Stories of faith, life, and love

Tag: who am I

I Am An Author

You may be rolling your eyes at me right now. “Of course, you’re an author,” you may say. “With three published books, a complete series no less, did you think you were anything other than an author?”

Seems simple enough, but some days it’s harder than you’d think to claim the title. I’ve known for years I am a writer. And I’m aware that author has fit since my first book was published three years ago. If I had any doubts, books two and three or the signed contract for a totally new book, should have dispelled them.

Logically, I am an author. It’s what I’ve always wanted to be. Yet, when someone asks me what I do, I look them right in the eyes and say, “I’m a receptionist in a doctor’s office.”

Why?

I haven’t always wanted to be a receptionist. Want is a strong word even now. It’s a job. It pays the bills. I give my best effort to do my job well, but at the end of the day, my 8-5 job doesn’t provide me with any fulfillment or purpose or lasting enjoyment. It’s not what I want to do or how I want to be known.

But it’s almost always my answer. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I spend most of my time in that office. My most productive hours of the day are spent draining all my energy in tasks that aren’t even semi-related to what I really want to do. Or it could be that I currently earn more money through my receptionist position than I do with my writing.

Whatever the reason, it’s wrong. A receptionist is not who I am. It is what I do to pay bills. Yes, it demands a lot from me that I would rather have to give to my writing, but it is currently necessary. Needing the job does not require that the position defines me.

I am a writer, a published author. That is who I am. Yes, I am other things too, but being an author has been a major part of the dream of me for as long as I can remember. I’ve relinquished that dream to God on multiple occasions. He has given it back to me, and when I write, I know I am ministering to others in the way He created me to serve.

I have a series already published. I have another book due to release in July 2021. I am learning more about the craft of writing, seeking to encourage others in their writing journeys, and slowly (painfully, at times) building my skill in the various programs and techniques I need to employ to market my writing. I do these things to better myself and grow as an author. But maybe it’s time I go back to step one and reinforce an important truth until I can claim it without hesitation.

Hello. My name is Heather Greer, and I am an author.

Is there some part of who you are that is more difficult to claim than others? Maybe, like me, it is related to a dream you’ve held for a long time. Maybe it’s a scriptural truth about yourself that is hard to accept.

By the way, all three of the books in my Faith, Hope, and Love series are on Kindle Unlimited. If you’re a member, you can read them for free. If you’ve read them already, pass on the information to a Kindle Unlimited friend!

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Write Stuff Wednesday: I am an Author

“I literally cannot remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer.”- J.K. Rowling
I relate to this quote in a very real way. Like Rowling I always knew I wanted to write. And now that I am not simply a writer but also a published author, when people ask me what I do, I say without hesitation, “I’m a receptionist.”

Why do I answer this way? I’ve never aspired to be a receptionist. It was never my goal in life. It’s what I do to pay the bills. It’s not a bad job. I enjoy the people I work with. But it isn’t what I’ve always dreamed of doing.

If being a receptionist isn’t what leaves me feeling fulfilled and writing is, why does the phrase “I’m a receptionist” slip out so easily? Why wouldn’t I jump at the chance to proudly proclaim, “I am a writer”? Maybe it has something to do with paying the bills. As an author just beginning her writing journey, I don’t make a lot. My income comes from my 8-5 job. The bills I pay are done so with the money earned doing the job I never intended to do.

Or maybe it has to do with the amount of time and energy I spend as a receptionist. I don’t bring work home with me, but 10 hours a day, five days a week are spent going to and working at a doctor’s office. With 24 hours in a day and 7 of those spent in sleep, only 7 hours a day are available for writing. Those 7 hours are whittled away making meals, cleaning house, or spending time with my family and friends. A majority of my waking hours are spent doing the things a receptionist does. Maybe the old saying, “You are what you eat” translates into “you are what you do most”.

