March 4, 2015

The Reviews are In!


Well, they've started pouring in and I'm sure more are on their way: the first reviews of our book, "Redeemed by Grace!"

What an exciting time -- this phase when we have a chance to glimpse at how others are absorbing the story we worked so hard to get right, and expended so many prayers over.

Each review is different because each reviewer is unique, but the one that came in on Monday, "I am Pontius Pilate," written for Human Life International's Truth and Charity Forum by Caitlin Bootsma, really impressed us. After all, the heart of the message burst through loudly, clearly.


It's plain to see the reviewer not only read the book, but took it into herself, and after mulling over its implications in relation to her life, offered it back up and out for others. Rather than try to make a play by play summary, she took what of it resonated most loudly and presented it to potential readers as a gift.

She got that what we wanted to share as much as anything is that our culpability in doing harm isn't always obvious, but it does bear on our soul. What part do we play in the sins of society? In what ways do we try to wash our hands clean, even as we are participating in sin?

When you send a book into the world, you don't know what will come back. We know that some will misunderstand our intended message, depending on the state of their heart. So when someone comes close to getting the crux of message we wanted to convey, it is an occasion for gratitude and joy.

In this case, that crux isn't to shame others for their sins and wrongdoings, but to give them -- and us all -- hope, empowerment and encouragement to bring forth all that is dark in our lives, with the goal of lightening our hearts to more assuredly do the will of God. 

Here are some other reviews that have come in since our book launch a few weeks back:

- Ethika Politika: http://ethikapolitika.org/2015/02/16/redeemed-by-grace/

- Prolife365: http://prolife365.com/pro-life-warrior-ramona-trevino/

- The Curt Jester: http://www.splendoroftruth.com/curtjester/2015/02/book-review-redeemed-by-grace/

- LifeNews.com: http://www.lifenews.com/2015/02/17/im-done-why-did-this-planned-parenthood-abortion-facility-manager-quit/

- Patheos: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/happycatholicbookshelf/2015/02/book-review-redeemed-by-grace/

Q4U: Have you ever communicated something publicly and been surprised -- perhaps delighted -- at a certain response to that sharing?

February 25, 2015

Introducing (drum roll please...) Ramiah Elizabeth Trevino!


I was watching TV with my youngest son Monday night -- something I rarely do in the first place. Which is just one of the reasons the moment will always stand out.

We had planted ourselves there after his Scout den meeting because a former student from our local Catholic high school, whom we watched with great admiration during his days at Shanley High School, is scheduled to be on The Voice in the coming weeks, and we thought maybe, maybe this would be the day. So we looked on with rapt attention, only to suspect we'd missed the day our hometown hero Mike Leier would have his big moment on national television.

As we watched and waited, my phone dangled just behind us on the top of the couch, hooked up to the outlet behind to get juiced up enough to accommodate an evening phone interview. I glanced toward it for a moment when I saw the Facebook status update notification light up. And then I squealed out loud, realizing what it was!!!


"Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" The expression became a common one to me during my writing journey with Ramona Trevino these past couple years. She even took to saying it herself a few times, knowing it was my word but certainly worth borrowing when the occasion called for it.

The ushering in of a new life is certainly an occasion for such a word to be used, and I couldn't help but call it up in that moment. Especially when I saw her cute, chubby little face for the first time!


It's been a long time since someone super close to me -- someone almost like a sister -- had a baby. And honestly, the excitement I felt over seeing this new little life was a bit overwhelming. Even though I knew this baby was part of our journey from the beginning, and would play a very special role in both our lives, I didn't quite expect the rush of feelings I would experience.

I never had a younger sister, but surely, this is what it would have felt like to be an auntie to the baby of a younger sister, I thought. I fell instantly in love. I stared at the image over and over, unbelieving that just hours before, Ramona and I had been talking on the phone. "I think my water may have broken," she'd said. And soon I'd received a text noting that she was on her way to the hospital and likely would be having little Ramiah before the night was through.

