Finding Time

Once upon a time, time for my books was easy. I’d write when I got home from work, or waiting to go into work. I’d write while supper was being prepared. I’d write while I was waiting for the laundry to finish drying. I’d save my favorite shows on DVR and just watch them when I wanted. I’d write or read during an ER trip, something that happened with alarming regularity in my family. Dad had kidney disease, and his health was usually okay, but never great.

Several things happened to change all of these factors. I was living at home at the time, and I took full advantage of those opportunities. Dad received a kidney transplant, which literally gave him a new lease on life.

I also met the man who is now my husband. My free time in the evenings became invested in spending time with him. Writing and working on my books took a back seat for a bit.

I was also unemployed for a vast amount of time leading up to my wedding. I made the decision to self-publish about six months before I got married. I had oodles of time to do everything related to my book, and also plenty of time to relax from that.

To everyone’s great relief, I finally found a job in late September of 2014, a month after I published my first book. It was a part time job back then. I was thankful to have anything, so I took it. Just after Thanksgiving, my job extended me to full time hours, which I desperately needed.

In February of 2015, I married the love of my life and moved in with him. Now my free time is spent doing a variety of different things, little of which have to do with writing. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but life is different, and finding time for writing also has to be balanced with spending time with my husband, doing the household chores, taking turns with supper, and going to bed at a decent time so I can wake up rested and go to work.

I’ve mostly managed by setting out blocks of time to focus on writing. When that time was over, I’d move on to something else that needed my attention.

My work schedule has recently switched my hours around for the first time in nearly two years. I go in a bit later, which means I stay a bit later. I made the decision after a week or so of enjoying my freedom in the mornings to use my new time to work on my books. But waiting until my hubby left to start working on everything wasn’t going to work.

I’ve made the decision to keep getting up at was my normal wake up time for work, get ready for the day, and then sit down at my computer and start working on my books (well, this morning, it was writing this entry). I’m still grumbling about it, but it’s working. I have a quiet time every day that still leaves time at the end of the day to spend with my husband.

This worked well for a while, but I got out of habit of doing it, which leaves me back with little time left. It is a constant balancing act, but I’m working on it.

While I figure out everything related to that, I have a book to edit, and two stories that need finishing up. I haven’t started on any of that yet. I also told my husband after I put out my fourth story last year that I wasn’t allowed to release anything before May. So expect a summer or fall release, loyal fans.

5 book series

Since there will be a bit of time before the next release, I highly suggest you pick up a copy of the newest book to tide you over until then.

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…And I’m Back!

As you can see from previous posts, my blog writing has not been a priority for a while. I did good with weekly posts. Then I didn’t. Life has been a little hectic.

I obviously like to write about the process of writing, but I’m also trying to be more transparent and relatable, and write about the other things that comprise my life. So, here is my random post that will hopefully lead to consistency. We’re going to sort of restart things.

Jenny ta da pose

Ta-da! Hi, everyone. I’m Jenny, and you’re reading my blog. My full name is Jennifer, but I go by Jenny. My “professional” name is Jennifer.

This is my husband, Bobby. We have been married for four wonderful years.

Jenny Bobby front porchNew Year Date

Do we have kids? No, we do not have children. They would certainly be welcome, but they have not arrived just yet. However, we DO have some pets. We have four animals.

Stairstep kitties

 

Shadow Door

This is Shadow, our first baby. She came to us after being in a home with 17 other kittens. Understandably, she was a bit lonely at first. She wanted our attention AT ALL TIMES. When our next cat arrived, she got all the company she wanted. Shadow is now our stand offish kitty. She wants attention on her terms, and ONLY her terms. She will grace us with her presence, but it’s her choice. She does not like being picked up. She does meow when she wants us to rub her. Every morning, she demands to be pet as Bobby is putting on his socks. She’s a weird kitty, but we love her.

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This is Mario. When we got Shadow, Bobby wanted a tabby cat. But the house we went to in order to claim our kitten did not have any tabby cats that had not been claimed. We wound up with Shadow, but Bobby still wanted a tabby cat.

Three weeks after getting Shadow, I woke up to a cat meowing. I was startled, thinking Shadow was hurt. But, no, she was curled up and asleep on my shoulder. Just as I was about to dismiss it altogether, Bobby woke up, asking about Shadow. He had heard it, too. We both got up at 4am and walked outside to investigate the sound.

