The reviews and interviews!

They are wonderful!

When I wrote Safe House, I never really thought about the world reading it. I wrote it alone in the winter by sea. I sat by a hundred-year-old fireplace which blew more smoke than heat on rainy Northcoast nights. Night after night I fell into the story and although I had an outline, it wrote itself as the characters came to life.

I confessed I was writing a novel to my sister Stacy. Stacy is an avid reader and was a teacher. She had a friend who is a famous novelist, in fact, she knew a few. She asked to let her read it. I sent it to her, another family member and a friend. It was like sending a baby to the babysitters for the first time.

Stacy was my little sister. She was never afraid of telling the truth to me or anyone else. When she read it, she told me it had to be published. She saw what my heart was trying to say. She felt my message to survivors of hope, that the world needs to know your story, that we see you and we love you where you are and as you are. She understood my desire to wake the world up and ask it to witness just a sliver of what I have seen and learn to love the children involved as deeply as I have.

Stacy was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. She began an almost two-year battle that should have only lasted a few months. Even though she was sick, every time she called, we visited or spent time together she asked, “How is the book.” It is her faith in me that pushed me to send the book in on another quiet and dark winter night.

Time and summer flew by. Then I heard Safe House was going to become a paperback book that you may have already held in your hands.

I spent that last summer with Stacy. I walked with her whenever I could. On death’s door she would return to the sea to search for seashells, or what she called, “God’s blessings…little I love you messages from Heaven,” on the sand.

I went to Utah to say goodbye to Stacy in June the year (2017), a month before the book became touchable. But I was able to let her know it was dedicated to her. It was with her in my heart I gave you my first novel, Safe House.

Stacy gave me courage. It took all of that courage to let you see into my little world and share Grace, a small part of myself. Grace is more perfect, thinner, prettier and has 4 less children, but I know her through and through. It took someone like Stacy and my beloved cousin Kristi believing in me to risk criticism. And it took a wonderful marketing director Vikki to push me off the cliff and onto a Blog Tour! How grateful I am for Stacy, Kristi, Vikki, Hali, Erin and Mom. My first readers.

The results are in and the critics have spoken! Winter is on the way and I am gathering firewood in our little truck. Soon the old fireplace will be smoking and I will be typing on rainy winter nights by the sea.

Here is what the critics have to say, Stacy. Thank you all for being there with me… 

My Love for Reading Keeps Growing

“I have to admit that reading books about abuse of any kind is very hard for me.  I like to read books to escape reality and not read about it.  Having said that, this book ended up being such a great book to read.
 
I loved this story.  I am saying this will all love behind it.  My sisters and I love these kinds of books.  We call them “Mormon Smut Books”….hehe.  I really do mean that as the best compliment.  I love to read books that have to do with my religion and love.  Or any religion for that matter.  I know that when I read it, it will be clean.
 
I loved that this book covered a hard topic, and showed how people could get out and move on to bigger and better things.  I am a HUGE advocate for Sexual Abuse, and the author of this book is a HUGE advocate for Domestic Violence.  I think that’s why I liked the book so much.  Hard topics are hard to read, so they have to be done well.  The author definitely did well with this book.
We all take the chance when we marry someone, that they are not all they say they are.  We may not know what their demons are until after marriage.  Then sometimes they have groomed you so well, that it’s impossible to leave.  Amber and Kelly realize this after they have gotten married and are both faced with the challenge of what to do now.As they navigate their lives with the help of Grace, they realize that there is a possibility of life outside of an abusive marriage.  They find their faith in God again, and the power to fight for what is missing in their lives.
This is such a good book about love, life, faith, religion, and suspense.  Their stories are heartbreaking, and life changing all at the same time.
I hope that you take the time to read this book.  It is so wonderful.”

The Reader’s Salon Review & Author Interview

“I connected with this book. It reeled me in and kept me there with an intense and fast-moving plot. The emotional intensity was a unique aspect of this book for me. I had never read a book addressing domestic violence and abuse, and I found myself incapable of putting it down because I just couldn’t leave these characters in the unjust and demoralizing circumstances.”

Read the author interview HERE

“Q.1. Do you plan to write any more books? Could there possibly be more to Grace’s story? (I’d read it!)

Thank you for asking! I would love you to review it.

