I recently read Walk in Her Sandals, a collaborative effort including a friend of mine, Stephanie Landsem. (Note: I received a free e-copy of this book for review purposes. You can read my full review on Amazon or on Goodreads.) I marveled at how a book with ten authors could come together so beautifully. Walk in Her Sandals combines devotional reading and Scripture with Biblical fiction, thoughtful questions and suggestions for putting faith into practice. The authors are Catholic and their intended audience is Catholic, but as a Protestant I found very little with which I didn’t identify.
Stephanie Landsem is the author of the Living Waters series, Biblical fiction that includes The Well, The Thief, and the Tomb. I loved them all. (I featured The Well earlier on this blog, but The Tomb was my favorite. And The Thief is great Easter reading...) Stephanie wrote the fiction stories for this collection, focusing on members of one family during the last week of Jesus’ life and on Pentecost. I asked her to share a bit about herself and her writing with us today.
LeAnne Hardy: Welcome, Stephanie. First tell us a little about yourself and your personal faith.
Stephanie Landsem: I love to write fiction, but my first vocation is as a wife and mother to four kids. I was fortunate to be raised in a very faithful family, my mom raised Catholic and my dad a convert. They were both prayerful and devoted to serving others. I always consider myself blessed to have them as my examples of Christian family and marriage. Even with such great examples, I found myself drifting in my faith in my twenties and it wasn’t until my husband and I had our first child that I started to really question what I believed and wanted to truly make my faith my own. What followed was several years of digging into scriptures, prayer, and study that brought me what I consider a type of conversion, a real commitment to Jesus and my Catholic faith. So as I pass on my love for Jesus and my faith to my children, I can also thank them for being the reason that I found it for myself.
LH: That’s wonderful. I think a lot of people get serious about their faith when they are trying to answer the questions of little ones. How do you see your writing as ministry?
SL: I believe that everything we do can and should be a ministry. I can’t say I ever planned on writing faith-based fiction. It was a gift and therefore I can only give the Holy Spirit the credit for everything good that has come from it. Sometimes, as with all ministry, it can be frustrating and there are days when I wonder if my words are reaching anyone. But I try to say, “Jesus, I trust in you.” I know that he can take my small efforts and magnify them for his own plan, my job is just to do my best with what I’ve been given.
LH: What was it like to work with other authors in such close cooperation in Walk in Her Sandals?
SL: Writing Walk In Her Sandals was truly one of those times in my life that I was amazed at the work of the Holy Spirit. I’d met a few of the other contributors to the book: Kelly Wahlquist, Pat Gohn, and Laura Sobiech (who is a dear friend of mine for the past 20 years). The rest I briefly chatted with over the phone or via email. Although we spoke in general terms of what we were going to write about, we all worked separately and then turned in our parts to Kelly, the editor. She couldn’t believe how perfectly our separate parts worked together as a whole with hardly any editing required at all. It was certainly the work of the Holy Spirit in our midst. And the best part was that we did it all in less than six weeks!
LH: What have been the greatest challenges for you as a Catholic writer in the world of Christian fiction?
SL: To tell you the truth, I haven’t run into much conflict as a Catholic. My previous novels, as you know, are biblical fiction set in the time of Jesus. I remain strictly true to what is written in scripture and so it is easy to stay within areas of agreement among all Christians. In the process, I’ve come to realize that how much Catholics and Protestants have in common is far greater that that on which we disagree. I may be a minority as a Catholic within the Christian fiction world, but I’ve rarely felt anything other than welcome and friendship from everyone I’ve met.
LH: You are so right that what we have in common is greater than the places where we disagree. Where do you see potential for better Catholic/Protestant cooperation in this world of Secular Humanism?
SL: We live in a time when the secular world is so hostile to Christians that the differences between Catholic and Protestant are minor compared to the threats against us. As Pope Francis says, when he calls for Christians to work for unity: "to shorten the distance between us, to strengthen our bonds of brotherhood.” He asks us to do this through prayer, goodwill toward each other, and openness to the work of the Holy Spirit. I think all Christians can do this by focusing on Jesus, the Incarnation, to whom we all belong and who loves each of us no matter our denomination.
LH: Thank you, Stephanie. If we are both focusing on Jesus, that will draw us closer together.
Stephanie is currently working on a Prodigal Daughter book set in 1930s Hollywood instead of first-century Palestine. Can't wait to read it! You can find Stephanie’s published books on Amazon or ask for them at your local Christian bookstore.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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