One Another Friendship

Last week a beautiful thing happeneda friend dropped by. No planning, no consulting our schedules to pencil in a playdate in six weeks pending the weather, possible illness, and the unforeseen mishaps that are bound to happen. Just a knock at the door.

As we sat amidst my laundry, watching little ones play we chatted about what was going on in life. As we took breaks to feed children or put a grumpy baby to bed, we coached the littles on friendship 101. Don’t pinch. Give her space. You can play with it when she is done. Gentle. Be slow to anger,she didn’t realize that hurt you. Yelling isn’t how we talk to our friends.

Friendship Holly HawesIt is good advice for us all.

Later, they will learn to keep confidences, cheer one another on, and be includers. To care for one another’s broken hearts, and forgive one another.

One another is really what friendship is about. As Christians, friendship is not simply based on common interests or places in life, but on the fact that as followers of Jesus we are family. Beyond stage of life, race, or ambition we are called to relationship. Because of this the one another includes the other.

Romans 12:10 Love one another with {Sisterly} affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

While the Bible doesn’t have a top 10 list of friendship do’s and don’ts, when I think about the way a family should treat one another, I continue to gain more insight into how redeemed sister-friendship works.

Come as you are

…But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

There is no need to clean yourself up to join the family, and we shouldn’t permit the facade of perfection to remain within our friendships. Family gets to see all sides of you. Morning bedhead. Messy room. Struggling and succeeding. There is vulnerability in sharing your real life, and this is exactly where we begin to connect deeply with one another as sister-friends. Past the Pinterest projects and small talk is the part of your soul made for real inter-dependence.

Confess

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16

I vividly remember the first time I sat across from a friend and confessed an area I’d been struggling that I hoped to never say outloud. Years later, I don’t remember even what I actually confessed, but I remember the deep relief and healing I felt as she said outloud that God had already forgiven me and she forgave me as well. We need people in our lives who can tell us the truth, hear us out, and pray for us.

Holly Hawes FriendshipMartin Luther famously said, ‘All a Christian’s life is of repentance.” Indeed, we are people who not only say we are in need of the change God can bring in our life on day one of following Jesus, but  also on every day after that. In our relationships this means  we are to be sisters and friends who are real about the places we are struggling and are pointing one another back to the good news of the gospel.

Forgiveness

…bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13

Friendship has a certain quality of commitment that is never stated in vows, signed on a legal document, or even agreed upon in a conversation. Instead, day in and day out we begin to do the things that make relationships last and slowly a foundation is built. Part of that foundation must be forgiveness or the relationship will not stand the test of time. People do fail, and no one but Jesus is perfect. We are able to forgive one another because we know that God has forgiven us.

I’m With You

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15

As sisters we hold front row seats to each other’s life. We must cheer each other on both in times of joy and pain. I find that most people are great at half of this verse. We have the encouraging cheerleader party thrower types who celebrate well when a friend gets a promotion, begins a romantic relationship, has a baby, or is just excited for the new hobby she started. On the other hand there are the mercy-filled empathetic type who sit and weep with those struggling with illness, infertility, loss of a job, disappointment, or marriage trouble. We default to one side, but miss out if we don’t learn to give both rejoicing and weeping.

You Have a Gift

For as in one body we have many members,and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them Romans 12 :4-6a

For some reason, it is difficult to see in ourselves the ways that God has made us and gifted us. We need our sisters to point out how they see God at work through us, and how our gifts are needed. So next time you see a friend excelling at something, let them know. Because we are not alone in this journey. We were designed to encourage, help, and serve those whom God loves, those He created in His image.


Holly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part time holly-squareas a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

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The Missionary’s New Song: A Legacy Worth Leaving

Snuggled in my bed, surrounded by the soft comfort of an old down blanket, I stared at my phone watching the playback of a month old live-stream from Inglewood Baptist Church.

My Great Uncle Don Jones and his friend (another retired missionary), in a beautiful crescendo, gloriously sang the words:

 “No more death when we get to heaven. No more death when we get to heaven…Hallelujah, Hallelujah…no more death! No more death, but life forevermore.”

Don Jones quote (1)Earlier that day my Great Uncle stepped into that life forevermore; for him death is no more. He is in the presence of the Savior to which he dedicated his life, and for him there could be no better day. Those of us left behind feel the pain of loss; for him there is no more pain. I am so thankful for the prayers he prayed for me, and the support he gave me in the ministry I have had the privilege of being involved in. My thoughts of him that night were tainted with grief, yet sweet and hopeful for his new home. As my eyes became heavy with slumber, my last thoughts settled on, “What a well lived life.”

