Hopes, expectations and fears

So leading up to my DTS, I’ve been trying not to think too hard about what it’s actually going to be like. Some of that has been because I don’t want to limit what God wants to do with me or this trip by having too many ideas in my head about what it should be, some of it has been because thinking about it too hard stresses me out a little (mostly because it’s new and new can be scary, even if it’s exciting), and partly because I really just don’t know what to expect.

But now that I’m so close to leaving, I’m thinking it might be beneficial to jot down at least some of my thoughts if for no other reason than to have a record of what I was like/wanted/expected/etc. before I left as a comparison to what I’m going to be/look like/feel when I get home. I also want to mention a couple of cool “God things” that have happened already in preparation as an official record/praise report type thing. Also, just as an FYI, just because I am using numbered lists doesn’t mean they are in order beyond the order in which they came to mind while I was reflecting.

God Things

  1. God worked out timing with different jobs I had so that I was able to steadily work fewer and fewer hours the closer I got to my trip while still maintaining financial stability. The flexibility of my changing work schedules allowed me to take the time I needed to handle things like doctor’s visits, wisdom teeth problems and visa procedures in a timely and, at least as scheduling goes, almost stress-free manner.
  2. When I was too nervous/felt presumptuous/selfish/awkward in asking for prayer from a large group, God sent/brought my dad with me to an even larger group where he made sure I got prayer, even without me asking. This one was especially cool because I really, really wanted to be sent off in prayer, was pretty sure it wasn’t going to happen because I hadn’t asked, and because I secretly had hoped that it would somehow happen at this group. It also led to other people getting prayed for who needed it, so it was pretty cool to see God working on a big group of people and using my dad to help spark it. Thanks for stepping out/helping me, Dad!
  3. When I got a new laptop for the trip, the guy at Best Buy was actually from Europe, had done a ton of traveling and specifically helps college-aged students prepare for studying abroad. He was able to walk me through exactly what I needed and gave me some really great tips, including what to do with my phone even though I wasn’t going to be doing anything with it related to Best Buy. I was also able to get a ton of my stuff on sale, including the laptop itself, my laptop sleeve, my backpack and a few other things. To top it all off, the finances I needed for all of this stuff came in at almost the exact time I bought it, when I wasn’t even planning to buy a new laptop in the first place!
  4. In general, my finances and schedule have been incredibly blessed as I’ve prepared for this. I’ve had people donate financially, going above and beyond any generosity I was expecting, got an extra job I hadn’t even seen coming, and had numerous cases of discounts, sales, and generally cheap purchases. The drop in the value of the pound alone (though not a topic I want to delve into here) practically paid for  the price of my plane tickets alone.
  5. I’ve also been super blessed with my schedule, the people who have come around me, and the people I’ve met. Any time I’ve had questions on things like insurance, computers, packing, etc., I’ve had so many wonderful friends, family or employees to help me out, and everyone has been so supportive of me. It’s really been a blessing to have that confirmation of being loved/valued and knowing that as sad/exciting as it is for me to go, I will be missed and have people who love me to come back to. I know there a lot of people out there who don’t have many of those relationships, if any, so it’s been such a blessing to me to know that I have those people in my life. God has just been so faithful and amazing even before I leave, so thank you God for being great!

Hopes

  1. That I will come out of this knowing more of what God’s voice sounds like for me.
  2. That I will see and help in God changing lives through art, the spread of the gospel and other forms of life and ministry.
  3. That I will find a group of like-minded people that are going to come alongside me (and vice versa) to explore God and what He has for us.
  4. That I would belong or “fit in” with these people.
  5. That I will get a clearer picture of what God wants to do with my life/what steps I need to get there.
  6. That I will become more fearless in doing what God is calling me to do, primarily through the development of trust/knowing His voice.
  7. That areas that need work in my heart/life will be brought to the surface, exposed and confronted in healthy and constructive ways so that He can be strong in my weakness and glorified through it.
  8. That my relationship with God will go deeper than it ever has before, diving into areas of my life/heart that haven’t been as touched by Him as others and in stronger ways than ever before. That I would come out of this with a heart that burns for Jesus and is more deeply in love with Him than I could ever have imagined.

