A story of survival, family and faith
After the death of her mother, 14-year-old Vicki goes to live with an estranged aunt in East Central Florida. Even while she struggles with shocking family secrets and gets to know neighbors that ‘don’t much care for each other’ the world beyond their isolated neighborhood is unraveling. After a cataclysmic volcanic eruption at Yellowstone National Park leaves most of the United States uninhabitable, their only hope for survival is each other and an unwavering faith in God.
During the spring of 2006 I serialized a novel online called Ash. Set in a fictional community in East Central Florida, the story chronicled the struggle for survival after a cataclysmic volcanic eruption at Yellowstone National Park leaves most of the US uninhabitable. Problem was, the story left readers feeling that something was lacking. I felt the same way. What was missing? I put the story away with no interest in future revision.
However, this feeling of incompleteness persisted. The ‘something lacking’ was inside me, and therefore manifested in my writing. As the months progressed this uneasiness only grew stronger. One night, in tears, I woke my husband and told him that something was seriously wrong with me. I couldn’t stop crying. I felt a desperate longing for faith in God. I wanted to believe, but scarcely understood what I longed to believe.
Those who know me may have some sense of how bizarre this behavior really was. I freely admitted my agnosticism since around age fourteen. Throughout my adult life I honestly cannot recall a time when I wanted anything to do with religion. Answers could best be explained through science, I reasoned. I have always loved natural history, reading, ravenously, everything I could find about the great forces of nature and this planet’s evolution. If other people needed religion, fine. Only, please leave me alone to think for myself.
Why, then, did I suddenly feel this disquiet in my innermost self? What caused this anguish, this desperate longing for faith? Life was good. Nothing in our circumstances had changed. Why did everything feel wrong at the core of my being?
Throughout this time, it was as though God was reaching into every area of my life. Dreams included Christian imagery. Passages in books took on unexpected meaning; refrains from hymns played in my head. No, I did not experience a dramatic Damascus Road blaze of light moment, only a steady sense that my soul was wilting and needed nourishment.
In August 2006, a couple of months after I woke up my husband in tears, our family experienced a crisis for which we were unprepared. Then I understood why God wanted my attention. Only by knowing His presence could I survive what was to come. By the very presence, God’s Spirit made this clear in me. No matter what happened, I would never face any difficulty alone. And neither must anyone else.
What an amazing, astonishing realization! Despite many years of skepticism, God’s love was unwavering. Knowing what our family was about to experience, He grabbed my attention in a way that I could not deny. This was not only the beginning of faith, but also trust, joy and peace. Today, we still face challenges, but I can honestly say that all is well with my soul.
Still, many questions lingered. I suppose I thought all Christian teachings were about the same as those taught in the fundamentalist Southern Baptist churches of my childhood. But a literal reading of Genesis is certainly not consistent with what is known about the history of this planet.
Every question I took to God in prayer. I read many books, reading a wide range of theological views. To my great surprise and delight I discovered that those childhood Sunday school lessons were only one rather childish interpretation of scripture. Understanding begins when we live Christ’s teachings of compassion and forgiveness.
And still, this magnificent planet has so much to teach us. We should relish the opportunity to learn all that we can from science. However, what we experience of God can never be quantified or dissected in a laboratory. We need not try to explain God, scientifically, or accept the popular misconception that science negates the need for spiritual growth.
During this time of seeking answers I wondered how could I express my thoughts about faith and science, how could I explore these topics in my writing. Why did my mind keep going back to my discarded story, Ash? Then the thought came: If a life can be reborn, why not a story? The thought kept expanding until I found myself writing this novel: And The Dominoes Fall.
One final note: This is a work of fiction. While a cataclysmic volcanic eruption at Yellowstone National Park may be a remote possibility—it has happened three times in Earth’s distant past—I certainly do not believe it is anywhere close to probable. But if such a thing should happen someday, may we continue to reflect the light of God’s love through the darkness.