Third time’s a charm. Encouragement for writers and anyone with an impossible dream.

I’ve seen them plenty of times, red tail hawks floating in circles above the Indiana tree lines. But I’ve never seen one as close up as this:

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It’s as if he was sitting there, waiting just for me.

And I think maybe he was.

I was at the darkest point in my writing career. My editors had broken the news to me that the novel I’ve been working on for close to two years had to be rewritten…for the third time.

They weren’t being mean when they told me this. They were being honest. The first two drafts–as sometimes drafts can be for many authors–were truly horrid, despite the exhausting effort I had put into them.

I was devastated.

I didn’t have the energy, the heart, or the wisdom to know how in the world I could write yet another version of the story. More than that, I began to feel that my other three novels were just a fluke, that I was a fake of a writer, that whatever luck I’d had before was plum wrung out.

Lord help me, I prayed.

My dear husband encouraged me not to give up.

I forced myself to make new plot cards and storyboards, to comb through the previous two drafts for any paragraph, sentence or word that could be salvageable, and to pray (even more) that the Lord would allow me the ability to write just once more something that would be pleasing to Him.

Slowly but surely, I began to notice things.

Things like this red tail hawk who remained still even as I moved within steps of him (there is a thread that involves a red tail in the story)…

…things like a song on the radio, a point in a sermon, a chance finding of a book or movie that helped me work through a new or difficult plot thread just when I needed help the most…

…things that other people might think I’ve lost my ever-loving-mind to find significance in, but that I knew–or at least suspected–was the Lord whispering to me.

“Keep going.”

“You’re on the right track.”

“I’m with you.”

Stating openly that I “hear” God like this does seem nuts, especially when it involves writing a novel. I mean, there are so many more important things going on in the world…people fighting so many bigger battles. But at the same time, a big theme of my story is about how the Lord sees and cares for even the tiny, insignificant little sparrow. But as the scriptures show us time and time again…

…He is big enough to be in the big battles, and still have more than enough left over to be in our little battles, too.

I got the call last Friday that this third re-write has been accepted. Pending the standard editing process, the story I finally finished and submitted a few weeks ago will become my next new novel, slated for publication in 2018.

If you’d seen the other drafts (and thank goodness you won’t), you’d know without a doubt that this story was only possible because of the grace of God.

But isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?

Our faith, our offerings, are but tiny seeds in the hand of a mighty, mighty God.

He’s the one who grows them and forms them into something bigger and better than we could ever have imagined.

Whatever you’re facing friends, don’t ever think it’s too small or too impossible to take to the Lord in prayer. Don’t ever think He doesn’t see the sparrow of your dream or your worry, or that your toil is in vain. Every delay, every rehash and rewrite and do-over of this manuscript, and every manuscript I’ve ever written has been for a reason, whether to hone me, or to hone my work.

In the meantime, stay tuned to this website and my social media sites for updates about this next novel. I can’t wait to share the hope and these new characters with you!

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?

On writing and the shofar

Friday night at 11:50 pm I submitted the re-written manuscript for my fourth novel to my editors.

The deadline was midnight.

I’ve probably said it ad nauseum, but writing is hard for me.

Each of my novels have required partial or near-complete rewrites, and this one was no exception. Though exhausting, I welcome the process because editors are phenomenal people who have the talent and expertise required to pull the heart out of a story. They can also see structural problems I often can’t see because I’m so close to the work. Thankfully, my editors are tough enough to be tough with me and gracious enough to allow me to make these changes.

Part of the reason writing is hard for me, especially right now, is because of life change. We just sent our oldest son to college. Our second son is a high school senior. And our youngest is not far behind. Launching these precious babies is rocking. my. world. My already attention-challenged brain has had a really tough time concentrating enough to get to the heart of my characters and myself.


I think another reason writing is hard for me is because I don’t  write genre-based fiction, so each of my novels is very different with a completely unique plot and structure. I write transformative fiction, and no one is more transformed by the Lord as I am as I write.

Each of my novels is inspired by a heart question. In How Sweet the Sound, I wanted to know what healing looks like in the survivor of incest. In Then Sings My Soul, I wanted to know what faith looks like in someone who has had every reason to feel abandoned by God. And in Lead Me Home, I wanted to know where simple faith and simple folks fit in our current climate of overdone, progressive religion.

In this fourth novel, I started researching the scriptures and commentaries about the story of baby Moses, and I wanted to know how the Lord redeems broken motherhood for birth moms, adoptive moms, moms who’ve struggled with infertility, and moms in general.

In short, I’ve spent the last 18 months scooping my heart out with a spoon. 

Interestingly, October 2-4 is the Jewish holiday called Rosh Hashanah. It is their traditional new year, a time to celebrate the harvest, a time to proclaim the majesty and judgment throne of God, and a time to celebrate his compassion. During the holiday, horns called shofar’s are blown, which in Biblical days indicated the start of a trial, a cross-examination of the heart, so-to-speak. Shofar’s are made out of the horns of a kosher animal, and the marrow of the horn has been removed to hollow it out. They are mentioned many times in the Old Testament, for warning (Ezekiel 33:1-6), to proclaim victory (Joshua 6:2-16), to proclaim the Lord’s majesty and worship (Zechariah 9:14; Isaiah 27:130), and more.

I feel like when I write, the Lord transforms my heart into a shofar, of sorts. I empty my mind and heart of the broken and gut-wrenching things I’ve seen and sometimes experienced in the world, and I try to make sense of them. I ask myself hard questions about how I respond and how the world responds to these situations, right or wrong. I try to create characters who wrestle with why bad things happen, and how they can find hope in the midst of them. Then I try to build a story that ultimately proclaims that brokenness can be redeemed.

Like the writing of a novel, autumn is a great time for all of us to examine our hearts before the Lord. Farmers all around where I live in central Indiana are preparing to harvest their crops, maneuvering their combines across the rolling fields to separate the grain from the chaff, and filling storage bins full of golden, nourishing corn.

Lamentations 3:40 (MSG) says,

“Let’s take a good look at the way we’re living and reorder our lives under God. Let’s lift our hearts and hands at one and the same time, praying to God in heaven…”
Like writing, living honestly and fully isn’t ever easy. We risk a lot when we go deep, ask hard questions, and talk about difficult, even taboo topics. But like Eudora Welty said, “No art ever came out of not risking your neck.”

Since finishing this manuscript, I’m a little afraid of what questions I’ll be asking for my next novel. But I know in the end, my questions will be answered with grace and compassion, and most of all, redemption.

So, dear reader, how does the Lord work to transform you? And what  parts of your heart do you need to examine today?

“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” Galatians 6:3-5 (MSG)