quiet, confident STRENGTH

rockI have been thinking about strength lately (which tells you I’ve been needing some 😉 ).

The word brings to mind the Strengthsfinder book I was required to read for work back in the early 2000s. Its premise was that we spend too much time focusing on and improving our weaknesses and not enough on discovering and capitalizing on our strengths. It included a test that identified a person’s top five strengths. I took it and was told to “lean into” the strengths it told me I had.

Not bad advice, though I don’t remember now what my test results were. I do remember thinking that if I really leaned into my strengths and ignored my weaknesses, it would mossprobably result in my losing my job.

That’s not the strength I need right now.

“Strength” also makes me think of the Rocky movies, which my husband introduced our younger children to during our stay-cation spring break. They were hooked by the first one and quickly watched 2, 3, and 4 on consecutive nights (he convinced them #5 was simply too cheesy). I watched bits of them with the crew but was eventually asked not to because I kept cringing at hard blows and delivering lectures about the violence of fighting sports. “Strength” in Rocky is physical, of course, but it is also human determination and grit and perseverance.

Again, not helpful right now.

Then, a couple days ago, I read the prayer “For Quiet Confidence” in the Book of Common Prayer. I’ve prayed it a lot in the past few months, but this time I noticed the theme of strength in it. It speaks of a strength that is available even when we are bone- and soul-tired, when both the Rocky and Strengthsfinder kinds of strength are simply useless, when we’ve come to the hard-but-blessed realization that we must look completely outside ourselves.

The prayer, drawn from Scripture, tells me my strength is found

in returning,

in rest,

in quietness,

in confidence in the God of the universe,

in stillness,

in the presence of the Lord,

in the might of the Spirit,

in knowing who God is and

in knowing his unfailing love for us.

O God of peace, who has taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray you, to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A weekend away–with a purpose

He has been urging me to do this for, quite literally, years!

On Monday night I was evidently ready. So when my husband said, “Go away for the weekend. It will be good for you,” I did not sigh and say, “You’re right. I should, but now…?”

This time I nodded. “Ok.”

So Friday afternoon I checked into a hotel he’d booked for me (he feared I would back out when I was faced with the reality of spending money on myself) and carried my bags up to a room that had no human presence in it other than my own.

It was unnerving.

But good.

I had a specific job for the evening. About a week ago I was accepted into the Redbud Writers’ Guild (www.redbudwritersguild.com) and I received a request from a member of its Board of Directors for a whole list of things, one of which was a one/two-sentence description of my reason for writing.

My reason for writing.

Hmm.

I knew my usual answer—that I can’t seem to NOT write—wasn’t what I wanted to have next to my name. That’s not really a reason; it’s a negative statement.

I decided to look at some of the other writers’ descriptors. I read nearly all of them. Then I visited many of their Websites and blogs. I cried over the tough things some of them are going through and rejoiced at the amazing ways God is using them and their writing gifts.

While I enjoyed all their sites and writing, I identified with only some of their reasons for writing. Many have a particular “niche.” I don’t. Many have writing that flows out of a particular ministry. Mine doesn’t.

In between all this I looked up verses (in three different translations) that have the words “write” or “writing” in them.

I read and thought and prayed and jotted down notes.

And I was reminded of what I learned a long time ago.

I love story.

I love it because I have this deep-down-in-my-gut belief that every story, no matter how small, no matter how terrible, is somehow part of God’s big, grand, beautiful story. In this STORY, God, as Joseph puts it so well, turns all things meant for evil into good. Not a single part of anyone’s story is wasted. Each one plays a vital part in God’s sweeping epic.

Years ago, in an inservice at work, I took a Strengthsfinder test. Top on my list of strengths was “input,” which was described as “a craving to know more,” a desire “to collect and archive all kinds of information.”

What? I thought—but then I read the bigger description at the back of the book. In the long list of the kinds of things “Input” people like to collect is this: STORIES.

Teaching was my main career focus at that point. There wasn’t much time leftover for writing, but when I read that, something in my heart hummed.

It’s true. “Story” is the theme that links all the writing work I do.

By the end of my first night away, I had three possibilities, all related. I’ve since added a fourth. They’re below. If you have a minute to vote, I would appreciate your feedback.

If you have any suggestions and you don’t mind sending me a comment, I would appreciate that, too.

Thanks for reading,

Jen