Whatever the reason for my hesitancy, it’s false. Words are my passion. My ministry, my purpose is to encourage and challenge other believers through what I write. Whether or not my income is generated through it, whether or not I spend every hour in my day but 1 doing other things, I am a writer. I am an author. I need to own that identity. It is who I am.

I’m also a Christian. Scripture says as such I’m an alien to this world. I don’t belong here. Yet the same struggles can happen in my spiritual life that happen in my writing life. I have to live in this physical world. I have to deal with the messes created by my sin and the sin of others. I need to eat, sleep, and have shelter of some kind. I have to interact with and relate to others. My life is lived 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on this earth.

But this day to day life isn’t who I am. My struggles don’t define me any more than my successes do. I do the things I do because I have to survive. Living my physical life demands a lot of my time. Sometimes, the everyday becomes so demanding I forget that scripture tells me this earth is not my home. I forget that I am more than a conqueror, victorious over sin, forgiven, a child of God, an ambassador for Christ, and every other description in scripture of those who God has redeemed. The knowledge of all these things is in my head and hidden in my heart, but I fail to live like it sometimes. I forget to be who God made me to be even living in the middle of the mess.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. I think maybe it’s a struggle for a lot of us. We find ourselves getting world focused instead of God focused. We give so much to the physical side of life that we forget to honor and grow the spiritual. Even though we’re still living according to our beliefs, we become wrapped up in who this world says we are instead of claiming the truth. It’s time to remember that we belong to God with all the truths that belonging includes. It’s time to make the truths of God the identity we cling to and proclaim every day.

By the Book: Think about your favorite description of who you are in God. I’d love it if you’d share it in the comments. Then, spend some time in scripture finding out who God says you are.

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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?

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Picture This

It’s the thing I dread most about having my book published. No, it’s not getting negative reviews. While I’m not eager for those, the need for thick skin is preached at every conference new authors attend. It’s part of the process. And other than my husband forbidding me from ever letting my favorite author read my book (like I thought it would happen) because, “She could say one hundred good things, but you would focus on the one negative and decide never to write again”, I’ve made my peace with the fact that my book will not be for everyone. No, negative comments aren’t my fear.

At the risk of opening myself up to ridicule, the most difficult part is accepting that I have to put my picture on the back of the book. I’ve procrastinated as long as I can. Secretly I’ve hoped my publisher would say, “Forget the picture. We’re not putting author pictures on books anymore.”

My Facebook page features my book cover. I don’t have my picture on my blog, Twitter, or Instagram. Our family snapshots are suspiciously void of me. Someone had to take those pictures, right? I’ve never liked the way I look in photos. So, I avoid them. Putting one on a book? That’s way out of my comfort zone.

Please realize, as I write this, my anxiousness increases. I fear that by bringing this up, it will encourage everyone who has read this post to immediately turn the book over and look at the photo. It’s not that the photo is poorly done. It isn’t. It’s not the quality of the photography. It’s the subject.

I don’t have to look perfect. I don’t spend time on makeup or making sure my hair is perfectly in place. I’m not the one spending hours primping or checking myself in every mirror I pass. So, why does it bother me to have photos taken?

I think it’s because photos mercilessly show me the things I don’t want to see while allowing others to see them too. I realize everyone I meet sees those things anyway, but it feels different when one single moment in time is frozen forever. If I met you on the street, you might miss some things. If you look at the picture, those things will be unavoidable. You’ll see how unruly my hair can be thanks to cowlicks and a lack of body. Depending on how bad a hair day it was, you might see my ears sticking out thanks to DNA from my dad’s side of the family. I can’t even pretend that you might miss my extra weight. I like to call it baby weight, but my baby is 15. That ship has sailed. There’s no baby. It’s just weight.

