Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Lifetime Dream Come True

Last night I walked from street parking into the downtown mall dancing and singing.  I walked into the movie theater grinning and dancing and jumping up and down with a friend who laughed at me the whole time, happy just to see me so happy. 

My lifetime dream of becoming a published author has come true.  

I got the news on Friday that my manuscript, A Winter Storm, had been accepted by Tate Publishing.   I think I was in a state of shock and disbelief because I spoke with the acquisitions editor as though we were discussing taxes.  It still hadn't sunk in when he e-mailed me the contract to review over the weekend.  It finally hit me on Monday morning when the acquisitions editor called me to go over the contract and filled me in on all the details of what will happen over the next few months.

Editing, hand-sketched cover illustrations, marketing on social media, my own book website, a 15-second television commercial and, once the book was ready for distribution, book signings.  My head began to spin.  

I've been a writer since before I can remember.  My first story was about three raccoons, Slappy, Nappy and Dappy, who fell in love with a skunk.  I wrote my first novel at the age of thirteen about an adopted girl who had cancer and needed to find her parents and any possible siblings she might have to have a chance at survival.  I wrote letters to Danielle Steele and squealed with joy when she wrote back three times, encouraging me to keep writing and answered all my questions and was kind enough to include a signed photograph.  I met Nora Roberts at a local book signing and she answered one of my questions and signed a book I was using to be a better writer: "Sam, read, read, read... and no sex!  Nora Roberts",  I've written a dozen screenplays and submitted half of them to screenwriting contests but have never won.  I've written thousands of poems, read them at poetry readings and even had one published in a book of poetry when I was a kid.  I finally wrote this book, A Winter Storm, when I was a Marine stationed in Okinawa Japan.  I needed to write this book.  I needed to tell what had happened, and tell how my relationship with Christ changed my entire perspective and enabled me to do what I once thought was impossible.  "If I say 'I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,' there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot." - Jeremiah 20:9  I never had a plan to publish this book, but the need to write it was much like the burning shut up in Jeremiah's bones about preaching God's word.  I prayed God would use it if he thought it could be beneficial for someone, but left it at that.  When I was baptized and dedicated my life to the Lord I put writing on the back burner (Psalm 37:4).  My priority became Jesus and I made every effort to be faithful, repent of my sins, grow as a disciple in humility, grace, servitude, compassion, giving my money and time to the needs in the church and bring encouragement to others.  I hadn't written much of anything for about a year.

My younger brother is a writer of science fiction and he landed his first publishing contract with Tate Publishing about three weeks ago.  When he shared the news with me he encouraged me to submit my manuscript to them as well and at the time I thought, why not?  I hadn't taken a good look at my book in probably a year, but what was there to lose?  A few days after submitting it I sat on my living room couch one early, emotional Saturday morning and prayed a specific prayer that if God wanted me to make a living as a writer, the dream I've had since I was a child, if he wanted to use my writing to touch the hearts and lives of people, then I would start a new book and I would do everything in my power and invest all I could to finish if he would bless that and have me published with books on the shelves of stores by the time I was twenty-five years old, less than 18 months from the day I prayed.  Whether he used the manuscript I submitted to Tate Publishing or the one I had yet to start, it didn't matter to me.  Five days later I received a call from Tate Publishing telling me my manuscript was accepted for publishing.

As if that wasn't enough, God has been opening doors wider and wider to show me how much he approves of and is going to bless this book.  The contract with Tate Publishing was for a manuscript with 115,000 words and my manuscript is just shy of 133,000 words.  The book would either have to be split into two volumes, something I wasn't too excited about, or it'd be approved for the extra words and I'd be charged an extra  $1,000 for the labor of editing.  The acquisitions editor spoke with the one who makes those decisions, told her about my book and about my brother who was also accepted by Tate and this woman approved my 133,000 words in one volume - at no extra cost to me (Proverbs 3:6).  When it comes to marketing, I could choose to have Tate Publishing create a social network page (Facebook), a website or a television commercial to promote my work.  I chose to do the TV commercial and the acquisitions editor, after hearing about how close this book is to my heart and why I wrote it in the first place, he said something that gave me an indication of just how much God wants to give me the desires of my heart.  "Here's what I'm going to do," he began.  "Normally our contract is for 80,000 impressions, meaning the commercial will be seen in 80,000 residential homes.  At no extra cost to you I'm going to up that to 1 million impressions" (Isaiah 66:12-14).  

The Lord blesses in abundance, and I am in awe.  Even after dancing and singing and jumping up and down for more than an hour last night, after celebrating with a couple of friends and praying and a long run this morning... I am still bubbling with joy that cannot be contained.  I want to stand outside and shout at the top of my lungs how GREAT is our God, but instead I will get on my knees and I will thank him for answered prayers, for trials that prepared me to accept such a blessing, for the hardship to come and the love he has for me to help me through it.  I have no fear as the roller coaster begins, because I trust God will get me through.  My only goal is to be faithful another day, every day, strive to be free from sin and repent when I fail, ask those I trust to hold me accountable, and continue with the devotion I had in the beginning - make Jesus my priority.  Because without him none of this would've been possible.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Great Provider

The past couple of weeks I've been awed by God's provision.  I've prayed for help to get to Haiti to serve with HOPE worldwide Singles Corps, and volunteered to help out in any capacity to earn my plane ticket to that country so I wouldn't have to put it on a credit card.  My mother, whom I've really struggled with to have a good relationship the past 23 years, so graciously gave me a check for $500.00 to cover more than half of the expense of the plane ticket.  I've been provided opportunities to babysit, do yard work, chauffeur, clean house, and repeat all of the above within my church family to earn money and have been paid far more than the usual amount for such work.  I've been approached by people I haven't had the chance to get to know well yet and have been asked, "How's it going raising the money to go to Haiti?" and "I've been praying for you and your trip!"  The support behind me for this journey leaves me without words.

