Listen to Valerie Loveless interview me about both of my books, Safe House & Finding Hope, on Cedar Fort's Behind the Scenes Podcast!
Today the World Health Organization declared the “novel” Coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. This is one novel I hope you never have to read.
When we originally heard about it, we noticed that the shelves were empty of toilet paper and had a wonderful chuckle. Then our family welcomed a new baby. Suddenly, germs seemed a bit more serious. One of us has CKD or Chronic Kidney Disease, and others in our tight-knit family have weaknesses that make us worry.
We realized the problems surrounding the virus were bigger than we thought when my daughter went to a big box store to buy toilet paper. Ironically, after 3 stores she ended up snatching one of the last cases off a pallet in a Walmart and in a game of chicken with another shopper.
We all cope in our own way. My kids cope with humor. I don’t know who created this meme, but it’s priceless. I hope the creator doesn’t mind sharing.
For the first time in my memory, on a recent workday, I went to a big box store to get some things for the new baby. Our small town Costco was packed, on a day it should have been empty. Carts were full of toilet paper, water, and interestingly, televisions.
At first I smiled, then I noticed the people pushing the carts were the same age as my parents, who are ordering their groceries delivered for the first time in their life. And I wondered, would we lose one of these family faces? Even one would be too many. The drinking water is safe and our bathrooms are stocked, but still we seem to all be nervous. It has become a small world, indeed.
And so we have cancelled the world. Meetings are online, school is online, stadiums are empty, and so are my friends restaurants. We are all going to be impacted, either through our health, finances, or loss of loved ones. It is a forced slow down and as you can see, everyone who can has stocked up.
My hope is that you get more time at home around the dinner table, more time with good books, and more time to write and collect your thoughts. I also hope that you look around and realize that time with loved ones is priceless, that person matters, and cherish each other just a little bit more. And most of all, I pray you and your loved one’s stay well.
“I am mindful of you always in my prayers, continually praying unto God the Father in the name of his Holy Child, Jesus, that he, through his infinite goodness and grace, will keep you through the endurance of faith on his name to the end.” Moroni 8:3
Stay tuned for the first few chapters of my next book. We will be sitting by the fire, walking by the ocean alone, and writing a book about a small beach town, Grace’s daughter, her hilarious friend, and the kids and families of Oceanside High.
Have you ever wearied the Lord in prayer and wondered when he would answer your prayer, or if he would answer? Have those answers come in unexpected ways? I know I have. I have wanted more time for family and writing. I think I have my answer and it will mean more time to write.
I love to write stories about characters that have deep needs, face insurmountable odds, are tried during the storms of life, face destruction, and still find their happy ending. I write about unexpected heroes and heroines, who after the storm is over, realize the hand of God was at work the entire time. And the events they thought would annihilate them were actually the best thing that ever happened to them.
Why do I love to write stories about people who face impossible odds? Because that is the ongoing story in my life, and I would bet a few of you have been caught in the rain before. But I believe in miracles and I believe in happy endings, so here we go! New job and more writing.
Today, I found one more survivor. This afternoon, the sun was out, and I worked in the garden. I weeded and pulled out the plants that hadn’t made it through the wild coastal winter months. We have had snow, fierce winds, and record rainfalls. I opened the gate to put my tools away in the backyard and look what I found. While everything else turned brown and withered, this beautiful little plant flowered through the dark winter months on the north side of the house. It blossomed against all odds, just like the heroines of my stories.
A few weeks ago, I was asked to speak on Hope in church, while I was praying and working on making more space for family and writing. It was a great opportunity to explore one of my favorite words-hope.
More on hope later-for now, here is one of my favorite quotes:
Eve Marx of the Seaside Signal not only featured my newest novel, Finding Hope, she investigated trafficking in our small town and researched what it might look like in yours. Do you wonder if your kids are at risk? Do you want to know what to look for?
Do you want to learn to recognize trafficking? Have you ever thought about volunteering from your own home town?
Take Operation Underground Railroad’s Free Online Volunteer Training to learn to recognize signs of trafficking.
