I grew up a country kid. And there was no way you would catch a country kid spending a spare afternoon, or a free evening sitting and reading. Being asked to read outside of school was the equivalent of being asked to grab hold of an electric fence—not happening. Up until I was married and starting my family, I could count on one hand how many books I had read for pleasure. After marrying my sweet Tim, life slowed with babies and toddlers, I’m talking five babies in seven years kind of slooooowww down.
That’s when my sister-in-law, Jodi introduced me to books. (What a gift she gave me.) Books became my reward for serving my family all day. When the tasks were done and the kids were in bed, then it was my time. Over the next several years I burned through Jodi’s personal collection and all our local library had to offer.
By 2003 I had exhausted my supply of preferred Christian Fiction reads.
One day, Jodi was at my house and we were talking about our favorite parts of the latest book we’d shared. That talk led to a discussion of our overall favorites, which by then had expanded into Regency Romance, Cozy Mysteries and the classics. We discussed a range of books and why they were our favorites. I started to say things like, “If I was to write a book, I would want this in it….” and “I love a book best when they do this….”. The craziest statement of all followed those statements, “I know, Jodi! I’ll write a book and you can help me edit it.”
Oh the joy of that moment. I can still see the awe and horror on my SIL’s face. I can see the deer in the headlights look. What just happened? What did I just sign up for? Being the gentle sort she is, she didn’t crush my dream but fostered it.
So in 2003, I started to write my own. But like most hobbies it was hit-and-miss. Whenever “life happened” it was the first thing to lose its time slot. I can even remember wanting to write, but feeling guilty about taking the time away from my home and family. There were always tons of chores and things I SHOULD be doing instead of writing.
Eventually, enough time passed that I was almost finished with my first book. My family was the only one who knew I dabbled. I wasn’t around writers and blogs. The internet was just taking hold. I’d never read about or been told about the natural gamut of emotions that came with being a writer. I didn’t know that certain fears and insecurities were normal. I lost my confidence and set my pen down for a spell. And then the Lord stepped in. Man is He good at saying just what we need to hear, just when we need to hear it. In 2010 I was at church when He whispered one little word to me. “Start.” I knew instantly what He meant.
He was giving me back the writing. He wanted me to do it. He wanted me not to be afraid. It was okay for me to put some time into it, even if it meant something on the “Suzy Homemaker” list had to give. With His word—just one word—I was able to shove the guilt and fear aside. I went back to learning the craft and fiddling with several pieces with the same hobby-style time slot I’d given it all those years ago.
I taught a women’s Bible study for nine years. I enjoyed it and still felt it was a good fit, but in the spring of 2012 something in my heart was unsettled. I was restless enough to tell the Lord that I needed to hear from Him. I needed to know just exactly what He wanted me to do. I actually thought that He would tell me to spend my time helping out at my kids’ school. I went to our church’s annual women’s retreat in May of 2012 bound and determined to HEAR from Him. I so wanted a clear instruction like, “Continue teaching Bible study.” or “Go teach at the school.” I was even preparing my heart to have a good attitude about the latter, which I didn’t really want to do.
For the first day-and-a-half at the retreat all I felt Him say to my heart was RELAX! (Hahaha, take a chill pill sister! Seriously? That isn’t what I wanted to hear.) In the sweet atmosphere and fellowship with my favorite women, I finally did relax. And in an unguarded moment when I wasn’t really paying attention I heard him say, “Finish.”Again, just one word, but I knew exactly what He meant.
My kids were into the television show Psych at the time, and the week before the retreat they had friends over. While I was cooking a mountain of spaghetti, they were re-watching the first episode on Netflix. I “Just so happened” to walk by right when the main character’s dad points to the camera addressing the main character and says, “Everyone needs to know what it feels like to finish something.” When the Lord whispered that one little word to my heart, that quote and picture from the TV show came with it. I knew what He wanted of me. To obey I needed to write with the intention of finishing.
I came home from my getaway and spent the summer rearranging my world so that when the kids went back to school in the fall, I could write part-time while they were at school. I started with a fresh idea and went to work. I completed my first book the following January. But was it finished? Heck no! The complete work was written by me-the me who has terrible grammar skills.
Here is the part of my story where I confess that I am not a college graduate with a pile of English degrees. I did go to community college for two years, and I took a couple writing classes while I was there. On one of my papers the teacher commented, “Great story. You have a great imagination, but the run-ons and fragment sentences are a bit distracting.” But the Lord told me to “Finish.” and to me, a finished manuscript would be complete enough to send in.
While in the process of learning to fix my grammatically anorexic paper, I came across a blog that encouraged new writers to go to a writers’ conference. It sounded smart to me, so I looked for one that was in-state and found the OCW conference. I connected with a fellow closet writer and asked if she wanted to go with me and split the hotel cost. She said yes. The two of us spent the next several months entering the OCW’s writer’s contest and preparing our synopses, pitches and proposals. Both of us went in to the conference with low expectations. We were newbies and we knew it.
We simply went for the purpose of being encouraged, finding a possible next step, and hoping nobody would tell us we stunk. But oh what a week it was for me! It still gives me spice-of-life zingers to think back on it.Long story short, I walked away from the conference with an agent, Karen Ball representing the Steve Laube Agency, and interest (not a contract) from a big publishing house.
I love what the Lord has asked me to do and I love how He helps me do it. The rest of my writer’s journey isn’t written yet, but He knew the end of the story from the beginning. And that just makes me trust Him more.
Here is my life verse from the old green Living Bible that came out in the 1970s:
If you want favor with both God and man, and a reputation for good judgment and common sense, then trust the Lord completely; don’t ever trust yourself. In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.