Last December, right about this time of the month, I had the last phone conversation I would ever have with my Dad. I didn’t know it would be the last. He was 70 and had been in poor health off and on for much of the past 30 years. Many heart surgeries, crippling nerve damage, cancer… but he’d always bounce back, recover, or at least somehow keep pushing on. But last December 22 we had a call to say that this time he was gone.

I was in the midst of final page proofs for The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn. I quickly wrapped those up while we had our quiet Christmas here in Oregon, turned them in a week early, then flew back east to attend Dad’s memorial service during the week between Christmas and New Years. I ended up traveling back and forth from Maryland to West Virginia, in company with many family members I don’t get to see often. Then, on the first leg of my journey home, having been given a first class seat I hadn’t paid for, I had a clear aerial view of the Appalachian Mountain front from DC down to Atlanta. I spent those precious moments imagining Tamsen and Jesse in their much more difficult passage across those mountains that I live so far away from, and (like those family members) am not able to visit as often as I’d like. That was one of many healing moments during that journey, one of those times where God surprised me with His grace, presence, and peace.

Our last photo together

When The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn released, there was a thread of sadness woven through those weeks, knowing I couldn’t share it, or any other books to come, with Dad. But he got to read Burning Sky, my debut novel, in his last months on earth, and I’ll always be grateful that my publisher, WaterBrook, and my editor, Shannon Marchese, made it possible for me to announce the news of my first publishing contract in person to my Dad during yet another December, 2011, when he spent Christmas on the west coast (his first there in 50 years), where I’ve live since the early 1990s. That was the last time I saw Dad, though again I’d no idea it would be the last time.

Now another year has flown. December again finds me finishing up the final proof read of a novel that will release in April. The Wood’s Edge has passed out of my hands now. I can’t change another word of it. But I can still pray over its pages (and do!) and for the readers it will reach this coming spring. My prayer for this book is that readers will, along with enjoying a story near to my heart, meet the God of Heaven in its pages. The Father of us all, in whose presence my Dad now dwells. The Wood’s Edge bears this dedication:

This book turned out to have much to do with fathers. It is dedicated to mine, who is loved and missed.

Larry George Johnson
August 24, 1943 — December 22, 2013
First Look: back cover (click to read)

December 2014 also finds me finishing up another manuscript for WaterBrook. A Flight of Arrows, sequel to The Wood’s Edge, is due in January. I’m polishing it up, tightening my typically overwritten first draft, and soon this story too will be out of my hands. At least until the rounds of edits start next year.

And in the back of my mind is a whole new cast of characters waiting to have their story told. Very soon now I will gather up the stacks and stacks of research books I’ve referenced over the course of these last two manuscripts and put them back on their respective shelves. Then I’ll go through my titles, pull out the new research books that have been waiting for me to get to them, decide if I need to find more (most likely, yes!). I keep the reference books for the current novel-in-progress close by my desk, all together, over the months or years I have most need of them.

December is once again proving a month of transition, though a far gentler one (thus far) than 2013. For the first time in a while I will be able to set aside all writing-related activities for a few days and simply enjoy spending time with Brian, his elderly mom, and friends. I’m looking forward to getting a Christmas tree this coming Saturday. I haven’t had a live tree for a few yeas now. I’ve missed it!

My prayer for you, readers, writers, and friends, is that you will sense Emmanuel, God with us, during this busy season. That God will surprise you with His presence in unexpected moments, through whatever this season brings for you. That’s the gift I wish for you!

                                   From the Bentons!

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