How to Move On With Your Life

How to Move On With Your Life 2

One of the toughest questions to answer is how to move on with your life.

Why?

Because it’s both personal and painful. Unfortunately, it’s a question no one else can answer but you.

I’ll never forget a few years back when I sat in my church’s counseling office. I had booked an appointment last minute because my life at that time was in major crisis mode.

I never knew when I was going to have a panic attack or how long it would last.

But, I remember her vividly.

The lady whom I didn’t like or care for much. She was just someone who could see me at the last minute. Not to mention, I didn’t have to pay her an arm and a leg for counseling appointments. It was during our last visit that she told me,

“I think you should go back on your anxiety medication and stay on it for the rest of your life!”

Or maybe she said “for a long time.” I don’t really remember much after that. She scared the crap out of me. Her words hung over me like a death sentence.

***

Recently, I woke up. It was as if a light bulb suddenly went off inside my mind, and I yelled at the top of my lungs.

“I reject those words spoken over me by her.”

I said those words of freedom loudly and resolutely.

It was one of those rare moments of freedom I’ve experienced since that fateful day at the counselors office, and I didn’t want to let the moment go.

I want to be free of my anxiety.

I want to let go of my past.

I want to move on with my life.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been on anxiety medication before–a few times in fact.

It helped me when nothing else did.

What I appreciated about my nurse practitioner is that she took the time to listen to me. She didn’t just tell me there was nothing (or everything) wrong with me. When she diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder as a young 20-something–it felt nice to finally know what the heck was wrong with me!

But.

But anxiety medication was never prescribed as a forever pill.

It was meant for a temporary fix to help me through my moment of crisis (and I’ve had a lot).

***

I’m excited that I am ready to share my story!

Quote 12In my new book, Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me I share the good, the bad, and the ugly about forgiveness and how it took me a really long time to forgive myself.

I am no longer hiding.

I am a giant mosaic of brokenness, and I’m finally okay with it.

I know each piece, each layer has made me who I am: beautiful.

It reminds me of the story of Joseph. In Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me, I share how God mightily turned around evil into good for Joseph and his entire family and extended families.

Friends, I believe you and I were intended for good.

Dr. Larry Osborne of North Coast Church asked a key question recently in a sermon on Joseph,

“Why do we have to get to the point of desperation before we let go?”

He also said that what we really think is self protection (or self-care) is really playing the perpetual victim. Joseph’s dad Jacob, couldn’t see that God was blessing him. All he could see was his grief and why he couldn’t let his family move on with their lives.

***

Going back to the story of her, and the reason why I was sitting in her office in the first place.

I couldn’t imagine my life any other way.

I thought I could handle working full time along with a brand spanking new literary career and my first book contract. For once in my life I wasn’t struggling with how to pay the bills or take care of my health.

Instead of viewing a new writing ministry as an opportunity for God to bless me (and something I had prayed many, many years for), I played the perpetual victim.

I didn’t want to move back in with my parents.

I didn’t want to give up my amazing ministry job that paid the bills.

I didn’t want to be “housebound” once again.

But that wasn’t what God had planned for me. And that wasn’t all God had planned for Jacob.

Thank God Almighty that He uses boneheads like Jacob and like me. And thank God the story doesn’t stop there.

God’s the kind of God that will sit there and help you pack your bags while you sob your eyes out. I did it. I’m sure Jacob thought he was losing his other favorite son for good.

But.

But God brought Marc into my life. He gave me a new home and an office (my first office)! And He gave me more book contracts!

If only I could go back in time and give my former self a hug and tell her what she thought was the worst thing ever was really the beginning of many blessings to come.

Would you pray for me as I move on with my life and go off my anxiety medication? How can I be praying for you?

[Photo: Tanya Puntti, Creative Commons]

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Called To Church Video

called to church video

[Guest Post by Caleb Breakey – I am so excited to introduce to you a very powerful voice to the 20 & 30-somethings community. He wrote a book for Harvest House (also my publisher, yay) and it’s entitled Called to Stay. You can pre order your copy here. He was also a speaker from the most recent Quarter Life Conference, and just HAD to repost his video below. If you have left the church, please know that you are not alone!]

