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Posts Tagged ‘South Carolina’

Hello friends.

Me again. Last night, Animal Planet aired the episode of Monsters Inside Me featuring yours truly. And the timing couldn’t have been stranger.

In the fall of 2010 I was on an emergency flight from my college in South Carolina to my home in Maine, having not left my dorm room for a solid week, with extreme pain, and with a smattering of other bizarre symptoms. I never got to finish my degree at that university and I left South Carolina with much unresolved.

I never thought I’d have the chance to say the goodbye I wanted.

Friendships made there faded. College students have enough trouble keeping up if both parties have the energy to communicate post-school. My sudden absence was a black hole no one could figure out how to cross. I lost myself in a battle to survive.

I survived.

By the grace of God. And sometimes by His stubbornness when I lost the resolve. I survived.

In the spring of 2017 I was contacted by the team from Monsters Inside Me and I used the income from the show to book a ticket back to the state I had left too soon. In the fall of 2017, the same weekend I flew back to South Carolina, the show aired. And it brings a stark contrast to the life I had in 2010 and the life I have in 2017.

I’ll admit to feeling some real anxiety when I was on the plane that would carry me back to South Carolina. As I said, I had a lot of unresolved feelings in regards to friendships and independence. I lost so much of both when I moved back to Maine. And in the years since, I’ve collapsed more than thrived when I attempted to move beyond that little bubble.

The bubble got comfortable.

Routine became my safety net.

But in Maine I found a friend who loved me through my illness, seeing me as anything but ill in days when that was the only way I saw myself. And when friends like that move to states like South Carolina and decide to get married, off to South Carolina I go. Four days in a state I considered my nemesis. I was pretty sure it was a lost cause, but off I went.

And mercy of mercies, I got the goodbye I wanted. Like a kid returning to their childhood home after their family has all moved away, I dealt with so much that needed to be dealt with. Not to mention, along the way, I totally rocked the train-themed Escape Room, ate some delicious cake, drank oodles of coffee, and got lost in Downtown Charleston on a walk that scaled seven miles. And while my body needed a little more rest than the average person’s would have after that walk, I actually survived and slept and laughed and generally thrived, establishing old friendship and new friendship alike.

It wasn’t a perfect trip.

Life isn’t ever perfect. But neither is beauty. Still it was good. Good in ways I didn’t expect.

I’ve been wrestling with Who God really is, never doubting His existence or His goodness or His love, but wondering what those things look like in a world full of a pain and loss that don’t always feel significant.

This weekend I saw that sometimes it takes seven years to find the answers. Seven lean years. But seven years in which God was no less constant or good or true.

Whether you are in the seven fat years or the seven lean years (see Genesis 41), hang in there friends.

Tragedy will have its end.

God is and always will be good.

And that’s enough.

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I know this post is long, but I hope you’ll find it worth it.

I’m 21. I have three books published and a fourth in production. I have memorized 2/3s of the New Testament, made sweet friends in Indonesia, lived in South Carolina, and gone on two major book tours. I’m putting together an album for recording and dabble as a worship leader. I am the founder and leader of Rebirth Publishing, Inc. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Management. I have escaped all of it without debt. And I thought I knew myself…

But since graduation I have realized just how little I actually know about myself. I know a whole lot about what I can do, but not a lot about who I really am. So, like the perfectionist student I am, I have poured the last few months into a character study–not of Pallen or Marcus or Cressa from Mark of Orion. No. This is a study of my own character. And with each new learning, I celebrate a victory that leaves me feeling a good deal more fulfilled.

First, let me say that I think labels are probably some of the worst things in the world. If you had ever tried to sum me up as ‘Lyme patient’ or ‘college student’ or ‘Christian’ or ‘publisher’ or ‘writer’ or ‘musician’ or ‘homebody’ or ‘extrovert’ you would have missed who I really am. To give you a glimpse of just how much I don’t like labels, check out this personal entry:

It is easy to believe labels are fulfilling.

