Book Proposals and Trusting God’s Plan

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At the beginning of this year, an email popped up in my inbox that I didn’t expect. A Christian publisher who I greatly respect had taken notice of one of my article’s and asked about my interest in writing a book on the topic of relationships. Anyone who has known me for a long time knows that being an author has been a life long dream since the 4th grade. My heart beat fast and I was ecstatic. I told my husband and my family and closest friends.

I got back in touch with the publisher with an idea that they liked and I moved forward with working on the proposal. Jeremiah watched the kids for me on the weekends while I’d go to our local coffee shop to hammer out the first few sample chapters. I felt like God was calling me to write for single women who are waiting on God’s will for a spouse, similar to the book Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Eliott. Deep down, I felt too intimated to tackle the topic of marriage. I submitted the proposal and felt confident. In May, I heard back from the publisher and they loved and affirmed my writing and passion, but felt like the market was too crowded for the idea to sell, but that maybe we just needed to explore a different direction.

IMG_0545I was tempted to get discouraged but Jeremiah encouraged me that it wasn’t rejection, but redirection. I knew he was right and I wasn’t going to give up. I realized the market really was crowded and deep in my heart I felt God had something different in mind. Shortly after that time, Jeremiah and I began to brainstorm ideas on marriage. After all, I had been writing marriage articles for over 2.5 years now.

Jeremiah was able to make my ideas better since he’s a visionary and I’m more detail oriented. We found ourselves really excited working on it together. We came up with a new idea and pitched it to the publisher. We also suggested the idea of Jeremiah and I writing it together as co-authors. Slowly, my fears of writing a book on marriage began to fade as I realized it wasn’t about me.

Several weeks later while we were on our road trip from Texas to the dunes in Michigan, we were able to talk on the phone further with the publisher. They liked the idea and helped us narrow it. They asked us to come up with a detailed proposal so we got right to work when we returned from vacation.

Well,  I’m happy to say that three months later, we just recently submitted it! So now we are waiting to see if they would like to move forward.

The writing process has been such a journey, especially in the midst of raising our four young children. It’s been busy, chaotic, hopeful, and exciting. We’ve definitely experienced spiritual warfare and arguments–  To be expected when tackling such a project. But I have been so blessed being able to work alongside my husband and watch his gifts shine through. When I compare this proposal to my first, I feel like it’s so much better having his point-of-view, insight, and thoughts from the male perspective. I absolutely love the book concept and it is unique in today’s market.

IMG_0544What I’ve realized most in this journey is that God’s plans are not mine. They are better. After hitting the send button to the publisher I felt nervous and excited. Nervous knowing that they may or may not think it will sell, but excited at the possibility that it very well could and we might get to sign a contract.

I also felt, who are we to write a book on marriage? There are so many other qualified writers and authors out there. At times, we feel so broken in our relationship and some days are really just plain hard. But that is the beauty of the gospel. Jesus comes down to us. He puts things in our lap not because we deserve them. With his life laid down, he raises us out of brokenness and sin and chooses us to be a part of his mission. That is a beautiful mystery I’ll never get over.

I’m humbled and honored at even the chance to send a proposal to a publisher and at the thought that God could use our stories and experiences to encourage others.

So really the question should ultimately be, Are we surrendered to His will?

We certainly appreciate your prayers as we hold the outcome with palms open. 

 

Final Winners of the Book “Team Us” by Ashleigh Slater

UnknownThanks so much to those of you who participated in the book giveaway for Ashleigh Slater’s new book, Team Us. It was fun reading your comments and discovering your love language. :)

After using the Sequence Generator on Random.org, the final winners are:

1.) Nikki

2.) Asheritah

Congratulations! Please use the Contact tab above to send me your mailing address. Thank you for participating.

Book Review & Giveaway: “Team Us” by Ashleigh Slater (Moody Publishers)

UnknownToday I’m so excited to review the new book Team Us by first-time author Ashleigh Slater. I was first introduced to Ashleigh several years ago when she gave me the chance to write for her webzine for women, Ungrind.org. I have always appreciated Ashleigh’s love for helping others grow in their walk with Christ. I’m thrilled that her first book is out and that it’s doing so well… as in… it’s selling so well that it’s out of stock on Amazon :)

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to get through a whole book so fast. From the moment you open the first pages, you see Ashleigh’s gifted story-telling, passion, respect and love for her husband, whimsical humor, and the ability to intertwine real life issues with biblical truth.

