The Glorious Muddle
glimpses of grace in the messiness of life

March 12, 2020

Do Not Fear

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

People across the globe have a lot to be anxious about these days. Worrying quickly turns into fear, which becomes panic and leads to hysteria. Besides the obvious pandemic coronavirus, we have the worldwide economy to be concerned about. Cancer, illness, money problems, job problems, relationship problems . . . the list is endless. (more…)

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February 24, 2020

Settled or Open-Ended?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I like to plan. I live by my to-do lists and my organized calendars. I rarely clean my house, but I must have things in their rightful places. I like having decisions made, tasks completed, plans settled.

Everything in my life right now is unsettled and disordered. This does not make me very happy. If I write anything in my calendar, it has to be in pencil because it’s all open and up for grabs.

Years ago, I used to be the Queen of personality tests. You name, I took it. I’ve been labeled a Starring Individualist-High D-Sanguine-Designer-People Gatherer-Fieldmarshal. My favorite test was the Myers-Briggs, but I realize that dates me. I haven’t kept up (I don’t know anything about enneagram) since I stopped being part of a team.

One of the Myers-Briggs categories reveals how you prefer to live your outer life–how you orient yourself to life. I always tested near the middle of this category, with its “J” for judging (a terrible word choice) and “P” for perceiving. This category highlights the biggest cause of stress on overseas mission teams, which are made up of people who already have the stress of navigating life in another culture.

When the majority of my team overseas couldn’t decide which train to take or arrive at the station on time, I became the J who took charge to get them there before the train took off. If my team were mostly task-oriented, deadline-driven people, I was the fun-loving one who would help them loosen up and enjoy life. People on those teams would not recognize me as I am today.

These days, I am a total J because my life feels chaotic, causing my need for order to spin out of control. It’s harder than I imagined to juggle two books at once. My mind and my office space are littered with haphazard info that I must shape into some semblance of structure for the non-fiction prison book I’m currently writing, while spending much of my energy calming down my highly emotional ex-con who has to rehearse painful events so I can write about them.

I find I can’t make plans—for anything. When the first round of edits come back for the historical fiction novel that’s being published, I have to drop everything and complete my part in just a couple weeks. What if it comes when our houseguests are here (who sleep in my office, by the way)? Until the novel’s release date on November 20, I will have many such urgent publication deadlines.

But that’s not all. Being the caregiver for two parents in their late eighties means frequent and often unplanned trips to medical facilities—which is how I spent most of today. It also means that if I schedule anything  that involves me leaving town–even for a day, a shadow of uncertainty looms overhead. Will I be able to get away or should I stay put? What does a good daughter do?

Buried here in the middle of all this emoting is some really, really good news. I’ve just signed a contract with an agent for the non-fiction book that I’m currently writing (yay!), and he’s shopping for publishers right now. When he lands one, I’ll have two sets of publication deadlines.

Naturally, I am over-the-moon ecstatic over all this. I just hope I’m still (?) sane when the books come out.

 

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January 21, 2020

Crazy or Called?

The timing couldn’t have been worse. Ten days before Christmas, and smack dab in the middle of publishing one novel and revising its sequel, I was asked to write another book. This one couldn’t be more different than the YA historical novels I’ve been working on the last few years. Curtis Roberts, recently released from San Quentin State Penitentiary, a friend of mine and my husband’s, called to officially ask me to write his story.

“Curtis in the Yard” by Antwan Williams

I thought a moment about how I’m busier than ever with publication deadlines, my part-time work at the university, and caregiving for my parents. And what a s-t-r-e-t-c-h a prisoner memoir is from my usual writing, which–whether fiction or non-fiction–always seems to be set in Eastern Europe.

I’d be crazy to accept.

But how could I say no?

Curtis’ story has burned in my heart for years. Curtis Roberts received no mercy from the courts, slapped with a 50-years-to-life sentence for three non-violent robberies, amounting to a grand total of $116. He got caught up in California’s Three Strikes, You’re Out! law, helped to get the reform of the law passed and many non-violent offenders released, yet still remained left behind in San Quentin. He discovered redemption and grace as he waited and suffered, enduring unfathomable depths and having his hopes raised again and again, just to be crushed each time. Finally, Curtis was released one year ago, after 29 years in prison.

I’ve blogged about Curtis off and on over the years (changing his name to Chester while he was still incarcerated). I even wrote my master’s thesis on the rhetoric of the three-strikes law and its reform. In the process of researching that paper, I stumbled upon a group of law students at Stanford who were working on behalf of non-violent three-strike lifers. My husband took over from there and got them connected with Curtis’ case.

