We all know the correct answer to that, right? We can quote John 3:16, possibly in several translations and more than one language. “For God so loved the world.” We were taught—or at least I was—that we could substitute our own name in that verse. “For God so loved Valerie…”
I was raised in a conservatively Mennonite Christian home. I attended a Christian boarding school during my high school years. I memorized verses, attended Bible studies and Bible classes and took in more sermons than I could count. It’s hard to stump me with an old hymn; I can sing most of them by heart. Lack of head knowledge has never been my problem.
Did I believe God loved me? Absolutely. But that He loved me deeply as an individual has been a much harder truth for me to grasp. When I took a closer look at some of the lies I believe about myself, a recurring theme was that I am always on the outside, looking in.
Never the popular one. Never the star. Never the favorite. Never the best.
Of course, that’s inaccurate. It’s an extremely rare person who is always popular, always the best, always the most favored. We all have our moments in the spotlight and (many more moments) of ordinary.
My moments of most favored? Thirty-five years of marriage tells me I am Jim’s favorite wife. ;) I am well loved by my husband, my children, their spouses, and my grandgirls. And yet I struggle, and Satan likes it that way. He doesn’t want us to feel treasured by anyone… especially not by God.
Warning: the topic is about to flip. You’ll see the connection in a minute!
I don’t plot out my novels in advance. God knows how hard I tried to do this for years, but it simply didn’t work well for me. So last February I started writing Plum Upside Down. It’s the fifth book in a series, and the heroine has poked into several of the earlier stories. She’s the sister of book 3’s heroine, so I had some family background. I hadn’t given a lot of thought to Chelsea’s personality when I tossed her into previous books. She was there to do a job in the scene, not be a star on her own.
Only, now it was her turn. I scanned through scenes she’d been in, and considered what little I knew of the hero, Keanan Welsh, who’d wandered onto Green Acres Farm unannounced late in the fourth book. Who were these people, deep inside? And, to make a solid plotline, how would their personalities and backgrounds clash?
I began to write and to explore. Chelsea’s family was wealthy. Maybe she’d gone to a private school? That would work. She’d been sheltered, but partly by her own choice. She’d started a business as an event coordinator, working from her suite in her parents’ basement. In an upscale big city church, she might know many people who could use her skills. She mightn’t need to venture outside all that much. In fact, moving from the safety of her family home to the safety of a Christian farm community might be a really natural move for someone content to stay unchallenged.
Off and running. Type, type… What next?
Keanan had already been established as an “out there” believer. So, for conflict, Chelsea would hold her faith privately. But what if her faith wasn’t deeply rooted. What if…?
What if she was going through the motions, someone who’d been a believer most of her life, but didn’t feel special to God? Didn’t feel individually and personally cherished?
Instead of it being a huzzah moment as a writer, I panicked. How could I walk this character through that valley when I still often skirted the edges of it myself? I stared at the dozen chapters already written and realized the story was irrevocably headed “there.”
Oh, the irony. Every day I ask God to guide the story, for my writing to be the story that would touch lives. Did I have a choice now? Sure I did. I could tell Him no… or I could walk through that valley one more time and take notes that would help Chelsea, my readers, and me to embrace God’s deep and personal love. This story turned my life topsy-turvy… and then, finally right-side up.
Plum Upside Down releases tomorrow, August 4. It has been through several beta readers, an editor, and a group of early reviewers. Here are some of the comments.
Beta Reader: “I enjoyed it, despite the crying. ;-) The part about God’s love—I so enjoyed that, probably mainly because I’m struggling with really understanding how He could love ME unconditionally.”
Early Reviewer: “I finished Plum Upside Down a few days ago, and I want to tell you how much it touched my heart, but I still can’t quite put it into words. I needed to hear the message of God’s personal love for me so much that I didn’t even know I needed it… This book reawakened me to the fact that I was so thirsty and then led me straight to the Water that I needed.”
Early Reviewer: “I just finished Plum – OH MY GOODNESS!!! Loved it! I really learned a lot about myself reading that book. Perfect book at the perfect timing!”
Want to read Plum Upside Down? (psst, the special pre-order price of 99¢ ends on release day tomorrow!) It’s the fifth book in my Farm Fresh Romance series, but it works as a standalone. It’s available at all major e-bookstores.
Let’s talk about feeling that assurance that God loves each of us personally. I’d love to gift one commenter with an e-book copy of Plum Upside Down. The winner will be announced in the next Sunday Edition.
(This is a long weekend in Canada and I’m off camping with my family, so I won’t be replying to comments until I’m home later in today. Feel free to chat amongst yourselves until I get back!)