The Battle Continues

 

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As I sit here on release day  for my second novel, I’m in awe. I have two books published. It’s surreal.

 

Three years ago, almost to the day, I began this journey. I finally gave in to my sisters’ urging (The none too subtle or gentle urging. More like shoving me off the cliff!), and sat down to start writing a book. I hit the keyboard with no idea what I was doing, no concept of how to get where I wanted to be.

 

I just wrote.

 

I stopped overthinking, let my fingers fly, and out poured the story that had been churning in my gut.

 

I was scared. Terrified, really. Putting so much of my own life into the tale was…exhausting, nerve-wracking, embarrassing, crazy-making, eye-opening, gut-wrenching, and so much more. I poured my blood, sweat, and tears onto those pages. Quite literally at times. I worked through my issues as Liz worked hers out on the page.

 

I faced my fears.

I unearthed those hidden hurts I’d buried so deep.

I confronted the rage inside me, rage I thought I’d conquered.

I walked through the agony, despair, and abandonment.

 

I met myself in those pages.

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The self I’d tried to forget and pretend didn’t exist. The self with her heart still isolated, cut off and determined not to really let anybody in. The self that never fully let herself trust. The self who raged at the world, at those who had hurt her, and yes, a little at God, for “letting” some of those things happen to her.

The self who had yet to forgive, and had no idea she was poisoning her life, holding herself back, limiting her own potential and hurting the ones she loved.

 

And as I climbed up in the middle of all that mess, as I waded through to find the true me, the true Liz, the whole story underneath all the debris, a miraculous thing happened.

 

I began to heal.

 

I cried. I laughed. I threw things. I laid into the heavy bag and split my knuckles open several times. (Don’t forget gloves.) I shivered and screamed and begged God. I opened myself up, every dark recess, every secret corner, and I looked that broken girl who had no idea she was still broken right in the eye. I begged her to forgive. To laugh. To love. To fight. To trust, like she’d never been capable of before.

She did.

Though the battle rages on, she continues to stand tall. To face her fears. To step into the hot zone and eliminate the threat.

And every time I write another installment of this story, my story, I pick up my sword and I face down those demons.

But I don’t go it alone.

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They say it takes an army. I’m convinced that is true.

The army behind me and my story? Second to none.

The only way I’ve gotten to this point is because they’ve been with me. No way could I have undertaken this mission on my own and succeeded.

It’s overwhelming when I really think about it. The sheer number of people I have supporting me is unreal.

My husband. My kids. My sisters. My brothers. Aunts and uncles and cousins. My friends. My publishing team. My Realmies. My loyal readers. There are too many to label individually, unless I wanted this post to be three days long.

These people have fought countless battles with me. They’ve guided me, cried with me, laughed with me, held me, taught me, encouraged me, and kicked me in the butt when I needed it. This series would not exist if not for them, and I am forever grateful.

 

So as I celebrate another release, another piece of my story out in the universe, I think of these people. I think about the army that surrounds me. The Realm Warriors. They’ve got my six and I’ve got theirs.

As this battle continues, I know I will never fight alone.

 

Reconciliation is Coming!

On January 24, 2017, the battle rages on.

Are you ready?

Today is a big day around here. We are revealing the cover and blurb for Reconciliation! Since you’ve been champing at the bit, I won’t make you wait any longer.

I have to warn you, though, this story is not for the faint of heart! In this second installment, Liz and Ryland face an even more brutal enemy, and challenges they never saw coming.

Challenges that may tear them apart.

If you think you have what it takes to stay in the fight, read on.

Some ghosts from the past refuse to stay dead.

Finally. Finally everything is coming together for Liz Brantley. She’s marrying Ryland Vaughn, the man of her dreams. She’s embraced her calling and battles the minions of hell bent on her destruction. And she’s left her dark past far behind her. Or so she thought.

A secret she holds close, stuffed down deep, surfaces at the wrong time for everyone in Liz’s life, leaving a trail of devastation. Left reeling, Liz wonders if she made a mistake, putting her trust in God, her guardian Arie, and Ryland. And the demon Kade capitalizes on her shaken faith. With a vengeance.

