Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Giveaway + The Rebellion Blog Tour

I have a special guest on the blog today. Welcome, Livy Jarmusch, author of The Coronation and now--The Rebellion! 

We haven't known each other long, but already I can tell Livy is a strong spirit and a gem. Her new book is lovely and I'm thrilled to get to share it with you today! Also, I get to share something else extra special too... A GIVEAWAY! :)  

Something is brewing. Like the far off rumble of a train in the distance, a rebellion is stirring. A cry for change arises in the midst of a traditional monarchy, where King Addison has inherited the throne. Who are the underground troublemakers? What is stirring their defiant banner and demand for change? Find out in The Rebellion! (The Tales of Tarsurella #2) Vanessa Bennett lands her dream job working at the Palace in Tarsurella. She struggles to balance everything on her plate: life in a new country, stressful deadlines, crabby co-workers, college classes at the local University, and blossoming feelings of romantic adoration toward her boss–King Addison. Keeping up with her To-Do list, while trying to earn respect in Addison’s male-dominated administration, presents its challenges. Nevertheless, she can’t help but fight a reoccurring thought and the excitement rising with it: is Addison interested in her? Addison is adjusting to his new role as King. Rumors of a rebellious uprising among the youth in Tarsurella intensifies, as acts of violence and protest break out across the city. Addison is determined to uncover the hidden instigator who fearlessly blogs democracy-driven ideals with a secretive pen name. Will Addison discover and expose the fiery rebellion leader? Or will his efforts fail to stop the rebellious thoughts spreading like wildfire, causing a heartbreaking rift in his divided nation?

Livy Jarmusch is a twenty-something author, singer, and songwriter. She enjoys crafting YA fiction that is pure, lovely, inspirational, and of course, entertaining! When she's not writing, you can usually find her playing guitar, blogging, drinking peppermint tea, connecting with new friends, planning her next trip to Disney, or pinning images of Europe and Golden Retriever Puppies.

Giveaway! :) Click here to win an autographed copy of the first book in the Tarsurella series! 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Why Independence is Essential for Young Women

People often comment about how independent I am, which is funny because my personality is probably the farthest thing from “independent,” ever. I’m prone to fear, I’m not the toughest person physically, I don’t like talking on the phone to people I don’t know, and I’m not even good at math.

I moved out of my parent’s house when I was nineteen, but not because I wanted to. It was because my health required a drastic change of environment. As difficult as the move was, it gave me push I needed to become more self-sufficient and to take on more adventures. I’m still probably the farthest person from independent, but I am a stubborn spirit, and strengthening that stubborn spirit through independence has been one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.

Here’s some of the ways my opportunity for independence has shaped me, and why I've grown to believe self-sufficiency is essential for young women.

1) Being Independent Helps Stabilize Crazy Growing Periods

Your late teens and early twenties will be one of the biggest growing periods of your life. You’ll change more now than you ever have before. So much change may create the perfect environment for emotional crisis, but not accepting that change can be dangerous, too. By picking up some physical independence, you’ll be able to stabilize that crisis stage, while still hanging onto the healthy adjustment that it is.
You’ll begin forming your own opinions, searching out the truth, and determining where you’ll take the rest of your life. You’ll better be able to determine that with some extra independence, too. While horizons are expanding so much in your mind, let them expand just as much in your physical world. Take on some new basic tasks to keep up with your head.

2) Independence Shapes you into an Individual Person

Older women are right when they tell you that time to mature alone is essential. Learning to pay your own bills, do your own taxes, manage a budget, manage your time, build and use credit, and handle insurance companies are seriously so imperative. Not only will they teach you about life, but they’ll also teach you about who you are. There’s nothing better than a money crisis to teach you about your own resilience. Relying always on parents or a husband to do these things for you isn’t healthy, and it isn’t what’s best for you long-term. You’ll need many of these skills in the future, whether or not you want to accept it. So, give yourself the chance to embrace them.

3) Independence Gives you the Best Opportunities to Build into Others

My roommate and I have talked about this a few times. We both get called in so often to babysit for friends and family, and we have the freedom to drive a couple of states, or fly to another country to spend time with friends. I often am able to show up when a friend is in need, or when a parent needs a little extra independence of their own, and it's been such a joy to be able to do that.

