We have a special post written by Angela R. Watts, a speaker at Diamonds 2021 and the bestselling author of The Infidel Books. She shares how God was with her in her writing journey while being a caregiver of her chronically ill mother.
How God Helped Me Balance Caregiving and My Author Career
I’ve written stories since I was six years old, and after my mother became chronically ill, my passion for writing didn’t stop when I was a young teen. It didn’t slow down. It burned brighter.
Most authors I know grew up with their parents reading books aloud for them. I was the kiddo showing my mom the books, getting her permission that they were safe, and reading them by myself as a kid. Mom homeschooled us kiddos, encouraging me in my creative writing. I wrote short stories, drabbles, poetry, and fanfiction, and at twelve, I completed my first novella. I was fourteen (or fifteen, I’ve forgotten) when I completed my first novel. I was sixteen when I self-published my first book.
During these years, I juggled caregiving for my mom, school (straight A student, by the way, for those thinking I slacked. Except math. That was probably a fail. Or a B), housework, babysitting my nieces, farm life, karate, and more. Though I struggled, I focused on fiction as a means to cope and find comfort and hope. However, my dream of being a published author was not one I allowed to reach the surface until I was about fifteen. This is when I discovered the world of self-publishing and realized I could publish my novel.
It was tough, I won’t lie.
My author career has been trial after trial, some large, some small, but they all add up to one wild ride. God has been with me, every step of the way. When all I could do for months was handle life and helping my mom, He assured me that more was to come. When I finished a novel only to have it rejected by friends, God kept whispering, “Keep going, I’m not done yet.” I struggled with balancing my life and my writing, and on top of this. So, how have I learned to handle it all?
First, I’m constantly focusing on my reasons why.
Am I writing and working to serve God or serve myself? When I help my mom get meals, housekeep, shop, etc, am I doing so out of love, or am I having a stressful day and allowing my attitude to be abrasive? Am I reminding my family how much I love them, or am I so focused on work that everything else is drowned out? I’m the sort of person who gets on a mission and doesn’t stop till the mission is finished–but as a caregiver, that trait was bashed with a stick many times.
My mom, however, is a graceful woman and she constantly reminds me that I need to balance it all. So, my first step to balance my life is to refocus on my whys. If they’re off track or turning selfish or muddled, I snap my sights back on God’s will and find comfort in this above all else.
Second, I’m a pretty hard-working individual, and don’t mind long hours.
I work for myself as an author and editor, so scheduling my workload is very important! I set myself deadlines for my work and I stick to them as closely as possible. Then I have my clients, and I schedule my editing jobs similarly! I enjoy having a list of things to do each day and it helps me track my time better.
Third, I listen to my mother!
She constantly reminds me to eat, drink water, exercise, play with my pup when I’m stressed, and rest when I need it. I overwork myself because I find immense joy in my work and accomplishments, but that doesn’t mean burn out is okay. The past year or so, I’ve strived to balance my work and rest, as well. Despite my expectations, it didn’t slow me down. I was able to rest and take care of myself and still write a few novels, publish a novel, pitch and sign a contract for a novel, publish a short story, and take on brand new epic clients!
I’m constantly learning something new in my life and career. I like finding better ways to do things. I love working with clients. I love seeing my readers scream over my novels.
However, I wouldn’t be where I am without God’s goodness.
God pushed me through every bad day, every tough week, every stressful month. He showed me the beauty in pain. He constantly reminds me to look back at how far I have come. Middle-school me would have never dreamed of putting myself out there and pitching to a publisher, but in 2020, I signed with my dream press.
I refuse to allow my circumstances to weigh me down. I refuse to allow my trials to do anything but make me focus on God more than myself. I refuse to view my life as nothing but a struggle. I spent years surviving, years begging God to spare my mom, with fiction being my only escape. I’ve grown a lot since then. My mom is with me, I’m focusing on living, and I’m a bestselling author.
None of this would be possible if I had not heeded God’s will for my life and took it all step by step. If you have a dream or a goal, and life is keeping you down, hold on. God is not done yet. Give yourself grace, give yourself small baby steps, and keep fighting on.
If you’d like to read more posts like this, or you want to check out my novels or editorial services, you can find me online or on my website, angelarwatts.com!
