Friday, June 20, 2008

Roxanne Sherwood ~ TBL Finalist

Hi, I’m Roxanne Sherwood and I’m honored to be a guest today. Though I’ve won and judged contests, I’m still waiting for The Call.

This Ain’t Paradise.
On the cross, Jesus promised one thief that he’d rest in paradise that day. As much as our hearts long for that heavenly reward, we don’t live in paradise here on earth. Even if God has blessed you with a tropical location, your life has stress.

You may be staring at a blank page, or characters who’ve hijacked the story, or a plot that’s unraveled. You may be struggling with a difficult job, a wayward teen, a special-needs child, an off-track marriage. Or worse. You may feel that you’ve received more than your share of trouble.

Sometimes, living is so painful that it’s a struggle to string words into sentences, scenes into stories. It takes emotional energy to write, and stress and grief drain energy from your well of emotions. Writing may be difficult, nearly impossible.

Believe me, I understand.

Last year, on my twin daughters’ 17th birthday, my husband, Jack, had a heart attack. He was only 45 and seemed in perfect health, but he didn’t survive. I was left alone to raise seven children, ages 1-20.

For weeks afterward, each time I’d fall into a fitful sleep, I’d wake up gasping from pain as I remembered (as if for the first time) what had happened. Writing was impossible.

A Simmering Pot.
My friend, Beth, put her writing career on the back burner when her children were young, but she wishes she hadn’t turned the burner off. Instead, she should’ve kept it simmering.

I have a rusty journalism degree—one I’d also put on the back burner to raise my kids. It’s hard to say how long I’ve been writing because of the interruptions, but I’ve been passionate about writing fiction for five years.

During that time, I’ve home schooled six children, relocated across country, had two pregnancies in my forties—one stillbirth, one healthy baby—graduated four teens from high school, and done all the other things that moms do. Now, I’m doing them without Jack.

Every time that I’ve put my writing aside and turned off the burner, I’ve struggled to start cooking again. I’ve had to re-learn my characters’ lessons or discover where I left them hanging. I’ve lost so much ground.

Pearls. Butterflies. Adversity.
God uses a grain of sand within an oyster to produce a pearl. Just think what God—who loves you infinitely more than He cares for an oyster—can create through the adversity in your life.

If a butterfly is helped from the cocoon, rather than emerging by itself, its wings won’t develop the necessary strength to fly. God uses adversity to strengthen us.

Frankly, I’d prefer a life without adversity—at least, without losing my husband. But we aren’t given choices. We can only go on learning the lessons that God gives us.

I don’t know what you’re facing today, but we need to learn to write through adversity if we’re going to be successful in this business.

Writing Through Adversity.
1. Take care of yourself. During safety presentation on airplanes, adults are warned to secure their oxygen masks before taking care of their children. Generally, we’re so busy taking care of others that we neglect ourselves. Take time to heal and become whole again.

2. If you can’t write, then read that craft book that everyone’s raving about. Meet with other writers online or in person to keep a writing connection. Critique someone’s work and it will strengthen your writing.

3. Make realistic goals. If you can’t write a chapter, try to write 100 words. Or develop a new character’s goals, motivations, and conflicts. Or figure out your next plot point.

4. If you’re published, communicate with your editor and agent about your situation. Don’t wait until you’ve missed a deadline.

5. One day, you’ve got to decide if you’re still a writer. Then, you’ve got to get into the chair and write. Muse or not.

6. Look for joy in unexpected places. A fresh outlook restores energy.

Though I count my blessings, I’m not crazy about this life as a widow. The future I’d pictured and longed for was buried along with my husband. It’s hard to live without hope or her twin sister, joy. Yes, I cling to God’s promised hope of heaven. I know I’ll see Jack again one day, but I won’t be married to him, which is what I want.

Last night, I snuggled with my sleepy two-year-old in a plush chair as we watched a video. My lips brushed my son’s soft hair, smelling deliciously of baby soap. I savored the moment. My life isn’t what I’d dreamed it would be, but there is joy, if I’ll open my eyes to discover it.

Maybe, my writing will reflect that.

Let’s hear how you’ve written through adversity.

Roxanne Sherwood


  1. Roxanne, you are such a hero to me for your outlook after everything that happened! Thanks for sharing with us on Seekerville today!

  2. Well, now I'm crying. Stupid, dag-blasted left turns that life hands people, catchin' 'em out of nowhere and thrusting them into a whole new definition of reality.

