when chasing your dreams makes you want to stuff your face with chocolate…and maybe even give up

Sometimes, God’s answer isn’t “No,” it’s just, “Not yet.”

And so then you imagine banging your forehead on the keyboard in front of you. But you don’t, because you’re having a good hair day and also because you’re at the library and you would scare all the children.

But really. The love I have for my Asher series is big.

I love the seven year-old I created. Love him. Love his quirks and his imagination, love his freckles and his two best friends who wear capes to school and only talk by writing on mini-whiteboards.

I love them. But an agent hasn’t picked them up yet, and at this point, it’s been about a year shopping this little guy and his crew.

erica 9

photo by erica zoller

And so, for now, it’s time to move on from this particular series. I mean, I could self-publish Asher, but that route simply was never in my game plan. It’s a great route to take! I know BUNCHES of self-published authors, and they’re SUPER successful.

But for some reason, I just don’t get the feeling self-publishing is my route.

I’ve wanted to go the traditional publishing route since I was little, and by golly, I’m going to do it.

(Well. Maybe. If I can stop eating these dang Hershey’s chocolates and let Jesus pick me up by my bootstraps and kick me in the pants to snap me out of my pity party.)

Just kidding. Jesus doesn’t kick me in my pants. I don’t think.

Or maybe He does. Goodness knows I need it.

But my point is, I’m having a moment where I imagine I’m staring into Jesus’s eyes from across the table.

I say, “I’m done. Find me a cave. I’m moving to Alaska with moose and hubby and this bag of Hershey’s and I’m totally serious this time. Why haven’t you published my books yet? This is NOT how I would have planned it!”

And I can almost imagine Him sighing, tilting His head and looking at me with only Love in His eyes.

I imagine Him saying (with a touch of humor because my own mouth is full of chocolates like a squirrel with nuts), “Don’t you remember, Beloved?”

“Remember what?” **mouth still full of chocolate.**

“I have good plans for you. And there are many things you just can’t know yet. I promise, My plans are far better than your own.”

all bundles by Erica Zoller

photo by erica zoller

**Squints eyes accusingly. Tries to look tough and it’s not working but that’s fine.** “But my plan was really good. I was going to show everybody how easy it is to follow your dreams and I was going to make money from my book sales and shop way more at the Loft and take a vacation it totally would have been awesome.”

This is where I’m pretty sure He hoots with laughter the way one laughs at a puppy chasing her own tail. But not a mean laughing, a laughter laced with delight in His creation. In me.

“You’re funny, Robyn, Beloved. I love how I’ve made you.”

I can imagine Him smiling at me, and I try my best to frown in return because I want to stay mad at Him because He didn’t do what I wanted Him to do.

He didn’t follow my plans.

But I suppose Jesus is more exciting than that, right? More exciting than my type-A calendar squares. More exciting than dollar signs or likes on Facebook pages.

And I suppose He really does love us too much to let us settle for lesser things than the glory He’s got in store.

And now, just like that, I hear a whisper that’s more quiet than our conversation had been a minute ago. “Just keep your Eyes on me, Dear One. Are you not worthy already? Are you not already My Beloved?”

I exhale and I smile. Just a little.

Because, yes. I suppose I am.

I know I am.

Despite my forehead banging on the keyboard and my squirrel-esque consumption of chocolate nuggets, I am already enough for Him.

And you know what else?

I’ve got a 2-inch binder at home chalk-full of 320 pages of the most favorite words I’ve ever written. Words filled with magic and wonder and beauty and messiness and a character I’ve poured my heart into.

They’re untouched words, words full of the hope and excitement and the possibility of publishing.

So I ask Him what His plans are for this next book, and all He’ll tell me is that…

…I’m already worthy.

 

Blessings, joy, and an abundant knowing of your worth,

Robyn

when you just want a fast-forward button

Happy Wednesday!

Here’s a recap of my past couple weeks:

[  Writer’s Blocksee: organizing pens in rainbow order; playing fetch with the cat; coming dangerously close to cleaning the oven; playing fetch with the cat a second time.  ]

But I’ve heard that writer’s block happens to the best of us. That it’s all part of the process.

The process.

Oh, good gracious.

It took a teary-eyed and quivery-lipped me looking over at Michael and informing him that maybe I’ve been wrong about this whole book endeavor because “it just doesn’t feel right at the moment and do we still have that box of thin mints and I’m going to Target to buy some new Essie polish and a candle and maybe a throw pillow” for me to face the truth: the best processes, the very best ones, take time.

