I’m in between novels at the moment, and searching for inspiration. After writing 29 books, I sometimes feel like I’ve used every storyline, every setting, and every plot device there is. I’m certainly not ready to retire, but what do I write about next?
As I faced the blank computer screen, casting about for ideas—life happened. My life.
This past month our family suffered a huge loss when my husband’s sister, Marion, passed away after a short illness. She lived nearby, so we were able to say our goodbyes and tell her how much we loved her, but it didn’t make it any easier. Ken is the youngest of six children and Marion was his last remaining sibling. She was also one of the most positive, joy-filled, loving people I have ever met, in spite of the fact that she didn’t have an easy life. Everyone who knew her loved her and wanted to be around her. I will miss her stories, her laughter, her beautiful perspective on life. We know she received a joyful welcome in heaven, yet we can’t help feeling sorrow and grief at her loss.
But even as we grieve, we also have a reason to rejoice. A few days from now, we will celebrate our oldest son’s marriage to a beautiful woman who already has become a daughter to us. She brings a young son into our family, a sweet, new grandson who we also love as our own. We feel God’s face shining down on all of us.
Three years ago, our son suffered through the most difficult, painful season of his life. Ken and I felt helpless as we watched him suffer. All we could do was stand alongside him and pray for him—to a Heavenly Father who also knows human suffering and a parent’s grief. My neighbor, who is also my prayer partner, prayed for him on her morning walks as she passed by our house. One morning she texted me a verse that God had given her for our son:
“But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will arise with healing in its wings.”
I looked up the context and read the second half of the verse: “And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall” (Malachi 4:2).
It seemed impossible, unbelievable, at the time. But as it turned out, our son’s night of darkness drew him closer to God, giving him a deeper relationship than ever before in his life. Now, as I see him with his new bride-to-be and young son, I see the fulfillment of that verse.
This—all of this—is what I need to write about next. Life! Life with its joys and sorrows, grief and laughter. Life with friends and family members who share all of it with us. Life with our good and loving God who never leaves us or forsakes us. I need to write authentic stories of people just like me, showing the hard parts of life in a fallen world, never pretending that pain doesn’t exist. But also showing the joy that a life lived with God can bring. Yes, life is hard . . . but God is good. And He loves us more than we can ever imagine. I still don’t have a plot or a setting for my next book, but no matter what I decide on, I want my story to burst at the seams with hope. Hope in the joy of heaven, which Marion is now experiencing. Hope in a Savior who can turn our tears into laughter and make us leap like a newborn calf with life and joy.