I decided that I wanted to do a series of blog posts chronicling the things I’ve learned as I wrote different books. When I’m writing a book, I often come away with something from that book–either a character (or characters) or a theme that really impacted me in some way. I decided to start this series with lessons learned in Prairie.
Background for Prairie:
Prairie began as a dream. I took a nap one evening and dreamed of a girl who woke up in the place of her dreams. The dream was, as most of my dreams are, quite vivid. I could hear the rustling of the grasses, browning in the summer sun. I saw the birds fly overhead and felt the beat of the sun on my shoulders. Throughout that dream, “Theme from a Summer Place” filled my heart and mind. When I woke up, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. When I dreamed the exact same dream that night or the next day (can’t remember which), I decided to write it down. I had no idea where the book would go or what it would mean to me.
Lessons Learned: in Prairie
Characters: I learned the most from Sarah, Jessa, Landon, Lloyd, and of course, Lucille.
Sarah: Sarah intrigued me and scared me a little as well. I could see a little of me in her–particularly when I was younger. I remember the days when my oldest children were little. How many times did I watch the clock, willing the hours to pass until my husband got home? Too many.
I wish I had read of Sarah back then. I wish I had seen the waste of the gift that this life is back then. It wouldn’t have made the hard days easier, but it would have trained me to change my approach to them, and that might have made them easier.
Jessa: I think I learned acceptance from Jessa.
Even when she decides that her life in Prairie must just be a terrible dream or that she has gone crazy, she eventually decides to accept what the Lord has done for her in giving her an imaginary world in which to escape. Of course, I imagine her as grateful to find it wasn’t a dream, an imaginary world, or a coping mechanism, but that acceptance of the Lord’s gifts–that’s something I want to embrace.
Too often we (meaning me) try to find a way to excuse the Lord’s goodness to us as if He didn’t know any better. We say things like, “Well, allowing that pain for me would have hurt others” or something equally disparaging. I am a child of God. He says that parents love to give “good gifts” to their children (Matthew 7:11). Of course, He delights in blessing me–in giving me the desires of my heart.
Landon reinforced the lessons Sarah taught, but he also emphasized that we don’t have to let our weaknesses control us. We can take charge and repent. We can turn away and let the Lord lead us down new paths. He and Jake gave me so much hope for overcoming my faults.
With the Lord’s help, I don’t have to stay a slave to the familiar or the tempting. I can overcome. And look at the rich life he led! It just speaks to me.
Lloyd: From him, I learned to value emotion.
I am not a naturally emotional or demonstrative person. Seeing Lloyd weep over the beauty of new life made me so very uncomfortable. It’s not in my nature to feel things like that–not usually. I become emotional over heroism. Show me a hero, and I’ll weep. My heart fills with pride and respect. I’m in awe. Otherwise, I just don’t show much emotion.
Watching the tender way he had with Jessa, showing her a father’s love when she’d been stripped of it at such a young age, produced such an ache in me. I’ll never (I assume!) cry at Hallmark commercials, but now, after writing Lloyd’s character, I have a better understanding and appreciation for those who can and do.
And I think through Lloyd, Jessa (and to an extent me) learned just what the love of her Heavenly Father is like. That all-encompassing love that holds you up, pushes you outside your comfort zone into what is best for you (can you say dog?) and instills that confidence that someone here has “got your back.”
As with most of the story (and many of the characters), Lucille taught contentedness. She tried to teach Sarah that lesson, but Sarah didn’t listen–didn’t learn. Jessa, however, learned by Sarah’s example and through Lucille’s admonitions to her.
Listening to Lucille talk to Jessa about patience and contentedness after her “awakening” drove home so much to me. Yes, I’m married and I am extremely content in my marriage. But am I content in all the areas of life God has given me? Am I content in my parenting? In my writing? In my home? In my friendships?
One thing I think we too often do is equate contentedness with apathy.
I don’t think we’re ever supposed to become apathetic. I don’t think the Lord wants us to be satisfied with mediocrity if that is where we are. But apathy means indifference. Content means truly satisfied. And if I am not satisfied or content, why not? Are my goals and standards outside the Lord’s will for me? Are they too high–striving to please man rather than the Lord? Are they too low–just existing in this life rather than living it?
Without question, this book centers around the themes of contentedness and granted desires. Jessa dreamed of this life–from her earliest memories, she hoped for it. There is a strange dichotomy in someone wishing for something so much that the impossible becomes possible and then once received, she must learn contentedness to hold onto that gift.
I was astounded at the response to this book. I received more emails about this book than almost any other book I’ve written (Past Forward surpassed it quickly). It is so very different from my usual style and obviously not one of the Rockland Chronicles, that I expected to receive quite a few ho-hum or poor reviews.
That was actually okay with me because my purpose in writing this book was primarily to unburden the story from my heart. It almost drove me to write it, and the emotional havoc it wrecked in me felt quite unnatural.
However, I received email after email with quotes similar to these from Amazon reviews. (I opted not to quote the emails to protect the writers’ privacy, but I think from public reviews is safe enough. ) 😉
I typically devour a good book; this book I had to savor bit by bit and contemplate in between bites. “Prairie” has given me much to think about, dream about, and pray about, and certainly challenged me to alter my thinking on time and contentment. ~ L. Early
Once I got into it, I didn’t want to put it down. I needed to put it aside occasionally just to reflect though….The theme of contentment that is very central to this story has really got me evaluating my attitude. I will be pondering this novel for some time and I hope that I will “think on these things” any time that I start feeling discontent in the future. ~PS
And I learned even from my reviewers!
The underlying lesson woven through the story was the realization that we do need to be careful of the dreams and longings we allow into our hearts. “…we don’t have to let our mind stay where it tries to go. We can close that gate and send it down a different path.” ~Colleen
I think what I loved most about this book was the absolute beauty of God, His love, His people. I saw a glimpse of how I believe the Church (His Bride) should be operating. I loved the poetic flow of the book. Above all, I loved the concept of time in Prairie. It made me stop and consider how I observe time, how I either struggle with it and fight it or find my contentment in it. How our dissatisfaction or anxious thoughts affect us.
Of all the MANY themes flowing through the story of Jessa and her new life in Prairie, the wonderful gift of time is the one I choose to take away and ponder for a while. ~Lynn (who happens to be the world’s BEST neighbor as well. I really didn’t think she’d like it!)
Those emails nearly had me getting emotional, of all things! I was so grateful that the lessons the Lord taught me came through the book “without being preachy,” as one woman put it. I really do hate things getting preachy. LOL.
Prairie taught me much as I wrote and as I reread it.
In fact, I’ll likely read it again now and then for that reason–to see that I don’t lose sight of the lessons the Lord had for me.
Next time: Past Forward.