The name I want listed in my movie credits

Apparently I have a reputation. After a full weekend of activities & birthdays & flat tires & sports games & conferences, while heading upstairs to put the boys to bed my husband yelled down, “Your award show is starting. Did you tape it?”

It’s true. I’m a bit of an awards show fan. Part of the obsession is the beauty…the gorgeous gowns & jewels. I also enjoy celebrating the art of great storytelling. And of course I love watching some of my favorite “famous” faces share one space. (Like seeing my best friend 😉 Jennifer Garner cheer on her hubby Ben Affleck.)

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photo credit

Last weekend, like I mentioned, I attended a local mom conference. A conference with a few “famous” authors and speakers hanging around. One author, the beautiful, Melanie Shankle, just wrote a book which debuted #27 on the NY Times Best Seller list (if you watch her promo video have tissue ready…I’m not kidding).

Something inside me puts one human above another because of these statistics. Even if that person doesn’t assume this position and is kind (& humble & full of grace…) success still moves people into high positions. The desire to be close to those of high position to pull & push my way to the top.

God knows the heart. He knows the temptation to make my name great, instead of His.

As I drove the 45 minutes in Friday evening traffic towards this mommy conference, I tried to use the time wisely by calling college friends to catch up. But no one answered. So I drove and absent mindedly sang with the Seeds Family Worship CD (cuz sometimes I forget I can listen to grown-up music when my children aren’t in the car). My brain started to realize the message God had for me when I sang these words:

“All men are like grass,

and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;

the grass withers and the flowers fall,

but the word of the Lord stands forever.”

(1 Peter 1:24)

All the “famous” fades away, but the word of the Lord remains. Cling to what stays not the fleeting Twitter feed & Facebook status updates. 

I walked into the main ballroom of the conference just as the session began. Settling my purse in the chair I stood to join in this song,

“Our God is greater, our God is stronger, God you are higher than any other.
Our God is Healer, Awesome in Power, Our God! Our God!
And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us.
And if our God is with us, then what could stand against.”
(Chris Tomlin)

God is stronger and higher. If He is for me what does it matter how many followers or retweets or likes or comments one gets. We are unstoppable if He has a plan for us to fulfill. We don’t need to befriend the famous to create a platform…because He holds the world in His hands. We need only rest in Him. 

When I wondered “Who am I Lord that you have called me to scribble out my story? Just a mom. Only a speech-language pathologist. Not a writer”, Then I read, in His word that lasts forever, when Jeremiah had his own “who am I” moment saying, “I am only a child. I do not know how to speak”. The Lord answered,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a child’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.  (Jeremiah 1:7)

I fill in the blank with my modifiers, “I am only a mom”. “I am only a pre-med Biology major.” “I am only 35 years old.” “I am only….”.

But He answers, “Don’t say that. It doesn’t matter what you are. It only matters who I AM. And I am who I AM. And as the great I AM, I will accomplish what I set to accomplish.”

In the book of Job, after losing it all, despite his faithfulness, and having friends fail in their attempts to comfort him, he cries out to God. God answers with a list of questions of about who Job thinks he is compared to the almighty God. Job answers,

“I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.” Job 42:2-3

People will fade away (the yearly Oscar tribute to past “famous” entertainers reminds of this fact). To pursue the fame of man is to leave behind the glory of God.

When Quentin Tarantino accepted his award for best original screenplay (aka writing a movie from scratch), he apparently only had one name in his movie credits…his own. He bragged, “I actually think that like…. if people are knowing my movies 30 or 50 years from now it’s gonna be because of the characters that I created, and I really only got one chance to get it right. I have to cast the right people to make those characters come alive and hope they live a long time… and boy, this time did I do it.”

At the end of my life when the credits roll, I desire one name to be displayed: Yahweh. (Maybe some of His other names: Jehovah Jireh (my provider), El Shaddai, Elohim, Lord, Father, Adonai….but you get the idea).

Lord, keep my eyes focused on you. Following your lead. Waiting on your timing. Promoting You more than myself. Amen.

The one-sided lunch date {an update on the boys & the book}

Wouldn’t it be fun if we planned to meet for a 3-hour lunch date? We could sip iced tea, eat some warm baked potato soup and share what God’s been doing in our lives.

Okay…maybe we will have to settle for a one-sided date. A monologue of sorts…me blabbing on and on about myself (and my boys).

Maybe you can email me or comment below your latest happenings so I don’t feel so guilty for the self-indulgence today. Deal?

