When the journey becomes slow…

It’s been over five years since I started this journey. Five years of studying the craft, blogging, and pursuing a career in writing.

Sometimes I get so accustomed to my life that I forget that I am living my dream. I become too focused on what I want to happen in the future—how much further I still have to go—that I forget how God has gotten me to where I am today. 

I found this essay I wrote for my English class when I was 13, the year that God laid it on my heart to write Christian fiction for teenagers. (I didn’t even know the genre existed.)

It says:

“When I was three years old I started writing stories for fun. Now, I hope to graduate with a degree in journalism, and soon become a best-selling author. I would love to write children books, but God has also given me the desire to write books that can relate to other teenagers on a Christian basis, so that is one thing I hope to do when I get older. God has laid these desires on my heart for a specific reasons, and I cannot wait to begin fulfilling God’s plan for my life!”

My 13-year-old self. =)

There will always be new dreams on the horizon, new levels that we want to reach. But sometimes we have to take a moment to see how far we’ve already come. We have to remember that one day we were only dreaming for this moment.

No, the journey isn’t fast nor is it easy. It’s a process. And often, things do not turn out the way we had hoped.

However, I have to remind myself that this is the planting season. These past five years have been a season of planting the seeds of my future, growing closer to God, and preparing for my future ministry. We have to view our life through eyes of faith rather than through the natural realm. The process of pursuing your dreams requires a lot of patience, a lot of faith, and several days of working without seeing any immediate results.

But the only way to reap a harvest is to go through these seasons. Because you’ll never see growth if you don’t first take the time to plant and water the seeds.

Romans 4:18-24 says:

 “When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do.”

This fall didn’t exactly turn out the way I had planned. Being diagnosed with diabetes really took its toll on me, and I was also planning on having a much more packed book tour schedule than I do now.

However, I am very grateful for the events that I have been able to schedule for this fall. And I am also thankful for my new friendship with Caroline George.

I have never had someone that relates with me so much, and vice versa. Even though we are different in a lot of ways, we are also very like-minded as well. We share similar passions: writing, coffee, reading, and Jesus. We both know what it’s like to pursue our dream at a young age and to have others question this decision. And we both have never quite fit in with others our age. We have recently gotten together every week to film videos for our new YouTube Channel, MoonAndArrowAuthors (you can view them here!).

I’ve also had 2 book signings since my last post on this blog. The first one was at the FreshTaste event in my hometown, and the second one was a book signing with Caroline at a coffee shop in NC (which was strangely similar to the one in Purple Moon).

Caroline and I are also visiting two homeschool groups tomorrow. I’m excited! I love having the opportunity to reach teens, to share with them my story and encourage them to pursue their dreams as well.

There’s another homeschool group I’m visiting (by myself) on December 8th, another one on Dec. 12th with Caroline, and a few other homeschool groups and schools in January. =)

Also, stay tuned for my new Etsy shop opening soon! Since my mom is an artist and I am a writer, we have decided to combine the two by creating unique art journals. I can’t wait to share them with you all!

Although I am in a slow season of my journey right now, I am very thankful for what God has done and is doing. My goal has never been to make it big, to be rich and famous. Sure, I would LOVE to have the opportunity to influence thousands of teens! But honestly, fame has never been my intention to write. I write for the ministry aspect of it.

And recently, after reading several reviews of Purple Moon on Amazon, I’ve come to realize: I have already reached my goal. I have already made an impact on teenagers through my writing.

So if that is as far that I come in my writing journey—if I never publish any more books for the rest of my life—then I will be completely satisfied in just knowing that I have already made a difference.

And that alone would be worth this journey.

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Today is the anniversary of PURPLE MOON’s release!

This time last year, I was experiencing a mixture of feelings: Nervousness. Excitement. Fear.

Nervous about stepping out of my shell to do interviews and book signings.

Excited about the possibilities surrounding my new release (and the fact that it was actually happening!).

