God Hooks Up Nicole and Me (part 2)

God Hooks Up Nicole and Me (part 2)

As we were emailing and Facebook messaging back and forth, I asked Nicole if she would like to illustrate my book Labyrinth Wedding. She said yes, and there began our second project together. I told her what the book contained, and she painted away. You will see her joyful wedding scenes as part of the non-fiction book coming out soon on Amazon: A Spiritual Guide to the Labyrinth Wedding.

But God wasn’t finished with his Pam-and-Nicole project. I wanted to do something with those lovable Jesus pictures that just kept pouring out from Nicole’s brush. At first, I thought of an inspirational art book, similar to Blessing to Go. I am always thinking of the unchurched, since I was one for 38 years, and I found the joyful Jesus paintings spoke to my soul. Though the theology of the bleeding, suffering, crucified Christ may be true, the ugliness of those images can hardly draw in the seeker. Why would you follow such an unappealing mentor? But you would follow Nicole’s vision of Jesus. In fact, you would want to hug him, laugh with him, fall in love with him. Her paintings pulled at my heart, and I knew they would draw others. We had to share him somehow.

Enter Shelley Hitz. At the Colorado retreat, I mentioned my ideas to Shelley, and she said, “I like to make my books interactive. What about making it a journal for people to write their responses in?” Light-bulb moment! So that is what we made: a journal with Jesus on one page, a related scripture, and space to write a response to the painting, the verse, or both, or neither. I wrote a little introduction on various types of journaling the reader can use, in case they are just learning the practice. I am very excited about this project, and I will think you will be too, when you see our Jesus in Jeans Journal.

The Genesis of Labyrinth Wedding

The Genesis of Labyrinth Wedding

During my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November of 2009, I wrote a mostly autobiographical novel called Avocado Highway. At the end of the book, I got an inspired idea to stage the main character’s wedding on a labyrinth under walnut trees at the monastery. I didn’t even know there WAS a labyrinth at my fictional monastery, but now I did. In 2009, I was not practicing centering prayer yet, was not journaling consistently, and certainly didn’t know about hearing God’s voice through two-way journaling. Still, I had a solid sense that the idea was from the Holy Spirit. The smooth flow of the writing of that scene confirmed it.

Looking over that novel draft, I decided it was not worth revising, and I set it aside. Nine years later, Matt Tommey asked during the Created to Thrive experience course, “What is already in your hand?” And a clear answer lit up in my mind: “That chapter on the labyrinth wedding.” I was being urged to resurrect that scene somehow. I considered writing a whole new novel around it, but that idea left me cold. I placed the scene on the back burner and went on to other projects.

Then, I felt called to sign up for a Colorado writing retreat offered by Shelley Hitz in September of 2018. For three days I would write with five other Christian women, in view of the Rocky Mountains. Shelley Hitz mentors writers of all stripes, but advertised this retreat as a chance to get a non-fiction book done. I thought, “I don’t have a non-fiction book in mind,” then the idea struck: Write the labyrinth book as a non-fiction how-to book. Brilliant!

I started off with the idea that brides will buy anything if it has the word “wedding” on it. I dreamed of capitalizing on the prodigal way women throw money away when planning for their big day. I wrote for two hours in a breathless, retail tone, then I hit the wall. I could not write any more. I confessed this to my fellow writers, and Shelley said, “Try journaling about it.”

Too tired to journal, I went to bed discouraged and fraught. An altitude headache woke me at 4am, and I journaled by flashlight, hoping not to wake my roommate, Teresa. God encouraged me to change my tone and not give up. He asked me if I had felt a twinge of guilt about playing the commercial game with my book. I answered yes. I realized that I didn’t want to feed into the wedding industry. I had seen the effect of their marketing on my own daughter and on myself in the build-up to her wedding the past March. I wanted my message to be about giving marriage a chance by planning a more spiritual, realistic, humble, God-centered ceremony using the labyrinth as an aid.

The next day, with my heart back in it and God’s blessing, I knocked out the draft of the book titled A Spiritual Guide to the Labyrinth Wedding. It is still in process, but will be available on Amazon soon.

Links to my mentors:
matttommeymentoring.com
shelleyhitz.com

Colorado Crucible

Colorado Crucible

I just got back from a three-day retreat for writers at a beautiful log-built chalet in Buena Vista, Colorado. I went there hoping to get encouragement to finish writing the first draft of my book about labyrinth weddings. I had intensive periods of writing and actually got done a rough first draft. That was good. The food, view, weather, and company were also good. But God had bigger ideas.

A crucible is a little ceramic pot we used in chemistry class to heat substances over a Bunsen burner. The heat melted and refined the substance, burning off any dross that might be clinging to the specimen. It can also be a situation where a person is subjected to forces that cause change. That’s what happened at the retreat.

I am sure we all arrived with expectations, but I was willing myself to remain open to whatever came. We all had our burdens and our wounds when we arrived, but some of us (like me) hoped to keep them hidden—just relax and have a nice time. Little did we know that God would subject us to the pressure of confession, tears, honesty, and challenge in the guise of prayer, sharing, laughter, and discussion.

Some of us got clear messages that were contrary to what we thought. Others had breakthroughs and made big life decisions. Others got a “kick in the butt” to embark on a scary project they had held back from before. We all had a great time and bonded with the others.

We had been told that God would “show up” at our retreat. He did, and being so close to him transformed each of us in some way. One had a glowing face. One had a shoulder wrenched out of place. One was pregnant with a project in gestation. One heard the call to Nineveh. No one remained the same. Now that’s what I call a good retreat! Thanks, God.

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