Intersection Column | When Fiction Becomes Real Life
by Crystal Caudill
When life gets tough, some people eat chocolate. Me? I write a story . . . and eat the chocolate—lots of it. Story is my way of escaping the stress of my chaotic life and having fun. Tossing my characters into terrible situations that strip them of all they know and love makes my troubles seem fleeting and inconsequential.
Except when I wrote Counterfeit Love. In 2017, my half-written story jumped from the fictional pages and became real life. When I first wrote about the death of Theresa’s family, I had no idea that I would endure the drawn-out, painful-to-watch death of my grandmother, quickly followed by hit after hit of traumatic, life-altering events. Like my heroine Theresa, I had to confront the question, “Can I love and trust God even if I lose everything else?”
Grandma Connie was a vibrant, stubborn woman who lived a hard life and survived. Until Parkinson's, dementia, and finally, cancer took her in cruel, slow bits. For two years, my mom flew back and forth between Kentucky and Idaho to help care for her. I still remember the moment Mom told me Grandma would not be seeking cancer treatment and that I needed to visit her now before she got any worse. Although Grandma dragged life out for another year, we never knew when her last breath would be. All I knew was this trip would be my last time to see her. My goodbye trip.
Honestly, I'm crying now, just remembering that cherished but difficult week. We read Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer, watched the birds from her back porch and held hands like there was no tomorrow. I soaked up her stories of life and listened all night to her country gospel DVD on repeat. When my week ended, I held myself together until I walked out the door of the nursing home. Then my heart completely shattered.
The year that followed blurs together so much that I'm honestly never sure if it was just one year or two. For the first time in my life, I sat outside watching the birds without the ability to think anything. Everything was stripped from me. All that remained was Jesus. I had this literal image of my life as a cord, and the only thread left was this silver, unbreakable thread—Jesus. It was only through His mercy and grace that I endured what came next.
My mom continued to fly back and forth—emotionally and physically unavailable to help me through the chaos that exploded at home. The same month my grandma passed, my mother-in-law fell, which led to hip replacement surgery. She lives with us, so at the same time I packed the house for a move and my husband traveled for work, I cared for her. We moved on a Friday, and on Monday, a long, horrific train of complications almost killed her. The amount of caregiving needed over the next ten months stretched me beyond all limits. I felt alone. Mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually wrung out.
Theresa's struggle to trust God, to believe that what He planned was best, was my struggle too. I had to answer the question for myself: If God destroys everything I hold dear, will I still love Him? Will I still trust Him and hold Him as sovereign in my life? I wrestled. I doubted. I cried out to God and let Him hear it all. I knew He could handle it, and He was either there, or He wasn't. Through writing Counterfeit Love, God taught me a hard truth.
We are not promised freedom from trials. We can and will suffer in this world, but that doesn't mean God loves us any less. He's already proven His undying, unconditional love for us. That proof came through sending His Son to suffer unimaginable pain as He paved the way for redemption. If God didn't spare Jesus, why do we assume He would spare us? It's in these “even if” moments that we must face the question with trembling truth. Will we trust God, love God, even if everything on this earth is stripped away from us?
I can now confidently say, “Yes.” But, does this mean my heart doesn't go into palpitations at the thought of having to endure suffering? Nope. On occasion, I can still go into full-on, shut-down anxiety mode, but God has been faithful to remind me that He is faithful. He is trustworthy. And writing Counterfeit Love taught me that.
About the Author
Crystal Caudill is the author of “dangerously good historical romance,” with her work garnering awards from RWA and ACFW. She is a stay-at-home mom and caregiver, and when she isn’t writing, Caudill enjoys board games, hot tea and reading at her Kentucky home. Learn more at crystalcaudill.com.
About the Book
Theresa Plane attempts to save her family name by clearing their debt with creditors before she marries Edward Greystone. But when one of the creditors' threats leads her to stumble across a midnight meeting, she discovers that the money her grandfather owes isn't all he was hiding. And the secrets he kept have now trapped Theresa in a life-threatening fight for her home—and the truth.