Originally nursing was my career of choice, though two teachers tried hard to change that. One advised I pursue a career in journalism, especially after I won a state contest and scholarship for my writing. The other encouraged me to follow my interest in psychology and sociology. I stuck with nursing, having announced back in fifth grade that I felt a call to missionary nursing. By the time that dream eventually came true, most of my life experience came from cross-cultural nursing, starting in the Irish Channel of New Orleans. I thought I was set when we jumped through all the challenging hoops, allowing our family to plant our lives on the foreign mission field. When my world crumbled almost a decade later with our forced resignation, it seemed like there could never be anything as rewarding as the life we had lived in Africa. How could I ever find such fulfillment again?
Well, I did. Life does go on if we put one foot in front of the other and step into the darkness, even embracing it.
Never did I realize, however, that I would someday have an international ministry, using my nursing and writing skills together in a new "mission" that reaches out across the globe from this now-common gadget we call a computer. What a fun, effective way to cross borders! What a power leveler, too!
In 1995, two years before I ever saw the Worldwide Web, I was welcoming several new survivors and advocates almost every week by snail mail due to my writing. Overwhelmed and with an ever-growing passion, I left nursing, hoping to write full-time. Eventually, I picked up another passion from back in college days--teaching piano. Not only did it help pay the bills, but provided a joyous diversion from the heavy subject matter with which I might otherwise have become totally obsessed.
If you choose to read my first-person story How Little We Knew: Collusion and Confusion with Sexual Misconduct, please keep in mind that a much younger woman wrote that story, a woman still in considerable denial about the extent of denial we were facing. I was still filled with a lot of "magical thinking." Oh, how naive I was! So were most people in that day. Yet today, almost thirty years later, I believe we see through a "glass less darkly" with much greater awareness.
I'm amazed at that young woman in her 40's, who survived with the grace of God. I'm very proud of her and of my husband who had to courage to stand and often speak for me when the fearful system found a way to silence me. I embrace the spiritual evolution our souls have gone through, bringing changes, thanks to our increased insights--changes so difficult to explain to most people. It all makes perfect sense to me. That's all that matters.
All the work has paid off a thousand times over because of the many friends who have come my way and stayed connected, giving me opportunity to witness miracles in the lives of some spiritual giants in the process. They include a multitude who will never darken the doors of a church again, and many seem to get along quite well that way. My support system is immense. I hope most who have come my way share this advantage to some extent. With the Web so easily available worldwide, finding support is not nearly as difficult--even from thousands of miles away. It's a totally different world!
The nature of the collusion we encountered in Africa was no different than many people find in their families, in schools, the military, and especially on our college campuses today. Having a position that commands respect is an automatic benefit to those who wish to suppress the truth, whether in a religious institution, a school, the military, or a health care facility.
I constantly see the problems of collusion with sexual and domestic violence, through the spectrum of community mental health nursing. In 1990, I obtained certification as a generalist in psychiatric nursing from the American Nurses Association and began working toward a B.S. in Behavioral Science with Community Mental Health Emphasis from New York Institute of Technology, finishing that program in 1992. All of this has equipped me to walk as a team member with social workers and psychologists, able to read and decipher complicated mental health processes and systems dysfunction--all necessary for the insight required to write as I do.
Though a published writer since 1970, I was unprepared for the degree of collusion and fear, even in the publishing industry, on subjects that create a tremendous amount of cognitive dissonance. For a long time, I thought that the resistance to seeing my work in print on this topic was somehow because of my failure as a writer. In a state of denial about the degree of denial itself, I failed to realize what a small percentage of people were able and willing to read something as threatening as what I now write.
In fact, only in recent years have I been able to comfortably introduce myself to librarians as a "dissident writer." Writing about topics that people want to read pays a lot more, but I've never found it half as rewarding.
The greatest hero in my life is the one who insisted in the very beginning that money in this work cannot be my primary concern. I'm quite a frugal person, by nature. While I know how to get a lot done with few monetary resources, without my husband Ron Miller, who often stands in the shadows in this work, I know that the impact of what I do would have been greatly diminished.
We are blessed with two wonderful adult children and a daughter-in-law plus five wonderful grandchildren. The happiest days of our lives are spent with them. They also energize and encourage both of us on some of our darkest days.
In 2011, I went into semi-retirement after relocating. I planned only to pick up a few piano students, continue with my blog, just settle down with no plans for writing much. Less than two years later, I suddenly discovered a piece of suppressed history and was instantly inspired to turn it into a young adult novel, naturally sharing themes of violence, religious extremism, and power abuse. The title: Just Following Orders: Escape from Guerrilla Warfare in 1863.
In April, 2013, the same month I began the historical fiction, a small section of my work on collusion was chosen for reprint by the World Council of Churches as the 5th chapter of When Pastors Prey, a book mostly about the sexual abuse of adult women by members of the clergy. While abuse of adult women is only one of many populations of survivors I've called attention to for over twenty years, it is often the least acknowledged. Having this book available internationally and being privileged to be a part of it is a real milestone on our collective journey as activists. Being referred to as "a veteran in the field" made me smile. Yet I laughed out loud when I saw the prologue by Jimmy Carter, the most famous of SBC "refugees" in the world. Nice to be in such good company!
Ironically, I never found out about the release of When Pastors Prey until 2016, almost two years after Just Following Orders (and the younger version, Mighty TALL Orders) was published. Of course, by 2016, I'd been to festivals all over Missouri and eastern Kansas, talking across four generations about violence, bullying, and racism--those "old" issues of 1863, of course, which are in our daily news feeds, as any of the kids of any age know.
Now, I've brought you full circle to 2017, with the publication of a book I never expected to write, also one I was compelled to write after seeing the two-time Oscar-winning movie Spotlight. For me, that film was an answer to many prayers--unspoken and spoken alike. That's why I wrote
Enlarging Boston's SPOTLIGHT: A Call for Courage, Integrity, and Institutional Transformation (views from inside a Baptist Parsonage through the Donald Trump Era and beyond)
It's also why I'm doing all I can to spread the word about the amazingly-positive messages filled with hope and comfort in this story that's intertwined with the Boston Globe story, telling much that even the screen-play writers knew little about. Enlarging Boston's Spotlight offers a way for us to move beyond the Globe story, integrating it into each of our lives.
If you've made it to the end of this page without stopping to see Spotlight or order a book, I hope you'll do both immediately. After that, perhaps you would be interested in learning much more through a workshop in your community, professional CEU's, or volunteer training for child advocates from multiple agencies in your state or area. Please inquire about this and anything else you find on this site. I'm all ears.