Main Character Monday – Rosemary Gresham

NameUnknown_mck.inddWelcome to Main Character Monday. Today’s guest is Rosemary Gresham from A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White. Thank you for joining me Rosemary.

 If you could choose only one thing to buy without money being an issue, what would you buy?

Are you teasing me? I can’t even fathom such a world, but if you’re going to get my imagination going…it would be a house big enough hold all the family, all in the same place. With closets filled with clothes and shoes and coats for all of them, and a pantry stocked with food. That counts as one thing, doesn’t it?

I’m not sure that fits the “one thing” criteria, but since it’s a self-less wish, I’ll let it stand. The New Testament tells the story of two sisters who react to Jesus visiting in very different ways. Mary chooses to spend her time with him, while Martha chooses to see to the physical details of his visit. Are you more a Mary or Martha?

I had never heard that story until recently…but I know sisters well enough! In my family, though, it’s not a question of which one we are—it’s a matter of which one we have to be. I think we all have to play the Martha role most, just to make sure there’s food on the table and clothes on the little ones’ backs. We have to attend the details or the details don’t get attended. But we steal what Mary moments we can. Willa has her music. Retta her books. Me…well, now that you mention it, maybe I haven’t found the time to be a Mary much at all recently. I suppose the closest I come is when I take a moment to cuddle with the little ones. Minutes that are far too few as we’re all scrabbling about for our next meal—or our next score.

I can see how it’s important for you and your sisters to be like Martha, but I hope in the future you get to enjoy some Mary time. “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27 – Do you think this verse, lived out would have made a difference in your life? If so, how?

Well now you’ve made my eyes go a bit teary. In all my life, I’ve never met anyone who lived that out—until Peter. If I had…I can’t even imagine what could have been different. Perhaps we wouldn’t have had to learn to steal just to survive. Perhaps we wouldn’t have had to run every time we saw an adult turning our way. Perhaps we could have remained unspotted, if someone had shown us such care. As it is, our only recourse had been to take in what other orphans we could, and try to keep them secure from the world. We never would have called it religion, though. We just called it love.

I’m sorry it’s taken so long for you to find someone who exemplifies that type of faith. Just imagine if everyone who believes practiced that kind of love. What scripture verse would you claim as a life verse?

That would have to be Ephesians 5:8

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light…”

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’ve always been afraid of darkness. I never realized that I feared it because it had become a part of me…or that I could embrace the Light instead. Discovering that…well, that changes everything, doesn’t it?

Yes, it does. If there was one message you could give those reading this interview, what would that be?

Never assume. Never assume you know a person just because of how they dress or even what they say. Never assume there’s no other way. Never assume there’s nothing you can do.

Great advice for all of us to follow.

Just for Fun:

Indoors or outdoors: Outdoors! Especially after a few suffocating hours in that cave of a room Peter tries to call a library…

Reading or writing: Oh, reading. I’ll leave the writing to other certain people who shall remain nameless…(ahem, Branok Hollow)

Apples or pears: This one made me laugh. “Apples and pears” is part of rhyming slang in my neighborhood, meaning “stairs.” But if you’re meaning the actual fruits—I’d go with apples.

Early bird or night owl: Give me the morning any time!

Rosemary, please describe Roseanna M. White in three words.

Oh, let’s see. From what I’ve been able to glean about her, she has a bit in common with Peter, living in an imaginary world as she does. I’d say optimistic, creative, and absentminded—that last one being the one she shares with him most.

Thanks to Rosemary Gresham for joining me today. I really enjoyed interviewing you! If you’d like to get to know Rosemary better, you can get your own copy of A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White from Amazon in paperback, hardcover, e-book, and Audible Audiobook formats. 

To connect with Roseanna White check out these links:

Blog: https://roseannamwhite.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RoseannaMWhite/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/roseannamwhite/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/roseannamwhite/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RoseannaMWhite

Website: http://www.roseannamwhite.com

Faith for the Fire

fire-2915539_960_720“Amazing how fire exposes our priorities.” –Sherlock in BBC’s Sherlock.

