Wednesday, March 8, 2017

My Friendship Anxiety


Lately, I've had some major anxiety. Surprising? Maybe not. Four kids, a husband, a house, two dogs,
two books, a couple WIP's (works-in-progress), and part-time ministry work--throw in baseball practice, ballet, cub scouts, school volunteering...and ...

I have a buffet-style filled plate and it is overflowing.

And I love it.

No matter how much I complain about it...it's LIFE in the fullest sense.

But I have been contemplating lately, and the anxiety I speak about has little to do with all that life. I've noticed that my deepest seeds of insecurity are in my lifelong treasure--Friendship. If you've read my last post, "My Grief List", you know this is something I care for deeply, and I mourn when there's change.

There have been a few recent interactions that have shaken me to the bone, and have caused me to wonder what the root of this insecurity is.

Why do I view my friendships as so...conditional?

I often find myself apologizing to my friends for what I've said or, WHAT I THINK...I don't trust my opinions to not be taken as weapons of destruction. I don't trust my heart to be valued beyond my actions or my mistakes.

Something inside me has shouted for years,

"Friendship is temporal. It will inevitably fail because of ME."

The lies float in my head and they are toxic to my spirit:

"You can't be too different than your friend or they'll reject you."

"Your opinions must line up or you have nothing in common."

"You are too outspoken and your words will kill the friendship."

"You only have a finite number of chances to fail before they will walk away."

Honestly, some of these things have come to fruition over the years. I have the scars of dead friendships because, in my perception, one of these lies has proven true.

And I think that's the ugly root of it all. The lies appear to be true. But, do I really know the depth of what was going on in the other person's heart? What scars were they acting on?

I love the verse in Thessalonians. It proves that the author must have sat with the Thessalonians in their disbelief, in their differing opinion, and grown in love before anything else. There was no judgement there, just growing friendship. "We cared so much for you..." came first. Not, "Because you received the Gospel, we cared for you..."

They cared for them. Like I care for my friends--regardless of what they think or believe. At least, in theory. I have the scars to prove that as a friend, I have been considered, "Too much", "Too different", "Too me."

This is where grief comes into play, I guess. I think my anxiety is just part of the grief cycle of lost friendships, and the changing ones. And just like a grieving soul, I have allowed people to become too much of an indicator of my joy.

There's so much joy to be had. And I have turned my back on it too much lately. I mean, I have some pretty amazing friends...and yet, I am a doomsayer, waiting for them to turn their backs on me because of...me.

I want to take those lies and rip them to shreds, and plant my heart with truth. I want different to be amazingly attractive. I want opinions to be counted as thought-provoking and valued for what they are worth--so very little in the shadow of truth. And I want fallibility and failure to be seen as an open door to love even more.

The cool thing is, I have some wonderful people in my life who already grow this way. They are some pretty amazing grace-bearing women.

I just need to cut a sample from them and plant it in my own heart.  Because they have grown dear to me, and I want to share my life with them even in my imperfection.









Sunday, February 12, 2017

My Grief List

I haven't written...here. I've written and rewritten two books in the past 6 months, and have another one on the way. So, I haven't posted much, but I guess I am writing a ton. Besides writing, I've been doing life big time. And one thing that has been part of my life is a class at my church called, "Grieving" (It's the second book of a series. I took the first class, "Grounding", and learned amazing tools on how to grow a healthy self-concept and develop good mental health skills).

I would have never looked on this past year as one of grief, but I am beginning to realize that it has been mostly that. I mean, I've had a BLAST in almost every part of my life. Great times with friends, hubby, and kiddos. I've received TWO book contracts and have more hopefully on the horizon, and I've transitioned pretty smoothly in to part-time work. No, there is no grief in all that. I am overwhelmed with gratitude at the beautiful view over my shoulder at 2016.

But, if I tilt my head just a bit, and see the distant memories that skimmed last year and the year before, I see things that twist my heart and make me yelp in the midst of my joy. I see what I've lost, and what I am grieving without knowing it.

Now, the causes of my heartache might seem petty to you, not as important as that person's grief over there. But one thing that this Grieving class has taught me is that loss, big or small, can affect us deep and long if we don't grieve them in a healthy way.

So, in order for me to move forward in healthy grief, I am going to share some things that have sliced my heart--things that might just be a pin prick or a slight scrape, but none the less, my heart aches and trips up and begs me to heal.

My Grief List (in no particular order):

1. My dear friendships. I am fiercely loyal, and super enthusiastic about long-lasting friendships. It
takes me a good long while to feel safe with a new friend...that might be why I only have a few tight ones. But what I've learned over the course of these many months, is that life seasons usher friendships into view or out of reach like a leaf being tossed about on the wind. 
I'm not saying that my out-of-daily-touch friendships are less important than my newer ones. But my heart aches for those that have fled to the outskirts of my daily routine, and I mourn what they use to be, and pray that my path and theirs cross soon and more often.

