The Big 2-9!

It’s the first day of summer! And it’s my birthday! 🎊🎂☀️⁣

To be honest, I’ve kind of dreaded turning 29 for most of this year. Maybe some of last year. If I’m being honest. 😉 (One of the books in this photo seems to be telling me I should be.) ⁣

I expected to be somewhere more “settled” by now. After all, aren’t your twenties the years you’re expected to be figuring life out and progressing to the stages of marriage, successful career, home ownership, and parenthood? I have accomplished one of those things, and I’m pushing toward my thirties. ⁣

Oops.⁣

But then I stopped to think about everything that I actually have accomplished. I may be struggling to figure out my career, to settle into a new state, and to chase my dreams, but I’m doing it. My husband and I moved across the country to start over and pursue a better life for ourselves. A better chance at some of those other things on that above list. ⁣

I’ve survived trauma and loss, picking out my parents’ coffins at an age when most of my peers were picking out their wedding colors. It was awful, but I 𝘴𝘶𝘳𝘷𝘪𝘷𝘦𝘥. I helped my baby brother graduate homeschooled high school when Mom and Dad were no longer there to teach and encourage him. (He worked so hard and I am incredibly proud of the courageous young man he is!) I ran a marathon before I turned 26. (My boss best friend was beside me the whole way.) I recovered from the anxiety induced by a car accident that broke my leg, and continued to drive. (Who knew driving could be an act of bravery?) I’ve published 2 novels and a children’s book, and I’m working on my third novel. ⁣

This is not meant to be me bragging…I just want to remind myself (and others) that sometimes success isn’t the cookie cutter look we make it out to be. (Seriously. Make a list of the amazing things YOU have accomplished, if you are feeling a little “behind” like me. Also note that none of those things I accomplished were done on my own. TEAM EFFORT, always.) For me, I have spent my 20s loving even when it hurt, pursuing hope even when I didn’t think I wanted to be alive anymore, and fighting for my family. Now I’m entering a period where I get to fight for my dreams.⁣

I am privileged to have experienced so much wonderful love in my life. I am privileged to have the chance to start over, even at age 29. I am privileged to be able to read and write books, to enjoy the bookstagram community, to be breathing today. To know my Mom and Dad loved and still love me more than I can comprehend, and instilled the strength I need to survive whatever life throws at me. To have a God who carved stories in my heart and gifted me with passion and hope and joy. To have a husband who holds me when I grieve and rejoice. To have a close-knit family who united to overcome pain together, and to have friends who are as dear as family and who have walked with me through my best and worst days. ⁣

Yes, 29 may feel like an age when I should have a beautiful house or a thriving career. But I think what I have is much bigger than a pretty home or a fancy job. 💕 ⁣What are some amazing things you have accomplished that might fall outside the “expected” milestones for your age? And which amazing people were there for you along the way?

Grief on Father’s Day

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To be honest, I’m trying to ignore the fact that it’s Father’s Day. I might have forgotten, if it weren’t for social media. 🙃

But that’s OK, because my dad also deserves to be celebrated. Besides, grief is just a side effect of loving someone in heaven, so if I also grieve today, it’s because he was an absolutely wonderful person.

When I think of my dad, I get a rush of pride that he was mine. He was humorous, strong, loving, and with an amazing heart. He was the type of guy that big, burly men (his fellow corrections officers) and inmates alike wept for when he was gone. As in, sobbed as they shook my hand at the calling hours. At the prison, a former inmate approached my family to tell us how my dad gave him hope and treated all the prisoners like humans who could turn their lives around. This man told us my dad was the reason he now worked at the prison, so he could do the same for others. One inmate painted a portrait of him in his honor. Another wrote a sweet letter to our family.

When I think of my dad, I think of his love for historical books and The Hobbit. I think about how he introduced me to Holes–of COURSE he loved that story, it joines fun “history” of the lake with boys getting second chances and humor–and Agatha Christie books. I think about his laugh and his one-of-a-kind smile. How everyone said he was always saying to “Look on the bright side.” I think about his hugs and how safe they made me feel.

OK, I’m totally not crying now. 🙃

If you’re grieving on Father’s Day, for whatever reason: you’re not alone. And if you’re missing someone in heaven, maybe take time to think about everything you love about them. Yes, it hurts, but it also might make them feel a little closer. ❤

Mother’s Day Grief

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Happy Mother’s Day! ⁣

(Maybe.)⁣

For some of us, today is hard. It’s not that we don’t know mothers who deserve to be celebrated. (We do, oh, we do! And they deserve it SO, so much.) But today comes with grief. Weird mixed feelings that make it a day where you hold back tears. Maybe you feel bad that while others are celebrating and you feel you should wish them a happy day, you really just want to ignore this day altogether. Curl up into a ball, and sleep it away. Or distract yourself so you can pretend it is any other day. ⁣

(Me too.)⁣

You aren’t alone.⁣

So to the women who long to be mothers, but are not able to be: ⁣

To the women who have lost a child or children: ⁣

To those who never met their mothers or have complicated relationships with them: ⁣

