Interview by Leslie of Andersons of West Hills
I had the opportunity to talk with April Cranford recently and this is a post you definitely don’t want to miss. She is the author of Match Mission with Joy and she is currently building her author platforms in order to get published.
When I spoke with April, what became clear to me is that she is someone who is deeply integrated with her faith and moreover, deeply integrating faith into her daily life.
She is a senior pastor of a church and she looks for opportunities to walk outside the church and be involved in serving others, in a mission-oriented way. April is also someone who sees a need and works to help fulfill those needs.
She thinks outside the box and is open to new opportunities and divine promptings. In her interview, you’ll see how she used those gifts to take steps of faith and action to make her book a reality.
I left our conversation feeling challenged in my own journey of writing and consulting to listen, network, and take steps that are bold in order to see amazing things happen.
Read her story and follow her and subscribe to her blog! You will be glad you did.
- Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Boone, North Carolina. I currently live in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. For me, joy is found with mountains in the background and mission in the heart. Over twenty years ago, I served on my first mission trip roofing a house during the day and sleeping in an old morgue at night.
Since that mission trip, I have served at five different churches as a youth director, seminary intern, mission director, associate pastor, and now senior pastor. Mission is a key component of my faith in all settings from the sanctuary to the neighborhood.
- Who are the most important people in your life, and why?
Reed and I will celebrate our 20th anniversary this summer! Reed makes me laugh every time he introduces himself as “the pastor’s wife.” I love this fly fisherman more today than yesterday.
We have two amazing daughters are River (15) and Haven (13). River loves to spend time with her friends. Also, she is a great cook. Her signature dish is a delicious Philly cheesesteak. Haven is the funny one in the family. She enjoys art and running with her school’s cross country team.
Last but not least is our dog, Daffy. Four years ago, our neighbor gave Daffy to our daughters. This little Shih Tzu brings an abundance of joy into our lives. In February of 2021, the vet removed her left eye because of a ruptured cornea. Although Daffy has lost one eye, she has not lost her spunk!
- What are your favorite ways to spend a day?
My absolute favorite day is when I feel like a feather flowing in the wind of God’s Spirit. These days feel like God is taking me by the hand and leading me from one life event to the next as I meet a need and share a blessing. When I am caught in the flow of God’s love, I never want these days to end.
- How would you describe yourself to people who don’t know you?
First, I love to organize everything from a closet to a mission trip. Second, I often say, “Happy Monday” since Mondays are my day off. Third, I love the number seven because in scripture it symbolizes wholeness, completion, and restoration.
Whenever I see the number seven, I feel God is near. I intentionally look for gas pump number seven at 7-11 or cashier number seven at Food Lion. I wear bracelets with seven leaves and write faith columns for the newspaper with a word count of 700. When selecting wedding dates, Reed was grateful that I chose July 7, 2001 rather than July 7, 2007.
- How did you get into writing? How long have you been doing it?
I started writing lesson plans and sermons in seminary. Once ordained in 2008, these lesson plans and sermons became part of my weekly professional writing routine.
When February 15, 2018, appeared on the calendar and both digits of my age changed to the number 40, something changed within me. I reflected on the past years and wondered what of value I had left behind for future generations, especially for my two daughters, River and Haven.
The double digits of age 40, combined with a year of unexplained chest pain, prompted me to begin recording stories. I selfishly desired that these stories be filled with seeds of love and live beyond a car ride home or a conversation around the dinner table. Stories seem more permanent and less easily forgotten when words land on a page. Therefore, I wrote and believed these stories would help shape my daughters into the women God destined them to become.
Then, I began holding intentional dialogues with individuals who make mission evident in their lives. These dialogues soon evolved into mission interviews or mission conversations with over one hundred ordinary people. I structured the mission conversations around the themes of the love stories previously written to my girls. I asked each person the same seven questions to discover mission from seven different areas of their life.
What are some challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I submitted a book proposal for Match Mission with Joy to an agent on my birthday, February 15, 2021. This date seemed appropriate since I began the writing journey three years earlier on my 40th birthday. A week later, I received a rejection letter from the agent because of a small platform. That Monday was not a “Happy Monday!”
By the weekend, I started taking simple steps toward resubmitting my proposal. I signed up for the course, “Author Platform 101” taught by Tim Grahl which offered eight hours of videos along with homework. Before watching the second video, the required homework was to personally invite 100-250 people to sign up for my email list.
Since I have confessed my odd fascination with the number seven, then you will understand why I could not stop at the number 250. Instead, I asked over 700 people to subscribe to my blog. I told 700 people about my rejected book proposal. I invited 700 people to take one small step toward God in their faith journey.
What are some amazing things that have happened along the way?
However, hundreds of people did respond. They were grateful for the personal contact and faith encouragement. I was amazed by the responses that I received, such as these:
- I still have an article that I wrote 20 years ago for Southern Living, but I never submitted it because of my fear of rejection.
- God has impeccable timing with you reaching out to me at this moment.
- I would love encouragement. I’m getting divorced again and I am really questioning God.
- For years now, I have wanted to write down financial advice for my daughters, but it has been a daunting task.
One author shared a few rejections with me from his “rejection file.” Although he received a few disappointing remarks from editors, agents, and publishers, his first book received a stellar review in The New York Times. He reminded me that rejections are part of an author’s job description.
In my writing group, an author friend suggested I frame the rejection letter. So that is exactly what I did. I framed the rejection letter and placed it in the room where I write, read, and pray. I have learned to reframe the losses, struggles, and rejections. This experience helped me to rediscover how faith, hope and love abide with the greatest of these being love.
- What are the three most important things that you want people to know about you?
I wake up in the morning to love God, family, and neighbor well before my head hits the pillow.
I post short weekly videos with written transcripts for weekend encouragement. I hope these videos motivate faith and fuel mission. (Subscribe to Holy Hills Blog)
My favorite scripture verse is Luke 1:37, For nothing is impossible with God. This verse leads me through many hills and valleys of life.
- Name one life lesson that you didn’t want to have to learn, but you are grateful you did, and why.
I learned a simple lesson twenty years ago. A gentleman at a mission site taught me the importance of table fellowship. Read more here:
- What creative project(s) are you working on that you are really excited about?
I have a mission quiz on my website that helps people discover how often they serve, where they serve, and who they serve with in mission. When a person fills out the online quiz, I review their answers and respond with a personal reflection. Also, I offer to meet with them for coffee and a mission interview either locally or via zoom on a Friday afternoon. It is exciting to continue mission conversations with new people every week. (Take the mission quiz by clicking here)
- What messages will people take away when they interact with you, and how can it help them?
I desire to help people define and weave mission into their daily life by uniting their story, their neighbor’s story, and God’s story into one narrative. I have transformed my childhood memory game into a mission match adventure.
Game cards that once contained images of red roses and lily pads now contain images of faces and needs in the world. I hope to match a person’s unique abilities with a need to help them discover joy every day.
- What are you grateful for?
I am grateful for my Dad, who revealed the miracle of how to be a grateful receiver. Since Dad was on disability and Mom worked as a cashier, our family had a low household income. My parents persevered in providing for needs within the home.
However, in reflection on those years, additional people helped meet our family’s needs. Boxes of clothes arrived in the mail. School field trips were paid by grandparents. Large repairs for the home and vehicles were covered with checks received in the mail.
I watched my father write countless thank you notes for every gift received from shirts at Christmas to jars of blackberry jam in the summer. I listened to him express appreciation on the phone to relatives. Through his humble ways and grateful heart, he chose to receive rather than reject help during difficult seasons of life. Perhaps the generosity from others towards my family is what fuels my motivation toward mission today.
April, thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions and talk with me! I look forward to seeing your book published soon. Give her a follow and subscribe to her website below!
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