Lately I’m . . .

I don’t even remember the last time I posted one of these. This year has taken me away from Editionally quite a bit, so it’s only fair that I tell you what I’ve been up to.

Lately I’m . . . 

Missing Orlando and Lake Superior
We had a few really amazing vacations this summer, and I sincerely believe they upped my quality of life and enjoyment of the season.

I went to Orlando at the end of June for a database conference (way more fun than it sounds!), and Jonathan tagged along. We stayed at the Rosen Centre (AMAZING hotel!) for nine days and visited Cocoa Beach, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Universal Studios, Universal Islands of Adventure, and Typhoon Lagoon. I feel guilty for some reason, but I enjoyed Universal more than Disney. Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade were AMAZING! (Can someone in Minnesota please start selling frozen Butterbeer?)cocoabeachhogsmeade At the end of July, we met up with some of my family in Marquette, Michigan, and spent a week touring the Upper Peninsula. I wish I could convey how unbelievably beautiful it is up there. And besides that, I got to PET A BEAR! Bucket list: check!

littlepresqueisle marquette sprayfallsbabybear Loving my job
I’ve been in my new role for almost a year now, and I have never been so happy at work. l enjoyed my work as an administrative assistant, but I LOVE my coworkers and the database and communications work I’m doing now. And our church is healthier than I’ve ever seen it before. I’m definitely in my sweet spot.

Earlier this week, I came across an opening for my dream job. And you know what? I didn’t even click on the link. I just thought, “I don’t really want that anymore. I love where I am now, and that job isn’t me anymore.” If you know anything about the journey I’ve been on, you know that’s a BIG deal.

Planning a trip to the United Kingdom
Jonathan and I are going international! We’ve wanted to do some traveling for quite a while and next year is the year. I asked him if we could ease into it (I’ve never been anywhere but Canada) by going somewhere they speak English. And we both want to visit England, so we’re going to.

If we can make it happen, the plan is to visit England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. The trip will be a little about writers (Austen, Lewis, and Tolkein just to name a few), a little about heritage (I’m distantly related to the MacLeans who own Duart Castle in Scotland and we both have some Irish blood), and a little about curiousity (does anyone ever go to Wales?). Throw in a few super touristy things and it’ll be an amazing trip. I can’t wait.

Budgeting like it’s my job
Not only do we need to be saving like maniacs to make the UK trip happen, we’re paying off about $3,500 in unexpected car repairs and I need a new phone. So we’re keeping it super tight until . . . well, indefinitely.

I’ve been brainstorming ways to make a little extra to get there faster, and I’ve come up with everything from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to selling crocheted hats to friends on Facebook (are you interested?). And of course, I’m ALWAYS open to new editing projects, but I haven’t gotten many bites lately.

Trying to stick to Weight Watchers
This summer has been a huge struggle, but I’m hanging in there. I’ve lost about 31 pounds so far, and I’m almost half way to my goal of losing 70 pounds. I’m in a wedding next year, and I’d really love to hit my goal by then. If nothing else, definitely by the time we go on our trip.

It gets really tough to stick with it when you’ve already seen a ton of progress and you’re tired of having to put so much thought into something as “easy” as eating. I slip into old habits so quickly, despite knowing I’ll feel like garbage later.

Working up the courage to actually write that book
Apparently telling people I was going to write a book wasn’t actually enough motivation to do it. I’ve discovered that my anxiety extends to my writing, and I’m actually quite terrified of failure. Because, if I write my story and it doesn’t work, what do I have left to write? But between the Global Leadership Summit and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, I’m feeling inspired to find ways to do it anyway.

So, um… there you have it. I’ve noticed I feel like everything is “normal” and nothing too exciting is going on until I sit back and look at where I was a year ago. I’ve changed a lot, and I’m excited to see what happens next.

A Tapestry of Secrets by Sarah Loudin Thomas

tapestry of secrets thomasFrom the back cover:

For decades, Perla Phillips has hidden the truth of a decision that still fills her with guilt. But now, seeing her granddaughter, Ella, struggle in a similar way, she’s prepared to finally open the past to her family, no matter the consequences. But when the opportunity is snatched from her in a most unexpected manner, will she have waited too long?

Spanning generations, this moving family drama weaves together the interlocking stories of two women as they navigate relationships, family, faith, and the choices that will shape their lives. Heartwarming and nostalgic, the story explores the courage to share the wounds of the past and celebrates the legacy a family passes from one generation to the next.

Sarah Loudin Thomas’ latest book, A Tapestry of Secrets, lives up to the standard she set with her first book, Miracle in a Dry Season. Thomas twisted several storylines together in a way that made me feel like I was part of the small town where the story takes place. I loved the way the romance plot unfolded and kept me guessing, and the slow revealing of Perla’s history as she shared it with her daughter and granddaughter added depth to her character and wrapped up loose ends going back to the first book in the series in a satisfying way.

I just really love Sarah Loudin Thomas’ stories. This one, the third in her Appalachain Blessings series, was almost as good as the first book she wrote. According to the author notes, she wrote this one first. The series starts as historical and ends up contemporary as it follows one family through decades of life. The whole series is worth reading, and it has more depth than a lot of the historical romance fluff I typically read.