Wait. This bog is about books and faith. What in the world am I doing quoting a television show, especially one that, at times, dances across the line into trivializing faith? The quote is good. Think about it. REALLY, think about it. How many of us have staunchly stood up and promised we’d remain loyal to our faith even in the face of danger or death? But would we?

We’ve heard stories of believers asked to renounce their faith or die. In the ones we hear, the believer holds firmly to faith. It’s inspiring. I hope that if push ever came to shove, I would be as bold. That I could be like the three boys who were thrown into the fire because they refused to kneel to a golden image or Daniel who kept praying even though he faced the lion’s den.

But then I stumble in the smaller things, and it leaves me wondering, not about my faith exactly but about what I’m holding onto. I’ve recently started listening to “Home” by Chris Tomlin. It’s an upbeat song about how the troubles in life open you up to the realization that we are not made for the world as it is. We were made for God’s perfect creation that will one day be restored. We were made for heaven, a place where we can be fully in God’s presence. It speaks of wanting to go home. I sing along and look forward to that time. Well, I did until a fire showed me where I fail.

The other day, I found a lump that as a woman over forty, I knew I had to have checked out. My head told me it was nothing. It was sudden and painful, two factors that are actually considered good. Most of the time, I handled the wait for my mammogram well. But at times the worst case scenario entered my mind. Family history and the memory of my aunt’s battle with cancer would sneak their way into my thoughts. I believe my God can heal anything, but it doesn’t mean He chooses to do so every time. Cancer takes the lives of believers every day, ones with undeniable faith in God.

How did I handle the uncertain times? I decided to simply spend time in worship. No matter what, God is ultimately in control. Even the difficult times can bring us closer to Him and shape us into someone who lives and loves more like Jesus. I turned on the music and started to sing along. Home started playing. At first I was fine. Then we reached the chorus, “Oh I want to go home.” I couldn’t sing it. The only thought that ran through my head was, “But I don’t want to go now.” The relatively small fire of uncertainty over my health showed me how much I still hold on to the temporary. In my heart I know God holds my kids in His hands. I know that He loves them more than I do. But I want to see with my own eyes how they grow. I’ve given them to God, but do I struggle to keep from taking them back?

As uncomfortable and downright painful as life can be, it’s known. There’s something to be said for accepting what is known over the unknown no matter how good it’s supposed to be. We haven’t experienced it yet. Though our hearts and faith tells us it’s going to be beyond our wildest imaginations, it’s still the unknown. We struggle, I struggle, and it took one short-lived fire to show me the truth.

It’s much the same way with Cara Westling in Plummet by Brandilyn Collins. Cara has escaped an abusive situation with her daughter and started a new life in Idaho. When she immediately lands a job, she’s grateful. Though she struggles with self-esteem after what she’s been through, her faith is intact. She knows God is right there with them, helping them move to a better place in life. He’s going to see them through.

Then the fire starts. One week into her job, her boss murders a woman practically in front of her. She balks at his insistence that she help get rid of the body. When he asks her what her daughter will do without her after she’s convicted of murder, she sees it as the threat that it is. She is the new nobody in town. He’s a powerful, respected man in the community. Cara feels she has no choice. She helps him. The flame becomes a blaze as one choice leads to another down a path she can’t seem to escape.

I got the impression that if it had been Cara and no one else, she would have claimed God would help her through whatever came. She would have said no to her boss. It was when her daughter was thrown into the mix that Cara struggled. Suddenly the faith she claimed didn’t seem strong enough to stand under what would come. It was trial by fire, and Cara found her guilt growing with each new demand from her boss.

Of course, looking at trials by fire from another direction, both for Cara and ourselves, we see God uses them to grow our faith. When we finally make the godly choices we should have made in the beginning, our faith gets stronger. It’s easier to keep making the right choices in the future. That gives me hope. Maybe one day, mine will be strong enough that nothing will keep me from being able to sing, “Oh I want to go home.”

