I Belong in this World–and I am Angry

I don’t know what to expect.

But I pack a new lunch bag with seven-grain rolls, cheese, snow peas, carrots, and blueberries. I toss in a dark chocolate bar and a packet of tea bags. I fill a new stainless container of water.

I pack a suitcase, stuff pencils and notebooks and gum in a small backpack.

I leave my world behind and turn the Journey west. Toward the Festival of Faith & Writing 2012 at Calvin College.

Toward a different world filled with people who love words. Who love the Word.

I’ll be gone for three days.

I weave my way across the campus and make so many wrong turns as I look for the various buildings and rooms that house the sessions I’ve chosen. I take time along the way to appreciate skinny squirrels and multitudes of tulips. I gaze up at flowering trees and gasp at a dogwood.


In spite of detours, I find my way to places I’m supposed to be.

And I know deep that I belong in this world.

I leave my lunch box in the car. I’m more hungry for words. For the Word.

“Behold!” says Luci Shaw. “See deeper than with just your eye!.”

“The writer must pay attention to the world,” says Gary Schmidt.  “We are all wounded and battered,” he comments. And “anything worth saying is unsayable. That’s why we tell stories.”

It’s why Jesus told stories.

I attend a session on Cultivating Curiosity led by Amy Frykholm and Juditt Shulevitz.

“The most uncomfortable things are the things you have to write about,” they say. “Go to the thing that hurts.”

It’s a theme I hear over and over.

Write from where it hurts. Rip open the scars. They are our eyes.

And write true and slant.

“Purpose to slow down and really see,” says Ann Voskamp. “See what others don’t.” “To move a soul, you have to go to the place that brought you to your knees.” “Poetry comes from pain. Suffering gives you sight.”

I pretty much fall apart in her session between trying to control a cough, and with tears streaming as her grace-steeped words seep into my heart.

I wonder again how my wee words can make a difference, and The Capella, Calvin’s concert choir, sings Esenvalds’ A Drop in the Ocean with the last lines paraphrased from Mother Teresa.

My work is nothing but a drop in the ocean, but if I did not put that drop, the ocean would be one drop the less.

And I know deep that I belong in this world.

I learn about voice and lament and how to care for words and listen to poetry readings.

Clare Vanderpool talks about The Transformative Power of Story. “In the beginning was the Word,” she says. “And it exploded into story.”

I attend Charity and Ann’s Festival Circle(s) on Writing in Community, and we talk about what writing in community looks like and its value.

I gather with other friends of The High Calling, and we hug and share and laugh.


And I’m grateful that we’ve all become a small part of each others’ stories.

Photo by Pat Spreng

Late Saturday afternoon, I turn the Journey towards home.

My head and heart are full.

My soul burns with a renewed passion.

And I realize that . . .




Angry that I must return to a world that’s often chaotic.

Angry that I have not put first things first.

Angry that I have “wasted” so many years.

Angry that I have not nurtured my gift well.

Angry that I have not used my gift well.

Angry that I’ve sped through life and not paid “ferocious attention.” (Brian Doyle)

I press the accelerator and fly past my exit. If I hurry I might catch part of the grand girl’s indoor soccer game.

Lillee’s dressed in a soft pink fleece, her hair parted in two bouncy ponies. She raises her arms.

My husband hugs me and welcomes me home.

At the end of her game, Grace grabs me from behind and squeezes hard and long.

I know deep that I belong in this world.

And that in spite of detours, I am and will end up where I’m supposed to be.

Counting the Gifts

Not-yet-friends who open their home to an unknown.

Coffee ready when I rise. (Thanks, Pat.)

Late-night girl talks.


Friends who love words.

The Word.

Friends who love the Word.

Laughter and tears.

The blood-stained cross in a dogwood.

The world.

Sunshine and rain.


My world.

On In Around button







  1. Stacey says

    Oh how I needed to read these words today! I was just popping in from Ann’s to rejoice in your gift counting and here I have been fed.

    Thank you for sharing your amazing time at your writing conference!

    And coffee ready in the AM, well now, that is jus a sweet love language of mine, too!


