Q&A with Tracie Peterson and Mary Connealy!

Welcome to the Wild West! In our releases this month, Tracie Peterson takes us to the real-life history of the Oregon Trail, and Mary Connealy brings us the second Boden sibling to find love. I asked Mary and Tracie to share a few inside details with readers so you can look forward to adding both of these to your TBR pile.

Amy: Describe your main characters for me.

Mary: Justin is the rancher. He’s especially in conflict with Cole, the older, more citified brother. For Justin, I wanted a heroine who really clashed with him. So I brought in a very dainty woman who’d been raised in elite, moneyed circles in Omaha, Nebraska. A rich father, a rich husband, and none of them kind and loving people. Justin is drawn to Angelique DuPree, but sees her as a woman who needs “civilization.” And who has no ranching skills, no kitchen skills. She is the worst possible choice to be a rancher’s wife in the rugged West. Angelique is driven by the notion that she has been a weakling all her life. She let her mother rule her, then later her husband, and it all led to poverty and hardship and a life without love. She is determined to stop obeying blindly and find the courage God expects of her.

Tracie: Grace is a healer who has learned the art from her mother and grandmother. She’s also rather prejudiced and opinionated. Her love interest, Alex Armistead, is running from the past and God. He’s determined to remain lost in the Oregon Country wilderness, but his heart has other ideas. As he and Grace clash, both come to learn that they have changes to face and that real love is there for them—if they are brave enough to accept it.

Amy: How did you pick your setting?

Mary: I took a trip to Chama, New Mexico, several years ago for a writers’ retreat, where we all rode a train on a narrow-gauge railroad. That train took us through the area I’m writing about. What amazed me were the desert-like conditions, and yet the grasslands, all brown and dead-looking, the tour guide said was lush and cattle got fat on it. It helped me to see that rocky soil for its real value—with the mountains rising up around us, covered in Aspen trees that seemed to grow right out of the rock. In fact, this has helped me see past the reputation of many places and understand how people can live, often comfortably, in what seems like a forbidding land, if they can just learn to live with the land instead of imposing the life they came from on a place that won’t support that.

Tracie: When I planned Treasured Grace, I wanted it to incorporate several actual historical events. The attack on the Whitman Mission was a fascinating one that played a big role in the way the government dealt with the Indians of the west for years to come. Frustrated and dealing with the deaths of loved ones, the Cayuse Indians of the area had reached their limit of cooperating with the whites—Dr. Marcus Whitman in particular. There were quite a few diary accounts of all that happened at the mission, making it nice for me as a writer to create as accurate a fiction novel as possible.

Amy: What themes come up in your novel?

Mary: The Boden family began for me with Jacob and Esau and this notion of how badly Jacob and Esau were treated by their parents, Isaac and Rebecca. The mom loved and favored Jacob. The father favored Esau. Deep differences in character between Jacob and Esau also put them naturally in conflict. That has always bothered me. I’ve known parents who had their favorites, bragged on one child and disparaged another, left more money to the favored child, things like that. So the seed of my story was: What if instead of spurring on the conflict between their sons, Isaac and Rebecca had done everything in their power to bring their sons together? Chance Boden is determined that his children will be close, will realize they love each other, and that the conflict between them is nothing compared to their loyalty to each other, as well as the connection they share as future owners of the ranch. Chance goes to some extreme measures to get his children to be friends. The conflict and the love between them continue to clash and grow in Long Time Gone.

Tracie: As with all of my books there was a desire to speak to the matter of forgiveness, but in this story there was also the element of trusting God when all seems lost—trusting Him even when bad and undeserved things happen. I also wanted to create a story where there were serious consequences for my characters—consequences for actions put upon them and not actions they chose for themselves. People so often struggle with the pain and life-changing situations that are thrust upon them because of things done to them. I wanted to present a story that would show the reader that even when those things are done, we can trust God to bring beauty from ashes.

Just for fun, let’s have a giveaway! I’ll pick one winner to receive Mary and Tracie’s new books on Monday, April 3. To enter, just respond to this question: Why do you think people are drawn to stories about the American frontier?

