A Broader Vision

Here’s the second of the posts that I’d written a year ago about the incredible journey I’ve been on in writing my first book.

After I’d finished the terrible first draft of the book, I set myself to the tedious task of editing the content.  At first I thought it would be a simple matter of polishing a few rough patches, but as I read through the text from beginning to end, the lack of flow really began to stand out to me.  I had done exactly what I’d imagined at the beginning of this process – I’d effectively written a dozen super-long blog entries.  They all worked as stand-alone pieces, but when I tried to patch them all together it became evident that they weren’t really fitting.

Now I don’t know about anyone else, but for me editing my own work is painfully difficult.  I’m fine with working on someone else’s text.  I was a writing tutor in college, and I’d always considered it my specialty to help student develop cohesive arguments and put them on paper.  I can’t diagram a sentence to save my life, but I’ve always been able to tell you when a sentence or paragraph felt “awkward”.  But when I already know what I’m reading – when it’s something I’ve written, it takes an active concentration to dig those pieces out, and a lot of work to re-imagine how they might fit together better.

So for the next six months or so my progress became difficult and slow.  I would work through a draft for several weeks, and then put it away for a week or two.  Then I would come back with a fresh perspective and find a whole new mess of problems.  I was playing author and editor at the same time, and the work seemed endless.

At the same time, in order to remind myself of what good writing sounded like, I started to pick up other Christian books from my shelf that I hadn’t read or hadn’t read in a while.  One of those books (again, there is a blog entry about this somewhere in my archives) was What You Do Best in the Body of Christ. I’d started reading it years before, and put it down after a chapter or two.  But this time as I was reading through it God began to speak to me in a very real and personal way.  So much of what was written was so based in practical common sense that it seemed almost foolish, but these logical and “obvious” statements inevitably led to questions that I’d never sat down to actively consider, and they were questions that needed answers.

The essential premise of the book is that we are each given a specific mix of personality, passion, and talent that God desires to use for His glory.  Finding the right way to use that mix is what will make us successful.  For example, not everyone who has a passion for evangelism is going to pursue it in the same way.  Some people love approaching strangers on the street, but there are others who are more comfortable inviting their neighbors over for coffee, while others were “born” to preach to large crowds of people all at once.  Finding the right way to use your gifts in pursuit of your passion is key to following your call.

Like I said – common sense, right?  But as I went through the exercises that the book suggested, and as I wrote my results down on paper and looked at them, it was like God was ripping a curtain away from an entire realm of possibilities that I’d never considered.  There were connections that were obvious, ministries into which I’d already fallen, work that I was already doing.  But at the same time God was revealing a path that I’d never even thought to consider.  If I tried to explain the dots that God was connecting in my head it wouldn’t make any sense, but they were there, and they were so clear that He might as well have written them out for me.  I was going to help my church start a publications ministry.  I was going to help them write and publish books, curriculums, and literature that could be read and used by the Body of Christ around the world.

Now anyone who knows me will know just how crazy that sounds.  I’m an accountant.  I have NO experience in publishing, and NO idea how that kind of business is run. I’m not a terrible writer, but that’s like wanting to start a record label and expecting to be successful because you’re not a terrible singer.  And on top of all of that I go to a smaller suburban satellite congregation of a much larger church in the city – it’s not exactly like I have easy access to the pastors to be making these kinds of out-of-the-blue propositions.

But there it was, as plain as day, and as soon as I saw it, it began bursting in my heart and my spirit like a bottle of soda that had been shaken and then opened.  It was impossible, absolutely absurd, a task to which I knew myself to be uniquely suited, and for which I was absurdly unqualified.  And yet somehow I knew that it was so right, so divinely inspired, that there could be no question.

There it was – the broader vision.  I had started this journey with an idea that I thought was big: I was going to write a book and get it published.  I was going to put words on a page that would help other Christians with their daily lives.  But God’s idea was bigger – so much bigger that it had never even entered into my realm of thinking.  It was still impossible, still absurd, but now it was there – like a seed that had been planted.

At this point there was nothing for me to do but to continue on the path that God had set me on.  And so I took this seed of a vision and I wrote it down.  I prayed over it.  And I set it in my heart.  And in the meantime – I continued to work on the book.  But this time it was different – I wasn’t an author struggling to edit my own work any more.  Now I was a future publisher, learning the ins and outs of editing from the perspective of an author as well as an editor.  Suddenly this monotonous task (and believe me, it was monotonous) was no longer a drudgery, but an incredible learning opportunity.