  2. says

    I am weeping with you Sandy and rejoicing with you. Yes – this is what He has been whispering to me in recent days. He will get us to where we’re supposed to be. Nothing is wasted in His economy. All of the things we look back on with regret He will use in some way.
    Oh – I wish I could have been there with you. It is so sweet to be able to step out of our own worlds into that world of words and friends who love words for just a little while. It nurtures.
    Love to you sweet friend.
    Linda recently posted..Rivers in the Desert

    • Sandra says

      “Nothing is wasted in His economy.” That truth came through, too, Linda. He uses everything. Everything. And His timing is perfect. I would so loved to have shared this time with you. Love coming back.

  3. says

    Hi Sandy,
    I was there too and feel full like I need to pull out the contents of a big heavy picnic and savor them one at a time.

    I was the one weeping in the tenth row. God fell during Ann’s talk and I was underneath. If a revival could start at a calvinist school at a writer’s convention, that’s what it would look like.

    Thanks for helping me relive it!

    • Sandra says

      Hi Summer. God fell. That had to be it. Ann asked what touched me so, and I couldn’t put a finger on it. And yes. A grand picnic. So much to savor.

  4. says

    Sandy, so glad for the filling up you had. It sounds like it was beyond wonderful and I may have to check that one out next year. So much to choose from for this newbie, don’t know where to start. And I have those same feelings, of being angry about the passage of time and then the realization that none of it is wasted in His hands. thanks for this friend.
    Shelly Miller recently posted..When Life Hands You a Popsicle

    • Sandra says

      Really wonderful, Shelly. And so many sessions to choose from. Note that it’s a festival of faith and writing–not just the Christian faith and writing–though most of the sessions I attended were very Christian. And so literary and creative. It’s only held every other year, so be thinking about 2014. They told us in the newbies session that Annie Dillard spoke at the very first conference. How great would that have been?

  5. says

    “I know deep… that in spite of detours, I am and will end up where I’m supposed to be.” Yes. This is the assurance I seem to need repeatedly. Why should I agonize over this so much? He will direct my paths. He says so!
    Sylvia R. recently posted..Showers of Blessings

  6. says

    I see so much, and want to do so much, including writing that I’ve done off and on for 40 years, but the most important part…even though writing has been very important to me … I need to see people, touch hearts, plant “seed”, give hugs and blessings. Focus on HIM, not “them” [and then focus on them when He tells me to do so]… we live in such a complicated world. Much of what we face as decision-makers wouldn’t have been possible 50 years ago and now it’s overwhelming. We have walked through MUCH!

    So happy you saw and enjoyed so many who have your loving heart. Glad you returned home to your dear ones safely.
    Joanne Norton recently posted..SNAKY THINKIN’

    • Sandra says

      Oh, yes, CaryJo. Our focus first and foremost needs to be on Him over and above all. Thanks for that reminder.

  7. says

    This is thrilling to read your words today, Sandy. I’m so glad you had a great weekend. I always think it’s so hard to sort it all out and make sense of weekends like these after I get home. But you’ve done such a splendid job here. Thank you for all the meaningful quotes.

    Lovin’ that picture of the THC gang!
    Jennifer@GDWJ recently posted..The Best Way to Destroy a Story

    • Sandra says

      Thanks, friend, buy I only scratched the surface. Only the surface.

      I think this is close enough that you should consider coming next time…

  8. says

    You were at the right place, at the right time, with the right people ;)…and you returned to the right place, at the right time, with the right people.

    Write real, from what God is showing you as you *see*, and you will continue to write from the right place, at the right time, with the right words, for the right people.

    I’m privileged to be one of those people.

    Thank you for writing. Thank you for laughing and sharing and *seeing.*
    Ann Kroeker recently posted..Food on Fridays: Healthy Muesli

  9. says

    After special times such as your gathering I’ve clung so hard to the memories of what I left there, wanting to stay immersed in all that I had experienced … full of regret that my ordinary life didn’t contain the euphoria I had to leave behind. But then I remember that even Moses went up to Mt. Sinai, had a personal encounter with God, and still had to return to his people and cope with their sinfulness. These mountaintop experiences infuse us with similar personal encounters and prepare us to return to the everyday.

