I am a Speaker

I never knew I was a writer. Until a newspaper editor put “Michelle Gunnin is a writer.” in my byline for an article I wrote, I had no idea. I put ideas on paper, but in my mind, that didn’t make me a real writer (whatever a real writer looks like). It was just thoughts. Kind of like my journal, only for other people to read. However, once I read the byline in which a professional called me a writer, I began to think of myself differently. My insecurity faded some and I began to put more of my “thoughts” out into the world. I found they resonated with people and I was regularly told I wrote how others felt but couldn’t figure out how to put into words.

Now, many years later, I am an author. I realize that if I hadn’t changed the way I thought about my writing, Words to the Weary would have never been written. Somehow, I managed the courage to take a step to write and publish a book. It was not easy…kind of like being in labor for a year and a half…but the message was that important. I am amazed at where the book has gone, and how many people contact me about how meaningful it has been in their lives. I regularly think, what if I had never had the bravery to write it? What if I had never seen myself as a writer? How many of these people would be walking through hard things while feeling all alone? It is humbling really, to know that something I wrote has impacted others in deep ways.

Last weekend, I was asked to speak about the book at Lanier Village Estates where Mom and Dad live. Dad has given the book to many people there. One of them, his friend Jimmy, has distributed over 200 books to everyone he knows! The chaplain got a copy and called me to ask if I could do the sermon at the chapel service last Sunday. I was touched and agreed to do it, but with the understanding, ‘I am a writer, not a speaker.’ I am always taken aback when people want me to speak. I get nervous and nauseous. Writing is something I do on my own, in the quiet. While I write for an audience of readers, it is a solitary activity. (My dogs are snoring nearby at the moment I am typing this.) Crafting words together in solitude is a very different skill set than standing in front of an audience with a microphone. Yet, I am repeatedly asked to speak. And I repeatedly offer the disclaimer that I am a writer not a speaker.

Duke, the chaplain, told me he had to open the walls and enlarge the room because so many people were expected to come. Jimmy introduced me, shared how my book had affected his life, and asked those in attendance, who had a copy of my book. Almost every person raised their hand. I was humbled by that and honored these wonderful people, who have lived so much of life, would take the time to read my book and come to hear what I had to say.  

I stood in the pulpit on Sunday to speak, which for me amounts to reading something I have written for the occasion. A week ahead of time, I had one thing planned but then changed my plan. I looked out at aged faces. Expectant faces. Looking and listening for my voice. In my head I was hearing, ‘I am a writer, not a speaker.’ Yet, I was moved by the Holy Spirit and felt honored to speak in that moment. I took a deep breath and a gulp, and opened my mouth to speak the words on my page, hoping that what I had to say would not offend, but encourage and lift up.

Peace came once I started. I was able to share what I had come to say. Afterwards, I heard stories. Hard stories of loss and pain. Tears pooled in their eyes and in mine. Many shared their hearts with me. The passing of a spouse. The terminal diagnosis of a daughter. The hardship of being alone. Again, I was taken with the difficulties of the season of life of those in attendance. It was hard to hear, but it drove home why Words to the Weary was so accepted and celebrated by them.

Once again, I determined I needed to change my internal dialogue from “I am a writer, not a speaker.” To “I am a writer AND a speaker.” Once again, my own view of myself is different from reality. And it limits me to walk in my view of myself, rather than God’s view. Having the courage to step into a pulpit is something I never thought I would do, but I did it and lived to tell the tale! A true miracle!

In addition, Dad brought Mom to hear me. It was so sweet and comforting to have them both there to support me. He said he reminded her over and over that I was her daughter. I saw her while I was speaking, looking at my picture on her program. She was rubbing her fingers over it. I know she didn’t understand who I was or what I was saying, but I know she would be proud if she could have. And somewhere deep inside I think she was, even though she didn’t know who I was.

Dad said, “Michelle did good, didn’t she?” And Mom said, “Good, good, good.”  

So now, I am a writer AND a speaker.

Here are the words I spoke, if you have a minute.

For today, I was going to read today’s entry in the book and then talk about it, but then…I did the same as every day of my writing. I sat and asked the Lord what does he want to say for you for this day, in this moment and this is what I heard…It is not weak to be weak.

