Don’t Stop Growing

It’s finally autumn! I love fall. It’s seriously one of my favorite seasons. Hoodie and jeans weather! Fire-pits and hot apple cider! Pumpkin pie versus apple pie! Seriously, I love this season!

But…Nothing tells you that your children are growing like the start of a new season. I’ve noticed my five-year-old apparently grew four inches this year, as her pants from last year are at her calves now. I’ve also noticed my boys looking a little more mature, a little bit older. But nothing makes you notice how old your baby is like watching him try to walk in pants and shoes!

Make them stop… no, not really. Ok, maybe… put a brick on their heads…  I’m always telling them to stop growing. But then I tell them, never mind keep growing. I really do want them to grow, spread their wings and fly… and also come home to visit mom every once in a while.

Could you actually imagine what life would be like if they did stop growing? I mean what if I had a five-year-old forever. School would get pretty boring. Her drive for excitement would be redundant. Life would eventually get stagnant.

What if I had a one-year old forever? Diapers for life… NOOOOOOOOO!!!!! He’d never learn to talk! He might not ever learn to walk.

Don't stop growing

I love watching them grow. I know each stage is important and the goal is lifelong learners!

I would never actually want to hold my children back from growing. I want them to grow- physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And though, eventually they will stop growing physically, I pray they never stop growing spiritually.

But an honest question- Am I as diligent about my own growth as theirs?

As their mom and teacher, I am often looking for resources and advice to help them grow in faith. I am intentional about finding them biblically sound material. Every morning I make them read their Bibles. Every evening, we make them pray out-loud. I try to find books, television shows, and movies to encourage their faith.

I notice when they seem to know all the answers, but do not understand how to apply it.

My goal with parenting is 100% to have six more souls in heaven.

Do I put this much effort into my spiritual growth? Or am I ok with being five forever?

I’ve heard it said, “If you stop growing, you’re dying.” Now there’s a harsh reality.  If you are not growing in relationship with God, you are dying.

Guys, I have felt both extremes of this… and recently too.

I really think when people come to Christ, they imagine it like a mountain. I’ve reached the top and it’s all downhill from here. Well, that’s not a fair picture… at all. Faith more like a rollercoaster, with twists and turns, scary parts and thrilling parts, slow parts and fast parts.  But the important part of the ride is that we don’t get off. However, equally as important, we don’t push the pause button and refuse to move.

We can’t be stagnant in our relationship with God. We must be diligent about growing.

Think about it- If I let my relationship with my husband go cold, we would be having some serious marital problems. We wouldn’t know each other. We wouldn’t be happy with each other. We would stop caring about the other person’s wellbeing. Relationships take work. And just like any other relationship- we must put forth the effort to grow. We cannot stop growing, because then we are dying.

If you are reading this and wondering whether or not you are growing or dying- let me tell you I’ve been there. Pray! Look up, talk to God. Find a time everyday to spend with Him. It doesn’t have to be first thing in the morning, but that is what tends to work best for many. Open your Bible. Surround yourself with people who will point you to God, pray for you, and help you grow.

If you are reading this and thinking of a friend, family member, or loved one who you fear is not growing, pray for them. Be intentional about cultivating a relationship with them. Be a role-model. The best thing we can do for those who seem lost, is be real. People don’t relate to your perfect social media page; they relate to you when you share real, honest life-moments. We all sin. We all fall short. But because of Jesus Christ whose blood covers us,  we can live in His grace! 

 

“but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” 

2 Peter 3:18

Blind Spot

Ok-parents of multiple littles. Have you ever been walking around a store, a park, the zoo, a museum, a radom parking lot… ok-pretty much anywhere… counted your children, and said, “____, where are you?”

And then a little voice, from quite literally right next to you, responded, “Right here mom.”         *Truth- this happens almost everytime I go out with my kids. 

That little voice, that little human, was just walking in a blind spot. Right next to you or possible slightly behind you. Nevertheless, she was exactly where she was expected to be. You just couldn’t see her.

