I’m Ready for the Red Ink

Almost a year to the date, I’m done. Today, I reread the last chapter for the final time before I ask others to slash and insert, rearrange and make suggestions to this project I have been working on. Relieved of their proofreading duties, David and Brooke eagerly agreed, ” Mom, the first draft is a done deal.”

“Elizabeth, you need to write a book” was the statement that got me started. Knowing I had a lot to say, but with no skill, nor knowledge about how to get started, I opened my word processor to a blank sheet and simply tapped the keyboard to type out “Chapter One.” Spilling my guts on the subsequent pages has kept me busy for the past twelve months. Dedicating a large portion of each workday has made this process seem like a part time job. Yet again, employment with no paycheck. I thank Jesus for an encouraging and supportive husband.

During some of my work weeks, thoughts and memories flowed freely filling the empty pages at a rapid rate. On other days, it was a chore to string the sentences together that conveyed my deepest sentiments. Wrangled with how to express the depths of emotions and the gravity of what I felt created frustration and pulsating urges to abandon my writing assignment. “David, I can’t do this. I don’t know the right words to use. This is going to take forever. Trying to write this book is a waste of time. I should just go back to work.” were excuses I raised to try and wiggle out of my responsibility.

I wasn’t prepared for the time, nor committment it would take. I had no idea what it would look like when it was done, nor how long it would take. The uncertainty of it all made it extremely difficult to remain dedicated. When I thought to far ahead, about what was left to accomplish, I welcomed anxiety into my workplace. Thankfully, during the first few months I honed another method of attack. Simply put, I pressed in and wrote the next word, organized the next paragraph, pulled together the next message and brought each chapter to a close.

As I reviewed the scenes in my life and recaptured what I remembered, along with what I thought memorable, I often wondered, “Who is going to be interested in what I have to say? About what happened to me?” When doubt about what I was doing crept from the corners of my desk, Martina McBride’s lyrics from “Anyway” would inspire me to type away ….

You can pour your soul out singing
A song you believe in
That tomorrow they’ll forget you ever sang
Sing it anyway
Yeah, sing it anyway
I sing, I dream, I love

These words resonated with me and with what I was attempting. Martina’s musical message chased away my skepticism and thwarted my attempts to jump ship. Instead, I placed myself in her lyrical story and belted out my own battlesong, ” Whether anybody ever reads it, write it anyway.” Applying the freeing concept helped me focus and remain at my writing station. Who knows what the final outcome will be? Will a publisher deem my story worthy to print? Or, will what I have written only sit on my bookshelf? I don’t know the answer to that. All I know to do is try, trust and take the next step.

People can be more creative and productive when they take the space...: It is a good thing I wasn’t aware of the hours of isolation that would be required to complete this task. Needless to say, I may have never started. Early on, I discovered it was essential to detach myself from the hustle and bustle of everyday life to get this job done. Too many distractions, invitations and temptations came my way when I was socially engaged with the world. In order to write about a personal experience, you have to research yourself. The only way I could hear and remain connected to that inward reflection was to withdraw to my inner self. I came to undestand that (somewhat) cutting myself off from society was the answer, but with that came stretchs of silence. When loneliness set in, I pondered Picasso’s words of wisdom and went back to work.

Now, that my heart and soul is poured out on a stack of papers, I am gearing up for the next step in this process. Experienced authors have told me it is more grueling than writing the book. “Well, a Book Proposal, a Query letter, and a public platform will need to be developed before you can even think about approaching a publisher.” they forewarn. Continuing with their intimidating tirade, they suggest “Oh you might need to hire an agent and its best to have an editor read your work.” Adding to the upcoming angst, I don’t know if what I have written even makes sense. A year later, I  can’t remember what I wrote!

As they speak of these roadblocks and I entertain judgement by others, my attitude tends to take a tumble, which makes me to want to stop in my tracks and throw in the towel. “I don’t have to be an author. I don’t need this to be a published book.” I cry out to try and careen myself off course. “Oh no, Elizabeth. Go get started. This is simply the next step.” David will counter and steer me on course again. I know he is right. Marching back to my office, I cringe and push against the work that is ahead.

