The Detour Dilemma

I’m looking at a weird detour sign in my writing life. Not sure if it’s a detour worth taking, or one I should just ignore. It might even really be a caution sign. I’m not sure.

I write memoir, nonfiction, devotional-type essays, and poetry (which tends to be concrete and nonfiction). I’ve always said I could never write fiction. I love to read fiction, but I just don’t have the creativity to imagine an entire world and story line to write fiction. I’ll leave it to more creative minds.

This past weekend I took the train to Seattle to visit friends. With 3 ½ hours on the train each way, I thought I’d write in the peace and quiet, sans family interruptions. My plan was to get my nonfiction book submissions ready for the Oregon Christian Writers summer conference submission program. Turned out I put the wrong files on my new computer and the ones I needed are on my dead computer and on a back-up drive.

So I decide to finish reading “On Writing” by Stephen King, which my son gave me for Christmas. I’m intrigued by King’s writing method. He says he almost never plots a story. So, as OCW folks would say, he’s a pantser. Plotting, he says, makes the story stilted and dull. Instead, his books begin with a situation. For example, “Carrie” started as a situation involving an outcast girl with acne who was bullied. Then he added a “what if?” For “Carrie” it was “what if she had telekinetic powers?” Then he just writes what the characters do in that situation. He imagines what would happen if his “what if” came true.

I finished the book on the train ride home and thought, “Well, that was interesting, but I don’t write fiction.” I still had time before arriving in Portland, so I opened my Kindle and remembered I’d downloaded the sample of “Farenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury. I’ve been wanting to read it for some time. I love dystopian literature. I started reading it and when I got to the end of the sample I needed to know what happened next. As soon as I got home, I bought it and continued reading.

Then on Monday during my lunch hour I decided to see what the prompt was at dVerse Poets Pub. It involved flash fiction that had to include a certain phrase. You can read what I wrote here. It may not be perfect, but I realized that I apparently can write fiction!

Today I was off work for a medical procedure and while I was resting (per doctor’s orders), I continued to read “Farenheit 451.” I noticed that while Bradbury may have plotted this story, it’s more likely that he started with a situation and a “what if?” For this book, the “what if?” is something like “what if firemen started fires to burn books instead of putting out fires?” I suspect I’ll discover some other “what ifs” as I continue to read.

Then I had this strange idea for a dystopian novel, so I made some “what if” notes in my Color Note app on my phone. As I made dinner, other ideas for how the flash fiction I wrote yesterday could be the seed for the first chapter. The character in my flash fiction, Mary, started filling in some backstory details of how she came across the pregnancy test she used to determine she was pregnant.

And here I am, looking at this detour sign that’s calling me to delve into a writing genre I love to read but have never, ever, ever thought I would write. I think I’ll camp out here for a bit, ponder whether the detour is worth taking or is maybe the only safe way to go.

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An Interrupted Cry Restored

Mary stared, blinking, at the urine-covered stick—Please, only one line—as two lines appear. She tried to imagine the child in her arms, but the impression wouldn’t jell. When far away an interrupted cry breaks her heart, she sees him clearly. She knows she loves him already with a love she’s never known before.

You need to get rid of it, Joseph spouts.

This is your child too, she retorts. How can you be so flippant?

She tosses the test results in the trash, grabs her purse, and goes in search of someone who will care, someone who will help her do the right thing.

Joseph resolves to let her go, but the truth won’t let go of him. He races out the door after Mary. I’m sorry. I love you. We can find a way to do this. 

He gave her hope.

_______________________________

They’re starting a new prompt over at dVerse Poets Pub. They’re calling in Prosery. The prompt is to write a short, 144-word flash fiction piece with a given phrase or sentence in the middle. The given phrase for this first prosery prompt is “When far away an interrupted cry,” which comes from Robert Frost’s poem Acquainted with the Night.

 

 

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Sam Hall and Jesus

Johnny Cash is and always will be my number one favorite male singer. The next nine spots on my top ten list move around depending on my mood, but the Man in Black will forever be the master in my book.

My dad was a huge fan also. Any song by Cash brings back memories of listening to his music with my dad. I remember we had these old vinyl albums that were a mix of Cash, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard, and a few other original country singers. The center labels were silver and Dad drew pictures on each one so I would know what songs were on it even before I learned to read. My favorite was the picture of the Old Speckled Bird.

When his classic baritone ceased to grace this earth any longer in 2003, I took it almost as hard as when my own father died. It was like it was 1993 and Dad had died all over again.

