Am I a Writer?

Startup Stock Photos

Startup Stock Photos

Somewhere along the way, I stopped calling myself a writer and started calling myself an editor because it was easier. I was afraid of failing, and editing is easy. At least, easy enough. With most of the editing jobs I get, there’s usually a right and a wrong answer for everything. And I know the right answer. So that makes me an editor, right?

But the type of editing I really love is the line editing—the developmental editing that gets down into the guts of the words and moves things around. It’s like surgery. It looks at everything in there, takes out what doesn’t belong, moves things around, and adds in what’s missing. It’s problem solving.

And really, that’s what writing is, too. At least for me. It solves lots of problems by providing a form of communication, fostering understanding, forcing reflection, and encouraging learning and growth.

Guys, I’m finally writing a book.

It’s a memoir. I’ve been avoiding it for a while because, honestly, I’m afraid. I’m afraid it will be hard to write, that I won’t finish, that people will judge me, that my family will hate me, that I’ll have put so much time into something no one ever reads or even wants to read.

But all of those fears don’t matter if I think of writing as problem-solving. Writing this book will answer a lot of questions for me. It will teach me a new level of discipline. It will force me to wrestle with difficult relationships where I just feel stuck. It will be an act of faith and identity—I’m going to have to come to terms with who I am and be confident enough to share that with others.

So . . . I guess I’m a writer?

I Can’t Believe I’m Telling the Internet How Much I Weigh

I can’t believe I’m going to share this on the Internet. It’s freaking scary to be this transparent about something so personal. But I’m going to do it anyway.


I haven’t posted anything since I wrote about anxiety back in January because editing jobs and the prayer ministry class I’m in took priority. And I think I needed the break.

2016 has been all about discipline for me. It’s my One Little Word if you’re into things like that. When I was working on a post about my New Year’s resolutions, I realized something. All the goals I was setting for myself were safe and easy. They were all about how many books I would read, how many pages I would write, how often I would try a new recipe. All things I would do even if I didn’t have a resolution to do them. Probably not to the extent that the resolution required, but honestly, I probably wouldn’t meet those expectations anyway.

One Sunday morning, when I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror and lamenting my appearance yet again, something struck me. Shouldn’t my resolution/goal/word/whatever for the year be about something that really mattered? Something I was struggling with? Something that bothered me EVERY SINGLE DAY? My weight.

weight CollageI had lost 30 pounds in my last year of high school and started college as a cute little 122-pound size six. I hadn’t even been trying to lose weight, but the stress of that year just took it out of me. Everyone told me I’d gain it back. And I swore I wouldn’t.

But I did. Plus, um, a lot. College brought me back up around 150 pounds. I was a size 10 the day I got married.

Being happily married and comfortable brought me up around 170 within a few years.

November

This is me with my friend Dana and her friend Kayla at Dana’s baby shower back in November.

And then, when I started taking anxiety medication in 2014, the number on the scale and the size of my pants just kept going up. 180. 190. 198. I stopped using the scale because I couldn’t bear seeing 200. In the first week of January, I sucked it up and pulled out the scale, wanting to mentally prepare myself for my upcoming physical. 217. A size 16 just barely fit. Everything I was buying was at least an XL. I felt sick. Something had to change.

(Can I pause here for a moment? I know that 217 is a low number for some people who struggle with their weight. But I knew it was a really unhealthy number for my 5’3″ frame. Gaining about 100 pounds and 10 sizes over the course of 10 years was not okay. And with a family history of diabetes and high cholesterol, I couldn’t just let it go and blame it on the meds, which is what I had been doing.)

At the recommendation of my doctor, I started Weight Watchers with a goal of losing 70 pounds. That was the middle of January. Around that same time, I started using Plant Nanny so I would start drinking more water. A few weeks ago, I bought a FitBit Alta to keep me moving.

