Magical Words 

Do you recall that magical moment when Harry Potter has just been told he was a wizard and not only that, he was a ‘thumping good one’ and not only that, he wasn’t the only one? There was this whole magical world with its own language and ways of doing things that he belonged to without realizing it. 

There were owls instead of postmen and wands to be chosen or should I say to choose you? There was a different system of money and special forms of transportation. Remember Harry’s (and ours) first trip down Diagon Alley? It was fantastic; it was this unique culture that existed out of view of ‘normal’ folks. 

This was exactly the imagery I used to compare my first encounters with a writer’s conference as I spoke briefly this weekend to the attendees of Mid-Winter Writers Conference. There may not have been any owls delivering the post or wands being waved, I explained, but it was indeed like magic. 

Suddenly, like Harry, I had found myself immersed into an intoxicatingly fantastical world where I struggled to understand the terms they used, found myself feeling overwhelmed a great deal of the time and often questioned whether or not  I really belonged at all. 

There was so much I did not know. I did not know the difference between traditional publishing and vanity publishing and self-publishing and independent publishing. I did not know what my options were. I did not know what choices I had. I did not know so much. But here’s what I did know. 

The time had come to take myself, my dreams, my writing seriously and if I didn’t do it, no one could do out for me. Even so, that first year, those first conferences, those were just first steps. No one discovered me, offered me a contract or asked me to write an article, not at first. But, I kept taking next steps and attending more conferences and connecting with supportive people who had walked this path before me and were willing to extend a helping hand. Soon, the day did come that I was published and now, I have my very first book in print, on Amazon and being read. It is a dream come true. 

The people I have encountered at these conferences have been the true treasures that I discovered there. The very first keynote was delivered by Angela Hunt, a prolific writer, who inspired me. Then I met Melanie Dickerson, author and now a dear friend who assured me I could do it too. I met and chatted with Hallee Bridgeman at length who poured information into my eagerly listening ears about independent publishing. I met Jennifer Rash, editor of the Alabama Baptist, who encouraged me to recognize my voice, my passion and use it. There have been so many more including Harry and Rita Moritz who organize the Mid Winter Writers Conference and David and Joanne Sloan who organize the Southern Chistian Writers Conference held in Tuscaloosa, AL. 

Even this weekend I sat moved to tears by the keynote speaker, Liz Huntley, who is a new successful author and an expert at overcoming obstacles that life throws at you. I was able to meet Jim Reed of Reed Books: The Museum of Fond Memories in Birmingham and be reminded that a writer should hold herself to deadlines and how moments not used writing feel as if they are wasted. 

My life is being influenced; my writing is being impacted; my future is being formed with each encounter. It’s like magic. 

What about you? Are you ready to hear those magical words, ‘You’re a writer and with a little training I bet you’d make a thumping good one.” As Hagrid told Harry. Are you willing to invest in yourself? Are you ready to take yourself seriously and take the next step toward your dream? Are you willing to find your vouce, celebrate your passion, embrace your calling and find your courage? 

Today is leap day. A bonus day by all counts. Why not let this be the day you let your wand choose you and then you in turn choose to wield it to create magical words, words that can impact and change and form and encourage? 

This weekend I invited the attendees to take a leap of faith and dive in to the deep waters of pursuing a dream. Today I’d like to invite you to do the same. Go ahead, the deep waters are refreshing and challenging. It will change your life. and who knows , it may change someone else’s. 

  

The Book Table

I had a book table at the local author’s expo I attended this weekend, the first of many I imagine. I was instructed to bring my own set up. I was a little apprehensive as to what exactly that meant. I carefully collected the things I thought I would need – a tablecloth, stands for displaying my books, bookmarks, business cards that I had picked up the day before, hard candies in a cute dish and a smile. Even so, I was not as prepared as I should have been.

Dozens of times I was asked this question. “So, what is your book about?” And even though I smiled warmly and gave it my best effort, I felt like each time was awkward and each answer lacking. I was poorly representing my creative work that represents me so well. 

I learned a lot of things at this expo and realizing I needed to develop a better answer when a total stranger will ask ‘So, what is your book about?’ was one of them. 

Those of you who know me and might think I always know what to say would have been as surprised as I was when I didn’t. They didn’t know me. I didn’t know them. They certainly had never heard of Tessie (my main character). They hadn’t heard me teach a Bible Study. They weren’t my FB friend or a Twitter Follower. They hadn’t read my blog nor my magazine articles. I had never prayed for them in a moment of distress. They didn’t even know I loved to crochet. 😉 I was fully seated upon the throne of obscurity. 

