As a young girl in Texas, I didn’t think of my life as being anything but ordinary. My dad worked in a petroleum plant. My mom sold Avon so she could save up for a piano and pay for lessons for my two younger sisters and me. And more often than not, she spent any extra money on new dresses for us girls while she wore last year’s style.
Right before junior high, my dad built an addition onto our pint-sized two bedroom “company” house. Until that time I’d shared a room with my sisters, and I was excited at the prospect of having my own room once the addition was completed. That summer I found myself doing an array of odd jobs – pulling nails from boards, clamoring around on the steep-pitched roof handing shingles to my dad, and the thing I remember the most clearly: mixing concrete in a wheel barrow with a garden hoe while my dad added the right combination of sand and cement and squirted water from the rubber water hose until the consistency was just right. I was the one behind the hoe doing the mixing.
I don’t remember feeling like I was being overworked or mistreated as I looked forward to having my own room, and indeed, as soon as the sheetrock was up, my parents let me move into the east upstairs bedroom. I didn’t even care that it wasn’t finished. I tacked up my movie star posters, plugged in my clock radio, and let the breezes blow in my window while I dreamed of one day writing novels like those I loved to read.
But that’s all they were – dreams. A someday thing. “Other” people wrote books. I read them and only dreamed about writing. After all, my life hadn’t been particularly remarkable, and there was no single defining moment that I could tap into and write about.
Or was there?
My years as a nurse, a wife, and a mom were rich with experience. A few trials. Boundless joy. Loss. Fun family vacations. Friends. Family. And an above average curiosity. As our boys got older, I became restless, and the writing dream that hovered all those years, now tapped me on the shoulder. Do it. Believe in yourself.
The voice inside said, “Surely if a twelve-year-old didn’t flinch at getting her hands dirty in a wheelbarrow of wet cement, then a grown-up woman could write a book. She should at least try.”
God and I had a few talks about this, and the answer came in the pages of Matthew. “Let your yes be yes, and your no, no.” It sounded simple, but as any writer will tell you, it’s not. I studied, connected with other writers, and kept at it. After a few false starts, the idea of setting a book in the place where I grew up nagged at me. And there was that strange curiosity I had as a child when people whispered about “nerve” problems and “shock treatments” that the occasional neighbor had. Why not explore that?
I visited the place where I grew up, enveloped in the warm memories of childhood and knew at once that I would write this story. I plotted and wrote. Then rewrote. The words didn’t always come easy, and more often than not, they weren’t even very good. Sometimes I didn’t have the right mixture of sand and cement and had to go back and add water. Or a little more effort.
And like the gentle breezes that blew through that upstairs window when I was a child, I felt God’s hand on my life, stirring the desire, and whispering words of affirmation.
Holding the first copy of Chasing Lilacs in my hand was one of the sweetest days of my life, ranking only a notch or two below holding my newborn boys in my arms.
And like any project of substance, many hands built the house. I’ve been overwhelmed at the belief that others have had in me: my family, my agent, my editors at FaithWords, the cover artists (Isn’t this a simply stunning cover?), the fabulous people who know how to get books into the hands of reviewers and publicize behind the scenes, and then there are those folks in New York who wave a magic wand over the whole thing and out comes a book. With binding. And all those copyright notices that have my name and my publisher’s name. The book smells divine. Feels just the right weight in my hands.
Carla Stewart is the author of Chasing Lilacs. Her writing reflects her passion for times gone by, cherished relationships, and the mysteries of God in our skid-marked world. She and her husband have four adult sons and delight in the adventures of their six grandchildren. You can find her online at CarlaStewart.com.