And afraid–terrified, actually–of what people might think about my book.

I had no idea it would receive the kind of feedback that it has. I was shocked. I mean, I personally loved the story. I had spent many months (years) into making it the best that I could.

But I wrote the first draft when I was 16. It wasn’t the kind of plot-driven, action-packed story that some people preferred. Instead, it was character-driven, and more focused on the protagonist’s inner journey rather than anything else.

That’s why I was shocked when I continued to receive positive feedback, continued to have 5-star ratings on Amazon.

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Photo courtesy of Anderson Independent Newspaper

Other Highlights From This Past Year:

 Hearing from readers.

I have cherished each and every letter I’ve received since my book released. I get teary-eyed every time I hear how God used Purple Moon to lead them to Christ or impact their life, especially since that is exactly what I prayed for while I writing and editing the book.

Book signings.

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There is something special about actually getting to see readers face-to-face rather than just online. Even when the turn out isn’t even that great, book signings are always a fun experience.

My launch party (above) was one I will never forget–at least seventy people showed up, and we had coffee, purple moon cookies, purple Hershey kisses, etc. I loved being able to celebrate the debut of my release with family, friends, and my community. =)

Seeing my story on the cover of my town’s newspaper.

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This was a bit frightening, I have to admit. But it was surreal, too, and a reminder that I am living my dreams. I also very much enjoyed my interview with the reporter, who came to my house and spoke with my parents and me.

It was also crazy when the story was picked up nationally by the Associated Press! I definitely hadn’t been expecting that.

Updates on My Writing Journey:

A month ago (August 22nd), I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

I admit, I have been just a little tempted to put off my book tour out of fear that something would happen. But I know that’s what Satan would want me to do. He will do anything to keep me from pursuing the calling God has placed on my life.

Fear has held me back long enough, so I was determined not to let it keep me back this time.

For the past year, I have had such anxious thoughts surrounding the idea of public speaking. Which is actually crazy, because I used to not be afraid of anything: theater performances, school presentations, roller coasters,  etc.

I was the one who chose to take the air lift to the top of the mountain with my dad rather than a train like my older sisters and older cousins did. I was the one who won a frog Beanie Baby when I was five because I was able to ribet the loudest out of several other kids.

So how did I allow fear to creep in? When did anxiety start wrapping around me, making me terrified of doing things that I used to be just fine with?

I think it began when I was 15. I was running along the beach one morning, and since I hadn’t eaten or drank anything that day, I started becoming weak and hyperventilated. At the hospital, I was told that I had dehydrated.

But honestly, I think part of the reason I started to hyperventilate was due to anxiety. I knew I was running low on energy, and I started freaking out when I saw how much further I had to run.

Another episode happened not even a year later during a theater performance. I had dehydrated, so they rushed me to the hospital.

Not being able to breathe is the worst feeling. And since then, the idea of hyperventilating has terrified me so much and at times would cause me to start hyperventilating (which is ironic). I became claustrophobic, even though big crowds used to never affect me.

I think that’s the main reason why I have procrastinated for so long in promoting my book through public speaking.

Not necessarily because I don’t think I’m a good enough speaker (which has been a factor), but because the idea of having an episode while I was speaking terrified me. I allowed myself to panic over the idea of being panicked–which is, of course, ridiculous.

But the good news is: God is, and has been, tearing down those knots of anxiety that has been wrapped around me for far too long.

And this past Monday, I was finally able to do the very thing I have been procrastinating this year: I spoke to a homeschool group.

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I shared with them a little bit about my publication journey and inspired them to pursue their dreams as well. And you know what the crazy thing is?

I did not have one anxious thought enter my mind before or during the presentation. None at all.

And I know it was God. I’ve prayed so much that I would be delivered from anxiety, and I really believe that I have. Monday was proof. I could not have done that without God’s strength.

