Joan was a brilliant, articulate, assertive woman. I got to know her when I was fresh out of college, and she was dying. One day I sat with her in her living room. She was attached to a tangle of IV tubes. She joked that she rattled when she walked from all the pills she had to take. As we sat together, I shared with her a few tidbits I'd been writing. It seemed a good way to pass the time, and something she might enjoy. I wasn't presumptuous enough to think my writing was really good. I guess like the little drummer boy, I didn't have much else to offer.
Joan read my poems and paragraphs carefully. We talked about a few details, and she asked incisive questions about some of the imagery in a couple of the poems. When she finished reading, she looked hard into my soul and said, "Don't you let this rest. You keep on writing. You have a gift, and you need to let it grow. You keep on with this."
I think so often of Joan and how she spoke into my life. I've struggled all my life to figure out how to put her words into practice. I've written columns for ministry journals. I kept a blog for many years. Early on I developed collections of poetry written on the backs of envelopes and fragments of paper shopping bags. Finally God backed me into a corner and I had to finish a book about the Exodus. (From Slavery To Freedom, and you can find it here.)
Lately I've returned with a new urgency to Joan's words. I've always had a sense that she was speaking a word from God into my life. The last few years I've focused on collecting my writings into books, and that has led to creating new books as well. Once I entered my 50s I started feeling the urgency to actually get things published.
Last week I started thinking about 2024 and what I want to accomplish in the coming year. Seems like life never unfolds according to my agendas, but you have to have a plan or you don't get anywhere. So I outlined several titles I'd like to complete and get into print in 2024. I'm sure it won't go exactly like that, but it's a direction to move at any rate.
And I think Joan would be pleased.