Happy Birthday to…

me!! Ok, really, I’m not that self-absorbed… but it is my birthday!

This reminds me of a great story that of course, being the story teller I am, I just have to tell!

Being a payroll manager by day, I receive numerous emails from staffing agencies trying to ‘sell’ me new employees. What they fail to realize is that we have a highly competent HR department who handles such things, so they are barking up the wrong tree. Nevertheless, this particular gentleman has my email on his ‘list’. Monthly, I receive kooky emails from him with strange gimmicks, usually tied to the current season or holiday. It is just… weird… I’ll leave it at that.

Last month, I received my monthly email from him. In the title it said, “Happy Birthday… to me!!” The email went on to explain that it really was his birthday, and in honor of that, and due to the fact that he had not received emails from several people on his list, he was asking everyone to reply to him, wishing him a Happy Birthday.

I was speechless. Well, actually, I did say very loudly, “You have got to be kidding me!” which resulted in a funny look from Jeff, my fellow office-mate. (I am used to getting funny looks from Jeff… he is ever so patient with me while we share an office!)

But seriously, have you ever heard of something so crazy? “Please wish me a happy birthday!” Can you imagine getting an email like that? I just know one person is going to read this and have done just that. For you, I apologize… but, just don’t do it again, ok?

After receipt of this email, I promptly marched myself into our HR generalists office, and asked her if we used this company. She said no, and I said, “Thank goodness!” Since she had received the same email, we agreed that the agency would be put on our ‘never ever use’ list.

So, the birthday boy’s plan backfired on him. He was obviously trying to force connections through the email, but instead it was highly offensive and just plain creepy.

Lately, I have been thinking more and more about marketing. As a hopeful writer, I am still dreaming of the day when some brilliant agent or publisher sees my proposal, is knocked off their socks and calls me with the good news. And when that day comes, I know it will be time to pull out all my stores of ‘marketing’ knowledge and put them to good use. But how much is too much? At what point do you become self-absorbed in the process?

I was talking with my mother one day, and she asked me if I would use a pen name when my book was published. Notice she used the word ‘when’ vs. ‘if’. I love my Mom!! I promptly told her I would not, I am who I am! Not that pen names are bad. I think they have their purpose and every author needs to examine their heart and pray about it if they feel this is something God wants them to do. But how do you market yourself as an author if you are not a real person?

There are two very differing extremes, but no right or wrong answer. The first extreme are those who feel God has called them to write and do not want to be the center of attention. They feel they are being humble by staying out of the spot light, and letting the light rest on God instead. I applaud them for their spirit, and for their desire to please God. But I would challenge them to read the Bible and see if this is truly what God has called us as Christians to be.

Jesus says we are to be salt and light to the world. Jesus did not seclude himself, but put himself out there, meeting people, healing people, loving people. The Apostle Paul notes that we are to strive to be like Jesus. Now, I am not the greatest speaker, in fact I stink pretty badly at it. And I also have to gulp and mentally prepare myself for networking, something I too am not brilliant at. But dad-gum-it, I’ll give it my all when I’m called to do so! God doesn’t ask for perfection, but asks for a willingness to learn and let God do his thing. I can write all I want, but if I am not willing to put myself out there and get my books sold, who is going to hear the message God gave me? Who will be influenced by these things that God has inspired me to write? What good am I if I stay in my own little world and don’t be a light?

But I do think there is another extreme to this, one that is just as dangerous. I think that once you have your books out there, are mingling with the people, getting hoards of fan mail, and seeing your name all over Christian bookstores, it would be really hard to stay humble. I know many writers do, and I applaud them for that. But I worry that sometimes it would be easy to go to their head. I don’t know any of them personally, so I am not passing judgment, but I do see where caution is needed and a concerted effort to stay humble and to always make sure God is the center, not the author.

Now, I am sure I’m putting the cart before the horse. Maybe I shouldn’t think of all these things before I even have a contract. But then again, I think now is the best time for me to figure out who I am, what my goals and limits are, and how I can be an author who is passionate about marketing without being an author who is passionate about fame and notoriety.

It is kind of like dating. My mom always told us that our rules with boys should be ‘no touching below the shoulders or above the knees’. While we always glared at her and thought she was being so old fashioned (after all, that meant no hugging because his hands would be on your back!), it reinforced to us that boundaries are needed BEFORE you go on the date so you can see the red flags, making it easier to say, ok, going too far, we need to scale it back a notch.

I realize that I still have tons to learn, but am getting there!! Every day I feel one step closer, and the excitement gets a little more real. God has a plan and a purpose. I feel like a little girl waiting anxiously for her birthday present, knowing that her Dad got the perfect present for her. My mom and I were talking yesterday, and I noted to her that I wasn’t sure if I should feel so excited. I feel like God is sprinkling little bits of hope everyday, and she reminded me that God doesn’t lie. He doesn’t answer prayer and give us hope for no reason. God loves us and wants to give us GOOD gifts if we are willing to be patient, receive and obey.

I’ll leave today with my most favorite verse in the bible. This is the verse that has gotten me through many low points in my life, and fills me with hope whenever I read it, no matter now hopeless the situation is:

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.