Episode 34: Preparing for Advent with Author Rhonda Carter


On this week’s dose of book recommendations, library love and literary enthusiasm, our guest is a local author, Rhonda Carter. She’s written two devotional books, including her newest, which is a very timely little book (since Advent starts this Sunday, November 29th, 2020!) called “Meditations for Advent through Christmas Carols.” Rhonda tells us about what led to her publishing her two books, and we swap book recommendations, especially historical fiction, and Christian authors.

Rhonda's Writings on Facebook

30 Day Grace Period and Meditations for Advent through Christmas Carols on Amazon (affiliate link) 

Bookshop.org book list (affiliate link) 

Come find me @library.laura on Instagram or on my new Facebook page

Today's podcast guest on The Library Laura Podcast, author Rhonda Carter 

Rhonda is a mother of three and grandmother of seven. She lives out in the country with her husband Charlie. I know Rhonda's family through a series of rather wild connections. First of all, my mom and Rhonda attended college together. Later I attended college at the same time Rhonda's daughter Susannah.  Then when I joined a knitting circle this spring I realized that one of the gals is Bethanie, who is Rhonda's other daughter! None of that was particularly planned, but it's been fun to keep running into Carters along my life's journey. When I was in school, we attended an educational program at Rhonda's home, where we got to do things like milk their goats, learn a bit of French, and make and eat some snacks. It was so much fun. Rhonda and her family attended my wedding in 2015 as well. 

Rhonda's love for reading and writing both started young. She learned to write in 1st grade, and was soon collaborating with one of her friends to write and illustrate a book they called "Nellie's Pony." Later she started writing poems and plays. She had a poem published in a school librarian's literary magazine, and they got to have an author party with Cokes in the library. Her interest in genealogy was born in 8th grade, where she got to research her great-grandfather, who was born in 1873. She enjoyed sharing her writing with family and friends. 

Writing got laid by the wayside once she got busy with school, marriage and kids. She kept a diary and wrote Christmas letters, but other than that she wasn't too involved in writing.  

Rhonda's first book, 30-Day Grace Period

Then in January 2018, her husband Charlie had a massive stroke and spent 166 days in the hospital before coming home. Since then she's been caring for him full-time. However, in the midst of this, she started writing updates and sharing what she felt like God was teaching her. She, in some ways, had more time to read and rest, but in other ways her life has been completely turned upside down by this change in her life. Everyone has hard times, so she wanted to share encouragement when she had it, and updates on her husband's health. 

The next year, in 2019, she felt led to put some of the thoughts and lessons she learned through her time with her husband's stroke and recovery, which are now compiled in her first book, "30 Day Grace Period."  She believes, "After you've been through a hard time yourself you can more easily help someone else in the same situation. I felt like I had a lot more empathy and understanding than before."  

Rhonda's new book, Meditations for Advent Through Christmas Carols 

Rhonda said, "For many years now, I've asked the Lord to show me something new about the Christmas story. The amazing thing about the Bible is there is always more to know and learn." 

During her growing up, Rhonda enjoyed celebrating advent with her family, which included lighting a new candle each Sunday and some Scripture readings. She did similar practices with her kids. Now that she has grandkids, she's taken it one step further, and made little boxes to countdown to Christmas that each have a little symbol, a Scripture reading, and a little treat for each of the 24 days starting on December first. 

In December 2017, Rhonda, Charlie, Susannah and her husband when to see Handel's Messiah. Rhonda took the program home, which had all the lyrics that are based in Scripture, and used it throughout the Christmas season as part of her devotions.  This is part of what led to her idea of writing a devotional based on music. "I think the carols are so beautiful. We just have such a feeling of Christmas when we hear them come on. If we can understand the theology and truth in the carols, there are some wonderful concepts in them." 

She started writing the her Advent Meditations in January 2020, while her Christmas decorations were still up. She had to research carols that were in the public domain. That means that some of her favorites are not included in this collection, but then she discovered several new ones in the process. It took her several months to put together.

As she's still a full-time caregiver for her husband Charlie, she puts together 30 minutes or an hour here and there to do her writing. "That's probably why my books are short!" she explained. She appreciates the help of her daughter Bethanie and her friend during proofreading, cover design, and getting it sent off to Amazon. She starts many of her ideas in  journals or with pen and paper. But when it comes to actually writing, she is using her computer to do the writing. 

