September 17, 2012

A Conversation With Annie

      When I approached Annie about this interview, I sensed a lot of hesitation in her voice. She nervously chose the coffee shop that we were to meet in, and gave herself a comfortable week of preparation time. It wasn't until I saw her walk in and step up to the counter to order her drink that I really caught a full glimpse of her anxiety.
       It wasn't the kind of place I would have guessed she'd pick. The art was contemporary, the walls were brick, and the lighting was dark and dramatic. She arrived in clothing that betrayed her usual relaxed style. Her Chuck Taylors had been traded in for knee high boots with a three inch heel. Her hair was curled and set in a side pony-tail. In place of her usual hoodie, she wore a thick scarf draped around her sweater-clad shoulders.

      It seemed as though she desperately wanted to seem more collected than she really was.

      We sat at a table tucked quietly into the back of the cafe. I sipped at my house coffee, and she sat down with a chai tea latte. She eyed my notebook, fiddled with the cardboard sleeve on her cup, and looked around the place with an understated franticness. I decided to jump right in.

      "How are things going?"
      She looked a little relieved, set down her cup, and answered, "They're all right."
      "I wanted to ask you a few questions about the book... about Unvoiced." I said, ignoring the slight pause that planted itself at the end of her answer. She nodded silently, taking a drink of her latte. "How would you describe your years in Clearfield?"
      She thought for a minute. "Quaint." She said at length. "Sometimes, it felt like the only thing that wasn't perfect there was me and what was going on inside of me." She slid the cup's sleeve down and back up again, "I know now that isn't true. But I didn't know it then."
      "What was your reaction to those feelings?" I continued the interview.
      "I guess I let them treat me like the enemy. They waged war on me, and I didn't do a whole lot to stop them. I didn't know how to fight a lie with truth."
       "What truth?"
       Her gray eyes peered past me, as though searching for just the right thing to say. "That nothing is perfect. That I should have been fighting the lies, and not myself."
        My next question snapped her gaze back to me. "Tell me about the self-harm." She locked eyes with me and gave such a slight nod, it was almost unnoticeable.
         "It was..." She paused for a few seconds, grasping for the right term, "It was a slippery slope." She self-consciously traced the deep scars on the palms of her hands-- the same scars that had been there for nearly 14 years now. "It started with scratching my arms until I felt the stinging more than the thing that had driven me to hurt myself. Eventually, I wasn't relieved until I had drawn blood, and with the blood came a sick feeling that would last for days."
          I nodded, knowing exactly what she was talking about. "What pulled you out?"
          She smiled then. It was the first smile I had seen in the span of our meeting. "I guess you'd have to read the book to know the whole story." She wrapped her hands around her cup, absorbing its warmth. Her dark nails glistened from the track lighting above us. "But really, I think it was a combination of things. Someone finally reaching through my wounds to hold onto me, hearing a call to be more than my pain said I had to be, I felt like my pain was finally given a voice, and someone was there to listen. You had it right. I was literally 'pulled out' of it. Someone thought I was worth fighting for."
          I smiled, too. "What would you say your biggest obstacle in overcoming self-harm was?"
          "Internalizing." She said quickly. "I never wanted to get outside of my own head. It turns out that confession and repentance are the only road to healing. You've gotta let it out, otherwise it holds you captive, when it should be held captive by you."
           "So would you consider yourself a recovered self-injurer?"
           "I don't think it's as easy as that." She said. The quiet of the shop was momentarily interrupted by a sudden flow of teenagers, bustling to the counter and shuffling out in a cloud of sweet smelling coffee steam. Turning back to me, she continued, "Saying the word 'recovered self-injurer' makes it sound too much like a medical definition to me. What I experienced was not a medical thing, really. It was so internal. It was so emotional and spiritual... maybe mental, but hardly medical. Does anyone 'recover' from things like that? I don't think I'm recovered. I don't think I'm even recovering, and I know I'm not defined by it. I'm pretty sure I'm just healing. I'm just a girl who was damaged, and who is being healed."
          "So you don't think there's a cure?"
          "Oh, I know there's a cure. It's nail-scarred and reaching out, but I don't think there's a moment of arrival. I don't think that there is a definitive 'I'm good now' moment, at least not in this life."
           "So how do you know you're healing?"
           She smiled again, this time with a soft laugh that seemed to say. I love answering this one. "Even though there's no 'I'm good now' moment in this life, I know one thing... I know that this life is made up of other moments. Healing is when you turn a corner and the majority of your moments are no longer made up of the, 'Where am I going?', 'How did I get here', or 'How do I protect myself?' moments, but they're made up of the recurring moment that whispers, 'My pain doesn't have to define me, because I already know who I am.'"
           It was then that my phone rang, and she got a text reminding her to pick up a few things from the grocery store on her way home. It was short lived, but as I finished my coffee, I was left with the assurance that the novel was not written in vain. What more could a book hope to convey, than the final statement Annie had made?

"My pain doesn't have to define me, because I already know who I am."

[This is a fictional account of a conversation with Annie Larson, the main character from my upcoming novel, Unvoiced. Look for it in early 2013! The photo is a free stock image.]

