It’s so easy, when you’ve discovered what it is that God’s called you to do, to immerse yourself in it at the expense of everything else. But that, in my case, would have detrimental effect on what God’s asked me to do in the first place.
When you’ve been lost in the desert of yourself for twenty years; finally discovering that God does have a plan for this seemingly random existence that you’ve been leading, can be a heady experience. I know from the perplexed looks I still get, that what’s been going on in my life over the last two years causes other people to scratch their heads and wonder what happened. Believe me, I’m scratching my own head and wondering what happened too – and I’m the one living it! I still get blanked in the street and that’s fine, I know that people still aren’t looking for a Rachel who looks like this, in their heads Rachel takes up more of the pavement. I understand that what I did messes with people’s heads, even more so because I seem to (mostly) staying there – give or take a stubborn 5lbs or so. But the externals are only part of the story. I am not the woman I was two years ago and not only I have physically changed, but my head feels like a strange and alien place too.
More than ever I’m getting the measure of the Rachel that God designed me to be, before life pulled me into a oubliette of… well, horrible stuff. The last two years has been like personal archaeology, unearthing bits of myself that were always there, they’ve just been dormant for a very long time. I always used to write stories as a child and then I didn’t – for decades. So even though I might wonder sometimes where this gush of words comes from, if I think back to how I was in those early years, it was always there. I could waste time wondering what might have happened if life hadn’t got in the way; but then again I now write with so much more life experience than I ever would have. So yes; I look at Romans 8:28 these days and know that I went through all that for a reason:
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for thoe good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28 NLT
I can’t write and encourage women if I’d not been through – or am still going through – some of the things that affect women. I’m never going to say to a woman who is struggling with her weight ‘oh just eat less and exercise more’, because I know for a cast-iron FACT that being overweight is less about what goes in your mouth and more about what’s going on in your head.
But the last two years have not brought me into a place of shining perfection – oh no, far from it. I still fight a daily battle with self-confidence, I’m not very good at ‘letting go and letting God,’ and as much as the Bible tells me not to worry about things, I do. Food worries still control me at times and I can very easily disappear into my ‘happy place’ for weeks on end.
Happiness for me is writing. Writing is the oasis of my life, that is where I feel at my most ‘me’. It is also, sadly, where I am at my most selfish. There could be pitched battles outside my window for all the notice I take of the outside world at times. Writing is my greatest strength but also my biggest failing. For me, it’s a very solitary activity. I write in absolute silence and I do not like anyone in the room when I’m doing it. It breaks my concentration and the words on the screen before I’ve had chance to review them, are ‘naked me’. If you wandered in and even glanced at my unedited text, you have seen my very soul. That is not something I want to share with anyone, even my husband.
I find myself in a quandary then. On one hand, what I write is well-received; but on the flip-side the process of it can cut me off from family and friends, especially if I let it consume me. Writing has become my greatest compulsion and the thing I find it the hardest not to do. Other people give up chocolate or television for lent. I gave up writing for nearly six weeks earlier this year because of difficulties in my family. The separation from it brought me close to tears – it was so hard not to write. It physically hurt.
I wouldn’t have this ability to string words together if it hadn’t been given to me for a reason, but what I’m still working at is achieving the balance. I’m called to write, yes; but I can’t retreat into some chirographic hermitage – as much as I’d like to – because I have other calls on my time. I’m a mum, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a niece, a granddaughter, an employee, a house-group leader, a book-group co-leader, a church member, a friend and a thousand and one other things besides. I’m a woman in the 21st century, you tell me something I’m not – well, apart from a bloke.
And the thing is, is that I can’t write about the world around me if I don’t experience the world around me. That’s the job I believe God’s given me to do, so it’s up to me to do it.
As a writer you spend a large chunk of your life on Google. If I’m called to write about everyday life and faith, then it stands to reason that I’m going to have to do more about it than just google it…