    Roxanne, you and I shared airport time together during a gentler time in your life. I think I remember telling you that your heroine was a...

    'not nice woman'...

    God has given you a gift to write strong, angst-riddled characters. He's also given you the warmth and empathy to bring those people around to the light, to open their eyes and the eyes of those around them. I'm only sorry that the loss of your cute as a button husband dropped a lightning bolt in the middle of a wonderful life.

    I see him in your children, I hear him in your words. That is a blessing, beautiful girl, to have loved that well and that long, but I won't pitch platitudes at you. Nope. Life's uncertainties guarantee me a spot at the head of the dessert line.

    Even though there are days when I'm sure you're not strong and fairly uninspired, your inner strength and faith (even if it's shaky now and again) shine through.

    Bless you, Roxanne. And those gorgeous children. I'm so glad you came to play with us today, to romp in the sands of Seekerville.
    Grab some sweet tea or a diet soda or a mug of joe. We've got your back.


  3. Roxanne,
    As usual, your post moved me to tears. This has been a very difficult journey for you, but you're not walking it alone. Cling to the cross and God will catch you during those times when it's tough to hold on. God is by your side, ready to take you by the hand. He loves you and I do too!!

    I've watched your writing evolve over the last several years. You're a very talented writer who breathes emotion into her characters. Your writing will minister to other women facing similar trials.

    I'm so blessed to have you in my life as a friend, critique partner, and sister in Christ. Thank you for opening your heart and sharing your thoughts and emotions.

    Love you!

  4. Roxanne, Congrats on being a TBL Finalist. Im sorry about your loss.
    I haven't lost a partner but I do know whats its like to lose a father at an early age and remember the hard times mum faced.

  5. Look for joy in unexpected THAT really blessed me.

    Friday, Friday. Friday is my favorite day!!

    Thanks for being our guest in Seekerville,Roxanne!!

  6. And darling girl, I lost my husband at age 43 to an asthma attack. I know how God does and will take care of us and step in to be our husband. Bless you for sharing.

  7. I needed to hear this today. Thank you for sharing, dear one.

  8. Thanks, Camy!

    Ruthy, thanks for watching my back.

    Lisa, my crit partner and friend. Love you!

    Ausjenny and Tina, I'm so sorry for your losses.

    Hi, Shannon! Glad to help.


  9. Roxanne, it's so good to have you here in Seekerville! You're an amazing woman! And I know you must be an amazing writer. I look forward to reading one of your books in print someday!

    Thanks for your inspiring post.


  10. Hey, I just got this in my Contest Deadlines loop. Is this new news?? The Gotcha contest:

    1st The Beholder - Melanie Dickerson
    2nd New Hope - Allison Studer
    3rd Bridegroom's Revenge - Jessica Nelson
    4th The Woodcutter's Daughter - Melanie Dickerson

    Does someone have news to share? Or am I just repeating something we've already celebrated?


  11. I met Roxanne when her twin daughters were one-year-olds. Back then, we connected through our families, our faith--and our writers' hearts.
    Roxanne is an amazing friend who has cheered me on to pursue my writing dreams, even through her own tears.
    She's a talented writer--one who writes about life's heartaches and points you to the hope of God.
    I know she will be published--and I'll be the first one in line at her first book signing!

  12. Lisa, it's great to see you here!

    Jenny, I'm so sorry about the loss of your dad so young.

    Shannon and Beth, thanks for stopping by!

    Okay, time to turn off the computer and get back to revisions. All is finally quiet around here!


  13. Roxanne what a great post.

    Ummmmmm Ruthy??? Is this ANOTHER PERSON you insulted in an airport? Or the same one. Let me know because I'm keeping score.

    Writing through adversity?

    I guess I thought I had but now I can't think of much to complain about.

    I suppose ten years of not getting published is it's own kind of adversity and I kept writing through that.

  14. Roxanne, Stay strong and keep writing! I miss you!

  15. Roxanne,

    Thank you for your willingness to share your story and your writing journey. I don't know how you do it. You inspire me. I believe you will see that book. Keep the kettle hot.

    I'm friends with Beth Vogt, she's my critique partner. We've prayed for you many times. I'm thankful that you've encouraged her with her writing. You've been an amazing friend to her.

    May God continue to give you joy and hope. I'm so sorry for your loss.

