So much has happened in the last two years of my life. If you have followed my Facebook Page, personal or Author, you have witnessed some extraordinary opportunities, special milestones, and the realization of dreams coming true as God blesses the call on my life. While it is not the road that I would have chosen for myself, I have enjoyed the journey thus far.
There are highlights that you have seen, like Carolyn and I celebrating 20 years of marriage, but many of you may not know of the lowlights. The things that only those who are close to me know. I don’t like talking about myself: Blessings or Needs. As I have learned through the years, I am not the most important person. I have been through the trials of putting myself first. So, it is hard for me to talk about myself, especially when pride has been a thorn to me for a good portion of my adult life. I have kept silent for the most part out of fear of being prideful or becoming manipulative.
God bestows on each of us special talents. Something that is hardwired in us that we do well. For me, I have known for quite a while that I have a God-given gift of writing. I also knew that it was something that I should do professionally. But I never acted on it. I wrote poetry in High School, some of it was pretty good while most of it was silly lovey-dovey scribble. It was not until I reached college that I really gave it thought.
Then, in 2016, a friend of mine and I came to life’s crossroads. We both knew God had a plan for each of our lives and that we needed to take action and be obedient to Him. We agreed to hold each other accountable. For me, it was my writing. To make a long story short, I began to write with the ultimate goal of becoming a full-time writer. It was during this beginning phase that I wrote the first draft of The Five Barred Gate.
Meanwhile, I searched for writing opportunities. I found several small writing sites that paid. Finally, I came across a site called UpWork. It is designed for Freelance writers to find paid writing jobs. Through many ups and downs, I escalated up the ranks. I have been working jobs on and off for the past two years. While many of these jobs were not Christian based, there were a few. All this time, I was praying for the opportunity to write full-time.
Even though I picked up several regular writing gigs, it was never enough to quit my day job. So, it remained a side job. I continued to pray for the opportunity to write full-time. In the middle of 2017, I injured my ankle on the job. It wasn’t serious but bad enough to keep me out of work for six months. I used that downtime to write as much as I could and began editing my novel. By the time I returned to work in January of 2018, I had a pretty decent writing portfolio. One of the successes was my first published article. I continued to write, praying for an opportunity to write full time.
In March of 2018, through one of my UpWork clients, I was given the opportunity to submit a children’s book I had written for our daughter Audrey. When I wrote it, I had no intention of pursuing publication. It was something silly that I wrote for my little girl who asked for a story about a snail. But Isabella Media wanted to see it. I submitted it, they loved it and extended me a contract. Now Elissa the Curious Snail has three adventures in print, the fourth will be released within the next month and a fifth by Christmas.
It was during this time, I began driving a truck in the oilfield. That job was transitioning from a local job to being over the road. I was now driving from South Texas to cities like Louisiana, Chicago, Baltimore, Charlotte, and St. Louis. I was gone half the time but used my downtime to write. Fourteen hours on the road, write for a few hours, then sleep and get back on the road. I did that for close to nine months, and I loved every minute of it. BUT I still had the desire to write full time and prayed for the opportunity to do so.
Life’s Unexpected Moments
I was diagnosed with High Blood Pressure in mid-2018 and began taking medication. It took a month or so to find the cocktail of medication that worked right, but I knew it would change me forever. I ate differently and cut other bad habits. Then, in late October, my life took an even more drastic turn.
It is normal for me to use the restroom up to three times a night. So, it was no surprise to Carolyn that I was up in the middle of the night. What did scare her was that she found me on the restroom floor, unresponsive and trembling. I must be honest here; we did not think too much of it because we had had a couple of drinks that night and thought it was just a reaction to the HBP medication and the alcohol.
One month later, and alcohol-free, I experienced another episode, which would be medically diagnosed later as a seizure. For this episode, I was in bed, and Carolyn was once again scared about what was happening to me. I went to see a Neurologist and over the next four months and through many tests; CT’s, MRI’s and EEG’s it has now been determined that I have Epilepsy.
What to do now?
Throughout this entire experience, I have been legally unable to drive. I have devoted my time to writing. More heavily than ever before. I took on more jobs, got better at my craft, and on top of regular clients, I became an editor for a copywriting agency. A decent income, but still not anywhere near what I would need to write full time.
