How Far Gone Is Too Far Gone? An Open Letter to the Prodigal I Forgot

Gosh. How long has it been? A little over three years, I think, since we last talked, and probably two years since the last time you crossed my mind. A little over seven years, I think, since I first started praying for you, and about four years since I stopped. And almost exactly five years since I plucked up the courage to be completely honest with you.

Until about two weeks ago, it never once occurred to me that you might think about and check in on me, although with me having a public platform, I suppose it’s easy enough for you to do. You said you were done and you seemed like you were done, and I guess I believed you more than I thought I did at the time, because in all of those searches of “Lydia Thomas blog” my analytics tell me have brought people to my blog, I never once thought it might be you.

I just … have not prayed for you or thought about you in years. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess.

I don’t say all that to make you feel small. I say it so you understand that for three years, I lived the pain. I cried myself to sleep over it more nights than I can count. I prayed, pleaded with God, and finally, railed at God in absolute rage. And I laid flat on my back, numb, until He extended a hand and pulled me up. And since then, it doesn’t hurt me anymore.

But I understand – I understand – it’s your turn now. I find myself both sorry for what you are experiencing right now, and not sorry at all. Sorry, because it’s got to hurt like hell, and not sorry at all, because you finally looked down.

You see, about six months after I plucked up the courage to be completely honest with you, I plucked up the courage to be completely honest with some other people who were involved as well. On the day I went to them, the preacher talked about how our society doesn’t like to feel pain and he brought up a medical condition called neuropathy, that is, a condition that causes people to lose their sense of feeling. In illustrating his the condition, I remember he said, “These people could be walking across a field of glass and be bleeding to death and not even know it.” And completely unbidden, a thought came to my mind, Unless someone tells them to look down.

And after that, when I would pray for you, I would ask God that you would just look down. I had a vision of myself standing on the edge of that field, pleading with you to turn around, and you laughed at me, because you were fine. “You’re bleeding!” I cried, but you laughed again. “If I was bleeding,” you said. “I would know it.” And as a last ditch effort, I pleaded, “Just look down.” Because if you would just look down, you would know you were bleeding out.

And I often tell people, that vision turned into a blog post, and then into an allegorical short story, and then into a novella. One of the hardest plot decisions I had to make was whether one of the characters who had spent most of the story in a forbidden field would look down or not, and what would happen when she did. Would she stay in the field or would she come out?

I’m not going to tell you what happened with her, but I want to tell you, what you’re experiencing right now? It means you’ve looked down, and you’re seeing everything is not good, you are not good. And now, you have a choice to make: keep pretending like nothing is wrong and press on or come out and begin the healing process.

And me? I’ve come back to the place where I was five years ago: the edge of the field. Why? I am here for you, no longer begging and pleading, but cheering. you. on. Because where you’ve been is not good enough for you, no matter how much you tell yourself it is. Because even though there’s not hope for this one thing you’ve been secretly been holding on to, there is hope for you. So I’m here to cheer you on, through every painstaking step out of the field, through everything you think you have to lose, through the cleansing of those old wounds, until you can say, “I’m good,” and it’s true.

“But he knows the way that I take;
    when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

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(Photo Credit: Three Rivers Deep)

 

 

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I Am NOT Writing A Romance

As I read over A Year with the Baptists, preparing to nail down the final draft before sending it to crit partners, this has become my mantra, “I am not writing a romance,” as if saying it makes it true. And if there’s something I avoid at all costs, it’s romance.

Strangely, though, whenever I read my manuscript, it feels an awful lot like chick lit. Granted, it’s not the fluffy or fuzzy kind, but still…

I don’t write romance.

I can’t write romance.

I must not write romance.

I am not writing a romance.

The other day I was reading through the various drafts of The Field as a sort of Ebenezer* with the upcoming release from Vox Dei, and I stumbled across two chapters that I had pulled between revisions two and three.

They were tender moments between one of my protagonists and her love interest, and in the margin of both, I had scribbled, “Irrelevant.” I remember being so sure romance could not and should not be part of their story. In the self-published version, I included about as much romance as I could stomach – of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it variety.

As I began prepping my manuscript for Vox Dei edits, I realized I either needed to beef up the romance between my charactersor do away with it all together. In an uncharacteristic move, I wove in more romance. (I know. I can’t believe it either.)

Even so, I am still fighting romance in Baptists. I mean, is there anything quite like two people falling for each other and sticking together come what may? Living life with someone else on your heart and mind, instead of doing what you want, when you want to do it?

