God created a miracle in my life eleven years ago. I've always wondered why. He must've wanted to use me in some way. There had to be a purpose for the miracle; I was supposed to use it to do something life-changing. But I never discovered the purpose. I've been convinced I let God down...until just recently. I discovered the purpose of that miracle. Indeed, it was life-changing. Just not in the way I'd expected.
In 2008, the recession directly affected my family. My husband, a self-employed painter working in new construction, was about to lose his job. We had had several years of financial bliss, and it was about to come to a screaming halt.
I was working few hours as an RN, mostly staying home with our 3 young kiddos. The beauty and wonder of motherhood had changed me. I remember laying my little one down for a nap and staring at his or her angelic face. My child looked so peaceful, warm, and cozy. This stirred that warm fuzzy feeling in my heart. But it also made me realize the child's vulnerability. I'd praise God for my babies, and then I'd go on to pray for all the babies and children who don't have snuggly beds or parents to change their diapers the minute after they're soiled or offer them milk every time they cry in hunger...
I was burdened. Burdened by the hurt in the world. I'd literally pray for "every hurting baby and child". I'd pray that for tonight there would be no abuse. One night off from the abuse they endure every other day. I had to do something. I tried to tell myself that taking care of my own children was enough. I couldn't possibly save all the children. I just needed to care for the children God placed in my care. But my heart was unsettled.
Every opportunity that presented itself to care for vulnerable children, I would consider. By consider, I mean obsess over. I had an orphanage in Haiti I wanted to adopt from. My husband said we had our hands full with our 3 kids. I tried to convince my husband we should do foster care. Yes, our lives were busy, but we wouldn't be keeping the foster kids forever. My husband got so frustrated with these conversations (me begging him) that he would start vigorously rubbing his head when I brought this stuff up. We were busy. In the thick of raising our family. But I had to help these poor kids. I realized that if God wanted us to adopt or foster kids, he would bring my husband on board.
I did what I could. I sponsored a Compassion International child. I volunteered in the church nursery. I prayed over my patients in the Special Care Nursery. But it didn't feel like enough.
This brings me to the miracle day. :) I went for a run one Sunday afternoon. As usual, I was praying for all the children around the world. I begged God to show me why He gave me this burden for vulnerable children, yet every time I tried to do something to help them, the door was slammed shut in my face. I begged God to make me content with my life instead of searching for ways to serve Him (by serving children).
Specifically, I prayed about a new opportunity. I knew that it was possible to visit the child you sponsor through Compassion International. I was feeling weary of praying all of the time with seemingly no answers. So I asked God to "make it clear". I didn't want to obsess over this endeavor. I told God that if He told me to go to Mexico to meet Alexia, I would go. If He didn't want me to go, I asked Him to make that answer clear.
I was almost home by the time I was saying "Amen". I was wondering, how could God possibly make it 100% clear if He wanted me to go to Mexico. How would I know? Hmmm. Then I thought...Well, if there was a letter in the mailbox, from Alexia, asking me to come to Mexico to meet her...then I would have a clear Yes.
Keep in mind, this was a Sunday. The mail doesn't come on Sunday. And I only received about 3 or 4 letters from Alexia in an entire year...
Yet, I knew there was a letter from her in that mailbox. I knew it! I ran to the mailbox. My fingers were trembling, my legs felt like rubber as I opened the mailbox and sifted through the mail that we hadn't picked up the day before. And...it was there. A letter from my sponsored child. No way! I stood in the street tearing open the envelope. Sure enough, she'd written asking if I like Mexico and could come visit her country someday.
I ran into the house sobbing tears of joy. I could hardly speak; I was so overwhelmed, knowing the Creator of the universe had "spoken" to me. My husband met me at the door. He took one look at me and started crying too (this was very touching since the man has only cried a few times in his life) before he knew what was going on with me. I told him, "We're going to Mexico!" I showed him the letter, and he said, "I guess we're going to Mexico."
It was $5000 for the two of us to go on this trip. We had to dip into our savings which we knew would be dwindling very quickly with the recession. But God had told us to go.
