We moved to Illinois when our children were small, and I started at a little junior college after they were all in school. It was there that I discovered a love of learning that I had never experienced before -- so much that I made straight A's at the junior college (except for PE, which was mandatory at the time and counted in the student's grade-point average. The result: I earned an associate degree from the junior college with a grade-point average of 3.99999.) I also learned during that time that I could write well, and on deadline, and so I quickly changed my major from library science to journalism.
My husband got transferred to Austin the semester after I began attending a senior college 90 miles one way from where we were living. However, as part of a special Board of Governors degree program that let me take classes in Texas and transfer the hours to Illinois, I was able to continue my education. I was in my early 50s when I finally got my bachelor's degree from Eastern Illinois University (and I hadn't set foot in the state of Illinois for 17 years!)
Off to Work
While I was still in Illinois, I had begun writing columns for a small, county-seat newspaper. Later I went to work full-time there, and covered everything from the schools to local government and from prisons to human-interest stories. Even though I didn't really know very much about sports, I covered sports, and I took and developed my own pictures. I even won a couple of state photography awards.
In 1978 we moved back to Texas, where I worked as a reporter at several community newspapers, including the Round Rock Leader, where I became the lifestyle editor. It was there that I covered the biggest story of my career: An elderly Round Rock husband and wife were on a hijacked plane; because of their advanced age, they had been released, but most of the passengers were still being held captive. I knew the couple well, and I was the only reporter they would talk to, since they knew me and they trusted me that I would not endanger the passengers still on the airplane. That story took up almost the whole front page, which is now on a bronze plaque that was awarded to the Leader for being the best newspaper in the state that year in the small-newspaper category.
In 1986 I became the first editor of the Lake Travis View. At first I was the only full-time editorial employee -- which meant I covered education, city and county government, and all sports, not to mention writing feature stories, editorials, and a personal column. I also solicited and edited the work of local stringers, sometimes having to type up their hand-written and often nearly illegible copy, and I designed the pages and supervised the printing of the paper. I had my hands in all editorial aspects of the newspaper, and I loved it, and the View won best small newspaper in the state in our size category the first year it was eligible. I stayed with the paper until it was sold three years later.
More careers followed. I taught high school journalism part-time for a couple of years while earning a teaching certificate. I am certified to teach journalism, English, Social Studies, and speech. However, through much of that time, I also was working part-time as a proofreader and fact checker at Hoover’s. I went full-time at Hoover's in 1986, soon moving into a writing position; then serving as an editorial trainer, doing some recruiting and interviewing for Human Resources. Ultimately I became part of a newly formed Quality Assurance team, and served in that capacity until the position was eliminated in 2011.
Answering the Call
I had felt God’s nudging me toward the ministry for more than 15 years, but I resisted because I was never sure that I was being called by God. I thought it was more my desire than God’s. (I felt it was the single vocation that used all my talents, interests, and skills. It is only in recent years that I came to realize that God had given me those talents, interests, and skills and that He wanted me to use them for Him.) Also, I think I was expecting the call to look like my father’s -– a “burning bush” or “Road to Damascus” experience -- and it was not like that. For me, it was God’s “nudging” and realizing that the experiences of my life had brought me to a point where I truly have something to share with others – not just the Gospel, but those experiences and what I’ve learned through them about how to live out the Gospel.
These days I combine my two great vocational loves, serving as pastor of a United Methodist Church in Austin (on a half-time basis) and as a freelance editor. I do a lot of different kinds of editing, including proofreading and copyediting; however, my "niche" is working with Christian fiction and non-fiction authors. See more information on that aspect of my life at www.AustinWordsmith.com.
The more complete version
I am a native Texan and was a "preacher's kid" and a child bride -- or at least a teenage one: A few days after my 17th birthday and just a few days before Christmas, I married a man eight years older than me. We had three children (my first son was born when I was 19, followed by another son about two years later and a daughter two years after that). They are now all grown, and I have 10 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.