When I spoke at a women’s conference, I titled my presentation: “Following Hard after God.” I recounted all the careers I had, trying to do the Lord’s will for my life. Switchboard operator, caseworker, social worker, wife, mother, school board member, office manager, president of the state right to life organization (West Virginians for Life), mentor mom for Mothers of Preschoolers. Each change required a crushing and a re-forming, as God smashed the clay to create another vessel for His service.
As much as I tried to squirm off the Potter’s Wheel, I found each job had its triumphs and rewards. I ended up learning and growing as God shaped me on the wheel. Every time the next call came, I had grown comfortable, I’d learned the job, and then God asked me to give it up and start over. Painful.
Now I’m an author. Again, I’ve had to learn. I’ve gone to writers’ conferences, subjected myself to criticism, and found mentors to help me along the way. I’ve been humbled, starting a new career in my sixties. I published my first book, His Brother’s Wife, when I was 69. Two years later the next two, Invisible Wounds and Recovered and Free, were published, and three more in the series are under contract. The clay is being formed into a beautiful pot for the Master’s service. God wastes nothing. The clay and all these shapings were preparation for what I do now.
Come, go with me to the Potter’s House–the Potter is there, and He has wonderful things in store for you!
At the Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference this summer, I attended a terrific workshop on “Branding,” taught by Dick Bruso. Lots of us of us signed up for appointments to pick his brain. I ran into another one of that number at a workshop of the National Speakers Association, Pittsburgh chapter, Saturday, September 20. Whenever time I mentioned his name, I realized everyone loves Dick Bruso.
He is invariably kind to everyone. He treats each one us as if we were the only person in the world at the moment. He was attentive, and unfailingly encouraging. He offered post-conference telephone contacts, and, despite intense personal sacrifice due to the pain of kidney stones, he kept those appointments–what a guy! Moreover, he remembered us when we followed up with him.
His site is called Heard Above the Noise.
In this age, countless voices are clamoring for our attention. We want ours to be heard. He will be heard because he is simply a good man–a person I want to be like when I grow up.
All talented musician Ian O’Malley wants is to come home to the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia. But is it too late? How does a broken man reclaim the only woman he’s ever loved, the bitter son who sent him away, and the daughter of his heart?
When her father calls Missy, a successful interior decorator, after twenty years to proclaim he is free from the curse of alcohol that destroyed their family, she is afraid to hope. The memories of betrayal run too deep. But her husband, Tim, knows more than he’s telling about his mother-in-law’s desperate prayers for her long-lost husband. Could they together embrace Ian’s recovery and restore him to their family? But will Missy dare to trust the one who has broken so many promises? Whose lack of involvement in her life cost her more dearly than even he knows?
His heartfelt song on the radio continues to draw her. Yet will her own love for music, and her deep love for her one-magical-in-her-eyes father be able to overcome the trauma of her fatherless teenage years, when she needed him so much?
Okay, I’ve been convicted of examining my priorities, but the doing of it, the sorting of them, is the hard part. What do I give up? To whom do I say no? So we pray, my husband and I, and I cannot get angry when he points out where they (my priorities) lie. Such a good man, who knows me so well, who has validated me all my life. He has seen me move from wife and graduate student to mother, from mother to pro-life activist, from grandmother to mentor, and he’s been my champion and faithful supporter all the way–as a dear friend says: how cool is that?
God has given me a passion for writing and an amazing connection with a publisher at Oak Tara that has enabled me to publish my first book at 69 and two more at 71. For this, I can only thank God and walk through the open door. Three more books in the “Singing over Me” series about the musical O’Malley family are under contract and another series (Hope House Girls) is commissioned.
All other priorities must fall behind this, my primary one. Today I attend to the blog, answering comments, and a bit of other social media. That’s all part of marketing, building my audience, so people will read these books. But it is still family (my children and grandchildren) church (which includes mentoring Mothers of Preschoolers), and my vocation (writing). Every day I write.
Please encourage your friends to check me out!
We all have them, and the mantra of our churches is: God, family, church. Sounds simple, but it isn’t. We have choruses in our heads: this is what God wants us to do, and this, and that, and our family need this and that, and our church, God knows 20% of the people do 80% of the work.
What to do? Yesterday I attended an emergency meeting of the Board of the Center for Pregnancy Care I founded in 1985. I have a heart for this ministry, but when we moved 11 miles north, the Center was offered a rent-free location 20 miles east. We hired a director, and I stepped back from the day-to-day operations I had handled for over a decade. I remained on the Board of Directors and continued as a large donor, because I believe in this ministry. Seeing women choose life for their babies, placing babies who would have been aborted into the hands of loving parents–no words can express the joy!
But now the ministry is facing a crisis of funding and volunteers, and we must address that. My church has spent months organizing connect groups to provide small group fellowship, and I lead one and attend another. My daughter and grandson–and their two cats and a dog–live with us and I must live in that community.
God has led me into writing, and I have three published books available, three more under contract, and six more commissioned. A recent mentor is encouraging me to get on the speakers circuit to increase my audience.
What to do? Priorities. God help me!
Daily I read the Christian Blog TGIF (Today God is First) by Os Hillman, who heads a ministry for Market Place Believers. It is a mix of inspiration, exhortation, and challenge. Recently he quoted Samuel Morse, who picked himself up after moderate success as a painter, and the loss of his wife and his parents, to apply himself to the study of the new field of electronic communication.
“Samuel Morse later commented, “The only gleam of hope, and I cannot underrate it, is from confidence in God. When I look upward it calms any apprehension for the future, and I seem to hear a voice saying: ‘If I clothe the lilies of the field, shall I not also clothe you?’ Here is my strong confidence, and I will wait patiently for the direction of Providence.” Morse went on to create several other inventions and can be recognized today as the father of faxes, modems, email, the internet and other electronic communication.” ["Glimpses," Issue #99 (Worcester, Pennsylvania: Christian History Institute, 1998.]“
Did you try a vocation that didn’t work out? I was a switchboard operator (told you I was old!), a caseworker, a mother (far and away my favorite job!), founder of a ministry to help women facing unplanned pregnancy (also a super, albeit non-remunerative job), a state pro-life leader, and a Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) mentor.
Seeing the need for entertaining but edifying fiction about marriage, I turned to writing. This new challenge required study and discipline, but I published my first book in 2012 (“His Brother’s Wife.”) and I have two more published in 2014, plus another one upcoming.
Follow God. He will take you places you never dreamed!
If you follow me on Facebook, you know I went to the greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference the last weekend of July. Good writers attend these conferences to learn, grow and develop their craft. This conference is one of my absolute favorites! Joe is welcome in the general sessions, and the worship and speakers are inspiring. When I sent a thank you to the director, Marlene Bagnull, I said it was more than a place to study and network, it was a time of spiritual renewal for me.
As a Christian writer, I constantly seek God for my stories. This morning I asked him once again if I was in his will, telling my little stories, because our pastor challenged us to be gathering in the harvest because the hour may be short before the Jesus returns. Have you ever had those times when you felt God smile? In my mind, I heard the Master say, “I told little stories to teach spiritual truth.” May I follow in his footsteps and make his ways come alive in my books!