What makes a writer great

There’s not a reputable writer out there that doesn’t want to be the best in their craft. One way we scribes measure our success is by how many awards or best-sellers we have under our belt. Others measure it by how many books they’ve published or sold. A top-ten Amazon ranking, a New York Times Best-Seller list: what writer hasn’t drooled over those prospects?

But as I’ve written before, being God’s writer involves much more. And today, I’d like to introduce you to one of my favorite writers. You probably don’t know her because you won’t find her writing at Barnes and Noble or Amazon. But you will find her words in hundreds of homes and hearts. Maybe even thousands.

Her name is Marcia Ousley. I want you to remember her name because when you are in the depths of despair during times of rejection and frustration in your writing career, remembering her will put your writing gift into perspective. This writing journey isn’t all about us. Never was. Never will be.

Marcia was my dear friend who passed away on June 6, 2017 at 12:32 a.m. I miss her much more than I imagined. Marcia was a cheerleader. I could always depend on her to ask me about my writing life, my teaching life, my life in general. I never heard her say a harsh word or criticize anyone. She was soft-spoken, gentle, and the absolute epitome of what Jesus is like in the flesh. Oh, I know she wasn’t perfect. But she was as close as any mortal could be.

Cancer struck Marcia fast and mercilessly. Within months of her diagnosis she became very ill and passed away. Sadly, hundreds of people in Indiana and elsewhere lost their strongest and best encourager. This is because Marcia had, and shared, the gift of writing through penning dozens of handwritten letters and notes each week. In this day of email and texting, Marcia still used her precious hands to hold a pen and write loving and very personalized messages to those she loved and cared about. She even wrote to those she didn’t know very well.

Marcia and her husband, Homer, didn’t have children. But she was a highly educated schoolteacher and taught in the public schools for nearly 30 years. Twice she received the coveted Distinguished Dekko Award for Teaching Excellence. Twice! She thought of each one of her students as her own, and never lost touch with them. She followed their lives all the way through adulthood, showed up to all their graduations and open houses, and attended their weddings and baby showers. She never stopped sending encouraging letters and cards to them even after they were grown with families of their own.

At our church she was in charge of the card ministry–a ministry that has yet to be filled. Writing encouraging notes with her own hand inside each card, she didn’t simply sign, “Love, Marcia,” but wrote a truly heart-felt paragraph or two to lift up the receiver. She never stopped writing. It was her gift, and she used it wisely. When she wrote for the church she didn’t sign her own name, she signed, “Love, The Congregation of Christian Fellowship Church.” Whew. That’s a long signature to write over and over again by hand.

When this earth lost Marcia, they lost one of the greatest writers that ever lived. I still can’t believe she’s gone, and it startles me how very much I miss her. Even though we never really “hung out,” I just knew that Marcia had my back. She never judged anyone. She was there for you through thick and thin. She was Jesus with skin on. If there’s anyone on this earth I wanted to imitate, it was Marcia. She was not only a writer but her outreach included volunteering at food pantries, visiting shut-ins and spreading God’s love everywhere she went.

As I sat in her funeral service, I found myself whispering in a repeated prayer, “When I grow up, I want to be like Marcia…” before it dawned on me, ahem, I’m more than grown-up now. And if there’s anyone I should want to be like, it should be Jesus.

But the thing is, Marcia was so much like Jesus, that it’s not a far reach to want to imitate her, too. Just as the early Christians imitated the apostle Paul:

“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).

As far as I know, Marcia never won an award for her writing or saw her name on the Best-Seller List. But her name made the most important list of all: the Lamb’s Book of Life.

That’s The List we all should strive for, whether we’re a writer, carpenter or toilet scrubber. That list matters most of all, along with the words from our Father, “Well done.”

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