Man, hard to believe it's been a month since my last update!
As I wondered what to write about this time around, the thought that popped into my head was about how challenging life has been of late. It seems like the beginning of this new year 2019 has presented one new challenge after the other. That got me thinking about why life presents us with challenges, and what purpose they serve. A line from a song popped into my head, the "Ten Duel Commandments" from HAMILTON: "Number One: The Challenge - Demand Satisfaction!" it goes. Is that what challenges are for? To make us demand more from life, until we are satisfied with where it is taking us, and where we have been? So I thought I would share three of the challenges that life has thrown my way over the last month and a half, and share what I hope to gain from them.
The first challenge is my job itself. I'm a full time classroom teacher at a small private school. February is HARD. The days are short, the nights are dark and cold (usually; this is Texas, though, so overnight lows are as likely to be in the 60's as they are the 20's this time of year!), the kids are bored and tired, and summer seems like a distant dream. But I have to gird myself for the battle against ignorance and march into my classroom every day, determined to make them understand whatever it is I'm teaching, whether it is the Battle of the Alamo or the Protestant Reformation or the War of 1812. Tell the story, bring it to life, make it entertaining, make it MATTER! Some days it feels like I am beating my head against a wall, but some days I see that light spring into a student's eyes when something I've been talking about gets through, and even if they don't say it out loud I see their brain going "Aha! I get it! That IS important!"
And then I'm satisfied.
The second challenge is literary. I finished my sixth book last August, and then I just let the file sit there in my cloud drive, making myself focus on other things for a few months. Over Christmas break I opened the file and read it, line for line, chapter by chapter, tweaking, editing, making small corrections, and polishing it till I was happy with the finished tale. Then I sent it off to my publisher. Here is the challenge, you see: My last book, THE GNOSTIC LIBRARY, didn't do as well as we had hoped. I love Electio Publishing and appreciate the support they have given me over the years, but they are, after all, a business. My works haven't sold to the point that I am guaranteed a contract on the next book, no matter how good it is. But after some discussion, I was challenged to significantly raise my sales the first quarter of this year over the first quarter of last year. So I have booked signing events every weekend from now till the end of March, sometimes more than one a weekend. I am going to be hustling myself harder than ever to get my books, my name, and my brand out there so that I can have the chance to get a contract for THE EMPEROR AND THE APOSTLE, my sixth novel. If I get the contract, that means - guess what? I get to go out and hustle harder than ever to make sure the NEXT book sells. But you know what? That's OK. I love writing, I love being published, and I love putting my novels in the hands of new readers. And one day, when enough readers have bought my books, I will be able to retire from teaching and write full time.
And then I'll be satisfied.
The third challenge is perhaps the most personal of all. Last month, we found out that my Mom has terminal cancer. She still looks and feels normal; in fact, without the CT scan, we might not have even known she was sick. But that doesn't change the prognosis - her time with us is drawing to a close. My Mom is a master teacher. In her long life, she has taught in public schools, Sunday Schools, Vacation Bible Schools, and most of all, she's taught all four of her children how to live life. She is teaching still. She is teaching us lessons every single day, lessons about faithfulness, grace, gratitude, and courage. Her love of God, and for us kids, has not flagged nor failed. Her faith and her conviction that heaven is her destination has not wavered. When I think about her, and about my Dad, a minister of the Gospel for sixty years, I am challenged to be the kind of person they taught me to be. I am challenged to handle adversity with patience and dignity, life with humor and graciousness, and people with love and compassion. Maybe, one day, I can be the kind of Christian, the kind of parent, and the kind of teacher that they showed themselves to be before me, that they challenged me to become. And when that day comes . . .
Then I'll be satisfied.