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I Finally Forgave Him.

Around twenty years ago, some genius finally figured out that sexual harassment had been a rampant problem in the high school of Byron, Minnesota. For a long time.

Duh. Back in the mid-1980s, I had been one of the victims.

But of all the boys who had groped at me, or run a finger down my back asking if I was wearing a bra, I was only truly afraid of one of them.

I’ll call him by his initials, C.B.

The story

He was fat, taller than I, and had a glint in his eyes that today I would recognize as evil. I could actually sense maliciousness emanating from him.

C.B. terrorized me during the eighth and ninth grades. In eighth grade, he sat right behind me in math for a while, and the long-term substitute teacher couldn’t have been more clueless about the lewd things he was whispering to me, about how he’d reach around to my front and fondle the small bumps on my chest.

In ninth grade, we were in the same social studies class, and again, for a while he sat behind me, taking advantage of my shyness and fear, and the fact that back in the 1980s, girls and women weren’t being taught to speak out against sexual harassment.

Plus, I had no idea that such things were happening to other girls. I thought I was wearing some invisible target that boys could somehow sense. I thought it was my problem, and mine alone.

To make matters worse, C.B. rode the same school bus as my siblings and I. And sometimes, we were forced to sit together. I still remember the day I, the girl who never broke any rules, stood up while the bus was moving so I could squish myself against the window to get away from him. His response? To reach out and grab at my privates through my jeans.

I finally told my mom about what was happening in the social studies class, and she drove to the school to insist that the teacher move me away from him. I gotta hand it to my mom: while she’d never been shy about voicing an opinion, she’d also never been much for taking actions on her opinions. So I don’t take lightly the action she took on my behalf that day.

Thanks, Mom. 🙂

Of course, the very next school day, after the social studies teacher moved my seat, C.B. cornered me and demanded to know if I’d told on him.

Long story short, at some point during ninth grade I became convinced that if I stayed at that school, one day he was going to find me in the restroom and rape me. At the end of the year, I told my parents that if I had to return to Byron High, I was going to drop out and take night classes to get my GED, as my brother was doing at the time.

The terror was so real, I have few other vivid memories of that school year.

What happened next

Two things resulted from the situation. First, my mom talked me out of dropping out of school, and into attending a Catholic high school in Rochester.

The second thing that happened was that I harbored a growing hatred for C.B. for decades after. Until a few days ago.

You gotta understand, I’m almost fifty years old. That’s a long time to hate somebody.

I’ve tried over the years to forgive him. I really have. I know that verse well where Yeshua says that I have to forgive if I want to be forgiven. But even though C.B. never violated me the way I’d feared he would, he did violate my tender and vulnerable teenage soul.

How I healed

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to write a novel based on that year in high school. Originally, the plot was going to revolve around how Byron saw its first black students that year, and the quiet uproar it caused among the community that, up until then, had seen zero black people. But when I sat down to write it, it started to be all about the sexual harassment.

I was struggling with the story – as you might understand – and set it aside one day to write a blog post about the dangers of traditional education. I had written several bullet points, then got to the one about bullies.

I got angry. I began fuming. J and B were outside at the time, but when they came in, I let my emotions and opinions explode. Then I went off about C.B. J already knew about him, what he had done – and what I had feared, so many years ago, that he might do. B, however, had no idea what I was talking about. I had to give him the thousand foot view. (He was twelve, so he had been told about “the birds and the bees.”)

After he was safely tucked away in his room, watching videos, I bawled onto J’s chest. And as my dear, sweet husband held me, I realized that this was the first time I’d ever cried over the situation.

In essence, I had held in my emotions surrounding it for around thirty-four years.

Thirty. Four. Bleeping. Years.

I didn’t feel better about it right then. But I did sit down with J and B and confess my sin of unforgiveness, and of hating. I asked God to help me forgive C.B. I asked the Holy Spirit to fill the place that had been full of bitterness and anger and hatred.

And, guess what? A couple of days ago, I was thinking about C.B., and for the first time ever, I didn’t feel any negative emotions toward him. The hate was gone. The anger was gone.

The burden was completely, totally, and thoroughly gone.

I had finally forgiven him.

What I learned

Here’s what I learned about forgiving.

#1. It’s as important to forgive imagined terrors as it is to forgive real events.

#2. You can’t forgive if you’re hiding the wounds the person caused you. You have to get vulnerable, expose the wound so God can touch it.

