Write Through It

God has shown up in my life in a very big way recently, and so today I want to share more of a personal story with you.

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I’ve been dealing with eye issues for ten years now. It started with just dry eyes in high school, but for the last several years, in the fall through the winter my left eye has been giving me trouble. Each year it got worse, with pain and blurriness and light sensitivity. I’ve been seeing a cornea specialist, but we were never able to pinpoint what exactly was causing the pain, and thus never came up with a longterm solution.

These past several months have been some of the worst physical pain I’ve experienced. I’ve had to sit in the dark at home with most of the lights turned off and the brightness turned down on every screen. I’ve had to take a nap every day or my eye wouldn’t make it through the evening. It was nearly impossible to write.

A few weeks ago I went to Disney World with my mom and sister, and I’ll never forget watching the fireworks the first night of our visit. I was tempted to not even go on the trip because of how bad my eye had been, but with a hat and two pairs of sunglasses, I managed to get by even though it was extremely painful. But as we watched the fireworks, I just started crying. Not because of how amazing the show was, but because even with two pairs of sunglasses on I couldn’t keep my eyes open to watch the show. And I love fireworks. I think they’re so beautiful and they’re one of my favorite things to look at. But that night I was crying because I thought this was just going to be my life from now on. The pain had gotten worse every year, and multiple doctors couldn’t figure out what to do about it.

Just before I left for my trip to Disney, God had answered my prayers about what to write. I know I told you I was outlining a dystopian trilogy, but that story never felt like the right story to write right now. And so I prayed for months until God gave me a new story to tell. And he finally did, with a story I am unbelievable exited about.

A few days after my eye got worse than it ever had before.

And then we left on our trip, and I cried all through the fireworks.

A visit to my eye doctor just after we got back left me with no answers, again. And that weekend I had to skip a concert I was really looking forward to because I was in so much pain.

I had another concert to go to that following week. A worship concert that I would be attending with my fellow lead team ladies from my church. My favorite worship bands were going to be there, along with a speaker I was dying to hear. I prayed each day that my eye would get better. I asked God to take away the pain. And I complained that I couldn’t work on this amazing story he gave me to tell because my eye hurt too much.

I spent the morning of the concert crying. I wanted to go, but I remembered how bad the fireworks had felt just a week before. I didn’t want it to hurt. I couldn’t even drive to meet up with the other ladies who were going. But I felt a little nudge, like I just had to go, and I asked if someone could pick me up.

This concert changed my life.

A woman from Bethel Music shared a testimony that I will never forget. She told a story of dealing with chronic pain for twenty years. She said she kept asking God to lift the pain because she didn’t want it. But then he told her she had to sing through it.

As I stood there in the tenth row with my two pairs of sunglasses on and tears stinging at my already burning eyes, I heard God speak to me.

“That’s why you needed to come tonight. I know it hurts, but you needed to hear this. She had to sing through it. You have to write through it.

Bethel Music then performed the song “Catch the Wind” and I knew what I had to do.

My whole life I’ve dealt with pain. If it wasn’t the crushing weight of depression and anxiety, then it was various forms of physical pain: a broken jaw, bad knees, a bad foot arch, asthma, horrible colds, allergies, stomach pain, mono which lasted half a year, and now incredible eye pain.

I kept complaining to God and asking him to lift this pain because I didn’t want it. I was done. I was tired of hurting.

But I have to write through it. I have a story to tell, a story of finding hope despite pain. God needs me to tell it. I have to write through it.

That was two weeks ago.

I had another doctors appointment one week ago. And instead of switching between trying to read in the waiting room and rubbing my painful eye, I decided to pray. I prayed that we’d finally find an answer because though I was determined to write anyway, it sure would be nice for my eye to get a little better.

And then my doctor suggested that I try a new eye drop. Doctors have told me over the years that preservatives in my eye drops could build up over time, but they never said they thought that was what was causing my problem. I’d avoided using the preservative-free drops because I’ve sampled every eye drop there was and this one bottled drop always felt the best to me. Plus preservative-free drops cost a ton more. But my eye doctor suggested I use them instead, and I listened this time and bought a box even though they cost a lot.

