A Brutally Honest Soul-Baring Post from a Weary Writer

Behind every book written in the name of Jesus, there’s a story.

In June of 2017, after weeks of imagining I might never write another book, and with great tears of relief, I signed a contract with Kregel Publishing to write The Art of Hard Conversations.

It would be an immense undertaking. It was an impossible topic, but one I felt called to tackle. Not because I’m an expert in having hard conversations, but because I’m someone who has walked through life terrified of conflict and intense, intimate talks with other humans, but by God’s grace, I’ve learned to have them.

I figured if God could provide me the courage, the tools, and the confidence to open my mouth, there’s no reason anyone else can’t do the same. So, I took on the biggest book project I’d ever accepted knowing it would pull together everything I’ve learned from the Bible, from ministry, from my education and my work life, from family, coworkers, and from skinning my knees on the hard pavement of everyday life. I knew it would take every spare moment of the weeks ahead, but I dove in.

Three weeks later, life came unglued.

My mother was in a life-altering car accident with a tractor-trailer truck – exacerbating her already challenging PTSD. She needed my love, my presence, and my support.

Then, my parents’ beloved dog suddenly took sick and had to be put down. This was extraordinarily painful for my folks. My father was two years past a diagnosis of only six months to live and Hercules was a dear little buddy to him. Wrestling him from Dad’s arms and watching mom drive bravely off to the vet with the little guy was heart-breaking.

Two weeks later, my dad, to move past his grief, decided to paint their bulkhead. He became dizzy, fell down the stairs, and fractured his spine. He required high-risk, life-threatening surgery and endured days of unbearable pain as they stabilized him followed by weeks of painful rehab. It was so unfair since he knew he was “living on borrowed time” and the thought that he now would spend some of that time recuperating and rehabilitating was almost more than any of us could bear.

He, too, experienced a flare-up of PTSD from a fall he’d taken during a fire call as a fire chief. While Dad underwent surgery, Mom came down with vertigo, so I stayed with Dad while my husband cared for my mom. My husband was also facing down a new treatment for his progressive MS, but we pulled together, by God’s grace, and held one another up as we worked our day jobs, cared for family, and endured.

And I wrote the impossible book. In emergency rooms, recovery rooms, waiting rooms, and rehab. At midnight, at two am, at dawn, and while my parents napped. I wrote through tears, with prayers, past fears, and under exhaustion, but I kept writing because that’s what writers do. And because I knew the writing was a sort of hand hold for me during this long dark time.

The suffering we endured added depth to the work. I spoke with the hospital chaplain about hard conversations. I experienced new levels of hard family conversations about pain, death, regret, and conflict. I had my own hard conversations with God about relying on Him when I am spent and trusting His timing and provision.

Dad recovered after many weeks. They adopted a rescue dog from the Houston floods. My prayer team prayed for the book and I sent it off to the publisher hoping I’d accomplished the goal.

Almost.

The edits were as grueling as the first drafts. My amazing editor and I collaborated over structure and readability and which illustrations worked where. And incredibly enough, she edited from hospital rooms where her loved one wrestled with an unexpected illness.

And all the while we labored asking the hard questions about what conversations are truly important, which skills are actually biblically sound, and what inspires courage, confidence, and motivation for the people of God to put His commands about speaking truth into practice.

Now, this book is about to launch. I’ve finally held a copy in my hand. I look at it and think about the hearts of those who have had a hand in it – from the agent (Les, now retired) who encouraged the idea, to my writer friend (Jim) who wouldn’t allow me to lapse into self-pity and kicked me into gear to propose it. To the publisher (Dennis) who saw the potential in it. To the editorial team (Steve and Janyre) who wrestled with it until it shined and to my current agent who held me up through the edits (Bob). To the prayer team who continue to ask God to use it for His glory. To my family who urged me on when I wanted to give up.

And I think about the readers – people who love Jesus – who know He wants us to speak up and speak out – but who need the tools, the courage, and the confidence to follow through. And I remember why I began.

I don’t know if my Dad will be here to see the day it launches. He grows weaker by the moment. He has lived almost four years past the day he received a diagnosis of six-months to live. He loves Jesus and knows there is life beyond the one we see. He’s had a hundred hard conversations with family, with his firefighters, and with his medical team. I am proud of the way he’s chosen to live his last days and have continued to learn from his example.

My book, that opens with a story of my father, will launch as I bid Him good-bye for now. For me, it is the best and worst of times.

