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Hey, for anyone still checking in here, this blog has moved over to my new website!
If you still want to follow my blog, please delete this link and add this one!

http://catherinejwest.com/blog/

Thank you!!

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What Am I Afraid Of?

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Words fail me. Lately. When I try to sum up what this thing is that I do and why I do it and why I can’t not do it and why some days the words won’t come . . .  words fail me. And the question rattles hard in my head.

Is it . . . maybe . . . that I don’t want them to?

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The written word is one of the most powerful tools of expression we have. I believe that. I know others are moved by music. Haunting melodies, crashing crescendos and soft notes on keys, strings and breath blowing beauty out of nothing. Others still are moved by the stroke of a brush, life poured out into paintings hung on high walls in quiet sacred spaces. Others listen long, rapt and swept away by operatic tenors and sopranos. Some prefer to watch the bard upon the stage. And some may simply sit silent at the water’s edge, satisfied in their own skin, waiting for their moment of expression to stir.

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When I think about all these things, so many different ways we have of giving life to what lies deep within, I can’t help but marvel. What a gift. And if you want to tell me you don’t have a creative bone in your body, I’ll tell you that’s not so. You just haven’t found it yet.

We were born to create. 

It is how we are meant to use our voice. 

And you can do that. You can speak loudly without ever saying a word.

And when you have done it, when you have freed that spirit within and called it out by name, there is no going back. You have given it life, and it will in turn pour that life out to others, and back into you.

I think that’s how it’s meant to work. It’s a startling, surprising thing, this gift. I don’t quite know it as well as I ought. Even though I like to think I do. Even now in this moment, these words I write surprise me. Encourage me a little too, in the midst of a strange season where more often than not the words fail me.

And the question whispers round again.

What am I afraid of? 

Have I become afraid to use my voice?

It’s a stark reality.

Because I know.

How much easier to sit in silence and let others speak for me. How much easier to nod and smile and wander through the days in some semi-comatose state where nothing really matters at all. How much easier to sit on shaking hands. To ignore the phone. To retreat.

Been there. Done that.

It’s not easier. It’s life-sucking. Stifling. Dangerous.

And I know now. I know the truth.

 If I refuse my words then I refuse my gift. My calling. This one thing I was born to do.

But I’m not sure I’m meant to do it alone. I think about all the friends I don’t see enough of or hear from enough because it’s busy, we’re all busy and tired and stressed and sometimes who can be bothered, is what I tell myself. But life, this is not a solitary journey. Though it feels that way sometimes. If you know, if you write or create without collaboration, you sit alone in a swirl of thought day in and day out until finally, they’re freed, those words, and forming something that sort of makes sense on the page.

Is that enough?

I’d say not. I’d say to myself today, this new day here where once again I’m kicking off the dread and the discouragement, that it’s not enough to sit alone staring at the screen. I need more. More talking. More reaching out. More laughter. And yet it’s up to me. To change. To leave the safety zone I have created here and step into something new. Anything. And I’m on a rabbit trail now that circles back to the original thought.

What am I afraid of? 

Failing. Possibly. Failing miserably more likely. Rejection. Being misunderstood. Dismissed.

Skin crawls as old wounds start to itch again.

But I think about it, really, and remember. Remember how I have stood against those whispering vicious voices in the past. Ignored them and kicked them back where they came from.

And if I’d never tried, never dreamed or hoped or given myself permission to do this thing . . . this thing I wanted more than anything . . . how much would I have missed? What stories would never have been told? What friendships would never have been formed?

Fear is one controlling son of a gun. But overcoming it? That’s a sweet victory.

One we are all capable of, if only we’d believe it.

The words will come for me again. In time. They are there already. I know this.

I just need to believe it.

Cling to it.

And trust myself with the gift again.

 

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The Magic Formula

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Sharing some thoughts on writing, and life.

So I’m asked this a lot. Mostly in author interviews, occasionally in an email from an aspiring author who just wants a break, wants her words to be seen, heard. “What’s the magic formula?”

I’d tell you if I knew. Honest.

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So this is the part I could send you to several sites on how to write well. I could give you the names of my favorite go-to books that would walk you through the process and teach you how to plot the breakout novel or draw a snowflake or fix your sagging middle. I could recommend writer coaches and conferences and critique groups. But first I’d ask you this.

