Silence doesn’t help, even if I have little to offer.

It’s too much.

The noise.

The arguing.

The hate.

For the last several months, being an American alone has been heart-rending.

Being an American and online has just about wrecked me.

I absorb too much. I feel too much. I care too much. Besides that, if you’ve followed me for long you know that the holidays are notorious for making me feel raw and skittish. Add to all of this that the fact that we launched our firstborn to college in August, we’re getting our second son ready to launch this spring, and I am working on two very important book projects, and all I want to do is hide. 

I want to curl up until January first–or maybe the year 2020–and let the world and all its noise and hate pass by. I don’t have anything to offer anyone, after all. I feel empty and unworthy. One writing project in particular, one that I’ve poured my heart and prayers over for many months, has me feeling just. like. this. no matter what I do:

floor

Dear readers, I wanted to give you a series of hopeful posts leading up to Christmas, but I felt paralyzed, numb to hope myself in many ways. So I decided to go offline until January first.

That intention lasted less than a week.

Because even at my worst, I remembered that it’s my heart’s desire to bring hope to the hopeless through my words. That’s always been my mission. My vision. Through my novels, my poems, my newspaper columns, whatever words I can offer.

Slowly I began to remember that over a decade ago I was voiceless and alone, struggling to understand how to cope with recovering from the abuse I’d endured as a child, trembling with the fear that I was broken and filthy beyond repair. I remembered that back then I took a chance and searched the internet–where I could be anonymous–for other survivors and I found tens of hundreds of others just. like. me.

Hurt.

Broken.

Hopeless.

But they were speaking. They were healing. They had hope. And their hope gave me hope in return.

So who am I to stay silent during this time of the year when so many people are hurting, and all the lights and glitter and jam-packed stores and Hallmark movies make it hurt all the more? Who am I to hide, when there are people just like me who need to know they’re not alone and that there really is hope out there, and hope for them?

Lately I’ve been so weary and burned out I’ve forgotten to even pray. But today, on an unexpected two-hour drive, I prayed.

I took a chance that the Christmas music I’d been avoiding might actually bring hope and not just empty nostalgia.

And sure enough, God met me through a song…

*

Everything inside me cries for order
Everything inside me wants to hide…

*

The sun hung low as I drove down the two-lane, Indiana highway. The melody filled the car even as brown, shorn fields blurred by, and my tied up, pent up heart fell to pieces.

*
If God is pleased with me, why am I so terrified?

*

I am terrified, after all. Oh, I have a real good game face. You learn to have a good game face when you’ve been through the things I’ve been through. But inside where no one can see, I’m terrified that all I’ve done to raise my precious boys won’t be enough for them now that they’re leaving home. I’m terrified that a lifetime of writing won’t be enough to finish the project I was so sure of when I started it. I’m terrified that I haven’t been able to hear God for a good, long while.

*

Someone tell me I am only dreaming
Somehow help me see with Heaven’s eyes
And before my head agrees, my heart is on its knees
Holy is He; blessed am I.

*

Before my head agrees, my heart is on its knees, indeed. Tears fell. All I could think about were the tiny, premature babies I’d cared for at work (I’m an RN) in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and how the Lord of all creation chose to come to us like one of them…God could have come with fire and earthquakes and lightning and thunder, but He chose to come as a helpless infant, cold and naked, completely dependent on infinitely inadequate humans to survive.

Holy is He.

Holy.

Is.

He.

Maybe He knew we’d be so exhausted from the noise that more noise wouldn’t–couldn’t–rescue us. Maybe He knew we wouldn’t be able to find Him–truly find HIM–without bending our knees. Maybe He knew we wouldn’t be able to see Him until we saw ourselves in the face of the helpless.

My heart cry crescendoed with the song that played through my car speakers:

*

Be born in me, be born in me
Trembling heart, somehow I believe that You chose me
I’ll hold You in the beginning, You will hold me in the end
Every moment in the middle, make my heart Your Bethlehem
Be born in me

*

Be born in me, Lord. Be born in whoever might be reading this today. Not just the way You were born over 2000 years ago, but be born in each of us this day, this hour, this minute…

*

All this time we’ve waited for the promise
All this time You’ve waited for my arms
Did You wrap yourself inside the unexpected
So we might know that Love would go that far?

I am not brave
I’ll never be
The only thing my heart can offer is a vacancy
I’m just a girl
Nothing more
But I am willing, I am Yours

*

I’m far from brave.

I’m still fullsizerender-2broken.

Lord knows there are still vacancies in my heart groping for earthly substitutes to fill what only He can fill–if I let Him. I’m just a girl and nothing more. But I can offer hope. Though my instinct is to run and hide, I can give to those who are hurting the same hope I needed years ago. The world shows no sign of slowing down or toning down, after all. Nor did it over 2000 years ago when Herod slaughtered toddlers and infants and women screamed in the streets and men tore their robes begging for a savior.

