Today on the blog I'm so pleased to welcome author and speaker Janet Thompson, whose new book is Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life's Experiences and God's Faithfulness. I first met Janet when we roomed together at a conference several years ago and we've been friends ever since. (I'm pretty sure we bonded right away when we realized I had forgotten to pack pajamas--how did I manage that?--and she had packed two sets! Nothing like borrowing your roommate's PJs for a few days to bring two women closer together!) I'm convinced that we need her new book now more than ever before. Reading Mentoring for All Seasons was like sitting down at a table with Janet, and with all the women she invited to speak into the book with their own personal stories. One of mine was included. I was inspired by how God has used women mentoring women not just in ages past, but here and now. Mentoring for All Seasons is not just theoretical. The biblical wisdom and conversational tone are supported by very practical guides for both mentees and mentors. This is an invaluable resource I'll be referring to often. Without further ado, here is Janet's guest post: What to Do When You Don’t Like Your Life Season by Janet Thompson We’ve all heard it said, “There’s a time for everything.” Or “You’re just in a season, it will pass.” In fact, it’s Scriptural— “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, 6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, 7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”—Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 The good and pleasant seasons sound wonderful and just what God wants for us, right? It’s so easy to think that God couldn’t possibly want what we perceive as a bad or unpleasant season for us. And yet this Scripture passage tells us that God made both, and while we’re alive, we’re going to experience every season—the good and the bad—under heaven. Pastor Rick Warren often says that life is like a roller coaster: if you’re going up and experiencing a good season, brace yourself because in about three weeks you’ll probably find yourself going down into an unpleasant season, screaming all the way! We try so hard to hold onto those feel-good seasons, and there’s nothing wrong with that—we should have times of joy, dancing, laughing, loving, and peace. But when the not so good times roll, we need to remember that God has not left us. He’s walking right beside us through the mourning, weeping, uprooting, and war seasons, and that’s when a mentor is so helpful to remind us that she made it through her tough seasons and we will too. The focus of my book Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture has Forgotten is for us to remember how good God has been in all the seasons of our life. God never abandons His children. This is a message we need to share with each other and with the culture, especially during these challenging times we live in today. Reasons for Not Liking our Life Season Usually we don’t like our life season because: It’s painful or uncomfortable. We’re jealous and like what someone else’s life looks like more than our own life. We’re living with the consequences of our, or someone else’s, behavior or decisions. We’re discontent or discouraged. We’re not sure if God still cares about us. What would you add to the list? We all have difficult seasons we want to end. Or maybe we’re in a wonderful season that we never want to end. Many life seasons we have no control over, even though advertisers and the culture would try to make you believe differently. They set us up to fail either way by thinking if we just drink the right cola, take the right pill, own the right car, use the right cosmetics and anti-aging products, eat the right food, reach success . . . every season of our life will be heavenly. The aging clock is going to stop and somehow God made our life to be different from everyone else’s life. But that’s a lie and those who buy into it will never be content because everything God lists in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is a season that everyone will experience. What to Do When We Don’t Like Our Life Season We probably feel like crying, screaming, maybe yelling, getting depressed, ignoring, or trying to get out of it. If we’re honest, we’ve all been there. But soon we realize that the only thing that works when we don’t like our life season is to ask God how He wants us to deal with it, and then listen carefully to how the Holy Spirit speaks to us. It’s that still small voice we hear guiding us when we cry out to God. We might not know how to get through the season, but God does. So often He’s talking, but we’re not listening. Someone on a friend’s Facebook post asked how my Christian friend knew what God wanted. Did he have a direct line to God? I thought, Yes he does! Every Christian has a direct line to God the world doesn’t understand, and one we don’t use nearly enough: praying to Jesus who hears every word and the Holy Spirit who intercedes for us even when all we can do is groan. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 2:5 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.Romans 8:26-27 While writing this post, I met a woman whose husband has cancer. As she shared her story, I heard in my mind hug her and pray for her. Mind you, we had just met, and I had already told her I would be praying for her husband and their family since I understood having had breast cancer three times. But as she kept talking, I knew I was to pray for her now. So I said, “Let me pray for you,” and stepped forward to hug her; but she didn’t realize that I meant right then. I knew God meant right then! She needed it and she was so grateful. I had tried to talk myself out of it, and how many times is God trying to tell us what to do “right then,” but we’re dismissing His words of wisdom to see us through this season and on into the next one. That’s when a mentor can step in and do just what I was able to do for this woman, even though we barely knew each other. Can you imagine how much comfort can come from two women who have a personal mentoring relationship?! God doesn’t want us going through any season alone, but He also doesn’t want us listening to anyone who isn’t giving us biblical wisdom. That’s why in Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness, every season has Scripture to study together that applies to the various issues women might experience in that season. Being a mentor, or a mentee reaching out to another woman for guidance, doesn’t mean the mentor has all the answers or the Bible memorized. It just means she’s willing to search God’s Word and pray together for Him to tell you both what to do in the life seasons you might not like right now; and then, you both reach out and help someone else going through something similar. And that’s exactly what Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 tells us we need to do when we’re going through a life season we don’t like! Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness is available at ChristianBook, BarnesandNoble, Amazon, or signed by the author. About Janet Janet Thompson is an international speaker, freelance editor, and award-winning author of 19 books. Her latest release is Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness. She is also the author of Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten; The Team That Jesus Built; Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?; Dear God They Say It’s Cancer; Dear God, He’s Home!; Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter; Face-to-Face Bible study Series; and Woman to Woman Mentoring: How to Start, Grow, & Maintain a Mentoring Ministry Resources. She is the founder of Woman to Woman Mentoring and About His Work Ministries. Visit Janet and sign up for her Monday Morning blog and online newsletter at womantowomanmentoring.com www.facebook.com/Janetthompson.authorspeaker http://www.linkedin.com/in/womantowomanmentoring/ www.pinterest.com/thompsonjanet https://twitter.com/AHWministries