4) It Might Keep you from Marrying the Wrong Person
There are good and bad marriages inside and outside of the independence spectrum, so obviously don’t live by this. However, I can imagine that simple knowledge about the world, and a little confidence in your own decisions could keep you from marrying someone who wants to blindly control you. If you know how to handle finances, you’ll know whether or not your husband is smart with his resources. If you’re confident in your own decisions, you probably won’t date or marry someone who wants to control them for you.

5) You’ll be Braver
When faced with a difficult challenge, you’ll know how to take it on. Independence puts you in so many scary situations, it makes you braver to face other tougher ones in the future. It makes you strong and resilient in the face of adversity, and it teaches you in advance how to navigate through life’s challenges. It probably feels tough, but it probably won’t be tough forever.

6) Maybe You’ll Be More Thankful

They say independence makes you thankful for all the time your parents provided for you, and it’s true. But independence will make you thankful for other things, too, like the extra bits of time you get to spend with family and friends, and the small moments you get to have to yourself. You’ll probably have less money, so independence will make you thankful for small things you can afford, or maybe the hand-me-down clothes your roommate passes on to you. Being independent will make you thankful for the moments when you feel confident enough to travel across the country on your own. It’ll make you thankful for the free days when you can wander the world without accountability. It’ll make you a better person.

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What are some things self-sufficiency has taught you? What reasons would you have for encouraging friends to embrace independence?


Monday, April 9, 2018

Productivity Tips For When You're Fighting Chronic Illness

I love reading articles, and one of my favorite topics to read about is productivity. I enjoy learning about how I can do my job better and faster—and how I can maximize my time as an author. These days, authors are required to be jacks of all trades. We’re masters of our books, but we’re also masters of marketing, social media, blogging, editing, and freelancing. It’s almost impossible to get our workload done if we’re not working smart.

As encouraging as productivity articles are for me, though, they can also be very difficult for me to process through. They’re difficult because I have lived a good portion of my life with a chronic illness, and many of the tips and tricks offered by productivity guru’s just don’t leave room for the challenges daily sickness brings.

That’s why I’ve decided to create my own list of practical tips chronic patients can use to increase their energy and productivity.

1) Wear Comfy and Well-Fitted Clothing

Living with chronic illness means you likely have to conserve energy wherever possible, and clothes have a bigger impact on your energy levels than you’d think. I used to wear a lot of skirts, but as I began to get sicker, I found myself gravitating away from them. Later I realized it was because wearing skirts, especially shorter ones, meant devoting more attention to modesty. You have to cross your legs, or slide into a chair a certain way. Every time you take a step in a longer skirt, you kick through fabric. I just didn’t have the energy to devote to that.
I also noticed I would gravitate away from clothes that were baggy, or pants that were loose around the waist. Adjusting the waistband, or collar, or sleeve of your garment multiple times per day uses up a lot of energy! Being intentional about the outfits you choose is a really practical way to conserve energy and have more leftover for work tasks, and the things you love.

2) Avoid Frustration by Switching Between Physical and Mental Tasks

As much as I wish I could go grocery shopping, cook dinners for the week, and clean the whole house in a day, that’s just not a feasible reality for me. Physical tasks drain me fast, and I get frustrated quickly on the days when they pile up. I’ve learned to take advantage of the moments I’m energized to go to the grocery store, but not be discouraged if it’s difficult to pull myself up when I get home. It’s helped me to also have a list of sit-down tasks I can do while I wait for my body to recharge. 

Instead of grouping physical tasks for the morning and writing tasks for the afternoon, I plan out an hour for cooking or cleaning, and then a two hour “recovery” period for writing or marketing tasks. Not only does this keep me productive throughout the day, but it also alleviates the frustration. Even in the tired stages, I'm still accomplishing things! It keeps me accountable with my breaks, too, and it gives me something fruitful to do instead of watching a TV show or browsing social media until I feel better. 

3) Eat Bread at 3 PM 

Sickness has taught me to listen to my body and to understand what it needs. I used to come home from work absolutely wiped, and I blamed it on, well… chronic illness. But that’s not actually the entire issue. I’ve discovered that my afternoon tiredness can be easily remedied with a simple snack break and some solid carbs. When I moved to New York to get better, one of the things I promised myself was that I’d focus on eating enough food to sustain my body before I worried about diet. That was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and it helped SO MUCH with my recovery. 

