My grandfather was the neighbor everyone loved. When he was 82 he’d go around and mow the yards of all the “old people” in his mobile-home park. If he got strawberries from his ten-square-foot garden he’d share them with the neighbors. I’ve learned kindness from him . . . or at least that’s the goal I’m aiming for. And as I write, I’ve been told my care for people comes through.
My father-in-law is a man who listens to God’s voice. If He feels God stirring his heart, he jumps in the car and just GOES. Many, many times I’ve been having a hard, challenging day and he just shows up! I hear the knock or the phone rings, and I know it’s Him. Then He hugs on me and tells me how special I am. He prays with me, and He doesn’t care about anything else. His plans don’t matter in comparison to God’s plans.
I’m trying to be like that. I’m trying to listen and just do what I feel God’s asking. I’m also learning to be brave—to pray with a friend RIGHT THERE. To make the call. To write the words.
Every day I have an agenda of what I’d like to write about. Sometimes God changes that. I feel my heart stirred, and I work according to His desire. It’s amazing what comes out. It’s amazing how many book ideas come from that heeding.
Just as good influences impact my words, the challenging stuff in life does too. In my novels I’ve had numerous characters who have had fathers who have abandoned them. In other novels, my main character is trying to “feel worthy” in his/her father’s eyes. My sister (whom I met in 2006) wept as she read Arms of Deliverance. Yes, the book is a about a B-17 bomber pilot, a Jew trying to hide as an Aryan, and a female war correspondent, but what the book is really about is a young woman who finally meets her biological dad and will do anything to get his attention—even join a B-17 bombing raid over Berlin to get the story that will finally impress him.
Many people just think my novels are heart-felt stories, but those who really know me see my heart.
Of course, this emotional writing impacts non-fiction too. My book Blue Like Play Dough is a memoir that highlights these emotional moments and uses them to discuss themes in parenting. I tell about the time my new stepdad dropped me off at a birthday party, and only after he drove off did I realize he left me at the wrong place. The story shares how, at five years old, I walked two miles to my aunt’s house. And then I go on to share that as a mom, I too often try to take care of myself. By myself. I have a hard time trusting God. I’m afraid of being left behind.
I’ve had more women come up to me (or calling) in tears after reading Blue Like Play Dough than with any other book. My hurt places touch their hearts. They share their stories. They say they often feel the same.
The danger, of course, is that most of these memories involve real people who are still involved in my life.
Because I write about real people, I discuss these things with them before they go in print. Either that or I don’t send them a copy of the book when it’s done! (Smile.) And the truth is that some of these people would never buy my book. If I didn’t send it to them, they’d never get a copy. Maybe that’s just another way of protecting myself . . . or maybe protecting them from the truth of my heart.
Truth comes out in the messages of my books because it tumbles around for a while in my heart first.
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