Tell Your Story

Someone asked me once why I liked to write in first person. It’s because the story belongs to the person who lived it. The truth about a life should first be told by the one whose truth it is. Then we may share the story to bring it into the global conversation—to weave it into our communal history. I, as the writer, merely empower the characters to tell their own truths.

From Without a Voice:

first person quote

Advertisements

Redefining Family

The word “family” can stir up wonderful memories for many people. Thoughts of holidays with loved ones, family photos to celebrate one member’s milestones in life, or simple summer afternoons sharing a picnic or a game. That same word, however, brings up a longing in others—a hope to one day reunite with a loved one. A hope that a family member may change and become more loving. A hope to feel loved and connected to others. Some of us often grieve over the word family—grieve for members who have died, grieve for those who face hardships or illnesses, grieve for those who left, grieve for those who hurt us rather than love us.

When “family” is something we lost or must leave, how do move forward? Do we toss out the idea of ever being a part of a family again? Can we redefine what family means to us or redefine who we consider our family?

The characters in Without a Voice faced these questions as they struggled with the emotional challenges of losing family members and leaving family members. Some quotes from the characters give you a glimpse of how they redefined family as they journeyed forward:

“The images of my mother and father seemed like ghosts that I could see but not grasp. I realized that my parents were now just memories. The people before me were my family now. Together we had redefined home with each place we stopped along our way. We never said aloud that we loved each other, but, somehow, we knew the feeling was there.”

“Uncertainty still loomed ahead, but facing the unknown with loved ones seemed more hopeful. Love eases so many fears. Jane reached out and squeezed my hand as if she could read my thoughts. Together would be much better than alone.”

“I smiled at the thought of being a part of this group that had bonded like family. We were strangers thrown together by the sheer coincidence of location on our separate journeys—different needs on the same road.”

If you are part of a book club reading Without a Voice, discuss the theme of family and how the theme evolves throughout the book. If you journal, write down your thoughts of how we redefine family as we face the changes life brings us.

Love Heals

Thistle Farms in Nashville has a quote that they use a lot. “Love heals.” That is such a powerful statement even though it seems so simple. What does that mean? For me, yesterday brought two perfect examples.

First, my best friend in Nashville sent me a beautiful picture for my wall. She became my best friend because we loved each other enough to listen to the life story of the other. We are nothing alike and many times she confesses that my story is so hard for her to understand. She’s happily married-I was married to an abuser who still creates problems in my life. She lives comfortably. I struggle financially because of the past and because of current medical bills for my daughters. The list of our differences goes on. But when I am struggling the most, her “love heals” because she never gives up on me.

Second, when I sent out an announcement about my book, I had someone email back saying she had lost contact with me because she knew of some of the challenges in my life but had no idea what to say. It was awkward for her. But now the conversation is started. She told me what she knew, and I told her what would have helped. Silence hurt. Love heals.

I hope the characters in my novel, Without a Voice, help paint that picture of how love does heal. That includes loving ourselves enough to take the first steps to healing!

Make a Change: Let’s Talk about Domestic Violence

Make a Change: Let’s Talk about Domestic Violence

I’m using my voice as an author and a parent to continue conversations that often start because of a news report. Without a Voice, a novel set in the 1840s, tells the story of Sarah, a young wife leaving domestic violence. She travels across three states with her young daughters as they learn about their own strengths and abilities, and as they discover a new life with family and friends. I encourage you to use some of the thoughts in this book to start or continue conversations concerning domestic violence in our communities.

Who are the people affected by domestic abuse?

We are …

  • Musicians and Videographers
  • Teachers and Parents
  • Writers and Artists
  • Executives and Reporters
  • Retail Employees
  • Accountants and Chefs
  • Among many other titles …

We are from…

  • Small towns
  • Large cities
  • From Collierville and Byhalia and Chicago and L.A. and Paducah and Jackson
  • From Texas and Wyoming and Vermont and D.C.
  • From the middle class, the working class and the wealthy
  • From universities where we earned our master’s degrees
  • And from colleges where we got a two-year degree…
  • And from high schools where we barely got by…

 Our families look a lot like yours with…

  • With kids
  • Or now empty nesters
  • With 4 bedrooms and 3.5 baths
  • With a two-bedroom fixer-upper
  • In the suburbs
  • Or downtown
  • With a garage
  • Or on the bus route
  • Or in a biking community…

Our faith shapes us … We are …

  • Christian, Jews, Muslims…
  • The person who walks in to worship weekly
  • The person who hasn’t been in a while
  • The person you know well
  • The person who just says hello and walks on
  • The person you prayed with or prayed for
  • The person who leads worship
  • Or teaches a class
  • Or reads the Scripture

But we face abuse…daily, weekly, whenever our abuser lashes out at us…

We stay because…

We are scared…

We are weary…

We don’t have access to any resources…

We can’t afford a lawyer…

We wonder what you will think of us…

We believe the lies…

We don’t have a place to live…

Our abuser has befriended our family and friends…you like him…

Our church expects me to carry this cross…

My children will have a broken home…

My abuser controls the money and the car and the house…

My abuser knows where I am every minute of every day….

