NOTE: This is the fifth interview in a series entitled An ‘Entrusted’ Life. This series serves to introduce you to Christians who display faithful stewardship amid an entitlement culture (You can find our other interviews featuring authors like Jaquelle Crowe and musicians Jonathan and Emily Martin here.) We are excited to welcome Tessa Emily Hall for our fifth interview. Tessa Emily Hall is an award-winning author who writes inspirational yet authentic books to show teens they’re not alone. Her first teen devotional, COFFEE SHOP DEVOS, released with Bethany House September 2018. Tessa’s passion for shedding light on clean entertainment and media for teens led her to a career as an Associate Agent for Cyle Young at Hartline Literary Agency, YA Acquisitions Editor for Illuminate YA (LPC Imprint), and Founder/Editor of PursueMagazine.net.
Tessa, the Lord has clearly gifted you with talent as a writer. When did the Lord begin to stir in your heart this desire to share your writing with others?
Tessa: I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until I reached middle school that I felt God calling me to be a writer for Him. I remember when He first put it on my heart to write Christian stories for teens. At the time, I’d never heard of the term “Christian fiction”—I simply wanted to write in a way that points others to Christ. I knew I wanted to eventually write non-fiction Christian for teens as well (including devotions). In fact, when I was eleven years old, my friend and I launched an online teen ministry that we called Girls of Grace Group. We wrote a Christian newsletter and sent it to about 150 tweens every week. I absolutely loved receiving feedback from our readers and witnessing how God used the newsletter to strengthen their relationship with Him. Since then, I knew God was calling me into a writing ministry.
In Scripture, we learn we are not our own but belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). How does the concept of biblical stewardship impact the way you approach your writing?
Tessa: I view the gift of writing not as something to claim for myself. Sure, I believe God loves it when we find joy in receiving and using our gifts—but ultimately, they weren’t to be used to bring glory to ourselves but to our Father. I believe that writing is the tool He’s given me to further His Kingdom and build the Body of Christ. Why should I brag about the tool? When I write, I want to act as a messenger for God—relaying the message He wants His children to hear. So why should I receive praise as though the message came from myself?
I believe that each of us are responsible to fulfill our calling if we hope to expand the gospel the way Christ intended. When we use our gifts, that’s when we become faithful stewards. We become obedient to God’s calling. So, when I write, I’m simply obeying what I feel is God’s calling on my life. I approach each writing session in prayer and ask that He writes through me. Doing this helps me to start writing in the right mindset and it allows me to use the writing session as a way to worship Him.
As a faithful steward, how do you use your gift to glorify God and serve others?
Tessa: Writing is something I do for fun, but I first and foremost view it as a ministry rather than just a career. My favorite part about being an author is hearing from readers—because when I read about how the words touched them in some way, then I know the Holy Spirit is at work. Those emails only confirm that I am doing what He’s called me to do—by using words to glorify Him and serve others.
Although I’m technically an introvert, I love the opportunity this career has given me to reach teens. Even when I was a teen myself I knew that I wanted to be involved in youth ministry. I have a passion for helping teens to embrace their uniqueness, tap into their potential, and pursue God’s calling for their life. This is actually the mission behind PURSUE Magazine, which is a Christian-based magazine for teen girls that I founded a couple years ago (www.PursueMagazine.net). I also love speaking with teens at schools and youths groups—and, of course, connecting to them through social media (@TessaEmilyHall across all platforms) as well as my mailing list. =) I don’t want to be known just for writing books, but for touching lives and building relationships with those readers. This is how I feel God’s called me to serve others.
This past month you celebrated the release of your new book Coffee Shop Devos: Daily Devotional Pick-Me-Ups for Teen Girls. Why did you choose to couple the theme of the coffee shop with truth from God’s Word?
