Monday, September 10, 2018

Receiving Correction

Whether I ever have my work published beyond the odd magazine article or two, I am a writer. 
In the core of my self there is a place always thinking of stories and writing poems and outlining topics I would teach. Words are always swirling around in my head.

A few mornings ago, when my husband and I were sitting together on the couch doing our coffee/wake-up thing, he came across this verse the other day in his Bible reading app:

Whoever heeds instruction is on the way to life, but whoever rejects a rebuke goes astray.

~Proverbs 10:17 (NRSV)

Since then that Proverb has been running around in my head in some sort of dance with all the other words in there. When I go to write something down, even if it’s my own private thoughts in a journal, there is usually at least a typo or two or a word scratched out. Even when the words come quickly and easily onto the page they don’t come perfectly. 
In the privacy of my home scratching out a word or idea doesn’t sting, it’s just part of the creative process, the hunt for words that mesh with the verbal picture I am trying to paint. A typo isn’t a reason for embarrassment, but a natural outcome of typing. In the privacy of my home I know I am not perfect, at least not on the first try.
I think of myself as a person eager to learn and grow as a person. Until someone other than myself or God points out my mistakes.
Why is this a problem? It’s not like there are not many who enjoy having their errors pointed out, I’m not alone in this.
Part of the problem is our culture. Out in the larger world there is a less friendly space to err. Typos on a blog are ridiculed. Scratched out words look like a mess. One mistake and you are labeled unredeemable.

But part of the problem is me. I don’t actively work to make it safe to correct me. 
I get defensive over typos and simple errors that do need correction. I’ve never been a great speller. It’s not like I can afford to pay an editor, I have five kids you know.
And while I am eager to learn, I am insecure at heart. I know many of my flaws but am afraid of having others point them out, even if it means I could work on them. I get scared of other people, afraid they will point out a part of myself that is a mess, someplace I've haven't yet begun to pull myself together.

Scared that maybe correction is rejection.

When Jesus walked the earth he talked to the people looking for wisdom about becoming like a child again. Jesus even went so far as to say we need to be born again.

What does that mean? For me, this day, it means I need to take a page from our youngest son. He’s never worried that if he trips and falls I will make fun of him. I know his feet or legs are growing and he’s constantly having to adjust for a changing body. There is no ridicule in our household for honest mistakes, there will be conversation and sometimes frustration, but not anger.

How does my son not walk around afraid of falling? He falls all the time. In fact he seems to relish his bruises.

Maybe it’s because my son also spends much of his day on or very near me. Maybe it’s because cuddled close after a fall he’s sure I love him.

When I’m far from God and I fall or someone corrects an honest mistake I act like a feral child. I snap at the hand that reaches out to help. In my fear I seek independence from everything and everyone.

When I sit on God’s lap, aware I am a child of God, when God’s arms are tight around me there is no room for the embrace of fear.

And I am better able to receive correction as I test out the world and falls as signs of growth.

He who is full loathes honey, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.

~Proverbs 27:7 (NIV)

In my writing it’s easy to see this truth. When I’m hungry to learn and grow I push aside fear and submit my work to my peers to be critiqued. Typos don’t even register as something to be up in arms over. I want to grow. I want to make the best use of this gift I have been given.

This is my prayer for the week:
May I always be hungry for you, God. May I never be satisfied with fear and hiding. Grant me the courage to climb into Your lap. In Your loving-mercy, wrap Your arms around me. Fill me with an awareness of Your presence. 
I want to walk on the path of life.

Friday, July 20, 2018

“The world admires only the spectacular sacrifice,
because it does not realize the value of the sacrifice that is hidden and silent.”

~Josemaria Escriva

Today I am submitting my book proposal to be looked over by the agents who requested it at the Christian writers conference I attended in May.  Honestly, I’m scared and excited all at once.

One of the great things about the conference was learning that while my manuscript might be great, the proposal for publishing my book needed to go along with my amazing manuscript sucked. Completely.

Why am I grateful for hearing I created a terrible marketing document?

One reason is it’s always better to learn you’ve written a bunch of junk before you press send. Thank you, Lord, for the mercy of learning this before it went out.

The second is I feel like I’ve been surrounded by miracles for the last several months and the process of re-writing my proposal has been one of the biggest.

