Friday, June 27, 2014

Finding Home {Atlas Girl Blog Tour}

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0801016568/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0801016568&linkCode=as2&tag=kitchcoura-20
This post is part of the Atlas Girl Blog Tour. To learn more and join us, click here

I wanted to take a few moments to introduce you to a writer friend of mine.  You may already know her -- she is the author of several books and an award-winning journalist, not to mention a prolific blogger.  But just in case you don't, meet Emily Wierenga.  She is a sweet and kind soul who cares deeply.  While our theology -- or lack thereof -- doesn't always line up, I can't deny this powerful caring that Emily lives and walks and breathes.  I don't just mean in general, either -- I also mean for me, specifically.  And that means the world to me.

Emily has a new book out, Atlas Girl.  This memoir is the story of Emily's travels as a younger woman, her struggles with anorexia, the church, and family woundings woven in with her exploration of the world. 

As a person who carries within her a deep, deep longing for home -- or really, Home, although I don't know what that means or where I might find it, not as surely as I once did -- I appreciate this tale of the tension between running away and homeward yearning.  And you know that I love Emily's exploration of doubt and faith, because what is the light without the darkness?  And anyway, all life begins in the dark, so I'm glad that more and more faith writers are validating this truth.

If you're interested in reading Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look, you can nab a copy here, and add it to your Goodreads shelf here.  And if you do, I'd love to know what you think.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0801016568/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0801016568&linkCode=as2&tag=kitchcoura-20

http://www.atlasgirlbook.com/

*this post contains affiliate links

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

On the Wearing of Wedding Rings {Living with a Spouse in Chronic Pain}

 

I spent this past weekend away, four days of sharing space and words and breath with some of the best and most kindred friends I've ever had the delight of knowing.  We fed each other food and wine and truth, shattered bottles in catharsis, pressed our bodies close. 

We talked about many things, but what stuck with me the most was the concept trying on new things, experimenting.  This is my fearless year, and I have tried on a great many things.  I have taken off perhaps even more.  So this notion is not new to me.  I have become quite practiced.

But what I played with this weekend felt anything but familiar.

This weekend, I took off my wedding ring.

* * *

My husband and I are coming up on seven years of marriage.  How has it been so long?  And yet, not very long at all.  

And regardless of perception of time, those years have been full -- of hard stuff.  Good stuff, too, but the bad stuff has been Very Bad, and Very Big.  Eating disorder, stillbirth, crippling depression and anxiety, a newborn struggling to thrive . . . and those are just the things I've written about here.

My husband has been grappling with his own set of Bad Things.  Mainly, living for years with undiagnosed chronic pain, as well as other undiagnosed health issues.  And I'll be the first to admit that I haven't dealt with this facet of our lives very gracefully.  

I never understood chronic pain until I found myself living with one who lives under that heavy weight.  It is mind-boggling, impossible, and horrible in its invisibility, its lack of external physical markers.  So often those with chronic pain look completely normal, making it hard for those of us who don't struggle to fathom the depths of their challenges.

It is made all the worse in my husband's situation by the fact that he doesn't have a diagnosis.  Fibromyalgia,  chronic fatigue syndrome, Lyme disease, and more -- none of the symptoms line up, nor do any of the treatments work.  He's aching in the dark, and no method or drug can reach him.

* * *

We have also been doing quite a bit of growing this past year, both of us.  No doubt that at least part of that journeying was catalyzed by the above Bad Things: my dark night of the soul, his realization that he had shifted out of a lifetime of evangelical Christian beliefs into atheism.  My husband and I are different people now, exquisitely, terrifyingly, starkly different people from the ones we were seven years ago. 

This is not a bad thing.  To live is to grow, and if you're not growing, changing -- well, I would invite you to consider whether you are truly alive.

But our marriage is struggling as a result of our growth.  We have grown in opposite directions.  And again, this is not a bad thing, but it does bring us to a peculiar place, where we have become strangers to one another.  We need to date one another again, to meet each other anew.

* * *

We promised, on our wedding day, for oneness in sickness and in health.  And I honor that commitment.  

But we also need to rescue our floundering relationship, for each other and for our son.

And -- we can't.  Because of the pain.  Because my husband cannot (or struggles to) do the simplest of bonding activities: a walk around the block, grabbing a bite to eat, snuggling on the couch.  

We are faced with the seemingly impossible task of strengthening our bonds when one of us finds simply sitting a challenge.

Where are we to go from here?

* * *

I am living with a man that I love, but I am alone in our home, all of those needs one can reasonably expect to be met in marriage going achingly unfulfilled.

I rage.  I weep.  I rage again.

How can we rebuild when our hands are tied?

More and more, our conversations have turned toward separation.  Perhaps it would help, we say.  Perhaps it would give him a better chance for healing.  Perhaps it would tell me whether my deepening depression is born from our circumstances, or is sourced solely in my self.  If it's the latter, leaving would do nothing.

Some days I can't imagine leaving my husband.  
Some days I can't imagine not leaving.

* * *

And so this weekend, when I was folded safely into the care of kindred women, I slipped off my wedding ring and tucked it into my bag.  I was trying separation on by taking the ring of my commitment off.

I thought it would feel freeing, delicious.  I thought I would never be able to put my ring back on, that I would go home laughing and sure and determined to separate, and --

I lasted five minutes.  

My naked ring finger screamed, crawled for the familiar titanium band.  My already shredding heart threatened to rend well and truly in half, beyond repair. No amount of snuggling from my soul sisters could distract me.

I fled to my room, chest heaving in relief as I slid that silvery circle back onto its place on my finger

Because it belongs there, whatever the hell that might mean.  


* * *

There is no neat and happy ending to this post.  I came home, glowing from the retreat, to discover a sick man.  He was far more ill than I have ever, ever seen him in all our years together.  

It is now three days since my homecoming and my lips have yet to be kissed.  This is the reality of living with a spouse with [undiagnosed] chronic pain.

I don't know how to navigate All This Shit, only that in spite of our frustration and grief and sense of incapacitation, neither my husband nor I wish to divorce.  

But that doesn't make the staying easy.   It doesn't ease the loneliness, or the fear.  It doesn't dry my almost constantly flowing tears. 

I am here.  That is all I know.  And that is something, I hope, although I have no idea what.



I have been searching for quite some time now for resources on living with a spouse with [undiagnosed] chronic pain.  And -- there is nothing.  Nothing that I can find, anyway (let me know if you have something, I'd love to read it!).  There is quite a bit of support for those who are actually suffering from the pain, but not for their partners. So I am writing this aspect of our/my story, to begin to stitch together the beginnings this very needed kind of resource.  Watch this link for future posts on this topic.

Monday, June 16, 2014

I am Not My Characters {On Writing Fiction}

 
We have a tendency to see the author in the words she writes, or the actor in the roles he plays, or the poet in the poems she pens.  I do, anyway, particularly with poetry, even though know first-hand of how a poem's voice is not always the same as the poet's voice.

And now I have written a novel, a whole book (!!), that is very not-me.  Well, it is me, in some ways, because how can a writer avoid etching pieces of her soul into her prose?  And Ruth and I do share some similarities.

But at the same time, Ruth is very much not me.  She has very different values than me, and enjoys a very different lifestyle than me.  Same with Derek, the male love interest, and all of the book's minor characters.  They live, speak, celebrate, fight, and mourn in ways that are for the most part extremely dichotomous to my own.

So now there's this story of mine out there in a few thousand readers' hands that is scandalous and sensual and full of imperfect humanity and some rough language and characters whose lives don't match my own in almost any way.

I'm not going to lie.  This is uncomfortable, vulnerable.  It's a risk.  But it's a risk that I am okay with.

But I wonder if there are those who aren't.  Friends, family, who suddenly have this peek into my mind and find themselves wondering if they know me at all.

I am not my characters.  But I suppose those who are now perhaps feeling more uncomfortable about sharing space with me might struggle to believe such reassurances.

* * *

What is an author's responsibility with her words?  Particularly in relation to the assumptions a reader might draw from her creations?

In the past, I might have said that fiction had to always explicitly communicate a message about Jesus.  And even though I don't write that way any longer, I don't think this approach (or any) to fiction is bad.

But I also know that it never worked for me, that it felt like army crawling over shards of glass, that the plot and characters that emerged from these efforts were stilted and forced.  I think this was part of what led to writing fiction becoming extremely triggering of my eating disorder, which in turn led me to abandon fiction in early 2011 (I'm so glad I un-abandoned it when the time was right!). 

