Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Priority List

On Friday before Thanksgiving, I stopped at the grocery store to buy my weekly portion. Crowds thronged into the cashier's lines. Holiday temporary workers offered samples at the end of every shelf. Tears stung my eyes. You see I was already fighting burn-out, and an overwhelmed feeling. "I can't take on this next month," I cried silently, so no one could hear. I swiped the tears wetting my cheeks.
When I arrived home, my husband gave me a lecture about setting my priorities and clearing some items from my to-do list. The next morning my quiet time focused on "Lord, what will Thou have me do, and what should I leave out?" I read a beautiful devotion about putting God first at this busy time of year from Kathy Macias.
I listed twenty-three things taking varying amounts of my time. I wrote "delay until January" beside three items. One item would end soon. My finger skimmed the remaining list putting numbers beside each one. Going through this process was an eye-opener for me in many ways.
Things I learned included:
1. My number one priority was my quiet time with the Lord every morning, but, last week I had skipped four mornings. Going to a Bible study shouldn't take the place of personal time with God.
2. Second on my list was time with my husband. Guilt reddened my face as I remembered desperately trying to catch up e-mails the night before while my husband read in the den by himself. He would never complain, but did it bother him? I spent one night away this week teaching a class which didn't include him.
3. This one is probably not a shocker. After family (which includes kids, grandkids and mother-in-law) and attending church, my next item was writing (NOT E-MAILS OR SCIMMING WEB SITES)--writing).
I am thankful God led me to set my priorities as we began the holiday season. In doing so, I've coped with the extra pressures much better. Every morning when I sit in my usual chair and talk with God, I see my priority list and realign my day with my list and with God's will for me.
Christmas should be a happy time, not one where we're stressed and burdened with too many things to do. Yet, too often that's what we remember.
I pray for you a good priority list, a merry Christmas, and a happy new year.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Failure

Failure tastes rancid
As a life chapter closes.
Disquiet and uncertainty
Life now discloses.

God isn't the author
Of an unsound mind.
Yet He leads through a maze
of trouble aligned.

I taste bitterness now.
What's that ingredient?
Submission to God makes
Giving-in expedient.

I search for the reason
I plead with my God
Did I misread your direction
Is it the wrong road I've trod?

No, my child He explains
You cannot understand my thought
They're higher than yours
So don't be distraught.

Dessert will come later
I view the whole meal.
Stay in the kitchen
Pray for the yield.

How say you, you've failed
When the dinner's not ready.
The yeast is still rising
Now hold fast and steady.

On my Thanksgiving feast
I'll sound the alert
We'll gather round the table
You'll be surprised at your worth.

You haven't failed.
I stuck a gold star
On the list I am keeping
That no man can mar.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

You Never Know What a Day Will Hold

Every few years or months something happens that reminds me of the uncertainty of our lives. I'm a planner or plotter as we call it in the writing world. Recently one of my writing groups discussed online how they came up with a book's characters and action. Many sit down and plot out the entire book including detailed character sketches before they ever write the first sentence of the manuscript. Others get a good idea, and begin to write without any knowledge of how it will end. Once thing both groups had in common, however, were they never could know for sure how their characters would act. With people, like with book characters, life happens. Things change, we change regardless of plans.
Friday, October 10, I had my plans all set out. After the Lord and I had our daily visit, I would write for a couple hours, go walk at the mall with my husband, go to a Weight Watcher meeting, eat lunch, then have my hair fixed. None of those things got done. With an early phone call we learned the paramedics were loading my father-in-law to take to a hospital in Greenville, near where they live, and my husband and I packed and dashed out the door in half hour's time not knowing what we faced or how long we'd be gone. In this case, we did lose that precious man. He's been bedfast for two and a half years, but now he's dancing in heaven.
I've had days like this before when all my plans flew out the window. Life changes the best-laid plans. Occassionally it happens as a happy thing, an unexpected visit from someone you haven't seen in awhile or the birth of your child or grandchild. All too often, it's a difficult twist to our journeys- an accident, a death, a tragic event.
My organized mind screams for planning, but I realize the most important plan I must make is keeping things right between the Lord and myself. Who knows when God might call me home or that trumpet might sound for all our lives to change for eternity? Be prepared. Be prayed up and ready.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Love God with all Your Mind

