Life

The Day Queen Elizabeth Passed Through Cranford:  A Special Memory from 1957

I am a long-time admirer of The Queen who I think was a beautiful example of what it means to live a servant life guided by faith-filled principles. Her happy marriage to Prince Philip also inspires me and I have always been taken with her ability to stay-grounded yet flexible through the many tumultuous times that she witnessed and was part of during her seventy year reign.

Also, I am tea drinker of the snobbiest sort (I like loose tea, steeped in freshly boiled water for three minutes) and my husband, for years, has referred to my favorite hat as “The Queen’s Hat”. He means it in a nerdy way, but I take it as a compliment. See?

Imagine my delight, then, to learn via this article from silive.com last week that Queen Elizabeth once passed through my town of Cranford, NJ! The article notes that on October 21, 1957 Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip passed through Cranford en route from Washington DC to Manhattan with a detour through Staten Island so the Queen could fully enjoy the New York City skyline. Cranford is mentioned because that’s where they transferred at something called the Staten Island Junction.

I’d never heard about this royal pass-through before so I asked my husband whose family has lived here since the 40s. “Didn’t my mother ever tell you about this?” he asked. Ummm, no. “Well, let’s give her a call.” So that’s what we did.  “And put it on speaker phone, please,” he added, “because I want to hear it again too.” 

The next day, after my father-in-law had chance to hunt for them, I popped in to scan the pictures below which help tell this sweet mother/daughter story of the antics that happened the day the Queen and Prince passed through Cranford.

My mother-in-law’s family moved to Cranford in 1954, purchasing a brand new house on Aberdeen Court in a cheery new split-level development off of Walnut Avenue. The house was at the end of the cul-de-sac and the back yard bordered the Lehigh Valley Railroad. These days those tracks just carry freight, but back in the 1950s commuter trains still used them. 

Here are pictures of my mother-in-law, Abbie, as a teen standing both in front and in back of the house.

And here is a picture of the expansive back yard (with ducks!) and at the very back you can see the poles that flank the tracks.

It was October 1957 and the Queen was visiting the East Coast. Over the news Abbie’s mother learned that the route the Royal Party would be taking to New York City would pass by their back yard. This gave her the idea that they should be prepared with provisions in the event (and high hopes) that the train might stop by their house. 

After a quick trip to the market for ingredients, Abbie and her mother prepared tea sandwiches and more. Here’s a picture from that era of the two peeking in their modern 1950s fridge.

Almost fifty-four years later, my mother-in-law still remembers the spread in vivid detail. “We made three kinds of tea sandwiches”, she explained, “watercress with cream cheese, egg salad, and ham with cheddar. Mom had me cut up musk melon into pretty little chunks and we had cookies from the store.” All of the above were arranged on plates and the tea kettle was put at the ready.  

Continuing her story, Abbie said they then set up all the lawn chairs in the back yard. There was also a little table set up with the food. Then they waited expectantly.

Before long, they heard the train. As it got closer, they stood and waved. They waved some more.  “Well, did the train stop?” I asked.

Abbie laughed. Of course not. Her mother thought she saw The Queen seated in one of the cars, but that is not verifiable. One thing is for certain though, Abbie’s mother was disappointed.  “Oh, how I wanted them to stop!” Abbie recalls her saying.

And what happened to all those delectable items set out for The Queen? That’s easy.  Mother and daughter had their own tea party that afternoon.  

I’m so grateful I saw that little piece from silive.com that mentioned Cranford. Not only did I learn a new bit of trivia about both a Queen and a town that I love, I also got the chance to listen to my mother-in-law share a funny memory. 

And what did I tell her after our wonderful reminiscing? I bet you can guess. I said I would have LOVED to have been there with them that long ago afternoon. And what might I have added to the occasion?  Well, I think my contribution would have been to make a sign inviting Her Highness to tea which I would have waved with all my might. And, of course, I would have worn The Queen’s Hat!

Note: If you enjoyed this post, please consider following my blog. I post once or twice (and occasionally three times) weekly. Posts are devoted to celebrating reading, writing and life!

Inspiration, Life

MONDAY REFLECTIONS:  Thoughts on Retiring a BELOVED Blog Banner

For ten years the same banner has graced my blog. If you know the story behind it, you will understand why I’m feeling a bit sad and nostalgic today as I announce that it’s time to retire the banner and indeed to update my whole blog.

