Bodies, are strong, aren’t they? But, like all armor, they have their weaknesses. It’s what’s inside that matters. Simone Biles’ personal struggle reminded the world of this at the 2020 Olympics.
We protect life at all costs and with all instincts when it is our own. Our defenses become skilled, honed, bolted on. But, I think that is what the irony of the Biblical message is, “How beautiful are the feet of them that bring good news” – because reaching out to help others in need is foot bloodying, callus making, dehydrating, painstaking.
Any Olympian knows those gnarled feet are not that beautiful after the long run. It is the message carried in the soul, or in the outstretched hand, in the much-needed funds or supplies, in the scroll or in the book which is so beautifully life-giving.
When there were no postal services, there were the human runners. To greet such a message bearer at the door, to receive the message or item and offer to wash and bandage those feet, is to tend to them with joy and tears.
Judging fourteen-year-old Quan Hongschen with consistent tens blew the Olympic diving record out of the water today. She didn’t do this so much for herself as for her mother’s life. For her chronically ill mother, the achievement brings crucial medication by allowing Quan to afford to fund her mother’s care in China.
Athing Mu raced like a gazelle to the gold in women’s middle-distance running. She is a record-breaker, a testament to the value of refugees who build America.
It is usually only the recipient of the good news who says, “How beautiful these feet!” “What a sight for sore eyes!” “What a savior, you are!” “Such an answer to prayer!” “Your value is a work of art – apples of gold in settings of silver!” “You have saved my life!”
Beautiful Feet Because of the Beautiful Feat
When the servant at the door loves the master as much as the servant arriving with the message, these are the words of one servant to another. “Let me bring you water. Sit here. Lie down. Oh, your wretched feet! They are so beautiful.”
Words are so powerful, and so are the illustrations of the expression. How many times have I put together a piece of furniture or used a piece of software, or read a book that I would not comprehend but for the illustrations? Maybe this is why I love children’s picture books. Maybe this is why I love to include those few pertinent illustrations in the books we publish at Capture Books.
The irony is lying ill from the wildfires permeating the air we must breathe, and opening a bottle of medicine you can take because someone thought to prepare you with it.
The irony is watching an arrow sink into the opening of someone’s armor, and watching words of life pour out, like butterflies from the soul. Blood – butterflies – words – illustrations – help – honor.
Jenny Fulton, author of PRINCESS LILLIAN AND GRANDPA’S GOODBYE
But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:18-20, NASB)
Have you ever come across those people who seem to be great at everything?
What about the individual who is working a full-time job, doing ministry after work, and can still find time to work on some DIY project? Of course, the house always smells like freshly baked goods.
How about a married woman with kids who stays at home, homeschools, runs a successful business and keeps her house in immaculate shape?
And then, there is this married man with kids who works all day, does chores and spends time with his family after work, fixes everything in the house himself, and studies late into the night?
Yes, these people appear to do it all; they seem to have it all together.
I am definitely not one of these people.
My floors are littered with toys and goldfish, my walls covered in crayon. I struggle to get through a full day’s schoolwork with my second grader and write in the mornings or whenever I can squeeze it in.
I can’t do everything well, and according to scripture, that’s okay.
According to 1 Corinthians, God actually created members of a community to complete and complement each other’s efforts. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter three, he describes the different roles he and another preacher, Apollos, played.
So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s bfield, God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:7-9, NASB)
The big picture cannot be completed alone.
While the Christians in Corinth argued over which human leader they show follow, Paul redirected their attention to the bigger picture. Neither he nor Apollos were meant to be or provide everything the church needed. They’d each been given a role, a single task in the big picture of God’s work. Paul had been used to plant the seeds of the faith; Apollos had been brought to water and nourish it to the next step. Both had been used by God for a specific purpose. Neither was meant to do it all.
Later in the book, in chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians, Paul describes a group of believers as connected digits and limbs of a physical body. Each part has been given a unique ability to be used in a specific role. These limitations in our individual abilities force us to need each other, inspire us to come together, appreciate one another, depend on one another. Our strengths enable us to help others while our weaknesses encourage us to receive help in return.
