Post Title: The Power of Words: Defining a Legacy
As 2020 draws to a close, I wanted to take a few minutes to reflect on my year. Like all of us, I had to make adjustments. My options as a blind author with Retinitis Pigmentosa didn’t distinguish me from other entrepreneurs, or others struggling through the pandemic. We all fought to stay afloat this year. As an author, I am already familiar with an online business, so I guess that was an advantage for me. I didn’t have to switch it to an online forum. But have to constantly look ahead – set goals, create action steps, follow through and then market my work. A lot of what I planned didn’t happen. Some of my goals were waylaid because of uncertainty, others because of Covid, and finally, I had to gauge how the market was impacted by the pandemic.
What Did I Accomplish?
I experimented with my genre. I wrote a short account of the diagnosis of RP, my eye condition, and subsequent life decisions. I tried out a new context – an extended comparison. I put my diagnosis in the context of baseball. Yes, baseball! Inspired by my older brother. I had mixed reviews. One reader thought I was putting sight loss into the category of a “spectator sport.” Another left a review that perhaps my metaphor was overdone. Another didn’t like the cost of my book. The majority of readers, however, were inspired. But perhaps my publication was too short. Perhaps the market was flooded with eBooks. I wanted to reach more individuals going through RP to encourage them.
I also focused on child loss, and how God provided comfort in that arena years later. It, too, was an experiment, an even shorter book. It could be read in less than an hour. The story is powerful and beautiful. Just writing it out was like being wrapped in a cozy blanket. I think reading it would feel much the same. My goal was to demonstrate how much God loves each of us, and how he provides ongoing relief in an area of grief we struggle with. He assures us that his love is never-ending and he delights in surprising us with reassurance when we least expect it. Does length matter? Does it depend on the genre? Anyway, I knew God wanted me to share that story.
Both eBooks reached No. 1 in short reads. That excited me! But what authors yearn for is consistency. After initial sales spiked, they dwindled. I started to feel as if I had somehow missed connecting with my readers. What did they want that I wasn’t giving them? First, my books had to be accessible to all. I wanted to be certain those with sight loss and those who love audio books could access them. So I made another investment. I turned to my lovely narrator and she quickly put her voice to my words. Oh, so beautiful! But to my dismay, very few sold. My confidence took a bit of a nose dive and I thought do my words really matter? Could I have misjudged the plan God created for me? The revenue I was putting out in my business was more than I brought in – for the sixth year in a row.
But creativity still flowed. I worked with my online critique group on another short story, eventually entitled “Dreams, Drama and Dolphins.” I polished it up and captured an amazing experience I had in the United Arab Emirates. It was accepted into an anthology: 40 True Inspirational Stories. That came out in November. Yay!
For Christmas, my writing coach sent me a bookmark that said, “Your writing matters” a good reminder of the power of words.
But God gave me another, even stronger testimony that my words mattered. One of my undergrad college classmates posted a photo. Her crafty daughter and son-in-law, who have a business called Etch-N-Sketch created a Christmas product, a lasered lightweight wood crafted product with Christmas words. When I came across her promotional image, Once I could see the image properly – with my sight loss, images are sometimes hard to decipher – from that point on, I absolutely loved it! The laser-cut words would be used (ideally) for a place setting. What a fabulous idea! I imagined it hanging on a wall or gracing a desk in an artist’s stand.
I ordered a dozen since there was a discount when ordering quantity. I even got to choose what color to have the words painted. At night, I lay awake choosing who to give which word to. I treated it like a puzzle, attempting to match the words together to make a proper fit with their recipient. I mentally pried these ‘puzzle pieces’ apart when they didn’t seem to fit quite right. And attempted to fit them to another. I spent hours in my mind.
