Seems like God's people are dealing with a lot of struggle these days. Broken relationships, crushing financial burdens, health issues, and a plethora of other hardships are pulling upon our reserves. Many of my friends are plain ole tired.
My personal journey has been much the same. The Refiner's fire has been almost relentless for the last several years. If I made a list of all I've dealt with you guys would probably show up at my house with a truck-load of chocolate. Then again if you were really honest with me, I bet I'd need to share my stash.
Many of us have been fighting the good fight harder than we've ever fought it before. If we were to look at the spiritual thread of the last few years of our lives, we'd see a reoccurring theme: stretching, stretching, stretching . . . and I don't know about you, but flexing all those spiritual muscles has sometimes left me aching and worn. And as a writer that dry crust feeling has often manifested itself in lack of creativity and productivity, which of course makes me feel even more empty inside because my passion lies latent.
Renewal is essential for anyone, but for a writer it is paramount. Here are some things that have helped me as I've navigated stormy waters that toss me upon a rocky shores and leave me there to shrivel up.
- Know and Rely on the Love God Has for You. God is Love. The most important epiphany of the last five years of my life sounds quite simple, yet it is profound: Knowing and relying on God's love really is the foundation of life and the only road to survival. I can only stand in the storm when my roots go down deep into the soil of God's love. When everything else crashes around me, God's love remains steady and sure. We really cannot lose His love. And it really is enough.
- Be Playful As much as I've not wanted to be the person who faces hard times by gutting them out, I've fallen prey to that method of survival. There is some merit to putting on your game face and just getting through the hurricane. But in seasons of long-term struggle, we have to play. While I've believed this for some time, I'm often not very good at living it. But last year at the Colorado Christian Writer's Conference (CCWC), I had the opportunity to attend a clinic called The Joy Of Unblocked Creativity.* Guess what many of the assignments included? Play. I made sand art. I did drama. I danced. I put on dress up clothes. And guess what? Back in my room between sessions words began to flow. Beautiful, creative fiction appeared on my screen after a year of not being able to create that type of writing. Since the clinic I've begun writing a new genre where I can be more playful. I sense God saying to lay aside some of my deeper writing for a while and lighten up! The season He's called me to walk through requires a lot of emotional stamina. And right now I don't need my writing to plum the depths of my soul. I need for it to help me giggle--and just maybe when it's done it'll do the same for someone else.
- Build in Margin Anne Lamont once said, "If you want to be an artist you have to have time to stare out the window." I take her thoughts a step further. If you want to be an artist who represents God's heart, you have to have time to stare out the window, yes, but you also need time to stare into the Savior's face. Create white space so both your spirit and your artistic soul can experience, not just navigate, life. Do it every day. Plop yourself in a chair with a cup of tea and just sit. Make time for spiritual disciplines, but rest in them. Instead of doing, doing, doing, allow time to listen and process. And find creative ways to have extended white space. Last year I was completely worn-out when I left for CCWC. I needed desperately to disconnect from life's demands. I often found myself wrapped in a blanket on the tiny little deck outside my room during that conference. I just sat there and stared at the sky. I drank in smells of spring and let the breeze tease my hair. I felt the sunshine on my bare toes as they peeked from beneath the blanket. Sometimes I prayed, sang or read my Bible. But a lot of the time I just WAS.
- Cut the Unnecessary Drama. Frankly my life is one big soap opera these days. I've had enough bleakest moments in my family to bring several novels to their climax. I don't have time or energy to spin my wheels in unnecessary drama--I've got enough of the real kind.
- Discern Who and What Gets Priority In this season I've had to be intentional about my priorities. It's meant cutting out some really good things and backing away from some relationships, but only by doing that can I give myself to the people and responsibilities God has led me to.
- Intercede There has been SO much junk that I've had absolutely no ability to change, control or shape in the last few years. I can't fix the pain my loved ones and I have had to navigate. But I can pray. In prayer my inadequacies give wing to God's adequacy. My lack of control gives way to His sovereignty. My desire for change coupled with a complete inability to bring it about gives way to mountain moving prayer and deepening faith that trusts HIS methods instead of my own. Prayer is a refuge. A peaceful place. A safe trust.
- Cultivate Your Prayer Buddies. I wouldn't have survived the last three years if it weren't for a tight circle of praying friends who've proven trustworthy, who hear my heart, and who stand with me in prayer. It's as simple as that.
* If you're feeling like dried out crust, consider taking a time out and signing up for the Unblocked Creativity Clinic at the Colorado Christian Writer's Conference. Here's a testimonial from an attendee from last year: I came to the 2009 CCWC emptied of creativity and heavy with the burdens of the past year. The Lord sent me to the Unblocked Creativity Clinic. There He asked me to play, to process, and to praise. Back in my room I wrote fiction for the first time in over a year. The words started coming again, more beautiful than before. I left the conference with renewed hope and energy. (Okay, okay, so that attendee was yours truly.)
A writer, speaker, and homeschooling mother of four, Paula Moldenhauer is passionate about God’s grace and intimacy with Jesus. Her website, Soul Scents, offers devotional thoughts, and you can visit her blog at GraceReign. Paula serves as president of HIS Writers, the north Denver ACFW chapter. A devoted Pride and Prejudice fan, she loves good conversation, peppermint ice cream, and walking barefoot. Her greatest desire is to be close enough to Jesus to live His fragrance.