Upon publication of my first book

The author (!) with her book (!), October 2022.

The unassuming brown box arrived on Wednesday and sat on my dining room table until Friday. I knew exactly what it contained: author copies of my first book, Amen? Questions for a God I Hope Exists. You'd think I'd rip into something that special, that huge, right away. But I kept it at arm's length, glanced at it sideways, put other mail on top, precisely because it was so special, so huge. The box contained nothing less than the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, and I feared that opening it would somehow burst the bubble and reveal that this whole process of writing and publication has been a four-decade delusion.

With equal parts anticipation and trepidation, I chose to open the box in the middle of a quiet morning at home once the kids were out of the house and I could focus on the writing version of Schrödinger's cat—the strange liminal space where my dream hovered, suspended, between vision and reality, where "writing a book" had not yet transformed from something I wanted into something I did.

Reader, I opened the box. I sobbed. I took teary-eyed, goofy-grinned pictures on the front porch, cheek to cheek with the cover. Mostly, though, I tried to absorb the enormity of the occasion, to heed the cheerful grinding of time's massive gears as years of persistence and support and a little bit of luck paid off and everything *clicked* into place when I picked up, for the first time, my book.

Many times during the course of writing and editing Amen?, I cursed Past Julia—the younger, childless, swinging single Julia—for not using all that beautiful, unbound time to write this book sooner. But the truth is, Past Julia—several different versions of her, in fact—did write this manuscript over the course of months, years, and moments. It was wild to run into my old selves on the page and align them with who I am and what I believe today.

In the same instance, my feelings were remarkably universal across different ages and stages of life. As I reconnected with my old selves, much of their lived experience continued to resonate, and they gave me insight into things I’m living through and still questioning today. The experience powerfully demonstrated how life may twist and turn, dip and rise, but our very cores—our souls, our Imago Dei—are constant, protected, and sacred.

On this, my book's official launch day, I am out of words. I am tired and grateful and overexcited and more than a little wrung out. More words will come, I'm sure, once I've had a chance to acclimate to my new reality as "published author." In the meantime, I will share the words of author Elizabeth Gilbert, who captures the biggest point of all:

"Writing was my first prayer. And now it’s become the place where I pray. I pray on the page, and because I’ve always felt a thing calling me to do it and wanting to engage in this with me and wanting to teach me how to do it and wanting to—wanting me to listen to it and wanting me to cooperate with it, rather than fight it. So yeah, writing has brought me my God."


Prayer #382: Chain Reaction

The idea was the marble that started it all. A timid roll to start, but the first ramp lent oomph and the gondola shaved distance and the trampoline propelled it higher than the idea thought possible, yet there it was—more than air and spirit, now mass and meaning—arriving at a destination it never conceived of at the beginning.

God of Rube Goldberg-like journeys, thank you for cramming convolution with discovery and serendipity with whimsy, for fueling my dream on its own impracticality. I'm sailing now toward the final step, and the view alone is a triumph.