Being a creative minded person for as long as I can remember, I have always felt a fondness for art. I find a beauty in paintings, songs, crafts and literature, that I could not explain for the longest time. But recently I began to discover some things about myself that has given me a new understanding of my life. Art in its various forms stirs emotions within me, and creates a connection between myself and the artist.
My journey into writing began a little over 13 years ago, when my son, Jason, died. On the outside, I put on the mask of strength, trying to show that I was okay. I did this for two reasons. The first being that I was 8 months pregnant and everyone around me was concerned that the stress would cause me to have a miscarriage. So I tried to relieve their concerns, not wanting to worry anyone. The second reason was that it has never been easy for me to share what I call my “darker” feelings. Laughter, joy, love and friendship, these things were easy. But pain and sadness were emotions that I did not know how to share. So I kept these things hidden. I was also very isolated at the time of Jason’s death. Even though there were a few that offered a shoulder to cry on, I could still sense the uncomfortableness around me, like people were walking on eggshells, not wanting to trigger an episode of sadness. Others simply avoided being around me altogether. So I felt as though I was walking this secret path inside myself, alone.
I had dabbled in poetry off and on over the years, and I found myself writing again in the form of short tributes to Jason. There were times when feelings just started pouring out of me and flowing onto the paper. It surprised me how it seemed to relieve some of the pressure that was swelling inside my heart. So I continued to write. But I never shared any of it.
After about a year, I found myself joining a website chat room. The internet was just really beginning to take off in gaining popularity, and I was mostly just curious. As I looked through the forums, I found a few that appealed to me and I began to post a few comments. There was some high tension at the time due to it being an election year, and a few of the people that I had made friends with were getting into some heated debates over politics. So I began a thread of jokes and funny stories, trying to soften the atmosphere.
The response I received took me by surprise, and I soon found that I was being encouraged to consider becoming a writer. There were 3 published authors in the group, all considerably older than I was, and I felt completely out of my league among them. But, nevertheless, they continued to push and encourage me to consider following through in my writing.
I’m not really sure why I did it, but I began to send some of the stories and poetry I had written to two of these authors. I shared some very personal feelings in these writings, and to be honest, I felt so strange in making myself open and vulnerable in such a way. I had never considered the possibility of becoming an author, and I did not believe that my writing had the quality to do it. I fully expected some harsh critiques of my work pointing out all the flaws. But to my amazement, instead I received such high praise that I was shocked!
At first I thought that perhaps they were just being kind. But then I found out that both of these authors were actually telling others about me, and it was even suggested that I submit my writing to a few magazines to be published! I felt honored, but confused as to why these people thought I should do so. Curiosity got the better of me, and I finally asked why they liked my writing. They both told me that it was because my writing came from the heart in a way that let them feel what I felt, and understand what I thought. Simply put, the writing touched their hearts.
I began working on compiling several of the stories and poems together, still unsure of myself and having no idea what to do next. I began with buying a copy of the current listing of agents and publishers. I studied and tried to learn as much as I could about the writing industry, trying to figure out all the steps I needed to take. I also began to take some writing classes, as I still did not have any confidence in my ability. I soon found that a lot of what I read didn’t make much sense to me. The information was more focused on picking apart and labeling the parts of writing, which I didn’t really care about. I had always viewed literature in terms of whether or not the work was entertaining, stirring my emotions, or informative of a certain point of view. I paid more attention to the ability to communicate effectively than to the points of proper grammar and sentence structure. In my own writings, I’m quite sure any English professor would have a blast with their red markers, crossing out all my mistakes. But as I tried to learn to write according to the book standards, the thoughts and feelings just did not flow right.
As life circumstances sometimes do, some unexpected changes occurred, and the writing was put aside for several years. After moving into our cabin in 2006, I began unpacking some boxes that had been in storage for a few years. I found the folders containing the work I had typed out. As I went through them, I found myself being stirred by the words in an unexpected way, at times crying, and other times laughing. Then I came across a folder that I had forgotten about. It contained stories that Jason had written when he was about 9 years old. I hadn’t realized it before, but Jason had a passion for writing. Though he was so young, his stories spoke about life and reality from his own heart, and this gave me a connection to him, an insight into his personal mind. Even though there were tears of sorrow from missing him, there was also a joy in having his stories, his way of sharing himself with me. These simple stories with their misspelled words and improper grammar became the most cherished writings in the world to me.
That was the day that I understood what those two authors were telling me about why they liked my writing, because it came from my heart. It was also the day that I knew that I had to keep writing, because just like Jason, it is how I share my heart. It didn’t matter to me whether or not anyone else ever saw the words, I just had to write them. In writing, I can say the words that my mouth cannot utter. I can show the pain and sorrow, or the joy and exhilaration. Writing became at first, like a form of therapy, to let things out that I couldn’t tell anyone face to face. I soon discovered that it also kept my head from exploding from all the thoughts and feelings whirling around inside. It gave a sense of freedom and healing to my heart and soul.