Mainly the [[process = time]] thought hit me when Michael cocked his head and furrowed his brow in response to my teary-eyed statement and then matter-of-factly asked me,Rob. Are you working on your book pitch right now? Or your synopsis?”

*Sniffled. Took a bite of three thin mints at once. Nodded.*

And so Michael laughed and sat down next to me on the couch and gave me a hug.

Then he reminded me that I said those exact same words the last time I had to work on a book pitch.

Oh.

Right.

See, the pitch and the synopsis come toward the end of the book writing process.

They’re like…mile 7 of a 10 mile run, where mile 7 consists of running a straight shot up a mountain the whole time. And also maybe being simultaneously shot at with nerf guns. (Just kidding about the nerf guns. But we played with them yesterday and they’re awesome.)

And so by this point in the book process I’M SO READY TO SEND THIS PUPPY OUT.

So ready.

But it’s not time to send it out yet. Not quite.

Because it’s worth doing right. And it’s worth doing right because I treasure my work greatly.

Like us, I think.

God treasures us greatly. And so He takes His precious time with us.

And so then I thought about LOTS of processes that take time and are treasured and are so worth it.

Forming a baby takes 9 months.

Adopting a baby can take years.

Education takes 13 years. At least.

Physical therapy to heal the muscles so you can run free again takes at least 2 months. (Hey there, IT band!)

A good night’s sleep takes 8 hours.

Deep friendships take years to form.

Standing in line for the new Harry Potter ride took 45 minutes (TOTALLY worth it).

Re—heating leftovers in the oven for 30 minutes is way better than heating them in the microwave for 1 minute.

God used 7 days to create the earth.

Jesus waited until He was in His thirties to start His ministry that led to our full redemption.

And completing His good work in us will take our lifetimes (Phil 1:6).

You know, it seems like the best things in life don’t happen instantly. Not at all. 

And maybe it drives us a little crazy sometimes because we can’t see the end result of the process like He can.

And so maybe that’s why He tells us to “Relax! Be silent and stop your striving, and you will see that I am God” (psalm 46:10 passion version).

Because we’re His workmanship, and our hearts are His good work. We’re worth the time to Him. We’re worth the process.

Plus, I feel like if He wanted us to hurry all the time, He’d say so. But He says the opposite. Be still.

I’d love to give my heart permission to be still.

So, It’s not that He’s ignoring us or dropped the ball because something’s taking too long.

It’s that we’re worth the painstaking and beautiful process to Him (Isaiah 43:4).

Even better, through all these processes in our lives, in whatever process we find ourselves, the heavy lifting isn’t ours.

We lift our eyes upward, trusting Him to hold every detail of every process of ours in His hands (John 3:35), because He is faithful to complete His good work in us (Phil 1:6) because His plans for us are good (Jeremiah 29:11) and because He works all things for our good (Romans 8:28).

So the next time we get impatient or discouraged because why is it taking so long?…let’s remember this, dear friends:

We’re too precious to the Father to be the instant kraft mac and cheese. We’re that delicious and totally-worth-it stovetop kind. [[ Disclaimer: writer’s block may induce these types of analogies. ]]

So let’s relax & give thanks for the process we’re in today. Because it’s beautiful grace.

Blessings & laughs & beautiful stillness to you,

Robyn

when the fig tree doesn’t bud

Full disclosure?

I may or may not be crying a bit while I write this.

Fortunately, I also have a bag of barbecue chips by my side which makes things a little better.

I wanted to give all my friends an update on my book publishing process, and it’s a painful update this time. One of my main goals in making this blog is to be transparent – to override the facade of social media perfection.

So here goes.

* crunches chip. sniffles. crunches another chip. *

Okay. Ready.

I blow through about 3 children’s chapter books a week, since that’s what I’m writing.

* okay, not ready…more sniffles. *

Anyway. I spend hours reading them, studying them, diagramming them, and re-reading them.

I found one a few weeks ago that as I read it, page by page, I got that hot feeling in my face that happens when a teacher calls on me and I’m caught daydreaming or that time I got pulled over in a speed zone or now, that hot feeling I get when I’ve found a book parallel to mine.

Yes. Parallel to mine.

*sniffles.*

I was sitting in the minute clinic waiting area, just wilting with each turn of the page. And not because of the ringing in my ears or the fact that I couldn’t breathe through my nose.

Good news?

My writing voice is extremely different from this author’s. My characters are extremely unique from these characters.

