Numbers and spreadsheets don’t usually add up to a second career as an author.
But that’s exactly what happened when Ann Smith, a certified public accountant, combined her love of writing with her desire to enter into a deeper relationship with the Lord.
As a teenager, Smith, who has been an accountant for more than 25 years, began reading the Bible all the way through each year. Years later, she still reads from Genesis to Revelation every year, but realized that she was doing it more out of habit and “to check it off the list” than for any other reason.
2002 was a turning point in her faith walk. While participating in “Companions in Christ,” a 28-week spiritual formation program and ministry of The Upper Room, Smith learned to appreciate and enjoy the spiritual practice of journaling.
“One of the things I really got out of it (the “Companions in Christ study) was the practice of journaling,” she said. “It was a really meaningful thing for me. Of all of the people in our little group that did the study together, I think that I was the one that took to that. I really enjoyed doing it and could see that it was changing my faith.”
The study came at a time when Smith was ready to go deeper in her faith, and says that journaling helped her focus, mature and grow.
“I needed it (my Bible reading) to be more than it was being to me. I was reading other Christian material that was speaking to me, but my own Bible reading wasn’t. If the very words of God, given to us in scripture, aren’t always speaking to me but all this other stuff is, I need to think differently about how I’m doing my Bible study.”
So she began writing about her own spiritual seeking, and it helped her to stop and think about what she was reading and doing.
“It made me think about why I believe the way that I do instead of just going through the motions and doing the same things I’ve always done.”
Before she ever started journaling, Smith first began writing as a way to market her accounting and consulting practice. She’s now turned her spiritual practice of journaling into a book.
Called “Written on my Heart: Daily Devotions for Your Journey through the Bible,” the book of devotional messages grew out of Smith’s realization that she needed to combine her journaling with her Bible reading.
“I was just reading this stuff and not really retaining it,” she said. “It’s like in James where it says you look in the mirror and walk away and forget what you look like. A few years ago I decided to start journaling every day about what I had read, and really approach the reading with the prayer, ‘God, show me what from this reading I can apply to my life right now’ so that I didn’t just read it and forget about it, but that it would hopefully weave into my brain a little better and I would retain it and I would actually see a tie-in between some of the things I was reading and what I was living out in my life.”
Journaling helps Smith see the spiritual significance in everyday encounters. She recently started a blog – www. annhsmith.blogspot.com – in an effort to help maintain the discipline of daily writing. One of her first blog posts was inspired by an evening gardening session with her husband. Tending the melon vines and training them to grow up the trellis is, she writes, the same way that God works on the hearts of believers, pruning them, pulling them away from attachments, and training them to hold on to Him.
“I think journaling has caused me to really see God at work in places I might not have seen before,” she said.
Smith, a longtime member of Mulberry Street United Methodist Church in Macon who works part-time as the chief financial officer for the Methodist Home for Children and Youth Foundation, doesn’t journal in the “old traditional way,” keeping a record or diary of what’s happened in her day. Instead she writes about how those daily happenings and experiences have affected her spiritually, or about how a specific passage of scripture has touched her.
“It (journaling) has changed for me how I read the Bible. Instead of reading for information, now I read it to be formed by it. It’s made a big difference. I get excited now, every morning, about sitting down and doing my devotional time, because it’s like, ‘Okay, what is God going to show me today?’ It has really changed how I approach reading the Bible, and consequently, the way I process it and take it in for my own spiritual nourishment.”
Her hope for the book is that it will help people understand that reading the Bible is not intimidating or impossible, and that God is involved in our lives – even in the seemingly mundane and insignificant details.
Smith has no current plans to write a second book, but continues to write and journal, and says that she will see where God leads her.
“I’m a CPA by trade, not a writer,” she said. “But I really feel like writing, for me, is a spiritual gift because I certainly have no training at it, so it’s interesting that now I feel like I define myself more by my writing than by anything else. I find that if I don’t sit down and write for a while I can tell that it’s just bottled up in me and gotta come out somewhere.”
--By Kara Witherow, South Georgia Advocate editor
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