By the Book: What priorities would a fire in your life expose?

Write Stuff Wednesday 6

garbage-3259455_960_720“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.” – Margaret Atwood

Some days it’s all I can do to string words together to make a coherent sentence. Somedays, I’m not even sure I can qualify that sentence with “coherent”. Every writer runs into days when the words don’t come easy. But we write anyway. We struggle to put out a few hundred words, and the next day we look at those words with fresh eyes. Maybe they won’t be as awful as they felt when we wrote them. Maybe, by some miracle of the writing world, we stumbled through our writing and the resulting paragraphs are examples of writing at its finest.

It doesn’t happen that way. At least it doesn’t for me. That second look at what I’ve written makes me cringe in embarrassment. How could I stoop to such depths of telling instead of showing? Can you even have a cacophony of colors when a cacophony is a mixture of sounds? And why is my protagonist completely ignoring the events of the last three chapters?

It’s painful, and it makes me grateful that editing is part of the process of writing. I don’t have to succeed perfectly the first time. It would be strange if I did. I need to take a second look, maybe even a third and fourth. I need input from others who know the craft of writing. They can catch things that my eyes miss after being dulled by multiple readings to what is actually written on the page. It’s a long process, but every time I go through it, I learn something I can take with me to the next project.

When I internalize those lessons, they work their way into my next manuscript. It doesn’t mean that manuscript will be perfectly written the first time either. But it does mean, the editing process will be less intense this time around. It means my editors can focus on the next issue I need to get control of. It means I have grown a little more as a writer and am better at it than I was the day before. And it starts by being willing to write, even when the words don’t come easy and I know the results will be less than stellar.

Less than stellar. It’s a feeling I’ve known in more than my writing life. When I look at my Christian life, I’ve also gotten to know that feeling. I can remember times when I meant to do good and yet stumbled my way into hurting people I care about. I set out to witness to someone, and power my way through it without finesse or discernment pushing the person away in the process. As a Christian parent, I can think of so many times I have failed to be the example my children needed to see. I’ve taken some things too seriously and others not seriously enough.

It’s rough. I want to be the person God designed me to be. I don’t set out to mess it all up. But in my inexperience or overzealousness I’ve ended up going in directions that God never meant for me to go. In my own hurt and struggles, I’ve let my sinful nature get the better of me and my witness has lost its power. I relate to Paul’s assertion that “the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want” (Romans 7:19).

But all is not lost. God looks at my heart. He knows my desire is for Him and living the way He wants me to live. He has made me a new creation, though I may struggle at times to live like it. Scripture is full of people who didn’t live the faith life perfectly, and God chose to use them in powerful ways. Our God is a redeeming God. He redeems us from our sin, and He can redeem situations when we fail for whatever reason. He’s also a forgiving God. Scripture tells us that if we confess our sins He I will forgive (1 John 1:9). It doesn’t say He’s faithful to forgive as long as that sin is never committed again, though He certainly desires for us to “go and sin no more” (John 8:11). He says He forgives if we have repentant hearts.

Scripture is often the editor of my faith. In it, I learn more of what God wants His people to be like. Through it I can see my sins and mistakes. God also uses other believers in my life to help me edit my walk of faith. As with writing editors, I have to weigh what they tell me against what the experts say. In this case, the only expert I can weigh their teachings against is scripture. If what they say rings true to scripture, then I know I can apply it to my life. I can use it to help me become more of the believer God intends me to be. When I internalize lessons from scripture and other mature believers, God teaches me, and I grow into a better example of what a follower of Jesus should be.

By the Book: Are you allowing God’s truth to work in your life, shaping you into the believer He would have you be?