    In Him,


  16. PS Congrats on being a TBL finalist.

  17. Roxanne, your post deeply moved me. I am going to go give my husband a hug and tell him how much I love him. You reminded me that each day with those we love is precious, and that we must keep the Hope of Christ's Return in our hearts. I can tell by your post how great a writer you must be.

  18. Roxanne, I'm sorry for your loss. I admire your strength and wisdom.

    I've had my share of adversities in the last few years, also birthing a stillborn and a few other difficulties but God's love overshadows it all. Keeping the burner on in my writing, even if it was turned all the way down to LOW was so important. We can always gradually increase the heat.

    Thanks for sharing with us.

  19. Hi, Roxanne! Thanks for sharing your testimony. You're amazing!!!

    Thanks also for making Ruthy cry. That made my day.

    Now all you Seekers and Seeker-ites, raise your hands and repeat after me...

    I solemnly swear never to write a story with a heroine with multiple personalities.


    Two contest entries down, three to go.

  20. Roxanne, your post is so timely for me. I'm walking through a bit of adversity myself. I wake up in the morning and think, "It's still there."

    But I'm slowly learning that God's mercies are new every morning, I can never exhaust His love for me, and His peace truly does pass all understanding.

    Thank you for your willingness to share your story.

    And congratulations on the TBL final.

  21. So, Roxanne...

    What finaled in TBL? Spill it, kid.

    And hey, here's a box of See's Chocolates. Pass it around. I hear that nut and chewy assortment is wonderful. We'll share the chocolate and the Puff's Plus.

    (A girl's gotta be kind to her nose.)

    And tell us about the kids, in general. I know they don't necessarily love their mother spilling their life stories online.

    Anybody in college now?


  22. Mary, Has Ruthy insulted other people in airports, not just me?

    Missy, Patricia, Gina, Erica-Thanks for your encouragement.

    Sammi-I hope to see you soon!

    Tiffany-A friend of Beth's is a friend of mine. Thanks for praying!

    Beth-The friend I trust with my first drafts. I can't thank you enough for your support!

    Inspire, I don't feel that I've reached Titus 2 status, but I'm glad that God is using my circumstances to draw women closer to their husbands.

  23. I'm so proud of you! It's been amazing to see how God's carried you through this time. I'm glad to call you my friend.

  24. Roxanne, I believe Ruthy has actually made a lifestyle of insulting people in airports. Some of whom she has even met before.

    I'm sorry. You were feeling special weren't you, and I ruined that for you.

    And Ruthy? See's Chocolates? What's up with that? You can't cook the imaginary food?

    Did I tell you all I went to Starbucks for the first time. (I think I was in one in a Barnes and Noble once or twice before I know what Starbucks meant.

    I had frappacino. It tasted too much like coffee, sorry.

  25. Roxanne -
    I SOOO needed this today!! I'm afraid I've been guilty of turning the burner off. It is hard to come back. But THANK GOD I have come back to what God has given me to do. I am reawakening a long-dead dream.

    Adversity. It has plagued me for ten years in varying degrees. Emotionally I shut down. It hurt too much. Now, I'm finally learning that writing can ease that pain - through CHRIST alone!!

    This post was God appointed for me today! I will be praying for you dear lady. Your testimony is powerful and God will certainly use your writing for His glory!

    THANK YOU for sharing your story!


  26. Thanks for sharing this, Roxanne. I pray that joy and hope embrace you and your precious children daily.


  27. Ruthy, Thanks for the chocolate. There are days here when it's essential for my sanity!

    Group photo caption. Back: Kara, Stephen, Daniel, Suzanne. Front: Jamie, Peter, me, Jack, and Josh.

    Photo: Jack, Jamie and Josh fiercely wielding sticks on a cub scout camping trip.

    Daniel holding Peter at Easter.

    Kara and Suzanne (18) graduated from high school this month, so the older four will all be in college this fall. Kara works in an office and plans to major in marketing. Suzanne is a nursing major and a karate instructor, going for a 2nd degree black belt. She'll be able to beat up the bad guys, then bandage them.

    Stephen (19) is changing his major to finance, and Daniel (21) is a biology major, who works in a lab. Daniel and Stephen also have black belts in tae kwon do, so Kara feels very safe.

    Jamie (9) and Josh (11) are in karate and Boy Scouts. They're my laundry rats and a huge help with Peter (2).

    They all live at home and provide lots of material to write about.

  28. JFGIS:

    (that means just for general information sake in Ruthy-speak)...

