Giving Thanks in Everything

Thanksgiving is here, and, to the average American, that means turkey dinners, a couple I’m-thankful-for statements, the Macy’s Day parade, and football. It’s easy to be thankful when there’s a giant turkey on the table with all the trimmings, family and friends gathered around in a jolly mood, and your favorite team is winning on the big screen. But what about when there’s no pumpkin pie, fuzzy feelings, or smiling faces? What happens then?

In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, he gives his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ some final instructions before closing. He says this in 1 Thessalonians 5:18:

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Did you see that? Give thanks in all circumstances.

But wait a second there, Paul, you may say. Are you sure about that? Giving thanks in ALL circumstances? What about when my grandma dies or I have to move to another state? What about when my grades are low and my best friend just starts hating on me for no reason? You want me to be thankful when everything is, well falling apart and going downhill?

Yes, actually. That is what Paul is saying.

More Than A Hiding Place by Emily S. Smith chronicles the story of a woman who lived during World War II in Haarlem, the Netherlands. Her name was Corrie ten Boom. The daughter of a watchmaker, Corrie loved Jesus with all of her heart. When WWII came to her country, she and her family helped many Jews escape the clutches of the Nazis (I actually got to visit her house and saw where they hid the Jews!). Sadly, the ten Boom family was caught.  Corrie and her sister Betsie were sent to a concentration camp, Ravensbrück.

The barracks where the women in the camp slept were filthy and crowded. Lice was a big problem amongst the prisoners. One day, Corrie complained to Betsie about their living conditions. And do you want to know what Betsie said?

“You must thank God for everything, even for the lice.”

And guess what? Those lice are the one thing that kept the German guards from searching the barracks. Therefore, Betsie and Corrie could hide a tiny Bible that they used to hold Bible studies twice a week in the barracks, even though the Bible was forbidden. The women of Ravensbrück found hope in the Word and studied it eagerly. It was then that Corrie learned to be thankful for even the lice.

Give thanks for everything. Isn’t it beautiful that a woman who’s been through so much can give thanks in the filthy barracks of a concentration camp?

Give thanks for everything. Give thanks in all circumstances. Two radical challenges in today’s world.

This Thanksgiving, I want to challenge all of my fellow teens to give thanks for everything no matter the circumstances. To adopt an attitude of thanksgiving for all we’ve been richly blessed with, though it may not seem like it at the time. Turkey or no turkey, great circumstances or not-so-great ones, let us all take Paul’s instruction and follow Corrie’s lead.

It’s God’s will for us in Christ Jesus, after all.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever.”

2 Chronicles 20:21

What are five unlikely things that you are thankful for?

THREE ROMANCE CLICHÉS THAT I LOVE

THREE ROMANCE CLICHÉS THAT I LOVE
In one of my recent posts, I ranted talked about three romance clichés that drive me crazy (click here to read it!). But, to be honest, I LOVE some clichés. Clichés can be bad, but they can also be like a mug of cocoa–nice, comforting, predictable, and exactly what you need. Now, without further ado, here are three romance clichés that I LOVE. 
The Damsel in Distress ❤ 
I LOVE THIS CLICHÉ SO MUCH. I blame it on the Disney princess movies that I will never get enough of. Just ask my siblings. 
But honestly, what can be more romantic than a prince saving his princess from a fire-breathing dragon, a poison-apple induced sleep, a sea-witch, or an evil stepmother? I’M KIDDING I’M BEING SARCASTIC. Or am I? One can never tell. 😉 I really like this cliché because it totally goes against the “strong” women cliché (check out this post to see my rant thoughts). Also, it’s romantic. Just watch the Disney princess movies. Thank you very much. 

Romeo and Juliet ❤

What I mean by Romeo and Juliet is FORBIDDEN LLLLLOOOOOVVVVVEEEE. But this cliché does need to meet some conditions for me to love it. Like I actually have to LIKE the characters okay? Conditions such as their love shouldn’t be forbidden for good reasons. For example, a family feud is not a good reason to not fall in love. Just saying. Another condition is that I would like for it to have a happy ending (I’m looking at you, Shakesepeare). Please. Happily ever afters make me VERY happy. 

Hate to Love ❤

Don’t you love it when two characters start out hating each others’ guts and then end up falling madly in love? I know that I do! Not only is it slightly humorous, but it is also so stinking adorable when it does happen. ESPECIALLY if a good dose of sarcasm is thrown in the mix. For example, Darcy and Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is my favorite hate-to-love relationship. Another book that had a great hate-to-love relationship was Unblemished by Sara Ella (read my review by clicking here). Read it and then we can fangirl together, okay? =)

What are some romance clichés that YOU love? 

