Short Story Tuesday: To Trudge

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Trudge. To walk slowly or with heavy steps.

She glanced down at the downy head that came just to her chin, the black curls soft on her cheek. The child was strapped to her, his warm body the constant reminder of why she did what she did. For him.

She looked back up to the chain link fence that surrounded them, the compound bustling with activity. Children squealed and ran haphazardly through the tents while mothers scolded and fathers clumped together in circles, worried eyes scanning the horizon. She would have given the world twice over for her husband to be at her side. As she thought of him, her throat closed up. Tears threatened to escape their confines. Then the baby giggled and reached his chubby hands for her cheek. She caught his wandering fingers in her own and kissed them. She still had a reason to live. To fight. To…trudge. Even if that was all she could do, she would.

The line shifted, and she took a step forward. The woman in front of her smelled like dust and sweat, the once-colorful shawl around her shoulders now stained with dirt and grime. What was her story? Perhaps not much different than her own. Did she feel the same hope burning in her chest that this time, she would be given access to the world beyond the fence? She must, to some extent, otherwise she wouldn’t be back in line. Waiting for hours. Even days.

Another shift. Another step forward. The child reached for her again, and she kissed his curls. He squirmed and fussed, trying to escape. She knew the feeling. No human being was meant to live in confinement. Freedom and liberty was a God-given right. Yet here she was, wasn’t she? Confinement for freedom. There was irony there somewhere, but she had no desire to find any humor in it. Stale irony, then.

Another shuffle forward. The future at the end of the line taunted. Was it bright and beckoning? Would she find their freedom? She didn’t know what she would do if failure met her there, instead. Anxiety clawed at her chest, even as the baby hugged her tight and babbled incoherently. What a stark contrast he was to her own inner desperation. She would be strong. For him. She must be.

Her turn had come. Another shuffle, and then…”Name?” She gave it. “Papers?” She gave them. The eyes that looked up at her had no compassion. They were dead eyes. They belonged to a wax figure in a museum.

“I’m sorry. Not this month.”

****

The refugee crisis continues. 24 displaced people flee for safety every minute. Yes, you read that right. To get involved, go here.

Writing as Catharsis: My Year Part 2

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I wrote last week about a conversation I had with my husband that opened up a floodgate, and I entered into the world of mental health illnesses and all that comes with it. That was just the tip of the iceberg.

Last August I had major knee surgery and was bed bound for 12 weeks, with a three and two year old. I’m sure you can imagine how fun that was. My body was already in a state of recovery, and my emotional instability didn’t help. Depression set in, and I knew that unless I kept my mind sharp and active, I might not ever claw out of the slump I found myself in.

Then the question popped into my mind: Why not finish writing that book I started as a teenager? The idea sprang forth like a shoot from a seed. Yes. That could keep my mind engaged while I languished on my bed, waiting for my knee to heal.

It was the best decision I could have made. I wrote four manuscripts in eight months. I’m set to release Rift in the Deep on March 1st, the first in a series called The Steward Saga. Here is the blurb. I won’t say that writing “saved me” but I will say that it helped save my sanity. While God healed my body and helped me sort through the feelings that came with it, writing became my outlet for those emotions and creativity that had been building up inside. If you are a writer, you know what I mean, right? It’s cathartic.

Writing serves several purpose, and being a creative outlet is just one of them. I’ll tackle more reasons at another time. But for now, and how it interacts with the suffering and trials I’ve experienced this last year, you could say that God has used it to show me that the path He has laid out isn’t only filled with darkness. There are shafts of light that burst forth to illuminate his goodness in the midst of pain. It provides an anchor, so that when I’m tempted to wonder if He really does love me and have my best at heart, I write. And His promises come flooding back.

Something is Coming

You GUYS. The impressive, illustrious Jill Purrazzi has done the cover art for my book coming out March 1. Rift in the Deep, in case you forgot.

Poole Publishing has done the actual cover…and I will reveal it next week. NEXT WEEK. Did you hear me!? NNNNEEEEEEEXXXT WEEEEEEEEEK.

So stay tuned.

My Year Part 1

“Do you think you have ADD?”

The feeling of relief that washed over me was palpable. A living thing. “You think that, too?”

Eric nodded. “I’ve thought so for a while now.”

We were sitting in Chuy’s on a date night, and as soon as he said the words, I felt a release of emotions. Relief. Affirmation. Dread. For years I had wondered and kept silent, fearful that I was imagining it all. Afraid of the ramifications of a diagnosis, and all the stuff that comes with it. Mostly, afraid it was somehow my fault. That I should try harder. Do better. Force myself to pay attention. Not be so anxious all the time.

This opened up a floodgate, and I opened up about my anxiety, as well. We decided I should pursue a clinical approach along with the counseling approach I had been taking. Counseling had been incredibly helpful, for sure. But if the issue was in my brain wiring, it would take more than just wishing it away.

Why was I so hesitant, you would probably ask. Anyone who has what would be termed “mental health issues” would laugh. The stigma follows you, but not only that, your own fears and stigmas do as well. We are our worst critics.

I’ve already addressed here about finding freedom in the midst of mental illness. It doesn’t define me, or you, if you have similar struggles. But how do we wrestle with the fact that there is an element of who we are that could be rejected by our society? A society that tells us we need to keep ourselves bottled up, and only show what it deems beautiful? Being real and genuine requires opening up parts of ourselves that others might despise. That is the fear that haunts most of us who have diagnosable mental problems.