God wanted me to go for a reason, right? To spread the good news or to be a great influence on the other travelers or on my sponsored child, right? Well, the trip was amazing, but not because of anything I did. I was so overwhelmed the entire trip that I was quiet and introspective, even teary. The language barrier between Alexia and me hindered my ability to communicate effectively. I had SO much fun meeting her and being on the trip. But I still didn't get why God went as far as showing me a miracle to get me there. I definitely did not change any children's lives. Instead, I was the one who was blessed.
Recently, author Rachel Hauck shared on Instagram that God sometimes creates miracles for us as gifts. Because He loves us. He doesn't expect something from us. Sure, He likes to be given glory; He's fully deserving. But that's not the purpose of every gift.
My going to Mexico was a gift. Because God loves me. He showed me that He heard my prayers about my burden for children. He cares for them too, way more than I do.
I no longer feel guilty for wasting God's miracle on me. He's so loving. He's a personal God, even as the Creator of the universe. He still cares about each individual whom He has created. Wow.
I also don't feel that same burden. God's given me tidbits of wisdom in the years since. I now rest in confidence that God sees the hurt. I can only do that which He calls me to do. That's all He asks of me. And sometimes, all He asks is that I go on a fun trip to Mexico.
God is good, you guys. He's for real.
James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
Do you dream big???
A friend recently shared with me this poem, She Dreams Declaration by Tiffany Bluhm. It was literally life-changing! I’m still processing. I may need to revisit this topic in a future blog, but I want to “journal” while the initial experience is fresh in my mind. After reading the poem (see below), I’ve been reading Tiffany Bluhm’s book, She Dreams, listening to her podcast (So fun!), and reading her blog. Wow, this woman gets it! She gets that God wants her to “live the life she was created for”, and I am so inspired.
“…when you pursue your dreams and live the life you were created for, you bring heaven to earth. You rehearse heaven in your season because you have trusted God, the Dream Giver, for your victory.” –Tiffany Bluhm
What is your dream? Your passion and ambition? What is on your bucket list? Start praying on it, planning it, and living it. Because your creator designed you with that dream. It was a gift to you that will bring glory to him when you use it.
Perhaps my biggest dream—or ambition—is to be an author. To provide a sustainable income from doing what I love doing almost more than anything. Writing. I mean, writing and coffee go hand in hand. What could be a better way to spend my day?
At times my dream feels frivolous, and I feel silly for dreaming so big. I’ve felt guilty for writing when I could be dusting or cooking (I detest those chores!). I’ve felt indulgent, reading and writing romance stories while sipping coffee and eating Dove chocolates.
But no more!
I am dreaming big. And there’s nothing silly or shameful or indulgent about it (Ok, the chocolate and coffee may be indulgent when consumed in certain quantities). Because God is the Dream Giver. It is so freeing to see it that way. It is truth. God created me (Psalm 139:13-14). He gave me the desires of my heart (Psalm 37:4).
When I use my unique gifts, it brings glory to God because I am aligning my life with his purpose for me (Jeremiah 29:11).
Using your gifts and fulfilling your dreams blesses others. Just think how powerful it would be if all of us fully realized our potential God designed for us, and then we each poured our hearts into it.
So, ladies and gentlemen, pursue your dreams. Plant that flower garden. Book that flight. Apply for that job. Keep living that life God has gifted you.
And keep dreaming big dreams!
To my friend, Tiffany Hoff (whom I met on Facebook and have yet to meet in person), thank you for sharing She Dreams Declaration with me. It’s so beautiful when we women inspire and encourage each other instead of competing with one another. Thank you for encouraging me.
So, friends, don't shy away from those God-given dreams! You do you better than anyone else! Check out Tiffany Bluhm's website for delectable doses of inspiration and laughs.
I have no idea how to navigate this part of motherhood. Anybody with me?
Here's an illustration. Last week, my 14-year-old son came home from school with a stomach ache. Despite this, he stuck to his usual routine of raiding the cupboards and sitting down to an after school "snack" that would feed a family of four.
I went about my usual routine as well, preparing for a 10 mile run. So I'm in my bedroom pulling on my little running shorts when I hear retching and cursing coming from the bathroom. Mom panic sets in. I run to the hallway and call to my son through the closed door, "Are you okay?" Is he sick? Is he bulimic? Is he dying? (Yes, the thought crossed my mind.)
My poor baby. Flashbacks of his childhood scrolled through my mind. My smallest newborn, the third child to join our family, seamlessly filling his place. The rambunctious three-year-old with a mischievous smile, running away from me through the entire building each day when I picked him up from preschool. The nine-year-old tough boy who broke his shoulder doing parkour at his birthday party. He never even cried.
Now, he is 14 years old and moaning from a tummy ache. This stoic child, who pierced his own ears and nose (a story for another day...grrr) never shows pain. Yes, he must be dying.
Wait, I'm not only a mom, I'm a pediatric nurse. "Honey, open the door so I can help you."
Jordan thrusts the door open and glares at me. "Go away!"
Gasp! My heart squeezes. I didn't expect my baby to yell at me. My mouth is agape. I close it. Then, my hurt turns to anger. "Don't yell at your mother. I'm trying to help you."
"Leave me alone! I'm puking!"
That little jerk. I take a few steps forward, assessing the situation. He looks healthy enough to me. He's strong enough to be yelling. "Fine. Take care of yourself. And stop swearing. I don't want to hear those words coming out of your mouth. I don't care if you're vomiting. Use self control."
Why tell this story? Because it demonstrates my feeling of loss for my place as a mother during the teen years. My teenagers don't want me to hold the bucket for them while they puke anymore. They don't want me to wipe their tear-stained gooey faces with a wet washcloth. Ok, so maybe this is a blessing. But if I'm not helping them, then what is my role? Am I just supposed to walk away and let them fend for themselves? That's seems sad and neglectful. If I walk away, how will I know if they survive?
I went on my 10 mile run, which was glorious. The whole run I was planning the Instagram I would post--maybe a selfie, the sun glaring over my shoulder, my mile splits texted across the screen. Until mile 10 when I got a text from my husband telling me to call him as soon as I got home.
Gasp #3. Jordan! I'd forgotten all about the kid. Something must be terribly wrong. I dial my husband's number and hear Jordan moaning in the background. "I'm driving Jordan to the Emergency Room," he says. "Something isn't right. I found him on the bathroom floor, writhing in pain."
Mom guilt sets in. Here I am on a long run, leaping through fields of daisies (well, not quite) while my son is dying. Visions of patients that died suddenly and unexpectedly cloud my reasoning. I should've been there for Jordan. But he pushed me away. What was I supposed to do???
This is my struggle. How do I parent teenagers that refuse to be parented? They push me away and don't follow my advice. I'm at a loss. This entry will not end in wisdom. I don't have an epiphany to share.
For now, I pray for my kids, talk to them even when they don't appear to be listening, and rely on the years of parenting when they still thought my husband and I had all the answers. I also try to think of how God, our Heavenly Father, "parents" us and try to model that with my children.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities...As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. Psalm 103:8,13
BTW, turned out Jordan had appendicitis. He apologized to me for being mean during the puking episode. I forgave him.
Hmm, without the assistance of his parents, the appendicitis could have been fatal. So he did need us even though he didn't realize it. So I guess even when the kids push us away, we shouldn't go too far.
Meeting my readers and chatting with people who share my love of books is one of my favorite parts of being an author. This Saturday, September 29th, 2018, from 1:00 - 4:00 PM, The Bookstore at Fitger's in Duluth, MN is hosting a book signing for my novel, Bittersweet Goodbye.
See the autumn leaves in beautiful Duluth on Lake Superior, and visit historic Fitger's. Hope to see you there! www.fitgers.com
Our baby girl, our oldest child and only daughter, is moving to college today. She'll only be 30 minutes away, but still. I'm gonna miss her. She's also turning 18 in a couple days. Does she have to become a grown up and move out all at one time?
It's funny. There's a deleted scene from my Bittersweet Goodbye manuscript which I'm ironically living out today. When I wrote the scene, ten years ago, I struggled a bit putting myself in the mother's point of view. I looked to my own mom for an example to model the character, Lydia Chapman, after. (I love you, Mom!) Growing up, I remember coming downstairs first thing in the morning to be greeted by the aroma of coffee brewing and my mom sitting at the kitchen table in her bathrobe, her Bible and devotions spread out on the table. I decided to start this day as my mom and Lydia did--rising early and doing devotions before helping my daughter get ready for her first day on campus. Tears!!!!
Here is the deleted scene. It hasn't been edited so it's rough around the edges.
