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Christy Catherine Marshall

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November 30, 2006

Today is Lucy Maud Montogomery’s birthday, and I’ve been wanting to sit down and blog about her all day — but I’m just too tired!

She was born in Clifton (now New London), Prince Edward Island on November 30, 1874. She published her first novel, Anne of Green Gables, in 1908 — so I guess that means she was 34 years old (we better get moving). Altogether, she published 20 novels in a little over 30 years.

I enjoyed reading about her life here at Wikipedia, especially since I’ve journeyed to Cavendish where she lived. It’s interesting to note how her life seems to parallel Anne’s in many ways.

I hope I can write more tomorrow. Right now, every muscle in my body is aching. I feel like I know how manual laborers feel when they come home at night. If I were a man, I’d want to sit in a big, fat Lazy Boy chair and hog the remote, shutting out the world.

I’ve spent the better part of my week either down in the basement totally reorganizing and hauling clutter off to Goodwill — or I’ve been upstairs repainting a bedroom and a bathroom. Who knew painting gives you sore muscles?

Why, oh why, did I ever let our house painter talk us into matte (flat) paint three years ago? I can hear him right now, “Well, m’am, I’d highly recommend the matte paint on these new walls here. I’ve done this for years, and I wouldn’t go with a satin. No sirree.”

Grrrr. Ever tried to wipe crayon or fingerprints off buttery yellow flat paint? It leaves a mark, even if you use those Mr. Clean eraser things.

So it was a glorious occasion yesterday when I covered the boys’ bathroom walls in a rich, deep SATIN taupe that dried a little bit shiny. I’m so happy I could kiss the walls. And another bedroom with light pink flat paint is now a happy apple green — satin of course.

I still have one more coat to paint tomorrow — then I have to haul all the furniture back in. Thankfully, most of the toys now have homes in our semi-organized (though still unfinished) basement.

When I’m not so tired, I want to tell you more about what inspired me to TACKLE my basement. And yes, it does have something to do with Lucy Maud Montgomery. I’ve had a creative burst of some sort.

Tonight I’m flat, worn out. Not flat — satin! There’s a new phrase — satin worn out. Sounds better, doesn’t it?

OK, well YEA for techno-phobic me. I finally figured out how to scramble my novel, and I sent off a 59,000-word text file to the robot-counters at NaNoWriMo, allowing me to download a neat little certificate. So this is what it’s all about.

So far, there are about 8000 people who have finished and submitted at least 50k words to enter the NaNoWriMo “winner’s circle.” I’m sure thousands more will be submitting by midnight. Then it’s a wrap for NaNoWriMo 2006.

I celebrated alone, rewarding myself with a Weight Watchers chocolate brownie — that thing was so small, I had to eat another one. So I might as well have eaten a Bona Fide Little Debbie. I guess it was worth 180 calories. At least it was chocolate!

Well, I’m done. Weird. It won’t be hanging over my head like it’s been all month. Now what?

I think I’m going to take a few days off, let it simmer on the back burner — then get back to it in December. Now that I know how the novel ends, I want to start over again, incorporating more foreshadowing. My main character knows more now than she did when I started a month ago, so she’ll be dropping hints throughout the narrative about what’s going to happen.

Also, in my word count, I included some of my journal entries, prayers, and emails that related to things going on in my life … all part of this manuscript in process … and so I’ve decided to incorporate these in my novel. Why not advance a scene through an email? Some novelists write their entire books as a series of emails. And prayers are important — they allow readers to see into a character’s heart. Likewise for journal entries or letters.

Have any of you finished NaNoWriMo? How do you feel now? What will you do with your novel? You’ve created something from nothing — that’s pretty exciting!

For me, I feel like this is not an ending, but a beginning. It got me thinking about what I really enjoy. Yet now I need some time away from my story so I can get to know my characters even better as I go about my normal daily routine. I’m still snatching things from life and tossing them into my manuscript — like a recipe that needs a dash more of this and that.

I have this new layer of writing, the novel layer, that’s different from my private journal, emails to friends and family, posts to online writing groups, comments on other people’s blogs, my blog posts here, and my non-fiction reviews and articles.

