Christian fiction writer Karen Kingsbury shares some of her favorite family memories, and reflects on how being a wife and mom has been her finest achievement.
Christian fiction writer Karen Kingsbury shares some of her favorite family memories, and reflects on how being a wife and mom has been her finest achievement.
Bob: Karen Kingsbury is a bestselling author. She's had nine books that have been number-one bestsellers. She's written more than 30 books and has sold more than 10 million copies. But when she pulls back and thinks about what's really important in life, it's not her books.
Karen: When I die, I don't want my kids to say, "Wow, Mom was a great writer." I want them to know me by my life not by my fiction. I am grateful that people see God in my made-up stories, but it's so much more important that they see God in my life story, just like it's important that they see God in yours.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, December 15th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We'll hear from Karen Kingsbury today about fiction; about real life; and about what really matters. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.
Dennis: Bob, I've got a quick quiz for you. I'm going to illustrate something that is really powerful. Are you ready?
Bob: Okay, all right, I'm ready.
Dennis: When I speak of the New Testament, and I talk about the little guy in a tree …
Dennis: When I talk about Jesus, bread, and fish?
Bob: The feeding of the 5,000.
Dennis: Two for two, I knew you could do this. And, finally, a rooster crowing three times.
Bob: That would be Peter's denial of Jesus.
Dennis: Stories are powerful.
Bob: Yeah, they are.
Dennis: Stories are memorable. In fact, when we hear them, they stick in our hearts, and they remind us about things that are really important. And our guest on today's program is going to do just that.
Bob: Yeah, that's right and, in fact, most of our listeners, if they know Karen Kingsbury, they know her because she is a storyteller. She has written more than 30 novels, and nine of them have been New York Times bestsellers. In fact, one of her books was named the "Book of the Year" by Christian publishers last year, so she is a well-acclaimed author.
Dennis: She's also a kindred spirit with us. She is a mom of six children, three of whom are adopted from Haiti, and she and her husband live in the Pacific Northwest, and we ran across this message at a Phil Waldrep Ministry event a few miles north of her in a little town called Branson, Missouri.
Bob: She was speaking to women at that conference, and we thought it was a wonderfully engaging message reminding each one of us of the importance of family and really living life on purpose.
So let's get right to it – fans of Karen Kingsbury will recognize her immediately.
Dennis: There's a lot of fans in the audience, you can tell.
Karen: [from audiotape.] I was working on a series I have about a family called the Baxter family.
Right, so all I have to do is say we're all from Bloomington, Indiana, right?
And I was coming to a scene that was really sad, and it was a scene where this wonderful woman named Ervil [sp] was passing away. I hope you're not to that part yet – I mean, I hope you're past that part and I'm not spoiling it for you.
And so I was sitting in my bedroom, and I was sitting in my chair, and I had my laptop, and I was writing slower and slower, because I knew that Ervil was going to die any minute, and I didn't really want her to pass away, and …
So, I finally got to that scene, and Ervil passed, and so I just had to set my laptop down and have a good cry over losing Ervil. So I set it down, and I just put my head back, and I just had to grieve that moment and right then my husband comes bounding into the room, and he is always upbeat and on his way to a basketball practice or something, and he stopped short, and he looks at me, and he says, "Karen, oh, no, what's wrong?"
And he can't see my laptop, you know, it's to the side of the chair, and I said, "Ervil died."
So the color drains from his face, and he says, "Ervil? Do we know her from church here?"
So I looked at him, and I said, "She's one of my characters."
So he rolls his eyes all the way to the ceiling, "I don't feel sorry for you. I mean, you killed her."
Ohhhhhh. So that's a little bit of what it's like. He thinks I'll make a very interesting old lady one day when, though we've never had a child named Ashley, I'll be asking why she hasn't written or visited.
The stories I write are fiction, but each of us is writing a story. We are writing it with our lives. We write it each day, each hour, with the things that we do and think and say. Its years are the chapters in the book of life, well, some bring us great joy but others bring us tragedy or triumph or trials; some, sorrow or heartache. Other chapters bring us into an abundant, vibrant, joyful life and a deeper walk with Jesus Christ.
So what about you and what about this year? Back when – before we adopted our three boys in 2001, we took a spring break, and we decided, "Let's go down to Sea World." We live on the West Coast, up in the Northwest, so we drove down, and we figured it would probably be a little chilly, so when we got out of the car, we really were a very heavily laden group. We had – Austin was a baby, and he was in a baby carrier, my husband had him, and then I had a very oversized backpack just bulging out at the sides.
So we got out of the car, we made our way up, the big group that we were, and we got over and got through the line, and I looked at the little map, which tells you the schedule for SeaWorld, and I desperately wanted to go to the sea lion show. And so I looked, and I said, "11:30, we have to be at the sea lion show at 11:30," and it was about 10:50, and I thought we really need to start making our way around.
