Whether I was perusing the book selection of the drugstore or walking down the isle at a bookstore, my quest was always the same. I wanted to select a novel about people I might want to meet, written by a person, I might want to know. That was important to me because as I read the books I selected, some of the characters became my friends, and their internal landscape influenced mine. Because of this, I learned many important things without having to live the lesson since the characters did that for me. Believing this may be true for you as well, I’ve written this piece. You'll notice a degree of levity, I seldom use in my writing, so let me being by saying, "I am not pulling any punches. What I've written is ALL true, and because of that, the miracle of God calling me to write is truly miraculous indeed!"
From “Why Johnny Can’t Read,” to See Paula Write”
When I was a new believer I read Ezekiel 11:19. "I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh." Little did I know back then all that this verse would mean to me, or how many times God would challenge me beyond what I felt was my breaking point by this Scripture. However, coming to Messiah (Christ) at forty, I had much to learn, and God put me into, and took me out of situations, and relationships to mold me into this. What you might wonder, is the 'this,' that I have become? Well, I’ll tell you, it certainly isn’t the 'this' that everyone thought I would be. For as far back as my family and I can remember there was never anyone quite like the 'me' I became in Christ, for the beloved transformed me!
But, let me tell you who I was, so you’ll be able to track with me. Ah, that’s easier said than done, to paraphrase a tune that was popular when I was younger, leaner, and couldn’t learn. Yep! That’s right. The book on my mother’s bedside table was titled “Why Johnny Can’t Read." I didn’t know that cause I couldn’t…read, that is. In fact, I only discovered the name of the book once I could, you know… read. By now, you’re probably wondering how a kid born into a family of an up and coming Aerospace Engineer who built the fuel cell that got us into space couldn’t read. My parents and the school wondered about that too, but in the fifties, everyone relied on the doctors who visited the school to give them a heads up if there was a problem with any of us kids. Every time I saw the doc, I got a clean bill of health, eye exam and all, which leads me to believe that the guy needed to have his eyes examined!
Now here comes the hyperbole, which if our parents were speaking would be an, “extravagant exaggeration.” If you think I’m kidding, look it up! I did cause as much as I knew that it was the word I wanted to use, I wasn’t one hundred percent sure how to spell it, and I wanted to make sure it was the right word! See what taking a short cut through the first four years of elementary school will get you…a major need for dictionaries, spell-checking, and the like! However, I digress. Now, if you’re like I was, almost the most nearsighted person ever born, with very little peripheral vision, there’s only one thing that can make your learning experience a worse catastrophe than the cards you were dealt. That’s being born with a last name that begins with a letter which will absolutely put you in the chair furthest away from the blackboard, and as surly as I’m telling this tail, that’s just what happened to yours truly! That’s why I call this ditty, “From Why Johnny Can’t Read to See Paula Write.” Speaking of little ditty’s, if you’re interested in what I mean, look at the refrain from Roger Miller’s song “Little Green Apples” which goes, ‘God didn’t make little green apples and it don’t rain in Indianapolis in the summertime.’ Now that’s poetic license if you ask me, and silly to the core! Yet when I look back on the one summer I had to learn everything all my classmates learned in four years, what’s a little silly between friends?
I’ll tell you what it is, it’s the ability to laugh at our troubles that we hopefully learn to do before we meet the Lord. Because when were facing bad stuff without him, we’d better know how to laugh or we’ll cry ourselves a river. Though if the truth were told, and that’s what I’m sharing with you, I just learned to be silly this year! You’re probably wondering why it took me so long. Well, I’ll tell you since you seem interested. First, I had to learn how to learn, and then I had to accept myself with all my fears, foibles, and failures. By the time I did all that, I was nineteen and ready to get married, so I found a great guy who loved me back, and we walked down the isle, into wedded bliss and baby diapers galore cause back in the day, pampers didn’t exist. Fact is, back then some of us didn’t even have a clothes dryer. Living close to the ocean in the winter meant hanging the didies, as in diapers all over the house. Between babies, bottles, didies, and “The Hubb’s,” life went on happily well into my thirties when I intentionally took myself to college. Now, I must confess that I'd graduated Beauty College, gotten my Cosmetology License, and gone to work so my guy could finish college. And I must have been a pretty good student, cause I was offered an open-ended scholarship to return and study to become an instructor. Honestly, with my learning curve would you have signed up for that? Course not and neither did I!
