Below is what I wrote later that day.
Later what day? Later, after my first visit to Meadow’s house.
Meadow, her husband Dana, and their children lived in an old house on the busy road heading south out of Bath, Maine, toward Phippsburg where my family lived.
My wife and I, and two of our four children, had recently come to Christ as believers. This had changed our lives.
So I published a memoir that deals with our conversion-from-Judaism event and with other incidents of my life’s journey as the son in a literary family.
Meadow and I knew one another as friends in the Maine Fellowship of Christian Writers. I stopped at her house in order to interview her. Meadow had asked me to read her manuscript memoir, Redeeming Ruth, and to give her any thoughts I had about it.
I’m a slow reader. However, I had powered through Meadow’s 60,000 words in two nights of can’t-put-it-down excitement.
Redeeming Ruth is a wonderfully executed and fully realized memoir of godly love. It is stunning in its literate portrayal of the wholeness of the human condition, encapsulating this within her family when they responded to the call of the Holy Spirit. Thus called, they adopted a Ugandan orphan with cerebral palsy who just happened to appear in Bath, Maine.
(Just happened—nay: there are no just-happenings under the eye of the Lord).
Through the glass of Meadow’s door, I could see the inside of her house. It looked like our house had looked when we had young and early teenage children all around the place. I was looking into the living room and through it, across a low half-wall, to the dining area with the kitchen partially hidden to its left.
A bustle and then Meadow appeared from the left of the living room. “Dikkon?”
“Come in. Come in. Sorry about the mess.”
“Looks comfortable to me.”
“Please sit.” She moved something off one end of the couch. She wore comfortable looking clothes and seemed at ease with my intrusion into her home. “Can I bring you something?”
“You’ve already brought me your book. Meadow, it’s wonderful!”
Suddenly, we were even better friends.
We talked for an hour. I learned back stories, enhancing what I knew of the tale. As she talked, Meadow exposed both her motherly emotional vulnerability and her determination as a woman to accomplish a thing she had dreamed of while a youngster and had not relinquished when she grew older.
As adults with marriages and children, some of us put those early dreams into mothballs, deep in a back closet. Meadow and Dana did not. This impressed me. But life is life, and it has its own stresses, just on its own.
In the way of God, when an opportunity emerges that relates to the dream, often it emerges in an unexpected way, at an unexpected time, and with unexpected challenges attached. That’s part of the opportunity’s God test. The quandary about what to do—is this truly an opportunity from God?—is tough.
Toughness is needed in order to address a challenge from God.
In conversation with me that morning, Meadow reflected spiritual toughness. She was tough in her assessment of the challenge presented and of the love that meeting the challenge would require from her family. She knew they had the capability, but she and Dana were frank with themselves about the hardships that were likely to come. She and Dana prayed regularly about it.
During our first visit, Meadow also exposed her tough-mindedness as a writer to me. Just writing a book is one thing, and it’s hard enough. Dealing successfully with the book biz is another thing entirely, and a harder thing because the writer is exposed…and not alone to her friends.
Observing Meadow’s toughness, I determined that I would help to get her memoir into the hands of an interested agent and publisher.
Here’s what I wrote later that day.
I’ve just read a memoir, in manuscript, that is extraordinary.
A colleague of mine has finished a memoir that focuses on the godly circumstance of her family’s adoption of a little Ugandan girl with cerebral palsy, on the frustrating details of that adoption, and on the girl’s sudden death several years later.
God is so palpably shaping the “clay” of this family and of their hearts for Ruth (the girl’s name) that the reader comes away sensing those heavenly fingers on the Merrill family and its circumstances but also on his own heart as well—that is, on my heart.
As I flashed through these lucid pages, I did my best to discount emotions that arose because I know the author, I know some of the people she mentions in the book, and I know the geography in which she lives.
Discounting all of that, I STILL could not put the book down, nor slow down my reading—even when I already knew that the sad event of Ruth’s death was still before me.
This is a deeply human story, written with such clarity, honesty, fullness, and attractiveness that any reader will feel she deeply knows its author, Meadow Merrill, her husband Dana, and all of their children at their various ages during the years Ruth was with them.
Meadow is an experienced expository writer. Her portrait of Uganda and of the plight of its orphans squeezed my heart while I read Meadow’s words about her journey to and from that country, as she fought for this adoption.
Meadow writes lines that still shiver in my memory, godly gifts of words, so crisp they are--
“For the first time, I understood pain so deep you’d swallow razor blades to kill it.”
God is right there on Meadow’s pages. Those whose hearts break for broken children do not need to be believers to feel their hearts break. Break they will. Meadow does not slam them with God language—He’s just THERE.
When I was done, I was overcome with the desire to help.
That’s what I wrote.
Powerful letter, huh?
I thought I had a shot.
My letter did not draw even one slight bit of good.
But I was right that Meadow is tough. She kept on plugging away, Meadow did.
Several of you reading this post already know that last Monday was Redeeming Ruth’s publication day!
Many other admirers of the book and I announced its publication on Facebook and Twitter. We all tried to contribute to a publication splash.
I hope we had an effect.
What I really want you to do, if you haven’t already, is to go out and buy a copy of Redeeming Ruth, and read it.
Irrespective of the fact that Meadow is my friend, Redeeming Ruth is gonna be the book you have in your hand when you grab the arm of your friend and say--
“Oh, my goodness, you’ve gotta read this, right now!”