God defines sin as disobedience to Him. In 1 Samuel 15:22...."Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." Man, on the other hand, defines sin as murder, theft, adultery, homosexuality and such things as anger, envy, resentment, negative thinking, worry as human frailties.
When asked what was the most important commandment God gave to man, Jesus stated in Mark 12:30 "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind, and with all they strength, this is the first commandment."
Recently I began a new Weight Recovery class at our church. This is a topic I've studied and lived for fifteen years now, and a needful topic for many of us in the Chrisitan realm. Giving up all worldly vices, we cling to overeating as a lifeboat to survive the cruel world.
I speak for myself, though I doubt I'm the only culprit. I love God with all my heart and soul. I long to please Him, to serve Him and to tell others about His love, His salvation. My strength belongs to the Lord. I work in my church and in other ways to further the gospel of Christ. But, when I read that verse in Mark, I skip over that little "with all thy mind" business. Of course, I give Him my mind. I pray, I read His Word, I often think of Him and talk about Him.
During my class, we talked about why we overeat, why we're willing to sacrifice everything in life to binge on our favorite foods knowing how depressed, guilty and inept we become when we do. Being overweight most of your life, eating more than you intend despite your determined efforts to diet represents only a symptom of a larger problem. As fever tells a person there's an internal problem in your body, fat tells a person there's an internal problem in your mind.
As we begin to eat healthier, leaving off such drags as sugar, fats, white flour, God brings to the forfront our resentments, our anger. If we're angry with ourselves for overeating, we can't focus on the envy we feel when another worker gets more attention or commendation than we do. We eat better and all of sudden, we're faced with our envy. We fall on our knees in repentance at our "sin."
Since starting this class, the devil has battled my mind harder than he's done in fifteen years. He prefers I don't help others learn to give their minds to God. He'd lose a big battle with God for everyone who learns that lesson. God gives faith, not worry. He gives love, not resentment. When we're thinking clearly and positively, conviction comes to us at the first sign of anger toward our parent, child, friend. This is the walk of faith that God desires for us to have.
But, when I binge on sugar, I don't think right. I suppress any other bad feelings with guilt and low self-esttem. The devil has won.
With food, I am powerless. But when I love God with all my mind, He guides me and lifts my feet over the pitfalls even if only day by day. After all, is that not what faith is all about?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

My Testimony

God answers prayer. God heals. I believe this. Sometimes the healing comes over a period of time (way too long to our way of thinking), but once in awhile, we have those times of immediate healing. God's supremacy and will dictates how He answers our prayers. Three weeks ago God gave me one of those immediate healings where you feel like lying prone on the floor in wonder and appreciation at His power.

The last six months for me progressed with ever increasing pain in my back and legs. I finally went to the doctor the first of May, then went through the cycle of trying new pain medicine, having an MRI, going to the neurosurgeon to discuss options and finally was sent to the Pain Rehab doctor to try steroid shots first, but the neurosurgeon didn't give me much hope of it helping with my diagnosis. While I followed this prescribed medical path, my pain exacerbated.

In July Charles and I took a vacation to the Rocky Mountains. Our favorite thing to do is hiking the trails there. I could barely walk much less hike. Stairs became my worst nightmare. Charles would grab my arm and use his strength to pull me up. Putting my weight on my right leg was impossible. Even the slight inclines hurt, but I did walk some because I felt better after the exercise.

On Sunday July 27, I stood in church. I love our worship services where I clap and sing and sway to the music. I couldn't. When I clapped my hands, my body tried to keep time with the beat which sent excruciating pain through my back and legs. I sat down and cried. "I can't even worship God at church anymore," I told my husband. Knowing we would soon have a time at the altar for those with needs, he encouraged me to go to the front and ask for prayer. I did and was blessed by a young lady who prayed for me along with the pastor and others.

When I walked back to my seat, I realized I had no more pain. I marveled as I listened to the sermon and continued in amazement the rest of the day that I was pain-free. The steroid shot appointments had already been set up, one for the next week, and one for the week following. Charles and I discussed maybe I should reinforce my healing by going on with the scheduled procedures, and I did that. But I never had the bad pain again after that Sunday. Prior to the first shot, I cleaned house bending and stooping without pain. Between the two shots, I helped decorate our church for a special service for the girls. I went up and down stairs repeatedly all afternoon. God had healed me.

As I thought what I wanted to post this month, I realized I needed to give honor to God for what He did for me. I still pray for many out there waiting for their healing. It's already on the way. God has reminded me He can do anything.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

God's Own Sanctuary

My husband and I took a short trip to the mountains of Colorado and New Mexico to locate our peace of mind. Somewhere along the journey of a rough 2008, we'd lost it. Along the nature trails we wandered noticing the wildflowers thrusting blooms out of a rock, butterflies sniffing one flower after another, and beaver dams changing the flow of rushing streams. The majesty of a chain of several 14,000+ high mountains made us feel small. In the flight of the tiny hummingbirds outside our room, we located our peace again.

