Communicating straight from the heart is key.
What a journey I have been on! In 2019 I published my first book, I Learned it through the Grapevine: Wisdom Comes in Bunches. As I say in the introduction to the book: “Audacity is defined as the willingness to take bold risks, to have courage or confidence of a kind people find shocking.”
In a way, this book was my act of audacity. I am not one of the well-known mega-church leaders or Christian writers many would be familiar with. So what on earth was I thinking when I decided to write this book?
My confession to you is this … it took me 15 years to write this book! Fourteen of those years was me battling with thoughts of doubt, insecurity, and whispers from the enemy, saying things like, “Who do you think you are? You are not a writer. This will all be a colossal waste of time.” And to my shame, I listened to those voices and lies for a long time and kept suppressing the urge God had given me to write my story.
My story is about how my wife and I moved out to the country, and I ended up planting a small vineyard of 150 vines. I share with the reader all the practical realities about how to care for a vineyard from planning and planting to harvesting, and all of the other activities in between. But the story takes on a Christian context when I share how I began to understand some very deep and significant lessons about Jesus’ final lesson to His disciples before His crucifixion. As described in the Gospel of John, after The Last Supper Jesus walks with some of His disciples towards the Garden of Gethsemane where He will ultimately be arrested and then crucified. But along the way, Jesus stops to teach them one last lesson, and that lesson is all about vineyards and grapevines. Why?
Why would Jesus choose grapes as His final lesson? His dying declaration. I don’t know too many card-carrying Christians who aren’t familiar with the words, “I am the vine; you are the branches.”
As a vine keeper myself, that intrigued me. I was working up close and personal with grapes and vines, and always wondered why Jesus would choose this object as His departing lesson. What was so special about this plant versus anything else? Why was this the perfect analogy?
For fourteen years, I toiled in my vineyard. And season to season, the vineyard unpacked more and more about the depth and wisdom of that final lesson. It took Jesus twenty sentences to instruct His disciples about who God is, how He works in the world and what His ultimate goal is for you and I. He gave instruction about staying connected to Him the one true vine, and how the Vine Keeper (God) was going to prune and shape us to become fruitful in this broken world. A fruitfulness that will display the nature of the Father, and show ourselves to be followers of Jesus. This is kingdom fruit … fruit that will last!
And that is the difference between a master communicator and a new author. It takes me a book (or maybe two!) to explain and unearth how incredibly deep and rich this teaching is. The parallels I saw between the scriptures and what was happening in the vineyard, and to the grapes themselves was mind-blowing. How the vines act, the care that they need, and what it takes to bring forth a harvest of grapes helped me understand so much more about God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit and my role as a Christian in participating in Kingdom work.
You see, during those first fourteen years, God had a lot of pruning and teaching to do in my life, to get me to a point where this story had fully taken shape and was ready to be told. But where to start? As a new author, the thought was very daunting and intimidating. So like with any good journey, it needed to start with a map, and if the vineyard was my teaching tool too, then the place to start was to lay out the events and activities that go into creating and planning a vineyard and then add in all the activities that go into a normal growing season. Once I had blocked that out, I created a section for what I learned about God or Jesus, and then how it personally changed me.
Once I had my road map complete, the writing seemed to flow like water. The words and inspiration came fairly quickly because it flowed straight from my heart. My love of God and my Lord Jesus Christ, and my enthusiasm for the vineyard and “all things grape”, came easily to the page. But the journey wasn’t over.
Now I had a manuscript that I thought was pretty good … but would others? I asked some close, trusted friends to read it, and sat on pins and needles waiting for some feedback. I never knew people read so slow!!
Finally, reviews started drifting back, and it was for the most part positive. Maybe we have something here worth publishing!
Now it was time for a reality check. I approached several publishers, and unless you are well known, your chances are pretty slim. After a number of rejections, I approached Word Alive Press to help me bring this message to life. And to sum up that experience, “They were great!” From my project manager (Thank you Marina!) to my editor (Thank you Evan!) and all the others I never met, thank you for bringing an idea to life.
The awards and acknowledgements the book has received are humbling and shocking, but I am here to tell you if you have a story … tell it … tell it straight from the heart.
Todd Soltysiak is a Christ-following grape farmer hobbyist from Caledon, Ontario. He planted his vineyard fifteen years ago and now shares his journey of discovery about the vineyard’s secrets as they pertain to our need to cling to the Christian faith in a broken world. As the author of I Learned it through the Grapevine: Wisdom Comes in Bunches he was shortlisted for the 2019 Word Alive Press Free Publishing Contest and Winner of The 2019 Word Award for Book of the Year – Inspirational Category from The Word Guild Awards.
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