I don't know about you, but I've been holding my breath for days as we've watched Hurricane Irma pummel across Florida, affecting many family members and close friends. This morning I learned that our loved ones are unharmed, and their property has minimal damage, but they are still waiting for power. But before that, there were, and still are, the wildfires in the northwest to be concerned about. And we can't forget about those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Rebuilding after fires and hurricanes will be tough work, and for a very long time. And now we find ourselves on September 11, the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. that plunged our nation into more than a decade of war and deployments. When we consider all of these events in such quick succession, it's easy to be overwhelmed, isn't it? The word "refuge" has been on my heart lately, for a few reasons. First, I've been editing the galleys for my next novel, A Refuge Assured. But the concept of refuge has been a very real one as we've had natural disasters displace so many Americans lately. There are almost one hundred references to "refuge" in the Bible, but I want to share just one of them with you today. Psalm 73:28. "But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds." Normally we think of refuge as a physical location of safety. A haven, where nothing can harm the one who shelters there. The verse above reveals more layers of meaning to the word: 1) To be near God is to make Him our refuge. No matter where we are, whether we are in harm's way or time zones away from physical danger, we can dwell in the Lord by trusting His promises. 2) Our refuge is not just the Lord, but the Sovereign Lord. A turn in the hurricane's path may take the Weather Channel by surprise. A terrorist attack may catch us unaware. But God is still on His throne, and nothing surprises Him. He is never disoriented and at a loss as to how best to care for His beloved. He is sovereign. 3) There is a natural connection between taking refuge in God, and telling of all His deeds. On 9-11, we tell stories of where we were on this day in 2001, don't we? We remember the fallen. We thank those who served on that dreadful day and who continue to serve us. We #NeverForget because that day was so significant for us as a nation, and for many of us, it changed us personally, too. (I share my story here.) In the same way, reminding ourselves and each other of how the Lord has already provided for us in the past reminds us that He has proven faithful. He has been our refuge in the past, and He won't stop caring for us now. Please understand that I don't mean to minimize any of the hardships you might be experiencing. Far from it. I'm praying for your physical needs, whether it's related to a recent disaster, or it's a chronic illness, or a military deployment, or the loss of a loved one. I'm also praying that in the midst of it all, you will be near God, as the psalmist wrote. That His presence will wrap around you, whatever your circumstances may be. I pray His peace and comfort will be made known to you, surpassing all understanding.
I have to ask. For those of you who have read both The Mark of the King and Free to Lean: Making Peace with Your Lopsided Life--did you catch that I used the lesson the character Marc-Paul learned in the novel in the last chapter of Free to Lean? "Everything begins and ends with grace." Without taking the time to unpack that statement right here, I'll just say that this concept of grace is the perfect fit in both my novel and in my nonfiction book. Grace is always our perfect fit. It's always in season. And there is never a time when I don't need it. If you're not familiar with Free to Lean, it's my book for women that basically says it's OK to not do it all. Our goal should not be balance, but to lean into the priorities God has given us for our particular season of life. (Read more about the book here.) The entire last chapter of Free to Lean is devoted to exploring grace, along with some myths that keep us from embracing it. I do hope you have a chance to read it yourself, but let me just share a snippet with you today, from Chapter Ten: Grace means it's not about what we can do, but what Christ has already done for us. Grace means we don't have to earn His love, strength, or power. he has already declared us worthy of these gifts--and it has nothing to do with our striving. Grace means that when we fall short, all is not lost--because Jesus covers the distance between where we are and where we will someday be. I have motivational mugs and T-shirts that tell me to "Keep Calm and Write On," but my favorite one is the one pictured above. Because lots of days, I don't need a pep talk that tells me to be productive. I need grace. We all do. Below, I'd love for you to hear from my friend Susie Finkbeiner on this. I love that so much. Whatever we do, it's not by our power, but God's. There is such freedom in that truth! (You can view more videos on my Free to Lean YouTube playlist here. More videos will be added to it as Discovery House finishes editing them.) I want to leave you with a song by Sara Groves which I listened to over and over while I wrote Free to Lean. It relates so well, in fact, that I wanted to quote from the lyrics in the book. But alas, we were only granted permission for three years' time due to music copyright issues, so I'm just going to share it with you this way instead. (The video below is just audio, there's no real video component to it.) The song is called "I've Been Here Before," and it's from her Floodplain album. Listen closely to the chorus, and be encouraged.
I spent a few hours pulling weeds from my gardens yesterday. Most of what I yanked out was some strange, creepy crawly invasive species I've not officially identified. There was also some crabgrass, some other grass, dandelions, random corn stalks (yes, I live in Iowa), and baby trees who thought they'd give it a go just wherever. But there was also this flower. A really pretty, cheerful black-eyed susan. The trouble with her was, I'd already stripped that flower bed of her kind, having decided those plants were unpredictable and patchy in how they spread. I wanted to try something new there this year, something with a tidy growth habit and more structure. It's a small garden plot, and it's doing well now with a back row of tall, dynamic ornamental grass, and in the front, three salvia plumosas arranged in a wedge. That lone black-eyed susan, pretty though she was, didn't belong. If I let her stay, she would multiply and take over the plot again. So I dug her up by the roots and tossed her, because listen: in life and in gardens, a weed is anything that's growing where you don't want it to. Even good things can crowd out the best things. In case you struggle with an overcrowded life right now, here's your official permission to weed it. Recognize your limits, including time, energy, and money constraints. And don't be afraid to set limits where they will most benefit your ability to pursue your God-given purpose. That means pulling out whatever threatens to overwhelm your schedule. Sometimes--lots of times--that means choosing the BEST over the good. This is something I hammer home in my new book Free to Lean: Making Peace with Your Lopsided Life: It is not a sin to know and communicate our limits. It's good stewardship. Can you think of a time you had to pull out the good to make room for the best? What was the result?
