Only Child and I’m Passing It On

Only child checking in. I know the birth order traits aren’t set in stone and that no one will have all the traits. But I kind of took a birth order test when Lorna talked about it on Seekerville and it was fun. So, here goes.

*Create imaginary companions

I did have imaginary companions. But mine weren’t the typical imaginary friend. And they never came to life until my tween years. I created stories to act out in my head. Since I watched a lot of detective shows, I was always the damsel in distress and my imaginary companion was my hero. I also included whoever my best friend was at the time and her hero as side characters in my stories.

One story stayed with me for a while. It got longer and more complicated. For years, I’d tweak it and add twists. I thought it was a movie, but I didn’t want to go to Hollywood. When I finally met my real-life hero, I put the story away and lived my own.

When I was in my thirties, I finally realized that long ago story could be a book. It was the first book I wrote, got fifty-two rejections, but eventually became my 8th published book.

*Struggle with frustration

Nope. I’m pretty optimistic and generally happy. If I have something to worry about or that frustrates me, I usually forget to worry or be frustrated.

*Want freedom

Nope. I wish I was independent. But I’m so not. I’m totally happy right where I am.

*Spiritually want to settle issues of right and wrong

Yes. Oh yes. There is no gray with me. It’s black or white. If the Bible says it’s wrong, it’s wrong. Period.

*Strengths—demonstrative, organized, clarity of purpose, stable, academically successful, self-confident

I’m physically demonstrative to the point that my son often begs me to stop kissing him when I tuck him in at night. Don’t tell anybody I still do that. He’d be so embarrassed. And I beg him to sit in my lap. Even though he’s twelve and smashes the life out of me when he occasionally gives in.

My husband and I hug a lot. There’s just nothing like a good hug. Stress reliever, love, and comfort rolled up in one gesture. Love it.

I’m so unorganized, it’s not even funny. In my opinion, it takes too long to organize stuff. I just dig through ‘til I find what I need and do it.

I’m stable. If I say I’ll do something, I do it. Period. Even if I don’t want to.

I have clarity of purpose. Once I set a goal, I never give up. I’m like a snapping turtle. I. Don’t. Let. Go. That helped a lot during the nine and a half years, I tried to get published.

I always had good grades. Even though every subject in school bored me to tears. Bad grades embarrassed me. And even though my parents didn’t stress good grades, I didn’t want to face them with bad ones.

Self-confident? Sometimes. Depends on if I feel like I’m in my zone. Writing and church – yes. In a room full of strangers not based around either topic – no.

I was painfully shy all through school and years later I learned others thought I was stuck up because I never talked. Cosmetology school snapped me out of my shyness. I realized it was more uncomfortable to spend 30 minutes cutting someone’s hair and not talking than to make conversation during a haircut. But I still crawl inside myself if I’m around people I don’t know.

Booksignings are a wonderful kind of torture for me. I love talking to readers, but I have to force myself to crawl out of my shell and talk to people I don’t know.

*Weaknesses—sullen, reluctant to share, not street smart

I’m not sullen. I’d much rather talk it out if something’s bothering me.

I’m not reluctant to share. My feelings, my opinion, or my stuff. My mom was so determined I wouldn’t be selfish, she really worked at teaching me to share. To the point that I gave my toys away.

I’m so not street smart. I’d never make it in a big city. I don’t even drive in big cities. I’m way too trusting. I look for good in people and I’m very naive. God knew what He was doing when He paved the way for my parents to move from a suburb of Atlanta, GA back to their hometown in rural Arkansas when I was twelve.

*Gets mad when being intruded on

I don’t get mad when intruded on. But I don’t mind being alone. I can totally entertain myself and sometimes, I just need some down time. If we’ve had a busy week of go, go, go—I need a night or two to just be home. If hubby and son want to keep going, I’m fine with that. I let them go and stay home alone.

*Qualities—prefer to work alone, extremely responsible or very helpless, stubborn, comfortable being the center of attention, stays on the beaten path

I do prefer to work alone. When I worked in an office setting, I loved my little cubicle. I wished everyone would stay out of it, so I could just do my job. Later, I graduated to an office. I really loved that.

I love brainstorming sessions with other writers, but I can’t imagine co-authoring with someone else. I think that would drive me nuts. A novella collection with other authors would work. But I want to write my own story. By. Myself.

I’m extremely responsible. If I say I’ll do it, I will. And if I mess up, I’ll take responsibility for my mess up. I’m not helpless. Dependent, but not helpless.

I’m stubborn. I really, really want my way. And I don’t understand why everybody else can’t see that I’m right and just let me have my way. Being stubborn helped in my pursuit of publication helped too. I. Don’t. Give. Up.

I’m so uncomfortable being the center of attention. It makes me want to melt through the floor.

I do stay on the beaten path. I’m definitely a follower, not a leader.

I went a little more in depth here and it was fun. On a final note, I liked being an only child. My parents didn’t go overboard or spoil me, but if anybody got anything, it was me. I had my own room and plenty of privacy. As an adult, sometimes I think a sibling would be nice. Like when I planned and paid for my parent’s fiftieth anniversary by myself. As my parents age, a sibling would probably come in handy. They’re still in great health, but someday, it’ll just be me taking care of them.

When I was a hairdresser, I noticed a few things about families with several children. Either the older ones took care of the younger ones and had to grow up. Or the baby got all the attention and the older children were neglected. Not in every family, but these observations helped me to decide that I I’d pass the only child thing on to my child.

So, I’m raising an only child. He got to be the baby as long as he wanted to be and he’s the center of attention. We don’t go overboard or spoil him. But my parent’s work hard at compensating for us since he’s the only grandchild ever.

Chime in only children. Did you like it? Or were you lonely? Did you long for a sibling? Or were you glad to go it alone?

While Love Stirs PromotionLeave a comment for a chance to win the prize package. It includes a copy While Love Stirs, a Fannie Farmer cookbook (Charlotte goes to Fannie Farmer’s School of Cookery), and a Recipe for an Amazing Woman cutting board. 

Giveaway ends at midnight  on Friday, May 23, and is open to those in the continental U.S. only. Winner will be chosen by The more comments you leave in the next two weeks, the more chances you’ll have to win.

What I’ve Been Doing? You Really Want to Know?

Hey everybody, I’m so glad we’re back. And the new blog looks awesome. What would we do without Linda? Just so all our readers know, even when Linda took her break from blogging, she was still taking care of our techie problems with the blog. She’s a keeper.

Okay, so I’ve been running in circles as usual. In January, I signed a six book contract with Harlequin. Three of the books will be rodeo, the other three I’m not sure yet, but I’m leaning toward another Arkansas series. It’s kind of nerve-wracking for me not to know what three of the books will be about. I used to complain when publishers wanted the synopsis/summary before I wrote the book because half the time I didn’t know what the book would be about. But now, I’m used to knowing what each book will be before I sign the contract. So not knowing kind of throws me.

Most of my circles have been in my office pictured above. Since January, I wrote the first draft of book 7 in my Texas Rodeo series. It’s not due until May 15th, so I took a break – it was supposed to be two weeks before I start editing. But spring break was the second week and I didn’t get everything done that I planned to do, so I ended up taking a three week break.

During my break, I visited with friends (Hey Linda), read books for pure pleasure, watched Hallmark movies I’d recorded, met my husband for lunch, and went on hospital visits with him. I pretty much do the hospital visits every other week or so anyway, but I went more often during my break. I needed to clean my house. But as usual, I found other things I’d rather do. And I never did get the bathroom painted. I looked at it a few times, but that’s as far as I got.

Even when I take a break, I still write part of the time. Since Rodeo Song released April 1st, I wrote half a dozen posts and answered several blog interviews to promote it. I also started the first three chapters of book 8 that I have to turn in by June 15th.

As I write this post, my blog tour for Rodeo Song has begun, so I’m checking for comments and talking with readers. And since I have several guest blogs throughout this month, I’ll be doing that on a weekly basis. Other than writing, doing guest blogs and connecting with readers is my favorite part of this whole process.

I said I wouldn’t join not one more social network because I don’t have time. I know that’s a double negative – but I thought it might deter me further that way. It didn’t. I joined Goodreads, so I’ve been chatting with readers over there. I. Love. Goodreads. How awesome is it to get to chat with readers about books? And not just my books – but books I’ve read and enjoyed. It’s my favorite social network. Even better than Pinterest – the last social network I refused to join.

Anyway, this past  Monday marked my get back to the editing phase day. So now I’m editing one book, promoting another, and thinking about the third. Plus those three unknowns dangling out there. This is pretty much my normal routine and my husband wonders why I can’t remember anything.

But I don’t have any more books releasing until January 2015. That means I can focus on writing and editing and speaking – since I have some speaking engagements scheduled. Once I turn in book 7 and finish the opening chapters of book 8 and turn those in, I think I’ll write a short synopsis for the three unknown books and just ask my editor if what I’m thinking will work – so they’ll stop bothering me.

All of this stops around 2:30 each day when I go get my son from school. The rest of the day, I focus on my family and church. In the summer, I write at night when everyone else goes to bed.

In the past, I’ve had four months between book deadlines. I write fast and my books are 50,000 words at the most, so it’s doable for me. But after I finished the last three books, I was so tired. This time, I asked for 5 months between deadlines. I feel better already – like I have time to live a little. And with the longer deadlines, I won’t have to do a lot of writing in the summer.

This all seems unfocused and rambling, but it’s how I roll. With my head barely above water and flying by the seat of my pants.

Be sure and comment to enter the drawing for 5 inksper books.

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Follow Through

It’s mid-January. By now you’ve read many blogs posts about the importance of setting goals for your writing career. You’ve set a specific and attainable goal like writing a historical category romance novel and marketing it to agents by the end of December.

So now what? If you want to really complete that novel and send it to agent by the end of the year, you must follow through on your goal.

Here are a few tips that I use to keep on track so at the end of the year I’m happy with my progress:

1)      Breakdown the goal(s) into twelve month increments. Nothing is worse than realizing its December 1st and the last time you worked on your novel was May.

2)      Write down your monthly goals. I use a journal but a spreadsheet or calendar works great too. Use whatever works best for you.

3)      Keep your monthly goals visible. Remember out of sight, out of mind.

4)      At the end of the month honestly review your progress. I do this in the same journal that I use to list my monthly goals. The key to this is not to gloss over the undone tasks. Note why you didn’t get the tasks done. Did you blow them off to go to the movies? Or did the flu put you in bed for three days? Illness is not something you can control however you control your social life. It’s okay to go to the movies but use that as a reward when you complete your monthly goals.

Setting your goal(s) seems to be the star of the show. In reality, it’s the follow through plan that’s important and helps you score that goal.

Implementing a follow through plan that works for you takes time. Have you found a follow through plan that works for you?

National Whatever You Want to Write, We Want to Publish Day

This would be the holiday when anyone could get published. All they’d have to do is have a completed manuscript.

*  The author has never been to a writers’ meeting or conference—who cares.

*  It’s the first book the author has ever written—who cares.

*  The author’s craft isn’t up to par—who cares.

*  This genre isn’t selling well—who cares.

*  It’s not Amish—who cares.

*  It’s not Historical Romance—who cares.

*  It’s not vampires—who cares.

*  It’s not werewolves—who cares.

*  It’s not zombies—who cares.

*  Book sales overall are down—who cares.

Yes, just one day, where anyone can get just one book published. Let’s not think about how badly written the books might be. Or how much the author has to learn. Or about platform. Or about web presence. Or about sales. Let’s just dream big.

Quitters Never Prosper

Don’t quit. Those two words are the most important ones I’ve heard as a writer—especially in the prepublication days.

Even after story and article acceptances began trickling in, I was tempted to just chuck it all when acceptances didn’t come my way as often as I thought they should. But I am so glad I didn’t. Perseverance is an essential trait to finding success as a writer. (A bit of stubbornness comes in handy too.)

Those days of just plugging along, selling an article here and there, and wondering if my ship was ever going to come in, led to opportunities I had never considered.

My dream had always been to write fiction, but when I got a chance to write non-fiction, I not only added credits to my resume, the door eventually opened to my first book deal.

Switching gears to the world of non-fiction was one of the best things I ever did in my writing career. Not only did it open my eyes to a new genre, it gave me incentive to keep writing. It’s really hard to quit when you know someone depends on your muse and sends you a paycheck to show how much they appreciate you.

In my early days as a writer, God had a different plan for my writing. He knew I wasn’t ready to write a full-length novel, so He opened up a door for me to write Sunday school curriculum for middle grade kids. This was more creative than I ever thought possible. No, I wasn’t writing fiction, but I was teaching God’s word and hopefully making it fun for kids in the process.

Out of this opportunity came two non-fiction book deals with the same publisher. These credits gave me confidence and experience, helping pave the way for several books in a mystery series for middle grade girls. Need I say more about why I’m glad I didn’t quit.

Even if your dreams don’t include becoming a writer, perseverance is the key to achieving your goals. Satan is the one putting those negative, self-deprecating thoughts into your head. God never whispers the word “quit” into your ear. Satan, however, loves it when people give up on their dreams, especially when those aspirations involve spreading the word of God.  God may not provide a straight shot to the pot at the end of the rainbow. He may take you on a little detour first.

The Best Laid Plans

Our Christmas season is even more stressful and hectic than usual this year. My husband is transitioning from bi-vocational pastor to full time pastor. This transition affects our finances, our lifestyle, and his mental peace. It’s scary to put your finances in the control of a hundred people. Christians are just people. Humans. Our finances are in the control of a hundred humans. Yes, I earn a little with my books now, but publishing is very inconsistent. My income would get us on food stamps fast.

This was our plan. We had some spendable money in savings. Grant needed time off after leaving the dental lab where he’s been a technician for 26 years. We planned for him to have two weeks between his last day at the lab and his first day at the church. Two weeks with spendable money. At the time, since Heartsong Presents was ending in December, I didn’t have any deadlines. We were going to relax, spend some time together, and enjoy ourselves.

We planned a trip to Texas for Thanksgiving. In Rodeo Dust, my hero’s ranch is in Aubrey and he rodeos at the Fort Worth Stockyards. We decided to stop in both places for book signings. It was perfect timing since Aubrey was having Christmas on Main—a festival with booths, crafts, and lots of people milling about. Aubrey’s city secretary got all excited and put my signing in several newspapers. It was during the day, so I could be at Fort Worth that night. Then we’d go on to San Antonio to see family. We wouldn’t have to worry about funds and we’d do some Christmas shopping when we got back.

Reality turned into a mixture of good and bad:

  • Heartsong Presents extended the line.
  • My car went kaput. The bill $1200.00.
  • The booksigning in Fort Worth didn’t come together.
  • Grant ended up with three checkless weeks off instead of two.

I’d cried over my two seemingly dead books, so miraculously having them resurrected was a blessing. Suddenly, I had a deadline, plus edits. But I had to work during Grant’s time off.

Our spendable money had dwindled. At least we had the money to get my car fixed, but we had to limp to Aubrey since it had already been in several newspapers that I was coming. We couldn’t afford to go on to San Antonio.

In the two weeks after we got back, we couldn’t Christmas shop or even eat out much.

How it turned out:

elf at Moms on Main in front of my poster

It was an awesome day in Aubrey. Nancy Downes, the city secretary had outdone herself with a 4′ by 8′ poster of me and the book. It was much bigger than it looks in the picture. The people treated me like royalty. My signing was in Moms on Main, the restaurant where my characters eat after church in books 2 and 3 of the rodeo series. I got to eat a yummy Philly Cheese Steak sandwich there and see where the peanut festival is held, which is in all three books.

For Rodeo Dust, I’d written blindly, since I’d never been to Aubrey, so Nancy critiqued my scenes to make sure I had Aubrey right. It was great meeting her and the Murrays who own Moms. They bought 30 copies of Rodeo Dust to sell in their restaurant and a small Christian bookstore bought copies also. In the end, I sold 58 books, some at full price and some for resale.

Though I sold books, the trip cost way more than I made. But the research was priceless. Actually being in Aubrey was so worth the trip. I can capture so much more for book 2 and 3 since I’ve actually been there. The Christmas tree decorated with American flags at the top of this post was in Moms. It’s definitely going in book 3.

The family member we were going to see in San Antonio ended up in the hospital during the very time we’d planned to be there for our visit. It would have been nice to be with her in the hospital, but it wouldn’t have been a very good visit. She’s fine, but still tired and sore, so having company would have been an added stress once she got home.

My contact from the Stockyards e-mailed me the week we got back. She’s missed my e-mail, but said I was welcome any time. Oh the irony.

We spent the two and a half weeks after the Texas trip with me working and Grant bored. But every year, our son gets a week out at Thanksgiving. With Grant off work, we got to share it as a family this year. And I worked after they were in bed at night, so I enjoyed the week with them both.

An added bonus, Saturday was the annual Christmas parade where we live. Our church always enters a float.

Jesus' throne in Heaven from our church float

In 2009, our huge, 8′ by 16′ King James Bible won second place. In 2010, our blue lit city of Bethlehem won 1st place. This year, we had a live nativity in blue lights on one end. An empty cross, Roman soldiers and mourners in the middle with red spotlights. Then a red carpet leading up golden stairs guarded by sword wielding angels at the foot of the throne where Jesus sat. We won first place again. Our prayer is always that we touched souls with our message. The banner along the side of the float said, “Believest thou this?”

Our horizon isn’t any less hectic. Grant went to the church today for his first week as full time pastor. I still have half a book to write by January 16th. I’m trying to get the first draft done by the 20th when our son gets out of school for Christmas break.

  • Tonight is our church association pastors and wives dinner.
  • Tomorrow night is our ladie’s prayer group Christmas party.
  • Wednesday night is church.
  • Thursday night, we’re loading up in the church van to drive 45 miles and see a live nativity and city of Bethlehem.
  • Friday, my family is going to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas concert. Our 7 year tradition.
  • Saturday, my guys are going with the church to Branson to see The Miracle of Christmas. I’m going 45 miles to a book signing I’d already committed to before the church trip came up.

So things aren’t perfect in Arkansas this year. But life is good. We’ve prayed for Grant to go full time at the church for several years and never dreamed it would happen this soon. I have two more books coming out in 2012. We should have more family time since Grant only has one job. And in the end, we have to put our finances, stresses, and peace on God’s shoulders and trust Him to handle it all for us.

A Letter to My Teenage Self from Shannon

Dear Teenage Shannon,

Be yourself. Stop trying to mimic others. They’re not any cooler than you are, so stop feeling bad about yourself. God made you the individual you are. 

Don’t worry so much about what others think of you. Your audience is an audience of one. It only matters what God thinks of you.

You don’t have to dress immodestly to get the boys’ attention. They’ll notice, no matter what you wear. And if it takes immodest clothing to attract him, he’s not the kind of boy you need. (Your parents won’t allow it anyway, thank goodness.)

Stop being embarrassed by your parents. Some day, you’ll be in their shoes and realize how wise they are. And how much they love you. 

Start an exercise program now. That way, it’s second nature and when you’re older, it will already be part of your routine.

Don’t go to cosmetology school. You’ll only waste your parents’ money and get stuck doing your mother’s hair for life. Hairdressing isn’t glamorous. It’s hard, nasty, and exhausting. Stick with your first instinct: computers.

Even better—they’re books. Those stories in your head that you never know what to do with. Don’t wait until you’re thirty-three to figure that out. 

The move to rural Arkansas. Stop fighting it. Embrace your new home. You’ll grow to love it, never, ever want to live anywhere near a city again, and meet the love of your life there.

In fact, you’ve already met him. That new boy that lights your fire–the rumors are true–but be patient, God is working on him.

Pay more attention to young boys. Someday you’ll have one. The things he does and dirt he can find will astound you. 

Always remember. No matter what happens or what life throws at you, you’ve got Jesus to get you through.

GMC: The Engine Behind Your Characters & Plot

GMC. The first time I heard of it, I’d signed with an agent. Back in 2002 with my original version of White Roses. She told me I should read GMC. I thought car. She patiently explained that it’s a book—GMC: Goals, Motivation, & Conflict by Debra Dixon. It was out of print, but I found a copy for $19.95. I was a stay at home mom and it wasn’t in our budget to pay that much for a used book.

Shortly afterward, the agent downsized her list and I was one of her clients that got cut. Looking back, I don’t know why she signed me. She’s a good agent, still in the business, and has sold a lot of books. All I can figure is that she saw promise, but soon realized she didn’t have enough time to polish a diamond in the rough. And I don’t blame her. I know now that my writing wasn’t anywhere near publishable then.

Fast forward to 2008. I went to the ACFW conference in Minneapolis, where I had a paid critique for Rodeo Dust with Margaret Daley. In my original version, my heroine is at the State Fair of Texas, touring livestock barns with a co-worker/date. Even though, she hates farm animals and she has a rule about not dating co-workers.

Margaret: “Why would the heroine go to place she doesn’t enjoy with a co-worker on a date when she has a rule not to date co-workers?”

Me: “So she can meet the hero there.”

Margaret: “You need to read GMC.”

Okay. I gave in. You don’t have to beat me over the head with it. When I got home, I ordered the book. By then, Debra Dixon had gotten the rights back and I got a new copy for $19.95.

I read it from cover to cover and discovered a whole new world. A world that makes everything your characters do—make sense. I changed it to where my Rodeo Dust heroine went with her brother to the fair because she wanted him to date her best friend. So she accompanied them, so it wouldn’t seem like a date and they could realize how much in common they had. See how much better that is?

I also worked out the GMC for White Roses and every other book I’d been reworking for years. Now, I carefully chart out my GMC before I start a book.

Most of the time anyway. I jumped into a story not too long ago, just because it had been bugging me for a long time. I wrote the first three chapters in a hurry, then had an editor express interest when I showed her the One Sheet. I sent it to my critters, Brenda, Lorna, and Jerri. 

Brenda: “I don’t understand her goal.”

Me: “Oops. I just dashed it off and forgot to do the GMC.”

I worked out the GMC and made changes. Brenda liked it. And so did I

So for a short lesson:

G – Goal: This is what your character wants. 

M – Motivation: This is why your character wants the goal.

C – Conflict: This is why your character can’t reach their goal. 

My heroine wanted her brother to date her best friend because she wants them both to be happy, but they wouldn’t agree to go out on a date.

Thus my Rodeo Dust heroine tours the livestock barns, hating every minute of it. But her brother and best friend love it, proving that they should live happily ever after, just like she knew they should. It makes perfect sense for her to be there. And while she’s there, she meets the hero.

This is only the GMC for the first scene. Your GMC for the entire plot needs to have much more at stake. Something like, if the heroine doesn’t get her brother and best friend together, her brother will accept that job offer in China.

I could get into a lot more detail, but I believe that’s called plagiarism. In short, your story should have an over-arcing internal and external GMC. But each scene should have GMC also. If you work out the GMC for every scene, everything your character does will make perfect sense. 

Maybe if I’d have gotten the book back in 2002, I’d have sold White Roses in 2003 instead of 2009.

To get into all the intricacies of internal and external GMC, I highly recommend the book. This is one of the few craft books that doesn’t make my brain glaze over. It’s all laid out in a simple, easy to understand format. Debra Dixon is now an acquisitions editor at a publishing house. And since 2008, I’ve had editors actually ask me about my characters’ GMC during pitch sessions.

Pushing Through the Fear

I’m not an adrenaline junkie.  I’m not a spotlight hound. I’m also not super fond of having the attention of anyone in the room, let along everyone.  But I deal with it.  Over the years I’ve trained myself, through schooling and personal efforts, to deal with it.  It’s not that I ever really expect to be famous.  Tech writers can be the most accomplished writers you’ve never heard of it.

No, the reason that I push myself into situations that really aren’t in my comfort zone is fear.  It’s that great paralyzing moment when you sit down at the computer, put your fingers on the keys, and then your brain starts in on you.

Are you sure you want to try to do this?”

“Of course. I have this really great story to tell. And I know there are people who will want to read it.”

“I mean, really?  I could understand it if you had some talent. But you know you don’t right?”

I have talent. My mother says so.”

“She only says that because she has to. You’re her child. What if she’s lying and you really don’t. And what if you make a fool of yourself, huh? What then?”

And so the internal argument goes.   That fear monster pops up when you’re least expecting it. Like when you have a story in your mind that you know you can write.  The fear monster pops his head up and makes you being to doubt. Or after the first book is published (or any book, for that matter). Fear will make you begin to doubt that you have another book in you.

The only way to take away the power of the fear monster, at least for me, is to ignore it. Push through the fear. I know, it sounds a lot like a self-help manual.  But there are reasons that so many have been written.  Fear is the leading emotion holding most people back. Fear of failure. And fear of success.  Because success comes with it’s own set of responsibilities.

I wrote my first book (like many other firsts in my career) as a fluke.  When it was all said and done, my agent (whom I also found through some cosmic coincidence) wanted to know what I would do next.  Next? You’re kidding, right? I have to write another one? I can’t write another one! What if everyone hates the first one?

Guess what?  Some of my books have been terrible. Honestly. I’ll own up to it. But I pushed through the fear, which72145375LB005_ArizonaSt_USCcaused me to doubt, and I wrote those books.  And others, too. I wrote training materials, and then got in front of audiences and taught them about the things I wrote about. I didn’t want to, but I instinctually knew that if I didn’t, the fear would win.

I always think of it as being a linebacker. You have a goal in mind.  Whatever that goal is, you have to focus on that and barrel through whatever is standing in your way.  Because if you don’t, that six-foot-five linebacker that you’re facing will scare the color out of your hair! He’s got a goal, too, and if he is more determined than you, he’ll go right through you to reach his goal.  If that means you’re left laying broken and bloody on the field…well, it’s a casualty of the game.

I wish I could say that I’ve leaned on Jesus through this whole journey, but that’s not true. It’s only been the last few years that I’ve had the comfort of Jesus and knowing that everything is in His time. But even with His support, I still have to move forward of my own free will. It would be easy to allow failures to mean that it’s not His will.  But I don’t buy that. I think He’s just preparing us for tomorrow and the next day. So, I push forward. Uncomfortable. Afraid. Sometimes doubtful. I still keep moving.

Surrender the Details


Our ladies prayer group at church set a goal of thirty shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. Some of us have struggled financially this year. Some could only afford to fill one box, some no boxes, and some several boxes. We decided to all buy however little or much we could, then bring our gifts to the church and fill the boxes together. We ended up with a closet full of donated toys, jewelry, crayons, coloring books, school supplies, and hygiene products. 

Before everyone arrived to fill the boxes, we decided we didn’t have enough items for older kids. Some people had donated money, but the treasurer hadn’t arrived yet, so we didn’t know how much. On faith, a couple of us went shopping and ended up spending more than we thought we should. When the treasurer arrived, the donations amounted to almost exactly the money we’d spent.

By the time we ran out of boxes, another donation had come in to pay for more. Another shopping trip only brought in four more boxes. Apparently several of the churches in my town are participating in Operation Christmas Child. Once we find more boxes, we should be able to fill a total of fifty.

We didn’t make any plans on who would buy what, how many, for a boy or girl, or what age group, but it all worked out above and beyond our goal. See what happens when you surrender the details to God?