Posted in all things Christmas, Christmas

All things Christmas: favorite songs of the season

It’s that time of year again…time for all things Christmas!

The first installment features favorite Christmas songs and carols of the season. Perfect for any playlist, these awesome songs (in no particular order!) are a mesh of classics and newer sounds all designed to put us in the Christmas spirit. What is your favorite song or carol?

Please join me next week for another all things Christmas post. Until then, enjoy!


Joy to the World – Lincoln Brewster

Light of Christmas – Owl City (Featuring TobyMac)

Winter Wonderland – Newsboys

This is Christmas – Kutless

Best Christmas Ever – Newsong

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – Mikeschair

Hark the Herald Angels Sing – Rend Collective

Gloria – MercyMe

Angels We Have Heard on High – Reliant K

Marshmallow World – Francesca Battistelli

Born is the King It’s Christmas – Phillips, Craig & Dean

What Child is This – Building 429

Silent Night – NeedtoBreathe

Redemption – Mikeschair

Hark the Herald Angels Sing – LIncoln Brewster

We Three Kings – Building 429

Go Tell it on the Mountain – Newsong

Suddenly – Phillips, Craig & Dean

Mary Did You Know – Kutless (my personal absolute favorite rendition)

Joy – Selah

Little Drummer Boy – Lincoln Brewster (featuring KJ-52)

All I Need for Christmas – TobyMac (featuring Terrian)

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – MercyMe

Best Christmas Ever – Newsong

Jingle Bell Rock – Jeremy Camp

Oh What a Glorious Night – Sidewalk Prophets

Jingle Bells – Colton Dixon

All I Want for Christmas is You – Newsboys

12 Days of Christmas – Reliant K

He Shall Reign Forevermore – Chris Tomlin

Offering (Christmas Version) – Paul Baloche

Little Drummer Boy – For King & Country

Little Drummer Boy – Lincoln Brewster featuring KJ52 (a super fun and energetic version)

Christmas Like a Child – Third Day

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Christmas Eve / Sarajevo

Oh Come, O Come Emmanuel – Phillips, Craig & Dean

Holly Jolly Christmas – Group 1 Crew

What are some of your favorite Christmas songs?

Posted in family/marriage, Growing in the Lord

Thankful for the small things…

It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is upon us. Christians everywhere will be giving thanks to the Lord for His goodness, His protection, and His Sacrifice on the Cross so we could have eternal life.

As I reflect on the past year, I think of the many things I am grateful for—Jesus Christ as my Savior, my husband, my daughters, extended family, friends, health, home, and employment. Sometimes, though, we only think of the “big” things we are thankful for like those things I mentioned above.

What about the seemingly “small” things we are thankful for that we sometimes overlook? Below are a few that came to my mind in no particular order:

I’m thankful for water. According to World Vision, “Globally, 844 million people lack access to clean water”. How many times do we go to the faucet and grab a glass of water without giving it a second thought? Praise God that when we are thirsty, that thirst can be easily quenched.

water

I’m thankful I can breathe. According to WebMD, millions of Americans have breathing problems, including asthma, allergies, COPD, and lung disease. This hits home, as multiple people in my family struggle with lung and breathing problems. How many times do we take it for granted that we can easily take a breath? That we can breathe freely and uninhibited?

I’m thankful for the ability to read. According to uis.unesco.org, “Despite the steady rise in literacy rates over the past 50 years, there are still 773 million illiterate adults around the world, most of whom are women”. Whether they were never taught or suffer from a learning disability, there are a high number of people who cannot read. Yet, I read things every day and don’t give it a second thought that some people don’t have that ability.

I’m thankful for those who risk their lives each day to bring the Good News to those around the world. We in the United States so far face minimal persecution when it comes to sharing our love for Jesus. Our missionaries in other nations are not so fortunate. As I read The Voice of the Martyrs website, my eyes were opened to the sacrifices our Christian brothers and sisters make each day to share the hope of eternal life with the lost around the world.