(So I can keep my babies. I love them. I don’t want to give them up.)

But the plot….oh, the plot. There it was. Laid flat on each page.

Months of work. Months and months and months of work and someone else did it first.

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But hey, other good news?

This book turned out to be a New York Times bestseller.

Dad says I should take that as affirmation that I know what I’m doing. That I know my audience, and I know what’s relevant to them. And praise God, I picked up this book before I spent too much time sending mine out.

But my heartache.

Couldn’t this have been easier?

Could my first book have been the one?

I know it doesn’t usually happen like that for authors, but couldn’t I have been the exception?

Maybe “easy” isn’t God’s plan for me or this book.

Maybe I’m learning what it means to persevere. Maybe I’m learning what it means to have faith in what I believe the Lord has promised me. The kind of faith that I can’t muster up on my own…the kind of faith only God can give. Maybe I’m in the process of creating books so much better, so much more developed, so much meatier than my first one, that kids will love them and benefit from them even more.

Maybe I’m learning to be real with people and not apologize about it.

I have faith that someday, I’ll hold my published book in my hands and I’ll read it to a class full of littles knowing that I didn’t give up.

Knowing that I didn’t lose faith in God even when things didn’t go my way.

Even when the disappointment was real.

Even when my 6-month project had to be filed away.

Even when the stomach dropped and the tears came because that book was like my baby.

I have faith that someday, I’ll tell littles not to give up. To follow their heart’s desires.

Because by God’s grace, I’ll say, I didn’t give up either.

And a beautiful book happened because of that.

So, with tears in my eyes and a knot in my throat, I’m on to book 2.

Ann Voskamp is a delight.

Ann Voskamp is a delight.

Thank You God, for teaching me to bow my head and to bend my knees and to run the good race with You as my anchor and with faith as my shield.

Dear reading heart, if you have a goal, a God-given heart desire, press on. Press on. 

I have a feeling we’ll be glad we did.

And may we, the bold dreamers who face disappointment, call our hearts to sing this anthem:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen

and no cattle in the stalls, 

yet I will rejoice in the LORD,

I will be joyful in God my Savior. 

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;

he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

he enables me to tread on the heights”

-Habakkuk 3:17-19.

Blessings and joyful strength to you,

Robyn

Those Ugly Stepsisters: perfection & fear

Dear friends, a few nights ago I froze at my computer.

At the keyboard, more specifically.

My brain turned into a blank piece of paper and the words wouldn’t come.

I felt anxious.

And so I prayed and I read Ann Voskamp (highly recommended) and I wrote in my journal and I ate chocolate and I watched a rerun of Boy Meets World.

Then, I told Michael about what I was feeling. He said, “You need to write about this. About how you took on something big and you’re nervous but – God’s in your court.”

And I said, “…Okay. Done.”

Because Michael knows me better than I know myself a lot of the time.

And when that logical, loving man tells me I need to write, I know he’s right.

Now, the “something big” I’ve taken on is becoming a writer professionally.

More specifically, writing books for children.

That’s a big leap.

It’s awesome, it’s scary, it’s for such a time as this, it’s blessed, it’s my dream, and its biggest adversary is this:

Perfectionism.

Ugh.

Even that word is pointy and ugly and harsh, isn’t it?

Back to the moment when I froze at the keyboard.

Perfectionism does that, doesn’t it?

Makes you freeze.

Paralyzes you.

Ever heard the phrase, “paralyzed by fear?”

Yep.

Fear and perfectionism go together.

They are like the mean, ugly stepsisters in Cinderella.

(I relate most things to Disney movies, by the way.)

Like the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella, fear and perfectionism see beauty and hope and creativity and boldness and God’s glory – and they don’t like it.

So they try to sabotage it.

Remember when the mean, ugly stepsisters see Cinderella in her mother’s dress, getting ready for the ball, and they rip the beautiful dress to shreds so she can’t go and display all her God-given beauty?

Terrible!

Horrible!

Putting that moment in writing is even worse than watching it happen.

It also makes me want to go watch Cinderella again.

Can’t you see that’s what happens to us, dear friends, when fear and perfectionism attack?

