Since I started working on the book I worked on a chapter at a time, not in order of how I want them to appear, but with whatever topic appealed to me or was on my mind at the time out of the topics I had selected to write about. But in the last few days I have done a lot of work on the order of the chapters and I have started to craft the actual book, which means that I have to work on the introduction and then start working the chapters in order because that will help me to make more profitable use of my time. I want my book to be awesome, so I’m going to write it in my best style and hope that others enjoy reading it as much as I am enjoying writing it.
Up until now I haven’t shared a lot of my private hell on social media, and I’m not necessarily going to go into a lot of detail now, because there is still so much going on, but I haven’t written a lot about my children’s disabilities on here, and I have to admit that a huge part of that is because of the judgment I’ve already faced from myself and from others. When we first found out that one of my sons had some severe mental disabilities, it came as a shock, and when we tried to share our grief with others, hoping for support, we didn’t really get any. In fact I had people tell me outright that they “didn’t believe in autism and those so-called psychological disorders” and that “psychology is just the devil trying to excuse sin and make it look authoritative”. I actually had somebody go and buy me some glue sticks as well as obtaining some paint sticks for me and told me that if I would just get firmer and spank my child he would no longer “suffer from those so called psychological issues”. I was told that if I would “simply obey God and home school, God would heal him”.
I was left to process these things alone, and when I called on God it felt like he wasn’t listening. I asked God how his people could be so cruel about my son’s disabilities. I cried out to God for help but when that help finally came it didn’t look like help and so I didn’t recognize it right away. In fact I still have trouble sometimes with seeing the way God chose to send help as beneficial. I was angry and bitter and upset about it and some the situation was bad and I felt helpless and it was devastating and it should never have happened, but the truth is that it did happen, and I was left to deal with it and pick up the pieces. It wasn’t until I got to rock bottom, with nowhere else to look but up (gosh, a Christian cliché…I hate those but it’s true) that I began to see the hand of God.
It was like I was looking up into the sky on a dark cloudy night…dark without any light, and then the clouds dispersed and suddenly that night sky was filled with stars, and the moon shining brightly. I quit complaining (as much) and started thanking God for sending help, without getting mad about how he sent that help, and my outlook began to change. There are still a lot of things I don’t understand, but I am choosing to walk this path more intentionally now, but trying to be thankful for the help even if I don’t like how it came about, training my mind to focus on what is important so that I can focus my energy on what really matters. I’ve been learning that just because I have a lot of thoughts about something, even a lot of valid thoughts, that not all of those thoughts are helpful. I need to throw out the thoughts that are not helpful and focus on the ones that are. You know, this should make my counsellor proud, after all it’s what he’s been trying to teach me to do.
I always desire a vibrant relationship with God, and in my book “The Girl With the Grace Tattoo” I discuss how that relationship has changed and how much better things are now. But even though things are better now, there are still times that I struggle and I feel so far away. This is what it has been like lately, I think part of the problem is just exhaustion. I’m working on the book, my college homework, trying to establish a business and looking for work in the meantime.
Things have been a little discouraging lately I suppose, and I’ve been working hard to change how I think about things and how I respond to discouraging events. I’m determined to keep on keeping on. Maybe I have subconsciously blamed God for these circumstances. But the biggest thing is that I have felt mostly discouraged and restless. For the past few days I have spent time praying that God would just show me his presence in all of this, and that he would give me something that would improve my relationship with him.
Tonight I opened a little prayer book, and when I read the Bible verse on the page I had opened to randomly just to skim, I knew this was my answer and my encouragement. ‘But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep, I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear through tens of thousands assail me on every side.’ Psalm 3:3-6 NIV. It’s ironic that I read this and that it was so much comfort to me because my counsellor has been strongly encouraging me to read the Psalms. And I have been looking for prayers to recite (not that I can’t pray my own, I do pray my own, I also enjoy reciting prayers).
The Psalms show some deep and honest communication with God. I tend to skip over them a lot in favor of reading from the New Testament because I guess it seems more applicable to my life because it is written for New Testament Christians. But the Bible says that all of the Scriptures are profitable to us. From this particular Psalm tonight I realized that when I pray, God hears me and he answers me. It is he that sustains me, and I’m learning that a whole lot right now with no income, no employment or prospective employment, a pending divorce, etc. Looking back I can see all the amazing ways that God has provided for me and sustained my family and I during these difficult times. I also realized it doesn’t matter if it seems like the world is against me, because even if that is true (and it probably isn’t, it just seems like it at times) that God is FOR me. And so I don’t really suppose it matters who else hates me, or spreads gossip and lies that does so much damage and causes so much hurt, it doesn’t matter the few who have chosen to act like bullies towards me, it doesn’t matter if things don’t work out the way I want them to, God is still for me, and that’s really awesome.
Throughout the process of writing my first book, “The Girl With the Grace Tattoo”, I have had many decisions to make regarding style. Seeing as it is my first book, I feel like the tone and style of this book will set the tone for my writing career. It is important that my own style and voice be clearly seen in my first book. There are several chapters I have that I have reworked several times thinking that I wanted to change the style in which they were written, but in the end I came back to the original idea which was each chapter being a short personal essay.
