If I Only Had the Nerve

cowardly lion.jpg“‘But how about my courage?’ asked the Lion, anxiously.
‘You have plenty of courage, I am sure,’ answered Oz. ‘All you need is confidence in yourself.'”  – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baum

I realize this is a Write or Right Stuff Wednesday type post, but seeing as it’s Saturday, I didn’t think it would be proper to name it as such. And since I’ve just returned from the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, I haven’t read anything new this week. I’m under a pretty tight deadline right now on book three, but I hope to return to the usual blog format in the next week or so. Forgive me for the lack of consistency!

This week was amazing. I met a lot of writers. Some are just starting out and others have written for years with many published books under their belts. We came from different areas of the world with different genres of interest and different home churches, but we were able to gather each day for worship. Then, we spent the day learning more about ourselves as writers, the craft of writing, and how to market. We encouraged each other as companions on the writing journey instead of competitors. We prayed with and for each other. We shared favorite writing tools and apps. We exchanged business cards to keep in touch. As I said, it was amazing, and I didn’t want to leave.

Thursday came and, ignoring my desires, the conference ended. I came home with a new excitement about all aspects of writing and ideas of how to find improvement in each one.

Riding that wave of excitement while browsing the aisles at Wal-Mart may not have been my best option. I needed ink. That’s all I needed. Yet the electronics aisle sent out a siren song that could not be ignored. My cart found its way there of its own volition, and I stood face to face with the smart phone accessories.

As I looked at the tripods available, I tried to tell myself they didn’t have the one I needed. The one the presenter used was more professional and versatile. This one was a tiny one that didn’t adjust in height. On the other hand, my budget is more of a non-adjusting budget and much less than a professional budget. Maybe it would work for what I needed. It did come with a blue-tooth remote to start and stop video or take pictures. That’s pretty important, right?

I picked it up.

But it’s only an idea. What if no one is interested in mini book review videos to pair with the written reviews on my website? It would be a total waste.

I put it back.

Of course, how will I know unless I try? It could be fun.

I picked it up again.

Fun? I don’t like having my picture taken, and my voice sounds so strange when recorded. Why would an introvert such as myself even be considering this foray into the videoed world? Honestly, nothing sounds more horrifying.

I put it back.

But didn’t I just spend the week reaching outside my comfort zone and interacting with strangers? Didn’t I just make myself say “hi” to them even before they said it to me? Didn’t I just spend the week learning all these great things to put into practice? And isn’t my tagline “where a love of God and good books meet”? And isn’t the message of God’s love for us and us loving Him back one I want to get into as many homes as possible? And wasn’t I considering that very thing when this idea struck?

I picked it up again. I made my way to the checkout line, and I completed my purchase before I could second (or third or fourth) guess myself. Excited for the possibilities, I put it together and tried it out. Success! The tripod holds the camera, and the remote starts and stops the video as it was designed to do. I texted a couple people who gave me the green light on the idea. Confidence boosted.

Now, the tripod sits on the shelf across from me waiting patiently for the first video. Or maybe it’s silently judging me from across the room for not having started my video review series yet. It’s hard to tell from this distance. Maybe it’s reserving judgment until a time when it can accurately determine if I’m ever going to work up the nerve for the first video. Of course, more than likely, it is an inanimate object and doesn’t have an opinion one way or the other.

I suppose I could be putting my own feelings onto the tripod. It is a rather small one to carry such heavy thoughts. I want to pursue the things I know to pursue in effort to live out the purpose God has for my life. I don’t want a lack of confidence to keep me from making the most of the things He has brought into my life. But going against my introverted nature is a significant task.

I can avoid this particular activity without fear of falling into disobedience. I don’t think God actually instructed me to take this path. I don’t feel His hand pushing me to do it. I believe it is simply one more way I can take, if I so desire, to broaden the avenue where His message can be heard. But the idea is there, and it will not let me go. I know the idea will not make or break anything in my life. God has given me a ministry, and He is the one who will bring the results. It is my job to keep moving forward. And like the cowardly lion, I hope I find the courage is already inside me and I have the confidence I need to free it to move forward. I’ll keep you posted.

