Braver than I Believe

When I think about being brave, I remember a quote by A. A. Milne, the author of Winnie the Pooh. I’m sure it’s familiar. It’s been made into hundreds of memes. “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” I take comfort in that quote when I think that I’ve failed at being brave because my perception is that I fail a lot with this concept. I don’t feel brave at all. In fact, a lot of the time I’m scared to death when I’m trying something new.

The same thing happened to the author of the devotional I’ve begun reading. God led her to do something, and she took steps of faith. But, she didn’t feel brave at all during the entire process. In fact, she cried the entire time she was moving to her new city. Crying. The same thing I feel ashamed of doing. It’s hard for me to get involved in conflict or in expressing my opinion because I’m afraid I will cry. That doesn’t stop me from crying when I’m upset though. I do my best to hide it for as long as I can, but when my bravery shields break down, they usually do so spectacularly. I’ve been told lamenting is a brave thing to do, but my feeling is that crying and bravery are very opposite.

What complicates all this is that I suffer from depression. There are days I don’t want to leave the house, but the big thing is that my depression convinces me that I’m not worth very much and that people couldn’t possibly want my company. So, I keep to myself even when I’m in a crowd of people. Why would I want to be brave when I’ll just be kicked down by the world again?

But, even though I suffer from depression and fail at being brave, I still want friends. I still want to do things for God, and I still do my best to listen to His voice. As I think about this conundrum, a quote from the author of 100 Days to Brave pops out at me. “I never felt brave. But day after day, I just did the next thing, took the next step, said the next yes.” Sounds like feelings might not have a whole lot to do with being brave even though we depend on them for the things we do in this life. We take the next job because it feels better. We move to another city because we feel like we need a change. We go on a missions trip because it feels like God is telling us to. I’m not saying feelings are invalid though, and that is my struggle. I’m not sure what the difference is between good feelings and bad feelings. I know God gave them to me, but my illness prevents me from processing them well.

Back to being brave. The author suggested that I journal about three instances in my life which I or someone else might label as brave. The first was when I was first put on depression medication. Before I did this, I had just shouldered my way through life’s pains and disappointments. That was the only way I knew. It proved I was strong and made it so no one could hurt me. But, there was a point where it got to be too much. In the time span of a couple of years, I had a death in the family; my husband had surgery and became unemployed; we moved (more than once); and I had a miscarriage. So much pain. My doctor heard me say all this and said she was impressed I was still on my feet. She prescribed me medication that helped my feelings even out and become manageable. I guess you could call that being brave.

The second instance is fairly minor in scope, but it meant a lot to me when I was able to do it. Last year, a young couple in my church got married. The bride grew up in our youth group and is not much older than my own sons. So, we all knew them well and were invited to the wedding. There was a bridal shower a few months before the wedding which I was invited to attend. Since this couple was popular, I knew the shower would be crowded. I hemmed and hawed to myself about going because just the thought of being around a lot of people terrified me. Finally, my regard for the bride tipped the scales, and I went. I was right. There was a lot of people. More than fifty, but I managed it, and I was pretty proud of myself when I came home. That sounds like being brave too.

Finally, and this is the big one, I started sharing my writing in this blog and in my writing blog. I was giving myself a hard time the other day because I hadn’t submitted any of my stories to be considered for publication. What was I waiting for? Was I too scared to even try? But, then I realized something important. I was sharing my writing through these blogs. I was sharing the hard things, the private things with people I didn’t even know. The most personal parts of my heart. The parts where if certain people knew I had shared them, they would tell me I should be ashamed. But, I had thought about it and prayed about it and felt that God was leading me to share. People who have been through what I’ve been through shouldn’t have to feel like they’re alone. They shouldn’t feel ashamed. So, if they shouldn’t feel ashamed, I’m not going to feel ashamed either. I’m going to be the brave person God wants me to be.

Because, isn’t that the point? God promises to give us everything we need if we will only ask Him. He promises to give us strength as it says in Psalm 27:14. “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” That strength may only enable me to put one step in front of the other, but it is strength from God, and I am so grateful He doesn’t leave me or forsake me. May we all be braver than we believe as we wait on the Lord!

