In which I reveal to you the cover of my novel

It's amazing to think that something you've been working on for four years might finally be becoming a tangible book you can hold in your hands. 

Self-publishing is no joke. I have never read so many forums on margin sizes or spent this much time Googling how to format a Word document. Each day I spend hours trying to make my novel just that much more precise, ensuring there are no extra spaces in the manuscript, and that the font is easy on your eyes. 

And all of this —all of the non-writing stuff—will be worth it as soon as you have this book in your hands. 

That time is coming. Today you are now able to PRE-ORDER my novel! I cannot express my excitement to you. 

Even more exciting, I can now show you the official cover. I love it so much. Huge gratitude to my friend and graphic designer, Brendon Downey, for making the cover better than I could have imagined. 

9781775018407.jpg

What do you think? 

I love it.

I wanted the cover to be peach (you'll find out why when you read the novel). I also wanted to include a house. The book has a distinct theme about home. What does it feel like when someone leaves you behind? And what would it look like if they decided to come home again? Lastly, I am excited that we were able to incorporate some of my hand-lettering. 

You can pre-order Come Find Me, Sage Parker here:

*recommended if you're in the US

*recommended if you're in Canada

And if you haven't seen yet, you can download the first chapter for free here: 

And finally, I will leave you with the blurb that will appear on the back of the book. 


For nine years Maeve Parker has been waiting for her mother to come home. 

“I’ll be back soon, my darling,” her mother, Sage, said the day she left. “Don't you worry. I just need to go find myself.”

Do you have to run away in order to find yourself? Maeve wondered. When, exactly, do you know when that self you were so desperately looking for is found?

Now Maeve is sixteen-years-old and Sage still hasn’t returned.

Fiercely independent and disillusioned, Maeve has grown up with her mother’s ex-boyfriend as her only companion. Giving up all hope of Sage’s return, she convinces herself that mothers—and people—are unnecessary. When she meets Ky and Levi, she is adamant about keeping them at arms length. But Ky, the only true friend Maeve knows, and Levi, the boy with the startling blue eyes, crash through Maeve’s walls.

Then one of them is wrenched away—permanently. And Maeve is left dangling with the final words they left behind: go find Sage Parker. 

Waiting for a rainbow baby: a story of recurring pregnancy loss


I am honoured to host my friend Sarah here today. Sarah is a classical singer with the prettiest voice you'll ever hear. She's also a strong, resilient woman. I have been stunned by the tenacity she and her husband have shown through the exceptional amount of pain they continue to walk through today. I hope you feel touched by her story. I know I am.

by Sarah Shelley

Rainbow Baby: A baby born after a miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death or infant loss.  The rainbow does not negate the effects of the storm, but offers a sign of hope at the end.   

i.

I had my first positive pregnancy test in April 2015. 

I was 25-years-old and absolutely over the moon with the result. My husband Josiah was away when I took the test, so I immediately began planning how I would tell him when he returned at the end of the week. After several hours scouring Pinterest, I settled on something personal. We have a wire picture holder on the wall in our apartment. It’s designed to hold photographs with little clothes pegs, but we use it to hold cards with reminders of how God has been good to us along with answered prayer requests. Each card has a word on the front and a small description on the back. I made one that said “Adventures,” and on the back I wrote: “We are going to have an adventurous year — Christmas this year will include a baby… and I’m not talking about baby Abbott.” (My sister was expecting a baby in early May of that year.)  I went in for blood work to confirm the test and waited for the end of the week when Josiah would return. I felt like I was walking on air for the rest of the week with a perfect secret only I knew about. 

At the end of the week, I picked Josiah up from the airport, drove home, and showed him my new addition to our reminder board.  He was thrilled — shocked, but thrilled. We went into full celebration mode as we talked and dreamed about our future.  How and when would we tell our families?  There were so many great things to plan — Pinterest to the rescue! 

