Musings
  • at August 6, 2022

A lot of people have asked me this question and truly, there is some kind of crazy in embarking on an endeavor like writing a book. Truth be told, I’m not sure how I would have finished it if we hadn’t gotten a puppy who woke me up at 5:30 am for nearly a year! That 30-45 minutes to write every morning made all the difference. I’ve always loved to write. In fact, my first work was my middle school journal; a boy-crazy emotional, swirly, hot mess of a read! Imminently entertaining to me now but also coherent and engaging! If I weren’t so embarrassed by it, I might actually be proud. My journals chronicle my inner experiences over the years with very few significant gaps. I’ve always loved capturing the meaningful depths of life on a page. In addition to journaling, I wrote short stories for my High School literary magazine, wrote a chapter of a co-authored book, have written hundreds of blog posts, and one serious book proposal that got rejected and I gave up on.  I also wrote 75% of a fantasy novel! Don’t be impressed though, 75% of a novel is NOT a novel. So, while I’ve always loved to write, sustained effort all the way to completion or in the face of rejection has not been my strong point. I was in danger of giving up about 4 or 5 times on Restore My Soul. I had my proposal rejected by the publisher I’d hoped would pick it up and sent the same proposal to more than a few agents. I never heard anything back, not even an “um, who are you and, well, you SUCK!!” email rejection. Just…silence. And man, silence is discouraging. There were a few key things that kept me going this time around before I got the contract with NavPress.
  • There were a very small handful of key friends who were interested enough in what I was thinking about to keep asking me and who were willing to become stakeholders. They were advocates, readers, and editors holding this project with me and really caring about it.
  • I have a couple of friends with whom I pray and listen to Jesus about the big things of life. In a time of discouragement, we prayed and one of those friends affirmed out of that time that I had something to say that the world needed to hear. I clung to that through months of effort.
  • The editor who rejected my proposal was kind enough to have a call with me to give me feedback. Her input helped me rethink my verbiage and tackle the work with a more appealing tone.
I’m so grateful for these people. I realize that I’m only self-motivated to a point. To go the long haul, I need a tribe. Oh, and a puppy too. Who is in your tribe cheering you on for the challenging things in your life?
  • at July 27, 2022
“Hold on Janice, I think a truck just drove by.”
“Um…that was my stomach growling”   Justin, the sound technician who worked with me on recording the audio version of my book, laughed heartily with me. I felt badly, drawing out the process with my unfed stomach. We recorded in 4-hour chunks, which winded up being the absolute max for me. I imagined that it would be my voice that got fatigued, but it was actually my body. Sitting so still with my head just the right distance from the mic while turned slightly to read the iPad was much harder than I thought it would be. Even moving my feet around or scratching my nose could only be done on a break with the sensitive mic catching the slightest sound. Everything about the process of developing and writing a book has been new and novel. I was excited about narrating for the audio version of my book. But I had to send in a recorded sample to get the gig, which surprised me, but makes sense. After all, we can’t all be Morgan Freeman! From there, my publisher found this delightful music studio in my town to do the recording. Justin Levy was the master behind the scenes, and I had NO IDEA how much work it would involve for him! Justin was reading the manuscript while I read and catching all of my mistakes and bumps along the way.

Notable moments from the process:
  • I say “f”s really strangely, like a “v” sometimes. Had lots of redo’s.
  • Try saying “cognitive defusion” ten times. Easy to get tripped up, isn’t it?
  • Is the possessive of Jesus just Jesus’ or Jesus’s? Goes both ways apparently—Justin caught me trying to sneak in “Jesus’s” about half way through the book. We got it cleaned up!
  • Justin caught me saying the OPPOSITE of what I’d written at a few points that I did NOT notice. Very grateful. Big things like saying “it’s preferred” instead of “it’s not preferred”…yikes!
  Throughout this journey, having the support of people like Justin, my editors, the publicity folks at Tyndale has been life changing to have … It takes a village to do this and I am glad I have been able to have this experience and develop a new appreciation for new professions in this world! So, thank you JUSTIN LEVY of the Music Space in Towson, MD. You are so good at what you do, and I am grateful! Who, by doing their job well makes your life a bit better? Take a moment to shout them out in the comments OR reach out to them personally and thank them for what they do!
  • at April 8, 2022

I’m on a cross-country flight for my godson’s wedding. It will be the first time seeing him since his father, my dear friend, died of cancer. Steve died during COVID making his death one of so many for which there was no memorial; a gathering for him further complicated by his having moved to Canada. When I hug Susie, his wife, it will be our first touch since she lost him. She wisely planned a brunch for old friends the day before the wedding so that she could give space to those first greetings since Steve died—a gift to all of us and to herself, to be sure. It was her attempt to untangle the joy of a wedding from the unfamiliarity of Steve’s absence.

