Recently, I had the pleasure of reviewing and giving away two of Elizabeth Musser’s novels, “Two Crosses” and “Two Testaments.” As the third book of this trilogy, “Two Destinies,” just debuted here in America a few weeks ago, Elizabeth generously offered a blog interview with me for Apples of Gold.
Like any good story, the interview begins with the author’s heart… and I think you will love getting to know this woman of faith who, like many of us, understands what it is to put one foot in front of the other towards a dream only God could birth, to look for and find wonder in simple moments, to carry on even in chronic pain or life’s struggles, to offer our gifts to the One we love above all…
So before we get to the specific questions… I thought I’d introduce you to an opening portrait and a glimpse at why the theme of redemptive beauty pours forth warm, honest and heartening, in every one of her exquisite novels…
Won’t you grab a cup of tea and join us? Today, coming from what Elizabeth lovingly calls her “writing chalet” at her home in France…
Author, missionary, wife, mom — and now glowing new Grandma — Elizabeth Musser sparkles about words today with that same first-glint passion that lit her heart as a child – and made her just know (like many of us)– she wanted to be a writer…and encourager.
Even then, always – always – she knew she wanted to reach out to the hurting, help them know the heart of the One who was yearning over them even more than they could imagine. To reveal beauty born of redemption in each character and story. And turn hearts to His gentle, calling embrace.
“I was a very serious child and looked at the world through eyes of longing,” she muses now, speaking of her battles with low-level depression, especially as a teen and a young woman. “I think living with that type of struggle made me extra sensitive to the hurts of others [so that] I naturally put myself in another person’s shoes and could imagine their hurts and pains as well as their joys. And as I longed to write, I also had a deep, intense faith in Christ which made its way into my stories and poems.”
That intense love for God made her long to share Him with those around her, “and even at a young age,” she says, “writing was the best medium I could find.”
Going on to study English and French Literature at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, and enthralled with how these courses overlapped with art and world history, Elizabeth enthused to the opportunity of studying a semester away in Aix-en-Provence, France.
Inspired by her grandmother’s encouragement to travel and and soak in art and history and literature, it became the “semester that changed my life,” she shares. “There on the walls of great museums I found the paintings I had studied in my art history classes…A whole new world, this old world of Europe, opened up to me and I embraced it.”
But as she explored and breathed in the overwhelming beauty of the French cathedrals, Elizabeth became “saddened to see the lack of spiritual interest in the culture at large.” Studying existentialism at Vanderbilt, she recognized it playing out in France before her eyes in the everyday life of the French.
“I returned to the United States and to my university changed and challenged,” she reflects, stating, “I wanted to go beyond what I had been given, a very comfortable, elite upbringing… I wanted to travel and write and share my faith with others.” She had no idea if this type of job existed – she only knew she wanted to find out.
Beginning with eight months of mission field training in Chicago. On to two years of serving in a tiny Protestant church in Eastern France. And, says Elizabeth now, “years of testing, learning and being humbled, years of seeing the difficulty of the lives of simple people living out their faith in a hostile environment.” They were also years of preparation, as she understands today – preparation for her marriage and centering her cherished family life in a country far from home, for her ministry and for her writing.
“Never in my wildest dreams as a student,” she confides, “would I have imagined that 24 of the last 30 years would be spent in France, nor that in France, God would fulfill my life-long desire to write… married with a toddler in tow, and a baby on the way…”
Ministry opportunities minimal at first, prayer letters became her writing outlet, when during her boys’ naptimes she “transformed the day’s catastrophes into an anecdote about life, and thereby kept [her] sanity” in a land that was not yet home.
Years before anyone coined the term “journaling,” Elizabeth kept an ongoing journal, often penning her cry to the Lord, “If you want to do more with my writing, show me how.” For fifteen long years she prayed this prayer, along with a desire to write and dedicate a book to her beloved grandmother while she was still alive.
Then, at a 1994 conference in the United States, God swung a door open with His divine appointment: her “chance” meeting with an editor who had served as missionary to France in the same mission as hers, a 15-minute appointment when Elizabeth expressed to him her desire to write perhaps a devotional book, this editor’s comment that his company was really looking for a woman novelist — and a whisper to Elizabeth’s heart.
“I think the Lord has put me in the right place at the right time!” she thought excitedly.
Following the editor’s suggested procedures for book submission, she worked furiously on a deeper story project that had been only an idea up to this time…presenting him a few months later with a sixty-page proposal… and eventually receiving her first contract.
More than anything, this contract was an answer to twenty years of prayers – for in the summer of 1996, Elizabeth joyously presented her then 82 year old grandmother with her own copy of Two Crosses, the first novel in the Secret of the Crosses Trilogy.
These days, deeply involved in missionary work with her husband in France and Europe, Elizabeth admits life has brought many challenges. But, she says with full heart, “to talk to others about Jesus, and to be able to write stories about God working in people’s lives is something I will never take for granted. As I watch Him change people’s lives right before my eyes…I have discovered God can do far more with our lives than we ever dream possible.”
And it is in that spirit that I chatted (by e-mail) with Elizabeth about her heart and inspiration behind her writing, the tapestry God has been weaving in her own life these many years through blessed and romantic and hard times, her thrill over the re-release of her Secrets of the Crosses Trilogy (especially the United States debut of the third and final novel of that series, Two Destinies, this September)… and dreams yet to come…
Pam at Apples of Gold: I love your theme in the Secret of the Crosses Trilogy about God’s tapestry in our lives, how He weaves people, places and times into our lives, how the back side of this may look like a tangle of many colored threads, but when you turn it over you begin to see God’s beautiful plan for your life…intertwined with others. How has the Lord inspired you with this theme? In what ways have you seen God’s tapestry in your own life…bringing you to who you are today as a person, a writer, a wife/mother/grandmother, a minister of His heart?
To Be Continued…
© Pam Depoyan
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Also linking with: Multitudes on Monday counting blessings with this blogging community, with thankfulness for His heart and light shining through Elizabeth and the words and stories He leads her to write. For the beautiful threads of tapestry He is weaving in each of our stories. For the gift of words…and sharing…and prayers…across oceans and Internet. For becoming friends with those we may not otherwise have met. For God’s Divine Appointments and setting dreams into motion. And for the incredible power of a beautifully written story to attune hearts to His Holy Spirit whisper in just the moment we need it.