Whether you’ve left the church in a quest for more God–you’re not alone.

People are tired and hurting and only see one direction: the exit. What they fail to see is that leaving a sick person is easy.

Healing her is hard.

But just staying in church doesn’t do anyone any good. It’s what we do in our churches—intentionally, like Jesus—that matters. Problem is, few of us are doing it. In fact, we’re running from it.

There are three ways to be an infiltrator starting with unity.

Treat others in the church like family. Learn first names and call other believers “brother” or “sister.” Embrace diversity, appreciate generational differences, and consider everyone in your church as more important than yourself.

Encourage other believers to love people and to do good things for unbelievers and believers alike. Look around your church and ask yourself how you can use your gifts to help others, not expecting anything in return.

Make friends with Christians of diverse backgrounds and denominations. Speak highly of other churches and pray for Jesus to do great work through them. Make secondary beliefs secondary, refusing to let non-essential opinions cut you off from fellowship. Aim to bring all believers together in unity, not uniformity.

The second way to be an infiltrator starts with depth.

Don’t try to overlook the difficulties and intricacies of Scripture in your calling to radically follow Jesus. And don’t let those same difficulties and intricacies choke your calling to love God and others. Live your life in beautiful tension, subtly inviting others to do the same.

Be committed to a real relationship with Jesus. Think more about how to live like Jesus in real life than you do about theoretically living like him.

Don’t desire to transfer your convictions into other believers. Simply make it your goal to help others live out the uncomplicated gospel of loving God, loving others, doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly.

Draw uptight believers into deeper levels of authenticity. Practice hospitality and true fellowship that centers on realness, truth, and love. Encourage your brothers and sisters on a very personal level, and listen not only for what’s said on the surface, but also what’s said underneath.

Explore hard questions that others won’t—but refuse to fall into endless arguments and debates. Only say things that fit the occasion and build others up. Refuse to shift topics just so you can say what you want to say.

Do not shy away from speaking directly to the evils that sneak into your church. Openly speak against lukewarmness, head knowledge, pharisaical living, Christian snobbery, spiritual laziness, pride, conditional love, borrowed faith, consumerism, judgmentalism, cynicism, and grieving the Holy Spirit. Like the Bereans in Acts, crosscheck what your fellow believers say, and speak up when half truths are taught as full truths, or parts of the Bible are never spoken of.

The last way to be an infiltrator starts with purpose.

Look at the Book of Acts and observe believers united in something so much greater than themselves. See believers living in unity and passion as though Jesus actually lives, and desperately want that for your church.

Go to church with an anticipation of worshiping God and glorying in his presence. Speak freely about heaven and what it will be like spending eternity with Jesus. Help others in your church see that there is so much more to the body than organization and institution. Your church is a mission, a movement, a calling.

Share the contagious stories God has orchestrated in your life. Retell stories of crazy faith, abandoned love, and seemingly unexplainable acts of God—viral stories that scream God is real, God loves his children, and God has a great purpose for our lives.

Being called to church doesn’t have to be difficult. Just invest time and energy into discovering and using the gifts and passions God has given you. Get to know your strengths and weaknesses, and put them to use in ways that push the boundaries of your own comfort. Use your gifts liberally for the body of Christ, help others discover their gifts, and aim to build God’s church through your church.

Value love above all else, and make it the rhyme and rhythm of your life. Be an Infiltrator.

Caleb BreakeyCaleb Breakey is a former journalist and author of Called to Stay. Caleb is a frequent conference speaker with a sincere passion to lead, challenge, and inspire others in discussions about relationships, the church, and radically following Jesus. He lives in Washington State with his wife, Brittney. You can connect with Caleb on TwitterFacebook, or my blog.

 

 

[Photo: palestrina55, Creative Commons]

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Persecuted Church Video

persecuted church video

Every Wednesday this month, I will be reposting selected videos from Quarter Life Conference.

I’m so excited to be able to continue the conversation on the topic of church. As an American Christian, I believe it’s way too easy to be apathetic (lazy) about my faith compared to my brothers and sisters sufferings around the world for theirs.

Moreover, I am excited to report that the second Quarter Life Conference exceeded 500 video views, which was more than our first conference! The purpose of reposting a few of the videos is to highlight a few of the stories you shouldn’t miss.

Please let me introduce you to my new friends Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh as they share their story of persecution from their new book Captive In Iran. Their story brought me to tears. I can’t remember the last time I sobbed so hard. The fact that they’re around my age and have been through much more than I will ever have to endure made me feel ashamed of my faith.

Am I doing enough to share–even when it hurts or is inconvenient to me?

While you watch Maryam and Marziyeh’s persecuted church video, ask yourself what would you do if you were imprisoned for your faith?

To watch more videos on church from Quarter Life Conference, click here.

qlc-logoAlso, announcing Quarter Life Conference 3.0 on career & social justice on October 3rd.

If you’d like to get involved please leave me a comment or send me an email (renee) at (devotionaldiva) dot (com).

[Photo: Imagens Cristãs, Creative Commons]

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Forgiving the Church

forgiving the church

Today, I am honored to be a part of Quarter Life Conference by speaking on a topic close to my heart–forgiving the church.

When it comes to my heart for the church–I’d say it has been growing since I was 5 years old! That’s the day I asked God to come into my heart, forgive me of my sin, and make me new! In the 25 years since I became a Christian–I’ve encountered many hurts from people who call themselves followers.

People who go to church.

And I’ve also hurt other people.

None of us are perfect, and in light of my new book Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me, I wanted to personally share my heart  why I believe it’s possible to forgive the church. Please watch my video Forgiving The Church or watch the video below.

I hope you’ll join me and the 13 other AMAZING speakers on the topic of church.

Also, I’ve gathered some pretty amazing books on the topic of church from a few of those speaking. You can win a copy of the book of your choice, by tweeting with the #QLC hashtag and the book title you wish to win.  Winners will be chosen on June 22th by midnight.

Called to Stay by Caleb Breakey (1 Advanced Reader Copy)
Captive in Iran by Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh (3 Free Copies)
Real by Daniel Darling (1 Signed Copy)

[Photo: throgers, Creative Commons]

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Church is

church is

[Guest Post by Laura – When we were first introduced, her story startled me. Not only has she experienced the joy of serving God and the church overseas, but overwhelming heartbreak. If you want to read her previous guest post on anxiety, rape, and kidnapping please click here. I’m encouraged to learn that she is now safe in Ireland and still serving God. Let’s praise God with Laura today!]

Church is the body of Christ–it’s about His people.

Currently I’m serving in my third country, which means it’s also the third time I’ve been involved in a church in a foreign country. Each church has looked different, yet each church has taught me about the Church, the body of Christ.

I’ve sat on wooden chairs in a building that is exceptionally cold in the winter. I’ve played an out of tune piano for the weekly hymn. I’ve stood against the wall at a church breakfast while everyone else is eating and talking around the food table.

I’ve sung worship songs in Portuguese and eventually forgotten the English words to the songs.

I’ve listened to sermons in a former movie theater.

I’ve played youth group games on wide cement steps.

I’ve sung a worship song, part in English and part in Zulu, on a Sunday morning. I’ve led four and five year old children in and out of classrooms and up and down stairs during Holiday Bible Club. I’ve sat on the floor around a table drinking hot chocolate while playing Apples to Apples.

I’ve wandered the countryside with a group of young adults. I’ve listened to children chatter through half of a worship service. I’ve stood in a group of people and learned where the best local places to eat are. I’ve discussed the best type of car to purchase over tea and sandwiches. I’ve learned the proper way to serve tea and coffee after church.

All of these experiences have changed my perspective of church. Church doesn’t look the same in other countries, but the Church does.

God has shown me that church isn’t how comfortable the seats are or what the building used to be used for. It’s not how amazing the music is or how perfect the PowerPoint slides are. It’s not how often the service starts on time or how orderly the potlucks are. It’s not about how everyone does or doesn’t dress. It’s not about how loud the children are or how quiet the adults are.

It’s about the Church.

The people who smile at you each Sunday and greet you, even though you can’t communicate with them. The people who thank you for playing the piano, even when you do a horrible job. The people who make sure you are on the bus and not lost while on a church outing. The people who teach you how to make tea and coffee. The people who accept you into their Bible study group.

