Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

This Saturday, I went to the Orange County Christian Writer’s Fellowship Conference. I’d been nearly coming out of my skin for weeks, excited at the prospect of my first-ever real writer’s conference. I told you about submitting the first 20 pages of my manuscript into their contest back in February, and although I’ve managed to contain myself somewhat, I’ve been alternately excited, terrified and like a little kid on Christmas Eve for months. There would be experts! Editors! Agents! Helpful talks! Sweet people! Gobs of inspiration! I couldn’t wait.

Luckily, I wasn’t the only crazy one, since Sam registered with just as much gusto, gamely sent her writing in to be reviewed and contested and met me at her front door in a barely post-dawn sunshine, giggling like no one should before 7 a.m. on a Saturday. Her husband sleepily smiled at our fervor, reminding me of my own husband’s excited grin – the smile of a man who’s not sure why we’re so jazzed at the idea of taking notes all day, but who loves us enough to humor our wild whims. After the obligatory stop at Starbucks, we were off, Venti lattes in hand and jabbering away like two kids on the first day of school. Who would we meet? What should we say? AAAAAAAHHHHHHSOEXCITED. (That could have been the Ventis talking).

We arrived and found our monthly writer’s critique group, a lovable bunch of journalers, poets, writers and bloggers from all walks of life and every generation. After hugs and exclamations we settled in, and one of the veteran conference attendees told us what to be prepared for and how to pick out our consultations – 15 minutes of fame with the agent, editor, or writer of your choice.

I picked an agent and one of the women at our table – a passionate, empathic prophet – said she got a “witness” when I said the agent’s name. I grew up in a church that swung wildly between being slain in the spirit and contending that logic conquers all, so I could only assume this was a good sign. We sat through the first session and ate our mass-produced pastries in silence until one of our number returned from a consultation with tears in her eyes and a potential book deal.

Decorum was long gone and the excitement only bubbled at a more fevered pitch.

The morning wore on and I headed to my consultation. I had started to feel a bit nervous – writers are not always the most joyous bunch – eyeing each other critically from our sensible shoes and making snap judgments from the long practice of being more frequently watchers of people than lovers of them, and I’d started to feel both judged and judge-y myself.  Iwalkedinandsatdownallinarush, spilling out my words with eager enthusiasm. I have a dream and story to tell, see, and I blog and I write and I’ve yearned for this chance and now I’m laying my soul bare, like me, won’t you?

She didn’t.

There are a host of totally legitimate reasons why she wouldn’t take a chance on an unknown author with a harebrained idea, but what I heard was, “Nice try, but you’re not enough.”

I left the consult with a host of solid pep-talks in my head. I’m pummeling my dreams into submission, dammit. One agent doesn’t speak for the whole industry. I write because I must, and that is enough. I walked around the beautiful campus at Mariners Church, soaking up the springtime warmth and allowing hot tears to well up behind my sunglasses, in a moment of freedom. After a brief indulgence, however, I pulled myself together and went back in for another session, finding Sam again as my rock. “How’s it go?” she asked. Well, bummer.

She didn’t have any way of knowing that such a supportive question would send her into a solid hour of therapy for her needy friend, but I am sorry to say that it did. We both pitched ourselves to the sweet editor who taught our class and we both got very kindly shot down. The editor said something to me, however, that particularly stung. “Just write your blog as yourself. If you’re authentic, readers will flock to you.”


I shook her hand and said thank you and walked outside with Sam, only to surprise my kind friend with “Maybe I’m done. I’m not enough, my blog is not good enough, and I personally have been rejected as not fun enough to read/hang out with/support. I think I’m not supposed to tell this story, and I think maybe I’m done trying.”

I wouldn’t have blamed Sam if she’d said, “Well, NOW that’s certainly the case, way to go, Sunshine. I’m going to go talk to someone who hasn’t jumped off the Crazy Bridge.”