Make sure you’re eating enough throughout the day to sustain your energy. Seriously, just have some bread and butter. You’ll feel better, and you’ll get more done.

4) Try Homeopathy for Symptom Relief

If you have a chronic illness, then you understand what it’s like to endure tests and medications for years before ever experiencing any relief from your symptoms. You probably know what it’s like to live in a world where almost nothing can help you feel better when you’re having a bad day. This can be extremely defeating and have difficult effects on your productivity.

Since homeopathy is so complicated and intricate, I don’t suggest you use it to heal the actual chronic illness. However, it’s a fantastic option for symptom relief. There are homeopathic remedies for everything. There are remedies to boost energy, mood, and relieve headaches and muscle pain, and they're much safer than popping ibuprofen. 

If you learn your homeopathy, you can use it to find relief from difficult symptoms throughout the day, while pursuing other testing and long-term treatment from your doctor. Simple knowledge about remedies will minimize your symptoms, giving you more room to focus on work tasks.

5) Understand Your Limitations

I don’t know an author who isn’t a workaholic. The most difficult thing about chronic illness for me is having to accept my limitations, and understand that I’m not going to always be able to do everything. Having chronic illness has made me more intentional about my life, and about the tasks and jobs I choose. It makes me examine everything more thoroughly.

I don’t think of myself as a sick person usually, and that can be a positive thing, but it can also be damaging. The key to living with sickness is learning the balance between not letting it defeat you, but also recognizing where you need to give yourself grace. As much as you want to be a normal person, you aren’t. And that’s okay.

Giving yourself the grace that your sickness deserves will help cut down on stress. You’ll be more excited about all you’ve accomplished, instead of kicking yourself because you can’t do more. You’ll be less overwhelmed and your performance will increase. Accepting your limitations is more healthy for your body, too. 

Let's discuss! Have you discovered any productivity hacks that help you through chronic illness? 

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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Stories to Help You Navigate a Difficult Family Life

We all need a little love from stories sometimes, right?

I believe that stories have a power over the human heart that almost nothing else can rival. I believe they speak to us in a language that regular words and advice doesn't understand. Stories have always been one of the places I turn to when I'm troubled. Here are three I'd like to share with you that have recently helped me navigate some difficult situations.

1. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.
Wow. This book took my breath away. The Glass Castle is a memoir about the troubled childhood endured by Jeannette Walls and her three siblings. Despite poverty, constant moving, and running from authorities, Jeannette manages to tell her family's story from the most balanced perspective. She shows the ways that her parent's neglect negatively affected her family, but she's also completely honest about the good side of her mom and dad. She embraces their dreams, their loyalty, and their courageous hearts. She helps you to understand her parent's demons and their strengths. The Glass Castle gave me the courage to also accept the good and bad sides of troubled relationships.

2. Gilmore Girls
One of the things I love about Gilmore Girls is that it overcomes judgement. In Christian circles, shows like this often have a bad reputation. And, I get it. Lorelai and Rory probably shouldn't be your role models for romantic relationships. But I loved Gilmore Girls because it taught me so much about family. The story is centered around difficult relationships between mom and daughter. Things get messy, people get mean, worlds crash, and the Gilmore family has a grim time staying afloat. Although they sometimes go months without speaking to each other, Lorelai and Emily always end up working things out. I love Gilmore Girls because it shows the rawness of difficult families and the hope that family sticks together in the end.

3. The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell
This book came to me at just the right time. I stopped reading for a season during my Lyme Disease treatment, because my brain was messed up and full pages of words were challenging. The Castle Behind Thorns was the first book I finished reading after Lyme. It's a cute magical story about two friends trying to escape an enchanted castle. Both of them are struggling with relationships in some way, and they begin to realize that their bitterness is what's keeping them from leaving the castle. This story taught me a lot about myself and the things I need to let go. It gave me the grace and encouragement I needed to rise above old feelings and find forgiveness.