A tiny kitten that may not have been old enough to leave his mama was underneath our bedroom window, meowing for help. We took him inside. That afternoon, we walked to all the neighbors in a good walking area, asking if they had lost a kitten. They had not. We originally thought the kitten was lost. But when no one claimed him, we realized he had been abandoned. Our house is right by a road, and someone had nothing better to do in the middle of the night then abandon a cat. So, we kept the kitty that we eventually named Mario (once we figured out he was a boy).

Mario Laundry

Mario is an apt name, for he is the one that is forever jumping where he should not, and always the one on an adventure of some kind. I will have more posts dedicated to Mario’s stories, I’m sure.

Pepper toy

Next, we have Pepper. Though she is now two years old, she’s still our puppy. When Bobby and I got married, I had an outside dog named Starla. She was a wonderful, caring dog. My great protector. The only way I could have a dog at the time was for her to live outside. By the time I got married and moved, Starla had lived outside for ten years. There was no point in changing that dynamic.

Starla passed away at the ripe old age of 13. She was very much loved by our family, and her absence was apparent immediately. Bobby and I decided that when we got another dog, it would not live outside as Starla had. I originally intended for the dog to only be outside when we were away at work. But my husband had other ideas.

This is Pepper. She lives inside with us. She has a crate filled with various things she has chewed up. These are her soft things to lay on/root under when she is inside. Pepper is a border collie. She is incredibly smart – mostly. She can only open the bedroom door from the outside, and has yet to figure out why hitting the door when she is inside the bedroom slams it shut.

Pepper is a bundle of energy. She loves to run and she loves chewing. She also dearly loves our cats. Shadow is not thrilled with her attention. Recently, Shadow finally communicated to Pepper that she doesn’t want to play all the time. Pepper has kept a wide berth since that unfortunate meeting with Shadow’s claws.

After we got Pepper, nearly a year after Starla’s passing, we were done collecting animals. We were full on fur babies. Life was good.

Bobby and I came home after a dinner with my family on my mother’s birthday. Bobby heard something nearby. We followed the sound to the trees on the abandoned lot beside us. We spotted a tiny orange kitten, meowing incessantly. We also saw something else that first night – there was a large area on the kitten’s tail that had no fur. That first night, it was bright red. We knew it needed help.

Simba Kitten

We spent the next few days contacting various people about the injured kitten while also trying to catch it. I finally heard from animal control that since it was not on our property, they needed permission from the owner of the lot before proceeding.

Three days after first spotting the kitten, after three nights of trying to coax it toward us, Bobby spotted the kitten sitting out in the open on the lot. I came over and sat down, waiting for Bobby to join us. The kitten didn’t run away. I was able to get close enough to grab the kitty. We rushed him inside and called our vet.

When we got to the appointment, we explained that we didn’t have a ton of money, but we had a stray kitten that was hurt. They basically gave us a flat fee for the visit and gave us medicine that had been donated. The vet told us the tail had to be amputated. By the time we got to him, the injured part of the tail was black. We asked about how to do that, since we had no money. The vet told us that their sister clinic, where she would be working on Monday, had a charity fund. It could be used for the surgery. She also suggested asking for donations online. I was part of a local pets group. I posted pictures, asking for help. We received donations to us and to the vet’s office where the surgery took place. We took the kitten in for surgery on Monday, and walked out without paying a dime.

That first vet visit, the techs had to take his temperature. The tiny little kitten that hadn’t eaten well, had likely lost his family, and may have been intentionally injured started meowing, then growling. When that didn’t stop the techs from moving the thermometer, the kitten growled louder. He let loose a full blown growl worthy of a grown cat. Everyone in the room laughed. When our vet came in, she said, “I heard this kitty should be called Simba, because of his growl.” We laughed. But she had picked the correct name.

The shelter was full when we got Simba some help. By the time he had recovered from his surgery, we had fallen in love with the kitty, and we kept him. Simba is a bundle of boundless energy. His best friend is Pepper. When we chide Pepper for playing too rough with the kitten, Simba will intentionally do things to make her start playing again. He loves it.

Simba lights

So, that’s my family.

