Thursday, September 24, 2015

This fall, David C Cook is launching a new series for toddlers and preschoolers that combines word and song to help young children memorize scripture. The first book in the HeartSmart series, Let's Learn about the Lord's Prayer (September 1, 2015/ISBN: 9780781412698/$10.99) by bestselling author Catherine DeVries, not only introduces children to Bible memory, but teaches them about how to pray.
Q: Your new book, Let's Learn about the Lord's Prayer, is the first installment in the new HeartSmart series for children. Can you tell us a little bit about the series?
HeartSmart is a Scripture memory series designed to create opportunities for children to fill their hearts with God's Word. HeartSmart combines key scriptures with songs, giving parents a spiritual formation path for building a strong foundation of faith.
Q: Why did you decide to use the Lord's Prayer as the first passage of scripture in the series?
I was thinking about what Scripture is generally memorized by children - not just one verse but a complete thought. That led me to the Lord's Prayer. Not only is it the model Jesus gave us for how to pray, but it also invites us all to talk with God through prayer. God wants to have a relationship with us, and it is important to express that to children early in their faith development. The Lord's Prayer is often said around the dinner table, so I also wanted to equip parents and grandparents with a natural way to invite children to participate in this tradition at home. Many churches still say the Lord's Prayer during the service, maybe not every week, but at least a few times during the year. By knowing the Lord's Prayer, children are also invited to participate in community worship.
Q: Emma, the narrator of your story, could be compared to another little girl popular among pre-schoolers, Dora the Explorer. In what ways are they similar, and what makes Emma unique?
This part of the series is geared toward preschoolers, so I want to offer readers an opportunity to interact with the story and even to be part of the story. When I have observed children, including my own, watching Dora the Explorer, I love how engaged they are with her. They actually do talk to her through the screen and answer her questions. It's all part of their beautiful, creative imaginations at work. To them, talking to a screen is natural. My hope is that talking to a book also feels natural. Every time parents sit down with their child and this book, the reading experience will be slightly different, depending on the child's response to Emma's questions. This interactive nature of the text is true for all the board books in the series, and children will get to meet a different child in each book.
Q: Why did you choose to have Emma teach the Lord's Prayer to her toy bear, Blueberry, instead of Emma learning it herself?
Preschool children learn through play and, more specifically, play scripts. Have you ever heard a child speaking to her stuffed animals and dolls or to his dinosaurs and legos? These times are not only fun, but they are times when children process information. They "try on" various things they have heard and start to synthesize what they are learning. It seemed natural that Emma would involve her teddy bear and want to teach it something important to her. Again, fostering that emotional connection to the Lord through relationship is so important. That's why Emma says that Blueberry reminds her of another friend she has: Jesus.
Q: At the end of the book there is a code to download a song that accompanies the book. Please tell us more about the song.
This song is the exact wording of the Lord's Prayer that readers will see in the book. It is a custom song created by talented musicians and sung by a mother and young child. The music is simple to follow and is a beautiful expression of this prayer. If you go to the HeartSmart website at, you will be able to download the song that goes along with each book in the series. You'll also find updates about the series and what I've been up to as the author.
Q: How do songs help children learn scripture?
Songs engage the audio part of a child's brain. Rather than just hearing the words, children will remember them better when the words are put to song. As an example, whenever my children needed to learn a new phone number or new house address, I created a simple song to help them remember it. Then we could have fun practicing it together. Thinking back to my childhood, I still remember many Bible-based songs from church: "Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he!" "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine." "Jesus loves me, this I know." I could go on for a while! Not only do I still know these songs, but I also have a positive, emotional connection to them. I believe we want the same for our children.