Less Than Blessed on Mother’s Day

momAs I think about all the books I’ve read, one book immediately comes to mind when I think of moms. In the Rush of Wings series by Kristen Heitzmann, there is a secondary character who is the matriarch of her family. She’s everything a mother should be though certainly not perfect. She raises her children to love God, she prays for them, and she is protective of them. Celia teaches her children to work hard, value life, and love others. She is a shining example of what a Christian mother should be.

But there are other women that stand out as mothers without having given birth. In A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White, Rosemary has no children. Being an orphan herself, she’s not even had an example of what a mother should be since she was a small child. Yet when as an adult she finds herself in a makeshift family of orphans, Rosemary becomes like a mother to the younger ones. She cares for them and tries to teach them how to survive on the streets. Though her lessons are often how to get by with the illegal without getting caught, she is attempting to protect the children in the only way she knows how. And she does care for them. She would like to see the children have chances she never did. Everything she does is for the good of the family and the provision of food and shelter for the young ones in her care. Though they consider each other siblings, she acts as a loving mother to children who are of absolutely no relation to her.

It’s a better deal than Tess Spencer got in Guilt By Association by Heather Day Gilbert. Her mother was a drug dealer who ended up in prison. The life Tess remembers with her mother was one of lack and neglect. It’s left her with emotional scars. But even though her relationship with her mother is in desperate need of forgiveness and reconciliation, Tess isn’t without a woman in her life to help show her how to be the mother God intends her to be. Throughout the story, we’re shown that her mother-in-law has become the godly example her own mother never was. The relationship between them is full of encouragement, support, and love. Tess has been blessed.

And as I think about Mother’s Day tomorrow, I think knowing we’re blessed should be the main point. There are a lot of situations out there. There are women with healthy, happy children. There are those who have children but have suffered the loss of children as well. Many have had a child only to lose it later on. And there are those who have never been able to conceive though they desperately want to.

Children are a blessing. Scripture talks about it often enough. But that doesn’t mean those who haven’t yet had or may never have children are not equally blessed. God hasn’t looked at their lives and determined they are not good enough to be blessed. Children are simply one blessing from God. There are many other blessings God chooses to give. One blessing is not better than another. They are just different.

For the one who desires children they may never have and the one who has lost a child, my heart goes out to you. My own family has known the loss of one that was desperately wanted and would have been fiercely loved. Now, the baby we never got to meet is missed and still fiercely loved. And it’s that love that makes days like tomorrow hard for some. But, and I do not say this lightly, God has not overlooked you in the blessing department.  Yours may not be the ones you wanted, but you are still blessed. You are still loved. I pray He heals your hurt.

Having a godly mother is another blessing in this life. Just read about Timothy’s mother and grandmother, Lois and Eunice, in scripture. The way scripture speaks of their influence in Timothy’s life shows the impact a godly mother can have. Proverbs 31 is dedicated to highlighting the attributes of a godly woman, and caring for her children is included in the verses. If your mother was a godly example to you growing up, you are blessed. Thank her for that.

But if you didn’t, God has not forgotten you either. There are many in the world today that have known pain, neglect, disappointment, and abandonment at the hands of their biological mothers. Their mothers never did anything to care for them much less show them the love of God. But that doesn’t mean God has declared them unworthy of blessing. Their blessings are just different.

Maybe God gave them a neighbor, a friend’s parent, or an older sibling to mother them. Maybe it was a teacher who took special interest in them. Often, grandmothers step in where mothers fail and teach the children right from wrong. If you’ve had any of these people in your life, they are the mother of your heart and you are the child of their heart. That love can be as fierce and protective and giving and encouraging as the love for a child born of blood. I know. I have a child of my heart in addition to children by blood. She is my daughter, and no amount of missing DNA will ever change that. These women are a blessing in your life. Take the time to thank them for that.