Author Roundtable: What We’re Thankful For

With Thanksgiving coming up next Thursday, I decided to ask our five authors who have books releasing in November and December a few questions about gratitude. Enjoy! (And be sure to pray for them…these months are especially crazy with a book release added to normal holiday busyness.)

12228-MULTI DIVISION thanksgiving memes_fiction

Amy: What is one “small thing” you’re thankful for, not necessarily the larger blessings like family or freedom?

Ronie Kendig: I’m really thankful for the many vibrant colors of fall, which reminds me of variety (people, foods, idiosyncrasies, flavors) and that everything has a season.

Patrick Carr: I’m thankful for my co-workers’ quirky senses of humor

Regina Jennings: I love my little creamer that I got as a wedding present. I use it every Saturday morning to hold the hot syrup when I’m having my coconut pancakes. It’s the perfect size and it feels genteel.

Nancy Mehl: I love to lie in bed at night and listen to my husband and my dog snore lightly. To know they’re there and I can reach out and touch them makes me feel safe and thankful.

Julie Klassen: With a deadline approaching, I’m thankful coffee doesn’t have calories!

Amy: What is a favorite verse that comes to mind regarding gratitude, thanksgiving, blessings, or the goodness of God?

Ronie Kendig: “Enter his gate with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!”— Psalm 100:4

Patrick Carr: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”—Romans 8:28

Regina Jennings: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” – James 1:17 (NKJV)

This verse reminds us that everything good is a gift from God, but the best gift is that He does not change. Other gifts might age and wear out, but God doesn’t grow old, weak, or out of date. His goodness is eternal.

Nancy Mehl: “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”—Matthew 19:26.

It comforts me to know that no matter how dark things look, or how difficult a situation seems to be, God can deliver me and bring victory. Knowing this makes me want to jump and shout and praise my wonderful Heavenly Father!

Julie Klassen: As a mother of teenagers, I admit I sometimes worry. When I do, I am thankful for the reminder in Philippians 4:6 (NLT): “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”

Amy: How do you remind yourself to take time to be thankful during the start of a busy holiday season?

Ronie Kendig:  I immediately lower my expectations—of myself and of others—about what should be done or given, and I focus on what’s important: friends and family.

Patrick Carr: I focus on the fact that being WITH is far more fun than buying FOR.

Regina Jennings: The one aspect of the holidays that I dread is shopping. How do I turn that around? While at the mall or the shops, I just look around at all the stuff and think how grateful I am that our needs are met. It’d be awful to actually need everything that crowds those shelves. Contentment is the gift that makes other gifts unnecessary.

Nancy Mehl: We try to find someone to bless during Christmas, and this helps to remind us what Christmas is all about. But honestly, since my husband and I moved to Missouri to be near our son, his wife and now our two grandsons, it isn’t hard to be thankful. Being around them makes us so grateful to God for His wonderful blessings!

Julie Klassen: I don’t always remember to, so this blog post is a good reminder to be thankful. Thanks!

winterbooks

Your turn readers: what’s one “small thing” you’re thankful for?

Christmas Snapshots, Part Two

Christmas is almost here! Enjoy a quick break from your many activities (including last-minute shopping, anyone?) and read about some of our authors’ favorite Christmas memories and traditions.

“To help focus my children on the real meaning of Christmas, I put a slip of paper that lists an activity in each pocket of the advent calendar. The activities are things like Red and Green Day, Luke 2 day, Candy Cane Day, Wise Man Day, etc. We do fun activities that center around the theme of the day and focus on the meanings behind the traditions.

The Hedlund family on Wise Man Day.

The Hedlund family on Wise Man Day.

“For example, on Red and Green Day we eat red and green foods and wear red and green clothes, but we also talk about what red stands for (the blood of Jesus shed for our sins) and green (the new life he gives us). For Luke 2 day, we get out our nativity set along with reading Luke 2 (the birth of Jesus). The entire month of advent activities is something my kids look forward to every year and makes the Christmas season more about Jesus and less about us.”

Jody Hedlund, author of Love Unexpected

MateerCookies“One of our most treasured traditions is making Christmas cookies with all the cousins. My mother still hosts this event at her house, with the 10 grandchildren that live in the US all in attendance, even though four of them are now in their 20s! After rolling the dough, cutting out the shapes and baking the cookies, every kid decorates as many or few as they want. Nana and Papa get to keep one from each grandchild, but the rest are taken to their homes to enjoy. Such a fun time to gather with family in the midst of our busy lives!”

