Today marks the release of one of two novels coming out this fall as part of my partnership with Rene Gutteridge and now Redbud press. Both are based on my screenplays. This first one is called Love’s a Stage. After I got married, I started to notice a lot of marriages around us crumbling. I wanted to explore themes of what it means to keep vows and how to make marriage last. My quirky, yet good-hearted lead character may go through great lengths (sometimes comically) to save a marriage while also learning along the way what it takes to make a marriage work and to find lasting true love.
Hope you enjoy the read and to one day bring you the feature film version:
Grad student and future marriage counselor Aly Brewster had a perfect childhood with perfect parents. Now she’s heading into her own perfect life: Finish her Master’s. Build a successful practice. Husband at twenty-six. But when her parents blindside her with the news they’re getting divorced, her perfect world shatters.
Actor Nick Armstrong has been in love with Aly since they met during freshman year. He’s happy to accept his assigned place in her Friend Zone because it lets him be close to her. But it’s been over five years—time to move on. Then the usually-unflappable Aly comes to him begging for help to save her parents’ marriage. Nick has the perfect plan: fake an engagement to each other to inspire her parents to fight to save their marriage. And who knows? It might trigger Aly’s feelings for him. But when Aly takes the ruse to the next level—planning a wedding in her parents’ backyard and hiring additional actors to play his family—enough is enough!
As the lines between acting and reality grow decidedly blurred, these two improvised fiancés must decide: are they going to finish the play…or exit stage right. Alone.
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Later this fall, our other novella will be out. We participated in a book of novellas called The Boy Next Door, where all the authors wrote different love stories about falling for the boy next door. The one Rene Gutteridge and I wrote is called O Little Town of Bethany.
We’ll let ya know when it’s out.
Both projects have scripts available for production.
Every year, we celebrate our anniversary by taking a trip away instead of giving each other gifts. Given that we are both “quality timers” in the love language department–with gifts as a low priority–this has worked well for us. We’d rather save our resources toward focused time away with each other.
My husband edited together a video / slideshow of this year’s trip to share the beauty of California. Since we’ll be leaving the state of California soon and Highway 1 is our favorite place to visit on earth thus far, we decided to extend this particular anniversary trip to see more of it before we go.
My encouragement to those who are married is to take is take the time to celebrate milestones, like anniversaries. Take the time to build precious memories together. Never forget to have fun together or remember if you have kids that you are spouses first, parents second. One of the topics we speak about to married couples is making sure you have good memories to look back on so that if you ever hit a rough patch in your marriage, you have good memories to draw on to remind you of how it can get better. It’s kind of like with God, when we go through a dry patch where we wonder where He is, and it “seems” like He’s absent. When we have memories with God to draw back on when He was faithful to us, they can carry our faith through until we sense His presence again–if we let it.
Have you ever seen the picture within a picture idea on Pinterest, where they suggest you take a photo of yourself on each anniversary holding last year’s anniversary photo? By 50 years you’ll have yourself in the image 50x. All four of our photos so far have been from Highway 1. It’ll be an adventure to see what those pictures will be in the future as we leave here. It’s never too late to start one of these. Now, go make some great memories with your spouse.
Have you ever had a problem and you didn’t know why or even what it was called? That’s what having a panic disorder was like for me. I found that people were so private about this problem that, even though I had people in my life with the same challenges, I didn’t know it. The problem was so embarrassing, none of us were sharing with each other what we were going through.
When I was twenty-one, almost ten years after my first anxiety attack, I still had never been diagnosed, still hadn’t seen a counselor. So, how did I finally find out I was having panic attacks?
When I was in grad school in 1993 at Regent University, I came across old episodes of a spin-off of The 700 Club. It wascalled Heart to Heart with Sheila Walsh. Sheila had Christian music artist, Michael English, on her show. He was discussing his struggles with a panic disorder. When I heard him describe his struggles—the sudden nature of a flood of symptoms coming out of nowhere—I was fascinated with him. His experience sounded so familiar. I looked up articles on him at the library to get more information. I had never heard someone talk about panic before. I thought, Wow! I wonder if this is what I have. The more I read about Michael and his struggles, the more I became convinced that I had some kind of an anxiety disorder.
While I am glad someone like Michael English decided to come forward with his story, it still didn’t encourage me to talk to anyone about it. I finally had a name to my problem, yet I was still silent with most everyone I knew. That drastically slowed down my healing from panic and anxiety.
