On Writing

You ask me to tell you about my writing. Wherever we end up – after church in the chairs, or on that picnic blanket, or over text – you always ask. You’re always in my corner, cheering me on and reading my words, and I hope you’ll always be in that corner with me.

I don’t know much about writing but I can tell you the way it makes me feel: it makes me feel as if puzzle pieces are slipping into place. I have this feeling, and maybe one day I’ll find out I’m wrong about this, but when ink meets the page you are standing on holy ground. You need to break open; it’s not an option. Unless there are pieces of you in between your words, they will be shallow and empty. No one likes a wading pool. We always want the silky, navy water that disappears into the horizon, and that’s what you must be. You must be the water that holds both the mystery and familiarity: the sound of the waves you hear in the shells and the depth of the ocean you feel in your bones.

You must be willing to lay bare the broken pieces to see Redemption in them. To write requires a vulnerability, a willingness to invite others into the brokenness with you.

An invitation which (and this is the part that often stings)

may or may not be accepted.

But we must write and extend the invitation anyways.

To write is the solace you slip into when chaos bounces around you. To write is to learn what you know and what you long to know, and the places where you feel lost. It is to feel the humanity of grief and joy and discover that we all break. We all heal. And we all just don’t want to do it alone.

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Because isn’t that what we are all really searching for, seeking Someone to meet us in our loneliness?

And maybe that is what writing is: putting pen to page and discovering our loneliness is just a masked invitation, a hand held out, a whisper in our darkness. We don’t have to be alone. We aren’t alone. We are all just puzzle pieces waiting to click into place, and words help us do that. Words help us see the things we missed … or maybe the things we just didn’t want to see.

And that’s the beauty in it. So can I tell you how to write? No. But I can tell you that when you do, and you feel those puzzle pieces clicking into place,

you’ll feel like you’re coming home.

 

my why.

This month in Angelic Magazine I wrote a vulnerable piece about being a child of divorce. It was birthed out of a moment at my dad’s wedding, post-vows and post-reception. Just me, God, and my broken story.

I knew it would hurt some people to read it. I fought with myself over a desire to water down the hurt, and truly, I’m not sure which side won. I also fought with the words that kept wanting to whisper, “I’m sorry.” For being broken, for being hurt, for being unhappy that two people had chosen lives apart from one another.

And from those words, and conversations with others, I’ve wrestled with my why.

Why do I write here?

Why do I scrawl words in my journal? 

Does my story matter?

And the thing I’ve been learning is this: if I apologize for my words, I may as well apologize for my story. And then I may as well apologize for me.

For being me.

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The sometimes broken, always being redeemed, me.

The one who is hurt by her parents’ divorce.

The one who is hurt because he walked away.

The one who still takes pills because she refuses to let depression win. 

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I strive for perfection in my words but what matters more is sharing my voice. I do not want to apologize for my voice anymore. I do not want to wait until the broken pieces are glued back together so that no one else cuts themselves on the edges.

Because here is the thing: we cannot heal on our own. I can only cling to hope when I acknowledge my brokenness and my need to be rescued out of it. And hope is the thing that binds us all together, the rope that leads us to Jesus and His redemption.

Healing is messy. We’re going to get hurt. We are going to get offended. We’re going to get it wrong.

But I can’t heal unless I invite others into the mess. You can’t heal unless you invite others into your mess. And the way I make sense of the mess is to scrawl words across a page, when I realize my words are not meant to be hidden, to be watered down, to be tucked behind an apology. Because my story is your story and unless we start sharing our stories, we’ll remain in our corners:

broken and bleeding alone.

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So this is my promise to stop apologizing. I promise to keep writing words on pages. And I promise to keep inviting you to the table,

to break bread and break open

to carry our burdens and broken pieces

together.

Blank Pages

It is always the blank page that is terrifying to me. The beginning. When there’s emptiness, needing to be filled, where does one start? How does one know what is to come, where the words will take you, what they will say?

It starts with one letter, one word, until there’s a paragraph. And then you find that there’s a page. Sometimes the words come quietly, softly, until they’ve filled the emptiness with something whole. Other days – the words come slowly, painfully – and it is more of a laboured journey than a discovery of something beautiful.