Reseated in my desk chair and having blown off some steam, I try to remember what first inspired me to get started. Sure, there were encouraging comments from people that attached worth to what I had experienced and what I had to say. Their observations and opinions opened my heart up and allowed God to reveal to me that my mess could become my message. That is good and just motivation and served to carry the writing process to completion. However, not enough to see me through this next step. I am weary and know I need a stronger nudge to kick start this second phase. So, I look to the scriptures for purpose and I have found what I am searching for:

Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him.

Luke 8:39

But Jesus said, “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.” So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns of that region and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them.

Mark 5:19-20

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

Daniel 4:2

It is when I fix my focus on the cross that life begins to make sense. After breathing in the righteous reason for this project, I am reminded of my original objective-to simply record my personal journey from ache to alleluia. Glorifying God during my walk to restoration was effortless, as he was my trusted companion and mighty miracle worker along the way. His continued presence allows me to reflect and reopen a painful season in my life. In the hopes that intimately sharing my experience with Him will show others a holy way of recovery. As well, bring light and life to all the days ahead.

Leaning into this humbled reason for writing, I am strengthened to take the next step. If allowing others to edit what I have written, writing a lengthy detailed report aimed at captivating a publisher and highlighting the unique aspects of my story and networking with the public to build an author’s persona are what is required in today’s world to spread that message, then for the sake of Christ, I’m going to give it my best shot.

Alas, I have come accustomed to sitting in the quiet, allowing for long patches of stillness. Making it easier to hear the Holy Spirit and search through my own thoughts. Engaging in an attempt to sell by literary work and myself (publishers expect one to have a “following”, basically a built in audience prior to publishing their work!!!!! Lord you will need to lead the way on this one!!!!! ) are not activities that I look forward to. They are extremely out of my comfort zone. However, I’m going to continue to be led by the Lord, following the inspiration that first got me started and step out on that limber limb because I know that’s where the fruit is.

This next step is going to be a stretch for someone like me. As I reach forward inching away from what feels safe, I remind myself who has brought me to this point. Surely, He will accompany me the rest of the way.

14 Chapters, 67,573 words later, I am reinspired and ready for the red ink!

Another Attempt

There isn’t an inkling inside of me to be an author. Maybe, that’s why this is so hard to start and stick with. Prior to the last four years of my life, I haven’t ever felt a soulful satisfaction to put pen to paper and share what’s inside of me, exposing events that have occured, revealing reactions to certain situations and sharing the stirrings of my heart. In fact, those words, expose, reveal and share cause a portion of myself to shut down. Upon hearing them, my first instinct is the fight or flight syndrome. Not being much of a fighter, the flight mode usually ensures an escape route to a secure setting. Causing me to shy away from any venue that would introduce vulnerability. (Presently, I’m working on myself to adjust this reaction. Refusing to run away. Instead, choosing to stand not in my own strength, but relying on His instead.)

But, after 25 years of adult self-diagnosis, I’m learning part of this is simply how I was created. My personality traits were recently validated when I read the book, Quiet: The Quiet by Susan CainPower of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by, Susan Cain. Can you believe that title tantalized my thinking? Oh, but it did! (I’ve always known I was a wallflower, I’m learning to like it!) I saw myself in statements like, “They are the ones that prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion. Who favor working on their own over working in teams.” Again, I could relate to thoughts like, “Innies, they are the ones who find joy in doing their own thing, prefer a book rather than joining a party or think monastic silence is bliss. There is no longer any need to feel quilty or like we are oddballs because of our preferences.” While reading, I nodded in agreement with what was written and found kindred companionship with the people descibed on the pages. “I wasn’t alone.” “There are others like me.” These were freeing thoughts that allowed me to better understand myself.

Engaging in the next episode, does not conjure up feelings of comfort. I know it will prevent me from staying in those safe spots. What it will entail and the possible outcome creates a scenario of uncetainity, uneasiness and the unkown. Feelings of anxiety, fear and possible failure stare me down like a viper ready to strike with its paralytic poison. Preventing me from pressing in, to finish what is before me.

Honestly, the grueling work has been done, suffering the loss of Samantha, grinding through the grief, healing because of a Holy helping hand and eventually reincorporation into the earthly world. What is left is really no big deal!!!! All that needs to be done is weave it all together to tell a story and then simply write it down.

