We are so excited to introduce you to Chelsea Smith- she is a dear friend of Lo’s and the incredible woman behind the above children’s book, I Will Follow Jesus. Her husband, Judah Smith, is also an author + wrote Jesus Is_ as well as Life Is_. They are both must-reads! Below you will find 10 questions + answers with Chelsea as she opens up about how her and her husband met, the inspiration behind the children’s book, and so much more. Enjoy!
1. For readers that might not know you + Judah, tell us a little about you two as individuals and as a couple!
In case you don’t know, he’s the greatest man in the whole wide world-my husband. My husband and I have been happily married for 16 years. Crazy story about us, we actually met when we were in the nursery at church actually maybe even before that. Our moms were friends when they were pregnant with us and joked that we should have a boy and a girl and get them married. So we joke that we have an arranged marriage. He is my best friend and I’m so grateful that I get to do this crazy thing called life with him.
2. What inspired you guys to write a children’s book?
That’s easy. We have three kids, our oldest is 11, our middle son is 9, and our baby girl is just about to be 7. I have to say our greatest goal in life is to see each one of our three children follow Jesus in their own personal unique way. And so as this opportunity came up for us, it was so easy to say yes because we have very selfish motives for this which are first and foremost that our kids would read it and that they would be blessed by it. And as pastors, that is also our genuine hope for all the children who interact with this book that they might encounter Jesus and be blessed by this book.
3. We love that this book encourages little ones to follow the Lord starting at a young age. When + how did your relationship with the Lord begin?
I was very blessed to grow up in a home with a mom and dad who loved Jesus with their whole hearts. And they not only took me to church but they modeled what it looked like to follow Jesus day in and day out. My dad owned a business and I saw that he included God in every area of his life, not just his church life. And so their faith made it easier for me to also love Jesus and follow him from a young age.
4. What is the #1 thing that you hope children will take away from the book?
You know I think one of the greatest ways to follow Jesus is to first and foremost realize how much he loves us. In fact, the Bible says we love him because he first loved us. It can be so easy to make following Jesus about what we are supposed to do and how we are to obey or follow. While all of that is important, I believe that the fuel for all of that is realizing and recognizing how much Jesus loves us. And so if children can walk away from reading this book and seeing the pictures and encountering the stories and really believe that little song we grew up singing “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so” then we will have thought that this is a great success.
5. We imagine this book being a bedtime ritual for parents + kids- what do you hope parents will take away from this book?
Probably as crazy as it sounds, I hope parents have the same realization that kids do over and over and over. I think sometimes it’s easier for children to believe that simple truth we grew up saying “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” As parents I know we get caught up in maybe Jesus loves me less today because I wasn’t the best mom. Maybe I feed my kids too much fast food or was harsh with them or short with them. And some how we think Jesus loves us less because of our behaviors or actions. But what’s true of our children is true of us. Jesus loves me because the Bible says He loves me. And I know it because he died for me and he sacrificed his life for me. So I hope all of us as parents – as we read this book to and with our children – we too will be reminded over and over of the love of Jesus.
6. We want to know- what is it like writing a book with your husband!? Did you always see eye to eye during the process?
Laughter 🙂 Great question. Judah and I have been working together for all 16 years of our marriage. The first couple of years we worked together I was an employee in the department that he was leading. We had gotten into a few disagreements and we still do but through all of that we have learned really well to work together and resolve conflict. I have to say that there weren’t any issues writing this book together. It was so fun to write it together and think about our children while we did it and it was quite a lovely process.
7. The illustrations are so great- what is the process determining how the art and story will work together?
Oh my word aren’t’ the illustrations beautiful? I was so happy as they came out. So the process is really an unfolding one. The artist, who is such a talented illustrator who we have not had the privilege of meeting yet, would send us sketches and she would layer it with more colors, more people and personalities and the more developed, the more we loved them. The publisher of the book, Thomas Nelson, had a relationship with her and they said they had been keeping her for a special project and thought we were the right fit. We were so glad they they let us partner with her on this project!
8. Was it challenging to simplify the message of the gospel for children or did it come naturally?
Oh my word it was so hard. It’s amazing how easy it is to make things complicated and how hard is it to make things simple. I think this applies to all details and areas of our life. In taking the simple gospel message of Jesus and keeping it simple in a way that children will understand was actually pretty difficult. One of the challenges we came across was we really wanted to tell the story of the woman caught in adultery. And Jesus, although all the people around her wanted to stone her and punish her, showed her love and mercy and forgiveness. It’s such a beautiful picture of Jesus that we really wanted to include that but the concept of adultery for children isn’t quite appropriate or understandable. Things like that were a little tricky but we had fun trying to figure it out.
9. What are your favorite Christian Books?
Well obviously since it’s for Lo’s magazine, I have to say her book that she wrote as she described her accident and everything she went through. Particularly as I was reading her book I was so moved by her parents perspective that I was in tears as her Dad was driving to the hospital not knowing what was happening with Lo. That’s definitely got to be up there for me. Does the Bible count? It should count. I think it’s an awesome Christian book.
10. A few favorite Bible verses?
Ok my all time favorite Bible verse is Romans 8:28 in Paul’s writing, “For I know, some translations say For I am convinced, that all things work together for good to those who love God and to those who are called to his purpose.” One of the reasons that its my favorite is it was one of the first times in my life I really had a scripture and I felt like God speak that to my heart and I held onto through seasons of my life. As I wrote before, Judah and I grew up together and actually in junior high kind of liked each other and had a little crush on each other. When I was in eighth grade his family moved from Portland, where we grew up, to Seattle to start a church. We kind of liked each other but he was also my really good friend. And when he moved I was a little sad and I wasn’t quite angry at God but I was asking God how could you send the Smith family to Seattle to start a church but it’s making my heart not happy? How can it be good for some people but not good for me? And I felt God speak to my heart and say my word says that all things work together for good and I’m going to work this out for your good. I had no idea that would entail marrying Judah, moving to Seattle and leading the church that his parents started. So for me that’s always a reminder that God’s word is God’s word. And even when I don’t understand it or it doesn’t make sense to us, God’s word always will stay and remain true. That is why I really believe it is so important this bible and getting God’s word into children even at a young age it resonates with them. It’s so important because it is the anchor that holds our souls and the values that shape the lives of children. We hope that this happens as kids read this book. Thank you so much lolo magazine for letting me have this conversation with you. It was so much fun!