A Novel about True Friendship

It was our last lunch together. My friend Kimberly had an aggressive form of cancer and knew her time was short. I hadn’t accepted the fact yet, because she was only in her early forties and had a loving husband and three children to finish raising. But she couldn’t fight anymore. Preparing for my friend of almost two decades to visit that fated day six years ago, you would have thought royalty was coming. I brewed a teapot of piping hot flavored tea, and set the dining room table with the good china, candles, and prepared a lunch feast, even though there would only be the two of us. Usually, lunch together meant going to a restaurant, but Kim had wanted to come to my home. It was our custom to bless food wherever we ate. Truthfully, I can’t remember who said grace, but I vividly recall her tell-tale prayer at the end, “And God, please give Christina a friend.”

Now, wait just one minute, Kimberly. I don’t need a friend, I have you. This thought raced through my mind denying the reality, she had already accepted. A few weeks later, she was gone.

Those of you who have also lost a close friend, empathize with how painful this loss can be. It’s a rare gift to find a faithful friend, although many folks have an ardent desire to experience intimate friendship.

But is friendship becoming extinct? One of the reason’s I wrote my new Inspirational genre book, “Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife: A Novel” is because I’m worried about friendship. I’m concerned it might soon be as outdated as last year’s technology, and I’m pretty sure technology is the culprit deserving most of the blame.

To explain, recently a school bus filled with adolescents passed me when I was driving, and I noticed a lot of their young heads were in a downward position. Many were probably listening to music, texting, or checking their social media accounts on their smartphones. This, instead of taking the opportunity to be social with the kid in the seat next to them.

Having a social media connection isn’t like having a faithful friend. A recent article on www.healthline.com, “Social Media is Killing your Relationships” reports, “What if every like, heart, and reply we give to someone on the internet is actually taking away from our energy for offline friendships?” The article’s writer Jennifer Chesak appears to believe we might be, “…unknowingly draining our social energy for in-person interactions.”

“Research shows that good friendships are vital to your health,” according to the Heathline article. “More specifically, having close friendships correlates to functioning better, especially as we get older.”

That’s why my recently released novel is about the friendship between an early 40s pastor’s wife and a sixty-something widowed coffee shop owner. I chose to make the main character a fictional minister’s mate, because there’s often an unrealistic social stereotype for this supporting ministry role, even within Christian circles. I empathize with the difficulty these precious women can have when trying to find a confidential friend to share their current issues or even past heartbreak. We often place ministerial families under a microscopic lens of scrutiny, and have the unrealistic expectation their lives should be perfect. Quite frequently, the needs and even existence of a pastor’s wife can also be overlooked, especially if her husband is an in-demand dynamic leader.

Plus, during my years working in broadcasting, I was asked to host a TV special, where pastors’ wives shared about their lives. One ministerial spouse was concerned about me interviewing her, apprehensive over my understanding of her situation, so only minutes before the show was to be broadcast, she anxiously asked what my husband did.

“He’s a public school administrator,” I answered nervously, unsure of how she would view this revelation.

My best friend hubby and me – photo courtesy Sharon E. Lange
www.sharonelainephotography.com

But instantly, she visibly relaxed, smiled a wide smile, and teasingly joked, “Oh, that’s the same thing.” This wise lady understood whenever you are married to a man in any kind of leadership role, it can be isolating and most challenging to find a trustworthy confidant, fearing you could jeopardize your mate’s position simply by being a flawed human being.

If we’re truthful, all of us are flawed, and burying our pain and problems forces us to wear a societal mask. And masks can become a type of prison that morph into a lifestyle of pretending everything’s perfect when everything’s a hot mess. The bottom line: “Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife: A Novel” is about the desire most women carry deep within to experience intimate friendship. The kind of friendship allowing us to take our mask off, sit down with a steaming cup of coffee or hot tea, and pour our worries out to someone who won’t judge us, and to be a listening ear in return.

Of course, if we’re married, our spouse should be our best friend, but as women we need other females who will walk this crazy journey of daily living with us. We don’t require hundreds of friends, not like on Facebook where friendship is created by clicking “confirm.” Instead we need someone with skin on to put their arm around us when we are hurting, to love us enough to tell us when we’re wrong, and to be present in our time of crisis or heartbreak, and we should be there in return.

