just sort of did it.
Q: How did this experience change how you view the attitude toward violence in the media?
Initially, I couldn’t do the things I did before the murder. I stopped watching TV, I turned off the news, I carefully screened movies to protect myself from seeing any type of violence, and of course, the rap music I once listened to was definitely out. Honestly, I just couldn’t take it. All around me, throughout most of our culture, I saw an unhealthy fascination with murder. Rappers glorifying it. Television shows depicting it to boost ratings. Movies using it to entice audiences. Kids running around, saying, “I’m going to kill you!” like it’s no big thing. We have murder-mystery dinner parties. Murder-mystery board games. True crime TV shows. We’re glorifying it. Sensationalizing it. Because, after all, murder sells, right?
Seeing murder elevated to entertainment sickened me, to be honest. I just wanted to scream, “This is not a game, people!” Murder is real. Murder is horrific. It is not entertainment. It is not something we should have this unhealthy fascination with. It’s murder. Real people exist behind each and every murder. Real victims. Real families left behind. Murder is not a game. And it is certainly not something to be glorified.
Q: You began to build a lovely life with your family in the years following the trial, and appeared very strong. What happened that finally brought you to the point where you turned to the Lord?
I fell apart. I did. God presented me with something I couldn’t fix. It was anxiety and depression that finally brought me to my knees, and for the first time in my life, I couldn’t fix myself. I couldn’t pull myself up by my bootstraps, so to speak, as I had many times before. I had fallen into such an incredibly dark place, and I was scared. I tried everything the world tells you to do in a situation like that, but nothing worked. As a last resort, I found my way to church.
Q: What were some of the little daily miracles and occurrences that drew you to Jesus when you started seeking Him?
My family and I willingly walked through those church doors with an incredible sense of desperation. God was truly my last hope, but even though I desperately wanted Him to be the answer, I was highly skeptical He would be. You see, I didn’t believe in God. I was a skeptic — a scoffer, even. At the time, I didn’t think proof of God’s existence was even possible, and I certainly didn’t want to be one of those “blind faith suckers.” But as I sat there listening to the pastor preach, it was as if I was the only one in the room. The message spoke to where I was in that exact moment, and I thought, The sheer probability of that alone is crazy.
The concept of God speaking to man was foreign to me, but having that pastor preach a message to my inner thoughts got my attention. It was enough to draw me back the next week and the week after that and the one after that, and each time I fully expected the God-thing to be a fluke. But it wasn’t. Over and over again, God showed Himself to me in many ways, and I was given the proof I needed to believe.
Q: You prayed a prayer at the beginning of your forgiveness journey. Tell us about that and how it was answered.
At the beginning of this whole thing, the only way I knew how to love my enemy was to pray for him — so I did. I prayed good things for him, though it was counterintuitive to everything I was feeling. I prayed God would change him. I prayed God would heal him. I prayed God would bring him to complete repentance. And I even prayed he would be transformed by the gospel to the extent that he would be motivated to live to the glory of God in prison, bringing many prisoners to know and serve Jesus. It was a pipe-dream prayer, I thought. I mean, I knew God could do it, but I honestly didn’t think He would. But then He did.
After I forgave, God brought him to his knees. All the blame-shifting, all the justification stopped. He began taking complete responsibility for what he had done, and he was repentant. Ever since that time, I have witnessed this man share the gospel of Jesus Christ subtly yet powerfully with his fellow inmates. Lives are changing in there. He truly is living to the glory of God in that prison.
Q: Why do people often feel like forgiving someone means that person “got away”with the wrong they committed?
I think a lot of people mistakenly think forgiving someone is saying what they did was OK, but it’s not. What that person did will never be OK. God does not take sin lightly, and neither should we. But God does call us to forgive. Forgiveness is not letting the person off the hook. It’s giving that person to God. It’s stepping down from the judgment seat, allowing God to take His rightful place as judge. God does not take sin lightly. Romans 12:19 says, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” Justice will be served. Our sins will be paid for one way or another, either by Jesus on the cross or by us.
Q: What is at the heart of the message you share in your book?
Hope is at the heart of my message. God truly has worked all things for good in my life. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” The first part of Genesis 50:20 says, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” God brings good out of evil. Love out of hate. Peace out of despair. I believe it is His desire to do this for every one of us. You see, our pain won’t be wasted. We don’t have to sit in it. If we bring our pain, past and present, to God, He will redeem it.
Q: What do you mean when you say your “pain won’t be wasted”?
We all have wounds. Every one of us. My pain is no more valid than yours. I believe pain is pain, regardless of its cause. But here’s the thing: Jesus came that we might have life. Life to the full. He came to bind the brokenhearted. To proclaim freedom to the captives. To release prisoners from their darkness. To comfort all who mourn. To bestow a crown of beauty instead of ashes. In short, He came to redeem. To make us new.
Jesus once said we will have troubles in this life, “But,” He said, “take heart for I have overcome the world.” Troubles will come, pain will be felt, but our troubles and pain are not without purpose. God uses everything. Nothing goes to waste. If He allows something to take place, it is because He has a plan for it. There is absolutely nothing we can endure that won’t be used by God.
Q: There are people who believe they will never be able to forgive people who have hurt them. What would you say to them?
I would tell them they’re right. They can’t forgive the person who hurt them on their own. I had tried to will myself into a place of forgiveness and healing for more than a decade, only to fall to bitterness and anxiety and depression. Until we come to God for help, until we lay ourselves down before Him and are willing to do whatever it takes to forgive, we won’t be able to do it. True forgiveness is only possible by the grace of God.
Q: You chose to begin Letters from My Father’s Murderer with Romans 13:12, which says: “The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Tell us about the significance of that Scripture to you.
