Preparation to Write

Preparation

In the writing of my book there is a combination of elements.  There are my own personal opinions and convictions about ministry.  Additionally, I have statistics and historical facts along with Biblical content.  Included are references to other books on the subject of Women’s Ministry and theological thinkers of our time.

To write a book about one’s own personal experiences or opinions requires very little preparation.  You may look back through papers to ensure specific dates are accurate, names are spelled correctly, timeline accuracy, etc.  However, in a book that is a Biblical defense of a ministry there is more work required.  I spent months watching youtube videos of interviews, reading books and articles that supported or stood against Women’s Ministry.  I leaned in to listen to influential leaders and Pastors in order to find out their views on Women’s Ministry.  I even went so far as to look at not on the churches that have Women’s Ministry programs but also ones with thriving Men’s Ministries to see if there was a correlation.

As I worked through the research process, I was able to categorize the information that I found pertinent and build an outline for the book.  Once I had the outline, it helped me identify the areas that I still needed to put more time into researching.   The points that I discarded from my outline gave me freedom to stop exploring those thoughts and focus on the ones I kept.

Between the date when I finished the first draft and the date when I signed my contract and began editing the book, there was other preparation.  The Lord had me walk through scenarios that would influence my opinions or drive me to research certain concepts.  He was not going to let me write about something that I did not walk through personally.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Preparation is not just about researching books, it is far more personal.  Preparation comes from praying to God for His wisdom and guidance in the process, and that my written words would be only what He would want me to say.  Preparation comes from walking through real life, practical ministry, and all of the lessons you learn along the way.  Preparation comes from speaking with other leaders who are in the trenches, having an observant eye as you go about your interactions with ministry leaders.

It was only when the preparations were done, that I could write a book that was complete.

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Affirmations and Confirmations

Affirmations

You may wonder how I am so confident that this was the right timing, that God was orchestrating things over the years heading toward this direction.  The answer is mostly found in hind sight, there were a lot of affirmations and confirmations along the way.

First, I have wanted to attend the She Speaks conference for quite some time.  Initially, I didn’t know about the publisher appointments.  I was interested in the workshops and networking with others who were leaders, and honing my speaking skills.  Writing and publishing a book was not on my horizon.  I had not attended previously though as it was outside our budget.    This year however, we had the means to make it happen.  It was as I looking into the registration process that I learned about the publisher appointments.

Second, I recently began publishing works in Chicken Soup for the Soul.  Upon sharing this news with friends and family, several told me that they had believed I would end up a writer since I was a child.  This was not something I ever saw on my horizon, but apparently several people were clued into something I was not.

Third, there was a repetition of Scripture.  There were several key verses that kept coming up in my personal study, falling out of the mouths of friends, Sunday sermons, youtube videos/podcasts, and even in unexpected places.  Each of which affirmed God’s perfect timing, elements of my calling, etc.    It happened to frequently to push aside as coincidence.

Fourth, people were positioned into my life.  Some of them, still to this day, I have no explanation for how we crossed paths other than God’s divine appointing.  I had been attending branding training to use in my ministry, having no idea that for the last 2 years everything Faith James was pouring into us at these meetings was going to help me prepare for my publisher meetings.  When I walked into that first branding training, I knew absolutely no one there.  Yet some how, her events crossed my desk, and I decided to give it a shot.   God positioned encouragers, prayer warriors, and even people with previous experience to help guide me along the process.

Fifth, there was a peace about the whole thing that allowed me to move forward in confidence.  I didn’t feel nervous or anxious.  I felt incredibly secure in who I was and what I was about to do.  There was a certainty that I had not felt in the years prior.  A godly confidence that these were steps preordered for me, I merely needed to follow.

Me, My Book, and Esther

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I’ve already shared that I believe that the Lord brought me to She Speaks this past summer because this was the time.  He is not early, nor late.  Always on time.  Had I tried to pitch the book 5 years ago, it would not be nearly as good as it is today.  If I waited, and was not obedient, perhaps the timing would have passed.

I’ve said this quite a few times of the last year, so forgive me if you are reading it again, but Pastor John Piper said that the Lord could be working thousands of things out for your favor and you may be aware of but two.  Over the last couple of years, I couldn’t see all the things that God was lining up until after it happened.  Then suddenly you see His fingerprints all over the place.  Little things being done here and there that seemed so inconsequential or unrelated, suddenly knit together in a tapestry that is only but of Him.

In hindsight, I can see the people the Lord brought into my life were serving a purpose.  To equip me.  To encourage me.  To guide me.  Some where brought into my life to illuminate and affirm His path.  Others, their purpose was for me to see what I did not want to do or become.  There was learning, molding, shaping, guiding, and correcting along the way.

