Main Character Monday #9

carolina dream

 

Welcome to Main Character Monday. It’s a little different than my regular blog posts, a little more lighthearted. But stick with it, and you just might find some characters you’d like to read more about. And even though it isn’t my usual devotional style, you may still come away with an encouraging word from the Word. I hope you enjoy Main Character Monday!

Today’s Guest is Sarah Jane Crawford from Carolina Dream by Regina Rudd Merrick. Thank you for joining me.

Thanks for having me, and welcome to the beaches of South Carolina! It’s been an exciting year for me!

A life verse is a scripture that has spoken to you deeply, impacted the way you live your life, or become like a theme verse for your life. What would you say is your life verse?

That’s easy! My life verse is Psalm 37:4 – Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. That has certainly been true for me. I used to think that made God kind of a “genie in a bottle,” granting wishes and desires, but now? Now I know that when my heart is in tune with God, HIS desires become MY desires. What a wonderful promise He fulfills every day!

What person from scripture do you most relate to?

I guess that depends on the situation. Many times I feel like Martha – always trying to do the right thing, making sure everyone is taken care of, and not enjoying sitting at the feet of Jesus. This year, I’ve felt a little like Esther. She was placed in the right place, at the right time, and that’s how I feel about my broken engagement and the inheritance that brought me to South Carolina. I wanted to be away from home because I was hurting, and this was the perfect excuse for me – and in the process found that BEST that God had for me!

The New Testament says that all the law and prophets can be summed up in two commands: love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. Which of these two commands do you feel you have the most trouble following?

That’s a very interesting question. I would say my biggest difficulty lies with loving God with all my heart, soul, and mind. My biggest struggle is in trusting Him implicitly, because I try to solve my problems on my own. I’m afraid I’m a bit of a “fixer” and a “planner,” and I’m much more confident when I have a schedule in front of me and know what’s going to happen. I love Him, but I try to take over for Him quite frequently. I’m learning, though! Moving to a new state? Meeting a new love? Considering a new job? Without God, I would be a total wreck!

Solomon asked God for wisdom. If God gave you the same opportunity, what would you ask Him for?

I would ask God for inner peace. By nature a worrier, I’m working toward letting the past stay in the past, and realize that it’s just a part of my life from which I needed to learn more about God and my relationship with Him.

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

Do your best to “delight yourself in the Lord.” He delights in you, and wants nothing more from us than to love Him and glorify Him in all we do!

Just for Fun:

Dark or Milk Chocolate? BOTH! I never met a flavor of chocolate I didn’t like.

Autumn or Spring? Both, but Spring has the benefit of coming after dreary late Winter! At the beach, they’re all perfect!

Coffee or Hot Cocoa? Coffee. I like Hot Cocoa, but given the choice, I’d pick a Mocha Latte! The best of both worlds!

If you could describe Regina Rudd Merrick in three words, what would those words be? Smart, funny, and a little self-conscious.

Thank you to Sarah Jane Crawford for joining me for this interview. And special thanks to Regina Rudd Merrick for allowing her to be part of Main Character Monday. If you’d like to know more about Sarah Jane, you can pick up Carolina Dream on Amazon in e-book and paperback formats. 

Good and Perfect Gifts

Tonight I celebrated twenty-one years of marriage to my husband, Andy. Last year, on our twentieth anniversary, he got me a new wedding ring. I hadn’t been able to wear my original one in years, and this new ring was the perfect gift for that milestone anniversary. Tonight’s celebration wasn’t nearly as elaborate, but considering our busy lives, just being able to go to dinner with him and spend some time window shopping made it special.

That’s not to say I didn’t get an anniversary surprise this year. It just didn’t come from Andy. Tonight, as we pulled into our driveway, I noticed four packages waiting for me. Knowing what they held, I couldn’t contain my excitement. As soon as we carried the four boxes inside, we picked one back up and headed to my parents’ house. I wanted them to join Andy and me as I opened the first box.

