Author: Tabitha Driver

My Writing Prayer Journal: How I Changed through Writing a Novella

When I was thirteen, a youth retreat speaker shared ways to find a spouse. Everyone laughed when I asked whether we should even be pursuing marriage.


But I hadn’t meant to be funny. I honestly wanted to know.


As I grew older, I was astounded at times by the relationships that went from “he is so incredibly awesome” to “he’s the worst jerk in the world” in a matter of hours, and I was saddened by the girls around me who spent every possible minute dreaming of relationships instead of enjoying singleness. Thus, somewhere along the way, God gave me a burden for singles.


But, unfortunately, somewhere along the way, I also developed a huge “chip on my shoulder” about how the church viewed singleness.


At times my frustration at someone's insensitive comment would inspire me to write a scene for my novella, Old Maids are Romantic. My mission statement stated that this novella wasn’t intended to be a “bitter diatribe about what not to say to singles”; however, I knew deep down that that was exactly what the novella was –a bitter diatribe.


I have a writing prayer journal where I write down prayers about writing, and the second prayer states, 
“...even if the only person touched by my writing is me.” 
I prayed some version of that prayer often over the past six years or so, asking that I would be the first person changed by my writing.

And it happened.


I can honestly say that this novella is no longer is a venting tool. My love for the church has deepened through both life experiences and thinking through the motivations of ALL the characters in the novella. Not only have I learned to understand the concern hidden in hurtful statements, but writing has truly been a cathartic exercise.


Writing this novella has also impacted my prayer life.


The unknown prayer warriors that have often been behind great revivals fascinate me, and I decided to make a Sunday School class of prayer warriors a secondary theme in my story. Thus, I shouldn’t have been surprised that God also taught me about prayer through writing. But I was.


Probably because I’ve been embarrassed to admit to others that I was attempting something as ambitious as a novella, God is who I’ve turned to instead to talk about the novella. I also know some of my convictions in the novella (like a chapter on submission) aren’t going to be popular, so, again, I’ve talked to God about it.


One of my prayers (perhaps overdramatically) states the following:

“The wind pummels me with its fists. I shiver. My protective layers have disappeared. I’m left vulnerable, naked and exposed. 
You too know what it’s like to be on public display –naked and in pain.
Crosses aren’t for the guarded type.

‘Offer yourself to the hungry,’ You tell me. But underneath that poetic statement is a call to be ingloriously eaten.
Eaten! Really?
No hiding. No shutting the door when I’ve had enough. No exclusive invitations.
Eaten.  
My insecurities, my doubt and fears, my stupidity and weakness on public display –It’s terrifying!
Safe, fake writing would be so much easier.
But not as powerful.
Here I am.
Feed me to the hungry.”
Writers talk about The Muse almost like it’s a person at times, and while I’m scared to presumptuously state that God has given His stamp of approval to my little novella, there have definitely been times when I feel like the Spirit has inspired my writing. Times when I asked God a question about a detail and an idea that seemingly came from nowhere popped into my head. These experiences have made me cling to God even more in writing: 
“Thank You for inspiration –scribbles in the night, random answers to my questions when I’m thinking about something else, a never-ending well of ideas for blogging.” 
There have been other times when inspiration hasn’t been as forthcoming. Another prayer states:
"A piece here. A section there.  One question answered. Five more asked. Inspiration like lightning. Blindfolds abounding. 
Thank You for not dropping a book into my lap. Thank You that it is a mystery to discover---like You. Thank You that my confusion reminds me to ask for help. Thank You that You piece the puzzle together in Your time, so that I remember to acknowledge Your inspiration and my need." 
About a year ago, I just wanted to be done with the novella. I felt like I couldn’t move on to other dreams and projects until my novella was finished.

So I set a bunch of deadlines: I’d write on weekends and over my Christmas Break, edit over my Spring Break, send my novella to Beta readers over the summer and re-edit, so that I could publish it in October which was a year later.


While I didn’t meet any deadlines (except the final one), I definitely was a lot more serious about writing this past year. Eventually, it came to the point that in order to prioritize writing, I had to say “no” to other invitations and let people know what I was doing.


That was scary.


But that wasn’t the worst.


Feelings of inferiority and fear that the project was crazy led to writer's block, a complete lack of desire to work on the novella.


I had to remind myself of what was true. That I had the mind of Christ. That the Spirit chose to use me even though I felt insignificant. I prayed: 
“Your voice explodes trees, inflames the sky, and erupts in the wilderness. Your voice thunders (Psalm 29). 
Mine croaks, whispers and dies. 
But wait?! Mystery of mysteries, Your voice thunders in me and explodes out (Colossians 1:27; Jeremiah 20:9)!”
At one point, I asked God for a sign whether or not I should write the novella. His response? “You already know.”