When our youngest was born in 2005, Facebook hadn't really even become a thing yet -- not like it is now anyway. And I had yet to discover the world of blogging. It's hard for me, the natural communicator that I am, to recall a world without it, but most of my life rolled along fine for years with no Facebook updates. 

Yet I have to admit, this is one of the most exciting aspects of social media, this chance to learn about big events so soon on the heels of the actual event occurring; like the birth of a baby, especially when you're as far as Texas is from North Dakota. It brings two worlds so much closer together and I love that about it. And I'm so glad Ramona's oldest daughter Lorena was willing to keep up with the status updates. Of course she would! She's never known differently.

I'd been holding the precious image of a bundled Ramiah in my heart through the earlier part of Tuesday when her mama, who had undergone a C-section (Ramiah weighed in at nearly 10 pounds) texted me and our third collaborating sister, Lauren, with another photo, this time with Ramiah's eyes popped open and looking like she was ready to go shopping or out to lunch.
"Hello world! Hello Auntie Lauren and Auntie Roxane," read the words below. Now it was confirmed. No wonder I felt so close to that little pumpkin. She was claiming me as her auntie, even if only through her sweet mama.

Well, I can't get this little sweetheart out of my brain. She came at a time when I surely needed some good news. The week after the release of our new book, "Redeemed by Grace," has come with more than a few moments of consternation; things not fitting for this blog post, but suffice it to say, the beautiful news of new life was welcomed beyond imagining.

I don't know exactly what role this dolly will play in my life, but I feel so very close to her already! After all, she was listening in on the million phone conversations her mom and I had those nine months she was cozy in her womb. When we laughed, when we cried, when we yelled, "Weeeeeeee!" together, baby Ramiah was there, sucking her thumb, swimming in amniotic waters, hanging out with God, waiting for the day he would say, "It's time, little one. Go to the others who love you now, so you can begin making your way back to me."

I honestly don't know how Ramona can possibly take all of this in. A book, a baby, all within a week. But I know this. We are both so filled with gratitude. All these months before, so much preparation, so much waiting, so much paving the way for what would go down these last seven days.

All of it miracle, blessing, gift.

Thank you, dear Lord, for bringing hope into our world once again in the form of this precious child!

Q4U: What looks like love in your life this week?

February 18, 2015

Behind the Scenes of the Webcast

 

Monday night was huge for me -- an evening I will never forget as long as I live. This eve of the launch of our book, "Redeemed by Grace," became something of an online launch party, if you will. I am in awe of how technology can bring North Dakota, Texas and all the states in between and on either side together like this. And in awe that our book was given this beautiful introduction.

Truly, Ramona and I, and our glue, Lauren, were completely humbled by the experience. For several years we worked quietly on this book. Stepping into the moment when it was time to not only share it with the world, but hear what the project had meant to a group of high-profile pro-life people who had read and embraced the story, had to have transcended the experience of most authors.

But there's more to this story. As the day of our webcast drew near, along with two preparatory conference calls that preceded it, I began to grow stressed. Anyone who has been to my house knows that 1) it can be loud because of either spontaneous vocal emissions from the children or pets and 2) there really isn't a place to hide. With no basement for me to hole away into, the variables left me worried.

Sometimes I take my writing on the road for this purpose, hunkering down at coffee shops or other public places that accommodate such situations. But it wouldn't work this time given the time of day and possible extraneous noise. I would be making a public presentation each time, and I needed quiet.

Eventually, a friend came to mind. Mary Kay had been praying for this project for a long while with us, and happens to be the godmother of one of our kids. Not only that, she lives on the same side of the tracks, and her youngest child just left the nest this past summer. Might she have a spare room to offer me for hiding purposes?

Indeed, she did, she said. The only issue to work around would be that she and her sweet husband Don would be dog-sitting for their oldest son and his new wife, on honeymoon in Greece. Would I mind just calling first so they could quiet the dogs, and come in through the garage to sneak downstairs? No problem, I said, grateful for a solution.

So for three evenings -- two last week and then again on Monday -- I left home for the oasis of a currently abandoned bedroom, and was ushered toward a comfortable chair, where I could set up shop, quiet my mind, connect to the Internet, pray, and focus on the others who would be talking, as well as prepare for my public piece.


