Category Archives: Life

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 :)

Vendetta by Lisa Harris

vendettaHave you ever watched Castle? It’s a show about a mystery-writer-turned-detective, and I am addicted. (Jonathan and I have been “collecting” the DVDs, and season 7 just showed up on Sunday.) We have a hard time finding shows and movies to agree on sometimes. He, of course, likes manly movies full of action and suspense and I like all the girly chick flicks. So we usually land on comedy, but Castle has a little bit of everything, and I LOVE it. So when I got the list of book review options from Revell, I was drawn to Vendetta. It sounded just like an episode of Castle. Not what I typically read, but why not give it a try?

I’m so glad I did.

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.

Vendetta is Lisa Harris’ fourth book and the first in the Nikki Boyd Files. It’s the first book by her that I’ve read, and it won’t be the last. I actually read this book in one sitting, something I rarely do. It’s a suspenseful page-turner that would be a great read for anyone who likes a little romance thrown in with their mystery. (And if you love Castle, definitely pick it up.)

FIVE STARS
(Learn about my star system here.)

Buy it on Amazon.

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.

The Final Word

I’ve always known I probably care a little too much about what people think of me, but I figured it was a minor character flaw. Something little that didn’t really affect me too much, something that maybe someday I’d get over.

But I never really realized what a fundamental problem it is, how much it affects my identity, how much it affects how I see God.  Apparently God decided I needed to understand how damaging it is, because it’s been coming up EVERYwhere.

First our church did a series called “I Am.” I didn’t have any major takeaways or quotables, but it got me thinking about the topic. Then, I edited a curriculum for elementary-age boys that left me in tears because the authors told me that just because someone says something about me doesn’t make it true. Seems pretty basic, doesn’t it? But my response was, “It doesn’t? Really? I’ve been living my whole life like it does.” And then I read this post by Donald Miller and he cemented the message: “I do not believe God will ever, ever, lean over and ask any other human being whether or not I should be let into heaven. It isn’t going to happen.” Wow.

It’s still sinking in. But let me tell you, God is really changing how I see myself. It’s hard to change 28 years of thinking. And it’s also freeing. I’m still learning how to live in that freedom and be comfortable in my own skin.

Maybe you’re like me and you care too much what people think about you. Maybe you don’t understand what God says about you or why that matters when other people don’t know that. If that’s you, know this:

Just because someone says something about you doesn’t make it true. God knows your heart. And since He’s the final judge, that’s all that matters anyway. 

Breaking Rules Isn’t the Problem

God used a book to make me aware of my people problem. I was sitting on the couch watching TV when something slammed against the front door. I jumped and saw the UPS man climbing back in his truck. Weird. I wasn’t expecting a delivery.

When I opened the door, there was a small cardboard package from Barnes and Noble with my name on it. Curious, I tore into it and found the book People Over Profit by Dale Partridge (the founder of Sevenly). But I didn’t order it. I never order my books from Barnes and Noble. Jonathan didn’t order it. It couldn’t be a review book—those always come directly from the publisher. I asked my boss if he sent it. (His response was, “No. Did you want me to?”) I even called Barnes and Noble. The lady on the phone was obnoxious—”I can see why it would be unsettling to get a book you don’t remember ordering. Did you check your credit card bill?” Uggh. There was no order number, no packing slip. She transferred me to a different department and then they hung up on me. Where the heck did the book come from?

peopleoverprofitI still don’t know. But since it was about the very same issue God was dealing with in my heart, I decided I needed to read it. It wasn’t life-changing, but there was so much wisdom. I think anyone who works with people—coworkers, clients, customers, church attendees, whatever—should read it. It was a quick, easy read full of practical advice:

“After all, the killer of quality is not efficiency. Rather, it’s the desire to do things at a pace that can only be achieved by compromising one’s values and mission” (pg. 36).

“How you make others feel about themselves says a lot about you” (pg. 63).

“The marketplace, left to itself, doesn’t see people” (pg. 64).

“When you say a company believes that people matter, it means they hold the following convictions: People are valuable. No Person is worth more than another. Every person deserves to be treated fairly and with respect. Organizations should be empathetic to all people they touch” (pg. 65).

“Too many companies treat their customers like a mere metric of profitability . . . they’ve begun operating as though customers exist to serve them rather than the other way around . . . A ‘people-matter’ organization works to make customers feel special and valued. They don’t just tell patrons that they want their business; they work to retain it” (pg. 67).

“Companies are good at valuing some of the people they touch, but few value all of them” (pg. 71).

“Companies that believe people matter must believe that all people matter” (pg. 72).

“We often forget that every organization is just a group of people–individuals with hearts, minds, desires, hopes, and feelings who are enlivened by a common mission” (pg. 75).

“By adopting “people-matter” principles and fusing them into an organization, companies can build a loyal tribe of individuals who will fight alongside their leaders and help build an unstoppable enterprise” (pg. 75).

“Authenticity is the act of telling people what you believe and care about, not telling them what you think they want you to believe or care about” (pg. 106).

“It requires bravery to accept who you are and stop trying to be what you think people want” (pg. 112).

“Quality isn’t what you say it is; it’s what they say it is” (pg. 124).

“Quality means listening, responding, and making changes quickly” (pg. 125).

“Look for ways to build the incredible into the ordinary . . . offer them the freedom to do for one what they wish they could do for all” (pg. 133).

“We should give because we love others, because we want to meet their needs, and because we believe that people matter” (pg. 138).

“Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will” (pg. 147).

“When you sense fear of the unknown, it’s often a sign you need to walk into, not away from, what is repelling you” (pg. 174).

Want to read more about my people problem? Check out these two posts: People Matter (more than rules) and I Don’t Follow the Rules.