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“That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 3:17-19

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"What if..."

If you're reading this blog and you're not a writer, you may scratch your head and think I've gone over the edge. Rest assured, this is the way writers think. My husband repeatedly reminds me that my characters "aren't real", but he doesn't realize they are to me. When writers are putting a story together, they step into the skin of their character and try to think like the character thinks.

I love brainstorming with my critique partners. They’ll toss out a story idea and I’ll grab it and run with it and play the “what if” game. It’s such fun to take someone else’s idea and throw in some twists and turns, and think of ways to complicate the lives of the characters. For some reason, however, I’ve always had a hard time brainstorming my own ideas. So it was with a bit of consternation that I had a “conversation” yesterday with one of my own characters. I’m wrapping up the final chapter of this book, and suddenly my main character, Everett, decides to offer some “what if” suggestions.

Everett: Hey, what if you gave me a reason to leave Willow Creek?

Me: That’s not included in my chapter x chapter synopsis.

Everett: But what if there was a distinct possibility that I might leave? How do you think that would affect Tillie?

Me: I don’t know, Everett. Now get back on the page where you belong.

Everett: I know I tried to make Tillie see how she’d be better off with Ben, but it’s a lot tougher than I thought it would be, watching the two of them together.

Me: Well, you knew it wasn’t going to be easy. This was your decision.

Everett: But if I had a reason to leave, I wouldn’t have to watch them fall in love with each other.

Me: That’s not included in my chapter x chapter synopsis.

Everett: Well, how would you feel if someone you loved fell in love with someone else? Wouldn’t that make you want to run away?

Me: That’s not included in my chapter x chapter synopsis.

Everett: You know I never planned to stay in Willow Creek anyway. What if there was a way I could return to Baltimore?

Me: Everett!! You’re not listening. The chapter x chapter synopsis I sent to my editor does not include you leaving Willow Creek.

Everett: But what are you going to do about this letter?

Me: What letter?

Everett: The letter I received from Grandfather’s attorney.

Me: Huh?

Everett: This job offer in Baltimore is pretty tempting.

Me: What are you talking about? What job offer?

Everett: Great opportunity, great pay, and I could sit behind closed doors and nobody would ever stare at me again.

Me: Everett, I don’t like the sound of this. Do you realize what you’re suggesting? I’m almost finished with this story. In order to include this letter you’re talking about, I’d have to go back to earlier chapters and weave in this new thread.

Everett: So why are you just sitting there? Get busy.

Me: Let me see that letter.

Everett: You have to write the letter.

Me: You know if you were going to make this suggestion, it might have been nice if you’d done so earlier.

Everett: Hey, what do you want from me? (He tosses out his uplifted palms and shrugs) I could take the stage to Dubuque and board the eastbound train there.

Me: Now just wait a minute. I’m the author. You’re supposed to do what I say.

Everett: (tucking the letter into his vest pocket) I’m off to talk to my father about this letter. I need his advice.

Me: And there he goes, and I must hasten after him, for I am the author….I think.

Thanks for letting me share my character, and my heart.

Friday, September 10, 2010

ANTICIPATION... it's making me wait

Anticipation…can be sweet, can be nerve-wracking. In less than a week, I’ll be traveling to the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) national conference. The excitement has been building for weeks. The prospect of seeing friends we only get to see once a year tickles my innards until I’m virtually dancing with the thought of fellowshipping with hundreds of writers. >>Oh, what a delicious thought! Hundreds of writers all together in one place. People who understand that my characters really do exist, because they talk to their characters too. People who think it’s perfectly natural to cry when my character hurts or experience shortness of breath when my character is in danger. They get it!! YES!!

The ACFW online loop has been posting daily prayers for every aspect of the conference to go smoothly and be God-honoring. We’ve prayed for everything from the sound system and technicians, to the faculty members as they teach, to the staff at the hotel, and the finalists in the contests. There are two more people that I’ve added to my ACFW prayer list: the winners of the first-time contracts.

Every year, one of my favorite parts of the conference is the awarding of a first-time book contract to an unsuspecting author—a writer who has struggled to learn the craft, strived to improve, felt the sting of rejections and has persevered. I love watching the reaction as the person’s name is called. Last year, as the two editors made their way to the platform, I turned to my critique partners with whom I was sitting and said, “I just love it when they do this!”

The next thing I know, the title of my book is being announced and my critique partners are all screaming at me. The flurry of excitement and uncontained joy that followed will always remain one of the high points of my life. My husband said he really hated that he missed it, because it’s the only time in my life I’ve ever been speechless.

So this year, as I’m preparing to go the conference again, I’m wondering for whom God has prepared that contract. Who will feel that jolt of exhilaration and experience the thrill of seeing their persistence and perseverance come to fruition? I’m praying for those two people. They are about to set out on an extraordinary journey, filled with peaks and valleys, fears and doubts, and over the top happiness. When the title of their book is announced and they numbly find their way to the stage in shock, I pray they will relish every heart-pounding moment, every smile, every congratulatory hug, every tear, and every step they take two feet off the ground for the remainder of the conference. I’m praying they will always cherish the moment they receive the contract in the mail and affix their signature to it.

Anticipation…it’s delicious.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

God's Art Gallery

“I will bless the Lord at all times…” Psalm 34:1
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name.” Psalm 103:1

Mothers do it every day. Her little one comes running up to her, waving a piece of paper on which he or she has drawn a masterpiece. Who cares if the art critics in the most elite galleries consider it childish drivel? To mom, it’s the most brilliant work of art that has ever been produced. What does she do? First, she hugs her child and exclaims over his skill, tells him what an extraordinary job he did, and declares she has never seen anything so beautiful. She then posts this magnificent example of artistic talent on the refrigerator door for the entire family to admire and enjoy.

This is the concept that comes to mind every time I read the verses that exhort God’s children to BLESS the Lord. Psalm 103 is only twenty-two verses, but it instructs us seven times to bless the Lord.

I have to admit, I’ve scratched my head over this more than once. When God blesses us, He does so with omnipotent power and glory. The entire world came into existence with His simple spoken word. He has moved mountains, held back the waters for the Israelites, fed them daily in the desert, stopped the sun in its tracks, and abundantly met every need. Through His immeasurable love, He provided a way for our salvation by sacrificing His only Son. He paid our way to heaven even though we were unworthy. He surrounds us and fills us with His mighty love, protection, comfort, provision, and care.

How are we to reciprocate and bless God? When we bless God, we do so through our love, worship, and praise. But in our frail humanness, our best efforts are paltry. We want to express our gratitude from a heart filled with love and praise for Him, but even when we produce our best masterpiece of praise, I can’t help but wonder how far short it falls in the light of all God has done for us.

It’s like the child who gives mommy the best picture he ever drew. The child doesn’t keep it for himself. He gives it to the person who loves him and cares for him—the one who would do anything for him, the one who would give her life for him. The mother’s heart is blessed to overflowing over something the world considers of no value. The picture shown here was drawn by my son twenty-seven years ago. I wouldn’t take a million dollars for it. It’s priceless, because he gave it to me.

God the Father reacts in much the same way. He loves our efforts to bless Him, and He smiles when we express our love for Him. When His children bring Him their best, His heart celebrates. Instead of keeping His love to ourselves, we proclaim it back to Him in worship.

I wonder if He posts it on the refrigerator door.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.