Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Story Behind the Book

I think, behind most good books, lays the story of an enduring friendship.  This post is about my friend and pastor Steve Wiens, who has cheered me and my writing on since we became friends in 2009.  Steve wrote the foreword to my book and has since written his own called Beginnings which will come out this Friday.  He will guest post next week so you can read more, but this week, I hope you enjoy the story below.

“I’ll write it out for you!” 

I stopped and looked wide-eyed at Steve, wondering where those words had come from that had just spilled out of my mouth.

It was a Wednesday night and the lobby at church was swarming with people.  I had just finished telling my story to a room full of junior high students and wasn’t ready to spill out a summary in the middle of a crowd.

“Maybe not tomorrow, but this weekend, I could write out my story and send it to you.  Would that be okay?”  I nodded along with my suggestion, trying to convince myself along with Steve that this was, in fact, a good idea.

We wrapped up our conversation, and as soon as I was out the door, I turned to my friend Camry and squealed, I think my life just changed!

That wintry night back in 2009 was a beginning.

There are rare moments in life where God allows you to see people, and, as you look at them, you don’t just see the moment you’re in, but several moments into the future.  You realize you are connected, even though you’ve just met, and somehow you know things about the person looking back at you, even though they’ve never been said. 

That night, in the midst of a buzzing church lobby, I looked at Steve and saw that he was a writer….

….but somehow, I was the one writing.

I went home, opened my laptop, and began to pour out my soul. I had never committed to paper, or really even said aloud what it was like to have cerebral palsy, to look down every day at feet that didn’t match.  I had never expressed to another person besides God how deeply hurt and disappointed I had been that God had decided not to heal me when I had begged Him day after day.  I was just learning how to love God again in this area of my life, to let some light in, to really trust that He held me in His hands….

I wrote and wrote and wrote…..my words became an e-mail attachment that became an article that became…a book.

Writing a gut-wrenching memoir is like subjecting yourself to a wound being cleaned, being scrubbed over and over again until you are deeply and fully healed. I remember one August afternoon I was sprawled out on the floor, exhausted.  I had wanted to write for six hours that day, but by 2 PM, I had fallen well short of my goal, bogged down by the work of carefully revising some of the most painful chapters in my manuscript.  I remember convincing myself to go back to the computer, to keep typing, and there I found an e-mail from Steve:


I've been writing a little bit lately. Just writing some essays that may be a part of a future blog. And I thought of you - and I wanted to say: Keep writing! Keep going! You have something to say and people need to read it! You go girl!


Steve did go on to write a blog, and I remember him texting me the morning it went viral.  I smiled, because Steve, along with the rest of the world, was realizing together how good his words were, how much they needed to be shared.  The writer I saw that night at church was beginning to compose.

I have had several unique opportunities since I finished Walking with Tension in 2014.  Joni Eareckson Tada and I both had articles published side by side in the Bethel Magazine.  We had an opportunity to meet months later and talk about the experiences of grief and disability.  This was quite miraculous, seeing as I threw her book angrily in the trash when I was a teenager.

I got to meet and thank Dr. Victor Anderson, a Dallas Theological Seminary Professor whose thoughts on friendship and contributions to the book Why O God have been such a mentor to me in my journey of accepting disability in my own life and in the lives of others.  The summer my book came out, Victor happened to be preaching alongside Steve and Northern Pines Camp and it was incredible!  I woke up every morning and wanted someone to pinch me, it was so good.  You can hear it all online

I’ve been on television, spoken at two universities, a few non-profits, and have had several opportunities to sit across from people who have also been impacted by disability as they share their stories.  I’ve had the occasional reader come up and thank me in public, sometimes in tears, because, as Steve tells me, my words have helped people name their vulnerabilities and move towards wholeness.

Perhaps my favorite experience, though, as I’ve begun to write, is watching my friendship with Steve unfold as we cheer each other on in sharing our words with the world.  Steve has written a beautiful book about creation called Beginnings, which comes out January 1st, 2016.  I’ve had the honor of reading this book in its entirety; what a gem. Steve tells personal stories in a warm and welcoming way as if he is your next door neighbor. Although I grew up reading the Bible, I found the way he illustrates stories accessible for me, sometimes for the first time in my life! There are spiritual practices and questions at the end that you can ponder on your own or together with friends. It’s a perfect gift for you or your small group.  I hope you read it soon and enjoy it as much as I did.

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