At 5:30 in the morning, as the glow of the sun stretched across the horizon, Lydia Chapman sneaked out of bed and tiptoed downstairs to the kitchen. She methodically put a piece of bread in the toaster and filled the tea kettle with water. Her morning ritual of breakfast and devotions was especially important today, and she had to rise extra early to allow time for it. Today she would send her firstborn to college, and her heart ached at the thought of it. She needed God’s strength to get through this day. Lydia had a close relationship with her daughter and she couldn’t imagine her not living under the same roof. Lydia mourned the late night talks they would no longer share. She found herself grieving Audrey’s childhood. It seemed like just yesterday that Audrey went off to her first day of kindergarten.
Lydia remembered it clearly. Young Audrey was dressed in a pale yellow jumper that had a bright orange sunshine stitched on the front pocket. Audrey had referred to the jumper as her happy dress, and she’d picked it out special for the first day of school. Knowing how excited Audrey was to start school made it easy for Lydia to send her off. The other mothers were kissing their kindergartners goodbye at the classroom door with tears in their eyes, but Lydia’s eyes were filled with pride. Her daughter’s joy was contagious and as Lydia watched Audrey skip into the classroom and greet her teacher with a big hug, she knew Audrey would do just fine without her mommy there to hold her hand. Lydia had dreamed of the wonderful experiences in Audrey’s future. She felt confident that her daughter would grow into an intelligent and radiant young woman.
And she had. Audrey had by far surpassed all the expectations that Lydia had for her. Not only was she a straight A student and an excellent athlete, but she was also kind and sweet and funny. She had a charisma that people were drawn to. But more than any of that, Lydia was thankful for the relationship she had with her daughter. They had always been close and could talk more like friends than mother and daughter. Lydia was afraid of losing that closeness now that Audrey was moving out of the house.
But Lydia tried not to show her fears to Audrey. She wanted Audrey to chase her dreams, not to be held back by an overly attached mother. So she took advantage of quiet moments like this to express her fears to the Lord. She always felt better after casting her cares on Him.
Soon Lydia was jolted by the sound of Audrey’s alarm clock buzzing to life. Audrey continued to slumber despite the grating sound. She must have stayed out late last night, Lydia thought to herself as she bounded up the steps to turn off the alarm. Who will wake her up in the morning when I’m not around?
Lydia switched off the alarm and jostled Audrey. “Wake up, honey. It’s time to get ready for school.” Lydia frowned, realizing this would be her last opportunity to say those words to Audrey. Thank goodness she would still have Darcy at home. “Wake up, honey,” she repeated. “I’ll start the shower for you.”
Lydia hummed as she turned the shower faucet on, remembering the day, many years ago, when she taught Audrey how to adjust the water temperature by herself. Where did the time go? She walked to the linen closet in the hallway and pulled out a fluffy pink towel and matching wash cloth. She set them on the vanity and returned to Audrey’s room. The sun was high in the morning sky now and Lydia pulled open the blinds to let the sunshine pour in.
Audrey finally sprang to life and moaned as she covered her head with her pillow. “Mom, that’s too bright,” she whined. “Close the blinds.”
Lydia ignored her request and continued to hum, more loudly now, as she began straightening the room.
Audrey removed the pillow from her face and sat up clumsily, squinting from the bright sun. “I hope my roommate won’t be this annoying in the morning.”
Lydia paused from her tidying and put her hands on her hips. “I hope she will be. How else will you ever make it to your morning classes on time? Now get in the shower; you’re wasting the hot water.”
Lydia, although using a stern tone, was actually enjoying this mother-daughter exchange, for it fondly reminded her of all the past mornings that this same confabulation had taken place.
(End of scene)
Mommas, hug your kids. They grow up too fast! And hug your moms too!
My sweet little Chloe Grace, me, my amazing mom, and my beautiful grandma. I'm so blessed to have such wonderful ladies to learn life from.
Thank you to all my friends and family, and to my new reader friends <3, for taking an interest in Bittersweet Goodbye. It's been so fun getting feedback from you. I love learning the character you connected with, the character you love to hate. The scene that made you cry. Your speculation on "who done it".
Interacting with my readers has been the most rewarding part of releasing this novel. So here are answers to commonly asked questions. Feel free to leave a comment with more questions. I never tire of discussing the characters of Bittersweet Goodbye. Who knows? Your feedback may help to shape their future...