But maybe you haven’t even had that. If you haven’t, I am sorry. I don’t have a good explanation for why it happened like that for you other than the fact that we live in a messed up, sinful world. But know this; you are still blessed by God. He has not called you unworthy. You are loved, though you may not have felt it from a mother or mother figure. I pray that God will heal your hurt and teach you how to be a godly person. I pray that if He hasn’t yet, He will send someone into your life to show you His love. And I pray that you will allow Him to use even this disappointment and hurt from your life to grow you into the type of person who can go out and be His blessing for someone else.

By the Book: Who and what are the blessings God has given you? As you celebrate tomorrow, take time to pray for those in your life who may struggle with feeling less than blessed. Ask God to show you how you can be the blessing for others.

Write Stuff Wednesday 5

boxing-gloves-2005912_960_720

 

“Wanting to be a writer and not wanting to be rejected is like wanting to be a boxer and not wanting to get punched.” – David Barr Kirtley

 

 

 

We’re sorry. It’s tough to get past those first few words of a rejection letter. Sometimes, that’s really all the letter includes. We’re sorry but we can’t use your submission at this time.

I understand the need for brevity and even form letters. Publishers and agents are swamped with submissions. A form letter is simply the easy way to go. The point is made, the deed is done, and the publisher or agent can move on to the next submission in their inbox.

On rare occasions the author is given more information. Maybe there’s an uplifting word about the writer’s style or voice or plot. These kind comments are prefaced with how sorry they are but they can’t use your submission at this time. They are followed with the reasons why. Maybe the style isn’t quite the right fit. Or maybe they just published another work similar in theme to yours. Whatever the reason, the good comments are meant to ease the author into the rejection, make it less jarring.

I can appreciate each style of rejection, but I do appreciate those that have taken the extra care to elaborate on the whys. Of course, whichever method is employed the result is the same. You’ve been rejected. Technically, your work has been rejected, but it doesn’t feel like that. Writing is a personal business. And no matter which way it comes, rejection hurts.

But we have a choice with each rejection. We can let it paralyze us in our writing, or we can learn from it and use it to improve our craft. This may be easier when we receive more than a form letter, but even then, it can be done. We can step back and look objectively at what we submitted. Is there something missing that we can develop? Did our manuscript need to spend more time with an editor before being submitted? Maybe it has nothing to do with the writing. Did we take the time to match up our work with the right publisher or agent? Are we lacking the platform they’re looking for that somehow makes us less of a gamble to publish?

Embracing the hard stuff is never easy, but it’s often the way to growth. It’s true in writing, and it’s true in our Christian lives. According to Romans 12:3, believers have all been given a certain measure of faith. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to accept God’s plan of salvation. “By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8) Faith is also listed as one of the gifts of the Spirit. Other verses tell us that faith can grow. And we all want more faith, right?

Growing up in church, I’ve heard people express the desire for God to grow their faith. It’s an admirable desire, but I think that often they don’t understand what their asking. How does faith grow? Through having to be used. Why does it have to be used? Because something we don’t understand, don’t like, or can’t accomplish comes our way. 1 Peter 1 discusses how trials make our faith stronger. Romans 5:3-4 states, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope.” Hope and faith go hand in hand. Time and again scripture references trials to bring us more in line with who God would have us be.

Our nature is to fight against trials. We try to distance ourselves from hurt, disappointment, and failure. But that’s not the way to growing our faith. Peter had to look fear in the face and step out of the boat having faith that Jesus would allow him to walk on water. Sure, Peter looked away and started to sink. But what did he do? He cried out to Jesus. He returned his focus to the one who could save him, and Jesus did just that. “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31) Peter didn’t quite make it to the big leagues of faith that day, but he took the first step. He saw Jesus allowing him to do the impossible. And when he got distracted and started to let the trial interfere with his faith, Peter got to see Jesus step in and save him.

What a great experience for Peter to cling to in the future. Later when God would tell Peter to do something, don’t you think Peter thought back to that day? Don’t you think he remembered how he did the impossible and even when he failed Jesus was right there to lift him up? His faith grew that day. And that faith would strengthen him for what was to come. Peter chose to embrace the trial and let God grow his faith the second he stepped out of the safety of the boat and onto the stormy sea. Will you?

