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Did You Call Me or Not?

Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to become a published author before the age of forty. Never did I expect that dream to be such a thorn in my side.

Having grown up in a Christian home and coming to faith in Christ at a young age, I’ve long understood that God has a purpose for my life. That He has a calling for each of His children, and while the general calling looks the same—spread the life-giving news of love, forgiveness, and saving grace found in a relationship with Jesus Christ—He asks us to live it out in countless ways according to the unique gifts and talents He’s given us.

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Therein lay my problem. For over three decades, I have heard one story after another of writers feeling called by God to write, whether that was writing in general, or a specific book or series. But for me, I never felt called. I just knew I had a passion for it. On good days, I could write without worry, without second-guessing myself. On bad days, the doubts would creep in and I’d wonder if I was listening to my own selfish desires or if this passion was, in fact, from God. Oh, how I’ve wrestled with it. I’m sure you could find many posts on my blog under the “Writer’s Refuge” tab filled with my questioning, agonizing, pleading with the Lord to just tell me. Just tell me if You want me to write or not. I will give it up if You want me to.

Recently, one of my good friends and local writer buddies, Leah, started a new blog, justwriteinspire.com. Stoked for her, I visited the blog and clicked on the “About” page. The following is a little of what she had to say. (I’ve already shared this with her, so no worries I’m saying something that will hurt or offend her. 🙂 )

“While growing up, I never dreamed I would write. I wanted to be a singer and teacher–not an author.

“However…one day, a plot downloaded into my brain. I thought, someone should write that book. A year later, God planted an idea in my mind, ‘You write it.’ I fought the concept for years. I did not believe I could do it.

“God never gave up on me. He continued to whisper–over and over–‘You are a writer,’ until His words seeped, profoundly, into my heart and soul.”

~Leah, from justwriteinspire.com

At the time I read her words, the irony was not lost on me—how she had felt God’s calling in the area of writing when she hadn’t even been looking for it, while I had prayed for years and continued to question. But still, I smiled, genuinely happy for her.

Come the next day, dark thoughts had descended upon me, and I wasn’t smiling anymore.

I had planned to write that day after cleaning the bathrooms, but as I sprayed and scrubbed sinks and bathtubs, it occurred to me I didn’t have anything to write about. The characters in my two current WIPs weren’t talking, and I was plum out of ideas plot-wise. By the time I finished mopping the floors, I was a mental wreck. If I was supposed to write, why was it harder for me to make up stories than other writers? Maybe I was just fooling myself. Maybe I was a square peg trying to shove myself into a round hole.

So I cried. Hard. And I begged God to speak to me.

I. Needed. To. Know.

Did He want me to write or not?

In late March, I had been sharing my frustrations at Bible study about how my inner critic looks like Jesus, making it difficult for me to always know who’s talking: the critic or Jesus. Sitting beside me, one of my girlfriends promptly texted me this pic from Pinterest:

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I can’t begin to tell you how helpful it has been for me to see these differences written out so I can refer to them whenever I’m questioning the words inside my head. That day cleaning bathrooms, after reading how Leah had felt called to write her story, I remembered this picture and tried to reject the condemning, discouraging words rattling around inside my brain.

But I was weakening.

At last I fell across my bed, my chest aching in that deep way that makes you curl into a fetal position and sob from the core, sob without tears.

How?” I cried to God, glaring at the ceiling. “How can I fight these negative feelings about writing—how can I fight the devil’s lies and deceptions and attempts to bind me—when I don’t know if You want me to do this? How can I combat these attacks with Your promises if I don’t know You’re fighting with me in this area? I’ve wanted to write and be published since I was a kid. Have wanted to write to please You. So many others have felt called by You—why don’t I feel like You ever called me?”

I didn’t expect an answer right away. Hadn’t I pleaded with Him countless other times and received silence in return? Maybe if I kept an open mind and continued to lift up this specific prayer over the next several weeks, I’d recognize His answer…if it ever came.

