inspiration Posts

The Best Habit to Cultivate When Joy Is Eluding You by Dandi Daley Mackall

Tyndale Kids

Katy wore her purple jersey proudly, thrilled to be part of the Dragons. The thump, thump, thump of a dozen practice balls echoed in the gym.

I watched my daughter smile at every player on the basketball court, even those on the opposing team, the Bears.

“Go, Ka—Dragons!” I shouted from the bleachers. Katy had coached her dad and me not to cheer, “Go, Katy!” Only, “Go, Dragons!”

She jogged out of sight. When she returned, she was pushing a wheelchair with a man I judged to be about forty, twice Katy’s age. He was wearing a Superman T-shirt, and his smile matched Katy’s.

I didn’t think he was on either team, but I wasn’t sure.

A whistle blew, and athletes were introduced as they ran to center court to the cheers of the crowd. Brian skipped onto the court, hands clasped above his head as if he was already the champ. Leslie pranced out, looking paler than the snow we all drove through to get here.

And Craig. Too shy, or frightened, to join his team on the court, he paced just out of bounds until Katy ran over and took his hand, leading him out as far as he’d allow.

Unable to help himself, my husband yelled, “Go, Katy!” She shook her head at him. Someone shouted, “Play ball!”

Katy didn’t come off the bench until third quarter. Even then, she couldn’t get her hands on the ball because the Dragons’ two best players were ball hogs.

Poor Katy ran up and down the court, arms outstretched, pleading for the ball. The boys paid no attention.

But it was obvious that one boy on the Bears team couldn’t keep his eyes off her. Each time they passed on the court, he stopped and smiled, mesmerized.

Someone passed him the ball. The kid’s smile turned back to Katy. He handed that ball to her.

Confused, Katy glanced up at us and shrugged. She returned the Bear’s grin, then shot the ball. Nothin’ but net!

It was the only shot she made all year. The gym erupted in shouts of joy. Even the Bears and their parents cheered.

The Dragons trailed by one. Katy had the ball with two minutes left in the game. Then a wonderful thing happened. Katy walked toward Craig, who still paced the out-of-bounds lane.

The gym hushed as Katy stepped out of bounds and took Craig’s hand.

The clock ran out, but nobody moved. Craig tried to squirm away, but Katy held on until he stepped across the line. She put the ball in his hands, and his arms sprang as if on coils. He missed the backboard. But the bleachers emptied, with both sides cheering their hearts out.

Every person in that gym experienced true joy, shared joy.

And I prayed that God would show me how to share joy in other areas, instead of competing for only one joy—mine.

That evening in the gym, joy poured out of me abundantly, spontaneously. But the truth is that joy doesn’t always come so easily.

Sometimes I find myself wishing that parenting a child with special needs brought with it more moments of straightforward joy. Or perhaps that my joy looked more like other people’s joy.

I knew a couple of weeks after Katy’s birth that she wasn’t developing the way other babies did.

By age two, she required speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.

When she was three, she lost 40 percent of her hearing overnight and was diagnosed with nephritis and Alport Syndrome, a nasty neurological disorder.

I don’t recall feeling joyful as other moms chatted about their precocious toddlers.

I do remember my daughter, big grin and wide eyes, rushing home after kindergarten one day and shouting, “Guess what! Allyson can tie her own shoelaces her own self!”

She was ecstatic, but my first thought was: And you can’t.

Why is it easier to share the sorrows of others than it is to share their joy?

I’ve always marveled at Mary’s relative, Elizabeth, wife of Zachariah and mother of John the Baptist.

When Elizabeth received a visit from Mary, the future mother of the Messiah, wouldn’t Elizabeth’s natural response have been, Why not me? I’m from the priestly line of Aaron. I’m married. Zachariah is a priest and would make the perfect father. God considered me righteous. Yet my son will not consider himself worthy to tie the sandal straps of your Son? Jesus must increase while John decreases?

Instead: “Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, ‘God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.’” (Luke 1:42-44, NLT)

Elizabeth was overjoyed because she shared Mary’s joy.

