“I believe God made me for a purpose,
but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
— Eric Liddell, Chariots of Fire
Okay, let’s paraphrase that for this blog, shall we?
I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me a weepy CDQ (caffeinated drama queen). And when I write, I feel His pleasure.
So, how about you? Do you feel His pleasure when you write?
Boy, when I wrote my debut novel, A Passion Most Pure, I sure did! His pleasure rolled over me in waves, manifested in moments of deep spiritual truths when I couldn’t see the keyboard for the swell of saltwater in my eyes and Kleenex was as essential as my computer.
You see, A Passion Most Pure was my love letter to God, the whole of my heart for Him alone, when all was right in my writer’s world.
Until I tried to get published.
Yikes! Suddenly His pleasure—and mine—was lost in a sea of rejections. I found myself huffing and puffing and peddling like crazy to crest that silly summit of success: Publication.
But I made it … despite 46 rejections and a 3-month lapse in hormone replacement therapy that created some pretty volatile moments for my family. Like the time I got a bad contest score from a judge that went something like this:
“Mom, it’s not that bad, really.”
“She hated it,” I cried, sobbing into my pillow.
“But the other judge liked it—she said you had a nice voice.”
“Who cares! I got a 50% score … I’m garbage.”
“Mom, ya gotta handle contests better than this.”
I fisted a tear-stained entry in my hand. Rrrrrrrrip! I stared my daughter down and tossed the pieces in the air like confetti. “How’s that for handling??” I rasped. “Tell Dad we’re eating out.”
The rest of the story is a hoot, so if you’d like to read it, it’s called CAUTION: Hormone-Free Zone and Other Contest Horror Stories.
But I digress.
So there I am, standing on top of Mt. “Ever-Rest,” which is a misnomer if ever there was, because there is NO rest for the published! Not with umpteen social media platforms to conquer, conferences to attend, newsletters to send out, edits to do, deadlines to meet, and on and on.
I close my eyes. Am I feeling His pleasure yet? Heck, am I feeling any pleasure at all?? Not much because maybe it’s just me, but a hamster wheel is not my idea of a good time, especially when you toss emotions into the mix with high and low sales, bad reviews, and contest debacles, depending on those things for your confidence instead of God.
"But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in Him. — Jeremiah 17:7
For the Lord will be the source of your confidence,
and He will guard your foot from being caught in a trap. — Proverbs 3:26
WHOA! I could feel the teeth of that trap sinking into my very soul and suddenly I was reminded of the first Scripture title I ever came up with. I remember telling my prayer partner way back in my twenties that someday, God willing, I would write a book called Some Trust in Chariots.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. — Psalm 20:7
And that’s when I decided to back-pedal. Stopped dead in my tracks on that steep, steep hill of my dreams and reevaluated. Could I feel His pleasure?
Because suddenly I realized that my confidence as a writer was in all the wrong things. I was trusting in chariots and horses (contracts, book sales, reviews, contests, rankings) for my confidence rather than Him. Oh, yesiree, I had big, big plans. But so did God.
We can make our plans,
but the LORD determines our steps. — Proverbs 16:9
Because the true road to success is the road God chooses, not us, especially since what we think is “success” often is not. So now I am a firm believer that we not only have to put our trust in God, we have to put our dreams in His hands, too, trusting Him to lead the way.
Which means we have to hop in the backseat and let God take the wheel—seeking and praying for His will for our writing, not ours—because heaven knows HE is far more qualified to take each of us to the peace and joy and contentment we all so long to have.
I won't lie to you—I'm a very aggressive driver, which is why it's probably a good thing that these days, I mostly let my hubby cart me around. In fact, the last time Keith even let me drive him was when he had a colonoscopy and had no choice, a procedure he swears was far superior to my driving.
Regrettably, I'm inclined to agree. By the time I get home from driving somewhere, I'm usually stressed and hyper and going a mile a minute, which for a CDQ (caffeinated drama queen) is NOT pretty. But ... it's the strangest thing. When Keith is behind the wheel, I am suddenly relaxed and content and able to read or chat as if I've been tranquilized (I know, hard to imagine, isn't it?). And that's when God finally got my attention with that still small voice:
"Julie, take your hands off the wheel."
"Lay it down," the gentle thought came, brimming with love.
I swallow hard. "Uh ... lay what down, Lord?"
A quiet pause, as if God were waiting for me to finally listen.
"Your hopes and dreams. Your need for control. Your need for approval. Put it on the altar, Julie, and take your hands off the wheel."
