My daughter is a jerktoid.
There, I said it. I know it’s harsh, but it’s true.
She’s selfish, stubborn, and abrasive. She whines and shouts, emotion spilling uncontrollably down her face when things don’t go her way. Then she strikes me in the face when I don’t cave in to her antics.
It’s like raising a viper.
In short, she’s difficult to get along with.
Some would say she’s this way because she’s only two-years-old. And for a while, I was fooled into believing them. But lately, I’m beginning to suspect all of this is engrained into her DNA. She runs on raw emotion as surely as she runs on her two, tiny feet.
And, quite frankly, I’ve questioned whether I really like that.
It’s a difficult question—whether or not you like your own child—and it’s one I find myself ashamed or embarrassed to ask. (Isn’t every mother supposed to love her babies with unwavering ferocity?)
So I tiptoed around it gently, sizing up every angle before coming to my conclusion:
There are many times I really don’t like who she is as a person.
But she’s my daughter, for crying out loud, and I love her.
It knots my stomach to think about our future relationship. One where if I let my liking for her overcome my love for her, we would surely part ways—and do so bitterly. She’d be glad to be rid of me, and I’d inhale in the drama-free air after she goes.
I don’t want that at all.
I want a relationship with her now and when she’s grown. But to do that, I must show her love now. Even when I don’t want to. Even when it’s hard.
Even when I don’t like her.
To do that, there needs to be a truce. A laying down of our weapons. A reconciliation of sorts.
And since she’s only two, I will hoist the burden of that onto my own shoulders. I choose—willingly—to make the greater sacrifice so that she and I can be close.
That, I realize, is exactly what my Father has done for me.
I’m selfish, impatient, and stubborn to a fault. I whine and self-pity, emotion spilling uncontrollably down my face when my comfortable life seems too hard.
It’s like raising a serpent.
In short, I can be difficult to get along with.
I’m beginning to suspect that aspect of me is engrained into my DNA. I function on sin as surely as I do on a good night’s sleep and a full cup of coffee.
And, quite frankly, I’ve questioned whether God really likes that.
It’s a difficult question—whether or not you’re liked by your own Father—and it’s one I find myself ashamed or embarrassed to ask.
It knots my stomach to think about our future relationship. One where if He let his liking for me overcome his love for me, we would surely part ways—and do so bitterly.
But He doesn’t want that at all.
He wants a relationship with me now and in heaven. But to do that, He must show me love now. Even when it’s hard.
To do that, there needs to be a truce. A laying down of our weapons. A reconciliation of sorts.
And since I’m only human, He hoisted the burden of that onto His own shoulders. He chose—willingly—to make the greater sacrifice so that we could be close.
He says so right there in His own living Word:
“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: that while we were still jerktoids (rough translation), Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
A few weeks ago, we took my son to the doctor for his first well-visit. After his near-death entrance into the world (which I talk about here), we held our breath while the doctor examined every crevice, every pore, scouring the kid for any signs of malfunction or injury.
Doc flipped the baby over and inspected each tiny vertebrae running up his back. “He had a bit of a rough start, but I’d say he’s just about perfect now.”
No signs of brain or skull trauma. No jaundice. No heart problems like there had been during labor and delivery.
My son was normal. Perfectly normal.
When it came to height and weight, my baby boy was smack dab in the middle, percentile-wise. His head circumference was shockingly average. And, just like other babies his age, his developing eyes could only see 7-9 inches in front of his face.
There he was—my perfectly normal miracle baby—wiggling on the table, each move crinkling the white paper beneath him. I reached for him then, cradling his delicate neck in my palm.
And he flinched. At his own mother’s embrace.
I eyeballed my arms to estimate their length. Way longer than 7-9 inches.
How could he know someone was going to pick him up? To him, I was just some blurry blob in the distance.
I lifted him and held him close, inserting my face into his tiny world. “Come here, big guy.”
He looked bewildered—completely lost—as his head bobbed around, his bulging eyes searching for the source of my voice. When his frantic gaze landed on my face, he blinked in recognition and his body melted into my arms. Finally, a bit of peace. A glimpse of home in his overwhelming world.
Like my son, I, too am a little short-sighted. But my vision isn’t measured in centimeters or inches. It’s measured in days, weeks, and years.
