I’ve read this passage so many times.
I memorized it as a child.
It was given to me in cards and notes over and over again after Leisha died.
God has plans to prosper me- not harm me
God has plans to give me hope and a future.
But I today I read the verse in context of chapter 29.
This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.
First thing I notice is to be in exile is the condition of someone being sent or kept away from their own country, village, home, etc. CAMBRIDGE ENGLISH DICTIONARY
The Lord tells them through Jeremiah to:
Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.
Hmmm? Sounds like God is saying make the most of the situation you are in – whether it is good or not, whether it is where you want to be or not.
Then in verse 10 the Lord says; ”
When seventy years are completed in Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.
And that is where Jeremiah 29:11 comes in.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
I am quite excited about this word. Over the last 10 years my words have been Hope- Hope & More HOPE! I had that word for several years. It’s a great word, but it was a desperate time for me.
One year the word was TRUST, another year it was BE STILL. (I know technically two words, right?) Last year my word was FINISH which was appropriate since my goal was to complete the Lovely Traces of Hope book.
These were all great words and they were significant to me at the time, but they all had a urgency to them, desperation is still the better word. Even being still was a challenge word at the time.
OK! It’s official! I’m an author! I held my first book signing thanks to the gracious and persistent Tanya Augsburger of the Bluffton Public Library, Bluffton, OH.
Months ago- before there was an actual book, Tanya engaged me to consider hosting an author event at the library. I thought she was jumping the gun, but I appreciated her thinking ahead for me. It was a delight for me to work with Tanya to put together this book signing event. I am so grateful for her and the Library for hosting this opportunity.
I knew that book signings were often part of an author’s next steps. I knew that it was valuable to connect with interested and potential new readers.
This past week, I have been working intently to finish up details for publishing the Lovely Traces of Hope book. I had one of those moments as I sat late into the night reading/ editing/ proofing yet again through my own story.
For the umpteenth time, I was reading through Chapter 14, Turning East, which I have sent to many of you already. (Click here if you haven’t read it yet.) In that chapter, I share excerpts of Jerry Sittser’s book called A Grace Disguised. Jerry literally led me through much of my grief through the sharing of his own story.
Several months ago as I was reworking that chapter for the book, I sent Jerry a letter to thank him for being bold enough to share his story because of the influence it has had in mine.
I was sittting at the Arby’s across from the mall in the area that is all window. People watching at its best. The sky was clear with the exception of a few, very small, very white clouds slowly drifting by. What a beautiful day!
Today I want to share with you a friend of influence. Her name is Pat.
Pat is has been a long time friend, though recent years have brought us together more purposefully. She has been my coach as I launched into business. I was her matron of honor a couple of years ago at her wedding. She has listened to me through so many transitions of life – and I to her.
Our favorite thing to do is grab a table at Touches of the Heart in Glandorf for lunch and stay till they close. Julie, the Touches host, knows when she sees us to put on another pot of coffee. We will be there a while. Pat and I are never at a loss of words to fill an afternoon.
I have spent that last few weeks struggling with finding energy to do life- but more significantly returning to the grief tunnel as I processed some of the chapters for the manuscript I am writing. The more I tried to get deeper into my story, the less strength I had to do it. I had spent 10 weeks grappling with the emotions and wondering if I could actually write them down.
I felt so alone. No one can do that except me!
Then Pat called- she connects with me in one way or another nearly every week. This time she called. We talked about my health, rejoiced over our families, shared what we are learning about ourselves, about God. Like I said, we rarely run out of words.
Then she asked about the book. I told her I haven’t written much for 10 weeks. We talked about how my health and lack of energy seemed directly connected to the book. She said, “Kathy, do I just need to come and sit with you while you write?”
Ah! There it is! So many days I had wished for someone to be with me in this journey. I had not said anything because I know that I am the only one who can write my story.
But Pat saw me!
She invited herself into my pain.
She asks the questions others are afraid to ask.
