Five years ago, I was graduating from college, fraught with excitement. I see myself in the embroidered dress that didn’t fit quite right but I wore defiantly, insistently, because it was the symbol of the woman I wanted to be – carefree, long-haired, successful, spontaneous… Isn’t it funny how we imagine future selves by the clothes they will wear? How we dress up to become someone we think would be better than the person we already are?
I remember driving through the silent back roads of New England towns, the dress put away, the ghost of the scrap of paper where I’d given the college boy my address hovering near my right hand. I listened to “Holocene” on repeat and furiously tried to make my mind form complicated thoughts, serve up explanations sophisticated enough for the woman I thought I could step into being.
Five years ago I longed to be a writer. I read poetry in quiet corners of campus and once I read John Steinbeck with a cold mug of coffee in front of me – the cream swirling reluctantly towards the top as the hours ticked by. I told myself I wanted to be one of those people, Marilynne Robinson and John Steinbeck and Christian Wiman, Ted Kooser and Erica Funkhouser and Edward Hirsch, people who made poems out of life and who mades living itself kindling for a flame of words.
I used to exchange poetry by email with a couple of coworkers on Fridays. It didn’t last, sadly, like so many of my well-intentioned plans for writing. I was so good at telling myself I was and would be and must be a writer that I didn’t need to do much writing.
I dressed the way I thought writers must dress. I listened to Bon Iver driving those backroads and imagined how someday I would build a world in words and a reader would drive with me and feel the slick new pavement, the sudden silence of the car wheels beneath our feet. I believed this is what would make me meaningful.
I wrote a book. I wrote it looking nothing like a writer and feeling nothing like the woman I promised I would become in order to be that writer. I wrote the book because writing it was the single thread back to Jesus I could find when the maze of the NICU closed in and I could not sleep for worrying and I could not pray for not sleeping and I could not believe what I had always believed I would believe.
That is where the writing came. It stole up on me, a strange friend in the nights and I was not ready.. I had no clean Moleskin journals, no special sharpie pens for observing the world. I had not perfected the look of a writer, the feel of the words tumbling forth free. I thought writing would be like breaking a necklace of pearls – one snap, one idea, and the beauty would just spill out and clatter on the table and people would rush to snatch up as many as they could.
But for me writing this book was becoming an oyster, shell rough, cemented to a rock and clinging hard at the regular chaos of the tides. Writing this book was building up a single pearl from a single grain of sand that found its way in uninvited and unexpected. My book is not the pearl, really – I think the pearl must be my whole life, my being with God, and maybe the book is the single grain of sand or maybe it is just a glimpse inside this oyster shell – a peek into the becoming of another believer.
I hope, in any case, that the book is a story of this becoming.
There is so much to tell in the next few weeks – there is news of publishing the book, titles and covers and preordering and how very much I want to share with you this glimpse into the opening of Jack’s story and the opening of mine, too. I want to thank you for reading this blog, this haphazard collection of snapshots. I want to thank you for following along with Jack’s story in particular, for how you’ve listened and loved and prayed us through.
This book I wrote in an unprepared season, when my table was not laid and my lamps not lit. A grain of sand and a lot of silence. A lot of my hair pulled back in a messy bun for days on end.
But somehow the writing arrived, and now, soon, the book will too. I can’t wait to share this with you.