The Next Day 1 – August 10, 2015

Moneyball. While You Were Sleeping. This Means War. Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason. The Fellowship of the Ring. Mean Girls. Kingsman: The Secret Service. Sabrina. The Skeleton Twins. Legally Blonde. Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde. And countless episodes of Frasier.

I watched all of those. Since Friday. It was somewhere between Legally Blonde and Legally Blonde 2 when I realized I had an avoidance problem.

I was awaiting book news, but not just book news. The book news. And if I wrote or cleaned house or walked or sat, or did anything besides watch movies or sleep, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about the book news. Actually, that’s not true. I thought about it while I slept. But not while watching While You Were Sleeping! I can get lost in movies, and lose track of time. I can lose track of myself. In most cases, that may not be for the best. This weekend, it was definitely the best coping mechanism I could find.

Well, today I received the long-awaited book news.

“Bethany, we would be so pleased to publish Middle Ground. We’d like to offer you the following contractual terms for worldwide rights to the work:”

That is from an e-mail which followed the most exciting phone call of my life. If you read The Year of Blogging Faithfully, well, faithfully, then you know that months ago a dear friend recommended to me a Christian manuscript submission service, based on the recommendation of her friend, who is an author. I deliberated like crazy whether or not to submit my manuscript to them, mostly because there was a fee involved, and frankly, we didn’t have the money to spare. My husband – the sensible, conservative, frugal (his word, not mine) one – told me to do it. So I did. They accepted me for their list, and pretty shortly thereafter, I received a request for the manuscript from my dream publishers.

No, that’s not true. I didn’t dream of this publishing house. I didn’t dare to dream of them. My dreams were much smaller. But once I was contacted by them? Well, yeah…they are my dream publishers.

Not only were they my dream publishers, the awesome individual who reached out to me, and who has been my contact person/advocate through this entire thing, is exactly the person I want to work with. She calls me her spirit animal, because we are so alike in so many ways. I mean, we bonded over The Walking Dead almost immediately. Hello! But even more than that, she gets me. She understands my vision. And I trust her completely.

And today, my spirit animal, representing my dream publishing house, called to make me an offer.

I’m still in shock. And I’m overwhelmed. I am overwhelmed that they believe in my work. I am overwhelmed that I have this amazing support system of family and friends surrounding me, and none of them actually seemed surprised when I told them the news, because they believe in me so much. And I am overwhelmed by “God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20)

But nothing about any of this means I have reached the end of a journey. Quite the contrary.

This is the next Day 1.

Day 365 – July 31, 2015

I had every intention of ending this Year of Blogging Faithfully with a post about a beautiful, breathtaking, life-altering hot air balloon ride. And yet here I am, up before the sun, blogging before I actually find out if the hot air balloon ride will be any of those things.

Why? Well, because if the past year has truly taught me anything, it’s that I have no idea what tomorrow holds. This – blogging before I experience this remarkable thing – seems hugely powerful and symbolic to me. For 365 days, I have made plans, shared those plans with you, and then shared with you the many ways God took my cute little plans and said, “I think we can do better than that. Don’t you?”

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. – Proverbs 19:21

I’m in awe. More and more every single day. And that’s not to say that everything is easy. So far from it. Things are really tricky sometimes. Money is still tight. Patience is still something I struggle with. I am still failing in so many ways. I’ve not reached Day 365 in possession of all the answers. If anything, I just have more questions. But I also have more faith. And so much more peace. And I’ve learned that it’s okay to have questions. And sometimes it’s even okay to not have the answers.

One week from today, I will either learn that I’m being offered a publishing contract, or I will learn that the past several months have taught me many things, but resulted in nothing tangible. Then again, there could be another delay. There could be some indecision. They could want me to work on something and resubmit. In other words, I have no earthly clue what is going to happen one week from today.

In a few minutes, I’m going to go fly in a hot air balloon. It’s either going to be the most magnificent moment of my life, or I’m going to vomit from several hundred feet in the air. Then again, I may not be all that impressed. We may not be able to go up because of an equipment glitch. I may cover my eyes the entire time. In other words, I have no earthly clue what is going to happen in a few minutes.

