Sunday, October 3, 2010

Thoughts on Writing a Good Life Story

I have recently been on a book signing tour at various Mardel bookstores to promote "Matthew" the second book in "The Rhyme and Reason Series." My last stop, before we begin the big holiday push, was to Houston.

I only sold three books that day, and two of those were to the woman who picked me up at the airport and sat at the table with me! Of the ten Mardel signings I have done, the longest one (3 hours) in the largest city (Houston), sold the least number of books by far so, on the surface, it should have been the most disappointing. But it wasn't. In fact, it was the most rewarding and I marvel anew every time I see God's hand directly at work in unmistakable ways and the delights He scatters along our paths.

As I was flying in that morning, and giving myself and the day to the Lord, I invited Him to accomplish His goals for the day. I just didn't realize until later that it would have nothing to do with book sales!

The only people I saw when I walked in the door were a woman customer and the clerk ringing up her purchases. Not wanting to interrupt, but needing to find where they put the book table, I rather timidly said hello to the clerk, told her who I was and asked where I was supposed to go. She got all excited, apologized for not recognizing me (?!) and made a comment about me flying in from Tulsa.

I also happened to look at the pile of books the customer was purchasing and saw a new Donald Miller book I didn't know was out. I asked her if she was a fan and she said she was, that this was a great book, it was on sale, she had already read it and was coming back to get more to give to her friends. As I turned to find where the clerk pointed out my table was, the customer told me she would show me where to find the book after she payed for her purchases.

A few minutes later she came up, pointed out the Donald Miller book and introduced me to her boyfriend who was also from Tulsa and had graduated from high school and college here. They were my first "customers" so I told them all about the series, showed them the books, told them the ministry tag line of, "Getting these books in people's hands so people's hands will pick up The Book!" and about the personalized CDs, etc.

The young man said he worked for Lakewood Church and he said it in such a way I could tell it was supposed to register with me. It didn't. I told him I wasn't from Houston but I was sure it was a great church, blah, blah, blah. He said, "It's Joel Osteen's church." THAT registered with me! So I gave him a book and asked him to show it to the folks at Lakewood who ran the children's ministry.

Then he said the most remarkable thing.

He told me how the two of them had prayed before beginning their day and how after they had said "Amen" he thought of one more stop he needed to make. Mardel. But time was short because of other commitments so they needed to hurry because it was out of the way of the rest of their errands. He also told me they had ever even been in that particular store before! I was thrilled to be able to put "Genesis" in their hands and have prayed several times since that the Lord will do all He has in mind to do with that connection.

They left and I began to look for other people to draw over to the table and talk with but it seemed the woman who had picked me up at the airport wanted (needed?) to talk. I was getting a bit anxious at first because giving her my undivided attention meant I couldn't engage the customers walking past the table! Finally, I was able to give up my agenda and follow the Lord's. I reminded myself that it wasn't just about book sales--it was about being where the Lord put me, doing what He wanted me to be doing in the very moment I was living. And God is always about people. It became a joy to be able to serve the Lord by listening to her.

I found out from her afterward that she is well-connected to several Bible studies and women's groups in the area so we will see what the Lord has in mind to do there as well.

But perhaps the best part of all was finding Donald Miller's new book. I sat down yesterday, in between the OU/Texas game and visiting the state fair, and read it from cover to cover. I haven't stopped thinking about it since. I will probably be buying more to give as gifts to my friends as well.

The book is about the efforts to turn his bestselling book, "Blue Like Jazz" into a movie and his discoveries in that process of what makes a good story. He began applying those principles to his real life and not just his movie life so that his real life would be a better story. As I read, I kept thinking about the story my life is "writing." I realized, as well as things seem to be going at this particular moment, that I can write a better story by making better and more intentional choices. By being "in the moment" as I recently learned from reading, "Abandonment to Divine Providence" by Jean-Pierre De Caussade, which I would also recommend to everyone I know.

We live in the moment not only by letting go of the regrets of the past and refusing to dwell on the anxiety of the future, but by being led of the Spirit and doing the next right thing in the very moment we are experiencing. Together, these two ideas: being in the moment and writing a better life story are having a profound effect on me.

Last night, as I lay in bed praying, I started thinking about ways I could begin to write a better story. I am going to try and express something here that has been bugging me and I haven't known what to do with. I hope you don't mind!

I can't tell you how many times in this past year someone, after having read the books and realizing the potential impact of "The Rhyme and Reason Series", has said to me, "I just know you are going to be famous!" Nor can I tell you how intensely uncomfortable this makes me. Because it's not about me being famous. In fact, it's not about me at all. We always give a pledge of allegiance to that notion, but it's true. It's about the Lord, His Kingdom and His eternal glory.
Like every kid in our pop-culture obsessed society, I used to want to be famous! I used to twirl and pirouette on my roller skates on my parents large driveway while singing into my hairbrush under the outside spotlighting on the house. This probably reads like a cliche, but it's true!

But I am 52 now. I have been a Christian for 36 years and have been married for 28 of those. I have raised three children and buried my oldest son six years ago this month. I seldom watch t.v. and haven't read a People magazine in years. I am mature enough and have lived long enough to know that the greatest treasures in this life are the ones we are storing up in heaven. As a result, the things of this world have less and less effect on my goals and desires and that continues to be the case as I seek to live my life in a way that will impact eternity.

Last night, as I was thinking about my story and praying, things became a bit more clear. I said, "Lord, I don't want to be famous, but I desperately want YOU to be famous!" And I really liked that thought. I liked the way it felt.

So I began thinking in a much more purposeful way about how the Lord might want to use the gifts and talents He has given me to make Him famous and I began to get too excited to sleep! I realized that a lot of the things I am already doing He will probably continue having me do. There is no doubt this series is from Him, by Him and for Him and I have always prayed, whether I am speaking to crowds or working to promote the books, that God would be glorified through it all.

But somehow, reframing it to think about my story making Him famous, gave things more clarity and focus than they have had before. Now my actions, submitted to Him and led by His Spirit, will be with that goal in crystal clear focus: Making the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the God of all creation, the One who has named all the stars, famous in all the earth so He can "draw all men unto [Himself]."

As Christians, we know that's what we are all supposed to be doing. But because the Lord ordered my footsteps on a day I had submitted to Him and had me find and read those two books, I feel better equipped to write a story that will more effectively glorify Him.

But I realized something else. God also has a story. His is a story of eternal existence, of bringing creation into being, of giving an eternal companion to His Son whom He loves, of watching that eternal companion rebel and break fellowship with Him, of sending His Son to redeem His companion so the original plan will still result in the original goal. I realized that we are part of God's story and He graciously includes us in all His plot twists. Even the ones of our own making.

It's an exhilarating thought--that we are part of God's story. A true story. Non-fiction. A story with all the elements that make an epic story. A story He will continue for all eternity.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing these thoughts. It is so amazing the way that God can give us the perspective we need if we seek Him, and His perspective is always energizing and uplifting.
Ellie Hayden

Anonymous said...

Well sister, again you nailed it! Amen is another word that comes to mind. I find yielding all to Father God and trusting my Good Shepherd to be the most amazing adventure of all! His ways are higher than our ways! Even when He calls you to a quiet, alone place. I have been studying wilderness and desert palces and find the Lord has spoken the most and the clearest in these places in my life. It is all about Him. Thanks for sharing! I love you!SP

Anonymous said...

{standing up clapping} Catherine... Thank you for sharing about this story... excellent! Hit the heart {raised hands thanking the Lord} You have a special gift from HIM - you are a special gift to us - keep it up :)
Love you sister - -