I’ve seen these principles of collaboration play out in my writing journey.
While some writers successfully go the self-publishing route and learn how to do every step of the process on their own, I soon realized I wasn’t able, and didn’t desire, to follow that path. I don’t have time to learn how to do everything and to get good at it. This means I must seek out others in the industry to do what I can’t.
After I wrote my picture books, I found other writers to help me develop the ideas and identify any errors my familiarity with the text may have skipped over.
I joined online writing groups to learn and connect with others in the industry.
The bulk of the work, and the most challenging part of the collaboration, came when my first picture book, Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye, was accepted for publication by Capture Books. In some ways, this was the perfect partnership, for it would fill so many of the gaps I had in my knowledge and experience. They would take care of the illustrations, formatting, and uploading, help me with marketing.
However, collaborating also means giving up control. It means recognizing when the piece God gave you has ended and trusting the input and vision God gave others to carry the book forward.
At first, I was hesitant when my development editor, Laura Bartnick, first presented her vision for the illustrations, for I couldn’t envision the final result. Since God hadn’t given me that piece, it was like staring into a void while someone else described a vivid and scenic view on the other side. Saying yes to her ideas and agreeing to work with the illustrator she recommended was like stepping out into complete darkness with no guarantee that my foot would touch solid ground.
Every uncertain step brought light to the words I’d written. As the process went on, as the illustrations came in, my eyes opened to an incredible panorama filled with yellows, blues, reds, and greens. The end product was so much more beautiful than I could have imagined. Trusting is rarely easy, but the eventual destination is worth it.
God didn’t create us to live and do everything on our own.
I am now in the position to celebrate the strengths of collaboration on my book.
He made us to live in community, to need one another.
Part of living and working together means acknowledging that we can’t do it all, and that’s okay. And the truth is, even though some people appear to be the exception to this, they also have weaknesses and struggles. They have props and crutches and a support system that looks different to mine. Even the most put-together looking person needs others to come alongside to help and encourage them in their weaknesses.
Alone, we can’t do it all. Together with God and each other, anything is possible.
Book Blurb for Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye
Can two worlds exist at the same time?
Little Princess Lillian learns the spiritual world can interact with the physical. Imaginary is used to explain a reality, how heaven reaches down to earth as a young girl observes her grandpa awaiting his entrance into his eternal home.
How do you explain death and heaven to a child?
Led through a long hall in a hospital, Princess Lillian holds her mom’s hand as an angel whispers comforting words.
Incorporating bits of Native American and Christian tradition, an intimate celebration of a loved one’s passing occurs as a family says good-bye to a man eager to meet his best friend, the King Above All Nations.
Jenny Fulton is a wife, mother, children’s book author, YA fantasy author, blogger, and freelance writer with a B.S. in Bible, a B.S. in elementary education, and an endorsement in K-12 ESL. After graduating from Grace University in 2007, Jenny worked as a teacher in a variety of cultural and educational settings, both abroad and in the United States. She is a storyteller, a follower of Christ, and a seeker of truth.
An enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, Jenny grew up hearing stories from her dad about the supernatural workings on the Navajo Reservation. Her days are now mostly spent raising her three young daughters (homeschooling two of them) and writing as much as time and opportunity allows.
Jenny is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Faithwriters.com, and is an author with Capture Books.
By Jenny Fulton, author of Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye
Has God ever asked you to make a personal gifting or a private hobby public?
In many ways, this is a terrifying transition for a creative person. Before, creating something provided an inner joy; the only critic was yourself or the Gift Giver.
I have numerous journals, each of which are personal and private. How could I bridge the gap between my writing for private process and writing for what others wanted?
To share a talent with others is to expose yourself – to open your vulnerability to another’s criticism, to discover how much you still need to learn and grow in your abilities.
It’s far easier to hoard such giftings in isolation. Yet, more often than not, God won’t allow us to keep them shut away indefinitely.
I was teaching in China when God asked, urged, and encouraged me to start writing for more than myself. His first prodding came through a friend.
She speaks softly and listens loudly
Lara was another American teacher at the school. She possesses a quiet and gentle spirit, a trustworthy one, a daydreaming one. We formed an instant connection; I somehow knew she was a creative before she verified it with words. Our time together included playing our guitars, engaging in deep conversations, and talking about writing.
