Music Is My Muse

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I think I already wrote another blog post similar to this, but at the request of a friend, I felt compelled to write about it again.

If I drew a pie chart of where I draw inspiration from for my writing, at least 50% of that chart would be “Music”. On one of the many “writers” pages I follow on Facebook, one asked, “What is a must-have for you when you’re writing?” You’d think most of us would have responded with:

A pen!

Paper!

My computer!

My journal!

Instead, most responded with “A quiet place by a bay window overlooking a meadow as the sun rises and birds sing in the distance” or “Coffee!” I answered with, “My iPod.” Seriously. I don’t go anywhere without it. Music is with me wherever I go—in a car ride to visit family two hours away, or making a trip to the gas station 2 minutes away. Something to play music on is as necessary to me while showering as soap is. If there is ever a quiet moment, I’m either putting my headphones in or blasting it while I do mom-stuff around the house.

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I mean, haven’t you ever just listened to a song and thought, “Man, this is EPIC!”? It may be a song that is totally unrelatable to you, but there’s just something about it that makes you keep it on repeat. It makes you feel something, even if you don’t know exactly what that “something” is. For me, the moment this occurs, I start asking myself, “Why is this epic? Who is this about? Why do they feel this way?” Snippets of what look like scenes from a movie never made flash through my mind, and suddenly I can see and feel all the things that this unknown character does, all because of a song. And then, I  WRITE about it, because I want to share what I just experienced with other people.

Writing to me is more than just putting characters and their stories on paper (…or my computer screen, I suppose, would be more accurate). Music isn’t just about filling the silence; it’s an experience. The lyrics, the tone of the music, the passion in the singer’s voice or in the instruments sets scenes up in my head. I listened to Joshua Bell play the violin for “o mio babbino caro” and it set up not just a scene in my novel, A Captive Heart, but that song created a connection between my two main characters that endures throughout the entire series. While listening to Sia’s “My Love” when I was in the middle of writing the sequel to A Captive Heart, all of a sudden, I began to see the heroine of my novel in a room full of mirrors where she…well, I won’t ruin it for anyone since that book hasn’t even been released yet, but I knew it was a scene that had to be worked into my book. It ended up becoming one of my favorite moments in the series.

Sometimes, it’s not even a scene that music inspires for me. “Beautiful, Beautiful” by Francesca Battistelli helped me understand and better develop my character, Sophia, in my series, Sophia’s War. Just the same, “Let Me Go” by 3 Doors Down helped me develop Adrian in the same series. (I could go on and on giving examples of where songs have assisted me in character development, but I fear it might give away some facets of my characters I’m not willing to reveal outside the series…I like to surprise you guys, you know!)

And other times, songs blanket an entire book or series with its overall essence. For instance, I can’t listen to “Praise You in This Storm” by Casting Crowns or “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons without seeing the entire Sophia’s War series play out in my head as if I were watching a music video. Same thing for “Love Story” by Taylor Swift—all I see when I hear that song is Cassie and Friedrich’s lives from A Captive Heart playing out in my mind.

I may not be on my computer or jotting down notes on a note pad every second of every day, but I, like most writers, am always writing, especially when I have a playlist going. Also, when a song has enraptured me (one can usually tell this after I’ve had it on repeat for the past five hours), it’s dangerous to interrupt my thought process. I am prone to get angry like a gorilla being taunted by some kid making faces on the other side of the observation glass…amiright?

I think it’s pretty awesome that artists can inspire one another, despite the different way we choose to express ourselves. For instance, go on YouTube and you will find many unknown artists who have written songs inspired by a character or book. Ask any writer what songs influence their writing, and if they are like me, they will most likely begin to gush about what song reminds them of a character or story they wrote. [*WARNING: I will not be held responsible if you approach an author with this question and ultimately find yourself unable to get another word in edgewise.*]

What about you? Whether you are a musician, a writer, a painter, etc., do you find inspiration in music? If not, what do you find inspiration in? I’d be delighted to know! Sound off below! I always respond 🙂

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I Hope I Ruin You…

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This is a difficult thing for me to admit, simply because it is wrong (a sin) and humiliating, but I learned a long time ago that our flaws and mistakes are nothing to be ashamed of when we repent and give them to Jesus. So this is me, telling the story of how I handed one of my sins over to him. This is me, divulging an imperfection in the hope of helping someone else.

