Please join me in welcoming to the blog my dear friend, Amanda Wen.
Amanda and I lived in the same town in Illinois for several years, worshiping together at the same church. Our lives have matched up almost eerily. We were musicians together, playing on the worship team at our church. We had our babies together, the first three of mine only a few months apart from her three (although she quit having babies before I did!). It wasn’t until we had both moved that we discovered we were also writers together, and now we are birthing our debut books together!
I have written before that people learn best through story, that the Holy Spirit can often teach us things through a good tale that we would never have understood otherwise. Amanda’s novel is a beautiful example of this. Be sure to comment at the end for a chance to win a signed copy of Amanda’s novel, Roots of Wood and Stone!
The tombstone, set on a small patch of windswept prairie in Rural Sedgwick County, Kansas, is stark in its simplicity.
Died Apr. 6, 1871
Aged 4 days
Child of W. F. and S. E. Stevens
On a facing side, further tragedy is etched in granite for all to see.
Died May 13, 1871
Aged 30 years
Such grief was sadly common on the Midwestern frontier, and for Sarah’s widower, William, this was just the beginning of his litany of loss. Less than two years later, he’d bury his four-year-old son, Arthur. In 1876 he and his second wife, Dorcas, would lose their infant son, Ivon. In 1877, Dorcas herself would die, followed in 1878 by one-year-old Mark and in 1879 by both his six-year-old daughter, May, and 24-year-old son, Isaac. and twin tragedies in 1879 with the loss of his six-year-old daughter, May, and his 24-year-old son, Isaac. In fact, of William Stevens’ fourteen children, only six would live to adulthood.
How could a person cope with so much tragedy? How could one emerge from loss upon loss with an intact faith? Yet by all accounts William’s faith remained steadfast. Perhaps it was lessons learned from his preacher father, or the helping hand of a neighbor in a time of need. We don’t know exactly, so I decided to fill in the blanks through fiction, a story which ultimately became the historical timeline of my debut novel, Roots of Wood and Stone.
In the novel, a character endures the loss of his wife and son in a matter of days just a few months into settling the prairies of Sedgwick County. And Jack Brennan isn’t shy about his questions. His doubt. His anger at the Almighty. “I stopped talking with God altogether,” Jack says in one pivotal scene. “Either he didn’t exist, or his purpose was to gut me like a fish. Either way, I was through.”
I must confess I’ve been where Jack was, and it didn’t take anywhere near the level of tragedy he endured to bring it about. But I’m comforted by David’s example in the Psalms. He raged at God on occasion. Hurled all kinds of accusations at his Creator. But God didn’t condemn David for his very human emotions. In fact, he called David a man after His own heart.
If we bring our anger, our devastation, our confusion, and our doubts to God, rest assured He can handle them. No matter what vitriol we spew at Him, He remains faithful and steadfast. And in His time, and His way, we will see that faithfulness. We will see His love. His healing. God may not calm our storms, at least not right away, but He will carry us through them. He’s done it for me. He did it for William Stevens.
As for Jack Brennan? Well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out.
A postscript, if I may. Remember those six Stevens children who survived to adulthood? One of them, Mattie, was my great-great grandmother. She and her husband, Francis Little, homesteaded not far from her father, in a large white farmhouse that inspired Roots of Wood and Stone. And Francis’s memoir, A Kansas Farmer, not only provided a wealth of information as I researched for my novel’s historical scenes, but it cemented the family legacy of faith. It’s clear from those almost-century-old typewritten pages that Francis and Mattie themselves carried a strong faith in Christ, and I know from my mom’s research into our history that every generation between theirs and my own has sought to follow Jesus. It is their legacy of steadfast faith I sought to honor in my book, and—more importantly—instill in my children.
Whatever you’re going through, you aren’t in it alone. And I pray that God will help you see how He’s carrying you through. How He’s weaving your trials into a beautiful tapestry.
What do you know about your own family history? Any inspirational stories about your ancestors you’d like to share? Leave a comment for your chance to win a signed copy of Amanda’s debut novel, Roots of Wood and Stone! (Giveaway ends February 5, 2021. Due to shipping costs, we can only mail to a U.S. mailing address.)
To find Amanda Wen’s blog and short stories, visit www.amandawen.com. Readers can also follower her on Facebook (@AuthorAmandaWen), Twitter (@AuthorAmandaWen), and Instagram (@authoramandawen).