You see, when I walked into the conference in May I had specific ideas of what I thought I was doing there and what God was doing in me. In my head I had it all planned out. I was just there to learn and initiate opportunities to learn. I was going to be bold in talking to all the new people I was going to meet. I was going to be aware of my body’s needs and honor the demand learning places on it by resting.

And that felt big enough for me.

Not only did God have other things in mind for me at the conference, I had no idea how God was working in my husband at home.

Throughout every talk, seminar, and keynote I felt a nudge to be bold and pitch my first manuscript instead of ducking my head and waiting until I had written more. I hadn’t planned on pitching my manuscript to literary agents because I didn’t feel I was enough: accomplished enough, credentialed enough, having written long enough with a platform large enough. I didn’t want to be that arrogant jerk who just knew she had written a masterpiece on her first try.

Instead God talked to me about the difference between humility, true recognition that I am at the beginning of my writing career and have lots to learn, and lack of courage. Because, let’s be honest, talking to agents and publishers leaves me shaking in my boots.

So, I was bold. And wow, did God make divine appointments for me. It was crazy.

But here’s the deal, I had five other reasons I didn’t feel ready to pitch my book. My husband and I have a kid starting high school, one in middle, two in elementary, and one still at home.

Boy, that four-year-old.

In my first graders class for Mother’s Day this year there was this fill in the blank sheet her teacher laminated and made into a card. It was one of those sheets where the kiddo guesses their mom’s age (apparently I’m 50), favorite color (purple of course), and favorite way to relax (books, precious books).

Little kid answers to anything can get funny but the thing that made me lose it laughing was this question and answer, 

“My mom says . . .”

My seven-year-old daughter’s answer, 

“Matthew, stop hitting people!”

Way too accurate. And guess who is still home all day with me?

How was I supposed to really step into writing more often, say, actually finishing my second manuscript that I’ve be picking at for almost a year, with my rambunctious ninja-baby-Hulk at home?

The thing that was the biggest surprise in all this wasn’t hearing my proposal needed work. I knew it was a mess. It wasn’t getting requests for my proposal and manuscript although it was miraculous.

The biggest surprise was going away to a Christian writing conference and discovering God had been doing an amazing work in my husband.

The writing conference I went to was six days, five nights and so my husband had arranged ahead of time to work from home while I was gone. This meant he was single dadding it for getting four kids to two different schools, taking care of the toddler, making meals and all the chores of a large family, like fifty loads of laundry a day, all while the kids started daily swim team practice that ran after school all while working himself. Since he had traveled for all but four days in April we could call it wife appreciation week if that’s all he did.

On Monday our toddler came down with the cold-flu and became that special bundle of miserable that happens when four year olds stop sleeping through the night. Two days later when I had my first agent request my book proposal, which I knew needed a major redo, I prepared to call my husband to celebrate. But with a little trepidation. Because he might hate me for abandoning him at home with a sick demon, I mean toddler. And because how exactly was I going to find the time to work on it?

On the way to make the call after dinner I ran into a new friend (see, I was also doing my original challenge: make new friends/talk to strangers/don’t be weird) and stopped to say hi. My new friend and I had been talking about pitches the day before and she had been part of encouraging me to do so. Naturally she asked how it went and I told her about the request.

She just happened to be sitting right next to a different agent. One whom I’ve been fan-girling over and had cyber stalked her blog for the last three years. The agent watched me as I told my friend about how the pitch had gone and my pleasure at being asked to submit a proposal. Then the agent did the unthinkable. She said, “So what’s your book about?”

I smiled at the agent with all the respect one might give a velociraptor, because I was clearly taking my life into my hands by answering, but I did. I told her about my manuscript.

Little did I know, the people around that table, which happened to be all women, had talked all through dinner about the need for a book just like the one I wrote.

When I finally got back to my room to call my husband it was not with one, but two agents having requested my work.

My husband’s response?

Honey, how can I help you get the time you need to make this work? I think I can talk to my boss about arranging to work from home two or three days a week this next school year so you can write.

I’m sorry. What?

I expected my husband to be excited for me. I expected him to be proud. But somehow it didn’t even occur to me to consider my husband would be willing to sacrifice for me.

“The love of God remakes the soul.”

~Augustine Thompson, O.P.

It’s not that I don’t think my husband values me. It’s not that my husband has never sacrificed for me. Just, wow.

