Wednesday, October 29, 2014

No More Excuses

I imagine we’re sitting in a coffee shop, me with a caramel steamer in hand and you with a coffee or latte or mocha, because that’s what the grown-up world does. I’ll explain how I wish I liked coffee. How my mornings would probably be completely different because I might actually not despise the mornings any longer. Or maybe if I had a cup of joe (that’s what you savvy coffee drinkers call it these days, right?), the morning routine of getting kids ready for school and packing those blasted lunch boxes wouldn’t be as overwhelming during my caffeine high. We would chit-chat about our day, the weather, and through getting to know each other you’d find out that I write inspirational romance/suspense novels. You’re intrigued, and then you confide in me that you’ve always wanted to write a book.
Can I just tell you how many times that happens? Through book signings, random conversations and scenarios like above – I can’t count the number of times someone has told me about their dream to write a book. I’ve been asked by Bob Clary from the online learning company, Webucator, to share any words of wisdom or knowledge I’ve collected about writing for their new “Teach Your Talent” project. At first I hesitated, thinking, “What do I have to offer?” I may not have incredible writing/grammar skills to share or a heap of wisdom to bestow – but I can be your biggest cheerleader! To those of you that have a dream and desire to start writing a book … DO IT! No more excuses of...
I don’t have the time.
Even if it’s five minutes a day – DO IT! I’ve been known to carry a notepad wherever I go to jot down ideas or anything that pops up in my head. If you see me in the pick-up line at my kids’ school, chances are you’ll see me scribbling like a madwoman.
I don’t have the skills.
Learn. Take classes. Teach yourself. DO IT!
I don’t know how to start my story.
Just start writing, if it doesn’t flow, that’s what the backspace is for. How will you ever know, if you don’t try and just DO IT! If I can give any advice in this area, it’s to start with an outline. For me, it was so much easier to start writing once I had an outline and knew where my story was heading.
I have the fear of failure.
Don’t we all! DO IT anyway! I’ve learned through my process of getting published to grow some thick skin and that I’d rather fail than not try at all.
I don’t have it in me for the hard work.
I’ll be honest; it takes a lot of effort to write a book. It’s not for the faint-hearted. But trust me, hard work makes the success even more rewarding. So DO IT!
I can hear you say, “Natalie, you don’t understand. It’s easy for you to say that, you’re a published author.” Once I stop laughing, let’s take a trip down memory lane.
Since I was a child, I always enjoyed writing and telling stories. I had often thought about writing a novel but never really pursued it because I have poor grammar skills (you, think I am, Kidding but seriously its, horrible?). Knowing I had this huge struggle, I just assumed I could never achieve writing a book. Back in 2009 life hit hard. I had two horrible miscarriages and my middle son came down with a very rare and life-threatening disease. It felt like all I did was grieve and take care of little people. I finally realized I needed a hobby – an outlet. One night my husband encouraged me to write a book – and hearing him say that sparked my desire again. So a few days later I sat down, wrote out a quick outline with detailed characters … gulp … and started writing chapter one.
I thought it was going well. Halfway through the book I decided to find an editor, because NO ONE was going to read this manuscript without first fixing my million grammar mistakes. I found an amazing editor and sent it off with high hopes, only to be crushed by the response. The manuscript wasn’t good. At all. It needed so much work the editor couldn’t even start editing. The subtext, the dialogue, the plot – you name it, and it was probably terrible. Pretty much the only way anyone is going to get their hands on that first manuscript will be over my dead body.
So what did I do? I cried. I didn’t tell anyone, and for three days I licked my wounds and cried. Then I sucked it up and got honest with myself. I could quit right there - only a handful of people knew what I was doing. I could save face and no one would be the wiser. Or I could pick myself up and do something about it. I had to ask myself what I really wanted. The answer? I wanted to write a book.
For the next month all I did was research how to write a fiction novel. I read article after article. I read self-help books. I went back through my favorite author’s books and gleaned from her words, style, and examples. And after all that, I found my own niche and voice - and started all over again. I sent the first chapter back to the editor. And guess what? She loved it!
I wish I could say from there on it was all smooth sailing until I signed my contract four years later with my publisher. I wish I could say I didn’t get rejected by twenty some agents that didn’t see my vision for a story. I wish I could say my books have been on the New York Times Bestseller list.
I can’t.
But what I can say is … I DID IT! I wrote a book.
Now, it’s your turn!
And yes, someone did proofread this…

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tuesday Truth - The Bitter Wake From Our Path

“When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?” Then she said, “Here is Bilhah, my maidservant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and that through her I too can build a family.”