Is Bittersweet Goodbye based on a true story?
No. The story is 100% fiction. It was incredibly difficult for me to create tragedy in Audrey's (the protagonist's) life. Not having suffered an assault or some of the other difficulties my characters experienced, I agonized over whether I was doing the characters justice. I questioned why I was creating a fiction story--entertainment--using heartbreaking circumstances that my readers may have suffered.
Ultimately, I prayed (and continue to pray) over the story. I concluded that God wants this story to be told so that others can experience hope through this fiction story. My favorite author, Karen Kingsbury, refers to her books as Life-Changing Fiction. Truly, a fiction story can change a life. After all, Jesus taught in parables.
100% fiction? Really? The main character sure sounds a lot like you.
Let me clarify. The story events are fiction. Admittedly, the main character is similar to me in many ways. She comes from a Christian family and attends a small church in Hastings, MN. She falls in love with a boy in youth group. She likes to run, and even runs for Bethel University. Oh, and she's blonde.
OK, that's a lot of similarities. But Audrey is a way better runner than I was. :) I purposely kept her similar to me so that I could get inside her head. I needed to make her believable. I did the "write what you know" thing. The secondary characters forced me to get inside the head of different personalities. Writing from the perspective of a young man was...interesting.
The novel I'm currently working on has characters with different backgrounds and attributes from myself. It's been a fun challenge, and sometimes I'm shocked at what the characters do.
Could someone really be as naive as Audrey?
Um, that attribute takes after me as well. So, yes. My high school friends could probably attest to that fact. ;)
Will there be a sequel to Bittersweet Goodbye?
A sequel is in the works.
When do you write?
Whenever I have free time and/or I feel inspired. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with plot ideas, so I turn on my PC and click away. I've jotted scenes on sticky notes at work (I hope my boss doesn't read this), and I've scribbled a bit of dialogue on a worship folder in church (Sorry, Pastor Scott. It only happened once. Maybe twice.) My favorite time to write is on vacation--when I'm relaxed and feeling inspired. It's funny, I remember where I was while writing certain scenes.
The scene where Trevor, the hero, stormed over to Audrey's house and demanded answers from her--I wrote late at night while lying on my bedroom floor, sipping a glass of Door County Cherry Wine. I'd come home from my sister's house after watching an episode of The Bachelor. I must've felt inspired for Trevor to find his true love. You know, since that's what happens on The Bachelor. Haha.
How long did it take you to write the book?
One or two years to write the story. Then about seven years of editing and learning the craft of novel-writing. Of course, I wrote pretty much only when I felt inspired since I thought of it as a hobby. Don't worry. The next book is well underway. You won't have to wait nine years.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to write a book?
Write every day, even if it's not good. Writing takes practice!
Read. I feel most inspired after I read.
Connect with other authors. Read blogs by other authors. Read books on writing in your genre. Have your work edited by a professional.
I'd love to chat more about the characters of Bittersweet Goodbye. Drop me a line.
Hi Reader Friends,
Happy New Year! I hope 2018 is treating you well so far. I, for one, am very happy to welcome in the new year as I have exciting news to share.
My first novel, Bittersweet Goodbye, will be released March 2, 2018!
The book will become available for pre-order -- both paperback and ebook -- in a few short weeks.
I'll share one little teaser...Bittersweet Goodbye is a tale about:
When loving means letting go.
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I'm floating on cloud nine! The editor loved my short story. That's the best news a writer could possibly receive (besides a publisher begging for a book contract)!
After meticulously making revisions the editor suggested, I jumped online to research magazines and contests. I submitted to a contest that seemed a perfect fit for my story. And now I wait for the results.
I do realize that with hundreds or thousands of submissions by excellent writers to this contest, my chances of placing are slim. So I need to decide if I should simultaneously submit elsewhere OR work on another project.
So far, I've done neither. Instead, I've been studying the craft of writing by reading some really great books. I couldn't put down Jodi Picoult's book House Rules. So good! Then I picked up The Summer Kitchen by Lisa Wingate. I love her books because the endings often take me by surprise.
Meanwhile, ideas for my own novel in progress are tumbling about in my mind. I suppose writing those ideas down will keep my mind off of the waiting. And who knows? Maybe that novel will be my greatest masterpiece.
May you find happiness in the current project of your life! I'd love to hear about it!