Friday, July 17, 2015

April McGowan: When Not Accomplishing Your Goal Is A Good Thing

Everyone's Story welcomes author April McGowan. Having seen April's name all over reader and writer venues, I was excited when I won her novel MACY on another blog. Loving the author's voice, and cheering along for the main character, I couldn't put this book down. I'm so happy April is joining us this week, and am thrilled to learn that her 3rd novel is circulating to publishing houses now. Blessings for success, April! Viewers, please kick back a few minutes and enjoy an excerpt of MACY and take in the encouragement April shares. And, do check out her BookGiveaway offer. Both April and I look forward to hearing from you.



BookGiveaway:
April is generously offering 1 paperback signed copy of either MACY or JASMINE to 1 randomly chosen commenter. The winner will be announced here on Friday, July 24th between 5-6 PM EST. To be entered in the Giveaway, please leave your contact information within your comment.




Here's an excerpt from MACY to enjoy:


From MACY by April McGowan 

One
They say there is a time and a place for everything. I could tell by the way Arthur held his fork, this was neither. It swiveled in his hand, looking more like a stabbing device than an eating implement. The pieces of salad fell from the tines onto the booth’s laminate tabletop, splattering it with red Catalina French salad dressing. As if listening in, the restaurant seemed to go peculiarly quiet.

He leaned toward me. Steel gray eyes stared me down. “You’re what?”

“We’re going to have a baby.” I whispered, certain everyone had turned their attention on us. Then the busboy dropped a tray of dirty dishes, and a half-eaten portion of chicken-fried steak hit the big trucker at the bar, and gravy coated the wall. They no longer cared about two strangers in the back, their lives at a sudden impasse.

I curled a strand of red hair around my finger, gripping it tight. My husband’s gaze bore down on me, and everything around us went still. It reminded me of the time we stayed over in California during one of their earthquakes. The breeze stopped and the birds quieted like someone’d tossed a blanket over the whole place. Then it came on us, shaking me to my core, tossing me from my comfortable seat.

I gripped the table. Arthur shook his head at me, and disgust curled his lips into a false smile. “I’m a long-haul trucker. We live in our sleeper cab. We don’t have a house.” He listed things in a cold, detached way that told me his stress level had reached an all-time high. I also noticed he left the biggest issue off his list. He never wanted children. Until the moment I took the pregnancy test, neither had I.

“Would you like some herb tea?” My hand shook as I lifted the silver teapot toward him.

His eyes refocused on me. “Tea?”

I motioned to the basket of mixed teabags the waitress had left for us. “To calm you down.”

I waited for him to yell. Maybe take a swing at me. But he didn’t. Instead, Arthur did something that surprised me. He got up, tossed money on the table, and walked out. Stunned, I didn’t move. He must have needed time to think. After all, I’d had a week to process the idea. He’d come back in a while, and we’d figure out what to do. Arthur could be a hard man, no one knew that better than me. The baby would change all that.

A picture of a house nestled in the trees, a garden out back, and maybe a dog to keep us company while Arthur was out on the road, formed in my mind. I touched my stomach, daydreaming, until a familiar rumble startled me back to the present. I peered out the window, tipping to the side to see the parking lot, and saw diesel smoke bellow out of the chrome stacks.

He was warming up the truck. I took fast bites of my lunch, not wanting to make him wait for me any longer, but my stomach rebelled. I’d get a to-go box and take it with me. And the tea—that’d be just the thing to settle my stomach on the road. I almost got the waitress’s attention when I heard the engine shift from idling to engaged. My hand froze mid-air and I watched as if in slow motion. Our big rig pulled out of the parking lot and past the window where I sat. The brown cab, splotched with dirt and oil from thousands of miles on the road, moved across the front parking lot of the restaurant, pulled out, drove to the light, then turned the corner out of sight. My heart raced, but my legs went numb.

He’d left. He’d be back, he had to come back. I read the maps for him. He probably went to get supplies to let me finish lunch. We were overdue on an oil change—hadn’t he noticed the shop up the road? I nibbled my food, glancing out the window between bites, sure he’d come pulling in any minute. Any minute.