But joy and loss cannot be untangled. I will think about Steve countless times during this wedding of his son, dear Caleb, who looks so much like him. While I am only predicting, I’m guessing that the day will go something like this…We will sing, think of Steve, pray, think of Steve, toast, think of Steve, cut cake, think of Steve, dance, think of Steve, and so on. Joy and loss tangled together.

I’ll remember how Steve and Susie laid their hands on our shoulders and prayed for Dan and me during our wedding 30 years ago this May. I’ll remember Steve asking me if my allergies were bothering me once when I was crying. I’ll remember Steve telling me that I was more valuable than what I could do when I was planning to miss an important event. I’ll remember the way Steve made going to get donuts into a Spanish verb—“Donarmos!” he’d announce, grin wide.

And I’ll remember being asked to be Caleb’s godmother, on a day we weren’t thinking any of us would be gone before his wedding.

God, I hate death. But I love weddings. It will be wonderful to witness this rite of passage for dear Caleb and I feel sure the wedding will buoy me. I will wonder at where he is in his young life…the adventures ahead for him. I’ll enjoy seeing the joviality of his friends, the special touches that will set this wedding apart from others. I’ll watch Caleb and his new wife—Natalie is her name—for the signs of how they connect. I will be grateful for the solid foundation of his loving family, however incomplete it may feel without Steve present.

As happy as the day will be, I’ll feel the sting of death. We all will. A wedding celebration shows how we stand in rebellion against death, insisting that life carry on. Although today I don’t feel much like a rebel. Today, I just miss Steve.

  • at March 2, 2022
Last Friday we got the word from our landlord that our office needed to be temporarily relocated. And we had 9 days to get it done. It was news that really let loose a stress reaction in me. The news wasn’t life or death, but it represented an enormous amount of pressure and headache and an endless list of details, many of which I initially felt sure I would forget. My body revved up and I could feel the stress hormone pumping through every inch of me.  I’d describe it as anxiety mixed with dread and a generous heap of anger on top. I was charged up in a lot of ways, but all that stress hormone flooding my body actually helped me in the end. I saw myself, over the course of a couple of hours move from “this is impossible!” to, “okay, let’s get going.” Kelly McGonigal describes this remarkable capacity to shift in her book, The Upside of Stress: threat response primes you to defend yourself. You anticipate physical or other kinds of harm and your body gets ready. A challenge response primes you for performance without preparing for harm, per se..” (p.111) A threat response is exactly what we need in the face of harm, but in many of our situations, our body responds as if we were threatened when, in actuality, we are merely being challenged. The good news is that we can train ourselves towards a challenge response and away from a threat response by quickly reviewing the resources we have available to us when we face something really difficult. Any my, have we been facing a lot of difficult situations in the last two years. How might it look to employ the “resource review” to our current situations? Here are a few resources that many of us may have discovered during pandemic living:
  • We have proven to be very adaptable
  • We have learned to say “no” and “maybe”
  • We are more open to asking for help
  • We are taking mental and emotional health more seriously
  • We have employed unbelievable creativity
  We are in the temporary office space now and all of the work is behind us. The initial anxiety and threat feel like a distant memory and I feel proud about the way it all came together. We are far more capable than we think in moments of threat. Let’s not forget that.
  • at February 9, 2022

Did you see the two-time heartbreak of Mikaela Shiffrin in the Olympics this week? She fell in one ski event, regrouped, then missed a gate in the next event. Slalom, which the commentary explained to me, was her specialty event. How crushing and horrifying and wrenching. After missing the gate, she sat down on the edge of the course and would not move for a very long time. Other skiers took their turns while she folded in on herself by the fence. The image of her sitting there burned into my mind and heart. How many of us can relate to a disappointment so acute that we are rendered immobile? And how often in the last couple of years have you wondered if you can keep going?

These are a few items from a list called “Signs You’re Succeeding in Life Even If You Don’t Feel You Are” that I found way before the pandemic from www.lifehack.org. Here are a few of them that caught my attention in our 2022 life:

  • You are not afraid to ask for help and support any more.
  • You have learned that setbacks and failure are part of self-growth.
  • You have a support system that includes people who would do anything for you.
  • You accept what you can’t change.
  • You change what you can.

I have seen so many of my clients grow in asking for help and discovering new depths of their resiliency as they’ve navigated setback after setback and come out on the other side. And I LOVE that this list points to our success being tied to how well supported we are by the people we love.

After some time, a teammate came and sat down next to Mikaela. Someone came to support her and sit with her in her shock and pain.

How beautiful

And necessary

And human

We all need people to sit with us and we need to be people who sit with others.

So, I encourage each of you to reach our to someone in your support system and tell them how important they are to you. And, if you feel disconnected from the support you need, reach out and let your people know you need them. And if you know someone who is sitting on the side of the course, heart-broken and immobilized….sit down next to them.

None of us can do it alone.