The novel layer: it’s a secret place I’ll retreat to in the months and years to come. So far, I like it there.

By: Heather Ivester in: Writing | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (8)

November 28, 2006

Read Japanese Today

I’ve been culling my book collection today … no easy task for me. But I simply MUST! I’ve received so many great books lately, I’ve got to find places to put them. So that means cleaning off my shelves to make room. (I’m donating them to our local public library, which has a permanent used book sale.)

As I was going through our books, I wished I had more time to organize them into categories. One day when I have time — ha! I would really LOVE to organize my Japanese books. I bought quite a few at Kinokuniya, the largest bookstore in Osaka. They had the most fantastic Japanese language section — and I actually made a lot of friends there with fellow gaijin (foreigners). That’s where I learned to teach English!

Today I came across my all-time favorite Japanese language book, and I was near breathless as I typed it into Amazon to see if it’s still in print. It is! Read Japanese Today by Len Walsh was published in 1969, and it is the most wonderful introduction to Nihongo I’ve ever read. If anyone has any other favorites, please let me know!

Here’s what the back of the book says:
“Far from being a complex and mysterious script, Japanese writing is actually a simple, fascinating pictographic system, easily understood and readily mastered. It need no longer baffle visitors to Japan — with the new approach in this concise and entertaining book you will be able to read 300 of the most common and useful characters in just a few hours …”

If you have any interest in Japanese language or culture, you MUST read this book. It will simplify all the kanji down to pictures, showing you how the picture became the written character. I’m going to reread this book again tonight. It’s a quick, enjoyable read.

Before I studied Japanese, I didn’t understand the people over there. Everything was weird and different — and though I wasn’t a bit homesick, I felt like an oaf with a “high nose” and American accent. But God led me to an English-speaking church in south Osaka which met on Sunday nights, where the pastor and many church members were from New Zealand. They were all fluent in Nihongo, and told me I must study it or the country would never make sense to me.

So I did. Very intensely. I took language lessons at least two hours a day, five days a week, mostly for free taught by volunteers or in exchange for English lessons. Then I pushed myself and got into a Japanese university, which was incredible. I’m sure I’ve written about this before here, but I don’t feel like scrounging around in my archives right now.

This book opened my eyes and heart to Nihonjin (Japanese people). Reading it again brings back so many memories. Sometimes I wonder what in the world God wants me to do with these little tidbits that rumble around in my mind — certainly not handy for most polite dinner conversation. For now, I’m having a fascinating time researching my novel for NaNoWriMo. Maybe I’ll find a sympathetic editor someday who is looking for a children’s writer crazy about Japan. (If you are this editor, please contact me!)

I’m off to read … Oyasumi nasai.

P.S. The character on the front of this book is higashi, which means East.

By: Heather Ivester in: Books,Japan | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (4)

Here’s a great post about how to add graphics to your blog, book, or presentation. Hat tip to Hsien Hsien Lei of A Hearty Life for passing along this informative link.

Obviously, as you can tell from my blog, I have NO talent whatsoever in this area — and I’m amazed at people who have this gift. One day, I’d love to learn how to design simple booklets that would incorporate pictures and words — just for my own kids. It would be so fun to make a “Day in the Life” type book — something for my kids to look back on someday.

Alas, I’m still afraid of our digital camera. (red in the face here). I still take pictures with our old camera, though I know it’s time for me to enter the digital age. I’d love to take some kind of “graphics for dummies” class with a teacher who would understand my phobias. My biggest fear is that if I try anything new, I’ll crash our computer … and probably burn supper while freaking out about what I’ve done.

If you’re interested and have time, this post and the comments that follow make for an interesting read.

By: Heather Ivester in: Blogging | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)

November 27, 2006

I’m constantly on the lookout for writing mentors, and here are a couple of new ones for me. Since I’m writing a children’s novel for NaNoWriMo, I’ve been rereading some favorite books from my childhood — trying to figure out what it is that makes them so good.

