Psalm 118:24 "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."
We know we should.
But why is it so hard to do it?
I want to offer three big reasons and tell you how I’ve seen it play out in my writing life. Here they are: the myth of the fantasy station, the fear of missing a turn, and disappointment with the present.
The Myth of the Fantasy Station
In her book, “Growing through Crisis: Help from the Book of Nehemiah,” Martha Tyler compares life to a train trip to a distant station, a station filled with loving people and unbelievable bliss.
She suggests that with our eyes set on our fantasy destination, we never look out the window. We never talk to the other passengers. And to make matters worse, as soon as we arrive, we get a ticket to the next fantasy destination.
We dream about the right job, but when we get it, we move on to the next thing: the right spouse, the right house, kids, their education, an empty nest, retirement, travel, the right retirement home, the ideal way to die?
See? It never ends. You never arrive. Because, guess what? The fantasy station doesn’t exist.
I saw this play out today. This very day. I already knew I was in danger of taking my literary agent for granted and my Genesis contest nod for granted. I just want that publishing contract already. That’s certainly the ultimate.
Then guess what? I read a blog post by an author who realized she was taking her 2-book deal with a major publisher for granted.
It is true. The cycle does not end.
It’s nothing new either. In Woody Allen’s movie “Midnight in Paris,” the main character comes to the same conclusion. He dreamed of Paris in the 20s. The people in the 20s dreamed of La Belle Époque. The guys of La Belle Époque believed the Renaissance was the only true golden era. You get the gist.
We have to be intentional about breaking the cycle. It’s hard, but isn’t it worth it?
Trust God to have you on the right train. Let God do the driving, and enjoy the scenery.
But what if I’m on the wrong train?
Well, that’s my next point.
The Fear of Missing a Turn
God got me on all the right trains even before I considered myself a Christian. He did it without my permission half the time.
Open one door. Invite Him to lead. He will take it from there.
Twenty years before becoming a born-again child of God, I saw a Catholic commercial that led me to church and to the simple prayer that changed my life.
I was in Brazil. I’d finished high school, dropped out of college twice, and couldn’t get a job. I saw this young guy on TV walk into a church, old jeans and tennis shoes, school books in arms, praying for direction.
He apologized for not going to church and for not praying. He said he didn’t know what to do with a life that grew meaningless by the day. He asked God to direct his steps and give his life meaning.
The next day, it was my turn. I went to church and prayed that prayer. I asked God to direct my steps and give my life meaning.
I wasn’t sure what God’s leading looked like, didn’t have a prayer life, and didn’t know the Bible. He accepted my invitation anyway.
The following month my half sister who lived in Indianapolis showed up in town and invited me to move to America.
A month later I did.
I didn’t plan to marry a Brazilian American, but I did. I didn’t plan to go to college, but he forced me to. I didn’t plan to be an English major—I barely passed the TOEFL. But God had that cooking, too. If I’d got a B in my first English 101 essay, I would have been happy. But I got a C. I was most unhappy.
The teacher offered to work with me one-on-one daily. She was concerned. University of Cincinnati didn’t offer English as a Second Language back then. I was the only foreigner. Guess what? I ended up with an A for the class. My final essay was so on target she read it out loud to the whole class. Hello. I barely passed the TOEFL. God leads and equips. I’m living proof. Anyway… I had never been successful at anything, so I ate it up. I fell in love with English.
I didn’t plan to get a divorce, but my husband decided he didn’t want to be with me anymore.
I didn’t plan to write for a newspaper, but toward the end of my sophomore year, I was offered a job I didn’t apply for: news editor of the school paper. We went to print four times a week. It was crazy! It was fun!
I didn’t plan to write for the Army after college, but the career counselor was late, and I “stumbled upon” an Army ad calling students with high GPAs to careers in civil service. The competition was hard, but I made it. I got one of seven positions.
I didn’t plan to write Christian romance either. I wrote something else. The process was crazy. The path to publication unbearable. I broke. For the first time in my life, I broke. I became an ugly person.