Well, that’s exactly what just happened to me with God.

blind spot

If I’m being honest, this last week has been hectic. There’s nothing major going on, more like a buildup of little things. It’s just been a little busier than normal. Work slowed down to an almost stop, so I got a little nervous, a little off my game. My kids… well they’re kids… so the noise seemed just a little louder.  I became a little more irritable than normal, so my husband started to get on my nerves.

Everything was just building. Then I read one of my own blogs from a couple weeks ago.

How could my relationship with God be so different just a couple weeks ago?

As I sat and wondered, `God, where are you?’ I got that little nudge from right next to me saying, “Right here.”

I didn’t even have to turn around. He wasn’t behind me, in front of me, or a long away off. He was/is right here.

He did not change.  He is with me always.

I put Him in my blind spot. I took my eyes off Him.I allowed the busyness to get in the way.

See, I tried to add a study to my devotion/alone time with God, but instead I took away the intimacy with God, and I felt it. The result was me being distant from God… and I didn’t even realize it.

Praise God He is right there. No matter how far I drift, He is constant. He is pursuing me. Chasing me with His grace! I don’t deserve it. I mess up so much. But I have a good God who gives me the perfect example of love.

I’m not sure what your blind spot is. Maybe, like me, its work, family, or busyness. Maybe it’s a relationship… possessions… roles you play…

Whatever it is, I guarantee is not worth your peace.  Take your eyes off it. Look to God.  

He has been there all along. He wants you to give him your burden. He wants you to walk in His peace. He does not want you to do it all alone.

We all fall into the traps of blind spots. I truly think keeping us busy is one of the enemy’s best tactics. When we are busy, we become self-centered. We take our focus off God.  

Whats a girl to do in our go- go- go- culture?

We must stand guard and be aware. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking who he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).”

I’d love to tell you I have this all figured out. Here’s three steps to ensure that you can do this. But I can’t. I just told you I’ve had a week of interrupted peace. A week where I let my guard down. 

But let me tell you where I noticed my struggles the most: 

1- In my morning time with God. It got interrupted. I tried to change what I was doing and put the focus on me. Therefore, it became a checklist, not a meeting with the most important person in my life. 

2- In my relationships. Yep. I let little things bug me and let the people I love know about it. I stopped extending grace and started expecting my unspoken wants and needs to be taken care of. Also, I did not take a single situation to God in prayer all week. 

3-My prayer life- It halted. Normally prayer is an on-going conversation with God throughout the day. Thank you God for this. God please give me some patience. God, how I can show these people your love? It’s just an on-going conversation. Well, like I just said, that didn’t happen. 

But here’s the really good news. As soon as I asked, “God,  where are you?” I heard him. 

He hadn’t gone anywhere. He was just waiting for me to slow down, look up, and realize how lost I am without Him. He’s a good God, and He will not force you to have a relationship with Him. It has to be a choice. You have to put forth the effort. No matter how big or small that step is, take it. I promise you, He will meet you where you are. 

God, Thank you for being a good God who cares. You never leave our sides. You are there to guide us and lead us, if we let you. Help us to avoid those blind spots. Help us to be so focused on you, and your will, that we will not be led astray. Lead us in your ways, Lord. It’s all about you! In Jesus name, I pray.

Confront the Noise

As my kids got in the van for church on Sunday, my girls noticed their car seats were in the wrong place. (Yes, I had to move them.) So, I told them to fix it. Well, apparently one of them didn’t want to. Thus, they began bickering.

I just ignored it, buckled in the baby, started the van, and headed to church.

 Well, the bickering didn’t stop. And then the boys started.

I just ignored it. But it kept getting louder.

So I did what any good mom would do… I decided to turn up the volume of the radio… hoping they’d get the point…

They didn’t. The bickering continued.

So finally, I turned down the radio. “Guys, if I can hear you bickering over the radio, there must be a big problem. Knock it off.”

Amazing. The bickering stopped. The radio was turned back up. We continued to church listening to music and singing along.

The bickering… the noise… it didn’t stop on its own. I had to address it.

confront the noise

I’m not sure what the noise, problem, sin, struggle is in your life. But one thing is for sure, if you don’t address it, it will not go away.

If you continue to pretend like that problem is not a problem, you cannot grow.

