Purpose…Now what?

So, you’ve figured out what God wants you to do. He told you directly, in a dream, through someone else, or by some other means. Maybe it’s thanks to reading my blog post last month: Living On Purpose. You just KNOW what you’re meant to do. Your purpose could involve a career choice, a growing family, a move, a new friendship/relationship, or something else life altering. You know your desires, but… now what?!

Now…you wait.

I feel like I’m an expert of the waiting game. The in-between times. The “what if” times. The transitions. The period of space where we know we’re meant to be somewhere or do something, but we don’t know how or when. And we start to doubt we have any purpose at all.

It’s the years after God told David he’d become king. He had to watch the reigning King Saul go absolutely crazy, try to murder him, and chase him through the wilderness. And he waited…and waited…and waited. He wrote half of Psalms during his in-between times of waiting on God’s promise over his life to come to fulfillment. It was literal years before he became king.

It’s the 120 years between Noah picking up a hammer to build the ark and the first rain drop fell in the flood. I bet his family and “friends” badgered him with questions and doubts the entire time.

It’s the years Joseph endured between his prophetic dreams and the day Pharaoh rescued him from prison to make him second in command. I imagine lots of long lonely nights in the pit and jail cell.

It’s the decades Abraham waited on God’s promise to be fulfilled in giving him a son. Scripture doesn’t beat around the bush in retelling Abraham’s MANY doubts on God’s promises of purpose.

The waiting game happens to all of us. But it doesn’t have to be a “game.” It’s doesn’t HAVE to be torturous, mind-numbing, depressing, and crippling. Lamentations 3:25 says “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him.” That’s a comforting promise.

But what do we do when it seems like all we do is wait on our next assignment, adventure, mission, and purpose? We know God will be good to us and has the best in store, but what are we SUPPOSED TO DO?!

I remember my first date with Andrew. Shopping, movies, and Starbucks. The perfect trio. The perfect night. I knew I met THE ONE. I literally knew it. I was the crazy sap who cried on the drive home, thanking God for bring me my husband. Thank God I had the decency of mind to not tell Andrew this until AFTER we got married. He would’ve run for the hills, and with good reason. lol

So, in that moment on May 10th, 2009, I knew my purpose. God showed me a glimpse of what was to come, and I rested in that reassurance. Since I knew my purpose, I could’ve twiddled my thumbs, coasted on these thoughts, and waited patiently for my wedding day. I could’ve, but I’m so glad I didn’t!

Instead, I acted on my purpose by taking steps to fulfill it: getting to know Andrew more, growing our relationship, testing to see if we were equally yoked in everything that matters, planning our life together, and learning to live with the fact he would never like Lord of the Rings or A Knight’s Tale as much as I do. Because of doing these things, I was ready to say yes when Andrew popped the anticipated question. Well, as ready as I humanly could be. There were still many surprises after the wedding, but I shudder to think how insane things could’ve been had we not used our dating time to get to know one another more.

David didn’t twirl his thumbs either. Like I said earlier, he wrote a LOT during his decade on the run. He also got married, had kids, and he gathered an army of followers who would help him become king once Saul died.

Abraham, on the other hand, made a few missteps. He chose to force God’s purpose by sleeping with another woman to have a son. This son, named Ishmael, would plague Abraham’s future son, Isaac, until God sent them away to start a new nation. This nation would later become Israel’s oldest enemy. But even in his mistakes, God fulfilled his purpose in His time. Abraham just made it more complicated than it needed to be.

I’m so guilty of this too: making times harder and more complicated than they need to be.

When God first gave me the mission to write novels, I wrote with joy and passion. But then I got consumed with self-doubt as I looked to what others were doing, and why I wasn’t good enough. I let other’s opinions dictate my work and how I edited. I let my own fears stop me from praising God and listening. I look back at my journey and reprimand myself for losing sight of the gift God gave me. Now my first book is a mess, and I’m praying for God’s guidance on how to fix it. I’m waiting for an answer. But I’m writing, learning, and growing as I wait.