And it’s not an accident that Katy is one of the happiest people I’ve met.

She gets more than her share of joy . . . because she, too, shares other people’s joys.

I am still learning from Katy.

Perhaps we all can.

Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy. Philippians 2:18


Dandi Daley Mackall is an award-winning author of nearly 500 books for all ages. She is winner of the Helen Keating Ott Award for Contributions to Children’s Literature, ECPA Children’s Book of the Year 2015, the OCIRA (International Reading Association’s) Hall of Fame, the Edgar Award, ALA-YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, Mom’s Choice Awards, and others. She was a missionary behind the Iron Curtain (the basis for Eva Underground). Her new book, Larger-Than-Life Lara, is a unique and multilayered story for young readers, with equal parts humor and angst. The central character, Laney, communicates the art of storytelling as it happens while weaving an unforgettable tale of the new girl, whose Christlike kindness and forgiveness transform the entire class…until nobody remains unchanged, not even the reader. This is a powerful and emotional story.


This piece was originally written as a guest post for Ann Voskamp’s blog. Ann is the New York Times bestselling author of The Wonder of the Greatest Gift, The Greatest Gift, and Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.  

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A Glimpse into an Author’s Life After the Novel Hits Shelves – A Guest Post by Author Jolina Petersheim

Today on the blog we are very excited to welcome back debut author Jolina Petersheim. Jolina joined us here in February for the beginning of her publishing experience as her “book baby” was born, sharing with us the bumps and surprises along her journey.

We’re pleased to have her back today as her first novel, The Outcast, hit shelves this July. In Petersheim’s intriguing retelling of the Hawthorne classic The Scarlet Letter, we meet Rachel Stoltzfus. Raised in an Old Order Mennonite community, this strong-willed single woman is fully content living apart from mainstream society until whispers stir the moment her belly swells with new life. Refusing to repent and name the partner in her sin, Rachel feels the wrath of her religious sect as she is shunned and eventually coerced into leaving by her brother-in-law, the bishop. But secrets run deep in this cloistered community, and the bishop is hiding some of his own, threatening his conscience and his very soul. When the life of Rachel’s baby is at stake, however, choices must be made that will bring the darkness to light, forever changing the lives of those who call Copper Creek home.

We have the pleasure of hearing from Jolina as she welcomes us into her neck of the woods, providing a glimpse into the whirlwind life of an author post–published novel. In addition, Jolina is offering one lucky winner the chance at a great giveaway. See below for details!

~*~

The glass tea dispenser fractured fifteen minutes before The Outcast’s launch at my family’s business, Miller’s Amish Country Store, leaking the precious meadow tea my best friend had spent three hours boiling down to an amber-colored concentrate.

Always cool under pressure, I threw open the door to the store and charged past the baked-goods shelf, startling the customers who had chosen this inopportune moment  to pull my mother aside and ask to order one of the barns she sells.

“I need a pitcher!” I screamed, then grabbed a glass vase and dumped out the synthetic flowers. “The dispenser broke. Tea’s everywhere!”

My mother’s employee cried, “Don’t use that vase! It’s cracked!”

So I set it back on the counter. My best friend said, “Go grab a bucket from the house!”

I sprinted through the storage room, slammed open the storm door, and darted toward the house. I seized a glass pitcher hiding under a stool in the kitchen, scrubbed it in the sink, and took it back to my best friend. She was on the front porch of the store, shaded by the awning, carefully ladling meadow tea into a plastic pitcher. She stopped when she saw my wild eyes and sticky hands.

“Go get dressed,” she commanded, waving the emptied ladle at me. “We’ve got this.”

I nodded and went running back toward the house. I pulled on the white sundress that I’d ironed but that already bore a stain from being hauled next to the whoopie pies. I dragged a brush through my hair.

Earlier, a good friend who’d been a few grades below me in high school had offered to do my hair. But when she appeared in the doorway—brandishing hair spray and a curling iron—I looked at the clock on the nightstand and said, “Maybe we can just spray it?”

