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Letters to the Lord: Thanksgiving Bitter and Sweet

Lord, You know that I went into the Thanksgiving week with a good bit of tears. Both of our boys and their wives were spending the holiday with their in-laws and my mind was filled with last year’s memories when the whole Goldsmith crew was together in Atlanta.

It was such a happy, hopeful time, with Daddy having finished his radiation treatment and everyone enjoying his jokes and delight at having the whole ‘famdamly’ (as he put it) together. He was especially happy to have all the grandkids and great grandkids with him.

There was laughter and delicious food and lots and lots of photos.

With my brothers
He loved having the newlyweds (and his former roommate) back in town for a few days from Boston.

Everyone was entertained by wonderful little Lena and we were all eagerly anticipating Baby #5’s arrival, set for January.

There was the annual ultimate frisbee game with all the cousins participating and Daddy wearing his Georgia Tech stocking hat.

It was the ultimate joyful Thanksgiving. This holiday had always been the specialty of my parents. Family and friends and anyone who would otherwise be alone on Thanksgiving were invited to our home on Nancy Creek Road.

In fact, I had never spent a Thanksgiving in America without celebrating with my family. Paul’s family’s big celebration was usually at Christmas and the 4th of July.

But even as I anticipated a very hard first Thanksgiving without my beloved father, I was very excited that Paul and I were going to spend the week with his mother, our beloved ‘Mamaw’, in Louisville, KY.

And it was indeed wonderful.

Mamaw is one of the most delightful people in the world and the best ‘bonus mom’ I could have ever asked for. She’s also quite a cut-up, always filled with a combination of godly wisdom and fun.

On Friday, we drove with Mamaw to Cincinnati to celebrate with more of the Musser crew.

Two of my precious sisters-in-law
The younger Musser gals prepared the whole feast!

Ten of Mamaw’s twenty-six great-grands were present and eager to dress up as super heroes and listen to ‘Uncle Scot’ tell his tall tales.

And of course, we watched the World Cup soccer games. Go, France!

As with the Goldsmith gathering last year, there was much laughter and games and a few quiet conversations, sharing our hearts and hurts and joys.

And Mamaw, who has numerous health challenges, kept up with it all.

Our tummies and hearts were full of gratitude as we gathered together to honor our God and enjoy our extended family.

Our hosts, Joel and Nancy, with their five kids missed out on the above photo because they had already left for the in-laws’ Thanksgiving celebration!

Yes, I had some tears over the past week. I miss my father so much.

But Jesus showed us how to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice. I love the many paradoxes in the Christian life, and I find that the bitter and the sweet of bittersweet perfectly describe how I’m navigating this year of ‘firsts’ without my father.

I am sure many of you are also living in those ‘bittersweet’ moments that celebrating the holidays without a loved one brings. My prayer is that you will feel the comfort and love of God’s family here on earth while cherishing the memories and looking forward to what is ‘not yet’.

ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France (and sometimes at her childhood desk in Flintstone, Georgia). Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and her blog, Letters to the Lord.

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Letters to the Lord: He Who Guards Our Comings and Goings

September and October have been a blur of comings and goings for me. I’ve shared many times this verse from Psalm 121: “The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”

Well, He has and here are a few photos to prove it!

I flew from Lyon, France to Chicago in early September to meet my wonderful retired editor and friend, LB Norton, and drive with her to St. Louis, MO for the American Christian Fiction Writers’ (ACFW) Conference.

With LB at the ACFW Conference with The Arch in the background
With dear friend and talented Women’s Fiction Novelist, Deborah Raney, at the conference awards banquet

I also had the joy of reconnecting with many other author friends.

The Bethany House/Baker Publishing Staff at the ACFW Conference
Perfect Fall Days in Flintstone
Home to Flintstone, GA where my copies of By Way of the Moonlight awaited me. The joy of holding a copy of my new novel never gets old!

The official Launch Party for By Way of the Moonlight was held at Wes and Anne French’s lovely home in Atlanta.

Complete with lots of memorabilia from my mother’s equestrian days
Book clubs are the best!
My brothers and sisters-in-law and Paul all join in the launch party fun. Can you find ‘winks’ to my brothers in the story?

It’s always a joy to be back at The Swan Coach House in Atlanta to sign books.

I’m grateful that the Coach House now carries copies of most all of my novels.

Then Paul and I joyfully reconnected with friends at my beloved childhood church, Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist, to share about our ministry and sign books

Late in September, I flew to Grand Rapids, Michigan to be with Lynn Austin, an award winning and bestselling author who I also call a great friend.

Here we’re in Holland, MI with Lake Michigan behind us
We spoke and signed copies of our novels at Baker Book House in Grand Rapids. This is the largest Christian Bookstore in the States!

My sweet cousin, Allene, organized a lovely luncheon and book signing at the Athens Country Club in Athens, GA.

With my cousins, Mary Jane and Allene, and my sister-in-law, Mary.
I’ve had such fun bringing a few of my mother’s championship ribbons to my signings!

And I had the privilege of speaking and signing books at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville, GA. Paul’s sister, Janet, has attended this church for many years. She is serving the Lord in Kenya right now, but I did get to hug on her daughter, my niece, Leighanne!

