Category Archives: The Cell of My Soul

Writings about the heart and soul of who I am. Read at your own risk. These posts may make you mad or change your life.

Grab your Demons by the Neck

I suggest you stalk your demons. Embrace them. If you are a writer, especially one who has been unable to make your work count or stick, you must grab your demons by the neck and face them down. And whatever you do, don’t censor yourself. There’s always time and editors for that. (Lerner, 2000)

Betsy Lerner in The Forest for the Trees, encourages “The Ambivalent Writer” to find the real reason they write. Writers who do extensive research and read broadly in the face of a deadline are called – procrastinators. Learner describes ambivalent writers as those too frightened to share their emotional truth. This writer is stuck and sadly that writing may never stick.

Lerner speaks the truth with a mentor’s heart. She says we write because we are haunted, bothered, and uneasy in the world. Writers suffer from excessive feelings and must bleed on-screen to find motivation – the reason they write. Nobody has to read this first vent, but it is part of the process. If you do not connect with your own heart – you will not connect with anyone else’s. There is enough writing out there for the head. People want writing for the heart. This explains the reason Creative Nonfiction is so popular . They want history, biography, and science in story form; they want narrative to matter.

Recently while watching Book TV on CSPAN,  I was mesmerized by Rebecca Skloot discuss her book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. She writes about science, a topic I am not normally interested. She was talking about a woman, known to most medical researchers only by her cells, the HeLa cells. The author tells Henrietta’s little known story:

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the effects of the atom bomb; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.

I would have switched the channels if they had told me the story of the women in their books that changed their world of medicine. They wrote science as narrative. I wanted to read this science book and know more about Henrietta Lacks. Rebecca Skloot allowed Henrietta’s life touch her own and it touches our heart. Skloot does more than write a textbook about cancer cells, she tells a

Henrietta Lacks 1940s

Henrietta Lacks 1940s

story she that haunted her about a poor black woman. “Doctors took her cells without asking. Those cells never died. They launched a medical revolution and a multimillion-dollar industry.”


Writers carry around demons. Some of those demons are emotional, some are physical, some are spiritual, some are just stories that won’t go away – they haunt us and taunt us to deal with them. Writers are gifted with the opportunity to reach around and grab those things by the neck and wrestle it into words.

A wise graduate professor suggested that before we write anything else, that we deal with the elephant in the room. My Creative Nonfiction class has been a profound journey. It has forced me to look deep into the eyes of my demon and decide if I want to keep doing this writing thing. Why would anyone want to go through the agony of digging into the foundation of your soul, scaffolding your sentences so others can safely see what you are building? Then submit to the final humiliation – exposing your grammatical disability and giving your editor the power of life and death over your work? Why bother? That’s the question every writer must ask and answer. In that answer – you will find your motivation to write.

Henrietta Lacks 1940s

Words that can Change the World or a Piece of it

More rhetoric from Professor Michael D.C. Drout:

I want us to think about the different ways that speech can change the world (using) the Speech-Act Theory. The fundamental idea behind Speech-Act is just what the name implies: Speech is not just the communication of information, but also a kind of action that people perform and that therefore has social as well as communicative implications.

He goes on to use simple examples. A baseball player strikes out. Until the official – the umpire says it is out – it does not change the game. A fan can yell, “OUT!” but that does not change anything.  This illustrates “performative.” The speaker or writer can change worlds by using the right  performative words. Someone using performative does something as well as says or writes something – they change things.

For example, someone may try to seem to make a promise (which is a performative action) when he or she really is just giving information (which is not always performative). A promise is performative because after it has been made, a whole variety of expectations and obligations are now invoked.

Telling someone that you will promise to do something is not the same; nor is making it look like you have promised when you have not.

This is a powerful rhetorical thought. Changing someone’s world by things you say or write is a powerful tool – use it with care. The way we treat people at work or at home is the most basic way we use performative rhetoric. You do not have to be writing a speech or an essay or even a blog to change someone’s world forever. You can destroy someone’s self-esteem and career direction by the words you choose. Speaking the truth and nothing but in conversation, might damage your listener or reader. My husband simplifies this by saying, “You can be a blessing or a curse – you choose.”

Once while working with a group of women as the teacher, a woman said to me:

“You know by the way you teach and write – you have changed lives – I can not say I have ever done that for someone else. That is a powerful gift to have.”

