Posts Tagged ‘Maine’

Let me preface this blog post with the comment that I am not just in Virginia to play with a newborn and love on my friend (though those are good parts of this trip). I titled my desire to leave Maine behind for a few weeks “walk-about”, not because I would actually be walking much, but because the concept of “walk-about” is soul-searching and place-finding and self-discovery and, importantly for me, listening to God’s Voice as I process my past, deal with my present, and plan for my future. So if I sound a bit melodramatic in this rather lengthy post, know (1) that it is because I have been thinking a bit more than is perhaps normal and (2) that my melodramatic side is already fading.

During my time in Virginia I have been re-reading my favorite series: The Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander. They are the tales of the life of a very ordinary Assistant Pig Keeper (Taran) making mistakes and discovering life. Alexander has a unique ability to offer books full of rich moral lessons paired with fast action and loveable characters. He is the author I have learned the most from in my journey as a writer and a person.

As an introduction to The Book Of Three, Alexander writes, “Our capabilities seldom match our aspirations, and we are often woefully unprepared. To this extent, we are all Assistant Pig-Keepers at heart.” In all honesty, I have been feeling much like an Assistant Pig-Keeper completely outmatched by the vastness of life. And I mimic Taran’s words, “At home nothing ever happened. Now, everything happens. But somehow I can never seem to make it come out right.” This latest journey, and indeed much of my last couple of months, appear to ‘never come out right’ by my own doing.

There are some bittersweet moments for Taran, our young Assistant Pig-Keeper. At the end of his first adventure he says, “And I am troubled, for I wonder now if I am to be a stranger in my own home.” I guess I am somewhere in the middle of my latest adventure, somehow still pining for home and longing for a change simultaneously, unsure of myself and my own judgment, not at home at home and not at home away. There is comfort in the advice of Adaon in The Black Cauldron, “I have marched in many a battle host, but I have also planted seeds and reaped harvests with my own hands. And I have learned that there is greater honor in a field well plowed than in a field steeped with blood.” So through prayer and discovery and some bumps and bruises I have learned a bit more that both tasks (steady work at home and the labor of adventuring) have an importance place in my life. Each offers challenges and victories that should not be overlooked, leaving me with discoveries and memories I would not go without. I think part of my frustration is that I have been trying to find a home in one or the other. Now I think I see that it is the plowing and the adventuring together in which I find the direction of my life flowing. It is a unique life, full of challenges and misunderstandings on my part, but that does not make it any less right or wonderful for me.

As a summation of The Book Of Three, Taran is admonished that he has been just as impetuous and full of self-pity and a longing for the impossible as his friends have been. I must confess I see myself in this as well. On an adventure we all wish we could be the perfect, patient heroes we dream of; but truthfully, adventures are full of knee-bumps and blows and quarrels and pain, but also of joy and learning and excitement and victory. Summing it all up perhaps better than I could, Alexander writes in his introduction to The Black Cauldron, “humor and heartbreak, joy and sadness, are closely interwoven.”

So, no, walk-about has not showed me exactly where life is going, but it may have made me a bit more receptive to the concept that difficulty does not deplete the worth of something; it may, in fact, enhance it. Signing up for a life that is daunting is so much better than cowering in the shadows.

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It is graduation day. Finally, I’m a college graduate.

I have been having a lot of flashbacks from different points in my college career, and as I promised you around New Years here is some self-reflection. My mom’s verse for me is Philippians 3:12, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect,<sup class=”crossreference” value='(W)’> but I press on to take hold<sup class=”crossreference” value='(X)’> of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Nothing much sums up my life better than that. College really began in high school, when I took a few classes at local colleges. I learned then that I was not as outmatched by the big, broad world of adulthood as I had thought I was. I was still a bit of an introvert. And I spent every spare moment of that senior year writing or thinking about writing. It was the year I published Issym. And then I made the very logical decision to go to school for a business major.

Honestly, I don’t know that I would have gone to college if I had not started with a Business/Bible degree. It was the Bible degree that pushed me to head to South Carolina for college, stepping out of Maine, the only home I had ever known. I will never regret my one semester at Bible College. It was my chance to be a real student, to write on the side, to live boldly, to make friends, to feel warm everyday. I enjoyed Chick-Fil-A for the first time; I learned how to drive on a six lane highway; I discovered the value of coffee with the girls. Very importantly, the time at college granted me a deeper foundation of Bible knowledge and exposer to different chapel speakers and their ideas. I discovered that home could be found anywhere, even in the sweltering south. I made good friends that semester; not one of them lasted as more than a ‘Facebook friend’, which was okay too. Life is funny like that. What I desperately want to be permanent sometimes only lasts for a season. But oh, what a season! One must embrace moments. You do not reject summer because it cannot last.

