And a strange thing happened in the process: by the time I finished the manuscript, I realized it no longer felt like it was "my life;" it was just a "story." It flowed out of my heart and onto the paper. And as it flowed, it took with it the sting of hardship, the pain of betrayals and the harshness of loss. All those things remain in my memory, of course, and they were in fact my life, but I can retain the memory without the pain. I can see a greater picture now, and what God made of that life is, in the end, just beautiful!
To protect the privacy of other people in the book, I write with a pen name and have changed the names of all other characters. Most important to me is how my husband and my mother feel about it. I can only say they are strong and loving people who encouraged me to tell the truth. "Tell it," my mother said, "even when it isn't pretty. In the end, truth is freedom and beauty."
Q: How do you reconcile being Jewish with your Christian faith?
A: The two are inherently reconciled. Christianity is built upon Judaism; it is the second act of a two-act play. Having accepted Jesus makes me no less Jewish (although there are Jews who would argue that). I am Jewish by blood, by culture, tradition, by my sense of humor, my music, my second language, my responses to life. If Hitler were to come to town again, I'd be thrown into the concentration camps along with the others. By the way, Jesus was a Jew, too. All his teachings are based upon the Jewish scriptures and traditions. So, what's to reconcile?
Q: Is Twelve Stones written for a Christian audience?
A: No. It's a book for anyone who cares about people and how they relate. It's a book for anyone interested in a spiritual and life journey, one that appeals equally to secular readers who enjoy the adventures along the way, and who relate emotionally to its honesty and intimacy. Twelve Stones is about a human, imperfect woman seeking truth, trying to make something significant of her life, and discovering that love is even more important than truth.
Q: Where does the title, Twelve Stones, come from?
A: The title comes from the Old Testament where Joshua took twelve stones from the Jordan and built an altar to the Lord. The stones were to remind them of the God who opened the Red Sea to save the Israelites ... "He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know the hand of the Lord is powerful ..." [Joshua 4: 20-24]
My own altar of twelve stones is built by twelve chapters, which are called "Stone I," "Stone II," "Stone III" and so forth. I pile my "Stones" one upon the other to remember, and to honor what God has done for me, how He took a mess, and made something beautiful of it.
Q: If I'm not Christian, or religious, what would intrigue me about Twelve Stones?
A: I find it interesting (hopefully you will, too) that even the most intelligent among us often act in ways destructive to our wholeness and joy. I was one of those, but I wanted to understand why, and my quest is one that led to growth.
Destructive love affairs, a colorful career, life in various countries and cultures around the world, and my exploration of spiritual realities... any of these might intrigue you. And, given my stereotypes and misconceptions, what I found inside the church community - another foreign culture - might be as surprising to you as it was to me.
If you don't believe in God - or don't believe in Him the same way I do - you will easily identify with my worldly and all-too-human imperfections and with the antipathy I felt towards any faith - Christianity in particular. Faith was the last thing I thought I'd ever seek or want. You would understand, better than anyone, that nothing short of miracles could bring a person like me to her knees before God.
Q: How would most Christians, or church leaders, react to some of the more "graphic," or "earthy" aspects of your story? Would they hesitate to put Twelve Stones in their church libraries?
A: You know what? Christians are grown-ups, too; they can deal with it. Real Christians care about how God works in real people's lives; they are more concerned with sincerity than propriety, and they love imperfect people - because Jesus does.
Q: Are there events in your life you would not include in your memoir?
A: Yes. And I'll say as much about them here as I did in my memoir.
Q: Do you wish your life had been different?
A: No. Well, sometimes. But I have always found that what I wish isn't nearly as good for me as what God wishes. So I cling to this:
"O my soul, it is not only after the future thou must aspire; thou must aspire to see the glory of thy past. Thou must find the glory of that way by which thy God has led thee, and be able, even of thy sorrow, to say, 'This was the gate of heaven'!" [George Matheson, as quoted by Dwight L. Moody in Thoughts for the Quiet Hour, Harvest House Publishers (1994).]
Q: Coming from your background, was the concept of a supernatural or mystic realm hard to accept?
A: No. Even as a child, I was aware of realms we can't see or hear or touch. I knew there was more to life and the creation of life than what we can know here on earth. I spent my life looking for what it is.
Twelve Stones describes my exploration of Vedantic and Eastern philosophies (what some now call "New Age," although it is very ancient), and the aversion I had to "organized religion." The faith I found is not focused on a church or an organization; it is focused on a relationship with God: a dynamic, growing, evolving relationship.
Q: If your faith is based solely on a relationship with God, and not on an organization, why do you belong to a church?
