Advent – The Savior Will Come

Advent – The Savior Will Come

Do you observe the season of Advent?

I grew up in a United Methodist church, which lights the candles on the Advent wreath every year; when we planted our own church in the Seventh Day Baptist denomination, my family kept that tradition. And now that my immediate family is Catholic, Advent isn’t just a part of our year, it’s the start of the Christian calendar. Advent, in this oldest tradition, is more than just four candles. It’s four weeks of preparing our hearts for the coming of the Savior anew. Of yearning for Him. Of longing for Him.

As my Patrons & Peers group celebrated Christmas together for the first time last year, discussion round about the end of November/ beginning of December touched on Advent…and the fact that at least half our members are only vaguely familiar with the tradition, since their churches don’t observe it. Which made me think that the same percentage is probably true of my general readership. So then, it sounded like fun to take some time to talk about what Advent is and why it’s become part of the Church calendar.

When Does Advent Begin?

Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas. Much like Lent is 40 days, a Biblical significant number meant to mimic the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, Advent used to be 40 days as well, to encompass the “fullness” of history before Christ’s appearance on the scene. In the 9th century, that time was condensed to four weeks, and the Four Sundays of Advent began to be observed as we still see them now.

In traditional services, Advent, much like Lent, is a season of repentance and somberness. Celebratory songs like the “Gloria” are taken from the liturgy. The alter and vestments are clothed in purple cloth, because purple is the traditional color of repentance and penitence. Scripture readings during these four weeks focus not on Christmas, but on the state of the world before Christ came, and on John the Baptist preparing the way for Him–because Christmas and Easter have always been so closely linked in the Church that you don’t even try to separate one from the other. Christ was born for one purpose: to save us through His death. This is why we both celebrate and mourn. We celebrate because He loves us so much.

We mourn because our own sinful natures required this sacrifice of our Lord.

What Do the Four Weeks of Advent Represent?

As we focus on the state of the world so desperate for a Savior–a state our world is always in–we look too toward how good our God is to meet us as He’s done. And we recognize that we are the world before Christ. We are sinful. We are selfish. We have wronged God. We have disappointed him. We have hurt our neighbors. We have failed to be what He made us to be. We have chosen, again and again, our own way above His. Our own hearts, certainly before we accepted the salvation offered by Him but even now in some degree, are hard and barren.

And yet He not only came down to walk among us, He prepared the very world for His arrival with such care. He came at the perfect time in history. And His coming restarted history. It created a new era, a new epoch. This is why the traditional Church calendar begins with the anticipation of Christmas.

The first week of advent, marked by purple, is the week of Hope. From the earliest writings of the Old Testament, we see the faithful servants of God hoping for His salvation, whether in the very physical realm–hope that He’ll deliver them from oppression–to the purely spiritual sense. This hope, when the world is at its darkest, is one of the most amazing marks of faith. Faith hopes when logic says we shouldn’t. Faith hopes when all seems lost. Faith hopes, knowing that even if it seems like we’ve lost, we haven’t, because there is a world beyond what we perceive. This first week of Advent, we celebrate the Hope that Christ represents to the world…hope that we need because the world is otherwise so hopeless. We recognize that without Him, we are irrevocably separated from God, but we cling to the Hope of Reconciliation that He represents. Living as we do in the 21st century, we obviously know He has come already…but it’s still so important to reflect on what that hope means, for us and for all of mankind throughout all of history.

Because at some point in our lives, He hadn’t yet come to us…or rather, we hadn’t yet turned to Him. For us, as for every Christian before us, we need to experience our own Advent of Christ, His coming into our hearts. Remembering that coming every year, remembering that hope, keeps it fresh and new and beautiful.

The second week of advent, also marked by purple, is the week of peace. In Isaiah’s prophecy of a Messiah, he calls Christ the “prince of peace.” In an age where power and royalty were only ever achieved through war, this would have seemed like a strange thing. A prince could only be one of peace if he was born into an established kingdom strong enough that it didn’t need to fight. David, we know, was a king of war, and Solomon of peace…and that was when God permitted the Temple to be built, by hands not stained by blood.

Christ, however, entered into a world of strife. The peace between Israel and the Greeks and Romans had been won through political maneuvering in the centuries preceding His arrival, but it had cracked and broken. Israel was occupied by Romans. Israel was restless and ready for a Savior to lead them out of bondage. Israel wanted a king like the ones of old, that would lead them from captivity by crushing their enemy.

Instead we get a Savior who comes not to offer this shaky peace to a nation, but to offer something no king ever dared to promise before–peace of the spirit. Peace of the soul. Peace not between men and kingdoms, but between each person and God. This is a peace no mortal man can offer, but what we all long for at the most primal level. Why do we war with each other? Because part of us in rebellion against God. If we were perfectly aligned with Him, all of us, then we would be at perfect peace together too. This is the kingdom of which Christ is the Prince of Peace. Not a kingdom of earth, but the Kingdom of God. And that Kingdom began the moment He was born, was anticipated for hundreds of years before His arrival, and still reigns today.

The third week of advent, marked by pink, is the week of joy. Do you have children? Do you remember how, when your abdomen grows large and you feel the baby moving around in there, you have those moments when fear and discomfort and uncertainty are forgotten, and you just marvel at the life within? Do you remember those bubbles of joy that come surging up?

This is the joy of all of creation at the coming of our Lord. Scripture tells us that all of creation yearned and groaned like a women in childbirth, ready for the coming of the Savior. We know the joy that all of heaven and earth proclaimed at His birth, but that joy didn’t start there. The joy begins in the expectation.

Because faith, the knowing that God will make a way, breeds not only peace as we trust Him, but joy in the knowing.

We know that God yearns for us as we yearn for Him. We know that He has made a way back into His arms. We know that when we view the world through His eyes, we’ll see not just what’s broken but what He will heal.

We may still be unhappy here in this world. We may be persecuted. We may be neglected. We may be hated. We may be misunderstood. But when we truly trust in God and let His peace reign in our hearts, joy follows. A joy that we remember and anticipate anew as we draw ever nearer to the celebration of Christ’s arrival. Because He is the ultimate joy.

