In the small map-dot town of Mansfield, Missouri stands a home that houses a desk bearing a unique claim to fame. In the early 1900’s, a woman sat down at that desk to pen the adventures of her pioneering childhood. By today’s standards, she was considered a senior citizen when she started to write. Sixty-five years were behind her when she published her first book; her hair was graying, her skin showed wrinkles. But she had stories to tell, and age would not hinder the storyteller.
The efforts of this beloved author have resulted in an enduring legacy loved by millions of readers, but she couldn’t have seen that then. In the early 1900s, when she picked up a pencil and scratched out words on a paper tablet, she was merely answering the call to write; giving life and breath to the stirrings within.
A few weeks ago I stood in that home with my mom and kids. As my husband served on an international mission trip, the kids and I spent time in my hometown, foraging familiar haunts, exploring a few historical sites. Earlier that week we’d traipsed across a civil war battlefield, treading the ground that had seen the clash of Union and Confederate soldiers. On Wednesday, we drove an hour outside town to tour the home of this beloved writer. And as I stood and looked at the place she sat, I wondered if fear or doubt ever consumed her. Did she ever wonder if her words would impact readers? Did she dare to hope that her stories might inspire adventure?
Inside the heart of any writer is a life bursting to spring forth on the wings of words. But the birth process is painful. Fear and doubt can be constant companions, and there’s a certain amount of inner trembling that occurs every time I begin to compose thoughts and order them into coherent prose. I think that’s true in any creative pursuit. I think that’s true in life. A heart fully alive demands a certain amount of bravery.
Nowhere was that truth more visible to me than in the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Because standing in her Missouri farmhouse, I saw how the life of the revered luminary author intersected with the reality of a 65-year-old woman who simply chose to answer the call to write.
Laura could have said no to the stirrings within. With nearly seven decades behind her, she could have used her age as an excuse to stifle the storyteller. But she didn’t. Laura Ingalls Wilder silenced the critic within, gave breath to bravery and wrote. And in so doing, she gave the world the gift of well-loved literature that has spanned generations.
I don’t know about you. I don’t know what desires may be planted in your heart. You may not be called to impact millions of readers through pages of prose, but I know this: I know the fingerprints of a creative God are imprinted on your very soul. He has a purpose for you, and He has uniquely gifted you to accomplish that purpose.
That truth is exhilarating and exciting, but it can also be frightening. Fears and doubts may storm within. Feelings of inadequacy and insufficiency may paralyze. The critic’s words may rage. There are a lot of formidable obstacles, I know. But I also know that God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but one of power
So the questions remain for you and me. What stirrings are waiting to take flight? How has God gifted you? And how might you choose courage over fear to nurture those gifts?
If the seed of a dream is planted deep within, I pray you may be encouraged by Laura’s story. Silence the critic, be brave, do the work. And remember … age didn’t stifle the storyteller.
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