So, you may or may not have noticed, but Facebook and Instagram went down for a few hours on Monday. (October 4th) I was a little taken aback at how much reaction it caused. It got me to thinking of how much we've come to rely on social media, and how unhealthy that can be. So, I thought I'd share my thoughts.
First of all, let me start by saying, I was also really annoyed with the outage. I had just posted shortly before it went out, and I could not check back on it or read my online friends' posts, no matter how many times I tried to check or refresh. Like, every five minutes for a while. Seriously.
Then I caught myself. What was I doing? I had a break from social media (which I had been thinking about taking for a while) and how was I spending it? Complaining. Hovering over my phone, iPad, and computer to see when it would be back on. Frustrated because I couldn't see how many people had liked or commented on my post.
The thought hit me at some point- "You know, you could use this time to pray, instead." Talk about conviction.
And then another question came to me. Why did I make the post in the first place? To share a few words from my heart that might encourage a few people? Or to see how many likes I could get?
Suffice it to say, I was thoroughly chastised.
But I was also surprised to see how losing Facebook and Instagram had shaken everyone and I realized how vital social media had become. Businesses rely on it. People lost their connections with one another. It even generated a bit of fear. What would happen if it crashed for good?
And it became clear just how much people "need" social media. Have you noticed?
"My kid did a good thing!" *post it on social media*
"I'm feeling sad today." *post it on social media*
"I have a new business." *post it*
"I love my new outfit!" *post it*
"I'm having family time." *post it*
"I have a prayer request." *post it*
"I'm having a party." *post it*
"I haven't heard from my friend in a while." *send a private message*
Now I'm not saying these are necessarily bad things to post about. I've done it myself. But I'm bothered by the hair-trigger response we have now to share moments of our life on our feeds, rather than with people or rather just enjoy them for ourselves and not feel the need to share. But we now base our validation on how many likes, comments, and shares we get. When our validation should come from Jesus.
I'm also turned off by how much businesspeople now have to use social media just to have a chance to succeed. Boutique owners, authors, maintenance workers, etc. all feel they won't survive without using a social media platform. And families never call each other personally about upcoming events anymore. They post the details on Facebook, and if someone in their family doesn't happen to have it, well, oops. Sorry you missed the 50th anniversary party. (No, this is not a real event I'm referring to! Just an example.)
I was thankful during the lockdown that we could still have our church services online. Worshiping and hearing God's Word did not have to stop because of a pandemic. But now I wonder how many people are still content to stay home (when they don't have to) and watch, rather than surround themselves with God's people and experience being IN a service again?
I remember as a kid talking to my friends for hours on the landline phone. We went to people's houses for dinners and barbecues to catch up. We'd send actual paper wedding/party/shower invitations or announcements. We got Christmas cards in the mail. We saw faces, heard actual voices, read handwritten words on paper.
I remember when businesses could put an ad in the paper, hang up flyers everywhere, maybe record a little jingle for the radio, and spread the word by mouth.
I remember when families could enjoy being together without stopping for a picture every five minutes to show the world what they're doing.
Now, before you throw stones at me, let me wrap this up by saying, I know social media is beneficial. I use it myself to grow my platform as an author. I use it to connect with family and friends who live apart from me. I also post pictures to share what's happening in my life. It can be a very powerful tool for spreading encouragement or a need for prayer. It can generate interest and revenue for new businesses and services. It became very appreciated over the last two years when so many people were cut off from one another. I know it has its place and it can be meant for good.
But if we've come to the place where we can no longer function without it, or we panic when it's down, or we forget how to interact with actual humans, then I think it's time to take a step back and reevaluate. Why and how are you using it? How much time in your day is spent scrolling or posting? How many times do you stop what you're doing so you can take a picture of it and share? How often do you pick your device up, rather than a book to read or a phone to call a friend? How many activities have you neglected so you could keep up with your social media accounts? How much of your mind is caught up in the online world so that it has trouble disengaging from that and connecting to the beautiful life you have in front of you? How much time do you spend on Instagram or Facebook (or any of the other many platforms) compared to the time you spend reading your Bible, praying, ministering, spending actual time with your friends and family?
I'm guilty, too. But I want to change that. Yes, I will continue to use my social media platforms (for the time being, anyway) but I refuse to be controlled by them. I want to be a good steward of the time God has given me to grow as a Christian. I don't want to be chained to a device all day long or stress because I haven't checked my feed in ten minutes. I want to be free to see the world through my eyes, not the lens of my phone camera.