I love the beautiful manmade sanctuaries where we worship weekly. Our own church, maintained by loving hands, gives comfort and charm and creates an atmosphere for God to move in our lives. Nature is God's own sanctuary, opening the arms of gigantic trees to welcome us, mountains to put our problems into perspective, and sturdy wildflowers that remind us God is bigger than circumstances. The one who makes the hummingbird fly against all odds controls mine and Charles' problems. Sometimes we must pause and remember that.

Are you needing a worship service in God's sanctuary? You don't have to drive to the Rocky Mountains. Perhaps a lake, small hills near your home, or in your own backyard (in the morning when it's cooler if you live in Texas) is right for you. If you're feeling overwhelmed, I urge you to seek His presence in the chapel He created Himself. He will always met us there.
God bless you all.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Thin line between life and death

On Sunday July 6 I scared my husband. He thought he'd lost me. I, of course, only know what he told me. I've suffered from back pain for awhile with increasing difficulty of movement. That morning I literally slid from the bed and my husband pulled me up. I couldn't move, so to say my morning started out normal would be a farce. Normal routine would be to take my muscle relaxer first and then fix breakfast. Even walking hurt my back so my husband helped me get our breakfast on the table, then I dropped into my chair. We thanked God for his provision and Charles prayed God's healing on my back.

By the time I'd had two bites of eggs, I turned in my seat. "I'm sick at my stomach. I'll go sit in the recliner." I remember saying "I can't do it." The next thing I remember my husband patted me with soft words. "The ambulance is on it's way." Someone heaved my body and I vomited. A voice called to me. "Just a slight stick now," and someone stuck a needle in my hand. Two women undressed me. "There's noone here but your husband and us." After awhile consciousness began to return as my husband and my pastor prayed at my bedside. For the first time my eyes focused on people and surroundings.

My husband told me my head fell in my plate. When he lifted me back and took my plate from my lap, no color remained in my face. My mouth flew open, my eyes rolled back. Seizure type movements overcame my upper body, then I went rigid. He thought I had slipped into eternity.

Fortunately, my blood pressure rose. All tests proved okay. A freak sequence of events caused an improbable consequence. Today I'm thankful God brought me back. The experience reminded me how thin a line there is between life and death. When we're relatively healthy and active, we believe ourselves indestructable, but one second can put us in a grave with loved ones singing around us.

What would you do if you knew you would die soon? Makes you think, doesn't it. Would you spend more and more time at the office working. Would you pass up time to spend with your children or grandchildren because laundry mounted? Would you put off that phone call or letter you'd been going to get around to? Would you do something for the Lord today?

God gave me a new viewpoint. I intend to remember the lesson hopefully until I'm 112.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Short timer's attitude

Have any of you decided to switch jobs or ministries, but had to finish out a time period before you left? We call that short timer's attitude. Two years ago when I left the position I'd held for 18 years, I spent seven months finding someone to replace me and training her. During that time, I felt my life stopped-on hold- until I actually left.

Now I'm finding something of the same feelings with a ministry to girls at my church I've been involved with for 5 1/2 years. I've given notice, but will continue to teach through May with some helps until after the first part of August. I try to get excited about teaching,but the luster has gone. The girls aggravate more than they used to. I find I dread Wedsnesday nights where I used to look forward to them.

How have you handled this problem? I've prayed. But I'm stuck in limbo. I can't focus on my new upcoming ministry and I don't want to focus on my present ministry.
Any ideas out there?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Purpose

That word purpose has been drifting back and forth in my rattled brain since Monday night's Bible study. The quote which said, "David fulfilled his purpose in his generation." Am I completing mine?

Our lives divide into categories. How can I be sure I've fulfilled my purpose even in the area of wife, mother and grandmother much less writing? Is my purpose to write publishable books to inspire and encourage? short stories? go to conferences and workshops to meet people I'm supposed to stand in the gap for? Am I supposed to study the craft so I can better hold up the arms of those who write and teach?

Look at Isaiah 55:10,11 NIV "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth, and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

My purpose may not be known this side of heaven, but I can be sure if I follow Jesus one step (one drop of rain) at a time, God's purpose will be fulfilled.

This has been my week for rejections. Easy then to question God's intent for putting these characters in my head and love for writing in my mind, but God would have me forget all that and follow-up on the "words" He's planted.

Just for today, my prayer is "Fulfill Your purpose in me whatever it is."
Time to put that character to work in my story.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

How do you feel about multiple submissions?