I planned another story as I was writing this one. It has been taking shape for a while now. I have a working outline and can’t wait to get started! This autumn when the rain starts falling, it will be me, a fire in the fireplace and “Insert surprise name here.”

The next book will be in the same location, same characters with some new friends.”

Meridian Magazine by Jennie Hansen

“Safe House by Shannon Symonds is not an easy book to read, but it is impossible to forget. It deals with the difficult subject of domestic abuse. If anyone has ever wondered why an abused spouse doesn’t just leave, this story will answer that question. An abused spouse is usually penniless and worries about how and where she’ll live if she leaves or worries about her or her children’s safety if she leaves and becomes homeless. Shattered self-esteem is another factor. This book also points out how to find help. It’s also a great story.”

The Singing Librarian Book Review & Author Interview

“Author Shannon Symonds brings to life the bitter and devastating truths of domestic violence in her novel Safe House.  Her story is heart throbbing and gut wrenching.  It hurts so much to read these truths, but powerful at the same time.  It teaches readers of the hardships of the people in these situations and about how hard it can be to get out, but that it is possible.  The story is a little hard to follow at first due to the way it switches between characters and their stories, but once that is sorted out, readers will not want to put this novel down.  It is a captivating and powerful read!”

Read Author Interview HERE

“Q.2. What is your favorite beverage?
Well! Here is an indication of my inner oddball. If I could have anything I wanted it would be a coconut milk, banana, peanut butter, protein powder smoothie with spinach and a tiny bit of raw ginger. But, since I am a writer and often find myself up until all hours of the night creating, I often resort to a drink that you can also clean your driveway with, diet coke. If I could just stay on the wagon and give up caffeine I know I could write and not be weary, but movie popcorn simply screams for diet coke.”

Literary Time Out

Rorie’s Review:
“I liked this story, and it had me on the edge of my seat at times. It was heartbreaking reading about what each of these families were going through with all of the abuse. It was also kind of eye-opening to see just how much psychological damage can be done by the abuser. It’s easy for someone who has never been through it to say “Well, if they’re in a horrible relationship, why don’t they just leave?” but for someone who has been beaten down so much, that they’re worthless, and been made to feel like they are completely dependent on their spouse, they feel like they have no choice but to stay.

I liked Grace and her caring and empathetic manner towards those she was trying to help. It must be pretty emotionally draining to have a career like her, especially knowing that you can’t save everyone, no matter how hard you try.

The two complaints I have about this book are that there were so many characters in it, and the chapters were so short, switching back and forth so quickly, that it was really hard for me to keep track of who was who. I had to constantly flip back a few chapters to remind myself who I was reading about. Also, I don’t feel like things were resolved with Emily’s husband Berk.

Other than those two issues, I did enjoy the story and would read more from this author.”

Seaside Signal Newspaper: One woman’s quest to end family violence and abuse

“On the heels of the release of her new book “Safe House,” longtime Seaside resident and local author Shannon Symonds was the guest at the July Lunch in the Loft author series hosted by Beach Books.

‘I’m very happy to have Shannon. Her book is fantastic,” said Karen Emmerling owner of Beach Books. “It highlights things you probably didn’t know were going on in Seaside, or hoped weren’t going on in Seaside, but it’s definitely a tribute to her work and to her faith. I hope Shannon and her characters will be back at some point, soon.”….by Rebecca Herren

Books and Benches Author Interview

“Q. Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?

Grace, the main character in Safe House, is an advocate who responds with handsome Officer Joe Hart to serve survivors of domestic assault. She works twenty-four hours a day to offer survivors and their children safe shelter and a way out. She is the stranger that shows up when your whole world comes crashing down and asks you to trust her and leave everything you know behind.

Grace is also a single mother trying to keep her family going. Grace’s mother Mable, one of my favorite character’s, lives in an in-law apartment in Grace’s house with her younger brother. Grace is only thirty-eight, but she is already a survivor herself and wonders if there is anyone for a clumsy, curly blond.

Grace’s talent is to be the eye of the storm. No matter what dangers swirl around her, she is calm and when you are with her you can’t help but believe that maybe, just maybe, everything is going to be alright.”

Robyn Echols Books: Wednesday Wonder & Book Review

“In addition to the social issues and the tensions they provided the characters, this was an exciting adventure as the characters in the town find themselves dealing with a force of nature that threatens to overpower them all, including the modern technology we take so much for granted in this day and age. The action kept me reading….The focus of the book was not romance, but the romance elements present were sweet and clean. Not all romances were resolved, which leads me to hope the author may have a sequel to this novel. It was an enjoyable and enlightening read, and I recommend it.”