There were authors everywhere, about a hundred at this expo. Just to my left was a very nice man I enjoyed meeting so much and he was the author of a book that has recently been made into a very successful movie. Not only that, the story happened in the Birmingham area, where the expo was being held. He was not unknown. Well, maybe he was, but his book, the movie, the setting of the story was WELL KNOWN and let me tell you, folks were eager to interact with him, buy his books and have their pictures made with him. I never once heard anyone ask him what his book was about. They already knew. 

I couldn’t help but think of my book-signing last month which was, in my opinion, very successful. The people who came knew me or knew of me. They never asked me what the book was about. Many of them had already read it and were excited to taste ‘Tessie’s cornflake candy’ or ask when the sequel would be out. They were there to celebrate with me because they cared about me. 

But this day, was a different scenario. This day was a day where I needed to introduce my book and myself to total strangers in about a minute. I wish I could tell you that I have had a revelation of what that answer should be. I’m still pondering it as I prepare to attend a writer’s conference this weekend where I will once again have a book table. I hope to do better. 

  

I’d love to hear from other authors if they have any suggestions. Perhaps readers can tell me what you hope to hear about a book when you ask that approach a book table. How can I step down from that throne of obscurity?

Do you want to know that the book is about a family with a heart for foster children and adoption? Do you want to know that the main character relies heavily on her faith when her family is faced with a crisis? Is it important to know that this family is very similar in structure and character to my own real life family? Are you more interested in the fact that it has a preparedness  influence? Does it intrigue you that the family begins to be more self-reliant and Tessie learns to can food and train her goats to pull a wagon? Do you care that I wrote this book to organize my own thoughts when I wondered how we would react if life as we knew it was disrupted? How about the matching chapter devotionals in the back? Or maybe, at the book table, you’d like to hear about me, the author? 

These are the questions that are rattling around in my brain today. And here’s one thing I know. I’m so glad I wrote this book. I’m so glad I’m growing and stretching and learning. I’m so glad that I can have a business card that says ‘Stephanie Rodda, Author’. I am enjoying every moment of this challenging adventure. I am thrilled to have my own, folding book-table (with a carrying handle, mind you). I am thankful to have the opportunity to inspire another woman, another parent, another person who may be saying, “What will will do if life as we know it, crumbles?” Because we all know this, life isn’t neat and tidy, things don’t always turn out like we expect them to. And when our expectations and what we were sure we could count on lies at our feet in crumbles, we have to decide if we are going to find our courage and rely on our faith. That’s exactly what I’m going to try to do, even at the book table. 

  

Love Delayed

Celebrate love today even if love is delayed!

Stephanie Rodda

So many posts and poems and sentiments will be shared today on the subject of love. After all, it is Valentine’s Day. As I considered what I would add to the ocean of words on love today, I hesitated. Should I write about my Henry, the love of my life? Should I write about my children who have stirred such love in my heart I can hardly contain it? Should I write about the great love that was poured into my life by my mother and grandmother? Should I write about the high cost of love as a foster and adoptive parent? Should I write about the greatest love ever offered when God so loved the world that He gave us Jesus?

As I contemplated these worthy subjects I discovered my heart leaning another direction. Love is a journey that is unique for each of us. Love is a great…

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Will You Be Mine?

These thoughts on love and the great vulnerability as well as the great joy of it, refreshed my heart this morning. Enjoy the beauty of love.

Stephanie Rodda

I have known great love in my life. I was cherished as a child. My husband has lavished love upon me. My relationship with Jesus is a love affair of the soul. There is another great love story in my life and none of you that know me even a little will be surprised to know that it involves the remarkable love of adoption.

We have adopted seven children. Three were infants when they came to us as foster children – 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months. We had the great joy of being able to adopt them after they had been with us and after we had grown to love them. They, being very young had no real say in the matter but, as they also had grown to love us, it was a welcome and beautiful turn of events for us all.

Our other four children would be…

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This Week

This morning I’m contemplating my new coffee mug as I enjoy the hot concoction within it. On one side it says 15 years and on the other side it says –

Know God

Find Freedom

Discover Purpose

Make a Difference

Our church passed these out to us yesterday at their 15th anniversary. Church of the Highlands has been a tremendous blessing to our family. We have enjoyed the powerful teaching and participated in the many outreaches. We’ve found racial diversity, a rarity in the south. We’ve found ways to grow, connect and serve. We were glad to celebrate with them yesterday. 

But back to the coffee mug. As I consider the list imprinted on its side I’ve decided to take the words as a challenge. 