If you continue to sweep it under the rug, it will never be exposed. Thus, you are stuck.

I can very specifically remember God telling me it was time to stop sweeping a situation under the rug. It was time to start telling that part of my story.

You see, there was a turning point in my life.  A point in which God became the key player in my life story.

Prior to this point I was doing life my way. I was chasing the world. Trying to find happiness in all the wrong places. I was miserable. I was tired. And I didn’t know why.

I ended up going through some intense counseling. And once the truth surfaced, I was able to fully accept the grace of God that had been chasing me my whole life.

My life began to radically change. My focus changed. My motives changed. The way I saw things changed.

But what happened in the counselor’s office… that was part of the story I didn’t want to tell.

She gave me a pretty serious diagnosis. She helped me identify toxic people, actions, and thoughts.  She helped me tear off all the masks I had been wearing and helped me see who I was.

Though she also lifted the diagnosis, it was part of this story I didn’t tell. I just wanted to sweep in under the rug. I wanted to pretend like it wasn’t a chapter in my life. It was like- I knew about it, learned from it, and am fine now- so everyone else is too.

But that’s not the truth. At all.

And by doing this, I was down-playing what God had done, is doing, and could do.

I thought I was protecting the people in that story by not sharing it. I thought I was protecting my image by not sharing it. But the truth was-I really did not want to deal with the consequences of telling that part of my story. In my mind, I already knew what would happen. It seemed unbearable.

I cried and told God I didn’t want to.

He showed me the Garden of Gethsemane. Guess what, Jesus didn’t want to either.

I cried some more. I got it. I needed to share the whole story. So, I did.

In my mind, it was to help someone else… possibly someone in a similar situation. But as time would show me, I may help someone else… But really this was about freeing myself from a hidden part of my story. I couldn’t just turn up the Jesus and expect the noise to go away. It needed to be confronted, so that I could give God the room to make something beautiful out of the mess.

And just like God always does, He had a message for me the next day at church.

The message just so happened to be covering a family in Genesis- Isaac and Rebekah. Isaac is the son of the promise God had with Abraham. He is the one who would make Abraham’s descendants as numerous as the stars. He and his wife had twin boys- Esau and Jacob.  Here’s how the Bible describes their family dynamic:

“27 The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. 28 Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. (Genesis 25)”

Did you catch that? These parents played favorites. And it wasn’t just a little thing. It was a big thing. Rebekah actually helped her favorite son steal her other son’s birthright and flea his wrath.

In any other story, this would be soap opera coverage. But this isn’t any other story, it’s God’s story. And these flawed humans are important to God’s salvation plan!

Look the point here is- they were dysfunctional. And God used them anyways. He used them despite their dysfunction for His glory. The Bible doesn’t overlook the fact that they were dysfunctional. It doesn’t hide the favoritism. It doesn’t highlight it either. The Bible simply states it as a fact.  

Fact- Dysfunction is dysfunction. Sin is sin. No matter how big or how small you may think it is. Sin is sin.

Sin separates you from God unless you confront it, confess it, and repent.

God is bigger than your past. God is bigger than your regrets. God is bigger than whatever the fear is that is holding you back from confronting the noise.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that confronting that noise was easy… sharing that part of my story was hard… very hard… It cost me relationships. It cost me the image I had made for myself. 

But what I gained was so much more. Peace- indescribable peace! 

God walked with me through that season of my life. He comforted me. He defended me. And he brought me new meaningful relationships and purpose. 

If there is noise in your life, pray about it. Pray and listen. Maybe… maybe… it’s time to confront that part of your story you don’t want to share. Maybe it’s time to admit to yourself that you don’t have a perfect life. (No one does- and that’s ok.) Maybe… just maybe you need a Savior. 

Stop turning up the noise and start letting God move in your situation. 

Parents: A Glimpse of God

My kids were playing outside as a storm rolled in. I saw a flash and heard a boom. So, I called them inside. My youngest daughter was apparently really scared when I called them in. I gave her a hug, told her she was safe, and sent her to play with her siblings.

About 15 minutes later, she came to me and said, “I safe cause I got God and dad.”

It was adorable. She is right. She is safe because she has God and her dad.

