The gorgeous grassy field stretched for miles. Golden rays of sunshine warmed my skin, the sky a vivid blue. I sat alone. Relaxed. Serene. A man suddenly appeared from behind a tree. He was balding and a little paunchy, wearing a chestnut-colored robe.
“I want you to get started,” he said sharply, without so much as a hello. “Get started writing a book on multiple sclerosis.”
I’d had MS for three years, but I was no expert. I was a music teacher–putting a book together never entered my mind. “No way,” I said. “I work full time.”
“Get started,” he said.
“Sir, I’m a mother with three kids.”
“Get started,” he repeated, practically glaring.
Wasn’t he listening? “I am sick,” I said. “MS is a major disease.”
“Irrelevant?” I yelled. “Not to me!”
“Get started,” he snapped over his shoulder. Then he vanished.
I woke with a jolt. That was wacky! I’d never had a dream seem so real. But write a book on MS? I’d railed against God ever since my diagnosis. I had seizures, blindness in one eye. My left hand was nearly useless.
I could no longer play the piano, my favorite instrument. Caring for the kids was difficult. I walked with a cane and needed hand controls for my car. Why me, God? I’d raged. Why won’t you help? My anger got me nowhere but sicker and angrier.
Just the night before, I’d finally tried a different prayer. What can I do for you, God?
Was this my answer? An ornery man demanding I write a book? I pushed the absurd dream out of my mind.
After a long day at work I fixed dinner, cleaned up and put the children to bed. I was exhausted! But I couldn’t sleep. Great. Add insomnia to my list of woes. I paced the house, trying to forget the strange man who had appeared from behind the tree.
For the next three months, my sleep, if I got any, was fitful. The more exhausted I was, the more the dream pushed to the forefront of my mind. “Get started.” The man’s voice rang in my ears.
One night, pacing the floor yet again, I was too tired to fight anymore. “Okay, God, I’ll do it,” I whispered. “Just let me sleep.”
That night, I slept. And I dreamed a new dream. I saw myself at a computer, the words appearing on the screen in front of me as I typed. The next evening, true to my word, I sat at my computer and opened a blank page.
The words came as easily as they had in my dream. I typed as fast as I could, my right hand doing most of the work.
I thought of all the questions I’d had about MS. Things I’d had to explain to my kids. Remedies I’d tried. Frustrations I’d overcome. My anger and, finally, my acceptance of my disease. The words practically fell onto the page.
It took nine months. I finished on Thanksgiving Day. Now what? I had no agent. Who would publish me? I’ve done everything you asked, I told God. Show me what to do.
Maybe it was that image of a bald, roly-poly figure, but a name popped into my head: Penguin. One of the largest book publishers in the country. Ha, fat chance. Still, I sent them the manuscript in that Friday’s mail.
On Tuesday I was cleaning up after dinner when the phone rang.
“I’m with the Penguin Publishing Group,” the caller said. “We’d love to publish your book.”
For six years, Multiple Sclerosis Q&A: Reassuring Answers to Frequently Asked Questions was the number one book about MS at Amazon, a help to millions.
Not bad for a music teacher with a major disease and a bad case of insomnia. The next time I see that balding man, I’ll be sure not to ignore him.
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