I’m at my writer’s perch like always, blue cushion and white wicker beneath, the privacy of evening glories to my right, a couple of scattered porch lights in the distance. Apart from the occasional passing car, there are only crickets and wind chimes. The orange blossoms of the Cosmos Charming’s mother gave me peek through the front porch slats. Nothing struck me as I readied myself to write tonight except how much I cherish this love seat.
It’s not just the wicker, but the surroundings that I cannot recreate when I travel on Tuesdays. With summer waning, the darkness soothes my writer’s soul. After the night applies its dimmer switch, I can only see clearly what matters: my laptop, my flowers, and my Shiraz. For the last seventy-seven weeks, I’ve perched here and waited for inspiration.
Sometimes it came in the sights and the sounds around me. Other times it came in a photograph I’d taken recently. If something had been weighing on me, I found it was difficult but therapeutic to face it head on, particularly if I didn’t want to write about it. My gym mentor Chuck says my best posts are the one that came from nowhere shortly after 8 pm.
Maybe it’s the stomach flu that sent me home early from work today that’s flushed too many electrolytes out of my system and inhibited my ability to see metaphors in my immediate world. That’s what is supposed to happen next. When the first significant thought comes to me, I write an intro paragraph. Then I sit back, read it, and look for a metaphor. If I was a superhero, then I would describe this as a sixth sense power. I’d make an observation about one concrete thing and the metaphorical connection to some concept or lesson would just immediately present itself.
And for the past seventy-six weeks, on this white wicker love seat (and a few travel locations), I intuited something worth writing about even though I rarely knew where it would take me. It all started as a Word Doc journal. I shared it with my mom by email. Family members eventually started asking for access or for permission to share an entry with a friend. I hadn’t found my way back to faith. Looking back at a year and a half long journey, I see the path my writing set me on to eventually encounter God.
Perhaps that sentence isn’t worded correctly. God set me on a path in my writing to encounter Him. After a couple months with promptings from friends and family, I published my blog and soon after had a dozen or so email subscribers. One day in May, I accidentally linked my Facebook… and when I posted on WordPress, it populated on my Facebook timeline. It wasn’t until the next day that I realized it, and by then my view had skyrocketed. I decided it was a divine error, and if people wanted to read my writing, what harm was there in making it available to them?
Every time someone reached out to me because they identified with something personal I shared, I was surprised, touched, and moved. Even before I knew it was God’s hand guiding me, I sensed that I was supposed to commit to this blog, to writing every Tuesday night, to sharing my growing pains, to being real and authentic and honest. The title, Writer’s Growth, explains what this process is for me.
This white wicker love seat once sat on my back deck in Nashville where my ex-husband and I would entertain friends from Bible study. Then, it sat on the front porch of a rented duplex in Syracuse where I would play dolls with my ex-boyfriend’s daughter. Now, it sits in Hampton, where I write every week and discover something of value, of significance, in the process.
I’ve written through some of the most difficult seasons, including those broken relationships. The posts in which I am most raw and vulnerable stimulate discussion. Last summer, while I was finally attending church but still only going through the spiritual motions, women from varied stages and walks of life contacted me, often simply grateful that someone else could relate to their struggles.
Exposing myself strategically in writing forced me to be honest first with myself. The integrity of my weekly therapy sessions here on this blue cushion is upheld only by my willingness to go where the writing inspiration leads me. Failing to write about a break up out of embarrassment when that’s clearly what I need to work through for a couple of hours would compromise that integrity. And I’ve found that my readers relate most to these posts, the broken and uncertain ones.
Then last fall, I got a Facebook message from a guy I hadn’t seen in twelve years. My blog had come across his newsfeed, and after resonating with a couple of my posts, he wanted to meet up and swap stories since he didn’t live too far away. A few weeks later, he would be Charming. A few weeks later, he would help facilitate the walls around my heart falling down, as if by opening my life up to him, I’d given God an opening to reveal Himself to me. It happened in church, the day after our first Hampton date where we carved pumpkins on this very love seat.
That picture from last October is still Charming’s contact icon on my phone. His ringtone has always been the same, too. When he calls, I see that smile and those blue eyes and hear, “When I’ve lost my faith in my darkest days, she makes me want to believe. They call her love, love, love…”
That’s who Charming made me want to be. I couldn’t have inspired him to hope or believe or dream if I didn’t reclaim those first for myself. I’ve had dozens of picture-perfect moments with Charming on this love seat, from carving pumpkins to reading Tolkien to smoking cigars and playing Candy Crush.
Through my blogging narrative, however, I can see how God used my writing to eventually restore me to Himself. And so it’s the writing nights that make this perch my peaceful place, probably my favorite place to be, though I’ve made other inspiring memories here, too. See, that’s all I could think about tonight while the minute hand clicked onward, and in the spirit of writing night, I went with it.
I didn’t know where it would take me, and I couldn’t have imagined that a couple of hours later I would be seeing God’s hand navigating me through some of the most painful seasons of my life. I had to start writing. I had to be willing to share my shattered journey. There had to be a blog. I had to be open with others. I had to reply to that Facebook message and meet Charming.
God was writing my redemption story while I was publishing my blog. Each entry serves as a testament to His perfect plan. It had to start when it did, while I was still searching, so there would be a record of my brokenness, my endless questions, my hopelessness. Eventually, those records would evolve, evidencing restoration, faith, and optimism.
And I see the change in me. I believe that it is possible to recover from personal loss, overcome the nagging feelings of guilt and disentanglement, and find your peaceful place. The place where you remake yourself. Some mornings, I’ll sit and have my coffee here, listening to the birds, and simply know that I’m grateful to be home.
I already knew I wanted to be a woman capable of making Charming believe that despite of his past wounds, God’s writing a redemption story with him, too. But until I tried to write about it, no sixth sense super power could connect the story line. He had done it first; Charming made me want to believe.
I believe in what happens here, on nights like tonight, with the crickets and the garden and a glass of red wine. (And Chuck will probably tell me tomorrow that this is my best post yet.)