My five year old hands lovingly stapled construction paper together, then drew pictures and wrote the story out on each page in crayon. I proudly printed the title and my name on the front cover, then brought it to my mom.
She took it in her hands and read out loud, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears, by Michele Linihan.” I waited expectantly as she turned the pages of my precious book. Finally she set it down and said, “This is very nice work, but it isn’t yours. You can’t write someone else’s story. You have to write your own story.”
When I was nine, I sent my own stories to Random House Publishers. (I received a very kind, encouraging rejection letter.) I wrote songs that became instruments of torture to my family (not my intention). By my teens I wrote VERY introspective poetry, sometimes with God at the center, but mostly – all about me.
In college, I learned to have a quiet time and to journal—my songs and poems became more God-focused. But even when they were about God, they were still about me.
I daydreamed. I pictured myself on stage, singing the final song* of my concert. Everyone would be weeping.
I loved writing.
But I had had other daydreams. When I was eleven, I would mow the lawn and make up stories about serving God in Russia. I tried to forget those “childish” dreams—but God did not forget.
One spring I told my mom I had committed to go to Russia for the summer. I added, “Going to Russia will give me new songs to write.”
I held out hope that this would be a short-term thing (although deep down I knew) and I would return to be a songwriter in the order of Michael Card or Rich Mullins, delving into the deep things of God and touching people’s souls…all in a mysterious way.
I went to Russia. The “two month” trip became years.
I didn’t write new songs.
I did learn a new language and a new culture. Russia in the 90s was a tough place to be. Their system had collapsed, their old way of life gone – a time of chaos, lines for milk and bread, loss of hope.
“We were in over our heads, but You kept us afloat somehow … difficult economically … people were so hungry and broken, and if You were their bread, then we were a few small fish. Few, small, but also in the basket, torn into pieces, somehow multiplied for the multitudes. (Mark 6:38,41; 8:6-7)
“I learned what it meant to offer You, the bread of life, to the hungry crowd and our own selves as well…” (1 Thess. 2:8)
I developed deep lifelong relationships.
But besides journaling my life with God, I wrote nothing. I had so much to say, so much to share, but no words could adequately express everything in my heart and even if they could have I was too tired to try.
The dream of writing songs died. I mourned it sometimes, but I didn’t hang on to it.
We adopted two toddlers—another childhood dream that God did not forget. I had even more story to tell, and even less time and emotional capacity for telling it.
When the kids were four, I noticed poetry and songs were gradually creeping in to my journals. Then they seemed to burst forth like a brook once clogged but now cleared of debris and running free with new purpose—making new courses for itself.
God had not forgotten that dream either.
What I said to my mom has proved to be true. But at first it looked like one of the most foolish things I’ve ever said. And in a way, it was, until I dug through to the deeper meaning—meaning that I didn’t mean—couldn’t have meant at the time.
I don’t dream about concerts, but write (offer) my songs and poems to God the way I brought my story to my mom. Usually they are just between Him and Me.
God kept the artistic part of my heart alive
by first killing it.
How has your art changed over the years? Where have you had to lay it down? In what ways has God used your art to refine you?