Hello friends! We are inching ever closer to the moment I can share the cover reveal for my next Bethany House novel, A Refuge Assured! Just like last time, my e-newsletter subscribers will get the first peek before I share it on my Web site and social media. (If you're not subscribed yet, now's a good time to do so here! You'll get a free gift, too.) In the meantime, I'd love to share with you ten book covers that have caught my eye recently. These are for new or upcoming releases, and I'm linking each title to it's page on Goodreads so you can add them to your "Want to Read" pile. :) Honestly, there have been far more than these that have intrigued me, but then this post would be too long to be manageable. So without further ado, and in order of release date: Wings of the Wind by Connilyn Cossette Released May 2017 This cover is so dramatic to me. Love the wind-swept hair, the clouds, and the script at the bottom. My favorite in her three-book series! Alanah, a Canaanite, is no stranger to fighting and survival. When her family is killed in battle with the Hebrews, she disguises herself and sneaks onto the battlefield to avenge her family. The one thing she never counted on was surviving. Tobiah, a Hebrew warrior, is shocked to find an unconscious, wounded woman among the Canaanite casualties. Compelled to bring her to a Hebrew healer back at their camp, he is soon confronted with a truth he can’t ignore: the only way to protect this enemy is to marry her. Unused to being weak and vulnerable, Alanah submits to the marriage—for now. As she comes to know and respect Tobiah and his people, however, she begins to second-guess her plans of escape. But when her past has painfully unanticipated consequences, the tentative peace she’s found with Tobiah, the Hebrews, and Yahweh is shaken to the core. Can Alanah’s fierce heart and strength withstand the ensuing threats to her life and all she’s come to love? The Road to Paradise by Karen Barnett Releases June 6, 2017 I adore the vintage look and feel of this book cover! So unique and refreshing. Definitely a standout as it hearkens back to the early days of our great national parks. In 1927, Margie Lane, an avid naturalist, convinces her Senator father to procure her a position at the fledgling Mount Rainier National Park. Since Ranger Ford Brannon lost his father in a climbing accident, he doubts his ability to protect the park and its many visitors. He certainly doesn't relish the job of watching over an idealistic and privileged young woman with no practical survival skills. When Margie's former fiance sets his mind on developing the Paradise Inn and its surroundings into a tourist playground, Margie and Ford will have to work together to preserve the beauty and simplicity of this mountain hideaway, but the developer's plans might put more than just the park in danger. With You Always by Jody Hedlund Releases June 6, 2017 I'm naturally drawn to orphan train books anyway, since the orphan train visited my own town way back in the day, and I used it as a plot element in my novel Yankee in Atlanta. I love the dress on Jody's cover, and the train carries great movement and drama. When a financial crisis in 1850s New York leaves three orphaned sisters nearly destitute, the oldest, Elise Neumann, knows she must take action. She's had experience as a seamstress, and the New York Children's Aid Society has established a special service: placing out seamstresses and trade girls. Even though Elise doesn't want to leave her sisters for a job in Illinois, she realizes this may be their last chance. The son of one of New York City's wealthiest entrepreneurs, Thornton Quincy faces a dilemma. His father is dying, and in order to decide which of his sons will inherit everything, he is requiring them to do two things in six months: build a sustainable town along the Illinois Central Railroad, and get married. Thornton is tired of standing in his twin brother's shadow and is determined to win his father's challenge. He doesn't plan on meeting a feisty young woman on his way west, though. High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin Releases June 6, 2017 This cover has such a glamorous, period feel about it, doesn't it? Pearls and fighter airplanes... I'm a sucker for war-era books, and this is a beautiful one! In 1917, Evelyn Marche is just one of many women who has been widowed by the war. A British nurse trapped in German-occupied Brussels, she spends her days working at a hospital and her nights as a waitress in her aunt and uncle's café. Eve also has a carefully guarded secret keeping her in constant danger: She's a spy working for a Belgian resistance group in league with the British Secret Service. When a British plane crashes in Brussels Park, Eve is the first to reach the downed plane and is shocked to discover she recognizes the badly injured pilot. British RFC Captain Simon Forrester is now a prisoner of war, and Eve knows he could be shot as a spy at any time. She risks her own life to hide him from the Germans, but as the danger mounts and the secrets between them grow, their chance of survival looks grim. And even if they do make it out alive, the truth of what lies between them may be more than any love can overcome. A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White Releases July 4, 2017 What book lover would not love a cover featuring books? Can't go wrong there! Rosemary Gresham has no family beyond the band of former urchins that helped her survive as a girl in the mean streets of London. Grown now, they concentrate on stealing high-value items and have learned how to blend into upper-class society. But when Rosemary must determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany, she is in for the challenge of a lifetime. How does one steal a family's history, their very name? Peter Holstein, given his family's German blood, writes his popular series of adventure novels under a pen name. With European politics boiling and his own neighbors suspicious of him, Peter debates whether it might be best to change his name for good. When Rosemary shows up at his door pretending to be a historian and offering to help him trace his family history, his question might be answered. But as the two work together and Rosemary sees his gracious reaction to his neighbors' scornful attacks, she wonders if her assignment is going down the wrong path. Is it too late to help him prove that he's more than his name? The Promise of Breeze Hill by Pam Hillman Releases August 3, 2017 Love the toile and the live oaks, and the subhead