The story behind the theme of my 2019 release: Then Sings My Soul

I think one of God’s favorite things to do is to make and shape people. Of course I can’t speak for Him, but the works of God’s hands are mentioned not infrequently throughout the Bible, how God sculpts the land and the heart, and how He creates artists, too.

Moses talks about an artisan named Bezalel who may have been one of the earliest lapidarists.  Exodus 31:5 (NLT) reads, “[Bezalel] is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft!”

And in Isaiah 64:8 (NLT) we read, “And yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.”

Jakob, the main protagonist in Then Sings My Soul, is a lapidarist–one who works with and fashions stones and gems. Jakob’s father (Josef) was a lapidarist, too.

This is a piece of raw aquamarine, the sort of stone Josef  would have worked with and passed on to Jakob in the story.

I used the trade and theme of lapidary in this novel because my grandfather was a lapidarist, too. In fact, he actually made the stone on the cover of the novel, and you can read more about that providential story in the afterwords in the back of the novel.

As a special treat for you today, here are the actual diagrams and notes my grandfather used to make this stone:

When you read Then Sings My Soul, I think you’ll discover why the theme of lapidary lends itself so well to Jakob and his daughter, Nel. They both start out pretty rough, living in ways not everyone would approve of. But that doesn’t mean God doesn’t see the beauty He knows they can become.

The same story can be yours, friend. If you feel dirty and rough, unnoticed, worthless…God sees the new and clean, the priceless and sparkling person He is making you to be.

The work a lapidarist does on a stone is harsh at times. There are cuts and chisels, chunks hacked off and angles shorn. But in the eye of the Lapidarist, all these steps are necessary.

More than that, as He works, the Lapidarist holds you in His hand and never lets go.

What about you? 

Do you have places in your life that need polished? 

Do you wonder where God is in the midst of your journey?

An open poem to survivors: hope has a name

Above the fray.

Above the screaming.

Above the hurt, the fear, the unknown, the uncontrollable, the unattainable, the shame, the injustice, the loneliness, the brokenness, the pain, the shame, the voicelessness, the powerlessness, the rage and the outrage, the frustration, the desperation.

*HOPE*

has a name.

One name above all names.

It’s not a vote or a man.

Not a woman or a stand.

Not a charge.

Not a time.

*HOPE*

Has a name.

A name above all names.

A word.

THE word.

One that raises the dead and heals the wounds and salves the infections and opens the eyes and stops the bleeding and calms the seas.

*HOPE*

Has a name.

One name.

One.

Name.

JESUS.

On birthmothers: Loving well in the messy middle. A conversation with Michelle Thorne, and a book giveaway.

CONGRATULATIONS to Margie, who won this giveaway! (6/5/18)

And thank you so much to everyone who visited!


Today I am thrilled to introduce you to my friend Michelle Thorne. She is a wife, mom, birthmom and the author of three books on various topics on adoption, and she lives in Qingdao, China. You can find her at http://www.michellethornebooks.com.

I met Michelle online when I was doing research on modern day birthmothers for Before I Saw You. I read Michelle’s book, Delivered, and was so moved by her story of what the synopsis describes as, “the forgotten, or perhaps hidden, piece in the beautiful triptych of adoption…Raw and revealing, Delivered gives a voice to an otherwise silent population who call themselves birthmothers and inspires others to consider that the giving of life to one has a ripple effect, bringing life to many.”

I reached out to Michelle with questions I had about creating an accurate portrayal of the birthmother experience in and around my protagonist, Jaycee. She was beyond kind to respond and take the time to help me create and review a story that will hopefully reach birthmothers–and anyone who reads Before I Saw You–with hope.

I won’t waste another minute … thank you so much for being here today, Michelle!

*****

Writing is not easy. Writing about a subject that almost everyone on the planet has an opinion about is practically impossible. If you think about it, everyone is pro-life; it is a matter of whose life they are in favor of that divides the argument. As a birthmom, which is a woman who chose to place her child for adoption, I am passionate about what gets said about unplanned pregnancies and the people involved in them, and as an adoption professional, I want to protect little ears that might hear the conversations. So, when Amy began talking to me about my experience with unplanned pregnancy, I was cautiously optimistic.

Could anyone describe the sharp contrast involved, the deeply emotional polarized pulls, and the jump from a self-centered life to the total and complete care of another human in the time it takes for a pregnancy test to register a reading? I just wasn’t sure.

However, as I began to sit with Amy’s lead character Jaycee and watch her live out what I knew so well, what I lived, I got swept. I fell in love with Sudie. I swooned over Gabe. I wanted to punch Bryan and kiss Reverend Payne, if such things were appropriate.

Being in an unplanned pregnancy is a time to mourn and to rejoice, to regret and to wonder. It brings a variety of people who are accepting, reluctantly accepting, disgusted, helpful and not-so-helpful. People give you advice you didn’t ask for, and because you didn’t plan it, some can feel fear and rush to rescue you and help you figure it out, whether you want them to or not. Then, there are those saints, who give you the freedom to make your own choice, feel your erratic feelings, and aren’t bothered by the revolving door on your life. Amy portrays this so beautifully in Before I Saw You.

The story is inspired in part by Moses’s Israelite mother, Jochebed. I love this woman. I feel like I know things about her that others don’t. Like how she must have wept over her decision, and longed to be more than just his wet nurse. I feel like I know the torture of separation and the relief of choosing life.

If we think about Jochebed’s story without knowing the ending, we have a woman who can’t care for her child because the government has deemed it so. When she hides Moses for three months, we name her selfless, not selfish. When she puts him into the very same water that was killing other Israelite newborn sons, we call her faithful, not insane. And when she remains part of his life as his wet nurse for his childhood, we rejoice that they are together instead of being afraid it will damage Moses in some way.

Jochebed’s decision to save Moses’s life saved millions more. It affected generations. We know this, and so we don’t begrudge Jochebed for putting Moses in the basket and sending him down the river. We don’t say, “Moses was abandoned.” With the clarity of hindsight, we agree with Jochebed’s choices instead of wonder at them. The soothing story of Moses’s success numbs us to the gravity of Jochebed’s situation.

In Before I Saw You, Amy doesn’t let us off the emotional hook. We see Jaycee struggle and question. We know her guilt and regrets. We feel her shame. But we also get to feel her being loved by other characters. We feel the excitement of that first ultrasound and the joy that new life brings. In reading her story, we can’t deny the humanity in it, nor can we avoid the divine.

If I can encourage you in one thing regarding this amazing, well-written book, it is this: Learn from Jaycee and her experience. Facing unplanned pregnancy is hard. There is not one right answer. When you encounter a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy, don’t make assumptions about her or what her decision should be. You may not know the “right thing” to do, but God does. Trust that God loves this woman more than you do. Trust that He can help and trust that when the story is told in 40 years it will look different from what you can see from here.

Women facing unplanned pregnancy need to be loved right where they are, in the messy middle of the story, before the redemption is realized. Let go of the protest sign; hold a hand. Advocate for women through relationships, not just through the ballot box. Strive for stronger connections, not stronger convictions.  Loving these women well is loving these children well. Love big, my friends, and enjoy Before I Saw You.

*****

…anyone who comments on this post between now and the release date of June 5 will be entered to win copies of both Delivered and Before I Saw You in a prize package!