About Dena Dyer

I'm a wife, mom, speaker, author of half a dozen books, and contributor to many more. I love encouraging hurting, harried women to find hope and healing in the arms of Jesus...and take themselves less seriously. My latest release, Wounded Women of the Bible: Finding Hope When Life Hurts (co-written with my dear friend Tina Samples), was released in July 2013. A few of my favorite things: date nights with my hilarious hubby, spending time with my two sons, and hanging out with girlfriends. I'm grateful for a loving heavenly Father, the blessings He so generously bestows, and His amazing grace. You can find out more about my writing/speaking/mentoring at http://www.denadyer.com.

The Hard, Beautiful Work of Surrender

In-Gods-economy-ourThe angel of the Lord found Hagar by a well of water in the desert on the way to Shur. He said, ‘Hagar, you who serve Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?’ And she said, ‘I am running away from Sarai, the one I serve.’ Then the angel of the Lord said to her, ‘Return to your boss. Put yourself under her power.’ The angel of the Lord said to her, ‘I will give you so many people in your family through the years that they will be too many to number.’…So Hagar gave this name to the Lord Who spoke to her, ‘You are a God Who sees.’” (Genesis 16:7-10, 13 NLV)

Did you know: Hagar was the very first person–and the only woman–in the scriptures to “name” God? In the desert, she saw Him for who He really was, and called Him “El Roi” (the God who sees me). In the midst of a dry, barren wilderness, her wounded place became a ministry space.

Experiencing Him gave her the strength to go back to Sarah, who had been mistreating her, even though such a task must have frightened Hagar. From her desperate encounter, she received a sense of God’s provision and protection. And God ultimately blessed her obedience, just as He will bless us when we obey.

However, it’s not easy to trust God when He’s leading us to do something more difficult than we could ever imagine. In order to change our character and heighten our dependence on Him, He may ask us to surrender our long-cherished dreams, ideas, or habits.

Why? Well, God knows when our plans, goals, and rituals have turned into idols. He sees us relying on other things and people for comfort and relief, and He wants to guide us to a place of freedom instead of bondage. So He whispers to us: Trust me. Open your palm and release what you’re grasping tightly. I promise that I will hold onto you, if you will just give me everything.

What difficult thing is God asking you to do:
• Believe Him for the impossible?
• Forgive someone who abused you?
• Turn over your children’s future to Him?
• Persist in your calling, when you see no fruit?

I urge you to trust Him…no matter what. In God’s economy, your wounded place can become a ministry space. You may not understand why He’s asking you to obey, and you may be unsure how long you’ll have to stay in a difficult situation. But whatever you go through, He promises to sustain you. He will never leave you to fend for yourself.

Perhaps your obedience is for someone else’s benefit. He may want to teach your children, friends, co-workers, or spouse about His character.

Unfortunately, if we don’t surrender the first time God asks us to, He changes tactics…using other people, circumstances, and even pain to get our attention. Does that sound harsh? It’s all for our good. Our Maker, who knows the future and created us to find our ultimate fulfillment in His arms, longs to save us from ourselves. He knows that because of our limited view and human frailties, our desires—if left unchecked–will lead us to destruction.

II Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all, who with unveiled faces reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

This transformation takes place not by our own efforts, but by the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. As we die to our plans, God changes us to be more like Jesus.

And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

Post adapted from Wounded Women of the Bible: Finding Hope When Life Hurts by Dena Dyer and Tina Samples (Kregel, 2013). 

5 Ways to Drive an Editor Crazy

13761150586648bAs an aspiring writer, I thought editors had horns on their head and pitchforks perched beside their desks. After all, they sent me form “no thanks” letters after I’d slaved over an obviously brilliant manuscript. They ignored my letters and phone calls, and seemed to take joy in waiting months before replying to my oh-so-urgent emails.

Now, as both a seasoned writer and an editor for a large faith-based website, I’ve learned that editors are people, too. We love finding new voices to publish, and we try to be gentle when doling out rejections. Sure, we have our quirks, and we make mistakes. But mostly, we’re word-loving, gentle souls who find joy in a well-placed modifier.