My encouragement to you, if you have a problem, is start talking about it. Talk to trustsed friends, family members, or a counselor. If I hadn’t broken my two decades of silence about my challenges, I never would have healed.
If you or someone you know battles panic, anxiety or fear, I hope my story can help you. To order copies of Finally Fearless, visit the links below that go to Amazon, where the Ebook version of the regular book and the paperbacks of both books are available.
I did. Very much so. And for twenty years. I have to admit sharing this particular story was probably one of the most vulnerable choices I’ve ever made. But my drive to help others who are trapped by fear, anxiety, and panic, and unable to live the life they desire drove me to share my story. I never would have gotten married to Chris in 2011, had I not gone through this healing journey to get over my fears.
I want to share the opening of Finally Fearless with you, excerpted from Chapter One:
I thought I was getting married.
I also thought I was finally putting my panic disorder and anxiety issues behind me. I can’t seem to climb out of this deep, dark pit. Yet, I feel God is prompting, calling to me:
“Write about it. Tell your story.”
I wrestle with Him, asking, “Why? Why should I share my story when I feel so unhealed myself?”
Maybe in telling it, I will find healing. There’s only one way to find out.
It’s late 2003 as I embark on this journey to pull together the pieces I already started, and to write anew. To make this story whole.
Only I don’t have an ending.
Until I get married, I will not be able to test whether or not I’m truly healed of my anxiety disorder. I promise; that will make sense soon enough.
But everything just fell apart.
I’ve never felt more alone in my life. This natural life. Physical, tangible life. But I’ve also never felt God’s presence this closely. His voice clearer.
Maybe this is the season. Maybe my healing is finally within grasp. Maybe in sharing my story so openly, others with similar problems and challenges can also find healing. Maybe that will make the past twenty plus years of pain worth it.
I don’t want anyone else to suffer the way I have.
Cheryl’s Journal, a short story (2003)
When she found herself at the crossroads, she didn’t know which road to take. To go left meant running from her feelings, her fears and pain. But the path was so dim, faint, colorless the entire way. There was no light at its end.
To go right meant jumping straight into a long stretch of darkness. Mile after mile. There would be fear and trembling with every step. But at the end of the road to the right lived colors, hues, the light.
She asked herself, “Which road should I take?”
She chose the left. It may have been dim, but at least it wasn’t terrifying.
For years, she dragged her feet down that road. With each step, she saw nothing of the life she craved. She felt no fear, yet she also felt no joy. Her life was changeless. Predictable. As she looked ahead, the future held more of the same—nothing of the life she hoped to reach. The path led her down the dead end road.
She knew she had to turn back and go right, down that road of darkened, unmapped territory.
She traveled back, mile after mile, before she returned to that fork in the road. Then, she chose the right path. It was dark, daunting, lined with fears to face. But if she refused to walk through these shadows, she’d never find the light. That’s the hope she held so tightly.
A Small, Small World
Have panic attacks destroyed any of your dreams? Has fear and the experience of anxiety shrunk your world down to a few safe places? Have your fears caused you to modify where you can go, what you’re willing to do, whom you’re willing to be with? If so, there’s good news: you don’t have to stay that way. You can seek healing. There is a way to restore your world back to its normal size with the breadth that includes all the treasures life has to offer. If you’ve been stuck on the dim road where anxiety gives you limitations and few safe places, it’s time to choose a different path. Now is the time to choose the path that leads toward the light. For me, that light came through God, Jesus, and the healing balm of the Holy Spirit.
Through this book, I will share my story. I’ll share how I let anxiety rule my life, choosing the dim road that held no hope. I’ll share how I finally chose to face my fears and walk toward the light no matter how frightening the path was. I was able to change from the road on the left to that road on the right because God held my hand every step of the way, even when I didn’t feel it. I hungered badly enough for the kind of peace that only God could provide to walk through storms, refining fire, and every dark place to reach it.
I hope you’ll open your heart’s door and journey with me. Perhaps together we can change the way you face your anxieties. Wouldn’t you love to be on the path towards freedom from the debilitating effects of fear?
An estimated forty million Americans suffer from some form of an anxiety disorder. It’s the most common mental condition, yet only one-third receive treatment or help.
Keeping our disorder a secret is destroying our spirits, trapping us in a jail cell barred with panic, fear, and anxiety. It’s time to break the silence and reach out for the help that’s available. That can only begin when we first admit we have a problem: to ourselves, to other people, to our healing God.
I am not a psychologist or medical doctor. Most of the time I struggled with an anxiety disorder, I had no idea what was wrong with me and felt alone.
