Sunday, June 24, 2007

Perspective, Take II

I've already written about perspective, but I find myself being drawn back to this topic again and again. Today, it was Aaron's fault. He preached about perspective (listen to the sermon at, and I am once more obsessed with seeing God, viewing his master plan, with a tilted head.

I am such a type A personality. First-born, perfectionist, over-acheiver... I expect a lot from other people, but I expect even more from myself. Control freak? Ouch. But, yeah, maybe just a little. Anyway, I have a hard time getting it through my thick skull that I can't micromanage everything in my life. And I can't shake the feeling that the success (or failure) of my book rests with my ability to market myself, my willingness to go out there and "show 'em what I've got!" I can't escape the conviction that this is about me. My eyes are riveted on my own future, my own career, my own dreams.

And then today, Aaron preaches; I listen. Best of all, I have a moment of clarity. It's not about me! But I already knew that. What then? Maybe, it's about dying to my own agenda. Maybe it's about what God wants to do through me when I stop trying to force my life to conform to the mold that I have so carefully constructed for it. I want to make everything fit just so, I want to be in charge: cool, collected, running everything smoothly from my vantage point on high. And God's saying, "Let go, little girl. You have no idea what I have in store."

A dear friend of mine experienced a horrible loss. I'm sure there were moments when she was convinced that this tragedy was hers alone. She bore the pain, she shed the tears, she would live with the outcome for the rest of her life. And yet, beautiful things began to grow in that empty place... Many, many people were touched by her loss. In fact, a non-profit organization was begun in memory of her loved one. Maybe it's cliche to say so, but the ripple effect was enormous.

I am struck by how interwoven our lives are. You affect me and vice versa. It's inescapable. And since we can't control the outcome of any given situation, since each unique perspective must deal with its own joys and sorrows, it is impossible to be completely in control. A hard lesson for me to learn. But somehow freeing, too. Because when I unclench my fist, back away, and let God do his thing, he is able to weave something profoundly good in each facet, each outcome of my actions. It means that a book that I write in my little house in small town, Iowa can have an enormous impact on a growing church in Monrovia, Liberia. And it will. It means that my job is less managerial and more an act of obedience. It means that my perspective is just one of many.

I'm fine with that

Monday, June 18, 2007

Press Release

Debut Novelist, Nicole Baart,
Spins a Heartfelt Coming of Age Tale
of Loss and Renewed Hope in After the Leaves Fall

“Waiting is a complicated longing. I lost my father when I was fifteen, and I’ve been waiting ever since.”
—from After the Leaves Fall

Carol Stream, IL—Julia DeSmit has been waiting most of her life. Her mother left when she was nine, her father passed away when she was only fifteen, and now the love of her life has just met the love of his. Julia has been waiting a long time for the good part of her life—for spring.

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. is proud to present After the Leaves Fall, a stunning debut novel from newcomer Nicole Baart. Set in rural Iowa, After the Leaves Fall tells the story of Julia, a young girl with a broken heart, determined to escape the confines of her gossipy, conservative Christian town.

Accepting a scholarship in the engineering school at a state college, Julia finally has the perfect chance to reinvent herself. As the perils of college life take over and one wrong decision threatens to ruin everything, a tiny bud of hope takes root and Julia discovers that starting over looks nothing like she imagined.
Told in the tradition of Peace Like a River, After the Leaves Fall has already received rave reviews from best-selling authors. Angela Hunt, author of Doesn’t She Look Natural, called the book, “Beautifully and sensitively written…a breathtaking peek into a young girl’s soul” and James Calvin Schaap, author of Romey’s Place, called it “a fine coming of age story” and said, “Nicole Baart’s lyrical prose is a joy, and this deeply moving novel promises much more from its young and gifted author.”

Book one of a two-book series, After the Leaves Fall is for anyone who never wanted to go home again, but in doing so discovered a beautiful place unlike any other.

Nicole Baart was born and raised in Iowa, where she and her family now live. She taught high school English for several years in Canada but is now the full-time mother of two young sons and the wife of a pastor.

Nicole will be available for interviews in promotion of the October release of After the Leaves Fall. To arrange an interview, or with other questions, please contact Tyndale House Publishers.

Available: October 9, 2007; ISBN: 1-4143-1622-4
Softcover, approximately 350 pages
Suggested retail price: $12.99

Sunday, June 17, 2007


As a pastor's wife, I get to attend more than my share of weddings. Truthfully, I'm becoming a bit immune. What used to elicit a tightening in my chest, even a random tear or two, is now sometimes little more than mundane. Well, I guess that's not an entirely fair thing to say. I have yet to experience that incredible moment when the bride walks down the aisle without catching my breath...

