Friday, June 9, 2017

Freedom Smells Like New York Summer

Freedom smells like New York summer spilling through my car windows. It looks like a red streaked cloud painted on top of a sunset and like s’mores and shadows made by our campfire. Freedom is bold, daring, and it calls my name even though I am neither. It chooses me and I cannot not refuse.
Freedom is when my brother says, “I’m glad it’s pretty for you out here.” But it’s also bondage because I need it to be pretty. For the sake of freedom, freedom itself is offered up. The card that’s traded is up to fate and fate is a gambler so I can’t be sure this is really the right choice.
Freedom feels like being handed the moon and it’s hard because I never had the moon to deal with before. Do you smother it or keep it on a string? What happens when you have to let it go?

Freedom feels a lot growing up and it fits me well like this lacy strapless dress. I couldn’t live without it again. I just wish that gaining my freedom didn’t have to mean giving so much of it up.

May 18, 2017

Sunday, May 28, 2017

5 Things I Learned From the Lyme Diet

Almost two months ago, I began an intense and adventurous diet aimed toward healing my gut and ridding my body of inflammation. The diet is a combination of the AIP (autoimmune), elimination, and anti-inflammatory diets. When I started, I couldn't eat sugar, gluten, dairy, a variety of oils and trans fats, peanut butter, eggs, corn, soy, pork, or beef. Right now, the only foods on that list I have successfully added back in are peanut butter and pork.

On Instagram, I wrote about how the decision to go forward with the diet was emotional and difficult for me. However, as I approach the two month marker of “eating clean,” I am increasingly thankful that I said “yes” to this lifestyle change. Dieting has been an educational experience full of challenge, discovery, and mad chocolate cravings, amirite? I wanted to share with you five things I’ve learned these past few months that are important to this form of dieting.

1. If you're going to start a diet, make sure you're prepared. 

One of the reasons I was so nervous about beginning the diet was because I'd tried it before without success. In 2014, I dove headlong into a challenging eating regime that I really knew nothing about. It ended badly. This time, I collaborated with my doctor and did a lot of research before beginning. I experimented with different recipes allowed in my diet before actually starting it, so that I was familiar with the foods I'd be eating. I asked questions, read books, and allowed myself to make mistakes. I went gluten free immediately, but I took a few weeks before eliminating sugar, dairy, and other food groups. I made a point to eat "forbidden" foods over going hungry, and that was pivotal to success.

2. Food isn't Magic and it Doesn't {Usually} Cure Chronic Lyme

For a variety of health problems and diseases, dieting has become a trendy cure. One of the most common things I hear when people find out I have Lyme is, “are you trying any specific diet to help with that?”

Lyme is a ridiculously complex illness that requires lengthy, difficult treatment. Medication is still experimental and very specific to the individual. Dieting is certainly helpful during some phases of treatment, but antibiotic therapy and detoxes are also required. In my case, I spent a year on antibiotics, a year on detoxing medication, and I moved 600 miles across the country for a better healing environment. It upsets me to hear people say that if I had only removed certain foods from my diet, I wouldn’t have had to go through that. If I had only removed certain foods from my diet, I wouldn’t have had to be sick for as long as I was. Plus, it simply isn’t true.

When I tried the Lyme diet the first time around, it exhausted me and did more harm than good. It was far more beneficial during that time for me to focus on other things like antibiotics, my environment and getting enough food.

3. Guacamole is one of man’s greatest creations. 

Best thing I’ve learned so far.

4. The Lyme Diet is as Easy as it is Difficult

It’s difficult because it requires a great deal of planning and discipline. You can’t eat out, and if your friends are having lunch together, you’ll have to bring your own. Also, you can’t have s’mores.

But it gets easier. The planning becomes more routine and the food lists keep you organized. It’s an expensive eating regime, but the money balances out in some cases. I can’t buy anything on impulse and I can’t stop in for fast food on a day I’ve forgotten my lunch.

At first, I felt like there was nothing on earth I could eat. Being so confined to certain foods has forced me to be creative with the options that I do have, though. Through the diet, I have discovered great foods I never would have eaten otherwise.