By the Book: When trials come do you choose to let them drag you down or do you cry out to God with a heart willing to accept the pain to grow your faith?

 

 

Main Character Monday – Me

Usually on Main Character Monday I interview main characters from the books I review. I want to do something a little different with today’s interview. Instead of a character, I interviewed myself. It’s my way of letting you get to know me a little better. Feel free to comment, answer a question or two about yourself, or even ask me a question you might have.

What is your favorite book of the Bible from both the Old and New Testament?

I have a hard time narrowing it down for the Old Testament. I mean, it’s definitely not Leviticus or Numbers, but there are so many that I enjoy. Genesis is definitely in the running. I love that it reads like a story instead of an instruction manual.

From the New Testament, it’s Philippians without a contest. That book is so full of things I need to know for encouragement and strength. It’s gotten me through so many things in my life. I love Paul and his writings. 

If you could meet anyone from scripture, not including Jesus, who would it be?

I’d love to meet Paul. I’d ask him outright what his thorn in the flesh was. Personally, I have a theory that it’s the struggle not to wallow in guilt over the things he did in God’s name before he met God on the road to Damascus. I think that would be tough for anyone.

Jesus had twelve disciples. Which one do you feel you are most like?

I’d love to say Peter. I fail like Peter did. I may be a little impulsive like Peter was at times. But would I really have the kind of faith that would get me to step out of the boat in the storm? That I don’t know. I’d like to think so, but who really knows. So maybe I’m more a Thomas. He loved God. He followed Jesus. But sometimes he needed the proof to ward away doubt. I can relate.

Jesus says we are to be His light in the world. What does this mean to you?

It means I’m God’s 24/7. It means others may not ever step foot in a church, but they should have an accurate picture of who Jesus is if they’ve spent time with me because I live my faith on a daily basis. I know I fail at this, but I hope and pray I get better at it each day.

If you could give one message to those reading this interview, what would you tell them?

Because of sin, this life is full of pain, disappointment, and hurts. Instead of holding each other at arm’s length, let’s try being there for each other. Let’s be real with each other about what we’re dealing with. And on the flip side, when others are real, let’s not look down our noses at their pain. Instead, let’s practice coming alongside them and helping them through it. Let’s be the ones God can use to bring healing and strength.

Just for Fun:

Dark or Milk Chocolate? Milk. It’s smooth and creamy and there’s not even a hint of bitterness.

Roses or Daisies? Daisies. “They’re the friendliest flower.”

Salad or Soup? Depends on the day. I love a good salad. But tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich can’t be beat on a cold day.

A little more about me: I’m a mother of four. I’ve been involved in youth ministry for over twenty years, including leading youth groups and directing a youth camp for teens every summer. I have several geeky interests including super hero movies, Lord of the Rings, Sherlock, Merlin, Doctor Who, and Supernatural. I’d love to attend a comic-con one day, and yes, I’d do cosplay. My favorite author is Kristen Heitzmann, and I love the music of Rich Mullins. I enjoy many different types of crafting, but baking is probably my favorite hobby.

I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about me!

Less Than

It was the first story I can remember writing for an assignment. I was thrilled to work on something creative. I loved reading and wanted to be an author. I worked hard to make it perfect. I turned it in and anticipated its return.

I don’t know what grade I got. What stayed with me, though, was how I felt reading the teacher’s comments. Thirty years later, I can’t remember the exact critique. It had something to do with simplicity. What I vividly recall is the feeling that accompanied the negative note. It’s the same feeling I got three years later when my short story, “The Case of the Missing Idea”, came back from a contest my English teacher had submitted it to. Once again, it wasn’t chosen. My story wasn’t good enough.

Both experiences, along with others, left me more than disappointed. I felt less than. If I couldn’t impress my teacher or the judge, what chance did I have to become a writer? Would I ever be good enough? Should I simply give up and save myself the heartache?