I am good at essay writing, I can make persuasive arguments, I made good grades in most of my college papers, in fact I redeemed a few not so good papers by how well they were written rather than content and the professors said as much. I also enjoy essay writing; I’m one of the college students that actually did learn a lot by preparing essays. The essays in my book are not going to be academic essays, because I want regular people to be able to read, understand and enjoy them, and the book still is technically a memoir, which is why I choose to call them personal essays. I am hoping that this also creates interest in my book because the style sets it apart from most memoirs that it would be competing in the marketplace with. My essay writing style is distinctive and those who are at all familiar with my writing can tell an essay that I have written when the read it before they even take notice of the by-line.
This means that I do quote from a lot of sources, which I believe not only adds credibility to the book but also relevance and for those who read the same way I do, a list of books to read after mine if any of the quotes and ideas that I quote from interest them. Anyone who writes a decent book does a lot of research in order to write that book, and the essay format allows me a way to share some of that research easily. It helps people engage with the set topic in a far more meaningful way than with my words alone.
I’m part of the one percent. The one percent of people who according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, show up as INFJ, which means that I am special and a rare gem. Well, that is what I would like to think, anyway. The truth is that I’ve always struggled with thinking of myself as special, despite how many people might tell me that. I suffer from a major deficit in self-esteem. I self-identify as a Jesus hippie and yes I totally did just make that up. All these labels are cool if you are a psychologist or a psychology major, but if you aren’t, I’m going to go into a better description for you (which means that I’m tired of the info I currently have as my profile info on the blog and my Facebook and so I am going to write a new bio).
Basically I tend to get passionate about things that I really believe in, spirituality and values are important to me. I tend to live in my head a lot as in I am constantly thinking, have been told that I think too deeply, and I cannot shut my brain down at night when I go to bed. I relate to God most in the intellectual, enjoy hanging out with people who stimulate me either intellectually or artistically. My star sign is Pisces which unsurprisingly to me has a water element, and let’s just say that “The Astrology Bible’s” description of my personality type is also pretty accurate. I get passionate about things and want to take action and do something, and am extremely frustrated when my fibromyalgia decides it doesn’t want to let me.
I only have a few close friends although there are so many people I like, for me I use up so much energy in the few relationships that there isn’t a lot left with which to offer to anyone else. So if I don’t claim that you are a friend of mine, please don’t be disappointed, because I probably do like you, my brain just can’t process how to maintain a whole heap of relationships at once. I tend to fall on the liberal side of the pendulum when it comes to Christianity and politics, although I attend a church that tends to fall on the conservative side of both. For many that doesn’t even make sense, but for me, learning to function as the Kingdom of God and the body of Christ requires unity, especially among people I disagree with, and besides all that, my church are my family and God lead me to them and blessed me with them and I’m not going to walk out on family just because we might think differently on some issues. My church is a major theme in my life simply because they are my family.
Sometimes I wonder if any of this stuff is important to my writing, but then I realize that it’s very important because it informs my writing. When my book releases, the style and the content will have come from deep inside of me, and this is part of who I am deep inside. It’s why it has been so important to me to figure it all out.
“We can be sober in our thinking and participate in God’s effort to love the world.” Miller, 2012, p. 16. As a person in addiction recovery, I’m familiar with the concept of sobriety, but I never connected the idea of sobriety to my thoughts, but it definitely makes sense. The theme of thought sobriety really goes along with everything that I have been learning lately, and that the only person I can change and control is myself (that’s part of twelve step teachings too).
I know many other people know this, but for me it is revolutionary: I can only control myself, I cannot control how others treat me, whether or not they abuse me, or what stories they tell about me behind my back. So instead of fighting back in childish, vindictive and passive-aggressive ways, I can utilize some self-control and choose to respond with love, grace and mercy. The serenity prayer is a huge part of twelve-step meetings, the prayer that says “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. I’ve really started appreciating this prayer and praying it much more often.
The truth is that there are plenty of things that I cannot change, things that have happened to me, and I need to accept those things as part of life and then move on. The things that I can change are things that I need to work on changing, and right now one of the things that I am working on changing is my thoughts, because thoughts are very powerful. It takes a lot of wisdom to realize the difference between the things I can and cannot change. Philippians 4:8 also gives a list of guidelines for thought sobriety. “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditation on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse”. Philippians 4:8 The Message.
So when someone makes a snide comment toward me I can choose to ignore it and let God take care of it or I can choose to make a big deal out of it and in doing so, act in ways that I shouldn’t. When someone is rude to me I can take it personally or I can realize that their rudeness is their problem, and maybe then I can even muster up some compassion to try to help the rude person have a better day. For me this requires huge changes in my life, I have to purposely change many things in the way that I think. I really wish that this was something I got the concept of before my marriage fell apart, because perhaps things could have been different then.
In my own personal development, I am my own worst enemy. It is time to change that.
Miller, D 2012 ‘Storyline 2.0: finding your subplot in God’s story’, Storyline 2.0, Portland, Oregon.