I love that she put God and dad in the same category. Yes, dad is human. But sometimes I think parents forget that children are shaping their view of God based on your words, actions, and character. You are the most important person in their world. You are teaching them about God. Though they can’t see God, they see you. Thus, they are connecting your qualities to God’s qualities.

My daughter sees her dad as a protector and defender. Dad is strong and fierce. No one and no thing will hurt his baby girl, if he can prevent it.

God is also our protector and defender. “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you, and protect you from the evil one (2 Thessalonians 3:3).”

I’m not sure that she sees that parallel at the age of 3, but I hope one day she will. 

parents a glimpse of God

 

Parents, we are giving our children a glimpse of God through the way we parent them.

As Christians, we should want our children to know the all-knowing, ever-present, consistent, loving, just God we serve. Our young children will not be able to wrap their developing minds around the character and nature of God, but the way we treat them and others around us shows them a glimpse of God. 

If your discipline is inconsistent and based on feelings, they will not understand God’s discipline.

If you say one thing and mean something different, they will not value God’s word. They will not understand the concept of a never-changing God.

If you are constantly manipulating situations to get your child to do what you want them to do, they too will see God as a manipulator in the sky who gave free will as a joke. God can just make you do whatever he wants by changing your circumstances.

If you live one way in public and another way at home, they will think all Christians do the same. Therefore, they just need to put on a good front, wear a good mask. Sin all they want behind closed doors.

But all of these are the furthest thing from the truth. Our God is a good, just, and consistent God who loves us so much that he gave us the choice to love him back. He knows we cannot do it on our own. He’s not asking us to. He does not want you to pretend to be holy in public. He wants you to admit you are weak, so that you can be given a strength only he can provide.  

Our parents are our first teachers in every aspect of the world. They teach us how to love. They teach us how to interact with others. 

The way we respond to situations becomes the way they respond. 

The way we talk to them becomes the way they talk to themselves.

And until they are really old enough to own their faith, the way we live our faith is the way they too will live their faith. 

It’s a big responsibility. But I truly want everything I say and do to point to our Heavenly Father. 

I know some people are reading this, and it’s striking a nerve. Maybe you are the parent of a prodigal and you are thinking, “I tried.” Please hear me, that’s ok. A relationship with God has to be personal choice. You can plant seeds all day long, but you cannot force faith. Only God can make that seed grow. Some people just take longer to reach that point. Some people have to hit rock bottom before they recognize their need for a Savior. Don’t stop praying for your child. 

 Maybe you didn’t have parents who pointed you to a loving God. Maybe your parents were like the ones I previously described. Or maybe you know someone who did not grow up knowing the true love of a Father. That’s ok. Talk to God about it. Trust me when I say, He knows. He was there. And He will use that pain to help you grow, witness, and further the Kingdom, if you let Him. 

The sad truth is, we are all sinful. We all fall short. And even the best parents, will still miss the mark. This is why it is so important for the body to represent Christ. 

Everyone needs Jesus, but not everyone knows that. We must share this good news. We must witness to the lost and hurting. And sometimes those people are in our congregation, friend groups, family… Don’t assume everyone who claims to be Christian has a true understanding of God. 

We must come alongside of the prodigal, hurt child, and confused to point them to the loving Father who desires a relationship with them. Share the good news of Jesus. Share the character and nature of God. Share how God is working in your life. It matters!  Keep planting seeds!

Cleaning Out the Closet

So, I’m not exactly a perfectionist. I’m the kind of girl who will purposely hang something up crooked so that I don’t have to worry about it looking level.

My husband…Not that way at all. He’s the type of person who will bring out the level and pencils while carefully drawing lines and hanging the picture up perfectly.

They say opposites attract. Well, that’s a good thing. We are very different in many areas.

Another thing we are the exact opposite on is clutter verses decluttering.  Now I wouldn’t say I am a hoarder by any stretch of the imagination. But compared to him, I am.

About a year after we got married, Ben went through his closet and quite literally pulled out every shirt he owned and threw them on the bed.

“What are you doing with all those?” I asked.

“Throwing them away. It’s time to get new ones,” he responded.

