Listening to God’s Voice over Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt

I have had a stellar 2013. Really, the last two years have been great—Ben and I have been experiencing blessing after blessing, and we can’t thank God enough for all he has done for us. But that doesn’t mean that the devil isn’t trying his best to tear down what God has done, especially in the last two days.

I’m really struggling with what I am supposed to do when I “grow up.” Ben just landed a full time job (which he starts on Monday!) but I still have a year and a half to go before I graduate. From there, I have no idea where I will be headed. I have a basic idea of what I want to be doing—I want to work in a residential program that teaches at risk youth basic life skills and job training. The thing is, these types of programs are typically non-salaried, and the hours are weird—lots of overnights and weekends, plus holidays. I also have a potential writing career ahead of me, but even that seems far off. I know this sounds weird, because I have two books published already, but let me explain how the devil has been trying to get into my head.

I’ve had a great experience with my publishing house. They did a wonderful job with both of my book’s layouts and cover designs, and they have helped me set up events and contact media about those events. I love that I can call up my marketing representative any time for advice, and they have given me great tips on how to build my name and sell personal copies of my book. If you search the internet, though, many people claim that this type of book publishing is a scam—and not just with Tate, but with other small book publishers that provide publishing packages. I made quite an investment in this adventure, with the help of generous family members, and I earn back that money when I sell 1000 copies of my books online from places like Amazon.com, off of Tate’s online bookstore, or in actual bookstores. You won’t find my book on many bookstore shelves, however, and sometimes that can be frustrating. Tate pushes authors to sell their own personal copies, which don’t count towards the 1000 copies that I need to sell, simply because it is the easiest way to make money. I earn royalty checks every quarter, but right now they don’t amount to much. For some people, this seems like a scam. I should be getting paid to write, shouldn’t I?

Maybe someday! I would love nothing more than to be picked up by an industry giant and have a contract to write. For now, this is the road I am walking down, and it is easy for me to lose sight of where I’m going. What if those people on the internet are right? Should I have run away two years ago when a contract from Tate sat in my lap? Is my work actually good enough to have been published?

Who knows? I do know that the last two years have been amazingly fun. All those late nights up editing, choosing cover designs, planning and attending book signings and speaking engagements—it’s been great! Will I continue to pursue this type of publishing? Maybe not. Ben and I decided to wait a while before pursuing publishing on my third book (which I am currently 1/3 of the way done with!) and see where God leads and what resources he provides for us. Perhaps we will seek out a literary agent to work with, someone who will have the connections to the big guys. For now, I’m going to keep doing what I love—writing, with the goal of pointing people to Christ. That has always been the goal—even if one person’s life has been affected with the good news of Jesus, then it has all been worth it.

God is gracious, however, and has been stretching out his hands, inviting me to listen to his voice instead of the devil’s. The you’re not good enough that the devil whispers to me turns into I have not given you a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. Although the future is so unclear and fear tries to suffocate me with all the unknowing that lies ahead, I know that God has it all mapped out.

I can’t wait to see the end result.

 

1 Timothy 1:7: For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline. 

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Sneak Peek into “An Open Window”

It’s a busy time in my life!

 

The other day in my Child Welfare Class we talked about how stress can negatively affect a client’s life. My professor handed out a test for us to take, called the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale. On this test it says, “Holmes and Rahe found that a score of 150 gives you a 50-50 chance to developing an illness. A score of 300+ gives you a 90% chance of developing an illness, having an accident or “blowing up.””

 

I scored a 478.

 

But don’t worry. I had my meltdown a week before my wedding, when I got really sick, was severely dehydrated, and endured a panic attack—which landed me in the E.R. Fun stuff. I’ve lost my grandmother, gotten married, gained new family members (through the birth of my gorgeous niece and my new married family), started a new business (my book business), changed jobs, gotten promoted and given lots of new (and stressful!) responsibilities, had two books published, moved out of my parent’s house, and a few other minor things—all in the last two years. I think I understand now why I had that panic attack!

 

But, regardless of how stressful all of this has been, I wouldn’t want my life any other way. God has given me this crazy life to live, and I don’t want to hold back or miss any second of my big adventure. And the big adventure got a little more exciting last week when Tate Publishing mailed me my author copy of “An Open Window,” the sequel to my book “Another Ending.” I have 30 days to read through the book for what feels like the millionth time to catch any last minute errors. Once I approve the final draft, we will order books for pre-sale! I’m hosting a book signing event in Crossroads Book and Music in Sioux Falls on October 26th and will be selling books at Monta’s Custom Framing in Yankton in November, and I am hoping to have both copies of my book to sell to you all! Rest assured that I will keep you all posted as to when I have copies to get to you.

