Tuesday, March 14, 2017

SEEDS: It Needed to Focus Much More on Redemption

I recently received a fairly brutal review on my book SEEDS from a Christian reader who reads mostly good, clean Christian fiction. I can honestly say, I took this review in stride as merely her opinion. However, I do take my reviews seriously and really look at them as a way to improve my work. In this case, the reviewer gave a very thorough review that showed she is very detail oriented in her reading. I truly appreciate that she took the time to read my book, then took the time to post a review with such detail, however, something about it was nagging at me. Not in a "boo for you for not liking it" way, but something about it felt unfinished. I couldn't put my finger on what it was, but, finally, it hit me, so I'm going to share it with you.

This reviewer was obviously detail oriented. She mentioned typos, inappropriate ellipsis use, she attacked my characters as well as my setting, and didn't like the resolve of the story. She even mentioned that she forced herself to finish reading the book even though she didn't want to BECAUSE there was a statement in the beginning of the book where I, as the author, ask the reader to push through the discomfort of the subject matter to see the book as a whole. After carefully reading the review several times, I felt confident that she read it from cover to cover and paid attention.

I will quote what I felt was her biggest complaint of the book:

"It needed to focus much more on the transformation and the process of redemption and healing, instead of focusing on the sin and sex."

That sentence really stuck out to me. I began to ask myself why would she feel that way? Did I focus too much on the sin and not enough on the redemption?

BAM! It hit me like a picnic table being dropped on my big toe!

For all her criticism over something she felt she had been completely thorough with, she had actually missed something major. I'm not sure if it was a lack of understanding or perhaps a complete oversight, but the bottom line is this—her perceived thoroughness did not keep her from missing the ENTIRE point of the story. As such, her harsh judgement of the book ends up null and void to me.

Let me explain.

The book Seeds is based on the parable of the Seeds and the Sower, a story Jesus told in the Bible. This is clearly stated in the beginning of the book. I even included the parable in the beginning of the book.

The parable is the story of four seeds (God's word) being dropped in four different types of soil (a person's heart). The condition of the soil determines the longevity of the seeds. Three of the seeds die and only one flourishes. This is not a failing of the seed (God's word), but a warning that the condition of our soil (our heart) is the make-or-break part of the seed's ability to grow.

In addition to telling the reader the book is based on these scriptures, I also named each chapter very intentionally to go a long with the parable.

Examples:  CORY-The Soil,  CORY-The Seed, CORY-The Sowing,  CORY-The Failed Harvest

At the end of each chapter, I included a scripture from the parable to summarize the purpose of that particular chapter.

Example from the end of CORY-The Failed Harvest: "When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path."

In my book, each male character represents one of the soils from the parable, and since I was trying to show the importance of the condition of our hearts when God calls to us. Just like in the parable, three of the characters fail to "get it" and thus, are not able to transform or heal. Instead, they remain stuck in their sins even though God was clearly speaking to them, asking them to change. Only one character has the correct attitude, ability to hear and listen, and humility for God's calling. He flourishes.

If one understands this parable, and they understand the analogy I was trying to make, then they would understand that redemption is not the POINT of the story. NOT EVEN A LITTLE. The point of the story is that we are responsible for our soil.

I understand that this whole idea is not overwhelmingly positive. Three to one odds are low and can be seen as a bit hopeless and to be honest, I struggled with this as I prepared the book for publication. It seemed depressing. However, THIS IS THE POINT.  It's up to us, people with free-will, to be responsible for the condition of our hearts. It's an extremely difficult task to keep ourselves in check, especially when God is calling to us asking us to change something in our lives that we like. The Bible tells us, the narrow road is lightly traveled, while the wide is filled with the masses.

I had a hard time leaving my characters high and dry, so-to-speak, because I happen to know from personal experience, that a failed soil doesn't necessarily mean the area should be abandoned. God is the kind of God who continues dropping seeds in our soil all throughout our lives. He does this hoping that one of them will finally take. For this reason, I decided to add an additional chapter called "Second Chances" where each of the failed soils, the characters who were not ready for God, are given another opportunity to let God's seed grow. By the end of the book, every single character has hope for their future. No, they don't all go live happily-ever-after, but each story ends showing that the road to redemption has begun. And just so you know, the final three books of this series are about that redemption.

