To Every Book, A Season

by Marcia Lee Laycock, @MarciaLaycock

We’ve had a lovely fall season this year. For a time, the trees were resplendent in their golds and rusty reds.The sky remained a deep blue and the sun continued to shine. But lately the sky has darkened, and we’ve had some strong winds, winds that have stripped the trees of their colour and left them looking grey and forlorn. Of course, we know that winter is coming, and that spring will follow, dressing the trees once again in their verdant robes. It reminds me of Ecclesiastes 3:1 – “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

I know that includes this space of time I have been given now, to write. It is precious to me, especially as I get older, and I try to use it wisely but sometimes there are interruptions and barriers to overcome. All, of course are opportunities to learn, to grow, to seek God’s will in my life, to decide to trust Him.

Knowing that all things go the way of falling leaves also makes me realize that my life’s work, indeed, my life itself, is, as James 4:14 says, but “a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” I try, therefore, to hold it lightly, to realize that it has purpose in God’s plan for a time and to value it as such, but then know it will eventually be gone. If I hold too tightly to it, treasure it too much, I will, in the end, be left with nothing.

Most writers have had the experience of finding their book on a remainder pile or on the shelf of a second-hand store. Even best-selling novels have a short life expectancy in this modern age. “The blockbuster novel is heading the way of the mayfly,” says Bob Young, CEO of Lulu.com, referring to the famously short-lived insect.

My first novel, One Smooth Stone, has recently been given a bit of a “new lease on life” with a new cover, so I’m hopeful that its life expectancy will be extended for a while, but still I know the end is in sight. It makes me a little sad, but when I look back on what I learned about the writing process, about myself and about God through it all, I realize it was a precious gift and I am thankful.

Besides, there are more books to be written, more words to put into articles and poems that may cause someone to pause and ponder the things of eternity. There is more to be learned about writing, about myself and about my God.

And the good news is that we can trust the One who has laid out the pattern of it because He “knows us best and loves us most,”(John Piper); He is the One who “rejoices over us with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

As there is sadness in this season of falling leaves, there is sadness in knowing that our writing has a rather short shelf life. But another spring is on its way.


One Smooth Stone

Desperate to escape his past, the police, and especially, God, Alex Donnelly picks a good place to hide – the Yukon wilderness – but he finds even there his is pursued. What will it take for him to discover that no matter how far you run, God will find you, and no matter what you have done, God will forgive you?

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor’s wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone was short listed in The Word Awards. Marcia also has four devotional books in print and has contributed to several anthologies. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan.

 

Crushed

by Marcia Lee Laycock, @MarciaLaycock

“I’m sorry,” the store owner said, “I can’t put these books on the shelf. There are too many mistakes in them. Not the quality I’ve been used to seeing in your work.”

I stared at the books on the counter, small pink strips sticking out of the pages. I stammered a bit and thanked her, telling her I appreciated that she had taken the time to do this. Red-faced, I gathered the books and left the shop as quickly as I could.

All the way home I wondered how there could be so many mistakes. The books had been read by a few people and I thought the editing was done. How could I have let this happen? By the time I got home I was under a crushing weight of self doubt that approached despair.

I went through each of the three manuscripts on my computer, checking all the mistakes that store owner had marked. Almost all of them had already been corrected. It was with a sigh of relief that I realized what had happened. I had uploaded the wrong files to the printer.

Yes, I was relieved and also grateful for that woman’s courage and honesty, even though it was dispiriting, perhaps more than it should have been.

I thought about that recently as I listened to a speaker at a Christian School Teacher’s convention talk about where we put our value and significance. Once again, I was reminded that my value to my heavenly father does not depend on my writing, how eloquent or free of typos it may or may not be. My significance and value is dependant only on His opinion me. And my father loves me. No matter what.

I went to that convention holding my breath. The cost to be there, with my six-foot table piled with books, was a bit high. I’d ordered extra books, “just in case.” I hoped it was worth it. I hoped the sales justified the cost. I felt God had led me there and I’d prayed, so I hoped God would come through for me.

And once again, through the speaker’s messages, I was reminded that my focus was off. Yes, the Lord got me to that conference but I know now He was not so concerned about my book sales as the state of my relationship with Him. I’d fallen into the trap of looking to God for what He could do for me rather than just looking to God, listening to God, longing for God. As Skye Jathani said, the specific calling on my life (to be a writer) does not matter because of the work, but because of the One who has called me to it.

It wasn’t a bad thing that I was embarrassed about the mistakes in those books. It’s a good thing to strive for excellence. But it was a bad thing that my soul was crushed, that I began listening to the voices that said I should just give up, quit writing, find something else to do.