#3. The longer you walk in unforgiveness, the more difficult it becomes to forgive.

#4. You need someone who loves you to be by your side once you decide to let your guard down, and allow the old wounds to be exposed. The pain is often too deep to handle alone. You need the extra strength and courage that the other person brings to the table. Without it, the wound could fester further, instead of being healed.

Everyone needs a hand to hold onto. Everyone needs a shoulder to cry on.

#5. For deep, long-term wounds, you need to call on your heavenly Father for help to forgive the other person.

#6. Asking for forgiveness from Father for your unforgiveness and hatred will move things along even faster. The original wound may have been caused by someone else, but you make it worse by making yourself judge over the person.

Asking God to forgive your unforgiveness equates to humbling yourself, and admitting that you’ve tried to take the Lord’s place in judging that person and that you’re ready to step down.

#7: Walking in unforgiveness is akin to playing God, which is a heavy burden.

#8: When you ask the Holy Spirit to come and fill the places in your soul that you’ve emptied, He will. And it will change your life. Make it both brighter and lighter.

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I think the reason I started writing the novel, and that blog post that brought me to bullying, was that my subconscious couldn’t handle the burden anymore, and led me to begin to vent. At that point, God put His finger on it and began to expose the evil beast inside me.

Or, maybe Father knew it was past time for me to forgive, and nudged my subconscious into this path.

However it happened doesn’t matter. The important thing is that it happened.

I forgave C.B.

And I almost feel like I’ve been born again, again.

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Perimenopausal Inertia

I just spent half an hour doing nothing.

Scratch that. I’ve spent about the past week doing nothing.

Three of those days can’t count, though. I had a hormonally-induced I.B.S. flare up that was so bad, I was in discomfort, if not pain, most of the time, needing to skip snacks and even a couple of meals.

Back to today. And yesterday. My digestive system has been almost normal, but I haven’t been working on the novel I started. Actually, I gave up on it. I haven’t written any blog posts (until now). No practicing my guitar or keyboard. I can barely get myself to sit down with B to do our language arts lessons in the morning.

During the past half hour, I “looked inside” two books on Amazon which I had no intention of buying. I scanned someone else’s blog without really reading anything. I stared at a Blogger blog I’d started last year, wondering if I should keep it up. I…well, I’m not sure what else I did.

Except, I wasted my time. Like I did the rest of the day.

Normally, when I don’t do something productive with my time for a good part of day, I feel guilty.

Not today. Not yesterday, either.

Certainly not those days when every bite of food I took felt like it went down my esophagus with a double-edged knife.

But forget the misery of digestive disorders. Understandable, my difficulty with concentration – or motivation to do anything beyond survive the next minute – under those circumstances.

The fact is, during the past two days, I could have done something. I could have worked on a novel. I could have improved my musical skills (though, I did play the keyboard yesterday, yay me 😉 ). I could have tried calling a friend. E-mailed my sister a long overdue “how ya doin’?”

Except.

Hot flashes.

No, you don’t understand. I’ve been having them off and on for the past year or so. But during the past couple of weeks, they’ve been an almost hourly, if not more frequent, occurrence.

And.

They are now being preceded by that “aura” I’ve heard tell about. My hot flash aura? I have a mini-panic attack. I suddenly feel like I’m being pulled into hell.

And this has been happening many times a day for the past few days.

Tell you one good thing that’s come out of it: I can now empathize with people who suffer from anxiety disorders. And maybe this sudden intensity and increase in symptoms means that menopause cometh soon. And maybe I might stop feeling crazy half the time when it does?

The bad thing: I have no idea when I’m going to feel balanced enough to actually commit to a project as massive as a novel.

The long and the short of it: I’m not going to worry about being productive right now. This journey through intensified perimenopause symptoms is a job in and of itself – unpaid though it be.

Pray for me. And perhaps expect more blog posts while I await a calm enough mind to tackle another novel. Because I have to write. I’m a writer.

TTYL. 🙂

PS – Do me a favor and don’t comment telling me about the glories of HRT. Increased magnesium supplementation and an M.D.-created progesterone oil have me a lot better off than I was a couple of years ago.

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Write To Inspire

It’s hard to dive into the world of self-publishing and, despite your best intentions, not get obsessed with making money. Even for long-time believers, like me.

