Have you ever stared at something so long it becomes difficult to see it clearly?
That's happened to me, and today I feel like things have come into focus today for the first time in a long time.
First, I'm going to let you into the underside of a writer's life. Beyond writing what we love, writers these days have to worry about building a platform. It's their online persona, their message, the way they connect with their readers. Most of us writers don't love this part. We love our readers, for sure! But most writers don't like draw attention to themselves in the form of blog and Facebook posts, tweets, instagram, etc. Long gone are the days when a writer could be successful simply on the merits of their writing. These days, sad to say, traditional publishers look at our platforms with as much weight as our prose. They want writers to bring their readers with them.
It is even more so in my world, the world of inspirational nonfiction writing.
Two cases in point:
1. Last year I was asked by a publisher to write a book about Jesus and motherhood. I created an outline per their request and, after receiving the green light by the committee, I wrote the book. It was turned in a week before the deadline. However, as the book came before the committee--the same committee that gave me the go-ahead to write it--it was rejected without a single member reading it. The reason: my platform wasn't big enough.
2. I submitted this same book to a New York Christian literary agent last week.I received a lovely email yesterday with compliments like, "the writing is great," and "there is a place for this in the market." But, they couldn't represent it at this time because, you guessed it, my platform wasn't big enough.
It gave me reason to reflect yesterday on my platform and why I have such a hard time feeling comfortable with it. Perhaps it was my content. I talk and write about God, and it seemed strange to say, "Hey, I wrote this thing about God. You should buy it," almost as though I was selling Him.
And then there was this thing I have with being in the spotlight. I don't mind it, but I don't crave it. I don't plan for it. I don't love saying, "Look at me. Look what I did." I simply struggled with the notion of building "my" platform when all that I wrote and did was to glorify God, not me.
Then yesterday, in a conversation with some wonderful women trying to figure out the source of my platform issues, I had two realizations:
1. Hurtful words can stick.
A week before I was to go on a publicity tour for my first book three years ago, I received a surprising call from an old friend. She shot painful words through the phone. How could I, such a terrible person, write things about God? I was a mentally troubled woman whose words meant nothing to her. I needed therapy because I was "messed up," and more. It was devastating. The pain of her words brought me to tears. They also ignited fear and doubt deep inside. What if she was right? What if I really was a horrible person? It took some time to let the grace of God heal the wounds caused by her sharp words, and for me to choose not to believe them.
Then, a year ago someone very close to me shared his feelings with me about my writing and speaking endeavors. He said he didn't understand why I wrote what I did and didn't think any good came from it. And he said he wasn't the only one who thought so. I was told I have no original ideas in my writing. And, that when I was young he saw a girl who would do anything for attention, and all he could see now was that same girl desperately seeking to be seen.
These words hurt even more. They were personal. They were venomous. And they were false.
But, as hurtful words tend to do, they stuck. Even if they aren't true.
I've tried hard to forgive him, to harbor no ill-feelings towards him for the things he had said. And I believe I have done so. I assumed that with that forgiveness all hurt would be gone, too. But I was wrong.
I realized yesterday that, though I have forgiven him and my old friend of their deeds, the seeds of the deeds remained. The hurt hasn't yet completely healed. The words have stuck, like barnacles on the bottom of boat, unseen until I turned it over for a better look.
Yesterday as I pondered why I have been so hesitant about this platform thing, I realized his words, their words, were still planted deep inside, silently festering, covertly steering in part my perspective and my feelings on certain things. Which leads me to epiphany number 2:
2. Hurtful words can change our perspective, and even ourselves. My ah-hah moment came yesterday when I was discussing my hesitancy to put myself out there more, platform-wise. I said,
"I focus everything that's good on Him. That's never been a problem. But I'm realizing what I've done is let other people's negative comments allow me to focus negativity on myself. And, in that respect, it wasn't 100% about Him then. I let fear and doubt sneak it, and I didn't recognize what they were."