But that day, God met me in my need, and almost before the question left my lips—“Why don’t I feel like You ever called me?”—a calm, comforting, gentle voice whispered to my spirit.

“Because it was what you already wanted to do. I didn’t have to call you onto a path you were already traveling.”

Oh.

Really?

In my case, yes, really.

And it makes me wonder if other believers can resonate with this.

Often in Christian circles, we get so focused on finding our purpose, finding our calling, our gifts, how we should edify the Church…but for the person who searches for that answer with a pure motive and comes up empty, this quest can be extremely frustrating and lead to feelings of inadequacy.

If that’s you…could it be you might already be on His path for you? Pray about it. Test it. Press into Him with an open heart. And be ready for when He answers.

Yes, I will still have bad days, moments when Negativity wants to tear me down and immobilize me. But now I can resist those thoughts and Satan’s attacks. Now I know writing is something God has called me to do.

And that dream of becoming a published author before the age of 40? Well, I signed a contract with my publisher a month before I turned forty, and my debut novel releases two months before I turn forty-one.

God’s timing is always perfect. And in this case, I’m thankful my timing wasn’t too far off. 😉

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The Writer’s Desert

 

This past November, I traversed into new territory when I signed a publishing contract with Clean Reads. Setting my sights away from the sparkling, intoxicating metropolis of Accepted Manuscript, I ventured down an unfamiliar, inconspicuous path: The Second Book.

Funny thing about this path. The Second Book doesn’t take two authors in the same direction. Some find themselves in a thick jungle, wrapped in an overabundance of words, swathed in the heat of a luscious plot that can’t wait to be written. Others enter the succulent haven of a coffee shop, drawing inspiration from the lives unfolding around them, tears splashing onto plastic lids, laughter bubbling up toward the ceiling tiles.

Still others, alas, take a journey such as mine and step into the barren wasteland of the Writer’s Desert.

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Unlike an earthly desert, it stays cold here even during the day; the sun might shine, but it emits no warmth. The dry ground remains firm beneath my feet, unforgiving in its hard surface, wicking away what little optimism I had armed myself with when I first started this journey.

I thought I was prepared for it. I had my laptop for communication—you know, for those several rounds of edits expected from my publisher, and for that finicky thing called a platform I need to spend time thinking about. But more importantly, I had a canteen of liquid words—others’ words—that were supposed to keep my writing muscles limber and supple until I reached the other side of this empty landscape. Serving as one of several judges on a few writing contests. Swallow. Involvement with an online critique group. Gulp. Offering my help as a beta reader for two different manuscripts. Sip, sip, sip.

But while my muscles stay quenched with others’ words, my soul has become parched at the lack of my own.

Sure, I’ve come across an oasis now and then. Broad ideas for a new story here; a one-paragraph summary for another story over there. Scenes for a sequel to my book that releases in October. But for the majority of the time, it’s just me and my canteen of somebody else’s work.

Oh, and the devil.

He likes to come alongside me at those times when I’m stumbling across the sand and taunt me. Tell me I don’t have what it takes, because other authors—better authors—are thriving in the jungle and there’s a reason I’m stuck in the desert. Better authors are on book #20 after eleven years of writing, and I’m on book #2 after seventeen. Better authors always have ideas cooking on the back burner, and since I don’t, that just reaffirms I lack what it takes to be successful in this field. Better authors have better blogs, more followers, a larger platform, a stronger backbone, a more persistent nature.

Sometimes Jesus is able to edge the devil out of my peripheral vision. For a few moments of time, maybe even as long as a day, I breathe in His clarity. He’ll take my hand in his and with the other, he’ll point to the horizon, and whisper, “Do you see it?”sunset-1331088_1920 And with my flawed incompetence wrapped within His limitless capabilities, I glimpse something hazy on that horizon, something shimmering with promise and strength, purpose and fulfillment. And—

Then the devil shoves his snout in my face and I lose hold of my precious Jesus.