When provoked, however, we can lose our literary minds. Several habits don’t just rub us the wrong way—they make us want to run down the street while still in our bathrobes, shouting Weird Al’s “White and Nerdy” until we puke.

Here’s how you can speed that process along:

1) Treat Guidelines as Optional.

      Don’t bother reading writing guidelines; don’t even visit websites or read back issues of magazines. Send a totally inappropriate submission. In your cover letter, tell the editor that while you’ve never taken the time to familiarize yourself with their publication, you’re sure that your work is perfect for them. file3781288474089

       2) Respond viciously to rejection letters.

      When you receive a letter stating that “your submission doesn’t meet our current needs,” fire off a hateful email, chastising the editor for his lack of taste. Even better: use bad language and post your vitriolic thoughts all over social media. (This habit works well if you never want to see your work in print. Those bridges are so pretty when they burn!)

      3) Never turn in an assignment by the deadline.

Deadlines aren’t set in stone; therefore, ask for repeated extensions, paying no attention to the panicked tone of your editor’s responses. Don’t worry that you are one of several dozen moving parts in the publishing of a website, magazine or compilation book. Take all the time you want—the world does, in fact, revolve around you.

       4) Take up all your editor’s time.

Ask repeated questions about the contract or terms of your publishing agreement. Don’t get an agent or other professionals to weigh in on your questions. Don’t network with other writers so that you can learn from their experiences. Pester the editor with texts (preferably to her personal cell phone, if you can dig up the number) about when your piece will be printed, how many readers you’ll get, etc.

And finally:

5) Refuse to accept changes in your manuscript.

Since you have received your talent from God, treat every word as His direct quote. Don’t let an editor make changes to your beautiful masterpiece. Fight over each letter and punctuation mark. Don’t choose your battles. Take offense at questions. Die on every single hill.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a nasty email to delete…and I need to look up the lyrics to a certain parody song.

5 Ways to Add Humor to Your Writing

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Humor is a life-giving stress reliever and ice breaker. I often sprinkle my talks, articles and books with funny word pictures and phrases, because laughter opens a reader/listener’s heart to the serious points I want to make. Thankfully, my home is full of crazy guys (including my husband, who’s the most hilarious person I’ve ever met) and I’m a ditzy, accident-prone bundle of midlife hormones. Thus, I’m never short on material.

It’s true that humor, like writing, is an innate gift, and some people have it in abundance. Others…well, not so much. However, certain aspects of both crafts can be taught. As a follow-up to this popular post, here are a few ways to humorously pump up your prose:

1. Wordplay.

Mae West said, “I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.” Classic!

Cultivate your LOL quotient by reading children’s books, which are full of 1362536802le12smarvelous wordplay. Humor writers and comedians are childlike spirits–playing constantly with sounds, alliteration, and rhyme. Let loose a little, and see what happens.

2. Exaggeration.

Never stop at one when fourteen will do. In humor, less is not more and more is better. Erma Bombeck, one of my all-time favorites, was a master at exaggeration: “I’ve exercised with women so thin that buzzards followed them to their cars.”

Remember George Burns? He often exaggerated about his age: “When I was a boy the Dead Sea was alive.”

3. Surprise.

When my nine-year-old saw that our local drive-in was up for sale, he said, “Mom, I’m sad about that. It’s such an iconic part of our town.” I laughed because I was surprised that he knew the word at all, let alone used it correctly.

Want your reader to laugh? Take a phrase and change the ending to something unexpected, like Jim Carrey did:  “Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes.” Stephen Wright makes a living by crafting surprise endings to one-liners: “A lot of people are afraid of heights. Not me, I’m afraid of widths.”

4. Parody.

“Weird” Al Yankovich has been doing parody songs for years. More recently, Christian comedians Tim Hawkins (“Cletus, Take the Reel,” etc.) and Anita Renfroe (“All the Wrinkled Ladies”) have gotten into the act. There’s even a clever parody of the infamous song “Blurred Lines” called “Church Signs.” The writers make fun of Christians’ tendency to preach mini-sermons with little plastic letters.