    And I doubt you’ve “wasted so many years”, Sandy, because I know God’s unique timing. I suspect those years have been vital to your growth and bringing you to where you are today … able to “see” much better than you ever would have before.
    Carol J. Garvin recently posted..Adapting, or letting our writing dreams die

    • says

      I was interrupted while writing the above comment, and after posting was delighted to see how God’s timing works … Ann said basically the same thing I was saying, and at the same time. :)

  10. says

    I just spent a week in Northern Ireland, and I heard the word “wee” a lot. Over there, they don’t just use it to mean “small.” It’s a term of endearment, of caring. So I might say, “Sandy is my wee friend,” and it would have nothing to do with your stature, just with how much you mean to me. Which you do. And you have the heart of a giant.
    Megan Willome recently posted..for Deidra

  11. says

    What courage. Thank you for sharing the wisdom you learned at the conference, and how it impacted you later. It is something I will carry with me. I’m so glad you passed your exit and went to the game!
    Courtney recently posted..Wisdom and Actions

    • Sandra says

      Well, I only caught about the last 10 minutes. But then my husband and I went out for dinner. :)

      Thanks for dropping in, Courtney.

  12. says

    This makes me smile for so many reasons. Re-entry is always hard, isn’t it? So.very.thankful for you Sandy. Your friendship, your laughter, your listening ear and your tender heart. Love how you spoke truth into me and my fears of self promotion. I don’t think “wasted” is a word I would ever use about your talents or your days. I’d make coffee for you any day. =)

    • Sandra says

      I’ll share coffee or tea with you any day! Even a glass of orange juice. And next time, I’ll make sure to register you. 😉

      Grateful for you!

    • Sandra says

      Are you a Michigan or Midwest girl, Debbie? It would be so great to meet you there. The conference is only held every other year, though, so mark down 2014 now. I can’t believe this is the first time I’ve gone. It’s only an hour plus away.

  13. says

    And I’m a wee bit angry at myself for not joining all y’all at the conference. Sounds like an amazing, amazing experience. And, I agree, Jesus wastes nothing. He’s given you exactly the experiences He wants you to draw from to feed and nourish others.

    (Although I do get that part about feeling like I’ve wasted years not nurturing my gifts, so I’m preaching to you as much as I am myself)
    Nancy Franson recently posted..The Mountains Are Still Here

    • Sandra says

      Oh my, Nancy. That would have been a blast! I believe He can redeem the time to do what He’s created us to do. Celebrating that.

    • Sandra says

      He’s planned for the delays, and they become part of the program. Writing that down. :)

  14. says

    Sandra, I read your words and know, I am exactly where I am meant to be.

    And in my anger at time gone by, I fuel my passion for the time I have right now, to be where I am meant to be. To do what I am meant to do. To become all I am.

    Your gift constantly inspires, moves and heals my heart.
    Louise G recently posted..Family times and heart places

  15. says

    Oh, Sandy. This is so, SO my life, my experience. I’ve been out of internet contact for three days and have it for a bit here, so I’m frantically trying to catch up on this experience from everyone in between taking extensive notes for the project we’re crafting and I have to assemble into something coherent. Thanks for these good, courageous words. More later.
    diana recently posted..Mother Letters: The Stuff of Heroes

  16. Sandra says

    Don’t frantically try Diana. It’ll still be here.

    I’m frantically trying to catch up on blogs in general. 😉

  17. says

    You all look marvelous! It sounds so wonderful–all the words and inspiration (and images!) you collected. But…yes. He always brings me full circle, it seems. It’s all part of the journey, these places He sets us in.

    Love you, Sandy.
    laura recently posted..On Gifts

  18. says

    I’m not very good with words! Although once I wanted to be a writer and a poet! This spoke to my heart! About writing from where pain comes from, and what brings you to your knees. Thank you for sharing about your conference. I wish there was one in our neighborhood!
    patsy recently posted..Possibilities