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?

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?

Special Christmas book giveaway!

Addendum: Congratulations to CINDY and DONNA whose names were chosen by a computerized random name picker as the winners of this contest! And thank you to everyone who took the time to visit and leave a precious story!


 

Hi friends!

We need a little Christmas, don’t we?

IMG_9169I thought I’d spread a little cheer to you, dear readers, by offering a very special book giveaway today.

If you’ve read my second novel, Then Sings My Soul, you know about the special significance of the doll within it. It’s not just any doll–it’s called a Motanka doll.

A website specializing in folk art says this:

“…Of all the variety of toy heritage of Ukraine there is one that stands aside. It is Motanka, a traditional Ukrainian rag doll. It is one of the most ancient of Ukrainian handmade household items that is found in every corner of the country…” 

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I’ve always had a passion for Ukraine and its people, and in fact my ancestors came to America from that region around the 1880’s.

images-1In January, 2013, I had the privilege of traveling to Ukraine with a team from Mission to Ukraine (MTU), whose work is transforming the lives of those who are the most overlooked in Ukrainian society. Through crisis pregnancy counseling services and a rehabilitation center that offers a wide array of medical, social, psychological, educational and therapeutic services, MTU is able to meet the community’s most pressing needs – both physical and spiritual.

While I was in Ukraine with MTU, I was given my own Motanka doll which I cherish very much. In fact, I was inspired to give it a special spot within the storyline of Then Sings My Soul.

Here’s a picture of me and the team with our dolls:

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I have two more of these precious dolls (pictured below), which are handmade by some of the precious women benefitting from MTU. (A donation was made to MTU for them, and so your interest in this giveaway benefits this incredible organization, too.)

As such, I want to give one of these two dolls and a signed copy of Then Sings My Soul to TWO lucky readers this Christmas season.

For a chance to win, leave a comment below. The contest will be open through Friday morning.

Perhaps tell us about your favorite Christmas tradition, or whatever you’d like most about having a copy of the book and a doll.

Please keep our precious brothers and sisters in Ukraine in your prayers this Christmas season and always. 

And click here for more information on Mission to Ukraine and how you can get involved with this wonderful ministry.

P.S. If you haven’t subscribed to my author newsletter yet, I’d  be much obliged if you would. Not only do newsletter subscribers get special insider news into upcoming book releases, they’re the first to see my new novel covers and have access to giveaways like this one, too.

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Thanks so much, friends!