For the last six weeks, except for that one week he was out of town, my husband has busted his butt to make kids-home-for-the-summer and wife-putting-together-the-marketing-documents-needed-to-make-a book-deal work. And work fairly well, cause hey, I just finished. He helped me clean out space in our bedroom to put in a folding table to work on. He helped me find the money in the budget to buy a few more reference books needed to write my proposal. He cleared out his schedule so I could go out and write at a coffee shop two afternoons and two evenings a week. He took on cooking dinner the afternoons I head out to work.
I am so grateful.

I’m so grateful an agent requested my proposal and that it needed to be redone so I could see the hidden miracle of a devoted husband and father.

Thank you, Jesus.

Thank you, Josh.

How have you experienced the unexpected sacrifice of others?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Where Does Faith And Hope Come From?

Several weeks ago a church service, the last Ask Father Pat Sunday at church, has stayed with me. Especially in light of the recent death of Kate Spade and the attention paid to the shocking statistics in our country surrounding the issues of depression, anxiety, and suicide. The question from that Sunday keeps echoing in my mind. Haunting maybe.

An older woman asked, “What about faith and hope? What do you do when life gets hard, really hard, and your faith seems to shrivel up? What then?”

Every twelve weeks or so our pastor does a Sunday he calls, “Ask Father Pat Sunday,” in which parishioners can do what the title suggests. During the time normally set aside for the sermon/homily/preaching/or-whatever-else-you-call-it people from the congregation can ask anything. Something about the Bible bugging you or a question about last weeks Scripture? Ever wondered why Franciscans wear a brown robe that makes them look like a Jedi? Whatever you want to ask, the floor's open.

Faith and hope. When life gets hard, why is it so hard to believe in God’s goodness? Sometimes we even doubt God’s existence.

I have been studying issues related to this very topic ever since my cancer diagnosis in 2011. More recently I have been looking at endless pages of research as I get ready to send a proposal to a literary agent for the publication of my first finished manuscript.

Did you know that in 2012, in a Gallup study of 60,000 women, twenty-eight percent of stay-at-home moms (SAHM) and seventeen percent of working moms describe the previous day’s emotional state as depressed? Did you know forty-two percent of SAHM and thirty-six percent of working moms report struggling with daily life?

  As Christians it can be especially hard when hard things happen. And I’m not talking break your nail kind of hard. I remember feeling betrayed by God when, after the birth of our firstborn, our infant daughter developed colic. She would cry, I’m not kidding or exaggerating here, eight hours a day. Eight. Hours. A. Day.

My feelings were a raw mess. I loved Jesus and I was a nice person. Sure babies cry. I was not expecting learning to be a mom to be easy. I was expecting lots of hard work.

A baby who bawled her eyes out until she fell into exhausted sleep, sleep that ran in only forty minute increments day or night, was not what I thought a loving Father God should let happen to daughters who love him. I frantically searched my life for sins I could confess that would mean my baby slept better. What prayers could I pray that would make her better?

Was I unworthy as God’s daughter? Did he not love me? Was I being punished for being bad?

I never did figure out how to pray the right way or confess the right thing.

Instead I learned how to survive what felt nearly intolerable. I cannot begin to describe what welled up in me as my precious firstborn baby cried day after day in endless hours of pain. How many times I would lay her on my bed and both of us would sob. How many doctors I took her to exhausted, and apparently incoherent, as they told me in a condescending way, "Babies do cry sometimes." Or that "I was over-attentive and just needed to let her cry it out."

My faith was shaken. My husband felt abandoned by God. Barely married a year and our marriage began to disintegrate.

What is hope? 

Hope is the faith that somehow, somewhere, sometime things will get better. 

So how, exactly, do you hope when it seems nothing you do has an influence on the outcome? I felt impotent. I couldn’t find anything to help my daughter and I couldn’t help my husband find a faith in a God I myself was not sure was good.

What then?

What about being diagnosed with breast cancer while nursing my four month old? Should I wish to be among the fifty percent of young women still alive two years after diagnosis while I watched the two friends I made in treatment worsen and die?

One of the things realized, at last, a few years ago was I believed in this definition of faith:

    Faith is the evidence of things I hope for and are within my control, and the conviction of things I can see if I squint right and can make happen if I try harder.