In that moment, the light came on, things came into focus, and I could see clearly for the first time in a while. Yes, my writing and speaking have always been about God. But, when these hurtful words were thrown at me, they stuck. And when they stuck, I gave them the ability to fuel fear and doubt. Instead of freely and boldly reaching out to as many as would listen about God, I pulled back, not wanting to look as though I was drawing attention to myself. I didn't want what they said to be true, so I held back.
I let hurtful words change my perspective and myself.
I let fear and doubt make reaching out not about Him, but about me.
But, here is the good news, because with God there is always good news: I can see now.
I have no fear in building a platform, not my platform, but His, because like Paul, I want to "boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall to do me" (Hebrews 13:5). Or say to me. Or think of me.
I will happily and bold blog, post, write, teach, twitter, and whatever else I can do because it isn't about me being seen. It's about God being seen. And if He can use me, despite my sins and weaknesses, to draw others to Him, to find deeper joy in their lives, to see themselves and Him more clearly, then I will gladly shed the barnacles of hurtful--and false--words to do so.
Because it's not about me at all. It's about Him. It's always about Him.
Happy Monday everyone! I hope you had a great weekend. I had a blast at my writers retreat, but there's nothing much better than coming home.
I taught a lesson in church a few weeks ago about our commitment to God. We shared ideas on how to come closer to Him. I offered a little trick I used a few years ago that worked remarkably well.
One day I put a penny in my shoe. Every time I felt the penny, I said a prayer to God. I prayed at a stoplight, in my house, at the store, at my kids' school. I was aprayin' all day!
That night when I knelt down to say my evening prayers, in which I normally talk to God about my day, I started to tell Him all that had happened, but found myself stopping each time and saying, "Oh, you know that. You were there."
God is always with us, I believe that. But, when I purposefully turned my attention to Him throughout the day, I never felt alone.
And, in the end, I felt closer to Him.
Try it today! Put a penny in your shoe, then spend the day with God. And if you'd like, come back and share with us here how it was for you!
Have a great day in (and with) Him, my friends!
Have you ever stood before something that seemed so large, so massive, that you were sure you'd never succeed? Maybe it was the trial of a sick child, or a lost job. Maybe your marriage is struggling, or your own health is compromised. Maybe there are problems in your extended family that yo simply don't know how to resolve. Maybe you stand and look at parts of the world we live and and feel like it's heading towards the crapper.
Times like these we may feel overwhelmed, filled with doubt, riddled by fear.
I image that's how Joshua was feeling when he was given charge of the thousands of Israelite nomads. There he was, left with a ginormous group who'd traveled in circles in the wilderness for 40 years, waiting for the time they could claim their promised land. Their beloved leader, Moses, had just died. And now . . .NOW was the time the Lord chose to have Israel take Canaan.
He's a better person than me, becasue I would have probably looked at the Lord and said something like, "Really?" You've had four decades with Moses in the lead. Four. And now, he's gone. And you want to me to lead these people whose diet has been manna foreverrrrrrrr and take over Canaan? Maaaaybe not the best idea."
I'm assuming the Lord knew that Joshua would be a little hesitant or afraid, for before Joshua could even begin to protest, the Lord encourages him three times to be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:6,7,9), He knew that what He was asking Joshua to do was big and scary--daunting even. And yet, it had to be done. Sometimes the promises of the Lord are handed to us, and other times, as this, it requires our reaching. And boy was He asking Joshua and his people to reach.
But, here are two really beautiful promise the Lord gave Joshua:
"As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee; I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee" (vs 5)
and this one:
"The Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest" (vs 9).
Oh how I love those promises!! Joshua must have as well, becasue after the Lord asked him to do perhaps the most difficult thing he'd done in his life, there was no argument, no rebuttal, no bartering. He simply went and did it, trusting that God would keep His promises.
And He did.
It's the same with us.
