“No Man Could Heal Me” at Prodigal Magazine

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I unconsciously hoped for what the media portrays as the romantic ideal: a wounded girl is rescued by a kind man who teaches her to trust and hope again. I wanted someone to do the healing work for me. Problem is, the movies and books don’t tell you that no man should have to carry that burden in addition to his own burdens. You’ll both be tangled in each other’s demons in addition to your own.

Writing at Prodigal Magazine today on why “No Man Could Heal Me.

If good men will come alongside and you don’t put an unrealistic burden on them, they can help you be strong for all those times the knight in shining armor missed his entrance (or exit). You are comrades who love, not lovers.

“God, How Could You?” at Prodigal Magazine

godhowcouldyousmPerhaps it began at age fourteen when I visited Morocco’s slums and started taking Paxil. How can a good God let innocent children suffer? The question grew louder when I realized human trafficking still existed–in the States. Read more. 

This morning “God, How Could You?” was published over at Prodigal Magazine. It’s the piece I mentioned the other day.

I’m not one of those “write a little every day” sorts of people. For me, I want every time I write, and every finished piece, to push me in both the craft and content. I couldn’t pull that off every day. But when I do it, I want it to be a step forward. A strategic movement toward the High Places

This one wore me out, both in the living and the telling.

He wasn’t asking me to deny anything I’ve experienced or believed and unbelieved. He challenged my despair by reminding me that I don’t have the full answer or perspective on my questions. He challenged me to keep searching and fighting.

“Further up and further in” (as C.S. Lewis says) things will look different than they do right now. Was I willing to believe that my search wasn’t over?

I’m trying. Read more.

Concrete Girl: Here’s to the Bruises and Scars

We are girls with skinned knees
We are concrete and grace
Here’s to the girls with bruises and scars.
– Superchick, “Anthem”

Graceful suffering. Beautiful scars. Listening to “Anthem” recently, a phrase streaked images across my thoughts. “We are concrete and grace.” What a marvelous contrast. To be grace-dipped concrete, not a mere delicate flower. I like it.

My list of scars is long. Been close to death. Wanted to kill myself. But I survived. I’m marked–but I’m strong. So is the girl I know whose ex-husband would drug her and then sell her to men. So is the single mom working 80 hours a week and still struggling to make ends meet. Fill in the blank. You know someone like this. Someone who is concrete and grace.

To be grace-dipped concrete, not a mere delicate flower.

“God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.” – C.S. Lewis, “Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis”

Not without a loss of innocence, but without stain. Your purity retained.

I’m still angry at God. I’ll never understand. But, pushing through the bitterness, I want to believe what C. S. Lewis says: I am capable of surviving the memories of what happened and the pain of what will happen. Yes, it torments–to the point death seems the only relief–but I will survive.

Sometimes I believe it. Sometimes I scoff. Sometimes I just feel dead already.

Concrete. Still rough around the edges, perhaps chipped and pockmarked, but it’s not going anywhere. Concrete may not be the prettiest thing around, but it’s rock-solid in what it’s about.

Concrete girl don’t fall down
In this broken world around you
Don’t stop thinking
Don’t stop feeling now
Don’t break down my concrete girl
– Switchfoot

Grace. I’m tempted to say God has infused every moment of the dark years with riotous beauty and rich mercy. Such would be the more spiritual, inspirational thing to write. But there’s nothing spiritual about lying to appear more godly or mature. So I won’t.

But there’s nothing spiritual about lying to appear more godly or mature.

Some moments during the nightmare held bits of light. Other moments were pure darkness. I won’t call good what God says is evil. Grace may come in the morning, but there is no goodness in the acts of evil. I don’t think there is much good in mental illness either.

It’s hard to see the pain behind the mask
Bearing the burden of a secret storm
Sometimes she wishes she was never born.
– Martina McBride, “Concrete Angel”

We must draw from the ugly as well as the good in order to make art. A beautiful life is not confined to flowers, rainbows, and smiles. I believe it is one marked by redemption. Struggle. Sweat. Sleepless nights. Even thoughts of suicide.

A true artist is not one who is free from issues or baggage but one who is actively finding and putting together their broken pieces. Even as another wound strikes and more blood is spilled. If we waited until we healed to make good art, there would be none.

Here’s to the ones who don’t give up.

My goal is not to be “whole” (impossible if you are an amputee–though is it possible for anyone?), but to pursue beauty through the darkness. And some days it’s just to stay alive. So I write, cry, and groan bits of prayers. Even when I dig deep inside and find more broken pieces, I won’t give up. At least not tonight.

We are not what you think
We are fire inside.
Here’s to the ones who don’t give up
– “Anthem”

Purity vs. Innocence

whitedressWearing a white dress is not a bride’s prerogative. The primary images for Pursue the Beauty focus on women wearing white dresses. This is no coincidence or a mere sentimental nod. It is in part because of the exquisite taste of Jamie Marie, but there’s more.

Other women deserve and need the opportunity to experience what a white dress symbolizes: beauty, purity, hope for the future. Sex slaves. Women who have been raped, molested, or abused in any way. Feel free to add to the list.

Purity is not a physical condition. It  can sometimes involve our bodies, but purity is not defined by the possession of a physical attribute or lack of certain physical experiences.

 Purity is not a physical condition.

On February 1, many supporters of the White Umbrella campaign wore white as part of White Out for Freedom. For me, it served in part as a reminder of the accurate definition of purity.1926_WhiteUmbrella_SharableImages_480x268_3

There is a marked distinction between purity and innocence. Don’t believe me? You’ve never had someone touch you against your will. The difference is everything. Unfortunately, the girls who have experienced forced intimacy struggle to believe it, too. Truth is, sex slaves are no less pure than you or me, but their innocence (and far more) has been stripped away and nefarious lies pounded into their bodies.

This is a horrific crime.  There is no way to make restitution for lost innocence. But they need a chance to wear white and know beauty. To feel safe and clean.

Do we care enough to fight for this?

Top photo courtesy of Jamie Marie Photography

Into “The Shack” – Part Two

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Continuing our exploration of William P. Young’s The Shack, I will share one example of the deep, thought-provoking truths that make this book one I read in small increments. Any more is too much to process at one time.

God: “As difficult as it will be for you to understand, everything that has taken place is occurring exactly according to this purpose, without violating choice or will.”

Mack: “How can you say that with all the pain in this world, all the wars and disasters that destroy thousands? You may not cause those things, but you certainly don’t stop them.”

I have thought or said something along those lines many, many times in the last five years. Sometimes people will say that they trust God to take care of them. I don’t. What I  mean, is that I do not assume God is going to protect me from want, harm, or danger. He has allowed those things in my life. I know He is able to prevent them, but He doesn’t.

God: “There are millions of reasons to allow pain and hurt and suffering rather than to eradicate them, but most of those reasons can only be understood within each person’s story.

The real underlying flaw in your life is that you don’t think I am good. If you knew I was good and that everything–the means, the ends, and all the processes of individual lives–is all covered by my goodness, then while you might not always understand what I am doing, you would trust me. But you don’t.”

Holy Spirit: “Trust is the fruit of a relationship in which you know you are loved. Because  you do not know that I love you, you cannot trust me.” – pgs 124-126

The last two sentences stopped me dead in my tracks. We can only trust what is real, what is experienced. That is why I cannot trust God, at least not in the same way I did as a child.

I know there is a place for child-like faith, but I’m not perfect. I’m still struggling through all of this. Instead of pretending to be a “spiritual” person I am going to be real. Because it’s what I wish others would be for me. For all the girls out there who have broken hearts and wounded spirits and exhausted faith.

Reality and honesty mean asking the hard questions and not just asking the ones that you know have a comfortable answer.

Into “The Shack” – Part One

the-shackWindblown Media gave me the privilege of reading The Shack when it first released. They also hosted a live conference call with William Young, the author, allowing him to answer our questions about what we read.

Some bestsellers aren’t worth the paper they are printed on, but this is not one of those books. I will give you a few peeks inside The Shack and explain why I recommend it–even with its flaws. This book is good on many levels. Let me begin the  discussion with a few clarifying points:

The Shack is not a theology textbook or a doctrinal statement. It is a story. Like Pilgrim’s Progress, Narnia, and other great works of the Christian faith, the driving power of this book comes through the fact it is told in a story format. You do not have to agree with every allegorical image and metaphor to get a lot out of this book.

The Shack is about grief and the heart of God. If you have been blessed to be spared from severe grief in your life thus far, this book may hold less meaning and power. It’s a gut-wrenching look at senseless evil and suffering in our fallen world. It asks the toughest questions and does not tie everything up in a nice little package at the end.

What it does–and it does it very well–is reveal the heart of God as manifested through the three persons of the Trinity.

And, due to the second point, The Shack is not for children. This book is for mature adults. The story is not overly graphic, but it is disturbing and tragic, while being necessary to the book’s purpose.