In closing, I just want to say that the review process can be frustrating, especially when something like this happens. I once had a reviewer criticize my writing in the beginning of this book, saying that after the first section, the writing got better. I realized what she was referring to was Cory's language. You see, I wasn't making errors, I was showing that Cory's character was not very educated and his speech reflected that. No, I didn't magically learn how to "write" in the second section. That was purposeful. I wonder if this reviewer was counting those errors against me as well. I assure you, the book was edited professionally and wasn't released until we felt it was as good as it could be.

As an author, it is my goal to provide people with quality entertainment. It is also my goal to share a message. My books come from my heart and putting them out there for the world is sort of like standing in the street naked. While reviews are very appreciated, I ask that as you go forward with them that you remember that each story has a person behind it. One with a heart and a love for what they do. Please, be kind, even in your criticism.

Blessings on your day - may your soil be rich with humility and grace!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

"I Thought You Had Your S*** Together"

August and September 2016 have been rough for me. I've had some pretty difficult, life-changing things happening and as a result, I tightened up my Facebook privacy for a time. I wanted to feel free to use my personal FB page to be real. To share my challenges as well and my blessings in a way that I wouldn't have to "edit" myself for the public.

As a person who wears my heart on my sleeve, the people who remained on my friend list were able to see exactly what I was thinking and feeling at any given moment. In the beginning, it was a lot of rough stuff. I was feeling lost, hopeless, and very down. But as the days went on I was able to see how God was using all of it to shape me.

One day, I got a surprise FB message from someone who I had considered a friend. She is a fellow Christian aspiring writer who had contacted me years ago for some Christian writing advice. We became friends and  I let her in my inner-circle, even made her a beta reader for me. However, I removed her from that circle awhile back due to something that happened between us. I removed her to protect my heart using my boundaries. I forgave her and didn't kick her out of my life completely, just used my boundaries more wisely. People show you where they belong in your life. All you have to do is watch and listen.

Here is the message she sent me:

Okay, the moment I read it, I went back and looked at my wall to see what I had been putting out there, to see if there was too much negativity and I will be honest, there was some. But there was also a lot of hope. Typical me would have taken that message to heart and been very hurt, but because of the boundaries I had applied to this person, I was able to just blow it off.

But I wanted to use it, dissect it on this blog to share a few things that I think people, especially Christians, should be more cognizant of as they express themselves to others.

1) "I really thought you had all your shit together"
There is a very incorrect perception of Christians that the fact we are Christian means "we have our shit together".  This is laughable. The truth is, being a Christian is all about NOT having our shit together. I for one need Jesus BECAUSE I am far from having my shit together. Yes, I fall apart. Yes, I fail. Yes, my life can be overwhelming and frustrating. Yes, I behave poorly at times. Yes, I find it hard to trust God sometimes when things are hard. But my faith in God assures me that I don't HAVE to have all my shit together. He's got it in His hands. I am so grateful for that.

2) "even with all of your SUPPOSED mental health issues"
The word 'supposed' indicates that this person has some qualms about whether my issues are real or not. To that I say, wow. I do not need to prove anything to anyone. I am open about my mental health issues for the purpose of education, and letting others know they are not alone in the world. That is my choice to be open about and it is my hope that someday the shame that goes a long with mental health troubles can be lessened.

3) "I'm realizing now that you don't"
Um, duh. Yeah, if you have the perception that ANYONE in the world doesn't have issues - you're delusional. There may be people out there who pretend really well, but guess what... it's pretend. Everyone has problems. Everyone has issues. I choose to share mine and be open about them for the purpose of helping others who deal with similar. God actually calls us to do this in the Bible:

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16

James 5:16 is one of my life verses and I will continue to share myself with others, especially my sins and failures, until the day I die.

