During my junior year of college, I was spread thin serving as a Resident Assistant, working on my honor’s thesis, and using my art to serve needs on campus at Ouachita Baptist University. I was doing a lot of things that I loved and my life was wound tightly around my church and community. I may have continued to run with the flow of Christian culture on Ouachita’s campus, but my life halted when my friend LJ suddenly passed away that December. That next semester was spent learning how to mourn with close friends, how to ditch my 4.0 GPA, and how to go to the Lord with hard questions.
By that summer, I was exhausted. My everyday routine seemed meaningless and my once exciting plans to write for children became a burden. At the time, I was trying to wrap up the draft of my senior thesis, which was writing the story of the bible for children in couplet form. I was so overwhelmed with what I felt I needed to do FOR GOD. My joy was running dry.
I began reading “Desiring God” by John Piper. I related to people he described who honored God with their lips, but whose hearts were far from him. Piper explained that “In the end the heart longs NOT for any of God’s good gifts, but for God himself. To see Him and know and be in His presence is the soul’s final feast.”
My heart and mind were digesting these ideas when I was journaling some of my burdens to the Lord. Next to my journal entry, I quickly scribbled the guts of “The King’s Invitation” on June 30, 2013.
Before I graduated last spring, I finished a draft of the story and presented it as my senior thesis. I was proud of what I had produced, but the next steps with the book remained unclear.
Thankfully, I did NOT read a book that told me to believe in my dreams and dare to do big things for God. Instead, I read a book by Phil Vischer that encouraged me to hold my dreams loosely. In his autobiography, “Me Myself and Bob,” he explains that “we really shouldn’t attempt to do anything for God until we have learned to find our worth in Him alone….the impact God has planned for us doesn’t occur when we’re pursuing impact. It occurs when we’re pursing God.”
I came to a place where I began holding everything loosely but God himself. God was so good to get me to that place before I met Terry in August. I was blown away when I had a publisher eager to share my story before the summer ended.
That fall, I began working on finalizing illustrations and re-wording text. If God hadn’t been clear enough before, He made sure that I understood that my desire to be with Him should be greater than my effort to do anything for him. He was teaching me again that I could do nothing to make Him love me more. I was re-taught the very heart of my own story while reading a book called “With: Reimagining the way you relate to God” by Skye Jethani. While I made connections between Jethani’s book and “The King’s Invitation,” I realized that the story I was inspired to write was not my own, but a message that God was making very clear to me and calling me to share with others.
The final product is a picture book, created for children ages 3 to 93. I hope that it speaks deeply to anyone who is burdened in their efforts to live a significant life or earn God’s love. I pray that it encourages all who read it to run to the king, realizing it is impossible to make him love us more.
It's finished! It's been a joy to work with Dr. Kevin McLeod on this family project.
You can purchase a copy online!
*Arkadelphia friends- If you're interested in purchasing a copy, you can buy one at Dr. McLeod's office after Nov. 3!
2910 Cypress Drive
Arkadelphia, AR 71923
This was the best birthday present!
Thank you to my brother in love for putting this together. Check out more creative work by Ben Larzabal!
Veggie Tales influenced me a whole lot as a kid. However, Phil Vischer (the creator of my favorite veggies) has impacted me tremendously more as an adult. I'm so thankful for this Christian creative and his dedication to move with God's direction.
It’s hard to imagine not living in Arkadelphia. I agree with the water tower-- it is a great place to call home. As an incoming freshman, I never imagined that this small town would ever mean so much to me. I hadn't heard of Arkadelphia before I made plans to visit Ouachita as a junior in high school. With the closest movie theater or Target being 40 minutes away, the city was a mystery to me. I didn’t understand how this college town could work. I never imagined that the drive down Pine Street would become so sweet to me.
“What are you going to do with your life?”
I have been bombarded with this statement lately. I’m guilty too—of asking that dreadful question.
This is a support letter. I pray, however, that as you read through it, you would be refreshed by what it is not. I don’t want your money.
The last time I wrote something like this was when I was raising support to go on a mission trip to Gualliguaica, Chile in 11th grade. That was a great experience, but I’m so thankful God has expanded my view of what missions entails. I know I don’t have to travel to remote places of the world in order to work for the Lord. I thought I would find my niche when I worked at camp during the summer of 2011, but God continued to shape my view on how I would serve Him with my life. Driving home from camp, I was confused. I felt called to minister to children and so badly wanted to be a “camp person.” I wanted to be that awesome camp counselor, full of energy and fun, but I had discovered I was simply not. Like God often has, He spoke strongly to me when my pride was broken.
I had dreamed of writing and illustrating books for children, but at this point, the idea was still my dream. While I drove home to Houston, God stirred something within me that was not my own. I felt overwhelmed by His grace as I heard Him softly whisper that He wanted to use me…being me. I became excited about the fact that God would and could use my introverted, quirky, nerdy self for His glory. During my car ride home from camp, my dream to be a children’s author and illustrator turned into vision from the Lord to share the gospel with children through picture books.
It’s interesting to look back and see what events God has used to shape my work as an artist.
I was on an oil painting kick, preparing for my Drawing/Painting III final, when my friend L.J. Brooks died suddenly. I had stretched six canvases and was ready to paint portraits of animals of the Bible when my plans quickly shifted. Making a trip to Houston for L.J’s funeral meant that I would have to rethink my plans to oil paint. Emotionally, I was unfocused. Away from the studio, I couldn’t paint and allow enough time for the oils to dry. In order to finish my final on time, I made the decision to complete the drawings using pen, watercolor and colored pencil. This process was quick. This decision ended up being pivotal in my career as an artist because it influenced the type of work I made from there on out. More suited for illustration, watercolor, pencil, and pen became my main instruments for creating art.