What Am I? ~ A Shakespearean Sonnet

What Am I? ~ A Shakespearean Sonnet
Sometimes when I am left to ponder,
The roll of the clouds, the glow of the moon, the soar of an eagle, the height of the sky, 
I, like a child, can’t help but wonder, 
In all of this, what am I? 

The roar of the storm, the ocean wide,
Spirals of rock, evergreens, ethereal flowers and mountain kings, 
A bow of color in the sky, the ebb and flow of the passing tide,
What am I, amidst all of this creation that sings

The yawn of a canyon, the crescendo of light, 
Scampering does, skittering leaves, fluttering birds, towering trees,
The dance of stars in a dark blue night,
What am I, amidst all of these? 
Perhaps it is not what I am that I should dwell on, nor on all of this majesty,
But rather, on the hands that made all of this, and me

Guest Post By Tessa Emily Hall: Can Our “Imperfections” Further Our God-Given Calling?

Guest Post By Tessa Emily Hall: Can Our “Imperfections” Further Our God-Given Calling?
I’m super excited to be hosting Tessa Emily Hall of Christ Is Write here on Notebooks and Novels today! Her next first devotional for teens, Coffee Shop Devos, releases next month, and I cannot WAIT to get my hands on a copy! =D 
About Coffee Shop Devos

There’s something special about spending time at a coffee shop with a friend–engaging in a meaningful conversation, then leaving refueled and ready to tackle the rest of the day. What if your quiet times with God energized you the same way?

Coffee Shop Devos offers a warm atmosphere that will inspire you to discover your God-given purpose and live to your greatest potential. Choose your devo flavor in the Menu of Contents based on your current need. Then lean into deeper intimacy with Christ through reflection and prayer. Along the way, you’ll pick up tips and recipes for making your own coffee-shop beverage–regular or decaf–to enjoy while you read. And don’t forget to share your journey with your friends! #CoffeeShopDevos

Each of the 180 challenging and motivational devotions will leave you feeling refreshed and reinvigorated–almost as though you’ve shared a steaming pot of brew at a coffee shop with your Creator.

Click here to pre-order Coffee Shop Devos on Amazon.
Click here to mark Coffee Shop Devos as “to read” on Goodreads.

Doesn’t it look fantastic? I’m excited to get to read it! =D But for now, I’m happy to get to read this lovely guest post that Tessa wrote. It’s not only encouraging, but it is also a challenge for us to discover who God made us to be and what He put us on this earth to do. I’m excited to get to share this with you all! =) Happy reading! 

Have you ever felt different from others your age? Maybe you’re not into the same hobbies your friends are into. Perhaps you’re not as social, don’t have as many followers on social media, or don’t care about shopping.

This is how I felt in middle and high school. Like I stood out. Like I was the only introverted girl my age—the only one who preferred to stay at home on the weekends and write rather than hang out with friends.

I felt like something was wrong with me. Why couldn’t I fit in?

The thing is–I didn’t want to fit in. I didn’t want to become someone that I wasn’t just so I could receive acceptance. Yet even this made me feel as though I needed to be “fixed”.

It wasn’t until I grew closer in my relationship with Christ that my desire to receive approval from man began to fade. It wasn’t until then that the truth laid out in Psalms 139:13-16–which says that every detail of myself was selected with a purpose–that I began to accept who I am. And during this time, I had a realization:

My “imperfections”–what I once thought were flaws–are actually the very traits God will use to further my calling. 
You see, the enemy doesn’t want me to love who I am. Instead, he wants me to resent the very aspects about myself that God views as beautiful. Why? Because he wants me to refrain from embracing my potential and pursuing my calling. A calling that could result in the furthering of God’s Kingdom. 
But now that I’ve learned this tactic, I can allow God to transform these “flaws” into strengths. Just as He originally intended. No, not even so I can gain human acceptance–but so I can play my role in building the Body of Christ. So I can tap into my fullest potential and pursue my calling.
Does this mean perhaps God created each of us in a way that could aid us in pursuing our unique path? Does this mean He gave us our personality, strengths, gifts, desires—and, yes, quirks—for a reason?
I believe so. I believe He purposely crafted each us differently so we could contribute to the work of His Body (The Church) in various ways. He wants to send His message throughout the ends of the earth, and we are His hands and His feet (1 Corin. 12:12). The way He formed us is directly correlated with how He wants us to further His ministry on earth.
What I once viewed as a weakness — being introverted — was actually a God-given strength to help me fulfill my calling: writing. If I wasn’t an introvert then I wouldn’t have the ability to stay quiet and observe in a social setting. I would also probably go crazy if I had to stay at home and write for hours on end!
What is it God has called you to pursue? You might not know the entire picture, but perhaps you have an understanding how you’re different. You’re familiar with your personality type. You understand your various strengths and interests. What if these unique facets that make up you are arrows pointing you toward your unique calling—or at least hints that could give you a glimpse into what He might want you to accomplish on this earth?
My challenge to youSpend time with God today. Ask Him to help you accept every part of who you are–yes, even the “flaws”. Then, see if He reveals ways you can begin to tap into your potential and pursue your unique path.

