Saturday, February 21, 2015

Saying No to the World and Yes to Jesus - My Testimony



I don't believe I've ever actually told this story.  Many people who know me know I used to write erotic romance before I repented and returned to the Lord.  I feel now it's time to dust off my testimony and let everyone know what actually "happened" to me five years ago (wow, five YEARS?!).  Hopefully someone out there can find peace in my story, and know that it's okay to say no to the world and yes to Jesus.  :)

~*~*~

The sky was the limit.  I had nowhere to go but up.  Everything was coming up roses.  In 2010, I was on the cusp of making a name for myself in the eBook romance industry.  Ever since I was a little girl, it has been a dream of mine to become a published author.  

My parents divorced when I was young, and I wanted true love to last.  I was always drawn to romance and its 'happily ever afters'.  I wanted to write stories where love wins.

As I got older, I found Christ.  Rather, He found me.  I was a lonely young girl.  I needed Him.  He knew it, even if I didn't at the time.  I can still remember that childish prayer that humbly asked Him to save me.  I wanted to be a Christian more than anything - I wanted Him.  I don't know the date, but I remember the elation that rushed through me after praying that prayer.  The world was different somehow.  I was a new creation!

(Click to read the truth about my conversion: O Lord Jesus, Grant Us Godly Repentance)

Despite that prayer to become a daughter of God, my dream of becoming an author was always separate from Him.  I used to stare out my bedroom window, imagining myself at a book signing or seeing my own stories on the bookstore shelves.  In order to make that dream happen, I took a typing class in high school to learn the keyboard as well as an advanced English class and a creative writing class.  I was always picked to read my piece in front of class.  One of my stories won a ribbon at a writing fair.  Everyone seemed to enjoy my stories.

However, I'd never written a novel-length book. When I first decided I wanted to try my hand at being an author, I wanted to be a straight fantasy author.  Nothing fascinated me more than castles, dragons, fairies, and the like.  I dug out one of my old short stories from my childhood and expanded upon it.  It took me eight years to finally finish it, but it had somehow turned from straight fantasy novel into a fantasy romance.

I’ve always been a hopeless romantic.  I’d read romance novels ever since my sister left her old books behind on her sojourn to college, so I wasn’t ignorant of them.  I enjoyed the connection of the characters, the theme that love conquers all, and of course, that they always lived happily ever after.  That’s what I enjoyed the most.  I wanted and needed the characters to find their happy ending, because nothing is a guarantee in real life.  

Since I was a Christian, however, I didn’t know how this would play out for me.  I wasn’t too comfortable writing the more intimate, steamy scenes, but I still wanted to write romance.  My first few books as a professional author were Christian romance, and I enjoyed writing them.  I was rejected at a few Christian publishing houses until I was accepted at a now-defunct Christian e-book publisher.  Of course, when I was first published, we didn’t have fancy things like “e-book readers” and “iPads”.  And no one wanted to read on their computer.

My family and friends always asked when I would “really” be published.  No one bothered buying my books because they didn’t want to read on their computers.  Apparently none of my real life friends are romantics.  No one I know reads romance.  But that didn’t stop me from wanting to write it.  

Unfortunately, Christian romance e-books had no following at the time, and I made no money whatsoever.  It just didn’t seem worth it to me to go through the time and effort to write the book and publicize it when no one was interested in buying them.

So I took stock and asked myself what sells?  Mainstream romance.

By then, a few publishers had heard my name from certain online websites and forums we all chit-chatted on, and I’d convinced one of them to take a look at a new mainstream romance I was working on.  She loved it and contracted me within a week.  I was off and running!  

At this point, I was able to suppress the nagging voice inside my head that I was compromising my beliefs.  I justified it by telling myself the Song of Solomon in the Bible is basically a romance novel, right there in the Word of God!  If God created sex, and sex is a beautiful thing, then what I was doing wasn’t so bad.   

Once my popularity grew, so too did my ideas for plots.  When you’re not restricted by plotlines and limitations on how far the characters can go with each other (as in Christian romance), the sky’s the limit on what you wanted to do.  It was so much fun.  

And through it all, I was praying for God to guide me.  I wanted His hand in my writing at all times.  I didn’t want to be doing anything out of my own desire or will, I wanted to do it because this is what God willed for my life.  I’d always dreamt of becoming an author.  Now I was here, and God was my pilot.   

The ironic thing was that I’d suppressed the voice of the Holy Spirit within myself so much, I was literally blinded to what I was doing.  My books regularly featured couples sleeping together before marriage, openly cussing, even with the Lord’s name, and other lude behaviors.  But it was all in the name of entertainment.  It wasn’t anything I was doing myself, this was all fiction.  There, again, was my justification.  Its just fiction.  What could it hurt?  