Yes, I confess: I’ve gotten sucked into the money-is-number-one trap. I’ve heard and read about how so many Indie authors, often with fewer novels published than I, make well above the average household income, and become frustrated. And therefore, I’ve taken my eyes off the Ultimate Prize that comes from doing the will of my Father.

And therefore, tried to figure out how “everybody else” is making good money, and begun to try to emulate that.

On the right track, then a wrong detour

I was on the right track for most of the novels in my “Texas Hearts” series. I was on the right track for my “Choices and Chances” series, as well as my latest series, “Pine Mountain Estates.” But when I finished proofing the latest book in that series, Pine Mountain Christmas, I took a detour.

I started to write a novel for the sole purpose of increasing my income.

After the Lord had specifically spoken something to me about my fiction writing.

Write to inspire

I’ve learned not to be too quick to say, “The Lord told me…,” because in the past, many times when I’d believe the Spirit of God was speaking, it was actually my own spirit. Or, worse, my soul.

But I’ve also learned that if I “hear” something in my spirit that flows into my mind, and it’s not an answer I’ve been trying to conjure, and it goes against the lust of my flesh, I can be 99% certain that God has spoken.

And a couple of months ago, I heard something deep within that fit those criteria exactly: Write to inspire, not to make money.

Of course, being the mature believer that I am, my reaction was to yell inside my spirit, “What’s the point of writing, then?!”

You might not be shocked to hear that I hit a brick wall after about three chapters into the clean romance novel I recently began. It just. Wouldn’t. Go. Any. Farther.

What’s the point, indeed?

Here’s what I’ve figured out. The Lord wasn’t telling me not to write in the popular genres. He wasn’t telling me to give all my books away for free. He wasn’t telling me to write obscure, literary works that wouldn’t sell.

He was telling me that my primary motive for writing and publishing a story should be to inspire. And to trust Him for the results.

I may be able to salvage this new novel. The storyline – I think, anyway – is interesting and intriguing. Worth putting out there for my readers to enjoy. But it can’t be your run-of-the-mill clean romantic comedy-suspense. I have to write it with an angle to inspire.

Which brings me to my current dilemma:

How do I want to inspire my readers?

I was going to brainstorm a list of ways that I want to inspire my readers via my stories on a piece of paper. But then I thought, it’s time for a new blog post. How about I share it on my blog?

That said, I want to inspire my readers to:

#1. First and foremost, live in the freedom that God’s grace has provided. Religion has created a lot of rules and ideas about how to please God. Do this, don’t do that. But people who preach these same rules and ideas define grace as God’s unmerited favor.

Talk about talking out of both sides of your mouth! If God’s grace is unmerited, there is absolutely nothing we can do to earn it. He’s already provided it; we accept it by faith. And when we do, we have true freedom, because then we have access to all the healing and spiritual growth and wisdom we need.

We don’t have to follow rules, but God’s leading.

#2. Struggle through trials until they get to the other side. A lot of people give up halfway through a struggle with obstacles, burdens, or pain. But it’s in those very struggles that we grow into the potential that God placed inside us. And when we reach the other side, our faith grows, as well as our strength and confidence to triumph over the next time of trial.

#3. Forgive. Unforgiveness is unhealthy in every way. The worst way is that it cuts us off from the grace I just talked about. We have to forgive others, or God won’t forgive us [Matthew 6:14]. This makes God sound mean and cruel, but think about it: when you refuse to forgive somebody, you’re judging them. When you judge others, you’re making yourself like God. You are being prideful and stubborn, not to mention spiritually blind.

You are, in essence, acting like Satan himself.

Ouch, right?

#4. Discover, and walk in, their calling. I’ve already said my piece about purpose here, and calling here. In essence: if you are doing what the Father has called you to do, you will find fulfillment and help the world to become a better place. Even if only a small part of the world, in small ways.

Every little bit helps.

And obedience is better than trying to live up to the world’s definition of success.

#5. Trust God. This goes along with my second way I want to inspire readers, about struggling through trials. How can a person get to the other side of a trial without faith and trust? But it’s possible to not trust God in a situation that doesn’t feel like a trial, a situation where you have the ability to manipulate things to go your way. Believe me, if ever you read one of my novels in which a character is struggling with trusting God – especially where they’re trying to manipulate their circumstances – know that I’m writing from my own experience!