But what about tomorrow? What does tomorrow hold? What am I going to do tomorrow?

I have no earthly clue.

But after a Year of Blogging Faithfully, I can – with 100% certainty – tell you what I will not be doing tomorrow…

Day 364 – July 30, 2015

Tomorrow morning (beginning at 6:15 a.m., no less!) Kelly, the boys, and I get to go on hot air balloon rides. I’m equally excited and terrified. I think it’s going to be a momentous, beautiful way to spend Day 365, primarily because “equally excited and terrified” is pretty much the way I could describe this entire year.

As Kelly said yesterday, going up in a hot air balloon is one of those bucket list things for a lot of people. He actually did it once before, and he said it was an experience unlike anything else he has ever know. So now we have been given this opportunity – this gift – and it doesn’t matter how scared I am…of course I’m doing it! If I didn’t, how much would I regret it? If I didn’t, what would I miss out on?

Ethan is even more nervous than I am. He has a pretty legitimate fear of heights, but he’s going to do it, too. He wants to. In spite of the fear. We were all talking about it last night and he was being overly dramatic (I wonder where he gets that…) and saying things like, “What if we die?” I surprised myself with my response – not that I said it, but that I meant it. I said, “Every day, people die of heart attacks, or in car accidents. Every single day. But how many people ever get the chance to die in a hot air balloon accident?”

I know that may sound morbid (and don’t worry…we did go on to tell him how safe it is, and how incredibly unlikely it is that anything bad will happen), but think about it. What’s the point of living a life where you never do anything different? Where you never take any chances? I’m not talking about irresponsible risks – I’m talking about taking a chance. This entire year, for me, has been all about taking a chance, and my life is so much better today because of it.

Exciting and terrifying. But totally worth it.

Day 363 – July 29, 2015

Yesterday I was asked what I have learned about myself during this Year of Blogging Faithfully. Today, as we near the end of this torture experiment, that sounds like the perfect idea for a blog post! Some of these are things I learned about myself, while some are more general life lessons which I will take away from the year.

  1. I have a sense of loyalty and commitment which I wasn’t aware I had. Truthfully, I didn’t keep with it to prove to myself that I could. Maybe originally that had something to do with it, but as time went on, I didn’t want to let anyone down by quitting early. (And no, I’m not implying that I believe people the world over would have torn their clothes and covered themselves in ashes if I didn’t blog every day.) Maybe no one would care if I had quit early, but that wasn’t the point. The point was that I had made a commitment, and some people had committed to going along on the journey with me. I had to hold up my end of the bargain.
  2. Sometimes, there just isn’t much to say. There are days which really are uneventful, and there are days when you just don’t feel like sharing.
  3. Sometimes, when there isn’t much to say, you still have to say something. I learned that I’m not always very good at this.
  4. Humor is my default. Those times when there just wasn’t anything to say, I fell into quirky mode. (I seem to recall an entire blog about not wanting to blog, set to the tune of Jim Croce songs…) And I think that’s my natural tendency in life, as well as blogging.
  5. I can find something to write about every single day. Even if it’s junk. So I need to continue writing, every single day. Even if it’s junk.
  6. I have an amazing, inspirational support system surrounding me. I have friends and family who read the blog every single day. I made new friends through the blog. People cheered me on, commented on what I had written, and showed they cared – just by taking a couple of minutes out of their day to support me on this journey.
  7. I often jump in and commit to something before I consider the reality of the situation. I had no idea what I was getting myself into with this commitment to blog every day for a year.
  8. Sometimes it’s good to jump in and commit before fully thinking it through.
  9. It’s difficult to tell people about your life, face-to-face, when you aren’t sure what they’ve already read. I can’t count the times that I began a sentence with, “I’m not sure if you read my blog today…” (Don’t worry…this was said only to people who I knew tended to read the blog. I didn’t start conversations with strangers that way.) And then, if they had, I didn’t have much to say because I didn’t want to bore them – since they’d already read it. If they hadn’t, I had to assure them that was fine, and I was only asking because I didn’t want to repeat myself.
  10. We, as a society, over-share online, taking away the need for conversations.
  11. Whether I want to or not, I sometimes filter what I have to say, based on who is in the audience. But not as much as I thought I would. And I’m proud of that.
  12. Days are long, but years are not.
  13. My life is full of cycles. I guarantee: nothing will make you more self-aware of your moods and emotions than feeling something so unique, so profound…and then realizing you wrote about the same unique and profound feelings two months earlier.
  14. My life is full of miracles. I guarantee: nothing will make you more aware of the role God plays in your life than watching it all play out before you, day-by-day. When you are able to go back and say, “On Day 42 I was worried about this…” and “On Day 112, this happened!” you are able to ponder and reflect on the things you may have otherwise forgotten about. I just can’t help but think of how much easier things may have been for the Israelites, wandering in the desert, if they’d had a blog to go back and read… (Please ignore the absurdity of that statement. Yes, I know that there were records being kept. And yes, I know that if they’d been able to blog, they probably would have had GPS as well. Don’t be picky! You know what I mean!)
  15. I’ve lived a life which has stories worth telling.
  16. I need to tell them.