I’m thankful for food to eat. A couple of years ago, my husband and I were both diagnosed with multiple food allergies. At times, it can be a challenge to find things to eat, especially at restaurants. Yet, so many people in the U.S. and around the world have no food to eat —at all. They would love to only have allergies to a handful of foods—if it meant they had food.dinner

I’m thankful I haven’t been involved in a devastating hurricane, earthquake, or tornado. Several years ago, we suffered severe exterior damage to our home and vehicles during a bad hail storm. When we returned home from our vacation, our yard looked as though it had suffered a major catastrophe. Tree limbs were everywhere, our garden and fence were ruined, the new siding and roof on our house destroyed, and two of our vehicles totaled.

A few days after the hail storm, our church was seeking volunteers to assist with the devastation caused by a deadly tornado in the southern part of the country. As our family discussed being a part of this outreach, I was overcome with gratefulness and humility that it was only a relatively minor hailstorm we were dealing with and not a horrific storm where lives had been lost.

I’m thankful for dirty dishes. Yes, you read that right. I know, most people wouldn’t say “thanks” for the sinkful of food-corroded crusty dishes from last night’s dinner. However, I am thankful because if I didn’t have those dirty dishes, I wouldn’t have had food to feed my family. Same goes for dirty laundry. While it may not be my favorite task, I’m thankful we have clothes to wear, and therefore, clothes that get dirty.

I’m thankful for my church family. Sometimes I forget how blessed I am to belong to the Body of Christ and how thankful I am that I can walk through the doors of my church and learn about the Lord and share fellowship with other Believers. What is also amazing are the connections made through social media with Believers around the world. I have a prayer ministry on Twitter that allows me to pray for my brothers and sisters across multiple continents in their time of need.

We need each other. We need fellowship. Hebrews 10:25 reminds us just how important meeting together is and that we need to continue doing so. First Thessalonians 5:11 says it well, Therefore encourage one another and build each other up”. We are to come alongside each other, assist each other through difficult seasons, and pray for one another.

church

I’m thankful I can see and hear. As I sit typing this, my girls are in the kitchen laughing about something. Thank You, Father, that I can hear their joy! I’m thankful for sight too – the snow-capped mountains in the distance and the puffy white clouds in the sky are such a testament to His Creation. I’m also thankful that the Lord opened my eyes to see my need for Him!

That’s a shortened version of “small” things I’m thankful for. As I look back on my list, I realize they’re not “small” things at all, but big and important things.

What are you thankful for?

From my family to yours…Happy Thanksgiving!

Other posts on this blog that may interest you:

16 songs to add to your Thanksgiving playlist

15 verses for strength in challenging times

10 ways to encourage others

12 verses to encourage the burdened heart

scriptural antidotes for fear

Movie Monday: Beautifully Broken

11 verses of hope

10 encouraging blog post excerpts from the past 10 months

Posted in about my books, about the books, Book News, Growing in the Lord, miscellaneous

Writing Update: When One Door Closes

In Love’s New Beginnings, one of the main characters, Solomon Eliason, struggles with whether or not he’s where God has called him to be.

Have you ever wondered the same thing?

Yesterday I received an adorable gift from one of my awesome readers, Beth. She’d read my book, Hollyhocks, and found a stuffed animal that was an exact replica of Aunt RudyBee, one of the characters.

I started thinking about God’s plan for my writing career and how He has been with me every step of the way, even in times of doubt, and there were many.

In 2004, when I published Hollyhocks, I thought for sure God was planning to have me write children’s books. And continue as a photojournalist, a career I’d undertaken after I quit my career in social services to stay home with my young daughters.

But God had other plans.

In 2005, He redirected my path when a small publisher picked up a nonfiction book I’d written. Later, in 2008, when my second nonfiction book, 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference: Ideas and Activities for Serving Others, was released by Beacon Hill Press, I figured God was leading me along the path of nonfiction. After a flurry of TV appearances, speaking engagements, and numerous radio interviews, it was all but confirmed. Plus, I was still writing nonfiction articles for my photojournalist job. Surely nonfiction would become the gig God wanted me to follow, right?