I’m a girl. Well, a woman now. But I was a girl once. Even the most compassionate of our kind has at least one moment in her past that she wishes she could go back and redo—taking part in a snooty action that excluded another girl, or contributing to gossip in a way that was more comparable to Regina George from “Mean Girls” than Jesus. It usually occurs anywhere between elementary school and college. Most of us grow out of it, though in some cases, unfortunately, some of us never do. We pick out other people’s flaws because, maybe we have trouble accepting our own. Maybe there’s someone at home, work, or school bullying us, making us feel inferior, and hurting others is the way we make up for it—a malicious scheme that we convince ourselves makes us feel better.

Upset Teenage Girl With Friends Gossiping In Background

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I’d be a liar if I told you that—even as a Christian, even as nice of a person as I am—I never looked at someone and thought, “She’s ugly!” That’s an ugly truth in itself and it makes me cringe even typing it. But I want to share a story with you about why that changed, and what holds me accountable the instant my opinion of another person’s beauty crosses my mind.

I knew a girl once who I thought was immensely unattractive. Every time I thought, “She’s ugly,” I knew it was wrong, but it would enter my mind and I didn’t reign in that thought. It wasn’t like I told it to her face. It wasn’t as if I treated her differently. It wasn’t doing anyone any harm. It was just a thought in my own head that no one else knew about.

Except one day, I was with a friend. Somehow, we got on the subject of being ugly (probably pointing it out on ourselves), and I got a horrible idea. I told her about a girl I knew who was very ugly, and I wanted her to see. So I showed her a picture.

“Look!” I said. And what my friend responded with changed my life:

“But God can still use her,” she said.

It was like a ton of bricks had been dropped on me. I remember just sitting there, staring at her in awe. It was like my eyes had been closed all that time, before being violently ripped open in front of a bright white light.

“But God can still use her.”

I don’t think I understood the impact these words had on me right away. They lingered in my mind over the following days and I pondered on them often. Weeks, probably months passed, when I saw someone else and thought the same thing…but this time, something unexpected happened. My friend’s voice echoed in my head:

“But God can still use them.”

God was using the wisdom of a friend to change my heart. It’s almost like the Pavlov’s Dog experiment. Without any effort on my part, my brain had suddenly been conditioned to respond with, “But God can still use her/him.”

It made me feel very small and very ashamed. Who am I to call someone ugly when they have been made in God’s image? Who am I to call someone ugly when they have been handcrafted by God for a specific purpose? Who am I to call someone ugly when my heart had an even more hideous quality that God had to have been disappointed in me for? Since when did my opinion—or anyone else’s—about someone’s physical beauty determine their worth; what they are capable of in God’s will?

The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve discovered this can apply to many different circumstances. It’s as if that awareness was water and my friend’s insight broke the dam that was holding it back. Now it flows freely inside my head and heart. Every negative thought I have about someone is now followed up by those words:

“But God can still use that person.”

There is a quote that is attributed to Marilyn Monroe (though I don’t think it’s actually hers) that says something along the lines of, “To all the girls who think you’re fat for not being a size 0, you’re not. You’re beautiful; it’s society who’s ugly.” Well, I’m not sure who actually said it, but they had the right idea. We were created to live as innocents in the Garden of Eden. If The Fall had never happened, we women wouldn’t face a daily struggle comparing our physical images with an airbrushed woman on a magazine. The absolute only thing that we would be thinking about on a daily basis is taking walks in the garden with God.

But really, isn’t that the only thing that matters still? Society’s voice is not a voice of truth. It is a distraction.

Nothing more.

God has woven His standard of beauty all throughout the bible. Physical beauty is in the eye of the beholder; it is also something that fades with time. Inner beauty—a beauty that is rooted in Christ—will last forever, lingering in the way your generosity, love and compassion affected the people around you. It will last in the way you brought glory to God with your selflessness and kindness toward others.

I hope I ruined you. I hope I ruined you the way my friend ruined me. I hope from this day forward, any negative thoughts you have about another person—or even yourself—are followed by God’s voice:

“I can still use them. And I can still use you.”

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Are you beautiful in God’s eyes? It’s very easy to tell. His standards of what makes a person beautiful can be found all throughout the bible.