Anne Mateer, author of Playing by Heart

“When I was a child, my family always spent Christmas at my grandparents’ house. All the kids would wake up early and rush to the living room to see what was under the tree. However, we were never allowed to unwrap anything until the adults were up and breakfast was eaten. The one thing we were allowed to dig into was our stockings, where we discovered fun new toys and candy and activity books to keep us entertained. When my husband and I discussed which Christmas traditions to hand down to our own kids, stockings were at the top of my list. I love to cross-stitch, so I cross-stitched stockings for Wes and I and for each of our children before their first Christmas, making the tradition even more meaningful. I still get a thrill when I rush out to the living room and see what “Santa” put in my stocking. It’s my favorite part of Christmas morning.”

Karen Witemeyer, author of Full Steam Ahead

The Witemeyer mantle.

The Witemeyer mantle.

“Christmas of 1994 loomed as possibly my saddest holiday ever. Since my husband and I were expecting our first child in early January, we couldn’t travel home to see my family, and they had decided to wait and visit once the baby was born. Then on December 18th, when I saw a beautiful new baby girl at our church Christmas party, I declared, ‘I want my baby in time for Christmas.’

Christmasbaby

 

“My wonderful daughter, Christiana Rose, complied immediately, and I went into labor late that night. She was born three weeks early, perfect, and she made it home in plenty of time for Christmas.”

Dina Sleiman, author of Dauntless

Your turn: what is a Christmas that stands out in your mind because of something special that happened?

Christmas Snapshots, Part One

What says, “Christmas” to you? Is it the sound of the Salvation Army bell-ringers outside the grocery store? Maybe the smell of pine or a ham baking in the oven. Or maybe it’s the glow of candlelight inside the church for the Christmas Eve service. We all have certain memories associated with this time of year, and I asked our authors to share some of theirs, either an annual tradition that they look forward to every year or a particular Christmas that stood out to them. I hope you enjoy their stories!

Wade_Becky“My kids and I make Christmas cookies together every year. I typically let each of them pick a recipe that they’d like to make with me individually. Then we have a few (like gingerbread) that we either a) make together or b) I make alone if the kids have lost interest and wandered off. Once all the cookie baking is done, we divide the cookies up, attach a ‘Merry Christmas from the Wades’ note, and deliver the packages to our neighbors and friends.”
Becky Wade, author of Meant to Be Mine

The Wade family with cookies!

The Wade family with cookies!

Turano_Jen1“Before my parents passed away, it was my tradition, no matter where I lived, to travel back to my hometown of St. Clairsville, OH. Even after my son, Dominic, was born, we would fight the crowds at the airport and fly from Denver to Ohio, braving the weather and delayed flights, and even having the supreme enjoyment of flying out on Christmas Eve one year–something I would not recommend doing with a three-year-old. But, once arriving at my mom’s house, a sense of peace would wrap itself around me, and there was always a great sense of being home as I gathered with my brothers and sisters in the living room, a room that certainly seemed to shrink as all of us married and had children.

TurnaoChristmas2“Those children allowed us to share the traditions of our youth—ice-skating on the little pond, sledding down the hill behind my parents’ house on an aluminum toboggan (which was never very comfortable but always had to be done), or setting up the trains my mother loved as a child, and watching the awe on the children’s faces as the train smoked and chugged its way around the track.

My son Dom as a little guy--yes, I did have him wear this outfit on the plane to Ohio.

My son Dom as a little guy–yes, I did have him wear this outfit on the plane to Ohio.

My siblings, Dad, and I at my grandparents' house.

My siblings, Dad, and I at my grandparents’ house.

“After my parents died, I found it next to impossible to dwell on those memories, and Christmas changed for me, not for the worse, mind you, but it was just different as I started new traditions in Denver, having no reason to travel back to Ohio. I had not been able to pull out those memories, nor pull out the boxes and boxes of pictures until just this year. To my surprise, (and I must admit, relief), I was not sad in the least over what each box revealed, but thankful to have tangible proof of some of the fabulous Christmas memories that I’ll always have to cherish, even if my parents are no longer here on this earth to cherish them with me.”

