Life

new year

This last year has been one of the most triumphant, rewarding, frustrating, overwhelming, and ultimately painful years that I have ever experienced.

2015 began on an impossibly high note. I had just completed my memoir and was getting ready to start looking for a publisher. Life was busy and exciting: my family was able to catch up with old friends over the holidays, visit with family members that we hadn’t seen in years, and plan for the new year ahead.

I started up my first blog using Blogspot. It was definitely a learning experiencing, but eventually I grew frustrated at how little I was accomplishing and it drove me to re-evaluate my goals. I ended up ditching the old blog and began a new one (the one you’re reading today!) and so far, the running of this blog has been so much more enjoyable. (I definitely prefer WordPress to Blogspot!) My blog still has a lot of room to grow in and that’s one of my New Year goals – but more on that later!

Besides blogging, I took a publishing course and learned a whole lot more about the publishing industry. After a lot of prayer and tears of frustration, the Lord eventually showed me to pursue self-publishing. I felt such peace in my heart at this decision. I laid aside my unfinished book proposal and query letter, and began learning as much as I could about the self-publishing world.

I also looked into translation. I live in Puerto Rico, but I’m American – my first language is English, and I wrote my memoir in English. Getting my book translated to Spanish was an absolute must. I ran into a lot of walls and closed doors; a prominent psychologist friend of my family even asked around at the state university but was unable to find anyone that met my criteria. I felt so overwhelmed, and prayed often, asking God for direction.

I stumbled upon Translator’s Base one day. I got 22 bids within a couple of days. I felt a strong pull in my heart to contact one particular woman… and I am currently in the process of reviewing her work and deciding whether or not we’re going to go forward with her. Say a prayer for me that God would confirm if this is the translator for the job or not!

There is so much to learn about self-publishing, and I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. Finances are currently an issue because I can’t go forward until I have some kind of budget to work with. My family is waiting on God to provide. Again, this is something I’d love some prayer about! 

In family news, my siblings’ choir was chugging along. They sang on the radio as well as at outdoor venues; they even filmed their first music video. We met with a couple of interested producers; there was even talk about making a film based on my family’s story.

In the past couple of months, a lot has changed. It has been an incredibly painful time for my family. Sadly, the music video may never be released, for reasons I can’t share here. The choir is also on an indefinite sabbatical. God knows why He has allowed these trials, and my hope is that He will bring good out of our present circumstances.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28

I am learning so much in this time. My circumstances almost had me convinced at first that my purpose had been stripped away; that my destiny had been irrevocably changed. This is not the case. In fact, I have been assured that nothing, absolutely nothing, can get in the way of what God is going to do. Not satan, not any of his minions, not the plans of the wicked. God is going to do what He is going to do – and no one can stop Him!

I am so looking forward to the coming year. I know that it’s going to have its share of hardships but I know that there are rewards and blessings ahead. I feel like I’m taking a huge step forward and I’m not going to be looking back any longer! The past is the past. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for me!

What kind of year was 2015 for you? In my next post, I’m going to be talking about my goals and resolutions for 2016. See you then!

Memoir, Writing

 

healing trauma

“Each of us is a book waiting to be written, and that book, if written, results in a person explained.”

Thomas M. Cirignano

For those of you who have read Our Story, you know already that I lost a brother; I actually lost two – the first was eight, the other was only five weeks old. I was also, along with my siblings, removed from my home by CPS and placed in foster care twice. It goes without saying that these were traumatizing and life-altering experiences, and since then, I have had to live with the fear that it could happen again. I have had to endure the nightmares and face the old memories of loss, of separation, of tragedy.

Somewhere along the way I got it into my head that I needed to write our story. I was only ten, but I had no qualms about doing it. I knew it needed to be told, and it seemed to make sense to me that I should do it.

At thirteen I started writing.

At first, I could only work on my book during the afternoon or the evening. I was setting myself up for a miserable day if I worked on it in the morning. Depression would set in and I would find myself confronted with the all-too-fresh memories, the ones that I only wanted to bury away.

 “…it takes strength to remember, it takes another kind of strength to forget, it takes a hero to do both.”
James Baldwin

It was a battle to write. It is still a battle to write. It’s only gotten incrementally easier, and that’s only because I’m slightly more confident now that I have several years worth of experience beneath my belt.

But if someone were to ask me today if I felt healing through the writing of my memoir, I honestly wouldn’t know what to say.

Writing my memoir was messy. It was confusing. It was painful and scary. It is only upon reflection that I can look back and see the ways in which I was able to grow from it.

“The features of character are carved out of adversity.”
Rick Barnett

I made peace with certain memories.

