Hard to believe we’ve reached the end of another year, hey?

I didn’t read nearly as many books in 2016 as I anticipated or hoped — largely because I took on a number of editing projects this past year. In most of my “free” evening hours, I was editing manuscripts that other self-published authors had written.

Here are the books I did manage to read, as well as the ones I’m currently busy reading, a few books on my TBR list, and links to the books I read in 2014 and 2015.

 

Books I Read in 2016

 

Click each title below to read more about the books on Amazon (affiliate links used):

 

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick

Books I read in 2016

I read this one to see if it was okay for my kids, and the verdict was “Yes.” I enjoyed both the storyline and the pictures and would recommend it as a middle grade reader.

 

God King, by Joanne Williamson

Books I Read in 2016

This was a captivating, well-written story that I read aloud to my kids as part of our homeschooling curriculum. It kept my attention as well as that of all three of my children.

 

The Golden Goblet, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

The Golden Goblet is among my top three favorite homeschooling books I’ve ever read aloud to my kids. We read it as part of the sixth grade Sonlight curriculum, and it was fabulous.

 

Roots & Sky, by Christie Purifoy

I savored every page of this gem by Christie Purifoy. The writing is stunning and made me want to read small chunks at a time to contemplate and digest the beauty.

 

InSomnus, by Molly Fennig

I had the privilege of reading an advance copy of this debut novel. You’d never tell from the reading, but the author was just 17 years old at the time of writing! Incredible. A compelling YA sci-fi read.

 

Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Minutes Flat, compiled by Susan Shipe

This project is dear to my heart because of its many contributors. We have more than 150 writers who bravely shared words in this collection. Its diversity speaks to the heart of the Five Minute Friday community, and to the heart of our God.

 

Waves of Mercy, by Lynn Austin

This was such a fun read, not only because it is set in my home town of Holland, Michigan, but also because I got to meet and interview the author in her home! Definitely a highlight and milestone in my writing career.

 

Craving Connection: 30 Challenges for Real Life Engagement, a collection from (in)courage

It was my pleasure to contribute a chapter to this book. I’m so excited for its January 10th release. I truly believe this collection is going to bless (and challenge) many. Learn more about the book and all 30 contributors at: www.cravingconnectionbook.com

 

Come, Lord Jesus: The Weight of Waiting, by Kris Camealy

Our family read through this Advent devotional by Kris Camealy this December, and it is a winner. Even my husband, who is the first to admit that he is quite picky and easy to please when it comes to Christmas or Advent books, said it was very well done — both from a writing and a theological perspective. Grab a copy now for next December.

 

New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional, by Paul Tripp

My husband gave me this book for Christmas last year, and it was such an encouragement to me during this past year. It seemed that more often than not, God used Paul David Tripp’s words to speak directly to my heart. If you’re looking for a new devotional for 2017, this would be a great option.

 

Books I’m busy reading:

Making Marriage Beautiful: Lifelong Love, Joy, and Intimacy Start with You, by Dorothy Greco

Enjoy: Finding the Freedom to Delight Daily in God’s Good Gifts, by Trillia Newbell

 

Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction, by Asheritah Ciuciu

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Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel, by Russell Moore

Books on my To Be Read List (including many more!):

The Happiness Dare: Pursuing Your Heart’s Deepest, Holiest, and Most Vulnerable Desire, by Jennifer Dukes Lee

A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowl, by Susie Finkbeiner

Fighting Fear: Awakening Courage to Overcome Fear, by Kelly Balarie

 

… And here are the Books I Read in 2015 and My Top 14 Books of 2014.

 

What about you? What books did you read in 2016? Which were your favorites?

Share in the comments, or by linking up your own post via the InLinkz button below!

 

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It can happen to all of us.

Despite our best intentions, we can get sucked into the commercial rush of the holiday season, and before we know it, December’s gone. We blink, and we miss it.

This year, let’s determine a different way.

