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What Are You Afraid Of?

It has been very difficult for me to write. And I think that’s why I have avoided it so much lately. My mind is ever more pregnant with ideas and thoughts that I have great confidence in being amazing when I flesh them out, but yet they never get written. There is always something else that goes into running a business to do first. More marketing, more research, more making. But what’s the point? I have felt the vocational call to writing my whole life, and yet I run. I let the skills fall into disrepair, like a language I once spoke fluently but have lost with time and disuse. So the humble thing is to write anyway. Writing is a tricky thing. It is easy to think that the inherent act of putting down your own mind for public consumption is riddled with pride – what else could it be? Isn’t It a chance to share your own brilliance first and foremost? For someone focused inward, yes, it can be that. The idea of fame through authorship is particularly appealing to a specific kind of person, myself included. But for me the sinful pride lies in the puffed up dreams of all the incredible things I could write if I merely deigned to do it. The idea that my own brilliance is so overwhelming that the simple act of trying would guarantee success. This is real pride, sinful pride. And so the humble thing is for me to write. Write badly. Write poorly. Write silly things that need never have been said at all. Because only then can I see that the gems sifted from the sand are cut not from my own mind, but the mind of God. He is the source of all that is good and beautiful, and for that we praise Him. But he deeply desires to collaborate with us to realize the good and the beautiful in the world today, and for that we work. We do all we can to build our skills to offer them to God, that He may use us. I get ahead of myself these days. Running a business has taught me to think 5 steps ahead at all times, but that is impossible in the spiritual life. It’s wonderful to plan your spiritual life, in the sense that you make the bedrock of it part of the everyday, part of your routine. But God does not work in our time, and thank Him for that. Looking back on my life, if I had actually got the timing I had wanted for all the things that happened, I know I would not have a fraction of the joy and happiness I do now. I didn’t want to meet my spouse so young. I wanted to get into grad school. I didn’t want to start having kids so young. I wasn’t ready for a second baby. And those are just the big things. Each and every one of the blessings I initially received so hesitantly has unlocked the door to unknown depths of joy and purpose. And ultimately, every one of them has been a neon arrow pointing back to God. I could go on forever about God’s unexpected blessings, but I am here to talk about writing, and how I let Satan corrupt my calling. Temporarily. I was in Ireland studying writing at a small school for American students. As much as I loved it there, it is hard so admitting that it was not a God filled time. I let Satan snake into my heart and my work and it probably would have killed my vocation altogether if God had not pursued me. But two of the holiest men in my life, my father and the godfather of my son would not let it go. God bless them for that. Their spiritual steadfastness coupled with their insistence has truly been the voice of God to me, as so many have been throughout my life. I went to Ireland to write. And I did. Lots. Lots of crap. It’s hard to admit that I was not strong enough to be in such an aggressively secular setting and maintain my spiritual and artistic integrity. But that was exactly the problem – I went in as myself against secularism in one of its greatest strongholds: highly intelligent, liberal artists and their professors. And I lost. I lost deeply. I lost painfully. I did not lose due to the weakness of my position, but the weakness in myself. The weakness of pride. The weakness of thinking that the fact that my beliefs were true meant they would always conquer even when I did not rely on the One who is the very source of truth to be the one to defend them. I tried to defend myself and my beliefs as some sort of offering to God, a misguided attempt to earn honor in His eyes when all he desired for me was to empty myself, and offer myself to be His avatar – His tool in the midst of the chaos. It’s like in an argument. The “winner” is quite often not right, but just a better rhetorician. But does that change the fact that truth is true? No. Never. The truth does not change. Period. In Ireland I can point to a single lunch with my professor at which the devil crawled in and got cozy write on top of my call to writing. I need to forgive my professor, which is something I still struggle to do. His totally misguided advice at that truly horrible lunch gave me fearful pause, made me think that my writing would never be good enough unless it got grittier, and then when I tried to do grittier in the next assignment, he ripped it to shreds – as well he should have. It was awful. It was unnatural. It felt like selling myself. And I hated it. So I stopped writing. It’s so embarrassing that that was all it took. For five years I had written every day – compulsively, continuously, poorly, very well, and everything in between, but I had always written. I didn’t know how to not. Until I stopped. Until I let such a little thing – the opinion of one man whose own writing I did not admire at all – stop all the momentum. My next semester I was in Italy. I expected to write so much beautiful poetry, so many wonderful journal entries, so much prose. And I did not write three sentences that weren’t for class. The scary thing is that I didn’t even realize what had happened. I didn’t see the difference. The desire was gone and even though I had years of habit there that had reinforced the act even when passion had waned before, it all vanished. The years went on, and I had fitful spurts of trying, but again I was trying. I was trying to push through under my own power, and I always failed to stick with it. I was writing for myself. And then I felt the call to commit to Pink Salt Riot full time, and it was just so clear that God was calling me to share more of myself and my artistic Catholic lifestyle through blogging. And I approached it with trademark confidence. I am an awesome writer, I thought. I blogged for a big-time blog as a college intern. I went to Ireland to study writing. I have written thousands of poems. This was going to be great. No big deal. Until it came to actually doing it. I was always able to find one more obscure visual element to tweak, or plugins to research, or online shopping to do. The excuses got weaker and weaker and I began to realize I was avoiding writing. I was avoiding it at all costs. I was inventing excuses. I was manufacturing to-do lists. Anything to keep from looking at my long struggle with writing. Anything to keep from writing and facing the ultimate humiliation: writing something bad. So I have been wrestling with this for about a month now. And then just yesterday in Adoration at a women’s conference, God pinned me. Our adoration time was guided by Fr. Matthias Thelen, and the Holy Spirit and him are seriously tight. It was such a gift to pray with him. He urged us all to delve into the root of fear in our hearts and ask “What are you afraid of?” In my heart I heard the answer: “I’m afraid of what people will think.” Then Father told us to ask Jesus what He thought about that. Jesus said simply, “Why do you care?” Why do I care? Why do I? I sat with that. I realized I wanted to stop caring. I wanted to let go. But I realized I couldn’t. But Jesus was there to reassure me in that too. I didn’t have to. I just had to let Him help me do it. I just had to take my eyes off everyone else and look at Him. I just have to care what He thinks. And I cried. I cried for the duration of adoration because I had this overwhelming sensation of Jesus sitting in the empty seat next to me. He was holding me leaning in to Him on his lap like my husband does when I am utterly exhausted. And I let go. So here I am, on the plane home from the women’s conference, writing again. It’s not Pulitzer material, but that’s okay. It’s true. It’s what I’ve been given. Its what God has given me. There are still consequences. I was 20 when I went to Ireland. I am now 28. The time has passed. The skill has to be rebuilt. The words have to come back. I will have to relearn so much, but I’m going to do it. I want to give Him every ounce of skill I can acquire because I feel the call to be a finely tuned instrument in His hands. I am writing now because I feel the very tug of God on my fingertips through the keys. He is desperate for me to use what He has given me. He is calling me, and I have no recourse but to answer. If I stay faithful, if I look to God first, not just as the source of truth, but the source of its defense, I will find the strength to continue. If I seek refuge in Him when the inevitable first and second and 128th wave of criticism pass over me. If I write not for my own glory, but for His. Because what else could be worthwhile in this life? Nothing but the love and glory of God. God bless you, and let me know if there are struggles in your life that God has pursued you through in the comments! I'd love to hear your story.

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