Weaving Trials into a Tapestry (plus a giveaway!)

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.
George W.
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.
Sarah E.
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.)

Amanda Wen

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).

About Time

This week’s guest post was written by Deb Knoles, a beautiful lady who has known me all of my life, even while I was an angsty teenager, and yet still loves me! She is my second-mama (because everyone needs a second mother…believe me on this) and I trust her wisdom. Enjoy these wise and beautiful words from one who knows.

When I left last November for a week in Canada, the roses were still flinging out vibrant petals of scarlet, coral, and that incredibly soft pink/white that looks and feels like carefully rouged and powdered old lady cheeks. Indian Summer teased us into believing we’d have plenty more days to celebrate the garden.
Indian Summer
A week later, I returned to the park to find the roses hanging from their canes, ghosts of former glory, drained of color and turning brittle from a plunge into the deep freeze of a brutal cold snap. Who really believes that the air can move from comfortable 65 degree days to barely 15 in a short week? We do. We live in Illinois.
The dying rose beds set me thinking about the false illusion of seasons being the length we think they’ll be (a natural mistake for those living in a state that surely takes its weather cues from menopausal women). The seasons in my own life have tricked me, too. As one of those young shoots coming out of the ground I thought:  I’ll never grow up. (That one is sort of true if we’re going to get into maturity issues.)  I did grow (physically at least). I did not stay young forever. Eventually, I “flowered” into womanhood and found myself married to my handsome blue-eyed man.  Children arrived and I found an entire world of new seasonal misconceptions geared to each stage of their development.   My kids will never be potty trained. None of us will survive the teenaged years. The nest will stay empty. But every Season’s master illusion is this: THEN (in the next season), I’ll have time. SOMEDAY, I’ll have time.
Ah, yes. I’ll have time “then”. I thought for sure that would be true NOW. But just as I pushed back the borders of that completely illusive season of “having time”, I became a mother of toddlers again. This time my toddlers are 93 and 89. The term is literal. My parents toddle. Dad uses a walker and Mom uses my arm to counterbalance a back twisted by spinal stenosis, arthritis and scoliosis. They are darling toddlers. For the most part, they are gracious, respectful and endearing. Unless they are cranky, unreasonable and maddening.  Pretty much like the younger version of toddlers.  Well, really. It’s pretty much like all of us I suspect. It’s just more noticeable to the person who bears the mandate for being a caretaker.
Dead roses and sleeping trees. And my ridiculous notion that I’d someday have “time.” Interesting mind companions for a quick walk around the park. One of the perks of cold weather de-nuding the trees is that the structure of branches is thrown into sharp relief against the sky. You see a tree’s real character in the winter. With the leaves gone, I noticed a tree that has a branch that grew down, dug roots in the ground and then stretched skyward again.
I wonder what drove that branch down so deep. I wonder at the resilience that shot it back up toward the sky after its brush with the ground.  What kept it from just hanging out down there and giving in to gravity? There’s a story there in the tree that I will explore “when I have time”. If I have time. The grand illusion still has me in its grip.
Trees have stories. So do people. It’s a little—no, a LOT–intimidating to think what might be revealed in me when the leaves of my younger self have all fallen away. What’s going on under all the foliage?
In my parents I see the structure of a lifetime of good habits. Their discipline to always put everything back in its assigned place means they still live in a clean, well-organized home. (Oh, how I wish that could be said of my home!) They are thankful, gracious people. They’ve built their lives on faith and prayer and considering other people’s feelings and well-being mostly at the expense of their own. Their character holds up even as their bodies break down.
If I were a tree, I’d have collected a good many rings on the old trunk.
While I’m still young enough to camouflage a few of the branches I like to keep hidden, I’ve noticed that some of the leaves in my life have already reached their autumn. The golds and reds are fading to brittle brown and will soon drift away and leave all those branches bare to the wind. Perhaps this season of being a parent to my aging parents is designed to prune out the branches, give some design to the plain limbs and stretch out the stunted growth on others.
Loss of Leaf
Exposure of Limb
If I could be done with at least some of my selfishness, some of my false sense of pride, some of my striving for goals that don’t matter to anyone but me (and certainly don’t matter to God), perhaps the pattern those limbs trace against the sky would spell out “Glory to God”.
It’s a hard thing to watch these people I love face the very real indignities of aging. Death so often is wielded as a malicious weapon. The golden cord is severed with cruel speed in the too young. But too often for the elderly, as bodies begin to die one part at a time, that thread of life stretches out to the most tortuous tension. It delays a happy homecoming with weary days of travel on unfriendly roads. Dignity gets lost in adult diapers and poor digestion, in weakness and failing vision, and in the frailty of paper thin skin and bones.  And still we who love our aged blessings long for more time with them. One more golden memory. One more shared laugh. Is time ever “just enough” for us? I am grateful to know that when it comes, God transforms the sting of death into the most glorious life of all. We’ve just got to trust that His timing will accomplish all that needs to be done even when we vehemently (and mistakenly) think we might have a better suggestion as far as His clock management goes. He never stretches a season too long or ends it too soon for the harvest He reaps. I’m grateful, too, that He asks us only to trust and not to understand. Understanding His timing is so far beyond my grasp.
Whatever our season of life, we can let God use the challenges to shape us into a more beautiful pattern.  We can embrace the moment (this one right here and now!), revel in the glories of our season, and live it well. Or we can cling to the deception that we are just marking time till “then” and refuse to trust the Timekeeper. Either way, the clock ticks, the hours pass and the imprint shows up on our souls. Eventually, it will be evident to all what was real and what was just Spring’s window dressing.