A local teacher, speaker and photographer from Grove City has taken on a new vision - writing Christian children's books.
Cindy Starr Stewart's first two illustrated books, "The Lamp Maker" and "The Potter," which have been in paperback, will be released in hardcover by Carpenter's Son Publishing on Aug. 1.
The books look and read like children's books, "but the deep, spiritual truths resonate with all ages," she said.
The first copies of the "Lamp Maker" in paperback sold well. "People seemed to love it and bought 10 at a time. It was God's doing," Stewart said. "The new hardcover ones are even nicer and more child friendly. They have been well received locally and are getting the attention on a more national scale."
"The Lamp Maker" character - who represents Jesus - "looks just like my own dad," Stewart said. "I never saw it through the whole (writing) process until my dad was holding the very first copy. Incredible."
Copies of the books can be found at Natural Options in downtown Grove City.
Stewart's journey to being a published author began in 2009, although she is "not a writer," she said. "But the Lord had other plans."
She was teaching physics at Seneca Valley High School and began a scrapbooking business called Creative Memories; however, Stewart quit the Seneca job and was teaching physics as an adjunct professor at Slippery Rock University when her heart began stirring as she taught students the workings of lamps and light bulbs.
"The Lord was really pressing on me that he had me ... on the SRU campus to shine his light, but he also made it very clear to me that it was his plan that all people would shine with his light," she said.
From there, "The Lamp Maker" started taking shape "in my heart" and was written in 2009, "after a night of ministry at Grove City Alliance Church," Stewart noted.
She left SRU but, as the only certified physics teacher in the area, works as a substitute at Grove City High School and George Junior Republic these days. Creative Memories is now a photography business. Stewart's also actively involved at Grove City Alliance in Pine Township, and a parent of five busy children with her husband, Lance.
"I am a recovering super woman," Stewart said. "I try hard to say no, even though it kills me. I spend each day giving the Lord permission to interrupt my day and to use me however he sees fit."
"The Potter" was born out of a divine interruption in 2011, she believes.
"The Lord had been telling me for quite some time that I need to stop this madness of being a human doing and start being a human being," she said. One day, she pulled out her back and could not move without extreme spasms. "I was essentially paralyzed. I was in agony," Stewart said.
It got her attention, and "He poured out the story to me, just as he did with the 'Lamp Maker,'" she said. "I was in bed for three days, just like Jesus was in the tomb for three days. When I was able to move again, 'The Potter' was written. It is a story of surrender and trust; a story of obedience. It is my journey. It is everyone's journey."
"The Lamp Maker" was originally published by Crossbooks in paperback, before it and "The Potter" were taken over by Carpenter's Son.
A third book, "Our Father," is set to be released Jan. 1, 2014. "It's very similar to the first two books," she said, which are illustrated and written in rhyme. "It will be based the Lord's Prayer."
Stewart believes there are more books to come, "but I cannot write these on my own," she said. "I truly just listen to him and ... I write as he speaks it to my heart."
During the book-writing process, Stewart lost 70 pounds.
She was over 100 pounds overweight, with a number of health problems. After prayer from a women's Bible study group, three references about the HCG supplement came to her attention, she said. Her friend and nurse, Natural Options owner, Rhonda Brooks, sold HCG.
"In 40 days, I Iost 28 pounds," Stewart said.
A biblical number, "I felt the Lord was showing me that he could do the miraculous in our lives if we would just give him 40 days," she stated. That was 2011, and in that 40-days she birthed a blog. Stewart then went on to lose a total of 70 pounds, along with her health problems, she said.
When the Spirit hits, writing is "therapeutic," she added. She rarely proofreads her blog entries in order to keep it real.
"I feel an urgency that time is short and people need help, encouragement, and Jesus right now," Stewart said, and wonders if the early Christians felt that same "burning" inside them when writing scripture.
"It still feels wrong even putting my name on the cover. I am a mother, speaker and teacher, not a writer," she said. "It's really a supernatural God thing for me."
Her family has been her valuable team. "My kids all love the Lord and they know that God is leading us in this new direction. My husband is a gem," Stewart said.
The books and blog is emerging as an at-home, international ministry, she said. People from nearly 40 countries have read her blog and church friends asked Stewart if they could translate "The Lamp Maker" into French and take it to Africa, she added.
Next week, she'll be in St. Louis, Mo. at the International Christian Retail Show, where Stewart will do book signings and meet with magazines, radio hosts and "people of influence in the publishing world," she said.
Her books will be in the MUNCE Christmas Catalog this year. Christian Retailing, a trade magazine, "will recommend both books in their August 2013 New Release Buyer's Guide," Stewart added.
"The Lord is opening the doors. My only hope is that Jesus would be known ... and shine his light in this dark world," she said. "I am just the secretary and delivery person."
To learn more about Cindy Starr Stewart's books and blog, visit www.CindyStarrStewart.com
Published June 22, 2013, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.