I am now blogging at https://freevangelic.com. Would love to see you there and hear from you.
I am now blogging at https://freevangelic.com. Would love to see you there and hear from you.
With the release of my latest novella, SECOND GLANCE, some folks have noticed that I don’t tend to let my characters go too far (if at all) past kissing. Then they read my blog (especially that Morning Sex post) and decide I must be a prude. While that makes me laugh hysterically (and my husband gets a GIANT kick out of it), I’ve decided to reveal the reason behind my choice and explain here why kissing is such a big deal to me (and, by extension, my characters).
I am a sex abuse survivor. Doesn’t make me special – at least a quarter of the women in this country can (sadly) say the same thing. My husband and I were married for seven years before I voluntarily, spontaneously initiated a kiss between us.
Our son was five, our daughter nearly two. Over a year earlier, I’d seen our precious littles playing in the living room floor and been surprised by the thought, “They’re depending on me to teach them how to live. They need me to be healthy.” I knew I wasn’t healthy, mentally and spiritually, regarding physical love but I’d gotten by and had no intention of upsetting the applecart until that breathless moment when I understood that these little beings didn’t need to be affected by my past.
They were free of it.
And I wondered if I could be, too.
So, I embarked on a journey to deal with “the shit” as my husband and I came to call it. I apologize for the vulgarity. If ever there is a time to use a vulgar word as a descriptor, my past experience seemed to be it.
Fast forward nearly two excruciating/exhilarating years later, and I found myself walking through our breakfast room right through the space in which I’d stood contemplating my children’s need for a healthy mom. As I glanced across the room and into the kitchen at my husband, a strange feeling overwhelmed me. I couldn’t puzzle it out at first. I knew part of it to be love. I was feeling love for that man. But it took me several seconds to realize I had a God’s honest desire to kiss him because I loved him. I’d never had that!
I’d been standing there staring at him as I puzzled this out, which drew his attention. He turned his face toward me. “What?” he asked.
I walked over to him, tilted my face up to his, stood on my tiptoes, and kissed him. I’ll hold to decorum and just say here that we’ve been married nearly 12 years and we both remember that kiss.
Kissing is the most emotionally intimate of all physical acts. It is the hardest to ignore when it’s happening (trust me, I know) – much harder to divorce your brain from than sex. A kiss allows another human being into the space of your life from which you speak – and speaking is how everything came to be in the first place. Your mouth is both powerful and vulnerable, giving and receiving, all at the same time. A kiss says a million feelings and thoughts without uttering a spoken word.
I’ve kissed wrong. I’ve kissed right.
Done as it was intended by the Creator, kissing is powerful. It is definitely powerful enough for my characters to convey the depth of emotion and story needed to sweep a reader off her feet.
You know what I don’t find powerful? When two characters who met five milliseconds ago kiss for the first time and somehow that’s an immediate assumption that sex is wanted/needed/necessary/wise. With all the sex on tv and in films and books, I think the shock factor for writers today lies in revealing a kiss for what it genuinely was meant to be, and is.
Having worked very hard and finally come into the experiential knowledge of the power of kissing. I wish we writers could start giving the act its proper due.
So, I do.
When I first saw the ad, I thought I must have misunderstood. Between the kitten being in his nightly Pyscho Cat mode (read: running all over the living room climbing lamps and curtains), the dog barking to go outside (he’s a basset hound mix with the deep bark to show for it), The Hubs banging pots and pans around in the kitchen behind me (thank God he can cook or we’d all starve), Firstborn practicing his trombone upstairs (man, that sound carries) and Darling Daughter watching an iPad at top volume in the chair beside me (headphones, gotta get her some headphones), it’s conceivable that I mistook the gist of the commercial.
“Everybody hush for one minute!” I yelled and pushed the rewind button. Darling Daughter pulled her headphones off to see what caught Mommy’s attention. Hubs paused. Even the kitten and dog calmed down for a second.
Oh. Okay. Guess I heard it right the first time.
“They don’t know what Christmas is about,” Darling Daughter said, and put her headphones back on.
