The words, “Come Dance and Celebrate,” filled the subject bar of my email. I clicked it open. “Dear Dancing Ones,” it said. I quickly scanned the lines and read an invitation to celebrate online Simchat Torah at 6:00 that evening. I closed it.
Hmm, that’s strange that I opened that particular email before I went to a ladies meeting tonight held at the at the same time, 6:00 pm in which I was going to share, for the first time, about my new novel, “A Royal Dance?
And what is simchat Torah? I wondered. Maybe they are watching a simulcast and chatting about the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, I reasoned. I shrugged those fleeting thoughts aside, closed my email and left the house.
During the meeting I shared a story about a little girl who wanted to be a ballerina. Because of sexual abuse as a child and other happenings in her life, she sank into a dark place. As an adult she began to dance alone with Jesus in her bedroom. It was a safe place. He was someone who loved her just as she was, the only one she could really trust. One day He called her to dance publicly. He promised that many chains from her abuse would fall off.
This took courage. What would others think? Would they mock her? Make fun of her? Think she was showing off? When the worship music started, she closed her eyes, smiled and swayed as she remembered their times together. She stepped out in faith and trusted the lover of her soul as she twirled around in delight with Him. To her surprise, some who watched, later commented how the dancing blessed them. They saw the love relationship she had with Jesus in her dancing and it caused a hunger in them for that kind of intimacy, too. She started to dance in worship meetings, most of them out of town where no one knew her, a safer place.
In her hometown there were those who misunderstood her dancing, but she only cared that the one who loved her unconditionally, loved her dancing. More and more freedom came, but the call to write a book about her journey out of the devastation of sexual abuse as a child, the feeling of abandonment from her parents’ divorce and the pain of barrenness that she experienced when trying to conceive, paralyzed her. In her eyes nothing she did was “good enough.”
She loved to dance with Jesus, especially when alone with Him, but writing the book he had asked her to write? No way! Her ninth grade honors English teacher never picked her story to read to the class and when she read an article to her father, he made it clear that she had no writing talent. He called her by her first and middle name, to emphasize his words, then added, “You can’t write. There’s no continuity” and he continued to point out everything wrong with her writing. Maybe he was right. She walked away more convince than ever that she wasn’t a writer.
Father God never gave up on her, though. His pursual eventually led her to writers’ conferences and writing correspondence courses. Even though she published a few devotionals and articles in women’s magazines, she refused to tackle the book. Nothing she wrote seemed “good enough” in her eyes. She hated the competition in the writing field and most of all she hated writing, her writing. At writing conferences she heard others say how much they loved to write. Not her. Putting words on paper was a tortuous task that confirmed in her mind that her father was right. She screamed at God, “I can’t do this. You have the wrong person.”
Still, at the urging of one of her writing teachers, she began the book and wrote three chapters and sent them to an editor that published books about personal experience stories. This editor showed an interest in publishing it and wanted her to attend her workshop in a state far away. Excited that someone might believe she had talent as a writer, she approached her husband about the idea and he agreed to pay for the air flight and expense of flying miles away. This was it. Someone believed in her. This was the chance to get the help and encouragement that she needed to obey God and write the book.
A few weeks before she was to leave, she received a phone call. The stranger’s deep voice introduced himself as the editor’s husband.
“I’m sorry we have to cancel the workshop. My wife died this week at her computer, her finger on the star button. It typed stars across the page.”
At that moment, the dream of publishing her story through Star Books Publishing died.”Noooo!” she groaned. “She was going to help me with my book.”
“I’m so sorry,” he said. The gentle compassion in his voice soothed her disappointment and the sudden thought that she had not considered his grief knotted her stomach.
“Sir, I’m sorry, too. For your loss,” she stuttered, embarrassed by her lack of sensitivity. In the uncomfortable silence between them in which neither one seemed to know what to say, she wiped a single tear from her face and sniffed back many others. With her eyes closed and hand over her mouth, she waited, not sure how to end the conversation.
