The Writing Journey

Notes to Aspiring Writers: Your Dream, God's Plan (On What Are You Spent?)

This is the fourth installment in my updated Notes to Aspiring Writers series. If you missed the first three articles, be sure to go back and read them? My Book Story When God Says No The Comparison Game

Sacrifice

  • "You can do anything you set your mind to ... "
  • "Surround yourself with positive people ... "
  • "Don't allow people to tell you you can't do something ... "
  • "Reach for your dreams ... "

Notes to Aspiring Writers (new) When we're feeling down, useless or depressed, we’re invigorated by words of affirmation. They help us stay the course, keep the goal in sight, and remember what we're after in life: our dreams. And dreams give us something to look forward to, something to work toward.

But are our dreams always the same as God's plans?

I had believed that writing a traditionally published book was my life's mission. A way for the Lord to pull together everything He had taught me, to weave together the patches of my life: the ones that matched and the ones that didn't.

And maybe it is my life's mission, or at least part of it, but with that first book—the one I just knew God had been preparing me to write—God said no. At least "not yet," or "not in the way you might think." I didn't like it at first...didn't even pretend to want to understand why God wouldn't allow my dream. In fact, I looked around me and saw everyone else succeeding, and instead of being happy for them, I got mad at God.

Ever been there?

It's not easy watching everyone else around you hitting home runs when your efforts barely get you to first base—at least it's not when your heart is in the wrong place. And mine was.

A Different Path

Nineteen years of education, a BS and an MA, yet most days find me wiping noses, kissing booboos, and holding little hearts in the palm of my hand. In the midst of an unusually tough day the thoughts come to me: how did I get from there to here?

It's the warmer weather that reminds me of the freedom I felt in those days as I traveled to grad school with the windows down. My long hair blew in the breeze, whipping its way across my face and making me feel like I could do anything. Be anything. The whole world was ahead of me. My family believed in me, my boyfriend (now husband) cherished me, and I felt good about who God was creating from the garbled ingredients that were my life.

I had made plenty of mistakes along the way, but was about a year into a new, fuller, more complete, passionate walk with Christ. Filled with hope for the future, Crystal Lewis and I belted out "I will go wherever You lead, be light in the dark and be salt in the street" while I drove to class, and I knew I could do or be anything God wanted.

But I never banked on Him asking me to lay down my dreams.

I had defined success as capturing these dreams of mine. To teach women, share His Truth, and help them embrace it, live it and love it with everything they have. I wanted to spend my life in ministry for God. But as with most things, God's definition of success is a little different—laced with giving up, laying down, striving, and spending of a very different kind.

On what are we spent?

When we boil away everything else, and get down to the very heart of man's purpose here on earth, it's this: "What is the chief end of man? Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." (Westminster Shorter Catechism)

Our lives were designed not to do ministry for God, but to bring glory to God. <-----Tweet that.

It's a subtle difference in words that's ripe with meaning. When I was hanging out in my car with Crystal Lewis, belting out my willingness to go anywhere, or do anything for my Savior, I was focused more on my purpose than His. My joy and willingness to serve were brought on more by the potential adventure my salvation could bring me than they were in just being in fellowship with God.

I was enjoying me, not Him.

My successes, my potential, my adventure of faith. I spent a lot of time thinking and dreaming about me, and very little time enjoying God just for Who He is. I was enjoying the potential of what a relationship with God could do for me, not enjoying my relationship with God. And while my love for God was real, and my heart to serve Him genuine, I was missing the fullness of what it means to bring glory to God through my life.

The Plan

We humans, we're all about the doing. We want a plan—light's! Camera! Action! We want to know what we're supposed to do so we can pour all of energy into doing it well. And there's nothing wrong with wanting to serve God well, but in the end, I think He wants His greatness, His power, His majesty and holiness and the gift of salvation, to be enough no matter where we find ourselves on the path to our dreams. He just wants us to know Him well, and in response, worship Him with our lives, no matter what we're doing.