He was 88 and was still teaching, singing, and serving others because of the love first given to him by Jesus. Prayers swelled in my heart to my Savior, that I too would live a life with that type of legacy. Loving God and loving people, knowing God and making Him known, a legacy of Philippians 1:21, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.”

His wife Nita was likewise filled with bold gentleness, and together they were missionaries in South Korea for 36 years as they raised their two children. I still remember her hugs… for some reason that is my clearest memory of her. It wasn’t really the hug itself but the feeling of deep comfort wrapped within them. She died in 2004, but the love they shared didn’t. You still saw and felt it when he spoke of her.

Legacy Don and NitaI remember sitting with my grandmother and my mother huddled around our giant box of a TV watching the 1988 Seoul Olympics where Don and Nita were serving as translators. Every time their event would come on someone would yell, “Hit the record button!” as we tried to catch a glimpse of our family members on the sides of the diving pools of the world-wide competition. With such a small view of his life and his impact for God’s kingdom, I naively thought this was the coolest thing about my Uncle Don. I shrugged my shoulders at the work he was doing in Korea, that he held a Masters and a PhD, and that he had walked faithfully with Jesus since childhood. The Olympics, that was what impressed 6-year-old me. But what sticks with me now, and will remain until my own walk into eternity, is the race of faith he ran.

I look to them, this generation that went before and I dream for my children and their children. When we lose a family member who reaches the end having truly glorified Christ, we are compelled to ask: “How did they get there, and how can I do the same?” My Great Uncle and Aunt did it, my Grandparents did it, and I want to do it. Legacy doesn’t mean dying after a long life and being fondly remembered, but living well and making an eternal impact.

Now he sings a new song, one too beautiful for me to yet comprehend; it harmonizes with what his life sung of the grace and glory of God.

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”      Colossians 3:1-4


Readers, This month we will be diving into thoughts on legacy. Who has left a lasting mark on your life in a way you would like to do for others? Join the conversation and let us know in the comments.

chara-donahue-head-shotChara Donahue enjoys freelance writing, Biblical counseling, and speaking to women when her four kids are out playing with dad. She holds a MSEd from Corban University and is passionate about seeing people set free through God’s truths. She is a regular contributor at Portland Moms Blog and her words have appeared at (in)courage, Christianity Today: Women Leaders, and The Huffington Post. She longs to be a voice that says, “Hey we are in this together, and there is room for us all.” You can find more from Chara at One Anchored Voice, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Dangerous Wonder: Our April Book Recommendation

Years ago, when I served on the staff of my church’s youth group, I had the privilege of attending a training with Mike Yaconelli. He was the Co-Founder of Youth Specialties (among many other wild undertakings), and had an infectious joy that drew in others. At that conference I met Chris Tomlin, worship was led by  Switchfoot and David Crowder, and I listened to Louie Giglio boldly proclaim the gospel, but it was Mike Yaconelli who impacted my spiritual growth the most.

Yaconelli gave permission to those around him to love Jesus passionately even in the midst of their mess. This month at Anchored Voices we have spent time discussing how wonder works out in our daily lives, so for April’s book recommendation I couldn’t help but tell you about Yaconelli’s book “Dangerous Wonder.” It is almost 20 years old, but I reach for it often. I pull in off my shelf when I need to be reminded of the freedom of living with childlike faith, or when I need to tell my soul, “open your eyes to the beauty around you.”

With chapter titles like: Risky Curiosity, Wide-eyed Listening, and Happy Terror, Yaconelli constantly causes the reader to examine the assumptions they operate from daily. He does push some theological ideas to the edges of my personal comfort, but it is done as a challenge. He encourages the reader to engage with the biblical text on their own and dive into the mysteries of the Bible.

Dangerous Wonder

Yaconelli embodied a person of wonder, and lived out the truths found in his book. He reminds us:

“The nice, nonthreatening God needs to be replaced by the God whose very presence smashes our egos into dust, burns our sin into ashes, and strips us naked to reveal the real person within. A healthy, childlike fear should make us more in awe of God than we are of our government, our problems, our beliefs about abortion, our doctrines and agendas, or any of our other earthly concerns. Our God is perfectly capable of both calming the storm and putting us in the middle of one.” (p.111)

Mike Yaconelli died in 2003 in a car crash, but his books are still available and his legacy of following Christ with wild abandon lives on. I will always be thankful for the inspiration he was to me as a young believer.

