Today I’m happy to welcome fellow writer Dina Sleiman as our guest blogger. Dina and I met at the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference in 2009; she’s a joy to be around and a very talented writer.
A little background and intro … Dina writes lyrical stories that dance with light. She is an aspiring novelist and a published poet, but she is also much more. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. She is passionate about anything related to creativity. Over the years she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. Her primary goal is to serve God and live a spirit-led life. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at http://dinasleiman.com/
The Importance of Being Still
God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction. ~ Psalm 23:1-3 (The Message)
Not quite revolutionary. I know. But as I considered what I’ve learned recently, the importance of being still kept moving to the forefront of my mind. I mean, if you’ve been a Christian for any length of time you should be aware of this concept. Be still and know that I am God and all of that, but how many of us actually take the advice to heart? Even if we take out a few moments each day for prayer and Bible study, how much of that time is spent actively doing something, and how much is spent being still and listening?
I think being still, in this context, is more a state of mind than an issue of what we’re doing. In our modern culture, we feel we must always be pressing forward, always accomplishing something. But what about taking time to dwell in God’s presence? To relax in a lush meadow and drink from a quiet pool? To imbibe upon the very essence of divinity?
In late November I felt God calling me to be still. Specifically, to be still in my writing career. I was not at all thrilled with this instruction. I needed to find a new agent. My latest novel had been requested by several editors, and I wanted to get moving on that. After all, my first book seemed to be going nowhere fast. And realizing that many novelists don’t get published until they write their third or fourth book, I figured I should get started on my next big project. Quick!
Well, the Christmas season was coming. Extra shopping, Extra cooking. Extra visiting. Okay. I could be still. Until approximately 8:32 am on January 3rd when the kids started back to school. Then I would work up a storm. So I focused on family and friends. I spent extra time mentoring some local writers. I even choreographed and directed a Christmas dance for church. And when January 3rd came, I was poised and ready to go.
Unfair, God! This is not amusing. I took a six week break already. This little sabbatical is getting out of hand. I took a mental break. I realized my writing had been a bit obsessive. I refocused on what was important. I need to…
All right, already. When God makes his orders that clear, we really don’t have much choice. So I did it. I was still. I spent extra time in his presence. I rested. I read. I even watched some television.
And you know what. Those few weeks turned out to be incredibly productive. God actually had a point in all of this. Who knew?
During that time, I discovered that I actually only have about two or three free hours a day to write. No wonder I kept falling behind with life. In addition, I figured out some scheduling and organizational issues that freed up another hour or two per day. I got some minor health issues sorted out. And, I also realized that the new novel I was so anxious to send to publishers was not by any means finished.
Oh, but that’s not all. Not nearly. Mid January I discovered that my top choice for new agent would be speaking within driving distance of my house. I had total peace about taking a road trip with a friend who is an aspiring novelist. I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear that it turned out to be the perfect opportunity to talk to the agent, and I have since submitted to her in a much more targeted and personal way than I ever could have otherwise.
There’s more. Late January I received a note via email. “Loved your rewrite. You’ll be hearing from us soon. Wink. Wink.” This was concerning my first novel, which I had just about given up on.
Now, none of this is official yet. But here’s the thing. As I was busy being still, God was clearly working on my behalf behind the scenes and accomplishing more than I ever could have one my own.
February has arrived, and I am back to working diligently once again. Rewrites are underway for that novel I thought I had finished. Proposals have been emailed. I’ve been invited to work on several novella collections. But, this time I’ll remember to do it in his strength, not my own. And to take time out to be still and listen. Because after all, being still is not even the real point here. The real point is knowing God’s voice and allowing him to lead.
Leigh here … What a great lesson to learn, and one that I have so much trouble with! I have a terrible time slowing down enough to hear God’s voice sometimes, let alone listening well enough to actually follow it. I think nothing’s happening, but God’s always working in ways I have no idea about — until He’s ready to let me know. Thanks for the reminder, Dina, and keep us posted on how things go from here!
16 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned Lately … with Dina Sleiman”
Thanks so much for having me today, Leigh! Believe it or not, I needed this reminder as well 🙂
Trust me, it’s one of those lessons I need to hear over and over and over and … 🙂 So glad you could be with us today!
I’m blessed to have Dina as a blog partner, or as we call it, an Inky Sister. Her post today is what makes knowing her and having her input into my life such a gift.
I know she’ll be published soon!
Thanks for stopping by, Debra. And I think you’re exactly right in saying Dina’s not far from joining the published author ranks!
Thanks for the encouragement, ladies. I’m still hopeful that God will work things out with some of these riskier novels I’ve already written. On the other hand, I do think I finally understand the recipe for writing to market now. So one way or the other, yes, I’m with you guys.
Dina, as I moved my Annapolis story into my Completed MSS folder, I realized I now have 20 (TWENTY!) novels finished. As in, twenty. With no “traditional” contracts official. But each time the Lord calls me to be still, He sends encouragement that my path, no matter how untraditional, is exactly where he wants me to be.
Thanks for sharing this reminder. In these last two weeks of frantic writing/rewriting, those moments of stillness are by necessity all the sweeter. About to go have a few now before I buckle back down. =)
Wow, Rosanna, what a feat to have 20 finished manuscripts! I have plenty of bits and pieces but have yet to reach ‘the end’ on any of them. I think I’m getting close with a couple, though! You’re a great example to me of how we need to stay on the path God has laid out for us. Thanks so much for sharing!
Wow, that is impressive Roseanna. Maybe this will be the one to find a traditional house, although your novels with Whitefire are amazing!!! You know how I feel about that.
Certainly words of wisdom. As a fellow beach person, I love your photo. I wish you lots of success with your writing and your new book.
Thank you for that reminder. Be still. Relax in the lush meadow and drink from the pool. I love that scripture-it really speaks to my soul.
Thanks for stopping by, Suzie. And I love that imagery of relaxing in the meadow and drinking in the pool, too. Makes me want to search for that wonderful place!
Yes, I can totally picture myself there, taking a nice long breath, and allowing peace to just seep into my soul. We’re so blessed that God provides this for us. We simply have to do as Dina reminded us, and be still and know.
Suzie, I’m so glad you were encouraged.
Enjoyed this reminder that God is busily at work on our behalf. Sometimes it feels good, sometimes it doesn’t, but the goal is to make us more like Christ. Thanks for sharing. I remember you from BRMCWC!
Thanks for stopping by to visit, Jeanette. And for your own reminder that the whole purpose is to help us become more like Christ. 🙂 I wonder why God would want to do that for me, but I sure am glad He does!
I think I remember you too Jeannette. Thanks for stopping by.
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