Mel’s Shelves Review & Author Interview

“The author did a great job of giving enough detail to let you know these women lived in bad situations without getting too graphic. I am fortunate to not have firsthand experience with this and cringed at what I read, while also realizing that the author didn’t go too dark.

Grace, as well as some other characters, are LDS (or Mormon) so there are some religious references. Each of them are able to help the women and their families in different ways. Women in these situations can be misunderstood and blamed for the situation they are in and Ms. Symonds did a great job in humanizing them and helping the reader see how they can get there. She also shows the incredible courage it takes to accept help and gain control once more of their lives.”

Click HERE for the interview

“Q. 1. Safe House is your debut novel. Have you written anything else?
You’re the first person to ask me!

Recently, I attended a book signing at a hospital where I worked last year. I confessed in front of a large group of friends that I had been a closet writer for years. I explained that I had written around 200 self-help articles for FamilyShare.com or Deseret Connect. I had written for the BillionClicks.org blog created by Hilary Weeks, singer and songwriter. I had also written lyrics to a love song which is on a CD sold on the coast. I am hoping the song stays hidden! The music is great but the lyrics are sappy.

I came home from the signing and told my mother my secret was out. I was no longer an anonymous writer. She laughed and told me I was meant to be a writer. She said even when I was a small child, if I got into trouble, I would write her an apology letter.”

Jennifer Beckstrand Gentle Love in a Harsh World Review & Interview

“While Safe House deals with some difficult and troubling issues, it is also full of faith, optimism, and healing. It gives me hope to think that there are people who genuinely care and truly want to help those who are victims of domestic violence. I really enjoyed reading this book. It is exciting and eye-opening, and it has just a little bit of romance mixed in for good measure. Safe House is written from a Mormon perspective, so if you are not a Mormon, some of the language will not be familiar to you, but it also contains a universal message of faith in God that all Christians can identify with.”

Read the author interview HERE

“Q. What do you hope readers will get from it?

I honestly hope readers will be drawn into the story. I don’t want readers to think about statistics or anything but the characters and the seemingly impossible conflicts they must overcome to survive. I want readers to be surprised at every turn by the life-threatening situations the characters are faced with and their ability to not only endure but to overcome. I would love it if readers laugh at the absurdity of Grace’s life, believe characters with broken hearts can love again, and glimpse the miracles I have witnessed over and over.”

Getting Your Read On 

“I first have to say that I think the information and overall message of this book is so important.  I haven’t had a lot of experience with domestic violence and knowing there are so many women and children (and men) in the world suffering through this is heartbreaking.  The author of this book works as a victim’s advocate so her personal, first hand knowledge and experience go a long way in making this novel valid and real.  And honestly?  Thank goodness for Shannon and people like her to help, support and love to people when they need it the most.”

In loving memory of my sister, Stacy Farmer

 Click Here to WIN a copy of Safe House at New LDS Fiction!

Sweet as Honey: An Amish romance by Jennifer Beckstrand

After reading a book by Jennifer Beckstrand, I begged her to let me share with you! Several authors and I have been talking about the joys of good, clean entertainment. Jennifer writes Amish romances! I just finished my first, and I am about to devour another.

Sweet as Honey,” is not only a sweet read, it is a reflection of the author. This summer I lost my younger sister Stacy to cancer. During the very tender moments of mourning, I met Jennifer Beckstrand. She was a friend of my sisters. Jennifer was as kind as the characters in her book and so I couldn’t wait to see what her books, or an Amish romance, was all about.

Jennifer’s book had some unexpected twists for an Amish romance. I started to read with preconceived notions about the Amish community. I felt I was pretty educated, but by the end of the book, I realized Jennifer had written a story about love, the typical challenges of choosing who to spend your life with, a little bit of danger and deception all set in an Amish community. The story was not the religion, but the religion enriched the story. I had a lot to learn about the Amish community.

The main characters in “Sweet as Honey,” are three Amish sisters raised by Aunt Bitsy, who doesn’t conform to all Amish traditions.In the story, Lily, one of the Honeybee ‘Schwesters’ or sisters is pursued by two young men.

