Joy Comes in the Morning

Inspire’s Joy anthology will be available next month at our workshop and book release party. This is a taste of what you’ll see:

How can God bring joy from a parent’s worst nightmare, the death of a child? It seems impossible, doesn’t it? That’s what I thought, until I found the truth and depth of God’s promises.

“Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5 NIV) As anyone who has lost a loved one knows, grief lasts longer than a single night. The truth in this verse is, even though we grieve, God will enable us to find joy.

I was riding in the car one day and heard a strange sound. It was my own voice, singing along with the radio for the first me since my son died, a year prior. I was shocked into silence. How could I make a joyful noise when my son was no longer in this world? What kind of a mother was I?

In Abide in Christ, author Andrew Murray discusses how to stay in Christ during seasons of suffering. His admonition is to “spend much time alone with God.” During that first year after Bobby’s death, I spent “much time” crying to God, pouring out my heartache. I asked the usual questions:

Why did he have to die at such a young age?

Why do bad people live, and good people die?

Why did Bobby have to get cancer two times in his young life?

Could I have done something to prevent the recurrence of this life-stealing disease?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could find answers to those questions to make sense of our loss? The answers are found in Scripture, but they may not be the answers we want to hear. Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation (and trials and distress and frustration). But be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world. (I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.)” (John 16:33 Amplified Bible)

This is the true message of the resurrection. Jesus can bring joy through even the greatest loss, the loss of a child. God himself experienced the loss of His own child.  The cross, for a time, separated Father and Son.

Though I still live with grief, I can now sing. He gives me joy in the midst of pain. “I sing because I’m happy. I sing because I’m free. His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches over me” (“His Eye Is on the Sparrow” by Civilia D. Martin).

Jane Daly is the author of two books, Because of Grace and The Caregiving Season. She speaks to groups on the topics of grief, caregiving, and writing.

www.janeSdaly.com

www.facebook.com/janedalyspeakerandauthor

@queenjanedaly

Life’s Plot Twists

Adventures in Writing

Writing is an adventure except, perhaps, when time escapes, the brain won’t cooperate, laundry is calling, dinner needs preparing, or distractions arise from everywhere. I have those similar disruptions along with pain and illness.

33154047 - surprised or shocked handsome sexy muscular man reading book isolated on white background, wearing glassesI live with fifteen chronic conditions, five autoimmune, five pain related, and the rest help drive the plot of my life’s story. Sometimes I’m asked how I manage when pain and ailments weigh down what I’m trying to write. The short answer?

Purpose.

A sign above my desk says, “Trusting God’s sovereignty one day at a time.” It’s my tagline and life motto. The challenge to stay in this thought comes as pain cycles through my legs or back so much I can’t sit long enough to write, or on days my stomach won’t work properly. At times, medications cloud my head and I can’t concentrate on writing anything, let alone something meaningful, or my fingers cramp and won’t hit the right keys. These types of inconsistencies make a regular writing schedule laughable (almost).

On those days, I have to look up. At the sign. To God. I spend time reading, praying, resting, when my eyes will work, quoting Bible verses, or encouraging other people also going through difficulties. Sometimes, I can bullet point writing ideas and end up happy to get even those down. A certain peace comes from not fighting lost expectations.

God called me to write. My health is the back-story of my life, to point to Him. This truth helps keep my focus on the reality of His purpose, not mine, played out in my life. I can’t allow worry about what I can’t do to crowd out what I can.

If I give my timeline to Him, I’m less likely to allow discouragement and stress to rise. If I can’t write much on one day, He seems to give me enough strength on another to complete what’s necessary.

The writing adventure is because of Him. He called me to it so He’ll see me through it one day at a time.

susansage.com

@SusanMSage

www.facebook.com/susan.sage

A Real Writer

I’ve been writing my whole life, but I didn’t feel like a real writer.

karen fosterIf people asked, “What do you do?” I’d tell them I’m a mom, a substitute teacher, a volunteer jail chaplain. Anything, but a writer. After all, they might ask what novels I’d written, or assume I earned a steady income as a freelance writer.

Never mind that I’d been writing stories from the time I could hold a pencil. Or that I spent several years as a newspaper journalist. I never showed people my portfolio filled with published first-person stories and Christian devotions. Never asked people to read my blog.

Compelled to write, but reluctant to admit I’m a writer.

Perhaps if writing had been my vocation instead of a hobby, I would have advertised the fact. Instead, I remained mute, and allowed my writing to wax and wane while I raised my children. And I prayed that one day, I’d become a real writer.