It sounds so simple. But, I struggle to start and stay focused. The deep dive into the unknown creates a barbed wire barrier. I allow the feeling, that I don’t know what I’m doing, and that I’m being unproductive torment me. Causing me to start then stop.  I have tried before and been derailed by my own demons. Run right off course, when I rely on myself.

In addition, I know there will be details to the drama that I haven’t dealth with yet. Questions that I have avoided because I can exist without uncovering the answers. Recordings I haven’t listened to. Afraid of what I will hear. The biting words of a little girl missing echoed throughtout the media.  The how and when certain things were discovered and in what condition they were in. Situations such as these are easily ignored because of the painful prodding into the reality of it all. Nonetheless, facts that need to be addressed in order to set the stage. They may not all get included but, I feel like I needed to know what I’m writing about. As I begin to delve deepeer into the parts that I haven’t picked apart, I feel the bandage over my broken heart taughten to deflect these painfullyl pointed truths. 

Today, I realize, it will be necessary for me to look beyond myself, past the borders of what is safe and secure. Casting my vision over the feelings of inadequacy, to right where He is. Completely expecting to be equipped to handle the erruption of what has been submerged. Not pushing myself. In contrast, allowing myself to be led “to” and “through” it all.

After being isolated for so long, I thought reengaging with the world was a good thing. Partaking in two part time jobs, volunteering in different venues, being a wife, mother, aunt and sister, neighbor and friend all had benefits. They all kept me busy. Hours well spent but, some of what I was doing was simply a distraction. Not that it didn’t serve its purpose. Reconnecting with society did show me healing had occurred and that I could be a shell of my former self. But, in reality what had happened was I had become engrossed in the details of everyday life; living but not being led. Surrounding myself with tasks and todo’s that interfered with sitting still and spending time with my Savior.

I have know for quite a while, what was necessary. That is, relinquishing some of my responsibilities in order to promote relaxation within. Severing the sense of security that is a byproduct of compartmentalized committments. It felt good to rely on the rhythm of each day; wake up, work, return home, rest and repeat. Oh and by the way, I was earning an income. After completing employment in the nonpaid position of “stay at home mom” for 19 years, it felt good to get a paycheck printed with my name on it. For any woman that can relate, who walked away from a career to concentrate on raising her children, returning to the workforce has the potential to be empowering to the point of intoxication.

Certainly, I had carved out a life that hindered the Holy Spirit. Working at an upscale boutique, I allowed myself to be infatuated with the sacred stitches of designer duds. Don’t get me wrong, the clothes themselves weren’t the bad things. Nor, my place of employment. I worked alongside spiritual soulmates and assisted incredible women. Instead, what went wrong was what crept into my conscience. I allowed myself, even if just slightly, to be absorbed by my surroundings. Everything was beautiful and I allowed it to grab my attention. At the time, I didn’t mind it !!! As a matter of fact, I was enjoying the earthly entanglements.

Not having the ability to silence the Holy Spirit; I could only stuff down so much. I knew what I was doing was in essence disobedient. God no more wanted me wrapped up in the world. Picking and choosing for myself rather than placing myself in a position of purpose was not pleasing to Him. My attention to Him and the telling of His story had been usurped by the attraction of what the world had to offer. The hours of complete quiet that promoted a profound connection had disappeared into the daily grind.

My immediate family witnessed this new pattern of self protection. All along, in disagreement with this way of life. David, constantly inquiring, “Elizabeth, when is something going to give? Nearest and dearest to my heart, they were the ones that prodded and poked me to return to my previous work. Able to see when I am in my element, better than myself. Their prickly encouragement is unwavering and unending. I’m grateful they haven’t become agitated to the point of giving up on me when I haven’t poured myself out in the right places.

No longer working two part time jobs, able to make my own schedule and carve out hours of quiet uninterrupted hours has allowed the Spirit to swell back into my soul, allowed my eyes to see the everlasting and my heart to ponder what is important. Afraid of being lonely, kept me connected. Walking away wasn’t easy but, it was necessary. Lessening my life load has increased the Almighty activity within. It is a good thing. Exactly, where I need to be.

