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Four Years at the Mount

Freshman year

All I can say to 2011 is BRING IT!

Carolyn Shields

(Jan, 2011) Every New Years Eve I take my journal and sit on this window seat at my auntís house to look back on the year. Iíve kept a journal since third grade, and I was both excited and nervous to look back on 2010. My highlight in 2009 was my biggest low the next year; however, 2010 was filled with multiple blessings.

On January 1, 2010 at 00:22, I wrote in my eighteenth journal, "Goals for this year: finish darn revisions. And pray the rosary more." It was one up from my 2009 goal: "find one for next year." I suppose before I go on, I should mention that I've written an historical novel called "Lavender's Blue." It's 84,000 words on the life of Marie Antoinette's daughter Marie ThťrPse during the French Revolution. I would love to give a short synopsis of "Lavenderís Blue," but I will save that for my February article. My highlight in 2009 was hooking an agent after just two query letters. I read several books on the process of submitting query letters, creating ten page synopses, perfecting proposal packages and other really tedious work needed to hook an agent. In 2009, I was highly blessed when an agency in New York wanted me.

So for the next year, until March 2010 I constantly worked with my agent on revising "Lavenderís Blue." I would reread pages up to ten times, reorganizing scenes, and in one revision I changed the verb tense from past to present. I was pumped as you can imagine. It's a writer's dream, working with an established agency. Then I realized during this process that if I'm willing to spend years working on a book, I don't want to do it just for myself. So I began incorporating Catholic values into "Lavenderís Blue" (much more on this in my February article)...It was no longer a hobby. It became a mission to reach out to young teenage girls about the Catholic faith. So last year in my journal, I wrote all about how amazing it was to have this agent who was going to get me somewhere in life.

This year I'm going to write how I've been able to overcome the hardship of losing her. She let me go after a year...a long story (and more of that next month), but I had to tell myself it wasn't the end. I would just have to work hard on that tedious process of researching agencies and querying them until I got another. Well, it's the end of 2010 and I'm still working on it. I have finished all of my revisions on "Lavender's Blue," mostly because I'm out of ideas and need a set of fresh eyes to help me out. I have gotten a couple of agencies from California to New York to review my full manuscript but no luck yet.

For a couple of weeks in the spring, I just sat there and asked God why he cut that rope to my future. Why, if I'm devoting so much time to this novel whose underlying theme is love enduring forever, flashing subliminal messages to this secular world of God's love, WHY would He do this to me? But holding a grudge against God wasn't was making matters worse. I hated how I distanced myself from God because I was angry at him.

And then one night this fall, during the Mount's daily 10 p.m Mass, I listened to Father Brian explain how we all fall sometimes. Jesus fell three times on his way to Calvary. If the Son of God falls three times, we fragile and weak human beings are going to fall hundreds if not thousands of times until we no longer have to carry our cross, until our Guardian Angels lift it off our backs and then carry us on our final stretch to heaven. In the end, it's not about how many times we fall. It's about how many times we get back up.

I realized later that year how that situation forced me into the right frame of mind. I had it easy that first time, hooking that agent so quickly. I'm not taking God's gifts for granted anymore. This trial only made me more determined.

And besides, so many good things have happened in 2010 that that little, stupid trial was overshadowed by those golden shadows I have flitting around in my head. The list of God's gifts in 2010 goes on and on. The snow storms of February. Listening to my best friend's speech at graduation while sitting in the rows of Catoctin students, clad in shades of blue. There were camping trips and digging footers in torrential downpours for our new house and watching my father build his dream board by board. I have to add the Mount and its beautiful community here somewhere...I have this list going of Memories I Love that I only have to glance at and my mood brightens, and let's just say I've added quite a lot of things on that list this fall.

In his song, "Thankful," Josh Groban sings "Some days we forget to look around us. Some days we can't see the joy that surrounds us. So caught up inside ourselves and we take when we should give. But there's so much to be thankful for."So finished revisions this year? Check. But lost the agent. Said the rosary more often? Check. But I've realized as I've grown closer to Mary how far away I was and am.

Whatever I want to happen somehow never turns out how I thought it would. I don't always know what's best for me. It always surprises me when I sit at that window seat each year because I find it's not the goals that I've accomplished that have made my year. It's what God gave me and the challenges he had in store that I overcame, be it change or goodbyes. So maybe this year I won't do goals because I'll never be able to top the highlights God has in store.

Maybe the highlights that I'll be writing on that very same window seat at the end of 2011 will be falling in love, studying in Ireland, earning another agent, and growing in faith. Of course there will be more trials to face. More rejection letters (which pile up fast). But with God's grace, I'm going to stand (or at least rise to my knees) each time I fall.

I can't wait to see what God brings for me this year. All I can say to 2011 is BRING IT!

Read other articles by Caroline Shields