Weight 4.22.16

Guys, it’s working. And honestly, I have selfish reasons for sharing this post. I’m proud of myself. And I know if I share it, it’ll keep me motivated to get all the way down to 147. (Maybe even lower!)
AprilSo far, I’ve lost 22.4 pounds. I’m getting a lot more exercise. My muscles hurt less. My acid reflux rarely shows up. I feel less stressed. This morning I made Jonathan feel my calf muscle because I can actually tell where it is! I can wear my wedding ring again (and I didn’t have to pay $150 to have it sized up AGAIN). Most of my pants are falling off. I’m wearing shirts I was embarrassed to wear. Having these little goals has made that 70 pound goal less daunting.

Next goal: A swimsuit I’m not embarrassed to wear when we go to Orlando in June.

church_editionally

Redeeming a Life of Anxiety

The Inciting Incident

Seven years ago, I was in what could have been a fatal car accident. By the grace of God, it didn’t end my life, but it did change it. Significantly. The van I was riding in hit a semi, got hit by the car behind it, and caught on fire. I walked away with a few minor physical injuries that healed within a few months.

But the trauma of the accident and the stress of the aftermath triggered anxiety and panic attacks that I’ve been dealing with ever since. I come by it honestly—I’m certainly not the first person in my family to deal with anxiety, and it’s not unusual for trauma to trigger things like this.

I tried what felt like everything to cope—willpower, prayer counseling, exercise, emotional eating, supplements, distraction, cutting out caffeine, curling up in a ball on the couch and praying for it to go away . . . Nothing worked. I wasn’t able to live a normal life. I was afraid to be alone. My days were plagued with panic attacks that I couldn’t prevent or predict.

What Anxiety Looks Like

Health conditions—mine or someone else’s—triggered my anxiety. Every time I heard a story about someone with cancer, I convinced myself I had it, too—stomach cancer, ovarian cancer, brain cancer. At other times, I was sure I had an appendicitis, an ectopic pregnancy (even though there was no chance I was pregnant), spider eggs in my sinuses. One time I overheard a conversation about someone with a bone spur on their finger. When I woke up the next day, I had a bump on my right pointer finger that didn’t go away for two weeks. I swore off WebMD and made Jonathan read through the side effects of ANY medication I was taking, because if I read them, I would panic, but if he didn’t, I might die. I stopped eating mushrooms because, what if I had developed a severe allergy to them and died of asphyxia? Any time a health segment came on the radio or TV, I shut it off. Jonathan learned to do the same.

I went to the doctor with “invisible” concerns – I couldn’t breathe, my stomach hurt, did I have a tumor? Every test came back negative. No, you don’t have asthma. Your lungs are testing much younger than your actual age. No, you don’t have an appendicitis. You just have a small cyst that ruptured (at least this one is legitimate! I thought). No, you don’t have a tumor. It’s scar tissue from that car accident you were in.

Every muscle spasm, breath, and heartbeat turned into a panic attack. And every panic attack turned into muscle pain, difficulty breathing, and a racing heart. Which turned into a panic attack. For a while, I tried breathing techniques to calm myself. But paying attention to my breathing only made me more aware of the “weird” things my body was doing, triggering another attack. It was a vicious cycle that I couldn’t stop.

Every year for four years, my doctor recommended I try a daily anxiety medication. And every year I refused. I didn’t want to be that person who had to depend on medication to be “normal.” I didn’t want the side effects. I didn’t want the association with mental illness or the judgment from other Christians who thought I didn’t have enough faith. I wanted to fix it myself, and if I took medication, it meant I was giving up.

sunrise_editionally

Hope

After a particularly helpful prayer counseling session, I had a period of respite—I believe it was God’s healing—but just a few months later, the anxiety came back with a vengeance and I felt hopeless. It’s time, I thought. I made an appointment with my doctor and told her I was ready to try medication if it meant I could have a normal life again.

Because I had been so adamant about not taking medication in the past, she wanted to be sure it’s what I wanted. We decided I’d ease into it. She prescribed half of the lowest effective dose that had been studied—just 5 mg—of Lexapro, a newer drug that was supposed to have fewer side effects. “I want you to know the difference between symptoms caused by anxiety and symptoms that you need to come in for,” she said. “It will give you peace of mind.”

I took the bottle of tiny white pills home and let it sit on the table for a week. I asked God if He could make it really clear if I was supposed to take the medication. I was so torn up about the decision I did something that scared me—when we got together with a group of friends from church, I told them about it and their response surprised me. “Take it!” they said, “God uses medication to heal people, too.”