It's easy for me to downward spiral into negative thoughts, worries, and over-analysis of WHY--but, in my class, I am learning that WHY is not the question I really seek--it's actually, HOW can I radically accept the grief of memories and life that no longer looks the same as today?


2. Motherhood Season. There is certain loss throughout the stages of motherhood. I think it's because I had so many expectations built up, and I've grieved each one as they came crashing down in the shadow of my fallibility and guilt. My firstborn baby is now a man-child...I've lost my second child's compliant, happy-go-lucky attitude to the sass and snark of a pre-teen...and my two babies have become growing children-- independent, unmoved by mom entering the room, and growing up way faster than I'm comfortable with.


This year, my house emptied during the daytime hours as my last baby went to school. And while this season was anticipated and welcomed (mostly because she's a social bug), my mama grief trips every once in a while-- the ache consumes me so that I hold her tight when she gets home and I secretly want my baby back. This grief also spurs on my first mentioned grief of friendship shifts because there's something about having a child home that makes mama friendships grow. Life is different, friends are different, and my house is not these four walls caving in, but our home base when everyone comes together again. There's good in that, and there's grief in that.


3. My sweet tooth.  Let's lighten the mood for a moment. But really, this is no joke. I am seriously not okay with this. I've been very conscious about making wise choices, cutting the sugar, and eating real food for about a year now, and my identity as Chocolate Lover of the Century is sadly being passed along to....my children. Yes, the apple doesn't fall far from last year's tree. ;) So, in this grief or loss, I am managing my expectations of my children ever feeling the need to say goodbye to sugar. That will become another battle for another day.


4. My Heart's Desire.  Marriage is fine. GREAT. BEST EVER. Except for that teensy weensy well, GINORMOUS mountain of spirtually mis-matched hearts. We've gotten through the valley of this new normal, and honestly, he's my bestest friend...more than ever. But sometimes, it's easy to look back and crave the old, to want to stomp my foot and demand that we just get past the garbage already, and start living life the way we lived it before. Especially when it comes to church. Sundays are hard. They trigger my grief the most.


I don't like sitting alone in church. I don't think I'll ever like it. And it's not because I need to "look" the part of a loving family, or that I even need my husband to complete me. It's just that his absence is a big fat reminder of our loss in like-mindedness, and that giant crack in our family's foundation. I feel the tremors from it when my kids don't want church in their lives, and I grieve the broken dream that we'd do life together best with Christ as our center.

But one thing I know about grief, is that it's not in vain--if I am wise to it, if I know how to respond to it when it triggers...and if I remember that I am His and He is mine, I trust that Joy is inevitable in the end.

So, that's my list...just for now...I can think of more, but transparency can be another trigger to grief, as I know that sometimes I share what needs to be worked out between God and me first. It's good to grieve, to understand the loss and why I feel pain. To remember God in the midst of it all and see His hand, and to let go of the old expectations, the crippling power of nostalgia, and the control of wanting to fix the hurt.

If you want to learn more about the series, "Gardening Your Life" by Heidi Vermeer-Quist, check it out HERE. I am blessed to know Heidi and learn from her every week!



Wednesday, January 18, 2017

There is no fear in love.

This verse takes on multiple meanings for me.

When life topples my security, the first thing that is questioned is love. How about you? If I can just remember where love came from, then I have nothing to be afraid of, I have no fear.
It's in the remembering.
Every step, every set back, every dark valley--Love was there. Is there. I just need to remember that.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Absorbing all the Hurts

I just couldn't form a post today. My heart is all a muddle. But I got this out. Something about a picture helps me find the words.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

My Publishing Story: A Journey of Perfect Timing


"Wait for the LORD
Be strong and let your heart take courage;            
Yes, wait for the LORD." Psalm 27:14


I wrote a story five years ago. My footing was finally solid on how to write, after a couple ACFW conferences and connecting with my bestie writing sister, Ashley. So in 2012, I poured my heart out within the parameters of what I'd learned.

The story I wrote stemmed from my heritage. From a very young age, I've been inspired by my grandfather. He was the son of a Greek coal miner who came over from Greece in the 1910's. My grandfather always had wonderful stories to tell--he stirred up my intrigue for WWII era as he was a Purple Heart recipient (twice), and spoke of freeing concentration camps and invading Hitler's homes; my grandfather lived a rags to riches legacy, having been born in a tent in a coal town, and then becoming a successful home and commercial builder--I declared I'd be an architect at age eleven...even majoring in Landscape Architecture in college.

Papou was one of my greatest heroes. And my novel was a tribute to him, to my Greek roots, to an American legacy.

