The Scars That Have Shaped Me

a book on suffering+

 

 

I was terrified when I first started writing online.

I wasn’t sure how much of my pain I wanted to share publicly. My life felt like a roller coaster and none of my story was neat and tidy. Nothing was tied up with a bow.

My husband had left and I was struggling as a single parent. My body was breaking down as the effects of post-polio syndrome were intensifying. My dreams had been long abandoned and there was little left to hold on to. Yet God was teaching me to hold onto him. I wasn’t sure if my journey would be encouraging or petrifying to other people.

I had been diagnosed with post-polio syndrome several years earlier and was told to give up all of my hobbies immediately. The staff at the polio clinic said I needed to preserve my arms. To ration my strength and energy. To pare my life back. If I didn’t, they said, someone else would be brushing my teeth in ten years.

So I cried. I fought it. I mourned the loss. I argued with myself and with God.

And then I listened. I boxed up my painting and scrapbooking supplies and gave away all my cooking magazines. I wouldn’t need them anymore. Life was reduced to doing the bare minimum while the things that brought me happiness gathered dust in the cupboards of my house.

In those dark days, I asked the Lord why he gave me the desire to create beauty in the first place if he knew I wouldn’t be able to continue with it. I didn’t hear an answer.

Years later, in the same week, three friends separately encouraged me to write about my life. Each of them had prayed about it and felt the Lord prompting them to tell me. Each time I was taken aback by their suggestions. Each time I laughed, and said “I’ll think about it.” Each time I left puzzled. But by the end of the week, with three people saying the same thing, I knew I needed to pay attention.

So I told the Lord about my fears about writing. My writing was not poetic or beautiful and I never aspired to be a writer. I journaled regularly and wrote a funny Christmas letter each year, but that was the extent of my literary efforts.

It seemed too scary to even consider, so I asked God for a sign.

Not long afterwards, a flyer came in the mail. A glossy postcard emblazoned with the words “Do you need to write your life?”

I promptly enrolled in the class.

Each week, I wrote pages about my childhood, not ever sure where it was going. But as I wrote, God unlocked something in me. Memories, long buried, came to the surface. Emotions from forty years back came spilling out. The sense of rejection by my peers. The feeling of abandonment as I lived in the hospital. The sense of shame and embarrassment over my limp and my physical limitations.

As I wrote and offered to God my jumbled emotions and memories, with feelings and doctrine and questions intertwined, God began bringing remarkable clarity.

I saw how the Lord had matured me. He had shifted my faith from one primarily rooted in academic discipline to one infused with joy and grace. He had given me a love for him that was abiding and deep.

Psalm 66 describes how I felt, “For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You have brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.” (Psalm 66:10-12)

God indeed had brought me to a place of abundance. Not that my circumstances were any different. But I knew that he was in them with me. And he was using them all for my joy and his glory.

So I started writing online to tell others about that abundance. To proclaim God’s goodness in the midst of adversity. I didn’t know where it was going, or where it would take me, but I knew it was of God. I trusted him as I put words to what he’d taught me. And surprisingly, pouring out those words to strangers became life-giving to me.

I discovered that writing wasn’t second best, a consolation prize, something to occupy my time. In Emily Freeman’s terms, this was “the art I was born to make.” I found a joy in writing that I never knew in scrapbooking. When I first gave up my artistic pursuits, I thought I would never have the thrill of creating again. But God had more in store for me than my wildest imaginings. Because God’s dreams are always bigger than mine.

Maybe you have had your dreams shattered only to discover that God has replaced them with something else. Perhaps you would never have chosen the path you are on, but now that you are on it, you wouldn’t have it any other way. Because you see how God is using it.

I had been writing for Desiring God’s website for a few years when they approached me about writing a book. This, in itself, was beyond what I would ever have imagined. So we decided to put together a book that was a compilation of articles and blog posts I had previously written about suffering. It is entitled, The Scars That Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering. It chronicles how I felt when God laid a crushing burden on my back and took me through fire and water. But it’s much more than that – it’s really about how in the process God brought me to a place of abundance.

