I am thrilled to introduce you to FaithWriters member Sharlyn Guthrie. Sharlyn is a wife, mom, teacher, and published writer. Most of all, she’s a sexual abuse and breast cancer survivor who now shares her testimony with other women. Join me in getting to know this courageous and exceptionally talented lady.
LYNDA: Start by telling us a little about yourself and your family.
SHARLYN: Although I was raised in a family of four girls, as an adult I found myself with three sons and a husband. I’ll admit the world of males was a bit of a cultural shock, but I wouldn’t trade my sons for anything -especially now that they have ushered in three daughter-in-laws, one grandson, and 5 granddaughters! I teach preschool and pre-kindergarten at a Christian school, and I previously taught kindergarten. My husband and I are wedding coordinators and marriage mentors. Besides that, I am the music and education director for Heart of God East Africa, which means that I have been spending time in Uganda each of the last two summers.
LYNDA: You’ve endured some really hard and painful things in your life. Much of your story is shared on your blog, Dancin’ On Rainbows. Would you care to briefly share a couple of those events with us here? And what have you learned through it all?
SHARLYN: Although I was raised in a Christian home, I was molested repeatedly by my father and a brother in law. The fact that they were professing Christians and church leaders is what hurt and confused me the most. I guess it could have easily turned me away from Jesus, but instead, it drew me to Him. He promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” and He never did. Summed up in these few lines it sounds all easy, neat and tidy, but dealing with the fallout of sexual abuse has been a lifelong struggle.
Last October I learned that I had a tumor in my breast -an unusual form of breast cancer. It was a difficult, frightening time -especially since my husband had just changed jobs, taking a big cut in pay. Despite the uncertainty I knew that once again Jesus would be my rock and my deliverer, and He was. The tumor was surgically removed, and it was determined that no further treatment was necessary! Praise God!
LYNDA: When did you start writing? Did you ever use your writing as “therapy” during the difficult times?
SHARLYN: I have always enjoyed writing, but for many years, especially as I was raising my family, I didn’t do much of it. It was another painful experience that led to my beginning to write. One day I spoke with our pastor, pouring out all of the hurts from my past and what we were going through at the time. The poor man was no doubt overwhelmed, but he asked, “What are you going to do with all this?”
I heard myself replying, “I’m going to write.” Even as I said it, I knew that it was more God’s idea than mine, and that it was a commitment I had to keep.
I did start writing a few things on my own, but I wanted to be challenged and to improve my abilities, so I searched online and found Faithwriters. Seeing the writing challenge, I simply read the guidelines for submitting, considered that week’s topic, and wrote a story. I had no idea that I would be receiving feedback in the form of little yellow boxes, and the following Thursday I nearly fell out of my chair when I learned that my story had placed first in the Beginners level. It was certainly enough confirmation for me that God was in it.
At first I thought that God’s purpose for me in writing was exactly what you said -therapy. Soon, however, I realized that simply lifting up the name of Jesus and encouraging others to do the same was more satisfying. I share my personal struggles only for that purpose -to glorify God for what He has done in my life and to encourage others who may be dealing with similar issues in their own lives. Recently, I have had the privilege of sharing my testimony with groups of women as well.
LYNDA: Tell us about some of your publications.
SHARLYN: Aside from the many Editor’s Choice pieces from Faithwriter’s Writing challenge, I am pretty light in the area of publication, simply because I haven’t had the time to do much submitting. Several of my poems and short stories have been published in various anthologies, magazines, and church publications.
At this time of my life I am truly just writing out of obedience and a desire to glorify God. However, one of my fellow Faithwriters, Jan Ross, published a few of my stories in Journey e-zine a few years ago, and that began a friendship that led to a partnership in ministry. In 2009 I joined Jan, Jeanice (the editor of Journey e-zine), and Denise, the director of Heart of God East Africa for the ministry’s initial trip to Uganda. After that trip I was asked to be the education and music director, and this will be my third summer of returning to Uganda to minister to orphans, teachers, and widows. My participation in this ministry has required quite a bit of writing -puppet scripts, teacher workshops, plans for each trip, etc. All of this is unpaid, of course. My reward is in the smiles of hundreds of beautiful children, and that is priceless!
I continue to write for Journey e-zine and my blog. I am also the editor and publisher of our school’s, Husky Heartbeat, which is made up of student writings. Encouraging young writers by publishing their work has been greatly rewarding.
LYNDA: What advice would you give someone who is trying to get published?
SHARLYN: I once lamented to a prolific, published author that I, too, liked to write -that in fact, I write quite a bit, but that I had done very little toward getting my work published. She replied, “A writer is, very simply, ‘one who writes.’” I appreciate this woman’s wisdom.
It might be easy to feel remorse or peer pressure when observing the publishing successes of other writers, but if you are writing, you are a writer. So, whatever you do, keep on writing! God has a purpose for you, but His timetable for you may be different than it is for others. Be patient for the work He is doing in you and your writing.
If your goal is publication, good for you -go for it! I love nothing more than cheering on my Faithwriter friends as they see their dreams and goals fulfilled. I would simply encourage each of you, however, to follow God’s leading. Your best, most effective writing will come as a result, and who knows where your obedience will lead you? I could have never guessed that writing out of obedience would lead me to Africa!
LYNDA: What do you like to do for fun?
SHARLYN: Fun for me means spending time with my family (aka grandchildren); playing in the dirt (some call it gardening); playing and performing music; reading; camping; traveling; and biking. Actually, that is only a partial list. I have a long list of activities I enjoy, so I am never bored or discontent unless I am forced to sit still for long periods of time.
LYNDA: Any future goals you’re striving for?
SHARLYN: I have several children’s books written that I hope to get published some day, and I occasionally entertain ideas for other kinds of books. These are goals I plan to pursue when the time is right, and I am confident that God will let me know when that time comes. I am a fairly eclectic writer, and I have a pretty good collection of material. Recently, I have revised some of my earlier writings to reflect the growth that has occurred, both in my writing and in my walk with Jesus. Writing has already enriched my life in so many ways! I can’t wait to see what God has in store for me in the future.
LYNDA: We can’t wait, either, Sharlyn! You are a remarkable woman and an inspiration to us all. Best wishes to you as you continue to grow and fulfill the purpose for which you were created.