Divine Interference

If you had told me seven years ago that I’d be writing for a website that caters to children and families, if you’d said I’d stand up in front of a room full of parents and speak about parenting, I would have laughed in your face. How completely absurd! I never wanted to have children. Never. I don’t even recall playing with dolls and pretending to be the mommy. Before we were married, my husband even considered having surgery to prevent the possibility of our becoming parents. I was afraid, you see, and reasonably so, of losing my freedom, my identity, and my peace of mind. I had decided what I wanted to do with my life. I had decided how far I would go into my heart, how far I was willing to go with God. And I had drawn a heavy boundary line.

C.S. Lewis, from Surprised by Joy:

“No word in my vocabulary expressed deeper hatred than the word Interference. But Christianity placed at the centre what then seemed to me a transcendental Interferer…There was no region even in the innermost depth of one’s soul (nay, there least of all) which one could surround with a barbed wire fence and guard with a notice No Admittance. And that was what I wanted; some area, however small, of which I could say to all other beings, ‘This is my business and mine only.’”

I had prayed fervently against pregnancy. I had begged Jesus never to allow me to get pregnant.

I didn’t get my wish. The God of the universe pressed in. He interfered. When the clinic nurse came out through a bright, white door and announced, “Congratulations! You’re pregnant,” I nodded my head, forced a smile, and held back my tears until I got to the car. I was devastated. I couldn’t possibly have told you all the reasons I feared motherhood, or, more accurately, feared any contact with childhood, but just to give you an idea of my feelings…

“The oldest and most battle-hardened among us can hardly bear to live in this world. What unspeakable, stunning cruelty to allow a child to be born here…to be birthed, gasping and screaming, into this malevolent darkness. There is too much fear, too much sorrow, too much confused disappointment. They don’t understand and they cry.

And I don’t understand, and I cry.”

I’m not alone in these feelings. Marilynn Robinson, in her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Gilead, says “It seems almost a cruelty for one generation to beget another when parents can secure so little for their children, so little safety, even in the best circumstances.”

But George MacDonald, father of eleven children, takes a different view. In Lilith, MacDonald’s central character, Mr. Vane, happens upon a community of children he calls “the Little Ones.” “…They were still my protectors,” Mr. Vane says. “I was not theirs.” MacDonald was nearer the truth, I think. We imagine parenting to be about us teaching our children, shaping them, helping them discover God and the world and themselves. Maybe we’re even uncomfortable considering other possibilities. It seems selfish to imagine that our children could be sent here, in part, for us.

But Jesus, in denying me my wish never to have children, was about to interfere in ways I could never have dreamed. He was about to pry open the deep, locked chambers of my heart and heal me. He was about to take the freedom and identity and peace I thought I would lose, and give them to me for real for the first time in my life.


 

If you’ve spent any time reading books on childbirth, you may have noticed that many experts on the topic take time to address the challenges faced by women who have been victims of sexual abuse. A friend of mine mentioned this to me very casually one day, explaining that it was common for women to remember instances of abuse after they had had their first child. I had no idea. But not long after I had my son, it began to be clear that I was not okay. Things were surfacing that I could not explain or control.

February 23, 2011

“(This week I had an image) of standing in the water, holding my heart beneath the waves. I can see what my emotions are…my heart is clearly visible through the water. But I can’t let it breathe. If it comes up for air, if it has life, if it finds a voice, I’ll have to feel all my pain.

Shane (my friend) reminded me that the heart drowning beneath the water is ME. I’m drowning! When I look down and see the dark eyes of a little girl staring up at me through the water, it’s haunting. Her expression is hollow and pained. She is starting to struggle.”

 June 25, 2011

“Jill spoke about Psalm 23 (today)…about the shepherd carrying the sheep up to the tableland (or plateau) so that they could graze in the best grass. All around, enemies prowl in the rifts of the mountains. I can see their eyes flashing out of the dark as they draw nearer and nearer, closing in on the circle of green grass.

In the psalm, Jesus is there to keep watch, but in my mind I (see) Jesus lifting me, a lamb, off of his shoulders, laying me down in the grass, and backing away as the enemies encircle me to devour me. That’s not an accurate picture of the One who gave his life for me. Where did it come from?

