Dear Gentle Readers~
You are in store for a special treat today. I'd like to extend a warm welcome to my friend and author, Stephanie Shott. Stephanie hails from the Sunshine State and her first book will be released soon. Grab a cup of tea or a nice cold drink and join me for the first interview of the season.
Welcome Stephanie! Thank you for joining me on my Blog. Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started as a Christian writer.
I'm a Southern girl who is 'goofy' as all get-out. I love Jesus, missions, and helping women discover who they were created to be. I'm very blessed to be married to my best friend, Donald. We have two adult children. My older son, Karl, is married to a godly girl and they are parents of my first grandgirl. There really is nothing like being a grandma! My younger son, DJ, is 23, and is known as Mr. Talent. He is not only a very talented singer/songwriter, he's also my go-to guy for all things computer and designer of my webpage.
I became a Christian in 1987, and not long after that God began opening doors and giving me the opportunity and privilege of teaching His word. That turned into speaking at various conferences and women's events which later turned out to be my primary calling. It's really crazy, because speaking in front of an audience would typically be the last thing I could see myself doing, but God has a way of stretching us beyond our abilities, to use us in ways we didn't think were possible. Speaking was one of the things I feared most, now it's where I feel His pleasure most.
Recently, God has expanded my ministry borders into the area of writing. It wasn't something I planned on doing. In fact, I didn't know why I was writing in the first place. I thought it might be used for speaking at conference sessions, or perhaps I'd put worksheets together for something I would teach. I kept writing, but to be honest, a book was not even on my radar.
However, a few years ago, my biggest obstacle in my writing venture turned into a defining moment. It happened one day when my computer crashed. . . and so did my heart. I lost everything. After weeks of sensing the Lord was leading me to write, I prayed, "Lord, if you want me to continue writing this thing, please help me at least find the first chapter! You know how much time and research went into each page. Please, Lord!" And before I could say 'Amen,' I found myself almost mechanically standing up and walking over to a suitcase that had spent the last year making its fair share of mission trips to Costa Rica. I unzipped the front pocket, slipped my fingers into the open space, and all of a sudden a smile took over my whole face! There it was... chapter one.
That moment in time changed everything, and I began writing with readers in mind. I began diligently praying for those who would read a book I never planned on writing. I didn't know their names, but each reader became the object of my prayers and somehow found a special place in my heart. All I can say is, when God leads you to do something, be like NIKE and just do it. Even if it doesn't make sense.
You have your first book coming out soon. What is the name of it and what inspired it? Tell us a little about your experience writing your book. Also, when will it be available?
It's a ladies' Bible study on Ecclesiastes entitled, Understanding What Matters Most. I didn't begin writing in hopes of publishing a book. Understanding What Matters Most was birthed from my own place of need. It was during a time when God had called us to the mission field and my 19 year old son didn't feel led to go. My maternal heart wrestled with the details of the call. Who was going to take care of him if something went wrong? What if he got hurt? What about our parents? I tried desperately to make sense of that which didn't make sense at all.
That's when the Lord gently led me to Ecclesiastes and gave me a bird's-eye view of Solomon's own attempts to make sense of the details of his life. After he ran the gamut of life experiences, he understood what matters most. I knew I needed that kind of clarity. No only for the circumstances surrounding our call to the mission field, but to help me walk through life knowing what matters most. My study of Ecclesiastes gave me the tools I needed to filter the essential fron the non-essential in light of eternity.
Currently, Ecclesiastes: Understanding What Matters Most is available for pre-orders at Amazon.com, and will be available for immediate purchase this fall through Christianbook.com , Borders.com , AMGpublishers.com , and through your local bookstores. If they don't have it, you can request that they order it.
What do you want readers to take away from your book?
The book of Ecclesiastes is chock-full of wisdom, not only for Solomon, but for each of us, as well. However, there are three overriding lessons I pray that each reader will walk away with.
***1. Since we're all trying to figure out how to do this journey called life, and how to properly view the events that come our way, I pray that Understanding What Matters Most will equip each reader with necessary tools to filter everything they face through the lens of what really matters most. We're all looking for answers, and Ecclesiastes really helps us understand how to make decisions and deal with our circumstances based on what is and what is not important in the long run.
***2. I hope that readers will grasp the concept of eternity and the reality of our ultimate day of reckoning; and I pray the truth of that reality will help them live in light of that day.
***3. That readers will see the grace of God at work in Solomon's life and understand that same grace is available to us. Solomon was the wisest man to walk the planet earth, yet he blew it big time! But the lesson here is that God still used him, even after he failed. I hope readers never forget that God is so much bigger than our failure, that as long as we have breath, he still uses us. He will not forsake us, even if we blow it.
Anything else in the works?
I've been speaking for over 20 years and that has always been my primary calling. So, I've been working on defining my schedule for the rest of 2010 and 2011. Since God has expanded my ministry borders into the area of writing, He placed several concepts on my heart. Currently, I'm working on three very different books. One is a ladies Bible study on Philippians. Another is near and dear to my heart because it's a mentor book for new moms. I'm developing it along two separate tracks. One is for use in context of the church, for veteran moms to teach younger moms what it really means to be a mom; how to love and train their children and to be a present influence in their lives. And the other track is for use in schools, prisons and facilities for unwed mothers.
Finally, I'm working on a book called Rethinking Church and challenging the church as a whole to lay its own church experience alongside the Word of God, to see if we really look anything like the mold from which we were cut. It's a very challenging book with practical ideas about how we can stop the madness of just "doing" church and take hold of what it means to really "be" the church.
I'm looking forward to see how God will use them.
What suggestions can you offer writers on the road to publication? Would you have done anything differently now that your book is published?
Like I said earlier, if you sense the Lord is leading you to write, be like NIKE and just do it, even if it doesn't make sense.
My experience in the Christian world of writers and publishers has been tremendously positive. There are blogs from very qualified agents and authors who share their wealth of writing wisdom every week. I've learned a lot from them.
I guess if I would have done anything differently, it would have been to find an agent first. I was so naive when I first sent my manuscript, and I didn't actually know much about literary agents. Publishing is a business, and it was definitely unfamiliar territory for me. I know I would have benefited greatly from someone who had the knowledge and expertise to give me the direction I lacked.
Finally, I know that without Christ, I can accomplish nothing; but through Christ there's nothing I can't accomplish. You see, if God leads you to do something, you need to do it. You need to pursue it. Even if it's beyond you. . . especially if it's beyond you. If you get rejected, or ridiculed, let that become soil for growth and then try again. It is God who works in you, both to do His will and His good pleasure. And if it's His will, it will be His pleasure to complete that which He begins in you.
Thank you so much, Stephanie, for this interview. I really enjoyed learning more about you and your new book. I'm sure readers have been encouraged by your journey, and we look forward to reading your book on Ecclesiastes: Understanding What Matters Most. God bless you.
I appreciate your comments on today's Blog!