On Words and Worth and Singing in Silence

Sometimes I fear I place to much value on words. I find my worth wrapped up in them time and time again, and I’m not talking about the words of others (though I won’t shy away from a compliment. Unless you’re creepy. I don’t accept compliments from creepers, just sayin’).

It’s my own words that hold the potential to undo me. Or rather, the lack of words.

I’m a writer. Words are my life. I find fulfillment in pages upon pages of words streaming through my fingertips.

But sometimes… Sometimes there’s nothing but silence where the words used to be. Sometimes I have absolutely nothing of worth to say. I’m terrified of those silences because, when the pages of my journals are blank, when the cursor on the screen blinks empty, that’s when the doubts set in.

What am I doing here, really? Do my words carry weight? Can I possibly create enough of them? Is this yet another story that was born for the dusty shelves of Never Meant to Be?

Every time the silences start swallowing my words, I fear they’re lost forever, which is ridiculous because I’ve gone through seasons like this so many times and they never last. Winter sets upon my writing every once in awhile. The words curl up in their caves and hibernate like bears dreaming of spring. And that’s okay.

That’s what I have to keep telling myself over and over again. It’s okay to not have the words sometimes. It’s okay to dig deep and come up empty every now and then.

Steven James once wrote on the importance of silence. He said that without the silence between the notes, music is nothing but noise. We need the silence because then, and only then, can we finally hear the song.

When I stop trying to force the words, I can hear it. Playing softly in the back of my mind is a tune I’ve long forgotten to enjoy because I’ve been so busy trying to fill it with lyrics that never quite fit.

Some things are bigger than words. Some songs too beautiful for lyrics.

And it’s okay. It’s okay to melt into the silences as they fill our lives.

It’s okay to not know the words every once in awhile… just as long as you remember to sink into the song that has been playing all this time.

spider dance

Bleeding Hearts and Useless Words

There’s a word that keeps resurfacing in my prayer journal—an adjective I keep using to describe my heart.

Bleeding.

My heart is bleeding. Cracked. Broken. Rubbed raw and aching with the harsh realities of life.

Some of it is my fault—decisions I have made, bitterness I have harbored. But some of it… Some of it is completely out of my control. The only contribution I made to that pain was deciding to love too deeply, but I promised myself long ago that I’d never apologize for that.

So here I stand.

Bleeding.

Which is why I’ve been silent here of late. The words have slipped right through the cracks in my spirit. And I’m laughing to think that I had all the answers right up until it came time to use them, which makes me wonder if perhaps they weren’t the right answers after all.

Because when your heart rumbles and shudders with the force of an earthquake and your soul rips apart at the seams, you find that answers aren’t a strong enough foundation for the process of rebuilding your life.

So what is? What remains when everything else lies in ruins?

It’s simple, really. Simple and short and perhaps a bit cliche:

When answers fail—when words are rendered worthless—love remains.

…Which is a difficult concept for a writer to wrap her mind around. You see, words are pretty much my life. I live off them and in them and for them. I’ve read as many as fourteen novels in a single month and still didn’t get my fill of them. Words. Piles and piles of words.

I’ve never believed in letters that don’t wrap around from front to back. I’ve never learned to stay within the margins of my pages. And when I’m broken, I resort to poetry and prose.

But I realized just the other day that I often fill the silences with fluff as if I’m afraid of fresh, white pages. I realized just now that I craft entire paragraphs when only one sentence is needed. And maybe the message I’m trying to get across is found somewhere in that 500-word-essay, but there’s a chance it got lost amidst all the scribbles in the margins. And after all my assurances, condolences, and cliches, you still stand there. Bleeding.

Because I gave you pages of poetry when all you needed was a simple confession.

“I know that you’re broken. I’m broken, too. But I’m okay to be broken for you.”

Maybe all I needed to say was, “I love you.”
As cliche as that sounds, I love you.
Forever.
For always.
Yes, even in this.

Or maybe I don’t need to say anything at all.

Yes, I think for now I’ll just remain silent and bleed right along with you.

ruins-001

Love Lettering the World

Earlier this year, I fell in love with Hannah Brencher’s heart. I fell in love with her desire to spread love into the dark corners of the world because, in my own heart of hearts, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. But the thing that amazes me most is that Hannah’s ministry stemmed from a very selfish desire. In her own words:

“Anyone who knows me–knows the heart of me, and the bone of me, and the bends of my smile–knows why I really started writing love letters. It was not some strange aficionado for stationery. Never a day in my life have I ached to bring the art form of letter writing back to her fullness. It wasn’t a racing heart for cursive & curves on a page. It was a fear that I was very much alone in this world. It was a fear that I might never feel whole again. It was fear that not a single soul needed my footprints, my input, my laughter. It was a crippling belief that I would live and die and I would never have made noise in this world.”

And so the girl who was rather desperately in need of a love letter started leaving the kinds of words she yearned to hear for strangers to read. She lit up New York City one heart at a time and, in the process, healed her own. That’s what happens when you take your eyes off of yourself and start writing for other people.

I started writing for me. Because I had words bottled up in my heart that needed somewhere to go. Sometimes I still write for myself. Sometimes there’s a message God is pounding into my heart so fervently that it is all I can write. And the beautiful thing about those blog posts is that I get comments from all of you saying how badly you needed to hear those words, too.

When I set out to love letter the world, it started writing letters back to me. Letters that said, “I needed your words. You’ve given me permission to dream.” Letters that said, “Thank you for the reminder. It set my heart back on the right track again.” Letters that said, “Your voice, your words, your heart—they matter. They matter.”

Maybe I was more like Hannah Brencher than I thought—maybe I wrote out of my own fear that I would live and die having never made noise in this world—because your words mean the world to me.

