This is my brain on blog posts:
Liann asked me last week, “What’s up with the blog, Sluss?” What’s up is it looks like this in a stack next to my desk. At least it’s colorful. Backs of church bulletin inserts, fronts of church bulletins themselves, sticky notes lined, sticky notes unlined, pads of paper mailed from charities and received from companies, notebook paper, writing I can read, writing I can’t.
And what happens on those scribbled sheets invigorates, aggravates, soothes, sorts, unravels, re-ravels, and terrifies me. And they are all parts of a long, long, l-o-n-g ongoing conversation with God. There are many topics covered, but there is one at the center that we tussle about all the time.
Why is he after me to write? Why the desire in me at all? And why his consistent pursuit of me to do it? And why so thrilling and horrifying at the same time?
I am so brave in person about so many things, and am willing to be funny and transparent in my writing, but there are also topics I just don’t want to touch. When those topics show up, they tend to be the kind that feel like they are undoing me and are the ones I want to keep close to home. I leak enough crazy into the universe; I should try to maintain some semblance of propriety. But my brother Michael and I keep having these conversations about transparency being what people ache for and what the world needs. Then two things happen:
- I want to pound out the contents of my brain and heart through a keyboard.
- I don’t want to type a word.
Creativity and perfectionism, transparency and cards close to chest, courage and who do you think you are, all go to war in me. The result is usually me (choose one or combine a few):
- flat out on the couch
- head first into almond milk ice cream
- knitting like the wind
- enumerating chores and shopping lists
- eyes glued to reruns of something inane and mind-numbing.
I can be honest, but not messy. Funny, but not poorly written. Thorough, but not quick. And never, ever edited enough.
So basically, my personality and desires create a civil war in me, and I do nothing.
I can’t do it anymore. Shouldn’t do it anymore, if I want to reduce regrets later.
Because, honestly, this venture is a matter of obedience to the Savior I love. And Liann’s question last Saturday was the most recent of two especially obvious years of God’s gentle but unflagging urging. It started with me literally throwing a temper tantrum about it in Sequim, Washington in January 2012. I was on a personal retreat and talking to God about lots of things, but the evening the topic of writing came up was a different story. The whole venture of adding sound and word to the cacophony of the world has been a wrestle since before my first blog, You Must Be Kidding, began. A friend, Chris, had written to ask me to start blogging. I promptly replied that there was enough noise in the world, I didn’t need to add to it, and I had nothing to say. He replied, asking if I had noticed that it took me three paragraphs to tell him I had nothing to say.
Six years later on a January night in Sequim, in a silent house, I journaled a bit and then opened the computer to start writing, to capture something other than journaling. Then the anger kicked in. In some ways, I value myself so little, and anything I could contribute would be so minuscule, why do it? I wrestle not to be a straight-up Christian pragmatist (more so then than now), and though I have a poet’s soul, if I was not / am not contributing something uber-useful, what good is that? And there is never just one audience in my brain. There is family, there are friends and strangers, people I love and people I fear. There is no way to write to keep them all happy or at least at bay.
I fumbled around on the keyboard, fumbled some more in my journal, then slammed the book and the laptop shut, literally shouting into the house, at God, “Why do YOU care about this so much? I don’t know what to DO about it! Why do you care?”
Then I put myself to bed because that’s what you do with fussy, pouty, tantrummy toddlers.
Amazingly sweet and gentle words and events followed in the next hours and days, the kind only my patient Heavenly Father could orchestrate. “Do it for me.” And this girl of never-ending great intentions and never-winning self-discipline said, “Okay,” in a Port Angeles coffee shop on a cold January day.
Within the next three weeks, my boss was struck by a car in a terrible accident, I started an intensive discipleship course that changed my world (in a great, but life-perspective-upending way), and God asked me (cornered me with my own newly-refreshed amazement at his forgiveness, is more like it) to reenter into relationship with my grandmother’s husband, a family member from whom I desperately wanted to hide. A few months later, my grandmother moved in with me. It felt like writing could not fit into this surprising year at all.
