April 20, 2015

Writing Conference!

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , at 3:01 pm by Tamara

Image credit: http://centrum.org/2014/08/creative-nonfiction-workshop-nov-6-9/I have to share a cool story: I’ve been wanting to go to a writers conference for years, and a few months ago I found out there’s a big Christian writers conference in Estes Park in May.  I instantly wanted to go; unfortunately it’s too expensive for me to be able to afford all three days of it, but I found out they offer a few partial scholarships and I thought maybe if I could get a scholarship I could go to one or two days of it.  I wanted to take my time to write as compelling an application as I could, but then morning sickness hit with a vengeance and I could barely get off the couch, let alone write an eloquent scholarship application.

A couple Friday nights ago something (or should I say Someone) made me think about the conference and I got on the website to see when the scholarship deadline was.  I was crushed to see that it was that day.  I told Adam I had missed the deadline, and he pointed out that it was still technically the day of the deadline, even if it was already 10pm.  I was exhausted and feeling miserable but I decided the worst that could happen was that I submitted a horrible application and they rejected it, so I started writing.  I had to tell why I wanted to attend the conference, my writing goals, current writing project, what I’m doing to meet my goals, why I need a scholarship, etc.  What I sent it was honestly pretty pitiful; nowhere near the compelling and eloquent application I had wanted to take my time to write.

I didn’t expect to hear anything for a while, but the very next morning I got an email from the conference organizer saying that she was so blessed by my application that she contacted the man who offers the scholarships to ask him if he would consider covering one more FULL scholarship for me, and he said yes!  She also said she wanted to arrange for me to meet with five agents to present my book, and recommended that I sign up for critiques with two authors.

I was completely stunned and told Adam, thinking there was no way I could leave him and the kids for three days, but he immediately insisted that this was too great an opportunity and I had to go.  My parents and in-laws said the same thing and graciously have offered to help with taking care of the kids and helping pay for my hotel for the conference.  So, it looks like I’ll be going!

The conference looks amazing: the theme is “Write His Answer” (Habakkuk 2:2); there’s a faculty of 56 authors, editors, and agents; workshops on everything from writing in deep point of view to how to handle spiritual takeaways in fiction without preaching to how to market your book; and one-on-one meetings with agents and publishers.  Estes Park is a beautiful mountain resort town; I wish Adam could come with me so we could enjoy it together!  I’ve only been away from Bear overnight once and have never been away overnight since Songbird was born, and while I feel a little heartsick thinking of being away from my family for three days, I also suspect it will breathe new life into me as a mommy!

I’m amazed that God is giving me this opportunity; not only because of the opportunity itself but because of the timing.  We’ve had some really discouraging closed doors lately.  I KNOW the truth that God proved his love for me once and for all on the cross (Romans 5:8), but I’ve struggled to hold onto that lately when so many circumstances seem to imply that he’s just forgotten about us.  The fact that God chose to bless me with an opportunity I’ve dreamed about for years at a time when I have felt discouraged and even angry with him is amazing proof of his gracious love for me, and how his love is not conditional on whether or not I am worthy of it.  What a message about the gracious, generous character of our God!

Secondly, it has reminded me that I can trust God and the members of his body to accomplish what he wants to accomplish.  One of the things that is so intimidating to me about the prospect of missions work is that we will need to raise financial support.  I worry that we will never be able to share our vision in a powerful enough way to compel people to be involved in our ministry.  The fact that total strangers are being so generous to me, even without the perfect, eloquent application that I wanted to write, reminded me that if God wants to take us to the mission field it won’t be through my efforts and clever words, but through his power (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).  It has reminded me that there are believers in the body who are eagerly listening for his voice and willing to joyfully and sacrificially participate in his work.  How encouraging!

The Israelites set up stones to remind them of what God had done for them (Joshua 4:19-24), and I have several stories of God’s provision that I’ve set in my heart as my “12 Stones”–things I can go back to it and be reminded that God loves me and will provide for me–and not just my needs, but often my heart’s desires, as well.  I’m adding this to the list!  (If you want to read other stories, click on the “12 Stones” tag in the sidebar.  Some of them are pretty funny.)

