Friday, October 26, 2012

Better Than Fiction Guest Post: Shy Guy Meets Big Sister (by Olivia Newport)

As a child, one of the reasons I looked forward to visiting the small Southern town where my mother grew up was because I would get to see my Great Aunt Lennie. I thought she told funny stories. Maybe I was just enamored of her Southern accent. No, I really think she had a sense of humor. She had good timing. Lennie also had a big boat of a car in the days before seatbelts, and her motto was “the more, the merrier.” (Now that I’m a great aunt 15 times over, I get that generational joy!)

Lennie was my grandmother’s younger sister—not by much, but that did not matter. My great-grandfather apparently stood on tradition. Lennie wanted to get married, and he didn’t think it was proper for the younger sister to marry before the older sister.

And the older sister had no particular prospects.

So he went out and found her a prospect, or so the family story goes. My grandmother was about 22—the age my daughter is now, so really no rush to get married! My great-grandfather found a quiet-spoken 35-year-old man who had never been married and introduced him to his firstborn daughter.

Imagine the pressure. If my grandmother did not do this—marry a stranger—her sister could not marry the love of her life. But what about the love of my grandmother’s life? Was she asking that question?

Essentially it was an arranged marriage in 1923. They had nine children and were married 56 years, so I guess they figured it out! Did she think of him as the love of her life? I suppose I’ll never read the chapters of that story.

I do know they had some dreadful trials during the Depression. My grandfather lost his furniture store, and they moved in with the great-grandparents who had arranged this union—now with a string of children in tow. Then a fire roared through the building where all their worldly goods were stored. They started again with nothing. Literally. In the middle of the Great Depression.

These are the stories of my mother’s childhood, vastly different from my own.

Though my mom was raised going to church as a family, it was in his last decade of life that my grandfather seemed to be most outspoken about his faith. It made a lot of friends and family blink twice and wonder what happened.

When the Spirit moves, the Spirit moves. Not a bad ending for a shy guy.

Olivia Newport is the author of The Pursuit of Lucy Banning (May 2012), Accidentally Amish (October 2012) and the forthcoming The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow (January 2013). She lives in Colorado with her husband and two twenty-something children. 

End note from Amanda: It's been an honor to have Olivia share 3 of her family's stories here. I so enjoyed The Pursuit of Lucy Banning, and can't wait to read Accidentally Amish. 

Speaking of which, I saw this on Olivia's Facebook page yesterday and thought you might like to see the Special Offer: Take 25% off ACCIDENTALLY AMISH by Olivia Newport on! Enter code OLIVIA at checkout.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Waltz

I'm honored to be a guest at my lifelong friend Katie's blog today. The post came as a result of her invitation to write about "Oneness in Marriage." 

Here's a preview of what you'll find if you'd like to click through and join us overe there:

Once upon a time, there was a Happily Ever After.

And then the dance began.

I love our love story. I love to tell how we met, how I realized I was falling for my best friend, how we never really had a first date—he just leaned in and kissed me and the rest is history.

I love to remember our wedding day.  The whimsical white and blue flowers, the miracle of being surrounded by beloved family and friends, walking down the aisle and locking gazes with my blue-eyed Beloved…

There was no dancing, though. No dance floor, no twirling my light-as-a-feather chiffon dress into my husband’s embrace.
Why? Well...

Yes, friends, that is truly where I'm leaving off. To read the bumbling reason, click on over to Katie's blog, Life as Worship.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Heart Behind the Hope Chronicles

It started out with a simple e-mail from my friend Joanne:
Would you be interested in a blog hop?
Historical writers, she said. All writing from their story's heroine's point of view. What a creative approach to the hopping-of-blogs! I was in.

The wheels in our collective brains began to turn:

“What if we invite these other authors to jump in?”
“What if we do giveaways to go along with the blog hop?”
“What if we all have a common theme to serve readers through our message, to give them something? Some thread of truth to stitch the event together, give it a foundation?”
“What if—and is this cheesy?—we send a journal around in the mail and hand-inscribe it?”

And so the Hope Chronicles was born. I won't go into details here about what the project actually is, because both Joanne Bischof and Sarah Sundin have done a wonderful job of that on their blogs. But do let me give you a little more of a peek behind the scenes.

As things began to unfold and God kept opening doors, there was something nameless, something we hadn’t quite put our fingers on yet, that kept cropping up in our desires, even in the schedules and plans that emerged. 

It was the purpose, the heart.

