Crisis pregnancy, the opioid crisis, and… a novel? A glimpse into Before I Saw You

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The baby died.

The one my fellow nurses and I rocked and held and sang to, the one we fed and nurtured as best we could through her withdrawal from the constant stream of opioids that had been coursing through her mother’s blood stream and ultimately into hers.

Other babies died, too, and continue to die every day. Some in the hospital. Some in foster care. Some neglected by their parents shooting up in the room next to theirs.

As a nurse, I’ve cared for these babies.

I care for these addicts.

And the whole mess of it breaks my heart.

If you’re already a reader of my novels, then you know they are inspired by things in this world which break my heart. In How Sweet the Sound, it was sexual abuse. In Then Sings My Soul, it was the plight of the unseen elderly in our society. In Lead Me Home, it was the plight of small churches and family farms closing all around us.

My newest novel, Before I Saw You, is no exception.

Before I Saw You is inspired by the despair of the opioid crisis, as well as the silent journeys and shame of birth mothers, too often courageous but forgotten people among us.

 

To say that the opioid crisis is an epidemic full of despair is an understatement. Today’s opioid crisis is killing not only adults, but too often innocent children. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

Every day, more than 115 Americans die after overdosing on opioids.1 The misuse of and addiction to opioids—including prescription pain relieversheroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl—is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare…The Midwestern region saw opioid overdoses increase 70 percent from July 2016 through September 2017.10Opioid overdoses in large cities increase by 54 percent in 16 states.10This issue has become a public health crisis with devastating consequences including increases in opioid misuse and related overdoses, as well as the rising incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome due to opioid use and misuse during pregnancy.

Where can people find hope?

That was–and is–the question my heart is asking.

That’s the question that drove me to write a story with characters like Jaycee Givens who are asking the same thing, searching for the same answers, seeking the same hope in the midst of so much hard.

At the same time I was researching the opioid crisis, I was researching the journey of birth mothers. I read websites and books and visited adoption agencies and spoke with birth mothers, and soon realized so many of them face a lifetime of silence and shame. While our society is quick to celebrate adoption–and rightly so–the journey of the birthmother as they carry the baby inside them and wrestle with the heart-wrenching decision to place their child is too often forgotten.

In tandem, I discovered the opioid crisis and birth mothers were the perfect contemporary parallel to the story of Jochebed, Moses’ birth mother whose story is told in Exodus 1-2. As such, Before I Saw You was born. 

 

As with all my novels, I hope readers will discover hope in the midst of these excruciating times. The more I speak about the themes of Before I Saw You, the more I’m amazed that few, if any of us, are immune to the devastation of the opioid crisis.

It seems like everyone has a loved one or a friend who has struggled with addiction, had their family torn apart by,  or tragically lost a loved one to the opioid epidemic.

Also, I pray that birth mothers who read Before I Saw You will find hope through protagonist Jaycee’s journey, in the midst of their silence, and what is often a lifetime, low grade fever of grief and shame.

All in all, Before I Saw You is a story of a small town in dire straits, and full of big-hearted people struggling to find hope in the midst.

Just like you and me.


About Before I Saw You:

Folks are dying fast as the ash trees in the southern Indiana town ravaged by the heroin epidemic, where Jaycee Givens lives with nothing more than a thread of hope and a quirky neighbor, Sudie, who rescues injured wildlife. After a tragedy leaves her mother in prison, Jaycee is carrying grief and an unplanned pregnancy she conceals because she trusts no one, including the kind and handsome Gabe, who is new to town and to the local diner where she works.

Dividing her time between the diner and Sudie’s place, Jaycee nurses her broken heart among a collection of unlikely friends who are the closest thing to family that she has. Eventually, she realizes she can’t hide her pregnancy any longer—not even from the baby’s abusive father, who is furious when he finds out. The choices she must make for the safety of her unborn child threaten to derail any chance she ever had for hope and redemption. Ultimately, Jaycee must decide whether the truest form of love means hanging on or letting go.

Available for pre-order today.

Click here to choose your favorite book seller.

978-1-4964-0956-0

 

My one word for 2018: SEEK

In recent years, I’ve gotten in the habit of asking the Lord to give me one word to focus on throughout each year. For example, my one word for 2017 was OBEDIENCE. And in 2016, it was FOCUS.