About a week later, I woke up in the morning with cramping and bleeding. Worried, I immediately went to see my doctor. Test results showed that I lost the baby. The rest of that week is a blur in my memory. Josiah and I both took time off work. We sat together, cried together, and napped a lot. Emotionally, we were exhausted. Physically, I was exhausted too. I didn’t know this before, but a miscarriage isn’t one momentary event – it lasts for days and sometimes even weeks as the body clears out all signs of the life it was growing. Add pregnancy hormones into the mix, and it’s a recipe for disaster. 

In the middle of all of this, my sister was in the last few weeks of her pregnancy. Months prior, I had offered to host a baby shower for her. We hadn’t announced our pregnancy to our families yet and I wanted my sister to be able to truly celebrate her day without worrying about how her joy could hurt me, so I took the maximum dose of the pain killers I had and proceeded with the event as planned. My sister is very kind and she obviously would have understood if I had to change the shower plans, but my hormone overloaded brain could not process any alternate plans. The only real options I saw were to cancel the shower entirely or fake it for a few hours – I chose the latter. 

ii.

It took a little while to heal, but after several months, we realized how much we (still) wanted to have a baby. We started trying again and I found out I was pregnant in early December — the same week I was supposed to deliver from the previous pregnancy. This time, I bought a little onesie from the store, Indigo, that read “I’m told I like hockey” and wrapped it up for Josiah. 

With hesitation, we celebrated again. 

My estimated due date was mid-August. I am a classical singer by profession and December is notoriously busy for concerts and events. At 7 weeks pregnant, I was waiting off stage for a Christmas concert performance when I felt a familiar cramping sensation in my lower abdomen.  I couldn’t verbalize my fears without breaking down entirely, so I pushed my worries aside, walked out onto the stage, and sang a song about a baby in a manger, as I contemplated if I was losing my own baby at the same time. Many might argue that I should have just left and not performed, but those five minutes of singing gave me a beautiful escape. While I sang, I got lost in the song and actually felt happy and at peace. After the performance, I left the concert early and drove home with tears streaming down my face. The cramping quickly turned to bleeding and the next morning, my mother-in-law drove me to the hospital. Josiah doesn’t travel that often, but he happened to be in Tennessee for a few days — just terrible timing. At the hospital, the doctors ran ultrasounds and blood work. I was told I lost the baby — again.

Josiah returned the onesie. We mourned together a second time.   

The second loss was not easier than the first. I felt like my first wounds had been ripped open again and I had to heal for two losses. Two miscarriages in the same year is hard to process, so I named the babies we never got to hold. I needed to acknowledge them in some way – remember their brief existence. I named my first Ella because it means “little girl” and she was only ever little.  I named the second Oliver. The name popped into my head and it seemed to fit with Ella, so it stuck.  I wish I had a better reason than that. Both babies were too small to know gender for sure, but just because they were small doesn’t mean they didn’t matter. This is also when I started to seek out other stories of mothers who had miscarried. I needed to know the pain was survivable — that others had walked the path I was on and made it out alive with their heart intact. I read blog posts (some helpful, some definitely not) and I read a book by Samantha Evans called “Love Letters to Miscarried Moms.” If you are going through a miscarriage or if you know someone who is, I highly recommend the book. 

After the second miscarriage, Josiah and I went to One Fertility in Burlington. We became willing pin cushions, as the doctors performed multiple tests on both of us.  At one appointment, I counted 17 different vials of blood taken from my arm. I didn’t care though because each test brought us closer to a reason. We wanted answers and we would give up any amount of blood to get them. The good news and the bad news is that everything came back mostly normal.  I was put on a thyroid medication and given a hormone called progesterone, but the doctors could see no obvious reason for my two losses. 

iii.

In early August 2016, I found out I was pregnant again for a third time. The test came back positive the same week I was supposed to deliver from the last pregnancy – again. This baby was due in April 2017 and now we had the fertility clinic on our side. At 5.5 weeks, I had my first ultrasound and everything looked normal. We booked an appointment for another ultrasound at 6.5 weeks. I felt good, maybe even happy, as we went in for the second ultrasound, fully expecting to see that little flicker of a heartbeat on the ultrasound monitor. The ultrasound technician was silent as she scanned me. She asked only one question: had I experienced any bleeding? No, the answer was no. I felt good — no cramping. No bleeding. But maybe that didn’t matter? The doctor informed us that the ultrasound did not look normal, but she wanted more tests to compare my results. At 7 weeks, we went for the third ultrasound. 