The fourth week of advent, marked again by purple, is the week of love. Why would God do this for us? Why would Christ leave His heavenly abode? Why would He not only become human, but become human in the most helpless of ways, coming as a newborn baby? He could have been formed like Adam, full grown. But instead, He put Himself in the arms of a human woman. He entrusted His life to the protection of a human man. He became fully part of the human family.

Because He loves us. He loves us so much that He agreed to let His divine radiance be swaddled in eight pounds of human flesh and blood and bone. He loves us so much that He set aside immortality so that He could die for us. Save us. Love us in the fullest of ways, by giving Himself totally for us. And that started not when He died, but when He first let His being be planted in His mother’s womb. He started, as we all do, as mere cells. A God more vast than the universe, shrunken down to such a size! Only love would inspire that. The most perfect love.

What About Advent Wreaths?

The traditional Advent wreath has four candles in it, which mirror the liturgical colors of each week: purple, purple, pink, and purple. Sometimes a white candle will be situated in the middle and lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, which is called the Christ candle.

In addition to hope, peace, joy, and love, each candle has an additional reminder. The week of hope, we call it the Prophecy Candle, because those prophecies are what assure us that we have hope of One to come. The week of peace, we call it the Bethlehem candle, to remember the small hamlet in which Christ chose to be born–not a capital won by war, but a tiny little town about family, not royalty. The week of joy, we call it the Shepherd’s Candle to recall not only the shepherds there to receive that blessed news of His coming, but how He is our shepherd, just as Moses was shepherd for Israel so long ago too, as David was, as so many others were. The fourth candle is then the Angel Candle, because they are the messengers who proclaimed Him every step of the way, from conception to His triumphant birth, from ministering in the garden to proclaiming His resurrection.

Why Advent?

In a world that begins celebrating Christmas so early, moderns might wonder, “Why even bother with Advent? We’re already focused on Christmas!”

We are, yes. And yes, the world needs all the joy it can get. But one could argue that you can’t understand the celebration if you don’t focus on what led to it. One can’t fully appreciate the hope and peace and joy and love if one doesn’t pause to consider how much we NEED those things, even today. Only when we pause to recognize that we are still, even now, even as Christians, so desperately yearning for Him can we appreciate what His coming truly means.

I think the thing I love most about the Church calendar is that it isn’t about the past. It’s about living it out now, every year. Not just remembering what came before, but becoming a part of it.

In these next four weeks, we aren’t just resting in the knowledge that Jesus came to earth and was born in a stable. We are reliving the centuries leading up to His arrival. We are anticipating it for ourselves. We are pausing to recognize how much we still need Him. How He is our hope. He is our peace. He is our joy. He is our love.

In four weeks, we’ll set aside the sober reflections. We’ll hopefully have examined our hearts and laid them bare before God, just as His people have always needed to do when we want to draw near to Him. We should have removed what stands between us, confessed it and renounced it. We should then come, pure as that newborn, to Bethlehem’s stable. We should kneel before this Prince of Peace with the full measure of awe.

Then, my friends, we celebrate Christmas. Then we sing that “Gloria” again, just as the angels sang it to the shepherds. Then we’re ready for the Christmas season, which begins when He was born and stretches out long past when the world tucks it all into boxes again and moves on.

We’re still celebrating. Because Christ’s coming is one to be anticipated. And it’s one to then be upheld with every joyful celebration we can dream up.

2023 Black Friday – Cyber Monday Sale!

2023 Black Friday – Cyber Monday Sale!

It’s that time of year again! As we contemplate all we’re thankful for, our thoughts also move toward those we love and how to make their Christmas special.

This year, my shop is going to be offering two different sales! Use the coupon any time between now and Monday night at 11:59 pm, OR wait for each day-long flash sale and get a bigger discount on particular items!

Use coupon code CELEBRATE2023 at any time this weekend to save

15% off

your whole order!

The only things excluded from this coupon are items already on sale (pre-order books) and special editions with painted edges.
Coupon cannot be used in conjunction with other sales.

Day-Long Flash Sales!

Each day, one category of items will be on sale for 20% off!


Books! This will include all books except those already on sale and special editions with painted edges




Bookish gift items, including bath and body and Box of Bookish Things extras from each month!


Clothing, including tees, socks, and tote bags

These sales technically also use COUPONS, which apply automatically to your cart; that means you won’t see the sale price on the pages, but you WILL see them as soon as you add items to your cart.

Want a reminder of each day’s sale?
Subscribe to Bookish Things.


Word of the Week – Halloween

Word of the Week – Halloween

Here we are again, back in the last days of October…which of course means HALLOWEEN (imagine me saying it in that exaggerated spooky voice, will you? LOL). So of course, I looked up what I’ve posted about it before. And yes, this is just last year’s post, recycled. But hey, why not? It’s a perfect post for the day!

And whether you are pro or opposed to Halloween (or something in between), one can’t ignore the fascinating history of both the word itself and the traditions surrounding it. I’ve blogged about it before in a post that combines all my recollection as I looked into the holiday for my own family’s celebrating, but today I want to focus mostly on the word.

We’ve probably all heard that Halloween is a shortening of All Hallow’s Even or All Hallow’s Eve, and it’s been called such since the 1300s, at least (though the single-word spelling, as we have it now, is recorded first in Scotland in 1781. Even or eve are of course, in turn, a shortening of evening. We most famously still use this, of course, on Christmas Eve, to denote the night or vigil of the sacred day itself.

But what about that Hallow? We know that word primarily from the Lord’s prayer–it means “holy” or, in this case, “ones who are holy”–saints. November 1 is All Saints Day or All Hallows Day, the day marked on the calendar for celebrating all the saints–a day so important that, in the Roman Catholic Church, it’s one of only six Holy Days of Obligation in the year. (Those are days when going to mass to remember the event is required.) Why is it given such honor? Because this is literally the day to remember all the Christians who have come before us, who are gathered now in heaven. This is a day to honor the Church as the Bride of Christ and remember each member, each cell throughout time.

In the post I link to above, I mentioned the very real spiritual warfare style traditions that sprang up as Christianity clashed with paganism in Celtic Ireland and Scotland, and those are a big part of the story. It’s also worth noting, however, that as Christianity took hold, this holy day was so important that children anticipated it as much as Christmas and went around their neighborhoods asking for donations of sweets so they could make “soul cakes” to remember the neighbors’ loved ones on All Saints Day…sometimes even dressed up as saints themselves.

