Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Kindred Spirit & Her Heart, Her Story: Interview with Joanne Bischof

Several months back, a writer-friend of mine with whom I'd exchanged a few neat e-mails collaborated with me to bring you this interview today. We put our heads together and planned it out for you, countless days ago.

I knew she was a remarkably talented writer, I knew that her heart for serving God's people through that gift was clear and pure, and I knew that I couldn't wait to read her book.

What I didn't know was that as those e-mails began pinging across cyberspace, God had depths in store for that friendship that I could never have guessed. What began as a fun writerly-correspondence quickly grew to discovering a friend-of-my-heart, miles away but oh- so-close in our shared passion for offering God's truth and grace to His people through writing.

So, while I was excited back then to bring you this interview, today I'm simply eager to introduce you to my dear friend, Joanne Bischof. Her debut novel, Be Still My Soul, is releasing next week, and I couldn't be happier. OK, who am I kidding? I'm giddy for her. No other word for it.

And how cool is this? According to my sources (...that would be Blogger dashboard...), this is apparently my 100th blog post. I'm so honored to spend this milestone day introducing you and Joanne to each other!

I'll conclude my ramblings and let you dive into the interview to see for yourselves what a blessing Joanne is.

Amanda:  Joanne, one thing I love about you is your genuine heart for God's love to embrace your readers. Can you share with us one thing you hope your readers will take away from reading Be Still, My Soul?
Joanne: The one thing I hope readers will take away is the astounding truth that God pursues. He's relentless. And even the worst of sinners can be redeemed. He demonstrated this with the parable of the Shepherd and the one lost sheep. Jesus didn't die on the cross for our great moments. He died on the cross for our worst. For the moment when we were lost, so desperately in need of a Savior. It's an overwhelming love. One we are completely unworthy of, yet it’s given freely. This promise lives in Be Still My Soul and is something I think many readers will be able to relate to. I know this love has touched my life in incredible ways, which is why it’s the deepest thread running through the Cadence of Grace series.

Amanda: Such a beautiful, crucial truth, thank you! It's even echoed in your series title, Cadence of Grace. Could you fill us in on how you arrived at this title for your series, or perhaps Be Still My Soul as the title for the first book?
Joanne: I would love to. The Cadence of Grace is based on 1 Peter 5:10,
"But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you havesuffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you."
This verse is such an amazing reminder that life is a journey. It's an ebb and flow with twists and turns, but God is there, doing His work in us and for us, every step of the way, and the ultimate destination is one of growth and rest.

As folks read Be Still My Soul, they will be able to look back and see the title reflected in my hero and heroine's journey. For the title, I loved the musical quality it had and the way it whispered the old hymn. Those words reflect my heroine's heart and whenever I hear it, I think of Lonnie. Her hopes and dreams, the fear she will never be loved, and ultimately, the promise that God will be by her side at all times. The title also parallels my hero, Gideon. If the words were spoken from his heart, they would be for much different reasons. His struggles are not about what has been done to him, but what he himself has done. With the sins of his past, there's so much guilt and doubt for him--a certainty that he is unworthy of love--both Lonnie's and God's. And whether he knows it or not, Lonnie is just the woman to be by his side on this journey.

Amanda: What great names for your characters (Lonnie and Gideon). What made you choose them?
Joanne:  I love these questions! For all of my characters, I researched names that would have been true to the early 1900's. For this story, I took it one step further, and searched for names that were authentically Appalachian. Lonnie is a very uncommon name for a girl and is such a simple, humble name that its just the sort of thing her parents would have chosen. In the beginning of the story, you'll learn that Lonnie is rather shy. A bit of a wallflower, and I always imagined that her name added to that. It wasn't one of the elegant names her friends had. As for Gideon, that's always been one of my favorite names. I love bible names and for the leading man in the book, it was just the right fit. It's less common and has that old-fashioned feel. And right away, I knew people in the story were going to call him Gid. Its fun because even some of the team at WaterBrook Press calls him Gid ;)

Amanda: If you could spend some time in the world of your book, which setting or moment would you choose to experience firsthand?
Joanne: Hmmm. It's so hard to choose, I really had to give this some thought! I think I would choose the opening scene. The story opens at an outdoor dance in the little mountain community of Rocky Knob, Virginia. With fall in full color and winter on the horizon, the whole town gets together to celebrate the end of a long harvest season. I would love to step back in time and visit that moment. I can just see the stars and the lanterns, hear the fiddle and the banjo and see all the colors as men twirl their ladies around. This is also the scene when the reader first meets Lonnie and Gideon. Though they grew up in the same hollow, this is the very first time my shy heroine and cocky hero interact together.

