*BE WARNED, SPOILERS ARE CONTAINED WITHIN!! DON’T READ IF YOU HAVEN’T READ COUNTERFEIT LOVE YET (UNLESS YOU DON’T MIND SPOILERS).*
I’ve always been a writer. It’s the way I cope with life. If I don’t have a story going through my head, then I know I am in some serious emotional and mental trouble. That being said, the first time I ever had complete silence in my head was during the writing of Counterfeit Love. I’d been through hard things before, but nothing at all compared to the turmoil and complete brokenness I endured while writing this story.
A Step Back to the Beginning
One thing I am sure I will get asked is how long did it take for me to write this story. My answer will be, which time? The first birthing of an idea came while I was working through my Master’s of Elementary program in 2009. I’d found a collection of first-hand accounts of life as a Secret Service operative originally published as a serial of stories in newspapers during the early 1900s. (That book is True Detective Stories by A.L. Drummond–a former Chief of the Secret Service.) It completely intrigued me, and I couldn’t get enough.
Between my fascination with learning about the early days of the Secret Service and a desire to get to know the area I now lived in, I began my story of then Jane Plane, who stuttered, and her long-absent friend, now Secret Service operative, Broderick Cosgrove. Fast forward to 2017 and at least four completely different drafts and loosely connected storylines, and you see a story similar to what you’ll find today. Truth be told, I never had any intention of publishing this story. However, THAT is a story for another time. You can get a dumbed-down version of it on my About page.
When Fiction Becomes Real Life
I had no idea that when I wrote Colonel Plane’s death, that I would endure the drawn-out, painful-to-watch death of my grandmother. Grandma Connie was a vibrant, stubborn woman who lived a hard life and survived. Until Parkinson’s, dementia, and finally, cancer took her in cruel slow bits. For almost two years, my mom flew back and forth between Kentucky and Idaho to help care for her. I still remember mom telling me Grandma would not be seeking cancer treatment and that I needed to go see her now before she got any worse. Though Grandma dragged life out for another year, we never knew when her last breath would be. What I did know was this trip I would be making out would be my last trip. My goodbye trip.
Honestly, I’m crying even now just remembering that cherished but difficult week. I read Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer to her, though we never did finish–and to this day, I haven’t been able to bring myself to pick it back up. We watched the birds together, giving me a love I didn’t previously have. I sat with her and listened to her stories of life and those of the other residents. I’ll never forget the one Grandma with pink-tipped hair saying, “H– no, I’m not going to that basket weaving class. Now, if it were cutting and cleaning a deer, I’d be right there.” She was quite the colorful lady that Grandma Connie didn’t particularly befriend but hung out on the porch when she shared stories. I listened all night to her country gospel DVD. And then, when it was time to leave, I held it together until I walked out the door of the nursing home. Then my heart completely shattered.
The scene where Theresa feels the cords cutting into her heart as she walks away? That was me. That was the feeling I had as the airplane took off and separated us for the last time until eternity in heaven. As weird as it sounds, I pulled out my phone, and I typed every emotion and description I felt at the moment–including when the final cord snapped, and I still had to manage to hold myself together on a plane full of strangers. It was during this time and in the months and years to follow that I truly learned the meaning of “Even if.”
The year that followed blurs together so much that I’m honestly never sure if it was just one year or really two. For the first time in my life, I sat outside watching the birds without the ability to think ANYTHING. I’d always laughed when my husband answered that he was thinking nothing. I thought, how could that possibly be? How do you not have a thought in your head? I experienced it for the first time, and it was a very difficult place for me. I felt like everything was being stripped away from me, so all that remained was Jesus. I had this literal image of my life a cord, and the only thread left was this silver, unbreakable thread–Jesus. It was only through His mercy and grace that I endured what came next.
My mom continued to fly back and forth–emotionally and physically unavailable to help me through the chaos that exploded at home. God had very clearly called us to move churches (and houses), so I didn’t even have my church family to lean upon. During that time, my husband traveled a LOT for work. Any crises faced usually happened while he was away. The same month my grandma finally passed, my mother-in-law fell, which led to a hip replacement surgery on August 31. She lives with us, so at the same time I was packing the house for a move, I was caregiving for her. We moved on Friday, September 28th, and then Monday, a long, horrific train of complications almost killed her. The amount of caregiving stretched me beyond all limits. It was almost May of 2019 before she’d recovered enough that we both could function almost normally.
Theresa’s struggle to trust God, to believe that what He had in mind was really best, was my struggle. I had to answer the question for myself: if God took it all away, would I still love Him? Would I still trust Him and hold Him as sovereign in my life? I wrestled. I doubted. I cried out to God and let Him hear it all. I knew He could handle it, and He was either there, or He wasn’t. Time and time again, He showed me little glimmers of hope. I held fast to the truth that He was there EVEN IF I didn’t feel it.
How One Meal Changed My Perspective
One of the ways He demonstrated that best came in January 2019. He brought us into a small group at church, where for the first time in my life a fellow church member rallied by my side and brought me a meal to feed my family–even when I told them I was fine, we didn’t need it. You need to understand, I didn’t grow up in church, and when I got married, I joined my husband and his mom’s church. I always felt like I was known as Linda’s daughter-in-law or Travis’s wife, but never known for myself. I served in the church like crazy, but I felt very much unknown and unseen with the exception of a couple of people. Y’all, that simple act of Andrea looking at ME and saying, “I don’t care if you don’t think you need it, I’m bringing you a meal” broke me. Not only did it show me I was seen within the church, it opened my eyes to a truth God had been trying to teach me through all of this.
EVEN IF I feel like I have to fight this battle alone, and EVEN IF I feel like my family will fall apart if I don’t hold everything together, that’s not the truth. This is God’s battle. He will and has already fought for us AND WON! He proved His love in the beginning with a plan of salvation that He carried through to a cross and resurrection. He continues to show us His love even now. If you don’t understand what I mean by that, I encourage to you email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) immediately. Let me tell you of the great love God has for you.
We are not promised freedom from trials. We can and will suffer in this world, but that doesn’t mean God loves us any less. He’s already proved His undying, unconditional love for us. So much so, that He didn’t spare His own Son from the worst suffering imaginable. If He didn’t spare Jesus, then why do we believe He would spare us? It’s in these “even if” moments that we must face the question with trembling truth. Will you trust God, love God, even if everything on this earth is stripped away from you?
After wrestling with this question both fictionally and in real life, I can confidently say, “Yes. I will love and trust God EVEN IF everything is stripped from me.” Does this mean my heart doesn’t go into palpitations at the thought of having to endure it? Nope. I still go into full-on shut-down, anxiety mode on occasion. It might take me a while, but God has been faithful to remind me that He is faithful. He is trustworthy. He is the only one I should and need to rely on.
Maybe this “Behind the Story” content wasn’t what you expected, but I pray that through it and Theresa’s story you will be able to face your “Even If” moment when it comes. If ever you have a prayer need, let me know. It is my great honor to step into that place of supplication on your behalf. We all struggle. We all have needs. You are not alone.