 

Courage to Be

I may have used this quote in the past. If so, I apologize. It seemed fitting for this second day of 2019. It’s something I definitely want to get better at this year. I hope you will too.

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”  e.e. cummings

For a long time I had trouble accepting the title of author or even writer. Mother was no problem. Wife was easy. I never stumbled over the title of daughter, sister, or even receptionist. Though I have to admit I never really aspired to earn that last one. Life simply took me there. But writer was another story.

Writer was, and still is, the dream. But dreams are full of unknowns. Dreams hold the possibility of failure. What happens if you reach for the dream, accept the title, and then fail? You’ve become associated with the name only to lose it again. For an introvert who doesn’t like attention, especially negative attention, this would be a humiliation hard to live down.

I didn’t run from the action of putting words on paper. Reading and writing have been part of who I am from the beginning. I think it must be in my DNA like my height or my green eyes. I cannot imagine not writing. But the act of writing is very different from accepting the title writer or author.

Like any dream that tries to define us in life, it brings with it the fear of failure. It is this fear that causes us to hem and haw when confronted with the innocent question, “What do you do?” It’s much easier to spout the easy answers, wife, mother, and even receptionist. The first two cannot be denied. The fact that I am married and have given birth means I belong to those clubs. The last one is easy to admit because it’s what I spend most of my time doing and it’s secure. But the thing I want most? That thing that is so deeply a part of me? To try and to fail at that would be like losing part of who I am.

This is why it takes courage to accept the title. This is why it takes courage to answer the questions with, “I am an author.” To live beyond the fear and not only accept that part of myself (accepting is easy) but to make it known to the rest of the world, this is what it means to grow up and be who I am.

You may not be an author. That’s the dream God gave me. That’s the passion He planted inside my heart. It doesn’t matter. What passion did He give you? What do you feel He is calling you to do? What do you feel if you couldn’t do it part of yourself would be missing?

Are you going after it? Are you praying about how and when God would like to use it in your life and the lives of others? I hope you are. But I also hope this coming year you find the courage to live out loud what you know God has called you to. I hope you find freedom from fears that hold you back and find yourself able to answer the question, “What do you do?” with whatever dream  God has blessed you with.

Write Stuff Wednesday: Why

why-2028047_1280“Maybe it won’t be famous. Maybe it won’t be a movie. But that’s not why I started it. And that’s not why I’ll finish it.” – Ryan Reudell

Maybe one day my books will be as famous as those by Karen Kingsbury or Melanie Dickerson. It would be amazing if a production company approached me about making one of my stories into the newest Hallmark movie. (I don’t know if you know this about me, but I love Hallmark movies. All of them. Not just the Christmas ones.) I recently saw a social media post about another author on that path right now. Congratulations to her! I hope it’s an awesome experience for her.

That could happen to me too. It would be wonderful if it did. But I can live my life as an author and consider myself successful even if neither of those things takes place. Why? Because that isn’t why I write. I come home from my 8-5 job every day to spend my evenings working on marketing, blogging, and my newest manuscript until long after I should be asleep. My reasons are simple. I love to write, and I feel like God wants me to use whatever talent I have in that area to help encourage others in their faith. Writing is a way I can encourage and challenge others that I might otherwise never get to meet.

If my books never reach the popularity of Karen Kingsbury’s books or get made into a movie, it’s okay. I’m doing what I feel God would have me do with the interests and talents He has given me. I’m sowing whatever seeds of faith each story contains, and I trust that God will allow those seed filled stories to make it into the hands of whoever needs them and grow what He wants in their lives. If He chooses to bless my hard work with a best seller I’ll be ecstatic. If not, I’ll trust Him and keep writing.

By the Book: What talents has God given you? Have you ever asked Him if and how He wants to use them?

Write Stuff Wednesday -Passion and Purpose

Let God Lead“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of.” – Joss Whedon

With rare exceptions, I enjoyed writing in school. It didn’t matter if it was exposition on a novel we read in class or a research paper on a historic event. I wanted to write, and if writing about a war or a person from the past was the only way to get that done, then I was happy to do it. Writing was the one area where I felt totally comfortable expressing myself.