But God had other plans.

After a door closed on the next nonfiction book, I wondered where God was leading me. Did He even still want me to write?

My family was involved in a serious car accident that, only by His hand, we walked away from it with minor injuries. While I was recovering from those injuries and back-to-back bacterial infections, God redirected my path.

Toward Christian romance.

As I recovered from the injuries and infections, I began to write a historical romance novel, and soon McKenzie became more than just an idea in my mind. After much prayer, I reached out to a publisher. Whitaker House accepted McKenzie and contracted me, not for one, but for three books in the Montana Skies Series. Kaydie and Hailee soon followed.

But then there was a lull for a while after the series. Was God still leading me to write historical romance?

In 2013, I secured an agent, and in 2017 and 2018, I was blessed to be a part of two Barbour Publishing novella collections.

But then there was another lull. What were God’s plans for my writing? During this time, our family had been through a lot. I almost lost my husband after open heart surgery for a hereditary heart condition. The hospital who operated erred and my husband ended up with only one functioning lung. There were also a plethora of other health-related issues, including covid and shingles. My husband also lost his job of nearly two decades.

God is faithful and He brought us through that extremely stressful time in our lives. I’d given Him my writing to do with as He wished when I penned my first book.

But what were His plans?

The wait was hard.

In late 2021, the most exciting thing happened. After an extensive amount of time, Love Under Construction, my contemporary Christian romance novel was released and was the springboard for a barrage of books published in 2022. Historical romance has always been my first love, with a side of Christian contemporary romance, of course.

I recently entertained the thought that God might be calling me to write Christian romantic suspense in addition to historical and contemporary, and two novels were born. But after a couple of very obvious closures on big projects, I again wondered where He would redirect me.

I have those two suspense novels, and I do believe they will see publication someday, but for now, God has kept me on the path of historical romance with a side of contemporary romance.

And I’m fine with that. One hundred percent.

I seek to do what He calls me to and impact lives for Him through my writing. Historical romance is my favorite to write and favorite to read. I pray it’s His will for me to hang-out in the late 1800s (and early 1900s, as is the case for Love in Disguise).

The Lord has closed doors and He has opened them. I’ve received numerous rejections, but He blessed me with the opportunity to release six books in 2022.

And through it all, I pray that I glorify Him with every word written. My prayer is that readers see Him through the words I write.

And speaking of readers, none of this is possible without you.

So what’s next on the agenda? Lord willing, Love’s New Beginnings (Wyoming Sunrise Prequel) will be released on December 13 and Dreams of the Heart (Wyoming Sunrise Series#2) will be released March 7.

When I look back on the past several years of writing, God’s fingerprints on this journey have been evident.

No matter where He leads me in my writing, I pray I heed His direction.

Posted in for the family, miscellaneous, Music, things to do this month

16 awesome songs to add to your Thanksgiving playlist

Need some awesome songs to add to your Thanksgiving playlist? Check out the list below, in no particular order, of songs that express gratitude or are just plain fun.

Every Good Thing by the Afters

Happy Dance by MercyMe

Thank You Lord by Chris Tomlin, Thomas Rhett, and the Florida Georgia Line

Good Life by the Young Escape

Family Table by the Zac Brown Band

God Gave Me You by Blake Shelton

Take it All In by Group One Crew

Stretchy Pants by Carrie Underwood

Thank God for Something by Hawk Nelson

Gobble Gobble by Matthew West

Life is Beautiful by the Afters

Thankful For by Adam Sanders

The Day After Thanksgiving by Brandon Heath

It’s Thanksgiving by Nicole Westbrook

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

Mashed Potato Time by Dee Dee Sharp

Before you go, here are some other posts you may enjoy:

10 encouraging blog posts from the past 10 months

book news and giveaways

how to be a Godly leader

seeing the potential

the power of prayer: surviving Papa’s driving

it’s release day for Freedom’s Flight

10 ways to persevere through these challenging times

Posted in the scripture series

11 Verses of Hope

Things are more stressful than ever. Unemployment, inflation, a nation in decline, illness, disease, and the list goes on. How can we find hope in this crazy world? Below are 11 verses from God’s Word that provide encouragement and hope and remind us to rest in Him no matter what we face.