She listens to my ramblings as I come to find my own answers.
No, I don’t need her to come write with me. But I did need to know someone saw what I needed and was willing to be an answer to my need.
Pat, I am filled with gratitude for the influence you have had on my life. And just so you know, I’ve completed 5 chapters and rethinking 3 more. Thanks for spurring me to finish what my heart must do!
But after the weekend at the first ever TRIBEWRITER’s Conference, (hence #tribeconf) I came to own I have been on this journey of writing most of my life.
Jeff Goins, founder and host of the TribeWriter Conference, (Superman in another life) spoke directly to me (though he doesn’t know it) on the very first session.
He challenged us to:
Let go: of expectations, of fear, of shame (feeling that we Should Have Always Mastered Everything). Here we go again. First thing he says and I’m already having to open my hands to what God might be wanting to do here.
Embrace the mess: How did he know I woke up in the middle of the night in a sweat, wondering if I was going to show up and be shown up for the mess that I was? He asked us to partner with the community regarding the issues we have. I did! I found great encouragement and accountability in the process.
Become a more true version of yourself:
Be you! Not someone else, even if you admire them.
Believe in yourself. Action follows belief.
Try something new this weekend. That was easy! Everything had some newness to it.
While the weekend was full of excellent speakers with very practical resources and action steps for us, I probably could have left after the first speaker and felt like I got what I needed.
I have struggled ever since Leisha died feeling like I need to write to finish her book, but have been in a battle to rediscover who I am really not just as a writer, but as a woman. All I thought about myself had been put into question when my daughter died. I blogged a bit about this during the weekend. You can catch it here.
But Ally Vesterfelt, of Author Launch really spoke to this as she shared her father’s story as he was near death. As a clinical psychologist and marriage counselor, he had worked with all kinds of people. But his first article as he fought to live was “Dying is easy, Life is hard to do!” Yes it is! I can attest to that! I never considered that Leisha had the easy road in dying. The rest of us had to fight to live.
Ally was just getting started with her challenge to me. Her next thoughts made me know I was going the right direction.
We find our voices when we are most likely losing them.
One of the most painful things is to lose the sound of your own voice.
FIGHT for the truth, the rawness, and the realness of your own voice.
Finding your voice starts with finding yourself.
Wow! For her to speak directly to the battle I mentioned earlier means she is familiar with the pain of it. I have been there for the last 9 years. Finding my voice by finding myself. I can identify that it must be truth, it will be raw, and it must feel real or it feels disingenuous to the process of healing.
“More than likely you will find your voice on a path you least wanted to go down. Sometimes the sufferings, not the healings, are the source of greatest transformation of our life.”
She was right! I knew she was!
I was being changed through the sufferings. I didn’t want to suffer. I tried to avoid the suffering, but I knew it when I embraced the ache and walked into the darkness that the greatest transformation occurred.
As I work to finish Leisha’s book, I reconnect with many layers of grief in order to share what I have learned from the last 9 years. That has been part of the mess I have felt recently. But I wouldn’t change the process. I am much more aware of who I am and what I was meant to say!
I understand that I must find my own voice before I can truly help someone else find theirs. While I hope that the book will be used to change one person’s life in an effort to change the world, I know that writing this book has and is changing me.
The story I’m getting ready to present to the world in a few months has been in process for most of my life.
I’m a writer! I have been a writer! I need to write if just to change me!
How’s your story coming?
P.S. Thanks Jeff Goins! For letting go, embracing the mess and becoming a more true version of yourself. You have modeled for me and given me courage to do that same.
Thank you Ally Vesterfelt! For sharing out of the raw, real, truth of your own story. I am one who is changed because of it.
Just because I didn’t write life lessons from all the other speakers doesn’t mean I couldn’t have. I am still just processing the first one. Thanks to all of you for your time, availability and genuine support.
I’m already signed up for TribeWriter 2016. Join me?