* * *

So what do I think a writer's responsibility is now?  More specifically, what is a fiction writer's responsibility?

I think that a writer's responsibility is ultimately to the story, the story flowing through her and from her.  That the writer's responsibility is to her characters.  This is why I wrote a love story that is not necessarily reflective of my values -- because it is Ruth's story, because it is the story that came through me when I sat down to write.  Because, in many ways, it was inevitable.

Does this mean that I think Ruth's tale is especially deep, or important, or for every reader?  No.  Her story is important to me, of course, but I don't see her tale as the next Great American Novel either.

But I also consider The Light Between Us wholly successful, because I was true to the story asking to be bornBecause I was true to Ruth, with all her flaws and victories and exquisite idiosyncrasies.

I don't know why this story wanted to be born at this particular time, only that it did, and that now, as a result, it exists.  People can read Ruth's story.  And this, no matter what anyone thinks about the book or about me, no matter how much I may doubt myself, is pretty much awesome. 

Your turn:
What do you see as your highest duty as a writer [or creative person of any kind]?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

My Perfectly Imperfect Book Launch {The Light Between Us}

I wrote a book.  And published it.  It's out there in the world right now, being both read and not read, as books are.  People own it.  This is exhilarating.  This is terrifying.

So.  Wondering how my indie book launch went?  Here's the good, the bad, the ugly, and the next-thing, plus a brief reflection on what I'll do differently the next time around.


The Good


Nearly 5,000 people downloaded a free Kindle copy of The Light Between Us.  A couple purchased a print copy, and a nice handful bought the Kindle edition after the freebie period ended.  It was ranked in the top 100 books in the free Kindle store, and was #1 and #2 in a couple of the free romance categories.  My expectations were exceeded by lightyears upon lightyears.  This is not just good.  This is really, really, really (really!) good.

Also, my mother downloaded my book and read it in about a day, and then wrote to tell me that she loved it.  I can't tell you how much this means to me. 

And actually, she wasn't alone in reading The Light Between Us in a single day or so -- a number of you did.  Thank you and thank you and thank you for downloading your free copy, for reading, for the kind words you've sent me way, and for sharing my book with your friends.  I am deeply grateful.


The Bad


I got a couple of less-than-glowing reviews.  This is not the bad thing -- opinions all over the map come with the territory of sharing your words with the world. 

The bad thing is that said reviews mentioned that my manuscript is rife with copy-editing errors.  After the first review, I scoffed.   

Editing errors?  I thought.  Are you serious?  I am a skilled writer and editor.  I graduated with honors in creative writing.  I'd never make the rookie mistake of launching a book that's less than polished, thankyouverymuch.

After the second one-star review, I stopped scoffing.  I went back into my manuscipt and started reading.

And -- felt my stomach plummet as I realized that those reviewers were right.  There really were a number of embarrassing copy-editing mistakes.  Missing words, misspellings, errant punctuations, and so forth.  And more than one or two. 

As Ruth, the protagonist of The Light Between Us might say, oh. shit.

(Humorous aside: one of these reviewers said that she was disappointed in my book's editing because my blog is so polished.  I almost never edit my blogs.  Shhh.)  ;)


The Ugly


Nearly 5,000 people own a copy of my book -- a book that I've just realized is, in spite of all my skills and editing efforts, rife with copy-editing errors.  That's not good.  This is not the ugly part, though. 

The ugly part is that this fact has filled me with shame.  My body is both weak and heavy with it.  My nerves are on edge, as if I've drunk a gallon of coffee (I haven't).  I want to hide and never stop hiding.  I want to weep.  I want to punch myself in the face.  I literally don't know how I'm going to look my family in the eyes at our Father's Day celebration later today.

(Grammar errors aside, these two reviewers also hated the story and/or characters.  Interestingly, this does not bother me at all.  I believe in my story, and have no qualms about others disliking the plot or Ruth or language choices or any of it.  Maybe the copy-editing stuff hits me so hard because that is something that's in my control?  And I do idolize my precious control.)

The Next


Okay.  Breathe, Beth, breathe. 

This is not the end.  You haven't killed your career before it even got off the ground. 

So, what's next?  Well, you'd better believe that I'm going back in for another round of copy-editing on The Light Between Us.  That's the beauty of indie publishing -- it's easily fixable.  I just hope that I don't have to eat too much grammar-flavored crow. 

