I remember when I was a girl writing a song in my bedroom about wanting to be like Jesus; I can even remember the melody I wrote. I remember writing a poem about my Great-Grandaddy Gentry after he passed away. As a young girl, it was the first experience I had ever had losing a loved one, and writing about it came so natural to me. My family loved the poem and read it at his funeral.
In elementary school, I wrote a story about my dog B.J., and my teacher thought it was so good. She had me read it out loud to the class! I was on the academic team for our school, and I was asked to do the creative writing competition, and I actually don’t remember if I won or just placed, but I remember that I did very well. I felt proud of my work.
In 5th and 6th grade our school did this big project with the music and arts teachers where we wrote and performed a musical – the opera company. Students did the whole thing, with a little guidance from teachers. Everyone had different jobs. I was chosen along with a small group of other students to be one of the writers and composers. I loved every minute of it!
I remember feeling like writing was kind of my thing … I was pretty good at it, and I really enjoyed it.
Through the years though, that started to change. It didn’t happen all at once, but gradually, the love for writing as well as the confidence in doing it, faded. Kentucky schools had this writing plan for students … we were the first class to do it. That seemed to be the case a lot … the class of 2000 … let’s try this. We felt kind of like the guinea pig class. Anyway, this writing plan meant that every year every student had to turn in a writing portfolio.
Oh my goodness even as I think the words “writing portfolio”, my stomach turns! It became this huge stressor! You had to have a certain number of writing pieces in your portfolio with various types of writing: personal narratives, short stories, poetry, persuasive, etc. We wrote LOTS of writing assignments so that we could choose our best for our portfolio; then we edited and revised the crap out of those pieces for our “final copy.” Again, those words make me throw up in my mouth just a bit. It was so stressful! There was so much pressure to make it perfect. Finally you would turn in your portfolio you worked so hard all year putting together, and it would be scored. Distinguished, Proficient, Apprentice, or Novice.
I think I was a 7th grader when I got a score back from my portfolio, and it was scored as proficient. Apparently that was good. Proficient was what you were going for; distinguished was above and beyond. But for me, a straight A’s perfectionist who thought writing was my thing … Proficient felt like failure. Why wasn’t I a distinguished writer?
Then I think it was the next year, preparing yet another writing portfolio, when I wrote a piece that I felt I had absolutely just poured my heart out into. It was a piece about a pen-pal I had had for years, a boy with leukemia. It was about my young and strong Christian faith that this boy would absolutely be healed, and about how that faith in God was tested when that boy lost his battle with cancer. It was about how I felt when I received the certified letter in the mail from his mom instead of another letter from my special friend Casey. This writing piece meant a lot to me. To me, it wasn’t just a check off that I wrote a personal narrative for my writing portfolio; it was a piece of my heart on paper. But … I did not receive good feedback from my teacher. I was not asked to read it out loud to the class. I was given lots of red ink to edit.
I haven’t thought about that moment in a long time. I do think that was the moment I felt done with writing. I had gradually started to feel more stress than enjoyment from it already (keep in mind I’m just a young teenager at this point), and with that personal narrative, I thought … well, my words don’t matter. They are not special. They are not heard and felt in the way I anticipate.
Of course my parents still praised my writing, but I was at that age where that felt like it was just because they were my parents … not because I actually was or could be a good writer.
Throughout high school I didn’t do any writing unless I had to, and what I had to do I didn’t do with a ton of “heart,” but just “head.” I wouldn’t let myself get too invested just to be disappointed.
Eventually I started journaling again on my own. (That was something else I had lost the joy for because pretty much every class I was in required a journal of some sort.) It was in college when I really started journaling more and writing out my prayers. There’s so much to figure out about life in college! I had to sort through my thoughts and feelings somehow! Writing out my prayers with all my confusions and desires really brought me closer to the Lord in those years. That is something that has continued since then, and I think always will.
Fast forward to when I was a young mom with 2 toddlers and a baby, and I felt God put it on my heart to do this read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan, and to basically share my journal, or my daily reflections. So without knowing anything about blogging, I started a blog, and I posted 6 days a week for a year! I didn’t have a huge following, but I didn’t care. It felt good to share my words again. It meant so much to hear that even one person was reading the Bible along with me and being encouraged by the words I shared. I learned so much about the character of God that year. I learned so much about myself that year.
When my parents, as a surprise for my birthday, had my blog printed as a book … I cannot express how special that was. To see it in print … a book, with my name as the author … wow. I had titled my blog “Thirsty,” and my mom wrote as the inscription on the first page, “To all who thirst for God’s Word.” I loved that.
Years later now, I’m blogging again. I write about our family experiences and what God is teaching me, and I have the hope of writing and sharing more and more. I’m starting to regain that confidence that God did give me writing as a passion, and He does give me words to share that matter. The goal is not to become a New York best-selling author … even though, I’m not going to lie, that would be pretty stinking amazing … but even if it is just my kids who one day read and cherish the words I’ve written, that would be pretty amazing too. So I’m going to keep writing. I am going to hope that someone out there at some point reads my words and from them finds joy, or a challenge, or humor, or encouragement, or inspiration. I’m going to dare to call myself a writer. It is part of how He made me; part of who I am.
I am a child of God.
I am a wife.
I am a mother.
I am a peacemaker.
I am a teacher.
I am a musician.
I am a writer.
I had lost that last one for a while, but I’m finding it again. I believe God gives us each these special little things that are double gifts … a gift that brings joy to our own lives, and at the same time a gift that brings something special to the lives of others. It can definitely be scary to share those gifts that are part of who we are. After all, not everyone will appreciate them. But how great would it be if we all just shared anyway and encouraged each other along the way?