5. I appreciate people.

I appreciate people who make healthy eating options available to me. Like Wegmans, wow, what a guy. I appreciate the folks who created dairy and sugar free ice cream. I have a better appreciation and respect for food itself as a whole.

I am so thankful for friends and family who have supported me on this new adventure. The ones who have encouraged me, suggested new recipes, and the ones who get really excited when they notice how healthy I look. I appreciate the people in my life who walk beside me and my choices, without telling me what to do.

Conclusion (Thing-y)

I do miss things like bagels, cake, cheese, s’mores (obviously), and even pizza, but I feel a lot better without them. I don’t have the desire to trade in my health so I can eat a s’more. I am thankful for this hard, real, wonderful experience. Even if I have to keep it up for a long time, I’ll be okay with that.

I think everyone should take the opportunity to do a diet like this one if they have the time and means. It’s a cultural experience. It’s helped me better discover how my body works and better understand how to take care of it properly. Lastly, the Lyme diet has given me a better appreciation for patients of autoimmune diseases. What they go through is incredible. These guys are my heroes. 

Thanks for sticking around to hear about my diet! Do you follow a specific eating regime? Tell me about it! 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

We Gave Up Our Land // My Army Would Not Come

We Gave Up Our Land
It came like a plague in the sky. On a June day with perfectly shaped clouds, one rose up from the back of the dawn. A swarm of black grasshoppers overcame the clouds. They entered through the cabin windows and burst out the doors. They came to block out the light and destroy all our fruit. They came to steal all our dreams. To demolish in one day what we had built in a lifetime. They made us like Egypt and we didn't fight. 
We gave up.
We gave up our land --
So they took our hearts, too. 

My Army Would Not Come
One word, one paragraph at a time they squeeze themselves from my pencil. The motor of my brain revs on high speeds, but the words falling out of my mouth set the pace of a dripping faucet. 
Each piece takes days and weeks of concentration to create. Is this the rest of my life?
It didn't used to be like this.
No matter how hard I push on the lead, my army would not come.
The spirit is willing but the body is weak.
The alphabet is full but the lines are blank. 
But then one came and I spoke to the sea. 
Even the wind and the waves obey Him.
And it was like I'd been handed the moon.
The Lord Gives and He takes away.
They come and go with the tide...
and with the pulling of hair, the hollow of the mind, the command of an army. 
My pen stops-
then it flows again.
I rejoice just in time 
for my heart to shrivel up again and die
Writing is my heart. 
Blessed be the name of the Lord. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Talking to the Sea

Ocean wash over me.
Tear my flesh with your whips of sand.
Yank my neck back in your icy current until the thickness of my hair is strewn ragged across the beach. 
Pierce me with your teeth and mistake me for decay.
As long as I can feel it.

Waves, pummel my chest. 
Take every ounce of precious air. 
Clutch my throat until its bruised and bloody.
Shut out my voice like you've shut out the light.
As long as I can feel it.

Twist my legs around themselves until I cannot stand. 
Break my arms and burn my eyes.
Bruise every bruise and deepen every wound. 
Puncture my heart.
Carry my blood away on the backs of your seagulls.
As long as I can feel it. 

A pain too numb to feel is worse than all of these.
So let me feel it. 

Let me feel the blood pour out of my body.
Let me feel my fingers stiffen.
Let me feel hairs tangle and pull from my scalp.
Let me scream from the misery of it all.
Just let me.
Give me the choice.

Let me feel the making of scars.
Because scars heal.
But not the sickness of the soul.

When I can feel your grit--
When I can experience the rot--
At least then I know 
Hope is still alive.

"There is no language for this kind of loss." 
- Christine Baker Kline 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Unwritten Melody Blog Tour

Welcome to the 23rd stop on Tessa Emily Hall's Unwritten Melody blog tour! I think this is actually the first ever blog tour I've participated in (not the last) and I'm really excited to be a part of it. Tessa and I have been connected through social media for a couple of years now. I love her heart for writing and her commitment to creating inspirational stories for young adults. I also appreciate that she's only twenty-two, so we're rather close in age and we do similar things. :) Anyway...  

I hope you all enjoy learning about Tessa's latest release, Unwritten Melody! Don't forget to enter her awesome giveaway at the end of this post.

