Serendipity? No. Providence!

WMwithPurpIt was one year ago, today, that I signed my contract with Leafwood publishers.  What a day it was!  From an industry standard from pitch to press, this was really quick turnaround.  Why?

I believe it was an Esther 4:14 moment.  The content of this book was written long before I ever dreamed of pitching it as a book.  I had held onto it, and through a gentle nudging of the Spirit… last July I stepped out in faith.

It is now a year later, and my book is available for pre-sale on Amazon and several other online retailers.  It will be on bookstore shelves on Sept 10.  This is the surreal becoming real.

Which brings me to, today.  One year later.  It’s not a matter of serendipity but providence that I signed another contract today.  This time, with Michelle Lazurek of WordWise Media Services… who is now officially my Literary Agent.

Getting a Literary Agent is not like getting a Talent Agent.  Years ago, when I signed with my Talent Agent they simply put me on the books.  I didn’t have to audition for them, just showed up with some good photos and a resume of my previous acting work.  Easy peasy.

Getting a Literary Agent is pretty much like trying to get your book published.  You send them your book proposal(s) and they determine if you / the project has merit.  Just because I had already signed a book contract, didn’t mean Literary Agents were jumping out of the wood seeking me.  Nor did it mean that I was guaranteed a contract after submitting my proposals.

How did I know the time was right to seek a Literary Agent?

My gut was already telling me it was probably time.  But, I always pray for confirmation.  When I attended a writing conference this summer, I prayed that God would affirm if that was the right direction.  Over, and over again, He did.  Even to the point where my last meeting of the conference, a publisher said:  “I don’t normally tell people this at an event like this, but it is time for you to agent up.”

How did I know that WordWise Media was the right agency for me?

Providence. Absolute providence.  God kept putting them in my pathway, over and over again.  And, what I loved about Michelle (specifically) was that she wasn’t looking for a one and done author.  She wasn’t looking to sign a “project”.  She was looking for someone who had a lot more work that needed to come out.  She was signing the person not the product.

So, now it begins… the next step in the journey.  Glad I’m not walking it alone.

Where there is no guidance, a people falls,

but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.

Proverbs 11:14

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Give or Take

Give or Take

At some point in our lives we have heard the phrase “some people are givers, and others are takers”.  Usually this is in response to a circumstance where someone took advantage of us and we were lamenting over it with a friend.  I was always encouraged to give more than I will ever receive.  I was also given the permission to move people out of my life if they were only takers who never gave anything in return.

When I became a Christian, I embraced the idea of giving without ever expecting anything in return.  It makes it really easy to out give, or give more than you will receive, if you are never expecting to receive anything.  What happened, however, was a season of years where I was taken advantage of by people whom I considered friends.

This would result in a spiritual struggle between giving without expectation and setting clear boundaries from people who only interested in taking.  A struggle with the verses that says to turn the other cheek (Matt 5:38-40) and forgiving seven times seventy times (Matt 18:22).

Was the right move to continue to keep giving, allow myself to become a doormat in order to give without expectation, turn the other cheek, and keep forgiving?  I kept these people in my life because it seemed like that was what I was supposed to do as a good Christian.

The freedom I needed came as I read the words in Matthew 7:16 about how we will recognize who people are and what they believe by their fruit.  It was not a carte blanche freedom to just let go of those who only take without ever giving, but it helped open my eyes to the deeper issues of their hearts.

A person who takes may not be in a capacity to give for some reason.  They may only take, but the thing they are not doing is taking advantage of others.  It’s just where they are, they are appreciative, and we can see their fruit is good.

Those who take out of selfish ambition, who are not appreciative, or where their “taking” is just one symptom of their bad fruit…. those are the ones we can forgive and release.

So, as you are faced with assessing the people in your life… ask yourself “what kind of fruit are they producing”.

 

Cultivate What Matters Most

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It has been a crazy busy first half of my year.  I could have never expected how things would unfold in our lives.  I didn’t see having two extra children for five months being part of our year.  There was unexpected news for a friend that shocked me, news that I didn’t see coming.  And quite a few other events that brought me to a place of introspection.  We must cultivate what matters most to us.

When we had our bonus kids, there were a lot of expectations on us.  Beyond getting them enrolled in school, there were numerous doctors appointments.  It was like a single day didn’t pass where I had to do something for these children.  I wiped my calendar clear of anything that was not essential, making myself available.  One day, I looked at my monthly wall calendar and realized…  1) Almost half of my month was dedicated to their needs and 2) I was for more involved in their lives than my own actual children.

