An Explanation

Since I began posting stories on my Facebook page a few years ago, and especially since my book was published, I’ve received all sorts of feedback. I would say the vast majority of it was incredibly positive. Actually, none of it was negative as in, “Why did you write such an awful story! What a bore!” But I’ve also heard some heartfelt questions about why my stories deal with the more painful aspects of life. For instance: Why did you let this character die? Why did this character’s child die? It was too realistic and painful. Why doesn’t your character experience more joy as a result of salvation? Your allegory about the Christian life was dark and depressing.

When I listen to this kind of feedback, I think to myself, “Because that’s how life is.”

Last week, I heard true stories about life: A bus full of kids heading home from camp overturned on the highway. A young man and his pregnant wife and the mother of one of the campers died. In that crash a father and mother were bereaved of their children and their unborn grandchild. Two children have been orphaned.

A thirty-four year old woman was diagnosed with lung cancer. She has four to six months to live. Her boyfriend proposed to her after that news, knowing that he will have only a few more months of life with her.

A woman who was only able to have one son, sent that beloved son to look after her parents who were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. There was a house fire. The son pulled his grandpa to safety and went back in for his grandmother. Neither of them came back out.

These are the great tragedies of life. And then there are the myriads of personal heartaches and discouragements that we hide away in our hearts, the questions about life that God never seems to answer. The more I write, the more I discover that I cannot write feel-good or fantasy or romance or straight comedy. When I try to read those kinds of books, I emerge empty-handed. Nothing about them helps me with the problems that I face, problems that many Christians might cringe to hear.  Besides, there’s this pesky thought that keeps coming to my mind the minute I close the book or finish the feel-good movie, “A happy ending depends on where you finish the story.”

And there’s something more that prevents me.

I am only twenty-eight years old. I’ve never married, never been a mother. I’ve only lost grandparents. My experience of life has been limited. Yet, somehow, people feel that I pinpoint the realities of life through my writing with such accuracy that it hurts. And I’ve often wondered why. Why do I know these things? Well, I think it goes beyond mere experience.

The fact of the matter is that as long as I can remember, there has been an ache in my heart that will not go away. Deeds of kindness and generosity towards others provide temporary relief. Reading my Bible occupies my mind while the ache continues. The few close relationships I have help some, but as soon as I’m alone, the ache is right there waiting for me. Sometimes, God provides His comfort, sometimes He lets me suffer.

Like C.S. Lewis said, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” The ache is that desire for another world. When my life is going well with good health, enough money, non-strained relationships with friends and family, then I can almost forget that I feel it. But the slightest thing that goes wrong—an ended relationship, or a mysterious health problem–that brings it all back.

And that’s okay. Because it’s the ache that drives me to Christ over and over again, and it might drive everyone to Christ if everyone knew that they were designed for a different world. As it stands, we all try to cover up and drown out our pain with possessions and financial security and beautiful children and romantic relationships. The characters in my stories and in my novel have lost those things and experienced horrible disappointments. They have the chance to see that they were created for a different world. They have the opportunity to find Jesus and only Jesus, the joy of man’s desiring. Many times, I think real joy can only be discovered in the pain that forces us to desire Jesus once the emptiness of everything else has been fully plumbed.

My greatest goal as a writer is not to amuse or entertain. That is a by-product. My goal is to help people to discover, and perhaps re-discover like I do nearly every day, that their home is not here. That personal loss is a greedy task master with limitless appetite. That everyone they know will let them down but Christ. That, converted or not, they won’t even be fully satisfied in Christ until Heaven. So, for now, propelled by the ache in their hearts, it is their duty and their joy to desire Jesus.

Perhaps some of my readers still find this depressing. I’m sorry. But that’s where I’m at. So, if you’re hoping I’ll put out a light-hearted romance or fun novel where average Christians deal with problems that aren’t too weird, I’m afraid you may be disappointed. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have weird problems, so I have no inspiration to work with. Instead, rest assured that I will do the very best I can to show the beautiful character of God at work in flawed, hurting, sinful people like me.

 

O Joy that seekest me through pain;

I cannot close my heart to thee;

I trace the rainbow through the rain,

And feel the promise is not vain,

That morn shall tearless be.

 –George Mattheson

The Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club–Tomorrow!

 

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Tomorrow is the day! The first showing of The Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club open to the public will take place at 8:00 PM on Friday night. Justin’s phone has been ringing all week long as more and more people call ahead to reserve tickets. You can do the same! Call Justin at 269 267 7506. You can pay with a credit card or simply reserve the tickets and pay for them when you pick them up.

We’re praying for a big turn out. To be precise, we’re praying that The Chapel gets filled to overflowing. But more importantly, we’re praying that the message of the movie will be encouraging and convicting–that the audience will be inspired to reach out to the elderly and cultivate relationships with them.

