Being ourselves can be a daunting and overwhelming task at times. But as this quote from my fellow author, Kristi Ann Hunter encourages us, God created us the way we are, embrace it!
Original post published 8/29/13
A while back on another blog, I read a post about how, if we’re honest, we all have the reader-we-wish-we-were and the reader-we-really-are. Like, we might want to think we’re going to read some scholarly, high falutin piece of literature for pure fun one summer…but when it comes down to it, we opt for the romance novel with the pretty gown on the front instead. I really appreciated the thoughts the blogger put forth, because I have totally done that.
It’s a thought that stuck with me, and which translates to a lot more than my reading pile. Because it’s tough sometimes. We should own who we are…yet be improving. We should be happy in our skin…but want to be healthier, in better shape. We should take pride in our work…but not be too proud to take advice.
The more I think on these things, the more I think that finding a balance for each of those circumstances is what helps me discover who I really am. Years ago, I posted about how, when I spend time with some of my best friends, I sometimes come away thinking, “Why am I not like them?” I don’t make food from scratch much anymore. I don’t sew my own clothes. I don’t debate the morality of one brand over another. Should I? Well, hearing their philosophies, I often think I should. But if I give my attention to that…
And one of those friends replied to that blog saying how she leaves those same visits wishing she could develop stories that others want to read, wishing she could be confident in her clothing choices without getting hung up on the “why” of things, wishing she could be the kind of person to express those very doubts with eloquence.
We all have those I wish I were… moments. We all look at the way our friends parent, dress, exercise, cook, write, read, worship, or [fill in the blank] and think, “I need to be more like them.” But how often are they looking right back at us and thinking the same?
Sometimes this makes me laugh. Sometimes it makes me shake my head. And always it makes me pause and think. Because I can’t be Kimberly or Karlene or Stephanie or Jennifer or Paige or Erin. I can’t be Francine Rivers or Ted Dekker or Laurie Alice Eakes or MaryLu Tyndall or Julie Lessman. I can’t be the college professors who sat around thinking about Aristotle for fun.
There are things I wish I could improve about myself, especially when I reflect on these people I so love. I wish I were more proactive about my homeschooling choices. I wish I were more educated on the medical choices available to us. I wish I knew (and cared) what was in my food. I wish I studied the changing tides of the industry to which I belong. I wish I kept my house clean. I wish I always answered my kids with patience. I wish I could organize my time.
And it’s so incredibly weird to me to be talking to a friend and hear her
say, “I just keep telling myself, ‘You need to be more like Roseanna. Keep your cool.’ You’re the most laid-back person I know, and I need that.”
What I take from that is that we need to learn from each other, yes. We need to grow. We need to stretch ourselves out toward knowledge, as Aristotle would say, and come to a better understanding of our worlds.
But we also need to recognize that we can only do what we can do. We can only be who we can be. We only have so much attention, so many hours, so many days. How do we really want to spend them?
For me, it comes down to this. If I have to decide between working out and writing, I’m going to choose writing. But if I can combine working out with brainstorming…well, that’s awesome! So rather than doing videos that demand my full attention, I’ve been walking. It gives me much-needed time to think in peace, and that makes my writing time fruitful.
If I have to decide between keeping my house clean and spending extra time on fun lessons with my kids, I’m going to choose my kids. Because sometimes it seems like if I spend my whole day teaching the must-dos, then the following hours cleaning up, I never get to hug them. Never get to cuddle. Never get to put puzzles together and build Lego tractors. So I prioritize. The kitchen must be cleaned, the toys have to be put away. But I’m not going to fret over every stray piece of paper.
The list goes on. Will I ever reach a place where I’m not frustrated day-to-day with some little thing? Where I don’t look at the awesome people God has put around me and aspire to be like them in some way? I seriously doubt it. Because I’m aware of my own faults, and it’s good that I want to improve them.
