Save Your Prayers

During the DAPL protests, I kept apprised reading articles posted by our local news agencies on Facebook. I quit reading the comments after only a few weeks, because they were so infuriating.

The ones that bothered me the most said, “I will pray for you.”

Now why, as a Christian, would that bother me? Aren’t we supposed to pray for each other, and welcome prayers on our behalf? Truth is, that phrase raises my hackles more often than it doesn’t. I couldn’t pin down why for the longest time, to the point I wondered if I should question my faith or lack thereof. If my faith was strong, there should be no reason prayers for me and to me should bother me.

A few weeks ago during Wednesday night church groups, I overheard a teacher for the teenage group say, “There’s a difference between praying for someone and praying at someone.”

A-ha.

Too often, when people say, “I will pray for you,” they make themselves the subject, and me the object. They make it about them – to attempt to show how righteous they are, and how unrighteous I am. It’s based on the assumption that I need, and want their prayers.

I also had to ask, did Jesus ever say, “I will pray for you,” especially during or after an argument with someone? I don’t recall a single instance.

There is another side to this coin, however. If I ask for prayers, then that phrase “I will pray for you,” is more than welcome. Also, if I didn’t ask for it, but people decide to pray for me without telling me, well, I can’t exactly stop that, can I? Not that I’d want to. As long as the people praying feel compelled to pray, and are sincere in their prayers (with humility, not self-righteousness), I have no problem with it.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:1, 5-6:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven … And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

I can’t stop anyone from praying, publicly or otherwise, humbly or otherwise. In the end, it’s not up to me to decide whose prayers are sincere. That’s between them and God. I do think, however, that when we decide to pray for someone, we need to be honest in our motives. Both in prayer, and every other means of expressing our faith, we should also do as Jesus did, and not make spectacles of ourselves.

Bees to Honey

Whenever I feel lost and overwhelmed, part of me wants to drop myself on the floor and throw a tantrum that would make even the most spoiled child stare in astonishment.

Life is complicated. People are complicated. As a rational personality who prefers order over chaos, when life doesn’t go the way I want, and people confuse me with their irrational words and deeds, I don’t know how to respond. My mind descends into its own form of chaos that I can’t escape.

I have learned, however, to find a place of solitude, even if it’s only inside my mind. To remove all distractions and give my thoughts and emotions time to settle. Writing has always helped, because it allows me to spill onto the page all the disorder in my mind. It’s also safe, because no one has to see it, and I won’t hurt anyone with my own irrational words and deeds.

Afterward, I can step back, study those words, and find understanding.

God’s gift to me that has saved my life and my sanity more than once. I’m sure it’s saved a few friendships along the way as well.

I promised with my last Facebook temper tantrum that my next entry would concentrate on faith and what acting on that faith means. No politics. You can be assured I’ve kept that promise.

Nor is this about accusations per se.

This entry is about what being Christian means. More importantly, why we – especially Christians – shouldn’t judge others.

First question: What is a Christian?

A Christian is a follower of Christ and his teachings. It’s accepting and embracing the idea that God loves us so much he sent his Son – a part of himself – to this earth to die for our sins. In doing so, we will have eternal life. All we have to do is give of ourselves, our mind, our heart and our soul to him. Not out of fear, but out of love.

It sounds so simple, which it is, but it’s far from easy. The moment we decide to follow Christ, that’s when the real work begins.

Second question: How does a Christian act on that faith? What does Jesus expect from us?

Someone asked Jesus a similar question in Matthew 22:36-40:

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Let’s dig a bit deeper now. Part of loving our neighbor as ourself is treating others how we want to be treated. That means, for instance, if I don’t want to be judged – for whatever reason – I have no cause to judge anyone else.

Matthew 7:1-5 is one of my favorite scriptural passages, partly because Jesus seemed to enjoy using hyperbole to get his point across:

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”

These next passages have to do with the Body of Christ. It may seem that I’m jumping subjects, but I tie them together at the end. I hope you’ll stick with me.

I Corinthians 12:4-6, 12, 15-21

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

Now for the last jump from Matthew 6:1-4

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

When I see memes telling me I’m either a horrible Christian or not one at all for whatever reason from a non-Christian, I get annoyed. Still, I see it so often, I’ve come to expect it. When I see a fellow Christians do the same thing, however, that’s when I get angry. All of the above scripture is why; we’re supposed to know better.

