Monday, July 10, 2017

why lu and beth are rocking my world

I would like to introduce you to my friend, Beth. Although if you've been around 44 & Oxford for awhile, you have met her before.

She is the one who invited me for pancakes when I had no friends.

She is the one who fixed my shelves when interior decorating gave me hives.

And she and her hubby were the ones who hosted Smokefest 2015, twelve glorious hours of meat smoking, pie making goodness. 

Our paths first crossed in 2009 during a class at our church for young married couples. We were both young and both married; surely we'd be compatible. We made casual small talk for a few years, and I always wanted to be her friend. She was witty and confident and had the cutest curly-headed little boy I had ever seen. It only took four years, but she eventually called me. All of her friends had left Oxford, and I'm pretty sure she was lonely. It worked out well because all my friends had also left Oxford, and I was lonely too. It wasn't the most thrilling of pick up lines; she asked me to help her plan the women's event at our church. I was kinda hoping for something more like tacos and margaritas, but I said yes right away. She was surprised and said she was prepared to whoo me into agreement by taking me out for pancakes. Now you're talking. I said yes again. It was during this breakfast date that I learned Beth cuts her entire stack of pancakes into small bites before she begins eating. It's so cute.

A few weeks ago, Beth's first novel, Lu. was released.

I feel so proud and so impressed I could just burst. We've spent countless hours over the past two years talking about writing and what it looks to write when you're a mom of young kids and what it means to obey God and trust God in your writing. We've talked about how to write when you don't feel like it and how to write when no one is reading it. I love talking about writing with Beth, but mostly I love talking about life with her. She's the real deal - honest, messy, present, committed, and doing it with confidence that she is loved by God.

Last summer Beth showed up at my door with the first draft of her book.

It was good.

Like really good.

Like I-can't-believe-I-know-the-person-who-wrote-this good.

I want you to hear from Beth, and I want you to hear about this story. Then I want you to buy this story and read it and give it someone. (Or enter to win two copies below!) I believe in this story, and am joining alongside Beth in prayer "for the girls who are looking but still haven't found - this one's for you."

This "interview" took place at Beth's house on a Thursday morning with five children underfoot. We were interrupted no less than fifty seven times by these darlings despite our unashamed attempts to quiet them with yogurt tubes, Netflix, and monkey bread. 

Joy: Hi Beth.

Beth: Hi.

Joy: Your son is riding his bike in the street.

Beth: Oh shoot. Be right back. (Timeout.) Ok, go ahead.

Joy: Hi Beth.

Beth: Hi Joy.

Joy: Now my daughter is drawing with chalk on the side of your house.

Beth: That's fine.

Joy: OK, I have some early memories of meeting you at church. What are some of your early memories of our friendship?

Beth: I remember you came and talked to me after church one Sunday, and you were wearing a cute wide belt.

Joy: I was? What color belt? Black?

Beth: I don't remember.

Joy: I only have one. It must have been the black one. I never wear that anymore.

Beth: Oh you should. It was cute. Then there was this period of time we only knew each other by mutual friends, so we had a good year or two of awkward encounters - the kind where you don't know if you need to reintroduce yourself or if you remember one another. I also saw you at the wine festival when you were pregnant with Charlotte, and I kept watching you to see if you'd drink any wine.

Joy: Did I?

Beth: No. Rule follower.

Joy: Right after that was when I came to your house to borrow a maternity dress - the one with the pockets.

Beth: Yes! All dresses should have pockets! But we really didn't become friends until 2014 when my friends moved away and your friends moved away, and we were the only ones left in Oxford. I guess we were each other's B list, but it turned out alright.

Joy: You will forever be the friend who taught me to love pancakes. Before you, I would have said that pancakes were just fine. I didn't know what I was missing. What are your secrets to a really good pancake?

Beth: Definitely! Number one: Use a hot cast iron pan. Number two: Use butter in the pancake batter but cook them in canola oil.

Joy: Wait. Really? I didn't know that one!

Beth: Oh, Joy. Yes, you need to cook them in canola oil. Number three: Use a recipe that calls for buttermilk. Don't pay any attention to expiration dates, especially if this is the only thing you're buying buttermilk for. It's sour milk anyways. And number four: Let the batter rest for at least a half hour. I don't know why, but I think it makes them fluffier. There might be a scientific explanation, but I'm not a scientist. I'm a writer.