As with many of our holidays, there’s a mix of the holy and the not-so-holy in today’s traditions…but no shortage of fascinating history to both the word and the day!

Do you or your family have any fun Halloween traditions? I’m feeling very nostalgic in general this year and have been remembering picking out my costumes as a kid and running through my grandmother’s neighborhood (I didn’t live in a neighborhood, LOL) with my plastic pumpkin. Some good memories there!

Choosing a Word of the Year

Choosing a Word of the Year

Although we still have 3 months left in 2023. I wanted to re-share this post on HOW to choose a word of the year now. This will hopefully spark ideas and help guide you to choosing a word for 2024. I also wanted to remind you to check in with your word this year. How has it affected your daily life? Have you noticed a shift in focus? Maybe you didn’t choose a word for 2023, it’s not too late! Or maybe you need to update your word for this final season. Whatever the case, I hope you find some useful information here.

Originally posted 12/22/22

For well over a decade, I’ve been doing the “word of the year” thing. In 2021, my word was “Intentional,” and a funny thing happened…I was getting a lot of hits on that post. But not (sadly) because people were so interested in my word. No…people were interested in CHOOSING an intentional word for the year.

For good reason! Choosing an intentional word of the year is not only fun but inspiring and aspirational. So as this old year winds down and a new one is on the horizon, I decided it may be helpful to write a bit about the practice, not just about my word in particular.

What Is an Intentional Word of the Year?

Some people make New Years Resolutions, and that’s great. I’ve done those many years, because there’s something about writing out my goals and decisions that makes me want to stick to them more than a vague “Maybe I’ll…” mental goal. But resolutions aren’t for everyone, and they’re not for every year. Still, as the calendar turns over, many of us want to recognize that this new year is something NEW. We want to set down in writing something to guide us through the twelve months to come. So if we’re not doing resolutions…what do we do?

An alternative- to New Years Resolutions is a Word of the Year. It can also just be an addition to New Years Resolutions, if you want both a set of goals and something to govern them.

In general, an intentional Word of the Year is when you choose a word that is meant to be your inspiration, aspiration, hope, goal, or motivation that will underscore EVERYTHING for you in the year to come. Maybe it’s meant to remind you of your faith or God’s promises. Maybe it’s meant to help you focus. Maybe it’s meant to reassure you throughout the year or inspire you to something greater.

Whatever your particular need or purpose, choosing a Word can help you make decisions, keep your eyes on the proverbial prize, and motivate you to keep going through challenging times.

How to Choose an Intentional Word of the Year?

But once you’ve decided to choose a word of the year, that leaves an important question: HOW?

When I first started out, I had in my head that this word had to be something from God, not something from my own mind. I would start praying about it a week or more in advance, and wait for a word to just hit me.

Sometimes it did—in a song, in my Bible reading, in my prayer, in my daily conversations.

But sometimes…it didn’t. God being silent? My heart not listening? I have no idea. But I did notice that the years I had a Word to guide me were years when I made better choices, when I clung more tightly to His promises, when I kept my focus more on His Kingdom and less on my own little (ahem) empire.

I wanted to have a word. I wanted to have a word every year. And finally I realized that I didn’t have to wait for one to “come to me.”

I could choose a word.

Okay, so I didn’t realize this from my own brilliance, actually. My best friend/critique partner, Stephanie Morrill always chooses a word deliberately. I eventually decided she had the right idea, and instead of waiting for a bolt from the blue, I started being deliberate about my choice.

There are, of course, still many options for how to pick.

Make a List

The first and most obvious way is to simply start making a list. Focus on where you feel you need to work or focus in the year to come, and then jot down different words that fall into that space. For instance, the year I chose “intentional” for my word, I’d started with a list of things I knew needed my attention like: rest, organization, time management, focus on prayer, time with my family.

Once I had a list of things that I wanted to pay attention to, I looked for the through-line and words that could capture that. “Intentional” was a fairly obvious choice for me that time. It was the one word that would govern all those things—I had to be intentional about everything from taking enough breaks to making smart use of my space.

Chances are good that your list from year to year will have a lot of the same themes, but hopefully you’ll be ever growing, so some items will fall off and new ones will come. You’ll also be exiting and entering new seasons of life, and as you do, you’ll find that your list needs to reflect that. Maybe you’ll be balancing a new baby or kids going to school or kids leaving the house; maybe it’ll be sorting through belongings before a big downsize or choosing a new career or finally working on that dream project you’ve been thinking about for years.

Whatever season you’re in, embrace that and make your list—and hence your word choice—reflect it.

Do an Internet Search

Still coming up blank or don’t feel like making a list? You’re in luck! Plenty of people have already done it for you, and you can always do an internet search for lists of good “word of the year” choices and pick one that resonates.

You can search for “word of the year generator” yourself and see if you find a site that aligns with your goals and worldview. Here are a few that turned up in my search.

Jen Fulwiler’s Word of the Year Generator

Mama Smiles Joyful Parenting Word of the Year Generator

Inspire Kinney Chaos Word of the Year Generator

Christian Planner’s Word Generator

Dayspring Word of the Year Quiz

Pray and Listen

If you’re a person of faith, you certainly can use the method I used for years, which was to pray for inspiration for a word and then seek it through that prayer, Scripture reading, church attendance, etc.

As different words resonate with you, write them down and sit with them for a while to see if they really capture something you need to focus on in the year to come. Sometimes a word will hit you so strongly that you just KNOW, and other times you may not be certain at first, so it becomes a matter of which ones sticks with you for a few days.

Once I’ve selected a Word…Then What?

So you’ve figured out which word you want to choose for the year to come. Great! But…now what do you do with it?

I’m a writer, so my first instinct is always WRITE IT DOWN. My bias aside, I think it’s a good instinct. Writing it down—whether on a sticky note, in a notebook, on an index card, in a word processing doc, or in a social media or blog post, will help cement it in your mind and heart and also give you a place to go back to on that day nine months from now when you can’t even remember why you went into the kitchen, much less what word you chose last December or January.

So write it down somewhere and put it in a place where you can’t lose it—if you chose a physical place to write it, tape it somewhere. If digital, bookmark it or put a digital pin in it.