Angela R. Watts
Angela is the bestselling author of The Infidel Books. She writes bold fiction that glorifies Christ and has published over seven books. She lives at Step By Step Sanctuary, Tennessee, though with Gypsy and Norwegian in her blood, she loves traveling. She’s been writing stories since she was little, but when she’s not writing, she’s probably raising animals, painting, or working with her amazing clients.
P.S. What is Diamonds 2021? Diamonds is a conference for chronically ill Christians. If you miss my previous post, click here to find out more.
I am excited to publish this post written by Sarah Susanna Rhomberg, one of my close writer friends. May it bless and encourage you as it did to me.
Five Scripture Passages to Start the New Year
For some people, the past year may have seemed long and dreary. Some may be looking forward to something new, something fresh. Some may be sad that it has come to an end. Others might fear starting another year all over again.
Every year, I am torn. Yes, I love the anticipation of the new, but equally, I am one to hold onto the past, to hold onto the old.
Here are five passages for the start of the year, for both you and myself. No matter if you can’t wait for the new year or if you’re starting it with fear, let these be reminders to you.
1) Isaiah 40:30-31
“Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (KJV)
For many, this past year was not an easy one. Many feel like they are tired and weary. They feel like they are stumbling and falling. But here’s the truth to hold onto: Those who put their hope in the God of the Bible will not grow tired or weary. They will not stumble and fall.
This passage in Isaiah is a great reminder to us to put our hope into the LORD, instead of trusting in the works of man.
2) Lamentations 3:22-23
“It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (KJV)
No matter the circumstances, God stays the same. His character stays the same. His love and His compassion do not waver. These are promises we have. In addition, this passage gives us another promise:
God’s mercies are new every morning. Try whispering that the moment you wake up. “New morning. New mercy.” What a good reminder for the new year!
3) Psalm 1:1-2
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” (KJV)
I bet that one of the most common new year resolutions among Christians is to read the Bible more. But maybe that’s the wrong way to think. Maybe our goal should not be to read the Bible more, instead to shape our lives around the Bible. To, as the Psalmist says, meditate on it around the clock. Day and night.
Time to rewrite new year goals?
4) Galatians 1:10
“For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” (KJV)
If you stand up for your faith, you will always have people dislike you. Maybe even hate you. Does that mean we should not stand for what we believe? The answer to that is a question from Galatians. Are you seeking the approval of man or of God?
May this be a reminder to us to live the new year boldly, fearing God… not man.
5) Revelation 22:20
“He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” (KJV)
The great debate about when exactly Jesus will be coming back has been going on for about 2000 years. In reality, the exact time of his return is irrelevant – it shouldn’t matter to believers. The more relevant question is, “Are you ready?”
This year, let us live ready. Let us be prepared for Jesus’ return anytime. Let us live knowing we could be standing before our Maker soon. Because that’s what He promised. He will return soon.
Sarah Susanna Rhomberg is a teen, who lives in Europe and is fluent in both English and German. When not writing, you will often find her reading or working on the organization of a camp for children – always with a mug of herbal tea at hand. Sarah wants to live her life for Christ and writes to glorify Him. Connect with her through her email list here.
P.S. Sarah’s email list is about the Christian articles she wrote. I read many of them and found them truth-filled and edifying.
This week, we have TCK guest writer, Breanne Eckman! She contributed this encouraging piece for the TCK Email Ministry.
Citizens of Heaven
When someone asks you where you are from, what do you say?
My answer looks something like this: Well, ethnically I’m from X country, and both my parents are from there. But actually, my dad grew up in Y country, and I grew up in Z country.
I have a passport from a certain country, therefore I am its citizen, but I’m not very patriotic. I don’t share many similar views with the people of that country. Thus, I don’t feel like I belong there. Instead, I live in a different country. I adore it immensely, love the people, and yet I’m not its citizen. I don’t belong there either. So,
Where do I belong?
That’s the question every human tries to answer. Many do find their answer. However, TCKs tend to not really know. This can be frustrating to them. But for us Christian TCKs, it’s different.
Because the Bible tells us that our identity is in Christ, and our citizenship is in Heaven.
Our Identity: If We Don’t Belong, Who Are We?
As TCKs, we’re different. Some people love that, and others hate it. We can tend to find our identity in our TCK-ness. We try to tell people that they don’t get us because we’re different. We wrap up who we are in the fact that we’re different. As a result, we can be defensive. We can have self-pity because we don’t belong, or we can get rebellious when people talk about our passport country as home, since to us, it isn’t.
