Tending to the Heart of A Writer

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The page stared back at me. Blank. Crisp white and expectant-  it was ready for words to fill the margins, my very heart poured out through the vein of my pen . . . but the rush of ink didn’t come.

Silence met my heart instead and my mind raced wondering, “How does one make a writing life, with words meant to be poured out, if day after day, she finds there are no words stored up to share?” 

As writers and bloggers, message makers and speakers, the craft that becomes our life’s labor will likely be tied up in tending our words. It is of great importance then, that we have a firm understanding of where our words are rooted, how we choose the ones we do, and perhaps, also, from time to time, why they cease to appear at all.

Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34) Our hearts are home to who we truly are. Our desires, affections, longings and loves . . . they all live there. Our words bear the mark of our inward character- the real us. The integrity of our words, and truly, the integrity of our very lives, depends on what is cultivated there.

As we tend to our words pouring out, how will we tend to and nurture the inner heart, from which all our words will flow? What sentiments and attachments live in the garden of your heart? Are truth and beauty flooding in, watering the whole of your being?

Or are there weeds that have begun to grow around the edges and vulnerable places, choking out and over-running the vibrancy of the sacred place God himself inhabits? On days when words seem scarce, I know that my work as a writer must first be about nourishing my heart.  I’ve come to find, it is actually, the first work, not only of writing, but of living too.

If I want to be a women whose messages come alive and ring true in hearts of others, then I must invest my heart in the very things I long to have pour out of me. If I believe I have a calling and a purpose to use words spoken and splattered across pages and computer screens for the glory of God’s Kingdom, to speak life, bold encouragement and to give voice to those without a voice of their own, then I must knit my hearts in Christ’s, I must invest myself in Him. For out of the treasure of our hearts do we produce good. (Luke 6:45) 

 I’m learning how to let God actively address my “weeds,” my own emotions and hurts and insecurities. I’m learning how to make this a priority, a steady and constant anchor so that I might live with integrity, because I know I must allow God to address my own heart if my words will ever address the hearts of others. 

“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. Shadow is what we think of it, but the tree is the real thing.”  -Abraham Lincoln

In our online lives, its very easy to live a life of shadow, investing in and chasing after what is merely mist. But in our heart lies what is lasting and real and true before God, and before others. It will always trump what others think of us in the moment, our popularity . . . our blog statistics. I don’t want to write a shadow life. I want to write a life of light.

Thankful to invest in our hearts together here,

Kristen

How to Let Go of Comparison and Build Others Up

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My finger paused as it hovered over the “post” button. The familiar tune was vulnerability, but this time I felt particularly exposed.

My anxiousness was not because I was about to share something hard, but because I was about to disclose what was, for me, a small success – a joy.  I knew that there would be silence from some in my circle, and that was going to hurt.

How did I know this would happen?  Because I understand the game of comparison.  I know what it’s like to hear of another’s success and secretly wish that it were mine – to feel like another’s opportunity means I’m being left behind with empty hands.  Our gut-reaction to that is often silence.

Celebrating another requires a bold and intentional move because it means we have to take our eyes off of ourselves. We trade our self-pity, disappointment, and feeling of unworthiness for confetti, a party hat, and a mouth full of sincere praise.

A true friend who is for me is not just there in times of sorrow, but also shows up with a celebration cake in times of joy.

There was a season in my life when doctors labeled us as having “secondary infertility.” We already had one child, but could not become pregnant again. I was at an age where all of my friends were having babies, so it seemed every week a new baby shower invitation came in the mail, or someone was announcing a pregnancy. There are few things that test a woman’s heart like infertility.

Every single month, hope would rise, and disappointment would pierce it. I was filled with struggle and angst. So when these precious friends came to me to share their joy, it was the ultimate test of my ability to build another up according to her needs, not mine (Ephesians 4:29). I knew that I could not focus on myself and sincerely build up my friend.

I had to trust that God would provide for my need, and would care for me, as I was caring for another.

The most secure and biblically mature people I know breathe this way of living. Their identity and worth is so tied to Christ that another’s success, despite their setbacks, does not trigger insecurity or comparison. They’ve learned that God’s evidence in another’s life is to be praised and that it doesn’t take one thing away from them.

If we want to be mature and secure women who reflect Christ’s character, comparison must be buried.  

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I have found that the best way to overcome these destructive feelings is with practical action. Here are three ways I attempt to kill comparison in my life.