4) "I can't handle all of the negativity and depression you bring with you"
I can absolutely understand this! Negativity spreads and if someone is constantly negative, it can suck the life out of you. If I am causing someone to feel heaviness, then by all means... delete me! PLEASE! The Bible says this:

Above all else, guard your heart  Proverbs 4:23

Guarding your heart in this way is something that can be done quietly. Why not delete and move on? In my opinion, sending a message like this has one purpose: to cause pain. Purposely causing pain to someone is not an act of friendship or love. It is selfish and unnecessary if your goal is to guard your heart. And just for fun, I would like to share with you the posts on my wall from that day so you can tell me if you think I was being overly negative.

5) "I wish you the best and I will be praying for you... I will pray for you that you find a way to become a stronger person."
Okay, so this is a huge peeve of mine. HUGE! I call it "Biblical Weaponry", using the Bible or your prayer life to insult someone. If you are earnest in wanting to pray for someone, you do not need to tell them about it. You just do it. And if you are earnest, you certainly don't want to insult them if you DO choose to tell them about your intention to pray for them. In my opinion, Biblical Weapontry is one of the ways the devil tries to divide God from His creations. If satan can get you to wield a Biblical dagger, he succeeds in perpetuating the hypocritical vision much of the world has of Christians.

6) "I wish you the best and I will be praying for you... I will pray for you that you find a way to become a stronger person."
Lastly, when I look back at my life and all the things I've been through, I am aware that I am one of the strongest people to have walked the planet BUT I am also aware that that strength is not my own. It is God within me. I myself am weak, very weak. And I like it that way. It is not my goal to be a strong person. It is my goal to let God lead me with His strength through my weakness. The world thinks that weakness is bad and strength is good but in my opinion, the world is wrong. It takes great strength to be weak.

He must become greater; I must become less.  John 3:30

In closing, I just want to say I am proud of myself for not letting what this person said to me upset me. Yes, I forgive her. No, I'm not planning to let her back within my boundaries system. Sometimes the best way we can choose to love someone is to love them from far away.

Friday, March 25, 2016

CONCEPTIONS: I Would NEVER Have An Abortion

This is a comment someone made on a thread on my Facebook wall with regard to my book "Conceptions" which is coming out in April (hopefully). I want to tell you, I don't think it was made purposefully to be hurtful, but I wanted to use it to teach ya'll something.

"I just want to say, I have had two unplanned pregnancies and I would NEVER have an abortion."

It was typed just like that... and like I said, I don't think the comment was meant to be unkind, judgmental or disrespectful but unfortunately, in my mind, this is the kind of statement that can make a person who HAS made the decision to abort (for whatever reason) feel very judged.

We need to remember that everything that comes out of our mouths has the potential to praise or pause a person. When we discuss touchy subjects, we need to remember that not everyone feels the same way we do. Or maybe, they do feel the way we do BUT had circumstances arise in their life that made them choose something they normally wouldn't have... and that hurts deeply.

Today is Good Friday 2016, the day we remember Jesus' sacrifice... His life traded for ours. His perfectness given for our imperfections. His anguish in exchange for our eternal pleasure in heaven. His gift of full forgiveness.

Some women who have abortions do not struggle over that decision... but many do. Many are deeply regretful and shamed to the point of it being THE secret of their life, forever tormenting them and keeping them from accepting the full forgiveness Jesus sacrificed for. When others intentionally OR unintentionally remind them of that shame through statements such as the one above, all it does is make them want to push that secret deeper within their soul in an effort to keep it hidden. A pain hidden in the dark festers and the longer is festers, the farther it becomes from the light.

If you are a Christian and believe that Jesus truly died for all of our sins... all people, all sins... please, be mindful with your words that they aren't pushing the shame of the sin deeper into the darkness, but instead shine love on the hurting so the light can bring them freedom.

Your opinion will most likely not change someone's heart but your love just might.