But I’m also aware of who I am and what’s important to me. And I have to be careful that I don’t get so hung up in bettering one aspect of myself that I neglect another. I have to be, above all, who I am.
It’s good to have a reminder like this. Are there things in your life that you have a hard time relinquishing control of?
Original post published 8/28/14
I admit it–I don’t read for pleasure as much as I used to. Mostly because during the school year, I spend so many hours a day reading to my kids, writing, and editing that by the end of the day, my eyes and brain say, “Nope, we’re done. Stare at the television or go to sleep. Those are your choices.”But there’s another reason. It’s because I’ve trained myself so much to be an editor that I can’t read a book without noting what I’d ask the author to change…and that gets really, really annoying when I’m just reading for fun, LOL.Now, the mark of a truly excellent book is when the “editor” switches off, or at least finds nothing to whine about. That happens, and I love it when it does. But other times…yeah. I recently read a dystopian where the character at one point mentions that in her town, there’s no music. She barely has a concept of what it is. Then a few scenes later, she likens someone’s breathing to a concertina. Um, no. If you don’t know what music is, you aren’t going to think in terms of instruments. Sorry. A first-person book that suddenly goes out of POV and tells me what another character is thinking? Shudder. And that historical full of inaccuracies? Ouch.I guess it’s kinda like a doctor watching a medical show. Or someone in law enforcement watching CSI. They’re going to notice the faults, the things the show gets wrong, and it’s going to ruin it for them. Sadly, that’s how some books are for me these days. It’s one thing to notice all the typos, which I’ve always done. But these days, it’s so much more than that.But then it makes me wonder.
How can God stand to watch us?? LOL. I mean, He’s got it all right. He knows what He’s doing. He knows the right thing, the wrong thing, the so-so things we could do in each moment, and He sees how often we go the wrong way. How often we miss the mark.
And I can imagine Him in heaven, with his metaphorical red pen, saying, “You know, if you’d just let me give you some advice right here…”
But here’s another thing I’ve learned about editors–you have to let them give you advice. Freelancers you hire, and you can totally choose whether to take their advice or ignore them. When you’ve signed a contract with a publishing house, you kinda have to listen to what they say. Kinda. But you might be surprised at how many authors refuse, and take the cancellation of their contract over giving over control of their story.
What about in our lives? Do we give over control to Him? He, who is the ultimate author? The ultimate editor? Who understands far better than we do where the plots of our lives are going? Who knows what’s relevant and what isn’t? Where our focus should be?
Lord, be my editor. Catch all my errors and help me correct them. Cut out all that fluff I don’t need in my life. Keep my words tight and true to You. Lord, be my editor…and help me to take Your perfect advice.
As I madly work on my next story, I am taking a look back on thoughts about The Lost Heiress today.
|Children on a Path Outside a Thatched Cottageby Helen Allingham, late 19th century
With the first round of edits wrapped up on A Soft Breath of Wind, I moved on this week to my first round of edits on The Lost Heiress. (Lots of editing going on around here!) There are some changes I know I’m going to make, some inconsistencies I’m finding. An old (for me) story taking on new life.
But one of the major themes in this book has been there since I was 12, when I first started writing it–the one that involves Brook, this noblewoman raised in a country not her own, finding her rightful place. Finding her home. Finding her family.
When I was writing this in seventh and eighth grades, it was easy for her. She lifted her chin, screwed her stubbornness and faith into place, and took England by storm. Her family all adored her, London adored her, life adored her. The only people who didn’t were the bad guys, because they were evil and therefore couldn’t love.
When I was writing this in seventh and eighth grades, I was trying to find my place. Trying to adjust to friends who were suddenly interested in boys instead of Barbies, in being popular instead of being genuine. I was trying to figure out how to be who I knew I was in a world that demanded I be who they wanted to make me.
