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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

Saturday, October 22, 2011

WHERE DID MY COMFORT ZONE GO?

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we are comforted by God.” 2nd Corinthians 1:3-4
Earlier this year, I received some news I didn’t want to hear. The publishing house with whom I am published announced they were planning on closing down the line for which I was writing. I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. I’d proposed a three-book series in February and was notified that they wanted all three books. A contract for the first book soon arrived. With the first book of the series finished and sent, I had begun researching for the second book when I got the unwelcomed news. So I put aside my notes and tentative synopsis for book two, and focused my attention on a different project—writing a novella with a group of three other writers, and all four stories would be connected. Sounded like fun, and I dove in. However, I needed to think beyond the novella and develop another story idea for a new proposal.

With the encouragement of my writing partners and my agent, I stepped out of my comfort zone and worked on a story idea that could be developed into trade-length fiction (80,000 words) It was a scary step because I was comfortable writing the shorter length stories, but it seemed God was nudging me to try my wings.

In September, I traveled to St. Louis to attend the annual conference of the American Christian Fiction Writers, planning on pitching this longer story idea to the editor of Barbour. To my great surprise, I received an email from this same editor the day before the conference kicked off, telling me they had decided to keep the line going for which I had been writing, and she was requesting the manuscript for book two. And she needed it as soon as possible.

Book two? It wasn’t written yet. All I had was a tentative synopsis. And she wanted it when? Can you spell P-A-N-I-C? My writing partners and my agent all encouraged me to go for it. But did they truly realize what this meant? I wasn’t just stepping outside my comfort zone. I was being launched out of it. My comfort zone was a nice, tidy, little box with predictable boundaries.

* I would never put myself under a tight deadline, because I can’t write under stress.
* I don’t write fast. One chapter a week is my max.
* I never could understand how some writers could juggle more than one story at a time.
* Write an entire book in a month? Preposterous!!
* I’ve always tried to make sure my home is neat and clean, meals are ready on time, laundry is done, errands are run, and the oil in the car gets changed on schedule.

Well, God pretty much blew up my comfort zone and put me in a place where I had to zing out a chapter a day for the first week, and then a chapter every other day in order to meet this deadline. In addition, I’ve still had to balance the novella project and keep the longer story idea on the back burner so it doesn’t get cold. Can’t remember the last time my floors saw a Swiffer. Dinner? Um, leftovers again. What do you mean you’re out of clean underwear? Last but not least, I am writing an entire book in one month. Comfort zone? What comfort zone?

But here I am almost thirty days later, one chapter away from completion. How did I do that? . . . . I didn’t. God did. He knew He had to take away everything I viewed as a cushion until I had no other recourse but to fully trust Him to do what I considered impossible.

Two days ago, I got a sweet Facebook message from a dear friend. She’s working on her contracted debut novel, and she’s getting discouraged because she’s found herself in a place that frightens her. She afraid she’ll discover she can’t do what is expected of her, and she asked me for advice. What she really needed was her comfort zone, but once an author becomes contracted, the definition of the comfort zone changes. She needed someone she loved and trusted to encourage her along this crazy writing journey. Since I’ve had several encouragers along the way, I was thrilled and humbled to step into the role of encourager—and in this case, comforter.

I read something the other day that made such an impact on me, I printed it out and stuck it on the cabinet above my desk where I can see it every day. It made me realize where our real comfort zone is. It’s not the neat, predictable schedules where everything goes as planned. It’s not remaining stagnant, and it’s not hiding under a rock praying you’ll never be asked to do something you never dreamed possible. True comfort exists only when we fully trust God for every breath and heartbeat.

God does not comfort us to make us comfortable. He comforts us to make us comforters.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

2 comments:

Linda said...

I've been so far out of my comfort zone with this house stuff that I'm on another planet. So I can relate.

Jean C. Gordon said...

First, I'm glad to hear that Heart Song will continue. Second, I'm a little in your place. Love Inspired likes at least two books a year from its authors. I'm writing my second Love Inspired book on deadline for the first time. It's something I've wanted for a long time. But I, too, have always written slowly around family and my day job. It's scary to look at my calendar and know I only have until the end of the year to finish my draft if want to have enough time for a good polishing before my deadline.