Of course, I opened the box to a huge wad of paper. But once I threw all the paper to the floor, I got to see and hold my very first published novel, Faith’s Journey. I didn’t expect them for another week, closer to the February 13th release date. It was an experience I’ve dreamed about and worked for since I was in grade school. And it couldn’t have become a reality on a better day. It was like a special gift.

My anniversary surprise was a great reminder of James 1:17 and Matthew 7:11. “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”

I know there will be tough days in the years to come. There will be struggles and disappointments. God doesn’t promise only rainbows and sunshine for those who follow Him. But when those times come, it’s encouraging to know I can look back on all the good and perfect gifts He has blessed me with and continue to praise Him even in the storm.

By the Book: What are some of the most memorable “good things and perfect gifts” that God has blessed you with?

 

Granny’s Way

Katherine Angeline Winterstein Robinson McGowan was my great-grandmother, and she was a force to be reckoned with when you came alongside her stubborn streak. Growing up, Granny told me stories and taught me to embroider and quilt. I was the favored one who could go through her souvenir handkerchief collection and her jewelry box whenever I wanted. But when it came to cleaning, even I ran into her iron will.

While cleaning her living room, Granny insisted I was vacuuming her floor incorrectly. What she wanted would take twice as long, serving no real purpose. I told her this, but it did me no good. Granny insisted her way was the only way. So, I did the only reasonable thing. I waited until Granny left the room and completed the task the way I had started it. Of course, Granny never found out I failed to complete my task her way.

Maybe we’re all a little like Granny sometimes. I knew from the time I was a kid that I wanted to write. As I experienced more writers, my desire to write grew. I wanted to do for others what my favorite authors did for me. As I matured in my relationship with God, I knew He wanted me to use whatever ability I had along with my passion for writing to minister to others. I can’t tell you exactly how I knew, but I knew.
You’d think there would be freedom and maybe joy in finding out what God has for you. Instead, I knew frustration. I couldn’t see why God would clearly show me the path I was to take but not let me live it out. Sure, God used my writing in my home town ministries. He used it when I taught Sunday school and summer camp classes. He used it when I wrote lessons for our youth group. God never stopped using my writing, but it wasn’t the way I wanted it or in the time frame I wanted it to be in. I was as set in my ideas as my Granny.

At times, I questioned. Had I misheard? Did God have something else for me to do? And if so, why would He have given me this overwhelming desire to minister through writing? In these times, I gave my dream back to Him. God was faithful to give it back with encouragement to keep going. He reaffirmed my path every time. I kept learning and growing, both as a writer and a believer.

What I thought would happen in my early twenties is finally coming to be in my early forties. In thirteen days my first novel, Faith’s Journey, releases. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am to see God moving this dream to fruition. But it’s more than that. God has given me an extra gift. He’s shown me why this didn’t happen before.

As do most twenty year olds, I had the world figured out. I had felt what I thought was the deepest depths of pain. I’d lost people I loved. I’d had disappointments. But in reality, I had only been refined in the flames of a candle, maybe a campfire, the kind you roast marshmallows on. Hot? Yes, but nothing compared to the heat and destruction of a raging wildfire. Child’s play when placed side by side with the fire needed to refine metals like iron.

It wasn’t until my late twenties and into my thirties that I experienced this type of refining. All my childhood lessons of faith became more necessary to life than I’d ever thought possible. They weren’t unimportant before that time, but after, I realized how much I took faith for granted. I needed God in a more tangible, undeniable way.

This new understanding grew my faith. It provided a deeper understanding of what it means to live by faith. My refining had nothing to do with my writing, and they didn’t have to change it. But as I dealt with these experiences in my life, I was shown something that has impacted my writing. Through other believers, I came to understand that I can hoard the things God has done in my life or I can share them. In sharing the pains, lessons, and joys, others can benefit as I have benefited from those who came before me.

I had a choice. God wouldn’t force the issue, but His desire was clear. Use what I experienced to minister to others. This doesn’t mean every circumstance I write is something that happened to me. Every character is not someone from my life. My novel is fiction. The people and situations are products of my imagination. But the lessons I have learned, the joys I’ve had, and pains I have known can find their way into the pages I write. The scriptural truths God has used to keep me going as I’m being refined can be a source of encouragement for others who are going through their own refining process.

