Stories. I love narrative stories, and I have told them since I was a little girl. I never could just tell a simple story. Many of you are thinking, “She still can’t.”
When I was fifteen, I started writing freelance for our once-a-week county newspaper. My mother saved all of those articles. Each one clipped from the newspaper and folded to fit a scrapbook she kept for me (I didn’t know she did this until a few years ago). The spiral bound book is worn—tattered on the edges and pages askew. Full of memorabilia the book bulges in the middle. The faded newspapers are brown and brittle now, the creases white and fragile. I read the titles and memories flare and briefly rise. I recall the first time I saw my name printed in the by-line, surreal. I was elated.
|Two of my last newspaper articles. "Run, Kate, Run" was my favorite.|
When I look through this book, I am transported. I don’t’ remember much about the girl in the pages, some details are fuzzy, some evaporated in the heat of four decades of living. This scrapbook chronicles the outward girl—the measurable things, the counted and visible events: pageants, contests, and demonstrations. It houses the awards and accolades. My mother adhered these articles and certificates to the pages with scotch tape, gone brittle and yellow with the years.
With clarity and wonder, I recognize that even thirty-four years ago the words were there. Writing for the newspaper satisfied two needs in me: one for people and one for words. I loved them both. These two things mattered to me more than anything else. I didn’t know Jesus; I knew about religion, the rights and the wrongs and the rules. I hadn’t yet made a decision to become his follower. I was just a lost little girl trying to follow the passionate beat of my heart.
|Two of my Press badges from state 4-H events. |
|I didn't even remember this editor's note until writing this post. Fannin is my maiden name.|
I went to college, and the writing changed. I poured all of my words into the channels of finals and research papers, always striving for the A or better. My college tests are in my mother’s scrapbook. Thin, blue, stapled, and lined booklets filled with my familiar cursive handwriting. By this time I was a believer, and my faith began to appear in my writing. This faith was yet to be refined, and I smile at my idealistic words and theology. I recognize the young girl, me, but I’m profoundly grateful she didn’t know what was coming.
|Two of my blue book exams from a ministry class at Asbury University.|
The summer between my junior and senior year of college I was an intern in a church outside of Boston. I arrived full of ideas to change the ministry, the world. The minister knew about my love for words, knew I loved to write. He explained that I only had two assignments to fulfil the requirements for the internship: to get to know people in that small church, to see how God was visible in them, and write about it. I couldn’t believe it. What an assignment—everything I loved braided into one rope. People. Writing. Ministry. Recently, a precious friend emailed me the piece I wrote about her family. As I reread the story, I saw the young me sitting in a poorly lit basement hunched over a typewriter, typing and laboring to get the words and phrases right. My friend kept this piece of my writing for thirty years.
|The thirty year old writing piece.|
There was a period after college when my writing fleshed out only in journaling. Page after page, journal after journal chronicling the inward shifts, upheavals, joys, births, avalanches, and valleys of my life. In them, I see the evolution of my writing. I detect the threads and patterns that would eventually lead to my style and voice.
In 2007, my life shifted. An inevitable earthquake trembled and tremored, and the landscape of my life cracked open—the geography of me and those around me forever changed. I knew I had to make sense of this time; there had to be a methodical venting of the gasses and steam released in my breaking. Once again words came to my aid. I decided to take a risk. The new forum for writers was the blog, and I opened up our antiquated desktop and navigated the setting up of a Blogspot all by myself. For seven years, this was my address, this is where I lived. Through The Chambered Nautilus Blogspot, God began to heal me, to fill in the caverns, ravines, and fissures left by the earthquakes in my life.
God is faithful. Utterly faithful. Ribboned and threaded through all those years of writing was a dream, a silent hope. I wanted to be a published author. I longed to have a publisher agree to press my words and the message of them between the front and back covers of a book. Psalm 38:9 says, "All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you." All through my life, God heard my sighing. He saw my longings, bare and naked. He saw, and he heard.
Soon this dream will come true. At the end of the summer, my first book will be published. God does immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. This fruition of a dream does not look like my young naïve self envisioned. I didn’t know earthquakes and aftershocks would birth my first book. I didn't know the depth of healing that would come in the joy, the light, and the life of the writing of it. I just wrote. I did what I am called to do: love God, love people, and love words.
I realize now that when I was fifteen, God was already moving and leading me in my giftedness. He was teaching me to embrace what he called me to do, even when I didn't know him. God always starts before we begin. Always. He's ahead of us stretching out the path, healing and teaching us through the very gifts he gives us.
Growing Room: For Life in Tight Places will be published by WestBow Press in late August or September. This book is a revised compilation of my blog and new material. It is seven years worth of writing. It is the story of how God healed me, pressed down all the upheavals and filled in the faults. He used my family, my friends, and the words to create growing room for me. He used his Word and my words to form in me a narrative, a testimony to his presence. And He was present. He is ever present. Always. Never forsaking. Growing Room: For Life in Tight Places is my evidence of his grace, of how his sweet grace permeated everything.