Whole Spotlight: Erin Weidemann (Bible Belles)
We are excited to share with you this month’s Whole Spotlight, Erin Weidemann. She has overcome significant difficulties with such a grace and bravery that only comes from a strong and submitted heart to the Lord. Not only an author of an incredible children’s book series called, Bible Belles, but this fun loving lady also has recently launched a podcast (Heros For Her) focused on strong, encouraging, Godly female role models. Sit back and be encouraged by her story.
WM: Can you tell us a little bit about your upbringing?
EW: I grew up in Orange, California (about an hour north of where we live now in North County San Diego). My parents, sister, and I all attended the same grade school. I always loved school and I was a good student. I spent a lot of my time trying different sports with my family until I fell in love with softball.
WM: Will you share a little of your testimony and how you come to know Jesus Christ?
EW: Growing up, I was attending a Christian school and going to church on Sundays, but God wasn't a part of my life outside of that building. We never prayed or talked about God at home, so when I got into high school and college, I decided I'd go in a completely different direction. I spent the next several years just sort of doing what I wanted to do which was not aligned with God's plan for my life. At 26, I was diagnosed with metastatic thyroid cancer, very extensive, and I began treatment in early 2007. There was a moment when I was quarantined during radiation that I fell to my knees and asked God for help. That was the moment that things took a turn and I started to slowly make my way back to Him. I didn't want to spend my life wasting the gifts and talents that God gave me, so I went back to school to become a teacher. During that time, I met my husband, and he was instrumental in the softening of my heart so that I could realize that God loved me and that He had a very special plan in mind for my life.
WM: Would you tell us about your ministry, Bible Belles and how it came about?
EW: Bible Belles, in its earliest form, was an idea that we had coming home from church one day. We were talking about what to buy our niece Hannah for her birthday. She was five at the time. I had been coaching and teaching for a while by then, and I found myself thinking daily about the struggles that I saw girls facing - insecurity, self-doubt, comparing themselves to other girls, a lack of real confidence about who they are etc. The more we thought about her gift, the more we wanted it to mean something.
So we made her a book: a simplified version of the story of Hannah from the Bible. We wanted to show her that she shares her name with a great woman who fought one of life's toughest battles (bullying) on her knees in prayer. When we gave Hannah the book, we were surprised that she didn't already know the story and she really couldn't name any women in the Bible. She and her sister could name all of the Disney Princesses though. We thought that if our nieces and other girls are this excited about princesses, why not the women of the Bible?
WM: The Bible Belle books are beautiful. Did you know you had a talent for writing children’s books?
EW: Ever since I was little, I loved to write. I always thought it would be really neat to be a writer, and I at least let that passion guide my choices for college courses of study. I double majored in Journalism and Spanish because I truly loved both of those subjects, but when I graduated my first adult job was with a mortgage company. Ha! Could I have steered myself farther away from my actual gifts and talents? Maybe not.
Growing up, I loved writing stories. I saved a few of them. There was a great one about what happens to the socks that you lose when your mom does the laundry. I also wrote and illustrated a book in grade school about a turtle named Timmy who goes on an adventure after he chases an ice cream truck to a weird part of town. My mom always encouraged me to write when I was young, and I can remember feeling happy when she'd tell me, "I love these stories. They're really good."
WM: What was the most challenging part(s) about creating these books & how did you push past those challenges?
EW: The biggest challenge was letting go and letting God take this project where He wants it to go. Faith is a muscle, and it’s taken me a long time to get it working again after atrophy. As we worked to launch the first book and then finish the rest of the series, I’ve spent a lot of time praying through each decision and asking God for help.
WM: How did you come to choose those particular woman used in your series of books from the Bible?
EW: When we decided to dedicate our lives to bringing these stories to the world, we searched the Word for verses that contained the word bell. We always felt there was a connection between belle (beauty) and the ringing of a bell. I think it was more about the ugly noise that the world makes. We found and loved Exodus 28:35 which talks about the bells Moses' brother Aaron would wear when he would go out to share God's teachings with the people. I like Aaron in the Bible (maybe because my name's Erin) because he was known for his ability to speak: to move and stir an audience with the power of his voice. Moses did not have that gift; he needed his brother's gift to lead the people out of Egypt. The verse says that when Aaron addresses the people, “the sound of the bells will be heard" - he wore bells to protect him.”
I liked that verse because it made me think about noise. The noise of this world is loud, deafening at times, and what the world tells our girls they need to be in order to beautiful is wrong. It's wrong, and it's loud, and a lot of the time it's all they can hear. I had been researching so many women in the Bible and praying hard about which ones to include in the series. I had settled on five in no particular order: Hannah, Abigail (these are our two nieces - also two amazing women!), Esther, Ruth, and Deborah.
