A Thankful Encourager
by Cherie Bright
"Has your life or faith been impacted by an Abingdon Women Bible study or author?" was the question I saw posted on Facebook. Should I respond to this question? Is this post for me? "Yes. Yes, my life and my faith have been impacted. Yes. I will respond."
When I heard Reverend Jessica LaGrone speak at our church, it was hard to listen. She was our newest pastor. Quite frankly, I found it hard to focus at that time in my life. I was not connecting to God like I wanted to be. It was hard to listen and worship, even with a wonderful new female pastor. I didn't have female pastors when I was growing up. I thought about that fact rather than thinking about God that day. But, I also found myself thinking how Jessica seemed to have purpose in life. And I found myself interested in purpose.
Around eight years old, I accepted Jesus into my life and have been wandering around like Abraham trying to follow what God has in store for me ever since. About four or five years ago, I found myself in Reverend Jessica's office one day. I cannot even remember what we were discussing. I just know I cried. There is no recollection as to what I was upset about at that moment in time. Yet, it was a time in my life where I was trying to sort out where I belonged. I do remember from that meeting that Reverend Jessica was very calm. Her calmness and sense of purpose put me at ease. And I pressed on with life.
A couple years later I began working in my church’s bookstore. It was then that Reverend Jessica put out a new book called, "Women of the Word." It was self-published and it was selling. We enjoyed having her book in the bookstore. People started calling from other towns wanting to buy the book. She was excited that the book was doing well. And people were excited to have something new. Even in the excitement, she always seemed calm and living with purpose.
One day Reverend Jessica popped excitedly into the bookstore (in her own calm way of excitement). I asked her if she was going to write another book. She said she yes and she had a publisher that was interested in the new book, Abingdon Press. Our congregation and those of us in the bookstore were very happy for her! We were watching God fulfill her dreams. We started selling her “Women in the Word” book online and it was doing very well. We knew that the next book would be very successful. It was truly inspiring to see her grow. Interestingly enough, I was finding my spot with God during this time as well. I was learning to find peace and direction.
The release of her new Bible study book, Namesake, was a big event! People loved it. Many would come into the bookstore looking for the Bible study. She was being compared to well-known and successful authors and speakers when people would talk about her and the new book. There was an excitement in the air. And many people began following in her footsteps by moving forward in their dreams and purpose. Another woman from our church published her own Bible study that she had been working on for over seven years. Many local authors published their books on various Christian topics, such as children's books, living with cancer, and how to find fulfillment in God. I could see how Jessica was inspiring others and I was blessed to have a special vantage point. Plus, I was finding my own purpose and focus in God. I realized somewhere along the way that if I put God first, the rest will fall into place. And that is working for me.
I also learned that I am called to be an encouragement to others. I like to ask Reverend Jessica when I see her how the next book is coming along. It turns out, I have the special privilege to view that book as it's being written. She invited me to join a new Bible study called "Radiant" at our church. I've never been a part of an actual Bible study in a group. I've studied the Bible all my life, yet to be a part of a group has been intimidating to me. And now, not only am I a part of the group, but I'm now the prayer leader over a table group of seven other women. I like standing up and speaking in front of large groups of people. I love speaking to preteen children. But, to speak honestly with a small group of women is terrifying. Yet, I love speaking with God. So, it is working out very nicely.
My life and faith is truly being impacted by the ministry of Abingdon Women and Jessica LaGrone. I am thankful for the opportunity to grow in my faith because of this impact. Thank you for being a part of my life and for encouraging me in my faith and thank you to my God for the great vantage point.
Prayer: Lord, guide me to be an encourager to others as they grow in their faith. Thank you for those who are encouraging my faith to grow. Amen.
Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. To him belongs glory now and forever. Amen.
-2 Peter 3:18