Breaking Up is Hard to Do – Even With a TV Show

Bring on the Kleenex – I just broke up with my favorite TV series. I won’t name it, because the last thing I want is to start a discussion whether a show is evil or not, but I want to share my experience. I felt convicted about ending my obsession with it just like one would feel about ending a relationship, and it feels a lot like it too.

I catch myself thinking “What would (main character) do?” Yes, it was that bad. My infatuation with the protagonist was such that often their very ungodly views would pop in my brain, like a devil’s advocate I admired too much to get rid of.

Why did I adore this person so much, you might ask? Well, the character – and really, all characters of this show – were just plain genius. It amazed me how well written their lines were, how unexpected the plots were. As a writer, this was nothing short of fascinating. The dry humor had me laughing out loud, and then I’d be a mess of tears when something bad would happen – and of course, it would be delivered in the most touching, realistic, intriguing way. Needless to say, that had become my drug of choice.

On a recent date with hubby, I was giddy while describing an episode I’d just watched. Such good actors! Such great story! I actually felt blessed to have this fix everyday while the kids napped. Hubby just smiled and nodded the way he does when I go on and on about it. But deep down, even though I haven’t seen anything too bad that day, a little voice told me it was time to let it go. I dismissed it, thinking it was only my imagination. It’s not like I wasn’t aware that the show happened to be written by ungodly people, so I knew to take everything with a grain of salt.

Well, soon my need-to-give-it-up suspicions would be confirmed. I watched an entire episode dedicated to mocking Jesus and the crucifixion. It stated how He was a mental case with delusions of grandeur for thinking He was the son of God and had to sacrifice Himself. It even hinted that the reason why He looked so peaceful all the time was for some physical condition that didn’t let him show His true emotions. And mind you, this wasn’t just a quick mention – it was the THEME of the episode.

Do you hear the sound of my heart breaking? I’m a pretty patient person when it comes to anti-faith rants – I can respect where non-Christians are coming from. I can take hearing bad things about the church or church people because, unfortunately, there are a lot of bad examples of Christians out there. But what I could not and will not swallow is such a low blow to Jesus himself. It opened my eyes to the fact that maybe this show had an agenda that I’d just been too naive to notice.

Now, the reason why I won’t say the show’s name (besides not wanting to start some sort of protest, which only leads to useless arguments), is because I don’t mean to be legalistic about it. No, I don’t think I’ve sinned to enjoy the plot, or that if you watch it for a second, you will be cursed. What I mean is that I’ve let this show – and these characters, along with their brilliant but worldly lines – get into my head. I thought way more about them and what they would say than about God and what He’d say.

That’s why I had to let it go. It reminds me of I Corinthians 15:33 – Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” Just like Eve sinned because she got into a conversation with the serpent, I don’t want to be so captivated by a talking snake that I start listening to their reasoning.

What about you? What is God asking you to give up? Do you have a “fix” that needs to be fixed?

Micromanaging God?

micromanager

I think everyone knows what it’s like to be around someone who can’t. let. anything. go. They question every single thing you do, and have an opinion about it. Even if they’re awesome people aside from this, it’s still hard not to be offended by their lack of faith that you might know what you’re doing, right?

Well, imagine if God feels like that with us. When we act like He’s supposed to give us a perfect explanation for every little aspect of our lives. “Why did that happen?”, we might ask. “Why do I have to go through this discomfort? Doesn’t He KNOW it’s hard??” Um, He DOES. And also knows better than to give in to our little diva tantrums :).

Now, I’m not saying it’s wrong to tell God how you’re feeling. But there’s a difference between opening your heart up to Him and just plain whining. When my 3-year-old daughter starts throwing a tantrum, even when I already plan to give to her what she wants, I give her some time to check her attitude before saying “yes.” I think God, like us, doesn’t appreciate being talked to like He owes us something.

Here are the prayers that I notice answers to the most: when I tell Him, “I don’t like this, I honestly don’t know why in Heaven’s name I’m going through this, and I’m not going to hide from You how upset I am over it.” God can respect that. He wants honesty, not a pretend-peaceful expression while you’re angry inside. If we approach Him wanting to hear HIS voice and know what HE wants, He shows up.

So do yourself a favor – don’t try to understand. Don’t try to tell God how to do His job. He’s far too overqualified for us to be playing micromanagers about the way He runs our lives.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give a hope and a future. Then you will call on Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Holiday Writing Spree

I’m a night person, so therefore I’m a night writer. And I’m a holiday (Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year) lover, so therefore this is the time when I’m most likely to write.

There’s something about having a cheesy movie in the background, colorful decorations and just the expectation of fun to come that puts me in the best mood I have all year. Also, the fact that the kids are happier doesn’t hurt.

What about you, when are you the most productive? If not in writing, in what you like to do? One thing God’s been teaching me is to hold on to a good feeling when it comes, and don’t let go for as long as possible. I mean, to not let life’s stresses or the uncertainty of tomorrow rob you from an awesome today.