And I want to stay connected with you, even if social media crashes for good. I would love for you to sign up for my newsletter so that we still have a way to communicate. And no, I did not write this blog post just to coerce you into signing up! XD But if you want to know what's the latest in my writing and personal life, that's a great way to start. I only send newsletters out once a season, but I might send an occasional email to let you know of anything new, such as new blog posts. I promise I won't crowd your inbox, but I love to connect with my readers. :)
I hope you all are well and survived the social media-crash unscathed! LOL Until next time, friends, stay connected and always...
In His Grip!
I've learned to get by with lip reading, but phone conversations have long been a source of anxiety for me. My mouth goes dry and my mind goes blank. When masks became a regular thing, I did not expect the physical stress it would cause me not to see other people’s lips. I would literally feel myself tensing when someone with a mask would try to talk to me. The words, already so hard for me to understand, would be all muffled and impossible to decipher.
People are not always considerate about it. When I have to mention on a business call that I’m hard of hearing, some make no effort to raise their voice. I'm left frustrated and confused and ready to end the call before I even get what I need. Others—even friends and family—show their impatience at having to repeat something once, twice, or even three times. Sometimes I catch them rolling their eyes or sighing. It hurts, I won’t deny it. I feel like a bother. And it’s frustrating to always feel like I’m missing something.
I don't say all that to complain or make you pity me. I don't need that! I've learned to adapt and I'm getting better at using the phone. Thanks to a family friend, I was able to get hearing aids after years of going without. The new ones I've just received have made a real difference. I embrace my differences and use my disability to show compassion to others who may struggle with an imperfection or flaw. I try to take what I've learned and pass it on to others.
But I also want to speak to you about kindness and consideration. If you think about it, the majority of us have something we struggle with. Hearing loss. Arthritis. Learning disorders. Anxiety. Vision impairment. Mental disorders. Heart problems. The list goes on and on. Our bodies are imperfect, prone to failing us. No one has a perfectly working body. That will only come when we finally step into Heaven. Which means some people will have special needs. Some might need a little extra help or patience or consideration. But we all feel just as deeply as the healthy ones.
Words can hurt, but so can facial expressions and actions. So, next time you encounter someone who may not be able to do something as well as you, slow down just a bit and consider their hearts and feelings.
I have learned that just because someone has a disability--even one much more profound than mine--it doesn't have to limit them. My heroes are Sue Thomas and Deanne Bray. Both ladies are completely deaf but lead full, active lives. Sue is a motivational speaker and continues to inspire others as she faces multiple sclerosis and now cancer. (Please keep this dear woman in your prayers.) Deanne is a busy actress and starred in one of my all-time favorite TV shows, Sue Thomas, F.B.Eye. She is bilingual in ASL and English. Both ladies are able to communicate with both the deaf and the hearing with sign language, lip reading, and speaking. In my mind, if they can accomplish so much, who am I to complain about my partial hearing loss?
God has a purpose for each of us, even if we are flawed. Even if He chooses to give us a weakness to live with. It could be that we are put in this place to be an encouragement for someone else, like Sue and Deanna were for me. It could be that He has something He wants us to learn or accomplish. We may never know His intention. But if we trust in Him and live in expectancy, He will do beautiful and amazing things through us--no matter our disability or differences or difficulties.
So, be kind and considerate to others. Show God's love through your life and actions. They might be really struggling and feeling discouraged. You never know what God wants to do in someone else's life. And you never know when you might be the one hoping for someone to show kindness and respect and consideration.
In His Grip!
Thursday was a weird day. I ended up feeling under the weather. I think I picked up a little bug somewhere along the way. Fortunately, I felt better throughout the day, but I also didn't sleep well, so that didn't help. Between that, my recently-acquired road anxiety and my first pitch appointment coming up that very day, I was a bit of a mess.
The pitch was...not great. (lol) I did ramble a bit, so that was my fault. The agent decided to pass on my story, which was okay, and she was very nice about it. But a comment she made about it stuck with me and gnawed at me all day until by that evening, it was a very sore wound.
Thursday night I sat back and watched some well-known, well-loved, well-received authors interact with each other and their readers. And I suddenly felt very alone, unseen, and unworthy. The agent's words came back to me about my work and it hit me that I was never going to be able to do what they were doing. I was never going to be able to write stories with the depth and emotion of theirs. I was never going to be able to speak to audiences with such engaging and thought-out answers. What was I even doing there?? (For the record, the agent never said anything rude or mean! She just stated an opinion about how I wrote something.)