We had something to do with his release. How could I refuse?

I sensed clearly that this was something the Lord was asking me to do. Curtis is trusting that God alone will receive the glory through the story of his life. I’m honored that he has entrusted this task to me to be the writer.

Maybe I am a bit crazy to take on such a massive project, but I also believe I’m called. The Faithful One has called me, and I can trust Him to do it (I Thessalonians 5:24).

Over the years, Curtis has been interviewed by countless people: Ted Koppel, Bryant Gumbel, PBS News Hour. He became somewhat of a media sensation through his story, entitled “Left Behind,” featured on the first season of Ear Hustle, a collaborative podcast by a now-former inmate, Earlonne  Woods, and a volunteer teacher, Nigel Poor. Curtis’ episode immediately received 750,000 hits.

If you listen to this 30-minute podcast, you’ll know why this amazing story of redemption needs to be told. And why I’m excited to be the one to do the telling.

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December 20, 2019

A Day I’ll Never Forget

I’ll never forget December 21. Two times in my life, it has proven to be a significant day.

1989

On December 21, thirty years ago, I sat glued to the television news. The revolution in Romania was under way. First Poland, then Hungary, then East Germany, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia had shaken free of their Communist oppressors. But could it happen in Romania, where people were so beaten down it didn’t seem possible they could find the strength to stand up?

The revolution began on December 15 in Timisoara, a border city, when people protested the forced exile of a Hungarian pastor. The action moved to Bucharest on December 21, and by the next day, it was finished. Of one accord, the army tanks turned and began firing on the Securitate.

Chants of Down with Communism spontaneously changed to God exists! For 45 years, the Romanian people had been brainwashed that there was no God, and they’d had enough. The dictator Ceausescu fled and the unarmed people were victorious.

The impossible had happened!

This revolution affected not only Romania, but my life personally. A matter of months later, I had moved to Romania to reach college students with the gospel. The adventure of my life had begun. It was to last for the next decade.

2000

Another life-changing event happened to me on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year but one of the brightest of my life. Nineteen years ago, on December 21, Steve Hutchison got down on one knee and read a speech he’d hoped to memorize. His words were beautiful, but I only remember the last phrase: Will you marry me?

I said yes! Another adventure began, one I am still part of and hope will never end.

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November 26, 2019

Thankful, Humbled, Blessed!

I have so many things to be thankful for this year, but one of the biggest, and definitely the most recent, is this: I HAVE A PUBLISHER!! My historical fiction YA (young adult) novel will make her entrance into the world in Fall 2020.

The contract is now signed, sealed, and delivered

My baby will be one of only four books published next year by a small house called Illuminate. I love what they’re all about, and I’m honored (and humbled) to be chosen.

Our goal is to shed light on positive and inspiring books that engross readers in an entertaining journey from beginning to end. We don’t shy away from reflecting today’s authentic youth culture, yet we do so in a way that promotes good morals and values. Our stories touch teens’ deepest needs, answer their life questions, sweep them away in a can’t-put-me-down adventure, and portray their world with a thread of hope.

How I Got the News

My husband and I had just returned from chasing waterfalls in western North Carolina–for our mutual birthday, no less–when I read my message. A publisher would make their decision about my novel within the week. I’d cleared the next to last in a long line of hurdles!

The final decision came in time for Thanksgiving, our holiday to remember our blessings. I consider this part birthday gift and part Thanksgiving gift, and I am grateful!

The timing of this news couldn’t have been more perfect. I had queried and revised this novel, and dealt with rejections, for more than two years. I’d reached the end of my list of possibilities and was nearing the end of my stick-to-itiveness. It felt like this was my final hope. How like God to wait until the last moment, to keep me trusting him when all looked lost.

After a difficult few months, I was ready for some relief. Ever since my Mom fell and broke her knee in August, I’ve been mired in tending to both parents, revising the second and third novels in the series, and working at the Writing Center.

During the waiting, I was reminded that seasons pass, both difficult ones and ones that work out how you want them to. My joy can’t be found in my circumstances; otherwise, it will come and go.

I had a chance to affirm again, as I have many times in my life, that no matter what happens, I believe God is in control and he is for me. Whether I ever got a publisher, my belief in the goodness and the greatness of God is settled with me.

Hope you have many blessings to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.

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