You can’t win a fight without fighting back

I finished the revised draft of a 109,000-word novel yesterday. This is the sequel to my debut novel, which released December 2014, and it’s part of a series I’ve been writing since 2001 or 2002. Somewhere in there. It isn’t the hardest book I’ll ever write, but it is the most difficult and challenging one I’ve written to date. I was sorely tempted to give up a few times over the last month.

Fortunately, I am blessed to be surrounded by many much-loved friends who were willing to encourage me and brave enough to tell me I needed to eat a sandwich or take a nap. (If you are a friend to a ridiculously stubborn and independent person, you understand what my poor friends deal with.)

I was tired. I was frustrated. I was irritated at myself (for my perceived slowness and my inability to hit my overly ambitious, self-imposed deadlines). I wanted to give up, but I didn’t. I kept pushing forward because I’ve got a host of people who would probably track me down and strangle me if I didn’t deliver the sequel pronto. That was one motivating factor. 😉

But the biggest motivation to finish came from my deeply held belief that God keeps His promises.

black-and-white-sport-fight-boxerToday’s verse is Hebrews 10:36.

Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.

God has never let me down. Not ever. He’s always been there when I needed Him. He’s always provided for me, sometimes even when I didn’t know what I needed or when I needed it. And years and years ago before I even understood what I was doing, God showed me that I could write. And God promises that if we use our gifts and talents for Him, He’ll bless us and He’ll bless the work we do in His name.

Somewhere along the line, during this crazy month of rewriting, I lost track of who the book belonged to. It’s not mine. I gave it to the Lord all those years ago when the idea first came to me. So no matter how difficult the journey gets between now and when the book releases, between when the book releases and Book 3 goes into production, and so on and so forth, God will make it worth it.

It’s hard to hold on to that sometimes because–let’s just be honest–life sucks. Crazy bad stuff happens. Loved ones die. Your insurance goes up. Your car breaks down. That unexpected expense that empties your bank account. Work is too stressful. You lose a relationship. The other half of your brain moves away. And it can’t all happen one piece at a time. No, it’s all got to happen at once, and you get so distracted by all the awful, discouraging things going on that you forget who’s really in control. Because nothing feels controlled. Everything feels out of control.

So what do you do when it feels like life is circling the drain? When nothing you do is good enough. When the straw broke the camel’s back years ago but nothing’s changed. What can you do?

You can give up, sure, but do you believe God or not? If God’s given you a job to do, you need to do it. It might stink right now, but if you throw in the towel, you have no idea what you’re leaving behind. God made you a promise, and He always keeps His promises. So instead of walking away, endure patiently.

Enduring isn’t fun. Being patient isn’t fun either. So patient endurance is a double whammy of anti-fun. But if you can do it (and God will give you the strength), you’ll be able to keep moving forward. And you will move forward, even if you feel like you’re standing still. And someday, farther down the road, you’ll be rewarded for it.

You don’t get rewards for giving up. You can’t win a fight without fighting back. And it’s not that our lives should be about rewards or what we get in return for serving God. That’s not the point. But we do need to remember that God doesn’t give us difficult tasks without promising to make them worth our effort.

What are you facing today? A frightening diagnosis? A new diet? A new job? Shoot, I’ve got lots of friends who just had new babies. Talk about a challenge. God has promised to be with you and to give you strength when you need it most. And He’s promised that the trials and struggles you go through are all part of a bigger plan.

Yes, life is hard. And following Jesus is harder still. But He promised that it would be worth it.

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True love lives in actions and not in words

In novel writing (and maybe other forms of writing), there is really one cardinal rule to producing an excellent story. Sure, character development is key. Yes, plot is essential. But this cardinal rule is more basic than anything else. It’s the rule of show, don’t tell.

Ever heard that? If you’re a writer, you probably have. If you’re not a writer, maybe it sounds foreign to you until you start thinking about the rules of relationships. It’s one thing to tell someone something. It’s something else to show them.

“Jack walked through the tall grass” is much less meaningful than, “The tips of the prairie grass tickled Jack’s fingers as he marched across the field.” See the difference? The first time, I’m telling you what Jack is doing. The second time, you see what’s actually happening. In writing, that’s the difference between showing and telling.

Frankly, relationships aren’t much different.

love-wide-wallpaper-1920x1200-008Today’s verse is 1 John 3:18.

 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.

Have you ever told someone that you love them? It’s easy to do. Those three words fall off our lips, often without any thought of consequence or commitment. You love your friends. You love your family. You love your coworkers (usually).

But what does it mean to love someone? Is it just something you say? Or is there more to it than that?

You can tell someone you love them and the treat them poorly. We see it everyday. What people say doesn’t match up with their actions, and that’s not the way relationships are supposed to work. What’s even more troubling is that we see it in the Church. We see it between brothers and sisters in Christ.

Did you realize that if you believe in Jesus Christ, you belong to Him? Yes, you probably knew that. So then do you understand that if the person sitting next to you at work or at school believes in Jesus Christ too, that makes him or her your brother or sister? That means you are family. That means you are called to love that person with a love that defies explanation, and that love is what will make the world see us as different–as having something they lack.

Christ-followers are family. Maybe that’s why we feel justified in tearing each other apart so frequently.

You say you love the Christian sitting next to you. When push comes to shove, will your love stop at words? When that Christian runs into financial trouble or family trouble or any kind of trouble, can you sit still and keep saying you love them while you do absolutely nothing to help them?

It’s the same with our brothers and sisters around the world. We sit in our comfortable homes, living our comfortable lives, and we post on social media that we love and support our brothers and sisters who are suffering around the world. But what are you doing about it?

