Please share with anyone who needs to hear this today.
Please share with anyone who needs to hear this today.
I was so in love with the ideas in A Room of One’s Own when we bought our first house ten years ago that I set up an office just for me. It had rich red walls, an armchair in the corner, a writing desk, a chair, a bookcase, a lamp, rich curtains, one framed print, and a huge expanse of carpet that got sunny in the afternoons. I loved to wiggle my bare toes in the luxury of sunny wool carpet. But I got almost no useful writing done in that beautiful room. A few years later, a crib replaced the bookcase and desk. We added a changing table, a front-facing bookcase, and a closet system. It became the nursery, the most beautiful red nursery I could imagine. But even then, no writing.
Then, after my second child was born, I found myself scribbling in the dark in the grocery store parking lot one night while my son finished a much needed nap. I wrote the rest of that novel in Moleskines. Some combination of brain rewiring and priority shifts had reawakened my old love of writing. I bought a laptop that was hard to break. (Solid state hard drives for the win!) My second novel was born. It became Can’t Buy Me Love, my debut. Since then, I’ve written several short curriculum guides and two more novels. Tea & Crumples is coming out this November. It’s the first of the Faith Tea Love series. I’m writing the next one, Tea & Stones, now. I have a collaborative project going with a couple of friends as well, and I’m pulling together another curriculum guide. All this writing, but no room of my own.
Has the laptop computer replaced the room of one’s own on the woman writer’s must-have list?
I can only think of a few women writers who have their own writing office, and they have long-established careers. Most emerging female authors I’ve met seem to manage in environments that require multi-tasking. How many of us write during children’s naps or at night while families sleep? How many of us cart our laptops to a cafe to write? How many of us count the kitchen table as a desk?
If you’re a woman who writes, I want to hear from you! Where do you write? Do you have a room of your own?
Here are some forgiveness tropes I’ve read the past few years that tell me we’re confused about forgiveness:
Even though there’s a measure of truth in these ways of thinking about forgiveness, I have found them unsatisfying. I’m not an expert on the subject, but I can tell you this: I have peace in my life, and most people who lived through what I lived through are dead by now. What I am going to tell you is what I learned in tears and years of gutting self-hatred and pain that would make you drink if I went into it. I learned it by asking every wise person I have met about how to forgive, and I learned it by facing my own deep inadequacies. What I found is a treasure I want to share with you. Here goes.
What Forgiveness Means to Me
First of all, I am a Christian. I have thought that meant a lot of things at different times in my life. But now, one of the things it means is that I believe that God loves every person the same, and the sameness with which God loves everyone is the love of a father to a child. I believe this because Jesus is God the Son, and God the Father loves him and loves every human person with the same love he has for Jesus. Big words, but what I mean is: God couldn’t love you more. Or me more. Because whatever LOVE is, that’s God, and God loves us all.
That’s the beginning. Because what I’m going to say now is hard to hear.
God loves the bad guys, the bad girls, the mean people, the haters, the horrible doers of cruel deeds, just the same as God loves me. Or you. Or an innocent baby. Or an old lady. Or a saint.
Secondly, being a Christian means I believe that God has a prior claim to us. God has say in who and what we are. I want you to hear this, wounded ones. The people who hurt you don’t get to say who you are. What they did to you was treat you as what you are not. But what you are, who you are, is beauty that the evil ones cannot touch. They may have broken your body, but they cannot make it, cannot make you, unbeautiful. They cannot undo you. Before even our abusive parents had a claim to us, God had a claim. God sees you as so, so beautiful. You can be glorious.
Third, being a Christian means I see brokenness and sin as an illness that God heals. We were made in God’s image and were meant to grow into God’s likeness. We are supposed to be like God. That’s why the Church is here, so we can grow through sacraments and virtues and prayer and holy moments and good deeds into kids that look like their Dad. We pray and study and become filled with love and kindness, and we start to look like Jesus. People start to recognize that glorious beauty that I talked about before –the way God sees us and can bring forth in us all.
Fourth, being a Christian means I don’t think healing ever ends. Ever. We are always going to have room to grow into the infinite fullness of God. Neither life nor death nor anything else can separate us from the love of God. Well, then we can always grow. This means that I don’t even have to see the healing with my eyes to know it’s happening. Time means something different to God. In Greek Orthodoxy, we call God’s time kairos, a time that encompasses past, present, future, in God’s presence.
Those are my starting places. Now, here is how I talk about forgiveness.
Forgiveness means being like God.