I’ve been staring at blank pages a lot lately. Each day that there is a deadline scrawled across my agenda. Afraid to start. Putting it off until time is ticking by and I am desperate to place words on page.

Why do I do that? Why do I fear the emptiness and the unknown?

There is something stark about the blank pages in life. Blank pages haven’t just been on my screen; life has felt a lot empty these days. A lot of unknowns. A lot of sitting in the waiting room of life.

Sometimes I feel like that little cursor, blinking, staring blindly up at me. Sometimes life feels much like these blank pages. I am waiting. Afraid to put words on paper – yet everything in this soul of mine is desperate to fill pages with words and see stories unfold.

It’s the beginning that causes me to sit still, to worry, to wonder.

She asks us in the quietness of the classroom – wearied minds, tired eyes, students entering the end that seems so far away – how have we been looking at this world? What concepts, what perceptions have been shaping how we view what’s before us? 

I bow my head as she reads Scripture and it washes over this broken soul. A broken soul so in need of a Saviour, a Saviour to shape and change these ways in which I view this world.

Hope instead of despair.

Faith instead of discouragement.

Joy instead of cynicism.

I pull out the chalks that night, sketching something across rough paper. The next morning I lay in bed far too long dreaming and hugging blankets closer. When I shower, I stop to feel each drop hitting my body. What am I missing in these moments? I ask myself – rushing, tackling The List, never quite reaching the level of Perfection I clearly outline in the sand?

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Dying trees peer up through the window as I ready for the day, snow melting it’s way down the ravine behind our building and I stare up at the whitened sky above. Oh to be alive, I think. I reach hands overhead and stretch each muscle. Am I really living when I look at blank pages and fear the beginning? Am I really living when I am in the waiting room and refuse to leave? Refuse to find joy in the season of sitting, of waiting, of unknown?

Doesn’t God promise to be here, too?

Doesn’t He promise He’s here in the waiting, in the humble beginnings, in each letter, in each word – in each step forward even when we don’t know where we are going?

Soul weary, my prayer: oh Lord, make me a lover of humble beginnings. Of unknowns. Change this broken heart to rejoice in the waiting – in these seasons of blind faith, knowing that it is in the darkness you are always passing by, in the trembling – You are always passing by
.

 

 

Triumph.

When she entered the world, she entered it with potential. Newness stretched across her taught, reddened skin, eyes offended by the bright lights. Her voice had never been heard before, her fingers untouched, her smile undiscovered. She held the whole world in her tiny, curled up hands.

When her mother wrapped her hands around her, the beginning of life formed as skin touched skin. Cries mixed in with tears and words and prayers created a masterpiece far more beautiful than any her mother had ever laid eyes on. Life was breathed into that hospital room; it was heard, it was felt, it was a Presence all on its own. It was tangible; life in human form.

Her mother admired the way her hair pressed against her chest, the way the  breathing of the child in her arms mimicked her own. She was there, fully present. Not imagining the day before as it used to be; not imagining a tomorrow. There was just a today, a today that delivered a family of three that moments before had not existed.

Life begins in triumph. It emerges in a cacophony of sounds and smells and in a way that will never be repeated. It will never be felt that way again. It will never be revealed with the same cry, nor felt with the same touch. The clock that ticks as life enters will never tick by those seconds again. It is an extraordinary moment, etched in memory but never to be felt in its beauty again.

In the same way, just as her life began in triumph, so too did it end. Her body, wrinkled and weathered, no longer was new. Her skin had been touched tenderly by her love; it had been stretched taught as life grew within her. It held the scars of a life lived well and at times, foolishly. Her eyes, so long ago white in their newness, were gray, but still held the light that had always danced when her lips turned up into a smile.

Her voice, once unheard of, had been heard of and never forgotten by those she passed by. She built up with that voice, she whispered love even when tears fell. She also hurt with that voice, sometimes intentionally and other times with deep regret. She clung to her words though. She adored them. Not only her own, but those around her, and conversation – words mixing with others, creating that beautiful sound every other noise paled in comparison to – was her favourite sound.