  • If God calls us to a grand adventure that features wiping snotty noses, and changing dirty diapers before He allows us to write, will the gift of our salvation be enough?
  • If God calls us to be a small blogger, feeding just a few through our words, and empowering them to live closer to God, will the gift of God's presence in our sin-filled life be enough?
  • If God calls us to be a no name author, never having a NYTimes Best-Seller, never enjoying the stage, or having the spotlight on us, will the joy of just knowing Him be enough?

Questions to think through as we're processing this writing life.

Your Turn:

Can you relate to the idea that humans tend to be consumed with wanting action? How does your need for a plan—something you can aspire to and work towards—affect your ability to enjoy God? If you're reading this in an email, click over and join us in the comments.

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You're joining me today in the middle of a series called Notes to Aspiring Writers: Your Dream, God's Plan. Come back for more next Tuesday.

Notes to Aspiring Writers: Your Dream, God's Plan (The Comparison Game)

This is article #3 in my updated Notes to Aspiring Writers series. If you're just joining me, take a look at the first two posts: My Book Story

When God Says No

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When I started blogging I thought I was the only person in the world doing it.

Laughable, I know.

I started out like many of you, writing for the benefit of my family. We live an hour and a half away from them and they weren't getting to see every milestone in our children's lives. So, without even knowing I was doing it, I started my own little mom blog and posted whenever I felt inspired to equate something my children had done to a life lesson.

My articles, if you can even call them that, were longish and in desperate need of editing. If a story can be told in the longest way possible, you can count on me to do it. I'm wordy, I enjoy writing "creatively" (which is “aspiring writer” for too many ellipses), and I didn't do it often enough to get better. It was an outlet, pure and simple, and I loved it for what it was.

Until everything changed.

God's dreams for us aren't always the same as our dreams for us.

The first of what would be several significant family deaths happened on my youngest son's first birthday. Ten months later, just days before we lost the second of my dad's brothers to the same disease, I wrote a story on my blog called The Brothers Three—a tribute, of sorts, to the legacy my dad and his two brothers left to their families. 

My family still talks about it.

I cried big, hot tears through it and got so much feedback of the "you're a talented writer" variety that I just kept writing. Every significant life lesson I had ever learned became inspiration for a blog post, and what started as a monthly sit down to blog quickly became a passionate, nightly pursuit of finding God in the everyday.

I won't lie friends, I loved every second of it. I had always known that writing about something helped me understand it more deeply. I performed much better in grad school than in college simply because I was forced to write about everything to learn it. Writing those early articles was like experiencing an unleashing of something deep in my soul. It was beautiful, freeing, and good. But somewhere along the line, it took a downward turn.

Social Media

When I started writing a daily blog, I didn't even really know what a blog was. I had only a fraction of the understanding I do now, and, as I mentioned above, was pretty convinced that I was the only one doing it.

Then I joined Twitter, and an entire world I hadn't known existed opened its doors to me. I quickly connected with other women whose hearts beat similarly to mine, and spent all my "free" time learning the art of blogging and doing everything the "experts" said I absolutely HAD to do in order to get noticed. 

Most of the time I felt like I was standing in the middle of a crowded, noisy room screaming, “LOOK AT ME!” at the top of my lungs. And I waited ... waited ... waited ... and prayed for the attention to come.

Sometimes, it did, and I was happy. Sometimes, it didn't, and I was crushed. It seemed like the more effort and heart I put into a blog the fewer comments I got. I surfed the blogosphere and read articles getting a whole lot more traffic. I became jealous of friends who were able to do things before me, and always wanted to know how much traffic they were getting. If my stats were down, I took it personally. If they were up, I took it personally. I began ignoring my sweet husband at night because I couldn't let anything come between me and my dream—and writing was my dream.

But God's dreams for us aren't always the same as our dreams for us. <<<Tweet that!

It started with a frown from my usually happy husband one night. He sat across the room, peering at me from behind my computer screen, and said something like, "are you going to be on that thing all night again?"

His words gave me pause for a few seconds, but I quickly dismissed them, and him, saying I had to get the post done so there would be fresh content on my blog the next morning.

"For who?" He wondered out loud. "What are you doing?"