The people who clean your apartment after your home invasion. The people who give money so that someone else can purchase clothing for you. The people who invite you on a group outing less than a week after you arrive in the country. The people who spend hours searching for a car for you to buy.

The people who make you feel welcome in their church.

Missions will change your perspective of what church looks like, and I believe this is one of the greatest blessings of serving as a missionary. Because missions will help you focus on what is really important, not on a building or a worship style but on the Church, the body of Christ.

Each of my experiences has shown me how God uses the Church to reach the world with the Gospel.

How He uses the Church to provide encouragement and support in our lives.

How He uses the Church to bring glory to Himself.

A cold building, a new language, a different format – none of these things matter in the end. What matters is building the Church.


LauraLaura has served in Portugal and South Africa and is now serving in Ireland. God has given her a heart for teen and young adult girls, as well as a love for drinking coffee and living overseas, and she loves when all three of these come together. She writes regularly about life, travel and healing on her blog
http://continualtransition.wordpress.com.

[Photo: kruggg6, Creative Commons]

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Forgive a Murderer

forgive a murderer

[Guest Post by Laurie Coombs – I met my new sweet friend through our mutual friend Sarah Francis Martin. Her story on forgiveness rocked my world. Could I forgive a murderer and not only that but–without ruining her story–please keep reading!]

What do you do when your world comes crashing down upon you?

What do you do when tragedy strikes? When relationships fail? When trust has been broken? When your cheated on,
lied to, abandoned, and just downright sinned against?

I can tell you this much.

Everything inside you will want to hold onto the anger you feel. You’ll be drawn toward bitterness. Yet, even though you may be just in your feelings of anger, there comes a time that you need to let it go.

There comes a point that we all need to heed the words of our Savior and forgive.

But what does this look like?

How can we forgive amid all the pain, all the anger?

For almost ten years, this question cast its enormous shadow upon me, yet the answer continued to evade.

How do I forgive a murderer–especially the man who murdered my dad? I thought.

Is forgiveness even possible in a situation like this?

Many would say I had justifiable cause to hold on to my anger. I, certainly, wanted to. After all, this man took my dad away from me. I was only twenty when my dad died, and my dad was forty-six. I felt robbed, like every memory I should have been able to make was ripped out from under me.

My dad wasn’t there to walk me down the isle when I got married one year after his death.

He wasn’t there to see me graduate from college.

He wasn’t there to hold my babies when they were born, and my children will never know the most important man in my life, aside from their daddy.

I, certainly, had grounds to remain bitter.

But here’s the thing. Jesus commands forgiveness. Forgiveness is not a suggestion. It’s a command.

But it is the love of God that compels Him to command forgiveness. Truly, we cannot experience all Jesus died for us to have in this life while holding onto our wounds.

As a new Christian, I read the account of Jesus––dying on the cross––hands and feet pierced only moments before, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” and I was amazed by His mercy to forgive those who were in the process of murdering Him.

This is why we forgive, I thought. This is the example we all must follow.

So, I did.

I followed, knowing God would bring healing and wholeness to my soul.

I began writing to Anthony, who was in prison serving his sentence. Together, we worked toward forgiveness as we hashed out some of the most heart wrenching circumstances surrounding my dad’s death.

I can’t say it was easy.

In fact, it was one of the most difficult seasons in my life, but in the end, I stood in awe of our amazing God, having witnessed the impossible happen.

After I was brought to a place of forgiveness, Anthony was transformed before my eyes. God brought him to repentance and set him on a new path bringing glory to Himself in prison.

And I was set free.

I was freed from the pain and the bitterness rooted deep within my soul.

It was nothing less than a work of God. Jesus brought good out of evil, love out of hate, and peace out of despair.

And it all began with prayer.

I’d like to encourage you today to seek God. Pray. Ask Him to reveal any unforgiveness within your heart.

And then follow Jesus as He leads you toward freedom through forgiving those who hurt you.

{Forgiveness always begins with prayer.}

To read more about Laurie’s journey toward forgiveness, read Freedom Through Grace or {Redemption} “Your Testimony May Have Saved a Life!