Psalm 66 goes on to say, “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.” (Psalm 66:16)

Yes. That is it exactly. It was a joy for me to compile this book to tell the world what God has done for my soul.

Thank you, my faithful blog readers, for you have encouraged me as a writer in ways you cannot imagine. You have been a gift to me. Thank you.

It is my earnest prayer that you will read this book and be encouraged to find that God is ever faithful even in the midst of great suffering. And that you too will rejoice as you tell others what the Lord has done for your soul.

 

The Scars That Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering is available on Amazon. Here’s a link to the Desiring God site if you want to learn more about the book and to purchase it.  And all profits go directly to Joni and Friends.

If you do buy the book, would you consider reviewing it on Amazon? Reviews can be really helpful when people are searching for books that they don’t know much about. Thank you so much!

 

 

  • November 3, 2016 - 5:33 pm

    AA - What a good news. Can’t wait to read it and offer it. You’ve been such a blessing by writtings. Thank u.ReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2016 - 3:40 pm

      Vaneetha - So thankful that my writing has encouraged you.ReplyCancel

  • November 3, 2016 - 9:52 pm

    Jacob David - Thank you Vaneetha for such an encouraging write up. It helps those who are in need of Gods comfort and strength. Feeling encouraged. May God continue to bless you and use you in His service.ReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2016 - 3:39 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you for writing Jacob. So glad the Lord use this to encourage you.ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2016 - 7:13 am

    Sarah - Dear Vaneeth,
    I am really glad you started writing. My favourite thing about your writing is that it points to a real God in a real world. Or specifically, how to relate with God when life hard as it so often is. It also reminds me that God is good even when life is hard.
    Keep writing 🙂ReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2016 - 7:14 am

      Sarah - Sorry I misspelled your name 🙂ReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2016 - 3:35 pm

      Vaneetha - Thanks for your encouragement, Sarah. I’m so glad that the Lord is using my writing. I often write to remind myself, because it’s easy to forget in the midst of struggle, that God is good even when life is hard.ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2016 - 11:42 am

    erin - I’m already through the first 5 chapters. I was SO happy when I saw you had a book out because your writing has been such a blessing to me.ReplyCancel

    • November 4, 2016 - 3:33 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you Erin! So glad the Lord is using my writing.ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2016 - 11:47 am

    Scott - I’m grateful Jesus so clearly called you to write during this time. Will be glad to review the book; hope to read it over the next month or so.ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2016 - 3:39 pm

    Mike R - Thank you, thank you. I’m looking forward to reading your book. Your writings on this blog have been a strength and encouragement as I also deal with a debilitating illness and all that comes with that. I’ve struggled with what possible use their is for and old and sick believer, as I’ve slowly given up any but the most basic activities. Your writing shows that even when all seems dark God’s strength is not lessened nor his saints without work in his kingdom. I’ve put away all the hobbies as I can’t do them and struggle just with activities of daily living, wondering, “God, I struggle and fail to even hold my life together everyday…what hope do I have to be used by you in my church, in my family, and with my neighbors?” Vaneetha, you give testimony that God is our strength.ReplyCancel

    • November 6, 2016 - 7:02 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you for writing, Mike. I am so thankful that the Lord is using my writing to encourage you. I am in a season of feeling less useful myself -at least physically- and I’m rediscovering how sufficient God’s grace is in our weakness.ReplyCancel

  • November 4, 2016 - 4:53 pm

    Trudy - Congratulations, Vaneetha. I have placed your book on my Amazon wish list. It hasn’t been long since God led me to your site, but I know your posts do make me feel less alone and do point me to the hope there is in Jesus. Have a blessed weekend! Hugs!ReplyCancel

  • November 15, 2016 - 4:05 am

    Genelle - Thank you for sharing your story. Love this post and the verses. So cool how God restores our brokenness.ReplyCancel

