Bless you, ladies.
When I first started writing, somebody, possibly an editor, told me that some of the best works are the ones with ‘you’ on the pages. I never fully understood that until I began working on edits for my first contracted book, which by the way, I sold through a Seekerville contest. As I read over notes and read the story afresh for the first time in years, I saw multiple little things of me, a me who had gone through what I had thought, and what probably had been, the toughest season in my life.
The emotion, the scriptures God had laid on my heart, the hope, the forgiveness, the internal fight to keep my flesh from winning over the spirit man. It was all there on the pages of a book that I had been told would never sell. That was in 2013.
And like a snowball rolling down Mount Everest, life seemingly ran out of control. Through it, somehow, I turned in two more books. Maybe not quite as efficient as I’d hoped, but given the circumstances, I’m certain it was still an accomplishment, and yes, I allowed my emotions to ooze all over the pages. Fortunately, I had awesome editors who toned me down. ;)
But then after some major curveballs were thrown for my husband’s mom and her husband, leaving me physically and emotionally drained, I didn’t want to be me.
In February of 2015, as I sat in the infectious disease doctor’s office with my mother-in-law waiting for her all clear, my father-in-law was at his oncologist’s office getting a clean bill of health. He was weak, much smaller than he had been, and still couldn’t eat more than a few bites of soft food, but he was cancer free and didn’t need to return for another year.
I exhaled the breath I’d been holding for the last year and a half.
And I feared inhaling. Between all the craziness of those few years, I wanted to hold onto that exhale of relief for as long as possible. I even grounded my in-laws from any and all hospitals within a 60-mile radius. I’m not kidding.
I hid. I hid from phone calls, from emails, from family, and from writing. Somehow, I thought that if I wrote, nothing but the yucky emotions I had experienced the previous year would come out, and that just wasn’t me. That had been me at one time, but I had moved beyond the whole woe-is-me, waiting for the other shoe to drop, person. Sooo, I just didn’t write, not with any intentional effort. Occasionally I popped my head into my writer’s hat only to happily be pulled out again by some tyranny of the urgent giant.
At some point, I’m not sure when, I decided it was okay to start breathing and to quit looking over my shoulder. At some point, I decided that no matter what, I would carry the fruits of the Spirit. At some point, I knew beyond any doubt that God’s goodness was never, and would never be, dependent upon my circumstances.
At some point, I decided it was okay to find me again, or to just be me outside of a hardened shell of fear. At some point, I decided it was okay to write again and allow my emotions, whatever they were, to pour onto the page. After all, an author can’t edit it a blank page, right? Besides, layering pieces of me onto blank pages made great stories, right?
At some point, I decide enough is enough, I was an author and I needed to write. So, I wrote. I went on an impromptu vacation with my parents and one of my daughters, and I breathed. I played in the ocean, and I breathed. I took pictures, listened to my daughter play her guitar while a homeless man sang House of the Rising Sun. I wrote, and I breathed. This was the me I loved. This was the me I wanted to be, the healed, whole, happy me after all the chaos of the previous years.
We returned to Kansas, and I was ready to embrace my life and write full-time. Two short weeks after we returned, I received another phone call, but I knew. I had known before I even left. I think we all knew. My father-in-law, a man I had grown to care and love deeply over those years of his battle with cancer, had started coughing and it wasn’t a normal cough, and he’d grown weaker, this a short 7 months after his cancer free diagnosis. His doctor sent him home, and less than a week later he passed away. That entire week, as I sat with my mother-in-law and as I cared for my father-in-law in his final days, I wrote. In between family coming to say their last good-byes, I wrote. Through memories and blurred vision, I wrote. Through emotion, I wrote. Pieces of me filled blank pages.
In the early morning hours of November 17, 2015, I turned in the first real proposal I had turned in in a long while and then drove to my in-laws. It was evident when I arrived he wouldn’t make it through the day, he didn’t make it past noon. I stared out the picture window watching a lone male deer approached the fence line across the road through the misty fog as I listened to my father-in-law's last breaths.
