Writing and Living From Your Scars

by Tara Johnson

I was recently asked to give an aspiring writer my best piece of writing advice. I could have told her to study the craft, which is extremely important, or given her a list of blog and books to follow. Also important. Or I could have given her a checklist of a thousand other steps to pursue her dream, but after much thought, I gave her my best piece of advice: write from your scars.

Let me explain.

crying boyNot long ago, my two year old son fell outside on the driveway and scraped up his hand. At the sound of his wailing, his sisters and I ran to his side. When the girls tried to convince him to let them see, he covered the scrape with his chubby fingers and jerked away from them with a teary scowl. Why? Because he didn’t trust them with his boo-boo. He’d been victim of their teasing enough to wonder if they were trust worthy. Would they tease him? Laugh at him for being melodramatic? Unintentionally make the hurt worse by poking and probing? No, letting them see was too risky.

What do we do with a wound? Usually we try to hide it.

But when I walked up and knelt down in front of him with sympathy, he finally uncovered his injured hand to let me examine the damage. He trusted me not to hurt him anymore than he’d already been wounded.

wounds

And here’s the thing…there was no way for me to give him the help he needed until I could understand how severe his injury was. Once he was brave enough to lift his chubby fingers away from his wound, I could begin to treat it. Because he trusted me, I was able to wash it, clean it with hydrogen peroxide, bandage it and kiss it until his tears subsided and he was playing once more.

This is a beautiful parallel to what happens in our own lives. Because we live as messy people in a broken world, we all have wounds. Some are bigger than others. Some have cuts deeper than others. Some of us have lived with the crippling shame of sexual, verbal or physical abuse. Some of us have been told we’re unwanted or unloved. Some of us can’t seem to shake depression or are mourning the loss of a loved one. Some of us have a childhood that we barely survived or an adulthood that has left us disillusioned and depressed. Some of us are victims of our own horrible mistakes.

And just like Nate covering his scraped palm, or dealing with a throbbing finger that has faced the fury of a wayward hammer strike, we cover our hurt, wrapping our fingers around the searing pain, keeping it concealed, restrained and locked away from prying eyes. We don’t want anyone to see, anyone to know. The pain is too deep, the vulnerability too precarious.

But here’s the thing…God can’t heal what we are unwilling to expose to him.

When we are brave enough to come to Him with all of our shame and broken pieces, His light and love can start to heal those nasty wounds. He is our safe place. A Daddy who lovingly cleans the wound and kisses the sting away.

What happens with a deep wound when it finally heals? Yep. It leaves a scar.

scars

Scars tell a story. They are proof that you were wounded and survived. Writing from your scars, for that matter, living from your scars gives hope to others who are hurting, those who are still trying to hide their devastating wound from curious eyes.

Be brave. Be courageous. Write from your scars. Live from your scars. There is a world of hurting people needing to see that wounds can be healed by the Great Physician. god's light

The stories that change lives are the ones that make the reader uncomfortable. Sometimes, that includes the author.

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A Father’s Love: Monster Chasers and Hallway Protectors

Our little family was recently reminiscing over funny memories from way back when. You know, when the girls were three and six, instead of the mature ten and thirteen year olds they are now. Especially in light of this coming Father’s Day weekend, my oldest daughter remembered something very sweet about her daddy. scared

“Dad, remember how I was never scared of monsters in my closet, but I was always terrified of monsters coming down the hall?”

He laughed. “I remember.”

She grinned. “But instead of getting mad at me for worrying about monsters coming through my bedroom door, you would grab a toy rifle and march up and down the hallway every night before I fell asleep. Remember that? And you would chant silly soldier rhymes like, ‘Hut, two, three, four, no monsters gettin’ past my girl’s front door!’

super dad

My heart melted hearing the treasured memory she had stored away. Why had that particular remnant from her childhood held fast when so many others had siphoned away? Because protection is powerful. It shows the measure of true love and the lengths it will go to save the one it loves.

Real men, real fathers protect. Whether the fear is real or imagined, good fathers fight away the dragons while their princesses clutch their battered teddy bears until those quivering shadows melt into sweet slumber. And even now as a thirteen year old, I frequently have to remind my daughter that Dad’s rules about modesty that seem so outdated to her, or the rules about technology that seem so rigid, are born from the same protective heart that marched up and down the hallway for hours chasing away the monsters…his goal is ever and always to protect her.

dad daughter

Maybe you’ve never known the love of a father like this, a man who would give his very life to save yours. Earthly fathers and husbands, even the good ones, will fail us but there is One who is desperately yearning to call you His daughter. He’s waiting with open arms. Best of all? He will never fail you. Ever. His specialty is unconditional love and it’s best seen in the way He protects His children.