Torn between her tortured past and the future she craves, Liz is desperate to defeat every demon that stands in her way. Before all hell breaks loose and swallows her whole.

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Guts on the Page

~This will be a long post, even for me. Bear with me. I am showing you my heart. Once again, I am flaying myself wide and laying my #GutsOnThePage. This won’t be elegant or ground-breaking. It’s just me, pouring my soul out and writing it down as it flows.~

This warrior’s heart is broken today, my spirit unsettled and grieving.

My sword dangles from my bruised hand, the polished steel I usually wield with a flourish suddenly too heavy. My shield drags the ground as it slides down a bloody arm. My legs are giving out, muscles quivering, strength failing. My boots trudge through the mire, the sucking sound accompanied by the knowledge that the very ground itself seems intent on keeping me immobile. Keeping me from reaching those I love who are hurting.

It’s all I can do to remain standing as I work my way through the center of a battlefield strewn with carnage, the stench stinging my nostrils, my eyes watering. I blink and rub my eyes, hoping when I open them it’ll all be some grisly mirage that will have vanished. That the destruction will have been a brutal nightmare, and I’ll wake up to the world I fight for.

But as I open my eyes, the devastation still spreads before me.
The ugliness remains.

This is how I feel today. The reason? It’s not what you think. My heartbreak is not due to the numerical results or outcome of an election. It’s not due to the beliefs or convictions of one side or the other or the other. No, my heart bleeds because of the battle that has raged for months, intensifying in these recent weeks, culminating with a massacre.

A massacre perpetrated not by steel and munitions, but by words.

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I have watched and listened as my friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers have ripped each other to shreds. I’ve seen families divided. I’ve seen friends abandoned. I’ve seen relationships destroyed.

And I’ve remained silent publicly. Going against my natural instincts to first lash out, then to defend those I love (even if I don’t agree with them), and to engage in debate, which normally I thrive on. I shut my mouth and listened. I tried my best to work behind the scenes, attempting to calm tempers and moderate arguments and soothe those who were hurting and scared. For once, I was the quiet voice in the cacophony. The one urging for calm, rational thought before setting out on the warpath. But I can no longer remain silent.

Especially last night and today, I’ve heard those I care about cry, celebrate, mourn, rejoice, or share their utter confusion and dissolution. I’ve seen and heard their pain, anger, and fear. And that is a good thing. By good, I mean it is a positive thing to release that emotion, to discuss the things we’d rather bottle inside, to let it all out in the open. It should be that when someone opens themselves up, becomes vulnerable and honest, those they’ve surrounded themselves with should either celebrate their joy or mourn with them, or, if they don’t agree, at least acknowledge their feelings and show compassion despite the disagreements. That’s how we find healing.

But that is not what’s happening.
This is why I speak. I don’t have any grand words today. In fact, they are shockingly simple.

I beg of you, stop the carnage.

Express your feelings, absolutely, but do it without attacking others around you. When someone vocalizes a view or emotion opposite yours, don’t go for the throat. If you want to debate, great. Have at it. But do so in a logical, respectful manner.
All of us are all over the map today. And that’s fine. Everything we’re feeling is valid. Why? Because no matter the situation, each person responds differently internally. Even if they hold exactly the same views. We’re all unique, all hold different ideals for different reasons.

That’s what makes this nation great. It’s not a leader. It’s not a group of leaders. It is the people. WE are America. Whoever holds office, the people are the backbone of this country. If we want change, if we want hope, if we want to make a difference and be better, WE have to make it happen.

Yes, we should be fighting. But not against each other. We do that, we fall. It’s as simple as that. We should be fighting FOR each other. We will never heal the rifts in this country if we continue to brutalize each other. You can’t expect to win a battle if you constantly kill off your own fellow soldiers.

