Author: Ava Pennington Page 1 of 14

Ava Pennington is thoroughly enjoying her second career as an author, teacher, and speaker.

She moved from New York to Florida, leaving a twenty-year corporate career as a Human Resources executive. But don’t call her retired! She now teaches a weekly, interdenominational Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) class of 300+ women from September through May.

Of course, Ava writes. She has written for organizations such as Focus on the Family, Christianity Today, and Haven Ministries. She has also been published in 30+ anthologies, including 25 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

Her book, Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, is published by Revell Books and endorsed by Kay Arthur, founder of Precepts International.

Ava has also co-authored two children’s picture books, Do You Love Me More? and Will I See You Today?

If you’re looking for a speaker, she delights in challenging audiences with relevant, enjoyable presentations.

For more information, please visit www.AvaWrites.com.

Disappointment

Disappointment is His Appointment

Have you ever experienced disappointment?

Silly question, isn’t it? Because we’ve all been disappointed at one time or another. We live in a broken, sin-sick world. Disappointment is part of the package.

But it’s not the only part.

I know. Because I’ve lived this out.

Four years ago, my husband was diagnosed with cancer. A year later, we rejoiced at the news that the cancer was in remission. Sadly, his status changed within a few months. The cancer came back. And so did the chemo sessions. Blood tests. Scans. Nausea. Fatigue. Then acceptance of the inevitable.

And gut-wrenching disappointment.

Is that where you are today? Perhaps it’s cancer or another diagnosis. Maybe it’s a broken marriage. Or a prodigal child making destructive choices . . . again.

Your disappointment may not be related to a life-threatening situation and maybe you feel ashamed to compare it to the experiences of others. But disappointment crosses all levels of life circumstances. And if you’re a writer, seeing your publishing dreams stymied can generate severe disappointment, too.

But as songwriter Phil Keaggy wrote, “Disappointment – His Appointment.” God’s appointment for growth. For spiritual intimacy with Him. For receiving comfort so we in turn can comfort others. And for living out our faith even in the most difficult times, because that’s when others will see real faith lived out in the one, real God.

This doesn’t mean God is unloving or uncaring. It does mean He sees a bigger picture than we do. He has a plan for our ultimate good and His eternal glory. And His plan may include experiences that, with our limited perspective, we would not choose for ourselves.

We also have another set of choices. My natural inclination is to demand answers from God. If I’m honest, what I’m really doing is saying that His ways don’t meet my approval and He owes me an explanation. But God doesn’t owe me—or anyone else—an explanation for what He allows.

The better choice is to rest in my relationship with Him. Trust instead of demand. Live out the reality of my faith with the assurance that He is trustworthy. Know that I know He loves me.

Christians understand this temporary life is not all there is. Something greater than today’s suffering is at stake. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

And a few verses later we read, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 38).

By the strength of the Holy Spirit, we can live without fear and worry. Listen as He reminds us of His Word. Receive comfort in His indwelling presence. And rest in the assurance that this life is not all there is, regardless of whatever obstacles life throws our way.

You’re not alone in your disappointment. Because of Jesus Christ, we know who we belong to. And we trust Him. We trust Him with ourselves, our families, and yes, even our writing.

We all have a choice. Whatever happens today, in your writing or in any other area of life, how will you choose to handle disappointment?

Life's Traffic Lights

Life’s Traffic Lights

This month marks the 106th anniversary of the first electric traffic system installed in Cleveland, Ohio in 1914. Four sets of red and green lights told drivers when to stop and go. The Cleveland Automobile Club praised the system, saying they expected that it was “destined to revolutionize the handling of traffic in congested city streets.”

Ever wish for a few traffic lights to handle the congested traffic in your life? I have. Some days are over-filled with commitments and activities to the point of sheer exhaustion. And then I wonder how I allowed it to happen. Even now, I seem to spend more time in video-conference meetings than I ever did in physical meetings before the pandemic!

