This time last year I was preparing for my first writing conference. I was finishing my first manuscript. Printing my first business cards. And learning how to do my first One Sheet.
I then experienced my first rejection, and first questioning of my dream to become an author.
Yet just a few months later—and only through God’s grace, mercy, and sovereignty—I was able to have my first phone call with a literary agent (and first freak out before said phone call). A few months after that first phone call, I was overjoyed to receive my first contract with the same literary agent (who I absolutely love!).
Then came my first phone call with an actual publishing company (and subsequent major freak out before said call!)
Along with those amazing firsts have come some other not so amazing firsts: my first terror inducing fear about not achieving my dream of becoming an author; my first paralyzing fear that I may actually become an author; the embarrassing realization that I had no idea about such things as point of view, perspective, or story arc—all proof of the fact that my background is in counseling, not writing. My background and lack of professional writing qualifications have continued to fuel an undercurrent of fear. Fear that causes me to perpetually think that surely someday someone is going to figure out I’m not really qualified to write!
But thankfully God’s calling trumps our qualifications.
So I sit here now still trying to absorb a huge and overwhelming first: my first publishing contract!
I have signed with Tyndale House Publishers (I still have to squeal when I write that!)
We got back to my parents house after being in Sanibel Island, FL for a week, and there in the mail was a packet I had been longing to see for weeks—longing to shout about for months.
I found out on May 3rd that Tyndale wanted to publish my book. That moment will forever be a sacred and precious memory for me. I sat in an amazed dumbfounded stupor as my agent told me the news. I thanked her profusely and then dropped to my knees in humbled awe. Tears flowed freely down my face has my arms lifted in worship of the One who has made all of this possible. I felt both significantly unworthy and profoundly loved at the same time. I sat there for an hour. Just taking it all in, remembering, worshipping, being present with the One who all of this is for, about and to. I wanted to shout the news, yet I also wanted to keep the moment private—just a grateful girl and her infinitely generous heavenly Father.
When the tears finally subsided I called my husband and then my parents. We laughed, we cried, we praised. Talking to my dad was especially moving as he was the first one to ever read a word of my book.
I started writing the book back in April of 2014. I would send him each chapter as I finished it, and he would read it and then ask me for more. He encouraged me to keep going, assuring me there was indeed a story here. My mom then took over the editing and proof-reading. Both of my parents were the only ones to read the manuscript before I sent it to my agent. Their support and prayers have been overwhelming.
It is understandable then when not 48 hours after finding out my book would be published, my world was turned upside down when I found out my dad needed immediate open heart surgery. We were told that without the surgery he could have a massive heart attack. Everything stopped. The joy that had permeated my heart, was replaced with fear like I have never known. (see Daddy’s Girl and Where We Are Now)
Life and death matters sure put things in perspective don’t they?
Suddenly, the dream that I had worked so hard for became a bargaining chip with God; “Lord, you can have it all back—the book, the contract, the dream—just let Daddy be ok.”
Of course, God doesn’t operate like that, but my heart was desperate and wanted to do something, anything.
I flew down to be with my dad, who insisted I keep following this path God has laid out for me. And after some of the most scary days of my life, my dad was released from the hospital and began the long road of recovery. He is getting stronger everyday and it has been a joy to be with him this past week.
In fact, he was the one who handed me the packet containing the written contract yesterday. The man who first taught me the power of words, the one who read each poorly written first chapter, the one who is still healing and recovering was the one to hand me my first publishing contract.
Only God can orchestrate events like that!
I had started to get so frustrated that publishing paperwork takes so long. I had a verbal yes on May 3rd, but couldn’t publicly say anything until the paper contract had come. Everyday I checked the mail at home, longing, wishing the contract would be there. Yet, God knew all along that the moment would be so much sweeter shared with my parents.
I keep hoping to find enough words to convey the deep sense of thanksgiving I have in my heart, but words sometimes fail to convey certain things. I feel as though I will never be able to give God enough praise or thanksgiving for what He has done and is doing with this story of hope He has allowed me to write.
The book is scheduled for a summer 2018 release (which feels forever away, but I know will come very soon!) I will share more about the story as I am able.
I am excited and nervous; anxious and at peace; overwhelmed and overjoyed, humbled and grateful. But most of all I am so happy to publicly declare God’s overwhelming grace poured out on an undeserving but incredibly grateful girl. And I pray that He will continue to write His story through me.
To God alone be the glory!
Jennifer Bleakley, author 😉