Equal joy for equal sorrow

"Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble." Psalms 90:15.

Jackie Miles knows God answers that prayer.

Miles might seem like someone with no troubles as she jokes around during her tours with the Dixie Divas, four Southern writers who entertain audiences with humorous talks based on their novels. For Miles, though, troubles are just part of the balance.

Her high school English teacher encouraged her to pursue a writing career, but Miles opted to get married instead.

After two divorces and the loss of two of her four children, Miles began to use her gift of writing to help others find gladness through their sorrows.

"I believe in equal joy for equal sorrow. God has a plan for everyone, and sometimes pain is part of that plan," Miles said. "I noticed I was taking the pain in my life and translating it onto the page in a number of different ways. If we respond to our sorrow well, it helps us to have breakthroughs, not breakdowns."

Her first novel was "Roseflower Creek." Based on a true story of child abuse, the book was highly acclaimed by critics and was a regional best-seller.

One would think Miles had it made and that publishing a second book would be a breeze. But it just brought on another struggle.

Her second book was "Cold Rock River," which was inspired by slave narratives, is a parallel story of two troubled teenage girls, one living during the Civil War and the other during the Vietnam War. Both young ladies find joy through their troubles.

"Cumberland House Publishers, my original publisher, stopped dealing in fiction. Twenty-two others wrote back to say 'it's wonderful, but ... ,' followed by some reason why it didn't suit their market," Miles said.

The rejection was overwhelming, especially since Miles truly believed it was God's plan for her to lift spirits through her writing.

"I had this tremendous urge to feed something, preferably hearts, but I'd feed tummies if that's what God wanted me to do," Miles said. "When nothing seemed to be happening with my book, I asked God if he didn't want me to write to stop giving me the inspiration. I started planning to go to Mexico to feed tummies when Cumberland House called to say they'd reconsidered and would publish 'Cold Rock River.' "

Equal joy for equal sorrow plays right into Miles' real-life plot. She's now developed a one-hour program for high school girls called "A Celebration of the Written Word to Honor the Slave Narratives" to help struggling young girls realize that with God's help, they can turn their suffering into joy. And she knows they can.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.