The Boys: 

Quade is blowing us away with how much he can learn in a very short period of time. The other day I was trying to help him with a four digit subtraction problem (note: he couldn’t even do simple addition 5 months ago) and my head hurt with all the carrying of numbers.

He’s reading amazing literature. Books I’ve never heard of before but I’m loving. This week we’ve been listening to him read “Paddle-to-the-Sea” about a hand-crafted little wooden canoe a boy releases from Canada. You follow with the toy on its adventures until it reaches the sea (we are right in the middle of the story…so I can’t tell give away the ending).

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My favorite Quade moments are listening to him describe his latest inventions. Like a growing stuffed animal and an everlasting cookie. The future looks bright my friends.

Price, my previously challenging child, is such a precious, precious spirit. (sidenote: If you have a challenging child right now can I encourage you to just hold on. I know that may not help in the moments you want to pull your hair out…but hold on. Pour on love and one day you will reap awesome.)

We picked him up from church last Sunday and his teacher went on and on about how genuinely sweet and nurturing his heart is. How he helped a new child in their class feel included. And for Bruce and I who love to meet new people and invite them into community, the praise for loving “the new kid” resonated with our souls.

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Price is a people person. On the days its just Knox, him and I, Price will literally talk the entire time. I’m soaking him in. Over our lunch of hotdogs & Pringles he asked why I had “crying eyes”… I said, “It’s because I’m thankful to have this special time with you. Did you know with three other brothers these moments are rare? I’m so very thankful.”

Oh and this happened last Thursday (3 stitches above his eye). A word of advice: when you are riding a scooter in the house please keep a look out for the stair banister (there was already a goose egg on his forehead from when he was flying a kite and tripped over the scooter he didn’t see).

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I’m going to write more about his injury next month over at the MOB Society…stay tuned!

Watts. Oh Watts. So cuddly soft and yet so stubbornly hard. So completely three and a half. When we went to pick him up from Sunday School the teacher said, “I don’t think he knows his name. Does he go by another name?” I burst out laughing!! I mean, even Knox (the 11 month old) responds to his name.

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So, yes, sweet church volunteer, he does know his name. Unfortunately, he doesn’t really care what you have to say. Thank you for loving him well. Let’s just all pray he asks Jesus into his heart…soon. We need some Holy Spirit up in here.

40 minutes after putting him to bed he came downstairs and asked if we would buy him this pet someday.

40 minutes after putting him to bed he came downstairs and asked if we would buy him this pet someday. He liked it’s hair.

Knox is the boy I find myself stealing away to spend one-on-one time when the other boys are loud & wild. He is a bundle of sweet, smiley preciousness.

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He’s learned the “trick” of raising his arms above his head, for “soooo big”.  He’s learned it gets a big response so he does it whenever there is an audience. The other day we were listening to Pandora and “Single Ladies” came on. We came up with our own version, “All my single babies, All my single babies, put your hands up!”. 😉

Another fun new trick. uh...not really.

Another fun new trick. uh…not really.

The Book:

Back in November I woke up early and wrote. I stole away on Saturday afternoons and wrote. Instead of watching late night T.V., I wrote. Soon I had three chapters. Then I asked several friends to read them and give feedback. On the whole these friends were very kind and encouraging, but I got a sense the chapters weren’t quite right yet. But I didn’t exactly know how to fix them. So I sent them on to my agent…despite their imperfections.

While I waited for his response I got nervous.

But God “said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

I decided even if he gets on the phone and tells me my chapters stink, it would be okay. I would boast all the more gladly. Because then it would be even more amazing if a book is ever written…it would have been God’s strength in me.

But you know what? We talked. And Bill liked them! He really did. Not that I need “man’s approval”, but this man has read lots of books and helped lots and lots of authors.

You know why he liked them? Because he saw God.

Yes, I have some pretty funny and self-deprecating stories in these chapters, but they all go back to God’s work in my heart. In removing myself from the throne and acknowledging God’s rightful place. 

Bill encouraged me to keep God center in my writing. Which is exactly the way I want it to be as well. All praise to God!!

Okay I’ve blabbed on long enough…tell me at least one exciting/new/challenging thing that’s been going on with you? I’m serious. 

The only way to write a book on humility {part 3}

In case you missed them…here are part 1 & part 2 of my writing journey with God.

Ahhh, feels wonderful to have shared all my “secrets” here on the blog. To let you know that I haven’t “felt like myself”. To reveal the amazing work God has placed in my path. To be honest about how I struggled to complete His work when I made it about my efforts.