And I'm looking at my watch and thinking about how much time we really don't have. We walk in through the gates, and the kids say, "A park!" and there's a park right when you walk in. There are swings and a slide like you could get at your own neighborhood.
"Swings!" and they want to swing, and my husband says, "Oh, let them go ahead, they can swing." So we get Austin out, and everybody is doing their swinging, and I'm just looking at my watch and getting more concerned and finally I said, "We have to stop having fun here. Let's go, get on our way." And so we got people back together and put Austin back in his baby carrier and began making our way.
Now, it was crowded, and so we were just sort of dodging the groups of people looking desperately for the signs, you know, which way to the sea lion stadium. Ran to the top of the stadium and looked down. The whole place is entirely packed except for one row three-fourths of the way down. I said, "That's us, we've got just enough space. Ready? Let's go."
Well, as it turns out, they have one regular step and then one half step and a regular step and half step, and I didn't know that. So I went, I got my first – I have regular-size feet, so I got that regular step nice and solid, and then the next one I got nothing but air, and I began tumbling down, and in the corner of my eye, I realized that people think I'm part of the show.
Video cameras are swinging my way. And then sort of gradually there was a shift, you know, that maybe I'm not part of the act, actually, and I'm tumbling, and about this time I realize that my zipper on my oversized backpack is open. So things are preceding me as I continue to tumble down the stairs. And now people are gradually making that shift, and you see them start sticking their arms out. It feels like it's all happening in slow motion to me – one man stuck a leg out, and I'm tumbling.
I finally come to a stop, and I am right at my row.
So I get up – because, you know, at that point, if I'd had two broken legs, I would have gotten up, and I waved off the crowd.
And then I turned around where my husband, completely pale …
… still standing at the top of the stairs.
And I just went …
So the rest of the show I don't really remember, it's sort of a blur, and I just remember one part was, like, halfway through. Austin was eating his chocolate ice cream out of a bowl, and the lady in front of us had a white shirt, and he sneezed.
And if that was you, I'm so sorry, because we said nothing.
When the show was finally over, I turned to my husband; we haven't spoken about it yet. And, to his credit, he has not cracked a smile yet, either. By now, our children have long run down and picked up all of our belongings from against the water, you know, tank there and brought them back.
So I turned to him, and I said, "So how did that look?"
That wonderful man is still laughing about that. And the funny part was, really, I was actually writing a story called "A Time to Dance," which is one of my favorite novels, and if you've read that story in that book, it's because I was praying for some humor, and God gave it to me. I just didn't really think He would use it, like, through me, you know, that's not what I thought.
So – the thing of it is that, to me, was a picture of how I was living my life at that time – hurrying and racing through and stumbling and tripping and getting places in a manner that was far from becoming and, all the while, missing that my kids really, I mean, they wanted to swing and play and why didn't we just stay a little bit longer there, and we could have gone to the 1:30 sea lion show.
So God used that. He used it to tell me to slow down, and even in the midst of the busy life that God has given me in this season, most of the time I'm a soccer mom, and I'm the woman walking next to my husband holding hands in our neighborhood, and I'm the one at the baseball games keeping score for Austin's Little League games. That's really what takes up most of my time. I am blessed that I can write quickly. They don't all get written in five days.
A couple of weeks, you know, that's – I can allow a couple of weeks to write a novel, and my kids – Tyler, one time he said to me, "When I'm older, Mom, I want to be a director and an actor and, I don't know, I might want to even own a theater or something someday, but in my spare time I want to write novels like you do. So, Mom, because you write them in your spare time."
And I love that, I love that that's how my kids see it, because that was a change that happened after that day at SeaWorld, where I didn't want to go through life rushing and tripping and falling and missing the most important things along the way.
And so I want to close by reading you a book that will always, always be precious to me. It's called, "Let Me Hold You Longer," and it's a poem that I wrote for my kids. You see, we spend a lifetime celebrating the firsts for the people in our lives that we love, but we never really always know when those lasts will come.
"Long ago you came to me, a miracle of firsts;
First smiles and teeth and baby steps, a sunbeam on the burst.
But one day you will move away and leave to me your past
And I will be left thinking of a lifetime of your lasts.
The last time that I held a bottle to your baby lips
The last time that I lifted you and held you on my hip,
The last night when you woke up crying,
Needing to be walked,
When last you crawled up with your blanket
Wanting to be rocked.
The last time when you ran to me still small enough to hold
The last time when you said you'd marry me when you grew old.
Precious simple moments and bright flashes from your past
Would I have held on longer if I'd known they were your last?
Our last adventure to the park, your final midday nap
The last time when you wore your favorite faded baseball cap.
Your last few hours of kindergarten, last days of first grade,
Your last at bat in Little League, last colored picture made.
I never said goodbye to all your yesterdays long past
So what about tomorrow? Will I recognize your lasts?
