lighted we are all made of stories red neon wall signage inside room

I’ve been writing all my life: letters home from boarding school. The endless stream of academic papers for high school and college. In Brazil, magazine articles, monthly prayer letters for our supporters, three books published in Portuguese.

Then came our daughter Karis’s prayer blog, through her long years of illness before God took her Home. And a bittersweet three years trying to express what God did through her life. My first attempt to do this occupied 3200 pages! Paring down to the final version—the 230 pages of Karis, All I See Is Grace—was one of the most agonizing challenges I’ve ever undertaken.

All that—yet had you asked me, I would not have said “I am a writer.” I have only begun to think in those terms, much less to think of myself as an artist, worthy of participating with “real” artists in shared creative endeavors.

When Elise Massa invited me to a United Adoration retreat, my first thought was, “How did my name make it onto her list? I’m not an artist.” Reading through the Portuguese translation of All I See Is Grace had taken me back into deep waters emotionally, and I couldn’t imagine having anything to contribute.

In the next couple of weeks, though, I completed the first draft of my first novel, Horse Thief 1898. And then Elise called me. “Don’t you want to come to the retreat?” Want to—yes! But did I belong there, among truly creative people? Mysteriously, Elise thought I did.

And God used the retreat to heal something inside me. He untangled some long-snared strands of old longing to be used by God creatively. About my novel, he whispered, “I’m the one who gave you that beautiful story. Not for you, but for my people. Take your focus off yourself and turn to Me.”

Interestingly, when Elise told me the Scripture for this retreat was Psalms Book Five, what stood out to me before the retreat was the word Promise. Fifteen times in Psalm 119 alone, the psalmist affirms God’s faithfulness to his promises. Then the first thing we did at the retreat was sing “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” I’ve sung that wonderful hymn countless times, but this time, the second stanza stood out to me: Join with all nature in manifold witness to Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love. “That’s me!” came the startling thought. “My writing is part of the manifold witness!”

I left the retreat energized, encouraged, delighted to do my part—for as long as God keeps whispering to me his beautiful stories.

Debra Kornfield is a writer in Pennsylvania. She wrote the book, All I See is Grace and writer for her blog, “But God.” She recently attended a retreat with UA leader Elise Massa.

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