The next part of the story is so so…God.

the waiting 

Phil Vischer said in his Allume keynote that he no longer believed the cute phrase, “God can’t used a parked car.” Through the bankruptcy of Big Idea productions and season of waiting, he learned how waiting on the Lord is the Biblical approach to following God’s will. It’s not about “the impact, but the relationship with God”.

From mid-August until now, I was in a season of waiting on the Lord. Of getting back in the right relationship with Him. The summer I had forced the writing. My writing had no hope because I was hopeless and far from God-centered.

But God was still pursuing me. He gave me bits of truth: a verse on a local church sign, a national news story, the perfect Psalm, a confirmation in a sermon. When each relevant tidbit came my way I scribbled on scraps of paper or in my notebook labeled, “publication” or created a voice memo on my iPhone.

the false barriers

But I wasn’t writing chapters. In my mind I created a false “writing” rule. I believed if I didn’t have hours of uninterrupted time, then I couldn’t write.

With our school schedule and no sitter, I have at least 2, 3 or 4 boys at home at any one time. To me, writing with the boys around was not an option. By the evening my brain was fried after answering a million questions, trying to get our discipline system back under control, changing a thousand diapers/pull-ups, making/cleaning up food, and keeping my home somewhat clean.

Then one day my husband pushed me out the door on a Sunday afternoon. Sitting in Cafe Express with my random assortment of scribbles, I started a new Word document labeled, “brainstorming”. I sorted through my notes and typed them on the page. With each Scripture I typed, His message came back.

the re-inspiration

A few weeks later, right before the Allume conference, I received an email from Bill (my agent). He simply asked if I would be attending Allume and wondered if we could set up a time to meet.

I had bought my conference ticket a year ago. Long before I had been contacted by Bill. In God’s perfect timing our meeting would happen when I was on the “upswing”. A month or two prior, I would not have been ready.

In my mind Allume would be like a women’s retreat. A time to breathe and my soul to be filled. God gave me “soul” time traveling that Thursday from 9am to 5pm. Once I arrived in Harrisburg He had another agenda.

Did you know over and over God put women in my path who had just written books? I received encouraging messages like, “just get started”, “write thousands of words and then go back and edit”, “don’t allow your left brain to stifle the creativity”,  “don’t be afraid to get help” , “It takes a long time to write”.

Even Ann Voskamp, during her keynote, shared the story of getting harsh criticism from an editor. He told her, “Who do you think will read this?” and “Your words will never go very far in this world.” Boy was he wrong. Her words have been read by many (over a year on the New York Times Bestseller list, in fact) and her words have been translated into other languages.

the team-effort

Another huge influence in getting me “back in the saddle” of writing, was Tricia Goyer. She presented, for the first time, a way to be a writer and a mom…successfully. Not ignoring my children. Not feeling them to be a hindrance to writing. But including them in the process.

During family dinners, if she struggles to write a scene or character, they would all pray together. If she was asked to attend a book promotion, she asked instead of airfare for gas money & a larger hotel room so her family could go with her.

Today I was home with three of the boys. Baby knox was taking a nap, Watts was in the playroom, and Price was painting pictures while I wrote this post. Suddenly I heard Watts say, “Mommy look what I made!”. I stood up from the table and looked down the hallway to see him proudly pointing out his Lego duplo train.

His words “look what I made” made me realize, we were all creating. I pointed it out, “Wow Watts! You created something really special…a train. Price you are creating beautiful pictures. Mommy is creating a story. Just like God created the Universe we are making new things.”

The other morning I had finished writing a chapter right as the boys came downstairs for breakfast. They came straight to my leather chair for early morning kisses and hugs. I said, “Guess what guys? Mommy just wrote the first chapter of a book! Let’s pray and thank God for helping me write the words.” They joined me in celebrating a milestone in this book writing. I want them to see God’s hand in this process.

I also really want y’all to be a part of this writing process. You are my “chicas”! Just like when I greet a girlfriend on the phone, “hey chica!” I want you to know I value your thoughts and experience. Let’s do this!!!

Here is my inspiration “pep talk post-it” verse stuck to my computer: 

“Those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” 1 Peter 4:19

The only way to write a book on humility {part 2}

If you haven’t read part 1–> click here

When asked to make 2012 new year’s resolutions I couldn’t. I dreaded the year ahead of me. All I could see were sleepless nights, incessantly feeding a baby, and loss of freedom. While I knew “baby’s first years” were sweet, they were also draining.

