3.05.2014

In the End, Three Things Remain

{The Conundrums of Christian Writing and Blogging: A Series}




                                                                             photo credit 
                                                                    


This quote appeared on my Pinterest feed a couple of weeks ago and, like a chill breeze that steals in under the warped door frame, it has descended down deep into my marrow. For you see, I have been awash in brackish thoughts of late.

With a few exceptions, I have taken a step back from my online presence the last six months. Five months ago, I gave birth to my third son. Three months ago, my mother began another round of chemotherapy. My withdrawal from the non-stop traffic of the internet was both a conscious and inevitable choice. I do not regret my decision but I would be lying through my teeth if I didn’t admit that, ever since, I have been at battle with doubt and envy.

My biggest frustration with the world of writing and platform building and influence is that what it requires seems so far removed from a life that bears the fruit worth reading about—a life of depth and stillness and meaning.

Writing, for me, has always felt like an intimate dinner party, hemmed in by golden light and the clink of dishes, measured in the crumbs stolen away on fingertips and the slow warmth from poured wine. There are the moments of sure knowing just as there are the heavy silences that come from the unknowing. But always, there is the table-- worn and steady, wide and open.

But my attempts to translate that way of being to the online world feel antiquated and stilted, at best.

It feels like sidling up to a busy counter with a bustling lunch crowd. Bread is broken and laughter distilled, yes, but the din of conversation is confusing to this ambivert who simultaneously wants to try new dishes and run out the door, hands pressed over her ears.

I want to join in, truly I do, but sometimes it seems that in order to he heard anymore you just have to keep talking. And if you aren’t talking, others start walking.

That reality is the crack through which doubt and envy seep in, staining fabric already worn a bit thin. It’s also the tender spot struck silent by the quote above.

The last few months I have watched those whose words I love and champion take wing and fly and it has been glorious for the grand knowing of the gift that is to the world. But it has also been gut-wrenching. For as genuinely as I have exalted in their successes, I have also stood silent in the space that has opened up between us, tasting the char left in their wake. It has been difficult not to feel left behind.

To admit this feels anathema to all that I believe is good about the world of writing and blogging. I have become connected to an online community of writers (here and here and here, just to name a few) that, most assuredly, is a profound gift in my life. I have been encouraged and uplifted, loved and cherished, prayed for and buoyed by dozens of folks I’ve never met in real life. My identity as a writer, woman, spiritual being and friend, has been shaped immeasurably by my connections online. This is as true as the day is long.

So feeling jealous of others’ success--others who have lavished me with love and support, again and again--is a tell tale sign that something significant is amiss. I’ve lost my center, it seems, if it has become more about me and less about revelation and glory.

Since reading that quote from Buddha I’ve been meditating on the implications of what it would mean to fully embrace its truth. And I’ve been asking myself some hard questions.

What if I decided, right here and right now, to let go of the desires for applause and acclaim?

What if I decided, instead, to release my words to the world in an effort to sow love in greater measure? What if I chose to string together word upon word as a discipline in gentleness? And what if—what if—I honed my craft for the sheer love of art and I let that, and that alone, reveal the path meant for me?

I’m not sure how the answers to those questions will fair in a parley with the platform and influence jockeys. They might not even get an audience.

But I’m trying to be one that doesn’t care about all of that. For, in the end, there’s no greater platform than love, gentleness and grace.



Selah.






A classical piece {only the first piece in the video--the rest, you can listen to, if you enjoy doing so}, hand-picked by Holly, something she relates to--she says this is where her writer muse lives, in between the sad notes. What a beautiful soul she is. 










Holly is a wife, very relaxed homeschooling mom of three boys, snapper of photos, coming of age writer and a soul drowning in grace. After years in Atlanta where she attended college, married the love of her life and lived in an intentional community, she found her way back to her home state of Missouri. She now lives in an antebellum stone house, raises chickens (sometimes) and pretends that she lives in the country. You can find more of her astoundingly gorgeous words here on her blog, A Lifetime of Days,  or you can find her twittering here, and                                            facebooking here




**This is a series on writing--Let's all gather around the table in the comments and discuss! And I hope you'll be back next week, for more delving into this. At the end of the series, Kelli Woodford and I are hosting a link-up here for you to share your own stories of your writing and blogging journey. Kelli and I will choose one *amazing* story from the link-up to feature on both of our blogs sometime around the end of March. (nailed-down dates to come). So, what are the issues we face and deal with as writers? Please keep this theme in mind, and think of how you'd like to share your own story or journey of blogging/writing with us! **{Requirements for link-up: Please no maligning/no mention in a negative manner of other blogs/authors/writers/brothers & sisters in Christ. Hurt does happen in community, and if we write about that, one option is to change the name/situation/dates, so that the people involved remain anonymous and are protected. "Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends." Proverbs 17:9}
--Here are the other posts in this series:

In Which I Invite Us All to the Table --Nacole Simmons

A Hand In Your Own -- a guest post from Kelli Woodford


A Divided Loyalty and the Stinging Truth --a guest post from Michelle DeRusha   

Rooted In A Tangible Grace -- Kelli Woodford   

On Prostitution: Cheap Grace and One Word: Enough --Nacole Simmons


28 comments:

  1. Feeling all the things you wrote so eloquently and with a tremendous amount of grace Holly. This spoke deeply, thank you. I'm using the season of Lent as a discernment process for all you speak of regarding platform building and writing, longing to hear his voice through the noise. Intentionality assures me I will. Hugs to you.