If you’re artsy, considering making a pretty image with the word, which you can display. Or see if you can find a fun notebook or journal with the word on the front, to inspire you throughout the year. If you enjoy journaling or other writing, write a paragraph or a page or a post about why the word resonated and how you hope it will guide you in the year to come.

The idea here is to keep the word present. You want to contemplate this word frequently throughout the year, so either put it somewhere that you’ll see it regularly or consider setting yourself reminders to revisit that will pop up on your calendar. If you’ve written about it, schedule a few times throughout the year to reread what you’ve written—at the end or beginning of a quarter or season is a great time.

Some Intentional Word of the Year Suggestions

Don’t feel like visiting a generator or quiz tool and just want to browse a list? That can be a great way to see quickly what resonates with you or doesn’t! Here’s a list of some suggestions for your intentional Word of the Year:













Some of My Word of the Year Choices

If you’re looking for some context of how and why people choose the words they do and perhaps how they play out through the year, you’re welcome to browse my previous years’ choices, and then the end-of-year reflections upon them.

2022 Word of the Year: Devotion
Reflection of 2022 Word of the Year: Devotion

2021 Word of the Year: Intentional
Reflection on 2021 Word of the Year: Intentional

2019 Word of the Year: Promise
Reflection on 2019 Word of the Year: Promise

2017 Word of the Year: Overcome

2016 Word of the Year: Mine


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Thoughtful Posts

41 Things

41 Things

We’re somehow to the middle of August again … which means at my birthday again. Which, in turn, means time for another post reflecting on the year–on things learned, things discovered, things loved, things hated. Today, I turn 41. The generally-dreaded 40 is behind me, and I’m somehow still getting older despite all my insistence that I’m still young. 😉 But I love this post because it’s all about embracing the time. What has come, what has gone, what is on the horizon.

A birthday is about more than cake, more than celebrating simply still being alive. It’s about celebrating why and how and who and what. So without further ado, here are my 41 Things.

1. I’m Back!

Just before my birthday last year, I was diagnosed with a tumor on my pituitary gland. It didn’t take me long to realize that nearly all my health problems–exhaustion, weight gain, brain fog, etc–was caused by this tiny little adinoma. These things grow slowly, so it wasn’t considered urgent, and I didn’t actually get in with an endocrinologist until November. Which meant months of knowing what the problem was but not knowing how to fix it. I continued to use the keto diet to control the symptoms, until the endo did some tests, verified what kind of tumor it was, and happily informed me that it was the ONE kind that responds to medication. She wrote the prescription, I started taking it, and within six weeks, I was feeling like ME again. Energy levels back up. Yay! Within a few months, my weight stabilized. And then, glory hallelujah, my brain not only lost the fog, it kicked into full-on DRIVE. I feel more like me than I have in years. Ideas are swirling again. Stories bursting out. I’m praising God for giving me back myself.

2. Cabergoline

And that is thanks to a little tiny pill, which I cut in half and take on Mondays and Thursdays, called Cabergoline. It’s actually a treatment for Parkinson’s, but the micro-dose I take attacks that prolactinoma and kills it. I’ll continue the regimen for a couple years to make sure it really and truly goes away…and then will have to do occasional checks to make sure it’s not growing back again. Which is absolutely fine with me. Though the medication is known for a few side effects, I haven’t experienced any of them. Although it was pretty funny when the doctor asked, “Have you seen people who aren’t there or heard voices others couldn’t hear?” and my husband replied, “She’s a novelist. So…” LOL.

3. Best and Worst Month

It was a rough spring and summer for me though. The book industry is down 15-30%, and as a family who lives on that income, it’s been hitting hard. Then came the death of two of our cats (more on that later) and my step-father-in-law had a massive stroke. Our whole world turned upside down in a lot of ways. Late June-late July was ROUGH. And yet…in that valley, I found myself again. In that valley, I was nourished. In that valley, stories sprang up. One of my Patrons & Peers ladies observed that the mountaintops may be the beautiful vistas, but they’re often barren, really. It’s in the valleys that growth happens. That is certainly true of me. This valley season has been hard, the worst months of our lives in some ways…and the best in others.

4. SIX Books This Year!

Back in 2018ish, I signed two contracts for three books each, which meant 6 books due in 18 months. I did it, but it about killed me. (Okay, slight exaggeration, but I was so burned out by the last books that…well…they were awful, LOL. Both of them required heavy rewrites.) But I’ve done the same thing again in the years since, and it’s been better. So when I ended up with 5 on the schedule for this year–one more than my all-time high–I thought, “Okay. I can do this.” Then…THEN another one came along! SIX books under contract in 2023! It’s a lot. Like, A LOT. My due dates were March 1, March 15, May 1, Sep 15, Nov 1, and Nov 15. If you read that carefully, you’ll see that two sets are due within 2 weeks of each other, so obviously I have to actually get things done before those dates. As of now, I have turned in 4 of the 6. The September one is already off my plate, and I’m writing the November 1. And here’s the crazy thing…I’ve been working on an extra book too! More about that later. 😉 I’m just amazed at how in this time that could be overwhelming, I feel great and am actually overflowing with ideas and energy. A nice change of pace from years past, for sure! (And the other crazy thing? I haven’t had any major rewrites for the last couple years. So I’m not only writing MORE, I’m writing BETTER. Praise be to God!)

5. Yesterday’s Tides Is in the World!

Every book I write is special to me. But some…some have been with me so long that I can’t help but hold them in a very special place in my heart. Such is the case with Yesterday’s Tides. I wrote the first version of it the summer of 2004, when I’d just graduated from college. The idea woke me up in the middle of the night, and I wrote half a book in 3 days. Every single time I’ve worked on it over the years–and it’s undergone quite a few rewrites!–it has utterly consumed me. I was so, so excited when I came up with a way to turn it into a historical and make it my first timeslip. I ADORE the stories I ended up telling with those familiar-to-me characters but some new plot. The cover is stunning. STUNNING. And so far, sales are better than any other recent book, so I have hope that it will continue to do well. But mostly…mostly I’m just so stinkin’ excited that Louisa and Rem, Evie and Sterling are REAL now. 😉 They’re in the world. You can get to know them as I have. And so now, maybe you’ll get it when I say that every single time I’ve vacationed in the Outer Banks over the last two decades, I’ve seen Louisa there, in my mind’s eye. I’ve imagined Rem, out of place but loving it. I’ve smiled as I imagined Evie growing up on those shores. This book is so special, friends. And I’m so, so excited to finally hold it in my hands!