"I'm writing," I said, "encouraging women to follow Jesus," (because you know, friends, that when you pull the "I'm doing something for Jesus" card, it's hard for a hubby to trump you. I knew it, and used it for all it was worth). I felt I had finally found an outlet that both made me feel useful AND provided something good for the world. My sweet husband had no idea what "blogging" was or what purpose it served in our lives. All he could see was the damage my new obsession was doing to our family.

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We'll talk more about this concept of God's dreams being different from ours, and the damage insisting on our own can do to those around us next time. But until then, can you relate? Tell me a little about your blogging story, friends.

How did things start for you? Did you struggle with feeling lost in the crowd? How did God meet you there?

(Feel free to link up a blog post in the comments if you've written one about it. And if you're reading this in an email, click over to join the conversation).

Notes to Aspiring Writers: Your Dream, God's Plan (when God says no)

Thanks for joining me as I share some notes to aspiring writers. If you're new here, reading the first post in the series will help this one make sense. Notes to Aspiring Writers (new)

I've wanted to write a book my entire life.

But not just any old book. I had a theme, outline, chapter names and a brilliant title (I think). For a time, I just knew it was how God wanted to use all that He's taught me over the course of the last ten years of ministering to women. Watching them struggle in the same basic areas over and over again left me with a thesis I knew I could prove, not just from life experience, but also from the Word in a fresh, life-giving way.

I set about writing this book intent on having a proposal for it packaged and ready to go for the She Speaks Writer’s Conference in July 2010. The passion I felt for this book was driving and I believed that it just might be my life's mission. I looked at this book and saw the quilt of my life: all the different pieces finally fitting together in a display of God's mercy, love, and forgiveness. A message I believed with all of my heart (and still believe) women need desperately to hear.

But God said no.

One morning, after attempting to write a small sample piece of one chapter, I published it on my blog. But I knew what I was trying to communicate wasn't coming across in the grace-filled way I was hoping for. By mid-morning I had taken the article down and found myself deep in prayer over what the Lord was showing me.

I wasn't ready.

Or more specifically, my heart wasn't ready. I hadn't learned all I needed to about Christ to be able to write the book in a way that would honor Him, and I knew it.

Has that ever happened to you? Tons of head knowledge but a lack of heart understanding to go with it? I lacked the ability to write about my topic with grace. Ephesians 4:15 says to, " . . . speak the truth in love . . ." and I couldn't do it. I was judgmental in tone, holier than thou in approach, and didn't allow for any shades of grey in my theology.

It was a recipe for disaster.

Looking back now, I'm actually quite grateful the Lord removed that book from my life. I still haven't written it, and I probably never will. In fact, I think someone already has—and you know what—it doesn't bother me a bit. But it took me a while to get there, and in the meantime, I was left with a ticket to a writing conference and no book.

Look Around You

One of my all-time favorite Bible studies is the classic Experiencing God, by Henry Blackaby. I studied it as a teenager, and the one thing I've managed to remember all these years is that when you don't know what to do, look around and see what God is already doing, and join Him in it. At that time, I had just co-founded a brand new online community for mothers of boys, The MOB Society, and had a measure of success writing about something close to my heart, praying for boys. I asked a friend of mine involved in the publishing industry if she knew of a book on prayer that focused on battling for the hearts of sons. She didn't. But what she told me next changed my life.

"Write it."

Two little words that would change the course of my life: write it.

So I did. And so was born my very first eBook, Warrior Prayers: Praying the Word for Boys in the Areas They Need it Most. It's the proposal I took with me to that She Speaks writing conference, and it's the same one that got wonderful feedback, but no offers.

I tried sending my unsolicited manuscript to several more agents and publishers after I got home, but got rejected over and over again. And after time, I gave up on the idea of getting it traditionally published. Oh, the dream was still there, but doubt began to creep in. With so many rejections in tow, I wasn't sure this was where the Lord wanted me to spend my valuable time. So I made Him a little deal.

The Deal

Now, I don't necessarily recommend making deals with God. Most of them don't turn out well, and I'm not all that sure it's theologically correct in the first place. But I did it. Here's how it went:

"Hey God...I don't know if anyone cares about this subject, but I care about it deeply. So I'm going to write about it in a book. If You don't want me spending my time with this anymore, let it fail. And when I say fail, I mean let it splat. Show me no one cares and I'll let it go. But if this is something You do want me to pursue, well, let a few hundred people buy it. Give me something to go on here, Lord. Show me the way and I'll walk in it."