Amanda: I bet you, as a writer, have a few favorite books you return to again and again as a reader. Could you share with us some of the best titles you've read?

Joanne: I grew up on Laura Ingalls Wilder and have read the Little House series several times. That was one of the things that first sparked a love of historical fiction in my life. Some of my favorite Christian Historical fiction includes Liz Curtis Higgs' Scottish fiction and Francine Rivers' Mark of the Lion series. I read a lot of other Christian fiction genres, and can get lost in a good suspense or contemporary romance anytime.

Endnotes from Amanda: As I was formatting and reading over this interview from so many months ago that we prepared for today, I hit the end and thought, why didn't I ask more? They're going to want to spend more time with her! Well, the good news is that Joanne hosts a warm and welcoming blog over at, where you can get weekly doses of her wonderfulness.
Also, if you're interested in reading Be Still My Soul in book club format, the Christian Fiction Book Club will be reading and discussing it online throughout the month of October, and you are most welcome to chime in.
Lastly, I'm excited to share with you that Joanne and four other authors are collaborating on a creative project called The Hope Chronicles... and I am humbled to be a part of that project. I'll write more on that soon, because I want to give you a glimpse into what began the whole project. So, stay tuned for The Heart Behind the Hope Chronicles... coming soon! When? I'm not telling. Because I'm sneaky like that(...also, I don't actually know. Probably early next week. hehe.)
Let's chat: If you've been lucky enough to read a pre-release copy of Be Still My Soul, what was your favorite part or aspect of the story?

Friday, September 21, 2012

"Better Than Fiction" Guest: Tricia Goyer


I'm happy to welcome Author Tricia Goyer to Simple Revelations. She's giving us a glimpse today into one of the true love stories from the Titanic from her original post (found here).



Even in horrific events such as the Titanic disaster amazing stories emerge. Stories of heroics, stories of survival, and even stories of love. There were over a dozen newly married couples on board the grand ship, and many more couples who were impacted by the tragedy. Among those are these touching stories of love.


                         { John and Nelle Snyder }

John and Nelle Snyder, first-class passengers, were saved in Lifeboat 7. It is said that when the first lifeboats were being loaded one of the members called for the “new grooms and brides” to board first. The Snyders didn't hesitate. They were some of the first people in the lifeboats because so many passengers were afraid to leave the “big boat.”


I'm so glad that Tricia included links to her sources, because I couldn't help digging a little deeper into their lives! Take, for example, this excerpt of a letter from John Snyder to his father:

"I can only tell you that I have a mighty fine wife and she is the one you must thank- besides our Lord- for my being able to write this letter. If it hadn't been for Nelle I am sure that I never would be here now. She is the one that urged me to get up when I wanted to go back to bed. We were both asleep when the boat hit."

What a testament to their story, their brand new marriage, and the life-saving ways God worked in it.
Upon further digging, I found another story of a couple aboard the Titanic, who lived out their lives for the glory of their God, “[standing] together for the Christian faith as the instrument of progress.”  If you click over to this article, printed shortly after the Titanic’s sinking, you’ll read the tale of Rev. Ernest Courtenay Carter and his wife, Mrs. Lilian Carter.  They are said to have insisted on others filling the life boats before them, Mrs. Carter stating that she was childless and urging other women ahead. Rev. Carter had presided over a Hymn service aboard the Titanic on April 14th, during which the hymn “For Those in Peril On the Sea” was sung. As their obituary concludes, “Given a situation such as that with which the passengers on the Titanic were faced between the first shock and the last plunge, there is no question as to what these two would wish to do. They were childless, and in Commercial Street their life was always lived for others. Ernest Carter would pass round with his words of artless and ardent comfort, and his wife would say, Let the mothers get to the boats first; you and I must see this out together”.

 For Those in Peril on the Sea:

Special thanks to Tricia Goyer for her permission to post the Snyder excerpt from her post, Titanic Love Stories.

Tricia Goyer is the author of more than 30 books and has published more than 500 articles for national publications such as Focus on the Family, Today’s Christian Woman and HomeLife Magazine. She won the Historical Novel of the Year award in both 2005 and 2006 from American Christian Fiction Writers, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer’s Conference in 3002. Tricia’s Book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion Book Award in 2005. Tricia’s co-written novel, The Swiss Courier, was a nominee for the Christy Awards.

You can connect with Tricia on her website, her blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest!


Wednesday, September 19, 2012


We hear that word ("caught") and we think...

