Shining the light of God's word into our confused world.

Tag: achieving your dreams

When You’re Ready to Throw In the Towel

God knows how to God

 

Note: I’m still doling out posts from the archives while I enjoy my summer break. This post originally appeared March 24, 2016. As I write this note and prepare to load this post into the publishing queue, it’s the Monday following my latest book launch and this message is one I really needed today. I’m sure there’s someone else out there who could use this reminder. If that’s you, hang in there, friend.

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“If this is my calling, why is it so hard?”

“If this is really what God wants me to do, why is there so much opposition?”

“Is this dream really from God? Is He trying to tell me I should just give up and stop wanting it?”

I’ve been in a place of asking these questions. Sometimes, I’m still there. But when I do, I’m reminded of the following:

We’re called to trust, to persevere, and to be patient. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to trust and submit, and then He’ll make our paths straight–not the other way around.

Trust isn’t really trust if the way is clear and easy.

Perseverance isn’t really perseverance if there’s no opposition.

Patience isn’t patience if the outcomes happen when and how I want them to.

Quick and easy is wonderful in the moment but then it’s over and it does nothing to strengthen our faith, sanctify us or grow us in our daily walk. And when the results come easily, we don’t appreciate them nearly as much as when we work hard and fight for them.

If you’re facing hard, if it seems like everything in the universe is trying to keep you from even trying, let alone achieving that thing you know deep in your bones you were put here to do — consider that you’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to, and the enemy is pulling out all the stops in an attempt to get you to give up, because he’s terrified of what will happen if you don’t.

So don’t.

Don’t give up.

Persevere. Keep going. One day at a time. One little hard-fought step at a time.

Be patient. Be flexible. Surrender the outcomes to God.

Trust with your WHOLE heart. Trust in His goodness and His complete love for you.

And in due time He will clear the way for you to be ALL He means for you to be. He promised.

You’re not fighting this fight alone. He’s with you every step of the way, ordering your steps. You don’t have to do it all, and you don’t have to do any of it by yourself. Your Maker has a plan for you, and HE will bring it about. ALL that’s required of you is obedience. Show up and be willing. He’ll take it from there.

Remember that God knows how to God. He’s got this.

And so do you.

Love,
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PS – Linking up this week with Holley Gerth’s Coffee For Your Heart, Missional Women’s Faith Filled Friday, and the Faith Barista.

Sometimes, to attain a dream you first have to give it up.

faithful-God

Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer. Actually, ever since I can remember being able to hold a pencil and form words, I’ve been a writer. I think it was probably sometime during junior high school when I decided I wanted to be a novelist.

This is my oldest, dearest dream, is what I’m saying.

If you follow this blog, then you know how this has been a year of learning to surrender my plans and wait for God’s timing and provision. God’s been working to undo a lifetime habit of running ahead and trying to make things happen in my own way, under my own power, on my own time table. And it hasn’t been an easy project. In a lot of ways, it’s still a work in progress.

About four years ago, one of the ways I ran ahead of God was to rush into self-publishing my fiction, starting with a paranormal romantic mystery called Restless Spirits. It was a short-cut to realizing my life-long dream. That short-cut had some rewards, but it was also filled with setbacks and disappointments. And, let’s face it: when teenaged me dreamed of one day becoming a professional novelist, that dream didn’t look anything like self-publishing.

One of the hardest things for me to let go of and surrender to God has been my writing dream. It hasn’t simply been a struggle; at times it’s been a straight-up fight. I’ve prayed about it. I’ve cried over it. I’ve pitched fits. I’ve lamented to God that I don’t know who I am if I’m not a fiction writer–that to take that from me was to strip me of my identity.

Gently, God helped me to realize that HE is my identity, not my writing. That the desire and ability He’s given me to write is for HIS purposes, not my own.

So at long last, I surrendered. I gave up my plans and desires, my dreams, to God, and asked Him to order my steps, shape my career according to HIS plan, and establish the work of my hands. I told Him that I longed for my writing to be used for HIS glory and not my own. And I meant it.