  1. Pray – When we come before God on the behalf of another, He changes our heart toward them. I thank Him for the work He is doing in my friend’s life, and for the faithfulness He is showing to her. I then name what God is doing in my life, and ask Him to give me a heart of contentment and gratitude for those things.
  1. Act - Sometimes our feelings follow our actions. I can choose to act graciously toward the person with whom I am comparing, even if that person has not acted the same toward me. This usually comes in the form of speaking words of life to that individual.
  1. Celebrate – We can learn to celebrate another person, both for their personal benefit, but also to acknowledge that God is doing great things in the world. When I celebrate someone, I am ultimately giving credit to God, the giver of all good things.

Theodore Roosevelt once said that, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I would add that it robs relationships of what is good. Let’s not hand comparison that power.

God’s generous provisions are more than we could ever hold. Let’s believe that truth, and overflow out of that rich abundance and heritage with a strength that, dependably and faithfully, builds others up.

I’d love to know, how do you fight comparison in your own life? or help your kids to do that?

In the Faith,

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Seasons.

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I read Home while traveling on a plane. Oh my goodness! I was quite the sight as I laughed OUT LOUD for 3 straight hours.  I didn’t care if I was more annoying than a crying baby. No one was going to stop the amount of joy I got from Sophie’s book.

Being that I spent 20 years in full time church ministry chapter 18 had me especially giggly. All the words and phrases that Christians over use are so spot on.

The one I am especially latched onto right now is the word “seasons.” I say it to myself and others ALL.THE.TIME.

“Oh, it is just a season.”

“Don’t worry about it. This season will pass.”

“I just love this season of life.”

Because I happen to be in a tough season as we wait and wait and keep waiting for answers regarding transition (another one of those words we love) the over use of the word season is driving me bonkers.

I suppose we get it from Ecclesiastes 3.

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“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

I act like this tough season will end and I will magically swoop into a season of only fruit and flowers but the truth is that all seasons have highs and lows, flowers and rain, snow and ice, sun and stars so the questions isn’t, when will this season end? It is, what can I learn from this season and how will it help grow me in the one to come?

I would enjoy hearing your take on the word “seasons.” What does it mean to you?

What word had you smirking in chapter 18?

On Listening Well

On Listening Well

Are you a good listener? I must confess I’m not always a good listener. Listening well frequently requires skills that must be learned. You will have some listening skills that come naturally to you, and some that need to be acquired. I am an introvert processor and my husband is extrovert processor. That means we listen differently.

I need to write down how I feel about what is said, I need time to process the information. Doc processes out loud – stating the entire problem and all the options that may be available to make a decision.

When my husband and I have a conversation, I find myself hearing only one part of the conversation and stopping to process (probably because I have tuned out the rest of the possibilities until he if finished processing) Then, I miss part of what he is saying. This causes me to return to him to hear the rest of the conversation. It makes him feel as if I have not been listening, when I have fully understood the part I was listening to.

I have learned I don’t need to respond to each scenario he brings up because he is processing. He has learned not to expect an answer from me until I have had time to step away to process, and possibly returned with further questions

Knowing where your strengths and weakness lie is important in learning to be a better listener.

A good listener makes the speaker feel as if she is the only one around and gives her confidence in knowing she is important to you.

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There are five parts to being a good listener.

Empathizing with the speaker

This means you can state in your own words what the person speaking is feeling as well as what they are saying. You are able fully empathize with someone who might have a different point of view from you.

Understanding the whole picture

This means you are able to sum up correctly the entire conversation. You can take the conversation and explain it to someone who was not present. You are able to come up with where the facts of the conversation will lead in years to come.

Appraise information 

You are able to weigh both sides of a conversation and evaluate the information for accuracy, relativity and time frame.

Noticing the Steps to a decision

Can you listen to a conversation and remember the small details? You might miss the bigger picture but you got all of the steps leading there? Can you evaluate and know if the situation needs immediate action or needs to simmer a little. Can hone in on what areas need more information to make a decision?

Being aware of body language

You can see what isn’t spoken. You know if there is a deeper issue to be explored. You watch eye contact and hand movement to fully understand the heart of the person speaking.

Go through this list today and try to identify your strengths and weaknesses in you listening skills. I know it can be very painful! But it can make you a better listener as a friend, coworker, mom and wife!

God has created us to be listeners.  We are to first listen to Him, then we can listen to other women, with a heart that is has been prepared to hear.

“My Sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me;” (John 10:27 NASB)

In what areas of listening are your strengths? Which single area will you focus on improving in your next deep conversation?