Ten years ago (and I can’t believe it’s been that long) I didn’t yet have a picture book out, but it was my dream. Having a blog presence was an important early step in creating a platform in the hope that someday my dream would come true. I chose a WordPress theme, played around with color and layout, and started drafting short, upbeat posts that celebrated reading, writing and life. 

Everything was set, but one thing. I needed a banner. But not just any banner. I wanted my banner to be hand drawn and full of color and creativity to reflect the joyful spirit and whimsy of my writing. And who would be the best person to create such a banner? There was only one person as far as I was concerned, my wonderful mom.

She embraced the assignment with love. Since the blog was to be called “Laura Sassi Tales”, the same name I chose across all my platforms, she and I thought it would be fitting to have animals welcome visitors to my blog with their tails prominently displayed.  She sketched and played with color. The result?  AMAZING! I still have her early sketches and treasure them. And, I LOVE the banner.  

A mere eighteen months after creating the banner, my mom passed away from ALS. We didn’t know she was sick when I started the blog, but the disease quickly progressed and she was only able to draw for maybe a year longer. Having her banner grace the blog has been a way to stay connected because her artistry has always inspired me and she was always such an encourager of my writing.

Now WordPress has retired my theme template. That means it’s time to pick a new one. A lot has changed in terms of my career as well. I’m no longer a pre-published picture book author. My seventh book will release in three months, followed by two more in 2023 and it’s time for my blog, which also serves as my website, to have a more book-ish look. So, in the next few weeks, I will re-launch with a whole new vibe – same address and same quality content (because it turns out I LOVE blogging) – but new layout and new banner. However, even though my mother’s banner will no longer grace the blog, it will remain here in this post, for as long as I have this blog, and her spirit of love and creativity will remain in me for a lifetime.

Happy Monday all!  

Edible delights, Inspiration, Life

PICKING RASPBERRIES: Thoughts on Writing and Living

It’s almost raspberry picking time again and that has gotten me thinking about, of all things, life and how we choose to live it. Almost 10 summer ago, when this blog was still brand new, I posted a writing analogy about raspberries. In that post I described how my children and I were enjoying picking raspberries up the street in a wild raspberry patch we had discovered.  I observed that even in this culture where “more” is perceived as “better”, my kids understood that part of what made the berries in this patch special was their scarcity. Each day we ate only a few and we savored each one.

Summertime writing, I observed, was a lot like raspberry picking because, with my kids home from school, time to write would be at a premium. Each day, like raspberries, I would pick a few precious moments to write. These times, I explained, would be short, but intense, and I vowed to savor each and every one.

After that post went live, my mother, who many of you will recall was in the midst if fighting a valiant battle with ALS, sent me this email which I saved and now treasure.  She wrote:

Reading your latest blog, it struck me that what you say about savoring wild raspberries is a lot like living with ALS– I try to enjoy, get the most out of, each little thing that happens — our telephone calls, John’s sweet smile (that’s my dad), a cardinal flying by, sitting at Sunnyside…..It is having appreciation for small things that makes for a happy life.

Her wise words have stuck with me, for in the big picture, we are all like my mother. No, we don’t all have ALS, but we all live in an imperfect world where bad things happen. Our hearts get wrenched. We go through difficult times. We struggle. But, if in the midst of all that, we can find something good in each day, even if it’s just a little thing or a small moment, then like my mother, I think we too, will find the secret to a happy life.

What small moments will come your way today?  Take time today to recognize them and to give thanks.  Blessings, all!

Life, Writing

MONDAY REFLECTIONS: Giving Thanks for a Special Trip PLUS Thoughts on QUAIL EGGS!

View overlooking Kendal at Lexington taken on one of my walks.

I spent a wonderful Tuesday-Friday this past week visiting my dad in Virginia. He’s a wonderful supporter of my books and just a great all-around dad. The visit included walks into downtown Lexington and around the premises of his retirement community. He and his wonderful Dianne and I enjoyed eating meals together and watching a favorite series from when I was a kid, the original “All Creatures Great and Small”.

I had also planned ahead for two preschool visits and a book signing at Lexington’s new indie book store, Downtown Books. Dad, with phone camera at the ready, accompanied me to the Lexington events and Dianne drove with me to Charlottesville for the preschool visit there.