In the scheme of eternity, my entire life is a mere 7-9 inches.
And I’m so focused on those few, minuscule inches, I’m often blind to the blurry Kingdom beyond.
Instead, I dream within the confines of my limited view, squinting to its farthest reaches to regurgitate how I envision my life to unfold:
- Published author
- Respected mother
- Flawless homemaker
- Supportive, loving wife
And what do I do?
I set my short sights on those pursuits and work relentlessly to win the world, not the Kingdom.
There are no signs of stopping. No breathers. No quitting.
Which, I’ve discovered is normal. Perfectly normal.
Here I am—your typical run-of-the-mill, Type A overachiever—wiggling through life, ramming headfirst into any walls that try to stop me. I’m sure I look bewildered—completely lost—as I scurry about, tirelessly striving to attain everything I can in this short life.
He reaches for me then, cradling my delicate neck in His palm.
And I flinch. At my own Father’s embrace.
How could I know He was going to pick me up? He was just some blurry blob in the distance.
He lifts me and holds me close, inserting himself into my tiny world. “Come here, big girl.”
When my frantic gaze lands on His face, I blink in recognition and my body melts into His arms.
Finally, a bit of peace.
A glimpse of home inside my overwhelming world.
Over the past few years, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know author Laurie Germaine. Not only is this Montana-dweller a talented writer, she’s also a loving wife, a wonderful mom, and an overall incredible woman of God. The writing on her blog is honest and beautiful, and her fiction is downright hilarious. Her upcoming novel, Tinsel in a Tangle, is all of those combined—and it’s hitting electronic bookshelves October 3rd.
In Tinsel in a Tangle, seventeen-year-old Tinsel pursues an esteemed position at Santa’s Workshop, but her clumsy ways make a mess of Christmas worldwide. Now, the only position in her future is a permanent spot on the Naughty List—unless she can redeem herself with the help of some über-talkative reindeer…and one annoyingly cute Kringle.
I got to catch up with Laurie at this year’s American Christian Fiction Writer’s (ACFW) Conference in Dallas, where we delved into her upcoming book and what it’s like to be a writer. Here’s what she had to say…
Why do you write?
Because I can’t not write. I usually have characters jabbering around in my head, wanting to be set free on “paper,” so I try to figure out their stories and write them down. I’m not as quick at this as other writers, but you know you’re passionate about something when you inhale nonfiction books on the subject like they’re bonbons from a confectionery shop. I also look at writing stories as a way for me to (hopefully) encourage other believers in their faith as they follow my characters through their different struggles and doubts.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? How did you turn that dream into a reality?
I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since elementary school, but even though I wrote throughout my childhood, I couldn’t give it the attention it required until after I graduated college, when I no longer had homework and exams hanging overhead. That’s when I began to turn the dream into a reality. I wrote every spare minute, studied any book on the craft I could find, and completed a correspondence course with the Institute of Children’s Literature. Then, several years ago,
I became a member of ACFW, an online writing community that offers—among other options—monthly courses and a critique loop (which I highly recommend).
The journey has taken longer than my child-self imagined, since negative self-talk and postpartum depression have been huge obstacles to maneuver over the years. I used to feel apologetic about that, but I’ve just recently come to realize this is not a failure. I am, in fact, a success story because I’ve persevered and accomplished my goal despite the depression and self-derision.
Tell us about your upcoming book, Tinsel in a Tangle.
It’s a Christmas fantasy-romance about a seventeen-year-old elf and her misadventures as she vies for an esteemed position at Santa’s Workshop. When her clumsy ways end up putting Christmas in jeopardy, Tinsel lands a punishment mucking reindeer stalls for Santa’s hotshot grandson, Niklas. If she wants a second chance at that internship, she must collaborate with the twinkle-eyed flirt to redeem herself in everyone’s eyes—provided she doesn’t mess up again. For one more calamity will not only bring about the holiday’s demise, Tinsel will be immortalized as the elf who shattered children’s faith in Santa Claus.
So not the way she wants to go down in history.
How did you come up with the idea for Tinsel?
