“These things I have spoken to you,
that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”
Ahem … “joy” is certainly subjective, or at least when it comes to birthdays, isn’t it? I mean, being twenty-three and poised on the threshold of the rest of your life is very cool, but nudging towards Loreal, Polident and Preparation H (and no, the “H” doesn’t stand for “happy”!)? Not really sure that’s something I want to “celebrate” on one of my beloved Fridays.
Even so, this week was my birthday, and I want to thank anyone who popped over to Facebook to wish me greetings and say “hey.” I have to admit, other than sliding a year closer to rickety knees and more double chins—it was reallllly a pretty great day!! I groaned and stretched in the bed as I awoke a little later than usual, not even upset I was a whole year older. Keith had my hazelnut coffee poured and waiting with a heavy dose of Half ‘n Half and a dozen long-stemmed red roses in a vase. As Lessman tradition would have it, pretty gift-wrapped boxes taunted me from the hearth, off limits until after a dinner out with the love of my life.
It was a glorious day, spent with my feet propped up on my lower deck where even the weather cooperated—mid-70s and sunny, in November no less (as opposed to today in the 40s and rainy, so thank you, God). Gold and scarlet leaves fluttered from the trees while Steven O’Connor fluttered my heroine’s stomach (check out the photo I picture as Steven O’Connor and you’ll understand why!), and I was overjoyed when my agent told me she LOVED Steven’s story and that she was certain my readers would too. She called it the “perfect capstone” to this passionate family saga, which, by the way, will NOT be called A Trust Restored! Revell has changed the title (a very common occurrence with publishers), so book 3 in The Winds of Change series will now be called, TADA … A Love Surrendered!
I like the sound of it better than A Trust Restored, but I wasn’t sure how the new title actually applied to the story. You see, I sowed the theme of restoring trust so thoroughly throughout—Steven with his father and with himself, the heroine Annie with God and herself, and then trust issues between Katie/Luke, Sean/Emma and Marcy/Patrick as well—that I struggled in my mind with connecting trust restoration with love surrendered. BUT … the more I talked it over with Keith, the more I realized there was a whole lot of love being surrendered all over the place, so I simply wove in references to the new title wherever I could and VOILA … it now fits perfectly!
The bad news is my deadline for cutting the 50,000 words my editor requested is this Monday, 11/7, so those rickety (and knobby, I might add) knees are shaking a wee bit this weekend at the monumental task. I can hardly believe I’ve managed to trim 36,000 so far, but I am still 14,000 words shy (now there’s a real irony for you—me, “shy” with words!). Tomorrow I make ONE MORE PASS to try and trim 15 to 20 words per page, hopefully to nudge the number of words cut closer to 50,000. Gulp … as a woman who typically writes 500-page books, I have to admit, I could use some more prayers … along with a few more nails to bite ‘cause I’d rather not start on the toes. 😐
But … as stressed as I may get with book deadlines and massive revisions, I have to admit that nothing compares to the stress I left behind three years ago at my old part-time job at a travel company. I still remember one of the worst seasons I ever had, when I was working 80 hours a week part-time. Yeah, yeah, I know—I don’t claim to be all that bright, but somehow I got roped into this horrendous travel program for Compaq that was SO stressful, I swear it catapulted me right into menopause at the tender age of 43.
I will never forget the night I called Tokyo at 1:00 a.m. in the morning to determine the first name of a participant for his name badge. Mr. Wing, Ching, Sing—which was it? I don’t think I ever found out because I never could understand the guy, but the next name on the list summed up this entire project perfectly. As God is my witness, the name was Mr. Sakashita, and I’m pretty sure you can guess my train of thought from there. That year was so awful that to this day, when my family hears the word “Compaq,” ice water courses through their veins. So strung out and unhappy was I in that job that my family still joke about the infamous Christmas-gift debacle that year, when every single present of clothing I purchased for them was either purple and gray or black and blue. Not unlike me at the end of a day.
It was during this time of my life when I woke up really early one morning, but was still half asleep. I remember begging God in my mind to help me before I even fully awoke, standing at the mirror in the bathroom, eyes sealed shut and shoulders slumped. All at once I heard three words as softly and clearly as if someone had spoken them in my ear. “Abide in Me,” the Voice said, and my eyelids popped open like a tightly rolled shade. “What does that mean, God?” I asked with a squint in the mirror, no earthly idea what He was telling me to do. So of course I immediately got my dictionary out to look up the definition of abide and here’s what I found:
To wait for, to endure without yielding, to withstand, to bear patiently, to tolerate, to accept without objection, to remain stable or fixed in a state, to continue in a place, to conform.
Next, He coupled it with John 15:9-12 — “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
That my joy may be full? Goodness, was that even possible with the kind of stress I had in my life at that time? “Yes,” the still, small Voice said, and I learned that no matter the situation, the stress, the pain, I could “tolerate” it by abiding or “remaining stable” in God’s love rather than in the situation. Now for the million-dollar question: how do you DO that?? Take a closer look at verse 10, which I think holds the key. If you OBEY Him (pray for those who persecute you, keep your eyes on Him rather yourself, believe/trust in Him rather than doubt, whatever, etc.), you WILL remain STABLE in His love, able to endure, bear patiently, tolerate whatever awful season you may be in.
Now, I’ve talked before about the equation OBEDIENCE=LOVE when it comes to God before (i.e. John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep my commandments”), but something I never realized fully was that OBEDIENCE also = JOY. Wow … stop and chew on that one a while, why don’t you? So, let me get this straight, God—if I bite my tongue instead of being snippy with a checker at Wal-mart or if I sacrifice my writing time to focus on my daughter when she walks through the door, I’ll have joy??? YES. But keep in mind it’s a cumulative thing—remaining “stable and fixed” in Him, over and over and over … situation, after situation, after situation. Until your “joy” is not just “full,” but bubbling over. Kind of like the time I gouged my ingrown toenail on a steel bed leg and a salty word sprang to my tongue. I bit it back with a string of “praise God’s” that had me doubled over on the bed laughing before all was said and done.
So, whether you are celebrating a birthday that brings you one step closer to gumming tapioca at the Shady Slope nursing home or your kids and/or a job are driving you up a wall, always remember that in Him, you can be full—not with fear, stress or anger—but with peace, joy and love. Mmmm … not a bad trade.
GIVEAWAYS THIS WEEK:
THIS WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2011
Join me at SEEKERVILLE when I talk about “Playing Favorites” and you can win a writer’s critique OR a signed copy of one of my books including my new release, A Heart Revealed at:
OCTOBER 11 to NOVEMBER 14, 2011
Join me at Book Reviews by Lady Katy blog for a Q & A session and a chance to win a signed copy of any of my books including my upcoming release, A Heart Revealed at:
OCTOBER 31 to NOVEMBER 14, 2011
Join me at Debbie Lynn Costello’s blog, Edgy Inspirational Romance, for a chance to win a signed copy of my new release, A Heart Revealed at:
Have a great weekend!