That 5-Word Question that Made Me Write A Book

Throughout my life I’ve had many conversations with younger women. I treasure such experiences since I am constantly growing through contact with people from every age group. Recently, among the majestic California redwoods, one such encounter became the genesis of my newest book…

“Lucinda? I’m Kelsey; may I join you for coffee?”

I looked up at the young woman and welcomed her to my little table next to a roaring fire in the retreat center’s coffee shop. “Sure.”

“Thanks. I have so appreciated your teaching all week. I mean, espe­cially about grace and stuff. This year I’ve been using one of your devotional books too and learned a lot.”

“Kelsey, thank you for taking time to tell me. Your words mean so much, more than you can imagine,” I replied with a bright smile.

“Well, actually, I do have a question . . .”

“Sure. Anything.”

Her words tumbled out, “How do you do it? Be strong and faithful. Even when life goes crazy or you’re exhausted and discouraged? How do you move beyond depression into hope? How do you keep going… for, like, years?”

“Wow. What good questions,” I replied, practically on automatic. I gulped, and there was a long period of silence as I inwardly processed her question. How do I do it? For heaven’s sake, I don’t even feel that I am doing it—living my crazy life—very well these days. Even this very min­ute I’m struggling with exhaustion, insecurity, and the fear of becoming obsolete. Lord, how do I answer this lovely young woman in a life-giving manner?

I took a deep breath. “You know, Kelsey, your question is one I ask quite frequently of God. How do I live this seemingly impossible life?”

 “And does He answer you? I mean, you seem to still be living and thriv­ing even at your age . . . Sorry, I didn’t exactly mean it that way.”

Chuckling a bit, I assured her I understood. “He always answers but not necessarily with an audible voice,” I said. “Over time in my seeking, answers just came—when I was reading a portion of Scripture or listening to biblical teaching like at our conference this week. I’ve also found guidance when people shared their life stories of overcoming obstacles. I realized that if God could help them, perhaps He could help me too. If they could be brave and steadfast, so could I!”

I looked deep into her eyes and wistfully revealed, “Honestly, I’ve learned the deepest lessons for living soul strong in the midst of defeat and brokenness. Those times God reached for me in His grace and mercy—lift­ing me up and setting me on a new path of hope and healing.”

“Okay, so what did you do?” Kelsey kept pressing for something practi­cal, “I mean, do you have a list or something I could go through?”

And I thought to myself, what a perfect question. A blueprint to fol­low. A list to check off. A reliable formula that if you do A, B, and C, then inevitably D happens. Only life isn’t like that. Keeping rules perfectly does not always result in the predicted outcomes. Life is far more fluid. Messy. Occasionally it’s gray instead of black and white.

Even as I sighed I felt a stirring of anticipation as well. “I don’t have a formula or a list right now, but I have been thinking about such things for awhile,” I told Kelsey. “I believe our journey of faith is actually ‘a long obedience in the same direction.’ It’s not just a matter of physical perseverance or even mental determination. It’s a deep commitment and an even deeper empowerment. I call it soul strong. But how that looks on a daily basis? I’d have to pray and ponder and get back to you on that, okay?”

“Sure,” she replied as she finished her coffee. “But don’t forget to email me.”

“I’m pleased to continue this conversation as long as you realize that I’m no expert on holy living. I’ve made oodles of mistakes along my own journey, and I daily stand in need of God’s grace and mercy.”

“Well, that just means you’re human like everyone else.” No question there.

We parted ways and went to our workshops. But long after I returned home the conversation remained with me—a niggling and a nudge to put into words how I do it. I told God I wasn’t qualified to write such things. Surely the keys to living soul strong should be presented from a place of great strength, not empowered weakness. Surely He has someone more visible and important to pass along wisdom. Well of course He does—many sisters. But as I prayed I knew that fact did not release me from obeying my own prompting from the Spirit.

I realized I might write more passionately if I made the search personal. Opening a brand-new journal, my pen immediately began moving across the pages. When I was finished, I had a list of seven decisions I believe every woman must make in order to stay the course for a vibrant life. And in the past year, as I’ve researched and written this book, I’ve never even edited those original couplets.

What the psalmist declared in Psalm 138:3 (ESV) has also been my per­sonal experience: “On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.” Embracing these seven decisions has made me soul strong for the story God calls me to live:

  • Live loved.
  • Be authentic.
  • Dwell deep.
  • Pray always.
  • Overcome pain.
  • Extend kindness.
  • Share stories.

May I show you what I mean about seeking to live vibrantly and soul strong? Because of that 5-word question, I wrote it all down – with lots of room for interaction – in my new book “Soul Strong – 7 Keys to a Vibrant Life.” I wrote it for YOU!

under the mercy, Lucinda

copyright 2020 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Thank You to all these Soul Strong women who shared such kind words after reading Soul Strong!

Pre-Order “SOUL STRONG” Today or Join Me at the Soul Strong Celebration & Mini-Retreat here in Connecticut on Saturday, February 8 (your $25 ticket includes lunch, worship, 2 presentations by me, and a signed copy of the brand new book.)

Check out the companion devotional book Life-Giving Choices – 60 Days to What Matters Most” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell Order Today!


  1. Maureen Miller on January 8, 2020 at 2:55 pm

    I’m so thankful you acted on that “nudge.” We are each blessed! ❤️

    • Lucinda Secrest McDowell on January 9, 2020 at 10:48 pm

      Yes, we must be obedient and get over our fears. Then God takes over…

  2. Lita Norsworthy on January 9, 2020 at 2:20 am

    Encouraging words!!! And oh how I wish I could attend your mini retreat!! But, unfortunately being on the other coast I can’t. I pray all goes well and many will encourage and refreshed because they did attend!!!

    • Lucinda Secrest McDowell on January 9, 2020 at 10:48 pm

      Lita, hoping to see you mid-way this summer! Blessings.

  3. Maggie Rowe on January 9, 2020 at 9:20 pm

    Thank you as always for sharing your experiences, your wisdom, and your God-given strength with us. Can’t wait to read Soul Strong. A promise we all need: “On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.” Need that now more than ever.

    • Lucinda Secrest McDowell on January 9, 2020 at 10:47 pm

      Dearest BFF, God hears your call for help and strength. He is there with you. And soon I will be too…

  4. Lisa Littlewood on January 10, 2020 at 3:17 am

    Love this post, Lucinda! I agree with Kelsey- your perseverance to keep writing, to keep encouraging, to keep speaking– to keep parenting your family and now your grandkids, and all of the other things you do…you are an inspiration. Looking forward to learning these soul strong bits of wisdom from your life experiences!

    • Lucinda Secrest McDowell on January 10, 2020 at 10:58 am

      Lisa, thanks for this encouragement and mostly thanks for being one of the “Kelseys” in my life…

  5. Nancy J Smith on January 10, 2020 at 1:31 pm

    Oh how I needed this today. When we’re at our weakest He is still there supporting us. A long journey of faith does not equal perfection only greater confidence and trust in His faithfulness.

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