Instead of this one from the book of Hebrews:
    Faith is the evidence of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not yet seen.
                                                                                                            (Heb 11:1 NRSV)

Most of the things I hope for I can have an influence on their appearance in my life, even if it’s a long shot. Many of the things I hope for are material in nature. I learned through living hard things that much of my faith was not placed in God, it was placed in myself. And I fail. In reality I have so little control over anything other than myself. Even then, despite my choices to eat organic, locally sourced, free-range spinach, I won’t live forever.

When my hope is placed in all the stuff of this life, some of it really good things, health for instance, I am sure to be disappointed. I was diagnosed with chemo induced heart failure after the birth of our last child. My hopes placed in an invincible body that doesn’t ever hurt or breakdown until I die peacefully in my sleep at ninety is not the hope God offers.

Instead God, our good Father, holds out a gift that is lasting. Everlasting. Instead God holds out the unseen to replace the broken 'seen' in our lifetimes living in our broken world. In exchange for belief in Jesus, God offers Heaven. Eternal life after this one passes.

If, or lets be honest, when my faith rests on things that I can see and control, it’s like a toy in the hand of my four-year-old son, any toy really. The toy or my faith will be broken.

But it was not God who broke faith with me when my life got hard. God is not the faith breaker. He never promised Christians a free pass on all hard things once they believe.

So our choice is this: hard things in life without God, or hard things in life with a relationship with God.

I’ve chosen. It’s easier with God. Not easy, easier.

And sometimes harder too. Because just last week God asked me to admit to my husband I was being irrational and a jerk. And then, God invited me of all things, to apologize for my behavior. And then, I had to ask for my husband’s forgiveness.

Don’t be discouraged when your heart is broken in this life, by this life. You are not alone. Never alone. God is with you and longs to help you rebuild a shattered faith and life until your hope rests on something, and someone, eternal.

How has your faith been shaped by life? Are they ways I can pray for you this next week?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Five Things To Avoid During Family Vacations

Last weekend our family went camping at Myrtle Beach State Park.

Think five kids with their parents in one big tent, ninety degree days with ninety percent humidity, four year old boys, fire, sand and sleep in thiry minute increments.

Since I’m a firm believer in learning from other’s mistakes whenever possible, here’s the take away:

Five Things To Avoid During Family Vacations 
So You Don’t Lose Your Ever-loving Mind 
(In Chronological Order)

1. Pack With Five Kids Running Around Shouting, “Beach!” and “Swimming!” and “S’mores!”

    This blog is all about living inside of your God-given strengths. So let me just admit, camping organization is not one of mine. Even on a normal day. (And when, exactly, is life “normal”?)
    The right stuff got packed. Mostly. But, where, in fact was it packed?

    The reality of packing for a family vacation is kids running around on those first few days after school lets out, and ahem, fighting with each other, the dog running around barking at the fighting kids, and me trying to balance life. I'm not a ninja-mom-gymnast so this meant the camping stuff ended up in random bags as I thought of those items to be packed. If you pack this way you end up in a campground with your helpful husband trying to set up dinner and asking for where you packed things.

    And then you will say something stupid like, “The camping things are in the bags.”
    You both look at the haphazard pile of camping gear, kids backpacks, sand toys, and grocery bags.

    “I’m looking for the matches so I can start the fire. Where in all these bags are the matches?”
    Your brilliant reply, “If you wanted to know where the matches are, then you should have been the one to pack them.”

    Ouch. Yes, husband, I packed the things in with the other stuff. I have no idea where it all went.
    Including my ever-loving mind.

    Emphasis on the loving part.

2. Don’t Make a Plan for Your Four Year Olds Entertainment While You Set Up the Tent

    We had a shaded campsite chosen, first because it was available, and second because it was close to the bathrooms without needing to worry about constant foot traffic around our campsite all night long. Myrtle Beach State Park is well kept like one might expect from the State Parks system. But it is the beach. Or beach-ish with the campground an easy walk, maybe quarter to half mile down to the water from our site.

    As a beach campground the packed “earth” of the site was really mostly sand. I expected our seven year old daughter and four year old son to run around in the water and spend all day building sand castles at the beach. Not within two feet of the tailgate of the van. Or right next to the water spigot.