#6. Be healthy, as much as possible, in every area of life. It’s hard to care about your calling when you have zero energy and/or are experiencing uncomfortable physical symptoms. It’s hard to obey the command to not worry when your finances are in a mess. And so on.

#7. Make communing with God a daily and ongoing habit. [Note before I continue: I don’t mean to put this one as a low priority. I was just jotting down ideas as they came, in no particular order except for the first one.] Many believers, though they’ve accepted God’s grace through Yeshua’s sacrifice, relegate God to church services, morning devotions, and times of crisis. I want to inspire my readers to communicate with their Father often, throughout every day. He’s always right there, waiting for a “thank You,” “help me,” or “I love You.”

**************

Along the way, I’ll probably come up with more ways to inspire my readers. But I could probably write an endless number of stories based on those seven alone! Now I just need to tweak my latest novel by figuring out which angle of inspiration to add.

If you have any ideas you’d like to share, feel free to leave them in the comments below. 🙂

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Where I’ve Been, And Why

I haven’t done well at keeping my promise to myself that I would write at least one blog post per week for this blog. For the three people who will actually read this post (she said facetiously), and who may be wondering why I’ve been away from this blog for a while, I wanted to explain.

The main reason is that I finally realized that I’m supposed to focus my time and writing on novels, not blogging. For whatever reason, God has called me to be a novelist. I say, “for whatever reason”, because I know there are a lot of Christians out there who believe that reading for pleasure, even if the stories are clean and uplifting, is on the edge of sin.

Christians are supposed to constantly be working like slaves to save the world. Never supposed to have any fun. Therefore, any form of entertainment is a waste of time.

Go ahead and disbelieve me that I’m not called to write novels. I’m not going to waste my energy arguing with you; I need it to fulfill God’s call on my life. 😉

So, I’ve been away because I’ve been working on Book 5 in my “Pine Mountain Estates” series. Having completed the first draft of that novel, I decided to work on the major editing that a previously published novel requires before I write the other two books in its series and get it back into the public eye.

Still, I could find time to jot a few paragraphs once a week to publish here on my blog. But another reason I haven’t is that I’ve been busy in the garden.

I may write an entire post about this sometime. Right now, suffice to say that God never called me or my husband to be homesteaders, to try to be self-sufficient at any level of food production. Which is why, my thick head finally figured out, just trying to succeed with a basic summer garden has had me constantly frustrated and stressed out.

And, by the way, I’m not a newbie at this. I’ve been gardening for the past seven to eight years. And I’ve had enough success to keep on with it. But it’s not where I’m supposed to be spending my time.

Ditching most attempts at gardening will open up more time to write, thus I’ll be able to keep this blog more current than I have been.

Finally, about a month ago I began using a special reading and spelling program to teach our son to read – that is, to get his reading level at least up to that of the average twelve-year-old, if not higher. He is dyslexic, and for three years I stuck my head in the sand and believed the unschooling community’s lie that even dyslexic kids will magically learn how to read by their mid-teens with little to no help.

B knew the phonics basics, but struggled to get beyond that because he kept confusing vowel sounds, confusing the “b” and “p”, and remembering phonics rules. I realized a couple of months ago that nothing I learned in my thirteen years of teaching was enough to help him. After a little online digging I encountered the Barton Reading and Spelling program, which is a systematic phonics program written specifically for dyslexics of all ages.

Yes, it’s working for us! B has made notable progress since we started the program around a month ago. However, we spend about forty minutes a day going through the lessons, so that makes it a little harder to find time to blog on top of working on novels.

But really, it’s giving up the garden – at least, giving up my attempt to grow as much as I’ve been trying to grow – that’s going to be the biggest time-saver. And maybe not even working in the garden per se is the problem, but working in it when it’s 90+ degrees (F) and 70+% humidity. Doing so saps all my energy and makes me irritable. And not inclined to do anything extra. Like, say for example, write a blog post.

So, there you have it. Where I’ve been, and why. I plan to see you again inside of two weeks.

In the meantime, may the Lord bless you and keep you, and may His face shine upon you and give you the peace that surpasses all understanding.

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The Battle Inside My Head

I miss blogging.

I don’t mean the fake blogs that are really quasi-authoritative websites on single topics that are supposed to make a lot of money based on keywords that people are typing into search engines.

And often written by people who have no real-life experience with that topic.