I heard a story of a woman who loved to bake pies. Whenever someone moved into the neighborhood, she’d bake them a pie to welcome them. Whenever a neighbor was hurting, or had a special occasion, she’d bake them a pie. Many appreciated her more than she ever knew, because whenever they felt lost and alone, with that one simple gesture, she made them feel loved and welcomed.

I saw another story of a woman who waved to all the students going to and from school every day for years. The students loved her for it, and some even said it was impossible to remain in a bad mood once they saw her smile, joy, and enthusiasm.

Should any one of us tell those women that they’re not “Christian” enough, or compassionate enough, because they don’t (that we know of) open their homes to the homeless, give their income to our favorite charities, or take month-long mission trips to war-torn countries?

Truth is we don’t know. Nor are we supposed to. Even if they didn’t do those things, the reason could be because God didn’t ask them to. Their part in the Body of Christ doesn’t demand it.

I also believe that since we’re not supposed to judge people based on their sins, we’re not qualified to judge people according to their good deeds, or what we consider their lack thereof, either. Our sins, and our good deeds are between God and us. Individually. If I’m not doing enough, it’s up to God to convict me, no one else, and certainly not on Facebook or other public venue.

And lastly.

The movie, “Hidden Figures” won a top award at this year’s Screen Actor’s Guild awards. Taraji P. Henson gave the acceptance speech, and she said in part:

“This film is about unity.”

“We stand here as proud actors thanking every member of this incredible guild for voting for us, for recognizing our hard work. But the shoulders of the women that we stand on are three American heroes — Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson. Without them, we would not know how to reach the stars. These women did not complain about the problems, their circumstances, you know, the issues. We know what was going on in that era.

“They didn’t complain. They focused on solutions. Therefore these brave women helped put men into space. … This story is about what happens when we put our differences aside. When we come together as a human race, we win. Love wins every time.”

My favorite part was the first two sentences of the last paragraph.

The memes, posts and comments about how horrible people are for not doing certain things will never help, because they don’t offer any solutions. It’s passive-aggressive behavior that only pisses people off. No one will ever bring people to their cause by tossing out insults.

Now, if someone were to approach me and say, “There’s a serious homeless problem in our city. I think we should rent an apartment building, and take up donations for food and clothing to help them out. Will you help me?”

That would spur me to action a lot quicker and with far more enthusiasm than someone screaming in my face, “You’re not helping the homeless, you hateful, selfish, hypocrite!”

Lure me with honey, because I’m no fan of vinegar.

It’s Personal

The message in church today was about how to keep love in a marriage. The scripture my pastor used was Ephesians 4:28-32:

If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

I focused mostly on verses 29 and 31-32 (in bold), because we need more of that – and not only within the context of marriage.

This also occurred to me during the sermon:

In the realm of politics, we can’t help but take things personal. This is especially true when someone personally attacks the candidate or leader we supported and voted for. We see it as an attack upon ourselves.

This is something we all need to be aware of when we criticize our leaders. Are we criticizing their policies (good), or their dress, looks, heritage, or mannerisms (bad)? I always hated the personal attacks on Obama and his family (some of it downright horrific) even though I disagreed with his policies. It was unproductive, cruel, and never gained a single convert. The same holds true for the nasty rhetoric against Trump and his family.

A friend of mine, Jessica, wrote this on Facebook a few days ago:

I’ve been trying to be better about checking my motives before posting stuff on Facebook. Often I decide my motives are wrong so I don’t post. So, I’m starting to wonder about the purpose of Facebook beyond being able to see pictures of people’s babies. If, after thinking about it some more, cute baby pictures turn out to be Facebook’s only redeeming purpose, I will stay on here because I totally love seeing pictures of people’s babies. People with babies: keep posting pictures of your babies. They are not only adorable, they also remind me how good our God is. And I need to be reminded of that. Especially after scanning past all the political posts.

I, too, need to keep in mind my ultimate and ulterior motives, not only in my Facebook posts, but in my blog. I’ve written plenty that I decided against posting (and others I probably shouldn’t have posted), because they sounded condescending and pretentious. I realized that I wrote them in an attempt to make myself look good, to appear “better than everyone else.”

Ugh. Humility isn’t one of my strengths, and it needs to be. If not for my sake, certainly for those around me.