When you use your dollars to purchase books, movies, or any other form of entertainment you influence the world. Our purchases of clean and inspirational work support authors who write well-told stories and inspirational books. Together, authors and readers can create change and make a statement. Light the world with books.
This Week’s featured author fascinates me. Aryeh Green is Chief Strategy Officer at EnergiyaGlobal, a Jerusalem-based company developing renewable energy projects in Africa. He was the founder and director of MediaCentral, a Jerusalem-based project of HonestReporting, providing services for the foreign media in Israel. He is a true world changer, speaking at Stanford as a lead up to Martin Luther King day, and the author of the recently-published book My Israel Trail: Finding Peace in the Promised Land.
Aryeh was born in Washington DC, a descendant of one of the first Jews in North America (who arrived in 1690); he grew up in San Francisco, went to UC Berkeley, and has lived in Israel for well over 30 years.
Aryeh has been a policy advisor to Natan Sharansky and a business executive and consultant for the past three decades. He served as a senior member of minister Sharansky’s staff in the Israeli prime minister’s office, where among other things he was responsible for supporting civil society activists in the Arab and Muslim world. He continues to be active in the effort to promote freedom and democracy in the Middle East.
Aryeh holds a BA in psychology from UC Berkeley, an MA in international relations from Hebrew University, and an MSc in business management from Boston University & Ben Gurion University, and has been widely published in various newspapers, magazines & academic publications.
Aryeh was married four years ago to Miriam, and they live in Beit Shemesh (the “House of the Rising Sun” in loose translation). They have 9 children between them… and aside from hiking all over Israel (or talking about it), when not promoting renewable energy and accuracy in the media, Aryeh grows grapes and makes wine.
I asked this fascinating author why he is committed to writing only clean or inspirational books. He said:
“As an observant Jew who leads a traditional life and believes in expressing gratitude for God’s blessings, I want to share my outlook and values with others.”
Well said, Aryeh! I I have enjoyed learning about Aryeh’s traditions and values on his many television and online interviews, like his interview on the Christian Broadcast Network. As a young girl, my Jewish neighbor shared her history and heritage with me. I ate her stories up like chocolate ice-cream on a hot day. I gained a deep respect or the culture.
About the Book: My Israel Trail: Finding Peace in the Promised Land
“My Israel Trail is a book about a hike on the 700-mile Israel Trail, and facing personal challenges. It offers new perspectives on Israel – the land, the country, its history and people – and illuminating insights from the experience.
Natan Sharansky celebrates Aryeh’s “engaging passion and persistence”; Mayim Bialik calls the book a “fascinating journey” and “beautiful exploration of self and identity”.
After a devastating divorce, which rocked his world and confounded his deeply-held optimism, Aryeh Green’s goal was to find healing, and get his life back on track. His hike along ‘Shvil Yisrael’, the Israel National Trail, enabled the discovery of a number of universal truths for living based on Jewish tradition.”
You can find, My Israel Trail: Finding Peace in the Promised Land, at Barnes & Noble, Costco, Target, Walmart, others.
Every Thursday, I feature authors who are committed to writing clean fiction, like Calie Schmidt, the author of, The Drummer Boy, published by Cedar Fort.
I asked Calie why she was committed to writing only clean or inspiring books. She said:"My kids are the reason I am committed to write clean, inspirational books. I want there to be more content in the world that parents do not have to worry about. Also, I want my kids to understand...
She’s hiding in her present.
With nothing but her guitar and a few belongings, Hope Flanagan escapes the abuse and negligence from her mother’s boyfriend. Hope’s lucky enough to find a warm exhaust vent in an alley of her coastal town and blessed with help from a coffee-shop employee who sees her desperate situation. But Hope is determined to stay under the radar from social services and the other homeless kids, who seem to go missing once they fall under the notice of the local homeless tough girl.
She’s hiding from her past.
