Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Voices: Who Are You Listening To?

Today I want to talk about the voices we all, as writers, encounter on a daily basis, and how we can be more intentional and which ones we allow to take residence in our minds.

Let me start by telling you a story.

So, I have this dog, Schroeder.

I know, right? He's pretty adorable.

If you know me, you know I'm pretty passionate about animal rescue, and my beloved Schroeder is no exception. We adopted him from an animal shelter three years ago. Looked like he'd been on the streets for a few weeks by himself before a good Samaritan picked him up and brought him to the shelter. Since then, we have completely fallen in love with his goofy antics, his love of peanut butter, and his insistence upon trying to catch lizards despite his human mother's screaming that reptiles are off-limits.

The thing about Schroeder is, he has this adventure instinct. Which isn't such a problem, except that he doesn't always listen when I call his name. So a couple of times, despite the fact that I watch him like he is an actual child, he has slipped under our fence and gone exploring in our neighbor's yard. This happened most recently a few weeks ago (and I was in the backyard with him the whole time when he slipped away!). Let's just say, he scared the living daylights out of me. I looked over our fence but couldn't find him in the neighbor's yard. I panicked, running down the street, looking for him in every nook and cranny of other neighbors' fences (he loves exploring fences). I asked neighbors if they'd seen him. Finally, after only about five minutes but what felt like hours, I saw him smelling around in the corner of our neighbor's yard, and rushed over to him with relief. 

"Why didn't you come when I called you?" I begged him, my pulse racing and tears burning. 

He just looked at me with those precious eyes.

I reached over the fence, scooped him up, and let my heart sigh with relief. I gripped him so tightly he could never wiggle out, and we walked back home.

I tried explaining to Schroeder that if he would just come whenever I called him, he could have so much more freedom. He wouldn't even need the fence. But because I can't trust him to not run off, I have all these extra precautions. He can't go anywhere without a leash. He can't be left in the yard by himself.

Then it dawned on me.

How does God say the same thing to us? "Why didn't you come when I called you?"

We send Him on a frantic chase, time and time again, as we sneak under the fence, into dangerous ground.

If we would only listen, oh-- the freedom we could have.

Several weeks ago, I had the kind of bad-teaching-day that makes you so frazzled, all you want to do is come home, put on your fuzzy Hello Kitty pajamas, and watch endless hours of Gilmore Girls. I had a couple students in particular who were acting out in a pretty blatant way, and I had to call them out on it. The looks they sent me in return started a chorus of voices in my mind.

You're a failure as a teacher. They think you are boring. You can't engage their attention. They wouldn't be looking at their iPhones if you had found a better way to make them interested. This whole class probably thinks you're boring too. You want to make a difference, but all they want to do is leave.

Now, I know I'm not a failure as a teacher. But in those moments, how true those statements seemed. How loud those voices were. How defeated I felt.

Maybe this has happened to you with writing contests you've entered. Or rejections. Maybe you've looked at the feedback, and tried to process it well, but instead, all you can hear is, You'll never make it. You're a failure as a writer. Your style is boring. No one is going to want to read your story. You'll never make a difference in the world doing this. You're wasting your time. You're wasting your family's time. You're wasting your finances.

Or maybe, and perhaps worst of all, You're wasting your dreams.

When all the while, the God who adopted us is saying, "I love you, child. Please stop running away."

I want to ask you a question today. What voices do you hear? And what is more, what voices do you listen to? Which do you allow to speak loudest in your life?

This is an issue I think we all struggle with in some regard. How do we manage to silence those voices of doubt, deception, and degradation? 

For starters, I want to encourage you to write them down. When you see the voices on paper, they often seem a bit ridiculous. You'll be surprised with what you've allowed yourself to believe if you write it down or even share it with another person. Doing so can allow us to get some much-needed perspective. I love what Jim Rubart says: we can't read our own bottle labels. In other words, we exist inside the bottle. We need someone else to come along and help us know what the label says.

Then, replace the doubts with God's truth. Has God made promises to you? Has He given you a vision or put a dream on your heart? Affirm those things by resting in their truth. Write down Scriptures and put them up around your house in places you'll see them-- your mirrors, your car, your jewelry holder, etc. Be relentless about hunting down each doubt and silencing it with God's truth. Think you're worthless as a writer and there's no point in trying? God would say otherwise. Don't give fear, doubt, and lies a voice in your life. Turn down the volume, and tune in to God.

I want to end this blog by sharing one of my current favorite songs, "Oceans" by Hillsong United. The bridge of this song says, "Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk along the waters, wherever You would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, that my faith would be made stronger in the presence of my Savior."

Jesus wants to remove those fences in your life. He wants you to live in freedom, and in wholeness. But He can only do that when you make a conscious decision to pay attention to His call. So when rejection letters come and you feel like giving up, don't crawl under the fence and run away. Instead, run to Him-- the one who adopted us and has a beautiful calling for us if we would only trust where He leads.


Jeanne Takenaka said...

Ashley, what a beautiful post. And one I need to hear. I'm weary, I'm tired...and it's in times like this that the "bad" voices are the easiest to hear. "You're a bad mom." "You'll never finish your book." "You're so undisciplined." Blah, blah, blah.

I love your idea of writing down what I hear to see how ridiculous it actually is. I'm always amazed at how "right" those negative messages seem when I keep them locked up inside me. When I share them and someone else can help me see actual truth, they lose their power.

Thanks for sharing this today.

Lindsay Harrel said...

Ash, I love you and I love this post (and not just because it started with a story of your adorable pup!). :) Such good truths that it's easy to forget.

Jeanne Doyon said...

Ashley, the Holy Spirit is giving this message to so many right now. My latest blog post is also about the words that take root...I'm listening. Thanks for confirming His message to my heart.

Ashley Clark said...

Jeanne, I know how you feel! When we keep those voices internal, they feel so loud at times, and it becomes hard to hear any other voice--especially God's. I've found that when I'm tired and weary, this is especially a fight (like when I broke my foot and couldn't drive up to a coffee shop to write or even go to the kitchen and get a snack)-- but those times are often the most worthwhile, rewarding fight in the end.

Prayers of encouragement for you today, that God would open the eyes of your heart to see how valued you are to Him, and for a renewal of strength, energy, and encouragement.

Ashley Clark said...

Thanks, Linds! And by the way, I LOVE your new photo! You look gorgeous!

Ashley Clark said...

Jeanne, thank you for sharing that! I love whenever God sends messages through different channels of our lives!

Joanne Sher said...

Oh, Ashley, you have no idea how much you ministered to me this morning. These are the exact feelings I've been having most of this week in relation to my parenting and homemaking. And some of the stuff is SO ridiculous. It's sad how much easier it is to believe Satan than it is to believe God!

Thanks so very much!

Amelia said...

Great post. Thank you.