Things are more stressful than ever. Unemployment, inflation, a nation in decline, illness, disease, and the list goes on. How can we find hope in this crazy world? Below are 11 verses from God's Word that provide encouragement and hope and  remind us to rest in Him.
Posted in Saturday Spotlight

Saturday Spotlight: South Dakota Foreman by E.V. Sparrow

I am honored to host author E.V. Sparrow for the Saturday Spotlight. Her story South Dakota Foreman was included in the anthology Heartland Treasures, which, by the way would make a perfect Christmas gift. Read on for a behind-the-scenes look at the anthology as well as details about E.V.’s forthcoming release with Celebrate Lit.

Please welcome E.V. Sparrow!

About the Author

Many of my fourteen anthologized short stories stem from experiences abroad. As a Christian historical fiction writer, my stories guide readers to encounter God’s unexpected presence with characters of fragile faith. Witnessing their struggles and triumphs creates a variety of emotions in readers. The most common comment is, “I never know where you’ll take me!”

Do you think God has a sense of humor, and loves creating joy? I do, and infuse my stories with quirky characters doing daily life. This year, Celebrate Lit and I signed a 3-book contract. Hallelujah! My debut Christian historical fiction novel (1866-1919), is laced with engaging characters inspired by my witty Irish family. It’s slated for release December 5, 2023.

Behind the Scenes: About the Anthology Heartland Treasures

The editors and I connected via Facebook in 2019. An author friend in my critique group referred me to their ad for short stories in their Heartland Treasures anthology published in January 2020. I’d been writing short stories for five years, and always searched for new opportunities.

Their Heartland Treasures compilation required stories which took place in our country’s heartland. My grandfather was born and raised in Iowa, then in South Dakota. He was my only connection to that region. Then, I recalled a story he told me when he was in his 90s. His story shocked me, because it didn’t sound at all like the white-haired, reserved, religious man I’d always known.

Kristine Kercher and Jan Verhoeff loved South Dakota Foreman, and hallelujah, they sent me a contract. My critique group told me I’d found my niche. It was my “best story.” It was my thirteenth published story.

I learned so much about fictionalizing true stories, dialogue with an Irish brogue, and enjoyed the project more than anything I’d previously written. The characters and research process catapulted me into writing a three-book historical fiction series inspired by my grandfather, his Irish father, and other relatives.

Last month, I signed a contract for that series with Celebrate Lit! The first book, Muldoon’s Misfortunes, is set to release in August 2024. I’m so excited, and hope all my readers fully enjoy my characters and their wacky misfortunes which lead them to a deeper faith in God.

The Blurb

What is it you like to read? We have collected a delightful selection of stories by a variety of authors to include in our anthology of Heartland Treasures. Whether you’re looking for Historic Romance, a bit of the Old West, a Time Traveler, a Flight of Fancy in a hot air balloon? Or maybe you’d prefer to stroll down memory road? Perhaps, you’d rather meet the regulars at the local diner, or have a pastry at the Bookstore? In all the amazingness of a single book with a delightful, colorful cover indicating something intriguing might be inside, you’ll find all of these and so much more…

The stories in these pages will lull you into the moment, deep into the characters, to a time gone by, or a day yet to come. The thrill of the moment, or a walk along the rails. Your adventure begins on the next page. Let the authors of these stories bring you into their world: John Davis, David Dockter, Oris George, Krystine Kercher, Heidi Kortman, Jude Kandace Laughe, Lisa M. Prysock, E.V. Sparrow, Jan Verhoeff, and Mishael Witty.

You won’t want to miss a single word!