(Also), I’ve been reading Harry Potter…and Dumbledore, very much a god-figure in the story, has just died. I feel Harry’s disillusionment, his emptiness, his numbness, even his rage. When did God die? When was he taken out of my world in such a catastrophic way that I felt the sky had gone black and all the stars had fallen into the sea? When did the world go dark for me?”

In little bits and pieces, through counseling sessions and dreams and discussions with family members, the fragments of my story came together. They came in strange and varied ways. They came all out of order. But they came. I had no idea what I was living with, no idea what I had carried.

As of now, I know of two instances of abuse by my uncle. One when I was small enough to be on a changing table. The other, years later, when my parents invited my uncle and his family to stay with us during a transitional time in their lives. He took me out of my bed in the middle of the night, while my parents slept in the next room, and carried me out to an old, rotting outhouse/shed to have “special time.”


Frederick Buechner: “To do for yourself the best that you have it in you to do – to grit your teeth and clench your fists in order to survive the world at its harshest and worst – is, by that very act, to be unable to let something be done for you and in you that is more wonderful still. The trouble with steeling yourself against the harshness of reality is that the same steel that secures your life against being destroyed secures your life also against being opened up and transformed.”

 Let me stop for a moment to clarify that Jesus does His work in us whether or not we have children. He accomplishes the work that He began. But I don’t know of any more powerful way to access the deepest, fiercest emotions in a person. Through my love for my children, through my fear for them, Jesus was opening me up.

September 29, 2011

“I’m having a girl. One baby girl. I’m excited, I guess…and my prediction was confirmed, but oh the things it stirs in me. I don’t want her to know what it’s like to be a woman…or even a tiny girl…in this world. It’s too dangerous, too dark, far too tragic. I was reading Psalm 139 about all our days being written in God’s book. All her days are written already. He knows each joy, each pain. Should that comfort me?

He knew my days, too. And he knew exactly how many hours I would live before my innocence would die, before fear and shame and rage would make their bed deep in my soul. He knows how many hours I have lived with them as my companions…as the iron shadows over my head.

I’ve realized something else. The male characters in Shiloh are powerful. They are decisive, and they shape their destinies, for good or ill. My female characters, though, are trapped, hopeless, powerless. Apparently, that’s what I think it means to be a woman.” (and a child)

 You see it here quite clearly, don’t you? Because I was pregnant with a baby girl, I was forced to deal with what it means to be a girl, to be a woman. And there are other examples in that vein:

-Jesus speaking to me about “receiving like a child”

My response: “I don’t want to be a child. To be a child is to be vulnerable. To be a child is to suffer.” (Nov 25, 2013)

-feeling such overpowering shame that I felt sure my children would be defiled by physical contact with me, in my womb, nursing, etc.

“I feel as if I should be quarantined. And if they cannot kill the disease in me, they should kill me, so that I cannot contaminate my dear ones.” I had to ask the question, “Why so much shame, Helena?”

-fearing for my children when they are out of my sight and out from under my protection…Why such fear?

“Today I put the kids on a plane to Atlanta. (My in-laws) are taking them to Louisiana for a full week. It’s too long…too far away…and Lorelei is at that age when I lost so much.

I have felt a rising panic in the last several days…knowing someone will get to her…that she’ll be broken and changed and I will not have been there to shield her…that she’ll come home different and I won’t even know. The grief is too much. I cannot endure it. I weep and weep and beg God to wrap her and Silas in layer upon layer of protection…layer upon layer of love. He allowed my parents to send me into a trap. Please, Jesus, don’t let me do the same. Be a shield for them. All my heart is poured into this request. Jesus, let them come home in every way whole.” (June 30, 2014)

Another example, and here you begin to see a turn:

-dealing my view of the human body (I’ve always felt that the body is a burden, a prison, a traitor)

“I think, by giving me children, Jesus began the work of redeeming my view of the body. Who can see that child, new-born, new-made, and not wonder at the beauty of the body? Perfect fingers and toes, tender skin, bright eyes…I’m just beginning to see that in myself…I could not hunger for His (Jesus’s) touch until I saw myself as touchable.” (February 12, 2014)


 

I don’t share my story out of a desire to shock you or burden you. I want to take the risk of speaking out so that you might see what Jesus can do even in the very darkest of places.

