Early Child Medical Trauma: It’s More Common Than You Think

crying-kid06When my daughter was an infant, my husband I learned that she’d been born with a medical condition that required us to take her to specialists. Over a period of years, various doctors performed invasive procedures on our baby over and over again.

At times, I was enlisted as an assistant and forced to hold my tiny child down on the exam table as medical professionals performed procedures that I can only describe as horrific.

On more than one occasion, I asked the doctor why my child wasn’t processing the experiences that were happening to her as sexual abuse. After all, from where I stood as an observing parent, the procedures looked like sexual abuse. And my child didn’t have the verbal skills to define them in a “medical” category, as opposed to a “sexual assault” category. My baby only knew what she felt–pure and unadulterated terror–an instinctual trauma response.

So why wouldn’t my child–who was traumatized over and over again in a medical setting without having the verbal skills to define her experience–not develop PTSD in the same way a soldier or abuse survivor would?

The truth of the matter is, she did because she had no way to compensate for the “locked in” memories, once the left side of her tiny brain shut down and trapped the experience in the right side of her brain.

The American Psychological Association describes trauma as “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster.” Preverbal and early childhood medical trauma are as real as is adult medical trauma. Someone you know is suffering, and they probably don’t know why.

On June 1st, my new book, cowritten with friend and colleague Wanda Sanchez, Love Letters from the Edge released. This book provides a voice for the tens of thousands of women who suffer–many in isolation and silence–with symptoms produced by trauma. That trauma may stem from medical procedures or treatment like breast cancer. It may be rooted in abuse. It may be related to the heartbreak of long-term caregiving. It may come from the wounds of abandonment. It may have been caused by the whims of natural disaster.

As coauthors, our message to the hurting is simple: You are not alone. Your symptoms make sense. Hope and help are available. And you are relentlessly loved by a merciful and compassionate God.

Who do you know who needs a love letter from God?

Photo Credit: Minnieland.wordpress.com

Don’t Buy the Lie–Guest Post by Wanda Sanchez



That’s what I am. 
Today is one of THOSE days.

I don’t know what God was thinking when He placed the gifts inside of me that He did! It seems like lately I battle this sinking feeling that I am not going to be able to pull it off! Must it all be so hard? Not that things need to be easy… they don’t. But how about just not so hard?

Yesterday I told my BFF that I’ve been fantasizing about just dropping everything that I am involved in – and just walking (or running!) away into the sunset. Forever. Yep… I am having moments of wanting to quit.

But all I really am is AFRAID.

Afraid of failing. And that fear of failure causes me to want to run.

I don’t want to embarrass God.

I don’t want to be afraid of saying the wrong thing or of offending people.

I don’t want to get in the way of whatever plan God has for the people who will see/hear me speak.

Simply because of time, I worry about not being able to do everything I’m supposed to be doing: speaking, writing books, blogging, producing, singing, etc…

All I have ever really wanted is to be a successful Christian – a Christian who’s rooted and grounded, who knows how to utilize the weapons of warfare; a strong woman of God who isn’t tossed around or taken by surprise by any of the adversary’s wily tactics.

That’s where I’m at today. Relax, my friend… I am NOT quitting. I just feel like running away – but I have choices today. I can make the choice to listen to the lies that say I will be an embarrassment to God – or confront that lie with the TRUTH about how God sees me: I’m the apple of His eye, y’all!

Today, I can choose to listen to His voice as He whispers in my ear and tells me that He is so tickled by me that He sings over me!

Wow. I make God sing! Today I know it doesn’t matter what the situation LOOKS like.

It doesn’t matter what I see, what I hear, what I smell, what I touch or what I feel. I know that He sees me as His beloved daughter and that He couldn’t possibly love me (or you) anymore than He does at this very moment!

 With your whole heart and both feet, step into the position God has placed you in!

Don’t buy the lie and let fear paralyze you and keep you from using the gifts that God has placed inside of you.
He loves you like crazy and you make Him smile!

