Hi ... Patty Smith Hall here, and when Julie first asked me to write the blog post today, I had just received THE CALL from Love Inspired Historicals about my debut release, Hearts in Flight. I was floating on air (cliché, I know but so true!), and I thought that the story behind my contract would make for a feel-good post. While that may be the case, the closer it came time for me to actually write the article, I felt God leading me toward a different subject. So I hope that Julie and the other Seekers don’t mind if I share the story of a different call.
‘Be strong and courageous; Do not be afraid or terrified for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you or forsake you.’ — Deuteronomy 31:6
The gold and orange flowers around the altar reflected the dismal emotions I felt as I walked down the aisle of the chapel. I took a seat alongside Dan and the girls, far enough back to allow my dad and his siblings room close to the front of the church, but close enough to be included with my cousins. There weren’t many people there, but then most of the folks Granddaddy had known in his ninety-six years had come and gone, like a vapor. My granddaddy had died three days earlier without ever answering my only question to him.
Do you know the Lord as your Savior?
Now, Granddaddy and I were never close. While I was a thoroughly modern girl in my thinking, he was a throwback to a simpler time, a true son of the South. He wasn’t the sort to say ‘I love you.’ He lived with the knowledge that you did what you had to do to get through another day.
But we did have two things in common—a shared birthday and a passion for words. He loved newspapers as much as I do and always saved me his Atlanta Journal after he was finished with it, even if it was a week old. I loved poring over those papers so much so, I always took notes, scribbling along the fringes of anything I thought interesting. He caught me one day and from then on, he made sure there was always a fresh supply of paper and sharpened pencils whenever I came to visit.
The distance between us widened as I grew up. While my life got busy with college and career, marriage and children, his started to fade. In the summer of 1999, we learned Granddaddy had inoperable cancer. I was having a tough time then too. My maternal grandfather had died the year before as well as my great aunt who had led me to the Lord. I couldn’t stand the thought of losing someone else, even an old man who I didn’t have much of a relationship with. So I decided that once a week, I would spend my morning with Granddaddy.
It wasn’t easy. Although he knew his death was coming sooner rather than later, he was ninety-six years old and fixed in his ways which, good for me, still included a morning edition of the Atlanta Journal. So we talked about articles we found in the newspaper, what he thought about state politics, what was his favorite comic strip? A month after I started visiting, two papers began to show up, one for me, the other for him. I had just begun writing then, still too terrified to share anything with anyone else. But as he grew weaker, I took to reading him some of my devotionals along with the news.
A few days before the end, I finally got up the courage to ask him the question that had been troubling me. Leaning over his bed, I whispered,
“Granddaddy, do you know the Lord as your Savior?”
He didn’t answer, just stared at me until a dull ache gripped me around my chest. His silence couldn’t be a denial, could it? I wanted to know, had to know the truth.
He reached out for my hand and patted it. “You’re always sharing your stories with me. You’re just going to have to wait with the rest of the family to hear mine at my funeral.”
I was stunned. Not know until his funeral whether he was saved or not? But it would be too late! Over the next half hour, I tried to convince him to talk to me about it but each time, he told me I had to wait for his story. Troubled, I finally rose to my feet to leave. He tightened his hold on my hand.
“I love you,” he whispered.
A few days later, he was gone.
So as I sat, waiting for the final notes of music to drift away, one thought held me captive. What was Granddaddy’s story?
My cousin walked to the pulpit, a yellow folder tucked under his arm. When he finally stood before us, he opened the folder and lifted a handful of yellowed papers up for us to see. “Several years ago, I asked Papaw if he knew Jesus as his Lord and Savior. He didn’t say anything, just stood up and walked over to his dresser. He pulled out these papers and handed them to me. He said they were his testimony and he wanted me to read it to you today.”
For the next half hour, I listened to Granddaddy’s story; how he met Jesus in the back of an old work wagon when he was sixteen years old; how the Lord had helped him through the loss of his young wife and their two babies. On and on it went, and though I was relieved, a part of me didn’t understand. My granddaddy had a wonderful testimony; why had he kept it from us?
My cousin soon gave an answer. “He chose not to speak about it for fear we wouldn’t understand.”
Fear! What did Granddaddy have to be afraid of?
In an instant, dozens of notebooks and floppy discs with all my devotionals and stories came to mind. But that was different, I reasoned. Granddaddy was afraid to share his testimony.
Aren’t those stories your testimony?
Just like my grandfather, I was afraid. But if his story taught me anything, it was that I didn’t want to be. If I wanted to follow the plan God had for my life, I had to be brave enough to let go of my stories, to learn from rejection, to face the possibilities that my writing would never be published. And I had to learn to cling to Him when I am afraid. Something I’m still doing as I prepare for my first book to be published.
So there you have it—that’s my story. Yes, the "call" to write, certainly, and the "call" to be published if and when it comes as well, but most important of all -- the "call" to write for Him, a call you definitely don't want to miss ...
TODAY’S GIVEAWAY!!! Patty Smith Hall has been writing and studying the craft for over ten years and was a professional reader for Harlequin. Her articles of encouragement and hope can be found in Guideposts, Journey and Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul. Patty’s debut novel, Hearts in Flight, will be released by Love Inspired Historical in July, 2011. Leave a comment or question for Patty today, and you will be entered into a drawing for a copy of her new book when it comes out and a one-chapter critique. And to whet your appetite for Patty’s book, here’s a sneak peek:
The only girl in a family of military men, Maggie Daniels has had a lifetime of dealing with overprotective males. With her five cousins on the war front, she's finally free to go after her dream—ferrying bombers for the newly formed Women's Army, Special Pilots. And no one, not even Captain Wesley Hicks, can keep her out of the cockpit.
Grounded after the loss of his RAF sister over the skies of London, Wesley has one battle plant—to prove the B-29 Super Fortress is ready for the Pacific Theatre. Training pilot Maggie Daniels wasn’t on his radar. But when the spirited yet tender-hearted woman is the target of friendly fire, he finds himself focused on a new objective—winning Maggie's love.