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I also visited a school today and spoke to them about pursuing dreams at a young age as well. =)

It’s crazy how terrifying something can appear from a distance–but once you get closer to it, you realize it is not at all the giant that you perceived it to be in your head.

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The fact that I have had so many obstacles thrown in my path to prevent me from public speaking proves even more that this is part of my calling.

Of course, this isn’t always the case. Many times God will close doors to keep us from moving forward.

But it is usually easy to tell the difference between what is God and what is Satan: God brings peace; Satan brings confusion.

The confusion that has held me back has come in the form of self-doubt, intimidation, fear, insecurity, and sickness.

And you know what the crazy thing is? Months earlier, the idea of public speaking still terrified me. I wanted to do it, and I knew God wanted me to as well.

Yet I still did everything I could to prolong it even further.

These past few weeks, however, I haven’t felt panicked at all at the thought of it. Instead, I have been thrilled at the idea of witnessing what would happen when I finally stepped out onto the water!

And it was perfect.

After my presentation on Monday, one of the moms that was there offered to pray for me. She held my hands and lead everyone in prayer while the other moms in the room placed their hands on me as well.

It was so special, such a perfect way to kick off my book tour.

Also, I received this in the mail the other day . . .

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It’s a copy of GUIDE Magazine, a Christian tween magazine that has my article on the front cover! It’s about the true story of how God answered my prayers with a puppy when I was little. You can order a copy on Oct. 18th. =)

Also, another article of mine has been accepted by DEVOZINE, the teen imprint of Upper Room Magazine. I’ll let you know when that is in print, too!

And . . . I have such great news! I am having to bite my tongue to keep from announcing it, but I can’t say anything yet since it isn’t exactly official.

But I am SO excited, though. And you will be, too! 😉 (Just make sure to sign up for my newsletter on my official blog for updates!)

This journey is exciting.

I am finally realizing why God has separated me apart from others my age. Why I have never quite fit.

In middle and high school, I hated this about myself. I wanted to be more extroverted. I wanted to be able to go to school and cheerleading practice without feeling lonely the entire time because I just couldn’t seem to connect with anyone.

When I was in 9th grade — Photo courtesy of Jake Simpson Photography

But I am now grateful for this, grateful that God has set me apart. I know it has been for a reason: To accomplish His will through me. Because He is now using that very quality I have despised so much about myself for His glory.

And it makes it so completely and totally worth it.

I can’t wait to see where He leads me next!

Now, in honor of PURPLE MOON’S anniversary . . . 

I know this is the longest post ever–but in honor of my book’s one year anniversary, I wanted to share with you some pictures of “book” samples that I wrote when I was little.

I hope you enjoy (or at least get a good laugh)! =D

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{Sipping on: Folgers coffee with cinnamon, almond milk, coconut oil, and stevia}
{Listening to: for King and Country’s new album}

Coffee conversations & approaching seasons.

God is so good. I am so grateful at the way He is working in my life right now.

Last week, as I was brainstorming details for my book tour, I recalled a marketing suggestion my agent made last winter. She recommended that I pair with another YA author for promo events in order to generate more of a “buzz”.

A couple months later my mom told me about a former art student of hers, Caroline George, who was 16-years-old and had recently published a YA dystopian novel. Not long after that I received an email from her. She told me that she found out about me through Facebook and asked if I would be willing to read and review her novel and she would read and review mine.

What’s crazy is that about a week after this we ran into each other at Panera Bread. That was our first time meeting, and the last time we saw each other since earlier this week.

I emailed her last week presenting the idea of us teaming together for a book tour this fall. She loved the idea, so we then arranged a meeting to discuss the details at a coffee shop this past Monday.

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However, we spent so long talking about writing that we didn’t exactly talk much on the book tour schedule (lol). Because of that, we decided to arrange another meeting yesterday morning at Starbucks.

