At least eight years ago, in a rare moment of courage, I made a list. I still carry it around in my purse, a three-by-five index card, hot pink, frayed around the edges, with a few simple lines of text under an audacious heading:
Underneath, I wrote down my professional dreams, a list of five goals my heart wanted to accomplish but my brain assumed sat out of reach. Goals like securing a multi-book contract with a publishing company, being booked to speak at a major conference, and making $23,000 per year as an author and speaker. Why 23K? I have no idea. Except it was double what I made as a piano teacher at the time. And it seemed an impossible amount.
One of those goals included winning some kind of award for my voice, maybe an Audie award or something similar. I’ve always enjoyed radio, television, and audio projects, and thought it would be amazing to win some kind of award for it.
Silly, maybe. But these were dreams. That’s all. Those things we imagine in our spare time, even if we don’t need them to come true in order to be happy.
My pink index card is now worn thin like a stuffed animal carried around for too long. I looked at it again today and felt overcome by how much has happened since I made it. I’ve spoken at conferences I never dreamed I’d attend. I’ve published three books and will soon write a fourth. And I now make enough income as an author and speaker to help provide for the ongoing needs of my six children and family.
I still pinch myself and shake my head in disbelief. It’s all Grace, I know this.
Even so, one goal remains elusive. I’ve considered crossing it off my hot pink card; it’s not even a stretch goal anymore. Too much has happened.
Which brings me to the second part of the story.
Almost five years ago, I flew to Tennessee to spend two full days in a Nashville studio recording the audio book of Undone: A Story of Making Peace With An Unexpected Life. It was a last minute decision, made when we discovered cancer had come back for the third time. Two weeks later, a nine-hour surgery removed my tongue, lymph nodes, submandibular gland, and left me with a body and a soul deeply scarred. And a voice that would never be the same.
Then, when my second book released two years later (I Am: A 60-day Journey To Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is), my publisher opted to hire a professional to record the audio, someone with a “normal” voice. I understood. Who would buy an audio book read by a woman with a speech disability?
Now, in less than three months, my third book releases: Relentless: The Unshakeable Presence of a God Who Never Leaves. And once again, it’ time to record the audio book. This time, however, I decided to take a risk.
I told my publisher I wanted to read it myself.
Why hire someone else to read a book about faith and suffering when I’m the one who lived it? Why put a shiny finish on something that was written for people in pain? I want to show up, as I am, because I know that on the other side of these words will be men and women who are living their own suffering. They need to know they aren’t alone. And I wanted to read each hard-earned word with a voice that testifies to a God who redeems it all.
So today I traveled to Nashville. And for three days this week, I will read every word of Relentless, plus bonus content woven throughout that won’t appear anywhere else. It will be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done: physically, emotionally, spiritually. I’ve been crying for two days straight at the thought of it.
But real life demands real courage. Real relationships demand real courage. And real faith demands real courage. The kind of courage that isn’t glossy or showy, that doesn’t hide from discomfort and pain but enters into it. A courage that may be scared to death, but refuses to die without giving a try. And a courage that may ugly-cry all day long, but eventually gets up, wipes her face, and does the hard thing anyway.
Why? Because there is far more at stake than a pink card with a few pipe dreams.
It’s called faith. Yours. And Mine.
So do something for me this week, will you?
First, pray. Pray for my strength, stamina, and pain. I have no idea how I will physically do this thing. And yet I know it is precisely what I need to do. But also pray for those who may one day hear these words, for those whose faith hangs in the balance. Ask God to use these broken words to remind them that He loves them more than they know.
Second, consider what part of your life demands real courage. What are you shying away from because it feels too impossible, too hard, too vulnerable? God never promised the American dream, never promised a life of ease and dreams comes true. He promised Himself. That means, as broken and battered as you may feel, He is with you. And He is able to do so much more than you could possibly imagine.
So have courage. Trust Him. And watch Him give you grace enough to get through.
That is its own reward.
An amazing testimony to His goodness and His plan. Praying strength and stamina over you, that He will pour the Balm of Gilead over your entire body.
Yes, His goodness, His plan. Thank you. Shelley.
Wow. I don’t know that I’ve read anything this powerful in a long long time. I WILL pray for you, although you have instantly become a role model in every facet of life in this one read. God has blessed you. May his grace and love power and fuel you through the journey of completing this list entry.
I am overwhelmed by your post and although I am so very NOT social media savvy, I need to find a way to share.
God Bless you…i know you can do this!
Praying for you right now Michele, praying our Lord will carry you through this and give you great joy as you serve Him in recording your book.
Thank you, Andy. Your prayers mean so much.
