Tag Archive | struggle

Lessons Learned While Writing: The Necessity of “Tough Stuff”

A story that is all sunshine and happy times doesn’t keep the reader engaged. As an author I need to find an inciting incident to start my story. A disturbance of some sort to draw the reader in and make them want to take this journey with me. Obstacles need to be faced because this forces my character to make choices and face consequences—good and bad—for those decisions. Without conflict, the story would be boring. Without challenges the character doesn’t grow and change to become a better person emotionally and spiritually.

The challenge of living in this world filled with sin is we face conflict regularly in real life and sometimes that can be a royal pain. Sometimes we create our own conflict. Sometimes events happen over which we have no control and we are forced to deal with and react to them. Every choice leads us down a path filled with more choices.

The darkness in this world, the grief and heartache we face, serves to remind us of how human we really are. How far from heaven we’ve fallen due to the ongoing and exponentially growing prevalence of sin in the world. But the ups and downs of this life also help us appreciate the good times, the happy moments, the blessings that come along as well.

The stars don’t cease to twinkle when the sun is shining, even though we can’t see them. When darkness falls and we are way from city lights, the stars sparkle in the heavens. So too when life is dark do we sometimes see things clearer. The harshness of death, expands the depth of love. The threat of a terminal illness makes us cling to what really matters. 

Without the difficulties of life it would be, well, boring. At least on a page of a book. We don’t want to read about everything always going great on social media, do we? It’s not real. Everyone has some heartache and challenges they face from within or without. Maybe they won’t share it but it’s there. Sometimes we only get the highlight reel.

It makes me wonder how Heaven in all its glory will compare to this world filled with tears and sorrows, gains and losses, pain and healing. We will be awestruck. We will have work to do as we worship the King of kings and Lord of lords. But there won’t be the struggle, the pain, or the tears.

If you are struggling, hang on. It won’t last forever because we have something wonderful to look forward to.


The “God Answered my Prayer” Conundrum

Lots of things stew in my crazy brain. Much of it I’m sure you’d not want to read about. Complexities and backstory would bog down the fact that emotionally turmoil is festering underneath what many perceive to be a cheerful exterior.

One recent thing though has been cooking. I have a friend who has a book doing extremely well. She’s breaking all the “rules” for promotion and marketing. I love her to bits and I’m thrilled at her success.

No. Really. I am. She’s a dear sweet friend.

I asked her what she thinks is the secret to her success. Her response: “We’ve been praying.” She does. She prays. She has people who have prayed as she’s worked on her novel for over 10 years. Yes. You heard me. Ten years.

Here’s where the conundrum comes in. I pray too. I’ve had people pray for me as I write and struggle with life. My books haven’t sold as well although they get great reviews and I’ve done so many things to promote them. I’ve had people who I respect as authors, promise to read and promote my books who have failed to do so. I’ve done so for their great novels. Grrr. Frustrating to say the least. But God can take care of them.

God is doing 10000 thingsWhich leads to a variety of thoughts.

  • Does God not love me or my book as much as He loves my friend’s?
  • Success isn’t really about how many books I sell.
  • But I could really use the money sales could net for me due to challenging life circumstances (duh, like we all don’t face those?)

And then I scold myself.

  • It should be enough that I worked hard and my books are well-received and people have found their faith encouraged or challenged by reading them.
  • It should be enough that God has brought people into my life to minister to and encourage because I have written and published my novels.
  • It should be enough that God knows my heart and my needs. All of them. He’s got my future in the palm of His hands.

So why isn’t it enough? Why do I struggle?

The issue isn’t God.

It’s me.

I’m a fallible human who struggles with insecurities on so many levels.

I struggle with depression and anxiety.

I lack support from people who should be there for me but who had sought to sabotage me every step on my journey.

They failed.

Because: God.

God has gotten me to where I am. He has brought me through so many struggles and pain beyond what I could ever dare to share here.

And my writing isn’t a job. It’s a calling. I need to own that and realize that a calling doesn’t come with a windfall. It comes with a cost.

And a blessing.

But sometimes I fail to see that amidst the pain and struggle that sometimes visits my life.

So I’m grateful for my friend, her faith and our beautiful relationship. She is also called and God’s blessing on her work has no bearing on the way He is at work in my life.

Because we are all unique and God’s work in and through us is also unique.

How often I forget that when the “should’s” come knocking on my door.

How about you? Where have you struggled with the “should’s” in your own life?

Living Large (Part II)

BMI Monitor & tape measure

BMI Monitor & tape measure

Another beef I have against those who so blithely condemn people who are not thin, is this:

Do you know their story?

I’m guilty too of looking at people and making rash and inappropriate judgements. I had a meeting with a woman who I had never met before and she was quite large. We started talking and I found out she had LOST 60 lbs. Seriously. Wow. Now this is a woman to affirm and applaud, not put down because she’s not at some ideal spot on a scale. It was a good lesson to me.

I’ve known people (including myself) that have gained weight due to medications or hypothyroidism. See, not everyone who is overweight is a glutton.  It used to be a cop-out to say that someone had a “glandular issue” but the fact is, it is probably one of the most under-diagnosed medical problems out there. I couldn’t put on weight that fast not matter HOW much I ate as when medication messed with my metabolism and I packed on unwanted pounds.

It’s depressing and frustrating to have to deal with. It is humiliating to have to go to the store (even Goodwill) to purchase clothing in a larger size.

Yes. I have often made unhealthy eating choices, but honestly, I don’t think I could eat myself into a 40 lb weight gain in one month. Medication did that for me though. Funny how easily it goes on and how torturous it is to get it off.