Even though my son Benton never met his grandfather, I taught him to love Johnny Cash too. I played it in the car often when I was driving him to daycare, school, or swim lessons, and when we went shopping or to a friend’s house.

One time, when Benton was seven or eight, we were driving home from an errand listening to my new iPod. Johnny had been making his comeback with the American Recordings albums produced by Rick Rubin and John Carter Cash, and I had every one that had been released so far, including American IV: The Man Comes Around. That’s what was playing on this particular day.

From out of nowhere Benton asks, “I thought Johnny Cash sang Jesus songs? This is not a Jesus song.”

Paying closer attention to the lyrics I had to agree. “Sam Hall” is about a criminal standing on the gallows about to be hanged for his crimes. But instead of expressing remorse, Sam repeatedly says to those in the crowd, “Damn your eyes.” Yeah, not a Jesus song, and Benton did not like it. So I skipped to the next song, a remake of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” and all was well.

To this day, whenever I hear “Sam Hall” I can hear Benton in the back seat saying, “I thought Johnny Cash sang Jesus songs?” Now that he’s older, he has a greater appreciation for the range of subjects Cash has dealt with in his long, roller-coaster career. Even the ones about criminals.

____________________

I joined a new Facebook group called Everything Memoir with Suzy Flory. Each week Suzy posts a Memoir Starter prompt. I answered the first one as a comment to the post, but this week I had the idea to use her prompts to inspire blog posts.

This week’s prompt was: “What song or band or type of music brings up a memory or strong emotion for you? For this memoir prompt, think of the first time you heard that song, OR a moment when that song played and took you back to a different time in your life—and try to capture that moment in words. Music has the power to transport, to elevate, to transcend, to evoke another time, place, or person. Do that for your readers.”

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I Am the 1% — I’m Not Your Pro-Choice Poster Child

In the raging debate over whether abortion should be legal, those who claim to be pro-choice often cite cases of rape and incest as justifying easy access to abortion. What they fail to mention is that less than 1 percent of abortions are performed on women who are pregnant because of rape or incest.

I am part of that less-than-1-percent. Stop trying to make me your poster child for keeping abortion legal. I don’t want the job.

Pro-choice advocates argue that having legal access to abortion is essential for women’s rights. To have the right to kill our own children in the womb is essential for female empowerment. Okay, maybe they don’t say it quite like that. They use euphemisms like “reproductive autonomy” or “women’s reproductive health.”

My experience is that abortion is anything but empowering. In fact, I had an abortion because I felt powerless.

I was a rape victim at 14 and on that day I lost all sense of control and power. And I told no one. When it happened again—another date rape I was powerless to stop—I told no one. Then, when I was 17 and an older, married man drugged and raped me, I was thankful I couldn’t remember the details of the attack. I was not thankful that he got me pregnant.

And so abortion became my only option because I was powerless to keep this child that was part of me and yet her own person. What society and those I sought counsel from told me was that I couldn’t have that child and pursue my plans of going to college. I couldn’t have that child and be a successful person. I understood that I wasn’t strong enough or powerful enough to bear that child and live a fulfilling life.

Having a right to abort my child didn’t empower me; it stole any shred of feeling powerful that may have remained. Carrying out that right left me broken and more powerless than ever. I thought taking the life of my child would give me back my life, but I was never the same. The life I gained has been fraught with depression, addiction, and suicidal ideation. Although I’ve finally reached a place of peace, the years I lost can never be restored.

You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped injustice, You have eaten the fruit of lies.

Instead of empowering me, my abortion empowered my rapist to get off scot-free. The physical evidence of his transgression was destroyed. I was left with trauma upon trauma to contend with on my own.

In the case of incest, a father can abuse his teenage daughter, get her pregnant, then take her in for an abortion. He can thus destroy the evidence of his evil actions and continue abusing her. How is that empowering to the daughter?

In the case of prostitution, pimps can coerce prostitutes to have abortions so that they can get back to work. How is that empowering to women forced into that life?

Whether to have an abortion was supposed to be my choice, but I didn’t feel I had any other choice.

The right to have an abortion isn’t liberating or empowering.

Nobody wants to have an abortion. And if nobody wants to have an abortion, why are women doing it, 2800 times a day? If women doing something 2,800 times daily that they don’t want to do, this is not liberation we’ve won. We are colluding in a strange new form of oppression. Frederica Mathewes-Green, When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense.

So if less than 1 percent of abortions are because of rape or incest, what reasons account for the other 99 percent? According to a Guttmacher Institute survey, approximately 7 percent of abortions were because of significant health problems with the child or mother. I’ve personally known women—like my pastor’s wife—who were told their child had a significant health problem and would not survive, so she should abort. She chose not to and that same child is now 24 and thriving. So the only thing an abortion would have empowered her to do was to kill a child she dearly loves for no good reason.