Zeph. 3:17: The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Photo Credit: JoyHaynes.wordpress.com

Love Notes from God’s Heart: #1 I See and Know You


On June 1st, Love Letters from the Edge releases. Over the next ten days, Wanda and I will be posting notes to the brokenhearted from God taken from Love Letters.

*     *     *

Have you ever wondered where God is when all the horrible things in life happen to you?

Have you ever felt abandoned and alone? Have you ever prayed a thousand times for the torture of your life to stop until your prayers seemed to stick in your throat?

If you’re like most people I know, the answer is Yes.

Here’s God’s love note to you.

My Beloved Child,

I understand why the world doesn’t make sense to you, and I understand your rage and pain. As you come to know me better, you will recognize that trying to understand answers beyond your comprehension is less important than trusting my character.

Rescue is not always about taking out and taking away. Rescue also comes in gifts of presence, endurance, and purpose.

You didn’t see me. You didn’t heart me. And you didn’t feel me in your pain. But I was beside you, holding you close to my heart, loving you, and wiping away every tear. I came for you, and I have never left your side. –Your Loving Father

Photo Credit: TweenyRandall.com

Love Letters from the Edge: Hope for the Hopeless

LoveLettersCoverFour years ago, forty-eight year-old Wanda Sanchez was clinging to a life without hope. Every day was a struggle to stay alive. She’d planned her suicide and had every intent to carry out her plan.

For decades she’d struggled with nightmares, flashbacks, addiction, self-abuse, compulsions, and other behaviors she simply couldn’t control.

Rehab was a failure.

Eating disorder clinics were a failure.

Counseling and therapy produced little change.

Year after year, her symptoms grew worse, and her prayers to be healed seemed to go unanswered.

Like most people, Wanda spent years treating symptoms, rather than treating her actual trauma.

The results? Imagine taking pain killers for your brain tumor. The pain might subside–for a time. But the tumor itself only continues to grow and the symptoms worsen. Wanda’s root problem–her trauma–was childhood abuse. repeated and horrific childhood abuse. But she didn’t know about trauma and PTSD. So she tried to relieve the symptoms–addictions, self-abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorders, nightmares, and flashbacks.

Like most people who experience trauma, Wanda struggled with guilt, abandonment, rage, despair, and other self-sabotaging emotions.

She felt ruined, unlovable, and was sure she was the only truly unfixable person in the world.

Until she went for ten days of out-patient trauma treatment that treated the root cause of her symptoms and changed her life forever.

Since leaving Intensive Trauma Therapy in 2011, Wanda and I (Shelly Beach) have dedicated ourselves to sharing our stories of hope and healing from post-traumatic stress disorder. We have both found life-altering healing from trauma symptoms that radically changed our lives. Wanda’s improvement was so profound that in the months following her treatment, therapists and organizations began to ask her to share her story. Our passion grew for helping people gain a practical understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder and pointing them to resources for hope and healing.

Love Letters from the Edge: Meditations for Those Struggling with Brokenness, Trauma, and the Pain of Life is our first book together. It is an inspirational book of meditations for people longing to find hope and resources and who will benefit from a foundational understanding of PTSD.

Love Letters from the Edge will encourage those who’ve experienced suffering and who long to sense God’s presence and comfort.

Love Letters from the Edge has been endorsed by counselors and therapists, the directors of mental health centers and mission organizations (Wedgwood Christian Service, Dégagé Ministries, Music for the Soul, Hearts at Home, as well as media personalities and celebrities like Nancy Stafford and Kathie Lee Gifford.

Love Letters from the Edge may not be written for you. But it will touch the heart of someone you know who has experienced deep suffering in life and offer them hope, as well as practical tools for healing.

Who do you know who’s standing on the edge? Who do you know that needs to know they’re not alone?

Follow the Tribe

If you’re a writer and you haven’t heard of Jeff Goins and Tribe Writers, I suggest you check out Jeff’s terrific blog, as well as his mentoring through Tribe Writers. He’s the best of the best and offers insight and wisdom for writers that most of us work decades to acquire.