Monday, February 5, 2018

Dreaming Beyond Motherhood

Growing up, I was taught that there is no higher calling on a Christian girl's life than to be a godly wife and mother. My own mom homeschooled me and my sisters all the way through high school. We read books like "Beautiful Girlhood," learned culinary and babysitting skills, and were secured a home with our parents until we transferred to the protection of our husband's.

It didn't work out like that. Not for me or for any of my sisters, actually.

The other day, I was thinking about how funny it is that sometimes I still feel uncomfortable.  That despite traveling across states by myself, buying a brand-new car on my own, and becoming fairly successful in my career, I still sometimes feel like I'm doing something "wrong" by having my own life. I still feel uncomfortable because I wasn't brought up on the idea that girls can follow God by being independent, too.

A crazy thing happened this summer. Out of nowhere, God gave me this huge green light and told me to move back to a different city in my home state. It's crazy because moving back wasn't supposed to be medically possible for me -- ever.  But God asked me to go and to pursue two things: writing and ministry.

From the moment I said "okay," everything I prayed for was taken care of. From towels to sheets to jobs and a roommate. I prayed for money, for a new car, for safety and God covered everything. Each time I started to question my new "independent" decision, He would drop something in my lap that unquestionably said, "You did the right thing. I called you here. Go and serve."

And there's nothing in my entire life I'm more convinced of than how I'm supposed to be exactly here exactly right now. 

My dream isn't the dream I expected it to be.

I was supposed to be a great cook, but I eat way more frozen dinners than I should.
I was supposed to be a great mom, but I'm actually a pretty good working girl.
I was supposed to be married, but instead I'm independent, chasing some writing dreams, and working for a ministry that I really believe in.

As I got older and started reading less "Beautiful Girlhood" books, my relationship with God started to change-- to grow and mature. I learned to discern a lot of spiritually uncomfortable situations, and I've come to look to the Bible for my answers, and not to other people. My independence in body has come from an independence in spirit, learned by God Himself leading me to do crazy things. I recognize that God has gifted me with the Holy Spirit to discern and decide for myself. I also recognize that He has given me the confidence and the resources to be independent.

 I started seriously considering working in ministry a couple of years ago. It was a time in the midst of so many different voices, God made one thing very clear. He told me that instead of motherhood, the highest calling on a girl's life is the great commission. When I started chasing writing, it was because I decided that as a Christian, saving souls is the most important thing to me.

Does that mean it's wrong to be a mom? No, I'm not saying that. Being a mom is a great honor. I'll probably be a mom one day.

But what I am saying, is that I believe in letting our girls dream beyond motherhood. I believe in challenging the idea that motherhood is the "end that meets all" for Christian girls. I believe in recognizing that motherhood and marriage can be a tool, but they aren't the goal.

So instead of spending our entire lives training our girl's hearts for a tool, why don't we train them for the end goal? Why are we only preparing girls for marriage when we should be preparing them for the ends of the earth? Why aren't we teaching them to be independent, to be bold, and excited about sharing the gospel? Even God's nature is independent. Becoming a Christian requires an independent decision. Something you choose based on the Holy Spirit prompting your heart. Culinary skills are important, but so are other skills that can be used to share the gospel.

I honestly think the idea that we can "only be mothers" is a lie that the devil uses to keep us from being productive in the Kingdom of God. My dream is that one day our girls will be able to grow up prepared to embrace every crazy, independent, life threatening, and life fulfilling thing that God calls them to. Not only motherhood.


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Today I'm World Building my Life

In writing, we talk about "world building." It's when you create landscapes, religions,  languages, and a completely unique culture where your characters live out their adventures. C.S. Lewis built Narnia, Tolkien built Middle-Earth, and we build with our own imaginations.

Two notable things happened to me in the past week. The first is that I started doing core workouts. I started because I realized it wasn't my body that was keeping me from exercising anymore, it was my fear of failure.

I was so paralyzed by my mind screaming, "what if I can't?" that refused to acknowledge the opposite idea: "what if I can?"

I finally tried.

And I can.

The second thing is that I started taking action on my books. Two books have been on my mind recently: one that I'm writing and one that I'm editing.

I keep starting over with the book I'm editing. I haven't made a lot of notes, or changed a lot of sentences, and every time I get to the third chapter, I shut down and start the book over.