 

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Bravery is Necessary

After looking at the Day 2 devotional of my new book, I know the journey I’m embarking on will be assisted by this book. In fact, the temptation is going to be reading and writing about more than one section at a time. Or even writing and posting on Saturdays and Sundays when I usually don’t do so. I’m going to resist though. Taking these sections one at a time will be the best way for me to make this journey, and I also know reading them only five at a time will make the journey longer than 100 days. But, it will be worth it to see what God is going to do in my life.

How does the title relate to the devotion? The devotion asks the question “Why be brave?”, and my title is the answer to that question. Does that mean I’m brave all the time? Not by a long shot. I’m sure most of us would have the same answer to that question. There have been many examples in history though where things were accomplished because someone was brave, and because they were brave, things were changed in countries, in professions, and for people of different races and genders. Have you ever imagined what might have been in the minds of Rosa Parks or Susan B. Anthony before they embarked on their history changing endeavors? What about the first female doctor or female astronaut? They changed history, and they couldn’t have done it without being brave.

Part of me wants to be brave by thinking about the actions of those individuals, and that is the point of today’s devotion. The author talks about how seeing others be brave is a “domino effect” for our own bravery. But, then, I think again about how those individuals changed history, and say to myself, ‘Those people changed history. There’s no way I can ever do that.’

Then, my thoughts travel closer to home. Yesterday, I talked to a sweet friend who usually goes on a mission trip every summer. I was thinking that maybe I might want to go on that same mission trip, but knew it would have to be when my kids were done with college. (Because, as we all know, college is expensive.) This lady has a younger family so I asked how she managed it. She told me she ended up raising her own support every year, and that once her girls were old enough, she and her husband would be raising support for all four of them to go. Wow! Raising their own support. That means asking other people for money and believing in what you’re doing strongly enough to ask. In other words, being brave. This precious friend has being brave down to a science. I also know others who ask for support for their chosen ministries. I admire all of them and wish I could support each ministry abundantly. They are all doing good work.

So, why do I think I would have a problem raising my own support for a mission trip like the one my friend is going on? There are two reasons, and only one of them involves being brave. The first is the independent philosophy most people in the United States were raised with. I was taught if you wanted to do something, you’d better darn well have the money to pay for it yourself. If you had to ask for money for any reason, there was an element of shame involved, and you’d better keep it to yourself. You can see this today in how people feel about poorer people and the government programs in place to help them.

But, this is totally opposite of all the non-profit ministries and charities that are out there as well as all the people who are asking for support for one thing or the other. Shouldn’t all of these organizations and people feel ashamed too? My guess is no because of the existence of such websites as GoFundMe.com  and YouCaring.com. Their existence tells me that the element of shame about asking for money has started to disappear.

The second reason, of course, involves being brave. I have a hard time thinking that people would think supporting me for something like a mission trip would be worth it. I believe this even though I did a Facebook fundraiser for my birthday which met its goal. I wondered why, but then thought maybe it was because I believed in the cause wholeheartedly. Whoa, maybe that’s the way to be brave in the financial realm.

There are other ways of being brave besides being brave in the financial realm. There is being brave when God is calling you to do something even if you’re the first one to do it. 2 Timothy 1:8-9 makes a point of this. “So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done, but because of his own purpose and grace.” God makes us brave when we ask Him for strength for what He wants us to do.

And finally, God can make us brave as we share things in our own lives. Things that might be a result of sin or illnesses that are not shameful though people in the church might think they are. Jesus calls us to love each other and not make each other feel ashamed. That is why it’s necessary to be brave. That is why I need to be brave so I can inspire others to do the same. If we can all be brave, God will change us for the better!

 

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Muddling Through

Last week, I wrote in this blog about how I was upset about some things that had happened at my church. I probably shouldn’t have written it in this blog, but frustration can cause you to do things that you normally wouldn’t do.

I don’t feel frustrated anymore though. Some of it comes from a book I found while other parts come from contact with who I call “heart friends.” People who know my heart inside and out. It made me realize that I needed another course on being brave. So, that’s what I’m going to be doing for the next 100 days. The book I found is called 100 Days to Brave by Annie F. Downs. It’s a devotional, and I think it’s going to help me on my journey.

What does being brave have to do with muddling through? Part of it has to do with following God’s voice. I’m meant to be where I already am no matter how unpleasant it might be sometimes. God didn’t promise us a trouble-free existence. In fact, with all the trouble I’ve had, I should consider myself one of God’s star pupils. 😉 All kidding aside, my utmost desire should be to follow God’s voice, and that’s one of the things I want to explore during this journey.