So I started taking it. Three weeks later, it started kicking in. And the side effects were hell that resulted in an antibiotic that resulted in more side effects that were more hell. But after about six weeks, all those things subsided.

I was calm. After years of anxious, racing thoughts and physical pains, my mind and my body were at peace. I could get through the hour without thinking about cancer. I went days without panic attacks. They stretched into weeks that stretched into months. That first year, I went from having multiple panic attacks a day to having just four for the entire year. The second year was the same. My dose is still a tiny 5 mg, and I feel free.

It’s weird to think about now. I still have vivid memories of some anxiety episodes. One especially difficult one took place on our honeymoon. Jonathan was driving back roads through the mountains of West Virginia and I was beside myself thinking he would miss a turn and we’d roll down the mountain.

But that’s not my life anymore.

yin4xubaqnk-morgan-sessions

Making it Count

I’ve been thinking a lot about my struggle with anxiety and wondering if there’s a way I can make it count for something. If I had to go through all of that, I want it to mean something. And I think God does, too. Otherwise, why would He let me go through it?

So here’s what I’ve landed on: I want to make the Church a safe place for people with mental illness. I’m going to start with my church. It’s not that it’s an unsafe place, we just don’t talk about it. I don’t want people to forgo treatment like I did just because they’re afraid of how other Christians will view them. I don’t know what this is going to look like, but I do know this:

Just because you struggle with mental illness does not mean you don’t have enough faith. It doesn’t mean you’re not “spiritual” enough. It doesn’t mean you have unresolved sin in your life. (For some people, it can be a symptom of those things, but not always. I’m not going to get into that here.)

If you struggle with mental illness, I’m not going to judge you for it. Instead, I’m going to put myself out there and speak up for the both of us. I want to help people to understand, to know how to talk about it in the Church. Though I’ve never personally felt judgment from the Church for my mental illness, I have family members who have. And I have been affected by ignorance in the Church—people who don’t mean to do or say the wrong thing, they just don’t know any better.

The Challenge

So let’s be brave. And honest. Let’s be open about mental illness. And let’s not be afraid to talk about it in the Church. Let’s make the Church a safe place where people who struggle with it can find friends and find hope. Because that’s what the Church is for—sharing the hope of Jesus Christ with people who feel hopeless.

furiouslyhappy

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

FIVE STARS

I got out of my Christian book bubble for this one. I’ve been laughing at Jenny Lawson’s stuff on theblogess.com for about a year, so when I found out she wrote a memoir focused around her mental illness, I knew I had to get it. I didn’t exactly read it—I used my free Audible trial to get the audiobook, and I’ve been listening to it in the car over the last week or so. I highly recommend experiencing Furiously Happy this way—Jenny is the narrator, which makes it even better because no one “gets” how a book is supposed to be read quite like the author, plus the audio version comes with a bonus chapter.

Jenny did talk about her struggles with depression, anxiety, and a few other things, but mostly the book was just super entertaining, at least for me. Her writing style is fast and may give you whiplash, but I promise it’s worth it. I can’t wait to get ahold of her first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened because I’m sure it’s as good as this one.

I highly recommend Furiously Happy, unless you find language and references to the author’s “lady garden” offensive.

I chose to review this book just because I loved it. I’m not getting compensated and my opinions were not influenced by the publisher or author.

computer and journal

Not Writing

So does being a writer mean you do everything you can think of instead of writing because it’s just too hard? Like checking your email, looking at Facebook, going over your notes a tenth time, refilling your water bottle even though you’ve only had two swallows, or looking at Facebook again? Or perhaps even writing a blog post about not writing because you’d rather write that than write the thing you’re supposed to write?

Uggh. Welcome to my morning.

The Painter’s Daughter by Julie Klassen

thepaintersdaughter

FIVE STARS

Nothing like kicking off 2016 with a fantastic read! I stayed up a little too late last night because I had already been reading for . . .  um . . . five hours, and I just had to finish it. I didn’t bother to look at the clock when I finished because I didn’t want to know, but I’m pretty sure it was at least two hours past my bedtime.

