Thursday, January 09, 2014

In All Your Seasons: 2013 in Review

The other day I read a post by friend and fellow WaterBrook Multnomah writer, Joanne Bischof, that really touched my heart and got me to thinking. About the seasons in our lives, and the year just passed, and all that I experienced during those months. Following is what I wrote in response to Joanne's lovely, heartfelt post, and a few more thoughts on my 2013.
Each season is a gift. That’s so true. No matter what it holds, God is there, speaking, or maybe waiting for US to stop speaking and just listen, wait.
Along the way this year I was reading a devotional called Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young. Maybe you've heard of it? I sure had, and so I decided at the end of 2012 to see what all the talk was about, and ordered a copy to be my "extra" devotional for 2013.

I couldn't have made a better choice for the year that was to unfold for me. Without fail, every entry in that devotional centered me on God's love, encouraged me to spend more time in His presence, and reassured me that He had it all under control. I can't recommend this little devotional highly enough. Get it. Read it. You'll be strengthened in your walk with Christ.

As some of you know, I made an unexpected trip at the very end of 2013, and took the devotional along. When I flew back home on January 1, I left Jesus Calling for my mother to read this year.

It’s interesting that as I signed books for the very first time this year, I often wrote in them “Grace and Peace in all your Seasons.” 
When Burning Sky was about to release, I wanted to come up with a few phrases that had some relationship to the story, or the characters' journeys, to write along with my name when I signed books. For Burning Sky that phrase was sparked by an early endorsement that blessed me (blew my socks off really, because this author, Jane Kirkpatrick, saw something in the story that I hadn't consciously focused on while I was writing it). Here's her endorsement (in part), which you may have read in the book:

"Lori Benton gives us seasons in her debut novel Burning Sky. Seasons of planting corn, beans, and pumpkins as backdrops to the ripening and challenges of lives working through chaos after a war and a terrible personal tragedy. The author gives us seasons of the journey through loss, risk, family, and love."

I loved her insight into the Burning Sky, and so I jumped on the image of seasons, pairing it with my wish for God's grace and peace to be present in the life of every reader, no matter what season they might find themselves in. Never knowing just how much I was going to need to take that wish, blessing, and prayer to heart in the following months.
2013 was a year like no other for me, with the highest highs (my debut novel released) and the lowest lows (my father’s passing just before Christmas), and the stress of not writing a new book for the first time in quite a few years...
The release of a debut novel is a lot like experiencing every season imaginable within the span of a few short weeks. I happened to be neck-deep in the most intensive editing rewrites of my writing life at the same time, so looking back on those weeks now, it's all a bit of a blur of joy, apprehension, fulfillment, and exhaustion.

Burning Sky's debut, in August, was by and large a season of reaping. A season of blessing. But not everything in my writing life went according to plan this year.
...though I did make a good start on one, and pushed another forward a bit, and plotted out a third, and completely overhauled a fourth in the most intensive rewrite I’ve ever tackled. So, that’s something. But not what I’d expected of myself or the year, back in January.

Amidst all the editing and promotion that happened in 2013, I didn't finish a new novel. I didn't need to finish a new novel, but that's become the pattern in my writing life the past several years. Start a novel in January, have it finished by December. I expect it of myself. It didn't happen this year. What did happen was I got a foothold in two novels (got them plotted, researched, and several chapters of each written) to the point where I could jump back into either of them without a lot of gear grinding.
 And still… Grace and Peace. In all MY Seasons. Amen.
Even in this winter season of grief and remembrance as my father passed on into heaven, December 22. God is with me. I know this at a deeper level than I would have had I not chose Jesus Calling and read that lovely little book every day before the craziness and challenge that was August, and the sorrow that was December.

It's a New Year, and I'm looking forward, wondering what it will hold. But I know Who holds me safely in the palm of His hand, and has plotted every step of the way for me to walk in it.

One thing I'm certainly looking forward to is the release of that novel I mentioned (you know, the one that really stretched me in the edit/rewrite). I'm so very excited to introduce Tamsen Littlejohn and Jesse Bird and Cade and the rest of the Overmountain gang to you, readers. April 15th can't get here soon enough!


Meantime, I'm back to getting a foothold in yet another novel, and learning to be okay with not having a sure direction at this time about which of these many projects I have going to see through to the finish first. That direction depends on the choices of others, and I'm learning to abide in this present uncertainty with trust in a Heavenly Author who knows exactly what's coming next.

It will be right and good. No matter what.

And so I'm wishing you, dear reader, what is much more than a few nice words to scrawl inside a book... "Grace & Peace in all your Seasons." His grace, and His peace that passes understanding.

8 comments:

  1. Oh this was lovely.

    You have had quite a year, and I am so sorry about your dad.
    God always seems to slip wonder into our days, doesn't He? Whether it's the endorsement that brings new light to words you saw for years, or the little whispers of His love in a devotional, He always gives us the grace and peace to get through the seasons.

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    1. Amen. Sometimes we just have to be still and focus on Him to find that peace.

      If you (generic You, not YOU, Jennifer) aren't sure how to do that, again I say, read Jesus Calling. You'll get the hang of it. :)

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  2. Thank you, Lori--this was beautiful, and ministered to me today. May the Lord wrap His arms of comfort and peace around you and your family as you miss your dad.

    Greatly looking forward to The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn! :)

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    1. Me too! And thank you for your prayers and sweet words. Comfort and peace abounds.

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  3. Beautiful post...His grace and peace through all the seasons...He has been faithful and He is always available when I am ready to stop fretting and go to Him. My father passed Dec 19th of 2012 and my heart goes out to you in the recent loss of your dear Dad.

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    1. Thank you, Janette. God bless you for sharing comfort from your loss. Just a year ago. Time does funny things when we are in (or approaching) middle age, I'm starting to discover. It begins to stretch and blur a bit. A year seems like no time at all anymore, and yet a month can feel like a year. Makes me long to experience eternity outside of time. It's mind-blowing to think of my dad already doing so.

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  4. One way to really know heaven is to have someone you dearly love living there! Weird having been around you, little sister, for so many years--hearing all your ideas/dreams/story ideas--even hearing your daddy sing!--and now I've moved away, and you're there, going great guns. I only know Tamsen Littlejohn as a name... oh well! Later on I'll get to know him. Have great days, and it was delightful seeing your 2013 through your eyes 'n words 'n heart... I love you!

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    1. That's right you did hear him sing. :-) Miss you!

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