Also highlighted in today’s sermon: Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. – James 1:19

Decisions, Decisions

I took a year off Facebook (mostly). In that time I finished four manuscripts and even managed to take 2nd place in a Writers Digest contest.

I went back to Facebook.

I lost my verve to write.

Coincidence?

I had hoped the political vitriol would settle down after the election, but it has worsened. The hate, the bullying, and unwillingness to see beyond fear of the future staggers me every time I log on. No wonder I lost my will to write. I can’t write when I’m too stunned to think straight.

So off again I go. Mostly. I’ll still participate in my chosen groups and maybe toss in a picture or two. But as for spending hours (or even minutes) scrolling through people’s feeds, not going to happen. It makes me sad, because I’ll be missing out on some good stuff, too. In the end, though, real life matters more than the constant and oftentimes discordant noise of social media.

On the other hand:

I read how Andrea Bocelli backed out of singing at the inauguration due to death threats:
Other entertainers have backed out for similar reasons.

On another website I posted this:

“I’m not furious over the death threats. Angry, yes, but not furious, because it’s expected.

What’s really infuriating is how many people capitulate to the threats. We are supposed to be the ones who believe in freedom, liberty, etc., and that requires strength of will. If we want the bullying to stop, we have to stand up to it.”

Someone else responded thusly: “When good men/women do NOT cave, you get the birth of the greatest nation on earth after telling George III to piss off, you also get to be the victors of WWII after forcing Hitler to eat a bullet…..men who cave in to fear, deserve to live in fear….men who stand up for freedom WILL live free”

By kicking myself off Facebook, I’m in effect running away. I’m allowing myself to be bullied, and giving in to my own fears. If people are allowed to spread hate and to bully with no response, they win. It also give them license to keep doing it to others.

I don’t care who someone voted for. That they hate our current President-Elect, or hated President Obama, I can’t change, nor would I attempt to. But I have to draw the line when someone attacks someone else for political differences, or deciding to entertain at a particular national event.

On another person’s post someone said (basically) that since people hated on Obama and his supporters, it’s okay to hate on Trump and his supporters. I responded with, “Just because some people have said horrible things about Obama and his family, it doesn’t mean it’s okay for others to do the same to Trump. Bad behavior is still bad behavior, regardless of the target.”

I don’t expect much of people except that they treat others how they want to be treated. The Golden Rule as it’s called, but so many have forgotten it. They’re too interested in pushing their own emotions and opinions on others, and they feel personally affronted if anyone dares to disagree.

Sorry, but my emotions are my own. No one but me is responsible for them. Just because I get angry when someone disagrees with my presumptions and assumptions, it doesn’t mean I should automatically lash out for no other reason than remain comfortable in my own righteousness. Why? Because I could be wrong. Being wrong is not a sin, but not admitting when I’m wrong can be.

Unfriend Me If . . .

Every once in a while someone will post, “If you don’t agree with me on this particular subject, unfriend me now.”

Thankfully these posts are rare, but they nevertheless make me sad, especially when that person claims to be a Christian.

I’ve only unfriended one person, and that’s because she changed her profile picture to a particular politician (who shall remain nameless), and 95% of her posts were so politically divisive, I had unfriend her to keep my blood pressure down. This was before I knew about the “unfollow” button. Had I known about the “unfollow,” I would have gone that route instead, and remained her friend. Since then, I’ve only “unfollowed” one person, because it seemed she posted a link to some cat video (for example) every five minutes. Her time-wasting posts so saturated my feed, I spent way more time than I wanted scrolling to find anyone else’s posts.

The only time I will “unfriend” another person is if they physically threaten me or my family. Other than that, opine away.

Now when someone tells me to “unfriend” them due to a difference of opinion, I’ll admit I’m tempted. Especially if I indeed disagree with them. I don’t, though, because I understand where they’re coming from. I don’t think they’re right to do so (more on that in a minute), but I do understand.

Whenever I’m a bit stuck on how I should respond to others, I look to Jesus as my example (I don’t always succeed, but I do try). Many disagreed with him, but he turned away no one. He gave them the riot act for sure, but he never held up his hand and said, “Shut up and go away, because you don’t agree with me.”

I have many of friends with whom I have stark disagreements, whether it’s politics, religion, and a myriad of other topics. Some of them I disagree with from 10% of the time to 90% of the time. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. They enrich my life more than I can ever express. I have even altered my own point of view because of theirs at times. If nothing else, they teach me to keep an open mind.

