Last week was stressful. I’m trying not to think about it. But I’m thinking about it. Raising boys isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s not just raising boys, it’s battlefield earth. I feel like we’re in a battle here. Every day. All the time. I notice the battle more when I’m trying to finish a book. Strange things happen when I’m on deadline.
Sunday night when I went to bed, I lie there staring at the ceiling with tears running down my face. Should I even keep writing books? Is it worth it?
After a bloody week, I didn’t know if the books were worth it. A few days earlier, I got a call from the school to come get our six-year-old. He’d gotten hurt on the playground. Blood was all over his clothing after he’d busted his face against another student’s head, splitting his lip, knocking out a baby tooth, and battering his nose. I stopped writing to go pick him up. One of our other sons was already home sick with a bad cough, so the two hung out together. I don’t think our boys have ever been to the doctor as much as they have in the past several months since I buckled down to finish my novel. Even the doctor’s nurse said, “It must be your year.”
It really has been one thing after another with the boys, and I’ve fallen into writing at night after dinner when Scott is home to take care of the family. With every book, I’ve noticed this battle. So many things keep me from finishing a novel. Maybe this is just life. Maybe this is just normal. But when I have a book deadline, it just seems like all hell breaks loose at our house.
Last Sunday morning in church I prayed for God to set my heart straight. I’ve been taking a marketing class on Thursday nights. Trying to become a real writer who actually sells books and acts like an author. I like writing stories. But I hate selling books. I’m not a salesperson.
“Have I lost my way?” I asked God in church on Sunday. “Are my motives pure trying to learn how to market? I need you to give me your vision for my life. And I need the ending of my book. I know who dies in the story, but I don’t know how they die. I need to know how Chasing the Wind ends.”
Sunday after church we headed to my parents’ ranch. I’d printed out another hundred pages of my manuscript to edit while we were there. I try not to work on Sundays, but Scott and the boys were going to watch football. Sitting down to edit my book on a cold winter day wouldn’t bother anyone.
For some reason, two of our boys decided to go hunting at the ranch. They took Opa’s pistol and off they went together. I saw John and Joey walking down in the pasture and said a quick prayer that God would keep them safe. My dad has never let the boys take his pistol out before. But at 15, John is very responsible. He carried the gun, so I took a deep breath, sat down, and started editing beside the fire.
An hour later, John came howling into the house. “I shot myself! I shot my foot!” he screamed.
I dropped my book and ran to him. His foot was covered in blood. Spurting blood, really. I screamed for a towel.
Oma threw me several towels and Scott appeared at my side. I was trying to get John to sit down on the kitchen floor. Blood was smeared across the tile. Wrapping a towel around John’s foot, I realized it immediately filled with blood. I grabbed another towel and wrapped it tight too. “Someone get me duct tape,” I yelled. This is so not me. I usually am worthless at the sight of blood. I’m not a nurse, that’s for sure.
“Let me see the wound,” said Oma, the nurse in the house.
I kept pressure on the wound. “We need to get John to a doctor.” The towels were warm and squishy with blood. I held John’s foot in both hands, pressing hard to stop the bleeding.
“We’re going to the hospital,” Scott said. He scooped John up into his arms and I trailed along holding tight to John’s foot. Our seventh grader, Joey met us at the door with duct tape. He looked scared to death. “Are you okay,” I asked because he’d been with John.
Joey nodded, his face white, his freckles standing out like spattered mud on fresh snow. “John’s gonna be fine,” I told Joey as I grabbed the duct tape from him. Joey just stood there in shock, staring at me.
Scott laid John on the front seat of the truck. I began securing the bloody towels around John’s foot with duct tape. Scott jumped behind the wheel and backed out of the driveway. By now John was saying, “My finger slipped on the hammer when I was unloading it. I’m sorry. So sorry. So so sorry,” he said over and over again. He was holding onto his cross necklace and praying too. I felt so bad for him.
I wrapped the duct tape tight around the towels and held his leg in the air, putting pressure on the wounds. It was a long drive to the hospital.
That Sunday night staring at the ceiling, I just wanted to stop. Write no more books. Have no more weird accidents when I’m trying to meet a deadline. Just stop. “God help us,” I prayed. “Thank you that John’s alive. And Joey’s alive. That hunting accident could have been so much worse.”
