I was asked to do an interview here on the blog with Abingdon Women about the Namesake Bible study. I’m thrilled that it’s being released in February and can’t wait to see how God will use it.
AW: Jessica, what has your first experience as a published author been like? Have you experienced anything unusually awesome in the development of God speaking to you through this study?
Jessica: Becoming an author is a lifelong dream come true for me. In elementary school, when other kids were playing astronaut, I was playing author: folding stacks of paper in half to make a “book” and then writing and illustrating stories on them. I’ve written many things for ministry, but Namesake is the first published work that will be used by churches across the country. I can’t tell you how excited I am about that! The very first lesson in Namesake is on Abraham and Sarah and how, even after God changed their names as a sign that He would to fulfill His promises to them, they had to wait and wait for those promises to be realized. When I first started telling friends about the upcoming publication of Namesake, a friend who had been a classmate of mine in seminary contacted me. We had been in a prayer group where we shared our deepest dreams about life and ministry and prayed over one another, but we now live across the country from each other. Her message to me said: “Do you realize we prayed for this dream twelve years ago and God is now answering that prayer?” It is amazing to think of God’s faithfulness and His perfect timing.
AW: Explain to us how the vision of Namesake evolved.
Jessica: I’ve always been fascinated by names and where they come from. My own name: Jessica Lynne, was given to me because my mom admired a classmate of hers named “Jessica Darling” and because her younger sister’s name is “Donna Lynne.” When I read the Bible and find an interesting name, I’m always following it down to its footnote to find out what it means. It’s fascinating how often a name actually tells a part of the person’s story. I began speaking at retreats several years ago on the names in the Bible and how they’re often changed to indicate a transformation in someone’s life. God seems to think a new identity deserves a whole new name. I realized that God’s vision or each one of us is transformation. He longs to see us change from who we once were to become more and more like Him. That reminded me of all the people I knew who were named after someone, who were given a namesake in hopes that they would grow up to emulate that person’s best characteristics. Since we are made in God’s image, we are His namesakes, hopefully growing to resemble Him more and more.
When I began working with the people at Abingdon it was amazing to see this small idea God had given me long ago nurtured and developed by so many people – from editors to graphic artists to producers. Seeing your idea on the cover of a book, on the wall of the set in a recording studio, on a page in a catalog… it’s a very humbling experience. It’s been so clear to me all along that this is God’s vision unfolding, not my own.c
AW: Candidly, what has your life been like juggling roles of pastor, writer, wife, and mom? Most of our women find great encouragement in knowing that daily balance is an ongoing act of surrender to the Lord!
Jessica: Let’s get really honest here… It’s crazy! It’s no easy task to balance life as a full time pastor, a full time mom (no mom’s job is ever part time!) and writing and speaking. When Abingdon approached me about making Namesake into a Bible Study, I had a two year old son, Drew, and was six months pregnant with my daughter Kate. I sometimes say I had two babies in 2012, since the undertaking of a big publishing project often felt like childbirth! I wrote much of the study while on maternity leave with Kate sleeping in a bassinet beside me, and she flew to Nashville with me at three months old when I recorded the teaching videos. There are times when this very full life seems far from balanced. I’m so thankful for a husband (Jim) who is a full partner in all things parenting and ministry, and that my own mom lives close by and spends a lot of time at our house. She was a single mom while I was growing up and worked full-time too, and she is absolutely my role model in faith and family. The key to juggling is not to try to be a hero. Life isn’t going to be perfect, so have grace for yourself. You can’t do it alone. You need to ask for help. And you have to rely on God and remember He’s holding the universe together – so you don’t have to.
AW: How do you hope to see Namesake used within church programs and independent small group Bible studies?
Jessica: The best groups I’ve experienced are the ones that draw you closer to God and create true community. I love “Aha!” moments of realizing new things I’ve never noticed in the Bible, and have tried to create plenty of those in the study. Namesake is ideal for groups that want to go deeper into the stories of Scripture. It’s narrative-based, meaning that each chapter tells the story of an individual in Scripture and also tells contemporary stories from my own life and the lives of others. The goal is to let the lessons we learn when we study the Bible touch and transform our own stories. Groups will have a chance to learn deeply about God’s message for them in the Bible while they examine their own name and identity and explore how God wants to offer them a fresh start. Namesake would be ideal for a group Bible Study or even a Sunday School class, and while it’s produced under the Abingdon Women label it has been great for men as well.
AW: If you were to speak to a live Abingdon Women audience on the primary message of Namesake what would you say?
Jessica: Namesake is all about God’s transforming love for us. The stories in Namesake are of ordinary people who encountered God and found themselves changed forever. When they surrendered their lives to God, their identities were so altered that even their names had to be changed. You and I need the same kind of transforming touch from God in our own lives. By studying together in community we’re given a chance to tell our own stories, and when line those up against the stories in Scripture we find that we just might have a few things in common with Abraham and Sarah, Jacob, Daniel, Naomi, Peter, and an unnamed woman who met Jesus. We also learn that the blessings that come from a life surrendered to God are not for our own glory, but for His name’s sake.
Be sure to “like” Abingdon Women on Facebook for more info about their upcoming studies.
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