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The Pre-Work of Prayer

So I’m doing Kelly Minter’s Bible study on Nehemiah and it is kicking my butt! I’ve never really studied Nehemiah–well, I’m sure we did some kind of overview of the book in my Old Testament Survey class, but somehow whatever I learned dribbled out of my brain over the past few years. Anyway, his life is so encouraging and challenging.

If you’re not familiar with Nehemiah’s story, basically he was in a position of power/prestige (and most likely wealth) as the royal cupbearer to King Artaxerxes when he hears that Jerusalem is broken down. His countrymen’s plight breaks his heart and he cries out to God (Neh. 1). Artaxerxes asks Nehemiah why he looks depressed and Nehemiah asks permission to go rebuild the wall. This is a big deal because back in Ezra 4:8-23 the king forbids the building of the wall. Instead of demoting Nehemiah (or killing him), Artaxerxes gives him permission and lavishes building materials and letters of safe passage on him (Neh. 2). Nehemiah becomes governor of Judah for 12 years (Neh. 5:14) and rebuilds the wall amidst all kinds of persecution (Neh. 2:11-7:1).

One thing that struck me was how perfect God’s timing is: Nehemiah 1 says that Nehemiah heard about Jerusalem and began praying in the month of Kislev. However, it isn’t until the month of Nisan that Nehemiah talks to King Artaxerxes. That’s about four months later. Nehemiah prays for four months before the timing is right. What if he had just blundered into the situation instead? What if the king’s heart hadn’t been prepared to give Nehemiah far above what he’d asked for?

Last week we ended up reworking the Scripture Index four times. It was extremely frustrating and stressful to be so close and yet to keep re-doing work for various reasons… not to mention computer problems and the stress of knowing we were past our planned date for getting the proof. But, in the midst of all the teeth grinding, I was reminded that this is God’s book and His timing is perfect. What if I could somehow force publication apart from God’s timing? What if I missed something amazing because I was so eager to be done?

I want to do the pre-work of prayer and finish in God’s perfect time. Please pray for us during these last bits of finishing: Pray that God will take out anything that ought not to be in Tales. Pray that He’ll add in what He wants added. Pray that He’ll continue to provide the right people to give feedback and the eyes for them to spot needed changes. Pray for perseverance on my part, especially in the midst of increased health challenges. Pray that God will delay/speed publishing so that Tales is published in His perfect time. Pray that the right people will read Tales once it’s published and that God will use it to change hearts.

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Book Update:

I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve updated on my book. This week marked two years of working on Tales. I can’t believe it’s been that long! I took a three-week break in June to try to get some distance from the manuscript. It seems to have worked pretty well. If nothing else, I was thrilled to get my hands on it again in July. I’ve been really happy with our edits. I’m still hesitant to give any kind of timeline since whatever I think is inevitably longer than it takes in real life. I am a rookie author.

Lately, I’ve been praying for extra time to work on the book. And lately, fortunately/unfortunately, my poor health has provided many hours of quiet in the middle of the night. I’m on the final round of edits, with three out of six stories to finish. The first three stories went quite smoothly and took less time than I expected. I would really like to be done by October at the latest, but I’ve also come to terms that my timing is not God’s timing. I would rather publish whenever it is God’s timing, so we’ll just see when that is!

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Book Update 2

Editing/publishing is still going slower than I want. I sent the rewrite of my last story to my editor, who sent it back with a strong suggestion I rewrite it again. Constantly managing criticism is the hardest thing about this process for me. My heart broke a little thinking about rewriting when everything seemed so close to completion. But, I did it anyway, and I like the story better now. You can pray my editor does too 🙂

Frequently I find myself questioning if this book is really what God has for me. I can’t stop though. It’s a call resonating deep in my being and I can’t ignore it. However, when I get a marked up story, I start to doubt. I beg God for a reminder that this is what He wants. And the first couple times He gave me one; I would hear from one of my other readers that God had used it to change their life, or receive some other perfectly-timed encouragement.

But after a while, the only thing I heard was “I’ve already told you, now practice believing Me.” This week has been another tangle of doubts–doubts about the book, doubts about writing at all ever, doubts about my ability to hear God.

Happily, I’ve been memorizing James for Beth Moore’s study. So I’ve had James 1:5-8 ringing in my ears (as you may have noticed). James 1:5-8 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. (NIV)

Doubting opens me up to a world of confusion. It’s as though I have two minds at war with each other. I’m not saying we should suppress our doubts. In fact, ignoring them only allows them to grow stronger. Facing them head on with God is the path to growth. Doubts we bring to Him are transformed into something amazing–faith. It’s the doubts we hang onto and act on that trip us up.

