. . . . Continuing from last time: How can you write accounts in your memoir that embrace both mourning and thanksgiving?
For some of you, Thanksgiving brings back the pain of a heartbreak you endured in the past at this time of year.
- Every time Thanksgiving rolls around, you remember the first time you had to look at that empty seat at the Thanksgiving table. And it’s still empty this year.
- That special person’s favorite song keeps playing in your mind.
- Or Thanksgiving always reminds you of the time you miscarried . . . again.
- Or someone shot you, leaving you paralyzed from the waist down.
- Your boss fired you and you saw yourself as a total failure.
- You remember Thanksgiving as a time of enduring the unimaginable, when you were crushed in spirit, unable to shake the heaviness.
It was a situation you never could have predicted or would have chosen.
Since then, you’ve struggled
to find joy in the Thanksgiving season. . . .
And yet . . . . And yet . . . .
Now, looking back years later, you recognize that
there’s more to your story.
Something to be thankful for.
In some unexpected, surprising way,
not only did you survive, but now
you acknowledge the silver lining of your heartache.
You came out on the other side of your sorrow
thanking God for the blessings wrapped up in the hurts.
He brought beauty from your ashes:
He gave you the oil of joy—a joyous blessing—
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of heaviness and despair (Isaiah 61:3).
That’s what you want to put in writing
for your family and friends.
How did it happen?
If you haven’t sorted through that already, I encourage you to do so.
Take time—make time—to examine the past. Be deliberate.
Peel back layers and discover what you hadn’t noticed before.
How, specifically, did you travel from grief . . .
and then to hope . . .
and then to some degree of healing?
I say “some degree of healing” because most of us, despite the mending and restoring and rebuilding, still have an ache in our hearts.
You might be saying, “But I still have scars!”
I understand. I still have scars, too.
But a scar is not the same as a wound.
A wound is an injury, a laceration, a blow, a rip, a break.
But a scar is
“a mark left where a wound or injury or sore has healed.”
(Oxford American Dictionary)
A scar is what you have after you’ve mended.
The bleeding has stopped. The scab has fallen off.
Instead of thinking of a scar as something damaged,
defective, or disfigured,
isn’t it better to see the scar as something that has healed?
Think of your scar as an emblem declaring you survived, as evidence of healing.
Take a good hard look at the way God answered prayers. You might not have detected them at the time, but looking back, you can clearly identify God’s specific answers.
Notice the people God brought into your life to shine a little light in your darkness.
What Bible verses popped off the page and gave you hope for the future?
- Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4).
- The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and He saves those whose spirits have been crushed (Psalm 34:18).
- Those who go to God Most High for safety will be protected by the Almighty (Psalm 91:1).
- He has put His angels in charge of you to watch over you wherever you go (Psalm 91:11).
- They will call upon Me and I will answer them. I will be with them in trouble; I will rescue them and honor them (Psalm 91:15).
- “I know what I am planning for you,” says the Lord. “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
- “At the right time, I, the Lord, will act. . . .” (Isaiah 60:22)
- I give new life to those . . . whose hearts are broken (Isaiah 57:15b).
- He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3).
- Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning (Psalm 30:5b).
- How long, Lord, must I call for help . . . ? I will stand like a guard to watch . . . . I will wait to see what He will say to me; I will wait to learn how God will answer my complaint (Habakkuk 1:2, 2:1).
- God knows where I am going. And when He tests me, I will come out as pure as gold (Job 23:10).
Note turning points or significant events.
During the early stages of what I call my personal 9/11, when I despaired of ever really living again, for some inexplicable reason I planted nasturtium seeds.
Shortly afterward, it occurred to me that that was a strange thing for a person to do who feared she might not survive. Would I live long enough to see those seeds sprout? Maybe even blossom?
Soon I was deeply moved by discovering that a seemingly insignificant activity—planting seeds—was an act of faith and hope for the future.
I clung to that tiny ray of hope day after day and, before long, nasturtiums began to bloom, and I was still alive, and the flowers were brilliant. Planting those seeds was a tiny but significant turning point for me—one of many.
Let me tell you another beauty-from-ashes story. One day when my husband and I lived in eastern Washington, a wildfire raced through our part of the state, destroying mile after mile of crops, barns, farm equipment, and houses. In every direction, as far as we could see, the world was all ash.
But, to my surprise, a couple of days later I could see wee little green grasses sprouting up through the ruins. Mile after mile, I noted the lovely, hopeful green! My heart rejoiced! God had already begun the healing process. That, too, was a turning point for me.
What were your turning points, the pivotal moments?
Identify them as you write.
This next part is important:
Remember, your readers want to know
how you navigated
through your crisis
so they can do the same
when they go through their own unwelcome challenges.
They look to you as a role model.
You do that by including TAKEAWAYS for readers.
Do you remember what a takeaway is?
Next week we’ll cover takeaways. For now, work on your rough drafts, praying your way through the writing, and offering readers the gift of both mourning and thanksgiving.
Your story is going to be great! God is going to use it.