The Voices Within

I’m vaguely aware of my dog’s paw, small and gentle, on my shoulder. His tap, tap, tapping pulls me from the fog of slumber.

“No,” I mumble, certain day has not yet broken night.

As I roll away from my persistent pup, a knife stabs at the base of my neck and thousands of needles drill into my right shoulder, arm, hand, and fingers. I moan, though not audibly. Instead the moan rises within. Echoes within. Resides within. READ MORE

Every Escape I’ve Known…

 

I opened the mailbox and pulled out a stack of envelopes. As I thumbed through them before making the short walk back to the house, I saw it. The return address. And I knew.

The contents of the small envelope would wound me.

Deeply.

As the sender has wounded me so many times before.

My breath caught and tears brimmed as I made my way back into the house where I dropped the mail on the kitchen counter, with the exception of one small envelope. Maybe I’m wrong… Maybe it isn’t what I suspect…

I tore the envelop open and pulled out a sheaf of paper. As I scanned it the stab came, straight to my heart, as it has so many times before. Then…

Anger bubbled.

I dropped the note on the counter and hot tears fell. Why does this keep happening? Why do I let it continue to happen?

Anger boiled.

But I didn’t want the anger–because I knew, just beneath its simmering surface was a cauldron filled with pain.

As I turned away from the counter, the refrigerator beckoned. I could eat something. Anything. I could stuff myself so full there’d be no room left for the anger or the pain. I glanced away from the refrigerator to an upper cabinet. I could reach for a wine glass, fill it once, twice, three times. I could drink until my mind and heart would no longer discern the ache.

Every escape I’ve known called my name.

But under the cacophony in my mind, another voice whispered. I strained to hear the question it asked: What does it mean to be mindful now?

I wandered from the kitchen to my office and dropped into the chair at my desk. I rested my hand on the trackpad. One click, then a second, and a hand of Solitaire appeared. I played a few cards before moving my hand off the trackpad.

No.

I wouldn’t succumb. I wouldn’t escape. Not this time.

What does it mean to be mindful when anger stirs? What does it mean to remain present when emotional pain swirls? I considered each question.

It means allowing myself to feel the pain. To experience the pain. To allow the anger to propel me forward as I’ve allowed it to propel the characters in my novels forward.

When I accepted the idea of mindfulness for this year, I anticipated a new awareness. I looked forward to what I might see, hear, experience. I did not consider that accepting the invitation to live in the present would also mean accepting the probability of dealing with pain. But… Dealing with the pain means I’m also presented with the opportunity to uncover festering wounds and rather than averting my gaze as I have so often done, I can choose to really see them, and allow myself to feel their sting.

Wounds left untreated become infected. Perhaps the metaphor is cliche because of its accuracy.

I moved my hand back to the trackpad, clicked, and opened a new document. Through a veil of tears, I stared at the wavering blank page on the screen and then rested my fingers where they are most comfortable, on the keyboard. I let the old wounds lead the way and allowed the infection to drain, through my fingertips, onto the page…

Now, a week later, recalling the moment no longer evokes anger, or even pain. Instead, there is relief. And resolve born of anger. Transformation even. Change wrought through presence. My own. And the Presence which, I’m continuing to learn, meets me in the present, in the moment.

What are you escaping? What does it mean to sit with your pain? To stay present in your anger?

 

Every escape I've known called my name. Click To Tweet What does it mean to be mindful when anger stirs? Click To Tweet What does it mean to remain present when emotional pain swirls? Click To Tweet What are you escaping? Click To Tweet

I’m Paying Atten… Wait, What?


I confess, I’m a bit of a rebel. A quiet, mostly well-behaved rebel, but a rebel nonetheless. I don’t like conforming. Following the crowd. When it seems everyone is doing something…

Like making resolutions at the beginning of a new year.

Or choosing a word for the year.

I want to do something else.

Besides, those resolutions are so…resolute.

So just as I was rolling my eyes at the tide of new year commitments rising in my social media feed last week, a term flowed through my consciousness…

Mindful.