            To illustrate, a journal entry written in the aftermath of one of my most powerful counseling sessions:

November 17, 2011

“We started by praying and asking Jesus where to begin. Right away, I saw myself inside the shed where (my uncle) took me…and the door was swinging shut. I felt the end … the end of innocence, of joy, of light, of all good things. But Denise (my counselor) asked God about that, and the vision changed. There were many, many Jesus-es. He was all around the outhouse, and the closing door didn’t shut him out. He stepped right through it, radiant with light. Somehow, that was so different than seeing him in the corner, against the wall, holding my hand and feeling my shock and pain. This was bigger.

Next, we explored the full memory. Only one place was still unsettled…before (my uncle) came…lying in bed and knowing he would come for me. But God gave me this picture. Jesus was plunging forward on the crest of some force, some machine, like a bulldozer. And nothing could stand in his way. Things rose up, came against him, almost throwing themselves in his path, but they were thrown back, tossed aside in his wake. Nothing could stop the forward motion of his work and his good purpose. I saw (my uncle) rush up to the bulldozer, but he, too, was rebuffed…tossed aside. His coming didn’t seem so fearful anymore.

We discussed the little girl next, how I felt I had cut her off. I found this was not true. She had been with me all along…locked away and hurting. Denise asked where I pictured her as being in the old house. It never occurred to me…that some part of me was still trapped on Grange Hall Loop Road.

So Jesus and I went to get her. We walked up the sinking, uneven steps, through the porch, into the living room, and around the corner to the bedroom where she lay on the bed, the one with the window that looked out toward the back of the house and that old shed.

I don’t know how to express what I felt when she saw us…it was her joy at being rescued, her relief I felt. I never imagined how much she wanted us to come for her. She was especially glad to see me…to see herself, grown into the woman she longed and hoped to be…safe and beautiful and free. It was overwhelming. We took her hand and left, and when our feet stepped off the last few inches of that old sidewalk, we flew up into the sky. Behind us and beneath us, the house collapsed in on itself…(and) Jesus laughed with delight as he ploughed the bulldozer right through the wreckage of that old place.

The immensity of his grace and presence and goodness and power finally crystallized. It wasn’t enough to receive commiseration or even love. But his purpose, rolling like rushing mighty waters, lifting me to ride on its crest, churning over anything that stands in its way…to see that was freedom and revelation and joy. No door can close him out. Nothing…not my uncle’s abuse, not a newborn, not any circumstance that comes against me, not even my own sin and weakness, can shut the light of his goodness out of my life. Nothing can stand against the rushing tide of his good purpose for me.

 

November 28, 2011

“The old house was torn down last weekend, not ten days after my session with Denise.”


 

“For your shame, ye shall have double,” says Isaiah 61:7. And I do. Instead of my shame, I have double joy: a boy and a girl. I have a daughter who runs around the house “naked and unashamed.” There is such redemption in that. I have a son who is so tender, so willing to feel things with his whole heart. How brave he is!

 Frederick Buechner (once again) says that “what’s lost is nothing to what’s found,” and his words are more than empty poetry. They’re bedrock truth, as true as anything I know.

If our childhoods were difficult, painful, even traumatic, it’s no surprise that we would work frantically to protect our children from experiencing the horrors we experienced. But I would like to suggest that the places in our parenting life that are the most painful (that child that doesn’t respond like all the others, that conflict that remains maddeningly unresolved, that issue that rouses such fear or such anger in our hearts, that lingering grief over something lost)…are the very places where Jesus is making an appeal to us. Rather than buying a parenting book to help us fix the problem or establishing a new mode of discipline or whatever it is we try to do to take the pain away, what if we took it straight to Jesus? What if He is waiting to meet us right there in the center of our pain?

“Let me ease into it,” He says. “Let me heal that place in you that is so wounded, so sensitive, so broken. I’ve sent these children for your restoration.”

There is immense power in our children taking us by the hand and leading us through the gates of innocence, showing us the way to what was lost. Perhaps, in some ways, rather than us leading them into adulthood, our children are leading us back into childhood. Maybe this is what Jesus is saying through the prophet Joel when He tells us “the years that the locusts have eaten are restored.” Maybe this is how we are healed.

I’ll close with a song Ben Shive wrote for his son. It’s about a loss of innocence, yes. But it’s also about lost innocence found. It’s called “Magic Kingdom.”