Friday, March 11, 2016

30 BELOW: Entirely Inappropriate

Here is a review I received today from a reader of 30 Below:
"I was unable to read this book as the sexual content was so graphic. The book opens with graphic sex when a "Christian" couple has sex on the first night they meet. I fast forwarded to close to the end. From reading reviews, I understand the author has the same couple abstain from sex, yet there are many lustful references and remarks that are entirely inappropriate. The "Christian" characters also used inappropriate language. I advise anyone who is seeking holiness and to please God to avoid this."

Here's what I have to say... in 1 Corinthians Chapter 9 Apostle Paul says this:

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

As a Christian, I refuse to pretend people having sex the night they meet doesn't happen. It happens. Ignoring the fact it happens is one of the reasons our society has gone sex crazy. The reality of this makes me sad and it is exactly why I wrote this book, to tackle a tough subject and to explain the why to a world that doesn't seem to understand the why.

I write for God, I follow what He tells me to do.  Just as I can not be effective in a Spanish speaking country unless I speak Spanish, I can not be effective to my audience unless I am relateable. The people I am trying to reach with God's love smell judgment from a mile away and have no interest in becoming judgmental. Unfortunately, that's what Christians look like to a lot of people. 

Not everyone is going to like my approach and that is okay, I get it. But that doesn't mean it's bad. I'm trying to do something in an effort to help improve some of the societal problems that exist today instead of ignoring them and keeping God's goodness all to myself. God loves all of us. ALL OF US! Even people who use bad language and have sex outside of marriage. Does His love make it okay for us to do whatever we want... NO! But Jesus died to rescue ALL of us. I'm reaching with His hand in hopes to touching the pained.

Lastly... there was a very clear warning about this book. I'm sorry it was missed by this reader but this is what it said:
CONTENT WARNING: While this book is Christian in theme, it contains strong sexual content and language.

Oh - and I pray this reader doesn't even attempt to read Seeds... God help us all if she does.

Have a great night everyone!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

MIND BLOWN by a Christian's Response...

If you are easily offended by very off-color remarks about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit you will want to skip this blog entry. I mean it. Skip it. If you don't skip it and you should have, you can't blame me. I'm just saying.

I recently made a post in a public forum that was a controversial discussion of Christian fiction authors including sex in their books. There was an overwhelming negativity and judgment of Christian authors who do this so I wanted to weigh in. Here is what I said...

"I write realistic stories about the messy world we live in and I let my characters work through the issues in a moral way. For me, my morals are based in Christianity - but I don't write about perfection. I write about messes and how to heal. If you're interested here is my website www.wendyoleston.com   All Christians sin, Christians make mistakes, Christians even make BIG mistakes. Christians have sex... watch porn... do drugs... and God still loves them. That's what I write about - not to glorify it but to give hope to the broken and help them find the way to healing."

Not too long after I posted, I received a few responses.

One older Catholic male simply said, "I'll pass, thanks..."
I can respect that. Thank you Kevin B***. I have no problem with your response.

However... this OTHER gentleman who was offended by the idea of sex within a Christian book responded. He is one of those brave people who makes witty responses without using his name... but you see, I figured out how to find out who these brave people really are... so I know who he is and let me tell you, Fred M***... you should be ashamed of yourself.

Here is what anonymous Fred said...
"How about a gangbang with the Three Persons in God nailing Mary?"


Let me just spell this out for you in case you haven't caught what I just tossed at you...

Brave Fred, is offended by Christians who write about sex.
But brave Fred was comfortable saying THAT horrible thing.


I've been reading up on this subject, Christianity and sex, and let me tell you - it's ugly. I don't think I've ever seen Christians look more hideous and I'm embarrassed for them... for not seeing the hypocrisy in their nastiness. It saddens me greatly.

I really have nothing else to say except this...

Please forgive them, they know not what they do.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

How Can You Call Yourself a Christian Author When Your Life is So Screwed Up

How can I call myself a Christian author when my life is so screwed up... my past especially, but my present is far from perfect now.

No, no one actually SAID this to me but I was recently attacked by someone who obviously feels this way. I get it. I do... however, this is the biggest misconception of Christianity out there, that just because a person calls themselves a Christian, they are perfect.