I truly have enjoyed each and every one of these book events. As I say often, each time I sign a copy of one of my novels, it feels like I’m getting a hug from the Lord. And meeting my readers in person is such an encouragement and joy.

But the sweetest part of these past two months has been time with the Paul Alan Musser family. For two hours one Sunday, all eleven of us were together for lunch at a Cracker Barrel somewhere between Atlanta and Flintstone.

And having the grandkids here at our home–it doesn’t get sweeter than that!

ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France (and sometimes at her childhood desk in Flintstone, Georgia). Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and her blog, Letters to the Lord.

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Letters to the Lord: The Truffula Tree and a Giveaway

Dear Lord, September was quite an event-filled month as I flew from France to the US to begin our six-month stay in the States. I will write about all my signings soon, but for now I’m back home in Flintstone, Georgia, and I let out a long sigh of relief and thanksgiving. Across the sunroom from me is a little nook that I call ‘Dr. Seuss meets Flintstone’. Do you remember the Truffula Trees from The Lorax?

Well, as my family is little by little cleaning out our my parents’ home on Nancy Creek Road (featured in By Way of the Moonlight and you can take a tour of the property here), I spent hours pruning and pampering the plants left in my parents’ lovely bathroom suite that had, ah-hem, been neglected for quite a while.

I was determined to bring them back to the sunroom we added onto our home in Flintstone last year. The sweet palmish-looking tree had suffered badly, and I had to cut off several dead branches. But I succeeded in saving it and somehow fitting it into my mom’s Tahoe, the Truffula Tree’s terra cotta pot laying on its side in the back end of the car with the tree’s top fronds tickling me as I drove two hours from Atlanta to Flintstone.

Moving the tree from Nancy Creek Road with my brothers’ help

First, I stopped in LaFayette, Georgia to hug Andrew and Lacy and their tribe. And Paul, for we’d been apart for the last week.

All the humans are here as well as Arthur, their beloved mutt, and we’re perched in various positions around their newly constructed tree house. Missing are the quail, chickens, rooster, ducks, cats, bearded dragon, and I’ve probably left out someone from the menagerie!

And now the Truffula Tree is making me so happy as I gaze across the sunroom and smile.

The wrought-iron fruit table came from my parents’ sunporch.

This is my life right now, Lord. Soon I’ll journal about the writers’ conference in St. Louis and the launch party for ‘Moonlight’ in Atlanta, and the other signings in Atlanta and Michigan, and so much more.

But today, all I want to do is gaze across the sunroom at my Truffula Tree and let all the bittersweetness of these past months well up. I have tears and a smile, because life is paradox. And the memories of this little tree in my parents’ bathroom suite are many, some so hard, Lord. But the hard is resurrected into the delightful, as You so often do. And I hold it tight to my chest and say, “Merci”.

And to you, my dear readers, I’m once again participating in this giveaway for inspirational fiction. Click here to enter (where you’ll receive all the instructions for multiple chances to win the books in the graphic below.)

Do you have a Truffula Tree in your life that makes you smile?

ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France (and sometimes at her childhood desk in Flintstone, Georgia). Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and her blog, Letters to the Lord.

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Letters to the Lord: Hydrangeas

As I mentioned in the ministry update I shared last Tuesday, I enjoy meeting up with other writers at our missions’ conferences. In Germany, I had the opportunity to share in person with lovely Julia Kramer whom I welcome back today to the blog. Julia’s first children’s novel was publisher this past June. You can find it here. I’m so proud of her!

Julia is on the top step in the black Tshirt

I love hydrangeas. They bloom like crazy in Northern Spain. But in the corner of my little garden, which is best seen from the living room, the bush has only been producing leaves – for years. I tried a lot. Hoped for flowers every year. Said again and again: If it does not produce flowers next year it has to go! But then I couldn´t find any better plant for a shady place like that and it stayed.

And guess what? There are flowers this year! And in a nice color, too! Just like that! I take it as a gift from God and enjoy it. Every morning while reading my Bible and praying, I see those beautiful flowers in our green garden. Lavish blossoms. Abundant beauty. Not just three flowers, as hoped. A lot of them! I can even put some in the vase and decorate my home with it. Abundance of beauty. God is not stingy! He loves to make me happy and put a smile on my face. Why only now? I don’t know. But I gladly accept the gift!

For years I have also been waiting for fruits to appear in my life. But often I wanted it too much. Did it my way. Worked on my character. Did my To do list. Wanted to be busy and efficient. A lot was just a waste of energy. (And a learning progress of course.) But I don’t have to do more. I want to do the right thing at the right time. Let the Holy Spirit guide me. Live freely. But not in a way that allows me to do everything I want. Real freedom is only found in  following His Spirit. Even if it sounds paradox: Self-realization and freedom are not the same thing. I never feel as free as when I bathe in God’s presence and let my heart be filled with His love. And it seems to me that the volume of my heart can grow – at least for containing God’s love! My heart is big and happy now. And only the Holy Spirit can do that in me. I want to be expectant of what God wants to do in my life. How he wants to build his kingdom, also through me. Where I can join him in His work. He sends people my way and provides opportunities to learn new things. Stuff I didn’t plan. I want to follow His voice in my heart. His voice, that does not speak the same things to everyone. So now I’m learning Portuguese. Meet with women who just recently dropped into our church. Turn off the boiler to save energy. Visit and support other churches, make new contacts and revive old ones through my book sales. Talk to interesting people – big and little ones. I want to be driven by the Spirit and stay curious. Take my time to let my heart be soaked in grace and love. Which happens especially while reading my Bible. My heart soaks up His words of love like a dry sponge. And then it moves up to my face. I smile.

