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It's one thing to say, "Thy will be done," but it's far harder to mean it. When Laura Leavens' 14-year-old daughter's "flu" turned into a life-threatening illness, Laura struggled with accepting God's will. Special documents Laura's faith challenges as her daughter Leiah battled for life. The biblical story of Abraham and Isaac bookends Laura's diary notes, recollections, and insights. The book is peppered with reminiscences from friends and family. Leiah also has a say. Her poignant words, prophetic story, and angelic art beg the question: did she know? Although Special focuses on six weeks in 1998, its arc covers more than 30 years, from Leiah's birth in 1983 to the present day. Special is the story of a beautiful girl, inside and out, and a mother's pilgrimage in the face of loss. Laura's raw honesty and earnest quest to make sense out of the unthinkable offer much wisdom for readers in difficult situations.
Number of Pages: 160
Vendor: Word Alive Press
Publication Date: 2015
|Dimensions: 8 X 5 X 0.34 (inches)|
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About the Author▼▲
About the Author: Laura Leavens has been writing and rhyming since childhood. At 16 she wrote for and edited Inter-Comm Community Newspaper, and was later published in the Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, The Anglican, and The Trinity Times. She has worked in insurance adjusting and mental health communication, alongside several volunteer pursuits. Special is her first book.
Author: Laura Leavens
Located in: Canada
Submitted: July 20, 2015
Tell us a little about yourself. I'm older than I realize, but isn't everyone? I often think, talk and write in tangents. Despite being a deep thinker, I laugh a lot and most people (alas, not all) appreciate my sense of humor. Having a Journalism degree from Ryerson University means I can string together words with some clarity and panache. I live with my husband, Michael, and youngest daughter, Evann, in Mississauga, Ontario. Middle daughter Torey lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she stopped her cross-Canada (west-to-east) bike ride. "Special" is about my eldest daughter, Leiah. All the above is peripheral to this: at my core is a strong and certain faith in Jesus Christ.
What was your motivation behind this project? More than a few people have told me I had (at least) a couple of books inside me. It was time to get one out. The late Maya Angelou's quote: "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you" spurred me on, as did a deadline for a free publishing contest. The day I finished the first draft I experienced a visceral feeling that something inside me had lifted. Some may say I wrote this for myself - to process my own grief. Although there is probably some truth to that belief, that is not the main reason. I wrote it for Leiah - to establish her legacy, and to help other hurting people. I wanted to share what I went through/felt during the darkest times of my life, in order to inspire others to believe that that something greater directs all that happens here on earth. When the deepest of heartaches blinds us to hope, we must fiercely cling to faith.
What do you hope folks will gain from this project? I hope that this book will encourage people to talk about/express their own hurts and losses, especially if feelings have been stuffed away. I hope readers will get to know Leiah for the special girl she was, and continues to be as she lives on in people's memories. I hope that people will benefit from the section "What I learned about Grief." It contains many hard-won lessons, which, had I learned earlier, might have saved me from additional heartache. I hope people recognize that having people around you during tough times - the way our family was surrounded - makes all the difference. Practical, physical and prayer support during trials is what we're called to provide. Although I hope believers will be encouraged by this story, my secret hope is that this story kindles a spark of faith in those who don't believe in God. Many people can't understand how/why God allows suffering and death. I struggled with it for a long time myself. For me, my only peace was found in the truth of scripture. Perhaps only through suffering can we fully experience who God is. Look at Job and all he suffered. God told him who He was and Job finally realized in Job 42:2-3 when Job said, "I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know." Whereas those verses put human beings in our place, we can be encouraged by God's promise in Romans 8:28: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." I hope that mine and Leiah's story makes unbelievers wonder if maybe God really is there behind the scenes - allowing things we can't understand, and weaving them together into a story of goodness that might take 16 years to complete, or longer.
How were you personally impacted by working on this project? I was steeped in the story while I was working on it. I re-lived Leiah's life, illness and death while I was writing it. I also got to re-connect with friends and family, some of whom I hadn't seen in years. My heart was very tender and I felt very close to God. Shortly after finishing the first draft, a young family member died. I felt stricken with intense pain. I bemoaned all that his parents, siblings and others were feeling and would continue to feel for so very long. It allowed me to be very real and intentional when I met them and wrote notes to them. It was a time that I prayed fervently. It hurt so much and I felt very raw, but I also felt very real. It was during that time that I had my own Job experience, which I mentioned in the book. In the middle of the night, soon afterwards, I awoke to the presence of the Holy Spirit. Sensing His power and might, it was a moment I intuited that only His will was possible; anything we willed on our own would be steamrolled. It was a moment where my understanding of the God of the universe grew clearer, and more reverential.
Who are your influences, sources of inspiration or favorite authors / artists? When I started reading Christian fiction I discovered Francine Rivers. Her historical fiction pieces had me enthralled; her current day fictions were equally addictive. I really enjoyed Lauren Winner's Girl Meets God, and her quirky quest for faith. Musically, I enjoy folk music (Joni Mitchell and Neil Young), rock (Bruce Springsteen), classical (Liszt) and traditional hymns alongside some temporary singers such as Robin Mark.
Anything else you'd like readers / listeners to know: ... Just that I hope you'll read "Special" and refer it to others, especially those who might find healing in its pages.