Why is Satan’s voice so much louder than my Lord’s?

Why does Hate have a better grip than Love? Why does self-deprecation feel more comfortable than self-confidence? Why are lies easier to believe than the truth?

The devil, I’ve come to realize, has been leading me in unnecessary circles to keep me floundering in this desert so I don’t gain the promise on that horizon. I reached a certain milestone despite his lies when I signed that publishing contract a few months ago, and he hates it. He knows my fundamental desire—once the selfishness and narcissism gets pushed aside—is to write for the Lord, whether that’s in the form of a Christmas fantasy or inspirational romance, so what better way to keep me from accomplishing anything further as a Christian writer than to blast my negative qualities on “repeat” in this desert that offers no diversion to silence the noise? Wallowing in negativity is a stronghold in which I practically have a doctorate, so long did I once study it.

Once. Several years ago. I’m not where I was several years ago, and the Lord certainly doesn’t want me making a U-turn to head back there.

So this time, I’m on to the devil. I’m on to his pranks, his condemnation and discouragement. It might have taken me a few months to slough through his deception, but better that than several years. I’m learning to tune him out again; to trust, instead, the voice of my precious Jesus, and to believe what He sees as good in me. I’m taking steps toward that shimmering horizon, and while I’m not there yet—I still have weeks of travel through these cold, hard-packed sands—the oases ahead of me look more abundant than those along the trail of my last four months.

I’m confident I’ll be filling my canteen with my own words soon.

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What’s Your Word for 2017?

Project for New Year 2017

Happy New Year! Are you sad to see the old one go? Thrilled to see this new one come? Vice versa? When I sit down and take a moment to think back over the year, 2016 was a pretty good one, but I’m hoping 2017 turns out to be even better.

Last year, I had two words to propel me into 2016: optimism and perseverance. While I didn’t stay optimistic 365 days out of the year, I did see progress in tamping down my negative thoughts and not letting them drown out my self-pep talks. As for perseverance, my goal was to finish my latest (fourth?) draft of my Christmas story and start sending out queries by summer’s end. I told myself I’d send out at least 35 queries before taking a break and revamping my strategy, if need be. I ended up only sending out 30, because…

…Query #21 to a small publishing company was rewarded with an offer of publication!

Yes, my Christmas YA (young adult) fantasy novel, Tinsel in a Tangle, will be published by Clean Reads in October 2017! *happy dance* More on that in upcoming posts. The decision to sign with CR came with a few lessons and epiphanies, and I really should write down what I learned so I can refer back to it when Negativity comes knocking in the months to come. (Because you know it will; Negativity is relentless that way.)

So what’s my word for 2017? PURPOSEFUL.

Image result for purposefulPurposeful in how I spend my money, what books I choose to read, movies I choose to watch, but mainly, this word has to do with how I will spend my time. Because somehow I’m supposed to find the hours to research book marketing so I can help promote my book when the time comes, find the hours to begin writing a new manuscript, continue posting on my blog, and then there’s the whole non-writer part of my life in which, as wife and mother, I play the part of companion, confidant, laundress, cook, housecleaner, chauffeur, teacher, counselor, shopper, etc.

In order to do these things well—according to how God would have me perform these duties, not according to society—I need to approach my days with purpose and prayer. I need to remember God is in control of my book’s success, not the writing world telling me I’m supposed to do A, B, C, D, and E in order to see success, because that could easily paralyze me. While I will do what I reasonably can for the sake of Tinsel when it’s released, my talents do not fall under “marketer,” or “promoter.” I’m the type of person who’d like to be recognized without having to call attention to herself, yet I’m not naiive to think God doesn’t have some growing for me to do in these areas. 🙂 Somehow, He’ll help me bring it all together, but it will be done with purpose.

