What an AMZAZING weekend! I feel like I am still floating from all that God has done over the last week. From the time I last wrote, God has been working on me to have patience and grace during all the unknowns with my book. One thing after another came up and as of last Wednesday, my books had still not even been printed yet, and I needed them by that Saturday! The copier was giving the printing company a hard time. I prayed about it, and many others were praying for the books to come through by Friday, somehow, some way. God gave me a quiet peace about it all last weekend and I hung on to that one little hope - God can do all things and nothing is impossible with him.
The hustle and bustle of preparing for the ladies conference began, and we all got busy as we decorated cookies, made food for the pastor's wives luncheon, packaged up lunch boxes, and hundreds of other things that needed to be done. There was a pleasant attitude among the women as they worked, and everyone helped out where they could. They did a beautiful job decorating the auditorium of the church, making it look like a boutique that any lady would love to shop in. The theme was, "If the Shoe Fits" and so there were hundreds of shoes all over the building. I must admit I do not get excited over shoes like many other women, and I am quite content with my small supply of simple, unexciting shoes I wear every day, but I still think the building was beautiful. Black, white, and pink is my favorite color combination. If any lady walking into that room did not go, "WOW!" then she is in desparate need of some feminine help. :)
Thursday rolled around and I did not know what was up with my shipment. I did know one thing and that was the fact that the company was going to try to send out a small box of books, 25 in total, so I could have them by the weekend. I must say that this company, which is a Christian company, has been a blessing to me in the fact that they have corrected any mistakes made on my previous books, and have taken care of all extra expenses from the mishap. Even though I was disappointed in the beginning, God is working it all out for good. Once again, I say it is His timing and His perfect work, and He has it all under control.
I received an email Thursday that my books had been sent out, overnighted so they would arrive by the end of Friday. At one o'clock Friday afternoon, I had my new book in hand and they were perfect. God is amazing and soooo good to me. Thank You, Lord, for answered prayer!
I could breath a sigh of relief and focus on the music practices that my girls and I were involved in. The little girls, grades one to six were going to sing, "A Sermon In Shoes" to start off the conference. Another group of ladies, which I was involved with, was going to sing, "I Have Been Blessed." So appropriate!
Saturday arrived. I left to pick up a lady from New Haven so she could come to the conference and got to the church around 9:30. Joe brought the girls so they could run through their song before the conference began, and I got situated. It all began with the little girls singing in their black, white, and pink dresses, each with a pretty pink flower in their hair. After they sang, their daddies took them home since they were too young to attend. Alaina cannot wait until she is old enough to stay and be a part of all the ladies. "Do not rush to grow up, my dear," I keep thinking.
After we sang our song, the first speaker got up, Robyn Ogle, and she gave the most amazing testimony. She had us in tears the entire time and I kept thinking to myself, "How can she be speaking so calmly, so peacefully about such a terrible trial and not break down?" It was about her daughter-in-law, who was pregnant with their third child. They were/are missionaries in Africa and so there is not very good prenatal care over there. They were told their baby had some disease where the brain does not close upon formation and all the brains just float around behind the head like dreadlocks. They came to the USA to see if the reports were true and were told that yes, indeed, she was exactly as they had said. Believing God is in control, she carried that baby until she got reports that the baby's body was shutting down and poisoning the mother's body. It was time to deliver the baby. As Mrs. Ogle was sitting in a chair having her make-up done (she did not want to have pictures taken of her with her little granddaugther without makeup on! You would perfectly understand if you ever met Mrs. Ogle! She is a one of a kind speaker.) and her phone was in her lap. She was waiting for the call from her son telling her it was all over. The phone rang and her son quietly informed her that the baby was healed. Mrs. Ogle agreed. "Yes, she is healed now that she is in heaven."
"No," her son replied, "She is healed. She has no signs of toxins and her body is not shutting down. She is HEALED!" (I still get goosebumps as I write this.)
God had reached into that womb, gently tucked the brains inside the little girl's head, and closed up the skull, leaving a little pinch mark where He closed it. That baby was going to make it!