That may not sound bad to some, but I’ve grown accustomed to being a single woman. I am always weighing the cost of giving my status up: what kind of drama am I inviting into my life when I enter a romantic relationship? Because I’m messy enough on my own – why add another person to the mix? What am I going to have to give up? My writing? Work? Ministry? Down time? What if it all keeps me from doing what I’m supposed to be doing? (I realize I’m not painting myself in the best light here, but this really is why I’m still single.)

I have tried cutting the romance. I want strong characters who aren’t afraid to turn down a relationship in order to get what they want. But my characters have minds of their own, and they want to be together. (That may sound crazy to my readers, but ask any writer, you can’t make your characters do anything they don’t want to do.)

Maybe I’m going soft, maybe I’m less cynical, but I think I’m just going to roll with it, and let things develop naturally between my Baptist characters. Maybe they’ll teach me something about love, romance, and relationships along the way.

*Ebenezer – literally means, “thus far the Lord has helped me.” Memorial and celebration.

#GetOutoftheField: Substance Abuse

The Google Dictionary (the very best dictionary, haha) defines substance abuse as “the overindulgence in or dependence on an addictive substance, especially alcohol and drugs.” (Emphasis mine so we understand exactly what we’re talking about – this is NOT about the self- and Spirit-controlled person taking part in legal substances as his or her conscience allows. This IS about being controlled by something that ultimately brings harm. You’ve got to know which one you are and act accordingly. Okay? Okay.)

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports,”According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 23.5 million persons aged 12 or older needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol abuse problem in 2009 (9.3 percent of persons aged 12 or older).” They go on to say that “there were 1.8 million admissions in 2008 for treatment of alcohol and drug abuse to facilities that report to State administrative data systems.” Substance abuse costs the United States $700 billion a year, and in 2009, a study found, “1 in 3 drivers killed in car accidents tested positive for drugs. Of those tested).” 

In the majority of cases, over-indulgence leads to dependence. That holds true for pretty much everything.

I understand substance abuse and addiction.

I’ve already briefly discussed my own history with over-the-counter drug abuse, as it pertains to my journey from self-destruction to worth. Here’s what I said about that dark season: “[I] started taking medicine to get to sleep and away.” Later, as a young adult I began to use alcohol as a means to numb myself as well, but at that time I was part of a community that spoke into it, and helped me out of it. For me, drugs have always been a means of escape, but others use them to heighten their senses.

It doesn’t really matter what the appeal of drugs are for any given person: in any case, we expect to feel better. And, in any case, we are gravely deceived.

There is a reason why at a certain limit we are considered “under the influence.” It’s because we cease to be who we are, and something else takes over. (Which is not to say we are absolved of the consequences of letting it get to that point). For example, I’m a reserved person by nature, but when I’ve been drinking I get really talkative. I have a loved one who doesn’t often express feelings, but becomes uncharacteristically affectionate when drinking. Another loved one shuts down completely.

The overindulgence and dependence impairs our judgment, and leads to death, be it the gradual decay of our own or a life that crosses our path at the wrong time. We will do anything to get our fix, again and again, even when it means abandoning and deceiving our loved ones. Given enough time, we will have given everything we have to make sure this substance stays in our lives.

Because we want something other than our reality, sometimes for good reason. Life is excruciating sometimes, and we turn to a substance to take that away.

But we are looking for healing in a place that can only destroy us.

My favorite of God’s names is Jehovah Rapha. It literally means, “I AM Healer.” Jesus proclaims Himself the Great Physician. He doesn’t deny our history, our pain – He simply says, “Come. I will give you rest.”

It’s not easy, because when Jesus heals, He’s not interested in slapping a bandaid on our ailments. He wants to cleanse them from the inside out. He wants to get to those wounds that we’ve been avoiding through substance abuse, and if we truly want to be healed, we have to walk with Him into some profoundly painful places. We will have to confront past abuse, or rejection, or abandonment, or broken relationships. We won’t be able to escape.

But He’ll be so patient and so gentle. He’ll hold our hands every step of the way. Because He loves us, and His thoughts toward us are a future and a hope. His thoughts toward us are abundant life.

John 10:10 says, “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Jesus doesn’t want us to live lives where we’re slowly losing ourselves and everything of value in our lives to a substance. He has life – where we feel what we feel and are still fully satisfied – for us.

We don’t have to stay in the Field.

If you struggle with substance abuse and addiction, please don’t struggle alone. Please seek the help of a substance abuse counselor and treatment center and a Jesus-following community who can speak into your life, build you up, and just love on you. Rest assured, you are loved – by God, by me, and by your loved ones.

For more #getoutofthefield posts, click here.

#GetOutoftheField: Abortion

With the Planned Parenthood controversy that recently came to light by way of the Center for Medical Progress, I thought I would kick the series off talking abortion. Since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, it’s estimated that there have been over 57 million abortions in the United States (National Right to Life), and that 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in her lifetime (1 in 3 Campaign).