It is little things in the story like Aunt Bitsy’s quirks that give it appeal and actually make it more plausible. The characters in Jennifer’s books are believable, easy to connect with and like all human beings, flawed. Their flaws made them charming and made me want to see them succeed.

Without spoiling anything, Jennifer did a great job of gradually giving us more and more reason to cheer on one suitor over another. There is intrigue, and little hints as to the true nature of the young men all through the story. As someone who has worked in social service and listened to countless women, I found her story to be both credible and well crafted. She did a great job of introducing a true villain and a loveable human hero.

One of the delightful parts of the story is the details surrounding honey bees and the fun recipes in the back of the book. I am sure I gained 5 pounds just reading about all the yummy food and healthy meals eaten in this book. It is clearly well researched. Amish terminology is sprinkled throughout, as well as traditions, in a way that kept me enthralled.

I not only recommend Jennifer’s books as good entertainment; I have already started another in the series. Jennifer’s book was clean and rated G, as in good for any great girl over age 14. If it has swearing in it, it is in the language spoken by the Amish community and didn’t translate as a problem for me. There is a little violence where a mouse is concerned, but not to worry, no actual mouse was harmed in the making of this book.

Jennifer allowed me to interview her. Enjoy reading about the very interesting author who chose to write clean romance novels set in the Amish community. While you do that, I am going to mix up a batch of her Honey Cookies!

Jennifer Beckstrand’s Interview

  1. I really enjoyed reading “Sweet as Honey.”  I also enjoyed reading about you on your blog and finding out you have 6 children. Because I have 6 children, I feel qualified to ask with such a full life what inspires you when you write about young love?

 I’ve never really thought about it that way, but you’re right. I love writing about young love. The wonder of finding that person who makes you feel complete, makes you wildly happy, has always been very satisfying to write about. I certainly have lots of inspiration around me as my oldest daughter is thirty-one, and my youngest son is twenty. Three of my children are still unmarried, and for several years, dating and romance have surrounded me. And of course, I still remember the thrill of meeting my husband and falling in love so completely. There’s nothing like that feeling.

  1. I gained a great respect for your ability to use Amish terms and write about a people living a unique lifestyle in our present day and age. If you spent time with the Amish community doing research, what was your favorite experience or memory?

I have done a great deal of research in Amish communities in both Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. I love meeting the people and hearing their stories. My favorite memory comes from my first visit to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. We had dinner with an Amish family, and they were so gracious and kind, willing to answer all my questions and let me into their lives. I was struck by how “normal” they were. They had hopes and dream for their children, they loved being with family, and they worked hard to make a living off the land—real “salt-of-the-earth” kind of people. The experience gave me a springboard for all my books because I discovered that at the heart of things, Amish or Englisch, we are much more alike than we are different. I strive to make my characters believable human beings facing human problems in the context of their Amish beliefs.

  1.  In a world filled with graphic entertainment, why do you choose to write clean romance novels? Have you been pressured to change?

The only time I felt pressure to put steamy content in my books was when I was first getting started and people kept telling me that readers won’t buy romance novels that don’t have sex in them. As I have discovered, that isn’t true at all. Many readers want sweet, inspirational romances that elevate the notion of love. I don’t feel good about putting sex in my novels—I never want to feel ashamed to let anyone read my books. This is not to say anything against any other writer. It’s just how I have chosen to share my stories.

  1. In your book, you mention food a few times. In fact, I am sure I gained ten pounds just reading it! I was overjoyed to find recipes at the end of the book. Can you tell us something about the recipes? Where did they come from? Have you tried them all?

Oh, yes! The recipes I put in Sweet as Honey are some of my personal favorites, some I have made for my own family for years. I make the granola when we have lots of houseguests because it is a delicious, nutritious, and easy breakfast for lots of people. The honey curry chicken was one of our family’s favorites when I had little kids. It was something everyone—surprisingly—would eat. I love food, and I wanted to make it a big part of my Honeybee Sisters books. Nothing brings people together like a good meal.

  1. Aunt Bitsy plays a very wise, protective and caring part of the story. She is devoted to her 3 nieces. You chose to give Aunt Bitsy a great deal of character. Is she based on anyone you know?

