Writer Amy Parker and The Gift of Reading
Amy Parker has written more than thirty books for children, teens and adults, including her new “Night Night Farm” and the best-selling “A Night Night Prayer.” Amy reflects on what first inspired her love for writing and how she came to realize her mission to bring Christ’s love to kids through the gift of the written word.
The Gift of Reading: Jesus Calling Podcast Episode 22
Amy Parker: The written word is such a gift to us. Predating the written word, we depended on oral history, and I can just imagine how that changed history throughout the years. So starting with the Bible and God giving us the gift of His story, the best-selling book of all time, the Scripture says that God’s word is alive and active. And it is so true because this ancient book that took place forever ago, it speaks to me every single day. It speaks to what is happening here for me in 2016 down to the very details of what I have going on that day, and I think God’s word is a different gift.
Narrator: Welcome to The Experience Jesus Calling Podcast. Amy Parker has written more than thirty books for children, teens and adults, including the best-selling “A Night Night Prayer.” She has also written a new devotional for children called “Faith, Hope, Love Devotional.” Amy reflects on what first inspired her love for writing and how she came to realize her mission to bring Christ’s love to children through the gift of the written word.
Amy: I’m Amy Parker and I’m a writer. I mostly write children’s books, but I’ve adapted some books for teens and I’ve written nonfiction for adults too—so a little bit of everything. But through it all I really just try to help people connect to a God who is real and right here with us and loves us more than we can ever imagine. So I just hope that whatever it is I’m writing, that is the message that comes through.
A Lifetime of Learning: The Joy of Reading and Writing
I grew up in a tiny town east of Nashville. It’s called Watertown. That’s where I went to school for 13 years, and you’ve probably seen it in a country music video or two—it’s definitely a Mayberry town where I grew up.
I grew up with two brothers, one older and one younger, so I was always one of the boys. We climbed trees. We rode bikes around the block. We looked for crawdads in the creek. I got chased with snakes, but on Sundays I was dressed in my pink ruffles from head to toe, thanks to my mom. And my dad, on the way to church, my dad would fishtail his ’66 Pontiac GTO down the gravel road to church, the three of us sliding around in the back seat, my mom yelling “Louie!” And we would all crawl out in our Sunday best, smiling. So we had a lot of fun. It was an adventurous childhood, and just good, wholesome fun, climbing peach trees and playing in the creeks and things like that.
I can see from the beginning that this was really what I was meant to do, something in writing or publishing or something, but it took me 20 years to catch on. My mom says that as a three-year-old I got mad because they let my big brother go to kindergarten and they wouldn’t let me go with him. So I just knew that if I learned to read they would let me into school. But I learned to read and they didn’t let me in. But I did somehow weasel my way into getting my school pictures made when he did. They let me come and have my photo made as if I were in school, so that was pretty cool of them, and I still have that photo.
Then in kindergarten I had my first public reading at my kindergarten Christmas party. Mrs. Betancourt asked me to read The Night Before Christmas, so I did, and I read it with the book held right in front of my face so that no one could see my cheeks burning red. I was so embarrassed, but I also just loved to read so much.
When I was in elementary school I helped the librarian every chance she would let me come down there and help her, and then she gave me library supplies, so my friend and I started a library in our classroom. And she is now a librarian today. So I’ve always just loved books.
In high school I started noticing that my writing … I just really loved English and writing and my English teachers, and they were so supportive. And one teacher, I wrote a paper and I don’t even remember what it was about, but the teacher wrote, “Whatever you do as a career, make sure that writing is a part of it,” and I still have that paper to this day. I saved it.
I just knew that I was supposed to be in publishing some way, somehow.
So of course when I got ready to go to college, I declared my major in nursing. So I told you I was a slow learner, but my mom was a nurse and it’s such a rewarding career, but it didn’t take me long to catch on. I changed my major to English. I did an internship at a publishing company, Tommy Nelson, the kids division of Thomas Nelson, and I just fell in love and I knew, that’s when I finally caught on, I just knew that I was supposed to be in publishing some way, somehow.