I must humbly admit that this person was not complementing me, she was warning me. She was upset with me and wanted to let me know that I had power in the words I used or omitted.  She was right. Words once spoken are seldom forgotten. Forgiveness is obligatory, but if the words were performative in nature, they can do damage forever.

Our words can change an opinion, they can encourage and uplift. They have the same power to wound or damage. Words. Write and speak responsibly.

The Day Before You

Matthew West has a voice you can’t ignore and he can interpret lyrics that grabs your heart. I wish I could go to the Braves game to hear him tonight, but instead, I will share one of his new songs on his acoustic album, The Writer’s Room. I searched the lyrics and found out that it was first recorded as a country song. It speaks deeply about what life was like before a relationship with God. Listen to the song and I will tell you about April 24, 1979:  

The Day Before You

The Day Before You


Saturday, April 21, 1979 – The Day Before You  

Some people do not remember the day they met Jesus for the first time and began their relationship with Him, but I do remember. It was in my Junior year of high school at a small church on a Sunday night. Knowing the exact day and hour is not the point, but for me the point was that the day before Jesus was very different from every day since.  

This song interpreted by Matt West is a popular wedding song. Jesus is the love of my life, my passion, so the song fits and it explains what knowing Him means to me personally.  

Raised in a large family,  I had 7 brothers and sisters and many more first cousins coming from 18 aunts and uncles and that is just on my mother’s side. We lived in a large restored farmhouse originally built around 1700s in Western New York. We had fields and woods and lots of places to play growing up. I had a mother who stayed at home with her kids. I remember her waiting for the school bus as we sat on old newspapers so I wouldn’t get my dress dirty. My father worked two and three jobs to take care of us. You would think I would never be lonely, but I was. I was always different from my family and it was lonely. A line in the song says,  

It was the last day that I ever lived alone  

How could a middle daughter in a family of 10 ever live alone? I lived alone in my heart. I have learned that loneliness comes from something God planted in my heart before I was born – a deep longing  to know Him.  

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NIV)  

I know that God wants to have a relationship with us so the chorus of The Day Before You hits my heart:  

Now you’re here and everything’s changing
Suddenly life means so much
I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow
and find out this promise is true
I will never have to go back
to the day before you

Saturday, April 21, 1979 was a lonely day. I gave up believing that anyone could be trusted or that anyone would ever love me for who I was, but that was the day for Him. Over 30 years later (11,000 days later), and I still experience the flush of first love when I am still long enough to enjoy our relationship.  

I had all but given up on finding the one
that I could fall into
On the day before you
I was ready to settle for less than love
and not much more
There was no such thing as a dream come true
But that was on the day before you


On Saturday, April 21, 1979, I was not sure there was even a god, much less understand how I could relate to Him. But that was the day before HIM.  Jesus was not much more than the plaster Jesus hanging on the wall, but that was the day before Him. On Sunday, April 22, 1979, Jesus came off that wall and became real in my life, no He became my life.  

After He became my life, I wondered why I had not known Him sooner. I would look at my college friends who were raised to know Him and was jealous that they knew Him longer. I wondered why He didn’t rescue me from myself before I was a teenager. Why did I have to live so lonely for so long? I was kind of mad at Him for waiting so long. God knew the best time for us to meet and drew me close at just the right moment. All the broken things in my past, made me ready for Him and ready to help others know Him.  I think it was Brennan Manning who said, “In the service of love, God only uses wounded warriors.”  

In your eyes I see forever
and it makes me wish that my life never knew
the day before you
Oh, but heaven knows those years without you
were shaping my heart for the day that I found you
And if you’re the reason for all I’ve been through
then I’m thankful for the day before you

I am thankful Lord, for the day before you.  

Tell me about YOUR DAY BEFORE….

The Dance

I really needed to hear those guys this morning.  I was walking and listening to my iTouch. I only subscribe to two pod casts, The Grammar Girl “Infinitive and Beyond” (because I think learning to write better should be fun) and The God Journey.  Wayne Jacobsen is the guy that made The Shack happen by starting Windblown Press. His weekly podcast  encourages me so much in what I already believe and forces me to think about grace and life in Christ in a whole new way. It is refreshing to hear someone talk about “slinging freedom all over the place and making no apologies.” Just start listening and you will know what I mean. I really needed to hear what they said about relaxing in the love of God. 