When I was a little girl, our family lived just down the street from my dad’s oldest sibling, Beatrice. Aunt Beatrice and Uncle Max were fruit farmers. They had five children including a little caboose who was just a few months older than I was. My cousin Christine and I were inseparable. I spent hours at her house and she spent hours at mine playing dress up, jacks, hopscotch, and our favorite game: beauty pageant. My mother’s mother died very young, and Aunt Beatrice was a second mother to my mom. She was an amazing cook, though as a six-year-old, I never appreciated any food that had green things in it. Aunt Beatrice had a heart of gold. She would have done anything for anybody, but she was also a no-nonsense, strong woman who lived a full and wonderful life. Aendi Bitsy is loosely based on my Aunt Beatrice—although, to my knowledge, Aunt Beatrice never colored her hair urine yellow.

  1. If you could give a young woman advice about finding and keeping love, what would you say?

I’m a big believer in finding someone who behaves the same in public as in private. I always told my girls to watch how any boy treats his mother and the other women in his life. If he’s kind and respectful and loving to them, he will treat his wife with that same respect. I also think that humility is an important trait to look for. If your partner is willing to see where they could improve and if you are also willing, your marriage will be that much stronger. The other quality I believe is essential in a mate is hard work. If the person you marry is willing to work hard, you’ll get through just about anything.

  1. This book is part of a set. Where can readers find the other books in the set? Do you have more planned?

To find out more about my books, go to jenniferbeckstrand.com. You’ll find information about me and my books plus my dad’s blog about farming and my sister’s blog on quilting and raising chickens (she has a very interesting life). You’ll also find lots of recipes, Amish and Englisch.

The Honeybee Sisters series is set in the fictional town of Bienenstock, Wisconsin. Aunt Bitsy’s love story comes out on September 26 as part of a novella collection called “An Amish Christmas Candle.” It’s quite romantic and quite hilarious. An Amish widower thinks he’s going to turn Aunt Bitsy into a well-behaved, proper Amish wife. He’s got another thing coming!

I just signed a contract for three more books in the Honeybee Sisters series about a family of five brothers. The two youngest brothers are tired of sharing a bedroom and hatch a plan to get their oldest three brothers married off and out of the house. The first of those books is scheduled for release early in 2019.

That seems pretty far away, but never fear, there’s lots of Huckleberry Hill romance between now and then.

You can also find out about my Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series on my website. Anna and Felty Helmuth are well into their eighties when they decide that their grandchildren need help finding spouses. Anna knits pot holders and cooks strange dishes like banana jalapeno bread and asparagus raisin casserole. Felty likes to play the license plate game and makes up lyrics to songs when he can’t remember the words. This unlikely pair of matchmakers will leave you laughing and renew your faith in the power of love. My next Huckleberry Hill romance, A Courtship on Huckleberry Hill, comes out in December of 2017.

While you’re visiting my website, sign up for my newsletter to get the latest news about new book releases, special offers and giveaways, and of course, some delicious Amish recipes.

http://www.jenniferbeckstrand.com

Safe House Blog Tour!

Follow the tour! HERE

Giveaways, interviews, and reviews! Fun! Fun! Fun!

“Safe House” blog tour schedule:

 

Where in the world is Safe House?

Safe House is set in the mythical town of Necanicum, in the magical county of Coho (named for my favorite food). Here is a little glimpse of where I live and what inspired the setting for Safe House.

Click here for  A look at the Cove


This trail begins on the edge of town and is my favorite.

No Sharks in Safe House! But this is a little peek at our local cove.

Only a few hours down highway 101

Family bonfires

A walk to town

Hikes and hikes and hikes!

And summer sunsets…..

…And just like any good book, Safe House is a place you create in your dreams and remember forever.

 

Sunday is for heart work!

“For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, honoring the Sabbath is a form of righteousness … Truly keeping the Sabbath day holy is a refuge from the storms of this life. It is also a sign of our devotion to our Father in Heaven.” Quentin L. Cook

I don’t know what you believe, but my church commands me to rest! We are given lists of commandments, but to be told to just stop and rest….and for me read ….is the best commandment ever!

What a gift it is to spend one day focused on family, yummy dinners, visiting,  and today reading one of Jennifer Beckstrand’s Amish romances, “Sweet as Honey,” and it was.

Now, I didn’t appreciate being commanded to rest as a child. I felt like it was keeping me from going to the city pool, hiking or fishing. But as an adult, I am totally converted. I try to stay offline, off grid and if I reply to your email, consider yourself special to me.

