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Losing My Voice and the Festival of Faith and Writing

I lost my voice on Sunday. It happens often. Every few months, usually prompted by some combination of a cold (or, as in this case, allergies) and a speaking engagement. I've only had to cancel once, but I've coughed my way through some other sessions. But I've never had a situation quite like this one–where I have been invited to speak at a conference (the Festival of Faith and Writing) that I would have gladly attended even without the invitation, and where I'm supposed to speak five different times over the course of 24 hours.

In the midst of the past three days of voicelessness, I've wondered if there's a larger spiritual point I'm missing. Is my laryngitis a sign of stress, an indication that I'm doing too much, that I should have said no to this opportunity? Is it a sign of spiritual attack, an attempt to thwart me from the work God wants me to be doing? Is it a simple physical reality, to be combatted with lots of hot tea, cough drops, and rest? Well, certainly tea, cough drops and rest have been part of the solution, but I also asked a friend whether I should be reading something more spiritual into this predicament. She wrote back, "ha! only that He is your voice." 

She wrote it as if of course I had already thought of that simple connection. But I hadn't. And I very much needed to remember it. God is my voice. I have the privilege of conveying through words things that God has done in this world, in my life, in our family. My prayer, of course, is that I can communicate those things without coughing fits or cancelations in the days ahead. (And for those of you who pray–please feel free to join me in that prayer!)

I'm looking forward to what these days should hold–meeting many of my fellow her.meneutics writers in person as well as many fellow members of the Redbud Writer's Guild. I'm also thrilled that I get to join Jennifer Grant and Margot Starbuck (read her recent post on why she's opposed, as a moderately conservative Christian, to the North Carolina marriage amendment) on a panel about writing memoirs and offering a solo presentation about A Good and Perfect Gift and "Rethinking Perfection." I'm excited to meet a few editors, to connect with some of the staff from Bethany Books, and to have dinner with my agent to discuss the next (and maybe the next two?) book/s.

But I am disappointed because all this speaking and hanging out means I'm going to miss out on listening to some amazing people. My favorite times at the Festival in the past have included hearing Mary Karr, Kathleen Norris, Eugene Peterson, Sarah Miles, John Wilson, Alan Jacobs... The list could go on. I'm certainly going to make it to Marilynne Robinson this year, although it looks like I'll miss out on Judith Shulevitz, Jonathan Saffron Foer, Carey Wallace, Ann Voskamp, and a list of other luminaries. I wish I could skip my own sessions and pop in on theirs! I mention them all here because they are great writers. For those of you who love to read and who are interested in matters of faith, here's the Festival's Recommended Reading.

So here I am, holed up in my hotel room, awaiting an answer to prayer, with hopes that I will be able to speak tomorrow and Friday with a renewed understanding of what it means to depend upon God. It's the same stuff I write (and speak!) about all the time–that I am limited, needy, vulnerable, and dependent. And that these limitations are gifts because they demonstrate my need for other people and for God, they lead me to relate to others and to God, they prompt me to receive the gifts of prayer and healing and encouragement and grace. So please pray for me, that I would be able to speak boldly of God's grace and truth in the days ahead, and that I would continue to understand who I am as but one member of the Body of Christ.

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