I decided to just send off the novella to Beta readers in the hopes that they would say it was awful, and I could tell God, “Okay, I did it. Can I be released from this burden now?” I picked Beta readers who I thought wouldn't be afraid to be blatantly honest.


But before they had a chance to respond, I became convicted that I should obey God's prompting: 

Perhaps I was mishearing God’s voice. Perhaps it was awful (Well, I knew that it was awful. I definitely hadn’t edited it like I should have). But I wanted God more than I wanted man’s approval, and if that meant looking stupid,  so be it. 

“Jesus is worth it” became my motto.


Thus, as an act of faith, I posted on Facebook that I would publish the novella on my blog in a little over a month. I hoped that committing publicly to a deadline would motivate me to edit and that God would miraculously make it ten times better by then.


When people make comments about how they are eager to read my novella, I want to say, “Don't get your hopes up.” 

A popular rule of public speaking is not to downplay what you are going to say, but that’s exactly what I want to do....and I'm not just being humble. The novella is not well-written nor heavily edited. My transitions and descriptions are weak; my characters are too similar, and the list could go on. Another early prayer in my journal says, 
“Ahhhh! God I’m not a [fiction] writer! I can critique. I can distinguish good from bad, but when I look at my own writing all I see is awfulness! It stutters and gasps. It bores me. It has no emotion. The monotone drives me crazy. 
Writing a novella? That takes TIME –major time. Time that I don’t have. Time that I’m not disciplined enough to force into my life. Is this really of You, God?”
But again the truth is that already my prayer in writing this novella has been answered: Even if no one else is affected by this novella, Ihave been changed. I’ve been dependent on God in a new way and seen another aspect of His character:

“Author of the Universe, use my writing to teach me to depend on Your Spirit. To write Your words. To listen when I’m lost. 
Author of My Story, use my writing to teach me worship. To open my eyes to Your beauty. To open my heart to Your voice. 
Author of Reality, of breathing, living parables of resurrected stories, use my writing to convict me. To help me reflect on my own life. To grow.”



References:

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Why Practice Spiritual Disciplines?

While discipline often has a negative connotation of  punishment and rules, discipline can and should be associated with growth --especially when discussing spiritual disciplines.
Spiritual disciplines include meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance and celebration (I borrowed these from Richard Foster’s classic Celebration of Discipline Table of Contents).
The reasons why I practice spiritual disciplines isn't to outdo others, to earn my salvation or to get God to do me special favors. It's actually very simple:
I want Jesus.
Paul longed for the gospel. His desire led to the following statement: “I discipline my body and bring it under strict control (1 Corinthians 9:23, 27).” Elsewhere he says our worship is like a living death (Romans 12:1-2). Those verses describe sacrifice and hard work --a pursuit of God that is all-consuming.
No one forced me to go to college. I didn't have to get a degree, but I wanted it. Does that mean I enjoyed diagramming complicated sentences at midnight three nights a week? No. But I wanted the education, and thus I wanted to do the homework.
I don't always feel like praying, fasting, submitting, or helping others. But I want to know God better and thus I want to do those things. “The primary requirement [of practicing spiritual disciplines] is a longing after God” (Foster 2).
Counterintuitively, many times spiritual disciplines bring me joy. I don't know how to explain this paradox. I only know that I have experienced it. As Richard Foster says, “Fasting is feasting (55)!”
I love Jesus.
While it may be true that “doing things doesn't make me a better Christian”, doing things absolutely does affect my relationship with God.
Richard Foster argues that just like a farmer can't grow grain, we can't get to know God without God’s help. However, we can plant the seed and prepare the soil through spiritual disciplines (7).
If I never call or visit my friends, if I never am there for them when they are hurting, then eventually we will drift away from each other. Similarly, choosing to hang out with God and get to know Him shows where my priorities are. It shows Who I love.
I need Jesus.
The Pharisees thought doing the right things would bring them closer to God. Jesus said that was true, but they were missing the heart (Mark 7:1-15; Matthew 5:21-37; 23:23).
The Romans thought that believing the right things exempted them from doing. Paul disagreed (Romans 6).
God calls me to love Him with all of me --my heart, mind, emotions, will and strength (Luke 10:27). I am a holistic being. What I love affects what I do (John 14:15, 23). What I do affects what I love (John 15:10). What I believe affects what I do (Colossians 2:4, 16-19). What I do and experience affects me spiritually (Romans 12:1; Philippians 3:10). It's all connected.
I need God to touch every single part of me. If not, I'm missing out. My relationship with God is unbalanced and skewed. I'm in danger of limiting God to only one aspect of my life.
I love Him. I want Him. I need Him.
Please don't mistake passion for arrogance, legalism or an optional type of spirituality. Pursue Christ because He is worth it.
Work Cited:
Foster, Richard J. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. New York: Harper & Row, 1988. Print.