The last time that you catch a frog in that old backyard pond
The last that you ran barefoot across our fresh-cut lawn
Silly, scattered moments and bright flashes from your past
I keep on taking pictures, never quite sure of your last.
The last time that I comb your hair or stop a pillow fight,
The last time that I tuck you in and pray with you at night.
The last time when we cuddled with a book just me and you,
The last time you jump in our bed and sleep between us two.
The last piano lesson, the last vacation to the lake
Your last few weeks of middle school, last soccer goal you make.
I look ahead and dream of days that haven't come to pass
But as I do I sometimes miss today's sweet precious lasts.
The last time that I help you with a math or spelling test
The last time when I shout that "Yes! Your room is still a mess!"
The last time that you need me for a ride from here to there
The last time that you spend the night with your old tattered bear.
My life keeps moving faster, stealing precious days that pass
I want to hold on longer, want to recognize your lasts.
The last thing that you need my help with, details of a dance,
And the last time that you asked me for advice about romance.
The last time that you talked to me about your hopes and dreams
The last time that you wear a jersey for your high school team.
I've watched you grow and barely noticed seasons as they pass
If I could freeze the hands of time, I'd hold onto your lasts.
For come some bright fall morning, you'll be going far away
College life will beckon in a brilliant sort of way
One last hug, one last goodbye, one quick and hurried kiss,
One last time to understand just how much you'll be missed.
I'll watch you leave and think how fast our time together passed
So let me hold on longer, God, to every precious last."
Bob: Well, we've been listening to Part 1 of a message from Karen Kingsbury, and there are those lasts that she talks about, but then there are a whole bunch of firsts that come after those lasts, you know, the first time a child comes home for Christmas after having been away at college, or the first time they tell you about a young man or a young woman that they've met who becomes a husband or a wife, or the first time you celebrate a holiday.
Dennis: First pregnancy, first baby.
Dennis: Oh, yeah, no doubt about it. You know, our children – well, the Psalmist reminds us, "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord" – a heritage – "The fruit of the womb is a reward" – a reward – "Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them, he shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate." In fact, quite the opposite. He's not going to be put to shame, he's going to have a big grin on his face, because you've invested your life in the next generation and, you know, that's just the simple message of today's broadcast.
If you are investing your lives as a mom, as a dad, as a married couple, in the next generation, the next generation of young people, you're doing the right thing.
Bob: You know, you read the plot descriptions for a lot of Karen's books, and you can see that that's really at the heart of what she's writing about – the priority of relationships, of family, the priority of loving God and loving others, which Jesus said was the greatest commandment.
And we want to invite our listeners – if you've never read any of Karen's book, we have selected a few of them and are making them available for our listeners at a reduced rate. You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and the information you need is available right there so that you can order these books, maybe give them as Christmas gifts this year.
Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. That will take you right where you need to be for information about the books that we have available that Karen has written and, again, they're available at a discounted price on our website or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY and request these books by phone. 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. We also have Karen's entire message available. We are only able to air a portion of it this week on FamilyLife Today. If you'd like to hear the entire message, you can request the CD from us when you go online at FamilyLifeToday.com or when you call 1-800-FLTODAY.
I want to stop for just a minute here, Dennis, and say a quick thank you to those who have called us already this month in support of our matching gift challenge. Again, these are challenging financial times for a lot of families, and they are challenging for us here at FamilyLife. We have had to make some significant cuts recently as a way of trying to respond and be good stewards to our current financial situation, and I know many of our listeners have had to do the same thing.
But we appreciate those of you who have called and said, "We support the ministry of FamilyLife Today, and we want to make a donation." Those donations are being matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis this year up to a total of $425,000, and it's been encouraging to hear from many of our listeners.
Dennis: And, Bob, I don't have my cell phone with me in the studio. I kind of wish I did today. There's no way I can play this voice message that I heard the other day. It was from my nine-year-old grandson, Samuel. "Poppa, I want to start an orphan ministry in our church." And so we've come alongside him as a ministry, and we're helping him do that.
Bob: That is cool.
Dennis: Well, you know, that's what FamilyLife is all about. We're all about coming alongside you, as a listener, and helping you achieve what you want to accomplish in your marriage, your family, and in your ministry to marriages and families throughout the community. And you know what? If that makes sense to you, and you want that kind of ministry to continue, would you pick up a phone or go on the Internet and say, "I stand with you. I'm going to make a financial gift to your ministry here at year-end."
Bob: And let me give the phone number – our toll-free number is 1-800-FLTODAY. You can contact us on the Internet at FamilyLifeToday.com and make your donation online and, again, we appreciate hearing from you, and we want you to know those donations are being matched dollar-for-dollar up to a total of $425,000. So help us take full advantage of that matching gift challenge if you can.
Well, tomorrow we're going to hear Part 2 of our message from bestselling author, Karen Kingsbury about faith and family and what really matters in life, and I hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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