Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Truth is Stranger than Fiction

I enjoyed Jennifer Slattery's last post on Faith, Friends, and Chocolate, a guest piece from author James R. Callan "Story Behind the Story."

"Write what you know" is a guiding force when writer's pen their novels. The more emotional the writing, chances are the author experienced a similar life situation.

Submitting chapters of my first novel to a critique group, I'd get back responses like, "that's too unbelievable." Though I was writing fiction, often I'd have to take real scenarios and fictionalize them to make them more believable.

Today, I'd like to share a except from my novel CROOKED LINES of an incredible experience that happened to me only once. I changed the names, a few of the details, but the dream, the voice,  and the woman were real.  

I fell asleep and later, woke from an incredible dream—clips of woman’s life a happy young girl, then the same person a beautiful teenager wanting to conquer the world, then I witnessed her sadness, her pain. Deeper lines etched a more hardened face. 
Then, like a reporter’s voice in a documentary, a calm loving voice spoke. “Tell her I love her. Tell her not to lie down and go to sleep.”

I stayed awake for hours thinking about the dream, certain Jesus had spoken. But who was she? Was I destined to meet her? Did she represent me?

The dream popped into my thoughts throughout the next few days, then one morning in the park, I looked up from the bench and saw her. The woman from my dreams watched Grace and the other children playing. My heart pounded. My arms tingled.

I rose and introduced myself. She invited me to sit beside her. Her kids were grown, she said, but she lived nearby and enjoyed watching the children play. Her attitude fit her name. Joy, upbeat and inspiring.

Living in the Bible-Belt, our conversation naturally turned to matters of faith, but an appropriate moment to share my dream never presented itself and she spoke as a woman confident of God’s love.

“Time for me to go to work.” Joy glanced at her watch.

“Where’s that?”

“A boutique not far from here.” She pulled a card from her purse and scribbled her phone number on the back.

“When your book gets published, call me. I’d love a signed copy.”

Later that evening, after I said prayers with Grace and tucked her in bed, she ran her finger across the wrinkles in my forehead. “Momma, what’s wrong.”

I kissed the top of her head. “I didn’t do something I was told to do. I’m going to do it now. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Momma. I love you.”

“Love you, too.” I shut off her light, grabbed my phone, and dialed the number on the back of the card. The woman’s voice didn’t carry the same happy tone from the afternoon.

“Joy, this is Rebecca. I met you today in the park. This may seem odd, but I must tell you something.”

“I’m listening.”

“A few days ago, before I met you, I dreamt about you. You were really sad. Then I heard Jesus’ voice. He told me to tell you something. He said, ‘Don’t lie down. Don’t go to sleep.’ He said to tell you that He loves you.”

“Hello? Joy?”

A gasp. A sob. She wept before speaking. “I’m holding a bottle of pills. I was going to take them all.”

“Oh no! Why? You seemed so happy earlier, so sure of God’s love.”

“Things aren’t always as they seem.”

“Do you want to talk?”

photo courtesy of morgue file
A deep heaving sigh came through the phone. “I’ve tried to believe what I heard about Jesus’ forgiveness and new life, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’m not worthy.” Her voice cracked. 
“Before I got the job at the boutique, I was in prison. My husband sold drugs, and I was implicated.”

“I had no idea. I’m so sorry.”

“I accepted the Lord during a prison ministry program. I repeated the lines that I’d been told in prison, but it’s difficult on the outside.”

“How so?”

“I can’t hide from the shame of my past. And if I don’t divorce my husband, who’s still using, I’ll end up back in prison.”

“Joy, you are way more than the choices you’ve made. More than your mistakes. God showed me your beautiful soul and told me that He loves you. He loves you enough to die for you. Is that enough reason for you to live?” The words were coming freely, confidently, as if God whispered them in my ear.

She sobbed. “I’ve prayed for proof that He really loves me. Now, I know. Before the words were in my head, but now I feel them in my heart. ” A pause on the line, then, “Thank you.”

“I’ve not done anything, but you should’ve told me the truth earlier.”

“You seemed to have a perfect life. I didn’t think you’d understand.”

“Joy, things aren’t always what they seem.”

With our earlier fa├žades stripped away, we spoke openly about our lives and our struggles. We talked for hours about divorce, freedom, and the Christian faith and what God would want us to do about our situations.

In the morning, I phoned a lawyer.

Thanks for letting me share that excerpt. Crooked Lines is on sale today on Amazon Kindle for only .99.  Link  And it's currently #2 in an Amazon Kindle inspirational fiction category. Thanks for stopping by Faith, Friends, and Chocolate.  - Holly

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