“What’s wrong with them?”

He starts pointing out all the flaws- This one is faded. This one has a tear. This one has a paint spot. That one doesn’t fit right.

I glanced in my jammed-packed side of the closet… well, there’s an extremely worn T-shirt from high school. There’s one that I’m pretty sure I’ll never fit in again, but it’s the shirt I wore when he proposed. There’s one that my best friend from college brought me while on a trip…and I have never worn.

So many clothes… I couldn’t even fathom just throwing any of it away. But here he is just throwing them all away.

He picked up his pile, threw them in a trash bag, and asked if I wanted to go shopping?

Fast-forward a few years…

I now have three kids and a closet stuffed full of maternity clothes, pre-pregnancy clothes, in-between clothes, clothes that are 10 years out of style… you get the picture-my closet just got fuller and fuller. Until one day, I was so mad that I had nothing to wear.

So, I did it. I caved. I cleaned out my closet. I threw out every single item that didn’t fit or hadn’t  been worn in at least a year. Then I tried on what was left. Will I wear it?

I had almost everything cleared out. It came time to get to the dresses. I am not a dress girl, but I still had a pretty nice stash of dresses in my closet. Most were fairly easy to throw out due to the fit, but there were a couple I could still hold onto.  I had to ask myself an honest question. If I have to go to an event calling for a dress, is this the dress I want to wear, or would I rather go buy one.

If I held onto the dress, I would not have room for a new one.

That moment. That thought. It was freeing.

I can always go buy new clothes. Why hold onto something you will not use?

I realized this concept was not just literal to the clothing in my closet but in every area of my life.

cleaning out the closet

If I hold onto ___, there’s no room for new ___.

If I hold onto the past, I cannot be led in the present. I cannot move to the future.

If I hold onto worry, I cannot live at peace.

If I hold onto busyness, I cannot live in peace.

If I hold onto that sin, I cannot experience God’s peace.

There seemed to be a theme. If I want to experience God’s peace, I need to clean out the closet of my heart.

My heart was so full. Full of good and bad.  Full of love and full of hurts. Filled with expectations and disappointments.  Filled with joys and filled with suffering. It all needed exposed.

Part of the cleaning out of my heart included opening up past hurts. As I stuffed those hurts further and further into my heart, nothing changed except that I couldn’t see them. They had to come out. They had to be acknowledged. Then there was room for something beautiful to replace it. I had to forgive.

Holding onto pain others caused me… Holding onto the hurt… Holding onto the pain I caused…It all took up a lot of space in my heart, and it was stuffed into the back of the closet. Once I exposed it, I could give it up to God and let him do what only he can do. It literally freed me. It lifted the weights of regret, shame, guilt, and all those other stuffed emotions that kept me in chains, holding me back from experiencing God’s peace, His love, His comfort, His wisdom.

I also needed to get rid of worldly desires.  My need to be in control. My secret envy and pride. My need for other people’s approval. My desire to be liked by sharing gossip disguised as truths. As long as I was letting my flesh consume my heart, I gave God no room to move.

During this time, I felt a huge conviction to guard my heart. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it (Proverbs 4:23).”  I didn’t realize just how much my heart was influenced. Just how much someone making a sny remark could cause me to stumble. How easily I got sucked into drama. How hearing one word would suddenly have me divulging into other people’s personal information.

I had to distance myself from all that. “Do not be misled: `Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

I had to learn to fill my heart with God centered stuff. Music, TV, books, even the groups I chose to play online games with. I needed my outside influences to point me to Christ.

I had to lose my heart of stone to be given a heart for Christ.

This is no task any human can do on their own. It takes discipline. It takes practice.  But more importantly, it takes God. We need the help of the Holy Spirit, an open heart, and a prayer, “Create in me a pure heart Lord.”

 

Love Song from China

Every morning at 5 am, I wake up to teach kids in China online. I love my job! I really do! It honestly amazes me the relationships you can build with kids across the world using a pre-planned 25-minute lesson. That’s not the point of this post, though.