They couldn’t find the baby. 

I was told I miscarried again. This time, there were no warning signs like cramping or blood, but it didn’t matter. The cramping and bleeding started shortly after we left the appointment, just like the doctor said it would. Josiah spent hours holding me as my body cleared out the life inside me for a third time. We cocooned ourselves in our bed, exhausted from pain and sadness. As the cramping began to subside, my sister called and, without knowing our news, she announced that she was pregnant. Of all 365 days in the year, we were given the same due date. I hung up the phone and wept. 

We named our baby John.

At a fertility clinic, the system post-miscarriage is a little more involved than a regular doctor’s office. The doctors watch you much more closely as your body attempts to return to normal.  There are weeks of bloodwork and follow-up appointments. We met with the doctor and despite having three ultrasounds in the first trimester, they couldn’t find any reason for the miscarriage.  We were told that we could keep trying or we could look in to IVF (in vitro fertilization).

iv.

After I recovered (physically and emotionally) we decided to keep trying as we looked into IVF.  IVF is a whole other blog post in itself. There are a lot of hormones, needles, appointments, and other procedures — not to mention it is also very expensive. As my due date from the previous pregnancy approached, can you guess what happened? If you guessed “positive pregnancy test” — you’re right!  My body, apparently, is like clockwork in the most frustrating way. 

After three unexplained miscarriages, a positive pregnancy test is no longer a thing of joy — it’s a source of anxiety. There was no fanfare with this announcement. Thirty seconds after the two lines appeared on the pregnancy test, I walked over to Josiah and told him the news. I called the fertility clinic and started the testing process — again. At just over 5 weeks, some of the blood results were questionable, so Josiah and I decided to reach out to some family and friends for prayer. We had an ultrasound at 5.5 weeks where we saw a little flicker of a heartbeat. The tiny little pixels on the screen flickering was the most beautiful sight I’d seen in a while. We returned two weeks later and saw a bigger baby with a stronger heartbeat. The baby was measuring a little small, but we started to hope. Our baby’s due date was in December 2017. 

In my 9th week, I woke up in the night with unfortunately familiar pain. Contraction-like cramps wreaked havoc on my abdomen. The heating pad became my lifeline as the pain intensified and the bleeding increased. Josiah sat with me again — unable to take the pain away, but refusing to leave my side. There are some questions you never even consider having to answer. What do you do with a 9-week old baby in the palm of your hand at 4 in the morning? At 9 weeks, a baby is the size of a grape, cherry, or a cocktail olive — depending on which week-by-week pregnancy site you’re following. All the organs are there — the heart is beating and there’s even a tongue with tiny taste buds! But in that moment. I knew it was over. I felt numb as I cleaned my hand and flushed the toilet. The ultrasound later that morning only confirmed what we already knew – the baby was gone.

We named our baby Hazel because it means “God sees.” 

So what now?

We had our follow-up appointment recently. We’ve been encouraged to look into IVF again. I don’t know what we’ll do — we haven’t decided yet. Four losses in a row is a lot to process, but IVF is a big decision too. 

There’s a story in the Bible in the book of Daniel about 3 brothers — Shadrach Meshach and Abednego. The brothers refuse to bow down and worship an idol the king has made.  When the king confronts the brothers, he threatens to throw them into a furnace, but the brothers still refuse to bow. They state that they believe God can save them from the fire, but if not, they will still never bow to the idol. 

But if not.  Those are powerful words.

They’re saying that even if nothing goes according to plan, they will serve the Lord faithfully.  I long for faith like that, but I find it hard to trust when there are so many unanswered questions.  I know the ending of the story with the furnace, but I can’t see my own ending yet. The brothers were thrown into the fire — and the fire was made extra hot just because the king was ticked off.  When the guards looked into the furnace though, they saw four men walking around.  Only three brothers were thrown into the flames. The Lord met them in the fire.  Stunned and amazed, the king let the brothers out of the furnace — unharmed.  God saved brothers in the end — just not at all in the way the brothers had planned. 