The first night, my nerves sprang into action. But when I looked up and saw this...


...everything felt right again. It was so calming. Only later did I learn it had been acquired in Rome by the youngest child in the family and has a special story behind it. It's called the San Damiano cross. Go here for more.

This place of safe harbor in the middle of winter in preparation for our book's birth blessed me so much. It was in this spot where I listened, for the first time, to the very inspiring reactions to our hard work, and heard how the story had already begun blessing others. What a powerful, humbling experience!

One of my favorite moments Monday night was when David Bereit, the host, asked callers to state where they were calling in from, and people began chiming in from all over the United States and even Canada. What an awesome feeling to hear those voices and realize they'd come to hear about our project!

When it was over each of the three nights, I would pack up my laptop, grab my coat, and head out into the family room, where I would be greeted by this adorable motley crew - Deacon, Tucker and Rosie!


What a way to be welcomed back into the real world -- with unconditional love. It was the best.

These small touches -- a quiet, warm room, the generosity of a friend, a cross on the wall -- reminded me that God is with me, always. I thank him for that and for this work he helped Ramona and I bring to fruition. I think we can breathe a sigh of relief now and just enjoy what's coming from here.

And of course, today, a shift for those of us who observe Lent. Last night's Fat Tuesday did have me craving a few indulgent treats. So after his hard-played basketball game, my middle son and I enjoyed our favorite pizza in the world. Behold the "Skinny Vinny" from Spicy Pie. Yes, on Fat Tuesday!


We followed that up with a baker's dozen of donuts from Sandy's a few doors down, which we of course brought home to share.


And where, pray tell, is 13th donut? Well, it may not have made it quite all the way home.

Now, to buckle down and get serious about the fasting thing. Here we go!

And by the way, if you missed the webcast, no worries. Here it is again for you to enjoy at your leisure. I think you'll find it interesting, informative, and, hopefully, inspiring.

I have two more very sweet surprises to share Friday and Monday, so stay near!

Happy Ash Wednesday. May your time in the desert bring you future desserts, into a deeper relationship with God, and much peace.

Q4U: Have you ordered your copy of "Redeemed" yet? Here's your chance (click here)! And thanks in advance! We've been hearing it's perfect Lenten reading!

February 11, 2015

A Book Trailer to Top it Off

We'd been working on the book over a period of several years, so there was no doubt its entrance would be a euphoric moment of affirmation of all the hard work and sacrifice. The culmination of our pouring out of heart and soul alone would make this so.

That's what I was focusing on. I didn't see the rest of the fruits that would come.

When the idea was first proposed that a book trailer be made in association with our book, "Redeemed by Grace," I loved it, but there was no guarantee it actually would come to pass.

In one of our early marketing planning meetings, it came up again, and a few of us voiced our hope for it. "Sounds like a great idea," we said, and then left it in the hands of the publisher and marketing firm.

And then, not long ago, the link arrived in our inboxes. The trailer had been done, but not only that, they'd used the song; the song that Ramona, the author, and her daughter had written together, and that her daughter had performed.


Can I admit something? I cried when I heard it. I cried because Lorena has a beautiful voice, but also, because I know a little about what this song means to Ramona, and to me, too.

I have so much more to share about our book, and about the song. I'll be sharing the whole story soon. But for now, still just glimpses, because it's a thing that's so special, it must be savored and presented in just the right away. It must be shared long and slow.

I promise you this. If you have a tender heart like I do, hearing about it will bless you.

For now, just watch and listen. Make sure to let me know what you think. And if you feel up to it, do us the honor of sharing it around. The book comes out soon -- Feb. 17. It's actually available for pre-order now. My mom got her box of books in the mail this week.

We feel the message we are sharing is important for many different reasons. But the biggest is that it's a story of a soul; a soul that was transformed by love. Is there anything more precious than that?

Q4U: What do you think of the idea of pairing a book launch with a song?

February 4, 2015

The Thrill of Holding Your Book


It had been a long day, a bit of a crazy day, a sad day.

