This year my church released, Come Follow Me, a new study guide or resource for learning the gospel. Each week, as I read and study, I have been struck by how much of the New Testament holds little gems of hope and healing for survivors. For example...Are there times in your life when you have felt the Savior clear the way on your behalf? Is there something keeping you from healing? Is there something you would like cleared out of the way? Have you asked for help?
Do you believe in answers to prayer? I do! Recently I discussed cover art with the talented author of the Buxton Peak series and other clean adult fiction, Julie L. Spencer. She gave me some great tips. I hung up the phone and wondered how I would ever get cover art done in Seaside, Oregon on the edge of the world?
I actually prayed out loud, a name came to mind and the phone rang. One of those rare friends, the kind you meet and feel like you’ve known a hundred years, was calling – Haley Miller of HisNames.org and Captures Photography. She said, “I’ve been thinking about you. How can I help you?” I felt like Angels were in the room singing.
Haley was there for me when I launched Safe House. I was so happy to see her!
Today we went to a little known local spot. I had the privilege of watching Haley, a talented photographic artist, create the cover art for my next novel, “Finding Hope.” She asked about the characters, the story, the feelings, and went to work. I can’t wait to reveal the cover.
Finding Hope is a clean stand-alone novel which takes place in the same beloved town as Safe House with everyone’s favorite characters, Grace and Officer Joe Hart. Maybe this time Grace will find love.
17-year-old Hope Experience Flanagan thought she was escaping danger when she walked away from the Yeti Haven Trailer Park and the Rat. But, the world is a dangerous place, unless you have Grace and a little help from friends. Grace James and Officer Hart work together to help Hope find her mother and a place to call her own before she becomes easy prey for traffickers and finds herself in deep water.
So I leave you with this thought, Can Grace find Hope, while Hart saves Grace?
Comment below if you want to know the location of the shoot and maybe, just maybe, I will share one of my favorite local (and often missed) beaches on the Oregon Coast.
It is 1 AM and I had to write and tell you, I just typed the last two words I plan to type on my next novel. The End. What lovely words they are! Not only is the story written, but it has been read and re-read.
This morning early, I finished reading my book out loud. I momentarily panicked when I realized several corrections hadn’t been saved, but then I decided it was an opportunity to do it all again, and better.
I could spend every second, or forever, fixing one more thing, trying one more time to make something, anything, just a little better. Perhaps, I will decide later, I should have worked longer or smarter, but for now. Finished.
Because it is better to take the leap of faith than to never leap at all.
My wish? This story becomes another opportunity to serve and give to
FINDING HOPE by Shannon Symonds
Hope Experience Flanagan had to get out of the Rat’s trailer tonight. It made more sense to wait until her 18th birthday, or until the cold Oregon Coast weather warmed, but everything told her the Rat was dangerous and she was out of time.
“Come on Hope! I just want you to watch a movie with me.” the Rat begged from the other side of her locked bedroom door.
“I’m not coming out until Mom’s home!”
“See how nice I am! Your Mom hasn’t been home for weeks and I let you stay with me.”
“Just let me finish my homework,” she said nicely, trying to hide her frustration.
The flimsy bedroom door in the timeworn 1967 Rancho trailer shook angrily. Poised to move, Hope held her breath until it stopped. “You promise?” he yelled.
Finally, she heard the Rat shuffle down the little hall. Five foot one Richard Culligan, ironically known as ‘Rich’ to his friends, and Rat to her, was her mother’s latest partner in a steady stream of companions. Hope hated them all.
The lacey ice on the windows of the Rat’s ancient trailer was as much on the inside in winter as on the outside. The trailer hadn’t moved for more years than Hope had been alive. It was parked in the Yeti Trailer Haven among other molding heaps of aluminum hidden by forest, vines, and foliage which obliterated their existence. Hope thought it was the best part of the coast. Magic green that erased every sign of man if you gave it long enough.
She sat on an old sleeping bag on a bare mattress, headphones in, music playing, when hailstones began pelting the aluminum walls. Gradually the torrent picked up. Larger and larger hailstones assaulted the windows so loudly it broke through her music and then it stopped.
Everything else she owned was packed in her old orange backpack including a Ziploc bag with a picture of her missing mother. Quietly, she pulled back the red rug, moved a loose floorboard, and dropped her pack into the black hole. Then, Hope slid down through the same hole and out from under Rich Culligan’s trailer forever.
Grace James had a smile painted on her face, but her nylons had gradually fallen until she was sure the crotch was at her bony knees and below the hem of her skirt. She had been wearing two hour high heels for four hours and her feet begged for mercy. She stood tall, at the end of her thirties with her long blond hair sprayed into submission on stage next to her boss in the old Victorian Church, now the Bay City Performing Arts Center.
Grace’s boss Eunice had the microphone. Her gray bob looked purple in the spotlight. She took off her bedazzled cat eye glasses, and said to the audience, “Next I want to introduce our senior advocate, Grace James.”
