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157 – Soul Care for the New Year with Guest Edie Melson

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Soul Care for the New Year with Guest Edie MelsonThe new year is here! Which means a lot of us are thinking about what we want to do and be in 2022. But are you taking time for you? More important, for your soul? Guest Edie Melson is here to help you do exactly that!

About Edie Melson

Edie Melson is a woman of faith with ink-stained fingers observing life through the lens of her camera. She’s a writer who feels lost without her camera and a reluctant speaker who loves to encourage an audience. And she embraces the ultimate contradiction of being an organized creative. As a popular speaker, she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Her numerous books, including Unruffled, Thriving in Chaos and the award-winning Soul Care series reflect her passion to help others develop the strength of their God-given gifts and apply them to their lives. Her industry blog, The Write Conversation, has been recognized as a Writer’s Digest Top 101 Sites for Writers. She’s the director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, and a board member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. Connect with her on her website, www.EdieMelson.com and through social media.

Thanks to our sponsors on Patreon, we’re able to offer an edited transcript of the podcast!

Karen: Hi, everyone. Welcome into the deep this new year. Amazing to think that it’s a new year already. We’re so glad you’re here with us to start out your year, and we are so excited to have Edie Melson here to talk about soul care for you and how you can accomplish this wonderful thing in the midst of this new year.

Erin: I get to introduce her! I’m so excited. I have known of Edie Melson for a while, but I got to meet her in person at the Florida Christian Writers Conference a while back. That was just a delight. 

While Edie happened to be teaching at the Florida Christian Writers Conference, she’s actually the director of a different conference. The Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Doesn’t that sound great? Blue Ridge Mountains? They have some really exciting things going on there!  

“Find your voice, live your story” is the foundation of Edie Melson’s message. No matter if she’s writing for readers, parents, or fellow creatives. As an instructor, she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Her numerous books, including the award-winning Soul Care series, which we’ll be talking about, reflect her passion to help others develop the strength of their God-given gifts and apply them to their lives. 

She lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains—again, amazing—where she spends time off hiking with her husband and her camera. Sounds just like what Karen and I would do! You guys can connect with Edie at her website, ediemelson.com or through social media. 

Edie, we are delighted to have you here. Welcome! 

Edie: I am so excited to be here. As I was sharing earlier, this was kind of a bucket list moment because I’ve loved Write from the Deep podcast since it began. So, I’m really excited to be here. 

Erin: Since it began way back when! I hope, Edie, you are prepared to tell us what the deep means to you. 

Edie: I am. I actually, several years ago, wrote about the deep and what it meant to me. I was really glad that you guys were going to ask me that. I was at the beach. My husband and I love to go to the South Carolina coast every year. And I love to get out, past where the waves are breaking, with a float and just sort of bob along and spend the afternoon out there. 

But I always hate getting out there because the waves are crashing, and I’m usually knocked over. As I was doing that, it hit me that this is so much like my spiritual walk. When I feel like I’m staying safe and close to shore, I am constantly buffeted by all of these waves that just hit me. 

Sometimes they can swamp me. And yet when I decide it’s time to go deep with God, and I move past those waves, instead of being in a scary place, I find myself in a place where I’m cradled, and where I’m at peace, and where I’m really able to spend time reflecting and renewing my soul. So that’s what the deep means to me. 

Karen: Wow. That is so cool. I love that imagery. We have the Oregon coast out here and that’s just a very accurate description of what it’s like. 

Erin: Bumping along, bumping along. 

Karen: Right. As we talk about all this, your focus is soul care. So what exactly does soul care mean? How do you define it? 

Edie: For me, soul care is a deeper and stronger connection with God.

One of the things I’m asked frequently is what’s the difference between self-care, which is really kind of a buzzword right now, and soul care. While soul care can provide us with energy and renewal and just a more peaceful way of living, it is not about me. It is about making that soul tie, that connection with God that cannot be broken no matter what kind of chaos is whirling around and what circumstances I find myself in. 

Erin: Yes. I like that. That’s a really huge difference. You know what? The interesting thing to me, though, is that ultimately soul care does help you. I mean, it is self-care eventually. You know, that connection strengthens with God and it helps you become a better you, it helps you become a better self. But it’s funny. You can’t, you don’t get there through you. 

Karen: Right. I think that’s clearly the difference in self-care. At least as the world sees it. That it’s all about me. In soul care, as Edie has talked about it, and as it means to us as believers and as writers seeking to spread God’s Word, it’s all about God. It’s about going deeper and knowing God better and having that foundation. 

Erin and I read Streams in the Desert every day when we’re having our meetings, before we start our meetings. The reading for today, which we’re actually recording this November 24th, the day before Thanksgiving. But the reading was talking about how we need to be so anchored in God that even when there’s chaos or devastation going on around us, we’re focused on him. We’re not focused on circumstances. We’re focused on him. 

Erin: Right. So what do you think, Edie, as far as, like, how does this apply to writers? Why do writers need soul care?

Edie: I think it boils down to the fact that you can’t pour water out of an empty bucket. And if we aren’t connected with God, with the wellspring of our creativity and our very life, then we don’t have anything to draw from. Our creativity dries up. Our inspiration dries up. Our very energy dries up. I think we’ve got to be connected to that source of living water so that God can work through us and through our words. 