    And as my daughter made sand mountains my son decided to turn them into volcanoes that exploded as he stomped them because a. Flying sand is fun, and b. Making your sister cry is even better.
    Setting up a campsite doesn’t take that long when you have two uninterrupted adults putting everything to rights. Why would I even think of planning for my children’s entertainment while we did so? It’s not like I haven’t been a mom, for say, fourteen years. (insert face-palm)

    Do me one better. When you drive up to your site don’t just plan out where to put the tent. Pick the least ankle breaking spot for your kids to dig their holes and reserve that space for excavation and sand mountain remodeling. Or, if you don't want to mediate fights every two minutes, get out the coloring stuff first.

3. Forget to Research the Acceptable Shade Devises for the Beach

    Who knew it is illegal to set up a shade tent on the beach inside Horry County? I would if I had thought it was even a thing. Who knew it was a thing?
    Well, the beach life guard and parks service representative for one. I’m telling you now, it’s a thing. We didn’t get a citation, thankfully, but each county has a code about the dimensions and type of shelters legal for beach use.

    Chagrined, I took down our sun shade where it sat all day, and the next, in the bag and not able to provide that respite from the June sun.

    One Sander’s family extra-crispy coming up.

4. Bring One Set of Shampoo/Conditioner Because It Saves Space

    We recently downsized from a large eight passenger truck (think Suburban or Excursion) to a mini-van to save on gas millage. Very recently. Before the purchase we made sure the whole family would fit comfortably in a mini-van for travel.

    This is, unfortunately, the comfortable of going to Costco or church.

    After adding seven sleeping bags or blankets, seven pillows, one extra-large family tent, a camp stove and propane, ice chest, and beach gear it became crystal clear people will be climbing on top of each other, literally, in order to get out during bathroom stops. As a woman of above average intelligence I then decided taking two bars of soap, two travel shampoos, and two conditioners was simply one too much of everything. Clearly it would tip the load. We could take turns like rational people. Because two travel sized soaps would make a huge difference in packing.
    After spending the day at the beach getting extra crispy without our sun tent, and before dinner, my husband and I thought it would be a relief to get out of the wet suits and shower off all the sand that inevitably ends up in places you don’t want it to be when you are crouched around a camp fire roasting hot dogs and marshmallows.

    This is actually a great plan until confronted with the reality of camp ground showering facilities.

    The weekend we camped it was ninety degrees at the beach with ninety percent humidity. Somehow if you compress ninety degrees with ninety percent humidity and add running tepid water in a three foot by three foot shower stall, so that even while standing under the running water you are still sweating, then every kid will want to shower with mom. Because mom has the only soap, shampoo and conditioner.

    Bring extra shampoo. At least one. Or maybe one per person.

5. Only Bring One Fan For The Tent

    Summer days in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina are amazing. When we were there the waves were warm, the sand endless. There is literally no end to the entertainment value of the ocean and sand for all five kids, ages four to fourteen. Even the ones complaining about the lack of video games. We played in the water until all our toes were permanent prunes.

    At some point though, you have to go back to the campground and get your people to go to sleep.

    If you choose to camp anytime between May and October in the South you will know what hell is. You will know because it will be approximately the temperature needed to bake a casserole inside your tent.

    And that single “wind tunnel effect” fan you brought won’t cut it. Not even a little.

    Your people will need to sleep. Let me correct that. They might not need to sleep. But you NEED your people to sleep. And not in thirty minute increments between kicking their neighbor, complaining about their previously favorite sibling breathing “their air” or being in “their space bubble”. And needing to go potty. And tattling on their sibling for having their eyes open.

    Bring a second fan. It could save a life.

    So, this was our recent family vacation camping at Myrtle Beach.

    It was… memory building.

   Do you have any funny or wince-worthy family vacation stories to share?

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

5 Tips To Recover After Travel

     Recently I attended the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference which involved five days away from the family.

     Before leaving was busy as I set up my husband to handle the kid’s activities, meals, and still work from home. I had a great week away working on the craft of writing and networking with great people. But it’s also a long week of job interviews and classes, and I came home tired. It got me thinking of our summer travel plans.

     Often I find myself frazzled after our summer fun. What are ways to make summer travel easier?
     Here’s 5 Tips to Recover After Travel (so you don’t die or kill your family)

1. Set up at least one dinner ahead of time for your return.

     I don’t know about you but the last thing I want to do when I get back from the beach or camping is cook dinner. Even if we get in late, well after the dinner hour, having a meal set up for the next day at home is a Godsend. The first full day back is usually spent unloading backpacks and suitcases, doing laundry and settling back into the home. And I’m usually exhausted.

