I recently had a chance to speak with Annie B. Garman, author of Unexpected Grace: When Your Child is Born with Half a Heart. Her story is a true account of a parent’s worst fear being realized–the baby in her womb was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect.
This is the tale of courage in the face of fear and faith in the darkness.
Unexpected Grace is your first book. Please tell me about the events that birthed that work.
As a child, I dreamt of becoming a writer. However, I became insecure as I got older and saw how many talented, articulate people there were out there. The dream completely withered until 2008 when I started a blog.
Suddenly my dream of becoming a photojournalist had come true! It was a lot of fun and I saw God use it in people’s lives. When we found out that our daughter had a heart defect, I made a decision to record the journey to help others who were going through something similar. At first I thought I would just post each chapter on my blog, but my husband encouraged me to write and publish an actual book.
I tried to set aside 2-3 hours each week to work on it, and it took me five years to complete. Of course, there were weeks and even months when I didn’t work on it (and I even gave up completely a few times), but it was as though God was following me, tapping me on the shoulder and not letting it go until I finished it.
Has writing this book enriched your lives? If so, please tell me examples of how.
Writing this book has been an incredible journey. I’ve had to learn perseverance, diligence, humility, and trust. I had really hoped that a publisher would be interested in it, but when no one was, I turned to self-publishing. That was really humbling because I had wanted validation from a publishing house.
Ultimately, I had to trust that if God was leading me to write this book and share it, it was worth finishing. When it was released last February, I was grateful for how supportive and kind everyone was.
The most surprising thing about this last year has been the amount of people who have confided in me (usually in a hushed voice) about their dreams to write a book. I’ve been honored to nurture forgotten dreams.
When did you first begin to write? What did you write at that time?
My Dad gave me a journal when I was five or six. I believe my first entry was, “Today I ate a pickle.” Every year since then, I’ve filled up a journal with my thoughts, questions, sermon notes, and prayers. Sometimes I don’t know what I’m even feeling until I’m able to write it down.
How has your personal faith been affected by your daughter’s heart defect?
Well, this experience really rocked my faith; I had never really been exposed to suffering and dying in my sheltered life. I’ve come to realize that He is the potter and we are simply the clay (Isaiah 64:8). We simply can’t understand everything while we are wearing this skin. Someday He will make it all right.
I’ve had to humble myself under the mighty hand of God and admit, like Job, that I don’t know as much as the Creator. Through all of this, I’ve come to realize that He is a good God, and because He is good, He can be trusted.
What projects will you be pursuing next?
Well, I’d like to write Bible studies with my husband in order to make God’s Word more accessible and understandable. I also have a couple of children’s books in the works. One is dedicated to my sweet friend who lost her husband in the line of duty in Afghanistan.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
It’s cliché, but true: “1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.” Admit that you want to do it…and then quit making excuses and actually do it.
Annie B. Garman is a pastor’s wife and mother to four excitable girls. She loves a good story, especially when it involves God transforming lives. The Garmans live in Northern Virginia where they serve at Pillar Church. Annie shares her thoughts on motherhood, mayhem, and the meaning of life at anniebgarman.com.