Wedding pic

While this post has been long enough, I would also like to point out one reason that I haven’t had a blog entry in a while. I’ve been very, very busy. I usually churn out one book a year. Last year, I made the decision to bring four stories out. Two novels, and two novellas.

5 book series

All are available on Amazon, and you should check them out here!

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Snow: Why the South Freaks Out

I know that the state of North Carolina is a mystery to the North every winter. My friends that live up north in New York, New Jersey, or any place that sees snow on a regular basis might not understand the state of panic that grips the hearts of the southern citizens when they hear that we might be getting snow. Unless you’ve lived among us, you might not understand. And even then, it still might baffle you. So let me clarify what goes on.

Snow is a novelty down here. Sure, we usually see a snowfall that sticks about once a year. But we usually see it fall, take pictures of our tenth of an inch on our immediate surroundings, then go back inside where it’s warm. By the next day, our snow is gone. Three days later, we’re out in flip flops and halfway forget that the calendar still insists it’s winter.

Two weeks ago, my area received a significant amount of snowfall. We got 6-8″ of snow. Snow fell late Wednesday night, and kids went back to school (with a delay) the following Wednesday. It snowed, it stayed cold, and we had to wait for it to melt away. We waited for the back roads to be clear, since the back roads never see snow plows.

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This was my road a day and a half after the snow came.

My city has a total of six snow plows. They do salt the main roads when winter weather is expected. But the back roads, where half the residents reside, are left untreated. Half the time, though, the city shuts down when snowflakes stick to the ground.

Let’s not forget the other part of the snow equation that still baffles outsiders – the run on break and milk. Once snow is predicted, the masses run to the grocery store and grab a loaf of bread and some milk. They get other things, but those are always high in demand.

Why, you ask? I’ve lived here most of my life, and I’m only halfway sure of the answer. I’m guessing it’s this area’s occupation with snow cream (though you need condensed milk for that) as well as materials to make sandwiches. Why do you need to make sandwiches when it snows outside? Well, that leads to the main point of this entry: we’re bracing ourselves for disaster.

Okay, I’ll wait while you stop laughing. Snow on the ground does not equate disaster to you. But in this area, it does. Why? I’m so glad you asked.

In my opinion, it all goes back to the Great Snow Storm of ‘89. Granted, it could have been the big snow of 1980 or even before, but I’ll use the one in ‘89 because I actually remember that one.

Remember back in the olden days, when our phones didn’t tell us what the weather was going to do? Back before the internet, when research meant using library books? Back then, people relied heavily on the TV weathermen.

My grandmother, every winter, would tell us the same story. The weatherman, one particular day, put his arms in front of him in an X and motioned outward as he declared, “It’s NOT going to snow!” We got snow up to my grandmother’s waist.

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This was our back yard during our last snow.

From that encounter, my grandmother learned to never trust the weatherman. Never mind that predictions change, technology has improved, and forecasting accuracy has gotten much better in recent years. My grandmother would warn us every time they predicted snow, ice, or wintery mix that the weathermen didn’t know what they were talking about. She would tell us the story. I’m certain that all across the region, people learned the same lesson from their elders. Never completely trust the weatherman. Always prepare for the worst.

“Oh, they’re only calling for a dusting.”

But the weatherman could be vastly wrong, like they were that one time. Let’s go prepare for three days without power and being stuck inside the house.

“Okay, we might get an inch. School will be cancelled again.”

But we could get more. Prepare for five days inside. Get sandwich materials, just in case.

“They’re predicting three inches. We can make a snowman!”

You will not be able to leave your home for a week. Hit the stores now!

The weathermen have gotten it wrong more times than I care to remember. When I was dating my husband, the weathermen on every channel told us with certainty that not only were we going to get snow, but we were going to get A LOT of snow. 6″+ was originally forecast. We got two inches, since the weather patterns shifted and Alabama got all the snow that was forecast for us.

Several times, snow has been predicted and we have gotten nothing but ice. Our region is more familiar with sleet, freezing rain, and the dangers of black ice.

Sure, we get snow that sticks about once a year. But snow that accumulates only happens every few years. The last snowfall of significance was eight years ago, the day after Christmas. We got about six inches.

I have a friend who has a five year old. Our snow two weeks ago was the first time the child had been able to make a snow angel.