Laurie CoombsLaurie Coombs is a writer who encourages others to forgive others and to follow Jesus wherever He leads. She lives in Reno, Nevada with her husband, Travis. They have two little girls and are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia. Be sure to visit LaurieCoombs.org and connect her on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

[Photo credit: susanne anette via photopin cc]

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Forgiveness: The F Word

the f word

[Guest Post by Nicole Reyes – I can’t wait for you to hear her later this month as one of the speakers for Quarter Life Conference. She is an advocate for the local church, and I can’t wait for you to hear why. In the mean time, read her powerful story about forgiveness.]

Forgiveness, also known as the F word, can be a hard pill to swallow.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu knows what he’s talking about. He said, “Without forgiveness, there’s no future.”

Many of you are thinking…

“Well, you don’t know the pain I’ve been through.”

I don’t know your past pain, but I do know what’s even worse than the pain of our past is what happens to us when we allow that pain to plague our present and sabotage our futures.

Unforgiveness is a trap.

It keeps us chained to bitterness and disappointment.

It keeps us unable to freely embrace the abundant life that Jesus offers.

I will never forget hearing a woman speak at church years ago. I was 19 years old, and fiercely loyal to the idea of never forgiving my father for what I had experienced growing up in an alcoholic home. I was completely bitter and determined to keep as much distance between my father and me.

But that all changed as I sat listening to this courageous woman share the story of abuse she had been exposed to in her home as a child. She shared about how a relationship with Jesus had brought healing and hope to her life. She described this healing journey as a process, and said an important step in that process was FORGIVENESS.

I thought, “I am never going to forgive my dad!  He should be asking me for forgiveness!”

But no matter how hard I tried to fight it, by the time church had ended, I knew God was asking me to forgive.

I kicked and screamed in my heart.

I cried and prayed all the way home that night. I prayed, “This is too hard, God. How am I supposed to forgive him?  Why would You ask me to do something this hard? Don’t You love me?”

I truly believe this was our Heavenly Father’s response: “I do love you. It’s because I love you that I want you to forgive. I want you free, and you won’t be free without forgiveness.”

That night I called my father.

I clenched the phone in my hand so tightly that my knuckles turned white. I struggled to control my voice as it cracked under the weight of confined tears.

And to my dismay, and by God’s grace, I said, “Papi, I just wanted to tell you that I’m sorry. I want to ask for your forgiveness, because for so long I have been angry and bitter towards you. I want you to know that I love you, and I am deeply sorry my love has been in question.”

Then came a silence that seemed to last forever.

My father finally spoke.   could hear the tears in his shaking voice as he told me that he loved me, and that he was sorry for all that had taken place.

It wasn’t a long conversation that night. 

But some things don’t have to be everlasting to be eternal.

My relationship with my father wasn’t repaired in one conversation.

It took years for the brokenness to be formed, and it would take years for it to fully mend. But a bridge of reconciliation was built that day over the act of FORGIVENESS.

Perhaps even more miraculous was the shift that had taken place in my heart. 

It was as if a chain wrapped around me had burst open.

Forgiveness unlocks purpose and destiny.

It allows us to run freely toward our future.  It replaces skepticism with hope, and bitterness with love.

Forgiveness is not an emotion.

No, forgiveness is a choice. 

It’s a choice we have to make over and over again.

Jesus addressed this very point with His disciples:

“Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”  “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!” (Matthew 18:21-22 NLT)

(It is worth noting that forgiveness is not an invitation to allow someone to harm us. You may need to seek the advice and support of your pastor or another Christian leader to help you navigate a particular situation. Remember, forgiveness is something we freely give, but trust is something that is earned.)

Whether or not relationships are made new, our perspective on life certainly is.

Forgiveness unleashes the God-given potential for greatness that lies within each of us. My prayer is that you have the courage to embrace the type of freedom only accessible through FORGIVENESS.

You were made for far more than a life confined by past hurts.
 