6. The Imposters Begins!

I’m also SUPER excited for the start of my new series! It officially begins in 8 days, but pre-orders through my store have already gone out, so I am totally counting it this year. 😉 Especially because I’ve tried some new things that I’m so excited to show you! Namely, I’m putting together tons of information, games, activities, quizzes, a fashion column…all that ties in with the world of the Imposters. Keep an eye out for it on release day! A Beautiful Disguise is book 1, and oh my gracious, it was such fun to write. I love the cast of characters…including some circus animals to liven things up. 😉 I’ve already written and turned in book 2 as well, and I cannot WAIT to dive into book 3! That will be my last contracted book of the year though, so one more to write first. 😉 Which will be…

7. Unveiled – My first lead book for Guideposts!

Ever since I wrote my first book for a Guideposts multi-author series, I’ve dreamed of someday, maybe, getting to be the lead author on one. I’ve written several test-chapters for them, and if any of those see the light of day, I would get to write that whole first book…but those are all still unknowns. Then, out of nowhere, I got an unexpected email. Another author who’d written a first chapter had to decline writing the whole book, but the series was a go. Would I step in as lead author? On a fiction series about miracles in the Bible? Um…YES!!! So my next-up book is Unveiled, for the new Mysteries & Wonders series that will begin in 2024. And I–am–STOKED! This first book is about the temple veil being torn in two when Jesus died, and I’m so excited to use that existing first chapter as a springboard and finish the story!

8. And a Christmas book!

My other “surprise” contract in the past year was for a Christmas book! Now, I have Giver of Wonders, which is sort of a foundational Christmas story, about the original St. Nick…but I’ve never written a CLASSIC Christmas book, with Christmas trees and lights and presents and sweets and all that fun stuff. But my editor at Bethany House asked if I would, and I quickly came up with a Nutcracker-meets-Downton-Abbey-with-a-bit-of-Scrooge-thrown-in idea. 😉 I wrote it in July in a mere five days and LOVE how it came together. It’s fun and light, no super stressful suspense or villainy going on, just as they requested. It’s called The Lady of Sugar Plum Manor, and the above title image is one I created for my own inspiration, not anything official. 😉

9. How about a Fantasy novel?

And here’s the real kicker, while we’re talking about all the books I’m writing this year. On vacation in June–that hard month–I came up with a fantasy idea that wouldn’t leave me alone. I took 12 pages of notes. And then, when I’d turned in one book but didn’t have to start the next until after a conference, I thought, “Well, let’s just play.” So I started it. And wrote 15,000 words in a week. Then put it aside and wrote The Lady of Sugar Plum Manor. Then had another week when I’d thought I’d still be working on that but ended up with free time, so pulled it out again. And wrote 30,000 words. This is CRAZY! And so much fun. So. Much. Fun.

The story is about a half-mer sea king of the coastal lands who is 275 years old (but physically about 25-30 in appearance/health), growing stronger every year…but revolution is happening beneath the waves among the mer, and threatening his own kingdom too. My heroine is Arden, who has always lived in the shadow of her beloved younger step-sister, Jade…but when the mer kidnap Jade, Arden will do anything to save her–even face down the king and ride one of the legendary Great Golden Sea Hawks to try to find where she’s been taken. Little do they know that the revolution beneath the waves is the trigger for a new kind of power in the world, one prophesied thousands of years before… There’s a big heap of romance, “magic” that is a combination of technology-and-God-given-gift, an anaology to the blood of Christ, adventure, mermaids (who are people who wear tails, they still have legs), and just all the things. I’m having a blast. In case you can’t tell. 😉

I’m actually going to be testing aspects of it like titles and covers and descriptions, so  you’ll all get to weigh in on what you like best! I know not all of you are fantasy-readers, but for anyone willing to give it a try, I want to know that I’m hitting all your favorite notes in all the most appealing ways. I’m super excited to start this experimenting! I even designed a rather generic cover just to test some titles out on…here’s the first one I came up with, though I have a list of twenty-some others you’ll get to vote on too!

10. Ad-Crazy

How am I going to be testing these aspects? Through Facebook ads. My husband took a huge course on running them and has been studying and experimenting all summer, and we brainstormed how to use ads and surveys for books too–not just selling, but basically using them as a focus group. No idea if it’ll work, but we’re excited to try!

11. Reader Survey

But I didn’t wait for experimenting with ads to learn more about what my readers want. I LOVE knowing you guys better, knowing what resonates, what you love and hate…so I created a rather massive survey and shared it in my newsletter and I was so suprised when I got 125 well-thought-out responses! You guys were open and vulnerable and honest, and reading your answers to my questions warmed my heart, made me cry, made me laugh, inspired me, and best of all, armed me with some great ideas of how to best serve you all. THANK YOU!!!!

12. Classes for Writers

Another new venture this year was to spin all my writing classes off onto their own website. Somehow, the domain was available (how??), so we nabbed it, took a week to make it pretty and functional, and tried out some ads there too (no luck on those so far…). The user interface is much better than my old system, and I’m excited to grow my teaching from this new home!

13. St. David’s Christian Writers Conference

I only committed to one conference this summer–I got to be the keynote speaker at the St. David’s Christian Writers Conference, which was held up by Lake Erie. You guys, I have spoken at many conferences and loved all of them, but there was such a sweet spirit at this one. I had a wonderful time, despite getting the news about my step-father-in-law’s stroke while I was there. But everyone was so supportive and kind, enthusiastic about my teaching, and just generally wonderful. Can’t wait to go back someday!

14. Landing Pages for Books

This last year I decided to start creating landing pages for all my books/series (mentioned briefly above). I have one for Yesterday’s Tides which is up and live now, of course, but the idea actually came for The Imposters series, and that was the first one I started working on. You can take a sneak peek of it now, but some of the articles may not be live quite yet. 😉 Planning the big, full reveal of it all for the book’s release!

