"If you write FOR a particular market or FOR a particular editor you will often miss the mark. But if you write because your fingers have danced across the keyboard, because a character has tapped you on the shoulder, because a story has settled in your heart, then even if you never sell it you have done the work you were meant to do. And sometime, dear readers, real magic happens." Jane Yolen

3/20/09

A Beginning AND An Ending (Friday Fiction plus)

Welcome to my contribution to Fiction Friday, hosted this week by Dee at My Heart's Dee-Light. Be sure to stop by her blog for links to some wonderful fiction. And don't be afraid to post your own - just link up in the gadget at the bottom of her post.
This post is actually a bit more, and a bit less, than my normal Friday Fiction. It is a bit less, because what I'm posting is actually (gasp!) not fiction. It is 100% true (Dear Patty said it was fine - and called me a silly girl when I asked! hehe).

And it is a bit more, because of the news I have to share. Keep reading. I'll get to it fairly soon. I promise.

My contribution this week is the introduction to my current work in progress: Ailing Body, Nourished Soul. This introduction, along with the first chapter and a synopsis, is what I submitted to the 2008 Page Turner Contest at Faithwriters, and what made me come in second place overall. Click here for a bit more information on my book in progress.

Those two parts of the book are the only ones that are even close to polished, but, as of Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 8:02pm ET, I am FINISHED WITH THE (very) ROUGH DRAFT. My word count is just over 51k, which I NEVER thought I could do. I am praising God - AND celebrating. (Watch for a more detailed post over the weekend with my future plans for what I've got done, and what I have yet to do)

Anyhow - for your reading pleasure, the introduction to my book.

Ailing Body, Nourished Soul
Introduction


Heavenly Father, my life is way too easy right now. Could you please make it more difficult-- a bit harder to cope with? A financial crisis would help, or maybe a life-threatening illness. You pick, Lord--I trust your judgment.

Have you ever prayed this prayer? Neither have I.

Yet it is often trials and difficulties that make us stronger. A death will often bring a family closer together. Being ill can make a person more reliant on God. Losing a job may help straighten out priorities or lead to a better, new opportunity.

Often, the Lord shakes up a life that is comfortable and predictable, allowing that person to mature through the experience. In order to serve Jesus effectively and become more like Him, we often must be knocked out of our simple lives and into difficulties we would never request or imagine.

As August of 2003 began, I was leading an ordinary, comfortable life. My husband Marc was working as a computer consultant, looking into a possible career change. I was a stay-at-home mom, taking care of my two and a half year old son and five months pregnant with my second child. We were fairly active in church and enjoying a middle-class life.

By the middle of that month, Marc was lying on a cold operating table with scalpels probing his brain. My life was no longer either ordinary or comfortable.

Marc has since endured two additional brain surgeries, a month and a half of five-times-a-week radiation, a year of chemotherapy, a blood clot in his lung, and extreme weight fluctuation.

Has life been hard? Absolutely. Has God abandoned us? Certainly not.

When difficulty comes, and comes repeatedly, we often feel like we are alone. The pounding of the wind of adversity upon us can make us feel isolated and beaten down. Yet, God is there, no matter how hopeless our lives feel. And those winds often strengthen us. The strongest trees in a forest are not the sheltered ones, but those that take the brunt of the elements and build up their endurance.

So it is with God’s people. The more adversity we experience, the stronger we become, and the better able to handle future difficulties we grow. In our case, through my husband’s illness, our spirits and souls were clearly strengthened and nourished.

Yet God also knows what we can bear. Sometimes, when a trial is too much for us (and only God truly knows if that is the case), He will remove the difficulty entirely. More often, however—at least it seems so—He will help us through it.

Often His help does not seem in any way miraculous. It could be as simple as a kind word from a friend or a check in the mail at just the right time. Know one thing, however: it is God. There are no coincidences, and there is no such thing as good or bad luck. When you are in the midst of the trial, you may not even see the encouragement and help the Lord is providing. In hindsight, however, it is evident to those who look for it.

I should warn you, if you haven’t already figured it out: I’m an optimist. That‘s the way God wired me. I have an uncanny ability to see the positive in the direst situation. But I don't make it up. It is there, and anyone can find it. No matter what you are going through, God is there--even if all you can feel is a vague sense of his presence.

I can only tell you how He worked for my family and me. But my experiences are not unique. God’s promises, I guarantee you, are not exclusively mine.

