Friday, March 26, 2010

Interview with Shirley Pieters Vogel

My next blog will be posted on April 9th when I start a series on how to find a good therapist and what to expect during the initial counseling sessions.

This week I am going to shift gears and introduce you to Shirley Vogel, an inspirational author and speaker. I met her at a recent writer's conference where she encouraged me in my writing endeavors. Shirley's book, wHispers: when He is so precious even rocks sing, was awarded second place in the Spiritual Division of New England Book Festival 2009. She graciously agreed to an interview about her work and this book.

If you would like to purchase an autographed copy of wHispers or to engage Shirley for a speaking event, please contact her at her website. You also can order her book directly from Amazon.

.....
Kerry:
What led you to write about your experiences with God?
Shirley:
During my troubled marriage, and the counseling and divorce that followed, I began journaling. I didn’t consider writing a book until after God brought Stefan into my life in such a marvelous way that he calls it God’s Soap Opera! When we began sharing that unique story with others, their reaction was almost always, “You must write a book!” So I began writing, joined a local writing group, and attended annual Christian Writers’ Publishing Workshops. After five years the editor/directors said my book was ready for publication, and so I sent Prayers by a Picket Fence (now part one of my book, wHispers) to six major Christian houses and received six rejections! Still, I was encouraged because there were only two form letters. The remaining four were personal letters saying my story was well written and one that needed to be out there - just not their genre’. They encouraged me to continue looking for a publisher, but full time volunteer ministry permitted little time. However, in the process of serving God, and also facing severe medical challenges I came to know God better and love Him more. That gave me impetus to complete my book, and 20 years later, in a remarkable and humorous way, God helped me to do just that. The story of how this happened is on pages 221-223 of my book.

Kerry:
Your story has low points and high points, yet your intimacy with Christ seemed to consistently increase, despite your circumstances. How do you explain this?
Shirley:
It’s quite simple, really. The high point of each painful challenge put me on my knees where I could hear God better, and there I learned to love and trust Him more deeply. It has been said that man’s extremities are God’s opportunities and I’m a living example of that. Each time I reach the end of myself, I long for a closer walk with the Lord and He’s always waiting to take my hand. A favorite example of this occurred at Breakwater Beach - pages 143-144.

Kerry:
What do you say to individuals who have had their spouse leave them without a reason why? How do these individuals go on without good closure or a decent understanding of what went wrong in the previous marriage?
Shirley:
Perhaps I can best respond by sharing how I dealt with this. I was stunned when my husband said he was no longer happy, but despite 22 months of counseling, he could never say what was bothering him, or why he was leaving our 27 year marriage. I vowed never to say anything negative to my children about their father because I didn’t want to add to their sadness. And knowing harbored resentment could make me bitter, I held tight to God’s promise never to leave me, and others such as Nehemiah 8:10, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” I remember sitting on the floor in front of our stereo - making myself sing choruses of praise to God with a squeaky voice as tears ran down my face - even though I didn’t have a clue what my future held. God not only heard me, but provided for me in surprising ways that gave me peace and helped me to let go of myself and trust Him more.
I found it impossible to ignore the past, but God helped me develop supportive new relationships; friends who helped me look to the future. And I claimed the promise in Jeremiah 29:11, “’For I know the plans I have for (Shirley),’ says the Lord; ‘plans for a future filled with hope; plans for good and not for evil.’” Isn’t it wonderful that we can each insert our name there! How much God loves us to always have us on His mind!

Kerry:
You share in wHispers about your unexpected divorce and significant health problems. Have you been asked why you think good people suffer? If so, what’s your answer?
Shirley:
I have not been asked that question, but understand why this is such a puzzler - some situations are very difficult to understand/accept! However, I would make two points: first, to define the word, good, which according to Webster means better or best. But, everyone - even those who seem most righteous in their love and service for the Lord - fall short of God’s will for their lives because no one mirrors Jesus all of the time. Second and more important, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that our Heavenly Father does not discriminate, “…that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45 NKJV) So, my answer to your question is only God knows the answer, and because He alone is sovereign, we do our best to trust Him - even when we don't understand.

Kerry:
What is your current favorite Bible verse and why?
Shirley:
I have many favorites, but I’ve come to greatly appreciate Job 42:12 (NIV), “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first.” My Heavenly Father has permitted severe challenges in my later years, but I consider them blessings because He’s using them to draw me closer to Himself! I’ve learned in a deeper way that God never leaves me and He’s faithful! When I experience residual symptoms (unsteadiness or forgetfulness) from my stroke and brain hemorrhages, I’m able to center on God rather than my weaknesses because I know He has a plan for my life. Either He continues to use me to encourage and give hope to the hurting as I share His unconditional love and faithfulness, or He takes me home to Himself – either way I can’t lose! Walking with God is a win-win situation!

Kerry:
Where is God taking you now?
Shirley:
God continually provides new ways to serve Him; both speaking for women’s events and retreats as well as sharing my faith one-on-one at church, the gym, etc. Opportunities to disciple also come as I respond to emails, phone calls and letters; many from readers of wHispers. God’s amazing love and faithfulness make me laugh – I laugh a lot!

Kerry:
Will you write more?
Shirley:
For the past year, I’ve been stuffing hastily written notes for a possible second book into what is now a bulging file with all kinds of paper scraps. I had hoped to begin writing in January, but I’ve been so busy with unexpected personal and family stuff I’ve had little time. I started once, but was definitely running ahead of God! I didn’t know what to write or how to express myself. When I‘m in God‘s will, ideas flow easily, and so I frequently ask the Holy Spirit to overflow me – Your thoughts on my mind and Your words on my lips - and when I’m writing - my paper ! So yes, when God lets me know it’s time, I‘ll begin another book - I’m eager to start.




. . . . . . . . .
Thank you, Shirley, for this wonderful opportunity to interview you and for such thoughtful, honest answers. God bless you as he uses you in all and every opportunity!

2 comments:

  1. Nice interview, Kerry! And Shirley, I appreciate the ideas you shared.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey, thanks!

    ReplyDelete