I’ve rediscovered Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia — have you read this one? Ms. Paterson’s Christianity is subtly woven into her writing, and I love this. It fascinates me to see how she gently leads readers into a greater understanding of God without bamming them over the head. For unbelievers who pick up one of her books, her faith is fresh and startling.

Bridge to Terabithia

Katherine Paterson was born in China to missionary parents, lived there for many years of her childhood, then also lived in Japan for four years. She’s married to a Presbyterian minister and began writing while her four children (two biological, two adopted) were young.

Many of her books for children have won awards, including two Newbery Medals: Bridge to Terabithia and Jacob Have I Loved, as well as two National Book Awards: Master Puppeteer, and The Great Gilly Hopkins.

On her website, an interviewer asked her, “In what ways has your religious conviction informed your writing?”

She answered, “I think it was Lewis who said something like: ‘The book cannot be what the writer is not.’ What you are will shape your book whether you want it to or not. I am Christian, so that conviction will pervade the book even when I make no conscious effort to teach or preach. Grace and hope will inform everything I write … The challenge for those of us who care about our faith and about a hurting world is to tell stories which will carry the words of grace and hope in their bones and sinews and not wear them like fancy dress.”

In another part of the interview, she was asked, “What would be your ‘words of wisdom’ to a person who wants to write, but is paralyzed by failure? What advice would you give people starting out?”

Here’s her response:

“When a teacher (still a dear friend) of mine in graduate school suggested I ought to be a writer, I was appalled. ‘I don’t want to add another mediocre writer to the world,’ I said. She helped me (it took years of nudging) to understand that if I wasn’t willing to risk mediocrity, I would never accomplish anything. There are simply no guarantees. It takes courage to lay your insides out for people to examine and sneer over. But that’s the only way to give what is your unique gift to the world.

“I have often noted that it takes the thinnest skin in the world to be a writer, and it takes the thickest to seek out publication. But both are needed—the extreme sensitivity and the hippo hide against criticism. Send your inner critic off on vacation and just write the way little children play. You can’t be judge and creator at the same time.”

Another Christian writer who has successfully written for the general markets is best-selling author, Bret Lott, whose book, Jewel, was an Oprah Book Club selection. He was the keynote speaker at this year’s Christy Awards banquet, held last July at the International Christian Retail Show in Denver.

Jewel (Oprah's Book Club)

In The Writing Life, Terry Whalin linked to his keynote address here. If you have time, it’s definitely worth a read.

Lott says in his speech, “From the time I wrote my very first short story, I struggled with how to tell a lie — that is, write fiction — while serving Christ. My struggle, then, was always with how to be a Christian and how to be a writer … one simply is a Christian, and I was trying to learn how to be a Christian who writes.”

He later talks about how Christ used parables, works of fiction, as connecting points to reach people. Lott brings to life the parable of the Good Samaritan by placing the story set in modern-day Denver.

Then he says, “Christ’s stories surprised His listeners. They were unexpected, yet the surprise of them was totally logical and clear and, finally, the kind of surprise that makes good literature good literature: the surprise turn in a story — not of plot, but of character — when the reader must come face to face with himself, and his own failures, and the dust of his own life, a dust with which we are each of us fully familiar, but which we forget about or ignore or accommodate ourselves to. The dust of our lives that we have grown accustomed to, and which it takes a piece of art created in the spirit of Christ to remind us of ourselves, and our distance from our Creator — and the chasm that is bridged by grace.”

Katherine Paterson does this so well in Bridge to Terabithia, written three decades ago and still widely read today, even in public school classrooms. As an aspiring fiction writer, I’m struggling with how to create my own bridge from a child’s heart to God — through story.

Lott ends his Christy Awards speech by imploring the writers in attendace to:

” … write books that will magnify Christ in a way that only I — you listening to me — can magnify Him. That’s all. And it is work enough — joy enough — to last each of us our own lifetime.”

By: Heather Ivester in: Books,Faith,Writing | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (4)

November 23, 2006

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
His faithful love endures forever.”
1 Chronicles 16:34

In this month’s Christian Women Online, Ann Voskamp wrote:

It is the beginning of the list season: lists of menus, lists of hand-made projects, lists of addresses, lists of baking goodies … lists of gifts.

