As I’ve been working on the fourth book in my Chicory Inn Novels series, I’ve been very aware of how much of the research for these novels, more than any others I’ve written, has been simply living life! So many of the scenes in these novels come from my experiences as a daughter, mother, grandmother, granddaughter, daughter-in-law, wife, sister, aunt… I’ve truly pulled from just about every role I’ve ever played as a woman!
It hasn’t always been that way, of course. Some of my books have required much more research, and times of really forcing myself to step out of my comfort zone. An early (never published) book had me attending a Holdeman Mennonite church service (similar to the Amish, where the women sit on one side of the church and the men on the other.) I was so nervous about that “gig” that I wrecked both of our cars backing out of the garage! 🙁
Another memorable research experience came when I started writing my Hanover Falls Novels series. Because part of the storyline of those books revolved around events in a homeless shelter, when our church asked for volunteers at our local shelter, I knew the Lord was prompting me to answer the call.
My first night on duty was a Sunday, and I was told to bring something to read, since usually the hours were quiet and uneventful. I thought it strange when I arrived that no one else from my church was there yet. But I introduced myself to the volunteers from another church, and we began our evening, serving supper to about twenty residents who had checked into the overnight-only shelter.
Not once the entire night was there so much as a minute to sit and read. According to the other volunteers, this was the craziest and most eventful night they’d ever experienced at the shelter. As the night unfolded, we dealt with a suicide watch; a new fresh-out-of-jail admittance, who turned out to be on the no-admit list; a hidden bottle of vodka discovered, which meant administering a (thankfully negative) Breathalyzer test on the main suspect; a mild altercation between a resident and a volunteer (not me!); and a phone that rang the entire 5-11 p.m. shift. Before the evening was over, I’d had some fascinating conversations with residents and had the privilege of praying with a suicidal man. I went home with my brain brimming with ideas and information for my novel.
Only when I arrived home after 11 p.m. did I glance at my calendar and do a double take. I had looked at my schedule wrong! I wasn’t supposed to show up for my shift until the following Sunday night.
And of course, the next week everything was calm and quiet and I would have had plenty of time to read—if I’d thought to bring a book!
Experiences like that give me a fresh appreciation of how God often turns research into ministry—and how He never wastes an experience in the life of a writer.
BONUS GIVEAWAY: I have one set of Hanover Falls Novels to give away. All you must do to enter for the drawing is leave a comment in this post. I’ll choose a random winner tomorrow night and post the news in the comments section.
Whether you are a writer or not, have you noticed that God never wastes the life experiences He asks you to go through? How have the events of your life—good or bad—been used by God to help others or bring Him glory?