“Wow. Talk about crass materialism,” Hubs said. “It’s not even tongue-in-cheek. They mean it.” He went back to food prep.
I shook my head. I may not get all up in arms about whether someone says, “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” but this is a bit much. Christmas is NOT about the presents, Best Buy and Aban Commercials. What a sad, isolating concept you’ve put into the world: buying love.
Christmas is about the human birth of One who would perform a selfless act for undeserving people that will stand forever as the Greatest Gift of All. It’s the only Gift that sets us free from selfish traps like materialism and competition to outdo each other.
That “Christ” is the One whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. We give gifts to each other as we remember the good gifts that were brought to Him upon His birth, and the best gift He gave the world.
Things aren’t the thing. Why use your precious marketing dollars and broadcast time to promote such a sad concept? Your brand is (was) better than that.
“I just cannot believe that you’re gone…Rest in peace, my friend.”
I read the posting of an old high school friend to another high school friend’s wall on Facebook last night. Confusion. Alarm. What was she talking about? I frantically clicked over to the friend’s page and began scrolling through condolences and utterings of shock. It took a few minutes before I read the post explaining that a tree had fallen on our friend’s car as she went to pick up her kiddos from school, killing her instantly.
At the exact moment she came down a two-lane country road.
Falling in the precise way needed to cause immediate, deadly impact.
My mind scrambled. Where was the logic? How could this make sense? It’s one thing for someone to lose their life because they were doing something or being somewhere they shouldn’t have. Then we all nod our heads and think it makes sense and it can’t happen to us because we’ll make wise decisions and avoid that kind of danger.
But this? A tree fell. A RANDOM TREE. Who can prevent that? Outwit it? Prepare for it?
And why her? I live in a town whose main road is Pine Ridge. It’s lined with, you guessed it, pine trees. Giant ones. I’ve marveled at their majesty and rolled down my windows just to listen to them as the wind blows through, to breathe deeply and take their scent into my lungs. I never considered them a threat.
Now, fear lanced through me. With the fervor of a mom whose kiddos have been threatened, I started planning routes to school, work, the grocery store, the hairdresser, and the bookstore that wouldn’t involve Pine Ridge Road. Should I write the city and ask them if the trees could come down? Tell my husband of other, safer, less treed routes?
Within an hour, our high school class rallied together on Facebook, coordinating donations for flowers at the funeral and funds for her children. And then, once it was clear all the details were handled for the logistics of our meager attempts to do something, anything, to combat this incomprehensible tragedy, the postings turned to grief. And then, as if we all realized everything we hadn’t said to her when she was with us, what we hadn’t said to each other in years, these people I haven’t seen for twenty years began reminding each other, “I love you. I miss you. Kiss your babies tonight. We should get together. A reunion.”
I trudged up the stairs and fell into bed. Wrestled through the night as falling trees and high school memories collided in my mind. Woke up to the realization that this is how the enemy ruins life for me. He wraps fear and tragedy around beauty, encompassing it so completely that it can barely be seen or felt and so I abandon the beauty inside. He robs me of the joy of a good thing that succumbed to the broken world in which it was placed. He doesn’t let me see the “I love you” and “I miss you” and pulls my mind hard toward the fear that this could happen as easily to anyone else I love, or to me – leaving my babies behind – and that makes loving people a dangerous thing, not a beautiful thing.
But I didn’t die yesterday. Which means I need to live today. Somehow. Even as I fear and try to handle the troubled soul in me. So I got out of bed. Showered. Dressed. Dressed the kiddos. Piled them into the car and backed out of the shelter of the garage. And, as my little girl read a story aloud and my son told me about the basketball practices he’s loving, I drove us right down Pine Ridge Road.
The pine trees still majestically lined the road, drinking in the morning sun and gently waving in the breeze.
And I defiantly chose to acknowledge their beauty from my broken place here, beneath the trees.
A few months ago, from our driveway here in south Florida, I loaded both kiddos and the husband into my mother and father-in-law’s van and set off for Tennessee. Exhaustion clung to me like the wet heat on our hot mornings. If one more person asked one more thing – even a little thing, like pass the salt shaker – I’d lose it. The preceding weeks had been doozies.
