The rain couldn’t rival the discouragement squalling in my heart.
In just two weeks, I would arrive at my self-imposed deadline of finishing an 80,000-word novel manuscript. I was only a mere fifty-seven percent short. I could still make it if I wrote 2,500 words per day—about three hours of daily concentration. No problem, right? Wrong!
Never mind the fact that a good writing day consists of 1,000 words. Never the fact that my mom had already been in the hospital for two weeks with multiple strokes, now requiring fast-flow air for her contracted COVID. Never mind that I was at a standstill in my plot—the organization of material overwhelming to this new novelist. Never mind the fact that another huge stressor clamored for the prime weather news spot. Never mind that discouragement was ransacking my lunch in the shadow of another looming deadline.
Sometimes imposed deadlines are gifts, and mine was as such.
By participating in the first Karen Kingsbury Believe Writer’s Intensive this past July, if selected, I will have an opportunity to have my proposal ushered into her publisher’s hands—necessitating a finished manuscript. Keeping the overall dream in mind, I slated November as one long editing month with another closely following its December heels.
But here I was, sulking through the sidewalk puddles feeling as though I trudged through the mud. I was stuck—my storyline at a standstill because one of my main characters tramped away on a long Appalachian Trail journey, and he was not feeding me any more inspiration. It’s like he went rogue or something.
While I have hiked the AT this past summer, I have never trekked it overnight, nor do I know anybody personally who had.
I tried to research online, but I was soon dazed at the sheer amount of information. I joined an online group to find people to help, but that did not go anywhere. Maybe it was because it was a Christian book. Perhaps it was because it was under the romance genre. Either way, I fastened myself closely to resignation by this point.
So, there I was—Miss Discouragement, herself, slogging one mile to the hospital in more than one kind of deluge.
Father, I thought, I need you. I can’t do this anymore without you. If I am to do this, You’ll have to do something. I trust you and can’t wait to see what you are going to do.
Now don’t let me fool you. The tears falling from my eyes indeed mingled with the raindrops falling upon my breezy fall shirt. I had neglected to bring my jacket, and I was soon freezing. Scrunching up my shoulders for protection, I walked through the nearby neighborhood. I set my face like flint and booked it, making a bee-line for the hospital. I looked neither to the left nor the right until I passed something I couldn’t turn down.
What’s that? A free neighborhood library? Oh, boy. I have to stop.
It’s true. I can’t pass them up—even in the rain. I danced over to the wooden stand and pulled open the door to seek my treasure. I usually find one or two books to bring home—like I need more books. This time was no different.
Score! I pulled a thin children’s book from the library’s clutches.
Wait! There’s a little shelf up higher above all of the other books. What’s up there? I bent down and gazed up onto the ledge. My eyes were popeyed at the words peering down at me.
What? It can’t be!
I snatched the book down and just about passed out when I noticed the full title—Hiking Through: One Man’s Journey to Peace and Freedom on the Appalachian Trail by Paul Stutzman.
If it hadn’t been raining, I would have sat down on the sidewalk and cried.
Allow me to digress here for a moment. A dear friend of mine introduced me to the term “God Cookie.” It suggests the favor of God shown in a unique small way—like someone handing you a delicious cookie that you never expected. That’s precisely what this moment was to me.
Okay, Father. You got my attention. Thank you for this God Cookie, Dad!
Leaving the book safely in its home, I ran to the hospital, praying nobody would take it in the rain. After visiting my mom, I couldn’t wait to see if the book was still there—confirming Father meant it for me. I high-tailed it back the way I came to the bright yellow spot of sunshine in the bucketing rain. It was still there!
Tucking the book under my shirt, I bounded the rest of the way to my car and jumped in. Let it rain all it wanted. God just gave me a book!
I held it out, wiped the wetness from the cover and stared at it for a bit, closing my eyes in prayer. Oh, please, Father, make it a guidebook. That’s what I need! I blinked open my eyes and leafed through—sigh—it was not a guidebook but rather a story. Oh, no. I do not have time to read anything else right now. I need to write. You sent this? Umm…God?
But, alas, Father was not done revealing his chosen God Cookie.
While God must have been good-natured chuckling at me during the Great 2021 Cookie Handoff, He would soon reveal the actual treasure hidden inside—the author—Paul Stutzman himself.
(This reenactment was taken the following day when I was warm and more importantly, dry.)
Arriving home, I curled up in a fleece blanket and started in on the book. Well...I might as well read a page or two. One chapter turned into three or four. Wow, he’s a great writer. Oh, my goodness, his story is so captivating. It’s like I’m on the trail, too. Did he write any more books, or is he a one-trick pony?