Of course, without question my favorite assignments were those that wandered into the territory of creative writing. I may not have assignments any more (of course with a publisher’s deadline hanging over my head for my second book, maybe I do after all!), but I still gravitate toward fiction. I’ve written other things. I’ve got a nature devotional for kids, lesson material for VBS, and material for a women’s retreat all completed though not currently published. But even when I’m working on those kinds of writing projects, I try to add a creative twist. I always have. You should see the paper I wrote in high school that told the story of how I didn’t have anything to write about for the assignment!

Whether I’m writing fiction or non-fiction, my reasons for writing remain the same. I write to express myself. I write to create and remember. Sometimes I write to make sense of things I’m going through, and other times I write to express what a situation has taught me.

As a writer of faith, there are many times when I write with purpose that extends beyond myself. When I think of Kristen Heitzmann, Sheila Walsh, Linda Chaikin, and Liz Curtis Higgs, I cannot deny the impact their writings have had on my life. Some have challenged me through fiction, while others have encouraged me with their non-fiction. The method they’ve chosen to deliver their messages doesn’t matter. Each one has increased my understanding of faith in powerful ways. They’ve each used a God-given talent to minister to others.

This desire to minister is the reason I choose to write for others and not merely myself. Scripture tells us our spiritual gifts are to be used for the edification of the body of believers and to reach others with the gospel. While writing is not listed as a spiritual gift, I believe the God gives us talents and the ability to learn new skills that we can then use to shepherd, encourage, and teach which are all listed as spiritual gifts. I believe God wants to use our abilities and passions to pass on His wisdom and knowledge, to challenge believers to grow in faith, and to exemplify His teachings on mercy, giving, and serving. When we allow God to direct our writing, we are using the spiritual gifts God has given us and also encouraging understanding and growth of them in others.

This is why I write.

By the Book: Why do you write? Or maybe you don’t write. That’s okay. God gives us each passions to pursue that can be used for His purposes. Maybe you’re into photography, music, or crafts. Or it’s possible travel or star gazing or building things is what your passionate about. Whatever has your interest, do you seek out God’s purpose in your pursuit of it?

AND REMEMBER TO CHECK OUT MY FULL OF CHARACTER INTERVIEW WITH REGINA RUDD MERRICK FOR A CHANCE TO WIN ONE OF HER E-BOOKS! ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS READ THE POST AND COMMENT TO ENTER. WINNER WILL BE DRAWN MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018.

Main Character Monday #8

Faiths Journey

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 Katie McGowan from Faith’s Journey by Heather Greer. Thank you for joining me.

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

I like Genesis. It’s all about real people who are doing their best to follow God, but they mess up, constantly. I think it gives people like me hope when we see the list of the faithful in Hebrews and can go back and see they aren’t included because they’re perfect.

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

Jacob and David are definitely out. They each took turns as a betrayer in their individual stories, and that hits a little too close to home for me. Maybe I’d like to meet Paul. Yeah, I’d definitely like to meet him. Talk about a redemption story. That man messed up so much before he gave his life to God. And we’re not just talking everyday mess ups. The man was murdering Christians. I’ve done a lot of stuff I shouldn’t have, but I’ve never killed anyone. If God can use a man like Paul, there’s hope for me too.

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

I hate to admit it, but I’d have to say Thomas. Thomas had doubts. I don’t think scripture ever says why he doubted, but I guess it doesn’t really matter. He doubted. His faith waivered. For a long time, so did mine. I watched too many people who claimed to be people of faith living like everyone else. Their lives weren’t changed at all. I couldn’t help wondering if God was really who He says He is, wouldn’t it make a difference?  It took Austin to put me on the path to understanding I’d been putting my faith in God’s people and not God himself.  And of course, people fail.

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

Used to I would have said it means we need to share the truth about who Jesus is with those who don’t know Him. Now, I believe it’s more than that. God wants us to live like Jesus did, love the things Jesus loved, and desire the things Jesus desired. When we let God into every part of how we live and think, it shows. I think this is how we become His light in the world.

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

Don’t let your past keep you from living God’s future for you. Chase after a relationship with Him, and He will show you His purpose for you.

