Stories of faith, life, and love

Tag: growth

From Year to Year

path1February 13th was the anniversary of the release day for Faith’s Journey. One year. One year since I held my first published book for the first time. One year since I sold the first copy. One year since I celebrated with friends and family at the release party.

A year before that I was busy finishing that same book. I’d gotten my contract with Mantle Rock Publishing, and I was working hard to make Faith’s Journey the best story it could be. I had a summer of editing deadlines to look forward to. I had twelve months to start letting people get to know Heather Greer, author.

The year before that I was faithfully attending writer’s group and getting feedback from that trusted set of writing friends. I was gathering the nerve to send queries out to agents and publishers. I was researching those agents and publishers to determine the best options for me and Faith’s Journey.

This year I am busy making plans for the release of Grasping Hope, the sequel to my first book. It comes out in a month. The edits are done. The cover is beautiful. It’s available for pre-order. I’ve got invitations sent out for the launch party. I’ve got decorations lining the walls in my office. I’ve even ordered a new dress for the occasion. And if you know me, you know that’s a big deal. I don’t do dresses.

The point is that a lot has changed over the last few years. I’ve always felt like God wanted me to use my love of writing to minister to others. And though I never stopped writing completely, I have to admit there were times I wondered if I would see this dream become reality. But it’s a journey. Each step, each year has brought me closer to where I am today.

It’s also reminded me that the journey is not over. Where I am today is not where I will be next year. Each day is giving me an opportunity to learn and grow as a writer. It’s allowing me to implement ideas for marketing that I hadn’t previously known or considered.

The dream, the ministry, is not complete. What has happened is simply a milestone on the road to where God is taking me. Seeing my first book published was a big milestone. There will be many more in the years to come. This isn’t the end of the writing trail. It’s only the beginning.

I could choose to operate under a different perspective, and it would drastically change the path of my writing journey. The same is true in our faith. So many times people see salvation as the finish line. It is the goal to reach for and once grasped, we have everything we need. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We need to adjust our focus and realize the act of coming to God for forgiveness of sin through Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection is a beginning. It is the beginning of being reconciled to God. It is the point where we find our relationship with God restored.

The key word is relationship. A relationship is on-going. It grows and changes over time. We learn more about our God. We learn more about how He sees us. Our love for Him develops changing the way we relate to Him and to other people. From the inside out, the truths we learn about Him transform us into the people He wants us to be.

When I look at last year, I want to see how much I’ve changed in my relationship with God. I want to see areas where I’ve learned and grown. And I don’t want it to stop there. Every year in my future I want to be able to look back and see a little more of Jesus and a little less of me.

 

Write Stuff Wednesday: Grow

grow“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” Stephen King

Reading is my superpower. With the current fascination with super heroes, statements of an individual’s superpower aren’t unusual. Everything from hobbies to activism is touted as superpowers. But in this case, it’s a little bit true. For a writer, reading has power.

In order to grow as a writer, all the successful writers agree, you must read. Currently tucked in amid a plethora of Christian fiction is a book by Brandilyn Collins on creating characters. I want to read it not because I know nothing about creating characters but because there is always something new to learn on the subject. There’s always a tip or trick or different perspective that I can incorporate into my writing to make it better. As I writer I read because I want to grow. There will never be a time when I’ve learned all there is to learn.

And my lessons aren’t only found in books on the craft of writing. I find inspiration in addition to pleasure in the pages of fiction. In reading well-written stories, I expose myself to writing techniques without conscious effort. I’m not trying to learn. I’m simply enjoying the story, and my brain captures lessons on technique and style and characterization I don’t realize it’s taking in. Even an occasional poorly written story isn’t a total waste as it drives home the things I want to avoid in my own writing.

In accepting the idea that I don’t have it all together as a writer, I create the environment and drive to become better than I was yesterday. I don’t stop with reading and understanding concepts about writing. I apply them to what I write and in doing so, my writing is strengthened. Reading becomes my superpower to better my writing.

But reading is more than just a superpower for writers. It’s also a spiritual superpower. There’s a whole chapter in Psalms (119, in case you’re wondering) dedicated to the benefits of God’s word. The New Testament tells us scripture is good for teaching us, correcting us, and training us in the ways a righteous person should think and act. Scripture is our way to get to know God and understand our relationship with Him. Scripture gives us direction, encouragement, strength, and conviction (both the “I know I am wrong” kind of conviction that leads us from sin to forgiveness and the “I shall not be moved” kind of conviction we need to stand strong in our beliefs).