Since I registered so close to the deadline I’ve been SCRAMBLING to get everything ready; choosing excerpts of the book for critique, preparing my “one sheet” and book pitch for the agents, registering for my workshops and one-on-ones, and all the other little details.  The fact that I’m still dealing with pretty severe morning sickness (and even got to spend a day in the hospital last week) hasn’t made it very easy to get my rusty creative brain functioning again, but I’m doing my best.  I’m really praying that I’ll be feeling better by the conference so that I can get everything possible out of it!

If you’re curious about the book, to be honest I don’t feel like it’s anywhere near ready to be sold.  Mostly my goal for the conference is to just learn about how to improve my writing and get some feedback on my strengths and weaknesses as a writer.  The prospect of having my story critiqued by agents and published authors is, frankly, terrifying (!) but I’m going to swallow my insecurities and just try to learn from the experience.
Many of you have been so encouraging to me and my writing dreams in the past, and if you would pray for me related to this conference I would so appreciate it!  Pray that I can prepare well, that I’ll be healthy and have energy for the conference, that I’ll learn everything that God wants to teach me, make good connections, and for my husband and kids while I’m away for the first time!
Write His AnswerI know many of you are also writers, and if you’re interested in attending, here is a link to the conference.  Registration is still open and it would be so fun to have friends there!  :)  http://colorado.writehisanswer.com/

January 30, 2010

Running on Air (Financially Speaking)

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , at 12:44 am by Tamara

I tried really hard before we moved to come up with a plan for how we were going to make ends meet here.  I was finally convicted that all I was doing was desperately strangling the impossible little excel boxes and having a crisis of faith every time I did.  God provided some things absolutely miraculously for us to come, but one thing He never explained was how He was going to work His magic on those nauseating little excel boxes.  There comes a time when God says “Jump” and you just…jump.

Tonight I made the mistake of calculating how much I’m making per hour after taxes and insurance.  Let’s just say I made more babysitting as a 12 year old and leave it at that.  Then I decided to flog myself further by calculating our budget again, looking at bills….  We’re not talking about a little short-fall here or a little cut-out-the-restaurants for a while, we’re talking “there is no feasible way we can survive on what we’re making right now.”

It’s an interesting place to be suspended at.  See, the problem is that when I jump off a cliff following God, I expect that He’s going to catch me on eagle’s wings and fly me across.  But it’s more like I leap and fall, flailing madly, cry out to God…and then my terrified foot suddenly finds itself hitting a solid step.  Amazing!  Like one of those stone paths in a garden, only this one is invisible and suspended in thin air.  But then God says, “No, Tamara—don’t stop.  Run!”  And I have to do it again; I have to push off that invisible, solid step and feel my stomach lurch again as I fall for a second and then—my foot hits another step: God’s provision, invisibly suspended over the deep chasm.

Part of me wants to stop.  I want to sit down with a whimper on the step I’m on and not feel that horrible lurching in my stomach.  But then I’d just be perched out where I’m alone and cold and can’t see the edges of whatever is holding me up.  God wants me to run.  Faith is SUBSTANCE.  The substance of things not seen—the substance that makes air and waves solid so you can run on them.  God has already provided for everything we spent moving here.  I’m not even sure how it happened, it just came out of nowhere.  That was the first solid step.  Tonight I’m looking at the numbers and my stomach is about where my heart should be and my heart is in my throat.  What’s the conclusion to the story?  I don’t know, but I think God is more glorified when I tell the whole story of His faithfulness than when I pretend the Christian life is instant sugar.  So I guess you can consider this part one.

December 31, 2009

The Gauntlet

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , at 9:55 pm by Tamara

This move has felt a little like the gauntlet Lancelot runs in the movie First Knight. When I first stared into the details, it looked like an impossible mess of slashing blades, jabbing swords, and swinging hard objects. SLICE! Two blades went whizzing in front of my nose, taunting “You have nowhere to live!” STAB went a sword up from the floor, reminding me, “You have no way to pay for school!” THWACK, “You have no job” swooshed by. We were pretty sure of two things: we needed to get this training, and we had no way to make it happen.

In one of my (many) freak-out moments, I sensed very clearly that God was telling me that I needed to just take the first step–ONE STEP–in faith. There’s a dazzling shot in First Knight where the camera looks down the gauntlet and all you can see is a blur of blades. Then they pull back and show just Lancelot’s next step, and you see what you couldn’t see before: there’s just enough space for him to stand in between the swinging blades, IF he doesn’t go too far (or not far enough) with each step. That’s what I think God has been teaching us to do: wait for His provision and then step, then wait again until He opens the next door.