I think it’s my fault…If I was a better person…

You tell me all couples fight…

My abusers apologizes…

I don’t know how to leave…

CAN YOU HEAR US?

Will you believe us?

Will you help us find safe places to tell our stories?

Will you listen without judgement?

Will you locate and support community resources for victims of domestic violence?

Will you keep brochures in your church or your office or your community center?

Will you stand by us as we journey through courts and through applications and relocations, as we journey to safety and healing?

We you tell us we are strong enough and wise enough and courageous enough to do what is necessary to be free from abuse?

 Understand that…

….the court process can be lengthy and challenging…

…our abusers are controlling and don’t want to lose control…

…our abusers may lie, even in court…

…our attorneys may not understand domestic abuse…

…judges may not listen at times…

 Our abusers may …

  • Manipulate our children
  • Steal our resources
  • Draw out the process so we run out of funds
  • Manipulate family and friends
  • Lie about everything
  • Apologize and beg for forgiveness
  • Bring gifts and flowers
  • Claim a need for mercy due to an illness or condition
  • Blame everyone else for the problem

How can families and friends become more aware of what domestic abuse looks like and what steps can be taken to help a victim leave the abuse? Check local resources to see what may already be available in your community. Find a local support group. Also tap into national resources.

Churches and nonprofit groups—do your part. Post small signs in bathrooms (beside sinks or on the back of stall doors) to let people know that help is available for victims of any type of abuse. Post numbers of local agencies that can provide help or information. If those agencies have small brochures, keep them handy with your other information on grief, depression, etc.

 Be a voice to end abuse!

 www.chrispepple.com

Fun Facts and Other Random Thoughts

Some days, life is just about the little things that make you smile…for me today it was about trivia that I found fascinating. Since my novel, Without a Voice, takes the characters from Memphis to Arrow Rock, Missouri, I thought I would give you some fun facts about Arrow Rock and the city’s famous painter who helps me tell the story:

Arrow Rock is a village in Saline County, Missouri. It is located near the Missouri River. The village has important historical significance related to the travelers who came through as they headed west on the Santa Fe Trail and related to one citizen—19th century artist George Caleb Bingham. The entire village of Arrow Rock has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

The Friends of Arrow Rock offers tram tours of village attractions, including the National Historic Landmark home of famous American painter citizen George Caleb Bingham, and the home and shop of renowned gunsmith John Sites. Visitors can still dine at the J. Huston Tavern, the oldest continuously operating restaurant west of the Mississippi. Characters in Without a Voice enjoyed the food here too.

George Caleb Bingham was an American artist whose paintings of American life in the frontier lands along the Missouri River still captivate viewers today. Many art critics credit Bingham with being the first outstanding American artist from the “West.”  Bingham’s paintings relate to life and commerce along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and to the pioneer life of the people of Missouri in and around St. Louis, Columbia, Jefferson City, Arrow Rock, Boonville, and Kansas City. His most renowned works were completed between 1845 and 1855.

in 1820, when Bingham was nine, Missouri became the 24th state. Only five years before Bingham was born, Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery returned from their 1804-06 westward journey. It is possible that Bingham was Missouri’s first artist.

These facts may seem totally useless to some people. If you live in Arrow Rock or if you like art, however, you may find these facts fascinating. I remind myself that it’s all about perspective. As a mom, I have to remember to look at things from the perspective of my daughters. I remember when a certain band was all they could talk about or when they absolutely had to have silly bands to trade at school. That was what was important to them in their world of childhood and young friendships.

I often have to remind myself to remember that my perspective comes from my family, my friends, my work, my traditions, my race, my economic status, etc.…I can’t claim my perspective as an absolute truth for all people. I recently volunteered for a few hours to assist a group of people who moved here from another nation. Organizers of the event soon realized that we had set up everything from the perspective of our culture. The organizers had to make some quick changes to some foods and some signs in the bathrooms. Some basic things that we thought made sense didn’t make sense to all cultures.

So I’m trying to learn to look at things from different perspectives—from different cultures, to different time periods, to different towns. It’s making me a better me.