Erin: It reminds me, I was listening to an old sermon that John Piper had done about when Jesus fed the 5,000. And you know, there’s Jesus multiplying this sustenance. But the interesting thing was after it was all done, and I think about how the disciples are there with them and they’re busy and they’re tired, after it’s all done, after they’re spent and tired, Jesus is like, “Pick up the leftover bread.” 

How much leftover bread was there? Twelve baskets. Okay, I think about that, and like, that’s not a coincidence. There’s one basket for each guy. And it’s like God is saying, “I know you’re tired, but look, I just refilled your basket.”

So that’s what I was connecting with as you were talking about that, how we need to stay connected so that God will continually be pouring into us. Because it’s really not us pouring out. It’s God pouring through us, into others. So I think that’s cool. Very cool. 

Karen: I find, too, that one of the issues for us is we want to be able to focus on pouring out to others and focus on drawing deeper and closer to God. And yet…life. Life comes in. 

Don and I are in a chaotic life place. We are putting our home on the market and getting rid of three households of stuff. Mom and Dad’s stuff. Stuff from my older brother, who died almost exactly a year ago, unexpectedly. And then our accumulation of things over the last eighteen years of living in this home that we love.

So, you know, we’ve been going through all that stuff. It’s been chaotic. We took a trip to go up to Washington and look for a possible home. When we got back, we discovered that someone had broken in and they had robbed us. So first we brought ourselves into chaos by trying to put our home on the market. Then we go on this trip, and we come back and someone has broken in. 

I can’t begin to tell you how weary Don and I have been. We were weary before we discovered the theft. But now in the midst of all that, the thing that I realized as these last couple of days have gone by, we got home Sunday night and it’s Wednesday, the things that I realized as we’ve gone through all this and the phone calls to protect our finances, to report the theft, and the police coming in. We went and got fingerprinted for elimination fingerprints. I came home yesterday and I sat in a chair, and I just sat there and put my head back and I thought, “All I want, Lord, is peace. I just, I want peace and I want to be able to sleep.” 

I haven’t been sleeping well. I was looking through the table of contents in your book Soul Care When You’re Weary (Embracing God, Exploring Creativity). And one of the things that you talk about is triage for soul care. Why don’t you unpack that for us, both as in what we do in life and what writers need to do to make that first step into triage?

Edie: I think it’s really important when we’re in a season of busyness or a season of stress that we take a look at the stressors, the things that are causing us to not have peace or that are keeping us from peace. That’s what I mean by triage. I usually take time when I find myself in that place of challenge, and I spend some time with God looking at all of the things that are stressing me out. 

I ask him, “Is this something that I’m supposed to walk through? Is this something that you’re going to build a bridge over? Or is this something that I just need to turn my back on?”

I think once we know what we’re dealing with, and we allow God to speak into those circumstances, then he can help us navigate what’s ahead with peace. Because we see it again and again, in Jesus’ ministry, he had all of these chaotic situations, but he walked into them and he brought peace. 

I think that’s what we do as writers with our words. When we are allowing God to work through us, we have the Holy Spirit who can take those words that we put on paper, and he can speak peace into any circumstance that our readers are facing. But first we have to know how we’re supposed to navigate where we are.

Karen: I think why Jesus took so much time going away and praying was in essence for doing that spiritual triage and going to the Father and saying, “What is this? What do you want me to do?” He was constantly plugging himself into the source that the Father is, not just for him, but also for us.

I mean, God has promised us his presence. God has promised us his power and his peace. And we just forget. We say things like, “Well, at least I can pray for you.” And yet prayer is the most amazing, powerful, effective thing that we can do. 

Erin: I really like that idea of the triage, because I think you’re right. Like some of those things we can turn our back on and we might feel helpless, and going to prayer and getting that, “Yeah, turn your back on that.” You know, that’s okay. It’s like it’s a weight off. Or knowing you have to walk through something. It’s God saying, “I’m going to be with you, though. I’m going to be with you.” 

So I love that as just a way to start moving forward and get stuff off our plate that shouldn’t be there to begin with. That’s genius. We can all do that in the new year. 

What are some other things? I’d love to know, what are some good things that writers can do as they’re starting this new year to put new habits or tactics into place to better do soul care?

Edie: I think my one hard and fast rule with writing, and as you all know, there are no hard and fast rules with writing, but I do have one, and that is before my fingers hit the keyboard, I pray. I don’t care if I’m scheduling social media, if I’m going on Facebook, whatever it is. The fact is that God wants to use my writing to touch others and to work through the words that I put on the screen or on paper or wherever they go.

I can’t be an effective conduit if I am not first connected with God. That is just the one thing that I think every writer can do. Pray first. 

Another thing I think we need to do is I think we need to leave behind the baggage of comparison. I think so often we are comparing ourselves to each other. We’re comparing ourselves to expectations. Comparisons are just a trap from the enemy. I think the only person we need to be concerned about when it comes to our writing is God. And whether or not we’re being obedient. 

Karen: Right. Gee, you’re saying everything right. I love this! 

Erin: Comparisons are toxic. It’s poison. What do you think are some ways we can identify when we’re doing that? Are there key words that might help us identify it and say to ourselves, “Oh, wait, you’re comparing yourself. Don’t do that”? 

Edie: I think anytime that I am looking anywhere but God for confirmation or affirmation, then I have fallen into the comparison trap.

Anytime I'm looking anywhere but God for confirmation or affirmation, I've fallen into the comparison trap. #amwriting #christianwriter @ediemelson Click To Tweet

When I’m looking at how many numbers I’ve got, how many reviews I’ve got, what my reviewers say, whether this person has a contract or an opportunity that I don’t have, I am falling into that comparison trap. 

