Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Why Perseverance Matters

A few days ago, I received a note from a friend that touched my heart and led me to think about perseverance. What does it means to press on or persist in spite of a struggle or trial. Does it matter if I choose to quit in the face of great odds? When is it time to admit defeat?

We’ve all heard the stories of people whose great perseverance through adverse circumstances inspire us. We admire their tenacity to keep pressing forward.

  •  Ann Sullivan, herself a product of hard times, worked tenaciously for months to rear in blind and deaf Hellen Keller’s wild tantrums until she earned the child’s trust and affection, and then helped develop one of the most influential women of the twentieth century.
  • Winston Churchill was an academic and political failure until the age of 62 when he became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and then led his nation to victory against Nazi Germany.
  • Thomas Edison was told in his early years that he was “too stupid to learn anything,” and then conducted more than 1,000 failed attempts to create the lightbulb until one worked.

 “They were extraordinary people,” you say. Were they? I’d like to relate another story—a story of valor and tenacity, a story of perseverance. 

The Waldensian story has the makings of an epic movie. The Christian History Institute calls it “fascinating and legendary.” Known as the first evangelical reformers centuries before Martin Luther entered the picture, the Catholic Church called them heretics. Yet these ordinary men and women remained tenaciously faithful to their beliefs, pressing on in spite of persecution and martyrdom through at least nine centuries of oppression. Today, the Waldensian faithful have joined the Presbyterian Church, but their story lives on and inspires people of faith to stand firm in the face of persecution.

Practical Reasons for Perseverance

  • In January 2013, Science Daily reported a two-decade study in the neuroscience journal Neuro, showing that the pleasure response we get from accomplishing a goal drives up the body’s production of dopamine. The more dopamine we produce, the more the desire to experience the pleasure of accomplishing a goal and the more we develop a habit of perseverance.
  • Pressing on is half the battle to achieving our dreams.
  • Persevering in the short-term often leads to long-term satisfaction.

o   Deferring immediate gratification on a diet can lead to a healthier body; 
o   Sacrificing short-term pleasures to study for college exams can lead to a college degree and long-term employment; 
o   Working through the struggles in marriage can lead to an inspirational love story

Corporate Reasons for Perseverance

  •  Persevering in the face of a seemingly impossible task can inspire others to do extraordinary things.
  • Remaining tenacious against a strong and seemingly unbeatable adversary can save the world from falling into the hands of an evil regime.
  •  Stubbornly pressing on to find the scientific solution to a revolutionary invention can literally light up our world. 

Spiritual Reasons for Perseverance

I don’t know about you, but my journey through life is riddled with trials. Brief moments of peace settle around me, but then something else bubbles to the surface, and I feel overwhelmed. But Scripture seems to indicate that it matters to God how we approach our trials.

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3 – 5, NASB).

If we view trials as opportunities, they produce in us a wealth of insight and wisdom we otherwise might not have received. With insight comes hope that encourages us to persevere through the darkest times and enables us to discover the great love God has for us.

When troubles come, we want to run the other way. But God says no, lean in. “I will teach you all that you need to get through this life and become a person of character and strength. When trials come, rejoice. It’s your opportunity to grow. Don’t worry, I will be in it with you, and you will know my love poured out for you.”

There will always be another trial to overcome. But Jesus said, “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Lean in, press on, persevere until he tells you to move on. Why should it matter? It matters to who you become and to those you inspire along the way. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Donna's Musings: Reflections for an Indie Panel Discussion

Donna's Musings: Reflections for an Indie Panel Discussion: Tomorrow, May 15th, I will sit on a Panel of Indie Authors at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference (CCWC). Over the weeks, I’ve though...

Reflections for an Indie Panel Discussion

Tomorrow, May 15th, I will sit on a Panel of Indie Authors at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference (CCWC). Over the weeks, I’ve thought about what I have of value to share. What I have to say may astonish some of my colleagues and peers.

Two years ago, I hit my first sink hole to publication when I lost a contract on my suspense novel, Light Out of Darkness (then titled Casting Down Shrines). Later, after I discovered that my agent had pushed my project to the bottom of her pile because she had not found a publisher, I allowed these events to derail my determination to see this book through to publication. That is, until last fall. 

A voice inside my head kept saying that I wasn’t done with the book yet. I decided to use a yearly event called NANOWRIMO (national novel writing month) to make one more edit on the book. I added a chapter that I now consider a pivotal chapter in the book, shored up some language, changed the title, and then sent Light Out of Darkness to a professional editorial consultant for review.

Though the editor had a few corrections, he also said the book was definitely publish-worthy. He believed I could find a traditional publisher. The impetus was there, yet I had traveled the traditional route before—even had an agent. What should I do? After much discussion with my husband and a lot of prayer, I decided to take the leap of faith into self-publishing.

At this point, it would be easy to mislead the reader and talk about the glowing successes of self-publishing. But I believe it would be a disservice to the audience if I wasn’t candid about the process—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I can hear many of my indie friends as well as traditionally published authors groan. “You can’t! It’s a death knell to your sales!” I hope not. I have to trust that God controls the future of my book.

In the last ten years, traditional publishing has demanded that an author take on increasing responsibility to develop her platform and market her own books. Therefore, it only makes sense to explore the world of self-publishing, since the expectations and lines of success are blurring more and more.

The truth is that self-publishing is exciting! It’s like building a new house. You do the research (do your homework), design the plan (marketing strategy, social media, website design, etc), decide on a builder (who will distribute your book—a company like Bookbaby or youself), and all this with the anticipation of finally seeing your book launched into the world. It’s an adrenaline rush.

But the process can be overwhelming and intimidating. It’s a lot of hard work and many laborious hours. It can take the focus off what you love to do—write—and on what you must do—build. And you can make a lot of costly mistakes along the way. I did—big ones that almost caused me to throw in the towel and call it a day. Thankfully, I have been able to recover and am in the process of rebounding back. 
A recent blog post from Marlene Bagnull, director of the Colorado Christian Writers Conference, reminded me of God’s faithfulness even when we don’t feel him nearby during the challenging times. She quoted from 2 Corinthians 4:8, which says, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, because we don’t know why things happen as they do, but we don’t give up and quit” (TLB).  

Why don’t we quit? Because while the journey may not always be smooth, we who claim faith in Christ have been called to tell a story that shines light into the dark places of the world and bring a message of hope to those who would otherwise have no hope.

This journey of writing has never been about me but “For the joy set before Him… (Hebrews 12:2). My job is to press on, even when times are tough and the road seems daunting, because I’ve been called to remain faithful to the call to write even as my God remains faithful to me. It’s what I must do. In the end, it’s what I love to do.