When I realized how much fear was paralyzing me with physical workouts, I started to wonder if it might also be paralyzing my writing the same way.

I'm afraid that I won't be able to finish. I think that I'll be overwhelmed by sickness, brain fog, and emotions all at once, and I'll quit. I'll sink into this huge puddle of wordlessness, of emptiness, of charcoaled creativity and feel so defeated by the thing I love the most that I'll never come back to it. I'm scared of chapter three and beyond because I know those are the chapters that need the most work.


I know that writing is possible for me.

I know who I am, what I can create, and how fast I can create it.

What's holding me back?

The fear of failing.

I know that Lyme Disease can't really change a person's DNA, but sometimes it feels like it can. Someone once told me that chronic illness causes people to have to go through the stages of loss over and over again, because they lose so much of life. I have lost jobs, homes, sports, writing, friends, and college to Lyme. I know others who have lost so much more.

As I gain some losses back, part of me wants to dive completely in with no thought to the past. You know, continue with my life where I left off and forget it ever happened. You can't really do that, though. For instance, I can't start on the same physical core training level that I left off at and still succeed today. I have to build from the ground up. I have to recognize that I have limitations and I have to stay within healthy boundaries for a while.

If I don't recognize boundaries, then I will fail. And that's why I was so afraid, I think.

Recovering from chronic illness is kind of like world building. I got sick almost seven years ago, and a lot has changed between then and now. I'm the same person, but I'm not the same person, and I've been doing a lot of rediscovery. I've been choosing new priorities, but still chasing old dreams. I'm creating new landscapes, relearning my religion, and I'm figuring out new terminology that doesn't include things like "chronic patient" and "I can't."

It takes a lot of time to "world build" a new story. It's okay if it's a process to world build a new life, too.

I'm just glad to have the change to try.


Sunday, December 24, 2017

God's Power in Christmas

I have a confession to make.

I asked other bloggers to write about Christmas so that I didn’t have to. That’s why you’ve seen posts from people like Julia and Taylor throughout the Advent season (they did a marvelous job - thank you girls!)

I didn't want to avoid writing about Christmas because I hate the season or anything. I love Christmas. Who doesn't?

But Christmas is hard.

In all the years I’ve been blogging, I’ve actually never written about Christmas, because it's hard. Today I’m changing that.

One of my favorite Christmas memories happened when I was around sixteen, I heard a message about Mary. That was the first time I understood all that went into the birth of the Messiah. I love that Jesus had to be born from a virgin so that the seed of man’s sin wasn’t passed on. I love the prophecies because they blow my mind. I love how complex God is, because I’m complex too, and the little details about the Christmas story mean so much to me.

Christmas is incredibly powerful and every advent season, I am reminded again of all that had to occur for God to save His people from their sins.

While there’s a billion wonderful things to think about during the holiday season, I know that I and many others struggle through all the tough things that Christmas brings, too. Family troubles, financial troubles, sickness, relationship issues, and cares upon cares upon cares all seem to heighten this time of year.

I was sitting on the couch bottling up all of those cares today when God spoke to my heart. He reminded me of that message I once heard and power I find in the birth of the Messiah. He reminded me of the hymns we sing, and the prophesies I love, and I started to wonder something. I wonder if all the toughness, business, and bottled troubles that Christmas brings, is all the devil’s scheming to distract us from how powerful the Christmas season really is.

We talk about materialism taking away from the "true meaning of Christmas." But that’s not what I mean. I mean, I think that we talk so much about the baby we forget about the Messiah. God’s people spent hundreds of years waiting for Jesus. His birth and death completely changes our eternity. It changes the way we live. It sets the prisoner free, gives the blind sight, makes the lame walk, and gives us all power over sin, death, and the enemy. That's actually what Christmas is: victory over the enemy. Jesus came to earth to wash us of our sin and create open communication between us and God. What a time to be alive.

He’s so much more than an innocent baby.

Perhaps this Christmas season, instead of focusing on all the bottled cares, remember the One who came to set you free from them. I think if we do that, we'll see God's power in a way we've never seen it before. We'll see Him overcome all of our Christmas troubles. 

Merry Christmas.