My eye was better the next day.

It’s been a week now, I’ve been able to work all day without naps, keep the curtains open, and turn the brightness up on my screens. I can even write this very long blog post without putting in a single eye drop.

God just keeps showing up when I need him most. He gave me a story, and now he healed my eye. And I’m going to write through whatever pain I face in the future, because that’s what God put me here to do.

When I’m Not Writing: Serving

I’ve really enjoyed sharing some of my favorite activities when I’m not writing, like jewelry-making and watching muscials. And while crafting is probably my favorite of my other activities, serving is the most important.

Engage City Church is amazing. My husband and I fell in love with this church when it launched in fall of 2016. We couldn’t believe how loving this church was and we were blown away by the difference it was making in our community. We feel so blessed that God brought this amazing church to our community, and we’ve loved all of the opportunities we’ve had to get involved.

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Over the year and a half that we’ve been attending Engage, I’ve been trying to do more for my church and my community. I’ve been trying to make my faith a big part of my life because God is the most important part of my life. And the best way to show my love for him is to serve him and to serve the people he’s placed in my life. I try to do this with my writing by creating books for people to enjoy and with my babysitting by caring for little ones. And now I try to do this with my serving at church.

As we like to say at Engage, we get to do this. We get to love on people. We get to help people. We get to create an amazing church-going experience for the people in our community.

At my church I watch babies in the nursery. I hold open doors and greet people. I help clean up after the service. My husband serves on the church board and helps run the lights for worship. Our small group spent our last couple meetings stuffing thousands of eggs for our 100,000 egg hunt in this Easter. (Yes, 100,000 eggs.) I try to do whatever I can to help out church and I want to keep growing and keep doing more.

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Serving others is the best way to show people God’s love, and “We love each other because he loved us first” (1 John 4:19, NLT). I want to live out my faith with what I do every day, so I try to serve others whenever I can.

One Word—My 2018 New Year’s Resolution

Last year I wrote about what I do instead of making traditional new year’s resolutions. I choose one word to guide me for the year, and I make an inspiration board that I can look at each day to remind me of my word. For my boards, I decorate a 12in by 12in piece of scrapbook paper with quotes, images, Bible verses, and song lyrics that relate to the word. I’ve done this for three years now, and my previous words have been Change, Grow, and Joy.

Only choosing one word seems like a small resolution, but I’ve noticed such a difference in my life by focusing on these words each year. Every day I see my word board next to my mirror and read something off of it, and then I feel ready for the day with my goals fresh in my mind. Last year especially, as I worked on Joy, I definitely learned to rely a lot more on God and find my joy in him. This is a great tool to increase your faith.

For 2018, I’ve felt God speaking one word on my heart for a while now: Focus.

I have a hard time focusing some of the time. I think part of that is because I work from home so I’m surrounded by distractions: my dog, housework, and all of the books I have out from the library. Another reason is because I have a tendency to feel overwhelmed, and when I see the long list of things that have to be done, I often end up sitting and staring at the list rather than doing something on the list.

But another big reason I have trouble focusing is that I always feel lost between book projects. Over the last six years I’ve written three manuscripts, usually spending one year working on it and one year staring at my computer, hating everything, and getting nothing done. 2017 was one of the off years, and I’ll be honest and say that I wrote almost nothing last year.

So that’s why Focus has become my word for 2018. But it isn’t just for my writing work. Throughout 2017 my husband and I became more and more involved in our church, and I definitely feel called by God to do even more. But I need to focus on him if I’m going to do anything important.

So this year I’m gong to Focus on my writing work, on my kingdom work, and on God. Here’s my board for 2018:

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Christmas Traditions

It’s almost Christmas!