Today I am ever so thankful for you, my readers, who believe that the words that flow from my heart through my fingertips are worth your time. I’m grateful that you make me feel as though my efforts matter. You’ve helped me realize that the world isn’t as big as it once appeared, and that I am changing it…

one love letter at a time

Love Letter to a Dreamer

Hey You,

Yes, You.

I hope you’ve read over the last month of archives and learned a thing or two about dreams. I hope you were encouraged by these women who have fought with dreams… and won. I hope that you, too, learn to be a survivor–the kind of person who would dare to be more than the world believes you could be.

There will be plenty of people who try to shoot you down. The line of people waiting to throw their stones never gets any shorter. So I started a line of my own. I’m in the line of people who say, “Hey You, yes, You… I believe in you. I know that you were made for great things.”

And I’m sorry to say there aren’t too many people in my line. I’m sorry to say that you’ll dodge far more rocks than embrace words made for comforting. And I’m sorry to say that curses may cling to your soul a lot longer than blessings do. The words you will remember are the ones that wounded you; not so much the ones that carried you.

So I‘m begging you to listen closely. Listen very, very closely to these words I’m going to say. And hold these words. Harbor these words. Let these words shape the very core of you.

You are, in a word, potential. Potential, potential, potential. You could go anywhere and do anything–carried away on the wings of a dream. No matter what the world says–no matter how “safe” and “practical” it wants you to be; know that you weren’t made for anything less than your wildest dreams.

So chase them. Chase your dreams wherever they may lead you. And never stop believing in them–no matter how impossible they may seem. Because the impossible dreams are the ones that are made for coming true.

You know what I want for you? I want you to find the purpose for which you are made. I want you to find your dream and run with it. And I want to jump up and down on the sidelines like I’m your biggest fan. Because I am your biggest fan you know.

And I’ll be here the whole time, cheering you on, speaking words of blessing where others throw curses. You musn’t listen to them, you know. They don’t know what they’re saying. They don’t see what I see. They don’t understand that the Maker has gifted each and every one of us and that you were made to shine.

So go ahead, Fragile Bird, spread your wings. Leap from the nest that has cradled you for so long. It’s time you realize that you were made for flying.

And don’t you forget to dream.

Real.

This morning, I re-read a letter that was written to me when I graduated high school. Though I knew exactly what it said, I still smiled when I got to the final five words that have impacted my life so greatly.

The letter is from my old piano teacher. Old as in, I took lessons when I was only ten, but also old as in, she was in her mid-eighties when she started teaching me. I adored her. In fact, the only reason I kept up with piano for so long was because I wanted an excuse to see her.

So there I was, reading this letter that detailed her memories of what a joy it was to teach me (even though I must have been the most unskilled student she ever had). In the letter, she talks about her life and how much God has blessed her. It’s one of those letters you would expect to end with the words “God has been so good.” But it’s a different five words that flowed from Alberta’s pen.

Jesus has been so real.

I’ve let those words carry me through the times that Jesus felt distant. The times that I’ve found it difficult to see what God was doing. And I’ve let them sing to my spirit in the times that I stand in awe and wonder of the greatness of my God. And I hope that when I’ve lived ninety plus years, they’ll be the first words that come to mind when I think back over my life.

Jesus is real. Wonderfully, powerfully, inexplicably, you-wouldn’t-believe-it  real.

And I don’t know where Alberta is now – whether she’s a ninety-five-year-old woman bouncing around a nursing home or if she’s dancing with that very real God of hers – but I know that her words live on in my heart as I pray they’ll live in yours.

May you be reminded of just how real Jesus is today.

The Word

So, I may have a slight fascination with words. (That’s why I’m a writer.) I used to think that this fascination was the reason John 1:1 jumped out at me. But then I began to wonder… Perhaps it’s the other way around. Perhaps my fascination with the English language is a reflection of my fascination with the Eternal Word.

I dare you to read John 1 and not be moved by it. Go ahead and try to study it without having your mind blown. It moves from creation to salvation in a mere eighteen verses.

Jesus is the Word that spoke life into being. The Word that became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word that came to rebuild and restore.

The Bible says that no one has ever seen God, and yet… the Word – who came and walked among us, lived our lives, breathed our air, dreamed our dreams, and died for the sins of us all – has made God known to us.

So during this Thanksgiving season, I’m thankful that the Word became flesh and stepped into my story in order to tear the veil inside my heart and speak new life into my existence.

Unwind

You’ve probably noticed the lack of posts lately. I went to the beach last week and took a vacation from everything. Well, that’s only part of the reason. Mainly, the silence has been because I ran out of words (which is perhaps the worst thing a writer can do).

At the start of last week, a friend told me that I needed to unwind. Either her words were prophetic or the chaos swirling in my brain was more evident than I realized. In any case, she was right. So I set my mind to unwind.

Ironically, I think that in telling myself to unwind, I only wound myself up tighter. “Why isn’t this working? Why can’t I think? Breathe? Write? Why can’t I release this chaos?” After a week of such questions, I’m happy to say that I found the answer… I can’t unwind on my own. And here’s the happy part of that news:

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Note that it says, “I will give you rest.” Not, “You will find rest because you sought so hard.” Did you get that? Rest only comes when we stop striving to achieve it and simply let God fulfill His promise. And yes, it is a lot easier said than done.

I wanted to unwind all at once. I wanted to force all this clutter from my mind and start fresh. But God knows that if He lets that happen, I’ll unwind with the intensity of a high-speed tornado. The aftermath would not be pretty.

But I think I’m finally getting it. I’m slowly starting to unwind and things are beginning to look a little more clear. I’m piecing together a few of the lessons I learned at the beach and will be sharing them in the days to come. So join me on this once upon a time journey where even the mundane is an adventure…