Fears

  1. That I won’t fit in. That I will be the “different” one again and feel like an outsider.
  2. Letting my expectations and hangups of who I am/how others view me get in the way of me moving forward. Letting past anxieties set the result for future experiences.
  3. Not putting in as much as I should, faith, expectations, etc.-wise for this time.
  4. Being distracted.
  5. Letting fear dictate my actions.
  6. Not hearing God or seeing the change I want.
  7. Being disappointed if I don’t find the “answers” to questions I have.
  8. Being too focused on “doing” rather than “being.”
  9. Letting a focus on my art get in the way of my relationship with God.
  10. Difficult experiences.
  11. Saying yes fully to God.
  12. Giving up my self.
  13. Getting frustrated if things don’t go/change “my way.”
  14. Not being able to handle the pressures of living in that close of a community.
  15. Having to confront my darker side.
  16. Not loving people the way I should.
  17. Letting others see my darker side.
  18. Not being able to run away or hide from difficult things.
  19. Safety in general.
  20. Not knowing what to do when I get home.
  21. Stagnating after I come home.
  22. Putting too much expectation on this trip.
  23. Falling into the trap of thinking this trip will make me a “good Christian” or keep me excited about God forever.
  24. Homesickness and having my family spread apart.

Expectations

  1. That God is going to guide me through this time.
  2. That my life is going to be radically changed forever.
  3. That God’s way of doing things is going to differ from the way I would want to do things.
  4. That God is going to be faithful.
  5. That God is going to be graceful.
  6. That God is going to take care of whatever it is I put in his hands since it’s all His anyway.
  7. That I am going to experience God’s love for me and for people in ways I never could have known before.
  8. That God is going to teach me His voice and draw me closer to Him as I seek His face/plans/goodness/voice/etc.
  9. That my prayers will be met, even if it isn’t always in the way I would expect.
  10. That God is going to provide the next steps/resources/etc. that I need for this DTS and beyond. That He is going to protect us from the things we can’t handle, walk us through the things that we can, and turn us into a real family, good sides, dark sides and anything in between.

So, yeah, that’s where I am right now. If you could be praying into these things (or against them for the fears) for me, that would be much appreciated. I don’t know what my blog is going to look like for the next five months or so, so if you don’t see me around much, you’ll know why, but I do hope to keep contact with at least some of you guys! I should have access to internet at least some times, if not all, so if you want to pop in to Twitter, Facebook or email I’ll do my best to be responsive!

Thank you everyone! Hope you all have a wonderful five months!

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Taking it from the top

This post is actually one I wrote sometime last month, maybe earlier, and never posted. I wanted to give it some time to gel and apparently just let it go, but since I’m actually still thinking a lot about this and it holds true to my current situation, particularly in how I’m learning to approach larger works on the whole, I’m just going to post it for the most part as is. Without further ado then, a blast from the fairly recent past, this blog post:

It’s funny how often I’m asked for advice that I can freely give and yet will not follow myself. If asked, I could tell you the signs of a good spiritual life, yet find myself with an often dismal prayer life, could tell you how to be a disciplined writer, yet am constantly strung up with Facebook and Twitter (conveniently linked, if you don’t follow me yet, by the way), etc., etc., but perhaps the worst travesty of all of these (prayer life notwithstanding as work in progress), is the irony of having actually, officially taught on editing and still finding myself such a dismal example of the craft. And while I might argue this to be yet another mark of God’s divine timing in my writing life rather than just a mark of my own laziness/pride, acknowledging once again how terrible it would have been for me to have met with success beforehand, I must admit that now, so late in the game, I’m finally starting to clue in on the importance of the editing advice I would so readily give (that advice having developed only recently itself in no small way as a direct result of having struggled so long and hard myself previously to now) given the opportunity.

You see, despite a decade of buffing, shearing, dusting, pruning and even sometimes flat out hacking, I still have a lot of questions about Machine and its world, questions my writing group will (thankfully) call me out on if I don’t do it myself (or if I choose, as I have so often done in the past, to ignore them), and problematically, I don’t always have the answers. World mechanics, certain characterizations, even large pieces of history have previously been unaccounted for in this, my largest and most  worked over work, and the longer I try and have tried to ignore them, the more I have realized that my readers, to say nothing of myself, will not stand for such a passing over.