And after that, I'm going back to work on my next novel.  I've mentioned it before -- a YA contemporary fantasy based loosely on Celtic myth involving magick, druidesses, and portals through time and space.  Oh yeah.  It feels like it'll be a much longer story than The Light Between Us (which is about 66,000 words, a short novel).  I'm currently 30,000 words into the Celtic-ish fantasy and am feeling like I'm only about a third into the plot.  Sign up for my newsletter if you'd like to get some sneak peeks sent to your inbox.  I might post an excerpt of two here on the blog as well.

Things I'll Do Differently Next Time


I plan on continuing to publish independently.  Because, well, I value that independence.  I make the rules.  And yeah, while that means that the burden responsibility falls on me when things go wrong, it also means that I get to keep all the profits and positives, too.

I think I did pretty well for a first run, especially considering that I hadn't written a speck of fiction since 2010 before The Light Between Us.  But there are a few things I'd do differently:

  • Refuse to be a slave to the deadline.  I announced that my book would be available on June 14, and then thought I had to meet that deadline come hell or high water.  And when it became apparent that I could do with a few more days before launch, I thought I couldn't take those days.  I forgot that, as an indie publisher, I set the rules.  So I pushed to get the book out, rushed the last round of edits, and stressed stressed stressed.  Next time I'll just give myself the extra days.
  • Not get enough sleep.  I am a chronic not-sleep-enough-er.  I covet my time, and hate giving any of it up, even for something as important as sleep.  And I'm sure that this affected my editing capabilites.  Sigh.  Oops.  Sigh again.
  • Enlist more editing help.  I had a number of talented folks beta read The Light Between Us -- but not for editing.  I thought I could do that all myself, and knew that I couldn't afford to hire a copy editor (a good editor, like this fabulous one, charges around $2,000 -- yikes).  But I was wrong; I needed more editing eyes.  For my Celtic-ish novel, I already have a manuscript trade lined up with a fellow writer, in which we'll swap books and tear them apart, both for copy-editing errors and plot/characterization/inconsistencies/etc.
  • Consider not reading my reviews.  Or have my husband screen them for me, so he can point out what might be helpful criticism (like those reviewers who pointed out copy-editing issues -- as hard as that was to hear, it's also true, and I appreciate that, so thank you) versus the less constructive I just despise your writing opinions.  And yes, while I'd also miss out on reading positive reviews, I'm okay with that because I'm so hard on myself that I tend to have a difficult time truly believing praise.  Also, a dear friend pointed out to me that Bren√© Brown doesn't read her books' reviews and comments on her YouTube-d talks because the negative ones put her to bed for days.  And she's Bren√© Brown.  
  • Writing this blog post.  If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you've probably heard me talk about what a lifeline words are for me, particularly publicly processing my junk in this space.  So here I am, showing up, feeling the hard things, sifting voices, and writing my soul into sanity.  And now that I've finished, my body isn't vibrating as much, and I know this is going to be okay.  

Let me just say again -- publishing a book is terrifying.  And exhilarating.  And terrifying.  What a roller coaster I've been riding since baring my book to the world on Thursday.  Was my launch perfect?  Not by a long shot.  But I did it.  I did it.  And so can you.  That pie in the sky you've been eying?  It's not nearly as unreachable as it seems right now.  That ember of a dream you've been tending?  Fan it into flame.  Because it's important.  Because it matters, and you matter.    Because you can.  We can.  Let's hustle, and keep hustling.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll be touching up The Light Between Us, and then diving back into my Celtic-ish creation.  In short, I'll be doing the work.   

What about you?

note: sometime between the time when I read the one-star reviews and now (prior to the publication of this post) one of said reviews disappeared.  not sure what happened there.  ah well. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Free On Kindle! {The Light Between Us Indie Book Update}


Just a quickie post here to let you know that my novel, The Light Between Us, is not only now available for Kindle, but is free through Friday, June 13!  Download it here.  If you're waiting for the print copy, it will be available on Amazon in a few days (and comes with a free Kindle edition download!), or you can order a signed copy here.  If you read it, I'd love for you to leave an honest review of your thoughts on Amazon or Goodreads.

