I was talking to someone who read certain parts of the story series. She said I should possibly consider changing the content for some areas to better fit a Christian audience. And I told her, GRACE GIRLS wasn’t so much for Christians; it was more or less about Christians. That’s when this person admitted it didn’t need to be changed then.
As a believer, of course, I hold a standard, and there are lines I won’t cross as a writer. But when characters are developed that wrestle with profound, harsh realities, I feel the writing needs to cut deep. Maybe there are other ways, and I do my best not to go into graphic detail. It’s either implied or just stated “matter-of-factly,” but the heavy stuff hits that way nonetheless.
Rest assured, there will be “reading ratings” at the beginning of every installment and a disclaimer if any content may be “triggers” for people who have dealt with similar struggles in real life.
Now that I clarified all that– let’s meet the main characters you will take a journey with over the next 12 weeks. I know I said in the “About Grace Girls” post that there was a “shining star” character. The only thing that makes her stand out more is really that she gets more page time. But initially, the concept was designed to have three main characters that all share the spotlight in this singular story being told through them.
First up, LAUREN RAE TYLER—
If you caught the social media post, the slide after her name read: “HONOR OVER DREAMS”…
That phrase sums up Lauren’s journey in the book. After graduating high school, instead of going off and chasing her dreams, she chooses to honor her parents and go to college, aiming to make them proud and to live the life they dreamed for her. Honestly, I don’t think it is wrong to do something like that, as long as the person truly wants to do that. However, how many American kids want to do that type of thing? We’re raised in a culture that celebrates individuality and forging your own path in life. To actually do what your parents want you to do with your life, instead of doing what you want to do, is bananas!!!
There’s also nothing wrong with pursuing your dreams should you have the means and ability to do so.
In Christian circles, there’s an encouragement to do “What does God want you to do?” Depending on a saint’s theology determines how much weight is given to following “God’s plan.” And I wouldn’t say there’s a formula to this type of thing, but if one trusts in scripture, the steps of a righteous man (person) are ordered by the LORD. So how could a God-fearing, Christ-loving, bible-believing, spirit-led saint not live the life God intended for them?
Take it from someone who got caught up in deceptive branches of cultish Christianity. The only reason I wound up deceived was that I didn’t know my Bible well enough. When I was tempted by demonic doctrine, I was led astray by my own desires. Though my desires were laced with a coat of “I love Jesus,” my desire was not solely focused on the Lord with proper reverence for His Lordship or His role as my Savior. I got a series coming out soon about how I was caught in deception. If you want to watch the video series where I expose a false gospel ministry I was a part of and where I share my journey out somewhat, click here.
Lauren was always meant to be the portrait of the perfect saint facing a terrible trial in life, but instead of going down the wrong path, she focuses on the Lord and stays in the proper direction. And by “perfect,” I don’t be flawless, but complete in the Lord in a sense, that she repents when she should, she forgives when she should, she prays, she witnesses, she loves people because she loves God kind of perfect.
Though, when I finished the story, I was wrapped up in heresy, and therefore, I must admit Lauren’s theology got skewed a bit. Instead of changing the element because it would require a massive rewrite, I will post notes at the end of each installment, debunking that type of heretical doctrine– or I might make it video form– we shall see.
Looks-wise, Lauren is the popular pretty girl that could be a supermodel or a famous actress—born with that natural charisma where everyone is drawn to her. Yet, she acts nothing little-miss-popular. Embodying that true sense of humility where she simply just thinks about her owns needs last behind everyone else in her life, she places them first.
When I told friends about this story, often many would ask if the character was autobiographical, and I would say no. I would tell them I was inspired by an acquaintance at church, which was true. But truthfully, I was inspired by my grandmother with the character. So I guess if I’m anything like my grams, then the character would seem like me.
Next up, MELISSA GRACE RUSSELL—
In another version of this story, her last name was Butte (pronounced BEWT). I was inspired by passing through a town on a road trip. But Russell was the original intended last name, and it was what I stuck with, in the end.
Melissa’s journey phrase read: “FAMILY BEFORE SELF.”
Oh, this sounds just like Lauren, really, doesn’t it? But not really. Have you ever met that sweet Christian girl who just didn’t know how to say “no” to anyone, especially to her family, even to her detriment? Melissa was developed to be that character where she was the one who had to learn how to say no and not be the doormat anymore.
This being a story about saints, though, I couldn’t have her choose “self”; the Bible doesn’t support that narrative. So I gave her character the strength to build boundaries with her family for the cause of Christ Jesus by serving Him and putting Him first.