I first heard you several years ago when you came to speak at our MOPS. I was a mentor mom and so enjoyed your ability to share hard things with so much ease. I heard you again the next year and you had your second set of children and again you were so powerful yet, acknowledged the hardships. We women at church did your book study a couple of summers ago and I thought it so relevant. Your cancer and removal of your voice mechanisms was astonishing and your courage outstanding. You are my hero and I know you will do well with this book read. God will put the words in your mouth. Go conquer your fears. Praying for your peace through it all
Dear Michele, thanks for sharing your authentic self – your fears and your tears. And in doing so, sharing your strength and your courage. I have always been inspired by your stories and your books. I read a quote that said, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”. This is where your light shines through!
For me, I have procrastinated with my blog for a few years, and finally started it recently. It is a steep learning curve, and a challenge to keep my commitment of weekly posts. It is indeed part of my life’s journey to share my gratitude and blessings. Thank you for being such an inspiration to me!
Way to go, Anne Marie! Starting is the hardest part. Now, keep going. I believe in you. xoxo
Our OPWF leadership team will be praying for you this weekend as we gather to plan our March event where you will be speaking. We know God will honor your stepping out in faith that he will supply and bring a blessing.
Thank you, Nancy. Hugs to my OPWF sisters!
I know apart from Jesus I am and have nothing. Please pray for me, I desire to rely on him more and more every day. I want him to consume every part of me from the inside out and to make me more like him. Use me Lord I pray for your glory alone.
Jesus, I pray for my sister, Judith. Fill her with the fullness of your presence. Make her even more awareness of your nearness. And use her life for your purposes. Amen.
Beautiful. Courage is more beautiful than anything.
Thank you, Dale.
This is so good! I needed this today. Thank you so much for sharing your heart.
Thanks for being courageous enough to do this And I can’t wait to read, listen to your book. Praying for you! I just heard you on Focus on the Family a few days ago and even though you say you talk funny, I love to hear you talk. Because every time I hear you I hear courage, and faith, trust and determination and most of all love coming from deep inside if you and it helps me keep going through my hard times. Thanks you for your testimony to what Jesus is doing in you. I’ll be praying for you this week !!
Thank you for that, Delilah. My voice certainly is unique. ;o) Not what I would’ve chosen, but what I’ve been given. Learning to be grateful and amazed at what God alone can do.
I will pray for you my friend. I have already begun. Again your words, your story, God through you- – All of it, has spoken to me in a loving and convicting way…. my weary soul is blessed and my spirit man has been challenged.
This project …. OH the impact! My heart is smiling so big as I try to imagine! I love you!
I love you so, sister. Thank you for praying with me. For His glory, all the way.
Michele…I will be praying. The timing of this post is amazing. I thought I was done….felt I could no longer “talk” to others as a therapist because it hurts my mouth, numbed by a brain surgery and nerve problems in my face, jaw, and tongue. But it seems God keeps bring people to me who need and want my help. Sometimes I think I have every “right” to quit, and yet I don’t want to Your words gave me the courage I need to keep going.
Linda, I love doing this life with you. We lend each other courage. And God is seen once again as glorious. It’s a gift.
Yes…I feel the same way. I receive courage from you even though we live states apart!?
I just “happened “ upon this post. The timing is beyond perfect.
I’ll be praying ahead for your journey-and I LOVE hearing the author’s voice read the audio version!! I can’t connect as well when it’s someone else’s voice.
Praying in the Name of Jesus that as you cast these cares on the LORD, HE WILL SUSTAIN you?
Yes. Thank you, Beth.
Your “new normal voice” is what makes me always know it’s you. I love that voice. I would be turned off if it was someone else reading your book to me. So grateful you are summoning the courage to give your listeners what they want. In a world of perfect, just being real is what is most valuable. xox
YOUR TENACITY, PERSEVERANCE, AND PERSISTENT FAITH AMAZE ME! So proud of you and you better bet your bottom dollar I’ll be praying for you this week!!!
Michele, praying for you to stay strong and deeply connected to the one who promised in your weakness He is your strength and know that you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. Love you and your vulnerability, courage and determination.
Yes, since the unexpected death of my husband through suicide on July 4, 2019, I have had many ugly cries. My God continues to show up and nudge me along. He gives me time to grieve, moments of anger, periods of great loss…but through all of this I am not alone. He places the perfectly frayed people in my life who are walking with me. Just yesterday I felt totally defeated in attempts to fix up my home to put on the market. There is so much to do and I need to return to work soon. But God knows this, he knows my aching heart my fears, my weakness. He also knows that I needed a push…he sent me your blog today…Grateful
Praying for you Donna. Hugs hugs hugs.
