Month: May 2016

Nuns, saints, a celebrated Christian novelist, and…me

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Saint Dominique of France – according to a song – went about simply, living in financial poverty and singing. In every town and along every road, he spoke only of the good Lord. One of the French stanzas tells how this servant of God met “a heretic” one day but converted the man by his joy! I love that. What a powerful account in a few lines of poetry. You can find an English translation of the song here.

Dominique taught the world about Life and Truth. The song also says two angels once appeared and provided bread for the hungry saint and his “brother preachers.”

I’m already humbled. I’m already inspired. Are you? But, what has this missionary mini-biography to do with Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, which I attended as a first-timer May 22-26?

I was helped through the long drive home from that conference by listening to my music library. “Dominique” – made popular in America by the 1966 movie The Singing Nun – repeats a chorus whose last line goes like this:

Il ne parle que du Bon Dieu.

You could say this in English different ways:
He talks only of the good Lord.
He just talks about the Lord.
He speaks only about God.

 

Fiction, yes. Christian – why?

As I sang along with that French line repeatedly in my Ford Explorer on Thursday, thanking God for the experience at Ridgecrest and for safety over so many miles of highway, “il ne parle que du Bon Dieu” told the whole reason I went to the conference at all. I’m trying my hand at authoring novels now. I need to learn how one builds characters, constructs plot, and chooses point of view – and how one attempts to find a publisher.

Il ne parle que du Bon Dieu.

When the idea for my mystery set near Gatlinburg came to me years ago, I determined that, if I were going to invest the time such a project would take, the book would be “Christian fiction.”

Now, there is a very valid argument for Christian people writing “secular” books and songs and using that opportunity to connect with fans from all walks of life, rather than pigeonholing themselves with content that specifically exalts Jesus Christ and expressly promotes a life lived in the Holy Spirit and strengthened by unrelenting reliance on Scripture. That approach was suggested to me by one publisher at this conference after he heard me say “mystery” and as he conversed with me about genre and about my goals.

Il ne parle que du Bon Dieu.

On the final morning of the conference, as I began to journal many impressions from the week, it occurred to me that Grace Livingston Hill may be the author whose influence is most prevalent as I try to picture myself among the ranks of Christian novelists. I spoke of this in a thank-you email to the conference’s director, adding, “I know; right?” Today’s response in the realm of Christian reading and publishing might be “Grace Livingston who?”

Elle ne parle que du Bon Dieu. If ever a writer deserved that description, it is Grace Livingston Hill.

If Betsy Lowery ever gets a novel in print, that book will parle du Bon Dieu.

During the conference I changed my novel’s working title from Bend in the High Road to A Stranger’s Promise. I’m very excited about this change. It takes away a reference to the mountain setting, but it adds a strong connection to the Bible verse inscribed: no greater love has anyone than this, that one would lay down one’s life for his friends. (John 15:13)

Please share my blog address with a friend and stay tuned for more in the continuing saga of my attempt to get published in the world of Christian fiction.

And please check out my Facebook album with “behind the scenes” photos of some Ridgecrest artifacts important in my family history. (Thank you so much for the tour, George Boswell.)

Newbie at puppy-sitting and more

 

They say timing is everything.

Today’s story is about my short-term goals not “jiving” with somebody else’s request for my time.

10 goals in 8 days

On Friday I made one of my many lists. This one was called “10 goals in 8 days.” With just eight days before I would head to North Carolina for my first Christian writers’ conference, I had a lot to accomplish. Needing to learn a great deal about what it takes to write good fiction, I’ve been preparing for this five-day training opportunity for months – on every front from wardrobe to possible side trips to color handouts about my myself and my two unpublished novels.

In fact, a whopping six of the 10 goals I listed were conference preparation. Two others were about knitting. (No surprise there.) And the final two were about personal appearance and fitness – neither of which would have been on a list just then if not for the conference.

As luck would have it, the first three of my ambitious eight days were the same days our young adult daughter was going to the beach. Jeff and I had offered to keep her new puppy, Crosby, before I had made my to-do list.

Multitasking

Let’s face facts. No matter how much you fancy yourself a successful multitasker, you just aren’t going to finish a knitted washcloth that’s an overdue thank-you gift for a neighbor who helped during your last plumbing crisis while getting puppy’s leash out from under his front leg six times during each of his “bathroom” walks. You’re not going to cut 1,000 words out of your too-long chapter 10 if your brand-new granddog (who is the #cutestthingever) wants you to play tug of war with his ratty, blue rope toy. No chance of revisiting the scope of chapter 11 and texting grandma/granddog selfies at the same time.

Worse than that puppy-sitting couldn’t be multitasked with anything on my urgent to-do list, only two of my 10 items could be multitasked among themselves. (But what a beautiful pairing! On Saturday I worked through a month’s worth of accumulated ACFW emails while getting a pedicure. Two items – DONE. *)

Sure, if I could have picked a different weekend to puppy-sit, I might have. But this was something my child needed of me, and that was more important than being frustrated over a self-imposed agenda that, if prevented by some other important opportunity, or by a crisis such as an emergency-room visit, wouldn’t have caused my world to stop turning.

Futhermore, now in the lower numbers the of “senior adult” age bracket, I have learned to take unplanned detours and interruptions a little more in stride, a little more with patience and wisdom, than I used to.

Facing interruptions with patience is a great virtue. There is love to share in those moments. There is service to give and something to learn – something that will benefit you down the road; trust me.

More important, it is a virtue because, if you will not welcome or even tolerate interruptions, you are putting your own agenda before the needs of another person. And that’s not biblical behavior. (Philippians 2:3)

If neither parenting nor anything else has taught me this, my past and present jobs in a church office have: people can tell when you are impatient with their interruptions, when you aren’t really listening and want nothing more than for them to finish their business as quickly as possible so you can get back to what you were doing. Perfect opportunity to throw in one of the John Maxwell leadership principles I have internalized: customers and coworkers are not an interruption of your work. They are your work.

Planning out a whole day

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Mother Frake and daughter Margie in the old musical State Fair have a brief discussion about planning one’s time:

“Don’t you know you can’t plan out a whole day? There’s no such thing!”
“I do it all the time.”
“You sound just like Harry. He thinks you can plan out your whole life.”
“So you can.”

I would fall somewhere in the middle on that debate. Most people know it’s impossible to “plan” one’s whole life; too many unexpected things happen for that to be a realistic goal. But, sure, you can plan a day or a week or a weekend. Or you can try to. But, should you? Every day, week, and weekend? All the time? As a life’s pattern? No possibility of spontaneity? No getting sidetracked? No patience with interruptions?

I rest my case

Have I mentioned that our puppy-sitting gig turned out to get one of my “tabled” goals accomplished? It was number seven on the list: “get a handle on next blog post.” I had absolutely no idea puppy-sitting would provide the material for a new post – and I now rest my case on the value of tolerating interruptions.

*[Oh, dang! How am I going to keep that precious, energetic baby dog from running across my freshly-painted toenails when I get home?]