More than a Bible lesson
Gretchen Nelson of Alexandria was raised in a traditional Christian family and had, as she describes, a "simple and uncomplicated church existence."
She earned perfect Sunday School attendance awards, memorized the creeds and eventually attended a church college.
It wasn't until she was married with children and living in California that she found out what faith was truly about, and her life was turned "downside-up."
"In one instant, in a nanosecond, I had gone from an active church attendee to a Jesus-filled, Word-birthed individual," she penned in the introduction of her recently-published book.
As Nelson developed a more personal relationship with the Lord, she struggled to understand why believers and followers still had to suffer life's hardships and trials.
"In my life as a Christian, there have been many difficult troubles and problems that I couldn't figure out why I was going through," she said. "Some were not so serious, others were serious."
Searching for answers, Nelson poured herself into Scripture.
After countless hours spent reading and studying, it became clear to Nelson that it was time to write.
She took her years of Scripture reading and her years of frustration over life's "whys" and started writing about them.
Nelson chose the 24th chapter of Genesis as the basis of her book. That chapter tells of Rebekah's journey to her betrothed, Isaac, across wide and uncertain terrain.
"...this story is much more than a biblical history lesson," reads the back cover of Nelson's book. "It is also a retelling and foretelling of our own Spirit-led trek toward the Son - atop some unsightly and uncomfortable, but nonetheless God-ordained, beasts of burden."
The book shares what Nelson learned about why God allows his people to experience troubles and how He desires to bring us through them.
Writing the book wasn't a difficult process for Nelson, because she believes she didn't do it alone.
"It was really the Lord opening up ideas and thoughts," she explained. "I didn't have to sweat over this. I came to understand what the Bible said was true. It brought truth to my life and I couldn't ignore it and didn't want to ignore it.
She admits that she thought about writing the book for the past 20 years.
"I've had a lot of goals in life, but all along I knew I was going to be writing this book," she explained. "It was there. I could not avoid it. But all of a sudden, it became pressing. I had to get rid of it. I had to get it on paper."
Once she put pen to paper, the book took about two and a half years to complete.
She sent the manuscript, entitled The Camels Are Coming: A Study of Genesis 24, to a publisher in December, and in March received word that it would be published by Creation House. That was exactly the reassurance Nelson needed to know she'd done the right thing.
"Publishing companies are out of the business of taking risks," she said, "but they took an unknown writer and went with it. That spoke volumes to me about the worth of the content."
Nelson is quick to point out that the book is not her life story and was not written in an effort to accomplish any self-serving goal.
"This book is not about me," she said. "I was not looking for meaning in life - I already have meaning in life. Writing this was not cathartic - it was an act of obedience. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit I could arrive where I was supposed to arrive.
The author's main hope is that the book "speaks to people."
"I hope it causes people to reflect," she explained. "It's a reflective book, it isn't instructing or imaginary. Through my writing, I ask questions of myself and of the reader.
"I just really believe in the message of it," she added. "It's truth, not fiction. I know it's the truth because I've lived it."
While Nelson was excited to see the book printed, she was also a bit overwhelmed.
"This is way too big for me to get my arms around," she explained. "This is such a God thing for me. Everyone who reads this and knows me understands that."
The author is currently writing another book based on Scripture.
"Writing is God's gift to me, so I need to do something with that gift," she said. "I want to get people back into the Bible."
The Camels Are Coming: A Study of Genesis 24 is currently available in Alexandria at Cherry Street Books, The Mustard Seed, Book World, Mount Carmel or directly from the author at firstname.lastname@example.org. It will be available through national booksellers January 6.