Why do all of this? It’s fun, yes. It’s a new way to connect with readers, yes. But… on a deeper level… why?

That’s where this came in:
As five historical fiction authors that span a century of settings and every stage of publication, the common thread that ties us together is our desire to offer hope from the Master Author, our Lord and Savior. Our goal is to join together as storytellers and to connect with each other and our readers in a meaningful way through the Hope Chronicles event.

Our mission statement. 

This purpose, it’s why I write. Serve readers with meaningful, life-giving truth. 

And I suspect I wouldn’t be too far off if I said that’s why these other ladies write, too.

In the next month, as Hope Chronicles week approaches and you see pictures and verses and information floating around the web, know that this is about true Hope. The kind that does not disappoint. 

"Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts..." 
Romans 5:5

And in the meantime, allow me to give you a sneak peek of the Hope Chronicles journal and its journey around the U.S. to be hand-inscribed by all 5 authors. 

 Regina Jennings was the first stop.

...and a sweet note to the other 4 collaborators on our instruction page:

 ...then came Joanne, inscribing for her book's heroine, Lonnie:

Joanne's message to the other 4 collaborators-- pretty much sums up our desires!

Then it landed in my hands, the third state along the journey, to be inscribed "on behalf of" my book's heroine, Georgianna:

Imagine my joy when I stumbled upon this antique post card in the middle of thousands upon thousands of goods in an antique store! It's from just about the right time period (the back says it costs 2 cents to send it. Can you imagine?), and exactly the right location. Talk about a needle in a haystack:

That verse-- "Hope as an anchor for the soul"-- isn't it wonderful? I cling to it, and my *hope* is that it'll encourage you, too. It emerged quickly as the theme of my journal entry here, and so my prize bundle is centered around it, too. On that same trip to the antique store, I spotted this:

An "H"! An anchor! Hope as an anchor for the soul. It, along with a floating candle to create a lantern...
... is one of the things I'll be giving away during Hope Chronicles week. 

This week I'll be sending the journal on to Karen Barnett, who will then pass it along to Sarah Sundin... and then, friends, we'll be ready to go live with the blog hop, and type some hope onto our screens. 

Won't you join us? 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Have you felt it? 
The pull, I mean. Closer to Him. Deeper.

Maybe it was a glimpse you had of another person’s walk with God. The intimacy, the love, the so-in-stride-with-Him-you-can-almost-see-Him sort of surrender.

Maybe it was one of those “wake up, take a candid look at your life” moments that ended in bewilderment, and then heartache, thinking… How did I get here? So far from Him?

Maybe it’s just a tug you have on your heart. When you pray, when you read His word, when you seek His wisdom, it’s good. You’re complete. And yet—somehow—you know there’s a place deeper still to go with Him.

When we encounter those moments, it can be sobering, perhaps even daunting. You want to get there, to go deeper… but how? How does one even begin to pursue such intimacy with the King of all, the Creator of the Universe?

Here is what I’m learning:

You don’t “get there.”

You do go deeper, but the depths never end, so you’ll never arrive. It’s exciting, really. This will be a journey of endless deepening, infinite enveloping by Him, completeness that – somehow—becomes even more complete with every stop.

I’m convinced that He gives us these glimpses to awake our yearning for Him, to begin to understand His yearning for us. To see that this story doesn’t end with the “I do” moment of asking Him into our hearts… but that he is a lifelong—no, an eternal—pursuer.

We’re being courted by One who’s already won our hearts, and He wants to knowwill you let me take you deeper into my love? Will you let me in to every corner of your life?
How he longs for that! And how my longing for that is being awakened, too.

So… how do we get there? How do we go deeper?

Here is where the simple revelation comes in. I’ve been trying to drink more water recently. But for a tea-chugging (that just seems wrong, doesn’t it? Let’s amend that). –For a girl who sips tea in copious amounts like me,  I look at that tall water bottle sitting on the counter and I think—“three of you? How can I drink three of you today?”

The weird thing is… I take one sip and then I want another. I drink one bottle and somehow I’m more thirsty. The bottle dislodges from its place on the counter and travels with me wherever I go, because I want more, all the time.

How can I drink more water? By taking a sip. The thirst is awakened, and the journey begins.

Is it any coincidence that He is called the Living Water?

Today, to go deeper, take a sip.

Taste and see.
“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” Psalm 34:8

Draw near, one step at a time.
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” James 4:8

What about you? Have you ever felt the pull?


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