Who to Please

Do you ever find yourself struggling to please people? I’d like to say that I don’t, that what others think of me and my work really means nothing to me, but that would not be a truthful statement. Anyone working in the arts—an actor, a dancer, a singer, a writer—relies at least in part on the support of fans to have any sort of a successful career. And to have fans, one must have the ability to please others.

So yes, I do strive to please people with my work. It is my hope that the words I write will not only entertain others but will in some small way impact their hearts and lives. I don’t expect that every person is going to enjoy my work. I cannot be all things to all people. If it means losing sight of who I am and what I believe in, I don’t want to be all things to all people. What I want is to assemble the words I have been given in the best possible story I can, and just trust that God will place those stories in front of the people who will benefit the most from reading them. I want to do it without concern over what people think of the work I am doing.

Problem is, I am only human. I do care about what people think. There is one person in particular whose opinion matters me to me. Why, I really can’t say. I only know that for years I have craved approval from this person. I’ve looked up to her and wanted so badly to hear her tell me that I have done a good job. It would totally make my day, my week, my month, my year to hear her say, “Lynn, I am so proud of you.” Especially when it comes to my choice of career.

I know that isn’t going to happen. I am not sure why. Nor do I know why I keep trying so hard to gain her approval. Trying to please her sets me up for failure. Just this morning, it was brought home to me again how little my feelings and my writing matter to her. I need to let this go, and it is so hard.

As I thought about it and about how hard I have tried to please this person, a verse from Colossians came to mind. Colossians 3:23 in the New Living Translation says, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” I looked a little further back in my Bible and came across verse 13: “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

So what I hear the Lord telling me this morning is that yes, this woman has hurt me, deeply, with her rejection. But that doesn’t matter. I need to let go of that hurt, forgive her for causing me pain, and work to please Him and only Him. Someday, maybe she will come around. But if she doesn’t? I can live with that. My writing isn’t about her anyway. It’s about what God wants. Today, I will allow Him to guide my words. I will trust that He is working through them as He sees fit.

No matter what anyone else thinks.

Reading, Writing, Courage

I am addicted…to reading.
I blame it on Mrs. Niedzielski. When she taught my 5th and 6th grade class, she insisted on weekly book reports. That got me into the habit of reading. And boy did I read—a lot. Like many 10- and 11-year-old girls in the late-80s, I read a lot of Sweet Valley High books, a series of books that basically were a teen soap opera in print form. (Hmmm… Perhaps Mrs. N. is to blame for my soap opera affinity as well….) But that is not all I read. Mrs. N. pushed everyone to read more than just the current popular books in our age group. She had a list of Newberry Award winners, and she kept the classroom shelves stocked with a selection of these titles. At one point, she even held a little reading contest, the prize being a book of the winner’s choice. I remember that BINGO board, and working diligently to fill in each square. The copy of Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends that I earned still sits on my bookshelf, one of my most prized possessions.

That reading addiction has served me well over the years, especially in my current course work. As I am learning more about the craft of writing, I am reading a lot more. Some of it is dry and bland (check out some of the essays on writing by Charles Baxter…the man might know a lot about writing, but he does not know how to write about writing in an interesting manner.) Some is very informative in improving my own writing (Sandra Scofield’s The Scene Book has been invaluable.) And some is just for fun (because, thanks to Mrs. N.’s influence, I can’t go long without reading a novel!) Most of the novels I’ve been reading lately are in Kindle form. As much as I love the feel and smell of a real, printed book, I’ve found that with the Kindle I can build my book collection without taking up extra shelf space in the house (after all, though I once thought it impossible, using a shelf for sports trophies earned by children really is more important than displaying a vast book collection.) Thanks to Book Bub, I am able to build my Kindle book collection quite inexpensively. I add 2-3 new books to my Kindle each week for free. Most of what I download are Christian novels, because that is what I write. Makes sense to me to keep up with what is being published now so that I have some idea where my work will fit into things.

This week, I have finished reading two of the free novels that are currently on my Kindle. I am about half way through a third. And I have to say that what I am reading is leaving me a little depressed.