So when my husband asked me that question, a Pandora’s box exploded open. And we both walked through it together. He wasn’t going to reject me, or despise me, for something that was a part of me that couldn’t be medicated away. And as I took baby steps to talking about it, seeking help, and embracing how I was made, that Pandora’s box became insignificant. Not in the way most people would think: it was still a big learning curve. It’s still a struggle to talk about. But to the people who matter most to me, they love me not just in spite of my ADD and anxiety, but because of it. And THAT is what makes the difference.

If you, too, struggle with mental health problems, let me beg you to surround yourself with people who will embrace you. Get medical and counseling help. Find a community, church, or organization that will walk through it with you. There is freedom to be who you were made to be.

 

The Process of Trust

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The hard work of regeneration doesn’t happen over night. Even a caterpillar is trapped in a cocoon sometimes for weeks before he emerges as a butterfly. Sometimes it feels that I’ve been in that state of “washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” forever. And often asking, “What is the point of all this hard work if the end result must be perfection?” And then justify not “working out my salvation with fear and trembling” because, after all, heaven is the only place I’ll be completely renewed.

Change is a fact of life, is it not? We don’t just see it spiritually. It happens on all levels: economical change as the dollar dips or rises in value. Or physically, as our bodies decay. In evolutionary changes, as species adapt to changing temperatures, or to avoid predators. I see it in my son, as he battles to learn what it means to adapt to his environment that he can’t control. Part of living life is adjusting to change, adapting, going with the flow, learning, growing…being transformed. It never stops.

So why should we give ourselves a pass when it comes to our spirituality? Being made in the image of God means that we reflect someone who doesn’t change. Yet in our imperfections, we cannot ever fully understand exactly what that looks like. So what do we do?

Trust the one who made us in that image. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” And trust doesn’t just come: like some magical pill we can take and then poof! Trusting God is easy. Sometimes I think it might practically look more like sanctification…a process.

Do I think trusting God can be easy at times? Yes, for sure. But it doesn’t always look that way. And for the longest time, I thought it had to be easy or it wasn’t trust. But isn’t that what processes are all about? It’s a process for the caterpillar to become a butterfly. It’s a process for us to image Christ more and more. And it’s a process to trust God in the day to day challenges that life offers. So part of this journey I eluded to has been to come to grips with the fact that just because hard things come my way, God doesn’t expect me to react or behave a certain way. As if the prescription must be followed to specific instructions or it means I have failed. No. He wants me to come to Him even when I’m still a caterpillar trying to become a butterfly but I haven’t made it yet. He beckons when I’m a mess, just like He beckons when I’m “put together”. So can you.

 

 

 

Short Story Tuesday: Gloria

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The sun settled on the horizon in washes of purple and gold. The barren field lit as with the glory of angelic hosts, outside the norm of dust and grime. Dry bones would better describe it on a normal day. But not now.

Maybe it was the promise of rain, maybe not. Either way, I stopped toiling to gaze at it in earnest. Sweat trickled down my face, like an itch, but I didn’t wipe it away. Not yet, leastwise. It reminded me I was alive. And for a moment, I could almost believe that horizon would welcome me. Would it embrace like a mother’s cool touch to a fevered brow? Or would it clutch tight like a long-lost friend? I closed my eyes and imagined it.

Across the field the train whistle blew. I snapped open my eyes as it approached, the longing in my breast increasing like the steam in the engine of the monolith that sped across the tracks. The sun swooped low…low…low. The train built speed, and there! I came in sight as the sun set. Maybe if I thought hard enough, longed with enough passion and fire, I could spring across the dusk and ride the tracks to…where? Freedom? For me? Yes. Even for me.

I glanced back toward the others. They labored low, but some gazed with me to the deepening horizon. The light fled, just as I longed to do. Their eyes followed the train, and the promise offered in the whistle that pierced the air. Freedom. I remembered it well.

Her smile suddenly came to mind, as if chasing the sun as it set. Gloria. How I have failed you! What do you think of me now? Dressed in orange, shackled and shuffled, taken from job to job that no one else wants to do. Paid cents when others would be paid dollars. My crime? Well, that’s a story for another day. But does it mean I deserve this existence? The walls that are my companion, except for when I’m brought out to see the sun? It taunts me. I know I will go back. The drudgery will kill me, if my fellow prisoners don’t. The panic will set in…it always does. And I will have to contemplate, for the millionth time, if it was all worth it. Of course, the answer will be no. But that won’t stop me from asking. Again.

Gloria. Like the angelic host.

 

***

The United States holds 4.4% of the world’s population, yet incarcerates 22% of the world’s prisoners. For-profit prisons average $3,300 per inmate per year, for a whopping 1.6 billion per year. For more information, and for how to get involved in prison reform, visit The Sentencing Project.

The Raventree Society Review

So I love lauding other indie author’s work. I’ve already mentioned before that I really enjoy JE Purrazzi’s work. Her Sci-fi/dystopian thrillers are excellent. Check out Malfunction, or the free prequel novella Revelation.

The Raventree Society is a series of short stories in the supernatural/paranormal thriller genre. Now, I love me some Edgar Allen Poe. And “Strawberry Lane Motel” is right up that alley. Just enough suspense mixed with shivers down your spine, but the characters aren’t swallowed up in the story. Purrazzi doesn’t sacrifice character development and intricate dynamics for just the thrill of ghosts and spirits and fear. She seamlessly mixes both, to bring both a compelling story and relateable protagonists. Kyle Hanson is someone you could actually believe exists.

So head over to Amazon (or whatever other mediums you use) and scoop up a copy. Well worth the .99 and it will leave you wanting the next episode!

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