As I grew up, God used the authors I love to fan the flame of my interest in writing. I took courses, and I attended conferences. I felt a nudge in my spirit to minister to others through my passion for writing. I submitted my work. I learned it’s about more than writing. What kind of following did I have? What in my life made me known by enough people to be valuable enough for a publisher to consider publishing my work?

I’m from small town Illinois. I didn’t have a following. I didn’t have speaking engagements lined up. I wasn’t a leader in well-known organizations. I was a pastor’s kid and pastor’s wife from small country churches. I was a mother. I was active in ministry, leading youth groups, teaching Sunday school, and directing a local church camp for teens. But none of those things were public enough to give me a following. Publishers didn’t want a no-name. The risk was too big. It was discouraging. Once again, I felt less than.

It’s a feeling many have experienced. It’s a feeling Peter Holstein and Rosemary Gresham wrestle with in A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White. Rosemary, a thief from childhood due to circumstances, stubbornly refuses to let others’ opinions of her keep her from doing what she needs to do. When that feeling of less than sneaks in, Rosemary lets it spur her on to prove everyone wrong about her. However, during her current job trying to prove Peter a German sympathizer on the eve of World War I, Rosemary can’t completely quiet the thoughts. She does an admirable job getting others to see there’s usually more to the story than what people see on the outside. But inside herself, Rosemary still fights feeling less than.

Peter takes a different approach.  Most of Peter’s issue stems from a stutter that’s made worse when he’s anxious or upset. Peter is a smart, giving man with a talent for writing. He uses that talent in secret, writing under a pen name. His identity as an author is known only to a chosen few. Peter feels his stutter makes him appear dumb, and no one would take him seriously as a writer if they knew. His lifestyle of seclusion makes him an oddity. As war approaches, his German heritage and land holdings make him a target. What was once considered simply odd behavior is seen as sinister. Peter wants to prove his loyalty, but his feelings of being less than threaten to keep him from even attempting to clear his name.

Less than is a powerful feeling. Like Rosemary, it can prompt you to prove people wrong. Or like Peter, it can leave you feeling defeated and trapped. Regardless of the direction the feeling takes you, it can become a tenacious enemy striking over and over just as it has for me in writing.

But I’ve been blessed in my battle. God has strengthened me for dealing with it. He’s given me favorite Christian authors to inspire me. When I finish their stories, I can’t help feeling the ache inside to do for others what they have done for me. I’ve been exposed to Christian teachings through non-fiction books that have helped me understand my dream and whether it is only my dream or if it is God’s dream for me. In times where feelings of less than threaten to make me give up, God has given me little successes to keep me focused. One of the biggest blessings He’s given is spiritual mentors to help me see what God says about those who are feeling less than.

These faithful men and women have pointed me to the scriptures that promise God knew what He was doing when He formed me (Psalm 139). My less than was perfectly designed for His purpose. They’ve encouraged me to understand that no matter what happens, God has a plan for my life (Jeremiah 29:11). I’ve been pointed to 1 Peter 2:9 as a reminder that God chose me. He’s set me apart for His purpose. And when I fail, I’ve been shown that I’m in good company. Moses who stuttered, Peter who denied, David who killed, Elijah who struggled with depression, and Jonah who ran have all been held up as examples. And I’ve come to a realization.

I am less than. So are you. So are they. But it doesn’t matter because we are all less than the holy One who created us, and He loves us the way we are. God doesn’t care about what talents or accomplishments we bring to the table. He just wants us to step up. He wants to work through us to accomplish His will. His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:8-10). When He accomplished something we couldn’t do on our own, His glory shines brighter. When I am less than, God is more than enough.

By the Book: How can realizing we are all less than help free you to be the person God wants you to be?

