Jennifer Sienes

You know those annoying detour signs? The ones that make you change course, waste time, and often leave you feeling lost? I’ve had a detour or two (or more) in my attempt to follow God’s path—or more aptly, His long and winding road. Thus far, the most impactful happened when I believed my writing career was finally taking shape.


For several years, my husband Chris supported my life-long dream to become a novelist. In fact, he encouraged me to leave my teaching job to do so. “If God put this on your heart, shouldn’t you see where it leads?” So, I did. I quit teaching and started writing full time. I attended conferences and critique groups. I studied the craft through different venues, including Jerry Jenkins Writer’s Guild. My dream was to be signed on with a well-known literary agency. If that happened, surely it was God’s desire that my agenda would become a reality.


Then it did. The same year I was offered an agency contract, I also won the ACFW Genesis contest for contemporary fiction. This was it! God was moving in ways I’d only dreamt of. When I reflect back to that time, though, I know God wasn’t as much interested in my “career” as He was in the journey that would shape my character for His agenda. Spoiler alert: His plan is always so much better than anything we could create in our finite, little minds.


Chris had a chiropractic practice he’d built for thirty years, the last ten with a business partner he brought in. While he grew as a Christian, he envisioned the practice becoming as much a ministry as a career—a vision his partner didn’t share. A business partnership isn’t much different than a marriage—being unequally yoked leads to division, which is where the enemy does his best work, don’t you think?


Chris has the gift of compassion and grace, which is why he was such a successful chiropractor. I was given the gift of discernment and teaching. I struggled with self-esteem and insecurity, mostly tied to my personality. I couldn’t understand why someone who was so kind and compassionate would want to be married to me. The gift of discernment can easily slip into a critical spirit, and I aimed it at myself more than others. I spotted areas of concern in Chris’s practice which he brushed off. It made me question the stirrings the Lord put on my heart. Was I just being critical of his partner, whose financial situation was beginning to affect the practice’s? And the new office manager his partner hired, although highly intelligent, wasn’t there something off about her?


Then life turned on its head. The Lord made it clear Chris needed to sever the partnership, which added a whole new level of drama and confusion he’d never had to deal with before. He asked if I’d work in the office a few hours a week to get familiar with the financial side of the business and keep an eye on the office manager. He could no longer ignore her irresponsibility. His focus needed to stay on patient care and having me around would ease his concerns. It still allowed me plenty of time to write, so I agreed.


It didn’t take long for me to discover there had been a whole lot of ugly happening in the background of which Chris had no inkling. The partner had been embezzling from the practice, and the office manager failed to pay the quarterly taxes over the past year and covered it up. Chris fired her, and my few hours a week morphed into a full-time job. I was put in a position for which I had neither experience nor a desire. We considered hiring someone else, but we didn’t even know enough to train another person. Instead, we decided I would handle the drama and chaos so Chris could focus on the patients—which was the only way the practice could survive.


It was the first time in my adult life I appreciated the way God wired me. The years I’d spent teaching middle school students prepared me for just such a time as this, as I’m sure God had intended. And while it was not easy dealing with the backlash from the IRS and State of California due to the unpaid taxes, I found a deep joy in being able to support Chris the way he’d always supported me. Although to this day, when I see a letter from the IRS, my heart drops to my toes. How many other people can say they suffer from mailbox PTSD?


We worked together to bring to fruition Chris’s vision for the practice. He created a new logo where the t in chiropractic was the cross at the top of a church steeple. We tuned Pandora to Christian music and decorated the office with scripture. With Chris now the only doc in the practice, we were concerned the income would suffer—especially since we had those pesky government fines to pay. Instead, the Lord provided exceedingly abundantly more than we could have hope for. People in the community learned about the “Christian” chiropractic office, and we literally had church loads of new patients come in on top of those he’d been serving for years.


The hours were long. We rarely got home before seven. Chris would finish his charts while I cooked dinner. We’d fall into bed exhausted, only to get up at 4:30 the next morning and start all over again. But we loved it. I was able to see Chris through new eyes, and truly appreciated how hard he worked. He was able to focus on patient care and not be concerned about anything else. We were like brand new parents bragging about our kids. Only our “kids” were the patients that we loved on.


Every dime we lost due to unpaid taxes and the partner’s embezzlement, the Lord redeemed. It increased my faith ten-fold to see all He’d done in the short time I worked in the office. We had a thriving business and a thriving marriage. We came away from that experience appreciating our different giftings and personalities. I became more compassionate, and Chris is more discerning. When we’d accomplished all God set out for us to do, Chris put the practice up for sale. Now someone else is benefitting from his redemption story.


Oh, and the writing journey? The month after Chris retired and we left the practice, my agent also retired. I was passed onto a different one, but I kept hearing the Lord say, “Let Me be your agent.” For months I prayed about what that meant. Was I supposed to self-publish? Give up writing? What? As Chris’s vision for the practice had changed over time, so had my vision for my writing career. I asked to be let out of my contract with the literary agency and trusted the Lord. After all He was able to do with Chris’s journey, I had no doubt He’d put me on the right path eventually.


In 2018, I met Sandra Barela of Celebrate Lit Publishing at Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference. She asked for my manuscript and a couple months later, offered me a contract. There has never been a doubt that she was the Lord’s plan for me all along. I came to a place where I knew my writing was every bit a ministry as Chris’s practice, and Sandra supports that. When we strive to serve the One above the many, He blesses the road. Sometimes it’s filled with twists and turns, but there is never a wasted mile if you keep your eyes on Him.


Susan K. Beatty

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” The world has often attributed these words to Dr. Seuss, but while they may reveal his sentiment, I read he never actually said them.

Carmen in Carmen’s Journey of Courage may have taken these words to heart when setting out on her quest to be her own person rather than a clone of her family. Her great aunt, great uncle, father, and siblings all boasted higher degrees behind their names. The family, her older sisters in particular, tried to cast her in their own image.

They made her feel left out of sisterly bonding as a child. But they expected her to go to college and join them in the corporate world. Instead, she enlisted in the army and became a weaponry expert. Then she married and dedicated herself to being a wife and full-time homeschool mom. Much to her sisters’ disgust.

We don’t learn explicitly what gave Carmen the courage to venture out on her own path as a young person. However, I’m pretty confident that she relied on God’s Word. She believed Him when He said she was created in His image and for His glory. If He was the potter and she was clay, she would be whatever He called her to be.

Carmen knew His hands formed her, she was His, and He gave her understanding. He would fulfill His purpose for her, and He would not abandon her. To know her path in life, all she needed to do was learn and follow His commands.

Sounds easy. Right? While God’s Word is clear, we often discover following it leads us down some tortuous paths. Carmen endured shame, ridicule, and ostracism as she set out on her own. But God had instilled in her created being a strength to stand firm as she relied on Him. He also provided Carmen with a supportive, Christ-like husband whom she met in the army.

Many of us, particularly during our teen years, find it difficult to accept our uniqueness from the crowd. We really just want to fit in. My teen years were decades ago, but I remember wanting to be part of the crowd. The in crowd. And that led to trouble.

But when I, like Carmen, yielded to being clay and the Lord the potter, I followed the Lord’s leading and desired to stand out as a woman of God, unique in His calling.

Are you stuck trying to fit in with the crowd? Or are you following the Lord on His journey of courage for you? It’s never too late to get on the Lord’s path.

In Carmen’s past, she followed the Lord on many journeys of courage to prepare for the journey in the book.

I invite you to join Carmen on her latest journey of courage.