Where is our identity first found? Are we first TCKs, or first Christians?
The answer is pretty simple, but it’s important. First and foremost, we belong to Jesus.
How does that change our relationships?
If we belong to Jesus, we love others who belong to Him as well. That includes the person who hasn’t left their town their entire life. That includes the person who seems to know nothing about the “outside world”. That includes the billionth person who asks you how life is like where you live.
We love them completely. Christ gave His life up for billions of people who can never understand Him. He is God, and we’re not. If Jesus could love like that, we need to love others who honestly, can understand us more than how we could understand Jesus.
Citizens of Heaven
“For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”
Philippians 3:20-21 KJV
The old English meaning of conversation is the place where one lives (Online Etymology Dictionary, 2020). In Greek, conversation is politeuma, meaning community or citizenship (Bible Study Tools, 2020). In the context of this verse, the idea is that there are two spheres: the earthly world, and the heavenly world. Returning to the verse which reads, “For our conversation is in heaven”, we conclude that we don’t belong here. Our community, our citizenship, our home is in Heaven.
Most Christians aren’t TCKs. Whether they are Canadian or Kenyan or Turkish or Singaporean, they’ve grown up in the same place their whole lives. They have roots. They have a culture, an ethnic or patriotic community. They have a sense of belonging.
But the thing is, all Christians are citizens of Heaven. None of us truly belong here. We have a better Home.
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.”
Hebrews 11:13-16 KJV
This passage comes after the “Hall of Faith”, as many people call it in Hebrews chapter 11. It lists the numerous heroes of the faith from the Old Testament. The passage is talking about them. They sought a better country. A heavenly country. A country where every nation will come together and will be one people. God’s people.
What Our TCK Lives Teach Us
I think TCKs have an advantage. We don’t belong, anywhere really, on this earth. I’ve heard many TCKs call themselves “global citizens”. However, Christian TCKs don’t belong anywhere on this earth. Being a Christian TCK is a blessing. Because we’re not attached to any country 100%, we long for a better one. Thus, we can comprehend better that our citizenship is in heaven as compared to someone who has never left their town their whole life long.
And just think about it! A country where all ethnic groups, all cultures, all languages will live together, as neighbours, praising God! Is that a comfort to a TCK soul or what?
Breanne Eckman is a 16-year-old writer, artist, sister, TCK, and Jesus-follower. She wrote Painful Goodbyes Are Good. In the future, she will have a section in her blog dedicated to TCKs. You can also find her on Instagram @breannewrites.
Want to receive TCK letters in your email and access all letters? Register here. For more sample letters, read here.
Welcome aboard as we chug on this writing journey of our guest writer and friend, Katja H. Labonté!
Trust God With Your Writing Journey
I always was fascinated by words. I loved books all my life. Learning to read was hard for me, though, but after I learned how to read in French I taught myself some in English, and then my mother taught me how to read and spell—a disheartening and difficult process! I started making up stories as a child, thinking up and narrating the happenings and backstory of my dolls. It wasn’t long before I graduated to making up stories in my head and telling them to myself. It was a lot longer before I actually wrote my stories down, though. Believe it or not, I was an atrocious speller and it frustrated me that I couldn’t spell the words in my head. So for the longest time, I simply copied down, word for word, lengthy passages from other books and strung them together into a story, with my own misspelled words tucked in between to lead from one to another. I kept up that habit until I was all of sixteen years or so.
My first story written all out of my head was a little story entitled Louis, or, the King’s Great Favour which I wrote for a short story contest in a magazine. I then wrote a second story strongly based off the first called The Sowing, which was essentially the same characters and setting, just a different storyline. The second story I ever wrote out of my head was an attempt at a novel named Mary Lacey. I got through three chapters and abandoned it at chapter four because I couldn’t figure out what kind of wallpaper my character would have on her wall. I still have all or most of that story left, as well as some story notes. It wasn’t all bad; I still have a very soft spot for two of the characters. ;P
I was about 12 at this point, and here was where I met a girl who was four years older than me and writing actively—real novels as well as short stories. I made this girl my model and determined I would be just like her. So I started writing. My first project was a short story collection of about 20 stories set during the Scottish War for Independence against England (I was obsessed with Sir William Wallace and Scotland at the time—not that much has changed, haha). I then started a 5-book series set in France during the First World War. My model had started a blog where she posted all sorts of writing advice and tips, and I did everything she said that I could do. I experimented with character questionnaires and outlines and all sorts of writerly tricks. I had a lot of ideas. But unfortunately, I could never get my stories much further than 5,000 words. 14,000 was a real miracle when it happened once. 12,000 was my highest goal.
