Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Writer Writes All the Time: Stained Like Glass

I have stories and voices and ideas at work in my head constantly. That's how it feels to be a writer. It might start in a Sunday sermon or on a train ride to Chicago. The thoughts can be an avalanche leading to a whole book or a trickle that ends up as a prayer or a short story in a journal.

A writer writes...all the time. On napkins, on magazine covers, in the notes app on a phone, on a notepad beside the bed (this one's good for recording dreams). I find scraps of paper in the bottom of my purse, post-it notes on cabinet doors, and important thoughts scrawled and left as a bookmark. For me, writing is the easy part. The problem is in the compilation because organizing written material takes the most work. Time is needed, patience too...then add in a supportive family, and I have the ingredients needed to follow one tale to completion. 

My bucket list is a tad shorter now because I recently crossed "write a book" off the list. The singular thought that became Stained Like Glass was birthed in my mind eight years ago, and the book has given words to one of the voices in my head. I don't mean to make myself sound crazy, because I'm probably's just the only way to describe what it feels like to speak words for a person who doesn't actually exist. This is the essence of writing fiction. 

Stained Like Glass is a story about a teenage girl named Kady who experiences a life somewhat typical of a modern era teenager, but her story is universal too. Although Stained Like Glass lies within the YA (young adult) genre, it could also easily fall into several other Fiction categories: contemporary, coming-of-age, Christian, and chick lit.

Stained Like Glass has it all. Mystery. Life-changing Decisions. Loss of friendships. A mysterious pregnancy. Parent/Child Relationships. Choices. A Struggle with Faith. Bullying. Injustice. Even a Little Romance. Kady's journey is told in first person narrative, and minus a glimpse found in a few notes, hers is the only POV (point of view) the reader hears. Stained Like Glass has an uncommon format in that it's Kady's dated memoir where she chronicles her thoughts and feelings as well as the events of her senior year. In the beginning of Kady's last year of high school, we find her heartbroken after her boyfriend's betrayal. Socially, Kady is a popular star athlete, but her life spirals downward when her health fails...when she finds out she's pregnant with no recollection of how she got that way. Then, after ridicule from her friends, judgement from her church, and a shunning from her Christian school, Kady doubts her faith. She feels isolated, heart-broken, and misunderstood. There are so many twists and turns in the book, but things begin to look up for Kady when anonymous letters of encouragement from a mysterious Messenger remind her that she's God's masterpiece.

As I ponder how the book will be received, I have to admit that I really don't know. I promise there will be at least one spot in this book that will push a button for each reader. Stained Like Glass pushes my buttons too. If the book becomes nothing else, it will be a great place from which to launch discussion and healthy debate. The book is told through Kady's lens of Christianity and touches at least briefly on social topics such as music, clothes, profanity, underage drinking, consumption of alcohol in general, premarital sex, adoption, God's sovereignty, date rape, denominations of Christianity, abortion, authentic faith, and homosexuality.

An abundance of emotionally charged moments fill the pages of Stained Like Glass. I seem to cry in a different spot every time I read it. Each memoir entry is titled; some are a few sentences in length while other entries cover several pages. Some of the emotional hurdles Kady faces are when she faces the school board members as they expel her or when she finds out her initial prognosis from the doctor. Kady faces tough decisions about her pregnancy, and some of her own family members reject her. Choice and free will are thematic throughout Stained Like Glass, and these themes play out as Kady contemplates God...also when she chooses what to wear, who to have relationships with, and who will adopt her baby. In addition to a minor character's beautiful redemption, Kady herself chooses to forgive the unforgivable wrong done to her.

I personally love Kady's story because there is something new and different to mull over every time the book is read. I suspect more time will be spent thinking about Kady's life than actually reading the words. Stained Like Glass was written to make you think...and to semi-force you to contemplate--if not decide--what it is you believe. 

I hope you enjoy Stained Like Glass, and I look forward to answering questions and fielding commentary about the book. 

Stained Like Glass is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle (digital copy). If you live near me, I'll personally have copies of the book on September 9th and would love to deliver it to you personally. Just let me know. 

In the near future, I will endeavor to write discussion questions for each chapter which will help those of you who are using Stained Like Glass in your book groups.