And it feels like I’m glowing. Or blooming like a hydrangea.

Will there be hard times? Certainly. But nothing can separate me from God’s love. Absolutely nothing.

Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit.

(Galatians 5:5)

Live freely, animated and motivated by God´s Spirit.

What happens when we live God´s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard – things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

(Galatians 5:16 and 22-23)

Hello, my name is Julia Kramer-Wiesgrill, and I am Austrian. I live in Hall in Tirol, in an ancient little town in the alps, but I was born near Vienna. My husband and I came here to work at a small church and help in different tasks. We have three teenagers (15,17,19) and are very proud of them! I love reading and writing, going for a walk in the woods by my own, and I love water (creeks, lakes, the sea). I also love cats, Earl Grey tea and chocolate. I really like to learn and it´s the same with my spiritual journey, where I´m not even close to the finish line yet. God is so much bigger than I know and his love for me so much deeper and profound than I can imagine. He is the one who gave a new identity to me. I am his beloved child, no matter what! In knowing this I become free and courageous, because he is the one standing behind me, covering my back. 

You are welcome to visit my blog! https://juliakramer-english.jimdofree.com/

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The Last Eight Months

Bonjour, dear Ones,

Two weeks ago you heard about our forty-year milestone. (And yes, Paul was not exactly thrilled with the way I went on and on about meeting him, but he knows that he married a romantic…)

Finally it’s time for a way-overdue snapshot into our last eight months. If you’re on social media, some of this may be familiar, but it has indeed been quite some time since we sent out an update to this group of friends who care and pray for our ministries.

We are so thankful for your prayers and support, even when our communication is lacking.

The wide-angle view:

Our mission, One Collective, is all about bringing people together in communities all over the world to ensure that no one is invisible and that everyone has access to food, freedom, and forgiveness.

As we travel back and forth from France to the US and other places, we are immensely grateful for the flexibility our schedule allows us to connect with our workers wherever they and we may be. Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, texts, Messenger, Facebook—so many different ways to connect. Sometimes those options make us feel crazy, but we thank the Lord that no matter where we are in the world, we can stay in touch with our workers. So you will often find us searching for an internet signal, using our phone as a hotspot, checking in late at night or early in the morning, depending on how many hours apart we are from the ones with whom we are talking.

Now for a zoom in:

Ten days after sending out our New Year’s letter, my sweet daddy passed away. Many of you know the great paradox of the sting of death for those of us left behind mixed with the real hope of eternity that my father now knows.

Daddy was always my biggest fan!

We as a family have wandered through the grief curve these past months, with Paul and me staying Stateside until the end of May.

In between the mind-numbing details of beginning to settle my father’s estate with my (much savvier) brothers, I was frequently reminded of the Lord’s presence with me, with us. One of the simplest ways was through a red cardinal who kept flying into the picture window in my father’s den for several months. You can read about that here.

Photo by Tina Nord on Pexels.com

During those months, we were thankful to help a little with the grandkids as Lacy slowly and courageously recovered from her pelvic misalignment.

At the end of May we were delighted to visit Chris and Ashlee in Boston and attend Chris’s graduation from the Harvard Kennedy School with a Master’s in Public Policy.

We then flew home to France and had a few days to settle in before welcoming my brother, Jere, and family for their first visit to see us in Lyon. What a treat!

Later in June we headed south to Greece, driving from Lyon to Ancona, Italy, and then riding the ferry across into Patras, Greece and on to Athens. There we had the immense pleasure of reconnecting in person with our ever-growing team who work among refugees, trafficked women, and the poor.

Then we drove to Eretria, Greece to attend our One Collective Conference for all of our workers who serve in closed countries. It was a special treat finally to be together in person after COVID required some changes in our timing.

Although for security reasons, we can’t show photos of our colleagues who work in closed countries, we can show you the above photo of the members of our Global Member Care Team (GMCT) who were present at the conference.

Soon it was time to pack our bags again for the Iteams/One Collective Conference for workers in Europe, again having been postponed because of COVID. We drove to the Schoenblick Conference Center, near Stuttgart, Germany and joined 100 other workers from all over Europe.

Worship is always a highlight of our conferences
I always enjoy spending time brainstorming with other writers in the mission. We’re from America, Austria, the Netherlands and Ecuador.

