Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Entry: REACH FOR YOUR DREAMS

CHASING MY DREAMS WITHOUT LEAVING MY FAMILY BEHIND
By Angela Meuser

Most authors say that growing up they never imagined something as fun as writing books could become a career. I knew though. My mom was a writer. I even had my picture printed in Woman’s World when my mom wrote a story about me. I took it to school and felt pretty cool. And then in high school when I sold a story of my own and had my picture printed in American Cheerleader Magazine, I was hooked.

Because writing had always been a dream, I didn’t have trouble figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. I attended The University of Oregon to study journalism. I loved it. I even had my stories used as examples of good writing in front of the whole class. And my Rosie O’Donnell-like professor somehow made grammar fun, as well. I worked for the school paper and signed up for creative writing. I was headed toward success, or what I thought of as success.

My junior year, the path I had mapped out for myself made a U-turn. I got pregnant. After the campus doctor confirmed my pregnancy and offered me the option of abortion (which I turned down, thank God) I drove the two hours home to tell my parents. That was the hardest I’d ever prayed in my life.

My mom’s first words were, “Babies are a blessing.” I was relieved and thankful, but I still had to wait for my dad to get home. (We didn’t tell my siblings the news, though ironically we watched a Seventh Heaven episode about teen pregnancy, and my little brother asked, “Mom, what would you do if Angie came home pregnant?” They didn’t understand why I started sobbing like a baby.) Dad came in the door and I told him to sit down. After I made my announcement, he immediately put his hand on my knee and said the powerful words, “I forgive you.” God answered my prayers for support from my family.

I also had a supportive boyfriend. We’d been dating since my first day of college when he’d walked into my dorm room and started dancing with my teddy bear. We’d planned to get married after I graduated since he’d already moved back to Portland for a job, but our wedding plans got bumped up a year and a half.

I know now that if this hadn’t happened, if I’d graduated and started a career, it would have been very hard for me to quit my job to stay home with my kids. I would have missed out on so much, but at the time I felt like a failure. I began trying to prove my worth in many different ways, including writing.

I joined writing societies and attended workshops. I sold a few stories to magazines and one anthology. My dream became my identity. Then my obsession.

You see, my mom quit college to have children. I’d always considered her a failure like I considered myself a failure. (Never mind that she was content with her choice and the fact that she was the wind beneath my wings—as my first editor and biggest cheerleader.) I respected her mainly for her writing. She published over 50 articles and stories and had a couple of her novels very close to publication. Then she quit.

This change in my life’s direction was much more subtle than the pregnancy, but it affected me nonetheless. I became filled with fear that if I didn’t sell a book soon, I would be destined to follow in my mother’s footsteps just like I had with college.
I stopped cleaning my house. I let my kids watch way too much T.V. (I have three kids now.) I didn’t care if my husband hung out at a bar after work with friends because that meant more time to write.

I even started asking questions like, “Do you have to sacrifice your family to become truly successful at your passion?” I’d watched the documentary on Star Wars and saw that George Lucas’s wife left him during the making of Return of the Jedi—and believe me, Star Wars is considered a true achievement in my family. (My water broke while watching Episode I at the movie theatre.)

Well, I found out the answer to this question the hard way. I almost lost my marriage. I didn’t realize how unhappy my husband was. I thought we were doing great. If he just let me pursue the desires of my heart (like the Bible said) we would have been fine, right?

So wrong.

I once heard that if you can quit writing, you are not a writer. Well, I quit. It was another hard choice I had to make—especially with the fear of turning into my mom—but it was the best choice I could have made. My obedience allowed God to take me through a process of learning that just because I didn’t earn my degree, it doesn’t mean that I’m not intelligent. In fact, graduating would have been the easier thing for me to do. I made a bold choice—daring to believe that I could live a different life than what I’d planned. This realization came with the release of many tears and an unbelievable amount of freedom.

My husband and I attended an experiential seminar together. In one exercise called “Peeling the Onion” I was asked, “What do you want?” My response: “I want to sell a novel.” Next question: “What do you have to do to sell a novel?” I laughed. “I have to write a novel.” (I’d quit writing at this time.) Question: “How would that make you feel?” I answered, “I would feel successful.” Aha moment: “So what you really want is to feel successful.”

I had to redefine my definition of success. I’d always thought achievements meant success. God showed me another definition. In The Message translation of the Bible, Paul talks about how hard marriage is, then he says, “If you are capable of growing into the largeness of marriage, do it.” I will never “achieve” the perfect marriage, but it will be a successful one if I’m capable of growing. Success is all about growing.

This was huge for me. I don’t have to prove myself anymore. I don’t have to sell a book, or win a contest, or get rave reviews. I simply have to learn from each experience.
I started writing again. I’d been 175 pages into my manuscript Fake Blonde when I went to the seminar and the whole premise of the book changed through it. I even use the “Peeling the Onion” exercise that revealed my desire for success, and this is the scene that everyone mentions after they’ve read my novel. It’s got a powerful message now, where as before it was just a fun story.

My first novel was requested by a publisher who asked for revisions, took it to acquisitions, pronounced it publishable then rejected it. Even though I was disappointed, God had prepared me, and I know He has a purpose for it. The interpretations of Romans 8:28 that I love the most basically says: There is nothing that can touch me unless God allows it, and the only reason He would allow it is if it has a great purpose of blessing for my heart.

I may not know God’s purpose, but if He said no to one publisher, he’s got something better planned for me. I’ve got an agent now. I’m close to finishing my second adult novel. I have a middle grade novel and picture book under consideration. And I’m growing every day.

More importantly, I’ve been set free to help my family grow. I’m a home school mom for the first time. (Nobody was more surprised than me when I made this choice.) I’ve given up quite a few of the aerobics classes I used to teach and simply run on my treadmill now before the kids get up. (I’ll have to write another article for this topic.) My kids attend Awana once a week so I get to have a date night with my husband. And though I still hate it, I started a schedule for cleaning my house every day.

That stuff isn’t always fun. It would be much more fun to become obsessed with writing again. To help keep that from happening, I write to God in my prayer journal every moning before I turn on my computer. This helps me stay focused on using my gift for Him. The struggle with selfish ambition is going to be a never ending one for me.
I still dream of becoming a published author. Along with my novel Fake Blonde I want to do an author talk titled: A Fake Blonde Gets Real. I want to share my story and even lead participants in the exercises that my characters go through. My pastor says that a dream should be so big that if God’s not a part of it, you’re going to look pretty foolish.

I’m that kind of dreamer…and this is my foolish story to prove it.
Submitted by:
Angela Meuser

1 comment:

Christina Berry said...

What an awesome testimony from Angela! God will surely grant her more than she desrires because her heart belongs to him.