Jen Turano, author of A Match of Wits

GOULD_Leslie1crop“The real meaning of Christmas comes in unexpected moments for me, no matter how hard I try to focus on it. Last year it came in a century-old, candlelit church I visited with my oldest daughter. After a sermon about Immanuel—’God with us’—it was time for communion. As I drank the symbolic wine, the image of Christ’s blood mixing with my own overwhelmed me, followed by the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit. I’d never felt the story of God—born as a babe, sacrificed as a man, risen as a savior, and always with me in spirit—so acutely. It was God’s best gift to me last Christmas and one I’ll always treasure.”

Leslie Gould, author of Becoming Bea

Bylin_Victoria1“It wouldn’t be Christmas without my grandmother’s almond crescents. Each year she made hundreds of them and gave them as gifts in special foil boxes. I remember being five years old and helping her. They’re delicious, but the best thing about these cookies is the fun of making them with people you love.”

Nana Bylin’s Almond Crescents

1 lb. butter or margarine
1 c. sugar
4 c. flour
2 tsp. vanilla
½ lb. whole raw almonds
Powdered sugar

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Cream butter and sugar. Use a food processor or blender to grind the almonds into a coarse powder. Add ground almonds and vanilla to the bowl with the butter and sugar. Mix well. Add flour. I usually start mixing with a spoon and end up mixing with my hands. Shape into small crescents.  Bake 25-30 minutes.

Bottoms are usually light brown. I let them cool on the cookie sheets, and the bottoms brown up a little bit more.  Let cool, then roll in powdered sugar.  This makes about 10 dozen, but it varies tremendously with “crescent” style.

Victoria Bylin, author of Until I Found You

And, if you’re looking for more Christmas recipes, Anne Mateer is sharing some quick-and-easy holiday bars on her website, and Dani Pettrey has some delicious-looking coffee drinks based on some of her characters’ favorites. Check them out!

Your turn: what first jumps to mind for you when someone asks for a holiday memory?

Advice for a Simpler Christmas, Part Two

Ever have the feeling that Christmas has gotten just a bit out of hand? If you’re like me, you have the best of intentions: this year, I will slow down and focus on the real meaning of Christmas. Sometimes, though, life just gets in the way.

To help you (and me!) out, some of our authors sent in practical tips for simplifying your Christmas. (Check out last week’s post on the same topic!)

Bunn_Davis“For the first several years of our marriage, my wife and I were ‘required’ to spend our Christmases with family members who did not believe in God.  For them, the entire process revolved around a cultural event, and the holiday’s commercial side.  As a result of this, our desire to focus on something else has remained a core ingredient of the season.  And this ‘something else’ is the key.  What we have found is that to simply say, ‘no’ to commercialism isn’t enough.  There needs to be an alternative, some great and interesting project or date or event that is big enough, and fun enough, to make the absence of commercialism really not matter so much.  Each year now we plan on some big event that we can see as our Christmas.  This year, for the first time in twelve years, my mother has felt well enough to join us.  We are arranging for her and my sister and her husband and their two daughters to all come down and have a Christmas eve dinner in the Polish tradition.  My wife is first generation American, both her parents were Polish.  The Polish celebration is focused upon Wigilia, a twelve-course meal without meat.  It will take us two days, possibly three, to prepare.  And it is this preparation, as much as the event itself, that forms for us the Christmas season.”

Davis Bunn, author of The Patmos Deception

Nancy with little Aidan.

Nancy with little Aidan.

“On Christmas Day two years ago, our lives changed forever. God gave us the most wonderful Christmas gift, our first grandchild, Aidan Jackson Mehl. Almost a year later, my husband, Norman, and I sold our home in Wichita, Kansas and moved to Missouri so we could be near our son and daughter-in-law and be involved in Aidan’s life. Blending families has meant that many of our long-held Christmas traditions had to change. But we’ve discovered that traditions are all about family, so adjusting them so we can watch this wonderful little boy grow up isn’t painful at all. It’s a joy”

Nancy Mehl, author of Gathering Shadows

Austin_Lynn1“One holiday season when my children were young, I grew stressed as I saw Christmas and my book deadline rapidly approaching. I longed to create a perfect Hallmark Christmas with homemade cookies and gingerbread houses but I could see that I was going to have to simplify. I asked each family member to choose one holiday tradition that was special to them, and we would do it. Surprisingly, they chose simple, uncomplicated things like watching a favorite Christmas movie together or driving around to look at the neighbors’ lights. No one asked for cookies and gingerbread houses. It became our tradition to each choose one special activity to do—and they could choose a different one each year. In the end, keeping only a few special traditions made each one seem even more fun.”

Lynn Austin, author of Keepers of the Covenant

These blog posts are your official permission to stop. Slow down. Take a few moments to pray. Breathe a little. Cross a few things off your to-do list, not because you’ve completed them but because you don’t have to do everything.

I promise: Jesus will still feel sufficiently celebrated even if you don’t make all possible types of baked goods, attend every holiday party, or imitate each Advent tradition you’ve ever heard or read about.

At the end of the day, rehearsals and presents and decorations aside, the baby is still in the manger. And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Emmanuel. God with us. Let’s keep it simple, because there is a beauty in that simplicity, and it has the power to change the world.

What is one thing that helps you focus on Jesus at Christmas time? (A song, a tradition, a verse?)

The Music of Christmas

If you listen closely around this time of year, you can almost always hear faint jingle bells or distant strains of Irving Berlin. There’s just something about music that creates atmosphere, stirs emotion, and teaches deep truths in a way that nothing else can. Some of our authors are on the blog today to share how these songs have been a part of their Christmases.

Also, we love this idea: take a clear glass ornament, remove the top, and fill with lines from your favorite carol (print from the Internet so you don't have to shred a hymnal!).

Also, we love this idea: take a clear glass ornament, remove the top, and fill with lines from your favorite carol (print from the Internet so you don’t have to shred a hymnal!).

Peterson, TracieHands down, Handel’s Messiah has always been an important part of my Christmas celebration and memories.  I was born into a musical family, so music was always important, but there was something about Handel’s music set to Scripture that touched me deep inside.  We had a local church that would have a community singalong of Handel’s Messiah each Christmas, and there were a couple of occasions that my mother and I attended.  It was an amazing time, and though most of us weren’t trained vocalists, it was some of the most beautiful music I’ve even known…and a wondrous time of worship.

Tracie Peterson, author of Steadfast Heart

ThomasChristmas

Sarah and her father.

I have a weakness for Christmas carols. I’ve been known to sing them at the top of my lungs while hiking (alone!) at just about any time of year. I have favorites—”The Cherry Tree Carol,” “I Wonder as I Wander,” “The Ballad of the Christmas Donkey”—but my VERY favorite is “Up on the Rooftop.” When we were kids, Dad would lead us in sing-alongs whenever we traveled around Christmas, and he’d make up verses for each of us. Something like: “Here comes the stocking of little Sally (his pet name for me), oh dear Santa what a tally, give her a dress that whirls and twirls, and then you can give her hair some curls.” We’d beg for verse after verse, throwing out the names of family, friends, and made-up acquaintances. And Dad always came through with a rhyme.

Sarah Thomas, author of Miracle in a Dry Season

Jagears_Melissa1My favorite Christmas song is Downhere’s “How Many Kings,” and if I’m playing a Christmas album it’s likely to be this one. I’ve always been fascinated by the Wise Men, which may be part of the reason why I wanted to start a new tradition with my family and start celebrating Epiphany since the Christmas season has morphed into nothing much more than a get-together with presents. I also think the reason why I love this song is that it goes beyond the wise men to sing of the ultimate romance—a divine King’s love for the undeserving.

Melissa Jagears, author of A Bride in Store

And, finally, a song recommended by one of our readers in last Thursday’s blog post, “Carol of the Bells.” (This is one of my favorite versions.)

Do you attend a special musical event around Christmas? If so, what is it?

Advice for a Simpler Christmas, Part One

Are you feeling just a little frantic this December? It’s a busy time of year, and with so much to do, it can be easy to be stressed during a season that’s supposed to be about “peace on earth.” Some of our authors are here to give practical advice on ways to slow down a bit this year at Christmas.