The other part of it is having the courage to confront. The courage to say this scares me, or that upsets me. People don’t like having to do that. They don’t like saying they disagree with something in Bible class, and they don’t like thinking they’re projecting something onto someone else that doesn’t need to be there. They are afraid, like me. And that’s another thing I want to explore during this time. What things I am afraid of, and what I can do for God despite my fears. How I can muddle through pain and hurt and get to the other side where there is…love. God’s love which never goes away and has no conditions on it.

I might always be the oddball at my church and not in the ‘cool kids’ club, but I’m hoping that by the end of this, people will say of me, ‘She heard the whispers of fear, but she went beyond her comfort zone anyway.’ It might not be the best way something could be done. It might just be muddling through. But, if I was faithful in serving my Lord and Savior, it will be enough!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

My Travel Story

When I was younger, I wasn’t convinced of the benefits of travel at all. By the time I got used to being in a certain place, my family would have to move again, and I would be forced to give up the friendships I had formed. That didn’t count all of the times we went to see relatives during the holidays. While elements of the trips were fun, for the most part, I remember being stressed and unhappy and wanting to get back home as soon as possible.

By the time I was fifteen, we had lived in Virginia, Washington, D.C., Florida, and South Carolina. I remember being vividly unhappy about being told we were going to move to Ohio after my freshman year of high school. We had lived in South Carolina for five years, and I didn’t want to go. But, I was fifteen so I went. The following year brought another move from Ohio to California. I stayed there for my final two years of high school. I did see a lot of interesting things along the way which I would be grateful for much later, but I didn’t find any roots. Why should I? I knew I wouldn’t want to stay in California. I wanted to go back to South Carolina to go to college which I did.

The college years passed quickly, and I soon began my working career. I enjoyed going to other places to visit people, but I was just as happy being at home and sometimes even more happy. I met my now-husband a few years later, and our children were born a few years after that. We had almost been married nine years when it became clear we would have to leave the city where everything started. Out of necessity, my husband had found work in another city. It was so hard, but I had been prepared for a transient lifestyle through my experiences as a child.

We moved to another city in South Carolina which we left two years later for the big move of our marriage. My husband had been promoted and was being given the opportunity to move to Michigan. We talked a lot about that one. It would be his first time living outside of the southern United States. The winter weather was not something we looked forward to, but we wanted to let our sons have the opportunity to see a different part of the country. It worked out wonderfully. We got to see things we had never seen before, and we had travel opportunities we would never have had otherwise. We also began homeschooling while we lived there.

I was starting to see the benefits of a traveling lifestyle, but was also feeling a yearning in my heart for something more permanent. Four years later, we left Michigan because my mother-in-law had become ill. We went back to South Carolina to help her and ended up losing her two months later. It was one of the hardest times of our lives. Luckily, we had moved back to our home state where we still had friends. We were able to move back to our old city two months after my mother-in-law died. Our sons were old enough at this point that we were hoping we would be staying put in one place.

It wasn’t to be though. My husband’s health issues made their presence known again which affected his employment. We had been back in our home city for only two years, and I hated having to leave again. Though I had regained contact with some of my college friends through Facebook, it was not the same as having lifelong friends who you knew you could count on. In fact, I can count the number of those I have on one hand.

We ended up in Alabama, and this September will be seven years since we’ve moved here. I was able to give my children the gift I never had. They both spent their high school years in one place. They’ve made good friends and have the stability that I always longed for. My older son is in college now and doing well. We travel to see him frequently. The younger one will graduate from high school in May and move on to the next phase of his life. I hope the combination of traveling and stability will give them both a good start in the adult world and even though they don’t have roots in the traditional sense, I hope they will know we we love them very much and always had their best interests in mind as they grew up in our family.

Hope everyone has a great day!

 

Different Kinds of Language

Over the past few years, I have tried to vary my reading so I could get maximum exposure to all the different kinds of  writing genres and styles that were out there. I’ve read such things as military science fiction, romance, mysteries, fantasy, young adult fiction, middle grade fiction, books about the craft of writing, and Christian books. These all have given me a wide exposure and a boost to my creativity which has helped my own writing.

