Monday, October 31, 2005

Christians in a Snit

There's nothing like Halloween to send brothers and sisters in Christ into a frenzied argument. A silent one however, since most Christians will just turn to someone else and tell them how appalled they are at the other person's behavior. We're a sad lot sometimes.

A friend of mine told me in the strictest of confidence (what? you don't know who she is:-) that she was taking her daughter trick-or-treating tonight. Horror of horrors.

Our church will have a "Hallejuah" party tonight with moon bounces and candy.

I know other people that don't do anything at all and I suppose they just ignore all the knocks on the door.

I don't really like Halloween. It reminds me too much of my days in witchcraft and if it were just me, I'd probably just ignore the whole thing. But you can't just ignore it when you have kids. Normally, we go to church but I've never let the kids dress up - until this year.

This year, my oldest wants to be Lizzie McGuire - and well, we caved. So now I'll have a Lizzie, a butterfly and a little pink Boobah with me as we head over for pizza and candy.

Life is short and God is after our hearts. I'm not sure it's going to matter that much what we chose to do on Halloween when we stand before him because I'm certain He'll be looking deep inside to see who and what we really loved. My kids dress up all the time in the house - it's just fun for them, and I know their costumes will stay out long into the winter. The key for me has always been to check with God about all things. We have to do what we feel God calling us to do, no matter what our neighbors say, or our friends or our parents. I don't feel comfortable, personally, with the trick or treating but I don't condemn my friend for choosing to do it. The costumes - when it was our choice we didn't bother, but now that the kids are older and want to do it, it seemed like it was okay. This year anyway, next year, we'll pray about it again and see if it's still okay.

So however you choose to spend this evening, remember that God - well, He's just King of it all.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

One Year Later

A year ago, while sitting in the same chair I am at this moment, I got a phone call from my mother. I had been crying all morning anyway because we had just received the news that our little puppy died during a routine surgery. Then my mom tells me that my father has cancer, pancreatic cancer to be exact, and that his prospects were not good.

I can't believe it's been a year. We had no idea then that he would live only three and a half more weeks, that the cancer had already spread so viciously that there was nothing the doctors could really do. We figured that day maybe we'd have six months, maybe a year. But no, it was a fast downward spiral for us all and we found ourselves at a funeral before we even made it to Thanksgiving.

It still hurts, and I am so thankful that we serve a God who understands that. Even when we walk through tragedy, He never leaves us, He holds us in His arms and weeps with us. Because despite the ache inside, I also have peace - that unexplainable peace that can only come from God. I still don't feel like facing the holidays this year, all the memories of what happened during this time last year. But because God understands, I am free to weep in His arms and let Him take my hurts and sorrows.

If you're in a hard place today, let God comfort you. Let Him wrap His arms around you and give you the peace that passes understanding. Let Him be your Daddy.

Cross Post from 4:12 LIVE!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Easy Decisions

It's always easier to make decisions between something that is good and bad. I don't have to think or agonize over whether I should steal something from the grocery store or not. That's easy.

It's the decisions that aren't easy that torment me. The ones where there are advantages and drawbacks either way I go. I know that prayer is the answer, that I should take those burdens to God. And I do. However, He's not always as quick to answer as I'd like. So while I'm waiting for that answer, I find it hard not to swirl around in the pros and cons and practicalities of the decision I'm facing.

Yet I know that sometimes, that peace doesn't actually come until we've taken a step forward. Everything in my life lately seems to be stretching my faith.

God is asking, "Do you trust me?"

And I, like the father of the possessed boy, cry out, "I believe! Help me with my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24)

Without faith, it is impossible to please God. I know that faith is important to God. Yet the trying and testing of our faith, well, that's not so much fun. My hope is that in the end, it will make me more like Him and that He'll find me faith-full.

The lesson is in pouring it all out unto God until He lifts the burden. Often, it's not a one-time prayer, but a continual acknowledgement that I don't have the answers, but that I know He does. And I'm going to keep coming, again and again.

So go to the One who has the answers. He's always faithful to us.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Learning Curves...

