The Path to Purpose

Unlike my young adult daughter, who wrote an essay about using the college years to discern her path, and unlike many who rely on guesswork or practical decisions to guide their studies and career choices (all okay avenues), I was blessed to know at an early age the purpose that would somehow define my life’s journey.

I am grateful to have discovered my deep love for writing in elementary school; and the more I wrote, the more impact my words seemed to have on those around me, including family, friends, teachers and other adults. Naturally, like most writers, I dreamt of someday penning a book; and when I was 10 years old, I sent a partially-complete manuscript to what was then Harper & Row Children’s Books (a subsidiary of what is now HarperCollins Publishers).

Somewhere in my stash of memorabilia I still have the light blue 3×5 postcard I received in response a few weeks later, with a standard typed message informing me that the publisher had my manuscript in hand and would “be in touch” if the editors chose to move forward.

It may come as no surprise that I never heard back about that fledgling project, but the dream never died. I went on to pursue a career as a professional writer – serving a lengthy stint as a newspaper reporter before eventually turning my focus back to writing books. And as fate (also known as God’s provision) would have it, 29 years after my first bold submission, that same company – HarperCollins’ faith-based imprint Zondervan –  published my first nonfiction book, and would go on to publish my eighth and ninth novels.

Had I written this turn of events in one of my novels, it would seem implausible! However, that experience was a reminder that even when we don’t know what’s in store, God has a plan.

And what I have gone on to script are female characters with hopes, dreams, fears, flaws, successes and stumbles – women who are trying to figure out who they are and how to find their way forward in the maze of life they’re navigating. (Aren’t we all in that number?)

I try not to write cookie-cutter perfect endings (even when I’m tempted), because life isn’t cookie-cutter perfect. Instead, I aim to create characters who are authentic and vulnerable, and who are trying their best to remember the little girl dreams within them. My characters experience change and growth just like women in real life, and sometimes God kisses them with a dream come true or with a “fateful” moment that only He could engineer.

Even when the Scripture isn’t referenced, these fictional women (and their loved ones) are often reminded of God’s assertion in Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Their stories offer plot-driven evidence of the truth in Ecclesiastes 3:11: He has made everything beautiful in its time.

And at the end of each of my books, I hope readers are fulfilled by the journey the characters have taken them on – just like I find myself feeling after reading fiction or nonfiction that captures me. I hope they are more prepared than before to face their own personal experiences with clarity, hope and courage, even if they don’t have all of the answers or don’t yet know what they want to be when they “grow up.”

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