Whether we like each other or not, whether we agree or not, we are all in this together. Period. And I have got to believe we all have enough in common, value enough of the same things, that we can work together, live together, or at the very least, tolerate each other, without setting out to destroy the other.

This exhausted warrior is pleading with you. We’ve all been through Hell lately. Can we call a cease-fire? Please, lay down your weapons for just a moment, at least. We have injured on the field. The casualties are astronomical, and growing by the minute. We’re all tired. We need some peace. We need some rest. We need to heal.

Will you join me? Will you be the one who drops to your knees beside that fallen warrior from the opposite side and shows some compassion by tending their wounds? Will you not throw grenades at the warriors celebrating? Will you hold and comfort the soldier in mourning? Will you be the example of what we should be, what we dream of being, instead of what the battle has turned us into?

It doesn’t take much. One kind word. One smile. One hug. One moment of acknowledgement or validation. It all starts with one. That one small, kind act can be the start of something wonderful. No, it won’t fix everything. We’ll still disagree. But wouldn’t it be great if, for one shining moment, we could light a spark of understanding and cooperation? What if for one moment, we see through new eyes?

What if we look past the ugly and the broken, and we see the beauty that exists underneath?

Then maybe, just maybe, we wouldn’t pick those swords back up to use on each other.
If we fight together, no one can break us.

~Watch the video, listen to the song. Maybe it’ll help you understand my heart. I truly hope it does.~

 

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Bring Me To Life

UPDATE: Since I wrote this post Monday, I’ve had some incredible responses. One in particular was from a dear friend who suggested an idea that was spot on and exactly what this blog is about. He proposed a challenge to fellow bloggers: Write a post that puts your guts on the page, more than ever before. Show part of your hidden self. Rip the mask off. Let those who are struggling know that someone is or has been where they are, and there is a way out. We’re all in this together. Fellow soldiers. In order to lean on each other, to help each other, and carry one another through the battles of life, we have to be honest. We have to put ourselves out there. No holding back. No hiding. Just our true, authentic selves, sharing our failures as well as our victories.

So my friend Josh Hardt and myself challenge our fellow writers and anyone else who would like to be a part of this: Pour your guts onto the page. Show your true self, failures and all, and let those still wallowing in the darkness know there is hope. Tag your posts with #GutsOnThePage. As you read the posts, encourage those who have had the fortitude to lay themselves bare. Together, let’s show the world that the Light is more powerful than the darkness, and let those still chained in the shadows know they are not alone.

Do you have what it takes to lay your #GutsOnThePage?

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Today, I truly lay my guts on the page. Why? Because it is who I am. It is my story. Because I know there is someone out there that needs to hear it.

Because it’s time.

I’m writing a series called ‘The Reluctant Warrior Chronicles’. Rebirth is the first book, completed and awaiting publishing. Reconciliation is the second, currently in progress.

The part that many do not know, is that TRWC is based on my life experiences. The things Liz stumbles over? So have I. Those gut-wrenching events that happen to her? Many I’ve experienced as well. The shadows in her past that creep up on her? I’ve hidden from them, too.

I never wanted to write this. I fought with God over this for years. Funny, huh? Like I actually thought I’d win. Then again, I didn’t lose, either. How is that possible without ending in stalemate?

Let me show you.

I am a preacher’s daughter and I embraced the stereotype in every way, unfortunately. If there was a book of clichés, my picture would be front and center. I spent most of my young life on the platform, leading worship and working with the youth group. Outside, I was the picture of a Godly teen, called to ministry early and jumping in with both feet, ready to follow wherever I was lead & do whatever was asked of me.

Inside, that perfect façade was crumbling. I hid the parts of me I couldn’t afford for people to see. I walked in shadows at the edge of the light. I felt if I did the work and helped others, that was enough. By focusing everyone’s attention on what I did, I wouldn’t have to look at those pieces of myself, the shattered and distorted mirror that showed a broken girl in need of saving. A broken girl who had strayed from the Savior she so often sang about.

