This week, I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing two of Joanne Bischof’s books, the first two from her Cadence of Grace Series, Be Still My Soul, and Though My Heart is Torn. Today, I am delighted to have Joanne, HERSELF, on The Front Lines with me.
So, I have a confession to make. I did NOT want to read Though My Heart is Torn. I simply didn’t think I could BEAR it!
Here’s why. Having read my review of Be Still My Soul last Monday, you’ll know that I was moved deeply by your characters, Lonnie and Gideon, and their struggle to overcome the obstacles set in front of them. They barely knew each other, they had very different goals for their futures, but they were thrust together anyway, with no alternative but to forge ahead. This story is rather personal to me in some ways – I’m one-half of a shotgun wedding, myself – and the movement of grace in both Lonnie’s and Gideon’s lives was like listening to a haunting melody. There were times I wanted to throw the book across the room because Gideon couldn’t see past himself to be a man for his woman, or because Lonnie wouldn’t stand up and roar, and there were times when I just had to close the pages and shed a few tears because you so poignantly took the melody of their song into deep and dark places of pain…. But by the end of the book, my heart was filled with hope.
Along comes Though My Heart is Torn. The title alone is warning enough…but then you read the back of the book:
Settling into a simple life in the majestic Blue Ridge mountains, Lonnie and Gideon O’Riley have finally found happiness after the rocky start to their marriage. The roguish bluegrass musician has fallen in love with his gentle wife and the God she serves, and Lonnie rests secure in his tenderness for her and their young son. A heartless ruse interrupts their peace, bringing them back to Rocky Knob—and forces them to face the claims of Cassie Allan, a woman who says she is Gideon’s rightful wife.
As Gideon wades into the depths of his past choices, Lonnie is stunned by the revelations. She has no choice but to navigate this new path, knowing that surviving the devastating blow will take every ounce of strength she has. While Gideon’s guilt and his bitterness towards Cassie threatens to burn up his fledgling faith, Lonnie wrestles to find the courage to trust the God who brought them together in the first place. Will their hard-earned love be able to conquer all?
Lonnie only wanted her husband’s love. Now that he belongs to another, can she surrender Gideon to a God with a bigger plan?
I’m sorry…. WHAT?????? Joanne, how COULD you????
Okay, I think I got that out of my system. But seriously, how could you take Lonnie’s tender heart and crush it like this? And Gideon’s new faith?
Let me rephrase that question. As an author, you basically get to play creator… or do you? Do you find that your characters write their own stories, even when you think you’ve got them figured out? Do they whisper bits and pieces of their own back-story to you? In other words, did you PLAN on breaking Lonnie’s and Gideon’s hearts when you wrote Be Still My Soul, or was the storyline of Though My Heart is Torn (continued in Book #3, My Hope is Found ) something that developed as their stories unfolded on the pages of Be Still My Soul?
Joanne: Wow, what a great question! This was one of those stories that I hadn’t planned on writing. I finished the final words of Be Still My Soul, sat back and thought that was the end. I was ready to move on to a new set of characters and a whole new adventure. But as I looked closer at this couple, and mostly Gideon, this pressing came upon me that their story wasn’t over. Gideon still had some growing up to do. I sat back in my writing chair and asked, “Ok, God. What’s next?” And that’s when I knew. Gideon had taken Lonnie when she wasn’t his to take, what if he were to lose her? What if he were to have to win her love once again from the ground up? What if it was time for Gideon to walk his own trial? God and Lonnie and the Bennetts had shown him grace in Be Still My Soul…but now, perhaps it was his turn to show grace. Perhaps it was his turn to understand what it means to lose everything you love, only to look back and wonder if God could really walk with him through those shadow lands, just as He had walked with Lonnie in the first book. God can, and he will and Gideon is going to go on quite a journey of the heart…one that begins in Though My Heart is Torn and will continue and deepen into My Hope is Found.
Wow – I’m so glad you shared this with us. I really appreciate that you’re taking Gideon through his own path of brokenness, separate from Lonnie, so that his faith, too, becomes deeply, and personally, rooted in Christ. I love how the Lord speaks to us about our “imaginary friends” – they’re very real to us, aren’t they?
Let’s talk a little about you, now. I had the opportunity to come to your book release party for Be Still My Soul at your home last October. What a wonderful time it was, and how fun for me to see you in your own element! Your website gives readers a varied taste of who you are. Although I’m anti-label, some of the identifying things that leap out at me about you are: Dedicated Christ-follower, Cherished Wife, Busy Mom, Beloved Daughter, Mandolin Player/Bluegrass & Folk Music Lover, Country-Living Aficionado, Author of God-glorifying Books, Planner (vs. Pantser – I watched your video on your Be Still My Soul notebook!), and Encourager Extraordinaire. Is there anything that you love, or are gifted in, that you haven’t shared with us? Are you a good dancer? Do you fold fitted sheets into a perfect square? (I admit, I’m one of those people. It’s the little things. When my house is in chaos, I have the secret knowledge that the fitted sheets in my linen closet have their corners all perfectly tucked into each other….) Is there something you know a lot about just from life experience?