As a child, Rhonda loved to read. That led her to create her own library in her room as a kid. She had about 400 books in her room (covering almost every surface except for her bed) and created her own organization system and check out cards. She decided to call her library "The Overland Park Library" after the town she lived in. Her parents even bought her a stamp to label all of her books this way.  She helped as an aide in her school library in about 6th grade, and her first job at age 15 was as a library page at Johnson County Library - Antioch Branch. Rhonda went on to be a teacher before she had her kids and homeschooled them. 

Rhonda loves historical fiction, biographies (like God's Hostage), books on Christianity, books set in England, and devotional (such as Jesus Lives by Sarah Young).  She also finds especially American history especially fascinating, and would love to find a book to read soon about the Pilgrims. Thanksgiving is her favorite holiday! 

She also always has a book she's reading aloud to her husband Charlie. Since the stroke it is more challenging for him to read on his own due to double vision and some other problems, and there are few things Rhonda loves to do more than read aloud. They just finished reading 90 Minutes in Heaven. She recently read The Oracle by Jonathan Cahn aloud. Rhonda enjoyed the book, but it was a bit complex and detailed for reading out loud. Not all books make good read alouds, she explained. 

Rhonda has a reading goal of reading one book a week on average, so she hopes to read 52 books every year.  She hits this goal most years, and said, "I guess it's easy to find time to read when you love to read."

Rhonda has a few blogs she follows to get book recommendations, including Anne Voskamp (author of One Thousand Gifts)  and Crystal Paine at the Money Saving Mom

Books Laura recommended to Rhonda: 

John Eldredge's books, especially All Things New and Get Your Life Back 

Garden City by John Mark Comer - since Rhonda enjoyed All Things New, I recommended this book that my dad has read and enjoyed. 

We Were The Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter - Rhonda had heard of this book but not read it. It's historical fiction set during WWII and is the story of the author's family, who survived the Nazis in odds-defying ways. 

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan - Rhonda and I have both read this one and enjoyed it! 

The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett - I recommended this one to Rhonda based on her enjoyment of books set in England and of historical fiction. It follows a manuscript and relic through time, while our present-day characters are trying to solve the mystery of what happened to it. Also a sweet element of romance. This was a page-turner for me. 

Susan Meissner's books, especially The Last Year of the War and A Fall of Marigolds. 

A Kind of Paradise by Amy Rebecca Tan - I recommended this to Rhonda based on her love of libraries. A girl gets in trouble in school and as her punishment must spend her summer volunteering in a library. Rhonda actually read this one between us recording the podcast and today. She told me in an email, "I thought it had a great plot and a satisfying ending." I agree! 

Whisper by Mark Batterson - Another book I recommended that Rhonda has already read! She enjoys all of Mark Batterson's books. 

Brock and Bodie Thoene's books - This couple is absolutely prolific! I especially enjoyed the A.D. Chronicles, which starts with First Light and is set in New Testament times. They also have several other historical fiction series, including Zion Covenant and Zion Chronicles, which I remember enjoying hearing read aloud by my dad. 

Books/Authors Rhonda recommended to Laura: 

Jan Karon - She has written many books, including the Mitford series, which starts with At Home In Mitford

Karen Kingsbury - Kingsbury writes prolifically and is probably best known for her books about The Baxter Family

Nancy Moser - A local author that Rhonda has enjoyed.

Rhonda also enjoys the classics such as Dickens, Austen, and Louisa May Alcott

When it comes to Christian non-fiction, she loves C.S. Lewis,  Tim Keller, and Max Lucado. She's made it a goal to read all of Lucado's books, and has read 5 or 6 this year. 

We had so much fun talking books today. If you have any recommendations for Rhonda or Laura, go ahead and find us on social media or drop a comment below! Be sure to grab a copy of Rhonda's book so you're all ready for Advent to start so very soon. 

 May you and your family have a delicious and grateful Thanksgiving tomorrow, whether you’re together or far apart. As we prepare for Advent this year, I’d like to share this brief prayer with you: 

Advent God,
we journey with you,
to Bethlehem’s stable
and a new-born King,
ears attuned
to the song of angels,
eyes alert
for Bethlehem’s star.
Forgive us
if on our journey
if we are distracted
by the tempting offers
of this world.
Keep our hearts aflame
with the hope
of Christmas,
and the promise
of a Saviour. Amen.

With lots of literary love from my library to yours! 

~ Laura 


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Library Laura
Laura is an avid reader who is happiest when surrounded by books, tea, blankets and/or friends. Host of the Library Laura Podcast.


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