Note: This is the 500th post on my blog. When I realized I was about to finish my first published book AND had published 499 blog posts, I decided to wait until this project was ready, so I could tell you this story for my 500th post.
Almost five years ago, I embarked on my most exciting project ever: meeting and writing the biography of a West African pastor named Daniel. I told you early on about the project’s shaky start, or what seemed like a shaky start.
Only a few months after my visit to Liberia, Daniel and his wife, Victoria, traveled here to Texas. I got to spend hours with them, recording more stories and/or more detail. Soon I’d transcribed all these recordings into Word documents. A phrase Daniel often used inspired the title I wanted to give the book: No Small Thing. Over time, I settled on the subtitle: A Memoir of Uncommon Courage Through the Liberian Civil Wars.
Their story is loaded with struggle and heartbreak, but also with faith and moments of triumph. (And a little bit of humor. Hey, it’s me, after all!) From the first suggestion of the project, I have felt certain that God wants this story told. So writing it up should be easy, right?
Oh. Sorry. >wipes tears<
I kept running into obstacles. While I didn’t have people going around heckling me or trying to sabotage the project, I do believe there are enemies in the spiritual realm who don’t want this story told.
In a nutshell, as I wrote the events into scenes, I found I needed more detail than our initial conversations provided. Sure, I can email questions. But our language and cultural differences made it hard for Daniel to understand what I wanted to know, and for me to understand a lot of what he so faithfully told me. While I have a writing “skill set,” this nonfiction was gonna need guidance from God.
Frustrated, I called in the big guns: I went to see my prayer warrior friend, Darlene. She prayed over me, which I found greatly encouraging.
On the way home, a phrase from the Bible came to mind: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord.”
So I looked it up and found it comes from Zechariah (Old Testament minor prophet), chapter 4. Reading the chapter for context, I learned that a Jewish leader named Zerubbabel was hard at work building the Temple, but some people were trying to stop him. Like me, Zerubbabel was doing a God-given task, and faced obstacles.
The verse I’d remembered was the beginning of God’s message of encouragement for Zerubbabel. As I read, I sensed that message had also been recorded for me and my project. I found parallels in every line:(Verse 6) “By My Spirit” — The responsibility for success was not on Zerubbabel’s shoulders (or mine), but on God’s.
(Verse 7) The message goes on: “What are you, O great mountain (obstacle)? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain, and he will bring forth the top stone (type “The End”) with shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!'”
(Verse 8-9) “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house (interviewed and researched for this book), and his hands will finish it.”
So… my hands, God’s power? Sounds like a can’t-lose proposition. Talk about encouraging!
And then, like a cherry on top, there was verse 10: “For who has despised the day of small things?”
I kid you not, the main phrase of my working title was tucked into this same chapter.
As the country folk used to put it, “If that don’t light my fire, my wood’s wet.”
I plunged back in, did more research, emailed with Daniel who patiently countered my American assumptions, and took in feedback from faithful critique partners to make sure I wouldn’t confuse or bore the reader.
And now, at long last, I’ve self-published the project. Click here to see it on Amazon.com.
All I can say is “Grace, grace to it!”
Each copy purchased will benefit the nonprofit BESTWA.org, of which Daniel is the Liberian Director. I hope you’ll give it a look.
Thanks for reading,