Thursday, August 17, 2017

When a Writer Tries to Help God with Math

by Emily Conrad

I peered around a room of more than five hundred people. Most of us were at that writing conference because we believed God called us to write, and the majority of us believed publication was the way to fulfill that calling. But what I also heard at that conference? An editor I respected told me her imprint would only publish one debut author the following year.

One out of all the aspiring authors out there.

Lord, maybe not all 500 of us are looking to get published right now, and I know there are other publishing options than that one editor, but still, this is way too many writers. I hear so much bad news about how Christian fiction is doing. Surely some of us must’ve misheard You, because this is impossible.

Whether you’re a writer or not, don’t you have seemingly impossible dreams, too? In some area, don’t the odds seem stacked against you and the numbers overwhelmingly not in your favor?

We're in good company.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Living Aware and In Love

by Emily Conrad

What if Jesus returns in September? This coming one, to be exact?

The question captivates me. September is soon but not too soon. I can get some work done before then, talk to some people, make a final difference. But it’s not years and years. It’s not after what I would hope/expect to be my natural lifespan. It’s not even after the release of my debut novel.

But, of course, the question is also hypothetical. It occurred to me as I read a post fellow author Linda Thompson about a sign from Revelation that appears to be occurring in our sky in September. I don’t know much about end times prophecy, and the Bible warns us that we do not know the day or the hour when Jesus will return. So, I (and Linda, by the way) by no means mean to predict when Jesus will come back.

We can’t say.

But we can read the Bible. 1 Peter 4:7 warns, “For the culmination of all things is near” and James 5:8 says, “the Lord’s return is near” (NET).

Because the Bible has been around for a long time, it’s easy to live as though the Lord’s return will be sometime after the end of my natural life. But even if the Second Coming is still one hundred years or more in the future, our natural lives are fleeting, too.

The days of our lives add up to seventy years,
or eighty, if one is especially strong.
But even one’s best years are marred by trouble and oppression.
Yes, they pass quickly and we fly away.
So teach us to consider our mortality,
so that we might live wisely.
– Psalm 90:10 and 12, NET

So, not to be morbid, but time for each of us is shorter now than ever before, and it’s important to treat it that way.

Considering the brevity of this opportunity at life suspends me between a sense of urgency and a deep need to trust something--Someone--greater than myself.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

6 Dream-Growing Tips from the Garden

There's a reason I post about gardening here pretty often in summer, and it's not that I'm good at it, though it occurs to me that I may give the impression that I am because I tend to tell the success stories.

The truth is, I post about gardening because I'm fumbling my way through, learning as I go, taking risks, and I'm thrilled when something actually grows. If it flourishes? That wonder probably warrants two blog posts! 

But there have been failures, too.

Months ago, I posted about the tomato plants I started from seed. I was so excited as they broke the soil and began to stretch upward. When they were a couple of inches tall and the days had grown warm, I decided it was time to let the little plants get some sunshine to help sturdy up their lanky legs.

I set them in the light and left them to soak it up to their little hearts' content.

When I retrieved their tiny pot hours later, the small plants had turned from bright green to translucent yellow. The sun had baked them through, and not one survived. 

Nothing like murdering a baby plant you'd spent weeks tending.

Going a little further back, at our last house, much of the backyard was dominated by a black walnut tree. Though I chose a sunny spot for my vegetable garden, very little grew because particles that wash off a black walnut tree stunt the growth of many other plants. My watermelon plant that year produced one, two-inch round melon. When it was clear it wouldn't develop any further, I cut it open hoping that it was the world's cutest little watermelon, but it was green all the way through.

Probably my worst plant kill? I had a cactus. I watered it so little that it started to die, so I decided to water it a lot to try to save it. But then it started to turn yellow. I must've had it outside or something, because the soil was wet (maybe from rain?) when I noticed it yellowing. 

This is going to sound terrible, but I thought I ought to dry the soil out a bit, so I placed it in a warm spot. Figuring it was a cactus, I thought it could handle a little heat. I put it on top of the oven--not in it, not on a burner, but in the same spot my mom puts the dinner rolls to keep them warm while the turkey cooks, you know?

Well, it wasn't long before that cactus was one cooked turkey.

Even now, a few plants are on the premises that may or may not make it. 