Hope y’all have an a great time planning/decorating/shopping/eating/or doing whatever it is that makes you happy this season!

It’s Not The End…It’s the Beginning

I remember God telling me this years ago, when I thought I’d officially ruined all His plans for me. Okay, call me a drama queen, but being a college graduate with no career and no permanent place to live really messed with my head. I felt more insecure than ever before. Friends started to notice I seemed more aloof than usual, or perhaps even a little needier. The true ones stayed close until I got over it, but the superficial ones drifted apart. And while today I’m grateful to have figured out which was which, at the time it HURT.

Truth is, nobody likes change. Not the kind that strips you to the core, and makes you question who you are and who you’re going to be. For a couple of years after college I can say I just walked around in a numb state of panic. I second-guessed EVERYTHING – how I was supposed to act, think, even talk. It was as if the innocence veil had been lifted and I was terrified at the the sight of real life.

The reason why I tell you this little story is to show how things change. Today, I don’t even recognize that person anymore. If I ran into her, I’d probably be mildly annoyed lol. My life now is so full of love, laughter, and yes, LOTS of occasional stress. but at the end of the day, it’s still wonderful. I can’t believe I have 2 cute kids attached to me (not to mention a cute hubby). And believe me, I’ve messed up enough to know that this is ALL God’s doing. HE changed it all around, even when I thought no one cared.

Speaking of my life’s wonderfulness, the baby’s started to cry, so I’d better go lol. I meant to write a post about how I love the end of the year, with all its ending-beginning festivities, but I guess my spiritual journey might be more inspiring. At least I hope so – wouldn’t want to have revealed my embarrassing post-college years for nothing! 🙂 What about you? What has God turned around in your life? Or what do you hope He would? Because trust me, if you just let Him do His magic, He WILL.

Don’t Be THAT author…

This is a message to all of my writer friends (or not :)) – whether you’re an accomplished or just an aspiring one. We ALL run the risk of committing the following sins, even if you don’t think you’ve achieved enough to make many mistakes. Like Jesus said in Matthew 25:23, “You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” The time to learn to do what is right is NOW, regardless of where we’re at on the road to publication!

So here is my plea that neither of us become the kind of author who:

Thinks They’re God’s Gift to Earth – I’m annoyed at good Christian people who think that anything that crosses their mind is God’s will. And they might be often used by God, but it doesn’t make them less human. Sometimes they’ll still have impressions and impulses that are from the flesh – not necessarily sinful, just mistaken.

I pray to never be the kind of writer who assumes to know it all. That I never get offended with correction, but always remain open to where God leads me.

Thinks They’re The Scum of The Earth – You know, pride can manifest itself on the other extreme as well. Believing we’re so bad that God can’t do anything through us is a way to put our limitations ahead of God.

This industry is tough, and it’s SO easy to feel small when our dreams seem so intangible. When we receive that rejection, or read that book that’s so much better than ours. But we serve a God who isn’t bound to our logic. He decides what gets published and what doesn’t. If we try to hide in the feeling that we just can’t do it, we’re rejecting Him as much as the ones who think they’re self-sufficient.

Thinks Writing is ALL There Is – Let us be careful not to make writing our religion. I hate it when I realize I’m more into novels or writing blogs than the Bible, and that happens much more often than I’d like to admit.

Some obsession, I believe, can be healthy – it’s normal for us to be passionate about what God has called us to do. But as with any ministry, it can’t become our center. That would be building our house on the sand and not on the rock, who is Jesus (Matthew 7:24–27).

Think about it – what keeps you going? Reaching new writing accomplishments (finishing a chapter or getting a contract) can feel like a drug. The more we have, the more we want it. But only God can satisfy our thirst completely (John 4:1-29), not people’s – or our own – approval.

Forgets to Live Outside of Books – This goes along with the latest point. The fact that God has ignited the fire in your heart to write doesn’t excuse you from other areas of your life.

I pray I’m never the kind of writer who forgets to be present at home just because I need to be present for my characters. That I can still laugh and have a good time with my loved ones even if I hadn’t had a good writing day. And that I never believe the computer is my best friend, because it isn’t.

Do you have anything to add? What kind of author do you hope not to be?

What Inspires You?

<- Inspiration takes courage 🙂

There are some things that pump me up to write even though they have nothing to do with the craft in itself. For example:

– Good Brazilian music (such us Paula Fernandes) reminds me that, just as those well-played instruments work together to create music magic, I can do the same with dialogue, POV and setting. That yes, it does takes an absurd amount of work (as I’m sure it did to make those arrangements), but it’s all SO worth it.

– Playing with my kids reminds me that I don’t have to think too hard to come up with something meaningful. Our best interactions are spontaneous (like surprise hugs and silly jokes). In the same way, I always write better when I simply jot down my instincts about a scene, without worrying too much about having a plan. Anything can be polished up later, but what matters most – the feel of the story – is already be there.