Write Stuff Wednesday 4

queen-2941437__340“If you don’t see the book you want on the shelf, write it.” Beverly Cleary

Do you remember the movie The Princess Diaries? Awkward girl, Mia, finds out she’s a princes. Cue the makeover. Contacts, a stylist, and hours of princess lessons transform her from nobody to the girl everyone wants to call friend. Mia is a ruler in training, and though she has some missteps, by the end of the movie she’s getting the hang of things. It’s like she’s a whole new girl. Only she isn’t. She’s still Mia. The wrapping is just a little bit different.

How about Miss Congeniality? Awkward girl, Grace, finds out she’s the agent chosen for an undercover mission in the Miss United States pageant. Cue the makeover. Contacts, a stylist, and hours of beauty pageant lessons transform her from nobody to the girl everyone wants to call friend. Grace is pageant girl in training, and though she has some missteps, by the end of the movie she’s getting the hang of things. It’s like she’s a whole new girl. Only she isn’t. She’s still Grace. The wrapping is just a little bit different.

The same can be said of the movies. Sure, each one has its own unique spin, but several of the elements are shared. It’s no different when writing. We write because we have stories to tell, but that’s not to say we’re the only one who’s going to write a boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back story line. Or maybe our plot is more person finds a dead guy, person follows clues to find the killer, person gets targeted by the killer, person ends up trapping the killer kind of story.

Just because our stories share some of the same elements as others in the genre doesn’t mean our story shouldn’t be written. Our story hasn’t been told yet. Our way of wrapping the familiar elements in our own voice and specific details hasn’t happened until we sit down and write. And it’s important that we do so. Your style of story wrapping is going to appeal to people who might not like my style of story wrapping.

That’s why readers don’t have to like every book in a genre they generally love. The various wrappings of the story are powerful factors in whether or not a book draws each reader in. We’ve all picked up a book from the shelf only to place it back in favor of another. And as writers we’ve all had that spark of an idea that won’t let go. And no matter how many other authors have written a story like the one growing inside us, we still have to write it. Because no one has written that story like we will.

As writers, we don’t let similar genres or basic plots deter us from writing our stories. We can see that the story we want to hear, while similar is unique, and it deserves to be written. No one has written our book yet. It isn’t on the shelf, and we want to put it there. But often, we’re guilty of doing the opposite in our faith.

How many times have we heard the excuse, “I would go to church, but they’re all the same” ? The people sharing these sentiments don’t mean them in a positive way. They’re the same people that say, “if that’s what being a Christian is, I want nothing to do with it”. For believers, it can be discouraging. We look around at churches that look like social clubs and wonder if there is a point. We see self-centered churches that don’t reach out unless it directly benefits their church, and we know there’s something wrong with that picture. We see the larger body of believers failing to impact the world, and we get discouraged. Instead of living the faith story we want to see, we give up. We join the crowd.

The basics are the same. We’re people of faith. We want to follow God. We’ve come into relationship with Him through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. But looking beyond that, we see all these other Christian wrappings that don’t sit well with us. They aren’t what we believe Christians and churches should be. They aren’t what we believe scripture tells us Jesus’ followers should be. So, we stuff down our disappointment, deciding if that’s what Christians are then that’s what we’ll be. We let the common elements keep us from telling our faith story in our own voice.

It doesn’t have to be that way. When we don’t find in Christianity what we believe God wants shown to the world, it’s time for us to step up and be that example for the others. We may share the same basic faith but our voice is unique. Our walk with God and our story of faith is one of a kind.

We don’t have to settle for following the spiritual crowd into a life of entertainment, self-centeredness, or inactivity just because that’s the faith story everyone else seems to be telling.  Jesus bucked the religious trends of the Pharisees. He interacted with people in a very personal, life-changing way. He gave us the real example of what a life of faith should be. If no one else seems to be following His lead, who cares? We can. We should. If no one else is living the life of faith Jesus modeled, go out and live it yourself.

By the Book: What wrapping of the faith have you gotten comfortable in that God might want you to rip off and replace with one from Jesus’ example?