The moment is seared into my brain, not unlike a branding iron on a young calf. It was November 2010.
Although, actually, it had started the year before at a conference for youth workers…
“Don’t waste your words,” the speaker had uttered in that dramatic-almost-whisper that speakers do to make a point. “You have experiences from a unique point of view. The Bible studies, retreat messages, and devotionals that you prepare for your own church can encourage others.”
Hmm… Yes. I had lots of writing in my files at the church office. I had never thought about sharing my writing beyond its original purpose. Having served the local church for 15 years in various discipleship ministries, I had written many resources.
The conference speaker opened the door to the world of writing for a broader audience. Should I start a blog? Submit articles for publication? Write a book? The endless possibilities quickened my spirit. I also had prayer journals, gratitude journals, and newsletter articles filled with personal discoveries and revelations. Lots of writing that I could mine for ideas and inspiration.
I returned home, however, and life happened. I did nothing to make time for my new found yearning to write. Furthermore, I struggled with what to write. I questioned if I could add anything valuable to the many powerful voices already out there. My writing stayed in my files and my journals and my head.
How about you? Where are your words?
Do you have pages and pages of journal writing that testify to God’s work in your life? Do you have prayer journals of answered prayers and still-waiting-answers prayer? Have you written long emails or Facebook messages to encourage friends and family? Are profound thoughts swirling in your head but unwritten on a page?
Back to my brain-searing moment in November 2010…
I had the opportunity to attend another ministry conference. I brought my journal and added pages and pages of wisdom from the plenary speakers and seminar leaders. Much was already in the journal including reflections from July’s Zambia mission team, ministry retreats, and various challenges that had intruded on life that year.
The conference closed with a beautiful time of spirit-filled worship. With full hearts and thirst-quenched spirits, my friends and I stuffed our belongings into backpacks and headed upstairs to check out of our hotel rooms.
I returned to the lobby to wait for the rest of my group. It was then that I made the most horrific discovery: my treasured journal was not in my backpack! I literally felt the blood drain out of my head. Nausea set in. I re-played my steps in my mind.
When had I last seen my journal? I remembered placing it under my chair during the final worship. But then I could not recall putting it in my backpack with my conference notebook, phone, etc. I sprinted back to the ballroom. The custodians were already stacking up chairs and cleaning the room. I talked with several of them. No one had found a journal. I searched the trash cans. I searched their piles of lost-and-found. Nothing.
I went to the conference registration desk. No one had turned it in.
I went to the hotel concierge desk. No one had turned it in.
One week later, I called the conference representatives and the hotel. Nothing.
Surely another conference delegate would turn it in. They would see that it was a personal journal. They would see my prayers and my pain and my joys. Surely they would turn it in. I left my name, email, and phone number everywhere!
One month later, I called again. Nothing.
It’s 2015 and my journal is still lost to me. All of the lessons the Lord taught me, all of the words He gave me, all of the inspirations He prompted are lost from further reflection and sharing.
It was then that I had the painful, brain-searing revelation: I had not been faithful with the words that the Lord had given to me. The Lord had given me experiences and opportunities that I was not sharing. I had not taken the time or effort. I felt deeply convicted.
I started a blog that winter. I didn’t know what I was doing but I knew that I needed to write. My first blog was on Blogger. Then I moved over to a free WordPress site. Then I created a self-hosted WordPress blog. I self-published a book next. Then I developed a discipleship website with online courses. I guest posted on blogs and found writer friends. I am especially indebted to the Redbud Writers Guild who now surround me with inspiring women who encourage me to use my voice. And…I’m finally writing that book.
May I be so bold as to encourage you to write? Just write! God has given you a perspective that NO ONE else on the planet has. When you are silent, we are missing a critical piece in the orchestra of the world’s soul.
Write. Just write. Your experiences matter!