I always have a hard time writing reviews for the really good books, and this is one of those. There’s nothing to pick at, no suggestions to make. Just lots of exclamations about the great plot twists, complex characters, and compulsion to keep turning the pages. So pretty much you should stop reading this reveiw and just go find a copy of the book instead.

If that’s not enough to convince you to pick up a copy of The Painter’s Daughter, what about . . . ?

  • This is Klassen’s ninth book, and they’re ALL amazing (well, there is one I haven’t read yet, but I just got it for Christmas and I can’t wait to dig in).
  • The characters aren’t squeaky clean—they’re real and relatable.
  • BUT don’t worry, Jesus is in there, too.
  • Yes, it’s historical romance, but there’s a good bit of mystery mixed in.
  • Not into romance? What if I told you one of the main characters is a military captain and there’s a good war scene?

I have nothing bad to say about The Painter’s Daughter. Just read it so you can love it as much as I did.

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review. The opinions are my own and were not influenced by the publisher or author.

bestbooks2015

My Favorite Reads in 2015

Want to kick off the new year with a good book? Here are my favorite reads from 2015:

  1. Brentwood’s Ward by Michelle Griep
    Nicholas Brentwood’s sister’s health is failing and he’s desperate for funds to move her out of the city. His opportunity arrives when he’s asked to serve as guardian for Emily Payne, a fiery, independent woman who doesn’t like to follow instructions.
  2. Vendetta by Lisa Harris
    When a teenage girl goes missing, the case becomes personal for detective Nikki Boyd, whose own sister disappeared ten years ago. Nikki jumps into action, asking all the right questions and following all the leads, and just when she thinks she’s solved the case, everything goes wrong.
  3. Worry Less So You Can Live More by Jane Rubietta
    A book that needs to be read by any woman who worries about anything, whether it’s panic-attack-inducing worry or the kind that hides in your check book and jumps out when it’s time to pay the bills.
  4. Taming the To-Do List by Glynnis Whitwer
    This book goes beyond quick tips for checking more items off your list. It’s actually a book about procrastination—what it is, why we do it, and how to stop.

Worship Changes Everything by Darlene Zschech

9780764214271THREE STARS

“Worship,” Darlene Zschech says, “is our response to His majesty.” She goes on to say, “When God comes close, everything changes.”

Worship Changes Everything is, in a way, a worship manifesto. In it, Zschech defines worship, explores the foundations of worship, and illustrates what worship looks like on a practical level.

My only complaint is that the content felt too shallow. I was hoping for a deeper exploration of what it means to worship. But perhaps she covered that in a previous book (she has four). That said, she covered A LOT of information and insights that those who are newer to the faith may find life-altering. Those who are further along in their faith walk will find some helpful and friendly reminders about who God is and how we can respond to Him in every area of our lives.

Zschech’s easy-to-read writing was full of Scripture and insightful quotes from everyone from Joel Osteen and Timothy Keller to CS Lewis and GK Chesterton. I often find myself skipping over huge block quotes when I’m reading, but these drew me in further and added depth and meaning to the message.

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review. The opinions are my own and were not influenced by the publisher or author.

Gift Guide

Literary Gift Ideas

Looking for gift ideas for the readers in your life? Or perhaps you love books and don’t have any ideas for the friends and family begging you for Christmas lists? Here’s my bookish wishlist—things I’ve asked for in the past or would love to find under the tree this year. And I promise, they don’t all cost $100 (though there are a few big-ticket ideas). I know what a budget is ;)