Posted in making a difference, miscellaneous, Patriotic

A Special Thank You to All Our Veterans!

veteran's day

Today we celebrate Veteran’s Day and remember all of those who fought and continue to fight to keep our country free. My grandfather was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War. I still recall his stories of those wars and how he contracted malaria while in the Philippines and was stabbed with an ice pick there and nearly lost his life. I remember his stories of  long train rides where he and his fellow soldiers had to stand the entire distance in cramped quarters. My cousin, Jim, proudly served in the Iraq War, and my uncles, father-in-law, and cousin also served.

A man I once interviewed, Tom Bell, was a member of a B-24 bomber crew in World War II.  During the interview for my book, Wyoming Treasures, (Medallion, 2005),  Tom told me “It’s a pretty fearsome thing to face death every two or three days for one week after another.” He would later succumb to an eye injury “We were flying to bomb an airfcraft ball bearing factory…it was one of the most heavily defended areas in Europe and the flak was very bad…We were flying at 25,000 feet, it was 40 below zero, approaching the target, and my bombsight was all ready. As we approached, I took one last look out, and as I did, a German piece of flak hit me and blew my right eye out…Plexiglas had also hit my left eye and one piece had been embedded in the cornea.” Fortunately a gifted doctor at the Mayo Clinic was able to save Tom’s left eye so he would still have sight from one eye.

Another man I had the honor to interview was also a World War II Vet.  John “Ace” Bonar was drafted into the War in 1943 and served for three years in Europe with the 86th Combat Division, known as “Black Hawk,” following the Battle of the Bulge. “It was a dangerous time. I was scared for my life all the time,” Ace told me. He recalled a particularly harrowing time. “‘The eight-eights [German anti-tank weapon] almost got us.’  A noise that sounded like thunder, produced by a large and dangerous weapon, shook the ground and reverberated in John’s direction.”  [Even decades after the War] when John heard thunder, “he relived the days when the sound was much more than a weather condition.”

So it is to you—veterans of all the wars in the past and those still happening today—thank you! We appreciate you and vow never to forget what you did for us and how you sacrificed your lives for us.

To our soldiers serving today—no words can ever express our gratitude to you. May God bless you and keep you safe. May you return home safely to your families and may we never forget the sacrifices you make daily to protect the citizens of the United States.

Happy Veteran’s Day!

Posted in for the family, homeschool, Miscellanous how-to, motherhood, Patriotic, the importance series

how to instill in your children the importance of voting

Voting has always been an important part of our family’s heritage. My grandma, Nanie, was the trusted investigator for our entire extended family, which included five families, all with the same political leanings.

Months before the election, Nanie would thoroughly investigate to determine which candidates in all of the races, from local, to state, to federal, espoused our same belief system in the things that were important to us. My mom and dad showed my siblings and me the importance of voting, as neither ever missed an election and a chance to exercise their freedom and privilege of voting.

So how do we model the importance of voting to our children or grandchildren?

  • It’s never too early. From an early age, take your children with you when you vote, if possible. My girls, from the time they were in our double baby-jogger stroller, accompanied me to the polls.
  • Express your beliefs and values with your children. Discuss the criticality of voting for those who share your morals and beliefs. What’s most important to you? Where do you stand on life vs. abortion? The Second Amendment? Religious liberties? Taxes? The role of government? Immigration? What type of candidate do you want to see in the role of leadership? Why?
  • Encourage your children to ask questions. When they are adults, they will have their own opinions, but you can set the foundation for the values you hope they will emulate.
  • Don’t shy away from the hard questions. Your kids are growing up in an increasingly difficult and hostile world. Things we’ve never seen before have suddenly become commonplace. Don’t be afraid to open up the lines of communication, especially with tweens and teens.
  • Go over the sample ballot with them. Our local newspaper prints a sample ballot each election year. Our family sits at the dining room table and discusses the objectives of the candidates, based on public forums, debates, and the candidates’ websites. Our daughters weigh in on who they would vote for if given the chance.
  • Engage in a mock election. When I taught Constitutional Literacy at our local homeschool co-op a few years ago, we had a mock election on everything from the president down to the city council. We conducted it like a real election—discussing the candidates’ views on the hot-button issues. Each of my students voted in private. We then tallied the scores and watched in coming weeks to see how closely they resembled the real outcome.
importance of voting 2.png

Modeling truth and aligning your beliefs with the Word of God is critical. When your children are grown, they will make their own decisions. What they choose is not up to you, but giving them the tools to make informed choices is.