Fast forward to August 2012. Dinner with another friend, Julie. I am two months and two days into living with G Mel and getting a peek behind her emotional curtain, and my own. My Facebook page is a fount of G Mel hilarity and crazytown. My in-person conversations with friends are waves of a wee bit of humor and a whole lot of pain, fear, and confusion as G Mel’s marriage and emotional health dissolve before my eyes. People are telling me to write a book. I tell Julie, at a small table at Salt Tears in Boise, “Who the hello would read a book like that?” Julie’s response: “I would, lots of people would, and it doesn’t matter. If he’s asked you to write and you aren’t, doesn’t that kind of chalk up to disobedience?”
Got home that very night to find a journal left on the dining table. The floral pattern on the cover looked like something I would have liked at some point, years ago. I opened the cover to see a bookplate reading, “THIS BOOK BELONGS TO:” and beneath, in my own handwriting, my grandmother’s name. First, last, middle initial and all. It was a gift I had given her 22 years before, now making a sudden appearance on my dining room table.
I’ll share the contents and conversation from the following evening’s dinner with G Mel another time, but suffice to say Jesus got G Mel to write her one and only entry in 22 years in that journal and leave it out for me on the very night he prompted Julie to point me back to taking words to him.
Journaling rose and fell, writing exercises commenced and crashed, and a NaNoWriMo event began and ended, where I lived to see 9788 words hit paper until life with G Mel took over completely for me and the rest of my family.
A job change, ministry shift, computer platform, international travel, grandma move, new colleagues, emotional perimenopause, too few bike rides, and piles of life later, it’s May 2014. And I am still shirking my end of the deal. Because I still forget what the writing is about.
So, a Liann couch talk and a California mountain church visit later, I am on the reminded path once again. Here’s to messy, imperfect, transparent, risky, obedient writing. His vision of perfection and value is always different than mine, anyway. ;)
10 responses to “Colored, Sitcky Thoughts”
You rock. I had thought about asking about the blog, but didn’t want to make a mess on your short visit (and I have had my own issues to address, ’cause it’s all about me). And then He had Liann do it. Kudos to her for being used, and for Him for another reminder. Keep it up; we want to hear.
You, Brother Mine, don’t have to ask out loud; I know the question is always there, never judgmental, just curious and urging in the best of ways. Love you, fellow wordy nerd. ;)
Thanks for the shout-outs Slusser siblings. Write your little hearts out, both of you. Also…tantrummy! Haha! Great word. XOOXOOXOX.
Also, here is a word learned today Sluss– Assiduous– or, sit with it….please use this word in your next blog. Smooch your bad self.
You got it, Mc! Bring those funky words this way any day. ;)
I ask those same questions all the time, Kathie: why has God called me to write? And why should I? I don’t feel I have anything to say. And I’ve come up with all the same excuses (noise, over-saturation, etc.).
In the end, I come back to God’s two-fold answer. First, I write because writing requires me to confront my biggest fear (rejection) and, therefore, trust in His love. And second, like you said, I write for Him and no one else because He asks me to. I always return to Isak Dinesen’s short story ‘The Young Man With the Carnation’ when I begin to question and doubt the purpose of my writing. Dinesen touches on this point in her detailed and meandering but incredibly skilled, deep, and beautiful way (it’s in the short story collection called Winter’s Tales). I recommend it.
Also, I’m glad I’m not the only one who keeps notes and ideas on church bulletins and random scraps of paper.
You are awesome for many reasons, Sarah. Today’s count includes reminders about trusting our God and recommendations for great writing. About to pop Winter’s Tales onto my Kindle. :) And YAY for those church bulletins and us literary paper recyclers!
The woman at the well. Too busy making ends meet. Too many stories in her life to even track… or share. Who would listen, who would care, who would even ask. She met a stranger there, her adversary, according to the times, a Hebrew. He asked her a small favor, “Water,please.” Her mind set immediately went to tart rhetoric, and verbal challenges. The patient stranger let her ramble, then touched her heart with three small words, “I am He”. She surrendered to the truth and put herself completed in His plan, telling the whole community. Although we do not know the rest of her story, I think it is fair to surmise that all those who heard her call to meet the HaMeshiak Yeshua asked her again and again, over time, to tell that old story in her own simple, real, from the heart words.
Did you hear His voice calling? “Water, please.”… and in your own simple. real, from the heart words, while others intently wait to hear it again, tell your stories.
Thank you, Daddy. What a wonderful image to come back to for conversations with him. :)
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