How much do you want it? 

Most writers I know can’t not write. It’s hard-wired into them. Like breathing. So sure, if that’s you and your dream is to eventually get published, you probably know all the things I’d tell you already. And you probably know the truth.

There is no magic formula. 

If there is, I certainly haven’t heard of it. Writing is hard. Writing well is harder. And good books, well-written books, are not published overnight. Do what works for you. For me it was a combination of all of the above, and a lot of hard work. Still is. For every book I finish, I second guess myself and wonder if I did it right. Wonder if readers are going to like it or if it’s going to bomb. I’m pretty sure you won’t find a published author out there who doesn’t share those same thoughts, at least once in a while. Self-doubt is one nasty dude. And there’s no magic formula to get rid of it either. I wish.

Which brings me around to what I really want to say. (The part about life).

Come May, I will have written and released six books, eight if you count the two I re-released after new edits. That’s a lot of books I guess. Not as many as some. But for me. It’s a lot. A lot of writing, re-writing, editing and reading. A lot of creativity and fear and freaking out mixed up with a whole lot of fun. And as I sit staring at the screen, attempting to start something new, (really start, there are a few words written) . . . I’m stalled out, and I had to ask myself why. What is it that’s holding me back? Why can’t I just plunge in and write into the wee hours and hey presto, lovely agent, here’s another book, tell me what you think . . .

Why? Because.

There is no magic formula.

And life. It comes and goes in a flash and I don’t want to miss any of it. And.

I’m.

Tired.

There. I said it.

I’m a chick in that not so fun stage of life, you know, where the mood and the body temps run hot and cold and I’m liable to snap your head off for no good reason then hug you hard and burst into tears all at the same time. I’m truly a joy to be around.  And I’m feeling a little bone weary, emotionally drained and all out of energy some days. Much of last year was tough. It took a lot from us. And this year? Who knows what this year holds. So yeah, I’m tired. And I need a break. I haven’t wanted to admit that because it feels like giving up. And I don’t give up. Eight books. Heck no, I don’t give up. So here’s the thing.

Truth. 

That’s it. If you’re still after that magic formula, this is the closest thing to it. Really. It’s all you need to get you where you want to go. Be honest with yourself, not just in your writing, but in your soul care, and the rest will fall into place. It’s the only thing I do know for sure. Be honest.

Something I’ve said from the beginning of my writing career is this – when it’s not fun anymore, stop. Not quit. Stop. Take a breath. Take a break. And wait. Wait for the joy to return. And the world will not end if you do. (I tacked that on there mostly for me).

So that’s where I am. This season. It may be short. It may be long. But it’s what I need. To rest and focus on the good things. To have some fun. Spend time with friends and family. Maybe do a little more traveling. I’ll be launching my brand new website next month, so that’s exciting! I also want to spend more time intentionally connecting with my readers, establishing that community through real relationship. I don’t know if the blog is the place to do that or not. It may be one of many, I’m testing the waters here.  If you’re reading this, I’d love for you to leave a comment so I know you’re out there.

I’ll be hanging out on Facebook, on my Author Page and Reader’s Group, so come find me there. And maybe I will start blogging again more frequently. Who knows. I’ve stepped back a bit here because I didn’t really know what to write for a while.

Will I be writing? Working on the next book? Well. You probably already know the answer to that.

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Of course we’re counting down to the release of Where Hope Begins, May 22nd. And I need to be all in for that. Because this book . . . well, this book is probably one of the reasons I’m so tired right now. 🙂 It took. A. Lot. But I believe it was worth it. I know it was worth it. And I cannot wait to share it with you.

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We’re definitely going to have some conversations, interesting and heartfelt and all the feels conversations. And I’m figuring out the best place to do that. Where we’ll all be most comfy. So hang in there with me?

Thanks for listening, letting me share and being a part of my community. And if you’re out there feeling a little like me today, know you’re not alone. I’d love to hear from you.

12 Days of Christmas Giveaway!!

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Welcome to the 6th day of the 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway!

12 Authors of Christian Fiction have teamed together to bring you this amazing giveaway, and I’m honored to be included!

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The prizes are building, and today’s winner will receive ALL of the below!

