I’m not sure how the Lord speaks to you, but I am absolutely a believer that it doesn’t really look the same for any two people. Our God is an incredibly intimate and relational one, and as such, he finds ways to build relationships with us that are unique to our person, speaking to us in ways only our ears and hearts can detect and discern, if we take the time to listen.
Or maybe you’re in the camp that God doesn’t really speak anymore. That the Word is his final word until all things are made new. If that’s the case, then you may not be able to relate to any of what I’m about to say, in which case, I’m sorry. Humor me, won’t you? If you do find yourself in this camp, I will say this: you’re missing out. The Spirit is alive and well my friends, and God is after your heart and your ears too. The “making new” you’re waiting for? It’s right now. It’s right here. You will never be able to see the renewal of all things before you and around you if you can’t first allow the same transformation to take place within you.
That’s the whole purpose of the Spirit after all. That’s why Jesus himself told his disciples that it was for their benefit that he leave them [John 16:7]. Because Jesus, being limited to time and space and skin and ground beneath his feet, is just that: limited, whereas the Spirit he sent [and continues to send] is not. The Spirit is to be the active, moving presence that invades our every day, enabling and equipping us, speaking to and strengthening us. But the Spirit isn’t forceful or imposing. I am certainly of the opinion that God, while a pursuer of our hearts, is also a respecter of our privacy. Invitation required.
In my last post I briefly touched upon a sentiment that’s been brewing in me as of late: a deep sense that there is something new on the horizon. I actually told a couple of my roommates this a few months back. Because throughout my life, one of the most consistent ways the Lord has communicated with me is by way of gut instinct, for lack of better words. I’ve always had a very difficult time making decisions. As a kid I used to cry when my mom would ask me if I wanted chocolate or vanilla.
Why does this have to be a choosing game? How is both not a right answer?! LIFE IS SO UNFAIR!
Now that’s more like it…
But all joking aside, there are rare moments when all the chaos and uncertainty is suddenly silenced, and only one thing remains. I know it’s the hand of the Lord, because generally, the direction I become inclined toward is the most unlikely, the path I would never choose of my own accord. But it’s in these moments that my resolve is so strong that doubt completely loses its foothold in certainty’s shadow, even if only for one sacred moment.
Sometimes it’s painstakingly clear, like when the Lord called me to move back to Oregon. And other times, it’s a subtle rumbling and discontent in my spirit that starts as a simple below-the-surface simmer, not yet rearing its head, not yet fully discernible, but detectable all the same. In part, I do believe this has to do with a simple prayer I prayed years ago when I decided to leave home in pursuit of higher education [and adventure] in Southern California against my parents mounting cautions and concerns. I told the Lord that my greatest desire in life was not to be great, to leave a legacy, or be known, but simply to wake up every single day knowing I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I told him I never wanted to come back to Oregon, but that if he ever really wanted me to, I would. I also assured him he’d have to make it crystal clear, lest I find reasons and a way to stay. And I would. Ever since then, I’ve had this exceedingly strong sense of intuition, especially in relation to this particular truth.
And now, as I sit here looking back at the closed chapter of another challenging year, I can feel the reviving winds of change filling up my lungs. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I can sense it, and I’m not usually wrong about these things. If 2012 was a year of remembering passions and dreams, 2013 was the year I began – for the first time – to really step into them, and in an appropriate progression, 2014 will be about refinement. [see Lean In].
It was the winter of 2012 the first time I allowed myself to speak the words to myself, let alone out loud to another human; floating out there in the universe unprotected… how could I protect them?
“I want to write,” I whispered at last. I have always wanted this.
I was dating someone at the time who was able to meet my gaze and say, “Then do it. You can and you should.” For this, I will forever feel indebted to and eternally grateful toward him.
What I didn’t know was that speaking those words out loud would be the start of a snowball effect. Those words would be the catalyst that ceased the dreaming and started the doing. Slowly and extremely cautiously, I have started allowing myself to say it more openly:
I’m, uh… a writer.
I’m a writer?
I’m a writer…
Round and round goes the internal dialogue. So if you can imagine, to have these words repeated to me by someone else would be… I don’t know what to call it. I’m not certain there are words for what it is.
Humbling? That might be scratching the surface.
It started at the close of last year. I wrote this post about a few things that had been weighing on my heart, and wow, did it ever germinate feedback. Which was awesome by the way, because the feedback mostly looked like this: “Thank you. Thank you for writing this. Thank you for using your voice.” In fact, it even made its way around to the pastor I mention in the post, who then took the time to email me to offer me his own words of gratitude. To which I reply, “Are you kidding? Thank you for reading!” Seriously. The fact that anyone finds it worth while to read stories about my life is still mind-boggling to me, and incredibly humbling.
Shortly thereafter I was contacted by one of the founders of the Junia Project [of which, it should be noted, I am a huge fan] asking me if they could feature the article on their site.
What? Is this a real question? Because if you’re joking, that’s just cruel…
ButAlrightYes! You talked me into it, where do I sign?
*Ahem… I mean, sure. That’s cool I guess…
To say I was floored is an understatement. I think I actually almost fell out of my chair. But I simply chalked it up to “one of those things.” Lucky I guess. Thanks Lord, that was nice.
And then I stumbled upon another project by another well known blogger and author. Preston Yancey announced the start of a new undertaking on his blog in which he hands the proverbial mic over to women in the church asking them a very specific question, inviting their responses. I imagine due to the sheer volume of submissions he must have anticipated receiving, he made sure to denote that not every post submitted will be accepted. And yet, I found myself incredibly encouraged by the project and simply couldn’t resist writing my own response to his very gracious question: What Do Women Want From the Church? I didn’t really know what to expect. At the end of the day, I wrote it more as a thank you to him for asking the question. Because it needs to be asked. But I certainly wasn’t going to be personally offended if it wasn’t selected. A day later he emailed me telling me he’d like to run my submission in March.