I know for a fact this is completely  and100% ordained by God. Caroline and I both share the same passion for writing and for inspiring teenagers to pursue their dreams at a young age (which is what our message is going to be in our book tour). Both of us have sacrificed a normal teen experience in order to write, and both of us don’t have very many friends because of that. (And the ones that we do have do not share the same passion for writing and reading as we do.) This is why meeting each other has been such a blessing for both of us, and I am so looking forward to seeing what God has in store for us in this book tour. =)

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Stepping Out

This year I’ve been procrastinating going to schools and such to speak, only because I’m not the greatest public speaker in the world. But God has shown me that we’re not supposed to wait until we are completely fearless before we step out. That’s the whole point of faith: Trusting in God, despite the fact that we may be terrified. It’s about being afraid but doing it anyway. And no, it isn’t even about being completely perfect at it before you give it a try; it is about doing it over and over again until you do become great at it.

I am so grateful that God made me an artist. This is another thing Caroline and I discussed this week: how writing is not only a form of expression, but of self-discovery. As we write, we incorporate some of ourselves into our characters; and as we write, we learn. There is so, so much that I love about this craft I could write a book on it. (No pun intended.)

Christ in Me

As I was driving home from Starbucks yesterday, the song “Let Them See You” by Colton Dixon came on the radio. This song basically sums up everything I hope to accomplish in my writing career: for others to see Christ in me. This is why He gave us gifts, so we can use them for His glory and to minister to others. Not so that we may be glorified. I don’t want them to see me; I want them to see Christ in me.

So many times I have resented the fact that God has made me an introvert, as if it were some disability. But I have realized that it’s not–in fact, it’s a blessing. It’s a blessing because I can allow God to shine more easily through me. A loud, outgoing personality isn’t what is going to attract others to me, and I am thankful for that. I want people to be drawn to me because of God’s Spirit. I want to remain quiet, only speaking when He leads me so that His love can be more evident in me.

Another thing God has shown me recently is that these years of not having many friends has prepared me for the ministry He is calling me into. Yes, we are supposed to live life abundantly. However, staying at home when most kids my age were going out with their friends has taught me to enjoy the simplicity of life. Being at home has not only given me a chance to excel in my writing, but to also appreciate the small things in life. I don’t have to have a packed schedule and tons of friends in order to be happy and fulfilled. I have Christ, and He is all that I need. It’s completely about your perspective. There is so much to be thankful for in the every-day, mundane life, and those are the things that I live for.

One last thing: I have been having such fall-fever recently–which I’m trying not to, only because I want to enjoy the summer while it’s here. But I can’t help it. Fall has always been my favorite season, and it’s going to be even better since I will be on a book tour! I can’t wait to wear my favorite layered clothes, go to different coffee shops and try their pumpkin spice lattes, hold book signings, wear my favorite boots. I can’t wait for the leaves to start changing and for there to be a chill in the air. Fall is such a beautiful time of year, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that God is allowing this new season of my life to occur during my favorite physical season. =)

Anyway, be sure to check my other blog {Christ is Write} on Wednesday for details on the book tour!

{Sipping on: Italian dark roast; listening to: Ascend the Hill}

Not even a moment of this.

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As a writer, I have a tendency to see my life in seasons. I am aware that both the good and painful times can be woven together to create something beautiful. And every moment—whether big or small—will come together to create the bigger picture, the “story”, of my life.

I want to remember these moments. How pointless would it be to read a book and completely forget what happened in the chapter before, the one that lead you to where you are now?

That is why I am beginning this blog: to document every moment of my writing journey from now on.

Yesterday, as I was discussing the details of my book tour with my mom over mochas, I was hit with the realization that I am living my dream. To be honest, I tend to forget this. I often get so caught up in the business of writing that I somehow forget this was what I only dreamt of just five years ago. I don’t take enough moments to stop and take in how far God has brought me.

No, I am not a huge best-selling author. Granted, I’ve only published one book so far.