     Why not cook something ahead of time?

     Meals I like to set up so I don’t have to do more than cook fresh rice or pasta are:

Chili - Chili can be frozen in quantity, I just stick mine into the freezer in a big plastic tub, and tastes great reheated. A simple set up of the rice cooker and 45 minutes later I have a hot meal ready to serve on a day I didn’t feel like cooking.

Soup - Whenever I make a soup I always make a double batch. My husband and I both work to keep at least one meal of chicken noodle for seven in the freezer for these occasions. And because mom-is-sick-of-cooking happens even on a regular day.

Goulash - American goulash is a kid friendly twist on spaghetti. Goulash like this one here: Goulash, can be made ahead of time, just withhold the noodles until reheating. After the sauce is thawed and reheated just add the noodles directly to the sauce to cook. My kids love this dish with our gluten-free brown rice macaroni noodles and sprinkled with shredded cheese.

2. Have a quiet activity prepped for the first day home

     One of the downsides of a return home is everyone is fatigued. And tired kids are kids who pick fights with each other.

     Knowing this is going to happen I prep a simple activity ahead of time. I’m not a mom good at all the Pinterest worthy kids crafts, so by simple I mean I go and get a pack of inexpensive sidewalk chalk, bubbles, or a set of spiral bound art paper and new colored pencils.

     Anything that engages kids for at least a half hour and which I can bring out when people start to get on each other’s nerves.

3. Enforce a mandatory nap time. For everyone. That means you too.

     Traveling is an energy drain so plan time for extra rest on your return. Even if your kids are too old for naps (or think they are) everyone could use more down time after a trip. Set at least an hour or two after lunch your first full day home. Older children can bring books, paper and drawing supplies or a favorite toy, but everyone must be on their bed for the time you set.

     For my kiddos with difficulty not talking and bugging their roommate-sibling I remind them their time doesn’t start until they stop talking.

     Even if reality with parenting five kids is I don’t get more than a power 15-20 minute nap, I can rest, or at least enjoy the temporary quiet and get up ready to take on the household again.

     What things do you do to recover after a trip?

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

3 Tips for Getting Past Your Fears

Last week I attended the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in North Carolina. Before the conference I paid for a critique of my non-fiction book proposal by an agent I would meet there. At the conference I was able to make appointments with two additional agents to pitch my book and sat at dinner right next to another.

Let’s just say there were amply opportunities to exercise my courage.

What does it take to laugh in the face of fear? Here are 3 tips for getting past your fears:

1. Name Your Fears
Jim Watkins led the conference with the keynote speech Sunday night. He gave a hilarious retelling of the David versus Goliath story using writers for David and editors, agents, and publishers in place of Goliath.

Sometimes I make my fears seven feet tall and armed. Just naming my fears for the conference shrinks them down in size a little. Realizing I make my fears giants in my life helps me also face this truth: I am not alone.

When I stand shaking in front of my fears they fill my vision. Naming them for what they are allows me to take a step back. I may be small in the writing industry. I may only have a few tools with which to work at this point. But the God of the universe has called me: Chosen, Holy, and Beloved. (Colossians 3:12 NAB) Not because of my greatness but because of His.

2. Focus on God’s call for your life.

(Proverbs 31:25 NAB) “She is clothed in strength and dignity and laughs without fear of the future.” I can’t yet manage to not be afraid during a book pitch, what is essentially a job interview, but I can take steps to minimize the anxiety I feel by focusing on the source of my strength and calling. My worth is not dependent on landing an agent or winning a book contract. When I keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith, my fear falls away into the background.

3. Focus on your strengths not your weaknesses.

It would be easy to sit in an interview with say, Bob Hostetler, who has written more than 50 books and let the magnitude of my newness loom as large as his book sales. I am a newer writer, no hiding it. My first appointment of the conference with a different agent where I focused on my amateur writing status was beyond awkward, and I knew I hadn’t put my best foot forward. No surprise when the agent didn’t ask for my proposal or a sample of my work.