Nicole ReyesNicole Reyes is intent on people everywhere discovering and living out a deeper, more dynamic relationship with Christ. A gifted speaker and leader, one of Nicole’s passions is for people around the globe to learn from the generations that have gone before and to extend a loving hand to the generations that follow. By doing so, Nicole believes everyone can live a vibrant, God-filled life. She also has a strong desire to see the local church make global impact by helping bring solution to social injustice around the world.  Nicole serves as Director of Ministries at Oasis Church in Los Angeles, California under Lead Pastors Philip and Holly Wagner and is part of the Teaching, Pastoral, and Executive Teams, as well as the Oasis women’s ministry team, GodChicks.

[Photo credit: bayat via photopin cc]

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God First Family Second

god first family second

[Guest Post by Beth Berry – I am overjoyed to introduce my second mother-daughter blog duo on devotionaldiva.com. Rachel Berry, Beth’s daughter and I previously met at the San Diego Christian Writer’s Guild. She shared her blog here about losing the Miss Oregon crown. Now, I bring you her mom. Please welcome Beth with open arms.]

I left my office at 10:00 p.m. one cool September night, looking forward to crawling into my warm bed and snuggling up next to my husband of twenty four years.

Like every evening, I looked forward to sharing my day with him and hearing about his.

But that night was different than any other–instead of business meeting recaps or an update on one of our kids’ sports games, the words he spoke were piercing. He coldly pushed my embrace away as he spoke in a stern whisper that he loved me, but wasn’t in love with me. He wanted a divorce.

I resisted his words by initiating a hug, and cried aloud.

No. Please, no.

We have worked so hard to get where we are. We have an incredible family. And above all, I’m in love with you.

What I didn’t realize was that I could not change my husband’s mind, actions, or his ability to love me.

I knew my husband had been unhappy with his life for several years, but I didn’t think he would get to a point where he felt divorce was the solution to his discontentment.

I was angry, and became resentful. I tried in my own power and flesh to make my husband fall back in love with me. I had a successful business and worked another part time job thinking that the more money I made, the more he would love me. As a competitive runner, I thought if I ran faster, won more road races, and completed more marathons, he would love me more.

Those were all empty lies from the enemy.

The voice that didn’t lie was God–which urged me to let go and hand the situation over to Him, where it belonged.

God reminded me that only He can transform a heart. I needed to release my marriage into God’s hands completely.

Because I knew God’s word says he hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), I figured that God wouldn’t allow a divorce to occur between my husband and me. I was wrong. I questioned and doubted God when the divorce became final months later, disregarding what I knew to be true–that His ways and thoughts are higher than mine, even if I don’t understand.

During the years since my divorce, God has shown me that He alone is my provider, my healer, my rock, and my best friend. He revealed to me that my husband had been my idol.

I did everything to please and fear my husband first, and God second–instead of putting God first family second.

God has called me to stand in the gap and pray for my husband’s salvation and the restoration of our marriage. I have joy and peace knowing that I am not in charge of rekindling love into my husband’s heart. I know that God is the almighty restorer and healer.

If you are gazing down the dim road of marital dysfunction, divorce, or are divorced, I challenge you to pursue forgiveness for your spouse and surrender the hurt they have caused to the Lord. He alone has the power to heal and restore your heart, your spouse, and your relationship.

So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate (Matthew 19:6, NKJV).

Beth BerryBeth’s world was shaken when her husband of 24 years unexpectedly filed for divorce at the same time her older sister died suddenly of cancer. After seeking God’s promises through this stormy season, she has a heart for preserving marriage as God intends and standing against the enemy’s plots of family destruction. Beth is the mother of 3 grown children and lives in Southern California where she enjoys long distance running, road cycling, serving in her church. You can find her at http://www.foreverfaithfulfamilies.com/ and on Twitter.

[Photo credit: adwriter via photopin cc]

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How to Write an eBook

how to write an ebook

I’ve received more than a few requests over the past weeks on how to write an eBook.

The printing and publishing business is changing–and fast! Yesterday as I was watching the movie The Help, I was reminded just how far our culture has come with putting words on a page.

Not only are we allowed to write about all things including race or sex, but we have religious freedoms as well. As a Christian and as a writer I believe we have a responsibility to seek and speak the truth. Clearly one is much harder than the other.

