Waynesville resident Rebecca Lile’s journey to becoming an author has been a long one. Before she wrote her debut children’s book, God’s Diner, Lile spent time as a counselor, diaconal minister and educator, home-schooling her now-adult sons. “I read thousands and thousands of children’s books over the 20 years I home-schooled my kids, and all of those years I had these books forming in my head,” says Lile.
It was Lile’s sons who encouraged her to finally sit down and write God’s Diner, a story for 4- to 8-year-olds that shares the message of God’s inclusivity and love for every individual, no matter their background, race or creed. “They are graduating from college now and said, ‘Hey Mom, remember all those books you jotted down? It’s time for you to start doing that,’” says Lile.
The story was influenced in part by the disunity in today’s world. “There’s so much divisiveness but there’s so much hope and goodness, too. That’s the piece I wanted to pull in,” says Lile. Her background in the United Methodist Church also helped shape the story. “We have an open communion table,” Lile explains. “It doesn’t matter what your belief is — what your color, race, status or denomination is. You are welcome at the table.” It was the concept of an open table that inspired Lile to write a book about God’s diner.
In the book, published by Charlotte-based Warren Publishing and illustrated by Patrick Brooks, Lile follows Bessie Bear, Bob Beagle, Dee Duck and Pug the Grouch Face through the door of the best diner in town to find out if there really is a seat for everyone at God’s Diner. “No child should ever wonder if they are loved by God,” Lile said in a press release. “It doesn’t matter what color you are, how you dress, where you’re from, how much money you make, or who you love. God loves everyone. And it’s important for kids to know that.”
Although her audience is children, Lile says her message resonates with adults, too. “You can read a children’s book in 500 words and absorb a meaning that can hit home,” says Lile.
Lile hopes that God’s Diner will be an easy way for kids and adults to start conversations about acceptance and belonging. “When Bessy the Bear comes in and she’s not dressed nicely — they’re going to have kids in school like that. [In the book] Bob the Beagle stays at the shelter and he doesn’t have a home life that’s very stable, and someone else comes into the diner and can’t speak very clearly — that could be a physical impediment or a different language — those are all good conversation starters,” says Lile.
A childhood grounded in faith
Lile’s father was a Methodist minister, and she was raised in the church. When she left home and went to college, she started to grapple with her own faith. “I wrestled with who God is and what that means to me,” she says. She went back to school to obtain a degree in counseling and moved around the country, attending different churches and experiencing various styles of doctrine. That’s when her beliefs began to solidify, and she signed up to attend Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta.
Lile graduated and went to work in a church. She says her relationship with God changed when her sons were born. “After I had kids, I began to nurture my personal relationship with God,” she says. “I did have really strong beliefs, but my own spirituality needed a lot more personal attention.” Lile says that modeling her beliefs for her children helped her evolve spiritually. “The more I was able to speak of gratitude and thankfulness and [teach my kids] that everything is a gift from God, the more my spirituality grew,” says Lile. “My faith is the organizing principle in my life.”
Lile wants to make sure her book’s message makes an impact in more than one way, so she has partnered with Rise Against Hunger, an organization committed to ending world hunger by 2030. Ten percent of all profits from the sale of the book will be donated to the organization. “I always knew I would give back in some way if I ever published a book,” says Lile. “Physically feeding people is a tangible way to share the message of God’s Diner, because God’s Diner is not just about food, it’s about spiritually feeding God’s children,” says Lile.
Additionally, Lile has developed a three-week curriculum for churches and coloring pages that can be downloaded from her website, www.rebeccalile.com.
God’s Diner can be purchased on Lile’s website, at local bookstores, or at online retailers. Lile will be signing books at Mountain Favors, 98 N. Main Street in Waynesville, 2-4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22.