A word of caution (especially for Christian writers): let’s be careful when poking fun at other people. Sarcasm can be soul-crushing, as can insult humor. Remember the Golden Rule.

5. Learn from the best.

Read funny writers, watch comedy videos on Netflix, take courses in humor writing, or read books about the craft. You can also hire professional humor writers to spice up your work (I did this with the first book proposal I sold, and learned a ton from the experience.)

While you’re learning, though, remember to be yourself and not a copy of someone else. Readers can tell when you’re trying to force a joke, and it will make them uncomfortable. Find a style of humor you like, and try it on for size. Ask for opinions from people you trust–if it doesn’t fit, simply try another.

Most of all, have fun!

How have you used humor in your writing?

Ten (Plus) Tips on Humor Writing

file0001122505692I’ve had the pleasure of incorporating humor into several of my books, most notably Grace for the Race: Meditations for Busy Moms and Let the Crow’s Feet and Laugh Lines Come. Funny enough, humor is not easy to write. It was a learning process–one I’m still undergoing.

Humor writers James Watkins and Rhonda Rhea are two of the most genuinely hilarious authors I know. When I asked them for tips, they didn’t disappoint. (They’re also incredibly generous and insightful…and they didn’t even pay me to say that!) So, without further ado, I present their helpful comedic insights.

James’ Watkins’ top ten tips for ending up on welfare having a successful comedy career:

10. Eat cold pizza for breakfast. Wash it down with large quantities of Diet Coke. After three cans, I can type 470 words of side-splitting humor per minute but unfortuwythdly nonr ofit maks anv senze aftcher tke thirddddddd . . .

9. Travel. Some of my best columns have come from three weeks in India (“The Land Without Toilet Paper”) and being stuck in traffic in downtown Chicago, in August with a stick shift with no air-conditioning and two kids in the backseat waging a fight to the death.

8. Get married, have kids. Dave Barry provides positive proof that marriage and raising children is a source for hundreds of columns, thousands of dollars, and even a Pulitzer Prize. However, use discretion! He’s also on his third or fourth marriage and is buying baby diapers with his AARP discount card.

7. Read, read, read. Essential reads include Dave Barry, Erma Bombeck and, of course, my very funny friend, Rhonda Rhea! And every morning NewsMax.com provides transcripts of late night comics.

6. Pass a kidney stone. I keep reminding students at writers conferences, “Nothing terrible happens to authors. [It's all] just terrific anecdotes.” The old adage is so true: Comedy is tragedy plus time.

5. Tackle a home-improvement project. This is always good for at least two or three columns and one visit to the ER.

4. Look at life from just a few degrees off normal. Successful humorists look at life through their twisted point of view. It doesn’t have to 360 degrees from normal, because that would put you right back at normal. Just a few degrees keeps it plausible yet humorous.

3. Don’t be afraid of people thinking you’re crazy. St. Francis, who is viewed as, well, saintly, said, “I am God’s clown. People look at me and laugh.” Humor is a brutal business, so if you’re thin-skinned, take up a less stressful occupation such as bomb technician, rodeo clown or drug runner.

2. Hang out with people who are even crazier than you. I enjoyed having lunch with a fellow columnist while working as a humor columnist at a local paper. Most of our brainstorms were not “fit for print,” such as low-tech terrorist “Amish bin Laden” who drives around Lancaster county with a buggy armed with kerosene-filled milk cans! However, my friend never ceased to get my brain cells firing on all neurons.

1. Read my book, Writing with Banana Peels. It’s required reading for a humor class I teach at Taylor University and contains principles, practices and pratfalls of writing humor. (And always, whenever you have the chance, shamelessly self-promote your work.)

file000111849428Rhonda says:

I’m going to have to agree with Jim—especially the part where he says to read my stuff. Brilliant. Instead of cold pizza and Diet Coke, however, I don’t know how any writing is ever fueled without coffee. I walk into Starbucks and almost always find my muse sitting in a hip leather chair in the corner. I can get at least three chapters from a couple of shots of espresso. They’re all one sentence with no punctuation, but still.

