“Katie,” she whispered, “you say He’s not real to you,
that you’re not sure He even exists. But right this minute,
one of us is right and one of us is wrong.”
—Faith O’Connor from A Hope Undaunted
Okay, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. Yes, I’m a fiction writer, but as with all fiction writers, much of what I write about is drawn from personal experience. Be it a spiritual lesson I’ve learned, an emotional lesson, or actual events or scenarios from my own life, I often—frequently, in fact—force my characters to travel the same road.
So, I thought it might be fun to give you a peek into the stories behind the stories for various scenes from my books, and to begin, I’ll start with my favorite of all the books I’ve written, A Hope Undaunted, which is Katie O’Connor’s story.
Out of all the O’Connors, Katie is the least spiritual, and, in fact, is not even sure she believes in God. In the following scene, Katie’s sister Faith talks to her about God, making a statement that I myself made some 36 years to a coworker who was an atheist.
One night after work, the two of us were shooting the breeze in her office, chatting about any and everything. The subject of God came up and I remember how shocked I was to learn that this girl who I considered a friend did not believe in God. I tried to witness to her, of course, but she simply sat there with a patient smile on her face, certain she was correct in her assumption.
My heart ached for her, and so with a silent prayer, I proceeded to tell her exactly what Faith O’Connor tells her sister Katie in the following scene. The scene in A Hope Undaunted ends with Katie’s conversion. Unfortunately, the actual scene with my coworker did not and months later, I quit my job to stay home with my new baby and never worked with this girl again. But … the good news is that I received a letter from this same coworker ame some 30 years later, telling me how much she loved my books and the inspirational message they carried. And although she never came out and told me she now believed in God, somehow I knew in my spirit that she did and deep down I know that those precious words the Holy Spirit gave me that night helped to sow seeds in my friend’s life. I like to think that that encounter and the many prayers I said for her thereafter helped to bring one of God’s lost sheep back home to the Good Shepherd, and every single time I read the scene below, I smile.
It’s moments like that in my life that I SO love incorporating into my novels, helping them, I pray, to become so much more than just fiction.
Have a blessed weekend, and I hope the background for this excerpt helps you to enjoy it all the more.
Faith grabbed her hand and held on tight. “Katie, I’m so sorry. But all the more reason to cling to God, because you have nothing to lose right now and everything to gain.”
Katie pulled her hand away and closed her eyes, her voice dead. “I don’t know, Faith. I know God is real to you, but to me, it’s always been more of a fairy tale. You have faith in Him, but I don’t. Sometimes I even wonder if I believe in Him at all. I pray, but I feel like He doesn’t hear my prayers, like they’re long-distance and lost in the shuffle. I don’t feel any closeness with Him, any desire to pursue Him.” Her shoulders slumped forward, weighted with despair. “I guess the bottom line is . . . ,” a knot shifted in her throat, “I’m not sure He even exists.”
Her sister’s tone was gentle. “It doesn’t matter, Katie, not one little bit. All you have to do is ask Him to reveal himself to you, to prove that He’s real and that He loves you and has a plan for your life. Just the frail consent of your will to invite Him into your heart is all it takes. And you can have a living, breathing relationship with the God of the universe, overflowing with a love and passion as real as anything you ever felt for Luke. Go ahead, Katie, do it! And if you do, you have my word—your life will never be the same.”
Katie’s eyes widened as she stared, her sister’s gaze aglow like a beacon of hope. She swallowed hard, knowing full well that no matter any storms in her life, this was the sister who carried a reservoir of peace wherever she went. The sister who had scaled every mountain, weathered every storm with her resilient faith in God. Katie blinked. Could it actually be real?
As if she sensed the shift in Katie’s thinking, Faith placed a palm on top of Katie’s hand, warm and stable, cupping it, shielding it, like an anchor of hope in this storm of her soul. “Katie,” she whispered, “you say He’s not real to you, that you’re not sure He even exists. But right this minute, one of us is right and one of us is wrong.”
Katie looked into her sister’s face, as if compelled to listen by some strange force that pulled at her with a tentative thread of hope.
Wetness shimmered in Faith’s eyes. “If it’s me who is wrong, then I have lost nothing. Because even if I have believed in a lie or a fairy tale, then that lie or fairy tale has given me more joy, more hope, and more strength than anything I have ever encountered. But if it is you who is wrong, Katie, I tremble to think that you will have lost everything—His joy, His peace, His hope . . .” Her voice softened to a bare whisper. “His salvation.” She straightened then, her manner as sure as the conviction in her tone. “I repeat, Katie, one of us is right and one of us is wrong. Do it now, I beg of you—invite Him into your heart. Because truly, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
Katie stared while seconds ticked by like heartbeats, thundering increments of time in a reality she could feel, see, touch. She was a realist, a woman bent on the law, with a penchant for facts, statistics, and tangible proof. How could she lay all of that down to embrace an intangible God? A God her family had embraced all of their lives, depended on, lived for . . . while she herself had stood in the wings, master of her own future. She closed her eyes, grief piercing anew. A future that now lay in shambles at her feet. She swallowed the pride in her throat. Nothing to lose . . .
And then out of nowhere, Emma’s words that day in the store haunted her thoughts, and in a catch of her breath, Katie’s heart began to race.
“Whatever your hurts or fears or scars, Katie—call on Him. He’s waiting to love you like you’ve never been loved before.”
“I don’t know, Emma, it all sounds wonderful, but God . . . prayer, well, I’m just not sure that it’s real.”
“I understand, but hear me, please . . . you won’t know till you try . . .”
Till I try . . . Katie’s breathing accelerated, and all at once, in the thud of her pulse or the trail of a tear, her decision was made. Gripping her sister’s hand like a lifeline in a stormy sea, Katie lifted her face to the ceiling while water seeped from her lidded eyes. Her voice quivered, but her resolve was sure. “God, Faith says you’re up there, that you care for me and have a plan for my life. If you are, and I’m not just talking to a ceiling, will you show me? Reveal Yourself to me, your love, Your purpose for my life. Please, God, come into my heart and make me the woman you want me to be.”
She opened her eyes then, and somehow the room seemed different. The same ivy wallpaper covered the walls, and the lace-curtained windows still wore pretty green ribbons tied back in a swag. The scent of rosewater hovered in the air, and Miss Buford—the porcelain doll from her youth—still perched on her vanity like some regal judge presiding over her bench. And yet, in the beat of Katie’s heart, everything had changed. She closed her eyes and breathed in the scent of her freedom, tears escaping as surely as her heart had escaped its gloom.
Dear God, can it really be this easy?
Her eyelids fluttered open and she looked at her sister, her words soft with wonder. “I never knew . . . never knew that it could be so easy . . . so real.”
A smile lighted upon her sister’s lips as Faith placed a gentle hand to Katie’s face. “Believing in Him is easy, Katie, because He gives us that tiny seed of faith. And loving Him is even more so, because when you see how He moves on your behalf, your heart will spill over with joy. But unfortunately, living for Him is not so easy. Feelings and doubts will come and go, but his Word stands forever. Study it, commit it to memory, learn through his Bible what He wants you to do. Because everything in this world will come and go—people we love, financial security, jobs—but God is a constant, and His promises endure forever.”