It was just a lifetime of learning and God leading me to where he really wanted me to be.
Finding Inspiration From Bedtime Stories
The first book is A Night Night Prayer. I have a redhead and he fulfills all of the stereotypes of redheads. He is vivacious and strong-willed and I knew that from the beginning. So I was trying to get him to sleep one night when he was three, and three-year-olds don’t particularly like to go to sleep at bedtime anyway, or mine didn’t. So I had sung all the songs, I had told all the stories, I was exhausted myself, and I had just about given up. And the bed faced the window and I looked out the window and I saw all the trees out there in the dark, and I said, “Shh, the trees are sleeping.” And he stopped. I guess he had never thought about the trees sleeping before, and he stopped so I continued.
I thought, “Okay, that’s working,” so I just went through a list and said, “Shh, the sun is sleeping,” and, “Shh, the birds are sleeping.” And as I lay there and talked to him, he got quiet and he settled in. I told him how everything needs to sleep so that it will be its best the next day. And as I lay there and he fell asleep, the verse just started forming in my head, or being downloaded to me. So once he fell asleep, I got up at some point in the middle of the night and just quickly wrote down that verse.
On the original version of the Night Night Prayer—the illustrations have been redone now—but on the original illustrations there’s a little redheaded boy on the front cover who is standing up in his bed and not going to sleep, so that is my little redhead. But that was my first book.
Not all projects are that easy. Not all projects are downloaded to me, and I really think God sends me those projects because . . . to teach me something that I need to know. It’s as much for me as it is for those kids. Through the process I’m learning as much as the kids are, so I believe that natural process of education and developing a concept, I think that naturally comes through because a lot of times I’m learning the concepts myself, like with Faith, Hope, and Love.
When I write a book for kids, especially with biblical concepts—I just released the Faith, Hope, Love Devotional—and it’s like, how do you explain faith to an adult, much less how do you explain faith to a child? So I just picture my own children or my nieces or nephews or whoever it is, who is at that age range, at that moment . . .
Daily Devotionals: Focusing on God’s Perspective
What examples would I use that would be clear to them and make sense to them. So when I talk about faith, and I didn’t make this up, this isn’t original, but I’m sure people have been using this example since the beginning of time, but the wind blowing. We don’t see the wind, but we know the wind is there because we see the leaves moving and we feel it against our skin, so in the same way we can know that God is there through the things that we see happening around us.
I was an adult before I learned the importance of daily devotionals. Growing up we always went to church, but that daily interaction with God was something that didn’t happen for me until I was an adult, and I just think how much it has changed me as an adult and how much it would change our kids if we started doing that daily interaction time with God.
I just think they’re so needed, and just having that little one minute or five minutes with God that’s based in Scripture that just points your day to Him, that starts your day with Him, that helps you to frame your entire day with a God perspective, I just don’t think you can overstate the importance of spending time with God each day.
You don’t have to have a devotional to do that, but the devotional, especially when you first wake up and your brain is going a million places, the devotional helps you to focus on that God perspective. Whereas even when you try to pray sometimes, your brain goes a lot of different places and makes grocery lists, and probably for kids they’re thinking about the test they have that day or who they’re going to sit with at lunch or what they’re going to wear, maybe, but that devotional just helps to force your brain to focus on a God perspective when you start the day or when you end the day.
I just don’t think you can overstate the importance of spending time with God each day.
I don’t think you can overstate the importance of that, so when I write it for kids that’s just simply what I try to do, is give them a Scripture that would be applicable to their day and then write a little piece about the way that that Scripture applies to their day, because I think, too, as writers, that’s something really important. That’s an important task that we have, is taking this ancient book of Scripture, and I think God does a pretty good job of doing that himself, but I think he uses us to help take this ancient book of Scripture and really make it real and applicable to kids in their daily lives. And sometimes there’s a bridge that needs to happen in order to point kids to that real application of Scriptural text, so by just writing a little devotion that helps to translate that and apply it and make it relevant for kids.
