Some Exciting News

Contract It's official.  I've signed a contract with a little press called Wipf and Stock to publish my book.  I am now Abigail Waldron, author.

It sounds very glamorous and exciting, and it is.  Sort of.

I'm still spending most of my time changing diapers and feeding little people.  And there's still a lot of work to be done before my manuscript deadline of December 2015.

I will keep you posted as things progress, but for now, Abigail Waldron, author, needs to go figure out what we're eating for dinner.

His Story

Last Saturday evening, I sat in the living room of a couple I'd just met and listened while they shared the story of their past four years, a story marked by five miscarriages, the unexpected death of a best friend, and a baby they were told by doctor after doctor would certainly not survive birth.  They bounced this sweet, so very alive baby on their laps as they talked, a tangible reminder of answered prayers in the midst of so much unexplainable loss.

On my way back to Virginia the next morning, as I rounded the Capital Beltway near the lofty peaks of the Mormon Temple, Pandora began playing a song I didn't recognize and can't remember really, a song about God and the way He builds His kingdom, the sort of song that is supposed to inspire believers to march forth and do great things for God.   I generally like this sort of song, like to feel inspired by grand visions and lofty missions.

But today, I thought of the family I'd been visiting and of all the families I've been talking to the past year.  I thought of the collective pain of their stories:  decades of waiting for babies who didn't come, dozens of babies lost, lifetimes of pain and struggle and lingering questions and doubts.  I thought of all the things these people might have done for God if they hadn't had to spend all this time suffering, and I tried to reconcile the reality of their lives with the advance of God's kingdom, with His call to reach more people with the good news of salvation.

It didn't make much sense to me.  Why would God allow His children, the very people He's appointed to spread His message, to languish for years in pain and suffering, to wrestle with questions, to doubt the very truths He wants them to share with others?  To me, it would seem the gospel would advance best and most efficiently through the strong and healthy, not the broken and the suffering, the grieving and the doubting.

But in that moment, God reminded me of another story, the story of Ruth.  I thought about Naomi losing her husband and both of her sons, coming back to Bethlehem far from an exemplary spokeswoman for God's kingdom.  "Don't call me Naomi," she says.  "Call me Mara because the Almighty has made my life very bitter" (Ruth 1:20).

And yet, in spite of her pain and the resulting bitterness, God worked - both in her lifetime, to bring her joy again in the form of a grandson, and after her death, to bring the Savior through the bloodline of that grandson and to include her story in the greatest book of all time.  Her life, messy and broken as it was, became part of the advance of God's kingdom in ways she couldn't have ever imagined, even on her death bed.

I realized in that moment that my vision of kingdom advancement to this point has been very people-centered, based on strategy and vision and human initiative.  And while I do believe God calls us to think strategically about carrying the gospel forward, I am learning this is not the only, or even the primary way.

I am learning this:  the gospel is His story.  He writes it. And He's very comfortable with not only our sin, but also with our suffering selves, with the wounds we carry with us.  He advances His kingdom not by leading a parade of the triumphant and mighty, but by carrying in His capable arms the injured and limping, those of us who sometimes can manage nothing more than to whisper His name.

An Overdue Book Update

I realized this morning it's been quite some time since I've mentioned my book here on the blog, and it occurred to me that some of you might think it's gone the way of some of the other writing projects I never quite finished.  While that would be a fair assumption, I just want to say that the book is still very much in progress and very much a priority.

I've been interviewing lots of families these past nine months:  families who've suffered infertility, miscarriage, and stillbirth; families who've adopted, fostered, and pursued fertility treatments; families who had children after loss and families who didn't.  I've written four chapters so far and just last week started the process of sending my book proposal out to agents.  I have ten weeks left until baby girl is due to arrive, and I plan to spend as much time as I can during those ten weeks conducting a few more interviews and mostly writing, cranking out as many chapters as I can before, Lord willing, life here is consumed by change.

It's been healing to talk to all of these families and to try to put their stories into words.  As I've listened to them, I've felt less alone in my suffering.  I've seen my faith built by how God has met many different sorts of people in many different ways.  And I've had the privilege of spending time with a colorful assortment of families God has built.  In their homes and at restaurants, over dinners and Play Dough sessions and at soccer games and picnics, I've watched them together, and I've seen the beautiful way God makes families out of pain and heartbreak and disappointment.  They are not perfect families, but they are families full of love and joy.  God's fingerprints are all over them.

Last weekend, I flew to Maine to spend time with and interview a couple who's adopted five children from Ethiopia.  This week, I've been working on writing a chapter about another family who's grown primarily through foster care and adoption.  On the front end of each family's story is a lot of pain and disappointment, greater suffering related to childbearing than anything I've experienced myself.   In order to welcome children into their homes, each family took great risks and still face many unknowns about the future.  But it is clear that each of their children feel loved and safe, clear that God has led each parent to embrace risk with faith.

I won't share too much now about all I've been learning through the process of listening to and watching and asking questions of these families.  After all, that's what the book is about, and I hope I can convince you to buy it some day!

But I will say I've been thinking this week about stories and about how God often writes the stories of our lives in ways we never would have chosen for ourselves.  I've been thinking about my plans and dreams for family and home and life and about how much time and energy I pour into making them become reality, about how much I struggle when, in in big ways or small, my plans fall to pieces.  I've been realizing that my goal in life ought not to be to make my agenda come to fruition, but rather to respond to what God brings into my life - be that motherhood, writing a book, or talking to a friend - with faithfulness and obedience, trusting that He is doing good things, things seen and things unseen.

