Life is full of changes.
Some are welcome. Marriage, the birth of a long-awaited child, or a professional success that validates and fulfills us.
Some are devastating. Natural disasters that literally destroy everything we hold dear, the loss of family through death or relocation, personal or professional failure.
I’ve been through several in the past four months.
I try to focus on the good. My health, the love of my family, the difference I make in the lives of those around me.
Then comes a wave.
And it’s never just one. It’s always several, usually three in my case. (Why do bad things always come in threes?) Just when I think I’ve dusted myself off from the first wave, another comes along and pushes me back down again. I feel myself slipping deeper into the same hole, the walls slippery with mud, void of roots or footholds with which to climb out.
When I do succeed in climbing out, I try to brace myself, to mentally prepare for the next wave. To reach out to God to help me through the trials that come my way.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Last month I entered the same writing contest I did two years ago. I felt I had grown as a writer, my manuscript was complete and I had a better overall feel for what I was writing. On Friday I got the results – I didn’t win. I wasn’t even a finalist. Granted, this was a nationwide contest, and the category I entered – romance – provided some really tough competition. My chances of being a finalist were slim at best.
But I was hopeful.
Yesterday, I got an email from the contest coordinator with the comments and critique from the three anonymous writers that judged my entry. It was a hard pill to swallow, to say the least. Criticism is always hard to take, and in this case, when I worked so hard, went through those five pages over a dozen times, and agonized over every last word, finding out that it wasn’t good enough felt like a wave.
And not just any wave. A ten foot wave that pushed me into dark, swirling depths. Took away my breath and drowned me in despair.
I reached out my hands, begged God to help me, to show me that my efforts were not fruitless. To pull me from the waves and to calm the water around me.
And he did, in the form of two dear friends and critique partners. They reassured me, told me it was just one contest. To take the good critique and use it to grow.
It wont be easy, but I’ll try.
My faith still wavers from time to time. I still wonder if this is truly my calling. After all, if this is what God has called me to do, would it really be this difficult and heart-breaking? Are the words of self-doubt Satan’s attempts to pull me away from a calling, or God’s gentle hand guiding me to something else?
Then I look at the framed certificate on the wall by my desk. The one that I received for winning a flash fiction contest a year and a half ago. I remember the joy in my heart when a fellow writer came up to me after my story was read out loud and told me that it spoke to her in a way nothing else had.
Tucked behind the frame is the seagull feather that I found up in Door County last year. The one that reminds me to always have hope.
I think of you – my loyal readers and the lost souls who come across my posts in the middle of the night. Those who garner a bit of God’s strength, courage and wisdom from the words that I write in His name.
So I take a deep breath, I put fingers to keyboard, and I write. I hope and pray for each and every one of you, that God will bless you on whatever journey you’re on. I hope you can pray for me too, and anyone who falters as the wind and water rush around them.
Perhaps, together, with God’s grace and love, we can find away to help each other through these waves.