Some days, like just about everyone, I wonder where God is and what in the world He's doing.  Other times I wonder if He's forgotten about me entirely or simply doesn't really care that I'm facing the trials I'm facing.  I've learned God does care, much more than I realize, but like a teacher quiet during the test, God sits and waits and watches to see what I'll do and how I'll handle what's been placed before me.  Will I give up and quit?  Will I cheat?  Will I complain the whole time?  Or will I do the best I can with what I've been given and trust that God is going to love me no matter what the results?  I often forget the point of trials isn't to simply make it through them, but to do so righteously.  Can I hand in my paper and stand right before God?  King David once wrote, "Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!  Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies!" (Psalm 141:3-4).  David prays to God to keep him from sin in a time of trials.  Trials will certainly be present in this life, temptation will come knocking (1 Peter 4:12), but if we can persevere through today and focus on today only, it doesn't seem so impossible to be faithful.

In time, God works all things out for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28) and while I'd rather things work out sooner rather than later, they do in fact work out.  Sometimes I don't get to see just how well they work out because life is much bigger than just what's happening within my eyesight.  However, I'm learning that if I humble myself before God, if I have that teachable heart and choose, big word there "choose," to trust God and do that uncomfortable self-examination to recognize sin, iniquity and transgression in my heart, I can make it another day in being faithful.  If I seek to do as David did and ask God for help to not sin, rather than assume I'm just fine as I am, God will indeed lift me up in due time (1 Peter 5:6).  Due time being HIS time.  God has truly opened my eyes to see just how much he's provided and given just because he loves me, and though often I don't pay close enough attention to all the ways He blesses me each day, and some days I really struggle with being faithful, I'm learning to spend the waiting hours seeking his presence, his favor, his love, in my life and approaching each moment, every trial with a teachable heart.  And every now and then, like his provision with my getting to Haiti without going into debt, God comes forward with such an obvious, awe-inspiring presence it's all I can do to get on my knees in gratitude.  On the mountain of the Lord, God will indeed provide (Genesis 22:14).

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Help Send Me to Haiti

(Haiti in January 2012)

Dear friends and family,

I’m a young disciple in the singles ministry with Spokane Christian Church and in the past couple of months I’ve been praying for and seeking a way to actively, and sacrificially, serve where needs are greatest to further God’s kingdom.  While attending the World Discipleship Summit in July, it was brought to my attention that the HOPE worldwide Singles Corps is taking a ten-day trip this year to Haiti.  After prayer and fasting, I sent in my application and the $300 deposit.  On August 17th I received a notification congratulating me on my acceptance into the program.

This years’ HSC will take place in Ganthiers, Haiti from October 13-20 where I’ll have the opportunity to serve the children and communities affected by the January 2010 earthquake, not to mention recent hurricanes.  I’ll be able to teach English and math classes to orphans and help clean and construct a community center at the new Village of HOPE in Croix-des-Bouquets.  The trip will also be packed with in-depth lessons, and opportunities to serve and build lasting relationships with volunteers from around the world.  27 congregations are represented in the pool of applicants including those in Canada and Great Britain.  As a young disciple – I’ll be 18 months old on September 12th – this is an incredible opportunity to serve with disciples, young and old, all over the world and share God’s love and glory to those suffering from devastating circumstances.

The only obstacle that stands in my way is the finances.  I am a part-time employee at Daybreak Youth Services, an inpatient youth rehabilitation facility for teenagers recovering from drug addiction, and I’m a full time on-line student with San Diego Christian College.  About the same time I sent in my $300 deposit to HOPE worldwide, my trusty Chevrolet needed nearly $350 worth of repairs on the engine, which depleted my savings.  If I squeeze my budget for all it’s worth I still won’t be able to make enough money to buy the round-trip plane ticket by the deadline (September 30th).  As I write this, my only debt is my car payment and while I will be making sacrifices to save as much as I can to pay for what I’m able, a round trip plane ticket to Haiti costs just shy of $780 and I must ask for help to prevent going into debt.

I understand times are difficult, and I would much rather not be a burden and simply pay for the entire thing myself, but I’m working on being wise with my money and recent unexpected expenses have put me in a tight spot.  I trust that God will provide.  The first century church helped one another as each had need (Acts 2:45), and to prevent being in debt while I go to spread the gospel to this country, I am in need of some help from my brothers and sisters in the faith.  I humbly ask for any contribution you feel in your heart to give, so long as it is given with a glad heart, to help me in my journey to serve God and his lost children.  Any excess money I receive from donations will be contributed back to Spokane Christian church.  To donate, just copy the link at the bottom of the page and paste it into a new window to go to the website.  Even if its only a couple of dollars, it makes a difference!

Any questions or concerns please feel free to leave a comment below.  Thank you all so much!

Samantha Means