Please welcome this week’s guest Jean Anne Williams for The Journey. She answers the question: How have you seen God work in your writing journey?
I’ve always had lots of energy—no I don’t drink coffee—I come by this naturally. Sitting still for very long wasn’t in my vocabulary until one Sunday on July 2, 1994.
On my way to worship services in my little Honda Accord, I slowed for a familiar incline and then the dip in the road. To my right, a young man sat a stop sign. He failed to look my way before pulling out. I slammed on my brakes but couldn’t avoid the impact on the passenger’s side. The jolt against my seat belt messed up muscles and tendons in my neck, shoulders, back and hips. My chiropractor later told me I had a bad case of whiplash.
On July fourth, my husband Jim dragged a single mattress into the living room and made my bed. He brought pillows and water and made me comfortable before he went to work. The best I could do those first days was to walk with crutches to the bathroom and back. After a week, I painfully made my way without crutches to the front entryway, adding eight more yards to my exercise. When I reached the door, I pressed my palm on the wood and smiled. “I did it.”
Even though that day I made progress, too soon I felt pathetic, useless, and worried my vegetable garden would go to ruin without my attention. My teen son Joshua worked in my garden when I was able to go outside and sit. I told him what to do and he did it willingly, blessing his mama.
I fought an intense sadness over my inability to do anything productive. Never thinking of myself as smart, I excelled in anything that required physical agility. Born with a few more muscles than the average female, I was content with my God-given talents as laborer. But now, without those abilities, I found myself seeking the Lord’s guidance. “What am I going to do, God?”
As to the question I asked God about my circumstances, I called my daughter and said, “Jami, I’m becoming depressed. I don’t want to feel this way, but it keeps creeping over me. I’ve already prayed about what I might do that’s useful, but have no ideas.”
Jami didn’t miss a beat. “You’ve always wanted to be a writer.”
“But I can’t see myself writing for adults.”
Ok, I thought. A few days before that, I had received in the mail one of the Children’s Institute magazines. Within the covers was a questioner. If you filled it out, you could see if you qualified for their writing program. I told Jami about the writer’s test. Maybe I could take it to see if I had promise.
On my husband’s first day off after my conversation with Jami, he helped me to the car and drove me to the library. Not planning to wait for the writing test results, I perused the shelves that carried books on the writing craft. Jim followed me, and I chose book after book and handed them to him. It took two trips to the front desk, with my husband’s arms full of the hard backs and paper copies.
At home, Jim placed the books on the coffee table. The pile stood three-foot high, and I couldn’t see over it when I reclined on the sofa. This is it, I decided, I’m becoming a writer.
As the weeks turned to months and I created stories for children, I realized God got my attention through my injuries. He had to slow me down physically, so I could sit long enough to write. That was twenty years ago. I’ve published puzzles, articles, and short stories for children, which six years later also included articles and true accounts in book anthologies for grownups.
My entry into writing for adults came with much pain, only this time it wasn’t physical but emotional. My youngest child Joshua died by suicide on March 16, 2004. On November 27, 2014 he would have turned thirty-six years old. I went through the grieving journey as you would expect, clinging to my Lord like a drenched kitten on tree bark.
I had plenty of time in the early grief stage to notice something profound: God’s mercy shined through the darkest days. Even though life felt not worth living, God became my only reason to live, because I still wanted to please Him. And He gave me mercy, which allowed respite from my sorrow. Like a trip to my home state of Oregon, my granddaughters who brought a measure of hope that helped me to heal, and close friends who stood with me on my crazy, joyless ride through the loss of a child.
In the summer of 2008, I had a growing need to tell the story of how God had not abandoned me. I learned how to create a blog with the help of my friend, Siri, and titled it Love Truth. I wrote my first post four years after Joshua died about God’s mercies through the unthinkable loss from suicide.
Two years later, I submitted my articles on suicide loss and healing to e-zines like Open to Hope. Then in 2012, my dear friend, Pat Rowland, suggested I write a book of devotions. I titled it, God’s Mercies after Suicide: Blessings Woven through a Mother’s Heart. It took twelve months to write and have it professionally edited. At this time, I’m seeking representation for God’s Mercies after Suicide. And if God shows me I must self-publish, I’ll do that although my lack of technique skills will tax this creative brain of mine. But I also know God will bring people in my path to help and guide the process of self-publishing.
I didn’t learn until I worked on the book of devotions how important it is to pray during a writing project. I would get stuck for the right words as I wrote about my loss of Joshua, and then I’d pray. Prayer opened my mind to the perfect word. That, I believe, is the Holy Spirit’s leading.
In Luke 19:40 it reads . . . I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out. (KJV) How can I not cry out to the world and tell them how my God is a God of hope, mercy, and committed agape love. He didn’t’ abandon me when hard times came. Instead, he lifted me up through each difficult day, and carried me through the valley of the shadows, and healed my shattered soul. Thank You, Lord God, and Jesus my Savior.
Jean Ann Williams began her writing career in 1994 by reading a stack of books on the craft of writing. Since then, Jean Ann has published over 100 articles and short stories on the topics of Christianity, health, travel, friendship, relationships, family life, Sunday school take-home papers, and the loss of a child by suicide. In her free time, Jean Ann enjoys reviewing books and mentoring young writers for the next generation.
Jean Ann is also a small-time goat farmer and raises a couple dozen hens on one acre. In 2012, she took up archery and big game hunts each fall with her custom-fitted bow for short people.
To learn more about Jean Ann Williams go to: http://www.facebook.com/jeanann.williams1, http://twitter.com/JeanAnnWilliams, and her blogs Love Truth http://joshua-mom.blogspot.com/ and http://jeanannwilliams.blogspot.com/.