Thursday, December 5, 2013

Leaving a Legacy

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work in us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. - Ephesians 3:20-21 

Words fail me as I write this blog. Many of you know that this week, the day after Thanksgiving, our precious friend Diann Hunt went into the arms of Jesus. She'd fought a hard, brave battle against cancer and inspired all of us.

Diann was one of the first authors to welcome me at the ACFW conference. That year, I felt God nudging my heart to begin praying for her healing. I had no idea how I myself would be blessed, inspired, and encouraged through that process.

When I think of Diann, I am inspired not to do more or achieve more, but to be more. As I thought through different topics for today's blog post, I knew I wanted to write about what's been on my heart, and that is this. As we flitter around each day, busy about our tasks, are we really living our lives? Will the words we say and the stories we write have a lasting impact?

I don't know why Diann got cancer, or why she died so young. But I know why she lived.

To love her Savior and everyone she came across.

Living like that-- making that kind of a difference-- takes intentionality. It takes persistence, courage, joy, and kindness.

And that is the heart we ought to be writing from as we craft our stories.

It's easy to get focused on each step of the stairwell, when God's got an elevator nearby. Do you find yourself so discouraged when book critiques and rejections roll in that you feel like throwing in the towel? Maybe each slight feels like a hard thwack, and you don't know if you can take much more.

Let me encourage you. Pray about your calling. Then, wait expectantly for God's answer. 

He won't let you down.

It's easy to get so short-term focused that we forget the larger ministry God has on His heart for us. We want to find the agent, sell the book, and grow a blog audience-- and all while, what God wants is to change hearts. What an amazing privilege it is to be in the ministry of storytelling. Because stories change lives. And no matter what life brings, stories live on.

After Diann passed away, I found myself downloading her stories, at the suggestion of Ann Mulligan. You can find a list of them-- all full of her signature wit and charm-- on her website, if you're interested.

I know this may sound cliche, but it's true... each moment of our lives, we create a ripple like tiny waves in an ocean. But the cool thing is, that body of water is going somewhere. Each ripple may seem insignificant at the time, but pretty soon, those waves grow, and someday, the ocean touches the sand. The question is, what kind of investments are you making?

I encourage you today to be intentional about the way your stories minister to readers' hearts. Sales numbers and networking and business plans are all well and good, but at the end of the day, it's the heart-level ministry that matters. And in order to write a heart-catching book, we must first pour our  own hearts into our stories. Through all the rejection and disappointment and grief and pain, we must get honest with our readers and ourselves, and find that joy of the Lord in the hope that that conquers all.

Have you ever read a story that resonated with you on the heart level? What about the story made that impact?

Ashley Clark writes romantic comedy with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blogFacebook,Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.


Pepper said...

Living with purpose and hope leads to dying with purpose and hope! Fantastic post today, Ash. A beautiful tribute to a beautiful woman!

Julia M. Reffner said...

Wonderful tribute! I love what Pepper said here in the comments, too. My own father was a big encouragement in my writing too, so the legacy of those such as DiAnn lives on. Thank goodness for those who have left this type of legacy.

Jeanne Takenaka said...

I didn't know DiAnn personally, but I heard so much about her, and I prayed for her off and on. Ashley, this truly was a beautiful post.

Thanks for the reminder, the call to intentionality. I needed it.

And PEPPER, thanks for stating it so beautifully too.

Pepper said...

Thanks, Jeanne.
Beautiful faith is inspiring, isn't it?

Lindsay Harrel said...

Yes...this is the kind of legacy I want to lead. My own mom died at age 46. She didn't do anything "significant" with her life according to the world's standards. But she loved people. She made people feel special. The legacy she left is similar to Diann's...loving Jesus and loving people.

Soooooo much better than being a bestseller or celebrity or what have you.

Ashley Clark said...

Thank you, Pepper! She has inspired me so much. I am in awe when I think of the faithfulness she had throughout all her life.

Julia, thanks for sharing! It's such a blessing to have those in our lives who push us toward our dreams. My own parents and my husband have done that for me too.

Angie Dicken said...

Beautiful, Ash. This truly is a great post about a great woman!!

Ashley Clark said...

Thank you, Jeanne! Always nice to hear from you!

Lindsay, what you've said is beautiful. I know your mom would be so proud of you-- both the woman have become and are becoming.

I think it's so cool how we never know the consequences of actions and investments that may seem small or personal. I think sometimes of the person who witnessed to Billy Graham or the person who taught Martin Luther to read. Each choice has a ripple.

Love you, Linds!

Ashley Clark said...

Thank you, Ang!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Lovely, Ash. Simply Lovely. A Voice in the Wind was the first story that really rocked me. It was an incredible example of steadfastness, of unwaivering faith in the face of extreme loss and uncertainty. He is faithful. Even in death. Hugs!

Ashley Clark said...

Thank you, Ames! I've actually never read that one. I'll have to put it on my list!

Beth K. Vogt said...

I knew of DiAnn through her relationships with others -- through "hearsay," you might say. And everyone who spoke of her loved her dearly. Each person spoke of Diann's love for God and her love for people.
So, yes, what you say is true, Ashley: we do create ripples that reach out and influence others without even realizing it.
I never met DiAnn, but I was influenced by her life: her faith, her commitment to live a life of love.