About Tessa

Tessa Emily Hall is an award-winning author who writes inspirational yet authentic books to show teens they’re not alone. Her first teen devotional, COFFEE SHOP DEVOS, will release with Bethany House September 2018. Tessa’s passion for shedding light on clean entertainment and media for teens led her to a career as an Associate Agent for Cyle Young at Hartline Literary Agency, YA Acquisitions Editor for Illuminate YA (LPC Imprint), and Founder/Editor of PURSUE Magazine. She’s guilty of making way too many lattes and never finishing her to-read list. When her fingers aren’t flying 116 WPM across the keyboard, she can be found speaking to teens, decorating art journals, and acting in Christian films. Her favorite way to procrastinate is by connecting with readers on her blog, mailing list, social media (@tessaemilyhall), and website: www.tessaemilyhall.com.

Visit Tessa on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook and subscribe to her mailing list

What is one of your “imperfections” that could be pointing to your God-given calling? What’s your favorite coffee shop drink? 

THREE ROMANCE CLICHES THAT DRIVE ME CRAZY

Ah, romance in YA. I’ve got a serious love-hate relationship with it. On one hand, all of the cute moments in YA romance that send me squealing into a pillow have me hungry for more. But on the other hand, one of the things that drives me crazy about YA romance is the sheer number of clichés I’ve read. Some of the clichés drive me crazier than others, and yet some I find myself asking for more of.*
Without further ado, here are three romance clichés that drive me crazy.

*I would like to note that I have seen instances in which these clichés were “freshened up” rather beautifully, but these cases are very rare for me personally. 
Insta-Love ❤

“And then their eyes met from across the room and they just knew that they were meant for each other…” It wouldn’t be entirely untruthful to nickname the cliché of “insta-love” as “Disney-love.” After all, nearly every Disney princess movie has moments of insta-love (although in Frozen, this cliché is flipped beautifully). 

Yes, attraction happens, but falling in love with someone in a matter of minutes is utterly ridiculous. 

This idea of “love at first sight” is not only unrealistic, but it also is super shallow (and not the smartest thing in real life, if you know what I mean). Who falls in love with someone after a glance from across a coffee shop or a quick conversation about the book you’re reading? How can you know it’s really love if all you know about the guy is that he has icy blue eyes and a baseball cap? 
Love Triangles ❤

Newsflash: LOVE TRIANGLES ARE KINDA DONE. If I have to pick up another book with a love triangle in it, I might cry. Yes, love triangles can be done well (it’s possible!), but honestly, we’ve seen it a thousand times before. Nothing seems to have changed. It’s so easy to figure out which guy the girl is going to pick! 
Not only are love triangles super predictable, but they add weak (unneeded!) tension to the plot. 
There have been books I’ve read that have love triangles in them just to have love triangles. The love triangle adds nothing substantial to the plot. In some cases, all of that unneeded baggage about which boy the main character is going to the dance with can take away from the story. I don’t want to know about Suzy’s inner turmoil about Eddie and Bob. I want to care about something more than the love triangle in a book and see something more original, something more real. 
Insecure Girl Meets Gorgeous Boy ❤

This cliché is so common it’s not even funny. We go from a main character thinking that nobody loves them to suddenly meeting their “true love” and then suddenly having extremely high self-esteem levels. In this cliché, characters feel worthless without their love interest. But when Prince Charming comes along, the mirror is no longer as harsh. The critics’ voices become muted. They’re happier. They’re content. They feel worth something, now that someone so wonderful loves them. 
This is cute, but isn’t this cliché teaching readers to find their worth in what others think of them? 