Let me put it in non-Disney terms for those who don’t see things quite like me:

Perfectionism is:

  • When you’re afraid to start something – simply because you’re afraid you won’t be good at it. If you procrastinate, then there’s no opportunity to fail, is there?
  • Quitting something because it’s harder than you thought and you were supposed to be good at it, right? But you weren’t perfect right off the bat. So you stopped.
  • When you’ve worked for hours on a presentation and you’re smart and you’re ready, and then you get to the front and start sweating bullets and wondering how you look to the people in the room. What if they don’t like what you’re saying? What if you get something wrong? You get distracted and you fumble your smart words.
  • When you’re teaching, and you teach every day with those kids in mind and you plan for hours and your heart is all in and yet the minute your principal walks in your room to observe, you doubt. You fear. Are you perfect enough in her eyes? What if she sees you make a mistake? What grade will you get on your evaluation? You get distracted and you forget what you were even teaching in the first place.
  • When you don’t want to go on that date with the nice person or agree to a relationship with the nice person who has given you no reason to doubt, simply because you don’t want to get hurt if it doesn’t work out.

I think all these examples can be summed up in this one kicker of a paralyzing lie:

“I want to do everything perfectly, I want to be perfect — so I don’t get hurt or disappointed” (in your job, in your marriage, in your friendships, etc).

Dear hearts, this is no way to live.

Perfectionism isn’t living.

It’s striving. It’s frustrating.

It’s also impossible.

And yet, perfectionism and fear are so commonplace we don’t notice them for what they are most of the time.

But they’re there.

And like the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella, they will rip to shreds our beautiful gowns of creativity, beauty, intelligence, success, and any God-given glory we have if we let them.

Dear friends, perfectionism does not protect. Fear does not protect.

Rather, they stifle.

I am glad Thomas Edison was not a perfectionist.

He said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

I like him already. Refreshing, isn’t it?

He’s not saying he doesn’t ever fail, he’s just saying he uses those failed attempts to keep trying.

And I’m glad he did! (He invented light bulbs, for those of you who are scientifically unaware like I am).

Isn’t that what God tells us to do, dear friends? (Not to invent light bulbs, ha!) – but to keep trying?

We cannot pick back up and try again by our own strength, but here is why we can pick back up and try again:

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

His mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.”

Lamentations 3:22-23, emphasis mine.

You see, He picks up back up each time. And so we can try again.

Because like the rising of the sun each morning, so does the Lord’s grace fall upon and bless and strengthen the hearts of His children.

And so, we try again.

Because our Father separates our sins from us so far as the east is from the west, we try again (psalm 103:12).

And then, we try again.

We are loved as high as the heavens are above the earth (Psalm 103:11). And so we pick back up and try again.

And when a group of Pharisees (a.k.a perfectionists, if you ask me, because I see my own weaknesses in their flawed perceptions) ask Jesus why He is eating with the “screw-ups” of that society, if you will, he responds with this:

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 2:17.

I suppose that is why Paul says to boast about our weaknesses (2 Cor 12:9). Because when we are real about our weaknesses, about our imperfections, the humble sacrifice of realness sets a beautiful backdrop for Christ’s light to shine brightly into our weaknesses and into the hearts of others, setting hearts free to abide in His love.

So let’s do this, dear friends.

Let’s love Christ without fear. Let’s love others without fear. Let’s stop trying to be good enough for God.

Because we never will be.

But because He sent His Son, we are.

We are.

Take a breath.

He’s got you. And He loves you.

“Relax! Be silent and stop your striving,

and you will see that I am God.”

Psalm 46:10, passion translation.

So go put your Cinderella dress back on.

Let the God who loves you most stitch it back up.

And don’t let those ugly stepsisters Fear and Perfectionism sabotage your ball anymore! 😉 

Peace, blessings, and fresh mercies to you in Christ,

Robyn

Things Learned As a Young, Jesus-loving Post-Grad Female – Two Years In

1.     Everyone doesn’t have it all together – no matter what Facebook and Instagram make it look like.

        You can see mine and Michael’s wedding pictures on social media, but what you don’t see is the months of pre-marital counseling, hard work, tears, and prayers that got us there with God’s love and help.
        You will see pictures of friends’ new jobs and their smiling faces on the way to their first day of work, but what you don’t see is the months and even years of job searching it took to get them to that exciting day. You are not the only one searching.
        You will see pictures (someday!) on my Instagram of the house that I am so excited to buy. What you won’t see is the year I spent living with my parents to save money on rent.
       As Louie Giglio said, “We don’t Instagram a lot of our reality, do we? If it’s not a good hair day, no selfie today!”
I’m all for sharing delightful, joyful pictures depicting God’s faithfulness and goodness and fluffy kittens and beautiful sunsets and elaborate dinners. My Instagram is proof of that. But I also finally realize that we are all real people behind our social media. No one has it all together. But, praise God! He does. And He holds everything together (Colossians 1:17).
      Jesus said “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, but I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). It takes wisdom and self-control, but I can’t let comparison steal, kill, and destroy my self-worth via social media. Jesus came so that we can have life, and have it abundantly – even if that abundant post-grad life feels different sometimes from those pictures on Facebook because it’s lived under the roof of a parents’ house to save money on rent, is spent searching for a job, is spent working hard for a marriage, or is spent at a job other than the one you wanted right off the bat. Despite the mirage of Facebook and Instagram, everyone is real. And we are promised an abundant life from the One who loves us most.

