"The choices we make change
the story of our life." ©
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
I clearly remember my first sighting of St. Georgen, Austria. It was a small town with large white arrows as street markers. The autumn trees around town were thick with yellow and orange foliage. The town appeared old and quaint.
A friend of one of my traveling companions waited for us under a train bridge--a bridge I later learned was built by concentration camp prisoners during World War II. Martha, a schoolteacher and historian, led us to a tired building that had been recently opened as the town museum. In a stuffy room with low ceilings, she told us about the concentration camp that had once sat in the middle of town. This encounter was interesting, but I was more concerned with a hot shower and warm bed.
Then, Martha invited us to her home for tea. How could we refuse? As Martha prepared the tea, I scanned her bookshelf. I opened one Holocaust book after another and noticed they were signed in a similar fashion, "To Martha, much thanks for your inspiration in writing this book." My interest turned to intrigue.
As we sipped tea, Martha began to relate stories of the camp. She talked about the Nazi presence in St. Georgen. The barbed wire fencing. The thousands of men forced to work in underground tunnels, building planes for the Nazis. The women that were brought to the camp didn't live more than a few weeks.
Martha also described how conditions worsened as the war neared an end. There was little food and water, and the majority of prisoners were near death.
Then Martha told about the twenty-three American GIs who liberated the camp. The young men were on a recon mission, and they had no idea the camp was there. She spoke of the first person into the camp offering food to the prisoners. It was an SS wife, and she entered with her children. The woman's husband had fled for his life. At her first chance, she offered help.
I sat breathlessly. I was no longer only intrigued . . . I was inspired. I knew God had led me to this woman and this story. I knew I needed to share these extraordinary events concerning an ordinary Austrian village.
When I returned home, I had a sense this story was bigger than any thing I could accomplish on my own. I had to trust God. I've learned over the years to depend on His strength like manna--He provides enough wisdom and words for the day.
There have been writing days when I couldn't read another horrific account, couldn't write another word, yet God renewed me. He also provided exactly what I needed for the stories. From out of nowhere, I'd get a call from a veteran or an email from Martha with just the right bit of information.
When it came to writing about the Holocaust, I thought . . . Why me? I'm a young mom from Montana. Yet when I questioned God about this, I felt Him telling me, "Each person is locked behind gates of bondage. Each without hope. I am the great liberator who frees the souls of men and grants new lives." If you've read my previous guest blogs, you know that was something I could write about.
Writing about war is a big issue that touches deep places in my soul. I try to take in the pain, the heartache, the despair. I also try to share the hope and light of God experienced even in dark places.
And God never fails me. Even this week as I'm working on a The Spanish Civil War Chronicles, I've recieved emails from veterans and historians helping with my research. Veterans who volunteered to fight for Spain in the late 1930's are in their 90s now! How cool is that?!
Amazingly, I've discovered that I love writing these historical novels. After From Dust and Ashes, Moody Publishing has also published Night Song and Dawn of a Thousand Nights. Arms of Deliverance will hit the shelves July 2006. All of the books are getting a great response, and Night Song even won ACFW's Book of the Year 2005 for Long Historical Romance.
But while I enjoy recieving rewards, it's the individual letters from readers that touch my heart the most. After reading From Dust and Ashes, one person wrote and said, "I'm going to stop living the easy way, instead I'm going to live the right way."
It's notes like these that prove that God knew what He was doing all along. I'm just thankful to join Him on this journey of sharing these historical stories that Reflect Reality and Honor Truth.