2018: My year of confidence

I should be writing in my novel right now. I have about 3,600 words to go before I reach the magical NaNoWriMo number of 50,000 (though there’s probably about 15,000 more words left of the story). But instead, I want to write here for a moment so I can share some things with you, and so I can document some things for me.

The New Year is coming up, and for many of us, that means making New Year’s Resolutions that will make our lives better. Of course, these rules are usually forgotten by February. At least, that’s the case for me.

2018

For the past few years, I’ve done away with resolutions. Instead, I dedicate my year to a word, and I let that be my focus. In 2016, my word was PERSEVERANCE. That year, I published two books, and I wrote two more. My freelance career took off, providing a nice second income that carried my book writing expense. I also started college. I let go of doubts and forged ahead, and it was the most productive year I’ve ever had. I sold more books than ever. I proved to myself that I could do anything I set my mind to, I just had to keep putting one put in front of the other.

But by the end of that year, I was just as exhausted as I was inspired. I knew I needed a new word, and I decided on the word community. But when I prayed on this, God told me this was not my word. He kept pushing me to trust him, and I kept pushing back. He finally revealed that my word was FAITH, and that I was to pray into this with a week-long fast.

Wait, what? No food for 7 days? Are you kidding me?

I eventually agreed, and planned to start Jan. 1. God had different plans, and made me sick as a dog in the last days of December. That’s when I heard His whisper. Do it now.

So I did. I lived on juiced fruits and vegetables for almost a week, then just vegetables during the last few days. It was an amazing experience. During that time, everything became so much clearer, and I realized that my word really was FAITH.

This past year was life-changing. I leaned back and let God lead. I stopped trying all these wacky things to sell my books, and instead talked with God a lot more. I relaxed.

Admittedly, my sales plummeted this year. This is a frustrating side effect, to be sure, but I knew this going in. I’m in this for the long haul, not in it to get rich quick. This past year has been about listening to God and leaning on Him, about coming back to center, about recognizing what’s important. I’ve also realized that my faith journey isn’t ending just because the year is. Rather, it’s an introduction.

Now that I’m nearing the New Year, a new word has surfaced. I’d asked God, once again, if my word was community, as I’d thought the year before. He quickly shot that one down, telling me instead that my word was CONFIDENCE. But this word has a separate meaning. It’s not exactly about appearing sure of myself to others. It’s more about knowing who I am, and WHOSE I am. Who am I trying to impress when I deny my feelings and remain meek? Whose opinion do I care about when I hide in the shadows or refuse to speak up? What is it that I’m trying to say in my stories, but holding back on for fear of offending others?

Confidence is saying what I mean and standing behind it. It’s about not censoring myself. It’s about writing books where the characters are messy, use foul language, and make mistake after mistake. It’s about being vulnerable. It’s about writing a blog post about faith and God, and publishing it here, on a blog that I sell books on, instead of putting it in my Faith Blog so non-believers won’t be offended. It’s knowing that some of you are going to turn away from this blog in disgust because your feelings about God don’t match mine, or because I’m not your version of a perfect Christian, and posting this anyway.

It’s about telling the truth, and that’s what I want to do this year. Tell the truth. Tell my truth, that being an author is both the best and worst decision I’ve ever made with my life. Tell my characters’ truths, that they do terrible things and suffer the consequences, and are completely human in every way.

I’m an author who loves Jesus, and says fuck, and allows my characters to be gritty and imperfect. I’m an author who has intense faith and debilitating doubts, sometimes in the same breath. I’m an author who doesn’t fit in with non-believers because of my faith, and I’m an author who doesn’t fit in with believers because I write sex scenes, cuss words, and drug use.

I’m me. And 2018 is my year to stop apologizing for it.

Expect a lot of truth from me in this New Year.

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Be not afraid…

I am currently in the middle of writing a scene that is hard to write. In this, Maddie (from The Road to Hope) is enduring the wrathful abuse of someone she loves and trusts. And as I write, I am recalling moments when I experienced the same thing.