During those two conferences Paul and I were able to spend focused, face-to-face time with all the workers to whom we give pastoral care, sharing a meal, a walk on the beach or through the forest, times of prayer, laughter, tears, and hugs. We’re thankful for the conversations, the listening and praying, and, most of all, for God’s presence among us. Here are a few examples of subjects we covered:

~sitting with a new worker to a field in Europe who just learned of a friend’s suicide

~hugs and prayers with a long-time worker who learned of her mother’s death while she was at the conference.

~hearing about the loneliness some of our leaders feel as they sacrificially lead their teams.

~discussing major life issues–children’s education in a foreign land, caring for aging parents when you live half a world away from them, making decisions about moving to a new location for ministry which involves changing countries and learning yet another new language.

~listening to some of our single women workers who feel their biological clocks ticking and mourn the future they had dreamed of and may never have.

~concerns for the young adult Third Culture Kids (TCKs) who were raised on the mission field and now are making their lives away from their parents.

~questions about faith and doubting the call to ministry.

Often on our Zoom calls, we discuss similar topics, but how good it was to do this in person this summer!

Besides spending time one-on-one, we also enjoyed sharing and fellowship at night after all the worship and teaching sessions, workshops and outings.

Conferences also allow us the special privilege of spending time with our president, Scott Olson, to hear his heart and learn more about the present and future vision for One Collective. We are grateful for his wise leadership and heart for Jesus.

In Greece
In Germany

And there were several impromptu times of debriefing and prayer with the member care team (there were six of us in Greece and four of us in Germany) for several crises that arose during the conferences (not necessarily concerning workers present at the conference.) Paul manages this team of ten who provide pastoral care for the 220+ One Collective workers around the world. We are so grateful for these dear colleagues who share this privilege and responsibility with us.

Our colleagues on the GMCT have become dear and trusted friends and they are also a lot of fun! It was great to have a chance to hang out with them and relax after long days of listening, counseling, processing…

Our job all comes down to connection–making sure that our workers can share their stories and know that they are heard, that their concerns are kept confidential, and taken often to the Lord in prayer.

In the midst of the conference, my new novel, By Way of the Moonlight, was launched, an added privilege and stress! You can find out about that news here.

In between the two conferences, Chris and Ashlee joined us for a vacation in Greece and Italy. We often counsel our workers to take time away from work to truly rest. Sometimes we don’t follow our own advice very well, but this time we did, seeing beautiful scenery, taking long walks in God’s breath-taking countryside, and then coming home to our little village with the kids to enjoy summer in Rochetaillée, our little spot of paradise.

And now we’re heading back to the US for six months! We’ll be visiting our supporting churches, and I’ll be having some book signing events throughout the fall. This new season will doubtless be filled with joys and challenges: Time with friends and family and all those grandkids, yes, but also time at my father’s home in Atlanta, cleaning, making more decisions, going through a roller-coaster ride of emotions.

We often feel weak, but this past year has once again proven to us this beautiful truth: when we are weak, we are strong in Christ. Not because of our efforts, but because somehow in that wonderfully supernatural way, the Spirit blows through us and carries us and gives us the wherewithal to live one day at a time.

Thank you for continuing on this journey with us! Some of you have been a part of the ride for all forty years. Whether you just joined or have been with us for decades, we are humbled and grateful for the way the Lord provides for and encourages us through you!

We’ll leave you with a few prayer requests:

PRAYER

~ As we provide pastoral care to workers, please pray that we continue to improve in our listening skills, and that God’s heart and compassion would shine in every conversation.

~ Please pray that our strength and energy will be renewed this fall and that we will give ourselves grace as grieving and changes continue.

~ Join us in praying that God will guide the hearts and decisions of all our leaders: in the mission, in our churches, local and national leaders and beyond.

~ I’d appreciate prayer that By Way of the Moonlight would have all the impact God intends for it to have. We’ve been so encouraged by the positive response so far to this story of family, faith, love and loss, forgiveness and courage.

We send much love and hope to see many of you as we travel in the Southeast this fall!

Elizabeth and Paul

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Letters to the Lord: Forty Years

Dear, dear Lord,

I cannot process this truth, but here it is: Forty years ago I stepped onto the campus of International Crusades to begin my short-term mission’s experience in France. Short term, Lord. Three years. And here I am, forty years later, still experiencing ministry in France.

I call that GRACE. Amazing grace, Lord. You called me, really intercepted my life, flipped me around, gave me a gentle shove, me who is such a home-body, who doesn’t like taking risks, who wants to do everything the right way.

Your Spirit blew through me at that Urbana ’81 Missions Conference, and I, who had come to that conference kicking and screaming, felt the tears on my face as I said, “Yes!”

I was terrified on that first day on the campus of International Crusades, which became International Teams, which became ITeams, which became One Collective. What in the world had I gotten myself into? I didn’t feel qualified in any way. Just a recent college grad with a head full of French and English literature and a passion for writing and Jesus.

But there I was.

And there HE was.

Because, Lord, I know You remember the moment I walked into the suburban house in a suburb of Chicago and met the ‘nice Christian nerd’ single guy who would be on my team with me for three years. (After all, what kind of guy would head to the mission field after college?)

But I was wrong, Lord. The guy standing in front of me in nothing but a pair of worn cut-off jeans was not nerdy. He was, well, a very beautiful example of manhood. And his eyes! Hazel, kind with a hint of surprise and tease in them.

