When Words Hold Power

calligraphy-pen

Photo: Aaron Burden, unsplash.com.

My sister Sharon sent me the link to the writer’s website five or six years ago. Then Sharon bought me the writer’s first book for my 33rd birthday.

For a while, I read the writer’s blog posts, then signed up to receive them in my e-mail. Every day her e-mails slipped into my inbox, constant reminders of her life experiences loving her farmer-husband, raising six children and adopting a seventh, living on a wheat farm thousands of miles from me. Her words comforted me, challenged me, provoked me. This woman I had never met spoke to me across the internet, and I drank in her words.

Once she posted about hope. About trusting in the darkness when you feel like hope has left you behind. As if you are standing on the dock watching your ship leave for good, the ship that was supposed to take you to the next phase of your life or the next joy or the next happiness. But you missed it. Or so you think.

Her words showed me that no matter what I feel like, God has a plan and there is always hope. Always. Circumstances may not turn out as we had hoped, but we can always hope. Always.

Other times she wrote how God was teaching her to be thankful for each day. To love her husband more. To love her children more. To let the past go. To seek Him.

In this writer, I found a reflection of myself–sensitive, seeking, solitary. Here was someone I could trust to share her soul, to bare her heart, to speak the truth. But it wasn’t until I set out to do the same that I realized how hard it could be. It wasn’t until I sought to share my own words that I learned to appreciate her words more than ever before.

I never dreamed of meeting this writer. . .until one day she mentioned a book signing tour for her newest book The Broken Way. I noticed one location on the list that sounded familiar. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. I stared at the date. November 3, 2016.

Somehow, although my schedule bulged from an effort to stuff as much into it as I could, I knew I had to meet Ann. After work, I drove hurriedly to Oklahoma City, eating unhealthy food in snatches as I drove.

I had never been to a book signing before. I slipped into Mardel where the event was being held and found a table stacked high with copies of The Broken Way. A long line had already formed. Nervously, I asked an employee for help with the next step.

“You can buy the book here, and then get in line over there,” she said, smiling.

I had not planned on buying a book. Is that what you did at these book signings? I thought I could just wait in line and eventually speak to Ann and tell her how much her words had meant to me. To avoid looking clueless and utterly broke, I bought a book and got in line.

Listening to Ann.jpg

Listening to Ann speak at Mardel in Oklahoma City, November 2016. (Photo: me.)

One of Ann’s friends introduced her and asked a few questions. Ann spoke quietly but fervently about her experiences writing The Broken Way and the adoption of her little girl. She mentioned that once the book was published, she wanted to take it all back–all the truth-sharing, soul-baring facts. But she couldn’t.

Jess with Broken Way book.jpg

Super excited to attend a book signing for the first time! (Photo: obviously, me.)

After two hours of waiting (and striking up a conversation with another Ann-follower in which we shared basically our whole lives with each other), it was my turn to finally meet Ann.

Instantly I gushed and stumbled words, trying to appear nonchalant. I chattered on about her blog and her book and how much I loved them.

Ann was gracious and warm. Her kind words instantly made me feel at home. She hugged me and took my copy of The Broken Way to sign her name on the front page.

“My sister Sharon bought me your first book years ago and introduced me to your writing,” I said.

“Give her my warmest regards,” Ann said. She swooped a note on the page. Live Cruciform. Ann Voskamp.

“I started a blog myself not too long ago,” I said, continuing on with my babbling.

“Oh, don’t stop writing,” she said. “We need your words.” She paused for a picture with me as I fan-girled for another minute.

I talked with Ann for possibly three minutes. But in that timeframe, I felt like I had found a life-long friend. Someone who understood my hidden hurts and desires. She didn’t know me from anyone else that night. But she spoke four words to me. Four words that sparked courage.

We need your words.

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With Ann Voskamp, November 2016. Why does my hair look exactly like straw here? (Photo: my newest BFF, Nancy.)

And I realized something: we all have words to share–somehow, some way. If we are one of those who feels compelled to write, we must share our words. Someone may need their life-giving breath today. Someone may need to know they are not alone in their story.

In one of Ann’s posts, she writes,

“When we abandon ourselves to stories — we know we aren’t abandoned in our own stories.”

 

Of course, she was talking about reading books and losing ourselves in the stories. But because she shared her own story, I felt a little less abandoned. She had called forth a determination in me to share my story.

I’d like to think that my words are reaching thousands, like Ann’s words reach across the globe. But even if they do not, maybe someone will read them today and gather courage and know they are not alone.

Maybe you.

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