Yesterday morning, I entered the classroom a couple minutes early as normal. The student was also already in the classroom. However, we don’t start class until the count-down timer is close to zero. Basically, we both just sit there with our cameras off and watch the timer. Sometimes I can hear the student’s background noise, sometimes I can’t.

This morning I could. He was listening to music. Though I had no idea what the words to the song were (they were in Mandarin), I could tell it was a love song. The tone, the melody, the music arrangement.

We live in two completely different cultures on opposite sides of the world. We speak different languages. We have completely different traditions. Yet, both cultures are in love with the idea of being in love.

All across the world, we, as a human race, literally worship romantic love. Movies. Books. Music. Almost any form of entertainment… it’s all saturated with this idea of romantic love. 

We expect it to complete us. We expect it to make us happy.

And it’s not just part of our culture. It’s part of every culture. It’s part of our DNA.

We long for it. We sense that need for completion.

love song from china

I was telling my husband about this love song from China and my thoughts pertaining to the worship of romantic love. He said, “Isn’t it funny the one thing we are all looking for and expecting out of a relationship is the one thing we were created for… To be in relationship, communion, with our Lord.”

I wish I had more to add. But that pretty much sums it up. We were created to be in relationship with God. But due to the Fall, our desires have become twisted. Sin took everything that was good and tainted it.

Adam and Eve no longer walked with God. Their work became toilsome. Their relationships became infected. Life got hard.

Everything that was once good, now became a struggle with the flesh. Work. Food. Sex. Relationships.

And we feel that. No matter where you are from. You know that something is missing, and you go looking for it in all the wrong places… substances, food, success, relationships, wealth, power…  

But that something is God. There is only one thing that can fill that hole in your heart.

Since walking with Christ, I have said so many times, “I wish I had chased God the way I used to chase boys.”

When I was a teenager and in my early twenties it was like my mission. I needed a boyfriend, or at least a love interest. If I didn’t have one, I spent my weekends looking for one. It was a game. It was fun. It also consumed my life.

I was looking for something that was missing in my life. I was expecting that relationship to complete me.

Then I got married to a wonderful man. But guess what! He is not God. He did not complete me. There was still something missing.

This is probably a large part of the reason our first years of marriage were not a honeymoon. I expected him to fulfill me. I expected him to make me happy. I expected him to be my god.

When we put our faith in people, they will let us down. All people, no matter how good they are, are flawed sinful humans.

But God knew our nature. He knew we would mess up. He knew we needed someone to save us. So, He sent His Son to be the greatest love story ever told. He came down from His throne in Heaven to a world full of sin. He lived as a poor humble human. Preached the Good News of God’s Kingdom. Though He never sinned, took the punishment of death we deserve. But it doesn’t end there. He defeated the enemy. He conquered death by rising from the dead! 

Why? So that we could be part of His Kingdom. So that we could have eternal life! But not just eternal life, we now can bring His Kingdom to Earth! We also now have ability to be in communion with God again- through the Holy Spirit. This is the greatest love story ever told! And it’s true. 

We have to put our faith in God. This is the love story our hearts need. This is the love that will change you and fulfill you.

That sense of completion comes from a relationship with Him!  When God is your number one relationship, you can take all your relationships to Him. He will guide you, lead you, and help you flourish in all areas, including earthly relationships. But He has to be that number one relationship, not just a random thought occasionally throughout your life when things get hard. He alone is the only thing that can satisfy that longing in your heart. Chasing anything else is like chasing the wind.

 

 

God is Faithful!

I’m getting published!!! I’m so excited to share this news. However, it doesn’t seem right to share this news without sharing how AMAZING our God is! So, let me tell you the whole story!

The Call

In April of 2017, I felt this stir in my heart to write a book. It really didn’t make a lot of sense. I have never been the best writer or even really cared to write much at all. But this was a feeling a couldn’t shake. I told my husband about it, and he said, “So, do it.”

Recognizing this was a call from God, I thought, “If God wants me to write a book, obviously He would want me to share my testimony.” I sat at the computer and began to type. However, the words just did not come out. God has done some amazing and wonderful things in my life. He took me from a life of complete chaos to peace, yet I barely had 200 words on this page.

