Sometimes my life is so full of people, I don’t have time to run back to my computer and share my report. Such has been my life of late. Recently I spent a day with a group of women for a women’s retreat, but how it came about surprises me still. A woman who wasn’t a writer found out I’d be speaking about writing and attended the publishing seminar, determined to ask me if I’d speak at her women’s retreat. Imagine her surprise when I sat directly across from her for lunch! I love how God threads people together like that.
So I spoke about freedom, about stories from my past, about God’s great reaching down to pluck me from the pain. And ladies resonated, praise Jesus. One so much so that she wanted to leave the retreat. (Insert ironic laughter here).
My story hit far too close to home. She later told me she felt like I shared her story as I spoke, and it wasn’t one she’d been able to own or heal from. Her words hushed as she talked, as if she’d get slapped if she raised her voice.
Darting eyes. Shame. Worry. Fear. I listened as she haunted out her story. I grew indignant at the injustices she’d faced, felt the holy anger of God.
An hour later, I saw a shy smile, an engagement that hadn’t been there before, a sly hint of freedom. I have hope that she will be wildly set free from the haunting. And I feel so small and privileged to be the impetus for God doing freedom work.
The day stretched long before me, no time for myself, but a lot of interaction. I fed off other people’s stories, digesting them, listening. When I spoke, I expended myself in a great exhale, so that by the time I got home, the kids could see I was crazy-tired.
I spoke again a few days later, expending myself, encouraging, wooing. The audience felt asleep, lethargic, as if I had to become a hyperactive cheerleader to open their eyes and hearts. Thankfully, I met a dear speaker, older than me, who acted as a friend, helping me with my table and giving me a heaping dose of encouragement. Words like, “That was exactly the message our girls needed to hear,” and “I applaud you for all the books you’ve written.” I love it that God knows our limitations and needs. He saw my fatigue, my weariness in speaking to a tired group, and sent me my own cheerleader.
Which was just what I needed knowing what I would face later.
A letter in the mail, not from a person per se, but a publishing entity, saying my less-than-a-year-ago book would soon be out of print. I could purchase the rest of the doomed copies at a discount and save them from the furnace. (Yes, it’s called remaindering. Any books not sold end up in a fiery, hellish furnace). I moped the day, letting my worth be determined by words like failure, remaindering, horrible sales, and fiery furnace define me.
That evening, I didn’t share my woes with the eager-eyed writers at our monthly writers group. I put on my cheerleader hat again and taught about publishing our work, the process of it all. And I offered encouragement, but I left completely spent again, discouraged from the day. I came home to an email about how I charged too much to speak, which stung in its own way.
My children and husband cheered in their own sweet way, and then an email touched me, written by someone I’d never met. “Your words propel me forward through hope, but more, they make me feel. I need to feel. I want that I will some day have your quiet contentment and wholeness. That the rest of my life is not a shadow of shattered innocence, but a frame of constant becoming. Most days it seems impossible, but I hold on. Thank you, and thanks be to God.”
So maybe all that hard work isn’t for naught. Maybe all these spoken and written words sent out to the world mean something. Maybe it’s not a waste of my energy and time. Maybe just maybe God keeps me on this path as a word girl so others won’t feel alone, or that they’ll simply feel this life. Oh I hope so.
It’s in these times of exhale and fatigue that I’m grateful that Jesus is the living water, and I’m just an empty, sometimes cracked cup, upstretched, waiting for His filling. That’s my prayer for me as I spend myself further, and it’s certainly my prayer for you.
Have you ever felt so spent and dry that you nearly wilted? How did Jesus fill you back up again?