Desperate or deliberate? 

My favorite college literature class focused on American Transcendentalists. A famous passage from that era from Henry David Thoreau reads:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”



Note that Thoreau did not write: “I went to the woods to live desperately.”

Because I think that’s how many, if not most, of us live.

Desperate.

We are the Great Martha (Luke 10:38-42) Generation, the do-ers, the be-ers, the movers and the shakers.

We not only force our own lives to happen, we ultimately force what we believe to be the hand of God in our lives…even onto the lives of others.

We make the plans and then tell God to join us.

Our constant heart cry is, “Are we there yet?” when God wants us to be still and know and perhaps…perhaps to enjoy the ride. Our constant posture is shoulder-to-the-grindstone instead of resting in the easy yoke of His guiding hand.

We forge ahead when God says wait.

I attended the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference this weekend to sit at His feet, to renew my writing purpose, to refocus my all on Him, to clear my mind of everything that distracts and burdens and sucks the marrow out of my soul. The world does those things to an artist. The blessing and the curse of a creative is that we are born with ears that over-hear, with hearts that over-feel, our senses skittish and overwhelmed by all the world tells us we should be doing, rather than what the Creator made us to be. Spending time shoulder-to-shoulder with other writers seeking Him beneath ancient redwoods centers me again. 



Being with other writers and creatives makes me determined again to live deliberately.

Walking with Him, and not sprinting ahead.

Listening for Him, and not talking at Him.

Refusing to act on any muse other than the Spirit moving in my heart.

It is only in that intimacy, only in that grace, only in the mercy of his light and loving load that life becomes worth living.

Only then can story be written.

“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:30

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What about you?

Do you live desperately or deliberately? 

Is your burden heavy or light?

What can you do to live more intimately, more in-step, with God, today?

What’s it like when the books arrive?

Terrifying.

That’s what it feels like when my allotment of soon-to-be-released books arrive from the publisher.

I can barely bring myself to cut through the packing tape and pull open the flap, because I know too well what’s underneath the crinkled packing paper.

While some see an accomplishment–and all glory to Him, that it is–I see doubt. Revisions. More doubt. Excitement over a sentence I *think* I might’ve actually written well. Mortification over a sentence that follows that I should’ve written differently. Exhaustion. Glee. Writer’s block. Relief. Not one, but two near-complete re-writes. A roller coaster of years of work all packed up in a little brown box.

It brings to mind the story of the boy in the Bible with the loaves and fishes.

I bet his stomach rumbled as He approached Jesus, terrified to let go of what was perhaps his only chance at a meal for the day. I bet he felt so awkward as the crowd stared and perhaps sneered as he approached the great Teacher. The child’s face must have flushed with the heat of inadequacy and even shame at the pitiful offering held out with hands shaky…dirt caked under fingernails from foraging for bait or from a morning of play…to Jesus.

That’s what it feels like to me when the books arrive.

I don’t know what God will do with my words. Inevitably some folks won’t like the bread and fish I bring. There’s really no telling how many will be nourished by the story I did my best to tell.

All I can do today…indeed every day…is to place the little brown bag in His hands and walk away, leaving the rest to Him.

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What about you, friend? Have you ever released something and been terrified of what would happen afterwards? Maybe you’ve released a job, a career, a child, a loved one, or your own artwork. How does/did that make you feel?

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“One of the disciples—it was Andrew, brother to Simon Peter—said, “There’s a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But that’s a drop in the bucket for a crowd like this.” John 6:8-9 (TMV)

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Interview with Nel Stewart, a main character from Then Sings My Soul

Happy Monday! I am so excited to have a guest with me today on my blog. She’s one of the two main characters in my novel, Then Sings My Soul, which releases in just a few short weeks. Her name is Nel Stewart, and she’s excited to tell you a little more about her role in the story.

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Amy: Hi Nel, and thanks for being here. Tell readers a little about yourself.

Nel: Thanks so much for having me. I’m originally from South Haven, Michigan, but I’ve spent the last twenty years pursuing my passion for jewelry design out in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I’m 39-and-holding [laughs], and I’ve recently returned to South Haven because my mom passed away.

Amy: I’m so sorry to hear about your mother’s passing. 

Nel: I appreciate that. It’s been difficult for me, of course, but even more difficult for my dad.

Amy: We learned a little about your dad, Jakob, a couple of weeks ago. How is he holding up?

Nel: Considering he’s 94, I think he’s doing about as well as could be expected. But I think the next few weeks and months will be a challenge for all of us.

Amy: How’s that?

Nel: I don’t know how much time he has left. I’m learning that a lot of people find themselves in my situation, losing one parent and wondering what to do with the surviving parent. Dad’s memory loss is pretty heartbreaking to see, he was so vibrant. It doesn’t help matters that I often don’t know where my own life is headed.

Amy: You own a jewelry business…

Nel: I do. And I love creating new designs and working with gemstones. But the rest of my life is sort of a mess.

Amy: Most people wouldn’t think someone who is an artist and runs their own business is a mess.

Nel: I get that. But as people learn more about my story, I think they’ll realize I’m kind of a middle-aged mess, interpersonally and emotionally. Lots of folks look all put together on the outside, but when we get to know them, we learn they have a lot of unseen battles. We all–every one of us–fights a battle or two. Some are just more obvious than others. 

Amy: Will we learn what your struggles are in Then Sings My Soul?

Nel: [blushes] Yep. Readers will learn about my brokenness–maybe more than they want to know–and how that plays in to decisions we have to make about my dad.

Amy: What’s your favorite aspect of Then Sings My Soul?

Nel: I can’t say that I originally was–or that I am–necessarily comfortable telling my story. So much of my life has felt lonely and directionless. But I think looking back I’ve realized God was always with me in it. Even when I thought I could run away to a new place and hide behind my art, He was with me. 

Amy: What’s the one thing you hope readers take away from this story about you and your dad?

Nel: I hope folks learn that even when our lives seem purposeless, when we think that the things we go through like aging don’t matter, that everything works together for good–even death–and that God does have a plan for your life.

Amy: Sounds like a pretty hopeful story, then.

Nel: [laughs] Well, it is now that it’s all said and done. But going through it, there was a lot of pain to work through. A little mystery, too. 

Amy: Mystery? Oooo, we love a little mystery. I think readers will agree, now we can’t wait to read it. Thanks for stopping by, Nel.

Nel: Thanks so much for having me. See you in South Haven!

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Then Sings My Soul releases nationwide on March 1, 2015. It is available for pre-order now, traditional and e-book formats, through wherever fine books are sold.