Finding My Magic || Guest Post by Lauren H. Brandenburg
We’d been through a lot as a family over the years – financially upended, losing our home, a daughter diagnosed with a brain tumor, and the unexpected death of my father. But we had come through it. We were on the other side. My first conventionally published novel was set to release with my dream publisher. My children were leaving the world of homeschooling for private school – I was thrilled for them! And we were buying a house. It would be the first house we had actually owned since the economy tanked in 2008. There should have been joy for .days. But I couldn’t find it.
I was having a hard time adapting to my new life – ten years as a homeschool mom and suddenly my kiddos wanted to go to school… without me. I was left alone in a new neighborhood where I was quite sure my scatter-brained, authory-quirkiness was not going to mesh well with the stay home mommas whose workout gear cost more than the sum of everything in my closet. I still can’t pronounce those brands right… Lulu-LEMON not Lula-MON or is it the other way round? And in the days leading up to the release of my novel it seemed that nothing was going as well as it was for my friends in the authoring world. I wasn’t handling all the unfamiliar territory well during this season of my life – strange for the person who always thrived on change.
So, I really didn’t need my literary agent to call me up and tell me we had to talk… in person. She was bringing word from my publisher. I’ve always had direct communication with my publisher. Something was wrong. She’d told them she would talk to me first. Talk to me first… Not a great start to a conversation. I knew the manuscript I had recently turned in to my editor would need some tweaking. I’d really struggled to even get the thing written amidst the packing up and re-settling. I’d taken two years to write the first one and only had six months to write the second. What followed next hit me professionally, but I’d later come to the understanding that it was personal: “They think you’ve lost your magic.”
It was true, a part of me was seeping away in every private tear I cried and every lie I allowed myself to believe. It didn’t make sense. I couldn’t put my head around it. I had everything I wanted. Right in front of me. I just couldn’t see it. I’d lost my joy, my delight in the whimsical – I’d forgotten how to dwell on that which is lovely and true. I’d lost my magic, and I didn’t know why. I knew it was selfish. But I just couldn’t find the path out of the darkness. My husband would ask what was wrong, and I couldn’t explain it. I was just sad. And somehow it had dripped its way into an 80,000-word novel. My darkness showed in my writing.
It’s amazing how God walks people into your life at just the right time. I tell people all the time that Tonya Thompson most likely saved my sanity. And all she did was invite me to Bible study with other mommas from the school and the neighborhood – mommas like me. Mommas who were sometimes sad. Moms who were busy. Moms who had fears. Moms who felt insecure. Moms who were filled with joy. They pulled me into their fold, and insisted I have a book launch party just so they could attend – I will be forever grateful.
Then, feeling truly prompted by the Lord to seek wise council, I reached out to a woman in my barre class I had only talked to a couple of times – a former homeschooling mother like myself. She spoke five things into me that day: don’t judge others (I would never…); don’t try to keep busy – if you have ten things on your to-do list, do five (But there’s so much to do…); take time for yourself (That’s selfish…), and find joy in the little things (I can’t see them anymore…).
She wrote down her number just in case I ever needed to talk. I still keep it on my desk… just in case. Then, I went home, cried, and quit barre. Because it didn’t make me happy. The revelation of what she had said shook me to my core. Over the past year I had not taken any time for myself and in doing so, I found that it had become second nature to judge the mommas who did. Then I turned on a movie… in the middle of the day, and I’m quite certain it was White Christmas. I didn’t write, I didn’t clean, I didn’t respond to emails, and I didn’t look at social media, because most of my problem was hiding there.
In the authoring world it is easy to set expectations which are both unattainable and misplaced. In our community we see the victories of others – the contracts, the marketing wins, awards, accolades, sales. It’s so easy to fall into that pit of comparison, to find ourselves yearning for the life of someone else and completely forsaking the journey and the joys set before us. And I was dwelling in it! In the thick of it. Longing to have what they had and failing to see the victories in my own life. It was not a lovely place to be.
I started to die, with the revelation of my own sin, denying the self I thought I should be – busy, successful, whatever it was I had concocted about imaginary women in my neighborhood – and living for the self God made me to be. I’m a child at heart, whimsical, quirky – it’s the me my family knows and the me the world should know. Anything else would be untrue. I finally took ownership of what made me different from those around me, embracing my uniqueness. I found my joy in the journey. I started being thankful for every word that came from my fingertips, every review (good and bad), every email, and I started being thankful for the success of my friends. I embraced the free time now that I wasn’t homeschooling, and gave myself permission to open up to my favorite gal-pal across the street, go shopping, bake something just because, watch a movie, and for goodness sakes, take a day off from finding something to clean in my house!
And my publisher – they gave me a chance to rewrite my story. What a beautiful picture of God’s grace – he is faithful in his pursuit of me… he won’t let me go, reminding me daily that my own life story is a work in progress. I asked forgiveness for forgetting, for allowing myself to believe so many lies. He forgave me. And soon, The Marriage of Innis Wilkinson releases in both the US and UK. And it’s absolutely magical because I’ve got my magic back.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.Philippians 4:8
Lauren’s new book is out next month. I was very excited to get to read it in advance! It was so refreshing to read some non-fiction having not done so for a long time. In fact, it was the first time in a long time that I’ve gone to bed early to read!