It can be unnerving to not know how long God wants us to wait on our purpose coming to fruition. We don’t have those answers. He never promises ultimate knowledge in timing. But He does give many scriptures to encourage, uplift, and instruct us along the way.

If we knew how long to wait, then we wouldn’t hold so passionately to our faith. Our prayer life wouldn’t grow. Our praise wouldn’t increase.

It’s difficult, but not impossible. God promises to never give us more than we can handle. That includes the valleys of solitude and mourning. And the chasms where we don’t know if it’s possible to continue in the dark.

I’m currently waiting on multiple things in my life. My readers are probably tired of me mentioning my purpose of being published. But I really am still waiting on this exciting purpose in my life to be fulfilled: five years and counting. Over seven years if you consider the day I wrote my first sentence in my first novel as day one. There are hundreds of writers who’ve waited even longer. Much longer in fact. I found out that Laura Ingalls Wilder (who wrote The Little House on the Prairie books, and my name sake) didn’t publish her first book until she was 65. Yow! I certainly pray it won’t take me THAT long.

I’m also waiting on something huge that’s twelve years in the making. I believe I’m reaching the finish line soon for that purpose, so you’ll be hearing about it in the months to come.

My point is: while we’re waiting on God’s purpose for our lives, work toward that purpose by trusting in Jesus.

What can you do today that would bring glory to Jesus?

While Joseph waited in prison, he used his God-given talent of interpreting dreams to comfort a fellow prisoner. He didn’t wallow in self pity when this same man forgot about him. Instead, he impressed the jail warden by his actions and he never stopped giving glory to God.

Are you praising God even when you don’t know which step to take?

Jesus Himself waited 30 years to begin His ministry. After His cousin, John, baptized Him and God said “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased,” He had to wait ANOTHER 40 days before He could begin selecting disciples. Those 40 days must have been excruciating… desert. Hot. No food. No water. And plagued by the persistent devil who never ceased badgering Him. But Jesus praised God continually. And Jesus shows us what He wants us to do through His perfect example.

When the enemy tempts us to give up: retort with scripture.

When other people try to get us to doubt what God told us: retort with scripture.

When we ourselves doubt our strength, talents, and purpose: retort with scripture.

God’s word trumps all. Stay strong, my friends. Because God promises it’s worth the wait. I can’t wait to see what’s next, but I’ll wait as long as it takes. Because I want an Isaac, not an Ishmael.

Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become restless and disturbed within me?
Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall again praise Him
For the help of His presence. – Psalms 42:5

Let’s Be Honest…About Goals

Where are you going?

In a world still full of travel restrictions, fear, mandates, and opinionated hypocrites, this question might seem a bit taboo. Many of us aren’t going anywhere. And if we do go somewhere, we might try to hide our whereabouts. No need to upset family and friends, or a job that’ll make us quarantine.

But where doesn’t have to be a new state or country. Where can be as localized or foreign as we desire. Where can be a state of mind.

But we need to go somewhere.

Do you wake up with a jump in your step, or do you curl into a ball under the covers? Be honest. Okay, I’ll go first: my bed is the comfiest mountain of soft pillows and billowing warm blankets. A black hole would be less magnetizing. It hurts to leave it every morning to take Riker to school. I want to forget my responsibilities, my worries, anxieties, and just stop adulting for as long as my covers will hold me.

It’s hard being positive 100% of the time. It’s difficult facing people, even when you’re an extrovert. It’s a struggle to take a step when the path is invisible. And it’s totally okay to admit that!!

I knew I wanted to write about goals this month. To beautifully ask what motivates us, and how our daily dreams bring brighter futures. How Christ set us free to be free, and not to be in bondage by condemnation any longer. How goals help us to spring out of bed with renewed strength. But, honestly, let’s just keep on being real here: how can I write about something I’m struggling with myself??