It has taken me a year to realize something. I had been praying for two years for an opportunity to write full-time. When I hurt my ankle, I spent time writing, but I once again did not take it seriously. I worked harder than I had ten years ago, but not anywhere near where I should have been. Writing had never become crucial for me; I was drawing on Short Term Disability, so with the income there, the desperation has never existed.
When I was unable to work after the seizures began, I no longer had that Short Term Disability cushion. You see, when I went back to work after my ankle, the company I was working for had contracted our terminal to a subsidiary company. The insurance rate tripled, so we moved our insurance from me to Carolyn’s job. Thus, leaving me without benefits, and no Disability income whatsoever. All methods of financial aid were denied; State aid and Disability. All we had left on my end was writing.
Today, I am still out of work. I was fully diagnosed with Epilepsy last week. According to Texas laws, I cannot drive at all for three months following an episode. The same laws apply to CDL’s. However, once Epilepsy is diagnosed the law changes. I now cannot drive a commercial vehicle until I am seizure-free AND off medication for five years. Needless to say, my driving days are over.
As I stated earlier, it has taken me a year to realize something. I have been praying for opportunities to write full-time. A year and a half ago, I hurt my ankle which took me out of play for six months. Six months of sitting at home without much to do. Was that an opportunity? If it was, I did not realize it at the time.
This year I am going through one of the most difficult times in my life. An illness that takes away the very thing that has employed me for the last six years. Is this the opportunity I have prayed for? I don’t know, but it does seem like I am spending a lot of time sitting at home without much to do but write. Whether it is God answering prayer remains to be seen.
We all like to think that God makes our choices clear and allows positive experiences to bring about answers to prayer. But does he allow tragedy to bring us to the point of answered prayer? That is the real question and the real issue in my life right now. But I will tell you one thing; I am making the most of whatever this is.
I have resigned to the fact that I will never drive an 18-wheeler again. I am saddened by it; I loved to drive. I have seen so much of this beautiful country and witnessed God’s creative handiwork firsthand. That being said, I know I can use those experiences to give depth to my writing.
2018 has been one of my most productive years for writing. As of today, I have a successful Children’s book series. I write regularly for two Christian blogs: Isabella Media and GOD TV, and I have a novel being published in September. While not especially financially lucrative, it does meet some of the bills that sit on our dining room table right now.
My biggest struggle now, aside from the financial side of not working, is the pride thing. It is difficult not to get puffed up when you see your name in lights. It is hard, especially considering the thorn in my flesh is, pride. I struggle with it all the time. So, it causes me to refrain from promoting myself. Yet, I know that if there is no promotion, then the stuff that is published will not be read and that I cannot succeed in the one thing that my prayer is hinged upon. To write full-time, there needs to be the funds behind it. Enough to replace what I was making working ‘a regular job.’ Yet, my fear of getting a big head stands in the way.
I must remind myself daily, sometimes hourly, that I cannot do any of this on my own. I must always point to God, for I cannot do any of it apart from his Spirit flowing through me. I will again be honest, sometimes it feels forced. I end up writing the obligatory intro like we hear celebrities say, “I’d like to thank God for this success.”
It’s not that I do am not grateful to the Lord, or that I am trying to shine myself brighter than Him, it’s that I struggle with what I feel inside. I enjoy writing a good piece. I love it, even more, when readers enjoy or receive something from something I have written. But I must remember God is behind it all. Every word, every keystroke, every thought, all stems from a gift that I have the privilege of sharing.
We are always looking for that one answered prayer. We think it will come about through positive experiences and we look for the road that will take us to the fulfillment of our dreams. Yet, God does not always work that way. I have come to learn that perhaps my opportunity to write full-time is upon me now. The road is and has been a difficult one. It keeps me wondering why God allows illness to come upon those who follow him. But we should not be surprised when we see God answering prayer through trials, tribulations, or tragedy.
Triumph through tragedy came to Paul. His imprisonment gave him opportunities to write letters to Christians of the day, encouraging them. Even Jesus’ greatest victory came through suffering. I am not saying that I am Jesus or even Paul, I am saying they chose the narrow road. The one Jesus spoke of in Matthew 7.
Even Robert Frost understood the narrow road, he wrote in his famous poem:
“I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
I have chosen to follow the narrow road – to answer the call. I have had two opportunities. While it may seem ludicrous to some, I know that in the end, I will look at today as just the beginning of the adventure the Lord has before me. I continue to pray that my feet will stay on the ground and that you will find true blessing through the words God chooses to speak through me.