Coming down from the high horse

“But, it’s what you blog and tweet about most.  She probably felt like you were getting on your high horse.”

The funny thing about being a blogger is that I forget people are reading sometimes.  Not that I forget that I’m sharing publicly or anything, I just forget that people are putting pieces together on the outside that I can’t see because I’m too inside my own thoughts and feelings and experiences.

My friend is right though, I do write about the same themes a lot – community, friendship, the Church, singleness.  I think that happens to most writers.  You find a passion and you sink your teeth into it and the words just kind of appear, because it’s what you’re thinking about all of the time, and often all that you’re thinking doesn’t make sense until you sit down and put the words on paper.

But, the reality is also that I write about what’s close to my heart.  I write about my friends because I love them, and they’re tangible examples of God’s love, and I think everybody should have those kinds of people in their lives.  I write about church because, as much as it frustrates me sometimes, I love the Church, and I think we can do better by each other than we are right now.  I write about community because, I think, that’s where friendship and church blur together to create the place I’m living right now, and I love this place.  And I write about being single probably because it’s my biggest point of wounding right now.  I write about being single not because I love my singleness, although most days I do, but because I’ve been made to feel small in my community because I’m single, and I don’t think people meant that to happen, and I hope that by writing about it we can start to talk about how we can love each other better, regardless of ring status.

I don’t ever want to sound like I’m getting on my high horse, but I suppose when you’re a blogger, writer, speaker, or any kind of someone who puts their thoughts out there in a way for a people to interact with, you’re going to have high horse moments.   We’re going to have those things that so drive us  to communicate that we’re going to not always get the tone right, or we’re going to be too pointed, or…I don’t know…something.  We’re just not always going to get it right.  For this, I am terribly sorry.

But, I think that’s why we writers and communicators value so desperately the honest feedback of the people who are reading and listening.   Please don’t stop. You are sharpening our thoughts, and challenging us, and making us better people and better writers.  And I promise to listen, and interact with what you’re offering, and come down from my high horse. Or at least, I’ll try.

And I suppose really what I’m asking for is a little more grace between us, a little more space for understanding, a little more hope that we can figure out a way to love each other better.

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Finding words

Today, as I have for many days, I sit trying to write and no words are coming.  I can’t settle on what I think, what I want to say.  There’s so much and there is nothing, all at once.

So, I say nothing.  I do nothing.  Instead, I try to play along to the rhythms of the lives of the people around me and try to let their hope and happiness infiltrate my heart.

I go to church and sing with other believers, “Heal my heart and make it clean, open up my eyes to the things unseen…”  And this becomes my prayer.

I take communion sitting between two of my girlfriends, and I live into the reality that we are doing this together as part of the community of faith.

I ride home sitting in the backseat with the niece-in-love, and she smiles and squawks at me and I smile and squawk back.

And playing along is working, I realize.  Hope and happiness are infiltrating my heart.

And it’s giving me words.  Not a lot, but some.

And that’s more than I had yesterday.

And more will come.

Tomorrow.

Falling off the grid

I’ve run away from home.  I’ve come to New York to stay with my grandparents with every intention to eat well, talk theology, write my book proposal, and fall off the grid.   I’ve been successful at three of those things, and failed miserably at one.

I’ve eaten two home-cooked grandma meals, heard about their struggles in finding a church, and have several new Word Documents cluttering up my desk top.  I’ve also responded to every Facebook message, email, text, and tweet that has come through in the last 48 hours.

What this means is that I actually haven’t run away from home.   Because I am an utter failure at falling off the grid.

And the BFF is quick to point it out to me.  As an example, I offer the following message that she sent me this morning:

So…I thought your reason for going out of town was to “disconnect for awhile,” “give people a chance to miss me,” “focus on writing.”  Isn’t it hard to do those things when you’re lighting up Facebook and Twitter? I’m calling you out, friend!

On the grid
(c) 2010 William Hook, Flickr // via Wylio

I hate when she uses my words against,  hate when she says exactly what she should say, and hate that she knows me so well.  I love that she paid attention to the reasons why this trip was important to me, love that she’s someone who keeps me accountable to the things that are Kingdom work, and love that she knows me so well.

I love the other friends who’ve said, “I thought you were supposed to turn off your crackberry?” and “go write!”