And my little ole romantic spirit said, “I think I’ve just met my husband!”

Thankfully, I didn’t say it out loud. But I felt it in that wonder-filled, what-in-the-world-are-you-up-to-Lord way. And I said to You, “I did not plan on him! I came to serve YOU, Lord. And here is this very big distraction!”

August 23, 1982 was a game-changer for me, Lord. Of course, I didn’t know it, had no idea that almost 3 years to the day later, I would marry that hazel-eyed handsome human. That he would be exceedingly above all that I had imagined and prayed for. (And I sure could imagine and pray back then!)

I didn’t know that we would choose to serve You as career missionaries, helping the French begin churches, learning to love a different culture and people, raising our boys in France, and staying in France after they flew the nest, and eventually having the immense privilege of serving our colleagues scattered around the world in pastoral care.

We didn’t know You would hold us and keep us and provide for us and use us. We didn’t know.

I didn’t know.

But I did know that I had said Yes to You, albeit with great fear and trembling, at that conference. And I knew that I trusted You to keep me, one day at a time. I knew You are a God who keeps Your promises and I clung to that marvelous Psalm 121.

 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.

And the wonder of it all is that I’m still here. We’re still here. Serving You in our oh-so-human way, bumbling and stumbling, and letting You pick us back up and dust us off again and again as we hold onto each other and You. As day by day, year by year, we learn more about Your strength in our weakness and Your grace being sufficient.

At our recent missions’ conference in Germany, Paul and I were shocked and incredibly honored to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from our President, Scott Olson.

I never ever expected still to be with this mission with this man in this country.

But You are a God who delights in surprising Your children with good, good gifts. Oh, it hasn’t been without multiple times of thinking I might slide off into despair, tuck my tail and go running back somewhere, anywhere, as the words ‘Failure!” and “Not good enough!” pursued me.

But You hold us forever, You won’t let Satan or our own selfishness or self-pity or sinfulness snatch us from Your hand.

You have kept me, kept us. For forty excruciatingly beautiful, heart-breaking, heart-warming, painful, productive, glorious years.

And what I say today, down on my knees, weeping with gratitude to the great God I love and serve, is simply, “Merci.”

ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and her blog, Letters to the Lord.

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Letters to the Lord: A Bestseller List, an Interview, and A Giveaway

Dear Readers,

I so appreciate all of your enthusiasm for and reviews and photos of ‘Moonlight’! I heard from my publicist a few days ago that ‘Moonlight’ was on the Parable Group’s Bestseller List for last week. That felt like a big hug from the Lord! This lists the top 50 selling items (books, media, music, etc) in Christian bookstores.

The Parable Group

National 50 Top Selling All Products – by Qty
Rank Title Author (Publisher) Category
1 Strong in Battle: Why the Humble Will Prevail Larson, Susie (Baker Publishing Group) Christian Living
2 Worried about Everything Because I Pray about Nothing Veach, Chad (Baker Publishing Group)
Prayer
3 Chase the Fun: 100 Days to Discover Fun Right Where You A Dreowns, Annie F. (Baker Publishing Group) Theology
4 Adventure Bible, NIV Richards, Lawrence O. (Zondervan) Kids
5 The Apple Creek Announcement: Volume 3 Brunstetter, Wanda E. (Barbour Publishing)
Romance
6 KJV Standard Lesson Commentary(r) Large Print Edition Standard Publishing (David C Cook)
Christian Education
7 By Way of the Moonlight Musser, Elizabeth (Baker Publishing Group)
General Contemporary

8 After the Rapture: An End Times Guide to Survival Jeremiah, David (Thomas Nelson Publishers)
Evangelism

9 Jesus Listens: Daily Devotional Prayers of Peace, Joy, and Hope (the New 365-Day Prayer Book)
Young, Sarah (Thomas Nelson Publishers)
Christian Living …

As you continue to share about ‘Moonlight’, the word is getting out!

Also, please check out my interview (and a Giveaway) on Inspirational Historical Fiction Index in which I share about inspiration for the novel as well as some of my favorite historical fiction and dual time novels. Even if you already have a copy of the novel, I’d encourage you to enter the contest. If you win, you could gift a copy to a friend or to your local library or church library. You can read the interview and enter the giveaway here.

Lastly, here are a few fun photos of you with the novel!

I am humbled and grateful.

Thank you, Merci, and Happy Reading!

Elizabeth

ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and her blog, Letters to the Lord.

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Letters to the Lord: Release Day!

                                                             

Today’s Release Day for my new novel, and yes, it’s true: By Way of the Moonlight was chosen as A Publishers Weekly Top 10 Religion and Spirituality Book for Fall 2022!

I was shocked and thrilled and humbled and grateful. We authors know that even though there are lots of new ways to do it, the old-fashioned ‘word of mouth’ is still the best marketing tool—that is, having readers who have enjoyed the book share about it with friends, in person, on social media, in a book club etc. I’m super thankful and excited that the editors at Publishers Weekly have used their ‘word of mouth’ to tell others about By Way of the Moonlight.