Day 362 – July 28, 2015

Well, it has been a year of epic changes. It has been a year of new careers, new opportunities, new blessings, new challenges…

It has also been a year of new nuisances. You know, not life-altering, but certainly not life-enhancing. The lice episode from earlier in the summer comes immediately to mind, of course, but I have something new to add to this most epic of years.

Our dog got sprayed by a skunk yesterday. We got her pretty well taken care of, I think. There is still a slight, muted scent which is lingering, but then again, that could just be the smell which is stuck in our noses – I suspect permanently. We left her outside all day, to air out after we had washed her thoroughly and repeatedly, and it was really pretty sad. She doesn’t like to eat or sleep outside, so her food wasn’t touched all day and I don’t think she got any rest. And every time we would go to the back door to look through the window and check on her, she was standing there, looking at the door expectantly, waiting for us to open it and finally give her the love and attention to which she has become accustom. But, we couldn’t.

Finally, last night, we decided to let her in for the night. Kelly opened the door, and she wasn’t there right away. He heard some commotion, and then she came running…and then he smelled it. New, fresh skunk.

As it turned out, she wasn’t actually sprayed a second time, but she had startled one into spraying, I believe. Apparently, we now have a skunk problem. As Kelly said, that is the price we pay for living next to a nature preserve. I suppose. Still…for the city girl who isn’t much of a fan of the outdoors, even after 14 years away from the city… Yeah, I don’t know…

Day 361 – July 27, 2015

I’ve been reading/hearing/thinking a lot lately about the concept of finding your calling. In the mornings, I have been reading a devotional all about the topic, and it’s been very enlightening for me. When we think about finding our calling, it’s usually in relation to our work – if not our careers, then at the very least, the work that we put out into the world. What are we doing to do with our lives? Am I “called” to be a missionary in Africa? Am I “called” to work with children? Am I “called” to ride my bicycle from one coast to the other to raise money and awareness for…something? (Incidentally, I believe I’ve been called to one of the three. I’ll let you figure out which one. It’s tricky!)

Truthfully, we are called to honor God in every single thing we do. I honestly don’t have words to express how blessed I feel to get to work in the office I get to work in. Every single thing I do in my work day at the church office is centered around the advancement of God’s Kingdom. And yes, I believe the advancement of God’s Kingdom is my calling. But it is no more my calling than it is the calling of every believer. It is no more my calling now than it was when I was in banking. We have to pay the bills. And all sorts of jobs are important. We need people in every career, in every field.

But once in a while, it hits me. I am living the dream right now. I’m living my dream. If you had told me ten years ago (or, let’s face it, two) that I would be happier than I had ever been in my life, even though money is tight, even though the future is frighteningly uncertain, I would have thought you were crazy. But it’s true. And here’s what I’m figuring out: It’s not because I am working in the church office (though I do LOVE working in that office). It’s because I am following my calling. It’s my calling – my personalized calling, put together by God Himself. I truly believe that. The bigger calling, the one that all Christ-followers are called to – I need to do that anywhere and everywhere. But this specific, personalized calling is for right here, right now. God has given me certain gifts, and certain talents, and I have certain skills which I have built, strengthened, and developed through the years, in every situation I have found myself in. And all of that is coming together for this specific time of my life.