Tessa: The idea first came to me simply because I love coffee—lol! I’ve always been a huge coffee fan. When I first decided to write a devotional for teens, I knew I wanted to give the book a unique element that could set it apart from other devotionals. Of course, a coffee shop was the obvious choice. I thought it’d be cool to have a “Menu” that would allow teens to choose their preferred devo flavor based on their current need. Each need is also paired with a specific coffee drink. (For example: “Decaf – Finding Rest”.)
Once I chose the theme, I brainstormed a list of spiritual parallels to coffee and having a relationship with Christ. I had no idea I’d discover so many! This became the perfect illustration of the overall message of Coffee Shop Devos—which is to become “addicted” to our quiet times.
For example: Many of us would say that we can’t go a day without our daily caffeine intake. It prepares us for the day, gives us a jolt of energy when we’re sluggish, helps our brains have clarity, etc. In the same way, our time with Jesus can provide us with the “spiritual caffeine” we need to face the day as well (except on a far different level than coffee!). His Word is the fuel we need to keep going. He can prepare us for our day because only He knows what we’ll face. And when we begin our days in His presence, that’s when we have the clarity to view our life and circumstances through His perfect perspective.
Each devotional in the book shares Scripture and then shows how it can be applied in a teenage girl’s life. You do a good job of guiding teen girls to read and reflect on God’s Word. Why do you believe it is important for young women to know and apply the truth of God’s Word, especially during their teen years?
Tessa: Honestly, I believe a lot of Christians are forsaking the importance of fueling on God’s Word. We’ve become accustomed to a form of Christianity that’s lukewarm. I don’t want teens to grow up viewing the Bible as if it’s just an old book that Christians read during church and leave on their bookshelves the remainder of their week, allowing it to collect dust. It’s not a boring old book; in fact, it’s Life! We can’t bear the weight of this world without it. We’ll become starving and dehydrated spiritually.
If teens can make a habit of partaking in the Daily Bread daily—if they can discover that it’s more than a religious duty—then they’ll discover the “addicting” side effects. They’ll understand that it contains the answer to their heart’s every longing—peace, joy, hope, and love. They’ll witness the transformation in their lives and in their hearts. Then, hopefully, they’ll form a habit that can carry them throughout their lives.
On page 44 of Coffee Shop Devos, you have a devotional titled “Faithful Steward”. Why is understanding our role as stewards of what God has entrusted to us critical for teen girls in a culture which clings to entitlement?
Tessa: Wow! What an amazing question.
I believe that, when we view our resources as a gift from our Father, then we’ll begin to understand the value in respecting them. This entire world was His creation. The money that we earn isn’t ours to claim. However, we have been entrusted to manage our time, gifts, talents, and money the way God intended. When we do this, that’s when God can reward us for offering our resources to Him as a sacrifice.
Nothing on this earth is ours to cling to. We deserve nothing but the death that Christ died on the cross. If we can approach our resources through this perspective and with gratitude for what we do have, then God can help us use them as a way to glorify Him. Being a faithful steward is yet another way for us to demonstrate our love and devotion to Him.
In the devotion you gave reference to, I use the example of Adam in the Garden of Eden. God originally called him to oversee His creation. He expected him to be responsible. Instead, Adam’s disobedience in this area led to destruction. Just think of the “abundance” (see Matt. 25:29) that Adam could’ve enjoyed if he hadn’t become unfaithful!
If there is one thing you hope teen girls take away from their time with Coffee Shop Devos, what would it be?
Tessa: I hope they’ll come to understand the value of pursuing a relationship with Jesus Christ—not as a religious duty, but as a lifestyle. Being a devoted Christian often gets a bad rep amongst teens. Why? I believe it’s because some teens assume it’s restricting to “follow rules”; they’d rather live life their own way instead. But these teens don’t realize that, by neglecting this invitation of love, they’re walking away from true freedom. We can never find freedom apart from the cross. It’s the complete opposite.
This was one of my underlying intentions in writing this devotional—to show teens that Christ is the longing to every desire of their heart. And it’s only through pursuing an intimate relationship with Him that we can receive the fulfillment that we long for.