For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them. ~Romans 12:4-6
I’ve always loved to write. I remember being in high school and penning my first Romance story as a collaboration with my best friend. My dream was to become a writer someday but, as it does for most of us, Life had other plans for me. It wasn’t until I hit my fifties that I decided to take steps towards seeing that dream fulfilled. I registered with Southern New Hampshire University, and three years later earned my MA in English and Creative Writing w/con in Fiction. A year after that, I decided to continue my writing education and enrolled in SNHU’s MFA in Creative Writing, Fiction program and will graduate in 2023.
I wanted to share a little more about myself, and I couldn’t think of a better way to do so than by inviting you into both my testimony and my journey into the Christian Fiction genre.
The Transformational Power of God’s Love
For some reason, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power of the transformational love of God and how it changes us once we receive it. But putting it into words has proven to be more difficult than I thought it would be. The only way I felt I could really explain it was to look at it through the changes in my writing.
In the past, if you’d ask me what kind of writer I was, I would have told you that I was a Romance writer. That’s how I’d always pictured myself – maybe because I’d always been one of those (hopeful) hopeless romantics who truly believed that real love could conquer all – that it would win in the end, no matter what the odds against it looked like – that if you just hung in there and gave your “all,” it would make a difference in the end. I somehow managed to believe that in spite of having all of my relationships fail. I simply wouldn’t let that ideal go. I’d even completed a 345-page manuscript in the genre, and decided to use it over the course of my MA program with the hopes that all the new things I was learning and all the numerous revisions would make it “publication-ready.” Upon earning my MA, I sat with the beginnings of that manuscript very proudly in my hands.
The Struggle was Real
Fast forward to the MFA program that I’m currently working my way through – I still intended to use that manuscript for my thesis novel. But as I worked through each class, it became exceedingly more difficult to do so. I struggled with that reader expectation of that “happily-ever-after ending.” It just didn’t feel right to me. It was during the Advanced Genre Studies class that the reason for this was revealed to me: I’d done all those things – I’d given my all and kept hanging on – and had my heart broken more than I ever knew it could be – and the result was that I no longer believed that kind of love really existed. And if it did, it wasn’t in the cards for me. Once I quit believing, I could no longer relate – so I could no longer write about it.
Now – how does this correlate with the transforming power of God’s love? Well – I’d spent my entire life searching for that unconditional love, and most times, in the wrong places. I longed to be loved. I yearned for someone to tell me that there was nothing wrong with me – something that had become deeply ingrained in me over all the years. So, I could translate that longing into my romance writing, where I was the one in control of who loved and who didn’t – and I could create that “love conquers all” relationship between my characters. I thought that would be enough – that it would heal my heart – but it couldn’t. Simple words on a page that lived in a reality that I truly did not believe existed anymore couldn’t fill that hole in my heart.
Stepping Out in Faith
So, as hard as I tried, I couldn’t find in my writing what I couldn’t find in life. But here’s the thing – God never stopped pursuing me, and He finally broke through the walls I’d built around my heart through the lyrics of a Christian song – only I didn’t know it was a Christian song the first time I heard it. All I know is that the moment I opened my heart and let Him in, all the yearning, the longing, and the searching was over. It was in that Genre Studies class that I decided to try my hand at writing my first ever Christian fiction short story. It seemed to come easily to me, and then I turned it in and waited for the response. (Just so you know, I’ve been the only Christian writer in the 7 out of 12 classes I’ve completed so far.) My professor had good things to say about my story, but it wasn’t until I submitted (without any additional editing) it to a nationwide writing contest and it received an honorable mention that I realized I’d finally found my writing “home.” Since then, I’ve written and submitted another short story to that same nationwide contest and placed 8th in the Inspirational/Spiritual category. I don’t say this to draw attention to myself – I say it because I’d entered the same contest several times, only in the Romance category and was never even noticed. It’s because I wasn’t where God wanted me to be – I just didn’t know it at the time. I look at it as being His way of letting me know I’m on the right track now.
What I Learned
It might still be hard to see any correlation between receiving God’s love and my writing – it’s simply this: I have found on those pages of God’s word what I could not find in life – and I can share it through my writing, which I could not do before. He has given me the gifts I have so that I can use them to fulfill His purpose for me. Had I not welcomed Him into my heart, I would never have realized that I was still walking in the wrong direction and would never have been successful.
What Success Means to Me
Now – my definition of success does not revolve around fortune or fame. I don’t need to make a name for myself. In fact, I don’t want to. The way I see it, if I can help one person understand that they are not alone in the thing called Life – that there is Someone who loves them unconditionally, mistakes and all – and that it’s okay to be broken – then I will have been successful. Above all else, I know without a doubt that I could not write without God’s help. I know because I’ve tried. There are times when I sit down at the computer and end up staring at the screen before finally getting up and walking away. Then there are times when the words just seem to come – and that’s when I know that those words are being given to me by God because He has a message in them for someone – maybe even for me.
I don’t know what the future holds for me – or if I’ll ever find that (hopeful) hopeless romantic still buried inside of me. Only God knows the answer to that. But what I do know now is that in God’s eyes, there’s nothing wrong with me – and that I have found that unconditional love that does triumph over all – that does win in the end, no matter what the odds look like. And that’s the kind of love I can share with those around me! What more could I ask for than that?