“So, honey, when are you going to start writing again?” my husband asked me one morning this past March.
“Never,” I replied. “I am done writing. That season of my life is over.”
“I am going to pray my Rosary,” he said, before disappearing to his favorite chair.
My writing, or more precisely my “not writing,” had become a painful subject which I avoided as much as possible.
I was 10 and in the fifth grade at Sacred Heart School in Colby, Kansas, when Sister Verda said, “Mary, you are a writer.” She informed me there was a Diocesan writing contest for fifth and sixth graders, and she believed I could write an essay for submission about my Catholic faith and what it meant to me. She led me to an empty classroom where I sat at a desk. “Now just sit here and write where it’s quiet. You can do this, Mary!”
Weeks later, Sister called me to the front of the class where she handed me a blue ribbon. My essay received first place for fifth graders. From that point on, I was a writer.
Fast forward and I am 65, newly retired with goals to start attending daily mass, finish a historical fiction book I had started years earlier, and maybe write a blog. Retirement would be an exciting new season of life, I told myself and if Laura Ingalls Wilder could write her Little House on the Prairie books after she retired from teaching, I could finish my book.
Nine months into my retirement, the world shut down with COVID-19. Daily news brought fear. I tried to write but could not, even journaling felt impossible. We wore masks, stocked up the pantry, and isolated at home. Schools and churches closed; we watched mass on our computer.
A different energy emerged once the pandemic ended, with daily news and social media filled with negativity, confusion, and hate. Even Laura Ingalls Wilder was censored as an author, and her awards removed.
The Prayer of Saint Francis has guided my writing over the years,
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon…”
but I was afraid and writing to seek peace or sow love felt like sticking my neck out only to get it chopped off.
A month later, I attended the annual Montana Catholic Women’s Conference. I listened to the speakers and at one point I heard, DO NOT BE AFRAID. I sobbed openly, convicted by the Holy Spirit. Ok, Lord, I hear you and I surrender my writing to you. But I don’t even know how to start writing again, or if I can write anymore or what to do with it when it’s done. Jesus, I trust in you, Please take care of everything.
I came home from the conference elated but starting to doubt that I could even write anymore when I saw a clipping I had saved and posted to my office bulletin board,
“I kept it stored away…for I was afraid… (Luke 19: 20-21).
Yes, I was still afraid but I would surrender it.
My friend Velma hosts a weekly prayer group in her home, which I attend. Her good friend, Mary Jane Fox from Pilgrim Center of Hope in San Antonio, Texas, spoke at our local Catholic Women’s Conference, and would be at the prayer group. I somehow knew that I needed to meet Mary Jane.
After our prayer time, I shared how I received a message of hope at the conference. I was told to let go of my fear of rejection and start writing again. Mary Jane explained how Pilgrim Center of Hope has a weekly blog, and invited me to write. You are now reading my first submission.
One is never too old, and it is never too late to begin again. Take it one day at a time. This submission is a leap of faith for me, and I want to encourage you to listen to your heart and follow your dreams in whatever season of life you find yourself. I challenge you to step out in faith; bury your fear and not your gift, to be an instrument of goodness in the lives of others. In addition to the Prayer of Saint Francis, I find encouragement in a quote I keep posted beside my computer:
“Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustration, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” – Pope John XXIII
Mary Bell is a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. This October, she and her husband will be married for 50 years. Both are parishioners at Sts. Cyril and Methodius in East Helena, Montana, where they volunteer. Mary is a retired marketing coordinator and technical/proposal writer. During her career, she wrote articles for various professional trade publications. She also has experience as a past photo editor and a staff writer at Montana Magazine/American and World Geographic Publishing. As a volunteer, she writes on occasion for her diocesan newsletter, and as a freelance writer.
Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.