But the Savior did come.

The Promise was born small and helpless, to an aching, trembling, hopeless Israel then, and the same Promise to redeem us, to free us, to break the silence and the violence in our lives, that same Promise is here now. 

Emmanuel.

God is with us.

God is with you. 

He transcends the men, the women, the brothers, the sisters, the religion, the ideologies, the cold shimmering lights and empty silver bells that have let us down.

And because of that, I can’t stay silent.

Even if it hurts to write, even if believing feels too far-fetched, still I will praise Him.

Still, I will choose to believe. 

Here’s the video of the song (below) I listened to in my car yesterday, Be Born In Me, by Francesca Battistelli. Maybe it will bless you, too.

Look for a new Facebook Live video from me on Friday (much obliged if you’d follow my author page there), and a few more posts and live videos throughout the month. And know that even if you’re feeling raw and alone and worn out–especially if you feel that way this time of year–Emmanuel is here for you today and always.

A time to speak…

It’s an ugly time to be an American.

In many ways we are experiencing what our society at large has asked for…

…no consequences…

…no shame…

…no truth…

All the “free love” of the 60’s is now the cheap love of today, and if you ask me, we deserve to be slogging through the pig sty we’ve made of our spacious-sky country.

While I make it a point to steer clear of online political commentary, we all have our breaking points. I can’t be silent any longer, because in my humble opinion, these two presidential nominees are both abominations. One stands by and enables a pedophile and rapist. The other speaks words that tear and dehumanize the most precious and sacred parts of a woman.

My first novel, How Sweet the Sound, is a modern day re-telling of the story of Tamar in 2 Samuel 13. Tamar was raped by her half brother. Her father, King David, did nothing. And Tamar spent the rest of her life ostracized, condemned, untouchable.

Not much different from the way sexual sin plays out today.

On the one hand in Tamar’s story (and that of the character Comfort Harlan in my novel), there’s the act of the rape/incest itself.

On the other, there’s the silence, the refusal to acknowledge the lifelong devastation of rape and incest, and the refusal to stand up and speak out against it as well.

As a survivor with years of healing work behind me, I struggle to this day to know which is worse.

Today, my heart breaks for my country, which is so broken, so annhilated by sexual and moral sin, we are now faced with our current leadership predicament.

This is what happens when people do and say nothing about power hungry people who hurt the small and voiceless.

This is what happens when people are more concerned with saving face than with the life of another human being.

This is what happens when all we value is what feels good and we no longer care about what is right and what is good and what is true.

I have spent over a decade speaking and writing to survivors of sexual assault, rape, incest and molestation. I have spent over a decade watching the tears run down the faces of women, beautiful, precious women, who have had the parts of them created to love trampled by people who use them for macabre prowess, for humor, for sport. And I have spent my whole life dealing with the lingering effects of that abuse, too.

I’m not writing today with political answers.

After all, that’s not where the answers are.

The answers are in the hearts of good men and women who, rather than remain silent, choose to stand with survivors and speak out…

…in the voices of brave hearts who say loud and clear that at the very least, sexual innuendo, misconduct, disrespect are wrong, and that we will not tolerate a culture of rape, sexual abuse, molestation and incest in our world, our country, our states, our neighborhoods, our churches, and yes, even and especially in our homes…

…in the arms of those who will embrace survivors and say to them, “I believe you. I see you. You matter. You can heal. And you are beloved…”

…and in the healing grace of God.

I’m so tired of this season in our country.

While I don’t have political answers, I do have prayer.

And I have hope.

How Sweet the Sound is set on a pecan farm in southeastern Alabama. As Comfort says,

“Even as the pecans drop all around the trees, I am sure there will be a spring–sure as I am that the branches will once again display the splendor of their journey through rock-laden soil and torrents of storms because of the beckoning sun. Because of the rains that soak them. Because of the hands that turn the soil.”

 

The only political stand I am taking is that both of these candidates are sick and wrong.

The only thing I endorse today is freedom for survivors held captive by the groping hands, the words, and the silence of twisted people who were supposed to be trustworthy.

The purpose of this post today is to SPEAK  for those who feel they cannot. 

As a nation and as individuals, we can stay in the pig sty we’ve made for ourselves, or we can leave the muck behind us and run toward goodness and grace.

May November come and go swiftly.

And may the Lord have mercy on us all.

summer truth rising. a poem. 

HEAT.

rising with the sun

then

PRESSING

hard

against my heart. i STEP

hesitant

on the newly mown 

grass, the FOLDING and BENDING

of each FRAGILE strand

crisp then 

cool

between my toes

too long stuffed in winter

shoes, each step 

FREEDOM,

the bright red of the trumpet

vine SCREAMING

with the release of

TRUTH.

every stamen stretching,

reaching 

for

HOPE.