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!
A Happy and Blessed New Year
I want to wish all of you a very happy and blessed 2013! I pray that this new year brings a renewed joy and peace to your hearts, that your spirits are filled a burning passion for Jesus that shines bright, and that His great love overflows from you to everyone around you!
Over the past few weeks I have been spending some thinking about my priorities and my schedule. Life seemed to be getting filled with many frustrations of not being able to accomplish all of the tasks on my lists. I realized that I was spending too much time on unnecessary things, and not enough time on the things that really matter.
My first priority is God. Although I had made the decision for making Him my number one a long time ago, lately there had been so many other things in my life that I felt like I was rushing through my time with the Lord, to hurry up to get onto other things. This is not right, this is not treating Him with the honor and respect that He deserves!
This was also the situation for me with my family and friends. I was telling myself that I had to wait until all of the other things on my list of “to do’s” needed to be done first, and then I would have time to spend with my loved ones. The problem with that is my “to do” lists never seemed to get completed, or if they did, I was too tired to do anything else. And some of my relationships have ended up suffering for it. This is not right either.
In retrospect, I have always tried to be a responsible person, taking care of business and getting the job done. However, it was always my decisions and goals that I was working on. I did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ for the first half of my life, and seeking His guidance on what to do with my life has been a difficult thing for me to learn. Being raised with an independent personality, I was used to directing my own path, and I couldn’t figure out why things didn’t work out the way I planned. It wasn’t until I learned that I am not in control, that I even began to seek His counsel.
For the past couple of years, I have been feeling the Lord directing me in my heart toward certain endeavors. But I was trying to figure out how to follow His directions and mine at the same time. It was a hard realization to finally figure out that I can’t do both. But it was an easy enough choice to decide who to follow, especially with my established track record. My ways did not work outside of His plans for me.
And so I have spent a lot of time praying for His guidance, asking Him to reveal to me what He wants for me and from me. This was how the subject of my priorities came up. In addition to God now, my greatest passions have always been my family and friends, animals, and writing. There are many other things that I care about and enjoy, but these are the areas that Jesus wants my main focus. When I realized that I had been spending more time on things other than these four priorities, it made sense that this was where the majority of my frustration was coming from.
This past two weeks I had slowed down my hectic schedule and began spending more time with my son, just to enjoy his company. And I spent more time in prayer and reading the bible. I discovered that our time in church was also far more enriching to my spirit and my joy was returning. I also made time to spend with some of our friends, and with our pets. Even though some of my tasks did not get completed, I felt a renewed sense of joy that I have not felt in a while.
One particular thing that had been heavy on my heart was my family. Most all of my family lives far away, and it’s been many years since I’ve visited with them. Money and time have always been an issue, which in itself has caused a lot of stress. But a few nights ago, I was feeling a strong desire in wanting to see my family. I went onto the internet and looked up the specials on airfare and found a 65% discount available. I checked my savings account and found that I could actually do this! There may be some things that will have to be sacrificed for now, but my family is worth it! So I will be taking 3 weeks off in February to spend with some people that are very dear to me.
After making the reservations, the excitement in me has grown and created more energy than I have felt in years! God is leading me into a new direction, showing me the importance of letting Him have total control, and the precious peace and joy that comes from it. And I have a renewed spirit for my writing as well. My writing has always come from my heart, but lately it had started to feel more like an obligation or another task that needed doing. And it felt like I had to force the words out, one at a time, instead of letting it flow like water. But the enjoyment of it has returned, and I look forward to my time putting the words down again.
I can’t say exactly what all this new year will bring, but I can say there is a positive outlook to it. I am expecting good things, even though I know that it may not all be good. I am expecting joy and peace, even though I know there may be times of chaos. I am expecting many blessings, because I know God is good, all the time. He has already blessed me in more ways than I count, and I have learned that the greatest blessing of all is love! Jesus loves me! HE LOVES ME!!! What more could I possibly ask for? And yet, He gives me so much more! A family and friends that I love very much, the awesome beauty that surrounds me, a home that keeps me safe and comfortable, a Pastor with a heart for truth, a church where I know His Spirit flows, a mind that can form words and a desire to share them, comfort in times of trials, strength when I am weak, courage when I am afraid…the list goes on forever!
I know every day of my life is another chance for learning something new. Each day brings new opportunities and blessings. I have a new excitement in my heart, to see what wonders God will bring each day, and knowing that no matter what, He is always with me!
I am thankful for everything God has done and is doing for me. And I am thankful for the opportunity to share it with everyone. I pray that this new year will be filled with many good things for all of you, and I pray that many more souls will come to Him that saves!
God bless, and Happy New Year!