Saying Goodbye to Summer

How I hate typing those words: Goodbye to summer. It seems like summer just got here! I decided to take a peek through my vacation photographs and recall all of the reasons why I’m thankful for the Summer of 2016.

Vacation time started in June with a family trip to Colorado. We rented a cabin near Rocky Mountain National Park and hiked in the woods and mountains every day.

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The beautiful weather and sunny beaches near our home brought visits from dear friends and family members. I loved spending time with them.

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One weekly highlight this summer was listening to my husband’s band concerts in the city park by the lake shore.

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Beaches. Biking. Picnicking. Sunshine. What blessings!

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Now it’s Labor Day weekend and we have one final beach/picnicking/celebrating/extravaganza planned. Our house will be filled with family members and guests and lots of food—just the way I like it!

I think part of the reason I hate to see summer end is because I know what’s coming soon—falling leaves and fading flowers and then the cold death of winter. After the flood, God promised Noah that “As long as the earth endures, seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease” (Genesis 8:22). This promise of resurrection is built into Earth’s cycles and seasons, and points to the resurrection of Christ—and ultimately our own. I’ve been reading “Home: How Heaven and the New Earth Satisfy our Deepest Longings” by Elyse Fitzpatrick, and she describes what our resurrected life on the New Earth will be like. In many ways, it will resemble my summer vacation; spending time with family and friends, and enjoying the astonishing beauty of a renewed earth. I can’t imagine an earth that’s more beautiful than this one, can you? But it will be. All sorrow will be gone, all tears wiped away. Best of all, we’ll enjoy blessed fellowship with our God and Savior.

But for now, I’ll savor the last of these gorgeous summer days and give thanks for so many wonderful memories. Do you have a favorite memory from the summer of 2016?

Time to Redecorate

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A thrift store find that I reupholstered

One of my favorite hobbies is interior decorating. I’m an avid fan of magazines and TV programs that transform a rundown house or a piece of outdated furniture into something beautiful. I love scouting thrift stores and yard sales for bargain items that I can repurpose, just like my favorite interior designer Joanna Gaines from HGTV’s “Fixer Upper.” As anyone who has visited my home knows, I enjoy rearranging my furniture and changing accent pieces every now and then for a totally new look—without spending a dime, of course. In fact, I have a “décor closet” filled with items I can swap out as the seasons (or my whims) change. My goal is always to create a comfortable, welcoming space that my family, friends and guests can enjoy.

constructionA few months back, I looked at my website (www.lynnaustin.org) and decided it was overdue for a change. I wanted a space that reflected my style and personality, but that was also a warm, welcoming place where my readers and I could get to know each other a little better. I wanted it to have information about my books—especially when a new one was released—and a place for readers to contact me. I wanted an up-to-date event calendar so that I could meet some of my readers in person the next time I’m speaking or visiting a bookstore in their area. And since I wanted to send out a newsletter occasionally when I have something new or fun to share, I wanted to feature an easy way for interested readers to sign up.

A thrift store find that I reupholstered

I confess that since my talents are limited to writing (and maybe amateur interior design), I needed lots of professional help with my website redecorating project. I’m very grateful to my savvy marketing and publicity expert, Christine Bierma, for all her hard work and great ideas, as well as to the very talented graphic and web designer, Cori de Roos, for the beautifully renovated site. It has been under construction for the past few months and is finally ready to be unveiled this Thursday, August 4. Thank you for your patience while the reconstruction has been taking place.

We’re inching closer and closer to the October release date for my newest novel, “Waves of Mercy,” so there will be a sneak peek at the cover on Thursday. And I’ll be revealing some behind-the-scenes photos from my research in my coming newsletter. Make sure you sign up for it.welcome

The welcome mat will soon be out! I would love for you to stop by and have a look this Thursday—and then please let me know what you think. I look forward to visiting with you.

On Vacation

IMG_0758It’s summer. I live within walking distance of the beach. I’ve waited many long months for beautiful weather like this and for leisurely afternoons to enjoy it. Most of all, I’ve waited for my family and friends to visit so I can do all of the wonderful, summer-y things this area has to offer. At the same time, I have a book to finish, a deadline to meet. These conflicting desires pull me in opposite directions. But I’ve learned a few techniques over the years, for staying focused on my book when I’d rather go jump in the lake.

Take the Baby Along

FullSizeRender(5)My daughter and son-in-law are brand-new parents. If they go to the park for a few hours or on a vacation to Colorado for a week (as they just did), they have to figure out how to take the baby along. Those of us who are parents understand how much planning (and equipment!) it takes for even the simplest excursion. I’m the parent of a book-in-progress. I can’t afford to leave my baby behind for very long or I’ll have to start all over again the way we do when we’ve read a few chapters of a book and then set it aside for a month. Now, where was I? Who are these characters, again?

I’m grateful to author Heather Sellers and her book “Chapter After Chapter” for teaching me how to take the baby along. (Chapter 19: How to Travel With a Book-in-Progress.) The key is to always remain aware of my “baby” as if she’s napping in the next room. This involves advance planning. For example, when I have out-of-town guests, I plan small homework assignments for myself ahead of time that take only fifteen minutes or so, such as editing a chapter that I’ve printed out. If I’m off for an afternoon at the beach, I’ll bring along a fun book to read that’s related to my research. (Notice I said fun!) With a little bit of planning, I can keep my mind on my plot and characters even when the beach beckons.

Get Everyone Involved

S__AAF1My family and friends are smart, fun people. They’re also interested in what I’m writing and seem to enjoy talking about it with me. I’ve learned to take advantage of this “captive audience.” My friend Cathy loves discussing my romantic story-lines, and she helped me brainstorm a future Christmas novella during her visit. My sister Peggy, a university English professor, read my novel-in-progress while here on vacation (bless her!) and came up with several wonderful plot ideas for me. I talked about my manuscript’s spiritual themes with my son Ben and son-in-law Snir while on vacation in the Rocky Mountains and gleaned valuable lessons. Two of our out-of-town guests this summer were my German publisher Anne-Ruth and German editor, Kathrin. We did a lot of brainstorming together and they offered wonderful insights into what my readers enjoy about my books. (It wasn’t all work, though—we also had a lot of fun!) And my friend Jacki was wise enough to help me reconsider some of my over-ambitious entertaining plans so I wouldn’t burn out (she even volunteered to cook). I need all these friends! Writing a book shouldn’t be a solitary endeavor.

Playing is Working

FullSizeRenderI can’t count how many times I’ve had a creative break-through on my work-in-progress after I’ve walked away from my desk to go play. Creativity and play go hand-in-hand, and we’re most creative when we abandon ourselves to it like small children. I know this, but sometimes I forget. My sweet husband helps me take creative breaks from my job when I’m hard at work. He packed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch one day and we cycled to a park overlooking Lake Michigan. Another day we cycled to a nearby hotdog stand for corn dogs and onion rings. Not the healthiest lunch, but a fun one, and I returned to my desk re-charged.

Balance

FullSizeRender(7)The bottom line is finding balance. I need to learn how to balance all the competing obligations and longings in my life in a way that brings both accomplishment and joy.

May your summer days be filled with wonderful work, laughter and love, family and friends. Enjoy!