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DECEMBER 2004
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Don't Be Afraid of your Own Voice
By Wendy Decker

I stapled it, laid it in on the desk and rolled the ten pages Iíd written over the weekend into a scroll, then gingerly wrapped it with a red ribbon.

"Here, Mr. Weinfeld, I wrote a story for you. Merry Christmas."

I donít think Mr. Weinfeld celebrated Christmas, but he smiled and said, "Thank you very much."

Mr. Weinfeld was my seventh-grade teacher and probably the only positive, male role model in my life at the time. He encouraged me with compliments on my writing projects and good grades on my report card.

He often played records during recess and challenged us to interpret the lyrics of the song for extra credit. He introduced our class to songs written by Jim Croce, a wonderful songwriter who also inspired me.

Once, Mr. Weinfeld even wrote a letter to my mother telling her I had talent as a writer. I didnít know about the letter until many years later. My mother didnít have much ability for keeping track of little things like that, but my grandmother did. I discovered the letter in a box of her
belongings.

My grandmother also encouraged my writing. She presented me with my first book ĎLittle Womení. After that I was hooked on reading and soon began writing as well. I'd write short stories for my grandmother and she'd give me money for each one. I enjoyed receiving the money, but the glorious smile on her face when I'd present her with one of my newest creations was a treasure worth so much more. Discovering the powerful voice of the written word became a lamp in the dark for me.

After many years, I finally found my way back to the keyboard and ready to write the book I'd always dreamed of writing. I wanted to write about something that mattered to me and would also be of help to others. However, I didn't know what I wanted to write about. Sometimes I wanted to write about love, relationships, sadness, fear, God, all the things that everyone else writes about. I wanted to make people feel the way Mr.Weinfeld made me feel with my writing.

But, I wanted to find that special audience, an audience that would benefit from my words and my individual experiences. Unfortunately, I always felt too afraid and insecure that whatever I had to say would never be intelligent enough, exciting enough or important enough for anyone to want to read. That was before I asked God what I should write about.

First, I began writing poetry. I found it easy to express myself this way. Words fell from my heart, painting the perfect picture of my feelings in rhyme. When I look back at my first attempts at poetry I cringe with the amateur style in which it was written. I now know the only way to become a better writer is to write. I don't know anyone whose first written words flew directly out of their minds onto the shelves of Barnes & Nobles.

For years I allowed my fear of judgment and rejection to hold my creative ambitions hostage. I'd write then Iíd stop, or Iíd write and hide what I wrote at the bottom of some drawer. I didn't have faith in my ability, because I didnít have faith in God.

In addition to my desire to be a writer, I also had aspirations of becoming a singer, another challenging endeavor for a person with low-self esteem and fear of judgment. A friend tried to help crack my shell of insecurity by having me sing while wearing headphones. I could hear the music play, but couldn't hear myself sing.

This might sound like a strange technique, but while encouraging me he said, "Don't be afraid of your own voice." I couldn't hear myself sing therefore, I didn't know for sure whether I was good or bad. I trusted him to let me know. Had I trusted God the way I trusted him I might have faced my fears much sooner than I did. But, I know God does things all in His time and that was a lesson in itself.

That experience happened almost 20 years ago. Had it not been for my friend's insistence in uncovering my ability I may never have had the courage to venture out into the wonderful world of music and writing.

When I look back, the words my friend said to me not only encouraged me to sing, they empowered me to put forth my best effort to say what I feel I must say.

I believe God gives us all gifts. Sometimes it takes awhile before he reveals them to us. My gift is to make a joyful noise unto the Lord through song or poems or stories of encouragement. I will no longer be afraid of my own voice because I know now that God gave it to me to use for His glory. The special audience Iíd been looking for had always been there, I just didnít realize it.
Wendy Lynn Decker has been published in "Cross Times" and "The JBC Chronicle". She is a contributing writer for "Sisters in the Lord" (a web magazine) as well as for the monthly devotional entitled, "The Quiet Hour." Her work will also, appear in "A Spiritual Voice" this October. Wendy is presently seeking publication of her childrenís chapter book series for 8-12 year old readers. You can learn more about Wendy by visiting her website at http://www.wendylynndecker.com.
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