Learning to Shepherd Words

Almost exactly one year ago, I was drying dishes and talking to my husband about an application I’d filled out for a writing mentorship with one of my favorite writers. I told him it was such a longshot and I felt silly even applying, but a few days later I opened an email from Lore Wilbert inviting me into the course. She just announced that she’s offering her writing mentorship again this spring with applications due February 17, and I can’t encourage you enough to consider applying.

When I started the mentorship, she explained how she’d prayed for the Holy Spirit to guide her in choosing the writers who would walk through the course over the next 12 weeks. I didn’t know - couldn’t have known - reading those words that day just how much the Lord would use this mentorship in my life.

The day I finished my first assignment was the day I later stood in an emergency room with my family as a doctor and close family friend shared with us that my Uncle Lee had passed away from a heart attack. The next days, weeks, months all seem to run together in my mind. I considered quitting the mentorship because the timing felt so inconvenient and cruel, but at my husband’s suggestion I emailed Lore and decided to work through whatever assignments I felt like I could handle. That week, between funeral preparation and some of the most difficult conversations I’ve ever been part of, it felt like a dam had broken inside me and words poured out like water - uncontainable, easy, fast.

With Lore’s guidance and encouragement to be, in the words of Eugene Peterson, a “care-filled shepherd of words,” I found myself better equipped to navigate the grief that threatened to drown me. I found myself rewriting words and working out my salvation on paper, easily identifying the lies I was believing about who God is because they were written down.

I didn’t apply for this writing mentorship expecting the Lord to teach and comfort me in such profound ways. More than the writing advice (which was superb) and the guidance (which was excellent) and the comments and corrections (which were grace-filled and oh so helpful), the constant focus on the Lord and the ways we can experience his love through writing were what made this mentorship something so pivotal in my life.

All of that to say: if I could participate again this year, I would in half a heartbeat. But I have a sneaking suspicion there are other writers out there the Holy Spirit has chosen to lead into this experience. Maybe you don’t consider yourself a writer (I didn’t) and maybe you think it’s a longshot and feel silly applying (I did.) In all honesty, I hope your experience does not mirror mine - who would wish the death of a close family member on anyone? - but I absolutely think this course can be just as impactful in your life, your vocation, your salvation as it was in mine.

If you want to read more about it, Lore posted information on her blog here.

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Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

There are less than two months left until my due date. Which isn’t to say much of when this baby will decide to come, but it is a fixed point on the calendar, a real and true day that will really and truly exist regardless of my own readiness. It’s also a date that every person - the man behind me in line at Walmart, the lady at church I’ve never met before, strangers on the internet - seem to be obsessed with knowing. So there’s that.

This morning on my drive to work I wondered if anyone has ever felt ready for motherhood. I know there are plenty of women who have dreamed of motherhood since they were little girls being mothered themselves, but I wonder if anyone has ever stood on the precipice of this moment in their lives and felt wholly ready. Fearless. Prepared.

At the same time I wonder if anyone has ever felt as un-ready for motherhood as I do. I’ve grown up with people around me telling me I am an “old soul” but I’ve always felt young, small, insignificant against the largeness of the world. This can be a gift at times - I’ve never felt like I had life all figured out which has made it easier to learn from others and grow - but it also makes these times of transition so tricky.

I feel my own lack of experience and wisdom. I struggle to navigate the “adult” world of healthcare and car insurance and cooking for myself. I am easily overwhelmed by all I don’t know how to do yet, coupled with the realization that a time is fast approaching when it will become even more difficult to learn. Maybe it would be different if I was 25 or 30 or 35, but here I am with my only 22 years of limited experience and less than two months before I am responsible for the life of a fully dependent human being.

I feel overwhelmed by the way time is moving with no regard for my feelings. The days keep flipping by on the calendar. My stomach keeps getting rounder and rounder, somehow managing to defy gravity even though I only just entered the third trimester. The to-do list keeps multiplying, the unfinished tasks looming over my head like ghosts.

This past week I read stories in Luke of the disciples dropping everything and following Jesus, and I longed for the kind of faith it would take to do something like that. Easy faith has never been my gift even though I have longed for it. Instead of a person of courage and brave faith, I’m a habitual second-guesser more prone to paralyzed indecision than confident action.

I keep hoping for the kind of faith it will take to step forward into motherhood - faith that trusts Jesus enough to be bold and confident and courageous. But I don’t feel those things yet, and maybe I never will. Even though I will keep praying for that kind of easy faith because I do think it is a gift to be desired, an author wrote, “Sometimes faith precedes the step. Sometimes it comes after.” and reading that let me breathe a little easier because maybe I don’t have to have everything sorted out before my due date. Maybe it is enough to take the step trusting that the Lord will give me enough of whatever I need for that day.

Maybe it isn’t motherhood for you but something else - a budding relationship, a business idea, a college decision. Maybe you feel excited and overwhelmed at the same time, and maybe you feel guilty and overwhelmed because you don’t feel any of the excitement you think you should. Maybe we don’t have to have everything figured out or feel 100% confident about our decision before we step into it. Maybe we can set our pros and cons list down, stop berating ourselves for not feeling a particular way, and trust that the Lord will give us enough bread - enough faith - for this day, and the next, and the next.

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Praying the Psalms

This piece was originally published at HorizonsResources.net

I find it hard to pray. This is an uncomfortable confession because, by all external standards, prayer should be easy for me by now. I grew up in a Christian home surrounded by family members who prayed and encouraged me to pray. I have been part of a church since my earliest memories, listening and learning from pastors and teachers who prayed confidently. I have read books about prayer, attended conferences, taken college courses focused on studying the Bible, and listened to countless sermons. I have all the credentials of someone who should be, at the very least, adequate at prayer. And yet it is the single most difficult and frustrating aspect of my relationship with God.

It hasn't always been this way. There have been seasons of my life, sweet and wonderful seasons, where prayer felt like an easy discipline. I would sit down to pray and find a few minutes had turned into a few hours and my notebook pages were full of my communication with God. There were times when prayer felt more urgent, but the discipline still felt natural, such as when a family member was battling cancer or my dad was in a serious car accident.

These seasons are not the norm for me, so prayer has most often felt difficult and awkward. As often as prayer is difficult, I feel like I should be better at it. I should be enjoying prayer more. I should come to prayer in awe that I can approach God at all rather than seeing prayer as a chore. I should have more to say because of what a gift it is to be able to say anything and know that I am heard and seen and loved by the Father.

Perhaps I am the only one who struggles like this. It has certainly felt that way in the past as people have shared with me how sweet their time with the Lord is. Prayer has seemed liked an inside joke I’d never understand, like something only an exclusive group of people ever fully experienced. I just didn’t get it.

Continue reading…

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