Thursday, March 19, 2015
Guest blogger: Connie Stevens
After my son died in 2006, my writing took a hiatus. I couldn’t find it within me to create anything, much less a happily-ever-after. So I fell back onto the profusion of Post-It notes stuck throughout my Bible on which I had scribbled down my thoughts, prayers, devotions, and those precious nuggets God gave me during the months of our cancer journey. These heart lessons became lifelines, pulling me from the depths of my grief, and for months I worked rewriting those notes. The compilation turned into a collection of devotionals that was rejected by every publishing house to which I submitted. Despite discouragement blending with my ongoing sorrow, I decided perhaps the writing of the devotionals was purely therapeutic—part of my own healing process. But I was still at loose ends, not only in regards to the direction for my writing, but also my own self-identity.
While I was comforted by God’s constant assurance that Jonathan was Home and safe and whole and cancer-free, there was a raw, gaping wound in my heart. Jonathan was healed, but I wasn’t. I wasn’t a mother anymore, I wasn’t a caregiver anymore, and it seemed I wasn’t a writer either.
The story I had begun at the time of my son’s illness languished in my files. When I pulled it up and looked over the storyline, it read as though someone else had written it—someone I didn’t know. The characters were strangers—Who were these people? Nothing about the synopsis felt familiar. I closed the file and stared at the blank screen.
I sought God’s face and asked, “Lord, where do I go from here? If You want me to continue to write, show me. How do I pick up the shattered brokenness of my heart and assemble the fragments back into a whole?”
Leaning on the Lord’s strength, I made myself pull that barely-started manuscript back out. If He was still calling me to write, He would give me the story and help me breathe life into the faceless characters. So I labored over the chapters, but no matter how long or hard I worked, there was still something missing.
Later that year I took my hollow story to a novelist retreat. One of the workshops, taught by the best-selling, award-winning author, DiAnn Mills, was about injecting more emotion into the opening scene. She started out by instructing everyone to take a sheet of paper, close their eyes and think of the worst thing that ever happened to them. Blindsided, I sat paralyzed for the space of several seconds. What could be worse than sitting at the bedside of my only child and watching him take his last breath? Then DiAnn did the unthinkable: she instructed us to write out the scene.
I stared at the blank paper. Could I actually craft the words to depict the events of that moment when I said my last goodbye? I had never considered writing it all out. Writing the devotionals had been different. They were kisses of truth God taught me during the darkest days of our cancer journey. But forming the words to spill my most heart-rending emotions onto the page—could I do that?
Oh God, how do I slice open my heart and lay it bare and vulnerable, throwing light on the hidden, secret places of my grief?
I pushed the pen across the paper and the words began to flow along with my tears. DiAnn stepped quietly to my side and gently whispered if the exercise was too hard, I didn’t have to do it. It was then I realized that, yes, I did have to do it. For more than three years since Jonathan’s Home-going, I had kept my deepest sorrow shuttered away when all the while God was patiently waiting for me to simply trust Him with my most private emotions.
Through the vehicle of putting words on paper—and some gentle prodding by a godly mentor—my imprisoned emotions found freedom. The scene spilled out, barely a trickle at first, but gaining momentum, until a waterfall cascaded forth. I wrote it all—the pain, the conflict, the bewilderment, the guilt, the anguish of my heart--until I was spent.
Then DiAnn told the class to use those same emotions and rewrite the opening scene of our stories, and give those emotions to our characters. For the first time, I saw my character breathe. Her pulse pounded in my ears, and her tears flowed down my cheeks. Her voice echoed from my heart when I infused her with those intimate emotions I’d kept sequestered for so long.
I had not considered my fiction writing as an outlet for the feelings I’d bound up. I had come to realize people didn’t understand the depth of my grief, and that was okay. I didn’t expect them to understand. I praised God they didn’t understand, and prayed they would never understand. But here was a way—cracking open the doorway to allow people to glimpse a shattered heart and perhaps in doing so, they could gain a new perspective into compassion.
2nd Corinthians 1:3-4 says, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. God does not comfort us to make us comfortable. He comforts us to make us comforters. If God can use my grief to minister to another heart, if He can use my writing to illustrate compassion, then I’m willing to let Him have all of me. He has made anew my perspective into the direction for my writing, and He didn’t waste a single one of my tears.
~ By Connie Stevens
Connie Stevens lives with her husband of forty-plus years in north Georgia, within sight of her beloved mountains. She and her husband are both active in a variety of ministries at their church. A lifelong reader, Connie began creating stories by the time she was ten. Her office manager and writing muse is a cat, but she’s never more than a phone call or email away from her critique partners. She enjoys gardening and quilting, but one of her favorite pastimes is browsing antique shops where story ideas often take root in her imagination. Connie has been a member of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2000. You can read more about her books at this Amazon link.
Connect with Connie:
Website & blog: www.conniestevenswrites.com
Threads of Time Also at Amazon
A Place of Refuge