Book Blurb

Does breaking free require breaking the rules?

Cassie Gilbert lives every day in the shadows of her deceased mom’s rebellion. But now that she’s seventeen, she finds herself longing to break away from her grandmother’s suffocating rules, experience what it’s like to be a regular teenager, and fulfill her songwriting dreams.

James Russo, former American Spotlight contestant, escapes to small town Willow Creek, SC hoping to flee from his tarnished past. When a school project pairs him with the shy principal’s granddaughter, he’s determined to get to know this Emily-Dickinson-obsessed and typewriter-using girl. His plan? Convince Cassie to co-write songs for his demo album.

As Cassie gets to know James over “project meetings” (more like opportunities to match her lyrics with his melodies), she becomes intrigued by his sense of adventure and contagious passion for music. But soon, his past becomes exposed. Cassie’s left to wonder—did she make the same mistake Mom did by falling for the bad boy?

Then, Grandma’s control pushes her over the edge. Cassie must choose between remaining in the chains of yesterday, or delving into her own freedom by completing the melody her mom left behind.

Book Links:

What was the inspiration behind Unwritten Melody?

I loved the idea of having a songwriter (Cassie) mesh her lyrics together with a musician (James), and for the pieces to fit together like a puzzle—almost as though the lyrics and songs were created for each another.

I also knew that I wanted to somehow incorporate the life and poetry of Emily Dickinson into the novel. I first learned about this poet in my 8th grade English class. I remember becoming fascinated – not only with her works, but also with the unique story of her life. After I brainstormed the premise to Unwritten Melody, I knew Cassie’s own life would shadow perfectly that of Dickinson’s and highlight the book’s theme in the process.

What is the message you hope readers will grasp after reading Unwritten Melody?

It’s my hope that, through any book that I write, readers will realize they are not alone in their life’s journey – in the questions they wrestle with, emotions they deal with, situations they experience, etc. And hopefully, through following the journey that my characters take, readers can find a solution for their own problems as well.

I specifically hope readers will come away from Unwritten Melody with newfound hope for their current circumstances and a deeper revelation of the power of God’s unending love.

Could you give a brief overview of the writing and publication process behind Unwritten Melody?

I brainstormed the plot when I was seventeen-years-old—the spring of 2011. I was working on my debut novel, Purple Moon at the time, so I filed the idea away until I could have dedicated time to focus on it. Finally, I wrote the first draft when I was eighteen and working on the edits to Purple Moon. That draft continued to develop and transform as I went through the editing/revision process for over a year.

When I was twenty-one, my agent sent me a long edit letter, detailing the major areas that needed to be fixed in the plot. I was extremely grateful for the feedback—yet at the same time, a part of me was discouraged, because it would require a great deal of “book surgery” to fix the errors in the plot. That was a lot to take on, especially after I’d already spent over a year in edits.

So, I stepped away from the book and poured my energy into another project. Yet the story didn’t let me avoid it for long. I knew that the book didn’t exactly match the original story that was first laid on my heart several years before, and I was determined to make that happen.

To make a long story short—I spent the fall of 2015 applying my agent’s suggestions and rewriting the entire book from scratch. It still has the same characters, premise, and setting, but now the novel matches the original novel I had first brainstormed when I was seventeen.

The book went on submission to publishers winter 2016. One day in May, while I was packing to leave for a writer’s conference, I received a phone call from my literary agent with the great news—Clean Reads had offered a contract. :) (I knew they were considering it because they had requested the manuscript about a month before.)

The moral of the story? Never give up on the story of your heart!

What’s next in your writing journey?

I’m currently working on the sequel to Purple Moon (which has been another lengthy project) and hope to finish it by winter 2016. I’ve also been working on a teen devotional that I’m really excited about!

After that? Well, I hope to continue writing inspirational and authentic novels for teens and possibly write another installment in the Purple Moon series. I don’t see myself switching genres any time soon! But I do hope to delve more into non-fiction as well.

Although God is the Ultimate Author of my future, I always ask Him to give me the desires He wants me to have. Right now, my burning desire is this: To write books that transform lives—stories that portray the power of God’s steadfast love and His unending grace.

What advice would you like to give aspiring authors?

First of all, stay fueled with a passion for writing. Build your writing journey on a foundation that consists of a love for both reading and writing. Write because you can’t not write, because honestly, if you don’t begin with this kind of passion, then it’s going to be far too tempting to quit when the discouragement comes. (Notice that I said when, not if!) It’s important to also find the time to write and stay disciplined with your writing time because perseverance is the only way you’ll produce an actual book.

Then, learn as much about the craft and industry as you can through blogs, books, workshops, and conferences. Apply what you learn to your manuscript. Network with other writers on blogs, social media, critique groups, and at writing conferences. Keep a teachable spirit. Remember that, no matter how naturally gifted you may be in writing, every writer could use improvement to grow.

Finally, create long-term and short-term goals for your writing journey. I’ve met so many writers who never pursued their writing dreams because, A) They didn’t push themselves to finish a book, B) They gave up too soon, C) They didn’t learn how a book is published, therefore never pursued publication and believed that “being an author” was an impossible achievement.

I love to mentor young writers through my course, Write Now. You can find more info about this 3-month program at this link.


Enter for your chance to win the Unwritten Melody Prize PackTwo winners will be selected and announced on Tessa’s blog the final day of tour (Friday, December 9th) and will be notified via email. 

This prize pack includes…

* E-copy of Unwritten Melody

* Signed paperback copy of Purple Moon

* Unwritten Melody mug, filled with goodies

* Unwritten Melody swag, including a bookmark, pen, and poster

* Starbucks mocha flavored instant coffee

* Free Unwritten Melody: Page-By-Page Secrets PDF

* Handmade journal

* Typewritten thank you note

*This giveaway is open to the US only


Tessa Emily Hall writes inspirational yet authentic YA fiction to show others they’re not alone—and because she remembers the teen life like it was yesterday (or a few years ago). The debut novel she wrote at 16-years-old, PURPLE MOON (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas) was a Selah 2014 Finalist. Her second novel, UNWRITTEN MELODY, releases with Clean Reads November 2016. She’s the Founder of, a magazine that inspires teens to embrace their calling. She also enjoys helping writers achieve their dreams through her internship at Hartline Literary Agency.

When her fingers aren’t flying 116 WPM across the keyboard, Tessa can be found making healthy homemade lattes, speaking to teens, decorating her insulin pump, and acting in Christian films. She writes in a small town nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains and Southeastern coast. Her favorite way to procrastinate is by connecting with readers on her blog, mailing list, social media (@tessaemilyhall), and website.

Other Way to Connect with Tessa:

Don’t miss the next blog tour stop! Be sure to visit the following blogs on its designated tour date. You can also email tessaemilyhall (at) gmail (dot) com and request to receive the Blog Tour Packet. At the end of the tour, Tessa will send you the downloadable PDF that will contain all of the content from each blog tour stop. 

Tues., November 1 – Christ is Write
Wed., November 2 - Adriana Gabrielle Writes
Thurs., November 3 – The Depth of My Faith
Fri., November 4 - Sarah Ruut
Mon., November 7 – God is Love
Tues., November 8 – The Bibliophile Angel
Wed., November 9 - Emily Rachelle Writes
Thurs, November 10 – Word Changers For His Glory
Fri., November 11 – Christian Teen Book Reviews
Mon., November 14 – Phyllis Still
Tues., November 15 – In The Bookcase
Wed., November 16 – Girl Meets Publishing World
Thurs., November 17 - Anna Schaeffer
Fri., November 18 – Ramblings of a Writer
Mon., November 21 - Naomi and Books
Tues., November 22 – Reading is My Superpower
Wed., November 23 – Zerina Blossom’s Books
Thurs., November 24 - Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud
Fri., November 25 – Labor Not in Vain
Mon., November 28 - Barbara Bruitt
Tues., November 29 - Katy Kauffman
Wed., November 30 – Jen Pheobus
Thurs., December 1 – Fireflies in a Jar
Fri., December 2 – 2Me From Him
Mon., December 5 - Nicole Quigley
Tues., December 6 – The Destiny of One
Wed., December 7 - Catherine Castle
Thurs., December 8 - Rachelle Rea Cobb
Fri., December 9 – Leslie L. Mckee
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