I hope to see many of you there.

The Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club Premiere

Premiere!

Counting down the days to The Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club premiere! All manner of plans and preparations are being made. Justin (producer and director) put together a theatrical trailer several days ago. Have a look!

For all the ladies, I just finished the dress I’m going to wear. Yes, the poor script writers among us have to make their own dresses. I trimmed it with tatted lace.

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Justin and I were interviewed last week by a reporter from The Harold Palladium. The story should appear in Sunday’s paper. Once it’s in print, I’ll see if I can post a link here. Tomorrow, Justin will be meeting with a gentleman from our church to write up the order of ceremonies.

Things are progressing well, and we look forward to seeing you there.

You’re invited!

Where: The Chapel on Washington Ave., St. Joseph, MI

When: 8:00 PM

Cost: $6 at the door, or you may call 269 267 7506 to order ahead

Conversation With a Five-Year-Old

It was my privilege to become an aunt at twelve years old. Since then, five more nieces and four nephews have been added to the family collection. I am thankful for the influence they’ve had on my life. I had two significantly older siblings who I assumed were put on earth to entertain and wait on me. My younger brother was fairly close to my age. So I spent most of my growing up years with little contact or experience with young children. Being thrust into “Aunthood” was a needed change. Suddenly, I had to learn how to keep little people occupied and out of trouble. I had to learn how to give of myself and relinquish my priorities for their benefit. I had to be a good example.  (And believe me, when you’ve heard one too many kids have a pouting, whining, crying fit, the good example bit can be difficult.)

The strange thing is, in all my years of being an Aunt, I’ve never really tried engaging my young nieces and nephews in serious conversation…until this year. The result was rather enlightening. My youngest nephew is five years old. He is bright, active and enjoys books, Thomas the Train and pretending. At present, he is not converted. Like most kids, he prefers things to go his way, and like most kids, he tends to view his own discomfort as the principle concern of the moment, regardless of how uncomfortable everyone else is. Naturally, he believes should be made comfortable first.

Early last month, I visited the family. One sunny morning, I was sitting out on the back porch, grooming one of the family dogs. Miles came wandering out with a toy train or something. His dreamy face told me he was lost in his own little world. He was driving his toy around and making up sound effects as he went along. When the sound effects died down, a random thought passed through my mind.

“Hey, Miles,” I said.

“What?”

“Do you think God wants us to be happy?”

“Um, Yes.”

“Why do you think God wants us to be happy?”

“I don’t know…because it’s fun.”

“But some things that aren’t happy are good for us, aren’t they?”

“Huh?”

“Well, like when you do something bad and Mommy and Daddy have to discipline you. Or shots, right? It’s not very fun, but it’s good isn’t it?”

“Yeah.”

I was going to ask another question but he interrupted me mid-sentence.

“Can we stop talking?” he sighed a la Russell from the movie Up.

“Why?”

“’Cause it’s boring.”

I had a good chuckle with my sister when I told her the story. But then I began to think. Miles revealed the natural man to me in that conversation. He doesn’t know it yet, but he’s a hedonist at heart with absolutely no interest in God. In his child-like simplicity and lack of sophisticated lying methods that adults eventually learn to hide their raw selfishness, he pulled the pants down on unconverted humanity.

We want to be happy. We want to be comfortable. We want things to go our way. And we don’t enjoy spiritual discussion, because in light of our own desires and pleasures, God is really kind of boring. When we grow up, we veil our selfishness in socially acceptable behavior. We might even believe in God so long as we can fashion Him into something that never contradicts us.  If we’re smart, we submit to a code of ethics. Because without ethics, life becomes so very unpleasant. And if, per chance, our desires can only be satisfied in socially unacceptable behavior, the simple solution is to mount a public relation’s campaign to make our desires acceptable.

The problem is that God’s great goal for humanity is not to make humanity happy.  He wants something for us infinitely more important than our happiness. And if humanity could only get that through its thick skull, the raging debates on legalizing marijuana, gay marriage, abortion, divorce and the like would be done before they started. God wants our wills and desires to be lost in Him. Like C.S. Lewis puts it so well, “The command, ‘Be ye perfect’ is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were ‘gods’ and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him…He is going to make the feeblest and filthiest of us into…a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful, but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said. (Mere Christianity)”

Miles will soon discover this truth. He is surrounded with friends and family that love him and pray for his little soul. I pray that soon he will begin his own journey to sanctification. I look forward to the day, twenty years from now, when I can ask him again whether God wants him to be happy. I imagine the answer will be quite different. He’ll have discovered by then that the process to a better state of being than happiness can be very painful. But it is very good. I sometimes shudder to think what might be in store for me in that process, because I’m not nearly that dazzling creature Lewis spoke of. But I will be, and not far from now, in Heaven.

 

Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fiber of your being and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.” –Mere Christianity