2017 was hard for a lot of people. Natural disasters, perplexing politics, personal family drama in buckets.
The year started difficult, with a marrow-deep weariness I couldn't shake no matter the prayers I prayed, or Scripture I read, or worship I entered into. But--through all, I knew God was there. In so many little ways He'd make His presence known, and in retrospect, He really was enough.
But it was hard.
Didn't help that North Dakota winters are long and cold, and this one seemed particularly rough. I had to keep reminding myself in February that spring was coming. Eventually. No matter how far away it seemed.
My writing went through a similar winter. Unlike natural seasons, though, I had no reassurance that spring would ever come, and my fervent prayers for clear direction on whether or not I was to continue writing for publication met with answers having to do with trusting God no matter the circumstances, and learning to put my hope truly in Him and not in that thing I thought I wanted, however good and noble it might be.
In February, the daughter of our former pastor gave birth to her first full-term baby after three successive losses, under near miraculous circumstances. Many of us would say no "near" about it, given the threatened miscarriages, bed rest, and other trials Laura had to endure. But not long after that baby's birth, during a particularly intensive time of prayer, I sensed God pointing to Laura and saying, Look! Laura is holding in her arms this baby that she carried to term when nobody believed she would. If I can do this, I can do anything. Anything.
And so, that became my reminder. Instead of begging God to do something, I thanked Him for being the God of the impossible. Couldn't help contemplating all the ways that this truth could work itself out in our family, but came to a place where I knew, even if I never published another story, I would be okay. I'd have to be okay, if that were the Lord's will. And honestly, with all that was going on, I was more than willing to lay down my own dreams if it meant God would bring a needed breakthrough in the lives of my children.
Not that a parent necessarily needs to do that to see God work, but what parent's life isn't more or less about sacrifice, right? And I was just ... so ... weary.
Fast-forward to early May, after the wedding of my third-oldest in March, where I got to hold Zion, that little miracle of Laura's, and late in our North Dakota spring. (Full summer doesn't really arrive here until late May or early June. But we have such exquisitely beautiful summers, it's totally worth it to me!) An email came from one of my dear friends and critique partners, letting me know she'd recommended me for something to our editor. Ha, I thought, down deep in my skeptical self. Why would that matter? We had a proposal we'd sent to this editor nearly a year before and she hadn't responded, so it was obvious she wasn't interested in the era I write ... :-)
Less than 15 minutes later, I got an email from that editor. While in Walmart with my daughters.
I skimmed through the email--an invitation to submit a proposal for a new project this editor was putting together--and the first thing, honestly, that my brain snagged on was the fact that someone else had "my" era. And the entire time we walked around the store, I wrestled and wrangled with the Lord over that, until finally I had to just say, OKAY, Lord! Help me to be willing! Help me to surrender to whatever it is You want of me here.
Then I tucked the matter aside (as much as I'm capable of, LOL) and finished shopping.
After dropping the girls off where they were going, I went by the church to use the internet and work on a few things, but after parking out front, pulled out my phone and read through the editor's email again. Thoroughly this time. Somehow it had escaped my notice that this was not for a novella collection (as I'd first presumed), but a series of full-length novels, all standalones but connected by family to the couple in the first book, to be released February 1, 2018. Yes, that's today.) And, the editor suggested a few titles/concepts but said I was free to come up with something else. One in particular snagged my attention, The Cumberland Bride, and my brain was already whirring away ...
Would you like to submit a proposal for this series? the editor asked.
Still inside my vehicle, my music was still playing. I'm holding on to hope, I'm holding onto grace ... fully letting go, I'm surrendered to Your ways. The anchor for my soul, Father, You will never change! I love You, I love You ...
And I went facedown, right there in my seat, broken wide open as the sobbing took me. Realizing this was a door God had opened--that only He could have opened--and if He wanted me to walk through it, He'd give me the story. Help me find the research. Give me word count.
There was more He whispered to my aching, weary heart that seems too intimate to put here. But I tell you--this happened on a Wednesday, and by the weekend, I had a story idea. Within two weeks had a synopsis and first chapter written. Sent it off to the editor then didn't hear a thing until July, though my friend assured me this was a pretty sure thing and I needed to be writing already. But--oh! that wasn't the only surprise God had for me that day. That novella collection proposal we'd submitted to her the summer before? We got word late that afternoon that the editor was offering us a contract! So I had to get that one written, first.
In early July, then, while my husband and I were off on a getaway to northern Minnesota for our 30th anniversary, the editor contacted me again to let me know she was confident she could get the story through the publishing board, and would I fill out this cover background sheet?
The contract came and was finalized in August, about the time finished up the novella. I started in working--a handful of author friends referred me to some wonderful resources--but the going was oh-so-slow. So much "real life" going on ... church obligations, homeschooling my three youngest (now all teens), taking the soon-to-be-20-year-old daughter to Bible school in Minneapolis, meeting a grandbaby for the first time. God kept reminding me that if He opened this door for me, He wouldn't abandon me in walking through it ... and that if He could speak the universe into existence, it was a very small thing for Him to help me with word count!
Here I am, the evening of my deadline. I finished the book, had enough time for a couple of people to read and critique, and with historical notes and all, got it all turned in two nights ago. TWO. Y'all. God really can do the impossible!
So, something He told me last summer ... you know how people often pray and seek a "word" for the year, something that will provide them a focus or illumination or whatever for the coming months? Mine usually comes in September, around the time of Rosh Ha'Shanah, or the Jewish New Year. Well, this time, He told me a few months in advance that although my word for last year was humility, my word for the coming year would be ... joy.
JOY. And I tell you, it has been.
Also, those areas of my children's lives where I was pleading for His intervention? Some breakthrough is happening there, too. Details on those later, but for now ... take a look at these beauties, and rejoice with me!
The Backcountry Brides Collection, including my novella, The Counterfeit Tory, releasing May 1, 2018!
The Cumberland Bride, Book #5 in Daughters of the Mayflower, releasing October 1, 2018!