Knowing other points of view – especially those opposite of mine – is not only useful, but necessary to a writer. How am I to write complex characters with opposing views (both antagonists and protagonists) if I don’t expose myself to them? By keeping monochromatic friends, I will only be able to write monochromatic characters. If I try to write a character so opposite of me without knowing people opposite of me, I decrease my chances of writing a believable character. Part of the reason I don’t attempt to publish a non-fiction book is because I’m not that interesting. Why would I want to constrain myself to write only characters who think and act like me?

We’re all different, and it’s those differences that make life so darned interesting.

On Faith

I watched “The Santa Clause” over Christmas. At one point in the film, two people discussed when they stopped believing in Santa Claus. In both cases they did so because they didn’t receive the one gift they wanted most.

How often do people give up their faith in God, because he doesn’t give them the one thing they prayed for? I admit I’ve struggled at times, because God seemed cold and distant. I have railed against him when I felt I deserved something, but he refused to deliver.

Still do, even when I look back and realize his refusals were ultimately a good thing. I ask for selfish things. Shallow things, when what he wants is for me to grow in my faith, and to help others grow in theirs. Whether or not I can afford the latest computer technology doesn’t further his kingdom. Nor does he help me escape my guilt and the consequences for when I screw up.

As much as I want to run away from my responsibilities, he always tells me hold the course. And he’s always telling me to wait — to be patient. Ugh.

I can be as shallow and selfish as anyone. I beg God to allow me to be selfish, to live a shallow life. How easy it would be to treat God like Santa Claus. To in the end quit believing in him, because I don’t get what I want all the time.

Doing so weakens what little faith I already have.

To wallow in the times when God refused my desires, I ignore all the times when he delivered – extravagantly. The times of him showering his blessings on me far outweigh and outnumber the times when he shook his head and told me no.

I sometimes refuse to see his negative responses as a blessing. Take Christmas day 2016. We had planned on going to our aunt and uncle’s house sixty miles away. Dave, Tom and I all came down with a cold, so we decided not to go. Did God decide to make us miserable on a holiday, or did he have another reason?

The entire state of North Dakota was under a blizzard warning all day with – projected – over a foot of snowfall and 35-50mph winds (gusting up to 60mph). The highway department started closing the interstate and highways at 5:30pm. If we hadn’t come down with a cold, we would have either been on the road at that time, or ended up having to stay at our aunt’s house until the roads cleared. That alone could take a day or two. And that’s assuming we didn’t get into an accident either on our way there, or on our return home.

Oftentimes, our blessings and curses could simply be a matter of how we choose to look at them.

If we choose to look at God as our eternal Santa Claus, we will only find disappointment, and foment a desire to quit believing in him when he tells us no. If we choose to see him as our heavenly Father who has our best interest in mind, then when he refuses us – like when our earthly parents refused to give us everything we wanted – we can, and should, be grateful. To feel blessed in all circumstances, not only when everything goes the way we want and expect.

Meeting Expectations

Sometimes I wish I could go back in time.

Not necessarily to avoid a certain pain, or to prevent a terrible mistake, however. Those I don’t want to go back for, because those pains and those mistakes molded me into the person I am today. And I like me.

I want to go back to the times when I wrote solely for myself. Then, the only person I risked disappointing was me. I didn’t feel the need to censor myself, and I didn’t have to worry about what others would think, or fear that they would hate me for being me.

Part of me hates the idea of publishing, because I feel I now have to write less for me, and more for others. And how am I supposed to know — while I’m writing — whether or not I meet their expectations? How will I know beforehand if those words I spilled out onto the page have angered, insulted or otherwise broke some rule of writing that will, in the end, push them away?

And yet, it was that “writing for me,” that attracted readers in the first place. I’ve always written better when I write without fear of consequence, when I wrote naked (figuratively speaking).

As a reader, I prefer honesty above all else. Even if I may disagree with what a writer says, if what they say is written with honesty and passion, I’ll never hate them for it. I may get angry, or frustrated, but that can also be a good thing. I like to be challenged, to see things from a different perspective.

I can’t be alone in that.

I don’t want to disregard my readers. Never that, but at the same time, I can’t allow my fear of what readers will think simply because I’m being honest. If I do, all that’s left is to lie.