This year, after praying and doing really nerdy things like looking up the word origin in the Greek, I felt the Lord nudging me to choose the work SEEK.

The word appears many places in the Bible, but in particular, I felt led to Matthew 6:33:

“But SEEK first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…”

Seek Him.

Seek Him first.

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Seek His Kingdom.

Seek His righteousness.

Seek, and faith and hope and love and all the good things will spill out.

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SEEK Him first because that’s how we can spread the hope of the Kingdom best.

And hope means everything in a world that lives largely without it.

Hope means everything to someone like me who chooses to often to worry rather than seek Him and pray.

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So today I’m pausing to dwell and pray over my one word for the year.

I’m praying the Lord is gracious and helps me seek Him first in my marriage, in my parenting, in my work as a nurse, and in each word I pen as a writer.

What about you?

Do you choose one word for the year? If so, what’s yours? And why?

Happy New Year, dear readers! And may the Lord comfort you with the hope and peace of His word today and throughout the year to come!

On Christmas and new beginnings and new books–a cover reveal for you all!

I thought writing novels would get easier.

Was I ever wrong.

But the beautiful thing about hard is that hard brings forth beauty.

Perseverance really does build character.

And character, hope. (Romans 5:3-5)

Trusting the Lord, even when it’s for every. single. word. I type onto a page really does prove His faithfulness.

And even in the hard, it is my greatest privilege to write words for the Lord and His glory.

Of all my novels to date, this one is the absolute result of faith. I wanted to give up. My kind, gracious, and amazing editors–though they never said so–must have wanted to give up. But little did we know that it was in the refining and the pressing on that this story finally came to life.

The title: Before I Saw You.

Publication date is several months off, but Before I Saw You is already showing up on bookstore web sites, so I wanted to be sure to offer you, as some of my most faithful readers, a first glimpse here.

I have so much to tell you over the next few months about everything that went in to the development and inspiration behind this novel. But for now, I just want to thank anyone who prayed for me over the last couple of years as I’ve been writing it. I’ve been even more of a hermit and introvert than I already was, some of it because of the writing process, some of it because I’ve simultaneously been struggling with the PTSD/depression I’ve battled most my life, some of it because I’ve also been launching my sons into college and empty nesting is taking a lot more out of me than I ever anticipated. (I read a lovely article just today about Peanuts creator Charles Schulz that I especially resonated with, and that says, “For his part, Schulz was aware that his inner gloom was also the source of his outward light.”) So please forgive me if I have not been present enough, either in the cyber world or if I know you in real life. 

The good news is that our God is a God of grace and love, and there is a time and season for everything under heaven…even for hermit-like writers like me.

The good news is that with our God, there is always an opportunity for a new beginning.

And this new story, like my other novels, ultimately demonstrates just that.

Here’s a synopsis for you of Before I Saw You, and a first look at the cover. I hope you are excited as I am for this to release…even though we have to wait until June 5, 2018! (It’ll be here sooner than we think!):

Folks are dying fast as the ash trees in the southern Indiana town ravaged by the heroin epidemic, where Jaycee Givens lives with nothing more than a thread of hope and a quirky neighbor, Sudie, who rescues injured wildlife. After a tragedy leaves her mother in prison, Jaycee is carrying grief and an unplanned pregnancy she conceals because she trusts no one, including the kind and handsome Gabe, who is new to town and to the local diner where she works.

Dividing her time between the diner and Sudie’s place, Jaycee nurses her broken heart among a collection of unlikely friends who are the closest thing to family that she has. Eventually, she realizes she can’t hide her pregnancy any longer—not even from the baby’s abusive father, who is furious when he finds out. The choices she must make for the safety of her unborn child threaten to derail any chance she ever had for hope and redemption. Ultimately, Jaycee must decide whether the truest form of love means hanging on or letting go.

And here, dear friends, is the cover:

978-1-4964-0956-0-1

Stay tuned here and sign up for my newsletter for first line and insider information as the publication date draws near.

I’m so grateful for each of you!

Praying a joyful, peaceful, and blessed Christmas season for you all.