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7 Advantages of a Mobile Mindset

I’ve always envied those who’ve lived in the same area their whole life. Their family is near by; their friends know all their childhood secrets and family idiosyncrasies; their future appears more stable; and they have a whole community in an emergency. However, I know that I would not be the person I am today if I hadn’t moved. I can’t even begin to imagine how my perspective on life would be different. While neither a mobile or stable perspective is better than the other, here are eight reasons I’m grateful I’ve moved: #1 Loose Hold
Over the years people have asked me “Do you like this area better than this area?” My standard response is that it is the people who make the place. Every area has its advantages and disadvantages: The Shore has mystical fog and friends who refuse to let me stagnate. The Shenandoah Valley had changing leaves and deeply respected mentors. Florida had the Spanish moss and friends my age.
Moving forces me to enjoy my current situation, while accepting that it’d be okay if I had to leave at some point. It creates a homesickness for heavenly perfection, and it creates strong friendships which have to survive the test of distance.
#2 Newcomer Sensitivity
Because I’ve been the newcomer before, I tend to notice new people quicker than others. I have a better sense of how to help them fit in and what will be uncomfortable for them. #3 Unique Experiences
I’ve lived on the Shore for 6 years, but have never gone to the Pony Swim or up to Wallops to watch a rocket takeoff. Sometimes I become immune to the joys around me. They become mundane. But when I am new to an area, I take advantage of all the new and different opportunities. In the course of life I’ve had experiences that while considered ordinary in some localities are unique in others; I;ve been to quilting circles, oyster roasts, and concerts. I’ve had both a fox in my backyard and a drug ring next door. Similarly, my friends have been varied since I haven’t kept the same ones from elementary school --missionary kids, immigrants, homeschoolers, public school teachers, Mennonite, Baptist, Pentecostal, liberal, and conservative.
#4 Broader Worldview
I don’t mean to be arrogant in stating that those who live in the same area their whole life aren’t aware of what else is going on in the world. That’s not true. Yet, I’m grateful for the new people and different experiences I’ve been given. For example, having a Haitian college friend has dramatically affected the way I interact with my Haitian students and helped me better understand their educational background and cultural values.
Once, when returning to an area I used to live in, I found that a local conflict seemed far less important since I had since been exposed to bigger issues. I was much more willing to focus on our commonalities than before. #5 God-Dependency
My friends who’ve lived in the same place for a long period of time know who to ask about a car question, who everyone borrows tablecloths from for their wedding, and who doesn’t mind babysitting for them. They have no trouble raising support for a mission trip since they have know people of all ages. Building those connections is usually a slow process for newcomers like myself who tend to only be introduced to one group at a time (e.g. co-workers or young adults).
Guess what that means?
I get to ask God for help a whole lot more! The answer isn’t always just a phone call away.
#6 Courage
Life is more comfortable when I’m settled. The longer I am in a area the less I will want to change, the more complacent I am. Goals like a master’s degree seem unimportant compared to my current busy schedule. Yet, my mobile perspective has taught me to be less afraid of change and new possibilities. While I don’t feel as courageous and creative as Henri Nouwen’s description, I still like the way he puts it: “I am constantly struck by the fact that those who are most detached from life, those who have learned through living that there is nothing and nobody to cling to, are the really creative people. They are free to move constantly away from the familiar, safe places and can keep moving forward to new unexplored areas of life.” (52)
#7 Fresh Identity Every place I’ve lived, people view me differently. With two siblings in web development occupations and two other siblings who know far more about technology than I do, I didn’t think of myself as very tech-savvy until my current job where I’ve been one of the main proponents for 1:1 student devices.
Again, in comparison with my family, I never thought of myself as athletic, preferring to read inside than shoot hoops with my brother or walk with my mom. Yet, my college friends had a different perspective of me, voting me as athletic director of my intramural group and grudgingly attending the school sports games that I dragged them to.
I’ve appreciated developing new hobbies and interests, and quite frankly, not being as limited by others’ expectations or family comparisons. #8 Gratefulness In my experience, the saying "Distance makes the heart grow fonder" is completely true. I value my family, my heritage and my friends more because I've had to live without them at times.
If you’ve moved, do any of these descriptions apply to you? Would you add any? Do you tend to view moving as positive or negative?
Works Cited:
Nouwen, Henri J. M. A Letter of Consolation. New York: Harper & Row, 1982. Print.