But she didn’t, sweet friend that she is. She stayed with me as we ate our lukewarm pasta with hundreds of other hopeful writers, and helped me stay afloat in multiple conversations when I would abruptly drop out in order to Not Cry. She and Todd, one of the guys from our critique group, both nodded knowingly as I told my story and encouraged me not to give up, honestly being so kind that it almost made me cry again, because here I am being so lame and needy and everyone is SO FREAKING NICE, how did I deserve this?

I finally rallied enough to help her hone her own consultation pitch, and continued to tell myself to quit being ridiculous already. (Berating myself usually works well. Sarcasm intended.) After lunch, they announced the Memoir Contest winners. As the judge preambled, Sam squeezed my arm and the other sweet people at the table grinned knowingly at me. I shook my head as they did so, snorting a little bit to myself in my self-deprecating wisdom. “It’s not me,” I thought, “because I’ve already been told multiple times (by the experts) that I suck.”

Third place.

Second place.

The people at my table are in a frenzy of winks and smiles and shoulder rubs.  I don’t know why they’re being so nice, it’s obviously NOT ME.

First place.


Sam squealed, Todd said, ” I knew it!” and I burst into tears.

I walked up in a daze and collected my prize money, shaking the judge’s hand clammily. I shakily stumbled my way back to our table, hid my face in my hands and tried not to sob uncontrollably. Someone was saying something on the microphone and I have no idea what it was. The unbelievably kind woman who won second place came over and gave me a tissue, and the lady seated behind me handed me her napkin. Our table was in an uproar, giving me winks and smiles and being SO GENEROUS with their congratulations.

Then Simon Tolkien (J.R.R.’s grandson) got up and spoke, and it finished off the surreal sense of the day. The judge of the memoir contest wants to help me polish my book and publish it. The editor who had (in a nice way, but still) shot me down earlier shook my hand and said congratulations. My friends did not begrudge me my victory but wholeheartedly rejoiced with me. Sam’s hugs sent me soaring.

I’m so blessed, you guys. Even though I, once again, foolishly allowed self-doubt and crippling despair to grab my soul, I got an umpteenth chance to persevere and do it right. It seems silly to let another person’s opinion crush or validate my dream, but it just reminded me of how fragile the creative process is, and how jealously I have to guard my hope.

I’m not done. I have tons of work to do, loads of edits, hours of continued doubt and dreams and sweat.

But I WON. And for today, that’s more than enough.


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Didja see what I did there?

I was sitting here, this morning, checking things off of my to-do list and writing away like the studious little chickadee I am, and thought to myself “I should make this more fun with some pomp and circumstance and British accents”. So I turned on my teevee, and instead of the drooling press I was expecting, I was greeted with a very sweet, truthful and surprisingly faith-based ceremony.

I’ve been reading a few other bloggers who were bashing the wedding fever here in the States as pure flighty escapism, but I think it means something much deeper. Sure, Americans are goofy airheads when it comes to this stuff, and yes, we value royalty and celebrity in unhealthy ways. But I don’t really care about that, and I’m certainly not going to bash someone for wanting to watch a wedding (yay!) in Westminster Abbey (double yay!).

I think that we are watching this by the millions, because, as much as we want to relegate this spectacle to the crazies wearing giant British flags on their heads, this really does matter. There’s an old saying that goes, “babies are God’s way of saying the world must go on” and I think new marriages evoke the same feeling in us, even amongst the most cynical. Marriage is about believing the best in each other, about trusting in the good of a loving God and a loving spouse and about celebrating selflessness, a trait that is all too often mocked.

The Archbishop of Canterbury (who awesomely has his own website and made the amazing YouTube video, below) said that marriage is the best picture of God’s love for us – a statement which is humbling and overwhelming all at once.

So, as much as it would be easy to snark about our obsession with William and Kate, I’m resisting the temptation. Today I’m rejoicing that God’s love was on display, that so many are rejoicing the power of marriage and that love can actually overcome almost any prejudice.

God Bless, William and Kate!