Q: Why is it important for our spiritual life and communication with God to understand the Lord's Prayer?
We need to remember God wants to talk with us. He wants us to share what's going on in our lives with Him because He wants a relationship with us as His children, no matter what our age. The Lord's Prayer is structured in such a way to teach us to honor the Lord first, to thank Him for who He is. Once we have acknowledged that, we bring our requests to the Lord - providing for our needs and helping us steer clear from temptation. With thankful hearts, we once again honor the Lord by remembering He is all-powerful and we want to follow Him in all we do.
Q: In what ways have you emphasized prayer in your own home while raising your children?
We try to have meals together as much as possible. Before we eat, we take turns praying. One person prays for us all on that day. On Sundays, we always pray the Lord's Prayer together as a family. Brad and I have also encouraged our children to pray at night before bed. We started with, "Now I lay me, down to sleep," but then added on blessings to our friends and family members. When the kids were old enough, we invited them to talk to the Lord about the day. We also have a tradition of praying in the car before leaving on a big trip. We ask for the Lord's presence with us and that He will give us safe travels and protection. One other thing we do is pray whenever we see an ambulance or Life Alert helicopter. We live near a hospital, so this is a regular occurrence as we drive around town doing errands. I just love how my kids initiate it now when they see these visual reminders to pray for others.
Q: Do you think parents place enough emphasis on their children's spiritual formation?
I think parents aren't always sure where to begin or what to do. We can no longer assume parents have had a Christian upbringing in the church, have a good grasp of Scripture and the stories from the Bible or even feel comfortable praying. Yet we still get a strong sense they desire to give their child a spiritual foundation. The HeartSmart series is meant to come alongside parents or grandparents with encouragement and support. The beautiful thing about these types of books is the adults are learning right along with the children.
Q: We've all heard - and perhaps even chuckled - at the cute prayers of little children. Do you think God hears and answers their prayers?
I have learned so much about faith through the eyes of my children, as well as other children. Jesus talks about how strong the faith of a child is and how we all should seek that depth of faith (Isaiah 11:6; Matthew 19:4). Yes, I know in my heart that God hears every prayer. It is up to Him how He chooses to respond to prayers. He might not answer in the way we expect Him to, but we can rest in knowing He knows our heart, hears us and is with us every step of the way through life's journey. He wants what is best for us (Jeremiah 29:11), and we can trust in that.
Q: Did you read a lot with your parents when you were little? What do you remember about those moments?
My mother read to me, my older sister and younger brother. I remember "seeing" The Chronicles of Narnia unfold in my imagination and being on the Minnesota prairie with Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family on the frontier. It was a special time when we gathered together, pushed pause on life and got swept away to another place. The power of reading is amazing, and when we attach faith messages and learning to it, we are talking about a lifetime faith that begins to develop and grow in the lives of children,
Q: What upcoming releases in the HeartSmart series can readers look forward to?
We will have a book coming out every fall and spring for the foreseeable future:
  • Let's Learn about Psalm 23 (preschoolers have a playdate with Jackson at his grandparents' farm) will be out in spring 2016.
  • Let's Learn about the Armor of God (preschoolers have a playdate with twins Olivia and Jacob at the beach) follows in fall 2016
  • God's Blessings for Baby for new parents is scheduled for spring 2017.
  • The main HeartSmart Bible Storybook for children ages 4-8 will be coming out in the fall of 2017. It features all the characters from the board books, now a few years older, introducing each Bible story with a scenario from their own lives. They tell the story from their perspective, then join up with a parent, grandparent or mentor to tie it together with a memorable Scripture passage. There will be songs, too!
By the time the entire series is launched, we will have books and songs for parents of newborns and toddlers, preschoolers, all the way to children age 8.
For more information on the HeartSmart series, visit