But, let me testify to this – God has provided wisdom, creativity, stamina, vision, practical support and skilled help as I wrote in faith through the darkest of times. And there is a story like this behind most books written to further the kingdom of God. Ask any writer you know who knows Jesus. Ask them about the vision and the battle and the temptation to quit and the urging of the Holy Spirit to persist.

My prayer is that God will use these words, which is a result of the collaboration of many, to free many Jesus-followers to find the courage, confidence, and tools to speak up and speak out for Him. If you read it and find it of use, please, pass it on.

We don’t need to fear the conversation. We follow Jesus. Let’s lead the conversation, in His name.

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42 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you, Lori. Praying that your books and ministry bear much fruit.

  2. Sherry says:

    Love your honesty and cannot wait to read the book

  3. Bob says:

    I look forward to getting my hands on this book. There are a couple of very “hard” conversations I need to have with a couple of family members. I, too, hate confrontation so I’m looking forward to being encouraged in that area. With all you’ve experienced in these past months, I can’t imagine that God hasn’t allowed at least some of it to take you deeper into yourself and deeper into Him in ways that find expression in the wisdom and depth of your writing.

  4. Mike Hoskins says:

    You have a great heart. I can’t only reach out and touch, but can not know the difficulty you and your family went thru. Putting our 17 year old blonde calico a few years ago tore me apart for a time. I still miss the sweet lady. You were never alone as you walked that valley, but it was clearly painful.

    I urge you not to block out the expierences. They will be tools for someone else’s questions during their long walk.

    Love your heart and willingness to share it.

    Blessings to You and Yours
    Mike

  5. Marge says:

    Whew, Lori! You’ve been through the wringer! May our Lord bring you relief in these forthcoming days. Amen.

  6. Sandra Lovelace says:

    Oh my! When all this stuff is added up, it’s amazing you’re coherent enough to write this blog post.
    May the Lord continue to hold your hand and watch over you with His jealous love, my Friend. <3

  7. Nancy K. Sullivan says:

    Congratulations, Lori. Your writing always challenges and inspires, and you live what you write. God bless you and your family.

  8. Valerie Shepard says:

    Wow Lori, praise Him for helping you and for this launch!! He has persevered through you, and will magnify His name Through this book! Val S

  9. Rob McCullough says:

    Lori – wow! Thank you and Be Blessed!!!

  10. Bruce says:

    Good stuff my friend. And there was so much more…so many more emotionally challenging events you could
    have listed. ?

    • Discretion rules in times of overwhelming stress. Thank you, brother. I suppose I could have added family friction, a search for a new pastor, a new contract and reorganization in my day job, my brother’s three strokes, and more. People might start to wonder if I’m writing fiction! 😉

  11. Jim Klock says:

    I literally have tears in my eyes, reading this post. Thanks, Lori…for your incredible authenticity. I’m so looking forward to reading this book of yours.
    God Bless.
    Jim Klock

  12. Jan Clough says:

    Dear Lori
    You are an inspiration, but then now we know why, you are a chip off the old block.
    God bless your dear Mum and Dad what treasures they are, just like you!

    I look forward to your new book full of blood, sweat and tears and no doubt many blessings!

    May The Lord continue to use you in a mighty way
    Jan Clough

  13. Clarice James says:

    Only three chapters into The Art of Hard Conversations, I’m already learning, being convicted, and being blessed. Thank you for allowing God to use you, especially during these days of turmoil and heartache.

  14. Valerie says:

    Thanks so much for persevering, dear sister. I look forward to learning from you. I know God will bless your obedience – I am greatly encouraged just hearing about it.

  15. Sherry Carter says:

    Lori, I’ve been through some difficult days but nothing like the pain you’ve experienced. I can’t begin to understand your exhaustion but I am blessed by your steadfast grip on God’s grace and mercy. I know the most powerful thing I can do is pray, to place you and your family before God’s throne. His love for you and your family surpasses all we can imagine and I pray He submerges you in it as the days go by.

  16. Katherine Clemons says:

    I know I need to read this book. I cannot do hard conversations and when I don’t, I regret, for years. I hope your struggles and victories will give me courage to speak the truth in love, to come out of my fear and live in courage and victory.

  17. Ljnda botkin says:

    Thanks for writing this bk. I plan to read it.

  18. Linda botkin says:

    Thanks for writing this bk. I plan to read it.

  19. Lori Altebaumer says:

    This was so moving to me this morning! I look forward to reading this book. I have always been a person who would rather sit on a cactus than have a hard conversation, but I know God wants more from me. Thank you for sharing this, and prayers for you and your family.