I had never thought though of the different kinds of language used in writing before this past weekend. Now, I’m not talking about different languages. I’m talking about the ways people talk in the same language in different books. Let me explain. During the past several weeks I have been having, I guess what you would call angst, about my future when my younger son graduates from high school in May. What kind of opportunities would I have to write or to do whatever as a woman in her early 50’s. It’s big stuff–this thing called having an empty nest. I’ve poured myself into my kids for over twenty years and especially for the last twelve as I have homeschooled them. So, I have a lot to think about and consider.

What does that have to do with different kinds of language? I saw a quote by Virginia Woolf last week which resonated with me. This led to the books she had written. Here’s the quote. “I am made and remade continually. Different people draw different words from me.” As far as I’m concerned, there is so much truth in that statement. Anyway, I went to her list of books and found a description of one of them. A Room of One’s Own. An essay based upon two papers read in October of 1928. Wow! This was something I needed to read. Something that might answer my questions.

I found it at the library on Sunday and began reading it. I’m not done yet. but one of the first things I noticed was how different the language was. This was written by a woman in the 1920’s so, of course, you would expect it to be different. But, I didn’t know how different it would be. I have been alternating between reading this book and a military science fiction book, and the differences are stark. In the first, Woolf discusses how women have not had opportunities to do things that are amazing because they have been weighted down by the desires of men–between children and cooking and mending and everything else that goes on in a household. Men have been the ones to write about women, to act in plays about women, and to discuss the affairs of the day without considering the opinion of women. While in the military science fiction book, which a woman wrote, the main female characters have had every opportunity–to gain medical knowledge, weapons knowledge, and knowledge about all of the sciences. A cornucopia of opportunity. In this book, women are respected for their knowledge; they are respected for what they can do; and they are valued members of the group they are associated with.

Two different comparisons–one fiction and one not, but both representative of the times in which they were written. It was interesting to me how well both books have been able to state their premise with the language used. The book by Woolf has more formal language–language used in the late 1920’s as well as in her country of origin–while the other book’s vernacular is more present-day. Despite the different kinds of language used, it was nice to see that the people of each era dreamed about and wanted the same things–for men and women to be seen as equal human beings. Though a lot has changed between 1928 and 2018, we still have a long way to go. May we as writers lead the way using words to paint pictures of how we would like the world to be!

Inserting my Foot in my Mouth

I took a break from answering the questions from my pastor’s New Year’s Eve sermon yesterday, but I’m back to answer the third one today. It’s quiet here as we are awaiting possible bad weather in the southeastern United States. My patience has wavered in the last 24 hours as we have built up to the big state of emergency my state has declared. I don’t know why having possible bad weather has become such a big deal. When we lived in the northern part of the country in the mid-late 2000’s, it wasn’t such a big deal. We would go about what we needed to do taking the normal precautions. Life rarely stopped just because of bad weather. I can think of only one or two times that children stayed home from school during the four years we lived there, and that was only because it started snowing during the main traffic hour, and the trucks hadn’t been able to put salt on the roads yet. So, as you can imagine, I don’t have a lot of tolerance for people who get bent out of shape because of bad weather.

You might wonder what this has to do with the questions from the sermon. Let me state the one for today, and then you’ll understand. “Do I speak before considering the context?” Yes, for all of you who get “bent out of shape” or upset about the weather  forecast, I was not considerate of your feelings. No matter what my tolerance level for what the weather forecast is going to be or whether school is going to be cancelled or not, I should have kept my mouth shut or just had a chuckle at the game one of my friends on Facebook set up for the different questions people were asking. But, no, I opened my mouth and was inconsiderate.

God wants us to think before we speak. He wants us to show the character of Jesus to all the people who are a part of the world we all inhabit. From the clerk at the grocery store to the nurse at the doctor’s office to the waitress at a restaurant to our work colleagues to our friends and family, He wants us to treat everyone like Jesus would treat them. That means using the freedom we have with prudence.

I’ve been thinking a lot about freedom recently. With my younger son graduating from high school in May, my life will change drastically. No more will I be a homeschool mom. I will have the freedom to pursue interests that I’ve not had time for before now. I will have the chance to write and see where it takes me. I will be able to pursue the heart of my Lord and Savior. All of which are good things and things I am looking forward to with anticipation.