I know admitting there are things I don’t like about myself is taboo in today’s culture. I’ve heard all the messages on loving yourself because God created you just the way you are. I believe it too. It’s something I’m working on. But let’s be honest, I’m pretty sure there are things you might not like about yourself too. Doesn’t make it right, but you understand where I’m coming from. That isn’t my goal in sharing this with you. It even made me hesitate in writing it, because I don’t want a bunch of comments about accepting myself (Other comments are appreciated though!). I use my struggle only as a way to stress a much more important point. We need to understand that sometimes, it’s uncomfortable to take a good look at ourselves, and I’m not just talking about physically.

As hesitant as we may be, we need to take a good look at our spiritual photos. It’s easy in the hustle and bustle of life and ministry to pretend we’re where we need to be. It’s easy to feel good about ourselves when we don’t slow down long enough to really see who we are. However, when we look at ourselves honestly through the lens of God’s word, we begin to see those areas that aren’t so picture perfect. We see we struggle with love, joy, peace, and all the other fruits of the Spirit. We see that while we are called to have the mind of Christ, often we think more highly of ourselves than we should. We see where we fail to take care of widows and orphans while also neglecting the call to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. What about loving God with all our hearts, souls, and minds and loving our neighbors as ourselves? And these are just the obvious things in scripture. We haven’t talked about harboring unforgiveness, anger, or lust in our hearts.

So often we fail, but we have hope. When we come to God, asking Him to show us a clear picture of who were are spiritually, He will do it. His Spirit lives in each one of us to guide us and convict us. He will show us our sins whether they are open for the world to see or hidden deep inside. He doesn’t do it so we wallow in guilt. He does it to grow us.

When I look at my picture I see things I don’t like. But you know what? I can do something about a lot of those things. I can lose weight. I can work to find a flattering haircut. Our spiritual photos are even better. I can’t do anything about my ears sticking out, but there isn’t anything God can show us about ourselves spiritually that He can’t help us overcome. Romans encourages us to be transformed through the renewing of our minds. Scripture promises there is no temptation that doesn’t also have a way to escape it. We are more than conquerors, not because of anything we have done but because of Who lives in us giving us power to overcome.

Don’t get me wrong. Scripture never says it will be easy. Some things may take years to photoshop out of our spiritual portraits. But the end result is a life that looks more like Jesus, and that makes it worth the effort.

By the Book: Take time to evaluate your spiritual photo. Begin with the scriptures referenced above. An internet search of some of the phrases will take you to the scriptures. Or if you know some of them, feel free to leave them in the comments for other readers.

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Behind the Curtain

I think there is a bit of the wizard of Oz in all of us. We’re not purposefully deceiving people into believing in a contrived image of ourselves like he did. It’s more like we act in ways based on what we have experienced, but unless people are close enough to us to look behind the curtain, they see only our actions and not the reasons behind them. Judgements are made. We hold those who tend to be prickly at arm’s length when what they need to be pulled in close. We cling to those who are easy to love without seeing their brokenness. Sometimes, we don’t see because we don’t look. Other times, people hide behind the curtain because letting others see their hurt is hard.

I’ll be honest with you. I’m a private person. People often see the effects of events in my life without knowing the story I keep behind the curtain. It’s difficult to admit, but several years ago I went through the most devastating experience of my life. It led to a struggle with depression that took a long time for me to overcome. It’s hard to admit it for a couple reasons. One, it’s not a good memory. It’s a time I don’t want to revisit. Another is that many in the area where I live don’t understand depression, especially in the church. I fully believe my God can heal and that prayer and time in the Word are essential to maintaining spiritual and emotional health. But I also know how damaging it is to have well-meaning believers tell you all you need to do is pray more, study more, and have more faith to make the “sadness” go away. They don’t understand it when I say that I was closer to God than I had ever been before, and yet, I still had to fight the depression on a daily basis. Even admitting to it now, in this public way, leaves me feeling vulnerable.