A few years later, after a horrific accident involving my youngest son, Christian, I began sharing online the details of the events that were occurring on a day to day basis. It started as a way to update the family and friends on what was happening. I was unconscious of the fact that I was also sharing myself, that I was exposing my thoughts and feelings along with the updates. I became aware of this from the responses that people were leaving on the posts. Total strangers were sharing thoughts and prayers, pouring out a kind of love and support that I found to give me strength and courage that I didn’t know I had. People were thanking me for sharing those posts, telling me of the impact on their hearts, and asking that I continue to keep sharing. I had a profound sense that not only did I need to do it, but that others were needing to receive it.
Over the next 2 years, I went through the posts and began compiling them, together with stories, thoughts and feelings, into what became my first published book, “Faith, Hope and Miracles”. I didn’t really know what direction the book would take, but I wrote it with the intention of letting out the joy, hope and encouragement that I felt, along with the pain and sorrow. The reaction of those that have read my book has reaffirmed what Jason’s stories taught me…that when we share from the heart, it becomes a part of the heart for those we share it with.
Jason gave me a precious gift, inspiring me to write, to share my heart. If in that sharing, it connects my heart to others in a way that brings a sense of unity, whether it be in joy, grief, hope, encouragement, sadness or laughter, then I have achieved my goal. If sharing my words causes others to feel that they are not alone, then I have succeeded.
Though I miss Jason terribly, I forever hold him dear in my heart, remembering the love and joy he brought into my life, and this gift he has given me, to expose my heart and let it bleed for all the world to see. Thank you Jason, I love you forever!
On Grief and Healing
“It takes a warrior’s heart to persevere in the publishing world. Walk in the confidence that God has put a story in your heart and He will equip you to tell it. After all, it’s really His Story, isn’t it?” – Pamela Thorson, author of “Song in the Night” and “Out from the Shadows: 31 Devotions for the Weary Caregiver“.
Writers are often said to be introverts, and that may be true for many. But they are also a brave sort of people, for it takes a tremendous amount of courage to put pen to paper and share dreams, thoughts and ideas with the world. There are often ideas created out of seeing a perspective or need that needs to be addressed. Perhaps the courage comes from an overwhelming need to share a personal message, maybe an experience that might benefit others.
Such is the case for a grieving father, who after losing his only son, Jonathan, began a journey into self-discovery and healing. In his search for guidance and self-help, he found that there was not much available on the topic of men’s grief. Through his own grief, he made a connection that was the beginning of his healing. This connection has taken on a mission of its own in the form of a legacy to his son.
Having a writer’s heart, he decided that it was time to share what he discovered for himself. His name is R. Glenn Kelly, and his book, “Sometimes I Cry in the Shower” is on the fast track to making a nationwide impact on the hearts of many, men and women alike.
I commend Mr. Kelly in his endeavor to share his raw, open honesty with others into a journey that no one wants to take. And I know his son would be very proud of him. I highly recommend “Sometimes I Cry in the Shower”.
For more info on R. Glenn Kelly, visit his Author page on Amazon.
Check back soon to read my upcoming interview with R. Glenn Kelly!
God bless! – Amber
Living With Disabilities
I recently came across an article titled “6 Things About Chronic Pain You Didn’t Know You Knew“. While reading I thought, “This is a fairly accurate description of my life for the past 12 years”.
I have 4 different types of arthritis: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, fibromyalgia and several old injuries from indiscretions of youth, including a few spinal injuries. On a scale of 1 – 10 with 10 being the highest, my average daily pain level is between 3 – 4. Then there are times like this past week after my back went out again, the pain jumps up to 15+.
Trips to the ER bring cocktails of morphine and valium which zonk me out for a day or 2, and usually makes me sick. Chiropractors won’t touch me anymore because of the degeneration of my spine, and the latest physicians recommended surgeries only give a 40% chance of success.
So I use exercise, diet, homeopathic and herbal remedies of every kind, along with massage and pain pills, hot and cold packs, and rest. But mostly, I pray.
I pray for strength, healing, courage, and determination. I pray for a cure, to end the suffering. I pray for miracles, and I give praise and thanks for the good days and the mobility I have left. I also ask to be used as a blessing to others, in sharing hope and encouragement. That’s one of the main reasons I created this blog.
When my lower back went out last week, it caused immediate waves of intense pain which dropped me to my knees. I knew what was coming next, as I’ve been through this before. The spasms started just above my left hip and radiated in every direction from there, with the muscles playing a sort of tug-of-war with my spine. As I started to feel somewhat dizzy and sick, I cried out and began to pray.
In times of intense pain, I’ve noticed my prayers also become intense. In between the short gasps for air were short cries of “Dear Jesus”, “please, no”, and “help me”.