After the Kindle became popular and more and more people bought smart phones and tablets like the iPad, the market for e-books skyrocketed.  All they needed was a platform to take off, and take off they did.  I suddenly found my books up on Amazon and I was getting more and more popular.  I was definitely numb to the content in my books, and that was very dangerous for my spiritual life.

I submitted a few of my manuscripts to more popular publishers in New York and London, but every time I was rejected.  I was so disappointed and I wondered what God was doing here.  I’d ask Him for guidance.  I wanted my success to be on His shoulders, but time and again, doors were shut that I was sure would have welcomed me.  

So I continued on with what I knew, giving my freshly-written books to the publishers with whom I had already been contracted.  My horizons weren’t expanding as much as I wanted them to, even though I was known at the houses I was with.  Perhaps this was my pride shining through.  Other more famous authors had it made.  They had huge followings with successful book signings, and here I was, writing (what I felt were) good books.  My fans loved them, but publishers were still closing doors to me.  I didn’t understand what God was doing, because of course, my career was in His hands. I got caught up in that world of dog-eat-dog, and I wasn’t making as much money as I would have liked.  I’d complained about it to my publisher one day, and she mentioned how well her erotic romances were selling.  People love those hotter books with unmentionable jargon.  

I just happened to have a great idea for a series, and if I made them hotter, perhaps I could publish them under the erotic romance banner of my publishing house and do an experiment of sorts.   

I wanted to see just how well erotic romance sells.  

Well, it didn’t take long to get my answer.  I was suddenly making two, three, four times more than I had made previously.  I concluded if you wanted to make any good money in romance that could actually pay the bills, this is what you had to do.  

I had already suppressed the voice of the Holy Spirit with my other books.  But the moment I began writing erotic romance, I kicked Him into the darkest closet of my heart and threw away the key.  I could hear Him banging on the door every now and again, but the ends justified the means, and I found myself praising Jesus with one hand while writing erotic romance for titillation with the other.

And for some reason, I was cool with this.  For quite awhile.  I suppose it’s that feeling of fun when you rebel against something.  You know you shouldn’t do it, it’s forbidden fruit, but doing it and getting away with it is rather thrilling.  And since I was always praying about my success, it had to be condoned by God…right?  

My erotic books were met with high praise.  Of course, that’s more fuel for the pride fire.  I was good.   I was finally getting my name out there as a romance author, and I was finally making good money.   

Thank You, Lord!  God was looking out for me.  I’d found my niche. I typed happily along, content in my blinded stupor of pride and vanity.  I still prayed, but my time was eaten by homeschooling, chores, writing, and being a wife and mother.  I had no time for God other than a passing word of greeting.  I never read the Bible, and obviously, never went to church (other than Easter and Christmas.)  However, I still listened exclusively to Christian music and belted out the tunes at the top of my lungs while driving or doing chores.  Our God is an awesome God!  Our God reigns!  Lord I lift Your Name On High!  


But I just couldn’t see the burning hypocrisy within myself.  My husband rebuked me when I first started writing mainstream romance.  He was aghast and a tad embarrassed that his wife wrote such things and published them.  But being full of pride, I didn’t listen to him.  I was going to do what I wanted to do.  Becoming an author had been a lifelong dream of mine, and no one, not even my husband, was going to stop me from fulfilling it.  

My husband wouldn’t have cared if I’d become an author of straight fantasy or science fiction, or even women’s fiction.  But writing descriptive, intimate romance was crossing a line.

I regret not submitting to my husband.  However in my mind, I was a grown adult, and I was going to do what I wanted with my life.  So not only was I full of pride, greed, and vanity, but I had a spirit of disobedience (to both God and my husband), and a deep selfishness.  In order to keep peace in the home, my husband relented, and away I went.  

I still didn’t see his rebuke as being concern for doing the right thing, but rather, as an affront to my childhood dreams and an oppression of sorts.  Since the Holy Spirit was essentially “bound and gagged” within the dark closet of my heart, I once again justified my desire to write romance due to my lifelong dream.

But with the addition of writing erotic romance to the mix, the banging on that closet door grew louder and louder.  I had started out as a sugar-sweet Christian romance author who’d somehow turned herself into a full-on, unrepentant erotic romance author.  I was proud to claim Jesus in online chats with fans, but my actions were anything but Christ-like.  

One thought led to another and another until a slow, consuming conviction began to overtake me.  I’d forgotten something about belonging to God.   