Her fingers no longer remained untouched. They had been tugged by little ones she had bore and ones she had loved as if they were her own. They had gathered her own tears; they had curled themselves around her in the moments she felt most alone. They had caressed, and they had held. That was what she was most proud of. That those plump, reddened fingers had been instruments of life in the broken places.

When she smiled, she was open and most herself. They were never dishonest smiles; they were the kind that revealed the heart behind them. If she was broken, the smile curled just the slightest up towards her eyes. If she felt the joy down to the tips of her toes, her smile was a doorway that let it all out so that it was no longer just hers. That smile, oh how it pointed to the one who gave it to her. It was always a mirror: of the one across from her, or the One above her.

The moment she entered the world, in that hospital room, she was merely a beginning. The day that she left this world, she was everything in between. She once was the one who held the world in her hand, but when she left, the world held her. It held her in the lives that she had been a part of, and it held her in the echoes of her laughter that wouldn’t be forgotten. It held her in the lives she had formed inside of her, and it held her with the words that filled journals and conversations and letters and cards. In the beginning she held; in the end, as breath left her lungs and Life left her side, the final brushstroke was completed.

A masterpiece, a life both beginning and ending in triumph.

The One Who Holds the Pen

It was three years ago when I wrote the letter. A letter to my younger self. I remember clearly writing it; I remember the moment I was writing about. Writing letters are one of my favourite things to do, and I write them all the time, to myself, others, even if I never send it. (In fact, if we get right down to it, I think letters and words should be considered another love language, actually.)

But anyways, I wrote the letter to myself through tears and somehow in between them I hit publish and the letter was out in the world of cyberspace, never to be pulled back again. I know it changed me when I wrote it. I know it challenged me and shook me and reminded me that in the moments we are the most lost, we’ll find our way out again.

I didn’t think much of the letter after that, except when I happened upon it occasionally in a journal.

But then, three years later, the words from a friend stood starkly up at me: Literally me. Three years later, thank you for writing that letter to your younger self. She had sent a link to the blog post, and I was stunned. I didn’t even know her when I wrote those words years before. And yet, in a beautiful way, God did, and used those words to meet her where she was at.

I think I might have cried. I think I might have been humbled in an incredible way: that mostly, these words aren’t really mine anyways, nor do I ever want them to be. I just want to be the one that holds the pen. I want them to point to a God who knows what we need and when we need it, and who will use our humble offerings to bring glory to Him.

And that’s my prayer today: that I would stop holding onto the things that aren’t mine anyways, and let them do what they were always meant to do. Let my words and my heart and my hands be an offering, an offering back of the gifts that were handed to me in the most beautiful, gracious, love filled way.

And let me always be the one who holds the pen.

When Water Washes Away Your Words

When we had the flood in the basement, it washed away not only books, drywall, shoes and clothes, but it washed away something very precious. It washed away my words.

It was a blue journal, with purple binding along the side. On the front was a tree, raised leaves that I can still feel on my fingertips. I remember the moment in the bookstore, slipping it out of the bookshelf from among the myriad of others calling out for my attention.

In that journal were my words. It held words from the ending of my time at university, and the beginning of my trip to Africa. It held tears. It contained joy and triumph. Across its pages were the paintings I had created with my words, bits of my soul slipped in between the strokes and lines.

I long to live a life not only in the present, but a life that looks back, too. My journals let me do that. They let me see where I’ve come from, because as I see where I’m coming from I see where I’m going, too. I want to look back and see how life, how God, how people have shaped me. I want to remember who I was then so I can know more deeply who I am now.

The water stole my journal, blurring the words and marring the book with destructive mould. The book was slipped into a garbage bag with junk, the meaning and worth known only by me.  It shouldn’t bother me as much as it does. I’m struggling to remind myself that the process of holding my pen to paper was just as important as the end result of the filled journal. I’m trying to remember, and be thankful for the fact that although water stole my words, it can never steal my voice.

{But still my heart is hurting a little bit to know those precious words have slipped away forever.}