Sunday is the day I use to rest, rejuvenate and do my heart work.

Heart work is anything I do for others without expecting something in return.

This Sunday, I am going to share my efforts to find some support for Operation Underground Railroad, an organization working to end human slavery in the form of sex trafficking. I invite you to leave this website and look at all the good work they do.

What is your heart work? 

Here is mine! A portion of the proceeds from Safe House will be donated to Operation Underground Railroad and I will share their story whenever I can!

Yourrescue.org donations to end sex trafficking and heal survivors.

 

 

Let’s talk! How understanding domestic violence saves lives

KSL.com Action Proposed After 9 Utahns die from domestic violence related incidents in June

“SALT LAKE CITY — Heather Smith Wolsey had tears in her eyes as she thanked Salt Lake County leaders Tuesday….”You don’t know it yet,” she said, choking back tears, “but you’ve done a great thing….Wolsey told of how she lived in fear of her abusive ex-husband, how she “would scream so loud and he would hit so hard,” and yet she felt alone, wondering why none of her neighbors ever called police for help…  Wolsey celebrated the expected passage of a resolution declaring “freedom from domestic violence a fundamental human right.” KSL.com

After seeing the KSL news story linked here, I asked a friend and Utah resident what they thought. They shared their family member had been a victim and at the time they had no idea.

Understanding domestic violence saves lives! 

You can make a difference. You can learn the signs, ask questions of your loved ones and call for help. 

Signs someone may be a victim:

  • Their movements, spending, clothing, choices are controlled by their partner or they have to ask “permission”
  • They wear long sleeves in hot weather or have injuries that are not consistent with their explanation
  • They seem isolated or have excuses to avoid connections outside the home
  • Their house may be very clean because if it’s not they are in trouble.
  • Signs of extreme jealousy
  • The Abuser shows up unexpectedly at work, school to check up on or help the victim

Here is a great description of what an abusive relationship may look like from the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Take Action!

  1. If you hear someone screaming or calling for help, call 911. Don’t put yourself in harm’s way
  2. If you suspect a friend or family member may be a victim, ask. Give them the National Domestic Violence Hotline phone number- 1-800-799-7233), so they can locate services in their area
  3. Become involved in local services and awareness events. Learn  and share your knowledge

Break the silence!

Safe House is a fictional novel, meant to both entertain and enlighten. My hope is to bring awareness through the story. What is your story? What are you waiting for?

Let’s talk! 

 

 

Independence Day! From survivor to advocate

 

“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise…”

Maya Angelou Excerpt from “Still I Rise.”

Many times I have sat with a survivor of abuse while they wrestled with the decision to stay or go. It is a decision they have to make for themselves because no one knows their story better than they do. Ultimately they alone have to live with the consequences of their choices.

Change, leaping into the unknown can be totally overwhelming. But, every once in a while a survivor doesn’t get to choose. Life, police, a call from a neighbor who heard the fight change the course of their lives in one day, like a storm blowing in and washing away anything familiar and comfortable. They find themselves battling for their children, their freedom and the right to choose.

July 4th we celebrate Independence Day, or the day our nation declared independence following the Revolutionary War. 

As a mom and peacemaker, there is a part of me that wishes we never went to war and that peace would follow a lovely bake sale, awareness march and agreement to disagree. However, some of the greatest warriors I know have had to face some of the darkest places on earth to win, maintain and fight for our freedom. Just like some of the most amazing survivors I know have endured the worst kind of abuse, power, and control.

The definition of freedom, “Noun. The power or right to act or speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.”

Safe House is a fictional novel about two women who crave freedom and yet love their families. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (www.ncadv.org), 1 out of 3 women and 1 out of 4 men have been victims of some sort of intimate partner violence. The National Human Trafficking Hotline took 7,572 calls from people reporting they were being trafficked in the United States in 2016. It is estimated 20.9 million people worldwide are victims of forced labor.

What does this mean to you?

This means the battle for freedom is far from over, but the battlefield has changed. It is now our own homes and neighborhoods. And while a part of me wants someone else to fix it, as survivors, or supporters of survivors we can choose to become Advocates.

From survivor to advocate!