Karen: Amen. Anytime we look outside, anytime we look at anyone other than the Lord. It’s so easy to get our eyes focused on what God is doing for others and forget what he’s done for us.

Erin: Yeah. “But she… but he… but her…”

Karen: “But, Lord I’ve been doing this so much longer and I don’t have that many contracts…” 

Erin: Right. Are there other things that you can think of that might be good practices for us, besides praying, besides avoiding comparison? Are there other things we could maybe put into practice? 

Edie: I think it’s really important to write regularly. Now I have a real issue with people who say you must write every day. Because I think God calls us to different seasons and different walks, actually. When my kids were young, it was not possible for me to write every day, but I wrote on a schedule and I wrote regularly.

I think that’s another one of those things that we can let happen. We let these voices creep into our minds and tell us that we’re doing it wrong. And I think we need to remember that the voice of the enemy can often use our voice to speak, or the voice of someone we love, to speak lies to us. We have to be careful who we let speak truth into our lives. We can’t always shut up the voices, but we can decide whether or not we’re going to accept what is said as God’s truth.

We have to be careful who we let speak truth into our lives. #amwriting #christianwriter @ediemelson Click To Tweet

Karen: Yeah. Again, looking at the contents in your book Soul Care When You’re Weary, I’m going to have to get a copy of this. I really love what I’m seeing here. Your first chapter, like I said, is triage. Then you talk about rediscovering peace, and then you talk about reconnecting with prayer play. I love that term prayer play, which you also described as worship, and then you move into letting go. 

It’s interesting because so many of us think that we have to do that step, that letting go, at the beginning. That we have to let go. But I think that it’s perfect because as we re-enter and rediscover peace, and as we reconnect with prayer, that enables us then to let go. To let go of things like failure and to let go of those comparisons and to enter into that spirit of rest, enter into dwelling in God. 

But you don’t stop there. You go to moving on to joy. I’ve always felt that too often we stop with surrender and forget that there is joy. When we go into surrender, when we enter into that union with God, where we are focused on him and we stay grounded in him, joy comes regardless. Even if we’re grieving, even if we’re in pain, there is joy because of the knowledge of who it is that is with us and stands with us in the midst of it all. 

Edie: Amen. It’s so important to realize that when God calls us to something, the ability to discern whether or not it’s God’s call is not how miserable we are when we do it. So often we feel like, “If God really called me to this, then it would have to be hard, or difficult, or misery.”

In truth, God wants us to be joyful and to enjoy the gifts that he’s given us. 

Erin: Yeah. Amen. I’m curious about the prayer play. Just describe that a little bit. That’s interesting. 

Edie: I used to be very intimidated by prayer. I was surrounded by a lot of people at my church and in my women’s ministry who were really good pray-ers, especially out loud. I avoided praying out loud because I didn’t think I was doing it right. I was looking for a formula and a way to do it. 

What God showed me is that prayer is what everybody knows. It’s a conversation. And you can’t do a conversation wrong when you’re building a relationship, and when you trust the person you’re talking to.

He showed me that my prayers don’t have to be solemn, wordy, or formal. He showed me that I can go outside and I can sing prayers to him. I can laugh prayers to him. I can just enjoy the conversation wherever I am. 

Erin: I love it. It’s just, it’s a way for us to connect. It’s a way for us to connect with him. That’s prayer. And I’ll just mention, you were comparing yourself, like we all so often do, so no wonder that didn’t go well.

Our time is almost up, but do you have some final words of wisdom you’d want to leave with our listeners? 

Edie: I think the thing I hope everyone takes away from this is the fact that God wants that relationship. There are times in our lives, like when my dad was dying from Alzheimer’s and we were in the midst of a caregiving season when I couldn’t go deep in a Bible study with God. I couldn’t spend hours in prayer or in anything.

But God showed me that as long as I am focused on him, he is every bit as able and powerful in those in-between moments to give me the soul care I need to get me through what I’m going through as if I could become a hermit for a month. 

God is not dependent on my ability to spend time. God is dependent on nothing. But he’s waiting for me to give him the bits and pieces of time that I have in those seasons of busyness that he has called me to. 

Erin: I love that. 

Karen: Those are such great words, Edie. I’m so glad that you’ve been with us today. 

Friends, as you take a look at this new year coming up, and as you consider everything that is being impacted, your career, your family, your life, all of that, I encourage you to take these words to heart. Ground yourself in the Lord. Go deeper with God and do some soul care so that you know you can stand firm in the one who has called you to share with others the words that he’s given you and the one who loves you beyond anything we can imagine. 

Happy New Year to all of you! May it be a year steeped in God’s blessing and peace.

Erin: Amen.

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

How do you do soul care?

Books by Edie Melson mentioned in the podcast

Soul Care for Writers by Edie Melson

Soul Care for Writers by Edie Melson

Soul Care When You’re Weary by Edie Melson

Soul Care When You're Weary by Edie Melson

As 2022 gets started, we need soul care! Guest Edie Melson shares how to do soul care all year long. #amwriting #christianwriter @ediemelson Click To Tweet
THE NOVEL MARKETING PODCAST

We’re so grateful for the sponsorship from the Novel Marketing Podcast, with host Thomas Umstattd Jr. It’s the longest running book marketing podcast in the world. We know and trust Thomas, and his podcast is full of great information and advice—like Novel Marketing’s 10 Commandments of Book Marketing, which we’re going to be bringing you.

