Finding Inspiration

My youngest asked me recently, “Where do your ideas for books come from?” Well, the ideas come from a crazy variety of sources. A conversation. A place. A personal conflict. A question I’m tumbling around in my head. A song on the radio.

Shortly after my husband Steve and I moved back to Obion County, we were out walking on the winding narrow road that T’s into the highway, just across from the Kendall driveway. We discovered a tiny family cemetery, a cluster of four or five gravestones tucked into a thicket of weeds and walled up by cedar trees. We wondered to whom these graves belonged, and how they had been “lost”. Shortly after this discovery, we found gravestones in another nearby cemetery, some dating back to the 1700’s. Wow! We tried to imagine what life here in the Tennessee hills must have been like for those earliest settlers. I wondered, “What if the ghosts of these people could be resurrected? Could walk among us and tell us their stories? Could connect us in some tangible way to a lost past?”

About the same time, I was adjusting to life back on the Kendall farm, right smack next door to my in-laws. I feared all the rumors I’d heard:  that multiple generations could not live together harmoniously, that mothers-in-law were destined to be grief to daughters-in-law, that conflict was inevitable. Thankfully, I can testify that those rumors were LIES. I simply cannot express in words how very grateful I am that I live just across the hayfield from Margie Kendall. She truly is one of the most beautiful, loving, generous women I have ever known. And, although I am sure I’ve probably vexed her occasionally over the years, she has never once spoken an unkind word to me.

And then, there was the business of secret sins. “The power of a secret sin lies in the secret” – the counseling professional teaching the workshop for a group of women’s ministry leaders went on to explain that once the secret was “out,” the sin would immediately begin to lose power. I knew from personal experience that my own secret sins could cripple me, causing me to implode under the weight of despair and grief. But there are other secret sins – sins that are not our own, but that are the sins of others – and those secret sins have the power to cripple us, too. These sins are even trickier to deal with, because, although we suffer the sometimes debilitating consequences of these sins, we do not feel free to bring them into the light. These sins are someone else’s to confess. Yet, the weight of these sins falls like a dark shadow across our shoulders, and it is easy to find ourselves in bondage to these “second hand” sins, as much as if they were our own.

Weave these ideas together, and you have the seeds for the story Slow Sun Rising. What if the names on crumbling tombstones – what if these long-dead and forgotten people found fresh expression in the bright eyes and pink cheeks of a new generation of children? What if a young woman, desperate for family and for security, found a mother to love her…in the person of her mother-in-law? What if a person wounded by the sins of another, struggling against the hurt and bitterness in her own heart, dropped the facade? What if she refused to define herself – or the other person – on the basis of the sins committed against her?

This life is messy and often painful, and it rarely comes with tidy answers to help make sense of our struggles. Thankfully, we serve a sovereign God who orchestrates every single detail for our good and for His glory! Nothing is wasted – not one hurt, not one tear, not one doubt, not one stumble. Nothing. It is all redeemed.

Every true story – whether lived out in your life or mine, or told through the life of a fictional character – is a story of redemption, of resurrection, and of hope. Are you, like me, excited about turning the next page?

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