4 stars
I liked it and will suggest it to those who might be interested.
(Learn more about my star system here.)

Buy it here.

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.

From This Moment by Elizabeth Camden

fromthismomentcamdenDespite the fact that it took me FOREVER to finish this book, I really, really loved it. (I can be a super lazy reader, which is basically because it’s a lot easier to binge watch Royal Pains on Netflix than it is to hold a book . . . ). It was my third Elizabeth Camden novel (you can read my review of one of the others here), and it’s my favorite one.

Camden has a special talent for creating living, breathing characters that are just so human. I felt so conflicted while I read because the main characters both had significant character flaws that just rubbed me the wrong way, but I loved them anyway. It made for a complex emotional experience that left me cheering at the end of the book. (How cheesy does that sound? It’s pretty much how it went down, though. Sorry.)

Camden also knows how to weave a plot that keeps you guessing and makes you forget you’re reading Christian historical fiction (at least most of the time).

Looking for a good read? Start here. Excuse me while I go track down all of the other Elizabeth Camden books I didn’t realize existed . . .

5 stars—I loved it and will recommend it to everyone.
(Learn more about my star system here.)

Buy it here. 

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.

All Summer Long by Melody Carlson

all summer longThe weather is gorgeous, the calendar is full, and time to relax is much appreciated. For me, this summer means surviving lots of extrovert activities—grad parties, family get-togethers, camping trips with friends—and that means my
“introvert days” are extra important. If I don’t have a chance to be quiet, to recharge by myself, to feed my mind without the noise, I get super grouchy. Just ask my husband. I am not a pleasant person to be around.

I’m battling the grouchiness with some extra reading time. I decided to give up Netflix unless I’m at the gym or with my husband in favor of more time to read my Bible, journal, and get sucked into some good books.

I’ve read some fun ones so far, but All Summer Long by Melody Carlson has been my favorite. It’s a chick-flick in book form. The main character is as lovable and ambitious and hopeful as your favorite rom-com heroine, and her love interest is every bit as dreamy as Tom Hanks. (Okay, maybe not quite Tom-Hanks level, but you get the picture.)

I’m a long-time fan of Melody Carlson. When I was a teenager, I discovered her Diary of a Teenage Girl series, and I’m not exaggerating when I say it probably changed my life. Carlson’s characters became my role models, my example of what a Christian teenager and healthy relationships should (and should not) look like.

I loved this love story. And if you like happy, fluffy romance with a leading lady who follows her dreams thrown in, you’ll love it too.

5 stars—I loved it and will recommend it to everyone.
(Learn more about my star 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.

Murder Comes by Mail by A.H. Gabhart

murdercomesbymailMurder Comes by Mail by A.H. Gabhart was a great change of pace. I typically read historical (sometimes contemporary) romance, and this had that plus a murder mystery. It kept me on my toes, and I loved the plot.

The main character, Michael Keane, is a small-town deputy searching for a serial killer with the help of the local newspaper editor.

With the focus on the murders, the secondary character development suffered a bit, but I can easily get over that because the story was so enjoyable (is it weird to say you enjoyed a murder mystery?).

I’d recommend this book for anyone who loves small towns, mysteries, and great fiction. It’s a great summer read.

Excuse me while I go find the first book in the series . . .

4 stars—I liked it and will suggest it to those who might be interested.
(Learn more about my star 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.

Her One and Only by Becky Wade

heroneandonlyThis was my third or fourth Becky Wade book, and honestly, I didn’t enjoy it as much as the others.

From my time as a fiction intern, I know that generally, publishers put less time and effort into a successful author’s subsequent efforts. The name alone is enough to sell the book, so the quality of the writing isn’t as important. (At least not on the business side of things. I’m willing to bet the editors feel differently about the books they work on.) I think that’s what happened with this one.

Wade writes great Christian fluffy romance that I love to read, but this one just wasn’t at the same level as previous books. It felt like it could have used another draft.

The characters weren’t as deep and developed. And because Her One and Only is the fourth book in a series, Wade threw in a minor storyline about a few characters we learned about in a previous book, but it wasn’t fleshed out enough to fit with the rest of the plot.

All that said, if you’ve read the other books about the Porter family, you’ll still want to read this one to round out their story.

3 stars—It was okay and I might recommend it to those who might be interested.
(Read more about my rating system here.)

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.

While on Vacation

This spring, I spent a good chunk of time line editing, copy editing, and proofing While on Vacation, a devotional for people who are, well, on vacation. The author, Joe Graves, develops a “theology of play” and explores what the Bible has to say about rest, celebrations, and how God fits into our “breaks.” It even includes a few Sudoku puzzles! It’s up there on my list of favorite projects. If you’re taking a vacation this summer (or even taking some time off to stay home), it would be a great companion. Check it out!

Available June 15 | colorcanvasmedia.com

I’m not receiving compensation for this post. I’m sharing it because it was a fun project that I believe will add value to your life if you take the time to read it :)

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.