To this day I am challenged by the questions he dares his readers to ask, so I leave you some of my favorite as you embark on your own journey of wonder.

“Shouldn’t followers of Christ also be dangerous? Shouldn’t everyone be awed and dazzled by Christians? Shouldn’t Christians be known by the fire in their souls, the wild-eyed gratitude in their faces, the twinkle in their eyes, and a holy mischief in their demeanors? Shouldn’t Christianity be considered dangerous–unpredictable, threatening to the status quo, living outside the lines, uncontrollable, fearless wild, beyond categorization, or definition? Shouldn’t those who call themselves Christians be filled with awe, astonishment, and amazement?” (p.31)


Readers, Do you have book recommendations for exploring awe and wonder? We would love to hear them! Tell us in the comments.

chara-donahue-head-shotChara Donahue enjoys freelance writing, biblical counseling, and speaking to women when her four kids are out playing with dad. She holds a MSEd from Corban University and is passionate about seeing people set free through God’s truths. She is a regular contributor at Portland Moms Blog and her words have appeared at (in)courage, Patheos, and The Huffington Post. She longs to be a voice that says, “Hey we are in this together, and there is room for us all.” You can find more from Chara at One Anchored Voice, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

The Story of Wonder

 

I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.”-Psalm 77:11

There is an upside-down topsy-turvy nature to the story that God is writing. The pages of the Bible take its readers through an unexpected storyline. It’s a lot less #blessed, and a lot more figuring out grace, belief, faith, and trust in the middle of mundane endeavors. The place where God shows up time and time again isn’t when everything is clean, or when life is easy, but right in the middle of pain, confusion, and a sink full of dishes. This life with God is more about being withless about doing. It’s more about following when we cannot seeless about striving after the perfect plan.

I’ve often missed the gift of wonder by not noticing what God has done, because I am so busy trying to stay away from the mess. The truth is, we cannot understand the gravity of the wonders of this God who is utterly outside all our paradigms unless we see the mess he entered into. It is easy to take things that are true, but strip them down to a sanitized version that can fit on a mug wreathed in trendy watercolor flowers.

“Look among the nations, and see;

 wonder and be astounded.

For I am doing a work in your days

 that you would not believe if told.” Habakkuk 1:5

People wonderYes, wonder. Yes, be astounded. Yes, believe that God is doing something amazing that you don’t even see yet. All that is true, but keep reading. Go back a few verses, read about how fed up the author is with injustice and how he cried out to God. The answer he received: This is not going to go the way you want it to. You’re going to lose. There will be pain. Yet somehow, this predicament was the work of God. His response, even though it’s going to be awful:

“…yet I will rejoice in the Lord;

 I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

God, the Lord, is my strength;

 he makes my feet like the deer’s;

 he makes me tread on my high places.”

-Habakkuk 3:18-19

I want faith like this. It is faith that astounds. A faith that makes the world wonder, because it raises the question, “Is that person crazy, or is this Jesus is real?”

  • When people cling to God despite a dangerous diagnosis. Not because God will automatically heal them, or make life good again (though he could, and sometimes does), but because He is their strength.
  • Joy in the midst of struggle, be it financial uncertainty, difficult relationships, or loss.
  • Declarations of the goodness of God despite the current state of affairs.

Looking into the lives of my brothers and sisters in Christ, gives flesh to the ways God is working even in incredibly hard times. Without vulnerability and close connection within a community of believers I would be tempted to view their lives out of context in the same way I cherry picked verses for so many years.

Look at that great promotion, the cute Instagram picture, the orderly children who said the cutest thing today, and so on and so on. We must let people into the struggle, or they won’t know the goodness of God in the midst of it.

Stories of wonderThe wonder that a couple made it to their next anniversary isn’t there, if you don’t know how desperately they prayed to be able to forgive one another. Again. The wonder of the college student graduating isn’t there, if you don’t know that they were taken from their parents for their own safety and bounced from foster home to foster home all through grade school. The wonder of God in the person limping past you, is lost when you don’t know that only a year ago they couldn’t walk.

I’ve truly been amazed by the steadfast love of God when I see his story both on pages and in the lives of his children in context. I find wonder in listening. By asking another the question, “What is God doing in your life?” You will find more of God revealed. I’ve also been listening through the Bible in large chunks at a time. It was supposed to take 90 days- which would put me in Revelation by now, but I’m a bit behind and through 2 Samuel instead.