Check him out. Sign up for his newsletter. And sign up for Tribe Writers. And no, I don’t know Jeff personally. The only benefit I receive from promoting him is knowing that writers will be equipped by a great guy who’s highly successful as a writer and blogger and wants to pass on what he’s learned.

How cool is that?

How to Break into a Publisher’s Office

Today’s guest post comes from Jim Watson. He is the author/contributor to over 30 books and over two thousand articles and acquisitions editor for Wesleyan Publishing House. Jim also serves as an instructor at Taylor University  and minister of communications at The River Community Church.
“Whether I succeed or fail in those jobs, I know that my identity is secure in being an unconditionally loved child of God.”
SlushPileIt is hard “breaking into” the writing market, but not impossible. One problem is supply and demand. There are simply more articles being written than the market can bear. (About 1 percent of articles and book proposals submitted to publishers are actually printed.) But you can break through if you will work at the craft of writing:
1. Read. Read. Read. Read “how to” books on writing at your public library. My book, Communicate to Change Lives is available by calling Wesley Press at 1-800-4-WESLEY or ordering at amazon.com. It includes advice on the proper form and etiquette for submitting manuscripts. Also read books that contain good writing such as Annie Dilliard, Madeline L’Engle, and C. S. Lewis, and Philip Yancey.
2. Take a course at a nearby college or university. You’ll receive the kind of feed-back and critique that is so necessary.
3. Attend one of the regional or national writing conferences. “It’s not what you know, but who you know” in writing also! Conferences allow you to show your writing samples to some of the top magazine and book editors in the country. Plus the workshops are invaluable.
4. Join a writer’s club or critique group. Your public library should know the active groups in your area. You’ll receive helpful critiques and encouragement.
5. Research what the market is buying. Writer’s Market (Writers Digest Books, annual), which is available at most public libraries, lists hundreds of markets. Always send for a writer’s guide and sample copy before submitting. Magazines are much easier to break into. In fact, I’d suggest you do not attempt a book until you’ve established a good publishing track record in magazines.
6. Don’t quit your day job! If you want to make money, become a greeter at Wal-Mart rather than a writer. Fewer than 5 percent of writers actually make a living at it. Writing offers great satisfaction, but little money.
7. Most of all, be persistent as well as patient. Persistent because the majority of your (and my) articles and proposals will be returned. But, because I’m persistent I’ve had over 1,470 articles and fourteen books published–in spite of hundreds of rejection slips. And be patient. Most magazines take up to three months to respond; books up to six months. Editors, unfortunately, are too busy to be able to tell you why they can’t use your material, so don’t ask. I realize that is frustrating–to new and old writers! And remember, it takes ten years to become an overnight success!
Jim is an award-winning author of 16 books and over 2,000 articles. He’s an editor with Wesleyan Publishing House and ACW Press. Read more at http://www.jameswatkins.com.
Photo Credit: SteveLaube.com

Why you need a professional bio photo

The following blog was written by Amelia Rhodes for the BreatheConference.com blog.

cameraMention getting a photo taken, and I start to break out in hives. On the list of “fun things to do,” having my photo taken doesn’t make the cut.

Yet in today’s digital world, having a good bio photo is more important than ever before for a writer. A high quality photo isn’t just something you need for the dust jacket of your book or in a byline for a magazine or newspaper article. Your bio photo is something you need every single day.

On your website.
On your Facebook page.
In a Gravatar.
On Twitter.
Google Profile.
[insert new social media outlet of the day]

Your photo shows up everywhere. (Ever done a google search for your name and clicked on the images tab?) It’s important that you have a recent, high quality photo that represents you well. Before you even show up at a conference for your scheduled appointment with an editor or an agent, there’s a good chance that he or she will look you up online. (Totally happened to me this summer at a conference, and freaked me out a little bit!!) When you submit a book proposal to the agent of your dreams, if you catch his attention, I guarantee he is going to look you up online.