 

We stayed for the electrical parade

And caught the monorail home

At the ending of the day

And they sent us off with cannon blasts

And merry melodies

Muffled through the glass

 

Now the boy I carried on my shoulders

Is riding beside me

Asleep in the stroller

I try to memorize that face

Even as the moment accelerating

Carries us away

 

And now it’s time

Now it’s time

You showed me a dream and I believed

But now it’s time

To say goodbye

Say goodbye to the magic kingdom

 

That old angel at the gate of youth

She tore my ticket

But she let me through

Just to walk with you a little while

In the world I once knew

Looking through your eyes

 

But now it’s time

Now it’s time

You showed me a dream and I believed

But now it’s time

To say goodbye

Say goodbye to the magic kingdom

 

But sleep a little longer, my brown-eyed dreamer

Sleep just a little longer, my brown-eyed dreamer

 

When you wake you won’t remember this

Oh, but I won’t forget

When we were a pair of starlit stowaways

Going God knows where

So wild and afraid

 

And now it’s time

Now it’s time

You showed me a dream and I believed

But now it’s time

To say goodbye

Say goodbye to the magic kingdom

 

So sleep a little longer, my brown-eyed dreamer

Sleep just a little longer, my brown-eyed dreamer

Don’t wake up just yet

June 26, 2015 Comments Read More

A Reader’s Pronunciation Guide

I’ve had some questions about how to pronounce the names of the characters in Shiloh and Seeker. Here’s a little guide to help you out.

 

From Shiloh:

Amos – AY-muss

Phoebe – FEE-bee

Simeon – SIH-mee-un

Rosalyn – ROZ-uh-lin

Isolde – is-OLD

 

——————————

 

From Seeker:

Evander – ee-VAN-der

Mina – MEE-nuh

Valour – VAL-er

Maeve – MAYV

 

Any other pronunciation questions? Drop me a line, and I’ll be glad to clarify.

Happy Reading!

 

 

February 20, 2015 Comments Read More

A Better Country

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I’ve had four earaches in the last nine months.

Not a very interesting tidbit, I grant you, but it came startingly to mind when I read this passage from Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking.

(discussing clinical studies on grief and bereavement) “Dolphins…had been observed refusing to eat after the death of a mate. Geese had been observed reacting to such a death by flying and calling, searching until they themselves became disoriented and lost. Human beings…showed similar patterns of response. They searched. They stopped eating. They forgot to breathe. They grew faint from lowered oxygen, they clogged their sinuses with unshed tears and ended up in otolaryngologists’ offices with obscure ear infections.”

 How strange.

The epigraph for Seeker (my second book, and the prequel to Shiloh) is taken from a verse in Hebrews. “But now they desire a better country,” it says. I thought there was no better way to sum up the story, to try to convey the chronic grief of the people of Holt, to try to convey their deep longing. My journey in writing the story was painful. I wrote my losses and heartaches into those characters, and I love them, and some of them I’ll never get back. It’s right. Fitting. There are things we can’t recover from, not yet. But it does us good to honor our losses, to acknowledge the sadness of beautiful things fallen to dust, or burned to ash, or dead and buried.

I didn’t know when I wrote Seeker that I would spend a year wrestling with my publisher, receiving guarantee after guarantee about the release date. Each time a new date approached, I geared up. I planned and promoted. My hopes and my heart rose in little nervous flutters. It was almost time to share my story, to introduce readers to Mina (my favorite character I’ve ever written). It was almost time to see how they reacted, if they reacted, to the village of Holt and the magistrate’s weakling son and the wide-eyed Grey and the reckless Knox. It was almost time to introduce the hero, Evander, Father and Light of the Sun Clan.

Readers asked questions. “When will your next book be out?” “Has Seeker been released yet?” Again and again, I told them it would be soon. Delays, delays, delays. I tried to be cheerful, to keep it all in perspective. “This is really a very small problem in the scope of eternity,” I told myself. But my heart was aching. And every time the date was pushed back…further and further…I ached all the more.

There are remarkable similarities between writing a book and having a child. I won’t burden you with all of them, but releasing Seeker, this story that’s so dear to my heart, this tale that I so long to share, has felt a little like being nine months pregnant…for a year. If you’ve been pregnant, or if you’ve been around a pregnant woman who is ready to give birth, you probably understand a little of how this has felt.

Exhausting. Frustrating. Anxious. Desperate. Hysterical.

