Identity {Real Talk: When Arting is Hard}

Y’all, reading yesterday’s post from way-back-when made me want to look further into my blogging archives. Today’s post I wrote on December 3rd, 2014 after I book signing where I had a very small turn out. To this day it’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever written.
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Yesterday I sat down with my computer determined to write.
Writing has not come easily recently. It’s more like I have to fight the words to get them on paper. Even blogging hasn’t been as natural as it used to be. Right now I have a strong urge to go and take a walk then come back and finish this post. Or maybe I should start my load of laundry. Or read some more of that book. Or clean my office. Or go work in the kitchen. Excuses are easy to come by and the more I don’t feel like doing something, the more easily justified my excuses seem to be.
It’s not the writing itself that has me tripping, it’s more what comes after the writing. Or what doesn’t come after the writing, to be more specific.
I know it probably sounds silly, but I sort of have this happy expectation that when someone publishes a book, they sell copies of it. Or that when someone hosts a giveaway, they’ll get lots of entries for it. Or that when someone pours their life into a project for four years that people will actually show interest in it.
I don’t know why. I guess I’m a natural born optimist.
Then reality crashes down.
I publish a book. I sell a few copies, mostly to family and friends.
I host giveaways worth a couple hundred dollars and some of them only had three people enter them.
I work and work and work on a project and then hardly anyone seems to care.
It’s a good reminder that my life is little. Minuscule. A tiny drop that in the grand coronation of life doesn’t make much of a difference.
A family friend visited last year and she told me she wanted to write a book one day and asked for advice on how to get started. I happily gave her some advice and a lot of encouragement. It’s hard, but you can do it! It’s hard, but just keep going, it will be worth it in the end!
 
This year she came back and brought the subject up again. I pasted a smile on my face as I nodded, feeling like a hypocrite. It’s hard, was all I said, no advice attached. What I wanted to say was It’s not worth it. Run the other way. Forget it. You’ll spill your heart onto paper and no one will take any notice.
 
I’ve discovered a very important truth: Being an author is not easy. It’s not all rainbows and glitter and strawberry cheesecake.
It’s not the hard work that gets to me. It’s not the edits. It’s not the hours spent alone each day perfecting my craft. It’s nothing to do with the actual writing.
It’s the balance between needing to have something to look forward to and knowing how to handle disappointments.
Being a writer means you have to be self-motivated. I don’t have anyone standing behind my shoulder cheering me on as I eke out another difficult scene. I don’t have anyone tell me Just one more thousand words and you’ll be done. I set my own limits. I give myself rewards. I’m the one pushing myself to reach the next level.
To motivate myself, I look into the distance, imagining what it will be like to have a completed book. To sign a copy for a random stranger. To have kids love it. To be a real, live, breathing author on a book tour.
Then my daydreams don’t pan out. My expectations aren’t met. My grand plans seem like a dud.
And I’m back to the basics. Back to trying to figure out how I’m going to make this thing work. Back to the reality that I’m a struggling-along-in-obscurity-hard-working-author who’s pretty much clueless.
In October I went and stayed with my oldest sister for a week to help her out with her six kids because she wasn’t feeling well. One of the days when I was there she prayed something like Please bless my sister for spending a week doing the most unglamorous job possible. My eyes popped open. My sister is a very thankful person and all I could think of was that my sister had thanked me more in one week for helping her than I’d been thanked in my entire writing career for being a writer.
Helping out with dishes, housework, and laundry had seemed so much more rewarding than being an author because I got to see the fruits of my labor right away. I knew that what I was doing was being appreciated. That I was making a difference in someone’s life. I was making their world better at that moment.
Being an author is more about faith. Faith that someday you’ll reach a point where you’re making a difference. Where the hours, the years, you’ve slaved over a manuscript will actually end up bearing fruit. That one day your writing will touch someone’s life and make it better.
But when you reach a point where you think you should begin to see the reality of the daydreams that helped keep you going and instead all you see is the road continuing to stretch in front of you with no end in sight, then what do you do?

You stumble. You fall. And you want to stay down. Getting up seems like too much work. Too hard. Not worth the pain it will cause.