My great grandfather, born in 1884 and
immigrated to Utah in 1910's.
So, at ACFW 2012, I took my novel to conference with more confidence than I had before. This story caught the attention of an agent-- and I signed a contract with the Steve Laube Agency in November of that year. That was amazing...I chuckle now because the name of the room that I interviewed with Tamela was the "McKee" room--the last name of my heroine. A sign? Maybe. When she sent my story out for all publishers to see that next month, I thought my time for that book was just around the corner.

And...

 Now it's 2017, and that story is under contract with a publisher as of Fall 2016.

What timing, right?

Why the heck did it take so long? Not for lack of trying. My agent and I took every possible measure.

Why did I get rejection after rejection, and write two other books in the wait?

What happened between then?

Only in looking back, do I see why I had to wait for this book. And when I look back, I realize just how much Timing is His and there's nothing I can do to speed it up or make it mine. All I can do is take courage, and wait.

I'll give you a quick recap of what happened between 2013--when the book was put in the proverbial drawer of unwanted manuscripts--and now, 2017, the year it will get published (um, after a few rewrites and edits--always learning...).

In looking back, this is what I see:

My Community was Built. I fell in love with my writer friendships. A bit dramatic? Maybe, but it's the truth. I connected with ladies who knew my heart as a writer, and allowed me into their lives in an authentic, Christ-loving way. I found hope in the writing journey because my friends held my hands and rubbed my back when all seemed lost. And in this, I grew not as a writer, but as a heart. My heart became soft for the needs of others and the value of authenticity in this short, precious life.




There was a Pride Monster, and He needed to kill it. Oh, Lord, if ever there was a pride monster, it was me. My gut reaction in every rejection, every criticism, every other person's success was a measurement against them according to me. Yuck. Do you know what the best way to kill a Pride Monster? Starve it. Even though I had my sweet friends and my agent encouraging me along the way, my heart was set on publication and I was not getting that. I wanted it so badly that I turned ugly when it seemed to slip through my fingers with every rejection. And I spiraled and I came up for air to those authentic friendships speaking Truth in love. God knew what He was doing when He built my community, and He knew He would use it to lift me up and tear down my ugly.


The Darkest Valley Was Ahead. Everything stood still in 2014. My personal crisis gave me little room for any true focus on my writing success. If anything, it made the effort seem petty. When you go through your days wondering if you'll make it to the next morning without a complete mental breakdown, you can't really dream. My dream in those moments was to crawl out of my skin and run away. This was not about my writing, this was about God's faithfulness to someone who was losing faith--in the person she loved, in the life she constructed, in the heart that was broken. Looking back (I did climb up and out of this valley), I needed this valley walk (or crawl) to happen when it did--without a book on the shelf, without confidence in something that I had accomplished. I needed brokenness to become stronger and know that my strength has nothing to do with me.

There are several other moments and signs that I see as I look back, but I'm not going for the longest blog post of 2017, but I do want to share two sweet confirmations that the timing really is His.

First, I got a book contract! You know this, but, the contract came at a time when I had grown peaceful in the journey--the pride monster lay slain, and I picked up a pen and took an opportunity. My Oklahoma Land Run book with Love Inspired Historical won the Manuscript Matchmakers contest...and WAS coming out in Spring 2018.

I had secretly told those closest to me, that it would've been nice for it to come out in September instead...just because that's when the book opens--September, 1893--the historical date of the Land Run.

So, what happens after I turn in my complete book a few days before its deadline? My editor tells me they bumped up my date to September of 2017. And I am sure, for them, it had nothing to do with the history, but for me, it was everything to do with the history--and His timing. Look for my debut novel, The Outlaw's Second Chance this September!

There's more...

My second contract came in! And this was a wonderful surprise. My agent and I had found out last spring that a new series was being launched based on geographical places around the U.S. I immediately thought of my Coal country story. So, I put together a proposal for a book I'd written long ago...and got a contract with Barbour this Fall for my novel, My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah.

But, the timing? November 2017 is my release.

God's Timing in its finest...The book comes out during the centennial year of my grandfather's birth. He was born in Dec. 1917 in Carbon County, Utah. My hero and my inspiration for this very book.

I just can't stop smiling at the chance to honor my late grandfather with a story written by his third generation Greek American granddaughter who was inspired by his roots grown a century ago.

If only he could be here now. But I know he's smiling, too.

A century.

It took a CENTURY.

Only by God's grace, and His perfect timing.
***

Want to see the book cover? I am revealing it in my first ever newsletter this Friday! Go to 
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Also, Join me on Jan. 10th as we launch the My Heart Belongs Series. There are some amazing authors in this series! Hope to see you there. Click HERE to check it out!