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  2. Oh Holly, how perfectly you express this dilemma, "My biggest frustration with the world of writing and platform building and influence is that what it requires seems so far removed from a life that bears the fruit worth reading about—a life of depth and stillness and meaning"

    Yes and yes! I long for the depth, stillness, silence, room to breathe and Just Be. But regular blogging ~ never mind the platform building thoughts and those crevices where doubt and envy steal in ~ seems to demand far more than it gives.
    I half envy you, truth be told, for having a very good reason to take a step back, a holy pause, time out. Life is energy draining and soul sapping enough as it is. Yet you demonstrate here you've lost none of your beautiful style and flair. Maybe they've become even more enhanced by the drawing away to centre?
    Echoing Shelly as this also spoke deep to me. Aslan is rousing. God is on the move this Lenten season and we may all emerge changed. Blessings and hugs to you, friend. :) x

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  3. Jumped over here because I've long loved that quote. Glad I did, as the writing here trumps the quote. Good words and thoughts and wrestlings...you are definitely not alone in this.

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  4. You are not alone. I've gone hushed for seasons and almost pulled the plug on this whole thing countless times. I've come back to smaller spaces and less people around in many ways.


    I've felt such a freedom from that for a good long while and then yesterday I accidentally looked at my stats (I don't do that hardly ever) and spent the day a complete mess. Three people unsubscribed, I don't belong in the circles I admire, I am not enough, my writing always falls short of what I hope for and even my hopes seem unclear.


    It was a super long day of all the things I strive not to feel. And I thought I'd mastered.


    I want to write with blinders on but it's hard when sharing words means so much more than writing them down.


    It's hard when you're striving for a place for your words to matter.
    But your words do, Holly. They matter so much, friend. You are a gift that is seen and known. I know applause will never be enough but we'd all be lying if kind words don't salve the wounds a bit. God uses His people to speak truth. You are a truth speaker and people are listening.


    I don't have answers and I wouldn't try to tell you how to handle it all. I just know when I invest in other people's voices, mine sounds more beautiful to me. Stats be damned.

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  5. Reading your comment just confirms the craziness that we can all fall prey to--the idea that we are not what we think we are. And it is clear that those thoughts do not echo with a holy love but, rather, with the singed burn of death. Because, Alia, my dear soul sister? Your words can not and will not return empty. You speak truth that wraps around corners and pursues, you sing joy into the shadows, and you cry tears that seep slowly into parched souls. And that, right there, is how you bring about a Kingdom come.
    And that is
    All.
    That.
    Matters.

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  6. John,
    Honored to have your ear and to know that I am not alone in being stirred by the wisdom of the ancients. Nor that I am alone in wrestling out the truth.

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  7. Joy,
    To be heard is so much of what it means to be known and your words here bring me so much comfort. It is slowly dawning on me that this life we have is too precious to be rented out to vagrant tenants. Instead, we must sink our roots in the soil that we arere sinking in. It is holy ground, after all.

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  8. This is my most enormous place of wrestling. I know how shallow this "presence" can be and yet everything about it seems as equally necessary as it seems unnecessary. I know what I want and yet I'm so inconsistent in my "wantings"...fickle and prone to let my heart wander into those darker corners that whisper the lies of "not enough", "don't belong" and "way too late". This is affirmation for me. How I long for this sort of intentional community which allows this kind of love, freedom and acceptance. Oh...let the striving cease. Let it begin in me.

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  9. Oh Lisha, thank you, friend. That grace you mentioned? Oh how I need to be drowned in it. Daily. I am grateful for hearts that are so generous to offer it to me. Hearts like yours.

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  10. Holly, you bring more wonderful words to savour in your reply! I will mull over these, "this life we have is too precious to be rented out to vagrant tenants. Instead, we must sink our roots in soil that we are sinking in. It is holy ground, after all" Oh yes! Amen. Bless you, poetic friend. You are truly gifted. Never forget that in your sabbatical. The time is at hand when God will open doors no man can close. Be ready...

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  11. Shelly, you are one of those writers whom I see remaining so very transparent as they walk this path of writing. I will never forget that talk around the fireplace when you shared how your blog was to be a ministry and the very second you stopped viewing it as such was the moment you needed to pull back and do some serious soul searching. Those words continue to ripple down deep within me and certainly inform the steps I take even now. Your integrity and grace are glorious.