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When I was around 11 or 12 years old, in my childhood living room, my dad taught my brother and I how to protect our faces and deliver a hefty punch, in case we ever got into a fight. (This knowledge was only to be used against meanies, of course). (Which it has, if you must know). Later, in college, I had a punching bag in my room that I frequently used to assuage my frustrated feelings and rattle the hallways of our poor old house. I’ve never been afraid of a fight, even though I consider myself a dreamy/artsy type, hence why the title quote made me smile this week.

I’ve been thinking about dreaming lately, and the fight that it takes to turn a dream into a plan. It’s said that planners marry dreamers, which is definitely true in my life. I’m the spontaneous and overly casual dreamer – I don’t measure when I cook and keeping track of my keys is my biggest daily challenge.  Adam, the planner, makes a carefully printed out and detailed spreadsheet for work-outs, vacations and Big Life Decisions, while I tend to only worry about such silly details 10 minutes before we’re about to embark upon said adventure, at which point I realize that I maybe should have thought this through.

Being with Adam reminds me that I’m not a planner. Honestly, I’m in awe of someone who is so rarely rattled. So, if I’m honest about my own short-comings, I’m completely shocked that my business is thriving. I very nearly break out in stress-related hives every tax season, I have done my fair share of blowing by opportunities and I often make dumb choices. Basically, I’m me and I never realized that I could actually be good at things. I’ve always expected much more from myself, and when I didn’t deliver, I would assume that was just how it was. Punching something, in my mind, only helped me feel better – little did I know that very fight in my heart, and that mere strong-willed determination might be enough to overcome my failures.

I know now that a bit of grit goes a long way, and a good pummeling only makes me stronger. A few tough brawls have taught me that although I’m rejoicing in my momentary success, hard times are just around the corner. That’s what boxing lessons with my dad taught me, anyway, and it hasn’t been disproven yet – don’t ever turn around on your adversary, don’t ever assume you’re safe – fight until you know you’ve won.

As much as I’ve wanted to give up sometimes, I’m glad I’ve learned the art of hunting down my dreams and giving them a stern beating. I have a new, personal goal to achieve and it will take a lot of clobbering to overcome. Luckily for me, I have a deadly right hook.

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I’m forcing myself to talk about my right now, since lately it’s felt like a terrifying blend of too big, too scary, too much and too boring all at once. I’m sorry for the vaguery, but the Stuff that is all over my brain is not fit for public consumption. (You really are glad that I have some self-control and am not vomiting my Stuff all over the Internet. Trust me.)

Right now I’m defrosting chicken breasts and planning an evening hike with my hubby. I’m reeling from compliments at this morning’s writer’s group and praying for courage to pursue an unpopular road. I’m craving chocolate and drinking Diet Coke, hoping for sunshine and noting the misty gray skies still lingering, wishing that I had an answer to questions that are pounding at my door, seeping through the cracks in my walls, tugging on my shirt-tails and whispering in my ear.

I’m learning to be gracious and generous. I’m learning to listen to my husband and let him lead. I’m learning to say “thank you” when someone says nice things about me and my work, to brush it off when they don’t agree or get offended. I’m learning to not worry about tomorrow, to be grateful in the moment, to fix my eyes on the Author and Finisher.

Right now is a hard time. Right now is an in-between time. Right now is a beautiful time.

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Adam and I started a young couples group at our church, and it’s been great.

I consider food (the love of, the cooking of) to be one of my spiritual gifts, and have been dubbed the “Team Mom” by several of our friends. We are the house where the boys drop in after some strenuous athletic activity to find a less-than-tidy living room but something scrumptious cooling on the table or a spontaneous invite to stay and eat a meal. I’m the one who packs lunches, makes snacks and sends my hubby to work with muffins. The short of it is that I love to share food, and often it’s the best and only way I know to show that I care.

One of the great by-products to this gift is that this works out really well for our love of people, because we can bribe them to hang out with us using promises of grilled salmon or Texas bar-be-que or maybe just a box of Cheez-its and a beer. Also, have you ever noticed how many people hang out in the kitchen at a party? Well I have, and it brings me great joy, natch.