Gulp. "But you don't understand, Lord—I have books to promote, emails to answer, comments to write."
"Give me the keys, Julie—now."
I blink, visions of my daughter wresting the car keys from my hands when I turned 65, like she always threatened to do. My hands begin to sweat as I stall. "I don't understand, Lord—what keys?"
"The keys to your career. Lay them on the altar like Abraham did and walk away."
A shiver travels my spine as "The Abraham Factor" looms large in my mind, something Bram Hughes introduces to Logan McClare in book 3 of my Heart of San Francisco series, Surprised by Love. And something I knew God was calling me to do the minute I penned that scene as follows.
Bram propped elbows on the arm of the chair and steepled his hands, staring out the window over Logan’s shoulder, the gloom of night the perfect backdrop for the subject he broached. “You see, I’ve learned the hard way that when it comes to the most precious things in my life, the safest place to keep them is in God’s hands. To trust Him to do for them and me the very best thing.” His eyes met Logan’s. “No matter what that is.” He expelled a wavering sigh. “Because if I love someone—really and truly love them—I’ll always want to give them God’s best, not mine.”
Rising from his chair, he nudged Logan’s cup of coffee toward him before he picked up his own. “Abraham loved his son fiercely, waited decades for God to honor His promise to give him a son in the first place. And then one day, God—Abraham’s ‘friend’, mind you—asks him to lay that precious son on the altar and give him up. Sacrifice him—just like that.
“And you know what?” Against his will, tears glazed Bram’s eyes as his gaze locked with Logan’s. “That man didn’t balk or miss a beat. Nope. Because Abraham’s trust in God was so strong, he actually told his traveling companions to ‘abide ye here and I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship, and come again to you.’”
Bram shook his head, overwhelmed as always at the strength of Abraham’s faith, the certainty that somehow, someway, God’s best would prevail. “And you and I both know what happened, Logan. God stayed the knife in Abraham’s hand, giving him his son back because of his remarkable trust.”
“Trust,” Logan whispered in a low drone, “the very reason I’ve lost Cait.”
Bram nodded, his tone quiet but sure. “And the very thing that will help you find God in a way you’ve never experienced Him before. He wants you to trust Him, Logan, to put your love for Mrs. McClare on the altar where God can do with it what He wills for your good and hers. And whether He stays your hand or not, your sacrifice of obedience will be rewarded with more peace and joy and hope than you ever believed possible.”
Logan’s brows dipped, the deep wedges indicating his skepticism. “And you really believe that?”
Bram smiled, remembering his own lack of faith before God had proven it true. “I do."
And you know what? So do I. Deeply. Which is why I finally took my hands off the wheel and gave the keys to God. Told my editor I wasn’t going to pitch any more books or series for a while so that I could focus more on God, family, and writing for the sheer joy of writing. Then I took an 8-month sabbatical to do just that, and for me, that was the beginning of the true path to success, shifting my focus as a writer from me to Him. A God Who not only knows the direction to my ultimate peace and joy, but can steer me there while I sit relaxed in the back seat, enjoying the ride. Driving Miss Julie, if you will.
And you, too, if you let Him.
So, hey -- what do YOU need to put "on the altar"? Because there's plenty of room in the back seat ...
Because Scripture prayer is SO important to Christian writers (and readers), I have Scripture prayers for any writer who would like them on the FROM THE HEART tab of my website. You’ll also find Scriptures for hope and healing there, along with a personal story of how Scripture prayer sustained a wired CDQ like me when a doctor told me he thought my son had cancer. The Scripture prayers for writers are at the bottom of the page, so just scroll down.
Leave a comment telling me what your personal paraphrase would be (like Eric Liddell’s was “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
Or … just leave a comment, and you will be entered to win your choice of e-book or paperback of any of my indie novels including Romance-ology 101: Writing Romantic Tension for the Sweet and Inspirational Markets, A Light in the Window, the prequel novella rewrite of A Glimmer of Hope, Isle of Hope, or my latest release, Love Everlasting PLUS a signed paper copy of SPARK Magazine with my flash fiction alternate ending for Gone With the Wind.
Whoa, baby ... I just found out that the February issue of SPARK Magazine, which includes my alternate ending for Gone With the Wind, is available for FREE DOWNLOAD when you take advantage of the FREE SUBSCRIPTION to Splickety, so all you have to do is send a blank email with "Subscribe" in the subject line to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Book 1 in Julie Lessman’s Heart of San Francisco series, Love at Any Cost, is ON SALE for only 79 to 99 cents for a brief time, so check out the fun video and buy links below!
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