At Broken and Mended, we’ve known Emily for several years now. Emily even contributed one of our group sessions for our Leader’s and Participant’s Guides. She originally presented it to our first support group in the Spring of 2019. Emily is an emerging author, having recently published two books and has a website dedicated to encouraging those “Called to Watch,” loved ones who support their chronically ill family and friends. Check it out at CalledtoWatch.com. Emily is from Sydney, Australia. It is good to have a friend on the other side of the world! Here’s our interview with Emily below:
- Share a little about your story. What happened in your family that brought you under the impact of chronic illness?
From the time I was little I knew my Mum was different to other mums – she couldn’t come to school events or take me out on outings – even though she wanted to. By the time I was old enough to understand what ‘chronic illness’ was, it was an experience I had lived beside for many years.
- What are some ways your faith was challenged or changed through this experience? How was God walking with you?
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a Christian household, but as I began to read the Bible for myself, I grew angry. I saw a great disparity between God’s character of kindness, and his promises to bring joy and healing, and the pain I felt and saw as I witnessed my mum’s loneliness. After many years, however, I was convicted that if I knew God to be good and kind (which I did) I had no choice but to trust that he was doing something through this situation, and wasn’t sending it just to bring suffering.
- Tell us about “Called to Watch” and how God put you on a path to minister to those who are supporting loved ones with chronic illness?
In my teenage years, as I began to grapple with the fact that I was living and witnessing something a bit different to others around me (chronic illness in a family), I began to search for resources online. Everything I seemed able to find at the time was directed to ‘caregivers’ – a label I didn’t identify with – and focused on the trials of aging parents, which again, wasn’t quite my experience.
As a result, I was forced to grapple with and answer my own questions, frustrations, and hopes. I had to turn to the Bible myself and think things through. As a result of these efforts, I began Called to Watch – in the hope that anyone else in my situation might be able to find something, at least, if they turned to the internet – even if that ‘something’ is just a ‘me too’.
- How were you discovered as an author? Was there a connection to “Called to Watch” and the opportunities to write books?
I think it was less ‘being discovered’ and more ‘putting myself out there’. When my sister was diagnosed with an operable brain tumour at the age of 16, I wrote a memoir to chronicle our friendship and faith during that time. After much prayer, I approached several publishers and editors at a Christian writers conference, and by God’s grace received both good feedback and a publishing contract.
With my teen biography of Thomas Clarkson, I approached a publishing house that I knew was publishing a series of teen biographies and went through their submission process, which eventually (and again by God’s goodness) ended in acceptance.
It was helpful having been actively writing at Called to Watch for a long time before this because it taught me that however much I might like what I write, if it’s not easily understandable and accessible to others, there’s no point in ‘putting it out there’.
- Tell us about your recent books. Why did you want to write about Thomas Clarkson? What was it like writing a memoir about your sister and mom?
I wrote ‘Two Sisters and a Brain Tumour’ because I realised that God had done a great work in our lives – he had sent a brain tumour to answer a prayer I had prayed many years before. I wanted to write the story down as a testimony, not only to the fact that God sometimes chooses to answer prayer in unexpected, even painful ways, but that he is faithful both before, after, and during the experience of that answer.
It is always difficult to write about people who are still living – to be both accurate and kind. It was emotional and took a lot of humility: asking my family for their input and permission, and listening to their feedback, but it was worth it!
For Thomas Clarkson, I felt a different sort of responsibility. I was challenged to write his story because I could not find an in-print biography of him, and I had seen what an encouragement his story could be! God worked so powerfully in transforming and using his life. Yet Clarkson has been dead since 1840, and so I couldn’t just ask him to make sure I got my facts right! Instead, there was a lot of research, a lot of prayer, and a lot of double-and-triple checking. I hope that when I arrive in heaven, he thinks I’ve done his life justice!
6. What’s coming down the road for you? Anything new for your ministry or additional book projects?
This year I’m publishing monthly on Called to Watch – a series of posts about Self-Care for caregivers and watchers – a topic I’ve become increasingly passionate about.
I’m also completing the final year of my Masters of Divinity, and am doing a research project centering around the theology and portrayal of Christian hope in literature. I find academia very exciting!
I also have a second teen biography coming out, hopefully this year. Olaudah Equiano worked beside Thomas Clarkson to fight slavery, having witnessed it firsthand, and I hope his story will inspire many to trust God whatever life throws at them.
More important than any of these, however, I pray that God will continue to grow me in godliness and in the enjoyment of Jesus’ presence. How can I write for him, if I am not becoming more like him?
Thank you, Emily! Here’s Emily’s author page, if you want to check out more information about her books!