To the two girls next to me...

September 15, 2014

I don't know you, but I see you. You don't notice me because I'm typing away with earbuds plugged in, thriving on the hum in the bookstore.

You pore over the latest issue of Seventeen magazine, giggling together and having a grand old time, just the two of you. Perhaps you've been friends all your lives--perhaps you're new friends. As you sit and sip frappes, I notice something else about you two--you are smiling, laughing, but slouching self-consciously. I see it too clearly because I've been there.

Despite the genuinely fun time you're having with friends, I know what it's like to be self-conscious even without meaning to. I hope and pray you know something, despite all the voices from media and Hollywood that say you need to be a size two.

You may not have the "bikini ready body" like Selena Gomez or Miley Cyrus, and you may not always like yourselves when you look in the mirror. I can relate to that. But in my people-watching when I should be writing here in the bookstore, I see two beautiful girls. Your smiles sparkle, your laughter sweet--and maybe it's just because you feel safe and accepted, spending time with your best friend. 

But stop slouching. Sit up straight and tall. Carry yourselves with the happiness that comes with being with your best friend, and hold tight to that feeling of being accepted unconditionally. Walk with confidence. Be yourselves, keep the bow pinning your long hair back, wear what you feel pretty in--not what you think you should wear but can't "pull off" because you don't have the rail-thin body that is so glorified in society nowadays.

I want to say something to you, but lest I come across as a creep, I send you a smile and am rewarded with kind ones in return. I pray you come to know one day, if you don't already, that you are loved beyond measure, by Someone who died to know you. And He thinks you are beautiful--a true gem to be treasured.

What My Promise Ring Means to Me

September 12, 2014

I got my promise/purity ring cleaned recently. My parents gave it to me on my thirteenth birthday at a fancy Italian restaurant. It's a slim, white gold band with three hearts on it, each in a different shade of gold. 
The yellow gold heart signifies my heart belongs to the Lord...
The second heart, rose-gold, signifies my heart belongs to my parents until the Lord brings The One along... 
The third heart, white gold, signifies that I am saving/guarding my heart and body for my husband.
Nowadays there are many varied opinions about promise/purity rings and what they signify. I'm merely sharing here today what my promise ring means to me

Eight years ago when I was gifted with my beautiful ring, I decided to wear it with the hearts facing me, rather than out facing others, as a reminder to me. Now at twenty-one, I can say with utmost certainty that the meaning behind the ring has grown infinitely just as the Lord has grown and changed my heart. 

While my ring signifies my own promise, it serves as a daily reminder that God's promises will come true someday. His promises are yes and amen. There isn't a day that goes by where I don't think about my future husband, marriage, dating/courtship/relationship, a proposal, my wedding, etc.  Not all of my thoughts are draped in perfect contentment, nor hearken to the promises of God He has in store for me...

More often than not I feel like I'm completely in the dark as to how on earth I'll even meet a guy, much less begin a serious but slow-paced, intentional relationship with one. I'm tempted to think that it'll be easy, this nameless relationship--not technically dating or the stereotyped courtship--once it happens, because I've watched and learned from many other friends who've gone before me down this road. It is then I feel a check in my spirit--God's laughter at my assumptive plans--and I realize that, while my love story will be beautifully unique, it will be one of the hardest things I'll have ever done. Two sinners, saved by grace, attempting to live life together and follow God's will together doesn't sound like a Hallmark movie. It sounds more like sanctification.

The particulars my hopeless romantic heart can dwell on are daunting, because they are unknown. But I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that with a relationship and one day, marriage, comes sanctification. Building a future, a new home and love, two people becoming one flesh--it's a tall order. One not to be taken lightly, but nor one to be entered into with dread or worry. I've had the desires for love, marriage and baby carriage, in my heart for I can't even tell you how long. And I am unashamedly a hopeless romantic. There are some days where I thank Him for His promises of a good hope and future only after I cry out to Him because the waiting sometimes hurts, and my promise ring sits heavy on my ring finger. In this interim period where God is growing me and the desires of my heart to be further joined with Him, I am then able to look at my promise ring where a diamond will sit one day, and thank God He has me where I am. 

One Big Question Answered

September 10, 2014

Since publishing God's Will back in May, I have been met with nothing but joy, love and support from friends, family, blogger friends, other "indie" authors and total strangers. As nerve-wracking as it is still for me to talk about my book without tripping over words for lack of confidence in said book, it's been really great and actually a lot of fun having put me the book out there in the great wide world.