Exploiting every experience for its comedic value—family, friends, travel, projects—is also great counsel. They say nothing bad ever happens to writers; it’s all just material. Read Jim’s book. More great things to exploit there. Or plagiarize. Whichever.

I suggest keeping a running “funny file,” as well. Anytime something makes you laugh or you come up with something hilariously brilliant, take a little note. Then when you’re ready to start an article or chapter you can peruse your file for a kick-start.

It doesn’t hurt to test-drive a few lines as Facebook statuses, either. See what people like and then…milk those things for all they’re worth. Getting a handle on comedic timing in print is no easy task. Your friends can help you polish. They can also make fun of you, mercilessly. And that’s usually helpful too.

I’m proud to say I taught Jim Watkins everything he knows about being funny. And about the funny sound of the letter “C.” If my children let me name any of my grandchildren, I’m naming one Carl–after Jim.

5 Writing Rules I’ve Learned from Pixar

file0001212587536My family adores Pixar movies. Every year, we look forward to their latest release, impatiently marking time until we can immerse ourselves in whatever new world they’ve created. We’re such fans of the studio that we even have their Digital Shorts collections.

As a mom of youngsters, I’ve spent countless hours in theaters watching duds [I'm not naming names, but I just saw a new movie from another animation studio, and it was a real turkey. BTW, whoever brought the disaster called Gnomeo and Juliet onto the big screen--I want those two hours of my life back. And my money, preferably with interest.]

However, I almost always enjoy Pixar flicks. The minds that dreamed up Monsters, Inc. and Cars inspire me. Because I have the privilege of teaching writing to aspiring authors, I’ve begun to study Pixar’s methods in order to share them with my students. What have I learned?

1) Story is king.

The Pixar folks spend years perfecting the story of their movies before they ever move on to the animating process. Wow.

In my own writing journey, I’ve learned not to “tell” (relate things that happened so readers can understand how that situation changed me) and instead  “show” (include dialogue, characters, and movement). No matter what genre you write in, good storytelling is essential. Today’s art consumers are savvy, busy, and distracted. I know, because I am one. We want to be swept away by a immersive tale, not be told what we should learn from a situation.

2) Be tenacious.

Wall-E and Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton admits that in the early years, Pixar employees created mostly by instinct and made a lot of mistakes. However, they wouldn’t give up or give in to the pressure to do what had been done before.

They also work like fiends to get the characters and settings right. I found a few stats which blew my mind. There were:

  • 3,473,271 individually animated hairs on the Lots-o-Huggin Bear from Toy Story 3
  • 2,320,413 individually animated hairs on Sully in Monsters, Inc. (It took 11 to 12 hours to animate a single frame featuring Sully!)
  • 1,150,000 individual hairs rendered on Ratatouille’s hero, Remy.

Wow again.

3) Invoke wonder.

Pixar has mastered this. The writers and animators help us feel again what we often felt as children–awe, gratitude, and joy.file0001384956880

Here’s an exercise: Think about the first time you tasted ice cream, if you can remember it. Or the first time you saw something that took your breath away. Now write about it.

Wonder is ineffable, but if we can draw on it and re-create it in a scene, we’ve captured our audience’s attention immediately. They will follow us almost anywhere we lead them.

4) Take risks. A rat learning to be a chef? Preposterous. A film about a robot from the future with no dialogue for 45 minutes? Absurd. Kids’ movies beginning with the death of characters? Totally insane.

But they work. They work because the guys and gals behind those stories make us forget we’re watching animated films. They work because–due to great storytelling–we care about the characters, and we relate to them in some way. Which brings me to my last point.

5) Do your homework.

Too many films are built on flimsy premises. While the finished products might be technically sound, their foundation is cracked, and the outside shiny-ness simply can’t make up for creaky scaffolding, bored talent, and cheap materials. Often, the stories are weak and the jokes seem more important than plot.

