Nancy Sawyer Schraeder is a writer, producer, and director who just wrapped production on the comedy web series, Zahra’s New World. Nancy scripted Magdalena: Released from Shame, a feature which has been translated into over 170 languages and co-wrote the follow-up series, Rivka. Nancy wrote and produced “Portions,” which won Best Short Fiction Film at the World of Women Film Fair in Dubai, and directed “Equations,” a short film advocating for religious freedom. She has coached media teams in the U.S., Egypt, Tunisia, and Jordan. Contact Nancy at [email protected]; Instagram: nanschraeder; FB: Nancy Sawyer Schraeder 

Kathleen Cooke:  Hollywood is a challenging industry for talented and passionate artists because of the competition. How have you been able to stay the course and not become frustrated and depressed?

Nancy Schraeder: The big things really don’t matter more than the little things. So much of my life has been spent dreaming about and planning for the big things I think God wants me to do for Him. But in reality, God is just as concerned (if not more) with how I’m doing in the little things. Have I been a good neighbor today, an encouraging wife, a diligent, loving employee or co-worker, a patient, constructive mother? Did I find joy in the menial errands and tasks I attempted today? Did I, most importantly, invite Jesus to be part of those interactions and tasks? Was I “in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25)? The day-to-day interactions, tasks, and disciplines are what hone and reveal our true character and, in turn, prepare us for the “big things.” Don’t attempt short cuts. Let God work through EVERYTHING you do — big and little.

Kathleen: You work on writing and producing projects that often take long hours and what seems like endless months of sweat and toil before they’re produced. How do you find sustaining joy in the process?

Nancy: Joy comes from being in a close relationship with God and knowing, deep in your soul and in spite of your circumstances, that God is good. When I was a little girl, I would ride my tricycle around my neighborhood singing songs to God. Much of my adult life has been spent seeking to regain that pure, trusting joy of simply being in God’s presence. I had the privilege of working on the book, God: Discover His Character with Dr. Bill Bright. Spending hours every week reading and writing about how God is all-powerful, unchanging, just, loving, righteous, merciful, and so much more finally caused the truth of His amazing faithfulness to sink into my being and I truly believed it. That’s when the joy came!

Kathleen:  You’re also a wife and mother. What are you teaching your kids about how they can stand out from the crowd?

Nancy: I often encourage my children to allow God to make them into a unique, intricate puzzle piece, to explore their strengths and weaknesses and risk to develop their unique personality, gifts, and talents. This means they may not immediately bond with just anyone romantically, creatively, or whatever. They’re not a flat puzzle piece that can be placed next to any other flat puzzle piece. (In fact, no one really is.) As they allow God to work in their lives, they will develop interesting features, bends, corners, so when God brings another wonderfully intricate puzzle piece to them, what a bond they will have! I remind them that the God who saved them is the same God who created them in my womb. He made all of us unique, so we must live with that uniqueness. Not to act out and rebelliously “push the envelope” (if our society even still has an envelope to push), but to bless the world with the one-of-a-kind creation we are.

Kathleen: What would you tell someone about how their influence impacts others?

Nancy: Many of us, in false humility, may believe we don’t influence other people. But that’s a lie to keep us from embracing the adventure God has for us. We ALL have an influence. Our every word and action have consequences. Our presence can encourage people to see hope in the world, to inspire them to dream, and to have the courage to trust God and try again. Or we can shut people down. That’s why it’s so important that as we live each day we’re filled with the Holy Spirit. Every morning, I ask the Lord to fill me with His Spirit so I will accomplish what He wants me to do that day, and I pray that I might bring Him pleasure. Honestly, I know I don’t always succeed, and I probably offer God more opportunities for embarrassing laughter than pleasure, but I’ve also seen God use me in ways far beyond my feeble human strivings. One example is when I traveled to Tunisia to teach at a media summit and shared a hotel room with a sharp, beautiful woman who spearheaded a sports ministry for refugee children. My daughter, Allie, was in the final weeks of her senior year, and my roommate overheard my frequent calls home admonishing Allie to finish high school well. Little did I know these loving but sometimes testy conversations with my daughter inspired my roommate. She later wrote: “Thank you, Nancy, for allowing our Lord to use your example as a loving mother to give me greater insight and confirmation of my ministry objective.” God is using you when you least expect it!