A young friend invited me to her church a few years back. A special speaker was in town, “Come on over,'' Mary said. I like my much younger sister very much. She is one of the sweetest, most genuine people I know. “I’ll be there,” I said.
Due to circumstances out of my control, I arrived very late. The visiting prophet was wrapping up. My husband and I made our way over to metal folding chairs in the back of the room and sat down. Pastor Ed was working through the rows, stopping periodically to deliver a word as the Spirit led. His drawl was engaging, the accuracy of his delivery, even more so. I’ve been around prophetic ministry for about thirty years. Some good, some…eh. Ed seemed reliable. He prayed over some folks I knew and then moved on. He walked silently for a bit. He let the words settle in and take root.
He looked up, fixed his gaze and made his way over to my husband and me.
He addressed Rich first. Several things he spoke we had heard multiple times before. Another log thrown on the fire. He began to “rev up.” It got my attention. Or I should say He got my attention, and I’m not talking about Pastor Ed. A few simple words tossed in at the end seemed strangely out of place. “The book, the book, the book. Not a whole new chapter but a whole new book.” At the time I thought it was metaphorical. You know, new things are coming etc. etc.
Fast forward a couple of weeks. I was working at the fitness center. A woman came in to buy a week pass and we began to chat. Caryl Beth told me she and her husband were missionaries to Israel. I handed her the thirty dollars back and told her the gym owner wouldn’t want to take her money. She dropped on her knees and prayed a ten-fold blessing over me and the gym. She prayed something about a book and then prayed the names of God over me. One name in particular. What can only be described as a “presence of holiness” filled the room. Five minutes after she left, a man came in and handed me 300 dollars cash for a membership. I was stunned. I went home, told my husband we needed to cancel our Dish TV subscription and get serious! About what, I wasn’t sure. I just knew we had to take action.
Two weeks later, on a snowy October morning, I was reading my Bible and praying. Briefly, in my mind’s eye, I saw a picture. The dining room wall in an old farmhouse appeared. Wallpaper was being removed, revealing a message written underneath. John 4 popped into my head with a very strong urge to go to my computer and write. Mind you, at the time I didn’t write. I shook off the nudge, read the scripture and closed my Bible. I HAD to write. After about five minutes, I went to my office, turned on the computer, opened a word document, and put my hands on the computer keyboard. Resisting doubt, I began to type. The first words to book one of three emerged.
Over the next few weeks I plunked out phrases and pictures and thoughts and descriptions. I had absolutely no idea what was happening, but it seemed to be something. About eighteen pages in, I had a thought. “This is ridiculous.” I went into the kitchen, poured myself a glass of water, and said “Lord, what am I doing.” His gentle voice nudged, “send it to Gwen.”
Gwen was a reader, editor and all around smart prophetic type. I sent her a quick email and asked her if the attached document was “anything.” She wrote back and said it was "something" and to send it to her when I was finished. Finished? Finished with what? Thankfully, the drive to know what was written on that dining room wall kept me going. About half-way through the book, I realized there were actually three books. Under the advice of my husband, I wrote all three books before I released the first. It was good advice, as timelines and characters had to be tweaked to adjust the narrative.
Writing a novel is a daunting task. It's a good thing I wasn't aware that I was actually doing that. I would never have started. But as I clicked out words on my keyboard, something happened. Joy. I was having a lot of fun and I was not the only One. This might be a strange comment to some. But when you are filled with the living God, you are never alone. When you engage in a relationship with the Holy Spirit, well, hold on to your hats! When the wind starts to blow, you will take flight.
I was keenly aware that He was prompting me and prodding me. When I would get stuck, He would drop in a thought or dream to lead me. One prompt in particular, "Patty eats her hair," led to a significant storyline in the series. Through time and patience, the story emerged.
It was a lesson in "enjoying the process." I couldn't force, rush, or race ahead. It was a discipline in listening and sitting still. When I was frustrated or blank, I took a break, prayed and waited until peace returned. Truthfully, wanting to know what was written on the dining room wall became the driving force. I knew it was significant. Way more important than just the the story emerging on my computer screen. Even as I type this now, I sense we are on the verge of its unfolding.
Writing fiction is weird. I confess, at times I worried about myself. My imagination took me to places. Real places that were very much unreal. I took my husband with me too. He was my alpha reader-thanks, honey. The characters were "alive" to him as well. One day we stopped at a diner to grab a quick bite. After the server took our order and stepped away from the table, Rich whispered in all seriousness, "she looks like, Eden." I agreed. Eden was the twenty-something-hipster-type-character I had been developing. We busted out laughing. Eden didn't exist! But, she kind of did.