The Memory of You 

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& A $5 Starbucks Gift Card – by Catherine West!

and

A Child’s Christmas Wish

On Love’s Gentle Shore + tote bag

The Gift of Twins

The Rancher’s Mistletoe Bride

Christmas Captive

 It’s not too late to enter in the Rafflecopter giveaway below by following some of your favorite authors on social media and signing up for their newsletters. We draw a new winner every day, and on December 12th, we’ll give away a Kindle Fire HD 8.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don’t forget to stop by Susan Tuttle’s blog tomorrow for more prizes!

 

Why Not Me?

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The stories make me sad. So terribly sad. And angry.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen them too. All over social media. The hashtag #MeToo

Sometimes no story at all. Sometimes more than we may want to know. But they’re all connected. Women. Women who have in some way, been violated. Been placed in a situation they couldn’t get out of. Been made to feel uncomfortable. Been made to feel . . . like they were nothing.

Yes, This is 2017.

It’s a hard thing for many, to share. And many won’t. Many will feel perhaps that because they never experienced the trauma others have, that it wasn’t so bad. It’s just the way men are. Life. These things happen. I’ve heard it. And, I suppose, honestly, I’ve felt that too. Felt like I can’t own that hashtag because I’ve never been raped. Never been cornered by a man and feared for my safety. Never had a male boss come on to me. Compared to many out there, I really have lived a sheltered life, as silly as that sounds.

But I think it’s more than that. Have I ever felt put down? Felt I needed to keep my mouth shut because I wouldn’t be taken seriously? Leered at? Whistled at while walking down the street? Yeah.

#MeToo 

And I can’t help but think of countless situations in my life where the worst could have happened. Where, for one reason or another, be it I was young, stupid, reckless . . . I could have some scary stories behind that #MeToo hashtag. By the grace of God, I sit here this morning and wonder instead, why not me?

I remember a night. Some weekend long ago, where my friends and I had gone out as we so often did. Spent the evening at a local nightclub. And I was going to drive my bike home. But that’s another story entirely. (Don’t drink and drive, kids). My friends had gone on ahead, and my bike wouldn’t start. This was the early 80’s. No cell phones. Did I have money for a pay phone? A taxi? It’s all a blur of course.

And there were these two guys. American visitors. They’d joined our group early in the evening. I can’t remember if they knew someone. Can’t remember if I even talked to them. Can’t even remember their names.

Two guys. In the wee hours of the morning when the streets were clearing out. Offering to give me a ride home.

Yeah. I went. On the back of one of those bikes.

Why not me? 

I lived less than ten minutes from where we were. We parked outside my house and chatted a bit. One asked if they should come to the door to make sure my parents knew I was home safe. I laughed. We said goodbye and off they went. Off to live the rest of their lives. And I lived mine.

By the grace of God.

Funny how memory comes back hard and fast and kicks you right in the gut.

Because that night could have been very different. I know that now. I don’t think I knew it then. Things like rape . . . what did I know of that? I was still a child pretending to be a grown-up.

Why not me?

God bless those boys, whoever they were. Bless their parents for raising them right. And I suppose I’m thankful for the memory of that night. Thankful that I married a good man. Thankful that we raised a son who would have been one of those boys. And a daughter who knew how to speak up for herself and say no, and also married a good man.

I weep for all the stories that so easily could be mine. So easily.

And I don’t want to forget that.

I can’t forget that.

So for all of you brave and wonderful women sharing your #metoo stories, thank you. You matter. We see you. We hear you.

And we stand together.  For change.

It’s time.

And So We Plant

It’s been a hard season. A scary few months. We began May with much joy, still celebrating the birth of our first granddaughter, Annabel Rose, born at the end of April. And she is everything we and her parents prayed for. She is beautiful. Perfect. All amazing baby cuddles and snuggles and sleepy smiles and lately, all the giggles I will never get enough of.

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But she has a heart condition.

And nobody saw that coming.

Annabel has something called Supra Ventricular Tachycardia, which means she has episodes where her heart will suddenly start beating very quickly, abnormally fast, and this can be extremely dangerous. Her first episode happened at her 2-week check-up. Since that day, my daughter and her husband have been in and out of hospital with their precious baby girl, as well as having to make a trip by air-ambulance up to Boston Children’s Hospital, where Annabel was seen and very well-cared for by the specialists there. I’m happy to say that she is now doing very well, on two medications which have to be given 5 times a day, but she hasn’t had an episode in a couple months now. And we continue to pray this is something she will simply outgrow.