Loving food and loving people got us going on the young couples group, which led us down the ever-slippery slope of planning events for said young couples group and introducing ourselves to people on the basis of stereotypes, which leads to awkward encounters, like this one.

Young Couple at table in church foyer. I walk up, awkwardly.

Guy: “Hi?”

Me: “Sorry to be awkward, but you guys look like a young couple, and we’d love to be friends!”

Honestly, that’s how it goes. It works surprisingly well. Only one out of about every 30 people avoids eye contact with me afterward, which is pretty good right? If it’s too awkward, I sic Adam on them, because he loves long pauses and staring people down. (JK. Kinda.)

Given my stellar track record at making friends with strangers my own age, Adam and I decided to try the “run up and blurt out your business” tactic on an older couple last week. Here’s how Adam told the story:

Also, FYI, some of you may have heard that Jerry and Nancy Briggs (our eldest couple) is not going to be able to be on the panel due to an unforseen circumstance. Bummer, I know.
BUT have no fear.  My wife has no shame so she and I chased down an elderly looking couple on their way to the parking garage at church.  We had seen them around serving at church and thought, maybe?  So after they got over their initial fear of being mugged they were totally open to being on the panel!  AND they will have been married 50 years this June.
Here’s the moral of this rambling post, dear ones. Embrace the awkward encounter. If that doesn’t work, just give people food.
The End.

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I’m jumping aboard Gitz’s wagon train (or was it train band? train wagon? Something about a band and a train and some oxen and 1848 and everybody’s doing it. Whatever, whether I get the saying right or not, it makes no sense) and blogging for five straight minutes about what makes me feel loved.

BONUS, this will also be a list post. Because you care an awful lot about me accomplishing my blogging goals, I know.

  • Hugs at church. It’s easy to walk into to church and blend in with everybody else who are trying to look like they’re comfortable and totally know people, just not right HERE, in this corner, I mean, nevermind, let’s just leave as soon as it’s over, this is weird. It’s harder to actually make friends and feel safe and honest and get hugs. I’m so glad that we have the latter.
  • Adam makes coffee for me in the morning, and I make him a lunch. The simplicity of this quiet routine is a picture of the love in our marriage. Serve and be served. Lead and submit. Give and take. (Oh, and he’s still a great kisser, beyond all that deep, meaningful stuff.)
  • “DaniLin”  – my roommates, Katie Leigh and my mother-in-law still call me DaniLin occasionally, and it makes me feel known and loved.
  • Cards, notes, Facebook posts, blog comments, tweets. I’m a communicator. Talking and writing is how I feel loved, and there is nothing more exciting for me than meaningful words.
  • Respect. I was told this week that I “came highly recommended”. My heart went pitter-patter.
  • Family. My family talks about politics and theology and Big World Things at regular intervals, with passion and much gesticulation. My brother references our childhood and makes me laugh. My mom cooks a lot. These things are all wonderful.
  • Good gifts. I am a rockin’ awesome gift giver. Sorry to brag, but it’s really true. I LOVE shopping, and I LOVE finding the perfect thing for people. (Hence the shopping posts and the way too much fun that I am having in that department.) I also like presents, especially ones that show the depth of someone’s knowledge and care for my tastes over their own. Gifts are such powerful messages – the “gift” love language seems shallow at first glance, but I think it’s really powerful.
  • Time. There is nothing more wonderful than casual, relaxed, unorganized time. I love long walks with a good girlfriend, an afternoon spent antiquing and talking about everything and nothing, quiet camaraderie at the end of a long day, holding hands while driving, long lunches and spilled souls, reality TV and good company, long nights around a campfire and the purity of shared experience, relished inside jokes, and deep conversations easily merged into easy laughter.

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I’m at Catalyst West Coast today.

I expect my mind to be blown, and if you’re there, too, I expect you to come say hi. I will probably hug you ferociously. You’ve been warned.

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