Sunday, February 26, 2012

A little bit about me

I'm starting this blog for one main reason. I'm a writer, and I need a place where I can post some of my writing as well as gather a few of my favorite videos and songs.

I hope my writing will encourage others who are fighting personal battles, whether it be depression, loneliness, condemnation, or compulsive habits. I believe in redemption because I have experienced it. Jesus came to bring us true and complete freedom, not some halfway measure that means we're doomed to struggle and crave sin the rest of our lives! I don't yet fully experience this freedom, but I'm going to keep seeking until I do because I know it's real. As the Scriptures say, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Book Club Discussion Questions for TESSA

Following are suggested questions to spark book club discussions on my novel, TESSA. Feel free to print these and alter them as needed to fit your club. (Updated 10/5/2013)

1. Why do you think Tessa calls her father "Walter"? What might have happened earlier in her childhood to cause this?

2. Abuse comes in many forms. It can be as overt as a fist strike, or as subtle as a demeaning comment. What forms of abuse do you see in the story? In the lives of people around you? What can you do to counteract it?

3. What is Heather's significance in the story?

4. Discuss this statement from page 223: "I know God forgives me. But I broke the law, and I have to face it. If I keep trying to hide it, I'm still guilty." Do you agree with him? Is experiencing forgiveness and inner freedom always contingent upon honesty?

5. What is Julie's role in the story? Do you feel she is a good character, or part of the problem?

6. If there had been no intervention in this story, what kind of future might Tessa have?

7. Professional counselors can be invaluable to hurting people, but they cannot take the place of a steady, caring friend like Patty. Do you know a struggling person who needs a friend? What obstacles keep you from being that friend?

8. If you could change one thing about this story, what would it be, and why?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Child abuse: Should I report it or not?

 Every year, more than 3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States, involving more than 6 million children.1 Who makes these reports? Law enforcement officers, counselors, teachers, doctors, and other people who are known as "mandatory reporters," along with a host of concerned citizens like you and me.

How can you make the decision whether or not to report child abuse? A lot of people agonize over it. They know of a horrible situation, but they're not sure it's serious enough to report. Or they fear repercussions on themselves or the children if something goes wrong. While they agonize over the details, unfortunately, the children continue to suffer. Following, I've addressed some of the most common concerns and misconceptions people have about reporting abuse.

Won't it make things worse for the child?
Not necessarily. While it's true the abuser may react in anger and abuse the child more, keep in mind that abuse tends to escalate anyway as time goes on. It's better to report it now and get the child to safety if at all possible.

I don't want the family to break up, or the parents to lose their kids.
They won't, unless the authorities feel the children are in danger. Sometimes, anger management or other classes/programs are offered to help the parents. Other times, nothing at all is done (even when it should be). While I don't advocate interfering in a family's affairs without good cause, if a child is getting hurt, he needs help -- even if it means going into foster care.

They'll know it was me who called.
In some cases, that may be true. The abuser could deduce it was you if you're the only close neighbor, for instance. What are you afraid he will do to you? Is it serious enough that you can't risk helping the child? If you're mortally afraid of the abuser, it's probably time to report him, move, or both. 

I know the situation is bad, but I'm not sure it's bad enough to report.
Is the child getting hurt? Do you feel he is in danger? Does he live alone in a house with three heroin addicts? (I came across such a story while doing research for my novel Tessa). If so, by all means, report the situation before something terrible happens.

By the way, you don't need to have "evidence" or actual knowledge of abuse before you can report it. You can't get in trouble for reporting a situation that isn't bad enough. All you need to have is a reasonable suspicion based on your observations. However, the more solid information you have, the better. NOTE: Do not interrogate the child in an attempt to get more information; this can do more harm than good. 

How do I report child abuse?
If the child is in immediate danger, or violence is underway right now, call 911. Otherwise, call ChildHelp USA at 1-800-422-4453 or go to to find the number for your local child protective services. Be prepared to give information such as: the child's name, the suspected abuser's name, address, and phone number, and be able to describe the reason for your concern. 

 What if nothing happens after I call?
First of all, CPS will not report back to you with their findings, so you may not know how things turned out. Also keep in mind that the system is far from perfect. Due to limited resources, reports will likely be prioritized based upon how much danger the child is in. If the abuse continues, call again. If nothing else works (and the abuse is serious enough), a 911 call placed during an episode of violence may be your best bet.

Just a reminder...
Whether or not you choose to report the abuse, always listen and be as supportive of the child as you can. Reassure him that the abuse is not his fault. Love him. And pray for him.