I find though that people are wanting me to fall into a role. A role of waiting for grandchildren to be born and doing things that women traditionally do. I recoil against this kind of thinking. Like I said yesterday, it puts me into a mold that I’m not certain God wants me in. For a long time, I stayed in that mold in the hopes of gaining acceptance. No more. I’m going to be the person God wants me to be no matter what anyone else thinks about it.

That doesn’t mean I need to be ugly or demeaning towards the people who are upset with me for being true to myself. It means I need to consider the context before I open my mouth and use the freedom I have with prudence. It means I can be kind in my dealings with others and move forward in the direction I believe God is wanting me to go in. It means asking God for the courage to try things for the first time to move His kingdom forward even if a woman has never been involved before. It means fully believing I am God’s daughter and believing He has my back for what He wants me to do for Him!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

The Least of These

Anyone who has been a Christian for any length of time is familiar with the phrase I chose for today’s blog post title. They are words Jesus actually spoke in Scripture. The least of these. We read the words and tell ourselves we help the people rejected by society or rejected by church society, but more often than not, we really don’t. We get so busy and caught up in our own lives that we forget people who are alone or the people who are carrying burdens way too heavy for the rest of us to think about. We go to our jobs, spend time with our spouses, and parent our children–all of which are good things, but aren’t part of the business God wants us to be about.

Before I go any further, let me quote the Scripture so you can see the words. From Matthew 25:34-40: “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'”

This Scripture goes on to say that those who did not do these things for the least of these would go on to eternal punishment while those who did would go to eternal life.

Now, I’m not trying to say we have a work-based faith. Far from it. The verses that are featured in this blog are just as true today as they were yesterday and as they will be tomorrow. God prepared us through grace to do these good works–not before we are saved, but after as it says in Ephesians 2:10. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

These words of Jesus did get me to thinking though. How tolerant are we of the least of these in our churches? Oh, we’ll go out and help them. We’ll feed the homeless, volunteer in a pregnancy crisis center, give someone a place to stay, or visit the hospital. But, how tolerant are we of the people who think differently or who are the least of these in our churches? Are we tolerant of the person who appears poorer than us? How about the person who walks in alone? How about the person who is a different race or gender than us? There can be an element of shame involved among those of us who are different. Don’t believe me? Let me go through some examples.

How about the statistic that the Sunday morning worship hour is the most segregated hour in America? This statistic was first quoted by Martin Luther King, Jr. whose life we celebrate today in the United States. Ashamedly, so many years later, a poll finds that 86 percent of church congregations are composed of mainly one racial group. (LifeWay Research). We want to worship with people who look like us and have no interest in changing it. Reading those statistics brought me to tears.

What about differences that can’t be seen? I have a friend who runs a ministry to people whose career is not desirous in our churches. She invited some of these people to come to a particular church. At first, it was all right, but then their career became known, and she was asked not to bring them back. It’s not like they had dressed for their career to come to church. They were wearing clothes like the rest of us wear. But, people were still uncomfortable enough to not want them there. I’m pretty sure Jesus cried when that happened, and I did too. Another lost opportunity to bring people to Jesus.

Now, to bring the differences a little bit closer to home. I had a relative in the 1960’s who became a widow with the early death of her husband. She became different from the other people in her church. Different enough that people didn’t know what to do or say, and her family was left by the wayside. That abandonment traveled across the generations, made it so I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, and still affects me today. Yes, things have changed for women in a lot of ways, but if a woman wants to serve in a church and is not married, she is relegated to serving with other women or with children. What happens when a woman is called to more than that like I think I am? I believe Jesus expects a woman to fulfill her calling whether she is called to something in the church that is traditional for women or something that is not so traditional.

There are also differences in thought, differences in how we think things should be done in our churches, and differences in sins committed as well as many different ways we can be the least of these. In other words, we are all different people who don’t fit the mold some churches say we should fit in. It’s almost a relief to type these words. God made us all differently, and we need to reflect that in our churches as we minister to the least of these. I pray that God gives us the courage to break out of the molds we have set for ourselves and bring more people to a saving relationship with Him.

God’s blessings on you all today!