Well, if I was one of those people who chose a word for the year… But I’m not. I waited for the word to ebb, to recede from my awareness. Instead, it lapped, and lapped. And lapped…

So, chagrined, I’m tossing my own word for 2017 in with the sea of others. But that doesn’t mean I’m really conforming, does it? It’s just that, well, in 2016 I wrote a novel about a novelist who is anything but mindful. She’s in the habit of letting the wanderings of her mind ride the current. Going this way, then that.

That’s what we creatives do, right? Flow with the ideas that present themselves.

The problem is that Melanie, my character, lets the current take her out of the current and the lines between her reality and her fiction begin to blur. And she starts missing things. Important things.

But I’m not like that.

I’m mindful of the moment. In the moment. Present.

Except, maybe when I’m…not. Like when my housemate is telling me something, but instead of listening to her I’m thinking about the story I’m writing or the cute boots I saw online today while I was supposed to be writing. Or maybe, mid-conversation, I pick up my phone because an alert dinged, or beeped, or squealed and I might miss something more…important?

But those instances are rare. I think.

It’s odd though… Sometimes, like last night, I sat down to watch the evening news before my housemate arrived home from work. Then after she got home, she asked if I’d mind watching it again—the recorded version. I shrugged. “I don’t mind, but it wasn’t all that interesting.”

When I watched the newscast again, I realized how much I’d missed the first time. Why? Where was my mind? What was I thinking about? Doing? Had I watched it at all?

Maybe I’m more like Melanie than I thought.

Am I alone in my distraction?

Are you mindful? Present to the moment, living in the moment?

If not, maybe you’d like to—sigh—resolve, along with me, to consider what mindfulness means. (Notice I didn’t ask you to resolve to be mindful? Let’s take this one small step at a time.)

I’m thinking of this as an exploration.

An adventure.

If you’d like to join me, you’re welcome to follow along the next several months as I share my discoveries. I sense there’s more going on in the moment than I’ve realized. In fact, as I was writing Home, one of my character’s whispered something I hadn’t thought of before: God meets us in the moment. He is past, present, and future. But we’re bound by time, so He is present in our every moment. Always. And He waits for us to join Him…

What if in my stubbornness or, gulp, arrogance, I’d missed the word that breezed through my mind?

What else might I have missed this coming year?

I’d love to hear from you. What does mindfulness mean to you? What does it look like for you? How are you intentional about being intentional in the moment?

In the months to come, I’ll share some of what I’m learning. I hope you’ll join the conversation by leaving a comment on the posts or following me on social media where the conversation will continue.

Doubt Sparks

Wood burning and forest fire.

The boughs of the redwoods, browned by the drought, bounce in the breeze. The same breeze that stirs the King Fire up the road, and the Meadow Fire in Yosemite National Park. Smoke, like doubt, clouds the horizon.

Flames, the novel I’m writing, is never far from my mind—or my doubts.

It isn’t that the story isn’t good.

Or that I don’t believe in what I’m writing.

I just wonder, again… Am I doing the right thing? A careless comment nags. A disheartening article pesters. A thoughtless question badgers.

Doubt smolders.

But isn’t that always the way when we’re walking through a dark and unknown forest? When the path is winding and the ascent steep? I tell myself this is so as I ask, again, for help with my unbelief. The voices of those who’ve assured me are more numerous than those who’ve questioned. Yet, the questioning voices always ring loudest, echoing in my mind.

Doubt sparks.

Self-publishing? Crowdfunding? Did I miss a fork in the trail? My lungs ache as I weary of the hike in just the first mile. Asking for support feels more like groveling for something undeserved. Yet, that’s the route highlighted on the map.

I prefer the familiar road—contracts, advances, accolades and awards. When others call my name, I know who I am. For a while, I didn’t admit as much, not even to myself. But then Truth whispered my name and I bowed in response, humbled by the knowledge that I’d bowed to others first.

So I tune out the echo and press forward into the unknown, trusting the One who makes my path straight.

Truth suppresses doubt.

What are you doubting?

By pre-ordering your copy/copies of Flames now you will help make it a reality. Visit my Indiegogo Campaign to place your order or to contribute to the publication of Flames. Thank you!

Raising Men

Boy on the top of hillIf I’d known then what I know now…  When I held those precious babes bundled in blue. When during the night watches I rocked them to the rhythm of my prayers. When I was their whole world and innocence was still their reality. If I’d known then…

I would have held them tighter.

