Alexandria author challenges readers to ‘Go & See’ their story, talents and calling
New Testament Christian School principal and English teacher releases first book
While attending a leadership conference in 2017, Jaclyn Loween said one speaker in particular stuck out to her.
The presenter referenced a Bible story Loween had heard many times about the feeding of a crowd of 5,000.
As Jesus taught and fed the crowd’s spiritual needs, the disciples noticed that the people were also physically hungry. When they confront Jesus with this need, he asks them what they’re going to do about it. The disciples gave some excuses, saying that the task was beyond their capabilities, desires and energy levels, but Jesus asked them to go and see what they had.
The challenge Jesus gave the disciples is where the title of Loween’s book came from.
“Part of going and seeing what you have isn’t so you can get filled up because I do feel like that’s what a lot of self-help books are for,” Loween said. “Know what you have so you can know how to meet the needs of other people because in meeting other people’s needs, your needs will also be met.”
Loween’s main goal for “Go & See” is to provide a group study where people can turn to better understand their personal history and notice how God is writing their stories as their lives progress.
“We all have a mission and a purpose and that’s to go out into all the world and make disciples; we’re just going to do it differently,” Loween said.
‘You need to keep doing this’
The concept originated in Loween’s head after the 2017 conference, but she didn’t know what to do with the information.
So when her church needed someone to lead a women’s Bible study, Loween offered to teach it and wrote her own curriculum as she went.
She would set an alarm for around 3 a.m. the morning of each weekly study and start writing. If she tried at any other time of the day, she would get interrupted by her children.
“It would be amazing how if I set my alarm for that purpose, it was not hard for me to get up,” Loween said. “I would sit and write for up to four hours before my kids would get up, but God really never gave me the next week until the next week.”
That Bible study is what helped her make all of the future book’s content, and she received positive feedback from the women in the group.
One day, Loween realized she had spent so much time gathering information and encouraging everyone else to use their gifts, but she had been ignoring one of her own.
She had set aside writing to solely pursue her gift of teaching, which was much more practical for her with a steady income and career path.
“Somewhere along the way, I just felt the spirit saying, ‘You need to practice what you preach. If you’re going to tell other people to go out and use their gifts, no matter if they know what the result is going to be or not, maybe you need to do the same thing,’” she said.
Loween organized a retreat in spring 2019 to receive constructive feedback and suggestions for changes, but she mostly heard a collective positive response to get the content out to a broader audience.
The overwhelming message she heard was, “You need to keep doing this.”
When she held a second retreat in fall 2019, she told attendees the same thing: It’s a work in progress, so giving constructive criticism to improve anything would be appreciated.
They offered a few minor suggestions, but again, she heard, “You need to keep doing this.”
‘My ultimate editor’
Loween attended a writing conference at Northwestern University, where she learned more about the world of publishing and meeting the needs of an audience.
If she took the traditional publishing route, Loween was told that her book would only be accepted if the marketing team thought there would be at least 10,000 people ready to buy “Go & See” when it came out.
Instead, Loween decided to go the self-publishing route through a branch of Zondervan called WestBow Press. This way, Loween could keep her rights to the book and receive editing help along the way.
But when the COVID-19 stay-at-home order came last March, she had to shift her focus away from finishing the book to helping her children with distance learning. Loween wanted to do more retreats and start lunch-and-learn events, but all those plans came to a screeching halt.
“No one knew what was happening with the world, so it was also not very motivating to keep working on a book,” she said.
When she changed her role at New Testament Christian School in August, adding middle school and high school principal to her English teacher position, Loween realized one thing as she agreed to this transition.
“If I’m going to sign up for a new job and do new things for the Lord, I’ve got to finish the things that he asked me to do because I don’t think it was an accident that I signed that contract,” Loween said.
She took a weekend away to completely immerse herself in editing. She sent the manuscript back and forth with editors 10 times, fine-tuning all the words, charts, diagrams and activities before she was ready to send it off for printing.
The night before submitting it, a wave of hesitation hit Loween. She prayed about it and asked two friends to page through the book one last time. They noticed that one of the charts was the wrong version and some incorrect titles were scattered throughout.
“OK God, you are my ultimate editor,” Loween said. “You don’t want me to fail just as much as I don’t want me to fail, and really, this is about your work and your people.”
Peeking in the pages
In the first section of “Go & See,” readers are asked to reflect on their own personal histories. After writing out a timeline of life’s memories and milestones, Loween challenges them to go through and mark where four main themes recur: Creation, fall, redemption and restoration.
“In our lives, we go through that same cycle over and over again,” Loween said. “God creates us. Things about us fall, whether that’s our fault or somebody else’s. He redeems us. Full restoration isn’t until heaven.”
The second part unpacks a person’s unique design, including natural abilities, spiritual gifts and personality type.
“You really can never compare yourself to someone with the same gift because you don’t have the other things the same,” Loween said. “Don’t look around you to see what to do with your unique design. Look at the different components of how God made you.”
Before concluding the book, the reader is asked to form a purpose and vision statement along with five core values and the required habits to live those values out in daily life. Loween said this can be daunting for some but ultimately brings clarity and helps with decision making moving forward.
Importance of relationship
After reflecting on one’s personal history and unique design, Loween said the reader can start to dream about their calling. And the first practical step, she says, is to assess both family and friend relationships.
Taking inventory of who has invested in one’s life, Loween said, reveals clear ideas of how people have been influenced and shaped by those around them.
“Every person in your life that had an impact on you sent you in a certain direction that has you where you are today,” Loween said. “If I can look at how other normal people had a huge impact on me, that means I’m just a normal person who might have a huge impact on others just by being in their lives.”
One weakness Loween said she sees around her constantly is how people make retirement plans, college plans, debt payment plans and vacation plans, but rarely relational plans.
Quoting Winston Churchill, she said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
“Relationships are one of the highest values that we have, but we spend the least amount of time planning to make them work, or planning to make sure they happen,” Loween said.
Going forward, the book’s prompt is to closely evaluate who to intentionally invest in and who to ask to receive investment from.
‘Beyond your capacity’
Looking back on all the steps along the book-making journey, Loween said the best part for her was the lessons she learned by inviting other people into the process alongside her.
“When God calls you to a vision beyond your capacity, it’s an invitation to create a team,” Loween said. “I wanted as much of this project to incorporate as many people in our local community as possible.”
One of those people she asked to contribute was Kristal Bomstad. Loween could do the writing, but she noticed Bomstad’s gifts for photography and design, so she invited her to help with the book's cover and charts.
Bomstad’s first response to Loween’s invitation was hesitation because of her full personal and work schedules, but the flexibility of deadlines helped her say yes.
“I didn't know if I had the capacity to help Jaci with the design work,” Bomstad said. “God created capacity for me.”
Through a few coffee shop meetings and back-and-forth online communication, Loween prepared detailed lists and ideas for Bomstad to take and apply to the creative aspects.
They chose a lake and stone theme, featuring abstract brush strokes. Bomstad said making the brush strokes was the highlight for her, as she used physical paint, let them dry and scanned them into her computer to create custom digital brushes. She also used photos she took while attending a “Go & See” retreat and placed them within the book’s brushstroke-shaped headers.
“Seeing the final product and knowing what it will do for God's kingdom brings the deepest joy to my heart,” Bomstad said. “I am thankful that God nudged Jaci to complete this book and allowed me to be a part of it. Using my gifts for God's kingdom is the greatest honor I could ever have.”
Celebrating the book, surrendering the results
Loween hosted a launch party at Common Ground Coffee House Friday, March 26, as a way to thank those who supported her along the writing and publishing journey. Loween said she sees the project not as her own doing but as an opportunity to participate in God’s mission.
She referenced a passage from the book of Joshua, where the people set up stones after crossing the river as a way to remember what God did for them on that day.
The celebration included a question-answer session, worship music, a feast and prayers over the sending out of the book.
“I’m not a perfect mom, I’m not a perfect leader, I’m not a perfect administrator, but I’m willing to obey,” Loween said. “I’m willing to put my best in front of him. To me, that’s what the launch party is. Let’s get together and celebrate who God is, and then commission whatever he’s going to do with this work to him.”
“Go & See” is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Loween’s website, jaclynloween.com .