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How did I get here?

If you told me a year ago that I’d be embarking upon a career as a freelance writer, I would have thought you crazy. Sure, I’d always considered it – using my unique ability with words as a livelihood but never thought it would come to fruition. Yet, here I am. For me, my skills encompass more than just writing. I’m good with words in any circumstance. I’m a wordsmith!

What exactly is a wordsmith?

Google defines it as a skilled user of words.

Why not just say I’m a writer, author, or speaker?

Because my calling in life isn’t just centered around those vocations.

I am called to speak life into others. I’ve never understood why people, sometimes complete strangers, pour out their hearts to me. I’ve stood in a Wal-Mart parking lot consoling a sobbing stranger. I’ve listened to the broken hearts of youth at 3am. I’ve had friends look at me, with tears in their eyes asking “What do I do?” It’s in those moments where words can have a profound effect upon the soul.

I use words to build up, not break down. This is my calling. This is my future.

 

October 31, another day of the year

Today is October 31, some would call it Halloween and others may call it Samhain or All Hallow’s Eve. I call it October 31. I decided this year I wouldn’t give this day any attention other than taking my kids around to get candy. It’s just another day where you can get to know your neighbors a little better. Then again, why can’t every day be like that?

October 31 used to mean much more to me. It was, in terms of witchcraft, the magickal new year. I used to decorate like you wouldn’t believe – now I don’t even have a pumpkin on my porch. When my kids grow out of trick or treating, I’ll be the crazy lady on the street giving out full size candy bars and Bibles. You can’t take one or the other, you have to take both.

Free-Candy

Coming to Christ after spending years as a pagan wasn’t easy. When I even started questioning paganism, those people I called “friends” deserted me. When I started going to church, those former “friends” began despising me. Their level of hostility was shocking. For people that scream so much about “Freedom of Religion”, it’s hard to understand the hypocrisy. Then again, in their eyes, I’m a traitor and they want nothing to do with me. It was actually a rather lonely time for me, leaving behind everything I thought I knew.

Thing is, a decent number of people in the pagan world have been hurt by the church in some way. I was hurt by the church. I was young and impressionable so when I got in trouble for wearing jeans to church, I was discouraged because I didn’t have nice clothes. When I got the courage to shake hands with the pastor, he shooed me away like I was some stray cat. To make matters worse, I carried a host of secrets eating away at my soul. Then my mother started buying me books on witchcraft and it was all downhill from there.

With all I had endured up until that point in my childhood, chaos ruled me. I was powerless to the secrets I carried and tried so hard to forget. Witchcraft gave me an illusion of power and control. From then on, I became consumed by darkness.

Today, I’m grateful that Jesus brought me out of darkness. I can live in a freedom I never thought possible. Those secrets I carried, they’re no longer eating away at my soul. I’m alive! Praise the Lord!

So, to me, October 31 is just another day.

 

Finding Passion

For the majority of my life, I’ve held little to no passion – for anything. The word that would best have described me is indifferent. It’s easy, to care about nothing, to expect nothing, that way you’re never disappointed.

Thing is, since finally dealing with the demons in my past, there’s a whole new side of me I’ve never engaged. She’s excited. She’s hopeful. She’s determined. I love her but I also fear her. These are strange new feelings, sometimes I find myself a little overwhelmed by them.

It’s a new and exhilarating experience, to find an ambition I never thought I had. I have found my purpose but I have no clue what to do next. Where do I even start?

More than anything, I want to see people experience the liberation and transformation that comes with surrendering to Jesus Christ. There is nothing comparable to the revelation that you really are loved by an Almighty God.

That’s my passion.  I want to see the lost get found, the broken made whole, and the captive made free. I want to be a catalyst to make that possible.

Here I am, Lord – send me.

Can’t Explain it

I have a lot of unexplainable things happen to me. I sometimes know things about people that they’ve never told me. I’ll talk to people and not even know what I said. I can remember one such conversation with my grandmother. When I was finished, she was just dumbfounded by what I said. She told me she never thought of it that way, I was right, and so very smart. I was all sorts of confused because I don’t remember what I said.  Heck, I don’t even remember talking.

Then I have the story I shared in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and the Unexplainable. I still get a little weirded out by that one.

Another time I somehow avoided an accident that looked certain to occur. I still can’t explain how I dodged that bullet!

Last night, it happened again. I shot up out of bed and apparently ran into my kitchen. I wasn’t even really awake. I didn’t become aware of what I was doing until the pot of forgotten ramen steaming on the stove made a loud popping sound. My 16-year-old son had decided to make ramen but fell asleep before it was finished. The water was almost completely boiled away and it was still steaming and had not started smoking. If it had remained maybe 10 more minutes, the smoke detectors would have woken the entire family up and the ramen potentially burn down the house.

I did not know that over-cooked ramen looks like mashed potatoes.  Ewwww…

Apostate

I am an apostate. I abandoned a faith I held dear for more than half of my life at the time.

I was a leader among those who followed this faith. I mentored plenty of people and dabbled some in organizational leadership. I was the friend of many covens and solitaries alike. I taught classes, read Tarot and performed other divination techniques, attended community events, and did my best to show everyone what my faith was about. I wanted the world to believe I was good, that my faith was good.

Truth is, I was dead inside; my soul in chains. I wanted to hide the dysfunction, the power struggles, or the drama frequently accompanying my chosen faith. It was very much an “every-man for himself” sort of community. The underlying culture contained anger, misery, and desperation. Darkness consumed me, everyday.  Hope was difficult to believe in.