tells us this is a Natchez Trace novel, which appeals to me since I researched both Natchez (the settlement) and the Trace while working on The Mark of the King. Natchez, MS; 1791 Anxious for his brothers to join him on the rugged frontier along the Mississippi River, Connor O'Shea has no choice but to indenture himself as a carpenter in exchange for their passage from Ireland. But when he's sold to Isabella Bartholomew of Breeze Hill Plantation, Connor fears he'll repeat past mistakes and vows not to be tempted by the lovely lady. The responsibilities of running Breeze Hill have fallen on Isabella's shoulders after her brother was found dead in the swamps along the Natchez Trace and a suspicious fire devastated their crops, almost destroyed their home, and left her father seriously injured. Even with Connor's help, Isabella fears she'll lose her family's plantation. Despite her growing feelings for the handsome Irish carpenter, she seriously considers accepting her wealthy and influential neighbor's proposal of marriage. Many Sparrows by Lori Benton Releases September 2017 My jaw dropped when I saw this one. It has such a literary feel to it, I absolutely adore it. It also reminds me of the setting for A Refuge Assured! When settler Clare Inglesby is widowed on a mountain crossing and her young son, Jacob, captured by Shawnees, she'll do everything in her power to get him back, including cross the Ohio River and march straight into the presence of her enemies deep in Indian country. Frontiersman and adopted Shawnee, Jeremiah Ring, promises to guide Clare through the wilderness and help her recover Jacob. Once they reach the Shawnees and discover Jeremiah's own Shawnee sister, Rain Crow, has taken custody of Jacob--renaming him Many Sparrows--keeping his promise becomes far more complicated, the consequences more wrenching, than Jeremiah could have foreseen. The Space Between Words by Michele Phoenix Releases September 2017 This one's so different from what we usually see, isn't it? The white space puts all the focus on the title, which contains the word "words," and as a lover of words, I'm intrigued enough to read the synopsis. Sounds fascinating! When Jessica regains consciousness in a French hospital on the day after the Paris attacks, all she can think of is fleeing the site of the horror she survived. But Patrick, the steadfast friend who hasn't left her side, urges her to reconsider her decision. Worn down by his insistence, she reluctantly agrees to follow through with the trip they'd planned before the tragedy. "The pages found you," Patrick whispered. "Now you need to figure out what they're trying to say." During a stop at a country flea market, Jessica finds a faded document concealed in an antique. As new friends help her to translate the archaic French, they uncover the story of Adeline Baillard, a young woman who lived centuries before--her faith condemned, her life endangered, her community decimated by the Huguenot persecution. "I write for our descendants, for those who will not understand the cost of our survival." Determined to learn the Baillard family's fate, Jessica retraces their flight from France to England, spurred on by a need she doesn't understand. Could this stranger who lived three hundred years before hold the key to Jessica's survival? Perennials by Julie Cantrell Releases November 2017 I love the vintage botanical prints look of this cover! So pretty. When two estranged sisters reunite for their parents’ 50th anniversary, a family tragedy brings unexpected lessons of hope and healing amid the flowers of their mother’s perennial garden. Eva—known to all as Lovey—grew up in Oxford, MS, surrounded by literary history and her mother's stunning perennial gardens. But a garden shed fire and the burns suffered by one of her best friends seemed to change everything. Her older sister Bitsy blamed her for the fire—and no one spoke up on her behalf. Bitsy the cheerleader, Bitsy the homecoming queen, Bitsy married to a wealthy investor. And all the while, Lovey blamed for everything that goes wrong. At eighteen, Lovey turns down a marriage proposal, flees from Oxford and the expectations of attending Ole Miss, and instead goes to Arizona—the farthest thing from the South she can imagine. She becomes a successful advertising executive, a weekend yoga instructor, and seems to have it all together. But she's alone. And on her 45th birthday, she can't help but wonder what's wrong. When she gets a call from her father—still known to everyone as Chief from his Ole Miss football days—insisting that she come home three weeks early for her parents' 50th wedding anniversary celebration, she's at wits end. She's about to close the biggest contract of her career, the one that will secure her financial goals and set her up for retirement. But his words, "Family First," hit too close to home. Is there hope for her estranged relationship with Bitsy after all this time? Eva's journey home, to the memory garden her father has planned as an anniversary surprise for her mother, becomes one of discovering roots, and truth, and love, and what living perennially in spite of disappointments and tragedy really means. Eva thought she wanted to leave her family and the South far behind . . . but she's realizing she hasn't truly been herself the whole time she's been gone. The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright Releases December 2017 This cover is so evocative! Eerie! Full of stories! I love the play of light and shadow and the huge footprint the title has. Just nailed it on this one. Kaine Prescott is no stranger to death. When her husband died two years ago, her pleas for further investigation into his suspicious death fell on deaf ears. In desperate need of a fresh start, Kaine purchases an old house sight unseen in her grandfather's Wisconsin hometown. But one look at the eerie, abandoned house immediately leaves her questioning her rash decision. And when the house's dark history comes back with a vengeance, Kaine is forced to face the terrifying realization she has nowhere left to hide. A century earlier, the house on Foster Hill holds nothing but painful memories for Ivy Thorpe. When an unidentified woman is found dead on the property, Ivy is compelled to discover her identity. Ivy's search leads her into dangerous waters and, even as she works together with a man from her past, can she unravel the mystery before any other lives-- including her own--are lost? So friends, which ones caught your eye? What other book covers have you seen and enjoyed lately?
