Creating in Wartime {so … I wrote a book}

We all have unspoken fantasies about how we’ll live out our dreams, our calling … or our Easter celebration with our family. We don’t name them, but they take up space in our minds. They have a power of sorts. I wonder if the first day of school, the last day of school, or Christmas Eve might not feel so empty if I didn’t have those fantasies pinballing through my mind, unidentified.

I still dream that one day I’ll write a book from a mountain home, sitting in the sauna at night, sweating out my ideas, and hiking in the early mornings to prepare for a day’s labor with a view. (Except that books take me years to write … and I have a four-year-old who misses me when I’m away for two days.)

This morning, I imagined a quiet cup of chai with Nate, talking over today’s big event while the littles played quietly—forgetting that little kid squabbles always tend to happen on days with big events.

From book writing to planning for a family activity on a Saturday, my reach for the ideal setting has not (yet) course-corrected to match my actual days.

So here, I present to you the book I wrote with the dirt of earth underneath my fingernailsjust released into the world today. (You can listen to the first chapter here, or download it here.)

In C.S. Lewis’ famous essay Learning in Wartime, he says, “If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure the search would never have begun.”

What I used to think about as the upward and onward life — more ease, more certainty about the future related to the untouchable and unmovable things in my life, more surety of myself and others, et cetera, et cetera — is proving out of reach (and not just for the moms with seven kids). Friends in all corners of this country are fumbling; it’s wartime for many … facing cancer, losing parents, losing children, losing jobs, missing community and solid, trusted church leadership and even a safe place for their kids to go to school.

My last two years, combined with Lewis’ advice, tell me there is no better time to create beauty.

Lewis also says in his essay, “{every christian in university} must ask himself how it is right, or even psychologically possible, for creatures who are every moment advancing either to heaven or to hell, to spend any fraction of the little time allowed them in this world on such comparative trivialities as literature or art, mathematics or biology…”

So I’m looking back on the two years I spent writing this book, which releases today, and realizing that what I did in the nooks and crannies of my life (assuredly not on the top of a mountain, but instead during little kid afternoon rest times, over weekends at a local hotel, and holed up in Nate’s office with my laptop and lukewarm takeout) wasn’t wasted time … but it was warfare.

Not in the traditional or spiritual sense that the word is colloquially used — but simple (according to Webster): a struggle between competing entities. There was one side of my life in these last two years that included profound and unexpected loss, surprising and pervasive sickness, and the disillusionment of having my actual life not match the life I thought I would be living at this stage. And then there was this other side …

… the early morning whispers from God with my Bible open and a break in the clouds, the friends who held my arms up when I thought the loss might consume me, the steady showing-up of God in the very small of my life, and …

… my writing this book.

The backdrop to my writing was less the snow-kissed mountains in the distance while I wrote, and more about the everyday arthritic-like pain of a life that feels constrained.

And now I wonder if some of the best of our creativity comes forth when we live less the life we dreamed of and more of the Matthew 16:25 wildly uncertain certainty.

So today, I offer you my act of warfare — my search for beauty. Somewhere in the middle of my grief and surprising pain, I had the thought to let myself feel His hand on my back … and write. Something about the “triviality” of this art felt necessary to find my way through.

Perhaps in the most challenging, most limited times, we were made … to amplify beauty.

{This book is my favorite of all that I’ve written. I’m thrilled to share it with you today. Though I did have that one weekend stint at a friend’s beautiful beach house, I mostly wrote this book in the dirty trenches within the war of life. (You may open your delivery package to find crumbled earth falling out from between the pages .)}