Being Authentically Me

It’s that time of year, where it almost seems mandatory to send out a “Hey! Yes, we’re still alive and look what we’re doing/what’s been going on!” update, photo card, or blog post. 

Being single, I didn’t want to send out a picture card with just myface on it, so I got to thinking and decided to use pictures of some things I am involved with here in the interior of Brazil. 

I put together a simple collage, included a couple photos and wrote a short, yet heartfelt and sincere note. I saved the card on my phone, ready to send, but something didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel finished. What was it? What was bothering me so? 

The pictures were real and not staged or coerced, the note was from my heart, but the card was missing something. It felt forced. I felt like I was trying to prove something. Look! I am doing what you, the Church (with a capital C) has sent me to do! You can keep supporting me! The pictures said one thing, which was true, but I knew the story behind the pictures—a story that said so much more, going beyond what a person might initially think. 

The picture of me with the kids in our discipleship/small group? That group took months to get started (or restarted) because I kept putting it off, yet had conviction to do even though there was only one month of the year left. 

The picture of me leading worship at our local church? Yes, the picture showed us worshipping, but it didn’t tell how my mic didn’t work that night. I was tired, frustrated, and distracted; my voice literally failed and God told me to step back and let go of control.  

These stories just don’t fitinto a cute card that reads, “Thank you for being a part of my year and my life. I appreciate you!” A card that simply was not authentically me because I could not express so much in so little of a space. A card that wasn’t authentically me because I felt as if I was going against one of my own values: communicating with integrity. I felt the photos I used could be interpreted in a way that wasn’t congruent with the reality of the moment. 

I know I am not the only one who struggles with thoughts of how authentic, how real, and how genuine to be when writing newsletters and updates for supporters. How do I truthfully express and relay what’s going on – the “story behind the picture” – and yet at the same time use discernment to know how much is too much, all while being true to myself and my convictions (which include being open, vulnerable, honest, and genuine)?

Some things simply can’t be told in a limited amount of space.

I began to rethink my card. What if I were to put a picture of what really matters most to me? What matters most, to me, is my family. My family that is miles away. My family that managed to still take a “Christmas family picture” by calling me over video chat and including the cell phone with my image in the family photo. A picture of my family says nothing about what the Church has sent me to do in South America. 

But it says everything about the person the Church has sent. 

And Iam so much more than what I do. 

I can authentically share this part of myself with my partners while still honoring the responsibility I have in being accountable to those who have sent me. 

My original card has been put aside and, as I write these words, I have less than 24 hours to make a new one that can be sent out before we enter into the new year. I’ve got a few ideas, nothing too solid, but I know for sure the final product will be from the heart and will authentically express who I am. 

How do you go about writing newsletters and updates? How do you remain authentic and true to yourself in writing? When is “ministry life” differentiated from “personal life” and is it? How do you balance the two (or one, depending on your point of view)? 

Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash

2 Comments

  1. Ashley Felder February 5, 2019

    I struggle with this, too. It’s a tough balance! Especially since I’m prone to be more open than my husband when sharing. Because I know not everyone on our newsletter list will even understand (or read) exactly all we’re going through, I typically don’t include much of it. I save it for those heart friends who DO understand.But I will include a heartfelt struggle every now and then. It reminds them that we’re real, broken people, too. Being on furlough for the past 6 months, I’m realizing that fewer people truly want to or can understand our overseas life. But finding those few to open up completely with is worth it! I’ve found that those who understand best are the ones who have spent time overseas themselves. They understand the longing to be in both worlds, the desire to put on a front, and the stress we go through that we don’t usually talk about. Hope you have some dear friends like that!

  2. Bonita March 1, 2019

    So hard. I am not a big card person, so we did not do any particularly Christmas or end of the year thing. In Canada there are SO many charities looking for end of the year donations that I just have no desire to compete.
    My Mom says I should share how difficult life is but I know that few people understand and have space in their hearts to understand. Such a challenge! I am also more open than my husband so that is a challenge as well. I prefer to be very “real” but also feel the pressure to “produce”.
    Good on you for trying to be more authentically you!

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