My Own Backyard 

Hannah's Hope is a Christmas novella written as part of my Silver Bay series, and will be available for purchase November 10th, 2021.

As a writer, it's easy to get attached to certain characters. Some of them are not a part of the original outline but present themselves as you write. For me as I continue to write, those personalities grow and develop, bringing with them friends and family members I didn't initially intend, but who become some of my favorite characters to write.

Hannah and Paul Wagner are two of those characters for me. They show up first in Return To Silver Bay - Hannah as Maggie's best friend from high school and Paul as Hannah's high school sweetheart. They are now married and run a successful real estate business in town.

In Return To Silver Bay, we get a glimpse of Hannah and Paul’s desire for a family, as well as their journey through infertility and eventually adoption. By the time I completed Return To Silver Bay, I had in mind a Christmas story for Hannah and Paul. For some reason I saw them as a couple who would love that holiday, and especially in Silver Bay. The fact that they both grew up there and share a love for their home town, made it seem like the right fit for their story to take place at Christmas.

I always start my stories with the characters. I "interview" each one to get the details of their background, what they like and dislike, and even what car they like to drive and why. As I dive deep into who each character is, their stories begin to form and from there, their connections to one another grow.

Hannah's Hope is the first time I have written about a couple who are already married, and I loved sharing more of Paul and Hannah's history together. I believe that romance does not die over time in a marriage, it deepens. It was fun for me to write a couple who already had a deep connection to one another and then see how they navigate life together.

I honestly believe that romance and Christmas are meant for one another, much like Paul and Hannah.

What are some of your favorite Christmas books?

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I've officially been and empty nester now for two years. It feels longer, but that's probably because my daughter was the first to leave for college and that was five years ago.

In that time period, there have been a LOT of changes. Some because of decisions my husband and I made, and some because life ebbs and flows and brings about things we can't anticipate.

Some of the ones within our control were things like purge cleaning our house and moving to the beach. We downsized and embraced a new city and lifestyle and then a global pandemic hit. That certainly brought changes beyond our control.

In the midst of that, I finished grad school and then graduated in May of this year. I now work part-time as a chaplain and I also have gone back to writing. (I had taken a bit of a break while getting my masters degree.)

As an empty nester and after graduation, I thought about how I wanted to be intentional in moving forward. I don't want to do things the way I've always done them. But I have found those changes tougher to make than I thought.

Is it because I'm not creative enough in doing things a new way, or possibly lack a level of bravery needed? Is it that I've just become so comfortable with the known that to venture into unknown just seems too big and overwhelming?

I try to give myself grace. It's a process. A journey. As much as I would love a map or a plan, I need to do a bit of trial and error as I go - see what works and leave what doesn't.

I've found myself falling back into ruts where I am doing things the way I used to do them. I become aware and then think through what needs to change.

I think that awareness in and of itself is growth.

One thing I have discovered in this time of life is that most of my day, most of what I do, isn't influenced or driven by anyone but me.

That may seem like a no-brainer since I don't have kids at home anymore so their schedules and needs aren't here, but it's a tougher transition that one might think. It feels weird. And it takes adjusting.

One recent thing I have discovered is how I do my calendar. I live and die by calendars. I found one not long ago in a box of memorabilia that I had from kindergarten.

I had a day planner when I was five. It's true.

I have done a bit of trial and error, going back and forth between using only my phone (electronic calendar) and using a paper day planner. I'm a writer. I love paper and pens, but also appreciate the convenience of the one on my phone.

I found myself seeing different planners online and getting excited and pumped to get organized. And I'll admit I tried a few. However, I sat down the other day and looked at all the journals and calendars and "stuff" I carry and just got tired.

And then it hit me.

I don't have nearly as much on my calendar or to do list as I used to AND THAT'S OKAY.

But again, the reality of it is weird for me and takes some getting used to. We also live in a culture where a full, busy calendar is a badge of honor (but that's a whole other blog post).

In all honesty, a global pandemic has also taken a decent amount of things off my calendar as well. That has also taken quite a bit of getting used to.

