Historical fiction writer followed the story to spiritual destination

| Jennifer Janikula for The Catholic Spirit | June 6, 2012 | 0 Comments

Author Gail Ann Wood sits in her backyard with her laptop. She takes the computer to different areas of her home to write, including the backyard. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

If life is a highway, then Gail Ann Wood admits that she is not in control of her car.  As a matter of fact, she finds that life works best when she takes the back seat and lets God drive.

Wood, a writer of historical fiction for young people, said that God’s presence in her work is the only possible explanation for the progression of her career.

After many attempts to find a publisher for a set of picture books, Wood discovered a new writing project. During a family dinner, Wood’s father shared a story about his mother, Lizzie Lipinski, who grew up on the prairie near Ivanhoe, Minn., in the late 1800s.

Images of Lizzie Lipinski’s prairie life stayed with Wood. She started scribbling a story, little by little, in a notebook during her daughter’s tennis lessons.

Three years later, in 2006, White Mane Publishing released Wood’s first youth novel, “Lizzie and the Prairie Fire: Girl Pioneer in the American Midwest.”

The 100-page chapter book, which culminates when a prairie fire nearly destroys the family home, created many opportunities for Wood to expand her career. She began teaching children and adults about creative writing, publishing and the prairie. But her biggest surprise was the message that emerged in her presentations.

9 questions to help you discern your vocationBased on her experience, Gail Ann Wood said prayer and reflection on the following questions will point you toward your vocation.

  • Do you have great joy in your work and feel a strong sense of being in your niche even though it may be challenging?
  • Do you have a strong, persistent desire to help others or to co-create in some area?
  • Is God opening doors for you or putting people around you to support your mission?
  • Do you sense greatly the action of the Holy Spirit, sometimes producing surprising results?
  • Do you feel confidence, courage or energized in an area and trust that obstacles will be overcome?
  • Are the pieces of your path fitting together, over time, like a puzzle, often delayed, challenging, time-consuming but ultimately coming together consistently and well?
  • Is this calling going to stretch you too thin in other areas God has called you to? It’s possible this calling is not from the Holy Spirit if it distracts you from your primary vocational responsibilities (i.e. establishing family unity or creating order in your life).
  • Do you possess the personal habits to exemplify your calling and make you a good example for God in this calling?
  • Are you praying for guidance and confirmation of your calling and are you receiving it?

Finding the silver lining

Wood, a member of St. John the Baptist in Excelsior, realized the book was really about silver linings and God’s plan.

“The prairie needs fire to flourish in the same way that the hard things in our lives can bring about greater good,” she explained. “It became obvious to me that this message was crafted by the Holy Spirit and the kids needed to hear it.”

Wood uses the story of Lizzie and the prairie fire to speak to children about their lives. “They don’t need to be afraid of the hard things in life,” she said, “for God can bring something wonderful out of it just like he did with his natural plan for the prairie.” She tells the kids to trust in God’s providence.

“It is so surprising,” said Wood, “how God can get his message out so slyly using someone like me, who is not fully cognizant of what he is doing.”

How did Wood know that God was part of her work?

As she looks back, she can see that her writing career came together like a puzzle.  “The work was hard and time-consuming, but each piece seemed to fit so perfectly into the other as it developed,” she said.

Through prayer and discernment, she stayed alert for open doors and hints. She realized, even during challenging times, that she had the desire, confidence, support and resources to continue. Everything she needed was provided.

“God was calling me with each piece of the puzzle — telling me to be patient and trust that he would reveal more as need­ed,” Wood said.

She admits she still doesn’t have all of the answers — the puzzle is still growing.

But as she steps back and lets God lead, he continues to provide blessings.

If you are waiting for God to reveal your puzzle pieces, here is Wood’s advice: “Keep praying, even if you don’t think you hear anything. Look at where God is providing things — confidence, motivation, open doors, desire. Pray about it and then take a leap.”

For more information about Gail Wood and her books, send her an e-mail at gailawood3@yahoo.com.

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Category: Vocations