How about you? Have you chosen a word for 2017? Did you choose one last year and see an improvement in that area? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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Something Fun ‘n Flighty…

…Because sometimes a Tuesday can feel like a Monday. So, here’s a little ditty just for fun. I wrote this a few months ago one Saturday morning when I woke up with the first line running through my head. Have a blessed day!

 

What Will I Do Today?

 

Today I’ll cross swords with an armored knight

Or face down a dragon in a deadly fight.

 

I’ll flit through the sky on papery wings

In a land of giants and magical kings.

 

Today I’ll pirate a ship on the seas

Hunting for treasure, attacked by the breeze.

 

I’ll brave the monster squished under my bed

And lure him out with some moldy bread.

 

I’m an agent.

A ninja.

A cat-loving ghoul.

The choices are endless,

For I set the rules.

 

Today I’ll snuggle with laptop or paper.

Immersed in a fantasy, drama, or caper.

 

Black letters adrift on an ocean of white,

I’ll open my mind…and then I will write.

 

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Bio for Pitch Wars 2016

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I’ll keep this short and sweet, since I’ve restarted this post umpteen times trying to sound witty and intriguing, and it ain’t happenin’ this morning. I’m a simple, low-maintenance girl whose Twitter blurb says it best: Jesus comes first, family second, passions third. I love writing, knitting, and recently discovered the joy in creating dioramas for my Tonner fashion dolls, Ellowyne Wilde. They have more fun on this blog than I do. 🙂

I also love Christmas, hence the manuscript I’m submitting to Pitch Wars this year, which incorporates my love for the fantasy side of Christmas, as well as a bit of my love for the German language. My elves wear dirndls and lederhosen, they live in northern Canada and adore ice hockey. The reindeer stables hold several secrets, Santa’s grandson suffers from an engorged ego, and my MC, Tinsel, stands two feet too tall among her fellow elves. With a trail of mishaps in her wake, she has a tough time fitting in. I wrote the first draft of this story a few years ago in an attempt to revive my joy for writing, so it has a light-hearted, whimsical feel to it, yet thanks to several revisions, it’s not without depth.

I’m a member of ACFW and submitted this manuscript through their rigorous critique loop over the last year. While I’ve polished it to a near shine (I hope), I know there’s always more to learn about the writing craft, so though my story might be good, I’d love some outside help to make it great. If the idea of hanging with a clumsy, determined elf, a team of spunky reindeer, and a Kringle in need of humility makes you smile, I hope you’ll consider mentoring me for Pitch Wars 2016. I can even promise there’ll be some kisses along the way–er, between my MCs, not me. 😉

Epiphanies in Household Chores

I had an imaginary, future discussion with my daughter the other day.

As a writer, I’m more skilled at hypothetical conversations than real ones, and considering I was alone in the kitchen washing dishes—really, what else was there to do?

This conversation with my future 15/16 year-old (she’s 12 ½ now, so it’ll be here in a couple of blinks) had to do with modesty and her incapability as a hormone-induced teenager to understand why it’s so important that she wear appropriate clothing in public—even at the beach. Despite the fact most of her friends would be flaunting their bodies in the hopes to gain desired attention. Despite the fact she might want such attention (because Christians are humans, too, and when hormones run amok, wisdom and reason usually get shoved against the back wall).

In this conversation, I lovingly (it’s always done more calmly in my head than in reality) encouraged her to trust me, trust in an adult’s perspective from the other side of that hormone-induced state. I told her I wasn’t keeping her from wearing promiscuous clothing to be mean and take away her fun, but rather to protect her (…and for the sake of her Christian guy friends, because those poor teenage boys—who are more visual than we women will ever comprehend—barely stand a chance in this sex-driven society run rampant with girls wearing barely-there clothing).

