Tag Archive | freedom

Freed to Forgive (Book Review)

freed to forgiveJulie B. Cosgrove has written two fabulous romantic suspense novels with a plot involving human sex-trafficking. Freed to Forgive is the culmination of those two previous stories. The first was Hush in the Storm followed by Legitimate Lies. Marisol’s story is woven in small nuggets into the two previous books but due to the demands of her readers, Marisol’s journey is finally in print.

Marisol is a young woman being abused by her father and brothers in a small village in Mexico. Anger burns within her so when the opportunity to go to America is presented she believes the lies she’s told and leaves. The journey there is harrowing and she finds herself using the skills she learned in her village to try to save another young slave who is still a virgin. Eventually, however, she finds herself pregnant. She gives up her child hoping it can live a better life. In the process she escapes her captors and strives to live a life free of her shameful past.

Ten years pass and she learns over and over that men are not to be trusted. When Jesse shows interest she struggles to accept that he could truly want to know her and not just use her for her body. She struggles to keep her past hidden but her bitterness and resentment over all that has happened bubbles up to torment her  and keep her stuck. Can God really help her forgive those who abused and trafficked her? And can she really move forward in freedom and the love of a godly man?

This story is an emotionally fraught one filled with some disturbing scenes. Julie does nothing to hide the horrors of all that Marisol and so many others in our own country endure at the hands of modern-day slave-traders. In spite of that she is not gratuitous or unnecessarily explicit in those descriptions but it is good for the reader to be aware. All the instances are necessary for the plot of the book.

The reality of human trafficking in America deserves fiction like this to help us understand the horrors. We all need to step up to stop this tragedy as well as help those either caught in it or recovering from it. Either through prayer, or awareness or engaging further in the fight. I’m glad Julie Cosgrove has had the guts to tell Marisol’s gritty tale. The reality is we are all at times trapped and wounded by the sins of others and the lessons Marisol learns are for us all. God forgives and there is freedom in Christ.

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When Joy Takes Over

I’ve meBird in cagentioned on this blog before that I struggle with depression. I learned early on to put a good face on my inner darkness because I was told that to tell anyone I was depressed was manipulative and a lie.

Way to validate my reality, huh?

And I fought the first therapist who insisted this was my struggle. So I charted my emotions, and I was shocked at what I saw. I really was depressed.  Since then I’ve taken medications on and off over the years and have one that works well for me now. I tried the natural methods to no avail. I defeated Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (an autoimmune disease of the thyroid for which depression is a side effect). Having been educated and worked in the mental health field I’m very aware of my symptomatology and the kinds of things I need to do to stop myself from sinking further into the pit of despair.

That’s why sometimes when joy breaks through it is a remarkable thing for me to take note of, to savor and to hold on to-because it’s rare.

Some of my circumstances do limit my expression of the good in my life because not everyone in my world appreciates all the aspects of who God created me to be. Not everyone supports or cheers me on in my writing and publishing pursuits. Because of this I’ve had to develop a more extended circle of support. So my cheerleaders are not physically close but they are there when I need them.

Flying Dog

But joy. It breaks through like a dog let off his leash, gate open and free to run in wide open spaces, ears flapping and tail wagging. Unhindered by expectations. Free to be fully who he is.

The filters come off, the darkness slips away and bright light shines from inside as I let loose to live more fully who God created me to be. That’s a high energy thing though and can’t be sustained for long. It happens in places were my gifts and calling are validated and my wacky weird personality is appreciated and not condemned.

A place where I can set aside any thoughts of how overweight I am or be self-conscious about my appearance.

It’s a place where people around me appreciate and love me for being – me. Imperfections and all.

That sometimes happens at church and I’m blessed to have people there who love me like that. But there are still some barriers because there have been those who have condemned me for my high spirits and effusive personality when it’s been expressed. Not everyone likes the bubbly, silly, sassy, “high-spirited” side of Susan.  Or maybe it threatens them. Joy at fully living one’s purpose can make others jealous.

Dee Dee and Lori laughingA few weeks ago I had several moments of uninhibited joy. I was in the beautiful Rocky Mountains at a YMCA at Estes Park for the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference where I served as faculty. I enjoyed my entire time there. It was work. I taught classes which I enjoy and encouraged writers. I willingly poured out love and encouragement to others and was glad to be able to do so.

Dee Dee and I met last year and a friendship was born. The picture above is of Dee Dee and another new friend, Lori at dinner in town. I love the expression on their faces and only wish I could have caught Megan in there too as she sat next to me. A dinner filled with deep conversation, belly laughs and love.

