Today I’m pleased to offer a non-fiction book giveaway of Fran Caffey Sandin’s book, Touching the Clouds: True Stories to Strengthen Your Faith, along with an author interview with Fran. Fran’s book will encourage your heart, and I recommend it as a true “faithlifter.”
Fran, your book has a very hopeful and positive title: Touching the Clouds. How does that title communicate your message?
In the Bible, clouds are always connected with the presence of God, but in our lives there are many times when dark circumstances overwhelm us like heavy black clouds. If we look at these apart from God, they seem like accidents or just bad events. But when we see them through the Spirit of God, they become our teachers to strengthen us and help us walk by faith. Basically I wrote this book to help women lift their eyes above their circumstances and to see God at work in their everyday lives, thus increasing their faith.
You’ve authored other books. Why was it so important to write “Touching the Clouds”?
I wanted to showcase the principle found in Scripture, 2 Corinthians 1:3-5: God comforts us in our afflictions so that we can share with others the same comfort that He’s given us. As I thought about my own life experiences—the death of my son, Jeffrey, and the suicide death of my father–and how God has comforted me, I realized that He’s given me a great advantage in experiencing that comfort, and I wanted to share it with others. And then as I observed other women who had overcome various calamities, it just enlarged my vision. Many women today are really hurting and need a word of encouragement. So that’s why I felt very passionate about this book.
How did you compile the stories featured?
Actually two of the stories are my own, and fifteen others are from women that I interviewed. As I heard their stories, I identified an aspect of faith they demonstrated. I wanted to write the story in a lively way so I wrote it in first person. Then each participant reviewed her story to verify that everything I had written was true and exactly right. I wanted it to be easily read and understood.
The “Faithlifters” are a wonderful addition to the stories. Can you tell us more about them and how they relate to the book?
The “Faithlifters” have three sections at the close of each chapter. The first section is called “In Her Shoes,” where I tie in to the story and help the reader identify with that person’s experience. “In His Word”: Here, I’ve studied and selected scriptures that relate to the aspect of faith being examined. “In Your Life”: This includes practical applications that the reader can use in her own life to help make that aspect of faith relevant to her. For example, after Sherry Latimer’s account of having a stillborn child, I listed some ways that one can befriend a grieving mother, especially on Mother’s Day.
You list topics for each chapter such as courage, compassion, and forgiveness. What are some of the other aspects, or topics, and how are these important to increasing our faith?
There are a number of others: prayer, compassion, hope, grace, obedience, trust, steadfastness, joy, truth, and belief. These are foundations. We build upon a foundation. Faith is more than intellectual assent, it is also putting into practice what we believe. The book of James enlarges the concept of not just saying the words that we believe, but actually doing something to show it. That makes our faith alive and real, and if we don’t show our faith by what we do, then our faith is dead and useless. But when we obey God in a certain matter then God blesses us and we want to obey him again. So I think we can grow in different aspects and learn, because as we study God’s word and it becomes real to us, then it shows that we are growing in our faith. And it’s a lifelong process. It’s not something we acquire overnight. I’m a grandmother, but I’m still growing in faith. Our goal is to become more Christ-like, and while on earth we are all “works in progress.”
Do you feel that many women struggle with their own faith and maybe their lack of it?
Yes, I think that many times people don’t realize that faith grows as we obey God. And sometimes they’ll look at someone else and say, “Oh, I wish I had that kind of faith.” But actually when you’re applying faith, it is the consequence of the habits that you put into your life such as spending time with God, prayer, studying God’s word, being with other believers—giving and receiving encouragement. Then when you’re bombarded with a dark situation, you can draw upon the faith that you’ve been building into your life up to that point. I think everyone has areas of struggle they are dealing with, but we can understand that God’s grace is sufficient for whatever circumstance is coming into our life. Like a kaleidoscope for every particular difficulty that we have, God has a color of grace that will address the problem.
What would you say to those who do not know God, ones who actually reject Him because they want proof; those who want to know answers to “Why,” who don’t want to hear “You’ve got to have faith.”
I guess you can’t really skirt around the truth. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me.” A lot of people are searching in all different places and they want to have love, joy and peace. They want to experience the fruit of the Spirit in their life without tapping into the source of that which is Jesus Christ. I think Julie’s story shows that. She searched for ten years. She tried many different ways to have peace with God, but nothing worked. Many people are trying all kinds of Eastern religions, meditations, and gurus of all sorts. But truth is real and it will ring true in the human spirit if a person is truly searching. God said in his Word, “You will find me if you search for me with all your heart.”
Why do you think women learn when reading stories about other women?
Women are very relational, and we like to hear stories. If we hear a testimony of what has happened in someone else’s life, then it’s easy for us to think, “That could happen in my life too. God could work in my life.” It’s like when we have a great recipe we want to share it with our friends. If we find a store that sells wonderful clothes at a favorable price, we tell others.
As we read stories, we really connect emotionally and in a heartfelt way, because we’re curious about what happens in other people’s lives. We see women at the grocery store, at church, at different places and we may wonder about them. We may assume they “have it all together,” they have no problems, that everything is going well for them, and that we’re the only ones with troubles. But from a book like “Touching the Clouds,” we learn that even the lady sitting beside us at church may be experiencing something hard. When we reach out and become vulnerable about what’s happening in our own lives, then other people can come alongside and help us and share the comfort that God has given them.
How have others helped you in your own faith journey?
My mother and my late grandmother both are wonderful examples of steadfast Christian women because their faith in God did not waver when bad things happened in their lives. And there have been many other women who have mentored and showed me what it really means to trust God. I’ve been a church organist for many years and I have heard so many sermons. I have no excuse for going out on a limb and having lack of faith. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,” and I am so thankful that I have had the opportunity to hear the Word of God and to participate in it for such a long time. I think when God gives us these opportunities then we are to share them with others. Others have helped me and now I want to reach out and help other people.
What is the most important message you would like readers to take from “Touching the Clouds”?
The Bible tells us in our current world, we will all experience tribulation. But Jesus said to be of good cheer, because He has overcome the world. We have to look at our circumstances as opportunies to grow in faith, because God can take any devastating event in our lives and somehow use it for good. And we are just passing through this life; this is not our final home. We can be excited about the fact that when we are believers in Jesus Christ, and we belong to Him we will be with Him for eternity.
Are you working on any other books?
Our son, Steve, a physical therapist, passed away in 2012 after suffering fourteen years with two life-threatening diseases, cystic fibrosis and kidney failure. His example of a spirit-filled life was so compelling that I want to write about the impact of his amazing character while dealing with chronic illnesses. A book that offers hope to the suffering is my next challenging project.
Note: Touching the Clouds was first published several years ago, but is now available in a new cover and in e-book format. The message is still vital and helpful, especially today.
For more information about Fran and her books, check out her website.
Note: The drawing has ended.