That night, before going to sleep, I was feeling very emotional and strained. Like I always do, I had to pour out my thoughts onto my journal before I let it all consume me. Once I did that, I determined that this was not going to dictate my whole weekend. Friday would be a better day.
And it was.
Thursday afternoon I got to hear the keynote from Frank Peretti himself! (NYT bestselling author of This Present Darkness) His speech on short-term and long-term mindset and goals was so good, and he was SO entertaining! I could've listened to him for hours.
Friday was the first full day of workshops and they were amazing. Allen Arnold started his three-part session about creating WITH God, not just for Him. He also spoke in depth about how we are sons and daughters of God, created in His image, thus made to be creative. Very inspiring and motivating. Nadine Brandes had a great class on The story of Behind the Story-all about how life makes us better storytellers and there's no greater story than the one we're living now.
But it was Nadine's first class that really made an impact for me. "How to Pitch Your Book Without Sounding Like A Robot" wasn't technically supposed to be an inspiring class. But she spoke at length about confidence and said "If your confidence is in your writing, you're going to be a wreck." (DING DING DING! That was the bell going off in my head.) My confidence MUST come from Christ.
How did she know, months in advance when the schedule was put in place, that I would need to hear that message in that very moment??
She also had some practical help for pitching a story that I was able to use a couple hours later, which I went to a couple hours later. And it went much better. (Sigh...)
Also, while I was waiting for my pitch appointment, (the agent was running behind) a kind, friendly lady sat with me and chatted casually for a few minutes. It was a much-needed, much-appreciated distraction, and as soon as I track down her last name, I will let her know!
The Awards ceremony was that night, and despite all the stress my costume had caused me, it worked out so well and it was a lot of fun checking out everyone else's costumes and being catered a delicious meal. Even though Emily didn't win her category (Flash Fiction) I loved hearing her name called as a finalist. And she got a pin!
Saturday was a good day overall. No appointments to worry about. Just lots of classes and another powerful speech from Frank Peretti. (We are the church. And the church is going to be sifted.) The Book Festival was amazing. Lots of authors there signing books and doing pictures. I got to talk to several and found myself FINALLY coming out of my shell. Why it takes me three days to feel comfortable, I don't know. Just me and my introverted, awkward self, I guess. But I had fun. I even got a chance to meet and speak with my editor. Earlier that week, I was ready to contact her and tell her to forget my book, just send it back! But by then I was feeling a bit better, and she even said she was enjoying it so far!
We came home Sunday and it was very bittersweet. I wish I'd had more time to connect with people. I wish I'd shared more of myself. But I loved everything I learned, even in those low times, because it all worked together to help me grow. I will face discouragement, but if I keep my confidence in Christ, because I am His daughter before I'm a writer, I will get through those low times.
So Realm Makers was everything I'd hoped it could be and more. I hate that it's over and that will be at least a year before it happens again. But in the meantime, I will cherish the memories I made, apply all that I learn, connect with new friends, and remember Whose I am.
And yes, I will keep on writing.
In His Grip!
Hey, friends! How's it going for you this summer? Hope you're taking time out to rest and refresh, and maybe take on a fun project or two. I've been busy, busy working on curriculum and looking forward to my first in-person Realm Makers conference next week., where I'll get the opportunity to share about my latest writing.
I don't usually share much about my stories to anyone outside of my immediate family. It just feels funny, like I'm exposing a secret part of me. Some of that stems from fear, I'm sure. Fear that people will think it sounds dumb or childish. And part of it is the perfectionist in me. I don't want to share anything until it looks good enough to be shared.
But I've worked hard on this story and I'm ready to give you all a peek into the characters that are so dear to my heart. :)
Here's a quick little blurb:
He's known nothing but darkness for twelve years. Now it's time to let it consume him.
In the Gateway of the Slate Mountains, nestled between the Old Realm and the New—where Stewards carry weapons of light and Shadowmen manipulate darkness—Mason Grey seeks to fulfill his vow of vengeance using his unique ability to read and control the minds of others. In hopes of earning the title of Shadowman, he infiltrates enemy forces on special assignment from the emperor. But his plans are derailed when he finds himself laid up in the home of a chatty peasant girl named Seria Gayle, who mistakes him for the very thing he despises most—a Steward knight.
Just for fun, I always model my characters' looks after actors and actresses! It makes it so much easier to develop their personality and describe their physical attributes. (Bonus points for anyone who can identify these actors and their roles!!)