If we’ve seen more than 57 million abortions since 1973, and 1 in 3 women will have an abortion, this means you and I have friends, sisters, aunts, cousins who have had and will have abortions, even women who regularly attend church and profess to know Christ.

Why? Why would my friend/sister/aunt/cousin have an abortion, especially one who professes to know Christ?

As a society, we’ve made abortion an issue of empowerment. For centuries, men have been able to sleep around, and have not borne the consequences in their bodies the way women have. This is about us being able to do what they do. Pregnancy no longer means that we will be judged for our sexual activity – nobody has to know. This is about us not wanting to acknowledge that what we are doing is not what we’re supposed to be doing. Pregnancy no longer means we have to publicly admit we’re not ready for motherhood when we give our babies to those who are prepared. This is about us not wanting to admit we actually can’t do it all. Pregnancy no longer means a nine month interruption and invasion of our bodies. This is about us doing what we want to do when we want to do it. 

I’m not making this up. According to studies, these are the main reasons women have abortions: “On average, women give at least 3 reasons for choosing abortion: 3/4 say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or other responsibilities; about 3/4 say they cannot afford a child; and 1/2 say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner (AGI)” (Abort 73). Occasionally (12%), “women included a physical problem with their health among reasons for having an abortion (NAF)”

Of course, there are instances when deciding whether or not to have an abortion is vastly more complex: the NAF says 1% of women studied report rape as the reason. I’ll be honest, I don’t know what would be going through my head if I was raped and conceived. I don’t know how I’d feel about carrying something inside of me that was forced into me for nine months, even if it is a little human being, even if there were wonderful, loving people who would take care of it once it got here. I don’t know. Women in this truly unwanted situation have my greatest compassion for the difficult decision they face.

But if it’s really about empowerment, how is it that 421 women have died in legal abortions since 1973 (Abort 73), not to mention the women who have died in operations like Kermit Gosnell’s? How is it that we don’t empower women to carry their pregnancies through to term, to give birth, to raise children, or if it would be best, to give their babies up for adoption? How is it that we agree it will be too hard with school and work? How is it that what is easily considered the most reputable women’s reproductive health organizations in the United States, Planned Parenthood, has been altering procedures to get what they need from the fetus? How is it that scientific research takes precedence over the lives of the unborn and their mothers? How is it that the laws about trafficking human beings are clear, but the laws about trafficking of fetal organs are “up to interpretation”?

No. Abortion is not about empowerment. Abortion is an industry that promotes and profits off of death under the guise of empowerment, and has left 57 million babies and their parents dead and dying in its wake. The tragedy is that many mothers (and fathers) don’t know what they’ve bought into until it’s already done, and by that point they think they are lost causes – some still don’t know. If you think about it, Abortion’s PR guy is brilliant.

I wonder how many mothers of aborted babies feel empowered, proud to have taken control of their lives. I wonder how long they’ll feel that way. For the rest of their lives? For only a little while until shame sets in and binds them, and they try to fend it off for the rest of their lives, alone? Do they blame the shame on cultural stigma, insisting they are fine and their decision was the right one?

Abortion is not okay. It’s the termination of a life that has no ability to speak up for its own rights. It tells women that there is nothing quite so important as an education and a career and being able to make her own decisions, whatever the cost for her or anyone else. It tells fathers that they have no say – they’re just the jerks who impregnated the woman, and now they have to live with her decisions. It leaves mothers, fathers, and their unborn vulnerable to industries that have their own best interests in mind – which are usually the furthest thing from the well-being of those in their care.

BUT, if you’ve had an abortion, and you’re feeling ashamed and isolated because of that decision, you can be okay. Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Of course, abortion (and any sin) grieves God, and that’s why it burdens us, but He never intended for us to be saddled with guilt about it for the rest of our lives. Satan, the Deceiver, is the one who tells us it can never be right, or worse still, that nothing is wrong.

Of course, there are dozens of resources, including SaveOne and Project Rachel, just waiting to hear your story and to walk with you to and through healing.

And Jesus. He wants to hear from and heal you too.

You don’t have to stay in the Field

It’s a Christmas Special!

Hello, lovelies.  🙂

Just wanted to let you know that today through December 25th, the paperback version of The Field is on sale for $6.50.  If you’re wanting to order and read it (and I’m not saying you are), this is the absolute BEST deal you’re going to get for it.

Here’s the synopsis:

Once upon a time there was a village. Along the south border of the village was a gravel road, and beyond the road, a field. This was no ordinary field, for it was strewn with waste from and trespass into it was expressly forbidden by the King.