The point is, as an almost 40-year-old, I understand that children and teenagers cannot look at the world or their decisions through adult eyes. It’s mentally impossible because the comprehension is not there. And I think we’d all agree that 60-somethings know more than an almost-40-year-old, and that anyone over 80 has earned the right to their stubborn ways and opinions (not that those ways and opinions are necessarily correct, but they’ve earned the right to have them). 😉

But as I was carrying on this non-existent conversation, it hit me—again, yet on a different level this time: Why is it so difficult for me to accept that it works the same way with God?

God is eternal. He’s been here since before the dawn of time and He has no end. He’s all-knowing. Like a weaver at a loom, He knows the threads of the past, how each one has been woven together to create the present, and how they’ll continue intertwining to flesh out the future. His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9), and the things He does sometimes will make you shake your head. (Um, the King of kings was born in a nondescript manger, with only animals and a couple of shepherds to welcome him—shepherds being the lowest on the social ladder, BTW, at that time and in that culture. Camp out there for a bit until the significance of what He sacrificed sinks in.)

But, God is also all-loving. So if He keeps something from me that I want, or doesn’t answer my prayers the way I’d like, maybe instead of automatically thinking He’s doing it to be mean or to take away the fun, I should think of it as a mother to her teenage daughter and realize He’s doing it for my protection. Because He loves me, and He knows how things will work out better than I can from where I stand at the present moment, with my limited understanding.

Will I always like His answers? Nope. Will I always accept them without first stomping off to my room and slamming the door? Probably not. But just like a perceptive teenager submits to and accepts his/her parents’ greater wisdom, so I hope to be a perceptive child who inevitably submits to and accepts the unmatched, faultless, loving wisdom of my heavenly Father.

Hmm, looks like I have laundry to do. Wonder what God will teach me while folding clothes. 😀

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Silver Lining

I don’t own a ton of clothes. Whatever half of the year I’m in (warm or cold), the corresponding clothes are the ones either dangling in my closet or stuffed in a bureau drawer. The outfits I don’t need suffocate in a plastic bin on the top shelf in my closet. The point is, no matter the season, every article of clothing I own is somewhere in the master bedroom.

So imagine my confusion the other day when I went to find a shirt I hadn’t worn in a long time–and it was no where. Not hanging. Not stuffed. Not suffocating. Wait–maybe it was hiding in my garment bag? I pulled out the bag, laid it on my bed… Nope, not there, either. Grrr… So I prayed. “Lord, you know exactly where that shirt is. Please help me find it.” (Because sometimes He’s the only one who has a clue about these things.)

Then I threw on a different outfit and went about my day.

A few hours later, I returned to hang the garment bag back in my closet, but I was standing at a funny angle (way too much stuff on the closet floor), and a couple of the hangers fell off my fingers and slipped inside the bag as I struggled to get them onto the rod. Frustration mounted inside me. Maybe more frustration than the situation called for, but really–could I not complete a simple task without it morphing into something complicated? So I unzipped the bag and reached down for the hanger and vest that had fallen. Hmm. Did I get everything that fell? What if more than one hanger dropped but I didn’t know?

Hey–what if that shirt I’d been looking for had fallen?

I reached down further, patting, searching–ah ha! Triumphant, I pulled out the very shirt I’d wanted to wear that morning. Of course, I immediately thanked the Lord–always nice to receive a quick answer to prayer–and then I paused. He had answered my prayer, had even used this frustrating situation in which to do it–because if it hadn’t been for the other clothes falling down inside the bag, I never would have thought to search for more.

This brough to mind some of those childhood memory verses. You know, the ones that stay with you for life?

“Consider it joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3.

“And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28.

Oh, I know what happened to me that morning is a teensy, minor inconvenience on the grand scale of troubling circumstances, but it’s those minor ones that snarl me up the most. I think the point is God wanted to remind me that if there’s a silver lining on some minor inconvenience, shouldn’t I know by now to look for the silver lining on a major inconvenience? ‘Cuz He’s always got my back. Why do I keep forgetting that?

So the question is…the next time I’m frustrated, how long will I stay frustrated before searching for–and recognizing–God’s silver lining? How long will you? 😉