Thomas asked Jesus where on earth they were going and how can we get there if I don’t know the way and Jesus answered saying stay with me, go with me, I’ll show you.
I am the way, the truth,
the life. John 14: 6
Last week one gentleman told me he was proud of me for “stepping out” and that our paths may cross again. He’s a retired magazine publicist.
Another who was formerly my boss; but, always my friend listened as I shared my current “leaps of faith” and later ended his kind note with “I admire your faith.”
Both of them I sat with and shared my coming changes, my uncertainty of what will be and my peace that I am choosing rightly, to move into a new season and allow God to develop the rest of my story.
Be patient til your wings are grown. St. Francis de Sauls
Kate Motaung and Shannon Popkin have responded to the question agonized over by me and other writers hoping to gain an audience, hoping for eventual publication.
Their new book is an important one for naive and introverted women like me, ones who are known to be quiet.
Influence, Building a Platform that Elevates Jesus, Not Me
How to navigate the work of making yourself known so that others will know what you know of Jesus.
Some time ago I was on the launch team for Kate’s Book, A Place to Land, a Story of Longing and Belonging.
I knew of Kate because I participated in her 5 minute Friday link-ups as a way to conjure up words for writing and deep down inside, hope somebody, just anybody might notice me, my words.
Occasionally they did and occasionally they still do.
I’m not really the “community” type one, I keep to myself. I’m known for saying I am so tired of “peopling”.
I am believing this will be different in my new season people.
I have continued to read Kate’s work, posts and the helpful encouragement in my mailbox. She responds to my questions about writing. She responds so promptly! (Something I personally love)
I’ve gone from yearning to have a writing life similar to hers (sorry, Kate, for a little bit, I was jealous) to believing her advice and seeing I can have a writing life of my own.
Kate Motaung has influenced me.
But, back to the question over putting myself out there or just cowering in my corner hoping somehow some reader might stumble upon me, my words and pronounce me worthy of reading…
This is the imprint of my childhood. Do not ask for anything, pretend you can do life without attention or recognition, don’t seek to be noticed or noteworthy.
In a time when we are inundated with attention seekers, social media places becoming outlets and a grasping for just one other person to know, there’s new pressure of deciding to stay quiet, to stay in “our own lanes”, at least I feel it is so.
I am learning slowly, the best way, not everyone cares about what I say.
And that is okay.
Some do and tell you so, adding comments like “please don’t stop, you’re the first thing I read everyday!”.
But, the curious, voyeur-type readers of my instagram or my blog who scope me out and quietly slink away…
These are the ones that hinder me.
That cause me to question my goals.
These are the ones that read and I imagine are saying, “Why does she think she is supposed to write this way or who is she to think she has something important for others to know?”
I’m afraid these are people by whom I am personally known.
Is it this way for others? I wonder.
They’re probably just busy; but my little girl unnoticed feels insignificant so often, the imprint of insignificance trying to hold on.
Less often and increasingly so, I have readers leave comments or people who say “I needed that.” or “How did you know?”
They thank me for being brave, honest, for saying and writing about a pain they may have known or know.
These readers encourage me to continue, to grow.
To grow in ways like joining Hope*Writers, being brave enough to be with others.
To believe the words God gives me from my experiences and my perspective are mine and mine alone; but, they are words someone else may need.
That someone might have a similar heartache, a breakthrough type epiphany on grace or even may find a new way to connect with Jesus through my interpretation of a parable or passage something to which we both relate.
Kate wrote of her mother’s death.
She and I have a similar story although vastly different.
My mother passed away nine years ago yesterday. I was in a fairly new position and living two hours away. Kate was in another country, airline flights away. We both set other things aside to be with our mamas.
Gut wrenching and emergent interrupted days, we held onto the time we had left even though our hearts longed for more. For me, at least, I always longed for and thought there would be more.
I treasure our bonding through her words, her description of the drawing of her heart to be beside her mother, the angst over not being able to be constantly near and the utter helplessness and surrender to our lack of control.
The realization of this lack when I had returned home too early and I got “the call”.
Others may have read Kate’s story and gained so much more or been impacted in a different way.
That’s the power of our stories.
Today, I am trying to lean in to where God wants my writing to go.
The balance between letting go and continuing are much like my battle of being known and staying in my place.
Much like stepping out to wait.
I know that if I continue I won’t even look the same because my heart will be open to where God takes me, the story He is developing no longer hidden.
