Poked through with needles. An I.V. digging into the sensitive skin of my inner arm. Flat on my back on a hospital bed. The panic-inducing scent of antiseptic filling the air.

Not exactly setting the scene for a romantic dinner, am I? And yet, this became the backdrop for a romance revelation the week leading up to Easter.

For those who don’t know, I had the unfortunate experience of going through a stroke several weeks ago. And that previous statement is also the understatement of a lifetime. But I don’t need to get into all the nitty gritty of it for most people to understand that a stroke is one of those life or death situations that, for those who survive it, will stay with them for the rest of their days.

That all being said, I am beyond grateful I am here, and that God allowed me more time with the ones I love. I’m also not sure what God has in store for my writing, but I’m glad to be able to write this for you romance lovers today.

See, laying there on that last day in the hospital, Good Friday, I had some time to think. I mean, they’d just done a spinal tap and I literally was not allowed to move for two hours. In this most humble of moments was my husband, all bearded six-foot-four-inches of him, feeding his immobile wife. Him nurturing me. The boy I’d married 15 years ago, who’d turned into a man, a husband, and the best daddy I could’ve ever asked for two adorable girls. He cut up and spooned bits of Caesar salad into my mouth.

And it dawned on me, time standing still for just a second—this is what for better or worse looks like. This is what marriage vows lived out in real life looks like. The good. The bad. The ugly. Yes, some days it’s the happily ever after. Sometimes it’s not. Some days you’re clinging to a God who has it all under control and to each other because that’s all you can do.

My husband has helped me with countless tasks since the stroke, including bathroom trips, with no complaints. He’s calmed so many fears and pointed me back to patience and waiting on God my Father, whose perfect love casts out all fears—teasing that he’s my calming goat. (Look it up. 🙂 )

So, my point other than to give a much-deserved shout-out to my husband, is that I realized I really identify with real-life romance, even in my fiction. It speaks to the imperfect, broken places in my own life.

I know there are plenty who prefer a sweet, semi-flawless romance in fiction. While I LOVE and must have a HEA (Happily Ever After) at the end, the stories that have stayed with me are the ones where the romance arrived on the broken road. The hard-earned path. Through loss, heartache, or illness. The humble and unglamorous, selfless kind of love. The kind of love I find in my Savior, and truthfully, in my husband. It’s been there all along, it just took a stroke for me to open my eyes and see it so clearly.

Sure, I like some laughter and light-hearted moments along the way, but for me, I’ve enjoyed reading authors like Becky Wade, Katie Ganshert, and Celeste Fletcher McHale because the heroes and heroines are just so… human. Their wounds, flaws, and the obstacles they face are so real. I can’t help but see a piece of me in each one and because they seem like people I’d love to know in real life, they stick with me. Because it’s the hard places we pass through that shape who we are and allows the love we need to grow—and there’s something realistic and beautiful about art imitating life in fiction.

Speaking of Becky Wade, who’s so super over-the-top excited about her Bradford Sisters book, Falling for You, coming out on Kindle today? (Waves hand wildly.) It just might be my husband’s treat to me for getting through a heart scope today.

Yay, for true love. Yay, for all the messiness and goodness of real-life romance in fiction and, well, in real life.

What about you? What do you love in your fiction? Do you like a dose of real life with your fictional HEA’s?

A born and bred Midwesterner, Mollie Rushmeyer makes her home in central Minnesota with her husband and two spunky, beautiful daughters. From a young age, she loved putting words to page and dreamed of becoming an author. As an inspirational contemporary romance and women’s fiction writer, she loves to bring stories of hope to messy, prodigal gals just like her. 

She’s an active member of ACFW and is the Vice President of her local chapter. In her “spare” time she lives out her Lois Lane fantasies as a local print journalist, writes encouraging online content for Crosswalk and iBelieve, is an outdoors enthusiast, a passionate champion for the freedom of human trafficking victims, loves to sing and read, and enjoys full-time employment as a monkey-catcher… ahem, mommy.

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