I tried to rein in my disappointment. “It’ll happen soon,” I said. “Any time. I’m almost there.” And while I thought I already identified with my characters (and my hero in particular), I was forced to enter their desperation, their longing, in ways I could never have foreseen. I’ve been forced to enter into my own desire, to sit with it, unfulfilled, and cling to hope. Perhaps I even “clogged (my) sinuses with unshed tears.”

I hardly know how to frame my feelings now that I’m holding the book in my hands. “This is the story of the Sun Clan, the Lost Clan, and all that was lost with them.” And this is the story of my waiting, my longing, my grief. I’m honoring those losses with a story, a beautiful story, set in the village of Holt, on the edge of the Fayrewood, in the foothills of the Pallid Peaks. I hope it moves you as much as it does me.

http://www.amazon.com/Seeker-Helena-Sorensen/dp/1928021093/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1422360228&sr=8-1&keywords=Helena+Sorensen

January 23, 2015 Comments Read More

A Plethora of Podcasts (It’s really just two.)

Recently, I had the chance to chat with Barry Dunlap of The Twelve Minute Muse and Glenn McCarty of the Eye Wonder Why podcast. We talked about fantasy street cred, seizure drafting, variations on universal themes, and making messes on purpose. If you missed them, or if you’d like to hear more about my writing process for Shiloh, Seeker, and Songbird, you can follow the links here: (scroll down and they’ll appear…it’s magic)

 

The Twelve Minute Muse – http://www.twelveminutemuse.com/musings/episode-33-chat-helena-sorensen/

 

Eye Wonder Why Podcast – https://soundcloud.com/glenn-mccarty/episode-2-helena-sorenson

January 16, 2015 Comments Read More

Seeker Book Trailer

Seeker is almost ready, and I’m overjoyed to be able to share this story with you. At last, you’ll learn the full story of Evander and the Lost Clan. Here’s the trailer to give you an idea what you’ll find in the prequel to Shiloh. (scroll down and the YouTube link will appear)

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9Y7wxPOjfI&feature=youtu.be

October 6, 2014 Comments Read More

In Search of the Blue Blaze

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The path was marked at the trailhead. I saw the name of the trail: Acadia Mtn. The ascent and difficulty level were clearly marked, along with reminders to bring a map and a water bottle, and to tell someone where you were going. Check, check, check. I climbed the stairs. Already the sun had risen high enough to burn the haze from the sky. It was 7 a.m., and the world above was blue, and I had miles to go. I smiled and clambered up the first ascent, and only then did I realize that there was no trail, not here at least. There was a broad stretch of curving rock, broken by scrubby pines and huckleberry bushes. But that was all. To left and right, the rock curved away, losing itself in rising lines of dappled black and green.

Okay, I thought. I didn’t expect it to be this difficult from the outset, but I’m alright. The car is not far behind. I can always go back. Can’t I?

I turned, catching a glimpse of the road, listening for the drone of cars on 102. But I didn’t want to go back. I wanted to be brave. I just thought there’d be some kind of marker, the print of a shoe, a small cairn. I took a steadying breath and turned my face in the direction I was going when I lost sight of the trail. This way. I was heading this way. I walked on, climbing over granite boulders speckled with pink and gray and silver. And not far down, over the crest of this particular rise, I saw it. A blue blaze. It was perhaps five inches long and two wide, stretched into a long rectangle, like the lines in the middle of the road. The color was bright, a bit like the sky overhead. I sighed. This was the path. I was going the right way.

There were other precarious moments during my hike over Acadia Mountain. I didn’t think two and a half miles was much, even if the trek fell into the “strenuous” category. It was hard going, sure, but exhilarating, too, and the view from the top and the time I spent there, watching birds land on the high, high branches, unperturbed by the great fall down to Somes Sound, were worth sore feet and a bit of sweat. What made the hike truly strenuous, though, was not the tumbled slopes that required me to sit down and ease my legs to the next boulder before scrambling down another and yet another, until I reached a path with roots and soil. What made the journey difficult was the distance between the blazes.

The spacing was funny, seemingly arbitrary at times. I might come upon three bright, clear markers in the space of fifty yards. Then the road might fork or disappear, or branch simultaneously in several directions, and not a drop of blue paint could be found. Some of the blazes were worn almost beyond recognition. They faded into the gray-green lichen that spattered the stones.