Last September at the ACFW conference I learned about writers who sent proposals to several agents at the same time. I'd been convinced that was a no-no. An agent asked for my proposal, then a few weeks later, that agent asked for the full manuscript. Being as yet unpublished in long fiction, I jumped for joy. My only question came from her letter which asked for an exclusive

An exclusive? Wasn't that what they always got? I did what any self-respecting want-a-be would do. I asked the writers on my loops. The consensus was sending to several agents at one time was not only accepted but expected. I received several opinions about the length of time to give an agent an exclusive if I wished to do that. I did.

Now I'm in the process of choosing four agents whom I personally like and think I could work with. I will send my latest manuscript to them all.

At our local RWA chapter meeting last Saturday, our speaker told us multiple submissions were okay even for publishers if we apprised them of our intentions. I've always heard that was bad form. You sent to one editor, gave them whatever time they needed to decide (sometimes months), then when it was rejected (Please, no), you spruced it up and sent it to another. Our speaker said one publisher kept her manuscript for five years.

But, oh the risk. They could reject it immediately if you tell them it's a multiple submission. Do I have the nerve? I'm shaking in my Texas boots here.

If you're reading this blog, let me know your thoughts on this. Is this really acceptable practice for most agents and publishers? Personally, I hope so. What do you think?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

DiAnn Mill's Fiction Mentoring Clinic

Each year most of us make decisions about what will help our writing the most. I'm not rolling in money and most of the writers I know fall into that same category, so we choose. We go to this conference, but leave off another. We enter 1-2 contests, but decline on others. We choose an online course as opposed to going out of town. This year my first choice was to attend DiAnn Mill's 3 day workshop in Tulsa, OK.
Now that the workshop has completed, my evaluation tells me it was one of the best writing decisions I have made. The compacted training covers every facet from title to marketing.
Goals stated on that first day are met and surpassed by the end of the third.
Wednesday we studied deepening characterization using the characters in our WIP and showing them in different situations. With an evil gleam, DiAnn leaned toward us. "We have time for one more exercise." And we did, many many times, evaluating them as a group, so everyone gave their own input. That day ended with our titles. Often a member of the group had the right title input for another participant.
Thursday we began with our first sentence hook and our story hook, always working at tightening our first five pages. DiAnn's clarified dialogue purpose and place. A movie with strange twists give us examples of symbolism and tightening the "sagging middle."
Though I had a family emergency pull me away Thursday night, I've received an e-mail of class notes for Friday from DiAnn on plotting the longer book and the "grabber proposal" and "plots that dance."
Because we attended the workshop, we were invited to join a loop where further help will be forthcoming in weeks and months to come.
I've now finished what DiAnn says never do with my summary of the workshop. "No flashbacks or back story in the first fifty pages." That statement will strengthen my fiction along with much other great helps. I now have a new scene to write and an improved beginning. I've learned to subscribe to the tension on every page.
Thanks, DiAnn, and thanks to the other seven people in my class. If you're in the process of choosing where to spend your money and time to learn, go to DiAnn's web site and check out when and where her next fiction mentoring clinic will be given. Trust me, you'll be glad you did.
Happy writing all,
Janet K. Brown

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Critique group

For years I wrote for myself, selling a few short stories on the way, and reading Writer's Digest magazine along with ordering some of their books. Two and a half years ago I decided to get in earnest about learning the craft of writing. WOW, did I find out how much I didn't know. Since then I've went to two major conferences, one mini conference, did several online courses, joined two local groups and three national ones along with three online loops.

All of the above has taught me a lot. Today I'd like to focus on having a critique group. I would set these guidelines for someone thinking about this idea.

1. Join a group that writes similar things & has similar interests.

2. Critique with positive as well as negative ideas. We learn from both.

3. Encourage each other along the way & keep up with each of the group's writing journey.

4. Join with people you like. (This is important. We take criticism better from people we like.)

5. Keep the group small in size so you can critique & be critiqued without being overwhelmed.

(I'd suggest 3- 7 people)



Our group is called Burkburnett Critique Group. It consists of four ladies. We all write Christian women's or YA fiction, some romance, some mystery, some paranormal, some general. We critique online as we finish something we'd like other's input on. We meet once a month to encourage and train.



Critique groups can be a valuable tool on the road to being published and will continue to benefit you after you receive "the call".

Happy writing all,

Janet K. Brown

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Second post

I'm trying to learn how to do this blogging thing. Wierd.

I'm working on my character sketch for my new mss.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Learning to blog

I'm taking Lena Nelson Dooley's ACFW online course on blogging. This is my first attempt-not for sure how it will turn out. Thanks, Lena for the help.