I got out of an abusive relationship with my daughter’s father about a year ago. He has continued to abuse me through the court process. I’m growing so weary. I so very badly want to be done with this battle. I’ve made every attempt to settle, but it just seems to go on and on. Thank you for the reminder to have courage in our Lord. I’m praying that you will find God’s presence as you work to persevere through the recording. You are an inspiration!
I’ve been there. The court system is not fair. I battled in court for 3 years, and for the 11 years since the divorce was final. You are did the right thing. You are not crazy. You and your daughter are worth it. You can do this, A support group through my local domestic violence shelter that was for Christians really helped me. My heart aches for you. I’m praying.
Yes! This. You can count on my prayers. Your beautiful voice is much needed to tell your own story because it shares your beautiful heart with us. Go, girl!!!
You’ve been such a good friend through the suffering, Lily. I still look at the hats and scarves you made (and blanket!) with amazement at your kindness. So grateful for you.
I pray that you are surprised by the strength and stamina that God gives you in the coming days. He is going to show up in a mighty way so it’s very obvious that it’s Him and not you. You are an inspiration, Michele! I just finished the book I Am. It’s all marked up and I don’t want to put it away on a bookshelf I want to keep it close as a reference. I need courage to speak boldly to my neighbors about where they’ll spend eternity because I care.
I love your courage and bravery. Why do we not just do and be, and not feel concerned what others may think!? That’s my struggle on so many levels but onward in faith we all go…this company of faith giants here 🙂
Thank you for your books and enjoy every moment!!
Hello Michele I too am thrilled to hear that you will be reading your own book for the audio version and I like others find your voice soothing and yes crystal clear. Alright I want to answer your question on what are we afraid of showing up for – I hesitate to write it out as it seems so small and yet I can tell by your efforts you authenticity and I honor that… the idea has been mulled over by my husband and I to host a lifegroup in our home that’s it. The “what ifs” are what if no one signs up, what if we don’t mesh well, commitment (I don’t exit things well so what if we want to end it), topic, preparedness… etc the list goes on. Yes I know, they are just blocks to hold us at bay but that’s where I’m at in present time. Yet what if showing up isn’t for me at all but it effectively encourages others within our church to reach for community. Thanks for the stretching exercise. Have fun in Nashville, praying for unexpected God sightings.
Oh, Kristen, I love this! This is not small … to choose to open yourself up to others, to enter into life with them, is HUGE. This is what it’ all about. The Gospel in action. I am so proud of you for saying it out loud, for being honest about your fears, and continuing to listen to God’s leading. Well done. Press on! He will give you what you need when you need it.
Michelle, you serve a great and mighty God who is strongest in our weakness. He will use your faithful obedience. He already has!
Praying this week for stamina, grace for yourself and God’s mighty power to be on display!
Thank you, Loretta.
You go girl! It is your voice others need to hear, scars and all. Those who hear you will be so impacted by your courage and determination to speak your truth and tell your beautiful story of hardship and grace. You have found your voice and are using it. It gives me courage to use my voice. It has been four years since my normal voice was taken away by my third bout of head and neck cancer. I haven’t changed my voicemail recording because I don’t like hearing my new voice. But I am going to do it, today! Thank you for letting God use your story to encourage and inspire others.
Oh, Heidi … I so understand! It took me four years to change my voice mail (almost five, in fact). Such a sweet gift to know we understand each other, isn’t it? We get it. With you, warrior sister. So proud of you for choosing to LIVE in the middle of the losses.
I am praying for you. I think you are doing a wonderful thing! May God’s strength and blessing fall upon you.
The last few days have been a difficult ones for me. I take care of my Mom and she has injured her foot. Helping her in and out of her wheelchair isn’t easy and I hate to see her having pain. I did feel down and out this morning. I knew I needed to pray more than usual. Your story helped me. We all walk a thorny road; but Jesus holds our hand, gives us strength and peace of mind.
I’m so glad God gave you an extra dose of strength today. What you are doing for your mama is honorable. And holy. He is with you, Belle. Cheering you on.
Michelle – so good to see your posts again. I simply pray FAVOR on you during this season. You are in inspiration to many….Bruce
Thank you, Bruce. Your steadfast support is an encouragement.
Your courage is the stuff of movies! I so admire you, friend! Still I don’t even have the courage to write down any goals, audacious or itty bitty.
I just don’t have the faith that those good dreams will come true. Keep speaking into us!
It’s hard to write dreams down, because we risk disappointment if they don’t come true. We think that if we can keep them in our heads, we’re self-protecting. But, instead, we’re self-limiting. I’m learning that God is bigger than even my biggest disappointment. So I can trust him with all of it, even by being bold enough to write them down. What doesn’t come to fruition, He will recreate.