My favorite verse (pertaining to writing) in the Bible is from 1 Chronicles 16:24 and Psalm 96:3 that says,

“Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does” (NLT)

Since I recently self published my own eBook, I thought I’d share 8 tips on how to write an eBook and get it published.

Tip #1 – Start With an Outline. Open Microsoft Word and start typing your ideas for chapter titles. This will get the juices flowing. Over time you can expand and actually start writing certain chapters, or copy and paste them where you think they’d fit better. An outline is supposed to be messy. Sometimes I sit on a book title and/or outline of a book for a year (sometimes even years) before I get the inspiration and courage to follow through.

Tip #2 – Follow Through. If you say you’re going to do something then you need to do it. Write and keep writing. Write until you get sick to your stomach or feel weak in the fingers. Write until you break a pencil and your heart. Write until the words don’t stop flowing and you feel at peace. Write when you know your schedule is too busy and write when you’re procrastinating. Write when you’re wanting everything to be perfect and write when everything is a mess. The writing process, as ugly (or clean) as it may be, is part of the fun. You have to start somewhere. Never despise small beginnings.

Tip #3 – Search Amazon. Most eBooks are sold on Amazon. Start searching titles to see if yours is unique or if there are over hundreds with the same title. Keep keyword searches in mind. For instance, if you want to write about relationships like I did, keep your title relevant to keywords or phrases regarding relationships. This makes it easier for people who have never heard of you to search and find your new book.

Tip #4 – Set a Budget. There are plenty of people who are willing to take your money. Want to know how much I paid to self publish my eBook? I paid $269. Not $2,699 or $20 but $269. I paid $200 for editing and $69 for graphic design including the picture I bought off Shutterstock.com. This is not the time to start skimping or refuse to hire a professional. If you want to sell many copies than it needs to act and mimic other books that are professional (see: not self published). Let’s face it–there are many ugly and hideously cheap looking covers and words out there just waiting to bombard you. Make sure yours stands out. Take the time to get it right the first time. You only have one chance for your book cover to make a first impression. Also the first few sentences of the first paragraph of the first chapter are very important, and so on and so forth!

Tip #5 – Don’t Do it all Yourself. I want like to clarify that I did not upload Loves Me Not, my eBook, to Amazon, Smashwords, or Barnes and Noble. Since MagGregor Literary Agency represents me, and this is a service they provide for their authors–I went for it! This is also one of the reasons why I switched agents and literary agencies because as an author I want to make sure I am staying current with the trends. I also know my limits when it comes to formatting and technology and this is definitely something I did not want to attempt myself. That said, maybe you are gifted and maybe you don’t have an agency who will do it for you. Ask around. Hire someone if need be–otherwise here are the uploading and formatting requirements for Amazon and Smashwords. If that doesn’t help you can always Wiki the answer.

Tip #6 – Pricing Matters. You don’t want to price your book too high or too low. Did you know that Amazon takes 65% of books sold between $0.99-$1.99 and 30% between $2.99-$9.99? If you’ve never published with a traditional publisher you might not know how many pages would equal a certain dollar amount. I wouldn’t recommend self publishing an eBook for more than $4.99. An eBook is meant to be easily accessible, downloadable, and purchasable. You want to add value to your name, brand, website, etc–not ask for too much from people. See below for pricing and word count suggestions:

+ $0.99 – 5,000 words or less (for instance a Chapter, a teaser, a booklet, or a giveaway for your blog/website)

+ $1.99 – 5,000-10,000 words

+ $2.99 – 10,000-20,000 words

+ $3.99 – 20-000-30,000 words

+ $4.99 – 30,000-40,000 (plus) words

51Fo+owhoyL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-52,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Tip #7 – Marketing Matters. Just because there are lots of crappy eBooks out there doesn’t mean if you follow these tips and make the most presentable, most professional eBook known to man are you guaranteed to sell a ton of copies. The great thing with eBooks is they never go out of print! Times have changed and sometimes it can take a book a while to catch on. With traditional publishing, they have sales reps who sell mass quantities (wholesale), that juice up your stats. When my first book, Faithbook of Jesus, released on March 8, 2010 the entire print run of 5,000 copies had already sold out. This is not the same with eBooks. There are no “limited” quantities or numbers of print runs. Please don’t be discouraged if your book doesn’t sell well in the first week or weeks. My literary agent, Amanda Luedeke just released her first eBook, The Extroverted Writer and in it she gives all sorts of amazing tips on how to market yourself (not just for eBook only authors, but for all authors). I suggest you buy a copy for yourself. She also said if you sell 400-500 copies in a month or the first few months you’re doing alright.

