(Giving Myself) Grace

I’ve been in a place, lately, where writing is hard. I guess I should say it’s been harder than normal–writing is always hard, in some way or another. Writing well and truthfully is never easy. But it’s been especially hard over the past weeks. Paper deadlines have been looming, tempting me to just sit down and WRITE. 

And I do that, sometimes. But it never really ends well. Every time I try to fight through that feeling of not-rightness, that feeling that now isn’t the time to write or it isn’t the time to write whatever I’m working on, and just write anyway, I come out of it so incredibly frustrated, with maybe a few pages of bad writing that I’ll just delete trailing behind.

And I got so fed up of that feeling of just forcing myself through things, of doing things I didn’t want to do. Not a ‘lazy me would much rather be watching Netflix’ sort of wanting, but a ‘this kind of hurts what are you doing?’ kind of wanting. It hurt so much that I finally just stopped, and stopped, and stopped. I stopped forcing it. I would sit in silence, or pray, or write that other piece that’s nudging up at the edges of my thoughts, or go do the dishes, or… anything else, really. 

And it felt beautiful.

It was such a release. I was recognizing how I was feeling and legitimizing it and accepting it. And how I was feeling was tired: tired of being in class, tired of my own emotions, tired of my own avoidance. AND THAT WAS OKAY. 

By admitting what I was feeling, by giving it a name, I was giving myself the grace to feel as I was feeling. I was accepting myself and my feelings, and caring for them, and just trying to understand. And it felt like such love for myself.

How I was feeling was completely okay.

I see a lot online about forcing yourself to write every day and how such good things come from that. I have never, ever found that to be true. I’ve always written badly when I’ve forced myself to write. I’ve always left those sessions feeling empty and drained in a way that feels more like ‘something was taken from me against my will’ than like ‘I just did something good and hard and beautiful.’ Forcing myself to write–to do anything–denies the larger truth that I am not the source of my writing. God is. Good, truthful, faithful writing will not happen on my own strength; it happens at God’s direction. Writing is not the highest good; God is. God is the highest good, and my writing belongs to God. Forcing it is just another way for me to try and take back control of my writing, control that I don’t want (mostly), control that I certainly don’t need. 

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Lent Devotional

Here is my second devotional with Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. I was overjoyed to be asked to participate! This devotional is written about Isaiah 49, which includes one of the Suffering Servant songs. The most famous of these is Isaiah 53, which is so often read this time of year as a picture of Jesus’ suffering.  Yet here the Servant suffers, but not so grievously; his suffering is interwoven even more clearly with freedom and justice for Israel and the nations.

Read the full devotional here.

Stories in the Dark

Addie Zierman is hosting a synchroblog today about our own stories of darkness to celebrate the release of her new book, Night Driving. So, here goes…

  
Writing has always been complicated. 

It’s hard to pick a darkest time in that set of months; everything was so dark and tangled, full of guilt and longing, both of the kind that fill your stomach and sit heavy in your bones and feel like they’re about to tear you apart. Underlying everything was this tension between what I dreamt of and what I was terrified would happen.

My first forays into fiction writing were born out of my own desire to see the kinds of stories I loved, but full of girls and women. I hated that there was just that one token girl who, yes, tended to be kick-ass, but why couldn’t she be the main character? And so I crafted my own storylines, full of superheroes and dragons and unicorns and lots of kicking ass. Sometimes there was even a boy character! 

I dreamt of being a writer. I wanted it the way you want your first dream: I wanted it with all of my being, imagined the books I would write and my books being made into movies and being famous. I wanted it so badly that I gripped my dream dream with a death-grip, not allowing anyone to even know of it, yet determined to make it happen. Crafting the plots of my stories took on all that frenzied passion that I wouldn’t allow myself an outlet for–for, being a perfectionist, I wouldn’t let myself write anything unless I had it all planned out, unless I was sure it was going to be perfect. Besides, writing was hard work, work that I poured my soul into and didn’t want anyone to know I was doing because then they would ask to see it and I’d have to say yes but I couldn’t face the idea of anyone reading it and so I only wrote where no one would see me–but plotting, plotting could be done anywhere. I could plan out the next scene, outline the ending, craft that conversation word-for-word, and as long as it was in all in my head, no one would be the wiser.

These imaging ins took up more and more of my time. I would slip away from people to get a few more minutes of time with my stories. I would lay awake at night thinking of them. I would plan scenes in exquisite detail, going over my favorites again and again. They consumed me, pushing aside everything else into various levels of ‘Less Important.’ God was pushed aside, honesty, sleep, school, relationships… They all paled in comparison with these fictional worlds that so vividly filled my head.