Commandment #7: Thou shalt weigh thine options before investing in marketing.

Investing in marketing is a given. Every successful author does so. But how much of which resources do you invest?For example, one resource is time, and another is money. They’re both valuable. But how much do you have of each? And how do you allocate them?

You can’t spend the same marketing dollar on two different things. You’ve got to choose. Nor can you spend the same hour of time on two different things. There is always going to be a cost: a thing you chose and a thing you didn’t choose. The best thing you can do for yourself is understand and weigh your options so you can make the best decisions you can.

 And remember, you also need to be asking the right question when it comes to marketing. Don’t ask: will this tactic or thing I want to try help me sell more books? Lots of things can help you sell more books. Ask instead: Will this help me sell more books than the next best alternative?

For that, again, you need to know what those alternatives are. Listening to the Novel Marketing Podcast is a great way to be informed about those options, which is why we recommend that show. For more book promotion and platform help listen to Novel Marketing in your favorite podcast app or at NovelMarketing.com

THANK YOU!

Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

Thanks so much to our January sponsor of the month, Wendy L. Macdonald. Not only is Wendy a writer, she also produces a weekly, short, inspirational podcast on Spotify called Hope Walking with Wendy.

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. for their fabulous sound editing!

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156 – How the Incarnation Can Rejuvenate Your Writing

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Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young How the Incarnation Can Rejuvenate Your Writing Write from the Deep podcastThe incarnation. The wonder of God, in human form, dwelling with us. These are more than just words. They are a profound reality filled with mystery and sacrifice and wonder. But do we really embrace this reality? Join us as we savor and explore this deep wonder—a miracle that has the power to refill our creative well and nurture our weary spirit.

But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

During this time of year, many Christians celebrate Advent. Advent comes from the Latin word adventus and literally means “coming.” Or we can think of it as “arrival.”

One of the definitions that Merriam-Webster lists is “the coming of Christ at the Incarnation.”

We hope you’ll take some time for rest and reflection this Christmas season. To stop for even just the duration of this podcast, if nothing else, to rejoice and focus on the miracle of the incarnation. The miracle of God with us. We hope it will refresh your perspective on how our amazing God is and why he breathed life and creativity into us, and why we write.

The Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen, came to earth as a tiny, helpless baby to restore the relationship we broke, to make a way for us to have peace with God. Listen in as we share Scriptures and quotes for you to immerse yourself in.

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. [Jesus]  is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” Colossians 1:13-20 (ESV)

I love the focus of that passage, because it twice tells us that Jesus is fully God. And always was fully God. It’s important not to confuse the incarnation as being the point where Jesus came into existence. That isn’t the case—he was always in existence. Joseph Scheumann stresses this in his article “Five Truths about the Incarnation.” He writes:

“The virgin conception and birth in Bethlehem does not mark the beginning of the Son of God. Rather, it marks the eternal Son entering physically into our world and becoming one of us.”

REFLECTING ON THE INCARNATION HELPS US EMRACE THE MYSTERY

Scheumann also wants us to remember that the incarnation is still a mystery in many ways:

“Answering how it could be that one person could be both fully God and fully man is not a question that the Scriptures focus on.”

Scheumann also quotes Deuteronomy, where Moses writes:

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Deuteronomy 29:29 (ESV)

The apostle Peter also speaks of this mystery:

“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.” 1 Peter 1:8-12 (ESV)

Even though the “how” of the incarnation is still a mystery, consider the blessing we have—we’re on the other side of Jesus’ birth on Earth, just as those Peter was writing to were. While we don’t have Jesus in physical form walking among us, we KNOW the person and time of God’s coming to us, the time the prophets spoke about, the time the prophets could only imagine and wonder at. We have the accounts of what happened when God became flesh, and when he suffered, died, and rose again and established the Kingdom of God, the already-not-yet Kingdom. 

This is what many of us write about. This time we’re living in, when Jesus is active in Spirit in this world, doing his work of redemption in the lives of us who inhabit this weary physical world. But what a time of wonder made possible by these prophecies come to pass. These prophecies of God made flesh and of His Kingdom coming.

Reflecting on the incarnation helps us understand the sacrifice

The incarnation also makes us consider the staggering reality of what Jesus, in becoming human, had to give up.

“When the time came, [Jesus] set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.” Philippians 2:5-8 (MSG)

Here are more great quotes for reflecting on what the incarnation meant for Jesus. You can find these and more at thepastorsworkshop.com:

The ways Jesus goes about loving and saving the world are personal: nothing disembodied, nothing abstract, nothing impersonal. Incarnate, flesh and blood, relational, particular and local.” Eugene Peterson

“Jesus loved the will of His Father. He embraced the limitations, the necessities, the conditions, the very chains of His humanity as He walked and worked here on earth, fulfilling moment by moment His divine commission and the stern demands of His incarnation. Never was there a word or even a look of complaint.” Elizabeth Elliot

The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation.” J.I. Packer

To achieve the divine purpose of becoming the Savior, the divine glory needed to be veiled. Christ voluntarily, moment by moment, submitted to human limitations apart from sin. The humiliation was temporary. The incarnation was everlasting.” John F. Walvoord — a Christian theologian, pastor, and president of Dallas Theological Seminary from 1952 to 1986.

“What self denial! What self abasement! What self emptying! He, whom no infinitudes can hold, is contained within infant’s age, and infant’s form. Can it be, that the great ‘I AM THAT I AM’ shrinks into our flesh?”  Henry Law, author and pastor of a church in England in the late 1800s.