A full hour later, I still sat in the booth. The waitress refilled my hot water pot. “You okay, honey?"

I started to say what we all say when a stranger asks such a question. I started to tell her I was fine. Instead, when I opened my mouth, a sob came out.
“He’s gone,” I managed to get out and then swallowed hard, realizing a new point of panic. “I don’t even know where I am.” The smell of fried potatoes and eggs wafted off the waitress and traipsed over to my nose. My stomach churned.

“I’m sure he’ll be back.”

I glanced at her hopeful blue eyes. Her name tag said Donna. The lines around her smile and age spots on her hands showed her to be in her mid-fifties. “They all come back.”

“I didn’t think he’d leave.” I shivered even as others around me shed their jackets. Maybe I was going into shock.

“Come with me, sweetie.” She pulled me up from the booth and led me down the hall, past the kitchen entry—where I held my breath—to a door painted white with a seventies confetti sparkle. After pulling out a key, she unlocked it, revealing a long shadowy staircase.

“We’ve got a small apartment up there. Just a studio.” She paused, her voice softening. “It’s unoccupied. Go lay down a bit. Life always looks better after a nap.”

At the very suggestion of a nap, my body went on autopilot. I trudged up the stairwell and she closed and locked the door behind me. For a moment, I considered if I’d been voluntarily kidnapped. As I topped the stairs, I found a cozy room with a kitchenette. In the corner sat a daybed, all made up, as if waiting for me. I headed toward it, past the love seat and small coffee table, my eyes focused on the pillow. Everything was clean, dust free, hair free. I lay down and turned my face into the bedding. As the aroma of baby powder dryer sheets met my nose, I gave in and cried myself to sleep.

The smell of coffee woke me. I cracked my eyes and took in my surroundings. It hit me again that I’d been abandoned, and I buried deeper under the comforter. A bright light came in through the window sheers as the sun rose. I heard rustling in the kitchenette and saw Donna’s back.

“What time is it?” My croaky voice surprised me. I must have cried harder than I thought.

Donna turned and gave me a soft smile. Her eyes held regret. “Sorry, didn’t mean to wake you. It’s just a bit after five.”

“Five? In the morning?” I sat up too fast and the room spun.

Donna rushed over and kept me from toppling off the bed. “I peeked in on you after closing last night, and you were sleeping hard. You looked like you needed the rest.”

I’d been there all night. We’d been married for seven years and not once had I spent the night away from Arthur. He’d never even let me go home for a visit.
“I’ve got coffee in the kitchen.”

Autopilot kicked on, because otherwise I’d be sobbing. “Thanks.” I looked around and saw a door. “Is that the bathroom?”

“Sure is. You go clean up—fresh towels inside. Feel free to take your time. You come on down for breakfast when you feel up to it.” She patted my back and headed out of the room. Her heels clicked on the stairs as she tromped down. “I’m locking you in, but you can flip it from the inside. It’s just to keep wanderers out.”

“Thanks,” I called. Bracing myself against the bed, I got up and waited for the room to still again. Low blood sugar ran in my family. I remembered hearing my mama complaining about it when she was pregnant with my sisters and brother. That must be what was wrong with me. Heading into the bathroom, I found not only fresh towels, but a bottle of shampoo, soap, packaged toothbrush, and toothpaste. A shiny clean hairbrush sat on the mirror shelf. And a fresh package of underwear, amazingly just about my size, lay on the back of the toilet. Tears pooled in my eyes.

Glancing into the mirror over the tiny sink, I caught sight of matted red hair and mascara stains running down my cheeks. I hoped I hadn’t ruined Donna’s pillowcase. In the shower, I ran my soapy fingers over the tiny hump I imagined on my stomach. Realistically, the baby couldn’t be showing yet—but something felt different. Firmer. As I stepped from the shower, emotionally lighter, nausea washed through me. Before I knew it, I was over the toilet, vomiting bile.

