Pep Talk for Creators

If you’re anything like me—and it seems most creators are—you have an innate need to create and are happiest when doing so, but it’s a consistent struggle to cultivate conditions and space to create.

Life is always creeping in, like weeds in an overgrown garden that threaten to strangle out the beauty and take over the fertile soil of creativity. Our job is to take back ground and wrestle out the rubble, to continue to uncover and propagate beauty—both for ourselves and others.

Our back garden crowded with Echinacea. One of my favourite places where I get to create beauty.

Like a weedless garden, perfect conditions are an illusion. It will never happen. But you already know that. There will always be handfuls of reasons to put off starting, real or perceived hedges that form barricades too tall to peer over. But the truth is that you just need to begin. Where you are. Right now. Today.

Though ideal conditions are imaginary, the struggle to create is real and you must garner courage and silence the inner critic. Take fear hostage and dump it in the corner for a timeout. Then wade through the weeds, jump the hedge and skip off to a quiet place to create.

What is it that you’ve been putting off?

Is it that novel you’ve been thinking of writing? That painting you have in your mind to create? The garden you’ve been dreaming about designing? What is that one thing you have been imagining? The idea or concept deeply embedded in your soul like a sacred seed yet to be birthed and watered?

Here is what I’d like you to do:

  1. Pick the one thing you’d like to create
  2. Choose a realistic deadline for its completion
  3. Break it down into manageable bits
  4. Schedule time (just like appointments) to do the steps needed to tackle it
  5. Tell someone that you are going to do it
  6. Start it
  7. Keep going
  8. Finish it

That list sounds simple enough, and it is. The hardest part may be #6 followed closely by #8. The only thing standing in the way of starting right now is you… and your thought life. Everything seems more difficult before beginning, but like a garden full of weeds you’re going to need to get dirty in order to unearth beauty.

We excavate all sorts of excuses. Things like: I’m too busy. I’m too tired. I don’t want to get dirty. I need more training. It might not turn out as well as I hope. It’s too big a task. So and so is more skilled at this. I may fail (whatever that means). Not to be insensitive, but who cares?

You create for you and if you’re fortunate, it may impact another soul for good—it usually does. But even if your creation remains between you and God and never sees the light of day, that’s enough.

At my book launch. There were times I wondered if my novel would ever be published.

I believe nothing in life is wasted. Even those things that seem futile or rather unpleasant at the time. These types of uphill climbs help us to grow more sure-footed and create fertile ground for wisdom and character—priceless treasures that no amount of money can buy. But I suspect a few other priceless things will happen if you start and finish your project…

  1. You will gain a sense of pride in its completion
  2. You will learn and improve for the next project
  3. You will have greater confidence from having reached your goal
  4. You will have enjoyed the process
  5. Your creation may bring joy, beauty, and hope to yourself and others

I’m cheering for you—cheering for myself too—in the midst of the weeds and towering hedges. Despite our fears and imperfect forms, I’m encouraging us to start. To stop putting off what we could be doing this moment, or directly after reading this blog!

Schedule time to show up for your craft, to show up for yourself. Pull out the paper, the clay, the canvas. Open up the instrument case, the computer case, or the suitcase. Tell fear it’s off duty… then create!

“…and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts.”

Exodus 31:3-5

Best Canadian New Author of the Year!

This past weekend, we watched the Word Awards Celebration where Christian writers are recognized and celebrated. Originally, I had thought that if I could be nominated in just one category I would be thrilled. So, you can imagine how ecstatic I felt when, between my novel One More Tomorrow, my devotional Soul Focus – Trials, and my blog site, my work was nominated for five categories!

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The spark that prompted One More Tomorrow arrived unexpectedly one evening while waiting for a flight home in Milwaukie Airport with my husband. A scene sprung into my head, and I reached for my hubby’s laptop (I didn’t have my own back then) and wrote, what is to this day, the first page of One More Tomorrow. 