As I was smiling to myself over my garden failures, it occurred to me that despite them, I still enjoy trying. 

This is not how I operate. Not in other areas of life. Smile over a spectacular failure? Um, no.

So what is it about my gardening mentality that makes it so enjoyable win or lose, and can I please, please apply it to other things I'm trying to grow--like my dreams? 

Here are 6 tenets of my gardening mindset that I'm determined to use to better the way I look at life and my dreams:

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

This Abundant Life

by Emily Conrad

Another cucumber stretches downward from where it first budded near the top of the lattice fence, gravity elongating what the seed packet promised would be a “whopper” into something that looks like those seedless cukes that come wrapped in plastic at the grocery store.

I saw it days ago but forgot to check on it. It’s now over a foot long.

I catch another cucumber turning into a pumpkin. This one, too, was growing downward, but after about eight inches, it touched bottom. Supported, its bulk pooled against the mulch like a water balloon, stretching away from the faucet as it fills.

It’s barely August, and already my vegetable garden of seven plants—only one of which is bearing fruit so far—is producing more than I can eat.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Cold Brew Coffee and Dreams Come True

by Emily Conrad

I’ve enjoyed coffee long enough that I should know by now how much each little tweak to the brewing process matters.

I appreciate my Ninja coffee maker and it’s “specialty brew” capabilities, but I love the depth of flavor I get from my Aeropress (affiliate links). I know that adding a scoop more or less of coffee makes a big difference. I know that if I get a caramel macchiato made at one particular coffee shop, it’ll be better than if I get it at the closer place. I know fresh roasted coffee is better than the stuff that’s been sitting on the shelf at the grocery store.

Each little variation makes a difference.

Yet, when I saw a recipe for cold brew coffee, I dismissed it.

That sounds like a lot of hassle. You have to let it steep how long? I’ve got more than enough waiting in my writing life. I’d rather not carry that over into my coffee drinking.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Rejection Comes With the Territory and That's Okay

by Emily Conrad

Rejection comes with the territory of trying.

I've known this in my writing life for years--since I started submitting my work to literary agents as a high school senior who still had a long, long way to go. Over fifteen years later, I still get writing rejections.

I've been rejected professionally, too. I haven't gotten every job I interviewed for. I've sent networking emails that didn't receive a response. I've even tried to negotiate positions and failed. Twice.

Rejection is just part of the process.

In the world of relationships, I suppose I've should've known this even longer, given the difficulty I experienced in elementary school friendships, but instead of acknowledging that not every relationship I pursue is going the blossom, I tend to turn against myself when one fails to take root.

Why aren't I likeable? What's wrong with me?

Earlier this year, I read the book Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out and Lonely by Lysa TerKeurst. As I read, I noticed just how many different stories of being rejected TerKeurst shared—friendships and other relationships that soured for reasons that seemed understandable enough based on what I read in the book.

I’ve noticed that at times when I’m facing a little more friction in relationships, it’s because I’m involved with more people. And the reason I suspect TerKeurst could share so many rejection stories? Because she’s involved with a lot of people.

As a perfectionist, it’s tempting to believe there’s no correlation. It’s tempting to believe all rejection is avoidable. But if I manage to avoid rejection, it’s only by secluding myself or compromising myself. One leaves me lonely, the other tramples my convictions.

If I work hard to avoid being rejected, I’ll be true to others and not myself.

If I work hard to avoid being the rejecter, I’ll compromise there, too.

The truth is, not everyone will like me. Sadly, not everyone will like you, either. Not everyone should like you.

Dare I say, some rejections are not only inevitable, they are healthy.

The people-pleaser in me cringes to write that, but it’s true.

Rejection comes with the territory of trying.

It may provide the needed (albeit painful) catalyst for growth (if we’re brave enough to look for it), or it may simply free us to pursue a new relationship or more fitting opportunity.

Whatever the case, rejection is not a reason to pull back into ourselves.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Why We Must Compliment Each Other

by Emily Conrad

When I answered the phone call, I never expected to be asked to do an interview on the local news. Yet, my friend described that a reporter had taken an interest in the story of her dog being bitten. Because I’d helped get the dog to the vet and also owned a dog that had been attacked twice in the last year, the reporter thought interviewing me would help to fill out his story.