It Takes a Kingdom… By Maureen VandeBrake
My “pet” writing project follows a snowy owl named Gritty Grace. She lives “once upon a time in the Kingdom of Compassion.” In her books, Gritty Grace connects with her compassionate companions and shares courage, comfort, and wisdom – and learns new life coping skills in turn.
Inspiration for the Gritty Grace stories has been a co-creative process.
Last year, I joined a book discussion group with several wise women. Together, we explored how the key to cultivating a wholehearted life is to choose for ourselves to believe we are worthy of love and belonging. This was a profound “Aha!” moment for me. How different would my life story had been if I had known this when I was eight instead of thirty-eight?
Meanwhile, a friend told me a story about her daughter’s recent music recital and how disappointed her daughter felt that her performance turned out less than perfect. I was inspired to write her a permission slip to believe that she is always enough and always worthy. That idea turned into a bookmark and an owl mascot, her daughter’s favorite animal. Later, I shared these ideas with my daughter’s second grade teacher. She asked if there was a book that went along with it. I told her, “Well, I guess I will write it.”
One year and many drafts and later, this same teacher personally led me on a reading tour through seven lower elementary classes at her current school. I read from a work-in-process copy of the book which I created in collaboration with my two daughters. My six-year-old helped me literally cut and paste the text into a blank book. My eight-year-old daughter drew the illustrations. This work-in-process copy encouraged great discussion during the readings on how the writing process took a lot of grit. The teachers and students provided many wonderful ideas and feedback. The best responses I received were the hugs the children gave me after I shared Gritty Grace’s message to them. The journey is both gritty and full of grace.
I am grateful for the compassionate companions with whom I connected at the Breathe Christian Writers Conference. A chance encounter with an author on the Breathe planning committee lead me to attend the conference last year. She convinced me that I am a writer and that I need to “own it.” She has become a dear friend and a constant support and inspiration. I met with a published children’s author who shared the invaluable wisdom of reading my manuscript to classes and to continue to make revisions. Also at the conference, I associated with wonderful new writer and illustrator friends whose support I continue to treasure as we share our courage, comfort, wisdom, and coping skills. Together, we build the Kingdom of God.
Connect with Maureen and others at the Breathe Writers Conference this October 6 and 7 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Registration is open now. We’d love to have you join us!
Maureen resides in west Michigan with her wonderful husband and two terrific daughters. She is a student of life and love and shares her witty wisdom on her blog, Insight Out: Field Notes on a Human Journey, at maureenvandebrake.wordpress.com. She is leading a writer’s life as she gives birth to a children’s book series on self-compassion and unconditional love. She wishes everyone to know, “You are enough. You are worthy. You are love.”