I was in such darkness before I came to Jesus, and as I came to faith, it honestly felt like I had been plucked out of a deep dark pit. The light of God shone in my life, and I felt alive, truly alive, for the first time in my life. Darkness flees in the presence of light, and to me, Romans 13:12 is a picture of salvation. It’s a picture of what happened to me and what I hope happens to every one of us.
After coming to faith and experiencing all I did throughout my correspondence with the man who murdered my dad, I finally felt free. The darkness of my past was in the past. I had cast off my sin and sins others committed against me and had put on the armor of light, which is Christ.
Posted 8/7/15 at 2:31 PM | Audra Jennings
An interview with Cynthia Ruchti,
Author of Tattered and Mended
For anyone who has been battered and bruised by the storms of life, award-winning author Cynthia Ruchti has penned her new book, Tattered and Mended: the Art of Healing the Wounded Soul (Abingdon Press/July 7, 2015/ISBN: 978-1426787690 / $15.99). We all have moments when we feel shattered, wounded and needing to piece together the broken pieces of our hearts and lives.
Q: For whom did you write your new book, Tattered and Mended?
Tattered and Mended was written for all who have been broken and shattered, either by life’s circumstances or at the hand of others, and have lost hope that they could ever claw their way back to wholeness. It’s for those who believe the best they can hope for is simply to be patched together. Yet the truth is God takes the tattered and shattered and makes art of those shards, those frayed threads.
Q: You say when you sat down to write Tattered and Mended one premise filled your heart. Can you share with us what it was?
People are tattered. The world says, “Then let’s make tattered fashionable,” but God invites us to mend.
Q: Why did you choose to use fabric as an allegory throughout the book?
Fabric is one of the primary examples used in the book, but I also used several other examples across the spectrum of art — paintings, doll-making, fiber crafts, pottery, sculpting, metalwork, jewelry-making — that show us how something that looks beyond hope can become not only useful again, but stronger and valuable in new ways.
Q: Is there a formula or prescription for finding healing in Tattered and Mended?
Formulas sound nice on paper, but each individual’s pain is unique, making a one-size-fits-all prescription nearly impossible. Certainly there are principles we can apply, habits we can adopt and perspectives that aid us as we heal and mend. Just as a master artist addresses each canvas as a fresh opportunity for creating, God bends over us knowing what we need, knowing the amount of pressure we can bear, seeing what even we can’t see and applying His creative imagination coupled with deep compassion as He works.
The key is submitting to the process. He longs to heal. He specializes in mending and invites us to the mending table. Our responsibility is to allow Him to work as only He can.
Q: You write about the practice of sashiko (sah-SHEE-koh) and other decorative mending techniques. What do these practices symbolize to you?
I’ve filled a Pinterest board with examples of the creativity others have used to patch frayed hems or cuffs, patch holes in the knees of jeans, use broken china in jewelry, and practice the Japanese sashiko and boro mending stitches. Those delicate, precise, careful stitches from hundreds of years ago were meant to strengthen weak fabric on common items like a fishing coat or a pauper’s jacket. Now they hang in museums, admired by people like you and me who marvel at their workmanship and the beauty. Precision by the artisan created artwork from a mundane mending task. I’m overwhelmed by the comparisons here to how the process of our soul mending doesn’t always feel good — sometimes like a thousand pinpricks — and it often takes longer than we think it should. However, the end result can be an encouragement to someone else, possibly many years later.
Q: Humans try to heal themselves by slapping a bandage on the wound. How does God heal differently?
He does nothing carelessly or unintentionally. We can search diligently and not find a place in His Word where He decides, “Eh, that’s good enough.” He’s a God of excellence, trustworthiness and thoughtfulness. We can look to creation for confirmation that He is a master at details. He doesn’t settle for utilitarian purpose only. He goes beyond workable to beautiful.
Q: Why do you think many people remain in a broken state?
Some of us have come to expect too little. We think we don’t deserve anything more than where we now stand in the healing process. On the other hand, we may expect too much, growing bitter if the mending doesn’t happen as quickly as we imagine, in the way we imagine or with the results we envision. That bitterness is counterproductive to the healing we need and creates self-imposed setbacks.
Still others are broken and don’t yet know God cares they are hurting. They don’t yet know they’re mendable. I ache for them.
Q: Tell us about a time in your life when you felt tattered and in need of mending.
In Tattered and Mended, I mention a period of time that brought me to my knees — or even lower than that. When Lyme disease was a fairly “new” disease, as far as the general public was concerned, I had the dubious honor of being one of the first in my area of Wisconsin to contract it. It crept in stealthily, one symptom at a time. It was a year and a half before we knew what was causing the relentless headaches, heart-rhythm problems, debilitating pain in joints and muscles and a dozen other symptoms. I had young children, a ministry that taxed my energies and an at-that-time unknown disease that raged through my body. It reduced me to a lump of fatigue, uncertainty, concern and an emotional drain that left me shredded. I plowed through because I had no other choice and because I’d learned God is faithful and capable even when our strength is completely gone.
Q: What can we learn about healing from the miracles Jesus performed while He was here on earth?
We could talk about that for a long time and not exhaust the topic. The thoughts that come instantly to my mind are these:
Q: Many people don’t find wholeness because they can’t let go of hurt and resentment. Why is forgiveness so closely tied to emotional freedom?
Unforgiveness keeps us trapped in a state that is not a great environment for healing. Wounds can’t heal well in unsanitary conditions. Unforgiveness is spiritually unsanitary, and while it may seem natural, it isn’t healthy.
Q: How do you hope this book will offer strength and hope to those who are going through a difficult circumstance?
It’s one thing to believe God can make us better on a soul-deep level. It’s another to understand His intention is to make artwork from our messes and distresses. Like a master artist, He takes broken bits and frayed threads and mends us so thoroughly we can’t unravel, and the result is a thing of beauty.