The Words Arrive
I couldn’t wait for them to arrive! When they did, I fell in love with them. Just as I knew I would. Carefully unwrapping them from their bubble protection, I gazed with delight at each one. I really could have doubled or tripled my order. I had so many people to send them to! I imagined how my blind friends would feel the beauty of the curves, and my sighted friends would see their visual beauty. Both would be encouraged. I thought I had chosen where each word would go. But at the last minute, I changed the destination of one particular word:
I decided to send it to a couple at church, who inspired me. They had always been instrumental in our church and in my life, personally. Carl was an elder and Judy was his enthusiastic side-kick with childlike faith. She sang with total gusto, ran to hug people as they arrived at church, ministered to my mother when she was alive, loved dogs, pronounced my writing “cool” and bought copies as gifts, often asked me if I needed any rides, even though she and her husband lived a half hour away. Carl and Judy were the real deal. I decided to give them this word to let them know I saw their love and honored it.
I carefully wrapped my Christmas-green “joyful,” placed it in bubble wrap and scribbled a note “You are joyful in whatever you do!” and sent it off.
The next day, I saw in our church Facebook group, Carl was asking for prayers for Judy. She had some kind of breathing problem and the hospital was running tests on her. I prayed and even phoned to let him know their request had not gone by without me noticing. I wanted to let him know I was there for them as they had always been for me.
The situation quickly deteriorated. Soon, the prayer request turned to earnest prayer in “ease of transition” and Judy was not expected to live beyond that week. How I regretted sending that word. Now Carl would always associate it with her soon-to-be passing. What poor choice of word and timing! I wished I had chosen Peace, or Faith. But I had been prayerful. I worried about my ill-timing for a day or so. Chagrined that word should go to them at such a hard time, I shared my remorse with a friend. “That’s a perfect word,” she texted back. I could well imagine her intended gentleness in the response. I felt a little better.
Judy didn’t live a week. She passed away that same night. I felt bad about the word, but, of course, how could I have known? I followed a prompting to send this word to them. It had felt so right.
Last night, on our church Facebook page, I saw a later post about Judy’s passing: Judy has gone home to be with the Lord and has left one of the greatest legacies of faith I have ever known. She passed with grace and joy saying she couldn’t wait to hug Jesus!
Suddenly, I saw what God had been doing with that word and with the help of the Holy Spirit. My gift had not been ill-timed. It was perfectly timed. Carved in this unique lightweight green wood was Judy’s legacy, joyful to the end. It physically embodied the spirit she had. Evergreen. Forever life. How amazing I chose green for that word! Such amazing details! That word also embodies the joy Carl still has. Isn’t joy deeper than happiness? Joy allows for grief within it’s confines. He chose to be in the presence of and comfort of his church family that next morning, our Lord’s Day (Sunday).
Also, how significant was that word as a place setting! Isn’t God setting a place for us at his holy table to dine in glory with him? There is a song about that with many verses! It was one of Judy’s favorite songs, and Carl led it often.
God had beautifully answered my prayer to be “used” and in doing so, he reassured me that my words mattered. Even though my sales were low, and my books were not flying off she shelves, he sent me a quiet miracle. And he sends it to those observing Judy’s legacy. When my thoughts and feelings reflect his light, they make a difference. When I followed his prompting, it defined a legacy.
A Miraculous Gift
I see Judy’s life now through the lens of God’s faithfulness, acknowledgement on a higher scale.
God used me. he answered my prayer. What an incredible note to end the year on!
This has taught me not to doubt my motives, but instead, to embrace them, and to be even more open to God’s nudges. I wonder how many miracles I miss – that we miss — as we limit ourselves by seeing situations through our own short-sightedness. We need to become so familiar with the slender beam of inner light shining ahead of us that we follow it even in the dark when we can’t physically see it. Another lesson of my blindness – trusting what I know even though I can’t see it. God is always teaching me, using my sight loss to move my faith ahead.
How did your year end? What life lessons have stayed with you in 2020? Share in the comments below.
You have just read “The Power of Words: Defining a Legacy” by Amy L. Bovaird. © December 29, 2020. All rights reserved