Not to sound conceited, but I can write better than this! Of the three books, only one had really deep characters. That book had its drawbacks, but the characters seemed more like real people than the characters in what I am reading now. The current novel features very flat characters, doing really nothing. Halfway through the book, and I am still not really sure what the book is about. I can’t pick out the plot yet. Not only are the characters boring, the author’s description is bland. The book is set in an area of the country that I have never been to. In itself, that’s not a problem. Part of why I read is to experience parts of the world that I am not able to visit in my real life. But the lack of vivid description makes it hard to imagine myself actually being in California’s wine country. I have yet to become so engrossed in this location, in this story to feel like I am anywhere other than curled up on a corner of the couch in my Jackson, Michigan living room. And this book was written by a woman who is not only an author, but also a literary agent and a creative writing instructor!

I am left wondering something—do I need to write badly in order to be published? Does my fiction need to be flat, bland, and boring to grab the attention of agents and publishers? If so, then why am I in school? What is the point of honing my craft, of learning to write engaging fiction if it is this bland drivel that is being published?

Or maybe what is needed is a little courage. I love writing and for the most part I am pleased with my work. But I have this perfection issue—I want my work to be perfect, absolutely perfect before I show it to anyone else. Especially anyone who is in the writing business. But after reading these books and thinking all through them that I could do so much better, I think that needs to change. For years I have said that God gave me this writing talent. He will get it into the hands of those who need to see it. I do believe that. At the same time, I find myself thinking that He might require a little more of me than just writing down the stories.

Perhaps it is time to do a little more work, to try a little harder to get my work noticed by agents and publishers. I know that God will get my work into the right hands. But how will those “right hands” know anything about where to find my work if I am not sending it out?


I am feeling a little down today. Yesterday was May 31. Bet you already knew that…. May 31 is the date of the annual MomWriters Virtual Ball. MomWriters around the globe are invited to meet up in a chat room to talk, laugh, and have a good ol’ time throughout the day while waiting for the announcement of the winners of the Golden Pen Awards (GPAs). This year’s ball was a blast! With chickens on the loose and a nearly endless string of Conga Rats during the GPA ceremony, how could it not be? (Admit it, you are so jealous that you want to know how to become a MomWriter!!!)

As much fun as it was, I can’t help feeling a little bummed. And not just because it is over, though I freely admit that is part of it. Yesterday was a busy day, between end-of-season soccer games for two of my sons and a meeting at the church, so I wasn’t able to spend as much time in the Ball chat room as I wanted to. My disappointment is tempered a bit by the knowledge that I have the chance to meet a few MomWriters later this year during my family vacation (so glad hubby is OK with it!) and with the excitement of knowing I may meet a few more at an official gathering next year!

It was the presentation of the GPAs that began my sadness this year. Actually, I think the sadness started with the nomination process. In the past, I’ve been nominated for numerous awards. This year, I was nominated for only one. And while I’d love to show the class and maturity that many award nominees do and say, “It’s an honor just to be nominated,” I can’t. Even if I said it, I wouldn’t mean it. Especially since I nominated myself for the award.

In truth, it’s not the lack of nominations or the lack of awards this year that has me down. (I do believe I have won a total of 5 GPAs over the 7 years I have been a MomWriter, so going without for one year isn’t a big deal.) The disappointment comes from the knowledge that I don’t deserve a GPA this year. I haven’t put in the work. My blog has sat idle. I have read books but not posted reviews. I’ve written short stories but only for my college classes. And in all honesty, many of the sort stories I’ve “written” for college classes have been old stories that I found on various hard drives and just reformatted for class.

My frustrations and sadness stem from the fact that I have not done the necessary work to earn an award. Guess there is only one way to keep that from happening next year….

Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant

Elaine Taylor passed away Sunday evening.

You will be forever missed and loved, Elaine

You will be forever missed and loved, Elaine

You might not have heard the news.  She was not a celebrity.  Fame was not one of the goals of her 84-year-long life.  At least not earthly fame.  My guess would be that most of the people reading this post didn’t know her.  That is a shame.    