2.   Being anxious doesn’t add a single hour to anyone’s span of life. Matthew 6:27. I need this reminder daily. Hourly, even.

3.   When having a particularly bad day, it’s best to go do something active and listen to “Gold” by Britt Nicole or any fast songs by Mandisa. Seriously, do it. It will change your day. Mandisa understands – and she’ll make you dance on the treadmill while she’s at it. Really.

4.   On that note – Go for the run! Eat the ice cream, too! Both are glorious treats to end any work day. I would advise eating the ice cream second, however.

5.   Pray for the people who hurt you. Really. It’s healing for you, and it’s a blessing for them. Plus, you need God to do it. That’s the best position to be in.
Praying for hurtful people is hard, sanctifying, and beautifully freeing. I love the God we serve. He heals and blesses us in miraculous ways.

6.   Italian bread crumbs make any meal taste better. Literally. Pasta, chicken, green beans, everything. It’s a good idea to keep the 24 oz can handy in the pantry.

7.   It’s okay to start at square one. In fact, now I think it’s good to start at square one. I think sometimes as graduates we expect to have the jobs our parents had and the house our parents had and the budget our parents had, but what we forget is they started at square one, too. And they worked hard.

8.   Cleaning is a necessary evil. I like to start at square one with cleaning, too. For instance, I’ll put a load in the wash. Then I’ll take a break to watch a Boy Meets World rerun. Next I’ll switch the laundry. And then I’ll watch Love It or List It. Then somehow the cleaning gets done. Michael probably has a lot to do with that. But really, there’s nothing like getting home from work to a vacuumed carpet. It’s the little things.

9.   Coffee.

10.   Focusing on other people around you helps put things into perspective. If you tend toward worrying incessantly (like me) it’s also one of the best cures for anxiety, alongside thankfulness.

11.   Watching Pride and Prejudice is a surefire way to make any bad day better. If you’re female.

12.   You’re beautiful. Praise the Lord! All beautiful, actually – flawless. That’s in the Bible (Song of Solomon 4:7). So it’s true! Woohoo!! Don’t let the “frumpy” days fool or define you.

13.   A wise person once told me, “The work WILL get done.” And it does! It always does! At some point you need to take a break and do something you love. The work will get done. Far better to finish the work refreshed than to finish it cranky and at 1 in the morning.

14.  Reading scripture is not about checking a good deed off your list. It’s about being lovingly reminded in the midst of the busy work week of who you are and to Whom you belong.

15.  Upon entering the working world – give yourself grace. Something I think God has taught me is that He is not checking logged hours of reading the Bible or praying. No, that’s a perfectionist mindset. When you enter the working world, it’s different than college. Much less of your time is your own. Your day looks different. Your job can drain you in ways that a marathon of finals in college doesn’t even come close to. The pressure can feel constant – new employee, you are NOT ALONE in feeling that way! But what God promises is that He is the Constant One (Hebrews 13:8), and He loves to meet us where we are. Jesus surprises me with the reality that spending time with Him isn’t about proving that I love Him. It’s Him proving His steadfast love and graciousness. Performance-based mindsets need humility to receive that love. And about that constant pressure from your job – from personal experience, I bet the pressure is from your own “standards” and I bet you are doing an awesome job. ☺

16.   Your name. Your name happens to be Beloved Child of God (Eph 5:1). The world will try to call you lots of different things. Lots of things. Not always in words, even. Not always bad names, either. But, sometimes we take on burdens and identities based on how someone treats us. It’s a daily choice to remember your true name: Beloved. God has the final say. Rest in that.

17.   But really, above everything else, Jesus. All these good things come from Him. And He is good. All the time (Lamentations 3:22-23).

18.   Coffee. It’s worth mentioning again.

Praise God, for His loving mercy on us post-grads and all His children! ☺

Blessings to you, and peace,

Robyn