Monday, July 30, 2018

The Pitching Season: encouragement for a writer's heart



'Tis the season for pitching book ideas, sending proposals, and meeting with publishers. Writer conferences are in full swing as aspiring authors are winding up for their best pitches. Book ideas are swirling toward home plates inside publisher ballparks all across America.

Is it even possible for us little, unknown writers, pounding away on our keyboards in our small corners of life to enter the major leagues and make a play? Yes, it's possible! Here's my story and the steps I continue to take.

Pray.

Before my writing journey even began, I was praying a prayer I was introduced to years ago - a little treasure tucked inside a slew of genealogy in 1 Chronicles 4. Jabez's prayer in verse 10 became a sincere pouring out of my heart before the Lord. However He wanted to use me to reach people for His glory with the story He was writing with my life, then that's what I wanted to do. 

And Jabez called upon the God of Israel saying,
"Oh that You would bless me and enlarge my border, 
and that Your hand might be with me, 
and that You would keep me from harm 
so that it might not bring me pain!"

My calling out to the Lord to direct my path, using His own words from His Word, was sincere with total surrender. Whatever ministry He had carved out for me, I was willing to walk that path. And just as He granted Jabez's request, He has been expanding my territory for Him ever since in ways I could never have imagined.

Listen.

I've been attending writing/speaking conferences since 2007. My first trip was not to pitch but to glean from the wisdom surrounding me, and to listen to the Spirit's voice as I asked Him what I was to do with this desire to write He had obviously placed inside me. It was definitely not my natural talent, but a craft He intended for me to learn.

So, I continued through the years to go and grow as I learned more and more about how to tell His story well.

My very first pitch was delivered in 2016 in the robust ballpark of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference.


Obey. 

Prepping to pitch is tedious work, especially for a still green-on-the-vine writer. Whittling down an entire book idea into a sentence or two is nothing short of a miracle. But I muddled through and pitched to at least five publishers. I pitched and then released the results into the hands of the One who had directed me to this point.

Four publishers asked for proposals.

I'm told that's highly unusual. I was completely overwhelmed that any of them caught my pitch and were interested in reading more!

 Okay Lord, You've walked me through to this point, but I don't know the first thing about how to write a proposal or even where to begin!

God never calls us to a task He doesn't equip us to complete. He would not leave me to figure this out alone. Just as He didn't leave me when His Spirit's whisper led me to begin Living Real magazine after my first conference (which I still call "the adventure of a lifetime"). I had no clue as to how to go about publishing a magazine. I had never published anything.

God was stretching my faith, asking me to trust Him again. So, I prayed, as well as my prayer team, and released my anxious thoughts into His very capable hands.



Wait. 

The next two years would be a learning curve. I put the proposal thing on the back burner and continued to work on my craft, the magazine, and blogging. God had put people in place to work with me through this process, especially my Word Weaver partners. What a blessing to be surrounded by other writers who just want to tell God's story well with a craft He's entrusted us with. It's a TEAM effort. We pray for one another, critique each other's work, and cheer for one another along the way.

The real work began last summer. Preparing to go to ReNEW: A Retreat for New England Writers, I began to write the book I had pitched two years earlier. I took the plunge and paid for a professional critique of my first two chapters. I was committed to write.

In October of 2017, the ReNEW weekend arrived, and so did my friend, Jean (a fellow Word Weaver) and I. We were welcomed by such an encouraging bunch of people, all seeking to follow the Spirit's leading and to help each other to do the same. Carol Kent with Speak Up Ministries was assigned to critique my two chapters. Her enthusiasm for not only my subject matter, but even more for how well the chapters were constructed blew me out of the water! How could I, someone who is not a life-long writer have crafted something so well? This is the reason I love this journey! It's not me. It's all Him. God is doing His work through me, and I get to watch His craft and creativity flow through my simple obedience.

Carol invited me to her Speak Up Conference in Michigan the following June and told me to bring four proposals with me. Her reason was that she believed my story needed to be put in front of those who could expand my territory for God's glory. God was moving my border for real. God used Carol to push me to get those proposals written.


Six copies of the forty-six page proposal (including the first three chapters written in manuscript form) were packed in my carry-on bag and flying with me to Michigan. Alone. No traveling companion with me this time. Just Jesus and me; whatever will be.