Since the day I prayed that obviously full of faith prayer (ahem), I've sold thousands of copies of Warrior Prayersand I finally have a contract on that book. Praying for Boys: Asking God for the Things They Need Most (its new title) releases with Bethany House in January 2014, but it didn't come easily. In fact, it almost didn't come at all.

The heart of the story is in how God met me during the time in-between, and how what He taught me there was absolutely necessary for me before I could take hold of the dreams of my heart. 

It started with what I thought was my life's mission (hint...I was wrong).

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I suspect much of what I learned applies to you too, aspiring writers, so stay tuned for the next post in the Notes to Aspiring Writers: Your Dream, God's Plan series.

Questions: Has God ever told you no in your writing journey? Or maybe wait? How did you respond? What did it feel like?

If you're reading this in an email, click over and share your thoughts with us?

Notes to Aspiring Writers: Your Dream, God's Plan (my book story)

Some of you will recognize bits and pieces of this story as excerpts from my little ebook, Notes to Aspiring Writers: Your Dream, God's Plan. I wrote Notes about three years ago as an effort to understand what God was doing, or wasn't doing, in my life. It was my way of going deeper into the heart of Jesus and applying what I found to the writing life. I've felt for over a year now that Notes needed to be revamped and re-released. I stand by what I wrote during that season of my life, but over time, as with all things, God gave me a better understanding of what He was trying to teach me. There's just so much more to the story now, friends, and I know that what He's taught me is something all writers can benefit from as they seek to glorify God with their lives.

I know that last sentence is bold.

But I believe it's true. So I'd like to invite you to join me over the next few months as I tell my story on Tuesdays. Hopefully, there will be a seed of truth for you on your writing journey too.

Welcome to the deepest, most personal parts of my heart.

Perhaps this writing journey, and all of its failures and flops, is the very means God has chosen to make you more like His Son.

The writing dream lives in many hearts. It took me years to realize it, but sitting in a room of 500 other women who were all hoping for a chance to be seen, heard, and noticed ... the message was loud and clear.

God may not plan to use me in the way I dreamed He would.

In the summer of 2010 I found my way to the Proverbs 31 She Speaks Conference. I bought my ticket from the sales of an old, but apparently valuable baseball bat my husband found in the basement of our home. (To be clear, it was ours. He'd just forgotten he had it!) We put it on eBay to see what it was worth, and 24 hours later sealed a $600 deal with some man all the way across the country.

My husband promised that if God provided the money in a miraculous way I could go, and I couldn't see how getting $600 from a baseball bat could be more miraculous. So I went. Book proposal in hand, and as nervous as I've ever been in my life, I drove to Charlotte, NC determined to come back with an offer from an agent or publisher. I knew my book idea was good, and knew the people there would think so too.

Notes to Aspiring Writers

They did think it was good. I never received even one piece of negative feedback about my proposal, but I still came back empty-handed, and stayed that way for another two years.

Discouraged, I set the book aside for a time and sulked. I wondered if maybe God didn't want me to have a career as an author, or if He simply didn't care about the dream in my heart to lead women to Him. Moreover, I realized that the 500 other women in attendance that weekend had the same dream as me, and it made me feel very small.

My Dream, God's Plan

I know I’m not the only aspiring writer to have felt this way. Others too numerous to count have felt the sting of rejection, the sheer devastation of handing what amounts to your very soul, written in black and stamped “book proposal” to a person who has the power to make or break your dreams.

Some give up and never try again--the pain of rejection just too difficult to bear. Others continue trying, refusing to give up on what they believe is the next best-seller. And still others become content to write for an audience of One, learning valuable lessons along the way that have more to do with life than writing.

This story is that—a story about life lessons—the writer's sanctification on the road to publication. It is not a tips-and-tricks-of-the-trade kind of resource, but rather a look at the writer’s heart--the very thing our God cares about the most. The message rings true for anyone hungry to see her name on a book, or with a dream in her heart to write.