As I look back over the years, I can see God’s help in so many ways in relation to the trials my husband and I went through and continue to experience. That help has manifested itself from three different perspectives:
  • Before I had even an inkling of the difficulties to come, and in some cases before I had an inkling of Him, He was preparing me for what was to come.
  • While we were going through the struggles, He was providing exactly what we needed, often through His people.
  • While we were dealing with the typical, as well as more challenging, aspects of our trial, God was in the background, protecting us from countless “could have beens” that might have made the trial too much to bear.
God has truly blessed my family through my husband’s illness and the complications surrounding it. I would never suggest seeking out difficulties in order to draw closer to the Lord, and I am uncertain if I would “re-choose” our trials if it were my prerogative to do so. However, I can trust that my Heavenly Father has used them to develop our reliance on Him and to make us stronger and more Christlike.

My prayer is that, when the winds of adversity beat on the branches of your “life tree,” my experiences will encourage you to focus not on the wind, but on the One who is using it to make you stronger, and who is holding you up through it. He is there: preparing, providing for, and protecting you. He was for me, in more ways than you can imagine.

And He loves you just as much.

**
Thanks for reading, and joining in my celebration of my accomplishment. Be sure to stop by Dee's blog for more great fiction. (Promise to be back with REAL fiction next week!)

14 comments:

  1. Wonderful! It definitely makes you want to read the rest of the book. I like the 'strange' prayer at the beginning and the words "prepared", "provided", and "protected" in bold. It gives a mini outline...I assume.

    Woo Hoo..on finishing your rough draft. We'll be praying it on it's way to be published!

    ((((hugs))) Vonnie

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  2. How true! It is the hard times that strengthen us and make us turn our complete focus on the Lord. Congratulations on finishing your rough draft!

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  3. Woo Hoo! for finishing your rough draft :*)!

    It is so very comforting to know our Heavenly Father will never leave us, or forsake us, even in the darkest valleys.

    This is a wonderful introduction and makes me want to read more. It's easy to see why you placed so high in the FW Contest.

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  4. CONGRATULATIONS ON FINISHING YOUR ROUGH DRAFT!! So proud of you, and happy dancing with you!!

    Super intro!
    Huggles and bounces

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  5. Congratulations, Joanne! I celebrate this milestone with you and am anxious to see this part of your journey unfold in due time. And just for the record, no, I've never prayed those "stick it to me God" kind of prayers. They seem to find me without my consent most days!

    I'm so happy for your friend; I know this has been a difficult striving for you and your family in so many ways. Undoubtedly, God is birthing some blooms from the pain as evident in your body of finished work.

    See it through to completion. We will all be the better for your obedient heart.

    peace~elaine

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  6. Yay! Happy for you, Joanne and so looking forward to reading the entire book someday. You're an inspiration!

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  7. Congratulations on finishing your rough draft! That is a HUGE accomplishment. I don't know how you did it, along with everything else you do, and all those who you regularly encourage (including moi)!

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  8. Huge, big, humongous congratulations on finishing your first draft. That's a great feeling! All the best with the next stage, and enjoy your two weeks off. You go girl!

    Your testimony is also so moving and encouraging. Loved the opening sentence - who in their right mind would pray a prayer like that?

    Yet I too have been through the mire. I read the other day on a secular site that those who have experienced depression and recovered from it, find themselves better prepared to deal with all of the subsequent trials that life throws at them.

    I can testify to the truth of that. Having suffered severe depression in 1990-1994, and recovered from it, when I went deaf, and when complex partial epilepsy appeared in my early thirties, I was prepared, and able to deal with them - because of my previous experiences in overcoming depression.

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  9. I've been wanting to read this. Thanks for posting today! Your testimony is amazing. Your writing is polished. I love your optimism!

    P.S. I also transgressed and posted a true story for Friday Fiction with my poem about devolution. I think the "powers-that-be" forgave me. :)

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  10. You finished your rough draft!!! YAY!!!

    Thank you for sharing your testimony. It will minister to many.

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  11. Wow! A HUGE congrats on finishing your rough draft. I'm still not there yet, on my novel (sigh)! What a great intro...I especially love the way you started it! Can't wait until it's done and published so I can buy it!

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  12. I think it is your optimism that I find so inspiring. Thank you for sharing this - a good thing for me to remember at this particular time in my life.

    Joanne,I wanted to let you know that I listed your site as an award recipient on my blog. You are a real inspiration to me.

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  13. Ohhhhh, that is sooooo good, Jo!!! I love your opening especially, and the wisdom that follows.

    Congratulations, my dear friend! I'll be there to visit you at the booth and get a signature! :D

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  14. Very well stated. We would never seek out the most difficult of situations - yet God does allow and use them. About 25 years ago I had open heart surgery to repair a birth defect. I had a moment of realization of what would happen, but God took the horror away in an instant, and throughout He kept me in absolute peace. Recovery afterward was more difficult, but I know He used that as well.
    Prayers for you and your hubby!

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