Her parents have been completely amazing during this unexpected hard season. We have had our share of tears and questions, and yes, even anger, but through it all, God has showered us all with grace and mercy, and we know without doubt He has had Annabel in the palm of His hand the entire time.

View More: http://sarahe.pass.us/annabel-rose-elgersmaBeing a grandma? What can I tell you? It’s so much more amazing and wonderful than I ever anticipated. And so hard at the same time. Because you want to fix it all and you can’t. But you can pray and you can hug your daughter and rock her sweet baby to sleep as many times as she needs you to, all the while wondering if you’re strong enough to handle this . . . oh, I have asked. And I remember moments with my own two children when fear crept in for one reason or another, and I remember now what I did then … I can do all things. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Even when it’s hard. Even when it seems impossible.

We just do it. And He provides all the strength we need.

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I’m currently spending some time up at our place in Northern Ontario. Fall brings cooler air and some much needed times before the fire, reading, talking and making plans. Visiting with friends and family. And planting.

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I saw the bulbs at the gardening center. I usually pass them by because we’re rarely here in spring, so what would be the point. This year I paused. I looked at those pretty flowers on the labels, and I thought about the cleared garden my husband worked hard on over the summer, and I thought, yes. Yes. This year. Whether I see the results or not, this year I will plant. Because once they take root, those bulbs will bring a colorful array of blooms hopefully every year. It will be worth the investment of time. One day I will enjoy the display, and I’ll be glad I decided to plant.

When we decide to plant, to sow seeds, to invest . . . it’s often unintentional, isn’t it? So often we have no idea what we’re planting. Time spent with a friend in need. Hours in a hospital, exchanging a weary but grateful smile with an equally weary nurse who just wants to go home, but asks if there’s anything else she can do for you before she does. Laughter and sharing of stories with family and friends. The simple giving of yourself. Of your time. Even on the days when all you want to do is stay in bed and hide from the world.

You plant. You sow. You invest.

And perhaps not today or tomorrow or the day after that, but one day, one day we might be rewarded with a thank you, a hey remember that time you . . . or a hug, and an I love you.

I’m glad I planted those bulbs. I’m glad I spent that time in that hospital. I’m glad for the good and the bad and the very scary . . . because they allow us to grow. To trust. To believe.

And so we plant.

It’s ACFW Conference Time!

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I know, it’s been an age. And honestly, I’m not sure you’ll hear much from me around here anymore. I haven’t quite ‘hit’ the formulae that keeps people hooked. So this is more of a fun post that my friend Laurie Tomlinson has going, so I thought I’d join in the fun. It’s almost time for the annual American Christian Fiction Writers conference! I’ll be heading to Dallas next week to spend a few days learning craft, talking books and writing, and hanging out with friends, and squeezing in a few meetings in between all the fun. But the meetings will be fun too. So generally, it’s a grand old time and I can’t wait! So let’s find out who’s going, and get to know each other!

Here’s how to play:

– Copy/paste the questions and fill out your own answers in a post on your own website and paste the URL to that specific post (not your homepage) using this handy link-up tool. Just click on the button below that says “Add your link”. If you don’t have a website, feel free to answer the questions in the comments below!

– Make sure to link back to Laurie’s post after you fill out your answers so any of your readers who are conference attendees can participate, too! The more, the merrier.

Here are my answers!

Name: Cathy West

Location: Bermuda

What you write/tagline/trademark: Stories that Resonate. I write Women’s Fiction for Harper Collins Christian Publishing.

Place in the book world: I have three indie pubbed book and two traditionally published books out in the world, and one on the way!

On a scale of hugger to 10-foot-pole, please rate your personal space: Um. It depends. 🙂 But if you want to hug me, I’ll probably be fine with it.

Something VERY serious: How do you take your Starbucks? I like Pikes Place with milk and sweetener. I also love iced vanilla lattes and caramel machiattos but they’re totally bad for me. 🙂

The unique talking points that will get you going for hours: Wow. I have no idea. Dogs? My new baby granddaughter. The publishing industry, writing real. And we could talk politics but let’s not. 🙂

Loved ones at home you’ll be missing: Hubby, daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter and my border collie Noah!