So, I didn’t talk about it. But it didn’t leave me unchanged. I was stronger in my faith. Sometimes, it takes being knocked to the ground so hard you can’t get up to really understand needing God’s strength. But the change I believe people saw most was me going through the motions of daily life. Some days that’s all I could do. I became a little more jaded and a little less patient. I was more than likely moody. When you’re not eating or sleeping properly, that happens.

I found out years later that my oldest child noticed. She remembered how life was in our house before, during, and after the hard times. If a child recognized it, I know others in my life did too. Sometimes I wonder if they ever considered the reasons hidden behind the curtain of my life.

Pain changes you. Loss changes you. It’s the truth, even when it’s the subject of fiction. I was reminded of this while reading Don’t Ask Me to Leave, by Micki Clark. Four different characters faced similar heartache and loss, and each reacted in a different way. As I considered my own experiences, I could relate to the anger I saw. I could understand the desire for seclusion. I even related to the drive to push oneself into all sorts of activity to run from the pain. I could empathize with the main character’s hesitancy to let go and move on. But I could also understand the need of her friends to confront her at times with her behavior even though they understood it was pain driven.

Rachel’s story of love and loss and living was written with honesty. I ached for her to get to the other side of her pain. But it wasn’t just her story. It was also the story of Beau and Nadine, who each experienced great loss as well. Their own losses and the results of those losses were just as touching as Rachel’s. Clark wove together three versions of the same heartache into a beautifully written story of love, loss, and redemption. Reading it reminded me how important it is to take the time to consider what lies behind the curtain in the lives of those I come in contact with.

We are called as Christians to rejoice when our brothers rejoice and mourn with the brother who mourns (Romans 12:15). We are called to deal with each other in patience and with love (Ephesians 4:2-3). We don’t have to know every detail of each other’s lives. Some hurts are too deep to share with others, and we need to understand that. What we can do, though, is begin to realize that there may be more to the person in the pew next to us than the anger, apathy, fear, or impatience we see in their actions. Even the one who seems to have it all together, that leaves us feeling like we’re not measuring up, may have more going on behind the scenes than we know. Instead of judging based on the actions we see, let’s remember we all have our wizard behind the curtain and choose to act in patience and love.

By the Book: Read the verses above. Take time to pray for the people in your life that may not always be easy to love. Ask God to help you learn how to love them, even if you don’t understand the reasons why they act the way they do.

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Impostor Syndrome

At my first writers’ conference I wondered if people could tell I was a fake. I aspired to be an author and worked to reach that goal. But I struggled with the title “author” since I had nothing published. After publishing a couple devotions in a national magazine, I knew things would be different. I was wrong. As I considered my goal of writing books and met other writers who had already accomplished that, I again felt like an impostor.

“What do you do?” It’s a simple question with the ability to inspire doubt in those who write. The answer is simple. “I am a writer.” With my first novel being published soon, I now say boldly that I am a writer. Not really. Usually I say, “I’m a receptionist.” It’s true, but that’s my day job. My heart’s job is being a writer. Why is it incredibly difficult to acknowledge this publicly?

I’m not alone. Others in my Christian writers’ group have expressed the same struggle with impostor syndrome. And it doesn’t end there. I’ve read many blog posts and articles written by authors in all stages of writing that share the same basic struggle. “Am I good enough?”  “Do I really have what it takes to be a writer?” “What if that was the only story I had to tell?” They may dress it up a little differently depending on their level of expertise, but it means the same thing. Each of us is trying to determine if the moniker of “author” fits.

Impostor syndrome rears its ugly head in countless areas of life. Even our faith is not immune to its symptoms. How many times have we failed and had to wrestle with nagging doubts telling us maybe we don’t really believe as much as we think we do? If we were real Christians, we wouldn’t struggle so much with doing the right things and saying no to sin. How can we teach on Sunday when Monday through Saturday is a struggle to do right that we lose as much as we win? How can we call ourselves Christians when we feel we are cheap imitations of followers of Christ?