This is how I feel about it (yes, I’m in my bathing suit and all the grass in the yard has died because it has been in the upper 90s over here. And we have mosquitoes. Lots of mosquitoes.)

Right now I’m sharing a few photos from our summer travels. As many of you know, Paul and I provide pastoral care for our mission, One Collective. This summer we’ve attended two conferences in Europe, both postponed several times because of Covid. The first was in Greece where we met with our colleagues from around the world for a time of fellowship, teaching, and encouragement.

The view from our hotel room. Yes, there are definitely perks to this ministry life!
We even had a baptism in the Mediterranean!

Then Paul and I had the joy of welcoming newlyweds Chris and Ashlee to join us on a week-long road trip through Greece, on a ferry, and into Italy (yes, we drove to and from Greece in our car!)

Lefkada Island

Sunset on the ferry ride across the Ionian Sea.
Tuscany
Florence
Cinque Terre
We all felt revived, restored, and spoiled rotten.

While Chris and Ashlee were hiking one last trail in Cinque Terre (I’d already hiked with them that morning), I sat on my little balcony overlooking the Mediterranean and read a Mary Higgins Clark novel that I had found at our Airbnb.

Back in the 90s, as a young missionary, mother, and wannabe writer, I would read Mary Higgins Clark mysteries in French. They were quick, clean (if at times a bit psycho) reads, filled with suspense, and reading in French helped me with my vocabulary. That was my escape.

So I was tickled to find Daddy’s Little Girl on the bookshelf in Vernazza, Italy! I didn’t finish it on the trip but persuaded the lovely hostess to let me take it with me! 

All during my childhood (Nancy Drew), youth (Mary Stewart and Agatha Christie), and young adulthood (Mary Higgins Clark), I was enthralled with mysteries. I think that’s why I love to incorporate mystery into my novels. I don’t have the brain power to write crime or real suspense, but I love to put little hints in the novels, and By Way of the Moonlight has several mysteries and twists that even I didn’t see coming when I first started writing the story!


As you are reading this, I’m at another conference, this time in Germany with our colleagues from all over Europe. But to you, my dear readers, I want to say MERCI for taking the time to read this newsletter and for taking even more time to read my novels. I so, so, so hope you will enjoy By Way of the Moonlight!

By Way of the Moonlight Virtual Tour is right here. All fifteen videos are included! And if you’re looking for ways to share these with friends, you can point people toward my Instagram Reels, the Facebook Playlist, or (this is new!) my YouTube channel.

Lastly, if you don’t mind helping me share the good news, By Way of the Moonlight was selected for Publishers Weekly’s Top Ten list for the Fall!

Thanks for joining me on this journey! I’m thrilled this book is finally available for all of you!

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Good News, Bad News, and Amazing News

In an unexpected twist of events, you all did such an amazing job helping to spread the word about my new book and preordering from Baker that we ran out of signed book plates and we won’t be able to get more before the books are shipped out on release day.

So, thank you all for helping spread the word! Sadly, this does mean that some of you won’t end up with the signed copy. But you still get the discount and free shipping if you preordered, and your books will all arrive on time. However, if you’re in the Atlanta area, I will be having a book signing (location and time TBD) and I’d love to see you there and sign your copy the old fashioned way.

In more fun news, I wanted to let you know that you can now download and print out the discussion questions from An Open Book! There are discussion questions printed in the back of the book, so this won’t be vital if you’re reading with your book club in person, but if you’re reading an ebook copy or want to keep from flipping back and forth, this link will help you out.

And lastly, I wanted to let you all know of one other amazing thing that happened this week–Publisher’s Weekly selected By Way of the Moonlight as one of their top ten books of fall! They only release a list like this twice a year, and mine is the only novel on this list. I’m incredibly honored and still processing what this could mean.

Thank you all for walking this path with me!

I’m praying that your summer is filled with sunshine and time to rest and read a good book.

Blessings!

ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and her blog, Letters to the Lord.

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Letters to the Lord: A Countdown Q & A

It’s countdown time–two weeks before the release of my new novel, By Way of the Moonlight. Yikes! The months and weeks preceding the launch of a novel can be a bit stressful for us authors. We wonder will my readers like the book? What about reviewers? So I was absolutely delighted to receive a lovely review from Publishers Weekly. You can read the whole review here.

Way before Publishers Weekly called By Way of the Moonlight ‘perfect for book clubs’, my publisher chose to feature the novel as their July pick for An Open Book, a resource for book clubs. Your book club can find out about An Open Book here.

My publisher gave me permission to share on my blog this Q & A about the novel that I prepared for An Open Book. Enjoy!


Q&A with Elizabeth Musser
By Way of the Moonlight

Please provide a brief summary of your new novel, By Way of the Moonlight.
It’s 1943 when Dale Butler, riding her dappled mare, comes upon the body of a merchant sailor on the shore after his tanker is sunk by a German submarine during the Battle of the Atlantic, and subsequently, she inherits a treasure too big to reveal. Almost eighty years later, her grand-daughter Allie needs that gift to keep the property that ties their lives and their dreams together: a stable filled with horses.