I had a very different plan in mind for my life.  It certainly did not involve a miscarriage, let alone four.  I don’t have a happy ending to share with you — there’s no plot twist at the end with a pregnancy announcement or some other epiphany that rectifies all the pain we’ve dealt with over the last two years, but I think my story is still worth sharing. Unfortunately, I’m not alone in my miscarriage experience. 15 to 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage but no one talks about it. I’m making an attempt to change that.  I’m sharing my story so you can feel comfortable sharing yours too. 

You are not alone. 

I know it’s hard to verbalize the conflicting emotions. The doubts. The questions. The all-encompassing sorrow that threatens to drown you. But find someone to talk to. Find a friend who will sit with you in your sorrow. Dear friends, don’t try to fix anything — you can’t fix this with any combination of words or actions, but you can be present. Feel the pain with us. Just sit. It’s uncomfortable, I know, but please avoid all placating comments like: “It’s for the best,” or “God has a plan,” or any sentence that begins with the words “At least…”

None of these words are helpful — I promise you. 

The words “I’m so sorry for your loss” speak more than any speech on “God’s will” ever could.  Keep it honest. Keep it simple. 

There’s a story in a book called “The Hiding Place,” by Corrie Ten Boom. Corrie tells the story of a train trip with her father when she is a child. Corrie has a lot of questions and she becomes frustrated with her father when he refuses to give her answers. Now, Corrie’s questions and my questions are very different, but the father’s response is still applicable. Corrie’s father uses an analogy of a suitcase to answer her big questions. He asks if Corrie will carry their suitcase off the train. She replies that she cannot because the suitcase is too heavy for her. Her father says it’s the same way with our heavenly father. Some things — some questions and answers — are too big for us to carry. So we have to trust that He will carry it for us. 

So I wait and trust. I’m forced to wait, really. I don’t know how our story will end, but trust in the God who does know. I pick up the same necklace every morning and put it around my neck as a reminder of the faith I strive for.

But if not.

I wear those words over my heart until finally — slowly — they start to sink in. 

A piece of truth for you (and a free printable)

It's been almost a month since I finished school for the summer. Entering the summer has brought forth both excitement and relief to be finished papers, exams, and assignments. But for me this summer has also opened some wounds that feel fresh and raw and achy, which has allowed me to enter a period of healing.

Fear is a constant struggle for me. Even, two years ago, when I started a concept called The Year of No Fear, I still consistently felt afraid. This summer I am focusing on breathing truth into my core, which often circles around to embedding scripture and words Jesus says deep inside of me.

This hunt for truth has revealed to me what the definition of truth really is. St. Augustine said, "All truth is God's truth". If that's the case, I'm starting to recognize just how many things point back to God. 

It has almost become a sort of scavenger hunt. I get into my car in the morning, put my sunglasses on, and search for truth. What will be true today? I think. What truth will I find that will point me back to God? 

When I search for truth, I end up finding it. Sometimes I find it in people and places I never even thought to look. 

"The truth will set you free," Jesus said. And of course he's right. But I'm learning it can hurt to get there.

Today, on Mother's Day, we gave each woman in my church this print I painted. I wanted to also share it with you. I wonder how you are today. I wonder how you are this summer. I wonder how, even when the flowers are blooming and the birds are chirping and the sun is beating down on your shoulder blades, if maybe you feel some sadness entangled within all of that too. 

But no need to fear.

Here you go. 

We can breathe in truth together. 

The 5 things my professor taught me today

 

Tomorrow marks my last day of my first year of college. It's funny: the feelings I have today versus the feelings I had in September. September, I was nauseous; today, I am nostalgic. The difference is enormous.

I'm writing this today so I don't forget. My digital storytelling professor just finished her final lecture with our class, and the words she said to us made me feel a range of different emotions. I'd like to make a small flip book of all of her phrases, so on the days I feel low, I can read them and remember. (She once said, "In the times you feel low, you must find the things that won't take you down any lower.")

Instead, I'll place them here for us both.

Drink in silence.