He spoke next and informed her that he was rescheduling the workshop and had invited two famous writers, a husband and wife team, to come, if she was still interested, but Star Books would not be publishing anymore books. She hung up the phone and slid to the floor in a numb haze. What good would it do to attend now? she asked. The only one who showed interest in her book was dead.
Her husband encouraged her to go to the new workshop. She wrote the required article and sent it to be considered for review. Only 13 manuscripts would be picked from the the 50 participants to be edited during the workshop as teaching tools.
Her friend decided to go this time and she sent one, too, and off they went to the workshop together. When she arrived, she learned that her friend’s article had been chosen, but not hers. Devastated, she selfishly locked herself in her room and was unable to rejoice with her friend.
Ashamed of her behavior, she forced herself to congratulate her friend and come to the breakfast table the next morning. The only seat open was next to this famous writer, so she reluctantly took that seat and listened while others questioned him. Still hurting from another perceived rejection of her writing, she blinked back the tears and smiled.
Finally, she got the courage to ask him a question.
“Sir, how do you deal with the rejection if an editor gives your wife an assignment that maybe you were hoping to get? How can you be happy for her?” The table went silent. The others felt uncomfortable with her question. The gentleness and compassion in his eyes encouraged her to continue, though, and she explained what happened. While the others around her excused themselves from the table, he took time to listen.
“That’s a good question.,” he said “Let me tell you how I deal with the competitiveness that tries to steal my joy,” he continued. He took her hand and stared deep in her eyes. “I remember that when God thought me up, He gave me things to write that only I could write. Not my wife. Not anyone else. My writing assignments were uniquely designed for me and only me by my Creator. No one else can write what I’m designed to write.” This compassionate editor ended up critiquing her article privately, not as a part of the workshop, and told her she had an ability to capture inter personal relationships on paper and should continue with her writing and never give up on her book.
She apologized to her friend for not being able to rejoice with her. On the plane going home she pondered the famous editor’s answer on how to deal with competitiveness, especially the words, “no one can write what I’m designed to write.” How many writers, editors, and publishers missed writing and publishing what they were designed to write and publish, because of competition? This sparked an idea and when she got home she contacted the members of “His Writers,” a group that she founded that prayed for writers, and presented this new revelation.
For six years, she and a handful of want-a-be writers met once a month, worshiped and drew names of writers, editors and publishers from a basket. They prayed for them to write or publish what God had designed for them to write or publish, their “child of promise” uniquely given to them before they were born. They wrote a short note to each one, a note that came from the heart of the Father as they listened for his voice.
On a whim they also invited this famous writer from New York to come to a writer’s retreat that this tiny group wanted to have in their city. They decided that writers needed a get away where they could be healed and hear what God wanted them to write. Surprisingly, he offered to pay his own expenses to fly from New York to this small town in the middle of the United States.
At the end of the retreat, he went from writer to writer and spoke over them words of encouragement. When he came to the woman who had asked him the question about competitiveness at the workshop, he again took her hands and spoke. “You’re like a butterfly. You flitter around and don’t look like you know where you’re going, but you always get where God wants you to go.”
After that, she kept telling people that she needed to write a book and asked her friends to keep her accountable. “Please pray for me. I’m going to focus on writing this book for the next few months.” Only to tell them later that she gave up shortly after she started. “I hate writing. I can’t do this,” she’d scream at the computer.
One day while she contemplated between a Christian Writers conference that she did not want to go to, or another Christian conference that she longed to attend, she heard the quiet words in her thoughts, “when are you going to embrace your call to write?” She wanted to yell, “Never!” and that most certainly was a part of her conscious thought, but a deeper part of her wanted to obey God. She grudgingly chose to attend the writer’s conference.
At the conference, her assignment for one of the sessions was to write a short piece and bring it to the class to read out loud. She worked so hard on it and the night before she had to read it to the group, she stayed up late working and reworking it. The fear of rejection so gripped her heart that she would have left that night and gone home to avoid the embarrassment of reading it, but the fear of driving on dark, winding, mountainous roads won the battle and prevented her from leaving. The next morning, she sat on a park bench and let the sun shine on her face.