So, I pick up where I left off. With no condemnation for being careened off course. Once again, it is time to attempt to gather the scattered half written stories and complete the scenarios. Fill in, with the chapters that need to be written and compile all of it into an organzied presentation of papers.

Embracing, that I don’t know what the end result will look like. Strangling the thoughts of anxiety that a single soul may never care to read what I have written and get back to the real work of my life.

Praying every step of the way that with each word written, I would hear His voice.

Pleading, that He strengthen my spirit so that nothing has the power to deter nor distract me.

Inspiring me, with ways to retell His story to touch others.

Finding peace, that he will do with the final project what He pleases.  

Instilling, that no energy is required of me to figure out the future concerning, all of that….

Assuring me, all I need to do is write.

Believing, when He calls it complete and the bound book is placed into the hands of an open heart it will serve to strengthen someone’s Faith.

My Mind is Made Up

Just before the havoc of the holidays began, my thoughts were that I might return to school and earn another degree. One that would enable me to use my unfortunate experience in a more professional way. I didn’t know if engaging in coursework was necessary nor, which identifying initials behind my name would render me certified to counsel others. (MSW, LPC, SW, CPL just to site a few) Trying to iron all of this out, I decided to consult with several counselors in the community. I choose three individuals that I thought might influence and inform my decision. Seeking them out, I scheduled appointments with each.  My first meeting took place in a coffee shop. A therapist by trade but, also a life long friend, Melanie told me what it took to get where she was today. Herself having a story to share. At times, a painful journey that led her to pursue a profession where her experiences of suffering could support someone else.

At the time, all I could do was talk in general terms. Carrying my own set of experiences, I was still soul searching, for the best ways to reach and teach grief-stricken souls. Yearning to know the specifics and continuing to open myself up to a preordained path, my questions centered on varying types of degrees and what each would allow me to execute. How many school years would it take and would it be worth the money and time invested. Where would I work and would I need my own office space. By the time I capped my caffeine consumption, I had received the information sought about schooling. Our discussion had been full of details but, at the end, no decision had been made. Melanie’s last statement to me was, “It will be interesting to see where you end up.” Her words were encouraging; not ones meant to mix me up. However, they brought no defining destiny. When we parted, I sensed that returning to school to earn a professional degree was secondary to something the Spirit was insisting that I do.

Even with this inkling, I sought out the second person to meet. I was familiar with who she was, but we hadn’t met face to face. Still a stranger, in a sense. I knew she was an activist in our community, supporting many lost souls and leading them to the Living God.  Somewhere along the way, I had been exposed to her story. Looking at her life now, I knew she was more than just surviving. Instead, fueled by her own testament, she spent her days steering the souls of unwed mothers, counseling those seeking relief from suffering and reaching her healing hands into the community. Watching from a distance, I saw a woman of action and involvement.

I was able to introduce myself early one morning when she allowed me to sneak in after a meeting with her staff. Shaking hands was the start but, what followed was the real beginning.  I explained the information I sought; What did her previous path look like? Did she attend school to certify herself? How did she organize her experience so others could tap into her testimony?. Her schedule is demanding so, we didn’t have time to cover all the specifics. Nonetheless, I gleaned what I needed to know to take the next step.

Unbeknownst to me, she was in attendance at The Woman of Hope Conference where I shared “Samantha’s Story” for the first time. Abbey attested to the power and providence of my experience. Proclaiming, that returning to an educational institution was not what I needed to do. Instead, she affirmed that I had passed enough tests, ones harder, requiring more endurance, discipline and commitment than anything that could be achieved on a piece of paper. Testifying, that Jesus is the Great Physician, The Great Counselor and that is what people needed to know. Once again, inserting her helping hands into the lives of learners, we scheduled a time to continue our conversation. Stating, we were Sisters in Christ and helping me was the least she could do.

Three weeks later, every obstacle imaginable surfaced and tried to interfere with our time to talk. Feeling flustered, I pressed in and conquered the attempts to dissuade me from arriving on time. Walking into the room, I knew it would be inappropriate to cave into all that had gone wrong while getting there. Instead, a peace prevailed and I calmly expressed my gratitude for grace.  I was greeted with a warm welcome, invited to sit down and settle in. We opened in prayer. My sense of hearing on high alert, enabling me to receive the wisdom in the room. Rambling, I retold how my head and heart were beating up against each other as I sought the path in finding the purpose in my pain.