Bill’s phone call and invitation to write a book proposal gave me hope. Perhaps I did have a life outside of “babyland”. It was a helpful boost in my fallen spirit. In“part 1” of my story I ended with signing the agent contract…and having broken my foot.

The book proposal

In May 2012 (with a broken foot vacationing in San Antonio), I spoke with Bill about the next step-writing a book proposal.  For those interested, a book proposal includes: a book description, book outline, an annotated outline (with descriptions for each chapter) and three sample chapters.

When I asked about a time frame or deadline, he hesitantly mentioned to a Christian publishing convention mid-July. If I written had a decent book proposal by then he could begin to talk about the book with publishers.

Although six weeks may seem like a short amount of time to write up a book proposal, I didn’t “bat an eye”.  For one reason, I was convinced writing came super easy to me and I would have no problem writing a proposal quickly (pride?). Secondly, I had already arranged for a girl (a teacher) to help me with the boys that summer, 2 ½ days a week, from early June through July. So I would have lots of focused time to crank out a proposal.

God did some wonderful things in those six weeks of Summer:

  • Our sitter brought joy & life into our home…something we (I) desperately needed.She loved on the boys. Dealt with a hard season with transitioning Watts out of a crib. Cleaned up lots of poopy messes. Laughed lots!
  • The times I home with the boys were sweeter because of my time away.
  • I earned a lot of free bakery items at Panera. 😉
  • God humbled me to a whole new level.

The critique

Within a couple weeks of writing I turned in my first, very rough, book proposal draft to Bill.  Our follow-up phone call began with the words, “This won’t be a long conversation…”

So began my education into the publishing process. I learned writing a description for a book proposal is more like a marketing pitch than a description. I learned I have a LONG way to go in perfecting my writing skills. I learned I’m not the female James Dobson or a 50-year-old woman, so I need to stop writing like I am.

When I got off the phone I turned on my computer to edit and basically start over. Instead I left Panera crying and got a pedicure.

One mistake I made last summer was using every free moment to write. I stopped seeing friends. I stopped living life.

Once I was at Panera when two very dear friends were sitting right. next. to. me. But I was “supposed” to be writing, so I didn’t stop and enjoy lunch with them. Big mistake.  As flattering and life-giving as writing a book were to me, by neglecting my life, my spirit began to suffer even more.

The second mistake I made was writing out of MY skill and not plugging into the power of our creative God. I never prayed before writing or read His word. I just jumped right in, trying to impress Bill or be the next Ann Voskamp. My “God-centered” book on humility became all about “me” and nothing about God. Ironic.

“God opposes the proud but

gives grace to the humble.” I Peter 5:5b

The next draft critique included the suggestions: to read books on writing, to perfect my memoir writing skills by reading blogs like Big Mama & Boo Mama (two of his other clients), and to lengthen our time frame to six months.

When he pulled back the time frame I felt the weight of all I’d sacrificed to write this proposal. The sacrifice felt wasted (even though I know now it’s a creative process and nothing is ever wasted…). I had given up my life to write the book God had called me to write. Then I found out I wasn’t actually very good at writing.

Before Bill “broke up with me”, I decided I would give him an out. I told him, “If you regret signing a contract with me. If you think I don’t have what it takes to write this book, I need you to tell me now. Because if I’m not any good I’d rather know sooner rather than later”

Bill, in his awesomeness, said, “Publication is like the Olympics. The standard has been set. I didn’t set the standard. But, I am willing to coach you and help you reach that standard. If you are willing to do the work.”

I left the conversation a little defeated but thankful he still had hope in me. He was my advocate.

The editor

While reading books on how to write (listed at the end of the post), I reached out to some women in my life who I knew were involved in publication. One dear college friend (how God brought her into my life is a whole post in itself) offered to talk on the phone with me.

When I told her the part about reading Big Mama’s & Boo Mama’s blogs, she stopped me and said, “Heather, I’m editing Big Mama’s book right now. After that I’m going to be editing Boo Mama’s book”. It turns out she has worked with my agent before. She is an editor at Tyndale. AND she offered to help me with my writing. How awesome is our God?

God had given me the message. the agent. the editor. Yet from mid-August until mid-October I didn’t touch the proposal because I couldn’t “find the time” with our new school schedule and I felt ill-equipped.  In part 3 of my book writing “tale”, I’ll share how God gave me the boost to get me back on the writing saddle.