“Give me courage!” she prayed.
No way could she eat any lunch and when the time came to go to class, she felt sick. When the instructor asked for volunteers, she surprised herself and raised her hand, “I will.” she responded.
The instructor knew how fearful she was and said, “Good for you!” She read her short piece and when she finished, everyone clapped, even the instructor. His words reverberated in her thoughts all the way down the mountain the next day. “You are a writer!”
In the weeks that followed she again attempted to write the book and wrote it as a parable. At the urging of her pastor she went away to a motel for the weekend to focus only on her writing, but only one day into her writing get-a-way, she received a call from her mother that her sister’s husband had died. That ended her writing retreat. She immediately left and drove her mother to her sister’s home in another state and stayed for a week. After she returned, she didn’t pick up the writing again for several years.
She did travel to Israel with a ministry group and spent several weeks going from place to place on prayer assignments. She swam in the Dead Sea, was baptized again in the Jordan River, walked the shores of Galilee, worshiped in dance in a meeting in Jerusalem and had a divine encounter with God at Shiloh. When she returned, the leader asked her to speak at a women’s meeting. She wrote a parable about a princess and used it for her talk. Before she spoke, a woman picked up her notebook and said God has given you his signet ring for writing and you will fill this book with many parables. Her leader wanted her to travel with her to other places, but she knew she must write this book before she could do anything else. So she declined her invitation.
Even though she knew she should write the book, though, she bought Curves, an exercise place for women and became a business woman for two years instead. The business didn’t prosper, so she decided to close it and start a ministry for people with life controlling problems. She trained facilitators and set up meetings with pastors and judges.
She became so busy with other things, things that she thought were so important that she had no time for dancing with Jesus. One night she awoke and cried in her bed. She missed him so much. She knew the Word said that he never forsook her, but she felt lonely without her intimacy time with Him. The next day she set a time to meet with Him everyday from 1-5 and soak in His presence and worship Him. It was their time together. Her time to be still and know that He was God.
One day while lying on the sofa with her eyes closed enjoying his presence, a beautiful picture unfolded before her eyes. It was a meadow of green grass sprinkled with purple, blue, and yellow flowers with a multitude of colorful butterflies flitting from flower to flower. She saw the back of a man, who she knew was Jesus, walking hand in hand with a little girl, her dark hair bouncing down her back as they walked along. It’s me, she thought. She watched him stop, pick up the little girl, lift her high in the air and catch her as she came down. She giggled from the sofa as the little girl giggled. She watched Jesus hold the little one close. “My little butterfly,” he said and lifted her high again. The girl giggled again. Jesus caught her and placed her feet on the ground, watched the little girl chase the butterflies and turned to leave. She saw him walking away and yelled, “Don’t leave.” He stopped momentarily and said, “Don’t worry. I’m always watching you.
The next week the woman sat with a friend and told her what happened. While her friend prayed for her, this run away writer heard Jesus speak in her thoughts. “I’m not releasing you to do any other ministry, until you finish your book. Your destiny is in the words of this book. You will teach from it.”
She groaned. She knew better than to say again, I can’t do this. So she locked herself away in a small closet with her computer and a cd player and began to write. The time that she had set apart to be with Him everyday became her writing time. While she wrote, she played the same soaking music she listened to when she saw Jesus in that meadow. Every time the butterfly song came on she stopped and remembered that He was watching.
Months later, she finally finished the book and called it, The Lion and the Butterfly – A Kingdom Parable. She obeyed God. Maybe now she could get on with other things, she thought.
She went to a Christian conference in Florida and at lunch one day a lady called her over. “I loved watching you dance,” she said. As they talked, she shared about her book and the woman gave her the name of her editor. Maybe this writing stuff will finally be done with and she can get on with other ministry, she thought.