Thank you so much for sharing this special time with me.  Truly.  It means the world.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22376827-the-light-between-us

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

#TheLightBetweenUsBook Giveaway Winner Announced!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22376827-the-light-between-us
The giveaway of a signed copy of The Light Between Us is officially over!  Thanks so much to everyone who participated and helped share my book around -- I can't say how much it means!

Okay, so who won?

*drumroll*

*dramatic pause*

Congrats Rachel!  Your signed copy of The Light Between Us will be winging its way to you within two weeks.  Yay!

*happy dance*

Again, thank you (yes, you) for getting the word out about my book, and for entering.  If you didn't win but would still like a signed copy, you can purchase one here.  And you can find your everything guide to The Light Between Us's release week here (seriously, check it out -- it has all the info you'll need on how to download your two free sample chapters, what formats TLBU will be available as, info on explicit content, and more).

Thanks again, my loves!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Light Between Us is Almost Here! {Book Update}

I keep having to pinch myself -- my indie New Adult romance novel, The Light Between Us, releases THIS WEEK.  I'd be dying of excitement and/or (okay, who am I kidding, and) fear if I wasn't so caught up in last minute details and to-do's.  

The whole book-publishing-as-pregnancy-and-labor-metaphor is so overused -- but, I'm learning, that's because it's so apt.  Having now birthed two human children, I am continually astonished at how akin this book publication process is to childbirth.  The patience required, the agonizing slowness of the final weeks, the final hours, the final contractions, the glorious and at times terrifying anticipation you have to hold that [book] baby in your arms . . . I can't escape it.  I'm giving birth to my third child.  Just because it's a child of paper and ink instead of flesh and sinew doesn't make it any less miraculous/excruciating/holy.

Okay, down to business.  I wanted to take a few moments to share some thrilling book-related tidbits (eeeee!!).  


Free Chapters and a New Giveaway!



Be sure to check out The Light Between Us on Goodreads (here) and add it to your to-read list.  Not only because I'd love you forever and ever, but because you can now download the first two chapters of The Light Between Us for free.  Click on the green button beneath the cover's image that says "read excerpt" to nab it!

While you're visiting Goodreads, go enter the giveaway there for a chance to win free paperback copy of The Light Between Us.  On this page, scroll down to where it says "Win a Copy of This Book."  Between that giveaway and the one I'm hosting here, you've got two chances to win.  Yay! 

And hang on, don't leave Goodreads just yet.  The Light Between Us is currently #22 out of 297 books on this list of 2014 New Adult releases I'd love love love (love!) it if you voted my book baby up!


Paperbacks, Ebooks, Signed Copies, Oh My!



A number of you have been asking what your purchasing options for The Light Between Us are going to be once it releases (*crosses fingers*) on June 14. 

On June 14, you will be able to purchase a paperback copy via Amazon for $12.00 US.  I will post the link as soon as it's live. 

If it's not available on June 14, the Kindle version of The Light Between Us will be available for purchase by July.   The Kindle version will be priced at $2.99 US.

If you'd like a signed copy, I am selling them through my Etsy shop.  These books will be a bit more expensive, due to the extra shipping fees.  But I will write you -- or the book's recipient, if it's a gift --  a special little love note if you wish.  Signed copies are available for preorder now.  Woohoo!  Check 'em out here.

Wanting to buy through non-Amazon venues?  I'm working on it, and will post news when I have it.  For now, though, the book will be exclusively available through Amazon and my Etsy shop.


Heyyyy, Sexy Content



Please note that The Light Between Us is a romance -- and not a Christian romance.  It has mild sexual content that is tasteful and appropriate to the plot and characterization.  To get an idea of the book's sexual content, check out the free chapters available on the Goodreads page -- the situation in chapter one is as explicit as it gets, period.

So if you don't like that kind of stuff, maybe this particular book isn't for you.  Keep an eye out for my next novel -- it's a modern fantasy based loosely on Celtic myth, and doesn't have any sexual content outside of a few smooches (at this point, anyway).  But if you like tastefully written love stories, I'd love for you to check The Light Between Us out.


Help Spread the Word



Want to chat The Light Between Us up on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/your blog, etc.?  (Thank you!!)  Here are a few promo images you are welcome to use (just please don't alter them in anyway).  To download them, click on the image (or the link below each image), then right click on the image on the next page and select "Save As."  Be sure to use the hashtag #thelightbeweenusbook when sharing!

http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2905/14138042235_ba482a49ac.jpg
https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3904/14390403002_0edb7cfac2_b.jpg

http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3883/14205335977_163c05715e_o.jpg

If you share about The Light Between Us, be sure to enter my giveaway because you'll already have earned an entry!

