A Simply “Divine” Interview

While I’m consumed with unpacking and organizing for the next few days, read this interview I did with Kathy Harris for her blog, Divine Detour. I’ll be back soon with more posts for you. This old house and the new puppy are giving me tons of ideas!

What started you on your writing journey?

David and I were in and out of fertility clinics for seven years. During most of that time we kept our pain a secret, but as we started to tell others about our struggles, I became a lightning rod for women facing infertility themselves. In July 2012, two friends confessed to me the same tragedy within eight hours of each other; both had miscarriages the previous day and both were eight weeks pregnant at the time.

I called David from the quiet of my home office where I was editing part of The Voice Bible translation. I was disturbed. Shaking. Crying. Confused. Overreacting! But my David was patient with me and asked me the strangest question, “If you were to write a book about all this, what would you say?” I spent the next thirty to forty-five minutes writing. I left my office exhausted and crashed on the couch for a four-hour nap.

I was awakened from a very deep sleep by a publisher at Thomas Nelson calling to ask me about a ghostwriting project. During our “small talk,” I told him what had happened to our mutual friends and how upset I was that morning. He asked, “Would you be interested in writing a book about infertility?” Only then did I tell him about my crazy forty-five minutes and the outline sitting on my desk at that moment. His exact words are burned in my memory, “Polish it up, and send it to me by Friday.” I think I sent it to him by the next hour! That conversation led to me becoming part of the InScribed authors’ community.

Just as all good novels include a plot twist, our Author and Creator often writes a twist or two into our lives—some that ultimately bless us more than our original plan. Have you ever experienced such a “Divine Detour”?

Way back in 2002, my best friend dreamed I was an archaeologist in Israel and a mother of four children. She told me about David arriving at my dig site fresh off a plane—gathering our daughter in his arms, kissing me, and corralling our three unruly red-haired boys. It was the life I wanted and almost expected to have.

The many years David and I spent failing to deliver babies changed us not because we didn’t get what we wanted, but because we learned (the hard way!) to trust God’s plan for our lives. This was even when it is contrary to our own plans.

Since we accepted that children are not in our future, David and I have moved across the country twice. David is always flying somewhere for work, and I tag along since all I need to do my work is a laptop. We are constantly meeting new people, and we are thankful that we can send our meager resources outside of our family as He leads us to do. None of that would be possible if we had little ones at home.

Let’s talk about Barren among the Fruitful: Navigating Infertility with Hope, Wisdom, and Patience (Thomas Nelson, October 2014). Please tell us about it.

During my seven-year journey with infertility and miscarriage, I needed three things; information, companionship, and faith. None of these were fully addressed by the publishing world, whose few books on infertility focused on either secular “miracle cures” or religious “faith journeys.” Both types left me feeling physically broken and spiritually disconnected because the so-called miracles didn’t cure anything and the devotionals only highlighted my latent fear that I was an unfaithful daughter of God whom He found lacking.

I wrote Barren among the Fruitful primarily for women in their childbearing years, understanding that most of those readers are as I was, emotionally vulnerable and in need of strength and love. The book strives to surround the reader with a sense of community while providing honest facts. It does not promise that medicine will give her a child or that God will give her a child. It does lead her from confusion about infertility to understanding. From embarrassment over her perceived failure to openness. And most importantly, from the now-broken faith she has in herself to a perfect faith in God’s plan for her future.

But Barren is also for those who interact with infertility patients and that’s everyone. Infertility is on the rise and many doctors are anecdotally suggesting it will reach epidemic levels (over 40%) among young women in the next ten years. I like to think I’ve created a survey of the topic that quickly educates readers about the physical, financial, psychological, and spiritual struggles that accompany fertility treatment. Each chapter is titled with an off-the-cuff, sometimes hurtful, and often ridiculous comment I heard during my fertility journey, so readers can learn what to say (and what not to say!) to their hurting friends. It also includes the unique stories of multiple women, providing readers with a renewed hope for God’s plan for their future—with or without children.