Conference goals we can pray for? I don’t do so well in big groups of people, so I always need a calm and collected spirit, as well as some boldness. Meeting new people is sometimes challenging too. I would also love to do some brainstorming for what to write next, and come home with a clear idea of that.

Anything we can celebrate with you? My next book releases June 2018, and it has a title, When Hope Begins, and a beautiful cover in the works too!

One or two ways we can help you build your platform? You can like my author page on Facebook and sign up for my email list by visiting my website!

Now it’s your turn! And don’t forget to go back to Laurie’s page to post your blog link when you’re done!
Hope to see you in Dallas!!

And So We Choose This Thing

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Thirty one years. Today. I stood before him in a long white gown that cost more than my father wanted to spend, but he bought it for me anyway, because it was the one and he was ‘the one’ and my Dad would have bought me the moon if I said I wanted it.

I stood before him, this man I loved with all my being, both of us still more kids than adults, at 20 and 21. Kids who thought we knew what we were doing but the only thing we really knew was that we couldn’t live without the other. I stood before him amongst a crowd of friends and family and fragrant roses and I repeated the words my father-in-law said in a voice barely above a whisper, and before I knew what was happening we were husband and wife. And holy cow. There was no going back.

People thought it wouldn’t last. Oh, nobody was impolite enough to say it, but I know some friends thought we were nuts. Some adults shook their heads and probably regretted the amount they spent on crystal and silver and fine china for what would surely become another sad statistic, a failed marriage.

We’re still using that silver and china, though there’s not much of the crystal left. And sure, maybe the odds were stacked against us. Maybe the long nights of a resident doctor who couldn’t come home when his three-month old wouldn’t stop crying and his wife was about to lose her last nerve would have taken their toll.

Maybe the selfishness and petty arguments and all the things we said and did that we didn’t really mean, maybe those would have turned the tide at some point. Made it easy to walk out. Maybe raising two kids and being an island doctor where everybody knows your name and most of your business and when you’re young and stupid and a bit insecure and you feel like you might need to be in the in-crowd and all the parties and poor choices made . . .  maybe those would have over time eroded what was once a solid foundation. Maybe.

I’ll tell you, we had those moments. Everybody has those moments. Because marriage. Marriage is not easy. Not. Easy. If it is, if you’ve never had a single argument or thought one bad thing about your spouse or wanted to throw a plate across the table (we never did this, though I wanted to at times and he probably did too) well . . . if you’ve never had those moments, I won’t say you’re doing it wrong, but I might want to check your pulse.

Here’s what so many people don’t get. 

Love is more than just the gooshy feeling you get in the pit of your stomach. Love is more than catching each other’s eye across a crowded room and sending silent messages that make you want to dissolve into laughter. Love is more than knowing when to say the words and when to stay silent. Love is more than all the emotions being together evokes.

Love is choosing to sacrifice yourself for that person.

Choosing them, their happiness and well-being above your own. And sure, you can work that out and call it being a team or a partnership or whatever worldly tag you want to tack on it, but it’s more than that. Love, true love, the kind that lasts, that’s something spiritual. That’s a gift from God. And the thing about gifts? We get to choose whether to accept them. We can take a gift and thank the giver and promptly stick the thing on the shelf and let it gather dust. Or we can unwrap it and choose to use it.

Marriage is a choice. Staying married is a choice.

You choose. You choose him on the day you say I do and you choose him every single day after that. You choose him when you trip over the pile of clothes on the bedroom floor in the middle of the night. You choose him when he drinks all the milk and leaves dirty dishes on the counter and you choose him over every stupid thing that drives you bonkers but it doesn’t really matter in the long run because . . . he is yours. You choose him. And he chooses you. Believe me, if I listed everything I do that probably drives him up the wall, this would be one long blog. Though I know I am not the easiest person in the world to live with at times, I also know he chooses me too, and I thank God for it.

After thirty one years of choosing to love one another, there are still days when I don’t think we’ve got anything figured out at all. But those days get fewer and far between as each year passes. Time together gets sweeter and more precious. We’ve seen other marriages fail. We’ve cried over them. Prayed over them and hoped to God that something might change, and I think that makes us more determined in our own choices. More determined to love anyway. To laugh more. To be more intentional in our relationship with one another. And we don’t have it all together. We probably never will because we’re just human. We will still fail. But we will continue to choose to forgive. Choose to forget. And always choose each other over all else.