Have you ever felt like you are the only one in the world who has this challenge? Have you kept it a secret because you feel like no one will understand? I hid my problem because I didn’t know there were forty million others who had it, too! And for at least ten of the twenty years I had an anxiety disorder, I didn’t even know what it was called. That is why I decided to write this book. I want you, my readers, to know you are not alone anymore.
Throughout this book, I will share words I believe God has spoken directly to me during prayer or through dreams. God spoke to me in ways that were able to heal my heart and heal me of my anxiety disorder, freeing me from living with panic attacks and irrational fears. If you don’t know how to already, I encourage you to learn how you can hear God’s voice so you can welcome Him to heal you divinely. If you read any of the books I talk about, put Dialogue with God by Mark and Patti Virkler on the top of that stack. (Please note: Dialogue With God now has an updated version since I penned this book, called 4 Keys to Hearing God’s Voice. I also recommend The Holy Spirit: Amazing Power for Everyday People by Susan Rohrer).
Hearing what God has to say heals us because God is the Wonderful Counselor. When we learn how to hear and discern His voice, He can speak healing and encouragement to our hearts. He can offer comfort and advice. But if we are not listening, we will not hear. And for many of us, it’s simply because we don’t know how or we’ve never been taught.
I firmly believe I would have recovered a lot sooner if I had known how to hear God’s voice earlier. I know His counsel helps with emotional struggles because I’ve used this to help with other emotional problems, like depression. I never would have crawled out of that dark hole without God’s intervention and words spoken to me. But God wants to talk to all of us, not just me! Don’t think of this as some special gift I have. God loves all of His children and wants nothing more than to be in communication with us.
I don’t know if panic ever goes away. The only test is living and seeing if you ever have an attack again. Since none of us know the future, it’s hard to tell if panic is ever gone from our lives. I can testify that what used to take over my life is now in the background, a distant memory.
However, if panic or anxiety are at the forefront of your life, there are so many different things you can do to walk actively toward the healing God can give you. That walk will be explored throughout this book.
Let’s journey together on the path toward healing, toward a life that is fulfilling and free from overwhelming fear. Notice I didn’t say anxiety-free, for that would be tough for anyone who breathes.
If you or someone you know battles this problem, I hope my story can help you. To order copies of Finally Fearless, visit the links below that go to Amazon, where the Ebook version of the regular book and the paperbacks of both books are available.
How about enjoying some humor today? Naturally, when you solicit marriage advice, you get quite a variety of ideas from novices and veterans alike. Today’s Wisdom Wednesday will focus on some of the funny tidbits we received from others. Hope you enjoy a good laugh:
“Don’t read, or let your husband read, Proverbs 31:10-31.” (CS)
“Fight naked.” (NS and DB and AC, yes three people gave us that one.)
“Don’t eat that one year old cake!” (CA) (We didn’t! I think it’s still in his sister’s freezer.)
“For the bride: lingerie is your next best friend.” (A)
“Have lots of s*x” – (We got a lot of these notes on note cards)
“Don’t always be right, even though you are.” (VB)
“He’ll put up with our girlie food for a while then declare his need for MEAT.” (SH)
“Earplugs, sleep masks, and tiny reading lights are bliss savers.” (SM)
Are you frustrated with being single? Have you been wondering where God is in the midst of your life and its seemingly missing “love story?” So was I. For almost 39 years of my life. I tried to pen what that love life should look like (with my purple pen, in my journals. Ten, twenty. Okay, maybe more like thirty journals worth?) But seriously what I penned was no where near my reality.
So I turned my pen over to another outlet. One in which I vent my frustrations, my questions, prayers, and cries out to God. I turned it into a book, Finally the Bride: Finding Hope While Waiting. Now, it’s available in audio form.
So I know there are a lot of people out there waiting, searching, wondering what God is up to in this area of life. That blog is excerpted from a chapter of this book. The list is available in the link above.
I was very blessed to find such a delightful voiceover talent, to capture the heart of “me” and all my angst. Her name is Shawna M. Washabaugh. She can be just as snarky as me when moaning to God about “why is this taking so long?” She did a wonderful job, not only voicing the book but producing it as well.
Shawna M. Washabaugh
(Narrator / Producer)
It’s a great alternative to the print book for those who would rather listen to audiobooks or for book clubs who want to go through the book together. You can listen to chapters during your meeting and then discuss them.
