April 27, 2016 … fresh & gritty… last night when I crawled into bed I was contemplating how I was going to address some of your questions when I received an urgent prayer request out of Tennessee. The request? A third grader was receiving emergency care as he was found… hanging. From the limited information available, the act? … self-inflicted.
This morning… the gut-leveling news came… Hopelessness suffocated another life. Another family joins our kindred fraternity. One, we’d never wish upon anyone; yet, here we go … again.
So, from this place… I’m going to free flow some thoughts to address questions posed to me as the primary writer behind our Shadows Presence blog Soul’s Solace? . In particular:
“Why this story
in this way
at this time?”
“This Story…” (part 1)
The short version can be found in About . However, a few more details may be of interest. First, while I was attending an invitation-only leadership conference as a college student some 20 years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with Life in the Shadow of Your Absence title vividly imprinted in my mind. As I wondered what it meant, a distinct outline came to mind that included individual family members sharing their grief journey in the first person. And the girding theme of reconciling the shadow of death and the Shadow of the Almighty. Immediately, I knew my assignment. When I woke up the next morning, I told my husband (yes, we were married in college) all about it. Although my recollections do not include a hardbound book, I always assumed this story was meant for tactile pages and probably even a guided journal.
Sure, in order to pull this off, I would need to get my family to talk about the unspeakable. Now that I am in my 40s, I realize what a gift my unhindered youth was at that time for that step. So, I shot off letters to family members requesting written submissions. To my surprise, most did not feel they could write their own stories; however, they freely consented to share what they could in hopes that I could do the actual writing. Each longing to love on any other family that may face this tragedy.
“He discoverth deep things out of darkness and bringth out to light the shadow of death.”
Over the next several years, I scheduled and carried out several interviews, transcribed notes and recordings, and wrote “Perspectives.” Also, during this time, we were having bedrest babies… three babies over six years and almost 35 weeks of bedrest mixed in… this gave me time to struggle. Struggle with my own neediness, my disdain to be dependent, and my own vanity. Also, this gave me time to read. And read reams.
And let me just define what reading means to me… Like Mortimer Adler, reading is an epic adventure all its own. I read. I question. I argue. I wrestle. I rarely avoid the difficult when encountering written words. Yes, my books have just as many questions inked in as underlines throughout.
Let me also back up & share that my parents have teased me my whole life about being uber observant. “It takes Heidi two and half hours to describe a two hour movie.” Writing and journaling gave me a venue to work through my inner thoughts and edit down to my exposable ones for conversation, etc. Even as a young girl reading Little Women, I longed for my writing to be discovered like Jo’s.
To preserve space and his preferred privacy, I’ll just say my husband’s studies and career took us on an adventurous ride that moved our family to Chicagoland for a time as well as several trips to Germany AND homeschooling all three of our growing and curious children.
At one point, I got gutsy and went against my college professors advise. I sent a sample of my writing to a Christian writer’s workshop and applied to attend. Their written response indicated my writing was average. Our story was likely not worth sharing. And my style needed significant refining. Well, I knew they were wrong – in part. Yet, their “professional” opinion wounded me deeply… in a place already wounded.
And my response over time is an area, I must confess, impeded the process of sharing our story. In essence, I committed to keep writing. Partly, because I am wired to think through my hands. And partly, because I knew I had a specific assignment to complete. To honor Jamie’s life. To re-learn to live my own. And to share gritty hope…Hope discovered in the shadows. The Hope we discover? The nourishing, pulsing kind that compels us to pour out into all the cracked and broken and silent spaces… only to realize, we didn’t discover “it.” Rather, He embraces us.
An additional thought element is that I began working on several additional fiction stories, nature studies curriculum, and integrated humanities ideas around this time. In my hidden hurt, my pride decided if I ever get published I would NOT publish The Shadow Project first. Who wants to be known for their deepest wound anyway?
But, the honest truth is I received the “professional feedback” as yet another personal rejection. So, I tucked away the idea of pursuing publication. And basically… I decided my writings would only be exposed after my own death. And figured the words ought to be hopeful enough. And I began tucking thoughts away… in tight places where self-protection stood guard. So began my sin of hiding and hoarding.
“Repentance, the first word in Christian immigration, sets us on the way to traveling in the light. It is a rejection that is also an acceptance, a leaving that develops into an arriving, a no to the world that is a yes to God.”
Eugene Peterson A Long Obedience in the Same Direction pg. 33