Writing from Real Life

Recently editor Nick Harrison asked NCWA’s Lydia Harris to share about her writing journey. They both graciously allowed NCWA to re-post her response here.

Getting Started
About twelve years ago, I met editor Dan Penwell at the Oregon Christian Writers’ conference. I didn’t plan to write a book at that time. But when Dan looked through my notebook of clips from articles, book reviews, columns, and stories, he said, “Anyone who can get this much published could write a book.” I tucked away his encouragement and determined that someday I would.

Meanwhile, I nudged my niece, Ann Marie Stewart, to attend the Write to Publish conference in Chicago and meet Dan Penwell. She did, which led to book contracts with AMG Publishers and writing the first three Bible studies in the “Preparing My Heart” series. Both my niece and Dan Penwell encouraged me to write Bible studies for the series, so I proposed, Preparing My Heart for Grandparenting.

Accepting the Challenge
Writing a Bible study was a new genre for me. But my twelve-person prayer team and others prayed as I wrote this God-sized project. And my dear husband of 44 years (and president of my fan club) supported me throughout the writing. He picked up the slack at home by learning to use new power tools, such as the vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, and washing machine.

Setting Priorities
Through this book, I wanted to affirm grandparents in their important role, provide tools to help them become fantastic grandparents, and motivate them to be intentional about passing on a legacy of faith. At the same time, I desired to be a hands-on grandma to my four grandchildren, with another on the way.

I also wanted each day’s lesson to be fresh and exciting, not predictable. That’s why I included charts, drama, artwork, stories, resources, and creative ideas. I desired to relate to grandparents at the heart level and draw them to God. So each of the thirty lessons ends with a “grand thought” take-away and a Scripture-based prayer.

Persevering
It took eighteen months from the time I signed the contract until I held a printed copy in my hand. But prior to receiving the contract, I read books on grandparenting, interviewed dozens of grandparents, and researched grandparenting in the Bible (after all, there’s no biblical book of “grandparenting” to quickly turn to). Once I began writing the study, I wrote 30 lessons in 36 weeks. During this time, the lessons were also critiqued and tested by groups of grandparents.

I was pleased to complete the study on time, which was January 31, 2010. That year our Christmas tree didn’t come down until February.

Equipping Grandparents
Besides helping readers prepare for their grandparenting role, the six weeks of lessons also include ways to pray, model godly lives, invest in grandkids’ lives, prepare for joy and tears, and make an eternal impact. Weekends include devotions that cover the same topics. You can learn more about the study and read my grandparenting blog at www.PreparingMyHeart.net.

Reaping Rewards
When the first books arrived at our home, my husband and I knelt by the boxes and dedicated the books to God. We saw this study as a tool in God’s hands to impact future generations.

I’ve heard from groups of grandparents in Colorado and elsewhere who have completed the study. Recently, ten grandmothers in the Seattle area invited me to attend their final Bible study brunch. They wanted to thank me and share what they learned. Between them they had 54 grandchildren!

I felt humbled to hear how God worked in their lives through the study. It made all my tears and sleepless nights while writing it worthwhile. Grandma Louise, with seven grandchildren said, “It’s hard to put into words my feelings. Your Bible study has meant so much to my husband and me. I praise God for His guidance to you, and I thank you for listening to Him.”

Grandma Cammy, with two preschool grandchildren and a husband who is a pastor, wrote me this note: “My husband and I have been so excited about and committed to the whole grandpareting thing that I didn’t think I could be any more inspired. But your book has done just that—challenging me to think intentionally and to live purposefully in this new role. And you include so many wonderful, creative ideas from so many grandparents. Thank you!”

Meanwhile, I’ve been speaking on “FANtastic Grandparenting” and other topics at conferences, churches, senior living communities, and community centers. I’m being

s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d to do new things. One praying friend said, “Before long, you’ll be six feet tall!”

Praising God!
My husband and I are thrilled to see what God is doing with this book. Pre-Christian grandparents and those with other beliefs are reading it. Individuals, couples, and groups are using it. I know God will continue to touch lives and bless future generations through Preparing My Heart for Grandparenting. I felt privileged to write it. To God be the glory!

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This post first appeared September 19th, 2011 on Nick Harrison’s blog. Used by kind permission.

Lydia E. Harris served on the NCWA board for five years and has taught at the Writers Renewal and other conferences. She writes devotionals, book reviews, articles, true stories, recipes, and the popular column, “A Cup of Tea with Lydia.” She has contributed to thirteen books. She is the author of Preparing My Heart for Grandparenting, a six-week Bible study for grandparents at any stage of the journey.

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Nick lives in Oregon with his wife of more than 30 years, Beverly. Nick became a Christian through the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ during the heyday of the Jesus Movement. During that time, he and Beverly joined a Christian commune in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury District. Today Nick is an editor with a major Christian publishing house and continues to write books in his spare time. Nick and Bev are the parents of three adult daughters and have three grandchildren. To read more about Nick, visit his blog.

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