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

By Elizabeth Ludwig

I was privileged to attend the 2015 American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference recently in Dallas, Texas. This is an event that I’ve attended before. In fact, I’ve only missed a couple of conferences since I started writing for publication back in 2002. The math on this one is pretty simple…that’s fourteen conferences over a span of an equal number of years (give or take a year when life got in the way). 

On paper, the conference hasn’t changed much. The focus has always been directed toward teaching aspiring authors the craft of writing and inducting them in the intricate, and often treacherous, world of publishing. To accomplish this, the staff at ACFW do quite a remarkable job of scheduling informative workshops and speakers with a heart for authors. They also put together an impressive list of industry professionals—editors, agents, book reviewers, and media—for authors to meet and talk to about their respective writing projects. 

At one time, this was a very valuable experience. In 2002, as an unpublished, un-agented author with a dozen different writing projects and no clear sense of direction, what ACFW provided was instruction and guidance. Several years later, with thirteen book titles to my name, including a Carol Award Finalist, an ECPA bestseller/SELAH Award Finalist, and a Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence Finalist, I have to admit that the conference no longer holds the same allure. In addition, I honored to say that I am represented by one of the most respected agents in the business. 

ACFW 2015: Beth Adams, Elizabeth Ludwig, Susan Downs
So what is the takeaway for an author in my position? Why would I bother spending the money to go to a conference that I’ve attended at least twelve times before? 

If I’m honest, I struggled to answer that question before arriving in Dallas. I justified the expense with some inane excuses that sounded good but held very little validity. And then, I looked over my schedule. Along with the appointments I remembered, I had signed up to serve as an appointment monitor.

For two hours!

Two hours of doing nothing more than standing outside a door and holding up my hand to signal when the time on a fifteen-minute appointment expired (insert whine here). Two hours of pacing in bored stupor while the workshop I really wanted to attend went on without me and other people went in to speak with people I hoped to meet but now would not be able to…or so I thought. 

What really happened was that I stood outside the door and chatted with a representative from RT Book Reviews for almost all of those two hours. Shortly thereafter, we were joined by a representative from Library Journal who asked about my books, my career, and eventually my publishing history. Please understand…I have never, ever had the chance to rub elbows with such prestigious industry professionals for such an extended length of time. With my very best efforts, I could not have coordinated such an opportunity! 

In addition, I renewed old contacts as I walked editors and agents to their seats, introduced them to their respective appointments, and volunteered my services as timekeeper, hostess, and overall gopher. 

That, my friends, is the takeaway from a conference such as ACFW. It’s not always about the scheduled appointments. Sometimes, it’s about the chance meetings that only God can orchestrate. It’s about the friendships that happen over coffee, and the kinship that comes with shared prayers in crowded hallways. Finally, it’s about stepping out in faith, without an organized agenda but with a heart for service—even if that heart started out whining, and ended up being incredibly and unbelievably blessed. 

Elizabeth Ludwig is the award-winning author of No Safe Harbor and Dark Road Home, books one and two in the popular EDGE OF FREEDOM series. Book three in the series, Tide and Tempest, was recently named a finalist for the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Elizabeth was also named a finalist in the 2015 Selah Awards for her novella “One Holy Night”, part of the bestselling anthology collection, Christmas Comes to Bethlehem, Maine. She is an accomplished speaker and teacher, often attending conferences and seminars where she lectures on editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. Along with her husband and children, she makes her home in the great state of Texas. To learn more, visit

Thursday, September 17, 2015

by Beth K. Vogt 

Don’t read book reviews. 

I’ve heard variations of this statement ever since I published my first novel, Wish You Were Here, in 2012.
I don’t read my book reviews (said by other authors).
Don’t read your book reviews (said by my mentors).
What are you doing reading your book reviews? I told you to stay away from [insert name of Amazon/GoodReads/review site here] (said by my mentors when I confess that I’ve ignored what they said and read my reviews).
Why don’t you read your book reviews? I like to read reviews of my books. I always learn something from the negative reviews (said by other authors who have a stronger emotional stability than I do – or are just lying).

My honest take on the subject: Book reviews make me crazy.

There are two fundamental reasons why book reviews push my crazy buttons:

I can put too much credence in positive reviews. It’s a bit like actress Sally Field exclaiming, “And I can’t deny the fact that you like me … right now, you like me!” when she won an Oscar for Places in the Heart. We all want to be liked, and every author wants their books to be liked too. But being liked “right now” becomes being liked “then.” We can’t go through life holding our breath, waiting for the next positive review.

I can let negative reviews ruin my day. On a normal day – if you’re inclined to believe writers have normal days – I’m resilient enough to a) not read reviews and b) not let reviews be more than someone else’s opinion. But when I’m on deadline and the story is snarled and I’m doubting my abilities as a writer…well then, negative reviews are the equivalent of pouring myself a glass of battery acid and then chugging it.

Howard Books, 2015
I wander over to Amazon or to a blogger’s website or to Goodreads, and I let someone tell me what they think about my book. And yes, I take it personally instead of being a professional and remembering some people will like my book and some people won’t. That’s the biz.

I made this mistake as I lasered in on my most recent deadline. At the same time I was working toward pushing SEND, but I was also keeping track of my just-released novel, Crazy Little Thing Called Love. Checking its Amazon ranking. Sneaking peeks at reviews. When they were good, I was good. When they were not good, I tanked.

I had no business trolling online and counting stars, looking for the positive and getting hamstringed by the negative. But I did it anyway – I invited the crazy right in.

How did I show “crazy” the door and get back on solid ground?