Let’s pause before the month even begins, and take intentional steps to slow down.

Let’s get ourselves ready to notice and enjoy the true reason for the season.

As I compiled this post, I realized there are so many amazing books available!

In this post, I’ll share about the following:

 

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Firstly, my dear friend, Asheritah Ciuciu has a beautiful, helpful devotional called Unwrapping the Names of Jesus

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This book promises to help you “rediscover the beauty of the greatest gift of all by unwrapping His Names one at a time.”

 

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 unwrapping names of jesus

And then there’s Ann Voskamp’s gorgeous family Advent devotional, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.

 

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Read my review here, then order a copy for your own family by clicking here. You won’t regret it!

These gorgeous ornament sets complement Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. Each ornament corresponds to a daily reading.

They come in an embossed, die-cut paper version, as well as a sculpted ceramic version. I was blessed to receive a set of the sculpted ornaments last year, and they are stunning.

STARTING TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 22ND, USE CODE FRIDAY16 TO GET 30% OFF YOUR DAYSPRING ORDER FOR BLACK FRIDAY!

 

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I also love Ann’s book, The Greatest Gift. It follows a very similar format to the family version shown above, but is geared more toward an adult audience.

 

My friend Trillia Newbell has a new book coming out soon, called Enjoy.

Right now, when you pre-order Enjoy, you will receive a free Advent devotional written by Trillia. To learn more about Enjoy and this giveaway, visit Trillia’s website.

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The dear Kris Camealy recently released a book called Come, Lord Jesus:

 

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AND … Christina Hubbard from Creative and Free is hosting an Advent Book Club based on this book, beginning November 27th! So order now and join the club!

 

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Finally, the delightful Anna Rendell is offering 25 devotions for time-strapped Moms in her book, A Moment of Christmas.

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The description on Amazon says, “This book is for the woman who craves a less crazed-feeling Christmas, who longs for a season that is intentional and full of joy. Including 25 devotions, each of them guilt-free, inspiring, and able to be read in 10 minutes or less! As you prepare your heart for Christmas by reading through these pages, you’ll be inspired to drop the pursuit of perfection and chase holy.” Sounds amazing, hey?

 

Don’t let this December pass you by.

Get your hands on some of these resources, then schedule a bit of time each day to dwell in God’s presence.

 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting this site!

In Part 1 of this interview series with Christian historical fiction author Lynn Austin, I shared about my surreal experience visiting one of my favorite authors in her home to interview her about her latest book, Waves of Mercy.

What I didn’t share in that first post was the remarkable impact that Lynn’s words and demeanor had on my own writing life.

 

Lynn Austin

 

If you missed the video from Part 1, you can watch it here:

 

 

Sitting in her living room, I absorbed her every word and folded her advice and encouragement into the fabric of my mind. Two days after our 90 minutes together, I had the pleasure of listening to Lynn deliver two keynote addresses at a Christian writers’ conference. I gleaned further wisdom during those hours and took copious notes to share with you here, in hopes that you’ll be similarly blessed.

Let me start with the writer mamas out there who are trying to write with little ones underfoot. Here are some nuggets of wisdom from Lynn:

“Don’t wait for perfect conditions; they’ll never come. Just put your computer in the middle of the table and learn to do it. Give your kids enough attention so that your writing life is not a competition and they’ll be much more accepting. Involve them in the process; talk to them about your writing. For a long time, my workspace was right in the middle of everything. Just do it; don’t wait. Be creative with your time — take materials with you in the car, think about your manuscript while you’re at the park. I’ve developed dialogue for my characters and had full conversations in my head while pushing my kids on the swings at the playground. Just take what you have and do what you need to do.”

Q: What encouragement would you give to the writer who has experienced repeated setbacks in the writing life?

Lynn: “I’m answering after learning the hard way. I did quit. After years of rejections before my first book was published, I quit. I took a teaching job and was miserable. But God steered me back. Sometimes you just have to go through it, and maybe you need to learn the hard way. If you have a calling from God, He’s going to bring you back. 