“Man’s maker was made man that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast; that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on its journey; that Truth might be accused of false witnesses, the Teacher be beaten with whips, the Foundation be suspended on wood; that Strength might grow weak; that the Healer might be wounded; that Life might die.” Augustine of Hippo

This is from a preface that C.S. Lewis wrote to the first part of a new translation of the New Testament by J.B. Phillips.

“The New Testament in the original Greek is not a work of literary art: it is not written in a solemn, ecclesiastical language, it is written in the sort of Greek which was spoken over the Eastern Mediterranean after Greek had become an international language and therefore lost its real beauty and subtlety. In it we see Greek used by people who have no real feeling for Greek words because Greek words are not the words they spoke when they were children. It is sort of ‘basic’ Greek; a language without roots in the soil, a utilitarian, commercial and administrative language. Does this shock us? It ought not to, except as the Incarnation itself ought to shock us. The same divine humility which decreed that God should become a baby at a peasant-woman’s breast, and later an arrested field-preacher in the hands of the Roman police, decreed also that He should be preached in a vulgar, prosaic and unliterary language. If you can stomach the one, you can stomach the other. The Incarnation is in that sense, an irreverent doctrine: Christianity, in that sense, an incurably irreverent religion. When we expect that it should have come before the world in all the beauty that we now feel in the Authorised Version we are as wide of the mark as the Jews were in expecting that the Messiah would come as a great earthly King. The real sanctity, the real beauty and sublimity of the New Testament (as of Christ’s life) are of a different sort: miles deeper or further in…” C.S. Lewis

Here’s a quote by J.B. Phillips, who wrote the Phillips version of the New Testament that C.S. Lewis was talking about:

“The modern intelligent mind, which has had its horizons widened in dozens of different ways, has got to be shocked afresh by the audacious central fact that as a sober matter of history, God become one of us.”  J.B. Phillips

The next two quotes (and more) for reflection can be found at wolfmueller.co:

“What shall I say! And how shall I describe this Birth to you? For this wonder fills me with astonishment. The Ancient of days has become an infant. He Who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a manger…” St. John Chrysostom, Nativity Sermon

“The Bread of Heaven came down to earth to feed the hungry.” Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesis 12

We’ve given lots of quotes about the sacrifice, the humiliation of the incarnation, and the wonder of it, but what about the motivation? Every good story, fiction or nonfiction, is driven by people with reasons for doing what they do. What is God’s motivation for the incarnation?

Reflecting on the incarnation helps us embrace god’s love

We often think of the next verse as a salvation verse, but it’s also an advent verse, because it tells WHY God became flesh and made his dwelling among us: because of God’s great love for us.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (ESV)

In his book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, W. Phillip Keller wrote:

Here we commemorate the greatest and deepest demonstration of true love the world has ever known. For God looked down upon sorrowing, struggling, sinning humanity and was moved with compassion for the contrary, sheep-like creatures He had made. In spite of the tremendous personal cost it would entail to Himself to deliver them from their dilemma He chose deliberately to descend and live amongst them that He might deliver them. This meant laying aside His splendor, His position, His prerogatives as the perfect and faultless One. He knew He would be exposed to terrible privation, to ridicule, to false accusations, to rumor, gossip and malicious charges that branded Him as a glutton, drunkard, friend of sinners and even an imposter. It entailed losing His reputation. It would involve physical suffering, mental anguish and spiritual agony. In short, His coming to earth as the Christ, as Jesus of Nazareth, was a straightforward case of utter self-sacrifice that culminated in the cross of Calvary. The laid-down life, the poured-out blood were the supreme symbols of total selflessness. This was love. This was God.  This was divinity in action, delivering men from their own utter selfishness, their own stupidity, their own suicidal instincts as lost sheep unable to help themselves.” W. Phillip Keller, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 (affiliate link)

Reflecting on the incarnation helps us embrace hope

The apostle Paul writes to Titus about God’s love, but also the hope that the incarnation brings us:

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7 (ESV)

These other quotes also help us embrace the hope we have in God:

“He who was born at Bethlehem is God, and ‘God with us.’ God—there lies the majesty; ‘God with us,’ there lies the mercy. God—therein is glory; ‘God with us,’ therein is grace. God alone might well strike us with terror; but ‘God with us’ inspires us with hope and confidence.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon, God with Us: Reflections on the Incarnation (affiliate link)

“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.” Isaiah 57:15

Reflecting on the incarnation helps us embrace God’s rest

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus instructs us to come to him, a person who is God and yet a man. Jesus doesn’t tell us to come to a religion or a set of rules, but a person. God is relational, and in that relationship we find rest.  

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Paul talks about our freedom and rest in his letter to the Galatians:

“But then the chosen time came. God sent his Son. A woman gave birth to him. He was born under the authority of the law. He came to set free those who were under the authority of the law.” Galatians 4:4-5

Reflecting on the incarnation helps us embrace a holy life

Another thing we can see in those previous verses in Galatians is that even though Paul is talking about the law, meaning God’s Old Testament rules, the ten commandments and all that is commanded in the Torah to set apart the Israelites, this passage also reminds us that Jesus was born under the broken human institutions at the time: a brutal Roman government. They were dealing with bitter oppression. But what Jesus addressed was the spiritual condition of the people.

