Tag Archives: writing

Writing With a Broken Heart


“God loves YOU!” The large purple billboard seemed to yell at me as I drove past. An unexpected addition to the Northwoods roadside. Normally, I might have smiled or ignored it entirely but today the radio also seemed to be trying to get my attention with this simple yet often unfathomable imperative: God loves you.

I teared up and thanked God making a mental note to add this experience to my chapter entitled “Signposts.” Sometimes God is mysterious, silent and seems hidden and sometimes He is literal and in our faces — if we are looking.

The past few weeks I have been tucked away at our cabin in the Northwoods with the intention of working on the manuscript for my third book. I have organized it. Reorganized it. Read the already written chapters over and over and I have yet to add one new word to the book. I feel paralyzed. Not from writer’s block or fear or busyness (I truly have nothing to do here but the chores I create to do).

What surfaced while receiving God’s love driving alone through the deep woods — I am paralyzed by a broken heart.

This year our family has taken many hits. We can’t seem to get to safe harbor, the wide-open spaces of calm with no crisis or conflict. I’m not a young woman. I know life is hard for everyone. I’ve seen what life is like for women and children in unthinkable poverty and disease, abuse and oppression. I am no stranger to life on life’s terms. I understand storms will violently hit and we must weather them. I know these storms do not last forever. There are still waters ahead. Yet even while nestled in the woods next to a calm lake the roar of life’s stresses seems unrelenting. In my husband’s and my life, and in our children’s. We are thankful we have each other and we know under it all, all things pass, that in Him all things are made new.

Yet we are only human and sometimes, if not our faith, our resilience in faith, is challenged. We are not quite there and we are still on the journey — climbing the mountain, fighting the Orks, having boulders thrown at us, getting lost while darkness and storms threaten us and those we love. We’ve lost trusted friends and journeymen. Pain, abandonment, betrayal and death are real and the journey is hard.

I’m a housewife and a writer. A mom and a career volunteer. On the outside my life may not look as dramatic as Bilbo Baggin’s or Harry Potter’s yet is not that the point of those wonderful tales? The journey rages within and it must continue. As those myths help internalize, I have come to believe the secret to continuing, to keep moving, is to remember where I am going. What is my quest? Who is with me? Who has left me and why?

Ultimately, it is my journey. Only I choose to keep me moving, wounded and tired, but still climbing. I challenge myself to believe the signs when I am told God loves me. I gather my shaky faith and knees and get up… again. In pain, I take another step despite feeling paralyzed and despite believing I have nothing to say from such a broken place. I don’t slay an Ork or fight off a Dementor. I sit my bottom in the chair and I learn to write with a broken heart.




Looking For Water From A Deeper Well

“I do not think happiness has its source in the heart at all. It arises in a much more interior part, like something of which the springs are very deep; I think this must be the center of the soul.” –Teresa of Avila, Interior Castles

This summer I am beginning the process. I am starting the manuscript for my third book. The content of this new project will take me to places I have never been before. I suspect the creation of this book will challenge and stretch me as a writer and storyteller as never before.

I have tried to be silent with this project, allowing it to germinate and to form itself. It is not something I wish to force or be contrived. On some level I have a healthy fear of this project and the honesty it will require. I have set the intention to dig deep, find the book, and let it flow.

Years ago I had a dream. In it I am walking over a hill. The kind of rise only created in the subconscious. I am nowhere and yet I am not lost. There is nothing and no one around. I am alone in the foggy, colorless scene and I hear a voice calling my name with great anticipation saying, “Shayne, Shayne, it’s drawing! It is coming! It is Ancient!”

I hungrily peer over the rise from the ground on which I am standing and I see it: a deep crevice in the ground. I see a well.

If dreams are messengers, I woke wondering the message of this dream and immediately consulted my Bible and the passage of Isaac camping in the Valley of Gerar. The ancient text tells the story of wells Isaac’s father, Abraham, dug during his lifetime. Historically wells represent ownership and rights to the land. Although the Philistines had pledged loyalty to Abraham, out of jealousy, they maliciously fill in the wells, and attack by throwing dirt and debris into them causing distress.

