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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I'm Feeling 22

Today I turn 22. 21 was a hard year. It didn’t pull any punches. 22 has me walking in with my fists covering my eyes, trying not to make my flinching seem so obvious.

Unlike other birthdays, this one feels especially weighty. I used to cringe when people would ask me on my birthday, “So, how does it feel to be __ years old?” because it always felt exactly the same as being the age I was the day before. Nothing felt changed. This year though, I feel changed, different, older, in some good ways and some bad ways.

21 stands behind me with death and loss and pain and sadness, and this new year stands in front of me with newness and life and heartache and probably more pain because pain is constant, isn’t it? I wish I knew how to walk into the year confidently, but I’m finding myself wanting to curl up into a tiny ball and stay right where I am.

I feel older, yes. I feel more equipped to love others well and to stand in hard places where I wouldn’t have been comfortable standing a year ago. I feel too old to settle for easy answers and trite platitudes as a response to pain, though I am too young still to hear those trite platitudes and automatically respond with grace instead of anger. I feel old enough to know how much is not black-and-white, how much our intentions matter and how many different ways our words can be twisted and misunderstood. I feel weariness in my soul that seems like an older kind of weariness, the kind that starts to settle into a heart as a person experiences more of the world’s pain and more of the comfort that can only come from the Lord.

At the same time, I feel too young to do much of what 22 will require of me. I feel much too young to nurture and care for another human being. I feel much too young to faithfully care for my home and my husband. I feel much too young to respond to questions quickly and gracefully, pointing the person to Christ instead of trying to point them to myself.

I feel too old and too young to be 22, and if we’re being really honest, that angst probably adds another reason why I’m too young, too insecure, too unprepared.

And yet I am known, at 21 and 22, by the God who knows when I sit down and when I rise up, knows when I am feeling too young and too old, knows when I am unprepared and scared, knows when I am too sure of myself and not leaning in closely enough to him.

The Psalmist writes,

“You hem me in, behind and before,

   and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me…”

This is where I find myself, somehow both unsure and sure at the same time, and hemmed in, behind and before, by a Father who knows and cares for me deeply and who has laid his hand upon me and this year of being 22.

Photo Credit: The incredibly talented  Jenna Richman .

Photo Credit: The incredibly talented Jenna Richman.