When attending a writer’s workshop, I heard an author say, ‘writing a book is like birthing a baby.’ And now, even after just 17,000 words, I get that. I have had some labor pains as I’ve worked on this series, a few sleepless nights even. It’s bittersweet that today is my last post for Do You Belong. Oh, that’s not true. It’s not bitter at all, but rather sweet indeed. It’s been challenging. I’m glad it’s done.
See? I’ve learned to be vulnerable during this past month. And honest.
Seriously, writing this series, at this time in my life, was no accident. It was God’s way of speaking to me. Every time I write, I learn something about myself. His Word has been my constant companion as I have prayed, read, and researched this topic. I needed these lessons. This series was for me.
Every day I’ve come to my keyboard, and just sat with my fingers tapping over the letters, waiting to see what words I’d form. At the beginning of the series, I listed out writing prompts, and here on day 31, I’ve used 11 of those promptings. The other 20 days were God’s lessons to me. He did the prompting. Things I needed to read, write, and learn. The lessons within these posts may be redundant to some, and the writing simple at best, but putting out over 17,000 words in 31 days is something I’ve not done before. And I am humbled and thankful.
If you’ve followed along, I’ve left some hints here and there about my journey. When I wrote, Don’t Steal Someone Else’s Perfect Place, I wrote about stepping down from the Women’s Ministry at my church. I had been in that ministry for over 4 years, and it felt like I was accomplishing nothing. When I resigned that position, I felt freedom, as though a weight had been taken off my ankles. Nothing drains us more than signing up for things God never intended for us to do. God had been urging me to step down for months, and I just hadn’t listened. Once I surrendered, and stepped away, I opened the door for God to move in my life.
Since that decision 6 months ago, I have found bread crumb after bread crumb to pick up along the way. I wrote about God’s bread crumbs here. Manna from heaven — exactly what I needed just when I needed it.
The first piece of manna I found was a palette and a paint brush. I had dabbled in art sporadically over the last 20 years — nothing much, a class here, a class there. And that was it. Life was always too busy, and other things always took priority. I would take a class, file the artwork, and move on. But last Spring, after one of those classes, my granddaughter asked if we could take a class together. We painted together all summer. And my passion for art took on another dimension.
The next bite of manna came mid-summer when I visited my mother at her assisted living home. I had been asking about art classes for the residents as Mom had enjoyed that activity at her previous address. After several brief conversations with the administrator, I was asked to teach the class. I balked at the idea! I couldn’t possibly do that as I am just learning myself. But God didn’t let me throw that crumb back down; He gently placed in my pocket as He moved me along my way.
In the late summer, a fellow writer and I were invited to a friend’s home in Wisconsin for a few days. During that visit, we had the privilege of an intimate luncheon date with author and speaker, Jill Briscoe. I was nervous about meeting with her in such a small group. What questions would she ask? How do I explain my searching? My story? If I expected the Holy Spirit to speak through her, and I most certainly did, how would she know me well enough to speak? God must have gotten a good chuckle out of that — I didn’t need to say anything. We just listened. And listened. And Jill spoke about her life and her work. I was completely blessed to hear her stories, and especially to hear her giggle over them herself. And then, to share in her tears and grief over some of life’s situations was a blessing in disguise. And through her many words over the 4 hour lunch, God highlighted 2 sentences meant just for me. I’m not sure anyone else even took note. But I grabbed those crumbs and placed in my pocket, along with my art class invitation. I can’t remember verbatim what she said, the words must have gotten a bit scrambled as I stuffed them away. But she spoke about seniors, the elderly, and how their numbers have bypassed those of the young millennials, and how they are the most overlooked people in our society. Simple words. Nothing shocking. Words that were whispered almost, as she took a sip of her tea. But, to me, God’s fingerprints were all over those words. So yes, into my pocket they went. I’d look at them more closely later.
On that same visit to Wisconsin, our host, author and speaker, Elizabeth Murphy listened for hours as we talked about our life, our families, our writing, and our passions. Elizabeth is extremely gifted at encouraging women in their faith journey. At the end of our stay, as we were walking out the door, she looked at me, and said, “Connie, may I speak a word to you? Those elderly folks at your mom’s home, I think you need to pay attention to that. I think they may be your people.” Can I just say, that seemed like a whole slice of bread right there. To have someone who doesn’t know you well, focus in on what God has already tucked away in your
Another hint I left for you as I wrote this series was in the post about core values, What makes you tick. When I worked through that exercise and found my core value descriptors, it became clear to me how and where I want to spend my energy. Just a few more crumbs…
Author, Susan Larson, in her book, The Sacred Yes, says “Life is a gift. Time is a treasured commodity. When we open our hands and give what we have to Jesus — be it our moments, our gifts, our time, or simply room and space for Him to show up — we find life to be a sacred journey.” That’s how I feel about my summer wanderings as I tried to figure out my next steps. God just kept nudging me along. There was no neon sign in the sky — no billboard announcing the way. Just little bits here and there, invitations to pick up the piece and be led to the next step.
And into the fall, He left a few more pieces of that precious manna… this way… here’s more… you’re almost there….
And now? After I emptied my pockets and looked closely at the all the pieces together?
I’m doing something I love. Something I look forward to every week. And I’m pretty excited about it!
I have started art classes at my mom’s assisted living facility. Elizabeth was right. They are my people. I know their names. I look forward to seeing them. I love getting to know them, and their stories. I began with “classes” (I use that term lightly) twice a month, but the residents have asked to paint every week. How cool is that? You can read about one of my favorite sessions here. And you know what? I’m not an art teacher. I do not have the qualifications to do this. But I just opened my hands and said, “Ok, Jesus, this is what I’ve got.”
And the butter on the bread? I get to write about it too. All of my passions colliding into a ministry to the widows (and widowers). I love that. I didn’t see it coming. But I kept seeking, listening, and picking up those pieces of manna.
“I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.”
— Exodus 16: 2-4
Is God leaving some manna for you? Are you seeking and listening? The pieces may not be mouthfuls, they may just be a little bite here and there. But those pieces of manna are a test. Bit by bit, will we trust Him to be faithful? He wants to lead us into our perfect purpose. Some people hear their calling early, and know it loud and clear, but for some of us, we find it one crumb at a time — God leading us to our place of belonging.
Do you belong? Yes! Yes, you do. And so do I.
Here are a few pictures. If you enjoy them, follow along, as I will be writing about these people and this place, and posting pictures regularly. I’d like you to get to know them because, well… they’re my people.