The Courage to be You, Bravely

6-13-sweet-pearIt’s funny how sayings stick in your head. “Be You, Bravely” was the theme for my Mother’s of Preschooler’s group (MOPS) in Dallas a few years ago and I have reflected on it a lot this week.

Whether it comes through scrolling down the highlight reels of friends on Facebook and Instagram or comparing myself to what another person has in their life, God is teaching me to be me. And me alone. The temptation is to believe that other friends have it better, are more gifted, and suitable for their work. But the truth is that we all have challenges in our lives – some obvious, some unseen. We’re all gifted uniquely for God’s purposes – fashioned according to His will.

It takes courage to be You. And no one else. It’s much easier to be busy about what others are doing, instead of taking a good hard look inside your own heart and seeing what God is doing in you. Who has he made you to be? What dreams has he given you?

Recently, I was given an exciting opportunity from a Christian publishing company to be one of three writers to submit writing for an upcoming project they are working on with a respected author. They seemed very interested in my sample writing and was hoping I would move forward in letting the author see my samples. The problem was that I thought it was going to be a co-write and soon learned that it was a ghost-write. My heart immediately became unsettled.

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image: thejellyjars.com

If you aren’t familiar with ghostwriting, you are hired by a publisher to write the story/content that is officially credited to another person – in this case it was someone quite famous in the Christian world. In ghostwriting, you take on their voice but you receive no credit on the cover and you cannot reveal it in your portfolio. You’re usually given a good sum of money in ghostwriting, too. There are pros and cons to it.

Now, many in publishing don’t see this as a big deal. There are many books written by celebrities that have been ghostwritten. However there is another camp of people that believe it is unethical/bearing false witness/deceiving. Best-selling author Randy Alcorn has this point of view. Having never been asked before to consider ghostwriting, I wasn’t sure where I stood.

I can see why writers do it as it helps someone who may not be gifted in writing to get their story told. I do know writers that ghostwrite and I don’t judge them. But in my heart, I didn’t feel it was right for me. It also wasn’t in line with my personal goals in my writing career. I talked to trusted friends and my Dad who’s an excellent businessman and received affirmation not to move forward with it.

It was hard to let the publisher know I wasn’t interested, but I felt peace. I believe it is giving me greater clarity in what to pursue next in my writing career. It has taught me above all, to be me and to stick to my convictions. To not look at what everyone else is doing, and then determine what choice I should make based on that.

There is always temptation to look back and wonder if I made the best decision, but the still, small voice inside me continues to say, “Yes. Trust me. This is not a shut door, but an open one. Keep trusting me.”

Do you ever find it hard to be You? When have you been tempted to doubt what you knew was right?

– Samantha

Writing Platform: Staying True to Who You Are

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If you’ve followed along with me for some time in this little space, you may remember that my husband and I submitted a book proposal on marriage to one of my favorite Christian publishers in 2015. After one of my articles went viral in 2013, the publisher reached out and asked about my interest in writing a book. Some of you have asked about the status of the project and I felt I should update you here.

The whole experience has been such an honor talking with the Associate Publisher, brainstorming ideas, conducting interviews, doing research, writing the proposal, dreaming of it impacting our audience, and sending it off. After months and months of waiting, we heard back and were told that as first-time authors the publisher was going to have trouble getting the proposal through the publishing board who looks carefully at prior book sales and author platform. We were so far in the process and were sad to receive that news, but we accepted that this may not be the right timing. Or the right project. I had peace in my heart because I knew God was in control. We had played our part.

Many wonderful authors today experienced rejection after rejection before their idea sold. Part of the back story on this proposal is that I had submitted another one prior to it that didn’t make it. So that makes two rejections. I remember the words from my chancellor in college,

“You do not determine a man’s greatness by his talent or his wealth or his education. But you determine a man’s greatness by what it takes to discourage him.”

The publisher mentioned other options as far as us putting our book online chapter by chapter, and soliciting feedback and building an audience for the book before it is published. I have thought about shopping the proposal to different publishers or coming up with a whole new idea for a different audience. An author friend of mine said she would be happy to pass the proposal on to her literary agent which I’m highly considering.

But as of now I’m praying about the direction to go as I don’t want to give up on the idea. There are no books currently on the market like it. And platform? Well, platform is a big deal in the publishing industry. It’s important to have a large audience and influence for book sales. Your book has to make money after all and publishers take great risks. But I also know that God is the ultimate one who builds my platform. It is not something that I craft or manipulate with my own hands. That’s not to say I don’t play my part, but I leave the results to the Lord.

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My husband has been a testament to this as I’ve watched him wait on the Lord for many years until God fulfilled his plan for him in full-time ministry and to now see his faithfulness rewarded as he is now leading a wonderful congregation of believers as lead pastor. As his wife, I’ve witnessed his platform in the home and in the workplace and it has been one of service, patience, love, faithfulness, integrity, humility, perseverance, and more. To me, platform is about serving others. As Jesus says, “the greatest must become the least.” So in whatever capacity God gives me to serve, I will accept it as my platform.

I also have to stay true to who I am in my dream to author books and do my part in working diligently. I can’t allow a “no” to discourage me from God’s calling on my life to keep writing. It sure is tempting though to give up and just focus on the writing assignments I have at hand. It is tempting to make excuses and say I’m too busy, have too many kids, or just simply can’t balance it all. Which is all true, but I still don’t want to give up on my dream. I know the hard work isn’t in vain.