And every time I came to one of these barren places (barren not in beauty, but in security, direction), I felt a tiny rush of panic. Where is the blaze? I need the blaze. I felt this tug of fear and urgency even when I was fairly sure of the correct path. I wanted the blazes to appear at nice, predictable intervals. A blue marker every ten feet would have been delightful. Heck, an unbroken blue line that wound up Acadia Mountain and over and down would have been ideal. Then I would never have had a moment’s doubt. I could have turned my full attention to my surroundings. I could have kept my eye on the long, blue line while I dawdled somewhere off the path, sitting on overhangs by copper-colored pools and savoring the scent of balsam in the air.

As I climbed, as I sat on the sunbaked stones at the summit, as I descended, I thought about that feeling of panic, that nagging urgency, and about the comfort of the blue blazes. The feelings were familiar.

There are people in my life who are powerful, people I admire, people whose opinions matter to me. And though I hate to admit it, I long for their approval. I want to create something or do or say something that causes them to turn and smile and applaud. I want them to tell me that I’m doing well, that I’m on the right path. Sometimes I let the panic rise, waiting for these words, and they never come. I think, Have I taken the wrong turning? Or, Am I such a child that I cannot progress ten steps without the nod of a head or a word of encouragement?

There are people I have not met, people whose qualities I have not explored, whose opinions I may not even value. I long for their approval, too. Perhaps their praise would be more powerful, since they are removed from my small circle. Perhaps from a distance, they can see me with greater clarity. Perhaps they know if I am on the right path. Perhaps they can tell me if I’m doing well. I think, Do any of you see me? Am I making a difference anywhere in the wide world?

It’s a shame, isn’t it? The real business of life, of faith, happens between the blue blazes, where the roads diverge and the face of the mountain curves away into shadow. In those places, I am forced to raise my eyes from my feet, to see the sun’s slow arc over the mountain, to watch for signs of another’s passing. In those places, I may have to forge a new path, one utterly bankrupt of blazes.

Of course, there’s no real power in the blaze. I will make it over the mountain, paint or no. But I suspect we’re all still searching for the markers. We comb our social media pages, our email inboxes, sifting for words of affirmation. Our “likes” and our “re-tweets” and our five-star reviews are so wonderful. They leap off the path in dazzling blue, and they shout in triumph: “You’re going the right way!” “Your work is good!” “You can see the fruits of your labor here and now!” “You’ve made the right choices!” “You have nothing to regret!” We search the faces of beloved family members and respected colleagues. Their smiles, their nods, fill us with confidence. So we rush forward a few more steps, momentary elation drowning out the nagging, panicky voice that will too soon make itself heard. And all our questions will rise up from their dank holes to haunt us again.

Don’t get me wrong. Encouragement is necessary and powerful. Don’t stop giving it. When you’ve got a little paint, use it. Dip your brush into the blue and make your mark on the path. Those who follow will be glad of it.

I don’t want to stop giving encouragement. I want to break my dependence on receiving it. I want to run on another fuel. I need to find my security elsewhere, because the blazes are never close enough. They never will be.

I get the idea that Paul didn’t spend much time pining over the blazes behind him. Neither do I imagine him grieving unmarked paths. We know he sought direction from God, and his requests were urgent and specific. But his chief desire was to press on, to reach forward. (Phil. 3) Perhaps there’s something to that. Preschool children could totter along an unbroken blue line. Eventually, they’d find their way over the mountain. But they’d take their time about it. When all the questions have been eliminated, so has the sense of urgency, so has the stirring of desire, so has the power of hope. My steps quicken, just a bit, when the blazes disappear. I have to lean in. I have to reach forward.

So, whether the little blue security blankets come slow and steady or wild and erratic or not at all, I will be alright. One, at least, has already walked this path. As far as I’m aware, He made no promises about blazes. He promised to walk beside me. He promised to wait for me at the end of the road. And when I’m unsure, and aching for a clear marker to affirm my steps, I’ll try prying my gaze from the ground, exchanging the fleeting brightness of the blue blazes for the broader, brighter blue of the sky.

September 12, 2014 Comments Read More

The Redbud Tree

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I thought my redbud tree was diseased. Little black nubs grew in clusters, fungus-like, over the trunk and branches. I curled my lip in disgust. Still, I felt a tinge of sadness. It’s a lovely tree, and a red birdhouse sits snug in a crook between two branches. It would be a shame to lose it.