I’ve talked for years about my love of writing. How I dream of being a best selling author with book tours, tv/movie deals, and entering a book store to see my novels on the NY best seller shelves. I have several manuscripts that I’ve either finished or am starting to write (you can see my growing list in Upcoming Books). But, as you can see, half of this list are manuscripts that have been “shelved” until further notice.

The two shelved picture books might never see the light of day, to be honest. I love the stories and illustrations I created, but my style of writing tends to lean more mature than for children. I need to work on that if I want to pursue this genre, but honestly, I love writing for adults. So, I’m okay with these two being shelved. I LOVE the adult picture book I’m creating right now, and I like to think my illustration skills are improving with each picture. But, I still have so so many doubts. Test readers didn’t like my poetic style with my first two picture books, so why should I feel confident in this one? Do I dare let test readers tell me their thoughts so my hopes can be dashed again? This doubt in my talent haunts me.

If you follow my Facebook author page, or have met me via the Montrose Writers Conference in PA, then I KNOW you’ve heard me gush about my book The Judas Killer. The Judas Killer was my baby. My first finished book. The manuscript I toiled over for YEARS. It took me 3 years to finish it, and 3 more years to edit it through over a dozen rewrites. I had a bunch of literary agents interested, and such high hopes for my dreams coming true, but in the end I had 85 rejects. Yes, you read that right. 85.

I can’t get more honest than I’m being with you right now. I’ve never shared this number before. My first agent/publisher rejection came in March 2018. My last rejection came March 2020. And I decided The Judas Killer must die at last.

I love that story. I love the characters. But my writing has actually gotten better since then. So, I tell myself that writing The Judas Killer was like going through 6 years of literary college, and I move on.

The book I just finished is my new baby: Neutral Abyss. This book has had so many countless obstacles that I’ve lost track of its survivor story. I began writing Neutral Abyss in mid 2019. Writing was slow then because I was finishing up my job at Rock Solid Academy, we were getting ready to move here, and then I had that annoying cancer. Once we moved, I hit a beautiful stride despite having to home school, and finished the book in June 2020. Then I had 4 test readers quit on me before they even started reading. I had 2 quit after they started reading. I did have a few finish who loved it, but 1 of my readers spurred a political debate that sadly ended our friendship. I rewrote my first chapter 4 times. I rewrote my whole book twice.

Example of 1 rejection letter.

The good news: my latest readers LOVE it. It’s a strong story. It’s downright powerful. The characters are real. The message needs to be told. But, I can’t help but think about The Judas Killer and those 85 rejections.

Neutral Abyss is a dystopian time travel story about the love and struggles between a torn family. During the pandemic the need for “essential” jobs, the rise of hate crimes, and the separation growing in politics, sparked a question in my mind that I wanted to answer through this stoy: Is it worth sacrificing our art and individuality to create a peaceful society with no war, disease, or conflict?

But, I can’t seem to get any agent to read this book because I’m being told time travel is a “hard sell.” Cue the frustrated scream.

The rejections are building, and I’m struggling to be motivated enough to get out of bed.

There was a time in my life that I loved talking about myself. I freakin’ loved attention. Good and bad didn’t matter, as long as people noticed me. But this faded with experiences and age. I’ve been hurt over the years. Now, I rarely bring up my issues, my struggles, my thoughts. I don’t want to be a burden, and I don’t want to be hurt again. But it’s okay to be honest.

We ALL struggle. We ALL have issues. We’ve ALL been hurt in some way. We’ve ALL had rejection.

Sometimes when we only show our good sides, other people think they’re the only ones going through something. I’d be remissed to tell you all to “be positive” and “trust in God” if my own life was rainbows and roses.

I’ve been honest with you when it comes to my writing life. But, honestly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. But that’s okay. I don’t need to share every bloody detail of my life for you to see a piece of me. An avalanche doesn’t solve a drought; a little rain will help the crops grow.

When our lives are drowning in rejections, failures, and comfy blankets, it’s okay to admit that we don’t know what to do. Yes, goals will get us out of bed. Yes, goals will give us ambition and motivation. Yes, goals help the world start to spin again. But, goals alone won’t solve our problems.