To those who have lost their moms: ⁣

It’s OK if you are not OK today. It’s OK to take time to grieve. It’s OK to hurt.⁣ ⁣
It’s OK,⁣
it’s OK,⁣
it’s OK.⁣

Much love, from me. May today shower you with unexpected blessings and joy. 💙

The Power of Books

As a girl, I was in awe of books, and authors who could dream up such fantastic worlds and characters and then describe them so vividly, you could see everything playing out like a movie in your head. I’d stay up late at night turning the pages of an Agatha Christie mystery, too wired on the suspense to sleep. I’d swoon over Mr. Darcy and I’d root for Samwise Gamgee, the unlikely hero and loyal friend, facing the terrors of Mordor to save our other unlikely hero, Frodo Baggins. I even devoured Dickens’s Great Expectations, though I struggle to get through his wordy passages now.

Still, I couldn’t fully appreciate everything an author must go through to produce a single work until I finally, finally, finished Silent Kingdom. Book one was definitely the longest adventure in this series for me thus far; I was brainstorming and writing book two, Forsaken Kingdom, as I edited and revised the first, so FK progressed much faster. SK took years. I started with a terrible short story concept that grew into a far better full-length novel, and then into a series.

Agonizing over the plot, poking it here and there to try to find every possible hole? I’ve done that. Holding my breath as my writing mentor and friend and then my beta readers sent me feedback? Check. Rereading and rereading again, pulling apart sentences to rework them, only to put them back the way they originally were? You bet I’ve done that too.

But perhaps the hardest writing stage was the part where I set my book aside.

On a beautiful, sunny afternoon in September, I was writing my book in my spare time between the two jobs I worked…while a few miles down the road, my parents were in the accident that took their lives. Through my journey with grief, and maybe especially because I knew I’d been writing–doing something I loved as they died, which felt like the ugliest of ironies–I pushed aside books. I couldn’t read or write as I did before. I couldn’t live or be myself as I did before. Happiness, and anything that brought happiness, felt like guilt. Everything was darkness.

Then, gradually, the light started to return. I remembered how much my parents had believed in me. I remembered who I was again. I couldn’t give it up because they died or I hurt. In fact, that was the greatest reason to embrace my passion again. To make them proud. To make the most of whatever time I had left on earth, when life is so fragile.

I believe most authors have testimonies like that. Every book we write holds a piece of our hearts and souls. Each book is a journey, and it reflects our own life journeys maybe just as much as it reflects our characters’ journeys. And each reader relates to these journeys in their own ways, based on whatever they are going through.

Maybe that, most of all, is what makes books so awe-inspiring to us all.

The Value of Persistence

One of the hardest goals I’ve ever set and achieved was running a marathon a few years ago. The training itself was intense and time-consuming. My best friend and I had to get up while it was still dark on weekends and run for hours. Sometimes we would get home and struggle to get calories back into our bodies as fast as we could, or fight to drag our aching carcasses into the shower before we fell into much-deserved unconsciousness or some other near-comatose state on our couch.

Popped blisters on our feet? Check. Sciatic nerve pain for her? Check. Side-stitches? Stomach cramps? Questioning our sanity? Definitely.

But the part that really tested me was race day itself, when all of our training and planning apparently went out the window, and my body rebelled. Horribly.

I had to stop and walk. I had to vomit at the side of the course, more than once. I had to douse myself in cold water and accept a bag of ice from some of the people running the race, and proceed to cram it down my shirt.

They worried they’d have to call an ambulance, but I knew I could push through. I was more worried that I wouldn’t finish, that all the training would be for nothing and I’d never finish my bucket list goal. 26 miles before I turn 26! I’d thought so blithely only the day before.

I felt like an idiot and a failure. It’s not fun puking in front of strangers, or having to slow your marathon pace to a crawl. Talk about humbling.

Isn’t this failing? I thought. I’m not “running” this marathon anymore.

But one of the other racers, who had run many marathons in her life, and who slowed her pace to keep me company while I struggled, explained to me that this race actually gave out a prize to the last finisher. Why? Because it takes incredible persistence to keep going when everyone else has finished. 

It takes a lot of endurance and will-power to keep running, walking, or crawling for hours upon hours and not just quit and go home.

And I was determined to finish that race, even if I had to crawl across the finish line.

I was not the last person to finish that race that day, but the lessons I learned were invaluable.

a river cuts through a rock not because of its power, but its persistence.

In life, if you want to achieve your goals, you have to want whatever you’re pursuing more than you fear the obstacles. Pain? Setbacks? Disappointment? Doubts? They will test your willpower, and they will crush you if they find it lacking.

What goal are you trying to achieve? Remember to hold on to the reason you so badly want to accomplish it, and the setbacks will begin to seem small. Remind yourself that the pain of failing will hurt worse than the pain you face along the way to accomplishment.

And if you’re fortunate, you won’t have to throw up in front of strangers along the way.

You’ve got this.