Because when they say these things, what I’m hearing is that they support me and my writing.  I’m hearing that they believe in this crazy book I’m writing, that they don’t think it’s the most ridiculous thing in the world for me to be doing.  I’m hearing that there’s a story to tell that only I can tell, and that they are anxious to hear that story.  And they’re on board to help me tell it, even if it means they have to call me out and yell at me to turn my phone off and stay off Facebook and Twitter.

What I gain from being off the grid is time with Jesus, to sit with Him and be attentive to the story He’s having me tell with my life and with my words.   And we all need that time, I think, to be quiet and undistracted and reflective.  Jesus wasn’t ashamed to take that time to go to the Garden, nor do I think we should feel guilty about needing time away.  I think we should recognize that we especially need this time when we start to feel boxed in by life, when we’ve lost sense of the reason why we’re doing the things we’re doing, when our prayers stop including the phrase, “Thy will be done.”  Sometimes, even if only for a few hours, if only for a couple of weeks, we all need to fall off the grid.

Except, this time I’m not falling off the grid. I’m being pushed.  And I think that’s okay too.

I want in!

I’ve had this dream for a long time to write a book.  Not “dream” really, it’s been more like a fantasy, like something unattainable and not at all something that a responsible adult would pursue.  A responsible adult would get a “real job” when she finished school and start squirreling money away for retirement and buy a house and get married and have 2.4 kids. A responsible adult would not seriously consider writing a book.  So, I didn’t.  Not until recently. Not until it became so clear that being “irresponsible” is exactly what God wants from me.

Two years ago I lent my copy of Girl Meets God to my best friend, and when she had finished, she left a message on my Facebook wall that said, “Would you please write a book? Take a hint from Lauren Winner and write a book about your life and what God’s teaching you! ”  So, I started thinking about writing a book in a really far-off kind of way, in the if-I-were-someone-else-who’s-not-responsible kind of a way.  Over the last couple of months, the thoughts have been less far-off, but still grounded in the if-I-never-get-a-real-job kind of way. It seemed important, but secondary to any 9 to 5 that I might find.  And then today I got an email from an editor-friend and she told me that she wants to work with a writer who she can dialogue with about ideas. And she told me that she “wants in” on my book.

What’s funny to me as I sit here and write about my day is that I got this email in the exact moment that I was praying about writing and trying to hear a word from God about how I can best honor Him with my life.  I mean, really praying.  Like, laying myself open before God kind of praying. Like, from the deepest places in my soul kind of praying.  Like, I couldn’t put words together kind of praying.  And this is when I get this email from my friend who says she “wants in?”

Here’s the rub.  Writing has always been this “other” thing in my life.  It’s been something that I do to help me process my life, something that I do for me because it helps me make sense of the world. It’s never been something that I do with any kind of expectation of being read. Even this blog has been for that purpose – something that I do because it’s fun, not because I’m a writer. Writing a book, then, is something that I dreamed about doing if I were someone else, if I weren’t responsible, or if didn’t want to get a real job.

But, that’s only a half-truth.  The real truth is that I love to write, probably more than I love to do anything else in the world, but it’s also the scariest way for me to spend my time. Because every time I write, I open myself up before God and I end up bleeding all over the page.  All of my hopes and fears, all of my sins and all that I’ve been redeemed of, all that I’m scared to talk about somehow finds it’s way out through my pen or computer.  So, I studied psychology in college and pursued counseling as a career because, actually, it was safe and I was good at it, and because I didn’t have to bleed in my office, my clients did.

I think, though, that in doing that – in choosing what was safe – I made God and my life very, very small, all because I was afraid.  I’m so tired of being afraid, and so tired of living a life within the limits of what’s safe. I think by doing that, I’ve cheated myself out of a bigger life that God wants for me.   John 10:10 (NASB) tells us that Jesus came to give us life abundantly, and I think that if I’m to live into this abundance that I’ve got to be willing to dream God’s big dream for my life and write this book.  God says, “I want you to have life to the full,”  and I’m finally saying to Him, “I want in!”

I want in, and so I’m doing that which seems irresponsible, but that is actually so clearly of God.  I want in, and so I’m writing a book.

(c) 2011, Allie Holzman, Flickr // via Wylio