Many times I have spent long hours with men and women who came to my attention as victims and then decided to become survivors. Every once in a while I see a survivor come out of their own personal storm and become an advocate, fighting for the rights of other survivors, sharing their stories, and celebrating their freedom. When I see that spark of fight,  that fiery survivor and warrior say, “No more!” I have been known to smile and declare, “Happy Independence Day!”

 

 

 

Survivor

I may be a little unraveled, like a dress caught in the rip tides of the cold Pacific Ocean, weighed down by sand and coming undone, but I survived. And even if the tide comes in again and tries to drag me back to the cold, dark sea, I will survive. I have learned to swim, I have learned to navigate the currents. If I can just reach God’s hand someday, I will learn to dance on top of the water in celebration of finding the joy beyond the horizon of endurance.

There was a time when I spent my nights watching the moon and moving stars, anxiety rolling me over and over. Then I realized, I could travel with fear or faith, the outcome was always better with faith.

When I looked at my life through the lens of fear, the sun never seemed to rise and the day was a chain of storms, and energy spent trying to control an uncontrollable universe.

When I finally let go and swam, I looked up at the Son, and let the mighty waves carry me to shore. I learned that I arrived at the almost the same destination, filled with joy. In the light of hope and faith, I saw the miracles which had been there all along. I was delighted by the blessings laying scattered on the sandy beach. In the watery reflection of each day, I caught a glimpse of Heaven.

New Testament, Matthew 14

28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.

29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.

30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.

31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

More soon.Photos may be copied, shared, printed or used by anyone for the purpose of healing and spreading joy. FaceBook link here. Instagram here. More about Haley Miller and Captures Photography here. More about Shannon Symonds novel “Safe House” here.

Broken

Have you ever felt broken?  As an Advocate, I have heard survivors use the term over and over.

 

 Beautiful Broken Heart 

What you didn’t know

When you shattered me

Is you left my heart wide open,

Making space for hope to get in,

Letting passion burst through the cracks,

Blinding sun

Lighting the way to a better life.

 

I choose to keep the myriad fractures,

Places to look out from within,

Space to see other broken.

Let them in.

Patterns mapping the way,

Beautiful broken symbols revealing my power,

The power of survival.

 

Shattered designs,

Only visible to the broken,

Survivors carrying the gift of seeing out,

A glance,

A nod,

Connection,

Support.

 

You didn’t know when you shattered us

You improved our view,

And now,

Clearly,

We all see you.

There is no place to hide from the broken.

All of our pieces bring us together.

And when the mosaic is complete,

We will be more beautiful,

More powerful,

Than ever before.

By Shannon Symonds

After a particularly difficult day, I once again said to a family member, “I feel broken,” while driving to Washington to hear Jeffrey R. Holland speak.

Holland began his talk, and then stopped midsentence. He said he felt inspired to talk about something else, and then he said the words that will forever be written on my heart. Frantically I typed them on my cell phone, so I would never forget.

He said, “God loves broken things.” Those words struck members of the congregation, silencing the room. He went on to explain, “He loves a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” A contrite spirit is someone who feels guilt and remorse.

Shortly after Hollands talk I wrote this article for FamilyShare: Why God loves broken things

Embrace your unique heart.

Photographic art by Haley Miller Captures Photography may be copied, shared, printed and used for the benefit of survivors and personal use. FaceBook link hereInstagram here. More about Haley Miller and Captures Photography here. More about Shannon Symonds novel “Safe House” here.

Wrestling with change….

No one knows your story better than you do.

We all wrestle our own demons and crave the ability to choose our own destiny. No one knows your challenges, hopes, dreams, and fears like you do.

Why don’t they just leave?”

This is the question everyone asks me when they learn I work with survivors of intimate partner violence.

So to answer the question, I have a question for you. Look around you right now, wherever you are and ask yourself, “Would I be willing to leave my partner, home, job, car, possibly children, extended family, and phone today? Right now?  

Survivors wrestle with this question and more. Blaming them is not the answer. Maybe the question should be, why do people abuse each other, hit, assault? Maybe the question should be, “Why doesn’t the abuser leave?”

The average survivor leaves 7 times before they choose to permanently be on their own according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-safe).

Usually, survivors are harder on themselves than anybody else ever could be.

What survivors of abuse need from you.

  • A listening ear
  • A compassionate heart
  • Friends who are willing to go through the hard times as well as the good
  • Your kind words,  prayers and service

John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

Photographic Art by Haley Miller of Captures Photography