I hope you enjoyed this inside look at my latest project! I can't wait until you have the finished product in your hands! Right now it's still in content editing by the lovely Sara Ella and I'm SO looking forward to getting her feedback.
In the meantime, I'll be pitching this story to a couple agents next week (say a prayer for me!) and then sending more proposals afterwards. I'll keep you posted!
This is a very nerve-wracking time for me, and I'm not used to being so open about it. Pitching and querying opens up a slew or rejections from agents, editors, and publishers, and who wants to share that? In the past, I always just saved the letters and hid them away. But I invited you to join me in my journey, and that means sharing the lows as well as the highs. So I'm just surrendering it all in God's hands who knows best.
What projects are you working on? A growing garden? Remodeling the bathroom? Trying a new recipe? Every piece of work is something to be celebrated, so I want to hear about it! Drop a line or two in the comments.
And while I wait, I'll just sit and stare at my picture and Chibi figure. :D
In His Grip!
I don't know about you, but I want to read a story for more than just entertainment. I enjoy stories that make me think, inspire me, give me hope and encouragement. Give me a story with broken, relatable characters, deep emotions, and an intriguing setting and plot, and I'm sold.
Azriel had all of these.
I was so privileged to be able to read an advanced ereader's copy of Azriel to review. It was a pleasure to be one of the first readers and then be able to share my thoughts on the book on the Azriel release blog tour.
The back cover blurb:
Bree Faro learns early in life that she can only depend on herself. Due to her feisty nature and unusual ability with a sword, she is educated in every fighting style imaginable and excels at them all. When she’s sent to infiltrate the city of Azriel, Bree does not expect to find her place among the Watchmen of the Keep, but they welcome her as one of their own.
Little does Bree know that her new companions are in danger.
An immortal creature lies in wait for any Keeper of the Flame, the city’s water source has dried up, and they are under constant attack from the Yirtzi—former Watchmen reduced to vengeful spirits, who sold their souls for power only to realize the enemy of Yahweh does not translate to the friend of mankind. Not only that, but the Watchmen are fraying. Hostilities come to a head when a Watchman is murdered.
Only a Watchman can kill another Watchman, and all eyes shift to Bree.
Bree finds herself faced with a choice. Does she engineer the betrayal of the powerful city, or does she embrace her destiny as a true Watchman of Yahweh and find the killer before it’s too late?
I truly enjoyed this book. Knights with flaming swords. Epic battles against evil. All the fantasy vibes my geek self can get her hands on!
But this story was more than just a great fantasy. There was a lot of heart and hope within the pages. I enjoyed the beautiful Christian symbolism Lee intertwined in the story. And I found the characters to be interesting and sympathetic.
Bree was tough and feisty, and boy could she swing a sword! But she was also vulnerable, and I loved that side of her. She was hardened by life, but not obnoxious in attitude. She had trouble believing she could find a home among the Watchmen, and her heart was torn between her longing for a home she had never known and the belief that she could never belong. The loyalty among the brothers and sisters of the Watchmen--even for newcomer Bree--was refreshing and uplifting.
The were some really great fight scenes in this book. And I was a bit surprised at the direction the climax took. But, you'll have to read that for yourself. ;)
If you like clean stories of found family, suspenseful action scenes, and renewed faith, then Azriel is a must-read! I can't wait to get my physical copy in my hands! (And did I mention how breath-taking that cover is?? I mean, look at it!)
Azriel released on June 15th and is now available to order through Amazon and the L2L2 website:
Blog Tour Schedule
Don't forget to check out the rest of the Azriel Blog Tour!
Monday, June 14th, “Azriel: The Watchmen Saga Begins,” Laurin Boyle, www.laurinboyle.wordpress.com
Monday, June 14th, “Interview with Lee James, Author of Azriel,” Mary Schlegel, www.maryschlegelauthor.com
Tuesday, June 15th, “Review of Azriel by Lee James,” Pam Halter, www.pamhalter.com/fairiesfantasyfaith
Tuesday, June 15th, “Azriel Release Day: A Most Sacred Secret,” Lee James, www.leejameswrites.com
Wednesday, June 16th, “Azriel Blog Tour: A Writer Writes,” Laura A. Grace, www.lauraagrace.com
Thursday, June 17th, “Review of Azriel by Lee James,” Crystal Grant, www.crystalgrantfaithandfiction.com
Thursday, June 17th, “Azriel Release Party Tonight,” Michele Israel Harper, www.MicheleIsraelHarper.com
Friday, June 18th, “Weekend Reads: Review of Azriel by Lee James,” Laurie Lucking, www.landsuncharted.com
Friday, June 18th, “Azriel Blog Tour: Swords and Magic and Intrigue, Oh My,” K.A. Cummins, www.authorkacummins.com
About the Author
You guys, it's been SO long since I posted. Things got a bit crazy for me in the last 6 weeks and for the sake of my own mentality, blogs, posts, critiques, etc. had to be shelved for a while.
