Writing has always been a fond pastime for Cathy Burns Horstman, but it wasn’t until recently she knew it would be a way to give life to her faith.
She grew up in a family that cherished three things –faith, family, and education.
Horstman has been a member of St. Paul Parish in Weirton since she was six years old. Her father Bob Burns worked for Hancock County Schools and her mother Bette Davis Burns taught preschool and eventually became the principal at St. Paul School. For her and her seven siblings, they understood to be successful in life was to embrace being a lifelong learner and keep balanced by leaning on the greatest teacher – Jesus Christ.
She and her husband Jim have raised their three sons, Jacob, Justin, and Jonathan, with the same mindset.
Two years ago, Horstman remembers sitting alone and praying. It was at this moment when she felt moved to go out of her comfort zone to help others. As a registered nurse in Pittsburgh, she made a career of helping others, but this feeling was pressing her to do more than that.
“I clearly recall reflecting and asking God if I should be doing more and what would that be,” she said. “Then the thoughts came to me that God gives everyone gifts and talents, some are blessed with a voice that when they sing everyone claps for them, and some have a voice through their writing. I rose my head and my eyes went right to the spot where I kept my folder of all my writings.”
She brought the folder out and went through it.
“I’ve been writing as long as I can remember,” she said. “I would write poems and short stories for people to lift their spirits or inspire them when life threw things at them that they didn’t plan.”
She knew it was time to share her talents.
“I never thought of my writing as a gift I should share with a wider audience,” she said. “What I write is personal or inspired by an individual or circumstance. But as I sat there and sorted through each one in my folder, I realized what I wrote about are things so many others experience – loss, depression, new beginnings, relationships, parenting, (etc.)”
She admits coming to a quick halt in her thoughts and became very apprehensive about the idea.
“Sharing such personal writings was intimidating for me,” she said. “Not only was I putting my writing out there for critics to possibly make fun of, but I was also being vulnerable by uncovering my feelings and beliefs.”
However, the voice inside her kept nudging her to keep going. Maybe it was the moment she flipped to one poem in particular, My Hand. Right there on the page, in her own words she specifically wrote about the responsibility to use our hands to serve others like God.
I look at my hand and what do I see?
An instrument God has given me.
I look at my hand and what do I know?
My heart will decide which way it will go….
And so it began, Horstman pulled five poems out and sent them to Christian Faith Publishing for them to consider as the basis of a short inspirational book. With the publishing house’s endorsement, she spent the last two years weaving together her works into her book God’s Poetic Moments Within.
Once her book was in print, she received a note of affirmation as if a sign. The note was completely out of the blue and from someone who mentored her writing talent, she said.
“When I opened it and read his sentiment, I knew I made the right decision to listen to that prayerful prompting,” she said. The note was from her eighth-grade journalism teacher Dwight McUmar.
“Even when you think God’s not with you, He is,” she said. “He cares. My words are reflective of life and reminds people of the hope God gives us.”
As she contemplated the idea of the book the interpretation of Zechariah 4:10 came to mind “From small beginnings come great things.”
She knew she had to rely on her faith to make this decision just as she had throughout her life.
“As an adult I find great hope in Psalm 91,” she said. It is a prayer of someone who puts their trust in God no matter what the circumstance.”
Her hopes for the book are what she felt at that moment of medication two years ago “to give hope. I know this is what God wants me to do. It is my mustard seed.” By sharing it is putting it in rich soil and allowing it to grow in the glory of God, she said.
Through her story Horstman hopes other Catholics will find the courage to share their gifts to inspire others and, moreover, make it a habit to sit in silence, praying and letting God speak to them, “because He will. You just have to listen.
“God wants us to have a personal relationship with him,” she said. “You can go to church every Sunday and read the bible from cover to cover, but it is not life changing until you realize that He is there waiting on you to have the personal relationship whether you are in eighth grade or a mature adult.”