Although they have been warned about the consequences of trespassing by village elders and even the King himself, Delilah, Lilly and Hava cross over at the counsel of a philosopher who promises liberation. In doing his bidding, they quickly realize they do not know what they had always felt sure of.

Through their respective encounters with the Field, Delilah, Lilly and Hava each take up their own roles in the age-old battle between the King and those who oppose him.

Yes, it’s an allegory; no, I don’t apologize for that.  There aren’t many guarantees in this life, but if you don’t appreciate allegory, you’re definitely not going to like my book.  (Fair warning).

However, if you like allegory, or you’re in late elementary or middle school, you’ll probably like it.

If you’re still not sure, check these posts out.

So, you know, click on over to Lulu and buy it if you’re interested.

Hard to Believe

It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since I graduated from the University of North Texas with my Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television, and Film.

It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since God told me to be still, and I didn’t, so I burned out instead.  In that place of burnout, though, I began to get niggling feelings about writing.  (I hadn’t focused on my personal fiction writing since before I went to college at sixteen).

It’s hard to believe it’s been one year since I started writing again in earnest, and in this time I’ve written a play, a book, and am over 35,000 words into my new novel (that doesn’t feel so new anymore).

It’s hard to believe that writing is my path, something so good, so enjoyable.

It’s hard to believe the passage of time, the transpiring of events in my life, how I’ve come into my own, and I’m different than I expected.

All of this reminds me that God is the masterful Author of my story, and that I need to be faithful with the stories He has given me to write.

 

I <3 Allegory

Believe it or not, The Field is not the only allegory I’ve ever written.  I love allegory.  Sometimes when I’m having difficulty expressing something, I take it back to an allegory or metaphor to better illustrate my point.  It helps me clarify my own thoughts about things.  (Sarcasm also does this for me, but I’ve come to find that allegory is just more pleasant for everyone involved).

Without further ado, my three most recent allegories (besides The Field).

Feast, Perfectly Adequate Meal, Snack Crackers: (More) Thoughts On Waiting:

Let’s say you’re about to make yourself a sandwich with a side of apple slices and a tall glass of water.

“Wait,” says your mom, “I’m making your very favorite meal in just a little bit.”

So you put all of the stuff for your sandwich away, because it’s your mom and you believe her, and you’d rather wait for your favorite meal anyway.

Several hours pass, and you’re getting hungry again.  Well, to be honest, you never stopped being hungry to begin with, you were just distracted by the prospect of something better.  Your mom is nowhere to be found, even though she said she was going to make your favorite meal in the world.  You’re starting to doubt whether she’ll make a meal at all, let alone your favorite.

Finally, you get tired of waiting, and you decide to make that sandwich anyway, except you open the refrigerator and discover that your little sister has used up all of the sandwich fixings on her own sandwich.  You’re a little bit angry at her, even though you reason with yourself that you shouldn’t be: after all, you’re the one who didn’t capitalize on that sandwich opportunity.  After all, what’s wrong with a sandwich? Your little sister certainly couldn’t tell you…(Read More)

What’s Inside Comes Out:

I once heard an illustration from the great Hudson Taylor.  Well, not from him, exactly, but from a preacher who attributed it to him.  Regardless, this illustration is now stuck in my mind.

Let’s say we have a glass of water, and it gets knocked over.  What happens?

“Well,” you might say, “you have a big mess to clean up.”

You’re missing my point, I think, so I try to rephrase my question.  What if it’s a glass of orange juice?

“Duh,” you say, “the orange juice goes everywhere.”

You are correct, of course, but still not understanding my point.

Whether we have a glass of water, or orange juice, or pop, or milk, or nothing at all, one thing is sure:  when that glass is knocked over, what is inside comes out(Read More)

The Master’s House:

Dear Cook,

How long has it been since you and the gardener and I came to work in the master’s house?  You have been given specific instructions regarding food and meals, he has been given specific instructions regarding horticulture, and I have been given specific instructions regarding the children. In spite of our different functions, we work in the same house, for the same family and there is a certain code of conduct required of us all: how we treat the family we work for, how we treat each other, and how we present the family when we leave the house. We each do our own parts and adhere to what is expected of us: you cook, he gardens, and I care for the children.

Of course there is the small problem of the butler.  He oversees the smooth running of the household, and while that may occasionally mean getting onto one of the staff if we are lagging behind, he has taken it upon himself more and more to micromanage us.  He insists on us doing every thing his way, even though many of the things he insists on us doing have not been specified by the master.  It seems our butler has forgotten that this is not his house, and he is not the master… (Read More)

Honestly, I believe allegory is the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down.  Some people think allegory deadens a point, but to a mind like mine, it really brings it alive.