If you had ever met her, you would have loved her.  At least I think you would have.  I know for sure that Elaine would have loved you.  Elaine loved everyone.  I don’t think she ever met a stranger.  Each new person in her life was a friend.  Her smile, her laugh, her hug….  All three welcomed everyone she met, and no one who experienced them will ever forget them.

No one who ever experienced Elaine was ever forgotten by her.

I can’t tell you what her presence meant in my life.  It’s hard to even describe the relationship we had.   Elaine was a grandmother when I needed one.  She was full of love and advice—giving the love at all times and the advice when she felt I needed it, which was not necessarily when I felt I needed it.  She said she would pray for me.  And you know what?  She actually did it.  A lot of today’s Christians—myself included, I am so sorry to say—are good at saying, “You’ll be in my prayers,” and then promptly forgetting the details of who needed prayer.  Not Elaine.  She might not have known what prayer was needed, but she prayed. 

Much of my recent physical recovery I attribute to her prayers.  I gave up.  Not on God, exactly.  Never once did I stop believing that He could heal my back pain and bring back the feeling my leg.  I just gave up on the idea that He ever would.  For whatever reason, I just felt like God intended for me to live with these physical limitations, and I started to look for the good that could come from them.  If this was part of His plan, I wanted to be open to still making a difference for Him.  Elaine never gave up on my healing.  When I told her a few months ago that I knew God could heal me but I didn’t think that He would, she gave me that smile.  You know what smile I mean…the one a mother gives her child when the child seems to be trying but not trying hard enough.  Yeah, that’s the smile.  She patted my hand and said, “I don’ believe that.  It’s just not the right time.  He will bring the healing when He is ready for it, not when you are.”  And when she said she’d pray for me, I knew she was doing it.  I wish I could tell her that she was right.  I wish I’d had the chance to walk into her room, without my cane, and show her how God was working.

But I am sure she knows now.  I have a feeling God has spent a lot of time in the last few days showing Elaine how her prayers have helped bring miracles to more people than we could ever count.

There is a party going on in Heaven this week, a “welcome to your reward” party, with Elaine Taylor as the guest of honor.  From the reports I have been hearing all over Facebook this week, Elaine is just one of many guests of honor at this party.  And you know what?  I think that is how she would want it.  Once she got her face-to-face moment with Jesus, once she was able to hug Him and kiss Him, she turned around to face the others coming behind her.  

And with the same smile she used on Sunday mornings, she held out her hand and said, “Welcome to Heaven.  You’ll like it here.”

Why I Write…Again

I’ve talked about it before, and I will probably talk about it again.  Most every writer is asked the question.  And the answer, for many of us, changes as we grow and our writing evolves.  In this blog, I have covered more times than I can count at the moment the reasons that I write.  Recently, though, I found myself face-to-face with one of the reasons I started writing in the first place.  I immediately took a picture of it.

DSCF4843_thumb.jpg My husband and I took our sons on a vacation “Up North,” to Grand Traverse County, Michigan.  My mother’s family has roots in the area, and a cousin now owns property in the small village outside of Traverse City where my great-aunt raised her family.  We were able to stay there.  My oldest son, who is 12 now, helped me tour the property on a golf cart—he drove while I took pictures.  At one point as we drove along the dirt road, I just started to giggle.  The road that stretched in front of me reminded me of my favorite book, Anne of Green Gables.  All I could think as we bounced along that road was, “If this was a horse-drawn buggy, this would be just like what Anne Shirley saw on her first approach to Green Gables from the train station.”  It took me back to the first time I read that book and the reasons I started to write.

I began writing because of Anne’s wonder.  From the moment I first read that book, I was entranced with the way L.M. Montgomery captured Anne’s view of the world, her wondered at experiencing all new things.  Her Anne books are my biggest inspiration.  I can’t imagine that my writing is nearly as good as Ms. Montgomery’s work.  But my goal, especially when I am writing for young adults, is to create characters as memorable as Anne Shirley and Diana Barry, and to craft a love story as touching and enduring as that of Anne and Gilbert Blythe.

