Last night I started a newly released book, My Mother's Chamomile. What started as an I-have-15-minutes-to-read-a-bit turned into several hours enjoying the beginning of a beautiful story of family. Susie Finkbeiner is an outstanding author, weaving words and creating stories that engage your heart and your imagination.
Susie and I went to high school together. A small private Christian school in mid-Michigan where the lockers lined just one hallway, you knew everyone's name, and classmates felt a lot like family. Our high school English teachers were amazing and gifted both of us with a love of words (except Susie was smart enough to make a living out of what she learned).
Fun fact: we were both nuns in our high school production of Sound of Music when I was a Sophomore. She was Mother Superior and I doubled as a dinner guest. I donned a habit and ballgown in the same production for the win...
Susie has gone on to be a wife, a mother, and an exceptional author. I'm thrilled to be hosting her today on the blog as she shares a chance exchange in a coffee shop and some thoughts on families; "...the ones we are given and the ones that pick us."
I was sitting at Starbucks the other day, sipping on my hazelnut macchiato and trying to get a little writing done when the lady next to me starting talking to me. We're both regulars. She compliments me on my coat and I tell her I love her stiletto boots that I'd never have the courage to wear. That’s typically the extent of our conversation.
But that day, we talked about our sisters. I don’t know how we got on that topic. But I’m glad we did.
She told me that a friend of hers was crying because she has a strained relationship with her family.
“You know what I told her?” my friend in the fabulous boots asked. “I said, you have family from birth. Those ones you can’t pick. Sometimes you get a good bunch. Other times, they’re a bunch of weirdos. And if they don’t love you, then they’re weirdos. But you don't only get that family. You also get the family you do pick. Or they pick you. Your friends or co-workers or...well...whoever. Sometimes they’re the only good family you get. But, still, they're family.”
I wrote two novels. At the time I wrote them, I didn't realize how the stories would hinge on the family relationships. Birth families and families the characters acquire, that they pick.
In my debut novel, Paint Chips, my character Dot lives in a home for teens rescued from sex trafficking in West Michigan. Dot was raised in a good family, a loving family. However, through different tragic circumstances, her family has fallen apart. The other girls in the home like to sit around her, listening to stories of her happy childhood. They hadn’t had the same privilege of safe homes, loving family.
The girls hadn't gotten a good bunch for their birth families. Fortunately, they were picked. Hand chosen and loved by the woman who took them in. Sisters of circumstance with the others in the home. And this family is a soft place to land for them. A safe place. And, in that family, they find love and redemption.
My second novel, My Mother’s Chamomile, deals with a birth family. They happen to be a family of funeral directors. In a time of hardship, they lean into each other, finding mercy in the ones closest to them.
The struggle for Olga, the matriarch of the family, however, is in allowing others - those in her community - to sprinkle mercy on her and her family. She needs to realize that, when they offer to mow the lawn or share a meal, they are becoming an extension of her family. When she does, she receives a flood of mercy and comfort.
My friend is right, you know, we all have two kinds of families. The ones we are given and the ones that pick us. I think this is nothing short of the great mercy our Lord has for us. That, in the times when we need family, He provides it. Often He does this is unusual ways. What a blessing.
And, in these families, we can lean in close and experience the mercy, grace, redemption, and lavish love that our Father has for us.
Susie Finkbeiner is a novelist and short story writer from West Michigan. Her first novel "Paint Chips" released in 2013 and her second, “My Mother’s Chamomile” released in 2014 with WhiteFire Publishing. She is currently working on her third novel.
Susie is a wife, mother of three, and avid reader. She enjoys time with her family, coffee dates with her good friends, and quiet moments to read and write. You can find more at her blog at www.susiefinkbeiner.com.