That’s the place I was at this summer when I launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise production funds for a sequel to Restless Spirits. Going into it, I entrusted the outcome completely to the Lord, believing that no matter how it turned out, He would use it for my good. I still believed that when the campaign ended without even coming close to my funding goal. And I committed to waiting and seeing what He had in store.

Just weeks after the campaign ended, completely out of the blue, I received an offer from Vinspire Publishing to repackage my novel Restless Spirits and write two full-length sequels. You can read that whole story here.

To that I’ll add that, though there was little doubt that this open door was from God, one of the things that cinched it for me is the fact that Vinspire, while not a “Christian Publisher” in the sense that they publish strictly inspirational and faith-based books, is a Christian organization that strives to meet a certain standard of family-friendliness in its publications.

You see, one of the things I’d been struggling with in my previous attempt to write a sequel was that it was taking a, shall we say, sexier route than the original. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with that, but I couldn’t really see a way around it. It was something I’d been praying about. When the Kickstarter failed, I took that to mean that God simply didn’t want me to write this series. But now I’m taking this as Him telling me to tell the story in a way that does a better job of honoring Him. And with the deal inked and the parameters in place, this new outline and draft is coming together much better than the first version did.

My season of waiting isn’t yet over. I’ve got other dreams I’ve surrendered–motherhood among them–and I’m still waiting to see what God will do. And with this new door open for my noveling career, it remains to be seen where or how far it will take me.

But this much I know: God is faithful, and He is trustworthy, and His timing is perfect. And His plans are so much better than my own.

Are you in a season of waiting? Tell me what you’re waiting for so I can pray for you.

In love,
Jean

New! Writing Coach & Mentoring Program

Writing Coach Program

A while back, God planted the seeds of a new dream in my heart, and it’s been slowly growing and taking form ever since. That dream? To use all of the writing, editing and publishing skills and knowledge I’ve built up over the years to help women who feel called to minister and share their stories via the written word discover their voice, hone their writing skills, choose their publishing path and accomplish their dreams.

I’ve built up a considerable knowledge-base and skill set over the years. I’ve been writing since I was a kid and helping others make their writing better for the past 15 years. Since launching my professional editing services last year, I targeted primarily secular fiction writers, but then God surprised me by sending me one Christian non-fiction project after another.

I was already beginning to wonder whether I should make that the primary focus of my services, when I was led to a comment section on an inspirational blog in which women were talking about how they wanted to write their testimonies or start a ministry blog but didn’t feel their writing was up to par.

That’s when this dream really started to take hold and grow.

Today I’m stepping out and launching what I hope is the first step in achieving that vision: a writing coach program geared specifically toward helping Christian women grow as writers.

For those who feel the nudge to minister via fiction or non-fiction, via book or blog, to share their testimonies or encourage and exhort others through devotionals or teach and instruct, this monthly program can help you get started and provide guidance for as long as you need it.

Click here to read more about it.

And if you know someone who might be helped by this program, help us both achieve our dreams by spreading the word!

In love,

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PS – Has God planted any new dreams in your heart? What steps are you taking to make those dreams reality? Tell me how I can pray for you in the comments!

New Beginnings

With God there are no endings, only new beginnings.

I’ve never been good at waiting. I always have to have a plan, always looking five steps ahead. I have a tendency to run ahead and do things my own way, and then pray afterwards that God will bless it.

But He’s been using this season of my life to teach me to relax, to be patient, to let go of MY plans and let HIS plans unfold on HIS timetable.

It hasn’t been easy. There’ve been times that I’ve been chomping at the bit to try and force something to happen. To take charge in hurrying God’s plans along.

Except it doesn’t work that way, and I’m finally getting the message.

But I think I’m finally starting to be allowed to move again, albeit with baby steps. Over these last few weeks I feel like God’s been planting some seeds in me, instilling new dreams and pointing me in new directions. I think this blog is part of that (by the by, how do you like the new look?).

I think I’m also being called to write my testimony about finding healing after my pregnancy losses. Not only for the losses themselves, but for all of the emotional and spiritual scars I bore–and there were a lot of them. I’ve been feeling for a while now like that’s something I’m supposed to share, but the time hasn’t felt right. But yesterday I obeyed an urge to open up a blank journal and start writing my story in it, and the words began to flow.

Today, as I stood in the kitchen making my lunch, I realized that I don’t really have a satisfying ending for my story yet. Like I said, I’m mostly still in a place of waiting. Although God has healed my brokenness and depression and put me back together whole, I don’t have a Hallmark movie ending — a successful pregnancy, a successful business, a bestselling book — something that, if my life were a novel, would provide a definitive “happy ending” and leave the reader feeling hopeful.

So I prayed, “Lord, it would sure help this book I think you’re telling me to write if I could give it a definitive ending.”

And this is the response I heard: “With Me there are no endings, only new beginnings.”

Whoa.

Of course, this is true. This is the God whose mercy is new every morning. Every day is a new beginning, with a clean slate. This is the same God who sent His Son to conquer death, so that even that is not an ending but merely the beginning of our next life.

Whatever He has planned for me and my husband as far as being parents goes, whether we’ll get to have a baby in our middle age, or be led to adopt, or make peace with being child-free, or something so totally unexpected it will blow our minds at God’s amazingness, it won’t be an ending to this story. It will just be the start of a new chapter.

There are other seeds I think He’s in the process of planting, but it’s too soon to talk about those just yet. Suffice to say that I’m starting to see a new vision taking shape, providing a new direction, and I’m daring to allow myself to get excited about it.

Because it is exciting, looking forward to seeing what God will do.

Love,

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PS – Is God sewing any seeds in your life? Are you embarking on any new beginnings, big or small? I’d love to chat about your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

PPS – Join us for coffee and encouragement over at the Coffee For Your Heart weekly linkup at HolleyGerth.com!

On leveling up and achieving your dreams: it’s not all its cracked up to be.

Into the Woods image via WSJ

Take it from Into the Woods – getting what you want isn’t a guaranteed recipe for happiness.

I haven’t seen the recent film adaptation of Into the Woods, but I’ve seen a couple of iterations of the stage version and mainlined the Original Broadway Cast recording enough times during the heyday of my Broadway geekdom to be familiar with the story’s themes. It’s easy to sum the story’s message up as, “Be careful what you wish for,” but I think it goes a little deeper than that. In this, the real world, where wishes aren’t magically granted after undergoing a quest through the dark and dangerous woods, a more relatable but no less true message is this: don’t pin your happiness on accomplishing your dreams.

I’m currently living one of my dreams. I’ve actually realized a few dreams in the last seven years or so. Back when I had a steady, safe job as a cubicle jockey, I dreamed of being a freelancer, and all of the apparent freedom that went with that. Freedom to set my own schedule, to write when I feel like writing, to decide who to work for and which jobs to take on, to not put on pants or makeup unless I just felt like it. It all seemed so awesome.

And then I got laid off during the lowest point of the Great Recession when there were no jobs to be had, and I turned to freelancing out of sheer desperation and survival (note: these are not ideal circumstances under which to begin a freelancing career. I really don’t recommend it if you can avoid it). And yes, I won’t lie: certain aspects of freelancing ARE awesome, like the aforementioned flexibility, and that whole pants and makeup thing.

But freelancing — especially doing it without a safety net — was fraught with its own set of problems, and it turned out to be very, very hard work, with long hours, and no benefits or job security.

Initially, I had dreamed of being a freelance editor. I had even started taking editing classes through Mediabistro right before I got hit with the layoff. I finished up the classes post-layoff, but I couldn’t get anyone to hire me as an editor. At the time, the only ones hiring freelance editors were mainly newspapers, magazines and websites, but thanks to budget cutbacks, they were turning more and more to having their writers edit their own work.

So instead I set myself up as a virtual assistant. I offered copy editing as part of my service package, and a few people took me up on it, but I also offered my HTML/CSS skills and that proved to be way more popular. It was also something I could charge more for, so after a while I moved the focus of my business to web design and development, even though that’s not something I ever really enjoyed doing as more than a hobby.

Still, business was good for a while, and I was living out my freelancing dream, so I tried not to complain. And then the web design business went belly-up and I went months–long, scary, stressful months–without being able to find work of any kind. I found a lifeboat in content mills, but I’ll tell you bluntly, writing for content mills sucks. It sucks your energy, it sucks your spirit, it sucks you in like quicksand and doesn’t want to let go. I don’t recommend that either.

Sometime in the midst of all of that I’d managed to realize another dream — to become a published author. I caved in and turned to self-publishing to make it happen, which at the time felt a little like cheating, but I no longer feel that way. It feels great to have my books out there, and I have no regrets about how I went about it. Another dream realized — and when dreams get realized, they become reality, and reality continues to be difficult. Self-publishing is a lot of hard work. There are a lot of ups and downs. It’s worth it, but it’s far from the easy path, if there is such a thing.

And now I’m finding that my initial dream of being a freelance editor is coming true. I took a very meandering path to get here, and  I’m very happy and grateful to have finally arrived. But it’s not all lounging in my PJs and reading all day. It is, again, a lot of hard work, and fraught with its own set of problems and difficulties.

You may see a pattern beginning to emerge here.

Ultimately, my big dream is to make a full-time living from writing and publishing my own novels — to have them sell well enough that I don’t need to have any kind of “day job,” freelance or otherwise. I like to daydream about it and in my daydreams I have all this free time on my hands. I only need to work a couple of hours a day to make my word count, after which I can be free to play around online and have a clean and orderly house and craft and read and watch TV and basically spend the rest of the day doing whatever the heck I feel like doing.

Of course I know that in reality, writing and producing quality books takes a lot of time and hard work. Selling books takes even more time and hard work. Once I’m making a living as a novelist, if that day ever comes, my days probably won’t look that much different than they do now. I’ll still be sitting here in my pajama pants, trying to balance my laptop precariously on a lap filled with furbabies, still wishing my house could be cleaner and fighting the temptation to watch last night’s episode of whatever and forcing myself to get work done, it’ll just be a slightly different type of work. But it will be work, and it will be fraught with its own set of problems and difficulties.

I’ve come to realize over the years that life is a lot more akin to a video game than to a storybook: reaching a goal or realizing a dream doesn’t mean achieving happily ever after. Rather, it means you level up to a whole new set of challenges.

Does that mean dreams aren’t worth pursuing? Of course not. As much as I fantasize about getting to take it easy, I subscribe to the notion that most things that are worth doing are hard. This looks kind of insane on paper, but I think most people are this flavor of insane. Things that require hard work are usually more rewarding than things that are easy.

I mean, sure, a Saturday afternoon spent lying on the couch mainlining your favorite show on Netflix is a reward unto itself. But after a whole week of that? Chances are, you’re going to start to feel like you’re wasting your life.

On the other hand, after a week of putting in hard work in the pursuit of something worthwhile, you’ll feel perfectly justified in spending that afternoon being a couch potato. You’ve earned a break, and knowing that lets you relax and enjoy it. Not so crazy after all.

I really think that even if your day-to-day life looked like a Corona commercial, you’d still have problems: sand in your shorts, having to worry about sunburn, plus eventually just sitting there sipping beer and staring out at the ocean is bound to get boring and you’re going to want to go somewhere and do something that involves having to put up with people and traffic and all of life’s little frustrations.

Problems and hardship are a constant part of life. Achieving your dreams won’t deliver you from having to deal with hard stuff. There will always be a new set of challenges and things to complain about. Which is why it’s a really bad idea to look to your dreams to make you happy. Contentment is a daily state of mind, and there’s joy to be found in the pursuit.

All of which is to remind myself to be grateful and enjoy finally being a freelance editor, and try not to complain too much about the new challenges it brings, or spend too much time daydreaming about being a full-time novelist, but to do what I need to to achieve that dream, too.

What do you think, dear reader? Do you agree or disagree? What dreams are you chasing, and how do you expect your life to change when you catch them? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!