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I love this time of year. I don’t think there’s anything more beautiful than Christmas lights, and I love all of the decorations. My husband even put my engagement ring under the Christmas tree in his apartment when he proposed to me. I just love that we get to celebrate Jesus’ birth each year with all of the beautiful decorations, Christmas cookies, and family. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

Some of my favorite decorations are the houses that make up my mom’s ceramic Christmas village. Every year we set it up under their tree, and I love all of the beautiful lights. I don’t have a ceramic village myself, but I do have my Lego Christmas village.

I love to bake, so making Christmas cookies is always a lot of fun. My family have always made these butter cookies that we call Silver Bells, and they’re delicious.

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But my favorite of all of our Christmas traditions is what my family does on Christmas Eve. We go to see a movie in the afternoon, eat Chinese and chicken for dinner, and then open presents while watching A Christmas Story. Then my dad always reads The Night Before Christmas before we go to bed. Sadly my husband and I will have to miss the movie this year because we won’t be able to make it over to Columbus in time after church (it’s okay though, we’ll have already seen Star Wars twice by then), but I can’t wait to do everything else with my family and celebrate with his family on Christmas day.

What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?

Our Second Wedding Anniversary

Tuesday, August 1st was my second wedding anniversary. I can’t believe my wonderful husband and I have already been married for two years. It feels like just two days ago that I met the cute boy next door and realized we worked together at our university’s writing center, and it feels like yesterday that I married him.

I’ll never forget how wonderful our wedding was. Our parents threw us the best wedding I could have imagined. We decided to get married at Wright State, since that was where we met and fell in love, so we had our ceremony and reception at Wright State’s Nutter Center’s beautiful Berry Room.

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These past two years have been the best years of my life. We have been truly blessed by God with a wonderful life together, and I can’t wait to see what plans he has in store for us going forward.

This week we celebrated our anniversary by recreating part of our honeymoon, just like we did last year for our first anniversary. On Monday we went to the Ohio State Fair to see one of our favorite bands, For King and Country. And on Tuesday we took a river cruise on the Ohio River and had a wonderful meal while looking at Cincinnati’s beautiful skyline. I had so much fun on the cruise and at the fair that I hope we continue our tradition of doing this for each of our anniversaries.

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My husband is my rock. He supports me more than anyone and is always there for me. I love him so much, and am so grateful to have him by my side.

When I’m Not Writing: Coloring

I wrote last month that one of my favorite things to do when I’m not writing is make jewelry. One of my other favorite hobbies is to color.

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I mostly choose to color Christian coloring books, because when I’m coloring something with scripture it becomes a much more fulfilling experience. Reflecting on God’s word while doing the relaxing activity of coloring helps me draw closer to God.

Since my last post on coloring, I’ve gone even more coloring crazy. I now have 12 books. I also now have a big set of markers and an electric pencil sharpener for my colored pencils sitting on my coffee table next to my coloring basket.

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Coloring is one of the most relaxing activities I’ve found. I love creating anything, and I love getting to work with my hands, so coloring is the perfect thing for me to do.

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VOLZ with Engage City Church

As I’ve said before, I love my church. I feel so blessed that God has brought this amazing church to my community and that I get to be a part of it. Engage City Church is a family. I feel home when I am with all of these amazing people. And this weekend we got to come together and celebrate all of the church’s volunteers at their semi-annual VOLZ event.

We gathered at a park and had a big cookout with burgers, hot dogs, and The Little Pink Bakery’s amazing cake balls! The party was a throwback to the 90s, and we had 90s music, trivia, and costumes. It was so much fun to get together with my church family and celebrate.

Engage’s lead team honored the volunteers and Pastor Doug reminded us all why we do what we do. We get to serve at this church. We get this wonderful opportunity to love on and serve people in our community. And each and every one of the volunteers is such an important part of the church as a whole.

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When we came home after the party I was thinking about how much volunteering means to me. I love being a part of this church. I love taking care of the babies in the nursery and holding open doors and greeting people when they arrive for the worship experiences. I love getting to love on people and spread the love of Christ to my community. Engage City Church is doing big things, and I’m so happy that my husband and I are a part of it.

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