“Whatever you need,” she said.

So I threw my head over and she sprayed it. Then she helped me put on a slim gold headband and brushed out the strands.

I thanked her, slipped on some heeled sandals, grabbed my necklace, and went clattering out the door.

My husband, who had just arrived with our one-year-old daughter, was leaning against my car while talking to my mother-in-law and father.

I kissed my mountain man (who’d even thought to put bloomers under our daughter’s dress!). Then my father pointed to a vehicle that had just pulled into the parking lot. “Who’s from Illinois?” he said.

“Karen Watson!” I yelped, naming Tyndale’s acquisitions editor. I was more than excited to meet her, but a rare surge of shyness kicked in and I went tearing (in heels) up the back steps of the store. In the storage room, I tried breathing and untangling my necklace with shaky fingers. It wouldn’t work.

The friend who had fixed my hair came into the storage room and offered to help untangle the necklace. I gladly handed it off to her, smoothed my limp hair and my now-wrinkled dress, parted the curtains of the store, and went out to greet our new arrivals.

My wonderful high school English teacher was there, holding a colorful bouquet of flowers. She was standing beside her sweet daughter and a few other friends. I gave them hugs and then saw Karen Watson. I felt all of my nervousness disappear. She was smiling the warmest smile possible, so I went and gave her a big hug as well.

“I’ve been to this store!” she said, spreading her arm to indicate the wrought-iron bed draped with postage-stamp quilts and the shelves lined with homemade candles and soaps.

“You have?” I asked.

“Yes!” Karen laughed. “It’s in your book!”

I thought, Just don’t tell my mother she’s Ida Mae.

I asked everyone if they would please follow me outside because we were actually holding the signing beneath a rustic pavilion that my best friend had ornamented with a sheer, vintage curtain and a chandelier (see why I keep her around?).

Feeling less frazzled now, I went and sat at the signing table, festooned with a vase of sunflowers and a picture of my Plain grandmother, Charlotte Mummau Grove Miller.

I greeted a few guests and signed their copies of The Outcast, and then—in the midst of the crowd—I saw two of my friends from high school. One of them I hadn’t seen in almost ten years.

We all hugged and I smiled up at my longtime friend, my eyes filling with grateful tears. She leaned down and said in her typical sassy fashion, which I love, “If you start crying, I’m gonna pinch you.”

So I started laughing instead. The threat to my mascara temporarily avoided, I saw my agent, Wes Yoder, striding up to the pavilion while wearing a straw hat, just like he’d promised he would.

I went running over and gave him a hug. We chatted for a few minutes, and then my friend from high school pulled me aside. She gently spun me around and said, low so no one else could hear, “Your dress, it’s unzipped.”

“What!”

I felt her hand on the zipper, and then she zipped it about six inches up my spine. If my face weren’t already beet-red from the heat, I would’ve blushed. At least I was wearing an undershirt.

Jolina and friends at signing

The rest of the book signing went more smoothly: light salads and sandwiches were eaten and cups of meadow tea consumed (though one Southerner did ask for more sugar); I signed a basketful of books; people stayed around just to mingle and listen to the hymn sing performed by—you guessed it!—my saintly best friend, her husband, and her father.

At the end of the night, I sat barefoot on a stool, wolfed down a chicken salad sandwich, and unwrapped half a whoopie pie that someone had discarded in my emptied book basket. (They must’ve mistaken it for a trash can.)

I took a bite of dessert and mulled it around. The whoopie pie was delicious, almost decadent, but definitely a little gooier than I remembered. My best friend and I had worked together on the whoopie pies. And we’d been talking so much—catching up on life while standing barefoot in her kitchen, the scent of simmering mint hanging thick on the air—that I kind of lost track of the cups of flour I had already dumped into the bowl.

I held up the whoopie pie and asked my mother-in-law, who—having an Amish heritage—is the queen of shoofly pies and whoopie pies alike, “Do ya think I used too much flour?”

She hesitated a moment, then smiled and nodded. “That’s why they got so big.”