“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.” – Proverbs 31:10

“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” – 1 Peter 3:3-4

“You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.” – Song of Solomon 4:7

“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” – Proverbs 31:30

“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

“Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” – Psalm 34:5

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:35

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10

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Why I Wrote the Sophia’s War Series and Why You Should Read It

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As some of you already know (that is, if you read my article on Harry Potter), I’m a huge J.K. Rowling fan. I consider her one of my greatest inspirations as a writer. I have always been a reader, but the Harry Potter series gave me an experience I’d never really had before. It was my first time reading a book(s) where I didn’t feel like I was a mere observer to someone’s life through a one-way mirror; I felt as if I was there in Harry’s world, being faced with the same challenges and emotions as Harry. I felt like the characters jumped off the pages and into my life in such a way that they were my friends—characters with redemptive qualities and flaws that I treasured. I loved them. I still do.

Another huge inspiration to me is Jane Austen. I love not only the romance of Austen’s novels, but being swept into such a curious time period that was early 18th century England (actually, I love any time period in England). Austen’s heroines are independent and generally selfless and good-natured, while her heroes are handsome (so handsome) and complex. I would gush to myself while reading, eager for when the stubborn heroine would come to her senses and for the hero to come rushing in at the most perfect, exquisitely romantic moment possible. Austen’s twists and turns—the way she makes her heroines as well as her readers think one thing only to discover another—was one of my favorite things about her novels. It’s my favorite thing about any novel, really. When I’m reading, I love being surprised. I love being wrong.

Magic book with bright light coming from its open pages

I didn’t plan on being a writer. From the time I was 4 until I was probably 20, I wanted to be a singer. I’ve sung in too many competitions, events, talent shows and auditions to count. I even made a couple of albums (covers for friends and family) and I’m a songwriter. When I was inspired to write a novel, it never occurred to me that it would evolve into a passion that would consume my life.

It began while I was in college. Since elementary school, World War II has always been an intriguing era to me, though not nearly to the degree it is now. At 19, I got a hankering for a particular kind of romance set during WWII. I can’t even describe to you, really, what it was I was searching for; I just knew I’d know when I found it. I looked in local and chain bookstores. I looked online. I couldn’t find the book I was looking for anywhere, so I thought, “Hey! I know! I’ll write it! If I can’t find it, that means other people can’t find it either! It obviously needs to be written.”

It started out lighthearted enough. I’d never written more than poetry and songs (and a couple of short stories in elementary school). I began researching World War II in depth and contemplating what I wanted my novel to be about—what lessons I wanted to leave with anyone who read it. (Fun Fact: The first storyline I intended on pursuing for Sophia’s War is TOTALLY DIFFERENT from what it was to become…probably going to use that original idea in a future novel, though…) I watched and read every single thing I came across that had to do with World War II. If there was paper nearby, I was jotting down ideas and quotes. If I was walking around outside, I was watching scenes play out in my head. The concept for Sophia’s War slowly began to come to fruition in my mind. Daily, I was getting visions of new scenes that propelled the story forward and experiencing all the emotions I wanted to evoke for my readers. Initially, I drew most, if not all, of my inspiration from Rowling and Austen. I wanted to write a novel that made readers feel as if they were standing right next to Sophia, experiencing it all with her. Romance was a must, though it ended up not being the focus, and I wanted to play tricks on people—make them think one thing before turning their worlds upside down with something totally unexpected…

The more I learned about the war, though, and the more I immersed myself in German history, my writing style and writing philosophies began to mature and expand. Though what I gleaned from Rowling and Austen is still a priority to me, I discovered I have a passion to write about “real” characters. I mean “real” as in genuine, not necessarily “alive” (though they are all very much alive to me!) I couldn’t take the light from Austen’s novels and use it in mine; not during a period as dark as 1940s Germany, when millions of people were being systematically murdered, Nazism was running rampant like a cancer throughout Europe, and war was turning good men and virtuous women into people who must do anything to survive.