My description of that semester at Columbia International University (CIU) would be incomplete if I did admit how very near death I seemed one fateful night when the chest pains I had been experiencing all semester surged to a new high. After not leaving my dorm room for a week, I was rushed home to Maine and admitted to the ER. I did homework in my hospital room, searching for the feeling of normality and holding onto hope that I would be able to go back to college. I remember being amazed how my heart (we had a special scan run) looked like an angry Muppet and how one floor of the hospital had the overwhelming smell of coffee. What was then diagnosed (although falsely so) as costochondritus allowed me to get on my feet, slowly. I discovered rest–pure rest–was about all I could do for myself. Somehow, through it all, I made it to the release of my second book, Asandra. That accomplishment may be my proudest because of how many obstacles seemed to get in the way. It was also the book where I learned how to be honest with readers, how to show them my heart. The reception was phenomenal. That semester I learned in a new way how true 2nd Corinthians 12:9 is, “But he said to me, ‘My grace<sup class=”crossreference” value='(P)’> is sufficient for you, for my power<sup class=”crossreference” value='(Q)’> is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” So I boast in Christ’s strength. I am full of weakness; He is not.

The fateful events that haunted me near Thanksgiving break led me on a journey back to Maine. At the time it felt like failure to leave my new home and head to my old one, to move back in with my parents, to have them carry my laundry, to barely drag myself to school every day. I was proud that I had finished the semester at CIU, but I knew that there would be no quality of life if I stayed in South Carolina. I could not have anticipated how good home would feel, how important it would be for me to work alongside Maine Bible Quizzing as a worship leader (for a pretty crazy crew of adults and teens), to participate in my nephew’s lives, to see my sister’s new home the day she bought it, and to take my place in so many little things. No, I have no regrets about coming home. Who knew then that what had been misdiagnosed as costochondritus would later give credence to my Lyme diagnosis as we came to understand just was really going on inside me. I could not understand during my semester at Husson University in Maine why I was not getting better from the supposedly curable costochondritus. So as my business grew and had me traveling, and when the opportunity for online college came along, I jumped at the chance.

I transferred to Nyack College where I completed my degree just today. The program was still business, but its title was ‘Organizational Management’. I think I had expected to be less of a guinea pig (I was in one of the first primarily online OM programs at Nyack), but all-in-all, I graduated and that is what is important. I published another book, the best yet (Xsardis). I invested in my home and family. I found an impact zone in Maine and outside, as  I began book touring. While I had lots of fun with friends in Virginia and met some awesome people at Soulfest, probably my favorite trip of the year was Ohio. The people I spoke with (young and old) and the reception I received was astounding and memorable.

During this last year of college I have learned more about myself than I thought possible. In understanding Lyme and what was going on in my body; in accepting whatever the outcome of my health is; in participating with friends and family; in investing in home and accepting the value of seasons that come and go; in traveling; in speaking; in writing; in worshiping God and writing songs; in choosing joy and peace; in seeking God’s will for my future; in meeting some very remarkable people that had a big impact on my life, I have discovered a fuller, deeper life. From uncovering my desire for coffee shops, to my love of Lindsey Sterling fiddle music, to my happy-place by my sister’s side, to the charm of dancing in my father’s arm, to the merit of playing guitar in an empty house, I have grown to understand a bit more of who God made me to be. I have learned that I love mentorship and so am working on mentorship programs with students. I have learned what I want to write about; who I want to be; and why it is so very important to live as God has called us to live.

So what’s next for me? Lots of family-time and reading by the fireside in the coming month. Part of my Lyme treatment is a doctor’s order for rest and that’s what I will be focusing on as much as possible. I head to the road in March to catch up with friends I have not had the time to see. I am highly motivated to work on my already-drafted novel, Mark of Orion, that has captivated my heart and my imagination. I plan to write/publish/and speak for six months as I look at buying my own printing equipment and try to gage how far I am from making a living based on my writing career. Whatever adventures come next, be they in this state or another, I will carry with me the lessons learned of joy and peace and seasons and the beauty of God’s majestic plan for my life and this world. I look forward to following where my Lord leads. The purpose of my life is to go where He sends me, to share His goodness with the world, to grow to know Him and love Him better. As my graduation verse, Ephesians 2:10, says, “For we are God’s workmanship,<sup class=”crossreference” value='(U)’> created<sup class=”crossreference” value='(V)’> in Christ Jesus to do good works,<sup class=”crossreference” value='(W)’> which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

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After the draining Lyme appointments of yesterday I decided to cut my trip a bit short and head back to Maine this afternoon. I was already fatigued enough to feel the tears, but when I heard about the events in Newtown they just started coming out. The adults; the children… I think of those kids so full of dreams and potential. The ballet performances they might have been preparing for; the political speeches they might one day have given; the books they might have written; the mission fields they would have impacted; the presents waiting for them under the tree. I did not, I do not, know how to pray for their families adequately. I cannot fathom their sorrow. Children have a unique place in my heart. I wanted to throw up. Despite the fact that I was traveling a road I had gone down many times (and using a GPS), I got lost twice on my drive from New York. Eventually, I was so shaken I had to pull over.