I’ll be different, I’ll be the me that God has always seen, has kept purposely through so much trauma and self-destructive “dis” grace.
My note to self of late?
Continue and Believe. me
A good starting place for a newsletter or a book title, I perceive.
For now it’s for stepping forward to see what God has for me to share and to increase my believing so that others will believe.
This, I believe, is what God means by influence.
I’m linking my thoughts up with others on this topic of thoughts and childhood labels and hindrances to pursuing platforms so that our writing voice might grow.
After reading about her “being called out by God moment” I was challenged to discover the true me, to label the labels I’ve worn all of my life, assigned to me because of circumstances out of my control and handicapped by some of my own mistakes.
But, I couldn’t do any of this suddenly, so I asked God, what are my labels, my idols, my self-handicapping behaviors?
And then I rested and returned to read more and to realize some of my behaviors, my default mindsets and choices are simply what I know as me, keeping me from becoming the me God sees.
I know how to halt my progress, derail the train as it approaches the life changing bend because I’ve not lived in the land of confidence and courage for long enough to extend my stay, to be welcomed in.
To believe it’s a place I could live.
In this book, I gained confirmation of this thing I do, putting limits on my blessings, selling myself short, minimizing my part in my arrival at the place of who I was created to be.
I make it less than it is, the good that’s come my way, through my own hands.
My grandson stood over me as I painted, finishing up pieces for my first exhibit. He sweetly said “You’re really good.”
I smiled and asked “You think so?” He replied yes and asked how’d I get so good at painting.
I replied “I just kept trying, I just kept learning.”
“No, you are a good painter ” he insisted standing so close beside me, captivated as I explained the use of palette knife instead of brush.
And I didn’t discount it, I didn’t insist that he was wrong. I didn’t minimize his sweet praises.
I didn’t do the thing I’ve done for so long, I accepted his assessment of me, I owned it, I believed it belonged.
He labeled me a “good painter”.
Crazy thing, I have been painting for so very long and until that little exchange I’d never felt I could be called an artist, “a painter”.
Always, oh well just the one who keeps trying, keeps trying, I enjoy it, it’s therapy, I had an art scholarship but I flunked out.
Strategically distracting from the accepting of just maybe I’m good.
In Michelle De Rusha’s book I was especially changed by Chapters Four and Five, the ones on brokenness and on dark and desperate periods she refers to as the “hard prune”.
In Chapter Four, I read of the emotional epiphany the author experiences as she comes to terms with her lack of intimacy and utters words to herself that must have surely broken her heart, that her heart was not as close to God as she’d believed.
I didn’t have clarity in my vocation, in my calling as a writer, because I didn’t know who I was in God. Michelle DeRusha
My thought? How brave and how very scary her self revelation!
I had to pause, knowing it’s for me quite the same.
Chapter Five describes seasons of doubt, depression, dark nights of souls.
Unbeknownst to the world until long after her death, Mother Teresa suffered from a long and relentless dark night of the soul. Michelle DeRusha
We’re conditioned to push through those times of dark abyss. We push through, we masquerade, self-medicate with substance and empty activity.
We keep plugging along when what we need most is to accept it, to settle into the solemn and to let the soul get quiet enough for long enough to know what it is it needs to know.
Our culture is contradictory to that response, the letting the sadness and the times devoid of tangible hope do God’s work.
I don’t think I’ve ever thought to welcome seasons like these, I’m quite sure I’ve never thought them beneficial, the blah absence of growth or motivation or meaning.
I never realized they have a reason, there must be a settling into stagnancy, an acceptance of lull in blessing or breakthrough so that we seek Him and find authenticity in our faith again.
We have to let go of the self we created in response to hardship, to circumstances and we must not be pulled back there, to the places we know because we’re afraid of good, it’s too unfamiliar.
We have to allow and own our uncovering of our souls.
Our deepest, truest, most essential self has been waiting all along for this opportunity to be uncovered and exposed to the light, waiting for the invitation to grow into its fullest, richest, most beautiful potential. DeRusha
This book was not easy for me, it was true in ways I hadn’t expected its truth.
Occasionally, I pencilled and tabbed and then set it aside. I feared I was not ready to see some things, afraid to be called out of my past and current patterns.
I was afraid it would be too scary and difficult and even unfair to my messed up me to consider thinking new possibilities of me.