I was assigned six meetings. Five with publishers and one with an agent. Every one asked for the proposal. Again, God goes before us preparing the way before we arrive. My pitches were caught, but the next step can be the hardest.

WAIT for the results.


Wait some more. 

Trust Me, God said. You've walked this far with Me, now trust Me to throw and make a good play. 

And I had. I can honestly say I wasn't nervous, just excited about this next step of obedience. God would make the throw in His time to make the best play for His glory. It's been a thrilling game so far, and I'm learning to relax, rest in Him, and just enjoy the moment.

With pitches caught and proposals received, it's not unusual to have to wait several months to hear back from publishers (some may not respond at all). So I returned home to wait and...

See.

Two weeks later, I had already heard from two of those I pitched to. The result of the play was in, and the glorious impossible had occurred again. Staring back at me in an email was an actual request to publish my book. My husband and I prayed and talked through the options over the next several days. We both arrived at the same decision, and with a calm spirit and oneness of heart, we chose to go with the one we believed God had thrown the ball to.


Most Christian writers understand we are not in competition with one another. We are on the same team, serving the same Savior, Jesus Christ. So, during this season of pitches, proposals, and publishers, take heart, sweet friend! Be encouraged! Cheer one another on! God will make His story known through you however He sees fit.

Enjoy the game!

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Summertime Slowdown: Repent, Refresh, Repeat



One of the best days ever was a day Rick (my husband) and I went out for a spontaneous summer walk, and out of nowhere the sky let loose with a pouring down of refreshing rain. It was the most exhilerating feeling. We started laughing and running, but all the while enjoying the soaking.

This is what I pictured when I read Acts 3:19 this morning.

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, 
that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.

When we are practicing repentance, God sends the most breath-taking refreshment into our lives.

Repentance is not a one-and-done when we surrender our lives to Christ. Yes, we are fully forgiven of our sins through Jesus' death on the cross, but since we still live in bodies of flesh, we must learn the practice of repentance.

True repentance is the practice of confessing and turning away from sin so we can walk in His refreshment every day. Just because we've chosen Christ as Savior doesn't mean we always behave as perfect children.

Just as children learn the daily disciplines of brushing their teeth, washing their hands before meals and after going to the bathroom, taking baths, saying, Thank you and PleaseGod's children are learning the daily spiritual disciplines needed to live a life that brings Him glory. 

Confession is only a part of this daily spiritual discipline. We must ask for forgiveness for the things we know we've done (or not done) that hurt the Father's heart. But confession only is not enough. This spiritual discipline also includes repentance.


  • Confession is agreeing with the Father that we've stepped out of line with His Truth. 


  • Repentance is turning away from the sin and realigning of our steps with His. 


We cannot live the Christian life without implementing spiritual disciplines. Why not pause right now and ask the Lord to bring any out-of-line behavior that you need to confess, and do it? Confess. Agree with the Father that you've strayed from His Truth to seek pleasure for yourself, veering away from the Light. Then, with a sincere, broken heart, repent. Turn away from the dark path of destruction you've been headed in, and get back on the path of righteousness. Repentance brings sweet relief.

Let God "wipe out" your sins today and refresh your soul with a good, mercy soaking of His rain.

My Pleasure,
Melanie



Monday, June 25, 2018

Summertime Slowdown: Renew Your Mind


We left off searching our hearts in Psalm 51 in our first Summertime Slowdown. Did you slow down and really examine your heart? Did you come to a conclusion on what condition your heart is in?

If not, please continue to do so. If you missed the introduction week of Summertime Slowdown and my recipe for Southern Sweet Tea, look for the blog titled Summertime Slowdown, Southern Style.

This week we'll be marinating on Romans 12:1-2. (I use the word marinate, because it visualizes to me a slow soaking that will burst into full flavor!)

Therefore brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. 
Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

As we examine these verses, pay close attention to what we are to do, and not do:

In verse one, Paul begs us to express true worship before God, but he doesn't make us guess as to what that means:
  • What is true worship? 
True worship is presenting something before the Lord.
  • What are we to present? 
True worship is presenting our bodies, ourselves, everything we are.
  • How are we to present our bodies? 
We present them as living sacrifices.
  • What kind of sacrifices? 
Holy (set apart for God's purpose and glory only)  Pleasing (because this makes His heart smile)                               

 In verse 2, Paul gives us a do and a don't.
  • DO NOT be conformed to this age (world)
  • BE transformed (changed, transfigured). 

