According to Merriam-Webster surrender means: to agree to stop fighting, hiding, resisting, etc., because you know that you will not win or succeed. to give the control or use of (something) to someone else.
One morning in a coffee shop in Madison Georgia we met to discuss our next writing project and faced a moment of surrender. Not a waving the white flag kind of moment but a sinking into the acceptance of God’s will. Were we going to be all in for God with our writing? In our faith journey we must reach that point of no return with God, “to stop fighting, hiding, resisting, etc.”
After writing children’s books for twenty years – writing hard, striving pushing, promoting – the success was good and sweet. Just the letters from children alone were worth the effort. When we started The Shepherd’s Song we had never written a book for adults – all our manuscripts had been less than 100 pages long. All of our contacts in publishing were in the children’s world. Writing a book for adults seemed a little ill-advised and crazy.
We had written down the title. We had discussed the idea. We fought it at first. But the idea sat before us on a piece of paper on the table of the coffee shop. Beside the paper an open Bible turned to Psalm 23.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. Ps 23:1
The very words that prompted our idea challenged us as writers. Could we believe God’s promises in the psalm? Sometimes our first reaction to a calling from God is fear and resistance. “We can’t” “We have never” “There’s no way” We said all those things but as we let go of our resistance and surrendered to the idea, the fear was replaced by excitement.
Try to give your agenda to God. Keep saying, ‘Your will be done, not mine.’ Give every part of your heart and your time to God and let God tell you what to do, where to go, when and how to respond. God does not want you to destroy yourself. Exhaustion, burnout, and depression are not signs that you are doing God’s will. God is gentle and loving. God desires to give you a deep sense of safety in God’s love. Once you have allowed yourself to experience that love fully, you will be better able to discern who you are being sent to in God’s name. Henri Nouwen
By the next day we had each completed drafts of one of the first stories of the book. When we surrender we can let go of fear and accept any outcome.
In the surrender of any work there is a moment of fear, a moment of resistance, then a moment of relinquishing and finally the excitement and joy and peace. We have that peace as we move forward in our work trusting God and surrendering to His will. Surrender removes the fear of failure.
Can you relate to this issue of surrender? Where do you struggle with it?
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.
I Corinthians 13:12
There’s something magical about seeing your work published – and you never know when that moment of joy will come. You stroll out to your mailbox one day, not expecting anything special; and voilà, there it is. You rip it open and beam with joy. After all that work, lots of ups and downs, struggles and triumphs, your initial idea has been transformed, and you are face to face with your words in print.
When we first begin a new writing project we are filled with excitement and hope and promise. We have no idea what the finished product will look like, but we eagerly rewrite, get critiques, rewrite again and again – all the while watching a transformation take place. We eventually pass it on to an editor and illustrator, where more transformation occurs. Then eventually, it is finished.
The Shepherd’s Song was like this. When the idea came, we did not know what the final book would look like. We had to have faith that our work would be shaped and used by God. We got glimpses of the final book along the way. First the printed pages. Then the cover art. The bound galley. A jacket proof. Finally face to face we held the book.
The Christian life too, is filled with ups and downs, struggles and triumphs, joys and sorrows. Like a book, our lives are being written, edited and transformed. We start with great excitement and hope and promise; then transformation begins. It’s hard work, but slowly we are transformed more and more to the image of Christ.
Best of all, there is a moment coming when all the work will be done, and we will see our Savior face to face. It is hard to imagine what such a moment will be like – the magnification of joy and awe and wonder.
Our experiences in this world teach us about God, and transform us more and more into His image.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Not to us, LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.
There’s a question we should ask ourselves at the beginning of each creative endeavor: a painting, a musical piece, a book, a meal for our families, a fingerpainting project with the kids.
The question is: “Why?” Why are we making it, singing it, sewing it, cooking it, writing it?
The Shepherd’s Song dedication page has only three letters: SDG. But those three letters represent so much to us. The letters stand for the Latin term, Soli Deo Gloria, which means Glory to God Alone. Artists like Bach and Handel wrote these letters on their work to show that the work was created for the purpose of praising God.
In the creation of their compositions they found meaning and purpose by dedicating their work to God for His glory. It changed their work from earthly work to holy work.