I can’t do that either.

I’m reading “Writing 21st Century Fiction,” by Donald Maass, and the basic premise is for writers to quit holding back. What readers are looking for these days is no-holds-barred stories. Stories that make a person cringe, cry, infuriate, and want to sleep with the lights on, as well as laugh and go “Awwww.”

Because I want to write for a particular market, I’m trying to write stories that will meet their expectations. But what if my biases — and expectations — of that market are wrong, and they want to see the kind of writing I’m longing to write, but afraid to?

I go back to Jesus and his stories. He told stories that convicted and angered as well as inspired and comforted. He didn’t hold back, and if I am to live how he lived (which is what he asks of all of us), I can’t afford to. Not if I want my stories to make a real difference.

Ups And Downs

Often when I experience a series of good things, I soon find myself standing in the equivalent of a dark valley. Or at least a shadowed one.

Since it happens so often, you’d think I’d expect it, or be used to it. Try neither, but I’ve at least convinced myself to endure it – hopefully with a smidgen of grace.

The highs came from placing 2nd in the Writer’s Digest contest and the agent asking for the first three chapters of my novels during the conference.

The low I’m in now is partially due to coming down with a cold (yay), and giving one of my manuscripts to a fellow writer. She likes the story, and her edits so far are quite accurate and will only make me a better writer – which is why I asked for her critique in the first place. I’m far too close to my writing, it’s sometimes near impossible to look at it objectively. That’s why critiques are so important.

Those infuriating voices, however, those ones we’re all familiar with that try to convince us how awful we are, and that we should give up writing. They won’t leave me alone.

A few weeks ago someone asked how others fight off the uncertainties of being a writer. This is how I responded:

Realize those thoughts do not come from God. And since they don’t come from God, who do they come from?

I have those thoughts myself, all the time, and it usually happens right before a breakthrough. Time to put on the armor of God, my friend, because only with Jesus can you fight the enemy. You’re in my prayers.

I don’t always take the above advice. Sometimes I prefer to wallow in self-pity.

Speaking of self-pity . . .

But first off, a warning and apology to my gentlemen readers: I will mention a certain female function you might want to skip over.

It seemed every time we went camping or on a long trip this year, it happened during that time. Attending the writer’s conference was not an exception.

In fact, I was pissed at God that he would allow it. Why? Because it happened two weeks later than normal, to the point I wondered if I was either pregnant or officially entering menopause. Almost the entire four days, I came close to cursing God for cursing me. Especially during a time when I needed to focus on the conference. Instead, I worried about whether or not I would end up having to take an emergency bathroom break.

I mentioned the conference to fellow writers during a get-together we have once a month last weekend. We talked about how not knowing anyone else there, we end up standing on the fringes. One of the ladies in the group mentioned how since every writer likes to talk about themselves, it’s important to ask other writers about who they are and what they write instead of talking about ourselves all the time.

I realized then how much my attitude affected the way I treated other writers. I stood on the fringes along with other writers who didn’t know anyone. Since I felt gross, sad and frustrated, I didn’t want to talk about myself or my writing. I instead approached others standing by themselves and asked them questions. Unless someone asked, I avoided talking about myself.

Turns out, I ended up talking to mostly first-time attendees who I’m sure felt out of sorts – much like I do every time I attend a conference, first time attendee or not.

If I didn’t have my – issues – I kind of doubt I would have been as interested and accommodating as I was. Until I talked about it last weekend with the writers group, I didn’t consider that perhaps God intended my attitude to be subdued to help other attendees – especially first-timers – and not necessarily myself. If that’s the case, I kinda like how God chose me to do that. If nothing else, I’m not cursing him anymore, because something positive came from it.

The Dreaded “What Ifs”

During the awards gala last night, a certain realization hit me.

What if . . .

The agent I pitched to not only wants to see my first three chapters, but asks for the full manuscript, and terror of all terrors, agrees to represent me.

You’d think I’d be excited. After all, isn’t this one step closer to what I’ve been pursuing since I wrote my first novel back in 2001?

The problem with dreaming is it never take into consideration the work involved to not only make the dream come true, but what happens after.

In this case, while I wrote (and wrote. And wrote) the only expectations I had to meet were my own. Once an agent decides to represent me, I not only have to meet her expectations, but the expectations of whichever publisher decides to buy my manuscript, and my readers.

