Hello to one and all and all for one,

For those of you who haven't heard the major news - I got cut from Dogs in Hats, my only source of income.  It happened just a couple days after my last Family Update.  I saw this coming, well, about a year and a half ago actually.  I'm amazed things have lasted this long.  Hiccupotamus is doing GREAT - but it's the only thing that's selling for DIH at all, and isn't enough to keep a company going.  The bad news is, due to a broken promise, I was always 'technically' a freelancer so I can't get any Unemplyment.  And due to more broken promises, I also won't be getting either of two other seperate large payments I was supposed to receive. 

Amazingly, I have not been too freaked out about this turn of events.  I saw it coming long long long ago and have been praying that God would give me insight on what I needed to do and when.  He DID give various insights and I've always acted on them.  And I trust that if He had wanted me to do something different, He would have let me know.  But now, it's just kind of exciting -- what's He been thinking all this time?  What's He got planned?  The Lord keeps my body together, He keeps this universe together -- shouldn't be too hard for Him to connect me to a job if He wants to.

The first Sunday after I got word of the job loss, I was teaching my 3rd grade Sunday School class and the lesson was on Mephibosheth.  You know, Mephibosheth...  No - the other Mephibosheth.  Yeah that one.  About how when Saul and Jonathan died, God took care of the orphaned Mephibosheth by having the new king David bring him into the palace as if he his was his own son.  Mephibosheth could have never anticipated that God would do that.  And I thought WOW!  YEAH!  That's how God takes care of people!  In unexpected ways!  God knew I was going to lose my job and He's probably got something better than I could have anticipated already lined up waiting for me to stumble across!

After Sunday School I headed to Junior Church where I oversee the first half of the service for the kids.  Then the other teacher got up to give the Bible lesson portion and taught about the Exodus.  About how God could have led the Israelites straight to the Promised Land, but instead had them go the loooong way through the desert, wandering around and around in the wilderness first.  For 40 years.  And the Israelites couldn't see why He would do that, why He didn't take them straight there, but God was teaching them things they needed to know before entering the land.  And I though oh.  yeah.  That's how God does it sometimes.  Wandering around for a long time first.  oh.

But actually, it established a great frame of mind with which to enter into this adventure.  It was a great reminder that my faith is not in some job out there.  But rather in a Person.  Not assurance in the final destination, but in the One Who takes me there.  So when I pray, more often than praying for a job, I find myself praying that God would take care of our needs, this day, this month.  If He wants to do it through a job, great!  If He wants to do it a different way, great too!

One thing we wanted to do as a family was keep track of all the ways God has taken care of us.  So we put a sheet of paper on the refrigerator and every time we see Him work, we record it.  If His plan is to teach us things, we don't want to miss them!  OR forget them.  And hopefully it's a great learning experience for the kids too as they watch.  The sheet filled FAST.  It's already covered front and back, and we're almost ready for another sheet.

Here's a couple examples of what's on the list:  We were deluged by people bringing us groceries when they heard about the bind we were in.  A real outpouring of love.  However one thing we ran out of was jelly.  And Gracie had just started eating jelly sandwiches (it's always hard to find things she'll eat...)  We have no money to buy food, so all day Amity was trying to concoct ways to make fake jelly when it ran out -- crush up blueberries we'd been given????  It was the focus of the whole day's conversation.  Amity was even praying for a way to buy jelly.  That night some friends of the family gave a surprise call to say they had gotten us some fixings for BLT's.  When they dropped off the bag, inside was bread, bacon, lettuce, tomatoes.  And one extra item.  A jar of jelly.  Amity had never mentioned we needed it.

I don't know if we had ever thought to be thankful for jelly before in our lives.  But God's prints were all over that jelly.

