Another's Success Doesn't Render You a Failure

It's funny how we can feel like just because someone else gets something, it means we can't have it too. It doesn't matter our age, this rings true for us. 

My daughter Karis is almost 7 and the most competitive person I know. She isn't a kid we have to push, she's a kid we have to pull back. Her intensity is the most beautiful and most challenging part about parenting her. She loves to win, and feels like she needs to win. So often I have to tell her, "Karis, just have fun! Just enjoy it. This isn't a race or a competition or game. Just have fun." She gets so mad when I say this because all of life is a competition to her. 

I get it too, I'm the same way. She is her mother's daughter that is for sure. 

I've had this blog post title in draft form since this past spring because this has been a lesson I've had to fight hard to believe. And if I'm being honest, something I am fighting and will have to keep fighting to believe. 

Everywhere we turn we are told we don't measure up. The magazines in the Target check out line tell us we aren't fit or stylish enough. Our social media feeds tell us we have no lives and no friends. The only real mail we get these days are pictures of everyone's happy families at Christmas or babies being born, which doesn't match the image of our lives. We see the likes, comments and following of someone else and ours don't compare. We see the promotions, raises and success and we fall one more step behind.

We are constantly being told we don't measure up. We've already failed. 

There's nothing like the book writing process to make you deal with your own heart. It's probably the thing I will forever be the most grateful for when looking back at this first proposal process years from now. Regardless of how things end up or with which publisher I end up partnering with, I'm grateful for what God has already done in my own heart. 

It's becoming quite comical how many pieces of my book I'm being forced to keep testing out if I believe they are true. It's been my constant prayer that this book is actually helpful. I keep thinking of all the circumstances in the lives of those that will read it and what you all have going on. I want this book to help you, not go unfinished like so many other books we had great hopes for helping us. 

One of the steps to the book writing process is to list out your possible endorsers, your social media following, etc,... basically anything that makes you seem awesome. Understandably so because while these publishing houses are Christian, they still need to keep the lights on and pay their people. So they need to make sure that your words aren't just great, but they will actually sell. This wasn't as hard as I thought it would be but only for one reason: It's like when Peter stepped out onto the water knowing who he was but confident and walking on water because he knew who Jesus was.

Not only do you have to write about your scope of influence but then you have to narrow down to the top 5 biggest books that would compete against yours. I'll tell you what, this part was even harder. This is like when Peter started to notice the waves. 

I wanted nothing more than to climb back into my safe, comfortable and dry boat. 

I am pretty disciplined on social media to celebrate others in ministry and fight the insecure lies when the come up. There are season I have to unfollow certain people until my heart is in a better place (less competitive or insecure and more celebratory). I was fine until I had to do this part of things-- I had to really known my "competitors" (which feels wrong to call, what I consider partners in the gospel" competitors but it is what it is). 

So here I was pouring myself over these 5 biggest competitors. I learned about their books. Sought to find out how my book was unique from theirs. I studied their ministries and followers to see the parallels and differences. There were many times I thought,

"I can't. What I have to offer isn't unique enough." 

Have you ever thought that? 

You see 5, 10, 100, maybe even 1,000s of others doing the very thing you want to do, and you might even perceive that they are doing it better than you. So you render yourself a failure just because you've seen their success. 

We have got to stop this. It's just not true.

One thing I learned in my days of public relations is that it can take the average consumer 8 times to hear a message before they even really listen or believe it. That's crazy, right?! 

And it's most certainly not the gospel message at all to believe that there is only one person entrusted to do one thing-- God entrusts many. 

This past Lent there was one day in our Lent study that got me so hard-- we were reading the parable of the talents in Matthew 25

The master gave one servant 5, another 2, and another 1. The one with 5 turned it into 10, the one with 2 turned it into 4 and the one with 1 was afraid and hid it having only the 1 to show. 

Woah. The one given the least did absolutely nothing only because he was afraid. The one with 5 turned it to 10, and was then given the one making it 11. We could get annoyed in our entitlement ridden society because "the rich get richer." 

