Part 1 – The High and the Low…

Posted at May 4, 2016 2:46 pm

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God knows I can be a covetous woman. 

I mean God really does know that I can become green-eyed with envy at times.  He also knows that I’m somewhat of a girlie girl too.

In fact, quite often at the outpatient clinic where I work as a registrar, when a female patient comes and sits down in front of me, I may be checking out her data and health insurance, but I’m also taking in so much more.  Like cute tops and trendy sweaters.  Haircuts and highlights.  Silver earrings and gold necklaces.  Lipstick and nail polish shades.  All while giving sincere compliments and making mental notes, comparing which item is more darling than the next – and which ones I sure wouldn’t mind having myself.

(There you have it! I feel like I’ve just gone to confession!)

So…years ago, when Jennifer Davis sat down in my registration booth, I couldn’t help but notice her pretty red curls hovering just ever so slightly over the collar of her perfectly faded jean jacket.  And on the lapel of that denim jacket why, how could I not take note of the sparkling, red-beaded pin shimmering there?  Again, an item I thought I wouldn’t mind owning myself.

“I like your pin,” I told her.  “It’s so different.  Where did you get it?”

“Oh, this?” Jennifer pointed to the glimmering piece of jewelry.  “I got this from South Africa.”

What? Not Macy’s? TJ Maxx? Or Charming Charlie’s? I was completely curious.

“You mean you got it online.” I assumed.

“No.” Jennifer shook those natural curls of hers.  “I mean I really got it in South Africa.  I’ve started a non-profit with some ladies – beadworkers – who live there in the village of Mamelodi.  They make all kinds of things – jewelry, headbands,Christmas ornaments – and I sell the products for them here in the U.S. to give them a hand-up, instead of a hand-out.”

Now I wasn’t just curious I was incredibly intrigued.

“That’s awesome.  So if I wanted to buy one, where would I do that?  Online?” I asked again.

“You could.  Or I have a few items with me right now if you’re interested.”

Of course, I was.  Not only was I (hate to say it again) coveting the pretty pin, but the funny thing was, at the last minute, my daughter had filled in her college class schedule with a Black Women’s Studies course and had been emailing her papers to me now and then to edit. I’d been stirred by what I was learning from those papers, so I was very interested in what Jennifer was doing.  I figured I’d pass along the Beaded Hope information to anyone who commented on the pin I bought.

I also figured I’d never see Jennifer again.

But then, I did.

I saw her again.  And again.  And again.

No matter what registration booth I happened to be sitting in, or what day of the week I might happen to be working, whenever Jennifer dropped into the clinic over the next couple of months, we ended up paired up in a booth together.  (Sidenote: Jennifer was just coming in for routine visits.  Nothing medically serious.)

There seemed to be such a strange sort of coincidence to the random visits –far too much to ignore – leading us both to agree we needed to get together and talk outside of a registration booth.  So we made plans to meet for tea.  It was during that time when Jennifer shared her photo albums of South Africa with me.  Beyond the photos of heart-wrenching, deplorable looking huts, colorfully skirted, wide-grinned women and adorable dark-skinned, dark-eyed children, she also shared story after story about the horrific conditions she’d seen and the faithfully courageous people she’d met.

By the end of our time together, I was so touched I knew I needed to include something about these people’s plight in a fictional story somehow.  Since I’d published a couple of sweet romances by that time, maybe I could pen a sweeping romance novel that moved from continent to continent.  At least that was my plan.

Only after a few attempts, and after recalling the stories Jennifer had shared, I realized I needed to scratch the romance novel concept.  If I wrote a book about South Africa at all, it had to be women’s fiction.  All about women helping women through all the things life brings on this side of the world and the other.

That attempt fared far better, and reassuringly, I had “signs” I was on the right track with this spiritual sort of book I was working on. At a Romance Writers of America conference Debbie Macomber spoke of her spiritual experience at the onset of her career to become a world-renowned author.  Randall Wallace (Braveheart), another speaker, told all about his days in the seminary.  And Terri Blackstock, a huge Christian romance and suspense author who didn’t know me, but I knew of her, came up out of nowhere and told me she liked my skirt! 

Maybe those weren’t the truest of signs, but still there was the feeling. The feeling so deep inside of me that said I was supposed to be writing Beaded Hope.  So after I got my chapters and proposal in good shape, I took the next step and signed up for the ACFW – American Christian Fiction Writers’ – Conference.  On the way to Dallas, I had no doubt in my mind that an editor was going to want this book.

But after giving my pitch several times, explaining how the book was all about “three women at all different stages of their lives, going on a mission trip to South Africa for all the wrong reasons, where their lives are profoundly transformed by the people they meet” – every editor looked at me with a blank face.  And then they passed.  (Although a couple said if I had a historical romance to feel free to send them a proposal.)

After that, I couldn’t wait for conference to be over!  It couldn’t end soon enough for me.  That was no reflection on the conference itself.  It was a well put together event. 

But God knows I was frustrated and confused.

I mean He really did know – and I didn’t stop reminding Him.  The moment I got back home, I couldn’t have been more thrilled that the house was empty.  I rolled my suitcase into the bedroom and immediately dropped to my knees by the side of the bed.

Really?   Really?” I cried out – rather loudly – shaking my head over and over again.  “I thought this is what You wanted. I felt it, didn’t I? Isn’t this what meeting Jennifer was all about? I’m not making that up, am I?  I don’t understand,” I kept repeating through my tears.  “I just…don’t…get it!”

                                                                                                 …to be continued

 

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