In between segments of inescapable news, songs like Frosty the Snowman played and that seemed even more wrong. I prayed; I wept; I asked God to teach me how to process the news.  It was especially bitter that this event at Sandy Hook Elementary happened around Christmastime.

Then God reminded me that it is because of events like this that Christmas matters. It was to redeem us from the sin and death and sorrow in the world that Christ came. We think of those children as innocent; look what an innocent Savior died on the cross. We think there is no hope; Christmas is all about hope: the fulfilment of a promise and new promise that Jesus would return. Since Eden, death and loss and sin have been a part of our world, but that has never been something God has wanted or simply allowed to happen without a fight. He has fought, He is fighting, and He will fight for us. Through Christ, He has been working out a plan. Sending His own innocent Son to face persecution, hardship, and death, God offered us redemption. He knows the pain of these families in Newtown; He cares. If anything, Christmas and Christ should remind us of this. I do not yet know how to pray for the families who lost loved ones, but I will still pray and God–Who understands–will hear.

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Most heroes initially want to get out of their home towns. But by the time their journey is over, they cannot wait to get back. As book two of a series opens and a call is placed again in the heroes lives, readers will typically see them struggle with the new mission. They do not want to leave. But what if a hero made a stop home in the middle of the battle? I think it would be ten times harder to keep going. There would be no knowledge of previous success, no memories of the struggle being worth it. Don’t go home in the middle of your adventure!

I should have listened to my own advice.

I jumped on a plane on Thursday after class and made it back to Maine. It was such a wonderful visit filled with doting nephews, a wonderful sister, nice meals and all around good family. I did not want to board the plane for the ride home. I wanted to stay in Maine, at my house, with the people I loved. I stopped home in the middle of my adventure and now the only place I want to be is home.

After some concerned facebook posts, let me just add, I am fine! I just love my home. Adventures have their value. Being away from home has its value. But I miss it and that’s okay.

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It seems like when my posts have been absent I always come back to you and say that I have been sick. And every time, including this one, it has been true. But the expectant fans of Asandra have no need to fear for things are progessing along rapidly for the November release date–largely thanks to the incredible efforts of my mother, manager, assistant, editor and friend, Judy.

Issym is now available for purchase at Borders in Bangor, Maine. Asandra will be there as soon as it is released. The book signing will be November 26–Black Friday–from 9-1(tentative) at Lambs Book and Bible. We are still hoping to hold a book release event sometime that weekend for friends, family and interested members of the local community. Asandra’s cover is almost finished and is looking great. I was very excited to see a draft and am flying back to Maine to meet with the illustrator next weekend.

I was also asked to come in as a guest speaker for a media class that I took as a student last year. This is a thrilling time, indeed! And although everything seems to be going well I am not saying that it has been or is easy. Mixing college and company is not simple. It takes dedication and the ability to say no to a lot of fun stuff. It takes late nights, early mornings, short lunch breaks and no restful Saturdays. It takes persevering through your paper and then your next chapter, while answering an email that you might not want to answer well into the early hours of the morning (I am thankful for an understanding roommate). Be warned! But it is so worthwhile.

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I miss my constant evergreen trees, the truthful sky, wider lanes and less trafficked roads of beautiful Maine! The constellation Orion would typically stand right in-between some trees and my garage so that when I would get back late I would feel as if he was saying goodnight and making sure I got home safe. My nephew’s sweet voice still rings out in my mind and his gentle rubbing of my back when I felt ill–at two years old. My parents workplace four minutes down the road just past Stephen King’s house. Watch out for the tourists! They don’t know how to drive. I miss the lady at Dunkin Donuts and at Angelo’s Pizzeria. I miss my brother’s hugs and my father’s jokes.

Even so dorm life has its perks. Its like inheriting a large group of sisters! I enjoy a fast-paced life and I certainly have that. I am getting to know a different culture–helpful for broadening my writing perspective. I found a church home, I think, which is awesome to get connected with. And anyone from Maine can comprehend how nice it is to be sweating in shorts every day at the end of September.

When you go off to college, just be cautioned: it will not be what you were expecting. It could be better or it could be worse but things level out. If not from your classes or chapel or church or friends, just from living on your own in a new environment you will learn a lot. Hang in there!