  1. A gift card for an independent bookstore (If you’re in the Twin Cities, Magers & Quinn and Common Good Books are my personal favorites.)
  2. A gift card for a coffee shop or cafe where they can read (Starbucks, anyone? Or, if you’re in the Twin Cities, check out Tin Bins in Stillwater.)
  3. Books (Are they on Goodreads? Look there for ideas!)
  4. Audiobooks
  5. An e-reader (I love my Kindle!)Kindle_Reading
  6. A new e-reader case
  7. A new journal and a nice pen
  8. Literary T-shirts, totes (yes, that is an entire novel printed on a bag!) mugs (this is a British site, but if someone got me this one, I’d love them forever), socks (yes, you read that right), jewelry, etc.
  9. Literary art for home or officeart
  10. A subscription to Audible
  11. A booklight
  12. A collectible or vintage edition of a book they love
  13. A book about books
  14. Books from local authors, or books about the area they live in or would love to visit (bookstores usually have a local/regional section)20150815_135117_HDR
  15. Literary action figures
  16. Literary board games or puzzles (Pride and Prejudice, for example)
    Agree to read their favorite book and then go out for coffee to talk to them about it
  17. Tickets to a play or musical based on a book they’ve read (This one is on my list this year)
  18. A trip to an author’s hometown or other significant place (I want to go here with my sister someday)

There you have it. If this list doesn’t give you any ideas, you might be out of luck . . .

P.S. None of the pages I linked to are reimbursing me for this post :)

Every Girl Gets Confused by Janice Thompson

every girl gets confusedBased on the cover of Every Girl Gets Confused, I was expecting a fluffy, feel-good Christian romance with a predictable plot and a happy ending. One that I was maybe a little embarrassed to be seen reading because, well, do you see the cover?

When I read books, I want the main character to feel like my best friend. That did not happen. The main character, Katie, was flat. I didn’t get to know her—why she worked at the bridal shop, her passions, what she wanted out of life. I felt like I was getting the life story—Facebook style—of someone I kinda-sorta knew five years ago rather than getting the inside scoop from someone who trusted me enough to let me inside her head.

It was a pretty fluffy book with a happy ending, but there was too much fluff. I didn’t get interested in the story until I had already read three-quarters of it because there wasn’t a plot. I followed Katie, the main character, through a few low- or no-stakes work and relationship “conflicts,” but they weren’t really enough to keep me turning the pages. In the end, it was the storyline of a few secondary characters that drew me in.

There were a few other little things about the book that I struggled with . . .

Nearly ever character had an outside-the-box name: Queenie, Hibiscus, Twiggy, Dahlia, Eduardo . . . I know names in the south (it takes place in Texas) are a little different than here in the midwest, but it was over the top.

Each chapter was named after a Doris Day song and featured a quote by or about her. Every time I started a new chapter, I wondered what she had to do with anything. It wasn’t until at least 150 pages into the book that I found out why Doris Day was significant at all. And it was pretty minor.

I wanted to like this book. I really did. I wanted a light, fluffy, happy book. And while I feel like Every Girl Gets Confused got there eventually, it wasn’t worth wading through the first three-quarters.

2 stars—It was okay and I probably won’t recommend it.
(Read more about my rating system here.)

I received a copy of this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review. The opinions are my own and were not influenced by the publisher or author.


Do you want the inside scoop? I had a really hard time writing and posting this review.

I recently found out that when I write a review, the publisher adds it to all the other reviews and ships it off to the author. Uggh. If I give a book a less-than-positive review, I do it to help readers make the most of their reading time, not to hurt the writer of the book.

I’m intentional about giving books I love a lot of recognition on my blog and social media, but when I don’t like a book, I gloss over it a bit. I post the review on my blog and Amazon (because I have to) and rate it on Goodreads, but maybe I won’t post the link on social media. And if I do, I certainly won’t tag the author. Writers tend to be the sensitive type, and I’d rather not kill their confidence by letting them know I didn’t like their book. Because even if I didn’t, writing is hard work! I’m still pulling for them.

When I read through the Acknowledgements, I learned that Thompson lost a grandchild while she was writing this book. No wonder it wasn’t as good as it could have been! How can I blame her?

To complicate things further, I discovered one of my college professors is Thompson’s literary agent. Since I keep up with him casually on Facebook, that makes it even harder to share my honest opinion.

Maybe I just care too much about what people think of me? I don’t know. All I know is that I don’t like hurting people’s feelings, and sometimes being honest means I have to do that. Just doesn’t seem right, does it?

I’ve never read a book by Janice Thompson before. A quick Google search shows me that she’s written A TON of books. I don’t want to judge her based on just this one. So I think I’ll give her another shot and try one of her other books. I’m pretty sure I have one buried in the 2,000+ titles on my Kindle . . .