The Gift of Jesus Calling: Giving Away a Piece of Yourself
I don’t even remember where I got my first copy of Jesus Calling, but once I picked it up and read it, there was something truly different about that book. It spoke to the exact circumstances of my life, down to the very day. It was uncanny, so Jesus Calling quickly became that book that I picked up to buy for other people and give to other people. I started looking for it, and I don’t even have a copy in my house because every time I get a copy I give it away. So it’s just one of those books.
When you give a book away, you’re giving a piece of yourself to someone, a piece of yourself that will always be with your friend when you can’t be there. So with a devotional like Jesus Calling, if your friend is going through a tough time or maybe your friend just needs a little faith boost, you can give them Jesus Calling. And even when it’s three in the morning and they don’t want to call you, they can open that book and read a little piece of that inspiration that they need to get through the night.
It repeats the message just that God is with you. Jesus is right there, and He’s listening and He loves you and He’s for you, and that is a message that I think we need to hear every day. I never get tired of hearing that message, and that thread just runs throughout that entire devotional.
I never take that lightly, because it is an important task, and it can be life-changing. I want that life change to be for the good, and I always want that life change to be rooted in what God has to tell us and what the message is that God has for us. Because if our messages are rooted in that, then everything works together for our good.
Jesus is right there, and He’s listening and He loves you and He’s for you, and that is a message that I think we need to hear every day.
Writer or not, I don’t know that any of us can fully comprehend the impact that we have on the lives around us. Every single one of us interact with human beings every day and we are leaving a legacy with every action that we take, whether we realize it or not. But as a writer [I am] hyperaware of everything that I write is going into print and being distributed and being read in households around the world. So I enter that task with a lot of prayer, and I just hope that I purely represent the messages that God has and that I don’t dilute and I don’t change anything that He has told us or the words that He’s given us. I just hope to be able to further that message and emphasize that message and help kids relate to that message and take that message and apply it to their daily lives, so that His word can get into their hearts and into their lives and truly change them for eternity.
Narrator: In today’s world where kids have an endless variety of media at their fingertips, Amy continues to champion the written word and its importance on the lives of children. She prayerfully approaches the task of taking God’s Word and presenting it to children in a way they can understand and relate to.
Amy: The thing that really inspires me the most is just being in front of those kids and reading the books to the kids and seeing how they respond, seeing that light bulb go off when they get the message that I’m trying to deliver, so that motivates me and keeps me going.
A lot of it is just, if I were sitting down and held a child’s face in my hands and wanted to impart to them the most important thing I know—faith, hope, love, or just, “God loves you, God has huge plans for you, don’t give up—if I wanted to tell that to a child and I didn’t want them to miss that message, that’s the way I try to speak to them in my books.
Narrator: To find out more about Amy’s books, including her new book for kids “Faith, Hope, Love Devotional,” visit amyparkerbooks.com.
Narrator: Our featured passage for today’s show comes from the June 25th entry of the Jesus Calling audiobook.
Open your hands and your heart to receive this day as a precious gift from Me. I begin each day with a sunrise, announcing My radiant Presence. By the time you rise from your bed, I have already prepared the way before you. I eagerly await your first conscious thought. I rejoice when you glance My way.
Bring Me the gift of thanksgiving, which opens your heart to rich communion with Me. Because I am God, from whom all blessings flow, thankfulness is the best way to draw near Me. Sing praise songs to Me; tell of My wondrous works. Remember that I take great delight in you; I rejoice over you with singing.
Narrator: Hear more great stories about the impact Jesus Calling is having all over the world. Be sure to subscribe to the Jesus Calling Podcast on iTunes. We value your reviews and comments so we can reach even more people with the message of Jesus Calling. And if you have your own story to share, we’d love to hear from you. Visit JesusCalling.com to share your story today.