Ironically, I did need to do something else – I needed to run to the only One who can satisfy my soul, ask Him to forgive my foolishness and submit my life and my work to Him, once again.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:1).


One Smooth Stone

Desperate to escape his past, the police, and especially, God, Alex Donnelly picks a good place to hide – the Yukon wilderness – but he finds even there his is pursued. What will it take for him to discover that no matter how far you run, God will find you, and no matter what you have done, God will forgive you?

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor’s wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone was short listed in The Word Awards. Marcia also has four devotional books in print and has contributed to several anthologies. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan.

Nature or Nurture?

by Marcia Lee Laycock, @MarciaLaycock

I recently put my maiden name into one of those “learn about your ancestry” sites and this is what it said –

Lee: Irish: reduced Americanized form of Ó Laoidhigh ‘descendant of Laoidheach’, a personal name derived from laoidh ‘poem’, ‘song’ (originally a by name for a poet).

That was not a surprise. I knew I had descended from a long line of storytellers. I spent enough time around my Grandfather, not to mention my father and five uncles, to know the truth of it. They were a raucous bunch prone to argue and sometimes fight, but when one of them started telling a story the room would go quiet with respect. Of course, when he was done, they’d all say he was “full of the blarney,” but that was taken as a compliment received with a smile of pride.
Continue reading “Nature or Nurture?”

Lessons in an Art Gallery

by Marcia Lee Laycock, @MarciaLaycock

There was a hush on the fourth floor of the Vancouver Art Gallery as we entered, almost a reverence, I thought. People meandered quietly through the halls and rooms, taking time to study the paintings on the walls and read the commentaries and quotes from the artist’s journals. As I joined them I was aware of my own sense of awe. Emily Carr was an artist I had admired since I was a child. Her work always made me pause, drew me in, made me aware of something beyond myself.

The quotes on the walls captured my attention as well. This woman, who is famous in my own country and beyond for her depiction of the west coast region of Canada, was a woman of faith, struggling to comprehend the greatest mystery there is – the deep, deep love of an all-encompassing God.

Emily Carr’s work depicts that struggle, that striving to faith, that longing to comprehend that which is unknown yet deeply sensed. The first quote visitors to the Vancouver Art Gallery saw as they entered the exhibit was “Art is Worship.” Ms. Carr worshipped with every stroke of her brush, the swirling movement in her work drawing the eye up toward the heavens. A painting labelled Untitled, one of my favourites, is especially strong. The artist’s love of creation and its creator shouts from the canvas.

Emily Carr saw the divine in the deep dark forests of British Columbia and in the work of others, especially some members of the Group of Seven who welcomed her as one of their own. She was dumbfounded, while at an exhibit of their work, to see one of Lawren Harris’s paintings, Mountain Forms, ignored even by a priest. “Surely he would understand,” Ms. Carr wrote in her journal, “Wouldn’t the spirituality of the thing appeal to one whose life was supposed to be given up to these things? He passed right by …”

I understand Ms. Carr’s frustration. So much that is redemptive in this world goes unnoticed at best, scorned and ridiculed, at worst. Yet those things that draw us all closer to our creator are enduring. Mountain Forms was recently auctioned for just over eleven million dollars.

As I wandered in that gallery that day I was not only stirred by how Emily Carr drew us to the Divine through her work but by the recognition that we can all do the same, whatever our field of endeavour. We have all been created to express praise and adoration through everything we do, whether we work in oils or with words, whether we sweep floors or design buildings, whether our work is recognized or ridiculed. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters … It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23,24).

I was also struck by the reality that Ms. Carr caused me to praise and worship without saying a word. There was no banner declaring “Jesus saves” scrawled across her paintings yet we are able to stand in the midst of those deep dark forests and worship with her. It made me wonder, does my art cause people to worship? Does it cause them to ponder the depth of God’s greatness and goodness? Does it glorify Him? Walking among Emily Carr’s paintings made me pray it may be so.

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Lessons in an Art Gallery by Marcia Lee Laycock (Click to Tweet)

Ms. Carr worshiped with every stroke of her brush.~ Marcia Lee Laycock (Click to Tweet)

We have all been created to express praise and adoration through everything we do.~ Marcia Lee Laycock (Click to Tweet)

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor’s wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone was also short listed for a Word Award. Marcia has three novels for middle grade readers and four devotional books in print and has contributed to several anthologies. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. 

Abundant Rain, an ebook devotional for writers is available on Amazon. It is also now available in Journal format. 
Her most recent release is Celebrate This Day, a devotional book for special occasions like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving. 

Sign up to receive her devotional column, The Spur