The problem is not that I don’t have traffic signs and traffic lights in my life. The problem is that I don’t always pay attention to them, both in my personal life and in my writing life. For me, those traffic lights include:

Daily quiet time

If I fail to start with a quiet time set aside to spend time with the Lord, I’m in big trouble before my day begins. Tuning my spirit to listen to His Holy Spirit is the best way for me to proceed into a daily routine that’s often far from routine. Someone once said, “If I’m too busy to spend time with God, then I’m too busy!”

Reading and studying the Bible

While this is part of my quiet time, it’s more than just reading a few verses in the morning. It’s application, too. As I study the Bible, I learn biblical principles that help me make wise decisions – including decisions about how I spend my time.

Setting healthy boundaries

I have a tendency to be a people-pleaser. I want to be liked, so I will say yes when I should say no. And that gets me into trouble. Setting healthy boundaries – aka, knowing when to say no – is not easy for me. But if I start my day right with that daily quiet time, it’s easier (though never easy!) to follow the Lord’s leading.

Wise time stewardship

Ever feel as though you never have enough time to write? I do. Yet I know the traps that can drain my time faster than a bullet train. Social media is one that pulls at me. But it has an off button. And I need to click that button more often than I do. That’s just plain old self-control. No excuses!

Traffic lights can’t help manage traffic if drivers don’t pay attention to them. We all know of accidents caused by people who’ve run a red light or raced through a yellow one. The same is true in life. So my commitment today is to follow the traffic signals God has placed in my own life.

How about you? What are the traffic lights in your life?
What are the traffic lights in your writing life?

Why Should I Attend a Conference AGAIN?

Conference season will be kicking up again in the fall, including the Write2Ignite Master Class. And it’s not too early to start planning.

Now, you may be thinking, I’ve been to a writer’s conference—maybe even several. So why should you attend yet another one – even an online one?

Perhaps you’ve shared the following objections:

Objection: Conferences are costly when you consider the combination of registration fees and travel expenses.

Response: If you’re serious about developing your writing skills and network, the cost of a writers’ conference should be considered an investment rather than a cost. You are investing in your writing career.

Of course, we’re called to be wise stewards of our finances. So why not add a new line item to your next annual budget so you can set aside a portion of the conference price each month. Or budget an amount that would enable you to attend on alternate years. Also, consider creative ways to raise funds. Maybe you can sell homemade crafts or baked goods. Or ask that birthday and Christmas gifts go toward the price of registration.

 

Objection: It’s difficult to carve out such a large chunk of time to attend a large conference.

Response: We can’t stop the passage of time, but we can choose how we use that time. The days, weeks, and months will pass. The question is, how much farther along will you be in your writing career? And not every conference is a massive five-day event. Consider a focused, one-day conference!

 

Objection: My family won’t understand/support my going to a conference.

Response: Of course, we have different seasons of life. Families with younger children will find it more difficult one parent to be out of town for an extended period of time. But if they don’t take your writing seriously, is it because they’re following your lead? Do you treat your writing as a hobby? Because if it’s not just a hobby, you need to be the first person to believe that and act like it!

 

Objection: The classes and workshops cover the same basic information.

Response: Have you applied everything you learned from your last conference? Hmmm…I thought not.

Are you aware of recent industry trends? What about the changing needs of traditional publishers? ‘Nuff said.

 

Objection: No one was interested in the proposal I submitted last year.

Response: Have you re-examined that proposal in light of what you learned at that conference and since? Editorial needs change from year to year. And, if you’re growing as a writer, then your own writing has developed beyond what it was last year. Besides,

 

Objection:  I’ve met all (or most of) those people at other conferences and we already connect by email.

Response: There’s no substitute for face time (and I’m not talking about the iPhone app!) for renewing old relationships. In the absence of attending a physical conference, video conferencing is helpful, too. And you don ‘t want to miss opportunities to connect with new people—folks who might be a future critique partner, agent, the acquisitions for your new book, or a future precious friend!

 

Of course, we can’t get to every conference we’d like to attend. And these days we’re in a season of online conferences due to the pandemic. But with effective planning and budgeting, writers’ conferences can have a significant impact on our publishing careers!

With all that said, here’s something for you to consider…
the Write2Ignite Master Class on writing fiction is coming up September 19, 2020. Great price at $99., but as we hear in television infomercials, “But wait, there’s more!” Early-bird pricing of $79. is available through August 1.

