Lael Harrelson

Why I Started Writing:

Raised by a fun-loving, atheist, single mom who struggled with depression and mental illness, I spent my childhood backpacking around Europe, visiting yoga communes, eating vegan, living on a houseboat, and then an old pony express outpost in the backwoods of Montana. 

My teen years took a drastic turn when my mom got saved, got married, and joined an ultra-conservative Mennonite church. Faith, step-parents, and unquestioning obedience is a dangerous combination when mixed with mental illness, legalism, and heavy-handed physical correction.

I became a confused believer with a heart for Jesus but drowning under a sea of rules, regulations, and legalism. I became a missionary teacher and then a nurse and escaped to the mission field, the one avenue open to single women.  I taught VBS on Indian reservations, led school for missionary children in Haiti and Africa. All around me was heartache and disease and glaring need. I longed to make a difference but was limited to working on the mission compound—teaching, cooking, cleaning. Work outside the walls of the compound was reserved for the men. Questioning these roles was tantamount to rebellion.

On a furlough, I met my future husband—a new believer who wasn’t looking for a doormat in a wife but a partner. As he grew in his faith, I reexamined mine and what Biblical womanhood looked like. Timidly at first, but then eagerly as I discovered a new relationship with Jesus Christ based on grace and not performance.

I left the Mennonite church and married the love of my life twenty years ago.  We have five beautiful teenagers, two by birth and three through adoption from Haiti. My husband is adopted, and God used the time in Haiti to prepare me to understand my children's culture and language and ease their transitions home.  

Two people in my family have mild Asperger’s and one has Reactive Attachment disorder, PTSD, and ODD.  Our house is not a quiet, well-greased machine but a chaotic, happy, crazy, nerve-racking, love-filled oasis where we all try to help each other grow and thrive.

I am so thankful for my life—the good and the bad. I feel blessed to have experienced so many unique situations and to love and be loved by so many wonderful and eccentric people.  From these experiences, I draw the fiction stories I write. If one person can be encouraged or challenged through my stories and drawn closer to Jesus, I will feel supremely blessed.

Who Influenced Me:

My mother. In her restless quest for truth, she left no stone unturned. She tried atheism and eastern religions before being born again.  A single mom with two young children and dogged by depression and mental illness, she explored the Seventh Day Adventists, the Hutterites, and the Holiness church before marrying and settling into the Mennonite community.  Although it made for an unstable and confusing childhood, one thing in her life never wavered. Her desire to know God and to live for him with all her heart mind and strength. I hope to live with that same passion for Jesus, and if I have gained any insight and interesting stories from her journey, I know she is smiling down from heaven joyful that the lessons she learned the hard way may the smooth another’s journey to our heavenly Father.

Books I Have Written:

HUSH. Would the will of God ever lead a young woman against the counsel of family and church? 

For a young Mennonite woman who wants to make a difference in the world, growing up on the mission field in Haiti should be the perfect fit. But not for Callie Zimmerman. Raised by her aunt and uncle after the death of her parents, Callie works beside her aunt cooking, cleaning, and sewing each day as the men head off to serve the community. She longs to do more to alleviate the poverty and sickness that surrounds her, but tradition and her uncle forbid it.   On the eve of her twenty-third birthday, struggling with hopelessness as another year passes, Callie pleads with God to open a door for her. The prayer has barely left her mouth when she finds a stack of letters with secrets about her parent’s deaths and their excommunication from the Mennonite church. Devastated, Callie cries herself to sleep, only to be awakened a few hours later by her uncle with the startling news the Noah Koehn has asked permission to court her. Is one of these the answer to her prayer? Would exploring her parents' past mean losing a future with Noah? Is it worth the risk? 

What I'm Working On Now:

HUSH is my first novel and I can’t wait to see it in print. I’ve just finished a final comprehensive edit and the manuscript is with my Elk Lake editor. Right now I’m working on expanding my social media and internet platforms.

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