Now I understood why she did not break down and weep as she told the story. It was a miraculous, happy ending story that only God could have performed! Needless to say, it set the tone for the entire day and all the other speakers were just amazing, as they encouraged, helped ladies with past issues, and just let God do a work on all the hearts.
I even sold quite a few books and got a wonderful start to a new phase of my selling, now that I have a complete set of books. I am almost out of the 25 sent to me the other day, but the others are supposedly being sent out on Monday. Lord willing, with this Frankenstorm coming our way, everything will go smoothly. We are praying for His safetly through these next couple of days, asking Him to watch over us just as He did the last few storms around this time last year. May you all be safe in His care as this storm comes our way. Thank you all for your prayers, support, encouragement, and love. I love being a part of the family of God. There is no place I would rather be, but safely in His will.
I heard the UPS truck pull up in front of our house and my heart skipped a little beat. My books had finally arrived! My children ran down to the door and helped carry the four boxes up to the living room. Even Benny wanted to get in on the excitement as he came up to me with a knife in his hand so he could help me cut the tape. I let him work on one side as I worked on the other side. Then, with bated breath I opened the top and pulled back the paper. It was finally here! The long wait was over and I could hold my finished work in my hands. I took a book out and looked it over carefully. It seemed okay, but for some reason, a feeling that something was not right came over me. I got out my first two books and measured the book to see if it was the same size. You see, back when I received the proof, it had arrived 1/4 inch shorter on the length and the width, making it look like a short, stocky book. It did not match the others. The proof also had a problem in the prologue, where page 13 and 14 were flipped around, which would not have made for a easy, smooth read right when it is most important.
So, I measured the new book to the old ones and though the sizing was better, it was still slightly shorter. "Oh well," I commented to Joe. "I can live with it as long as they can fix it during the next printing." Yet, something was still not right in my spirit.
I took the box with me to church that evening, but seeing we had missionaries and a lot going on during service, I decided to not have Pastor announce it and would wait until Sunday. I may not have felt right to make a formal announcement that night, but I showed the books to a few people. Three families even bought a book, very excited to have the final story in their hands. It was at this point, when I was taking a book out to sign, I discovered one of the them had been pasted into the cover completely upside down! I was shocked and embarressed. How could that have happened? Nobody could possibly read a book upside down and backwards to boot? I decided this issue needed further investigation. Five books total went out over those two days. The issue came to a head Thursday evening when one of the readers texted me and informed me that page 13 and 14 were flipped. I ran to find another book and checked it out. Sure enough, the pages were out of order. I sighed as the pain of my heart twisted a bit. What else could be wrong?
Suddenly, I wondered about the ending. After I had received my proof and was working with the printer about the changes I wanted, I had told Joe I felt the ending needed a little bit more work. We had worked one more night on the final paragraph of the book, molding and shaping it to fit the other books' endings, as well as leaving the readers with a sense that God still works today, doing miracles, and revealing Himself through even the smallest of ways. It was not the end, but the beginning for some characters. So, with big letters, I wrote, "The Beginning..." for my ending. My heart felt lighter knowing the book was complete now.
As I turned to look at the back page, the final twist of the knife tugged on my heart as I saw the old words, "The end?" still boldly staring at me from the last page. They had used the wrong document! With a heavy spirit, I wrote to the company and explained everything. I had wanted to have these books for the Ladies Conference next Saturday. Would it even be possible to think I could have the new, corrected set by next week? The good news is the company is working with me on this and doing all they can to get the books in by Friday.
I know God is never late. He has a plan, and even if it means He wants me to continue to wait on Him, then I will continue to wait on Him. I may feel like giving up; I may feel like getting on my face and sobbing my eyes out; I may feel like everything has gone wrong, yet God never fails. Did I not give Him this project? Did I not say it was to His glory? No matter how the earthly, fleshly part of me feels, God is still inside me telling me to "be still and know that I am God." Maybe this is not about perfecting the book that is going to be read by a few. Maybe this is about perfecting me, His child, who will be read by even more people as I go about my daily life. More people will read me and my actions then will read my book. May I endure this perfecting with grace and humbleness of spirit; may He grant me the boldness to shine for Him no matter where I go. Just like my penpal and good friend from Israel always tells me, "Keep shining!"