On numerous occasions, and from a variety of sources, the verse of Esther 4:14 was spoken to me.    “For such a time as this”, words ringing in my ears.  Was this the time I was being prepared for?  Apparently, it was.

LeadHer Conference Update

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Registration is Closed.

There will be NO tickets sold at the door.

Due to the catering order already being submitted, we can not accommodate those who have not already registered for the event.

How do you know if you are registered?
* You purchased your tickets online.
* You tickets were coordinated directly with Gena McCown.

Time is a Gift

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It would be foolish of me to say that twenty years of ministry leadership has taught me everything that I need to know.  I’m sure that there are more lessons coming down the road, even if the only thing that changes is culture and climate.  Ministry is something that is ever evolving and adapting.  While there may be change, there are also fundamental truths that do not.

Consider the Word of God.  Written so many years ago, it is still alive and relevant.  We can take Scriptures and still apply them to our lives because they contain the fundamental Truth of an all knowing, constant, and unchanging God.  When we attempt to share the Word with others, we may tie in our own experiences or use illustrations that are more relevant to the culture of today without changing the fundamental truths God imparts.

In my approach to writing the book, I needed to walk away from the way “I” would lead a Women’s Ministry.  I had to delve into the Scriptures to find out what God had to say about the matter, if anything at all.  Instead of creating a book about Women’s Ministry, or justifying it from a modern perspective, the book comes at the topic historically and from a Biblical position.  It moved away from a book that was a reason for have a ministry (which still assumes there is option to say no to it), and turns on it’s heels to say there is a Biblical case for having one (which makes it seem less optional, and more of an expectation).

There was a good deal of time spent in writing the original material.  Research, research, and more research.  Yet, the time the that the Lord set this project on pause, yielded to opportunities to learn and experiences to be had.  When I returned to the book, to ready it for pitching to publishers it went off the most obvious course and into one less traveled.  In cutting the book nearly in half for the publication requirements, even more refining was done.

I believe that it was in the best interest of the material to get right to the point, that the refining and editing process was integral to creating a message that was clear… direct… and doesn’t take the long way round.

Maybe, you have been working on a project that seems to be taking forever.  Perhaps, you feel as if God hit the pause button on your progress and it seems like He is in no rush to hit the start button.  Consider this break as something positive versus negative.  Pray that God would reveal to you what you are supposed to be gleaning from this time period of wait.  His timing is perfect.

Worth the Wait

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I would like to say 15 years of Women’s Ministry experience was enough to write a book.  However, it was what would happen in the last five years (years 16-20) that would have the biggest impact on my ministry perspective.  I wish that I could say that it was some wonderful experience that brought forth glorious epiphanies.  Instead it was a time of hardship, lessons to be endured, and an opportunity to grow through struggle.  There were times I felt defeated, the weight of ministry was too hard, my call was too much to bear, and that I felt very alone.

In the Book of Nehemiah, we see Nehemiah pained by the state of his home that was in ruin.  The pain was so deep, that the king could see that Nehemiah was bothered and burdened.  He inquired of Nehemiah to share what was weighing him down so much, and Nehemiah laid his heart out on the table.   Nehemiah loved his home, his people, and was brokenhearted.  He knew that he would need to return to his home and help rebuild the city and the wall that surrounded it.  Eventually the king not only allowed Nehemiah to go home, but even helped with provisions.

The Lord didn’t burden Nehemiah’s heart and then send him immediately.  Months passed between when the Lord called Nehemiah and when the Lord would send Nehemiah.  In the background there were things that had to happen.  John Piper once said that the Lord is working out thousands of things on our behalf and we might know of two of them.  In hindsight, I can see so much of what I was going through during my season of wait was for a purpose.  There were things God was working out in the background that I couldn’t see, nor could I understand.

In Esther 4:14 (a very prominent verse for me in 2018), Mordecai suggests to Queen Esther that perhaps she came into her royal position for such a time as they were facing.  At the She Speaks conference, one of the speakers reminded us that the Lord does not come early, nor does He arrive late.  He arrives exactly on time.  While there may be a season of wait, it is not passive idleness but active preparation.  Why?  Because, when the Lord is ready to move, you need to be ready to move and perhaps quickly.

If I had gone to She Speaks 5 years ago, I don’t believe it would have been the right time.  My book would not have been as strong, the content wouldn’t have been at it’s best.  Not that it was wrong, but rather it needed to be refined by fire.  There was some testing of the metal that had to happen, some iron sharpening iron that needed to occur.

