Today we welcome Bonnie Jean Schaefer. What a delightful story of God’s grace, and His delight in helping us achieve our dreams.
Thoughtful Thursdays – How Can God Give us the Desires of our Heart?
Tell me a little bit about your church background. How did you come to faith in Jesus?
I grew up in a Christian home and came to know Jesus at the age of four. As I listened to my mother read the Bible to me and my three older sisters before bed that night, I realized something important: I was a sinner.
I may have only been four years old, but I knew right from wrong. I knew it was a lot easier to choose to do the wrong thing than to do the right thing. I knew when I did something wrong, I got in trouble. I knew my natural tendency was to tell lies to cover my mistakes. I knew my natural tendency was to be impolite to those in authority over me. I knew my natural tendency was to be selfish rather than look out for others.
So when I heard that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23),” I knew that verse was talking about me. I had sinned. That meant I had fallen short of God’s glory.
When I heard that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23),” I knew I was deserving of death but wanted God’s gift of eternal life.
When I heard that Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6),” I understood that believing in Jesus was the only way to experience that eternal life and see the kingdom of God.
When my mother finished reading the Bible that night, I asked her what I needed to do to be saved.
She sent my sisters to bed and sat down with me with her Bible open. She made sure I understood I was a sinner in need of God’s forgiving grace. She made sure I understood that salvation comes by grace through faith, not by anything I do.
I told her I understood and wanted to ask God to save me. We thus knelt side by side along the couch, and she prayed with me as I asked God to forgive me and save me.
Then something wonderful happened: God saved me! The instant I asked for salvation, I felt His presence wash over me. I felt different. Renewed. Alive. I didn’t quite understand it at the time, but now I realize that presence I felt was the Holy Spirit.
He came to reside in my soul at that moment, and He has never and will never leave.
I was still a sinner, but now I was a sinner saved by grace. My sin nature still lived in me, but now so did God in the person of the Holy Spirit. Now I was equipped to fight my sin nature, and the battle between my fleshly desires and my Godly desires is a battle that will rage within me until the day I die.
As I fight that battle, I have learned to structure my life in such a way that allows me to stand strong in Christ.
I do that by making seeking Him, serving Him and sharing Him my number one priority in life.
I find great comfort, joy and delight in living for God and obeying His commandments. I am far from perfect and still get derailed from time to time. I have made more mistakes in my life than I care to admit and have disappointed my God in ways that break my heart to recall.
But I serve a gracious, forgiving, loving God. He made me. He saved me. And he gave me gifts to use, dreams to pursue and people to love along the way.
That’s what makes life fun. Seeking God. Serving God. Sharing God. And loving others.
When did your interest in writing start? Can you look back and see God working through and with you in your desire to write. If so, explain your thoughts.
Back in high school, my friends, sisters and cousins had definite ideas about what they wanted to do with their lives; I was clueless. My secret dream was to be a writer who ran her own business, but that wasn’t practical or logical. No one had ever told me I should be a writer. I knew no writers. And the women in my family pursued normal careers like teaching and nursing.
I didn’t want normal.
That’s why I chose to major in Bible in college. Rather than use those years to prepare for a practical career I didn’t really want, I figured I would prepare for life by establishing a solid foundation of faith through studying the Bible.
Yet months from graduation, I faced a black hole of uncertainty about my future.
What kind of job was I going to find with a degree in Bible?
School had been my safety net. As long as I had classes to attend, I didn’t have to face my future or the fact that I had no practical skills to use to find a reliable but boring job.
Once I graduated, though, I would have to endure reality and that sick feeling that I couldn’t be who I wanted to be: a writer. At least that’s what I thought until I attended one of my Bible classes in February. That day, my professor discussed the difference between Dreamers and Doers:
Dreamers dream about what could be done.
Doers make things happen.
I wanted to be a Doer. I wanted to believe in the power of my dreams, in the possibility of turning them into memories. But I couldn’t. I was just a Dreamer doomed to imagine great things but keep them locked inside. Because the key to release them didn’t exist.
Although I started to tune my professor out at the depressing realization that I was a handicapped Dreamer, my professor wasn’t done. She recaptured my attention by quoting Psalm 37:3: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”
God wanted to give me the desires of my heart? Was that true?
