THE ONLY THING WE KNOW FOR CERTAIN…

My day didn’t start out with me planning to update my website. My year – 2020 – didn’t start out with me planning to become, for all intensive purposes, a hermit. 2019 didn’t start out with me planning on losing my job – a job I’d had for twenty-two years. 2018 didn’t start out with me planning on it being the year I finally heard Jesus knocking at the door and accepted Him into my heart. The last three years didn’t start out with me planning on having to cancel my much-anticipated section hikes on the Appalachian Trail. No – very little in my life has gone the way I’d planned it. And if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that the only thing we know for certain is that change will come – that we can make the best-laid plans but it’s really out of our control. God directs our steps, and His plans for us might not look like what we envision.

I’d have to say that it’s probably a really good thing that we don’t know God’s plans for us – or why He places us in certain positions in our lives – what lessons we are supposed to learn. This year – 2020 – is a perfectly good example of why. I mean, had any one of us known what this year had in store, would we have joyfully celebrated its arrival on January 1st? Would we have made those resolutions and charged on into the New Year, full of determination to make it our “best year yet?” When we look back on it, will we be able to find something positive to talk about? Or will thoughts of having everything we cared about virtually stripped away from us be all that consumes our conversations? I’m right there with you on that – I’ve got a granddaughter who was born in early May that I haven’t even been able to hold yet. My other granddaughter’s third birthday is today, but we couldn’t really get together to celebrate it. Sometimes I wonder just when we will be able to pass each other on the street and NOT have the thought that we could give each other a virus that could kill us (at worst) lurking in our minds. It’s been a year like no other that I’ve ever experienced in my lifetime.

And yet – I know that something good will come out of it. I believe that God’s using this time to teach me something. I can remember back when it all began for me in March, I said that I refused to live in a spirit of fear. Well – I didn’t mean to, but I have to admit that I must have lied. I’ve suffered from anxiety like I’ve never known. The stress has started taking its toll on my physically. It’s become a constant struggle to keep a positive attitude when everything around me seems to be in such chaos. It’s been hard. It IS hard. It seemed that just when things had started to fall into place, it was all suddenly taken away from me. Going to the church twice a week? Gone. Volunteering with the Special Needs Ministry and one of my local middle schools? Gone. Being with my family every weekend? Nope. That’s gone too. Even something as simple as going to the grocery store suddenly looked different. For this very routine-oriented gal, trying to adapt to almost daily change has been beyond difficult.

But through it all, I’ve kept my eyes on God and done my best not to miss what it is He’s trying to teach me. I have no doubt that one of the things He’s been trying to teach me is to appreciate and be content in the place He’s put me. Since losing my job almost a year ago, I’ve been able to begin pursuing my MFA in Creative Writing without having to squeeze my classwork in between my work schedule. I’ve been able to go on long walks each morning – I’ve watched Spring turn into Summer, and now the shadows are growing just a little bit deeper as the sun slowly changes its position in the sky, pointing towards Fall. Yes – I had to give up my hiking plans for this year, but in exchange, I was able to drive my 81-year-old dad up to an isolated cabin in North Carolina so he could trout fish for a week. And I’ve come to appreciate what’s right in my own backyard – walking 9-10 miles each day and just spending that uninterrupted time with God.

Some might be wondering why I’ve chosen to write this post on my author website. It’s because all that’s been going on since March has changed my thoughts on where I want to go as an author. Up until a couple of months ago, I’d envisioned myself to be a Romance writer. But something about it just didn’t seem to “fit.” And then one day, it became clear to me: it didn’t fit because it wasn’t what God wanted me to do – or be. I instantly connected with the Contemporary Inspirational/Christian Fiction genre, and knew that I’d found my place in the literary landscape. Can I say that I know exactly where this path is taking me? No. Sure can’t. Can I say that I feel an excitement in my heart that wasn’t there before? Yes, I can.

I don’t have all the answers. And, you know what? I’ve come to understand that I never will – but I know the One who does, and I know that He’ll be with me as I navigate uncharted waters. Maybe that’s the whole point of this crazy year for me – learning to admit that I am not in control, that I cannot do this thing called life alone, and that I have someone walking with me through it all…someone who loves me as I am, no matter what – imperfections and all. I’ve had to lean on the Lord over these last few months in ways I never knew I could. I can’t claim to do it right all the time, but my faith has grown ten-fold, and knowing that I’ve got that perfect love out there rooting for me has changed my life.

It is my sincere hope that I’ll be able to weave my faith into stories that will encourage and inspire – and if I’m able to help just one person understand that he or she is truly not alone, then I’ll consider it a success. It doesn’t always have to be about wealth or fame. What matters more than either of those things is walking in love for those around me. That might not always be easy, but it will always be right.

Please follow and like us:

A GLIMPSE INTO MY CREATIVE PROCESS

In my last post, I shared Stephen Koch’s motivational words on what it takes write.  I also mentioned that as soon as I read those words, I opened up a new Word document and wrote the first paragraphs of a new story idea.  Actually – it’s an idea that I’d already approached in an earlier draft but felt it was lacking in something.  So, instead of just talking about the simple act of just sitting down and actually writing, I thought I’d share a sample of my work.  The working title is A Light in the Woods, and I don’t know if it will turn into a novel or a short story, geared more towards the women’s fiction genre than romance.   So – here goes nothing!

