Can you think of a story that has been told in your family over and over? One story from my family that I love is a story from 1959 that my dad has told me a few times. And 2 years ago, I was able to talk my grandma to get her perspective on how it happened.
When my dad was four years old, he came down with rheumatic fever, and he was so sick that the doctor told the family he didn’t expect him to live. My dad says he vaguely remembers being sick in bed and his family members bringing him little gifts because they thought he was going to die.
After my grandpa heard the news from the doctor, he went outside alone and walked across the road to a field. My grandma was crying and rocking her little boy, and she knew that her husband went out there to pray. My grandpa wasn’t very religious or spiritual at the time, but he prayed to God, “If you save my son, you can use his life for whatever you want.”
Grandma remembers that after that prayer, Hubert started feeling better. She said, “And that little booger got up right away and started playing. I guess he was healed instantly of it. I took him back to the doctor, and he said to me, ‘Mrs. Nolen, I can’t find anything wrong with him now.’ The doctor thought he had been wrong in his diagnosis.”
Years later, when my dad was an adult, he was talking with Grandpa about that story. After my dad heard the details, he said, “Dad, you know the Lord took you up on your prayer!” My dad became a Christian at the age of 20 and then went on to become a pastor and church planter. He believes it is no coincidence that he went into ministry.
What does this story do for me? What does it do for my siblings, my cousins, my dad’s grandchildren? It makes the power of God personal to us. It shows us that throughout all generations, God hears us when we pray, He has the power to heal, and He has a calling for each of our lives.
As a little girl and teenager, I heard my dad give lots of sermons. And of course, I’ve remembered some things from those sermons. But unfortunately, my brain isn’t able to remember all of it. But I have never forgotten this story. And it’s because God has created our brains to engage with stories in a powerful way.
A few weeks ago, I was able to speak at my church. I shared about how telling our faith stories (like this one!) inspires others to seek God. The Lord has put this conviction so firmly in my heart that I spent a year writing my book—so readers can hear my own faith stories. You can check out my message about this at this link: https://vimeo.com/168639139. My part starts at 11:35 in this video.
I hope you also know that your stories matter! Here's a post I wrote a few months ago about how to share your story.
God bless you this week! Thank you to everyone who bought my book! If you would still like a copy, you can get a signed copy from me or get She Won't Shrink Back from Amazon. :)
Over the last few weeks, I’ve finally been able to hand physical copies of my book to family members, friends, and even acquaintances. I walked a handful of books to my neighbor’s house to give to her. I mailed a copy to my college writing professor, and I mailed a stack of books to the construction manager who built my house. I’ve signed them for my aunts and cousins and people at church. And I’ve decided that this is the FUN part about writing. :) Please know that I was smiling for the whole morning after I mailed the copies to my writing prof and my construction manager.
I think that 99% of writing is sitting by yourself, typing out paragraphs on your laptop. The only interactions with others are the emails back and forth with your editor and the times that your revision team members are able to sit down and give you feedback on a chapter you wrote.
Otherwise, it’s just you and your laptop. For like a year.
But what does it feel like to finally release a book?
On one hand it feels like life keeps moving on, and I have barely enough energy to stop and sell these books. But I’m so thankful that I have this book to share from the previous season of my life. I view it as one of the best gifts I can give to “my people” in my family, my church, and my town.
And then on the other hand, in the moments that I receive a note from one of my old professors or teachers or family members who remembered that I loved writing from the time I was in 2nd grade, in those quick moments, I remember that this book is the culmination of a dream, the culmination of something God had asked me to do.
As I’ve been signing copies of my book for people and then hearing later how they’ve already finished the book and how it inspired them, I just feel thankful that I went for it. I feel thankful that I was able to write and finish the book when I did. My book covers the years of my early and mid twenties, and it was so important to me to capture my perspective at that time. I remember feeling like they weren’t many books available written by someone in that age group, and I wanted to offer that specific voice to others—particularly to young women in their twenties.
Now my life looks different than it did in the book. I’m a foster parent now, and that consumes my heart, my thoughts, my emotions, my time. If I wouldn’t have written my book in 2015, I probably would have forgotten half of the things that are written in there. I’m so glad those ideas and stories aren’t lost somewhere in my fading memory. I’m still the same person, for sure, but I’ve made it past the challenges of building my house and now I’m in over my head in new challenges as a foster mom.
If you read She Won't Shrink Back, you’ll know that being a foster parent is the goal I’ve been working towards. And even though fostering is challenging, it’s definitely what I have wanted for a long time, and it’s what I want still. (next book, next book, next book)
Thank you to everyone who has bought She Won't Shrink Back already! And thank you to everyone who has taken the time to tell me how it has inspired you. That means the world to me. I’ve waited a year to hear people say that. ;) I still have about 100 copies in my office and my home that I’m working hard to sell, but you can also purchase it from Amazon if that’s more convenient for you. The paperback is $15.49 and the Kindle version is $7,99.
God bless you. Chase your own dreams! Tell your own stories! #WeWontShrinkBack
Mary works at Brookville Road Community Church, where she leads children's ministry and women's ministry. She is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.