“I have often explained… Instead of being interruptions to the writing of my books, the [Plymouth Bible] class and the camps [Farthest Out] are the actual creators of my books.”
from, God’s Reach
Meadow Rue Merrill is a long time CFOer. She is no stranger to going “farthest out,” but what led to the writing of Meadow’s newest book Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, is truly a testament to creative prayer, creative living and God’s sustaining love.
Here is an excerpt from Redeeming Ruth, followed by an interview.
“That winter [after losing Ruth], the leaves on the rhododendron outside my shed curled from the cold, their fragile limbs layered with snow. The tight, unopened buds pointed sharply toward the sun, waiting for the tilting of the earth, the coming of spring, when they would bloom with radiant color. So it was with Ruth, I realized. I saw the bud, but God sees the flower. Scripture offers a glimpse—but only a glimpse—of our future splendor. Or as the apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 2:9, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has imagined the glory that awaits those who love God.”
As I’d often told my children, there is nothing of value that may be lost here that will not be redeemed in heaven. Everything life takes, love restores. Everything. Broken bodies. Broken hearts. Broken dreams. No matter how painful. No matter how devastating. God can transform even our greatest sorrow into something good. We simply have to keep beating our wings, keep trusting, to discover what it will be. In the meantime, he gives us the hope to keep living.”
from Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, available from Hendrickson Publishers on May 1, 2017. Find it on Amazon by clicking here.
DB: When did God lead you and your family to Camps Farthest Out?
MM: I grew up on a little farm in Oregon with my single mom, Lucy Lincoln, and my brother, Sunny. In 1978, a friend invited our family to CFO at a nearby lakeside conference center. It was there that my mom—a hippie sheep farmer—accepted Jesus, which completely changed the trajectory of our lives. Later, we attended CFO Camps in Washington and at Mount Shasta in California. During Creatives, while drawing with colored pastels beside a quiet stream, I became aware that God wanted to personally talk to me through the Holy Spirit. The Lord used these times to draw me into a deeper walk with Him. When our family moved to Maine, Mom became a regular attendee at Acadia CFO, held at the stunningly beautiful Claremont Hotel overlooking Somes Sound in Southwest Harbor, Maine. Two decades later, as a married mom with children of my own, God led my family back to CFO after the devastating loss of our 7-year-old daughter, Ruth. That rainy October night in 2011, my husband, Dana, and I drove up the Maine coast to the Claremont Hotel—not knowing anyone. The people who greeted us were so happy and friendly, I wasn’t sure what we were doing there, but God certainly knew. Through the prayer and ministry of this incredible group of generous, Holy Spirit-led Christians, God met us and began to revive our broken hearts.
DB: In what ways has God used CFO and the CFO program in your life? How does the CFO program and principles inform your spiritual life?
CFO communicated to me at a very young age that I was wholly known, accepted, and deeply loved by God. As a child, going to school and church in my brother’s hand-me-downs with a kitchen haircut, I often felt like I didn’t belong. But at CFO, I felt included and valued—chunky hair and all. Those early years nourished my life-long desire to know and serve God. When I returned to CFO as an adult, I experienced that same deep, sustaining love. The CFO program, with activities like morning meditation, prayer group, letters to God, and quiet time for prayer, develops an expectancy to hear God’s voice. It also emphasizes the importance of listening to and expressing the voice of the Holy Spirit through creativity—writing, drawing, and dance. Now, as a Christian columnist and author, I regularly seek to communicate the love of God, the life of Christ, and the leading of the Holy Spirit through my writing. I thank God for nurturing this gift through CFO and the CFO Daily Program.
DB: Please tell us about your daughter, Ruth, and how you were led to write a book about her.
MM: As a teenager, I felt deeply called to work with orphans in Africa. Not so with my husband, Dana. But we were both committed to following God. So together we prayed, “Lord, if you have another child for us, you will have to bring him or her to us.” Miraculously, God did just that. Ruth was born in Uganda, abandoned at birth, and diagnosed with cerebral palsy. In 2004, the director of her Christian orphanage, Welcome Home Ministries, Africa, sent one-year-old Ruth on a plane to Maine for six-months of physical therapy. We met her through friends. The moment Dana held her, he turned to me and said, “So, do you want to adopt?” I thought he was crazy! At the time we had two boys—ages 7 and 4—and a daughter just two weeks older than Ruth. But through a series of events that only God could orchestrate, our hearts were opened to the child of our prayer. I first wrote about Ruth for our local newspaper. Friends suggested I write a book. My hope was that by sharing our love for Ruth, God would open readers’ hearts to the needs of children still waiting to know that they are loved.
DB: Would you describe the writing/creative process of putting this story on paper for others to read? Did you set out to write a book or was the process more organic?
MM: After years of writing short essays and articles, writing a book was incredibly challenging. My original adoption story never found a publisher. Then, in the winter of 2011, God unexpectedly took Ruth home. We were devastated, but in the midst of that brutal, soul-wrenching grief, God led me to finish Ruth’s book. If our hearts could hurt so much over the loss of one child, how much more must God’s heart break daily over the loss of so many, many children who suffer from neglect, hunger, lack of medicine or in war. Over time, the book changed from an adoption story to one of how God wants to love hurting and broken people through us—even when we are hurt and broken too. That journey, painful as it was, became Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, which releases with Hendrickson Publishers on May 1, 2017.
DB: What do you have to say to those struggling with grief? Would you please elaborate on your grieving process and God’s leading you through it?
MM: Grief brought me to a standstill. I no longer knew what to believe—or whether what I’d previously believed about God was true. When we lost Ruth, I lost my hope that God could still be good—that God even existed. Time doesn’t heal grief, I learned. But it takes time to comprehend the magnitude of such a loss and to begin breathing, living and trusting again. No book can do that. No self-help group. No wise friends. Grief, I found, was a deep, dark valley that I had to walk through alone. Only Jesus can walk through that valley with us because Jesus alone made a way to the other side. In that deep, dark place, God revealed himself to me in a way that expanded my trust from believing that God was good when life went the way I wanted, to believing God no matter what the circumstances. The key way that God revealed himself to me was through Scripture—primarily the wisdom literature and the Psalms. They spoke to my heart like nothing else could.
DB: Do you have a favorite scripture verse?
MM: At Acadia CFO, that rainy October, God used the words and wisdom of the speaker, Ellen Stamps, to guide me on my journey of healing. During her message, she quoted Psalm 43:5, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him” (NASB). This verse became my lifeline, my reason to hope in God, the source of all hope.
DB: Do you have a favorite Glenn Clark quote?
MM: In my journal, I keep a copy of The United Prayer Tower brochure, Foundations of Living Prayer, which contains sixteen Scriptures compiled from the writings of Glenn Clark. They speak to silence, love, trust, faith and other themes to guide believers in prayer. “The first function of living prayer is to make all life alive by filling it with the wonder and the presence of God,” the leaflet quotes Clark from his book Living Prayer. This is the goal of prayer, even in grief: to invite God into the valley with us so that even that deepest, darkest place is filled with the wonder and presence of God.
“Everything life takes, love restores. Everything. Broken bodies. Broken hearts. Broken dreams. No matter how painful. No matter how devastating. God can transform even our greatest sorrow into something good. We simply have to keep beating our wings, keep trusting, to discover what it will be. In the meantime, he gives us the hope to keep living.”
Meadow Rue Merrill, who has written for The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and Down East magazine, is the author of Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, which is available May 1. All personal proceeds benefit orphans and people with disabilities in Uganda. Merrill writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine. Connect at www.meadowrue.com or follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/meadowrue.merrill
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