1. I went for the fun. One of my mentors, best-selling author Rachel Hauck, reminded me to have fun with my story. To do this, I had to forget what other people were saying about my just-released novel. No checking Amazon. No reading reviews. I needed to focus solely on the story I was writing, remember why I loved it, and enjoy writing again. 

2. I put up a boundary. I am blessed to have a virtual assistant (VA), who truly does help my life run more smoothly. Now, when I get sent a link that a review is up on Novel Rocket or when someone tweets that they posted a review, I send that info to my VA so she can read it. If she wants to tweet a positive quote, so be it.

3. I remember the truth. Several weeks ago, I had a custom ring made for myself with a partial quote by Charles H. Spurgeon. It says: “He is the only ground of confidence.” Every day – sometimes minute by minute – I need to remember that God is my source of confidence and the only one who can tell me who I am.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love is the first novel in my destination wedding series. There’s also a fungiveaway celebrating release of Autumn Brides, a trio of novellas by authors Katie Ganshert, Kathryn Springer, and me.

Beth K. Vogt
Beth K. Vogt is a non-fiction author who said she’d never write fiction, the wife of an Air Force physician who said she’d never marry anyone in the military and a mom of four who said she’d never have kids. Vogt believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “never.” A 2015 RITA® Finalist and a 2015 and 2014 Carol Award finalist, her 2014 novel, Somebody Like You, was one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of 2014. She lives in Colorado with her husband, Rob, and their youngest daughter. 

For more information about Beth, visit her website, become a fan on Facebook or follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

by Beth K. Vogt 

I’ve always thought of myself as a healthy person. These days, I think of myself as a “trying to get healthy” person. 

In the past year, there have been a few times when I’ve been talking and the words “chronically ill” or “chronic pain” have slipped past my lips. I’ve paused, wanting to correct myself. 

That can’t be me.

But I don’t correct myself. Like it or not – and I do not like it – I have battled illness and pain for the past five years. And, by definition, chronic illness or pain lasts three months or more. 

Okay, then. Who am I to argue with the National Institutes of Health (NIH)?

I’ve tried varied approaches to living 24/7 with this non-healthy version of me. 

• Don’t Talk About It - I mean, what’s the point? I don’t want to be one of those people who talks, talks, talks all the time about their illnesses. There is more to life than my struggle with back pain or my frozen shoulder. 

• Find the Humor in It – I had vertigo for several years, and thought of it as having my own personal roller coaster in my brain. I was diagnosed with a frozen shoulder almost a year ago and named my shoulder “Olaf,” because “some people are worth melting for.” Thank you, Disney. 

• Ignore It – This is similar to the whole “rub some dirt in it” approach to falling down and getting hurt or a coach’s “just walk it off” advice to an athlete. Why not ignore the way the room still tilts sometimes two years after my last “real” bout of vertigo. Ignore the sleepless nights. Ignore the back pain. Ignore the fact that a snarling, barking dog came running out into the street aiming right for me while I was on a walk, and that in my attempt to escape the little brute, I fell hard on my still-recovering frozen shoulder. Yeah, forget that. 

Despite this trio of coping mechanisms, what do you do when you become someone you don’t want to be? 

1. Some nights I crawl into bed and cry. I admit that I’m in pain. I admit I am beyond-tired of waking up in pain and going to bed in pain. Sometimes I cry loud enough for my husband to hear and sometimes I cry into my pillow. I just . . . let myself cry. 

2. I walk for several miles each day with a close friend. A lot of exercise becomes off limits when you have vertigo. Or back problems. Or a frozen shoulder. Or all three issues at the same time. But walking is always an option. Except when you fall, spread eagle, on your hair stylist’s floor and tear a ligament in your ankle. And yes, I did that too, but I got back to walking as soon as I could, because walking is good for me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 

Howard Books, 2015
3. I maintain as normal a life as possible. To do that, I had to drop my stubborn “I will never have back surgery” stance and accept that surgery was my last and only option for pain-free walking. I had to lower my expectations of what I could do, but still look for good things every day. I joined Instagram and every day I look for “a little bit of pretty” to photograph while I am on my walks.