What we forget, or often overlook often in this story, is there was someone else-- the one who was given 2 and turned it into 4. And He was given the same affirmation as the one with 10: 

"Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master." 

Not a word of this response was different from the one the master gave the one with 10.

We forget this about our God. 

We are so trained in our society, much like my daughter, that everything is a competition. That if we aren't winning we are losing. And it's just not the way of The Father. 

That day I can't even tell you the work the Lord did in my life and in my heart. I was released from chains of comparison I had shackled around my ankles for so long. It wasn't until I did that day that I had the courage to write the book proposal. 

I know that today I am the servant given 2. I know there are others that are given 5 today. I know that being a "good and faithful servant" today might mean that the best I can do is produce 4 with what I've been given today. I know that one day I might be given more, like the 4 that I had multiplied the 2 into. Then if I'm a "good and faithful servant" I'll have 8.

There might also be a day-- soon or in the far future when all I have left is just the 1. This might be where you find yourself today. It's easier to take some risks when you are holding more than 1 talent in your hand. Fear can cause us to hold on to things tighter than we should. 

Today, what do you need to let go of or do something with

so God can bring about a return?

The goal isn't us getting richer, figuratively or literally. The talents are all the master's, the servants are just entrusted with it for a time. 

His Bloody Hands On My Face

I've been home from Kenya, Africa for 53 days and I'm still struggling to share the stories for so many reasons: 

One: I'm a word person and I am having a hard time crafting words that would do justice to what I saw, learned, and experienced over there, and continue to process since being home. Two: So many of the stories aren't mine to share. The stories I've heard have wrecked me and sharpened me and purified my faith. But to share them with you would dishonor their confidence even though they don't have access to the internet or you access to them. So many stories simply aren't mine to share. Three: Life. I got home on a Sunday afternoon and was back to being a stay-at-home mom of 3 little girls, CEO of Sacred Holidays and signed a book deal with an agent that Monday. I've so neglected this space because my words and attention have been pulled else where.

So about Kenya... Oh friends, I loved it. Loved the people. And am crazy wild about His Voice Global (learn more about HVG and follow @hisvoiceglobal on Instagram). I think I'm going to share a story with you every couple of weeks or so to spread out the trip for you and me. There's just no way to do one recap post. 

We were there to put on a Women's Conference for the women in the Rift Valley, but the first day was all about learning about about the people and then visiting some in their homes. I'll share more about the home visits, but first I want to share about this boy. 

We were walking back to our van down the dusty, rocky roads and we turned a corner and saw some kids in the distance and they took off running towards our group. This little one leap into my arms and wouldn't let me set him down until it was time to go. 

The heart breaking thing about so many of these children is they are left to roam the streets all alone. I won't share the details of this boy because it's not mine to share. But I'll tell you that the majority of these kids are wondering the streets of this village because it's been days since their mom has returned home from prostituting themselves. Most of their fathers are dead or gone. Days they go without eye contact or a hug. There is no one intent on adoring them and posting their every success to social media. Days they go without food or water. The women that live in this camp (more details coming about the homes later) that go to the church, Rift Valley Fellowship, that His Voice Global partners with for everything in Kenya, take these children in on the days and nights their moms have disappeared again. They are the Heroes of God's great story. 

This is what I wrote in my journal that day: 

One boy ran up to me as if he was my son, and I his Mommy he hadn't seen all day. He literally leapt into my arms and wrapped his arms tight around my neck, refusing to be put down. He seemed about Moriah's age, maybe four, but felt the same weight as Chandler (our two year old). His hands were covered with dirt and blood, both were caked on. I couldn't tell why because they were so filthy. His face covered in dirt and blisters. But those eyes of his-- big, brown eyes. 

He took his bloody, dirt covered fingers and traced my hot pink lips. Again and again he circled them. We were both lost in the moment and each other.