I drove home Saturday, heart full of gratitude that I was able to spend such a special few days down there. However, since I’m still catching my breath from it all, instead of a new post today, I thought I’d share a few pictures from the trip, followed by a favorite writerly post from 2012 about… eggs! We still love quail eggs at our house, BTW. Enjoy!

First some pictures:

Shenandoah Preschool Visit with BUNNY FINDS EASTER and LITTLE EWE
Booksigning at Downtown Books in Lexington, VAs -a GEM of an indie book store!
Our visit at First Baptist Preschool, Charlottesville.

And now for the retro post: QUAIL EGGS: Thoughts on Making Ideas EXTRAORDINARY

A Korean-American friend invited me to shop at a Korean supermarket. The store was brimming with the most beautiful produce and authentic Asian foods I have ever seen. I filled my cart with Korean BBQ sauce, dumplings, seaweed, barley tea, bok choy, Japanese eggplant, oyster mushrooms and more. But the best find of all was the carton of tiny speckled quail eggs I discovered by the tofu.

“How do you eat these?” I asked my friend. “Hard-boiled,” she answered. “Then pop them in your mouth.”

The excitement at our house over these miniature eggs was astounding. My kids couldn’t wait to try them and insisted that I boil them immediately. Then, even though it was almost dinner time, we peeled them and, lo and behold, the inside of the shell was aqua colored. When we popped them in our mouths, they tasted exactly like chicken eggs. The magic was in their tiny size and their magical shell.

“Can we share them?” my daughter asked. Then, nestling them in her hands, she shared the magic of the quail eggs with the neighbor kids. They were a big hit!

Ideas are kind of like eggs. Sometimes it seems they’re a dime a dozen. The trick is finding one that stands out from the rest. After all, no one wants to read yet another story about an ordinary egg. YOUR egg needs to be extraordinary. Add speckles and a magical lining. Scramble it. Fry it. Poach it. Do whatever it takes to make it stand out from the rest.

Quail eggs are destined to become a frequent snack in our house. Not only are they rich in protein and pretty, but they’re a tasty reminder that I don’t want to settle for plain old chicken egg ideas. Instead, I want to savor the exhilarating process of transforming ordinary ideas into extraordinary eggs. Happy writing!

Guest Blog, Inspiration, Life

Guest Post: DANCING IS MY VOICE by Miss A

In the extra special category, today I am delighted to feature my daughter, Miss A, who wrote this lovely piece “just for fun” and asked if I would share on my blog. Of course, I said yes! Not only is it a beautiful expression of the hardworking, creative daughter I know and love, it’s also a powerful way to look at life through the lens of voice. And I think you will agree that it applies to writers as well. Take it away, Miss A!

Dancing is my Voice

By Miss A

    Your voice. Your voice is the sound that comes out of your mouth. Is that really what a voice is? The way I see it, a voice is much more than just an expression or attitude. It’s something that’s our own, something we don’t share with others. We own it. We own our voices. We own our choices. We own our passions and we own our hearts. 

Our passions are what makes us heard and I know for a fact that dancing is mine. Dancing is my passion. Dancing is my voice. How could dancing be used as a voice? Well, when we talk to someone, the first thing we say is “hi”right? As a dancer with 14 years of experience, everytime I look at my pointe or ballet shoes, they’re saying “hi”. I mean they’re covered in sweat, blood and tears, how could you not say hi back? Looking at those shoes reminds me how much I love dancing and that I have to finish what I started. Likewise, our voices are what keeps the conversation going. We can’t just stop talking in the middle of a sentence and walk away. We finish the conversation and say “see you later”. I don’t ever plan on walking away from dance. I will continue the conversation, however, not with a person. Specifically, with my dance journey. 

There’s this gravitational pull towards my pointe shoes that makes me, and probably every other dancer, tell ourselves that this is who we are. This is what we want to do and this is our voice. Often, so many feel that we can’t speak up for ourselves, but with dancing that isn’t true. When we’re onstage, we’re speaking, not physically, but mentally and from our hearts and bodies. 

Growing up, I was shy and hid behind my parents every time I was introduced to new people, so can you imagine what it was like for a young girl trying to figure out how to become a ballerina. To be a ballerina you have to be your own person. You have to have this perfect poise, skill and grace. You have to be independent, but most importantly you have to break out of the shell that you’ve known for so long. 