Listening to the stories of these characters, their  relationships, and God’s story of redemption has opened up the scriptures to men in a new way. The lives of the people known to be “heroes” of the faith are just as messy as the lives of those who surround me today, if not more so. Their story isn’t written so that I can try to measure up, but to give a picture of a person following God through all the ups and downs.
They, like me, needed to see the goodness and graciousness of God in response to their flaws. I need mercy. I get stuck. I find my identity in all sorts of things that cannot satisfy. Even when I know only Jesus does. These stories. Your story. My story. We are living pictures filled with wonder, not because we have lived perfectly, but because we have lived with faith.


Readers, What causes you to be amazed by Got? What causes you to be struck by someone’s story?

holly-squareHolly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

Loving Obedience

“Wow. I could never do what you’re doing. I would get so attached, and never be able to let them go home.”

I have heard this, or variations of this, thought throughout the years from kind well-meaning people. This statement, that strokes my pride but forgets the work God has done in me, is the most common reaction I get as a foster parent. It comes in different tones. Astonishment. Admiration. Confusion. Perhaps a touch of guilt. I never know quite how to respond. Whether it comes up at the grocery store, through a message on Facebook, or while standing in the lobby of a church, we all agree on one thing It isn’t natural to love when there is nothing in it for us.

Attachment foster careI hear you. It’s true, it is hard to continue connecting. Pursuing the best for a child I won’t get to see grow up takes a whole lot of grace, and I can only describe this grace as not from me. My husband and I are not the heroes of this story, we love because God loved us.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. -1 John 4:7-11

Jesus loved sacrificially. We have grace, forgiveness, mercy, freedom, and abundant life not because of anything we’ve done, but because God loved us and wants to be known by us. But his love was poured out through great suffering. Why are we surprised then, that when we follow Jesus and obey his call to love the world, it comes at a cost, as Philippians 2:8 says, Jesus “…humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

I have resolved within my soul that I will love like my Savior, and if that means I must set myself in the path of heartache so that I may obey, so that  I may love, so be it.

As C.S. Lewis said, “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” So I wake for midnight feedings that may never shift to midnight chats. I celebrate “first” experiences and offer wisdom when little ears are listening, praying it will stick. These children that enter into my home have experienced loss, and I cannot seek to comfort while remaining robotic and unconnected.

Yes, it hurts when they go, but love is worth the risk. It is the gift we can give to combat the suffering that presses into children just looking for a way.  At the beginning of our foster care  journey my husband and I talked about seeking to love every child like they would never leave. Simultaneously, we fight to remain open handed since we do not determine how long we have them. The ethos of love for our family is no longer as simple as an emotion.  It is a choice, deliberately made, to mirror the gospel.

HeroesTruthfully, I’ve said my own version of, “I couldn’t do what you’re doing,” when I see people love in wild, outlandish, and unconventional ways. Families who invite refugees to live with them while they acclimate to a new culture. Women who give friendship to the lonely and offer their presence in the midst of hard times.Single ladies who leave everyone they know and move across the country, or the world, to pursue a vocation where she will be able serve a hurting population. Mom’s who fill their van’s with neighborhood kids, building community amongst the noise.

All these pursuits may seem different, but they are the same at their core. Obedience. They are all a response to the call to love the person in front of you, so that the God who loved us first can be made known.

I wish that instead of “I could never” our narrative could turn to a celebration of obedience as our sisters participate in the different ways God asks us all to join Him in His work. It doesn’t have to be life altering. Perhaps it is as simple as asking God for the strength to view the person in front of us as he does. Reaching out to the other with the resolution that,  “I will love you, even if you don’t agree with me. Even if I don’t get anything out of it. Even if it hurts.”


Readers, How has God called you to obey him? 

holly-squareHolly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

Faith and Hockey Sticks

Author: Holly Berg

Two years ago my husband and I signed our son up for skating lessons.  He’s been dreaming about playing hockey since he was old enough to walk. He was born in Oil Country, he bleeds copper and blue – heck, he even eats dinner sitting below a framed photo of his dad with Ryan Smyth!

We figured it was time.

Topher was ecstatic! Never mind that he was enrolled in beginner figure skating – he was convinced he had been drafted to the Oilers!

But skating wasn’t as easy as Topher thought it would be. It’s one thing to zip up and down the hallway with a plastic hockey stick and entirely another to do the real thing!