Not only was March National Reading Month, but it just so happened that I turned in a book on March 6, which meant it was totally the perfect time for me to binge read! I am about to dive into edits to A Refuge Assured (releasing January 2018), but first, I wanted to share with you the wonderful books I recently read. In order of time period represented in the story: The Return by J.M. Hochstetler and Bob Hostetler Released April 1, 2017 The Book: Jakob Hochstetler’s refusal to take up arms against the Indians who attacked his Amish family’s home on the Pennsylvania frontier during the brutal raids of the French and Indian War cost the lives of his wife and two of his children. Carried away with his younger sons, Jakob is enslaved by the Seneca, while Joseph and Christian are adopted into different divisions of the Lenape tribe and struggle to adapt to new lives. Jakob plots a perilous escape in spite of overwhelming odds against succeeding. But even if he can get away, could he survive a harrowing journey over the hundreds of miles of rugged terrain that lie between him and his Northkill community? Does home still exist? Are his older son and daughter, Johannes and Barbara, still alive? Will he ever find his boys and bring them home? My Take: This book is a marvel. With unflinching commitment to history and an artist’s palette of imagery, the authors have offered a rare and important tale that will break your heart and piece it back together again. My life is richer for having experienced this novel. *This is the second book in a series--I highly recommend reading the first book, Northkill, first. Another gem!! The Messenger by Siri Mitchell Released March 2012 The Book: Hannah Sunderland felt content in her embrace of the Quaker faith..until her twin brother ran off and joined the army and ended up captured and in jail. Suddenly Hannah's world turns on end. She longs to bring her brother some measure of comfort in the squalid, frigid prison where he remains. But the Quakers believe they are not to take sides, not to take up arms. Can she sit by and do nothing while he suffers? Jeremiah Jones has an enormous task before him. Responsibility for a spy ring is now his, and he desperately needs access to the men in prison, whom they are seeking to free. A possible solution is to garner a pass for Hannah. But while she is fine to the eye, she holds only disdain for him--and agreeing would mean disobeying those she loves and abandoning a bedrock of her faith. With skill and sensitivity, Mitchell tells a story of two unlikely heroes seeking God's voice, finding the courage to act, and discovering the powerful embrace of love. My Take: I was so impressed with this book, set in Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War! Loved the characters, the dialogue (right down to some of the 18th-century vocabulary), the historical events it portrayed, and the growth in both the hero and the heroine from start to finish. To me, the ending was completely satisfying. Well done, Siri Mitchell! The Road to Paradise by Karen Barnett Releases June 6, 2017 The Book: In 1927, Margie Lane, an avid naturalist, convinces her Senator father to procure her a position at the fledgling Mount Rainier National Park. Since Ranger Ford Brannon lost his father in a climbing accident, he doubts his ability to protect the park and its many visitors. He certainly doesn't relish the job of watching over an idealistic and privileged young woman with no practical survival skills. When Margie's former fiance sets his mind on developing the Paradise Inn and its surroundings into a tourist playground, Margie and Ford will have to work together to preserve the beauty and simplicity of this mountain hideaway, but the developer's plans might put more than just the park in danger. My Take: A true delight. With its expertly rendered setting of breathtaking beauty and danger, combined with charming characters and a swiftly-moving plot, The Road to Paradise is a journey worth taking more than once! A Trail of Crumbs by Susie Finkbeiner Released March 28, 2017 The Book: Pearl Spence has been through more in her young life than most folks could handle. But through it all, her family has been by her side. They may not be perfect, but they love her and they all love each other, come what may. That's one thing Pearl no longer questions. But then a devastating tragedy throws the whole family into a tailspin--and signals the beginning of the end of her secure life. Now the Spences are fleeing their Oklahoma wasteland for an unknown life in Depression-era Michigan. Pearl isn't sure she'll ever see home or happiness again. Will any trail of crumbs be powerful enough to guide her back to the dependable life she once knew? The strong narrative voice of Finkbeiner’s young protagonist from A Cup of Dust returns in this gritty yet hopeful sequel. My Take: Through the child protagonist's point of view, we watch and experience a heartache born of the Great Depression which can be felt much more poignantly than mere words can describe. This is one of Susie Finkbeiner's greatest strengths--that she can evoke a mood, an ambience, a tide of emotions just below the surface of the printed page. It was the understated that undid me more than anything else possibly could have. I'm so impressed with how the narrative voice is consistent with the first book, and yet exhibits character growth, as well. Loved this book. When Tides Turn by Sarah Sundin Released March 14, 2017 The Book: When fun-loving glamour girl Quintessa Beaumont learns the Navy has established the WAVES program for women, she enlists, determined to throw off her frivolous ways and contribute to the war effort. No-nonsense and hoping to make admiral, Lt. Dan Avery has been using his skills to fight German U-boats. The last thing he wants to see on his radar is a girl like Tess. For her part, Tess works hard to prove her worth in the Anti-Submarine Warfare Unit in Boston—both to her commanding officers and to the man with whom she is smitten. When Dan is assigned to a new escort carrier at the peak of the Battle of the Atlantic, he’s torn between his lifelong career goals and his desire to help Tess root out a possible spy on shore. The Germans put up quite a fight, but he wages a deeper battle within his heart. Could Tess be the one for him? With precision and pizazz, fan favorite Sarah Sundin carries readers through the rough waters of love in a time when every action might have unforeseen world-changing consequences. My Take: A triumphant conclusion to the Waves of Freedom trilogy! With her trademark love-at-first-read characters, historical integrity and well-paced plot, When Tides Turn is every bit the high caliber novel we've come to expect from Sarah Sundin. The Novelist by Angela Hunt Released July 2006 The Book: From the author who taught you to expect the unexpected...an intriguing tale about families, fiction, and what to do when life veers wildly off script. It begins...when a smug college student challenges a best-selling novelist to write something "more personal." It begins...when a mother finds her troubled son slumped unconscious outside her house. It begins...when fiction and reality blur, and the novelist finds herself caught somewhere in the middle of it all. Where does it end? That all depends on who is telling the story... My Take: This contemporary novel took me by surprise with its parallel plot structure. Half the book is the story of the protagonist novelist, interspersed with chapters of the story this character is writing. A very original and unusual format, it grew on me the more I read it until I was equally invested in both plotlines. Tucked into these pages was a powerful message I wasn't expecting, but definitely appreciated. Trial by Twelve by Heather Day Gilbert Released May 2015 The Book: Tess Spencer loves her low-key job at the Crystal Mountain Spa, which allows her plenty of down-time with her one-year old daughter and lawyer husband, Thomas. But when a pool installation turns up eight skeletons in the spa's back yard, Tess becomes entangled in a sleuthing job destined to go awry. As the investigation gets underway, someone dumps a fresh body near the excavated burial site, confirming unspeakable fears. A serial killer has returned to Buckneck, West Virginia...a skilled hunter with a unique taste in prey. When Tess agrees to help the cunning Detective Tucker gather clues from the inside, she discovers the posh spa hides more than dead bodies. Even as she sifts through layers of deceit, Tess realizes too late that the killer's sights have zeroed in on her. Unpredictable psychological mystery replete with memorable characters, Trial by Twelve is Book Two in A Murder in the Mountains series. My Take: Another page-turner from Heather Day Gilbert! Loved this book just as much as Miranda Warning, if not more. I loved spending more time with characters I'd already grown to love, and meeting new ones, too. The mystery is well-paced, with enough intrigue and drama to keep me guessing to the very end, sprinkled with humor that had me laughing out loud several times. Such an enjoyable read. How about you? What did you read during the month of March? I'd love to hear your recommendations!
*Today's post is written by my friend, bestselling author Shannon Popkin! I've been reading her new book Control Girl with my morning devotions and can't recommend it highly enough. I'm delighted that she's here today to share with you! Stay tuned until the end of this blog post for details on a give-away! One day, when my kids were preschoolers, we had a bat stuck between our sliding glass door and the screen door. Its evil-looking face was right up against the glass, and with its expanded wings it looked like it was hissing curses at us. I wanted this bat gone. I told my husband so, in no uncertain terms. The following afternoon, I asked, “So what did you do with the bat?” I had envisioned him beating the thing to death with a shovel and burying it six feet under. But he said, “Oh, I just tapped the screen and it fell off into the grass.” “You WHAT???!” I exclaimed in disbelief, leaping to my feet. Just then our toddler picked up something from the yard to put in his mouth. It was too much. I ran screeching into the yard like a crazy person and swooped up little Cole, then hollered for the other kids to come inside right that instant. What sort of man sends his own children out into a bat infested yard?! I was incredulous. I was furious. I was indignant. As I scrubbed the kids’ fingers and toes and washed Cole’s mouth out, my husband wandered inside. I stamped my foot and ordered him to get outside and search for that bat! “Shannon, that’s ridiculous,” he said, rolling his eyes. “That bat is long gone.” “Did you see it fly away? Did you? Did you?” I was leaning forward with my eyes bulging, my finger jabbing the air. I’m sure I looked quite lovely. Knowing things would only escalate from here, my husband went out and began pacing back and forth across our yard. It’s one of those ugly “Control Girl” memories I wish I could forget. Craving Control No bat ever turned up in our yard. What did turn up, however—with ever increasing intensity—was my anger, anxiety, disrespect, and obsessive perfectionism. And as ugly as those things are, there was something even uglier at their root: A deep, unhealthy craving for control. I didn’t think of myself as controlling. I was too focused on the things that needed to be controlled! I find that many women are blind to their own struggle with control. We do see the problem in other people. And other people see it in us. But we tend to not think of ourselves as Control Girls. It’s probably because our intentions are so good! We’re not trying to frustrate or exasperate anyone. We’re just trying to make everything turn out “right” for the people we love, and the situations that we’re passionate about. But when we take matters into our own hands, and contend for our own version of a Happy Ending, we only make everyone (ourselves, included) miserable. Friend, are you a Control Girl? God never designed for you to shoulder the burden of trying to control everything. Doing so only brings out the worst in you. Control doesn’t belong to us; it belongs to God. He invites us to live accordingly. Exposing the Root Exposing my inner Control Girl—even to myself—was counterintuitive at first. I had grown comfortable with letting my control issues lurk in the dark, unswept corners of my heart’s basement. But if I was ever going to change, I had to face my hideous inner Control Girl. To do that, I developed a plan for shining a huge flashlight in her face. My “flashlight” is really a question, that I’ve learned to ask myself. Whenever I feel anger, fear, or anxiety rising, I ask, “Ok, Shannon. What are you trying to control here? Or what do you think you’re losing control of?” I find that often my anger, frustration, and anxiety are the result of my inner Control Girl stomping her foot and demanding control again. I’m erupting in anger because I’ve lost control over a person or situation. Or I’m in a fretting frenzy because I can’t stand to not have control. Using these emotional reactions as indicators of a deeper struggle has helped me shine a flashlight on my inner Control Girl. Take the situation with the evil-looking bat, for instance. What was I most upset about? If I’m honest, I wasn’t throwing a fit over the actual threat of the bat. My kids had been playing out doors all morning, and if they had come across a bat in the yard, I have no doubt that they would have run to me in alarm. No, what I was really reacting to was a husband I couldn’t control. By stamping my foot and insisting that he pace back and forth in the yard, I was saying, “How dare you fail to be the protective daddy that I want for my children? That makes me feel insecure! It makes me worry that everything’s out of control! So to punish you and make sure this doesn’t happen again, I’m going to throw a disrespectful tantrum! I am demanding control!” A New Path I’ve taken the path of a Control Girl long enough to know that it never leads to the things I want in life. It doesn’t lead to security, because control seems to always slip from my grasp. It doesn’t bring peace, because I’m either fretting or throwing fits which create tension. And it doesn’t offer hope, because the Happy Ending I have all worked out in my head is just an illusion. Thankfully, Jesus came to lead Control Girls like me down a different path. Because of Jesus, we can find freedom from that bent we have toward sin. We can retrain our hearts to say no to ourselves and yes to God. For the Control Girl, here’s what that means. We cannot continue to give in to that frantic, urgent voice of our inner Control Girl, saying, “You have to do something! You have to do it right now!” We must stop running ahead and trying to make everything turn out right, according to our own small, limited perspectives. Rather than insisting on having control, we have to choose—in big ways and small—to surrender control to God. “But wait,” you say. “Does this mean I just ignore the bats flung into my yard or shrug off a less-than-careful husband?” Perhaps you’re facing situations that make my bat story seem rather insignificant. Giving God control doesn’t mean that we cast off responsibility to parent well or live responsibly. And it doesn’t mean that we opt out of working through differences or problems with our husbands or others. The Jesus Girl just approaches these challenges with a new mindset. Rather than desperately clawing after control, she has a settled peace knowing that nothing has slipped from God’s hand or escaped His attention. He is God, and she can trust Him—even with a husband who doesn’t take care of bats the way she would like. Surrender Surrender isn’t easy. It’s a gritty, uphill climb. But a lifestyle of surrender leads to peace—knowing that God’s in control, and freedom—knowing that I don’t have to be. The steady climb of surrender, saying as Jesus did, “Not my will but yours be done,” is what turns me from Control Girl to Jesus Girl. Friend, are your shoulders sagging under the strain of trying to control everything? What are you fretting or angry about? What is God asking you to surrender to Him? Won’t you lay down your burden of control, and find rest? Lord, I am so thankful that I am not in control, and that You are. Please help me to live like both of these are true. In author and speaker, Shannon Popkin’s new book, Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible, she mines the stories of seven Control Girls in the Bible for lessons on control, ourselves, and God. Find more from Shannon here. Purchase her book at Amazon, ChristianBook, or BarnesandNoble. Give-Away! For details on a grand prize give-away valued at more than $100, visit here!
Four years ago, I shared this poignant Christmas song on the blog, in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook, and the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. But now in 2016, the words are just as meaningful as ever. It's been a long, hard year, hasn't it? And if there is anything that personal or national hardships teach us, it's the simple fact that we need a Savior. This Christmas, as we celebrate Jesus' birth, may we remember that Immanuel, God with us, is still here. The Christmas songs "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" is a powerful reminder of that truth, with words by Henry Longfellow, and music by John Calkin. The lyrics were first penned in the midst of the horrors of our Civil War, a song which seems especially fitting this year. God is not dead, nor does he sleep... Take a moment to enjoy Casting Crowns rendition of this classic song below. Now let's scroll back in time and take a look at how this song was born. During the Civil War, the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was informed by a letter dated March 14, 1863, that his oldest son Charles Appleton Longfellow had left home to join the Union army--without Henry's blessing. The letter said, in part: "I have tried hard to resist the temptation of going without your leave but I cannot any longer," he wrote. "I feel it to be my first duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down my life for it if it would be of any good." By November, he was severely wounded in the Battle of New Hope Church (in Virginia) during the Mine Run Campaign. Coupled with the recent loss of his wife Frances, who died as a result of an accidental fire, Longfellow was inspired to write "Christmas Bells" on Christmas Day, 1863. Henry's personal tragedy was wrapped in the national tragedy of the nation's civil war. The lyrics are below. The fourth and fifth verses you'll find here refer directly to the Civil War and are usually left out of the traditional Christmas song. I heard the bells on Christmas day Their old familiar carols play, And wild and sweet the words repeat Of peace on earth, good will to men. And thought how, as the day had come, The belfries of all Christendom Had rolled along the unbroken song Of peace on earth, good will to men. Till ringing, singing on its way The world revolved from night to day, A voice, a chime, a chant sublime Of peace on earth, good will to men. Then from each black, accursed mouth The cannon thundered in the South, And with the sound The carols drowned Of peace on earth, good-will to men! It was as if an earthquake rent The hearth-stones of a continent, And made forlorn The households born Of peace on earth, good-will to men! And in despair I bowed my head “There is no peace on earth,” I said, “For hate is strong and mocks the song Of peace on earth, good will to men.” Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail With peace on earth, good will to men.” The hope Longfellow found among crisis can still be ours today. "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be uponhis shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this" (Isiaha 9:6-7). Merry Christmas!
*A note to blog subscribers: since we are still experiencing formatting issues in the emailed blog posts, please click the title of this post to read this on my Web site so you can see paragraph breaks and links. So sorry! Thanks for your patience! Over the past few months, I've had the pleasure of reading and endorsing four historical novels covering a broad range of history and subject matter. Each one is so different from the next, and yet they are all wonderful works that I'd highly recommend! Here's my take on each of them. (I'm putting them in chronological order according to time period.) Forest Child by Heather Day Gilbert Releases in November! Book blurb: Viking warrior. Dauntless leader. Protective mother. Determined to rise above her rank as the illegitimate "forest child" of Eirik the Red, Freydis launches a second voyage to Vinland to solidify her power and to demand the respect she deserves. She will return home with enough plunder to force her brother, Leif, to sell her the family farm in Greenland. But nothing can prepare her for the horrors she must confront in Vinland...and nothing can stand in her way when her family is threatened. In her race to outrun the truths that might destroy her, Freydis ultimately collides with the only enemy she cannot silence—her own heart. Historically based on the Icelandic Sagas, Forest Child brings the memorable, conflicted persona of Freydis Eiriksdottir to life. This immersive tale is Book Two in the bestselling Vikings of the New World Saga. My take: Forest Child is one of the bravest works of fiction I’ve ever read. Brimming with tension, yet laced with tenderness, this powerful saga is sure to keep you turning the pages far into the night. An ingenious blend of Viking history and timeless issues of the heart still relevant today. A Moonbow Night by Laura Frantz Releases Jan. 3, 2017 Book blurb: After fleeing Virginia, Temperance Tucker and her family established an inn along the Shawnee River. It's a welcome way station for settlers and frontiersmen traveling through the wild Cumberland region of Kentucke--men like Sion Morgan, a Virginia surveyor who arrives at the inn with his crew looking for an experienced guide. When his guide appears, Sion balks. He certainly didn't expect a woman. But it is not long before he must admit that Tempe's skill in the wilderness rivals his own. Still, the tenuous tie they are forming is put to the test as they encounter danger after danger and must rely on each other. With her signature sweeping style and ability to bring the distant past to vivid life, Laura Frantz beckons readers to join her in a land of Indian ambushes, conflicting loyalties, and a tentative love that meanders like a cool mountain stream. My take: As timeless as it is historical, A Moonbow Night is the shining embodiment of everything Laura Frantz does best, from her trademark attention to detail to the unfolding of rich and textured love in a setting no less complex. To read this novel is to take a journey along with the characters, inhabiting the story with all five senses. Truly, a book to savor and revisit. Newton and Polly: A Novel of Amazing Grace by Jody Hedlund Releases Sept. 20! Book blurb: Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found Now remembered as the author of the world s most famous hymn, in the mid-eighteenth century as England and France stand on the brink of war, John Newton is a young sailor wandering aimlessly through life. His only duty is to report to his ship and avoid disgracing his father until the night he hears Polly Catlett s enchanting voice, caroling. He s immediately smitten and determined to win her affection. An intense connection quickly forms between the two, but John s reckless spirit and disregard for the Christian life are concerns for the