We were preparing for the possible death of my daughter's teacher, someone she has come to adore this school year, and whom many have adored before her.

That's what was on my mind -- the visit we'd just paid to his hospital room, where he seemed to be slipping away. So when I pulled up the driveway to let her out so I could leave again to accomplish my afternoon errands, it didn't click -- the box on the front steps.

"Can you check to see who it's for?" I asked her. She looked, then picked up the medium-sized box and brought it over to me. I could tell from her expression that it was heavier than she'd thought, and when she handed it to me, it was heavier than I'd imagined too. What could it be?

I hadn't ordered anything lately. What was it? What was I forgetting? I couldn't tell from the return address either. It wasn't from our publisher, so it couldn't be our book. Or...could it?

Suddenly, I realized, this must be it! Could it be? Our advanced author copies. I would have to open it up to know for sure.

Well, no time now. First things first. Pick up the younger kids at school. Don't want to make them stand in the cold. Those rosy cheeks, those accusing eyes. "Why did it take you so long, Mom? Where were you?" I couldn't face that this day. So I headed off, the box sitting on the passenger's seat, taunting me.

I arrived at the school with enough time to sit with the box and attempt to open it. But this was easier said than done. Whomever wrapped it, or whatever machine it was, had it down to a science. I tried and tried and tried with my bare hands. Finally, I had to search for something sharp. They keys. That's the only thing that might tear through that strapping tape.

Finally, twisted into a strange position, there in the van, I was able to find the opening, and pull back the four box lids to find...


Yes. Yes! This is it! After three long years, we have...a book!

It is impossible to convey how this feels, because, of course, it's about so much more than that moment. But in that moment, every conversation, ever moment of stress, all the moments of anticipation and joy, converge, and there it is. On the seat....of the van...in front of the school.

There's a moment of reveling, and then soon, the kids emerge from the school, and there's no more time to savor. That savoring moment -- that first glance, the first touch -- it's over. It will never come again. But it's a moment you will never, ever, for the rest of your life, forget.

I still remember opening my first children's book that I authored too -- how I ran downstairs in my pajamas to call my husband on our cordless phone that had been plugged in, and how, when I emerged again upstairs, my son, then 2, now 12, was running around the living room with a cover of one of my brand-new books, now crinkled from his unknowing, young hands.

"I can never have a moment," I thought then. And now, a decade later, repeating the same thing but without toddlers, I think, "I can never have much of a moment now either, can I?" And yet...I had the moment. Fleeting though it might have been, it was precious.

The kids need me now. They've just come from a whole day of experiences and have many things on their mind besides my book. "Oh, that's nice mom," one says, focused on other issues. The others seem somewhat curious. I let them look at it. They hold it, wonder about it, ask a few questions. And then we're heading into the rest of our night.

I know I will have to resume the world already in motion, but before that, I send a text to Texas, and we squeal together through the written word, and then, through a quick phone conversation. It's real. It's really real!


A day will pass before I'm able to return to the box. But when I do, I lift that first copy out and hold it to my chest, and smile. And then I open it, and read...and smile some more, and look upward and say, in all sincerity, "Thank you, God. Thank you for bringing me, and Ramona, and all who worked to make this happen, to this moment."

Q4U: How did you react upon realizing your dream had arrived?

January 28, 2015

Lauren Muzyka: Our Story's Glue


Meet my friend Lauren Muzyka!

Lauren Muzyka and me in Texas, summer 2013

She may not like being called "glue," but when it came to pulling together the book, "Redeemed by Grace," there's no way around it. Lauren = glue!


Lauren paid a pivotal role in Ramona's conversion story, and helped her make the potentially treacherous jump over to the pro-life side of the world from a place of darkness. When Ramona felt uncertain, Lauren assured her she was not alone.

After Ramona made her brave, life-changing decision, and when she began quietly sharing her story with a few others, and one suggested her story was book-worthy, Ramona looked around for the support she knew she would need to push forward on such a project. Because let's face it. Many people think of writing a book, but few actually do it.