I was an outspoken 13-year-old. The kind that refused to be led by other kids my age because, frankly, I found them obnoxious. I was the one who thought about consequences. About right and wrong. I was the one who told the other girls at the sleepover that if they were serious about trying a seance, I was going to call my mom and go home. The one who said if they were seriously going to try to sneak out, I would lock the windows and stand guard. The kind who greeted gossip with, “Are your lives so boring that you have nothing better to talk about than me? Seriously? Sorry to hear it.”
Yes, I was an outspoken 13-year-old. But I also wanted those I liked to like me back. I didn’t want arguments for no reason. I wanted to please people, when I deemed them worth pleasing.
I remember one time in the cafeteria, talking about spaghetti, of all things. I proclaimed my mom’s homemade sauce the best (which it is. Just sayin’.). A friend asked, “Does it have chunks of tomatoes?” in a voice that I interpreted as meaning “because if it’s the best, it will.”
Now, my mom’s sauce is ground totally smooth. But I hedged and said something along the lines of, “I don’t know, maybe a few.”
My friend then said, “I hate chunks of tomatoes.”
And there I had a conundrum that brought me to an epiphany. My desire to make this friend agree with me made me lie–and now the truth, which would have been pleasing, couldn’t be spoken. That was the day when I realized that my yes must be yes and my no be no. That was the day when I realized that having someone’s good opinion didn’t mean squat if it wasn’t the right opinion.
That was the day when I realized that my place in life couldn’t always be easy–but that it was only worth having if it was really mine.
I’ve never been one of those people to be found in a gaggle. I have some awesome friends, but the best ones are few. I have an amazing family, but I’m not the one always throwing parties, or going to them. I’m not the popular one. Sometimes I wish I were, sometimes I wish people showed up to things when I host them, that I knew how to draw a crowd. Sometimes I wish my place was what Brook’s used to be in my story–beloved by all, effortlessly.
But it’s not who I am. And it’s not my place. It’s never been my place, not when I was a kid penning her first novel in class, and not now when I’m rewriting it.
Brook’s place has changed now too. Because even though 13-year-old-me wanted to believe someone could have it all, 31-year-old-me knows better. Because while there may have been, in some point in history, one young woman who was beautiful and rich and popular and of strong faith and different from everyone else…that’s not the story most of us know.
And it’s not the story I needed to write this time around. This time around, I needed a story of someone who had to fight for her home. Someone who had to decide whether she was going to be molded or if she would do the molding. Someone who had to choose what path she would tread and then face the consequences.
Someone who is less who I wished I were back then…and more who I grew to be.
Someone whose place wasn’t just waiting for her–someone who had to find it. And when she does, she finds there are those in it who oppose her. And those who would do anything for her.
Because that is life. We can never have it all.
But we can have what matters most.
Today I’m not looking back very far . . . just two years, to a post I wrote after one of my dad’s sermons inspired me. In another recent sermon, he just said one sentence that brought this to mind again, and I was thinking once more about this idea. It’s a good one, one I know I need to remember, always, so I thought I’d share it again.
Because let’s face it. Those hard times, the times that press us, never go away…
Life is hard. So often we feel pressure. People are pushing us. Prodding us. Poking us. Sometimes, when circumstances are weighing heavy, we get that tight feeling in our chest, right? Or in our stomach. Stress. Overwhelm.
We get tired.
We get frustrated.
But how do we react? Or the better question, how should we?
In his sermon last weekend, my dad used this analogy, and it really struck me. Take an orange and squeeze it, press it–what do you get? Orange juice. Not apple juice. Not grape juice.
Take a sponge and squeeze it, and what do you get? Whatever liquid it has soaked up.
Take a plant and press it, and what comes out? The oils or fluids from inside the plant.
Now, take a piece of rotten fruit and squeeze it, and what comes out? Rot. Decay. Stench.
Getting the picture? When pressed, what comes out of a thing? What’s inside it.
So let’s take that back to us. What comes out of us when we’re pressed? (Yes, the comedian in me said, “Blood and gross-squishy-red-stuff.” [Bonus points if you get the Phineas and Ferb reference.] But let’s be serious, LOL.)
