An Interview with Author Melissa Spoelstra
Melissa is the author of “Jeremiah: Daring to Hope in an Unstable World,” an Abingdon Women Bible study slated for release this summer. I recently had the distinct pleasure of interviewing our newest author and learning about her personal history and faith, her sources of inspiration, and that which has challenged her along the way. This is the first in a multi-part interview that we'll share over the months leading up to the book's publication:
AW: Tell us a little about yourself and your background, including your faith journey:
MS: I grew up in a little town in East Texas as the third of four children. I was nine when I made a public decision to become a Christian, but that was only after a sweet Sunday school teacher explained that I didn't have to be (nor could I ever be) “good enough” for God. Originally, I was planning to wait until I reached perfection!
In college I started out as an education major, but fell so completely in love with studying God’s Word that I changed my focus to Theology. I earned a degree from the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, where I met my Canadian husband in a Systematic Theology class. We will soon celebrate 19 years of marriage and have four amazing kids ranging in age from 11-17.
My husband and I have taught and ministered in three different denominations. About five years ago we were called to plant a new church. Together with friends, we watched God birth Encounter Church in Dublin, OH. The church planting experience has been the most difficult, and the most exciting time of our lives.
AW: How would you summarize “Jeremiah: Daring to Hope in an Unstable World”?
MS: Jeremiah’s story is one of hope against a backdrop of difficulty. He experienced rejection, depression and difficult circumstances, but chose to continually wrestle with and ultimately obey God even when the world around him went in the opposite direction. The study shows us how Jeremiah dared to hope by pursuing God even when life gave him every reason to succumb to despair.
AW: Why did you decide on a women's Bible study specifically on Jeremiah?
MS: I can identify with Jeremiah and I think many other women can, too. He whines, pouts and gets very dramatic with God. I see many reasons for despair among the women I attend Bible study with—difficult marriages, divorce, cancer, job loss, and the day-to-day things like broken dishwashers, kids with runny noses and the reality of life on a tight budget.
I have personally struggled with watching my twin daughters lose their hair because of an immune disorder called alopecia, and that has caused me to feel down and lead me to ask a lot of questions. Yet Jeremiah dared to hope by looking to God and honestly dialoguing with Him through his despair. I believe we can learn from his message and methods. I want every woman to know how much God longs to be close to us and offer us hope.
AW: I would think just getting started would be one of the toughest things about writing a book. What made you decide to sit down and actually start to write?
MS: About three years ago I finished Jeremiah in my Bible reading plan and got stuck there. Instead of moving on through the rest of the prophets, I kept going back to the beginning and starting it again.
I saw parallels between our culture and theirs. I found relevance in my own life in learning to listen to God and keep a soft heart when life is hard. Writing a study on Jeremiah for the women in my local Bible study began repeatedly creeping into my thoughts. I wanted them to experience the rich truths I was finding in his message.
I battled God with my excuses of not having the time or expertise to do a Bible study justice. Repeatedly through verses in the New Testament, however, I felt God confirming this calling. In 2 Peter 1:19, weʼre told to pay close attention to what the prophet’s wrote. And, in Jeremiah 9:20, He called out specifically to women.I also received an encouraging email from an editor who thought a woman’s study on Jeremiah was needed. Lastly, God made Himself clear when I listened to a radio talk show host say his first book was written mostly from 10 p.m.-1:00 a.m., and that lack of time shouldn’t stop you from doing what you know God has called you to do.
AW: Melissa, before we close this first part of our interview, please share with our readers your favorite scripture:
MS: “He said to me, ʻMy grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness.ʼ So I’ll gladly spend my time bragging about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power can rest on me. Therefore, I’m all right with weaknesses, insults, disasters, harassments and stressful situations for the sake of Christ, because when I’m weak, then I’m strong.” 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10 (Common English Bible)
Thank you, Melissa. We've enjoyed getting to know you, and next month we'll be back with the second 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