Dreams Coming True is a Thursday feature on my blog, a way to highlight those whose goal is to create community. The dream might be a blog, a published book, a small business, volunteering, or even fundraising for a charity. Something that makes the world a better place . . . for others.
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” (Zechariah 4:10, NLT).
Welcome Irene Garcia, author of Rich In Love, to Dreams Coming True! Leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy of Rich In Love! Congratulations to the winner of last week’s giveaway, DAWN KLEINSASSER! Email firstname.lastname@example.org to claim your prize.
Tell us a little about yourself, Irene?
I was married and pregnant at sixteen. My husband also was sixteen and already an alcoholic. For ten years my husband was physically abusive and extremely controlling. I learned at a very young age to hurt him with the most vile and wicked words. For ten years all I could think about was “a plan of escape”
I met Mary Barshaw, a beautiful Christian woman who shares Christ with me. She takes me under her wing and disciples me. Mary teaches me about forgiveness and when an unthinkable thing happens—Domingo comes to know the Lord and asks me for forgiveness—Mary reminds me I need to forgive my husband.
My husband becomes the spiritual leader in our home and we start this amazing journey of caring for the fatherless. It has brought joy and much heartache. This path has been difficult, but we just hold tightly to our father’s hand. On this journey we have seen many miracles, answered prayer, and have tasted the hope that lies around the corner.
We are turning sixty-two this year, and we still have ten kids at home, the youngest being eight and the oldest being seventeen. Our daughter who is disabled still lives with us too; she is thirty-two. So, as of today, we have been married forty-five years and have eighteen children, sixteen adopted and two biological boys.
When did this creative dream begin?
About fifteen years ago many friends encouraged me to write the story about my marriage and our adopted children. I thought that was a silly idea, “Why would anyone want to read about my life?” When I taught bible studies, I would share my experiences to help encourage those who felt alone. So those around me knew of the obstacles God had put in front of me, in my marriage and raising many rebellious teens. I have always been very open about my struggles and trials in my walk with Christ.
How did this project/idea get started?
I look back now and realize the seed was planted the first time I was encouraged to write a book. I would think about it, then desperately shake the idea out of my head. Then the desire just kept getting stronger. I had always wanted to write a study on the “Titus 2 Woman,” so I thought maybe this was a task God was asking me to accomplish. My daily prayer was “Lord if you want this from me, make the desire stronger so I know it’s of you and not my flesh.” So I kept meditating on this verse
“Take delight in the Lord and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord.” Psalm 37:4
What makes your project stand out from the crowd?
One day in the shower (of all places) I felt God say, “It’s time, Irene.” I had been struggling with the notion my children are going to forget what God had done in our lives. I felt I needed to write their stories down. We were so much older then most parents, I feared they would be like the Israelites and forget that God had been with them always, like a cloud in the day and a bright fire at night.
This story is not a project—it’s our life. As my husband always says, we had a front row seat and have seen God in action. We have seen him rescue and heal precious little lives. Our messy story is not about us but about our God—he is the hero of our story
What are your goals and intentions of this book?
There are two goals:
Our hope is to stir and encourage the church, that caring for the widows and orphans is a mandate to the church. We live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and we have over a half-million children who need to be adopted. Its time to get out of our comfort zone and start denying ourselves and meet the “cry of the orphans”
Also we want to encourage Christians that our God is alive and he can heal any relationship. Many marriages end not because of abuse or adultery, but because of selfishness. Marriage should be forever. God can heal any marriage or relationship we just need to trust him. God is in the business of changing hearts!
How does your book create community?
Our book shares that you don’t have to be special to care for the needy; you just have to be obedient. I am pleased to share our church, Paradise Alliance in Paradise, has come alongside us and has started a ministry called F.A.M.S. (Foster, Adopt, Mentor, Support). We encourage fostering and adoptions. We meet once a month, and we are a support group for those who have taken in children and those who are going through licensing. We have a group of people who can’t adopt or foster but who can help with the needs that arise. The beauty to all of this is that the county comes to our meetings. Because we are on our turf, they hear us pray and give God the glory and they keep coming back.
Many have creative ideas but trouble following through with them. What advice would you give to creative types who start projects eagerly…but then enthusiasm drizzles off?
I don’t see our project as creative, but what I can share is when God puts a desire in your heart grab on to his hand and follow his lead. As Paul says in Philippians “We need to run the race to the finish line.” Never stop dreaming—I am sixty and on this amazing journey. Sometimes I am so overjoyed I feel like I could just float up to heaven. This is when I thank God I’m not a lightweight.
Describe the behind the scenes effort of your project? Where do the ideas come from? How many are involved in the process? Does each contributor have a specific role?
The best way for me to answer this is; God put the desire of the book in my head and put the desire for the ministry in my husband’s heart. At times, I feel like no one really looks at what my husband does behind the scenes. Yes, I penned the words to Rich In Love, but my husband watched and cared for ten children to give me the time I needed to write. At the same time he was going to the county asking them how could we as the church help them? Then he went to our church and shared we needed to start a ministry to help those who are taking in kids and support them emotionally and come alongside them and help meet their practical needs.
So the same time the book came out my husband’s vision became a reality. As always, God’s timing is perfect. Our prayer is that when people read Rich In Love they will be motivated to open their homes to the “Cry of the Orphans.”
What was the hardest part about getting it off the ground?
I didn’t want anybody to read what I wrote because I thought I would be laughed at!
I learned I needed to get out of my comfort zone! Following Jesus means being a radical. Many might point their finger at me and say “Look at that crazy lady.” Well, that’s okay, as long it for the cause of Christ. Two very important things to remember are: God will never give me a task I cant handle and he will always multiply my time so I can accomplish it..
Have there been any unexpected surprises?
My book got published!! Also, the publishing company sent us this amazing woman by the name of Lissa Halls Johnson. She taught me not to be afraid to write and taught me how to organize my thoughts and put them on paper.
What are the biggest misconceptions people have about starting your a project?
The book is not just a story. It’s our everyday life!
What are some ways you promote your project?
We own a salon, and I talk about the book and leave books out for clients to read. Word of mouth is the old way, but like it says in James, “One spark can cause a huge wild fire.”
It still works! Also, we have contacted local media. Small communities love to support their local authors.
Creating something is one skill. Marketing and promoting it is an entirely different skill set. How has it gone for you? Shocked by the amount of work marketing takes? Or pleasantly surprised?
We have been blessed with wonderful people in the publishing company who know how to market our book.
What advice would you give some one who has a created dream like yours?
Once again this was a desire God put in my husbands and my heart many years ago. I am blessed with a husband who has a passion for the fatherless. Most men are afraid to take in children. I could’ve never done this alone. Husbands need to be involved helping with the care of the orphans, not just the wives.
Where do you see your project in five years?
Our hope is in five years there will be more homes then kids in Butte County. I pray we wipe out this debt one county at a time.
What question do you wish someone would ask about your creative dream, but nobody has?
Where do I sign up? The whole purpose of this book is for people to read it and see it only takes, “Two dummies and a Bible.” My husband and I pray one day we will see signs in the churches that say, “Kids needed, MOMS and DADS ready and waiting!”
How can we find your creative dream come true?
We have a website richinlovebook.com. We will be sharing stories from F.A.M.S. and from families who are taking in the orphans. Also I have a blog of the daily battles I encounter as a mom, wife, and friend. Some are stories of the chaos we battle on a daily basis and others are the simple lessons learned day to day