I sold that book, and purposely gave myself a tight deadline. I wasn’t going to allow the fear of being me own my life. I needed to write and I gave myself permission to breathe. My husband and I maintained our full ministry schedule, and I helped him through the busy Christmas season. One day we were driving down a road, and I told him that if all that we had been through the last few years was the worst we’d ever go through, we were blessed.
There was peace, and a sense of accomplishment, pride, and excitement. We survived. And I hadn’t lost myself in those tough seasons. God had shown me that if I removed fear from the equation, I would be all right.
On March 15th, I turned in my manuscript and shortly thereafter, my husband started showing some signs of tiring. He’d been trying to keep the business running, full-time ministry, and doing all the things he could for his mom that his step-dad had done. We discussed closing the shop and I knew I needed to move more into a full-time writer mode, something I had tried and failed to do because I allowed too many things to take precedence. We never guessed, never really saw it coming, or maybe we did and chose not to see it, but on May 20th, after being treated for an ulcer, my husband was diagnosed with cancer. As I sat vigil during his times of rest I prayed, I read the Bible, and I wrote. On June 20th, less than a month after his diagnosis, he passed away.
If I am to be honest with you, I’d tell you that I haven’t written much in the last six months, but it’s not because I am fearful of being me during this toughest season of my life. In fact, I’ve embraced me, the sad me, the missing me, the happy me, the peaceful me, the mother of somewhat orphaned children me, the widow me. I wanted to write, I needed to write. I burned to write. However, there are a lot of things that come with death, especially when a business needs closing, and your mother-in-law decides it’s time to sell her house and move out of state. May God bless her greatly.
Man, we had a lot of tears and laughter in the last year, especially the last 6 months. I also tried to maintain the momentum of the ministry my husband and I were a part of because I knew the people my husband ministered to had loved him and grieved him. They were watching me and my daughters, but especially me. Every time I gave a message 'they got me,' no matter how many times I intended otherwise. One time I stood in front of homeless men hardened by life, ex-gang members, veterans, and addicts and I gave them me, the me who tried to be strong for the kids and the family, the me who wanted to cry but couldn’t, the me who wanted to hear ‘I love you’ one more time. There wasn’t a dry eye. Somehow my message touched their core and moved them. And that is what our writing should do for our readers.
The week after my husband moved to Glory, I was asked by one of my co-pastors if I thought my writing would change and I knew the answer was yes. My writing is a constant evolution of me. When I evolve, and grow in the Lord, so does my writing. That is something I’ve come to understand and not fear. If I’m carrying myself in the fruits of the Spirit, it’s okay to be me through the hard seasons, just as it’s okay for you to be you through the hard seasons. The hard seasons have taught me to trust and depend on God in ways I never thought possible. The Lord is the biggest part of me and when I trust in His guidance and provision, my best stories are yet to come, especially if they have me all over them and create an emotional impact that ministers and sticks with the reader for a long while.
We all have tough seasons. I want to encourage you to embrace them, to find rest in them, the kind of rest that comes from fully trusting God.
If you’re a reader, what is one of the most memorable scenes you’ve read that has stuck with you? If you’re a writer what is one of the most emotional scenes you’ve written and where was it birthed from?
|Christina Rich art.|
You can connect with her on Facebook at Author Christina Rich and on Twitter @Christinainspy
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Duncan Murray doesn't want a wife. He wants Sims Creek, a sanctuary that can help him forget a troubled childhood. But his reluctant, and captivating, bride-to-be is key to making his dreams a reality. And despite their business arrangement, Camy and Duncan might be signing on the dotted line for true love…
Christina is generously gifting us for the holidays. Leave a comment today for your chance to receive, a copy of The Negotiated Marriage (two winners), Christina's entire Love Inspired backlist and her current release AND a print of Christina Rich art (one winner), Christina Rich art print (one winner). For a writer who lets us know they want it, a first chapter critique (one winner).
Merry Christmas from Christina Rich!