Breaking out of the shell is like trying to get out of bed on a school morning. It’s a process. Wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, pack your bag, go to school for 6 hours, repeat. Now change that to a dancer’s perspective: stretch, rehearse, tape feet, rehearse, grab a quick bite to eat, go back to rehearsal, go home and tend to the blisters and swollen feet, shower, go to bed, repeat.

We wouldn’t be able to do any of that without our inner voice. Every ballet dancer out there is able to do what they want because of that voice. So now you know. You know that every and anytime you see a dancer perform on a stage, you know that there is a voice inside of them. As a dancer, I, too, carry that voice with me. It’s strong. It’s who I am today. My voice is louder than ever when I dance and it’s why every time my pointe shoes say, “hi”, I answer by putting them on and dancing to my heart’s content.

Life, Reading

SPREADING BOOK LOVE: A Gift Book for Wilbur

Before we got a dog, an early morning walk was basically a solitary affair. But when our pooch, Sophie, arrived everything changed. Soon I was meeting all the dog-owners in the neighborhood and learning all the dogs names. There’s Poncho, Archie, Munchkin and Rocco; Maverick, Hazel, Todd, and Trixie; Luna, Delilah, Max, Stella, and … Wilbur.  

Wilbur is a friendly boxer and Sophie and I often stop to say hello to him and his owner on our morning strolls. One morning, while Wilbur and Sophie were greeting each other, I asked his owner, a nice retired fellow, if Wilbur was named after the famous pig from Charlotte’s Web

To my astonishment, he had never heard of the book! I think I may have gasped, but then I gushed about what a terrific read it was and how it was the story of a special friendship between a spider named Charlotte and a pig named Wilbur. I explained that had been one of my childhood favorites and how my kids had loved it too.  And I assured him, that just like his own Wilbur, he would most assuredly love Charlotte’s Wilbur and that he should read it if he had the chance. And that was that.

Then a couple of weeks ago I was visiting my dad. We were thinning some bookshelves, and what should I find but an extra copy of Charlotte’s Web! And that gave me and Sophie an idea. We would surprise Wilber (and his owner) with a little gift.

First, Sophie, wrote a note:

Then we wrapped the book and note in tissue paper and placed it in a bright pink gift bag so they’d be sure to see it. Finally, we tiptoed up to their front door and dropped it off:

We haven’t seen them since, but when we walked by later in the afternoon, the bag was gone.  Maybe we’ll see them today and then I will pop back and let you know if they liked it. One thing I do know, for sure — Sophie and I loved the joy of giving it!

Happy Monday, all!

Christmas, faith, holidays

SNAIL MAIL BLESSINGS: Christmas in the NICU Edition

This past August, I invited you to join me in what I’m calling the Snail Mail Blessings Challenge to write and send one hand-written note to someone each week. I had the idea because in this age of instant texts and emails, I’ve been missing the special connection of a different kind of correspondence – the old-fashioned hand-written note.  

Well, I’m realizing God also was preparing my heart (and hand) for something special because about a month ago I received lovely note from a woman named Jessika Sanders who has a ministry called “Praying through the NICU” which supports families in the NICU through prayer and other forms of encouragement.  

Here’s her note:

 Hi Laura! I just had an idea come to me and I wonder if it is from the Holy Spirit! We were in the NICU with our son on Christmas 2 years ago. It was so hard. The kindness of a stranger gifting us a baby toy touched our hearts—especially because it was the one toy I hadn’t gotten our son but had wanted to. ❤️

 This year I was thinking of doing something special for our local NICU as well as some of the families in our online community that find themselves in the hospital for the holiday. I would love to gift them a Christmas book to read to their baby. My first thought was your “Goodnight Manger” board book. ❤️ Would you prayerfully consider being a part of this somehow? I know you are a NICU mom and your book is a beautiful blessing. Would you pray about it and get back to me? ❤️ God bless you!

I am indeed a NICU mom. Our son, who is now in college, was born 16 weeks early and spent 105 days in the NICU.  And those days were so difficult — facing the unknown, wondering if he would be okay and what the future might hold. 