When Jesus healed the paralytic, his opponents accused him of blasphemy. Who can forgive but God? Well, those to whom God has given the power, that’s who.
Forgiveness means trying to look at people and at ourselves like God does.
I’m going to list the usual ideas about forgiveness now, then tell you what I think about them.
Forgiveness is not letting go of your hurt.
-First, feelings take a long time to heal. You have to establish new patterns of life to make yourself feel safe again. A wise woman told me to think of it like a weed pulled up by the roots. You got the weed out, but the dirt scattered everywhere. Forgiveness is a good start emotionally, but you still need time to heal. This is important, because forgiveness does not curtail healing or the need for time; it makes the healing possible.
-Second, and more importantly, forgiveness is not letting go of your hurt. It is releasing people who hurt you. Let them go. The power to forgive is a divine gift. You can release the other person(s) from their debt to you. Forgiveness takes that impartial love of God and applies it like a healing balm to everyone involved in a wounding. We cannot be whole alone.
Forgiveness doesn’t work if it’s selfish. Why? Because you are broken. Even before the bad thing happened, you were broken. You can decide not to focus on your hurt, and you will eventually stop feeling it. But what caused the hurt will still be there, aching your mind and body, if you did it for any reason other than the love of God. Only God can forgive. You can only forgive by being like God, and that is a profoundly humble act. You must be like Jesus washing the feet of Judas. Then you will be free to be who you are in God’s eyes, that beautiful glory, and you will be free to let God’s people go.
Sometimes it feels as though anger and hate is all that’s protecting us from being eaten alive by our enemies. I get that. You want to pop the ones who hurt you like a tick. You have no mercy in your heart toward them and can only manage to obey God’s words that vengeance is His. I understand. But those feelings don’t mean what you think they mean.
When you’re so angry that you think forgiveness means you’ll take a pass on vengeance, you are in a place where you think you are unsafe. Hear me. You think that you are unsafe – that glorious beauty that God sees – because the trauma has confused you into seeing yourself in the lying way that the evil deed portrayed you. This is one of the devil’s meanest tricks. We are supposed to love one another, so we are built to know who we are by how we’re treated. But what we are meant for, and who we are, is hidden from us when someone hurts us bad. It’s awful hard to stop letting horrors tell us who we are. It’s a battle every day to unlearn lies.
But forgiveness is not an anger management trick.
Forgiveness means that you have to see yourself beyond the lies. You cannot forgive without being divine. So you have to stop thinking of yourself as the horrible things people told you you were when they hurt you. Maybe they said it in words, maybe in actions, but you heard it and clung to it.
Forgiveness means you have to trust that God’s view of you is better than that. When you see yourself in the glorious beauty God sees you, in the safety God gives you, then you can let those monsters go. Don’t hold them close to you anymore. Don’t let them whisper in your ears. You were never strong enough to fight them off, but you can kick them out with a gesture, a word, a kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy).
But this one has alliteration! True, but it’s a flat lie. You can’t heal by forgetting. You heal by telling a new story. In the new story, what happened still happened, but what it meant is different. Forgive, and you are like God. Forgive, and the person left behind in the dust and blood is of infinite worth, glorious beauty, someone so loved.
And here’s the best part: God is already with you in the dust and the blood and the hurt and the muck, and God is already working to redeem you. You can do this divine work of forgiving because the God who sees you, that beautiful glory, is right with you.
If a pearl drops into the mud, you don’t call it a loss. You wash it off. God doesn’t leave us lying in our pain. He picks us up and washes us until we shine. And we can do that, too, for others. We ask God to lift us up into the glory-beauty-love for which we were made. We ask God to do the same for those who hurt us. We let them go. We don’t stay in the mud holding them down. They may ask God for mercy or not, but we will not block them from the chance to shine.
Forgiveness is a divine act. When we forgive, we are like God. We do it because God is with us, and because God loves us all.
What are your thoughts? Do you struggle with forgiveness?
It’s been a good day. The older children played for hours in the paddling pool this evening. The younger kids played ball together and ate well today. I cooked bacon and soup for a household on the mend from headcolds. My oldest and I read together for a good chunk of time during the babies’ naps. We are gearing up for later this summer when we get to make our homeschool official on his seventh birthday.
It always takes me around four months to get back on my feet after a new baby. I like to turtle up with my infants and tuck in the edges around my little family. We do a few things socially, but I don’t feel up for much until after the four month mark. Something happens then – regular naps? Eating? I’m not sure what, but I start to get my energy back. Which is good, because, as I mentioned, we’re gearing up for official homeschool.