When believers choose Jesus above everything else, the people in our lives don’t understand that and leave our lives. As devotees to the Lord, we must reconcile the rejection we experience with God’s approval. We have to remember, people reject us or leave our lives because they’re truly rejecting Jesus, not us directly. But truth doesn’t make anything easy; truth simply grants the freedom you ought to have.
I love all the characters for different reasons, and what I love Melissa for is that she finds that balance to honor Jesus and her family, and she never really gives into that fleshy monster known as “self.” Yes, she too has some heretical beliefs and practices in her installments of the story, and I will address those heresies instead of writing them out.
Last up, but not least, MAKAYLA NICOLE ISLEY—
She, too, had many different last names, but her backstory changed a bunch of times until I settled on this one, which isn’t too different from my original version of her.
Her journey phrase read: “PAST VERSUS FUTURE“…
She faces that typical story of the person who escaped the evil of her past but is constantly haunted by those slayed demons in her present that she fears her own future.
Makayla is the example of a person who has been through the worst and required saving when she heard the Gospel, or else she probably wasn’t going to live anymore.
And I kind of wish I didn’t make her seem so polished and so fixed after getting to know Jesus.
People who’ve been through trauma still have scars that never go away, and Jesus gives them hope in a sense they can face tomorrow because He overcame the world. And I think it was because of the false doctrine I believed at the time if God heals physical ailments, God heals mental illness and gives people their best life now free from more suffering (ugh, I know, why did I believe this?). And I’m not saying God can’t heal, and I’m not saying God doesn’t do miraculous works; I’m just saying no one has the right to expect God to do the miracles they want Him to do in their life.
In the other versions I developed, Makayla felt more natural and rawer and more relatable than this one, but this version works. Her character covers more of the heavy, nitty, and gritty content.
A considerable part of that is her cultural background. From the little time I was blessed to spend on reservations with Native American Peoples, I learned the unfortunate reality of the harsh issues they endure. From existing accounts I heard, I used to develop Makayla’s background. I think she reads so brutally because many different stories of other people combined to tell one person’s story. It’s like that movie “Precious” inspired by the book “Push.” The main character was the combo of several real-life stories. Her life was grueling to watch or even to read because, realistically, that was probably too much life for one person.
Yet, some people experience too many unthinkable things and they either break down, or they’re either the strongest, most resilient people we ever meet.
Makayla turns out to be that strong, resilient young woman. She survives because of her faith.
Now, mental illness is real; no one should hide behind the Bible and act like it doesn’t exist. The brain is an organ and is part of the body, and when the brain experiences trauma, it gets sick if it goes untreated. For some people, faith is enough for others; they need faith and medical, psychiatric treatment, and there is no shame in that.
However, I’m more an advocate for psychiatry than psychology. Psychology is literally a system founded by people who wanted to replace God, and they study the mind apart from God, ditching a biblical worldview. Psychiatry focuses on treating the brain with chemotherapy (medicine). Even though it’s an offshoot of Psychology, they provide a tangible treatment to help make the brain psyche better or function within normal range. I nearly wish a new form of psychology would start more based on neurology, and it’s literally just focused on making the brain psyche better free from the pseudo-science gunk psychology has become. I say this as some who went to school for psychology but dropped out when I concluded the Gospel was the antidote to most psychological issues people face.
I’m not saying ditch therapy. Get counseling from a Christian Pastor licensed as a therapist. I’m not saying ignore the issues in your psyche; just don’t try to recover from the wreckage of your psyche dysfunction apart from Christ Jesus at the center of your reality.
Why all this talk of therapy and brain psyche meds?
The rate of suicide on Native American Reservations is alarmingly high. And therapy and medication can help. Therapy, medicine, and Jesus working together can ultimately make the difference in a person’s life here and now and beyond into eternity. And Makayla should have been the vehicle character to show this. Sadly, she never becomes this, but the version you read will suffice.
Next week, the journey kicks off with Lauren. I hope you’re there to take the plunge. I hope that what you read inspires you to grow with the Lord more. If you don’t know Jesus and wouldn’t call Him your Savior, click the link right here to watch a video that might make you change your mind. All and all, if you want to understand what your purpose is and why you exist, the answer is simple, you were made to know God and to be known by Him– however, sin messed everything up and separated us from God– good news though– Jesus fixed that problem and reconnected us to God, He is the only way to find God. Again, click here to watch a video that may help you see why you need to hear the Gospel. And if you’re a saint, and you already know Jesus, well, don’t be afraid to share Jesus, not only in what you say, but how you act, remember you obey Jesus because you love, not because you have anything to prove or to earn, we already have Jesus as our great reward.