But I'm back now! Here's a few updates on what's been happening.
Of course, there are aspects I will miss. I do enjoy teaching children. And I will miss my co-workers, who were kind enough to give me some very thoughtful parting gifts.
I've had a lot of questions about what now. Currently, I am contracted to write third grade curriculum for Social Emotional Learning through Rounded Schoolhouse, a new online homeschool program. I'm super excited to be a part of this! And I love that I have the opportunity to support homeschoolers. :) As far as next year, I have a few potential prospects...
I know many would consider it very risky to quit a job I've had for so many years. Many in my family certainly had their concerns, and I appreciate every one of them. But it was time. I figured this season of life, with no family to be responsible for, was the best time to take a risk and do something for myself.
On that note, I just finished the last crazy few weeks of school....and jumped right into the crazy weeks of Summer School. Let me tell you, these kids are making me earn my summer vacation! Summer school always brings out the excitement and energy in the kids, and the weariness in their teachers. LOL
So, he's still with us, though it's anyone's guess how long we'll have. I will never allow one of my fur babies to suffer, but I am thankful he weathered this last crisis. He's able to eat his regular food now and gets around pretty good, though he's still wobbly. And he still loves his daily dog biscuits. Honestly, I think he's milking all the attention. Lol! I'm enjoying every moment I have left with him.
I recently finished my 257th draft of my work in progress (WIP), Shadowcast! Okay, maybe it wasn't THAT many drafts, but it does feel like it. XD
Shadowcast is now in the hands of Sara Ella, award-winning novelist and highly-respected in her field. This is a big step for me, working with a content editor. I'm super excited (and a little terrified, lol) to be working with Sara, for she is a beautiful human being, inside and out. I can't wait to get her feedback on my book baby. And I totally won't be sitting around for weeks waiting for her email. I mean, not at all. (How many weeks has it been again?)
In other "writerly" news, I recently had a chance to work with award-winning, best-selling author Mary Weber. Mary runs Cherry Pie Author Services and chatted with me this week on improving my platform and author brand. I'm very excited to move forward, so be watching for a few changes in my website, Instagram, and Pinterest! (But please don't expect any changes in the immediate future. Because, I just don't roll that fast. XD)
And the RealmMakers Writers Conference is coming up next month! Some of you might remember me geeking out about the online conference last year. This year I get to go in PERSON (with my brother and sister, which is even more fun)! I'm so excited about meeting the authors, agents, editors, publishers, mentors, etc. that I've been chatting with online face-to-face! (And did I mention I'm pitching my latest manuscript?? *gulps*)
What About You?
Wow, that was a lot of rambling about me, but as you can see, I've had a lot going on. (Or maybe that's just my excuse as to why I haven't been posting...)
Anyway, it's been a lot and I could feel myself over time growing weary. My brain just didn't seem to want to work and I was tired all the time. Between the end-of-the-year rush, editing my book to send to my editor, working on the online curriculum, taking care of Snickers, and everything else life expected out of me, I just had so much going on. Fortunately, the load is lightening up a bit now.
But what about you? How's life treating you? Are in in a never-ending merry-go-round of jobs and carpools and games and chores and...well, you get the idea. Or are you in a slower season? (If so, enjoy it!)
I hope that as summer kicks into high gear, you all remember to take care of yourselves. Don't feel like you have to do it all. Sometimes we have to slow down. Ask for help. Designate some tasks to others. Let some jobs/projects go. Get an extra hour of sleep. Stay home instead of going out so much. I realize you may have a lot of people counting on you, but if you try to do too much, you won't be at your best and able to do what you need to do.
I'd love to hear what's been going on with you! Drop me an update in the comments. Or a prayer request, if you have one on your heart. Let me know how you're doing! I care about you. :)
Meanwhile, be watching for new changes coming up. And don't forget to sign up for my newsletter, which currently doesn't exist...but it will! (Remember those changes I mentioned?) And you don't want to miss it.
