The main character in my latest novel is a pastor who has been so busy building his church that his natural family has been neglected. Sadly, he is not alone. Click the arrow below to hear advice for those who are burning the candle at both ends…in Jesus’ name!
After the release of the first Mama B novella, inspired by my grandmother, I started to reflect on other “Mama B” figures in my life. Let me tell you about Ms. Ginnie Bivona! I met Ginnie several years ago at a writer’s conference. I had just finished presenting a workshop. I had about an hour to relax before my next session, so I stayed in the room and sat in on her presentation. The title of her workshop was, “How to Get Your Book Turned into a Movie, but Only if you Believe in Fairy Tales.”
The funny thing is, as she passively discussed the long and drawn out experience of how her self-published book, Ida Mae Tutweiler and the Traveling Tea Party, became the Lifetime TV Movie Bound by a Secret starring Meredith Baxter and Lesley Ann Warren, I remember thinking, “She’s really not telling us how she did this.” So I decided to exchange numbers and reach out to her.
We had lunch a few weeks later, and I absolutely fell in love with her warm personality and tell-it-like-it-is wisdom. She did give me her agent’s name, but I put the whole “movie” thing on the backburner as I got to know Miss Ginnie as a person.
Though Miss Ginnie is now in her 80’s, she still gets around town in her SUV, writes, and even runs a small publishing company. I was so inspired by her mental and physical sharpness that when I thought about Mama B’s character, I had to steal Miss Ginnie’s spunk and eating habits.
Fastforward 6+ years, Ginnie and I eat dinner and chat about 4 times a year, mostly as part of a writer’s panel. The last time we met, I shared news of the movie option for my novel, Falling Into Grace. She was elated and began to ask me the kinds of questions only no-nonsense older people would ask and give me advice that only someone who has been down that road and genuinely cares about your success would share.
Now that I’m on the whole movie path, I can only laugh because things worked out just as she said in her workshop when we first met. In both our cases, going from print to movie is a matter of faith that cannot actually be explained or presented in a step-by-step handout.
Actually, I kind of like it that way; God gets all the glory!
When I really think about it, my grandmother has given me quite a few lessons in this story we call “life.” I don’t think she’s ever actually given me a lecture. Instead, she has taught me by example.
For one thing, my grandmother NEVER spanked me or yelled at me. She didn’t have to. There was something about her sweet love that somehow made me either more attentive or more obedient in her presence.
(My uncle Fred, of course, would have a different story. He would probably say that she spoiled me. I disagree. I was really good around my grandmother!)
Another thing about my grandmother is how she chose to encourage me. I’ll never forget the day I called her to tell her that I was pregnant. I was barely 20 years old, still in college, and not married. Though I am sure she was crushed by the news, she did not express her disappointment to me. Instead, she encouraged me to keep my head up, ask God to forgive me, stay in school, and move forward. She told me that I wasn’t the first girl to get pregnant in college, and I wouldn’t be the last. And she reminded me that, despite the situation, I was still a smart girl and she looked forward to my graduation. Her choice to encourage me rather than ridicule me in that fragile moment was soooo…I can’t even give you the right word for how she re-directed me.
I’ve been around my grandmother enough to know that she is not perfect. She’s human, which is really the beauty of God’s love for mankind as well.
When I think about how He loves us, I still don’t have words. But like a grandmother who has grown wise with time, He knows that once people realize how much they are loved, their respect, reverence, and obedience toward Him grow out of the love He already has for us.
God is also faithful to encourage us when we have done wrong. For believers, He has already forgiven our sins and made a conscious decision to forget them. While sin may just be happening from our perspective, it has already happened, been nailed to the cross, and been forgiven from His point of view. When we do wrong, the Holy Spirit doesn’t come to condemn those who are in Christ (Rom. 8:1). Instead, He convicts us of our righteousness (John 16:8-11). He encourages us by directing our focus back to Christ in us.