4. I know God hasn’t lost sight of me. God knows what is happening in my life. All of it. It’s not like He’s turned his back on me for a minute and all of this has happened … and in a moment He’ll turn around and say, “Ooops! Sorry about that. I lost track of you for a minute there, Beth.” No. Sickness cannot separate me from God. And so, I trust Him in all this. I don’t ask Him why. I ask Him how I am to live my life today … and tomorrow … and the next day.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love is the first novel in my destination wedding series. There’s also a fun giveaway celebrating release of Autumn Brides, a trio of novellas by authors Katie Ganshert, Kathryne Springer, and me.

Beth K. Vogt
Beth K. Vogt is a non-fiction author who said she’d never write fiction, the wife of an Air Force physician who said she’d never marry anyone in the military and a mom of four who said she’d never have kids. Vogt believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “never.” A 2015 RITA® Finalist and a 2015 and 2014 Carol Award finalist, her 2014 novel, Somebody Like You, was one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of 2014. She lives in Colorado with her husband, Rob, and their youngest daughter. 

For more information about Beth, visit her website, become a fan on Facebook or follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

by Jennifer Slattery

Jennifer Slattery
I’m a planner, in writing and in life. I love to-do lists and those daily organizers broken down by the hour. Mine’s filled in, from 7am to 8pm, every day except Sunday.

Uncertainties and unexpected changes really throw me.

I think that’s the hardest part of writing—the uncertainty of it all. We write book-by-book, contract-by-contract, not knowing if each story is our last.

The other night, the uncertainty of this journey really bothered me, so I told God all about it. His response?

Surrender. Trust. Focus on what I’ve asked you to do now, do it with excellence, and leave your future to Me. 

As God’s words settled deep into my heart, peace flowed through me, stilling my plotting, planning thoughts. Reminding me I am not the one in control. I never have been. Plotting and planning might give me the illusion of control, but in truth, God is the one perfecting His plans for my life.

I first heard that truth at an ACFW conference. It was my first national conference, and I went into it pretty freaked out and insecure. I had no idea what to expect—there’s that need for control and predictability. Seems God’s been working on this weakness of mine for a while. Will I ever learn??

So anyway, here I was at this conference. I knew a lot of writers through ACFWs email loop, but in truth, I didn’t know anyone. And I had no idea what my weekend would look like, though I had a sense it would be emotionally exhausting. Stress and insecurity has a way of depleting one’s energy stores.

I think it was the first session, the opening night of the conference. Brandilyn Collins was the keynote. I don’t remember much of what she said, but I do remember the intense look in her eyes as she addressed the listening audience. “God will perfect that which concerns you,” she said.

When I got home, I looked that verse up. It comes from Psalm 138:8, and when I first heard it, I found it incredibly encouraging because it assured me God was always working on my behalf. In other words, it felt like assurance that His plans for me would come to pass. But as I consider this verse now, I’m stuck on the verb perfect. It reminds me of Hebrews 12:2, which says, “We do this [--this being running the race God has mapped out for us--] by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” (NLT, insert mine).

This—thinking of Christ’s perfecting action as we pursue our calling—makes me think of James 1:2-4, which highlights the training we receive as God grows, equips, stretches, and perfects us.

Many times, that training is hard. Uncomfortable. Sometimes even incredibly painful. I’m not a huge fan of this perfecting process, but I am a fan of the results. Because of this, I’ll surrender my desire for control, following Christ in whatever direction He leads, knowing the One who loved me enough to die so I might live is the very One who’s calling me now to lay my life down—for Him and His glory.

What about you? Are you facing any uncertainties? Any chance God is using those uncertainties to train you? To perfect that which concerns you? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all encourage and learn from one another.

BIO: Jennifer Slattery writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. She also writes for, Internet Café Devotions, and the group blog, Faith-filled Friends. When not writing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.

Visit with Jennifer online at and connect with her on Facebook at

New Hope Publishers, 2015
ABOUT THE BOOK: Abandoned by her husband for another woman, Tammy Kuhn, an organ procurement coordinator often finds herself in tense and bitter moments. After an altercation with a doctor, she is fighting to keep her job and her sanity when one late night she encounters her old flame Nick. She walks right into his moment of facing an unthinkable tragedy. Because they both have learned to find eternal purposes in every event and encounter, it doesn’t take long to discover that their lives are intertwined but the ICU is no place for romance….or is it? Could this be where life begins again?





Tuesday, September 8, 2015

by Jennifer Slattery

I’ve become quite accustomed to the writer’s lifestyle. I spend most of my time behind my computer, diving into a world of my own making. So, learning to lead—actual people—has become a challenge for me this year, in part because, well, I have a lot to learn about interpersonal skills.