 

Here’s a little sneak peek into what to expect with this book. If you go on Amazon.com and look at the reviews for my first book, you will read this: “The book has a great story line, which deviates from the “normal”. This girl has a miserable life because of violence inflicted on her through no fault of her own. The normal route a novel takes is that the girl then meets a nice man who helps her get through the problem and she falls madly in love with him. (I hate novels that imply that a woman can’t recover without the “help” of a man.) Whitley instead takes the girl to the feet of Jesus, where real redemption and healing can take place. Hooray for you, Sara Whitley for writing a book that leads to truth, not fantasy. Good job!” 

 

I love this review. I love that people were able to see that I didn’t want Molly to be rescued by some guy. She was rescued by Christ. But does this mean she can never find love? I don’t think so! I hope those of you who so appreciated the fact that I didn’t end my story with Molly finding love will see that even though I do bring a man into Molly’s life in this second book, I do so in a much different way than many contemporary novels. I don’t bring this man into her life to further save her. I bring him into her life to illustrate to young girls what a Godly relationship looks like, and to emphasize how important it is to hold out for that Godly man. In our culture, we worship love. We want that perfect boyfriend or girlfriend! But we are imperfect creatures who love imperfectly. There is no perfect man or woman out there. But God still works in our lives, and through HIM we are able to love. I hope the teenagers and young adults who read about Molly’s relationships will begin to crave a Godly way of dating. And that is why I feel it was okay to bring a little more romance into this book than the first one. I hope you we be okay with it too J

 

I really do think you will enjoy seeing Molly take her first steps into a new life. Because really, at the end of “Another Ending,” I could have just walked away from her. The ending was satisfying. We see her come to terms with what has happened to her, we see her forgive herself and accept God’s forgiveness, and we see her return to her friends and family to ask for their forgiveness as well. She’s learning how to survive in her “new normal,” and I could have left you to fill in the blanks yourselves.

 

But of course I would never really do that, you silly gooses!

 

I can’t get enough of Molly. I’ve said this many times before, but I don’t think you guys understand. She is real. To me, she is as real as anything. I find myself wanting to call her up for coffee just to spend an afternoon learning from her. One of my favorite attributes about Molly is her willingness to see the sin in her life and to combat it. That’s a hard thing to do! I wish I was more like that—I try to be. I think when I write about Molly, I put part of myself into her. I write about characteristics I want to see grow in myself. One thing you will see in Molly is something that hits very close to home with me, although to a much higher degree. You see, although Molly has forgiven herself and accepted Christ’s forgiveness, she still struggles with regret and feels a great deal of pain over her abortion. God has forgotten, but she never can. And I know all of us can relate to this. Maybe we all haven’t had abortions, but we’ve all done things we hate. We have regrets and pains we wish would just go away. We pray, give our burdens to the Lord, and yet still, in the deepest parts of our souls, we can’t ever really forget.

 

That stinks.

 

So even though this is a story of “moving forward,” I bring Molly backwards quite a bit. She thinks about and grieves for her lost child in this story. She always will. I want people to understand that this is normal. It’s part of being human! But the absolutely wonderful thing is this: Christ overcame all of our sin by dying on the cross and rising again. The resurrection defeated sin and death once and for all, and if we, like Molly, choose to accept this totally undeserved gift we can LIVE! I can’t wait for you all to experience one of the most powerful moments in my writing career. And I don’t just say this to toot my own horn. I can say with full honesty that during this particular story, I didn’t write parts of it. The words felt like they came from God himself. One scene brings tears to my eyes and raises goosebumps on my arms every single time I read it. I hope you experience the same. Tell me about it if you do!

 

Here’s a bit more: You will see Molly continue to struggle with the after effects of being sexually assaulted, along with her regrets of aborting her child. You will feel her pain as she mourns over the loss of Tanner. You’ll see her fight and question God, and you’ll cry with her as she experiences deep pain and loss. While this story is not quite as dark as the first one, it is still very deep. I bring my characters through some pretty intense trials. But the reoccurring theme through this book is that when we lean on God and look to him to lead us, he will bring us exactly where he wants us to be. 

 

Here’s the “blurb” you’ll read on the back cover:

 

“A traumatic attack.

 

An unexpected twist in her perfectly manicured plans.