I too begin… but only, currently, one list: A List of a Thousand Things, beginning with #1. I am daily jotting down items on my “Thousand Gifts List,” working, one-by-one, up to a thousand gifts. Not of gifts I want. But of gifts I have.

As the moments slip down the hour glass of time, I am scratching down the gifts–just as they happen, as they arrive, as they are unwrapped–that He has given that make my life grace, the daily graces that He gives in an infinite number of ways, that stir me.

“…windmills lazying in twilight’s last breeze…. soft wool sweaters with turtle neck collars…. the faint smell of cattle and straw….”

I am seeing things I have never seen before, atuned and aware of this constant, endless stream of gifts from His hand. I am one waking from slumber….from the stupor of indifference and ignorance. I have sight, fresh and keen—the world is new and full of His gifts.

Ann is making a list of one thousand things she’s thankful for — and you can join in too! You can make the list on your blog and join up with the other participants with the “Mr. Linky” set up here at CWO.

I’ve given this some thought and have decided to keep a record of my thankful reflections in my paper journal — something I keep nearby in the kitchen where I’m working. I’ll come back and add some to this post in a few days.

I can already tell a difference in my heart as I focus more on having an attitude of gratitude.


Thank you, Lord, for the pitter-patter of children’s feet coming down to breakfast (They’re not burdens; they’re blessings!).

Thank you for the coming few days where we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving feasts with family.

Thank you for faithful writers in the blogosphere who connect us through our faith.


Today I’m overwhelmed with joy! My brother and his wife announced they are expecting their first child next summer. I’m going to become an aunt! Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful news!


I hung our seven stockings today on the mantle. Christmas is coming. The anticipation in our home is starting to build. I’m looking forward to a whole month of celebrating this year.


Two precious treasures from yesterday. In cleaning out our basement, we rediscovered my oldest son’s battery-powered train set — it’s been boxed away three or four years. Now it’s perfect for his little brother. We went and bought six new “size C” batteries, and it runs! Smoke even comes out the steam engine.

Another gift: my husband, exhausted as he was from his day at work, carried our Christmas tree upstairs, and now the train set is running around the base of the tree. What a glorious sight — increasing our anticipation toward Christmas!

By: Heather Ivester in: Faith | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

November 22, 2006

The old idea was that you have to live an exciting life to write good books. I believe that you have to have a rich imaginative life. You don’t have to fight dragons to write books. You just have to live deeply the life you’ve been given.
Katherine Paterson, children’s author

If you’re participating in National Novel Writing Month, how’s it coming? I’ve read on a few people’s blogs the up-and-down woes of pounding the keys day after day, trying to reach that magical 50k mark at the end of the month. I’m simply amazed at people who can write, then blog about what they’re writing and get feedback from readers. I can’t do that!

In fact, I was feeling guilty a couple of weeks ago that I’m not telling anyone what I’m working on. Why do I feel this need to keep it all a secret? There’s nothing new under the sun, of course. My story is simply a recycled theme, coupled with my own life experiences and imagination.

Then I started doing some research on children’s author, Katherine Paterson, and I came across her acceptance speech for the Scott O’Dell Award. She started her speech by saying, “As many of you may know, I do not talk about a book while I am working on it. Even my husband is left in the dark until I present him with the messy first draft.”

Ah, relief! It’s OK not to talk about a work in process. It gives me freedom to create while my piece is still in the quiet darkness of my mind and heart. I’ve already changed some character’s names — and I’m sadly thinking about letting one of my characters go. It’s painful, but I think he might be better off in another story.

The more I’ve gotten into writing, the more I’ve realized my need to study how the masters do it. I thought it would come naturally from all the reading I’ve done, but there’s a craft to novel writing — and I don’t have it yet!

I read through Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method, and I’ve worked on several of his steps with my plot and characters. He forced me to think about the design of my whole story, instead of letting my characters plod along and do as they pleased. And I’ve come to a horrible realization about my main character.