It’s been 12 years since he laid his hands on me, and a bit less since he intimidated me. Still, I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever he calls me (which isn’t often). I feel overly nervous, as if he can reach through the phone and continue what was unfinished over a decade ago.

This is what abuse does. You never fully heal. In the years I was with him, I learned to not look people in the eye, to not tell too much about myself, and to not let people get too close to me. I learned to let fear rule, because it was better to be ready than to be caught off guard. I was told the most horrible things – that my family would be killed if I left him, that I would never amount to anything without him, that I wasn’t to be trusted. He accused me of cheating on him so much that I had to watch my every move to ensure that it wouldn’t appear I was stepping out of line. There were times I questioned if I actually was sinning against him, as I was accused of so much.

We’re “good” now. When we talk, we’re respectful to each other. Our only connection is the kids, and we leave it at that. The kids are at an age where we don’t even need to speak at all anymore. It’s better this way. Still, the few times we do talk, we keep it simple and pleasant. It’s almost as if nothing ever happened.

Except, it did.

When my son was a baby (he’s 15 now), my ex and I got into a huge fight. It was in front of his brother, which seemed to make it worse. He didn’t lay hands on me this time, but he did call me horrible names and threaten me. I couldn’t believe we had a witness there, and he was doing this in front of him. I finally had enough, and I grabbed my infant son and took off.

I didn’t know where I was going, but I just needed to be gone. I ended up driving out to the ocean. As I drove, I cried out to God, wondering if he was even there. How could he just stand by and let someone treat me this way? What was the point in this?

“Are you even there?” I screamed at Him. In all my life, I’ve never doubted God was there. But in this moment, I was starting to think that maybe God really wasn’t there. In my head, I told God that if he was there, show me something red. That was it. No sooner had I thought it, I made a hairpin turn on the coastline. On my right was a cliff with hundreds of white flowers. And right in the center was ONE RED FLOWER.

I can’t even explain it, but I knew this was from God. I have never seen a red flower in that spot since, and I’ve driven past it several dozen times since. But in that moment, I needed to know that God was there. It was a desperate need. I needed to know that all this meant something, and I was getting out of this okay.

Since that day, so much has happened. I got pregnant again, and we lost the baby at 32 weeks. I lived through poverty. I suffered more abuse. I left him. I learned how to be alone. I cried. I felt alone. I experienced a depression so deep, I wished I could die every day.

And, I survived. In all this, I KNEW God was with me. I learned that he had reasons I couldn’t understand. I just had to be patient.

Today, I am married to a man who shows me real love every day. I have a good job that affords me things I once thought of as luxuries out of my reach. I live in a town where I feel at home. I have sincere friendships. I am close to my parents. My kids are the best things that have ever happened to me. I’m safe. I’m loved.

Fear is still a big part of my life, though. Because of the abuse, my life is forever changed. I still have a hard time looking people in the eye. I still let fear rule. I still keep people at arm’s length for far too long, or worry about what others think of me.

But the one think I’ve learned in all of this – I’m not alone.

In writing Maddie’s story, I’m sharing pieces of my own as well. One day I may have the courage to write a memoir. For now, Maddie is sharing some of the pain I endured – the pan that many women have endured – and the courage it takes to get away from the abuse.

This year, I’m determined for a change.

I spent the beginning of this year in a fast. During that time, I spent it talking with God and just hearing what he had planned for me. In that time, I heard him tell me to trust him more and to stop worrying so much. This is the simple answer to what I heard, and I might go more in depth on this at a later date.

Today, I tattooed this promise on my arm with my favorite verse in the bible, Joshua 1:9.

tattoo

This promise is a reminder whenever I feel timid or meek, or just too afraid or discouraged to keep going. It’s a reminder that I’m not alone when I believe I’m in a dark moment. It’s a reminder to have faith and keep going. It’s a reminder that I’m not actually in danger, that God is working the miracle, and my job is to just keep moving forward.

Also, I really, really, really love this new tattoo. 🙂