However, a strange thing happened on my way to maturity, I discovered I would do whatever I could to make certain my kids had a great start. Anything, including the best preschool I could afford. I didn’t want my kids to end up being taken by the scruff of the neck, by the teacher, and led to the one remaining chair as I was, while she whispered in a voice loud enough to wake the dead, “I’m sitting you next to the smart girl. If you need any help, ask her.” What a confidence builder that was! And, I must add, it was a great way to begin the school year cause everyone knows the really cool kids want to hang out with “the class dummy.” So, given my druthers, I’d have rather run away from “The Hubb’s” who was, and still is the love of my life, than send my kids to school unprepared! Well, boy howdy! Guess where the best preschool was? Give up? Well, I’ll confess! It was part of the local J.C., as in Junior College, which we have here in California and funny thing, they had room for my sweetie pie! But I had to be enrolled in the College to get her in. So, I kid you not, I’m sittin here today with a 4.0 grade point average, which in my day was the highest GPA you could have, all because of sweetie pie, who is now thirty plus, and has preschoolers of her own.
All of this my friend, brings me to writing, or as we authors used to say, penning my prose. Wow! I only had to try three alternate spellings to get spell-check to figure out what I meant! This is a red-letter moment…time to ring the bell! It may sound a bit trite, but I think it’s a hoot that a gal who graduated third in her J.C. class, and went on to teach lots of stuff to some smart people is still humbled by the first thing that happened which, taught her, "I’m nothing special unless I’m doing something for someone, or answering a higher call." I’ve been doing that all my like, but in a more focused was since March 2007, when God called me to write about the progeny of a small, and relatively unknown group of Jews called Sephardim that were trapped by the Inquisition, forced into Catholicism to survive, but continued to practice their faith at home.
Before I go any further, remember my saying that I only got funny this year. Well I can prove it! Yep! Way back, way before College, both Beauty, and the J.C., people saw me as bookish, and they were right! When you can’t read, and finally can, the light goes on! You know what I mean? It’s like trying to figure out the Scriptures without the Holy Spirit, and then getting every nuance once you receive that Divine gift. Boy oh boy, as a Jew, I sure remember when the light went on and I came to know a lot about Messiah! I still remember a lot about not understanding the Scripture before then. However, that’s a topic for another day.
So being obviously bookish, as in there was always one in my hand, or I was telling someone about something I read. And being married to “The Hubb’s” who'd gone to College to become a English teacher, and took classes like Zoology for the fun of it, it took people about two minutes to size me up, and say, “You should be a librarian.” Funny, I finally spelled that word right after all these years, but don’t get to excited, I spelled right, wrong. However, the system corrected it! Nice computer…what would I do without you?
Now, back to the library, if there was one thing I did under-sort-of-stand, it was the Dewey Decimal System. Do any of you out there in reader-land remember that? Well, they put numbers, the name of the book, and the authors’ name, on index cards, but backwards as in ‘all literary people know that library filling systems are backwards.’ I kid you not! The numbers where the first thing you saw when you opened the drawer where the cards were filed. Now if you remember my saying, “I don’t do math on the fly,” oh you don’t remember me saying that until now? My Ops! But…let’s continue, what do you think I did? You’re right! I knew I couldn’t begin to figure out that secret, and even if I did, I didn’t know where to look for the book, so I asked the librarian, after all that’s what she was there for. However, given my age, if you’re in the library, and ask the librarian for help it’s probably not the same one I asked. By the way, if you think asking or looking things up isn’t using the old gray-matter to its best, Einstein...as in Albert, said when he was asked how he came up with all his theories, “I never memorize anything that I can look up.” Yessiree bob, as in Bob’s Big Boy, Einstein, and me, we be buds!