My mother survived this four times, and toward the end of each one, resentment began to show. As it was only my third time throwing up, I didn’t feel bitter yet. Maybe that would come later?

Fully clothed and cleaned, I felt more human. My toast had gone cold. A real breakfast sounded good. I headed downstairs, thinking about how I could pay back Donna for her kindness—and for the breakfast I would eat. My hand protectively covered my stomach. I needed to figure out what to do next, but I couldn’t get my brain to engage. I didn’t have any cash on me. I needed to find my bank. Regret passed over me. I’d worked hard to save my secret money for emergencies.

Being abandoned qualified.

The restaurant murmured with early morning customers, sipping coffee from their mugs in zombie-like trances. I could almost see the light of life begin to sparkle in their eyes. The aroma of ham and eggs and all things breakfast-like cozied around me.

“There you are.” Donna gave me a bright smile and motioned me to a booth. “What sounds good this morning, sweetie?”

“An omelet, some hash browns, side of fruit?”

“Coming right up.” Donna turned to go.

I caught her arm and motioned her to come closer so I could whisper my shame. “Donna, I don’t have any money right now.”

“It’s on me.” She winked.

Again, I was taken aback. It’d been a long time since I’d met anyone who didn’t want something for, well, everything. Worries rushed through my head. All of my things, though few, were with Arthur. I had no clothes. I had no job. I had no means of getting a job. Reading road maps for the past seven years, and raising my siblings before that, didn’t qualify me for much of anything. While my schoolmates were finishing high school and working at the Fresh Freeze, I directed my husband across the country. My meager savings wouldn’t last long at all.

Donna put the plate before me. “What’s your name, honey?”

This woman fed and housed me, and I’d never even introduced myself to her. I blushed. “Macy Stone.”

“So, Macy, what are your plans?” Donna tucked her order pad into her apron pocket and sat down across from me.

Panic threatened to pop the lid covering my emotions. I had never been on my own. I thought marrying Arthur would take care of my future and give me the freedom I’d dreamed of. Bit of a mistake there. “I need a job.”

“Just so happens, I’m down a waitress. You ever waitressed before?”

I shook my head.

“I can train you, but you need to assure me you’re in for the duration. I don’t want you skipping off to the next place as soon as I get you broke in.”

I almost laughed. I’d never skipped anywhere. And I had no place to go. “What if Arthur comes back?” My question was a hollow one.

“If he comes back, then you can go with him. If you want to.”

My eyes locked on hers. If I wanted to?

Have you ever looked at a lion in a zoo habitat too small for it? You’d expect it to pace back and forth, yell and carry on to be let out. But it just sits there with all the hope squeezed out of it. The idea that there could be something else doesn’t enter its mind anymore. It was just waiting. Waiting for the next rain, for the next meal, for the next time little kids made growling noises at it.

That had been me. But for the first time in my life, I wondered if there was something more.




Submission and (the writer's) Life by April McGowan

When I started writing I was having some health struggles, but I was managing. Years later my illness has taken a turn and demands more control over my life than I'd liked to admit. I've powered through, I've looked past, I've plunged on—but it wasn't until I looked up that I found peace.

Our lives can change when we least expect it—illness, tragedy, or loss is never planned. In those times, it's tempting to grasp for more and more control, but it's a futile attempt. When you are fighting a chronic illness, it's even more futile because the energy you could use more effectively elsewhere is spent on holding fast to something you really should let go of.

My condition comes with severe and surprise fatigue. I never know how much I'm going to accomplish in a day. At first, this frustrated me to no end—and it's still a shock when I'm going along minding my own business and then suddenly I can't go anywhere except to bed. But as I give more and more of my day over to the Lord, I find it's easier to accept those moments. Notice I didn't say like those moments, I'm not sure if that will ever happen, although it's something I hope for.

In the past two years, there’s been a huge shift in my focus. I get up and pray for what the Lord might enable me to do rather than what I want to do. This brings great peace when I can't do all I plan to (which is daily!), because I can rest in God's plans instead of my own. This submission brings great freedom.