Tip #8 – Celebrate with friends, family, and food. It can be so easy to get caught up in the lonely life of a writer. Don’t neglect your family and friends. When you take the time, money, and effort to get that eBook out there–it’s time to celebrate and never look back! You can market all you want, but at the end of the day the people you’re living with mean (and should matter) the most. Even if that means sacrificing some key marketing time or writing one last article. If you’re a writer who wants to be around for the long haul you’ll quickly learn that it’s a marathon not a sprint. I tried that and got burnt out. Don’t get burnt out! Have fun and remember to enjoy the process and smell an iPad 🙂

[Photo: ktoth(.), Flickr]

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Staying Together Damaged Me

staying together damaged me

[Guest Post by Anonymous – Today’s guest wishes to remain anonymous to protect the identity of her family. If you know of anyone who is suffering in silence in a marriage that is both damaging and abusive, please encourage them that they are not alone–and it’s okay to get help!]

Living together damaged me.

I can hear the traditionalists cheering and saying “Finally!” Hold those cheers ones of traditional leanings…you may not like what I have coming.

I have a history of doing the “right” thing. In high school I didn’t drink because I played sports, and the legal age for drinking was 21, not 15, 16, or 17.

I stayed pure because I wanted to save myself for my husband.

And really, even in college, I deemed no boyfriend worthy of all this fleshly goodness–and then I met my future husband, who also wanted to do the right thing.

But.

It’s so hard being in your 20’s and not giving in to the wonders of the flesh.

Since I knew I was going to marry him–well, I’d saved myself long enough–I jumped in. We married a few months later and I really believed life would be my fairy tale–until I found myself divorced 17 years later.

Living together damaged me.

Staying together damaged me.

I previously said I had a history of doing the right thing.

I followed rules. 

I ate right. 

I took care of my physical body. 

I made my husband breakfast every morning, and lunch, and dinner. I had sex with him even though exhaustion ravaged my body. I paid the bills, then when he deemed I couldn’t handle finances, I let him take over to the point of freezing me out of bank accounts. After all, that is what good wives did.

The right thing to do is to follow your husband’s lead.

I took care of the kids night and day. I got them to school or schooled them myself. I got a job—to help out the family. I served, or over-served, in my church. I spoke my husband up, even though I lived with a massive secret. I did all this because it was the right thing–the wifely thing to do.

And my sense of worth suffered.

I worked harder in ministry because I didn’t quite have it right. I cleaned the house every day because it needed to be just right. I kept all forms of kid fighting off the radar when daddy got home, because that was the right thing to do. I kept our fights, my bruises, the insults and harsh words a secret—all in the name of the right thing to do.

And then I cracked.

I suffered. 

I cried. 

I screamed. 

I fell apart. 

I started throwing over the counter migraine medicine down my throat because all the right things had caught up to me and I realized how wrong I had been.

For years and years I stayed in an unhealthy situation, because I thought it was the right thing to do.

For years and years I cultivated a marriage, I lived together, in a situation where sin abounded and so many, many people got caught in its crossfire. For years and years I let unhealthy people walk all over me, believing it was the right thing to do.

And all the while, staying together was damaging me.

I grieve over the loss of my marriage.

I grieve over the loss of family.

I hate divorce, even though I am divorced.   

But I celebrate in the broken pieces being renewed. I celebrate healthy living—not in the physical form, but in the mental, emotional and spiritual form. And I have come to this conclusion:

Sometimes, living together in the covenant of marriage can damage you, but living together outside the covenant of marriage will always leave its imperfect mark on the relationship.

[Photo credit: Grumpy-Puddin via photopin cc]

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