September 09, 2012

Challenge Accepted

This is pretty much a copy and paste from my weight loss journal. I wanted to post it here because people actually read it, and I want to invite people to help and join me on any or all of these challenges. Some, I found on Pinterest, and some I made up on my own. I feel like discipline is something I fall short in a lot, and I'm finding that I really do like a good challenge. So, here you are:

Good news: I tried to get into my December-goal jeans, and they almost buttoned. That is awesome, because I set the goal for Christmas, not the beginning of September. I might surpass my goal, guys! That is so exciting! I can't wait to set a new one!

Even though it's going really well, I'm needing a bit more discipline in my life. My schedule is going to start picking up, and I will need a little more resolve to get through the holidays and family gatherings in the next four or five months. So, I'm doing these things that will nourish my mind, body and spirit. I am starting all of them tomorrow, September 10th. Here they are:

My 21 day challenge:

I am cutting out the no peanut butter rule and replacing it with "NO SODA." This challenge is going to be hard because we have about 300 ice cream novelties in our freezer right now. Oh geez. End date: October 1, 2012

My 60 day challenge:

Read 3 books, and write 100 pages in my own novel. End date: November 9, 2012

My 90 day challenge:

Scary, huh? I don't want to do this... so I'm just... going to. 90 days, everyday but Sundays and special occasions, just like my previous rules. End date: December 9, 2012

 My 1 year challenge:

Memorize Colossians in a year from the blog,
I haven't memorized scripture intentionally in a very long time. This will be good for me! End date: September 10, 2013

If you want to join me in any of these, let me know and we can partner up via text, facebook, e-mail, or whatever!

September 07, 2012

Tree Lessons

Outside my window are the layers of the inner city. Layers of sky, iron, brick, wood, and nature. A red oak tree stands more than three stories tall not even three feet from our balcony. The leaves reach and dance. On sunny days, they stretch out and soak up the sun.

Today, though, a great deal of its leaves are curling in on themselves. There are only two reasons that it would do this... either the tree's going to die, or the sky's going to rain.

It's leaves were curled up like this last night, as well. I watched the weather radar-- watched all of the storms split up and go around our little corner of the city-- but the tree still curled its leaves. It still hoped for rain.

And today, I look at the radar, and I look at the tree. It's the same picture, only more promise of rain. I'm learning a couple of lessons from this old tree.I'm learning that sometimes, when we're all curled up into ourselves, we can remember-- either we're going to die, or it's going to rain. The dead of night is always where my faith falters, when it is so dark that I cannot see a thing, and I begin to doubt that the sun is going to rise again. But, that tree's been around for a really long time. It's grown almost four stories worth of season after season, opening and closing its leaves in hopes of rain. It is considerably more likely that rain, rather than death will come. I'm also learning that hope is not wasted. Hope can't be wasted. Hope is what we were made to do. And, even when our hopes split up and go around us, or someone else gets what we're hoping for, we can still hope.

[P.S.- It's raining now.]

September 01, 2012


Today, I stood on the back porch watching the rain pour down. I thought about going back inside, but the music on my phone and the tiny gifts falling from the sky were too much for me to resist. I found myself grappling with the big lie.. the Big Lie that creeps into my head sometimes, mostly as a question... What if? What if I can't have children?

And the carousel starts to spin. Around and around, up and down, and totally pointless.

Except for today. I was sopping wet. Water dripped from me as if God Himself had taken the form of rain just to hold my hand. My headphones blared as the rain came harder.

“My hands, my feet, my everything. My life, my love, Lord use me.”

The cry of my heart.

It was then that I remembered that not so long ago, my heart had a different cry. It called to God, “Lord, give me this gentle and quiet spirit that You value so highly.” I thought it would be an overnight change. I thought it would be like breaking up with a not-so-good-for-me boyfriend, or deciding to major in literature. I thought it would come quick and easy.

But it hasn't. It couldn't possibly. A gentle, quiet spirit isn't a building up. It's a wearing down. It comes after a long life of constant wrestling and worrying and pounding on the heart of God. It comes when all of your own strength fails beneath your weight and all that is left to do is fall at His feet.

Sarah is the one that 1 Peter 3 was referring to when it spoke of having a “gentle, quiet spirit.” It says that we can be her daughters if we do what is right and do not give way to fear. I am slowly but surely coming to an understanding of why God said this. Fear is the opposite of this spirit. It worries and frets and manipulates and becomes selfish and embittered.

Sarah didn't really have an easy life. She followed her husband, regardless of where God told him to go. She was barren. She waited a long time for her heart's desire of a son... probably more than 70 years. But she believed. She submitted. She might have become jaded and sarcastic at times, but she never threw in the towel. She always pressed forward in faith.

Her trials wore her away. They eroded everything that was not faith. It was those long, steady years of uncertainty, and sometimes pain, that created that gentle, quiet spirit in her. A gentle, quiet spirit that looked at God and said, “Wherever You take us, You are the Lord.”

I asked God to show me what He is doing, and I see... like the blind beggar, I see. He is wearing me down. He's slowly giving me that gentle, quiet spirit that I asked for. He might not be doing it the way I expected, but the only thing for me to do is trust that He is Who He says He is, and He will do what He said He'll do.

On Aprils

Ten years ago, I sat in the dining hall of a Christian camp. A man my father's age sat with me. It was April, and I had no idea... I had...