Here I raise my Ebenezer

I could start this story in a million different ways, but here is the long and short of it: There is going to be a book.

I started this blog because of my year in the black dress. I wore it from January 11, 2012 to January 10, 2013. That year of the dress and raising money to end human trafficking changed me in so many ways—ways I have yet to realize. When I went into it, though, I figured it would fade away after the year was over.

I didn’t set out to write a book. But here I am.

A year ago I got an email from Janet Kobobel Grant at Books & Such Literary Agency. She asked if I was interested in writing a book about my year in the dress. We talked about shape the story might take and if it was worth pursuing. I talked with family, mentors, and friends, as well, and it seemed like an opportunity worth taking. So I did.

Janet connected me with Susanna Foth Aughtmon for the project. We spent the summer putting together some ideas and shaping the story further. It was no longer just the story of a girl and a dress and a campaign to end slavery. It was about a God of freedom. Not just for the trafficked, but for me, too.

In August Janet sent a proposal off to several publishers. A few months ago, Baker Books expressed interest in publishing it. When I was home for Easter I gathered a few friends and signed the contract.

My fingers worked their way down the front of the dress pulling each black button through its matching frayed hole. It was a canvas of sorts painted with the story of a year. The worn patches and bleach stains stood as a memorial to the hundreds of times I’d worn that dress.

I turned toward the mirror. I’d only worn the dress a handful of times in the last year, and now the shape of it looked foreign to me. It hung slightly askew from my shoulders. I ran my hands down the skirt and it all came rushing back as familiar as it had been when I wore it for that whole year. My heart whispered thanks for the gift that year was to me.

Here I raise my Ebenezer, here by Thy great help I come.

The three of us gathered at the black table in the living room. I stretched my computer charger to the table and flipped open my laptop. It chirped with the familiar ringtone and I answered. The four of us, together, to commemorate this thing.

These girls are my best friends. They’re the ones who walked through the year with me. They keep me sane, they love me well, and they tell me when I’ve got it wrong. Without them, there wouldn’t be a story to tell. So I asked them to join me for this thing.

We talked for a few minutes. It was a little awkward at first, none of us quite sure how it was supposed to go. “Well, I guess I’ll sign this now,” I said, pulling the stack of ivory sheets to me. I signed and dated the last page of the publishing agreement and looked up. “Is this real life?”

We laughed and continued talking. At first it was about the book, but before long we moved on. Because yes, this was a big deal, but at the same time, it wasn’t. We stopped, we celebrated, and then we carried on as before.

 

There is so much about this that I am grateful for. But I am also terrified. Susanna and I are going to spend the next few months putting the rest of the manuscript together. There are parts of this that are going to be fun to tell. There are other parts, though, that scare me. Parts that need to be there but are not going to be easy to write.

It’s a story of raising $8,615, yes, but it’s also a story of joy and sorrow, failure, fabric rips, and lots of tears. And it's a journey I wouldn’t trade for the world. To those of you who walked with me through that year, thank you. To those who have come along later and continued to encourage me, thank you. And thank you to those who will continue to walk this road with me. I can’t wait to see where it goes!