    I only make it a habit to insult Christian writers in airports, and then I limit the insults to those who are strong enough to take it and make it in this business. I leave the general populace to bask in the unRuthyness of their mundane lives.

    Now, back to those kids of Roxanne's and Jack's....

    Awesome job on both your parts to not only create (didya not hear about that new-fangled creation they got out now called a television????? I get to say those things since I've got six kids and people look at you like you're totally whacked after three.

    After four?

    They're just plain sure of it.) such beautiful lives but raise them with a depth and spirit that has mainstayed them through a tough wall to breach.

    And good looking. So, none of them are adopted, honey, or they all look like Jack's side?

    Roxanne, I forgot how much fun it was to insult you face to face. Kind of!

    And no, I had no time this morning to make anything but I've just taken two mouth-watering sponge cakes out of the oven, light and golden. Try a wedge of it with your coffee, dear, you'll love it. Promise. And another chocolate.

    Lisa, so good to see you too! Lisa's a tough, hard-working gal with wonderful plans and the chutzpah to see them through. Great, great gal with wonderful talent and drive.

    So, Roxanne, you've touched a lot of hearts and souls here today and it's barely lunch time. Your post and your feelings pour blessings on others and while that might seem rather thin comfort at times, please know that your courage and tenacity help breed the same in others.

    Man, that's twice today I've been nice. What if this becomes a habit? What if I can't shut it off? What if????



    Help. Say something mean and snarky to me. Gina tried but I took it on the chin (ha, ha, Gina-kins) and I hung tough, my lotion tissues clenched tightly in hand....

    Come up with something quick, Mare! I'm drowning in positive re-enforcement feelings here! I feel like a would-be social worker for heaven's sake!!!!


  29. Oh, Roxanne, what a blessing your blog is today!! And like the effect it had on Ruthy and others, it touched me to tears as well. I am inspired by your words and your life. Thank you for bringing your grit and your hope to Seekerville today. We are blessed and pray God returns that blessing to you sevenfold.

    And, hey, I'm SO proud of you finaling in the TBL!! Having had the pleasure of reading your work, I have NO doubt publication is in your future, my friend.


  30. Thanks so much for sharing your life with us today, Roxanne. I remember praying for you when Shannon told us on the prayer loop about your husband passing away. It's good to hear how you're doing. And now we're fellow TBL finalists! So cool.

    Yeah, it's really hard to write when you're going through adversity. When life has you so down you have to take two naps in one day, writing's kind of impossible. Been there. Right now I'm wondering how in the world I'd ever get any writing done if I had seven kids! I know some of yours are "adults" but still ...

    Thanks, Missy, for showing off my double finalist status in the Gotcha! LOL! But yeah, it is old news. I think it was announced in January. But I don't mind a bit.

  31. I remember saying once to a really nice lady I knew only periferally, when she came into some activity oh, so pregnant, "Are you crazy? You're having another baby? How many have you got now."

    She says, "Four. How many have you got?"

    I said, "Four, that's how I know you're crazy. Your sanity can't possibly survive after that many."

    I sure laughed hard. I'm sure she did too, but of course she's not speaking to me, so I can' be positive.

    Something snarky about Ruthy.

    Well, I do think, that if you're bringing imaginary food, BUYING IT is just lame. C'mon pretend to cook something.

    I'm sure this 'nice' thing will pass.

  32. Nope. It didn't. I'm still being nice to people and it's like 5:30 here.

    Something must have infiltrated our area water systems. Maybe someone flushed their happy pills???


    So, Roxanne, back to TBL. Can you tell us about the story or would you then have to kill us?

    Just wondering.



  33. Ruthy, Can I tell about the story? Technically, isn't the contest still going on?


  34. Rox,
    It's been a bad allergy kinda day, but I did want to go on record as saying that I'm glad you are my sister. You have always been a good role model for me, and I'm proud of your ability and desire to write. I know that someday I'll be able to say to all my friends "You have to read my sister's book! It's terrific!" Love you!

  35. Thanks so much for having me. This was a lot of fun, and I appreciate all the encouragement.


  36. Roxanne,
    God's timing is perfect. For reasons I won't go into my paying job is keeping me from spending time with my writing. And I was just musing with my critique buddies about the loss of my brother in a boating accident 17 years ago July 14. My friend Peg, who recently lost her mother, suggested I might be able to use that experience in my writing now. I read your words and think about how strong you are. I know how you hurt, but I see you surviving and your faith surviving. I've started a short story. I will finish it. Maybe short stories are what I have time to write at this moment in my life. And there is great satisfaction in a finished product. Thanks for sharing, Roxanne,see you soon.