I left my faith for something better. I found hope and  freedom in the places I once cursed. I’m alive inside after escaping hell.

My name is H M Cook, and I am a pagan apostate.

Prophetic Dreams

Somedays I think I may be crazy. Heck, plenty of people probably think I’m nuts but I’m happy with who I am. Over my 38 years of life, I’m slowly learning not to care what people think.

Yes, I have had prophetic dreams. One dream in particular changed the entire course of my life. Another dream disciplined me in a way only God was able. My most recent prophetic dream was meant to comfort and lead me. It has become a source of hope and peace. I’ve even started the process to commission an artist to create the scene. I’m really excited about that.

The thing about prophetic dreams, is that they seem so real. The smells, the temperature, and everything about the dream is palpable.

All my life I can recall having recurring nightmares about tornadoes. Since joining Celebrate Recovery and entering into therapy, those nightmares began to increase in frequency and severity. Several times a week, I’d find myself snapping awake with my heart racing and adrenaline pumping.

Then one night, something changed.

In this particular dream, I was with my children and husband at a school. It was one of those concrete brick and mortar built schools. The kind that can withstand a direct hit from a tornado. Like in every other dream, the weather started turning bad. I wasn’t worried, I was in a strong building.

A scrawny man, dirty and disheveled, approached and told my youngest children and me to come with him. For whatever reason, I didn’t protest and just went. We climbed into his 1950’s era Chevrolet truck and he drove us into the middle of a field.

This field was mostly dirt, dead grass, it smelled awful, and dead branches littered the landscape as far as I could see. I wanted to go back to the school but the old man refused and said I would be safer in his shelter. He said I had to keep it secret, it was only for me and my children. Again, I followed his instructions without protest. I climbed down into the shelter as I saw the leading edge of a tornado approaching. Once in the shelter, the man closed the door but he remained outside! I wanted to drag him into the shelter, but when I went to open the door – the tornado was right there.  I watched as it passed overhead. I wasn’t afraid.

When it was obvious that the worst was over, I opened the door. What I saw when I emerged was amazing. The field was no longer dirty and dead, it was lush and green. A quiet stream cut its way through the field toward the vast tree line. The dead branches were transformed into beautiful trees. It was the opposite of what it was before. It was absolutely beautiful! The air temperature was perfect, and the smell was fresh. It was my own personal paradise.

The man who took me to this secret place was nowhere to be found. His truck and any evidence of him was gone.

Above the tree line was a massive pillar of cloud, it was shaped somewhat like a tornado only be assured – it was not a tornado. It couldn’t have been a tornado, it brought life to what was once dead. It was beautiful! All I could do was stare at it in awe. Its magnificence moved me and I wanted to run as fast as I could toward it. Only it was just out of my reach.

There are not adequate words to sum up my feelings while gazing upon this towering cloud. I felt peace, love, warmth, comfort, safety, hope, desire, joy, and sheer awe.

When I woke, I had tears in my eyes and my pillow was damp. Apparently, I had been quietly crying in my sleep. I looked around and in my heart, I heard a Bible verse…

Be Still and Know that I am God.

Psalm 46:10

 

I haven’t had a nightmare since…

 

To Autograph or not?

I have several friends planning to buy Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and Unexplainable. It seems surreal that I was chosen out of thousands of submissions and published in a traditional medium. Even more surreal is that people have asked if I could autograph the book once they get it.

Me? Autograph something?

The thought makes me want to erupt in laughter.

Why would somebody want my autograph? I spent 45 minutes writing about something that happened to me as a kid and now I’m somehow the most famous person they know. I’m guessing they don’t know many famous people. I think my friends are more excited about my appearance in the book than I am.

If the roles were reversed, I’d be the one wanting my friend’s autograph.

Truth is, I feel silly autographing this book or autographing anything at all. There are 100 other stories in the book whose authors deserve the same honor. I’m nobody special.

Then again, my friend Tanisha Ronay would disagree. She would tell me “YOU ARE A SPECIAL OCCASION.” This woman is a great inspiration and you’d do well to follow her.

I need to stop minimizing my accomplishments or feeling guilty for accomplishing anything. I need to allow myself to get excited. I’ve grown so much over the past six months but why is this hurdle so hard to jump? I guess 38 years of believing I don’t matter is a difficult chasm to transcend.

For now, I’m going to take the first step. I’m going to sit down and autograph my free copies of the book. Maybe I’ll do a giveaway.

 

Weakness

 

Emotions are my weakness. They leave me feeling vulnerable and cloud my judgment. As a kid, emotion got me into trouble more than once. So, for the majority of my life, I’ve avoided emotion. Usually I just swallow hard and trudge forward. If I keep my mind busy, my heart doesn’t have time to feel.

The thing is, by denying my emotions, I am walking blasphemy. Humans were created in God’s image and that image includes the ability to reason and feel. I’ve come to realize this over the past several months. Instead of hiding from emotions, I’ve started embracing them. I’m far from professional and very much out of practice. I’m learning to feel.

Someone once told me I write with empathy, that not only could they understand how a character felt but my words evoked emotion in them as well. It’s not something I learned, it’s just something I’ve always been able to do. It’s probably my biggest strength in writing.

For as long as I can remember, this made little sense. How can I, someone that views emotion as a weakness, find strength in conveying emotion through my God given ability to communicate?

How can my weakness become my greatest strength?

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)