Oh man. Oh man oh man oh man. I’ve been waiting so long to tell you about something, and today is THE DAY.
Because I am a storyteller, and because this story is just too good to leave anything out, I’m going to let you in on the full tale behind the announcement I’m about to make. Strap in—this is a good stuff.
Let me start by saying, you just never know. You never know how God is going to use circumstances to place you on a path you never would have envisioned for yourself. You never know what God is preparing you for.
Back in 2014, when I was walking through the unthinkable trauma of my newly adopted daughter and I being stuck half a globe away from my husband and three biological children (Don’t know that story? You’ll want to check this out.), friends from all over the world sent me all kinds of encouragement in the form of scripture, songs, quotes, etc. My friend Allison sent me a quote from a study she was doing called Idol Addiction by Julie Sparkman. It resonated with me so much that I shared it on my blog. Later, when I was working on Bringing Lucy Home, I contacted Julie—whom I had never met before—to see if she minded me quoting her in my book, because it turns out that publishing laws require you to do things like that. I sent Julie the quote, as well as the surrounding text.
Her reply: “Oh dear. Sometimes I read in print what I say out loud, and I just shake my head. The second part is fine to use, but please don’t use the first part. I didn’t even use that word correctly, and I’m afraid it will be hurtful.”
Me: “Did I miss something? What in the world is she talking about?”
I looked back and realized—wait for it—she was mistakingly referring to something I’d written in the text preceding her quote. I’d casually used the word “schizophrenic,” as in, “I may seem schizophrenic but…,” which to me at the time was no big deal, but to a mental health professional, it was a no-no. Oops! I wrote her back and said, “Okay, I’m sure you have a great sense of humor…I actually wrote the part you wanted me to delete. My bad. And you’re right— I’ll take it out.”
That was my first interaction with Julie Sparkman—professional counselor, founder of Restore Ministries, writer, and speaker extraordinaire…and someone who just unintentionally dissed my writing. I made an excellent first impression, yes?
Fast forward a year, and because of the rave reviews I’d heard, I decided to host Julie’s Idol Addiction DVD series at my house. 50 women from our church signed up. 50! I was hoping for 10! I think we all would say that Idol Addiction was one of the most life-changing studies we’ve ever done. It was incredible. I fell more in love with Jesus, and I adored Julie from the start. She has an amazing ability to draw you in and speak raw, honest truth in a way that is exposing, yet feels so incredibly loving. And she’s just so darn hysterical. We were all fan girling.
Soon after the study wrapped up, I got an email from someone named Anna, who at the time worked for Restore Ministries, Julie’s counseling and teaching ministry.
“Hi there! I’m Anna. I’ve tracked you down, because we’re getting all these orders from Australia and we don’t know why. Please fill us in on what’s going on down there!”
I skyped with Anna and Julie—our first interaction since the schizophrenia scandal—and they were thrilled to hear how God was using Idol Addiction to help Australian women walk in freedom and grace.
Anna and I became fast friends. She has a huge heart for helping others discover and live out their God-given callings—so much so that she founded a non-profit called Beacon People that’s dedicated to that very purpose. Anna became one of my biggest cheerleaders, championing Bringing Lucy Home, encouraging me to keep writing, speaking into my fears. Everyone needs an Anna in their lives. Anna sent me the DVD set of Julie’s second study, Unhitching From the Crazy Train: Finding Rest in a World You Can’t Control, and I couldn’t wait to start, because if anyone is on the crazy train, it’s moi. And if Julie was teaching the material, I knew it would be superb. I was right. Crazy Train = So. Good.
Fast forward another year, and imagine my surprise when I saw an email from Julie Sparkman herself hanging out in my inbox. She began this way: “When I read what you write,” (Wait. She reads what I write?!), “I feel like you write the way I would write if I could write.” (I’m sorry, what? I respect Julie and her curriculum immensely. Did she seriously just say that we’re alike? I die.)
“But I’m not a writer,” Julie said. She went on.
“How would you like to co-author a book based on my study, Unhitching From the Crazy Train?”
Is this real life? Did she just ask what I think she asked? I replied, “No, I’m busy.”
Actually, I think I said something like “Aslkjghoeihtwejroweihrihsfhiuhgne!!!!!”
As soon as I calmed down, I was able to use actual words, along the lines of: “OH MY GOODNESS THIS IS A DREAM COME TRUE. Sign me up, now, before you change your mind.”
See, Julie is a phenomenal speaker with a disarming counselor’s heart and a fierce love of Jesus, and she’s produced two lecture series DVDs that have knocked the socks off of audiences across the U.S., and even the world. Her audience has asked her for years to write a book based on her lectures, but she’s dismissed the idea because her passion is teaching, not writing. And then, because the world is a crazy place and our God is big, she reached out to me, and I said an immediate “Yes.”
So for the past several months, Julie and I have been working feverishly, writing and re-writing a book proposal for our joint venture. There have been photos taken of scratched out notes, midnight SOS phone calls, and me saying 457 times, “You realize I’ve never done this before, right Julie? Like, I’ve never taken transcripts of lectures and transformed them into an engaging book, in someone else’s voice. You know this, right? You still have time to back out.” She spoke truth to me when waves of self-doubt slammed me, again, and I cheered her on when she felt insecure, too. Somehow, we pulled together a 26-page document that bled our hearts and souls, sent it to the publisher, and waited.
And then, the news.
I feel like I am in a dream world as I tell you this, but Julie and I just signed a book contract with New Hope publishers to write Unhitching From the Crazy Train: Finding Rest in a World You Can’t Control, set to release early 2018. YOU DO NOT WANT TO MISS THIS BOOK. I can say this because God has used the material to transform my heart and bring freedom unlike I’ve ever experienced.
What is this life, I ask you?
If you were to tell me three years ago that a ridiculous immigration debacle—one of the most traumatic experiences of my life—would set the wheels in motion for me to write three books in three years, I would have said, “You’re talkin’ crazy!” And yet, here I am, doing just that. To God be the glory, great things HE has done, because I never, ever could have a) conceived of this plan or b) pulled this off on my own.
Julie told the publisher, “I have found my other half in Jennifer,” and I suwannee, I feel the exact same way about her. Self-deprecating humor is her MO, and hello, mine is too. When I jokingly suggested she read up on Taylor and Kanye’s feud, she actually did. Her most favorite thing to speak about—freedom in the gospel—is my very favorite thing to write about. I’m telling you, it’s a match made in heaven. I just can’t believe she’s trusting me to take her thoughts and ideas and transform them into an engaging book that will be everything people love about Julie’s Crazy Train study and more. I pray I do these words justice, because they are just so important. I have seriously never been as impacted by a study as much as I’ve been affected by Julie’s Idol Addiction and Crazy Train studies. To co-author a book based on material that has changed my life, alongside a woman who has influenced thousands and is now so dear to me, is just more than I can take.
The publishing world is slow, my friends, so you’ll have to wait a little while for this one. But I have a feeling it will be so worth the wait. In the meantime, I encourage you to get to know Julie if you don’t know her already! Visit Restore Ministries’ site, listen to Julie’s podcast “Head to Heart,” and prepare to be blessed.
Thanks for sharing in our excitement! Fist pumps all around. Let the adventure begin…