Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Guest Blogger: Kelly Stanley

I have been so blessed to meet amazing writers from around the country, many of whom are bloggers as well. The other day I was thinking how incredibly unfair it is to keep these awesome people and their writing to myself! Then it hit me: I should ask them to guest blog. Much to my surprise and relief, they have accepted! 

So without further ado, let me introduce Kelly Stanley, an incredibly talented Christian writer and one of the most amazing women I've ever met. (I was just beaten out as Vice-President of her fan club, much to my dismay!) I should also mention she's a fellow ginger, so you know she's fierce! Enjoy!

As I read something the other day, I was reminded just how powerful words can be. Even when they’re pedantic or common or not particularly eloquent. Sometimes there is power in the way words are strung together, sometimes there’s poetry in a well-turned phrase, and sometimes it’s the stark simplicity of a sentiment that reaches down into your core to tug on your emotions in a way deeper, more primal than language. But in this case, the words were average. Sentences were grammatically correct, for the most part, but nothing remarkable in and of themselves. The language wasn’t flowery or colorful. If anything, it could be described as raw. Unpolished. Unpretentious. And you know what? Those words changed my life. That may sound a bit dramatic — especially when I tell you that I wrote them. Here’s the thing, though: I’m not professing to be an amazing writer. The impact of those words on my soul had little or nothing to do with my ability as a writer, and everything to do with the simple fact that the words were mine.

For the past few years, I’ve struggled with my faith, starting around the time my mom was diagnosed with extensive stage small-cell lung cancer. I’ve seen God heal people. He didn’t heal her, although even at my most cynical I will say that she wouldn’t have survived those three years without some kind of divine intervention. But still, she died. And, no matter how irrational, I’ve found that it’s hard for me to let go and trust Him the way I once did. In order to try to protect my heart from pain and disillusionment, I’ve kept God at a distance.

But then, in preparation for a conversation with a potential agent, I re-read the book proposal I wrote this summer. And I found myself blown away. Again, not by my talent, but by the truth contained within the stories. Real-life experiences of faith. Healing, emotional and physical. Prayer answered in surprising, unexpected ways. Compassion. Intimacy. All the things I needed to know — to remember — about Him. And instead of rolling my eyes, as I find myself doing when I hear exuberant testimonies that seem too good to be true, I found myself wiping away tears because, finally, I had found some words I could not dispute. These were my own stories, told in my own words, written in my own hand. I discovered I wasn’t able to argue with that. As the memories of my personal experiences resurfaced, God’s truth imprinted itself on my soul.

There are lots of reasons for writers to write. Some of us are born storytellers. Some are world-builders, debaters, scholars or expository journalists. I can’t imagine a world in which I couldn’t write my own words or read those of others. But I’m here to encourage you not to neglect a very important audience. Keep some pages to yourself. Spend time recording, examining, searching, and exploring, and do it all without having a specific audience/agent/publisher/editor in mind.

A very wise friend told me, as I was beginning what would become my big spiritual awakening, to record my experiences and watch for coincidences. Those journals have become one of my greatest treasures. When I read the emotions and insights and experiences I had, I remember it all over again. No one will ever be able to convince me it’s not true, that it wasn’t real, because even if my mind gets fuzzy and the details are eclipsed by my everyday mental clutter, I have my own private record of the truth. Since I wasn’t writing for anyone else, my observations were honest. They were also often clumsy and convoluted and wondrous and confused and emotional and awe-inspiring. Sometimes stilted and awkward, sometimes flowery and exuberant. In other words, they accurately represent that time of my life.

As writers, we draw from life, whether we write fiction or non, essays or poetry. There’s truth to be found everywhere. Just like you wouldn’t (I hope) share every intimate detail of your marriage with the whole world, you should keep some of your own writing for yourself. We all long, secretly or openly, I think, to be known. To be read, to be seen, to be published. But the private pages we hold back? These are so much more than the tiny white leather diary you kept in fourth grade. These words record. Inspire. Observe. Amuse. Question. And reveal. In your exploration for the uncensored truth, you will be reminded of all that you know. The book I’m writing, called Praying Upside Down, talks about opening your eyes to see God in a new way. Trust me, you’ll be amazed at all you will see, if you’re willing to look. Just be sure to look away every once in a while and write it all down

Kelly Stanley spent her life on the periphery of the art world, first as the daughter of a professional watercolorist, then as an architecture major and then graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic design. For over two decades, she's built her career in marketing and advertising, working as a graphic designer, art director, creative director, copywriter, and consultant. If it has to do with creativity and communication, she's probably done it.

When she's not writing, Kelly can be found delivering her 16-year-old daughter to swim practice and her 12-year-old son to basketball practice, or listening to her 19-year-old daughter debate the pros and cons of various majors and colleges. She's loved having lunch with friends, coffee with her iPad, and spends any otherwise-unscheduled evenings on the couch with her husband of 22 years. She's always frazzled, always reading, always watching, always waiting to see what she can discover of our mighty God in this magnificent, confusing, contradictory world.


  1. Thanks for the great post, Kelly! You might not see it as such, but trust me, your writing is brilliant!

  2. Thanks, Kelly. Thanks, Sarah. These words blessed me.

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