I have to tell you. I don’t cry as much as I used to cry. I am often touched, but to tears? Not nearly so often as I once was. Which is why I was a bit stunned this morning to find myself bawling like a baby. Not in sadness, though this storm has been worrisome for so many in my extended family and lifelong friends, but in affirmative joy.
Well, it started out normal enough. I awakened to more rain and more tornado watches and bad, bad footage of what’s going on in Mississippi and near my childhood home on the west bank of the Mississippi River from New Orleans in Gretna. That pretty much soured my mood.
I hit my knees. (I’ve learned the hard way to do that not as a last resort but as a first reaction—God is the ultimate First Responder.)
Then I got two notes that made me really happy about two audio books in production. And then came the note that touched me so deeply, it had me squalling.
Writers are creative people. We build something from nothing and people it for purpose. But unlike actors who hear much about reactions to their work, or musicians who are present for those reactions, writers hear now and then readers’ responses. We keep writing largely on faith driven by the sense of purpose that powers us to pick up the pen and write in the first place.
That’s not to say we don’t desire feedback. Some do, some don’t, and most quite honestly only want to hear feedback that is good. We need good feedback to keep on going, to keep writing for purpose. And just as honestly, more often than not, we get little of it. But every now and then…
We go to say good morning to our Facebook friends and to let them know that we haven’t drowned in said storm (physical or emotional storms or spiritual storms), and we get the kind of feedback we need to infuse us with the determination to keep going. (This often comes when we’re at our personal weakest, our most vulnerable, our most uncertain.)
And we’ll see a note like this:
And it infuses us with far more than anyone (save another writer) can imagine.
Let me explain why a three-sentence note touched me so deeply.
In SURVIVE THE NIGHT, the heroine is mourning the loss of her only child and the resulting breakup of her marriage. It’s been three years, and she’s angry with God and struggling to find her feet again. She feels she has no right to a life. She wasn’t there to protect her son. Therefore, she should forfeit wanting anything… or so she believes…
In writing the book, there’s a poem she recites in her mind to comfort herself when she’s most hurting. At first, I feared I was going to be forced to pull the poem from the book, but my adorable editor thought it had been written by someone else. When I disclosed that we had permission to use it—that I had written it—then we were okay to leave it in the book.
I was relieved. I didn’t know then why, but I know that when my brother died and I watched my mother grieve, she would mumble “He’s in God’s hands” and feel comforted. That made this poem being in this book, comforting this mother extremely important to me.
And in this note from Jonnie Cole, I now know why. That a little poem I wrote has the potential to offer the comfort of God’s hands to a mourning mother . . . it overwhelms me. And I hope and pray that it does so for this mother and many other mothers who are mourning.
The mother in me, the daughter who watched and shared her mother’s grief, is moved and touched so deeply I can’t say where it starts or stops or even verbalize it. But, oh, do I feel it. And the writer in me is moved.
To receive affirmation that what we do for purpose is received and used for purpose . . . well, it’s beyond moving. Being assured that your book was in the right place at the right time in the right hands and it carries a purposeful message for someone hurting who needs it—well, if that isn’t worth crying about, I don’t know what is.
Maybe affirmation is seldom seen, but when it is, it really is.
And so my point is to share with all of you who are doubting what you’re doing with your life because you sorely need affirmation you’re on the right track, doing what you’re meant to do, be reassured. Watch for signs. Often they come through from unexpected places at unexpected times and in ways you couldn’t have imagined. But you’ll know them when you see them. Their identity is found in the sudden and unexpected welling of tears. Your breathing will grow rapid, your heart swell, and you’ll feel amazingly full of affirmative joy.
It’s a rare privilege. Don’t squander it. 🙂