Two pictures inspired the foundation for Tinsel. First, long ago, my mom had given me a 1000-piece puzzle depicting Dept 56’s North Pole Series, and I was instantly smitten. I knew then that I wanted to write a full-length novel showcasing the fantasy side of Christmas, but I didn’t know anything beyond that. Not the characters, not the plot. So I tucked it away for another day. Second, I love that picture of Santa kneeling at the manger. If it weren’t for Jesus’ birth, stories of Santa wouldn’t exist, and I wanted to play off the idea that Santa knows his purpose is to point people to the real Reason for the season. Fast-forward almost ten years to December of 2012, when my writer’s group had a short writing assignment for a Christmas party. In brainstorming for the assignment, I suddenly discovered who my two main characters were, and then through an ACFW course in February of ’13, I discovered the story’s plot and began fleshing it out.
Give us an insight into your main character. What is she like and how is she special/unique?
Tinsel is optimistic and determined. She’s different from the other elves in that she’s human-sized (thanks to her great-grandmother’s unorthodox decision many decades earlier), so she’s constantly fighting an uphill battle to prove her worth to the community. When serving a Penalty for yet another mishap, she discovers she can talk to the reindeer, a talent unique not only among the elves, but also among the Kringle family members.
Which actress would you envision playing Tinsel?
Ooo, that’s a tough question, since I’ve always envisioned a fun, CGI-animated version of Tinsel. After mulling it over, however (and doing some online sleuthing), I think Mackenzie Foy would make a cute, quirky Tinsel. All she needs to do is dye her hair red for a few months of filming. 😉
Which character from Tinsel do you most relate to and why?
Never mind. This is the tough question. Oy. I think I relate most to Tinsel’s friend, Gina. If I’m blessed to write a sequel to Tinsel, Gina will play a larger role, and I’ve discovered our tastes are similar. Who knew we’d share a doll fetish?
Tinsel in a Tangle is a young adult Christmas novel, which is a pretty specific genre. What draws you to that particular niche? Do you plan to keep writing in that genre or will you try your hand at others too?
I’ve always been crazy in love with Christmas. The decorations, the lights, hot cocoa, snow days…for me, it really is the most wonderful time of the year. And since I had so much fun writing Tinsel, I’m sure I’ll write another Christmas novel. But I also have some ideas for inspirational romances and a YA fantasy I’d love to flesh out.
Where can readers find Tinsel in a Tangle and get their hands on a copy?
The digital format is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks. A paperback version is not yet available, but I’m optimistic (see? I’m learning from Tinsel) that it will be an option through Amazon before this Christmas season is over.
I love what you’re doing with the proceeds from this book. Will you tell us a little more about that?
In a nutshell, I read a nonfiction book several years ago that broke my heart and brought me to a place where I promised God my first published book. Kind of like how Hannah promised God her firstborn son in 1 Samuel 1-2. So, all the proceeds I receive from the sale of Tinsel will go toward helping girls rescued from sex trafficking. Initially, I will donate to Agape International Ministries, agapewebsite.org, but there are two USA-based ministries that have caught my eye, as well. Over time, I might give to one or both of them. Please don’t put me on any kind of pedestal, though, as I often wrestle with generous giving. This is more a matter of being obedient to what I feel God has put on my heart.
What was your favorite thing about writing Tinsel? What was the hardest?
Writing Tinsel was cathartic for me, since I was trying to rediscover my joy in the craft. At the onset, I asked myself what makes me happy, what makes me smile, and the answer was a no-brainer: Christmas and German. Thus, getting to stay in the Christmas mindset for almost three years and playing around with the German language were my two favorite things. Figuring out the climax of the story was the hardest. That section, and the chapters surrounding it, went through many more revisions than the rest of the novel.
Tell us about your cover (it’s so cute!) and how it came about.
Clean Reads uses a couple different designers for their book covers, and Amanda from AM Design Studios created mine. Taking into consideration the back-cover blurb of my story and an image I was drawn to from Shutterstock, Amanda came up with the end result. I was soooo giddy when I first saw it, because let’s face it, people do judge books by their covers, and this one reflects everything about Tinsel: the red dress connotes Christmas and romance, the pose of the girl speaks to its whimsical nature, promising the reader some good chuckles along the way, and there’s even a reindeer in the background, an animal crucial to the success of Tinsel’s story.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
I’ve been a huge fan of Janette Rallison for a long time, have recently fallen in love with Kasie West’s books (P.S. I Love You and On the Fence are my two faves), and I discovered Kristin Rae a few years ago with her debut novel, Wish You Were Italian. All three are extremely talented writers.