While other writers talked about “God’s calling,” I resorted to plucking flower petals for a sign. “God wants me to be a writer. God doesn’t want me to write. God wants…”

Then one day, a real author told me. “If God equipped you to write, then you must use your gift for whatever means. Now, say it out loud—I’m a writer.”

I glanced around and whispered. “I’m…a…writer.”

“Say the words like you mean them.”

“I’m A Writer.”

“Now, go write.”

That moment freed me to write, attend writers conferences, and join Inspire. I experienced a measure of success, but the melancholy thought lingered—am I a real writer?

What’s real?

Does a real writer have to pen a novel? Reach a quota of published manuscripts? Have a large platform? Become a well-known name?

In The Velveteen Rabbit, Skin Horse says, “Becoming real happens when a child loves…really loves you.”

By that criteria, the God of the universe really loves me. He calls me His own. Proclaiming truth—who I am in Christ—is my real identity. Writing is what I get to do.

— Karen Foster

Karen Foster loves to write, speak, and blog about the intimate satisfaction that only God can bring. Otherwise, Karen’s nose is in a book or she’s using her green thumb in the garden. KarenFosterMinistry.com. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Embracing the Thorns

thorns - susy floryMy son was on his honeymoon in Costa Rica a couple of years ago. The newly married couple decided to do an adventure excursion involving zip lines through the jungle, a hike, and a swim under a tropical waterfall. As the group started out on the hike, the guide, a local man, warned them about the trees with thorns. “Don’t touch the trees!” he warned. It wasn’t just the pain; infection is a real danger in the tropical climate.

But the warning came too late. At the exact same time the guide was giving the warning, the first guy in the line of hikers reached out and grabbed a tree trunk to steady himself on the uneven trail. He yelped in pain and drew back a palm-full of dozens of tiny, razor sharp thorns. The rest of the hike, he and his wife worked to extract each thorn. But it was impossible; he had to hike with a hand full of thorns and get help at a medical facility much later.

Do you ever feel like that guy, like you’re walking through life with a painful thorn in your palm? Maybe even a handful?

A few weeks after my son’s wedding, I came down with a fever and body aches. Oh no. Not another virus. I had just recovered form a two-week bout with the flu over the holidays, right after my son’s wedding. I was finally feeling pretty good and had just about caught up on work. Now this.

But it wasn’t the flu. Later in the day, rolling around in bed trying to get comfortable, I looked at my right arm and noticed an ugly red rash. My arm was painful, swollen, and I could barely straighten it out. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on so I visited my doctor and we put the pieces together and figured it out.

A few years ago I had several surgeries related to breast cancer. I’m now cancer free, but the surgeries, chemo, and radiation took a toll on my body, and the lymph nodes in my arm had been damaged by the treatment. They were no longer functioning and lymphatic fluid, which functions as part of the immune system, was backing up in my arm and causing problems. Apparently I do need my lymph nodes. Who knew?

 “Sorry I’m such a loser,” I told my husband the next day. And that’s truly how I felt. I’ve always prided myself on being strong, athletic, outdoorsy, and physically tough. I’ve always felt strong. Until then.

“It’s like my arm is disabled, and I have to be careful with it,” I told my daughter. But when I heard myself say those words, I had a moment of clarity and I suddenly realized – I’m in denial. First of all, my arm is part of me. If my arm is disabled, then I am. A disability is defined as a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities. I needed to own it.

Second, almost everyone has some sort of disability, whether visible or not. The older you get, the more likely something goes wrong with your body or mind. I’m not alone.

Third, disability can be a gift, if you embrace it. Intellectually, I knew that. I just was not living in that knowledge.

I had a really hard time with the whole idea of being disabled. I was feeling angry. Whiny. That’s it was unfair and unjust. That I was still strong, and being disabled was not part of my plan.

It’s funny – my recent books have been about people with major, life-changing disabilities. Michael Hingson, a man who escaped from the World Trade Center on September 11 with his guide dog, Roselle, was blind from birth. Ryan Corbin was a young man who suffered massive brain damage from a near-fatal four-story fall. And Austin LeRette, a boy born with brittle bone disease and autism who lived with unexplainable joy.

Each of them has major disabilities, has risen above them, and has extraordinary influence on the people around them. Their weaknesses have become their strengths. But even though I’ve written about these heroes of the faith and know them intimately, I’m a little late to the party. I’m still trying to figure out how to rely on God’s strength in my own weakness. I’m still trying to learn how to hike with a palm full of thorns.