In his first lesson the coaches taught the kids how to fall down and how to get back up, first on mats and then on the ice. Topher was a pro … until he stepped onto the ice.  He did exactly what his coaches told him: get on your hands and knees, wag your tail like a dog, get one foot up, brace one hand on your knee and use the other to push off on the ice and stand up.

But Topher couldn’t do it.

Not in the first lesson, or the second, or the third. Eventually one of his coaches would help him to his feet so he could participate in the other activities, but Topher was so afraid to fall that he would barely move. Then one of the other kids would accidentally bump into him and knock him over, and he would be back to Square 1, shaking his little bum in the middle of the rink.

Halfway through his fourth lesson I was starting to wonder how much patience his teachers had. Would they recommend remedial beginner skating lessons?

But then HE DID IT.

It might have taken him three and a half 45-minute lessons – most of which he spent on his knees – but he did it!

And I have never been more proud of my little man.

He didn’t give up, not once.

Week after week after week …

He practiced at home, he practiced at his grandparents’ house, he recited the steps over and over and over.

He tried his hardest in every single lesson. He showed dedication and confidence.  He knew he could do it – and he kept at it until he did.

Two years later, Topher is a full-fledged hockey player.  His favourite drill is the Superman, where he dives onto the ice, sliding across the surface on his belly before jumping to his feet and gliding away. Skating is now as natural to him as breathing.

* * *

Some days I picture God as a proud parent, standing outside the rink as we learn to walk through life as His followers.  Sometimes we’re like Topher: cautious, afraid to move in case we fall.  God watches us struggle, but he also sees us as we get down on our knees and try again.

The Bible says that we can “but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4, NIV) It also says that we should “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything..”  (James 1:2-4).

I remember when Topher was learning to skate, the day when everything finally clicked. As his mom, I didn’t count how many times he fell, I counted how many times he got back up.

Maybe God does the same thing.

Following God is hard. We mess up and we make mistakes – sometimes the same ones, over and over again!  But He sees us. He knows we can do it!  We need to get back up, brush ourselves off, and try again.

I don’t know if following God will ever be as natural to me as skating is to Topher, but I hope it will be. I want to develop endurance and strength of character and have confident hope, but like Topher, I need to practice. I need to be obedient in the small things as well as the big things. Every day, week after week after week. I need to recite God’s promises over and over and over. James 1:12 says “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