We were in the thick of raising and homeschooling our three small children, and I hardly need to explain that time was at a premium. Monday nights became my writing night. I would make a run to a local coffee shop and grab a giant latte and sandwich. Returning home, I would steal away to my little office at the back of our house and shut the door in preparation for several blissful, uninterrupted hours of writing. My husband would make or take the kids out for dinner and some sort of activity and then return home to quietly put them to bed so that I could continue writing.

Those nights were magical. Ideas and words filled my mind and flowed through my fingers with such fluidity that my meager keyboard skills hardly kept up. Since ideas are such slippery things, I often wrote into the early hours of the morning to ensure all of them were captured. One morning, my second-born son peeked his head in the door of my office at 6 AM, wide-eyed in disbelief, and exclaimed, “Mom, are you still up?” It was already morning, and I hadn’t made it to bed.

I finished the novel within a year but had no idea what I would do next. Like most moms with young children, my life was already stuffed full. I decided that I couldn’t possibly publish and homeschool well, so I set the novel aside… for about fifteen years. Over those years, my firstborn son, Kurtis, would ask, “So, Mom, when are you going to publish your book?” He wouldn’t let me forget it or give up on my dream.

I recall going to a few writer’s conferences over the years—feeling anything but a writer—and listening to published authors talk about the craft. As they spoke about the writing and publishing process, I recall feeling bewildered and overwhelmed. I once sat at a table with an author who had just won a Word Award for her work and marveled at her accolades. Little did I know, just a few years later she would be my editor! But at that time, I still wasn’t able to even begin thinking about publishing. Though it was a huge goal of mine, at times I wondered if I would ever reach it.

In the fall of 2018, my youngest daughter went off to a “real” school. That same fall, my oldest son got married. The year prior, my second-born son had left home to attend post-secondary school, and my third born had completed high-school. After eighteen years of homeschooling and non-stop shuttling my kids to numerous activities, suddenly several unclaimed hours stretched out before me. For the first time ever, I had seven hours each day entirely to myself! I immediately set to work.

By the fall of 2019, I had two books to present to the world. One More Tomorrow launched in September, and Soul Focus – Trails was published just two months later. We held two glorious book launch celebrations with family and friends that I will always hold dear. I had reached my goal and felt that my “Part Two”, the bit after the years dedicated to homeschooling, was well underway.

Click here to purchase a copy of my books!

Fast forward to this past Saturday—the 32nd Word Awards and our 28th wedding anniversary!  Under normal circumstances, the awards celebration would be a formal gala complete with dinner and an awards presentation. Due to COVID-19, I instead sat in casual attire on our couch surrounded by a small group of friends and family to watch the awards broadcasted live. Though I wasn’t draped in an evening gown, I was wrapped in the love, excitement, and support of those dear ones in the room.

To learn that One More Tomorrow, the book I had begun in Milwaukie Airport all those years ago, won the Romance category was a marvel to me. To hear that I had also won Best Canadian New Author of the Year was truly overwhelming! When I learned of the news, I couldn’t help but cry. I cried from the shock and wonder that I was receiving an award at all.

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The awards represent so many things. The obvious is they are the first awards I’ve received for my writing. They represent time and much-needed discipline dedicated to the process, and the often-unpopular choice of saying no to other pursuits to make room for this worthy goal. They also stand for overcoming obstacles, scaling numerous hardships and desert places, but refusing to give up until completion.

These awards also represent all the people who cheered for me and helped me throughout the entire process—all the ones who believed I could and told me so. They represent the readers who bought and enjoyed the book and cared enough to give me that feedback. They represent the countless writers who went before me and those who continue to give of their time because they believe the craft should be celebrated. They represent my relationship with God, His gift of words, and His power to overcome and love.

Since Saturday night, I have been immensely humbled by the countless well-wishes. Moments like this shine brighter when shared. My son and daughter-in-law called after the awards show to congratulate me. It was no surprise when, near the end of the call, Kurtis asked, “So, Mom, when are you going to publish your next book?” I guess I better get started!

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Click here to watch The Word Guild Awards Celebration

 

Journal Journeys Excerpt #1 – Greatly Helped

Each of us is on a journey.

