No part of our lives is wasted. Thoughts on writing and research.

I had the hardest time picking a major in college.

Everything interested me.

(Well, except for math.)

Truly.

Everything.

Just ask my roomate from back in those days.

From medicine to literature, political science to genetics, journalism to plant biology…there is so much wonder in the world…and so much to wonder at…how could I possibly choose just one thing to focus on for the rest of my life?

While I used to feel inadequate about my indecisiveness, I’m finally realizing I’m wired this way for a reason, and that writing novels is the ultimate and wonderful culmination of all my passions.

When I write a story, I can be whoever, wherever, and whenever I want

I can live on a pecan farm in Alabama (How Sweet the Sound). I can be a nationally renowned jewelry artist in Santa Fe, New Mexico, or South Haven, Michigan, or a Jewish boy escaping Eastern Europe in 1904 (Then Sings My Soul). I can be a dairy farmer or a pastor and live in a small town (Lead Me Home).

And all of that takes research.

Glorious, wonderful research in libraries and online, in documentaries and journals, and even in my own back yard.

I have books on pecan farming and I’ve spent hours watching pecan farmers on YouTube. 

I have binders full of lapidary design and stacks of books on rocks and minerals.

I’ve spent hours at my cousin’s dairy farm and I even hauled my family north to South Haven, Michigan one spring break when they’d have much preferred to go south.

And now I’m at it again.

I can’t say a whole lot about the current novel I’m working on, but here’s a stack of some of the reference books I’m using. The fiction ones you see are there not because of the subject, but because I’m studying those authors’ writing styles. You’ll also notice books on the writing craft, wildlife, and more.


Last week I even went on a wonderful field trip to spend a couple of hours interviewing a woman who is a wildlife rehabilitator. (So much fun!!!)

I hope you’ll be able to see the fruits of my current research sometime in 2018. Until then, I’ll share bits and pieces like this.

Mostly, I wanted to encourage you today to know that even though some seasons of our lives don’t make sense, no parts are wasted. Not even the painful parts. 

I agree with Carrie Fisher, who said to, “take your broken heart, and make it into art.”

All things work together, after all. 

That truth is more evident the more I learn, whether studying the life cycle of a pecan or the intricacies of a gemstone; the incredible instincts of rabbits and squirrels to care for their young; the way monarchs migrate for miles and across generations; the birds of prey and ducks who mate for life; and the ability of nature to heal itself. 

We live in a pretty amazing world, don’t we?

So, this is a glimpse into my writing life and what I’m working on at the start of 2017. 

It’s great fun.

It’s a lot of hard work.

And most of all–best of all–the results are a gift to you, dear readers. 

What about you?

What are you working on this year?

If you are a writer, do you like research? Why or why not?

Coffee house Jesus. A poem.

you’d think the sky was falling the way

folks talk 

that Nietzsche’s right 

and god is dead

but i tell you the truth

He is alive

Alive!

In the coffee shop where I wrote all day and all around me for hours people met and sipped

soy lattes and I heard them

i HEARD 

they were talking about Jesus 

and He was there 

in the friends who embraced and 

the pastor who encouraged the sad man

and the smile of the hostess fresh back from a mission trip to Nicaragua with the nose ring like mine who served me my egg and Siracha sandwich

alive

Alive!

I SAW

Him 

there, downtown

and even the plumes of the Japanese lilacs lining the streets in front of falling down houses stretched toward Heaven 

alive

Alive!

just like the little patch of daisies outside 

my front door. 

  

“Again I resume the long
lesson: how small a thing
can be pleasing, how little
in this hard world it takes
to satisfy the mind 
and bring it to its rest.”
~Wendell Berry 

Peace and plenty are not the rule or the right

“. . . there in that pleasant corner of the world they plied their well-ordered business of living,
and they heeded less and less the world outside where dark things moved,
until they came to think that peace and plenty were the rule in Middle-earth
and the right of all sensible folk.
They forgot or ignored what little they had ever known of the Guardians,
and of the labourers of those that made possible the long peace of the Shire.
They were, in fact,
sheltered,
but they had ceased to remember it.”

The Fellowship of the Ring
J.R.R. Tolkien

*****

The times they are a-changin’.

So maybe that was the mantra forty years ago.

But it sure feels that way again today.

From the two police officers were shot and killed in the line of duty in Indiana yesterday, to the deserts overseas where our young men and women bled and died to keep peace but which are falling once again to terrorists, to our own backyards where choosing a craft store for my sons’ 4H project feels more like a political statement than…well…a trip to the craft store…

The times they are a-changin’.

And sometimes I don’t feel like I see any good.

That is, until I’m still.

And I listen.

And peace comes in a

whisper

in the eyes of my

smiling son

in the

braiding

of my 102-year-old patient’s long gray hair

in the thunder rolling across corn fields

green and thriving

in this long overdue damp, cool summer

in the

sun dappled

by the locust tree leaves pouring through my living room window in the evening

in the

whoops and hollers

of teenagers leaving by the bus full for Young Life Camp

Yes, the times they are a-changing.

Which means we just need to

look

for the good

fight

all the harder for the faith

and

drop to our knees

faster and than ever.

And the peace we find there–He promises it’s there–hunched and bent before the Lord will be all the sweeter.

 *****

But you, Timothy, man of God: Run for your life from all this. Pursue a righteous life—a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith. Seize the eternal life, the life you were called to, the life you so fervently embraced…

I Timothy 6:12 (TMV)

 *****

run