I'm in the shower one day thinking about these women and why they were on my heart. Why do women do some of their best thinking in the shower? Anyway, I remember writing their initials on the shower door and, as I arranged them, something caught my eye. Hannah. Esther. Abigail. Ruth. Deborah. Their initials spell out the word "heard"...It was a complete "aha" moment because it brought me straight back to our vision verse, only with new significance:
"The sound of the belles will be H.E.A.R.D..."
WM: What do you hope young girls will get from your Bible Belles series of books?
EW: I hope that girls connect with these heroes and then discover the heroes that God made them to be.
WM: You just launched your podcast, Heroes for Her (congrats!). Would you tell us about this podcast and how it came to be?
EW: The podcast came out of our desire to shine the spotlight on women who are positive female role models for today's girls. As a mom, I'm looking out into the world saying, "Okay, I know there are women out there who are hard at work pursuing their calling and leading from their values, but where are they?" We wanted to create a place where people could tune in and hear about the work that these women are doing, how they ended up where they are, and be inspired.
WM: How do you choose who you have on your podcast?
EW: In a crazy and noisy world, we're all about having a conversation about how to get the next generation of girls making a different kind of noise. The focus for the podcast really came out of the primary goal of our Bible Belles series. We want to highlight the women who can show girls how prayer, patience, bravery, loyalty, and leadership can ultimately guide each of them toward their own unique purpose. By learning about these women, parents can be armed with the heroes of today's world, an army of women who can show the younger generation there is hope and that they are loved without measure...always.
WM: What have you learned so far from all of these interviews and inspiring women on your podcast?
EW: I've learned that I can empower myself as a parent by getting out there and finding these women. I was really intimidated when I found out my husband and I were having a girl a girl for two reasons: 1) there are a lot of negative female role models out there who are celebrated by the media and within society and 2) as a young girl, I fell victim to that constant measurement of myself against other girls and was consumed by self-doubt, insecurity, and a willful hardening of my own heart as I tried to be "cool" and "beautiful." By doing these interviews and hearing from all of these amazing women, I personally feel a lot more capable to guide my own daughter, to have the tough conversations, to support her, to love her.
WM: You have withstood many incredibly difficult things in your life including being a five time cancer survivor! What was that like?
EW: Horrible and fantastic and then so many things after that. My time as an athlete prepared me a lot for the physical and mental challenges associated with cancer (surgery, treatment, rehabilitation etc.). The first diagnosis absolutely destroyed me, but I consider that time in my life to be my most cherished blessing. It was the jolt I needed to align me with the right path and purpose.
WM: What was one of your toughest seasons and how where you able to rise from it?
EW: Toughest season: that first diagnosis in April 2007. I spent a lot of time thinking the normal thoughts ("How could this be happening to me?" and "My life is over.) I honestly thought it was, and I was so disappointed. In June of 2007 though, I was quarantined for a radiation treatment. In that room, everything changed. I was so completely broken and I finally, after years of running, asked God for help. After that, I felt a boldness to change my course and to embrace what was there all along.
WM: What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with a similar or just a tough season(s) currently?
EW: Ask for help. I was always the girl who never wanted help. I wanted to do things by myself. That just does not work, so ask for help in two ways. Ask the people you know, the people who love you, for support. Let them sit with you. Tell them what you need to tell them. Let them be in the room with you. Just allow that to happen. The other "ask" is for someone you probably don't know. Seek out someone who has gone through what you are going through. Reach out to them. Ask the questions you need to ask. Let them share their story with you. I can't tell you how encouraged I was when a friend put me in touch with a woman she knew from church who had the same cancer as I did. She told me all about how she was able to have children despite being diagnosed before, during, and after each of her pregnancies. At the time I had completely written off having a baby of my own, but it gave me so much hope that maybe it could happen.
WM: What is the Bible verse you go to when you are going through hard times?
EW: Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
WM: What inspires you the most & gets you up & excited each morning?
EW: My family and kids!
Now for some fun questions!
WM: Who is your favorite Bible Belle?
EW: Deborah: The Belle Of Leadership
WM: If a movie was made about your life what would be the title?
EW: I'm Not As Smart As I Thought I Was
WM: Current obsession?
WM: What is one thing on your bucket list you still really want to check off?
EW: Going with my husband to Spain
WM: What did you want to be when you grew up?
EW: A writer.
WM: What is a guilty pleasure of yours?
EW: Candy. It doesn't matter what kind.
WM: Morning person or night owl?
WM: First thing you notice about someone when you meet them?
EW: Their eyes.
To find out more about Erin, Bible Belles and Heros for Her:
Heros For Her Podcast: http://biblebelles.libsyn.com/