How? I’ve been asked. How in the world do you still have this happy marriage after so many years? And there’s really only one answer to that.

Because of Jesus.

Because He gives us the strength. He gives us the love. He gives life and breath and everything we never knew we needed and I can tell you . . .without Him? Yeah. It’s hard enough with Him. But without that trust, that mutual faith and foundation we placed this relationship on from day 1? Maybe we would be that statistic, who knows. I hope not. But we chose Him. We choose Him. And through Him, we choose each other. Over and over and over again.

These words, I know you hear them at almost every wedding, but there’s a reason for that. It’s because they are true. Words to live by. Every day.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

And so we choose to do this thing. To keep doing it until our last breath together.

We choose love.

Is It Supposed To Hurt This Much?

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That was a text I got from my daughter a few hours into labour.

“Is it supposed to hurt this much?”

I wanted to laugh, but I didn’t. Because, yes. It is.

And it does.

And it will continue to.

With every challenge that comes with being a parent. Being a mother or father or husband or wife or grandparent or just being . . . living this life.

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Life hurts this much. Is it supposed to? I don’t know.

I wish I could say with complete certainty that no, no it’s not supposed to, but what do I do with that when it does? What do I do when life takes an unexpected turn and everything goes off the rails and we’re suddenly facing down giants we never imagined existed? What do I do when there aren’t any answers to all my pathetic questions and all I feel is inexplicable anger and confusion and sadness and there’s no STOP button?

Is it supposed to hurt this much?

 “‘Cause you can’t jump the track,we’re like cars on a cable
And life’s like an hourglass, glued to the table
No one can find the rewind button girl,
So cradle your head in your hands
And breathe, just breathe,
Oh breathe, just breathe . . . ”

That soulful Anna Nalick song from years back still gets me every time.

‘Cause you can’t jump the tracks.

Cradle your head in your hands. And breathe. Just breathe.

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Breathe out all the fears and all the prayers that can’t be voiced because the words won’t come. Breathe them out and hope they’re heard anyway.

As long as we still have breath, we still have life. Hope. I think this is still true. I’m trying to convince myself it is. Trying to convince myself that all this, these unforeseen challenges our family is facing, is happening for a reason. Though for the life of me I can’t make sense of it.

I wrote on my Facebook page a week or so ago that I feel like a bad Christian when life hurts too much and I just don’t get it. I feel like I’m supposed to hold my head high and slap on a smile and say something like this too shall pass, God is in control, we’ll just keep praying . . . but honest? I don’t feel the assurance I think I’m supposed to. And I get that knot in my stomach as fear rises and everything I thought I believed in is pushed beyond the limit. Faith is tested. And faltering.

Is it supposed to hurt this much? 

I’ve been in this place before, under different circumstances. And I thought that valley was bad. My lamentations then were nothing compared to this current feeling of helplessness. Desperate to fix things that you have no power over and trying to be strong because they need you to be but all you feel is small and weak most days, and nights are long and restless, filled with unpleasant thoughts and clammy, clinging fear.

And yet still I know others walk a road filled with obstacles far greater than the ones we face. Their giants loom larger and more menacing, their nightmares far more frightening. But this road, our road? It’s still hard. It’s still rough and winding and treacherous in its own way and some days feels impossible to traverse. And I guess we can own that. I guess it’s okay to want to find a detour, a short cut, a better way. But when there isn’t one?

You gotta keep going.

I learned this lesson a long time gone and now I know it’s the only way forward. One foot in front of the other. One day at a time. And if you need a hand to hold onto or another ten feet of rope because yours is frayed and that knot you tied in desperation is slowly coming unraveled?

Yell for more rope.

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“And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went to the top of the hill. It turned out that whenever Moses raised his hands, Israel was winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, Amalek was winning. But Moses’ hands got tired. So they got a stone and set it under him. He sat on it and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on each side. So his hands remained steady until the sun went down.” Exodus 17: 10-13

I love this scene, this vision of old Moses losing strength, unable to lift his hands one more time. And there come his friends alongside him, grab hold tight and lift his arms for him. This picture I get in my head kind of makes me cry a little. Because I’m so grateful for my Exodus 17 friends. The ones who hold you up when you can’t stand anymore. The ones who pray when your voice is gone, throat too tight to speak. The ones who reach out even when there’s really nothing to say, just to let you know they’re there. And they don’t mind when you ask the same question over and over again.