God has definitely not parted the entire gauntlet for us, but we’ve watched in wonderment as, each time we take a step of faith, He takes care of another problem. SWOOSH, He gave us a place to live. ZING, He gave us money for tuition. SLICE, He gave me a job. But, if I’d refused to follow Him because I couldn’t see all the answers at first, or if I’d decided He didn’t care about me or doubted that He’d see us through, I never would have seen the incredible ways He’s provided.

As I look forward, there are a LOT of details not taken care of yet. Adam doesn’t have a job, we need a car, my income won’t pay for all our expenses, seminary is just a LITTLE BIT expensive, etc, etc, etc. Every time I crunch the budget numbers I want to hyperventilate as all I can see is another blur of slashing blades. But God has clearly gotten us this far down the gauntlet, and I know that He’s asking me to keep walking. While we’re relying on Him, I believe that each step will keep us safe between the blades, and eventually we’ll reach the other side.

“You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ …For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:30-34

P.S. Okay, I have to add that I’m not a big fan of Lancelot in First Knight, but it’s the analogy that’s the point here!

October 30, 2009

A GPS and a Cliff…Dun Dun Dun!

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , at 12:14 am by Tamara

CliffHard to believe, but our move is just over two months away. Or, should I say, our Fling-Ourselves-Over-A-Cliff-Into-The-Great-Unknown-And-Un-Paid-For adventure is just over two months away. I’ve been pondering the multitude of things that we’ll need to have once we move, like another car (so we can both work and do school), a laptop for Adam’s classes, high speed internet required for my classes…. And, yeah, I have no idea how we’re going to pay for them.

Before I started pondering all the necessities, I had been thinking about how nice it would be to have a GPS once we move. I vividly remember my (now hilarious, then not so much) adventure trying to find food the first night I arrived in Wisconsin. How nice it would have been to plug “grocery” into a GPS and NOT eat a dinner of beef jerky and gummy peachy rings that I finally found at the only open store I thought might have some semblance of food. But, I pretty much despaired of buying a GPS once I thought of all the other things we’ll actually NEED.

You may remember the episode of the couch God gave us. I was freaking out about whether or not we’d have a couch when we moved (rather than freaking out about, say, how we’d be able to buy groceries). So, God dropped a couch in our laps, which has been sitting in the basement for a year. It seemed like He was telling me, “Calm down, Tamara. I know what you need, and I’ll take care of it. And just to drive it home a little more thoroughly, here’s a couch. Which you don’t even need yet. Just so you remember I’ve got it under control.”

Well, last week, right about the time that I was resisting the temptation to mildly hyperventilate about all the things we’ll need and can’t afford, I randomly got into a conversation with a coworker about technology and fun toys…and GPS systems…which led to her saying they had a GPS they never use (which, incidentally, was the kind I wanted)…did we want to buy it…for a fraction of its original price…etc, etc. So, yes. We now have a GPS system. And I will be able to find grocery stores in our new city!

So, if God can provide a way for me to FIND the food, I’m supposing He can provide a way for us to DRIVE to the food, and BUY the food, and I think I shouldn’t worry. It kind of amuses me how BLATANT He is. He hasn’t provided the necessities for us yet, He’s provided the things we don’t really need and asked us to keep trusting Him and step off the cliff anyway, because we know the One who will catch us.

A quote from the couch episode:
“How does He know—and choose—such personal and detailed ways to show me He loves me? It’s absolutely the dumbest detail to take care of right now, and that’s part of why it speaks so sweetly to me. I’m sure what He’s telling me is that not only will He take care of everything, but that He cares even about the things that I think are too dumb for Him to bother with. He LOVES blessing me. Loves it.

“His provision isn’t a begrudging, give-you-the-bare-minimum-because-I-have-to sort, it’s lavish and joyful and personal…. It’s like one last little flourish on His extravagance. ‘See, Tamara? I’ve got it all taken care of, and I get a kick out of doing it. I’m so far ahead of you…you can chill a little. In fact, why don’t you come curl up on the couch for a while?’ ”

Maybe I’ll use our GPS to find a good spot to chill with God for a while.