  37. Roxanne, one of my biggest fears is living without my husband. I praise God that He kept my husband safe when our van that he was driving slid on the ice under a semi truck. Our van was totaled, but dh and my father in law walked out without a scratch. My father who had worked for the Highway Patrol for many years had never seen anyone walk away from that kind of accident. Definitely the hand of God.

    It seems our lives have been filled with adversity and blessings. The last year and a half was filled with so much adversity that by this time last year when we discovered one of my second mil's had uterine cancer and then my husband lost his job shortly afterward, I no longer felt the blow. But then someone important to me committed suicide and I didn't think I'd get back up.

    My writing helped me through each moment and when that wouldn't bring me out of my box of despondency, my writing friends would encourage and love, they would let me borrow their faith that everything would be all right.

    I have found Jeremiah 29:11 to be my life scripture.

    I pray that God gives you the strength to make it through those days it seems too difficult to breathe and that He holds you during the nights.



  38. Renee,

    Thanks for praying. The nights are still difficult, especially with my insomnia.

    I'm glad that you've been able to write through adversity, and when you couldn't, that other writers have encouraged you.

    My writer friends in San Antonio have blessed me. I wasn't sure why I attended monthly meetings when I wasn't even writing, but I found that connection to be important. I think it helped make the transition smoother when it was time to write again.

    My online friends have been a huge blessing as well.

  39. Oh Roxanne, your post has touched home and heart.

    My husband did not die when his heart quit in 2005, he's still walking and talking, but 100% disabled from working.

    I read your post and THANK GOD for that at least - despite the hardships his disabilty have wrought.

    God BLESS you, Dear Lady and may HE grant you NUMEROUS contracts!


  40. What an amazing person and inspiration you are. I discovered this blog and your post today, and it was just what I needed. No more complaining for me. My only adversity seems to be my own lack of getting my life organized enough to get back to writing. I never stopped, but writing certainly took a back burner for alot of years. Homeschooling five children on the mission field was never easy and I hardly had time to think, much less write, and yet I managed to write 27 novels which are still sitting in file boxes, unedited and turning yellow the age. All the children are gone now. The youngest is almost 20. I should have time to write now and seek publication. Thank you for your testimony. It has sure lit my back burner.
    Blessings and prayers from Costa Rica

  41. Thanks Roxanne. I really needed to hear what you were saying today.

  42. Roxanne,

    This is BY FAR my favorite Seeker blog post EVER. I can't tell you how inspiring you are and how much I admire you for your faith and resiliency. Just a year! You are truly an inspiration and I feel blessed that you shared your story with us here.

    I had no idea you'd gone through all that. It's plain to see that you are an overcomer and I can't wait to see how God lifts you up in this life and what He does with your writing. Especially if it's even half as inspiring as you are.


    Cheryl Wyatt

  43. Roxanne,
    It's so good to hear from you. I hope you'll visit me at Gracereign so we can reconnect. I'm so grateful for the time we got at conference, even if it was in the bathroom, lol, and I look forward to hearing more of your journey. Your article is such a blessing.

    It is also timely. Last week a friend of mine prayed for me and felt like God wanted her to remind me that He is honored by the writing dreams I've offered up, surrendered, on the altar. It was a huge blessing. Then I dug deeper into another difficult journey discovering some things that have long hindered my children's academic process. We're doing all kinds of vision testing and researching specialists in learning disabilities. It's been a painful journey and zapped the time and emotional stamina I'd counted on for writing this summer. I was especially excited to dig into some book proposals requested by editors at the last conference because since the last one I've secured an agent. But here I am. Putting writing on the back burner until I know how to help my children and what it will require.

    It's not such a huge thing as you've been through, and I don't pretend that it is. But it is my own little setback to work through and your article blesses me in this time.

  44. Hey Roxanne,

    You're an inspiration even to us non-writers. I hope I get to be there when you get the chance to be a butterfly again and that it's not to far off!

    I think that's a pearl colored butterfly?


  45. Many of you continued to comment long after my day in Seekerville was over.

    Through you, it was as if God whispered, "Don't give up yet."

    I can't thank you enough for your encouragement!