A common FAQ about my book and writing endeavors has been this one:

When is the next book coming out? 

I gotta be honest here. I want to shrink back into my proverbial introverted shell when people ask me this. I laugh nervously and quickly quip that the book I'm currently working on needs finished first. This question SO often asked has had me pause and consider. Sometimes I worry about what other people--family, friends, other fabulous indie authors--may think. Other times I instantly inwardly spaz and freak out as to what on earth should I do with my next book?! And more recently, I'm taking deep breathes, letting them out, and re-surrendering my novel{s} into God's hands.

The beauty of writing--I'm trying to be better about claiming this title--of being an author is that I can do whatever the heck I want with my babies books. No longer are we in the dark ages of sending a manuscript ala Jo March to a publishing house only to have it come back rejected, unread. Certainly things have gotten much more complicated in the submission process since the 1800's, but we also have the new and up and coming world of indie authorship to break into and embrace. Social media is also a huge plus in not only marketing your work, but building a platform that an agent/publishing house can look at and take faith in the fact that you have a following and just may be a worthy investment.

I realize I should amend the first sentence in the paragraph above. The beauty of being an author whose work in progress heart is almost as messy as her current novel's first draft is that the Greatest Author leads me. He led me to query God's Will a year and a half ago, to no avail. This past winter He led me to self publish it. Not because I was giving up or feeling defeated that no agent wanted to represent me because of it...but because this novel of my heart is one that is just special. It's just different enough--if you judge it on word count alone--to not technically "fit" into what most agencies are looking for as far as manuscripts. In short--God's Will is the novel that taught me how to write, as I wrote on my "Author's Note" page. I almost wanted to tack onto that: Read with grace! My writing's come a long way since then, thank you Jesus.

My plan for the yet-not-quite-finished Civil War novel is this: once it is polished and edited to my satisfaction, I will write up query letters and have a proposal ready to send out to a myriad of agents. I try not to think I'm jinxing things, because God is all-knowing and sovereign, but I just have a feeling about this book and the six-book series it's a part of. I have a good feeling about it, and as much as The End is taunting me being so close, yet so far--I can't help but feel proud of the story the Lord put on my heart, even though it's still in it's very unpolished state.

When You're Single & Writing Romance

September 8, 2014

I will be the first to tell you I'm a hopeless romantic. The Bachelorette, Hallmark movies, romance novels--all of these can be scoffed at as unrealistic and silly. And that is true to a point--it's all fiction. Real-life love doesn't look like movies like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days or The Wedding Planner. I'll make the argument though that The Notebook--the beginning and end where an elderly Noah is reading to Allie who's suffering from dementia--that is a testament to a love that lasts. And real-life love looks like my parents who've been married for twenty-five years, came to Christ during their marriage at different times, had four kids and four job changes. Their's is a love marked with true redemption.
When I write fiction, I normally focus on the history. I interweave it into the fictional lives of characters who very well could have lived through the Great Depression or the Civil War. I try my best to make it all jump off the page--the dialogue, the character arcs, and especially the history. I want people to not only believe the story could have happened, but I want readers to believe in the story. While I am not able to time travel and actually get to know the setting or time of my story, I am able to research till I'm happily dizzy all the big and little details that make an authentic historical novel. So on that hand--I write what I know. I figure out what I need to learn, read countless pages on it and then I write.

So the question is, being single--is it right that I do write romance into my novels? I've never walked through a relationship personally nor does that appear to be on the horizon in the near future. And I'm great with that--I have too many books to write beforehand! I don't want to write perfect, cute love stories, nor make romance the focal point of any novel. I know from witnessing my parents' marriage, other friends' relationships and engagements, that love is hard. Even when you're together with The One, oftentimes you have to wait awhile before life together can begin. There is and always will be sin in a relationship--but also sanctification. There are families to juggle, activities to balance and friends to still make time for. Love is hard. But it is also beautiful because the best real-life love stories have God-fingerprints all over them.

Therein is the key to writing romance in spite of being single: interweaving a sweet, believable love story amidst the very real history and pointing it all back to the Most High God Who holds time and history in His ever-capable hands. I said my parents' love story is one of redemption--but aren't we all stories of redemption? Therefore, in writing my novels, I can only write as the Lord leads and pray each and every word--of the history retold and the romance--be pointing to Him as the great Author and Perfecter of my faith and lover of my soul.