Living a life surrendered to Christ guarantees that we will be different from others. We will talk different, think about our world uniquely and make counter-cultural decisions. How do we navigate that journey when it can often make us feel like outsiders? Read this month’s INNER VIEW with Hope Lyda as she invites us into her own process with embracing her unique talents and identity.
Hope Lyda is an author, writing coach and companion, spiritual director, and senior development editor. She’s worked in faith-based publishing for more than 25 years and has accompanied more than 120 writers through the process of finding their voices and expressing their hearts on the page.
Hope considers it an honor to help writers shape their messages with engaging structure, tone, and pace. She also companions them with spiritual insight and inquiry, so they draw from their experiences and beliefs to deepen those messages. She has authored more than 35 books (combined sales over 1.5 million copies), including the bestselling One-Minute Prayers® for Women and more than 15 other books in the One-Minute Prayers® series. Hope has penned a few novels as well as several devotionals such as What Do You Need Today? and Life as a Prayer. Her book My Unedited Writing Year—a gathering of 365 prompts—combines her passions of writing and spiritual direction to invite others to explore life, faith, and creativity.
Kathleen Cooke: What’s the one thing you’d like to share with women that God has recently taught you?
Hope Lyda: As my husband, Marc, and I walked toward the group gathered at a local picnic area, I was regretting saying yes to attending a Saturday event where I wouldn’t know anyone. We drifted from one subgroup to the next until I got in the queue for my chicken, potato salad, and can of soda. The lunch line—complete with plastic-gloved helpers—kicked in my grade-school angst. Where would I sit? Who would I talk to? I checked my watch and chastised myself for being so uptight. Had the day ended there, that would’ve been my life lesson: I am who I am no matter my age!
But God had a bigger lesson…
Marc and I sat down across from a couple. Between bites of my finger lickin’ meal, I spoke with the woman. Even before introductions, we knew we had something in common…this was an event for the blind—and we were there with our blind spouses. She is new to the journey. I’m not. But I’m far from used to it. My heart softened as I recognized her wide-eyed expression of overwhelm. I encouraged her, shared resource info, and we talked about the difficulties of caregiving for a loved one. Two hours later, we were still chatting when my husband motioned for us to go. I laughed and confessed, “I really didn’t want to come.” Her eyes lit up, “Same! I am so grateful I came and that you were here. I really needed this….you just don’t know.”
In my haze of self-focus, I had forgotten God’s wisdom: Sometimes showing up has nothing to do with us. Sometimes we show up because God wants us there for someone else.
I prayed as we left. Thank you, God. I needed this reminder. You just don’t know. But of course…he did
Kathleen: Writers have been known to be a bit odd and sometimes an outsider. When is being different OK? How did you find peace with whom God has called you to be?
Hope: When I was young, I didn’t want to be normal. Sure, I coveted the brand jeans like everyone else, but I sensed that I observed my mediocre, suburban experiences in a unique way. I believe this gave me the gumption to be the only one in my family for years to attend church. At times I may have felt a bit at sea in the sea of parents with kids attending a service, but more often, I felt special. I was right where I belonged. As a shy person and introvert, it can be difficult to express your individuality with much volume or velocity. But over the years, I’ve been able to embrace the specialness that is more internal than IG ready. My writing self, my chatting-with-God self, and the quirky way my mind makes connections feeds my sense of being set apart. (What is your personal list?)
Each person’s unique self and gifting does not arise in them when or because someone comes along to tag them as special. Each of us has already been anointed as one-of-a-kind and prepared for a unique path by our Maker. Those who do come alongside us are then a part of our growth, inspiration, and guidance.
Recently Frederick Buechner, a beloved writer, passed away. While I appreciated much of what he did, it is the treasure of one specific quote I am most grateful for: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Long before this quote was social media fodder, I came across its delightful wisdom and cried “Yes!”
Your gifting comes alive as calling when you discover how the deep gladness God placed inside of you can, in some simple or brilliant way, meet a hunger, a need, a hope in another fabulously unique being.
Kathleen: We all impact others’ lives, but what’s the one thing you’ve learned about being an influential writer?
Hope: Being a person of influence isn’t about being everyone’s darling or the most celebrated expert in a field, it is about being present to others. Wait, I’ll pull that back even more. Influence can be as humble and simple as being present to ONE person. While we are in fields where influence tends to be measured on a grander scale (platforms, followers, readers, viewers), I believe we can have that unfolding, expanding influence with many when we start by being present to one.
As a writer, of course, I hope my words reach the many, but when I am sitting down at the computer or my notebook I am first present to the page, present to spiritual leading (on a good day), and then present to one person I have in mind. I write to the one (real or imagined). When writers get into the weeds of life using details from the senses or dimensional descriptions, we are actually being present to the one reader. For example, if I describe the way a friend holds a cup of coffee with both hands and never the handle, I might not be describing how the reader holds her mug, but I bet you that reader will think about how she or another holds theirs. Being present to the small stuff is personal and universal. It is impactful and influential.
Being present to a person we are in conversation with or mentoring requires deep listening, a willingness to hold space for them even if just for ten minutes so they can express their heart and be heard and seen. If you speak in an arena, produce a movie, or write a book, the impact of your influence will be elevated when you keep in mind the one…listener, viewer, reader.