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The Promise of Hope

Why Guideposts Editor-in-Chief is telling his own inspirational story in his new book.

Edward Grinnan

You may have heard that I’ve written a book called The Promise of Hope: How True Stories of Hope and Inspiration Saved My Life and How They Can Transform Yours.

It’s available to Guideposts readers starting this month and will be on sale in bookstores May 1. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to say that. Like most books, this one was a long time in the making. And it didn’t end up being the book I started out to write. But I’m not the same person I was when I started the book either.

A little background: We’d been talking about me doing a book for the Guideposts audience for some time, one where I shared what I had learned from my experiences editing and writing Guideposts stories, how people grew in the face of challenges and adversity and discovered or deepened their faith. I would take some of my favorite stories and retell them, trying to uncover universal truths about personal change, a topic I know you readers care about. In fact, every Guideposts story is about change. It’s the first thing we editors ask ourselves when evaluating a manuscript: How does the narrator change?

Plus, I was going to include some people and stories that had never been in the magazine, just to keep it fresh. Little did I know that my own story would be one of them.

Not that I had any desire to tell my story. Virtually no one at Guideposts knew it, and certainly I’d never dreamed of going public with it, except perhaps for the occasional guarded reference in one of my devotionals for Daily Guideposts. That part of my life was behind me. Buried. Silent. Forgotten.

Yet there are things we never bury or forget, no matter how hard we try, and there are always people who want to help us see the truth about ourselves. In my case that would be Julee, my wife.

We were up at our little getaway cabin in the Berkshire Hills on a raw, blustery late afternoon in early spring, the sylvan light throwing long shadows across the yard. It was hard to tell if the distant howling came from the wind raking the budding trees or from a pack of starving coyotes on the hill behind our place, up beyond the Appalachian Trail that borders the property.

The air still held the insinuation of winter, as if it might not be done with us yet. Early spring is tough on the coyotes and bears, and we had our young golden retriever, Millie, who was not even two yet. I’d have to keep an eye on her.

I brought in some wood for the stove. Julee was looking curiously at a sheaf of papers with a lot of small type strewn across the dining room table. It was a book contract I was about to sign.

“Millie in?” she asked.

“Yep.”

“You can’t leave her out with that bear around.”

“I never do.”

“A bear would make short work of her. You saw what it did to our trash bins—crushed them like soda cans. Those coyotes too. They’re not as big as she is, but they hunt in packs and they’re hungry.”

“She’s in.”

I dumped the wood in the holder and hung up my coat. Millie wagged her tail in expectation of a treat, a request I’m trained to obey. Julee was looking at the papers again.

“So,” she said, “what’s this book about?”

“It’s about the power of personal change, discovering faith, spiritual growth and what I’ve learned about people and their stories in my time at Guideposts. A little like a self-help book but more like a not-by-yourself help book. But mostly it’s about the stories. The stuff people go through is amazing. Look at some of the stuff we’ve been through, Jules.”

She was silent and all at once I sensed she was hoping I’d actually heard what I’d said. Finally she said, “You’re going to tell your own story, aren’t you, Edward?”

“I thought I might touch on it,” I replied noncommittally.

Julee tended to the fire in the woodstove a little more vigorously than was strictly necessary. “Touch on it?” she asked. “How do you just touch on a story like yours?”

I didn’t have an answer.

“Look, Edward, you’ve helped all kinds of people tell their personal stories for Guideposts. But nobody knows yours, not in all these years. Maybe it’s time to try your own medicine. Your story will help people. That’s what Guideposts stories are supposed to do. And you have a Guideposts story. Big time.”

This was the perfect opportunity to take Millie for a walk, I decided. I grabbed her leash and headed back outside to mull the question over. My heart was racing.

I flopped down in an old log chair, leaned back and looked up through the denuded branches at the graying sky, where streaks of sunset were already appearing. Millie settled at my feet.

Julee was right. For years I’d been getting people to tell their stories, helping them to discover the spiritual and emotional truths of their experiences and bare their souls to millions of readers. These stories had transformed me from the person I was when I first stumbled into the Guideposts offices, knowing nothing about the organization but desperately needing a job…needing a life, really. Needing something. These stories—your stories—changed my life; they saved it, in fact.

Our stories are the road maps of our lives. They reveal and define us. People have been telling stories since they could carve on cave walls, and probably earlier. So why was I so afraid of telling mine?

You never bury yourself completely. You never silence the past altogether. Your story is always a part of you. It had been years since I’d thought deeply about the past, about my family, and how at one time I had been such a hopeless case, basically homeless, utterly lost, practically dead. I was absolutely the last person in the world anyone would have predicted might become the editor-in-chief of the country’s most beloved inspirational magazine.

Then came that day when I wandered into Guideposts and for reasons I still don’t totally understand was offered a job and just as amazingly accepted.

I heard Millie whine demurely, a pitiful sound coming from a 90-pound dog. But she was hungry for dinner. That was her story.

Back inside Julee had stoked a fire that would have made Hephaestus proud, and the cabin was quite warm.

“I see you’re literally turning up the heat on me, Jules.”

She thrust a pen toward me. “If you are going to sign that agreement, sign it to write an honest book, because I don’t think I want to spend a year never seeing you while you put together something about other people’s stories and what lessons you learned from them. They’re great stories, Edward, with powerful lessons. Just put yours in there too. All of it. It will help people, I promise. Don’t you know that your story is why I married you?”

Writing autobiographically is a little like performing surgery on yourself without anesthesia, and I discovered that honesty is the true north of my spiritual compass. Yes, I yielded to Julee (gratefully, as it turns out) and wove my own personal story through the other stories I tell, trying to connect them all into a larger narrative mosaic.

I was able to distill from these stories nine basic elements of faith-filled personal growth: Honesty, Willingness, Imagination, Commitment, Faith, Forgiveness, Acceptance, Resilience, Love. These nine themes constitute the chapters of the book and help you apply the lessons of the stories to your own life. Or you can just sit back and be inspired! Colleagues have said it’s a pretty good read no matter how you approach it.

The first time I heard the name Guideposts I thought it might be a travel magazine, and if you substitute the word journey for travel you wouldn’t be wrong. Writing this book was a journey, one where I was able to see my life today as part of a larger story.

I saw a journey that started in hopelessness and ended in faith. I saw my family and the love that held my parents together after the tragedy of my brother’s death. I saw myself wander far off the lighted path and into the deepest darkness, only to emerge into a greater and more sublime light.

And I saw at last the reason I wandered into Guideposts that day—the promise of hope that I was to find in your stories.

Download your FREE ebook, True Inspirational Stories: 9 Real Life Stories of Hope & Faith

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