This is all to say that we need to look at others through eyes of grace and know that we have not walked their path. Part of my most recent weight gain was due to multiple factors: a malfunctioning pituitary gland (manages metabolism), some thyroid problems, inactivity due to surgery and illness (both me and my kids) and then back pain, and then yes, some comfort food sought when struggling with the pain.

What is interesting is that I will condemn myself for all of it – even the stuff that was beyond my control. Of course there are people out there who assist in that by advising me on how to lose it. What is also interesting is that my medical doctor, physical therapist, physiatrist and chiropractor have not faulted me for the weight issue. They have been gracious and understanding and state I’m doing everything RIGHT. (okay, maybe Cheetos and Pepsi are not on any healthy eating plan, but still . . .). There is compassion and understanding of teh struggle I have faced.

I have also been blessed with sweet friends who compliment me when they see me – on how I look and dress. They don’t tell me I look fat in that outfit (I am fat and will look that way no matter what I wear anyway). I try to be that kind of person to others too. Yeah, we are to be more  than about physical beauty and appearance, but face it, we are visual people and often that’s where some of us have had our deepest wounds and struggle.

All this is to say, be careful who you judge for their weight. I knew a little old lady at one point (she’s long gone now from this world) who would look at an overweight person and say “There goes fatty boom-boom.” How sad, really. As if that woman needed that kind of label.

On the flip side – when I did lose weight I was told by my family that I was anorexic and my doctor at the time never even noticed. Hello! Celebrate the success but don’t condemn the person struggling, because chances are, they are doing enough of that themselves even if the cause of their weight is not totally under their control.

Let’s live with large hearts of love, affirmation and validation for the positive qualities we see in EVERYONE around us instead of looking for the flaws.

Living Large (Part 1)

IMG_0030I’ve had a rough year with weight loss. On the flip side, I’ve had a great year with weight gain. Between illnesses and unexplained back pain I’ll admit I’ve at times sought comfort in food that probably would not normally qualify as healthy. (gotta define that first!)

I’m back to the YMCA working out in spite of my struggles (since I’ve determined I’m not doing any damage in spite of the ongoing pain issue). The biggest workout has been in my own thinking and I’m not there yet. I wish there was an easy way to suck the bad messages that have been force-fed into my brain all my life. There’s really no lipo for that though, is there?

But the last few days I was thinking about some of my  friends that are not a size zero either. I’m not going to set a bar for weight or dress size that determines whether someone is “fat” or not.

Here’s what I realized. Some of the sweetest, most encouraging and beautiful people I know–are overweight.


Yup. It’s true. I adore these people. I want to be around them because they smile and they know (I hope) that their BMI is not what God is interested in. They have won me over because of their positive attitude and the way they graciously treat and encourage others around them, including me.

A few years back I had mentioned the name of a gal who sang on a worship team. Someone else didn’t know who she was. I said “She’s on the short side and has the biggest, sweetest smile” and another person said “Oh, she’s the fat one.” Is it any wonder I didn’t really “like” the person who would make a comment like that?

I wish there was a correct way to say to my fellow ladies who tend to larger-than-normal sizes: “Hey, I don’t know if weight is an issue you struggle with, but the first thing I think of when I think of you is how much I enjoy being around you.”

I have to turn this around to look at my own self-condemnation over my weight. The number on a scale or the size on a pair of jeans is NOT the measure of my character or worth. It has little to do with the way I treat others. I am more gracious to those around me with similar issues, than I am to myself.

I’m not my own best friend but sometimes an even bigger enemy are  those around me that keep telling me I’m fat and need to lose weight.

News flash: I already know that.

I love the idea that if someone tells you you’re fat – you should eat them. Except those kind of people are not nice. The probably wouldn’t taste very good, even well seasoned. Even if they are skinny and dress well. Their character stinks. Their words pollute. I don’t want to be around them. They might even call themselves “truth-tellers” but there’s a big difference between encouraging someone and putting them down and it goes far beyond the words that come out of someone’s mouths.

I am NOT saying that all “skinny” people out there are evil. Some are delightful and I even call them friends!

So why am I writing about this here? Maybe so that if someone I know, who struggles with this issue and reads this post, they’ll know that what I see in them isn’t their size, but their attitude and smile and their love of God and other people. And maybe together we can encourage each other, not to lose weight, but to savor the value we truly have, that goes beyond the scale.

After all, the heart is what God looks at too, so why should we be any different?

The Fiddler (Book Review)

When I first met Beverly Lewis at a book signing, my first thought was “She is so sweet.” The Fiddler was my first read of anything by her and the book is definitely a reflection of the author’s personality (from my limited acquaintance).

The Fiddler is a story of an Englisher, Amelia, who is a classical violinist of world class caliber who is struggling against the demands and expectations of her father, agent and musician boyfriend. So she takes up “fiddling” on the side and in secret. Discovery forces her to look at what it is she really wants out of life and an unexpected rainstorm, wrong turn and flat tire, bring her the doorstep of Michael.

Michael has his own challenges to face as well. Raised Amish, he has lived in the world and yet struggles to defy his parents’ wishes for him to be baptized and committed to the Amish way of life.  Doing so would mean giving up his work as a drafter. His own foray into the world was followed by his neice’s as well, with her also wandering from God. Can one leave the Plain way and still love and serve the Lord?

Both Amelia and Michael struggle to come to grips with their dreams and how God could use that in the face of opposition from those closest to them. Or could God work that out in time? And what about the attraction each feels for the other? One Englisher and one Amish? Could there ever be a meeting point there?

As I stated earlier, this story is sweet, easy to read and thoroughly enjoyable. Beverly herself told me that if I was going to read any novel of hers as a first visit to her Amish fiction, this was the one to read. I think she was right. The only thing that could have made this better would have been an audio (CD) of some of the fiddling music, although I experienced in my heart regardless.