Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Restoring What the Locust Has Eaten

Lifeway Christian Corporate Sales Meeting - 2007
“You’re on!” Mary-Beth, my author relations person, shout-whispered, running toward me as I walked out of the ladies room and down the hall of the Life Way building. I wasn’t supposed to speak until 9:30 AM but apparently they were running early. What luck! I didn’t even have time to get really nervous as they introduced me. Instead, I had to burst through the door, scoop up my notes and head toward the stage, hoping I wouldn’t trip in my high-heeled, platform sandals. As I headed toward the microphone and the podium, my knees began to shake and my palms started to sweat. I prayed one of my more eloquent prayers, “Okay Lord, this is it.”

Time to give my speech.

I stared out at the sales and marketing people, eighty or so upraised faces, and tried to smile, opening with a crack about the high probability of me blacking out. My voice shook while I promised to “come to” if they would wave some Starbucks under my nose. That got a laugh, and so, a little encouraged, I plunged into my Olympic relay-race analogy. Which, I hasten to mention, the Lord had just given me the night before. I’d worked hard on my speech, had it mostly memorized according to instructions . . . but the night before, in a lovely hotel room that the publisher put me up in, I lay wide awake most of the night while God…rewrote….my….speech. Ahhh! Why does He always wait until the last minute? But I was sure. I knew what He wanted me to say, and while it was pretty raw, “very transparent” as my editor later said with a kind smile, I was certain it was His message for this group.

After explaining to the crowd how much I viewed this process as a team effort – first me writing it, then the editors and art department polishing it up and then the sales team taking it on the road – and how incredibly blessed I felt to just be standing up there (I finally have co-workers!!) I plunged into how I began writing in the first place. It’s the question I’m always asked, “How did you start writing?” or “What made you want to become a writer?” or “Have you always written?”

In trying to honestly answer that question, God reminded me how it all began. On one hand, I have always loved lyric writing. As a girl, I used to swing on my swing (one of those 10 pound weights at the end of a rope tied to a big, old walnut tree in our yard) and make up song after song for God. I didn’t care who was around or if anyone heard me, I just worshipped him, loud and long. I also wrote some poetry and had a “diary” as we called it then, which my brother would find and break into (those locks never worked!) waving and taunting me until I chased him down and wrestled it back. But on the other side, the darker side, stories became a sort of salvation to me throughout my life. In the second grade I began having night terrors. One, in particular, was so bad I wouldn’t leave my mother’s side for three months (literally). I lost weight, I couldn’t sleep, I was as white as a sheet – the fear dogged me until I felt like I was living from panic attack to panic attack. I looked like I was being haunted in my early grade-school pictures, and I felt like I was being destroyed. My parents prayed for me, encouraged me and tried everything to help me overcome my fears, but nothing worked.

I have a son who was diagnosed with ADD and Dyslexia. For years he struggled to read, doing phonics programs over and over and then taking a special “Discovery” class in 4th through 6th grade. It helped and he’s a much better reader now, but something happened during those early years that has become a special strength for Seth. Because he couldn’t read the world around him, he saw everything differently. Seth can easily remember faces, pictures and symbols. He remembers little details, saying things to me like, “Mom, did you see that man with a red hoodie? He had on a couple of rings on his left hand, curly black hair and a big, jagged scar on his arm?” I look around clueless. “What man?” Now, when Seth looks at signs he doesn’t just read them, he notices things like – letter shape, color, lighting, a missing bulb, etc. While I just read it, Seth really sees it and I know that someday God is going to use this gift in Seth’s future work. That’s kind of what happened to me. To help myself sleep at night, I started to focus my mind on building stories and characters, not allowing the fearful thoughts a chance to come in. This took intense concentration. But after awhile, I got better and better at it until eventually, I could fall asleep within minutes of lying down. Years later, I now see that what the enemy had planned for my destruction, God used for good. When I first sat down to write a novel, the scenes played out in front of my eyes with the ease of long practice. Praise God, He really does make beauty from the ashes of our lives.

Last Saturday I had the privilege of being in the Vincennes (my hometown) Christmas Stroll and Parade. I had the even greater privilege of seeing a dear friend/mentor that I haven't seen in over twenty years - Joyce Crockett. Joyce was my neighbor girlfriends' mom. She was, and still is, I'm sure, an awesome mother and wife and now grandmother. And Joyce is the person who first introduced me to historical romance novels. By the grocery sack full!! I can't imagine that I would be writing in this genre without her influence and it is, to me, another amazing example of God's will being done in my life. How he was giving me the tools I needed as a teen to help fight all the anxiety in my life and how He turned those hard times into something He could use for His kingdom and His glory.

How great is our God? How worthy to be praised! It was a full-circle moment and this Thanksgiving I am so thankful to have had that gift.

What about you? Who inspired you to write? How can you thank them this Thanksgiving?


  1. Jamie, what a sad but victorious story! I escaped a childhood trauma through fantasy, too, but had to be rescued from the fantasy world by Jesus. He gave me a hunger for His truth~Truth~which down the road became the foundation for my fiction writing. I love that in Him "all things work together for good to those who love Him." It's been fun to see how He took my weakness and, as with you, converted it to a strength that glorifies Him. Thank you for sharing your wonderful story. I think I could use Seth's eye for detail to help me improve my writing!

  2. Oh, what a poignant piece of writing. God has restored SO many things to my life.
    Thanks for sharing your recounting of a blessedly hopeful scripture.
    Happy Thanksgiving, dear Jamie. You have inspired and educated!