Nanie still thoroughly investigates all the candidates and gives us updates, although now her five children, 11 adult grandchildren, and numerous great-grandchildren (thirteen of whom are adults) all live spread throughout the United States. I’m thankful for the time she took then and now to ensure we knew the importance of voting.

Other posts on this blog you may enjoy:

14 things for girls to consider before dating

why I’m proud to be an American

Book News and Giveaways

6 suggestions for getting through the rough times of life

10 encouraging blog posts from the past 10 months

what’s in a name?

Posted in about my books, book giveaways

four (soon to be five) awesome giveaways just in time for Christmas!

I’m excited to announce several awesome giveaways just in time for Christmas. Enter one or enter them all! You could win books and more books, two Amazon giftcards (one is for $500!), or a Wyoming Christmas ornament.

Entering is super easy and you can get numerous entries for each giveaway.

Scroll down to the bottom for more giveaways!

Win a copy of any of the following of Penny’s books (ebook or paperback) and a $25 Amazon gift card for yourself or someone on your Christmas list. (20 possible entries available).

Choose from the following books:

Forgotten Memories

Love in Disguise

Love Under Construction

Love from Afar

Love Unforeseen

Enter for your chance to win a Christmas in Wyoming fun pack, which includes a signed copy of Forgotten Memories (or gifted Kindle ebook), a beautiful Wyoming keepsake ornament, and a spiced mug mat and tea. (22 possible points). Wagon is not included.

Wooden wagon in graphic is not part of the prize and is not included. It is a prop only.

I’m joining with a group of amazing authors where you could win 10 books. You won’t want to miss this giveaway! It doesn’t “officially” start until November 6, but as a reader of this blog, you get first dibs and can enter early!

Contest ends November 12, 2023.

And if you haven’t yet entered to win a copy of Love’s New Beginnings gifted to you on Kindle the day it releases, be sure to enter this one too!

The small print for the above giveaways:

The small print for the giveaways above:

Open only to U.S. residents.

The Christmas in Wyoming includes a copy of Forgotten Memories, the ornament, and the spiced mug mat and tea only.

The wooden wagon in the graphic is not included.

Contests have a variety of end dates. Enter soon!

One winner for each giveaway chosen at random by Rafflecopter.

Winners will have 10 days to respond with their mailing addresses. If there is no response, an alternate winner will be chosen.

Celebrate Lit’s 5th Annual Thankful for our Readers Multi-Author Giveaway

Love books? Love Amazon gift cards? You could win all of the books in the graphic below including Love from Afar or a $500 Amazon gift card! This contest just started, but only goes for seven days, so be sure to enter soon.

Thank you for entering these wonderful contests. I can’t wait to see who wins!

Join me Thursday for my regularly-scheduled blog post.

If you’d like to keep updated on future giveaways, be sure to bookmark Book News and Giveaways.

Posted in miscellaneous

In Memory of Stacy T. Simmons

I just found out that a dear sister in Christ and fellow author, Stacy T. Simmons, died after complications from a surgery she had last week. This was so unexpected. Stacy was a sweet, sweet godly woman, an amazing writer, and so genuine.

We were praying her through your surgery, and it seemed all was well and that recovery was imminent.

Stacy was back to encouraging fellow writers, sharing posts, and was super excited about her new book. She was a guest on my blog just this past week for her latest release Christmas at the Cotswolds.

She is with Jesus now, and someday we will see her again. But my heart breaks for her family. Please uphold them in prayer.