15. Sea Glass Jewelry

I love to have tie-in products to my books in my shop…and I was happy to see that one of my favorite ideas also turned out to be a favorite of all of YOU! Since I released my Tidal Collection of sea glass prayer jewelry, inspired by Evie in Yesterday’s Tides, I’ve had to reorder countless times. The jewelry is beautiful and simple and timeless…and I do love the idea of “prayer jewelry.” The idea is that you dedicate each piece to whatever prayer concern is weighing on you at the time when you receive it. Then each time you wear it, it’s a reminder to pray for that person or concern, praise God for His faithfulness, or even pray through grief or disappointment. You can see the full Tidal Collection here.

16. An Award!

I don’t enter many contests–as in, any, if I have to be the one to do it. It’s a choice I made years ago. Still, sometimes my publishers enter me, and such was the case with Shadowed Loyalty in the Catholic Media Awards. Chrism entered me, and I was more than a little shocked when I won first place in the “Other Faith-Based Novels” category!

17. The Gatsby Tea

In May, I had the joy of being the guest-speaker for “The Gatsby Tea,” hosted by my local historical society. The tea party itself was beautiful and delicious, and then I spoke on some of the history behind Shadowed Loyalty. This was part of the society’s Gatsby weekend; the next night was a big gala David and I got to attend as the society’s guests, in exchange for that speaking. 😉 It was such a blast!

18. Princess Covers!!!!

It’s no secret. I love designing princess covers…and so with WhiteCrown’s releases ramping up, that means I’ve gotten to do quite a few of them this year! I love finding a unique look and flavor for each book and am so excited about how these have turned out!

19. New Segment

This spring I decided to start a new segment for the newsletter–something JUST for the newsletter, that wouldn’t appear anywhere else. I asked people for the first couple weeks to let me know if they liked it, and I was BLOWN AWAY by the response! Dozens upon dozens of readers replied to let me know that they loved it. Thank you all!! That encouragement came at the perfect time for me.

20. TWO Highschoolers!

For this one school year, I had two highschoolers! Kinda crazy. Xoe was a senior and Rowyn was a freshman, and I was pretty much just an overseer. So proud of them both!

21. A New Bedroom for Rowyn

Okay, so same room, but all new gear. Rowyn was finally ready to pack up all the toys, get rid of the loft-bed-with-slide, retire the desk he’d made himself from a broken bookshelf, and go for a simpler, more grown-up decor. We sold the loft bed, which paid for the new bed and desk, and he now has a very streamlined look in there.

22. Blue Hair

Xoe has long talked about wanting some colorful hair, and this last year, she finally went for it, adding blue streaks to her bangs and underneath. I was all for it, though it took some getting used to visually. I really loved the shades of blue and green it went through as it faded! We just redyed it a couple weeks ago, before she goes off to college. Which leads me to…

23. SJC Legacy!

Xoe applied to and got accepted at 2 colleges. Honestly, I thought she was applying to my alma mater, St. John’s, just as a nod to me and her dad and the old dream–she’d been saying since she was 6 that it’s where she was going to go. But it was a way stronger dream than that, and after we visited in April for Admitted Students Day, we all knew it was where she’d end up. We’re so excited for her, proud to have a “legacy” child (that’s what we call second-generation Johnnies at the school), and can’t wait to see what friends she makes, what she learns, and watch her spread her wings.

24. And a Graduation, Too!

And in addition to college acceptances, we also celebrated Xoe’s high school graduation with her! My first homeschool grad, and we schooled at home from day 1. There were ups and downs to our schooling journey, of course, but I have treasured the years of learning and teaching alongside her and am so proud of all she’s accomplished. I waxed emotional about it a post called Onward and Upward, if you missed it before.

25. OmniPod 5!

Last year I shared how Rowyn, who is a Type 1 Diabetic, was finally approved for and trained on an insulin pump, which made life SO much easier! This year he got to upgrade to the newest version, the OmniPod 5, which is one of the first “smart” pumps that can interpret the data from his continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and respond accordingly, increasing insulin when his blood sugar is on the rise and decreasing it when he’s dropping. He just started it in June, and already his A1C is down a whole point! He’s loving it, and I am so, so proud of him–he does 100% of his diabetic care himself now, aside from me helping him get his Dexcom (that CGM) onto the back of his arm. His endo is INCREDIBLY impressed with him and his control and responsibility and desperate to convince him to be a counselor at diabetes camp next year, so he can show younger kids how they too can live life unafraid.

26. Bleame

Time for my silly product plug. 😉 This summer I decided to give Bleame, a micro-crystal hair “eraser” a try. I love it. Now, I’ll be honest–there are places it just can’t get. I have a horrible time getting it to take the hair off my knees and the ridge of my shin. But that said, I still love it, because it also exfoliates, and it leaves my legs feeling SO INCREDIBLY SOFT! Every time I use it, I have to shove my leg at my husband and say, “Feel how smooth!” LOL.

27. The Plague

My family finally contracted Covid last August–our first and thus far only time. We all got it, it pushed our confirmation back three weeks, which was a bummer, and oh my gracious. I got it worse than the others, and it was just exhausting. No serious complications or anything, but I had a nasty sore throat, and it took me months to get my energy back. No fun! I’ll definitely be skipping that one again if I can help it. 😉

28. Confirmation

Despite the plague-induced delay, our family rejoiced on September 18, when we were all confirmed together (and Rowyn was baptized) into the Catholic church! It was a day of joy and smiles and laughter (though our sponsors ran into a huge traffic standstill and literally ran into the church just in time for their parts), and we are all so, so thrilled to be in this new place. Same faith, but we’ve found new depths. It’s been a beautiful journey, every step of the way!

29. Communion of Saints

Though we’ve been attending our new church for almost two years now, there were a few celebrations that we experienced for the first time in this past year. One of them was All Saints Day on November 1. This is a Holy Day of Obligation, which means we all have to attend a service either the evening before or the day of. David and I actually did both, once with the kids and once without, and it was just…beautiful. More than that. It was an important reminder that we are not alone in serving God–not now in the world, and not throughout history. We are just the most recent of generations of believers, and this day is one where we celebrate the ETERNAL family of God, and all the believers who have come before us. A line of the Apostle’s Creed states “I believe in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.” That communion part is just as important as the other pieces. Praise God that He has welcomed us all into His family, and that we serve Him with all the saints who have come before, all who live and serve with us now, and all who will come after!