Joanne: Oh, Becky this is too funny! I will need you to come to my house to fold sheets, because I sort of wad them up in a squarish mass and stuff them into the closet. Thank you so much for your sweet words about the sense you’ve gotten from my website and our online interactions. It was so fun to get to meet you and your real-life hero at the launch party for Be Still My Soul! What I seem to love and am drawn to are the simple things in life: friends, family a good book, a good laugh and those little joys in life that will never go out of fashion, (click to tweet!) whether it’s planting seeds in the garden or drawing pictures with my kids. I want to enjoy my time on this earth while also using words to share about the incredible God who created it all.
I love what you said about the little joys that never go out of fashion. Lovely. Okay. You talk about some pretty touchy topics in your books. Shot-gun weddings, alcoholism, infidelity, self-control – or lack thereof. But you also talk about honor and choosing to do the right thing even when life is at its bleakest. Have you ever walked through a time in your life, when you had to choose the right thing even when walking away would be so much easier, simpler? Or have you walked beside a friend going through a season like this?
Joanne: Oh, my, yes. There are some tough issues in the book. I often refer to it as “illuminating the knobs and hollows of this world” the good and the bad, because to watch something–or someone–come full circle from the darkness to the light, is one of the greatest victories of all.
There was a time in my life, about two years ago, that God called me on a seemingly impossible journey. I wanted nothing to do with it and the devastation it brought me, but God had it planned, nonetheless. And out of the pain and the heartache, He carried me. Despite all the anguish that I passed through, God was there each step of the way and the only way I can describe it, as I know so many people can relate to, is it was like the sun began to rise again. Slowly, surely, and steadily. Little hints of light began to fill in the darkness…bringing hope. (Click to Tweet!) That hope blossomed into joy and while at times the memories of all that came to pass are still bitter, it’s the sweetness that grows–if we allow it–and it’s that sweetness that can overcome that bitterness, filling our hearts with the joy and promises that Christ will see us through any trial. No matter how great.
Oh Joanne, I KNOW so many readers can truly relate, and your picture of light filtering into the dark places? It never happens quickly, does it? Healing, forgiving, BEING forgiven, it’s a journey, but one the Lord walks with us, if we let Him. He understands when we stumble under the memories, or fall behind when the burden seems too heavy. He never gives up on us. He is faithful.
On your website, you mention that Jebediah, the 65-year-old man who “steps in” when Lonnie and Gideon are at their lowest, is one of your favorite characters. Is there a Jebediah in your life? Did you fashion him after a real person?
Joanne: There is a Jebediah in my life–my dad. He’s such a wise, loving man. He’s very down to earth, never gets caught up in a lot of emotions or crazy ideas. He’s always a steady-constant, loves the Bible and treats people with an old-fashioned kindness that usually means that any friend of his, is often a friend for life. He’s there when the going gets tough and encourages young men in his life to keep striving to be the men God calls them to be. I am so thankful for my Dad!
Yes, the world NEEDS men like your dad, like Jebediah!
Okay. One more question for today because I have a WINNER to announce! Hymns. I grew up on hymns, and one of my all-time favorites is “Come Thou Fount.” It’s just so straight-forward about my humanness and God’s greatness and grace. But you pulled something out of it – a line I’d never really thought about before: Tune my heart to sing Thy grace. You talk about our hearts being “tunable.” Because my focus this month is marriage, can you talk about what that means to you in your marriage to your handsome (and awesome cobbler-making) husband, Noah?
Joanne: Would love to! My handsome and awesome-cobbler making husband is my best friend in the whole world! One of the things that keeps us walking closely and tight-knit, is our mutual desire to be the best person we can be for the other, as well as our children, and those we encounter throughout life. The idea of our hearts being “tunable” came to me while listening to that wonderful hymn, and as my husband and I took a close look at the acts of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit (1 Peter), we both knew that God could continually “tune our hearts” to be more like His, so that we could love better, richer, and deeper as God called us to. By weeding out our selfish desires and replacing it with things like humbleness, gentleness and self control, we show one another love. (Click to Tweet!)
“Our mutual desire to be the best person we can be for the other” – that’s my theme for this month. BEING the right person, rather than trying to CHOOSE the right person, or waiting for your spouse to be the right person. LOVE this.
One last thing: May we pray for you? Father, You’ve gifted Joanne with words, and the ability to weave them together into beautiful stories. Bless her obedience in using her gifts for You. Stretch her 24-hour days, Lord, so that she has the time she needs to nurture her family, her work, and most importantly, her relationship with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!
Joanne, thank you so much for joining us today, and for sharing your heart with us. I’m excited for Book #3, My Hope is Found, and this time, I DO want to read it! I can’t wait to see how the Lord works in Gideon’s and Lonnie’s remarkable lives!
Friends, I have a surprise bonus for you! Not only am I giving away one of her books here today, but Joanne is offering a WONDERFUL GIVEAWAY of her own! You MUST go check out her website – it’s as lovely as her books! And so is the giveaway – the gifts are designed around the main characters, Lonnie and Gideon, in Joanne’s Cadence of Grace Series.
*** So FINALLY, let me announce the winner of this week’s giveaway! ***
Sylvia has won a copy of Be Still My Soul!
Readers – Do you have a favorite hymn or song that has helped to “tune your heart to sing God’s grace?”
REMEMBER: Stay tuned for news about our new website, coming April 1st, Married…With Fiction!