To God alone belongs the glory.
We can ask the same question about all of our creative efforts. Are they for God’s glory or for our own glory? What is the intent of our hearts as we paint and write and cook and care for others?
If we can add those three letters, any work becomes holy work.
What difference does is make if our goal in all our endeavors is God’s glory? What do you think?
What does it mean for God to be your shepherd? What does a shepherd do? Why would God’s people be compared to sheep? Research in books taught us a lot. But we needed more.
We found the sheep farm online and scheduled a visit with Keith Odom, a modern day shepherd in North Georgia. There is nothing like a road trip and soon we were on our way. What did we learn about sheep? Lots. But more important is what we learned about The Shepherd. (capital S!)
What captured our imaginations and hearts the most was “Bucket Time”. After Keith would feed the sheep he would take time to sit on the overturned feed bucket and watch the sheep. Some never realized he was there. Some ignored him. Others came looking for another bit of food. But some came, wanting to be with him. What perfect picture of God and our choice of interaction with Him.
It was moving to see how tenderly this man cared for his sheep. How he thought only of their wellbeing. Does God love us like that?
He made himself available to the sheep but never forced their affection. Does God wait for us, hoping that we will come to Him?
Keith rejoiced when the sheep came to him to nuzzle or be petted. He loved their gratitude. Does God rejoice when we remember to thank him for all that he does for us?
The answers that we discovered: Yes, yes, and yes.
Look at the responses of the sheep: Some never realized he was there. Some ignored him. Others came looking for another bit of food. Some came wanting to be with him.
Which response do you relate to in your spiritual journey? He’s waiting for you.
After twenty years of writing for children we felt called to make a change. We had not needed an agent before. Twenty years ago you could still have a manuscript read by a publisher without an agent, especially in the world of children’s books. Once we had a relationship with a publishing house we didn’t feel the need. Now that we were writing a book for adults, The Shepherd’s Song, and we were writing about our faith – the rules had changed. We needed an agent – but how could we find the right one?
Today we are on Vonda Skelton’s blog sharing 10 things we learned about finding an agent on our quest to write and publish The Shepherd’s Song. read more
Try to give your agenda to God. Keep saying, ‘Your will be done, not mine.’ Give every part of your heart and your time to God and let God tell you what to do, where to go, when and how to respond. God does not want you to destroy yourself. Exhaustion, burnout, and depression are not signs that you are doing God’s will. God is gentle and loving. God desires to give you a deep sense of safety in God’s love. Once you have allowed yourself to experience that love fully, you will be better able to discern who you are being sent to in God’s name. Henri J. M. Nouwen
According to Merriam-Webster surrender means: to agree to stop fighting, hiding, resisting, etc., because you know that you will not win or succeed. : to give the control or use of (something) to someone else.
Most writers are also readers. We are no different – we have always loved books. Our first library was the book mobile, a truck packed with books that came through our neighborhood once a week. Our most memorable library growing up in West Virginia was in the basement of the fire station. Our mother, writer and reader that she is, always made a great effort to put books into our hands.
Some of our childhood favorites had a direct impact on us and prepared us to become writers. We are telling about our favorites on Wanda’s blog:
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
Before we decided to collaborate on The Shepherd’s Song, we each had writing careers of our own. In those writing projects we had control of our own books. The thousands of decisions it takes to write and publish a book were all made by one person. Then the change. We decided to work together. Suddenly all those decisions had to be made by two people. That’s more complicated. Read more
Two great days of sharing Psalm 23 were the perfect launch for our book, The Shepherd’s Song.
God’s Word went out on chocolate, cards, books, tissue boxes, cupcakes, water bottles, balloons, cake, dog bandanas, stewed tomatoes and bouquets of spring flowers. Now that’s exciting.
We spent the days sharing Psalm 23 at an urban health clinic, a program for homeless women, a library, a fire station. a hospital, a local park, an urban school, a food bank, a group renovating houses, a retirement home and an ICU waiting room.
Here are some pictures of the fun:
And our favorite moment in video:
What a great two days of celebrating God’s Word and sending out the book and Psalm 23.