If have a grandmother, mother, aunt, sister, or cousin who has been a source of encouragement to you, please give her her flowers! Even if you don’t currently have a “Mama B” in your life, you can have Christ. I encourage you to receive His love. It will fill you with memories that are sometimes challenging, but always loving 🙂
I’d like for you to read this article prayerfully. My intent is not to discourage any writers – God knows we need you all! But a few months ago, I wrote a blog entitled Born to Write??? It occurred to me that for every person who should be writing, there is probably someone else who’s trying to write, but writing is not really what they’re called to do—or maybe they’re not supposed to do it now. They’re watching other writers write, reading writers’ blogs and getting the message, “If I did it, you can do it, too! C’mon!”
Well, America is certainly a place where anything is possible. Almost anyone can work hard and experience success here. We like to tell our kids that they can experience success in anything they want, if they just try. Not true. Not if your definition of success = pleasing God. God loves to open doors for His children – but that same love also closes those doors He does not want us to walk through.
I experienced this firsthand when I tried to sell insurance. I can honestly tell you it was the single biggest career foolery of my life. I was AWFUL. Always nervous, I hated cold-calling, I hated calling people back. I actually didn’t even like the product I was selling. It was all a hot mess.
Why did I try it? Because it seemed…glamorous! Flexible schedule, residual income, a super-busy, important-looking job in a people-related business.Those who talked me into joining their team made it seem almost effortless. Granted, some of them had been selling insurance longer than I had, but after a while, even the new people outperformed me.
I thank God every day that He graciously let me fail at insurance sales, forcing me to get back in my writing lane. (Truly, success in an “uncalled” area can be a distraction from your real destiny.)
Lesson learned: Everyone in the body of Christ was created to do a specific job (Ephesians 4:7-8). In other words, if you are a knee, don’t waste your time going to ear-conferences, reading ear-books, trying your best to be an ear. Be happy for successful ears, but don’t follow their plan for ear-success because it won’t work on knees. Instead, learn all you can about knee-life so that you can be the best knee possible for His service.
With that in mind, I think it’s important to know when writing is not for you. After conducting dozens of workshops, seeing the same people year after year who haven’t finished their book, I may very well have arrived at some of the REAL reasons I think some people (believers, specifically) say they want to write books but never do (procrastinators aside). OR they do write the book, but it turns out to be a frustrating, discouraging experience.
- Perhaps you are supposed to be writing—but not necessarily for the masses at this time. Many of us sing and lift our voices to God in praise, but we were not meant to record albums. Does God still receive our praise? Yes. Writing can be the same way. Be obedient to the writing He has assigned to you now (whether it’s your journal or the church bulletin). After proving faithful and getting into the habit of writing regularly, you may find that writing books or stories comes much more easily, as an extension of Your relationship with Him.
- Understand the difference between having a story and actually writing the story. Writing can be very challenging, isolating work. If you have a story to tell but don’t actually have the desire or the skills to write effectively, consider getting a co-author or a ghost writer. Their gift coupled with your story may be an ideal match. You might also consider other ways to share your story – video or audio teaching, podcasting, etc.
- Be clear about why you want to write a book. In your private time with God, examine your motives for wanting to write a book. Is it because you want to touch people’s lives or because you want people to admire you? Is it because you want to see Christ glorified through your gift or because you want to be proud of yourself or feel important? It’s okay for people to help each other, but helping yourself under the guise of helping others rarely fools people, and certainly does not fool God. Be honest before Him and ask Him to reveal His great love for you and cause you to write (or not) for reasons that glorify Him.
- Be patient – maybe it’s not time to write the book yet. If you’ve got two kids who are both in diapers, I submit to you that now is probably not the time to pour all of your energy into writing the great American novel. When it is time for you to write, God will arrange your life so that you can actually accomplish this task.
What about you? Have you ever tried to do something you weren’t called to do at the time? Have you ever done something in pride and suffered the consequences? What advice or comments can you share?