Notice I said “I’m learning” … as in STILL IN PROGRESS. So, so hard. 🙂 Much love for you sister.
Your faith, courage, and transparency continue to inspire me. I am praying for you, and I know the Lord will reward your faithfulness. I cannot wait to listen to your book. And I love your voice, because it is yours. Your unique, special, anointed voice. Much love to you,
You GO, Michele! So stinkin’ proud of you!! Praying will full assurance that He will meet you in the moments with ALL you need.
This girl is on FI-YAH!!!
Michele, I needed to read this! Very recently (as in this week), God helped me realize that my next work-in-progress has slowly come together ONLY as I’ve stopped being afraid to share certain parts of my story. Last week, I wrote a review of a friend’s book and knew I needed to include a little bit of why I’m so passionate about it. It was so hard, and it messed with me! But I did it. Doing that added another layer to the outline I’m creating.
Your post reminded me that courage is scary and exhausting, and we have no idea how our hearts are going to respond to it. But if we really want to give people hope, we need to say or do what we’d rather avoid. Love you, friend!
I’ve been listening to you before and after the cancer…and can I just say, I love your “new” voice!? You are always a joy to listen to…you are a fantastic interviewer (aka Michael Hyatt) & you bring depth and mature positivity to all your conversations. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us! With love – we will be praying for your strength for these next few days. Blessings!
Thank you for sharing and being so vulnerable, that’s why I so enjoy your books and love getting your emails and reading your page.
I’ve been self-limiting for a very long time now and pray that I have the strength to even write down the goals, although not sure what they are. I do have some dreams but seem unattainable. I remind myself all things are possible with God.
We just dropped my youngest at college this last weekend and I know this is a new season for me and my husband but I don’t even know where to start.
What a blessing you are and I appreciate you 🙂
I have had a really brutal weak facing physical challenges. I have felt a bit sorry for myself and defeated. I needed this kick in the behind! Thank you so much.
I’m praying for you.
Michele, you inspire me with your refreshing vulnerability. Thank you so much.
I want to encourage you and warn you about what may happen as you take this awesome step of faith. I have some recent experience doing something impossible.
Back in May I preached the message that my dad requested I preach at his funeral. He passed from this life on May 6. (You may remember a few years ago I forwarded an email to you that he wrote to me after he listened to a sermon in which I read a passage from “Undone.”) It was both the hardest and easiest message I have ever given.
Before speaking it was hard. I was very nervous which is unusual for me. I didn’t know if I could get through it without being overcome with emotion to the point of being incoherent. Gathered there in the church where I grew up were many church people, relatives and also most of my former teachers because my dad had taught in the same district I attended growing up.
Our church puts audio of the sermons on our website and my dad listened to all of them. The sermon my dad requested was one I preached back in November; “The Time to Repent Is Now” from Luke 12:49-13:9. It was so like my dad to want everyone there to know how to get to where he is now.
During the message it was shockingly easy. After the first sentence all nervousness was gone. I spoke clearly and directly about the realities of mortality and Jesus’ warnings to repent now while we have the opportunity. I was literally strengthened in every way by the Holy Spirit to do what I could not have done in my own strength. It was maybe the easiest sermon I’ve ever delivered but only while I delivered it.
As soon as I said the last word which was, “Amen”, I could feel the supernatural strengthening lift because my part was completed. It took all of my will power to merely walk off the stage and sit back down in the front row. I wanted to run and hide and weep. Maybe I should have.
Which brings me to my warning. I pray and believe that God will strengthen you for the task ahead. It will be very clear to you that it is his strength working through you which is making this possible. And then the task will be over.
The special strengthening for that task will be lifted and you will be faced with the challenge of returning to the mundane necessities of life. Doing the recording will require some time afterwards for you to be refreshed and to recover. You probably already know this but I am begging you for your sake, the sake of your family and the sake of your ministry, take time after this to be ministered to. Accept offers of help for what they are; another of the Father’s gracious gifts to you.
You are a mighty, beautiful, warrior princess of our Heavenly Father AND you are a jar of clay “to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” Carry on, Sister. He will still be with you in the exhaustion that often follows obedience. “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
So very blessed by your taking courage and doing what you felt called to do. Thank you for setting such a beautiful example of what only Jesus can do. He is doing what no man can do & will continue His amazing Grace in you every moment. His love for you knows no end
Thank you for sharing Michelle. So excited to hear your voice in your fourth book. What a gift to all of us. -jill
Hi Michele! I know I’m writing this after the fact, after you’ve finished recording your book—so amazing! I’ve been writing my memoir as a room by room remembering of my childhood, but I stop when life happens or I’m afraid to remember. This book needs to go on my own pink card….