One of our decorations in the Bethany House library.

One of our decorations in the Bethany House library.

Mitchell_SiriIt’s always been difficult for me to enjoy Christmas because there’s just so much to do. When I found myself cooking the traditional batch of family candy all by myself one year, I began to think that maybe some of “our” Christmas traditions might not really be all that important to anyone else. My advice for a simpler Christmas? If it doesn’t give you joy and no one else in the family cares, then stop doing it! Eleven months’ worth of happy memories shouldn’t have to be crammed into one month every year.

Siri Mitchell, author of Love Comes Calling

CAMDEN_ElizabethI’ve often heard people suggest a halt to gift giving is a great way to simplify Christmas, although it is perhaps easier said than done. One easy gift solution for adult friends and family is to select an item from one of the many religious groups that sell homemade goods to generate revenue.  Handmade soaps, jam, candles, or candy make for inexpensive but still useful gifts, all while helping support the people who have given their lives to help lead our religious orders. I usually order a caseload of a single item, and then everyone on my list gets a jar of jam or a similar modest gift. If you don’t know of any religious groups that sell such products, Monastery Greetings is an online website hosting dozens of monasteries, convents, and seminaries which sell their homemade goodies. Happy shopping!

Elizabeth Camden, author of With Every Breath

Nathan Ham Photography|www.whataham.comOne way to keep the holidays simple is to decide upon one special event that will create a memory for the family to enjoy. Rather than rushing around and attempting to “do it all,” sit down and discuss some ideas with your family.  The event needs to vary depending upon the size and age of your family, but here are a few ideas: Have a family or special picture taken that will be treasured later in life; go to a Christmas play or musical that your family can enjoy together; go sledding or ice skating together if you live in a cold climate; drive around town and look at the variety of holiday decorations and then go out for a special meal; have the family help you make holiday treats so you’re creating memories as well as cookies—and if you can all decide upon someone to bless with those treats—all the better. Whatever you decide upon, make certain you find time to enjoy each other as you celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Judith Miller, author of The Brickmaker’s Bride

If you had to keep just one Christmas tradition, which would you pick?

Author Roundtable: Garden Favorites

Did you know that the lovely bouquet you’re eying in the florist shop could actually contain a secret message?

Well, not today, maybe. These days, a rose is just a rose. But in the Victorian era, young people would use the commonly accepted meanings of flowers to express their feelings for each other. (Pity the poor suitor who didn’t know that yellow tulips meant “hopeless love” or that snapdragons meant “deception or presumption”!)

Here are a few of our authors’ favorite flowers and their corresponding Victorian symbolism.

Becky Wade: Geraniums

GeraniumMeaning: True friendship

Kimberley Woodhouse: Tulips

TulipsMeaning: Declaration of love

Jen Turano and Elizabeth Camden: Sunflowers

SunflowersMeaning: Loyalty

Ann Tatlock: Violets

VioletsMeaning: Faithfulness

Melissa Tagg:  Daisies

DaisiesMeaning: Innocence, hope

Nancy Mehl: Irises

IrisMeaning: Faith, wisdom

Ann Mateer: Gardenias

GardeniasMeaning: You’re lovely, secret love

Regina Jennings: Zinnias

zinniasMeaning: Thoughts of absent friends

Dee Henderson, Leslie Gould, Kate Breslin: Roses

RosesMeaning: Love

Mary Connealy: Daffodils

DaffodilsMeaning: Respect

Here’s a fun idea: Look at the meanings of certain flowers and think of friends who fit that description perfectly. Then buy seed packets of those flowers and mail them to your friends with a note about why this particular flower and meaning made you think of them. (Zinnias are always good for a “Thinking of You” card!)

What’s your favorite flower, and what does it mean? (There are some variations in meaning from place to place, but most of these I found here and here.)

Our Authors’ New Year’s Resolutions

Happy 2014, everyone! In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, I sent to following question to several of our fiction authors:

If you had to pick one fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) to work on in 2014, which would it be?

tablespoon.com fruit

For me, of course, the answer was simple. I mean there’s . . . but also . . . and what about . . . hmm. Maybe all of them?