By Way of the Moonlight is set in Atlanta, Georgia, which is the same setting as your bestselling novel, The Swan House. Why did you choose to return to Atlanta for this novel?
As a Southern girl, most of my novels are set either in Southern France or the South in the USA, with Atlanta being my favorite city setting. But in this novel, I am not just focusing on Atlanta or even Buckhead, the neighborhood where I grew up and the setting of The Swan House. This time, I focus on the house and property where I grew up in Atlanta. I weave a fictional tale around my parents’ home on Nancy Creek Road as I ask questions about the worth of land, family history, memories, and shared dreams.


Can you tell us a little more about what and who were the inspirations behind this
book?

The inspiration for the Atlanta part of the novel came from growing up in the middle of Atlanta with a barn filled with horses in my backyard and several buried in the riding ring. Our five-acre property has been in the family since 1938, when my grandfather built a small house and a two-horse barn out in the boonies of Buckhead on a dirt road for his only child, my mom, to keep her horse and indulge her in her love of riding and showing. My mother was a great equestrian, showing and jumping until she was seventy, and I rode and showed as a child and teen.


Over the years, the house and barn have evolved into something of a rustic private paradise for our family. But estates like my parents’ are being bought up and sold to contractors who implode the house and create cluster mansions on the property, and that was my mother’s worst nightmare, and I feel the same way. So I’ve wrestled in my mind for years with the question of “How can we keep this property after my parents are gone?” My novels often touch on themes that mirror events and ruminations in my own life, and so I began to pen a novel about finding alleged dinosaur bones in the backyard of an estate.


At the same time, I serendipitously happened on a photo of a group of military men galloping their mounts along the beach of Hilton Head Island—my family’s favorite vacation spot for the past fifty years. But this photo was taken during the Battle of the Atlantic in WWII when the island was mostly deserted. I found myself cantering into the world of the Coast Guard Mounted Patrol, affectionately called the Sand Pounders, and what a wild ride that was! So I created a dual-time novel that highlights the wonder and adventure of my mother’s life as a young equestrian star, referring to real events but scooting the story line back to the 1930s and ’40s (Mom’s heyday was in the ’50s) combined with the intrigue of the Battle of the Atlantic, and then brought in my present-day protagonist as her granddaughter, who has dreamed for all her life of turning Nana Dale’s estate into an equine therapy center.


Your present-day protagonist, Allie Massey, is a gifted physical therapist who specializes in equine therapy. What type of research was required to accurately portray both Allie’s profession and this form of therapy?
I was privileged to interview Gwen Hanna, who just happens to be the mother of my wonderful marketing assistant, Jori Hanna, and hear her firsthand experience working in equine therapy. I also studied the different programs at the real Chastain Horse Park in Atlanta and read and watched different depictions of this type of therapy. Most interesting was learning the story of the Danish champion, Lis Hartel, who overcame polio by using this therapy in the ’40s and ’50s before it was known in the US. But of course, as a horse lover and a gal who grew up with ponies and horses who were like my best friends, I knew all about the healing power of horses from the time I was young.


Your story in the past focuses on the Coast Guard Mounted Patrol during the Battle of the Atlantic—how did you research that period?
After finding that photo of the Sound Pounders, I started doing research in earnest. I discovered an article about a father-daughter team who reenact the famed Beach Patrol horseback units. Wayne Ormsbee, a civilian employee at Coast Guard Base Boston, and his daughter, Petty Officer Keisha Kerr, a coast guard active-duty boatswain’s mate, make appearances at parades, civic celebrations, veterans’ events, and horse shows, helping to rekindle interest in the storied Beach Patrol units.


Keisha was kind enough to do a Zoom call with me while she was on duty in Guam. She also pointed me to the book, Prints in the Sand by Eleanor Bishop. From there, I dug down many rabbit holes and learned about the two US tankers who were sunk by a German U-Boat off the coast of St. Simons Island. Then my husband and I journeyed to the island and spent hours perusing the excellent displays at the World War II Homefront Museum. We met a docent historian, Dr. George Cressman, who also provided previously classified documents detailing the creation of the Coast Guard Mounted Patrol and the different stations along all of the coasts of the United States. We also spent an afternoon on the grounds of what was Camp McDougal on Hilton Head Island, where the military camp and horses were housed during WWII. Suffice it to say, I spent many, many hours understanding the Battle of the Atlantic and found it inspiring and fascinating. Especially the heroism of so many Stateside civilians doing their part to construct Liberty ships and guard the coasts when the German threat was at its height.

Both Allie and her grandmother, Nana Dale, are determined to risk everything to save what they love most. Without giving away any spoilers, can you explain how this impacts both of their lives?
Allie and her nana are both strong women who are courageous, savvy businesswomen with a deep respect for family and a deep love for horses. One of the themes in the novel is about obsession. I wanted to examine the thin line between fighting for what you believe in and developing an unhealthy obsession. Both women learn important lessons about pursuing dreams at all costs, which may cause them to sacrifice something or someone they love.