So while you might be tempted to take a selfie with that HD camera in your new smartphone and use it on all your profiles, please don’t. (Save those photos for your personal profiles, not your professional ones.) And while your spouse or friend or neighbor might have a fancy digital SLR and a nice lens, before you ask one of them to snap a head shot for you, make sure he or she is capable of taking professional photos. (Having a great camera doesn’t make a person a great photographer.) A professional photographer knows how to pose you so you look natural and comfortable. A professional photographer knows how to work lighting in your favor (or fix it later in photoshop).

If you had a professional photo taken, but it’s been a few years, it’s time for a new photo. I recently interviewed a photographer for an article, and he said that people don’t get their photo taken often enough. He recommends getting a professional head shot taken every two years. Not only do we age a little bit every few years, styles change too (and not just clothing, but photography styles and poses). I’ve shown up to a few events to hear an author speak, and the person on stage looks nothing like the photos I’ve seen in promotional materials. It’s obvious that the photo she sent the event sponsors is at least ten years old.

One final tip: Get one great photo, and use the same photo every where (see the list above). You begin to build a brand around not just your style of writing, but your photo as well. Make sure it’s a photo that captures the true you.

Amelia Rhodes

amelia_rhodesAmelia Rhodes loves coffee breaks with friends and has a passion for encouraging women to share an authentic life together. Her first book, “Isn’t it Time for a Coffee Break? Doing life together in an all-about-me kind of world”, offers women of all ages a fresh perspective on relationships. She is also featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul’s books “Here Comes the Bride” and “Inspiration for Writers.” Amelia lives in West Michigan with her husband and two young children and can often be found chasing ground hogs out of her garden and training for marathons.

The Story Behind My Book “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”

Precious Lord CoverMy mom had shown signs of dementia for more than five years before anyone in our family had the courage to say the word Alzheimer’s out loud.

To me, the word was a death sentence. My mom’s mom had suffered from dementia as well before dying of a stroke.

I simply didn’t want to think about what the end would look like for my mother.

So when a friend approached me and suggested I write a book about what it was like to be a caregiver for both my mom and my father-in-law who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, I gave serious thought to whacking her upside the head. The last thing in the world I wanted to do was write a book about how crazy my life had become.

Who’ld want to read about God-In-The-Mayhem? For instance, I was a caregiver with a recently diagnosed brain lesion. I was supposed to be resting and recuperating…

While caring for my father-in-law with mental illness and Parkinson’s and a heart condition.

And supporting our daughter who’d just returned from tsunami relief work with post-traumatic stress disorder.

And trying not to mouth-breathe over our recently-come-home prodigal son.

And did I mention that my husband and I had just moved across the country and started new jobs?

So I threw my head back and laughed in my friend’s face at the suggestion that I write a book for caregivers. No Christian publisher would print a book about mom trying to get naked in the Easter service or learning how to swear at the age of 81. But I went home and wrote out a list of what my real-life devotionals would be about–the things caregivers really struggle with.

And if I could have created a cover, it would have had a button to push that gave out a scream: “Aaaggghhh!! But God is Good.”

I thought it was a great title.

More than 100,000 copies and half a dozen years later, I’m glad my friend had the courage to ask me to be transparent about my caregiving experiences. I’m glad God gives the grace to use chaos for his glory. I’m grateful every day of my life that people find hope in the pages of Precious Lord, Take My Hand.

Life if tough. Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, brain lesions, and other life-robbing diseases stink. In this life, we live in the tension where the qualities sin and grace co-exist. But God is good. All the time. And he did not come only to conquer sin and provide a solution. He came to take our hand and sit beside us in our suffering.

Writing Tips: The Difference between Dialogue and Conversation


One of the marks of a novice writer is poorly written dialogue. Dialogue is not conversation.

“But why?” Philomena asked.

“Here’s why,” the author replied.

The purpose of dialogue is to move the story along–to advance the plot, reveal character, or to give the reader important information. 

So here’s an example. Read it and decide if it fulfills the above criteria.

“What are you doing?” Ted asked.

“I’m reading a book,” Jill answered.

“Oh. Are you enjoying it?”

“Not really. It’s boring.” Jill closed the book and laid it on the table beside her.

Now read the same scene, written differently.

“Wasting time reading again, I see. Do you ever do anything else?” Ted gestured toward the book in Jill’s hands.

“Some people read to escape.” Jill closed the book and laid it on the table beside her. “Maybe you’ll figure it out some day if you ever manage to stop thinking about yourself for a millisecond.”

So…do you catch my drift? The first example is conversation. The second is dialogue.

Here are a few simple tips for writing effective dialogue:

  1. Re-read the exchanges between characters in your novel. If they sound like conversation, delete or rewrite them.
  2. Avoid having characters answer questions directly. Answer questions with questions or by being evasive or creating banter.
  3. Listen to how people talk and reflect natural speech patterns–clipped phrases, single words, interruptions, etc.
  4. Don’t use dialogue as an information dump (exposition). Reveal backstory creatively and incrementally. We don’t typically sit down and tell people our life story in one fell swoop.
  5. Go easy on dialogue tags. Let the writing shine. The reader knows who is speaking when from paragraphing and needs few actual tags.
  6. Learn how to punctuate dialogue correctly. The rules can be confusing.

Writing great dialogue takes skill. Become a student of the craft by reading, watching television and movies, and studying conversation among people. Then practice, practice, practice until each character in your novel can be identified by their own distinctive voice.

Photo Credit: 360creativeinc.com

Gleanings: Wisdom from The Guild about Writing Fears


I belong to a local writer’s group here in Grand Rapids, MI, called The Guild. We’re not part of Jerry Jenkins’ nationally recognized Guild. We’re just a handful of writing sisters who are knit together at the heart and soul.

 Almost every day you’ll find us encouraging one another online about our lives and our writing. This morning we all dumped out our fears and asked each other to pray and pray big.

 I confessed my fear of tackling a new genre: historical fiction. Another Guilder mentioned fear of a character not revealing himself. Someone else mentioned fear that the work they’d invested in a big story wouldn’t pan out. The list continued as we dumped out new fears and old. Some that had stalked us for years.

 Then a voice arose from within our group and cast out her wisdom for the day–the voice of award-winning historical fiction author Tracy Groot. Be blessed, friends. It would just be wrong for me not to share some of these pearls with you once in a while.

 “One thing I think may help us all is action. It doesn’t really matter what we do, as long as it has to do with the project. Open the laptop and get started.

 “‘Bum glue’ is what one famous writer told another when he was asked his secret to productivity.

 “Yesterday I told my fear about my character not revealing himself to [my husband] Jack. I wanted to model this character on a few characters I love from other works I’d read or movies I’d seen. But I didn’t like my character yet.

 “’Well, what is it you like about those characters,’ Jack asked me?

 “When I hesitated, he said, ‘They’re loveable, right, despite their idiosyncrasies? Make your character lovable.

 “Bam. There it was. All because I talked about my fear to Jack. And yesterday I had a pretty good writing day. I put the name ‘Loveable’ on my character and he came alive. I wrote almost a thousand words, which is a pretty good writing day for me.”

 Thank you for the wisdom, Tracy Groot.

 Are you struggling with fear as a writer?

1.     Name your fear. (Be sure to name it to someone who will understand.)

2.     Get in the chair.

3.     Apply bum glue.

4.     Be willing to write junk (one of my mother’s favorite “special” words during her Alzheimer’s years. I will not share the others.)

“Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action.” –Benjamin Disraeli.

You can do whatever God has called you to do. Just keep moving, and you’ll figure it out on the run. (Thanks, Trace.)

Photo Credit: http://www.marcandangel.com

You can find Christy Award-winning author Tracy Groot at www.TracyGroot.com.

Join the Guild for their next Breathe Christian Writer’s Conference this coming October.