So until next time, stay happy and healthy, dear friends, and always...
In His Grip!
This day in history was a day of grief, fear, and confusion. A day of tragedy and loss.
Jesus was dead--executed like a common criminal. After a life of service, love, and ministry, He was arrested, beaten, and crucified--all without just cause. The perfect Life that had brought light and hope back into a darkened, hopeless world had been brutally snuffed out.
His followers now hid in terror and sorrow. Their leader was gone, despite all His promises and all His miracles. Despite all the hope He brought them about the future. Despite their belief in Who He was. He was gone, His work on earth done, finished. The shock of the night before had worn off and they grappled with the crippling emotional aftermath.
All was lost.
Or was it?
Little did they know the battle Jesus was waging and winning just beyond their physical line of sight. Little did they know the victory that was just beyond the next sunrise. They were painfully unaware of the spiritual warfare happening at that very moment--and that Jesus had just won the ultimate battle against sin. They couldn't see the keys to death, hell, and the grave that He had snatched away from Satan so that He could give the keys of Heaven to His children. Little did they know the extreme joy, relief, and triumph they would experience the very next day.
Maybe this is where you are. Stuck in a day between great tragedy and great triumph. Maybe you've recently experience a devastating blow: a grim diagnosis, end of a relationship, a job loss, family struggles, spiritual attacks, etc. Maybe you're asking the same questions Jesus' followers must have asked on that day after His death. "Why, Lord?" "I don't understand." "How could You let this happen?" "What am I supposed to do now?"
This is a hard place to be in. Trying to hold on to the fragile threads of your faith when everything else is unraveling to pieces around you. When you can't see any way out. When you've lost all sight of light and hope. When everything seems bleak and dark. We've all been there.
But friend, we won't stay in that day in between. I don't know what your third day looks like, but God is there. There is light and there is hope and there is promise. This is not the last day. There is another morning dawning. And victory is coming. Just like on that Easter morning when Jesus stepped out of the grave.
Just hold on a little longer and rest
In His Grip,
"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." Psalm 30:5b
Can I be honest? I was afraid to write this post--afraid of opening myself up too much. Afraid of letting people see a little too deep into who I was and what I struggle with. And you know what's ironic about that? This post is all about fear.
I recently took part in a virtual writing retreat hosted by Realm Makers. Author and speaker Allen Arnold presented five wonderful sessions that made up the whole course, entitled Unleash Your Story. In a nutshell, it was about how we, as creators, can learn how to co-create with God. But to do that, we have to examine our own hearts and motives.
Another bonus session was a class by NYT bestselling author Tosca Lee: Have no Fear, Tosca Lee is here. A fun title for a serious topic.
Both presenters spoke extensively on the subject of fear holding us back. And I listened to both, agreed with what they said, and scribbled down as many notes as I could.
But it wasn't until after the retreat had ended, on Sunday night--Valentine's Day, no less--that it really hit me. I was spending a good portion of my life hiding. I sat there in bed, absorbing the revelation as one after another, all that I've hidden or hidden from rolled through my mind.
*I hide my face. ("I'll never be as pretty as other women.")
*I hide my voice. (Years of students asking me why I talk funny and my hearing impairment has left me very aware that I talk differently.)
*I hide my hearing aids. (I claim to be unashamed of my hearing loss, yet I still felt the need to keep my hearing aids concealed.)
*I hide my opinion. ("Well, I don't want to make anyone mad.")
*My feelings. ("I don't want everyone to see how excited I am, just in case it doesn't work out. And I certainly can't let people know how disappointed I am.")
*My writing. ("I'll wait until an agent or publisher accepts it. Then I'll know it's good enough.")
*My house. ("It's just a plain basement house. Not as nice as everyone else's.")
*I hide from conversations. ("I can't hear everything. Or I won't know what to say.")
*I hide from confrontation. ("I don't want anyone to be upset with me.")
*I hide from taking risks. ("I might fail.")
*I hide from relationships. (They may not last.)
*I hide from the phone. ("I can't understand them.")
*I hide from sharing about my life. ("No one wants to hear about what I'm doing because I'm not married or don't have kids.")
And it goes on and on.
In short, I hide myself. And why? Because I'm afraid I will fall short. Afraid I won't make people happy. Afraid I won't be accepted as I am. Quirky. Simple. Plain. Imperfect. Daydreamer. Different. Socially awkward. Hard of hearing. A little slow at catching on at times.
