When I first felt God calling me to write a story about alcoholism in a marriage, I confess that my initial response was, “Lord, I don’t want to go there.” But I didn’t argue long because at the outset of my new career path, I agreed to be 100% sold-out to Him. And in my mind, that meant saying, “Yes, Lord.”
Once that opening scene came to me in the dentist chair and I knew that I would be telling the story in the first person voice of my female protagonist (a first for me), I decided to set the book in the 1950’s, mostly so the story wouldn’t become my story by accident. I wanted to make sure it remained Deborah’s story. And so in early January of 2003, I started to write Beyond the Shadows.
I strongly believed (and still strongly believe) that God wanted me to write Deborah’s and Gideon’s story, in part, to help other Christians who are sitting in pews, dying on the inside, because of the addiction of a loved one, be it child, spouse, or parent (or someone else close to them). I believed He wanted those hurting people to know that they aren’t alone, that others have walked the same path before and understand and can be of help, and that Jesus Himself wants to be yoked with them to see them through the dark times. I tapped into my own experiences of living with an active alcoholic, of having God draw me closer and closer to Him because there was no other place to find hope. I went through a decade and a half of my journals, highlighting and tabbing them, and to be completely honest, remembering things that I preferred to forget.
I’ve been asked a number of times what’s the book that was the hardest to write. This was it. But I also have to say it was also the book that brought me the greatest blessing. When I wrote the last words of Beyond the Shadows, I fell to my knees in thanksgiving. I’d thought, when I began writing this personally important story that I was doing it to share some of the things I’d learned with others. When I finished, I realized God had me write it just as much for what He would teach me through the telling, the lesson of His complete sovereignty, of the necessity of totally surrendering to Him daily, of how much I can trust Him with everything in my life.
How very great is the Father’s love!
Other highlights of 2003:
- Firstborn became my 7th RITA finalist book.
- In addition to finishing Beyond the Shadows, I also finished Catching Katie and Legacy Lane.
- I attended the first gathering of Christian women novelists in Coeur d’Alene, never knowing that this would become an annual retreat that would bring me some of the best and dearest friends I have ever known. Not to mention they are the best brainstormers in the world!
- I was the Keynote speaker at the ACRW (now ACFW) conference in Houston.