Often, the story behind a book can be just as intricate as the book itself. For Emily Gardner Foppe, author of Finding the Secret Place: 8 Keys to Experiencing God’s Presence, the story behind the book, in many ways, is woven throughout her life. An experience here, a new word from the Lord there: all steps on the path that would eventually lead the now-grandmother of four to write her first book. Her story reminds us that we are all characters in the hands of the greatest storyteller.

Planting a SeedEmily Gardner Foppe

“It is quite interesting how the Lord works,” says Foppe. “I majored in English and journalism, so I can write, but I never, ever thought I would write a book.”. Foppe’s first problem was that she felt she didn’t have anything to write about. She also assumed that there were others who had already stated what she might say more eloquently.

She sat down next to Foppe, and declared, “The Holy Ghost told me you’re going to write a book.”

Five years ago, she started feeling the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit leading her in that direction. While selling final expense insurance, she was visiting with an older black couple in their home. She’d been talking to the husband for about five minutes when his wife entered from the other room. She sat down next to Foppe, and declared, “The Holy Ghost told me you’re going to write a book.”

Finding the Subject

At the time, Foppe laughed and danced around the topic, but looking back she realizes that God was preparing her. But although the idea of writing a book was now floating around, the topic was still a mystery. It wouldn’t remain that way for long.

The next domino to fall was a relationship. Foppe had been divorced and since had dated online. She met a man named Larry who lived in Arizona (Foppe lives in Florida), and they started a year and a half long-distance relationship. It ended abruptly and with little explanation. “It broke my heart,” she says.

A few months later, she was running on the beach and praying, processing the grief, struggling to understand why she couldn’t have a husband. As she ran, she saw two shells lying on the sand together. Her first thought was that God was showing her something—showing her that she would have a husband.

“I finally realized that for my entire life I’d been looking for a man to complete me, instead of God.”— Emily Gardner Foppe

But later, as she journaled about the experience, something strange happened: “Suddenly it was like God was using my pen. I realized the second shell was not my future husband, it represented God,” she says. “I finally realized that for my entire life I’d been looking for a man to complete me, instead of God.”

This subject was poignant, complex, and full of personal experiences for Foppe. She distilled it into a poem called “The Shells,” so she would never forget this lesson, and the day God freed her of something that had held her back in her spiritual development for years. “Gradually, I’d share that poem with some of my close friends, sometimes with older clients that I knew, and in every case they’d end up weeping.”

Realizing that this topic obviously rang true for a variety of women, Foppe started considering ways she could reach more people. The idea finally presented itself once and for all: Foppe needed to write a book.

Writing the Book

Using the poem as a guide, Foppe realized she took eight steps in her original revelation. And so she felt that God challenged her to write an eight chapter book, one chapter per month.

Now that she had her structure, she began the work, spending plenty of time just reflecting and listening each month before writing anything down. God brought to mind experiences from her life that turned into beautiful visual examples in the book.

“…for most of my life I had known intellectually about the Bible, but I hadn’t known about the nitty-gritty practical applications.”— Emily Gardner Foppe

“I wanted the book to come off like I was talking to people,” says Foppe. “I didn’t want to use big words that might exclude people.”. At the same time, Foppe did want this to be a resource for study and small groups. So, she wrote her eight chapters conversationally, then added in the study guides at the end of each chapter afterwards.

“The book is very practical,” says Foppe, “because for most of my life I had known intellectually about the Bible, but I hadn’t known about the nitty-gritty practical applications.”

It took her about a year all told, but at last she had written her book.

Finding the Secret Place Emily Gardner FoppeFinishing the Story

The book may have been complete, but the story behind the story was still unfolding. Near the end of the writing process, Larry resurfaced. Foppe began corresponding with him again, and even let him read the manuscript, but kept her personal life out of it. She had come to a place in which she was finally content in not pursuing a relationship, instead just resting in God’s love.

And so, of course, that was exactly when God brought the desires of her heart back around. Larry explained that he hadn’t been ready to commit back when they were dating, but he was now. They married, and now split time between Arizona and Florida. But this time, Foppe knows she didn’t go into her marriage expecting her husband to complete her—she has God for that.

With her book published and a growing readership, Foppe is looking to the future. “The vision God gave me was that this would be a small group resource,” she says. If churches begin to pick up Finding the Secret Place, she also has plans for two followups. Her second book would examine how to heal relationships now that you’ve experienced a personal transformation. The third  would deal with transforming the world.

As in the case of her first book, “God has to give me the experiences first,” she says. In the meantime, Foppe leads a Finding the Secret Place small group and adds resources to her book, including notecards with verses and their applications that people can carry with them for a tangible reminder of what they’ve learned.

“My book is for everybody, but especially for people stuck in legalistic ways of thinking like I was,” she says. “In this world we are disconnected, displaced, and disenfranchised, but through Jesus we can be reconnected, live in his presence, and live in his power.”

And as Emily Gardner Foppe’s own story displays, we serve an awesome God. He speaks to us through our pain, always pursuing us until we realize, sometimes through two shells on the ground, what we’re holding onto.

You can find Emily Gardner Foppe at her website, findingthesecretplace.com.