Then I went a little deeper. WHY was I afraid of these things? And the truth hit me hard.
Because I have been valuing man's view of me more than God's. I was basing my own self-worth on the opinions of others' rather than the fact that I am a daughter of the King, the Creator--the One who created ME, as a matter of fact.
It was a little hard for me to swallow. After years of talking about finding satisfaction in God, rather than in a husband, I was face-to-face with the fact that I was STILL looking for happiness in man. Maybe not in the romantic sense, but it was still there.
As a result, I felt so low about myself and my abilities. I would never measure up. I would never be as popular as so-and-so. It was beginning to wear on my mental, emotional, and even physical health.
I know in my heart that man cannot make me happy. Only God can. But I've recently fallen in the trap of trying to keep other people happy, in trying to please everyone else but myself (and God), in trying to keep up with what I saw as the "standard" in physical appearance, personality, gifts and talents, and material gains.
But you know what? I can't. I can't keep up with what everyone else thinks I should be or do. And I'm tired of trying.
The problem won't go away overnight. This is something I will have to fight to overcome. But there is something freeing in just stating it out loud. In writing it down and in sharing it. And I know I'm not the only one who has struggled with it. I see it around me everyday, individuals as young as my first graders all the way up to great-grandparents all trying to be accepted. So many of us feel like we have to be something different than what we are to please everyone else, to impress everyone else. When really, everyone else doesn't matter. Not when it comes to who we are.
I am a child of God. He created me ON PURPOSE. He wanted one of me here, with all my quirks and imperfections. He loves me that way. While He wants to see me become a better version of me, He does not wish for me to become someone different than me.
And that thought brings me so much comfort and joy. God accepts me just as I am. Ultimately, that's all I want. All I need.
I will struggle with this again, I am sure. But I'm taking a step FORWARD. (Hey, there's one of my words for the New Year!) I'm starting the change now. (And let me just make it clear that, no, that doesn't mean I'm going to start sharing and posting EVERYTHING about my life, because I am still, by nature, a private person. And I truly believe that, while it has some benefits, social media is part of the problem.)
Now that I've made the decision, I'm excited to see what happens. I'm waking up with expectancy for what God is going to do. I'm looking forward to doing life as me. Just little ol' me. Lol
So, what about you? Are you hiding your true self? Let's make this step together. Because, you see, God made YOU on purpose, too. We can grow and change and be better, but He wants one of you in the world, too.
We are loved. We are His. We are...
In His Grip!
"For God has not given us the spirt of fear, but of love, and of power, and of a sound mind." 2 Timothy 1:7
Hey, friends! How's it going?
I am currently "snowed in" at my house. Okay, there's really not a LOT of snow, but the road has been covered all week and I've been content to stay tucked into my cozy space for the time being. And rumor has it there's more snow on the way! :D
So, Valentine's Day is fast approaching. Again. And, yep, I am celebrating (or not celebrating) it as a single. Again. So I thought I'd send a shout out to to all my single friends. (If you're not single, you can still read on.)
Hello! You're not alone! We're all in this together! (Cue awkward High School Musical dance moves...no? Okay, moving on...)
Seriously, this holiday has been my least favorite for a good while now. And I was secretly glad it fell on a Sunday this year so I didn't have to watch or hear all my co-workers gush about the day and gifts and dates and whatnot. I've had some really low moments in February, wondering why I was still facing it alone.
But you want to know something? This year, it's not so bad. I mean, sure, I would still love to be celebrating with someone else. I'd love to get on here and tell you all about my first Valentine's Day date. But I'm really okay with facing it solo this year. (For the most part, that is. lol)
Why is this year any different? Well, it could be that I've had so many that I'm getting used to it? I also attribute my attitude to God's grace and contentment growing within me.
But I think there's another reason. Want to know what it is? OK, I'll tell you!
I have a focus. (Hey, looky there! There's my word for 2021! Not sure what I'm talking about? See my previous post.)
Let me explain. Last year was rough. Really rough for a lot of people. It put a lot of strain on people's emotions and mental states, myself not excluded. I think it was particularly hard for single people. A lot of us were stuck in our homes by ourselves. I was a bit more fortunate because I'm sharing a house with my sister, but not everyone was so fortunate. Many singles didn't have kids to distract them through the months of shutdown and/or quarantine. And the real kicker for me was that no one really thought to check on the singles to see how we were doing. At least, not around here.
But I didn't say all that to complain about the system. I'm getting somewhere, really.