Some days that includes writing a few hundred words, or several thousand, or none. Sometimes that means staying still all day or missing out on an event I’d been very excited to attend. More often than not, though, the Lord enables me to go and do things I never thought possible. I’m so grateful because I know it’s by His strength and His power I’m moving at all. I’m carried in the very palm of His mighty hand—what a blessed place to be.

I've come to see, though, that I should have been living my life like this all along—ill or not. That's where He wants all of us. Rather than going our own way, we should pray in submission for what He might have for us every day, every moment. It' s our best hope so we don't miss anything He has in store for us and this, in turn, brings a greater intimacy with our Lord.

Are you powering through life with your own agenda, longing for a peace that eludes? Or are you sitting alone feeling useless because of an illness or circumstances beyond your control? I’d offer up neither are a right place to be. Start your day out by not starting, but by sitting still, praying for what He might have for you today. You will be surprised at where He takes you.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Psalm 37:3-5 Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.

April's Ah-hahs To Tweet:
Inspirational fiction author @AprilKMcGowan: What happens when you don’t accomplish your goals? (Tweet This)

Everyone’s Story: Author @AprilMcGowan on #writing and #ChronicIllness (Tweet This)

Like #ChristianFiction #Women’sFiciton? Check out @AprilMcGowan’s #BookGiveaway (Tweet This)

Author's Bio:
April McGowan loves to read and write healing fiction. She and her husband, two children, and her mews, Spookers, live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. April is a member of Oregon Christian Writers and American Christian Fiction Writers. When she’s not writing, homeschooling her two children, or playing board games, you might find her at her drum kit, imagining she’s on a world tour. Hey, it could happen. April’s next novel, To Hold the Light, is with her agent, David Van Diest, and she’s in progress of writing her first non-fiction title, Things Your Chronically Ill Friend Wishes You Knew.






43 comments:

  1. Hi April,

    So fun to get acquainted with Macy! And thanks for your encouraging article…take care ad keep up the good work. gkittleson@myomnitel.com

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    1. Gail, thanks for visiting! MACY is a must read--I love April's voice in this story.

      Enjoy your weekend.

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    2. Thanks for stopping by, Gail!

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  2. A lovely post thank you & I enjoyed the read through.

    marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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    1. It's always a pleasure to see you, Mary!

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    2. Nice to meet you, Mary!

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  3. I enjoyed the excerpt of MACY.. I think I've read about this book somewhere else & thought it sounded so good! Thanks for the giveaway :)
    dkstevensne AToutlookD oTCoM

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    1. Waving fondly, Deanna! I think you'd enjoy MACY. I have yet to read JASMINE (which April also offers the choice of in her Giveaway) but really want to add it to my TBR pile of delicious reads.

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    2. So glad you enjoyed reading the excerpt, Deanna. Thanks for commenting!

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  4. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
    Thank you for this encouraging article. When things are hard it's so easy to look around and think there's no use, but God will see us through because His plans never fail. If He gives us a job to do He will enable us. Glad I saw this post today. :)

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    1. Donna, welcome to Everyone's Story. I'm glad you enjoyed April's uplifting words. But know what? You gave me a boost in spirit just now too. Thanks!

      Hope to see you again.

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    2. PS, Donna: if you're interested in April's Giveaway, please include your email address in a comment or use the "Contact Me" form on the right-hand sidebar.

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    3. So grateful His plans for us are above ours, Donna! I often aim too low, when I should just aim for Him and what He wants from me. Jesus reminds us His time is easy and His burden light. Many blessings!

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  5. Awesome opening to your book, April,

    And such wise words from you. Just exactly what I needed to hear today.

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    1. Bonnie, welcome to Everyone's Story! So glad you could visit. I'm glad April's words lifted your spirits today.

      Hope to see you again.

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    2. Thanks, sweet Bonnie! I'm glad it touched you. HUGS.

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  6. This was so encouraging! Thanks April for sharing. I loved the reminder to pray for what God enables me to do this day, this hour, instead of doing what I want to do or what I feel I ought to do. That removes a load of guilt!

