The past week has been exceptionally good: I found out I was a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) contest – one of the 50 remaining from an editorial process of elimination; I also applied for a job as a guidance counselor at the high school I work at and got the job.
The ABNA contest isn’t the first one I’ve ever entered. I’ve been shopping my young adult/teen novel VICTORY OF FISTS around to agents since December of 2008 and had it returned eight times. I’ve been writing since I was 13 and published in pro markets since I was 35.
I got my MS in guidance counseling in 2004 and have been waiting for six years to get a job with an office instead of a classroom. Not because I hate teaching but because I love a challenge and guidance counseling looks to be a huge challenge in a completely different way than teaching.
In his book THE PRESENT FUTURE, Reggie McNeal relates the following story: “While on a trip to Hawaii, I encountered the surfing culture…In the weeks I observed surfers I never saw one plan a single wave, but I did see them prepare to ride the waves when they came…The future belongs to those who those who prepare for it, not those who plan for it.” (New Reality Number Five, p 92 ff)
I am guilty of planning. Truth be told, I’d planned on being well-published by the time the kids started school. Truth be told, I went to college in 1978 to become a counselor (in those days, you had to be a teacher before you could be a counselor) – and got side-tracked in the classroom on the way (there was also the little problem of paying for the MS degree with two kids and a mortgage…)
Neither plan was completed in the allotted time. All I had to show for it was reams of stories and novels (nine to be exact: Planet of Storms; Sarek and Amanda (A STAR TREK™ novel); Discipleship Christian Academy Hits Broadway; My Sister Is An Archangel; Love Forever, Dad; Red Demon; The Bizarro Family Project; Invader’s Guilt; Deep Blue Dunk; and my current work, Heirs of the Shattered Spheres: Emerald of Earth) and a classroom that stinks of sulfur twice each year.
But that all served as preparation.
Preparation to meet the grace of God. He says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works [or planning] that no one should boast.” And He adds in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in [your] weakness…”
At any time in the recent past, I had my degree and I had my novels. I was prepared, but God’s plan – the only plan I should have cared about all along anyway – was different than the one I had laid out. After the disappointment of my own failing, I must have finally been ready to fit into His plan and follow his timing. I was prepared when the wave came along. (As to the emergency part of my title: I found out about the ABNA contest through Bruce Bethke’s blog, Friday Challenge a few days before the entry deadline; I found out about the counseling job a few hours before the application closing time…)
This isn’t to say that my life is all glowingness and fluff. I put a new toilet in my son’s girlfriend and his new house. I have papers to grade to make Tuesday’s deadline for mid-quarters. The mortgage is still there, there are forty-nine other fine writers and their work to compete against and the guidance counseling job is a one-year position.
But God is teaching me. He gave me the skills to fill the works He’s called me to. I am ready to be an author and a counselor.
But I am even more ready to rest in His grace, which is also known as “the undeserved favor of God”. About time, don’t you think?