Books Bill suggested: 

 

The only way to write a book on humility {part 1}

Most writers have big plans to write books. I struggle to even call myself a writer. If you asked me about my “dreams” I would talk about women’s ministry or speaking. But God has a different plan.

God decided I should write a book.

I’m just coming to grips with His idea. This post should have been written 6 months ago. But back then I thought keeping the news secret was the humble thing to do.

Now I realize it was actually my pride keeping the news amongst a select few. I didn’t want to tell you about writing a book, because what if a book was never published. Then I would have to write a follow-up post: “Nevermind. God didn’t really want to me to write a book.”

But you know what? At Allume I was smacked over the head with truth: the calling to write a book has nothing to do with me. Yes, I have to physically type out the words. But it is 100% God’s message. He has orchestrated details in ways I never imagined (just wait…you will see what I mean). It’s my job to follow where He is working. Stop sitting around. I’m failing by not following. 

So here’s the story of how God decided I should write a book.

The Message…

In the Spring of 2011, while sharing my humbling journey of motherhood to my local MOPS group, God gave me the “God-centered” message of this blog. For the past year or so I’ve chronicled that journey here. Little did I know when I started “God-centered mom” how much further I would be humbled. This message of “replacing me with He” was never mine. It has always been God’s repeated voice in my head to share with others.

The agent…

This past April (2012), we unloaded all the boys from the car after a Sunday night Yancy Nancy concert at church. Given the “later than normal” bedtime, there were tears and gnashing of teeth, from both me & the kids. To escape from the crazy, I pulled out my iPhone to check my email (it’s a sickness I’m working on).

Typically opening my inbox on a Sunday night I’d find maybe an email from Gap offering 30% today “only” (an email I get every other day). Usually there is nothing important or interesting waiting for me, despite my frequent, obsessive checking.

But that night I found an email from an unknown address. I opened it to see these words:

Heather, I am Ann Voskamp’s literary agent, along with others of course, but I see you list her book as a favorite so I thought I would name drop. 🙂 Have you ever thought about book publishing? If so would you like to talk about how it all works? Grace and peace, Bill

Wouldn’t you know my first thought was skepticism? It must be spam. Then, instead of googling: “Who is Ann Voskamp’s literary agent?”.  I sent Ann a direct message on Twitter. Seriously. In my shocked state I simply said, “I know your life is full. Just got an email from a Bill Jensen. Is he your agent? Any information you have I would greatly appreciate.”

Within 20 minutes I received a personal email from Ann. She shared how Bill was in fact her agent, how he was amazing to work with, how he lives gospel, and how he views it as his ministry to help Christians publish the message God has given them. My favorite line (which in only Ann could write): “I am smiling, beautiful friend…God goes before you.”

Then I just sat in silence. Instead of joy, gratitude, and honor, I felt a mixture of shock, disbelief, and fear. I began to project myself as a book author. A pit in my stomach began to form because I had a two-month old baby. Everyone knows moms of newborns don’t write books.

The next day I shared the news with a close friend. Asked for her thoughts on what I should do. She brought be back down to earth. She reminded me how Bill wasn’t asking me to write a book, he just asked if I had questions about publishing. She gave me the wise advice to do “the next right thing.”

The next right thing was to schedule a time to talk with Bill. In classic, new-mom-mush-brain, I arranged our first phone call during the baby’s 2 month doctor’s appointment. But Bill was gracious and we scheduled for another time. While the boys were at school and the baby slept, he and I exchanged our stories and became acquainted.

He told me he loved how God-centered my writing was. He also said he never would have contacted me if he knew I had a newborn, because that is, “cruel and unusual punishment”. Reflecting back, I trust God was present even in this. It wasn’t me who impressed Bill, it was God. Like Ann said, “God goes before me…”

After our conversation the next right thing was to speak again. In that conversation Bill extended me a contract. And I signed it. But again in my publication ignorance I just filled in my name online and emailed it back to him. (forehead slap). Again Bill was gracious. (I took this picture with the hard copy I finally mailed in…unsure if anyone else would ever see it).

Just as he promised, Bill sent me sample book proposals. The next right thing was to study the proposals and begin to write my own.  However, the week after signing the contract to work with an agent towards a book on humility in mothering…I broke my foot. That event launched me into the most humbling season of my life.

“He has shown you, O man, what is good & what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

To be continued

“the only way to write a book on humility {part 2}–click here