Please pray and believe with me that those books will be in by next Friday, just in time for the Ladies Conference. God is a God of miracles, is He not? Amen!
The happy chatter of the eight children sitting around my table was like music to my ears. The little girls' giggles and the boys' hearty belly laughs put a smile on my face. It really did not matter that the amount of food it took to feed them all was like feeding an army. Three extra children in my home for two nights? Not a problem! Some may think I am plum crazy to even think of taking in more children on top of my five, but I was glad to do it for my friends. Actually, I was quite honored to have been given the opportunity to watch the three little ones. Honored to have been entrusted with someone elses treasures, knowing they could have peace of mind while they were away from their children. I was also humbled to know that I was now responsible for these same children, with their health and well being. It felt good to know I was giving this young couple a much deserved, much needed break so they could spend some quality time together.
It was only about nine years ago when I was in the same exact position they are today - four little ones ages four and under. It seems like yesterday when JJ was four, Caleb was three, Alaina was two, and Susy was one, but at the same time, it seems like it was a long time ago, almost like a dream. I remember how tough some of those days were, when Joe was gone all day, sometimes working late into the evenings. I craved adult conversation after hearing the high pitched babbling of babies all day long. Other evenings I could not wait to get out, even it meant going shopping for a few moments alone. I needed that time to clear my brain; I needed it to talk to the Lord to help me get through the next day with a positive attitude. Yet, even in the middle of the tough times, I knew what I was doing was what God had created me for. It was what I loved!
As a little girl I had often wished and prayed that I would find an abandoned baby in the woods just so I could take care of it all on my own. Maybe it was because I had read too many books, or maybe it was my wild imagination coming out, but whatever it was, I wanted to take care of a baby.
I began babysitting around twelve years old. I remember putting flyers into the mailboxes along our dead end street, hoping someone would need a helper either in housecleaning, doing odd jobs, or babysitting. The only one who called me was a lady at the very end of the street. She had two little children, one that was old enough to go to school all day, and one that was in preschool. She needed someone to watch this little girl a few afternoons a week after she got off the school bus. So, I took my first job. It was fun to earn the money, but I also quickly learned how naughty children can be that are not disciplined.
Being the second oldest of six children, I knew what it was like to watch children. I began homeschooling in the sixth grade, the same year my mother had her last baby. I helped my mother a lot with the little ones, and it was really convienent to have me home all the time. I always believed I was pulled out of school so I could help out. It was not until years later that I found out I was taken out of the public school because of the curriculum they were using. Not that it would have mattered at the time anyway. I had always been very quiet in school anyway, and did not have many friends. I believe it was God's mercy that allowed me the opportunity to homeschool, protecting me from myself and peer pressure when I reached high school.
From the time I was a pre-teen, I always had a child on my hip or holding my hand. I babysat all during my teen years, and often wondered if there were people out there that had never seen me without a child by my side. It did not matter though. I was doing what I loved.
Fast forward twenty years and you see me today. Still surrounded by children, but as they get older I wonder if there are more little ones that will enter my life somehow, someway. I am working on getting my daycare sub license, so that is one way I may have children around me. Yet, after having listened to the children at my table, the idea of opening our home to other children comes flooding back. I have had the thought before. Adoption is not out of the picture. I do not know what God is preparing us for. We feel we have been placed in certain ministries at church so He can prepare us for something bigger. His greater plan is unknown to us, but we remain open and willing for whatever God wants us to do. Before I had Benny I often felt that someone was missing from our home. I do not get that feeling now, but I do get a feeling that someone is going to need us in the future and our home is going to become their home. God has a great plan for our family. If I focus on all the what ifs, then I will get overwhelmed and may miss the blessing He has in store for us. I want to stay open to His will. Only God knows what lies ahead, but inside, my heart grows excited to someday find out what that special plan will be. Until then, I pray He molds me into the perfect vessel to carry out His plan so I can do what I love.