Eventually, with the help of my 11 year old son and a cane, I was able to get to my recliner and got seated. After getting an ice pack on my spine and taking a muscle relaxer and pain pill, I cried. And I prayed hard. Once the valium took effect, I drifted off to sleep for about an hour.
In the past when my back has gone out like this, after about 3 days it starts feeling a little better. This time was different. For one thing, there was some slight paralysis in my legs. And the muscle spasms were pretty constant, continuing to cause waves of pain through my spine, hips and legs.
Since I had run out of muscle relaxers and the only pain pills I had left were ibuprofen, there was not much relief from the pain and I couldn’t move very much. But from the lack of movement, stiffness began to increase throughout my entire body, causing even more discomfort. I continued using ice packs and heating pads, and generic arthritis rubs, which did bring some short term relief.
All in all, the whole situation caused a lot of stress, discouragement and fear. Thoughts were racing through my foggy mind of “what if” situations. Things like “what if I become fully paralyzed”? Or “what if the pain doesn’t go away”?
Since I couldn’t do much of anything else, I did a lot of reading from the bible. And as my mind was drawn to the subject of suffering, I decided to read the book of Job. It definitely gave me a different perspective on the subject. For one thing, it made me quit feeling so sorry for myself.
I also read from the New Testament, several passages regarding suffering for the cause of Christ and how it should be considered a blessing and privilege. (2 Corinthians 1:5, James 5:10-11, 1 Peter 4:12-13, Philippians 4:11-13) I know that those references were more along the lines of suffering from persecution, and that is not what my suffering comes from. But still, pain is pain, regardless of what is causing it.
While I was reading these scriptures, I remembered when I had read them before, and how I admired these people for their courage and commitment. I thought about how I would respond to being tortured for Jesus’ sake. I thought, “I could handle it” (referring to being put to death by stoning or beheading). I’ve always been tough and stoic, and able to handle all sorts of different types of pain and injuries, in the past.
But in dealing with this current episode with my back, I found myself pleading, “Either cure me, or kill me! I can’t handle this pain anymore.” That’s when I realized that even though I may not be facing persecution in the ways of the apostles, I am facing persecution, of pain. That’s why I could identify so well with the description in the article about chronic pain. I knew that there was no way possible that I could deal with that intense pain, not on my own. I remembered the bible promises that God will never leave or forsake me. And though there may be times when I feel alone, if I start to pray with my whole heart, I can feel His presence with me.
It’s been over a week now since my back went out, and I’m happy to report that I am slowly regaining movement and feeling. There is still pain and spasms, but not to the degree that it was. My physical condition is improving, but even more importantly, my spiritual condition is improving. While my body may deteriorate, my spirit will continue to grow stronger, as long as I keep my heart and mind on Jesus.
I thank Jesus each and everyday, because He is the only reason and the only way I can make it through these pains and keep going. I know He will heal me, if not here on earth, then when I get to heaven. I know there is a way through the storm, there is hope. And His name is Jesus.
To everyone out there who is suffering, whether it is from physical, mental, or spiritual pain, please know, you are not alone. Don’t give up! No matter what illness or disease or affliction you may have, put it in God’s hands. Trust Him. In the end, He is the only One who can help us.
I will keep all of you in my prayers. God bless, Amber.
* For more information on arthritis, please check out The Arthritis Foundation.
* I’d also like to introduce a new partnership with Endless Pursuit, a faith based Multiple Sclerosis nonprofit based in the Pacific NW.
URGENT: PRAYERS NEEDED!
Please pray for a miracle! A little 1 year old girl named Faith suffered a head trauma at daycare and appeared brain dead yesterday. She is undergoing an MRI right now to determine if there is any brain activity.
This is Baby Faith & her Mom & Dad.
I know the heartache and the fear and anguish these parents are going through right now. I also know that God is mighty and capable, with Him ALL things are possible!
Please pray for this family, for healing, comforting, peace, strength, and faith and trust in the Lord! Let the Spirit of His great love flow out through our prayers. Amen! And thank you all!
This post by Martha Shaw speaks to my inner heart, reminding me that God wants to heal us inside and out. But we must be humble enough to let Him. Great post Martha!
Martha L Shaw - Poet, Writer, Author, Artist
When I was a little girl, I liked to play in my backyard and since I had a play house and a sandbox, the neighborhood kids liked to play in my yard also. It was a nice yard, but small and with a host of small kids running and playing, there were always skinned knees. I can remember Mom putting a bandage on it and for a time it seemed great. Afterall, it was ugly and having covered it with a bandage, I didn’t have to look at it. The bandage also kept me from “making it worse” and so it didn’t hurt so much anymore. Eventually Mom would, some time later, insist on peeling off the bandage so it could get a breath of air and fully heal. I didn’t like that. I preferred to avoid that part. I didn’t want to deal with it. Removing the bandage hurt…
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