Encouragement

Three Steps to Freedom!

 

It’s The Most Wonderful/Terrible Time of the Year.

It comes every year, and every year we wait for it with a mixture of excitement and dread. No, I’m not talking about taxes.

I’m talking about the award season.

From the ECPA Book of the Year awards to the Christy’s, the Genesis to the RITA, the Golden Heart to the Carol, and all the gazillion contests and awards in-between, online groups, Facebook, Twitter, and more are buzzing with the news of who finaled and who didn’t, who was nominated and who wasn’t. It’s a heady time for those chosen; a difficult and even painful time for those not so blessed.

This year has been especially interesting to me as a number of the books I acquired and edited over the last year or so have garnered several nominations for prestigious awards. I’m delighted for these writers, because I know how hard they’ve worked, and how talented they are. But I know, too, that those not getting happy news have also worked hard, are also talented. And I know that so many of us find ourselves smiling through the ache inside, congratulating our friends, knowing we should be happy for them, but all-too-aware of that nagging “Why not me??” in our gut.

So what’s a writer to do?

Well, let me offer you Three Steps to Freedom. Freedom from frustration, from resentment and envy—and from that voice that keeps telling you you’re not good enough.

Step One: Go ahead. Feel Sorry for yourself.

Seriously, if you’re glum because your book wasn’t chosen (or even submitted), or you’ve been writing longer than that finalist has been alive!, or you just knew this was YOUR year until you broke all your fingers in that extreme crochet tournament, or for any of the myriad reasons we have for feeling bad that we weren’t chosen or spotlighted, give yourself 10 minutes to sulk. Yes, go ahead. Rant, rave, snarl, consume copious amounts of chocolate. Get it out of your system. But only for 10 minutes. No fudging on this one, friends. Ten minutes tops.

Step Two:  Go forward. Focus outside yourself.

Best way to get over those feelings in step one is to stop focusing on yourself and start, as Scripture so aptly states it, rejoicing with those who rejoice, and weeping with those who weep. If you know those who have finaled or been nominated for awards, send your sincere congrats. Celebrate with them! A win for them is a win for us all, friends. And if you know others who were hoping against hope, only to have those hopes dashed, send them a quick “I understand and I’m praying for you.” Come alongside those who share this writing journey with you, be they celebrating or sad. Because we’re all serving the same Master, and when you reach out to your fellow sojourners, uplifting and encouraging them, He is pleased.

Step Three: Go Deeper. Examine your craft.

If you entered a contest or two or twelve, and didn’t receive the results you’d hoped for, use this experience to take a hard look at your craft. If you receive any comments back from judges, look them over with an open and teachable heart. Don’t let this discourage you. Instead, know you’re doing the work, and determine to grow in both craft and grace. God has this, just as He has every other step in our journey. Nothing is wasted in His economy, so seek what He wants to teach you in this particular step. It may be a craft issue, or it may be a heart or faith issue. Whatever it is, be teachable. And rejoice in the honor of His refinement.

And never, ever forget, no matter how rocky the road, that we who get to spend our days immersed in words, and in His Word, are among the luckiest people of all.

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How Things Used to Be

My family and I have discovered a new TV channel we absolutely love: ME TV. No, it’s not about being egotistical. ME stands for Memorable Entertainment, and its lineup boasts all the old shows that we used to watch when I was a kid. No fooling! It’s like my youth has been reborn! Everything from Rockford Files to Wagon Train, Perry Mason, to Dick VanDyke, Hawaii 5-0 (the REAL 5-0) to Family Affair, Columbo to The Guns of Will Sonnett…so many shows that, even at the earliest age, caught my imagination and introduced me to the power of story. Each show, in it’s own way, drew me in, making me a part of the drama, adventure, or romance. I knew, even back then, that I wanted to be a part of all that. Of weaving stories. Of letting them bring truths to life in a way that engaged the heart, imagination, and mind.

But as I’ve watched these old shows, I’ve discovered something. Something that absolutely astounded me. God is there. Up front and center.

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Nameless Waterfalls

During a recent vacation we visited a place in Alaska called the Tracy Arm Fjord. The picture was one that I took during that visit.

As we past through these amazing waters it was bitter cold (note the icebergs in the water), in the early morning around 6 a.m., and with a chilly wind to accompany us. But rather than be frozen by the weather I was mesmerized by the number of waterfalls along this 30 mile long fjord. There were hundreds of them. Most did not have a name because there were so many. In the above photo, if you click to make it larger, there are at least three, if not more.

And then it struck me. The words we write and the authors who write them are like these waterfalls.

They are plentiful and beautiful.

But many remain nameless.

And yet, without them the fjord is unfilled and the oceans run dry.

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