She looked at the class as she said this. She is a tall South African woman, with a calm, lilting voice and a gentle spirit. She smiles often and thanks the class regularly for our contribution.

"Drink in the silence," she said again. "When it is the middle of the night and you wake up, just you and the darkness, pause for a moment. Drink in your own thoughts, and the wonder of life. Think about all the things you'd like to do, so when you wake up you can start doing them."

Wake up with purpose.

"When you wake up in the morning," she said, "Do not think, 'Why do I have to get up today?' Instead, think about your purpose. Find a purpose; choose a goal. If you have a goal, there is no excuse for you not to get up out of bed. If you have a purpose and a goal everyday of your life, I promise you, each night you will fall into bed tired, exhausted from your purposeful day."

Practice the art that makes you feel alive.

Immediately I thought of the hundreds of pages of fiction I've written, chapters of secrecy I've stashed deep in my computer. I feel alive when I write fiction, and poetry, and people's stories.

"Always practice the art that makes you feel alive and that allows you to express the life you have as a human being," she said, smiling. "Whether that's playing music, or drawing, or acting, or writing, or singing. We don’t do these things to become Shakespeare or Beethoven or someone famous. We do these things because they make us come alive."

When things go wrong, contribute to change. 

She spoke about this one person she knew who complained often, but never seemed to try and change the things he was complaining about. I thought of myself immediately when she said it: do I complain and leave it at that? I don't want to be satisfied when something is mediocre. I want to be an agent of change.

"When something goes wrong," she said, "Don’t just complain about it. Do something about it. Do something about the things that frustrate you." 

(I think that's where some of the best stories come from. People doing something about the things that frustrated them.)

Surround yourself with courageous people.

This was my favourite phrase of hers this semester. She's a strong believer in courage -- and oh, so am I.

"Identify courageous people and surround yourself with them," she said. "They will say or do things that will help you be courageous when you need it most. Forget about popular people, and wealthy people, and influential people. Instead, make sure you have courageous people in your life. Take note of them and tell their stories to everybody."

I am excited about my first year of college. I have loved many moments, gathered new skills, and met kind people. My brain has been like a sponge, soaking in information at rapid speed.

But this professor was the most impactful for me. Before I left today, I thanked her for the final time.

"Do it all, Aliza," she told me. "Write more fiction and poetry. Publish four books. Go places and write from there, make more art, and figure out a way to blend all of the things you love together."

My steps were light even as I bounded out of the building and into the April rain. No one had quite told me that before.

I never realized it was something I needed to hear.

When babies are dying and you don't have a clue what to do

It's pouring outside. The heavy rain is going to last up until tomorrow, and I can't stop thinking that maybe this is God's way of telling us he's weeping.

The heaviness sits inside of my heart too; Syrian babies are dying, being gassed then sprayed with water, people choking, their lungs collapsing like a deflated balloon inside of them.

And here I am. Sitting in my reporting class watching my video reporter package on a maple syrup festival.

I feel ill.

I've had to stop myself multiple times today from standing up and screaming at my professor, "What is the point of all of this? What is the point of learning journalism when we're not even telling stories that matter?"

Why does anyone care about a freaking maple syrup festival when there are bodies on the floor in Syria?

Last night I was shadowing a TV host at a station for a school assignment. I stood at the back, in the dark, my notebook clutched tight between my fingers. I watched as the busyness of the station unfolded before me. I stood half amused, mostly surprised that I actually understood the majority of what was happening around me, and I couldn't help but think, "Maybe college really is teaching me something..."

(I feel this way because I'm tired and only have three weeks left of the year.) Anyways, I digress.

A cameraman whispered to me last night, motioning me to come over. I did.

"What are you in school for?" He asked.

"Journalism," I replied softly. We were whispering because they were going to start filming on the set soon.

He nodded, serious. "Then you need to go to the Middle East."

"Oh, I would love to someday."

His eyes were dark, black almost, like a nighttime sky. "You need to," he replied earnestly. "I'm an immigrant from Egypt. I came here five years ago, and the stories coming from the Middle East are not.... how do you say..." He paused for a moment, then searched something on his phone. He showed me the screen, and it said in a Google search: unbiased. 