I am not my own – I was bought with a price (1Corinthians 6:19-20).  

Eventually, God takes back what is His.  

It didn’t take long before the Holy Spirit exploded out of the shadowy closet of my heart in a breathtaking array of Power and Glory.  God was through with being silent, He was about to take me to task and there was nothing I could do to stop Him.  I could only be stunned as I suddenly remembered my Scripture.  

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. ~Revelation 3:19

And repent I did.

~*~*~ 

“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” ~Hebrews 12:6 

I repented, all right, but I tested the waters to see just how much slack God would give me.  Don’t all misbehaving children do this?  Don’t they test their parents to see just how much they can get away with without getting into trouble?

“All right, Lord, I will stop writing erotic romance.”

NO, I WANT MORE.

“You’re right.  My mainstream romance still has cussing and fornication.  I’ll cut that out too.  My plots will only feature married couples, therefore the intimate scenes won’t be sinful.”  (Seriously, I was bargaining with the Most High.)

NO, REBECCA, God said.  GRAPHIC SEX SCENES ARE ONLY THERE FOR ONE REASON – TO AROUSE YOUR READER.

I sighed.  He could see right through me.  “Oh, You’re riiight.”  I think I may have stomped my foot and rolled my eyes.  “But the money’s very good, Lord.  And I have a lot of fans.”

I DON’T CARE.

Taking a deep breath, I must have pinched the bridge of my nose.  “So You want me to quit writing romance all together, is that what You’re saying?”

YES.

“Seriously?”

YES.

“I mean, You’re serious right now?”

REBECCA, He replied, DO YOU LOVE ME?

“Of course I love You, Lord.”

THEN QUIT.

I wrestled with the Holy Spirit back and forth about this for a few weeks.  But in the end, I decided He was right and that I needed to bow out quietly and not write any more new books.  The decision was actually freeing.  I hadn’t realized it, but I had been feeling more and more uncomfortable while doing edits for my books.  What had once taken me hours to do now took me a month or more.  In all honesty, I didn’t feel like I’d made the wrong decision to quit writing.  Despite my push-and-pull with God, I knew this was absolutely 100% the right decision.

Little did I know that God wasn’t through with me yet.

REBECCA?

“Yes, Lord?”

YOU NEED TO PUBLICLY RETIRE.

Oh no. He knew I had no intention of declaring what I’d decided. “What?” I replied, trying my best to sound innocent. 

YOU NEED TO DECLARE TO YOUR READERS YOU’RE RETIRING FROM WRITING EROTIC AND MAINSTREAM ROMANCE.

“I suppose I could—”

AND, the Lord continued, interrupting my thoughts, YOU NEED TO CONFESS WHY.  YOU NEED TO CONFESS ME.

**crickets**

The excuses were forming in my mind.  I was scared to do this.  How could I do it?  People didn’t just end a promising career for God!  And if they did, they certainly didn’t declare it!

Then God’s next words floored me.

IF YOU RETIRE FROM WRITING WITHOUT DECLARING WHY, YOU ARE NOT GIVING ME THE GLORY FOR YOUR DECISION.

That realization sucked the wind out of my sails.  If I didn’t go public with why I was retiring, I wasn’t giving God any of the glory, honor, or praise for my choice.  If I kept everything quiet, no one would know why I quit, and God wanted me to claim Him as my First Love before all of my fans.

I didn’t obey Him for a few weeks.  I still wrestled with what He wanted me to do.  I mean, this was BIG.  I had confessed to be a Christian online a few times.  I’d even written a handful of Inspirational romances.  I knew my fans were aware of my beliefs.  But this was different.  This was standing up for my beliefs.  This was throwing away the world and putting on Christ!  And quite publicly, I might add.

But it was all for God’s glory.  I knew He had a plan.  He is sovereign.  So I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and did what He told me.

I went on my website, I went on my Facebook, my Twitter, and made a few videos on YouTube explaining the situation.  I told folks of my decision to retire and Who I was doing it for.  And you know what?  I wasn’t met with ONE negative response. 

In fact, I was approached by quite a few other authors who’d felt the same way as I did!  When I spoke up for what I believed, I had given them the courage to do the same.  A lot of my fans left my friends list, but the majority stayed.  And I realized something.

God wanted me to change my focus.  It was His will all along for me to become quasi-famous in the eBook industry so that I would have a small following He could reach when I retired.

I remember friending a few Christians on Facebook and Twitter, but all these Christian folks were doing nothing more than praising Jesus.  Like” if you love Jesus!  While giving God praise is absolutely admirable, where were the meat and potatoes?  I was tired of the milk. 