    • November 15, 2016 - 9:22 pm

      Vaneetha - It is amazing how the Lord restores beauty from ashes, isn’t it?ReplyCancel

  • November 17, 2016 - 1:48 am

    Lilly - I, too, have had the situation of having a dream crushed and removed, only to see it realized in a far deeper and more wonderful way than I had ever imagined. I am looking forward to reading your book.ReplyCancel

    • November 17, 2016 - 12:53 pm

      Vaneetha - Oh Lily, thank you for sharing that. It’s amazing to see what God does with our shattered dreams. His ways are so much higher than ours!ReplyCancel

  • November 27, 2016 - 11:15 pm

    loren lee - Many times as I read your entries, God brings me to tears! He is moving people’s hearts through you. Thank you for writing.ReplyCancel

  • December 8, 2016 - 6:42 pm

    Priscila Acuña - Hi!
    Is there anyway i can buy the digital version of the book?
    Like iBooks or something?
    Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • December 10, 2016 - 3:12 pm

      Vaneetha - You can get a kindle version from Amazon but not sure about ibooks. Hope that works!ReplyCancel

  • December 15, 2016 - 6:33 am

    Sally Craig - I have just viewed your short video and look forward to reading your book…..trying to accept my mum has been cruel to me all my life and that she is incapable of change so I keep being told….I think she has Narcisstic personality disorder ……all the advice seems to be I no longer see her….heartbroken…I need to hear God’s voice clearly.Thanks for the encouragement of “immanuel”Gid is with us in the midst of trials. He may not take us out but will give Grace to go on.ReplyCancel

    • December 15, 2016 - 1:16 pm

      Vaneetha - Oh Sally, I’m sure these struggles with your mother are heartbreaking. Praying as I write that God will give you wisdom and grace and clarity and an unmistakable sense of his presence as you move forward.ReplyCancel

  • January 20, 2017 - 6:30 am

    Tash - Hi Veneetha,

    Yesterday I subscribed to a newsletter and the first one arrived today. The title was “When the answer is no”. My marriage has been a crumbling mess since it began 6 years ago. My husband was verbally abusive and I didnt fair much better. I convinced myself that he failed me, that as a result of the abusive behaviour, my own bad behaviour was justified. He told me in November that he wants out and we are currently planning on the move out. I feel like my life is in shambles. There are days where I trust God completely, and then, days like today where the state of my life leaves me gasping for air. I googled you after receiving the newsletter and your story gives me so much hope. That somehow in this mess, God will give me beauty for my ashes…thank you.ReplyCancel

    • January 20, 2017 - 9:48 am

      Vaneetha - Oh Tash, I’m so sorry for all that you are going through. Praying as I write this that God will give you wisdom and direction and peace as you walk with him through this difficult time. Also praying that you and your husband will both rely on God for wisdom as you make decisions about the future.ReplyCancel

  • January 29, 2017 - 11:57 am

    Sandy - Someone on Piper’s site wrote a quote from your book that caught my attention so I investigated your book, bought it. Just received it in the mail today. I sat down, opened it up in the middle, read one small section – God spoke to me. The widow of Zaraphath…but I like you want to be self sufficient, independent and strong. Though God proves to me over and over that He is my Provider, I still fail this lesson. (I have chronic illness since 2002.) Thank you Vaneetha for writing this clearly anointed book. I know it will make a difference in my walk, and many others’ as well.ReplyCancel

    • January 29, 2017 - 1:55 pm

      Vaneetha - Thanks so much for writing, Sandy. I’m grateful God is using this book – it makes it all worthwhile hearing how God has used my suffering to encourage others. The chapter you referenced is one I need to remind myself of frequently – being dependent on God is a blessing. Always.ReplyCancel

  • February 16, 2017 - 10:26 am

    Esther - Your life is an encouragement to me, & I believe, to many others- number of which you would never imagine. Thank God for His work in your life & thank you very much for sharing your lifeReplyCancel

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