Audiences can tell when authors know what they’re doing and when they don’t. We don’t have to write only about what we’ve learned from our experiences, but we have to make time for research, education, and paying our dues. Even after all his success, Stanton told an audience in 2012 that he had recently taken an acting seminar to learn more about what drives characters.

I respect that. I bet you do, too.

The 15-Minute Writer: Writing for Regional Parenting Publications (RPPs)

(This post is part six of a series. Read the other posts here.)

Do you write primarily for parents, teachers, or grandparents?

If so, you might try selling articles–especially book excerpts or reprints, which take very little time to pitch in an email–to RPPs, or regional parenting publications. RPPs are the free magazines offered at the front of bookstores, family diners, and kids’ clothing retailers in medium-to-large cities.

file000612565099My area has one central office which publishes several magazines, including Dallas Child, Fort Worth Child, and Dallas Teen.

Because these colorful publications come out each month, the editors need a lot of material. However, they rely on advertising dollars instead of subscriptions, so they don’t pay much (usually $25 to $75 per piece). But every little bit, both money and exposure, helps in this publishing climate!

I’ve made a few sales over the years by sending out emails to editors about two/three months before major holidays, telling them about my seasonal articles. The large audience is nice–especially if you think about how many parents (who wouldn’t otherwise know about you) will see your byline.

How to find these gems? Parenting Publications of America lists its members on its website. They offer a writer’s directory, which is searchable by topic, for their members for only $40/year. Here’s an excellent article on how to market your excerpts to RPPs. Also, you can list reprints on a page on your author site. Most of the magazines also offer book reviews…something to think about when you get to the galley stage.

Writers Kerrie McLoughlin and Christina Katz both have e-books on writing for RPPs, for under ten dollars. I haven’t read either, but they look helpful.

One caution: many of the RPP editors use local writers (or insist on having a regional angle in each article). Be sure and check guidelines, just like you would for any national magazine, before sending off a query or manuscript.

Have you already been published in RPPs? If so, leave a comment below detailing your experience and any advice you’d give to other writers.

Coming Out of the Wilderness

Denabutterfly1The last half-decade has been full of changes for our little family. Stressors included the death of several friends, unwanted job changes for both my husband and I, health challenges, and a total of four moves in five years. We’ve bought and sold three houses (well, we bought three houses…one is yet to sell, so we’re renting it out). Finally, both my dad and my father-in-law underwent major heart surgery within a few months.

Whew. It makes me tired just reading that . . . let alone living it.

To add to the chaos, my writing career stalled. Ideas I felt were timely were turned down again and again, although my previous editors loved several of them and went to bat for me. I prayed, cried, doubted, and wondered what God was up to. He provided income through work for hire projects, magazine and editing work, and I was thankful. However, I longed to write books again.

I didn’t want to turn my back on God because I felt like I didn’t deserve my circumstances. I longed to be obedient, even in the difficulties. I prayed continually for strength, and I kept seeking Him . . . even when He seemed very, very quiet on the subject of when (or if) we might be done with the “desert” we were in.

Wanna know something? Every time I cried out to Him, He answered. Sometimes He reminded me of a Scripture passage that ministered profoundly to me. Songs came on the radio which seemed to have been written just for my situation. Friends and family members called, texted and emailed me at perfect moments, when I couldn’t seem to take another step or cry another tear. He was faithful. So, so faithful.

Two years ago, my friend Tina called me with a book idea, and I knew in an instant that we were meant to collaborate on that project together. Greg Johnson agreed to represent us, and (in a first for me), we actually had two offers on the project.

WoundedWomenIt came out this month, and my heart is full. Though the process of putting the book together was emotionally draining, it was a pleasure to write with such a kindred spirit. I couldn’t be more excited about the finished product (thanks, Kregel!).  Everything I’ve lived through, in publishing and life, has prepared me for Wounded Women of the Bible: Finding Hope When Life Hurts.

Six  months ago, God led my husband into full-time ministry and moved us back to a place we love. It feels as if we are finally coming out of the wilderness and into an oasis. We are grateful beyond words. And we can see in hindsight that He’d been honing and refining us all along to minister more effectively to hurting people.