What advice do you have for writers?
Oh man, you might have just opened a can of worms.
Learn the craft, learn the “rules,” then write until you know those rules so well, you know when you’re breaking them and why. It’s so easy these days to publish your work on Amazon, but just because you can doesn’t necessarily mean you should. You might not be ready, and you really want to present the world with your best work.
Writing a book is similar to becoming a doctor, actually. It takes a lot of time and study to do it well. Most successful authors (if not all authors, period) stand on a foundation of manuscripts that will never leave their computers or laptops. I certainly have mine. Write your best work, learn as you go, and then be willing to set it aside if need be and start on a new manuscript. Don’t think of that first, second, or third manuscript as lost time or effort, since you will be pouring into the new manuscript everything you learned from working on the first one(s). And never forget a writer is always learning, no matter how many books are under his/her belt. I had studied the craft for over 15 years by the time I put Tinsel through the ACFW critique loop, and I was floored by how much I still learned from the other writers critiquing my “baby.”
How can readers find out more about you and your work?
Two weeks ago, my son entered the world.
It took a lot of work to get him here, including 20 hours of labor, an emergency c-section, and a ton of healing. When the doctor pulled him from my womb, it was clear my baby had been through the wringer. His forehead protruded outward over his swollen-shut eyes, the back of his head flopped to the side like a smashed melon, and bruises blotched every inch of his face.
It’s no wonder when he arrived, all he wanted to do was sleep (praise the good Lord!)
He’d fall asleep in the hospital incubator, bundled tightly in blankets spotted with blue and pink footprints. He’d find comfort in the arms of friends and family, barely waking as they passed him from one person to the next. He even slept cozily in the arms of night nurses whom he’d never met.
Over time, the injuries from labor and delivery faded away. The swelling was first to recede, then the bruises. Bit by bit, my son’s face—who he really was—began to emerge.
I smiled down at his healing face, his head too heavy for his narrow neck, and cradled him in the crook of my elbow.
This was my favorite of all his resting spots. Right there in my arms, close enough to feel his choppy breaths on my skin. Close enough to admire my handheld miracle as he whimpered and adjusted himself in my arms.
Before my eyes, I witnessed the wounds lift from his cheeks, his lips, his forehead—as though the damage simply evaporated into the air, leaving behind the gentle, spotless skin of a newborn.
Deformity to perfection. All he had to do was rest.
Where do I rest? I wondered after nearly 36 hours of no sleep.
In my delirium, I pictured myself trying to get cozy in the folds of my wallet, constantly distressed by its lack of cushion. All too often, I toss and turn there, unable to relax, as suffocation sucks life from my chest.
If only I could pad the pockets, I could rest easier, I lie.
But the truth is I typically squirm out of the arms of the One who offers true rest.
Only when I lay my weary-laden head in the crook of my Father’s elbow can I truly find peace. Only then can the swelling of my sin recede. Bit by bit, my face—who I was really created to be—begins to emerge.
He smiles down at my healing face, my head too heavy for my weakened spirit, as He cradles me.
This is His favorite of all my resting spots. Right there in His arms, close enough to feel my breath grow calm against his Sacred Heart. Close enough to admire His miraculous handiwork as I whimper and adjust myself in His arms.
He gazes into my small face and then lifts the wounds of sin, leaving behind the gentle, spotless skin of a newborn.
Deformity to perfection.
All I have to do is rest in Him.
My two-year-old recently realized she can do lots of things for herself. It may take her forever and a day, but by golly, she’s going to do it.
“I got it.” Her gaze never waivers from the task at her tiny hands.
Buttoning her shirt? She’s got it.
Putting her socks and shoes on? She’s got it.
Brushing her teeth? She’s got it.
Or so she thinks. But there are times when she doesn’t ‘ got’ it.
There are times—like when she’s trying to buckle herself into her car seat—that her tiny thumbs simply aren’t strong enough to click the buckle together.
But that doesn’t stop her from pushing down with all her might, trying to force the thing together with sheer will, her face reddening with strain. Barely breathing, she squeezes her eyes shut, and I gently guide her along.