Hailstones started pelting the large stained glass windows in the ancient hall.
Every head turned to look at the row of 20-foot windows lining both sides of the room as a cascade threatened to break through the glass. The echo was deafening and then ended almost as quickly as it started.
“Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? …For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little… ”
Isaiah 28: 9-10
My Grandmother, my father, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins, and I all walked on this wall along the sea, and now my children’s children walk the same wall. Each one of us learned to walk the wall holding a grown-up’s hand until we all insisted on letting go. Step by step, starting with our first baby steps we learned and grew.
Seaside summer evenings were often spent walking as a family to the ice-cream shop. Twenty or more of us strung out along the promenade or Prom on the beach laughing, chasing children, holding our lover’s hands, pushing baby strollers, or watching our parents, aunts, and uncles smile and talk.
We learned about more than how to balance on a cement wall by the sea. We learned trusted loved ones had rules because they cared about us. We learned through quiet conversations on the mile-long walk to town for ice-cream. We learned by watching the grown-ups hold hands and treat each other with respect. The journey was so much more than a walk on the wall. We were building little people and a large family.
Life is a lot like our walks by the sea. It looks like you are doing dishes, going on a diet, teaching your children how to plant a garden, but you are actually doing something much deeper and wider, you are building love, trust, identity, connection, and a family.
A month ago, I committed to making some health changes. I was going on a cleanse. It absolutely made me giggle. For the first time in my life, I joined a group, bought some shakes, and began a sugar fast. All the laughter covered my terror. Remember, I am the girl on the prom wall. All our major childhood accomplishments were followed by dessert or sweet reward, and family gatherings always had food.
I set a goal. One month without refined sugar, caffeine (Diet coke which always led to needing Hot Tamales and a bucket of popcorn), as well as a TON of other foods like corn, honey, potatoes, and soy that I wouldn’t eat.
A few days ago, I finished the month! I was changed. Did I look different? Was I thinner and prettier? No. Was I changed? Absolutely. But the change was on the inside. I felt healthier. I had gained the strength that comes from setting out to accomplish something, anything, and finishing it. The sense of self-worth that comes from seeing something through, especially when it is difficult. I had endured with honor.
Just like the walk on the Prom, it looked simple, fun and easy but the results I hope will be much deeper than improved health today. Years down the road, I hope I look back and find I am grateful for the things I chose to change, the lessons I learned along the way, and the blessing of inner strength that comes from striving to be just a tiny bit better each day.
Every step we take is a choice. Even when we try to take random road trips through life, we are making a choice. But when we choose a direction and take one small step after another toward our goal we just might find we reach not only reach our destination, we have changed along the way.
Special thanks to Hilary and the group at Designing Health. I may stumble and I may fall, but I have a new network of friends headed the same direction. See you all at the Salad Bar!
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
If you have a pulse, it is highly likely that you have experienced challenges, loss, and even trauma at some point between the day you left the womb and now. If you haven’t there is a high likelihood that you are in a coma.
Howard W. Hunter, an international religious leader once explained, “There must be opposition in all things,” but why? Why, when most of us work diligently to do good things do we encounter barriers and how can they possibly be for our own good?
Many years ago I faced a challenge in a lifetime illness. At age 12, I was diagnosed with an inherited autoimmune disease, likely triggered by stress. The doctor explained that a simple daily medication would help me get through life. What he didn’t explain was the disease would cause weight gain, loss of energy, depression, hair loss, problems with my skin and nails. Those may not be big things to you, but to a young woman, they were massive. All I knew was that I struggled with symptoms no one else had. I didn’t understand why.
Later in life, the additional stress of being a survivor and a move back to my beloved coast triggered a downward spiral in my health. I began my wrestling match with a myriad of symptoms, which included gaining 40 pounds in a very few months while eating fewer and fewer calories and exercising more and more.
I began my wrestle. I had an invisible challenge like so many of us do. I recently became friends with a group of wonderful woman. We support each other’s effort to write and publish. As time passed we began to talk more honestly. Then one day, one of us confessed our lives weren’t perfect. We realized none of our lives were perfect, but they were also perfectly beautiful.
Guess what? No one has a perfect life. Some of us have serious struggles but spend our days caring for others, often with a smile on our face. If you think you are the only person who struggles with diet, addiction, or other invisible challenges you are not alone.
Sherry Dew, in her book, “Worth the Wrestle,” put it best when she said:
“Are you willing to engage in the wrestle? In an ongoing spiritual wrestle? If we want to grow spiritually, the Lord expects us to ask questions and seek answers.
We live in a sound-bite world where “tweets,” “likes,” “posts,” and “shares” have become the way we keep informed and share ideas. We are accustomed to expecting instant answers. But the most compelling questions in our lives rarely have quick, easy, Google answers. That is because receiving revelation and gaining knowledge, particularly divine knowledge, takes time.
It takes a wrestle.”