He patted his chest and said, "James." 

He wanted me to know his name. James. I will never forget him, just as a birth mom never forgets the child placed on her chest but given away to someone else. 

James. Big brown eyes with bloody, dirty hands. James. 

We continued down that rocky, bumpy, dusty road. Other children joining us with each step. Each person on our team had arms and hands full. Soon a child was holding each of my hands too, as James still circled his arms tight around my neck and looked at me with those big bright eyes that still make me smile at the thought of them. 

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I didn't know why I was in Kenya, it just felt like I was supposed to go. I didn't know what help I could bring or what real difference I could make once I got home. But I knew I was supposed to go. 

James taught me something that day: be available for each person that is just in front of you. 

I'm such a doer and dreamer/planner that I can get distracted in the here and now. My body may be present but my mind is 6 months or 6 years ahead. It's so ridiculous, I'm so ridiculous. But James taught me to be present.

To be open to whatever God brings about as I'm simply walking down the path I'm on.

To embrace the ones that need it.

To not fear getting messy (or worse) from the things I'll be exposed to when I embrace all kinds of people. 

To love on others more fully-- really look them in they eye and see them.

I would've scooped up James that day and brought him home with me that day if the law allowed it. And you better believe I googled Kenya adoption laws and asked Chris if there was any way we could relocate for 6 months (a requirement to adopt from Kenya is to live there for 6 months). But bringing James into our home wasn't God's plan for me or James that day. He has a Mama. The Lord sees him and her and I can only pray that He will rescue them. Not to a life that is clean or rich, but to a life that is full of faith and love. 

I wasn't James's hero that day. I was there only for a moment. The hero of His story will always be Jesus. Jesus is the one who sees and looks after James. Jesus is the one that has all those women of the community watching over him when his family doesn't. Jesus is the one that provides extra food for one of those women and a palate on the floor for James. He knows love greater than what I offered him in that moment. 

But that moment was still sacred and it was for both of us.  I will never forget those eyes or those bloody, dirty fingers tracing over my hot pink lips. 

I have an agent & I'm writing a book!

I've had an idea for a book for nearly two years and the idea of it just wouldn't leave me alone. I thought of ways to turn it into a study for Sacred Holidays and it just felt forced. So I've been sitting on it for two years. I played with the idea of self-publishing it a year or so ago, and it felt like if it was going to be something, it needed to be catapulted into the world. So I sat and waited for the next step. 

Six months ago I sat around a table in Colorado at Camp Well, and said the word out loud for the first time: "I want to write a book, get it published and now is the time." 

Up until that moment getting published was something I'd always put in the much later down the road category if that was something God had for me. I had disqualified myself because of life circumstances (aka a bunch of excuses or insecurities). I said it couldn't happen until my kids were older, I was older, or my plate less full. But with age I've learned our timing and ideas pale in comparison to His ideas and ways (Isaiah 55:8-9 confirms this hunch).

So here I am with three kids ages six and younger, I am 35 myself, and my plate is full and...

Last night I officially signed this contract (unofficially, the day before I left for Kenya) and am officially represented by Blair & Rachel Jacobson with  D.C. Jacobson & Associates! (Copy and paste all the happy emoticons here!!!!!!!!!)

Chris and I were just going over my sample chapters this morning and I referenced Camp Well in a chapter. He looked up and pointed out that was just this past fall. The past 6 months have been a whirlwind y'all. A crazy, only God kind of a whirlwind. 

Remember the day before I left for Camp Well is when I first heard the new that I needed to see a hematology oncologist. At the time it could be anything from something weird with my blood to cancer in my blood. A month later and we were down to two options, the extremes we were given-- it would either be a weird blood thing that was easily treated or leukemia. The fall was gut wrenching. (You can read more of that story here.) Moving forward and we learned it wasn't cancer, and on to other tests (read more here). All in the midst of launching Advent with Sacred Holidays. It was a our biggest year yet and we were full-on, busy. Then the holidays with family. And onto Lent, my first study to publish with Sacred Holidays that I wrote on my own since the first year. My calendar was filling up and I was speaking more. I've never battled insecurity like I did the past six months of ministry because the enemy would like nothing more than to see us stopped from doing the things we are meant to do.