During this time, the amount of stress that was on our family was tangible.  You could see it in our physical presence.  Even my best friend could recognize it in how my voice presented on the phone.  There was pressure on my marriage, my kids, etc.  When the children left our home, I had an opportunity to seize my family in a new way.  Twice in 2019, my husband and I took a weekend away… just the two of us.  We haven’t done that since year one of marriage.

We put so much energy into our extra kids, that it made me really hyper aware of how amazing and independent my children are.  So much aware, that I realized how much more time I want to spend with them.    Our relationships with our spouses, and our children, are so important that we can’t take for granted that everyone is aware of this importance.

Instead we continue to cultivate what matters most.  Yes, we have poured into these children over their whole lives, but just because my daughter is an adult now doesn’t mean that I stop cultivating our relationship.  Although I have been with my husband for twenty one years, I need to continue to cultivate that relationship.  Even more so as we continue to approach new phases our life… we know that empty nester season is lurking just around the corner.

Not only do I want to cultivate what matters most in my home life, but it is also impacting my view on my ministry life.  If we can begin to cultivate what matters most in our ministry, we learn to prune away the things that are non essential, and focus on The Great Commission.  We learn to worry less about the perfection of pinterest worthy events, and focus more on the relationships being built and fostered among our community.

As we all move into this second half of the year, some of us kicking and screaming:  take a moment of introspection and determine what in your life matters to the most to you… and cultivate it. ❤

 

 

Coffee Talk

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Do you know what I love about coffee talk?  That when I gather with a few women over coffee, unless it’s a designated business meeting, there is pretty much no topic off the table.  We will cover pop culture, politics, and even controversial subjects.  I love coffee talk.

There is a strange thing that can happen among women, during coffee talk.  It is when we begin chatting about our husbands, children, family members, neighbors, or co-workers.  We start to share all of those things the person does that annoys us, gets under our skin.  Before we know it, and often unintentionally, our coffee talk turns into an out right gripe session.

There are times when we need to vent and blow off steam.  Occasions in which we need our friends and closest wise counsel to help us see beyond the circumstance we are currently in.  I’m not talking about those times, but rather the ones where we begin competing tit for tat over who or what is most annoying.  I’m addressing the conversations where we find ourselves grouped up in solidarity against our common foe.  Whomever that may be.

I’ve read, on more than one occasion, that the thing we find most annoying another person is usually a reflection on ourselves.  Either it is something we too are guilty of doing, or something we lack and we are envious of.  In the cases where it is a character flaw that we share in common, it amazes me that we are able to be oblivious to it in ourselves and so sensitive to it in another person.

This is why we have Matthew 7:5 drawing our attention to our natural inclination to examine the splinter in our neighbor’s eye in spite of the glaring plank in our own.  We are reminded that we need to worry less about the sins of others and more about our own.

Something I’m notice quite prevalent on Social Media is passive aggressive commentaries about others “sin”.   There is absolution because we don’t point to a person by name, use a piece of Scripture or quote from a theologian to drive home the point.  While I am one who often takes comfort in the Scripture promise that vengeance belongs to the Lord, I’m fairly certain that doesn’t mean God is going about doing our dirty work for us.

If you are using Scripture to take a passive aggressive attack against a person, you are mishandling the Word of God.   It is not speaking truth in love, and your words will betray your heart.

Like a Berean

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When I saw this image being shared among my facebook friends, I literally laughed out loud.  First, I have been known to tell my own children they better check themselves before they wreck themselves.  Probably more times than I can count, and more times than they care to remember.  Check your attitude.  Check your responsibility.  Check your accountability.  Check that look on your face, tone in your voice, and your body language.

Second, exegesis is so incredibly important to me.  It should be to any believer, but especially those who are going to teach the Word or lead in a ministry.   If you don’t know the word, in summation it is the critical interpretation of the Scriptures.  In Acts 17:11, Paul and Silas were preaching at Berea.  They commented on how the Bereans’ would eagerly listen to the teaching, but also searched the Scriptures daily to make sure that what was being taught was accurate.

Some people may roll their eyes when they hear a Pastor say … “in the original text” or “if we go back to the original Greek word”.  This is not a statement of arrogance that this particular Pastor knows more, or his level of education is superior.  This is a statement that the Pastor has not just studied the Word for his message based on our every day understanding, but rather he went further into deeper critical interpretation.  He practices good exegesis.

The lens in which we interpret Scripture is vital.  If we get it right, we are bringing people to the feet of God to learn his ways.  If we get it wrong, we become the false teachers the Scriptures warn us about.  Not every false teacher is going about with mal intent to destroy the Gospel.  Some, have really good intentions and fully believe they are teaching the right thing.  But, as the phrase goes, the pathway to hell has been paved with good intentions.