Those years weren’t the darkest time–just the background, the behavior that I slowly learned and that became ingrained in every part of my being, every part of how I thought and processed emotions and behaved and lived. No, the darkest time came later, after God wooed me back. God was lurking at the edges of my own story, waiting for me. I knew it, but the knowledge filled me with frantic terror, until one day the terror collapsed at the knowledge of my own weakness like a wet tent–or maybe God just reached through it and pulled me out. And my life was full of joy again, and I wasn’t alone anymore. 

Except.

Except my life was still woven in with my stories, these living things writhing about inside me, demanding my attention, wanting my life, wanting perhaps to be written down but certainly to be thought about, to shove their way into every moment, whether that was studying or sitting and laughing with friends or watching the school orchestra or walking down the sidewalk on my way to class. I was still faced with this beast, the one that wanted to think about reality for maybe two minutes of any given day and. wanted to get lost in fictional places and characters for the rest of the time. 

Trying to give that up was physically painful, sometimes. The desire to get lost somewhere else was so strong that it filled my gut, infused my limbs, until just sitting there thinking about not stories was all I could do, took all of my energy and prayer and effort, and all I really wanted to do was fall to the floor because that extra effort of staying sitting and normal-looking seemed like too much. Tasks like walking to class and taking a shower and going to bed became tasks that I looked to with dread, because those were the times when stories started prowling and growling and demanding to be let in and looked over and put back in the pride of place. Every slip up filled me with deep guilt and terror, a sick tension in my stomach, because this was the thing that led me away from God and I was overjoyed to be back. I didn’t want to be dragged away, bit by bit, so slowly that when the moment of choice came it was so easy to shove God away one last time that I then repeated over and over again. I didn’t want these fantasies to be so important to me, to be woven into the fabric of every day, to be always lurking at the edges of my vision and thoughts, calling out to me like sirens while sitting in lecture or pippetting for my experiment or watching a movie with my dorm mates. I hated that they twisted everything, were twisted into everything in my life, twisted and enmeshed and clawing their way into everything.

Share (Five Minute Friday)

It’s been ages since I’ve done a Five Minute Friday! It’s a wonderful exercise in free writing and community run by Kate and based on a one-word prompt. The word this week is Share.

  
Writing is an exercise in sharing. I express my deepest feelings and then I show them to others, put them out there for all to see, if they care to. It’s my way of sharing, of giving of myself and showing myself to others.

  
Sometimes I wonder how fair this is. After all, any writing I publish is something polished, something I’m happy or at least content with. How much does it show the rough edges, the dark places, the parts of me I don’t want anyone to see? Is writing the truest form of sharing?

And yet… I have trouble trusting spoken words. They’re harder to corral, to get just right in the moment. Sometimes there’s beauty in that unfinished aspect, and sometimes it just creates unneeded pain and confusion.

Not Alone

Or: Why I Write

I could write a hundred blog posts about the above topic, of course. But over the past week I’ve been thinking a lot about writing as a way to bridge the gap between people and break down isolation.

Source

I know this quote is about friendship, but some of my favorite pieces of writing do the same thing. I come away feeling less alone, because I’ve seen that others feel the same way I do, or that others struggle through life just like I do and the lie that everyone else has it together is just that, a lie. Knowing that I am not alone in my doubts and fears and struggles is powerful.

I’m coming from a week where knowing I’m not alone has been powerful. I’ve read a lot of things that have reminded me that others struggle with the same things and that life isn’t the same for everyone:

  • Catching up on Wil Wheaton‘s blog is so refreshing. He blogs honestly about his depression and the creative life.
  • When Love Takes Your Breath Away” by Clair Colvin was an article that made me feel less alone. It was honest about love and wounds and everyday life, and it was beautiful.
  • Michmash and Kitty Adventures are two of my favorite slice-of-live blogs. Both authors blog honestly about their everyday life, and it’s a great reminder that everyday life isn’t always glamorous or easy or what we expect.
  • Mickey Neumann’s article “A is for (A)sexual” was brutally honest about something I didn’t know much about. I loved it.
  • And, in less that a week, I reread Alison Croggon‘s Pellinor series because I just wanted to read something honest about emotions. All the characters spend most of their time trying to figure out who they are what they’re feeling and Croggon wrote it so that it feels real. I learn something new about myself every time I read this series.

And that is why I write. I want to share my own experience, help people feel less alone and know that they’re not some freak or strange or weird for feeling whatever it is they’re feeling. I want to connect people. I want to share with others the feeling I’ve had this week, that glorious feeling of knowing I am not alone in feeling and struggling. I want others to know they’re not alone.