Ashleigh writes in such a way that is refreshing and real, like you’re having coffee with a close friend. She doesn’t claim to have marriage all figured out either, which I love. She writes with authority on the subject because she’s lived it out for more than 10 years. Ashleigh and her husband Ted have learned how to practice grace towards one another in every day life and dealings and she lets you in on their experiences and life lessons. Learning how to extend grace to your spouse and adopting a team spirit is what the book is all about.

Halfway through Team Us, Ashleigh candidly reveals a time in their marriage that she calls the Weeping Years where she and Ted experienced some of the most difficult trials of their lives but how God’s grace remained steadfast and pulled them through. She vividly describes a situation where all hope seemed lost and then God made a way. Those chapters were my favorite and I found myself nodding my head and relating so much to them.

The beauty of this book is that you’ll remember the truths in it long after you’re finished. It’s no wonder that Team Us has been endorsed by Gary Thomas, Gary Chapman, Kirk Cameron and more. The team work approach was a huge takeaway for me so much that when my husband and I are working on something together or need to be reminded that we are in fact a team, I’ll say out loud to him, “Team Us!” in an encouraging tone. He smiles and we remember that we’re not against each other even in the midst of our struggles. And speaking of husbands, throughout each chapter Ashleigh includes funny and insightful blurbs written by Ted offering his perspective.

Whether you’re single, newlywed, or have been married for years, Team Us will help you learn how to have a more satisfying, light-hearted, and God-glorifying marriage.

I’m giving away one copy today. To enter to win, please comment with what your primary love language is (Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Physical touch, Receiving gifts, or Acts of Service). I’ll choose the winner randomly and announce on Monday.

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Congratulations, Ashleigh!

About Ashleigh Slater: Ashleigh Slater is the author of the book, Team Us: Marriage Together (Moody Publishers). As the founder and editor of Ungrind Webzine and a regular contributor at several popular blogs and websites, she loves to combine the power of a good story with biblical truth and practical application. Ashleigh lives in Atlanta with her husband Ted and four daughters. To learn more, visit AshleighSlater.com. You can also find her on Facebook here or follow her on Twitter at @ashslater.

 

A Few Simple (and Freeing) Truths I’ve Realized in Raising Young Children

10341519_902198183138904_4226605190141266055_nThere’s a lot of stuff flowing around in my newsfeed about what you should and shouldn’t be doing with your children. Articles about how much screen time your child should have, what they should or shouldn’t be eating, when they should or shouldn’t be potty trained, who they should or shouldn’t be hanging out with and more.

I don’t know about you but sometimes I feel intense pressure and fear that I’m not getting it right. I’m screwing up because I’m not doing “this” or “that.” Half the time, I’m just trying to make it to the next day.

As someone who already struggles at times toward legalism, I gravitate toward the do’s and don’ts. And sometimes I sadly take pride in it.

After having my fourth child however my views have changed a lot. I’ve become more laid back realizing that my “list” isn’t always God’s agenda. I can say now that my daughter Rebekah is fully potty trained (at 3 1/2). Praise the Lord as it’s been a long journey. And it was never on my timetable no matter how much I prodded. My son John took until just before he was 4.

Some times my kids eat macaroni, hot dogs, and non-organic popsicles. Sometimes they play with kids at our local park that live in the affordable housing near it. Yep, and sometimes they hear cuss words from them too.

I get it though. I want to protect them as much as I can. I want them to be healthy. I want them to be on time developmentally. Contributors not burdens to society. Lights in this world of darkness. I don’t want them to follow the broad path that leads to destruction and death. I really want them behaving well and for their hearts to know right from wrong. I want to be present with them and enjoy them as young babies. And most of all, I want them to follow Jesus and all his ways.

I’ve found so much freedom though in letting go of control, my do’s and don’ts, and letting God guide our family. I’ve found freedom in flexibility and moderation. I confess that we do watch Netflix when I’m cooking meals. Otherwise my house would burn down. I know the news and writers out there mean well in the parenting articles. I’ve probably written a well-meaning article and I’m sure a reader has felt he or she hasn’t measured up in some way. Most of the time those articles are written to help us be better parents and I think that’s great.

But my point is to encourage you as a parent to live in freedom, not chained to the do’s and don’ts regarding the smaller things. To live in moderation because it is possible. To not feel guilty because you’re doing a great job and the best you know how. If you’re a Christ follower, rest assured that the Holy Spirit will convict you when you’ve been on the iPhone too long, when that video should be turned off, or when you feel the nudge to have your son say goodbye to his rough-on-the-edges friend at the park.

The Holy Spirit will convict you when you’re not leading well as a parent. And He can change you in that struggle toward anger, control, or whatever it may be. Be patient with yourself.

God is molding all our families in different ways and He is the One who is sovereign over all the details. I know I’ll read another article where I won’t feel like I measure up, but I hope to remember the truth that I only need to look to the Lord first for help and direction.

And I really do have the ability to live freely as I love and disciple my children. I can rest in the truth that they know I love them.

A Mother’s Sweet Sacrifice

My mom holding my son Will - 2 days old

Mom holding my son Will – 2 days old

One day in middle school, I came home feeling hurt by a friend. I don’t remember the details but there were tears. Before bed I talked to my mom about the situation. Just like every night, she stood beside my bed and tucked me inside the covers. She suggested we pray about it. Tender, wisdom-filled words sprang from her heart. Her presence calmed my frustrations and pain.

As I think about Mother’s Day this weekend and all that my my mom means to me, one of her greatest gifts has been prayer. And now that I’ve been a mother for almost six years, I’m just scratching the surface of how sacrificial the role of a mother really is.

In motherhood, you rarely receive accolades and praise. You may receive words of encouragement occasionally but in the daily grind of cleaning messes, dirty dishes, staying on top of schoolwork, and tackling piles of laundry you just don’t hear affirmation. I’ll be honest, at times my flesh craves the hand claps and pats on the back.

You sacrifice your time, energy, and whole life as you tend to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of your children. You give of yourself while you nurse a nasty nose, bandage cuts, wipe dirty bottoms, manage major meltdowns and fits, discipline unruly behavior, shepherd wayward hearts, prepare meals, clean up meals and do it all over again the next day.

Sometimes you have to say “no” to good things and outings or shaving your legs and looking pretty so you can just meet the basic needs of your children. And when you’re not expending physical energy, you’re exerting yourself emotionally as you pray for their safety and choices.

quotescover-JPG-51This sacrifice involves both joy and pain because motherhood is a daily dying to your self- giving up your life for the sake of another. Putting your child’s needs before your own. Loving him or her more than you love yourself.

We know this from Jesus, our perfect example of selflesssness:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” – Phil 2:3

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” - Matt. 10:39

In this sacrifice you’ll often feel like you’re spinning your wheels. You won’t see fruit. You’ll be exhausted and want to throw in the towel. You won’t think you’re making a difference. You’ll feel guilty when you mess up. You’ll worry you’re not doing it right. You’ll get sick and tired of correcting and disciplining defiant behavior. You’ll pray “God, help me,” feeling like a broken record.

And then out of the blue a day will come when you watch your son’s compassion and love as he befriends an adult with special needs at a school picnic and asks to eat his hotdog with her. When your daughter scrubs her skin with soap in the bathtub, happily singing a church song about how Jesus washes our sins away with “super soap” and her words convict and touch you deeply. When you ask your son if he wants to ask Jesus to live in his heart and he replies, “Mom… I’ve always believed.”

When there are moments of harmony in your home and it’s a glimpse of heaven.

And the taste of your sacrifice is nothing but sweet. And you thank God for all the gifts, joys, and blessings of being a mother and for the ability to invest in the life of your child. You thank God that he uses you in the midst of your imperfections.

quotescover-JPG-91Remember Momma… Stuff is happening in your sacrifice. Stuff you may see now. Stuff you might not see until years to come. Stuff you may not get to see here on earth.

Don’t lose sight that the around-the-clock, demanding work you’re doing will reap dividends as you stay faithful to Christ and your family. Even if no one is praising you, God sees your work as worthy. 

After that night my mom prayed with me, I slept soundly. I went to school the next day and the conflict was resolved. I was relieved and felt at peace again. God answered our prayers. I look back on that evening as just one of the many examples of my mom’s constant love, care, concern, and sacrifice throughout my whole life as her child. Her sacrificial love is forever imprinted on my heart.

The Social Media Comparison Struggle

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Last week I met with my friend Katie for evening coffee at our local Starbucks. We’ve known each other for almost seven years. She’s one of the most gifted people I know. She started her own Etsy shop that’s grown to be very successful, her entire home looks like a Pinterest explosion, she takes breathtaking photos, she’s a talented blogger, gifted thrifter, DIY crafter, creates amazing design work, and has two strikingly adorable kids and a hard working husband.

Basically anything Katie puts her heart to, she gets it done very well. What I love most about her is her love for Jesus and ministry. I also love that she makes me gut laugh.

While she sipped on her hot chocolate and I nursed my tea latte, we got on the topic of comparing ourselves to our friends on Facebook and Instagram.

“Yeah, I look at all the activities my friends are doing with their kids each day and then I think about what I’m not doing and feel like being at home is not enough,” she said.

I didn’t know she struggled with comparisons too. I mentioned how I’ve been working on a writing project that has kept me more distant from social media and how the break has been nice. I’ve felt more content.

“But, you know, I’ve compared myself to you too,” I told Katie. “I look at my house and wish I was as talented as you to decorate mine like yours… I’m nowhere near as gifted as you are!”

We laughed and talked about how there are two sides to every story and agreed how hard it is not to compare yourself to your friends. Facebook news feeds and Instagram photos are usually filled with the highlights of life – rarely the struggle. And these are your friends, not just random people. These are friends you love and care for.

In news feeds you don’t typically read, My amazing husband surprised me with a bouquet of flowers and a night at a hotel and then we got into a knock-down, drag-out fight the next week. 

You don’t see videos of your friends’ kids being defiant, disobedient, and calling names. You don’t see deep-seeded thoughts about loneliness or depression. You don’t see sweat pants, unbrushed hair, and no make-up. You don’t see tears, anger, and exhaustion. You don’t see spiritual warfare or a crisis of faith. Or real battles with this or that struggle. There are just some issues that need to be kept private but that’s another blog post.

We have to be really careful about what we assume. Numerous times, I’ve been tempted to think a friend’s life is better or perfect, free of struggles. Many times I’ve grown discontent with my own life or felt insecure. This can all happen in person too so it’s more a matter of the heart:

Am I satisfied with all the blessings God has given me and where He has me? Am I truly thankful? Can I celebrate others rather than compare? Am I running to God to meet all my needs?

We’re still going to use social media outlets but since they aren’t the full picture of reality, I think we can have a better perspective on the affect it it has on our relationships. Here are 5 practices I’ve found helpful:

1.) Invite others into your story- the beautiful and broken. Most of us value connecting with friends in an honest way. Don’t be afraid to post photos of your mountain of laundry, trials, ways you’ve failed or lessons learned. Your friends will relate and most people like to know they aren’t the only ones who struggle.

2.) Praise the gifts and talents you see in your friends. We’re called to encourage and edify one another. If you see a gift active and alive in your friend, praise it and celebrate it. Help her draw out her gifts so she can serve others better and help make a difference in this world. She may never know she has the gift until you recognize it. A little praise can go a long way.

3.) Invest in relationships right where you are. Be intentional about getting together with the friends you have close by in real life. Chances are you’ll see the full story and will be less likely to compare so much. You’ll realize that no one has it all together and you’ll be thankful for the strengths you do have. You may have the opportunity to encourage a hurting friend and be encouraged yourself.

4.) If it’s a stumbling block, cut it off. It’s great to keep up with friends online, but as mentioned above, if you notice heart or sin issues arising like covetousness, ungratefulness, unhealthy comparisons, extreme lows, or starting to get too attached or addicted, cutting it off and taking a break will serve you well and help set you free from the struggle.