Just for Fun:

Dark or Milk Chocolate? Dark, if I have to choose one, but I prefer the white chocolate in Austin’s white chocolate, cranberry and macadamia nut scones!

Roses or Daisies? Daisies. Roses are too pretentious.

Salad or Soup? There’s nothing better than taco soup on a cool evening.

If you could describe Heather Greer in three words, what would those words be? Messy, honest, geeky. Don’t get her started on Doctor Who or Lord of the Rings. You’ll be there all night. 

If you would like to get to know Katie better, you can purchase Faith’s Journey on Amazon in both e-book and paperback formats.

By Sweet Design

bakery2Growing up, it was a frozen yogurt place. Too bad it was before the frozen yogurt craze. It didn’t last too long. After that, it housed various pizza places. None of them stayed around too long either. People blame it on the location, sitting on the fringe of the town’s business area. I think the location could be a success with the right business.

I think the cute little building would make a great bakery. I love to bake. And since the last pizza place moved out and the newest For Sale sign went up, I’ve imagined it as one. A fresh coat of paint would give it new life, as well as covering up the graffiti on the lamp posts. A good cleaning would allow the windows to sparkle. It would be fun, yet comfortable. Inviting. People would stop in each morning for traditional pastries as well as clean eating options. Regulars would provide a solid base to keep the doors open even when the students left the nearby university each summer. It might not make the owner rich, but it would provide a decent living. I even know what I would name this imaginary bakery, By Sweet Design.

I have it all planned out, and the building still sits empty. It’s been that way for a couple years now. There’s no fresh paint. There’s not a brand new sign sporting a fun cupcake and the name of a bakery. The windows definitely don’t sparkle at this point. I don’t own a bakery, and I never will. But my planning wasn’t completely in vain.

By Sweet Design has come to life. The color scheme and décor are everything I dreamed they would be. The sign is quirky and fun.  And customers love the pastries, from the brownies to the scones and everything in between. It’s a relaxed atmosphere that draws people in and invites them to stay a while.

Want to know the best thing about my bakery? It’s never going to go out of business. The empty building and my own bakery ideas are the inspiration for Austin Blake’s bakery in my book, Faith’s Journey. I even kept the name the same. Austin didn’t mind. He loves the way people like Erin and Katie hang out after a girls’ day out. He knows his regulars by name, and treats each customer like they’re his best customer.

Through writing Faith’s Journey, I’ve gotten to create my bakery. I’ve gotten to see it become everything I knew it could be, and I love it. It may not be the way I imagined when the idea popped into my head, but my plans for By Sweet Design add life to the story of Faith’s Journey. My time spent daydreaming and planning weren’t a waste. And though I didn’t see it at the time, I know God did.

Jeremiah 29:11 promises there is a plan and purpose for our lives. It’s not our plan. It’s Gods. And it’s comforting to know His plans are for our good. It doesn’t mean they won’t surprise us though. And it doesn’t mean we’ll understand everything as we go through it.

I didn’t know why I had such a clear vision for a bakery I would never own. Now, I do. A woman I know dreamed of being a missionary. Her husband didn’t share the vision. Her desire to go into all the world never wavered. Years would pass before she began taking youth groups on mission trips throughout the United States. It wasn’t all the world, but she was sharing the gospel outside her immediate vicinity. More years would pass before she started blogging. Her blogs share the truth of scripture and a strong gospel message. Her followers include people from around the world. God has brought her to the realization of her dream of world missions.

Does it look like she expected it to look? No. Blogging didn’t exist when the spark to reach others was first lit inside her. Computers and the internet were not in most homes. Now, they are, and God is using them as the vehicle to take her into the world.

She could fight God on it. She could refuse to see this as God’s fulfillment of her dream. She could gripe about how this wasn’t what she meant when she said she wanted to impact the world for Him. She could do these things and lose the gift God has given her. She could miss His purpose and plan because it doesn’t look the way she thought it would. Instead, she chooses to embrace it. She sees it for the blessing and provision it is. She chooses to live by faith, trusting that each step of the way has been planned by God’s sweet design.

By the Book: When has God worked things out in your life in surprising ways? Have you embraced His plan or do you fight it because it doesn’t look the way you envisioned?