 Not just the ‘popular’ label. Those of us who know better than to believe that success will fulfill us find other labels to put our stock in. Like the ‘loved’ label; the ‘happy’ label; the ‘work-a-holic’ label. After so many movies full of people finding their labels right alongside their soul-mates, we have begun to believe that if we could just find our label, our movie-moment, our montage of effective work and budding love alongside the perfect soundtrack, then we could feel fulfilled.

 Only, labels aren’t actually fulfilling.

 Not ‘hipster’ or ‘rock-star’ or ‘author’ or ‘healthy’ or ‘wife’. Labels in and out of themselves can never, ever satisfy. All they can do is make us feel bitter that we aren’t happy after attaining them or devastated that we cannot achieve them. Labels are a deadly lie.

So why does the girl who rejects labels find joy in figuring out that she is not only a perfectionist but also 1) passionate and 2) innovative? Aren’t those labels too?

To me the difference is that I can’t achieve to be an innovator. I just am. When I see a problem, my first instinct is to scrap the old system and create a new one. I can’t force myself to be passionate 100% of the time. Often I wish I could turn it off. Only, passion is part of who I am. If I offend you, believe me: it hurts me more than it ever can you. Because I care. And if I can make your day brighter, I’ll do my very bestest. Because I care with all my heart. It’s passion. I can control it, but it will forever be my default setting. And, yep, I want my new innovative system that I passionately care about to go perfectly. But those things aren’t based in what I can do or in the success of my efforts; they are based in who God made me to be. The core of who I am is not ‘author’. Perhaps you could say that I am a storyteller. Each song that I write, each book that I craft, each conversation I have revolves largely around stories. But even if I had never published a book, I would have been–I was–known as a storyteller. It is an attribute, not a label.

You see, sometimes trying to live up to the labels can be really devastating. I won’t forever be a ‘young achiever’ and, as much as I love that label, it can often do more harm than good as I achieve for achievement’s sake alone. I may not forever be ‘worship leader’ and that’s okay too. The ‘traveling artist’ day may pass; the sickness may fade; even the book writing may fizzle out. And if I all I was was an sick, book-writing, traveling artist I would be in a LOT of trouble when the day of change came.

So instead of setting my sights on a list of un-fulfilling and really frustrating labels, I want to discover who God made me to be. I’ll gladly accept the attributes that God created me with, but I am very ready to be done with the labels I set for myself or others set for me. Take heart, my friends, and revel in your uniqueness. It was designed that way by the greatest Storyteller ever, the God Who knit us together.

Psalm 139:13

13 For you created my inmost being;

   you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

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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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I do not normally talk about my health except for the occasional reference to being sick. The truth is that I am not a healthy person. A variety odd diseases and one main, unknown one, leave me frequenting a variety of doctors’ offices and living in severe amounts of pain constantly. It has not gotten any easier since I moved to South Carolina.

A week and a half ago I woke up with severe chest pains, huge shakes, dizziness and nausea. The chest pain was new and concerning, but I gave it some time before worrying too much about it. The symptoms have come and gone since then until Monday night when they came back with a vengeance and a consistency that had me, my mother and my poor roommate very concerned. The decision was that I needed to seek medical help, so yesterday was spent going to the school nurse, then urgent care at a local hospital. They say the cartilage around my sternum is swollen. Things could be worse. But they gave me nothing to help and the pain is pretty severe. I’ve been taking it easy. So forgive the absence of my blogging.

Today I am back at it, despite the pain. I just finished an interview with The Weekly, part of the Bangor Daily News. I was nervous, I will admit. There was a season last year when I was constantly dealing with the media and giving speeches and generally being a spokesperson, but I have not done any of that for a while. I wondered if I had forgotten how. I think, however, that this may have been my most clear, confident and concise interview ever. Woohoo! These things really do get easier!

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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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