I’m not talking about that kind of blogging, the kind that requires tying my brain in knots and giving me eyestrain because I have to keep doing keyword research and writing dry, informational articles every day until I die of boredom.

I’m talking about real blogging. A web-log. A diary that you keep online.

“A record of performance, events, or day-to-day activities,” according to Merriam-Webster.

I’m talking about a blog with posts that are just as likely to entertain or share the writer’s heart as they are to provide helpful information. I’m talking about a blog where I share my life journey with my readers, where they can follow my personal growth and the changes I make in my life as a result.

Or where they hear about my frustrations, and can empathize – even feel relieved because they know they’re not the only ones going through stuff.

That’s the kind of blogging that I miss.

On the other hand…

…I love to write stories. I love to create lives for fictional characters, then get into their heads and see how they grow. I love knowing that my stories encourage readers.

And I know God has called me to write novels.

The thing is…

…writing a novel takes a month or two (or more) of consistent, hard work. It’s not something you can put down for a few days and then come back to and jump right in where you left off, because by then you’ve lost the flow of the story and likely forgotten important details in both the plot and the characters’ lives.

Writing a novel takes commitment.

And when you’re committed to writing a novel, it’s hard to find the head space to blog, as well. At least it is for me.

The battle

I know I’m called to write novels. Yet I also have a strong inner urging to share my life journey, as well. Is that not also a call?

I sense a “yes” in my spirit even as I write those words.

The thing is, if I’m going to take the time and effort to write, I want to know that somebody’s going to read what I’ve written. I know that people read my novels.

Most of the blog posts I’ve ever published? No one has ever read them. Those posts that do get read, I have no idea what most people think about them, because they don’t leave a comment.

No, “Thank you, this helped,” or, “I get what you’re saying, but I have this other opinion, and here’s why.”

People get what they want from a blog post, then go on their merry way, never leaving a comment.

Just like people get what they want from a novel, go on their merry way, never leaving a review.

(Which is fine if the book has garnered over 100 reviews within a one-year period, and that number is still growing. But when you enjoy a novel that has few reviews, or which is obviously taking a while to build up to a three-figure review number, giving it a review really, REALLY helps the author because it helps the book be seen by more potential readers. Major hint over.)

So the unspiritual, self-centered part of me would just as soon stay laser-focused on writing novels.

But when I do that, I eventually arrive to the point where I find myself right now.

I miss blogging.

Maybe the battle isn’t what I think it is

I’ve been thinking that the battle has been between blogging and writing novels. However, the idea of doing both brings me joy, and when I think about the issue clearly, I know I have time to do both without one having to suffer in quality.

I think, perhaps, the battle is with impatience and perfection.

If I have a project to do, I want to get it done yesterday so I can move on to the next thing. So if I’m working on a novel, I want to write as many words as I can in it every day so I can finish it as quickly as possible.

And if you’re either a perfectionist or recovering perfectionist, like I am, you want to know the rules of any and every game, and you want to follow them perfectly.

There are a lot of rules surrounding the writing and marketing of novels. There are at least as many rules surrounding the blogosphere.

If I’m following the rules of one to perfection, I can’t even begin to touch the other.

So it’s not a matter of novels vs. blog posts. It’s my approach to writing as a whole. My inner struggle has been following the mandates of the world vs. following the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Many years ago, someone gave me the following word of knowledge: “Emily, stop trying to fit in. God has called you out!”

I don’t fit into the traditional Christian mold. I don’t fit into the mainstream lifestyle. I don’t fit into the stereotypes of the modern woman.

And I don’t struggle with my square peg-ness in those areas.

So why, twenty years after hearing that word, do I continue to try to fit into the world’s mold when it comes to being a professional writer?

Because…I want somebody to acknowledge me as a success in a field.

Or for my monthly income to prove that success.

Yes, I know that’s “carnal.” But I’m being authentic here. If you’re without sin, feel free to start casting stones.

This mindset is also stressful. It strips me of some of the joy and peace I’m supposed to be walking in as a believer.

So right here, right now, I am making a pledge to you, my dear reader. Every day, I’m going to put my writing gift into the hands of Him who gave it to me and say, “Lord, what do I do with it today?”

Because the battle is not mine. Never has been.

I just was too stubborn and selfish to admit it.

Let me leave you with this question: what battle do you need to put into the Father’s hands today?

(If you got something out of this post, please tell me in the comments! 😉 )

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