I had a disappointing writing thing happen recently.
And I’m going to couch that in a disclaimer that I know it’s a minor thing in the context of what everyone is dealing with in our COVID-19 era.
Still, it mattered to me, and maybe the lessons I’m learning in this context will somehow help someone else.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been investing in my novel, Final Moment, with a goal of eventually getting it published.
By investing, I mean that I’ve spent more hours than I can count over the past 10+ years writing, editing, having it critiqued, pitching it to agents and publishing houses at writers conferences…then, based on the feedback I received, continuing to do it all over again.
Admittedly, I tucked it in a drawer for a number of years while I focused on other priorities.
But still, the need to finish this book that Mom said would someday be a classic has never faded.
Well, everyone says your mother’s opinion doesn’t count, but I still savor those words she penned on a piece of yellow notepaper that is tucked within my treasures.
Return of the itch
Two years after Mom died and we’d moved to Ocala, the itch returned to brush the dust off Final Moment and figure out what to do next.
At that time, it was kind of “finished” in the sense that there was enough of a story to publish in some way, but I wasn’t sure that was what God wanted me to do.
Instead, I felt the Holy Spirit nudging me to wait until I received more direction.
To do that, I reconnected with the Christian writing world over the next several years.
I took the feedback I received and continued to develop the manuscript in much deeper ways and in a slightly different direction than I’d originally planned.
Then I hired a developmental editor to take a fine-toothed comb to the whole thing. She was booked several months out, but I saw this and her testimonials as a good sign that her skills would be worth the wait (and they were!).
In the meantime, I attended a major conference last September to pitch it again and received some promising leads.
When I got home, I dove in to work toward two specific deadlines: getting the manuscript ready for my developmental editor by January 1st, and then integrating her feedback to meet the entry deadline for a major contest I planned to enter for first-time, unpublished novels.
When the day of the contest deadline rolled around, I was doing my usual word-focused fussing until the last minute and hit the submit button with only 45 minutes to spare.
I gave a sigh of relief and put the outcome in God’s hands.
Or so I thought.
Not on the list
The semi-finalists for each category were announced on May 5th.
And when I opened the email that arrived in my inbox that day, my name was nowhere to be found.
My heart sank with discouragement.
Although this is just one of many writing contests out there, I’d really hung my hat on this hook for some reason.
Since then, I’ve been trying to figure out why that was the case.
As I’ve been praying and journaling about that, several themes keep floating to the surface.
This week, I’ll address just one: the need to hang onto the dreams God gives us while letting go of our agendas for how they will turn out.
Dream seeds planted by God
Everyone has goal-oriented dreams of one kind or another.
Sometimes we reach them more easily than planned.
And sometimes we get so discouraged we’re ready to throw in the towel.
Sometimes they’re dreams we may have created on our own.
But other times those seeds are clearly planted by God.
However, when God plants such a seed, there’s no guarantee that his vision for the ripening process will be the same as ours, nor that the fruit we seek is what he has in mind.
After all, God’s purposes are pure.
Not so much.
Instead, they’re typically mired in self-centered motivations of one kind or another.
Embracing God’s plans
That’s what I’ve been realizing as I’ve been mulling my response to the contest results.
Although I could still try to do the things I had in mind, the contest results handed me a big pause.
And I’m grateful.
I’m embracing this humbling gift to re-evaluate my approach.
To consider whether my planned path to publication matches God’s agenda for this process.
To pray that he’ll keep me in the center of his perfect will for my writing journey.
When Jesus was here, he repeatedly called his followers from their perfectly-plotted lives to his plans for them instead.
Just imagine if they had stubbornly stuck to their own agendas instead of obeying his call.
If Peter had insisted that he maintain his fishing business, he couldn’t have led the early church.
If Paul had insisted that he maintain his leadership role within the Jewish community, he wouldn’t have become the first missionary who spread the Gospel.
And if the rich young ruler had been willing to prioritize his relationship with God over earthly treasures, we’d probably have met him in Heaven someday.
When the seeds of our dreams are planted by God, he wants to nurture them to produce the fruit he desires.
But to do that most effectively, he needs our cooperation.
So I’ll hang onto my dream for publishing Final Moment, because I believe God is the Planter of the seed for that dream.
But I’ll try to let go of my agenda for the way in which that occurs.
As I do, I’ll be better able to embrace the plans God has for me—which will far exceed the dreams I could’ve created on my own.
How about you? What hanging-on-letting-go balance are you finding in your own dreams?
Please join the conversation by sharing below.
This post first appeared in the May 9th edition of The Empowered Traveler™ newsletter.
Feature photo by Photo by Geetanjal Khanna on Unsplash.