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Casting Off

Roxanne Henke, Inspired Living author and novelist from rural North Dakota.

“A ship in a harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”

Let me confess, I am a stay-in-the-harbor kind of gal. I can easily get any “adventure” I need from the pages of a novel, or a true-life travel memoir. I was the kid on the playground saying, “We really shouldn’t do that. It could be dangerous.” The most daring thing I did was run away from home (in third grade). I got as far as the back of our playhouse, where I sat down, ate the peanut butter sandwich I’d brought along, and then picked up my little suitcase and walked back home.

And, that’s why I’m convinced God was laughing when he introduced me to my husband. While I wouldn’t call my husband an “adrenaline junkie,” he is much more adventurous than me. And, lucky for me, he’s basically dragged me away from the safety of my harbor. Because of him, I’ve been to London, Paris, Italy, Japan and Couer d’Alene, Idaho, where, even though it was “dangerous” and “not safe” and “we could get hurt,” I went parasailing! And loved it!

But, all those adventures were dwarfed in comparison to pursuing my dream of writing. I quickly learned that if I was going to write anything worth reading, I was going to have to open my soul to my readers.

Sure, some things are written just for fun, but when you have a contract (and a column) that promises occasional depth of thought, the waters of writing begin to churn, and roil, and every now and then spill over into crashing waves.

Shortly after my first novel was released, I started getting asked to speak to a variety of groups. Now, I had no trouble at all being a cheerleader. Leading a crowd in urging our team to victory was easy, a group effort. The attention wasn’t on “me.” As a “featured speaker” at an event, the attention was on me.

I’ve sat through enough long-and-boring speakers to know that I didn’t want to be one of them. Every time I walked into an event, I was aware that “I” was the entertainment. I could easily make-or-break the afternoon or evening for these folks. The pressure was on. And, I knew it.

Here’s a confession: I was scared almost to death to speak. Every single time. Even though I may have given my talks close to 100 times, it never got better. I would stand in front of the group, knowing all eyes were on me. I was responsible to make them laugh, or cry. And, it was my personal stories that had to do that. And, I had to tell them. Right now. There were times, from the neck down, I was a bucket of sweat. I could feel droplets trickling down my spine and (honestly) dripping into my underwear. (Sorry if that is too much information. I just need you to know how terrified I was.)

That’s basically what happened when I dared to write about my “sail” through clinical depression. It was not a smooth trip. Since I write faith-based novels, I knew I’d face strong opinions about the use of counselors, psychiatrists and medication. There is a faction of “religious” folks who think you should be able to pray your way out of almost anything.

I came face-to-face with that at one of my speaking engagements. Standing at the front of a church, in front of a packed house of women, I’d given my personal story of triumph over depression. (Most of the time.) My novel, “Becoming Olivia,” is loosely based on that story. At the end of my talk, I walked to the table where copies of my books were waiting to be purchased. I hardly had time to put a smile on my face when a woman literally ran up to me, grabbed a copy of the book and said, “Is she healed by medicine or the saving power of Jesus Christ?” Honestly, I was so taken aback, I’d never been confronted quite like that before, that I blurted, “I’m not telling.” (I never give away the ending of my stories.) She bought the book. But, talk about being in over my head. I was flailing at the thought of what I might be facing for baring my soul the way I did.

But then, there was another speaking engagement when a young woman approached me holding a copy of “Becoming Olivia” in both hands. She held the book in front of my face and said five words I will never forget. “This. Book. Saved. My. Life.” She went on to tell me that she, too, was struggling with depression. She’d thought of ending her life, until she came across a copy of my novel. My words had given her hope. The will to seek help. The will to live.

And, that is when I learned that though leaving the harbor may be fraught with the possibility of getting tossed by the waves and clouded by the danger of crashing onto the rocky shore, there is also the feeling of a brisk wind in your face, the soul-lifting joy of scudding along the tops of the waves, the exhilaration of knowing the dangers, yet navigating right through them. It’s the rush of feeling so alive, of feeling you made a difference, that makes the chance of casting off so worth it.


Roxanne (Roxy) Henke’s “harbor” is rural North Dakota, where she lives with her husband and DeeDee (the dog). Roxy loves boating and swimming. Her eight novels have recently been re-released with the same great stories, but new covers. Find them at You can contact Roxy at