 

Motivation

When I read the latest entry in my writing inspiration book, I almost shook my head and kept going. I’ve never been one of those to get into positive thinking books. They represented things to me like believing you’ll get a million dollars if you say it often enough to yourself or believing that your sick family member will get well. And we all know that people die, and there is poverty so how is this kind of thinking supposed to work? Some proponents of positive thinking would say that your faith wasn’t good enough or that you didn’t believe hard enough if your thoughts didn’t come true. I know that is not true so how does positive thinking or motivation work with writing or with anything else for that matter?

The entry I read had some thoughts for me which I want to expand upon for you all today. Six years ago, I didn’t have a blog. I wrote my stories down in notebooks that were for me alone. I played around with words, descriptions, settings, characters, and did my best to put them into a somewhat interesting story. I knew how to copy-edit, but editing as a whole to make the story better was something that was beyond me. I loved writing my stories, but something was missing, something important. I wasn’t motivated to finish anything that was original to me. Yes, I finished a few small projects, but the big ones…they languished in perpetual obscurity on my computer.

Things changed when I went to a small genre/writing convention in my hometown that spring. I met writers and sat in on their talks. I learned so much about this thing I was trying to do. I started this blog when I came home, and even more notably, I started calling myself a writer. It was a change in mindset, and one that I am only beginning to understand six years later.

Because, you see, the article I read earlier talked about how positive thinking works because there is a strong connection between the mind and body. From pg. 18 of The Writer’s Daily Companion by Amy Peters, “Neurologists describe it as ‘neurons that fire together wire together.’ In other words, you have the capacity, by affirming your goals, to effectively rewire your brain.” It made sense to me. That’s what I’ve done over the last six years. I’ve rewired my brain and now have a body of work to show for it–in my blogs and in my journals. (The journal I’m writing in now is my twentieth journal.) I’ve gone through seasons where I haven’t written as much as I’ve written in other seasons, but I have written, and I have shared. I’ve shared pieces of me I haven’t shared anywhere else. The most important thing I have gained during these years is the ability to say I am a writer and the desire to work on my craft.

Going back to the power of positive thinking though, is there a reason I haven’t been published yet? Is there a reason that all of the positive thoughts I’ve had haven’t come to fruition? Am I not thinking positively enough? I’ll have to go back and read one of those positive thinking books again, but my first thought after writing these words is that positive thinking has to do with the things you can control. You can’t control whether someone wants to publish your book. You can’t control whether someone wants to give you money. You can’t even control whether someone lives or dies. But, you can control what you think and believe, and you can do the work to become better at your craft. So, on this day, January 10, 2018, I proclaim that I am a writer to all who read this blog post!

Have a great day, everyone!

Safe Place

Last week, I started a series related to the questions my pastor asked in his New Year’s Eve sermon, and I thought I would continue it today. Last week’s question was “What does this trial expose in my heart?” (https://alisarussell.wordpress.com/2018/01/02/refined-like-gold-and-silver/) It brought out a lot of good words and uncovered some things that needed to be exposed in my heart. Just like I’m sure this week’s question will.

So, without any further adieu, here is this week’s question. “Am I a safe place for hurting people?” I would like to think so. I’ve experienced many hurts within the church over the course of my life, and I would like to think that people could talk to me without worrying what would happen to their words.

But, then the question spurs more thoughts. Thoughts I’m not comfortable dealing with. Thoughts I’m not sure how to deal with. They begin with an offhand comment someone gave me after service last week. A friend of mine had gone up after service wanting prayer. I knew she had been struggling so it was a no-brainer. I went up and laid my hand on her shoulder as our pastor prayed as did a few other people. I hugged her when he was done and went back to my seat. After the service was over, another friend said she had noticed I had gone up and that I was a real prayer warrior. I wasn’t so sure about that. I’m not as comfortable when I don’t know the person wanting prayer, and sometimes, I feel like they wouldn’t want my support because, well, they have the support of the staff or the elders.

These thoughts brought me back to a few years ago when someone didn’t want me to pray with them; they wanted me to help them find an elder. I wondered why. Wasn’t I just as capable of praying? I know I am now, and I’ve gotten more comfortable with my own prayer life over the past few years. People still have their opinions though. If they’re at the church and want prayer, they would rather have someone on the staff or an elder pray for them. It’s like people who are lay members and want to serve don’t even exist. I don’t understand.