What comes out is what’s within. So if we’re frustrated, that frustration comes out. If we’re unhappy, we spew unhappiness. If we’re bitter, that bile is just going to come oozing out of our mouths. But is that all that’s inside us, even when we’re not at our best?
When we’re people of faith, there is always Something else inside us. Someone else. The Holy Spirit lives here. He’s inside me. Jesus is inside me. So with them, what else is inside me?
Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness.
When we’re pressed, squeezed, put under pressure, when we’re poked, prodded, and pushed, that is what should come pouring out of us–that should be what’s within us.
Humbling, isn’t it? When you’re feeling the pressure of life, are you greeting it with love? With Joy
? Do we greet evil with goodness? Prodding with patience? Are we, when we’re at our lowest, when we’re been squeezed so much by life that the pain is palpable, shining with faithfulness?
If we’re not, then that says something about what’s inside us–and about what isn’t. We can’t pour out what we don’t have, and we can’t have good fruit inside us yet spill out rot and decay. If that’s what’s coming out, it’s because that’s what’s within.
And if that’s what’s within, then we need to do some serious work on ourselves. We need to turn those rotten spots over to God and let Him prune them away. We need to plead with Him to fill us with the good stuff inside.
And He will.
Until our cup runs over with His light. It’ll spill right out of us . . . and right into the world. And then, when we’re pressed, people will see Him.
I can’t think of a more beautiful way to show people who Jesus really is.
It is quite amazing the things that we learn, discover, when we teach our children. This is one that struck me back in 2012 and which I’ve thought of frequently since.
It’s hard to wait, when we can’t see our prayers being answered. Even when we’re fresh from a spiritual victory, our memories are short in the face of our doubts. But this story of Elijah constantly reminds me that we can’t give up.
What truths have been spoken to you this week?
Originally Published 1/19/2012
Yesterday in our homeschool Bible reading, we got to one of the best-known stories of Elijah–where he challenged the 450 priests of Baal to an altar competition. (Okay, my words, not theirs, LOL.) You remember it, I’m sure. The priests of Baal build their altar, put on their bullock, pray and pray and pray to Baal for fire to come down from heaven and light the altar.
Nothing. I love this story partially because of how Elijah taunts them. Can’t you just see that wily smile as he says, “Maybe your god’s asleep. Or on vacation. Cry louder.”
And they do, LOL. Then, of course, after that fails, Elijah builds his alter on the exact spot it should have been all these years, puts on his bullock, and has TWELVE barrels of water dumped onto the altar. Now, it hasn’t rained for years and years at this point, so that was probably some precious stuff. Elijah prayed, and fire swooshed down from heaven, devoured the offering, the water, and the very stones.
But something new jumped out at me yesterday. After the priests of Baal were killed, after everyone fled, Elijah and his servant prayed again. See, it was time for the promised rain to come. Time for the drought to end. Time to bring relief for the people.
So Elijah fell to his knees and beseeched God. God, the Lord, who had just an hour earlier sent heavenly fire for him. God, the Lord, who had led him here. God, the Lord, who had promised, “And then you’ll pray again, and I’ll send the rains.”
Elijah prayed. And his servant looked out over the sea and said, “Nothing. Not a cloud on the horizon.”
So Elijah prayed again. Still, there was nothing. So he prayed again. And again. And again. And again. Each time, his servant went to check the horizon. Each time, he saw . . . absolutely . . . nothing.
This is what hit me. Seven times Elijah had to pray before that mist began to rise out of the sea. Seven times! Do you think he was wondering what was taking so long? I mean, the fire had been immediate. So why the wait now? Why was God not listening? Had He changed His mind and not told Elijah? Can you imagine that prophet looking over his shoulder and thinking, “Wow, glad all those priests aren’t watching this now.”
