If I had a soul sister from a movie, it would be Belle from my all-time favorite animated Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast (the live action version is now showing in theaters, FYI!). Belle is described by the villagers to always have “a dreamy, far-off look, And her nose stuck in a book.” That’s me! Or at least that used to be me when I was younger. These days, my nose would most likely be stuck on an e-reader, but the same love for books is still there. I loved books so much that I always dreamed of writing one.
Early in 2015, I had the opportunity to attend a Writer’s Workshop hosted by OMF Literature (a publisher in the Philippines), and I felt like I was one step closer to my dream to not just write a book, but to be used by God to create something of meaning, something that would equip or encourage people. I had a clear idea of what I was going to write about, I just needed enough time and discipline to get it done.
Fast forward to the second half of 2015. I resigned from our family business to look into the possibility of pursuing a doctorate degree. I started visiting several universities, trying to find the right fit. In the meantime, my book–my so-called dream–was going nowhere. For some reason, I had lost the passion and motivation to write anything.
Eight university visits later, the plan to pursue the doctorate degree wasn’t panning out. I couldn’t find the right program and school, at least not one I was ready to commit to for the next five years. I was lost.
I was visiting relatives at that time in Virginia, which meant I had more time to pray about my situation (and worry about it endlessly). I was trying to study for the GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) while I was traveling, but the more I tried to study, the more I felt like The Plan wasn’t going anywhere. After days of praying (and quite a bit of crying), I made the difficult decision to lay The Plan aside. The hard truth was that I couldn’t bring myself to commit to doing research work for the next five years, which was required for a doctorate program. Without a plan to hold to, my hands were empty. I didn’t know which way to go. I don’t know about you, but sometimes, I have trouble letting go of stuff that I need to let go of because the pain of not having anything to hold to is just too much to think about.
Right before I left Virginia, my cousin gave me a gift, a beautiful sketchpad that had The Great Wave Off Kanagawa on its cover. He chose it because he remembered how excited I was to see the print of the artwork when we were together at the Metropolitan Museum of New York a couple of weeks prior. It was an incredibly thoughtful gift, but it also happened to be a heavy one (it felt like it weighed two pounds!). So I thought, why not use as many pages as I could while traveling to lighten the load? During the next week that I spent in another cousin’s house in New Jersey, I would use the sketchpad to take down notes and brainstorm future plans. And since I missed doodling (something I used to do quite often years ago), I started making coloring pages for my nieces.
At this time, I noticed that coloring books were becoming incredibly popular. Every bookstore seemed to be promoting them. I would browse through these books and marvel at the intricate art, but at the same time, I couldn’t imagine spending time coloring one. “I have other things to think and worry about,” I thought. And that was the problem. My brain was filled with depressing and destructive thoughts! My heart was also anxious and weary. I knew that my brain needed to meditate on the right things, and in my experience, it was always the Word of God that gave me comfort. If only I could sit still and spend more time reading the Bible, the way I used to when I just started following Jesus. I needed to do it and I wanted to do it. But in reality, I was struggling with focusing on even one chapter of the Bible.
And then one morning, an idea suddenly popped in my head. Why not do a coloring book with Bible verses, so while you’re coloring, you can reflect on the verses you just read? That was the kind of coloring book I could get into! The initial idea was to do a shorter book with devotional essays accompanying each art page. Before I could overthink and talk myself out of it, I immediately sent an email to Stef Juan, an editor at OMF Literature, to see what they thought of the idea.
To my surprise, Stef responded positively to the idea almost immediately. After an exchange of emails over less than a week, the deal was set! That in itself was a HUGE miracle. I had one month to finish a book of 52 coloring pages. No more devotional essays, just art pages with verses that people can color. Not having a job at that time (a fact that I was lamenting and second-guessing just a few days before) ended up being a blessing in disguise, because finishing 52 pages in one month was no joke! By God’s grace and thanks to a two-day extension from OMF, the book was finished in October 2015. Two months later, the book that is now known as Art to Feed the Heart was published.
My dream came true, but not at all in the way I expected. As someone who’s been writing all these years, I always thought I’d write a book. Never in a million years did I think I would draw one. I’m not a professional illustrator by any means, and I was fully aware that there were far more talented artists out there! But as my friends and mentors reminded me at that time, “God gave YOU this opportunity. Just be faithful with it.” It’s just like God to choose the skill where I felt weak to accomplish His purpose. What an awesome reminder that it was never about me or my skills in the first place.
People ask me how I was able to manage with a one-month timeline. Even that short timeline ended up being a blessing! If I was given more time to work on it, I would have too much time to second-guess myself, to procrastinate, and to be a perfectionist, instead of fully trusting God every step of the way.
When I look at the book, I know it has my name on the cover, but all I really had was a hand, a couple of pens, a sketchpad, and a heart that was willing to be used by God. How the book came to life, where that book has gone, and what it has done is all by God’s grace. I am incredibly humbled and grateful.
So why am I writing about this today, of all days? I actually started this post last December on the first anniversary of this book, but I couldn’t seem to finish it. I revisited it again today because I find myself in a familiar place–a place of having to let go and trust again. And this was a great reminder that it’s not a bad place to be in, because it’s a place where God can work miracles.
To everyone who helped out with the book, prayed, supported, and bought the book: a huge THANK YOU once again from the bottom of my heart. And a special thank you to Stef and OMF Literature for taking a chance on me and believing in the project!
If you or someone you know has a story about how Art to Feed the Heart brought comfort or encouragement, I would love to hear about it. Please send me a message or leave a comment below.
If you still want to get a copy of the book, it’s available in OMF Lit and Passages bookshops, selected National Bookstore outlets, or online at Lazada and Passages Books. Or you can also order from me and I’ll be happy to throw in a little note of encouragement for you! You can pick up your order at Bonifacio Global City, or it can be shipped to you for an additional fee. Send me a message with your address and the number of copies you’d like to order so I can send you a quote in addition to payment details.