Please welcome this weeks guest Lori-Ann White for The Journey. She answers the question: How have you seen God work in your writing journey?
I’ve always been a bit…different, but no one expected me to move from academic excellence for the better part of six years at a university—and no degree. Thanks to such a stellar display of unparalleled brilliance, I’ve been at home for the past two years. What seemed like the worst possible thing has turned into numerous opportunities for growth, and has led me into one of the things close to the top of my “never” list—somewhere after skydiving and falling in love—writing a novel.
I don’t often get annoyed, but rather than give in to the temptation to say things I’d have to apologize for, I went to the computer one December night almost two years ago. Much to my surprise, instead of some cryptic poem, what spewed out was the first chapter of a story. Prior to that, I hadn’t written a story since high school—eight or so years earlier.
Despite being convinced it was a fluke, I submitted to the impulse to email it to my sisters and my Literature major friend. I chalked their enthusiasm up to my undeniable charm and the inescapable reality or how lovable I am, but I caved and kept writing. Over thirty chapters (and an epilogue) later, it hit me. I, with my rich history of procrastination and nonchalance, had worked at something for months. Something I had no intention of doing. And I had finished it!
One novel led to two, which led to starting a third, but something was missing. I could tell the writing in the second novel was better, but I just had no idea how to fix the first any further. (Editing’s a nightmare, by the way, but I love it.)
There are numerous resources available to writers, but considering my non-existent finances, there seemed no way to access all I needed to. Google is my friend, and that’s how I discovered ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and their Genesis contest for unpublished novelists. I didn’t have the money to sign up, so I put it from my mind for almost a year. My sister reminded me about it, and offered to pay for me to join ACFW and enter the contest. I felt stupid, but I entered the first story, although it was nowhere near as strong as it ought to be. No surprise there, but it didn’t make it to the semi-final. Nevertheless, it’s possibly the best thing to have happened to me as a writer.
My favorite thing about the Genesis contest is that they return your entry with the judges’ comments. After much cringing, I finally opened the email and read the comments. The judges were tough, but so gracious. My trepidation fast faded to sheer relief that I knew what to fix, even if I didn’t quite know how to fix those things. The comments provided further insight, and my ACFW membership provided access to resources I needed, and I’m excited to be learning so much. It’s not enough to “have a way with words” or have a good story. I’m working at the craft, slow as the progress may be, and I like it. To top it off, I’ve met some really cool people (Hi, Kristena!).
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (KJV)
My first Sunday School teacher taught me that verse, which means I’ve known it since I was four or five. Perhaps that is one of the reasons I’ve never doubted God’s plan to redeem mankind. What I do doubt, however, is that God will redeem me. I know I’m saved—in that cool-with-Jesus-and-going-to-heaven sense. Still, I’ve made such a colossal mess of things that it is hard to constantly believe the everyday areas of my life will be redeemed. It’s so much bigger than the idea that I don’t deserve it, but just that logical (and often cold) core that tells me this is life, and I should accept it.
It is entirely too easy to focus on my failings, magnifying them to the point that they outweigh the reality of grace in my mind. Silly human. It took a while, but God has used my writing journey as one of His massive hints that my current state is not punitive. I connect dots and tell myself how different life would be if I had just…many things have filled that space. When I can so clearly see the link between my poor choices and the difficulties in my life, the natural next step is to blame myself.
The issue isn’t even whether it is my fault. The issue is that God is Redeemer, and nothing is impossible for Him. He weaves us into His story and His story into ours, and we think we know the whole story. How nearsighted of me to act as if any mistake or combination thereof is greater than God, greater than His love, greater than grace.
I’m still a long way from seeking publication, especially since I have to apply the writing lessons I’m learning, but this journey has been great so far. God has used it to highlight His faithfulness and His mercy. He has reminded me over and over that I am His, no matter what. He has opened my eyes to the scope of redemption. If—and since—He could redeem the whole world all at once, any failings on my part are negligible in comparison.
Want to know what I love most about this whole writing deal? I do not see how I would have arrived here had I lived up to my geek potential. It is as if this is yet another chance at life, another beautiful gift from the Father of Lights. Maybe school yet lies in my future, but He is my present. Even if no one else reads another word I write down (thanks to all my family and friends who have been kind enough to read the stories), this has been more than worth it.
I have learned to embrace life (as opposed to letting it pass me by), I have discovered that somewhere within this cynic still lives the little girl who believed in sunshine and happy endings, and I have journeyed with my characters, growing as they have grown. Above all, thanks to His leading on this writing journey, I have rediscovered the Father’s heart. A heart that delights in redemption.
P.S. After seasons of wavering, I can say it now. “Hi. My name is Lori-Ann Whyte, and I’m a writer.”
The youngest of six girls from a Jamaican home with no TV until she was eight, Lori prefers reading to all other forms of entertainment. She has finally worked her way around to calling herself a writer, and has developed a deep passion for the art form. A proud weirdo, with a three-year-old for a best friend, Lori hopes to grow up one day. God seems to be leading the conspiracy to accomplish just that.