Prayed harder.

Kept them from the world.

—-

This day, women’s whispers haunt me. I’ve never told anyone before, they begin. Faces stained with tears. Eyes hooded with shame. They pause. Swallow. Start again. I search my mind for wisdom, but find none. Instead, silent, I nod my encouragement. I hold their stories close. I understand.

We were bludgeoned.

Wounded.

By men.

Women betrayed by men who promised faithfulness. Women abandoned by men who promised steadfastness. Women belittled by men who promised respect. Women violated by men who promised protection. Husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles…

I cry out to God.

Where are Your men?

 Who will lead our sons?

 Where are the warriors?

 —-

He opens an album and points. Remember? He asks.

I see my grandfather, fly rod in hand—tender, faithful, sacrificial. Hero to my sons.

Yes, I remember, I say, as I smile through my tears.

And this one, He turns the page.

There’s my great-uncle, laughter in his eyes—fun, caring, strong. For a season, he made breakfast for me every morning. Yes, I recall.

Others come to mind—a coach, an agent, a father figure, a handyman, friends—James, Steve, Ted, Tony, Neil, Dave, Jim…

Imperfect men.

But good men.

Godly men.

But what of the others? I ask.

He shakes His head. Some are wounded. Others are weak. Many bow to other gods: money, lust, themselves. His tone is marked by grief.

—-

Her hair is gray, her features lined with age. Her countenance emanates peace—her words embody wisdom. “I am your wife. If you go to her, do not come back. This is what I said to him.”

I lean forward, “What happened?”

“He went to her. And when he came back, I spoke truth.” Quiet strength supports her words. “I told those who had spiritual authority over him and they met with him. They told him he must change his ways. But he refused.”

She looks beyond me to the trees swaying in the breeze. I wait. And wonder.

When she looks to me again, a tear has left a track on her cheek. “I live with my son and his family now. I am grateful. God has provided for me.”

“But…are you still married?”

“Yes, I am still his wife. But I filed the paperwork for a legal separation. I had to protect myself financially. I could not let him use all our money to court another woman.”

“You’re wise.”

“No, I am just old.” She shakes her head. “I will not divorce him. But I remain resolved because it is the most loving action.”

“What do you mean?”

Again, she stares beyond me and I wait. This time when she looks back to me, I see mercy in her eyes.

“He is hurting me, but he is also hurting himself. He is doing the most damage to his own soul. To love him is to tell him no.”

—-

They are young men now—no longer the babes I rocked to the rhythm of my prayers. They are good men too, I believe. Though like each of us, they were born with sin woven into their very nature. Our culture of hedonism woos and a dark, consuming world is just a mouse-click away. What I didn’t know then, I know now…

A lion crouches.

Snarling at my young men.

Ready to attack.

But the lion doesn’t lie in wait for just my men. He is after our men. And we—wives, mothers, sisters, aunts—must rock the lion with our prayers. Stoning him unto death.

To our men, we must speak truth. With quiet strength supporting our words. We must say, “No more.”

Because, to love him, is to tell him no.

 

To love him is to tell him no. Click To Tweet To our men, we must speak truth. Click To Tweet

 

Rooted

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I pounded the letters into metal—over and over—one letter at a time. The stamped jewelry was part of a 200+ piece custom order bearing the group’s theme.

I saw the letters during the days as I worked.

I dreamt the letters at night.

I knew the letters in both English and Spanish.

But the word constructed of the individual letters held no meaning beyond the craft of the moment—beyond an order to complete. The pounding was mechanical leaving my mind free to wander, wonder, and…worry.

Would I be well enough to attend the event this jewelry was destined for?

What if I wasn’t?

What of the commitments I had beyond the jewelry? The authors’ panel I was to be part of? The book signings? The friends I’d committed to spend time with? God, what about all that?

One week before the event, I took a break from pounding and picked up the phone and called James—coach, spiritual director, and friend. I poured out my concerns and questions and then quieted for James’ response, through which, I often hear God’s direction.

“Ginny, God has you rooted now. Your health isn’t dependent on you—it’s dependent on Him. Likewise, conferences, author panels, book signings, friendships—none of those are dependent on you—they’re dependent on Him. All He asks is that you remain rooted in Him.” James went on to paint a verbal picture of trees, but the picture was wasted on me. My mind was stuck on the word James used in his response—a word I’d never heard him use in hundreds of past conversations.