How could that be? I had taught myself to be practical and logical and rational about life. I had taught myself to believe I needed to ignore my passions in order to please God. Now I learned that God wanted to give me the desires of my heart? How could this be true?
As soon as class ended, I went home and read the first six verses of Psalm 37 over and over and over again. They were real. These words were actually in the inspired word of God.
My gracious God wanted to give me the desires of my heart.
Which made perfect, logical sense. If I was seeking Him, then I would want what He wants. My desires matched His when I was committed to following Him.
My greatest desire was to be a writer. I realized I could, with God’s help, make that happen. I could do what I dreamed.
I could be a DREAM DOER.
Following graduation in June 1999, I started my first novel. And because I was working toward becoming a writer, I had no intention of settling into a real career.
So while writing and rewriting that book, I worked a series of jobs to survive: carpenter, customer service representative, sales associate, substitute teacher, softball coach, camp clinician, fitness center coordinator, volleyball coach, babysitter, secretary, waitress, freelance writer and teacher.
I also made some dumb mistakes with credit as I “invested” in books, courses and seminars to learn more about writing and business. I learned a lot, but I didn’t do much with my knowledge. Yet I held back. Hesitated. Refused to go all in and give my all in pursuit of my dreams. Life as an employee made more sense, even if I was hopping from one job to another.
I finally took a leap of faith in May 2008 when I published The Dream Doers and the Summer of Secrets on Amazon via my own publishing company, Dream Doers Publishing.
My book was an immediate flop.
I didn’t believe in myself, my book or God enough to market it. I didn’t feel qualified to be an author or publisher even though it was the calling from God that weighed heavily on my heart.
I felt more like an imposter. No one had hired me to write. This wasn’t my job. I was teaching at the time. That’s how I ought to earn my paycheck. Not by writing.
I could have trusted God and channeled my knowledge and passion into marketing that book. Instead, I stopped writing and came close to letting my dream die. Chasing my dreams had gotten me nowhere and left me deep in debt. How depressing!
Teaching also depressed me, so I quit that job and spent the next year or so picking up odd jobs wherever I could to stay afloat.
Staying afloat soon became problematic. By September 2009, I was on the brink of financial disaster and feeling lost and aimless and worthless.
That’s when I landed a job at Starbucks.
I intended to work there for six months while stabilizing my finances and getting back on track with my writing. After six months, I would magically find a way to make a living as a writer and would be able to quit making coffee.
Things didn’t exactly go as planned.
I wasn’t earning a huge paycheck even after I was promoted to shift supervisor in January 2010, so stabilizing my finances took much longer than six months.
As a matter of fact, things got worse before they got better.
Relentless calls from angry creditors made my life a living nightmare. I had dug too big of a hole for myself and simply couldn’t catch up on two of my accounts. It wasn’t until I hit rock bottom in the summer of 2011 that I was finally able to get control of my financial situation.
Once I bottomed out, my situation began improving. For the first time in my life, I was earning enough on a consistent basis to remain current with all my bills and not utilize credit for anything. I was still on the verge of broke, but my money woes no longer dominated my thoughts. Since I was free to think about things other than financial stress, I started writing again.
In January 2012, I began writing short stories. One of those stories prompted an idea for a novel. It was a fantasy novel featuring dragons, which was a far cry from the sports novel I published in 2008. I found I enjoyed writing in a different genre and published The Dragon Collector via Kindle in June 2014.
Even though I prayed for God’s blessings, I expected my book to live in oblivion the way my first book did, especially since my marketing plan only involved a few posts to Facebook.
Within a month, however, The Dragon Collector was the #1 bestselling book in its category and remained in the top ten for three straight months.
People I didn’t know were buying it and reviewing it and sending me emails about how much they loved it. Better yet, I was earning money as an author. I was living my dream!
I can’t explain the success of my book in any other way than to give God credit for every single sale. He was showing me that I was on the right track. That this is the work He wants me to do. That when I follow Him, I’ll be rewarded.
How and when do you spend time with God? Do you have a favourite devotional? What version of Bible do you use the most?
