Writing About Writing

I am an INTJ. Yep you got it, those are my results from the Myer-Briggs personality test. I am not so inclined to be with people, really, and I know that sounds mean. But I think that’s why I love words. The irony of this though is that my primary love language is quality time. I know… funny right! Well actually I think it’s really awesome – its kind of like the checks and balances of the judicial system – I actually feel somewhat balanced in what seems to be a dilemma!

This post isn’t about personality tests or love languages. It’s about my writing. I am still reading Soul Survivor, currently on the chapter about Frederick Buechner. I was so moved by this chapter that I must write.

At last Buechner had found a voice for his nonfiction. He need not be a theologian like his teachers at Union. He need not be a preacher of sermons. He could simply fashion stories and meaning out of the material of his own life, just as he already did in his fiction…all of them convey Buechner’s personal voice, his deliberate mining of subterranean strata for a hidden message of God. Like a beachcomber, he goes over and over the same patch of sand, seeking buried treasure.

That’s it. I don’t want to write devotions and I don’t want to sound preachy. I just want to tell you about my life, from my perspective, what I see of God, nature, and people. I just want to listen to my life, all the happenings of the day, connect the dots of that day to a prior one, and pull it all together to find meaning.

As a learner, with strengths in ideation and connectedness I am constantly observing the world around me, compiling my ideas about people and God to connect them together intuitively to eventually express in writing.

Knowing my strengths, personality traits and how I feel loved empowers me but I still have trouble with shyness, and putting my stuff out there for the whole world to see, literally!

Every writer must overcome shyness, putting out of mind the fear that we are being arrogant by thrusting ourselves upon you the reader, and egotistical assuming our words are worth your time. Why should you care about what I have to say? What right have I to impose myself on you?

That is exactly what I think.

In fact, I have a recent experience that exemplifies this well. I try to send an email out regularly to a few ladies who are part of my small group. We are studying the Names of God, so I like to stir us up a little and share a little something from the current “Name” we are studying. Well, I began my email in the normal fashion until I felt the Spirit prompting me to say something different. I wasn’t a fan at all about this prompting. So I began typing, starting with almost the same words quoted above, “you may not even read this or care to but I am going to say what I feel I should anyway.” It turns out one of the women woke up at 4 AM a few nights later and read the email and it was exactly what she needed to hear to pray herself back to sleep!

It is one thing to spill your own secrets, and quite another to spill someone else’s. Several times Buechner and I have discussed the occupational hazards of writing, especially the unavoidable wounds we inflict on people close to us.

This was exactly my initial reasoning for dismissing the slightest thought of writing my story. My story involves a lot of people, a lot of people who may not want “their business in the streets.” But I do remember when I began and as I look back at my second post, these were my exact words: don’t want to impose.

For this reason only late in his career did Buechner dredge up certain family secrets…Out of consideration for his mother, who jealously guarded family secrets, Buechner did not write directly of his father’s suicide for decades…Finally Buechner decided that he had as much right to tell his father’s story as his mother had to tell of her husband’s story and his memoirs began to probe the family tragedy.

I concluded that I had a story to tell from my perspective, fully aware I could wound some in the process, I took the risk and started writing. I have no regrets.

Why do we do it, we writers?…I think we do it because each of us has nothing else to offer than a living point of view that differentiates us from every other person on this planet. We must tell our stories to someone.

All quotes come Soul Survivor, by Phillip Yancey.

Notes to Self for 2015

I know we’re already in 2015 but that’s why I think my timing to write this is ideal because all the New Years resolution blog posts, status updates and tweets about new goals has decreased so now is the perfect time to reflect on the remainder of 2015.

First note to self: The greatest things come from the hardest places. And as much as I hate acknowledging this, its certainly easier to acknowledge in the quieter, sweeter times. Most of the hardest places in my life are being restored into beautiful places that I wouldn’t change for anything!

I am going to be in the present starting today is my second note to self. I just witnessed Xaviar (my first born, adult son) propose to his girlfriend on January 1st actually! When I think of all the ups and downs this quote from one of my favorite rappers (yep you heard it right, I listen to rap!) comes to mind: “it takes a moment to make a memory but a lifetime to forget it.” Whether good or bad, every moment is made up of choices. The marriage commitment was never intended to be broken, rather intended to demonstrate the greatest of loves. So I will be their biggest fan as they journey into new and exciting ground.  But while remaining committed to the future, I am learning this past year that being in the today is so cliche we forget it.

My third note to self comes from the experience of buying my first house: Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:10) I get that to some people this is the American dream we chase but for me it was representative of another place that God restored to me (more on this but for another time). Certainly I don’t put my hope in the house, or don’t think I am so hung up on earthly treasures that I am not willing to walk away from my “dream come true.”

It is true that you will NEVER go wrong waiting on God.

Words of wisdom from one of my mentors during a dark time: “walking though hard places with hard people demands holy resignation” is my fourth note to self. Waiting on a persons stubborn, hard heart to come around is so painful.

Forgiveness

Resigning alone is not godly. Love is proactive and intentional. But when resigning is holy I would say its where in submission we say, “Lord, I am not in control of when that person comes around or what that person does, I am angry and hurt, yes, but only you can turn their heart of stone into a heart of fleshI am going to carry on with my day knowing what I am responsible for and wait on you to convict and change that person’s heart.” 

One more thing to add to this, love and especially in the context of a difficult marriage, but any relationship really, I don’t think always means quietness. Loving confrontation is necessary. In order to break unhealthy, patterns and cycles, we have to be willing to see and call the baggage what it is. Sometimes, everyone involved is not so willing.