Okay, so Elijah may not have had those thoughts, LOL, but I probably would have. I probably would have thought round about prayer number four, “God, You promised! You promised!! ‘Pray for rain,’ You said, ‘and I’ll make it rain.’ Well, I’m praying–so where’s the rain?!”
But Elijah was faithful. We don’t know how long each of these prayers was, but I have a feeling it was a little more in-depth than, “Oh, Lord, please let it rain!” 😉 This man was prostrate before the Lord, begging. Begging for the rains to come.
What if he had given up? What if he said, “Sigh. Maybe the Lord doesn’t want me to be a prophet anymore.”? Had he only prayed, say, five times, what would have become of Israel?
Doubt, discouragement is natural–the very next day, when Elijah hears that Jezebel is out to kill him, he forgets to pray and just runs. Runs. Even though God sent the fire, sent the rain, Elijah doesn’t even think to ask him to save his life. But God catches up with him on the mountain he runs to, after sustaining him during the run.
God’s always there while we’re running. He’s there while we’re hiding in the cave. He’s there while we’re praying, stirring up the mists, even though we can’t see them yet. He’s there. Not in the whirlwind, not in the earthquake . . . in the whisper. In the whisper is the voice of the Lord, just waiting for us to quiet up enough to hear Him. Waiting for us to listen. Waiting for us to wait upon Him.
How many times have we prayed for the same thing? How many times do we not see it happen and get discouraged?
But the Lord is stirring up the mists in the sea while we pray. He’s working in the mysteries we can’t understand, working within our world, our time, our reality so that everything will line up just so for us. We can’t see all that–our eyes are only human.
But He’s there. Preparing the rain.
Our part is to stay on our knees until we see it.
God’s blessings never cease to amaze and inspire me. Looking back over the last 8 years, and seeing where each step has brought me. Of course, it wasn’t all easy breezy, but knowing that the Lord brought me to the right place in HIS time, nothing gets better than that.
Original post published on 2/4/2010
Yesterday morning, I received what every author dreads: a rejection. And this isn’t your run-of-the-mill, “Thanks, but after reading the proposal, it’s not what we’re looking for.” This comes after a year of encouragement, of high praise, and of a statement that they wanted it and would have a letter of intent to me “soon.”
“Soon” somehow became, “sorry.” Which makes Roseanna go “sigh” and “sniffle” and even a short “sob” before I get a grip on myself.
I’m an old friend with rejection. I’ve been submitting manuscripts since I was fourteen years old, so I’ve obviously gotten my fair share. Everything from the boiler-plate “thanks but no thanks” letters to some very personal, very encouraging apologies. That’s what this one was. The editor loved the story and wants to work with me, but their line’s going in a different direction. I understand that. Really I do. And I appreciate that she offered to talk with me about coming up with another idea.
But that doesn’t make it any easier, you know? For a year, my hopes have been so high on this project. I really, truly believed that this was my “given,” that the encouragement meant I could count on it. But when an optimist like me gets news like this . . . well, there’s some deflation. There’s a headache. There’s some glumness in a royal shade of blue.
And there’s a question of, “What was the point of this, Lord? I know You have a purpose for me, for every bump, for every bruise. I know there’s a reason this was dragged out so long only to end in a disheartening ‘no.’ So if You could just let me know what that is . . . ?”
There’s no magic cure for disappointment, no Band-aid you can put on it, no steps you can follow to put it neatly behind you and keep plugging away. But still, I woke up today feeling okay. Happy, even. Because yesterday I saw the true mettle of the people I love. My friends not only rallied around me with cheer and encouragement and lots of, “You’re too talented not to get picked up soon by a big house!” they had me laughing. They had the optimist in me quickly resurging.
My hubby and I ended up going out for a much-needed date last night, too, and talking to him is always a balm on my soul. I ended my day yesterday knowing that even if life makes us cry now and then, we serve a God who dries our tears. So thank you, Lord, for wrapping your arms around me. And thank you, my awesome friends, for being those arms.