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Life lessons as sweet as cookies

Marti Roberts’ book, Cookie Jar Devotions, combines life lessons, prayers and memories in a small collection of Christian devotions, which revolve around the classic baked good.

“I thought about my mother’s cookies, and I thought, ‘You know, there’s a lot to be said about cookies,’” Roberts said.

The Bergeron family descendant wrote the devotional in June 2019 and spent each warm summer morning with a spiral notebook, composing her thoughts with pen and paper before typing them up on the computer. She and her husband Bill, who moved around the globe as missionaries and English teachers for decades, edited the devotional.

Later in the summer, Roberts sent a draft to Christian Faith Publisher for consideration, not knowing what to expect. The agent who selected her book for publication called Roberts’ work “super cute.”

“She said, ‘I’m an agent for a lot of people through this company. And I don’t buy all the books, but I’m buying this one,’” Roberts recalled.

Inspiration

The idea for the book came to Roberts while in bed one morning, waiting for her alarm to buzz.

“I was laying there. And I was thinking about how God has given me so many experiences in my life, and I’ve been to so many countries,” Roberts said. “And my family and some of my closest friends said, ‘Marti, you should write about it.’”

While considering her stories and the messages she wanted them to convey, her husband was reading an old devotional gifted to them after Marti’s mother passed away. Bill lamented the fact that the gifted devotional reiterated the same points, which made it predictable and boring.

“So, I remembered that when I wrote my own,” Roberts said. “Let’s have a different point. Switch it up, so people don’t say, ‘Oh, here we go again. Love life. Be happy.’”

The theme reminds her of different times in her life, including meeting new neighbors in Japan and her son in pre-kindergarten. While she hopes many people around the world will read her book, her family and friends are her target audience, and Roberts considers the book a legacy to her children and grandchildren. She molded the stories around what she wanted to teach and pass on to the next generation. Roberts’ daughter, who works for a large publishing company, compared Marti’s outlook on life in her 70s with those of younger authors looking for fame.

“She said, ‘But mom, you probably have more to say because you’ve lived a longer life, and you’ve learned a lot that the 35-year-olds don’t know yet,’” Roberts said. “And I got to thinking about that. I’ve always wanted to write a book, but I didn’t think I was ready. I had not lived life and learned from it enough to have a lot to say. So now I feel I’ve got something to say.”

She researched the Bible verses she included, ensuring they matched what she wanted to convey. Roberts’ friends, many of them at the CPN Elders Center, inspired her to write a prayer with each devotion as well.

“Some people don’t know how to pray. No clue. They weren’t raised with prayer. I’ve met several people at the center who say they only know memorized prayer, but they don’t know how to pray from the heart,” Roberts said.

Lessons and memories

Different types of sweet treats often bring back life teachings and memories to people. Roberts’ husband Bill enjoys her chocolate chip cookies; he quickly eats them after she sets them out. As a child, she ate from a jar full of her grandmother’s lemon sugar cookies whenever she visited. The story of self-love and improvement opens Roberts’ book.

“When we jumped out of the car, we gave her a hug, and then we’d go straight into the kitchen to the cookie jar,” Roberts said. “We didn’t really care about the cookie jar, that wasn’t what was important. What was inside the cookie jar is what we were looking for. With people, we’re not to look at the cookie jar on the outside. But God is concerned about our hearts. And so we should be working on our character more than our appearance.”

She continued the tradition in her book, outlining the sweetness of individualism, the hardships of humbleness and the failures of ignorance — all through cookies. Her goal is to encourage and inspire readers.

“I want them to feel like they’re special, and that they have value and that they can make this world a sweeter, better place,” she said.

“It’s not teaching anybody anything. It’s reminding them of what they already know. That’s how I feel. We already know to do that.”

The stories move throughout the globe, visiting places Roberts and her family lived — Japan, the Caribbean, Africa and California — and baked goods bring the diverse experiences together.

“I’ve been to 58 countries, and there are cookies in every one of them. Every one of them! Cookies are loved the world over. You can’t find any place without cookies,” Roberts said.

She began baking at an early age and continues today. Much like her mother, a dozen cookies is still one of her favorite gifts to give. Her new book pairs perfectly with a freshly baked tin of snickerdoodles or oatmeal chocolate chip.

“Even at 93 years old, (my mother) was still making cookies and giving them to the grandkids for Christmas,” Roberts said. “And so I was telling my family, ‘When you read this little book, you’re going to see yourself all through it.’”

She collects recipes, and several of the ones included at the end of Cookie Jar Devotions come from her mother’s old 3×5 index cards, including one for her grandmother’s lemon cookies. Roberts hopes everyone takes something from her work, even the recipes at the back.

Drive-thru book signings

In spring 2020, Roberts planned on meeting readers and selling copies at book signings around the greater Shawnee area, but the COVID-19 pandemic put gatherings of 10 or more people on hold. Attending worship services in her church’s parking lot inspired her to plan drive-thru book signings.

“Then one day, I was driving through my bank. And I thought, ‘You know, we can drive through to get food, drive through to get our banking done. Why not drive through to sell my books?’” she asked.

Roberts held two signings at churches — one in early April and another a month later. Everyone stayed in their cars and wore masks. Roberts signed the books beforehand and talked customers for a couple of minutes. Many copies became Mother’s Day gifts.

“I thought it was great. I enjoyed seeing people I hadn’t seen for a long time,” she said.

Cookie Jar Devotions is available in paperback and as an e-book with Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It is also available at Living Word Christian Bookstore at the Shawnee Mall in Shawnee, Oklahoma.