Jenna Daniels shivered as the cold rain pelted her face.  A knot formed in the pit of her stomach watching the red glow of tail-lights disappear into the fog.  A minute ago, she’d been warm and dry, watching the forest closing in around the small 4×4 pickup truck that had carried her up the washed-out forest service road to the trail-head.  Now, she stood alone in the gravel lot atop Springer Mountain, in water almost to her ankles, with nothing but the woods surrounding her no matter which direction she looked.  The weight of her backpack dug into her shoulders, feeling more like fifty pounds than the thirty-five she’d been so proud of earlier that morning.  The camo rain jacket she’d purchased last minute at Wal-Mart did little to ward off the chill that began to set in as she stood immobile, wondering just what she’d gotten herself into.  There were no signs of what her life had become; no phones ringing; no horns blowing; no yelling; no lawyers; no irate ex-husband; no unanswered calls to her kids – or waiting for return calls that often never came. The gentle rhythm of raindrops tapping on the tree canopy replaced the noise in her life, soothing her frayed nerves – washing the salty taste of her tears from her lips. She wasn’t sure why she was crying.

Filled with the uncertainty of what she was about to undertake, her only options were to dig out her cell-phone and beg her shuttle driver to return to pick her up or put one foot in front of the other and start walking. She decided the time had come – all that had happened in her life had led her to this moment.  She took in a deep breath, then turned towards the eighteen-inch-wide foot path known as the Appalachian Trail.  She didn’t know where she was going – what, or who, she would find when she got there.  All she knew was that she had to go.

So, there you go!  Like I said, I don’t know where this opening will take me, but I’m grateful that I was able to just sit down and start writing!

 

Please follow and like us:

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN SELF-DOUBT REARS ITS UGLY HEAD?

I’ll be the first person to stand up and say that I’ve been riddled with self-doubt most of my life.  But, as I successfully proceeded through my Master’s program, maintaining my perfect 4.0 GPA, I slowly began to believe in my abilities.  Early on during the first of two thesis-writing classes, it was suggested that we start putting our work out there by finding/entering as many writing contests as possible.  So, I immediately researched contests for my genre and sent my work off.  Then, the wait began to see if what I’d sent was good enough to make it through to the final round of each of the contests.  The info provided said it could take up to three months to receive notification/feedback, so I went on working on my thesis, pretty much forgetting about it.

Then one day, an email from the chairperson of the first contest arrived in my inbox.  Nervously, I opened it, only to read the words, “Thank you for submitting your work to the (blank) contest.  Unfortunately, it did not make it to the final round.”  I was then advised to download my score-sheets from the three judges.  I was truly disappointed that my work wasn’t chosen, but thanks to that voice of self-doubt, I wasn’t surprised.  I was totally surprised to find that two of the judges had given my work high scores (just shy of what it took to make the final round), while the third ripped it apart – closing the whole thing by telling my that she liked my story idea and to work on refining my craft.  Okay – I’d read about how the key to becoming a successful author was developing a thick skin.  I took some notes from those score-sheets, closed the files, and started trying to revise what I’d submitted.

Last week, a second email arrived from another contest I’d entered.  Once again, the chairperson thanked me for submitting but regretted to inform me that my work didn’t make it to the final round.  When I opened up these score-sheets, the first one looked like it was covered in blood.  The judge warned me that she typically offered a lot of feedback, but I was overwhelmed by all the comments, marks, and suggestions I saw.  Still, when all was said and done, I received a score of 40/50 possible points.  The second judge didn’t cover my submission with red, but gave me a score of 42/50.  As I looked over both score-sheets, I felt my confidence level sink to the point of actually making me consider just giving up on the whole idea of becoming a successful author.  All I kept hearing in my head were the words I’d heard my whole life: “What you’ve done just isn’t good enough;” “You’re almost good enough, but not quite.”  Something I overheard once came echoing back: “She needs to find a real job instead of trying to write some stupid book!”  Let me tell you – that one’s stuck with me for a long time!

And then one day, as I was having a particularly heavy “feel sorry for myself” moment, I told someone I was seriously considering giving up – that my dream of becoming a writer was just that – a dream.  This person made a comment about how when you’re striving to create, you do it because you have to do it, not because you want to make a living out of it.  If it’s what you’re meant to do, things will fall into place.  As I thought about her words, I realized that I’d been working on this particular story for almost 18 years, in one form or another – which meant I must have a story in me that I need tell.  So, I opened all those feedback emails and I re-read each of them, doing my best to look at it as what it’s meant to be: a learning tool.  And I made up my mind, with the help of that person’s wise words, that I’m not ready to give up on something that’s been so important to me for so long.

I can’t say that my confidence level has come back up completely.  I still look at those emails and wonder how in the world I’ll ever be able to revise my work to meet those standards and suggestions.  But what I’m going to try to focus on is this: each of those judges said some positive things about my story – in spite of all the mistakes, suggestions, and comments.  Even the judge who gave me that low score said I had a good story idea in the making.  Perhaps even more important than that is what this story actually means to me – and what it will mean to me to finally complete all of the massive revisions.  I will also have one more person to thank in the dedication.  If she hadn’t stepped in, I would have probably quit!

My point to this very long post is this: don’t let self-doubt talk you out of doing something you feel you are meant to do – something you feel you have to do.  As the song goes, “pick [yourself] up, brush [yourself] off, and try one more time!”

Please follow and like us:

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

Hi Everyone!

If you’ve found your way to my site, let me take a moment to say, “Thanks!”  I’m still learning to ins and outs of making the most of my WordPress site, so thanks for bearing with me during this process!  Please check back soon!

Please follow and like us: