The Beauty of Online & IRL Writing Friends

My four siblings and I were raised by a scrappy, resourceful mom who loved words. Dad was around, too; he was into crossword puzzles–the Sunday New York Times. In ink–and taught us to play Scrabble.
When my mom wanted to keep the five of us out of her hair, she’d grab 5 small slips of paper, write a jumble of letters on each one and hand it to us with a, “Go figure out this word!” to give her a few moments of peace.
My siblings and I have been playing word games ever since.
Words with Friends is the online/phone app of choice now that we’re separated by many miles, some of us, and it provides a platform of connection around our love of puzzles and vocabulary.
Even though I am the oldest child, I am by no means the sharpest pencil in the box. My four brothers and sisters regularly beat the pants off me in the game (my English degree is worthless).  Until this week—woohoo—I’m ahead of one of my sisters by 100 points.
Why? Because, as she said in her accompanying WWF message, “I have no vowels, Vanna.”  (I threw her a couple of ‘o’s in the word ‘snook’ to set her up. Let’s see if I keep the lead.)
Sometimes we just need some vowels in our lives to play words with friends.
In the space of less than a week I had the chance to do just that, connect with my people over words.
I made a whirlwind trip from my home in the Seattle area to Vancouver/Portland where I planned to meet up with three different friends for lunch, coffee and dinner AND squeeze in a visit to see my son and his family and my five grands.
First on my crowded dance card was lunch with the lovely Elizabeth Stewart—who blogs at Just Following Jesus. Elizabeth and I carpooled to the Faith and Culture Conference in 2014 and have been friends ever since, online and in real life.
After a delicious St. Patrick’s Day lunch, she tricked me into going on a walk along the Columbia River. (It was no trick—she’s just in better shape than I am). Our fellowship along the path on the beautiful Spring day was a balm to my soul.  A holy heart-to-heart where we shared life and ministry and words. (Elizabeth and her husband pastor a church–the ministry part is who she IS.)
When our time came to an end, I headed across the river for an early dinner reunion with Cornelia Becker Seigneur, Founder of the Faith and Culture Writer’s Conference in Portland. I attended FCWC in 2014 and jumped in as Volunteer Coordinator last year. (you can read my post about that experience here.)
Our team’s time of planning spanned an entire year and I ended up doing extra duty (with the amazing Bethany Jackson) when Cornelia was in a horrific accident from which she is still recovering.
The bonds I have with Cornelia run deep and I’ve been looking forward to the day when I could visit her again in person. Almost one year since the conference, our lives and schedules finally allowed us to sit down at Happy Hour before we headed off to the Writer’s Connection meeting later in the evening.
Over cilantro-laced tostadas, Cornelia and I reaffirmed we are kindred spirits, both committed to encouraging other Christian writers in their gifts, connecting people with each other to see them grow and communicating via our blogs in our little corners of the internet.
“Hey,” I said, “we’re midwives!” (look for the book title some day….) She clasped my hands and agreed.
There is nothing like this kind of friendship—deep and holy; I am forever grateful to God for it.
 When we finished our meal I caravanned behind her to our writer’s meeting; there were some nervous butterflies about the occasion. I would be reuniting with other friends, attendees and committee members from FCWC as well as sharing a five minute ‘Inspiration’ message.
There was less than 24 hours to prep for this, so I was a little verklempt. The Holy Spirit helped me pour some words out that had been ruminating for a while and they all came together.
My little message reiterated the importance of sharing our small but extravagant offerings right in our corner of the world. Whatever our internet reach, the scope of our voice doesn’t matter-small is often Very Good in the blogosphere. Our extravagant sacrifices—like the woman’s anointing of Jesus’ feet—are never wasted.

The sentiments shared by another team member echoed our speaker’s—Paul Pastor—author of “The Face of the Deep.” Paul was sure the two of us had somehow read his little green notebook prior to the meeting—there was such a seamless fit of God’s message to all of us.

Paul Pastor reading from his book about the Holy Spirit,
“The Face of the Deep”
It was good to be among friends—excited/nervous/happy—and hear of the ways Jesus was living through people’s work. We were also ministered to–Paul is a gifted and anointed storyteller! From Lyla in the motorized wheelchair to Linda with her poems ‘only five people might read’ it made for an exhausting but encouraging day.
The next morning I met another long distance friend for coffee—Carol—a writer who lived in the area and is part of Glory Writers.
This is the first time Carol and I had sat down for a heart-to-heart and the time went by way too fast. We talked about writing—practical stuff, dreams we have, avenues we’re pursuing—but when I drove away my heart sang. Words and writing brought us together but the fellowship was the greatest gift.
Closer to home is my bosom friend Kimberlee Conway Ireton. I first ‘met’ Kimberlee online when I began blogging four and half years ago and was delighted to find she lived near me. Yippee! Because I was brand new to blogging and faith writing I wanted to connect and ask her a million questions.
There was also a chance to give some encouragement to this new mom and author who was juggling life with 2 year old twins and a 6 and 9 year old. I’ve had the opportunity to do so during lunches, picnics, coffee dates and visits to the park. I adore her kids.
Kimberlee’s and my friendship has grown over these last three years as we’ve discovered a similar soulful response to the way we share our words and want others to be encouraged in their writing. Out of our shared convictions and commitment to this cause, Kimberlee and I co-lead a writer’s retreat last year called ‘Abide’. Out of THAT retreat came the birthing of Glory Writers, a Facebook group–open to anyone–and a place for ministry and fellowship and sharing words with friends. (click on the GW photo, also on my sidebar).
Kimberlee and I met for coffee the other night to discuss our upcoming retreat, (“Dwell”–see page tab above), alternating clasping hands and bowing our heads, waving our arms in the air (that would be me) as we poured out our hearts about our dreams, our delights and a couple of dares. We discussed writing, the power and presence of God’s Holy Spirit and we talked soul deep about the books that were speaking to US.
I have waited over 20 years for a bosom friend like Kimberlee, someone who shares my passions, who understands my tears of joy or my laughter and song. A friend who will grab a book to make a point and announce, “let me read you this,” and I match it with a passage of my own from the book in MY bag.
The connection is our love of language, our love of the Creator and our love for each other. Because sometimes the words that sing the song in your heart are written and said by someone else.
I’m so grateful to God for my words with friends.  Who are YOUR vowels?
Take heart….it may take a while to find them.

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11 thoughts on “The Beauty of Online & IRL Writing Friends

  1. Oh, Marlece, you are correct on that one. My mother was a frustrated writer who submitted her work in many places (I've saved all of it). My sister Laurie is a wordsmith at heart and my brother Alex is a pastor–his words end up as sermons!

  2. Jody, no wonder you are an amazing writer, your momma instilled this in you at a very young age. Are any of your other sibs writers?

  3. Oh, I like that for Glory Writers, 'a group of virtual vowels.' Thank you, dear friend and famous first cheerleader 🙂

  4. LOVED seeing you and Kimberlee together! Brought to the surface of my heart the warm, worshipful atmosphere of last year's ABIDE retreat, where I had the privilege of getting to know the two of you. Also enjoyed reading about your whirlwind weekend of connecting heart, mind, and soul with kindred writers. P.S. Praise God for Glory Writers, a group of virtual vowels!!

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