Though Anne’s stories take place on Prince Edward Island, Canada, and this photograph was taken in Grawn, Michigan, it reminds me of those feelings I had when I started to write stories.  I plan to enlarge this picture and have it framed to hang above my writing desk.    This is why I write.  Whenever I need extra inspiration, looking at this should help me to find it.

Anne of Green GablesAnne ShirleyinspirationL.M. Montgomery

The Writing Question

Why do you write?

If you are a writer, you will be asked that question at least once in your life.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked it.  And it seems like every time I hear the question, the answer changes.  Oh, at the heart of it, the answer is the same—I write because I cannot NOT write.  Writing is as much a part of my daily life as breathing.  While the lack of writing may not bring the same physical problems that a lack of oxygen would bring, when I don’t write I do suffer a sort of emotional suffocation.

One reason I write, one that is playing heavy on my mind this morning, is because it’s a great escape from my life.  Writing allows me to explore how my life could have been had I made different choices.  Oh, I am not talking about the “little” choices, like what if I’d picked a different colored blouse or if I had picked something different for breakfast.  I mean the bigger choices in life, like what if I had sat in a different seat in my 10th grade history class or what if I had gone to my senior prom with a group of friends instead of with the date I had.  Those may not seem like big, life altering decisions to you, but to me they were.

The girl I sat next to in 10th grade history?  She is still my best friend today.

The boy I went to my senior prom with?  He and I have been married for 13 years.

If I’d made a different choice about either of those things, my life would be totally different today.

For the most, I am happy with my life.  I can’t say completely happy, because there are things in my life that I am not happy with.  Mostly, those things are health-related.  I wonder sometimes how things would be different if I had made different choices.

This morning, I’d like a little escape from my life.  My kids are off school this morning, and they are especially loud.  I don’t know exactly why.  Could be just because they are boys….

Today, I write because I need a break.  I need to get away from the loudness, the madness that comes from having four (yes, four–they had a friend stay over last night; could that be part of the reason for the loudness??) boys at home today.  Only I don’t know that I will get the quiet to be able to do that.  After all, it’s taken me nearly two hours just to write this simple post.

Embracing Issues

Something occurred to me this morning.  While I was sitting here writing, I began to feel like satan is really trying to attack me.

Back in December, I had back surgery.  There are issues from the back problem that necessitated the surgery that have not gone away yet.  Some days, these issues are a bigger problem than on other days.  Today is one of the days when the issues seem huge.  They almost seem big enough that there is not much point in fighting them.  A part of me just wants to curl up in bed, hide under my covers, and just hide from everything.  Let the problems take over or fade away, whatever.  I’m sick of dealing with them and I don’t want to deal anymore.

I took a mini break in my writing to refill my drink bottle.  That’s when it hit me—the issues that bother me are more of a problem when I am working on my relationship with Christ!

They were a huge deal at family camp in July, when I looked forward to sitting in chapel services every day.  They were a huge deal in the days after camp, when I could still feel God right beside me, flowing through me, and working in my life.  And they have been a huge deal today as I have been working on a preteen devotional book that I feel God is really pushing me to write.

I wrote two devotional pieces, and while I wrote them the issue grew to the point that I had to walk away from the computer to deal with it.  Twice it happened.  The last week, when I was working on other projects, the issue didn’t act up like this.  But today, when I have praise music playing and I am focusing on what God is leading me to do, the issue pops up in a glaring, jarring fashion.

Once I realized the connection between my writing and the issue, I wasn’t quite as annoyed with it.  In fact, I felt almost proud of it.  I must be doing something right.  Otherwise, satan wouldn’t be trying so hard to discourage me and stop what I am doing.

But guess what, satan?  YOU DON’T WIN!!!!  I’ve read the end of The Book.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt what is going to happen.  No matter what you throw at me, your future is written.  And it’s not a future I want to be a part of!!

So I am giving myself over to God today.  My life and my writing are in His hands.  That matters more to me than any health issue that might stand in my way.  My God is bigger than all that!!  I am so grateful to be in His care.

First Day Blues

Today I did something I have been dreading for five years.  I took my youngest son’s hand in mine and led him into Hunt Elementary for his first day of kindergarten.

