Today, March 12, 2019, is the one year anniversary of the publication of my book, “My Encounter: How I Met Jesus in Prayer”!
In the one year that the book has been out, it has made its way into the hands of readers in Nigeria, Haiti, Canada, Australia, Spain, and all over the US. It’s being used for personal reflection, book studies, retreats, men’s/women’s groups, Confirmation and graduation (not synonymous!) gifts, and more! Fourteen year olds and sixty-four year olds alike have read it and shared with me how it has helped them grow in relationship with Jesus! Priests and religious sisters, family members and strangers, those of wavering faith and those ardently unwavering have read this book!
And I almost walked away from writing it.
“You are too stupid to write a book. And even if you write it, no one is going to buy it. And if, for some odd reason, people buy it once they read it they’ll realize how immature you are. You’re not a theologian. And worst off, you’re a fake! How are you going to write about prayer when you’re constantly struggling to maintain your own prayer life? Just quit!”
Thinking back to my inner monologue, I don’t know whether to laugh, cringe, or cry. I struggled everyday during the writing process with self-doubt & self-rejection, spiritual warfare, and pride.
Even though I was an English major, it had been years since I wrote anything that was more than a page long and I doubted that I was capable of writing something of importance or quality. Friends can attest to my habit of writing a chapter, walking away to take a breather, returning to it with fresh eyes, and hating everything on the page to the point of starting over from scratch. There were times when I would write two sentences and then walk away from writing for two days because I didn’t have discipline or the energy to struggle through writer’s block.
I also didn’t think that people would care what I had to say. There was (and is) a field of amazing Catholic authors whose work was (and is) far more important than anything I could offer. My defense mechanism of rejecting myself before anyone else could started to kick in.
But through the months of wrestling and writing, the breakthrough was, ironically, prayer. I knew that God must have something in store for my words and experiences and the devil was trying hard to harass me so that I would stop writing and walk away from the book. My pride came in the form of thinking that I wasn’t capable and therefore God couldn’t use me. And the devil delighted in reminding me of that day after day, night after night. I had such severe writer’s block that I knew that it was spiritual warfare. One night in particular, I was coming up against a deadline and was fighting physical and spiritual fatigue. I had an evening routine of around-the-clock writing (one hour on and thirty minutes of sleep) and I just couldn’t keep up. I placed my open laptop on my bed, splayed my notes around it, and prayed desperately, “God, You are the God of miracles. I know that You can do great and mighty things and I just can’t do this. I’m going to go to sleep, and since You know all of my thoughts, I pray that You will use them to finish this book. I know You can and will do it. Amen.”
I fitfully fell asleep and a few hours later awoke to the only additions being a jumble of letters and symbols caused by me rolling over onto the keyboard! I gave a deep sigh of thanksgiving to God and chuckled. Yes, God was absolutely capable of writing the entire work in an instant and He was going to complete it… He was going to use my conscious self to do it!
My prayer and self-imposed expectations shifted. I asked God to humble me so that I could worry less of what others might think and be more concerned with how I could glorify Him. Since I was researching saints to quote for the book, I invited them to pray for me and I asked my guardian angel to praise God on my behalf while I was writing. I also began to think about the people that would read the book and the ways that they would grow in relationship with Jesus through strengthening their prayer life.
The product of this struggle, humility, surrender, and absolute joy is what is being physically held in hands and spiritually held in hearts today! There are times when I think that I shouldn’t be surprised at what God can do and how He can use me, and yet I live in constant wonder and awe!
In the bridge of the song “Embracing Accusations” by Shane and Shane the lyrics read,
Oh the devil’s singing over me an age old song
That I am cursed and gone astray
Singing the first verse so conveniently over me
He’s forgotten the refrain:
Jesus is the ONLY reason why this book is written and being read. He saves us from sin and death, He saves us from ourselves, He simply saves. So simple and yet a highly mysterious truth. And all He wants from us is our very selves. If I allowed myself to believe my own lies and those of the devil, I would have rejected the Spirit’s charisms (1 Corinthians 12; CCC #2003) and I would have rejected Jesus’ commission to “go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). And still I would have denied my brothers and sisters in Christ the reason for my hope, which is the Lord (1 Peter 3:15).
It boggles my mind what God has done and is doing in my life and in the lives of those who have read the book. If it sounds like I’m boasting, good! I am boasting in Jesus and His kindness! I’m boasting in His friendship! I am boasting of His love for us.
The devil is a jerk and reminds us over and over again how incapable we are of doing many things and he’s right. We are incapable, but God is capable of doing anything and everything through us! We all have a story of God’s goodness and faithfulness and it needs to be shared with others. Even if someone is sharing a story similar to yours, rejoice in knowing that you are not alone and that God is also active in the lives of others. Share your story anyway because your voice, tone, emphasis, spin, everything is unique! But most importantly, live your story with Jesus. Talk with Him everyday, receive the Sacraments often, and allow Him to be present to you in quiet moments of solitude. To Him be all glory, power, honor, and praise forever and ever!
Visit the store to get $1 off every book now through the end of March 2019 when you use the code HAPPYANNIVERSARY!