Joy: And I am living proof that this will take your pancake making to a whole new level. I have many memories of sitting at your kitchen table eating pancakes and talking about your book. So now, let's talk about Lu. You've always wanted to write a book. Why this story?

Beth: I always loved reading. When I became a Christian in college, I was excited because it opened up a whole new world of books. But when I went to that market, I was disappointed. The female characters were either too good or too bad.

Joy: But you love Redeeming Love, right?

Beth: (Looking like I'd lost my mind.) Who doesn't love Redeeming Love? But in so many books, I felt like I knew where the plot was going. And when I went to non Christian fiction, I was reading about girls I didn't want to be - girls who were sleeping around, spending money - I didn't like that either. I wanted to find a book where the main girl was a girl I wanted to hang with. It was this character that drew me to writing.

Joy: You started this book seven years ago, but set it aside - which is my nice of saying you quit. Talk to me about that.

Beth:  Yeah, I started writing this book seven years ago. I quit my job to do it, and I put my son in daycare. And then I tortured out seven chapters. It was painstaking. I was unsatisfied, and I was haunted by what success looked like. I thought I'd never reach it. The writing wasn't coming, and I thought if I couldn't get someone to publish this, I was a big, fat failure. So I stopped writing. I failed.

Now I know those seven chapters were a self ambition to glorify my name and make me great. It was necessary that I lay it down completely to get back on the path God had for me. I told God I would never write again unless it was for Him. I thought my writing days were done; I thought I was laying it down for good.

Joy: What happened in those seven years?

Beth: When God called me back to writing three years ago, I spent a full year wrestling with Him. He was saying it was go time, and I was resistant to it. I was nervous about the past, so I was dragging my feet. I feared my past self more than I feared God. But He has a way of frustrating your life when He wants you to do something. It was easier for me to lay my writing down at His feet seven years ago than it was to pick it back up again. I was more comfortable with God as disciplinary than redeemer.

When I finally took that step in faith, not a step to write, but a step to believe He had changed me, to believe the Beth that was sitting down to write this book was a new person, He proved each day how deeply He had healed me. Writing was hard, but it was also deeply satisfying. That kind of contentment and sanctification come from God's hand. You can't conjure that yourself.

Joy: You said "When God called me back to writing." Can you be more tangible and explain what that looked like?

Beth: He put writing in the forefront of my mind. When I laid it down, my prayer was that God would take that desire away. I didn't want to want it anymore. I asked Him to take away any desire that wasn't in keeping with Him. He did this. He took away desires like living in a beautiful house, living in an adventurous place, having a massive bank account, traveling - typical American dream stuff. Over time, I didn't care much about those things. But my desire to write was always there. And it suddenly became persistent; it moved up in the ranks, constant knocking and telling me it was go time.

Joy: You said God frustrated your life. How so?

Beth: I stopped getting enjoyment in other things. Work that had been satisfying wasn't anymore. I also became very envious of my friends who were seizing their dream - like you. I remember when you started this blog. It was something you had wanted to do, and you did it. I was choosing not to, but I saw friends who were. Envy usually isn't a struggle for me. I like to be in the front row clapping, but suddenly I was backed into the corner I had made. God was asking me to write again, but I was too scared.

Joy: I know that most of this book was written between 4 and 6 am. How did you manage that, especially as a mom of three boys?

Beth: This is hard, especially for moms. We have these dreams we want to see accomplished, and as moms, we never want to put the family out. We want to work around them. But in order to do something like a blog or a book or anything big, you have to claim some things for yourself. That is why for me, I needed to claim a name , claim a space, and claim time. For my family dynamic and my natural energy, I had to get up early. There were times the alarm went off, and I didn't want to get up, but I knew that if I didn't get up, I wouldn't write that day. The family did take a hit. I'm not the hottest ticket in town, especially come 7 pm. There were also mornings my oldest came down at 6:30, but he came with a book because he knows I write until 7. I'm OK with that. They get a lot of me the rest of the day.

Joy: What is your hope for this book?

Beth: I hope that a woman who has discounted the idea of God will pick up this book and see the other side to this argument. Because that was me at age 18. Lu, at her core is seeking. She is doubting. She has a lot of questions, and she's smart and independent. She is searching but won't buy something hook, line, and sinker. There is a layering to her journey. She needs to be hit on emotional levels but also on intellectual levels. There is a part in the book where she is challenged to read her Bible. "Just because you read it as a child, doesn't mean it's childish." Christians are thinkers. She needs to discover that Scripture is viable.