She’s too nice.

At least she’s too nice in the beginning. In fact, as I’ve plotted my book’s design using the Snowflake Method, I’m realizing that the problem with my book right now is that there’s not a major problem at all. I’ve just got some nice characters meeting each other, getting involved in a few humorous situations, helping each other, and then we tie things up nicely.

Nice does not a novel make.

I realize now I’ve got to go back and rewrite my first chapter and make my character not so nice. She’s got to have some flaws, some areas for growth — so that by the end of the novel, she’s changed a bit. And I’ve got to include more danger, more action, more antagonists. If everything is so nice and spiffy, then what will readers gain from reading the book? My readers don’t lead perfect, shiny lives — so they’re not going to care about characters who are polished up in the beginning.

It’s going to be hard. Since I’m the one writing the story, and I know how it’s going to end up, I don’t want to change the beginning and poke all these holes in my character. I love her, and I want readers to love her right away too. But she’s got to come to a “shocking realization” about herself (which appears in my one-sentence summary of the book).

So now I see how I must try to rewrite that opening chapter — actually much of the book will need to be rewritten. You see, my readers will be kids, and kids are smart. Especially kids who’d rather be reading a book than watching TV or playing boring video games.

As for my NaNoWriMo progress, I’ve decided to rename my file “The Process of Writing (Novel Title).” In this file, I’m tossing in everything I’ve worked on this month. My daily journal entries that go along with writing out scenes, my character’s autobiographies, my prayers (Lord, please help me write what you want me to write), a few emails from encouraging writerly friends, and bits of dialogue my own children say.

With all this, I’m up to 37,000 words. So I will hopefully keep going a few more days and reach the finish mark. But I’ll have to write by long-hand when we’re traveling to visit family this week because I don’t have a laptop. (sigh.)

Yet Robin Lee Hatcher says she writes her character autobiographies by long-hand, so maybe this will be good for me after all. I think you use a different part of your brain to write by hand as compared to typing.

Many times during this busy month of writing, I’ve felt God speak to me. I know it was Him because the experiences are so powerful, I’ve been overwhelmed to tears. For example, part of my story takes place in the 40s, and one day I was feeling frustrated that I needed so much more time to research.

Then I went to a meeting, and we had a guest speaker, a well-known writer in my hometown who writes a weekly newspaper column. (I’d met her once, when I bought a book she edited.) When she stood up to give her speech, she showed us all some newspapers from the 40s, with headlines screaming about important events that appear in my novel. She talked about what it was like for her. I hope no one in the meeting saw me scrunch down in my seat and wipe away tears.

Another time, I was thinking, This whole writing thing is such a waste of my time. I’m no good. I can’t possibly write a novel. There are several Japanese elements in my story, and I was thinking that there are tons of people who could write about this better than me. I was pushing my cart through Wal-Mart, blessedly alone, while I thought these things. Then I looked up, and I was standing in the Asian section of the store.

There were boxes, packages, and cans of my favorite foods that I remember eating in Japan! The Japanese words jumped out at me, and I could still read them. For example, Wal-Mart carries the “Sapporo Ichiban” brand of Ramen. I could hear the commercial in my head that I watched on TV hundreds of times when I lived there. Again, I was moved to tears, and even though the store was packed, there was no one but me on this aisle, so nobody saw me. Write, my child. Write what’s on your heart.

One day, I got an email from my husband, asking if I’d be interested in going to a particular writing conference next year. This was all his idea. We talked about it, and I decided to get up in the morning and use my NaNoWriMo word count goal to register for the conference. I also signed up for a one-day intensive writing workshop, where you read a part of your work out loud to an editor or agent.

A few days later, I got a package in the mail, confirming my registration. When I went back to the site to check something online, two words jumped out at me: SOLD OUT. The workshop I’m signed up for is now sold out. I couldn’t believe it. If it weren’t for my husband’s prodding, I wouldn’t have a spot. Again, I was overcome with tears!