God had given me a broader vision, and it had changed my whole perspective.

Small Beginnings

seeds-1176898It seems strange to be starting this blog so far into my journey as a first time writer/indy publisher. So I’ve been struggling on how to begin.  And then I hit a moment of (relative) genius: I decided to begin with what I’ve already written!

So I pulled up the entries I’d posted to my personal blog to copy them over here. And funnily enough, I discovered that the first entry was posted exactly one year ago today!

So without further ado – here’s what my writing journey looked like one year ago:

So much has been happening over the past few months, and I’m just bursting with the incredible news of it all, and so if it’s all right with you (and since I’m not waiting to hear, I’m going to presume it is), I’d like to venture off my beaten track and take the time to get a little more personal.

This whole story will probably take me several posts to finish, but it all started right here on this blog.  It began with a post I wrote almost two years ago entitled My Brother’s Keeper. But the point of this post isn’t to reference that one.  The point of this post is that when I wrote that one so many months ago I had no idea what kind of crazy journey it would take me on.  I had no clue how that first step would bring me to where I stand here and now.

You see, as I wrote that post God began to stir something inside me – I realized that this topic was bigger than a few paragraphs could cover.  What’s more, I realized that it was a topic that I felt very passionate about, an issue that I felt highlighted such a need within the Body of Christ – the need to define and examine what qualifies as rightly relating to one another.

The more I thought about it, the more passionate I got, and it wasn’t long before I started contemplating the B word … I decided to write a book.  “After all,” I thought, “How hard can this be?  I wrote a thesis in college.  That’s kind of like a book.  And I write in my blog all the time.  This’ll just be like a bunch of really long blog entries.”

I look back at my self in that blissful state of ignorance and I can’t help but shake my head and laugh piteously at that silly young woman who clearly has no clue what a rough road she’s about to travel.  Nevertheless, it was with ignorant bliss (as well as loads of encouragement from friends, family, and even my pastors) that I forged ahead into the writing process.

It took me two months of constant work to put all of my thoughts on paper.  I wrote a chapter at a time, sometimes switching from one to another half way through when I got stuck or bored.  At the end what I had was 12 chapters, 90 pages, and an absolute mess on my hands.  I mean it was awful.  The ideas were all there, but they were cobbled together in such a haphazard fashion that they weren’t even identifiable.  There was no continuity from chapter to chapter, the book lacked a style, it lacked an arc – it lacked a compelling through-line.  It was a mess.

Of course, having just devoted myself to 60 long hard days of furious writing, I had lost any sense of objectivity.  And so, still blissfully ignorant, I merrily sent the first draft of the manuscript to my mother for her opinion.  She agreed to read, critique, and help me edit.  And then she read it … and informed me that she didn’t think she was going to be able to work with me on it after all.

What a blow!  I mean don’t get me wrong – she was sweet as anything, and it was probably the kindest thing she could do for the daughter whom she loved so dearly.  But what I thought was “Oh my goodness, is it really THAT bad?  My own mother couldn’t find anything constructive to say?”

At that moment I felt so down, so defeated.  I felt like an utter failure, and I couldn’t understand why God would ever press me to start something like this if I was going to be so bad at it!

But that’s the thing about beginnings.  We expect our first steps on a new path to launch us up into the stars – and sometimes they do.  But more often than not, they leave us not far from where we started.  Sometimes we end up like David, who’s journey to the throne started when he was suddenly anointed by Samuel the prophet, and then just as suddenly found himself back in the field tending his sheep like nothing happened.  Sometimes we end up like Moses, who had a conversation with a bush in which God FORCED him to return to Egypt, only to meet resistance at every turn as soon as he arrived.

But we don’t remember David as a shepherd boy – we remember him as a giant slayer and king.  When we tell our children the story of Moses we don’t dwell on how miserable his situation was, we focus on the triumph of his success.  And if this (much humbler) journey that I’ve been taking has taught me anything, it has been that God is less interested in where our first steps take us than He is in where they will eventually lead us.

So I guess I’ll end this first post with this: If God has you at the beginning of something that seems to daunting for words, don’t worry about it.  Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, because God is setting you up for a breakthrough.  He’s setting you up for success in ways that you won’t understand, and preparing you for things that you don’t even know are coming.  So don’t despise your small beginnings.  They are the first steps into your greatness.