What if . . .

I fail to meet those expectations? And it’s not only the quality of the story, but the quality of the writing, and everything I can (and need) to do to promote my book.

What if . . .

I have no more books in me left to write, or I can’t write them in a timely manner?

And those are the big what ifs. There are many minor ones too, such as what if I don’t get along with my editors, and/or my agent and I have irreconcilable differences.

Do I really want to take those chances? Am I unwilling to take the chance that any or all of those things happen?

How important is fulfilling my dream?

Is it even about me?

Or is it about my stories, and not me at all?

Truth is, I don’t have a choice. When I set my “fleece before the Lord” about pursuing publication in 2010, he told me under no uncertain terms that I should. This is what he wants from me (and for me). To fear moving forward means I don’t trust him enough to know that he’s got this. I’m not saying that all of the above won’t happen. It all still could. All that means is I would have to work harder, trust more, and at worst, start over. That’s not going to kill me, and it won’t kill my dream — at least not if I don’t let it.

No Control And A Smidgeon of Faith

Dang. I haven’t written an entry in almost a month? Where did the time go?

I’d like to say I’ve been busy. I suppose in many ways I have, but I’ve also wasted a lot of time, too.

Mostly I haven’t written an entry, because my mind has been focused on polishing three manuscripts, and preparing “one-sheets” (basically a back-cover blurb of a manuscript with an author’s bio and other information). To my surprise, I’m done with them all. Not that I expected not to finish, but that I would finish with more than a week to spare before I head to the ACFW conference in Nashville. As good as I am at procrastinating, I shouldn’t be done this early. Now I don’t know what to do with myself.

I know what I should do: Write a few short stories and see if there are magazines that will take them. That’ll take research, and a lot of reading. Not a bad way to spend my time versus getting all anxious for the conference.

I have an appointment with a publisher and a literary agent to pitch my novels to. On the one hand, I’m hopeful, but on the other, I’m not. I’ve pitched before with no results, so if history is my guide, my chances of making a positive impression are low. I’m trying to convince myself that I’m going for the comradery of other writers — struggling in many of the same ways I am — and to attend classes to learn more about writing, marketing, etc. Plus I get to spend five days in an upscale hotel built next to the Country Music Hall of Fame (not a huge fan of country music, but I’ll still find it interesting if I have the time to see it). If I gain interest in my novels, all the better. I’ve gone to other conferences with the hope of a sale as my main reason of going, and ended up a few tears short of devastation. I’m not going to do that to myself again.

The last time I went to a conference (back in 2010), I wrote an entry at the end of every day to keep everyone updated, and so I won’t forget. I am, after all, getting a bit up there in age. I don’t remember things as well as I used to. I may do the same again.

My biggest worry is taking the plane. It’s not that I fear flying. I actually enjoy it (although I hate going through security), but my biggest pet-peeve is being late. For anything. Few things get me angry, but being late is near the top of the list. I am placing my trust in an airline and two planes to get me to the conference on time (I am going a day early, just in case, but one still never knows). I don’t like having to relinquish control like that. But I either fly, or drive cross-country for two days one way by myself. My flight is also with Delta, and in case you don’t know, they had severe flight issues last week that resulted in hundreds of delays and cancellations. That it’ll happen again next week worries me some.

Then again!

Back in 2010 I set a “fleece before the Lord,” which means I asked for a specific sign for a specific question I needed an answer to. My son was two at the time, and I was really happy and content with my life. I was writing little with the exception of my blog, and I was okay with that.

I started to wonder if God wanted me to pursue publishing my books, or if I should continue to live my life as it was, writing only as a hobby.

At that time, I had just purchased an annual membership to ACFW, and I received an email describing their Genesis Contest. Contestants submit the first fifteen pages of their manuscript along with a short synopsis. It then goes through a few rounds, and winners are revealed at the annual conference.

I told God that I would submit my novel, and that if I made the finals, I would know he wanted me to continue. As most of you know, I not only made the finals, but I won in my chosen category.

Do I think God is leading me to this conference? Perhaps, but perhaps not. Even so, whatever happens, I need to trust that God is in control. If there are issues with my flights, so be it. If not, even better. Worse case, I’ll have to cancel everything, and hopefully get some of my money back after paying all my late cancellation fees.