responsible, devout Polly. When an ill-fated stop at a tavern leaves John imprisoned and bound, Polly must choose to either stand by his side or walk out of his life forever. Will she forfeit her future for the man she loves? Step back through the pages of history, to uncover the true love story behind a song that continues to stir the hearts and ignite the faith of millions around the globe." My take: A sweeping tale rife with adventure, love, and God’s relentless pursuit of his own. With her signature depth and detail, Hedlund plunges her readers into a fascinating and powerful story that has gone untold—until now. Set sail with Newton and Polly and become anchored in amazing grace. The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof Released in August already! Book blurb: Raised amid the fame and mystique of the Big Top, Charlie Lionheart holds the audience in the palm of his hand. But while his act captivates thousands, it’s away from the spotlight where his true heart lies. Here he humbly cares for his pride of lions as if they were his brothers, a skill of bravery and strength that has prepared him for his most challenging feat yet—freeing an orphaned infant from the dark bondage of a sideshow. A trade so costly, it requires his life in exchange for hers, leaving him tarnished by the price of that choice. As the circus tents are raised on the outskirts of Roanoke, nurse Ella Beckley arrives to tend to this Gypsy girl. All under the watchful eye of a guardian who not only bears a striking resemblance to the child, but who protects the baby with a love that wraps around Ella’s own tragic past, awakening a hope that goodness may yet reign. When their forbidden friendship deepens, Charlie dares to ask for her heart, bringing her behind the curtain of his secret world to reveal the sacrifice that gave hope to one little girl—boldly showing Ella that while her tattered faith is deeply scarred, the only marks that need be permanent are his own. My take: The Lady and the Lionheart isn’t a book to read so much as it is a world to inhabit, a story to relish, a love to cherish. It is lyrical, achingly beautiful, and larger than life. This novel is Joanne Bischof at her very finest. Happy reading, everyone! By the way, if you read and enjoy any of these titles, would you consider posting a review on Amazon or Goodreads (or copy and paste to both)? We authors hate asking, but reviews are really, really important since they increase visibility and credibility for books. I know these ladies would greatly appreciate your taking the time to post one or two. But even if you don't, we'll all be glad and grateful for you taking the time to read the novels!
Recently I sat down with a really, really successful publishing editor who gave me some advice for my writing career. It was terrible advice. The worst ever. If I didn't already have ten books published and several national awards, I would have been crushed. As it was, however, I was just stunned. So stunned in fact, she cocked her head at me and said, "Are you OK?" I wasn't, at the moment. What she had told me to do went against my entire purpose, and against my nature, and against my integrity. She told me in no uncertain terms that I needed to add a certain degree of smut to the book I'm writing right now so that it will make a lot of money. "That's where the money is," she said, "so that's where you want to go!" Did I mention this appointment took place at a Christian conference for Christian writers? Maybe you, too, have been surprised by bad advice from someone you thought you could trust. It's jarring, isn't it? This wasn't the first time I'd received terrible advice from a really successful person. A few years ago, I paid for a phone call with a bestselling author who sold her time to authors like me who wanted a little help brainstorming plots and characters. After I'd been sharing with her for a while, she stopped me and said this: "You keep talking about history. Your book is not about the history. It's about your story. Don't do so much research. I write my stories first and then check the research to make sure it fits." Well, dear reader, if you have read any of my novels, you know that my stories are, in fact, about the history. My stories are born from the history, my characters reflect the lives of people who really lived. Needless to say, though this author was helpful in other ways, that was one piece of advice I didn't take. It can feel weird to disagree with someone who is really successful. It's easy to think that whatever they say must be true because it's worked for them. But if their words don't ring true in your spirit, if they don't resonate, forget it. My children's violin teacher taught them how to tell if their instruments are in tune with this concept of resonance. When you play a note that has the same name as one of the strings, after your bow leaves the string, the open string with the same note name should vibrate, or ring. That's resonance. This guy in the video clip explains it a little better: You probably weren't able to hear the ringing through the video, but if you hear it live, it is so cool. I think the Holy Spirit works the same way with us. When we are in tune with Him--by spending consistent time in the Word and in prayer--if we hear something that resonates with us, we can feel good about that. But if it doesn't resonate with what we know to be true, we know it's not in line with what God wants for us. We hear a lot of voices in our culture, don't we? Some we invite to speak into our lives, like the examples I mentioned. Some are just constantly bombarding us--facebook, twitter, television, radio, even well-meaning people, be they strangers or otherwise. We need to train our ears to hear one voice over all the rest. Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd." ~John 10:14-16 We need to be listening for the voice of Christ in our lives. Very often, God uses people to speak truth into our circumstances (There is wisdom in the counsel of many, right?) but we need to be discerning as we sort through all the advice. In John 10:14, Jesus makes a point of saying that He and His sheep know each other. The worst advice I've received in life has been from people who don't know me at all. For example, the editor who told me sexualize my novel didn't know I'm a mother trying to raise my children to be modest, respectful and pure, and that I care deeply about not tempting my readers to impure thoughts. The bestselling author who told me to not care about the history so much was a contemporary romance novelist* who didn't know that our fascinating history is the very reason I write fiction in the first place. Thankfully, our Good Shepherd will never steer us wrong. What about you? Have you ever received advice that didn't resonate with you? Was it easy or difficult to decide whether to follow it? *I have nothing against contemporary romance novelists. Just saying we had different goals with our writing. :)