Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Friday, September 25, 2020

A Little Good News Today

Everybody needs a little good news. I’d love to tell you the pandemic is over or that our city is having a crime-free year or that cancer has been eradicated. Can’t say any of that and you wouldn’t believe me if I tried.

I do have a morsel of good news, though.

You may recall reading about my journey with a novel I titled Rose Among Thornes. In it, a young Japanese Canadian girl named Rose is relocated from her home in Vancouver to a Manitoba sugar beet farm during World War II. It’s also the story of Private Russell Thorne, a Canadian soldier who spends most of the war in a Japanese P.O.W. camp, wishing more than anything that he was still on his family’s sugar beet farm back in Manitoba.

In a blog post a year ago, I told about how I fought writing this book, believing it wasn’t my story to tell. How the idea wouldn’t let me go. How God showed me that it was mine to write, though it meant more research and study than I’d ever tackled. How I finally completed the 100,000-word manuscript, not knowing whether it would ever be picked up by a publisher.

Backtrack a bit further to spring of 2019. My agent encouraged me to participate in something called a Twitter Pitch. I hate Twitter. I can’t make sense of it and rarely use it. But I had three different stories to pitch, one of them Rose Among Thornes. I wrote four different pitches for each book (12 in all, each limited to 280 characters) and added appropriate hashtags. Then, as the rules allowed, I tweeted these pitches, scattering them throughout the twelve-hour window of opportunity. Here’s how it works: if any editors are interested in seeing more, they “like” your pitch, which is an invitation to send them more information about your book.

I didn’t get one “like.” Not one. I thought I must be messing up with the technology, but when I tweeted a question, one of the organizers confirmed I’d done it correctly. So much for Twitter pitches. I chalked it up to a dreadful waste of a day.

In reality, I guess it was a case of right place, wrong time.

When a whole year went by and my agent still hadn’t found a home for any of these novels, I initially ignored the Twitter pitch when it came around again this past June. Why waste my time? But for some reason, I changed my mind—with stipulations. I would pitch ONLY Rose Among Thornes, and I would use the exact pitches I’d used the previous year. I didn’t want to waste a minute reworking them, and I didn’t know how to improve them in any case.

I anticipated zero responses because, as we all know, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing in the same way and expecting different results.

I may need to redefine insanity.

By the end of the day, five editors had “liked” my rerun pitches.

By the next day, two had asked to see the full manuscript.

By the following week, I was offered a contract.

And so, my good news is, Rose Among Thornes is set to release from Iron Stream Media next summer. I’m more excited to see this book in readers’ hands than anything I’ve written.

The lesson here? God’s timing. There’s no earthly explanation for why my same old Twitter pitches should have generated interest in the midst of a pandemic when they had not done so in 2019, except for one truth. It’s wrapped up in Habakkuk 2:3. “But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!” (The Message)

I don’t know what you’re waiting for, but take heart. You can trust God’s timing. He’s never late. He knows best. He’s on your side.

Take it from my little bit of good news.



Friday, September 18, 2020

Abnormal Hope

Last Easter, I wrote about how wonderful it would be when we were free to meet in large groups again. I imagined the hugs in the church lobby, the happy rejoicing. In my never-having-lived through-a-pandemic naivety, I somehow assumed we’d go from complete lock-down to business as usual.

Boy, was I wrong.

I’ve been in church four times now since the doors opened and it’s nothing like I imagined. Registering ahead of time and checking in when I arrive. Chair rows spread apart six feet. Leaving three empty seats between every household. Wearing masks. Using hand sanitizer. No printed programs. No passing of offering plates. Waiting for an usher to dismiss your row, one at a time starting at the back. And definitely no hugging.

The first couple of weeks, I left feeling sad. The third week, I almost didn’t attend. I’m so glad I did. I chatted with my pastor for a few minutes ahead of the service and prayed with someone afterwards. The “new normal” began to feel manageable, the benefits overriding the weirdness.

Those who choose to view the service from home do so for valid reasons, and my aim in this article is not to judge, discourage, or sway you. We are in this together, and kindness must remain our number one rule, whatever choices we make for ourselves and our families. I choose to attend despite the restrictions and the inconveniences. I can think of three reasons why.

