Ten years ago I timidly whispered a wisp of a dream to my girlfriend Jennifer over lunch one day as we talked about our futures. Before I could suck the dream-cloud back inside or negate it somehow, Jennifer was validating my dream and giving it bone structure. Right then and there she was helping solidify this idea that I might could possibly be a writer someday.
At that time I couldn't see myself writing anything longer than a few pages. Still the dream grew and took on wings as the ideas for what to put on paper swirled in my head. So many ideas but nothing really made any sense to me. I would sit down and begin writing only to become frustrated with the lack of direction. Then I thought that maybe a devotional book would be a good place to start. (Great! Just what the world needs....another devotional book!) I was obviously not feeling particularly drawn to this idea.
Every morning in the shower, I would start my day praying for writing guidance. To my dismay, the ideas began to slow down instead of increasing. This began the first waiting period. (I had several of these. Apparently God had a LOT of patience to teach me!) However, for some reason I did not feel that God had changed His mind about the writing - but that the timing was not yet right. One lesson I did learn through this time was that trying to force God to do things on my timing is ALWAYS a bad idea. It will only frustrate me! He will stick to His timetable.
So I decided while I was waiting on Him that I would teach a class on parenting because, honestly, I wanted some help myself. (Whenever I teach on a subject, I learn more than any of the students. This is a bonus for me when I teach.) As I looked at some parents in the Bible, I was drawn to Mary and her relationship to Jesus. The more I studied, the more I noticed that she had help from her relationship in Elizabeth. Elizabeth, it seemed, had mentored Mary during those few months when Mary escaped to her home. This reminded me of Titus 2:3-5 (NIV):
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
In that moment, the idea of Mentor Moms running small group discussions in half of the class period was born. I firmly believe this idea was given to me by the Holy Spirit: I would teach for half of the class time and then join a small group as a participant to learn under a Mentor Mom for the second half of the class. What a win/win for me!
I began to wonder if the timeline following Mary and Jesus could fill an entire quarter of lessons. To my joy, it did! If we studied small snippets of scripture in depth, we would exactly fill up 12 lessons. Wow!
I asked to be put on the teaching schedule at our church for a Wednesday night quarter. Then I individually invited encouraging women who had older children to be the Mentor Moms to the younger moms. Next I mailed out personal invitations to every single mother of an elementary child and younger and to every young married lady. Last I began studying diligently and writing my outlines.
What happened next proved to me that this class was causing Satan some real fear!
I woke up with the left half of my face paralyzed from Bell's Palsy. You may disagree with my all you wish, but I believe with all my heart that Satan was attacking me. The Bell's Palsy caused me to be unable to read for very long at all, so I determined that the only thing I would read until it was healed would be my Bible. I became tired very easily, so I had to divert my energy to my study and preparation.
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Ephesians 6:14-16 (NIV)
The week before class began, my face cleared up, and the paralysis went away. I decided that young moms would be too tired to do homework. In a sense, I had put the book idea on the back burner while I waited on God, not realizing this was indeed the very book He had in mind the whole time.
The class was a success because the young moms loved the encouragement from the Mentor Moms, and the Mentor Moms loved being encouraged by the young moms. Each week we had new members. I was blown away. At the end of the quarter, one of the Mentor Moms, GeeGee Allen, told me I should turn the study into a book. I explained to her that young moms wouldn't do the homework. She told me that I didn't know that for sure.
This is the part where I wish I had listened immediately. Or where I wish I had believed in God's power more. Or something. Instead this is the part where I waited a year and then taught another similar quarter called "Mothering Like..." instead of writing the book.
Over the next few years I traveled and spoke at ladies events. All the while, those lessons and other ideas were swirling and percolating in my heart. Then one day, GeeGee's admonition was just too loud to ignore any longer.
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)
So I decided to teach the material again, except this time I wanted to hand out the next week's homework in class, using the class members as the focus group for the first Mothering Like Mary book.
That worked out great! The ladies came and brought their friends. The most amazing part of it all was that they actually did their homework! Each week I was more and more encouraged. This was going to work! I could indeed write a book if I did it a little bit at a time. So at the end of the quarter, I had an entire first draft of a book written.
Guess what I did next!? If you guessed absolutely nothing, you would be correct! If you guessed that I sat on my rear with a book inside my computer for over a year, you would also be correct. The more I thought about what it would feel like to be rejected, the more I felt paralyzed by the fear of it.
As I researched how to go about getting the book published, I felt even more unsure of myself. It looked like I needed an agent to send my book to a publisher, but I didn't have the foggiest idea how to find and then persuade an agent to do that. I was determined to follow my own path to publication.
The Lord knows all human plans; he knows that they are futile.
Psalm 94:11 (NIV)
Then finally I humbled myself and chose to investigate 21st Century Christian Publishing. I went to their website and discovered that they did not require an agent. All I had to do was submit the Table of Contents of the book and the first four chapters to the Vice President. So I took a deep breath and decided to see if the book was as good as I had hoped it was. I worked on cleaning up my sloppy copy, and I laid it out as I hoped to see it in book form in the future.
I remember the day that I hit "SEND" on that file to 21st Century Christian. Right after that I believe I hyperventilated a little bit. Once I regained consciousness, I let my author friend Denell (who is with 21st CC) know what I had just done. She went out on a limb and sent the sweetest email to the same VP vouching for me. I had hit "SEND" on Friday, and on Monday the VP responded that he LIKED WHAT HE SAW! Unfortunately the timing was off for immediate publication, but that actually worked for my life. So he told me if the other lessons were of the same caliber, the book could be published if turned in by the end of the next year.
Thankfully my dear friend, Glenna, agreed to edit the book. Without her help, the book still would not exist. So edit after edit and rewrite after rewrite, she and I finished the book barely on time.
Do you want to know the crazy thing? I first submitted those four chapters and Table of Contents on November 7, 2013. Guess what happened on Saturday, October 31, 2015? My first book signing! In just under two years, I went from paralyzed with fear of rejection to published author. To God be the glory for bringing me through the journey!
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)
I just love how God works, don't you? Even though I was oblivious to God's plan most of the time, He still kept His plan in place. God doesn't suffer from self-esteem issues like I do. He doesn't need my approval to put a plan in place nor to keep it there. Praise God! Thank You, Lord, for seeing your plans through!
If you want to order a copy of Mothering Like Mary, click here to be rerouted to the 21st Century Christian Publishing website.