It sounds simplistic when I write it, but there is something profoundly freeing there too.  I don't need to focus on achieving or creating what I think should be.  I need to set my eyes on serving and responding to the One who has good plans for what will be.

A Book Summary...And A Request for Feedback

Since I haven't written much about my book lately, I thought I'd post a little update.  The past few months, I've continued working on my book, doing interviews, drafting, and revising, but I've also been focused on getting a book proposal together, one I can send out to prospective agents and publishers.  What follows below is a short summary of my vision for the book that I plan to include as part of my proposal.  I'd love to hear some feedback from you all:  What resonates with you?  What doesn't?  What am I missing?  What is unclear?  How could it be better?

* * *

In the long months of waiting to conceive my first child and in the dark season following the miscarriage of my second, I felt many things:  fear, sadness, despair, and confusion among them.  But above all, I felt alone.  Everywhere I looked, I saw swelling bellies and smiling newborns, and I felt the ache of my own emptiness more deeply in my perceived isolation.

If I’d taken the time to push past the surface images of childbearing ease around me, I would have known I was far from alone.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, roughly 10 percent of American women ages 15-44, about 6.1 million people, have difficulty conceiving and/or carrying pregnancies to term.  The trouble is that unlike pregnant stomachs and cuddly infants, the experiences of infertility and miscarriage are often silent and hidden, leading people like me to feel alone even when our stories are not at all uncommon.

In the absence of a close friend who’d experienced either infertility or miscarriage, I often wished I could read a book that would help me feel less alone, a book that would validate my fears and grief, a book that would also offer some measure of comfort and hope.  As a student and writer of creative nonfiction, I wanted a book that told rich and beautiful stories.  I found plenty of books where the authors used interviews or personal experience to back up their larger points about grief or healing, but I wanted the stories themselves to be the focus, any sort of epiphany being conveyed through the climaxes and resolutions of real lives.  As a Christian, I also wanted to read a book that wrestled with the kinds of deep, probing questions about God that reproductive loss stirs in the soul.  I found plenty of books on the theology of grief, suffering, and loss, but none that walked those questions out in the experiences of real people who’d experienced infertility, miscarriage, and stillbirth.

In short, I couldn’t find the kind of book I wanted to read, so I decided to write it.  My book is part-memoir; it chronicles a year in my life, beginning nine months after my miscarriage as my husband and I simultaneously continue to grieve the loss of our daughter and begin trying to get pregnant again.  The book is also part-interview; each chapter focuses on the story of one family who has experienced infertility, miscarriage, and/or stillbirth and describes both their loss and their experience of God in it.  Most of all, the book is about the interplay between my own story and the stories of others, about the God who is writing both the ultimate Story and the smaller narratives of each of our lives, and about realizing I was never as alone as I thought I was. 

My Book

So I told you almost a month ago that I'm writing a book.  Now that I've left you hanging for a few weeks, I'm ready to tell you a little bit more about it.

It's not a book I would have chosen to write, but it's a book I need to write, one I believe will be helpful to people like me.  It's a book about infertility, miscarriage, and stillbirth and about where God can be found in these circumstances.  It's a book about my own story, but it's also a book about the stories of other families I'm interviewing who've walked through one or more of these trials.  It's a book of creative nonfiction that wrestles with some hard theological questions.

I am not writing this book because my story is particularly unusual or notable.  Most of the families featured in the book have endured loss more profound and extensive than my own.  I am not writing this book because I know how to walk through pain and loss or because I've figured out exactly how to discover God in the midst of it.  

I'm writing this book because I'm right in the middle of grief and hope and uncertainty and disappointments, trying to grow our family, not knowing if or when that will happen.  I'm writing this book because every day is a struggle for me to trust God, because I often fail to do so, because I desperately need the stories of others who've met God in their own pain related to having children. 

I'm writing this book because I believe God asked me to, and already, His fingertips are all over this project.  I'm only a few chapters in, have many words and challenges ahead of me, but I have a lot of faith that this book will one day be. 

Writing News

I am writing a book.  I am sitting in Starbucks, watching snow flurries fall and eavesdropping on conversations about life and love and God and sipping my rather boring decaf.

So far I've read the introduction to a book related to my topic, re-read the notes from my first interview, highlighting the parts that stand out, and checked on a few blogs that have absolutely nothing to do with my topic.  Why is it sometimes so hard to do anything but write an actual sentence?

Well, I will start with this one:  I am writing a book.  I've gradually been telling friends and family that this is true, that I have an idea and a plan, that I feel like God has made it clear that I am supposed to do this now.  Each time I've told someone, I've felt a little bit scared.  I hate not meeting my goals.  I hate even more when others know I'm not meeting my goals.

But now, I'm telling the world, or at least the very small fragment of the world that might happen to read or stumble upon my blog.  I'm really, truly trying to write a book.

I know that I've never written a book before.  I know that my knowledge of proposals and agents and publishers is limited at best.  I know I don't have the best history with writing goals.  As you may have noted, my Thirty Pieces series on this blog, designed to capture thirty parts of my life in words before I turned thirty, is still stuck at #27, even though I'm getting close to 33.

I know that I have a one year-old and a busy life and that we hope to have more children.  I know that in the rare quiet moments, I usually just want to crawl into bed or watch an episode of Parenthood, or best of all, do both.

But somehow, in spite of all of that, I have faith to write a book.  I don't say this often and I really can't explain it, but I believe God wants me to do this.  I have faith that He will make it happen.  So I'm just taking it one step, one interview, one decaf, one sentence at a time.  I can't wait to tell you more about it soon.