Ten years ago, I retired early to write books with this dream, this goal:
- Write books in which God is clearly present. True historical stories that use fiction to tie them together, within the culture and historical time periods that they took place. Stories that would not be filed in the Religious Book sections, but as historical fiction so it was easily accessed by those who don’t necessarily know God.
- I had a plan: start with the stories of the women listed in the lineage of Jesus from the Book of Matthew. Include other women who played crucial roles in their stories, even when their culture may not have valued them highly. I wasn’t ignoring men; they were leading characters in the stories as well. However, I usually write from the woman’s point of view with male readers in mind.
- My side gig would continue: Writing and teaching adult curriculum to be used in churches. When my husband retired from his master teacher role, he became my first reader/editor/advisor, and he also joined me in teaching some of the classes.
As I wrote Ruth’s story in Less Than a Widow, the first in the “Women in the Lineage of Jesus” series, I made a move in my attitude and in my goals. I had a draft finished and was looking for a publisher, and I prayed, “God, this book is yours, not mine. The message and ministry are yours, not mine. My writing and this book are my offering to You, and You will bring the work forward as You will. I ask for and will follow your lead.”
Things moved. I found a publisher, I promoted my book with speaking engagements, and started supplying Iowa bookstores. I continued my side gig of writing and teaching at Third Church in Pella, Iowa. I used my research on Tamar in a adult Bible study. I taught it twice and began writing the second book in the series. Three false starts, and I learned more with each attempt. And I still struggled with who am I really doing this for, me or God? It is a repeated skirmish as I practice giving my work as an offering to God—a daily process. I work each day with mixed success in my inner goal setting and actual experience.
I received an unexpected invitation from Pastor Keith Korver to turn his sermon series into a book. Studying and writing about “the chain reaction of praise” was God’s plan, not mine. Looking back, I see how God used this process to change my inner attitudes, to realize how to live in the daily presence of the Holy Spirit, and to make praise and prayer the way to a much bigger personal relationship with God every day.
Strike the Match, Light the Fire was published in August 2021, and that process was very challenging. A lot of self-inflicted stress, and then health issues began. I never felt good for more than a few days at a time. My attempts at promoting the book (note, I said “my” attempts) brought less than the success I had dreamed. I was discouraged, asked God the “why” question often, and tried, on my own power, to give the whole process back to Him.
Meanwhile, I was asked if I was interested in working for Global Coffee Break, who received a grant to rewrite all of their Discover Your Bible studies. I thought it would be a good in-between project, so I went through the training and was assigned 1st and 2nd Peter.
God answered my spoken and unspoken prayers. He said, “Here’s what I want you to learn: understand this chain reaction that begins with praise and experience my gift of a “living hope” that can fill you even on your hardest days.”
Then I was diagnosed with cancer, and God brought peace and joy into my life as I asked for it. And the cancer remains (for now) in a “smoldering” stage, so I am not yet facing the trials treatment brings.
I’ve learned that turning my work over to God is something I need to do every day, offer every day, and God rewards and blesses those in His will. He has a plan for me, and He has promised that He will work all things together for my good. Ebenezer—God has always kept His promises to me in the past, and He is my “living hope” who is with me now and forever in His Kingdom on earth and in heaven.
I said “yes” to rewriting another study for Global Coffee Break and can’t wait to see the journey God takes me on this time. This is my daily battle; this is my daily joy.