So, as you see, I’ve become quite an emotional basket case this month! I have so little time to write, only in the wee morning hours, but as I go along my days, I’m listening to my children more closely than ever, jotting down their exact words on sticky notes, studying their actions … and moving … slowly … along … in my dream of writing a children’s novel.

In living this way, I’ve never felt such JOY of being a mom! It’s like my characters are alive in my own home!

And you? What are you dreaming about this week?

I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. May God bless you with a wonderful celebration of His love!

November 20, 2006

Thanks to Debbie for passing along the link to this video. It shows a Chinese birthmom’s tears as she gives up her baby to have a better life. You’ll need a tissue to watch this.

By: Heather Ivester in: Motherhood | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

November is National Adoption Month, so I want to highlight a family who has been blessed by adoption.

A few months ago, when I read R.K. (Randy) Mortenson’s baby announcement on Novel Journey, I knew I wanted to invite him here to share his family’s incredible story.

Randy is the author of the immensely popular Landon Snow fantasy adventure series of books, published by Barbour. The books have biblical themes and are wonderful stories for kids — and grown-ups!

After serving “eight great years” as a Navy chaplain based in Jacksonville, Florida, the Mortenson family recently moved across the U.S. where Randy now pastors a church in Mayville, North Dakota.

Hi Randy. Can you tell us about your adoption journey?

In late 2002, my wife Betsy and I had been married 9 years and were still childless. So far as we knew, we were capable of conceiving; it just hadn’t happened. We began to think about adopting, and we talked with a couple who had recently adopted a boy from Vietnam.

Betsy had actually been to Vietnam on buying trips twice as the director of a gift shop in Okinawa (where I was stationed with the Navy as a chaplain). She loved it, and we thought of looking into an international adoption there. However, agencies and doors were closing in Vietnam about that time, and just when we were wondering where else we might look, an opportunity from the States was brought to our attention.

A young teenage girl was pregnant, whom we knew through family connections, and was seeking a family to adopt the baby. The father, also a teenager, was from Mexico. Might we be interested?

That question: “How would you feel about adopting a Mexican baby?” came to us in an e-mail. Betsy had read it, printed it out, and brought it to me speechless with tears in her eyes. I read it and the world did one of those collapsing and then greatly expanding motions. The decision hardly seemed a decision. This baby seemed predestined to be our little girl.

Since the biological mother and father knew us and we knew them, it was an open adoption, meaning we did not go through an agency. We hired a lawyer to represent us and do all of the paperwork. We were living in Okinawa, and the baby was born in Minnesota, so there were some loops to jump through.

We found a qualified counselor in Okinawa to do our pre- and post home studies. One of the greatest things was — we got to both be present for the delivery. Oh … my … goodness. Easily the greatest moment in my life since my wedding day. And even cooler in a way, that my wife and I were sharing this moment of expanding our love and growing into a family. I even got to snip the umbilical cord!

That’s wonderful! It sounds like you had an ideal experience. Your daughter is so blessed to have you as her parents. Can you tell us about the special meaning of her name?

We named our baby girl Kyra (long “i” sound: “Ki-rah”) which sounds like the Greek word for “rejoice.” The day after she was born we took her home from the hospital. Actually, we took her to my mother’s house, until we could get her passport to fly to Okinawa.

Because of our unusual situation — being in the military overseas — we were able to have the adoption finalized by the judge (who happened to be a former Marine Corps officer who had served in Okinawa!) when Kyra was four days old. Incredible.

Kyra turned 3 in August and started preschool 3 times a week this fall. She loves it. She brings us so much joy!

You have another baby now, a son. Can you tell us about him?

This is another rather remarkable story!

It’s late 2005, and we’re living in Jacksonville, Florida. I’m stationed at Naval Station Mayport nearby. We know we’re leaving Florida in October 2006, when I would be separating from the Navy. Betsy and I still haven’t conceived. Our family of three is wonderful. But … we’d like Kyra to have a sibling. And we’d like to have another child for us, too. (smile.)

So we decide to start the paperwork at a local Christian agency called Bundle of Hope. At first we think another Hispanic-American baby would be nice, like Kyra.