  20. Darlene Gibson says:

    As one of those who have prayed for you through this journey, I can attest to the fact that you have fallen on Jesus time after time. Your vulnerability is part of the gift you’ve been given. Your heart beats for God’s people. They will see it in this book.

  21. Darlene Gibson says:

    As one of those who has prayed for you through this journey, I can attest to the fact that at every turn in the road, you have stopped and called on Jesus. Your vulnerability is part of the gift God has given you. Your heart for God’s people is evident in the words you write. This book launches because of the answers to your humble prayers.

  22. Meredith says:

    My goodness, Lori! What a heart wrenching year. Thank you for your authenticity, for Your willingness to share out of your journey with Jesus – both in this post and in your new book. Can’t wait to read it! Congratulations on its launch!

  23. Diane McElwain says:

    Lori, it is an incredible path you have taken, and I praise God that he is with you. May this increase your hope in God! Thank you for taking God’s strength to write this book.

  24. Donna says:

    Looking forward to reading this book Lori! Grateful for your willingness to persevere through the sufferings to answer His call. Know these words will help a writer friend who has had years of sufferings in her own answer to a call to write a book on sexual violence…. please pray for her and the book, which is very close to being published ?

  25. Laura says:

    What can we possibly say in light of these heart-wrenching trials? I think of Isaiah 45:3 “I will give you treasures of darkness.” Ray Boltz wrote: “I think I See Gold.” This song has encouraged me many times. One line says: “These lonely hours like a fire refining; something that’s precious, something that’s shining.” I am going through pain & limited mobility and find myself needing to dig deep in the Word of God for daily courage. Thank you for the many ways you cheer us on & stir us up. We so appreciate you!

  26. Laura Gourgas says:

    Lori, I do not have “words” to follow the honestly and conviction of your brutally honest story. I have a weak apology, as I have been out flat, but my story seems too flat to say anymore, than that after reading yours. Bravo Lori! You do have JESUS as your Coach and you are an Olympian with a “real” honest heart sold out for God no matter, how deep, the river flows, or how high and jagged the cliffs become. I myself had a tough 2018, a far different story, yet one of my hardest. I lost my Dear Sister suddenly on Apr 14th, after a sudden illness took her life in 2 weeks. She was the energizer bunny on literal steroids. At 75 she still had 5 part time positions. I have worked for the Federal Government for 48 plus years, now, and this last one was filled will continual losses within my immediate division, some seemingly normal attrition , 2 real shockers, one ended in a tragic death of a young airmen 28. I am relaying this part of my story, as JESUS had me draft a prayer the week of His Memorial, bring it too work, only drafted in pencil, and it literally was read at the Memorial Service, as following my promptings from the Spirit to bring my home journal to work, greeted by an email, they Man Unit was looking for prayers, memories to give to the Man Family in Texas. I immediately said to my Lieutenant Sir, I brought in my Prayer Journal today, wrote a prayer this morning, after a prompting of the Spirit do you want to “read it over”? He immediately stated, no, that was written from the heart; can you type it up and email it to me and I will forwarded it to the Unit. The next day after I sent it to the Lieutenant, can someone read this at the Memorial Service? I had stated it was not about me, and did not want it known that I was the author. It was about Franco, not Laura. That Thursday at the Memorial Service a Gentleman stood up walked to the Alter area, and read my Poem to Franco, with 200 people seated in the Church to include his Commander, and the Base Commander, only my Lieutenant and the home unit knew who wrote it. My only consolation was that I had to believe JESUS was with Franco, before the Semi hit him, all alone on Rt 95 at 3:45 am. A tragic loss, a tragic heartbreak for his family and fellow airmen. I had listened, and that was the beginning of hearing God speak Psalm 46.10 into my heart continually over the months that have followed, that life interruption of which at least 15 detours within our Team of 18 faced. Honestly my writing had become quiet within and on paper until after Christmas, when I spent one of the best Retreats of my life with JESUS alone, at home, being still and truly listening….enough of me. I Praise God, that He has continually lifted you up, from wherever life tossed you to climb limitless yards within your Soul, heart an body, your a true warrior for JESUS, congratulations on your Book, and may you never forget the power of His Love for you and His call on you to write. With much respect and gratefulness to hear you story, I can not wait to Read the Book. Thank you Dear Lori.

  27. Cheri Hardaway says:

    Wow! Amazing! I can’t wait to read your book, Lori, and Wayne and I will continue to hold you and yours before the Lord as you press onward and upward!

    Cheri Hardaway