“A successful writer isn’t the person who is published—it’s person who keeps writing.” ~@LynnNAustin

 

 

It’s easy to say to writers, ‘Don’t quit.’ But each writer needs to have his or her own wrestling match with God regarding the question, ‘Am I called or not?’ Once that answer has been given, the next step is learning to depend and trust God for how He’s going to use our writing, because we have no idea.”

 

Q: Do you have any writing “must haves”?

Lynn: “I must have my daily quiet time for prayer and Bible reading —or else I don’t get anywhere at all with my writing. If I’m in a bad mood, if my relationships are broken or I’m anxious about something, it affects my writing. In my quiet time, that’s where I get all of this ironed out. Quiet time really settles everything else. It helps me to read Scripture every day. I started a plan to read through the Bible in a year — I’ve been doing it for 40 years. It gives me a foundation to build on.”

 

I could fill another whole blog post with quotes from the two conference sessions Lynn delivered.

Here are a handful of highlights:

  • You have to make up your mind: Is God calling you to write? Calling comes from God. If He believes in you, who are you to doubt? You can’t run from God’s call.
  • If you’re going to answer God’s call, it’s going to require sacrifice. What are you willing to give up to nourish your dream? Learn to say “no” to things so you can say yes to your calling. On the flip side, determine where your writing fits into the scheme of things. Don’t let your writing become an idol.
  • Write regularly and consistently. Offer to write anything, just for the practice.
  • So many writers give up because they get tired of waiting for the plant to grow. Trust God’s timing. He doesn’t measure success by results, but by obedience. It isn’t just about the books; it’s about you and God.
  • No other reward will ever compete with the satisfaction of knowing that you’re serving God and bringing Him glory.

 

What about you? What writing advice has encouraged you? Which quote(s) stood out as you read this interview? What question(s) would you ask one of your favorite authors if given the chance? We’d love to read your responses in the comments below!

 

Grab Lynn’s latest novel, Waves of Mercy, on Amazon.

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Affiliate links used in this post.

I could call it surreal.

Eleven years ago, shortly after having my first baby in South Africa, I was invited to join a ladies’ book club. Through our monthly meetings, I was introduced to the writing of Christian author Lynn Austin.

Her books changed me.

I flew through her Chronicles of the Kings series, a five-book collection spanning the life and times of Old Testament King Hezekiah. Lynn’s writing brought those books of the Bible to life for me — character storylines suddenly tied together into one big picture; my nostrils tingled from her vivid descriptions of burnt sacrifices.

Year after year, I was first in our book club to purchase Lynn’s latest release. I cherished the rhythm of her writing and internalized the characters she developed, the stories they told.

Fast forward to 2016, and after ten years in Cape Town, I’m back living in my hometown of Holland, Michigan.

Lynn Austin

A friend sends me a link on Facebook: Did you see that Lynn Austin is inviting readers to join the launch team for her newest book?

I dropped what I was doing and applied immediately.

Then, to my great surprise, I learned that her latest historical novel, Waves of Mercy, was set in my hometown! What were the chances?

Imagine my further shock when I discovered that Lynn had moved to Holland, Michigan! My mind flashed back to my Cape Town book club days, and how she had seemed like a distant celebrity — a writer I greatly admired who resided somewhere across the ocean. And now she lives less than four miles from my house!

As if the story couldn’t get any more incredible — Lynn’s launch team manager invited me to interview Lynn Austin in her home!

Yes, I could definitely call it surreal.

Here we are, in Lynn’s living room:

 

 

I have so much to say about our time together that I’m just going to have to let it spill into another post. Come back soon to catch Part 2 of this interview series, in which I share some of the wisdom I gleaned from my interview with Lynn Austin. In the meantime, read on for more about Lynn’s latest novel, Waves of Mercy

 

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You’re going to love this book. Okay, I admit I’m biased because I live in the town in which it is set.

