Gewanda Parker’s childhood was the picture of dysfunction. Born in Sebring, Florida to a drug-addicted mother who was consumed with her own demons, Parker never experienced the security and stability that most children enjoy. Abandoned, neglected and abused, she found solace in her faith and in writing. Her journals became her safety valve, the only way she could express her pain. They would eventually provide the basis for a book that would help herself and others heal.“I’ve journaled all my life,” Parker explains. “It was my only safe place, the thing that helped me express myself openly.” She never realized her innate writing talent until her ninth grade teacher told her she had a “knack” for writing. In the face of overwhelming odds, Parker earned a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education and a Master of Divinity degree from Asbury Theological Seminary. She went on to become a middle school teacher, a featured concert singer, the founder and CEO of Hope and Healing Corporation, an organization serving the needy locally and abroad in Haitian and African orphanages and “G-Girls,” a group that helps at-risk teenage girls.
Parker’s transition to published author can be seen as a case of divine intervention. “I was teaching Bible study and was invited to do a seminar on anger, love and forgiveness,” she recalls. “Afterward, I was asked to put the information in book form.” This led to Feeding the New You, a book Parker describes as “a devotional for spiritual growth.” But Parker’s next book would prove more difficult – and emotionally challenging. It was a book that was sixteen years in the making.It Only Hurts When I Can’t Run: One Girl’s Story is an unforgettable memoir that chronicles the tumultuous years of Parker’s childhood. Parker used her journals to help her recall the details. “I wanted the book to tell my story,” she says, “but I wanted it to be a story of redemption, not anger. So I had to do the soul work and face my own demons.” The book, while cathartic, was extremely painful to write. According to Parker, “Every time I had to go back and relive an experience, I’d hit a wall. Then I’d go through extensive counseling before I could go back to writing.” She takes pride in the fact that she was able to tell the story without being incriminating. “I didn’t want to paint a bad picture of anyone,” she explains. “I tried so hard, wrote so many drafts so the reader could see the redemption of my story, with the other characters being secondary. After reading the finished story, I felt such relief. It was like exhaling. I could finally own the truth of my story without shame.”
Parker’s describes her next book, All About Grace, as “scriptural references grounded in practical living about moving from a place of condemnation to receive God’s unconditional love.” She is also working on a book titled I Am the Flower, one she hopes will help women with self-esteem issues.
Unfortunately, Parker’s plans were sidetracked by some major setbacks. After being put on total bed rest with a high-risk pregnancy, she had to put her career on hold. According to Parker, “Raising a two year-old, soul-searching, overcoming huge obstacles and deciding to change the course of my approach to life, I looked back on my life and sat back and thought, ‘This is what life is about, and I’m going to start living it now!’ It was then that I realized that taking ownership of my life and keeping my faith as my compass also meant I had the power to change it. The more I turned my thoughts to positivity and success rather than to mental and physical exhaustion and defeat, the more I discovered about what I want. I had to face the things I didn’t want to face in order to create a roadmap for myself."
Parker's roadmap was influenced by a question someone once asked her - "What if life didn’t happen to you, it happened for you?" This led her to begin to ask herself some questions. “What if I examined all of the things that had happened ‘to’ me and saw where they had led me?” she asks. “What if I realized there was a purpose for every circumstance of difficulty, struggle, pain and trauma? How would my perspective change if I realized my quality of life is directly related to my reactions? Would I stop and appreciate these moments of darkness if I realized they are necessary to guide me to the light in my life? With a change in focus, it is 100% possible to change your life.”
Parker hopes that sharing her life experiences will help others see that there is always hope for healing. “The premise of all my writing is that I have lived it, I am living it, and I have gone through the process to get to the other side,” she says. “If I can leave you with one bit of advice today, it would be to create a vision for yourself and your life. Use the opportunities that come when life throws you a curve ball to review your goals and dreams and start living them now.”
For more information, go to www.gewanda.com