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TITLE: A God-Given Gift
By Rachel Spencer

I wrote my first book when I was nine. If I remember rightly, it was about a princess, some dwarves, and some poisoned berries. Sound at all familiar? But, even though the story was somewhat plagiarised from the Brothers Grimm, I was very proud of it. I wrote it one summer, when school was out, having persuaded my dad to let me use his electronic type-writer whenever he didn’t need it. I became so engrossed in my book that I would jump from my bed straight to the type-writer in the mornings. That is, until my mother informed me that professional writers treat writing as a job, getting up and dressed and eating breakfast before starting work, which is immediately what I started doing. I have no idea what happened to that story that I wrote. We moved house many times when I was a child, my parents being missionaries, and my guess is that the ‘manuscript’ was lost in one of the moves. Oh well, it probably would never have been successful anyway!
I tell this story because I think it says something important about me as a writer. Even as a small child, in my time off school, with the sun shining outside, I chose to write. Apart from my fairy-tale book, I wrote numerous short stories, poems, articles, and as a teenager I started keeping a journal. It seemed that writing was in my blood. I couldn’t imagine not doing it.
But something happened to me. I became cool. I made friends with the popular kids at school. I discovered that I was pretty, and started dating. I stopped going to church and started going clubbing. And somewhere along the way, I stopped writing. I stopped even keeping my journal; it just fizzes out one day mid-sentence, probably because someone was calling me to go out. I still wrote school work when I had to, but did not get any pleasure out of it. Even when I was required to write a short-story for English class, and was told by my teacher (a very perceptive lady) that I had a gift, and that I should think of becoming a writer, I shrugged my shoulders and ran off to meet my friends.
It did not take long for me to completely forget that I had even enjoyed writing. As a student, I became a Christian and gave up my old lifestyle, but I still did not write more than the essays that were required for my degree. I joined a mission organisation after university, and moved to Africa, which could have provided endless scope for writing, but I never gave it a thought.
After a year in Africa, I came back to England for a break, and attended a conference aimed at young people who wanted to engage with their cultures for the sake of the gospel. It was an excellent conference, and I learnt many great things from many great speakers. The best thing that I learnt was that God gives us gifts, and that He wants us to use them to build His Kingdom. The speaker told us that one way to find our gifts was to think back over our childhoods. He said that whatever you loved to do as a child could well be what God wants you do as an adult.
Well, I wracked my brains for a while trying to remember what I liked to do as a child. I had vague memories of playing with dolls; could motherhood be my gift? I was not convinced. So I went home and asked my mother. Immediately she told me; “you wrote!”
Of course! It all came flooding back; the hours spent at the typewriter, the longing to be a professional writer. Mum even had a small pile of my writings which she had kept through all those years. As I read the scribbles of my childhood self, I was struck by one thing; they were good! Excitement crept over my heart. I wanted to write again. I turned on my computer, stared at the blank screen for a while, and then turned it off in despair. I had no ideas, no inspiration. But I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that I was supposed to write, so I tried again a few days later. And again, a few days after that. Eventually, words started to come. I had an idea for a short story, which I wrote. I had an idea for a novel, but was too scared to write it, so I jotted down the notes and tucked them away in a corner. I started writing accounts of my time in Africa, and of my childhood as a missionary kid. For a long time I did not let anyone read what I wrote; it just felt too risky. Then slowly, I started to let a few trusted people read it, and they confirmed what I had long suspected; I was good. I had a gift, and I could use it for God.
Now, I have started writing that novel, and have written pages and pages of short stories and articles. A lot of it is probably rubbish. But I know that God has given me this gift, and the passion that goes with it, for a purpose, and I write for Him, to be used by Him. What gift has God given you? And will you put it to good use, to see His Kingdom coming here on earth?
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