Friend, are you suffering today? Do you wonder if God has something against you? And do you fear that you’ll ever feel joy again?In-Gods-economy-our

Oh, I’ve been there. My heart aches for you. But this I know: the path He has you on may seem lonely, and you might not feel His presence. But He hasn’t left.

He is up to something, even when we can’t see it. Until then, trust Him with your wounded places, for one day, they will become ministry spaces.

He promises.

The 15-Minute Writer: Taming the Social Media Monster

file0002062790027 This is part five of a series. Read parts 1-4 here.

Ever wonder how top authors (especially those with families) do it all–write, read, speak, tweet, pin, travel, correspond and more? I’ve got a hunch that they choose what they’re best at, and hire talented people to do the rest.

There are simply not enough hours in the day to do it all. In addition, since new social media platforms pop up regularly, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

Over the past few years as a writer-mom, I’ve made more than a few mistakes, but I’ve also learned to prayerfully make (sometimes tough) choices. With God’s help, I’m taming the social media monster–instead of letting it wreck my schedule and family life.

  • First, I regularly revisit my priorities. As seasons of life change, so do my family’s needs and schedule. When my children were small, I wrote during Mother’s Day Out and nap times. Now, I write, research, and update my blog and Twitter or Instagram accounts during their school hours and activities. I try to be available to them after dinner and while they’re doing homework, keeping certain times free of online distraction. So far, it’s working well for us.     OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Second,realize where I’m strong–and weak. I began blogging in 2004, and last year, I admitted to myself that I’m simply burned out. Bleh. Meh. Etcetera. However, giving myself permission to blog less often, and do other things I enjoy more (keeping an active Facebook and Pinterest presence, for instance) has helped my attitude about online promotion. I also love my work as an editor at an online magazine, and the curating I do for The High Calling helps me build my own platform. Score!
  • Third, I recognize my addictive tendencies. Recently, I discovered that with a few handy-dandy apps on my Iphone, I could tweet, chirp and pin while waiting for doctor’s appointments, eating by myself at fast food restaurants, and even in bed. The only problem? I had used those times previously to read, daydream or think. No down-time for Dena makes her a grumpy girl–and a boring writer. So, I decided to delete the apps. I already feel more peaceful and balanced.
  • Fourth, I reign in my expectations. Someday, when the kids are grown, I will have more quiet/alone time. (Please, God?) And I don’t want to have a ton of regrets later in life. This creative, crazy family is where the Lord has placed me. He has also chosen to give me wonderful writing opportunities. Such a precarious balancing act means I can’t pursue every single marketing or promotion lead that comes my way. I won’t be able to accept every speaking engagement I’m offered. And I can’t attend every platform-enhancing conference that looks interesting. This both helps and hinders our family financially, but God has always honored my commitment by providing everything we need (and most of what we want). As my dad told me many times, “Honor God, and He’ll honor you.”

Hopefully, my experiences will encourage you in your own efforts to mollify the online marketing beast. What are YOUR tips for handling this potential monster?

Just Look at Me: Encouragement for the Highly Distractible Writer

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When my sons were toddlers, they were so easily distracted (look: a squirrel!) that I often knelt down and gently placed my hands on their cheeks to help them listen.

“Look at me,” I’d say, waiting until their eyes met mine. Then I asked them, “What did Mommy say?”

Lately, I’ve felt God kneeling down, kindly pressing His hands to my cheeks. “Look at me,” He says. It’s not only a call to attention, but to single-minded devotion.

“Yes, Lord, ” I reply, taking my eyes off Facebook, Pinterest–even the Wordserve Water Cooler–and focusing on Him.

I feel Him kneeling down when I get jealous about other writers’ accomplishments; when I spend too much time clicking and too little time praying; when my tendency to compare Facebook “likes” and Twitter followers distracts me from the reasons I write.

Last week, I let Satan discourage me. Look at that author, he said. She’s your age and has written twice as many books as you have. Plus, she has a radio show, and her speaking resume is much better than yours. 

I started to get insecure, until I remembered the Lord’s hands on my cheeks. “What did I say?” He asks.