Nothing is ever a straight path. My life so far has been a series of hills with hidden valleys containing some pretty hefty challenges. The difference is, I know now, I am not alone. I am entitled to drop to my knees and get the answers I would never have come to on my own. And in my wrestle with survivorship, health, healing, family, love, finances, jobs, and the weeds in my garden I will be building muscle, spiritual and personal muscles.
I am not done wrestling and I don’t ever expect to be done. What I am done doing, is looking for an easy answer. I hope to continue to build my spiritual and physical muscles daily. The face you see in the video above is a full fifty or more pounds lighter, and healthier than before the struggle began. I wouldn’t trade the journey, the knowledge, my new friends, or my time on my knees for anything, even sugar and diet coke. I hope I can keep it up! But if I fail, I will wrestle some more.
Just remember, my answers will not be your answers. I am an author and feel compelled to write my feelings, what I learn, and ideas. The direction you choose and the mountains you climb are all yours. The good news is, you don’t have to go it alone.
So when all else fails, drop to your knees and wrestle.
We all have stress in our lives. We don’t have to be trauma survivors to feel overwhelmed.
The world is full of quick and easy ways to soothe ourselves when we feel like life has not only run us over, but it has backed up and parked on us. The question is, what do we choose?
Do you open the freezer and say hello to Ben and Jerry’s Ice-cream like it is a long lost love, or do you call a friend and go for a walk?
High-cost methods may not be expensive, but usually, they have costly consequences. For example, when you smoke you might gain quick relief from stress, but the long-term outcome is costly.
Low-cost methods may or may not give you immediate relief but they don’t cost a lot and they lead to long-term positive outcomes. For example, it only costs time to take a brisk walk but it is a great coping mechanism. It gives you time to process or a place to escape thinking for a minute, as well as improved health. The only financial cost is a good pair of shoes and permission from your doctor.
I took some time to practice one of my favorite low-cost methods of coping with stress. I rode my old rusty beach cruiser (Coastie talk for a one-speed bicycle with a basket on the front) on a 12-mile trail and listened to some great tunes. A garage sale bike and the beach! The best!
Here is a little live movie on my favorite subject, how to heal. I hope you listen and remember, there is nothing wrong with Ben and Jerry’s as long as you share it with a friend like me!
Yup! There it is! True love! After all the Disney princesses, the romance novels, vampires, and werewolves, I never expected to see true love demonstrated so clearly. On the left, my cousin (more sister) Jami and on the right her husband Joe in their natural habitat- the kitchen. But first, the back story.
Time Out For Women (TOFW) is a long-standing L.D.S. tradition hosted by Deseret Book. Thousands of woman meet for a weekend to listen to best selling authors and musicians while taking time out from our crazy lives. Sounds like a weekend at the spa, right?! Wrong!
It is a weekend for us girls to meet at some poor unsuspecting friends house, talk non-stop, eat all their goodies, and laugh until the sun rises. We spend hundreds of dollars our favorite books, art, clothes, and music (Oh, that old book?) and eat mounds of ice-cream and drink diet coke. That’s right. Mormons drink coke.
Friday night we started by driving hours, waiting for parking, running for good seats and ended by talking over ice-cream until well past 1 AM. At that point, we decided to be grown-ups. So, we talked for another half hour and promptly went to bed. Joe, being amazing, sat up and waited for us to get home, made sure the house was clean and took care of the family left behind.
Early Saturday, before the sun even rose, we got up to get ready to do it all again. While we chatted non-stop over cold cereal I watched Jami lay a towel over the burners on her stove. Without missing a beat in the conversation she plugged in an iron. She got me more cereal and while chatting away ironed the front of the shirt she was wearing. No lie! Without taking it off! It was amazing! If circuses didn’t involve creepy clowns, she could have joined as a contortionist.
Where does the love come in? Somewhere between telling me about babysitting and her son’s new school she called Joe. Magically, he was there. The chatter continued. She handed Joe the iron and with three words, “Iron the back.” Without missing a beat he started ironing the back of the shirt she was wearing. True love, right there in the kitchen.
What is true love? I don’t know what the rest of the world thinks it is, but I learned a lot about it at TOFW. In this case, true love was as much unspoken as spoken. True love was a connection between people who dance through life gracefully as a team. It is a dance this author only knows how to observe, and one I wish for everyone on earth.
I want to share with you some of the great things I learned at TOFW about true love and more. Later this week, I will share my favorite quotes. But for now, here is a personal lesson I learned about love.
Here is a group shot we had taken in 2014 at TOFW Portland. Little did I know, it would be one of the last few TOFW’s we would be able to spend with our beloved Aunt Joann. This year, while we took new photos, I relished every second, no complaints. Life is short. Time with friends, family, and loved ones has become more precious to me with every passing year, and loss.
True love, to this author, is making time, spending time and giving time to the ones we love. Connections are created in long lines, great music, late night laughter, and in the simple moments like ironing a shirt.
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.
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.
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.