Have you ever "signed on" to a commitment with just the notion...you'd give it a try and see what happens? Starting in Spring of 2009, the writing group I co-lead with my partner and friend Linda B. was just that; Linda had an inspiration, a challenge within her soul, and she asked me to partner with her to form a writing group at our mutual home church, Chino Valley Community. This is our story, a story of RESTORATION, PURPOSE, STEADFASTNESS, STRENGTH, UNITY, VICTORY, MIRACLES and DESTINY brought forth in a tangible publication, "Christmas Inspirations."
First, let me tell you a little about my friend, Linda. A transplanted midwesterner, Linda attended San Diego State Univ, graduating summa cum laude with her degree in journalism in 1993. It is there she met Gary, her husband. Linda would go on to work as an Intern/Researcher for San Diego Home Garden and Lifestyles magazine where she continued to hone her skills as both a writer and editor. After graduation she was promoted to Copy Editor/Proofreader. She also had the opportunity to write the film column, special events, and restaurant reviews.
It was in 1979 when things took a turn for her. Diagnosed with a intestinal condition called "Chronic Idiopathic Intestinal Pseudo-obstruction, "I spent the next seven years on total Parentral Nutrition and an additional three years on hydration therapy," writes Linda in our on-line quickie interview. In layman's terms, she could not eat as others and her physical health was very compromised. After gaining some stability, Linda suffered two major setbacks in which she came close to losing her life, once in 1995/96 and again after moving to Chino in 2000, a major setback in 2007/08. Even though I had never met Linda; I was praying for her . We shared a mutual friend, Cathy. It is in this last block of time that I would hear her name through this friend, a special person in both our lives, who was ministering to both of us. I met Linda when she started coming to my small group. By then, I was beginning to explore my own writing possibilities, expressing my grief (after loosing our son in Feb. of 2007) and comfort from God in journaling and writing devotionals and stories for Faithwriters.com. I was only sharing with a few "safe" friends. Linda had buried her idea of becoming a writer again, discouraged for many years with her illness, God continued to bring miracles of survival to her life and she knew God was telling her, through many encouragements from our friend Cathy, that she had more of "her story" to tell, that God had a plan for her. (Do you see God at work here?)
Not long after our son passed away, we moved. I quickly learned that my new friend Linda, her husband Gary and beloved dog, Kindu, were neighbors. One day, Linda approached me with a crazy idea. "Would you like to start a writing group with me at the church?"
"A writing group? Who would join?...most people like Bible Study on Wed. nights...
Yep, those were my thoughts...not really negative, not wholly positive...just well, OK...we will give this a try. If anything, we will have put forth the effort to try something different. So, Linda and I, with the blessing of our ministry director, Jan, added "Aspiring Writer's Forum" to the calendar of Chino Valley Comm. Church. on Wed. evenings. August 2009, the table went up for Fall class sign-ups. We were to meet in our church library, and Linda and I started to plan class outlines and writing exercises and purchase journals. To our amazement (and why are we so amazed at what God does...after all, He is God!), we had several sign-ups. We would start each class after prayer with a thought provoking "journal question." Usually this question had something to do with the previous Sunday's sermon. Everyone journaled, and then we shared...well not every one at first...but as more became vulnerable and began to share...the unity and trust began. This is how the walls came down...the ground work began...the dirt sifted and the Trust framed up in a new restorative process through the lives of those special people who took the risk and signed on. Each will tell you of their own reluctance to be in a class as this. Each will tell you of the weeks each kept walking back in, amazed at what God was doing amongst us, each will tell you of the Joy this class has brought to their lives. Chino Valley Community Church's Aspiring Writer's Forum had a greater purpose than we could have ever imagined in those first few weeks.
We wrote and self published a book in nine months! The DNA of nine aspiring writers created a booklet of Advent Stories, one for each day of December, culminating in THE Christmas Story as told in Luke 2. Christmas Inspirations began as a "Kingdom Assignment" : a challenge from our pulpit, to take something little, whether it be money, talent or just sheer will and GROW it for God's Glory and to serve others. (http://kingdomassignment.org/KAfaqs.php). After all classes took a break for the summer, we continued on, learning all we could about telling powerful stories, editing, --humbleness, graphics, art --and personal taste, about copyrights and public domain, disappointments and new opportunities, about pagination, collating and book binding. Through all this we prayed, and we kept evil far away.
On Saturday, Oct. 16th, we came together for our final effort to bind this work of Love together--500 books. Bringing the two binding machines to Irene's' house was someone else very important in this effort, Mark, Cathy's husband. He is a supervisor at a large industrial printing company. While their company could not print our books for us, we decided the best way was to print on our copier at church in off hours, (with their blessing, but not free). Mark also helped us with a discount on paper. Towards the end of summer, Mark had a very serious accident at work, nearly losing his hand. Without going into detail here, Mark never wavered on his effort to help us see our project to the end, despite his traumatic hand injury.
"Christmas Inspirations" is now available for purchase. The proceeds are designated for scholarships to benefit children in our area to attend summer camp; this "Kingdom Assignment" now reaping the profit. In these difficult economical times, we can see the multiplication of a "few loaves of bread and some fish" and God's provision. We are thankful and blessed. Enjoy now the pictures of this effort and please, don't hesitate to purchase your own copy.
P.S. This September's sign-ups saw all original writers return plus we have added some new "rookies" to the mix. We moved to a bigger classroom, the excitement looms and although we are not ready to take on another project right now, we continue to encourage each other in our writing goals and inspire each other to their "writing destiny."
|working this summer at my house|
|Carl, the serious one, Rose, the college English prof and Irene, a world-wide missionary|
|Linda, our fearless leader, Gary, her sidekick husband, myself, and Kaela, are Hawaiian princess|
|Kaela and Barb, putting the back and front covers together.|
|Carl, our mid-term edition to our group, always inspiring!|
|Mark, despite his mangled hand, working the hole punch machine.|
|front cover and back cover, artwork by me!|
|The "Double Wire O's" and the machine that "Binds" Thank you L.G. for your effort here.|
|This is L.G. He is a new member this year and anxious to learn how to express himself in writing in English, He is from China. We had a lot of fun with idioms in the English language while working that afternoon.|
|Linda, my partner and friend.|
|Thank you Irene for your great hospitality and always positive attitude and wisdom.|
|Cathy, responsible for bringing Linda and I together, Linda and Irene|
|Gary, carefully counting and packaging our books when complete.|
|A Season of Harvest for both of us!|
|Barb, our graphics expert.|
|Forty in each box, ready to sell|
|Our group: new member L.G., Gary and Carl|
Kaela, Rose, Julie, Linda, Barb, Coleene, supportive friends, Cathy and Mark, missing member, Sarah.