Q: What do you mean when you say you’re an “observer-writer”?
Some write as experts on their subject of choice. I write from a place of listening and observing, then I attempt to express what others feel but can’t find a way to put into words.
Q: What is the significance of the phrase “hemmed in hope”?
Everything I write, fiction or nonfiction, has hope at its core. Jesus came because of our need for hope. It’s my prayer readers will close the books I write or leave a speaking event or even a private conversation they’ve had with me with renewed confidence, embracing the message, “I can’t unravel. I’m hemmed in hope.”
Posted 8/4/15 at 3:51 PM | Audra Jennings
With the first book in her new Waves of Freedom series, Through Waters Deep (Revell/August 4, 2015/ISBN: 978-0800723422 /$14.99), Sarah Sundin transports readers back to the 1940s — a fascinating time when ordinary men learned they could do extraordinary things and women explored new roles while still remaining ladies. It’s an era Sundin enjoys living in while she weaves her stories. “When we read of how people in the 1940s prevailed in times of uncertainty, fear and danger, it gives us hope we can prevail today, no matter what we face,” Sundin explains.
Described by Booklist as “an optimal hybrid of 1940s crime and romance,” Through Waters Deep takes readers through the tense months right before the U.S. entered World War II. There they’ll encounter German U-boats and torpedoes, along with the explosive power of true love.
In 1941, as America teeters on the brink of war in the months before Pearl Harbor, outgoing naval officer Ensign Jim Avery escorts British convoys across the North Atlantic in a brand-new destroyer, the U.S.S. Atwood. Back on shore, his old high school friend, Boston Navy Yard secretary Mary Stirling, does her work quietly and efficiently, happy to be out of the limelight. Yet despite her reserved nature, Mary never could back down from a challenge. When evidence of sabotage on the Atwood is found, Jim and Mary must work together to uncover the culprit. A bewildering maze of suspects emerges, and Mary is dismayed to find that even someone close to her is under suspicion. With the increasing pressure, Jim and Mary find many new challenges — and dangers — await them.
Sundin is known for finding inspiration for her stories from the Bible, but Scripture found its way into this tale in a different way. “Verses emerged when I wrote the story,” Sundin admits. “For Mary Stirling, who struggles with fears of attention and failure, her theme verse is Matthew 5:15-16: ‘Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.’ Mary learns that using your gifts isn’t prideful when you do it to call attention to God, not to yourself.”
Sundin launches her new Waves of Freedom series with a title she hopes will encourage her readers to hoist their sails with renewed confidence in who they are in Christ. Using sailing as a metaphor in Through Waters Deep, Sundin illustrates how in order to fly with the wind, ultimately we need to let the Lord fill our sails and resist the current any time it threatens to get us off course.
Readers can expect to be swept away by the Waves of Freedom titles and can look forward to the next installment, Anchor in the Storm, in summer 2016.
About the Author
Sarah Sundin is the author of The Wings of the Nightingale series and Wings of Glory series. Her novella “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” in Where Treetops Glisten is a 2015 finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Awards. On Distant Shores was a finalist for the 2014 Golden Scroll Award from both the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA) and the Christian Authors Network (CAN). In 2011, Sundin received the Writer of the Year Award at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. Sundin just launched her new World War II series, Waves of Freedom, with Through Waters Deep. Anchor in the Storm is expected to release in summer 2016.
A graduate of UC San Francisco School of Pharmacy, Sundin works on-call as a hospital pharmacist. During WWII, her grandfather served as a pharmacist’s mate (medic) in the Navy, and her great-uncle flew with the U.S. Eighth Air Force in England.
A mother of three, Sundin lives in California, where she teaches Sunday school and women’s Bible studies. She also enjoys speaking for community and writers’ groups.
Learn more about Sarah Sundin and Through Waters Deep by visiting www.sarahsundin.com, becoming a fan on Facebook (SarahSundinAuthor) or following her on Twitter (@sarahsundin) and Pinterest (sarahsundin).
Posted 7/30/15 at 1:55 PM | Audra Jennings
An interview with Beth K. Vogt,
Author of Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Marriage is serious business — both for the couple tying the knot and for wedding vendors, with the average cost of an American wedding topping $25,000. As budgets get stretched, so can fraying nerves and already-taut emotions, as captured in Beth K. Vogt’s new Destination Wedding series.
In the first novel in the series, Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Howard Books/June 30, 2015/ISBN: 978-1476789781/$14.99), paramedic Vanessa Hollister thinks she has moved beyond the pain of her first marriage — a “what-were-you-thinking” teenage elopement — and is planning an elegant destination wedding in Destin, Fla., with her new fiancé. Her dream of an idyllic beach wedding is disrupted, though, with the sudden reappearance of her first husband.
I discussed the idea of writing a series with my mentor and friend, author Rachel Hauck, as well as my agent, Rachelle Gardner. I was thrilled Howard Books liked the idea of the Destination Wedding series. So often in contemporary romance novels, the wedding comes at the end of the novel — often as an epilogue. In this series, the wedding is a main plot point. And travel — well, so many people love to read about new places, right? So combining weddings with new destinations — to me, that was a win-win situation.
Q: If you had the chance to plan a destination wedding, where would you go and why?
My Destination Wedding series focuses on wedding locations in the U.S., so I’m going to pick a site within the 50 states (and because I live in Colorado, that’s ruled out). My husband, our youngest daughter and I vacationed in Bandon, Ore., several years ago with close friends; we rented a beach house. The sunsets and sunrises were lovely, and the town is so quaint. I think Bandon would make a great location for a destination wedding . . . maybe even for a novel!