All the while, Abbey held the Bible in her hands, counseling me with the written Word. She uncovered within me a doubt concerning the worthiness of sharing my story, a fear of what others would think of me when I exposed my experience and the possibility that others might question the authenticity of what I said. Maybe even more than that, challenge me, cornering me into an uncomfortable confrontation because of the my lack of biblical knowledge. The woman sitting before me addressed all of my issues with targeted truth. She lead me to scripture each time that identified my emerging emotions and in turn, clear instructions on how we are to overcome them. Clearing up any confusion about whether I was to stand in fear or follow in faith. She released the feeling of confinement when insisting, I wasn’t responsible for the outcome. That some folks would hear and others wouldn’t. But, that wasn’t up to me.

With that established, our conversation turned to ways to give identity to JustDoToday.org. Squeezed amongst all that she said, I was comforted by her comment, “Elizabeth, you remind me of myself 10 years ago. Continue to sit before the Father and He will lead you.” All of the sudden, I knew what to do. Stopping her mid-sentence, I confessed our conversation could end because I had just received my next set of instructions. “Write a letter!”, is what I heard. Abby raised and lowered her chin in agreement. Encouraging me to tackle the next task. Prayer was how we parted but, it wasn’t without homework on my part. In order for the world to recognize JustDoToday.org, a tag line, a logo and possibly a non-profit would be required. The third step is a tough one. As of yet, I am unable to wrap my brain around the idea.

Immediately, I went to work on the things that seemed doable, creating a combination of words and perusing through appropriate images. While working late into the night, everything came together. Quickly, JustDoToday.org had a purpose and a picture.

IMG_5214Next step, write the letter. Sitting down and sifting through what I wanted it to say, I outlined my main thoughts. Working with a friend, we arranged the words, organized the paragraphs and penned a page size letter explaining why and what I am being led to do. Putting all the pieces together, I was ready to run my first copies. Walking out of Office Depot, I knew I was about to make myself vulnerable to the world.

Since then, I have mailed out 40 letters to local and out of state pastors, varying grief groups and individuals whom I know play a part in the spiritual development of others.   Each day a new group is placed on my heart, I respond by connecting with them so I can share “Samantha’s Story.” Today, it is time to share the letter with those of you online. Please read it and if you know of any gathering, group, conference, retreat, etc. whose lives would be sustained and whose faith would be strengthened by listening to “Samantha’s Story”, please contact me.

JustDoToday.org Outreach Letter

P.S. – I believe this blog was for my benefit. Like the old days of http://www.my_walk_with_thee.blogspot.com, there are times when I just need to write. When I do, the golden thread that is weaved throughout the ordinary events in my life, stands out and shines.  But, boy, do I have something to share in my next post!

By the way, I met with the third person. Lately, the licks of life led me back to my personal therapist, giving me a good reason to call and crawl back for her wise counsel. She was one of the three but, I fought the fact that I needed help again. Visiting with her allows me a safe place of honesty and time to hear advice from an objective resource. Knowing she is a committed Christian makes it easy for me to open up and express all that I hold within. I shared my doubts, my fears and my desires. The same story as I did before. I received identical reinforcement, “Write the letter. Mail it out. Wait and see what happens.”

******If you can believe it, as I connect with the keyboard, to recognize the work of The Almighty, I just received my second invitation to share “Samantha’s Story.” On January 20th, I will participate in a grief group at a local Hospice Care. I am excited about it, if you can imagine that. I know, it doesn’t make sense. How can sharing in a grief group, bring peace and joy? Only, when walking in the will of the Lord would such a thing occur!!!! ********

Oh, there are many scriptures resounding within me!!!!

The LORD says, “At that time young women will dance and be glad. Young men and old men will rejoice. I will turn their grief into gladness. I will give them comfort and joy in place of their sorrow.

Jeremiah 31:13

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:9

What an incredible experience to be a part of The Kingdom!