The first step is to stop being so bloody hard on ourselves! It’s OKAY to rest. It’s OKAY to cry. It’s OKAY to admit we can’t do things on our own. Gosh, just read Psalms and you can see for yourself how often David cried and asked God for help.

The second step is to go forward. It doesn’t matter if it’s a crawl, baby step, or lunge. Just go forward. Step out of bed. Open your Bible. Turn that computer on and try one more time. Step out your front door. Call that friend. Send another e-mail. Try again!

The third step is DON’T STOP. Especially if you fail again. Get back up. Cry again if you need to. Eat the triple chocolate fudge ice cream with a side of “HELP ME, LORD!” and try again.

I didn’t know if I’d get a blog post out this month. It was hard. It’s hard to be motivated when you don’t know where you’re going. It’s even harder when the opinionated hypocrites love telling you what to do. But I’m going to admit I can’t go on without the guidance of my Jesus, take a step, and try again.

And, I did it, honestly.

I’m going to end this post the same way I started. Where are you going? Because I can’t freakin’ wait to hear your success stories.

My latest illustration for my new picture book for adult creatives.
May you part the seas today with whatever you do and wherever you go!!

A Superseding Hope

I warm my tired hands on the sides of the mug, and inhale the coffee aroma hugging my face. I take a sip, stare at my blank computer screen in the morning light, and hope today brings success instead of rejection letters.

Hope. Some days it feels like hope is all we have left. It’s a word we take for granted. “Hope you have a good day!” the cashier says. “Hope you feel better,” we tell a sick friend. We honestly hope these things happen. Who wouldn’t want a good day or a loved one to feel better? (Assuming you don’t exist in a mystery novel where you hope a loved one dies so you can inherit their great wealth. That’s a different kind of hope. But I digress.)

Hope springs when we dream big. Bigger than our circumstances. We hope our children grow up to be better than us, our marriage lasts, and the sun breaks through the storm clouds.

When I searched for quotes about hope, I found a surprising fact. There are over a dozen hopeful quotes from a man I didn’t expect: Christopher Reeve.

If you’re not familiar with this name, let me give you a brief bio: Christopher Reeve was an actor who played Superman/Clark Kent in the first blockbuster Superman movie in 1978. He played this role in proceeding movies and starred in other famous films such as “Somewhere In Time.” Sadly, Reeve fell off his horse in 1995 during a race and became paralyzed from the neck down. He would no longer be able to walk, move his hands, hold his children, or do anything by himself. But he never lost hope.

Despite being paralyzed, Reeve became a better husband and father than he was before. He continued to act, and started a foundation with his wife to help other paralyzed people. He’s quoted to say although he doesn’t believe in the Lord, he tries to live as if God is real. He HOPED God existed, though he was taught otherwise. Just like he hoped to regain feeling in his limbs again.

The Bible says “hope deferred makes the heart sick.” In other words, when the thing we hope for gets postponed/delayed/canceled, it sickens us worse than if we never hoped at all. Hope is a risk. It’s probably why so many choose to wallow in current situations. We push that hope aside, laugh, and say “yeah, maybe one day.” We build walls around ourselves, protecting us from our hopes crashing.

We hoped we’d get those amazing jobs, but get rejections instead. We settle for lower paying jobs, or even accept unemployment life. We hoped for a lasting relationship. But it breaks apart. When more fail, we resign to live alone. We hoped the lockdowns would end in April, June, November, after the vaccine, then we resign to call this the new normal.

We don’t start with a give-up attitude, but after enough rejections we choose to believe giving up is what we’re supposed to do. We tell ourselves we’re not actually failing; if we were meant to do it, we’d have succeeded long ago.

“Sometimes God closes a door.”

“God closed that door and will open a window.”

Neither statement is biblical. When God leads you somewhere, He NEVER goes back on His word. His promises are “Yes and Amen!”