Okay, I think that's about it.  I'll be back with more news as we get closer to June 14.  THIS IS HAPPENING!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Because We Will Not Stay Silent Any Longer {#YesAllWomen}

http://redemptionpictures.com/2014/06/05/yesallwomen-not-stay-silent/

In my all-female Catholic high school health and sex ed classes, I learned how to not be raped.

I learned how, if I was attacked, screaming “Help!” would be less effective than yelling “Fire!” I learned how the men in our lives are the ones most likely to harm us.

I learned that it was dangerous to be a woman, and that as a woman I needed to walk carefully into the darkening night.

I did it anyway. In my twenties, I walked my college campus and, later, the streets of my city at in the moonlit time. I rode my bike amidst the downtown carousers, along the river trails. I dared danger to find me.

I was never harmed.

In spite of all my health class anti-rape education, I didn’t know how lucky I was.

Because even though I never partied, never drank, and never dressed in what might be considered as a foolishly alluring way, I was (am) not immune. I could have easily been (could still be) one of the nearly twenty percent of women who have been raped in their lifetimes.

* * *

My husband’s co-ed Christian high school curriculum also included sex education.

But instead of learning about rape whistles and rohypnol, he and his classmates were taught explicitly about the male’s intrinsic and violent inability to control himself and his sexual urges. They learned about how it falls to the female to care for the male’s sexual thought life and the actions that result. . . .

I am so grateful to Micah for inviting me to write for his #YesAllWomen series.  This is a vital conversation, for women and men alike.  For our children.  For a better, more beautiful world.

What I Want You to Know About Doubt

 
“If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.”
― Francis Bacon, The Advancement Of Learning

When my daughter died before she was born, I was determined to "do grief right."  And, largely, I did.  I refused to hide from the sorrow, from the anger.  I felt it, and felt it all.  It was a terrible and profound experience.

But where things fell apart, I now see, was my equal determination to "do grieving faith right."  Sure, I questioned God -- a little.  I got angry at God, but I refused to doubt his goodness or presence or provision.  I think I feared that if I was anything less than a model Christian (whatever that means), I would lose my daughter.

Instead, I nearly lost someone much more precious -- myself.

“Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile.”
― Kurt Vonnegut

Then, nearly a year ago now, my husband emerged onto the latest plateau of his spiritual seeking whispering the words, "I am an atheist." 

And my world shattered.

I realized that I'd been squashing doubts in the name of marriage, refusing to deal with them.  And this refusal hollowed my soul.

When my husband left what I'd seen as our mutual religious obligation, there was nothing tying me to my own except my stubbornness.

In the end, even those strands broke, and down the rabbit hole I tumbled.

I didn't want to be there.  Not at first, anyway.  But soon, my eyes grew accustomed to the dark, and I found myself wandering through a desert netherworld that, thought it seemed dead at first blush, really teemed with miraculous life.

from Magdalen Rising by Elizabeth Cunningham (affiliate link)

If I am resurfacing now -- and I'm not at all sure that I am -- it is with a grateful, vibrant appreciation of the night, of the crimson tears of Gethsemane and the torturous silence of Good Friday.  And -- I would not trade this for anything.

Maybe I didn't walk willingly into the austere, unyielding black.  Maybe I won't enter my next dark night of the soul gracefully, either, although I hope I will, armed with this growth and soul-knowledge I've earned.  But it has been the most trying and life-giving journey that I have ever, ever had.

So you don't need to worry, and you certainly don't need to try to pull me out of the gloaming.  Leave me here -- don't forget that babies are formed in the dark, that seeds sprout in the claustrophobic earth.  Don't forget that the moon wanes monthly into shadow.  The day would be so much less sweet without the night.  So would my faith be vastly less meaningful without my doubt.

So don't you dare try to haul me back into the light.  Any such rescue would be a death sentence -- death to my soul, and maybe yours, too.  