Q: What was your inspiration for writing Crazy Little Thing Called Love?
I have several friends who met in high school and ended up getting married — and they’ve stayed married, I’m happy to report. When my husband and I were dating, we talked briefly of eloping — very briefly. And I think everyone looks back on their high school years and can think of at least one decision they made, a romantic one or a just a general life decision, and they wonder, “What if?” What if they had done things differently?
Q: You usually have a high-concept question you weave into your stories. What was the main question for Crazy Little Thing Called Love?
I believe a Story Question is what fuels a novel. It’s what your characters are wrestling with from chapter one to the end. And it’s often a question readers might wrestle with too. For Crazy Little Thing Called Love, I focused on this Story Question: What if you realized what you thought was your worst mistake actually was the right choice?
Q: Vanessa is used to giving in to her fiancé’s wishes constantly. Do you think women have a tendency to do this generally in relationships?
No, not really. I was engaged when I was nineteen before I met my now husband, and I didn’t know my own mind back then and gave in too easily to what my fiancé thought. I don’t think that was because I was a woman so much as because I was young. There should be a natural give-and-take in any relationship, but a couple has to learn to balance it so both people are heard and valued. Of course, personalities come into play here, and some couples never grow into a more mature relationship.
Q: How did growing up in a military family that moves around frequently impact the person Vanessa became?
Remember, as the author I got to plot exactly how Vanessa was affected by being part of a military family; her experience isn’t true for every military child. She moved around a lot and had difficulty forming lasting friendships. This can be a challenge when a family moves every couple of years. The way I summed it up in Crazy Little Thing Called Love is that Vanessa was good at saying hello and goodbye, but she didn’t know how to do the relationship in between.
Q: What were your friendships like during high school? Can you identify with the way Vanessa felt as the new girl over and over again?
I switched schools between my sophomore and junior years of high school, but I did that by choice, not because my family moved. So while I said goodbye to some friends, I had other friends waiting for me at the other school and never really felt like the “new” girl. To understand Vanessa, I drew on my experience of raising my own children, helping them navigate friendships as they grew up in a military family and the inevitable goodbyes that come with that.
Q: Have you ever made a rash decision — even if it was made on good intentions? What happened as a result?
Oh, all sorts of rash decisions — everything from adopting stray animals (note the plural) to saying yes to going on a blind date that ended up lasting less than an hour. I’ve learned rash decisions — ones where I mentally leap before I look at the possible consequences of my choices — rarely end well. One of my rules now is if a decision has to be made immediately, my answer is no.
Q: Vanessa and Logan get a second chance at love. Have you ever had a second chance at something, and did you take it?
Like everyone else in the world, I’ve had a variety of second chances in my life, including romantic ones. And I have to admit I should have said “No, thanks” to some of them. A second chance isn’t an automatic yes from God. It should be prayed over . . . and treated as a treasured opportunity — whether you take it or not.
Q: How can being burnt in love and relationships impact your future ability to have an open heart toward others?
The question itself supplies the answer: When we are burned by something, we are more cautious the next time. No one escapes being disappointed by others. No one escapes being brokenhearted. But we can choose how we respond to it. Being cautious doesn’t mean we have to become jaded or closed off to other people. We can choose to be careful whom we give our heart to — and isn’t that a wise thing? But being cautious doesn’t mean choosing never to love again.
Q: To grow closer to God, Vanessa starts writing prayers in her journal. What do you do in your own quiet time with the Lord that helps you remain close to him?
Listening to praise-and-worship music has always been an important part of my quiet times. I’ve created worship playlists on Spotify, compiling my favorite songs. A few years ago I discovered the book Praying in Color by Sybil MacBeth. I’m not an artist, but this book, which details how to incorporate drawing into your prayer time, rejuvenated my quiet time. I also like to read my Bible in tandem with a specific book. Right now I am reading Finding Divine Inspiration: Working with the Holy Spirit in Your Creativity by J. Scott McElroy, which a friend gave me for Christmas.
Q: Can you think about a time in your life when you tried to force a dream or rush ahead of God’s timing? How did that work out for you?
There have been times when I’ve been impatient with God’s timing for things — for him to resolve a longstanding conflict or for him to change me in an area that I struggle. (I dealt with fear for many years.) I’ve had to realize God is working in my life even when I can’t see anything happening. To trust him. And when I’ve prayed and feel no clear direction of what to do or say next . . . I stay still. Quiet. I wait. It’s hard, but it’s the best thing to do rather than running ahead and assuming I know what to do without any clear guidance.
Q: Why did you want to choose a risky profession for Logan’s character? What kind of research did you have to do to represent it well?
I knew Logan needed to be in a profession that was risky because I wanted him to challenge Vanessa to move past all the boundaries she’d put around herself. I wanted to choose something outside the box. So I mulled for a few days — mulling is a huge part of the writing process. And the idea “storm chaser” came to mind. I would have loved to have time to do more research about storm chasing; there’s just never enough time to do everything I want. I’ve read some about storm chasers and have always been intrigued about why someone would run toward a tornado instead of running for safety. And I discovered they are not just thrill seekers. They are scientists, motivated by a desire to understand storms better, to help protect people. I read some books and did research online to understand storm chasers further.
Q: Was some of the rich camaraderie and conversation between friends in the book inspired by your own relationships?
Friendships are so, so important to me. And yes, when I’m with my friends, it’s all about the conversation, the laughter, the give-and-take between us. If I can make someone laugh, I’m happy. And I’m thankful I have people in my life who know the real me, who are willing to be honest with me, to challenge me — and who are real with me too. I don’t want to pretend anymore . . . or do a fake life. That’s not what God calls us to do. We’re to reflect his image to others, and having honest, loving relationships with others is one of the most beautiful ways we can do that.