It is a little bit like expecting a baby. The process begins slowly, with nothing to show for what I am doing at first, but I know what is going on inside my brain. The wheels turn and I get that faraway look in my eye. The writing itch creeps in and I cannot wait to run to my computer and work on the next piece of the puzzle. I jot down ideas on little scraps of paper all day long, in between writing moments, making a file of all the important ideas that come to me.
The story begins to weave itself together, forming the foundation first, then slowly bits and pieces come together to make each chapter come alive. The characters become real as they start to take on a life of their own, and it becomes extremely hard to leave them in order to do something around the house. I remember the day I was writing the chapter in The Haven, (I will not tell too much here in case those reading this have not read the story yet) where the children get trapped in the locked room on the second floor of the castle. I had to step away from the computer in order to make dinner for my family and it was all I could think about as I cooked, trying hard to keep my mind on what I was doing. It felt like I had abandoned my friends right at a particularly dangerous moment, leaving them to fend for themselves in that room. Each predicament that arose made me yearn to help them find a way out, even if the only way to finding their answer was getting on their knees and begging God for help. Just as I got down on my knees while I was pregnant with Benjamin, praying for strength to go on during that rough pregnancy, to pray for peace that all would be well with the birth, so did I have to take my writing to the Lord and beg Him for peace and patience through the entire writing process. Since the Lord was the One Who gave me the talent and love for writing, why should I leave Him out? God formed my six children (yes, I am the mother of six children, though one did not live past six weeks in the womb), and slowly weaved them in secret, making each little part perfect, right down to the teeny, tiny toenails, and feathery soft eyelashes. Just as He was the One to touch that perfect little heart and set it beating, so was He the One Who was the heartbeat of my stories.
After the story is finished, there is still much work to be done. Just as the main structure of a baby may be seen, there are still hundreds of things going on inside the body that cannot be seen. Tiny details have to be formed, edited, and changed to make the story fit together. It is a painful experience, having to hear people suggest certain things that may be wrong with it, as well as mark red all over the manuscript. Just as pregnancy can be painful, and the waiting unbearable at times, so is this process of writing. It is a process that has to finish in God's timing. He is never late.
Even at the age of eight years old I knew I wanted to write. I loved writing. I remember climbing up the large pine tree at the back of my house with my best friend one day, and I told him I wanted to publish a book someday. I cannot remember what he told me he wanted to do, but that image of us sitting there on the branch (probably getting pine sap all over our clothes!) still sticks in my mind.
The first story I remember writing was called, "Becky and the Bears." I do not know if I still have this particular story, but I have many others that I kept in a folder so I could look back on them. I laugh at how silly some of them seem now, but back then they were masterpieces. I had given them all I had and it felt wonderful. I was scared of showing them to other people though, because I was afraid my ideas would be laughed at. I was afraid of being put down, or the fact that someone might tell me it was dumb and I should not write. I loved it too much. Besides, the stories flew around my head like a bird in a cage that needed to be released.
God has done a mighty work in me over the years. Every little thing I have gone through and learned in life has helped to shape and mold me into who I am today. I do not know where I would be today if I did not have the Lord in my life. Yes, I had the struggles that all teens have, but I had Someone I could go to, Someone to turn to when I was alone, with nobody else to talk to. I am so glad Jesus was my best friend. He knew what was best for me, just as I know what is best for the characters in my story. He is writing my story; He knows how it will end and what will happen around the next bend; He knows how I will get out of predicaments. Yet, the best part of it all is the fact that He never leaves our side as we go through things in life that seem extremely tough. He is right by our side, guiding us, helping us through each moment. Praise God for that!
In conclusion, I am glad to say that the delivery date of my third book is coming up very soon. I am praying it will be right on time, so it will be available during the Ladies Conference at Heritage, where I will happily show off my baby, the fruit of my long, hard labor. Thank you all for your encouragment, support, and patience through this long process. Though this is the last book in the Orphan series (for now), I have a new idea bubbling up inside of me that will soon overflow onto paper and become my new work in progress. God has been good and all the glory goes to Him! Praise the Lord!