I closed my word document, shut off the computer, and said out-loud, “God, if you want me to write a book, you are going to have to give me something.”

The next day… I took my children to the library for story time. Grace was three at the time. She picked up a whole bunch of princess books and was excited to bring them home to read. As I read the first book, I grew angry with the message this book was giving my young daughter. Grace, she only cared about the pretty dresses and glitter on the pages. But me, I was mad!

I stewed on it. I vented about it to anyone who would listen- these princess books were horrible! Then I was texting my mother-in-law about these books. She sent a simple response, “Renee, it’s just the storyline.”

In that second it all clicked- It’s just the storyline! Renee, change the storyline!!! You were called to write a book, maybe this is the book.

In no time at all, I typed out three princess stories with a message I want my daughter to hear. You are a princess because you are the daughter of a Heavenly King.

Ideas were still flooding my mind and more stories quickly followed.

As I was reading the stories to my kids, I noticed my boys were hanging onto every word. They loved the biblical application to the stories. “Mom, we want to be in the stories.”

This one I had to think about. Boys don’t really want to be a prince. Boys want to be warriors. Boys want to be knights. Thus, another series was developed that I was calling Knight Tales.

 What Next?

So, I did it. I wrote the book. Now what? I reached out to my cousin who is an author’s assistant. She told me to start querying agents, ten at a time. And as I got a rejection letter, send out another.  

So, I started with Google. But I quickly learned being in such a specific genre meant there was a short list of agents. Finding an agent who represents Christian children’s picture books was hard.

I found an upcoming Christian Writers’ Conference and decided to query the agents that were going to be at it. One of them had a very long submission guideline. But I followed it and submitted.

It wasn’t until she responded that I realized I submitted to a small publisher. This was the very first response I received, and she said yes! Yes, but… because she was such a small publisher, I would need to have the book illustrated.

An Illustrator?

I was so excited. I immediately reached out to someone I knew was talented and wanted to illustrate children’s books. However, as much as she wanted to, it just was not realistic for her to do so.

So, I asked the publisher to put me in contact with one of her illustrators. Everything was all set up, until the illustrator realized there was no contract yet… then another illustrator fell through.

I decided, maybe… just maybe, this wasn’t meant to be.

But if one publisher said yes, maybe another would too.

So, I bought the Christian Writer’s Market guide and highlighted every single publisher that accepted unsolicited manuscripts and children’s books.

I submitted.

And I waited.

Rejection

Two weeks later, I got my first rejection letter. It hurt. It hurt deep. I was so defeated. I went to church for a Wednesday Night Prayer Service. As the pastor opened with prayer, he asked, “Is there anyone in here feeling defeated?”

I raised my hand and tears just started flowing as he prayed. Then a girl came up to me with a note. She said, “I hope I don’t sound dumb, but God told me to give this to you.”

 She had written on prayer card, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.’ Philippian 1:6 The Lord is not finished with you. Keep seeking Him.”  

phil 1 6 God is faithful.jpg

More tears.

Then the pastor preached on this verse. Clearly this was a message perfectly timed for me. God knew I was defeated, but he was not finished.

As the years would go on with this project, I would continue to look at the verse. Often, I would wonder if that good work was the book or if it was referring to the sanctification process. Was it talking about the work God called me to do, or the process of becoming more like Christ? In my heart, I knew it didn’t really matter,  because God was using that verse to comfort and reassure me.

More Rejection, Some Hope

The publishers started responding. This publishing world was completely foreign to me. It amazed me how everyone genuinely wanted to help, they just couldn’t be the one to give me that start. I heard a lot of no’s, but I also heard some hope. Most of the publishers offered some guidance, advice on revisions, or suggestions for my next steps. I ended up having five publishing companies offer me hybrid contracts. This basically means, I pay for the publication. I definitely could not do that.

During this time, I had one agent respond to my query. She told me to self-publish my first book and if it sells 5,000 copies, she would represent me on my next book. Being completely naive, I responded that I had already had interested publishers. I then asked if I could sell 5,000 on my own, why would I need you.

This woman- thank God for her! I’m not even sure why she responded, but she did. She explained to me that in the publishing world it doesn’t matter how good your content is. What they care about is whether or not you can sell your work. You need a platform.