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  12. Your promise of prayers for my mom are the greatest words I've read today. Thank you so very much.
    And you are so right, popularity really is the word. I think I just didn't want to admit to such baseness. But I appreciate you calling it out because once spoken, I can begin to walk around and past it.
    And thank you for so perfectly naming what is most important after all.

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  13. What encouragement you bring to the table, friend. Thank you so, so much.

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  14. "As equally necessary as it seems unnecessary"--YES, this! As I shared with John in response to his comments, it is so comforting to know that this wrestling match is not mine alone. Perhaps instead of the fight we can stand and link arms. Join me?

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  15. Kolbi Doyle WardMarch 5, 2014 at 3:09 PM

    I don't struggle with jealousy in the same professional realm as you, but rather in my personal life and YOU are one of the people I am jealous of! You described beautifully how I feel. Everyone is passing me by but even with the extra time in this space, I am still doing it more poorly than those flying by. I want to be able to just "be" and appreciate all that I have, but it is hard when others have so much more - more fun, more peace, more experiences, more opportunities, more talent, more... I will meditate on your words, thank you for sharing them.

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  16. I wish I could sit around a table and talk long with both of you. What you said, here, Holly, "My biggest frustration with the world of writing and platform building and influence is that what it requires seems so far removed from a life that bears the fruit worth reading about—a life of depth and stillness and meaning." That's it. We, as followers of Christ, are not called to do what so far removes us from the deep intimate connection to the Vine we are privileged to. I've had to walk away from people, positions, and places. And I've been tempted to believe I'm forgotten, not enough, all the wrong kind of thoughts. God is calling me to Himself. I've been writing about it since the New Year. Today's post echoes so much of what you've written here. It just makes my heart want to jump out of my chest with a resounding YES!

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  17. I truly feel this tension, almost every day, as I prayerfully navigate a season of mothering, wife-ing, writing, teaching, editing, and more. Thank you for so eloquently voicing something that so many of us struggle with, esp. those of us who are more naturally introverted.

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  18. THIS is a conference I'd willingly sell all to attend. Truth-seeking Truth-telling and Truth-living while Truth-writing. To be able to write into the flames knowing there were others by your side for the same intent and purposes and when you needed to fall back, others would take the place. True ministry. I'm sick of platform building on sinking sand. Lead me to the ROCK that is higher than I! Let's picnic, shall we? #dreaminaloud

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  19. Beautiful. I can so relate. How do I build the platform and keep it real, keep it something that honestly matters-that builds up? You're whispering to my soul here, sister.
    Blessings to you.

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  20. Oh Michele-Lyn,
    While reading your comment it struck me down deep how short sighted this feeling of being forgotten is. For when we are forging paths of connection, when we are seeking truth, and when we are investing in people rather than in production we are leaving a legacy. And I take great comfort in knowing that we are called by name--formed and created for glory.

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  21. "To write into the flames"
    Oh.
    My.
    Goodness.
    Yes.


    MsLorretty--count me in.

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  22. Marcy,
    I think, perhaps, we might take a cue from the Skin Horse in the Velveteen Rabbit as to what it means to be real.


    'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.”



    Perhaps that is why this is such a difficult journey. Grateful for folks like you to have alongside on the way.

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  23. Oh Dena,
    What a full season you are in! My prayers for discernment and wisdom and eyes wide open are with you, friend.

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  24. Oh Kolbi, friend,
    Let's decide right now to shake off this silly jealousy and decide, instead, to go about the business of living and loving well. What say you? Because the truth of the matter is, you have so much beauty just bursting to find a way out. You don't need more of anything but grace, friend.

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  25. Kolbi Doyle WardMarch 6, 2014 at 4:50 PM

    Deal :-)

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  26. Holly, it's true - I see it here in your words and in the comments of others that reflect a community of hearts. There's a new spirit stirring over the waters and those who are not content with what's been required to build that platform and 'sell' our work, our art. You speak things I have felt so deeply but didn't even get to put into words in my own post. There is a very real dissonance I have felt, too, between the life required to be constantly 'speaking' in my writing (in order to keep an audience) and the life of quietness and humility that produces words that flow true and refreshing and alive, that glorify and lift love on the platform instead of myself. I'm wrestling, and so, I see, are many others. It gives me hope, where this is headed...



    Thank you for getting this out of your heart and into words for us to resonate and wrestle with.

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  27. Your words touched me today, so pure and honest and from the heart. Occasionally, we have to take a step back and look again at what we want, and why we want it. And sometimes, what we feel God is telling us to do doesn't match up with what we want do. Ask me how I know.

    I've been writing for almost three decades and my best advice is to stay true to who you are, and to what God is asking you to do. Everything else is fluff.

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  28. ah, yes. THIS. It's hard not to feel like we're in the wake of all those others, isn't it? I'm working on it too, Holly. Thank you for your honesty with all of it, and for your commitment to the three things listed in this powerful quote. Just lovely.

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