My relationships had to be refined by fire.  I need to know who was for me, and who was not.  Who could be trusted, and who could not.  I had to experience dysfunction in ministry so that I could recognize health.   I had to depend less on churches, people, and events to shape my understanding of Women’s Ministry… and really dig into the depth of the Scripture.  I had to walk through a ministry in crisis, to be humbled as a leader, to reconcile, to see ministry from new perspective.

I remember during this process praying for women and women’s ministry.  The Lord broke my heart, opened my eyes, and give me a fresh insight to the the good and the bad.  Those words began to weave themselves into my content.  In the book, on my website, and even through social media posts.  I had been afraid to speak up for myself, to speak up in defense of the ministry, and to share what the Lord had taught me.  I was afraid of how people would respond to my strong words, observations, and calling.

I was afraid I would lose everything I had worked hard to establish for so many years.  That I would lose my ministry position, that I would be cast aside, labeled a Jezebel for confronting, etc.  I was broken down, and in the end… I was still stripped of it all.  I was a shell of the leader I once was.  Afraid.  Beaten down.  Pressed from both sides.  It was all too much.

Refined by fire.  For such a time as this.

It all came to head one day, as I sat crying at a free mentoring session that I was gifted through an organization.  I had stepped into the space with the hopes of gleaning wisdom.  Before I knew it, tears were flowing, I was sharing my frustration as a leader that lacked authority to affect change.  I poured my heart out about everything that happened in the past few years.  I shared how difficult it was for me to wrap my head around how easily I was trusted as a leader in a secular company, managing over 100 hundred people, handling hundreds of thousands of dollars every day.  Yet, I couldn’t even be trusted to lead a ministry that served maybe 50 people at a time.  I had never felt so limited, micromanaged, and unappreciated in my life.

The mentor apologized to me.  A man who did me no wrong, who was sympathetic to my plight, was sorry.  He gave me the best advice I have ever been given:  Every day, the first person you preach the Gospel to … is yourself.  There is a LOT of strength in that.  A reminder of where my identity, value, and comfort comes from.  The opinions of people didn’t matter, God mattered.  If God called me to it, God would get me through it (my friend Aimee gave me that gem).

I’m not the only person, volunteer, or leader to have felt those pangs.  The Bible is full of stories of people who were overlooked, cast aside, etc.  History is filled with people qho challenged the status quo.  God used them in mighty ways.  What others meant for harm, God used (and continues to use) for good and His glory.

I wish the story ended there… but I still struggled for some time after that.  The next time I was crying to my husband.  I told him I was tired of fighting for women’s ministry, I wasn’t sure that I could keep doing it.  I was never more confident in my calling, but also never feeling such oppression to lead as God called me to lead.  I don’t want a pulpit.  I don’t need an audience filling arenas.  I wanted to pour into the women in the church, equip other women to pour into the women in their churches.  I commented that would be nice to be invited to the table vs. having to fight just to be heard.  My husband said, “God called you to be a trailblazer.  If it was going to be easy, He wouldn’t have called you.  You were meant for this.”

My husband is a man of few words, most of which is filled with sarcasm… but these are the moments where he floors me.  When he sees me, supports me, and speaks truth that I need to hear.  I was afraid to rock the boat and my husband called me a tidal wave.  God’s Word tells us that we are not to have a spirit of fear or timidity.  I was hiding in meekness and peacemaking for so long, that I forgot the sound of my own voice and the boldness that the Lord had knit in when I was formed in my mother’s womb.

Through all the trials, dysfunction, and discomfort… I grew.  I began to find myself in Him, once again.  I started to recognize myself in the mirror.  I realized that the words that I wrote on the page were not in my own strength or opinion, but rather a Biblical defense of ministry that God had woven together as my fingers tapped away on the keyboard.  My calling was becoming crystal clear, and the content of the book was refined and sharpened.  The Lord brought specific women into my life who are making me better, stronger, and spurring me forward.

In fact in the very place that I experienced deep pain, would be the very place I would find immense healing.  I didn’t need to pull back from His people but instead chose to lean further in to God.  Resting in His arms, as He patted by back … reassuring me it would all be okay.  Speaking words of reassurance that my siblings didn’t mean to cause me pain, yet not discounting my pain.  Helping me to find the blessing, the lesson, and the silver lining to the storm clouds.  Then releasing me back to the task He purposed me for.

There was a lot I had to go through, or better yet … grow through, in order to get to the final draft of my book.  This final version had a new and better purpose.  It was clear and concise.  As I sat sharing about my book with a family member, she blurted out “Oh, it’s an apologetics book.”  I had never considered it that way, even knowing the definition of apologetics.  It had never crossed my mind.  I pondered that thought my entire drive home.