And this was a problem, because my model was involved in National Novel Writing Month and churning out 50,000 words in a month. I really wanted to do NaNo. I was really obsessed with that. I also really wanted to write 50k in a month. And I really wanted to self-publish a novel, because my model self-published two.
By then I was following quite a few authors and writers and still learning a lot and picking up a lot of information. That hateful, alluring NaNo was everywhere, as were the 50k, 60k, and even 70k word counts. And here I was with my puny 500-12,000 word stories, which the authors dismissed as “short stories” or “flash fiction.” Not even “novellas.”
Writing became an obsession.
I neglected my chores, neglected my family, neglected everything except writing. I was very touchy about my writing, bursting into tears and bitterness whenever anyone questioned it or threatened my writing time. My attitude was pretty stinky. I was very bitter because my life wasn’t as good as all those other lucky authors. I was just plain envious and sulky and depressed. Especially during November—NaNoWriMo time. I was a solitary writer, too. My family and friends sometimes knew a little about my writing, and sometimes they read it and praised it, but overall, I was alone. But I kept writing, because it did make me happy. I kept participating in writing challenges and got so excited when people commented about my stories. At one point I had an email thread where I sent monthly updates of my writing to various family and friends, and sometimes they answered. Once I even won a writing contest. I got one unfinished novella of over 15,000 words. Another finished one of over 14,000. My short stories did get onto the internet at one point when a blogger posted them on her blog, and people liked them. I kept meeting new writers online.
I’m not sure when exactly, but at one point I began to follow Amanda Tero. The first post from her blog that I ever read was this one. Ow. That hit hard. I knew it was exactly what I needed, though I didn’t like it—at all. Being the people-loving person I am, I went and read all her blog archives… and fell upon this post. That one hit even harder. In my heart, I knew that was me and I knew I should also give my writing up and stop making it such a god to me. But I did not want to give up my writing. So I kept on, in spite of the hurt and anger.
Again, I don’t know when. But finally, I began to let go of my writing, slowly. I began to admit that it was okay if my story wasn’t like other writers’. I began to see that I didn’t have to be like my model. I was I, and she was she, and we both had our own lives and God had put me where I was for a reason. I began to allow that there was more to life than writing. In short,
I finally gave my writing back to God.
November was still very hard for me. But overall, I was happier and healthier. I kept learning all I could. I kept writing. But I had finally learned that it was okay that I was different.
Around this time I participated in the Young Writers’ NaNoWriMo and wrote an 18k novella, which made me really happy. Adding to that a ton of short stories, I ended up with over 40k written in a month. Which made me very happy. The next spring, a writer I knew invited me to her Camp NaNo virtual cabin. That April, I wrote 40,682 words in 30 days, and it was all on the same story, Chords, which was not even finished. The odd thing with Chords was that it was the first time I really tackled a tough, real topic—hanging on to hope when there seemed no hope left.
After all my silly little stories, God laid a real message on my heart and I shared it. And it felt so good to finally write for Him instead of for me and just kind of toss Him in as an afterthought.
My dazzling goal of 50k in one month was suddenly much closer. I had a story which I thought was good enough to publish, as well as real fangirls and a writing club. I kept writing until I was at 45,000+, and then I hit a wall. I couldn’t figure out how to end it. Two of my friends offered to alpha-read it. When I got their responses, I was crushed. My beautiful baby wasn’t good enough to be published yet and was crammed full of flaws. I was angry, bitter, and discouraged. Instantly I dropped the story and quit writing. I kept half-heartedly saying that I needed to finish it, but never did until in May or June of that year (2019) a sweet friend offered to read my book and give me some encouragement. I woke up the following morning to a ton of compliments and fangirly comments. I was so happy—but still didn’t have the courage to fight through my disappointment and pick the book back up.
