Sally Blass Murray, retired music teacher and first-time children’s author, had to leave the profession she loved on her doctor’s advice.
Diagnosed at 25 with rheumatoid arthritis, there came a point when her body could no longer keep up with the demands of teaching.
“I know that I wasn’t created with this, but the Lord has allowed this for some purpose of His. I cling to that. I’m still wonderfully made and remarkably made. Regardless of what it looks like and regardless of my limitations, His works are still wondrous,” Murray said.
This theme has been central to her life and is the basis for her, “God Made Me! Who Am I?” series, of which the first book was just published. Murray wanted to show 3- to 7-year-old children through fun, playful books that whatever they face, the way they are made is wondrous and remarkable, and God has plans for them.
Meeting the emotional needs of students while also trying to teach them music was a ministry for Murray.
“Many children don’t know that they are made in the image of God; that they are created special and loved,” Murray said.
Through her years of teaching, she worked hard to celebrate the uniqueness of each individual student. Nothing thrilled her as much as finding a child’s gift and seeing them feel good about themselves. The idea is carried throughout her books.
Murray gained writing experience through meeting a need as a K–2 music teacher. She found that most musicals and plays were geared toward older students and began filling the gap by writing songs of her own.
“Lyrics from a song are nothing but a poem,” Murray explained.
Just what she needed
That preparation was just what she needed to write books for young children.
Murray never really planned to be an author. One day in 2012, she woke up with an idea for a book series about a little girl named Susie and her sheepdog named Solomon. These “Paws and Pray” stories are about pondering God’s word before acting on impulse.
When Murray’s oldest son died that same year, she wasn’t in a place emotionally to work on the series. The manuscripts sat in a drawer until the COVID-19 pandemic. Both because she had time on her hands and as a way to reach out to her grandchildren who she couldn’t see because of the restrictions, Murray went back to work on her writing.
Both the text and illustrations for the “God Made Me!” series are penned by Murray.
She decided on rhyming text as it’s very engaging for young children. However, she didn’t plan on doing the artwork. After her publisher asked for some sketches to show how she wanted it to look, Murray sent sample illustrations. She was surprised that they wanted to use what she sent.
“I’m not an artist by any stretch. The number of times that I did each picture — hundreds of times, because my hands are so bad — it took a lot of time. But you can get by with child-like drawings for that age group.”
Murray got the ultimate praise concerning her artwork from a young reviewer. When she showed the book to her grandchildren, her oldest said, “Bibby, you a good dwawer [sic].”
Publishing a book is a big feat for any new author. Murray is working with Soncoast Publishing, which she found through friends and family connections.
‘God will make a way’
“It’s hard to get a foot in the door like that. That song — ‘God will make a way where there seems to be no way’ — He’s done that for me my whole life. I’m so thankful and so grateful. He’s done that with this, too and I’m very excited,” Murray said.
Each book in the series will contain a different focus. This first one is about farm animals. Future books will include zoo animals, ocean animals, jungle animals and insects.
She also is working on a book for the music classroom about having a unique voice.
When Murray left teaching, she said it broke her heart. She felt she had no purpose.
But, she says, “regardless of where you are in life, what has happened, your limitations or whatever … as long as He leaves you breathing, He’s got work for you to do. … [I’m] just following His lead, where He opened doors and I walked through. Whatever He does with it is His business.”
“God has given me a new song, a new way to serve Him. I’m thankful for that and I’ll keep doing this until He tells me to do something else.”
Listen to a TAB Talks interview with Murray, “Teaching children through books and music,” at tabonline.org/podcasts.