NY Times and USA Today best-selling author of several books including The Christmas Shoes
Recipient of a Retailer’s Choice Award for Fiction, a Dove Award, a Silver Angel Award, two Audie Awards for best inspirational fiction and a nominee for a Gold Medallion Book of the Year
Inducted into the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges Hall of Excellence
B.A., Theater and Broadcasting, Cedarville University
Husband, Troy; 3 children, Grace, Kate and David
Donna VanLiere: Where Grace Lives
Donna VanLiere's book, Finding Grace, is for anyone who has questioned where God is when we need him most. It also shares her unlikely road to motherhood and how she found grace. Donna believes that the mysterious yet wonderful attribute of grace is that it is never earned or deserved. It will never be forced upon anyone; it can only be received.
At 14 weeks during her first pregnancy, Donna lost her baby. Two and a half years after losing her first child and being on Clomid (a fertility drug often used as a first-line treatment to induce regular ovulation), a doctor told Donna that she only had a 10 percent change of having children.
Over the years, she consulted a few more fertility specialists who recommended expensive procedures such as FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone injections), IUI (intrauterine insemination) and IVF (in vitro fertilization) – seemingly to no avail.
Donna struggled with God about not being able to get pregnant. The reality of teenagers getting pregnant while couples who could actually provide for children couldn’t have them was like a slap in the face to Donna.
“I was tired of the struggle,” she said. “I became so angry at God’s lack of concern and the distance He was keeping that I flipped open my Bible in anger. I thought, ‘I know there are promises in here about a happy home and that whole thing about a full quiver is somewhere. I’m going to find those promises and throw them in Your face.’ For Donna, that act was the crack through which grace slipped in. In the disappointment and frustration of infertility, Donna began to comprehend a God that shattered her childish perceptions about why she could not have children.
Donna began to see adoption as her destiny of grace. She and her husband had an unexplainable strong desire to adopt from China. After years of trying to conceive a child, they traveled to China in 2002 to pick up their daughter, Grace. In 2003, they began the paperwork for another adoption. In 2004, Donna and her husband flew to China a second time to pick up their second daughter, Kate. In 2006, they submitted paperwork for another adoption, and a year later Donna and her husband flew to Guatemala City to bring home their son, David Miguel.
“Without these gifts of grace in my life, I would have missed out on some of the greatest moments in history,” she said. “As blessed as I am to make my living doing what I love, my writing pales in comparison to my title of 'mom'."
FINDING GRACE: SEXUAL ABUSE
Donna was five or six years old when a pre-teen boy who lived next door molested her. In one moment, she was playing hide-and-go-seek with a friend, and in the next moment, that friend’s older brother, Kevin, grabbed her and forced himself on her.
“In an instant, he grabbed my arms and pushed me to the floor, holding me down. I lost all feeling. No one burst through the door to save me,” she said. “I don’t know how long I was in that room or remember any details of how I got out the door. I have no memory of walking home or what I did once I got there, but I do remember knowing that what had happened was wrong and that I should never talk about it. So I didn’t. Ever.”
No one taught Donna to keep things hidden, and she says that shame is a great motivator for secrecy. Troy and Donna married in 1989, and few short years later, she told him about the abuse. “Why do you sound like it was your fault? It wasn’t,” he told her. However, to Donna, his response registered as nothing but sound. However, over ten years later, she realized that it wasn’t her fault and that God was with her all along.
“For years, I had asked, even demanded to know where God was that day and now I knew,” she said. “He was there, distressed in my distress, pursuing not only mine but a molester’s soul as well.”
Years later, after being settled in as a mom, Donna was speaking with an old friend and was surprised to learn that Kevin, her old neighbor and the person who molested her, lived a tumultuous life. It was later found out that Kevin abused his wife, killed her and then took his own life.
IN HER OWN WORDS
Donna VanLiere was born and raised in Northeastern Ohio. The winters were snowy and cold, much more there than where she now lives in middle Tennessee.
“I remember writing my first story in those early years; I was in the second grade, I believe. It was about a bear and his family, but I abandoned it soon after the first page when a kid named Mike looked over my shoulder and asked why in the world I was writing a stupid story about a bear,” she said. “I wish I had kept it, better yet, I wish I had finished it. After all, I had gotten through the hardest part of writing... beginning something.”
After Donna married Troy, they moved to Nashville. “I was constantly writing on the side but wasn't aware that I could make my living at it. Theater, commercial, voiceover, and radio work helped pay the bills but wasn't fulfilling work. Since I earned degrees in those areas, I thought I should be faithful to the years I logged studying them and follow through with as much work as possible,” she said. But odd writing jobs continued to come her way.
“One day I sat down to write a book and was stunned to hear that a publisher had picked it up. That book turned into another, and then I went to see my friends NewSong in concert one hot July day. Eddie Carswell told me the premise of a Christmas song he was writing. He asked if I thought it would make a good Christmas song, and I told him I thought it would make a great book.”
Donna began to work on an outline so she could flesh out the story and characters. In the meantime, NewSong released "The Christmas Shoes" single to radio in the winter of 2000. In three weeks, it shot to the top of the Billboard radio charts, tying the record for the fastest charting number one song. The Christmas Shoes novel released at the end of October of 2001, and CBS brought it to the small screen on December 1, 2002.
“It is a beautiful, touching film about family and the power of the human spirit. Because the screen version differs from the novel, I do encourage readers to read the book first before watching the movie. But the film will stay with you long after you turn off the television,” she said.
CBS aired The Christmas Blessing with Neil Patrick Harris in December 2005, and it became one of the most watched programs the week it aired. Lifetime will air The Christmas Hope in winter 09.
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