All things on paper seemed like they were going well, and they were! But I just felt like something was missing. I couldn't stop thinking of this book, but the idea of one more thing sounded absolutely crazy. Then I literally looked up and saw the verse I've had taped all over my house for the past year in multiple translations. 

I realized all my excuses were just excuses and it was time to go after that book. 

Oh and that is a process my friends. It sounds easy: have a book idea, write a book, then publish a book. Oh no, that's just not how things work if you want to be traditionally published. I am all for self-publishing, this is what we currently do for Sacred Holidays and will continue to do this method for as long as it is best. I've also seen self-publishing be the best alternative for many other writer friends. But I knew that for writing books, I wanted to work with a traditional publisher. With choosing that route, I knew that there also came a lot (read A LOOOOOOOTTTTTT) of work that goes into even getting started with writing a book. 

First step is get an agent. Publishers love authors, but publishers love authors when they are represented by an agent. Honestly, I love this concept too-- it allows the business side to be handled by someone else and the author is freed up to have a freer relationship with the publisher. I had to find an agent. 

Most writers have as standard proposal that they copy and paste and send to hundreds of agents. I knew this just wasn't the method for me. I didn't want just any agent. I wanted a real partner. I needed to respect and trust and want to learn from this person. I needed to know the book would be better with this person as the other advocate for it. I didn't want just any deal, I wanted to best deal, the right deal for me and my book (and all the future books to come). 

So I made my list of dream agents and narrowed it down even further. I followed the instructions for submitting a proposal, which ended up being a document more than twenty pages long: book summaries, book outline, chapter summaries, primary and secondary audience analysis, author bio and profile, competitive analysis, and more. I wouldn't call it hazing, but this is where they can weed out any one who isn't serious about writing a book. You will have a really good idea of your book, your audience, your competition and yourself after you've finished your proposal.

So I submitted it and I waited. I had a whole tribe of friends that were praying this whole thing into existence and cheering me on. 

A couple of days later I got a response! Interest and meetings and all was looking good! Then on my birthday of all days, I got the email that said it wouldn't work out. I was so discouraged because things really seemed to be looking like it would happen... and it was my birthday. Major womp womp, y'all. 

Then just a few days later, that generous and talented agent, who wasn't able to represent me, passed along my proposal to an agent she thought would be a better match for me, and they were interested! A few days later we talked and then both agreed to work together! 

It's funny because just a week before I had been crushed, and as soon as I got off the call with my new agents I turned to Chris and said this is the perfect team for me! I needed to go through the first step with the first agent or else I wouldn't have been connected with who represents me now, and I couldn't be more thrilled than to be working with Blair & Rachel Jacobson with  D.C. Jacobson & Associates

One of the things I say most about wanting to go with the traditional route of publishing for the books is because I feel I have the most to learn in the realm. Having run Sacred Holidays for two and a half years now, I know the value agents and publishers bring to the table. So I feel like I struck gold with Blair and Rachel because Blair is a writing coach and Rachel is a creative. I want to grow as a writer, but I also want to put out products that push the norm and what's expected when people pick up books and Bible studies. 

So I am incredibly honored to join the team at D.C. Jacobson & Associates. They represent some of my very favorite authors: Jess Connolly, Vicki Courtney, Joshua Harris, Tammie Head, Jamie Ivey, Kat Lee, Kelly Minter, Hayley Morgan, Tsh Oxenreider, Jessica Turner, Kasey Van Norman, Logan Wolfram, and Alli Worthington. 

I can't wait to share more about the book and this process with you all! It's a slow process, so know it will take some time. You all will be the first to know when I can share about the book, when launch team sign ups start, etc.