Following God-given Dreams

Booksigning 11You sense God calling you, nudging you to surrender fully to His call, but you’re not sure where that will lead. To make matters worse, doubts, fears, and insecurities well within, making it hard to zero in on that still, small voice that speaks courage and peace and confidence. This journey of obedience, of full surrender, is never easy and rarely quick, but today, a sweet friend, multi-published author Shannon Taylor Vannatter, shows us it’s worth it–worth every tear, every hurdle.

As an added bonus, she’s giving away a copy of Rodeo Song to one of you, randomly selected from the comments below. (She’s also donated three of her books to three different charity fundraising events, including Takin’ it to the Streets’ first annual Hope for the Homeless event. You can see her donations here.)

I also want to congratulate the winner of last week’s give-away. Mary C. Wilson, congrats! You won a copy of Connie Almony’s novel, At the Edge of a Dark Forest! I’ll contact you soon to arrange how best to get that to you.

Living My Dream by Shannon Taylor Vannetter

At times since I first started this writing thing back in 1999, the publication journey has been a roller coaster. From the time a Print On Demand publisher published my book without my knowledge to when my traditional publisher decided to close my line, I’ve been on the verge of pulling my hair out, and have lain in the floor crying. But despite my rollercoaster ride through the publishing landscape, I’m still writing and I’m thankful I’m a writer.

On a spiritual level:

1. I get to fulfill my calling. From the time I became a Christian at fifteen years old, I felt like there was something I was supposed to do. With writing, I get to fulfill my purpose by doing something I thoroughly enjoy.

2. I get to share Jesus with nonbelievers. A non-believer is more likely to read the romance novel their friend loans them than the Bible. I recently got a letter from a Muslim man in prison telling me how much he enjoyed one of my books. He still sounded Muslim from his letter, but maybe my book planted seeds.

3. I get the opportunity to draw Christians closer to Jesus. Some of my characters are Christians, some of them aren’t. Most of them make mistakes—just like real people. I use my characters blunders to draw them closer into fellowship with God. Maybe a reader will identify with my character’s journey and take steps to draw closer to Jesus as a result.

4. I get to preach. I’m not saying I want to be a preacher, but the overall theme of all of my books is this: Love doesn’t make the world go around—God does. My characters learn that love is only lasting if God is in the center of their hand-in-marriage-1422245-m (1)relationship. So many young people in the world need that message. It gives me great joy to know that mothers and grandmothers often let their daughters and granddaughters read Heartsongs because they trust the books are clean with a spiritual message.

5. I get to connect with Christians all over the world. It makes my day when readers contact me to say my story touched their hearts. Tangible proof that I’m doing what God called me to do and that I got the message across that He wanted me to share.

On a personal level:

1. I get to work from home and my schedule is flexible. I can take time off when my son is home from school sick. I get to attend all of his school parties and events and work my writing schedule around my family. During the school year, I write while he’s at school. I work my deadlines around summer vacation, so that during the summer, I’m mom. If I need to get some writing done in the summer, I do it when he’s not home, he has a friend over, or after everyone else goes to bed. If I write until 2:00 am, I don’t have to get up early for a regular job the next day.

Writing requires a schedule, but it’s flexible enough, I can be mom when I need to be and I don’t have to worry about babysitters. Yes, he’s twelve now. And my mom left me home alone when I was twelve. But he’s a boy. Boy’s are a different species – they like snakes, fires, and guns. Enough said.

2. I can take the day off for church functions. Since my husband is a pastor, member visits, hospital visits, and funerals are a large part of our lives. If I had a regular job, he’d have to go it alone and I wouldn’t be able to be as involved with our congregation as I am.

3. My son is proud of me. He tells everyone, “My mom is an author.” He thinks it’s cool that none of his friends can say that and that I’ve taught fiction writing classes and spoke at career days at his school.

4. Through the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference, I’ve made friends all over the globe. I have lots of

Shannon and me (Jennifer) at the ACFW conference in 2009

Shannon and me (Jennifer) at the ACFW conference in 2009

friends, but writing friends get me like no one else does. Not even my family. And since writing can be such a solitary pursuit, friends who get you are a God send.

5. Having a job that requires daydreaming. All of my life, I’ve tried to listen and pay attention, but my mind would wander. With writing–having a wandering mind is encouraged, an active imagination is required, and daydreaming is allowed. I hear voices and have imaginary friends, but everyone thinks it’s okay and normal since I’m a writer.

And that just scratches the surface. I won’t even get into how I write in my jammies most of the time.

Rodeo SongRodeo Song:

JENNA WENTWORTH FOUND THE MAN OF HER DREAMS 

But when silken-voiced Garrett Steele set out for stardom, he left Jenna—and his cowboy past—far behind. A chance encounter at one of his concerts propels him back into Jenna’s life. But, once burned by love, Jenna must guard her heart against the captivating singer.

Once upon a time, Garrett vowed he’d be a success, no matter what. But that path shattered his soul. His reunion with Jenna makes him long for things he once took for granted. Now he must show her that he’s found what he was looking for all along…right here in his hometown.

Purchase Links:

Mardel            Deeper Shopping            Amazon            Christian Book          Harlequin

Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife/award-winning author. She lives in rural central Arkansas in a town with a population of around 100, if you count a few cows. Shannon writes inspirational contemporary romance and it took her nine years to get published in the traditional market.

