New Every Morning: Repackaged!
Ten years ago I wrote and published my first devotionals. When people ask about my path to publishing, I often think they want a formula, a ‘how-I-did it’ story that will inspire them to maybe do the same. I wish I had that sometimes, but mostly I know I have something better - a story. A story in which I am not the hero.
I sensed for sometime between 2004 and 2006 some vague calling in my life. I longed for something, a deeper sense of purpose, a challenge, I wasn’t quite sure what it was; at the same time I felt guilty for the longing, as my life from the outside appeared to be quite nice. Why couldn’t I just be content, I wondered?
A health crisis and an accident a few years apart forced me to be more reflective and introspective and eventually I knew that writing beyond the pages of a private journal was part of what lay ahead. I met with a gracious older friend from my church who was already a published writer. She gave me wise advice about practicing my craft and suggested some books I needed to read and study.
I went on about my life doing as she advised- practicing my craft - and writing devotionals for an occasional meeting or event when asked. One day, she called me and asked if I’d like to submit samples to a publisher she had once worked for. She was busy on a novel at the time, and had recommended they read samples of my work. I sent the samples; they sent me a contract for my first fifteen devotionals which later turned to thirty and those appeared in a daily book of devotionals for young women.
A year or so later the same publisher contracted with me to write fifty devotionals for the same type of book for single women. The irony was not lost on my husband that I was neither young nor single though writing for both, but I contend the answer is the same for everyone: Jesus.
In 2010, I agreed to substitute for a teacher on maternity leave at the school where my daughter attended. By the end of the semester, I was signing a contract to become a full-time English teacher the next year and by 2012 was deep in the throes of my accidental career - working hard at a job I didn’t seek but rather seemed to seek me. I loved every minute while I was teaching, but the desire to write never left me and there was precious little time to do it after grading all those essays.
I remember a warm August night in 2012, around the time school started, I walked out on my back patio, looked up at the moon against the black sky, and said, “I know it’s crazy; I don’t have time to write with a full-time job and a daughter who is a senior, but I want to write again. Please send an opportunity.”
Was it pure holy desire? Of course not ! I’m sure my ego was mixed up in there as well as fear that this teaching thing had swallowed me up and I might never write again, but something in my desire must also have been His desire because in early September I got an email from the publisher I’d previously worked for asking if I’d like to write my own devotional book, ninety devotionals grouped into ten categories, and I could choose all the content.
I’ve never written a query letter. There’s nothing to take credit for or tell anyone, “You can do it too!” I still cannot explain why God gave me this gift and this opportunity. I prayed, but even that conversation is one He started. Bird dogs point. Bees make honey. Leah writes and talks. Creatures seem to do what they are created to do.
The publisher asked for a fairly quick turn-around and I knew I’d never be able to produce the amount of work they wanted in the time frame they needed it with my teaching load and also being in the middle of college travel and decision-making with my daughter. It would not happen without supernatural help.
I’d just finished the book, The Circle Maker, by Mark Batterson, and I called the friend who gave it to me and the one I passed it on to. They became my circle makers along with another one or two friends. They prayed me through the writing and to the deadlines and through the teaching and mothering. Oh, and did I mention we were building a house at the time?
They kept praying until its publishing date of August 2013. Then they started praying more, for all who would read it and what God would do with his word planted in the hearts of people, and for ridiculous things like reprinting…
Life went on, teaching continued, I started a blog as part of my teaching job which eventually grew into what you are reading today. That book was behind me and I began to think about what might be next - if anything. My children were finishing their collegiate and professional studies. I’ve retired from my teaching job and have become somewhat regular at this blogging thing.
This spring, I marked the forty days of Lent with two more friends by reading each day out of Draw the Circle, a forty day devotional guide. I asked my friends to pray circles around three things with me: a job for each of my children after graduation and the reprinting of my devotional book, New Every Morning. I’m not sure why I did that. I trusted my children’s decent grades and degrees to land them employment somewhere, eventually; but that last one, the reprinting - I had no idea how to ‘help God’ on that one. It felt audacious, ridiculous, like this is insane to ask for and I’m going to embarrass myself.
Mid-summer the mother of a former student emailed me to see about securing more copies of my devotional book. Amazon was out, she told me, and she’d like to contact the publisher to tell them they should print more. I was touched, and laughingly told her, “Sure, here is their email, but I doubt there is a plan to do that.”
To my surprise, a few weeks later I opened my inbox to see myself copied on a reply to that lady from my publisher. They were not exactly reprinting my book; they were repackaging it - which meant making it a larger hardback journal with room for my readers to write and reflect on what I had written.
Beyond what we can ask or think? I love knowing my future readers will be writing responses to what I have written. The English teacher and the writer in me knows that we own what we write in our own hand. This new format, circled and circled in prayer, allows my reader to go even deeper with the One I pray they meet on every page.
I love a good story, complete with a Hero and a surprise ending.