You can listen to a sample on any of the sites where it’s on sale at these following links:
Also available on Itunes. Search: Finally the Bride in Audiobooks or search by Cheryl McKay
I pray that my story encourages you in your waiting, and that you will know you are not alone in what you feel. I also recently started a Pinterest board, hoping to collect various quotes, articles and such that could be of encouragement to singles:
This week’s tidbit of marital wisdom is something we heard often from many people, but we don’t have a specific quote. So we’ll take a couple straight out of the Bible, the best book of wisdom out there.
Colossians 3:15b (niv) “…Be thankful.”
Psalms 147:7a (niv) “Sing to the Lord with grateful praise…”
We sometimes start our prayer times by singing praises with Chris playing the guitar. Admittedly, this is harder to do if we are weathering some difficult circumstances. Sometimes, it’s easy to focus on what we don’t have and what isn’t going right. We can forget what is a wonderful blessing right before us. If Chris and I struggle with disappointments about what God isn’t doing right now, we lose sight of what He is doing. We try to make it a practice to remember to be grateful for the many blessings that are in our lives. We know this is good advice, even if it’s not always easy to follow. However, we definitely find that our household is a lot more peaceful when we have an attitude of thankfulness.
Along the lines of gratefulness, we should always remember to thank our spouses for all that they do for us and the wonderful ways in which they contribute to our lives. A “thank you” is so easy; it doesn’t cost us anything. Yet, it can mean so much.
No we are not just being silly for our blog. These photos were taken by Susan Rohrer during the video shoot we did for our wedding reception (produced by Caroline Way). We took these to make thank you cards for those who came to our wedding.
While some who submitted marriage advice cards to us were coming from the perspective of the newly married, offering how to get things started on the right footing, others who submitted marriage advice cards have a long history of marriage:
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“Always believe the best of each other and never speak poorly of
your spouse in public. After 37 years, what started off as a practice is now a way
of life.” (PP)
“My favorite piece of advice for someone getting married is this: ‘Remember, you are now the reporter or press agent for your husband-to-be.’ What you say about him to others will either be good or bad. Choose the right way and be a terrific reporter for him.” (BH)
There are times when news stories truly captivate my attention and sometimes my heart in a way I can’t let go. I can’t stop reading about the people, their lives, their journeys. Lately, there are so many things happening in our world and even just in our country that have pierced many of our hearts. School massacres, marathon bombings, rescued kidnap victims, disaster tornadoes.
But then there’s this story of one man in Canada that has fueled many of my prayers, tears, and cries out to God on behalf of the family. And I don’t even know them.
When a friend in Canada posted about the kidnapping of Tim Bosma, asking for prayers for the family, for some reason that story got under my skin. She went to high school with one of Tim’s sisters. Another friend’s family went to church with Tim’s family. He disappeared from the same community where I celebrated my Canadian citizenship coming through in 2010, going up there in time for Canadian Thanksgiving.
Despite not knowing them personally, I found myself praying everyday for him, his family, the wife and daughter who were anxiously at home awaiting news about his well-being. I checked the web each day for news. Along with everyone else, I so wanted to hear that he’d been found alive.
What was so disturbing about this story was he was a man doing an everyday thing that many of us do: trying to sell a truck by listing it online. Innocent enough, isn’t it?
However, when two people responded to the ad and came over to test drive it, Tim went with them, telling his wife and daughter he’d be right back. Naturally, you don’t hand your keys over to total strangers and expect them to return. It seemed like a normal thing to do — To go with them, didn’t it?
Tim didn’t come back home that night. Or the next night. Or the next. The kidnapping was reported almost immediately. The police department got right on the task of looking for him. No 24-hour waiting period required in a disappearance of this nature.
I can’t imagine what the wait must have felt like for the Bosma family and friends. He disappeared on May 6th. Sadly, his body was found, burned beyond recognition, on May 14th. It was the morning of my second wedding anniversary. I cried as I texted my husband the news, aching on behalf of this new widow.
(Sharlene Bosma, From CBC’s broadcast of Tim’s funeral)
Tim and his wife Sharlene got married a little over a year before my husband Chris and I got married. Their love story was cut entirely too short. The pain she must be enduring is unimaginable. It all seems so senseless: to take a man from his family over a truck. Those who did this to him didn’t think through what this would do to her, or the daughter who would grow up without her father. They acted selfishly. Or as they said at Tim’s funeral, “evil drove up our driveway.”
I have watched this family of strangers from afar and been very impressed with their courage, strength, and how they’re calling evil what it is and trying their best to not place blame on God for allowing it to happen even though they’ve had their weak moments as anyone would. Even I have uttered some prayers to ask God, “Why? Why was this allowed to happen?” They’ve kept their faith intact.