First of all, I go to church in case I don’t have the option next week. The rules could change. I or someone near me could test positive. I could become ill and never sit in church again. Every Sunday, there’s a heightened awareness that it could be my last time.

Secondly, I’ve found worshiping together with my church family simply cannot be recreated at home. Seated on my couch, I’m less likely to sing along, perhaps because I hear my own voice too well. I become a spectator. The power in the words we proclaim about who God is and who we are to him multiplies when we worship together. Those truths penetrate my heart and mind, fortifying me for the week ahead, in a way that does not happen from home. (Being spread out actually provides an unexpected benefit: I’m free to move, clap, or raise my hands with no worries about infringing on someone else’s space!)

Thirdly, I do a better job of listening to the message. At home, I’m too easily distracted by my phone, by pedestrians on my street, or by the close proximity to my pantry and fridge. When I’m present at church, I take notes. Whether or not I ever look at those notes again, I retain what I’ve heard more thoroughly. Occasionally those notes end up on this blog, like the great line Pastor Kevin Fawcett gave us last Sunday. He reminded us that Jesus’ disciples faced a whole new normal after he left their physical presence. New challenges, new opposition, new methods. But the same Jesus. And Jesus’ new normal is abnormally good. Abnormally hopeful. (You can find the whole message HERE.)

May you be blessed with abnormal hope today.


Friday, September 11, 2020

Unprecedented Conveniences

If I hear the phrase, “In these unprecedented times” once more, I might pitch a fit.

As an author of historical fiction, I spend large portions of my day immersed in the years before my birth. I try my best to get the details correct, researching as I go. When I walk away from my desk and go about other tasks, I’m often thinking about how my characters would complete the same tasks.

One day I hauled beets, carrots, and rhubarb from my garden into the house. By noon, a giant pot of borscht simmered on the stove, a bowl of beets was set aside for supper, with a couple of packages frozen for another day. Greens and stems were washed and refrigerated for use in salads and smoothies. The rhubarb was cooked, the carrots scrubbed and sitting in water in the fridge ready for snacking. I enjoyed my morning’s work but nearly collapsed after the kitchen was all clean again. 
I doubt I’d have survived if I’d had to do it the way my grandmother completed those same jobs 80 years ago. First, pumping water from a well and hauling it inside to heat on a wood-burning stove, for which I also had to split and carry the wood. Figuring out how to keep the fire at an even temperature. Canning, because freezing was not an option. Afterwards, heating more water to wash everything by hand and lugging the dirty water outside. Scrubbing the nasty beet stains out of all the dishrags and towels before hanging them on the line. All on a hot summer day with no air conditioning and no shower. 
It’s enough to raise my level of respect and admiration for previous generations. How could all that work not build character? I can’t help thinking our ancestors might roll their eyes if they heard us complaining about our difficult lives in these unprecedented times.
Will future historians identify a link between our entitlement and how we emerge on the other side of this pandemic? Will they remember us as perseverant, appreciative? Or will we go down in history as the most spoiled, the most consumer-driven generation ever? As people who didn’t possess the character required to overcome adversity? As folks outraged that they should be so inconvenienced by a pandemic?

Global pandemics are not new. The losses so far from Covid-19 are nowhere near unprecedented. Yes, it’s horrible. It’s sad. It’s frightening, it’s stressful, and it’s darn inconvenient. But it is not unprecedented.

That’s why a look at history can restore hope. We enjoy countless advantages over those who experienced pandemics in the past. If anything is unprecedented, it’s our lightning-speed communication, our modern testing methods, and our state-of-the-art medical systems. Don’t believe me? Then answer this: If you must go through a pandemic, would you rather do so in 1420, 1920, or 2020?

Experts tells us most pandemics last between 18 months and two years. Perhaps the better question is not, “how will we survive these times?” but “are we made of the right stuff?” May the precedent set by our forebears empower us, deepen our character, and generate lasting hope in our hearts.

“We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:4)