I have been many things in my life. I have been a student, a carnival worker (oh yes!) , a retail associate, a missionary, an ESL Instructor, a pastor’s wife, a mom, a single mom, a daughter, a friend, a hot mess, and the list could go on! However, I have never embraced any identity of being a writer. Well, that is changing today. Today I declare that I am a writer. Throughout my life I have found joy in writing. I was the strange kid who got excited when it was time to write papers for English class, well as long as it was something I was passionate about anyway! I made my way through college writing monotonously about communication and having no direction whatsoever. After I became a missionary, I saw beauty in people’s stories and also in how God was weaving my own. I experienced God like never before amid the breathtaking views of the Oaxacan mountains and surrounded by the extravagant hospitality of the Oaxacan people. I found myself daily in a hammock with an open journal on my lap furiously writing in an attempt to capture all I was experiencing. Writing easily became my greatest hobby while in Mexico, alongside eating street tacos and tamales of course!
Moving to Houston, Texas made writing a bit easier for me as well. I was on a brand new adventure experiencing cultures I had never known. It was exciting and I never could have dreamed of how much God would grow me as a follower of him. He put opportunity after opportunity in front of me to experience. I met people from countries all over the world, even ones I had never even heard of. ( I apologize to my Eritrean and Bhutanese friends for my lack of geography knowledge). I drank an unruly amount of tea in homes all over Houston. We spent many days eating and celebrating holidays with African Muslim friends. In a wild set of events I was able to fly across the Atlantic ocean to have dinner with their family back in Senegal and realized just how small the world really is. I spent week after week visiting a Turkish mosque, HIndu temple, Buddhist temple and eating the best food in Chinatown. I lived among refugees who had survived such unbelievably difficult circumstances. And as much as I tried to serve them, they almost always served me more. I became a student of culture and faith, and I poured out my lessons into multiple journals to be read by me when I doubted God’s faithfulness and love.
In the fall of 2012, I opened my journal on the floor of the living room of my townhouse and wrote to God about my concern of not having an authentic faith. I scribbled down my desire to be found faithful even if suffering were to come my way. Just a few short weeks later while serving in my ESL classroom and community outreach room, I was violently attacked, raped and I nearly lost my life. This changed my world forever. Word of my attack quickly grew from my Houston community, to back home in Illinois, and then to friends and family around the nation. I received a great outpouring of love and support from so many including complete strangers. In my personal life, I was experiencing my first real taste of true heartache and pain but developing an incredible dependence on Jesus like I never knew possible. It was overwhelming and raw and I kept feeling the nudge the share what I was learning. This was much different than the writing I had done before, but I still found a voice and started to post my journey of healing on a blog. It was vulnerable and a bit weak, but people seemed to be listening. Maybe there was something to this writing thing.
Over the years, I have written about finding joy and hope in some impossible situations. I have tried my best at being authentic and brave, but unsure of how it was coming through. My life took another turn at the end of 2016 when my beloved husband, a youth pastor, was arrested and I became a single mom overnight . I lost my best friend, my co-parent, my husband, and my life and community as I had known it in Houston. My family became the top story of the 5:00 news. This was not what I pictured my life to be. People were above and beyond generous and kind, but I felt eyes on me. How would I respond to this? I heard Satan laughing loudly like he had hit the bullseye and had won the grand prize. There was no good in this story that I could see. My voice was extinguished in a single day and I felt disqualified to write even a sentence. I went through a pretty dark and silent period, but it was writing each and every day in a journal that brought life and healing to my heart. I had a secret place to put my feelings and gut wrenching prayers to the Lord. Writing about this part of my journey has been the most difficult of all, probably because the pain has been the deepest. I have taken baby steps in sharing a bit of the process that is leading to my healing through writing publicly but let’s be honest it’s ridiculously scary to do so!
As an enneagram 9, I have always struggled with finding my voice or wondering if it even matters at all. “Who cares what I think” is the refrain that has been sung in my head since childhood and is singing loud and merrily as I type this blog post. I am choosing to silence that voice in my head and turn up the voice in my heart that tells me that I do have something to share. That the story God has entrusted me with is worthwhile and meaningful not just to my own spiritual journey but to those who are struggling in theirs as well. Emily P. Freeman in her book “The Next Right Thing” discusses how we all love new beginnings, but we don’t love being a beginner. However it is okay to ‘be a beginner” sometimes. It’s so easy for me to deny the identity of a writer, even though it’s always been in me because I think of myself as a beginner and I don’t love that feeling. So today I am starting something new and calling myself a writer. I don’t know what successes or failures are up ahead for me, but I am committing to being brave and vulnerable. As Brene Brown says “daring greatly means the courage to be vulnerable. It means to show up and be seen. To ask for what you need. To talk about how you’re feeling and to have the hard conversations.” So that’s what I hope this blog will be about. What is it that’s inside of you, nudging you to step out and be courageous? Is there something in you that you have been too fearful to explore and risk failure? Maybe it’s writing just like me and you have a story to share or maybe it’s completely different. Whatever it is, I invite you to join me on a journey of becoming a beginner and stepping out in something new. We will see together where God takes us.