Grace James works with the police to help survivors of abuse while desperately fighting to keep her own family safe from her vindictive ex-husband. News of her husband’s release from prison pushes her to accept help from the handsome and secretive Officer Joe Hart. But then her mother brings home a stray from her coffee shop, and Grace finds herself catapulting through her fears to do for Hope what she just might not be able to do for herself—find out who she really is to save her before it’s too late.You can find "Finding Hope" on Amazon:Paperback, OR Kindle, Kindle Unlimited
Open Read More to listen to Hope's Playlist
On Thursdays, I feature authors who are committed to writing clean or inspirational fiction. Shawn Pollock has done both with his debut novel, The Road to Freedom. I asked Shawn why he is committed to writing clean books and his reply made me smile. He includes a great quote from one of America's best selling and revered authors.
He said:"I see no need for wall-to-wall profanity or smut to make a story good and compelling. I can't imagine anyone finishing a book and saying, "It was good but they could have cussed more." I also want to have characters come out...
Sandra Meaders studied English and minored in Creative Writing and History at Southern Virginia University and earned her master’s degree in Literature from the University of Akron. Currently, Sandra is raising three children, managing a blog, and doing freelance editing on the side. Lehi, Lehi, What Do You See? is her debut children’s book.
I asked Sandra why she chooses to write clean and inspirational books and, as a creative mom, what she does for General Conference weekend."I write clean books that I would want my children to read. They are my inspiration...
I will never forget the moment I realized that everything I believed about my sweet life was wrong and that I needed to leave behind my marriage, my adorable little home, and essentially everything I was or thought I was. I stood in a therapist’s office on the phone. I was calling my mother to ask her to watch my children overnight so I could go home for the last time and pack to leave my innocence and shattered hopes. The conversation went something like this…
“Hi Mom. Can you keep the girls one more night?”
“How long is this going to take, Shannon? I have a lot of things to do.”
“An eternity, mom.”
The line was silent. She knew where I was. She knew what I meant.
At that moment in time, more than anything on earth, all I needed was someone to hold me and tell me we would be okay. That we might be homeless and helpless, but that they would be there for us and that our Heavenly Father, the Savior, and the Holy Ghost would never, ever, leave our side. But that isn’t what happened.
Heaven will forever bless my family. Even though my parents had their hands full, they made room for us. And may God forever bless the members of my mother’s church, who knew me as a young woman, and never doubted me or my decisions.
But, may Heaven forgive the people at church who said the darndest things.
I wish I could say that my experience of having people at church make unbelievable statements is rare. It isn’t. Survivors of domestic abuse, infidelity, spousal addiction, and those of us who struggle to keep difficult marriages together, and all the other things life throws at us, have heard it all.
Have you ever said something to someone at church and regretted it? I know I have. Do you wonder what to say to your fellow church members who are struggling with challenges like mine? Or do you wonder why people care so much about what other people say? Shouldn’t we just buck up, get over it, and do what is right?
Five months into my divorce, I rented a house and began attending church in a new town. They had all seen the single mother and her five small children move in. From the moment I crossed the threshold at the neighborhood church, people said the darndest things. Here is a short list:
“Have you ever been to church before?”
“I heard you’re divorced. There are two sides to every story.”
“I think people should try harder.”
“You should go home and put your marriage together as God intended.”
And, “Why did you marry him? There are always signs. You should have known.”
Gradually I stopped talking to people. Eventually, I would randomly go to my mother’s church. At one point, I stopped talking to anyone at all except a kind neighbor and my family. Then, to avoid a complete mental breakdown, I began hiring a sitter so I could run once a day because my therapist said it would help.
My sweet father held a garage sale so he could buy me very expensive Nike running shoes and the best in Nike running gear for the over one hundred degree summer temperatures. One of the local clergy said a prayer in a meeting, and in the prayer blessed that I would stop running through town in shorts (honestly. I would have laughed if I wasn’t so concerned for the clergy’s mental health).
I am tough. In fact, I have pretty thick skin. The topper will not be repeated here. Suffice it to say, I left the church and didn’t return for more than a year.
I wish I could say I was alone. Recently, I have spoken to several women who are struggling with the things family, friends, and church members are saying to them at their most vulnerable moments.
I had come to church, bruised, beaten, broken to fill my soul and find connection and sisterhood. I had found something I would learn later was, “Victim Blaming.”