But just as Jessika experienced, during that time, God used strangers to comfort us with words of encouragement and prayer.  A teenager and former preemie came to visit the NICU one day, stopping at each isolette and serving as testament to God’s presence and mercy.  A monastery of complete strangers prayed for us. A quilting guild of women I didn’t even know, not only prayed, but made a quilt that we still use. Three beautiful examples of strangers reaching out with God’s love in the midst of the difficult.

So, of course, I said, yes.  And what would my special role be?  Writing a note of encouragement for each book donated. 

I also said I would donate three books and my wonderful publisher, Zonderkidz donated 12 more. Jessika was thrilled and she said could match our fifteen with fifteen of her own.  And we were on our way. She also mentioned that she and her team would have a book drive and so the totals might be a little bigger.  Maybe 75?  Would that be okay, she asked.  Of course, I said. I would write as many notes as needed. 

Well, God has knocked my socks off! The number of copies of GOODNIGHT MANGER that have been generously purchased by kind-hearted souls eager to bless those babies and their families is now approaching 450! 

And in the kindness begets kindness department, and because 450+ notes of encouragement is a lot of notes to hand-copy, I have been blessed with a team of friends and family who have offered to pitch in with the letter writing – leaving a space for me to sign.  These include:

  • an 84 year old former preschool teacher
  • my sister and her two kids, ages 10 and 13,
  • a dear friend who I’ve known for ages (who has beautiful penmanship!)
  • a wonderful friend who is also a NICU mom and was one of the first strangers to reach out to me with encouragement and prayer when our son was first born. (That’s how I met her!)
  • a new friend who just loves and idea and wants to pitch in
  • a lovely steward of a local Little Free Library who I met when I dropped a copy of LOVE IS KIND off there last year.  We have become friends and she is a NICU mom and is eager to pitch in a big way
  • and I have a feeling more will join the team in the coming weeks.


I will send the hand-written, signed notes to Jessika. She will then distribute them to her team to be packaged with the books that have been donated. And it’s not just for a couple of NICUs. Her team is comprised of wonderful NICU mamas who have blessed by Jessika Sanders “Praying through the NICU” ministry. They are the ones who will hand deliver the packages to their respective NICUs in at least four states that span the nation!

Learn more about the Praying through the NICU ministry. Interested in being a part of the Christmas in the NICU book drive?  Press here.  (The book drives runs through 11/15/21.)

In closing, perhaps this post will inspire you to make a list of special people in your life (or complete strangers) that you might bless with a note of encouragement in the coming weeks.

Blessings all!

Inspiration, Life

REMEMBERING 9/11: Twenty Years Later

REMEMBERING 9/11. It’s hard to believe it’s been twenty years. I remember it as if it were yesterday. 

My mom was visiting from Colorado that week. In fact, just the Saturday before she had kindly offered to care for our sweet baby for the evening so my husband and I could attend a work party at a colleague’s apartment in Brooklyn. 

At one point during the party, the hostess invited us all up to the roof for a breathtaking view of the lower part of Manhattan. However, to get up there you had to climb a ladder and I don’t like heights and was a little nervous. My husband, though, insisted. It’s beautiful, he said. You’ll regret it if you miss it. 

So taking a deep breath, I climbed that ladder and the view was indeed breathtaking. Just across the river, practically within touching distance, or so at least it felt, stood the two mighty towers of the World Trade Center. It was a clear night with stars and a patchwork pattern of windows lit up the two great towers. I guessed that maybe the cleaning service was cleaning the floors. I remember holding my husband’s hand and feeling a sense of peace and gladness in that moment. 

Three mornings later, my mom and I were upstairs in the bedroom with the baby when the phone rang. It was my husband calling from the library. It was a little bit after nine. He said he was coming home right away but that I should turn on the TV because two planes had flown into the World Trade Center. Our nation was under attack! 

For the rest of that morning with a feeling of dread in our bellies, all three of us ( plus baby) watched the terrible events of the day unfold including the collapsing of the two towers. 

We were in shock. Across the street lived a couple. The husband worked at the World Trade Center. Was he okay, we wondered?

That afternoon, needing a break from the television, we took the baby for a walk. Other neighbors were out and we were all checking in on each other to see if our loved ones were safe and accounted for. 

They were, but no one knew about the situation with my neighbor across the street. We all started praying and hoping. 

