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Posts Tagged ‘frustration’

Jo 17Sometimes it’s not so much what we say but rather how we say it that conveys our true feelings about something or someone, isn’t it? We can try hard to reign in our emotions, but, whether we are aware of it or not, those extraneous messages of ours can often shout louder than anything we say. Perhaps it’s our facial expression or some other type of body language that gives us away. Or, when on the phone, our tone of voice can also convey so much, in either a positive or a negative way.

Recently, in the space of about an hour, I had two interesting phone conversations which differed markedly, like the proverbial chalk and cheese. After the first, I felt I had been heard, understood and encouraged. After the second, I felt the exact opposite—ignored, misjudged and extremely discouraged. And this largely resulted from the tone of voice each of these ladies employed.

In the first conversation, the caller conveyed from the outset via her voice alone that she was interested in what I had to say and concerned about the issue I wanted to discuss. It began something like this:

‘Good morning. Jo-Anne, is it? My name’s Bec. I’m calling back in regard to the message we received in our office this morning. Now how can I help you?’

I like this caller, I thought instantly. Her tone was warm and caring and this continued throughout our conversation, as she questioned me more and listened patiently while I explained my dilemma. She took time to respond to my concerns, gave me the clear information I needed and, at the end, reassured me she would do all she could to help. Even more than the words she spoke, it was her kind manner that impacted me the most and still stays with me now.

The second conversation was just a tad different. It began something like this:

‘Hello. It’s Mary here. I just have this name ‘Jo-Anne’ written on a note to me. So what’s this about?’

I was taken aback from the outset at this caller’s abrupt, aggressive tone. I tried to connect with her in a friendly way before asking my questions, but to no avail. She answered in almost monosyllables, giving as little information as possible, then asked rudely if that was all. I had a further issue, however, and she grudgingly stayed online, but I could hear the increasing annoyance in her voice and sense her unwillingness to listen and help in any way. Now, sadly, all that remains with me from that conversation is frustration and resentment—and the need to forgive!

Since then, I have asked myself what my own manner and tone of voice convey in general. I know at times I too can become impatient—and I’m sure that shows. But I hope and pray I am learning to speak with much more grace and kindness, like my first caller did, and that my manner communicates something at least of the godly love and understanding we all need to experience.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

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These days, I get to do quite a lot of bookselling. Soon after my first novel was published, I discovered that authors not only have to write their books, but they also have to be reasonably adept at marketing them. Publishers can do a certain amount – but most authors have to play their part too. So I had to learn a lot very quickly – and in the process, discovered I had to guard my heart closely. I still do.

You see, I think we can easily get sidetracked in this world and lose sight of our original goals. In the pressure to succeed, our priorities can become a little skewed and we can begin to take on a kind of striving spirit that only leads to frustration and discontent. From the very beginning, my main priority in writing my novels has been to draw my readers closer to God as they relate to my characters and are carried along by their story. That is still true – but I also see the danger of becoming more focussed on the success of my novels as an end in itself. How many copies of my latest novel have I sold, I wonder? Is it doing better than the previous one? Are they all in stock in my local Christian bookstore? What other ways can I promote my novels?  Should I explore more avenues for speaking engagements? And so it goes on.

Of course it’s important to try to ensure I reach as many people as possible with my novels for the sake of drawing them closer to God. But it’s so easy to lapse into self-interest, to have much less pure motives, to want to be the ‘successful’ author over and above the kind of author God wants me to be. That may, by God’s grace, include the ‘success’ – but then again, it may not. And if it doesn’t, then am I content simply to do my best and to keep on persevering in the hope that my books and my speaking will make some sort of difference for God in this world?

Recently I read some challenging words written by Paul to Timothy:

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. … For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. (1 Tim 6:6-10)

Paul is writing about financial gain – something most authors I have met don’t experience too often! But wanting to gain success for its own sake, wanting to see one’s name on that book cover at all costs – wanting, if you like, the fame, if not the fortune – is something I know I need to guard against. Paul then continues:

But you, man (woman!) of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

That’s what I want to do. I want to keep it all in perspective and pursue the right sort of gain in my life and through my books. I want to be like my son in this regard, who, having recently been given a pay rise, was sharing with me how he could probably now afford some long overdue home renovations. Yet he doesn’t really care what sort of house he lives in, he told me – it’s okay by him if it looks a bit old and worn. I like his attitude – I think it has something at least of that godliness with contentment about it that Paul mentions.

But how about you? What gains in life are important to you? Where is your focus right now?

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Take a moment to sit and reflect on your life.  Really reflect, I mean.  What drives you and motivates you?  Who or what is at the back of your thoughts, as you go about your day?  Is it your work itself – is that what gives meaning and purpose to your life?  Is it your family or friends?  Is it your hobbies and pastimes perhaps?  All of these are key parts of our lives – but what if one or more were taken away?  Is there something underneath or beyond it all that would still make life worth living?  Who or what holds supremacy in life for you?

You know, sometimes I think we believe we’ve answered this question for ourselves, only to find that over time, our priorities begin to change and the lines somehow become a little blurred.  We embark on a whole new part of our lives – perhaps marriage or children or new career or retirement – fully believing we have everything in the right balance.  But then gradually we experience a vague dissatisfaction or disquiet, even perhaps frustration, as we go about our days.  What has happened?  What have we perhaps lost sight of, even if momentarily?

I say this with feeling, because I have to keep a watchful eye on this myself.  As a writer, I can easily slip into believing that my novels, plus the accompanying speaking and promotional work, are the ‘be all and end all’ for me.  And that can lead me down a rocky path fraught with danger.  For starters, it leaves me open to huge self-doubt when bookstores decide not to stock my books or when the novel I’m working on refuses to come together or when the speaking engagement I hoped would emerge doesn’t.  Don’t get me wrong – I love being an author and all that comes with it, but in the end, that can’t be what I live for.  It can’t have final supremacy in my life, otherwise I will find myself on shaky ground.  Instead, as I was reminded of so powerfully from Scripture this morning, for me Jesus Christ has to be the one who remains supreme.

In Colossians 1:17-18, we find these words:

He [Jesus Christ] is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

In everything.  That means, for me, every part of my life – including my writing.  Once I get that straight, things begin to fall into perspective again.  Then I know who I belong to, I know who I’m really writing for, I know who tells me my true value – and it’s not publishers or booksellers or even my readers!  They are all very important to me – but I can’t stake my life and my wellbeing on their opinion of me, however wonderful it is.  With all my heart, I want Jesus Christ to be Lord of my life, to have supremacy over everything else.  After all, he made me, he knows me through and through, he loves me unconditionally, he died for me – and he is completely trustworthy.

How about you?  Who or what has supremacy in your life?

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