KNOW GOD 

This week, no matter how busy it is, and it promises to be a doozy, I will spend time with God first. I will read a small portion of the Bible. I will spend time in prayer. I will actively look for Him in my days, in my corner of the world. I know I will find Him there. I will seek Him out. I will search for Him. I will listen for His voice and respond eagerly. 

FIND FREEDOM

This week, I’m going to actively pursue freedom. I’m going to be swift to act when worry or dread attempts to slip into my thoughts. I’m going to be generous with forgiveness this week. I’m going to pour it out on others and myself as I am receiving it so graciously from the Lord. I’m going to leave the slave quarters of my mind where my stash of regrets and guilt and offenses dwell. I’m choosing freedom. I’m going to carry around a proverbial Debt Canceled stamp and apply liberally. 

DISCOVER PURPOSE

If we are spending our days just making it through them we are missing out on some of the best moments of life. Our days are numbered and we have a purpose. This week, I’m going to live on purpose. I’m going to rest on purpose. I’m going to eat on purpose. I’m going to exercise on purpose.  I’m going to write on purpose. I’m going to pray on purpose. I’m going to speak on purpose. Otherwise, well, what’s the purpose? 

MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Now we get to the real crux of the matter. The result of the other three is this. This is where we arrive when we KNOW GOD, FIND FREEDOM and DISCOVER PURPOSE. This is why we spend time in prayer and extend forgiveness and rest on purpose. This is why we read Scripture and refuse worry and live on purpose. So we can make a difference. 

This week I will do my best to make a difference in the lives of those I love. I will anticipate eagerly the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those I don’t know. I will do my best to lighten the heavy load of another struggling mother. I will write words that encourage and inspire. I will avoid criticizing others and feeling obligated to fix others. Instead, I will do my best to make a difference. 

“Whenever you possibly can, do good to those who need it.” Proverbs 3:27 

  

True Friends

Thinking lots of thoughts this morning. Mostly I’m thinking about the women in my life who have invested into me with love and time and energy.I’m thinking of true friends. 

I have always believed strongly in mentorship and perhaps one of the reasons was because I’ve been the recipient of many such relationships. 
There’s a long list of women I could name as having helped to form me and mold me, starting of course with my own mom and grandma. But, this morning I’m thinking of my own Miss Clara. 
If you’ve watched ‘War Room’ you likely know exactly what I am referring to. She’s the older lady that in my opinion was the star of the show. She was without a doubt, my favorite character. I assumed this movie (and book) was about marriage. On the contrary, at least in my eyes, it was about women supporting women. 
My Miss Clara that I’m thinking about was Irene Gilley. She, like Clara in the story, was in her 80’s and like Clara, she was a Godly women and a prayer warrior. She loved me. She blessed me in numerous ways. She was a tremendous influence in my life. She supported me when I felt wobbly. She was not related to me or otherwise obligated to me. She chose to be a part of my life and I chose to allow her. 
The other day a young woman I love dearly told me I was her Miss Clara. My heart was so touched by that thought. We definitely chose to be a part of each other’s lives.  Then last night, my daughter-in-law shared so kindly about how good it felt to be supported. It does feel good. This morning I was reading in the _War Room_ book that my son’s fiancé  gave me for Christmas and near the end of the book, Clara said, “Give me another one, Lord. Guide me to who you want me to help.”

  
This really made me stop and think. It challenged me. As Christian women, we can get so caught up in our own families and lives that we forget what we are really supposed to be doing. “Go and make disciples.”

I’m not sure exactly why it is, but often it seems that women are most critical of other women. Competition? Comparison? 

When we choose to support another woman, when we encourage her, pray for her and value her, it extends far beyond her. The influence spreads to those she loves and values. She impacts others. The power of love prevails and the ripples continue long after we are aware. 

I’d like to challenge us, you and I both to reach beyond our comfort zone. Stretch out our arms, extend ourselves beyond our own daughters and invest in the life of another woman, young or old. Be a listening ear, a prayer partner, a true friend. Be someone’s Miss Clara. Be a true friend. Never be too busy to invest in the life of another woman. 

That young lady who is struggling may be quite desperate for hope. That woman who seems bent on self-destruction may just hear your kind words. That girl who has too much attitude may be a scared little girl on the inside. That gal that insists on controlling and manipulating may long to feel strong and going about it the wrong way. 

My prayer is that women will resist the urge to criticize and ostracize. My prayer is that we will be someone’s safe place so they can be real. My prayer is that we will not underestimate the value of being a true friend.