Q: What can we expect from you next?
More Destination Wedding stories! I’m working on another novella and another novel (Almost Like Being in Love) for 2016. I’m intrigued by Logan’s little sister’s story: What happens with Caron and Alex? And there are always other stories perking in my brain, sparked by conversations, news stories and random things I run across in my day-to-day life. Did you know you can rent a bridesmaid? Now how intriguing is that? And I’ve already started a list of “What if?” ideas for other stories.
For more information about Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Beth K. Vogt visit www.bethvogt.com, become a fan on Facebook (AuthorBethKVogt) or follow her on Twitter (@bethvogt) and Pinterest (beth_vogt).
Posted 7/28/15 at 4:14 PM | Audra Jennings
An interview with Laurie Coombs,
If you asked anyone who knew Laurie A. Coombs, they would tell you what an incredibly strong person she was — the kind of person who can make it through anything. As Coombs details in her new memoir, Letters from My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness (Kregel/June 27, 2015/ISBN: 978-0825442292/$14.99), that outward veneer of strength masked a crumbling interior. FULL POST
Posted 7/27/15 at 3:26 PM | Audra Jennings
Let’s face it: Opening up to the people we love most about the most important issues in life — such as faith — can be tough. Whether it’s embarrassment or misunderstanding, the fear of rejection can keep our lips sealed, thus keeping our unsaved loved ones lost in the dark. This is why Rob Peabody and Cris Rogers created Intersect: Where Your Story and God’s Story Converge (Kregel Publications/July 27, 2015/$15.99), a five-week short film resource designed to help Christians engage their family, friends and neighbors in a meaningful way about their faith. Whether used in a café, a friend’s living room or a more formal church setting, the video series can be tailored to a variety of audiences.
Intersect follows the lives of five people as they examine their struggles and triumphs in light of what God teaches us about life in Scripture. Viewers can relate easily to their stories, which cover issues such as:
The power of story plays an important role in Intersect’s intended impact. “The beauty of each person’s individual journey is that although they are each completely unique, they can also relate and intersect,” Peabody explains. “When that happens, it may bring validation, hope, assurance, comfort and meaning. In a day and age where truth is debated and experience reigns supreme, our stories speak volumes.”
Avoiding “Christianese,” Intersect is specifically designed to appeal to all people, regardless of where they are on their spiritual journey. “We’ve created Intersect in such a way that anyone can play the films and facilitate the conversation from the study guide,” Peabody explains. “We see Intersect as a ‘pre-intro to Christianity,’ entertaining ideas about God and what He might have to say about universal issues we all face.”
In the end, both Peabody and Rogers hope Intersect will help Christians understand that even if they don’t feel like they have anything to offer their searching loved ones, they have a story, and God wants to merge with and use their story to reach the lost.
For more information about Intersect and to watch a preview,
About the Producers
Rob Peabody left his position as lead campus pastor of a mega-church in Texas in 2011 and moved with his wife, Medea, and their two sons to the U.K. He is now the co-founder and director of Awaken, a non-profit organization that exists to provide resources and creativity to the church and reach Londoners in their 20s and 30s with the Gospel. This work is commissioned by the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and in partnership with the Church of England.
Peabody also currently serves as a missional consultant for multiple church networks. He appears regularly at the Spring Harvest conferences in Great Britain and will be leading a new upcoming national U.K. conference for young adults called The Pursuit.
Cris Rogers is a writer, pastor, speaker and church visionary. In 2010, Rogers planted a church in the poorest area of London with a dream for it to be an explosion of joy within the tower block estate in which he works.
Posted 7/17/15 at 2:53 PM | Audra Jennings
An interview with Melanie Dobson,
Author of Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor
Every family has secrets they’d prefer to stay hidden, but where is the line between protecting the ones you love and simple self-preservation? The theme of Melanie Dobson’s sweeping new novel, Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor (Howard Books/May 5, 2015/ ISBN: 9781476746142/$14.99) is how the choices of a few can impact generations.
Q: In your latest book, Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, we meet 19-year-old Maggie — innocent in many ways — but she finds herself in an unwed pregnancy during a time period when that was socially unacceptable. What does that situation mean for her and her family?
Maggie lost her biological parents during World War II, and her beloved younger brother died in an orphanage after the war. Heartbroken and scared, Maggie was raised by foster parents near Bristol, England. In the 1950s, British mothers often told their children that a midwife or a stork brought each new baby, so many young women were naïve about the facts of life. Maggie and her foster mother never discussed where babies came from.
Maggie craves love at the beginning of this story, but the father of her baby has sailed away from their coastal village, and she knows this unexpected pregnancy will humiliate her foster family. Since she has no place else to turn, Maggie begins to contemplate suicide, thinking it will be better for her child to be cradled in heaven rather than dying slowly in an orphanage like Maggie’s brother.
Q: Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor spans four generations of women, slipping back and forth between a past and contemporary story. Why do the three older women keep secrets from their daughters? How far are some people willing to go to cover the shame of their past?
Mother-daughter relationships can be complicated. This relationship can be one of the closest a woman might experience, but it can also be one of the most hurtful. In both the past and present parts of the story, the mothers kept secrets from their daughters in order to protect them, but as these secrets are passed down through generations, they almost destroy their family.
While these women believe they are protecting the people they love, they are really protecting themselves. The wounds from shame have been around since Adam and Eve sinned against God and then hid themselves in the perfect garden. Like Adam and Eve, many of us are willing to go a long way to cover up sin or abuse from our past. This makes me even more grateful for the grace of God that has the power to redeem our past and cleanse all our shame.
Q: Why did you choose to weave the theme of butterflies through this story?