But when the counselor came to do our home study in late January, I shared with him the visions I’d been having. Over the previous two months, whenever I was picturing another child in our family, I’d realize after the fact that I was seeing a little black boy. Every time.

Wow — this sounds amazing!

So I told him this, and he seemed thrilled. I also said, “We are totally open to whatever child God may have in mind for us. But … I keep seeing this little black boy.”

The home-study counselor shared this with the case counselor at the agency. Three days after the home study, on a Tuesday, we turned in our final piece of the application: our family picture profile. Then it was time to wait. And pray.

It was February now, and to be selected as adoptive parents and go through the process and finalize an adoption before October … well, this would take a miracle. It could be months — or longer — just to be selected by a birth mother. But all we could do was wait. And hope. And pray.

And so we did.

For one whole week.

The following Tuesday, one week after we had turned in our picture profile, the agency counselor called. An African-American woman who had been coming to the agency for counseling for a few months had come in that day saying she needed to find a family for this baby … now.

So the counselor took out our profile, which included pictures of us and described who we are as a family, our interests, jobs, Christian testimony, and some of our history. The counselor also told this woman about my vision. And the woman broke down in tears. “This is the family,” she said.

She didn’t even want to look at another profile, though the agency usually shows at least three. The woman knew she was pregnant with a boy. And she was due in eight weeks.

This time it wasn’t an e-mail, but I called Betsy on my cell phone on my way home from an evening meeting at the base chapel.

“Hurry home,” she said.

“Honey,” I said. “I’m on my way home. What’s wrong?”

“We’re going to have a baby boy … in eight weeks!”

The world shrank; the world expanded. My heart thudded. I gaped into the cell phone. And I tried to concentrate on driving. Eight weeks!

That didn’t give you much time to get ready!

Colby actually arrived six and a half weeks later. Born on a Sunday morning. I called another chaplain on the way to the hospital and he said he’d cover for me at the chapel service. Betsy and I had met the birth mother previously. In fact, Betsy had accompanied her on a few doctor’s visits, and Kyra and I went to one of the ultrasounds to see Colby early. And, lo and behold, once again, we were both present for our child’s birth. This time Betsy cut the umbilical cord! Wow.

How is your son doing these days?

Colby is 8 months old now, and he is so cute! I have never seen such kissable cheeks in my life. Man, he’s fun.

And the story doesn’t end there. Let me backtrack for a moment, first.

After we heard the good news about Colby and were preparing the nursery for him at home, we knelt by the empty crib and prayed. The emotions zing up in me now as I think and write about it again. I prayed how grateful I was that we hadn’t conceived, because Kyra and now Colby were meant to be our children. I was so content and so fully satisfied with the thought of the four of us. It had been God’s plan. No question in my mind.

And then Colby arrived and I thought, well, now we’re set. A boy and a girl and a family of four. Perfect.

Then on Colby’s two-month birthday, last May, I came home from an early morning prayer breakfast downtown. I was about to change into my uniform to go to a Marine’s retirement ceremony, when Betsy tells me to go look in the bathroom.

What? I’m thinking I don’t have time for this. But I go in and look. We were starting to get our house ready to sell so I thought she might have painted something. I don’t know. Seeing I’m not noticing anything, she finally comes in and points, unable to speak, to two plastic sticks resting across a box on the counter. Honestly, I still don’t know what I’m looking at here.

Then she picks one up and hands it to me and I stare at two red stripes near the end of the stick. Betsy leaves the room, her hand over her mouth. Time stands still. It speeds forward. It races back. It stops again. I feel like I’m spinning even though I’m standing completely motionless.

“Two stripes means you’re pregnant. Two stripes … pregnant.”

We hug and smile at each other like we’ve never smiled before. I get into my uniform and race to the car and pull out of the driveway, stopping to roll down my window and laugh out loud and wave to my wife and keep laughing, and crying, and laughing, and crying, all the way to the ceremony.

Congratulations, Randy and Betsy! This is wonderful news! When are you due?

Betsy’s due in late January 2007. It’s another boy!

Can you share with readers here how you feel about going through the adoption experience twice?