Yes, we call off school and shut down the town over snow. Yes, we tend to panic when it’s predicted. Blame it on the Great Snow Storm of ‘89 and the weatherman who got it wrong. We’ve been trained since that time to prepare for more. Just in case it happens again.

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Greetings from the Mines

Hello, readers. I’m sorry that I fell off the face of the blogging world for more than a year. There are several reasons, but the main reasons were I ran out of material, life was crazy, and I was distracted with other projects.

I won’t bore you with all the details of what kept me away for so long, but I will describe what has been a standing project for more than a year – editing Book Three, whose official title is ‘Till Death Do Us Part.

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I don’t like editing. I struggle with it. The details take time to correct, and I feel like I’m being mocked by my inner critic the whole time. I had started a detailed edit over a year and a half ago, consulting the notes of my beta readers. Life happened, work was crazy, and I needed some sanity, so I chose to set down what I was working on and write a new story.

That new story ended up being the start of a trilogy. And then the first story and the last ten chapters of the second story were accidentally deleted when my computer was redone. All of my documents were supposed to have been saved to the flash drive. Some of them were not. I am still sad, but it was a complete accident, and I have enough notes that I can reconstruct what was lost. But this post is not to talk about that writing project. It’s to talk about Book Three.

 

I’ll be honest – Book Three was tough from the start. It took me twice the time to pen Book Three that it normally takes me. Part of that was due to breaking a finger, having to write by hand, then being well enough to type again. And part of it was due to the fact that it was just a tough story.

When I met my Princess Jasmine, she was already a jewel, she just needed polishing. I feel like all I did was pick up something pretty on the ground, rub it a bit, then put it back where it belonged. I struggled with the darker parts of Jasmine’s story, but for the most part, it was relatively easy to write.

Book Three follows Jasmine’s daughter, Isabel. Though I was in the same kingdom, following the same family, Isabel’s story was much harder to write. Isabel was not a jewel from the start. I had to haul raw material out of the mine with her, and keep working with that same hunk of rock until something started to shine back at me. And this editing project had not been just rubbing a jewel, it has been picking at this rock with a hammer, trying to find that glimmer. It’s been hard. I’ve put it down a lot. And I’ve kept picking it back up.

Though I love Jasmine’s story, Book Three begins Isabel’s journey. And Isabel has become one of my favorite characters. There is a lot in Isabel’s story, I will warn you. One of my beta readers even expressed concern with how God’s role was treated. All I can tell you is that sometimes, it takes time before answers are revealed.

I know with certainty that not every awful thing that happens to someone is necessarily part of God’s plan – but He can use everything to work together for good, if we will let Him (Romans 8:28, for those of you saying “that sounds familiar”).

Trevor’s rock solid faith is still a staple in Book Three. But the other characters who have a leading role in this story also present a healthy amount of doubt as the story continues. But God, why is this happening? I suppose it would have been easier to put something near the end, where God answers the continual questions. But it did not happen, and that’s more true to life. Sometimes, God answers our questions. But more often than not, we just muddle through, and God eventually shines a light on our path, and we see how Problem A led to Point B, and down the road, that led to a resolution around letter J. There’s a lot of questioning along the way. Trust me, I was in a particular corridor of questions for about ten years. Pretty sure I used up the whole alphabet more than once on my journey.

While my editing of Book Three is finally complete, I will need to format the book for epublishing, and also contact my cover artist about a design. I am hopeful to release this book sometime in October, but that’s only if things move quickly.

I am hopeful that my time in the mines has produced something worthy of putting on your shelf. But I will let you be the judge of that.

Updates coming soon!

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Focus and NaNoWriMo

A happy event took place in the Conway household almost two weeks ago. Our female kitty, Shadow, was fixed. Having lived with a cat in almost constant heat for over a month, we were ready for her to have her procedure.

Once we picked her up, the vet suggested having a special collar so she wouldn’t lick her incision. We decided against it at the time, resolving to see how she did first. By the end of the week, the incision was red and didn’t look right, so we brought her back to the vet. She was fine, but the vet decided it was time for her to wear the collar. We agreed.

Poor Shadow has been slowly adjusting to the “cone of shame,” though it throws her off balance terribly when she shakes her head.