To help me narrow down my choices, I read what our authors had to say. Here is how they responded:

Janette Oke

Oke_Janette

All needed. All should be developing daily. I would love to see each one of them in my own life: plump, and rich in color, and ripened to the tastiness they were meant to be. To pick one—it would be love. Because love is needed for each of the others to develop to full potential. Delicious possibilities!

Siri Mitchell

Mitchell_Siri

Patience. I think that as a fruit of the Spirit, it’s highly underrated. Mostly people just kind of skip over it for the more “righteous” gifts, but we live in such an impatient world. It’s easy to get caught up in the “right-now” culture, but really, impatience is making yourself and your needs more important than everyone else’s. So patience is what I’ll be working on this year.

Lisa Wingate

Wingate_Lisa

This being the empty nest year of my life, I think mine would be joy. As a mom who always loved being a mom and loved all the routines that go with being a mom, I’m working on finding joy as life turns a corner. When one (dorm room) door closes, another door opens.

Kathryn Cushman

Cushman_Katie1

Self-control. It’s a constant struggle in almost every area of my life. It’s the main reason my favorite verse is Psalm 9:10, “And those who know Your name put their trust in You. For You, O Lord, have not abandoned those who seek You.”

Laurel Oke Logan

OKE_LaurelAndJanette1

I tend to be a passion-driven person, so I would like to balance that with more self-control.

Melissa Tagg

Tagg_Melissa1

I think faithfulness—although, let’s be honest, I really could stand to use some work on patience and self-control, too. But I feel like in the past year or so, God has constantly been reminding me of His faithfulness . . . there is something so amazing about that constancy. It makes him dependable and trustworthy. I would like to be that way as much as possible in my own life: faithful, dependable, constant.

Leslie Gould

GOULD_Leslie1crop

I’d pick joy! We live in a broken world, but God’s redemption is evident everywhere. In nature. In humans. In art. In stories. I want to be aware of that redemptive work and rejoice in that beauty. I want to delight in creation and relationships and knowing God is ultimately in control.

Victoria Bylin

Bylin_Victoria1

Kindness, definitely. I work part-time in a doctor’s office. Every day I see people going through hard times. A little extra consideration—opening a door, getting someone a tissue—goes a long way to brightening that person’s day. It brightens my day too! We all need help now and then. It’s a fact of life.

Karen Witemeyer

Witemeyer_Karen1

Self-control. That sweet tooth of mine just keeps insisting on having its own way, and I give in far too often.

Kate Breslin

Breslin_Kate1

I could certainly work on them all, but I’ll choose faithfulness. As a new author, I’ve experienced a lot of “firsts” in publishing, both exciting and challenging; to keep my faith constant that all will work according to God’s plan is a blessing to strive for!

Lynn Austin

Austin_Lynn1

Peace. I would like to get to the place where all of the disturbances in life, major and minor, don’t ruffle my composure or make me lose sleep.

Dani Pettrey

Pettrey_Dani

Joy. It’s been a difficult couple of years with a lot of loss, but also with a ton of good. Isn’t it funny how God brings joy in the midst of heartache? This year, I’d love to dwell on the joy and praising God for it.

Melissa Jagears

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Love—I’m really busy at the moment and my kids and husband and other loved ones need to know that I love them. God too. And so I need to make sure I carve out enough time to show them in 2014.

Patrick Carr

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I’d choose them all! If I could only choose one, it would be self-control. This last year with work (I’m a teacher) has been such an eye-opener, and the change in perspective has been difficult but very worthwhile.

Anne Mateer

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Definitely joy. I have a tendency to get bogged down in all I have to do or things that are going on in my life and forget that the joy of the Lord isn’t dependent on my circumstances but on what He has done for and in me.

R. J. Larson

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I would choose love. I hope to reflect true and boundless love for everyone in this fallen world, even when some people challenge ideals I cherish, or threaten those who are vulnerable. Practicing and reflecting love also helps me as I pursue the other fruits of the Spirit.

Elizabeth Ludwig

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Patience. No doubt. I am not a patient person, and reminding me of that only makes me more impatient. Thank goodness the Lord does not grow weary with me. He’s got to shake his head every time I forget to put on the fruits of the Spirit.

How about you? Pick a fruit, and tell us a little bit about why you chose it.