Tuesday, April 07, 2009

My Son, John

Today to promote the upcoming release of The Noticer by Andy Andrews, I want to tell you about five people who had an impact on my life. The book is about getting a new perspective on life, and each of these people did that for me.

Mr. Jeff Thompson was my fourth grade teacher in 1982. All of the girls in the class had huge crushes on him, and we all went out of our way to gain his attention. I wasn't a teacher's pet; I could never manage that level of goodness, but Mr. Thompson was an enthusiastic and fun teacher. I had other teachers who I enjoyed learning from, but Mr. Thompson reframed my entire sense of being. One of our assignments that year was to write a poem, so I wrote my first real one. I wish I still had it, but I remember it was comparing the beauty of a flower to the love of God. When we got the papers back, Mr. Thompson told me that I was a real writer. That title resonated in my brain, and still does to this day. It gave me a new sense of accomplishment and capability. By the time I graduated from high school, that was how I was known: as a writer. Someday, when I finish my first novel and get it published, the first name in the acknowledgement section will be Mr. Thompson.

Lorna Saffran was my confirmation teacher in junior high. The class was very small, just two girls: my cousin Kelly and I. Kelly came to the Saturday morning classes, but not the Sunday mornings, so it was just Lorna and me. I don't remember going through any curriculum, I just remember long intensely personal conversations about faith. I was going through an incredibly dark time in my life where I had turned away from all of my family, especially my parents, and didn't have any real friends. Lorna listened to me without judgment, answered my questions about faith, and showed me the love of God in all that she said and did. I fell away from God despite her intentions, but the Lord she showed me never left my heart, and when I finally came to believe when I was 30, I knew that it was because of the seeds she had planted in my soul so many years before. Today Lorna is my good friend, and I love and admire her deeply. I love that sometimes she will ask me for advice about dilemmas she's facing. Our relationship has matured to a mutual give and take. I wouldn't be who I am without her.

My mom, Carol Bunn, and my dad Dick Trever of course had a huge impact on my life. Unfortunately, I think a lot of the decisions I made as a teen were made inspite of them rather than because of them. But at some point in my twenties, around the time of their divorce, our relationships evolved into something much deeper than I could have ever imagined. Next to my husband, Jesse, Mom is my absolute best friend. Whether the news is good or bad, she's the first person I call, because I know she'll cry with me either way. Mom has taught me so much about how to demonstrate the unconditional love of God to other people. Her life has been lived to offer love to other people, and she doesn't limit it to just friends and family. She truly has the gift of hospitality, not in that her parties are Martha Stewart-esque, but in that everyone feels welcome and like a member of the family. My father is an incredibly principled man, and at times it was hard to live up to his expectations. But I am so grateful that he had expectations of me when it would have been so easy to just give up. Your word is your bond and Any job worth doing is a job worth doing well are two of his rules for life. I didn't appreciate them as a kid, but now they are lessons I try so hard to impart to my own children. Recently Dad sent me an email reminding me to finish writing my book. It was short but so full of encouragement and love, all I could do was cry. When I finish the book, it will be for both my earthly Dad and my Heavenly Father.

Ana & Diego Orsini came to pastor our church in the summer of 2003. Diego was a breath of fresh air in our staid church, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to start anew with the new pastor and his wife. Jesse and I had not had a good relationship with the previous pastor, and the Orsini's offered us a new start. A few weeks into their stay, Diego asked me to teach the confirmation class. I was stunned. No one in the church was offering us responsibility, and he barely knew me. Why on earth did he think I could lead kids to one of the most important decisions they could make? Diego asked me after church, and I was so flustered, I didn't know what to say, but I heard myself say, "Sure." That changed my life for the next few years. I found such joy in teaching those kids, especially my first class of five boys. I still think of them with affection 5-1/2 years later. I found a deep love for sharing my faith with teens. I started a drama program with them, and eventually led the high school class. As for Ana, when I think about what it means to be a Christian, it's Ana that I try to imitate. Forgiving, always kind, patient, and loving, she never lost her temper (that I saw). She had a deep sense of peace that everyone around her could see, and people wanted to be around her because of it. Ana was my friend, and it was because of her that I started writing. She told me about National Novel Writing Month in November of 2003 (I think, it might have been 2004) and encouraged me to try it. At the end of the month, I had written the first 30,000 words in my book, The Definition of Family. Jesse and I were devastated when the Orsinis left our church for Georgia. They were incredible models of faith and friendship.

The last person who had a major impact on my life was Rhoda Reinhold. I knew Rhoda was I was a kid, because I was three years behind her youngest daughter in school, but didn't see her again until 2004. I started up a writer's group at my local library to encourage other writers and hopefully get some useful criticism on my book. The group never really came together, but Rhoda came to one meeting. The group talked about different books that they love, and she mentioned Francine Rivers' The Scarlet Thread. I tucked the title away in the back of my mind, and a few months later checked it out from the library. It was the first work of Christian fiction I'd read since being a preteen reading Janette Oke. I loved the book, and the writing was so much better than what I thought of Christian fiction (yep, I admit I was biased). I read through Rivers' entire library, and then moved on to Angela Hunt. Each time I finished a book, I looked at the other titles from that publisher and started ordering more. During this time, I was suffering from my rheumatoid arthritis, so I was really burning through books. I was also reading the Bible daily for the first time in my life and wanted to share what I was learning. So in March of 2006, I started this blog. Between starting my book in 2003 and the blog in 2006, I had sent queries to many agents hoping to find one to represent me, but no one was interested in a new author without proven success, and all of the books on how to get published recommended knowing someone in the business. I was incredibly frustrated; how do you get to know someone in the business without being in the business? A few months into writing the blog, I was invited to join the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, and then another alliance, and then another one. Pretty soon I had made quite a few contacts within the industry, including some wonderful friends. All of this because a woman suggested a book to me, proving you never know how even your smallest words may impact someone's life. In 2008, Jesse and I joined the church Rhoda and her husband attend, and I've been invited to her house a few times. I tried to tell her how she changed my life, but she humbly shrugged off my praise. She's another woman whose faithwalk I admire, and I'm so glad that I will only get to know her better in the years to come.

My Son, John
by Kathi Macias is about facing your darkest nightmare, something you could never imagine, and making it through to the other side. Liz Peterson's life shatters in a single brutal act. When the police arrive at her door one night to tell her that her mother has been horribly murdered, she can't imagine that her life could get worse. That's just what happens a few days later when her son John is arrested for the murder and confesses to drug addiction, selling illegal drugs, theft, and finally the stabbing and beating of his own grandmother. Liz tries to understand how to continue loving her son despite his heinous acts, and John has to learn how to live without drugs and behind bars. The book almost reads like nonfiction, in fact, I had to check the back a couple times to make sure that it was fiction! Macias almost captures the gut-wrenching emotion and pain that Liz feels, but at times she seems to pull back just when Liz is feeling the worst. Liz faints and blacks out at least three times, which seems a bit much. I would have liked to see Marcias more thoroughly explore the depth of the pain. The book does not tie everything up neatly, because there is no happy ending here, but Marcias does show how God can turn what was intended for evil to good.

Today's pictures are from Mia's recital on Sunday. I couldn't take pictures when she was onstage, but these are my favorites from after the performance. Don't forget to drop me an email to sign up for the book contest!