by Jane Kirkpatrick
When my sister was very ill she told me that when you’re going through a hard time, it’s difficult to concentrate long enough to read an entire book. So I’d call her and give her little things to think about for encouragement. For instance I told her that the word family came from the Latin word famalus meaning servant hoping to ease that guilt sick people often carry as they watch others meet their needs. Or I reminded her that what brings on the bloom of a flower is not the quality of the soil or the amount of rain or fertilizer or even that a stake gets placed beside the plant before its really needed, to help it weather winds. What brings on the bloom is the lengthening of the days, the increase exposure to the sun. Despite her illness, she was still working toward that bloom and there were still things she could do which brought meaning to her life and the lives of her children.
She said those thoughts helped her and after she died I put them together into a small book published by my novel publisher, Multnomah. After 10,000 copies, it went out of print. Harvest House picked it up and reissued it with lovely water colors titled A Simple Gift of Comfort. Last year it went out of print after another 15,000 sold copies. I often read from that book at the close of presentations whether to the European Council of International Schools or a book group. People have commented afterwards about how those short pieces encouraged them. I suspect that if we knew everything about our audiences and our readers, we’d discover that each person is in a hard place, struggling perhaps not with life or death issues, but struggling to be good parents, good employees, good caregivers, good servants, and welcoming words of comfort through fiction and non-fiction.
The piece that receives the most comment I offer here. You don’t have to climb the mountain today, only find the footholds that will greet you in the morning. You don’t have to graduate today, only take that first class. You don’t have to write a novel, just pen a paragraph. Somehow we seem to think we must be large enough to finish before we first begin. …Your faith need not be strong enough to finish, only adequate to embark. We can take the next first step together.
My husband and I reissued the book earlier this year. I guess it makes me now a hybrid author with novels published by CBA and mainstream publishers and non-fiction self-published, too.
At times meeting a deadline or reviewing editor queries or pulling together a novel proposal feels overwhelming in the midst of the everyday. Then I remind myself that I don’t have to finish today. I just need faith enough to begin to tell the stories and trust that I’m not alone in the telling.
Jane Kirkpatrick is the author of 25 books including the New York Times bestselling novella collection A Log Cabin Christmas, reissued by Barbour, September 1, 2013. Visit Jane at www.jkbooks.com or www.facebook.com/Theauthorjanekirkpatrick.