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    1. Karen, you made it on over! So happy you visited!

      As April says, really, it's all about trusting in Him… a lesson I need to actively participate and remember each and every day in this otherwise scary world.

      Hope to see you again!

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    2. It certainly lightens the load of self-imposed expectations....which can totally derail us from the goals God has in mind for us, and be very self-defeating! Many blessings!

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  7. Proverbs 3:5-6 are probably some of the first scripture I memorized. And like you it makes me sad that I wait until a problem comes up to depend wholly on the Lord. But as I get older, I'm depending more. Wonderful post and Macy sounds like something I want to read.

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    1. Thanks for visiting this evening, Pat. Thanks for all your visits!

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    2. Patricia, that peace that passes all understanding is worth the submission every time! Thanks for stopping by! Many blessings.

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  8. April thank you for this! You are an amazing author. I'll never forget Jasmine! ~Blessings, Sandi

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    1. Sandi, I am so pleased to see you here! I love when we can all encourage one another and through the years, you've been an encouragement to me! God bless.

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    2. Sandi! The admiration is mutual! Hugs! Thanks for posting!

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  9. Thanks so much for this post, April. It's perfectly timed for me - just as relevant for someone living with a person with a chronic illness <3

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    1. Oh, Autumn, may He especially bless you and those you love. Thanks for visiting, and for the Tweet.

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    2. I'm so glad, Autumn. Many you feel His presence mightily as you go through your day. We can face anything if we know we're not alone! Prayers and blessings!

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  10. Thank you for sharing your heart, April, and to Elaine for
    hosting her. This has encouraged me to worry more about
    what God has for me to do and enables me to do rather
    than worry about my agenda. This was a pertinent reminder!

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    1. Kathy, thanks much for your visit. I so agree with you! April has also helped to put things into a good perspective.

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    2. Kathleen, it's helped me tremendously to remember that! That surrender has brought me great peace...as long as I remember!! When I find myself frustrated, then I know I'm off track!

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  11. What a situation Macy finds herself in... I look forward to reading more of her story!

    pattymh2000(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. Thanks for visiting today, Patty. MACY was a wonderful read!

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    2. Thanks very much, Patty! I hope you enjoy reading through her journey! Thanks for commenting☺

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  12. Illness is sure a pain in the butt, sometimes literally lol, can go about one's life at your hut, then boom it hits. Sure is the pits. But have to keep on keeping on indeed at every feed.

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    1. Hey, Pat! So glad you swung around down under for a visit with April and me. You're so right about pressing forward.

      Happy to see you again!

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    2. Truth! It's not easy to persevere, The Bible verse that connects most personally with me is James 1:2 Count it all Joy. It reminds me that all these trials are for a purpose and can mold and shape me for better if I let them. Not easy to remember in all circumstances, though!

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  13. Dealing with this issue for an extended period of time made me sensitive to it. Now I need April's insights to be able to articulate the experience and reach out to others. SandraAllenLovelace@gmail.com

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    1. Nice to see you again, Sandra, though sorry to learn that you've been dealing with health issues. I think each one of us, whether we're the ones who endure a chronic illness or love another who suffers, can gain a good and perhaps heavenly-sent, perspective from April. God bless.

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    2. I'm sorry you've been struggling. It's never easy. I'm so grateful that God never wastes a thing in our lives if we give it over to Him.I pray He can use your story to touch someone else. Hugs.

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  14. Due to an approaching thunderstorm, I'm racing to get my next feature launched, however I'm so sorry this week with my lovely guest, April McGowan is ending. April, I hope you'll come back! You're already in the high Top Ten of my all-time biggest viewer hit features. Yay for you! A blessing for me and my viewers! Thank you.

    April, thanks too for your wonderful BookGiveaway. And the winner of April's Giveaway is…

    Karen W. Congratulations, Karen. Both April and I will contact you directly in emails.

    Blessings to all.

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    1. Thanks so much for having me as a guest. I loved getting to know you and reading all the comments and chatting with your readers! You have blessed me greatly!

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    2. Thanks for the smile, April.

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