A writer’s conference is about writing, but more than that, it is about relationships and that night at that restaurant is a treasured memory of joy. It was later that Dee Dee and I sat and talked in the lobby and our relationship grew deeper. Dee Dee hasn’t led a perfectly wonderful life and has suffered her own share of struggles too. But together we laughed and cried and out of that is born joy.

Why? Because Dee Dee accepts and loves me just as I am. Wild, silly, weird, authentic, wounded and seeking to follow God imperfectly in my own circumstances. And I love her that way too. There will be many wonderful reasons to return to Colorado – but Dee Dee would top the list. And I’m grateful that with computers and phones the distance doesn’t have to be a barrier to our friendship.

Today as I write this, it’s raining and gloomy. Even as I type, tears roll down my cheeks, not out of sadness, but gratitude for those brief moments when the sun shines through the cloud and God has given me the opportunity to live more fully as “me”and be loved and accepted for that.

Praying you find safe places for joy to break through too.

Casey Anthony

I did not watch the trial for Casey Anthony. I don’t have TV and don’t like getting sucked into all the drama surrounding legal cases like this. Even with all that – I still heard bits and pieces and knew the exact moment when the verdict had been handed down by the jury.

What has surprised me (although it shouldn’t, I’ve been around long enough) is the amount of vitriol that has been spewed forth on social networking. Casey Anthony has become the poster child for “evil personified.”  Even jurors, who have sacrificially given of their time to serve for this case, have received death threats. They showed up and they did their jobs. They did not say Casey Anthony was innocent. They came to the conclusion that there was not enough evidence to commit her to a death sentence. Justice did its job, even if we disagree with the outcome.

Casey Anthony has to face a higher judge. She will face, someday, the One from whom no one can hide truth. She will have to watch all that happened and it will be evident where true guilt lies and what her crimes really are.  I cannot judge what I do not know or have incontrovertible evidence of. Neither can you. The  case has left many with unanswered questions although some would like to assume they already know the answers. The fact is – only God and Casey REALLY know what happened to Caylee.

It is interesting that in a society that regularly kills babies before they are born, would get so worked up over the death of one child. Accidental or murder, she is gone and safe from further harm. I trust that God has her in His tender care and she does not suffer. Maybe she was saved from something far worse than eternity in His presence? We will never know. She is gone, she is safe.  Our anger and rage should be against the crimes that are perpetrated every hour of every day to kill babies in this country, for the sake of convenience and a woman’s rights. If a woman has a right to kill a child at 8 months gestation, then why is a two-year old different?   I am pro-life. I believe life is sacred from conception to the grave. But the inconsistency in our culture floors me.  All this anger directed at one woman and a jury – when we have a  President, a Supreme Court and doctors around this nation who support killing children?  Doesn’t  the cognitive dissonance of that irritate you?

So, in many ways, I feel sorry for Casey Anthony. At twenty-five years of age, she is an attractive young woman who has been found tried by a fickle society and has lost any chance of a “normal” life in this world because of the notoriety of this case and the high emotions that have been stoked by the media. While freedom from a death penalty, and getting out jail is certainly a bonus for her – what does  she have the freedom to do? She can’t get a job at Wal-mart. Where could she work to support herself and pay all her legal costs? She could write a book, true, but she will still lack the freedom to go to McDonald’s  or Starbucks to enjoy time with a friend. Have any friends even stood by her through this? She has lost closeness with her parents. Who will support her other than her attorneys who get paid to help?

Casey is one of many people in this world who walk around wearing “GUILTY” stamped across their chests. And yet – before God we are ALL guilty of sin, aren’t we? Without repentance and the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and His resurrection, what hope do any of us have of freedom and joy and “life?”

As a Christian, my heart goes out to Casey. God has placed her on my heart and I pray for her:  For her heart, for His plan for her future, and that she will be open to what He may choose to do in and through her life if she chooses to accept his “get out of jail free” card. Without God’s mercy on any of our souls,  we all are under a death penalty with the ultimate destination being hell. No matter what the crime, Casey Anthony was created in the image of God. Whether she acknowledges Him or not, He loves her and desires a relationship with her.  She needs our prayers, not our condemnation.  May God have mercy on our souls for presuming we can do God’s job for Him now that human justice has been meted out. May God have mercy on Casey Anthony’s soul as she steps into her uncertain future. May God have mercy on our nation for our inconsistent views on the value of human life.