Illuminating Shadows

When I was young, my mother wrote poetry. As far as I am aware, she rarely wrote just for fun, but mostly as gifts for parents of new babies or as a comfort to friends who had lost a loved one. Her poems were simple yet profound and always received with heartfelt enthusiasm. It made an impact on me. She considered words to be valuable and important gifts worthy of sharing. She joyfully and freely gave them to those she loved. Though not expensive or store-bought, her gifts of poetry were rich in sentiment and the time spent to lovingly and carefully craft them for her intended recipients.

I have two of my mother’s poems, one written when my husband and I got married and the other when we brought home our firstborn son. They are priceless to me. These gifts of words, preserved forever in ink and framed in gold, cost only pennies to print but are irreplaceable in value.

This morning, as I was walking around our neighborhood, I noticed the sun illuminating the autumn colors gracing the hills surrounding my home. After what felt like an endless summer, I had feared the leaves would simply turn brown and die, scorched lifeless by the unseasonably hot October temperatures. I am grateful to have been wrong. The display of fall was delayed, but not defeated.

Over the summer I experienced a solid case of writer’s block for the first time. In May, I had gone away for a few days to write. Gloriously disconnected from all distractions, I finished the rough edit of my book and happily filled page after page with whatever flowed through my brain and out of my fingers, accompanied by mountain breezes and the distant cacophony of chickens, sheep and tractors baling hay. I even thought about turning my journal of that trip into a book, but when I arrived back home I couldn’t write. It was like I had dumped everything out on the floor and couldn’t figure out how to bring it back to order again. I forced out a couple of blog posts but the daily rhythm I had constructed came to a screeching halt and I struggled to make myself sit down before a blank page.

What had happened? Why had writing, a craft that I have pursued for years and would gladly tell you was “cheap therapy” and something I loved, suddenly become so difficult? It’s not like I had nothing to write about. In fact, if I take a hard look at the past few months I probably should have been taking better advantage of the “cheap therapy” of writing. Our family has walked through some fires. Hot ones. If that wasn’t enough fuel for my imagination, my firstborn graduated from high school and moved away for college. We are in our tenth year of homeschooling. My second born is a senior in high school. My younger three have thriving school and social lives and, as my baby nears her thirteenth birthday, I am about to be the mother of five, yes, five teenagers. There are enough stories to tell, lessons learned, and prayers prayed to keep my fingers busy for years.

As I walked this morning and observed the colorful hills I felt I could finally articulate the problem. There has been this pressure building in my life, like a giant thermometer whose mercury creeps ever upward, a rising heat that was drying out the life-giving fountain of art that God has given to me as a means of sorting out thoughts and finding purpose in the difficult seasons. It threatened to rob me of color, of the fruit of years of labor. Of joy.

But at last the oppressive heat has lifted and the welcome cool of Autumn is blanketing Tennessee. The colors are revealing themselves one by one: rust, orange and gold emerging in splendor as the morning sun rises over the hills…and over me. I am, once again, stringing words together and have experienced a blessed release of the built-up pressure as I work out my thoughts and feelings on the page. I find myself letting go. Instead of holding my fears and worries close to my chest I’m sharing them more freely. I realize, anew, how much I needed the therapy of words to bring order to the swirling thoughts and emotions that have dominated the past few months.

There are always reasons to take the time it requires to create something beautiful. Like my mother, I simply love to write and want to use it to be a blessing to others. It is innate, part of the fabric of my personality. I also recognize the value of leaving a legacy for my children in the myriad of journals, poems, and essays scattered throughout my office and on my computer. Someday my kids will be thumbing through my things, searching for treasure. I pray they find what they are looking for in the words I have laid down on page after page…glimpses into their mother’s heart and into God’s heart for them. I pray I will always see writing as a privilege, an outlet for the lessons and revelations God gives me as I live this life and walk out the calling He has placed upon me. There is an honesty in the words I know will never be shared publicly. Those journals in my office and folders on my computer are a road map of my struggles and joys, faith and doubts, victories and great losses.

May the Lord be made known through the simple obedience of sitting down and tapping away on my computer, even (and especially) when it is difficult. That is, after all, the ultimate and holy purpose of every gift He gives us.

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