I’m also gearing up for the release of my next writing guidebook, How to Tell Bedtime Stories. And after that, the next book in my Faith, Tea, Love series. And after that, a wonderfully exciting project I’m working on with two brilliant friends. And after that, the next book in the Jeff and Maddy Salvation Series. And after that, another fun paranormal Christian novel.
Tonight, I’m watching the votive candle burned down to its end. It’s so dim that I have to strain my eyes to see Jesus across the table. But tomorrow I’ll light a new candle, and the beauty of holiness will fill the darkness again when I sit down with my tea.
I know what it’s like to thirst for beauty. I know what it’s like to starve for the sacred. I know what it’s like to crave redemption and a sense of belonging. I know how it feels to be broken. That’s why I keep writing, even though there is no genre for some of my books yet. There may not be a genre, but there are other broken people who can be healed by getting in touch with beauty, sacredness, joy. There are other people seeking God. And even though I’m broken and thirsty and hungry, I have met the Holy One. I don’t mean that I was in a pretty little doll case and God smoothed the sateen overcoat and politely patted my cheek, either. I was in hell, and God walked through it with me and brought me out.
When I have a list of things to do so long that I have to skip bedtime story (it wasn’t my turn tonight, but still) in order to write about bedtime stories, I remember this. God who made us has walked right into our depths to meet us. The Bridegroom who bursts forth like the sun is bursting from the tomb. God bestows life on the dead. God draws us to Him by our joys and desires. That’s my joy tonight, a joy that does not die with the flame that’s lowering or grow cold with the tea I’m neglecting. My joy is that God has sought me out and called me and made me alive.
Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace. ~Augustine, Confessions 10.27
I have been so grateful to find help from fellow writers these past 8 months since Jeffrey was emerging into the world. A new friend helped me recently to think more clearly about how I tell people about my writing. If you follow this blog on a computer instead of reader, you’ll notice the new, clearer header. My Twitter and Facebook headers are also simpler and more revelatory. It was time to update Jeffrey’s cover, too.
There’s a heart to every story, and this one is broken. It’s a beautiful, fast read with a message of healing that I hope will reach everyone else who feels that he or she is broken, too. There’s also a lot of cake, which makes the healing go down smoothly.
I decided to make the cover more like an icon wall in a real home. This allowed me to use an iconic font in the title and to add a message about the book’s heart right on the cover. (Note: the cover update is only for the ebooks so far, which are available on Kindle and iBooks. It will be a few weeks before I have time to redo the print cover.)
Since this book is a genre buster, it doesn’t help to know that it’s Christian fantasy/romance/theology/spiritual warfare. Instead, I wrote what you really want to know about it, how it feels. This is a book of hope for broken people. If you want to see richly layered redemption, read The Salvation of Jeffrey Lapin.
How about you? What’s the heart of your book?
It’s one of those nights. Supper was thirty minutes late, so I had to skip eating in order to put the baby to sleep. Now I’m sitting alone in the late evening over a slice of buttered barley bread and a mug of mint verbena tea. The steam from the tea rises up beside the beeswax candle I’ve set on the table in order to see my food. My laptop screen is dimmed to one dot. A few feet away, another beeswax candle illuminates the icons in the family prayer area. Tea steam floats between me and Jesus’ face.
And suddenly, I’m grateful that I couldn’t find the rice pot earlier. I’m glad to be here with my homemade wheat-free bread and the scent of warm wax and hot mint.
It’s been a month since I found out that the culprit behind the daily hives, occasional numb mouth and swollen throat, dramatic mood swings and intense bouts of mental darkness was wheat. I’ve had a month to learn to avoid a food I ate my whole life until it started trying to kill me. I know how to use my Epi-pens. I know how to get enough calories for a nursing mother. I know that I don’t miss the bouts of crippling doubt and self-loathing and confusion and anxiety. I know that I’m so happy and glad to be the calm mom that I was starting to fear was gone in those few terrible weeks between the onset of the allergy and diagnosis.
And I know something else, deeper than ever before: Jesus is the bread of life. Without the easy camaraderie of wheat, food looks different. Is it life-giving, or could it kill me? And not eating –particularly not eating foods that could harm me — looks different. I look at the still-full bin of wheat flour, refilled just a day before I learned what was hurting me, and my relieved heart beats, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” I couldn’t tell you exactly where the Bible says that; it was stored away in my memory bones a few translations back. But I know it speaks to me right now, here with my candles and tea and bread that doesn’t hurt me, and the family portrait gallery of holiness.
This Bread heals. The steam rises, the flames dance, and I’m glad to be here.