This was my second 4th of July as a citizen of this great country. I suspect that statement alone will cause many of you who know me to sit up and pay attention. Because I look like and probably sound like I always belonged in America.

Well, like the adopted child is sometimes more special to the adoptive parents because they chose that child, I, too, am an adopted child, but I got to choose my country. Originally born in Canada, I came to the US 12 years ago and married my love, Patrick.

There were many times I’ve felt like a red-headed step-child — there, but not really belonging. And the struggle to Become wasn’t easy. Some day, ask me to share the story with you over a large cup of coffee.

But all along I knew I was supposed to be here, in America, with Patrick. And that’s what kept me going when all around me the devil was telling me no.

The 4th of July reminds me of the struggles and battles for freedom that have gone on in this country for 235 years. The fireworks reminds me of those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom, and did it gladly, without reservation. The parties remind me that we need to celebrate our freedom every single day, not just one hot day in July.

And all of this leads me to remember who paid the ultimate price for our eternal freedom — Jesus Christ. Were it not for Him, many of us wouldn’t be here.

And I’m one of those.

You see, before I was a Christian, before I was a writer, before I was an American, I lived a life that many others didn’t survive. And as I went through the citizenship process, I realized many things I’d done in my past should have either landed me in prison or dead. And the Lord saved me from myself for this time. As a result of my past, I write the kinds of stories I write — a little sassy, sometimes sarcastic, sometimes dark and edgy, sometimes soft and cozy.

As you celebrate our country’s birthday, as you think about freedom, consider those things in your past that prepared you for where you are today. Thank God for your past, and ask Him how you can turn that into something productive today and for the future. Allow Him to use your mistakes to deepen your writing, sharpen your characters, and strengthen your plots.

Ask God for the freedom to be what He planned for you to be.

As for me, I have no doubt I was destined to be an American. Even as a little girl, I used to look at the map or watch planes flying overhead, and wonder why my ancestors stopped when they got to Newfoundland. The winters are long, the countryside is rugged, the ground is rocky, and the summers are a flash in the pan. I often said, “Why didn’t they stay on the boat for another few hundred miles?” Even as a child, I wanted to be an American.

And now God, through His grace, has given me the freedom to be — an American, a Christian, and a writer. How cool to belong to American Christian Fiction Writers — a group that confirms who I was long before I Became.

God bless the USA, and God bless each of you.