There is an interesting thing that happens when someone talks about something that you don't want to talk about. There is both dread and relief at the same time. You dread the shame. You are relieved by the freedom. You also experience the conflicting feelings of wanting to run out the door and soak up every word because the fact of the matter is...
Your soul needs it.
When you deeply need something, there is a wrestling between attentiveness and throwing a book across the room because the whole subject is going to bring up more feelings that you may be ready to face. It's the battle between good and evil, really. In that moment, you can listen and begin healing or you can run and continue the path of perceived self-preservation that is really tearing you apart.
I know at the end of this post it is going to say that "this is a sponsored post and opinions are 100% my own." You as the reader will take that to mean that I am getting paid to say nice things about a book and who knows if I am being honest. It's just my word. Listen, yes this is a review of a book, but don't think for a moment that any of this is just conjured up for financial gain or to acquire some kind of good graces with the author or publisher. The fact is, I already contacted the author to express my deep gratitude for this book and I was so emotion-filled that I sounded like a blubbering madwoman and basically could've had a class on how to give a bad first impression. I digress.
What I am saying is, please set aside for a moment that this a review for a book. Please.
It took until page 6 for me to have that encounter with this unseen battle between listening or flinging the book across the far stretches of my office. Why page 6? Page 6 is where the author identifies exactly what her struggle is which is Trichotillomania. You might not know what this is, but I can tell you without looking it up on Wikipedia or without the context of this book. It is the incessant/compulsive pulling out of eyelashes and/or eyebrows and/or hair on your head, maybe elsewhere. Why don't I need to look on Wikipedia? Because I watched my first-born daughter, my sweet, lovely daughter live with this condition for about 3 years. It is not pretty, polite, or passive. This condition is serious. The years are painful to remember.
I am unsure if your first impression of this condition was like mine. I was baffled. Dumbstruck. Blindsided. What parenting book talks about Trichotillomania? When did anyone ever tell me that when your child starts pulling out all of her eyelashes and eyebrows and has NO hair left on her face of any kind that you need to do "A, B, and C?"
No. No one ever told me what to do or how to process it. I'm not saying we all don't face extreme shock as parents. We all deal with things we weren't prepared for.
This no longer has to be one of them.
Ann Swindell has decided to bravely write about the one thing I'm sure she didn't want to write about. It takes a lot for me to say that because being a fellow writer means I get the heart of a writer. We like to write about deep things. That gives us joy. With deep things we also like to have climaxes and resolution of some kind. At least I do. But this book is titled, "Still Waiting." The subtitle is "Hope for when God doesn't give you what you want." It's glamorous, fun, and kind of "ra- ra go God" when we get to wrap stories up with a bow of healing. It's hard to write about the unanswered prayers from a God who is surely answering, but not with what we want to hear.
She goes there. She says the hard things. She shares the hard stories. Because of this, I found myself crying each chapter. Not crying like "I felt the urge to cry but tears didn't actually materialize." I cried like, "water on my cheek and I want someone to hold me but the only person who gets my feelings right now is an author I have never met who lives states away." It was also the kind of crying that is a healing cry. Like when you "get" something you didn't understand before. You're eyes are opened. You receive something you needed. It's a gift.
Is this book about Trichotillomania - yes? Is this book about so much more - yes! This is what you realize as you read Ann's story. It is all of ours. All of us have something we can't change no matter how hard we pray, no matter how hard we want, no matter how much we do. We have some deep longings that are not fulfilled. This longing creates something valuable in us. I'll share a quick clip of her talking about this below.
You should read this book, not because of all the warm fuzzies you will get but because of the far recesses of your life that need to hear what she is saying. She put into words things that my daughter could've never explained to me. I would ask my daughter, "Why? Why are you doing this? Are you worried or anxious?" I questioned everything about my parenting and our life situation at the time. This book helped me relieve burdens from myself as a mom that I didn't need to carry. It also helped me to see that the greatest thing our children need or ANYONE with this condition needs is just love. Simply and fully. Goodness, we all need that as we wait, hope, fail, and trust.
I could write a 4 part series based on what I learned from this book. I don't have the space and you don't need to read it from me. Read it from her.
I want to leave you with a powerful moment that happened one day after reading this book.
Since I am a youth pastor's wife, I lead a group of high school girls on Wednesday nights. All the leaders have different age groups. Mine are the 11th and 12th graders. They are the quietest small group that I have ever led. I don't know if they are uninterested or if they just don't enjoy talking. Perhaps they have deeper burdens than I can wait long enough to hear about. I'm unsure but wholly interested in finding out.
One of the girls in particular has never shared a real struggle with the group. I always try to go deeper with the group and even with this girl in particular but we always seem to stay swimming in the kiddie pool. Until last Wednesday.
I felt sick. I had a wretched headache and I was looking at my husband across the room with a pitiful face that said, "I can't be a youth leader tonight, I need sleep and pain reliever." I'm not sure if he didn't notice or if he did notice but was giving me a look of "I need you here." At any rate, I pushed through the night until it was small group time. I had nothing though. I was actually even slightly on edge because I have to try so hard to get them to open up and I didn't have the energy that evening. I told them I wasn't feeling well. I said, "I need you guys to lead a little and carry the conversation, my head is really pounding." They all stared at me like my headache was completely not their problem and nothing I said was going to change their conversational habits. I prayed in my heart, "God please do something here. I got nothing." After we went around the circle and took prayer requests (which felt more perfunctory than real) I was further frustrated. It felt like our time was becoming inconsequential. I reminded them again that I needed their help in talking that night. Nothing but blank stares back from all of them.
I took a deep breath and like a basketball player throwing up a desperate shot before the end of the game I just blurted out, "Let's share one of our favorite books we've read in last 2 years."
Awesome. I thought. Very spiritual.
The girls all shared and then it was my turn. I said, "Well one of my favorite books I have read in the last 2 years is a book called Still Waiting by Ann Swindell. It is about a woman who has Trichotillo..." And at this VERY SECOND the girl to my left shot up her hand in the air and her whole body came to life like a Michigan apple blossom in May. She practically finished the word for me. She had a smile on her face. Though my head was pounding, and though this night previously felt so dead, I looked at her and marveled. I paused in amazement at what was transpiring.
Before she even knew what she was saying and before she could calculate the risk she said, "I have that!" Like she had bottled it up for years and the opportunity for releasing the pressure had finally arrived.
Everyone looked at her and she realized she had just let a secret out that she was never planning to divulge. It was like her excitement to have someone see her struggle outweighed the shame that could come along with that, and it all happened in a millisecond. It was beautiful.
I explained about the book and told the others about Trichotillomania. They remained silent.
But the girl who confessed — the girl who raised her hand before she realized what she was doing — we connected in that moment deeper than we have in the year that she has been coming to youth group. I somehow gained trust from her. She felt worth.
After we dismissed, I came up to her. I put my hands on her shoulders and said as sincerely as I possible could I said, "I want you to know that you have nothing to be ashamed of. I am so proud of you for raising your hand."
She nervously smiled and looked down. I knew something shifted. Something moved that only God could move. I had done nothing.
You never know how you may be used by God in your absolute, unglamorous, wish-it-were-different kind of weakness to be powerful for Him. Ann Swindell has done this. I can't wait to see how you will allow yourself to be used not despite the waiting but even while you wait.
With all the realness I can offer you,
This is a sponsored post. Opinions are 100% my own. ;)