My daughter’s eyes pop open as a smile springs into her cheeks. “I did it!”
My heart melts at her enthusiasm and swells over her small accomplishment. I know that feeling—the seemingly impossible task, the struggle, the doubt, and the sweet, semi-unexpected victory.
Like my daughter, I am stubborn to a fault. I work tirelessly, my body and soul strained to the brink of collapse, refusing to give up. On anything. Ever.
I got it.
Like my daughter, accomplishment has lit my face, the thrill burning so deeply inside me it glistens in my eyes.
I got it.
But really, there are times when I don’t ‘got’ it. There are times when I’m simply not able to do everything on my own.
Of course, that doesn’t stop me from pushing through with all my might, trying to force things together with sheer will, my face reddening with strain. Barely breathing, I squeeze my eyes shut and work harder.
And, like my daughter, I get so consumed in the struggle, I completely miss the invisible hand that guides me along.
So now, as the demands in my life multiply, I choose to open my eyes and search for the only One whose hand can click things into place.
The truth is, I don’t got it.
I’ve got Him. And that’s way better.
I’m convinced my daughters are lizards. Chameleons, to be exact. They—along with all other kids their age—have an uncanny ability to transform into anyone they’ve been near.
My kids see everything that other kids do, then they want to do everything other kids do.
And it is disturbing to watch your own flesh-and-blood become someone else.
Just the other day, my four-year-old strapped herself into her carseat and began to morph into a girl she’d been spending time with recently. She crossed her arms over her chest, scrunched her nose, and huffed.
“I’m hungry. I want to eat.”
If I hadn’t been looking, I might have thought my daughter’s friend sneaked into our car and planned to stay with us—the mannerisms were that spot on. Even my daughter’s voice changed to copy this other girl.
It was terrifying.
And downright infuriating.
In my most dire attempt to stay patient, I closed my eyes and sighed. “Marie, I love you most when you’re most like you.”
“What do you mean?” Her pouty face stared at me from the backseat.
I know my daughter in her truest form. She’s a girl who earns special treats for being kind, then wants to wait at the end of an imaginary line while insisting her invisible ‘friends’ get the goodies first. She’s a girl who gives toys to babies and tickles their toes just to make them smile. She’s a girl who loves people greatly.
But in that moment, her future flooded my mind—school, sports, dreams, boys, jobs, a family of her own perhaps.
How different would she be at the end of her journey? Would the Marie I know fade away over time?
I glanced back into her little face—the one she had finally stopped scrunching—and my heart reached for her. It begged for my daughter to cherish and protect who she is at her core, the way I do. But it’d be impossible to explain that to a four-year-old.
“When you become like someone else, you disappear.” I exhaled and shrugged. “Please don’t disappear.”
But, I realized, I, too, am a chameleon. We all are, really. We see everything in the world, and then we want to do all those things.
And I bet it is disturbing for our Father to watch His children mimic someone else. Especially when the only other one we can truly mimic is His enemy.
Just the other day, I watched my daughters push and hit each other because they both wanted to be the “red triangle” in the book they were reading.
“Girls, stop,” I said.
More pushing and hitting.
Fire surged through my nostrils, and my teeth withered to bits as I ground them together. I stomped over and roughly separated the small children.
If God hadn’t been looking, He might have believed Satan sneaked into my soul and planned to stay with me—the mannerisms were that spot on. Even my voice changed to copy the Enemy.
It was terrifying.
And, for God, it was probably downright infuriating.
“Kelsey,” He whispered, “I love you most when you are most like you.”
I finally unclenched my teeth and rubbed my aching jaw. “What do you mean?”
He glanced into my face, and His heart reached for me. It begged for me to cherish and protect who I am, the way He does. He pleaded for me to remember who I am at my core—a human made in God’s own image. A girl made to be godly.
My Father exhaled and shrugged. “When you become like that someone else, you and I both disappear.”
My daughters strut out of my bedroom with adult-sized purses dangling from their shoulders. Sippy cups peek through the zipper as the bags drag across the floor.
My oldest daughter adjusts her neon green sunglasses, resting them perfectly atop her head. “Um, excuse me,” she says to me, “do you work for the train station?”
I pause my dish washing and throw the damp towel over my shoulder. “Why, yes I do, ma’am. How can I help you?”