Laughing, I polished off the whoopie pie and wiped my sticky fingers on my skirt.

Maybe I’ll figure out baking and this fancy-pants authoress thing tomorrow.

~*~

Thanks, Jolina, for letting us “attend” your author event through your story. Sounds awfully fun (and delicious!).

As a special giveaway from Jolina, we have a chance for one lucky reader to win this beautiful handcrafted magazine basket.

Basket Giveaway

To enter, please leave a comment with your name and the title of the fiction book that’s on your nightstand or e-reader right now. And don’t forget to come back to the blog next Friday, July 26, when the winner will be announced!

Interested in The Outcast and meeting Jolina?

Visit her website for information on upcoming book signings and events. Scroll down to the bottom for news on upcoming events.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tyndale Fiction’s Thoughts On: Great Inspirational Quotes

Afternoon, all! It’s funny that despite how immersed we are on a daily basis in words and phrases, there are still some outliers that stay with us long after spoken or read. No matter the genre—from inspirational stories to historical fiction to police dramas—an eloquent phrase will burrow into my mind and resonate. One of the most beautiful aspects of fiction books is their ability to speak profound truths in a quiet way that leaves you in awe.

With that in mind, some folks from Tyndale Fiction’s editorial team are on the blog today to share a few of their most memorable quotes from authors and books.

Please leave a comment below with the quotes that have stuck with you! 

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Jeremy Taylor, Asst. Editorial Director/Team Leader

“It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.” —Mark Twain

“Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Fiction is the truth inside the lie.” —Stephen King

“Truth is so hard to tell, it sometimes needs fiction to make it plausible.” —Francis Bacon

I think the six most wonderful words in the English language are “Let me tell you a story.” All these quotes are memorable because they help describe why fiction is important. At Tyndale, we like to say that nonfiction reaches the mind, but fiction reaches the heart. This is partly because fiction—storytelling—represents an age-old part of human experience. But it’s also because there’s something in us that innately realizes that fiction is powerful precisely because it represents truth. And truth—truth we can be shown, not just told about—is what our hearts long for.

Kathy Olson, Senior Editor

 For the introverted book lover or editor:
“Ah! there is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” —Jane Austen, Emma

For the proofreader in all of us:
“A trifling matter, and fussy of me, but we all have our little ways.” —Eeyore, in The House at Pooh Corner

My goal as an editor:
“A problem well stated is a problem half solved.” —Charles F. Kettering

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.” —Charles W. Eliot 

Sarah Mason, Editor

 The most succinct way I’ve found to explain the value of fiction:
“Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

I love the image of God as storyteller, and it’s a good reminder of where my story-crafting role ends:
“Life is God’s novel. Let him write it.” —Isaac Bashevis Singer

This captures the dynamics of loving books so well—it’s both mysterious and cozy:
“I believe that each of us, no matter how gregarious, or open-hearted, or secure we might be nonetheless holds deep inside ourselves a private place, a personal sacristy, where almost nothing is allowed to enter. But I think certain books we come across in our lifetimes do enter there. They enter and they pull up a chair and slip off their shoes and say, ‘I’m right here if you need me.’” —Elizabeth Berg 

Danika King, Assistant Editor

This is such an encouraging alternative to both envy and self-deprecation, and I’d never thought of it like this until I read Lewis’s words:
“[God] wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. [God] wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour’s talents.” —C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

It’s reassuring that even people who spoke this way sometimes felt this way:
“Come what come may, time and the hour runs through the roughest day.” —Shakespeare, Macbeth

This song describes God’s sovereignty so beautifully:

“This is my Father’s world/Oh, let me never forget/that though the wrong seems oft so strong/God is the ruler yet.” —“This Is My Father’s World”

~*~

What about you? Has a line in literature ever grabbed you and held on? Leave the quote in the comments!

If you’ve enjoyed this blog, join us on Pinterest to see more great quotes as well as beautiful book covers, new fresh fiction and a sneak peek into what’s coming next from Tyndale.

As always, happy reading (and happy Friday)!