Is it supposed to hurt this much? 

Maybe. If only for this reason. To see the good in others, to know love and concern and realize the world isn’t so bad after all, and to be heard and seen and understood and held up in thought and prayer. And to know that when the tables turn, as they surely will, you can be there in that way for them . . . so maybe it is.

Maybe it is.

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Why You Keep Trying And When It’s Time To Quit.

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How did it get to be Friday already?! Well, here we are, and I hope you’ve had a good week. I have some thoughts rattling around lately, that I figure I might try to express, because we’ve been talking about this stuff, my friends and I, and maybe you have too.

Fractured Relationships. 

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Yowch. Yeah. I know. That’s most of us. Hold up the hand, shake the head, oh no, we’re not going there. That hurts. There’s no point. Done with all that crazy.

I write about this stuff. Family Drama. Broken relationships.

All my books, right from the start, have centered around family. If I had to answer why, I’m not sure I could. I think though, growing up as an only child, I was fascinated by the idea of a big family. I envied my friends who had siblings and big extended families. I had cousins around my age, but they lived thousands of miles away and we rarely saw each other.  Once I reached adulthood however, I realized that not every family was The Waltons. Stuff happens. And it’s hard. Because life is complicated and messy and we’re all different.

But what happens when it’s too hard? Too much to bear?

In my new Reader’s Group on Facebook, (yes, you can join if you’d like), we’ve been talking about how sometimes there is no repairing a broken relationship. When that other person simply won’t budge, sometimes you have to walk away. And that’s the hardest thing, especially when it’s family.

Is it for the best? Sometimes. I always think the rule of thumb is your own mental health. If you know you can’t take what’s going on a minute longer, if it’s worn you down thin and you’re in a bad place because of it, it’s time. Time to walk away. Doesn’t mean you love the person any less, but if you’ve tried and tried and tried, I think you get a pass. And if they walk away from you first, I’m not sure it does any good to go chasing after them.

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When I searched for my birth family, my dream of that large family suddenly came true. I’ve talked lots about my sister, my birthmother’s daughter, and how from the minute we connected we were and have remained, very close. The gift of that relationship is something I will always be so grateful for. But I also found other siblings on my birthfather’s side. Suddenly I had more brothers and sisters than I knew what to do with

And then I didn’t.

For reasons that still aren’t clear to me years later, that side of the family chose to end our relationship. After meeting and sharing stories and finding commonalities, suddenly it was over. And I didn’t see it coming. Those of you who know me well can imagine the impact that had on me. The fact that I’ve not even written about it until today might give you some idea.

I don’t deal well with rejection. Well, who does, really? And it’s hard not to blame yourself, question yourself and wonder what you did or didn’t do or could have done differently. But what good does that do in the end? What good does it do to keep reaching out, hoping they’ll change their mind and things would go back to the way they were? In my case, that didn’t happen. And honestly, and I hope I can say this without bitterness, it’s their loss. Mine too. But I understand that sometimes life gets too overwhelming. Sometimes it’s too hard. And they couldn’t deal. Chose not to.

So when I say sometimes it’s best to walk away, I don’t say that lightly. Because I know how hard it is. I know how excruciatingly painful it can be to keep trying, to keep reaching out, only to be met with silence. And that does something deep down, rips at the soul and threatens to tear it right in half. That’s when it’s time to walk. Time to let go and trust God for the rest. Time to accept the choice already made for you.

Do you know what I mean? Have you been there? Are you there right now, weighing the pros and cons and hoping against hope that things will change?

 

I know. I know that kind of hurt. And I’m not going to tell you everything will feel better in the morning. But I am going to suggest you take stock of all the good in your life. The people surrounding you who do love you, who do care about you and want only the best for you. Those are the people worth investing in. I have many such people in my life, thank God, and even though I probably drive them a little nuts at times, I am secure in those relationships. I trust them and I know they’ve got my back. Take the balm of those beautiful relationships and use it to soothe the hurt.

Is there hope? Always. I truly believe that. Forgiveness? Healing? I’d like to think so. Would I be open to a fresh start with someone who walked away? Well. That one’s not so easy to answer, is it? But I’d like to say yes. Would you?

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