The problem stems in no small part from the fact that this is the book I learned to write in (as mentioned before), and am still, in many ways, learning to write in. I started my writing career all those years ago as a large fish in a small pond, self-assured of my success by lackluster  criticisms from fellow students and far less lackluster, but by equal necessity not as in-depth as an editor criticisms of teachers, to say nothing of my own confidences. With such guarantees of success as my own naivete and good creative writing grades to gird my mind against criticisms (and by the same unfortunate conditions, a great deal of good advice) of any kind, it took me years, at least a dozen read throughs and several rejections from agents before I even started to realize that editing might be more than smoothing out the kinks of a (so I thought at the time), near flawless skeleton. It took me even longer to realize I should be taking pieces out entirely, and now, ten years down the line, it’s strange just how often I still finding myself trying to dust off a crooked spine and hips and wondering just where the problem started.

Of course, if I’m being strictly honest with myself, I know where the problems are, the reason Machine still limps along like a retired racehorse in places where it ought to be stretching its legs to soar. They’re in the same questions I’ve had all along, the ones I’ve ignored, looked past, or simply not put the work in to solve.

So what am I going to do about it?

I’m finally going to solve them.

Scrivener, I will say as a completely free plug, has done wonders towards this already, even when I was only just starting to find the usefulness of taking notes (for those unaware, it’s a program for creating and organizing drafts and resources, it’s plenty affordable for what you get [$40, though I got mine for sale at half off through AppSumo] and is a wonderful thing). Writing down facts about my world, my characters, and even keeping track of questions I still have (or being forced to answer the other ones people put to me) have all been incredibly useful strategies to help me towards this end as well. A lot of my problems stem from not knowing enough about my world (at least on paper), so writing them all out, facts about the world, the politics, the economy, history, or even a map, all of these will help me to figure out whether or not certain things are realistic or not or even flat out possible within the world I’ve created.

This TED-Ed video from Kate Messner talks a lot about what it takes to create a logical and consistent world.

Big surprise, previous til now, I haven’t really done any of these things for any of my books, at least to a large degree.

It’s just not how I ever functioned as a writer. I’ve always just written what comes into my head as it comes, and up until fairly recently, I never thought I needed notes. I thought my head was big enough to hold all of that stuff, which if I’m being fair, is at least somewhat true.

Now, I don’t say this to discourage any potential agents who might be reading this from working with me (in fact, feel free to reach out if you’d like), but rather to encourage, to encourage myself to follow through on fixing these problems, to encourage myself to be honest with where my work stands and the steps I will need to take to get it where I want it to be, and to encourage any other writers to do what they have to do to get their work where it needs to be (and to let them know they aren’t alone if they’ve missed a few steps as well).

Because the thing is, I do have the answers. Maybe not on paper, but I do have them in there, somewhere deep inside. I’ve just never taken the time to write them all down (or dug deep enough to find them), and that, more than anything, has been my mistake.

As someone who is for the most part self-taught in her craft (in the higher education and or mentored sense, not to give no credit to the positively phenomenal teachers I’ve had in grade and high school, college professors I liked and tremendously helpful teachers and authors at the conferences and workshops I’ve recently started attending), I will admit that sometimes it is very easy for me to get discouraged, to be frustrated that it has taken me so long and cost me so much heartache to get where others have gotten with what often appears to be little more than classes and helping hands (bitterness and jealousy too are problems I face, as you can see, problems I have in fact had to apologize for even recently), but there is also a certain beauty in self-discovery, a certain untouchable scope to see something you have so singularly poured into finally bloom. And while I wouldn’t dare to say I’ve done this on my own, or that God, my family and friends (to say nothing of teachers, readers, other authors and the countless others who have touched my life) haven’t helped me get here, I will say I am finding a new level of appreciation for the time it has taken to get here, an ability to treasure the process I would heretofore have so disdained.

So, yes, I have a lot of work left to do, yes I do need to finally take those steps back and put in the higher level work no matter the cost to those fine details and frills I’ve spent years in crafting and carving, but it is also totally, totally going to be worth it, and I can’t wait to get started.