I would do whatever it took — and I remember the exact moment I decided that! I stood at the edge of the tel Dan (northern Israel) archaeological dig pit in 2007 with my husband and two then-teenage children. They had accompanied me on an archaeological survey as part of my master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. Heavy artillery fire began booming from Syria as staccato machine-gun reports peppered near the Lebanese border. An Israeli Defense Force camouflage-painted plane broke through an unseasonal cloud cover, circling the site. I hoped they could see we were unarmed! Grace Madison was born from this harrowing experience.
My business was thriving, my children were young, and I had to choose between a smaller role in their lives or limiting my company’s growth. My husband was trying to transition from one career to another, and I was the family’s wage-earner.
This was a particularly difficult time because money was tight, and the decision tore at who I was as a businesswoman and mother. I chose to limit my accounts, and eventually put small school desks into my office to home school for a time. (The kids are now an attorney and an engineer, so they survived my teaching!) I’ve never regretted the choice to put family first, but it was not an easy one.
Q: Grace is in the midst of rebuilding her marriage and struggles with the commitment she made vs. still being in love. How hard do you think it is to try to fall in love again when things become difficult?
Love is a choice, not an accident. A covenant, not a commitment. Choosing to love again can be extremely difficult in a society of immediate gratification, and requires a willingness to risk transparency by trusting someone who has failed you. And the process requires an equal commitment from both partners; it can’t be one-sided.
I know that God loves me despite my failings and throughout my spiritual deserts and rebellion. He exhibits grace to me, and I’m called to act in His image. (Note that I am, at times, an “epic failure,” to use a favorite phrase from one of my characters.) Being mindful of this model of love and forgiveness is the only path I know to reconciliation.
Q: What is the difference between a commitment and a covenant?
A covenant is a binding agreement, sealed with an act of some kind. A commitment is dedication, without the binding element, and unsealed. A covenant is much stronger than a commitment. To develop a healthy respect for the strength of a covenant, mosey through the Old Testament!
Q: Independence is important, even within a marriage. Does independence ever cause problems between spouses? How can you maintain a sense of self without living completely separate lives?
Independence AND dependence can cause trouble between spouses. There’s a balance . . . somewhere. The answer lies in both partners working to identify with the Imago Dei, or Image of God. Being Christ-like can create a healthy sense of self and appropriate selflessness as a daily act of worship. (I confess that “epic failure” comes to mind again.)
Q: The Brothers’ Keepers is the second book in your Parched series. What meaning does the series name hold for you?
Around the world, there is a shortage of water for drinking, irrigating crops, and supporting livestock. That is true even within US borders, especially in the West where I live. Historical issues aside, a huge factor in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is unequal distribution of water.
The world needs new sources of potable and economical drinking water, and we need to manage this most precious resource wisely. As a Christian and environmentalist, I believe humans are stewards of God’s creation. Parched addresses stewardship of the highest order, and I hope the series raises awareness of this literally life-threatening issue. We can live without oil, but we can’t survive without water.
Q: Many books feature youthful heroes and heroines, but The Brothers’ Keepers highlights the life of a more mature protagonist. What are some of the factors that led to your decision to write characters a little older than the norm? What kind of feedback have you had?
Readers ADORE Grace Madison. The response has been overwhelming.
Regarding the decision to write about a more mature protagonist, what’s not to love? Our decades should make us more nuanced, more self-confident, and less afraid to broaden our horizons. Middle age can be a season of richness and vitality that I hope to depict with joy and vigor - exactly the way I try to LIVE!
By developing the character of Grace’s daughter, Maggie, I have the chance to contrast their generations while ignoring neither. From the octogenarians, to Grace and her husband, to Maggie and the “twenty-somethings” (her brother and sister-in-law), each group in The Brothers’ Keepers responds to challenges in its own uniquely age-appropriate way.
Q: In The Brothers’ Keepers, we see two different women – one who raised a family and chose career later in life. The other sacrificed family life for career. Can a woman “have it all?”
Of course we can. But “having it all” can come at an almost sacrificial price and creates repercussions that can last for decades. If you’re going to “have it all,” you’ll have little of yourself left at the end of a difficult road that will probably be littered with shrapnel.
Q: Is there a right or wrong answer to choosing a family or a career as your primary life goal?
I think there are absolutes in life, but don't believe the family-versus-career talking point is one of them. Each woman has to make her choice by responding to her own situation and environment. And she has to be flexible because situations change, and marriages evolve over time. Spouses can grow in different directions, make untenable choices and act outside the boundaries established by the marriage vows.
I’d like to see less emphasis on this divisive dialogue, and more focus on women’s education and empowerment — which lead to freedom of choice and self-determination.
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