Leora’s Letters wouldn’t be published until fifteen years later, but I journaled this prayer for the book in August 2004, as part of a local Creativity, Vision, and Faith Class from artist Mike Brangoccio:
“Dale–New Guinea. [I have no idea why I began with Dale Wilson that day.] Please, Lord God, be in the writing. Actually I need you in the thinking, how it will take shape. Make me sensitive to themes & nuances & how to make sure this family’s sacrifices are never forgotten. [Five Wilson brothers served. Only two came home.]
“But help me to paint them not as saints but as ordinary people trying to do the right thing. Help me to discover why this is important, why strangers will want to read it, why they will remember.
“Lord God, you are already ahead of me with this, may the ball begin rolling for the things that will happen after the story begins to breathe on its own, that people in Dexter & Minburn & Perry will become part of the team that won’t let their memory die. I cannot do this on my own, Lord. The story is too huge & unwieldy, but last weekend somehow you got my anxiety over the hump.
“Help me to successfully place Dale’s history in the history he joined up with & was sucked into. Help me to weave the words in such a way that the story becomes important to strangers. Lord God, I don’t know what that means, but as I endeavor to put it down on paper, at some point please take over & turn the story into what you’ve intended for it.
“I sense something sacred here & am grateful to be the one to work on it. May I make wise decisions about the story & even what to do with the letters & other artifacts. Lord God, you know what I seek, what I mean about wanting the story to float ‘above the ground.’
“Help me to find whatever it is for the Wilson story. It comes from the heart & thinking. I need the details & the research, but this other has to do with how I end up telling the details and research.
“Lord God, weave that into my heart & thinking even as I review these details & research!”
This was nearly the last writing in the little journal, as I sank farther into the misery of fibromyalgia.
I had attended several workshops during the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festivals during the 1990s, but it wasn’t until 2016 that I was able attend the Cedar Falls Christian Writers Workshop.
Two years later, I joined the online group, Write That Book (now Write That Book With Tricia Goyer), where I connected with one of the presenters, Robin Grunder. She became my coauthor for Leora’s Letters, which was published in late 2019, an answer to that long-ago prayer.
About the same time, the Wilson brothers were remembered at the dedication of the Dallas County Freedom Rock at Minburn, Iowa, near where they’d been tenant farmers with their dad before and during the war.
A nearby storyboard shares the details of their service, and the losses of three of the five.
I’m still amazed and humbled by these answers to prayer so many years later, along with two more “Leora books” published since then. But it began long ago with a dream and many prayers, several of which were journaled.