"You feel like the reporting about what's happening in the Middle East is not unbiased?" I asked.

He nodded.

"I'm sorry," I said. I didn't know what else to say.

"You go there," he told me. "You tell the truth."

I suddenly felt overwhelmingly helpless, the kind of helpless that sinks deep into the pit of your stomach and slowly turns to a burning rage. Because who am I? A young Canadian journalism student that writes reporter packages on maple syrup festivals? I sit in my class, weary with myself and the world around me. Too often I care more about my school finals, and paying for next year's tuition, and that parking ticket I just acquired, than the news headlines that make me feel heavy and full.

Syria feels far away, gas attacks seem impossible, twin babies dying in their father's arms is too much for my brain to comprehend. Because I am here, safe and warm and will never have chemicals spray down on my skin.

The rain's falling harder now.

I might join in with God's weeping soon.


Helpful links: 

Preemptive Love Coalition  // Even though it feels like we can't do anything, I am trying to remember that there are steps we can take. Preemptive Love Coalition is doing a lot of incredible and immediate work over in Syria — and what I don't want to forget is that God is so much larger than all of this. Thank God we love a God who is larger than this. 

On finding your freedom

There are distinct moments in my life that are permanently embedded in my brain: my mother exiting the doctor's office on a cold January morning, her face pale and fear-stricken, only to tell me a few seconds later that she had cancer growing inside of her. Another moment took place when I was in Peru, when my father called me and told me my grandmother had passed away. I looked up at the South American sky and suddenly felt like my world was no longer the same.

There are a dozen other moments I distinctly remember: breakups, and emails with unkind words, and feeling rejected over and over again.

But now, weeks or months or years later, I can look back on those moments and see them in a new way.

Each of them created something beautiful inside of me. God took that horrible January morning and showed me His faithfulness. He took my grandmother's death and reminded me of His love. He took all the other moments and proved His goodness to me, saying, "This was not the best thing I had in mind for you, Aliza. Let me show you something so much greater." And in each circumstance, He did.

Those dark moments in our lives can be utterly agonizing, feeling as though they'll last forever. But God's plan isn't for us to live in pain and confusion. Instead, when we unfurl our clenched fists and give our pain over to Him, He takes all of these broken moments and transforms them into something so much more beautiful than we could ever imagine.

Come over with me to (in)courage -- I'll be praying for you to find freedom from these broken moments... 

The nights you can see only your shame

It was two in the morning and I was wide awake. My body was exhausted. It felt as though my lungs were made of bricks, heavy and full. If I tried to get out of bed, I knew I would tip over.

I could see my failures play like a movie in front of me. It was as if there was a projector reeling videos on my white wall beside me -- everything was abundantly clear. There I was: failing, sinning, screwing up again and again. I sat on my bed and watched the movie clips play in my head.

Tears streamed.

"I am a failure," I told Jesus. "Look at all of the times I have failed you. Look at the moments I chose to ignore you. Look at this pile of shame."

I was small and cold and sad. But I didn't feel alone. It was 2 am, and I felt like Jesus was sitting there beside me.

I felt like soft clay. My hardened edges were long gone. I was too tired to carry them with me any longer. In my softness I heard these words, "You have to grieve these moments. See them all and grieve them, Aliza. But once you're done grieving you need to move past them, and know that they do not define you."

I wanted to be strong, not weak. Grieving felt too vulnerable. Couldn't I skip the grieving stage and simply move on to the part where I was fine again?

But it's in these moments -- the 2 am moments -- where my anxiety and shame creep in and reveal to me the state of my heart. I was not fine -- I was ashamed and untethered, barely holding on to anything or anyone. And Jesus knew what I needed: I need to see my shame and grieve -- only so I could truly move on towards healing and freedom. I needed to see all of it so I could finally leave it behind.

When the movie reel had finished playing in my head, I saw another picture: Jesus, taking all of those moments, and wiping them away. He was healing me, slowly. He was healing me, not by my own strength, but through a tenderness I could hardly stand.

I woke up the next morning, tired but not afraid.

I was clean, I was fresh, I had been entirely made new.

And I am healing.