Perfect place for the fifth and final note to self: I am only responsible for how I respond. This has been a long learning process for me, one which I am pretty sure I am still working on. Growing up, somewhere along the way, I internalized I was on my own and the world and everyone in it was against me. I had to carry my own and as a result shut down mostly and resisted love in every way. The sick part is that I actually wanted to be loved. And it is Love that softens and restores us back to who we are.

In this process, I resented love, feared man, and controlled everything and everyone around me in order to keep everything at a safe distance. I made judgments using words like never and always. I will never let someone…, I always let…, I always have to…, They never…

Eventually, through the hardest places, I would discover that God uses people to love us, and that created in his image we are relational at our core – created for intimacy with people and him. Love is sincere, I had to be real about what I felt, what hurt, and my view or perspective along with the choices I made because I am responsible for how I respond to life – no excuses. Even though some of it may be the result of a difficult childhood, I am an adult now, I am responsible for what I do with what happened then and what is happening now.

When what happens now is the result of what happened then, I must own that fact or hurt I am faced with, and do something about it, if its in my power to do so. If not then I must espouse the holy resignation attitude and wait on the Lord to work out his perfect plans and purposes.

Significance in Friendships with Women

I am learning about friendship. While on the phone with a new friend I was sharing my current struggles and requested prayer, she seemed uncomfortable. She was very gracious and let me know that she struggles with diving into friendship because she’s been hurt. I chose to listen to what she was really saying and pray for her and our relationship and not take offense.

The next day I was on the phone with one of my closer, longtime friends who I can share my struggles with when she shared with me her current feelings of insignificance; and that God was speaking to her about how she was seeking significance through relationships. And there it was, BAM! The light bulb moment, the Spirit shed light on a huge truth that freed me and I am certain is freeing for all women.

Between the two conversations, I was overwhelmed to say the least. Their blatant contrast first of all; but what struck me the most was how the second friend gave me insight to share with the first friend – that my expectation isn’t in her. I know she will fail me and I know for sure that I will fail her. Third, in all our struggles we were listening to a lie. After all this, I wrote a letter to the first friend and here is what I shared:

I am learning that when friends look to friends for significance or acceptance it makes the relationship tricky. Rather a mutual relationship shares the load and recognizes apart from love we stumble terribly. This frees us to be who we are in Christ without fear of not getting the need met or failing to meet the others need. Obviously, this doesn’t negate that we have legitimate needs to share and connect. In godly friendships we experience beauty and richness of connection with our girls in the Lord!  While all this is easy on paper, recognizing when our search for significance has led us into a hopeless pit is another story. If the role of the Holy Spirit is to lead us into all truth then hearing and recognizing the voice of God ministering to our spirit is critical, especially when we are hurting.

We were created to be needed and need. We were created in the image of a relational God. Recall for a moment the Garden, when God had finished creating man he said it is not good that he be alone, this wasn’t just about the marriage relationship. Woman reflects the image of God that man does not. In other words, we as women are needed in this world for a specific purposes and because we are a woman. No matter what our personality type (introvert or not) we are relational at our core. We, as women, are the creative art work God realized to depict the mutual, unstained relationship God intended between Himself and mankind. Or put this way in the book entitled, Captivating by John and Stasi Eldridge, “we have an irreplaceable role in this life to fill!” How is that for significance?

However, we no longer live in the Garden. We now live in a broken world, trying to rediscover our “irreplaceable role.” Therein lies some of the challenges I have been faced with recently:

Friendship is messy. Most days I would prefer to stay in my little safe world without any risk or relation. But through my friends I have learned so much about myself. There is such sweetness in sisterhood – a friend sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24b).

Relationships require vulnerability, which defined is being open to attack or damage.  If we are to be people of God, women in true relationship with one another, we do well to consider how we listen to God first before we can listen to our friends. Our identity in Christ is foundation to our friendships with one another. Without it wounded people wound people!

Sometimes, we all need a lift. In the Return of the King, Lord of the Rings Trilogy, the two Hobbits (Frodo and Sam Wise Gimchie) are carrying the burden of the Ring they must return to its place before all of Middle Earth is destroyed. Only Frodo was ultimately responsible for getting it back but his friend Sam Wise Gimchie insisted on sharing the burden with him despite all the danger and heart ache he already experienced on the journey. When Frodo could no longer carry on, Sam Wise picked him up, put him on his shoulder and carried him. I wept! This picture of friendship spoke to my heart, the place where I seldom let people go because showing my need for another is risky business. Letting someone carry me somehow communicates that I am weak. Ironically, its the very opposite, humility takes great strength.

Among the other lies I believe, the one I often struggle with is that I am not adequate as a friend and I am surely not qualified to speak into any person’s life, after all, look at my life, it seems I have learned everything through failure.

To this lie what sets me free is first, I am still in this process, yes I do know this, but over and over again the Lord points His finger on this lie and squashes it like I squash ants on my kitchen counter-tops. So when I step out with purpose to be vulnerable and walk in who I am in Christ – a fierce woman with an irreplaceable role in the unseen battle that wages war against me daily, I become a significant friend.

Second, I am qualified because of who qualifies me. It is the working of the Holy Spirit in me, equipping me for life and godliness that is qualified to be whatever is needed through my life.

I end with a verse that keeps speaking to me: He who loves his brother (sister) abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. (1 John 2:10)