I even went to a Christian college, majoring in music ministry, still inwardly hoping no one would ever find out what and who I really was. It was there, hundreds of miles from home, that my mask was ripped off and the truth exposed. And I did it myself. I threw it all away, tired of hiding. Instead of letting those who loved me help, and turning to the Savior waiting with open arms, I ran.

I ran far and fast, putting as much distance as I possibly could between me and God, my family, and anyone who reached out. I smacked their hands away. I punched them in the face, landing blow after blow until they were forced to leave me be. I rejected everything I knew was true. I didn’t just step off the cliff. I spread my arms wide and leapt with wild abandon into the unknown, into the darkness.

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I embraced that darkness. I wallowed in it until my soul was coated, black as tar and struggling for breath. Then I reached for anything that might possibly take the pain away and give me back my air. Any means of having some sort of control over the nightmare that ruled my life.

Except for the one thing that could save me.

As I flailed and thrashed, I ended up in situations where my control was stolen. I was at the mercy of the demons that clawed at my body and soul. And they tortured me with everything they had. They tortured me with the power I’d given them. Once I let that power be ripped away from me, there was no way I could get it back on my own. I was weak, vulnerable, screaming for help from the gutter and yet rejecting it when it came. Every time the Light would drive back the shadow, I crawled away from it, chasing the dark. Every time that Hand reached into the abyss, I shoved it away instead of grasping hold for all I was worth.

As strange as it sounds, the fight was all I had. I began to believe it was the only control I could exert over my world. So I fought back against the demons, not realizing that I was still under their control. Feeding them with my rage, egging them on with my defiance. When I thought I was showing strength, I was proving my weakness. When I thought I’d landed the perfect sucker punch, I’d get caught from behind by a vicious ambush.

Eventually, I dragged myself from the bottom of the pit. Or at least, I thought I had. I cleaned myself up, got back in touch with my family, and started picking up the pieces and fashioning a new life from the carnage. Looking back, I know there were so many times I should’ve been counted out. I should have been dead. And while He didn’t save me from everything because I couldn’t be saved from the consequences of my actions, there was so much more that He’d protected me from.

It seemed that now, I was on the right road. And I was, in part. But there was still a huge chasm between me and the One who had saved me at my lowest, even though I refused to acknowledge the signs and pleas. I was still on the battlefield. At least, my heart, mind, and soul were.

I was right back where the fall started. I had rebuilt the façade and secured my mask.

This time, He shattered it.

I couldn’t tell you what the catalyst was. All I know is four words kept ringing in my ears:

Let Me have it.

I knew what it meant. But my pain, my shame, my fight? They were MINE. I had to keep them close. They were my atonement, my punishment for everything I’d done. How could I let that go? I deserved it. I didn’t deserve to be saved after what I’d done, who I’d been. I deserved whatever horror was dished out. I deserved to still be chained to that musty wall in the dungeon of shame, regret, and heartache.

Let Me have it.

That’s when it hit me. So simple. Something I’d been taught my entire life.

He’d already taken it. Already bore the wounds. Already suffered the humiliation. All for me.

I let Him gently remove my mask, dismantle my walls one stone at a time, and reveal the me He intended. Reveal who I was meant to be. I let Him pull me into His arms. I was free. Chains rattled to the floor, Light filled the room and my heart, and sweet, fresh air filled my lungs. Now the battles I fought were for a higher purpose, a greater goal. A mission. A call to find those that were crawling through the mud like I had once been and lead them out. No matter how much they fought me. He never gave up on me, and I will never give up on them.

It was time to do what I was meant to do. What I was called to do. It was time to come back to life.

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So when you read The Reluctant Warrior Chronicles, you’re seeing the demons I fought, the failures I claim, and the past I ran from. Most importantly, you are seeing how my Hero saved me. How He kept pursuing me even when I rejected Him. How He finally made me see that His love was all I needed. That He would protect me no matter the cost. That whatever I faced, we would face together.

You will see how He loves each of us this way. No holds barred. No secrets or lies.

No more hiding.

And that is the greatest love and adventure story ever.