I meet with God every morning after breakfast. I have a hymnal at home, so I start by picking a few songs at random and singing to God. Then I’ll pray and open His word (I use the NKJV) to the passage I am studying that day.
I generally pick a book of the Bible to study, and right now I’m in Hebrews. I like to go deep when I study, so first I’ll meditate on the Scripture and talk to God about my thoughts regarding His word. Then I’ll read through three different commentaries, taking detailed notes in the process. Afterwards, I’ll spend time journaling my reactions and analyze ways to apply the lessons I’ve learned that day to my life. Once I finish journaling, I’ll wrap up my devotional time by praying.
I may only get through a few verses a day, but that hour or so of focused time with God is the best part of my day.
What new project/s are you working on? Why do they seem important to you? Are you compelled to write or do you need to find inspiration? How do you deal with interruptions?
I’m working on a novel, The Dragon Hunter. It’s a sequel to The Dragon Collector, and I’m almost finished writing it. I originally wanted to have it done by this past January, so it has taken me much longer to complete than I anticipated.
When I wrote The Dragon Collector, no one expected anything from me. I had no fans (other than family), and I wasn’t sure if I was any good at this writing thing or not.
Now I have fans. People I don’t know are expecting another good story from me, and feeling that pressure paralyzed me. What if the sequel wasn’t as good as the original? Or could it be better? Could I improve?
I wanted to get it done but struggled with developing a writing routine. I would go for weeks or months at a time without working on it, but avoiding my work ate at my conscience. When I finally decided to get serious about being the author I’ve always dreamed of being, I created a schedule and determined to stick to it whether I felt like writing or not.
Now I’m hooked on the writing process and enjoy being disciplined enough to sit and write at the time I have scheduled to sit and write.
I work at Starbucks in the afternoon and evenings, so that gives me my mornings to write. I set aside two-three hours a day to work on my book: right after my devotions and before my workout.
As a single woman, I don’t have a husband or kids demanding my attention, but I still have plenty of distractions in my life that can easily derail me.
It took me a while to develop the discipline I needed to develop a writing routine.
I found that recording my time and words written during that time helped me focus my effort and stoked my competitive nature. I like seeing consistency and improvement in my performance, and tracking my results each day shows me what I am doing well and what needs improvement.
Do you have hobbies, or sports that you are interested in? What is it about these activities that you like? Looking at your personality are these activities ones that God has brought to you?
I’ve always been an athlete. I thrive on competition and grew up playing softball, then added both volleyball and basketball once I started high school. In college, however, I dropped back to just playing softball.
Needing some sort of competitive outlet after college, I began running races. Once I ran my first marathon, I was hooked on the sport. I love challenging myself to run faster or farther and have completed numerous 5k’s, 10k’s, half-marathons, marathons and even ultra-marathons.
The best part of running is the opportunity it gives me to think, pray and develop story ideas.
And I love running so much that I even wrote a book about it. It’s entitled Why 26.2? and chronicles my journey from non-runner to four-hour marathoner.
Find out how Bonnie Schaefer found the desire of her heart. (click to tweet)
Bonnie Jean Schaefer
Bonnie grew up in a loving Christian home with two amazing parents, three older sisters and a younger brother. She’s been an athlete from the moment she first learned to throw a ball and enjoyed playing softball, basketball and volleyball in high school as well as softball in college.
After college, she found a way to channel her love for competition and sports into running and has completed a plethora of races ranging in distance from 3.1 miles to 26.2 and beyond. Now her passion for sports is outmatched only by her love for Christ and enthusiasm for writing.
She writes fantasy fiction in the mornings and works as a Shift Supervisor at Starbucks in the evenings. She writes under the pen name of D.K. Drake and is currently working on book two of The Dragon Stalker Bloodlines Saga.
When she’s not running races or writing about dragons, she loves hiking, staying active and just being outside. She hopes to someday experience grand adventures like an African safari, backpacking in Australia and sailing on the Nile.
But life’s little adventures are fun, too. Like eating at a new restaurant. Playing a new sport. Meeting new people. Visiting a place she’s never been before. Adventures are all around her every day; discovering them is what makes life fun.
She has a beautiful black dog named Jetta and lives with two of her sisters in the great state of North Carolina.