And I want that life.

~~~

Readers,

What encourages or keeps you from getting back up after a fall?

43483-2016headshotHolly Berg is a wife, mama, writer and horse nut who wrangles children by day and words by night. She writes to challenge, encourage and inspire others to see beauty in the everyday, minister in the mundane, and share their stories along the way. Read more of her writing at http://scattered-words.net.

An earlier version of this post appeared first at Scattered Words.

 

Hope for Writers

Faith and Culture Writers’ Conference Reflection

Author: Chara Donahue

In my stocking this past Christmas was a gift from my husband. A small little piece of torn notebook paper with  “one writer’s weekend” scrawled across it.  My husband had asked me what I wanted, and I told him a weekend of quiet to focus on writing. He gave the okay with that little corner of  paper. The beginning of the year was crazy: I was in school again working towards a History endorsement and Biblical Counseling certification, leading a women’s ministry, starting a blog, and trying to maintain sanity at home raising my four little rascals.

Fast forward two months, and across my newly opened twitter feed I saw that Kari Patterson  would be speaking at a writers conference in Portland.  Being that she was the first (non-relative) writer  to read  a very small piece of my someday book, It drew my attention. I clicked on the link and  managed to scrape together the funds. My Christmas present arrived in April in the form of the Faith and Culture Writers’ Conference.

I was a bit excited:

Going into this, I knew I was going to have to stop hiding from the fact that I am a writer. Pretending that this piece of me is a dirty little secret of pages needing to stay under a mattress wouldn’t do. It was time to embrace it as part of how God has scripted my part in his story. It was also time to be amongst others who know what it is to write.  Those who simply want to serve the world by weaving together letters that create beautiful words and words that create lasting stories.

All this seemed big but not necessarily scary.  I mean, what risk was there?   I know how to wear big girl pants.  Yet, emotionally I heard whispers of peril and intimidation, because I love writing and this was my first real proclamation of that. I was putting something I love out on the offering plate and I had no idea if it would be received.  Nevertheless, I was going and I would call myself a writer.

I longed to enter into a retreat where I was able to talk about writing and not have the fear of appearing prideful, because the people there would understand I don’t write out of pride or self-elevating desires. I write to process, to expose hidden glories, and to seek out the truest truths.   I don’t write because I know it all. I write because I have something to say.  That in a world of billions of voices, I want mine to make people ask, “Who is this Jesus?”

So to Portland I went. While I drove to the land of exotic food carts, the weird, and an airport carpet that’s got a platform 10 times the size of mine, I asked God “What are you going to do? I am listening. How are You going to challenge me? How do You want me to love people?”

The challenges came in many forms:

Can I go from Blank to Beautiful?

Can I wash windows so that others can see God’s beauty more clearly? — @sethhaines

Can I point people at God and change hearts with my words?– @NishWeiseth

Can I remember It ‘s not about my greatness it’s about God’s?– @AshleyMLarkin

Can I bleed out onto the page in incredible ways?– @karipatterson

Can I learn “how to market without selling my soul?” — @kurtbubna

Can I just follow the advice of @karenzach, by never going to a cold computer and telling that nagging inner editor to “shut up” as I write fictional accounts of Kenyan boys choosing their paths?

Can I like @CorneliSeigneur , “Ask God to show me why He saved me?”  or create space to build up, honor, and encourage others while living Isaiah 50:4?

Can I tell stories that create beautiful images that people will never forget like @tonykriz and his  Albanian lights?

Can I search for reason in unreasonable space?– @phievalon

Can I read the headlines of my soul  from a bench on a Tuesday as tears hug my eyeballs?–@emilypfreeman

Can I–just show up and  be willing to tell the painful, shameful stories so that others can find life?–@RomalTune

Can I strain my best and truest stories through glory and trust my Lord with the results? —@AliaJoyH

Can I be in my heart and not my head and get out of the way so that what I am trying to convey can break through? —@christaljenkins

Can I write a crystal clear book proposal?– @MacGregorLit

Can I remember rightly and craft beauty out of the pain Jesus has healed me from?–@ChapinChick

Can I step out of the box God is willing to climb into in order to be with me, and reach for Him instead?– @wmpaulyoung

Can I accept the challenges, and love the people?

I loved the inspiration and the information, but the people…the people at this thing brought the joy.

When I have the deepest truths written and interwoven into my very being, I can risk loving others freely and sincerely from the heart.

I could tell my unedited ideas to a room full of other writers because like everything else in my life my writing belongs to God – NOT to me. I could sit with them, be motivated, and as I nodded along with truths from the speakers, I could join the cacophony of Yays and Amens coming from those around me.  I could genuinely be more interested in their stories than in telling my own, because all insecurities, hang-ups, and self protective measures become small when God is big; and this God of ours is BIG.

I felt accepted by people who invited me to sit at their tables, ask about their lives, and talk about writing in the ways that only writers do. Faces I had only met once became faces of familiarity that made all the other unknown faces a little less alien.  They too want tales to be told, so that faith, hope, and love can seep into  the world as we place words on alters of paper, web pages, and open air. They know writing is not an exclusive club. It is a desire that drives, and that is why I feel a kinship with them – “my tribe.”

But really, they are not my people in the closest sense of the word.  My husband, my children, my church – those are the people that were still there Sunday morning when the conference was over.  I love my daily people, still there, still my favorite humans offering rest when I come down from that conference high and face reality and responsibilities that reach outside of my writing bubble.  But my writing people have been grafted into my awareness.

These fellow writers are still there in my mind, so I can be reminded that there are people out in the world that would understand my blank expression when other more familiar people ask me why the dishes are pouring out of the sink and the kids are still in pajamas,  and I say sheepishly, “Um, I was writing?”

I may only see them on Twitter (which I am loving by the way); hopefully, I will see some of them next year. Reality tells me I may never see some of these people again–at least on this side of heaven. I know it might sound trite, but truth is I am okay with that. That’s life. I am so pleased and filled by those, “Hey, it was nice to meet you once before heaven, see you when we get there” kind of interactions, because they are hopeful  glimpses of eternal community.

This is what I love the most. That these people were my people before I knew them because of Who they know. They are my people because we have the same Ultimate Person. We have Jesus. So yes, these people are my people in that they understand a facet of me that some of my close people just don’t get.

Ultimately, though, these people are not my people because they are writers. These people are my people because they are Jesus’ people. But, it sure is nice that they write.

That I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary.–Isaiah 50:4

Want to check out the conference with me next year?

@FaithCultureArt   http://faithandculturewriters.com/