Waves of Mercy

Have you ever prayed about a decision but when you followed through on where God was leading, everything went wrong? You probably asked, “Did I really hear from God? How could He allow this to happen?”waves-of-mercy-cover-1

immigrantsMy newest novel, “Waves of Mercy,” (which releases on October 4) tells the true story of the Dutch immigrants who settled the town of Holland, Michigan in 1846. These faithful Christian men and women, who suffered religious persecution in the Netherlands, prayed about what to do and felt God leading them to America, where religious freedom was guaranteed. So they left beautiful, centuries-old cities to move to the virgin wilderness of Michigan and live in crude log cabins. The first summer, malaria struck the community killing many settlers. A year later, a ship called the Phoenix, carrying 225 passengers, including 175 Dutch immigrants, caught fire and sank in Lake Michigan, five miles from their destination. 180 men, women and children died. As the bewildered immigrants buried their loved ones, they must have asked, “Did we really hear from God? How could He allow these tragedies to happen?”

gods-and-kingsI battled similar questions when writing my first novel, “Gods and Kings.” I had an opportunity to go to Israel on an archeological dig to research my book, and it seemed like an answer from God. To earn money for my trip, I babysat for three small children. My husband encouraged me to go and volunteered to take over while I was away. But a few days before I was supposed to leave, our three children came down with the chicken pox. Then we discovered that my husband had never had them, and he became extremely ill. I called the tour organizers to try to cancel or at least postpone my trip only to learn that it wasn’t refundable, nor could I re-book my flight. I would lose all of the money I had worked so hard to save. In spite of his illness, my husband still encouraged me to go—while someone from church called to say, “I think it’s clear that God wants you to stay home and be a wife and mother, not a writer.” Had I really heard from God about being a writer? Why had my family become sick at the worst possible time? I wrestled with God for answers.

It’s in these times of wrestling that we often find ourselves drawing closer to God. I think of Jacob who returned to the Promised Land with his family at God’s command. Yet before he reached home, he learned that his brother, who had once threatened to kill him, was coming with a large army of men. Jacob wrestled with God all night long, and was changed from Jacob the “deceiver,” to Israel, which means “he struggles with God.”

As I wrestled with God about my trip to Israel, the reading for my morning devotions happened to be Psalm 48: “Walk about Jerusalem, go around her, count her towers, consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation.” I trusted God to take care of my family, and walked into my calling as a writer. The novel I researched, “Gods and Kings,” has since been translated into nine languages.fullsizerender

And what happened to the Dutch settlers in my novel “Waves of Mercy?” I won’t reveal any “spoilers” in case you’d like to read the book, but if you visit the town of Holland, Michigan today, you’ll find that the immigrants’ faith remains strong and vibrant. The town, with a population of 33,000, has more than 71 churches, including Pillar Church, built by the first settlers in 1856.pillar-church

1co15-58“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

My Imaginary Friends

An introduction to the characters in Waves of Mercy:

Released October 4, 2106

When my daughter was in pre-school she had an imaginary friend named Bareko. She talked about her constantly, and was so convincing that I made plans to invite Bareko to our house for a play date. I figured out that she was imaginary when I didn’t see her name on the class list. Later I learned that my daughter’s entire Sunday school class was praying for Bareko’s brother who had been in some sort of an accident. It’s very embarrassing when your child’s Sunday school teacher asks you for a follow-up report on an imaginary person!

But I have to confess that every time I create new characters for one of my novels, they become real people to me. That’s why it’s always sad to say goodbye to them when the novel ends. It’s like moving to a new city and making new friends, then having to move away again. Yet like good friends, they remain in my mind and heart forever. That’s the way I feel about Geesje and Anna and Maarten and Derk and Hendrik—and I can’t wait for you to get to know them, too.

I admire Geesje’s honesty, her willingness to write a truthful account of her life, including all of her faults and failures. How many of us would be willing to write down the story of our past and allow the people we love to know so much about us? I would certainly balk at the idea!

What I love about Anna is the way she questions things. Most of us would say that she lives a wonderful life of wealth and ease with a family and a handsome fiancé who love her. But Anna is courageous enough to look beneath the surface and ask if this charmed life is really the one God wants her to live.

Then there’s Maarten. I love his constancy and faithfulness—to the people he loves and to God. He is a behind-the-scenes character who fills an important role in the story and in Geesje’s life, whether she appreciates his efforts or not. Are there people like him in your life?

Derk is another one of those secondary characters, and his role is to act as a bridge between Geesje and Anna. He “wears his heart on his sleeve,” and I think his tenderness and compassion toward others will make him a wonderful minister. I’m blessed to have people like Derk in my life, people who love building bridges and bringing strangers together.

Hendrik turned out to be one of my favorite characters, even though I wasn’t too sure about him, at first. As I write my novels, I always create a bulletin board with pictures of what I think my characters look like, and this is the picture I chose for Hendrik:


I think it’s a worthwhile practice to take time to think about our real-life friends and the qualities we most admire most in each one. What lessons have they taught us? Are there ways we wish we could be like them? And when we’re finished, let’s stop and thank God for the gift of good friends!

Happy reading!

Waves of Mercy will be released October 4, 2016

Pre-order on Amazon today, click here.