We are created in the image of God. God has one, big, giant imagination! Think about it. The universe and all it contains originated in the sanctum of creativity; every drop of water, ray of sunshine, planet, land mass, blade of vegetation, and critter. Every person ever conceived originated there first. The Word says. "You knew me before." He knew us before a single cell divided. He knew us and loved us.
This is too big for our human imaginations to grasp. This is where we need to step aside our earthly limitations and let Jesus take us to places that only He can. Real places.
Looking back, I recognize I've been a bit of a Gretal. Unwittingly picking up breadcrumbs; storing each experience in the pocket of my soul, only to pull out and write about later. One such encounter took place over fifteen years ago.
I'll call her Amy. She came into the gym, "I need to put my membership on hold...but...I'm not sure when I'll be back." She started to cry. I still remember how her peacock-blue eyeliner clumped and then pooled in the corners of her eyes. Tears streamed down her face and splattered on her white cotton shirt. A watercolor painting resulted- of slow-motion grief. I handed her a tissue, "Can you visit for awhile?" I asked. Thankfully the gym was quiet. We sat down for a chat.
"I'm going to prison, a minimum of four years, maybe longer." She blew her nose and handed me her tissue. I threw it in the trashcan and gently said, "may I ask why?"
As her story unfolded, I tried to remain calm. I knew I was speaking to a sister in the Lord. We had already established this fact a week prior. The anguish on her face was not fresh, for she looked much older than a nineteen year old woman should look. She had only lived in Ludington for half a year. She had moved to the women's shelter to escape her southern Michigan home. She was drug-free, happy, getting an education, and even had a job she enjoyed.
"My mom called. She said she was sick and really needed my help. The staff at the shelter begged me not to go. They said it was a trap. They were right. I should have listened."
I sat in stunned silence. Her life sounded like a movie script. The kind of movie that you turn off because it's too gruesome to watch. "My mother is an addict. To pay for her habit she used me. I was about four years old when it started."
Men would come to the apartment, hand her mother either drugs or cash, take Amy to the bedroom, and have their way with her. By the time Amy was twelve, she was an alcoholic. Her mother prodded her with alcohol to keep her quiet as the trafficking increased. She would be sold yearly to "Deer Camps" to keep the hunters entertained. That brought her mom a lot of cash.
Amy turned to drugs as well, a staggering amount. It was a miracle she was still alive. She ran away when she was fifteen, sixteen and seventeen years old, but she was always found. Finally, at nineteen, she located a shelter so far away she was certain she could remain hidden. She met Jesus there. "He bandaged my wounds and dried my tears. He forgave me. I know I will live with Him forever."
She looked down, sniffed, and lifted her head to look me straight in the eyes and whispered, "my mom found me again. She was sick and said she needed my help. I know I shouldn't have gone home. But, you know, my mom needed me. So she said." It turns out what her mom needed her for was a drug run. The little four-year-old girl inside of Amy, still couldn't say no. She was arrested, sentenced and would be leaving to serve her time in a few days. We talked until her ride returned to take her back to the shelter. I gave her a hug, and told her I wouldn't forget her. I haven't. I just wish I knew where she was. Her story was an important seed planted in the series- The Trinity Promise. I would love to tell her that she mattered. I want to thank her for reminding me that Jesus came to set the captives free.
As I mentioned previously, Caryl Beth, the missionary to Israel, prayed the names of God over me. In the scriptures, God calls Himself by many different names. Jesus and the Holy Spirit have accumulated quite a list as well.
Each name or attribute of the God-head (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) entered the relationship between God and man at an ordained time and place in the earth. Each name is an entry into the character and nature of God. I knew God went by many names, but until I started writing about them, I didn't have any idea how many.
Just Let Them Love You features some of the names of God. Every name, is a representation of how God loves us in a unique and specific way. Book two features the names of Jesus. Book three features the Holy Spirit.
The name, Jehovah-Jireh, means- to provide. (The God who sees what we need even before we know we have a need.) He is one step ahead. He already knows what will be necessary in every situation. In Just Let Them Love You, the characters travel to a kibbutz. They are surprised to find out that they are the answer to someone's need. It is one of my favorite name of God encounters in the series. And, by the way, this also happens to be the specific name the missionary to Israel prayed over me.