“Just look at me,” I respond.

I get it, Lord, I really do.

However, it’s hard to keep my focus when I am required to use social media for my part-time editing job. Plus, our post-recession world of high technology and low discretionary income means that book publishers’ marketing budgets are shrinking, while editors’ expectations are rising.

Sigh. This business is not always good for a highly distractible author…and yes, the apple does NOT fall far from the tree. (Look: a new webinar on building your tribe!)

I know I’m not the only author who struggles with this. Or at least I hope I’m not. So, let’s lean in and focus on our Parent’s eyes for a second.

“Do you hear what I’m saying?” God says.

When we spend time with Him, and hear His perspective on this crazy profession He’s called us to, we realize that He has uniquely called each of us to a highly specialized path.

I don’t have to be like anyone else. Although God calls me to work diligently at my craft and creatively tell people about my books (not for my glory, but His), I shouldn’t obsess about numbers, lists, or honors. All that leads to a place called “Crazy-ville.” And trust me, I can get there on my own.

My fellow scribes, God is calling me–and you–to be faithful and obedient:  “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt. 6:33)

Just look at me, He says, and write what I’ve told you to write. Write out of the overflow of our relationship, and trust me for everything else.

As a friend says, “God’s got this.” We can trust Him. After all, those heavenly hands on our cheeks are nail-scarred…from His scandalous, all-consuming love for us.

Already Loved: Encouragement for This Writing Life

file9431319827916Another rejection. My agent gently relayed that though my dream publisher had said “yes” to a proposal all the way up the chain of command to the last committee, they finally decided to nix it.

As I hung up the phone, tears spilled down my cheeks. Two years of canceled book contracts, low sales figures, and repeated “thanks but no thanks” emails had left me discouraged, frustrated, and confused. Writing—and the marketing tasks necessary to be a professional writer—now seemed like drudgery, not play. No matter how many marketing rules I tried to follow, my efforts failed.

I felt like a failure, too.

I still believed God wasn’t through using me. But I couldn’t help but wonder, Will I ever get another book contract? And what happens if I don’t? Is God trying to tell me something?

Later that day, I sat at my desk, playing a computer game with my three year-old son. As Jackson sat in my lap, I kissed his ear and inhaled his little-boy scent; a combination of milk, grime, and chocolate. Nearby sat a copy of my first book, which I had referred to earlier in the day for a radio interview. Jackson looked at the illustration of a frazzled mom on the cover and asked, “Is that you?”

“No, sweetie,” I said, “but I wrote that book. See, mommy’s name is on the cover. It says, ‘by Dena Dyer.’ “

“Oh!” Jackson said, grinning up at me. “I love Dena Dyer!”

Stunned, I blinked back tears. “I love you, too,” I murmured.

After a few minutes more at the computer, I found a quiet corner and prayerfully pondered Jackson’s simple expression of love. He didn’t care if I published books or not. He simply loved me for me. He loved me the way God does.

In all my disappointments, I had thought more about selling books than surrendering my heart. It was painful to admit that somewhere in the midst of trying to serve Jesus, I’d become goal-driven instead of God-driven. I seemed to care more about what the publishing powers-that-be thought than what my Heavenly Father thought.

Satan is crafty. He takes our God-given talents and twists them into temptations. Gradually, my calling had become an idol. Who I was became less important than what I did.

“Lord, I’m sorry,” I prayed, crying for the third time that day. “My heart is so full of sin. I know you couldn’t care less how many books I sell. You just want ME.”

In the weeks and months to come, as I asked God to help me believe the truth of His unconditional acceptance, I began working freely and joyfully again instead of writing just to be published. God continued to close some doors, and another book proposal was rejected, but He gave me other opportunities–ones I hadn’t even known to pursue.

The truth is, though, I will probably always have a tendency to think I must perform to be loved. So I’ve ask God to whack me upside the head (as we say here in Texas) before I get too far off track.

If experience is any teacher, He’ll be faithful to do just that.

(This article first appeared at The High Calling. Used by permission)