30. Goodbye Sammy

In August of 2019, my husband heard a loud mewing under the bushes at our old church when he was mowing the lawn. A scraggly, tiny little kitty emerged, so filthy you could barely see her stripes. After a brief consultation, our family decided that, yes, we could absolutely take in a stray kitten, so we went over with a carrier, bought some kitten food and flea shampoo, and welcomed Sammy into the family. Over the last nearly-four years, she brought us immeasurable joy. Though we thought she was only 8 weeks old or so based on her size, the vet soon informed us that she was actually 6 months old when we took her in–she had adult teeth but was so severely malnourished that her growth was stunted. She never got big–her biggest, heaviest was 6 lbs. She was always kitten-like in both size and personality, and we laughed over her antics every day. She became a total cuddle-bug, always snuggling up on one lap or another. She really loved it when I’d wear a cardigan–she’d burrow in close to my side and disappear in the fabric. She’d spend hours sleeping like that while I worked and would let me carry her around in my sweater too.

Last spring, we noticed she’d lost a lot of weight. Both she and Ivy, one of our older cats, were congested, sneezing, snotty. I took them both the vet, and they thought it was an upper-respiratory thing, but said she could have something underlying it. To watch her weight. Well, she started gaining her weight back, and after another horrible month of snot and sneezes, she seemed better. Acting like herself again. But then she started shedding like crazy, had diarrhea…and within a week, she was gone. She died while we were on vacation (my MIL was coming down twice a day to feed them), and it ripped me apart. I loved that sweet little kitty so much, and it was horrible to come home and find she was gone.

From my reading, it sounds like she had feline leukemia, and I know that only symptoms can be treated, there’s no cure. I had to take comfort in the good years we had with her, in knowing that we gave her those years. In knowing that she was a gift to us and we to her. Still, I miss her. Our forever-kitten will forever be one in our hearts.

31. Goodbye Ivy

Less than a month after we lost Sammy, I noticed that Ivy–the other cat who’d been sneezing and snotty–had a bump beside her mouth. She’d been sneezing blood for months. I’d mentioned it to the vet, but they said it wasn’t uncommon with UR stuff in cats. So I didn’t worry. When I saw the bump, I thought maybe she had an infected tooth, because otherwise she seemed fine. Eating great, acting perfectly normal, aside from the continued sneezing.

So I took her back to the vet, and they said they’d sedate her and do a scan to see what they were looking at. They called the next day to say it wasn’t a tooth, it was a tumor that took up half her head. It curled around her eye, all through her nose, even under her tongue. The poor thing had to be in horrible pain, and they said that while there were things they could try to prolong her life, it wouldn’t ultimately do anything. She didn’t have long, and it would be miserable. They encouraged us to consider euthanasia, and to consider it quickly, because she was still sedated. They could do it then and she wouldn’t have to go through the discomfort of another round of sedation.

Our family had to make a very quick decision. Amidst many, many tears, we decided to take the merciful approach and let them do it then, before she woke up. David dug a grave while Xoe and I went to collect her. Another so-sad day, so quickly on the heels of the last.

Ivy had been my constant companion for 12 years. She was “my” cat. She was always wherever I was. She slept at my feet. She woke me every morning, purring beside my face. She was always on my desk, on my lap, right beside me. While Sammy was all cuteness and kitten energy, Ivy was all loyalty and affection and constancy. I miss her every day too. I can’t believe that in the course of a month, we went from 3 cats to 1. But here we are. Left with years of memories, anyway.

32. Parents

This summer my mother-in-law was working a lot of hours, and by the time she got home, she rarely had energy to cook. David mentioned that she wasn’t eating well, so I started taking dinner up to her whenever I cooked. It was a simple thing, an easy thing, and I liked knowing that we could so easily help take care of the woman who had taken care of David for so many years, and who had opened her property to us. Then at the end of June, David’s step-father had a massive stroke. He and my MIL had divorced several years ago, he has no other family, so David was the one on whom the burden of this fell. He was the one making medical decisions, driving 3 hours each way to visit him three times a week, listening as he struggled to regain his speech, arranging care…it was hard. In many ways, nothing else got done that month for David. And it took a toll on him, I won’t lie. But I also loved seeing him put everything else aside to take care of the man who had chosen to be his father. They’d gone through a rough couple of years, but he put that aside. And his stepdad saw it, appreciated it. He’s recovering well now, and I’m praying he continues to do so, and that somehow, through this horrible thing, good will come.

33. Patrons & Peers Creative Retreat!

Last October, some of the P&P ladies and I got together in Georgia for a creative retreat. It was a bit experimental, and some of the people who had planned to come ended up sick and unable to travel, but even so. We had such a wonderful time that within a day we were already planning the next one.

During the day, we all pursued our creative goals–some of us wrote, two quilted, one painted. We fixed and enjoyed dinner together and spent the evenings fellowshipping. We took walks and talked and laughed and planned. It was SUCH a wonderful time!

This year, our retreat will be in Avon, North Carolina–beach! WOOT! We’ll have the house for a full week, but we split most of the rooms up with a mid-week turnover, so that people could just come for a half week. We still have a few spots available! 😉 If you’re interested in joining us for this time of creativity, reading, beach-going, and fellowship, you can still get in on the fun by subscribing to the group (there are some very small entry level options there) and then signing up for the trip! Travel is on you, but food and lodging are included. =)

34. The Expanse Books

Our family had watched the Expanse television series on Prime and thoroughly enjoyed it. David quickly gobbled up all the books too, but I kept putting off reading more than the first one because they’re just so LONG. LOL. Finally, over Christmas, I said, “Hey, how about we listen to the audio book together?” So we turned it on…and a new tradition was born. Over the next six months, David and I listened to all of the books together. It was such fun to experience them together, to get to talk about each chapter as we finished it. They were great reads (and listens), though definitely NOT Christian, so keep that in mind. They’re science fiction and such amazing storytelling! So, so glad we read them together!

35. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

On the way home from vacation this year, we turned on the first Harry Potter audio book and listened to it as a family. I’ve read all the books but no one else in my family had, so we thought it would be fun. And it definitely was! Perfect length for our trip, too. 😉 We then watched the movie together a couple weeks later, and I’m plotting when we can listen to the rest. =)

36. Rereading (listening to) Twilight

For the last, oh, eight or so years, I’ve been thinking that someday I’d like to reread the Twilight Saga. I really loved them back when I first read them way back when, and I was curious what I’d think of them now. But honestly, I never reread books. I don’t have time. BUT…I do relisten to books, or listen to ones I’ve read before. It’s a whole different experience, and also uses different time. I listen while I drive, exercise, and do chores. Times I definitely can’t be reading. So I’ve listened to the first two and am in the third now and am enjoying them all over again. Pretty sure my thoughts have changed a bit, but even so. I can still appreciate now what I did then. And I’m having fun revisiting what had been such a sensation all those years ago. 😉

37. Moscato

I have never had a moral issue with wine–Jesus not only drank it, after all, making it was his first miracle! But I’ve never liked wine, or any other alcohol. I love the bottles, the colors…just not the taste, LOL. My MIL got some sparkling Moscato for New Years a couple years ago, though, and I discovered that I actually like it. Probably because the alcohol content is ridiculous low. 😉 It’s a sweet, bubbly white, and my husband (who does like wine) likes that we finally found something I’ll share with him. So now every other week or so we get a bottle of Castello del Poggio and share it over the course of a week. I also discovered I can handle a bit of amaretto too! I don’t like much, but a half-ounce or so is lovely now and then.

38. Duraflame in the Fireplace

Last autumn, a tractor trailor packed with Duraflame logs caught on fire on our portion of interstate, and the place where my MIL works received a ton of damaged boxes to sell at deep discount. She snagged a bunch of them for us, and we started using them in our fireplace in the evenings while we listened to those audio books together. Such a pleasant way to pass our winter evenings!! I’m of course sorry about that fire, but I’m pretty happy that it resulted in a couple years’ worth of cheap logs for us to use. 😉

39. Recipes

I’ve really enjoyed adding recipes to the website this year! There have been times when I’ve thought being a recipe blogger would be fun, but I never actually wanted to give up all my other stuff to really do it. When I thought of a way to incorporate it into my existing stuff though, featuring tie-in recipes to my books…yay! I have a whole list of recipes I intend to add as time permits, and just a few weeks ago I was doing some testing for an all-new recipe to include in the back of The Lady of Sugar Plum Manor. Can’t wait to share it with you all!

40. Website Redesigns

This last year I not only gave my website a new look, which I love, I also just did a refresh of the look of WhiteFire’s store page, READ. We’ve got new deals, new looks, and we’re excited to connect with some new readers! So, you know…check out the bundle deals we offer there, and the fresh look of the pages too. 😉

41. Blunt Bob Is Not for Me

I’ll end on a light note. 😉 I love a good bob hairstyle. Over the years, I’ve tried pretty much all of the variations. All except the blunt-edged bob. So I decided to give it a try, ignoring the dubious look on the face of the hairdresser I’ve gone to since I was six. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, what I neglected to realize was that the blunt bob is great for people with fine or thin hair–it adds volume. But, um…I have incredibly thick, textured, full-of-body hair. Sure, I could get it to look okay in that picture up there–but it took a lot of work with a flat-iron to convince that bottom not to pouf out like a triangle, LOL. Lesson learned! I can do a stacked bob, a classic bob, a tapered bob, an asymmetrical bob…but no more blunt ends for this girl!

And there’s my list! I hope you enjoyed traveling through my year with me. It’s been one of some crazy ups and downs…mountaintops and valleys…hard times and good times. I’ve experienced incredibly joy and unexpected pain. There have been financial hardships, emotional hardships, blessings beyond compare, and lessons learned and savored. Year 40 is one I won’t soon be forgetting, that’s for sure.

I pray that this next one will be one where we grow ever closer to the Lord. Where He shows us where our paths will take us next. Where we’ll see Truths about Him and each other, and enjoy all the discoveries that come along our Way.

Thank you all so much for being part of my life!

Reproached and Redeemed

Reproached and Redeemed

My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

I led you out of Egypt,
from slavery to freedom,
but you led your Savior to the cross.

For forty years I led you
safely through the desert.
I fed you with manna from heaven,
and brought you to a land of plenty;
but you led your Savior to the cross.

What more could I have done for you?
I planted you as my fairest vine,
but you yielded only bitterness:
when I was thirsty you gave me vinegar to drink,
and you pierced your Savior with a lance.

For your sake I scourged your captors
and their firstborn sons,
but you brought your scourges down on me.

I led you from slavery to freedom
and drowned your captors in the sea,
but you handed me over to your high priests.

I opened the sea before you,
but you opened my side with a spear.

I led you on your way in a pillar of cloud,
but you led me to Pilate’s court.

I bore you up with manna in the desert,
but you struck me down and scourged me.

I gave you saving water from the rock,
but you gave me gall and vinegar to drink.

For you I struck down the kings of Canaan.
but you struck my head with a reed.

I gave you a royal scepter,
but you gave me a crown of thorns.

I raised you to the height of majesty,
but you have raised me high on a cross.

My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!*


We weren’t there, standing outside the courts of Pilate and shouting, “Crucify Him!” We weren’t there in the Praetorium, striking Him and spitting on Him and whipping Him. We weren’t there on the hilltop, mocking Him and telling Him to save Himself.

We weren’t there. But our sins were. Our pride. Our unbelief. Our doubt. Our heresy. Our judgment. Our scorn.

Our sins stained the air. The weight of them bore Him down upon that cross. They separated Him from His precious Father in a way nothing had ever done before. Because He was fully human, we know He asked why. Why? Why were the people He loved so much treating Him this way?

And yet, even in that horrible wonder, even as He yearned for it to be different, He made the choice not to save Himself…so that He could save us. We delivered Him to the ultimate pain, the ultimate humiliation, the ultimate sorrow…and He used it for our redemption.

He gave us the world. We gave Him the cross. And then by that cross, He gave us heaven too.

Lord, I am unworthy. And yet, by Your blood, made worthy. Blessed be the name of the Lord.


*Taken from the traditional Good Friday Reproaches (Improperia)

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