However, this journey isn’t over yet. In fact, it is only beginning. And I don’t want to miss even a moment of this.

I do have another blog, but I only post writing tips, devotions, and book reviews. Since I am an introvert, I tend to shy away from writing personal posts on Christ is Write.

This blog isn’t going to be as structured as that one. This is going to be more of a journal (hence the notebook background). Because of that, I am not going to edit my posts much, so please excuse any and all grammatical mistakes. =)

IMG_5482.jpg.jpgFor those of you who don’t know me, my name is Tessa. I am a 20-year-old YA novelist of PURPLE MOON, a Selah Award Finalist that was published last fall by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. To read the full story on my journey to publication, click here.

I want to go ahead and make it clear that I am not, in any way, writing to glorify myself. God is the Author of my life. The characters I write should not take pride in who they are since I am the one who crafted them; likewise, I am not going to take the credit for a gift God has given me. Writers are always warned to avoid creating carbon-copy characters. Every character should have their own set of skills, hobbies, strengths and weaknesses. How boring would it be if every book we read had the same protagonist?

Similarly, God has given everyone their own set of strengths, weaknesses, skills, and hobbies. This is what makes us unique. And just like an author pens the fate of their protagonist, God has already penned our future in His book (Psalm 139:16).

Yesterday my mom and I went to Panera Bread to discuss the details of my book tour this fall. While drinking a mocha, I recalled a moment from five years ago when I was also sipping on a mocha and writing what would become the “pre-draft” of Purple Moon. I remember the rush I felt every time I envisioned my story in print. I remember thinking how wonderful it would be to be able to create characters, a setting, and a plot that would actually come to life in another’s imagination rather than just my own! That alone was enough to push me to continue writing.

And I am so glad I did.

It has almost been a year since my book has been in print, and to be honest I didn’t do as many events and speaking gigs as I’d hoped I would. I thought it was fear holding me back—which it certainly has been. But now I am realizing that it just hasn’t been God’s timing for me to begin my speaking ministry. I know it is now, though.

So starting this fall, I am going to schools and youth groups to share what God has done in my life and hopefully inspire others to pursue their dreams as well. I want them to know how much God loves them, that He has a specific calling and plan and purpose for their life, that they don’t have to be anyone except themselves. I have such a burning passion to share this with others, and that is how I know that it is God’s will for me to do this, despite the fact that I am introverted. I’ve struggled with speaking in the past, but I know God wants me to step out in faith and trust in Him. He doesn’t want me to rely on my own ability; instead, in my weakness He wants me to rely only on His Strength.

 “Then I said, ‘But Lord God, I don’t know how to speak I am only a boy.’

But the Lord said to me, ‘Don’t say, ‘I am only a boy.’ You must go everywhere I send you, and you must say everything I tell you to say. Don’t be afraid of anyone, because I am with you to protect you,’ says the Lord.

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth. He said to me, ‘See, I am putting my words in your mouth. Today I have put you in charge of nations and kingdoms. You will pull up and tear down, destroy and overthrow, build up and plant.”
~Jeremiah 1:7-19 (NCV)

I know this is what God wants me to do, despite the many times I have tried to convince myself that I am not capable. I am constantly reminded of the story of David and Goliath, the way that David was only a teenager and yet he didn’t even give a second thought to facing the giant, despite his lack of strength. It was His faith in God’s strength that destroyed the giant.

So that is what I am going to have to remind myself as I step out and trust in Him. I am going to focus on God’s strength rather than my weakness.

And to be honest, I am so excited to begin this book tour. I can hardly wait to teach writing to others, minister to them, travel, try out new coffee shops, and to meet new people and hear their stories.

That is why I have started this blog. To record this new journey. Because it is not just the journal of my life as a YA author, it is my journal of embarking on this new adventure: Facing my fears and following God’s will for my life, wherever that may lead. 

So I hope you’ll join me. =)