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I was watching my poor kitty yesterday, and looking at her and the collar. It forces her to only focus on what is ahead of her, and it prevents her from hurting herself (in this case, brought on by giving herself a bath). It’s annoying, but overall useful.

I realized at the same time that Shadow and her collar sort of correlates to NaNoWriMo. During the NaNo season, participating writers don their respective cones and get to work. Yes, they look slightly ridiculous. Yes, regular life is interrupted. But it’s for a purpose – to get the story done. Once we reach that mark, we can take off the collar and celebrate.

Yes, it’s a bit of a stretch. But you have to focus in order to complete NaNoWriMo, and that’s what Shadow’s collar made me think of.

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Hollywood, Jesus, and Superman

****This post contains major spoilers for Batman vs. Superman. If you have not seen the movie and wish to be surprised, DO NOT read this post!!****

My husband and I are huge super hero fans. We’ve watched pretty much every super hero movie that Hollywood has produced in the last ten years – Spiderman, X-Men, Superman, Batman, Iron Man, Captain America, even Ant Man. You name it, and we’ve either seen it or intend to see it.

When we heard about the Batman vs. Superman movie, we made plans to attend. We were even able to watch it on opening weekend. Both of us were excited.

I knew from the previews that Batman and Superman were going to spend much of the movie fighting against each other. When I saw the first trailer, I was shocked that they didn’t like each other. My patient husband explained that they didn’t start out as friends.

Though between the two, I like Batman more, you spend most of the movie rooting for Superman, who hasn’t really done anything wrong beyond showing up and trying to save people. A lot of people want to destroy him, and a lot of buildings are destroyed while he’s trying to fight bad guys. The movie focuses on Bruce Wayne trying to save the people who were in a Wayne building that collapsed in the middle of a Superman fight against the Kryptonians.

I am a patient moviegoer. I waited through some weird dreams that Bruce had, endured an absolutely pointless bathtub scene with Lois Lane, and watched as Lex Luthor proved he was just a little cuckoo. Oh, I finally thought. They’ll come together to take down Lex.

No, Lex decides to manipulate them into fighting each other. Batman steals the Kryptonite that Lex smuggled into the country, and makes weapons out of them in order to take down Superman. Just in case he’s going to end up being a bad guy. That’s not the super-smart Batman I grew up with, that’s a guy with too many toys focused on revenge and blind to all reason. However, it fit with the Batman character, so I went with it.

bvsquad1

In the middle of the fight between Batman and Superman, they realize they have to work together to defeat a common enemy. Batman throws away his Kryptonite spear, and the two take off to save their cities from destruction. Enter other villain that was created to kill Superman. Even the appearance of Wonder Woman doesn’t stop the villain. The three work together to stop the creature, while Lois dives for the spear, which she threw into the water.

batman superman wonder woman

I personally loved Wonder Woman in the movie.

Superman stops fighting long enough to save her from drowning, then dives back into the water to get the spear – knowing it’s poison to him – because it’s the only thing that can kill the monster.

Superman is able to use the spear to kill the villain. But it costs him his life.

The movie theater was rather silent as the characters gathered around their dead hero. It switches to an elaborate funeral for Superman, and a much simpler one for Clark Kent. Everyone is mourning the loss of Superman.

I knew enough about the comic books to know that Superman did die at least once, and he came back. I kept watching, knowing that any moment the sun would restore him. The funeral kept going. My husband (and others) kept whispering, “you can get up now.”

Finally, Lois Lane sprinkles a handful of dirt over Clark’s coffin. She walks away, and the scene cuts to the dirt on top of the coffin.

I knew, without a doubt, that Clark was coming back. But as the dirt moved of its own accord, shaken by something beneath it (very awesome ending), a rather depressing thought hit, ruining the movie ending for me. That’s why they released it Easter weekend. He doesn’t stay dead.

I enjoy movies. I love good storytelling. Hollywood, for all its faults, tells a pretty good story. They keep you coming back, wanting more. But if growing up watching movies has taught me anything, it’s that Hollywood doesn’t understand my faith. According to Hollywood, I’m either a hypocrite that hates everyone who’s different than me and doesn’t attend my type of church, or I’m a backwoods Christian who isn’t educated enough to know better than to believe what the Bible says. If I’m really lucky, they’ll show a devout Catholic, who actually attends church every week, but the devout person usually don’t apply that faith to their life outside of church. That’s it.