Early one morning I had clarity in making my list of labels and it occurred to me that yes, all of these were decided for you, assigned to you, expected of you.
You simply played along, sat in your corner, came out only when called and never having any inclination that right now you’re still wearing them, really have all along.
God’s seen you quite differently and patiently and consistently is calling you towards His idea of you.
So, my labels I’m letting go of along with their clutching and anxious handhold?
The One Without Needs
What labels have you lived with for too long?
I signed up to help launch this book and I remember commenting to the author
“Something tells me this book may change my life.”
And it has, it has been a beginning towards change.
I’ve only scratched the surface here.
If you’re ready to live freely, openly and be pruned of unproductive, dormant and decaying parts of you, your “tree”, you should order a copy.
If you order by midnight tonight, there are extra encouraging good things.
I’m so grateful Michelle De Rusha experienced her coming face to face with her self defeating behaviors that hindered her knowing God fully and truly.
Her story is important because she is closer than before to her “God You”.
I believe empathy should have another name, a word that’s descriptive without the clinical tone. I believe empathy, the word, should sound softer, a whispered acknowledging tone.
Empathy, whether you’re the giver or the receiver, an exchange really, is human hearts trading places.
I’ve finished Kate Motaung’s book and considered the technique of allowing the pages to fall open, deciding this is the place I should write of my connection with this story.
Still, each time I sought redirection, I wound up in the same place, the place we had in common, the place and time when grace filled the room.
Years ago, it was the most pitifully powerful memory I’d ever known.
Still is the most powerful, not pitiful or pity filled any longer.
The day was Christmas and the drive was three hours one way. My husband, the children, there was no discussion, we were going to see mama.
We arrived at the hospital and the nurse said, “She’s waiting.”
Her body was weak, her organs were weaker; but, she was expecting us. Her hair had been styled and she had on the most delicate of nightgowns I’d ever seen, more beautiful than any I’d ever known her to own.
She smiled. She “made over” my daughter and my son. She encouraged them, she reminded, she laughed a little, she gave them direction.
We gave her the gifts we’d brought and I remember that she thought my siblings might come later and my aunt had come and she had an expression of pure love and acceptance of whatever gift or not might be given.
She grew tired and it seemed we grew awkward, like clumsy adolescents not being sure what to do with our hands, none of us knew what to with our hearts.
A hospital room on Christmas Day and an hour or so with my mama and then three hours back home with little talk only uncertain sadness.
This was my mama’s last Christmas. I have never seen her more glowing, never seen her so resigned and simply open to come what may or may not.
I read Kate Motaung’s account of her mother’s cancer diagnosis and of her longing to be with her but, committed to stay on God’s course, a missionary in another country.
I was overjoyed by her telling of her mother’s travels to visit. I envisioned her love for Kate and her family and her maybe stubbornness to be with her daughter, to welcome babies, to leave them with good words and wisdom.
I smiled as I read of the trips for ice cream and the times her mama, weak and unable to be strong on her own, had a zest for life and humor, I could see them together making memories.
The mother giving all she had until she could give no more all for the sake of her children. I understood.
I struggled to imagine being so very far away and then realized prayer has no limits. God doesn’t set parameters as if to say oh, no the prayer you said well it’s way too far for the one you want it to help.
No, God is Sovereign. A mama three days away is no different from one three hours away when our living Father hears the supplication of a loving daughter, asking for mercy for her mama, and grace for the times together.
Towards the end of the book, Chapter 20 is titled “Grace”.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,”
Ephesians 3:20 ESV
There’s a surprise trip to visit her, to return from Cape Town, Africa to Michigan.
Her mama’s condo smelled of cookies. The machinery all around, sustaining her breathing and yet, there were fresh cookies.
I wandered then if her mama baked cakes and made pot roast and potatoes and I decided for myself, I believe she did.
The chapter ends with celebration; she, her mama and her sister, memories, more laughter, hysterical laughter.
And a realization.
And it was grace. Kate Motaung
“A Place to Land” is a comfort, it’s consolation and it’s a telling and retelling of a daughter’s unwavering confidence in God.
Mostly, for me it’s a beautiful gift of grace, grace her mother gave, and grace that surrounded her and guided her home.
Guided her daughter through grief to be able to share.
To have other “motherless daughters” understand, be understood.
This book to me, it was grace.
Empathy’s new explanation, I’ve decided.
It’s grace, grace from one who understands shared with another.