Like a light bulb going off, I knew what God wanted me to do.  He wanted me to use my Facebook page as a ministry of sorts.  Everything I was learning and studying, He wanted me to share with my fan base.  From being bold and courageous for God, to the Gospel, to the Trinity, to baptism, and to songs and pictures I adored. 

But even greater than this was the fact that God Himself had shaken me awake from my spiritual slumber.  Retiring from writing mainstream romance was only the tip of the iceberg.  He’d just been cleaning house.  What really amazed me was the fact that I was emerging out of the wilderness in my walk with God and stepping over into the deep, abiding, unfailing love of my Creator.

Over the course of the next five years, I have been on an incredible journey.  The Lord has been on a mission to restore the years the locusts have eaten.  This blog is a testament to that.  Since 2012, I have annotated 46 books of the Bible, leaving 20 more to go before I finish the whole thing.  Theology is my bread and butter.  I adore learning about my God.  I love diving into things others find boring. I read old preachers, listen to countless sermons and podcasts, and study many doctrines as a Berean.  I'd rather know the doctrine for myself than be told by someone and blindly believe.

God has done a great work in my heart, all because I decided I loved Him more than the idol of my childhood dream.  I had allowed my desires for success to overshadow what was truly important.  I was selfish and vain, bragging about how many copies I'd sold or a new amazing review.  The drive for more money launched me into compromising my beliefs.

You could say I did achieve my life's goal.  I had become a published author.  I had just begun to scale the mountain of popularity and the world was my oyster.  All I had to do... was write more.  I had plenty of plot ideas.  I would have been set these past five years.  If I had continued on that road, I would likely be in a very comfortable place right now.  But God showed me my childhood dream was an empty one without Him.  It was definitely a learning experience for me.  I had achieved what I set out to do, but it was never enough.  I wanted more fame, more money, more accolades.

The world will tell you that anyone can accomplish their dreams if they put their mind to it.  And they're right - many people have done so.  But accomplishing your dream is peddled around like some kind of Shangri La - "If I live my dream, I will be happy, content, pleased, and at peace.  My life will be complete."  But that is a lie.  Whether you are in the valley or on top of the mountain, you are still you.  You cannot outrun yourself.  If you're miserable now, you will be miserable then.  Joy does not depend on your circumstance - joy is a state of being. 

I have found my Joy in Christ.

While God had me lay down my romance novels, He did not have me give up my writing.  Through this blog, my Facebook, and the books I've written on Christianity, I now write for a different purpose - His Glory.  And let me tell you, this is much more fulfilling!  I won't get rich, I don't hear many accolades, no one reviews my work, and I'm not in bookstores, but I'm doing work for His Kingdom, which is far better.  I'm no longer seeking worldly gain, I'm storing up treasures in Heaven.  Christ has refocused my talent to serve Him and I am overjoyed.  I may not know how many people I reach or how many lives are changed by what I do, but He's told me simply to scatter the seed - He does the watering.

Hopefully this post has given a little more insight into my journey in the Lord.  He's not through with me yet, and I can't wait to see what He has in store in the future.  What I have learned through all of this is that God is greater than anything I can dream.  When we focus our dreams Godward and live our lives for His Glory, amazing things happen.   

In all thy ways, acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. ~Proverbs 3:6      


~~Becka 

(Please note: the "conversation" I had with God is metaphorical. I never heard the audible voice of God, but I did have some heavy conviction from the Holy Spirit in prayer.)

2 comments:

  1. Hi Becka, I love your blogs. The previous ones are really eye opening. I want to ask you something, I haven't read all your blogs yet. But why did you stop using Yeshua and Yahweh?

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  2. Hello, thank you for your kind words! I'm glad you're enjoying the blog - God has certainly used it powerfully in my own life.

    As far as your question goes regarding Yeshua and Yahweh, I still use them. Maybe moreso on my FB page than my blog, but I do use them. I prefer Yahweh over Jehovah, because Jehovah was "introduced" in the 1500's, while Yahweh is the accepted pronunciation of the tetragrammaton. I still use Yeshua, but usually in more of an intimate way - if I'm speaking to a generic crowd, I'll use Jesus or the Lord Jesus Christ - but if I'm talking about how He's been specifically good to me in some way, I'll throw in Yeshua.

    I'm not a stickler for using Yeshua instead of Jesus - in fact I refer to Him as Jesus in my books (because that name is more widely known). I guess I hadn't realized I'd been using the names less frequently. I apologize if it's jarring. :)

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