Sometimes He asks us to reach for blessings; and sometimes we have to reach through some really dark or scary things to get them. But, we can find strength and courage knowing that our Lord is with us; He will not fail us or forsake us. Wherever we go, He will be there too.
I don't see it as Him standing beside us and, pointing to a mountain spewing volcanic lava, saying, "Go over there. I've got something for you. I promise, it'll be worth it."
No, I see Him standing beside us, pointing to wherever we need to go, and saying, "Come. Let's go together. I have something wonderful for you."
Sisters, the Lord is with us. He won't forsake us. We need not fear if we look to Him.
Let us be strong! Let us have good courage. Let us go and conquer the cities set before us. Let us claim the promises He has for us.
Let us believe our Lord when He says, "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid: neither be though dismayed; for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest."
And then let's go.
I've thought and studied on fear for a few years now. I've pondered whether it's good or bad, the physiological aspects of fear, and even if it's real. But I'm not going to get into any of that today.
Today I just want to share a thought and a question:
Thought: God does not give the spirit of fear, but He does ask us to do hard things, things out of our comfort zones. That's the only place we grow, the place where we experience resistance to our naturally desired state of complacency and ease and safety.
That's where the the power comes from-His power. When we turn our hearts and will to Him, we get in return power to do those things He has for us.
Some of the things that have frightened me the most have turned out to be the best things for me. And I would have never found them or experienced them if I had let fear decide for me. But when I trade fear for trust in Him, and move forward, I can have a sound mind knowing that His power will carry me through.
He has faith in us. He has faith in you. If your are facing something that is causing you fear this day, ask God if it's something He wants or needs to you do or experience. If the answer is yes, then breathe deep, and go for it.
Now here's my question: How do you do that? When you feel fear in the face of His will, how do you push through that fear, overcome that fear, to walk in His power with a sound mind as you strive to love His will?
I hope you love Paul as much as I do, since there's gonna be a lot of him on the Salty Blog. Why? Because 1- he was awesome. 2- he's my Bible boyfriend (and before anyone gets mad about that, my husband knows and is totally cool with it.) and 3-he was awesome.
Pictured is one of my heart verses. These are verses in my scriptures that I just love, that touch my heart and change me for the better. It's Acts 27:25 " Wherefore sirs (and ladies), be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me."
Adding context: Paul had been tossed around on a ship for days in a dangerous storm so thick it blocked out the sun and stars. It was literally a dark time for them. Now, I get carsick on a windy road. I can't imagine how cold and sick and tired these people must have been. But we do know in verse 20 that they had lost all hope.
You can take away my chocolate and it would
be a challenge, but You take away my hope and I'm finished.
Seeing their hopelessness, Paul stands in the midst of them to give them an awesome pep talk. He was inspiring as shared a visit from an angel promising their safe arrival.
Then comes verse 25. Paul is on the swaying ship in the middle of a storm, with fear-filled eyes on him, and said, ". . . Be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me."
To stand up for the same God that is causing the storm.
That. Is. Faith.
To tell his shipmates to be of good cheer when the storm that's raging.
That. Is. Faith.
Paul received an answer. He trusted that it would come to pass. That. Is. Faith.
If you're going through a stormy season of life right, listen to God. Listen and believe. Be of good cheer!
God has promised He will watch over us. As we steer our ships to the best of our abilities, let us be of good cheer!
Trust that He has a plan for a you. He has a purpose for you. And if you continue to exercise your faith in Him, other blessings will flow. The storm will calm eventually. The clouds will part and the sun will return.
So, have faith in Him today- right now. Because He has faith in you. And most of all, be of good cheer!
Have a great day in Him, my friends!
Hi there! I'm Michelle. Thanks for stopping by my blog. But, this isn't just a blog. It's a place where women of all faiths can have a place to come lift and be uplifted, laugh and cry, and maybe even share chocolate recipes. Because chocolate is heavenly.