We can stand firm that the Scriptures are enduring, and everlasting.  His message to us in the words on the page does not change, because God is unchanging.  However, we would be remiss to think that OUR understanding of a particular word has not changed over the years.  There are words we use in our every day vernacular today, that do not mean the same thing it did even 20 years ago.  There is a reason the Scriptures remind us to not lean into our own understanding.

I’ve watched too much divisiveness happen, over Scripture, because each person was looking through their own personal lens.  They define the word based on their culture, their education, and their influence.  Recently, there was a large controversy involving a speaker at a conference.  The speaker was from another country, with a different history regarding racism and sexism.  I still believe that the largest contributor to the controversy was miscommunication.  She spoke from her personal lens to an audience that received it through their own personal lens.

Words matter, yes.  Context matters most, because context helps us clarify the definition to the exact meaning of the word at the time it was used.  In critical interpretation, exegesis, we are tasking ourselves to make sure that every time we speak about the Scripture that our interpretation is accurate.  And, in doing so, we must also be willing to accept & admit that we are or have been wrong.

Peace in the Storm

Peace in the Storm

Living in Florida, during this time of year, residents are frequented with afternoon storms.  If you are born and raised her, they don’t come by surprise regardless of how heavy the rain falls or how loud the thunder booms.  Lightening strikes don’t cause concern.  Even most hurricanes will come and go, as we go on about life as normal… hunkering down until it passes and return to life as normal.

My dog, would beg to differ.  I can tell a storm is coming long before the first rain drop.  Our little weather dog has long alerted us to what he considers pending doom.  I notice that he is suddenly more alert to his environment.  Then the trembling begins. At first it resembles a mild shudder, like when one is hit with a sudden burst of cold air.  I know the storm is drawing closer when his trembling could be confused with a seizure.  It is more pronounced and uncontrollable.  And then, he assigns himself to the human that he feels is the safest in the house & hides or hunkers down.  A refusal to be alone, clinging to us for safety.  There may be safer places to hide, physically, but ultimately he finds security in our presence.

Growing up in Florida, I remember being afraid of hurricanes.  Now, I’m not.  It is not that I don’t respect the storm.  I do.  I know the damage it can do.  I lived through Hurricane Andrew, I remember the devastation.  I have friends who were displaced and never returned to their homes because of Andrew.  In later years, I recall the threat of an impending hurricane that caused our city to spray paint the names of the roads on the ground and sidewalks.  I knew what that meant, it was possible enough damage could be done that we may not recognize the area.  I never down play or underestimate what can happen.

However, I’ve also lived a lifetime of knowing not just the preparation for the storm… or what it is like to sit through it… but also the aftermath.   I know when to make the decision to leave, I prepare for the clean up not just the wait, I have lived through days upon days without electricity.  I have watched the communities in which I have lived rally together too.  One year, after a week without power, we took a drive and found on the fringe of our city a pizza place that was open for business.  Hot pizzas… all the same size, cheese or pepperoni, $5 each.  We bought 10 pizzas and brought it back to share with our neighbors.  I’ve listened to the chainsaws buzz, as everyone pitches in to remove downed trees.

When the storm is barreling our way, the thing I want the most is to be with my family.  My husband usually is the last one in the doors just as the rains begin.  He not only has our home to prep for the storm, but also responsibilities at his job to secure the site.  Last hurricane, he was helping secure their yard while I was hanging shutters in the rain.  I didn’t want him home to help me with the work load, I just wanted him with us.  There is a sense of security and peace that comes with knowing where your people are.

Life is full of storms.  There are the ones we see coming, like a hurricane, and we take all the possible measures to get out of the way or at least minimize the damage.  Then there are the flash floods that come without warning, the tornadoes that seemingly came from nowhere leaving devastation in their wake.  We will face storms that there is no way we could have prepared for.  The cancer diagnosis.  Car accident.  Abuse.  Addiction.

In these storms, as a Christian, we know that whatever it brings … that is not the end of our story.  There is an eternity that awaits us.  We cling to God, like a child to their parent’s leg, in our fear and uncertainty.  We find peace in the storm by His presence.  He is not rocked by the storm or the news, He is steadfast through it.  Strong.  Loving.  Enduring with us as we wrestle with uncertainty and doubt.

He is the lighthouse in the raging sea.  He is the voice that calms the wind.  He is the one who walks on water, and the mountains bend at His name.  To have a confidence in a hope and future, even when we don’t know the specific details of that future, gives us a supernatural peace in the natural chaos storms bring.  It is not naivety or a lack of respect for the storm, but an esteem of someone greater.