This seems strange to say, but I found acceptance in my heart about certain incidents that happened after I wrestled them out on paper. Somehow, seeing it there in black and white was a form of restitution. Everything was stripped from me as a child – my family, my home, my security, my innocence, even my sense of safety. Being able to put into words what that was like was powerful. It didn’t restore what had been taken – only God could do that – but it gave me hope that by sharing what I had gone through, I could lay to rest the things that had always haunted me privately.

I found a voice.

I felt powerless as a child, a victim of circumstance, of injustice and prejudice.

I read in this superb article a quote by David Kessler, that “Grief must be witnessed.” I so completely agree. It is terrifyingly lonely to experience loss of any kind. We feel as if no one on the face of the earth has ever known the depths of what we are experiencing, and to be unable to express our pain is a choking feeling that leads to suppression; it leads to feeling invalidated.

As a child, I was denied a voice. I felt hidden in plain sight. People walked all around me and they seemed oblivious – in a sphere all on their own, untouched by tragedy of any kind. Did no one see what I was going through? Did no one care? Being able to – finally – tell what I had experienced was liberating. In some ways, writing restored elements of what was stolen from me.

I faced the ones I was afraid of.

There were men and women involved in what happened to me whom I hold, in my heart, most responsible. I am on a journey, right now, towards complete forgiveness, but these faces were the ones that haunted me at night. How could I face these people, even in my writing? How could I bear to repaint their features so they became real again, to infuse their words with those accents I despised?

At first, writing about them angered me. At times, I was afraid. I feared the repercussions. For a long time, I was afraid of turning 21, because I was afraid they would find me – they would track me down and accuse me of libel, of defamation of character. I insisted upon being kind to their memories, even when they did not merit it. I wrote as truthfully as possible, and when I was unsure, I erased rather than proving, even to a fractional degree, that what their ghosts ranted at me in my dreams was true.

But eventually, I grew accustomed to seeing their names in black and white, over and over again. I stopped seizing up with dread and anger upon facing their existences in my story. I confronted every terrible moment, and I triumphed over them by writing them. Rewriting them. Reading them over and over and over again. I didn’t let their strength prevail against my need to see this story told.

“Aren’t autobiographies born in a question we ask ourselves: how did I get to this point? Don’t we look back over the path and tell ourselves a story? This is how it happened. This is who I am.”
― Frederick Weisel

How did writing – in any of it’s forms – help you come to terms with your past? Have you ever considered writing a memoir?

Writing

7 Reasons

To me, journaling seems to have a bit of a bad rap. When you say the word “journal,” what comes to mind? I think of angsty preteens with fuzzy, pink diaries and feather-tipped pens scribbling away about their first crush or that horrible thing that so-and-so said at school today. Journaling almost seems petty – trivial.

However, coming from firsthand experience, I can say that it’s anything but.

I have journaled off and on again since I was ten years old. I originally started because I was in foster care: not only did my dad want me to record everything that happened, but I had nobody to talk to and I was lonely. I carried that journal with me everywhere.

I started up again the following year during my second bout in foster care. This time, the habit stuck, even after we were returned home.

The older I got, the less I needed to rely on journaling. But in recent times, I have gone back to it and I have discovered a bit about the underrated practice – and myself – along the way.

  1. Journaling is cathartic

“Journal writing is a voyage to the interior.”

Christina Baldwin

For me, journaling is the freest form of expression. It’s the only place where I can truly admit what I am experiencing, knowing that no one will judge me. I am still teaching myself to let go more, to delve into those thoughts and feelings that I usually ignore – the ones I don’t want to put a name to. But whenever I do? I feel nothing but relief.

Don’t be afraid to state in your journal, in no uncertain terms, what you’re feeling or going through. It has an immediate cathartic effect that will help you to make peace with whatever life is throwing your way. 

2. Journaling helps you make sense of what seems senseless

“Writing is the only way I have to explain my own life to myself.”

Pat Conroy

Often, when I’m journaling, I find myself writing, erasing, and rewriting as I go, trying to capture the exact feeling, the exact emotion, trying to recreate every altering moment, every twisted thought and half-formed fear. Putting an exact name to the feeling or to the situations that I experience was, I used to think, just another symptom of my raging perfectionism. Now I know better: what I’m really doing is trying to make sense out of what, to me, is senseless; every time I erase, every time I rewrite, I am understanding more and more about myself, about my troubles and fears and pains, about the people that feature in my life and the experiences that we share.

Why is it that this happened? Why did it make me feel this way? Journaling will help you find the answers to those questions. 

3. Journaling is a form of praying

“This is what you do when you journal. You are recording God’s grand, epoch-spanning redemptive story as it unfolds in your limited, temporal sphere of existence here on earth. Your journal has the potential to record the continuation of the Holy Spirit’s work in our world!”