Shannon hopes to entertain Christian women and plant seeds in the non-believer’s heart as her characters struggle with real-life issues. Their journeys, from ordinary lives to extraordinary romance through Christ-centered relationships, demonstrate that love doesn’t conquer all—Jesus does. In her spare time, she loves spending time with her family and doing craft projects.

You can visit her online at her website http://shannonvannatter.com and blog: http://shannonvannatter.com/blog

You can connect with her on Facebook,  GoodreadsPinterest and Twitter.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! I believe we all have a calling. For some, that may mean saving money and paying off debt to spend quality time with their grandchildren during retirement. For others it may mean launching or serving in a ministry, writing a novel, or honing a talent to be used for God’s glory. Or perhaps God’s calling you to step out in faith and courage to invite neighbors to a women’s event at your church.

All of those callings can feel frightening, but as Shannon reminds us in today’s post, the rewards of obedience are endless!

What is God calling you to do, and what steps are you taking to obey? You can share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

And don’t forget to stop by Faith-filled Friends to read about the making of my novel, Beyond I Do, which is now available on Amazon for pre-order at a discounted price. I also encourage you to stop by Takin’ it to the Streets to read about one of my less-than glamorous yet more memorable moments.

Blessed to Be a Blessing

I think I’m on an “offend as many people as I can” streak lately. Yesterday On Reflections, I talked about submision in marriage, and today, I’m talking about our tendency to rob God’s glory. Neither of which are very popular topics. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, I’m about to break rule number one in blogging–never go over 1,000 words. So…I’m warning you now. Feel free to check out at any time.

Most of my friends are writers, so I hear a lot about being goal oriented and “pursuing your dream!” But often, it appears the dream overshadows the Dream-giver. It’s easy to get so caught up in the things of God that we forget God all together. Only problem, without God, they’re just things.

Let me illustrate. When you think of Abraham, what comes to mind first? We often hear about how God blessed him and made his offspring into a mighty nation, right? Or what about Joseph? God gave Joseph a dream of grandeur, a dream that was ultimately fulfilled some thirteen (or so) years later. When we retell the story, what do we focus on? The dream, right? How God gave it to Joseph and everyone else wanted to slam on it, but God exalted Joseph anyway.

Only it wasn’t about Joseph, and it wasn’t about Abraham. God raised up Abraham for a purpose–not to bless Abraham, but instead, to bless all the nations through him. Abraham was the father of the Jewish race, and the Jews were the nation God used to reveal Himself to all mankind (and to bring about salvation through Jesus Christ.) When God blessed Abraham, in reality He was blessing us.

Same with Joseph. When we first meet Joseph in Genesis 37, it appears he’s consumed with the dream and how he’s going to rule over his brothers.

Genesis 37:5-11

 5 Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. 6 He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: 7 We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”

 8 His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.

 9 Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

 10 When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” 11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

After a few hard knocks and some rather painful humbling, he comes to realize it was never about him. It was about how God wanted to save many, including his brothers.

Notice the difference in tone, and who Joseph points to, in this passage:

Genesis 45:5-7

5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.

So, although God used one man, named Joseph, to bring about His plan, all the while He was thinking about the masses. Because that’s how God works. (I can’t help but wonder how his brothers felt, once they’d reached the end of the story and realized that God had their well-being in mind the entire time. Ah, if only we could see the bigger picture!)

So how does this related to writing? (Or any other “dream” God has given you.) God doesn’t give us gifts for our own benefit. Nor are they ever intended to bring glory to ourselves. He gives us gifts so that His purpose can be fulfilled. He blesses us so that we will be a blessing. But when our eyes are on ourselves, we get in the way.

The first step, it seems, is to let it go. Hand your gift, whatever it is, over to God, to be used as He sees fit. Whether that means writing a best-selling novel or spending hours crafting a Vacation Bible School lesson for your small, unknown church. It’s His gift, remember? You’re just the vessel.

As I continually work towards intentionally living, I’m going to ask God, daily, to empty me of self, fill me with Him and help me to catch a glimpse of the bigger, eternal picture. I’m going to actively and personally pray Romans 12:1-2

“Dear Lord, do not allow me to conform to the things of this world, but transform me by renewing my mind. Help me to see and understand Your good, pleasing will. Help me to offer my body, my time, my gifts and my mind, to You as a perfect, pleasing sacrifice. This will be my act of worship.”

The world says forge ahead. God says wait on Me and allow Me to live through you, as I want, when I want, because I see the bigger picture, and I’ve written the ending.

Yesterday a fb friend sent me a message with this video in it and I thought I’d share it. After you watch it, spend a moment in prayer, asking God to show you areas or times when you’ve been tempted to seek your own glory instead of acting in humbled obedience. Then, ask Him to help you lay yourself, your gifts, your dreams, your time…whatever, on the alter so that you can be a cleansed and open vessel ready to do His will. Ask Him to enable you to catch a glimpse of His bigger, eternal picture. And remember, when our time on earth is done and we stand before the throne of God, we will be held accountable for not what we accomplished, but how well be obeyed.

(And be patient. Eventually I’ll quit talking about Joseph…I think.)