Because of how crazy things were, I spent a lot of time at home. And usually, that would have caused a lot of discouragement, loneliness, and depression. But I used that free time I had to throw myself back into my writing. I found a writing community on Instagram. Attended some virtual conferences. Started working on my book again.
And you know what? It helped! I was not as stir-crazy or bored as I would've expected. Sure I had moments, but for the most part, I kept myself busy. I had a FOCUS. Not only did it keep me busy, but it gave me hope. Hope that I would not always be in this place I'm in now. Hope that something, someday, would change and for the better. In this case, I would see my dream of being published (again) fulfilled. It gave me a purpose.
Single friends, let me make this suggestion. Find a focus outside of your singleness. What do you enjoy? Woodwork? Learn to make something new. Crafts? Create something beautiful to share with others. Animals? Volunteer at a shelter. Knitting? Knit a sweater for everyone in your neighborhood. It doesn't have to be much. Just something you love. Something positive to focus on.
And concerning Valentine's Day, please, please do not stay home alone (unless you really want to!) and let the loneliness take over. Find something fun to do. Celebrate YOU. Go to a movie. Treat yourself to a nice dinner. Invite some friends over. Go shopping.
What am I doing, you ask? I'm treating my sisters to pizza and a movie night. Nothing fancy, just sweet fellowship and a fun evening at home.
What are you going to do for yourself for Valentines Day?
Or, if you're one of my married friends, how are you celebrating with your other half? Tell me in the comments!
Stay well, my friends!
In His Grip,
Hey, friends! I just reached 300 followers on my Instagram page! I would love to see you there. Just give me a follow to keep up with all of my reading, writing, and life updates.
And did I mention I have TWO giveaways happening there??
You can find me at crystalgrantfaithandfiction. Hope to see you there!
So, I was always a sucker in times past for making resolutions. And then not following through. So then I started making goals, which I still do. I feel they're easier to track and follow through, but also adjust as you need to.
But lately, I've heard a lot of people talking about picking a word for the year. And that really intrigued me. What would be my word for 2021?
I started thinking about last year. Two words stuck out to me. GROW and LEARN.
I did a lot of growing in 202. Growing as a Christian, growing as a writer, and growing in contentment. I also learned so much. I learned a lot about myself.
I learned that I can survive without all the extra stuff. That missing out on the traditions (though hard) was not the end of the world. I And though I still missed getting out, I learned I really am happy to be a homebody, even after weeks. I learned a lot about myself as a writer. I do better with a deadline or a tangible goal. And I CAN stick with something until I finish it, and even make myself get up early in the mornings to do it. I learned that I can be happy and content in whatever state I am. I learned to be thankful for small blessings, like a healthy family and times of rest.
So that brings me to 2021. What could my word be for this year? Well, true to form, I couldn't pick just one word. There were so many that ran through my head. PURPOSE. INTENTION. PERSEVERE. FAITH. HOPE.
Finally, I narrowed it down to just 2.
My number one word for 2021 is (drumroll, please...) FOCUS.
One of my flaws, especially in recent years, is my lack of focus in several areas of my life: my relationship with God, my writing, my teaching, even in the day-to-day stuff like housekeeping. I knew it was high time to get in control of my mind and my daydreams and start focusing. What is it I really want to accomplish this year? That becomes my focus.
Which leads to my next word. FORWARD. Now that I know what I want to focus on, I am making my action steps to move forward in those goals. What do I need to do or change about my life to see my goals come to pass?
I've been spending most of this month working on my goals and making a plan of action. I've picked 5 goals for this year. Each goal is broken down into several action steps. I won't share all them here, but here's a few examples.
1. Sign on with a publisher
Action steps: Finish my current edits on my work-in-progress
Attend 2 upcoming writers conferences and meet with an agent
Build my writing platform (like this blog or my Instagram following)
2. Develop better time management skills
Action steps: Plan out my day, week, month, year
Set goals and FOCUS (see what I did there) on the important ones
Designate days for certain tasks
Be flexible when needed
So, I've got my focus, made a plan, and now I'm ready to move forward. And now that I've shared these with you, you can help hold me accountable! I'm feeling pretty good already about what this year holds for me and my goals.
What about you? Are you picking a word (or two) for the year? Do you have goals for 2021? I'd love to hear about them! Share them in the comments. I read them!
In the meantime, here are three words I like to use every time I sign off here. Whether in the middle of an old strenuous year, or at the start of a new uncertain one, remember, dear friends, where we are:
IN HIS GRIP!