 

A friend like Kimberly was to me or like Katie in my novel. The widowed coffee shop owner is a trustworthy confidant for Cassie, the pastor’s wife. I hope the book is an entertaining read. Yet at the end of the day, my desire is for this novel to provide comfort and encouragement for everyone who needs emotional or spiritual healing or support, the kind of support true friendship provides. 

 

Mike Ullery photo

 

Christina Ryan Claypool is a national Amy and Ohio APME award-wining freelance journalist, Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor, and Inspirational speaker. Her latest book, “Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife: A Novel” was released fall 2018. Her website is www.christinaryanclaypool.com.  The novel is available at all major online outlets including Amazon.com, or visit her website for more details. 

 

 

 

 

Please follow and like us:

Parents warn your kids about Acquaintance Rape

Two female college students studying togetherSteubenville football players, Bill Cosby, and now a former Stanford swimmer, have made headlines over accusations of rape. Since in our country, we’re innocent until proven guilty, this column isn’t about prematurely convicting the accused, or even further chastising the guilty. Rather, it’s about exposing the ongoing and often silent threat of acquaintance rape. The www.freedictionary.com defines acquaintance rape as a, “Rape committed by someone with whom the victim is acquainted.” Originally, this crime was commonly identified as, “date rape,” but that terminology is too specific. Although in college rapes, the perpetrator is known to the victim 90 percent of the time, they are not necessarily a dating partner.

Tragically, rape and sexual assault happen both to women and men, and can occur anywhere. Yet RAINN, the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network reports, “9 out of 10 rape victims were female in 2003.” So, for space, let’s talk about young women on college campuses only. Alarmingly, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 80 percent of sexual assaults of college females are likely to go unreported. Why wouldn’t you tell someone if you had been raped or sexually assaulted? Maybe, because in some cases, there are extenuating circumstances causing a victim to blame herself. For example, a 2004 study conducted at 119 colleges found that one in 20 college women reported being raped during the school year…[while almost] 75 percent of the victims said they were intoxicated when the assault occurred.” Additional statistics indicate that “75 percent of male students and 55 percent of female students involved in acquaintance rape had been drinking or using drugs.”Bar shot

Campus sexual assault surveys indicate that about 1 in 5 female students will be a victim of sexual assault. These statistics, however accurate are not the point says writer, Tyler Kingkade in his December 2014 Huffington Post column. Kingkade says the point is that victims are finally speaking up and saying that once they did report, their cases were handled poorly by campus hierarchy. Here’s the dilemma: often a university is hesitant to admit that they have a problem with rape on their campus. It’s not exactly a PR selling point for parents, “Have your daughter come to our college and then take your chances.” A victim can also be revictimized by the reporting process, and the inability to successfully prosecute the crime. Although some universities are aggressively addressing this tragic phenomenon through preventive education. Yet this knowledge can come too late for acquaintance rape victims, since freshmen and sophomore students are at the highest risk of violation.

That’s why, it’s paramount for parents to speak candidly with their college-bound kids. Warning their daughters to not go to a party alone but with other females, and never leave with a male she doesn’t know well. Tell her to guard her drink [even if it is water or soda] and never drink from a punch bowl or open container, because drug facilitated rapes are an ongoing issue. “Alcohol remains the most commonly used chemical in crimes of sexual assualt, but there are also substances being used by perpetrators including: Rohypnol, GHB, GBl, etc.,” according to the RAINN Website. Their national sexual assault hotline is 800-656-HOPE.

Tell your sons that, “No,” means, “No.” No matter how far the sexual activity has gone, and if a young woman is incapicitated, she’s just not fair game because she is unable to legally consent. Don’t assume that your child will not drink, attend parties, or make poor choices, even if they are a church-goer or homeschooled since these can be the most vulnerable youth due to naivety. Remember a teenager’s newfound freedom can be a dangerous gift with deadly consequences. Lastly, don’t expect public high schools to be solely responsible for prevention. They are inundated with a multitude of prevention issues like: bullying, teen dating violence, prescription drug abuse, nutrition, etc. It’s time for parents to step up to the plate, do a little research, and start this difficult conversation.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy Award winning freelance journalist, who is a past two term board member for the Ohio Coalition Against Sexual Assault. She is the author of the book, Seeds of Hope for Survivors, which includes the chapter, “The Reality of Acquaintance Rape,” available through www.amazon.com or her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. Ryan Claypool has been featured on Joyce Meyer’s Ministries Enjoying Everyday Life program.

Please follow and like us:

“If you’re not dead, then you’re not done!”

“Am I done?” I kept hearing this internal question over and over last year as I faced a health and aging crisis at the same time. It was the perfect storm for taunting from the dark side about my professional and personal productivity being finished.

I am ashamed to say that I feel into a deep depression and spent weeks sobbing while lying on my living room couch recovering from painful surgery. Then the weeks turned to months trying to get around on crutches. I didn’t have a clue at how to accept the losses accompanied with growing older, especially while dealing with physical limitations. I had worked in ministry for decades, and now I couldn’t muster enough faith to get off my sofa.

You Can Begin Again About that time, I saw the vivid yellow cover of the Joyce Meyer book, You Can Begin Again, on the shelf in my local library among all the other recent releases. It seemed to call to me, “This will help you…there will be answers in here for you.”

After all, when family and friends are experiencing a life crisis, I usually find the perfect Joyce Meyer product to assist them in handling their dilemma. For example, in the past year, I gave a resident of a women’s domestic violence shelter Joyce’s book, The Confident Woman. When a close friend had a debilitating stoke, I took a copy of  Living Beyond Your Feelings to her in the hospital. Recently, I also sent a female family member who always tries to please everyone and usually comes up short, Joyce’s book, Approval Addiction.

Once, when someone stole the classic Beauty for Ashes book from the library, I donated a copy, because it is a grace-filled message of restoration for individuals who were sexually abused as children. I have used information from it when teaching Bible studies and speaking at Celebrating Recovery meetings, and find it a pioneering work for survivors like myself. As for Joyce Meyer CD series, I always try to pass on whatever message fits the situation. I don’t loan products, I usually give them away, asking others to “pass them on” to someone else in need of hope. Joyce Meyer Books

Still feeling beyond hope personally this spring, I didn’t pick up the copy of You Can Begin Again wanting to leave it there for someone who might actually have a chance at starting over. But the thought of that hopeful yellow cover wouldn’t let me go. A week later, I went back to the library telling God that if You Can Begin Again was still there, I would read it. New releases are never there a week later, and as I had expected the book was checked out. That’s when the young librarian enthusiastically said, “Wait a minute. I think there’s an extra copy on the book mobile. I’ll go and check.” Before I could stop her, she jumped to her feet and was out the door returning minutes later triumphantly holding the yellow book high in the air.

Now, I must admit, for the first time in a long time, I felt faith stirring deep inside me as I reached for that copy and clutched it to me like a lifeline. After all, over the past two decades, God has used Joyce Meyer’s teachings to rescue me from giving up before.  I didn’t have to read very far in You Can Begin Again to realize that the Holy Spirit had done it again. On page 10, these words jumped off the page and gripped my heart:  “It’s no accident you picked up this book; I believe God is whispering to you right now. He wants you to know your life isn’t over. He has a plan and a purpose for you, and He wants you to discover a life greater than anything you could have imagined. I recently heard someone say, “If you’re not dead, then you’re not done!” Why not claim today as a day of new beginnings!”

Believe me after that direct message, I devoured the book and found the encouragement that enabled me to embrace a fresh start. There are so many inspirational stories of new beginnings included. As I read them, along with Joyce’s spiritual wisdom, my tattered faith was renewed. As I neared the final pages, I didn’t want the book to end, and I prayed that there would be some final advice that I could hold onto.That’s when I got to the very last paragraph of the Afterword which reads:       “God put this book in your hands because He loves you greatly, and since you are part of His story, it is important for you to remember when one of those hard days comes along and you feel like you may not make it, it is only one page in the story of your life; it is not the whole story, so turn the page and keep writing.”

Hand on ComputerWell, I guess you can’t get any spiritual advice much clearer than that, because I am a journalist by profession. So I decided I better “keep writing.” I completed my first fictional novella, Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife, to be released later this year. It’s a book I started 10 years ago, and never had time to finish until now.

Whether you’re 19 or 90, if you are sunk in your own pit of despair thinking you’re “done”, I’m praying that you will find the courage to face tomorrow searching for new possibilities and embrace a fresh start of your own.