5.) Confess your comparison struggles. It’s hard to be honest but it was good to tell Katie I had been comparing myself to her and other friends. She was the first to be open and that encouraged me to be more vulnerable. We also learned that we’re not alone. When we confess we acknowledge it’s not right to be consumed with comparisons because it steals the abundant life that God desires for us to have.

Our relationship with Christ and each other is much more valuable than being caught up in comparison struggles so it’s definitely worth fighting against them in order to maintain love, joy, and oneness in our relationships.

Winners for the Beyond Bath Time Book Giveaway

beyond-bath-timeThe winners for the Beyond Bath Time Book Giveaway are Olga and Missy! Congrats Mommas! Praying you will be encouraged through this book in your motherhood journey.

Olga, since you are my neighbor I can give the book to you this week. :) Missy, feel free to send me your mailing address using the Contact form above on my site. Thanks so much!

Beyond Bath Time: Embracing Motherhood as a Sacred Role (Book Review & Giveaway)

beyond-bath-timeMay I recommend an outstanding book to you on motherhood? It’s short, Biblically-based, compelling, encouraging, and honest about the every day struggles we face as mommas. I’m excited that Moody Publishers has given me a copy to give away here on my blog.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes in the book by Erin Davis:

The moms from Nehemiah’s days encourage us to ask, “What if parenting isn’t just about raising good kids but about winning a war? What if you aren’t just building a family, but are building a kingdom that will endure?”

Being fully God, Jesus chose to come to earth. He chose to come as an infant, and He chose to be mothered. He chose to be tied to a sinful, inexperienced, inadequate human in this way. 

Blessings and burdens are not mutually exclusive. Just because something is hard or cumbersome, doesn’t mean it’s not a blessing. 

Erin dives into several lies in Beyond Bath Time that we believe in motherhood:

Lie #1 – Motherhood is a roadblock to my happiness

Lie #2 – Motherhood is defined by the decision whether or not to work

Lie #3 – The ultimate goal of motherhood is perfectionism

Lie #4 – If you can’t stand the heat, remodel the kitchen

Lie #5 – Motherhood will make you holy

This book has encouraged me on so many levels and is definitely worth your time, especially if you are in the throws of motherhood wondering if you will survive without screwing up your children. :)

From the Back Cover:

As a mom of two young boys, author Erin Davis knows what it’s like to face dirty diapers, sleepless nights, and toddler tantrums. She isn’t a perfect mom, parenting perfect kids, but as she studied God’s plan for motherhood she found a message of hope and purpose that moved her beyond the mundane tasks of her role. In this book, she passes those lessons on to you in a way that every mom can relate to.

In Beyond Bath Time, Erin will guide you to the Bible for answers to your questions about God and motherhood. You’ll find that the well is deeper than you ever imagined. Your eyes will be opened to the radical notion that being a mom is a high and holy calling and that nothing you do will outweigh the potential impact of raising your children for Christ.

About Erin Davis: Erin is popular speaker, author, and blogger. She has addressed women of all ages nationwide and is passionately committed to sharing God’s truth with others. Erin is the author of several books, including Graffiti: Learning to See the Art in Ourselves, True Princess: Embracing Humility in an All-About-Me World, The Bare Facts (with Josh McDowell), and Lies Young Women Believe Companion Guide (with Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Dannah Gresh). Visit www.BeyondBathTime.com

** To enter to win a copy, please comment with one messy thing and one beautiful thing in your role as Momma this week! I will choose the winner using Random.org and announce on Tuesday. **

Grace, Life, & Finding Order in the Chaos


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This past week has been difficult. All my kids were sick, we were up multiple times a night, I caught a stomach bug, had multiple pediatrician appointments, dealt with overwhelming (think rip your hair out) demands in motherhood, and had a flat tire.

It never ceases to amaze me how much I begin to “get ahead,” as in things are feeling somewhat smooth and then conflict and major struggle comes on the scene out of nowhere. In these times it’s so tempting to throw in the towel and quit. To not read my Bible, to be short with those I love, to complain, to say “why me?,” to take a few extra bites of that chocolate than I should, to blame, to be angry, to isolate, and to be undisciplined all around.

Discouragement settles in and spiritual attack is difficult to overcome especially being sleep deprived.

