April McGowan

On Gratefulness and Gratitude for 2016

85faffdb5ec7d00b5a8b63296d5ab885Yesterday I took some time to ponder this past year. I began compiling a mental list of things that happened in 2016. There were so many blessings.

However, I was quite startled to see a different account on social media. There are more memes and gifs of 2016 blowing up, being burned, and stomped out of existence than I ever remember seeing before of any years in the past. “Good riddance,” was the tamer of most sentiments.

The United States presidential run, the loss of life to terrorism, and the deaths of entertainment icons seem to be garnering the most outrage right now. I’m upset about those things, too, don’t get me wrong. But, I’m always left wondering as we watch remembrance lists of those who have died in the entertainment industry about the others who died. Those in less auspicious careers in ministry, literature, arts and sciences who are even more impactful in our daily lives that no one bothers to compile a list about because they aren’t famous. Or even more importantly, our own loved ones.

And even as I’m pondering these things, and the struggles I’ve faced this year with illness and disability, with loss and unexpected occurrences, I’m still overcome with a spirit of gratitude.

Every day is, truly, a gift. Lest that sound trite, know I spend many hours of those days in bed from illness, but still, they are gift I’m thankful to have.

So as I think back over 2016, the losses aren’t in the forefront of my mind as much as the gratefulness for what has happened. In 2016, after homeschooling her for her whole school career, we graduated our daughter from high school and she stared college. We’ve watch her grow greatly in maturity and responsibility—in compassion and grace. My son entered the last year of middle school, started a blog, grew many inches, and has become a source of comfort when I’m not feeling my best. Despite losing his closest local friends to an out-of-state move, he has found joy and grown in his sense of humor, and is finding new connections. My husband and I grew closer to God through trials and deepened our intimacy with our Savior and one another. I’m grateful for my sister-in-law, the blessing she is to us, and that she’s someone I can count as sister and friend. I’m thankful I got to see all my parents this year and made sweet memories with them. Daily, I’m blessed by good friends and sisters in Christ in countless ways—but mostly by their prayers and words of encouragement.

So, while life moves on, trials come and deep losses are experienced, I’m still grateful to the Lord for the blessings He brings, for the strength He extends, and for the small, sweet moments I enjoy in His company.

I hope and pray that each of you can look back and see pockets of unexplainable joy and peace that Jesus has brought to you despite your circumstances. And I pray that in the coming year you will be even more mindful (as I’m practicing at!) of seeing His gentle, guiding hand in all the hours of your days.

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

 

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On Writing: Writing Conferences

Writing Conferences

Type-TypeOnce people discover I’m an author, they inevitably ask how I got published. I think everyone is hoping for a rags to riches story. When I start talking about the hard work of writing, their reactions vary between eyes glazing over, eyes filling with sympathy, or eyes filling with fear.

It’s those fear-filled eyes I want to address today. Those are the eyes of a secret writer: Someone who wishes they could be published one day, but sees little hope in the dream so they don’t dare hope. I used to have those eyes.

Some eighteen years ago, I began writing my first novel. I’d written a lot of short stories and loads of fan fiction (if you don’t know what that is, no worries. Those who do will nod. It’s a conversation for another time). But a novel was this seemingly insurmountable mountain. Many years and many drafts later, I had what I considered to be a brilliant piece of work and didn’t have a clue what to do with it. So I began searching on the internet for ways to contact publishers. Little did I know you needed an agent to do that, and in order to get an agent you had to be published. Talk about frustrating! And then, one publishing company took pity on me and wrote suggesting I find a local writer’s conference.

Writing conferences were an unknown to me. As I’d written an inspirational fiction novel, I figured I should find a Christian conference to attend. So I searched for OREGON CHRISTIAN WRITERS and low and behold, a group with that very name existed!

Do you know what I did? I said a quick prayer and wrote directly to them. Sue Miholer, of Oregon Christian Writers, wrote me right back and told me about their summer conference and suggested I attend.

And that, dear friends, is how I began this writing-toward-publication-life. Now my first novel wasn’t published. Neither was the next one (although I had publishers ask to read it, so I knew I was on the right track). BUT the third one was. You know that novel as Jasmine. I wouldn’t have ever been published, however, if I hadn’t honed my craft, studied the market, networked with other authors, found beta readers, joined a critique group, practiced pitching to professionals, and approached agents and publishers in person (the only place you can do that is at conferences!). ALL of those previous things were offered to me through my local writer’s conference.

My favorite writer’s conference, Oregon Christian Writers, is now registering for their 4 day summer coaching conference. So if you’ve ever dreamed of telling a story, writing articles, and being in print, now’s your chance to get serious about that dream.

Oregon Christian Writers

Summer Conference Post Card jpeg

Come join us as we encourage one another in pursuing the dream God has planted in our hearts. Click here to register: http://oregonchristianwriters.org/sc2016-vision-voice/ .

I hope to see you there!

 

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Timing is Everything

file000683881360Timing is everything.

I haven’t blogged for a while. Months really. I’ve been in a period of physical and emotional recovery. This has taken up all my mental energies for the past year. While I’ve been journaling, trying my hand at poetry, working on scant chapters of my next novel, and copying books of the Bible (Psalms, Revelations, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Philippians, Ephesians and now working through Romans so far), my blog has come to a standstill.
I’ve had people write to me and ask me to keep going. I’ve had lots of encouragement in this period of downtime–you know who you are, and I thank you!
But, timing is everything.
20160611_111536I’ve got this rosebush outside my living room window. It used to be huge and unmanageable. It rambled all over the place–despite aphids and other critters using it for meals. Then we built a fence. I truly gave no thought to the rosebush when we built that fence. But in doing so, we unwittingly blocked its light source, and it began to shrink.
I grew sicker, and as I did, I watched it die back more and more, to a stub.20160611_143723 I considered moving it several times. But making the decision and mustering the energy to do so seemed out of my ability. Truly, until last year, I’d given up on flowers and the like. It felt like too much to handle. But last year one of my dearest friends encouraged me and brought me starter plants and I made my porch a flowery haven rekindling hope in my spirit. It’s now my favorite place to sit and read and visit.

 

This year, when I looked out the window, I thought that rose was surely dead. I felt rather bad. In 20160611_111530the midst of illness and depression, I’d let that poor thing die. And then, seemingly overnight, it sprang to life. Whatever water source it found, whatever trace light it horded, it still had life.
So, today I decided to move it. But when I looked up how to transplant a rosebush, the article said, “Wait until very early spring, before it has any growth, just after the ground has thawed.”
So, I might have to wait again, another season before I dig up that poor thing. But I can assure you, I won’t forget about it again.

Now, God doesn’t build a fence around us and forget us–we’re the likely ones to do the forgetting. But He might build a barrier around us to protect us. He might put a hand on us to keep us still while we recover. He might put us in situations where all we can do is wait–wait on the gardener to be pruned back, to be nurtured, to rest. He could bring you to a place where you have no where else to turn because He wants to meet you there.  It might be a hard spot, one we can’t see a way out of, but He’s there, waiting for us to turn to Him and ask Him for help, waiting for us to rely on Him solely. Waiting for us to turn our lives over to Him so He can take the lead. Waiting for us. Loving us.

Timing is everything.

Jesus said: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit. For apart fromm me, you can do nothing. (John15:5)

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