I recently asked an artist friend how he did it. How could he continue going year after year? I can’t keep going without giving myself something to look forward to, yet if everything I look forward to falls flat, then how am I going to be able to continue motivating myself?

By finding your worth, your safe place, in God. That’s what my friend told me. Yes, it’s ok to look forward to something, to dream about it, to imagine it, but ultimately my encouragement needs to come from God.

At some time or another, everything is going to fail me. My daydreams will fall through. I’ll make mistakes. People will let me down. Even when I’m a bestselling author my life will have twists and curves I wasn’t expecting.

Safe places aren’t really that safe after all,

Unless they’re in Jesus.

When we take our eyes off the ultimate goal, off the real prize, that’s when discouragement wash over us like a tsunami wave.

My goal in life isn’t to be the most acclaimed author. My goal in life isn’t to have hordes of people stampeding into bookstores, rushing to get a new copy of my latest book. My goal in life isn’t to be a larger-than-life author who can do no wrong.

My goal in life is to be the person who God created me to be. To give God glory in the good, the bad, and the oh-my-goodness-is-this-really-happening moments. My goal in life is to share God’s love and truth with the world. My goal in life is to become more like Him and to help others become more like Him, too.

Writing is a means to that end. Writing is the gift God has given to me to help share Him with others. Writing is how I can multiply my life and make it far more effective than I could ever be on my own.

Writing is my chance to extend my influence beyond the little flame of life I’m living that will all-too-soon be snuffed out by the reality of time.

Writing is a gift, not an identity.

Being a writer is part of who I am, but being a writer doesn’t need to define me.

Being God’s child, that IS who I am.

That IS what defines me.

On my own? I create nothing that’s worth lasting throughout all eternity.

In Him? I’m priceless. I’m remarkable. I’m a ransomed princess.

How in the world could I even dare define myself by the meager worth of the world’s acknowledgment of my literary achievements when I’ve been bought by the blood of the Creator of the universe?

Having a spectacular turn-out for a book signing would be nice, but it doesn’t compare to the realization that the King of Kings has endowed me with the gift of being able to spin words into sentences, paragraphs, stories.

Somehow I end up confusing priorities. I look at people and seek their validation. I try and morph my writing style into what I think they want so they’ll praise me. I’ll assume an act of happy success, even when I’m screaming inside that I can’t keep going. I hide my true feelings, seeking the approval of numbed strangers.

I forget that I’ve been given my words by the Creator of Languages.

The words I use to express my thoughts and feelings are a gift, yet I try to hide them. I corner them, beating out the truth from their expressive descriptions, then throw them together in some semblance of order where they reflect thoughts, but not my own. Emotions, but not the true ones.

I hide behind my ability to make sense and then justify it, telling myself that people don’t really care.

And maybe they don’t care. But I do.

So many people out there are hurting and alone. Alone. Not because other people can’t understand what they’re going through, but because each of us hides behind a facade of having it all together and so we’re afraid to be honest and let the crack of our imperfection show through.

We each struggle to find our identity in what we do, in who we’re seen as. We forget that our identity has nothing to do with us. It’s all about Him.

Book sales, friends, achievements and skills don’t define who I am. Those are gifts. Not Identity.

My identity,

my safe place,

is found

solely

in God.

The Reset Button {How Introverting Work}

I called it my Reset Button long before I actually knew how it worked.

It was simple really but seemed so convoluted and illogical that I wasn’t sure how to explain it. I would get into a good rhythm with going to bed on time, sleep well, and then work hard all day long. It felt glorious, but all too soon I’d feel abnormally tired and not be able to function like I should. It befuddled me.

Finally, after a week or so of this happening, I’d throw bedtimes out the window and indulge in a late night reading session. The thing that confused me most is that sometimes the book I was reading wasn’t even all that exciting – or maybe it was a re-read. So, it wasn’t the stellar story itself keeping me up, but I’d feel compelled to keep turning the pages.

Then the next day instead of feeling extra tired like I’d expect, I felt fantastic and was ready to tackle another day. Say what?

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It happened fairly often and I began to greatly look forward to the stillness of a sleeping house and dim lights where it seemed like my book and I were the only thing in existence.