A few fun questions…

When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?

I try to be really conscious of the foods I put in my mouth and body. I avoid all things artificial and super-processed, including the syrups cafes put in their flavored lattes. I typically take my coffee black. But Starbucks had a new item on their menus this past holiday season that has given me a crisis of conscience. The Chestnut Praline Latte (with an extra shot of espresso and half the syrup, thank you very much) is perfection. At the end of January, I’m still approaching the drive-thru speaker once a week and timidly asking, “Do you have the chestnut-praline syrup?” Bad, Amanda. Bad!

If you knew you couldn’t fail, what dream would you pursue?

While I was in grad school, my cell phone ringtone was the theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Yes, it’s a cliché, but every archaeologist wants to be Indiana Jones. I’m no different. My graduate degree is concentrated in biblical archaeology, and few times in my life have I been as happy as I was when sitting in a huge hole in Israel dusting dust off of dust. I would love to make archaeology my career, spending three months of the summer in the field and the rest of the year in a museum analyzing my finds. Real archaeologists never have Indiana Jones moments. We get over-the-moon excited when we find bichrome pottery in what we thought was a monochrome stratus, but we all dream of one day snatching our rimmed hats away from the traps of dangerous Nazi ark hunters!

What Bible passage or story best describes your journey of faith?

The most inspiring woman in the Bible, to me, is granted three verses of Scripture (Luke 2:36-38). Anna was the wife of a temple priest and she did not have children. She went to the temple courtyard every day and she prayed. Because of her faithfulness, God promised she’d see the Christ child before she died. At eighty-six, Anna was doing her habitual morning prayer when Mary and Joseph walked in with eight-day-old Jesus.

Anna’s story is in the gospel because she identified Jesus as the Messiah. The fact that she was childless is ancillary. I wish I knew more about her. I wish I knew how she survived month after month of disappointment. I wonder if she was ever pregnant. Did she have a miscarriage? Did she have a baby and then lose him or her to illness? Anna teaches us something very important. Her three verses of scripture prove that a child is not a reward for a woman’s faithfulness to God. Meeting God face-to-face is the reward.

I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.

When I was six years old, Daddy let me pick out a puppy from a litter of thirteen basset hounds. We named her Sofi, and she was all basset: stubborn, silly, and not-all-that brilliant. She died when I was in college, and I cried an entire day. Since then, I’ve always wanted another dog but my husband of twelve years resisted . . . until about two months ago. We will be picking up our first puppy on January 31st. He’s a basset hound, too, and we’ll call him Copper. Based on the short videos the breeder has been sending each week, we’re bringing home a lazy guy who loves to chew chew chew! . . . on those rare occasions when he’s awake.

Thanks, Amanda! It’s great having you as a guest at DivineDetour.

New Year, New Commitment…to Healthy Relationships

Little known fact: I am a sorority alumna. I wasn’t your stereotypical sorority girl, however. I got super-involved in the Panhellenic (governing) side of Greek life, and I am so thankful for the leadership skills I developed. I got to have regular meetings with university administration (which was great), and I was the one who got the 3 a.m. phone call from the hospital when an Animal House-er had alcohol poisoning (which was not-so-great).

It’s those Animal House moments that Greeks are famous for, and that’s a shame. Most of the women and men I knew in the Greek system were doggedly committed to philanthropy. My sorority was constantly hosting fundraisers for the American Juvenile Arthritis Foundation, donating platelets at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and giving time to countless Memphis charities.

Philanthropy was part of my life. And then I graduated.

How many of us adults leave the heavy lifting of helping others to college students, children’s organizations (e.g. Girls Scouts and schools), or the government? How many of us think our tax dollars and tithe money exempt us from “doing what is good and right before our Lord”?