It was the word.

The sum of those individual letters I’d stamped over and over:

R + O + O + T + E + D = Rooted.

I’d not spoken to James of the event theme or the jewelry order. Was his use of the word coincidence? No, I knew better. Instead, God used James to open my eyes and ears to the message He’d meant for me… Let your roots grow down into Me, and let your life be built on Me (Col. 2:7 paraphrase).

The message along with the theme verse for the event, are consistent with something God’s whispered to my soul for many months now. Be still…

For isn’t it only in stillness that roots take hold? Growing deep, spreading, strengthening, and nourishing so the tree can flourish and point heavenward toward its creator.

Is it possible God has rooted me for a season, is keeping me still, so that my roots will grow yet deeper into Him?

Will I remain still?

Will I let my life be built on Him?

Yes.

I long to be Rooted in Him.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season.

Psalm 1:3

What is God whispering to your soul?

Lost and Found

Lost & FoundI was thrilled to read another 5 star review of Lost and Found! Link here: Reading with Teddy G.

I’ve promised to share negative reviews too, but so far, they’re all positive. 🙂

To celebrate another 5 star review, I want to do a giveaway. Leave a comment on this post about why you’d like to win a signed copy of Lost and Found and I’ll enter you to win both a copy of the book and a bracelet from my company, Bookish Baubles.

I’ll draw a winner next Friday.

Christmas Tears

I have a lot of good memories from 27+ years of marriage. I also have a lot of memories that come with a stab—wounds that are slow to heal. But of all the memories made, the ones I treasure most are of Christmas. I think my family would agree, we made only good memories on Christmases past—especially those Christmas mornings when it was just the four of us, our stockings stuffed, a crackling fire in the fireplace, and a pan of homemade cinnamon rolls in the oven.

Even post divorce, that was a tradition we kept.

Until this year.

This morning, as I stood alone in the cold house, looking out at the tears of heaven splashing against the window, my own tears pricked my eyes as my heart ached with the missing of laughter, of delighted squeals from little boys, of a knowing glance between their parents.

Once again, I grieved the brokenness wrought by divorce.

Just as others this season are grieving their own losses.

Even greater losses.

And I wondered…

God, do You understand?

As rain pelted the glass and wind blew through the trees outside, it seemed His answer swirled within me. Yes, I understand.

I thought about that first Christmas when Jesus left the warmth of Mary’s womb. Did He cry as He entered our world? What about nine months before when He left His Heavenly home, His Father’s side, and descended from a state of omnipotence to embryonic? How did He feel?

And what did God the Father feel as He sent His son? Did He shed tears knowing what Jesus would suffer? Did He feel the stab of loss? Where was the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, during those hours of grief? Was He at the Father’s side, in the womb with Jesus, comforting Mary in her pain as she pushed her babe, the King, into the world?

Were there tears from heaven that first Christmas too?

I suspect there were many tears.

Just as I suspect our God has shed many tears this season.

As I wandered out of the kitchen and through the house this morning, I did so with the realization that I am not alone. The Spirit walks beside me, within me, His warmth and comfort surround me. And joy, beyond my understanding, bubbled forth.

God knows my pain.

He knows your pain.

But just as with that first Christmas, I believe pain and joy co-mingle.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).”

God gave the Son He loved to save a world He loved.

Pain.

And joy.

Yes, my child, I understand…

 

 

 

Write Now Relief

As I’ve watched the devastation wrought by Superstorm Sandy, my heart has broken for the suffering of so many. As another storm rolled in this week and a million people are still without power, and temperatures are freezing, I’ve wished I could invite each person into my warm home here on the west coast. Of course, that’s not possible.

So when fellow author, Susan Meissner, suggested a group of authors join together to do what we do best AND help victims of the storms, I jumped on board. The result is Write Now Relief.

If you’re a writer with a manuscript that needs first aid, you may bid on a 50-page critique from one of the participating authors while also helping the victims of the storm. Here’s how it works:

WHAT: Bid on a 50-page critique of your novel by one of the Write Now Novelists (listed below).  Highest bidder will send their amount to the designated relief organization, Samaritan’s Purse, for their relief efforts for the victims of Superstorm Sandy.