After that I leaned into God’s call on my life to be a communicator. I focused on my strengths as a speaker and my hunger to reach out to the millennial generation. The next time I had an agent appointment I was more relaxed and came across better. And guess what? He asked for my book proposal. At dinner that night I sat next to an agent whose blog I had cyber-stalked for years and I was relaxed enough to laugh. She asked for my book proposal. The next day’s appointment went well too. And she asked for my proposal.

Those meetings may never result in those agent’s signing me, but I’m proud of myself. I didn’t let me fears stop me from stepping up.

What are you afraid of? Do you have tricks for getting past your fears?

Thursday, May 3, 2018

What Does It Take To Win The Lottery?

Doesn’t it sound so easy? 

Just go out and buy a small paper ticket for three dollars, hardly enough to buy a gallon of gas these days, then poof! 

I too could be a millionaire.

Except we all live in the real world where adulting needs to happen and really winning the lottery looks like this:

Feel God is calling me to write a book
Get mad at God about the ridiculousness of that notion because I have five kids. Five! Where would I find the time?
What. The. Heck.
Get stubborn and decide to prove God wrong, that I can’t write a book, and start writing a book.
Realize after four months of writing for two hours once a week that I am in fact writing a book.
Freak out.
Finish writing a book in about nine months. How did this happen?
Sit for two weeks feeling like I am THE American Ninja Writing Warrior-mom for writing a book.
          Take a brief glance at what it takes to publish my awesomeness.
           Freak out.
Start editing book while I absorb the fact the average new writer writes five manuscripts before they ever publish even one.
Still editing.
How much time does it really take to edit?
Two months later ask friends to help me edit.
Start begging for friends to help me edit.
Join a local writer’s critique group.
Eight readers and six months later realize my manuscript will now be rejected in 15 seconds rather than 10.
Go to my first writer’s conference.
Fast forward one year. Still sneaking moments to write and realizing just how much work goes into a winning ticket.

We all wish people would throw money at us, that instant success we didn’t really earn. In order to win the writers-life lottery I have to give up another more sacred dream than my dream of being a published author.  

My real dream is this: 

Success doesn’t take work.

I’m about to head off to what will be my fourth writer’s conference, the Blue Ridge Christian Writer’s Conference, picking my way slowly toward my dream. By the law of averages I need to finish my two manuscripts-in-progress, and then start and finish another two manuscripts in the next four years before I maybe get that golden ticket: my first manuscript sale. The idea of the wait is daunting, but then so is the idea of the work involved.

These days with the shifting landscape of e-books, self-publishing, and print-on-demand writers can no longer afford to write the solitary novel while sitting in their introverted cave while dreaming up new universes.

These days being a writer means more than being a dreamer, it means being willing to work for a dream.

Being a writer means I have to go back to school, so to speak: The Writer’s Conference. Not just once. Nope. Again and again at $500-800 a pop.

Why? To learn to write better books. To learn how to edit my own work. To learn how to write 30 page reports on my books. To learn how sell myself. To learn how to turn my self and writing into a brand. To learn how to market. To learn…

To learn success isn’t instant and to decide if I am going to apply my stubborn strength to writing or give into my fears.
The easy path would be to sit at home and bemoan the entire writing industry that doesn’t recognize my obvious creative genius. 

Or I can take the road less traveled in walking miles of humility.

How much money has my family sacrificed for me to go back to writer’s schools? Five kids; for us that’s not extra money just lying around waiting for a use. Am I worth it? I’m scared to death of this next writers conference. Even after attending three conferences the idea of having my work critiqued makes my stomach drop and my hands shake. Will I take the extra steps to put myself out there despite my fear?

How patient am I? I have another 15 months of plodding along in my writing until my youngest is in kindergarten. We can’t afford day care for him, which is fine; I can work at enjoying what will be the only fourth year of life he will ever get and writing in stolen moments. Having two teenagers I know how fast this time of snuggles and belly laughs and tantrums and stomping his feet flies. Wait. Oh yeah, still living that last part with the olders.

Someday this time in my life of wanting to write more and not having the time will slowly melt into having the time and facing the discipline of daily writing. I’m sure I will look back with nostalgia at this year and think I had it easy.

Am I willing to give up my grass-is-greener lottery ticket mentality in order to face my future with courage?

Pray for me. I’ll let you know which path I chose after Blue Ridge.

What steps can you take in the next week to work toward your dream?