I didn’t like what she told me, but it was the truth. I needed a platform.

Blog

So, I started a blog. It was quite the roller-coaster. There were so many times I wanted to quit. So many times, I wondered if it was even worth it.

One specific time, I even wrote about it.  (Frustrated)

My husband read that post. Then he had a heart-to-heart with me. He told me that if God called me to this blog, I could not quit it without consulting him. I needed to steady the course. And maybe it was time to start looking for that illustrator again.

Illustrator…again

I really did not want to do this again. Last time this did not pan out too well. But I knew my husband was right.

I felt heavy on my heart I needed to ask my friend Anna. Now Anna is an extremely artistic and talented person, but it still felt weird asking her. I didn’t do it. I didn’t want another illustrator to fall through. But this feeling didn’t go away. I told Ben. He said, “So, ask her.”

Anna responded that she was flattered that I asked, but her sister, Connie, is really the person I want to illustrate for me. She sent me a link to her page.

I took one look at Connie’s work and knew that she would be a good fit. So, I reached out to her. Before I knew it, a beautifully illustrated book was coming together.

As she sent me illustrations I was just in awe. She did such an awesome job!

Time to Submit

We finished the project the day before baby #6 was born. I submitted to the interested publisher. She loved it! She said she would be delighted to offer us a contract… but it was contingent on an agent picking up the project…

I was back at square one.

So, I started reaching back out to every agent who I had any contact with. I queried and queried away.

Losing Hope

I started to lose hope.

I worried.

 I wondered. Is this my will or God’s will?

How much of me is in this project? I wrestled with my pride so much. It just didn’t settle well. I looked into self-publishing.  I felt very uneasy about it.

I started telling my husband about the lack of progress and my lack of hope and he said, “Maybe you should be praying that God will allow you to be ok with the answer wait.”

I didn’t want to hear that.

But I did. I prayed that God would allow me to be ok with the answer wait. And almost immediately I realized I was exactly where I was supposed to be. My kids. My family. The blog. I was doing exactly what God wanted me to do. I just needed to be still and trust Him and His timing.

Things seemed to pretty much be on hold for the book progress. And I was ok with that… kinda…

A Storm

So, as life would happen- a storm came. My health appeared to be not so great. My doctor thought I had Lupus. I was in the middle of a bunch of testing. And at the same time, I felt this huge conviction to allow God to be my comforter and put down my cell phone. I wrote about this in a recent blog. (My Comforter) I was struggling… a lot… but in a weird way- it was awesome. I so strongly felt God’s hand during this time. But I also realized just how confused I was.

I just couldn’t understand. Why does my health have to go down the drain? I have six kids God entrusted me with…

Why would God call me to write a book and never see it through?

I struggled. I know we cannot understand God’s ways. I know that His will is on His time. But knowing that in your head and trusting that in your heart don’t always go together.

During this storm, Connie reached out to me and told me I had been on her heart.

I told her about the Lupus and how I wasn’t handling it so well…

Turning Point

Then… test results came back- No Lupus! What! How amazing is our God! Comforted and healed!

And suddenly I felt this kick in the bottom to start submitting manuscripts again.

It just so happens that I am part of a group on Facebook for aspiring children’s book authors. One of the authors posted that her publisher was actively seeking submissions. So, I checked out their page.

Then I emailed the editor. He was interested in the entire series!

Then I submitted our work.

It all happened so smoothly.

Well… kinda… but even the little bumps, God directed the path.

I just signed a contract! With the potential to get all of the princess books published!

How great is our God! I can’t wait to see what God does next!

 In Conclusion 

God is faithful! He called me into a completely foreign world. He inspired the work and guided my fingers as they typed. He walked alongside me every step of the way, guiding my feet and the people who I came into contact with. He comforted me when I was down. Though I gave up, He continued to lead.

Every single feeling that I couldn’t shake- was a prompting from the Holy Spirit. Every single person who gave me advice was strategically placed there for guidance. This process has been a rollercoaster, but I am so glad to have been part of it. 

Thank you God for starting a good work in me and seeing it out to completion!