Make no mistake: God can’t be mocked. What you give is what you get. What you sow, you harvest. Those who sow seeds into their flesh will only harvest destruction from their sinful nature. But those who sow seeds into the Spirit shall harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. May we never tire of doing what is good and right before our Lord because in His season we shall bring in a great harvest if we can just persist. So seize any opportunity the Lord gives you to do good things and be a blessing to everyone, especially those within our faithful family (Galatians 6:7-10, The Voice).

Excepting his closing remarks, Paul ends his letter to the Galatian Christians by reminding them that “we reap where we sow.” If a Christian spends all of her time and resources achieving her selfish desires, then her life will yield sin. But if she invests time and resources “doing what is good and right before our Lord,” then she will be a part of God’s plan that “harvest(s) everlasting life from the Spirit” in those around her.

Monday night I was invited to and attended a meeting of Chattanooga’s Junior League. I’m sure some people call it an overgrown sorority and assume it’s a bunch of wealthy women comparing the lengths of their pearl strands. Those people could not be more wrong.

All the Junior League does is raise money for various charities in their community. These women dedicate tons of time (and not necessarily money) to fund special projects in public classrooms, eliminate food deserts in low-income areas, and educate children about nutrition.

Do they have fun running the marathons, organizing the Christmas home tours, and publishing the cookbooks that raise that money? Yep! Do they enjoy watching their labors produce smarter and healthier communities? You know it! And do the many Christians in their ranks thank God for the opportunity to “do good and be a blessing to everyone,” in the neighborhoods where they work and where His grace is so badly needed?

Absolutely.

This new year, let’s not forget the joy of giving that characterizes the Christmas season. Let’s do ourselves a favor and put action behind our dollars. Serve in the nursery of the church where you tithe. Help collect and deliver resources for those affected by the next natural disaster. Become a Big Sister to a child living in government housing.

Let’s put faces to the names of the hungry and hurting. Hopefully we’ll see those faces again when we enter into the everlasting life granted by His grace.

New Year, New Commitment…to Healthy Food

This morning I was flipping through the hotel TV channels. We live in Eastern time now, so the shows I was used to listening to in Denver after David left for work weren’t on yet. But 7 (yes, 7!) “Christian” shows were. You know the ones–someone is sitting behind a desk talking to no one, and there isn’t an HD camera in sight.

On two different channels I heard something along the lines of, “Paul said that our bodies are temples for God, so we must eat ‘right’ to honor Him. Commit to be healthier this year so you are ‘right’ with God!” Both times I rolled my eyes and kept clicking. Why? Because those so-called Bible teachers read one verse:

Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who comes from God and dwells inside of you? You do not own yourself. (1 Corinthians 6:19, The Voice)

and completely ignored its context:

Don’t you realize that your bodies are members of the Anointed One? So should I take the members of the Anointed One and unite them to a prostitute? This illicit union should never take place! Don’t you understand that when your body is joined with a prostitute, the two of you have become one body? For as it says, “The two come together as one flesh.” But when you are joined with the Lord, you become one spirit with Him. Run from immoral behavior. All other sins are disconnected from the body, but sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who comes from God and dwells inside of you? You do not own yourself. You have been purchased at a great price, so use your body to bring glory to God! (1 Corinthians 6:15-20, The Voice).

In this section of his letter to the Corinthians, Paul is explaining to his readers that God’s grace does not exempt them from living holy lives. Christians cannot do with their bodies what their pagan neighbors do and still expect to have a spiritual union with the Holy Spirit. Paul gives two examples of detrimental behavior: eating food that has been sacrificed before pagan gods, and having sex with temple prostitutes. God will not share His temple (us) with other gods.

So you see, to boil Paul’s words down to a law requiring us all to be Size 2 misses the much bigger point and borders on heretical teaching.

Thankfully I don’t need a TV Bible teacher to tell me how important it is that I eat right and exercise. I want to be as healthy as I can be, so that I am ready to be a tool of God when He wants to use me.

This year, in this new city, I am committing to cooking healthier meals than we ate in Denver. I also commit to exercising each morning.

There’s nothing on TV that early anyway.