I have had the privilege of walking my aunt, and both my in-laws to heaven’s gate. I have discovered that aging is not for the faint of heart. Failing bodies and loss of relationships are brutal daily realities and it seems, never-ending. But you already know this.

Isaiah 40:29 says He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. You know…God draws near to the brokenhearted, it is his way. Your vulnerability at this stage of life opens you up to him in ways you might not have experienced before. Leaning on him is a beautiful by product of pain and loss. Nothing brings you to bow at his feet, like facing down forever. Time is short…nobody knows this like you do.

And yet this is not sad news…life is still bubbling up. You are still living breathing image bearers of God. Maybe you have never thought of it that way, but it’s true. You bear God’s image. You represent him to the world around you. You demonstrate that it’s not weak to be weak. In fact, the weaker you become, the more he shines out. The harder things are, the more he comforts your heart. The body may be giving out, but the spirit is getting stronger. More centered. Deeper. Even in the scary and unknown future, you are rising up internally. More like him…but still in your skin.

His words to you today?  Do not despise the journey. It is not stress-free. In fact, it is the opposite, more pressure than ever before. A different kind. The very real decline and all that comes with it. It would be so easy to give up and to complain, but there is little time for that.

He says…My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, claim all the more gladly your weakness so Christ’s power may rest on you. That is why for Christ’s sake, you delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when you are weak, then you are strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

The point is, you have a light to shine. Wherever you go, your light can be bright in the darkness. Your wisdom is needed! Your smile, is life to those around you. Your hugs, are the comfort of God in bodily form. Your kind words, a healing balm. You are a gift, given to your family, your friends, the world. There is only one of you. Despite the hard season in which you live, you have a voice, a countenance, to share with those who will take the time.

Not everyone will…take the time. Some will fall by the wayside. Others will check the obligatory box. But there will be some, who see what you have to offer. They will incline their ears to hear. They will take the time to see. Those who gather will see God in you. They will see his hands when you hold theirs. They will see his face when you laugh with them. This is not pressure to heal the whole world, but just to be a part of God’s healing process in your own world.

You are here for such a time as this. You are passing the baton, but it means that even in weakness you have to keep holding it out to those who come after. The pass off has to be precision. The ones who understand will reach for it. They will come along beside, take the baton, and sprint past you. It is what you were created to do…pass the baton and watch them run with it. Without you there would be no passing from generation to generation. And we need what you carry, so we can pass it on to our own kids. We are all in need of what you have.

As a senior, what do you have to offer you ask? Wisdom. Life experience. Love. Compassion. Understanding. Laughter. Insight. Stories. Perspective. History. Restoration. Maybe you don’t realize it, but you still have so much life to share. In the midst of loss and decline, you are a beacon of hope. God is with you. Beside you in the painful places in which you walk, but he also is in the light you carry. He opens eyes and ears to see and hear what you have to say.

If you have always had some control over your life, it will be hard to hear that weakness is strength. I get it, I really do. But in Cancerland, I learned about physical weakness…and his strength. At that time, my life’s motto became to live fully. Live every day in fullness, because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. So, in closing, I encourage you to open your hands and hearts to share all that you have been given with the rest of us. We need it, but more importantly, God wants you not to give up, but to share it fully.

11 thoughts on “I am a Speaker

  1. Yes, Michelle, you are definitely a writer and definitely a speaker and, most definitely, a preacher. All of your words and thoughts …very spiritual, very meaningful, very beautiful. Thank you!

    • Sometimes people don’t want their name posted, but they don’t know I have no way of knowing who it is. Thanks for letting me know it was you!
      And I am not sure I am ready to say I am a preacher yet…one thing at a time. 🙂

  2. Michelle,
    I especially needed your words today. I am feeling very weak in being able to help my love one. But I do know God is walking beside me in this battle.
    Thank you, 🙏

  3. You have, for a loooong time, seemed to me to be a GOOD writer and a GOOD speaker! Usually the talent carries over from one medium to another!

  4. Michelle, thank you for sharing your words. You have a beautiful gift. I will never forget your thoughts about Jimmy at his memorial service. I am blessed to have you & your family in my life.

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