Not so. When she got home, the Lord told her to close down the ministry she had just started that year and go home to write. What did this all mean? she wondered. The little butterfly flittered to the next place in her journey. Even though those who worked with her in the ministry wanted to keep it going, she walked away, unsure what God was doing in her life.
The editor worked with her on tightening the parable. Just when she thought she was finished, the editor wanted more added to it. Anger rose inside the writer. “I’m not doing this anymore. I’m done with it,” she yelled at a friend day. The friend tried to calm her, but she wouldn’t listen. The next week in the middle of a women’s Bible study, the words dropped into her mind, “If I ask you to write some more, will you do it?”
She breathed a deep breath and surrender, “Yes, Lord,” she said, “if you ask me to completely start over, I will do it.” She had no idea how prophetic her words were that day. She ended up with another editor and this one thought she should turn it into a novel. “I don’t know how to write a novel,” she told her. But that editor took her under her wing and for 9 months taught her how, one tedious chapter after another, until they finished the book. The problem was that she only made it through 1/3 of the parable. One book had become a book series. This time, the idea of writing more books wasn’t as daunting. She actually was beginning to enjoy it.
A week before the book was to come out, she talked with her editor and cried. “I’m afraid it’s not good enough.” She had chosen to self publish and it was ready for print when she read the blog written by the leader of her writer’s guild. He had totally bashed self publishing. She had sought the Lord about it and felt he told her not to get involved in the system of traditional publishing. Even though she felt confident that she’d heard from the Lord, the lie taunted her that “if it’s not good enough to publish traditionally, it’s not good enough period.”
Then she remembered the session she attended in a Christian writer’s conference 5 months earlier and how the teacher said if you do it WITH God, it’s a success, no matter where it ends up— in a drawer, self published, or just read to a friend. After she stopped crying on the phone with the editor, she sat in a chair and waited. Very gently she heard the Lord’s words, “It is good.”
The next week her book was available to buy. That first day, she sat in her car with her friend, who attended the workshop with her years earlier, and talked about her book. Suddenly, a song randomly came on the radio. It was the Butterfly song that she had played while she wrote the parable. She hadn’t heard the song for over a year. Overwhelmed with His love and faithfulness, she held her hands over her face and sobbed. His little butterfly was finally free to be who he created her to be, a writer. She did it with Him. She wrote the book and published it.
When I finished telling my story that night, I looked around at the women, no one said anything for a few minutes. I started to pray for them to be free to be who God created them to be. One asked if we could dance. The worship music was turned on and several women, like little butterflies, bounced around the room in joyful glee.
That night I awoke at 1:30 and remembered the email I’d opened before I went to the meeting. What is Simchat Torah, I wondered. I climbed from bed and looked it up. It was a Jewish holiday.
“I don’t get it God. Why on this night, at the same time that the Jews carry the torah and dance, did you chose to have me tell about my dance story?” I stood on my back deck. The unusually warm fall breeze stirred the bushes below.
“I honored you.” My mouth dropped open.
“How can this be? How can this be?” My mind swirled with the thought that he was the one to be honored.
“You’re one with me,” his gentle words flowed through my thoughts. I then remembered a time, months earlier, when I was at a conference. A lady told me she enjoyed my dancing and while she watched, the Lord had told her to tell me that my life was a dance. I listened to the rustling leaves below and remembered the time my husband and I took ballroom dancing on a cruise. We stumbled around when we danced with each other, but when that dance instructor took my hand, I glided across the floor with ease.
I now felt the gentle breeze blow across my face and looked up at the stars. A melody that I had not heard in years floated into my memory.
The lover of my soul wooed me through the words of the first stanza, “Dance with me,” he whispered. I stretched my arms toward heaven and began to sing and sway and twirl around in a dance with the lover of my soul. What joy I felt. I giggled like a child. My life had been a dance WITH Him and he had led His Little Butterfly to embrace her call to write. She now loved writing, as long s she did it WITH Him.