words and images: Jessica Sowards
For the majority of my life, in one way or another, I have kept a written record. It started in a sparkly, Lisa Frank diary with a small, golden lock. It matured into multiple Rubbermaid containers underneath my king-sized bed, packed with composition books and Moleskines filled front to back with my handwriting.
In these journals, I record memories and milestones. I take notes of sermons and seminars. I write out my prayers, pages and pages of letters to God. I remember promises He has spoken to me. I keep my dreams there. I capture fleeting ideas and line out revelations. On these pages, I celebrate words. Oh, I love words. They are so often my medicine.
I tell you this so you can understand, every line in those journals was written for me. See, I was always the kind of girl who wrote for no one else to read, and I was never the kind of girl who yearned for a stage. If I’d found that the privacy of my written world had been breached, if I found that someone had picked up my journal and dove headlong into my heart, I would bar the gates. I’d shut down. I’d stop writing until I could recover from the assault, until I could feel safe again in my secrets.
In the realm of just-for-me, I stretched my legs and learned to play in language. I waxed poetic with no apology, rode the waves of everyday romance, and spilled out my bleeding heart with zero fear that it might stain someone’s carpet.
Then, somewhere along the way, I felt that coaxing of a comforting God who said, “Come on out here and shine,” and then in what felt like an instant, the private escape of writing turned into a stage, and it was no longer just mine. In some unexplainable way, I always knew it would end up like that. When I was a girl, I’d write stories and imagine someday signing glossy-covered paperbacks. I just always assumed when it came time to share, it would be a controlled thing.
I thought surely I would feed an adoring audience stories with made-up names, carefully devised plot twists, and happily-ever-afters. I imagined they would be nice and neat, they would be wildly celebrated and they would cost me little in the way of vulnerability. God has never been so easy on me. He is good, no doubt, but in my experience, obedience to Him costs everything, or it isn’t obedience at all.
No, He didn’t call me onto a stage to read a script. I think I might have been comfortable in fiction. I think I could have hidden my brokenness in the name of calling it a make-believe story. But He didn’t call me into make-believe. Instead, He called me into the hearts of strangers so that I might bleed on their carpet. There He told me to talk about my divorce, my fear, my failure. To talk about my struggles, my weak faith and my easily defeated mind. He told me to talk about loss and laziness and how utterly often I beg Him just to let me give up. He told me to speak to the masses as if I were confiding in a just-for-me journal, and He promised me He would be my refuge in the midst of it.
When I first heard His voice beckoning me to life-out-loud, my life was very different than it is now. My days were spent in a suburban home, staying at home with my sons. I was a student and a small business owner, working weekends as a photographer. The journal collection under my bed wasn’t quite as expansive as it is now, and it was stacked next to the piles of homesteading books I’d accumulated through a decade of desiring a farm. The life I live now, homeschooling my sons on our little homestead and traveling the world for ministry, was far beyond what I even dared to dream back then. But I did dream. And I did talk to God.
One particular conversation took place after I read a book about purpose. I became obsessed with purpose and calling, and I began to fervently pray that God might make mine clear and then equip me to walk it out. I’ll never forget what He impressed upon my heart. He spoke in that quiet whisper that comes as an unexplained knowing, and He said simply, “Always live in a glass house.” If I’m being honest, I didn’t know exactly what that meant.
I couldn’t have fathomed then what God had in store for our family. I never imagined a growing YouTube channel and an Instagram with followers in the thousands. I would never have guessed I would one day share my heart in Do South® monthly and wake up daily to an inbox full of messages from strangers with testimonies of being touched by my candid and honest account of life and walking with Jesus.
Life these days has indeed surpassed my greatest expectations, but it isn’t always easy to allow the world to look through the glass walls. When I think of the many mistakes we’ve made, I sometimes wrestle with seeing our life as the lovely, grace-washed thing it is. More so than shame, I wrestle with that lie that it doesn’t make a difference.
The incredible thing is though, it does. It makes a difference. I have just had to come to the realization that the stories of my life, the honest truths, the struggles and the victories, they matter. Maybe they don’t matter to everyone, but when I am faithful to share them, they always matter to someone.
I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we all lived in glass houses. During seasons like this one, when the holiday hustle has a way of sweeping humanity into a frenzy, and many people feel lost in the current of it all, what if we shared our bleeding hearts? What if we shared what deeply touches us, what moves us, and what still hurts? What if we engaged in the beauty of this season and asked God to take us on an honest journey through our own mind, just to see what could be found there?
I think, just maybe, a world full of glass houses would be a beautiful place to be.
Follow Jessica @thehodgepodgedarling.blogspot.com.