 

One fatal mistake that flips her entire world upside down.

 

Three permanent events that Molly Taylor simply cannot run away from—although for three and a half years she’s tried to. But when Christ reclaims her heart she decides to face the very things she’s tried so desperately to bury deep inside herself, and now she’s on an exhausting journey to find the answer to an age old question: What is God’s plan for my life? Once upon a time Molly thought she knew exactly where God was leading her. She had dreams, passions, and hopes to fall in love. Her former dreams now gone, old passions faded, and the love of her life snatched up, Molly struggles to see God’s plan for her. Much like before, he leads her down a winding road, and Molly’s never quite sure where she will land. But she is sure of one thing: this time, she’s trusting in his plan. With the help of new friends and the reentrance of two people she never thought she’d have relationships with again, Molly is able to take her first steps into a new life.

 

But will Molly keep the window of her heart open to God’s plans? Or, like before, will she try and seize control and slam the window shut?”

 

Thank you for partnering with me on this exciting journey! I cherish each and every one of you, and am so glad to have your love and support carrying me through this busy season of my life.

 

Blessings! 

Waiting for the Impossible

I have been waiting for the impossible for going on four years now.

Since I was a senior in high school my life has been a complete whirlwind. Back then I was running in and out of the counselors’ office on a daily basis, applying for every scholarship I was even remotely qualified for. I was also running cross country and track and working more hours than I’d worked during a school year before, trying to save up money for college. Once I finally entered college I was taking a full course load, running cross country and track and working a few hours a week at the library. Then I got engaged and started planning a wedding, all the while writing my first novel in any spare minute I got. Fast forward to my sophomore year, and I started working an off campus job while juggling that same full course load—and promoting “Another Ending.” For the first time last school year I started to feel completely overwhelmed. And completely crazy for thinking I could handle all that I was juggling. 

That’s when I started waiting. “After the wedding things will slow down,” I told myself. But then I started working full time at the afterschool and summer program, and working so many hours with a bunch of “always on the go” kids really wore me out. “Things will slow down after summer is over and I go back to working part time,” I then began to tell myself. But then school started and even after the first week I know it’s going to be an extremely busy semester—and in a few months my second novel will be ready for pre-release and I’ll have to begin the marketing process all over again. Will things ever slow down?

That’s what I pondered all last weekend while selling books at the Lifelight Music Festival. I stood behind my booth watching thousands of normal people meandering around looking at merchandise, people who spent their entire weekends sitting in the crowds enjoying concerts—not worrying about selling enough books to cover the cost of the booth. I began to feel crazy for starting this whole book journey. My dad, Ben, and I spent three long days sweating buckets and talking to strangers about my book. That didn’t feel even remotely normal! Plus, as we began to sell more and more books I knew that more of these events are in our future, which means more weekends behind booths, watching “normal” people walking around while I begin to feel less and less normal myself. It really began messing with me! Two years ago I was one of those normal people, and the book changed all that.

I then began imagining scenarios that could put a stop to all this. (Don’t worry….just my overactive imagination. Keep reading!) To earn back the money I invested into the book I have to sell 1,000 copies of the book. So, I kept telling myself that if I ever wanted out, all I had to do was sell 1,000 copies of my current book and I’d be free! I could then be the normal person just looking at the merchandise, not worrying about selling enough of my own. I wouldn’t have to search the web for conferences to go to on the weekends or contacting radio and TV stations to run stories on me. I could just be me.

But I already am me. I’m the crazy busy, farthest thing from a normal person that I know God is shaping me into. When all this craziness began I knew God was up to some pretty amazing things. He blessed me with the ability to pay for my freshman year of college with all those scholarships I worked my butt off to receive. He gave me a passion for social work with all the busy course loads I’ve taken. He blessed me with a God-fearing, crazy loving husband who is pumped to do book events with me. He led me to a wonderful job at a social services agency, and even though it’s overwhelming at times I am learning so much from these crazy kiddos. None of this feels normal. But God didn’t call me to be normal. He didn’t call me to sit back and be a part of the meandering people—and I’ve come to realize that no one in that crowd is normal either. God leads us all through craziness; he asks all of us to follow wherever he leads. It’s really scary and overwhelming sometimes. But it’s fun. And fulfilling. And exciting. And a whole bunch of other things that I can’t even put into words.

So this is where I stop waiting. This is where I embrace the life God is blessing me with and continue to venture out into his world and share his good news. Won’t you join me?

 

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”

            -1st Peter 4:10