I watched the CBC’s live broadcast of his funeral. Everyone who spoke did so in a way that truly honored a man who was clearly a jokester, a prankster, loved to laugh, and obviously loved his family. They were real, honest, and yet not bitter. They held tightly to their faith in God and Jesus and knew that Tim was in Heaven.
Tim’s sister Michelle was very inspirational in her tribute. “Our family will not be ripped apart. Our family will not lose hope. I urge you today to get your act together. Spend more time with your family. Spend more time with your kids. Spend more time with your spouse.”
The last speaker at the funeral was his widow. I was amazed by Sharlene’s strength. I watched her laugh with people’s jokes and special tributes or cry when they shared something meaningful. And here she was, able to speak to the over 1000 people in attendance, words I will never forget. “What happened to him was not God’s doing. I know that if it wasn’t Tim, it could have been another man and another man’s family. What if they didn’t have the support that we have? Evil came to pass.”
But she didn’t stop there. Evil doesn’t get the last word. This tragedy had put her face-to-face with evil, but it also showed her the kindness, generosity, and goodness that exist in others. And it comes out stronger than evil. She said, “We have seen there is far more good on this earth. I believe, especially in this case, good will overcome evil.”
That is the grace of God at work. She couldn’t have that strength otherwise. I remember being struck by the words author Sheila Walsh once wrote in a book as she watched a friend lose someone close to her. She pondered how she didn’t know how they were dealing with the pain, how they were making it through. But God whispered to Sheila’s spirit that she didn’t understand it because it wasn’t her trial. She didn’t have the grace to go through that person’s trial, but that God had given His grace to the one going through it. Those words have stuck with me for the decade since I read them. Watching Tim’s family talk so eloquently, in faith, is seeing this concept in action. God truly shows up to comfort the brokenhearted. (Ps. 34:18)
I think being a fellow “newlywed,” this has hit me especially close to the heart. Sharlene humorously talked of their disastrous first date, their long wait to find each other, which for them was about 30 years. Chris and I may have waited an extra 10 years to find each other, but waiting is waiting. Searching is searching. And when you finally find it, as I share my angsty search in my book for singles, Finally the Bride: Finding Hope While Waiting, you don’t want to have to let go of it so soon. Or ever. I feel for this woman. As a screenwriter/novelist, I often cry with my characters’ predicaments. But in this case, the person I am crying for is real with a real journey ahead that no longer involves sharing life with the love of her life.
I found it gut wrenching, through the generosity of the location, they returned to the site of their wedding reception for Tim’s funeral. I tear up just thinking about what that must have felt like for anyone in that room who attended their celebratory wedding just over three years ago.
Tim had no idea that May 6th was his last day on earth. Those who loved him didn’t either. His story is such a harsh reminder to not waste time.
Just like we expressed in my film The Ultimate Gift, through James Garner and Abigail Breslin’s characters, life is precious. When I wrote that screenplay, of all the 12 gifts, The Gift of a Day was my favorite one. It highlights how precious life is. We shouldn’t waste any time because we never know how much time we have left.
(Cheryl with Abigail Breslin, who played a cancer patient, Emily, in “The Ultimate Gift”)
Sharlene jokingly talked about what drove her crazy about Tim: he’d leave his socks on the end tables in the living room and dirty dishes just above the clearly available dishwasher. But now, she says she’d give anything to have back those dirty socks and dirty dishes.
To the Bosma family, know that there are many people around the world praying for you, inspired by you, praying for justice, and for good to overcome evil. You have touched the hearts of many.
If anyone is so inclined to help the family, they have website set up to donate toward a trust fund to help Tim’s wife and daughter. They also have a photo slide show to see a celebration of Tim’s life.
“Plan to renew your vows at every opportunity.” (KSM)
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We loved this piece of advice. I usually hear of people doing this at a particular marker, like the 20th year or some other big anniversary, having a ceremony among friends and family. Chris & I decided to take this advice to heart and started the tradition on our first anniversary trip. Yesterday was our second anniversary. This is a tradition we plan to continue. Reminding each other what we promised on our wedding day is a very good practice.
On our first anniversary trip, we went on a road trip up the coast of HWY 1, and stopped in a little town called Harmony. (Population 18. It’s one street long.) We stopped at their chapel and renewed our vows right there. It doesn’t have to be fancy. We didn’t book the place or anything. We just stopped on our way to San Simeon, and set up the tripod and took a photo while we did it to capture the memory.