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8 Advantages of a Mobile Mindset

I’ve always envied those who’ve lived in the same area their whole life. Their family is near by; their friends know all their childhood secrets and family idiosyncrasies; their future appears more stable; and they have a whole community in an emergency. However, I know that I would not be the person I am today if I hadn’t moved. I can’t even begin to imagine how my perspective on life would be different. While neither a mobile or stable perspective is better than the other, here are eight reasons I’m grateful I’ve moved: #1 Loose Hold
Over the years people have asked me “Do you like this area better than this area?” My standard response is that it is the people who make the place. Every area has its advantages and disadvantages: The Shore has mystical fog and friends who refuse to let me stagnate. The Shenandoah Valley had changing leaves and deeply respected mentors. Florida had the Spanish moss and friends my age.
Moving forces me to enjoy my current situation, while accepting that it’d be okay if I had to leave at some point. It creates a homesickness for heavenly perfection, and it creates strong friendships which have to survive the test of distance.
#2 Newcomer Sensitivity
Because I’ve been the newcomer before, I tend to notice new people quicker than others. I have a better sense of how to help them fit in and what will be uncomfortable for them. #3 Unique Experiences
I’ve lived on the Shore for 6 years, but have never gone to the Pony Swim or up to Wallops to watch a rocket takeoff. Sometimes I become immune to the joys around me. They become mundane. But when I am new to an area, I take advantage of all the new and different opportunities. In the course of life I’ve had experiences that while considered ordinary in some localities are unique in others; I;ve been to quilting circles, oyster roasts, and concerts. I’ve had both a fox in my backyard and a drug ring next door. Similarly, my friends have been varied since I haven’t kept the same ones from elementary school --missionary kids, immigrants, homeschoolers, public school teachers, Mennonite, Baptist, Pentecostal, liberal, and conservative.
#4 Broader Worldview
I don’t mean to be arrogant in stating that those who live in the same area their whole life aren’t aware of what else is going on in the world. That’s not true. Yet, I’m grateful for the new people and different experiences I’ve been given. For example, having a Haitian college friend has dramatically affected the way I interact with my Haitian students and helped me better understand their educational background and cultural values.
Once, when returning to an area I used to live in, I found that a local conflict seemed far less important since I had since been exposed to bigger issues. I was much more willing to focus on our commonalities than before. #5 God-Dependency
My friends who’ve lived in the same place for a long period of time know who to ask about a car question, who everyone borrows tablecloths from for their wedding, and who doesn’t mind babysitting for them. They have no trouble raising support for a mission trip since they have know people of all ages. Building those connections is usually a slow process for newcomers like myself who tend to only be introduced to one group at a time (e.g. co-workers or young adults).
Guess what that means?
I get to ask God for help a whole lot more! The answer isn’t always just a phone call away.
#6 Courage
Life is more comfortable when I’m settled. The longer I am in a area the less I will want to change, the more complacent I am. Goals like a master’s degree seem unimportant compared to my current busy schedule. Yet, my mobile perspective has taught me to be less afraid of change and new possibilities. While I don’t feel as courageous and creative as Henri Nouwen’s description, I still like the way he puts it: “I am constantly struck by the fact that those who are most detached from life, those who have learned through living that there is nothing and nobody to cling to, are the really creative people. They are free to move constantly away from the familiar, safe places and can keep moving forward to new unexplored areas of life.” (52)
#7 Fresh Identity Every place I’ve lived, people view me differently. With two siblings in web development occupations and two other siblings who know far more about technology than I do, I didn’t think of myself as very tech-savvy until my current job where I’ve been one of the main proponents for 1:1 student devices.
Again, in comparison with my family, I never thought of myself as athletic, preferring to read inside than shoot hoops with my brother or walk with my mom. Yet, my college friends had a different perspective of me, voting me as athletic director of my intramural group and grudgingly attending the school sports games that I dragged them to.
I’ve appreciated developing new hobbies and interests, and quite frankly, not being as limited by others’ expectations or family comparisons. #8 Gratefulness In my experience, the saying "Distance makes the heart grow fonder" is completely true. I value my family, my heritage and my friends more because I've had to live without them at times.
If you’ve moved, do any of these descriptions apply to you? Would you add any? Do you tend to view moving as positive or negative?
Works Cited:
Nouwen, Henri J. M. A Letter of Consolation. New York: Harper & Row, 1982. Print.

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