In the second part of verse two Paul tells us how to change...

  • by the renewing of your mind. 
In light of what Christ has done for us, we should be fashioned or shaped like Him, 
not fashioned or shaped like the world. If we look like the world, then we act like the world, 
we live like the world, and we identify with the world. 
If we look like Christ, then we think like Christ, and we live like Christ, 
thus we identify with Christ. Transformation begins with the mind.
(from Lesson 2, pg. 6 of Renew, Refresh, Refine bible study)

The best way I know to begin this process is by presenting myself before the Lord as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing, because this IS worship - a daily denying of my will before Him on the altar of sacrifice. As I lay it ALL there at His feet, today, I pray, "Your will Lord, not mine, be done." Then, I listen as I wash my mind with His own Words. I give them free reign to flow through my mind, transforming it as I walk by faith throughout the day. 


Worship.

Season the mind. 

Marinate

My Pleasure,
Melanie

(The Renew, Refresh, Refine Bible study is available on Amazon.com)


Summertime Slowdown Roasted Vegetables 
with Sausage (meat optional) 
Serves: 4-6

You'll need:

baking pan (cover bottom and sides with non-stick aluminum foil)
a large zip-lock bag
olive oil
garlic powder
salt
pepper
Tuscan seasoning
butter (for corn)
sugar (for corn)
White or Brown Rice (optional)

Vegetables: 8 small red potatoes (washed, and halved or quartered), 3 small yellow, 3 red, and 3 orange peppers (sliced and seeded), green beans (frozen or fresh), broccoli florets, and zuchinni (sliced), and 4 ears of fresh white or yellow corn

Meat (optional): Sausage link sliced into 3/4 round pieces.

Preheat Oven to 425 degrees.

Boil or *microwave fresh corn on the cob. Slice corn off the cob into a bowl. Add salt, pepper, sugar, and butter to taste. Put corn aside.

Place cut vegetables (excluding corn) in the large ziplock bag. Drizzle olive oil over the veggies. Sprinkle garlic powder, salt, pepper, and Tuscan seasoning over the veggies to taste.

Zip the bag all the way, and shake the vegetables until covered well with the seasonings.

Pour the vegetables onto the baking sheet and spread them out evenly.

Evenly distribute the sausage pieces over the vegetables.

Place the baking sheet in the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes (or until potatoes are tender).

Serve the vegetable and meat mixture over rice, and add a serving of corn on the top.

Suggested sides: a salad, and Hawaiian dinner rolls.

*Microwave ears of corn in the husks for 5 minutes on high. Turn them over and cook for another 5 minutes. Carefully remove corn from the microwave. Place on a cutting board. Slice the large end off of each ear (about an inch). Then squeeze down from the top of the ear until it slides out of the husk. If some silks remain, just pull them off. 

Friday, June 22, 2018

Grace - Waves Crashing Over Me



Sitting in my chair of many colors at the ocean's edge, I think about how Grace is like a wave crashing over me. This amazing, undeserved gift of the Divine rushes in like the salty sea.

Sometimes it so overwhelms me, it knocks me to my knees.

Grace.

wave that never stops.

With every crash of the waves, I see God washing over me with His profound love, mercy, and  kindness. The continual movement of water is a clear reminder that His grace never ends.

Grace means... 


  •   when we're unfaithful, God is still faithful.



But I will not withdraw My faithful love from him or betray My faithfulness (Psalm 89:33).


  • when we're unloveable, God is still loving.

...because God is love (1 John 4:8b).


  • when we're weak, God is still strong.

         And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you for My strength is made perfect in weakness."


When we think we just can't do anymore, God's grace says, "Cease striving."


Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, 
I will be exalted int he earth (Psalm 46:10, NASB).

Grace.

We can't live without it.

We can't achieve it.

The all sufficient gift given to all who come to the Grace-Giver.


What does Grace look like to you? 

How have you seen His grace rush into your life lately?


Oh God, 

     I'm so overwhelmed at times with Your grace gift that it fills my eyes with tears, and sends me to my knees. "Thank You" seems so trite, but it's all I've got. Thank You!!!! I love You deeply. Keep the waves coming!
~ Amen

My Pleasure,
Melanie




Thursday, June 7, 2018

Summertime Slowdown - Southern Style



Some of my fondest memories of growing up in the heart of the Palmetto State include long, lazy days in the sun, boating on Lake Murray, and inhaling the fragrant aroma swirling around the cove as my dad cooked breakfast outside on his green Coleman stove. Mmmm... I can smell it now. 

