Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Newspaper Column July 19, 2008

"I made the cut!”

How satisfying to announce to family and friends that my writing had passed several editing cuts and was finally going to be published--with compensation.

Initially, money wasn’t my motivation for submitting. I was just thrilled that somebody judged my thoughts interesting enough to publish. And I can’t deny that feedback from readers is as refreshing as a glass of sweet tea after mowing the lawn.

But somehow, simply saving my columns in an album became less satisfying. I needed validation. I needed to be paid.

Months passed. I received numerous messages from the editor about the sluggishness of the process. “The check is in the mail” became a running joke between my girlfriends and me.

However, it finally arrived.

I stuck it on the refrigerator and admired it daily for a month.

My girlfriends asked how I would spend it, and I answered, “If I took one or two of you to Starbucks, I could easily blow it there.” But the amount wasn’t important; the fact that I was a paid “author” was!

Last week, I decided to cash it. I remembered I wanted to take our winter quilt to the laundromat, so I asked the teller for lots of ones, which made my pay seem even skimpier.

Driving away, I thought, “I can’t believe I’m going to spend this at the laundromat. This is my writing money, after all!”

Later I pushed some cash on a very poor college student whom I know extremely well.

After that, my husband presented me with a chopped, grass-stained $10 bill that he had shredded while mowing. I recognized that $10 and wept.

Actually, I laughed at the irony of it all. As John Ortberg says about both Monopoly money and real-life possessions, “It all goes back in the box,” or, “You can’t take it with you.”

Even on a small scale, money and validation are nice, but they’re not permanent. Only relationships are.

Sometimes, when my written words strike a cord with or encourage someone, I see that my writing has indeed fostered relationship, and that is intensely rewarding.

So I’m just going to keep focusing on what I feel God has called me to do for his purposes, according to Philippians 1:6: “ … being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Ultimately, he is the one for whom I write. My sense of significance and meaning comes from him.

Everything else is just sweet tea.

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