As I think about writing my book, belief looks like telling God I long to follow Him, regardless of where that is. If I should stop writing, I trust Him to change my path. In the meantime, I need to press on with the editing. And really, I want to publish it at the exact right time. Since I have no idea when that is, I’ll have to keep trusting God to speed up or slow down the process appropriately. I need to believe and not doubt the things God has already said.

And hopefully, Tales from a Spacious Place will be coming out sometime this year!! (preferably earlier in the year than later!!)

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More on Memory

This week I’ve been feeling fussy. I’m in the middle of rewriting one of my stories (again) and my health has taken a downturn (again). As you may have noticed, it’s easy for me to get bogged down in the problems of today.

Fortunately, I ended up having to take a walk down memory lane this week. It’s amazing what a little perspective will do to change one’s view of the present. Looking back and asking “what if?” transformed mine. What if God hadn’t rescued me? What if He hadn’t changed my trajectory?

I had been complaining to God about the need to rewrite. After my little excursion, I found myself in awe that God’s called me to do anything, that He rescued me at all. I was raised in a Christian home. I knew who God was (in theory). But I still wanted nothing to do with Him. I wasn’t on track to fall in love with Him or be brought along on this amazing adventure we call Christianity. I became a believer in high school, despite full out rebellion against God.

Not only did He rescue me to Himself, He prepared good works for me to do in advance–good works that cause me to soar in the wide open spaces of being the woman He created me to be. Writing hasn’t been on my list of potential jobs since about 4th grade. I didn’t plan to write or publish a book. I just sort of fell into it. And there are days when it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. And there are days when it’s one of the most rewarding and enjoyable things I’ve ever done. Being in the process of writing my book has made me wonder how much blood, sweat, and tears other authors bled whilst writing their books. Did C.S. Lewis ever throw his manuscripts across a room? Did J.K. Rowling write and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite to the point where she hated her work?

Earlier I found myself complaining to God about the disarray our house is in and our busy schedule. After my shift in perspective, I was amazed that He would give us such a wonderful house, which I love, even when it’s a disaster area. I’m blessed to have children who greatly contribute to the disarray because they’re healthy and happy and still young. God doesn’t owe me anything. I already owe Him everything. Yet He’s blessed me beyond anything I could imagine. My husband is yet another example of His grace. I married someone who wasn’t my “type”–he’s nice, tender and compassionate. Before dating him, I always tended to go for the horrible guys. Instead, God turned my path and I ended up married to my best friend, someone who encourages me to follow Jesus with everything I am. He’s a great dad to our kids (also not in my “type”).

Thinking back to where I was before has re-reminded me of the importance of memory. As I said in my last blog, I’ve been very challenged to remember what God has taught me. But I’m also re-realizing the importance of remembering where I used to be, who I used to be. I need that knowledge for the days when I feel like I’m not making progress or when I’m dissatisfied with where I am. When I remember where I was, I can suddenly see that God has brought me here, step by step, and then here looks pretty good. Plus, it strengthens my faith for the future.

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Book Update

I’ve recently been taken to task for not providing an update on how writing is going. It’s slow! Frankly, self-publishing is a lot of work. Writing is a lot of work–it’s fun, but it’s taken far more time than I expected to get this far. My original deadline has gotten moved up several times.

This weekend my in-laws watched our kids while my husband and I edited my third rewrite of the last story in Tales from a Spacious Place. Now it’ll go through the gauntlet of theological content editors and writing editors. I’ll read through their suggestions and make changes as needed. My husband and I will listen to the computer read the story out loud–this helps catch any typos we might otherwise read over without seeing. Then I’ll send the final draft back to my main editor, who will read through it and make any other final changes she thinks are needed. Then I’ll go back over her changes. Lord willing, after that, story number six will be done! I still have a few other stories in various stages of the process. Only story 1 and story 6 are left to be read by my main editors. My pastor has been very helpful in catching any unintentional heresy. It’s amazing how easy it is to accidentally sound like you mean something truly unbiblical!

The cover has been mostly completed. God very graciously provided the perfect photo for it last summer and I’ve just been tweaking text placement and the back blurb for the past few months.

In fact! Here’s a preview of the back blurb:

What if, in a single step, you could cross from everyday reality into something entirely different? A wrought iron door leads to a well-stocked cellar, lined with precious vintages…or do the bottles contain something more sinister? Is death masquerading as solace? Only a trip into a deeper reality will pry unwilling eyes open to the truth. The fight to discover truth continues in the halls of an art museum. An artist defaces sculptures, resculpting their faces to reflect himself. His collection of destroyed sculptures sets the stage for a battle to preserve individuality. Can anyone stop him? In these six short stories Elizabeth Frerichs explores the cramped doorways God uses to bring us out into a spacious place. Her enthralling writing style will keep you coming back for more.

I’m really excited to see what God does with it! I never intended to write this book . . . it’s been something God called me to do step by step, an agonizing, wonderful journey. So look for it to come out sometime in the next few months!