“To You, O [God] my strength, I will sing praises; For God is my stronghold [my refuge, my protector, my high tower], the God who shows me [steadfast] loving kindness.” ~Psalm 59:17 AMP

“A father of the fatherless and a judge and protector of the widows, Is God in His holy habitation.” ~Psalm 68:5

If you’ve spent your lifetime searching for the love of a man, whether that be a father, a husband or a boyfriend, and you’ve been hurt over and over again, broken and left more empty than before, run to the One who wants to be the Father you’ve dreamed of. He’ll be your comfort, Protector, Friend and Savior. He’ll be the Daddy willing to march up and down the hallway chasing away the monsters that leave you trembling in fear…whether they are real or not. What is important to you is important to Him. He sees you. He loves you. He’s waiting. daddy daughter

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From where shall my help come?

My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber [briefly] nor sleep [soundly]
.

The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.

The sun will not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your life.

The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in [everything that you do]
From this time forth and forever.” ~Psalm 121

I would love to hear from you. Do you have fond memories of ways your father made you feel loved? In what ways has God been the Father you’ve always longed for? How often do you think of God as your Protector?

 

Books are Not My Babies…and Other “Idol” Chatter

Y’all, this writing gig is hard.

I recently saw a pic that summed up the process perfectly. “You read a scene and think, ‘That was nice.’ Time it took you to read the scene? Five minutes. Time it took the author to write the scene? Five bazillion hours.”

reading

Okay, so maybe that’s an exaggeration but you get the idea. It’s hard work. More than I ever dreamed possible. And just when I think the sleepless nights, the outpouring of creativity, the frazzled nerves will pay off, I get word that more revisions are needed. So it’s back to work. Again.

Years ago, I sat in my first American Christian Fiction Writers Conference, as a dewy-eyed, wet-behind-the-ears writer listening to Tamera Alexander speak. Tamera said something I will never forget. “The stories you write, the books you sell, they are not your babies. They are products.” baby

Wise words. And, boy, was she correct. That single piece of advice has saved me much heartache. Why? What did she mean? I took her wisdom, at least in part, to mean this: don’t let your heart grow attached to something that will devastate you if it is taken away.

Creativity, imagination and the mysterious muse are beautiful gifts lavished on us by a loving Creator, but when we elevate those gifts into ‘baby’ status in our hearts, we have unwittingly set up an idol. So when our ‘babies’ are rejected, criticized, or anything in between, we grow defensive, we lash out, or live in the land of angry, miserable resentment. Are we consumed with our stories or consumed with our Savior? Worse yet, do we use creativity as a smoke screen? A way to be consumed with ourselves, our Amazon reviews, or our latest rankings as some sort of attempt to prove our own worth or to puff up our battered pride?

Heart _Idols are sneaky things. They come disguised as good things. Great things, and they are. The problem is not the idol. The issue is the shift of devotion that occurs in our own hearts. 

Take our children, for example. Are there more beautiful treasures? We sacrifice for them. We plan for them. We give and dream and hope and pray. We lose sleep and hair and sometimes our sanity, all because our love for them is so great, we can do nothing less than give them our all. I get it.

However, I cringe when I hear parents say they couldn’t live if something happened to their child. Our hope should never, ever be based on our children. No parent should outlive their child, but it happens all the time. I’ve outlived two of mine.

I grieve and cry but I have hope. In the words of King David when his own infant son died, “He cannot come to me, but I will go to him.” Because of Jesus, I have a bright, secure future and a peace that remains steadfast, despite the chaos swirling around me. I am not defeated. I am not destroyed. corrie ten boom hold everything lightly

I like the way Corrie Ten Boom put it. “Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.” Whether it’s career ambition, money, material possessions, relationships, awards, children, attention, approval, busyness, entertainment or even yourself, beware of idols. Keep your heart on the One who created it. Don’t give your devotion to something or someone that cannot save. The temporary satisfaction they provide will soon become a consuming pit that will only leave emptiness and regret behind.

Stories are not your babies. They are products.

And babies are cute, but remember, they are also exhausting. Choose wisely.