I’m still learning how to use those thorns, and that pain and suffering, to inform my daily life and my work. I’m learning to be honest, and that great insights can come from great pain. I can open up and share them with those around me who might not be as far along on this journey.

I know to expect wounds. You can’t wait for your life, or your relationships or your work, to be perfect. The Bible is full of stories about wounded people and their struggles.

Most people in pain develop a protective shell and might even appear as if they have it all together. Most of us don’t. Our thorns might be invisible, but they are there. When I write, I’m writing for that inner, hurting person. When I read, my own protective shell is pierced and words go straight through to my heart.

After the thorns were removed and he was treated with antibiotics, that guy in Costa Rica turned out to be okay. But he has scars, and in a way they’re a reminder of a painful, but beautiful journey through a rainforest.

 

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Susy Flory Bio PictureA note from Susy: “Hey, writers! I’ll be teaching this Saturday, August 27, at a writer’s workshop for Inspire Christian Writers. I’ll be talking about ways to make your writing come alive, the power of metaphor (like palms full of thorns!), overcoming the writer’s struggles, how to define success as a writer, and what’s new in publishing at this half day workshop! Plus, I plan to throw in a few short stories about an astronaut climbing Everest to find true love (from my current work-in-progress)! Go to inspirewriters.com and click on the “workshops” tab at the top for more info.

Susy Flory is the New York Times bestselling author or co-author of eleven books. She directs the West Coast Christian Writers Conference, an Inspire conference coming up in February, 2017. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and loves Robert, her adult kids, dogs, horses, and owls.

An Unusual Path to Publication

Kim is the author of Give Yourself a Break: Turning Your Inner Critic into a Compassionate Friend

As a Marriage and Family Therapist of 30 years, I’ve watched my clients grow as they learned to be kind and compassionate with themselves, while working through difficult issues. I hadn’t found anything written in this area integrated with our faith. I wasn’t interested in writing on the subject.

Kim Fredrickson_450pxBut God had other ideas.

In March of 2013, I felt God prodding me to attend the Mt Hermon’s Writers Conference.  I finally gave in. Unwillingly. I was happy as a therapist and didn’t want or need anything else to do.

To my surprise, one editor was interested in my work, and asked me to send her a lengthy book proposal. I did, and crossed it off my list.  Now I could go back to being a therapist and professor.

Four months later my life changed. I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer and went through treatment over the next nine months. Seven months into treatment I received an email from the publisher offering me a book contract. I was stunned and delighted…and got on the phone that night to find an agent. I was through the worst of the treatment at this point and thought I could work on the book.

One might think this is where the story ends…but no.  Four days after I finished treatment, I couldn’t take a deep breath. I was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis from the chemotherapy and radiation (a rare side-effect). PF as we call it, is a progressive lung disease that has a 3-5 years life expectancy. In July 2014 I went on supplemental oxygen and closed my counseling practice. I finished the edits, and Give Yourself a Break: Turning Your Inner Critic into a Compassionate Friend was released July 7, 2015.

 

Give Yourself a Break BookCover600pxThroughout this process I experienced God in powerful ways:

~ He set up a writing career for me before I developed huge health problems. I received a contract easily…not because of anything unique about me, but because He knew I needed to be on the fast track to publication.  I am grateful to Him for giving me a new purpose, and a way to contribute to others in a meaningful way. This has made all the losses easier to handle.

~ Having a terminal illness with no cure is rough. Despite such devastating news and the way my life has changed, I’ve been blessed by God’s support and the love and encouragement of family and friends. There’s still much to be grateful for.

Self-compassion (S-C) has helped me get through this season. When I was diagnosed with cancer, and then PF, I decided to be a good friend to myself. S-C helps me be kind and caring in the ways I talk to myself, take care of myself, encourage myself, and accept the volumes of prayer and support from my friends and family. I am committed to not turn on myself or abandon myself during these difficult times.

I know God has a purpose for PF in my life, and in the lives of others. I don’t need to know what those plans are. I trust Him.

I still do radio interviews and limited speaking (via Skype/facetime), blogging, writing and encouraging others. My life has changed and shrunk because of this illness. I focus on what I am still able to do…which is a lot. My lungs are disabled, but I’m not. I’m still the same person with Christ by my side…just with an oxygen tube.

Kim is the author of Give Yourself a Break: Turning Your Inner Critic into a Compassionate Friend. Her blog, “Self-Compassion for Real Life” integrates the transforming power of self-compassion and faith www.KimFredrickson.com/blog.