We are so thankful John is healing.
The miracle was the bullet went right between John’s bones and exited the bottom of his foot without causing any real damage. Thankfully, the bullet was only a .22 caliber. The doctor said the duct tape to stop the bleeding was a brilliant idea and that John was lucky. All the nurses told us our son was lucky. “You got Glock foot,” said the male nurse who washed John’s wound and dressed it. “A lot of rookies shoot their foot with their Glocks.”
This was news to me. I didn’t realize shooting yourself in the foot was so common. So I googled it. In WWI and II, soldiers would shoot themselves in the foot on purpose so they could go home and not die in battle. In the Old West, shooting yourself in the foot or the leg while drawing your gun was a common accident.
“I can’t believe how good you did, Paula. You were so calm,” Scott said as we drove home from the hospital that night. “It wasn’t me. It was God,” I said. By then I wasn’t doing that good. All the “what ifs” were hitting me. That night I could hardly sleep. When I did sleep, I had nightmares.
In the emergency room, I realized John was very close to Anna’s age when she died in this same emergency room in Marysville two and a half years ago. Or maybe John’s cousin, Anna died in the ambulance before she reached the emergency room. It’s not really clear when Anna left this earth, but it’s clear her death has deeply affected us. I can’t walk into a hospital without thinking about Anna. Our family is different now. We have a wound. And wounds should not be wasted. Wounds always teach us something.
It became clear to me as I stared at the ceiling Sunday night that Anna had accomplished God’s purpose for her life. She never tried to market anything. She lived a beautiful life and then went to heaven. Our son was upstairs safe in his bed with a bandaged foot. I knew very clearly God had given me an attitude adjustment. I wasn’t writing books to sell them. I was writing books to tell people God loves them. We are all sinners and yet Jesus loves us, he died for us because God loves us. This is worth writing books about.
John stayed home from school on Monday. I took care of him and did a little writing. I wasn’t afraid to write come Monday morning. I awoke to new mercies and a fresh clarity on why I write books with only a few more chapters to finish Chasing the Wind. Now I knew how this story set in 1850 Marysville would end thanks to John’s accidental shooting.
So surreal to discover the ending this way.
I have plenty of editing to do before I turn Chasing the Wind into my editor in February, but I wrote the ending this week crying like a baby. The story is really about two brothers. Yes, it’s a historical romance, but the real love story is between the brothers and God and his people. I don’t ever want to lose sight of why I write stories.
And I don’t want you to ever lose sight of why you do what you do.
Why do you…? Fill in the blank.
If you’re a mom, why are you a mom?
If you’re a teacher, why do you teach?
If you are a nurse, why are you a nurse?
There’s so much more to life than earning a living.
What do you want to accomplish here on this earth?
Since the new year, I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching. Funny how a gunshot can clear out the cobwebs. I want to tell stories that change people’s hearts and minds. Each time I write a story it changes me. Marketing really doesn’t matter. I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing. Mostly just giving my stories away.
Now that it’s been nearly a week since John shot himself in the foot, I see the good it’s done in our family. We’ve made a new commitment to hunter’s safety. All of the boys saw what a gun can do. They were all in the kitchen with John bleeding all over. Accidents can be so scary. I think the boys learned a good lesson about guns.
Everyone at the hospital said John was lucky. But I no longer believe in luck. I believe in the hand of God and it landed on us firmly this week. How was your week? Did the hand of God land on you?
I want you to know I’m praying for you. I really am. If something this week has touched your heart, let it touch your heart. Let it change you. Let it clarify your life’s purpose. You were created to do something special for God. Something special for other people. I pray you know what it is. And I pray you do it for the glory of God and the good of others.
When Anna was a little girl, she carved “Anna was here” in her wooden desk at Saint Mary’s school. She wanted to be remembered. After getting in trouble for carving Anna was here, she came to the realization of why she was here.
A few years later, at her 8th-grade graduation, while giving her valedictorian speech, Anna challenged everyone as to why they were here on earth. Then Anna said, “We are here to serve others.” Anna left us less than a year later.