Yes, Jesus healed people, but those physical illnesses weren’t his main emphasis. The healings often were about showing his authority to address the spiritual issues. So at Christmas, even with all the upheaval of our world and the political problems, let’s make sure we take time to look at our spiritual condition as Christ did when God became man in our broken world. Are we living a holy life?

“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” 2 Timothy 1:9-10 (NIV)

Reflecting on the incarnation helps us embrace wonder and joy

When we think about all the incarnation was and is, is it any wonder that when the angels came to bring the news to us on earth, a whole host of heavenly angels burst into song?

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’” Luke 2:8-14

So stop, right now. Imagine it. You’re settled back against a boulder, gazing over your flock of sheep, watchful. A light brighter than anything you’ve ever seen splits the darkness. Startled, you look up, and fall on your knees, for there, all around you, are angels singing the sweetest, most powerful Gloria in excelsis Deo. Glory to God in the highest! You jump up and run to Bethlehem. To a stable. And there, in the straw, amidst the livestock, you find the baby. As you stand awestruck at the tiny bundle of holiness, you hear, as we all do still today, the call that rings through our hearts and spirits:

Come to Bethlehem and see Him whose birth the angels sing;

Come, adore on bended knee, Christ the Lord, the newborn King.

Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Gloria in excelsis Deo!

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How does the incarnation inspire you?

THE NOVEL MARKETING PODCAST

We’re grateful for a sponsorship from the Novel Marketing Podcast, with host Thomas Umstattd Jr. It’s the longest running book marketing podcast in the world. We know and trust Thomas, and his podcast is full of great information and advice—like Novel Marketing’s 10 Commandments of Book Marketing, which we’ve been bringing you.

This week we’re talking about Commandment #6: Thou Shalt Own Thine Own Platform.

You only need to look around at what’s happening in the world today, where a social media platform can cancel you in a heartbeat and you lose access to the readers you may have spent years growing. Or those platforms can make you pay, anytime they want, in order for your audience (that you worked so hard to cultivate!) to see your posts. And this has happened.

That makes growing your platform on those types of ground an unwise investment. Own your platform. The two most important things for you to own is your website and your newsletter list. This is what you should be spending time and money developing.

Your website is your home base. It’s a place readers can find you, a place you own, so it can never be taken away from you. And your newsletter is how you communicate directly with your readers. Again, those email addresses can never be taken away from you by some company that decides to cancel you.

For more book promotion and platform help listen to Novel Marketing in your favorite podcast app or at NovelMarketing.com.

THANK YOU!

Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

Thanks so much to our December sponsor of the month, K.D. Aster. She’s hard at work on her novel: Kingdom of Azur, and we’re excited to see how it turns out!

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. for their fabulous sound editing!

STAY CONNECTED

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155 – Thriving as a Writer During the Holidays

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Thriving as a Writer During the Holidays Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungSo many writers find themselves torn between writing during the holidays and spending time with family and friends. If they take time off, they feel guilty or like they’re being “unprofessional.” But it’s not only okay to take time off, it’s beneficial! We’ve got great ideas from other writers to help you thrive during the holidays in a way that refreshes your heart, spirit, and creativity.

But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

We’re into early December now, in the midst of the holiday season. For some of us, we’re feeling frantic and hurried, perhaps with writing deadlines, or holiday parties, or chaotic households, or even just trying to buy a Christmas present with disrupted supply chains.

We don’t want this holiday season to be just another event you struggle to survive. Instead, we want you to thrive. So, let’s talk about some of the ways we can do that. We’ve asked for input from other writers and editors so we’ll be reading parts of their answers and adding some of our own thoughts.

Professionalism

First, let’s deal with the practical aspects of whether we even try to write during the holiday season. Is it unprofessional to say you’re a writer, or an editor, and then not write or edit during the holidays?

Author and editor Karin Beery has this to say:

“Skipping meetings and missing deadlines is unprofessional, but taking time off for the holidays isn’t inherently unprofessional. I choose to take two weeks off every year at Christmas because I travel to see family and spend time relaxing at home. I don’t take any clients during that time and I let my current ones know that I’ll be unavailable during that time period. I’ve never had a problem.”

It’s great that she lets people know she’s unavailable, that she’s out of the office! If we do that, we don’t have to feel bad if we don’t answer emails right away or whatever. We’ve already let people know what to expect.

Karin continues:

“That’s one of the joys of owning my own freelance business. I make my own hours. I plan ahead to make sure it will work. My husband works a “traditional” job, but he’s been able to take 10 days off at Christmas each year for several years now (with three different employers)…I know several editors, agents, and writers who work through the holidays. If that works for them, that’s great! It’s not my preference, though. That doesn’t mean they’re more professional than me. It just means we have different priorities.”

Hallee Bridgeman adds this:

“For some writers, children being home in unusual times means you can’t write. I never used to schedule writing time during children’s school vacations…I worked vacation time into their vacation times and didn’t even try. I had all the school holidays off of work and summer breaks to boot. And I’ve written 36 books in 9 years, so I think I’m doing pretty well maintaining a professional standard.”

Best-selling author Deborah Raney says:

“One of the reasons I chose writing as a career was because it would allow me to work from home, schedule my deadlines around my kids being home in the summer, and take vacation time as needed.”

She agrees that we should be professional in our conduct, and then she says:

“Many people choose jobs based on the flexibility of hours and free time, etc. That’s a perk of being a writer, so I wouldn’t hesitate to take advantage of it as long as I’m not delaying my publisher or failing to hold up my end of the financial income for my family.”

