“How much longer?” In the days leading up to Christmas, my mother heard this question so many times, she was probably sick of it. Through the eyes of a child, those few days between the end of school and Christmas was an eternity. Every morning, I would go downstairs and turn on the Christmas tree lights. I’d double-check all the packages underneath to make certain they were arranged with the larger ones in the back and the smaller ones in front. I’d confirm all the name tags were visible so we’d be ready when Christmas finally arrived. As carols played in the background, I’d remove the delicate characters from the nativity set, dust them off, and then replace them one at a time, careful to position the small statues so each one’s gaze fell on the Christ Child. As an illustration of the birth of the Prince of Peace, I’d make certain some of the animals were grazing unafraid close to the manger. Finally, I’d turn on the soft ivory bulb in the back of the little stable and blanket the scene with a warm, welcoming glow. And all was done. All was ready. And then I would wait. Until the next day. When I’d start my preparations all over again. “How much longer?” How many times the Israelites must have asked that question in the hundreds of years between the promise of the Messiah and His coming. Did they prepare their hearts and lives daily for His impending arrival? I’m sure some did. But in the space between a promise and its fulfillment, God may seem silent. And keeping a sense of expectation can be difficult, if not impossible. “How much longer?” How many times have you asked yourself that question? You have a dream, a desire, a ministry God has placed in your heart. And yet you feel caught in those years between Malachi and Matthew. And God seems silent. Know this, time spent waiting on God is never wasted. He has a reason for the silence. Use the time to prepare. Whatever your dream, study, practice, and learn to be the best “whatever” you can be. My mother was wise. She’d call me into the kitchen and put me to work helping decorate the Christmas cookies we gave our friends and neighbors as gifts. She knew the best way to wait was to work. So decorate your cookies, dust off your nativity, and arrange your packages, because your Christmas is coming.
"Streams in the Wasteland"
What’s That Supposed to Mean?
It’s five in the morning, and I may as well confess—I had about two hours of sleep last night sandwiched between moments of worrying about this post. Okay, worrying is a strong word. How about agonizingly considering? What can I, a normal, regular person, say to you that will be of value? Of interest? That you haven’t already heard? After all . . . I’m just me. But here goes.
About eight years ago, I began writing inspirational/Christian romance. My goal? To encourage others the way Christian fiction writers had encouraged me.
But, my writing journey really started ten years earlier, when the idea of writing anything, much less a novel, sounded as grating to me as fingernails on a chalkboard. I was blissfully teaching kindergarten part-time in an ideal situation at a private Christian school. I loved my work, I loved my coworkers, I loved my students, I loved their parents. My life was overflowing!
Then came the drought. My husband lost his job due to some health issues. We had one daughter in college, one headed to college the next fall, and four car payments on top of a house payment. (We obviously hadn’t heard of Dave Ramsey!) When the opportunity presented itself for me to move into full-time work in the “real world,” I knew if I left the school, I’d be giving up more than a job. I’d be losing what had been my personal ministry for years.
Yet I had to decide. One morning I sat at a local park guiltily savoring my Chik-fil-a chicken biscuit (Some things are just worth the calories!) and reading my Bible. I came upon Isaiah 43:18-19, and on that day, at that very hour, that passage was meant just for me. God had something new for me to do. I just had to find it.
A decade later the idea of writing to encourage others began to nudge its way into my heart. Was I insane? Early dementia had surely set it! Anything but writing, Lord . . . Yet when I typed the first words on the first page of my first manuscript, I knew this was the “new work,” my "Stream in the Wasteland."
So what can I say to encourage you?
No matter what your wasteland—or how bad the drought—the rains will come, and the streams will flow. Often in ways you might never have guessed. Sometimes it may be in sprinkles. Sometimes it may be a flood.
And if you’re in the middle of a drought right now, look carefully. Can you seen that trickle of a stream beginning?
The Perfect Place
I remember the first thoughts I had when my husband and I arrived in Atlanta, Georgia from Fort Worth, Texas. We’d driven for sixteen hours with our cocker spaniel, a Styrofoam cooler full of tropical fish, and enough plants to start a small nursery in the back seat of our compact car. As we made the final leg of our journey around the Atlanta perimeter to our new home, I stared through the window into the pitch black, fighting to stay awake in the early morning hours. And that’s when I first noticed them. Even though “Everything’s bigger in Texas,” the stars outside my window were larger and brighter than any I’d ever seen in Fort Worth. Suddenly I realized the stars weren’t stars at all. They were streetlights and porch lights—diamonds shimmering through the forest of majestic trees that blanketed the hillsides of Atlanta. Trees. Hills. Rarities for a girl from Fort Worth. And I thought, “Father, please don’t let my eyes ever stop seeing this magnificence. May this beauty never become commonplace or invisible to me.”
While I’ve always loved the splendor of the tree-covered hills in Georgia, with each return trip to Texas, I began to see a stark beauty in the flat, almost treeless landscape around Fort Worth. An allure I never saw when I lived there. An openness that called to my heart. And in the midst of the simplicity of central Texas, the fictional town of Crescent Bluff, the primary setting for my novels, was born.
In a pivotal scene in The Waiting, Katherine, the heroine, realizes she’s lived most of her life in bondage to an idea she now believes is false. The setting for that scene needed to be different from the rest of the novel. It needed to paint a powerful picture of the freedom she’d found. Yet nothing my mind conceived felt right. So I did what I always do when I hit a roadblock. I closed my laptop and took some time away.
We headed out on a camping trip to Cloudland Canyon in north Georgia. And there, hiking along the rim of the canyon, I found my setting. I looked twice for a “Setting Reserved for Carol” sign, because this was exactly what I’d been searching for—exactly where Katherine needed to be. Texas is a big state; surely I could find a comparable location. I snapped a picture.
Enter the perfect setting—and only a few hours from Crescent Bluff. Cloudland Canyon was about to be transformed into Balcones Canyonlands in the Texas Hill Country.
And although she didn’t yet know it, Katherine was going on a road trip!
"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:18-19