The one moment of pure joy that day was seeing him return home, all covered in soot, as I recall, with his wife beside him. She worked further uptown and had run down to find him. And that’s how they found each other, both running from opposite directions. 

Not everyone in our town came home that night though. Six families lives were forever changed. I remember holding my son and crying. I remember praying for peace. I remember praying that they would find survivors. 

My mother was so shaken that she decided rather than fly home to Colorado she would take the train. And that’s what she did. It took more than 24 hours to get home.

Our world was changed forever that day. My thoughts and prayers go out today to all who lost family members and friends that day.  I pray also for peace and unity for our nation and the world. 

Christmas, holidays, Inspiration

ADVENT CALENDARS: A Special Christmas Memory

In the fall of 1981, a shy girl, still very homesick for her friends and life in France, moved with her family to a suburban community just outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota. She didn’t know many people and to say it was a shock to her quiet self to be suddenly plunked into a huge junior high with 300 or so kids in the seventh grade alone, is an understatement.  There had only been 15 or so kids in the whole 6th grade at her previous school!

That fall this shy girl comforted herself by reading lots of books and writing and drawing.  But good things were at work for within days of starting school that girl (who was me if you haven’t guessed) met a sweet, kind, soul who immediately made her (me) feel welcome.

This girl, whose name was Elizabeth, was shy like me and also liked to read and write.  We quickly became “kindred spirits” for, yes, we had both, of course, read and loved Anne of Green Gables.  Elizabeth made that first fall in Minnesota not just bearable but delightful!  

This brings me to my special Christmas memory that was triggered by watching this Youtube video that this special friend, who grew up to be a Lutheran pastor, posted on her social media this week. In it, she shares a special life-long collection of hers:  advent calendars!  Enjoy the video and then read about my special memory below:

Pastor Elizabeth may not remember this, but that first December of my junior high life in Minnesota, she invited me over to her house.  I don’t remember all the details of that afternoon, but I do remember the highlight!  

“Do you want to make advent calendars?” she asked. I had never heard of such a thing so she showed me one and explained how it was a special way to look forward to Christmas day by opening little windows each day.  

Then she showed me how we could make our own by using two pieces of sturdy paper. First we drew our cover sheets with festive Christmas scenes. Next, using scissors we cut out 24 flaps for windows and numbered each one. Then we attached the undersheet and put a special Christmas message or symbol or verse in each window. It was so much fun!

I’m pretty certain that my own family’s love of advent calendars can be traced back to Elizabeth. Indeed, since they were little, my kids have looked forward to their advent calendars (and the chocolate inside) each and every year.  Need proof? Here’s a tasty close up of Miss A’s 2020 advent calendar.  

Now, in a spirit of gratitude and awareness of God’s blessings, I’d like to take a moment to honor Elizabeth, who’s been such a good friend over the years – doing kind things like cheering me on in my writing journey and even sharing my books with her congregation.

Here’s my closing thought for you. Is there some special holiday or family tradition that can be traced back to a special person in your life? If so, maybe today or this week is a good time to find that person and let them know.  

Blessings of the season, all!

author spotlight, Bible, faith

Thoughts on Finding One’s LIFE PURPOSE: An Interview with Pastor Noelle Kirchner

Today I have pastor, tv host, blogger, and Christian author Noelle Kirchner as my guest. For several years now I’ve been blessed by Noelle’s thoughtful reflections on Christian faith, motherhood, and life which can be found on her popular blog NoelleKirchner.com. And now, Noelle has published an amazing six-step study which offers just the dose of encouragement and grounding that I’m longing for during this season of uncertainty and worry. I have already ordered several as gifts for friends and family because I think they would make a perfect foundation for starting the fall rooted in the awareness and joy of God’s love for each of us!  

Now, you’re in for a treat as I interview Noelle in this behind the scenes peek at how this special study came to be.  I know you will be blessed.  And in the extra blessing department, Noelle will be mailing one signed copy of the study to one lucky reader, so be sure to check out the details for that at the end of the post.  

Now for the interview with my questions in bold.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to write How to Live Your Life Purpose: The Six-Step Journey to God’s Best.

