I think there are moments in our lives where the threads begin to come together and we get just a glimpse of the tapestry that is being woven behind the scenes. A sense of cohesion. Of harmony. Hutchmoot served as one such moment for me this year. (If you’re not familiar with Hutchmoot, it’s an annual retreat(?) where lovers of the creative arts come together to basically feast upon fellowship, session, music, and creating in community together. I’ve been dreaming of going for the past four years, and this year, I was finally able to attend!) For me, the discussions, conversations, and sweet fellowship all served as variations, as it were, on a theme that the Lord has been planting in my heart for the past several years.
I have also experienced this as I write. It is always somehow awe-inspiring to realize in hindsight that many of the threads of theme and concept that I have pulled upon while writing were linked to passages of Scripture that I found myself reading at the time, songs that I soon found myself listening to, and now, in the case of Daring to Hope, books that I found myself reflecting upon.
Often this revelation is a journey in and of itself, and the realization is slow in the coming. But it is a beautiful thing.
It Started With A Book
Most of the books that I share with you here are, of course, fantasy. Speculative fiction, as you all know, is my first love! But I do a fair amount of non-fiction reading as well and could not keep from sharing this latest read with you.
In March, I picked up Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis Majors (then just Katie Davis), and devoured the book in a single night. In case you aren’t familiar with her story, Katie traveled to Uganda after high school to spend a year teaching. She didn’t know it then, but that year’s commitment would become a life commitment. She founded the Amazima ministry and became mom to thirteen daughters. Hers is an incredible story of obedience and faithfulness and the amazing work that the Lord’s love can accomplish.
That night, I stayed up long after most sane people head to bed, underlining passage after passage as I read, because it felt like the oft complicated workings of my heart had somehow been captured by the pen of another writer. Laid out in clear lines of black and white ink to help me understand. I realized then that the life that Katie had been called to lead was the sort of life that I wanted for myself, a life of love and presence and service.
“When I invite Him into my tiny and ordinary, even mundane moments become extraordinary. Small acts of love become whispers of His glory in the midst of our everydayness.”
So when I had the chance to read an early copy of Katie’s new book Daring to Hope, I eagerly jumped at it. Kisses from Katie had encouraged me in such a profound way. I hoped that Daring to Hope would do the same.
And it did.
Daring to Hope does not shrink away from the hard questions or promise trite (and therefore unhelpful) answers. The stories within are inspiring and encouraging, even when they end in what our human perspective would label tragedy. In these pages, Katie reveals her heart, her wrestling, her doubts, her sorrows, and the incomparable grace of knowing that whatever valleys we walk through, He walks there with us. Before us, behind us, and beside. We are ringed about by His love.
As I read Daring to Hope, those threads that I mentioned earlier blended together. Harmony formed, and a melody began to emerge.
Some of you may know that I was in a car accident several years ago where significant portions of the bones in my face and jaw were broken, and some were even shattered. While it could have been far worse than it was, in many ways, it felt like it brought my life to a screeching halt. On the exterior, once the initial round of surgeries were completed, few people could tell that anything was wrong. It is easy to forget that healing is rarely a quick process. And when bones are shattered beneath the skin and the scars are within, it can seem that all is well.
But this event struck deeper than bone, left scars beyond the physical. During the next few years of recovery, I experienced a period where I felt I wandered through a wasteland. Though I knew the Lord’s goodness, though I could speak of His kindness and graciousness toward me, though I had moments of indescribable closeness when my relationship with Him had never seemed deeper, overall, it seemed I stood in a desert.
My throat was parched. My limbs were weak. The wilderness stretched before me, a scorched and dreary place. I was weary, oh so weary of the struggle. Of plodding along through the dust and the heat.
In the desert, I battled guilt. I battled pride, fear, and doubt. I battled a sense of utter worthlessness.
Yet I—a writer—was incapable of putting it in to words.
Or so I thought. Later I realized that I battled in my writing too. Art is often more expressive than we realize. Though my characters have unique personalities and are separate from me, some of the themes and struggles that work their way into the novels are rooted in my own heart. My first novel, Orphan’s Song, was released a few months after my car accident, and so I began to write the second book in the series, Songkeeper, as I pressed on through the uphill struggle of recovery. And if Songkeeper was my soul crying into the darkness for my Father to speak to me as I journeyed through the desert, the third book in the series (releasing for you all to read next spring!) became the answer that was whispered back to me through Scripture, through music, through faithful friends, and those glorious mirrors of truth—books.
Peace. Be still.
Hope gradually filled the quiet moments as I learned to simply be still. To rest in the knowledge that He is God, He is my Father, and I am beloved.
In Daring to Hope, Katie shares her own dry and barren season. She speaks honestly of walking through terrible grief and loss and doubt. She compares herself to Jacob wrestling with the Lord, and I cannot help but laugh ruefully and whisper, “Me too.”
“The air feels hot and dry, and so does my spirit. But I feel God’s love so strongly for me here, and I know with all certainty that the long dry season has drawn me to Him in a way that I never could have known apart from it. In the stillness and the quiet, in the suffering, I had fallen in love with Jesus all over again.”
Last spring, I came upon this passage from Isaiah, and it quickly became one of my favorite verses:
“See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.”
– Isaiah 43:19-21
As I read this passage, I realized that I did not feel like I had left the desert behind, but somehow He was creating a beautiful place out of what had been barren wilderness. Causing streams to rise. Creating new growth. Renewing. Bringing water from the rock, beauty from the ash heap, and joy out of suffering. And there was a wild and wonderful comfort to be found in that realization, for in order to truly know this truth, I think that it must be experienced.
This truth resounded across the pages of Daring to Hope. It echoed through the life stories and songs and hearts of the fellow sons and daughters that I met at Hutchmoot. And as I continue to watch this beautiful, inescapable harmony of Scripture, writings, songs, and readings forming, I am once again left in awe at the many layers of the stories that the Master Storyteller spins in our lives.
As always, I could type on for hours more, but I will simply leave you with one final beautiful quote and then encourage you all to read the book for yourself! It is well worth the time.
“All our stories and the intricate way they have been woven together whisper of His glory, His wild pursuit of each of us, His unending grace and love and kindness reach to us, saving us, drawing us to Himself. We can only be mended if we have been broken, and so often, it is in the mending that we feel most clearly His tender heart toward us.”