People who believe what the Bible says, in Hollywood’s eyes, are idiots. We either don’t know any better or are worse than they are. There are no other good representations of Christianity available on a consistent basis. That’s why I am so hard on Christian movies – while they show our faith and regular life, they lack the storytelling needed to make Hollywood notice much of anything.

Going back to the movie, I left the theater unsettled. I recalled when Man of Steel came out a few years ago. One of my friends shared that Hollywood had purposely created their Superman character to parallel Jesus. Clark goes to a church and talks to a pastor. You can see a window of Jesus praying in the background behind him. He makes a statement that he’s 33 years old. Hollywood went beyond that and reached out to churches, offering them clips of the movie to use as devotionals, gave them topics to discuss, and so on. On the surface, that’s great. But as one who doesn’t trust Hollywood to deliver a faithful message, I was a bit leery that the movie giant had decided to make connections from their movie to our faith for us. It’s fine when Christians do that, because we know the material. We understand it. More importantly, fellow Christians will give a faithful interpretation of the Bible when relating it to the silver screen. As I’ve just explained, Hollywood doesn’t understand my faith. Should I trust that what they try to give the Church is going to be a good representation of our faith?

I felt like Hollywood had spent half the movie trying to demean my faith, and I was gullible enough to pay to see it.

Let me be clear – the movie didn’t do that. It presented a good and evil battle, and you were constantly rooting for the good guys. Evil fell. Justice was administered. The plot was left open for the next chapter of movies. It was a good movie. It was a great ending.

But my husband and I left the theater disturbed. We’re unsure what Hollywood will try to do next with Superman, who they’re trying at every opportunity to compare to Jesus. While Superman is a great character, he is not Jesus, and they need to stop trying to make him seem like he is. Superman has faults and is not perfect.

batman vs superman logo

Will I see the next movie? Yes. But am I leery of what Hollywood will do next concerning their greatest super hero? Absolutely. Hollywood has yet to understand my faith, so I am left to believe they are going to do something to ruin Superman’s character – defaming Jesus in the process. And that, my friends, is exactly why I left the theater upset. The next chapter might not be pleasant for Christians. And that ruins super hero movies for me, my husband, and other Christians who enjoy them. I hope I’m wrong…but I’m pretty sure that I’m not.

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Drama is Not Cute

I am an unabashed fan of mimes, skits, plays, and human videos being done within the Church. Drama is one of my passions, and all these things being done within the walls of the Church is something I genuinely get excited about. Excited to watch it, excited to participate, excited to direct it, and excited to critique it.

I went to a talent competition this weekend, and the whole day was about drama. I took notes during the performances and tried to pick my own winners. I compare my picks with the actual winners. It helps me be a better drama coach, and it will help me prepare the kids that I will eventually work with.

I heard something yesterday that was meant to be a positive remark, but as a drama person, I took it the wrong way. I was watching the younger kids perform, and the person announcing the different people coming to the stage also tried to engage the audience. During a lull while waiting for the judges to complete their comments and calculate their scores, the announcer told us, “any pastors in the audience, this is a great way to start off the service.” I honestly can’t remember exactly what he said after that, but the gist of it was “this is cute, and you should definitely incorporate in this in your service every now and then.”

picard

Yes, a seven-year-old in a tutu jumping across the stage is cute. There’s no denying it. But the reason there is dance or drama on any given Sunday is NOT because it’s cute. Drama people don’t perform because it’s cute. We perform because there is a message. Because of an anointing or a call on our lives. We are there to worship. Our focus is not on the crowd, it should be on Jesus.

As one who has spent most of my life working on something relating to a church drama, the fact that people still think of it as just “cute” instead of an actual ministry or something that has significance upsets me.

A singer or minister doesn’t want you to walk away from what they have done remembering what kind of outfit they wore. They want to know if what they did resonated within you. If it ministered. If it did, they succeeded.

Yes, the seven-year-old will be cute. But why is the child on stage? Do they want to show off? Or do they want to do something for Jesus? If it’s the latter, encourage that servanthood mentality and foster it in any way you see fit. Give them an opportunity to perform and to grow within their church family. But don’t let it remain “cute” to the congregation. Remind them it is another avenue of ministry. Trust me, your own drama person will thank you for the distinction.

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