As I continue to work on You Will Not Be Forgotten, each Wednesday I am going to post about something I’ve learned in the process of writing this book. Maybe it will be something about myself or about slavery or about history in general; I’m not sure. One thing I do know is this – writing this book has changed me in more ways than I will probably ever know. I hope you’ll check in each week to see what I’ve discovered in the process. I hope you’ll share your thoughts, too.

I want there to be a formula, a fix, a set patterns of how to write and, now, how to edit this manuscript. Each day, I want to be able to set my body in this chair, do this and then this and then this, and produce amazing sentences that give people an ache in their chest with their beauty.

But neither life or nor art work on formulas.

This morning, I read of a ten-year-old girl from my hometown whose latest cancer scans show that she has inoperable tumors on her lungs. Her parents cry out for healing. We cry out for healing.

I want to find the exact pattern of foods and exercise and medicine and radiation that will heal this beautiful child.

There is no formula for how to heal every body; there is no formula for how to help a child die.


A poetic presentation of the gospel of Jesus is more accurate than a set of steps. – Donald Miller

I want life to work like a ladder, a magic trick, a system. Some days, I just want God to have created a world that is predictable, formulaic, all black and white. Some days, I simply want life to be easier.

But then, I remember the absolute glory of that unexpected note from a friend, the way a child surprised with a Cabbage Patch Doll on a regular Tuesday can remember that her whole life, the gift of closeness and honesty and unimaginable strength can come through illness and grief. I remember that the beauty of life is in relationship – is in the way our bumpy, scarred, scrappy lives rub up against one another – and I never want to reduce that to a formula.

So I sit down today, in this chair, with a cup of coffee and a stack of paper. I cry a little for the pain of a ten-year-old who suffers. I pray for clarity and wisdom and strength for all of us.

Then, I take out my pen and mess up these pristine pages with scratch-throughs and arrows. It never looks the same from day to day; it always looks more like life when I am done. For that, I remember to be grateful.

Where do you wish for formulas?