I know some people get frustrated with the concept of trying to prove their love to others, but I don’t think that’s what this is about. The truth is that love is an action word, and our culture tries to turn it into a passive idea. Love isn’t something that just happens. Love is intentional–or at least it should be.

So who do you love? Do they know? I mean, do they really know, or are they just used to you telling them? When was the last time you showed them?

If you love someone, whether it’s family or friends or coworkers or just strangers on the street, saying you love them isn’t enough. The difference between showing and telling when it comes to your relationships is who your love is about.

Is the love you feel about you? Do you tell people that you love them to make yourself feel better? Or are you willing to sacrifice your comfort or your security or even your life to do something for someone else?

That’s the difference. The truth about love is that it’s not about you. Love that’s about you isn’t love; it’s selfishness. Love that’s about other people? That’s real love. It’s not easy. It’s actually terrifying. But that’s the love we’re called to have, the kind of love that lives in actions and not just in words.

An elephant at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Living like everyone has a long memory

I don’t often post about work on this blog, mainly because I never want to run the risk of getting too personal in my stories. But my work plays a huge role in my life, and I learn so much from it and from the people I work with. And yesterday, I got a really interesting reminder about the blessing (or danger) of long memories.

Okay. Story time.

For those of you who don’t know, I am a copywriter for a plumbing company. Sometimes I travel to locations around the country where customers are installing our piping systems so I can conduct interviews and write articles. A number of years ago, I was visiting a job site in Cincinnati, and that evening I got to have dinner with the owners of the mechanical contracting shop in charge of the project. We talked industry. We talked politics. We talked plumbing. And then we talked personal interests, and my love of writing came up–along with the science fiction novel I was trying to get published (called Nameless, in case anyone wants to know). Turns out, both of these owners are huge geeks, and they jumped on the topic eagerly, wanting to know how a publishing company works, wanting to understand how writing a book works, wanting to know everything about the book I’d written. At the end of the dinner, they told me they wanted me to keep them updated about the novel so they could buy it when it hits the shelves (in January, published by Crosshair Press).

Well, that was years ago. And there was quite a bit of alcohol consumed around that table. And I honestly figured they hadn’t really meant it. So you can imagine my surprise when the local sales rep from Cincinnati approached me at this year’s National Sales Meeting yesterday and informed me that those two owners had been asking about my book.

I was flabbergasted. I honestly didn’t know what to say. But once I recovered myself, I got to share the exciting news that my book will be published at the beginning of next year, and if they really want to buy it, they will be able to.

Honestly. Two union plumbing contractors interested in my science fiction novel. Of all the things they remembered about me from that night (other than the fact that I only drank water), they remembered my book. And they remembered it well enough to ask about it years afterward.

That made my day.

But then I got to thinking how awful would it have been if they’d remembered something negative about me? So many times people say they don’t have good memories, but what that means is they don’t usually remember good things. When it comes to bad things, people remember in startling detail. And as Christ-followers, we need to be aware of that.

An elephant at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

An elephant at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are 1 Peter 2:11-12.

Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.

What if I had been rude or distant? What if I had been ignorant or proud? What if I had been stuck up or snotty? I think these guys would have remembered that. Or they would have written me off completely, because that’s how they expect people to act.

What do the people around you think of you? Have you ever thought about it? Granted, you shouldn’t choose your actions based on what other people think of you, but never forget that as followers of Christ, we are here to be examples to those who don’t believe. We are ambassadors for Christ, and we are commanded to live lives that are above reproach. That means even if someone accuses of you doing something wrong, the way you live your life will be enough of a witness to show them a liar.

Do you think living that kind of life is impossible? Nothing is impossible with God. Why do you think He left us the Bible? The Bible has everything that we need to live a Christ-honoring life, and–what’s more–if you live according to what the Bible says, you’ll leave an impression on people. And it’ll be a good impression. An impression they’ll remember for years to come.

No, don’t live your life to please people, but never forget that people are always watching. Maybe it’s not fair, but they’re always waiting for that opportunity to write your faith off as something that’s not real. Don’t give them that opportunity.

Love God. Love people. Be real. And watch God work. Who knows what He’ll use in your life to influence people? Don’t discount anything. We serve a God who can feed 10,000 people with a sack lunch, so why am I shocked that He could intrigue two plumbers with a science fiction novel?

A blog about writing

peachesHey, everyone. I realized the other day that I hadn’t ever really announced the writing blog I’m doing now. At the moment I’m working on a series about plotting a novel, and I occassionally post updates on things I’ve had published or contests I’ve won. I really only update it once a week, mostly on the weekends. But in case you’re curious about the other writing I do that isn’t devotions, stop by.

www.amycwilliams.com

It’s a glimpse into the odd depths of my strange mind. =)

Thank you all for reading!

Usage Notes #1 – blond vs. blonde

I think I’m going to start making random posts about usage notes when I figure them out.

I don’t know if this happens to anybody else, but I sometimes get into a habit of thinking I know more than I do. And then one day, I realize that I don’t really know much of anything.

I like to think I have a pretty good handle on usage of words, but then along comes a specific word that throws me for a loop.

Blond and Blonde

Which is is? What’s the difference? When do you use one and not the other?

After a little bit of digging and some research, I have figured it out. And, yes, there is a difference.

The word blond without an e is a modifier that describes a color. Blond hair. Blond brownies. Blond man. Blond woman.

The word blonde is a noun used to refer to a woman with blond hair. Never a man.

I believe it’s a French thing. I read that somewhere.

So you can say, “There’s a blond man!” or “There’s a blond woman!” and that is correct.

Or you can say, “There’s a blonde!” or “She’s blonde” or “a blonde moment” and that is correct.

But you shouldn’t identify a man by the term blonde since it is a feminine noun.

Fascinating, huh?