What Kind of Person are You?

heartSometimes, readers ask me why I choose to write about dark topics such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, addiction, betrayal, and hypocrisy.

My answer is simple. I don’t know anyone, no matter how much they pretend it to be so, who hasn’t been touched by struggle in some significant way.

So my goal as an author is to explore these human journeys and to remind each reader that we are never alone in our suffering.

I also hope to show readers that recovery is possible, and that faith is the key to healing.

forgiveI’ve been thinking a lot lately about life, love, and the redemptive power of forgiveness. I realize, as Millie points out in Into the Free, that Forgiveness is a heavy word. To forgive someone is never easy, especially when we seem to have been hurt beyond repair. And let’s be honest…who hasn’t?

I know too many people who have been violently attacked, verbally abused, emotionally destroyed, or sexually victimized. I know soldiers who have sacrificed limb (and sometimes life), left their families, entered the battlefield, and returned with wounded body, mind, and spirit.

I also know parents who have lost their children to addiction, wives who have been betrayed by their adulterous husbands, men who have sold their souls to the fantasy of porn, and children whose parents have hurt them in ways too horrific for our imaginations.

Best friends and coworkers betray one another, fractured families carve deep ravines between loved ones, and the race for wealth, fame, or power lead many well-intentioned individuals to corrupt and selfish paths.

But despite all the hurt in this world, here’s what I believe.

  • Honest people trust others.
  • Joyful people love others.
  • Secure people see only the good in others.
  • Selfless people take great risks in order to help others.
  • Genuine people never turn their back on others.
  • Grateful people do not envy others.
  • Kind people do not intentionally hurt others.
  • Humble people celebrate the success of others.

What kind of person are you? Take away all the hurts and scars and protective barriers and now tell me, what kind of person are you REALLY?

Today, I challenge you to trace back through your life and find the true you. The YOU you were born to be before anyone hurt you. I am willing to bet you are honest, joyful, secure, selfless, genuine, grateful, kind, and humble.

Remember, you were born for a reason. Your life is for a purpose and no one has the power to strip you of your destiny.

Today, I am thinking of each of you. I pray you find the strength and the courage to stay the course. I pray you will never lose yourself because of other people’s destructive choices. And I pray that you will always keep in mind this one simple lesson: Love wins.

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If you haven’t yet read Into the Free and When Mountains Move, please check your local library or Indie store for copies near you. I greatly appreciate your support!

Be sure to join us for daily discussions on the Southern Belle View porch, where I blog with the fabulous bestselling author Amy Hill Hearth on Wednesdays.

There, Amy and I gather with 8 other Southern Inspirational authors for lively chats. We offer special giveaways and engage with our readers, so come join the fun!

Mother’s Day Not Happy for All

Mother’s Day is a happy day for most folks, but not all. In fact, millions of American’s don’t have a lot to celebrate about their own dysfunctional family relationships. Many of you have written me honest, emotional letters about how Millie’s journey with her mother struck a chord with you. One reader, Amber Reichley, shares her own story here with us today. It is raw and painful and yet inspiring. She has bravely and honestly told her tale here, hoping her words reach the right person. Whether today is a happy day or a hard day for you, Amber reminds us all to love one another.

A Daughter’s Journey by Amber Reichley

I think most of us read hoping for a connection to the story, finding a little piece of ourselves within a character. Once I began reading Into the Free, I instantly felt like it was my childhood played out in the pages.  Reading about Millie’s Mama seemed like Julie extracted the memories of my own mother right out of my life story.

My mother, Sharon, struggled with addiction as early as her teens and throughout most of her adult life. I think she was only clean off and on in between the birth of me and my brothers. She stayed in an abusive relationship with my step-father for most of my life. They fueled each other’s drug addiction and the drugs only sparked their addiction to each other.

From early on, I remember her being gone for days; whether it be out on a binge or at home “gone” on drugs. I had no choice but to be the “parent”, as much as one can be at 8 years old. I was left to fend for myself, a 5 year old, and a 3 year old. I walked to the grocery store to get food for us, cooked what I could by myself, and rarely went to school. Not long after my 9th birthday, my aunt, Sandie, took me into her home. It was the first time in my life where there was a normal routine of school, dinner, a good night’s sleep without a knock down drag out fight in the middle of the night. It was wonderful to have no cares in the world and be a kid for once.

Over the next two years my mother was in and out of jail. I would get letters from her making promises that she would change, get clean, and we would all be back together as a family. But those were empty promises made to a naïve girl. Soon there were no letters, no visits, and no calls. She just stopped all communication with me. I remember one day finally breaking down and asking my aunt why my mother didn’t love me anymore. How could she live so close and just not care to see me? I don’t know what answers I was expecting, but all I could do was let her go for the time being. I moved on and lived a happy life as a normal teenager.

I excelled in school and worked very hard at my after school job. I had never forgotten my mother; I just learned to live with her at the back of my mind. All that changed when I was 16. She sent a letter to me to tell my step-father was dying. This was the first communication in 7 years.  I reconnected with her and my brothers who barely remembered me at all. It was a strange meeting. Here was my mother that I had missed so much sitting in front of me and all I could think of was how angry and hurt I was for her leaving me. It was not the happy reunion I envisioned in my head.