My five-year-old daughter Rebekah reminds me of someone who is absolutely true to herself. She doesn’t mold into someone she is not. She lives on the edge, walking barefoot near the road (it drives me crazy). She will often get out a piece of paper and her paint brushes and create the most beautiful picture from her imagination. She is artistic, spicy, smart, and introverted. God has specific plans for her gifting as I know he does for me. I don’t think she is the least bit worried in how God will choose to use her either. She inspires me in her childlike faith.

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Recently, our friend Scott who has traveled the writing journey with us and leads one of the largest pre-marital ministries in the country emailed a few weeks ago saying to keep going and not give up. He has read just about every Christian marriage book on the planet. He strongly believes in our idea, writing, and his words were just what I needed to hear to get me back on the road again. I love how God uses the body of Christ when we need a gentle push.

Well right now, the proposal sits on my computer but I plan on taking action with it in the coming weeks. I would love your prayers as I seek to know if God has further plans for it. If he doesn’t have a plan for this particular project, I’m okay with that. I will continue writing. But I want to be faithful to at least keep trying and to not let any discouragement keep me down.

Thank you for reading!

Samantha

 

Book Proposals and Trusting God’s Plan

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It’s been quite some time since I blogged last. Okay, four months! That is a long time but so much has been going on that I wanted to fill you in on. 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.

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I 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 our idea together. We pitched it to the publisher and 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 Michigan, we were able to talk on the phone further with the publisher.  I was so thankful for our conversation and their willingness to help us narrow our idea. They asked us to come up with a detailed proposal so when we got home from vacation, we got right to work whenever time allowed.

As we neared the end, we sent it to a few author and editor friends for feedback, we changed one of the sample chapters completely, we kept editing and polishing it up some more, and after letting it sit a while and then coming back to it for more edits, we decided it was finally ready.

Well,  I’m happy to say that we just recently submitted the proposal! So now we are waiting to see if the publisher would like to move forward.

This whole process has been such a journey, especially in the midst of raising our four young children and Jeremiah starting a remodeling business. 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.

What 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. Of course, we’re praying for the latter.

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During the writing process, I’ve also felt who are we to write a book on marriage? At times, we feel so broken in our relationship and some days are 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. He uses imperfect people and reveals his perfection. That is a 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 other young married couples out there.

So rather than doubt myself or God’s plan, at the end of the day the only questions that really matters are, Am I surrendered to His will? Do I trust that His plans are good?

So no matter the outcome, we’ve giving it over to Him with palms open.

We certainly appreciate your prayers as we wait. In the mean time, I look forward to posting again when I’m not cleaning up messes and taming tantrums. 🙂

life without fear?

29_NewsPGMPHovIn less than one month, my brother-in-law Paul who is a Navy Chaplain will get on a plane and head to Afghanistan to serve our country. He will say goodbye to my sister and four-year-old nephew for six whole months. Because of what’s going on over there, I have my share of worries and fears when it comes to Paul’s safety and God’s sovereignty.

But I’ve been encouraged today in reading Chapter 1 of Max Lucado’s new book Fearless. I downloaded the PDF off of The Fearless Times, a site that’s all about the book and is a great marketing tool for it.

In almost 25 years of writing, more than 65 million books filled with Max Lucado’s words have been sold. Max is so gifted when it comes to words that you’d think he was Jesus. But he’s not. He’s a human being with fears just like you and me.

Here are some of my favorite lines from Ch. 1 that I hope will tease you into heading over there and reading it for yourself:

“Fear herds us into a prison and slams the doors.”

“Christ-followers contract malaria, bury children, and battle addictions, and, as a result, face fears. It’s not the absence of storms that sets us apart. It’s whom we discover in the storm; an unstirred Christ.”

“Fear corrodes our confidence in God’s goodness. We begin to wonder if love lives in heaven. If God can sleep in our storms, if his eyes stay shut when our eyes grow wide, if he permits storms after we get on his boat, does he care? Fear unleashes a swarm of doubts, anger-stirring doubts.”

“And fear feels dreadful. It sucks the life out of the soul, curls us into an embryonic state, and drains us dry of contentment. We become abandoned barns, rickety and tilting from the winds, a place where humanity used to eat, thrive, and find warmth. No longer. When fear shapes our lives, safety becomes our god. When safety becomes our god, we worship the risk-free life.”

“If we medicate fear with angry outbursts, drinking binges, sullen withdrawals, self-starvation, or viselike control, we exclude God from the solution and exacerbate the problem. We subject ourselves to a position of fear, allowing anxiety to dominate and define our lives. Joy-sapping worries. Day-numbing dread. Repeated bouts of insecurity that petrify and paralyze us. Hysteria is not from God. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear” (2 Tim. 1:7).

I have always loved 2 Timothy 1:7 in that fear is not from God. Fear can make us do all kinds of crazy things.

As we get closer to Paul’s deployment, I know that God wants me to continue to trust that he’s in control and he’s directing Paul’s path no matter where he goes. The issue isn’t really about Paul going to a dangerous place, but whether I will trust and have faith in God that He is good and is sovereign over everything in life.

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