Rena Dillman has led a blessed life.

The 73-year-old has stories upon stories to share and her latest book, "Where the Hollyhocks Are Free To Grow," is just one example.

Inspired during a walk from her studio to her home, Dillman's fifth book took nearly four years to complete, she says.

"I went past a house a couple of blocks from here and saw one lonely hollyhock growing in the midst of a lady's shrubbery," she says. "And I thought to myself, 'How interesting that only in a small town would someone leave a hollyhock to grow in the shrubbery.'"

Seeing the lone flower kindled memories of her childhood and a story began to form in her mind, she recalls. The story of a love lost and found that is analogous with how hollyhocks are free to grow wherever their seeds are thrown, Dillman says.

Although she's been writing her entire life, Dillman does not consider herself to be an author.

She is merely a conduit for the inspiration of God, she says.

"It is just something that is God-given," Dillman says. "He gives me the title, the stories and the train of thought that gets me started and it just flows."

The oldest of seven children recalls, as a child, writing letters to her parents to get their attention. Having grown up with six young brothers, Dillman says it was art and writing that helped her craft a world of her own.

"It was either that or live in their world," she says with a smile.

Armed with paint-by-number sets and a wood burning tool Dillman created her own art, which led to her taking formal art classes right out of high school. However, at the time, her love for art didn't trump her desire to be a nurse.

She attended nursing school at the Bartholomew County Consolidated School Corp. School of Practical Nursing, graduated in 1973 and worked for the next 11 years as an licensed practical nurse.

While working in 1981, Dillman decided to dabble with teaching and began offering art classes in her spare time. Her love for art and teaching blossomed to the point where she knew she had to make a decision because she couldn't teach and work full-time.

She says her late husband, Donald, encouraged her to follow her dream and offered his support. So in 1984 she took the plunge, retired from nursing and began teaching nearly full-time.

Today, Dillman teaches three days per week for a total of nearly 20 hours and says she would do nothing different if given the chance.

" I've been blessed so greatly," the Hope resident says. "I've been able to do what I love. My rewards have been in so many other things than money. My students are my friends, they're like my family."

Columbus resident Annushka Chin Fong has taken painting lessons from Dillman for nearly two years and says she was referred to the studio by a friend.

It is the relaxed atmosphere of the studio and camaraderie that keeps her coming back, she says. However, she first started lessons her nerves got the better of her.

"I was stressed over mistakes then," Fong says. "Now, I don't have as much worry and I feel like I can try and then ask for Rena's help. She has helped with my confidence, artistic ability and it has been really fun. I enjoy hearing her stories."

During visits with her late grandmother, Cora Snoddy, Dillman says she was mesmerized by the stories she shared. When Dillman would return home she would frantically scribble out all the stories her grandmother shared to make sure they were recorded for future generations.

As some friends perused the manuscript of stories she had acquired they encouraged her to publish them as a book. And that is exactly what she did. The stories became her first book, "Patchwork Pieces of Life."

From there, the writing process has flowed by its own time and measure.

Some stories spill out freely while others may flow but need to be set aside while life takes a front seat, she says. There are times where a story is flowing, but Dillman must step away to teach, she says.

Dillman, a mother of two grown sons, readily encourages anyone who is contemplating following their dream to do so.

"Take a chance," she says. "I did. Do it with your whole heart and you will make it."

Life is all about taking the plunge, she says. It is about following one's heart.

She admits that as she ages, her philosophy of life, which is to love God with all one's heart, is likewise maturing.

"I think as you age, you discover the important things in life," she says. "The important things in life aren't things. They're people. As I've aged, I've learned how precious life is and as I'm getting closer to the end of my life, I realize how precious this life has been and I'm so grateful."