I've been tagged by Rose McCauley
to "Remember When…Ten, Twenty, and Thirty Years Ago."Ten Years Ago: 1997.
My husband was an official for the state office of our denomination, which meant we traveled all over Florida and the Virgin Islands ministering in churches. I know. It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta' do it. (That's Milton's phrase.) Oh, the beauty of that turquoise water! We felt blessed to get to do this.
Both daughters would marry the next year, in 1998, within four months of each other.
Though I'd had hundreds and hundreds of articles published, had worked for two New York Times
subsidiaries, had earned my degree in mass communications/journalism in 1992, had taught at two colleges, yada, yada, yada, it was my dream to see my fiction published. I'd always loved fiction—since elementary school days and the Nina Grant nurse novels. Favorite authors became Willa Cather, Bess Streeter Aldrich, Victoria Holt, Grace Livingston Hill, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, and then Catherine Marshall when she wrote Christy
. How I loved that novel my mother purchased for me.
So I set out to get my fiction published in the 90s. Though I'd had lots of success in nonfiction, I quickly learned fiction is a whole 'nother ballgame. You have to learn dialogue techniques, and scene and sequel, and show don't tell, and point of view, ad infinitum. The list was a mile long. I enrolled in a weekly college fiction-writing class and attended for four long years. My multi-published instructor critiqued 10 pages per week, and that was invaluable! I worked and worked and worked, and in 2000, my dream came true. Amazingly, the editor named it American Dream
(a Barbour 4-in-1 novella collection; my novella: "I Take Thee, A Stranger"), and it hit the Christian bestsellers list and sold over 50,000 copies! (Out of print but still available on Amazon
, for mere pennies! :) )Twenty Years Ago: 1987.
Boy, that's going a-ways back. We were pastoring in Bartow
, the prettiest little town in Florida
. Interestingly, in the 1990s when Walt Disney World spent mega-millions creating a city in Florida named Celebration, I thought, That's what we had in Bartow: charming small-town ambience
. White picket fences. Sidewalks and street lamps. A town square. Friendliness. Safety. Neighborhood schools. Every evening after supper, we'd ride our bikes with the girls, pedaling down the sidewalks beside the picket fences, even riding up to the door of the domed courthouse, then back home to baths, bowls of ice cream, and Bible stories and prayer. Fun.
I was seeing success in my writing. I was taking every opportunity I could find. I wrote for Christian magazines, newspapers, etc. I had my own weekly newspaper column called "The Good Life." I likened it to the fare of nationally-syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman's, only I wrote about current events in relation to what the Bible said.
In church life as a pastor's wife, I did what I've always done, working in areas of need at the church: women's ministries, youth, children, young adults, etc. I joke that I've worked in every area of church life except men's ministry, and I don't
joke about cleaning enough commodes to last a lifetime! :) In that year, I was leading women and playing the organ for all services.Thirty Years Ago: 1977.
Yikes. This is really going down Memory Lane. I had two-year-old Julie, and we lived in one of the prettiest towns in Alabama: Elba
, The Little Town With the Big Heart. The next year, little Jennifer would be born--15 miles away in Enterprise, Alabama
, the only city with a monument to a boll weevil.
Yes, you read that right. A boll weevil, an insect that destroys
cotton. (An interesting story.) We built our third church, and I did everything from hanging wallpaper and ceiling panels, to painting life-size murals, to you-name-it. Loved every minute of it.
It was about this time that the Lord whispered into my heart that one day I would be a writer. "A writer?" I said, the shakes hitting me. He might as well have said, One day, you're going to be an astronaut
. It seemed that unachievable at the time—my mind quickly said I had to have a journalism degree, and I had to do this and that and the other (like take time away from ministry duties, etc., which I didn't feel I could do). So, like Mary the Mother of Jesus, I pondered these things in my heart.
At the same time this was going on, the Lord whispered the same thing to Milton! In addition, he felt the Lord say we would one day write together. Awhile later, Milton told me about this, and I wept at this confirmation.
Later, I started checking out armloads of books from the library, books about how to get published, how to sell articles, where to send them, etc. It was like my own college courses. I studied my heart out, and soon, I was getting published. Hundreds of articles later, I got my heart's desire: I went back to college and earned my degree in mass communications/journalism.
In addition, Milton and I have written together and been published, and we enjoy that process.
It's interesting, this "tag" about remembrances, because in the last two or three weeks at church, that's been a word that's been used often: remembering. We heard a song at our denomination's national convention in August with the words,
I will remember,
I will remember,
I will remember,
The works of Your hands,
I will stop,
And give You praise,
For great is Your faithfulness.
Milton had our music minister teach it to our congregation, and it's been a blessing to us as a church and as individuals. Then, this past Wednesday night, during a time of sharing, a woman exhorted us to remember the things God had done for us in the past so we could trust and believe Him for the future, for the things we were struggling with.
David had the courage to fight Goliath by remembering how the Lord helped him kill the lion and the bear.
Oh yes! That's a word for all of us!