After hours of swimming, water skiing, fishing, and exploring, my sister and I would get into our pjs. From the screened in porch or from a late night ride on the pontoon, we'd gaze at the stars. Then we'd slip under the covers in our beds as the frogs serenaded us to sleep. Everything seemed perfect in the summer, and every day we squeezed out every ounce of fun we could.

This summer, I thought it might be fun to slow down and refuel together. By squeezing out every ounce of clutter from our hearts (those corners we've ignored), God can begin to clean 'em out and renew our spirits, all while we make summertime memories with our family and friends.

To assist us on this journey, I'll be pulling portions from a Bible study I wrote several years ago called Renew, Refresh, Refine - your heart, soul, and mind. This would be a great opportunity to invite a friend to take the plunge with you, and clean out together.

Along with each lesson, I'll also be sharing a a simple, southern recipe for your added pleasure.

During this first week, we must slow down and identify the real spiritual condition of our hearts. To do this we need to take some time to look in the mirror. What do you see? A tired, weary soul depleted from over extending during the year? Is your sparkle missing? Are you tempted to just sleep the summer away?

Throughout the week, read Psalm 51; several times if necessary. As you wash your mind with the Word, also pray.


Ask God for the desire and strength to submit to His search light just like David did.
Allow God the freedom to search deep into places of your heart that you 
have been guarding. The dark places need to be revealed, confessed, 
and dealt with, so He can continue to mold you into the woman He has designed 
you to be. Confession and repentance are crucial to renewing your 
relationship with Jesus and to restoring the joy of your salvation.
(from Lesson 1, Renew, pg. 4)

This is how we begin a much needed, summertime slow-down.  

You'll be amazingly rejuvenated! No spa treatment can do for the soul what the power of the Holy Spirit can. (But go ahead and make that spa appointment, it'll be an extra treat for your body.)

Remember, take your time. Don't rush through identifying your spiritual heart condition, because this will be the place where your refreshing begins. And please use the comment section below to share how God is helping you to identify the condition of your heart. Let's encourage one another!

Now, go pour yourself a glass of southern sweet tea, and let's get started!


My Pleasure,
Melanie








Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Trustworthy Couriers


Many of my writer friends, this week, are lapping up words of wisdom gushing from the faucets in classrooms, hallways, and breezy porches at The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. I'm so sad not to be there with all of the buzz and excitement, but God has kept me here prepping to pitch at another conference this summer.

This morning as I was reading in Proverbs 13, I came across a verse that seems very appropriate for those of us putting pen to pad and fingers to computers.

A wicked envoy falls into trouble, 
but a trustworthy courier brings healing 
(Proverbs 13:7 CSB).

Every Christian writer seeking to follow Christ in obedience is gathering, sorting, and delivering words to those who need to hear. God has entrusted us as His trustworthy couriers to deliver His words of healing, hope, and encouragement along our assigned routes. Though all of our words present the same beautiful message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we've been assigned a multitude of avenues on which to deliver that message. Just like mailmen and women who deliver our mail they don't deliver on the same streets, or to the same houses, even though some of the residents receive the same messages.

Just this week I saw where another author was writing a book on the same topic as mine. At first I thought, Why am I writing on this topic when she has a much larger audience to hear this message? But, as soon as Satan tried to dislocate my thoughts, God reminded me...

You're the only one I've assigned to tell your story of 
My faithfulness in your life. 

Then, He directed me to a thought I had penned from my own book project to pop my thoughts back into their proper place.


So, this week as I continue working on writing my story well, I pray for all of  us (especially my fellow writers at BRMCWC) to be bold, confident, and trustworthy couriers who are called to deliver God's message of healing through stories only we can tell.

Have a great week everyone!! Can't wait to hear about all God did this week!

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Monday, April 9, 2018

Easter's Over So It's Back to Life As Usual, Or Is It?


Although the calendar says Resurrection Sunday has come and gone, for Believers, it's never over.

Because of Christ's Resurrection Power lived out in our daily, we continue gathering every Sunday to worship and celebrate together. Our Savior is alive! He is risen indeed!  He's proving it everyday through those who believe.

