Amber Albee Swenson looked at the blank page and sighed. Some days one thousand words were too few. And then there were days, like this, when the brain refused to acquiesce.
Her ministry had not been her idea. In fact, when a friend suggested someone start a mom’s Bible study at church she thought her role would be to attend. She had not yet learned that a friendly suggestion to do something at church is a full fledge draft, not only by the person suggesting, but by the Holy Spirit.
Said friend had only one request and that was to study mothers in the Bible.
Amber took the idea to heart, searching first the synod’s website and then the publishing house. Unable to find a study that honed in on both the strengths and weaknesses of Biblical moms-- a study that made moms of the Bible not the heroines of fairy tales or the evil witch of folk tales, but real moms, like her, with qualities she prayed to pass onto her children and weaknesses she prayed she wouldn’t-- she decided to put her creative writing major to work and she wrote the studies herself.
She had never written a Bible study, so she asked her pastor to look them over before presenting them to the ladies of the church. And she asked her pastor and others who should lead the group.
Her pastor was adamant that she be the one to lead the study. It was, afterall, her work.
Oh, but she was not a teacher! She was one to quiver when going to communion, to break into a sweat if she had to read in front of a group. How could she lead a Bible study?
The prayers of many went before her to that first class; prayers she had not known to ask. And by the end of the first lesson she discovered teaching as her new passion.
She went on to self-publish those first studies in a book called Bible Moms: Life Lessons from Mothers in the Bible.
But God was not done with her. In 2010, she put together a seminar for women called Clothed in Beauty based on Colossians 3:12,14. After trying it out at her church she asked nearby churches if she could present it to their women.
That fall she put together another seminar called, Broken and Ready for His Use. Slowly but surely she started presenting these topics and others at women’s retreats and conferences.
But there was a story in her head, one she’d been turning over since her college years. In 2012, after seven years of writing on and off, she published her first novel. The Whisper Theorycombined her love of fiction (mystery suspense) with her new-found love of Bible study (a study follows each chapter).
Confused. That’s what she was told at a conference for women writers in 2013. No one (but Mary Higgins Clark she’d later learned) produces both fiction and non-fiction. It would be in her best interest to choose one and follow that path.
Perhaps she is confused, because she’s currently finishing two books. Ladies of Legacy is a book of Bible studies on women of the Bible who were not necessarily mothers, or whose role as a mother wasn’t the main focus (Miriam, Deborah, the Queen of Sheba, Esther, Mary, Martha, and Tabitha among others).
She’s also finished the sequel to her first novel. The Bread of Angels highlights the fact that the first obstacle most of us face is being open enough to share our problems so that others can hold us up.
If not confused, she’s certainly crazy since last summer she took her husband and four children, ranging in age from seven to fifteen, with her to speaking engagements in South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Utah and Wisconsin.
In addition to her books and speaking she writes a weekly (confessional) blog about her faith journey, shares on Facebook, and puts together a small monthly newsletter. To see excerpts from her books, blog posts, or to contact her for lists of speaking topics, go to www.biblemoms.com.
If right now you think she must be incredible, then let me, dear friend, be honest. Until this year (2015) she struggled to call herself an author, even with two books in print. And two books in print does not translate into heaping bags of money and notoriety. This ministry has survived through years of struggle and identity crises.
That struggle (how she thanks God for it now!) has led her to three truths. First, she writes and speaks because it’s what she loves to do. That means she keeps doing it with or without a paycheck. Two, everything comes with a price. To work part-time and write and speak means she doesn’t get as much sleep as she’d like, doesn’t have the luxury of a daylong Netflix marathon (she secretly hopes there is Netflix in heaven) and if scrapbooking was a houseplant hers would have been relieved of its misery a few years ago already. And the most important and the hardest lesson for her to learn was number three: ministry means service. She’s learned that being a servant means being willing to do whatever task the master wants at the time. Her plans and God’s have many times been on different time tables. She’s learned to pray that God would open the doors He wants her to go through and shut those (even if they are ones she’s trying with all her might to open) that aren’t in her or her family’s best interest.
And when it comes to the family and travel, you can be sure there will be laughs and tears and a mini-van heaped so full that if someone sneezes the roof may blow off.
She sighed again, but this time with a gentle smile. Three of the four are in bed and she’s got one thousand words. It’s nothing when you’ve armed yourself with prayer.
Today’s post is written by Holy Hen House sponsor author and speaker, Amber Albee Swenson.