“Are you there God? It’s me, Katie.” Judy Blume was always my favorite author as a child, and I would often find myself praying that sentence off and on for 20 years. I bartered and begged with Him, but for the life of me I couldn’t get Him to answer my questions. I was so sneaky, I started asking the question “why” using fancier words; that’s what authors do, right? I found this more productive; I’d ask a question, and He would put someone in my way with the answer. This went on for years until February 16, 2011, when I was laying in a hospital bed as a left below-knee amputee. That night I reverted to “Are you there God? It’s me, Katie. Now what?” I was waiting for an answer when a nurse came in with a CD. I will be honest with you and say that I hadn’t listened to music in nearly 10 years. The reason was as a former ballroom dancer I couldn’t stand to hear the rhythm and not be able to dance. But this nurse refused to take no for an answer and insisted this CD would help me sleep. I laid there and listened to the voices of Michael Bublé and John Mayer, and this peace washed over me. His answer was obvious, “Now we dance.”
So you might be asking yourself what this has to do with being an author. My series of Christian romance, The Sugar’s Series, features Sugar, a midwestern ballroom dancer who, like me, lost a lot in life and found herself “dreaming with a broken heart.” I began to write Sugar’s Dance while waiting to walk again and found her story came faster than I could type it. My intention was not to write Sugar’s story as a Christian romance, in fact I really had no intention of even publishing it. My intention was to write it for me. As I wrote I found Sugar asked “Why God?” a lot. I was pretty uncomfortable with it, but since this was her journey I carried on. Then one night I said, “Are you there God?” and I poured my heart out about how I wasn’t sure if it was “right” to write a book that could be construed as a Christian romance, if I ever did publish it, when the underlying theme of the character’s relationship with Him was, “I’m still mad at Him, and He knows that. I can agree to be friends with Him, but I haven’t figured out how to love Him again.” When I got up the next day I avoided Sugar like the plague. I didn’t want to admit to myself maybe there was a little of me in Sugar, so I put my MP3 player on and the first two songs were “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Say.” I blew out a breath and opened the document. Without even thinking this is what came through, “That is one of the most frank admittances of imperfection I have ever heard. You are a surprise around every corner Sugar. The fact that you still come out here to talk to Him and you believe in that higher power is admirable considering what you have been through. I’m inclined to believe that He loves you for your honesty because I don’t believe He gets that from a lot of his worshippers.” And with that we began to waltz.
As the days turned into weeks Sugar’s story flowed, and I continued to let her ask “Why?” As her story progressed she began to see the reasons why, and so did I. By the time I had the first solid 14 chapters of the book written I was up walking on two feet again, just five weeks after that night in the hospital, lucky to have a very talented friend helping me. When I hit chapter 25 I needed to do some hardcore research of the Twin Ports. We spend a lot of time in the Duluth/Cloquet, Minnesota area because it’s where my husband grew up. When I decided Sugar would live there, I knew the book had to be as close to 100 percent accurate as I could make it, and that meant lots of trips north. It is summer now, and I’m holding my husband’s hand as he walked me through Canal Park. I’m smiling as I see another reason for the last 20 years; appreciation of the simple things like holding hands. By the time summer comes to a close I have the final chapter to write. Needing to get this scene EXACTLY right, I found myself staring down the sand-covered path that led to the beach on Canal Park. Sand isn’t easy for an amputee, but with some slipping and sliding I found myself standing in Lake Superior! As I stood there with the cold water lapping over my foot, smiling for the camera, I was sure our waltz was over and I had the reason!
Nope, not even close. After much painful consideration and encouragement from friends I hit publish. Okay dance over, her story is told! Nope. Don’t get me wrong, it felt great, but I was comfortable now in the dance and knew there was more. I started getting e-mails from people reading the book who told me Sugar had changed their perspective and validated their own struggles while others asked me to finish her story, so I answered Him with Sugar’s Song. Once again He put people in my path that I needed to meet in order to finish her song. So many friends from Sugar’s World (Duluth) shared their struggles and triumphs with me as well as shared their love of the region helping make the story true to life. I met two wonderful groups of authors, locally and virtually, who became the lamp unto my feet during a time this summer when I was again asking “Why?” As my father struggled back from a devastating injury I struggled to finish her Song. One of my author friends suggested a song for the new book, and I found myself listening to “I Cry” by Flo Rida. My heart was once again filled by Him when I heard “When I need a healing I just look up to the ceiling, I see the sun shining down and know its all better now.” Once again He kept me dancing when I was ready to quit. It’s November now, and I hit that publish button again feeling very at peace with how her song ended, but this time I didn’t question if I had the reason, because I knew I didn’t. Sugar had an encore to dance and I sat down to write Sugar’s Night. As the words poured out He laid Sugar’s “why” right out in front of me. BAM! I got up and walked around before reading it again, and there it was in black and white. Being a good author I’m not going to tell you Sugar’s “why,” for that would ruin the journey. I will tell you I have found the answer to mine. As I type this short waltz through my last two years another opportunity to help fellow amputees has arrived in my inbox. There was no way I could know that 25 years ago when I took to a ski hill just how that one day was going to change the course of my life, but He did. He has put me in the places I’ve been because He knew I needed all of those experiences to do His work. So each morning when I get up I no longer ask “Are you there God?” Now I simply say, “I’m here God, lead on.”