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Keeping Our Focus

by Janet Lee Barton

April 2005 we got news that was the beginning of a very hard year’s time for my family. We found out my brother-in-law had stage 4 cancer in both lungs that month. He declined treatment. In June, one of my best friends passed away from cancer and by the end of the month, my brother-in-law passed away.

During that time, the Lord blessed me with contracts-I had seven from June of 2005 to June 2006, keeping me busy and focused through the heartache of those losses. Then Katrina hit and for a while all focus on writing was gone. In October we made a family decision to put our homes up for sale as my husband was retiring in January 2006. We felt a need to be closer to our roots and to give those who’d lost everything -and I mean everything-two more choices in finding a home. We moved to Oklahoma looking forward to being around my sister and her family. But three weeks later, my sister passed away. With this blow, I did have to ask for a week’s extension on one deadline.

How could I concentrate when it seemed impossible to even think about writing? Truthfully, I can’t take on ounce of credit for making my deadlines that year. I can only give it to the Lord. We are members of American Christian Fiction Writers and as such, I know that it is only in focusing on the Lord and what I feel He’s called me to do that I could make those deadlines that year.

But it’s not just with deadlines that He helps us. It’s with the ideas He gives us…sometimes they are immediate answers to a plot problem or a scene we can’t quite get right and there is no question that He’s answered our prayers. And His answers can be so quick it takes our breath away. It hasn’t been all that long that I was so stuck on a scene, I didn’t know what to do-had no idea what to write next and said so in a prayer asking for help. Almost before I finished praying, the answer was there.

Then again, sometimes it’s the idea for a new story or series that may simmer at the back or our minds for month-or even years. But when the time is right, He brings that simmer up to a rolling boil, so fast and beautiful we can’t wait to get to our computer. It’s happened to me more than once. I’m sure it’s happened to you, too.

And because it has, I know to trust that God is going to help me do what He put on my heart to do-as long as I stay focused on Him and His calling in my life.

Sometimes I think we tend to forget why we do what we do and Whom we are doing it for. My prayer is for us all to keep the focus today and everyday as we get on with the work He’s given us to do.

Janet Lee Barton was born in New Mexico and has lived all over in Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas. She and her husband now live in his home state of Oklahoma. Janet is a member of ACFW and her local chapter, OKC Christian Writers. She is also a member of RWA’s Faith, Hope and Love Chapter and has served as president in both chapters. She’s been a finalist in ACFW’s Book of the Year contest (now the Carol Award) twice and has been a Heartsong Presents reader favorite many times. Janet loves writing heartwarming stories about faith, family, friends and love. She likes writing stand-alone stories that can become part of a series. All of her novels have been part of a series except for one. She especially loves researching and writing historical romance. Janet and her husband now live in Oklahoma, and are part of what they call a Generational Living Experiment with their daughter and her husband, two wonderful granddaughters, and a Shih Tzu called Bella. The experiment has turned into quite an adventure and after nearly five years, they think it’s working out just fine.

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16 Responses to Keeping Our Focus

  1. How true you speak, Janet. Without the Lord’s strength, we would find ourselves floundering in a sea of despair when life hits hard and takes our focus away from our writing. The joy of the Lord is my strength, and He will carry us through. Thanks for the insights, Janet.

  2. What a beautiful post, Janet! It’s so easy to get wrapped up in deadlines and the things that are happening in our lives and to forget why we’re doing this. Thank you for the reminder!

  3. Sharon Srock says:

    I’ve had the experience of breathing a prayer for direction and finding my fingers moving on the keyboard almost before I opened my eyes. Those are the times I know I’m doing what He called me to do. Thanks for the reminder.
    Sharon

  4. Janet Lee Barton says:

    Thanks so much for your comments, Martha, Julie and Sharon! And thanks for taking the time to stop by-I know its a busy time of year.

  5. Diane Ashley says:

    Hi Janet, Your faithfulness is a guiding light for all of us. Thanks for the reminder that God is always listening and gives us answers before we even ask. Merry Christmas!

  6. Marilyn Turk says:

    Janet, I’m amazed that you were able to complete your manuscripts during all the trauma you experienced. Thank you for reminding us about our purpose, our calling and our mission and redirecting us to the right focus as God’s instrument.

  7. Janet,

    That’s the perfect message for this time of year. We need to keep our focus on Christ and what He’s called us to do. I totally understand what you said about the roiling ideas. Thank the Lord for them.

    Merry Christmas!

  8. Janet Lee Barton says:

    Thank you, Diane, Marilyn and Vickie! Thank you all for your for taking time to stop by and comment!

  9. Robin Patchen says:

    Isn’t it amazing that at the lowest points of our lives, God can seem closer than ever. What a beautiful story of faith in the midst of hardship and tragedy. Thank you for sharing with us, Janet. God bless.

  10. Carla Gade says:

    Thank you for your encouraging post. Christmas Blessings to you!

  11. Janet Lee Barton says:

    Thank you for coming by and leaving a comment , Robin and Carla. It’s such a blessing to be a member of ACFW and know that all of us love and trust God to see us through the ups and downs of our writig lives.

  12. Cathy Gohlke says:

    Thank you, Janet. You touched my heart and gave me a poignant reminder of why we do what we do and for Whom. Knowing it’s all in His hands and for His glory is the peace we so desperately need. God bless you!

  13. Janet Lee Barton says:

    Thank you, Cathy!

  14. Hi Janet,
    First, that’s an adorable book cover, congratulations. I’m sorry about all the rough times this year. I agree that during darkest moments Jesus visits us with His presence in ways that we may not recognize–we have to look, pay attention, and expect a miracle. Sometimes, only the seed is planted during the darkness, but God does bring the light and water to make it into a miracle. Congratulations on the all the ones He has faithfully sent you–and will continue to!
    Hugs and love,

    Linore

  15. What an encouraging post, Janet! Thank you for sharing. I understand all too well about writing under stress. When my husband was diagnosed with skin cancer last spring, I went through this also, but God pulled us through it, as always. I hope you and yours have a very Merry Christmas!

  16. Diane Chase says:

    Janet, this a remarkable, faith-building testimony. Thanks for taking the time to share it.