By Tonya Jewel Blessing from the Bible study, Soothing Rain
Some of us are preserved from the experience of dealing with death or the question of heaven when we are young. Other’s lives are forever affected by the tragic death of a parent still needed for a child’s safety and comfort.
While doing some research recently on the internet, I came across this very moving poem:
“Mommy went to Heaven, but I need her here today. My tummy hurts and I fell
down; I need her right away.
Operator, can you tell me how to find her in this
book? Is heaven in the yellow part? I don’t know where to look. Maybe if I call
her, she will hurry home to me. Is heaven very far away; is it across the sea? Help
me find the number please; is it listed under ‘Heaven’?
I can’t read these big, big
words. I am only seven. I’m sorry, operator. I didn’t mean to make you cry. Is your
tummy hurting too, or is there something in your eye? If I call my church, maybe
they will know. Mommy said when we need help, that’s where we should go.”
I know some of the poem’s phrases are outdated. Most people don’t use the Yellow Pages these days, and, with computerized services, operators are a rare commodity. Yet the yearning of a young child for his or her mother moves my heart. All kinds of thoughts and images of the child came to mind.
How long has his or her mother been gone?
Who is taking care of the child?
What does he or she look like? Who is reading this seven-year-old bedtime stories and rubbing noses for Eskimo kisses?
When I read the last stanza, I am brought to tears, “If I call my church, maybe they will know. Mommy said when we need help, that’s where we should go.”
There are churches all over our cities that are resourceful and safe places for grieving families to go. But the church is more than a name, a building, or even the pastor. According to Scripture, believers in Jesus are the Church.
As women who know Jesus, we’re the mothers to those who have no moms. We’re the ones who tend to tummy aches and bandage scraped knees. We read stories and place gentle kisses on the tear-stained cheeks of the hurting.
We give voice to the struggling, abused, and bruised.
We dig wells, feed the malnourished, and find jobs and homes for struggling young adults.
We know the secrets of heaven, and hold keys that help others who are caught in grief and uncertainty find a place of rest and peace.
Most of us have never worked as a telephone operator. But we have worked and will continue to work in sharing our time, resources, and the truths of eternity with those struggling in our communities and around the world.
If you know of a child who could use some comforting wisdom, I’d like to introduce you to a debut author in our publishing group. Jenny Fulton’s story, Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye is precious, a valuable book in the library of any teacher, parent, or grief counselor.
Watch a scene from Tonya Blessing’ Appalachian novel, The Melody of the Mulberries set during the early American Spanish Flu epidemic.
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.