WHEN: Begins Friday, November 9, ends Friday midnight EST November 16.

HOW: Head to the blog of the author you’d like to have critique your 50 pages (that list is below). Find their Write Now Relief blog post and place your bid in the comments section of that post. Monitor it closely so that you can re-bid! Check back on this Facebook page for updates on all the bids. If you are the high bidder for the author you’ve chosen, make your donation and email a copy of your receipt to the author with your 50 pages. It’s that easy.

What will the critique entail? The author you choose will read your fifty pages with an eye to giving you insights and feedback on all aspects of your story excerpt, including plot, character, story arc, mechanics, pacing, and reader appeal.

 What is Samaritan’s Purse? Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ.

How do I donate to Samaritans Purse? You can head to the Samaritan’s Purse webpage on Hurricane Sandy http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/articles/hurricane_sandy/ and click on the GIVE link imbedded on the page. Whether you are the highest bidder or not, do consider donating to this effort.

AND NOW THE PARTICIPATING AUTHORS! Choose the author who suits you best, head to their hosting blog and find the post on WRITE NOW RELIEF. Place your bid in the comments section of that blog, starting Friday, Nov 8. Check back often!

Susan Meissner Women’s fiction, historical, contemporary http://susanlmeissner.com/write-now-relief/

Ginny L Yttrup  Women’s Fiction, Contemporary  (That’s me so bid here)

Hannah Alexander  Contemporary romantic suspense, Christian romance, both contemporary and historical  http://girlswriteout.blogspot.com

Nicole O’Dell  YA  http://nicoleodell.com/home-2/o_blog

Rachel Hauck  All genres  http://rachelhayeshauck.blogspot.com

Jill Williamson  Middle grade, and YA or adult for spec fiction (fantasy, science fiction, etc.http://www.jillwilliamson.com/jill-williamsons-blog/

Gayle Roper  Romantic suspense, suspense, mystery and romance. Hosted by Nancy Mehl  www.nancymehl.blogspot.com

Miralee Ferrell  Historical romance, women’s contemporary fiction, romantic suspense  www.miraleeferrell.com

Donita K. Paul  YA, Fantasy, romance  http://dragonbloggin.blogspot.com

Ruth Axtell  Historical Romance  http://ruthaxtell.blogspot.com

Kathy Fuller  Amish, contemporary, historical, screenplays  www.amishhearts.com

Missy Tippens  Contemporary category romance, anyone targeting Love Inspired.  http://lifewithmissy.blogspot.com/

Happy bidding, everyone!

 

Really?

 

I’m in the midst of a season where I feel like all I say to God is, “Really?” While the question is the same, the tone, I confess, changes. Sometimes it’s laced with saracasm as in, “Really, God? You’re kidding, right?” Other times it’s asked in awe. The picture above reflects one of those moments this summer when, with wonder and humility, I said to God, “Really?” My book, Words, was a Christy Award double-finalist, and won the Christy for Best Debut Novel. I was awed. But, even following moments like that, I still utter the occassional, “Really, God? You’re kidding, right?” It saddens my heart to admit this truth… 

Last month, after struggling through multiple surgeries the past year, odd diagnoses, fatigue, and frustration, I returned home from a weekend retreat…sick. And with blood pressure numbers soaring skyward. Throughout the year, I’d had moments where I questioned God, but not with sarcasm or anger. But as a call to my doctor led to one appointment, and then another, and another, I broke.

“Really? You’re serious?” With chocking tears, I slung my question not only at God, but also to my spiritual mentor and friend, James. During our conversation, James’ reminded me that my relationship with God has never been marked by ease. In fact, it is through the struggles and suffering that a deep and abiding intimacy with God has developed.

An intimacy I wouldn’t trade for anything. Not good health or pain-free living. It is the pain, both emotional and physical, that have shattered my shell of pretense with God and made my relationship with Him real.

God is my friend, and I believe I am His friend. And in those moments, which are becoming rare, when I shoot my sarcasm in God’s direction, He loves me still. 

He loves me.

With wonder and humility, I ask Him again, “Really?”

Yes, really.

What about you? Have your conversations with God included the same question? What’s your tone?