Note from Donna: One of the joys of writing is talking shop with other writers and authors. Mary T. Wilkinson is a retired elementary-school teacher from Rush County. She published her first novel, Call Me Lizzy, at about the same time my book came out in 2014. Our paths have crossed numerous times since then and we agreed to swap blog posts. Here's Mary on how God's timing for her career goals has been perfect.
by Mary T. Wilkinson
How does a small-town girl, one of 13 children, grow up to do anything worth writing about? Well, let me tell you. It wasn’t my plan, and I didn’t do it alone.
It’s not that I didn’t have plans. I did. I wanted to be a singer like my mother. She had studied opera at Indiana University for three years before becoming a wife and mother. The babies just kept coming and soon the opera part had been thrown out the window with the bath water.
Still, she didn’t give up on singing. I think everyone in town had my mother, and her equally talented sister, Rita, sing for their wedding or funeral. Besides that, she taught all of her children to sing and harmonize with her. We were one big musical family. So my first career plan was to be a singer, preferably on The Lawrence Welk Show.
My second plan came because my dad was a recovering alcoholic. My older sister, Sherry, and I had to babysit our siblings at least three nights a week so that Dad and Mom could go to AA and Al-Anon meetings to keep Dad sober and mom from going crazy. Sherry and I got the kids bathed and in their pajamas. Then I told them a whopper of a story I made up. After I had their attention, I’d finish with a big finale. Putting them to bed with a story was fun. I started thinking maybe I could be a writer. I really loved working with children and dreamed I would be a children’s book author.
My last plan was to get married and have a home and children of my own. That one wasn’t going so well, either. Sherry got all of the dates. I never really had a boyfriend. My father wanted all six of us girls to eventually marry and be in homes of our own. He felt that being a wife and mother was God’s greatest calling for a woman, but since I was not dating, he told me I definitely needed a job when I graduated to support myself.
I talked to my dad about my dreams; being a famous singer or an author, but he said I would never make any money in those two careers. I always wondered if I would have been dating someone at the time, if he might not have been OK with my aspirations. After all, I could sing and write and still be a wife and mother. I did pretty well in high school and my counselor told me I might want to consider being an elementary teacher.
I had one of those “Aha!” moments when she said that, even though I had no idea how I’d be able to pay for college. Dad hoped I would come home with a degree and a husband, which I did. I taught 5th and 6th graders for 29 years. I read my students stories I had written to encourage them to write. I sang songs I’d made up to make them laugh or to help them learn a particular lesson. I became a mom and wrote songs and stories for my children. In the summers I sent my stories out to publishers. In the winter of the year, I counted all of my rejection letters.
It seemed none of my plans were quite working out like I wanted, except for being a mom. That was the absolute best. I wondered if I should keep writing stories and songs when they took so much time and effort. I didn’t realize it at the time, but God had plans for me too, but He had a timeline that was different from mine.
Several years ago, our church started a praise band and they wanted someone to sing who could do harmony. They chose me and I was thrilled. I am still thrilled every Sunday that I get to sing in the Praise Band. Then just when I was wondering when to retire from teaching, a publisher called me out of the blue and wanted to publish my first novel, Call Me Lizzy. If I could put that whole book down into one sentence, it would be this: Never quit believing that God answers prayer.
Maybe your plan is not going how you want it to go either. Ask God to show you what His plan is, and be ready to wait for His perfect timing. In the meantime, use those talents any way you can. Ecclesiastes 11:6 says, “Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.” So sing, write, dance, draw, whatever inspires you and trust that God has the better plan. He’ll show it to you when the time is right and you are ready for it.
Mary lives in Rush County, Indiana. To contact her about her book or related events, email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.