Maggie’s daughter, Libby, is a unique young woman who is fascinated by butterflies. She is a beautiful, passionate girl who thrives on wandering among the flowers in Ladenbrooke’s gardens and spilling her heart on the pages of her sketchbook. Even though she struggles socially, Libby is enchanted by the beauty and dance of butterflies. As she grows older, Libby loves creating colorful butterflies — her friends — through painting, and these butterflies ultimately bring new life to her as well.
I chose to use the example of butterflies throughout this story because of their struggle to break free of the cocoon that both shelters and confines them and because of their transformation into elegant, vibrant creatures that rely on the sun for life. Once we allow God to peel back the shame and guilt that bind us, we — like these magical butterflies —are finally free to be exactly who He made us to be.
Q: You’ve said if Libby had been born in modern times, she could have fallen on the autism spectrum. Why did you choose to include that aspect as part of her story?
My oldest daughter has sensory processing issues, and we have journeyed with friends throughout the years who have children on this spectrum as well. Parents of kids on the autism spectrum often experience a lot of guilt and shed many tears on behalf of their son or daughter. Until parents have a diagnosis, there is a lot of confusion as to why their child is different than other kids and why they struggle to do seemingly simple tasks when really they are fighting to survive. There can also be judgment from teachers and other adults who are confused or uneducated about this spectrum.
Children on the autism spectrum often struggle with self-control and relationships, but they can also be incredibly bright, passionate people, such as Libby, who excel at art or science or whatever talents God has given them. In this story, I wanted to celebrate these wonderful kids and encourage moms, in particular, who might feel hopeless and alone.
Q: How were people with autism and their families treated differently 50 years ago?
In the 1950s, the mother of a child with autism was referred to as a “refrigerator mom” because it was thought autism was a result of being parented by a cold, unfeeling mother. Ouch! I can’t imagine how hurtful that must have been to moms of autistic children. In Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, Walter and Maggie debate what would help and what would hurt Libby. Walter wants Libby to face her fears while Maggie wants to protect her daughter from the world and the children who tease her. They both feel helpless at times as they seek to understand Libby’s heart and mind.
When I was in England, I spent time with a woman who had been a special education teacher 50 years ago. She said during this time period, autistic children would have been sent to a separate home, while those with Asperger syndrome or sensory processing issues would most likely have been rejected by other children and adults because their differences.
Q: Do you think sensitivity and understanding for those with autism has increased in modern times? What can individuals do to help change the way society views and interacts with those impacted by autism?
I am incredibly grateful for the advances in understanding the spectrum of autism and all the amazing techniques, exercises and therapies to help kids on this spectrum succeed. Still many children with Sensory Processing Disorder are misdiagnosed. It’s important to continue educating parents and teachers about the range of this spectrum and how children with heightened sensory awareness might react with fear or anger when they feel threatened. It is also helpful when parents of children on the autism spectrum are able to be honest about the successes and failures of their journey. Instead of judging, we should all encourage parents who love their kids but feel discouraged on their quest for answers.
Q: Willow Cottage, the home of the Doyle family, sits in the shadows of the Croft family’s Ladenbrooke Manor. What is the significance of these shadows?
The Crofts are an upper class, noble family in England while Walter and Maggie Doyle are solidly middle class. During the 1950s, there were strict society rules between the British classes, but both Oliver (the son of Lord and Lady Croft) and Libby (the Doyles’ daughter) defy these rules. Like the boundaries of society, a stone wall separated Ladenbrooke Manor and Willow Cottage until tragedy strikes both families and these social boundaries begin to crumble. Ultimately God’s light shines through the shadows on both sides of the wall.
Q: Your favorite characters to write about are everyday heroes and heroines who sacrifice their lives for someone else. Do any of your characters sacrifice their lives in Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor?
I am fascinated by seemingly ordinary people today and throughout history who have done extraordinary things to help others. In Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, Walter chooses to sacrifice his career and his plans for the future to raise a daughter who’s biologically not his. He grows to love Libby, and even though his emotions are tumultuous throughout this story, Walter ultimately decides to accept and care for this girl he believes God has given him. Also, Maggie originally thinks that taking her own life, along with the life of her unborn daughter, is the most loving thing to do for her child, but Walter stops her from killing herself; she ultimately sacrifices herself to fight for Libby and to care for Libby’s daughter.
Q: Despite the fear of disappointing people we love, how can we learn to live our lives in the light of the truth instead of hiding?
One of the verses I cling to regularly as a parent is 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” Christ ripped the veil of our shame in two when He died so we no longer have to hide behind it. I love when women of different generations are honest with one another about their weaknesses and offer each other grace, just as Christ gave freely to each of us.
Q: There seem to be some similarities in time period and setting between the BBC’s surprise hit Call the Midwife and Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor. Why do you think Call the Midwife has become such a popular program in both England and the United States, and what are some of the parallels between this show and your latest novel?
Viewers love Call the Midwife for many reasons, but some of the main reasons are because it’s a show about a character reflecting back on her life during the 1950s with new clarity and because of the rich themes of faith and morality that echo through the generations. Also, the stories take an honest look at both the beauty and sometimes sorrow that happen with each new birth. Each episode is authentic in its display of inner and external conflict while maintaining its focus on the relationship between God and humanity.
The story in Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor is also bound together by the journal entries of a character reflecting back on life in England during a similar era. I hope readers will appreciate the honest perspective of the challenges of an unexpected pregnancy and wrestle through their own emotions alongside the characters. Also similar to Call the Midwife, the themes of faith and grace are integral to this story.
Q: Could you tell us about the trip you took to research this book?