I ran my hands over the bark, easing them toward a little growth that was unlike the others. I leaned in to look. These black nubs were tipped with purple, where the dark skins had pulled away. I smiled and patted the unsightly trunk. This tree wasn’t dying. It was on the verge of flowering. In a matter of days it would be dusted with fragile purple flowers, shedding the deceptive skin that had so repulsed me, the skin that was merely the husk of something deeply beautiful.

My world, both without and within, has looked like that lately. To an outsider, a casual Facebook observer or website visitor, it must seem that I’ve done very little, that my work or my passion has dried up. My professional garments are wrinkled and stale. But behind the scenes, worlds are being mapped, covers designed, manuscripts edited, ISBN’s assigned. There is a flurry of activity in preparation for the birth of a new book.

The landscape of my soul is much the same. I’ve grown dry and scaly. This old skin has shrunk too small, and it chafes. My color is faded, lost beneath a robe of milky scales that pulls away oh, so slowly. It will take friction to loose me, and the initial tear may be painful, morbid, repulsive even. But when I emerge, when another layer of immaturity or impatience or self is sloughed off, I will be brighter. I know my unloveliness. I know my lack. But Jesus is formulating rich new color behind the scenes.

My fingers press lightly against the dry, feathery moss that carpets the ground beneath the redbud. It gives. There’s a gap between the moss and the thick-packed earth. There is air, and there are thin, distilled rays of light. There is life. Worms wriggle, and beetles scurry along unseen paths through the dim dark.

To the casual observer, it doesn’t look like much. But it is. And overhead, a humble redbud tree shames the skeptic, the insensate, flaunting its purple veil and leaning in to the wind.

 

May 3, 2014 Comments Read More

The Music of Shiloh (listen here…)

More than one of my readers has asked me about setting some of the songs from Shiloh and Seeker to music. While I would desperately love to have some Celtic instruments accompanying these tunes, all I have at the moment are acapella vocals. Here are “Come, Little Nightingale,” “Mariah’s Lament,” and “Song of the Bleeding Flower.”

 

“Come, Little Nightingale”

 

“Mariah’s Lament”

 

“Song of the Bleeding Flower”

 

 

April 3, 2014 Comments Read More

Evander’s World (a sneak peek at the landscape of Seeker)

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April 3, 2014 Comments Read More

Fear Grows Large

I haven’t worked out in five years. Five years. Not since I was pregnant with my first child. Off and on, during that time, I thought about getting back into the swing, but it never happened. I had good reasons: sleepless nights and crying babies and diapers and teething and exhaustion and just wanting to collapse into a chair and not think about making an effort to sweat. Lack of exercise isn’t the worst thing. I’m still alive and kicking. The real problem with putting off something important for so long is that it starts to look like a monstrous impossibility.

If fear has any substance at all, then its diet must be chiefly one of time. It begins as a wriggling worm, a parasite, hardly capable of impeding our progress or even attracting our attention. But it gorges on minutes and hours, on days and weeks. Months and years are its greatest and most exquisite feasts, and the longer we allow it to feed, the larger it looms in our vision. It will destroy our health. It will ravage our peace of mind. It will blot out our dreams. If we let it…

It’s the same with writing. There’s a reason the most difficult part of writing is sitting down and starting. The longer I put off that first sentence, the more terrifying the idea becomes. Fear makes me feel as if those words will never come, as if I might actually die in the process of putting them on paper. How ridiculous.

Once you sit down and begin, no matter how poor your beginning, you discover that it really isn’t so bad. The process doesn’t kill you, and your day continues as it would have done. The only difference is that you’ve begun. You’ve taken the first, worst, best step toward achieving your goal. Funny thing about getting started: once you do, you start to get finished.

I’ve been jumping around and working up a sweat for a few weeks now. It’s not that bad. A short morning workout isn’t the central focus of my day, and I’m not in excruciating pain, and I’m feeling kind of good…kind of strong. And if I keep exercising my muscles (my writerly muscles, too), I won’t give fear the time to loom larger and larger. My goals will seem to be what they are: attainable…with just a bit of effort and consistency. Before I know it, I’ll be healthier. I’ll have written more. I’ll start to get finished.

April 3, 2014 Comments Read More