Ask almost any young girl to tell you about a Disney Princess such as Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, Jasmine, Ariel, Anna and Elsa and most can tell you their entire story. Some might even sing you a song— “Let it Go. Let it go!” But ask the same girls about Hannah, Esther, Abigale, Ruth, or Deborah from the Bible and it’s likely they’ve never heard of them. Author, speaker, and cancer-survivor Erin Weidemann is on a mission to change that.
Erin created the brand, Bible Belles which focuses on inspiring girls and women of all ages to fulfill their destiny, redefine the world’s messages of beauty and worth, and promote positive, powerful female role models in Scripture and modern culture.
“My mission is to help women of all ages to know the truth of who they are so they can do what they were created to do,” said Erin.
Renewed Faith Through Cancer
But it was Erin’s cancer diagnosis that brought her to a crisis of faith which later helped empower her to be an encourager for women. At 26 and a self-proclaimed Atheist at the time, she faced the reality of her own mortality. At her mother’s suggestion, Erin had a doctor examine a lump which she’d noticed years before.
“After feeling my neck and into my hair, in my jaw and chest, the doctor stopped and put his hand on mine and said, ‘Erin, you have cancer. We need to do an emergency biopsy surgery.’”
Doctors quickly discovered that thyroid cancer had spread to the lymph nodes on both sides of Erin’s neck, up her brain stem and into the chest cavity. “It was scary and shocking. I had no faith at the time. I thought I was going to die. I wasn’t going to get to do what I was put here to do. I had never spent any time thinking about what God made me for. I had walked away from my faith. But I started asking God those kinds of questions because I thought I wasn’t going to live very long.”
Quarantined during a 72-hour radioactive iodine treatment and now living back with her parents, Erin was brought to her knees.
“I went from doing everything by myself to not being able to do anything by myself. I had to move back home because I was paralyzed by the surgery. Then I found myself praying and sobbing. Jesus, if you’re real, please help me.”
A Change of Focus
With a renewed courage and faith, Erin’s focus began to change. “My battle with cancer was a five-year period. I have discovered a closeness with the Lord during that time. I knew I needed to quit messing around and do what I was put here to do. I became a teacher because I’ve always had a very special relationship with kids. “
In between cancer treatments, Erin went back to school while living at home with her parents. She received her teaching credential and in 2010 got a job in San Diego teaching high school.
“However long I had to live, I wanted to spend it with kids—teaching and mentoring them.”
The Persistent Pursuit
Around the same time, cancer came back and Erin met Brent at a college alumni party. “Brent was persistent in his pursuit of me and told me he felt the Lord brought me to him and we were supposed to get married. I told him he was a crazy person because I was going to die and there was no future with me. I can’t be a wife and I’ll never have children.” She said. He wore me down and we got married that first year I was teaching in 2010.”
Today, Erin and Brent have been married for eight years and have a four-year-old daughter named Rooney. Cancer came back four additional times. Erin battled it each time, the last bout was in 2012. Erin’s last neck scan that revealed no abnormalities!
The Beginning of Bible Belles
Working in the classroom with all levels, five years with middle schoolers, Erin’s heart was moved. “The more I spent time with girls, the more I realized a universal struggle,” says Erin. She realized the young girls did not understand their self-worth. This knowledge was a catalyst for what the Lord would use to inspire Erin later.
It started one Sunday after church when Erin and Brent were contemplating what gift to buy their niece Hannah for her birthday. “We simplified the story of Hannah from the Bible and made her a personalized book, so she could know about a great hero whose name she shares. I wrote the story, and Brent illustrated the cover.”
When they gave their niece the book, she told them she didn’t even know there was a Hannah in the Bible. However, she and her sister could and her sister could name every Disney princess.
That is when I light went off for Erin. “I thought wouldn’t it be great if girls today were just as excited about biblical women as they are about princesses: real examples of true beauty, women who can be real heroes for girls today? That would be something. That would be everything.”
Erin knew first-hand from her experience in teaching how skewed the word’s message is about who girls are meant to be. “The more I thought about it, the more I thought, can we do something to connect girls to their true identity years before they ever walk through the doors of a middle school?”
After prayer and research of women in the Bible, Erin developed a series to teach girls what real beauty is. “Not what the world says real beauty is, but the qualities and the virtues that make a beautiful woman in God’s sight.”
Erin’s heart for young people, love for her own daughter, Rooney, and all that God had brought her through was a conduit for next phase in her life. Erin and Brent created their own company and self-published. “This is a mighty family team of two. We have lots of independent contractors that work with us.” They hired a Veggie Tales book designer and a former Disney animator to illustrate. “He felt called to do something that was kingdom-focused,” says Erin. “If we are competing for our kids, we must compete on the same level as what’s out there, like Disney.”
The series of books is called The Adventures of Rooney Cruz. Rooney is your average nine-year-old girl who is struggling with the problems that girls face today: friendships, intimidation, lack of confidence, misunderstanding her own worth, comparing herself to other girls etc. She is the link between the biblical story and the modern application. Rooney is fun and relatable, and as she journeys through the series she will come to realize that, just like the Bible Belles, she is a true hero who possesses each of the spiritual “superpowers” that these women possessed.
What’s Next for Bible Belles
The fifth book in The Adventures of Rooney Cruz series launches on March 15 – Deborah: The Belle of Leadership. For every book purchased, Bible Belles will donate one book to a girl in an underprivileged area in the U.S.
“Our goal is to continue working to make sure every girl knows her value and worth in the eyes of the Lord, and Bible Belles is committed to spreading that message.”
For more about Erin http://erinweidemann.com/