A: I've learned to appreciate the beauty and power of faith in community, where there is caring and support for one another, as well as strength in giving to others in need. For example, what can I, as a single individual, do for a poverty-stricken village in Peru? But, as part of a church community, I can marshal forces that transform that village with resources, technology and love.
Q: In the book, you avoided relationships that would lead to marriage. Is your view of marriage any different today?
A: Oh, yes, it's different today! Growing up, I had never seen a happy marriage, never knew a family that actually enjoyed being together. Perhaps that sounds strange to you, but that's the way it was. Marriage seemed to be the end of the road, the end of all joy and adventure and learning. It was an entrapment. A burial. When I did marry, it was to someone like myself who came from a "different" sort of family. My first husband's father had married eleven times; his mother had married four. So his view of marriage was as distorted as mine. We both wanted to escape the "ordinary," the white-picket-fence prison, and discover the true essence of life through poetry and art. Well, it was a valiant quest, but it was the blind leading the blind.
It was truly a stunning discovery, in my 41st year, to find couples who were still in love and devoted to one another after thirty, forty years together. I met people who married after knowing each other only five days, and who lived in love until they were parted by death. I got to know others, quite a few, actually, who knew immediately, the first time they met, "this is the person I will marry and love forever." And they did.
It may seem ordinary to you, but for me it was amazing to meet women who had raised four, five or six children who actually loved every minute of it and would have been happy to have had a dozen.
I understand now that it is possible to "live happily ever after." Not that every day or every moment is happy. One may struggle to achieve harmony, or suffer devastating losses. But love can, and often does, endure.
My practical mother said something very wise. We were discussing what might be an appropriate age to marry, what is too young or too old. She said, "If you meet the right person, you are never too young. If it is the wrong person, you are never too old."
Q: How many times do you revise?
A: As many times as needed to make it better.
Q: Why did you write Twelve Stones?
A: I realized I'd lived a quirky kind of life, both daring and foolish. There had been a lot of colorful adventures, but I had made some dreadful mistakes, and did things God surely did not love. And still He loved me. It was astounding how far God was willing to go to prove His love. I thought people should know about that. So I kept writing.
I told the whole story (the fun parts and the painful) to convey a single point: God honors an honest quest for truth, even (maybe especially) the quest of a scornful non-believer. Miracles still happen. They happened to me. And because I am much like you, they might, just maybe, happen to you, too.
Q: Twelve Stones is not like other memoirs or spiritual-journey stories. Why did you write it this way?
A: First, Twelve Stones is written just like a novel. Unlike a traditional memoir, this is not a narrative of biographical events. It has animated dialogue, colorful characters and daring escapades. It just happens that all of it is true.
Second: there are many "magic-wand" conversion" stories out there; the person is a drug-dealer, a murderer and a convict until (s)he is touched by the hand of God and instantly becomes a self-sacrificing saint. I don't believe that's real. Turning from one life to another, changing your basic paradigm is a difficult process. Twelve Stones takes you along with me through that process. There's nothing lofty or "religious" in Twelve Stones. It is earthy and honest, and written from the perspective of a non-believer - the person I was for most of my life.
Q: You built a career in advertising and public relations before you published Twelve Stones. How did that compare with being an author?
A: It's all writing, but it's a different kind of creativity. Writing ads, commercials, articles, brochures, presentations, video scripts, websites, etc., requires communicating effectively to persuade. When writing my own work I'm concerned about its literary and artistic value, and I bare my soul. It leaves me naked and very vulnerable.
Q: How did your Jewish family and friends accept your new spiritual path?
A: Some of my family thought I was meshugena (crazy), but they continued to love me anyway. My parents were interested enough to ask "why?" and learn what brought me to it. My sister and my son became Christians, too. As for friends, one of them stopped speaking to me for 17 years. Others were accepting, as long as they didn't feel I was trying to convert them.
Q: What problems did you encounter while writing Twelve Stones?
A: Sometimes just remembering what I wrote about was painful; I had to write some of those sections last. Sometimes I had to eliminate a lot of extraneous material. Chopping is hard; I have to fight with myself.
"But I like that scene!"
"And does it move your story forward?"
"Okay, out with it."
The other problem, one most writers struggle with, is finding the time to write.
Q: Do you keep a journal or diary?
A: For many years, I did. But in the 21st century, I keep a blog and I can share it with you. Come dialogue with me.
Q: What was the most surprising thing you learned while writing this book?
A: That people found it interesting. I thought, "Who wants to hear about my life?" But people who read the early manuscript were riveted. They'd say things like, "Wait! Don't skip so quickly over that incident; develop it. We want to know more about it." I found that astounding. Even today, whenever someone reads the book and says, "I can't put it down," I am surprised all over again.