Most of the time we don’t know exactly where we’re headed and even if we do, we’re often unsure of how to get there. We often feel lost, lonely, and labeled. Discouraged, disqualified, and disappointed. Worried, weary, and winey. We suffer sadness, setbacks, and sabotage. 

Yet we keep going despite uncertainty. Falling forward. Learning and leaning in, hurting and healing. Holding steady through storms. Yanking back the clouds to eagerly absorb the sun-soaked, brilliant moments. 

Our lives, our journeys, are composed of both the breathtaking and the breaking.

Since becoming a Christ-follower at age 18, I have kept a prayer journal to scribe such travels. The pages have provided me with a secondary outlet to pour out prayers alongside my spoken utterances.

As the years have unfolded, the journal pages provide proof of God’s handiwork, documentation of God’s faithfulness in my life, and in the lives of others, and provide a tangible way to see the countless occasions God has answered prayers.

Even when circumstances seemed utterly hopeless, and when his seeming silence was bewildering, God was still there. Scanning the pages, I see that the no’s were merely delayed yes’s—a hold-out for his best when I would have happily settled for good. 

My current prayer journal

The written wrestlings within these pages—sometimes through tears, often amid doubts and questions as I struggled to know God and understand his ways—don’t declare me faithless or damaged. Rather, they offer assurance that I am a beloved child of God attempting to understand her Father’s ways, to grow closer to him, and to trust and love him more deeply. Thanksgiving prayers soak the pages too, recording the times I’ve been surprised and delighted with the extravagant love of God.

For the next few weeks, I’ve decided to share some entries from my prayer journal in hopes the sentiments may offer solidarity, reverberate inside your own heart, provide a way to express some of your own pleas and desires, and kindle hope. I’m calling this series, The Journal Journeys, and I hope you will enjoy traveling through the pages with me.

I’m certain that reading these prayers aloud will be a vulnerable, intimate, and emotional experience. But I’m hoping they will offer a measure of comfort and encouragement if you are grappling as hard as I am to lay hold of hope and process faith in your journey with God.

The first excerpt I have chosen refers to a season of struggle in our life but seems appropriate to begin with as it speaks to our current situation with COVID-19. You can watch the video or read the entry below. At the bottom of this page, I have included a song for you to meditate on. So looking forward to journeying with you!

Click here to watch The Journal Journal – Excerpt #1

January 5, 2016

Dear Lord,

We have been greatly helped by you. You have not forgotten us. You have made the impossible possible, and have brought us through the hardship of this very difficult time. 

We have not been privy to an explanation as to why. No understanding as to what to do next. No future knowledge except to live each day at a time, one foot in front of the other, moment by moment. 

“You have also given me the shield of your salvation; Your right hand has held me up, Your gentleness has made me great. You enlarged my path under me, so my feet did not slip.” Psalm 18:35-36

journal entry 1
My prayer journal – today’s excerpt

I like the verse above because not only have you saved me, but it shows your continued help in my life. Through great disappointment and disillusionment, your right hand has held me up. You dealt gently with me.

When the way was dangerous, like a precipitous path, you enlarged the path under me so my feet did not slip. You kept me safe. You didn’t whisk me off the path. No, I still had to pass through, but you made a way—you made it possible to pass through. 

And maybe we have passed through now. Maybe we are just coming out on the other side. I can’t pretend to have much of a clue what you are doing, but I feel as though a change may come. 

So now, because you tell us to ask (Matthew 7:7), I ask you to help us—as you have continued to do—to find our way. Help us to be wise, to know what to do, to make wise choices. 

Your will be done,

Amen.

Listen to song: Goodness of God

journal pic

 

Unknowns, Courage, and Creativity

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A photo of my author copy the day it arrived in the mail.

Tomorrow, my debut novel launches. 

I’ll be honest, a cocktail of emotions are brewing at the moment. A hearty mixture of excitement, nervousness, and outright fear of failure. It feels rather like I’m about to fling my heart out into the world hopeful it won’t get flattened. It’s always that way when trying something new, don’t you think? Maybe even more so with creative pursuits because a part of you is sewn right in with it.