“Time is not the great teacher. Experience is. A man may live a whole life, but if he never leaves his home to experience that life, he dies knowing nothing. A mere child who has suffered and lived can be the wiser of the two.”
― Lynsay Sands, Love Bites

I may not be comfortable here, but I want to be here.  And comfort is overrated, anyway.  When did you ever hear any of the great spiritual teachers praising the benefit of comfort?  Remember that Jesus spoke with the sword-edge of mutilating truth.  It is okay -- it is necessary -- to be uncomfortable.  Don't deprive me, deprive yourself of this great teacher.

Don't try to fix me, to fix this.  You can't.  I know it hurts you to see me like this, but you just can't.  Your answers do not help, and not because they are necessarily wrong or unhelpful, but because they are not mine.  Don't you see?  I am learning to trust the divine spark within me.  Your well-intentioned advice smothers its flame.

And when it's all said and done -- although I'm not sure that it ever will be -- I will not be the same as I was.  I cannot be the same.  That's the point.  This is a time of vital, enlivening growth, and to go back to who and how I was before would be a horror.  It would be a self-deception, a tepid and living hell.  Which, though you may not agree, is far, far worse than the dark night.

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden


I ask you to allow.  No, I am not asking for your permission to walk this path that God has set before me, this midnight trail that leads, no matter how it terrifies, into her heart of heart of hearts.  It's okay if it's not pretty.  It's okay to let it be not-pretty.  Allow, allow.  This allowing is for me and it is for you.  To allow is love.  Jesus is the great allower, after all.

Listen to me.  Hear my thoughts as the parables they are, that are perhaps leading you deeper into yourself and the Spirit that dwells in those depths.  Understand that I am abandoning the absolutes that nearly ruined me.  It's okay not to know.  In fact, not-knowing offers an education beyond price.

“People who’ve had any genuine spiritual experience always know that they don’t know. They are utterly humbled before mystery. They are in awe before the abyss of it all, in wonder at eternity and depth, and a Love, which is incomprehensible to the mind.”
― Richard Rohr

Know that I didn't ask for this doubt, but that I cannot do anything but enter in fully, now that it's here.  Let us learn something together about ourselves and each other, the world, and that curious being we call God. 

This path of death is my path of life.  It is a rehearsal for bodily death.  It mirrors the paradox of nature's seasons and instructs me in the holy ways more surely than the rules I clutched tight ever did. 

And, somehow, I have not only found my God-breathed self here in the doubt, but also my daughter.  Also love.  Also God.

I am home.  The threshold is dark, but the door stands open.  Welcome.


What do you want the world to do know about doubt, about the dark night of the soul?

What I Want You to Know About Doubt

Monday, June 2, 2014

My Words are a Whisper, My Words are a Howl

I bowed down at the altar of should and ought to and don't trust that dissembling soul of yours. I pressed my forehead hard against the prayer rug until the carpet fibers imprinted the skin there into the permanent creases born of a disembodied life lived for everyone else.

And then one day I feel something, silver-new and dissonant. It takes time, years, until I can name it for what it is – the hot-cold edge of a blade balanced on the back of my neck, ready to sever this half-life should I dare to shift against its pressures.

Perhaps you know the feeling, the ever leeching shallow wound of threat and exterior expectation, the sick and steely sharpness of good intentions against the tender flesh. Through these seemingly slight sufferings the soul can drain away and away and away.

The blade that was intended to keep me small, tame, safe – in the end it was, ironically, the blade itself that lit the fuse, unlocked the gate, cracked open this secretly fertile seed of a heart. . . .

Today I'm writing  over at Secret Rebel Club!

Artist Mama Interview with Heather Annais at Soul Skin Song

I am so excited to share that today I am being interviewed by the amazing Heather over at Soul Skin Song!  She's been running this fabulous series about creative mothers, and I'm honored to be the latest featured artist.  Heather is a dear friend, fierce mama, and a talented artist, not to mention the author of Saving Katie Baker, a novel, and a delicious poetry collection, The Grey Muse.  You can check out our interview here.  Here's a taste of the conversation:

What is your definition of success? What does it mean to you as a writer mama?

I am successful in this moment.  I am living my dream -- writing books, and publishing them.  If people buy my words, that would be really, really awesome.  I hope people do buy my books, and get something from them.  But that is not what makes me successful.  What makes me successful is believing that I matter, that my dreams and my words matter, and pursuing them -- and achieving them.

This is the kind of woman I want my son to see -- a woman who is not only a mother, whose identity is not all about him, but is also living life for herself.  This is very important to me, and, I think, is important for him.