It’s interesting to me (Karen) that someone would even ask whether it’s unprofessional because most professions allow vacation time. For many of us, and I count myself in that group of professionals who take time off, family is our #2 priority (God, of course, is #1). We spend extra time during the holidays to focus on family and friends, to celebrate Christ and draw closer to Him and each other.

That doesn’t mean we aren’t professional in our job as writers. In fact, I’ve always found that taking that time off and focusing on other things refreshes my creative juices. So I do it first because I want to, and then also because it’s beneficial for my writing.

Gail Pallotta says:

“For me writing during the holidays means wrapping up my tasks at least two weeks before Christmas, so I can devote time to my family and the season…I usually put up a Christmas blog, which I write ahead and post right before Christmas. If I have a deadline to submit edits or a finished product by Christmas, I complete the work early, even though I might go over it right before the deadline. As for social media, during this time of year I limit my posts, and many of them pertain to Christmas. I send a Christmas newsletter but like to have it finished and emailed around the first week in December.”

What about those who can’t take time off? After all, sometimes you don’t have control over your deadline.

Best-selling author Cara Putnam says this:

“I learned this one the hard way. Be realistic about the family and holiday commitments. Then be relentless to write around that. Invariably I’ve had books due January 1 to 15th.”

I love the advice about being realistic. Sometimes we’re too much of an optimist, thinking we’ll get more done than normal, or that we’ll have more discipline than normal. But when the whole family is gathered around a cozy fire, or drinking hot cider and watching It’s a Wonderful Life, we’re not going to want to head off to our writing desk, so we have to plan ways to adjust our schedule. If we can, plan more writing before the holidays or get your family on board with what you need to do during the holidays so they can help you.

Celebration

Tamera Alexander, another best-selling author, says:

“I mark off the last two weeks of December. Always. Between Belmont and neighborhood parties, and annual ‘friends’ parties, and then cooking and baking and hosting everyone, from the middle of December through the first few days of January is ‘off’ for me…So basically, I write up until mid-December then totally surrender to the season. Then come back in January and start again.”

I love that phrase surrender to the season. For many, that includes parties and celebrating. And I love that God himself celebrates things. In fact in Zephaniah 3:17 there’s a picture of God celebrating:

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

If God celebrates, then we, as his image bearers should also celebrate.

Psychologist Polly Campbell, in an online article for PsychologyToday.com, says:

“Any celebration, big or small, is really about taking a beat to notice the good stuff in your life. It can also be a reminder of our talents and abilities, skills and persistence. Drawing on those things can motivate us to keep working toward our goals.”

It’s so important to be purposeful about celebration. Campbell says doing so “boosts our well-being,” and who couldn’t use a good well-being boost? Social psychology researcher Fred Bryant is among those who say stopping to savor the good stuff helps create a buffer against the bad and build resilience.

Campbell stresses:

“Even mini-celebrations can plump up the positive emotions which make it easier to manage the daily challenges that cause major stress. When we have something to look forward to…we feel more optimistic.”

Refreshing our Spirit and our creativity

Gail Pallotta says:

“I see the Christmas season as a time to remember Christ’s coming and the great sacrifice He made for us and a time to do what I can to spread joy to others. Of course, we should always do that, but Christmas calls us to focus more intensely on Jesus and what our faith means to us and what we should do for others because we are blessed. I’m spiritually refreshed most especially at the Christmas Eve service and that in turn spills over into my writing.”

I love that she talks about being spiritually refreshed, that’s so important. I think there are ways we can be creatively refreshed during the holidays as well.

Laurie Sibley says:

“I try to remember that thinking about my story, reading lovely books, being in cozy Christmassy settings, reflecting on our Savior, and maybe squeezing in a romantic date(!), all count as ‘research and writing,’ even if they’re not actually the act of putting the story down on paper. So if there’s not time to scribe during the few weeks around Christmas or while family is in town, I can still be engaged in the process of writing. Then I’m refreshed and ready to get back to a more regular writing schedule when January arrives.”

I think it’s important, as creatives, as imitators of God, our Creator, that we stretch our creative muscles. In Todd Henry’s book The Accidental Creative (affiliate link), he talks about “unnecessary creativity,” which is basically doing creative things without any pressure of performance or judgment. Without any pressure that it has to lead to some amazing thing in and of itself. It’s just creating for the sake of creating, kind of like when I take pictures of birds just because I like to look at God’s handiwork. Giving ourselves permission, and even encouragement, to do these things because we’re inspired by the holiday season is a great way to nourish ourselves and thrive during the holiday season.

I (Karen) have a good friend, author Lori Benton, who loves to bake. She creates these remarkable things. One year she made these Christmas mice cookies. It’s an amazing outlet for her creativity. In the way we decorate we can refresh our creativity. In the way we even walk around and savor God’s creation, his beauty. Making gifts, giving gifts, singing, all of that is a way to express creativity in ways other than writing.

Dare I (Erin) say that even the housecleaning you do around the holidays can feel refreshing? I know for me, if I’m having company, it’s nice to have a cleaner house if possible. I might even be persuaded to clean the refrigerator so all my Christmas goodies will fit in it. Admittedly, cleaning can be tiring, but for me, it’s creating order out of chaos, and that gives me a sense of peace and calm.

Gratitude

Thanksgiving seems like the point where we start getting ready for Christmas holidays. We celebrate and savor Thanksgiving, but we need to carry that spirit of thanksgiving, of gratitude, throughout the entire season and into the new year.