This morning, Wayne was talking about the dance lessons he was taking with his wife. He said they had all the steps down, they were following the yellow footprints on the floor, but it just wasn’t dancing. Then the instructor came along and swept his wife away, whispering things in her ear, and they were all over the floor – dancing. Later, Wayne’s wife told him what the instructor whispered in her ear as they danced.  He told her that it only takes one to lead, the other must follow. He told her to relax and let him lead. 

Wayne made the analogy. In our relationship with God, allow him to lead and it is a dance – it is beautiful. If we don’t let God lead, it is a mess. 


The Drag-Not Pretty


I carried the analogy further in my mind. I pictured myself on the dance floor trying to lead or worst fighting God’s lead.  It was not a pretty picture – I can’t dance and I have a hard time letting anyone lead me – just ask my husband of 25 years. I want to have everything figured out and planned my way – just ask my best friend.  For the last decade she has had to listen to me figuring out ways to do it myself and wiggle out of the grip of Grace. She has patiently watched as I made a fool of myself on the “dance floor” with God. Now that is a friend…more on that later. 

Years ago, God tried to show me of how “the dance” should look.  Sitting on the banks of Lake Blue Ridge, these words poured on the page: 

Dear One,
Listen. Listen to the music.
Do you hear the rhythm and the rhyme of our Dance?

The melody – I chose it just for you. It is OUR SONG. No one else shares this song with Me. They have their own song if they choose to listen. 

Our dance began the day you met me and it will continue through eternity. Close your eyes and listen. Ignore those around you. There is no one here but you and I.  

People will always be watching and waiting for you to miss a step –  I don’t care if you miss a step or dance off the beat.  

Come…step up on my feet and I will teach you the steps. I am your Daddy, I will let you stand on my feet until you can dance on your own. 

I know the Dance is hard to learn it is hard to let yourself go and dance freely with all your might. So stay on my feet as long as you need and let me carry you as you learn. I will dance for both of us. I choose the steps, the pace and the tempo.  I keep time with My eternal purpose for your life. 

Keep your eyes on me. Look deeply into my eyes of love. Fix your gaze on me and not your surroundings, circumstances or the people in your world. They can’t show you the steps to Our Dance. 

Lay your head on My chest. Can you hear the beating of My heart? It beats to the rhythm of our song and it will keep you in perfect time to Our Dance. You have to listen to my heart or the other songs will confuse you. Listen to the rhythm of my heart until Our hearts beat as one.  

I know your heart – you want Me – but you are afraid to step up and dance. You are afraid I am going to leave you on the Dance floor, alone, ashamed, humiliated. I will never ever leave you. 

Do not let anyone “cut in” on us. Hold on tight and do not let anyone pull you away from my embrace. No one, no matter how much they love you can Dance to Our Song. Do not let anything keep you from the Dance.  

You cannot schedule a Dance – for the Dance is your very life. I am your life. You are my life. 

At some point during the Dance, while our hearts beat as one, and our steps in unison, your feet will slip off mine. You will be dancing alone – before me in worship. It will not be an act of defiance and independence but freedom expressing our relationship of pure devotion.  I will stand back and watch and enjoy the overflow of Our Dance.
As you dance in my honor – those watching will be overcome by the Love we share. They will want to Dance with Me too. They just never thought they could, but you showed them the way to the Dance. Some who are watching, used to Dance with me but now stand in the shadows – embarrassed to come to Me. They too will see Our Dance and be enticed back into their Dance with Me. They will want to climb up on my feet and learn to Dance anew.
Dance Dear One – Dance with Me. Dance with all your might
Dance with the One you love
Your Heavenly Father

“And we will dance on the streets that are golden….the glorious Bride and the great Son of Man from every tongue and tribe and nation…we will join in the Song of the Lamb.” Revelation
“And David Danced before the Lord with all His might’ 2 Samuel 6:14

I am a slow learner – I have to feel it before I learn. God has allowed things to happen to me to force me to look at how my attempts to lead have led to an ugly dance. I have ruined good relationships, made costly mistakes, and harbored bitterness because I have not lived loved and free. I have not wanted to dance, relax in his love and leadership, and it has not been pretty. 

I needed to hear that pod cast this morning. I went straight home after walking, took off my running shoes and put on my dancing shoes.