Coming out of hibernation must be a welcome shock to a bear's system. After sleeping for months, living off the fat of your own body, and (hopefully) not interacting with other animals in all that time, waking up would be disorienting. Yet, how refreshed a bear must feel!
I am not a bear, but I do feel like I am coming out of a hibernation of sorts. And slowly. I've been refreshed, and looking daily for sustenance to gain my strength back. The past several months have been full of grief and confusion and heartache. And not writing. I'm sure many of you are in a similar position.
My husband has been working at a Christian camp for eleven years, and I joined him in this ministry when we got married almost nine years ago. We've given our lives to this camp and the people who have come through it. In December, everyone but my husband and three others were laid off. While I'm very grateful he still has his job, my heart is broken over losing what we had. Our team of full time staff who felt like family were pulled apart by unforeseen circumstances.
This journey has been wrought with pain, mistrust, and grief. During these months I could not sit down and put my mind to my story. I could not think outside of my circumstances. Unlike other creatives, I don't process grief through writing. Instead, I clam up and shut down in self-preservation. I've found I write best from a place of joy.
Not only are we all crushed under the weight of our own circumstances, we're also suffering from compassion fatigue. So many horrendous things have rocked our country and our world in the past year, things that surfaced buried issues, on top of a global pandemic. We just can't feel all the things anymore. But what if it's not about feelings at all?
Our feelings, more often than not, freeze us up and trap us in a victim mentality that does no one, especially ourselves, any good. Our feelings are fickle and flighty and can't be trusted to help us make decisions or take action, and certainly won't help us move forward.
I can't make a career out of writing if I only do it when I "feel" like it. This quote from The Scent of Water puts words to a lot of what I've been processing lately. The quote itself is amazing, but try replacing the word "love" for "writing" or whatever word best fits your situation:
"I had not known before that love is obedience. You want to love, and you can't, and you hate yourself because you can't, and all the time love is not some marvelous thing that you feel but some hard thing that you do. And this in a way is easier because with God's help you can command your will when you can't command your feelings. With us, feelings seem important, but He doesn't appear to agree with us."
So. Good. Can we put our own feelings aside to carry on in what we're called to? Can we live out of obedience to God and to our fellow humans despite how we feel and what we're going through? Definitely preaching to myself here. . .
On Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending a virtual writing conference through Oregon Christian Writers. It was so refreshing! The author who spoke provided five questions for writers to pray and think through. Let me tell you, it was the reset I needed. I had been pondering these questions in my mind with some fear and trembling for a while, but hadn't spent time over them. When I finally did, the answers were encouraging and inspiring, not at all fulfilling my worst fears (namely, that God would tell me to stop writing for now).
One thing I focused on in particular was the mission of my writing. A long time ago, I realized everything successful in life should have a succinct tagline about its mission, followed by a statement expounding on its mission. A mission statement gives an organization or a company a filter through which they can make every decision. Something that, when said or read, gives others a clear idea as to what they are about.
For example, our marriage has a mission statement (because we want it to be successful!), "To glorify God in everything we do by seeking the eternal over the temporal," and we even have five pillars of ways we hold up our mission statement in our daily lives. It has given us pointed focus whenever we have to make big, or even small, decisions. It has given our marriage purpose.
Why didn't my writing life have a mission statement?! I asked myself last weekend. It does now! Well, a working one anyway. "Shining light into the darkness through captivating stories." Tagline: Radiant Prose. This will help shape my writing for years to come, and will communicate to others what I'm about.
Life has been breathed into my writing and into each day. This is not to say that I'm not still grieving and everything is all good. Not at all. I am still mourning and processing a lot, but now I feel like I can do it with more hope and focus. We've started naming what was life-giving and what was draining each day. Not because we can or should always avoid the draining things, but in order to see the patterns in what is life-giving to us and do more of those things. I've noticed right away that my daily workouts are very life-giving so I make them a priority. And my writing is becoming life-giving again! This is an awesome practice to do with your spouse or a friend, or to journal about.
So fam, can we work through our feelings while living in obedience and trust? Can we awaken our compassion and remember there are still millions of refugees out there who are extremely vulnerable to the virus and lacking medical care? Can we sit in the horror of what they've been through the past year? I don't want to minimize what we've all been through, but I do think we can gain a healthier perspective when we look beyond our own circumstances. It can be freeing and lightening to our own loads.
Let's go. Let's be refreshed by looking inside and really mulling over what's brought us down, so that we can look outside to others who might have it even worse than we do. Let's remember we're in a global pandemic, and we're in this together. Remember the thing that sparks life into you. Share your mission statement with me! I'd love to hear about it.
A great way to put yourself in the shoes of a refugee is by reading my book, No Way but Through!