Yet, where would we be without the kind of courage creating requires? Without those brave first strokes of ink or paint, our bookshelves would be barren and our walls unadorned of colourful masterpieces. There would be no music to make us merry. No architecture to take our breath away. No sculpture to stop us in our tracks. No gardens to still our souls. No chocolate—I go too far! Our beings would be bereft of nourishment without people answering the creative call.

I admire the courage of creators, those who bring life to their ideas despite the naysayers and critics. I applaud those who keep creating, keep trying, and keep overcoming obstacles to do both what they love and what gives them life. I’m inspired by the ones who continue to show up and don’t give up even when their inner critic won’t shut up. I’m grateful to those who pursue their gift as a gift to others.

But it’s not easy. 

As a recovering control freak, unknowns make me uneasy. The blank page—that sacred inhalation of breath before beginning—is crowded with both possibility and nightmarish uncertainty. And right now, I’m on a new precipice of uncertainty and in desperate need of exhaling.

But there’s hope. I’m considering reframing my concept of unknowns. Instead of attaching fear to them, I’m thinking of renaming these unknowns “new firsts” and viewing them as dynamic opportunities to explore something new. 

So let’s say it together: An unknown is a dynamic opportunity to explore something new.

Feel better? I do… for now. Ask me tomorrow when I’m standing at the book launch trying to wax eloquent about my book! I’m slowly easing into my “new first” by only inviting family and friends to the launch. I’m going to take that nervousness I feel toward introducing my book to the world, and all that goes with it, and view it as a dynamic opportunity to explore something new. 

I wonder, do extroverts require this much reflective self-talk? And at what age did I begin to be unsure of creative pursuits? But that’s another blog.

What it always comes down to is a conscious effort to hand over control. It’s not a one time fix. It’s a trust thing, and for me, there’s only one who can be entrusted with it—God. The unknowns, ahem, I mean the dynamic opportunities to explore something new are also an exciting chance to grow closer in my trust journey with my Creator.

So let me expand my definition: An unknown is a dynamic opportunity to explore something new and trust God more fully. 

Boom. There it is!

I hope you’ll join me on this trust journey. Let’s do this!

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  1. Do you have a fear of the unknown?
  2. What creative pursuit have you been putting off for fear of failure?
  3. Breath in, breath out, and begin that sacred journey trusting God every step.

OneMoreTomorrow_Cover_042919
Available September 17th, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4866-1537-7

Print Availability: Chapters/Indigo, Amazon, Word Alive Press, and wherever fine Christian books are sold. 

eBook Availability: Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Scribd, and in Adobe PDF format for additional vendors.

 

On Novel Writing, Deadlines, and Perfection

heavenpicRecently, my novel was handed over to the publishing company. It has taken a mere sixteen years, since it was first conceived, for the submission of this final copy. Finally, after countless chides from my family to get it published, numerous edits, and one title change, One More Tomorrow is officially out of my hands.

The process of writing a novel—or the creation of any art form for that matter—bears some striking similarities to our lives. Well-lived lives, like well-written books, are crafted by thoughtful decisions, intentional choices, inspiration, imagination, creativity, and untold toil undertaken over its entirety. Even as I handed my manuscript over, I knew it would never be perfect. There could forever be tweaks, cuts, and additions, but there was a deadline, and so I gave it away.

Our lives are just the same.

It too will never be perfect. It has a deadline, and you need to give it away.

No matter how hard we try, no matter how we imagine it, painstakingly craft it, and steer the process, our lives will never measure up to our expectations. Our days, we ourselves, will never be flawless. There will be times when those around us will fail us, circumstances will crumble, and we will be less than perfect.

But the here and now, and all that we make of it, isn’t all there is. And despite all our efforts—all our cuts and edits—to achieve perfection, we can’t become good enough for all that comes after this life. We weren’t meant to achieve perfection, nor was life meant to be perfect. Because this life, with all its aches and pains, is not heaven.