When our hearts are sick, they don’t need to stay that way. The scripture I half-quoted earlier is from Proverbs 13:12, and finishes by saying “but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.”

For every story of failure, there’s a story of triumph. An author getting a contract on the one hundred and first try. A third marriage lasting twenty years.

Even though Christopher Reeve died at the young age of 52, at the time of his death he regained partial movement in his fingers and toes. He even said he could feel a pin prick anywhere on his body as well as differentiate hot and cold temperatures. I hope he found God in the end too.

Hope supersedes our circumstances. It doesn’t listen to our lack, but dreams about a bright future. It gives us a vision of our possible reality. Hope can make any of us feel like superman.

When I breathed out my hopes this morning, I said it as a prayer, and acted on it. I hope for a good day, then I have a good day. Regardless of my circumstances. It’s not living in denial or a fantasy world; it’s living a life of faithful hope.

I’ve received rejections brimming with “deferred hope” over thirty times in the last two months concerning my latest book. Email rejections from literary agents, well-meaning fellow writers saying my genre doesn’t sell, and a few depressed people telling me I should give up like they have. (Honestly, I’m not making that last one up. I’m saddened for those individuals.)

I also have many friends giving encouragement, hugs (yes, I still relish hugs!), and uplifting advice. I’m thankful for it all!

I’ve been dealing with a lot lately. Situations I don’t care to burden the rest of the world with. But I say this to assure you I’m not someone living a stress-free, prosperous, healthy, joyful, no-problems life. And yet…that’s also the exact life I’m living. Through God. Through faith. And through hope.

I could wake up full of pain, alone, broke, and no end in sight… nevertheless, I hope. We don’t know which day will bring success or breakthroughs. When this pandemic will finally cease. And I don’t know when my books will be published.

But we keep trying. Keep living. Keep hoping.

A Joy-Filled Pandemic

“How are you fairing during these trying times?” seems to have replaced the usual “How are you?”

I learned this month that 1 in 4 young adults have considered suicide this year. Depression rose 102% since February. Wow. I can’t say I’m completely surprised, but still… That’s quiet a number.

With all of this in mind, I’m going to be vulnerable with ya’ll right now. I’ve dealt with depression most of my life, and even considered suicide a few times. I’ve submitted to the doldrums of loathing myself, self-pity, not being able to get out of bed/couch for days, eating my sorrows, drenching pillows/blankets/clothes/etc. in tears, making myself sick, and consuming myself with a negative spirit.

That might or might not surprise some of you.

It’s a horrible place to be, and I’d return there too many times to count. It started when I was 14 years old. I believed I was fat (when I wasn’t), no one loved me (when they did), and I was worthless (when I was). Ages 18, 21, and a few other years were my lowest points. All these times had common denominators: I was stuck at home, very little social life, couldn’t see a future past that day, and I concentrated on what I didn’t have. Does this sound familiar to societies present situation? I think so.

Most people in our country, and world, are stuck at home, away from friends and family, unable to perform their God-given talents, and stuck in a routine they didn’t ask for. The refrigerator is always in sight. Kids are never amused. The couch is our only friend. But, it doesn’t HAVE to be this way.

“You’re crazy!” you might have said aloud. “I don’t have a choice. The governor/mayor has put us on lock down. Everything is closed. I have nothing to live for until a cure is found!”

It might anger you then to find out I just got back from a romantic anniversary vacation with my husband to the beach. It was absolutely beautiful. Five days and four nights exploring and enjoying Hilton Head Island and Savannah. Masks and no masks. Laughing, enjoying the sunshine, and not one ounce of depression. In fact, I haven’t had one suicidal thought or extreme depression this whole year. To top it off, I haven’t been staying home more than normal (being a writer, I tend to be home about 80% of the time to write anyway), we’ve had friends over, been out, gone to church, ate at restaurants, and hugged countless people. We’re actually living a more joy-filled life than ever before!

Huh. You might be fuming. You might be about to message me to tell me how irresponsible I am. I could have caught something or spread something. How could I leave my son with my parents, during the first week of school no less. It’s a pandemic: we should be at home!!

Why?

Oh, I just made you extremely mad with that question, I know it. I can see the smoke exiting your ears from here. But, what if I told you that you too could be happy? You too could experience the freedom I’m enjoying?

Being set free from depression has been a process. A process that took years, and then I was delivered all at once. I have down days like everyone, sure, but the difference is I don’t stay down. I’m actually excited about life. I’m excited about tomorrow. Pandemic or no pandemic. Trump or Biden. Lock down or freedom. Fat or thin. Friends or no friends. Rich or poor. Sick or healthy.

Because it’s not about our outward circumstances. The secret is knowing our worth in Jesus. When we TRULY understand this, then the outside situations won’t matter. But, they do actually get better.

I understand God wants the complete best for us. He wants us to be blessed. To prosper. I don’t desire a fantasy world, mind you, I desire what God wants for me. Which is everything we could possibly need.

Think about the book of Exodus. The Israelites were slaves in Egypt. Stuck in a perpetual existence of payless work, constant misery, and a dim future. Then Moses comes to deliver them, but their king (Pharaoh) won’t give them up. God has to send 10 horrible plagues to torment everyone. But wait, these bugs, pests, diseases, and weather conditions never effected God’s people. They were protected. Untouched by harm.

When we realize our blessings, there’s no room in our life for depression, anxiety, and a world-wide pandemic. We can actually enjoy our God-given lives.

I’m not talking about the feel-good how-to-book “count your blessings.” Gosh, you’ve probably heard that a million times. I know I have. I’m talking about REALIZING your blessings.

“Do you mean my family, what money I have, my job, a roof over my head, my friends, my car, food on the table, etc.”

No.

Although it’s wonderful to remember all we have instead of all we lack, I’m not talking about things. I’m talking about us. I’m talking about YOU. Your immense worth. Your talents. Your voice. Your mission in life. Your dreams. Your personality. Your smile (or your smize – smiling eyes – when wearing a mask). What makes you YOU. What you add to the human race. What you add to your family. But, most importantly, what God sees in you.

Depression is a scary and ugly thing. It stems from low self-esteem. Whether from a lack of something internally or externally. But it’s a disease. A disease that affects our minds and can morph into our bodies if we let it fester. And like any disease, it can be healed.

I read a Christian book recently that I hated the more I thought about it. I won’t say the title or the author’s name out of respect. The book was well written, the characters had beautiful arcs, and the story was moderately compelling. But the central message was dead wrong. The main character suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts. She’d attempted to kill herself a few times in her past after losing her spouse. This part was realistic and moving. During the course of the book a new romance blossoms. But she buries her secrets of depression and suicide until they come out in a nasty way. When her secrets are revealed, she believes the man will run away. When he doesn’t, she’s flabbergasted. He loves her no matter what. Then she says a line that I believe wrong to my bone marrow: my depression is a part of me and will be until the day I die; can you live with this part of me? Wow. Talk about depressing. I thought for sure the author would redeem themselves, but the story is left there. This character will always have recurring depression and suicidal thoughts the rest of her life, no matter how good her life may get.

That is NOT what God wants from us. When Jesus died on the cross, He took on all or our sins, diseases, and pain. He doesn’t promise us a perfect life, but He does promise to always lead us into triumph (2 Corinthians 2:14), He will perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish us (1 Peter 5), keep us from stumbling, and instead make us stand before Him with ecstatic delight and endless joy (Jude 1:24).

When I know my worth, I’m happy when other’s are happy. I’m not jealous of what they have, but rejoice that they are relishing in a blessing I too can have. We are ALL worth abundance THROUGH CHRIST. That’s the important thing: our worth is in Christ Jesus.

When we realize that God truly loves us. Loves you. Loves me. Made us special. Made us to have endless joy. Made us to make a difference. TO LIVE! To experience life. To love. There’s no room for depression when we know our worth.