I began to think of some of the other books that I have on my mind that I want to write.

Apologetics.

I am an apologetics writer.  I am an apologist.

When I think back to everything I have ever done, even in the secular world, I have always been a defender.  My calling that I was confident in, related to Women’s Ministry hasn’t changed.  However through this refinement, it has been purified.  A very large diamond may get hundreds of cuts, ending up at 1/20th it’s original size… but with every chipping away and cut… it becomes more valuable.  Still a diamond, but it’s not the same diamond.  So can He chip and chisel away at the marble of our calling, breaking away the bits that keep us a solid block in order to shape us into a new creation.

The long wait was worth it.  Not because I had a better book, that was able to get a publishing contract.  It was worth it because every success and every heartache was refining me to the point of clarity that I have never known before.  I was seeing things through new eyes, clearer vision, and discernment.  I had an inner circle of women that I could turn to for wisdom and guidance.

I am thankful for the five years that helped me shake off the dust, see myself through His eyes again, and get this new breath inside my lungs for His calling on my life.  Reinvigorated.  Re-energized.  Realigned.

Walking in the desert for 40 years will make your legs stronger.  You will walk further, faster.  But one day, you have walked the distance.  The promised land is in sight.   All that God was working out in preparation for your arrival, unfolds before you.   The journey was long and arduous, but it was worth the wait.  It was lonely, and sometimes even felt dangerous.  It was worth the wait.

The book contract, as exciting as it is, is nothing compared to the moment you find yourself again through the One who created you.  When you can let out that final, big, sigh of release.  When you are comfortable in your own skin because of not trying to live up to the expectations of others, or those who try to define or limit your call.  Walking out in faith means there is a level of comfort in myself that whatever God is asking of me, I can trust in His hands.  I just need to show up, authentically, the way He created me to be for the purposes He set for me.

Greater than publishing a book, is the mending of a heart.

Rejection and the Unknown

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If you have ever watched a movie about an aspiring writer of any sort, you will almost always come across a scene where they are either staring at (or adding to) a rejection pile).  A huge stack of papers with a big red stamp reading “rejected”.  A pile of envelopes with letters paper clipped to them.  This paper is a form letter, thanking them for their time and considering the various publishing houses.  A letter that lets the writer down easy with a “not right now” or suggests with time their writing may improve and the person can “try again”.

Here is what I have learned about this process….

No one is mailing their complete manuscript to the publisher.  Those giant stacks of paper, are movie props to make it look good.   Instead you mail a proposal, which has more info about you and your intended audience, with just a few sample chapters.

Most publishers do not even accept unsolicited proposals.  The good news is that you can usually establish who does and does not by visiting their website.  There will be a page for “authors” that details their process, or you may find the answer in the FAQ.

Most publishers will give a little more consideration to those who have already published a book traditionally, or if self published have the numbers to show they are marketable.

Quite a few publishers will only work with an author through an agent.  Think of it like a talent agent.  They know all the publishers and what they are currently looking for.  You hire the agent (who only makes money when you do), to contact them on your behalf.  Plus they can negotiate terms, understand the contracts, etc.  There are some who do NOT require an agent.  Their website will usually provide that detail.  The only way around the agent requirement is by attending a writers conference where you can make an appointment with publishers.

Unless they are interested, you may never get a response from them at all.  No stack of rejection letters.  Crickets and an empty inbox.

Even if they are interested, it may take MONTHS before you get a response.  The process generally runs like this… if they like it, they take it to their pub board, pub board decides which books they want, contract is offered.  Some publishers meet only ONCE a year to decide on new acquisitions.  Depending on when you send in your proposal, it could be months before they look at it, meet about it, and send you a contract.  I was told to it could take six months or longer to hear back from my publishers.

There are a lot of new authors vying for little space.  While publishing houses are constantly putting new books out on the market, for a new author you are in a big pool with few slots.  One publisher shared that they only acquire 12 new authors per year.

Great stories, and amazing authors, are rejected.  Rejection does not mean you don’t have a story to tell or that your skills as an author are not up to par.   One woman shared with me that she was turned down, during her meeting, because the publisher was releasing a book in a few months on a similar topic.   For another, the rejection was simply that the publisher did not publish her genre.

When I mailed my first proposal a few years ago to an academic publisher, I was excited.  I felt I had done the due diligence required.  My proposal was in accordance to their guidelines found on the website.  I was writing on a topic that the competition was few and far between, with a unique voice and perspective.  As I dropped it into the mail slot, I was convinced they would take it.  It has been years, I never received as much as a “no thank you”.  I filed it away.

The wait was a good, but hard, thing.  Thursday, I’ll talk more about the necessary wait.