The Prayers Of Agnes Sparrow

Joyce Magnin

Joyce Magnin is the author of the popular Bright’s Pond Novels, including The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow, which was named one of the top five Christian titles of 2009 by Library Journal; and Charlotte Figg Takes Over Paradise, releasing September 1, 2010. She is member of ACFW, The Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Fellowship, and is a popular conference speaker. Joyce also runs Narrative Destiny, a manuscript critique and evaluation service. You can also visit her blog at:

Nerves on Planes

I am sitting at the Philadelphia airport on my way to the ACFW conference. I’m thinking about nerves. You’d think I’d be pondering the conference and all the good times waiting to be had. But no, not me. I’m thinking about nerves.

Nerves are a funny. When a person does a particularly daring deed, we say, “Boy, she has some nerve to do that.” Or, when that same person commits a particularly heinous act, we say, “Boy, she has some nerve to do that.” Same words, far different meaning. Nerves make us tingle with delight, or wince in pain. Nerves inform our brains when a cup of coffee is too hot or a smack with a snowball is too cold. Toothaches are nervy things. Nerves are annoying.

For instance, I am so anxious that I keep checking my pocket for my boarding pass—nervous that it will fall to the ground, get stomped on by a zillion people, torn to shreds, swept up by one of the hardworking airport maintenance people, and I will be left at the gate. Now that, my dears, is a sad case of nerves. Although I have never really experienced it, nerves can breakdown. Nerves can be exceedingly devious and untrustworthy. It is so easy to work up a case of the monkey nerves over something that doesn’t warrant so much energy. In short, nerves are tricky and need to be watched closely.

When we are about to embark on a new adventure, we say we are nervous, meaning that our nerves are creating high levels of anxiety. So we look for ways to calm our nerves. Prayer is a good thing to have in your nerve utility built, so is some form of distraction, which, to be honest, is why I am writing this article while waiting to board the plane. Yes, I am nervous, I don’t fly well.

And as I look around at the others waiting to board, not a single one of them appears to be as nervous as me. The flight attendants just went down the gangplank; one had mean eyes. Now I’m even more nervous. I see two people in wheelchairs—they make me nervous, not sure why, but they do—others are reading like this is the best place next to the French Riviera. I really want a cup of coffee, but I don’t dare add to what will only make me more nervous. I can get coffee in Indy—I hope. If I ever make it there.

I see men and women milling around outside on the tarmac. My bag is in one of those blue pods. I’m nervous it won’t get to Indy until next Wednesday, and then I will be forced to wear the same clothes for days and won’t be able to brush my teeth.

Now I am on the airplane, watching the passengers board. The full flight makes me nervous. Maybe the plane will be too heavy. All passengers have the same looks on their faces—nerves? Disgust? I don’t know.

I must power down my electronics for takeoff, so I will continue in a bit...

Okay, I’m back. A few minutes after I powered down my electronics, the captain informed us that we were number fourteen in line for takeoff. He claimed it would be about fifteen minutes. It felt more like an hour, but we finally took off and that made me even more nervous because I have to make a connecting flight at Chicago Midway. I was concerned I would miss it until the flight attendant reminded me of the time difference. Thank goodness for time zones.

A man sitting next to me kept sneezing. It made me nervous. I don’t want to get sick. Then there was a man standing in the aisle right next to me. He was waiting to use the bathroom. He made me nervous. Planes don’t give you much in the way of personal space and this dude definitely crammed my personal space. Bathroom Man finally made it to the lavatory, and from the look on his face I’d say none too soon.

Then the flight turned scary. Somewhere over western Pennsylvania, we flew into a storm. I don’t like shaking airplanes. Planes should not shake. At one point we hit a sink hole and I grabbed on to the poor man next me. Needless to say, I was quite happy when we landed. What an awful flight. I was seeing

baby pictures of myself and my children pass by like in the tornado in the Wizard of Oz. I wrote out my last will and testament and promised God if He’d get me to Chicago I’d never curse again. That’s right, Chicago. I still have to get on another plane to Indianapolis. This is cruel punishment for us nervous folk. I keep trying to tell myself I’ll be there soon, see good friends, make new friends. But a smoother flight would have been nice.

So here I am on the second flight of the day. So far this one is much smoother. No delay. The captain says it’s a twenty-eight-minute flight. Seems hardly worth it to me to have even stopped at Midway. Sheesh, we had to over-shoot Indianapolis by 168 miles to get there. This does not seem like good panning, but what do I know? I’m just a dumb author.

And speaking of being an author, what takes huge amounts of nerve, more nerves than cramming your body and your luggage into a narrow metal sarcophagus and soaring thousands of feet in the air? Writing—becoming an author. You really have to have some nerve to decide to put word after word on paper and tell a story that people—strangers who don’t love you or know you will want to read. Publishing is such a tenuous, scary business, yet we love it. We keep writing in spite of our nerves, in spite of the voices inside our heads telling us to step away from the computer and run as fast as we can to the nearest MBA program and get a real job.

But we don’t. We wrestle our nerves into submission and write. We have to. This is especially true when a looming deadline hangs over you like some dark phantom nightmare with claws and snaggly teeth. Take it from me, writing on deadline leaves no time to molly coddle our sensitive nervous systems. Writers train themselves to put seat in chair and get it done. I suggest writers hang a sign over their workspaces: NO NERVES ALLOWED. Yeah, that will work. But like I’ve been telling myself all morning, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Fly, meet my deadlines, and even have the nerve to say I can write another book. Sheeseh. Writers have a lot of nerve.


Narrative Destiny

The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow has been selected as one of the top five Christian Inspirational titles of 2009 by Library Journal.

Charlotte Figg Takes Over Paradise