As bleak as this sounds at first appearance, it’s actually good news. Forget trying to be flawless like you wish the manuscript, the painting, the song, or the dance of your life to become. There will be plenty of time for that later when perfect is the norm. But like my book, our lives have a final submission date. That date occurs on the day you pass from life, to death, to eternal life.

On that day:

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

~ Revelation 21:4

Until then, we can rest in knowing that there’s nothing we can do to be good enough for this moment—for eternity. No amount of hard work, good behaviour, rule following, or believing we are better than the person next to us will gain us an admission ticket into heaven.

Jesus alone bought our passage; we only need receive it by faith.

Everything else, the cuts and edits, will come as a result of his life in you. You give away your life’s manuscript, and he does the work crafting it—and you—into his masterpiece. He’s the only one who can make you fit for forever.

For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 

~ Hebrews 10:14

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  1. Have you found your rest in Jesus? I would love to hear your story!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the Days Written Down

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This week I wrote my final entry in my son’s childhood journal I kept for him over the past twenty-two years of his life, begun on the day he was born. The years have rushed by, and, reading over a few of the entries, I was reminded of many events and beautiful memories I knew I’d forget to tell him about had I not written them down. Now that he’s married, I plan to wrap up the journals to give to him this Christmas.

I’m excited for my son to read the detailed documentation of his life as seen through my eyes. My hope is that he’ll be encouraged, see himself from a different perspective, and possibly get an even greater sense of who he is. More than that, I hope he will see how dearly he was loved by his dad and me at every stage, and how we were cheering him on every step of the way.

This recent journal writing has reminded me of our Father in heaven. Take a look at these verses. I have to say, they kinda blow my mind.

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” ~ Psalm 139:16

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” ~ Psalm 56:8

God keeps track of the things that concern you and me. We’re in his book! Tell me that doesn’t blow you away just a tad?

But I’m thinking God doesn’t need to record our stuff in case he forgets, or to keep a naughty or nice list. I also doubt he keeps track of all our sorrows in order to make sure we receive the “Get into Heaven Free” card by meeting a tragedy quota, or because we’ve managed to reach the good works threshold (more on that in a sec). I like to think it’s partly because of this:

“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” ` Luke 8:17

I can’t say for sure, but wonder if when we are in our final home in heaven, all that we’re going through right now – the good, the bad and the ugly – will make sense. All the tears, the sorrows, the why-is-this-happening? – all of it. And, when it is, I think we’ll marvel at how remarkably connected it all was, how many parts and people were affected as a result, how it served an eternal purpose, and possibly understand all that was happening in the unseen places. Some may say in heaven it won’t matter anymore, but I like to think it will matter a great deal. Enough for God to write it down.

There is another book I would be amiss to not mention. The Bible speaks of the Book of Life, where all of humanity’s names are recorded. Our names are not found in this book if we’re really good, do a lot of good stuff, or suffer a ton. Our names are found in this book only if we’re found in Christ. This is the reason Christ died: to ensure our names wouldn’t be blotted out, and thus ensure our forever home in heaven with him. The only thing that would limit Christ’s saving work is our failure to respond or our rejection of God’s grace.

I hope to one day ask God if I can have a peek at the writings he kept concerning me. Maybe you will too. I think we will be in awe, not only of God, but also of our life’s story as seen through God’s perspective. And just like the journals kept for my son, I think we will be encouraged to see ourselves – and our past circumstances – from our loving Father’s perspective. We will learn, in full, how dearly and securely we were loved at every turn, and how he was cheering us on every step of the way.

“For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears…  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”  ~1 Corinthians 13: 9 & 12

I want to leave you with this hymn. I think it’s an appropriate and beautiful way to conclude and punctuate the above ideas. Take time to ponder the poetic lyrics:

My Hope is Built on Nothing Less

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
in ev’ry high and stormy gale
my anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

His oath, His covenant, His blood
support me in the ‘whelming flood;
when all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
O may I then in Him be found,
dressed in His righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before the throne.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

~ Edward Mote (1834)

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  1. It’s my greatest hope that you are found in Christ. I’d love a reading buddy in heaven 🙂 He is just a prayer away.