“Mom, could you play ‘Beautiful Day’?”
“No, we’re almost there, so I’ll have to play that song on the way home.”
Two seconds later…
“Mom, could you play ‘Beautiful Day’?”
“Uh… Lone Ranger, I just answered your question. We're almost at Aunt Mo’s, so I’m going to play the song on the way home.”
“Ohhhh, I didn’t hear you!”
“What does Mommy say…?”
As a chorus, the Think Tank, Songbird, Lone Ranger, and Maven intone, “Listen for the answer!”
Yes, my little people, listen for the answer.
That scenario is a daily event in our household. It may not be about what music I’m going to play from my iPhone; it could be questions about the lunch menu, if they can play outside, whether or not they can watch television, if I will count while they jump rope… Whatever the case, they generally ask me the question one million times (and yes, just me, and not their dad sitting peacefully in the corner, undisturbed) and just when they tug on my leg for the tenth time or form their lips to pose the question for the one million and first (oneth?) time, I yell, “You asked me; I answered. Now, listen for the answer!” And though the situation is oft repeated, they always gaze at me in shock that their request was answered, that I responded quite appropriately, immediately, and completely.
Sometimes my kids do hear me, but they give up hope because it takes me a minute to fulfill the request. For instance, Brown Sugar will ask, “Can I have some water?” She’s too small to reach the pitcher, so that translates to “Will you pour me some water?” I say, “Yes, Brown Sugar,” but I don’t move to get it because I’m teaching or cooking or catching my breath since fulfilling the last request. If I take a second longer than she’s deemed necessary, she will ask again, “Will you pour me some water?” The “now” is understood, kind of like that pesky “You” in grammar—in other words, she’s tired of waiting.
And such as it is with God.That message hit me this morning during the latest play-by-play. I whine, beg, plead, supplicate…ask my heavenly Father for one thing or another. I’ve got the seeking thing down; it’s the finding that’s giving me trouble. The waiting, the hearing, even the receiving. Yet when God answers me, directly and resoundingly, I’m shocked. Do I ask just to hear myself whine…um, excuse me, talk? Do I not expect to be heard? Much like my children, am I too busy moving to the band playing in my own head to hear the sweet music of God’s voice? Am I like Brown Sugar? When I do hear Him answer, I get tired of waiting, tired of trusting. I want it NOW!
Lately, I’ve been focused on one specific thing, and I know He answered me. It was not just a “yes,” but an “Of course, My child!” It was “Here you go, and isn’t this more than you expected?” Yes, it was more than I expected, and therein lies the rub. At first, I rejoiced. I mean, God actually heard my cry! I’m not sure how He could have missed it, as I returned to His feet night and day, moaning and groaning, pointing out all the reasons behind my request—tugging on His leg if you will—just in case He didn’t know which of my needs were going unmet. I really took to heart the scriptures about “Make all your requests known to God” and the parable about the persistent widow. After all, the Bible says, “…Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall not God avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”
But still, He had to remind me, “Dear heart, listen for My answer. Didn’t you hear Me? Don’t you trust My Word?” for after I rejoiced, I doubted. Even though His response exactly met my needs, I wondered if it was from Him. And again, I laid my fleece back out on the ground, sopping wet, praying for Him to light a fire.
Well, He did light a fire. Not in the bushes in the yard or on a piece of sheepskin, but in my heart. Often it merely smolders, putting out mostly smoke instead of heat; sometimes its fervent flames burn me from the inside out. Now, I’m listening, looking, and waiting to hear Him, but more importantly, I’m believing and trusting no matter how many doubters attempt to douse my fire or how much rap music tries to drown out the angelic orchestra playing in my ears.
Some people might illustrate this point using the story about the man clinging to the side of the mountain, asking God to save him. God sends a helicopter, a boat, a plane, etc., but the man falls from the mountain and dies because he kept waiting for God to help him, and he didn’t recognize that it was God who had sent assistance. But that story isn’t exactly it. When you’re listening for the answer, you’re not going to get a “yes,” “no,” and a “maybe.” It’s going to be one and not the other. He won’t send all those means of transportation if all He wants you to do is let go of the weak branch holding you on to the mountain so He can catch you Himself. After all, He’s the one who either let you fall of the cliff or gave you a gentle push over the side.