She was one of the first people with whom I shared the fulness of my passion for this art.
One day, we were sitting in her apartment, talking about our secret hobbies. “You know,” she said, “I was just reading this book, The Soul Tells a Story, by Vinita Hampton Wright. She talks about writing and creativity going hand-in-hand with spirituality and encourages people to say, ‘yes’ to their God-given gifts. You can read it when I’m finished.”
I did. As I read, a long-held dream crept from its world of silence and impossibility into the realm of light and reality.
What if my desire to write wasn’t temporary?
What if it wasn’t meant to remain a side-hobby or a means by which to communicate newsletters, but was given to me by God to be used for Him to His glory?
What if my dreams to write and be published didn’t just belong to me, but were a reflection of His dreams for me?
Soon after this conversation, Lara introduced me to Faithwriters.com, an online writing site for Christians. For the first time, I put my heart and stories on display to be read and critiqued by strangers who had no knowledge or context for the person behind the words. I didn’t know where it would lead or how God would use it; I only knew I must obey – I could no longer ignore the desperate call within me.
In 2008, I submitted my first fictional story, Chang Chang’s Hope, to the lowest level of the Faithwriters weekly writing challenge. Then I waited in terrified expectation for people to post their comments.
People really liked it! The judges liked it and gave it a 2nd place ranking in its level.
My next entry, More Than a Yearly Journey, was an autobiographical one. It caught the attention of the site managers who featured it on the Front-Page Showcase.
While I certainly seemed to be off to a good start, I knew my skills needed to develop. But maybe, with time, instruction, and practice, I could really do this writing thing.
These initial successes persuaded me to be more intentional about learning the craft. To this end, I read the highest-ranked stories and tried to pinpoint what made them so good. I studied writing lessons on the site and tried to incorporate those skills into my entries.
Sometimes my pieces connected well with the readers. Other times they didn’t
Regardless of whether my writing connected well with others, I was learning, improving, and gaining insight into where my strengths and weaknesses lay.
After several months of sharing online, I gathered my courage and tentatively offered to write the devotionals for an upcoming youth retreat. Offering, writing, and sharing God’s gifting to me in this form was far scarier than posting online. Exposing my heart to strangers was one thing; revealing it to those I knew was another.
Although the devotionals were presented as anonymous, I was able to gain some encouraging feedback.
These occasions to share made a few things very clear.
My desire to write wasn’t temporary.
The enjoyment and ability to write had been given to me by God to be used for Him to His glory.
My dreams to write and be published were a reflection of God’s dreams for me.
“Lord,” I prayed. “I entrust this writing, this interest and ability, to You as something You want me to continue to develop and use for Your glory. I’m not sure to what extent, but I do know that I will follow Your lead in this and seek any opportunities You may have for me. For whatever reason, and to whatever extent, You have, among other things, made me a writer. To You belong the details.”
Life Happens in The Details
I continued posting short stories online for the next five years. Life changed drastically in that time, but the commitment to write held steady. In 2010, I moved back to the U. S. Two years later, I was married, and a year after that, I gave birth to my first daughter.
In 2014, when my daughter was a year old, I left teaching to become a stay-at-home mom.
The dream and dedication to writing continued. With my husband’s encouragement, I pursued a few freelance writing jobs. One of them landed me a contact as a ghostwriter for a young adult fantasy novel. That book was published in 2016.
This past year, in July 2020, I came across Laura Bartnick with Capture Books. After a few months of communicating back and forth about a couple of writing projects, she offered me a contract to publish my first picture book. Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye was released on March 10, 2021, with paperback and hardback versions as well as ebook versions.
Timing for this release thrills me because the book is now available for comfort and hope around the Easter holiday because the theme of Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye is eternal life after death.
Encouragement from the Word
In 1 Corinthians, Paul speaks much about the giftings of the Holy Spirit. Although writing or other artistic endeavors aren’t specifically mentioned, the manifestation of the Spirit is. “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” The expression of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives is meant for the common good.
Many times, God’s gifts aren’t given for the benefit of the receiver alone and aren’t meant solely for personal use and gratification. Instead, He often grants us skills and abilities so that we may use them to help others.
Matthew 5:16 (NASB) says, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” God’s light is expressed through how we live our lives, in our physical work, in what we say and do. This includes artistic endeavors.
May the dreams, skill, and abilities God has given us shine before others in such a way that they might glorify our Father who is in heaven.
Although it’s scary to publicly share our gifts, I’ve discovered the value of opening my heart in creative writing. It’s definitely worth it.
Large. Impossible. Taunting me with its arrogant presence—that thing I had to overcome. A project I’d been putting off, putting off, trying so hard to avoid.
The beastly thing had a large tag attached that hollered, “DEADLINE”.
My project had become an ugly frog.
I had to eat it right away.
It has been said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing it’s probably the worst thing that’s going to happen to you all day.
Eating the frog: this is a metaphor for tackling the most challenging task of the day — the one you are most likely to put off, but usually the one that might have the greatest positive impact on your progress.
Eat the ugly frog first. Down the hatch. Be a brave soldier, staring down that deadline, that cleaning project, whatever it is—and go for it. Just pinch your nose, grab that wiggly critter, and swallow it whole. After this, you can move on to the other frogs, the smaller ones that aren’t quite so daunting.
I know you think I’m talking about actual frogs here, but really, I’m talking about time management and doing the hard thing first; it’s just more playful to use the frog analogy.
Do I ever remember meals as a child! Remember yours? Many of them had frogs on the plate. I had to learn to eat the frogs first before the rest of my meal could be enjoyed.
Eating the frog means to ‘just do it, otherwise, the frog will eat you,’ meaning that you’ll end up procrastinating the whole day. Once that one task is done, the rest of the day feels like a freebie. Besides, you will feel proud of your accomplishment.
As Mark Twain once said “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
At the end of each day, whether you’re at the office or at home, make a list of all the things you need to do the next day. Then, select your most important task (the ugliest frog). Clear the workspace around it so you have this one thing, sort of a big warty frog, sitting on your desk.
It will be waiting for you in the morning.
Staring you in the face, you realize Twain was correct. Either it eats you or you eat it.
Do this every day until it becomes a habit. In due time you will find you are more productive through the entire day, having spent the early surge of your energy eating the wartiest frog.
If absolutely necessary, make Frog Jell-O. This is the art of mixing in enough humor, coffee, and perspective to make the frog taste better.
When a co-worker or family member offers you a donut or a sweet roll, tell them you’ve already had the breakfast of champions. Haven’t you, though? Then politely excuse yourself and go on to the next item, um—frog, on your list.
The book launch is this week for the children’s picture book,
Will You Hold My Story?
Tired of carrying her heavy story all by herself, Meggie Beth finds a step upon which to sit.
As she rests, the street carries a variety of people to her, all of them lost in their own thoughts. Everyone seems too laden with his or her own stories to stop and hear hers.
When a lovely, lonely dog becomes friendly with little Meggie Beth, we are reminded that youngsters need pets, and that pets are excellent listening buddies.
After the work is accepted, then edited and published, any author can tell you that it is a great reward for a new book to be accompanied by early endorsements and reviews.
The first is by a second grade teacher who says, “Richly celebrating the trait of perseverance in finding the support of other people, or a gentle dog, as the case may be.”–T. Palmer, Camp Hill, Pennsylvania
The second was a genuine surprise to me, coming from one of Christendom’s best widow bloggers who pitched it to her fans on social media and alerted me that she believes the story is “Wonderful and meaningful for all ages.”Laura Warfel, More Than a Widow blogger
The third is from a fellow author, Charmayne Hafen, a writer of children’s books (middle age) who wrote one of my first Amazon reviews. She said,
“This is a wonderful story about what it means to ‘hold another person’s story.’ As a group counselor and former play therapist with an M.A. in Counseling, I would highly recommend this book to parents and child therapists, especially in working with grief and loss. What a wonderful way to encourage a child to share their difficult story.”
If you have to eat a few frogs, I hope you have a few wonders waiting in the wings for doing your best and doing well.