I got a phone call from my daughter's soccer coach last week. The photographer they had scheduled couldn't make the last game - did I know anyone who could take pictures?

Uh, yeah. Me.

The only problem was that while I am an experienced photographer, my experience is in portraits and weddings - not sports. I spent half the day on the phone with distributors and labs trying to figure out how to do it all because sports photography - well, it's an industry in itself.

It was fun taking the pictures and since it was my daughter's team, I at least knew the girls. The pictures turned out fine and now I'm in the midst of sorting out the forms so that I can order the prints. It's a lot more work than it looks like.

And there's the rub. Just as few really know the blood, sweat and tears that go into creating a novel, we often don't realize all the behind the scenes work that goes into doing something in a professional manner. Yes, I only stood out in the sun and snapped pictures for an hour, but I've logged at least ten more in preperation and production and I haven't even been to the lab yet with my CD.

So I guess my thought today is that what we see, well that's only part of the story. And that's what I'm sticking to.

Come by anytime. We're always open!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Usually when I'm moving on a project I can jump right in the next day. I actually sent in a fiction proposal yesterday (Yay!!!) and am almost finished a chapter on the next one.

So I got up this morning and came to the computer all but now I don't feel like doing anything! Actually I want to go downstairs and watch the Gilmore Girls I have Tivo'd. If this were a "real job", I couldn't even entertain these thoughts, much less carry them out.

It would be something like this:

Me: I'm just not feeling it today.

Boss: Oh really?

Me: Yeah, I think I'll just read my novel know get inspired. Or surf the net. For research of course.

Boss: So you're not planning on actually working?

Me: I have to think to be able to work. I need "think time" today. (I smile after taking a sip of my Starbucks because I would totally go there before going to work but there's not one located between my bedroom and the computer room unfortunately.)

Boss: I don't pay you to think.

Me: You should, thinking is an important part of it all.

Boss: You're Fired! (Ouch, been through that one before though for very different reasons)

So now you see, I'm blogging. Still unmotivated.

The whole "put your butt in the chair and write thing" has a lot of truth to it. If we don't actually write we don't actually get anything finished. I'm sure there are tons of people out there who have been "thinking" about a novel their entire lives but never actually write the thing.

But as a creative person, I actually prefer to work when the mood strikes me. It's times like those that I can tear through page after page barely stopping to think about anything. It's days like this where yes, I will write, but it will be more of a slow thoughtful plodding that will likely leave me feeling like I still didn't accomplish much anyway and maybe I should have just watched Gilmore Girls (see how I'm trying to convince myself to go back downstairs?)

Deadlines don't give you the luxury of mood. So I will stare at my computer and close my e-mail (so it won't give me a Pavlov dog response when it pings letting me know there's more mail) and try to write.

Chances are, like exercise, I'll feel great once I get going on it. At least I hope so.

It's the "getting going" that I'm having a hard time with this morning. If only Starbucks there's a concept.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Ebay addiction...

I don't get out to shop much. To be honest, keeping up with my three kids and my house and a writing job, well, that pretty much does me in. Yes, there are the occasional trips for essentials and the grocery store, but other than that, my days of browsing are limited.

That is probably a very good thing.

Maybe even something God is using to help keep me from spending too much.

Ebay isn't a brand new thing for me. I began dabbling with it a little last year when I wanted to sell some vintage cameras and knew the antique shops would rip me off. So I armed myself with my digital camera and went to work. I sold two of the seven items I listed the first go around, bought a set of tapes I had been looking for and then got too busy to bother with it.

As money is so tight this year I've been worried about being able to buy any Christmas gifts for the kids this year. Hence my plan to buy just a few items with each paycheck so that the kids will at least get something. Hence my search on EBay for toys.


I just never realized how much stuff was on there. Then I thought, maybe there are school uniforms on here, too. A-ha. The size 6x lands end pants are mine! I was so excited to win the auction, I found it to be a little addictive.

It reminded me of going to a farmers auction with my father when I was young. Come to think of it, it's probably his genes at fault since I remember coming home to a very angry mother when we won the bidding on a goat. I named him Billy (pathetically uncreative I know.) And another time we won three geese. Then a pair of peacocks. It got to the point that my mother swore not to let us back in the house if we came home with anything else that breathed. It was just so much fun to compete...and win:-)

I won something else today (a toy for my five year old) and I won't admit how many items are on my "watch list". Even though I feel a little bad buying used toys for Christmas, a mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do. And besides, I think she'll love it.

Now I'm just trying to stay away from the search button, because I just can't justify buying some of the other things I've found on there and the "Bid Now" button is just a little too tempting.

It takes me a while to feel comfortable with new things. I still pay my bills by writing out checks even though paying them online would save me both money and time. I'm not quite ready for that. And I'm still not sure about the whole Paypal thing - it confuses me a bit, but I'm learning.

In the meantime, I've only got ten minutes until the next auction ends...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Artists are an insecure bunch, let me tell you. Something about that creative temperament that not only longs to create something beautiful and worthwhile....but also to be praised in doing it.

And that can be a bit of a quandry for us Christian artists. We know that what we are doing is for the Lord. We are well aware that we could do none of it except through His power and grace. Yet there is an undeniable urge for feedback, to actually hear that what you are doing is beautiful and worthwhile. That the beauty you try to thrust into the world is seen...and appreciated.

While it could easily dissolve into a pride thing, it is not necessarily pride that is always at work.

At least in part, it's a desperate desire to know that I really am doing what He's called me to do, and that I'm doing it well. I have a first-born perfectionism complex to wrestle with as well, but with writing, I've decided that I'm never going to reach perfection, but I still have a strong desire to do all that I do excellently. Artists work in such a subjective medium. The very work they produce that results in high praise can also produce scathing reviews. And boy are these hard on an artist. Unfortunately, the bad words seem to find us more easily than the good words. Which is why we occasionally go looking for the good ones. We need that hope to anchor us in God's soil and reaffirm to us that we are doing precisely what we are supposed to be doing no matter what anyone else says.

Yet we're still listening to what others say. I know it seems like a contradiction, but it's not - we must carefully choose who we listen to and remember to listen to God above all else. I'm only going to be responsible for the things that God has placed in me, not the reams of advice that can often come. I'm only responsible for recording the story I am supposed to tell.

But just as a mother can glow when she is told her child is a "gem", an artist will glow when she is told her work is indeed beautiful. God created my child - not me, but it still fills me with joy to hear that she is a joy to others. The same goes for the stories. I know that I did not create alone but was simply a vessel for the One True Creator. But still it fills me with joy to hear that the work is a blessing and touches others.

And I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

Monday, October 10, 2005

"Real" Writing

I have a lot of friends who love fiction, they can see the purpose, value and beauty in a story well-told.

But I'm also well aware of all the naysayers that surround me. The ones that think because I write novels- teen novels at that, that what I'm doing is simply a hobby, or worse, unspiritual. Now if I wrote non-fiction, something "real", well that would be a different story altogether. If a book doesn't contain Scripture it's seen as a waste of time.

You've met these people. They are often the same ones who never watch movies or television and plan all their activites strictly off the "Upcoming Events" listed in their church bulletin.

I feel like I've, in some cases, been put in these people's lives to be a prod. And no one really likes being a prod. I love watching television and movies and the stories I want to write already outnumber what I could accomplish in a lifetime. It wasn't until I spent a month at the Act One: Writing for Hollywood program that I realized something very valuable to me.

God made me this way. He created me to be an who communicates truth in a different medium. And for me, it's through story. While I learned many, many valuable things at Act One during that month to make me a better write and person, learning that my creativity and way of approaching the world is no more or no less valuable than the many other ways people serve God.

I'm an artist, and I'm no longer ashamed of that.

I do find it amusing that even though I have multiple non-fiction projects that have garnered interest from publishers, it continues to be the fictional stories that they are most interested in. And in creating the proposals and diving into the stories, I had to come to the conclusion that what I'm doing is still "real" writing. Even if my own church or my own friends don't understand that.

Just one more step in the process of seeking God's approval rather than man's. He is the only One I have to follow and this is the direction He's leading. It's no wonder that I just let most of the people in my church believe that all I do is stay home with my kids and help run the cafe on Sunday mornings before church. Most people just won't understand. A few do, and that will have to be enough.

I had a boy come up to me at a conference that I spoke at concerning Hollywood. He wanted to write comic books with godly themes. I encouraged him and told him to keep following after God, keep pursuing what God has put in his heart and he was astounded. Most of the people in his life didn't think it was worthwhile. How can the plans God gives to us ever be worthless? That young man may have a hard road ahead because he's forging an artist's path, but I hope he blazes the trail.

God's plans don't always fit in a church-shaped box.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

More real than real...

"The fiction writer should be concerned with only one thing: to be hotly in pursuit of the real." -Flannery O'Connor

This quote grabbed my attention today as I slog through the opening chapters of a new novel. I'm not sure why but getting started is usually the hardest part for me. I'll write a sentence or a paragraph and then stare at it a while. It takes me longer to decide where to go next. This one is multiple viewpoint so I chew on my pencil deciding who should have the next scene.

It's like pushing the car to get it started - it feels more labor intensive. Once I get things rolling I almost don't want to stop (most of the time) but right now it feels more like work.

And part of that is because of the way I approach fiction. I've never been one of those planners (which is ironic if you knew me at all). I have characters and ideas and it's not until I throw them all together on a page that the story begins to truly form. I see it as unfolding a quilt that I'm not even sure what design I will find. I love it. I love feeling led and drawn by the characters and story - and ultimately God, who is the Creator, and I simply the conduit. But in my efforts to make the story live and breathe I spend as much time thinking and pondering as I do actually writing.

This is good news for my first draft - which is more akin to a third draft because I edit as I go. Many wise teachers will say "Just write! Don't edit until you are done!" This has always been an impossible task for me because I want it to be "just so." Sticking another word or phrase in just won't do. I'll get stuck in spots as I try to come up with the perfect name for a character (and then surf all those surname and baby name sites). Never mind that I can change it later. It has to be right from the beginning.

And that is why Flannery's words resonate with me. I feel like I am in pursuit of the real story - the one that I have imagined in my head and now must form onto paper. It is the words that help the reader see the story and the words have to be the right ones to make the story real.

But it's time to keep pushing the car to get it started. Soon it will spring to life and I'll just jump into the driver's seat. More fictional thoughts tomorrow...and I'll tell you why I think fiction is "real writing".

Monday, October 03, 2005

You're Fired!

And I'm not talking about the Apprentice. I'm talking about me! I'm not actually sure you can get fired from a volunteer position anyway, and they did drop the news in a much more gentle way than Donald Trump would ever muster, but the outcome is the same. I've been fired.

I've never been fired from anything! Granted, this is a little tongue and cheek since I was only doing it to bless someone else, but it's an odd feeling indeed to lay down your life to serve and then to be asked to NOT do it anymore.

I'm just not sure how I feel about it all.

I should be happy, probably, because a lot of things in my life weren't getting done. It was hard, there was still a month to go in my "committment", and my to-do list just kept growing. I haven't written a thing in two weeks and I have two more proposals left to finish.

I should be ecstatic and running around yelling "I'm free!" instead of blogging about my mixed feelings.

Even though it's an answer to prayer in some ways (I will admit to asking someone to pray for this very thing just last night - but I really was kidding!), I can't help but feel all those insecurities we all struggle with:

I'm not good enough
You don't like me
I'm a failure

Forget the fact that none of those things are true - we all still feel them at times. I was doing it for free and they still don't want me there!

Isn't it just like the enemy to turn something that is truly a blessing into some self-absorbed pity party? Not much different really than the conversation he had with Eve in the garden. He offers up his version of the circumstances and we fall headlong out of the blessing and into the trap.

Well, I for one, refuse to fall into the trap. It is a blessing - it is His mercy, His love...and it's not supposed to matter what other people think of me anyway.


I mean, you still like me...right? (Just kidding)