This brings me to more thoughts, and they are more of the selfish kind. I’ve watched people go up wanting prayer, and they were surrounded by a sea of people. It’s almost like I was seeing a popularity contest come alive right before me. And I wonder why I don’t get that kind of support when I ask for prayer. Before anyone says anything, yes, I know that’s a selfish thought. I’m just wanting to explore it and put it back in the place it needs to be. There are a couple of reasons, I think, that this happens. One, yes, there are people in the church who are more popular than me, people who have a better handle on their faith than I do. They are held up as an example to the rest of us, and I can understand why people flock to them. Two, people have a tendency to flock to trauma. If they know something bad has happened to someone, they want the person to know they are praying for them. Three, there is a request for people to pray over someone who is leaving the church for whatever reason, and many people tend to go up for those kind of prayers.

Now that I’ve explored why many people go up to pray for certain people, I want to state why I think some people are prayed for alone. One, no one knows what is going on. How do you support someone when you don’t know what’s going on? Two, some people have an innate sense of privacy that keeps them from wanting other people to know what is going on. Three, some people just have a need for someone to pray with them, and they don’t care if anyone is with them or not. I’m not sure what category I fall into. Sometimes, it’s two, and sometimes, it’s three. Sometimes, it’s a combination of all three.

I’ve gone far afield of the question I first presented, but it was necessary to explain my thoughts to get to the conclusion I’ve come to. I think my best service to God is not going to be in the church. It’s going to be in the relationships I form and the writing I do. God wants me to put my words about Him and about my faith out there so people will know I’m not perfect. So people will know that I am a safe place. I shared a quote from an article on my Facebook page last week that I want to share here. “My desire now is to be the woman that God calls me to be. No more. And no less.” http://yellowhammernews.com/faithandculture/called-childlessness-surprising-ways-god/  I wrote this in response to the quote. “Though I did have the opportunity to be a mother, this spoke to me greatly especially now that my children are grown. The church expects women and men to fit a mold that they were often not made to fit. Thank you, Jesus, for being a mold breaker!”

Praying God’s blessings on all of you today!

Writing What We Can’t Say

I was thinking of the reasons why I write earlier. There are many of them–cheap therapy, defining my relationship with God, getting a story out of my head and onto paper or the screen, describing the world around me, using words to paint a picture, making a record of my life. But, there is a quote I found which explains my reasons for writing perfectly, and I want to elaborate on it today.

First, the quote. Anais Nin had this to say about writing. “The role of the writer is not to say what we can all say but what we are unable to say.” Unable to say. There are many things I am unable to say. There have been many things in history people haven’t been able to say or haven’t been listened to when they said them.

But, when they’ve been written down, it’s another story. Nations and people’s lives have been changed by the written world. I think of characters from The Color Purple or Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin which inspired a country to change. I also think of such books as The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, 1984 by George Orwell, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Each of these books, in its own way, changed the lives of its generation and the generations that followed making them the classics they are today. They illustrated thoughts and feelings that made people see issues in a different light which made talking about them easier. So, writing about the things we cannot say has changed the world.

It has changed my own world also. I have written things about my faith and about my own thoughts and feelings that I would never dare say out loud. Things about doubt and lack of trust. Things that have made me wonder if I have any faith at all. I have written things about people who seem so put together whereas I know that I’m falling apart. Why would these people want to be my friends when they have everything together, and I don’t? I don’t want to say it out loud though. My fear of losing friends is too much if I said it out loud.

But, writing it, writing it I can do. I can write my words about doubt and lack of trust and understand them better. I can write my words about how messed-up I am and imagine that someone else is taking solace in them. I can write my words about jealousy and envy and pray that the Holy Spirit would fill me so full that I wouldn’t have room for the feelings God doesn’t want me to have. I can write my words about having courage to meet that put-together person, and that maybe, maybe, we might have something in common. I can write the words I am unable to say.

Writing has changed my life in ways that couldn’t possible be imagined. It has given me the courage to live amidst the doubts, the ability to sort out my thoughts and feelings, and the knowledge that I am who I am no matter how much the world would like me to be different. What I have to say is important whether it is said out loud or written down. For if we did not write down the forbidden things, we would never have the chance to change our world or understand it better. I, for one, have decided it is too great of a risk so I will continue to write down the forbidden things, to write down what I cannot say so I can be understood.