I’m fortunate to be part of a fierce group of women faith writers. A few of these lovely ladies live near me, and we meet together every six weeks or so to lift up and encourage one another, as well as do some old school workshopping.

We tend to leave these gatherings full of new energy, a renewed sense of purpose and overflowing with words waiting to be put to paper.

After our most recent meeting, one afterglow email read:

“My soul was full after today’s lunch. So grateful for this handful of preciousness that God has given us, it filled a hole I didn’t even know was there until suddenly it wasn’t empty anymore.”

A Facebook post happily reported:

“The NorCal Buds met today. [One member] shared a retreat recap and we ate [another member’s] homemade bread while chatting about tribe and platform and which paragraphs I need to cut out of my manuscript. All this while five kiddos napped or watched Sesame Street in other rooms. Power to the mamas, right?!”

Right.

But earlier that day, as I relaxed into easy mama friendships and felt my perfected defenses soften, I realized I was harboring an insecurity I’d thought I’d lost years ago. This thought consumed me and, unlike my peers, I left feeling not emboldened, but instead like I’d been punched in the stomach.

My husband tells me I’m the most confident person he’s ever met. On a confidence scale of one to ten, I’d say I’m an eight. Don’t get me wrong—I often come home bemoaning a possible misunderstanding with a friend and needing my husband to talk me down from the did-I-say-something-offensive-without-meaning-to ledge. I’m not comfortable in short shorts or a bikini, and I refuse to go out without makeup. But all in all, I’m at peace with myself.

Then, after a few years’ hiatus, I started writing again. And not just writing, but faith writing.

And all of a sudden, I’m back in junior high: searching for affirmation, hoping to prove I’m “real,” and asking my lady friends the writer’s equivalent of “does this dress make me look fat?”

So why the current crisis of confidence?

Because soul-baring is hard.

Because my heart and faith and politics are all on my sleeve, and sometimes people will call me a moron, and sometimes, they’ll even call me immoral.

And sometimes, I’ll even lose friends.

After an especially inspiring sermon a few weeks ago, my husband wrote on our kitchen chalkboard:

¤ Brave?

¤ Safe?

This is a reminder to us that each day when we wake up, we have to decide how we will live out that day. As the guy who gave the sermon said, our grandkids will remember us no matter what, but the way they remember us will be very different depending on which option we choose.

I want my grandkids to remember me as a woman without fear.

But how will they know that I go to bed most nights thinking, “I can’t do this anymore. After years of being in comfortable skin, I can’t handle this,” but that I wake up and do it anyway?

The only way they’ll know is if I write it down.

After our last manuscript meeting, I drove home with my friend, Cara, and related a small bit of how I was feeling to her. She said, “This is a no apologies relationship, friend.” The freedom in those words is astounding: No apologies for who I am, or how I feel or think. Where can fear survive in the face of that freedom?

The truth is, it can. Our fears are not always unfounded, but it is always up to us how we handle them.

I think back to the words I first dog-eared in a now-soft worn book almost two decades ago, and I promise myself this–this–is how my grandkids will know me:

I’ll make sure she always carries a pen
so she can take down the evidence.
If she has no paper, I’ll teach her to

write everything down on her tongue,

write it on her thighs.

I’ll help her see that she will not find God
or salvation in a dark brick building

built by dead men.

I’ll explain to her that it’s better to regret the things

she has done than the things she hasn’t.

I’ll teach her to write manifestos

on cocktail napkins.

[…]

I’ll tell her that when the words finally flow too fast
and she has no use for a pen

that she must quit her job

run out of the house in her bathrobe,

leaving the door open.

I’ll teach her to follow the words.

In years past, Jamie has been a hotel housekeeper, a graveyard shift donut fryer, and a welfare recipient, as well as an attorney, White House intern, and an elected official. More recently, Jamie has ghostwritten two books, written for several devotionals, and is a contributing writer for various print and online publications. She has also worked for or volunteered with at-risk youth and their families since 1995, both through direct services and advocacy efforts. Jamie is currently working on her Master of Divinity with an emphasis in Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary. Previously, Jamie graduated magna cum laude from Texas Tech University where she majored in both English and Political Science, and received her law degree from UC Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall). She practiced dependency law for several years before opening her own law office, where she represented low-income women in domestic violence and family law cases. Now a full-time writer and editor (as well as part-time staffer at a not-quite-local-to-her church), Jamie’s background as a public interest attorney serves her well as she writes about issues of poverty, gender equality, and social and juvenile justice, among other things. Jamie has four children and is married to Andy, who is the campaigns director for an interfaith non-profit in Washington, DC. Jamie is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and the Religion Newswriters Association, as well as the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Jamie is currently working on her first full-length book, The Telling Ground. She blogs at http://jamiecallowayhanauer.com, and you can connect with her on Facebook or on Twitter @JamieHanauer.

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  1. Important poem, Jamie. And surely what you have written is why another writer, John, wrote, “In the beginning was the Word. . .”
    Mental strength begetting mental strength lifting humanity from its sordid primal fears.

  2. Jamie,

    Keep following the words! You are on such a brave path, evidence of such I find in your newly-crafted bio. Brave mama! I cheered when I read “mom of four” – I know you’ve been working through that. I look forward to every post you publish, so please keep writing words that bless and challenge.

  3. I loved this essay when you posted it, but enjoyed it even more now. We didn’t get enough workshop dates together but you always encouraged and inspired me. xo

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