For years, I've been a big fan of Catholic author and publisher Cheryl Dickow. I first discovered Cheryl through what remains one of my favorite works of Catholic fiction, her book Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage. I've watched over the years as she built a publishing business at Bezalel Books which is now home to countless and quite talented Catholic authors. Imagine my joy at Cheryl's recent news that a sequel to Elizabeth was being released!
I took the opportunity recently to catch up with Cheryl Dickow -- who now blessedly shares her writing on CatholicMom.com -- and am happy to share our conversation with you.
Q: Please reintroduce yourself and your family to our readers.
On first glance this would seem like a fairly easy question to answer but as I sit here at 4 a.m. I see all sorts of levels to it! Lol!
Mostly I am a woman seeking to know, love, and serve God in every aspect of my life. In my almost 30 year marriage, in the raising of my 3 sons, in my relationships, in my life as a teacher and then as a publisher and author—it all comes down to giving everything I have over to God and believing that even the smallest detail of my life is meant for Him and His glory.
I’m a woman who stumbles along and desires the blessings and riches that we have in Christ and always enjoys a good laugh. I love dancing with my husband and spending time with my good friends. I’m like Noah’s wife in that most of what I do is unknown to everyone but God—but I trust that it is all in service to Him and for the salvation of my soul.
Q: As a huge (perhaps the biggest!) fan of Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage, I was thrilled to learn about the publication of Miriam: Repentance and Redemption in Rome. Please describe this new novel to our readers, perhaps giving an overview of Elizabeth for those who haven't yet read it.
You, Lisa, truly have been a blessing to me in my work! You were the first person to whom I sent a copy of Elizabeth and the very first person to whom I sent a copy of Miriam. Thank you for being such a kind sister-in-Christ to me.
Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage was the beginning of a series of inspirational woman’s Christian fiction books that I felt was put upon my heart to write. It is the story of a woman whose life seems to have gotten away from her: her marriage is in a state of decay, her children are more gone than home, her career isn’t as rewarding as she had thought. Her one desire in life has always been to take a trip to Israel and so she takes it—solo. During that trip she earnestly seeks God and finds Him in a number of ways. Of the different books I’ve written, Elizabeth is very special to me. It is intensely personal and from the very depths of my heart, so when women tell me how much it touched them, how they were inspired by it and couldn’t put it down, I am grateful that God gave me the courage to put into words the story of Elizabeth.
Miriam: Repentance and Redemption in Rome was meant to be written long before I actually did. God had to bang me over the head a few times and I admit I had a lot of neat “signs” to get this book done. Two of the characters from Elizabeth are in Miriam but you don’t need to read Elizabeth to read Miriam. Ultimately, Miriam is about love: God’s love for us and our love for one another. It is about sacrifice and hope all wrapped up in a story of intrigue that takes place in and around the Vatican. I believe we are living in important times right now and that is very much reflected in this story.
Q: What inspired the series, and how has it evolved in your heart and mind since you wrote the first book.
My closest friend is Evangelical and for years I watched as she devoured Christian fiction
books. Along the way I borrowed and read some of them. Looking back, I now believe that was the seed God planted for me to one day write fiction for Catholic women.
As Catholic women we tend to turn to non-fiction books but often overlook the great value that can be found in a well-crafted fiction book. In fact, fiction has a unique way of feeding Catholic women—of renewing them. A good story pulls them in and takes them to a place deep inside where God can tend to them. I often think of Philippians 4:8 as my standard when writing Catholic fiction for women: Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Q: Could you say a few words on the blessings and challenges of being a Catholic publisher?
While the challenges have probably far outweighed the blessings, I’ve really experienced an abundance of God’s grace through it all.
I can’t help but be amazed at the tireless men and women I have met in this business whose sole desire is to serve God with their work and with their life. These are the blessings that I have experienced, to meet the most humble of God’s servants. They have changed my life.
I hope you will allow me to mention just a few to your Catholic Mom audience.
- Peggy Bowes (The Rosary Workout, Tending the Temple) has so blessed me in my life. She has been a selfless prayer warrior as I’ve had a number of health issues over the past few years. I’ve witnessed as her humble spirit continues to guide her in all aspects of her life.
- Esmeralda Kiczek (The Adoption Movement: Saving Souls) has such a heart for souls. She is a woman on a mission.
- Miriam Ezeh (The Story of Peace) was offered possible movie rights for her book but would not accept them because she wouldn’t take a chance of Hollywood removing the Blessed Mother from the book!
- Harriet Sabatini (Lessons from the Round Pen, Joseph’s Hands) and her husband Leo have given everything they have over to the Blessed Mother as they create a retreat called Marysgate in Alabama.
I recently read that “humility, compassion and honesty express the divine nature of the heart”—and for me that completely captures Peggy, Esmeralda, Miriam, and Harriet.
Q: What's next for you in your writing and in life?
Another great question! Last year my spiritual director died and yet the fruit of my time with her continues to come forth. She was so instrumental in my life that words cannot express the gratitude I have that God allowed me to know this woman and be blessed by her wisdom and guidance.
In my professional life, I continue discerning God’s call upon my time and resources as I put everything at His disposal. And I’m very much enjoying this time in my personal life. My sons are young men who continue to amaze me and I’m having a lot of fun with my husband as we go hand-in-hand into our future.
Q: Are there any additional thoughts or comments you'd like to share?
Someone once said to me, “It’s nothing personal. This is a business decision.”
I couldn’t disagree more, and as we await Christ’s second coming I would suggest to everyone reading this to keep in mind that it is all personal! Nothing else matters because it is in our relationships with one another that God gives us the opportunity to serve one another and be a source of kindness and compassion.
When we forget that it is all “personal,” we make ego-based decisions or behave based upon what is good for us. We act uncharitably and with pride. We forget that Jesus says that the first will be last and the last will be first.
So, my additional thought is this: Seek the personal ways that we can build one another up and in that way we will build up the kingdom of God.
Visit Cheryl Dickow, order the book titles mentioned above and learn more about her work at www.BezalelBooks.com
Copyright 2013 Lisa M. Hendey
About the Author
Lisa M. Hendey is the founder of CatholicMom.com, a bestselling author and an international speaker. A frequent radio and television guest, Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and communications. Visit Lisa at LisaHendey.com or on social media @LisaHendey for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish, school or organization. Visit Lisa's author page on Amazon.com.