I am a Christian. Unabashedly. Though one of the novels I have already written (and a couple I have simmering in my mind) could be classified as Christian fiction, most of my work that’s set in WWII is not. Because of my faith, I often write from the perspective of a Christian character, but the fiction itself I do not feel belongs in the Christian genre. I appreciate Christian fiction and feel that it is fulfilling a demand in the industry, however, I have a few issues with a lot of Christian novels I read. They don’t feel “real” to me—genuine. I love seeing God move, even in a novel, but what drives me insane about a lot of Christian novels is that the main character often makes bad decisions only because they are the victim of someone else’s sins. Or, let’s say they haven’t made bad decisions at all; let’s say they are good all the way around. They make almost all the right decisions (oh, besides that ONE time he looked too long at a woman in a bikini or she skipped that woman’s prayer meeting, but she had gotten caught up in a hilarious scene where a series of unfortunate events caused her to be late, so it wasn’t really her fault after all…) The people who don’t know Jesus are often portrayed as stereotypical, or pitiful and ignorant, though they almost always open up to God and you can count on them accompanying the main character to church at the end. You can always point out the Christians in the book and also the non-Christians—clearly. I’m not saying these are necessarily bad things, as it is geared toward a certain group of people within the industry (and even a certain group within Christianity, in my opinion), but that’s not really what I wanted people to think about my work. I wanted to be something different.

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The truth is, I don’t really know where my work belongs. I’m proud of that, but it’s also a little scary. My characters don’t always make the right decisions. My characters aren’t always principled. Being at war, my characters will find themselves guilty of doing much worse than missing a prayer meeting. Some of my characters get drunk; some of my characters curse. My characters have sex, in and out of wedlock; sometimes by choice, and unfortunately, sometimes not. Some of my characters know God, some of them don’t. Sometimes my Christian characters find themselves far from God because of the choices they’ve made. Even the most moral of my characters will find themselves coming to terms with sins they once thought they were incapable of engaging in BECAUSE THEY ARE IN A WAR. I write them like that because it is what’s real. And I love them for it. All of them.

I love even the most sinister of my characters because I know them inside and out, and without them, the heroes and heroines of my novels would not be the same. (Fun Fact: One day, while musing over this and acknowledging the fact that I have a deep affection for some of my villainous characters, I suddenly realized that’s the way God feels about us. He handcrafted every one of us, chose us for parts in His story. Does that mean I believe God intends for some people to be evil and others to be good? No. It’s like the story of the prodigal son; the righteous son stayed with his Father, tending to the sheep, but there was a great celebration and mercy was shown when the prodigal son returned out of repentance, regardless of his sins).

I write like this because it’s “real”. It’s life. Our life—yours and mine. I don’t write about Christians; I write about people. The reason I said it’s scary not knowing where I belong as a writer is because, as a Christian, I’m afraid my Christian readers might go into my novels with a certain expectation of flowers and butterflies. But we do not live in a Christian world, so it’s unrealistic to me to write about a main character who somehow has an indomitable, constant faith and somehow makes it through life unscathed, or with sins that are mere “surface scratches” instead of wounds that have pierced their very souls. At the other end of the spectrum, I have already experienced the fact that non-Christians will see the Christian influences in my writing and automatically assume that my work is “just another Christian work of fiction,” when it’s not. The Christians in non-Christian works are often portrayed as legalistic, hypocritical and insensitive, so when a Christian character comes along that loves Jesus but is not any of those things, they are disregarded and automatically categorized as “Christian fiction.” Both of these notions, in my opinion, are shortsighted. No, we do not live in a Christian world, but we do not live in a world without compassionate Christians who follow Jesus, either. I have tried to keep my work in that narrow area in between, because I feel that there is a literary void between these two mindsets.

I had an epiphany last year. I was sitting there, dwelling on a scene (in a future series, actually), and I remember stopping for a moment and thinking, “Whoa. That’s disturbing. Someone who isn’t like me—someone who has no interest in even fictionally witnessing a horrendous act of war—isn’t going to understand why I put something like this in here.” I began to pray, because I didn’t want to compromise the truth of the darkness in war, but I didn’t understand how portraying some of these “sins” had any redeeming value. Was it all for entertainment? What was the purpose? Was I going too far?

In the midst of my prayer, it hit me, and this is something I remind myself of often now:

“You have to show them how bad war is so they can see just how great God is.”

We don’t serve a mediocre God. We serve a powerful, awe-inspiring God who has the ability to wipe clean the black on our hearts from things much worse than missed prayer meetings.