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Finding a laboratory. What do I mean? Back in Maine, when I would need to spend or fall into spending a large amount of time in writing I would go up to my room, shut the door, (maybe open the windows), turn the lights off, light some candles, (maybe switch on my glowing flourescent eggs), take off my wrist jewelery that interrupts fast typing, turn some music that I knew was inspiring on, take a moment to get into the mind of my characters and their world, then write. This was my laboratory. Dinner was an interruption. Downing liquid was my only break. And… it was wonderful.

Here at CIU, even if I can get the room to myself and do most of those things, nowhere on campus, including my room, is a laboratory. There are too many distractions. It is too unfamiliar and not whimsical. It is difficult to be fun in writing in a room filled with so many other thoughts. CIU, South Carolina… its different. And that difference is not always easy. So if only for sanity’s sake, I needed to find myself a laboratory. I realized Monday that when things get difficult I stop writing. But that’s when I need most of all to be writing–to learn from characters, to express, to dream and to remember everything wonderful and that hard things work for the best. God was wise when He gave me a love of writing.

With all of this in mind, I was driven to my laboratory today (by a variety of incidences) and I found myself typing away at Olive Garden. It felt like home. The food tasted the same, the service was good, it looked the same, smelled the same, was the same pace. And in the same, I was able to write what is not the same. In between bites of food, I edited Asandra and it felt really good. Laboratories are portable. They changed locations as you do. And it takes some work to find them. But for sanity’s sake (even if you don’t write) and for good writing (even if you are sane), find yourself a laboratory.

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I am quickly adapting to my new environment and beginning to feel like this is home. I absolutely adore my roommate. My next-door-neighbor is so sweet. Today all the freshmen and transfer students went to a camp for swimming and outdoor activities. I thought I would die of the heat and there was a girl who had injured her foot so we decided we would come back to school after spending a few nice hours at the lake. I pulled into my parking space, unlocked my apartment, did my dishes (again. How can they keep building up?), did some Rebirth Publishing stuff (like drafting a letter to the Asandra Insiders. You can subscribe by emailing asandrainfo@issym.com), read a book–Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Titan’s Curse–(because I know my limits and it was time for some rest) and fell asleep. Later, my roommate and I teamed up with three guys I did not know and had a non-stop laughing, running, playing and doing stupid stuff evening scavenger hunt, followed by smoothies and a game of egyptian ratscrew in the student cafe with all the other freshmen and music blaring (I won the card game for the first time ever!). I came back to my room (my key to the building is not working so, for the record, not all adult stuff is fun or easy) and it felt like home. Home. I miss Maine, but I am glad to be here.

My morning coffee date with my next-door-neighbor turned into a hall party. Tuesday night I will be watching Psych with another girl on my hall. The waffle-maker is out in the cafeteria and I am out of the mostly shallow water (but if anyone else calls me just Jessie and not Jessie Mae, Jess, Jessica, etc, I think I will scream!). I am home.

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“I’m Jessie Mae,” pause for an answer. “What’s your major?” pause for an answer and a return question, “What’s your’s?” “Business,” pause for an answer. “Where are you from?” pause for an answer. Interject that I am from 20 hours away (without stops) in Maine. Sometimes we will delve a little deeper, depending on the situation and if the personalities mix or clash. This has been pretty much the conversation for the last three days between all the students. The shallow water is already getting old, but it will not take long before we will be in the deep end.

Once again I am surrounded by distinct characters: a photographer with a talent for acting (he had us all convinced that he was part of the senate here at CIU and the head of the cooking department. Everyone wanted to join even after we found out it was not real), a jersey girl, a sweet next-door-neighbor (who is coming over for coffee and Lucky Charms tomorrow morning before all of the freshmen head to some kind of beach/camp thing. I will be driving and she will be my co-pilot), an easy-to-get-along-with (blessing from God) roommate, a poet, a resident life director with a dry sense of humor that reminds me so much of my brother, Charlie… My mind is already percolating with new characters and plotlines and different twists on old ones. (That is what will make it so hard to stay focused on Asandra, which has a lot of editing left if it is going to be done by November.) I love drawing on inspiration of life! I love the feeling of imagination at work.

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Tomorrow night will be my last night in Maine before I head off for college and I have to say, I am grumpy. I hugged my two-year-old nephew (who is more like my little brother) goodbye and broke into tears. I cleaned out my room and cried. I looked at my dad and cried. And cried and cried and cried–not always on the outside, but definitely on the inside. Crying makes me grumpy.

My parents joke that as soon as I was born I was begging to get out of Maine. They are probably right. I am so excited about going! I look forward to new friends, a warm climate, chapel everyday, the classes, etc. But no matter how much I look forward to going, it still hurts to leave. So goodbye Maine. Despite my previous bad comments about your weather and your bugs, I will miss you–your beautiful although cold winters, your small-town feel, your non-overcrowed nature. Goodbye! Hello Columbia International University…

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