We attempted to stay in touch over the next year or so, trying to build some sort of relationship. In the summer of 1999, she had a massive stroke and was hospitalized for quite some time. She was lucky to be alive and only suffered mild paralysis on her right side. It would be a long road to recovery for her. But for me it was like time had started all over after her stroke. Here I was in college at the time, and I was taking care of her all over again. I was driving her to doctor’s appointments, paying for medicine, and paying for meals.  I was doing all the things she should’ve been doing for me all those years. Not long after her stroke she had a heart attack. From then on her health declined and eventually her body just couldn’t ignore the years of drug abuse any longer. She passed away on June 15, 2001.

In the book there is a scene where Millie’s Mama makes her a tiara of clover under the shade of a pecan tree. Instantly I put the book down and raced into our spare bedroom. I ripped open boxes of photo albums, voraciously trying to find a picture. I found the picture in a stack of pictures we used at her funeral.  Julie’s words described this picture exactly. It was taken in 1985 with my Mom and my baby brother, Josh, in our backyard.

Once I found the picture, I dove right back into the book.  I read the next paragraph and began sobbing. I read it over and over again: “That’s the other thing I believe without a doubt. That Mama loves me. Always. Not just in spring , when things are golden and bright, and the stars fall to her feet, but all year round. Even when the heavens tease her. I knew it then, as I know it now. Mama loves me even as she is falling apart.”

These words could not be truer. I am not sure I realized this until she passed away. I think there was too much pain and anger hindering our relationship when she was still alive. Once she was gone, it just clicked with me. I could spend the rest of my life being bitter and angry about the past or accept that she made mistakes.  It wasn’t that she didn’t love me or want to be with me, she was sick from addiction and couldn’t see past that. From time to time, I go back and read that paragraph. I fight back tears and try to remember all the good times in the clover under the pecan trees.

Into the Free has allowed me to embark on a journey of reflection, forgiveness, and hope for the future. I hope to continue this journey, sharing with readers my story of acceptance and hope.  I found this quote on my devotional calendar on April 29th, my mom’s birthday: “What the heart has once owned and had, it shall never lose”- Henry Ward Beecher .  Quite fitting for me; just what I needed to read that day!

 

How Into the Free is Changing Lives

It’s been exactly one week since the release of Into the Free and man, oh, man are things a-hoppin’! I thought you all might like a behind-the-scenes look into one’s life after a debut novel is released.

First of all, the launch party at Off Square Books on January 31 was incredible. I am still swimming in a haze of extreme gratitude and trying to figure out how to adequately thank everyone for such tremendous support.

The launch was enough. It was more than I ever dreamed of and that joy alone could have lasted me the rest of my life. But the week has gotten better and better. First of all, I’m thrilled to announce Into the Free is already on its THIRD PRINTING by David C Cook! That means, not only has the book sold more copies than we expected – three-fold – it did so before it was even officially released! As I say to my Kindergarten students…Holy Guacamole!

Secondly, I’ve been pleasantly bombarded with requests for interviews. I’ve already conducted three radio interviews, as well as numerous blog interviews and guest posts. I’m also adding author events to the calendar daily. It’s been a bit busy, but I always say…it’s better to be too full than too empty. Bring it!

Much to my surprise, the story has been featured everywhere from Australia to Japan and is slowly trickling out through a grassroots word-of-mouth effort. It’s extremely difficult to break in as a debut novelist, but I sense a bit of a groundswell occurring as more and more readers contact me with positive feedback about the book.

In particular, I’ve been especially moved by letters about how this book has helped readers heal emotional wounds.

Specifically, Millie helped one reader reach a point of forgiveness after being sexually assaulted as a young child. “I appreciated how Millie handled the situation and her honesty about it being a long journey to heal. I cried so much I had to put the book down at times. It brought me back through every emotion I’ve buried for a long time, but in the end I closed the book feeling a sense of relief I have never felt. I am going to read it again, and I’m sharing it with my friends. I wish everyone would read this book and understand how important it is to protect children.”

Another reader wrote that her mother, whose personality was a dangerous combination of Marie’s and Jack’s, made the tragic choice to commit suicide when the reader was in her early twenties. Reading Millie’s story enabled her to face her painful past and reach a peaceful place in her current life. She wrote…“to finally have released all that anger and guilt…you can’t imagine how freeing that is. I am going to make sure my sister reads this book too, for I feel she will get a lot out of it. God bless you, Julie. You are doing wonderful things through your writing!!!”

A third reader wrote an encouraging note describing her concern about her teen daughter who is in an unhealthy relationship. She is giving her daughter the book in hopes of encouraging her to reexamine her choices and to hopefully find a better partner. “I have prayed for answers and guidance, but my hands have been tied. I believe Millie can reach (my daughter) in a way I can’t. Thank you for saying in this book what I have wanted to say for more than a year. I hope she listens.”

All the reviews and interviews and sales numbers don’t mean a thing compared to that kind of reader feedback. Thank you for spending time in Millie’s world and for listening to her story. Thank you for giving this debut novel a chance. Thank you for sharing your honest feedback with me. And thank you for sharing this tale with others. This book has already accomplished more than I could ever have dreamed….it has helped at least two readers come to peace with their past and one improve her relationship with her daughter. To have played some small part in that is amazing, and I’m grateful for that opportunity.

I’d love to hear what you think about Into the Free. Comment here or email me privately: julie@juliecantrell.com

Blessings,

julie

 

 

 

 

 

We’re All The Same

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A friend shared a link on my facebook page that I’d like to share with you. No words needed. Just take a couple of minutes to enjoy the show, and remember – we all dance to the same internal rhythms. Can you hear the music?  Click here: Stand By Me