– Lately, I’ve been hooked on stand-up comedians (my all-time favorite: Anjelah Johnson). I’m in awe of how they put themselves at such a vulnerable position every night. Their willingness to make a fool of themselves to give people a good time fascinates me. I can only wish to be this free and fearless as a writer.

What about you, what inspires you to become the author you want to be? Or if you don’t write, what gets you going in the pursuit of your dreams?

Life’s Too Normal After An Award

When I entered ACFW’s Genesis contest, I thought all my insecurities would disappear if I became a semi-finalist. If I became a finalist, I’d never be the same again. And in the wild possibility I’d win, I was sure I would combust.

Well, I’m glad to say I haven’t :). But I’m also sorry to say my life hasn’t changed that much ever since. Sure, it’s nice to remember that moment, and to have something to show for my writing efforts. I only wish I’d received some sort of unshakable confidence shot as I went up the stage. But instead, all I could think of was, “DON’T pee on your pants” (sadly, I’m not even joking).

I didn’t realize I’d still second-guess myself. That I’d still check my email frantically, hoping for good news, or still wonder if I could REALLY call myself a writer. I mean, why aren’t I walking on cloud nine 24/7? I didn’t know contest winners still deal with writers’ block, or nagging fears of rejection.

At the conference, a few nice people congratulated me on my Finalist ribbon. Whenever I could, I made sure to point out it did NOT make me any less nervous. A more gracious (and perhaps more confident) person might have just said “thank you”, but I couldn’t help remembering how it felt like to be a First Time Attendee and assume none of those finalists were as insecure as I was. Now I know that’s not always the case. The title adds excitement to the conference, but doesn’t necessarily take away the nervousness.

I hope this post doesn’t discourage anyone entering a contest out there, but instead inspire y’all not to wait to the next step to believe you’ve “arrived”. We’re NEVER satisfied. And that’s not just because we’re flawed, but because the world is. There’s still a lot of waiting that we have to get used to, aside from life’s little – or big – distractions from writing.

Speaking of which, right now I’m in Brazil, having some much-needed family time because of my dad’s health issues (he’s getting better each day, praise God). That’s the main reason why I haven’t been producing many more blog posts/novel plots lately, but I’m okay with that. I can leave my writing dreams in God’s hands for now, and not obsess over it every second (or at least I try).

But I can’t get too comfortable – Dad can’t talk right now, but he’s already mouthed to me that I need to start another book. Alrighty Lord, I thought my waiting time would mean downtime, but I guess not :). At least that means You haven’t stopped either.

Genesis Contemporary Fiction Award – Did This Really Happen??

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I did NOT prepare myself mentally for this. Moments before, I asked my husband to tell me the advantages of not winning. He went, “you might expect things to progress too quickly from now on” – to which I replied, “NOT ENCOURAGING ENOUGH!” 🙂

As you can tell, I was a nervous wreck. The most wonderful thing about the conference – which is to know there are so many people feeling the same way you do – became the toughest. How could I hope to win when someone out there wanted it just as much? Loved their novel just as much? It’s like signing up your baby for a beauty pageant – EVERY mom thinks they’re winning.

My friend (amazing author and AWESOME mentor) Betsy St. Amant told me I looked shell-shocked lol. During dinner, I felt like I was at the edge of a very, very steep roller coaster railway (that moment when you’re about to dive in). I knew that, whether I won or lost, the next emotion I’d feel would be STRONG.

When they were about to announce the winner, my heart pounded faster and I told myself, “Calm down, they’re NOT gonna call you, you won’t have to go up there, so you have nothing to fear.” Then, a second later, they went: “Anne Prado with Through The Needle.” I think I inhaled every ounce of air available in that room, so it’s a wonder there are any survivals.

How could they expect me to win AND have strength in my legs to walk aaall the way to the stage, up the stairs, and then speak to about 700 people?? I wish I’d been so much more polished than I was. But every time I’d tried thinking of something witty beforehand, I feared that it wouldn’t happen and I’d end up disappointed I couldn’t say what I’d planned.

Well, I guess I should have! Let it now be known: preparing for the best is a GOOD thing. Because yeah, there’s the chance you’ll be disappointed, but if you’re not, you’ll be able to just enjoy the moment instead of hyperventilating in sheer panic.

I didn’t say much – just that God is amazing, then thanked my husband for taking the kids so I could write (and so I could attend the conference), did a shout-out for Betsy St. Amant‘s awesome critique and editing business, and thanked my family and friends for believing I was a writer even before I did.

And before you think this was a pure cloud-nine moment, let me tell you – I felt AWKWARD all the way through. Like somebody would tell me to sit down, and that I’d heard it wrong. I’ve seen myself as a wannabe writer for so long that to have such an amazing public recognition like that felt like living in a dream. I felt unworthy, and unsure of what to do with it.

Now that my nerves have finally calmed down (over 24 hours later), I know exactly what to do with it – display it on my living room, but of course. And then try to BELIEVE I’m a writer, at last. I’ve always believed in my novel so much, so why not do the same thing for myself?