But before we go any further on our journey, I'd like for you to know this:

God sees you and hears you and you are more precious to Him than priceless jewels. In fact, He will go to any length, move any mountain, swim any ocean in pursuit of your heart. Perhaps this writing journey, and all of its failures and flops, is the very means He has chosen to make you more like His Son. 

Question (click over & join us): If you're a writer, do you ever feel small and insignificant?

how to conquer the "I'm not good enough's"

I mentioned on the blog last week that there was some big news coming to this little space, and some of you who really pay close attention may have noticed that this didn't happen. Neither did the MOB Society re-launch on October 1st. As of September 29th, we were still fighting some technical difficulties, and in order to be able to bring you a cohesive, strong, functional website, we decided to push it back another week. The re-launch is now scheduled to happen October 8th, but that's not really what I wanted to talk to you about. What's on my heart is that piece of big news, and while I'm not going to give you all of the details just yet (wait until Tuesday!) I will give away an important part of it... (WARNING: I'm getting ready to get really vulnerable).

I'm getting ready to release my first traditionally published book. 

how to get over the "I'm not enough's"

You know, the kind you can find at the bookstore? That kind. I'll be telling you more about it (important things, like the title, and how you can get it) starting Tuesday. For the next few weeks, I'll even be sharing a behind-the-scenes look at everything that's happened over the last year or two to get me here. But for now, I'd like to share what's happening in my heart right now, on the cusp of letting the whole world know about it.

I'm scared.

Or rather, I have been for the past week or so. You might think my fears have to do with whether the book is a failure or a flop, but that isn't it. I really don't need this book to be successful to feel personally fulfilled, because what God has already given me—my family, friends, salvation— is more than enough.

What I'm really afraid of is that my words aren't good enough to do the subject justice...that some people might read the words and miss the message, and because of that miss an opportunity to ignite a fire I'm praying will change the world. Did I get the message right? Did I phrase things the right way so that people will understand what's in my heart? Are my messy, first-time author words enough?

how to get over the "I'm not enough's"

These are the things that have been going through my mind for the last week. I've never experienced this level of self-doubt before, and I think it's because I've watched so many other Christian authors get crucified over what they wrote in a book. If my words aren't good enough, someone's going to tell me. Whether they do it in a godly way or not depends on them, but I know it will happen. I poured out my soul in this book, and the way God brought it to me was exactly what my heart needed to know it was Him.

I know it was Him.

But now that we're so close, I'm struggling to trust Him. It's like placing your heart—all the things that matter to you, the reason you are who you are—on a silver platter and offering it to the masses in hopes that they won't stomp on it too hard. It's raw, and it's vulnerable, and it's risky.

But it's also good.

And that's where I have to keep my eyes. It's good because God brought it. It's good because God has used it to stretch me, and shape me, and teach me more about Him. It's good because this process of publication taught me what the most precious things in life really were, and I wouldn't trade any of that heart level knowledge I now have.

how to get over the "I'm not enough's"

A Gift

Today, as I prayed at the altar during church, palms open, heart lifted, I decided to change the way I looked at that silver platter carrying around my heart. Instead of seeing it as an offering to the masses, I'm going to choose to look at it as a gift to my Savior, the first fruits of my heart.

The reality, my friends, is that none of us really have all that much to offer Jesus in return for all He's given us. Our gifts pale in comparison to His, but He specializes in taking the little bit we have and making it into something beautiful. So I'm going to trust Him to do that, or whatever it is He wants to do, with my book.

It's like the little boy with the loaves of bread and fishes. He had pretty much nothing to offer Jesus when he was plucked out of that hungry crowd. But what he did have, he freely offered. Looking at his basket with worldly eyes made it clear that what he had to give wasn't enough, not good enough to make a difference. But Jesus saw the truth: a miracle waiting to happen.

A heart inclined to God is a miracle waiting to happen.

A heart inclined to God is a miracle waiting to happen.

I might not be the best writer in the world, but I am His beloved, and that's really all that matters. With this knowledge tucked deep down in my heart, and with hands that I'll choose to keep open no matter what, I'll tell you about the gift on my silver platter Tuesday.

Serving Together,

author, Brooke McGlothlin

 

 

(P.S. If you're reading this in an email, click on over and share your thoughts with us!)