Mary Ann Ward is my mother-in-law, and last week she got copies of her first published book, Olivia & Me! Exciting times! I wanted to feature her here today and give you a chance to see something great that God has done.
Me: Olivia & Me is your first book.
Me: Has this been a life long dream for you?
MA: No, although I have always enjoyed books and have been impacted by “story”.
Me: So what led to this now?
MA: A couple of years ago my brother passed away. He was a gentle family man who fully gave himself to the good of his family. His death was a prolonged and very painful ordeal leaving all who knew him finding it difficult to resolve – especially his immediate family. A few short months later my mother passed away. Those last few days with her were a gracious gift from God. These back to back events compounded the grief our family was feeling. Immediately following my mothers death I began to have compounding dreams.
In a Dream…
Me: Tell us about those dreams, and how God gave you this story through them.
MA: Night after night I awoke from a new dream at 3:00 in the morning; each dream was a continuation of the other. God was showing me through the lives of a little girl and her caterpillar/butterfly companion that God’s design and intention was for us to experience life, more full than we can imagine. Even before we came to be God had us fully in his heart and mind. We were full of gifting, energy, destiny and life before our lives began. When we enter into the world that life begins to be revealed. We enter into a fuller dimension of life when we come into relationship with Him and start to engage in our world, cooperating with Him to touch others with His life and love. Death is only a page turning! Only through death can we come into the presence of The One who is Life and experience the fullness of life. Because of what our family was going through I thought this was a little message for just us few, to help us in our grieving.
Me: You illustrated this book, as well as turning those dreams into words and a story; have you always been a painter?
MA: I have always been “artistic” and even had a small crafting business at one time. When I was in my early 20’s I took an oil painting class. The first composition ended up in the garbage… the second went the same way… the third ended up as a gift to my mother (that she returned a couple years later when my aunt made a better one… Hehehehe!)… I had small children at the time and there were little finger prints in the oils and then on the walls and the windows. I quickly came to the conclusion that this was not working!
Me: So then how did you come to do the illustrations yourself?
MA: Because the message came to me in dreams, I knew the images were very important to the story. I know several amazing artists – a couple of them are book illustrators. Nobody really wanted to take on the project. I was also connected with an artist from a neighbouring city who initially said she would do it, but then pulled out of the project because of her own busy schedule. Frustrated and desperate, I picked up a sketch pad and artists pencils from town. When nobody was around, I opened it to try to put a few stick figures onto paper. When I began, the pencil felt so uncomfortable in my hands, I had trouble even holding it. I knelt down in tears of frustration not knowing how I could possibly do this. Then I picked up a little stub of a broken HB pencil. In a couple of hours a beautiful little baby began to appear on the page!!! Although I hadn’t thought about it for many years, I remembered how I used to do a little bit of sketching as a teen aged girl, depressed and lonely. Fifty years later God was bringing me back! So sketching began.
I was still looking for an illustrator to take the sketches and turn them into the finished product for publishing. The professional ones recommended from the publisher were not only very expensive, but though very good didn’t compare with what was in my heart regarding the dreams.
A few weeks later my husband drove me in to town again, this time to buy watercolour paints and supplies. I wept all the way home convinced we had just wasted $300. I spent the first few weeks just experimenting with mixing colours, adjusting water dilutions, playing with different brushes. I was child learning. Finally the day came to try to paint. Again when all alone I sat down to paper and paint to begin… within a couple of hours a beautiful little baby again began to appear!
Every picture involved far more prayer than painting. Often I messed things up when I wasn’t listening and obeying… again and again I would pray and ask God how to correct, adjust and create… Many tears fell on the paper – some of desperation, some of frustration, some of amazement, some of absolute surrender of all my inability into His ability.
Who Is It For?
Me: Who do you see as the audience for this book?
MA: I thought it was for little children who are facing loss of a family member. Children who need an avenue to speak in their words the feelings, pain, confusion, questions… Children are often ignored as older members are supported and cared for. To my surprise this little book is ministering to adults as well – some of whom are facing loss not just through physical deaths, but relationships, finances, loss of homes…. Grief comes in many forms. The theme is the life and hope we have in and through Jesus Christ. This abundant life is for all! It is richer, deeper and fuller than we can comprehend.
Me: So what is the future of your new career as an author / illustrator?
MA: I have no idea! I am amazed that people from every continent have checked into my little blog which is an overflow from the book.
I guess I am learning that it is never too early or too late for God to use us in unfamiliar ways. We have no idea what He will do if we are willing to say “yes” when He calls us.
I have started working on a painting that I believe will be part of a series called “Under The Cross”. I laugh, not even wanting imagine what will happen with it!!! God is so much bigger than our little intentions.
Mary Ann’s website is maward.ca and is where you can purchase Olivia & Me as well as prints from the book, read more on faith from her wise words on her blog, and even book her to speak if you are in the market for that. I hope you’ve enjoyed a glimpse at how God can take a willing vessel and use it to further his purpose and spread his good news. Thanks, Mary Ann, for sharing with us!