On that first Saturday after my girls moved in with me, I woke up before them and sat in my chair in my living room making some final edits on my book. My book was 99% done before I began fostering, which is great because who wants to work on a book when you can chat and watch movies with teenage girls?
But after a little while, my older foster daughter (I’ll just use her initial “G” here) woke up and came into the living room, sleepily sitting next to me wrapped up in a blanket. She asked me what I was working on, and that was my first opportunity to explain to her that I wrote a book.
“What’s it about?”
I hesitated. I knew this would likely sound very weird to her. So I began slowly, “It’s the story of how God told me to build this house. And I write about what I learned through that challenge and then lots of other things that I’ve learned in my twenties.”
She nodded. I wasn’t sure if she thought I was crazy for thinking that God told me to build a house. But she looked out the window and back at me, asking more about how I bought land and how I decided on this house layout.
About a month after that conversation, G and her younger sister “A” came home from being with their case manager. They had gone over a lot of details with their case manager, and so that sparked a few questions. They filled me in on their day as we sat down for dinner—A said she told their case manager that my family is the “Jesus family!!” I just laughed and couldn’t stop.
“What did she say to that?” I asked.
A smiled, “She just said, ‘Now, girls, be respectful.’”
I laughed at her impression of her case manager’s words. I put my face in my hands, laughing and shaking my head because even though the girls were warming up to me so quickly, I figured I seemed so weird to them.
Then G said, “Look! You don’t understand! All my life, I’ve never known people like you! I’ve never lived like this!” She gestured to our dinner table and the rest of our house.
“I know, sweetie.” I gave her an empathetic smile because I knew the girls were wanting something that was familiar, and my “Jesus family” was so out of the norm for them.
A little later in the evening, G asked me, “How did they call you to get us?”
That was the first time either had asked that question.
I said, “Well, I had to fill out a lot of paperwork and get fingerprinted so they could make sure I wasn’t a creeper. And then I had to take some classes.”
“Like what?” A asked from the kitchen.
“I had to take CPR and some other parenting classes.”
“What? That’s dumb. Why did they make you take CPR?”
Before I could answer, G said, “But why did you want to get us?”
I looked at her. I wanted to tell her everything that God has done in the past 5 years to lead me to foster care, but wasn’t sure if that would put her into Jesus-overload. I mean, I’m happy to be the “Jesus Family,” but the last thing I wanted to do was freak them out. From the time that I first met the girls, I felt very strongly that in this case, the love of God must first be demonstrated and given before it can be verbally explained—because what are mere words when they’ve seen and experienced more hardships in their young lives than I have?
So I sighed and started with a simple answer, “Well, I had room in my home, and I like children, and—“
G interrupted me. “And because God told you to?”
She said it so matter-of-factly that my jaw dropped. I leaned towards her, “Did I tell you that?” I thought that I must have told her already and had just forgotten that conversation. But how could I have forgotten that?!!
“No,” she said. “You said that God told you to build this house, so I figured you’d say that He told you to get us.”
I chuckled, amazed at her insight. “Yes, you’re right.”
She nodded. “See? I listen.”
Fast forward about 3 weeks, and G and I were talking with her attorney. He was checking up on her, asking how she was doing. She told him that her grades were up, and she was adjusting to her new school.
He said, “Well, kiddo, looks like you’re pretty lucky. You’re in a good place, and one day you’ll be able to write a college essay about everything you’ve overcome.”
G gave him a smile.
Then he looked at me and asked me a few questions. When he realized that I was fostering as a single parent, he was surprised and asked, “So why are you doing this?”
I was a little taken aback that he asked this question so bluntly. I started to give the quick answer of “I like kids,” but G interjected.
“She does it because God told her to build a house and then God told her to get us. And she writes books.”
I looked over at her, a bit stunned, and then sheepishly turned back to the lawyer. It seemed easier to address her comment about my book instead of about God speaking to me, so I told him that I’ve just written one book, and it’s not actually published yet.
He then wrote down his office number and cell number for me, just in case I had any more questions or needed to meet with him. I said thanks, and he grabbed his briefcase and started walking away.
When he was only like 6 feet away from us, G not-so-quietly whispered in my ear, “He likes you.” That lobby had marble floors and tall ceilings, and her words seemed to echo. You know her lawyer could hear her.
Instinctively, I leaned toward her and said, “Shhhh.”
But she had no shame, and she said, “He wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. I know he wants to get with you.” Again, her words echoing in that otherwise silent lobby.
I whispered for her to be quiet and that he was just being friendly.
“Mary, he gave you his number. He’s never given us his number before.” She started teasing, “Oh, he wants you to call him.” Probably everyone in the building, including her lawyer, could hear her.
