Taking my talent elsewhere…


It was the number one thing my Spiritual Gifts class revealed about how I could best be used by my church.

See, I've been a writer for a very long time!
See, I’ve been a writer for a very long time!

No big surprise there. I’ve been writing since the day I could pick up a pencil. Actually, my very first book, “Harry Carey Likes Cherries,” was written before I could pick up a pencil. I dictated the plot of the book to my mom, who wrote it down. I did the illustrations.

In elementary school I was the girl who won the system-wide writing contest. Every year. I wrote books like, “Never Let a Turkey Do Your Homework,” “Miss Piggy’s Bad Dream,” “A Painter in Ballet Shoes,” and a poem anthology, “Positively Perky Poems that will make you Laugh and Cry.” If I wasn’t me, I would have hated me. Writing came naturally. It’s always been easy.

I went on to receive a degree in Journalism from Indiana University, and the few years I spent as a writer for a newspaper, I won multiple awards.

I love to write. I love words. I love taking words and putting them together to say something great or heartfelt. And to be honest, I think I do it well. You’ll never find me saying I dress well. I don’t believe I am a phenomenal cook or a great decorator. But I can write well. I thank God for that.

So when I attended the Spiritual Gifts class (which also included an in-depth personality study) and was then told that’s how I could best serve my church, I was elated! I was told that there were a few different ways I could use my gift for the church, so I contacted the people who were in charge of blogging and writing.

I heard nothing.

I wrote to the leader of the class and said I hadn’t heard anything. I wondered if maybe they didn’t get my emails. She contacted them to let them know I wanted to help with any writing projects for the church.

It’s been months. I still haven’t heard anything.

This has been eating away at me for some time now. I try not to be bitter about it. It certainly hasn’t stopped me from attending my church. I still love my church. But I can’t figure out why they wouldn’t want to use me to write some great things for the church.

10849890_10152440272986573_1647218886976012536_nSo then I start to feel insecure.

Maybe I’m not a good writer.

Maybe they think I’m too “edgy.”

Maybe it’s because I’m single.

Maybe they just plain don’t like me.

So I dropped it. They know where to find me. They know what I’m capable of. If they want to use my God-given talents to spread the Gospel, they will let me know. If they don’t, then I will do it elsewhere.

I was at peace with my decision to “let it go,” but then last week’s sermon at church totally threw me off. It was all about our resources, our talents, and how if we are loyal followers of Christ, we will use those talents to grow the Kingdom of God. We read the parable of the talents, about the men who did things with their talents (money) and the man who did nothing with his.

“Don’t do nothing with what your Master (God) has given you!” was the basis of it all.

I wanted to jump up and scream, “I WANT to, but apparently they don’t want me here!”

I was back at square one. Upset, hurt, and wondering why my church didn’t want me to write anything for them.

Then I remembered that serving God doesn’t always have to be through the church. I volunteer twice a week at the Rescue Mission, and that’s not through the church. I am a group leader for Bible Study Fellowship, and that’s not through the church. It’s pretty clear that if God’s going to use my writing abilities for His purpose, it will not be through the church.

And that’s OK.

It’s actually given me a little nudge of motivation. I’ve finally found a book idea that I’m really psyched about. Maybe God wants me to focus on that.

In studying Paul, the book of Philippians, and parts of Acts for Bible Study Fellowship, we learned that Paul had ideas of where he should go to spread the Gospel, but God had something different in mind. God said, “No,” before Paul was given a clear signal of what to do and where. Maybe God is doing the same with me.

I want to write. I want people to read it. I’m not waiting for the support of my church or anyone else. God has given me this talent, and I’m going to use it. Even if it’s just me and God facing this journey together.

There’s no one else I’d rather have by my side.

An interview after tragedy…

Some reporters do it for the story, the “scoop”, the exclusive.

Some reporters do it for the rush.

Others do it because they know that in the long run, it will only help those in mourning. It gives them a chance to tell their story.

While I think everyone should be given the time to grieve, I don’t think all reporters are evil for approaching those who have recently experienced tragedy. I know this because I used to be a reporter, and I have been told by the people and families involved in tragedy, how thankful they are that I wrote about their situation.

After I graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Journalism, I was ready to be a sports LaGrangeDailyNewsreporter. I knew I’d probably start out small, covering high school sports, but I never imagined I’d end up having to take a job as the crime/police writer for a small newspaper in Georgia. But I accepted the job at the LaGrange Daily News in LaGrange, Georgia.

I had been there less than a month when a drowning happened on the 4th of July. Roderious Laye was his name. He was 12 years old. It’s sad, but all seems so cut and dry when you’re reading a police report that is simply filled with statements about what happened. I called and spoke with someone at the Sheriff’s department, wrote up a couple hundred words about what happened and went about my business until the next day at work.

Apparently this wasn’t the first drowning in recent history, and my editor wanted me to do a deeper story on what happened to Roderious. She wanted me to go interview his family members. I was horrified. Within a few days of losing their child, I was to go and ask them all about it? Why on earth would they want to talk to me?

My editor set up the interview, and before I knew it I was in the car with our photographer, Mike, who would take photos while I interviewed the family. I had no idea what to expect, only that my heart hurt and I wanted to cry before we even walked up the steps to the front door. I had never been so nervous, but the family was extremely welcoming and put me at ease almost immediately.

They loved talking about Roderious. Even his little brother had lots to say about him. The two of them were huge Dallas Mavericks fans and loved to play baseball. We had a wonderful time talking about Roderious, but then came the difficult part- talking about what had happened only a few days prior. His mother was in tears, and his father sat and rubbed her back while she spoke of how her sweet boy drown at a family gathering at the lake.

I cried, too. I cry now just thinking about it.

We finished the interview, said our goodbyes, and I got in the car with Mike. And then I cried some more. I felt bad. Was it unprofessional? Was I supposed to keep it all together? Mike comforted me and said, “Natalie, people want to see your heart. That’s why they opened up to you. They could tell that you cared, and that’s why they shared their story.”

Apparently I did a pretty good job of sharing their story with the readers of the LaGrange Daily News, and Mike got some moving photos of the family that day we were there. Because not long after the funeral, his family bought ad space in the paper to run a photo of Roderious and to thank some people for helping them through the tough times after the tragic event, and there in the list was, “Natalie and Mike from the LaGrange Daily News.”

I won a decent amount of awards in the short time I was a newspaper reporter, but those mean so little compared to having a family say you helped them through the death of their son by the words that you wrote.

So if you’re wondering about all these stories being told about the children and adults who were killed in Newtown last week, just know that many, probably most, of the families are more than happy to be interviewed. They WANT to share their stories. They want their loved one to be remembered.

Side note:

markCubanI can’t tell this story without mentioning a kind act from one of the richest men in the world. Like I said, Roderious and his younger brother were huge Dallas Mavericks fans. I had hung out with the owner, Mark Cuban, a few times at IU because we had some mutual friends. (Cuban is a fellow IU grad.) I emailed Mark, told him what had happened and asked if there was anything he could send me to give to Roderious’s little brother. Mark came through like a champ. He sent hats, shirts, cards, and even a Dirk Nowitzki autograph, as well as a card from the Maverick’s family that said, “Thinking of you in this tough time.”

A man worth a couple BILLION dollars didn’t have to take the time to do that, but he did.