Writing the first few chapters of my memoir, What Kind of Love is This?-Finding God in the Darkness, was hard, much harder than I anticipated. I am exhausted physically, spiritually, and emotionally. While the memoir focuses more on hope, redemption, and faith rather than detailed descriptions of the abuse that I endured, it sometimes left me raw. I thought I had processed all the baggage from my childhood, but writing my life as a story around a specific theme has peeled away more layers. I discovered that showing my readers what happened is much different than telling the story. Telling allows me to create some distance and describe events like the narrator of a documentary. Showing, on the other hand, puts me smack in the middle of the events. Those scenes brought new insights and understanding to aspects of my childhood that carried over into my adult life. My hope is my readers will see and feel the scenes through the eyes of the child I was rather than through the eyes of an adult recounting past events.
The biggest revelation came this week when I realized that writing the memoir has transformed memories from a slide show into a feature-length movie.
I am at the center of the action and experiencing nuances of events that were left out years ago when the memories surfaced. I also discovered that I still have grief work to do for the child that had no voice and suffered in silence. I am giving her a voice through the narrative, and she is speaking loud and clear. Her message is one of struggle to find hope amid the despair and loneliness created by my family. While I struggled to understand who Christ was and how He interacted with me, I found hope through my faith in Christ.
Writing the memoir has also brought an element of joy.
Several times I’ve smiled when I realize where a habit originated. Some seem rather silly, but they show the power of childhood experiences. For example, up until last Christmas, my kitchen décor consisted of 80s’ style grapevine themed everything. I didn’t know why
I liked grapevines, but the themed décor brought comfort to me. Then, as I worked on my memoir this week, I recalled that I escaped the chaos of my home by spending time in an old grape arbor in our backyard. I had encounters with Jesus in that enclosure that kept me sane during the time we lived in that house. Perhaps, subconsciously, the grapevine themed kitchenware provided that same comfort. (Yeah, I know that seems silly, but it made me smile.)
John 15:5- (ESV)
5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
I also realize that I cannot do this project in my own strength.
Early in the process, I created a group text with four women that have supported me through prayer many times over the last several years. Each time I begin writing, I send the message, writing now. I include a brief description of what my goal is and specific requests for the writing session. When I finish for the day, I send the message, done for the day. Knowing I have four powerful intercessors praying for me while I write gives me the courage and the stamina to complete the session.
I am revisiting self-care this week as I try to balance writing my story by getting enough rest, eating well, and taking care of other essential activities. Sometimes I write longer than I should because I feel an urgency to be done with it. I realize that I can’t just be done with it because that short changes the frightened, yet very strong little girl who is showing me parts of our story that I have not attended too. I recognize the need to take breaks, take naps, and listen to my favorite hymns frequently to stay grounded.
The process has not sent me back to the darkness of my early days of healing
I know the physical, emotional, and spiritual signals to prevent that from happening. I have tools that keep me in the present. I have friends and family who pray for and encourage me. I am not alone in this process. I am not reliving the trauma; instead, I am giving voice to a very strong young lady who never gave up and who trusted Jesus to keep her soul safe from destruction.
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