As believers in 2018 we have an unheard of number of ways to grow in our relationships with God. We can listen to godly music everywhere we go. There are numerous Christian books and movies. Christian speakers and teachers pack conference halls to hear their messages. These are wonderful tools we have in our lives as Christians, but they can’t compare to the word of God. They are the tributaries, but God’s word is the source they spring from. It is what gives their words meaning and power.

Scripture also gives meaning to our actions and power to the way we live. It transforms us into something new, something closer to the image of Christ, as we let each word soak into our souls. Time spent reading God’s word is more than a mere superpower. Reading scripture is a believer’s supernatural superpower.

By the Book: As a writer, do you spend time growing through reading? Feel free to share a favorite book in the comments. As a believer, do you spend time through reading God’s word? Feel free to share a favorite verse in the comments.

Write Stuff Wednesday 2

quill“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.” Anne Lamott

Next year is my twenty-five year high school reunion. Other than making me feel older than I think I am, it brings to mind all the writing I did in those years. I have a three ring binder I’ve kept through the years that holds most of what I wrote. There’s the paper I wrote about Walt Disney and the play that won judge’s choice in a local writing contest. There are the poems that prompted my senior English teacher to comment that there must be a dark humorist lurking inside me. (In my defense, I was going through a pretty angsty time that year.) I think there may even be a short story I wrote in grade school called “The Case of the Missing Idea”. Catchy title, huh?

Occasionally I’ve re-read these great masterpieces, and do you know what I’ve found? They aren’t great, and they definitely aren’t masterpieces. Some of them are quite laughable. Some are decent, but I’ve grown as a writer since those days. I’ve become more proficient technically, and I’ve developed in my ability to tell a good story. Improvement in the craft of writing is to be expected if someone writes with regularity. It would be odd if I didn’t continue to grow as I continued to write.

Even in a single piece of writing, one expects growth from the first draft to the last edit. A good story can be shaped into a great one if the author is willing to work with it. My first draft of Faith’s Journey is very different from the finished product. As I wrote, trusted friends and the members of the writers’ group I’m in offered feedback at regular intervals. Some of the feedback was geared toward the themes and overall effect of the story. Other comments were more technical in nature. I implemented some suggestions. Others I passed on.

There was one specific piece of advice I remember passing on. Near the beginning of the story, group members felt there were two chapters where the story lagged. I kept them in as I sent my manuscript to the publisher. Sure, the chapters were a little lighter on action, but they held important information. Imagine my surprise when one of the first things the publisher asked me to do was get rid of or revamp those exact chapters. I should have listened in the first place. I have learned from that mistake. I re-wrote those chapters, and I found they were completely right. Once combined, the chapters still gave the information I wanted, but the way it was done kept the story from being slowed down. The result was a stronger story than I began with.

It’s a lesson that runs parallel to our faith walks. When we accept Jesus’ death on the cross as the punishment for our sins and begin a relationship with God, we don’t start off as the saints we want to be. Scripture tells us we start as babies learning the simple lessons of our faith. The Holy Spirit inside us gently guides us and corrects us. He shows us truths from scripture and helps us implement those truths in our lives.

But we can’t stay in that starting place forever. Just as it would be odd if I were to write regularly yet remain at the same level of proficiency I was in high school, it should be odd to us when we see someone who professes a relationship with God that does not grow through the years. It should be more than odd if we are that person. It should be a red flag that all is not right in our spiritual lives.

Paul told the Hebrew church in Hebrews 5 that they were not growing like they should. He said they were stuck with the simple teachings of faith and not progressing into the deeper ideas of faith. Other verses tell us we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and that as we grow from spiritual childhood to spiritual adulthood we put away the childish things.

To remain unchanged in our writing probably means we won’t have a very long or successful writing career. To remain stagnant in our faith has devastating effects. With spiritual growth comes greater spiritual understanding. With that understanding comes greater discernment to protect us from sinful teachings and temptations. When we fail to recognize sin as sin, we allow it into our lives where it stands between us and God. We begin to follow the world in our beliefs and desires instead of God.

It isn’t just us our lack of growth can affect. Matthew 5 speaks of our mission to show God to the lost in the world. Several scriptures implore us to live in ways so foreign to the world that the people we come in contact with can’t help seeing the difference. In this way, doors are opened to share our faith and bring God glory. Which friend or family member in our lives might miss the chance to have a relationship with God because they don’t see the difference God makes in us?

By the Book: What time do you spend trying to grow as a writer? What do you do to encourage that growth? How much time do you put into growing in faith? What has helped you grow?

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