Anyway, yesterday Aaron and I witnessed the marriage ceremony of good friends. Aaron counseled the couple and officiated the ceremony, but he asked them not to give him an honorarium. They slipped him a check in spite of his request, and in an act of what I initially considered utter lack of judgement, Aaron went out and bought them a gift with the entire amount. What did he buy? A bottle of wine. Okay, I love wine. I've even been privileged enough to taste a $50 bottle of wine. I considered that extravagant. But this 2002 award winning Cabernet Sauvignon blows that "cheap" bottle of vino out of the water.

"Wine?! You spent that entire check on a bottle of wine?" I smiled blandly, trying to keep my expression amused even though I was thinking, "You are completely insane." It's not that we needed the money or even that we wanted it. But I couldn't help thinking that there were easily twenty things that would make more sense to buy. Make a donation to a charity in their name! Buy them something nice for their home! Help them out with their first month of rent!

I shook my head at my silly husband all the way to the wedding. And then the ceremony began and everything changed. Instead of lighting a unity candle, the couple elected to participate in a traditional Jewish engagement ceremony where the prospective groom offers his beloved a glass of wine. If she drinks from his cup, they are engaged and he will go home to prepare a place for her. (Sound familiar? Overtones of eternity?) It's all about commitment, love, acceptance, vulnerability. It is a beautiful, holy thing. I listened to Aaron speak of their marriage and how, if they are planted in the Lord, in the years to come their love will only get better with age. Like fine wine. Suddenly that bottle of wine, that extravagant, ridiculously exquisite vintage became symbolic, sacred even--a reminder of how unique, how consecrated this covenant between a man and a woman is. It reminded me of another time that someone was chastised for the unapologetically lavish nature of her gift (John 12:1-11).

It saddens me sometimes how quickly I diminish the hand of God as he weaves lives together, levels kingdoms, lifts the heads of his people... How often do I miss the sacred in the every day? A "routine" wedding ceremony is nothing less than God's plan being revealed one life at a time.

Believe it or not, this does have much to do with writing. It struck me yesterday at that moment when the couple kissed, when the witnesses throughout the church erupted in laughter, cheering, rejoicing, that as an author who is a Christian I can do no better than to allow my readers a glimpse of such beauty, such extravagance through my writing. We forget. We forget how sacred our lives are. We forget how each moment is an act of worship, whether or not it is the Lord whom we worship. I am so thankful for moments when I am allowed the smallest taste of the richness of heaven. It lifts my soul, it deepens my hope. It makes me want to keep trying to capture little pieces of the eternal and pin them to my paper, if only for a moment. It makes me long to taste the wine at the wedding supper of the Lamb.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

First Review

I got my first review! Brenda Snodgrass at the Compulsive Reader website has reviewed After the Leaves Fall and she's said some really nice things. Check it out!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Novel Idea

So I told myself that I was going to take the summer off--no writing. At least, not serious writing, not book-like writing with an intent to pitch the idea (or maybe even the complete manuscript?). But I'm finding that writing is a sort of compulsion for me. Oh I've always known that, but for some reason finishing a pair of novels has proven to me that it's much, much easier to write a novel than a collection of short stories. At least, I think it's much easier. So, even though I promised myself no novels this summer, I've skipped right over my first loves of short stories and poetry, and I'm in the thick of novel number three. I think I've taken the easy path. Here's why.

Why it is easier to write a novel than a collection of short stories:

1. You get to know the characters as if they were your family and friends. I mean, you know them. You know their favorite foods, their likes and dislikes, their mannerisms and quirks... It's no mystery to you how they would respond in this situation or that. Once you know them, it's easy and enjoyable to write about them. (Small caveat: you fall in love with them and want them all to have "happily ever after" endings.)

2. The plot doesn't have to be 100% nailed down when you begin. When I write a short story, I know exactly what is going to happen before I put my pen to paper. This is a bit unnatural for me because I like to let my stories unfold; I like to let my characters learn and grow and shape the plot. My novels start out with a loose focus that slowly becomes more and more clear to me as I write. Sometimes I'm surprised by the direction the book takes.

3. You can be wildly creative. There's room in a novel for lots of fun stuff--I can have a neat experience and then turn around and write it right into the manuscript. My experiences are the fodder for my character's experiences.

4. Writing a novel is a "back burner" activity. No matter what I'm doing, when I'm writing a novel it's always on low heat on the back burner of my mind. It's always cooking and therefore (I hope) getting better the longer it stews. It's like that old conventional wisdom that tells you to sleep on your problems and you'll wake with the solution. The longer I "sleep" on a book, let it burn slow on the back burner, the more it comes alive to me. It almost writes itself.

5. I can't stop, so why try? If every short story I dream up soon morphs into the beginnings of a novel, why fight it?

Hardly wisdom, but thought I'd share. If you've ever wanted to write a novel but thought that it seemed too insurmountable a task, it's not. I'll be your ten-second cheerleader: You can do it!