That’s all easy for me to admit. That’s not to say that the realization and awareness of that came easily, but I don’t have a difficult time professing all of that to be true. What I wrestle with, much more, is the realization and awareness that being an author is part of the specific, personalized calling, as well. And I think I understand why I have such difficulty, at least to some extent. If I say that I believe God is calling me to be an author, that implies that I believe I have something to say which is worth hearing. And that’s when my self-doubt kicks in. Also, it makes me think, “No, no, no…it couldn’t be that easy. I couldn’t actually get to achieve my dreams and do what I love to do. Life doesn’t work that way.” But here’s another thing I have to remember: NONE OF THIS IS EASY! “It couldn’t be that easy.” Well, it’s not. I work hard. When I write a novel (or even a blog post, in some cases) I do something that so many people have told me they could never do. And that blows my mind. Quite often my reply is, “Sure you could!” And I believe that when I say it. But the truth is…no. Not everyone can do it. But I can. And as hard as I work, and as much of myself as I give to it, I still feel as if it’s all coming along a little too easily.

Why? Not because I am any better than anyone else, certainly. Not because I’ve been handed a golden key to walk through a golden door. Not because I know the right people or say the right things. It’s because I’m using what God gave me, to do what I truly believe He wants me to do.

Day 360 – July 26, 2015

What weekend?

Well, the Michael W. Smith concert was amazing. Our little party had perfect seats in the second and third rows, stage left. When he sat at the keyboard he was directly facing us, and actually looking straight at us. (I mean, he may not have really been looking at us, but you could pretend he was!) It was a time of entertainment, but also praise, and it was really a very powerful experience.

And today, the very powerful experiences just kept on coming. We got to witness eight people being baptized in the river, and two of them are kids I have gotten to work with through children’s ministry. Sometimes, you have frustrating days. Sometimes, you just think how nice it would be to sleep in on a Sunday morning, or at least only have to go to one service. But then a kid writes in his testimony about growing closer to God during Vacation Bible School, and you’re reminded what a blessing it is to just be a small part of God’s work in the lives of these kids.

Sleeping in seems so overrated.

Day 359 – July 25, 2015

It’s Michael W. Smith Day! Check it. It’s on the calendar.

Okay, maybe not. But it is on my calendar! The concert is this evening, and I only have to do a podcast, go to a meeting, get the boys showered and ready, and do 54 or so other very important things, and then we can be on our way.

In other words…no time to blog right now. Later!

Day 358 – July 24, 2015

The past year or so has seen a complete change in so many areas of my life, but one of the most prominent is in regard to my happiness. To say that I’m happier than I was just doesn’t put it in the right perspective – no matter how true that may be. It’s not just that I’m happier, it’s that I’m more understanding and appreciative of the causes of the happiness.

In the little section of our bedroom which has been designated my office, I’ve created what I call my Happy Wall. On it are photos and drawings and notes which, when I look at them, make me happy. Every member of my family has a photo up there, as well as the friends who I consider family. And yes, there are also photos of Rick Grimes and Matthew Crawley, from the zombie apocalypse and early-1900’s England branches of my family, respectively.

In the past year, I’ve become very aware of who I am. And everyone and everything on the Happy Wall is a huge part of who I am. If nothing were to come from this year apart from that awareness, it would all be worth it.

Day 357 – July 23, 2015

Something magical happened this morning. I spent some time writing, and I didn’t want to stop. I really don’t know the last time I felt that urge quite that strongly. I was working on a story that I’ve actually been working on for about two years now. It has been such a stop/start thing, based on a premise and an opening chapter which I am crazy about. Apart from the opening chapter and a general awareness of the story I am trying to create, nothing about it has been easy. Until this morning. This morning was easy. Not only that, this morning was fun. Not only that, I very clearly saw the final scene of the book, in my mind. Yesterday, that may have filled me with dread, knowing I had another 60,000 words or so before I could get to that point. But now I am so excited to see what I can come up with, since I finally know where I am heading.

Hooray! It IS fun to be an author!