Do you struggle with anxiety? Perhaps even in the areas you’re most gifted in or feel called to? Learn to navigate the highs and lows of the industry as Sweet Magnolias showrunner, Sheryl J. Anderson, gives insight to real connection with God and true influence. When your career, family or future feels unstable, you can find joy in the steadiness of God.
Sheryl J. Anderson is the creator and showrunner of Sweet Magnolias, a romantic drama for Netflix whose third season drops in July 2023; she also has a variety of projects in development. Sheryl began her writing journey as a playwriting major at The College of William & Mary in Virginia. Lured to Los Angeles by the intrigue of television and the promise of 300 sunny days a year, she worked as a television studio executive, screenwriter, and half-hour series writer (Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, Dave’s World). She then moved to writing and producing hour-long series, working on a wide range of series (Charmed, Flash Gordon, When Calls the Heart). She created Ties That Bind, UPtv’s first scripted series. She has sold pilots to Netflix, SyFy, NBC, Lifetime, and Disney and has written movies for Hallmark, UPtv, and Lifetime. Sheryl is also a novelist and teaches and mentors through a variety of universities and organizations.
Kathleen Cooke – What’s the one thing you’d like to share with women that God has recently taught you?
Sheryl J. Anderson – In the last several years, God has taught me – is still teaching me – that I am not in control; He is. I was impatient from childhood, always sure I had the answer, I could solve the problem, I could lead the way. There were triumphs, but there were also plenty of failures. Now, after a series of painful, heartbreaking events – the deaths of my parents, my divorce, the betrayal of friends – I finally understand. I do what I can to the best of my abilities, but there are situations – and people – that I must entrust to His care because I am not able to fix them. This applies to my relationships and my work. While hard-won, patience has become a source of peace and power, a constant reminder that He walks beside me. And when I walk with Him, rather than racing ahead, it is easier to stay on the path He would have me walk.
When you’re impatient, it is all too easy to overreach: “This one moment will solve everything.” Which all too quickly turns into “This one moment will ruin everything.” But impatience is a form of fear: “If it doesn’t happen now, it will never happen!” And, as we know, fear is the absence of faith, the denial of faith. When we root ourselves in faith, we know that God is holding us up, just as Jesus lifted Peter out of the stormy sea, and we will find our footing again – as long as we walk with Him.
Kathleen – The industry is a roller-coaster of highs and lows. One day, you have a job, and then it may be a while before the next one comes. How do you find hope when things fall apart? Do you have a scriptural promise you find comforting?
Sheryl – Anxiety is my chief antagonist. It blocks my path when I’m striving to do my best. It whispers in my ear when I’m considering an uncertain future. It wakes me up at night. And it fuels my constant struggle to set aside my will and embrace God’s will.
But I’m a Lutheran, and Martin Luther said, “Pray and let God worry.” And, as the grand old hymn says, “My hope is built on nothing less/Than Jesus’s blood and righteousness… On Christ, the solid rock, I stand/All other ground is sinking sand.” So, instead of looking for blame, I look for lessons. Instead of creating doomsday scenarios, I trust in God’s plan. Instead of worrying, I pray.
Also, before a meeting, a pitch, or just a tough day, I take a moment and sit with Matthew 6, especially 24-28: “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon, in all his splendor, was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Kathleen – There is nothing like the assurance of God’s Word when fear sets in. But… can you find joy in those challenging times? What have you learned?
Sheryl – I find my greatest joy in the people I love most: my children, my brother, my truest friends. I find joy in my work and in the blessing of using the talents God gave me to entertain other people and, I hope, bring them joy. I cling to William Faulkner’s declaration, “It is the writer’s privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart.”
This is a joy born of hard work, dedication to craft and to relationships, and perseverance in uneasy times. The world likes to pretend that you’ll find joy in life being easy. But life is never easy. If it ever seems easy, we’re being inattentive. Because there is always more to do – to be a better person, to refine the talents God has given you, to advance the kingdom. So, the joy has to be in the work, not in the result. The joy needs to come from the process, the growth, the learning.
My father often told me, “God never said it would be easy. He simply said you would never be alone.” And isn’t that the finest kind of joy? To know that you are loved by the Lord who not only listens to your every prayer but to your every breath. Who loves you completely and unconditionally? And to share that joy with others by thought, word, and deed.
Kathleen – We all impact others’ lives, but what’s the one thing you’ve learned about influence?
Sheryl – I worry that the word “influence” has been constricted in this social media age, where people can brand themselves “influencers” and make money by telling you how to spend yours. That kind of influence is insidious, hollow, and self-serving.
True influence is leading by example. As we read in the Gospel of Luke, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” We have been given eternal life, and we are asked – demanded – to return a life of service.
We have been saved by grace alone, justified through faith in Christ Jesus. And all He asks is that we follow Him. Walk in His way. Lead by example, as He did. Not loudly proclaiming how wonderful we are but quietly showing how blessed we are.
To live a life rooted in the Gospel, grounded in humility, focused on service, and saturated with love. To teach rather than dictate, lift up rather than put down, and celebrate others without constraint. So that when people look at you, they see Jesus. As St. Patrick prayed, “Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.” That’s influence.