But I digress! I had this desire which, if the truth were known, as in I’m telling it to you now, had been fanned for over ten years by a sweet sister in the Lord. I'd gifted her one of my writings as a wedding present and once she read it she kept asking me, “Are you writing?” Ten years of that sort of gets a girl thinking. So having nothing better to do once my workday was over but to wait for “The Hubbs” to get back from work at ten, and there being nothing on the boob-tube to watch, but repeats, inane reality shows, and hour long promos for everything I never needed, I sat down at the computer for forty days, and wrote. Oops I forgot, first I said a prayer, asked for prayer, and discovered some of my friends were Sephardic, go figure! See, God was in this all the time! They gave me some literature, I did a ton and a half of research, and then I started to write.
Now if you remember in Genesis 8: 6-7 the Scripture says, "...after forty days Noah opened the window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth." Well, interestingly enough, I was sending my daily draft to this friend, and after forty days, she emailed me back. “You’ve begun to write a book!” I though she was “pullin' my proverbial leg,” cause all I was doing was writing a character sketch for the book I thought I was going to write. I had it sort of all fleshed out in my thinker. It was going to be about three women who meet while hiking the Appalachian Trail, and how the believing one shares her faith with them as they walk along. I had no, absolutely no plans, to write a book about this Sephardic girl named Naomi! I was writing sketches about her as a means of getting to know her before I began to write the story. This reminds me of that old maxim “Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans.” Remember that one? If you did, you have a better thinker than I had, cause it never occurred to me that my friend was right!
However, once I went back, and read what I’d written, I discovered that Isaiah 55:8 seemed to be written just for me! It says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord." So here I was, fully commissioned to a calling I felt ill prepared to fulfill, as in call the other gal…please! Nevertheless, being a Messianic Jew, which means rather stiff-necked, but interested, I began to write and, the oddest thing happened, the characters began to speak to me, and tell me their stories. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Bring in the net! This one’s ready for the loony bin!” But I was, and am as sane as you are. Know why I know? Cause having graduated with honors, I went back to school, yes sir! J.C. you had me at hello! This time I studied to become of all things, a Chemical Dependency – Lifestyle Disorder Counselor. Which is just a fancy- smanchy way of saying, I found another way to read interesting stuff, meet some really smart people, and help out those that needed a caring person to listen to them, and hold them accountable, kind of like we do when we’re discipling, and teaching others about Gods Word, and our Messianic (Christian) walk.
So, when the characters began to talk, I listened. After all, that’s what a counselor does, listen, which if you ask my friends they’ll tell you is something I have trouble doing. However, if your anointed and appointed, whether it's to listen to someone strung out on drugs, or to the blessing of hearing what I, to this day, believe was a God breathed revelation of what I was to write, it's amazing how quiet you become. Why? I’ll tell you why, cause when you’re called, I believe God has already fashioned you to answer the calling. In fact, if we look at good old Moe…Moses to you, we know this for a fact. You don’t believe me? Well, let’s take a look. First, when the dude finally owns his roots, he tries to stop a fight and ends up having to hotfoot it out of Egypt in a hurry…which if we know and trust in God, we won’t do! Now the second way is Gods way! Here we see God calling, and appointing Moses, and when God sends him back, good old Moe is equipped, and accomplishes Gods’ purpose.
That’s the way it is with me, and you!
"Me?" you ask?
Of course you! Why do you think I’m writing this piece? It isn't cause I have nothing better to do! I still have the last novel of the six to write. You heard me right, six novels in the Casa Saga. Five down and one more to go! Then it’s on to the next assignment, another series, and another blessing yet to be revealed! So ya see, I have plenty to do. I’m writing this for you so that you’ll know that whatever God has called you to do, if you receive his commission wholeheartedly, and move forward trusting he will meet you at the burning bush, or anywhere else you need him! One day you’ll be telling others how God took you, and used you in a way you were never prepared to be used. You’ll be singing his praises, and it won’t matter if anyone asks why you enjoy being a servant of the Servant King, the one who will return to reign in glory. For all the reward people like you, and me will ever need is serving him, as he called us to, even if it means doing the one thing we know we can’t do. After all, we know that everything here will fade away, so why not answer Gods call, and store up in glory what matters for eternity! Ezekiel was right after all, when God puts a “New Spirit” in you, what else can you do but respond joyfully to his!