I wrote a blog about this very subject not too long ago so I am going to point to that:


Within this attack on me, I was called a few very unkind names and scripture was used a weapon against me. Again, I get it.

Yes, as a Christian, I am a walking breathing reflection of Jesus and I should keep that in mind as I walk through my day and get pounded with temptation. Because I am an OPEN Christian, this is especially true. My mistakes look bad on Him, and they breed hypocrisy. Does my inability to perfectly reflect Jesus mean I shouldn't be an open Christian? Should I hide my faith simply because I will mostly certainly disappoint God or the neighborhood? I could... but it is my choice to press on, stand firm on my God, and trust that He is bigger than my failures. If I screw up someone's perception of Christianity because of my own behavior, He can handle fixing it with that person. I choose to look at the people who might be impacted positively instead of the ones who might be turned away.

My failures as a Christian are between God and I, sometimes they require apologies to people which I am well aware of and very driven to offer when necessary. I also know that someone else's name calling and Bible verse weaponry are between them and God. I do not expect an apology yet I choose to forgive, learn, and move on, none-the-less.

THAT is how I can call myself a Christian author when my life is so screwed up.

Blessings on your day!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

SEEDS: God Wouldn't Lead Anyone To Infidelity

Recently my book SEEDS received several reviews from some ladies who I feel have completely missed the point of the book. The general theme of their very short feedback was this:

"God wouldn't lead anyone to infidelity as an answer."


Okay, let me try to respond to this the most simple way possible.

SEEDS is about sexual sin and it's ramifications.
Infidelity is a sexual sin.
God does not condone infidelity or ANY sexual sin.
The book does not condone infidelity.
In the book, God speaks to 4 characters directly, telling them their wrong and the way to freedom.
In the book, 3 of the character's do not listen and choose to do their own thing.
The infidelity in the book is a result of the character's doing their own thing and not listening to God.
Therefore, God did not lead the character's to infidelity as an answer to anything.
The infidelity is a sexual sin, one with consequences.

Okay with all that said, I will say what I said to my Sunday school class of 2nd and 3rd graders this past weekend as we studied the parable of the Seed and the Sower (which is the parable SEEDS is loosely based on), God drops the seed... sometimes it gets stolen, sometimes it doesn't root quite right, sometimes we reject it, and sometimes we get it right... but most importantly, God is a loving God who never gives up on us. He has more than enough seeds to continue dropping into our soil for as long as it takes for us to get it. God gives second, third, fourth, fifteenth... how ever many chances it takes. Just keep trying.

We all sin. Some of us sin sexually through premarital sex, pornography, and yes... even infidelity... no, God does not lead any of us to those sins and say, "Hey, you should do THIS," but let's face it - they happen because we are sinners. What my book was SUPPOSED to say is this...

God loves us despite our sexual sin and it's never too late to get on board with His will. Sometimes, it's too late to fix things with a spouse or loved one... but it's never too late to fix things with God.

As Christians, we are called to love the sinner and hate the sin. I hate to tell you this, but if you decided to despise all of the people who have committed adultery... you'd probably be a very lonely person. Instead of looking down at them for their confusion over their need to be loved, why not do what God does and love them despite it. Loving them doesn't mean you condone their behavior. I know it's hard... but none of us are walking on water.

UPDATE: It turns out the reviews I wrote this blog in response to were not actually real reviews of people who read my book Seeds. Instead, they were a personal attack on me for a personal reason. I am aware of who did it and why. Six months ago I made an apology to this person and gave them an explanation for my strange behavior. Those of you who know me know I suffer with some mental illnesses and sometimes I behave strangely - or even do things I don't remember fully. I shared this about myself and expressed my sincere apologies but obviously, my apology was not accepted. All I can say is, I really am sorry. I am flawed. I don't claim to be anything but flawed. It is times like this I am baffled by the love the Lord has for me... me... a messed up sinner who screws up... yet, He does love me. I am so very thankful for that love. A love I do not deserve yet can always count on. I'm glad I have a God who knows my heart, knows my truth, forgives without a second thought and won't write a mean review of me even when I deserve it.