Instead of encouraging readers to find their worth in what the Lord thinks of them and the beautiful people He made them to be, this cliché teaches readers that their worth comes from having a Prince Charming to tell them how lovely they are. Truthfully, our worth comes from the God who created us and loves us more than we can imagine, not a tall, dark and handsome guy. 

What do you think? Do any of these clichés drive YOU crazy? Have you seen any examples of these three clichés that you liked? 

I’m Tired of “Strong” Female Characters Part Four – The Wrap-Up

I almost can’t believe that this is the last part of my series on strong women in fiction! I’ve had a blast sharing my thoughts and tips and chatting about this topic with you all in the comments. Before I continue, here are the links to the rest of this series in case any of you would like to catch up. =)

The Rest of the Series…

I’d like to close this series not by offering any more tips or pointing out amazing strong female characters in fiction, but by challenging my fellow writers to craft truly strong women in their stories. 
We writers have the amazing ability to influence people through the words we write. We don’t just write our stories for enjoyment. We get to encourage people with our stories. We get to tell them truth. We get to inspire people. We get to show them what’s right and wrong. We get to tell stories that change people, that change the world.
We get this privilege… Let’s not abuse it. Let’s use it! 
My hope and prayer for all of my fellow writers is that God will guide them to write stories that will glorify him. I hope that those same stories can also help girls realize what it means to be a truly strong women of the Lord who don’t look to their abilities or positions of power for their strength, but to their Lord and Savior. 
Thank you so much for joining me during this series on strong women in fiction! Be sure to visit Notebooks and Novels again next week for a book review of Jenny Han’s novel To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Which of these posts was your favorite? Which was most helpful? Will you take on the challenge to write about strong female characters? 
P.S. Be sure to check out my article on PURSUE on friendships with the guys in your life! Click here to read 4 Tips For Having Great Friendships With Guys. 

I’m Tired of “Strong” Female Characters Part One

You know her. She’s got an athletic build and the uncanny ability to wield any weapon. Occasionally, there’s some superhuman power. More often than not, the title of savior/chosen one/leader/queen/princess/empress/insert-important-title-here is thrust upon her. She’s got a great distaste for anything pink, sparkly, or remotely girl (although she’s known to rock a dress when forced). Usually she’s got a handsome boyfriend that she ends up having to protect. And in the midst of it all, she’s keeping a bunch of secrets beneath her warrior-queen exterior.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the strong female character.

If you haven’t met her, then you obviously haven’t read a lot of YA fiction. She comes in many forms, such as the fantasy/sci-fi version I painted a picture of above. She can be found in pretty much every genre. She can be the main character, the secondary character, a background character… She’ll probably be there somewhere, if not in a book, then in a TV show or movie. And to be honest….

I’m tired of this “strong” female character cliché.

This is not to say that I don’t like some typical cliché strong female characters. In fact, they can be done very well. I’m thinking of memorable characters such as Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games and Parvin Blackwater of the A Time To Die series. But it seems to me that we have begun to define strong women by physical strengths, talents, and powers, their boyfriends and multiple love interests, their positions of power, their ability to go it alone, a hatred (or at least some form of dislike) of all things feminine… The list goes on.

Why does a girl have to be a warrior-queen to be strong?

I know lots of strong women, and none of them are half ninja. They find their strengths in places other than their looks and their ability to beat up boys and lead rebel nations. Strength, in our culture, has become more of a physical attribute than anything else. Strength is defined by how you carry yourself, how athletic and muscular you are, how intimidating you are… The list goes on. But the strength that these strong female characters have isn’t true strength. 

True strength doesn’t come from being a rebel leader or wielding a bow and arrow. 

True strength is something that comes from within, not from the outside. True strength isn’t ignoring your feelings, it’s confronting them. True strength is finding the courage to do what’s right. It’s staying strong though all life throws at you. True strength comes from faith in God. True strength is something that female characters in YA fiction desperately need.


I want girls to know that their strength doesn’t come their fists. 

I want them to have real strength, not the fake version that has been offered up to all of us in today’s movies, books, and TV shows. I want them to be inspired to be truly strong by the stories I write. Fellow writers, we get the privilege to change this cliché and inspire girls to become truly strong women though our stories. We get to do more than just entertain with the stories we spin. We get to inspire. We get to motivate. We get to encourage. What an awesome privilege that is, am I right?


Next week, I hope that you’ll join me for part two of this series as I offer some tips on how you can make the female characters in your writing truly strong. 

What are your thoughts on strong female characters? What do you think is true strength? Who is your favorite character that falls into the “strong woman” cliché?