Thank goodness, Sunday rolled around and John Piper preached at our church and Phil Wickham led us in worship. They were both helping lead the Linger Conference here in Dallas. Piper preached beautifully on God’s grace and the theme of grace was also interwoven in Wickham’s songs. These lyrics have been stuck in my head since Sunday:

Who brings our chaos back into order
Who makes the orphan a son and daughter
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

Who rules the nations with truth and justice
Shines like the sun in all of its brilliance
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
You would lay down Your life
That I would be set free
Jesus, I sing for
All that You’ve done for me

It’s easy for me to think of the words “Who brings our chaos back into order” as a one time deal – in the moment I trusted God for my salvation and surrendered my life to Him. And it certainly is that. But I was thinking yesterday how I just can’t leave it at the moment I put my faith and trust in Christ.

I need God to find order for me still today. Order in my relationship to my husband, my children, my family, my friends, and in whatever life throws at me. And it is certainly a process.

We need to know that God is here with us. He cares about the brokenness in our daily lives – whatever it might look like – and He’s here to do something about it. He knows we struggle – sometimes deeply struggle – and need His intervention. And even if we have thrown in the towel, He’s there to pick it back up. 

When we need order, we run to Jesus and we find it in him alone. And we remember that we desperately need him in the joys and trials of life.

These truths have been enough to help me get back in the Word, get our home cleaned up again, love my family better, be thankful, practice moderation, serve others, and be known.

Everything isn’t made whole yet. Creation. This sin-cursed world. This sin-nature. But one day all of it will be. And that is our hope. Until then, we can lean into his precious grace not just for today but also for tomorrow.

 

Phil Wickham’s This is Amazing Grace Music Video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFRjr_x-yxU&feature=kp

 

Why You Don’t Need to Write or Live to Please Anyone

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photo: shutterstock

A few months ago, I poured my heart out into an article and submitted it to the website’s editor to review. After clicking send, feelings of doubt washed over me and I started dissecting the words over and over in my mind.

What if no one can relate?

What if I offend someone?

I’m definitely not perfect

Was I being too honest and vulnerable?

Is my writing good enough?

The other day while my husband was driving and I had a few minutes of peace, I read some encouraging words from a writer and author I’ve followed for a while now. Jeff Goins wrote about the subtle, dangerous temptation to write for recognition:

We begin to focus on the audience more than the act of creating, and ultimately, our art suffers. We grow self-conscious and worrisome about how a certain word or phrase will be perceived. It becomes less about the art and more about how much other people like us.

As I read those words it was like my soul was being exposed. As a writer, it can be so difficult to spend hours upon hours creating words only to later fear what your audience will think of them. I have worried about that many times.

But the truth is that I write because I love it. It’s a part of who I am. I write to tell a story, share biblical truth, encourage, and instill life and hope into others. I write because I feel closest to God when I do. I don’t know any other way to make sense of life than to write. That’s probably why I’ve had 13 journals since middle school.

If I have an audience, great. That’s a privilege in and of itself. And I always keep the reader in mind. But I shouldn’t be writing to please anyone.

Naturally, this flows into my spiritual life. In fact, it’s dug down deep in the roots of my sinful nature. You’d think at 31 years of age this would have taken care of itself but insecurities are difficult to beat. Just ask my husband.

People pleasing in life and as a writer is dangerous because it’s man-centered, not God-centered. Living for the approval and admiration of man is an idol. Paul knew it well:

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. – Gal. 1:10

It places the concern of people above God’s. It elevates them and not Him. And that’s a struggle that must be worked through.

But I know I’m human and in need of God’s grace. I need His discernment and love to guide me as I strive to bring him glory.

My article ended up going live at the first of the year. I prayed that God would use it how he wished and I was blown away by its positive response. Some readers contacted me through email and Facebook and we were able to encourage each other. Because it reached a broad range of people, I also had readers who misunderstood me.

One reader projected her pain onto me as the writer and she wasn’t nice.

I was tempted to get upset and dwell on her words. But I prayed for thick skin. And God gently reminded me that the audience I need to be most concerned about is the Audience of One.

The writing life is hard work, just like our faith journey. But it is love that motivates us to stay the course.

Do you find any of the above true in your own life? Feel free to share in the comments. 

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