Like sometimes you need to buffer conversations with chocolate and heavily flavored coffee. And people don’t always behave the way my fictional characters do, which is normal, and actually, beautiful. But sometimes it takes a bit of adapting to see the beauty. And most times, it takes a bit of tongue biting as well, because I’m learning my initial interpretations, and thus, reactions, are often wrong.

That’s been my greatest challenge this year—overcoming my ever-yapping mouth. And my desire to be right. And in control. And to know what’s coming next, whether that be in ministry or in conversations, because, well, I’m a plotter. That means, before I write scene one, I’ve pretty much got my entire novel planned out.

Wouldn’t it be nice if life worked that way? Then again, such interactions would greatly impede my growth. I suppose God knew that, which is why He’s placed me in numerous situations this year that have made me a wee bit uncomfortable. And uncertain. And relying heavily on Him.

So maybe that’s what I’ve most had to overcome—my almost innate desire for self-reliance. It seems just when I reach full surrender, something unexpected arises, and I long to sit back in plotting mode, working characters and scenes back into order.

But again, life doesn’t work that way. And I’m learning to appreciate that. To view all these unexpected situations, interactions, and diverse personalities through a glorious, grace-filled lens.

Although I think I still have a ways to go, which is why I’m so incredibly grateful that every ounce of grace God is encouraging me to give out is being equally lavished back on me.

Jennifer Slattery writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. She also writes for, Internet Café Devotions, and the group blog, Faith-filled Friends. When not writing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.

Visit with Jennifer online at and connect with her on Facebook at

New Hope Publishers, 2015
Intertwined, part of New Hope Publisher’s contemporary fiction line, is a great reminder of how God can turn our greatest tragedies and failures into beautiful acts of love and grace. Readers will fall in love with the realistic characters and enjoy the combination of depth, heart-felt emotion and humor that makes Jennifer’s novels so appealing. Readers will be inspired to find God in every moment and encounter in their own lives! 

Buy it:




Thursday, September 3, 2015

by Sarah Sundin

Sarah Sundin and daughter, Anna
I had excellent plans for my children. I read to them from birth. We watched educational TV and videos. Their computer time was spent on clever learning games rather than shooting aliens. Our vacation time often included museums and historical sites. I volunteered in their classrooms and was actively involved in their schooling while refusing to be a “helicopter mom.”

Perfect recipe to send our children to excellent universities! We did everything right!

Except our daughter didn’t follow the path we laid out. She didn’t earn the grades she was capable of. We argued far too often, and one day she snapped at me: “At least I’m not pregnant, on drugs, or in jail!” True, and we were thankful. But why couldn’t she see we knew what was best for her?

She ended up at our local community college, determined to transfer. I was nervous. I’d heard too many stories about students unable to get their required courses, languishing, and dropping out. I wanted so much more for my girl!

But then God slapped me. And aren’t you glad so you don’t have to slap me yourself?

God always slaps in love. This time He slapped me twice within an hour, once from each side.

First, I was talking daughter problems with a friend. Her daughter had earned the grades and degrees…but wasn’t walking with the Lord. My friend’s anguish was palpable and put my concern in stunning perspective. My daughter was walking with the Lord, and isn’t that what matters most for eternity?

Yes, it is.

Chagrined, I began conversing with another lady about the same issue. With the most serene smile, she asked, “Sarah, whose plans are better? Yours, or the Lord’s?”


I knew the answer to that question. God’s plans are always best. I’d already learned that lesson in my own life. But in my children’s lives? That’s different.

Oh no, it isn’t.

The Lord began a serious work in my heart that day. A work of trusting in His goodness and His care and His love, even when things don’t happen as we want them to. A work of humility, sloughing off my nasty pride and the bitter fruit it had produced. A work of relinquishing control I never had in the first place. A work of loving my daughter as God does and trusting her to make wise decisions. A work of resting in His sovereignty.

He showed me the truth He spoke in Isaiah 55:9-10: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” In His sweet mercy, the Lord quickly showed me how much better His plans were than mine.

First, my daughter began working for a friend of mine and discovered a love for business, a perfect melding of her numerical sense and her people skills. Now she’s on track to transfer into an excellent business program. If she’d gone away to college, she never would have taken that job, and she would have wasted time—very expensive time—choosing her major. Score one for God!

Second, the extra time at home allowed my daughter and I to repair our relationship. As I relaxed and trusted her, and she gained maturity, we became close. I wouldn’t trade our deep talks for anything in the world. Score two for God!

Third, she found the love of her life. Her first semester she took a class with her big brother’s close friend—a young man who’d adored her since fourth grade, a young man she’d rejected countless times. Working together closely, she saw the depth of his character and found a match for her wit. She tumbled into love, and this July they were married. Game, set, match—to the Lord!

Whose plans were better for my daughter’s life? God’s! Absolutely God’s! And I’m left in awe of His sovereign goodness, His patience, and His mercy.


Sarah Sundin is the author of seven historical novels, including Through Waters Deep (Revell, August 2015). Her novella “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” in Where Treetops Glisten is a 2015 Carol Award finalist. A mother of three, Sarah lives in California, works on-call as a hospital pharmacist, and teaches Sunday school. Connect with Sarah here:

Revell, 2015

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Sarah Sundin

Are you a morning person? A night owl? How do you arrange your schedule to allow the most efficient, productive time for writing?

I am definitely a night owl. Many writing teachers say you must write first thing every morning. No internet. Pure writing. That would be a disaster for me. My brain barely functions before nine o’clock, and creativity doesn’t kick in until noon. So I work with how God made me. In the morning, I take care of internet and social media first. For one thing, I live in California, and my publisher is three hours ahead of me. If they need something from me by the end of the day, I need to work on it immediately. Also, busywork allows my brain to wake up. After lunch, my creativity and energy burst in, and I can write nonstop until dinner—if life allows me. When I get an evening to myself (rare), I can really write! God made each of us unique, and the only “must” is we “must” find what works best for us.

When working on a manuscript, what do you do when you get stuck?

Because I outline my novels, I rarely get stuck in the rough draft. If I do, I review my notes for the chapter, read the previous chapter, and dive in. Most importantly, I give myself permission to write garbage, knowing I can delete it later. Just put something on the page. Ironically, those “garbage” beginnings often end up as my favorites.

Do you ever read your dialog aloud to see how it sounds? Have you ever performed an action you want one of your characters to carry out in order to help you visualize or describe it? Have you ever embarrassed yourself doing this?

Oh, yes! I read each novel out loud while editing. This is a great way to catch unnatural dialogue, awkward sentences, poor flow, boring parts, and repetitions. And I often act out bits, from body language to action. Recently I needed to know if my heroine could get up to standing on one leg with her hands tied behind her back, hop through a door, close it behind herself, and lock it—and fast. So I acted it out. Yes, I could do it! Yes, my family thinks I’m weird.

If you’re a plotter, have you ever tried pantsing it? If you’re a pantser, have you ever given plotting a try? Can you swing both ways, or are you a confirmed devotee of one of these methods?

I am a plotter. I wrote my first novel by the seat of the pants, and it was an overblown mess that required extensive editing and is still unpublishable. When I started attending writers’ conferences, I learned various methods of outlining—and the angels sang! Outlining fits my analytical, methodical personality, and I write faster, cleaner, and better with an outline. So I’m a confirmed plotter. But that’s what works for me. Some pantsers find outlines stifle their creativity, and they need to avoid them. For me, the structure of an outline actually unleashes my creativity.

Do you prefer writing the initial draft, or do you enjoy the revision process more? Do you revise as you write, or do you first produce a big mess that you later have to fix? If your first draft is rough, do you usually have to cut out a lot of dead wood, or add flesh to the bare bones?

While I enjoy most of the pre-writing and outlining phase, I adore the rough draft. Since the story is outlined in advance, my rough drafts are pretty clean, and the editing process is fast and smooth. The changes aren’t usually huge content issues, but smaller details—“add this historical fact,” “add in that bit about her sister,” “weave in the sailing theme,” “decrease internal monologue.” I don’t make the revisions during the rough draft phase—I just take notes. Then all the changes get made after the rough draft is complete.


Revell, 2015
Sarah Sundin is the author of seven historical novels, including Through Waters Deep (Revell, August 2015). Her novella “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” in Where Treetops Glisten is a 2015 Carol Award finalist. A mother of three, Sarah lives in California, works on-call as a hospital pharmacist, and teaches Sunday school.

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