Sometimes the answer is a miracle. And it’s always perfect. It’s a one-size fits-you type of thing. But you have to let go and believe and recognize it. And when He says, “[Insert your name here],” be like Samuel and simply respond, “Speak, for Your servant hears.” Even if it’s too good to be true, it’s never too good to be God.
Up until now I’ve been fighting the whole “building a platform” idea tooth and nail. But when I read Michael Hyatt's interview in the ACFW Journal it changed my outlook of the battlefield quite a bit. Now, instead of fighting against it, I’m fighting for it, or rather, for me.
I’m not sure what other would-be published authors Hyatt spoke to, but I know I heard his message loud and clear. In the article the Thomas Nelson chairman explains his novel, Platform.* Friends, fellow writers, and editors agree I’ve addressed his first step—create a powerful product—with my novel, Women & Children First. Then Hyatt advises writers and readers to seriously consider how they fit in with their product’s marketing plans. Check, I’m working on that. Next, he talks about the effectiveness of blogs and web sites. Yep, I’m onboard with that, even if it is slow sailing. When Hyatt asks us to consider how we can further our reach in the technological marketplace, however, I stumble because I’m not sure how to do that more effectively (which is why I’m buying Platform. Why don’t we read and discuss it together?). Finally, the publishing exec stresses working on relationships, not just forming a customer base. I’m all for that. After all, my life is about relationships—with my husband, children, friends, homeschool network. In fact, that’s what Women & Children First is all about, the intricacies of human interaction; I’m not interested in selling myself (but maybe a few millions copies of the book).
Hyatt’s thoughts on building a platform mirror my reasons for homeschooling and my mother’s approach to preparing her Thanksgiving dinner: no one cares like I do. Now, I’m not saying my novel is a turkey by any means, but on the other hand, it is my baby. As its “mother,” or author, I must nurture it to ensure its success, and part of that job is defining and growing its audience. Most important, when I read Michael Hyatt’s ideas on building a platform I consider Jesus’ parable on Building on the Rock. In Matthew 7:24-27, He says, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”
And I don’t plan to fall. After all, my Father is a Master Builder.
*Read more about Michael Hyatt and his interview in the Summer 2012 issue of the ACFW Journal: The Voice of Christian Fiction.
So, I completed my first novel. Or more like, so what? You might think I’d done the hard part—I mean, what wasn't difficult about writing a 125,000+ word opus while raising a large family, homeschooling, and carrying on the usual day-to-day? But as it turns out, that wasn't the hard part. The only people I impressed were my parents and the seven wonderful people I love and care for at home. And maybe some fellow homeschooling mothers who, like me, spend more time pinning down stubborn students than penning a coherent sentence. The unimpressed included the agents and publishers I submitted my manuscript to: the people who preferred a fiction submission around 90,000 words and an established audience of thousands of people before they’d even consider reading my query letter, let alone a chapter or two.
Okay, writing the novel was the easy part. Now it’s time for the hard part: getting published. Even Mark Twain would find it nearly impossible to navigate today’s publishing waters. Would he open a Facebook account? Join LinkedIn? Write a blog? Naw, suh! I think he’d focus on actually writing The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveres County and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and not on building a “platform” to market them. But celebrated literary icon aside, if I’d only written Women & Children First fifteen or twenty years ago, perhaps I could simply work on being a writer. After all, that’s the title that follows my name on my web page.
But I didn’t write my novel a century or even two decades ago, which means here I am, faced with the hard part—getting published. I’ve shed some beloved 30,000 (yet excess) nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc., and I’ve donned several new hats besides the ones I’ve proudly worn as a wife, mother, editor, and writer. Now I am “connected” to LinkedIn, “liked” and “befriended” on Facebook, and posting my first blog. As far as my actual writing is concerned I’ve only had time to think about my next three novels (because you’re not supposed to rest on your laurels or cry in your soup while you wait for the rejections to pour in) and compose my latest proposal.
No worries, though, that’s the easy stuff.