Oh, well alright then. Fantastic!
Not even a week later, three days to be precise, my friend Bethany came over for an evening catch up session. We became friends late last year through a series of somewhat random events that led us to realize we were neighbors. She’s the Director of Women’s Ministries at my church and is essentially the only strong woman seen or heard from any significant platform across the entire leadership team; naturally I just had to be her friend.
And yet, in consideration of what I’m about to say, I do think it’s worth noting that we have only recently started to get to know each other. A couple early morning coffee dates, one particularly early ride to the airport, and now this. She is fantastic, but at the end of the day, she doesn’t know me that well.
It wasn’t five minutes after she walked through the door that she started pouring out an abundance of bold and prophetic words over me. What started out as general encouragement, without an intent to speak such potent words, turned quickly into very precise pronouncement of who I am and am called to be. At one point she even stopped mid-sentence to say, “wow, I’m not normally this prophetic, I’m not even sure that’s what’s happening. Hold it loosely…” before continuing. But among a number of things she said, she said this:
“You are a writer. That’s what you are. You need to own that.”
And then this: “The Lord is preparing a new launching pad for you this year; one that you couldn’t have foreseen or prepared for. One that is going to look different from all the things you thought you were building a foundation for over the last few years.” [She said this, mind you, without previous insight into the fact that I had already been sensing this myself].
And then of course, to counter the visible apprehension in my eyes as I considered all the mounting obstacles before me, she knowingly said this:
“God can handle your chaos.”
Thanks friend. I needed that. Like, really needed that.
Now let’s be clear. I have awesome friends. Friends who speak encouragement over me all the time, and family who do the same. And it’s beautiful. But they know me. They know where my heart beats the fastest and where I come alive. It’s easy for them to hone in on those and say, “Yeah, absolutely, you can do this. Reach for the stars!” And that’s amazing; I’m deeply thankful. But it’s an entirely different thing when someone who barely knows you is able to reach down into those deep, cavernous spaces that the general masses aren’t privy to, and bring those things before the light as though they had never been hidden at all.
So after breathing all this life into me, thoroughly embarrassing me with her high praise in the process, she asked me if I’d speak at the Women’s Retreat this year.
Uh, come again? One more time?
I had to repress the urge to look around me and make sure she wasn’t talking to someone else…
And even whilst everything inside me screamed “No. Absolutely not. What the heck, you can’t do this… You have never done this! You don’t know what you’re doing! You simply cannot say yes…”
The very next morning I woke to a private message on Facebook from my sweet, fellow blogger friend, Cara Strickland asking if I’d be willing to contribute to a series of guest posts she will be hosting on her lovely blog in the upcoming months. Obviously, I’d love to. What a fun opportunity! But what I really heard behind the question was this: “You are a writer. Won’t you share with me who you are? Let’s do this thing we do together.”
And then there was yesterday morning. The morning that started all of this crazy talk that has just been unleashed upon you, you poor, unwitting soul you. I received a private message from a gentleman who stumbled upon my blog by way of a comment I made on someone else’s blog. He had been unable to sleep in the middle of the night when he came across it. His initial thoughts being that he didn’t have time for such rabbit trails. A COUPLE OF HOURS LATER, he found himself near the end of pretty much everything I’ve ever posted… and then? He went to work.
He poured out a number of lavish praises and thanked me for writing and telling my stories. He told me they matter and that they affect people. And then he said this:
“I just need to tell you that you MUST write a book, but not just one. I don’t know what you do for a living, but YOU ARE A WRITER.”
Wow. Just wow.
Alright, let’s take a little inventory here.
I am not sharing all of this to pat myself on the back and blab about what a great writer I am. I’m sharing it because it’s absolutely astounding to me and I don’t know what to do with it. My blog was never really much more than a space for me to process. Goodness knows it certainly isn’t anything fancy in style or design. Heck, I don’t even have an “About Me” section… yet. What started out as a hobby and a love is gaining momentum at a rate that is
kinda sorta totally and completely freaking me out. In the best possible way of course. I think…
It’s freaking me out because I see a million little pieces coming together, pieces that have often looked broken and disjointed and frankly quite miserable, into a crazy and brilliant display of love, faithfulness and an excessive amount of generosity from a God who delights in seeing me do work that I delight in. I so often forget that I was created in the image of a Creator. Which means, in part, that I too carry this giftedness for creating, as do you. I simply adore what Emily Freeman has to say about this in her Seven Little Ways to Live Art:
“In the beginning, God created.
And when he made art in the beginning, he made us in his creative image.
Art came first.”
She goes on to say: “You may not be an artist by profession. But you are an artist by design.”
I’ve spent so much time trying to compartmentalize this part of my life afraid for it to become too big. It’s never seemed practical enough. Wise enough. Good enough. Forever battling this Lie of Legitimacy. And what if I did pursue it? And it failed… What then? What if I’m like one of those tone-deaf people who really believe they can sing; who stand before the judges singing their hearts out on national television only to look back up into faces of contortion and pity, receiving the oh-so-awkward and painful blinks of silence. What then?
Listen. I know this isn’t about winning. It isn’t about being the best or being known and prominent. But it is, at least to some degree, about mattering. And putting that very one thing out there you love the most on a stage for all to see and judge, well, in all honesty? It’s vulnerable and terrifying.
And yet, through all of this, I can hear the echo of God’s promises ringing throughout the chambers of my soul. Chambers that have so often felt cold and damp, lifeless and purpose deficient. I hear him reminding me that he is still speaking, still creating, and still making this little story of mine new.
Now there’s something I can “lean in” to.