I absolutely believe God had me write this book because somewhere there is a girl who needs to read this book and will be saved. I don't know her name but God does. I have stopped praying that it will reach that one because I know it will. Instead, my prayer is that I will know about it.

The numbers are out there. What if I only have 5 likes or only sell 200 books or never recoup my investment? God didn't promise I would. He gave me story and told me to write to reach that girl. So I am praying for her, that she will find this story.

Joy: When I read novels, I often wonder how much of the story the author knew ahead of time. Was this entire story mapped out or was it more of a "bird by bird" kind of thing?

Beth: I had a very basic arch - how a modern woman who looks like you and me would find God.  I knew I wanted her life turning upside down in a way our lives turn upside down, I wanted failed relationships and a failed job. I knew she would put all her eggs in one basket- this city, this job, this guy. But what would happen when that didn't work? And that is where we find Lu at the beginning of the book.

The rest went chapter by chapter. I always knew the next thing to write, but I never knew beyond that. I knew God called me to write this story from the time I was in grad school, but I didn't know how. I did know that obeying God in this book was a daily discipline. So I set my alarm for 4, and I showed up to see what God was going to do, to see what he would have each character do and how it would all come together. It was an adventure. Chances are if there are things in the book that took you by surprise, it took me by surprise too. I became more comfortable with the unknown.

Joy: So what's next?

Beth: Book 2. Which was  a surprise to me. I intended to write one, but the story needed a book two. It was great to write how a woman comes to faith, but book two is about how a woman grows in her faith and how she takes ownership of it. It is a different type of story to write and fun because I get to put her  in a lot of awkward situations. There is tension because the Bible says you're made new, but you're made new in your same old world. Book 2 is the story of how Lu navigates that.

Joy: We also get to find out about the guy, yes?

Beth: Yes. (Insert mischievous smile.)

Joy: Anything else you wanna talk about?

Beth: Well, it must be really exciting to hang out with someone who wrote a book. So let me ask you, what is it like being friends with an author?

Joy: Oh my. Yes, great question. Well, we get to talk about your book all the time, so that's really fun. And last summer, you brought me a copy of your book in a three ring binder the day before I left on vacation. I was the only one with a three-ring binder and pen in my hand at the beach. You also let me pick a favorite head shot from like 47 choices, and you sent me tons cover designs but didn't even pick my favorite.

Beth: Whoa. I sound intense.

Joy. Totally, but we do other exciting stuff too, like pick paint colors for your writing room, talk about blog designs, and plan a book release party. You did forget to send me an invitation to the book release party, but that's alright, I got a text. You also asked to set up a book table at my husband's birthday party, and made me take your author photos. But those turned out so poorly we had to stop after five minutes and hire a real photographer. It isn't always glitz and glam, but at least you make me really good chocolate chip pancakes.


You guys, I love this book. You will too, so go get your hands on a copy.

You can enter below to win two signed copies of Lu. I'm giving away two copies to one winner so you can read one and give the other to a friend. And then you can go buy more copies here. The winner will be announced on Friday.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
There were a few verses Beth clung to during the writing of Lu. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 was one of those verse.

Click here 
for your free print of this verse.

And be sure to hang out with Beth on her website.

 "I wasn't much different than other girls - wading into each new day to walk the familiar streams of who we think we are and where we think we're going. But sometimes the light breaks on the surface in a new way, and we spy a shadow of the unseen that causes a break ... "

Trying to act cool at the book release party.

But we were kinda freaking out.


  1. Friendship, Faith, and Fun. That's what I feel when I read about your relationship with Beth. It's encouraging to see women supporting each other pursue their dreams. I can't wait to read Lu. It's the first thing I'll read on vacation in 2 weeks!

  2. Sounds good! Hope I win the giveaway!

  3. This book sounds wonderful! Excited to read it.

  4. How exciting! Love the interview too and learning about how God called Beth back into the book after taking a break from it.

  5. I loved the interview! So cute! Look forward to reading the book! Thank you for sharing!

  6. Super job, Beth & Joy! What a fun writing adventure friendship you have!

  7. This is great! I loved reading the interview and would really love to read the book!

  8. "But you love Redeeming Love, right?" best line ever. I laughed so loud I heard the children stir in their beds. I need more time in my life to read this book, and make pancakes.

  9. Love this post, love the author, and love the book so far!! You guys have such a sweet friendship!