The remaining 92 percent of abortions were sought for socio-economic reasons such as the financial inability to care for the child, or because the mother couldn’t pursue her college education or career if she had the child. None of these reasons sound like women being empowered. They sound like women being told what they are powerless to do.

I belong to a closed Facebook group called I Regret My Abortion. From time to time, women have joined this group seeking advice on what to do about an unplanned pregnancy. They are feeling pressured to have an abortion—either by family or by the father—but are conflicted because they don’t really want to. The recurring theme in these pleas for advice and help from a group that, based on its title, is clearly going to counsel them to NOT abort, is this: fear.

Women faced with an unplanned pregnancy are often afraid. What they need is someone to say: “You can do this.” “You are stronger than you think.” “There are resources to help you financially and emotionally.” “I’m here for you if you decide to have this child.”

But that’s not what we hear. Instead we are fed lies that compound our fear.

A woman who had had an abortion told me, “Everyone around me was saying they would ‘be there for me’ if I had the abortion, but no one said they’d ‘be there for me’ if I had the baby.” For everyone around the pregnant woman, abortion looks like the sensible choice. A woman who determines instead to continue an unplanned pregnancy looks like she’s being foolishly stubborn. It’s like she’s taken up some unreasonable hobby. People think, If she would only go off and do this one thing, everything would be fine. Frederica Mathewes-Green, When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense.

But when we do go off “and do this one thing,” everything isn’t fine. And we are left alone in our anger and grief. We are left to deal with the emotional fall-out that so often leads to depression, addiction, and even suicide.

Maybe instead of fighting for the right of a woman to kill her child so she can get ahead and live her life, we should fight for the right of women to be treated with respect, to be supported in a decision that affirms life—hers and her child’s.

Abortion doesn’t solve the problem of rape and incest. It doesn’t solve the problem of poverty and homelessness. It doesn’t solve the problem of fear of the future. It doesn’t solve any real problems, only imagined ones. Because a child isn’t a problem no matter how he or she was conceived.

So quit trying to use me—the rape victim who got pregnant—as your poster child for keeping abortion legal. I don’t want the job.

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The Truth about Riches

They say you can’t take it with you
That’s probably true

Money won’t pay your way
to get into heaven

Whether you are rich or poor
the price is the same
to atone for sin

Only Jesus, the half shekel,
will get you in

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For the Quadrille prompt at dVerse Poets Pub today, Kim wants us to write our 44-word gems using the word rich. Interesting timing since the message at church yesterday was about relationships being more important than possessions and wealth. I was going to use that message as the basis for my poem, but decided to go with one of my favorite Old Testament verses that points to Jesus.

For a longer discussion on this topic, check out my 2010 post here.

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Jesus Is All

He is all I need
Heavenly Bread on which to feed
Sustains me when spiritual hunger pains
Deeply mire my soul in chains

He is all I desire
Divine Light when darkness is dire
Illuminates the path of truth
Redeems me from sins of my youth

He is all I seek
Holy Gate a beacon to the weak
Beckons sheep who’ve gone astray
Into safety and out of the fray

He is all I hear
Good Shepherd‘s voice music to the ear
Bids me follow His lovely call
He will forever lay down His all

He is all I crave
Resurrection beyond the grave
Promises heaven-bound eternal Life
A final escape from this worldly strife

He is all I want
Way and Truth from a sweet font
Gives Life everlasting in arms of love
Leads me home to my Father above

He is all I know
True Vine into whom I grow
Supplies every strength I need
And grants mercy for which I plead

Before the patriarch Abraham was born
The Great I AM created the first morn
Jesus as man for my sin did atone
All I need as He reigns on His throne

***

This poem was previously published on Anchored Voices. It is based on the I Am statements of Jesus found in the Gospel of John. In these statements, Jesus revealed two important things. First, He is all we need. Second, He was God incarnate, referring to Himself as “I Am” just as God did to Moses from the burning bush.

Jesus said:
I am the bread of life (John 6: 48).
I am the light of the world (John 8:12).
I am the gate for the sheep (John 10:7).
I am the good shepherd (John 10:11).
I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).
I am the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6).
I am the true vine (John 15:1).
Before Abraham was born, I am! (John 8:58).

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Standing in the Son

Thank You, Lord, for the sunshine

Thank You, Jesus, for Your kindness

Every blessing You give is divine

Every gift from You is yes

Amen

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