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

*****

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.

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978-1-4964-0956-0

 

About the battle: surprising truth about life after #metoo and #churchtoo

***

I’ve wanted to write this post for a while now.

I’ve turned words in my head and started and stopped and prayed and not prayed and prayed some more.

The news cycle has been inundated for months now with cases of sexual abuse from all corners of the country…USA gymnastics, Hollywood and Harvey Weinstein, Andy Savage, the pastor who molested a girl in his youth group, and so many others.

Stories of sexual abuse are everywhere.

But you know what?

Sexual abuse has always been everywhere.

We’re just hearing about it more now.

For a survivor like me, this watershed moment is a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing to know fellow survivors are feeling brave enough to speak their truth and seek help and healing. Glory be, it’s a blessing!

But it’s a curse, because every story makes me feel raw and sick and paralyzed with anger and fear all over again.

More often than not, I admit that I’ve wanted to do what Randall Margraves did.The father of not one, but three, of the gymnasts molested by Larry Nassar in the USA Gymnastics case, he charged Nassar in the middle of the courtroom.

Like Margraves, I want 10 minuets.

Five minutes.

One minute alone with each of the people who abused me, and those who enabled them, too. (Sadly, there were several.)

I want to storm their perfectly ordered worlds, where they’ve hidden the secret of what they’ve done to me (and likely to others, too, according to statistics) from everyone.

I want to find a way around the statute of limitations that prevent me from filing law suits and making their lives the hell that they’ve made mine.

I want to write revealing blog posts and victim statements of my own.

I want to make them hurt as bad as I’ve hurt. 

I want them to feel the heinous things I’ve felt and will feel for the rest of my life. (These unending aftereffects are not the result of my own inability to forgive or heal, as I’ve been accused of before. On the contrary, and as science has recently confirmed, like an amputation, some scars never, ever fade this side of Heaven).

That’s what I want.

But.

Like a child having a tantrum, I push and swing and kick and bite at the One who knows better than me…

…the One who wraps His arms around me and rocks my heart and whispers to me to be still…He’s got this…He’ll take care of them.

And He’ll take care of me.

See, we live in a world where the idea of vengeance lends itself to a the false promise of rescuing us from our broken hearts and brokenness.

Hear me out.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t file law suits where law suits are due. I’m not saying we shouldn’t prosecute sexual abusers to the fullest extent of the law. And I’m not saying anyone who has done so in a church should ever be restored to ministry.

Far from it. 

What I am saying is that as survivors, most of us won’t have the opportunity to charge our abusers in a court of law, and for that reason and in general, we need to give the paybacks to the Lord.

As I’ve struggled these last few months, I’ve re-discovered the promises in Psalms 34 & 35 which remind me only the Lord can truly rescue…not only that, He DOES. The Lord is the one who rescues and doles out justice. The Lord is the one who protects and who promises all things secret will be revealed. Nothing hidden will stay that way. Indeed, He already knows it all.

He is the one who rescues.

He is the one who heals.

And He wants to do the same for you, and for the gymnasts, and for the actresses, and for every girl who has ever faced an Andy Savage, or the people who allowed his unconscionable return to ministry, as well as the congregation who applauded his weak apology.

Can I be honest for a minute?

Fretting over feeling helpless against those sick abusers who have robbed me and others, when He promises vengeance to those who steal from the innocent…well, it’s a constant battle for me. Chronic PTSD and the overwhelming tendency for my brain to be in fight-or-flight mode (one of the permanent aftereffects of abuse now proven by medical science) make me want to fight and lash out first, and think about my actions later.

But the Lord wants the opposite.

He wants me to come to Him first.

He wants me to put down my fists and to stop my flailing and my daydreams of having my own day in court, because only He can ever truly deliver me. Only He can ever truly make them pay. Only by forcing myself out of fight-or-flight mode and stepping aside to let the Lord fight for me can I be free.

Staying stuck in a posture of vengeance allows them to steal from me–from us–all over again. And what they stole the first time around was quite enough.

Maybe your fight isn’t abuse recovery or PTSD. Maybe you have another battle you’re trying to fight.

Trust me when I say the Lord wants you to let Him fight your battle. (2 Chronicles 20:15; Psalm 46:10).

He wants to rescue each of us…

…but we have to let Him.

What battle do you need to give to him today? What waters are you struggling to keep your head above? Reach out to His outstretched hands. Hold on to Him.

Let go of the fight that was never meant to be yours, dear one.

Will you let Him fight for you today?

***

My novel, How Sweet the Sound, is a contemporary re-telling of the story of Tamar in 2 Samuel 13, quite possibly the earliest recorded “me too.” More than that, it’s a story of hope and healing and forgiveness.

How Sweet the Sound is my word-prayer for every survivor. 

Would you consider giving one to someone who needs it today?

Click here to purchase from your favorite bookseller today.

Sunday puddles. A poem.

*******

I parked in the middle of the giant puddle 
on purpose. There would be

no way of getting away from it, no way

to avoid the slosh and splatter. 

But I didn’t care.

I Just wanted to remember what it felt like to be 

careless. Not in the sense of neglect, 

but in the sense of casting aside the baggage 

of 

brokenness that makes me 

pinched and mean and more 

like the things that broke me 

than who God formed me to be,

before.

Before the pain bent me.

I parked in the puddle, dressed 

in my Sunday best, so I could 

remember the joy and stand straight

in His sanctuary.

********

“For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace…” Romans 6:14 (ESV)