Begin preparing now to attend . . . and save money while you’re doing it!

Key to success

The Key to REAL Success

God lays out the Key to REAL Success

’Tis the season of graduations…and graduation speeches. And almost every speech will encourage the graduates in their pursuit of success.

Let’s face it. No one wakes up thinking, today I will strive to be a failure. Yet we often search for the key to a successful life in all the wrong places. For the Christian, the key to real success is a simple, four-part instruction found—where else?— the Bible.

Second Corinthians 5:7-10 (NIV) tells us:

For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

The answer to a successful life is all there, spelled out in easy-to-follow details:

  1. Live by faith

For we live by faith, not by sight.”

Everyone lives by faith in something. Even if you consider yourself to be an atheist, you still live by faith. When you set your alarm clock to wake up at a certain time, you have faith it will work. When you flip the light switch, you have faith the light will turn on without sparking a fire inside your walls. And when you place the key in your car’s ignition, you have faith the car will start.

According to the Bible, the first key to success is found in living by faith. And the object of our faith is the Lord who created us to glorify His name.

  1. With an eternal perspective

“We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

Is this life all there is? Is this the best life we can expect? Even if we don’t believe that, we often live as if we do. We make the pursuit of comfort and convenience a priority. But everything about this life is temporary. Every earthly pursuit will fade into the obscurity of extinction.

Doesn’t it make sense to maintain a perspective that values things that will last? That’s true success. Anything less will fail because it will pass away.

  1. With a right goal

“So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.”

Advice on obtaining success usually mandates the inclusion of goals. In last month’s post, I mentioned S.M.A.R.T. goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. So how does the apostle Paul’s goal to please the Lord fit with the S.M.A.R.T. model?

    • Specific: we’re to please the Lord first, before we please ourselves or other people. And God lays out the details of what this looks like in His instruction book for life: the Bible. This leads us to…
    • Measurable: How do you know if you’re succeeding? The commands and exhortations in Scripture describe how we are to live. And they become our standard. More on this when we look at the next verse.
    • Achievable: Is it possible to please the Lord? Yes, but only through the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us because of our relationship with Jesus Christ. Which leads us to…
    • Realistic: What’s the point of having goals if they’re not realistic and relevant to who you are and what you hope to achieve? Since Christians are children of God, our goals are those that please our heavenly Father and are realistic by His standards, not necessarily ours!
    • Timely: Is there an end date in mind? We are all limited to a finite number of years, giving all of us an end date for living in a way that will please God. So, since none of us know when we will cease to be time-bound, let’s take every opportunity to please our heavenly Father in the days we do have.
  1. Using a right standard of measure

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

Here is the final measure of our success: the final evaluation. What have we done with the life given to us? The ultimate Judge is Jesus Christ, who will determine if the things we have accomplished have eternal value (I Corinthians 3:12).

There’s no need to read thousands of books on the subject of success. And you can spare yourself the need to compare the graduation messages of hundreds of thousands of speakers. The key to real success is living by faith, longing to be with the Lord, desiring to please Him, and doing it all in view of the judgment seat of Christ.

As writers, we tend to measure our success by the world’s standards, such as amount of advance or number of sales. But God’s standard is less concerned with those metrics and more concerned with obedience, changed lives, and the desire to please our heavenly Father. So how does your definition of a successful life stack up against the apostle Paul’s definition?

Is there a graduate—or a writer—in your life who needs to hear this? Or maybe this message is for you!

 

5 Steps for Goal Recommitment

GoalsThink back to the resolutions or goals you set in January. Less than 5 months ago,  yet it feels like years have passed! Did you write them down? Do you remember what they were…or would you rather forget?

How well have you done with your goals? Perhaps you haven’t thought about them for months. Maybe you recall them but just gave up. Maybe you’re one of the few pleased with your progression, but want to do even better.

We’ve all been enmeshed in a giant “pause.” Terms such as shelter in place, quarantine, and social distancing have wreaked havoc with our plans and our goals for 2020. If you’re anything like me, you may have thought that staying home would give you extra time to work on your manuscript. But for many of us, the disruptions to our routines, combined with new concerns such as homeschooling children or where to buy toilet paper have shattered our hopes to get that book finished.