So as my kids would say, I stalked him—oh, professionally, of course—but I had to find out more. With a few clicks, Amazon assured me there were other horses in the author’s barn. Plus, he used to be Amish. That alone would have endeared me to him.
***Side note. Paul is an amazing author with a breathtakingly beautiful message. Plus, he's humorous! Check him out here https://www.paulstutzman.com/ or here Paul Stutzman, Author Seriously, you won't be sorry!
Hey, I would LOVE to share my story with him of finding his book. I’ll explain about my “God Cookie” find. Will he accept my Facebook friend request? What would it hurt? All he could say is “She’s crazy,” or “No way, Jose,” or “Fat chance.” Right?
It was settled—I had nothing to lose except my pride. So be it. I hit “add friend” and waited.
Let me assure you three things happened. First, Paul accepted my friend request, and second, what ensued was a delightful and encouraging banter back and forth on Facebook Messenger. Paul coaxed many laughs from me and even invited me to call him so he could answer all of my questions about the Appalachian Trail. What a delightful two-hour conversation with a fantastic person!
I thought I was merely gaining information from a well-timed book, but Father had something different in mind—friendship.
I learned my new friend loves art as I do, has as many houseplants as me [I wonder if he names his], and has some more amazing “ponies” ready for publication. [Just wait. I got a sneak peek!] Paul has an impressive sense of humor and has kept me laughing, especially when disappointment again tries to steal my lunch box. Check out this dialogue below and see what I mean—copied with his permission, of course.
Aleisha: Ever get scared to walk down the aisle to your dream? There I lie, a bit discouraged and disheartened, ready to trade my white heels for a pair of Nikes and run out the door. No more novel. It feels too hard. I do read it is normal at this stage, so I don’t take it too hard. But, if I’m to be honest, I’m in a bit of a writing funk. Any advice for a runner or giver-upper?
Paul: You could always become a proofreader! I can’t believe you’re throwing in the towel. However, it’s okay. It’s a bit like the main character in your book. He… [Nope. I’m redacting this part and not giving it away. Sorry. Not sorry.] There’s no shame in realizing it’s not the right time for a book. However, congrats on chasing your dream. If it’s enough of a dream, you will write it someday. I couldn’t imagine how you even had time to write with all you had going on.
Aleisha: I don’t want to quit. Just discouraged.
Paul: Haha. Congrats! You wouldn’t be a writer if you didn’t get discouraged! You figured that out rather quickly. If you don’t want to be discouraged, become a master gardener! [You’ll hear about this inside joke sometime.]
Aleisha: Are you using reverse psychology on me?
Paul: You sent that at 11:11 am. That’s my God wink! No psychology at all. (Well, maybe a bit.) Didn’t you say I was a God Cookie? Don’t let my cookie crumble! My book was either intended for you and your project or just a coincidence. You decide! Now, quit crying in your soup and get cracking! Go Ohio State. You’re a good writer!
Aleisha: If my book is chosen, I will hand-deliver you my daughter-in-law’s famous recipe chocolate chip cookies.
And that, my friends, is friendship with Paul, even if he is an Ohio State fan. Pretty cool, huh? I’d say so.
Here I thought my God Cookie book would lead me to great information—but instead, I discovered the book led me to the author.
Who would have ever known that except Father, himself? I am so grateful He didn’t acquiesce to my “give me a guide book” prayer instead of giving me what I needed—an encouraging friend further down the road. I would have had mere information but missed out on getting to know a wonderful person, who also just happens to have the experience behind all of my questions. Bonus!
I could turn this all into a “the Bible leads us to the person of Jesus Christ,” and that would be fantastically true—but this story is more of an encouragement that Father sees us…knows us…and is always working behind the scenes in ways we do not understand. Sometimes encouragement comes through a drippy discouraging walk. Sometimes it comes in a God Cookie disguised as a 338-page book.
Father gives. We gratefully receive.
Yet, the question remains. Will we trust God in our circumstances?
That is what I ask myself dozens of times per day.
Yes, I know. It’s often not easy but rather heartbreakingly hard. I must admit that I will need to trust Father in the future, especially regarding the outcome of my novel. But, it’s okay. I’ll be content. I have my God Cookie, and I’ve yet again tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2:3)
Let’s keep our eyes on what the Lord is doing and savor His goodness that awaits us as we look around with His eyes. It is then we see the feast around us.
We are His. He is ours. What an abundantly good Savior.
Will you help me out? Will you please share this post with one other person who needs to hear encouragement that Father really sees them, even in a dark time? The great thing about cookies is they come often in multiples. Let's share our cookie with another!
What a delectable taste.
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