Have you ever had that privilege? To read an account of how your town was formed?

I lost myself in the telling, imagining the first settlers who stopped in the dense forests and began to chop down wood. I learned that Lake Macatawa used to be called Black Lake, and Hope College started out as Holland Academy. I drive past the original Pillar Church regularly and never knew about the grand hotels that used to line the lakeshore.

But more than the fascinating historical facts, the characters and storyline will captivate you through and through. One of the main characters, Geesje, has been asked to write her life story as the town prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its founding. As she is in process, a wealthy young lady named Anna visits Holland from Chicago in an attempt to heal from a broken engagement. As it turns out, these two women have much more in common than they ever could’ve imagined.

Waves of Mercy will carry you in its swell of ups and downs as the characters ride the unpredictable storms of life. It will teach you about God’s faithfulness and His neverending care of His people, even and especially during times of tremendous trial. It may just leave you asking, “Why?” and yet give you a sense of amazement over God’s sovereign provision.

If you’ve ever had genuine doubts about the goodness of God, if you’ve wrestled with the lot you’ve been dealt in life, if you’ve suffered losses and can’t explain their purpose — this book will resonate with your soul.

When asked, “What do you hope readers will come away with after finishing Waves of Mercy?” Lynn answered, “I hope they see what a close relationship with God is really like, and will learn to trust Him through the hard times and praise Him in all circumstances.”

When asked if there is a theme that seems to show up often in her writing, Lynn responded with these words: “Life is hard but God is good — and He always has everything under control.”

Amen?

 

Visit Lynn’s website for the latest news and more info about her 24 books. To order a copy of Waves of Mercy, click here.

And don’t forget to come back for Part 2 of this interview series, in which Lynn will share some encouragement for those living the writing life!

 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I received a free copy of Waves of Mercy in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

 

I don’t know about you, but every once in a while, life can get so busy that pretty soon everything just feels like a drag.

Maybe you can relate?

Things that used to bring joy, when added to the mix of an overwhelmingly heavy workload, can suddenly become burdensome.

Is it just me? Or do you know what I’m talking about?

I’ve found that during times like these, it helps me to take a step back and take stock of everything I have to be grateful for. A bit of a gratitude inventory, if you will.

Undoubtedly, in a short period, my perspective shifts and my burdens don’t seem quite as heavy. The clouds lift a little, and the sun peeks through.

This happened to me as I went through Tyndale’s new Gratitude Journal.

 

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Without being intentional, by working through this journal, my previously burdened condition saw a new light.

My perspective shifted.

Instead of focusing on all that I hadn’t accomplished and all that still needed to be done, I could take a deep breath for a few moments and reflect on God’s goodness to me.

 

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Taking time to consider God’s character and blessings caused my gratitude toward Him to grow.

 

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If you’re in a position or phase of life in which everything feels like a drag, or you’re struggling to see God’s blessings, I encourage you to take advantage of a resource like this journal.

Take some time out of your busy schedule to recalibrate and center your thoughts around truth.

 

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What helps you when you need a perspective shift? What helps you increase your gratitude toward the Lord? 

 

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Check out more resources like this one in Tyndale’s Living Expressions Collection.

A description from the Tyndale website: “Gratitude: A Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal invites you to bring creative journaling and the calming act of coloring into your quiet time with God. This beautifully designed interactive prayer book from Tyndale’s Living Expressions collection helps guide your thoughts as you pray about concerns such as health, overcoming stress, personal relationships, and more. Gratitudegives you a way to celebrate and give thanks to God for the many blessings he provides. Filled with over 100 designs to color, plenty of space for journaling and sketching, and 40 needs-based prayers, Gratitude helps you express your devotion to God with your whole heart!”

 

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this product from Tyndale in exchange for my honest review. Affiliate links have been used in this post.