Whether you’re focusing on your own goals or encouraging others, this is the perfect month to talk about it because May is National Recommitment Month. It’s a time to review the resolutions you made or the goals you set.

Your goals might be related to physical health, such as diet, exercise, or conquering a habit or addiction. Or they might be relationship-oriented, focusing on issues of forgiveness and restoration. Perhaps your objectives are in the financial realm, such as managing debt or exploring new investments. Maybe you set a goal of tackling a new challenge, one you’ve never attempted before. And of course, they can be writing-related.

Regardless of what your goals are, here are five ways you can encourage yourself and others to recommit.

1. Avoid guilt trips

As we move through the month of May, we’re approaching the halfway point of the year. Our natural inclination is to beat ourselves up for failing to meet our goals or accomplish our resolutions.

Maybe with the strain of juggling work-from-home demands, family responsibilities, and home-schooling in addition to all your usual activities has forced your writing onto a back burner.

Perhaps you’re lacking motivation because the pandemic hit just as you were approaching the “sagging middle” of your novel. You haven’t picked it up again because, frankly, you’re not certain of how to progress the story.

Maybe you’re struggling because your objectives are tasks you have to do, not items you want to do. The right motive makes a remarkable difference in accomplishing goals. You may need to tweak your objectives to examine them in light of the things you want to do. How can the objectives you have to complete help you accomplish the aims you want to complete?

Perhaps the toll of caring for ill loved ones or sadly, the tragedy of losing loved ones in this pandemic, has consumed your emotional energy and depleted your creative drive.

Regardless of why you’ve stalled in your writing, don’t beat yourself up. If you didn’t achieve your objectives today, remember tomorrow’s a new day.

2. Define success

Perhaps you haven’t made progress because your goals are too vague. Finish my story. Market my book. Develop my writing skills. Even if you accomplished these goals, how would you define success?

Re-examine and tweak your objectives to make them SMART. SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Assembling SMART goals will make it easier for you to both define success and achieve it.

3. Take one day at a time

Have you ever been asked how one eats an elephant? The answer is simple: one bite at a time.

When it comes to your goals, there may be days when you feel as if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. Are your resolutions overly ambitious? Once you’ve established SMART goals, you can develop interim action steps and benchmarks.

As the saying goes, “nothing succeeds like success.” So create objectives that enable smaller successes on your way to accomplishing the final goal.

The more worthwhile the objective, the more effort it will require and the longer it will take to accomplish. The question to ask may not be whether you’ve achieved your goal. The better question to ask may be, are you making progress toward your goal?

And if your goal is to develop your fiction writing skills, a good step might be to register for the Write2Ignite Fiction Master Class on September 19!

Don’t be discouraged…and keep chewing, one bite at a time!

4. Encourage accountability

When John Donne penned the words of the poem, “No Man Is an Island,” he could not have realized the impact his work would continue to have almost 400 years later.

We need each other. We need love, fellowship, and encouragement. With regard to our goals and objectives, we also need accountability partners and prayer partners. Being transparent makes us vulnerable, which can be scary. But if we refuse vulnerability, we’ll cheat ourselves out of the support we need to achieve our objectives.

With whom have you shared your writing goals? Have you given them permission to ask you about your progress? Have you scheduled specific times to meet for accountability?

Who will you ask to pray for you as you recommit to your resolutions? What a privilege it is to know you and your goals are being brought before God’s throne on a regular basis!

5. Reward yourself

Celebrate your successes. Reward yourself each time you reach a new benchmark. Be alert to even the smallest achievements, which are often lost in the shuffle of our day-to-day commitments, and certainly in our Coronavirus-sensitive environment.

Those achievements do not always come in a way you might expect. Sometimes they come in the form of dogged perseverance. Other times they will appear, not in standing firm, but knowing when to retreat and regroup before you try again.

The important thing is to identify progress…and celebrate it.

As we recognize National Recommitment Month, what resolutions, goals, or objectives will you recommit to?

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