I’d sold my company, working through the minutiae necessary for such, and begun flying back and forth to the parent company’s home base in Colorado to transition people and practices. I was brought in for discussions about another company of theirs that had been seriously underperforming for 13 years and needed a solution. And the non-profit I lead in Florida had just acquired new office space, necessitating my move into it and an update of all of our business documents (letterhead, business cards, website, etc.). I’d attended several conferences in multiple states, met with clients in other states to ease them into the acquisition transition, and taken on a writing project that required writing an autobiography in a matter of weeks to coincide with a film launch.
In the middle of all that, we’d also moved into a new home and headed into the hectic Summer routine of a different kid camp (and hours) every week.
I fell into the van’s passenger seat, praying I’d somehow managed to remember to pack Miss Bear or my daughter wouldn’t be able to sleep and that my son’s cell phone charger was floating around somewhere or he’d be without a connection to his friends.
We’d been driving for several hours when my cell rang. It was my mother-in-law, who had my car since we’d taken her van for the trip.
I felt my shoulders start to inch even higher. Another thing I already knew I needed to do, but had no time to address. I’m a nut about keeping my car picked up and clean…but everything else felt more important, so I’d let it go. The clients, the staff, the husband, the kids – none of them really cared about the state of my car and I could just swallow my stress over it every morning when I got in it to go to work. I took a breath to respond, but she continued before I could speak.
“I know you just haven’t had time. I’m going to clean it out and have it washed so it’s all ready for you when you get home, okay? I just wanted to make sure that was okay.”
I couldn’t help it. Hot tears started streaming. One thing off my plate. One thing important to me and necessary…now off my To Do list and handled. I thanked her profusely. We ended the call. I told my husband again how much I love his mother.
When we returned home several days later, I learned that she’d held very true to her word by spending hours cleaning even the crevices of my car’s interior. It looked brand new again. Every morning thereafter, I sat down in the driver’s seat and – instead of stressing about one more thing to do and no time to do it – I looked around at the clean state of things and smiled before heading off to the new office.
Little things make big differences to the people who receive them. Hearing about these things makes a difference, too. It reminds us to be that source of kindness for someone. It helps us remember when we received a little help and how it didn’t feel little.
So when Paul Parkinson came to me with an idea for collecting stories like this in a book – for highlighting the unselfishness that makes us the humans we were created to be – I jumped on board faster than a TV-buyer at a Best Buy Black Friday sale.
Email your story to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 239-403-0203 and tell me some details of it. If we can work it into the book, then you will have memorialized that person’s kindness – and we’ll send you a certificate attesting to such that you can give them at Christmas. When the book releases next year, we’ll send you a free copy that you can then give to your kindness giver as another thank you for their generous spirit.
Thanks for reading this far. I’m excited to hear your stories and grateful to you for being a witness to mine.
You can visit the community we’ve created for these stories on Facebook by clicking the icon below.
Let’s set aside the soul care offered to story creators through GR and SON for a second, and just focus on the creation of story itself.
Our church bookstores don’t seem to follow that example consistently. Over the course of my career in stories, I have been advised numerous times by bookstore owners and publishers that there is no ministerial value in fiction. I can’t tell you how many church bookstores I’ve walked into whose shelves are lined with Maxwell, Moore, Stanley, Blackaby, and the like – and not one novel in sight.
What of those like Madeleine L’Engle…
The wise and talented L’Engle continues… “It was a shock when one day in school one of the teachers accused me of ‘telling a story.’ She was not complimenting me on my fertile imagination. She was making the deadly accusation that I was telling a lie. If I learned anything from that teacher, it was that lie and story are incompatible. If it holds no truth, then it cannot truly be story. And so I knew that it was in story that I found flashes of that truth which makes us free.” Story holds Truth. It illustrates Truth. So, can we please stop comparing the ministerial value of callings, please? If we who are called do not build up the body of stories, what ideas will minister to those who do not respond to sermon? Ponder for just a moment whose stories will be told if we do not tell those given to us. Now to those of us who are called to the world of story creation and wondering if our work matters – please know: