Just a Lump of Dirt Trying to Write a Book

500 book proposals a year. Shares, likes, and engagements. Manuscripts and followings. Writers’ conferences and newsletters. I feel in over my head. Much more than I already did before sitting down to work tonight.

I just finished listening to a Hope*Writers video I bought, hoping it would kick start me into this mandate I’ve been given, a mandate I’ve never shared with anyone until very recently. Here I go, I’m saying it out loud to the internet. Ready… set… 

A couple of years ago, I think God told me to write a book.

I say that, but I don’t always know what that means. What I do know is that my scattered thoughts have made the most sense when they’ve been laid out on a page. I open up my head and my heart like a box of puzzle pieces and dump them onto the blank white space. Some need to be turned over and straightened out. We definitely need to start with the edge and corner pieces. And, when it’s just about done, we’ll go back in and fill in the missing places with the aha! pieces that were right in front of our faces the entire time.

This page is blank… for now. But I have a story to tell. When the nerves bubble up in my belly and the will to sit down and wait for the words to come fades, I remember the mandate. I spend so much time trying to do what other people do, or what I think people think I should be doing. So often, in the past few years, I’ve heard God tell me to stop, to breathe, and put the things he’s given me to use. He’s given me a pen, not a sword.

So, here we are… trudging through ellipses and typos and commas wherever I take a breath to get all of this down on paper — this journey of discovering the life that I’ve been called to. This journey through endless reminders of grace, through never-ending peace, and through constantly discovering the undeserved gifts that God has given. 

This all began many years before we moved overseas. I could dig deep into the sweet, sweet moments of self-realization in college — of when I started to peel back the layers of facade I’d piled on through the years of people-pleasing and self-worship. It was then I started to actually see the lump of dirt that the sweet author of life always intended for me to be.

Not that this is about me. It’s my story, yes. But this is about much more than me. This is about me learning to let go of me. This journey through words and moments is about us learning the painful and glorious art of surrender. This is about the day by day laying down of our small hopes and dreams and of opening up our hearts to the enormity of God’s hopes and dreams for us. 

This is about the day by day laying down of our small hopes and dreams and of opening up our hearts to the enormity of God’s hopes and dreams for us. 

Life overseas hasn’t always looked the way we thought it would look. I imagined this life would be the ultimate fulfillment. I longed for it to ease the persisting ache I’ve always had to matter and to make my mark on the world. While I sat in cafes and stared out windows at the place I’d leave underneath the wings of a big jet plane I dreamed of the holes in my heart being finally, finally filled. I dreamed of all the understanding, all the immense feelings of purpose we’d accomplish by, at last, doing what we were made to do. Only to discover, that once our big jet plane had landed on foreign soil, among foreign sounds and smells, we were demoted from kinda-starting-to-figure-out-life-newlyweds to twenty-something-year-old toddlers.

I think I went through all the stages of culture shock, over and over again like an obnoxious roller coaster, in the first six months of living in Asia. It was so much harder than I ever anticipated. But it wasn’t the fact that I couldn’t speak the language or figure out where to buy toilet paper. It was the fact that I felt like I had receded in life. I felt purposeless and powerless to make life happen in the big ways I thought I would. I never wanted to be a world changer. I just wanted to matter. And I thought by doing a big, scary thing, God would show up in big and terrifying ways. And he does. There are so many stories of his elaborate triumph. But if there’s anything we’ve learned in this short lifetime overseas, is that He’s in the small things, too.

Things like eggs and toast for breakfast. Things like waking up before the world and weighing out the coffee. Things like fastening a bib to a squirrely 1-year-old as she sits down to her banana oatmeal for the 687th time. These are the places God has met me. He has taught me to see the normal as sacred, to find Him in the quiet spaces. It’s in the small, mundane moments of learning to live in a new country that I’ve begun to uncover, once again, the lump of dirt He desires me to be beneath the shovels full of expectations I’ve buried myself in. 

He has taught me to see the normal as sacred, to find Him in the quiet spaces.

So, that’s what this book will be about: morning light and surrendering expectations, bacon grease and early morning video chats, scalding Masala tea and unexpected grace. It will be about discovering a wild God and his wild plans in the normal places, in the places He’s made for our souls to be at peace.

The streets where I live are loud. Houses are so close together I could reach out my window and touch my neighbors gate. Wedding parades start at the break of dawn and march down streets with drums and bells. Oh the bells. So many bells. Each time I go outside I invite dust into intimate places and dodge daring trucks blaring horns. The place I live can be hard to find peace. But God’s teaching me a different kind a peace. A lasting kind. One that persists through the crazy and the chaos. He’s showing me how to find Him in the simple and the mundane.

I fought this peace, this simple Shalom, for so long. I wanted the big, the bang and the extraordinary. But more than God’s wanted me to make my mark in the world, He’s wanted to make His mark on me. And that’s looked like teaching me to notice Him in the places I don’t always think to look for Him.

I’ll share my journey here… the journey of a lump of dirt trying to write a book. I want to be open and honest. So I’ll start by saying I have very little of this figured out. What I’ve got so far is a loose schedule, a skeletal outline, some chopped up chapters, and a mandate from the God of the universe. I think that’s all I need.

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