Adam L. Feldman

Did you know you could write your prayers down to the Lord? Write down your hopes and dreams, your pains and fears, and be open and honest – with Him and yourself. Not only does this increase intimacy between you and the Lord, but it’s a great way to keep focused and not get distracted. I don’t know about you, but I often struggle with not getting distracted in my thoughts when I pray. Praying aloud – even if it’s in a whisper – helps, but when I’m alone inside my head, my thoughts wander. Writing down my prayers is a focused, deliberate conversation with God and seeing the evidence of the state of my heart does two things for me:

  • Forces me to acknowledge those areas about myself that I would rather close my eyes to, i.e. selfishness, pride, pettiness, etc.
  • Gives me a play-by-play of what God is doing. I love reading back old entries and seeing the areas where God has caused me to grow or the things He has answered prayers about.

Pour out your heart to the Lord and watch Him heal you. One day you will look back and read an old entry and think, “wow, I remember how horrible that was! It’s amazing how God brought me out of that place.”

4. Journaling is a way to record memories

“These handwritten words in the pages of my journal confirm that from an early age I have experienced each encounter in my life twice: once in the world, and once again on the page.”

Terry Tempest Williams

Your journals can become the chronicles of your life – they are your unpublished memoirs, if you will. Cameras can’t capture everything, and there is something very priceless about reading over old journals, recalling and acknowledging the different chapters of your life story. Based on what you write, you may even choose to share your journals with someone someday; maybe a daughter, maybe a spouse. It will provide both you and them with an unfiltered glimpse into the past. And your heart.

Journaling is the evidence of a life lived. Record all those moments that you don’t want to forget; you’ll enjoy reading them over again someday.

5. Journaling helps you heal

“These empty pages are your future, soon to become your past. Twill read the most personal tale you shall ever find in a book.”

Anonymous

Sometimes the things we go through seem almost too painful to put into words; we’d rather repress it than face it head-on. We all have our different coping techniques, and repression has definitely been high on the list for me. So I don’t always feel like journaling. In fact, when really horrible things happen, I’d rather not acknowledge it – even to myself. For example, I’ve been avoiding writing about a certain experience in a my journal for several weeks now. Last night, I finally confronted it in my own way, and I felt freer afterwards.

You don’t have to force yourself to write down what is too painful to express, but you might be surprised by how you feel after getting it out. Working through each phase of the grieving process is a part of healing, and writing down your thoughts as you go through your trials will help you in accepting your circumstances. 

6. Journaling is synonymous with self-discovery

“Often as writers, we are surprised by what we learn about ourselves. It runs counter to what we’ve thought about who we are. But it is closer to the truth.”

Rob Bignell

To journal honestly is to take a good, long look at yourself in a mirror built for souls. I used to struggle with truthfulness when it came to journaling. I’d rather have been lenient, painting myself as the victim of life’s circumstances, a damsel in distress. I shielded myself from my own bitterness and anger. But, with time, I realized that I would rather give an exact representation of my thoughts and feelings than have to face them later – the hidden shadows in a sentence made of sunshine.

The truth is, we’d rather not face that we are shallow, mean, resentful, and silly. But how else will we grow? The Bible teaches that we must confess our sins before we can be forgiven and made new. To confess means to acknowledge. And acknowledgment happens naturally when you journal. You are forced to see yourself for what you are. You come to understand yourself.

Through journaling, you will grow and you will change. Embrace it. It’s all a part of the process.

7. Journaling is a safe place

“And so I just kept writing to myself.”

Kimberly Novosel

My journals are like a scribe’s record of secret closet meetings. The Bible speaks about the secret place – a place where you are alone with the Lord, a place where you find His presence. My journals are the essence of what that secret place means to me. They see the worst of me – they see my frustration, my anger, my bitterness – and still, empty pages remain, waiting to be filled. My journals also see what is most fragile about me, the hidden wounds that no one but the Lord knows of, and I can trust that it will remain that way. There’s no one but me and God there.

It’s an escape; it’s a place to run to – a place that doesn’t exist within the crowded walls of my home. It’s where I pour out my heart with only God as my witness.

In our lives, we are often faced with terrible challenges and bitter truths. Journaling provides a safe place where you can express what you’re going through.

I hope this entry inspires you to keep a journal!

“Why, then, do I set before You an ordered account of so many things? it’s certainly not through me that You know them. But I’m stirring up love for You in myself and in those who read this so that we may all say, great is the Lord and highly worthy to be praised. I tell my story for love of Your love.”

Augustine of Hippo