Years passed and I simply referred to it as my reset button and moved on with life. Then one day a few months ago I was exhausted – like I could barely keep my eyes open exhausted. I settled in for the night, but then instead of going to sleep like would be the “smart” thing to do, I pulled out a book.

Then I lay there confused. Why? Why was I reading a book on a night like this? My sister had just gotten married and I didn’t really care about the book I held in my hands. I didn’t really care about anything at that moment, I was just bone-tired. But instead of sleeping I was going to read. And read I did, glancing at my phone every once in a while to watch the hours slide by.

Then it hit me.

My reset button worked when I was more people-tired than I was physically tired. 

I stayed up late at night reading because sleeping didn’t rejuvenate the introverted-need-to-be-alone side of my personality. And sometimes, no matter how worn out I was physically, my people-fatigue trumped all else and, for me, there’s nothing like being the only one awake for miles around and delighting in the complete stillness of the world around me, to find restoration.

Being an introvert is a gift. Being an extrovert is a gift. Being a human is a gift.

Recently I’ve been working on learning about how to manage the various aspects of my personality that make me, me. I’m learning how to use my introvertedness as a tool to help me become a better person.

And do you know what? Having a reset button helps a huge amount. 😉

November 2018 in Review

What I Focused on in November:
1. Family time – visiting grandparents in Florida, Thanksgiving, and staying with my “adopted” mom, talking late at night, and just hanging out
2. Getting back into the rhythm of blogging, taking Instagram pictures, and working on writing, etc…
3. Youth Camp – I attended as staff, plus did a fair amount of computer work for it beforehand

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Reading Update:
Fiction – 4
Nonfiction – 5
Audiobooks – 2 (?)

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Traveling:
12 Nights. New places? None.

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Goals:
1. Walk 20 Miles (bonus 30 miles) – YES & YES
2. Track all money spent – YES
3. Thanksgiving with family – YES
4. Stay with skunk mama – YES
5. Review 4 books – YES
6. Read 3 non-fiction books – YES
7. Cook at Youth Retreat – YES
8. Blog 4 days a week – YES
9. Beta Read twice a week – NOPE
10. Edit 3 times a week except for last week – NOPE

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What I’ve Been Learning:

November is always one of my favorite months, and this year was no exception. Looking back I see it as the month where I began to find my new normal. After the craziness of the first ten months of the year, I started settling back into life and discovering the joys of this season of my world.

A lot of what I learned during the month wasn’t anything I consciously decided to work on learning, it was mostly little things that I took note of in my life and realized I needed to change, work on, add, or eliminate from my everyday existence.

I also got back into the rhythm of reading nonfiction which was a lot more fun than I had realized it would be. Bless Your Husband and Unexpected Blessings were both great reads that covered a lot of information that I’d already heard, but they pulled it together nicely. Winning the Battle for Your Mind, Will, and Emotions was very beneficial to me and continues to be. It reminded me of how important our thought lives are, and how much control we really do have over our lives. (Or at least control with how we handle what goes on in our lives.) Unimaginable and Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts were my two favorite reads of the month and opened my mind to a new set of thoughts which then in turned help change little day-to-day things in my life.

In addition to reading books, going to Camp proved to be a great learning experience for me. For instance, faceplanting in ice cream while hiding in a pantry actually works wonders. Highly recommend. I also realized (once again) how much I love people. Like, a whole, whole lot. But I also not only crave but actually need alone time. Having a way of escape (aka an apron) is something of a necessity to me.

Learning about myself and reading books that deal with human feelings, thoughts, and actions as a whole is something that has helped me a lot in life. Being able to gauge what’s (probably) going on in certain situations – especially when I’m not in my comfort zone – is really important to me.

My comfort zone is small, so I have to bust out of it a lot, and I do. Also, although it’s slightly terrifying, being outside of one’s comfort zone kinda provides a rush and can be very beneficial.

God is totally fantastic and amazing. I knew that, of course, but November reinforced it. I was praying about several specific things, and those prayers were answered beyond what I had imagined. Not totally what I was imaginaing, but better than I could have wanted because guess what? God knows and sees everything. I’m still in awe that the God who knows everything from beginning to end pays special attention to my life. So cool, right? I’m also rather convinced He has a sense of humor.