I visit all the main settings of my novels to capture the spirit and culture of each location along with the sights, sounds and even tastes of the area. I spent a week on a “whistle stop” tour of England last spring, exploring Oxford, London, Bristol and the lovely manor homes in the Cotswolds. I thoroughly enjoyed my many pots of English tea, sleeping in homes that were almost 1,000 years old and meandering through cottage gardens around Oxford. I also had the pleasure of meeting with friends and fellow novelists Carrie Turansky and Cathy Gohlke while they researched for their upcoming novels and then spending the day with a lovely British woman named Evelyn who thought my novel should be set in the quaint village called Bibury. Turns out, she was exactly right!
Q: You have said you almost feel a compulsion to write. What do you mean by that?
Someone gave me a red journal when I was seven, and I’ve loved to write and create stories ever since. I enjoy the challenge of researching and writing fiction, and when I’m not working on a new book, I’m either making up stories for my girls or dreaming about ideas for my next novel. I believe we all have talents and abilities that God wants us to use. Writing is life-giving to me, and I get cranky (as my family will confirm!) when I take too long of a break from my pen and paper.
Q: Ultimately, what is the main message of Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor?
Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor was my exploration of God’s light shining through the shadows of life, along with the beauty and power of His restoration through generations. The story is ultimately about transformation — how even in the hardest situations God can weave together a story of hope and redemption and create incredible beauty from the ashes of our lives.
Posted 7/16/15 at 11:58 AM | Audra Jennings
Authors of 7 Family Ministry Essentials
In 7 Family Ministry Essentials, written for church leaders who have a passion to disciple kids and teens in partnership with the Holy Spirit and the family, Michelle Anthony and Megan Marshman capture the guiding essentials to build a strategy for life-changing family ministry in this ultimate leadership resource. These seven essentials emphasize:
1. Empowering families to take spiritual leadership in the home
2. Forming lifetime faith that transcends childhood beliefs
3. Teaching Scripture as the ultimate authority of truth
4. Understanding the role of the Holy Spirit to teach and transform
5. Engaging every generation in the gospel of God's redemptive story
6. Making God central in every biblical narrative and daily living
7. Participating in community with like-minded ministry leaders
In the interview below, the authors share more about the mission of their book.
Q: 7 Family Ministry Essentials call for a strategy change for children’s and student ministries. What are some of the most common practices that need to be changed in these ministries today?
Anthony: The practices that need changing are the ones that don’t bear fruit. Just because we have always done something one way doesn’t mean it will be effective in this generation. We need to be willing to reimagine ministry based on meeting the needs in our generation. Tradition is a wonderful thing but not when it gets in the way of transformation. Yet change for change’s sake is also hollow. Leaders are best when they initiate change to breed a cultural change — meaning one that permeates the culture in such a way it remains long after we are gone and bears fruit.
Marshman: I would add that specifically within student ministries, leaders tell parents they are the primary disciplers of their children but oftentimes do nothing about it. Leaders have the opportunity not only to encourage parents to live out that role, but equip and support them with the resources to do so.
Students need space to meet with the living God during student ministry gatherings. Students also need opportunities to speak about their faith experiences within their faith community. It’s key for students not merely to agree with what their youth leaders are saying but to begin to live out and speak about the reality of their own personal faith inside and outside the walls of the church.
Q: What are some practical ways parents can make spiritual deposits into their child’s life?
Marshman: First and foremost, parents can make spiritual deposits into their child’s life by loving Jesus deeply. As parents deepen their love and dependence upon the Lord, it becomes easier to entrust their children into His hands. In moments of struggle, parents can surrender their children into the hands of a gracious God. In moments of triumph, parents will praise and worship God as the ultimate, generous gift giver.
Additionally, parents can put their honest faith journey on display. Admitting their weaknesses and showcasing their own dependence upon the Lord through every season can radically impact their child's life by modeling true discipleship.
Q: Why are parents quick to pick up a book about potty training or discipline, but hesitant to try to learn about how to teach their children spiritual discipleship? How can ministry leaders help them overcome their fears?
Anthony: We all want a quick fix. We all want to be in control of the outcomes of our children. Spiritual discipleship is neither of those. It is supernatural. Only God can change a heart or transform a life. We need His wisdom and His power. This requires us to be in an intimate relationship with God. Often parents’ faith is not that vibrant at the time of child-rearing, and it is impossible to give away something they don’t have. And even when it is vibrant, it is difficult to relinquish control and trust God to transform a child’s life when and as He chooses. Parents are required to be faithful and role models; they are not required to make their children spiritual.
Marshman: Ministry leaders can help parents overcome their fears by informing them of their role as a spiritual parent, to create environments for faith formation to come alongside what the Holy Spirit is doing in the life of their children. God doesn’t call them to change their children, God calls them to love Him, love them and entrust Him with the transformation.
Q: How can a youth or children’s minister foster the leadership a parent should have in their family, if that parent is overwhelmed and spiritually immature themselves?
Anthony: Baby steps. Meet them where they are at and disciple them just as we would a child or a teen. We must help them see the connection and then lead them one step at a time. Often we overwhelm them with all they should be doing. It’s not attractive for parents to think they are failing at yet another thing. We need to give them a small win!
Q: When one thinks about the state of the family, even within the church, it can feel hopeless. But you say it could change in as little as one generation. Why?
Marshman: We are in the midst of a movement. Typically, movements are things we look back on in the past. It’s critical to see in the past five years, family ministry has begun to take ground within churches. Church staffing structures are changing to include an emphasis on the families, youth pastors are joining in on the efforts, and children’s ministry leaders are impassioned like never before to recognize their jobs reach far beyond children. It could absolutely change in as little as one generation because God is on the move through family ministry. When you feel hopelessness, remember God is in the habit of using broken families for His glory.
Learn more about Dr. Michelle Anthony at www.michelleanthony.org, on Facebook or by following her on Twitter. Learn more about Megan Fate Marshman at www.meganfate.com, on Facebook or by following her on Twitter.