The problem is someone is always further down the road. As writers someone has more published books, higher sales, or can write full-time and still manage to pay the bills. As Christians, we look to the one who prays for hours daily and never neglects their Bible study, the one who doesn’t struggle with the sins we fail at avoiding, and the one who exhibits all the fruits of the Spirit in equal abundance while our own spiritual fruit salad is limited to a couple apple slices and maybe a grape. We see their shining examples and wonder what we’re doing wrong.

We need to stop looking at everyone else. We aren’t in competition with other believers. Scripture doesn’t say, “have the mind of the lady across the aisle”. It says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). It doesn’t say to live the way your deacon lives. Scripture says we are to walk “even as he (Jesus) walked” (1 John 2:6). When we start looking to Jesus as our example, we realize we fall woefully short, and everyone else does to. It’s not an excuse to stay where we are. Scripture tells us repeatedly to keep becoming more Christ-like. We all have a ways to go, and I’m not less of a Christian because my struggles are different than your struggles. No longer are we impostor Christians. Instead, we are works in progress, and God “who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

By the Book: Spend time finding out who God says you are. Start with 1 Corinthians 12:27, 1 Peter 2:9, 1 John 3:1-2, 1 John 1:9, 2 Corinthians 5:17, and Romans 6:11-14. Then, read the stories of Elijah, Peter, David, and Abraham. Pay attention to their failures as well as their successes. Take encouragement from knowing that just as God used them, He can use you too!

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Lining It Up

Lines are everywhere. We stand in checkout lines. I don’t like those. There are lines people shouldn’t cross but do. Not a fan of those either. Laugh lines sound good, until you realize it’s a fancy word for wrinkles. Then, not so much. But not all lines are bad. Some are enjoyable.

Movie lines are quoted. “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” (Ok, that one’s quoted a lot, but is there ever a situation where it actually fits? I don’t think so.) There are pick-up lines. Most are cheesy, but they can provide a little laughter when they aren’t directed at you. Personally, I don’t think there is anything better than a great first line to a book that draws you in immediately.

“Devin Bressard scarcely blinked when Grace tossed her sweet tea in his face.” That’s how Kristen Heitzmann’s book, Told You So, begins. It sets the stage for author Grace Evangeline, the story’s larger than life main character. It also clues fans of Heitzmann’s books into the fact that this story is a departure from her usual tone and style. At first, it seems like Grace is a bit of fluff. The predicaments she finds herself in are of her own making. She seems like a living caricature of her characters. But there is more to Grace than that, as Devin soon finds. As the story progresses and their relationship grows, readers find unexpected depth and realness in the characters and the story. We are left with the understanding that even for believers, life is messy and hard. We make mistakes, but God can take our failures and redeem them for His glory. And it all starts with a great first line.

I love a well-written first line, but stories also have a final line. Our life stories are no different, and the line at the end of our lives is important. Consider the kings of the Old Testament. At the end of their reigns, there is a line. A lot end with the decree “he did evil in the sight of the Lord”. But there are those who lived in ways that allowed the writer to say, “he did right in the sight of the Lord all his days”. We know they failed. Even David, a man who’s epithet is that he is a man after God’s own heart, failed miserably. But their hearts were loyal to God. Their desires were to be men of God. This allowed their final lines to focus on the fact that they did right in God’s sight.

We have only one story. It will take many twists and turns. We will make mistakes and sin, but that doesn’t have to define our lives. Hopefully, our faith continues to grow and develop. Every moment can teach us how to be people who will be remembered for doing right in the sight of the Lord all our days.

I want to hear “well done, good and faithful servant”. But when people look at my life, what will they see? Will they see someone who loved God with all her heart, mind and soul? Will they see someone who lived the command to love my neighbors as myself? I hope so. What about you? What do you want your life’s final line to say?

By the Book: Think about the things you want people to remember about you. Is your life showing these things? Do people see God through you? Write out a prayer asking God to show you how to be the type of person who does right in His sight.

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