This is why God’s path to my destination looked so different from mine. This is why it had to take time. The story was not ready. I was not ready. I may have known where He was leading, but I couldn’t see why the path to get there was so long. I thank Him for each painful fall and strength sapping climb that has brought me to where I am today. I pray that as I continue along this path, I will hold tight to the lesson I have learned. It’s not simply His will. It has to be His will, His way.

By the Book: Read the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 and consider what it means to say whole-heartedly “Your will be done”. Read the story of Abraham after God promised him a son. What happened when Abraham went after God’s will in his own way rather than God’s way?

Life Designed

Faiths JourneyFrom the first word to the last period, authors pour creative energy, time, and mental ability into each scene. They know their characters intimately, making relinquishing their work to an editor difficult. Beloved scenes could be drastically changed. Even waiting for cover designs can be brutal.

Creating characters and places from nothing, writers can tell you the backstory of each character even if it doesn’t end up in the book. They know what events shaped their characters’ behaviors. They have detailed physical images for each one in their minds. The writer knows every hair, freckle, and physical habit of their characters. Turning them over to the cover designer can bring on a case of nerves.

Will the designer understand the feeling of the story? Was the character described well enough to create the correct mental picture in the designer’s mind? Will the designer be able to create an image that draws prospective readers to pick the book up off the shelf?

A well-designed, interesting cover has drawn me to a book. Other covers have left me void of any interest in the book. So, when it was time to hand over Faith’s Journey to the cover designer, my excitement over growing closer to seeing my book in print was tempered by questions over whether or not the design would fit my expectations.

I shouldn’t have worried. The finished cover complemented the look and feel of the story and also the main character, Katie, better than I hoped. The background photo looks like it could have been taken in Katie’s back yard. The color scheme is perfect. Katie’s personality was captured in a single shot. My expectations and reality were perfectly balanced.

This isn’t always the case in publishing or in life. We have ideas of what our lives should look like and where the future will take us. We dream of perfect marriages and fulfilling careers. If life works the way we imagined, we live in peace. But that doesn’t happen often. Instead, we lose that promotion or marriage isn’t the fairy tale we hoped for. Maybe the parent we thought would always be there dies too soon. Or little ones we hoped would fill the rooms of our dream house with laughter are never born.

Whatever the disappointment, our dreams are washed away and replaced with a picture we didn’t expect. The colors are wrong, and our warm romance feels more like a cold psychological thriller. The temptation is to lash out at the One who let our dreams shatter, blame God for our hurts and disappointments. We tend to join Job’s wife in complaining against our circumstances rather than saying, with Job, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10)

Scripture is clear that because of sin’s effects in our world, even believers will face trials and troubles. But if we let Him work, God promises that He will work for our good in every circumstance. Consider Joseph. I doubt he dreamed of being attacked and sold as a slave by his family. And just when things started looking up, he gets wrongly accused of rape and thrown into prison.

Joseph could have harbored resentment toward God. The favored son never expected his life to turn out this way. But he didn’t. Instead, Joseph continued to serve God. He continued to use his God-given gift to help others, and God painted Joseph a new picture. At the right time, God worked out Joseph’s release from prison and placed him in favor with the pharaoh. Promoted to a place of importance in Egypt, Joseph was in the position to extend forgiveness to his family and save God’s people from drought.

It was a different picture than Joseph imagined for himself, but God’s picture was a more incredible work of art than Joseph could have accomplished on his own. It may be hard to see when we’re looking at the ruined remains of our dreams, but if we wait patiently, faithfully, one day we will see God has taken that canvas of our lives and created the perfect picture. We only have to trust the designer.

By the Book: Read the story of Joseph. Choose a meaningful verse from it or another encouraging promise of God. Write or type it onto a sheet of paper and add your own design to make a beautiful picture reminder of the work God is doing in your life.