My first book, How to Live Your Life Purpose: The Six-Step Journey to God’s Best, is now available on Kindle and in paperback through Amazon. I wrote it as a six-week individual or group study to help people connect with and live their God-given life purpose. I got the idea for my book years ago, largely because I am working in a way that I never imagined, but that feels right. As a pastor, I believe my position is a calling, but I do not believe that calling is exclusive to it. God needs ministers, people who want to serve him, in every field, and I wanted to write something that enables everyone to experience the thrill of embracing their calling or purpose.

Coincidently—or providentially, this book was scheduled to publish during the COVID–19 pandemic. With so many people out of work or living in flux, it is especially timely. As people reconsider where they live, what they do, what they want for their families, and how they occupy their time, my book can provide needed discernment, inspiration and hope. I learned as a New Yorker during September Eleventh that with tragedy also comes opportunity.

2. Your book is organized into six chapters, each examining what you describe as the “six steps of living our purpose”.  How did you discover these steps?  Are they universal?

I devised the book’s steps through reflection, preaching, writing, and filming about life purpose over the course of several years. As I crafted the end-of-chapter study materials, I marveled at how several interviews from my TV show involved purpose, even when it wasn’t planned. God helped me craft my book in ways that I didn’t even recognize at the time. It’s a testament to God’s great purpose—he’s active in each of our lives planting seeds along the way!

After writing my book, I compared my steps to others online. I found many alternative lists to be spiritually-lacking or void of the Christian perspective. Instead, I believe life purpose is highly spiritual. It’s one powerful way that we can experience the Creator’s love. Life purpose allows us to discover how God uniquely calls each of us by name—plus, following him can elicit our greatest joy!

3. What was your greatest challenge in writing this book?

Time! Setting aside the time to write a book was a discipline with children, but I found the sacrifice to be life-giving. It’s an honor to share my heart with readers in a book, a forum where I can dig deeper than an article or blog post.

Another challenge when writing this book was finding the right publisher. Two parties expressed interest, but in the end, I decided to use Amazon’s services. That allowed me to push my book in more formats, like the Kindle version, which really helps my media-driven study questions come alive! I think the next era in Bible studies will be more interactive like this one, engaging and entertaining readers while communicating poignant messages.

4. What is your greatest desire for the readers who read this book?  What other resources are available for extending the reading? 

My greatest desire for readers is that my book helps “fuel their fire” for God. That was the theme of my church’s confirmation class when I was in high school, and it’s an image that continues to stick with me. When we as believers are on fire for Christ, our entire lives not only give God glory, but they witness to the power of his glory at work in us. I want each of our lives to be a testament to all that God can do!

Scripture is the best resource on life purpose. I just wrote a blog post on five important scripture promises on purpose for the children’s book author Glenys Nellist. I am also fond of theologian Parker Palmer’s book on life purpose entitled Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. In fact, I quote one of my favorite passages, which involves a touching moment with his granddaughter, in my book!

5. What’s next? Do you have any more projects in the works? 

Yes! My ministry spans media and writing, so I have projects on both fronts. Stay tuned for an upcoming episode of my faith and parenting TV series this fall on helping to navigate back-to-school anxieties, especially with COVID–19. I will be talking with a popular tween author and psychologist duo. I must note that your episode on the show (Episode #4), Laura, remains popular—it’s had almost 6K views!

Really, Noelle? Wow, that’s amazing. I highly recommend all the episodes. So much heart and effort is put into each one. (And now back to Noelle.)

Also, as a new writer for Crosswalk and long-standing writer for iBelieve, I will continue publishing faith articles and devotions online. My recent articles for each respectively are the 7 Biblical Characteristics of Risks Worth Taking and A Prayer for a New Purpose for a New Day, which both tie into my new book. Next, I will be writing a piece for iBelieve entitled “Why Jesus’ Plan for Your Child Is So Much Better.” The best way to read new articles or watch new episodes is by subscribing to my website!

Thank, you, Noelle, for inspiring us!

HERE ARE THE DETAILS FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!! If you’d like a chance to win a complimentary copy of How to Live Your Life Purpose: The Six-Step Journey to God’s Best, simply post a comment below letting me know. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) Thank you, Noelle, for providing the winning book. This giveaway ends Thursday, 9/17/20 at 11:59 pm EST.  NOTE: THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED. THE WINNER IS ANNOUNCED HERE.

[Note: Thank you to Noelle for a sneak peek at the book which I was under no obligation to review. The views and opinions expressed on this blog about books and other things are purely my own.]