We first introduced you to soon-to-be-Abingdon Women author Melissa Spoelstra back in April (read Part 1 of our interview). We're now a month closer to the August publication of her first book, Jeremiah: Daring to Hope in an Unstable World, and we thought it would be a good time to ask Melissa about the writing experience:
AW: What were the biggest challenges you faced along the way as you wrote this Bible study?
MS: My greatest challenge was watching my daughters struggle with their esteem and transition to hats and wigs and fake eyelashes. Their journey with alopecia paralleled my journey of writing and teaching Jeremiah. I had to constantly dare to hope and try to live the truths I was writing and studying even when some days I wanted to dare to pity party instead.
I was also unexpectedly challenged by some people in my life who weren’t supportive of my desire and opportunity to write and teach. These were people I thought would have celebrated with me, and instead they preferred not to hear about it. Also, balancing my personal prayer life, family time and local ministry with the hours spent with my nose in books and on my laptop became a real challenge. I’m still learning to manage my priorities and value rest and intimacy with God, rather than becoming overwhelmed with all that I want accomplish on my to-do list.
AW: In light of those challenges, what do you do to relax?
MS: I love to curl up with a good book, take a walk in a park or nature preserve, play tennis, watch a movie with my family, play games with family and friends, and take a nap.
AW: How long have you been writing?
MS: My basement closet contains a huge bin full of journals starting with my middle school years up to the present. I’ve always found sweet connection with God through writing out my struggles, prayers, and questions. About five years ago I began writing Bible studies for the women in my local group as I saw a need for some variety and depth in what is available on the market. About two years ago I began blogging and also publishing articles in magazines like ParentLife, Women’s Spectrum, and Just Between Us.
AW: Where do you find your inspiration in writing?
MS: As crazy as this sounds, I hear clearly from Jesus often while I am doing aerobics. Something about distracting my body frees up my mind to listen and process. While I’m mimicking grapevines, kicks, and turns – I get ideas for blogs, topics for Bible studies, and thoughts about people I need to pray for or send a note or text to. I’ve been knows to run out and write something on a scrap of paper in between songs. I also find inspiration in journaling, parenting, being in nature, driving in the car, and reading my Bible. But most big ideas I get – come while I’m on the dance floor at the gym.
AW: Had you always wanted to write a Christian book, specifically a Bible study?
MS: Hmmm… I always loved to write, but I would say I lacked the confidence to believe that I had talent, as well as something worth saying. When I began to believe God more than my insecurities, I began to attempt more things in His strength. The more risks I took, the more feedback I got. I struggled to stay off the approval roller coaster—being excited when someone encouraged me and told me God was using my writing or teaching—and then deflated when people close to me became critical of my new passion for writing and speaking. I’m still learning to listen to God and live for an audience of One, but I find taking risks even with the possibility of failure a great adventure with Jesus. With Him we get to fail forward!
AW: Once this book is published, do you have another Bible study in mind? Or do you want to try writing something different? What would that be?
MS: The next study will focus on the life of my favorite biblical character – Joseph. The subtitle might be something like, “Daring to Forgive.” Being a Christ-follower means being a professional forgiver. Spouses, friends, co-workers, and even church people can hurt us. The wounds often sting and linger. Joseph knew this pain as he experienced betrayal, false accusations, and wrongful punishment. Yet he wrestled with forgiveness and came out on the other side showing grace. I believe forgiveness is a big issue for women. How can we keep from letting bitterness take root? What is the difference between forgiveness and trust? Just because we forgive does that mean we must reconcile the relationship? Will we ever stop having to re-forgive the same issue or person when it pops up repeatedly in our thoughts? These are some of the questions I’m asking as I begin to delve into Joseph’s life and his ability to forgive.
Thank you, Melissa. I want to mention before we close that we've heard the exciting news that you will be joining Jessica LaGrone and Babbie Mason on the Abingdon Women "My Life, My Faith" cruise in February. That's terrific! Just another reason to make plans now for what is certain to be an unforgettable spiritual retreat.
Next month, we'll be back with the third part of this interview. Readers, in the meantime, if you want to learn more about Melissa, you can visit her on social media:
Blog: www.melissaspoelstra.com; www.reachthepoorthisweek.com
Linkedin: Melissa Spoelstra