I can’t believe he is in kindergarten already.  Preschool was enough last year.  But at least them he was only gone for half the day.  Now he is in school all day long, just like his big brothers.  I tried my best not to let him see how sad I am to have him gone.  That little guy is so excited about making new friends and riding the bus “just like the big kids, Mommy!”  But I feel a little empty and a little lonely.  Sure, today is only half a day.  He–and his brothers–will be home at 11 and then we will go to GLI for our annual First Day of School Picnic Lunch with Daddy at his work.  And while I am looking forward to hearing all about the fun he had on his first day, I am dreading his second.

What will I do all day long while he is at school?

Sure, it will give me time to do “my own thing.”  I just don’t always know what “my own thing” is.

Shortly after my youngest was born, I started to write seriously.  I’ve written for websites and blogs.  I’ve written novels and reviewed novels.  I’ve written short stories.  And I’ve even sold a few.  I remember feel so energized–for as long as I could remember I wanted to “be a writer” and now I was doing it!  By the time he went off to kindergarten, I would not only be a writer, I would be a successful writer.  Maybe I wouldn’t have a New York Times best seller on my hands, but I’d be on my way.   I’d be making a steady income, even it was only a small amount each week.

And here I am, sipping coffee while he is meeting new kindergarten friends, facing the fact that I, once again, have failed.

OK, so maybe saying that I failed is a bit harsh.  But that is what I feel like.  I am still struggling to make any kind of living at this “writing thing.”  There is a part of me that is about ready to give it up.  I feel like I just can’t do it anyway.  Maybe I need to throw in the towel, walk away from the writing, and find a “real job,” with a steady paycheck.

Only I can’t do that.  I am happier when I am writing.  My husband and sons have said that I am easier to live with when I am writing.  And I know that God has given me this gift.  I so long to use it for His glory.  It just gets frustrating sometimes.  I am doing this for Him, so why isn’t He blessing it?  It’s not that I am asking to be as famous and prosperous as Karen Kingsbury is.  All I want is steady work so I can supplement my husband’s income.  I would love to earn enough that he can cut back on his overtime.  That man–he works so hard for our family.  I want to make that easier on him.  It just feels like I am letting him down.  I don’t like that feeling.

But, moping about that isn’t going to change anything!  Romans 11:29 says, “For God’s gift and His call cannot be withdrawn.”  So long as I am using the gift He has giving me to follow His call on my life, He will work things out the way He wants them.

Even if it doesn’t happen as soon as I want it to or in the way I want it to happen.

Short Story Time!

I’ve been doing a lot of cleaning out of old files this summer.  Through it all, I have found a lot of old poems and short stories that I have written.  Some of them are cute, some are really good, and some–well, if you print them out and use them to line a gerbil, I totally understand!  Still, I wanted to do something more with them than have them locked in a file cabinet in the disaster area that I call an office.

So, I am going to start posting them here on my blog.  The first one will go up tomorrow morning.  Stayed turned to see them all.  My plan is to have one posted each week  until I completely run out of short stories and poems to share.  Let me know what you think of them, please!  I sure hope you enjoy them, at least a little bit.  If nothing else, it will be fun for me to see how my writing has changed and grown over the years.

Oh, What To Do

I have about a zillion ideas flying around in my head today.  And when I say a zillion, I am only slightly exaggerating.  I seriously have a lot of story ideas floating around in there.  That can be both a good thing and a bad thing.

Today, it is a bad thing.

There are so many thoughts in there that I don’t even know where to begin.

I have a novel that is nearly complete.  Well, the first draft is nearly complete, anyway.  I probably SHOULD get to work on that.

But I can’t seem to concentrate.  The other ideas keep pushing their way to the front of my mind, pretty much demanding that I work on them.  As soon as I have a pen and paper or a blank word document open, the idea slips away.

This is driving me CRAZY.  Should I stop writing for a few days and just let my brain simmer down?  Or maybe I should just grab a pen and my journal and start writing whatever comes to mind, without thought about form and style and spelling….  Just get the stuff out of my head and onto paper in someway.