On motherhood: When God calls us to the river

***

When I first felt God nudging me to write a contemporary story about Jochebed, Moses’ birth mother, I could not have felt more unqualified.

I’ve never given up a child.

I have no experience with crisis pregnancy or adoption or birth mothers.

Though none of my novels have been easy to write, more than ever I felt just like Moses must have when he pleaded with the Lord in Exodus 4:10:

“O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled” (NLT).

Still, the story would not leave my mind.

I knew I had to write it.

I researched birth mothers and read blogs and books they have written. I visited adoption agencies. I talked to adoptive mothers. I read books about crisis pregnancy. Much of what went into Before I Saw You is the result of this research.

However, the heart of Before I Saw You emerged when I realized I had more in common with Jochebed than I originally thought…

click here to read the rest of this blog post, over at Tyndale House Publisher’s Crazy For Fiction site.

Buy now in print:

Buy now in digital:

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.

Click here to choose your favorite book seller.

978-1-4964-0956-0

 

A purpose and a hope for perimenopause

*****

I thought better about writing this post.

The topic, after all, ranks right up there with politics and religion as far as what NOT to discuss with strangers.

But when have I ever worried about that?

Besides, my overarching writing mission/vision is to write words of hope for a hurting world.

And if perimenopause doesn’t hurt, I don’t know what does.

There.

I said it.

Perimenopause.

In case you haven’t noticed…

…no. one. talks. about perimenopause. EVER.

But girlfriends, I’m shattering the silence. For better or for worse. Even if it makes my husband and three sons disown me. Even if it lets on to the fact that yes, I actually am MIDDLE-AGED. ***Gasp! I admitted it!*** (Special thanks to L’oreal for hiding my Pepe Le Pew-striped white hair roots for the last decade.)

I mean, my sons are 20, 19, and almost 17. I’m not fooling anyone anymore. (Why do we think we can–or even should? Also, who decided perimenopause needs to happen at the same time as empty-nesting? Come ON!)

So here’s the thing.

Here’s the reason I’m writing this blog post.

After two-plus years of struggling with my weight and mood swings and ultimately–the deciding factor–a period that lasted an entire MONTH, I called my OB-GYN. (I still have the phone number memorized from the 1990’s when I birthed three babies in four years.)

As if the office workers sensed my duress…

…they got me in for an appointment faster than a 38-weeker whose water just broke.

They drew labs. They ultrasounded my uterus and ovaries. They listened to me complain about how I’ve always been thin and able to eat whatever my 6’2″ husband and sons eat,  but now all I can think of is Fat Amy when I look in the mirror despite regular weight lifting and hoofing it at the gym and losing 30 pounds only to regain it all in six months.

After it was all said and done, my doctor, the same, kind woman who quite literally saved the life of my first born during a precarious labor two decades prior, the one in whose eyes rises and sets sheer obstetrical and gynecological brilliance, she called me and said the labs show that I’m in perimenopause.

My problems of late are hormonal, she said.

I probably should just accept that my body is different than it used to be, she cajoled.

They could call in some progesterone to the pharmacy, she offered.

Being a nurse (aka the worst sort of patient EVER), I did what I tell all my patients NOT to do.

I googled.

The conflicting advice and research and opinions about hormone replacement therapy sent me into a near-panic attack (and I’m near enough to those already).

I called my psychiatrist.

Would progesterone make me more crazy? Because I don’t need to mess with my head any more than it’s already messed up.

She said progesterone might help even out my moods.

Now there’s some incentive.

I messaged my girlfriends.

Some liked taking progesterone. Some didn’t. Some, the more scientific/research-leaning girls like myself, are scared to death of it.

Ultimately, because of my never-ending-period, I decided to give the progesterone a 10-day try to, as the nurse at the OB-GYN office said, “re-set my system.”

So far, it’s going *super*.

I’ve taken it for two days and all I can think about is how I’m going to either get a big, huge, nasty blood clot and die, or that I’m going to get breast cancer and die.

I told my husband I can’t.

He gently suggested that I need to give it more than a couple days.

(Bless his heart.)

In the meantime, I’m tired.

Tired of trying to look like my brain feels–like I’m still 25. Tired of trying to keep up with the women who are my age and somehow manage to still look 25 (mouth-breathers). Tired of being upset about being different than I’ve always been, and trying to figure out how to just be me gracefully in this ungraceful-feeling new body.

Enter a recent study of Ecclesiastes, that one, non-politically correct book of the Bible that says nothing we do matters or is new under the sun. But the same book of the Bible that suggests, in the meantime, we make the most out of our vaporous days and our unique purpose on this earth, for such a time as this. 

Enter my Lord and Savior, who says that He knit and formed me, that He has a purpose and a hope for me, and who nowhere ever says that that purpose is weight or wrinkle or confidence or age dependent.

Enter the truth–God’s truth–that says I am beloved and I am His and that is enough.

And if you are reading this, He says

YOU are enough, too.

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying knowing and acknowledging these truths is an automatic embrace of the changes going on in my middle-aged body.

What I am saying is that I’m going to try.

I’m going to try to see myself like Jesus sees me, and not the world.

I’m going to try to embrace my new curves–not by letting myself go–but by doing the best I can with what I’ve got. (Except for during Girl Scout Cookie season. I think even Jesus will give me a pass on that.) And I’m going to try to appreciate…even celebrate…the fact that my curves are because I’ve birthed three beautiful boys and I’ve lived forty-something years and I work hard every day at what I do and if I have a little extra on board to show for it, then so be it.

Maybe, after all, I’ve earned the right to take up a little more space on this earth.

If you struggle with this, I’m quite sure you have earned that space too.


For more laughs and tears and hope with more over 40 girls, be sure to pre-order this new book, in which I am privileged to have a chapter:

The Wonder Years: 40 Women Over 40 on Aging, Faith, Beauty and Strength

with Brene Brown, Ann Voskamp, Lauren Winner, Elisa Morgan, Kay Warren and many others.

Here’s a synopsis:

Women past a certain age often feel like they are fading into the background of life. The nest is emptying, limitations are increasing, and fear about aging and the years ahead grow. Even women of faith can feel a waning sense of value, regardless of biblical examples of godly women yielding fruit long after their youth is gone. But despite a youth-obsessed culture, the truth is that the second half of life can often be the richest.

It’s time to stop dreading and start embracing the wonder of life after 40. Here, well-known women of faith from 40 to 85 tackle these anxieties head-on and upend them with humor, sass, and spiritual wisdom. These compelling and poignant first-person stories are from amazing and respected authors including:

Lauren F. Winner

Joni Eareckson Tada

Elisa Morgan

Madeleine L’Engle

Kay Warren

These women provide much-needed role models–not for aging gracefully but for doing so honestly, faithfully, and with eyes open to wonder and deep theology along the way. Each essay provides insight into God’s perspective on these later years, reminding readers that it’s possible to serve the kingdom of God and His people even better with a little extra life experience to guide you.

The Wonder Years is an inspiring and unforgettable guide to making these years the most fruitful and abundant of your life.