Lauren was the voice of optimism that said to Ramona, "I'm coming with you on this journey. Let's figure this out together." It was Lauren who talked to someone who talked to someone else who ultimately talked to me about working on this project.

And through that process of collaboratively writing Ramona's story, Lauren was there in the background and, if needed, the foreground, too, to rally the troops and keep us both inspired and excited.

It's true that it takes a team of people to bring a book to fruition. But in the case of "Redeemed by Grace," I can honestly say it would not have happened if not for this positive, spirit-filled person of Lauren Muzyka, who helped keep our fires lit over and over again.

And in the middle of it all, Lauren founded a new non-profit organization to help people praying at abortion facilities to better respond to the women and men who are going in with the intention of ending their baby's life.


Sidewalk Advocates for Life is filling a needed niche, compassionately, and saving lives in the process. Not surprisingly, it's an effort that is growing by leaps and bounds, though its goal is to someday not be needed at all.

I had a chance to meet up with Lauren recently again in D.C., where she was part of the pro-life entourage. Lauren waited with me and others at the EWTN tent the morning of the March, hoping with me we'd get our turn to share about this project. When that chance slipped away, she immediately thought of positive responses.



 

The next day, I got to see Lauren again at the Students for Life of America conference, where she set up an informational booth about her organization and shared with the young people in attendance  how they might make a difference by standing on the sidewalks and, prayerfully, being advocates for love and life.


Lauren indirectly played a role in our book coming together in a variety of ways, but she also played a direct role, including through writing the foreword. It is Lauren's voice the reader will first "hear" as she introduces her friend Ramona, and in a most beautiful way.

Along with the rest of this story, I am excited to share Lauren with you, and allow you to see how God has pulled together so many incredible souls to bring this story forward!

Q4U: Who is a bright light in your life this week?

January 14, 2015

Birth of a Book: First Reactions


Christmas came early this year when, more quickly than anticipated, I received notice that the book I'd been working on for nearly three years was not only going to be published a little ahead of what we'd thought, but that some of the early endorsements were in.

The book, "Redeemed by Grace," a conversion story, will be officially "out there" the middle of next month. The Christmas season set it back slightly from its Feb. 3 "due date." But the marketing of the story is well underway now.

I can honestly say that reading those first reactions was one of the biggest thrills of my life. After keeping this story close to our hearts for what felt like a very long time, Ramona (the subject of the book) and I had the privilege of taking a peek at first reactions. Reading them, I was filled with such excitement, even elation, because of all this story has come to mean to me and the gift I believe it will be to many.

Here are some snippets:




It is a very special thing to be part of a project that has the potential to bless so many people. I want the work I do to make a difference, and from the start, I knew this project had that potential.

I also expect some will be challenged by the book. One of our endorsers even used that word, "challenging," to describe her reaction. And that's okay. I would hope any story would be challenging on some level. That's how we grow. But I also love her conclusion:


I can't help but think of Flannery O'Connor's comment at this juncture in her own book-writing:

"I am about convinced now that my novel is finished. It has reached the stage where it is a pleasure for me to type it so I presume it is done....This is the best stage -- before it is published and begins to be misunderstood." (The Habit of Being)

It's going to be awfully hard to misunderstand Ramona's story, however. Rather than a work of fiction with all the intricacies that entails, it's very plainly drawn, a journey of a soul, and it's hard to argue that. In sharing her story, Ramona has agreed to turn her soul inside-out because she believes that doing so will make a difference. Maybe it will spare others the anguish she endured. And if not, it should leave people with a sense of hope, as Lisa said. We both want this, and our publisher does, too, or they would not have taken the chance on it that they have.

So, here we are. We are close now to the day when we can share this story with others. It's an exciting time for us and we are praying that all who read this work will be blessed in some way.

It's not my story, but I believe in it, and I look forward to helping set it free. I am grateful for these first reactions, which come from such good hearts -- some of whom I know personally and others, more on the periphery. Either way, we are grateful for such beautiful, hopeful, positive words as we work to get this project off the press and into your hands.

Q4U: When has a first reaction been a gift to you?