I didn’t plan to reach out to God for help. But he closed every single door that offered any kind of hope. And he planted Himself in the middle. I finally got the idea. I fell in His arms. Surrendered, defeated, and dependent.
Or what God likes to call—ready.
Don’t stress over being on the right train. He is able.
Just make sure you’ve invited Him to lead. He will do it.
But what if I don’t like where this ride is taking me?
You guessed. Next point.
Disappointment With the Present
Let’s face it. Life is hard. Dying to self is hard. Carrying our cross is hard. Most of us fail daily. But we need to keep at it. It’s our reasonable service, right?
Here is the thing, remember Isaiah? Of course you do:
Isaiah 55:8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord"
Things look insane at times—from our perspective.
Look at my absurd situation at my first Christian writers conference last year, in St. Louis.
My 92-year-old grandmother died three weeks before my trip to Brazil—on the first day of the conference. I’d been praying for her health and for the conference daily for more than a year. And then it was like an earthquake hit it all. My two biggest requests denied at once. Bam!
I had to ask God, “Why?”
Two weeks later, I figured it out. Without her death, I would have come back from the 2014 American Christian Fiction Writers conference in St. Louis practically empty handed. I would have then prayed for God to let me put the book project on the back burner for at least 6 months to mend my broken heart and to figure out the way ahead. That would have been very sad.
But because my grandmother died late on that last Thursday of September, on Friday morning the editor I met with prayed with me and said she liked my pitch. She asked me to send her the full proposal.
Friday afternoon, I watched my grandma’s funeral online in my hotel room. In Brazil the funeral is within 24 hours of the death. Not a good day for me.
But with the ACFW worship events and the prayers sent my way, I woke up well on Saturday. The editor I’d met on Friday had encouraged me to meet agents. So I booked tons of extra pitches, all with agents. Most liked the pitch, but didn’t think there would be interest from editors. When I mentioned the Friday editor appointment and said they wanted to see my proposal, the agents decided they wanted to see my proposal, too.
Two weeks after the conference, Les Stobbe offered to represent me.
I am certain that I have an agent today because my grandmother died on the first day of the conference.
Now I could not have orchestrated that. God did it. His will—His way. Right?
And turns out I ended up being more useful in Brazil after my grandma’s death. My mom really needed me.
As for my grandma, I had my closure, too. Her heart indeed stopped on the first day of the conference, but she’d stopped interacting with the world a week prior. It was a week before her death that she responded to someone’s voice for the last time. My voice. Her last spoken word was to me: “I, too, love you.” She closed her eyes when we finished talking and never opened them again.
Thank You, Lord, for my agent, for leading me, for this beautiful closure with the woman who planted in my heart the love of story, and for nourishing my baby faith with a quick answer to what I couldn’t understand. It helps me trust You with all the heartaches I don’t understand and might never understand.
Open the windows of today. Enjoy the view. Talk to the other passengers.
Your turn. Share some examples. How can we make chores fun? How can we find more joy today?
About the Author
Patricia Beal is a Christian author, Army wife, and ballerina.
She writes contemporary romance and is represented by the Leslie H. Stobbe Literary Agency.
Patricia is a 2015 Genesis semi-finalist and has completed two manuscripts. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and hopes to be published soon.
Patricia is from Brazil and immigrated to America in 1992. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Cincinnati in 1998 with a B.A. in English Literature.
After an internship at the Pentagon, she worked as a public affairs officer for the U.S. Army for 7 years. She was a spokesperson for five general officers and also wrote speeches, news releases and news stories.
The stories she filed from Guantanamo Bay during the early days of the detention operation there gained national attention. Two years later, during the first year of Operation Iraqi Freedom, she traveled to Iraq to write feature stories for Army newspapers, and her feature on a day in the life of “Bad Luck Squad” won a Keith L. Ware award in print journalism.
She and her husband live in El Paso, Texas, with their two children.
Patricia is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at http://www.patriciabeal.com.