In Genesis, upon moving back to the Valley of Gerar, Isaac redigs the wells of his father. With each well he reclaims and cleans out he finds fresh, spring water and has hope to settle and be at peace. Yet, with the first well the shepherds of Gerar quarrel with Isaac’s men so Isaac names this well Esek (Quarrel).

Isaac moves on. His servants dig a second well and again find spring water but there is a fight over this one, too. Isaac names it Sitnah (Accusation or Hatred).

Isaac again chooses to move on and to not fight and his men dig a third well. There is no quarreling or accusation attached to this well and so he names it Rehoboth (Wide-Open Spaces) saying, “Now God has given us plenty of space to spread out in the land.”

God appeared to him that very night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father; don’t fear a thing because I am with you. I’ll bless you and make your children flourish because of Abraham my servant.”

These verses caught my spiritual imagination. Could my dream have been directing me to the truth of finding an ancient, interior well deep within me named Wide-Open Spaces?

In the scriptures wells, or “springs of living water” as they were called, were a sign of God’s grace and blessing. Water represented life itself. Did my dream reveal such life? The reality of an interior place of no quarreling or accusations. A place of promise, blessing and deep peace. A wide-open space in the center of my soul.

As I embark on this journey of finding the book inside me, I am reminded of my dream and these ancient stories and promises. I am reminded of the quote from Teresa of Avila. I don’t want to write a “happy” book from my heart. I want to write a book originating in the center of my soul. I want to throw off fear, quarrels, strife and dig farther letting truth and honesty flow in my words. Healing and peace. Groundedness and intention.

As I write this summer I want clean, living water. I want to throw off external things and people that clog the inner well, my interior spring, the center of me where there is no fear and where God blesses.

Or as Emmy Lou Harris sings in one of my favorite songs, “I am looking for water from a deeper well.”

*Originally posted at Redbud Writers Guild blog. Visit our site and meet all our members!

The Value of Writers and Readers

Readers remind us we are not alone. Being a writer can often feel lonely and isolating. Why am I pouring out my heart to this keyboard? This blog? This book? For myself, as an extrovert, often what comes out on the page is layers beneath what comes out at the surface of my daily interactions. A writer and her audience is a curious relationship. Before social media it was the first “passive” communication relationship.

For those of us who attempt to write books and communicate off the social networks pages, often the value of our audience is counted by numbers of books sold only. It is a rewarding and rare day when an author gets a glimpse into other ways of being valued as a published author.

My next book, coming out in February, is entitled Refuse To Do Nothing: Finding Your Power to Abolish Modern Day Slavery. It is book I wrote with my good friend about how our hearts were broken as we woke up to the reality that slavery has not been abolished in our world — rather it is thriving. As mothers it is simply unthinkable to us that most of those in bondage today are women and children. We decided not to do nothing and we wrote a book. Yet the thought lingers, can two ordinary moms really make a difference?

One of my favorite quotes I often revisit is Henri Nouwen’s reflection of “that which is most personal is most universal.” It is a sweet and humble moment when readers remind you that this is indeed true. Below is a kind note I received the other day regarding my first book, Global Soccer Mom: Changing The World is Easier Than You Think. It was a timely reminder of the value of writers and readers.

I’d like to say thank you for writing your book and to share how it has inspired me to action. In the past I was involved with World Vision as a Child Ambassador, but needed to stop when I took on another large ministry opportunity. That has ended, and I’ve been restless, but felt so limited with a 4 and 2 year old and some health hindrances. In the last few weeks God has been once again stirring my heart with a passion for those steeped in poverty and injustice, especially for women and girls, but I didn’t know how to act. It did, however, feel useless to FEEL passion and fail to act. Then I picked up your book. The inspiration of your story convinced me that I can indeed take steps to make a difference, to do something right where I am in this stage of life. That may very well be the start of a local chapter of WOV, especially considering my past involvement with World vision. Thank you for being willing to follow God’s prompting in every step of your journey. And thank you also for sharing so honestly in your book–I related to your frustrated “How could you let this happen, God?” comments and your discussion of finding yourself in no-mans-land. You candor was refreshing.
Keep on using your voice and heart to make a difference, Shayne!
Jamie Smucker