It was the day after my book released. The phone rang.
"What's been the best part of all this?" my friend asked on the phone.
I tilted my head, holding the phone against my shoulder, while I loaded the dishwasher. The clothes-dryer thumped a steady beat of zippers in the background. And there was this crunching sound coming from the living room --which, if you're a mom, you would likely recognize as the sound of a Minecraft guy digging his way into some hidden, pixelated underworld.
A wide smile stretched across my face. I knew right away what the best part of "all this" was.
Now, mind you, there have been a lot of really, really good parts.
I mean, I've loved so much about the last week -- and I've documented a lot of it, the way a Type-A mama records every moment for her newborn's scrapbook. (To be clear: I am the kind of mama who kept her girls' umbilical stumps, preserving them for perpetuity in Ziploc baggies.)
I've snapped photos of my newborn book-baby in stores and on shelves, and I have mugged like a proud mama grinning at the nursery window.
I've been giddy and teary, and when my book popped into the top 1,000 for all the books on Amazon, I thought I might just faint.
Yeah, I told my friend, there have been a lot of great moments on the book journey.
Like the time I signed my agent on my 40th birthday. (That was two years ago.)
And the time Tyndale gave what felt like an unlikely yes to an unknown writer. I was sitting in a Subway parking lot when I first heard the news, and I squeezed my sandwich so hard that mayo squeezed out onto my pants.
I cried the whole way through writing the epilogue, until I dropped the final period.
And I cried some more when I typed these words into the dedication:
"To Lydia and Anna: May you always know the love that is already yours."
I loved it when the first book showed up on my doorstep, when the first woman told me it mattered, when teen girls in California made #preapproved bracelets, and when all these women starting shattering their idols like warriors who made me feel brave. Because that's why I wrote the book -- for other women like me, who needed to know that they were loved, as-is.
But the best part? My favorite part? Here it is:
It happened on a Sunday morning -- the day before my book released.
We walked into our country church late, just after Art rang the bell, and I tugged at the girls' arms to rush them through the glass door. We found a seat on the left, and the pastor asked if anyone had any announcements.
I had just settled into my pew when my friend, Jenn, suggested that the whole church pray for Love Idol -- and for you.
Pastor Rich called me up front. Red-faced, I joked that I was glad I hadn't been a few minutes later than I already was. And then my friends rose, one by one, to join me at the front of the church. We stood under that old wooden cross nailed to the wall.
They were all right there with me: Trish and Bill and Hazel and Helmer and Angie and Joyce and Char ... and my favorite farmer. All these people in the last chapter of the book, and sprinkled throughout the book, they rose to pray. I felt their hands on my back and on my arms.
And I felt the peace of God in my heart.
They prayed for you, under that country steeple.
And during the whole prayer, I felt this one tiny hand on my back, rubbing circles upon circles into me. It was Anna. My Anna.
She was behind me, my girl. I think she wanted me to know it was all going to be okay, no matter what. And she kept rubbing circles. And I think this must be how she feels, when I rub circles onto her back, on all those nights when life feels kinda hard in third grade, and she just needs to know she's loved and cared for, and that even if it's dark outside, it's going to be okay.
Yeah. That's been the best part.
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