“Where can I find the CMO Red Line?”
“You’re almost there,” I say. “Just take a sharp right at the kitchen counter and head straight. When you’ve reached the floral rug, you’re there. I believe the next train leaves in 10 minutes.”
“Thank you.” She nods like everything I said made any sense, then turns to her little sister. “Come on, Elizabeth, we don’t want to be late for work.”
Elizabeth nods in response, hefting the empty purse onto her shoulder before chasing her big sis across the house.
My heart overflows as they scamper away, and I can’t help but smile. My daughters. So grown up. So ready to be big.
They think they’ve got it all figured out. I shake my head at their trivialized concept of adult life. If they only knew.
After cleaning the dishes, I shuffle the girls into the (real) van, drop them off with the babysitter, and head to a coffee shop for a few hours to write. After all, writing is my God-given calling and I feel like I’ve been slacking. I’ve got blog posts to catch up on, endless revisions to make for Capacity, a begrudging need to start the second novel in my trilogy, and a brand new idea I’m excited to begin. Just thinking about all the words that need to come from my brain exhausts me, so I sip my caffeinated drink and pull out my laptop.
As I take my sunglasses off and place them in my bag beside my water bottle, I can almost hear God laughing.
My daughter. So grown up. She thinks she’s got it all figured out.
He shakes his head and smiles at my trivialized concept of Christian life.
If she only knew.
Sick kids are the worst.
They either calm down and curl up, breaking your heart to pieces, or they suddenly hate everything in the world. You along with it.
My youngest is the hate-everything-in-the-world type. The kind who won’t sleep, won’t eat, but will shout her head off. Constantly.
And she’s been sick for the past week.
At first, my mom-sympathy kicked in. I held her, rocked her, shushed her. I let her scream in my ear all day, then again all night when she couldn’t get comfortable enough to sleep.
The kid had a temperature of 103 and a vehement refusal to slurp down baby Advil. Snot stretched across her face, sticking to her cheeks, the back of her hands, and everything she touched. Not to mention, all her coughs seemed to land directly in my mouth. Then blisters appeared on her tongue and she put herself on a strict animal cracker and ice cream diet. Anything else I offered—including food she specifically asked for—were left uneaten.
She’d poke it with her sticky, snot-covered finger, then grimace as though I just offered her arsenic. “Me no like it.”
“Are you kidding?” Anger swirled inside me. “You asked for this peanut butter sandwich.”
By the third day, my mom-sympathy had vanished completely. I was desperately low on hand soap, baby wipes, and patience for my daughter. Seeing her face in the morning made me want to hide beneath my covers, and the sound of her whining nearly sent me running out the door.
Like I said, sick kids are the worst.
I know, not only because I am a parent of a sick kid, but because I am a sick kid myself.
I’m the hate-everything kind. The one who pouts and self-pities and is never satisfied. But my illness isn’t sniffles, it’s sin. And I’ve been suffering with it for nearly 30 years.
Like my two-year-old, I’ve made tireless requests of my Father. And, because He is a good and generous gift-giver, He grants many of them. He fixes and provides, then slides the blessings in front of me.
I poke at them with my sticky, sin-covered finger, then grimace. “I want something else.”
Fortunately, however, we have a Parent who is much more patient than I am. A Parent whose love is much more perfect than mine could ever be. Instead of running for the door, He runs toward us, forever chasing after our contaminated hearts.
He’s not the grape-flavored Advil that masks the symptoms of our sickness. He is our cure, the only thing that can rid us of this death-inducing disease.
All we must do is drink Him in.
Everything’s bigger in Texas.
The geography, the portion sizes. Heck, even the weather. The hot is sweltering, the rains are laced with glass-shattering hail, and the winds rotate violently until they huff and puff and blow your house down.
Like last night.
Rain pummeled our house. Fist-sized pieces of ice pounded on the windows, threatening to break in. The candle on our countertop shuddered at the voice of wrathful thunder. In the darkness, my husband threw a towel on water gushing into our living room beneath our back door. I simply held my breath, listening for sirens.
“Daddy?” My daughter’s trembling voice floated above the noise. And, like the good father he is, he ran to her side.
The small girl hunkered in her bed beneath thick covers. “Will you hold me, Daddy?”