Posted 7/15/15 at 12:40 PM | Audra Jennings
Part 2 of an interview with Pamela Havey Lau,
Author of A Friend in Me
Young women long for relational connection. Yet, without realizing it, more mature Christian women often distance themselves from women in their twenties and thirties because they use different language to talk about God or have different views on church and theology.
In A Friend in Me: How to be a Safe Haven for Other Women (David C Cook/June 1, 2015/ ISBN: 978-1434708649/ $15.99), Pam Lau shows readers how to be a safe place for the younger women in their lives. She offers five patterns women need to internalize and practice for initiating relationships and talking about issues such as faith, sexuality, and vocation. Most significantly, she reminds readers that when generations get together, they can have a global impact and experience a deeper personal faith than they’ve ever known.
Q: Why do you think it’s harder for women of the younger generation to create meaningful connections with other women?
It’s hard for women from all generations to create meaningful connections, especially with today’s social media, but the younger ones have never known any different! While the need to connect hasn’t shifted, but the opportunities and ways we connect deeply have moved — and they continue to change rapidly. We have all the right tools to connect, but the sheer number of choices, our overall lack of commitment and the breakdown of strong family ties encourage us to live our lives as free agents. So like Dorie in Finding Nemo, we just keep on swimming, exhausting ourselves in the process. We just can’t see clearly to make satisfying connections that are certainly there!
The problem is there’s a gap that’s widening. The way the older generation talks about faith, sexuality and vocation can send the message, “I don’t agree with the way you’re living your life.” On the other hand, the way younger women work, support themselves financially and build relationships may send the message, “I am fine, and I don’t need your support.” However, I have discovered women all across the age groups desperately need and want close relationships with one another. Our greatest connections are already there — we just need the Spirit of God to open our eyes and soften our hearts.
Q: How would you define authenticity in a relationship?
When authenticity is alive and well in a relationship, people are honest about themselves and about how they feel when the other person hurts them or makes them feel loved. You can't feel loved if the other person isn't loving the real you. You have to come to the relationship as you are — not as you want someone to perceive you to be. That goes both ways. For a relationship to remain authentic, it can't be about transactions or who has done what for whom. It's also not bearing it all without any boundaries. As Christians, authentic relationship takes on a whole new level because we have Christ interceding for us and praying we will love one another as he loved his disciples while he was here. What can that look like here on earth? Christian authenticity is listening spiritually to one another's lives. We minister to each other as we listen to what the Spirit is saying or doing in another person's life. There's a passage in Hebrews that describes the Word of God as alive and active, cutting through everything. That's what authenticity looks like in a relationship where Christ is the center — it cuts us to our truest, most real self. The world is thirsty for Christian authenticity.
Q: Have you ever had trouble being authentic with the women in your life?
When authenticity is alive and well in a relationship, people are honest about themselves and about how they feel when the other person hurts them or makes them feel loved. You can't feel loved if the other person isn't loving the real you. So you have to come to the relationship as you are — not as you want someone to perceive you to be. That goes both ways. For a relationship to remain authentic, it can't be about transactions or who has done what for whom. It's also not bearing it all without any boundaries. As Christians, authentic relationship takes on a whole new level because we have Christ interceding for us and praying we will love one another as he loved his disciples while he was here. What can that look like here on earth? Christian authenticity is a spiritual listening to one another's lives. We minister to each other as we listen to what the Spirit is saying or doing in another person's life. There's a passage in Hebrews that describes the Word of God as alive and active, cutting through everything. That's what authenticity looks like in a relationship where Christ is the center — it cuts us to our truest, most real self. The world is thirsty for Christian authenticity.
Q: Why are cross-generational relationships so important? What is the biggest hindrance in making them work?
Cross-generational relationships are a reflection of the Church. We often spend time with people in our own age or life category, which can be rewarding, but we miss out on the history of life when we’re not with people ahead of us. Younger women need the connections with women ahead of them as they make life decisions. I love, love spending time with my younger women friends, and I work on remaining a safe haven. That’s the biggest hindrance in making cross-generational relationships work — learning how to be a safe haven. Until that happens, the younger women will remain spiritually independent, and that’s not God’s will for the Church universal.
When women are safe havens for one another, the need for spiritual independence decreases. When I read Peter’s reaction to Jesus washing his feet in John 13, I realize that’s what we say to one another when we so desperately need to love and be loved. “You’re not going to do that for me! I will take care of myself.” Jesus was the safest haven of all, and Peter still hadn’t trusted him!
Q: As a busy wife and mother, what are some ways you build time into your life to make friendships a priority?
Once I accepted the fact I cannot survive without meaningful connections with women, I could identify ways to build quality time into my world. Here are a few: Once a week, I pull up my calendar and carefully scan the upcoming week. I look for a work-to-friend ratio. Am I working too many hours without taking a break? Do I have too many social connections scheduled in a week? Too many can drain me and keep me from connecting meaningfully, so I pace myself.
I also pay attention to the kinds of connections I need. For example, one woman serves more as a spiritual director, another walks closely with me in my writing, one woman prays with me weekly (sometimes daily) and another friend loves to run long distances. My point is not one woman can meet all my needs, and these friendships are reciprocal — so it’s never just about me. One mistake married women with children can make is to form all their friendships around their children’s friend’s parents. Although wonderful friendships can form from those years, I’ve seen over and over how women feel a deep sense of loneliness when their child leaves a school or a family decides to stop homeschooling.
Q: What are the five patterns you want women to internalize and practice in their relationships with other women?
I want women to practice and know how to talk about their own experiences so they can connect with women who are a bit behind them in life.
· The other side of pain and suffering
· The power of comfort
· Acting with understanding
· Knowing full forgiveness
· Relating with compassion