I blushed and shushed again. My eyes could not have gotten any wider, and I gave her my best FOR THE LOVE, STOP TALKING ABOUT THIS UNTIL WE GET IN THE CAR face. But she only giggled.
Once we reached the car, I finally let my giggles out too.
You never know what will come out of kids’ mouths. Sometimes it catches me off guard and makes me blush; other times, I hear their words and ponder them in my heart over and over.
I’m thankful that my book has given me the opportunity to share with my foster daughters stories of what God has done in my life…because in many ways, they are part of that story. And I’m thankful for the sparks of hope we feel. Thank you to everyone who is praying for my girls and me. We have a lot to overcome, but we are overcomers, right? #WeWontShrinkBack
P.S. It looks like my book will be released in May. I was hoping for April, but I guess it’s best not to rush this. ;) But May will be here before we know it! I will let you know my book’s release date as soon as it’s determined.
I mentioned before that I went through the Author Launch course, and near the end of the course, I watched an instructional video about directing the design of your book cover. Before I had watched that video, I hadn’t thought much at all about my book’s cover. At first, I didn’t really care what my cover would be. (Lol, remember that I don’t love fashion or decorating?)
After I watched the video, I felt a little overwhelmed because I realized that I would have to be very involved in the process of creating and finalizing my cover. Later that day, I was praying, sitting on the floor, and I asked God to show me what to do about my cover. I felt like God gave me a mental picture of me looking at my house, holding a hammer behind my back. I thought, “Okay, that could be cool.”
The instructional video interviewed a graphic designer, who suggested that the author look at other book covers to see which she liked. She also suggested that the author look up color schemes on Pinterest and send those pictures to the graphic designer.
So for the next couple days, I scrolled through a ton of images of book covers. And I totally gravitated towards the ones that had a pencil drawing as part of it. I loved the muted look of grays and tans.
I started thinking then that I wanted someone to draw this picture for me. I had just talked to my friend Forrest on the phone to wish him a happy birthday, and so a few days later, I thought…maybe I should ask Forrest to draw it for me. Forrest is actually a doctor (not an artist by profession), but I remembered that he had drawn some cool pictures in high school and also that he had taken some art classes as his electives in college.
Forrest and I have known each other since we were toddlers, growing up together in the same church and also going to the same school. In high school, he was one of my very best friends. We sat next to each other in most of our classes, helped each other with homework, and he would often eat the leftovers off my lunch tray. Lol
Forrest has lived out of state for several years, so we hadn’t spent much time together lately, but still—I texted him, “Hey, do you still draw?”
I explained to him what I was hoping to do for my book cover, and then he quickly said that he’d love to give it a try!
He was in town a few weeks later visiting family. And he stopped by to see my new house and chat. I showed him the book covers that had inspired my idea, and he asked me a few questions to make sure he knew what my goals were for the cover.
I had my friend Tabitha take a photo of me looking at my house, holding a hammer behind my back. And I then emailed the photo to Forrest.
Fast forward a few months…Forrest sent me his first draft of my picture (which I was so excited about!), and I asked my friend and coworker Krysten to help me to finish the rest of the design work. Krysten and I have worked together for about four years, and during that time, she has done the artwork for many logos and t-shirt designs for my projects with the children’s ministry and women’s ministry at our church. So we have experience of creating and critiquing artwork together. And what I mean by that is I might tell Krysten a general idea and what colors I want, and then Krysten does her magic! Sometimes I’ll be like, “Oh, can we move that graphic a little to the left, and make this font bigger here, and maybe a darker blue here…” And then ta da! Krysten makes it beautiful!! She’s so talented and a sweetheart to work with. :)
When we began putting my cover together, Krysten and I sat at her desk during our lunch hours. While I was chopping on a sandwich and eating yogurt, she was pulling things up on her computer. She showed me hundreds of font until I picked out the one I wanted. We tried different combinations of colors and layouts…a little more grass here, and a touch of yellow there, and then finally, we have this cover finished!!
I love that my cover is unique, personal, and true to the spirit of the book’s story. I think it’s very “me.” I love that one of my childhood best friends (thank you, Forrest!!!) drew this picture for me—that makes it even more special to me. I love that Krysten and I could work together to make the design elements exactly what I wanted it to be. I could rest easy knowing she had the skills to make it work. And it made for some fun lunch hours! (Thank you, Krysten!!!)
I’m so happy to share my book cover with you today as a visual representation of my book. We’re one step closer to my book’s release! #WeWontShrinkBack
Mary works at Brookville Road Community Church, where she leads children's ministry and women's ministry. She is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.