“Of course.” He laid down and curled himself around his little girl. A human shield. Her protector. “Would you like to say a prayer?”
They prayed together until the rain quieted to a soft tap against the windows.
“Looks like the hardest part of the storm is over,” he said. “Let’s try to get some rest now, okay?”
“Okay.” The shake in the girl’s voice betrayed her air of bravery. “Daddy? If there’s another hard storm, will you come back, please?”
He wrapped her in arms again and kissed her forehead. “Absolutely. You are safe. You are protected. You are loved.”
With that, he joined me back in our bedroom. And, knowing how much I hate Texas storms, he wrapped his arm around me, too. My human shield. My protector.
In his embrace, I could breathe. Having him there beside me gave me peace.
But in his arms, I realized I always try to weather storms on my own, holding my breath until I endure its totality. Never crying out for help. Rarely accepting it, if offered. I absorb life’s thunderstorms, withstanding the beating blows that pelt my skin, trying to outlast the devastation.
This storm will end sometime, I tell myself and grit my teeth. Just get through it.
And yet, even my three-year-old has figured out that storms pass more peacefully when she’s wrapped in the arms of her father.
If her father—a human shield—can provide that sort of peace and protection, how much more will my heavenly Father provide in times of hard storms?
I cry out to my Father now as I experience the struggles of this day—of this life—and ask Him to hold me. And, like the good Father that He is, He runs to my side. He lies down and curls Himself around His little girl. My shield. My protector. While the storms surge inside, trying to break me, He encourages me to pray with Him. To weather the storm with Him, instead of all by myself.
Finally, I relax. I breathe. Surrender.
He draws me closer then, and whispers His promises into my ear.
You are safe. You are protected. You are loved.
Up until about six years ago, I don’t think I’d ever heard the word ‘purgatory‘. I simply thought you died, your soul rose to heaven and you lived there forever. The end. Hallelujah and thanks be to God.
When I started researching the teachings of the Catholic Church, however, I discovered another stage in the afterlife experience. A refining process. A…purgatory.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines purgatory as a “purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” Purification, it says, is necessary since nothing unclean can enter the presence of God in heaven. Including our sin-stained souls. So even though our sins may be forgiven, we still have sins. We still have imperfections. Even after we die.
“What?” I asked, appalled. “You mean that I can spend an entire lifetime trying to be good and holy, and then there’s MORE work AFTER I die?”
The idea was overwhelming—exhausting, even—and I wasn’t sure if I had the courage or stamina for such an endeavor.
And then I started my writing career.
For years I worked as a journalist before branching out to begin my own projects. First on the list was this dystopian trilogy that had been burning in my heart.
I started writing it in a hotel lobby in San Francisco during a family vacation when my oldest daughter was 13 months old. Now, as she approaches her fourth birthday, I have witnessed my Capacity series grow from a stand-alone novel into a trilogy.
In doing so, I have slaved to improve my writing. I have studied the techniques of good writers, and hungrily consumed articles and books about writing. I have devoted hard-to-come-by spare time to bettering myself in this industry.
Years. I’ve spent years working hard to be skillful, and now I’ve reached revisions.
From a distance, revisions sound pleasant. Fun, even. Like frolicking through a bug-free meadow, scooping wild daisies in each hand, as my manuscript grows stronger with each step. The sun warms my skin from a cloudless, cerulean sky, and my novel—once a victim of incongruity and grammatical errors—is now fully whole. Complete.
In my hands, it radiates with newfound perfection.
Which is not only neat, it is necessary.
After all, no imperfect manuscript can enter the publishing world.
The problem is that revisions themselves are not fun. There are no meadows, no daisies, and certainly no sun-filled cerulean skies.
The result of revisions is heavenly, no doubt.
But revisions themselves are tedious and tough. They require vulnerability and thick skin. They demand you to scour your work for each imperfection—every tiny mistake—and eliminate it.
Then you must invite others to help you do that.
It’s not easy to give other people a magnifying glass and ask them to find all your blemishes. It’s uncomfortable, awkward, and sometimes downright humiliating. Some writers may not think they have the courage or stamina for such a purgatorial endeavor.
But, if anyone wants to enter the pearly gates of publishing, it is absolutely necessary.