– Genesis 30: 1-3
When reading this passage and taking a good look at Rachel, one word sticks out to me. Jealousy. Rachel became so jealous of her sister Leah because she could give Jacob children while she remained barren. So jealous in fact, that she took matters into her own hands and had her maidservant sleep with him so she could have children through her. And it didn’t stop there. It actually got worse. Then Leah couldn’t conceive, so she had Jacob sleep with her maidservant. And for years this went back and forth between them. Finally the Lord heard Rachel’s cry and she gave birth to Joseph. Joseph then became Jacob’s favorite and his brothers became extremely jealous of him. So jealous, that the brothers ended up selling him into slavery – but that’s a story we will cover next week. Let’s take a look at a couple scriptures that tells us about jealousy. In 2 Corinthians 12:20 we have Paul sharing his concerns to the Corinthians. “For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outburst of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. Did you notice in that list you usually have jealousy with at least one of the others? Now flip over to Galatians 5:19-20, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious; sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, and factions. Hmmm, are you seeing a theme here. I am. God compiles jealousy with some pretty ugly sins. It also makes me think about how ugly my heart looks to God when I store jealousy in it.  The thing with jealousy is that it never just stays in our heart, it leaks out and causes destruction around us, a bitter wake from our path, and another stepping stone to more sins. It alters our actions, words, and perspective. Let’s take a serious look at jealousy and how it can corrupt us. Often times when we compare ourselves to others, it births a seed of jealously that quickly grows. We become jealous over how people look, their positions, someone has what we want, the loss of another’s affection/time, others getting the blessings when we feel like we only get the leftovers – the list could go on.  Often times when we harbor jealousy in our hearts, we can’t see what God has right in front of us. Rachel let her jealousy ruin her relationship with her sister. Rachel let her jealousy become self-destructive and consume her. Rachel had a husband that loved her deeply, despite whether she could conceive or not, and she dismissed that devotion for her own selfish desires. Take a moment to pause and reflect on your life. How are you struggling with jealousy? We all do – we just have to find the source and look to Christ for the freedom over it.
Heavenly Father, as water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man. Lord, I do not want my heart to reflect jealousy. Please help me to identify those areas that I struggle in this and help me break free. Amen.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tuesday Truths - Where Do You Find Your Worth?

“When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.

– Genesis 29: 31-32

Lately I’ve been reading about Jacob/Rachel/Leah - and I think my jaw has dropped quite a few times. I’ve read their story before, but never really grasped the amount of sin, jealousy, revenge, deceit, pride and lack of acceptance it held. And as you continue reading how it affected all the brothers and ensued generations of hatred. There is so much to learn from their situation, so I will be splitting it up and covering different topics today and the next couple weeks. Today, we are going to talk about Leah. My heart went out to Leah. I’m a huge sports fan and if I’m watching a game that my team isn’t playing in, I always cheer for the underdog. When reading this scripture, that’s what Leah felt like to me - the underdog of this story. How hurtful for her to experience not being wanted or chosen and it wasn’t even her doing. Her father gave her away to Jacob. A man that didn’t want her, a man that wanted her sister and made sure everyone knew it. Leah begged God to give her a child in hopes it would help Jacob fall in love with her. Heartbreaking, isn’t? Have you ever felt unwanted? I have. It’s not a good feeling. When I look at Leah and examine her life, I can’t help but notice that she looked to others for her self-worth and favor on her life. But God tells us in Proverbs 8:35, “For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord.” Makes me pause and examine my life a bit. Where am I finding my worth? In my husband, kids, writing success, my home, who my friends are, what strengths I have to offer? How about you? Let’s backtrack a bit in Proverbs to 8:17-21, “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me. With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity. My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver. I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice, bestowing wealth on those who love me and making their treasuries full.” A couple things I took from these verses. 1. Leah thought she needed a son to have worth and be accepted (notice she kept having children, but it never filled that gap, that longing to be accepted). But in God we find our riches, worth, and prosperity. God doesn’t love us because we have or haven’t done something. He simply loves us because WE ARE HIS. 2. God says that His fruit is better than fine gold. What God pours into us will always be enough. Always. We should never have to look beyond God to others or “positions” to fill any holes – God wants to make our treasuries full with the love of Him alone. The great thing about being a follower of Christ is that we are always wanted by the King. We never have to wonder. So on days when my heart is hurt and I try to grasp onto other things for my worth, I can rest in the joy that I am wanted and loved and in God I find where I belong!
Heavenly Father, you have created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well (Psalm 139: 13-14). Amen.