A few weeks ago, I was listening to a song with this line:
"A thousand times I've failed
Still your mercy remains
And should I stumble again
Still I'm caught in your grace"
that word caught me. It turned in my mind until the beautiful opposites of two of the word's connotations stood against each other:
(1) all of the above pictures...
And then the one at home in the above lyrics...
Binding Up
Broken Fall
Sometimes, when we are caught in something, we may feel like we're in the middle of one of the first three pictures. As His grace weaves itself around us, binding us up, we realize... we've been embraced. Our fall has been broken. We're safe. Taking refuge. Forgiven. Being tended, ministered to, loved.
"For He is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care."
Psalm 95:7

Friday, September 14, 2012

Better Than Fiction Guest Post: Olivia Newport

It's my joy to welcome author Olivia Newport back today to share a story from her own family history that has inspired an entire soon-to-be-released novel!

Love in the Generations

The beaming woman in this picture is my sister. And what’s not to beam about? She is holding Eloise, her first grandchild, and Elsa, the second grandchild of our eldest brother. These two beauties were born about three weeks apart last summer.

The mothers of Eloise and Elsa are cousins and richly fond of each other, which is beautiful in itself. For their children to know each other is astounding to me. I don’t remember being with any of my parents’ cousins’ kids while I was growing up.

I find myself wondering if Eloise and Elsa will know each other thirty years from now. Their entry into the family line makes me wonder about some information I discovered around the time they were born.

In 1737, Jakob Beyeler arrived in Philadelphia, having sailed across the ocean with his family on the Charming Nancy, a ship that carried a couple of dozen of the first Amish families to hit North American soil. And, you guessed it, one of my family line traces to Jakob Beyeler.

Me? Related to the Amish?

Jakob arrived with a wife and five children. Under circumstances that we know little about, his wife soon died. So here was a man with five young children, a homestead in the wilderness, and no life partner to help him sort out how this could possibly be a successful arrangement. When I came upon information, I thought, Now there is a story waiting to be told.

Jakob married again fairly quickly, which was not unusual at the time. Really, it was a matter of survival. But what scant information is available seems to point to the fact that his second wife was not Amish. So now my question was, What would make a man who left everything he knew and crossed an ocean in order to freely practice his religion suddenly marry outside the strict faith?

Jakob and his new wife, Elizabeth, had five more children—quite quickly, actually. Their first son was my ancestor.

Now here’s the really curious thing. Elizabeth did not convert to the Amish faith, and she raised her five children in the general culture. However, Jakob’s older five children seem to have remained Amish. So once again I found myself thinking, Now there is a story waiting to be told.

I don’t have the details of why Jakob made a decision that surely must have led him out of the Amish faith. So I imagined a scenario. And as long as I was imagining, I brought Jakob and Elizabeth together in love, not just convenience.

My new book, Accidentally Amish, has a contemporary setting with an intertwining historical thread. Jakob’s story forms the backbone of the historical thread. I tell the story that took form in my mind between Jakob and Elizabeth and raise some questions for how their choices affected their descendents.

How long did Jakob’s Amish descendents and the general culture descendents stay connected?

In reality strands of extended family tend to go their separate ways more quickly than most of us realize. When people move thousands of miles apart for career opportunities or geographic preferences, genetic bonds begin diluting without anyone considering what the end result will be. Another generation will become the grandparents, and another generation will become the future. The second cousins rarely cross each other’s minds.

And now Elsa and Eloise are added to Jakob Beyeler’s family line, with their many other second cousins. I’m going to hang on to my hope that they will beat the odds and still know each other thirty years from now—perhaps even well—as they find love and become the mothers of yet another generation.

Olivia Newport’s novels twist through time finding where faith and passions meet. Her latest title, Accidentally Amish, releases on October 1, 2012. The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow, sequel to The Pursuit of Lucy Banning, releases on January 1, 2013.
**If you have an idea for a Friday "Better Than Fiction: Real Historical Romance Tales" Feature (historical moments/lives that show God's hand weaving lives and paths together through the ages. Can be the story of a couple, or simply an important historical moment testifying to God's love, perfect plan, and grace.), visit this post for criteria and submission details.  ~Amanda**
Tune in next Friday for a Better Than Fiction guest post from author Tricia Goyer!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

And the winner is...

I hosted my very first Facebook giveaway this week.

If you entered, thank you so much for stopping by! I used to choose a winner off of the list of entrants.

And the winner of an Adavance Reader Copy of Be Still My Soul by Joanne Bischof is...

Libbi Hartwig!! Libbi, I'll e-mail you with more information.
And if you didn't win this time, be sure to stay tuned to the Hope Chronicles Event for a chance to win another copy--- and lots of other prizes, too. Not to mention the hope we desire to weave into your days through the event and the lead-up. :)

Only One Thing.

What’s your life like these days?” I asked online yesterday. “I want to know. …I’m mulling over tomorrow’s blog post. My hope is for my blog to be a haven for you, a refuge of sorts. To that end, I want to know how best I can meet you where you are in life right now. So... in a word or a phrase, what's your life like right now?”

First of all, silly me. I can’t create a haven, meet you where you are. But I can point to the One who will, and I pray He’ll be present in these words today.

Second of all, here are the responses I got:

·         Struggling, trying to commit to the right things and knowing God is in control, even when I want to be!!!

·         Waiting for God to move in lots of areas! Trying to keep the faith and keep praying.

·         I feel like an octopus being pulled in every direction. Seriously.

Uh-oh, thought I. I’m in trouble. I can’t advise on any of these things. I’m facing them all, too!

Nail-biting and shifty eyes ensued as I brainstormed what I might be able to offer that could serve up hope, encouragement in the midst of these things. The good news? I totally relate to the people online who answered my little question. The bad news? I relate! Who am I to try and conjur sage wisdom when I need it myself?

Fledgling ideas came to mind about things to say that might encourage. Thoughts about doing what’s next. About pressing on and trusting when your life feels threadbare. About grasping moments of peace.

but none felt just right. And finally, as I prayed over how best to root down and weave words of hope for these places, the answer came in the last response of the evening:

·         Hectic! I look forward to Bible study for refuge and refueling. I sit down, close my eyes, and I’m at His feet. Great joy!

Did you catch that? At His feet. A dear friend of mine said that, so full of wisdom herself. And immediately I pictured Mary kneeling at Jesus’ feet, and Martha toiling in the next room. I could hear Him speak those words so tenderly to Martha:
Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”  
(See Luke 10:38-42) 
I cannot tell you which things He desires you to keep and/or let go of. I can’t tell you when or how God will or will not move, except to say that He is moving even when we cannot see it. And I can’t zap away the pulling forces on all 8 octopus-tentacles…

But I can sit right next to you, at His feet. I need to. For if we do the one needful thing, the rest will follow. He’ll show us which things He wants us to do. He’ll reveal His workings, in His flawless time, as we wait on Him. And He’ll ease away the clamoring things that pull at us until we think the aching will give way to breaking… he’ll ease them away or give His perfect direction, His strength made perfect in weakness.  

Mind if I sit with you a while? Right here at His feet? It’s the only thing. The only needful thing.

In that hush, He works.
*Special thanks to those who answered my question online yesterday... this one's for you!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Weary Ones: He Sees You. And He's Weaving.

Wednesday is half-gone, and I'm only now posting Wednesday's blog. It's a threadbare day. And I'm rejoicing in that. Here's why...

This post was originally going to be called “Patchwork Summer” and talk all about the little pockets of peace God has given along the way and stitched together to wrap me in. I was going to tell you all about how we’re in a season where conventional summer getaways and such haven’t been feasible, but how God’s allowed us to snatch moments together wherever we could, rest up, and live thankful for those moments rather than pining for the different sorts of rest that eluded us.

That’s what it WAS going to be about. But it’s turning into something different right before my eyes as I clack these keys and blink back at the cursor on my screen.

So here you go...

 Summer is done.

This summer, more than any other, vanished before my eyes.

Keep in mind as you read the following that it all rode on an undercurrent of gratefulness for all that has transpired. I don’t want to lose sight of the miracle we are living in as I reflect on my state during it all.

I look at my summer-self from this vantage point, and I see someone threadbare in energy, staring at a scale in bewilderment: mounting to-do lists sinking, sinking, sinking on one side, dwindling energy supply rising, rising to the sky on the other. Summer-self sat and surveyed all that had to be done—realized some things don’t really have to be done—began to accept a new, temporal, less-than-orderly normal as we navigated a time of transition.

And now, from where I sit, I look back and I see: our summer was not hodge-podge, haphazard or piecemeal. It’s not even a beautiful patchwork, like I originally thought and set out to write about today.

 Stitched by the Master’s hand, yes. Fragments woven together to make something whole, yes. But something so complete, so uniform in its threads of grace and sustenance and provision… something feather-light, just right.

It’s this:


Turned into this:

And this:


Me, threadbare. Him, weaving those stringy strands together to make something complete, whole, intentional… something that couldn’t be made without those stringy strands.

 In my moments of weariness, I’ve seen only the stringy strands.

But they were in His hands.

And because there was so little of my “own” strength left, the light that slips through-- I know it is Him. Purely Him.

Strength Luminous. Oh, what a thing it is to draw from such!

To those who are weary, from one threadbare traveler to another let me say: He sees you. He is weaving. He is cloaking you with a garment so feather-light and lovely on your road… and you’re not alone in it. Not even for even a second.

 "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." 2 Corinthians 12:9




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