Those who just show up for the calendar event must view Christ like a ground hog who only comes out of his "tomb" when spring arrives, and heads back into the shadows hiding until the calendar tells him it's time to come out again.

The once-a-year spectators are missing Jesus completely!
The Resurrection isn't about Christ hiding from people. It's all about LIFE being redeemed, the power to overcome sin, the sting of death, and the grave. 

Our risen Savior, forever glorified, lives in and through those who believe.

My husband was continuing to teach on The Resurrected Christ's Appearance On the Road to Emmaus yesterday, and my mind immediately went into blog mode.

Jesus appears to two obscure followers on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:13-35. This is one of the most powerful encounters revealed in Scripture. The Apostle Luke introduces them to us, but we only learn one of their names. Our class concluded it was probably because these two represent all of us - the regular, ordinary, everyday Believer.

So, why are they on the road to Emmaus?

Christ is gone, crucified. They're at a loss, struggling with their grief, and when we meet them they're at a crossroad - a crisis of faith so to speak. Their hope of Jesus, the Messiah, ever becoming their earthly King of the Jews has been crushed, so they're torn. Is what they believed true, or was it all just hype?

The road to Emmaus was familiar and could lead them back.

Back to what they knew.

Back to the familiar.

Back to life as usual, void of the presence of Jesus.

With hope dwindling, and doubt increasing, Jesus shows up in the midst of their doubt, confusion and deep grief.

But they don't recognize Him.

Jesus chooses to engage them in conversation first, asking what they're talking about. He quizzes them about what has just taken place. Though they're amazed at how anyone could not know about the events of the past few days, they oblige and spill the whole story to Him.

Then, Jesus begins to scold them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?" (vs. 25-26)

So, for the next seven miles, Jesus gives them a tutorial about Himself written throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, and how they ALL point to His coming, His death, burial, and resurrection. He walks them through the book of Moses, the prophets and more, showing them where it's written all about what they've seen and heard.

After this, they still don't recognize Him, but they also don't want this stranger who's lifted their spirits to leave, so they invite Him to their home for supper.

While at the table, Christ, their stranger-guest, begins to break the bread and serve them.
(Does that seem odd to you, too?) 

And it's in this breaking of the bread that their eyes are opened to recognize Who's presence they are in.

Do you see that? Christ reveals Himself to them in the breaking of the bread just as He taught the disciples on the night before He died how to "see" and remember Him:

as a broken and spilled out sacrifice.
For their sin, for our sin, for all sin.



He gave thanks and broke the bread...

In the home of these two obscure Believers, now as the Resurrected Christ, He demonstrated again what to do in remembrance of Him, and to see Him clearly.

He had already reminded them through their tutorial of how He had to broken and spilled out for them, buried and resurrected.

Today, we continue to give thanks and break the Bread together.

It's in the breaking open of The Word where we recognize the Savior. In the breaking we're reassured of the hope within us, and it's in the breaking that we know His holy presence is with us, and in us.

When the Word is opened, distractions dissipate and our eyes become fixed on Jesus. It's in the seeing and remembering of what all He's done that causes our hearts to burn within.

After Jesus vanished from their sight, they said to one another,"Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?" (v.32 paraphrased)

Then they quickly headed back to Jerusalem to tell the eleven disciples all that Christ had told them.

All of us who follow Christ have chosen the road back to the familiar at times, back to those places we deem safe and secure. We've also found ourselves in crises of faith. But all along "the road" of our faith journey, we have access to the Bread, the Word, to break open, to reveal Him clearly, and to ignite our hearts to burn within, affirming our faith.

Ask yourself:

  • Is my heart burning because of what my eyes seen in the Scriptures by Holy Spirit in my personal and corporate study of the Word?


  • Am I compelled to run and tell all that the Spirit has shown me in His Word?


Lord, forgive our unbelief. So many are in a crisis of faith, full of confusion, doubt and hopelessness. Many are on a road back to life as usual, ignoring Your presence and the power of the resurrection. We need You to show up on our "roads to Emmaus" in all of Your glory, teaching us and unveiling our eyes to see You through Your Word, Your Truth. Make our hearts burn within us as we abide in You, and help us to show up at the tables of others to break bread and radiate Your glory in love and grace, proving that "He is Risen, indeed!" ~Amen.

My Pleasure,
Melanie