Thank you so much for the support! God bless you...Kari

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Return to Eden

I'm a thinker. And a feeler. Have you ever taken one of those personality inventories to figure out more about yourself? I've always been hungry for information about myself which is weird in a way because I should be the one who knows myself best, right? Well, I do, but I have to admit there are times when I let myself down like when I forget to put the clothes in the dryer because I was too lost in a book...and times when I amaze myself like when the TV warned "there's tornado activity over Longview Lake...take shelter" but instead of heading to the basement, I head to the porch. We are all different...even identical twins are different.

So...I've spent a while thinking about things, same as everyone else. For someone (me) who doesn't even watch the news, I found my fair share of public service announcements and articles on fb concerning politics, church  burnings, and rainbows. I read them actually, in abundance.

This slant, that angle, his opinion, her plea...and I kept waiting. Waiting for my feelings to kick in. I was thinking about things for sure, but nothing changed for me...nothing was getting me fired up like everyone else seemed to be. My heart went out to the families and communities where God's people were being slain either for their race or religious beliefs...or both, and I join many who pray for the transgressors and murderers to receive what they justly deserve. But the only emotion I felt besides compassion over the past couple weeks was frustration.

Frustration, yes...that's the best word.
Because I'm so tired of the back and forth.

Frustrated when rainbows impose on red and white stripes. And, also frustrated by hateful posts against fellow Americans -protected by the red and white stripes- who found joy in a political victory that was important to them.

Frustrated that the General Lee's flag will be removed (I'm still sort of in love with Bo Duke). And, also frustrated that we still fly a flag to commemorate a time when brother fought against brother.

Frustrated by Christians who judge what we consider to be a "big" sin while spending money they don't have. And, also frustrated that the word "Christian" is becoming synonymous with "bigot."

Frustrated that Christians presume to judge non-Christians in any way. And, also frustrated that people lump all Christians into one category...after they argue that there are "different kinds" of Muslims.

Mostly, I'm tired of being stereotyped...frustrated that harsh, non-loving Christians are part of my assigned persona when I say "I'm a Christian." Because I AM a Christian, one who follows and loves my God desperately...but I'm uniquely different too.

Out of my frustration, some clarity emerged.

Was I fearful when marriage became legal for same-gendered couples? Absolutely not. This is why...I was the same the day after it happened as I was the day before the 5-4 vote. It's simple, people. The calm Spirit of peace within me was the same because God never changes. This is NOT the end of the world, nor is it a utopia of marriage equality.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8

Furthermore, after trying to search for answers within and without, I must admit that I do not have qualms about political marriage equality. Shocker, right? Not really, if you know me. I've never believed that a marriage should be defined politically anyway, and I've been outspoken with a few of you about my belief that the marriage covenant between God and man should not be synonymous with a legal marriage. It's apples and oranges really.

Think about the Garden of Eden, did God have Adam and Eve stand in front of witnesses and sign a paper? No. Their union was NOT a binding legal document that allowed them access to each other's health records and later, custody of Cain and Abel and Seth....what it was...was a promise to God and a promise to each other to help one other through life. Adam and Eve didn't get married in our traditional sense, they made a promise, a covenant, with God.

So, we have two issues here. One, does everyone deserve to marry any adult human being in order to have marriage rights? As an American, yes...because in a political realm...equal rights are afforded to all free subjects within our government. Two, should Christian pastors whose beliefs contradict blessing a union between same-gendered couples be forced to do so? No, they should not...because they too have the American right of religious freedom. Which brings me back to my point that spiritual marriage covenants and legal marriage unions should not be viewed synonymously.

Solution? Churches should return to Eden and to facilitating a covenant between two people who want their union sealed and blessed by God, no paper to sign. And, that settles it. Let legal marriages be done in courthouses. Christians can choose to do both if they want.

Why does this seem so simple to me and yet no one is bringing it up? After all, isn't that the real Christian argument that no one can force God to bless a marriage? God still wants to make marriage covenants with us and our spouse, but then's truly a rare thing to have God in a marriage today...easier to sign a piece of paper and pretend God blesses that.

If anything, all the political changes and turmoil will separate the wheat from the chaff. Because it's not normal to be a Christian anymore. Isn't that the point anyway? To be set, let's start by thinking as much about what's happening in our world as we feel about it.

God has not changed since Eden, we have.