For Camp NaNo July, I went back to the same cabin and started a random short story. Inspiration left as suddenly as it came. I slogged on for a while, and then suddenly decided to finish Chords. My goal was to reach 45,000 and my dream was fulfilled—Chords ended up 46,526 words.
At this time, too, I posted a short story to a blog, and a well-known indie author liked it so much she requested me to publish it so she could review it that December. Of course, I complied and unofficially published it by making the PDF available on my website. In December, true to her promise, she reviewed it on her blog. I was thrilled. The story even ended up on Goodreads!!
I was supremely happy. My old dreams were coming true. I had a (sort of) published book, I had a fan club, I had almost reached my dream of a 50,000 word book. And that’s when God decided to bless me even more.
I randomly began a flash fiction one night. From a 1k goal it snowballed to over 19,000 words. By then November was near, and NaNo was looming up. I decided to finish Broken for NaNo.
And Broken did it. We passed 30k—40k—50k—60k—and raced on to almost 90k. My dreams were realized. I wrote over 50,000 words in less than 30 days, and I wrote a complete novel that had passed my higher goal: 70,000 words.
Oh, God was so good. With this story, He hit one of the biggest of my problems: bitterness. I was an intensely bitter person. My MC was as well. And as I wrote my MC’s story to forgiveness and letting things go, I realized I also had to do the same.
And God helping me, I began to let go of my bitterness.
I kept puttering around with stories. Chords had some sequels lined up and I was working on that. Then June rolled around and NaNoWriMo began to push unbiblical lifestyles and opinions so hard that I deleted my account and wrote a post in protest. As a result, many Christian authors banded around me and my friends on this issue and we ended up creating a virtual writing camp for Christian girls/ladies.
And then suddenly (are you noticing a pattern yet?) I had an idea for a story. My friends pushed me to write it, so I wrote out the outline and a couple scenes. Then I went back to the beginning and started to write out the story.
This story, The Colour Red, was my hardest yet. It kept driving me back to the Bible to study things. It tackled a message that God had been laying on my heart for a long time: stop judging people based on their job, or their nationality, or their looks. It made me cry with pain and grief and happiness.
It had lots of fangirls but it also created some issues/conflict when some friends disagreed with major parts of the book (driving me back to the Bible). But with this story and its sequels, God made the puzzle pieces snap in place for Chords and its sequels, which for a long time had had an issue that had been troubling me.
The story ended up at 65,000+ words. But by then, size didn’t matter as much as the message. My stories weren’t about me anymore. They were about my God.
As a young writer, I read a lot of posts about “advice to young writers” and “advice to my younger self.” This is my advice to my younger self and to young writers:
Let go and let God.
When you surrender your writing into God’s hands, He takes you further than your wildest dreams. He fulfills your unexpressed desires. He teaches you more than you ever bargained for. He blesses so much when we just trust and obey.
So quit fighting Him. Surrender your writing into His hands. It hurts, I know. But it’s so worth it. I don’t know where He’ll take you. But I know that when you follow the Lord, He leads your to the exactly best place for you.
Because our God is good.
So trust Him with your writing journey just as much as you trust Him with your life journey.
Katja H. Labonté is a child of God with a deep love for words, an extreme bibliophile who devours over 365 books in a year, and an exuberant writer with a talent for starting short stories that explode into book series. She is a bilingual French-Canadian, which she finds both a challenge and a blessing, but her name is Scandinavian and causes some interesting difficulties… while francophones are always thinking it’s misspelled, anglophones can’t pronounce it at all. But she loves how it looks when it is hand-written, so she doesn’t complain too often.
She was homeschooled all her life the Charlotte Mason way and is currently studying copyediting at an online university, which gives her both heart-eyes happiness and hair-pulling frustration. She’s a history nerd with strong British attachments and old-fashioned leanings, and she has many favourite things and loves to talk about them to anyone who’s long-suffering enough to listen. Among these darling things are milk chocolate, heirlooms, calligraphy, grammar & punctuation, laughter, tearjerking books, lists, organized bookshelves, roses, flowing skirts, hymns, and pretty much anything old-fashioned, beautiful, and classy. (Also ampersands.) She also has about a dozen topics she’s excessively passionate about and she longs to tell more people about (hint: that’s why she writes books and blog posts).
She lives in Canada & spends her days enjoying little things, growing in faith, learning life, & loving people.