Please follow and like us:

Happy 55th Birthday to Barbie

barbieBarbie will turn 55 on March 9th and this year she’s getting more press than ever. Maybe that’s because the iconic Mattel doll made the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue recently.

Although I wasn’t happy about the magazine cover, I do have wonderful Barbie memories. As a young girl growing up in a large financially-struggling family, there wasn’t any money for Barbie outfits. That’s why I vividly recall the delight I experienced when my mother sewed an entire wardrobe for my blonde Barbie on her old Singer Sewing machine. A silver brocade gown was my favorite.

The timeless doll was originally created in 1959 by Ruth Handler, who along with her husband Elliot founded the Mattel Company in 1945 in their garage. According to www.mattel.com, Barbie quickly propelled Mattel to the “forefront of the toy industry” and by 1965 their sales were more than $100 million. In the meantime, Mattel also created the Ken doll in 1961 to serve as Barbie’s one true love.

The idea for Barbie was birthed through the paper cut-out dolls that Ruth’s daughter, who was named Barbara, enjoyed playing with. Just like Barbie, who was named for the Handler’s daughter, Ken was named for their son. Barbie’s friends, the Midge doll (1963) and Skipper (1965) were also added to the line. In 1968, Christie, Barbie’s African American friend was introduced. The company’s website reports that Christie was the “first of many ethnic friends of Barbie, which …include Theresa (1988) and Kira (1990) Barbie Latina and Asian friends.” Ethnic Barbies

Who would have guessed that fifty-five years after her introduction, Barbie would still be inspiring young girls and adult collectors everywhere? Barbie products have included everything from dolls and accessories to jewelry, eyeglass frames, pillows, backpacks, digital items, and even McDonald’s Happy Meal packaging.

For many of us, Barbie has been part of our own history as women. About five years ago, the Mattel doll became even more personal for me. This was due to an elegant woman named Reggie who I met on a cruise ship. This was my one and only cruise, since I spent the whole time being seasick. The sixty-something female accountant practically gushed when she told me that she once represented Mattel’s Barbie to Toronto stores. I was seated next to the blonde French Canadian every night for supper, a meal which I valiantly tried to keep down. We were from different countries, but Barbie had somehow worked her way into our collective hearts. We giggled like school girls as we discussed the doll’s early days and her unprecedented success in the toy market with both of our husbands looking on in quizzical dismay.

Feeling nostalgic, that Christmas I bought my then four-year-old niece a Barbie to start her own collection. However, when I arrived with the present, I found my little red-haired relative carelessly clutching an already naked Barbie who was having an obviously bad hair day from being drug around.

After all, it hasn’t been smooth sailing for Barbie. For example, some folks are deeply concerned about her unrealistic dimensions. The fashion doll’s measurements vary on Internet websites, but would be an approximate 39/36-18/16-33 if she were a real person. Talk about a catalyst for eating disorders and low self-esteem, since young girls and even older females have a difficult enough time accepting their flawed bodies without being faced with Barbie’s unattainable role model.

Photo - Stanford University online

Photo – Stanford University online

Adding the plastic doll to the other models being sexually objectified by Sports Illustrated hasn’t helped either. In explanation, “Swimsuits (and unrealistic body images) were never the same after the first doll rolled off the assembly line in 1959 and this is, after all, Sports Illustrated’s 50th anniversary swimsuit issue..,” according to Cindy Boren in a Feb. 18, 2014, Early Lead column in the Washington Post.

 

After fifty-five years, I do wonder if the female race is better for having known her. For more than five decades, our own body images have been sabotaged by a doll, with an unattainable perfect build that never wrinkles. But we can’t blame Barbie for all of this, or can we?

Apparently, last year’s sales statistics portrayed a decline in Barbie’s popularity, too. In a July 2013 AP article by Mae Anderson for the Associated Press the headline read, “Mattel’s Barbie Sales Plummeting While other Girls Brands Climb.” Maybe that’s why, desperate marketers put her on the cover of a men’s magazine last month.

Well anyway, “Happy 55th Birthday, Barbie!  I still love your perfect little self and treasure my memories, but only time will tell, if you’re here to stay.

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and an inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.   

Please follow and like us: