Okay, I need to get some thoughts off my chest. I've learned to pay attention when an idea won't leave me alone.
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Ever since I was 13 and learned to type, my thoughts have flowed through my fingertips much more easily than they flow through my lips. I always seemed to have stories going through my head which could only be silenced by putting them on paper. But as with so many other interests in life, writing got shoved to the wayside while I concentrated on college, then career, then marriage, then family.
From the first, Don has cheered me on in my attempts to write. I’ve squeezed writing in between swing shifts at various jobs. I’ve squeezed writing in with newborn babies asleep in a sling on my chest. I've squeezed in writing while mucking out the barn. I’ve squeezed writing in just about everywhere you can imagine.
But I never got published.
Oh, not from lack of trying. I’ve submitted to about every publishing house and magazine you can think of. I’ve queried hundreds of agents over the years. I could, quite literally, wallpaper an entire room with my rejection notices. I spent fifteen years as a frustrated wanna-be writer, spinning my wheels and getting nowhere.
Well, not exactly nowhere. Those fifteen years taught me the ropes of the industry. It showed me the good, the bad, and the ugly. It disillusioned me through some bitter experiences, and it allowed me the privilege of meeting (in person or via email/snail mail) some extraordinary writers, editors, and agents. In short, those fifteen unpublished years weren’t a total waste of time. But it sure didn’t garner me much by way of writing credits. And all the while, something vague and unspecified and unclear was nagging at me. Something was preventing me from being published, at least with any regularity. What was it?
And then a funny thing happened.
I was visiting some friends in Oregon, John and Krista. These are old and dear friends whose children grew up with mine. In fact, Krista is a labor and delivery nurse, and she was 7½ months pregnant with her own first daughter when she helped bring our first daughter into this world. (That's how we met -- she helped deliver my baby!) John and Krista’s two older girls are just about the same age as my girls and, oddly, bear the same names as our girls (which made for fun play dates when we lived in Oregon!).
Anyway, about five years ago we visited our old stomping grounds in Oregon and spent a few days trespassing on John and Krista’s hospitality. During an idle moment while Krista was busy with the kids, I flipped open her Bible which was lying on a living room coffee table, closed my eyes, and placed my finger on a random verse.
It was Romans 12:6 – “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”
Criminey. I’d just been pole-axed.
I realized what it was that had been nagging at me all these years. I knew my interest in writing was God-given (why else would I be so driven to keep writing even after fifteen years of failure?), but I hadn’t written was what pleasing to God. In other words, I wasn’t using my gift for the glory of God.
I won’t say my life changed in that moment. On the contrary, I didn’t want to hear it. I wanted to write what **I** wanted to write, darn it. I didn’t want to be dictated to. I didn’t want to admit that I wasn’t doing what I should be doing.
So I fought. Thought. Continued down the same beaten path of failure. Cried. Raged.
And finally submitted. God was right. I was wrong. Well phooey.
Okay, time to make some changes. First I changed the emphasis of what I wrote. I started doing a lot more magazine articles and short non-fiction pieces. Some wonderful doorways opened up during this transition period, and some bitterly hard doors closed. But I started getting published on a regular basis, and my publishing credits began building up.
I have endless numbers of people to thank for these publishing opportunities – not only Don and my kids, but also the wonderful editors at Countryside Magazine, The Crafts Report Magazine, Backwoods Home Magazine, LivingOnADime.com, and of course the phenomenal folks at WorldNetDaily. And I am endlessly grateful to you, my blog readers. But above all, the credit goes to the Almighty. How could it not?
By the standards of a lot of writers, I’m puny – a mighty small fish in a mighty big pond. But you know what? That’s okay. I’m using my gift appropriately now. I’m not so cocky as to think I’ll never face any more professional setbacks, challenges, or failures (that’s the way we grow, after all). But now my writing brings me peace instead of frustration.
The nice thing about gifts from God is they keep on giving. A few years ago when I was trying to find an agent for The Simplicity Primer, I queried dozens and dozens of agents – possibly close to a hundred. Some expressed interest in seeing the proposal, then dropped it. Getting an agent to pay attention to me was like pulling teeth.
This summer some writing friends convinced me I needed an agent for future books. Armed with a couple of recommendations, I queried two agents. That’s right: TWO agents. Not dozens, TWO. One didn’t get back to me for weeks, and then it was a decline. But the other agent accepted me. [Update: We've since parted ways amiably because I didn't have any manuscripts to send him.]
I don’t want to read too much into this, but the inarguable fact remains that once I gave my writing over to God, I started getting published. Once I learned to subdue my rebellious spirit and direct my gift they way it was supposed to go, things started becoming easier for me.
Which begs the question, in what other areas of my life am I being rebellious? I can think of a few right off the bat, but since it’s always embarrassing to list my faults, I’ll keep them to myself and just work on them in private.
Gifts are funny things. I sometimes regret I don’t have the gifts some of my friends have. I have limited abilities or interests in many of the domestic arts in which others of my acquaintance excel and which make their homes serene and beautiful places to visit. My skills in sewing or hospitality or decorating or cooking or even teaching pale in comparison to the wonderful talents of these other women.
But God made us all different. We all have gifts. Some we know about, some are waiting to be discovered. I can admire the gifts these other women have. I can admire the seemingly effortless ways in which they bring beauty to their homes and families. I try not to get jealous because I don’t possess the same set of gifts. I try to be thankful to the gifts I DO have.
God is a pretty smart guy. He knows what’s in our hearts. More important, He knows how to draw the BEST out of us if only we would listen and pay attention to what He has to say.
It ain’t always easy to submit to His will. But it sure is worth it.