We have all done it. We have seen a couple in our little church get divorced. It rocks us. We look at them and wonder what happened. We think things like, if it happened to them, could it happen to me? They seemed so perfect.
Then, out of fear, we look for ways we are different. We think and actually say things to each other like, “It happened to them because he drinks. We don’t drink so it can’t happen to us. I would have left him too, the poor Alcoholic.” or worse, “Of course he cheated on her. Have you seen how she treats him or keeps house?”
We are engaging in typical victim blaming. It is more obvious, when we examine situations containing abuse. It is easier to see when people say things like, “She was sexually assaulted because of how she dressed.” She was sexually assaulted because the perpetrator made the choice to assault her. Only one person is responsible. The person who hurt her.
Victim blaming is how we make sense of our world. If random abuse can happen to people due to other’s random agency or choices, then we might get hurt. But, if we can find the reason it happened to “someone else” we can exclude ourselves from harm. We look for the difference between us and them, because it is like looking for Dumbo’s magic feather.
As survivors, we are already looking for a way it is our fault. It is our fault because we are loud, fat, or made bad choices. Just like others, who victim blame, we are desperately seeking a way to make sense of the senseless.
Here is what Elise Lopez, a researcher said in DomesticViolence.org’s article, Why We Blame Victims for Domestic Violence:
“Why do some people jump to blame the victim? At its core,…victim-blaming is about self-preservation.
Compare these reactions to how some people respond to seeing a photo of an overweight person, says Lopez. “People think, ‘If I were overweight, I’d go to the gym every day and I would lose that weight.’ They don’t think about how hard that would be,” she says. …They think if somebody is being abused, they probably did something to incite it.” In essence, if people can find a reason why abuse is the victim’s fault, then abuse is something that can not only be controlled but prevented. And, in turn, it won’t happen to them.”
So, what do you say to people whose lives are falling apart?
Speak honestly, from the heart. You don’t understand. You can’t, unless you have lived their life. Only one person understands, the Savior. Avoid judgment. Try to be a judgement free and shame free friend. Leave the judgment to the Savior.
Things to say to domestic violence or sexual assault survivors:
- I am glad you survived.
- It isn’t your fault.
- Whatever decision you make, I will support you. I know you know what is best for you.
- I may not know how you feel, but I am here to (list anything you are willing to offer including time, provide service, be a friend, always be by their side).
- Listen (No words necessary).
We all have friends who are making serious decisions or engaged in heartbreaking challenges. LDS Living’s article, The LDS Divorce Experience talks about members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They share statistics which show prior to divorce nine percent of those surveyed were less active and eight percent were not attending church. After, six percent occasionally went, eight percent had a short period away (that was me), six percent stopped going, and then two percent increased their activity.
Interestingly, even though I was too tender to deal with the looks, the words, the strange things people said, I personally felt an increase of the spirit. Although, I was wrestling with who I was and how I wanted to live; I prayed more, read my scriptures more, and felt the sweet peace of the Savior’s love for me in miracle after miracle. I admire the two percent who increased their activity and developed the ability to seek what they needed to connect and heal. Maybe, because I write, words mattered too much to me.
During the years I was putting my life back together, I develop compassion for people who struggle. I gradually got my feet back underneath me. I was not only running for sanity; I was running towards the Savior. I experienced the mightiest miracles during my darkest times.
While I was still inactive, I was blessed to have the rare opportunity to meet with an Apostle in my church, President James E. Faust. President Faust spent an hour asking me about my experience as a sister in the church during my trials. At the end of the meeting, he very gently asked me why I was inactive. I shared the things that had been said and transpired. He was straightforward and honest in his opinion. he was compassionate and caring.
He said the darndest thing. “Why aren’t you active?” Four little words said with love and compassion, a listening ear, and an honest response.
That was it. I went back.
People say the darndest things. Things like, “I love you,” or “I don’t care what you choose, I will be here for you.”
“The reality is, the depth of our relationships is correlated to the time in which we’re willing to spend together. It’s marked by our honesty and vulnerability with one another, by the things we have in common, and in our service to one another.” MultiplyGoodness.com