Words cannot begin to describe how positively we feel about adoption. Wow. Two books we looked at are The Adoption Resource Book by Lois Gilman and Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew.

Most of all, for those interested or curious about adoption, I’d recommend talking to someone who’s done it. Also, visit a local adoption agency and talk with a counselor there. There is a ton of stuff online, of course, but the best resources are people who know the experience and the process. The fears and frustrations. And the joy and love involved.

Betsy’s and my experiences were both pretty unusual, in that we didn’t have to wait long (it can take a very long time) and we met the birth mothers and got to be there with our new babies right from birth. I haven’t looked up the stats, but I do know that most couples seeking to adopt are white, while there are a lot more non-white babies who need families and homes. So, the wait to adopt an African-American or biracial baby is often much shorter. And your odds of finding a baby are much greater. And, simply because of the great need, the cost is often even less.

Our daughter is Mexican-American, our son is African-American, I’m Scandinavian (75% Norwegian and 25% Swedish), and my wife is mostly Scandinavian with a trace of Irish. When our next son comes along, we’ll have three distinctly beautiful children.

Can you guess what our favorite bedtime song is? Kyra already sings it by heart:

“Jesus loves the little children,
all the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
they are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

We’ve also made two additional verses (and are working on a third), which are specific to Kyra and Colby. And they’re just for them. Kyra loves to sing them all.

One Scripture I’ve come to appreciate and understand more fully is Ephesians 1:5-6: “(in love) he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will — to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”

Thank you so much for visiting here, Randy, and for sharing with us your marvelous journey of adopting your children — and your special news that your family will soon be adding another son in January. We’ll keep you and Betsy in our prayers in the exciting weeks ahead!

Landon Snow and the Island of Arcanum (Landon Snow, Book 3)


Randy Mortenson will be happy to answer questions individually by email, rkmortenson at

You can find out more about him at the Landon Snow website or the Barbour website. This month, you can also read a new short story involving the Landon Snow characters in the December issue of Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse magazine! Click here to read “Christmas Lights.”

[Edit: Thanks, Barbour, for linking to this interview under News, Press, and Reviews:“November is National Adoption Month and Barbour Publishing is proud to share the story of best-selling author R.K. Morteson’s family, who have been truly blessed by adoption.”]

November 17, 2006

Thanks to all of you who left comments about what you were doing 20 years ago. I’ve had so much fun reading through these — and I even traveled to Taiwan to read Amanda’s story. You should go, just to see her adorable picture.

Well, here’s an interesting coincidence. I opened my regular mailbox yesterday and found a card from a high school friend I’ve reconnected with via email. She sent me two pictures of us from the mid-80s, including one that showed my husband in the background!

I think. I might. get up the nerve. to post those pictures. Maybe over the weekend. I hate to waste all that good hairspray and hours of time I spent teasing my bangs to gigantic heights.

Anyway, I’ve done the very scientific method of writing down everyone’s name on a small piece of paper, putting them in a blue tupperware bowl, and asking my son to draw one out.

And the winner is … Elle of Fall on the Grace!

Congratulations! You’ve won a signed copy of Tricia Goyer’s new book, Generation NeXt Parenting. I’ll get in touch with you by email to get the book to you!

I’ve been so busy this week — I can’t believe I’ve agreed to host my daughter a nine-year-old birthday slumber party, and I’ve got tons of things to check off my list. The theme is “puppies,” and I’m desperately searching for a craft idea. I found party favors through Oriental Trading — but no luck with the puppy craft.

I’m thinking it would be perfect to find some kind of felt purse kit (shaped like a dog, of course) that we could sew very easily. That’s my first choice — if not that, then some kind of jewelry thingy with beads. We have a new Hobby Lobby in town, so I’ll head there this weekend.

And next week! We have a very special guest coming. I can’t wait for you to give him a warm welcome. Yes, I said him. Our first male visitor to Mom 2 Mom. Be nice, y’all. He’s brave. A pioneer preparing the way for those who dare to follow.

By: Heather Ivester in: Books,Family | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (4)