By Way of the Moonlight is a dual-time novel. What challenges did you experience when focusing on characters in two different time periods?
I loved every part of writing this novel because it was so close to my heart—I was doing research in my childhood home, reliving my mother’s past, and digging into history that was brand-new to me, which was all about horses! I had such fun including lots of slightly altered incidents from my growing-up days with horses, my favorite by far being the mystery of finding “dinosaur bones” in a Buckhead backyard. Truth is stranger than fiction, and my family’s story has a lot of delightful strange in it!


I also absolutely loved creating two sweet love stories that, in my humble opinion, are swoon worthy and sure to bring laughter and tears. Love in the 1940s and in present day aren’t so different when they involve a besotted girl, a kind and adventurous guy, and horses. Lots of horses!


What lessons do you hope readers gain from reading By Way of the Moonlight?
• Be careful about obsession.
• Be kind and courageous.
• Find joy in helping others.
• Fight for what you believe in but fall on your knees often to make sure the Lord has the
last say.
• Hold tightly to those you love.
• In life, you often have to take the risk of being misunderstood.
• Practice gratitude—Husy, Dale’s nursemaid, says it well: “It will never be enough, Dale,
until you decide that you already have it all. You settle in your mind a grateful heart, a
content spirit, and everything else will be gravy, girl.”
• Embrace paradox—Nana Dale tells Allie, “Life is paradox, Allie. When you learn to
embrace it all, let it mix together like molasses in oats, well, the sweet fragrance comes
out. Even when life stinks.”
• When life gets hard to stand, kneel.


Dear readers, I hope you’ve found this Q & A fun and informative. And I hope it makes you want to read the novel! My publisher is providing 40% off, free shipping, and a signed bookplate (by me=) for pre-orders. Feel free to share the news!

I’m praying that your summer is filled with sunshine and time to rest and read a good book.

Blessings!

ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and her blog, Letters to the Lord.

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Letters to the Lord: America!

                                                             

Please enjoy this essay penned by my beloved mother-in-law, Doris Ann Musser.

America!

The word brings an infusion of warmth to my soul.  It means country, flag, people, freedom, God, beauty, family. Specifically, it includes parades, church spires, massive malls, “Play ball”, Boy Scouts, women’s soccer, majestic mountains, wavy water, small towns, busy workers.

One moment I am bowed down with deep gratitude to God plus respect for the brave.  My gratefulness deepens for those families who, over the years, received the dreaded visit from uniformed officers.  Their window stars reflect lingering pain.

The next moment, memory finds me standing tall with old and wrinkled hands covering a proud heart.  My cracking voice joins the crowd in asking, “Oh, say can you see….?”  No.  I can’t see.  Eyes blurry with tears prevent viewing the flag, but I know it is there.

Photo by Sawyer Sutton on Pexels.com

Americans form a tremendous mass of one melted pot family.  We enjoy various languages, attitudes, expectations, achievements.  We are colorful in skin and actions.  We experience challenges and joys like families of any size.

At any given moment we………..

                     love & antagonize

                          work & goof off

                                 dream & dread

                                          birth & die

                                                 fall & rise

                                                        remember & forget

                                                                 win & lose

                                                                        worship & pray

Imperfect though we are, we reach as far as possible toward perfection.  In spite of wars, problems, miseries, disappointments, broken dreams, fractured families, and inequalities, God’s goodness and grace has sustained us.

We are a motley crew under the care of an organized government…

                    defined by constitution and creed

                             refined by freedom in choices

                                       combined into one inclusive nation

                                                          for the people and by the people.

Thank you, America, for blessing me with so many spiritual and physical blessings.  May God continue to guide you. My prayer is for many individuals in their personal lives and leaders in government positions to seek you as we move into a constantly changing future.

Photo by Scott Platt on Pexels.com

As a small town girl who has lived only 86 years, 200 seems quite old.  God, in His wisdom, deemed it so. Countries much older must consider us upstart children.  We accept that and build on past discoveries to make a brighter future.

America!

                                       So much to explore.

                                        Your wonders…..some ignore.

                                         A land of plenty….plus more.

                                          May your free spirit ever soar!!!   

                              H  A  P  P  Y      B  I  R  T  H  D  A  Y       A  M  E  R  I  C  A

Doris Ann, aka ‘Mamaw’, leading the choir at a 4th of July Reunion for the adult students of the school in Brazil she and ‘Papaw’ directed for 10 years.
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Letters to the Lord: Food, Glorious Food!

The simple joys of being back in France in the summer are many. Today I’m celebrating the FOOD!

Fresh breads from the boulangerie
Breakfast outside with my family visiting
Dinner outside with my family visiting
My favorite quiche recipe made with lardons (real bacon bits)
A simple dinner on our front porch

Watermelon, goat cheese, sweet onion, and cherry tomato salad. Find the recipe here.
Cheese! Comté, Brie, Camembert, Morbier, Tome de Savoie, Fleury
Homemade chocolate chip cookies (yes, I brought the chocolate chips from the US=)
A delicious sundae at our favorite ice cream shop in Vieux Lyon

Next time I’ll show some photos of favorite places in and around Lyon. But for now, Bon Appétit!

ELIZABETH MUSSER writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and her blog, Letters to the Lord.