One way to do that is to create a gratitude box. Everybody who’s going to be around for Thanksgiving or Christmas can write on a paper what they’re grateful for and put it in the box. Then you have a time to take those out and read them to each other. It’s amazing to share gratitude with each other.

I see people doing this online. They’re posting over the course of several days what they’re grateful for. Whatever it is, let’s extend that spirit of thanksgiving all the way through the next year.

Grieving, Remembering, and honoring

But we don’t want to forget that for some, the holiday season can be a painful reminder of loss, of friends and family they miss, of loneliness, of difficult health issues, or grief.

Gail Kittleson says:

“Years ago I read about Advent being the ‘season of darkness and possibility.’ With the increased awareness of losses in our lives that comes with the holidays, I make it a point to try to embrace both the darkness—part of being a whole human being—and the possibilities. With all kinds of things to detract from the true meaning of Jesus’ birth, I attempt to focus on how He’s WITH US—Emmanuel—regardless of our challenges any particular year. And of course, that brings us to the wonderful possibilities of growth, serenity, and peace, at least in our own spheres.”

She goes on to say:

“Remembering, gratitude, depths and heights of the year gone by, topics like these seem to come naturally during this time. Memoir-like—or creative nonfiction,  if you like—snippets or essays that surface and beg to be written down.”

You can journal, you can write these things down so you don’t forget them. You can never tell when these nuggets will end up in a book or whether God just wants them to be for you, for your own heart and spirit.

In my (Karen’s) family, the holidays, any holiday but especially Thanksgiving through New Years, overflowed with fun and laughter and worship. My mother was the queen of celebration, and she instilled in me a love of celebration as well. When my mom died and those holidays came around that year, it was so painful to realize how different everything was without her.

But because she’d instilled that love of celebrating in me, I made a conscious effort to make new traditions, new ways to celebrate. I had to do the same thing in 2016 when my dad died. When you lose people who are an integral part of your celebrations, it’s important to give yourself time to grieve, however long that is. But a time will come when the memories of them bring smiles and gratitude. That’s a great time to reevaluate your holiday celebrations and make them both an honoring of those who are gone, and a celebration of all we still have.

Reflecting and Refocusing

One last thing we want to mention to help us thrive during the holiday season is to use this season to reflect, recenter, and refocus for next year.

Writer Christy Bass Adams says:

“What I typically do as a writer over the Christmas holidays, is pick a book that is deep and has a thought provoking theme. Something that will lead me to a place of reflection about the year behind and towards a place of anticipation and planning for the year to come. As I read the book, I make time to journal about what I’m learning and pick out the pieces I want to focus on in the new year. Lots of self reflection about successes and failures and future directions. A great time to recenter.”

I think this is a great idea. Especially in that time between Christmas and New Year’s Day when our schedule may be more relaxed. We’ve enjoyed time with friends or family, we’ve eaten good food, (and for me, we have leftovers and I don’t need to cook), and so it feels like a good time to open ourselves to new ideas for the new year. To pray and ponder our focus and what we want the coming year to look like.

One other thing you can do over the holidays is read. All those books on your TBR pile? Those books loading down your e-reader? Take time over the holidays to read and highlight what you like or love in the books. Make notes that will help you in your writing. Reading is an excellent way to refresh your creativity. And since reading is a part of your job as a writer, you can even feel good about doing that!

Taking time to savor and celebrate during the holidays is imperative to writers. We’ve got to give ourselves time to refresh, to let our creativity spark again, to recenter our focus. God calls us to celebrate, to come and worship, to enter into the wonder of the holidays. Let’s do that with an open heart, knowing that God is in control of what we write and when we write it. If he gives us freedom to take time off, then we need to do that, and come out of that time with a renewed sense of anticipation of what we’ll write. What we’ll have to share with a weary world that desperately needs it.

Worried about striking the right balance between writing and family over the holidays? Check out these ideas to help you not just survive, but thrive! #amwriting #Christianwriter Click To Tweet
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

What are some of your favorite things to do during the holiday season? In what ways do those things refresh you?

THE NOVEL MARKETING PODCAST

We’re grateful for a sponsorship from the Novel Marketing Podcast, with host Thomas Umstattd Jr. It’s the longest running book marketing podcast in the world. We know and trust Thomas, and his podcast is full of great information and advice—like Novel Marketing’s 10 Commandments of Book Marketing, which we’ve been bringing you.

This week we’re talking about Commandment #5: Thou shalt not dig thy well whilst thou art thirsty.

It takes time and money to develop your craft and build your platform. A successful writing journey isn’t an overnight trip, so don’t fall prey to anyone who promises that it is. You have to plan ahead and work at a pace you can sustain over the long haul.

Be leery of anyone who offers you an instant audience for a price, or who offers instant sales. They’re typically better at taking your money than anything else. They’re taking advantage of your desire to make a quick profit from your writing.

Instead, create a budget for both your time and money, no matter how small the amount, and stick to it. Don’t go into debt, and don’t bet the farm. Your goal is steady growth over the long term.

For more book promotion and platform help listen to Novel Marketing in your favorite podcast app or at NovelMarketing.com.

THANK YOU!

Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

Thanks so much to our December sponsor of the month, K.D. Aster. She’s hard at work on her novel: Kingdom of Azur, and we’re excited to see how it turns out!

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. for their fabulous sound editing!

STAY CONNECTED

Want the latest news from Karen and Erin? Click here to join our newsletter and get an exclusive audio download.