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Other:

Y’all. I love my family. And by “family” I mean both those who are related by blood and those who have become family to me and will push me into a pantry and tell me to calm down when I’m completely freaking out in public.

November was a hugely wonderful month for me. It was cozy. Gray. Filled with blankets, car rides, airplane rides, kitchens, and swinging late into the night. November was filled with people, like, huge amounts of people. And so it was good but exhausting. And rather memorable.

I started out the month in Florida, bopped around in Ohio, then ended the month in Tennessee. Sometimes my life amazes me.

Camp was fantastic and so far outside my comfort zone that I followed my few comforting people around like a little puppy dog, and found a few more people who I felt free to freak out in front of, then commenced to freaking out quite thoroughly. It was probably enlightening to anyone who happened to be in the vicinity.

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What was your favorite part of November?

 

That Comfort Zone Busting Move {AKA, Youth Camp}

I’m not one of those kids who grew up going to camp. In fact, I never went to one. I didn’t really feel like I was missing out and I was perfectly fine with my track record for a long time. Then my siblings began going to week-long Bible Schools and Youth Camps – a place to learn, fellowship, and make memories. Most of the time the age range for these types of things goes from ages 15 or 16 to mid-twenties.

When my siblings would get home from these events I would enjoy listening to them talk about their experiences, but once again, I didn’t really have a desire to attend one myself. (This was because of a multitude of reasons, including health, personality, and a bad experience I had at the one youth-themed event I did go to when I was thirteen.)

Then my next-younger sister went to a youth camp and after hearing her stories I began praying about going to one myself. Fast-forward eight months and my youngest sister married the brother-in-law to one of the guys who helps lead the Youth Camp I’d been praying about. By this time I was really wanting to go to one – but I didn’t want to attend as a student.

It took a while for me to work up my courage to ask, but I finally offered my services as a cook. And thus set into motion a week that totally threw me out of my comfort zone, was utterly amazing, and very much not what I was expecting.

Although I didn’t attend many of the teaching sessions because I was staff and therefore working in the kitchen, I still learned a ton – both from listening to others talk about the sessions, and from forcing myself outside of my comfort zone. I also realized that my comfort zone while away from home consists mainly of my siblings and so I might have trailed after them like a puppy every time they were around. (This is the part where we pretend like they’re the older siblings and I’m the youngest instead of the other way around.)

When I sat down to write this post this morning I looked through my phone for pictures and then remembered that I basically didn’t have my phone out at all during the week, so pictures are pretty nonexistent. I did video the students singing though, so if you want a 30-second look at that part of camp, then yay. 🙂

Youth Camp was wonderful, stretching, and a lot more fun than I had thought it would be. It was also rather exhausting and I’m still struggling to catch up with life now that I’m home. But guess what? I’m already looking forward to next year, and that’s a big win. 😉

Have you ever gone to a camp?

Cranberry Thanksgiving

Happy Almost-Thanksgiving, folks!

I’ve started a new thing where I’m working at having my vlogs be right at two minutes, I’ll explain my reasoning later, but I’m excited about it! 🙂

The Adventure of Life

Sometimes life needs some added adventure.

But, I think most of the time life is full of adventure and we just need a little help finding it. So, today I decided to find adventure.

When I was a child adventure was lurking behind every corner, up every staircase, and inside every box. As I got older I discovered that adventure, and imagination, faded with age. That was one of those discoveries I could have done without, so like any self-respecting imaginative and creative person, I decided I wouldn’t let go of my sense of adventure.

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And do you know what? Nowadays adventures await beyond the next bend in the road, through the pages of a new book, on the wings of a howling gale, in the deep darkness of a still night, and on the rays of every sunrise.

Adventure, I’ve discovered, is much more a mindset than an activity. Yes, doing laundry, or dishes, or sweeping, or cooking, day after day can be boring, but throw in a dash of imagination, a pinch of excitement, a thimble full of something extra, and you’ve got an entirely new experience that will whisk you away and brighten your day.

Today it doesn’t matter if I’m climbing through old windows and exploring falling-down houses, cooking, or hiking the Andes Mountains…It’s going to be an adventure and I’m going to fully embrace the moment.