I always cringe when I hear a song or read a book where faith in God comes across as corny. God is not schmaltzy and clichéd, and regrettably, it is my opinion that most Christian fiction is. That is not to say that I think all Christian fiction is clichéd. In particular, I find Francine Rivers’ work to be fantastic and a welcome exception to the rule. And I’m not saying that my work is somehow better than anyone else’s just because I have different goals as an author—I respect and admire anyone who pours their tormented, impassioned heart into words. Besides, who am I, but a budding author with a dream and a fiery heart? I suppose all I want is an opportunity to explain my writing philosophy and my purpose in writing so you might see what makes it unique—so it might appeal to you enough to take a chance and dive into Sophia’s world.

Sophia and all the people she meets and builds relationships with have come a long way since I started this journey almost eight years ago. Originally, I wrote it as one giant manuscript before deciding to come back to it and turn it into a series. Though I love the characters and the story, I felt that it was written so poorly (first endeavor to write a novel, remember!) and it was so long that I didn’t think it would ever find its way into readers’ hands. It needed a lot of work, and I’m constantly moving from one project to the next, so I didn’t think I would ever make time to go back to it. It had been five years since I had even looked at Sophia’s War, when one day last year I began to reminisce about the dynamic between Sophia and another character in the series. I suddenly realized the world had to know about them. It didn’t matter how long it took, what other projects I needed to put off or how much work needed to be put into it. It had to be done!

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So that’s where I am now. I have been improving on the series for the past 8 months. Book 3 in the series, Stalemate, will be released in February and I’m currently in the middle of editing and rewriting scenes in Book 5. There’s still more to come and I can’t wait to relive it all again with Sophia.

Today, I invite you to meet Sophia and the others who bring this story to life. Sophia’s War is a series with vivid characters, romance, suspense and surprises that will draw you in and make you cheer for every small victory and fear what comes next with every step Sophia takes. It’s a perilous adventure that will be on your mind long after you’ve finished reading it.

You never know. It might be just what you’re looking for.

Get started today!

Want to meet the characters in Sophia’s War first?: Your Next Favorite Book Characters

Purchase Sophia’s War: The End of Innocence (#1) here!: The End of Innocence

Purchase Sophia’s War: Lies and Allies (#2) here!: Lies and Allies

Confessions of an Imperfect Person

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ADD is one of those conditions that is akin to the reject of all mental disorders. I say that affectionately, as I have suffered from it for the entirety of my life. I can function, but often I feel like I’m living in my own sitcom (you know, the way characters jump from one unrelated funny joke or scenario to the next). I used to resent that ADD was a part of me, and though it took a few years, I finally embraced the quirks and airheadedness that often accompanies the chaos in my brain.

I didn’t get diagnosed until I had almost reached adulthood, but looking back on my childhood now, I had all the indications. Relationally and in my day-to-day life, my ADD didn’t show itself except in my forgetfulness and the fact that I was easily distracted. Where it affected me most was in school. I was a well-behaved kid, which seemed like a contradiction to the fact that my grades were often average or very poor. I had teachers call me lazy, as well as my parents. I began to think that was who I was, part of my identity—I was lazy—which didn’t make sense to me, because when something genuinely interested me, I worked very hard at learning everything I could and would focus 100% on that one thing.

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I hate taking medication. I hate the idea of being dependent on a little pill for anything. I will suffer through headaches and the curse of woman-dom without ibuprofen and feel like Xena the Warrior Princess at the end: “Rah!!! I endured PMS without a single painkiller! Fear me!” When it was suggested that I take medication for my ADD, I resisted. I had operated fine for 19 years. If I did indeed have the disorder, I wasn’t going to use it as an excuse; I wasn’t going to use medication as a crutch. At my mom’s insistence, though, I agreed to give Adderall a chance. At the time, while I was in college, I remember calling her in tears because I had studied hard for three tests and failed one of them and almost failed the other two. It felt like no matter how hard I studied, I couldn’t retain information. I missed things in class because by the time I processed enough to write down what the professor said, he or she was already talking about something else. When I started taking Adderall, I remembered thinking, “Hmm…I don’t feel any different. I bet this isn’t even working.” I didn’t notice a difference physically, so I thought the experiment had failed.

