(photo credit: MARK MOFFETT)
Oh, the beauty of Autumn! At least here in the midwest, the Fall season is something quite spectacular to behold. But the message of the acorn and the oak – is something even more spectacular.
Midway through my career as a non-profit director, I had this crazy, acorn-sized thought…to ‘someday’ become a published author. Over time, that nagging thought lingered – and then intensified.
Truth be told…though I’ve dabbled in the writing arena for many years, I never imagined that my early love affair with words would lead me to the place of becoming who I am today; a writer; ready to launch my first book. And yet, as exciting as that is…I can’t dismiss the process that has brought me here. A reflective look in rear view mirror of my writing life has reminded me of the following:
1. You can’t have the latter without the former.
2. Transition takes time. Sometimes a very, very, very long time.
3. The result of growth brings beauty and purpose.
1. You can’t have the latter without the former.
An acorn begins small and over time becomes one of the grandest of trees. So it is with us. We come into this world not knowing the capacity of our true identity. But over time, the truth concerning our talents, potential, and worth, begin to emerge.
My interest in writing began somewhere around sixth grade. As president of Student Council, I was thrust into writing speeches for the student body of my elementary school. And I laugh out loud just thinking about my twelve-year-old self and those old journals that reveal my small, acorn-like beginnings.
After high school, a friend and I co-led a summer drama club. Together, we wrote and directed the playwright for some 15-20 creative kids that lived in our community. It was a lot of fun and proved to be a great learning experience. This experience sent my writing roots a bit deeper into the soil of my heart and life as a writer.
As a young mom, my focus shifted to little people. After my kids were tucked in bed for the night, I reached for my pad and pencil to write my next playwright. My ‘WAY‘ off-Broadway production was a hit only to the children that performed it that day and the parents that watched on. But it was one more way I was developing the writer within.
As my children got older, I worked from home as a seamstress. I filled the school-day hours serving clients who wanted to update their home with draperies, bedding, throw pillows and the like. I always enjoyed seeing the finished project and the pleasure it brought my clients. But there was something else I discovered…
“I realized that I loved the creative process in general.”
I loved taking an idea, getting lost in the process, and bringing it to fruition. Whether I was creating my business plan, or designing brochures and business cards, I often found myself losing track of time when I was creating, and writing and organizing words.
During the mid 80’s to the mid 90’s I began doing administrative work for my husband, who at the time, was the Ohio Director for a non-profit organization working with coaches and athletes. My volunteer work here eventually led to a part-time staff position. At the time, I was completely unaware of how my writing craft was being developed. Who knew how typing donor letters, newsletters, managing donor bases, and preparing for summer camping programs, would help me become more of who I really am as a person and, as a writer.
The thought of becoming a published author at this point was nowhere to be found in the recesses of my mind. I just knew I enjoyed writing. The writer that was emerging was in me all along. And it was becoming more and more evident.
The next big jump in my writing career happened when I was hired by another non-profit organization to begin a local mentoring program for teen moms. The following year, I became the National Director. I was hired to lay the foundation for the YoungLives (teen mom) initiative; now providing hope to tens of thousands of teen moms throughout the world.
It was the foundation-laying aspect of my journey leading YoungLives, that helped me clarify this notion that God had placed something within me that was there – not for my benefit – but for the benefit of others. The hours and hours I spent creating resources for US staff, preparing national board reports, giving presentations, communicating with donors, and planning mission-wide training and camping events, all breathed life into my writer soul!
But it was the writing of the field staff training manual – the mothership of my writing projects – that would change me from the inside out.
My motivation for writing the Field Staff Training Manual was based in the realization that I had been entrusted with the responsibility and privilege of providing countless US staff, with something of value. It was not just another “how-to” manual – but a resource that would assist staff and volunteers in the practical and worthwhile adventure of starting teen mom programs throughout the country and thereby, bring hope and healing to thousands of teen moms.
This thought still leaves my soul feeling incredibly blessed and honored to have had such an opportunity. The fact that we get to use our talents to be messengers of hope is humbling, astounding, and wonderfully fulfilling! God designed it that way.
My next big step of growth in my writing life was the completion of my Masters Degree. While others fear and dread writing term papers, final papers, and thesis papers, I actually enjoyed it. Researching and preparing papers for my professors helped me exercise my writing muscles even more. Learning to research, grapple with text, and communicate what I was learning, was always time well spent, because of how I was growing as a person and as a writer.
It’s taken a while, but I have come to realize that one of the primary purposes of my life is to write words that help, heal, and bring hope to others.
That’s where I am today, but that’s certainly not where I began. At least I didn’t think so… until I began looking into the rear view mirror of my life to understand the story being told.
The growth we experience from developing our craft, often goes unnoticed from year to year. But…when we stand back and take a long look, we begin to see more of the big picture – and the story your life is telling.
2. The transition of ‘acorn to oak’ takes a very long time.
With a doubt, each and every acorn-sized writing step I took throughout the years, has ultimately prepared me for where I am today in both my professional and writing career. And learning to become a better writer is a personal goal of mine because, I want my words to make a difference in the lives of those who read them.
“People matter. Therefore, words matter.”
Thanks to a flexible schedule, hotel layovers, and sit time between flights, my flying career has afforded me the opportunity to exercise my writing muscles. Over the past five years I have experimented with blogging; written curriculum for the non-profit organization my husband and I co-founded; and have worked on numerous writing projects including the coming release of my first published children’s’ picture book, Acorn Gert and Brother Burt (Available December 2106).
That acorn-sized seed thought I had many years ago of becoming an author is now becoming my new reality. The oak that was in me all along has survived many seasons of change, even though at times, the words lay dormant.
Beneath all the layers of doubt and confusion, discouragement and comparison, the writer within me has emerged. Nourishment and growth came many times through the kind, instructive, and encouraging words of family members, close friends, and fellow writers. Each offering their gift to encourage me to press on. We just don’t know the many ways our gifts and lives touches another human being. But I do know this…
3. The result of growth is beauty and purpose.
The real joy of writing, for me, is in knowing that I have the opportunity to make a difference in the life of others.
I’ll never forget the encouraging words I heard several years ago while attending a Jerry Jenkins Christian Writer’s Guild Conference in Denver, CO. We had come to learn from the finest and best. One evening well-known author, Max Lucado spoke to us about writing as a life calling and the influence well-crafted words have on the human heart. In essence, he challenged us to consider the ramifications of failing to write.
His words stuck to my soul like the way I let a piece of dark chocolate stick to the roof of my mouth. I suppose I realize more than ever before, the power of words and the effect they have on the human soul. So too is the lesson of the acorn and the oak.
When we stop to consider the many gifts of a full-grown oak, the list is endless: Beauty to enjoy. Shade to protect. Strength to shield. Wood to Build. Fire to warm. Leaves to fertilize. Branches to hold. Limbs to climb. Place to rest. Home to Critters. Food to nourish…the list is long.
So too, are the good and meaningful words we offer others. As a writer, I want my words help, heal, and offer hope. It’s a burden I carry deep in my soul. And the longer I live, and the more I write, the more confident I am in being who God made me to be.
What about you? When you look in the rearview mirror of your life, what do you see? Who are you becoming? What type of burden lives within the roots of your soul? Where are you bringing life and beauty in the world? More importantly, what do you need to do to become more of the person God made you to be?
Please feel free to share your story of growth.
Until next time,
(Betsy) Elizabeth Duncan Stretar
My Pastor (Chad Allen) recently spoke on the subject of discovering who you really are. Feel free to take a listen here. Living New-Week9