Another story:  Amity's folks later got us a Meijer gift card with $50.  Amity had spent 10-some-dollars on it and was making another trip to pick up a few other things.  When she got to the checkout lane the card was gone.  She couldn't find it anywhere.  She left the groceries at the lane and retraced her steps all through the store.  Didn't find it.  Wasn't at the lost and found.  Who's going to return a Meijer giftcard at Meijer?  She started looking again and this time was on the verge of tears.  She looked up and standing there was a good friend from church.  He stopped his shopping and helped her retrace her steps a second time.  No luck.  Finally he said he'd buy the groceries.  It was about $15 worth and Amity fought him but he insisted.  She felt bad, but was thankful to God for sending him.

A couple hours later we got a knock on our door.  It was our friend again.  Before leaving the store he remembered one last thing he wanted to get, way at the back of the store.  In the back of the store, there on the ground was Amity's gift card.  A scan confirmed it was hers.  It was all scratched up but worked.  Most likely it had gotten stuck under the wheel of a cart and dragged to a part of the store Amity had never been in.  A spot this guy 'happened' to make a last minute run to.

Sure God could have landed me a job....  But it's also nice to see Him work like this while we wait.

In addition to small daily miracles, God is working in longterm ways too.  Back when I could see the signs of DIH crumbling, I came up with a plan of attack to keep freelancing.  Step one:  Build a website with online portfolio.  Check.  Done.  (If you remember when my website launched, you can see how loooong ago I saw this coming!)  Step two:  Try to make contact with publishers and send them my manuscripts directly.  Check.  Went to Book Expo in D.C. this year, met with a handful of editors, sent them manuscripts.  Heard back from editors...  No takers.  Step Three: try to get an agent.

I put packages in the mail heading to two art reps and had plans to hunt down the addresses of more.  My research indicated it is very very hard to get a rep.  The day after the packages were sent, DIH let me go.  Nuts.  I was too late.  My hope for a freelance career was dead.  It would be 6 weeks to 3 months before I'd even hear back from any reps, and then most likely they'd be negative responses and I'd need to look for other houses.  But - miraculously - I got calls from both reps on the days they received the packages.  And they were both interested.  Both!  One rep only represents 30 artists, so you can see how selective they are.  And the other has over 135 children's artists, but they are choosy too because if I heard right they get 40-50 submissions EVERY DAY from artists seeking representation (I must have heard wrong?).  But they both called me back immediately.  So after speaking with both rep houses a few times, weighing pros and cons, seeking advice from my good illustrator friend John, and contacting other artists they represent I finally made a decision.  So I am happy to announce I am now represented by Shannon Associates out of NY!  You can see their children's site at www.shannonassociates.com   *WOW* there are some great artists there!  I am Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay at the bottom of the page (Curse you "Z" name!)  Now, it takes a long time to build a freelance career, so I still need a main source of income while I wait.  But at least my hope of doing future picturebooks isn't over.

As we watch God take care of us in small ways and future ways, I haven't been sitting on my duff.  I've been submitting lots of resumes and watching job postings in several locations.  Plus a 79 year old fella from church has a lawn care service and lost his helper.  So for 4 weeks I've been mowing.  All.  Day.  Long.  For an insanely small amount of money.  But at least it's more than zero amount of money.

And next week I am going to stop mowing and start working at a Family Christian Stores back in inventory.  Again - for a small amount of money.  But it's 40 hours a week and flexible -- I get to pick which 40.  Mowing I was making about a fourth of what our family needs to live on.  At FCS I'll instead be making a little more than a third of what we need.  So where is the rest going to come from?

The possibilities I foresee include either getting work from Shannon to illustrate a book/books, or having some school visits come up.  Author School Visits can be VERY lucrative if you get enough.  In fact a lot of children's authors make their living off of school visits - not their books.  They only make the books so they can keep getting school visits.  I just got done mailing out letters to 155 schools hoping to drum up some visits.  You can pray that there would be some takers.  Unfortunately so far only a few schools have contacted me - and they want me to come in March (Reading Month).  I do expect to get swamped with requests in March -- pray that some will have me come sooner.  And if any of YOU have school connections and want to point them my way, that would be great too!

So what if I don't get illustration assignments or school visits???  How will our family be provided for???  I don't know.  But our refrigerator can hold lots of sheets of paper and I know Someone Who can fill them.

- Aaron for the Zenz 6