Change is hard. And good. And sometimes weird. But I think the biggest thing for me has been to give myself grace and permission. Grace as I acclimate to all the changes and permission to do things in new ways and in ways that work FOR ME.

My husband and I went to the beach yesterday for some Labor Day downtime. We watched as a man nearby set up nine umbrellas for his group. Nine. We discussed how he could have saved himself some time and covered more ground had he used a pop-up, but the result of his efforts was a beautiful little cluster of color that brought joy to that little spot on the beach.

I had to take a photo….

He did things HIS way and it added color and life to those around him.

I’m not saying that how I do my calendar will bring about the same result, but I do wonder what would happen if we all gave ourselves grace and permission to do things in a way that works with who we are and where we are in life. Maybe there would be a bit more color and life in the world.

Is there something in life you could yourself a bit of grace and permission to do differently?

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I've been spending time reading a wonderful book called Soulful Simplicity by Courtney Carver. I'm actually re-reading it having read it a few years ago. When I read it the first time, it helped me purge clean my house before my husband and I downsized and moved to the beach as Empty Nesters.

Reading it now is bringing about a whole new level of wanting to live a simpler daily existence. Maybe it's because I'm a few years older, maybe it's because I am in a completely new season of life and maybe it's because I have spent time deep diving into my anxiety issues and seeing how "stuff" has only added to my angst.

As much as I am seeing the clutter around me that has added to my anxiety, I am also recognizing how often I try to "add" things to my life because I think it will enhance the person I feel I need to be rather than embracing WHO I AM.

For example, I was sipping coffee and watching Home Town on Saturday morning. I was also reading favorite blogs. I noticed apps on my phone that I had added to "help" me enhance this Lara I imagine I need to be.

I am now a Chaplain. I read my Bible. I pray. I study. But I had added two apps to "help" me listen and read scripture MORE. As I looked at the apps again Saturday morning, I was reminded of something I already know about myself which is I don't listen, I read. I am not an audiobook person and I only have 2 podcasts I listen to and one of the main reasons is that they are never more than 15 minutes long. For some reason I can sit still for an hour to read something but not more than 15 minutes to listen. (And yes, I've tried listening while driving or doing other things but I end up driving or doing those things and zone out so I don't listen.)

This embracing of who I am (a reader type) and letting go who I am not (a listener type) is freeing. Quite frankly, all of this reminds me of something vitally important that I forget all too often…


How I read or study scripture is ENOUGH

How I prefer to read over listening is ENOUGH

I don’t need to add MORE to make anything better.

I have all I need.


It's mental clutter I am learning about this time around as I embrace and glean wisdom about Soulful Simplicity.

I am learning that living simply isn't so much about having less, but rather seeing what I have or who I am is enough.

And it's not just about stuff in my house - physical items. I have always had a mentality that having choices is best. I am learning how false that notion really is. I am becoming aware of how many streaming services I have. Do I need them ALL? Yes, some were acquired during 2020 when watching shows was a part of survival. But how many of them do I really, truly use? And I didn't realize until recently how just knowing they are there is stressful. They are there so I have to use them right? One more thing to do. One more thing to choose from. It's not all that different from the apps either.

So I am trying to pay attention to what I honestly use and what I don't. Or rather, I'm asking myself the question, "Do I have this because I really want this or do I have this because it fits into the category of me trying to be a different version of myself?" If I really want it and use it - including non-tangible items like apps or streaming services - then it stays. If not, it goes.

And it is so awesome how freeing it is to let go.

I have just begun to de-clutter my mental life and it is amazing how free I am feeling already. I was worried about letting go. And on some levels I still am. I appreciate that Courtney says in Soulful Simplicity that it's a marathon and not a sprint. We don't just purge clean our homes and all the emotional "stuff" that led to having more than we need just disappears. It's a process and a journey. And we all live it and walk it in our own ways.

I'm just grateful that my journey has less...less to worry about, less to take care of, and less of stuff I simply don't need.

I have all I need

I am enough

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