Until one day, I realized I had been taking 4 pages of notes instead of my customary 2 lines. In every class. My test grades jumped from Ds and Cs to As. By the end of the semester, I finally felt my grades reflected my efforts. I didn’t feel embarrassed anymore, and I was grateful that I’d given Adderall a chance. I finally felt normal, wondering if I was finally experiencing the world the way everyone else did.

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And that was what made me hesitant again. I am not perfect, but I’ve always endeavored to be a good person—to do what was right, to seek forgiveness when I’ve done something wrong. I have always been a dreamer, and whether I’m ever successful or not, I’ve always wanted to inspire others to pursue their own dreams. I don’t believe you are ever too old; I don’t believe you’ve made too many mistakes or that you don’t have what it takes. I don’t let what people think about me change me (does what others think about me bother me sometimes? Yes, of course. But I don’t let it change my personality or traits). I have always been accepting of myself and most of my flaws and have always trusted that God would use me whether I was a lump of coal or a diamond. Taking the Adderall changed me. It made me more observant and alert; it made me more pensive and more particular about the thoughts I chose to verbalize. None of those are bad things at all, and I don’t regret the benefits I reaped…but I chose not to take the medication on weekends. I also chose to live without it once I left college. Talkative or not, forgetful or not, ADD or not, all those things were still a part of me. They were the quirks, the habits that made people say, “That’s Stephanie,” whether it was out of frustration or amusement.

I haven’t taken Adderall in eight years. Somedays, I laugh and enjoy making other people laugh at my articulated unbridled thoughts. Other days, I feel like my head is filled with white noise and I need to be left alone to keep from getting overwhelmed. I’ve found that music helps me a lot, with Classical helping me the most on my worst days. As an author, ADD aids my imagination in leaps and bounds, while at the same time, it hinders me by keeping me fighting constant distractions. Some days, whether by ADD or writer’s block, I can only manage to write a sentence or two. Other days, I can write pages. Either way, I never count it as a loss or time wasted. As long as I have put my best foot forward, that one sentence is a success.

I intend to take Adderall once I start school again. Though I embrace who I am without it, I can’t ignore who I am with it, either. I do need the extra help sometimes and I’m not ashamed of that anymore.

What I hoped to accomplish by sharing this part of my life with you is to:

A) Be careful and conscientious of your words. I was labelled as “lazy”. Parts of me very well may be, but laziness is an action. It is not mine or anyone else’s identity. If I’d chosen to embrace that word as a part of who I was, I might not have ever discovered the truth. I might have used it as a justification for why I did poorly in school instead of being encouraged that there was a way to fix it.

B) Don’t dismiss health conditions you may not physically see. I have been told by a few people that I do not have ADD—that ADD is a fake term used by doctors to force medication on people. I am not easily offended, but that offends me. I can’t count the tears that I’ve shed in the past over the frustration that sometimes, I just cannot focus. Though you may not be able to experience my brain and its peculiar ways firsthand, it doesn’t mean I don’t have a problem—it just means I’ve adapted in spite of it.

C) The people who can empathize with me are cheering after point B, but here’s another unwanted truth: Don’t let yourself use any disorder or condition as an excuse. Having ADD does not make me more or less exceptional than the next person. I still had to study hard, I still have to hold down jobs and treat people kindly whether they understand my daily struggles or not. I also do not use it as an excuse from myself to myself; when it comes to my writing, I have made a vow to write at least one sentence a day. It sounds easy, but there are days it absolutely is not. Small steps are still progress, and I have to remind myself of that everyday. I can choose to look at my ADD as a curse, or I can take pleasure in the fact that small victories for most people are huge victories to me!

And D) Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” My struggles have made me unique, and as long as I remain in Him, God will use this to bring glory to Himself. I am not defective; I am different, but God still expects the same thing out of me that He does everyone else—to turn to Him instead of being ashamed of my weaknesses. As the lyrics in a song I wrote years ago says: “The clarity my imperfections undo, were made to shine as reflections of You.”

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You are loved and you are not alone in the struggle. Don’t be ashamed of what makes you you. Don’t be ashamed of getting help if you need it, like I was. Get convicted, though, if you let it stop you from living, if you let it stop you from trying, if you let it stop you from being who you were made to be—an imperfect person made to bring Him glory.

Moses had a stuttering problem, but God chose him to be the one to confront Pharaoh and lead his people out of Egypt. You and I have no excuse, either.

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